- Barbara Cooks - http://www.barbaracooks.com -

Off to Camp I Went… And Came Back Inspired!


All the Campers/Bloggers

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Camp Blogaway this year. For those unfamiliar, this conference is a yearly event held at a dedicated camp (complete with woods & cabins) up in the San Bernardino Mountains in Angelus Oaks, CA. Now, I was informed this was rustic, but for a girl who grew up camping in tents in the Midwest, this was fancy camp!

I didn’t know any other bloggers when I signed up for this conference but I was hoping to meet some nice people, expand my horizons and learn a few techniques… I had no idea that I was about to experience a life-changing event. The people I met were fantastic and inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that I started to rethink my whole life.

I started blogging at the end of October 2011 with the encouragement of my friends and M, my wonderful fiancé. They loved my cooking and told me I should blog about it. I started taking {bad} pictures of my creations and posting my recipes. I had created a complicated header which, strangely enough, looked like a wooden sign you might see at a camp! I got a few people to read my blog & try my recipes (mostly family and friends) and life was good.

My Cabin #3

Soon after, I updated my banner and started learning more about photography. The more I learned about blogging, the more I realized I needed to learn. I heard about this camp on Facebook where I happened to be a member of the San Diego Food Bloggers page. I went to the website and was immediately drawn in. I HAD to go. I HAD to be a part of this. I signed up right away when registration opened up in January. Excited, I told everyone I was going to “camp” to learn how to be a good blogger!

Then M and I got engaged. We started planning a wedding. We started looking for a house. I stopped concentrating on my blog. Even worse than that, I stopped concentrating on my life. I was lazy. I was wishy-washy. And I felt incredibly guilty. The truth is though, that my indolence really had nothing to do with getting engaged, planning a wedding or looking for a house. I’m easily distracted. I have shiny ball syndrome, it’s true. I’m easily bored and need constant stimulation to keep me interested.

But the REAL truth is I hadn’t been following my intended path for some time. I would eat healthy, exercise and create delicious recipes one week and be lackadaisical about it the next. I was sitting around waiting for motivation to strike me. Big surprise, it didn’t.

I left for camp not as the excited person who signed up to learn but more like a timid girl, unsure of herself, unsure of her voice, unsure of her purpose. When people would ask me what I blog about, I’d stumble over my answer having something to do with healthy recipes that don’t taste like health food. This was true but I didn’t feel entirely genuine.

View of the Snow-Capped Mountains

Going to Camp Blogaway changed everything. I met phenomenal people and learned an incredible wealth of information. The sponsors were fabulous and the speakers were incredibly insightful. There were demonstrations by The Honey Board, Cutco, Kerrygold, Gourmet Garden and the National Mango Board. Speakers covered topics ranging from writing good recipes to revamping your blog to Denise Vivaldo’s HILARIOUS commentary helping us to create more beautiful photos. We drank a lot of delicious Entwine Wine. Sponsors gave us TONS of fabulous swag! I came home feeling inspired. Not only inspired to change my blog but also inspired to change my life. I am no longer willing to idly sit by waiting for motivation to strike me. If I want change in my life I have to make it happen. And I am starting now.

In getting to know my fellow campers and learning about their lives, I started to realize that having a blog isn’t about an advertisement, a photo or a recipe. It isn’t about the latest ingredient, food trend or cooking method (ok well, sometimes it is!) Most of all blogging is about a journey. An exploration of one’s self. It is a community of like-minded people sharing their personal experiences and becoming better as a result.

My journey includes food. Good food and food that’s good for you. Welcome to my journey. I invite you to join me in this exploration. I ask you to hold me accountable to my pledge to be a happier healthier person. Am I striving to be perfect? Of course not. That’s an impossible goal. My aim is to be balanced. Focus on being healthy while still eating well. Hmmm… Eat well, live healthy. Sounds like I found my new motto.



Some of the delicious wine we drank every night!

Cutting Potatoes for Dinner with Our Brand New Cutco Knives

Treats from the National Mango Board (they even sent us ripe mangos in the mail!)

Mimi Avocado won the much-deserved Golden Pine Cone Award. Love her!

Next Year’s Camp – You will find me there!