12 Highlights of BritMums Live 2013

On Friday and Saturday I went along to BritMums Live! 2013 - a two day conference specifically for parent bloggers run by BritMums. This year was just a good as last year, and here's 12 highlights of the conference to prove it.

1) Being hugged by Alex the lion 

You know full well it's a person in lion suit and not really Alex from Madagascar. However, the urge to high five, hug and have your photo taken with the person in a lion suit / Alex from Madagascar is overwhelming. Thanks Royal Caribbean for bringing all the people in animal suits / animals along. I loved it.

2) Useful sessions

Maggy Woodley, who has an incredible craft blog Red Ted Art and now a book, led a brilliant session on using Pinterest. I really enjoyed the Delicious Food Blogging talk with some of my fave foodies - Kerstin Rodgers of Ms Marmite Lover, Helen McGinn of Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, Emma Raphael of A Bavarian Sojourn and Jeanne Horak-Druiff of Cook Sister.

Mammasaurus and Mummy Barrow did a great session on social media. The session on You Tube with sisters Claire and Lucy from Crumbs and Lindsay Atkin from Lilies are Like was particularly useful. Crumbs is one of my favourite food blogs so I was really delighted to meet the ladies - check out their You Tube channel for great family recipe videos. Lindsay Atkin'sYou Tube channel is magnificent - I'm addicted to watching her videos. She is *such* an inspiring lady and I'm so grateful we got to chat that afternoon.

3) Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie Allsopp, the keynote speaker on Friday, was just brilliant. Her stylish yet very practical approach to clothes is this - she only owns and wears dresses. So what does she wear on a 'slobby' day? An older dress. Apparently you can do anything in a dress apart from ski. Here's a clip of Kirstie telling us who inspires her, including her mum, her partner Ben, and people who make a difference without being smug and preachy about it.

4) New red leather handbag

My laptop is so old and big, I'm sure Noah used it on his ark. It's very unlike the small clever laptops-which-transform-into-tablets the guys from Acer had brought along with them. Oh, and they gave me a stunning red leather handbag, so I love them even more now.

5) Meeting old friends, making new friends

I was particularly delighted to see some of my gorgeous blogger buddies at the conference including Michelle from Mummy from the Heart, Penny from the Alexander Residence, Claire from The Lazy Girls Guide to Life, Ruth from Geek Mummy, Emma from Mummy Mummy Mum and Emma from Emma Nutrition. The last Emma and I sat together during the BiB awards (we met at the Gourmet Garden UK Blog Off Cook Off) and had a right old chuckle, my side ached. 

I also met lots of new people too. Charlotte from The Mummy Blogger and I have been Twitter chums for a while, so it was great to meet her in person. I had dinner with some new ladies including the beautiful Emma from Mum Mum Heart, Rachel from Mummy Glitzer and Kelly from Writings, Ramblings and Reviews. North Essex Mummy was gorgeous as was Mrs Shilts who came with her adorable baby boy.

6) Panasonic lounge

I met the guys from Panasonic at BritMums last year and was lucky enough to be chosen as one of their brand ambassadors. Their forward-thinking products are stylish and useful, and sometimes even mind blowing. Does anyone fancy a self-cleaning oven with a built in spit roast? I sure do.

7) Staying at the Grange Hotel

My good buddy and now fellow blogger Carrisa from Little Likely Lads and I were roomies at the Grange Hotel St. Paul's. The hotel was rather plush yet great value. We had so much fun jumping on big beds, snuggling in white robes and having a full English in the morning. Read more about our stay here

8) Lunch, coffee, cakes, biscuits, wine...

OK, I love food, so I have to mention that the catering was excellent. On Friday night at the BiB's there was lots of lovely wine and yummy canapés. Lunch on Saturday came in cute brown boxes filled with magnificent things like sweet potato croquets with poached eggs and salmon citrus salad.

As well as coffee, there was every kind of tea under the sun you could imagine, as well as chilled water available throughout the day. There were no shortage of delicious pastries, cakes and, thanks to Foxes, an abundance of their new hazelnut and caramel biscuits made for coffee.

9) Katie Piper

It's so hard for me to really do Katie Piper justice, and it's taken me so long to write this point. In 2008 Katie was a 24 year old model and TV presenter when she was brutally attacked, raped had sulphuric acid thrown in her face which left her with severe burns and scars. You can read more about Katie's story here.

Katie was the keynote speaker on Saturday morning and she shared very openly about her attack, her life before and her road to recovery. Here's a short video I made of her speaking, firstly about the early days after her attack, followed by a poem she wrote titled 'My Old Face':

Quite honestly, it was worth going to BritMums just to hear her speak. She touched me, and many others, very very deeply. A few words to describe her are courageous, positive, brave, inspiring, motivating, humble but most of all, conquering. Not only has she managed to physically and emotionally recover from the attack, she went one step further, setting up the Katie Piper Foundation which helps people live with burns and scars. She has also written three books, Beautiful, Things Get Better and Start Your Day With Katie.

I knew she was signing books at the Waterstones stand after the talk, and although I did not know what I would say to her, I just had to meet her. I bought a copy of 'Things Get Better' and then it was my turn to meet Katie. Close up, in the flesh she looks so beautiful, and she radiates inner beauty as well. She also has great dress sense. I was a little overwhelemed and resisted the urge to hug her over the table. Our conversation went a little like this:

Katie: "Hello, what's you're name?" smiling, looks completely gorgeous, reaches for the book

Me: "Erm, hello, erm" flustered "It's, Filipa.... but it's a funny name, erm, here's my badge, it says it here" Fumble for my badge as I had obviously forgotten how to spell my own name.

Katie: "I think it's a lovely name"

Me: "Oh thank you so much! That's kind!" Did Katie Pier just tell me my name was nice? I actually love her. Shall I tell her it's Portuguese? There is quite a long queue behind me...

And then, while Katie signs my book, I managed to somehow communicate to her how truly amazing and courageous I thought she was, how I will never forget hearing her speak, and how it was a privilege and an honour to have met her, and thank you so much for coming to BritMums and thank you for signing my book which I will treasure forever.

Katie: "Oh thank you, what a lovely thing to say, how nice to meet you!" She must get that all the time, but she was so genuine in her response.

Me: "Thank you so much, it was really so great to meet you!" That was a huge understatement and I want to give you a massive hug.

It was such a privilege, and a real honour to hear Katie's story first hand, to meet her and to look in her eyes and see no trace of bitterness. You cannot control what life throws at you, but what you can control is your own attitude, reactions and choices. Katie said of her attackers "the one thing they could not touch was my spirit" and they certainly did not.

10) TKMaxx Lounge

Last year I gained loads of confidence in the wardrobe department just from a 15 minute style consultation with Georgina, one of the lovely stylists in the TKMaxx lounge. I went back again this year for another, this time with Kate, who was just as brilliant and showed me some 'current' looks and style tips. I also purchased this beautiful new outfit for just £30 (for the top & trousers). I really really love the ladies in the TKMaxx lounge. They are stylish and cool, but warm, friendly, encouraging and accepting and not one bit intimidating. 

11) A time to honour Kerry

Unfortunately I had to leave before the bloggers keynote on Saturday afternoon, but thanks for New Mum Online who made this video, I was able to watch the very moving tribute to Kerry, also known as Multiple Mummy. She tragically passed away in December last year leaving behind three beautiful children and a wonderful husband. Although I never knew her before she died, I know she was a very special lady from the tributes I have heard, and I want to honour her here too.

12) The BiB Awards

The BiBs, or Brilliance in Blogging Awards, are one of the highlights of the conference and they are a real celebration. All the winners should be very proud of themselves. There were 16 categories this year and I was chuffed to pieces that I was one of the 6 finalists in the Food category. I didn't win, but I felt like a winner just being a finalist along with A Mummy TooDelicieuxEnglish MumThe Crazy Kitchen and one of my favourite blogs, Feeding Boys and a Firefighter. Huge congratulations to Anneli who won the Food award with her beautiful food blog Delicieux.

There was a standing ovation for Ben as his incredibly moving blog, Life as a Widower, won the Fresh Voice category, and for Tamsyn from Anecdotes of a Manic Mum who won in the Inspire category. I was also delighted to see Mummy Barrow win the Social Media award and Ruth from Geek Mummy win the Video award. Helen from Knackered Mother’s Wine Club was a very well deserved outstanding winner as was the amazing Annie from Mammasaurus who won in the Innovate category.

Finally, I have to mention Team Honk, who are Annie from Mammasaurus, Tanya from Mummy Barrow and Penny from Alexander Residence. They visited Comic Relief funded projects in Ghana earlier this year to see how the money raised through Red Nose Day is making a difference. They blogger, vlogged, tweeted and sent 150 digital postcards throughout. They most deservedly won the commentary award and I caught the moment on video:

Thank you Susanna, Jen and Mari for all your hard work, I hope you have recovered?! You truly put on an excellent conference which benefited so many. See you next year everyone - unless you're going to BritMums Food in which case I will see you in November!

Filipa x

P.S. Big thanks to my beautiful buddy Carissa from Little Likely Lads for letting me use her lovely photos in points 7 & 10, and for putting up with me for the weekend!