Monday 22 June 2015

BritMums Live 2015 - I Was There!

This weekend I headed down to London to attend BritMums Live for the second year in a row. 

BritMums Live, for those who haven't heard of it is the UK’s biggest, two-day social media conference and blogger event — where lifestyle bloggers and social influencers meet. They share success stories, create relationships with brands, network and ultimately become better bloggers. 

For me, BritMums is a brilliant and all-consuming two day experience where I can socialise with the wonderful friends I've made through blogging, make new friends, chat to brands I'm working with, or would like to work with, get inspired, learn loads of handy tips and advice to make me a better blogger, and just generally have a blast with hundreds of like-minded people who "get" blogging completely. 

I throughly enjoyed it last year, and was excited to head off to see what BM 2015 would have to offer..

Staying On Track 

Although I wanted to enjoy treats this weekend, I'm also aware that on weekends like this it would be oh-so-easy to forget all I've learned in terms of balance and moderation when it comes to the way I eat and exercise: I could have easily thrown caution to the wind, eaten and drunk with abandon, done little exercise  - and ultimately would have come away feeling annoyed with myself because I'd fallen in to old habits. I didn't want anything to tinge or tar the weekend with negativity so I went along to BritMums with a game-plan:

-Walk everywhere whenever possible: I planned to walk the 45 minutes from my house to Bedford Train Station on both the Friday and Sunday, and then once in London I planned to walk everywhere and not use tubes, buses or taxis. 

-Pack a healthy breakfast for Saturday and Sunday mornings, so I wouldn't be tempted to eat the pastries provided by BritMums, or go and get a fry up or fast food breakfast. 

-Eat a filling and healthy lunch on the Friday so that I wouldn't be tempted by all the cakes and goodies on offer when arriving at BritMums at 2pm. 

-No alchohol all weekend. Unfortunately for me I get quite an annoying skin reaction to alcohol (especially wine), so this was quite an easy decision for me. It also contains a lot of calories which soon add up. 

-Don't eat for the sake of eating, try to only eat when I feel hungry and where possible make a sensible choice. 

-We were eating out both Friday and Saturday nights and so my plan was to order something healthy and balanced on the Friday night but then to have my "treat meal" on Saturday night, and enjoy every mouthful! 

-Pack plenty of bottles of water and ensure I kept hydrated the whole weekend. 

I hoped that these things combined would make for a healthier, happier and less guilt-ridden weekend for me. 

I'm pleased to say I stuck to every part of my plan and post-weekend I feel great! I'm proud of myself for resisting so much temptation but still enjoying myself and having an amazing time full of treats that I controlled.

The Weekend in a Nutshell...

Setting off with my super stylish luggage: a stunning Urban Country satchel and a Perry Ellis 4 wheeler cabin case. 

I had a leisurely journey on the Friday which consisted of a beautiful 45 minute walk in the sunshine to the train station, a super-quick 40 minute train journey into central London where I got to sit and read my kindle uninterrupted for 45 minutes, a little mooch around St Pancras station (one of my favourite places!), then another 40 minute walk in the sunshine to my hotel. 

I was sharing a room with the lovely Jade from Late for Reality, and we checked in to our hotel room then headed straight out for some lunch. We found the most awesome little food market in Barbican, where we picked up a delicious falafel salad, and ate it in the sunshine in the courtyard at The Barbican. At 1:45pm we headed to The Brewery for the fun to begin - we had full tummies and were well and truly ready for the fun to begin. 

Falafel salad with hummus, tahini, pickles, tomato, mint, chilli and griddled aubergine. It was heaven.

The Sessions

Over the course of the weekend I attended loads of sessions linked to Social Media Consultancy/Management - I decided to attend this year with my 'work' head on instead of my 'creative' one - in the hope I could pick up some useful tips and information to help me in my professional life. 

The sessions I attended over the weekend were:

-Advanced Google+
-How Successful Bloggers Do It
-Social Media Optimisation: Doing It All At Once
-Social Media for Advanced People
-Beginning SEO
-Advanced SEO
-How To Be A Social Media Manager

Some sessions were better than others, and as usual, most of the speakers ran out of time, and didn't get to cover as much as they'd hoped in their sessions. One thing I will note is that there were a lot of selfish attendees who seemed to hijack sessions by asking a barrage of questions which perhaps would have been better left to the Q&A sections at the end of each talk, or asked on their own time between talks - most speakers felt compelled to answer, and then used up valuable speaking time answering specific queries which weren't relevant to the masses. 

Mostly, the sessions were hugely reassuring for me - I can sometimes have huge wobbles in my confidence, and feel that I know nothing, and am not in fact a social media 'expert' in any way, shape or form - I came away from all of these sessions feeling confident in my abilities, and reassured that I do know what I'm talking about. Of course I picked up a couple of handy tips and hints, and a little insider information - but mostly just reassurance to keep doing what I'm doing. 

The Speakers

Over the course of the weekend we got to hear from some pretty cool speakers. I was most excited about hearing Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella), and she didn't dissappoint - down to earth, warm, and super-inspiring, she talked all about her crazy journey over the past few years: how her vegan lifestyle has made her well again after her diagnosis of postural tachycardia syndrome, and the passion she has for the food she creates absolutely shone through. Everything she says makes perfect sense to me and although I don't follow a vegan diet, I do regularly use her recipes as part of my healthy and balanced diet: her vegan food is exciting, and for that I applaud her. 

I even got to meet her after her speech, we had a lovely chat - I told her about my lifestyle change over the past 1.5 years, about my 6 stone 9lb weight loss, and how my attitude to food and exercise has completely changed: she was so supportive and encouraging, she was majorly impressed with the changes I made, and I even got a picture with her... 

Me and the lovely Ella Woodward (Deliciously Ella) having a natter about food, health and feeling fabulous! 

I felt so inspired seeing Ella in the flesh, hearing all about her journey first hand, and am super, super excited about her new book: I cannot wait for it to be released. For those of you who don't have her first one I would hugely recommend it for inspiring, healthy and really exciting recipes that can fit into any diet whether you're vegan, vegetarian, gluten free or simply just health-conscious. I would also recommend her iPhone App - it is my go-to recipe app, and as well as being easy to navigate it is also really beautiful to look at. 

Other speakers over the weekend included the inspiring Victoria Wright who is a disability and disfigurement rights campaign manager, talking about her own disfigurement, the prejudice she has experienced and what she does to educate people and ultimately make life a happier place with better understanding. 

We heard from smiley, smiley Carol Smilie, who, incidentally looks younger than she did 15 years ago, how is that possible? She was #talkingpants with us as she introduced us to her newest business venture with tennis star Annabel Croft. Their product is called Diary Doll a range of perfect pants for periods, pelvic floor and post maternity! She explained how these pretty knickers are completely waterproof, soft and non-bulky, washable and breathable, and are available in three colours and four sizes. According to Carol they are completely washable and look/feel exactly like your favourite pants! They sound like quite an innovative product, and she was clearly very passionate about them - what I will say is that she spoke a lot about how much she's struggled to get the media on board to publicise them (as no one wants to talk about periods) and she appealed to us as being a perfect group of women to spread the word for her. However, I can't vouch first hand for the product as I don't own a pair. I had naively assumed after hearing her speak that each of the BritMums attendees would be gifted a pair as part of our goodie bag, so that we could try them out and choose to feature them on our blogs, to help her publicise them. So, when I looked through my goodie bag at the end of the event and saw nothing but a promotional flyer from them, I was flummoxed! From a business and PR perspective I didn't understand why we weren't each given a pair - it's hard to spread the word and wax lyrical about a product that you've never tried - and if we were really truly the type of people she wanted on-side to help with the marketing of her product then a little give and take wouldn't have gone a miss. I'm sure even if we hadn't of each needed a pair for personal use, we might know someone who could use a pair. A simple voucher code to redeem a suitable sized pair wouldn't have been too much to ask, surely? 

The final keynote speaker was Caprice, who told her fascinating story of motherhood - from miscarriage, being told she wouldn't be able to conceive naturally, embarking on a surrogacy journey, through to finding out she was pregnant at the same time as her surrogate! A crazy, emotional and fascinating story of motherhood - showing that the impossible can happen! 

The Brands

There didn't seem to be as many brands in the 'brand den' compared to last year, and on the whole they weren't hugely relevant to my little corner of the inter-webs. But still, it was fun to wander around and see what they were about, chat to the PRs and join in with a few fun competitions etc. 

Th brands this year that really interested me, and who I made an effort to engage with and talk to included:

-Paragon Books (whom I already work with) 

-Merci Marman jewellery of which I'm a huge fan. Every attendee was very kindly gifted a beautiful BritMums bracelet from them, which was a lovely touch. 

-Make It Coats and Lady Sew and Sew: both crafty brands, and so of course I was hooked (pardon the pun)

-Joules, who as you know are one of my favourite clothing brands. I enjoyed talking to the PR ladies and was excited about what lies ahead for Joules in terms of their relationships with bloggers. Watch this space. 

And finally...

-Vitamix, as I am always interested in anything health and food related. It was fun to watch the Vitamix product ranges being put through their paces, and see what these machines are capable of. 

The Craft Lounge

The sponsors Make It Coats and Lady Sew and Sew ran a craft lounge at this years event. As you can imagine it was pretty much my heaven: full to brimming with vintage look accessories all the walls adorned with bunting, and tables stocked full of fabrics, haberdashery equipment and craft books. Their were lots of crafty people on hand to help, teach and inspire, it was the perfect place to relax between sessions, and make our 'down time' productive. 

I tried to spend as much of my 'free' time in the craft lounge as possible: I took along my current crochet project (the grey/mustard granny square blanket) and managed to get a few squares done whilst slurping on tea and listening to the wonderful Pocket Belles performing stunning songs in their beautiful vintage style. I also managed to make a short length of bunting in a gorgeous Liberty-esque fabric too - fab! 

The Craft Lounge

Getting my craft on...

The Pocket Belles singing us into crafty submission! 

Having a sneaky crochet between sessions.

The Social Side

Apart from the sessions, the keynote speakers, the brand den and the craft lounge - the main attraction of BritMums for me is a weekend away with hundreds of like minded people who 'get' blogging, and all it entails. 

It is a chance for me to socialise with some great friends, whom sadly I don't get to see as often as I'd like due to the miles between us, and just generally have a whale of a time in great company. 

It is also a fab opportunity to meet some blogger friends in person, and get to know the real life, 3D them! One lady who I was super-excited to meet was the fab Natalie Collinson from One Busy WAHM, whom I've been chatting to for ages through our blogs and social media. Like me, Natalie has also lost a huge amount of weight recently (over 4 stone! Go Natalie!) and we have been helping and supporting each other online as we've gone along. We have so much in common, and so as soon as I spotted Natalie (almost as soon as we arrived) I headed over to have a natter and hug her gorgeous super-svelte little self! Happily for me, we got to spend loads of time together over the weekend, chatting over lunch and catching up in person. She was just as lovely as I'd hoped and I look forward to many more giggle with her. 

The lovely Natalie and moi! 

On the Friday night I headed to Pizza Express with 16 other blogging lovelies for a nice dinner - we were all pretty pooped as that first afternoon is incredibly full on, and you're always left totally exhausted. We didn't sit down to eat until after 9pm so we were all starving! Our dinner was lovely: I opted for a Caesar salad with a side of Broccolini and it was really scrummy: healthy, filling and perfect for eating so late at night. I sat with my gorgeous blogging bestie Emma (Mrs Shilts), my roomie Jade (Late for Reality), the wonderful Amy (In My Bubble) and Debs (Super Busy Mum), my great (and slightly drunk) mate Donna (What The Redhead Said) and the very lovely Becca (Mrs Mumsie) from Northern Ireland, who I met for the first time this year at BritMums - she was just ace, and having spent lots of the weekend with her, I now know we'll be firm friends from this point on! 

Friday Night Shenanigans in Pizza Express

On Saturday night we decided to break off into our smaller friendship group for dinner, and head to somewhere new to all of us - we happened upon this gorgeous little quirky burger joint called Jane Roe Kitchen, and it was a brilliant little foodie find. I was hugely looking forward to my treat meal and opted for a veggie option of the halloumi and aubergine 'burger' and chips, with a homemade tiramisu to follow. It was immense and worth every single calorie - I savoured every mouthful! We laughed so hard around that table, and even did a spot of celeb spotting as sat at the table behind me was 90's tv sitcom actress Judy Flynn (from The Brittas Empire) lol.

I'm so rock and roll: a cuppa tea, burger, chips and a tiramisu = pretty perfect dinner. Ha! And my gorgeous blogging bestie Emma having pudding sex with her Eton Mess! Ha! 

The one downside to the weekend was just how fast it went - I wished there had been more time to chat to some people, and there were others who I was desperate to say hello to that I missed altogether like lovely Lizzie (from Lizzie Somerset) who I just didn't spot the whole weekend (there were 800 of us to be fair!). 

I snatched a quick hello and cuddle with the gorgeous girl who is Leigh (from Headspace Perspective) who's a fellow Bedford blogger that I was lucky enough to meet at this years Blog Camp in Birmingham (when we discovered that we're practically neighbours!): I wish there'd been more time darling, and we must get together for tea and cake locally soon. 

I got to catch up with the queen of florals and prettiness that is Lucy Heath (from Capture By Lucy). Her blog is hands down the most beautiful blog I've ever seen, and I read it pretty much religiously! If you haven't ever checked it out, I urge you to! Lovely Lucy (as she is known) and I had a great natter at the BiBs Awards on the Friday night, and discussed who we thought would be going home with the awards. As always, I wished there was more time to properly natter! 

I also grabbed the beaut that is Vicki (from Honest Mum) for a quick smooch and brief hello - she's a doll, and we have loads in common -  I got to meet her in person for the first time at Blog Camp UK earlier this year (despite having talked for ages through social media previously), and even got to meet her lovely mum at the event. I was excited to hear her speak in the 'How Successful Bloggers Do It Session' at BritMums this year which was really cool and we bumped into each other a few times over the weekend for a quick natter. Vicki is definitely the sort of person that I know if we sat together with a bottle of wine we would just giggle and laugh and get louder and louder - she is the most enthusiastic and bubbly lady, and her blog is a great example of a ballsy woman doing it for herself! 

Me and Vicki from Honest Mum - a truly beautiful friend, and so inspiring! 

The whole weekend was full to bursting with chatter, laughter, inspiration, support and friendship which left me with an overwhelming sense of how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life, and made me realise how grateful I am to my blog for such a lot of things. 

Blogging Besties - Mrs Bishop and Mrs Shilts 

What I Wore

Since achieving my 6 stone 9 lb weight loss I have fallen in love with fashion all over again. I have still struggled a lot with body confidence, and have been amazed at just how long it takes for your mind to catch up with your body in terms of realising that I'm a lot smaller than I used to be, and can *hopefully* pull off different outfits to those I'd have worn when I was a size 20. 

I decided that at this years BritMums I was really going to challenge myself in terms of body confidence and wear a dress which I was so in love with, but nervous about wearing. This nautical themed breton stripe/red colour block number was super fitted and super-short: both things that I'm so used to avoiding. However, as soon as I saw the dress on the  TKMaxx website for just £11.99 I knew it had to be mine: it is my actual dream dress. I was so nervous when I got ready on the Saturday morning, and the self conscious side of me wanted to run and change as soon as I put it on, but my lovely friends all reassured me, and in the end I felt really fabulous (thank you girls for helping me embrace my curves and begin to get used to my new shape). 

(Hopefully!) rocking the short skater breton-style!

On the Friday I wore my trusty H&M striped bodycon dress, which is one of my favourites - another bargain at £24.99, this dress is a thin knit, and is so comfortable to wear, while the paneling makes it really flattering, and pretty timeless. I teamed both dresses with flat shoes - on Friday I wore my flat white loafers from Tesco, and on Saturday my striped Keds: it's vital to be comfortable at BritMums in the footwear department, as you're on your feet literally all day! 

In my H&M bodycon dress with the lovely Jade my breton-loving partner in crime, oh, and The Twirlywoos - of course! 

Father's Day

I travelled home bright and early on Sunday morning, eager to get home to my family to celebrate Father's Day all together. I left BritMums feeling uber-positive, uber-grateful for so much, and couldn't wait to get home and give Liam and Bert a big squeeze, and give Liam his Father's Day card and gifts! 

We celebrated Father's Day at my lovely in laws for a big family BBQ and we had the most perfect day! The sun shone, the sausages sizzled and we chatted and laughed continuously. Bert was in his element and just laughed and smiled all day long, he ate beautifully, and spent the whole day entertaining everyone and making them laugh! 

I finally got to meet my brother in law's lovely girlfriend Rachel, who's just as awesome as I'd hoped she'd be, and got newborn baby snuggles with my little niece! Oh and we got to tuck into a delicious Choca D'or Cheesecake from The English Cheesecake Company, which was a prize I won on an Instagram competition last week which I'd arranged to be delivered in time for the big family BBQ. It was immense (although still not sure I'd ever have enough spare cash to warrant £27 for one cheesecake to serve 10!) 

Okay, I might have had a tiny slice of tart au citron too! *opps* #sorrynotsorry

Bert and his wonderful Daddy playing in Nanny and Grandad's lovely garden! 

I think Bert enjoyed his Peppa Pig ice cream that Nanny gave him for dessert! Ha! 

It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend. 

Back home today and I'm running over the whole weekend in my head and feeling so grateful for so many things...

My happy healthy son - after listening to some terrifyingly emotional speeches over the weekend at BritMums I came away with an overwhelming sense of gratefulness for having my amazing son, Bert. After him being so very poorly at the start of this year I have tried everyday to soak up every single moment with him, and truly appreciate each tiny minuscule millisecond we get together. I am so aware that so many mums have empty arms, and their tragedies make me squeeze him tighter each and every day. 

My wonderful blogging friends whom mean the world to me. 

My blog - for the opportunities and friendships it has bought my way. 

My family - for supporting me always, allowing me to be authentically me and never judging me for it, for loving me unconditionally and helping me be the best mother, blogger, wife and woman I can manage. 

My health - the changes I have made to my health, my weight, and my state of mind over the past 21 months have resulted in me being at my absolute happiest and healthiest right now. I feel excited about the future, I have put the overweight and unhappy past to bed, and I can't wait to see where this next year will lead me....'ve been amazing...until next year...

Mrs B


Watch out for the full review of the Urban Country Satchel i took to BritMums Live coming to the blog later this week!

For more pictures of my time at BritMums Live 2015 make sure you follow me over on Instagram @lucybishop2012.