It has been a LONG two years since the last in person BlogOn conference. It was fantastic to be back at The Coppid Beech Hotel in Bracknell with other bloggers for a day of learning, networking and fun on Saturday! In fact, I’m still buzzing as I write this! If you’re a blogger reading this, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have heard of BlogOn. It is always an amazing day out thanks to Laura at Tired Mummy of Two (BlogOn’s founder) and her team of helpers. It’s so inspiring – and if you haven’t heard, the goody bags and raffle are EPIC!
Arrival and welcome
The day started with a rainy drive on the M25. Usually I’d be like bleh…rain, bleh…concrete and tarmac. However, I was so excited I couldn’t care less! Arriving at the beautiful hotel in my Pikachu Christmas jumper, I checked in and headed straight to the welcome where Man Behaving Dadly got us all laughing with his amusing anecdotes about fooling The Sun newspaper and Katie Hopkins. Please excuse the quality of this photo – I was right at the back of the room!
I had Reuben with me at this point, who decided this was the perfect time to practice blowing raspberries (of course!) I don’t know who it was, but someone spotted me breastfeeding him and got me a glass of water. If you read this, thank you so much! That’s the wonderful thing about the spirit of BlogOn. Even if you go on your own, there’s always someone there who will have your back whether you need help or just want to chat.
After saying hi to a few bloggers near me that I recognised, I handed Reuben over to my husband and headed to my first session. I haven’t used my DSLR properly nearly enough since having children. It’s actually only recently been fixed after having a broken focusing mechanism for a couple of years. I keep saying to myself that I’ll sit down with my manual again and figure things out again. Of course, that never happens. I have enough trouble trying to find the time to shower and brush my teeth most days! Therefore, Sara-Jayne Jones’ two photography sessions were the perfect opportunity for me. She blogs at Keep Up With the Jones Family and I have long envied her beautiful Instagram feed and photography on her blog! She’s lovely and I learned so much with her help.
There were a couple of other sessions during the day that I considered going to, but I got waylaid and managed to miss them. Fortunately, I *think* they were recorded so I should be able to watch them back. Yay!
At least I was present in the photography sessions as they were the ones I felt I needed the most to make the progress I want to achieve.
I didn’t get any photos at lunch because I had to take Reuben from my husband for a feed. After that I had him strapped to me while I stood and bounced as I ate my lunch, so I didn’t get any photos. However, once again the food was delicious! I was also pleased to find that there was lots of choice for me as a vegetarian.
The Brand Den
I could never choose a favourite part of BlogOn, but the brand den is definitely up there! It’s always amazing to network there as well as see PRs that I’ve now been speaking to and working with for years! Especially with the conference being so close to Christmas, it’s great to see new toys and products and put them to the test. I really enjoyed the challenge set by Foul Play where we had to find clues around the hotel. I’m yet to play the card game, but can’t wait to!
One of my favourite products this year was the Sing Along Elsa, which will retail for around £39.99. They won’t launch for a couple of weeks yet, so this doll was the first one in the UK. It had been shipped in especially for BlogOn! Elsa sings Let It Go, Into the Unknown and Show Yourself. The colour her chest glows depends on which song she’s singing. She comes with a microphone so that your child can duet with her or she can sing on her own. She has beautiful, big glittery eyes and beautifully soft hair. My daughter, Autumn, is Frozen obsessed. I can just imagine how much she would love it.
Two of my other favourite stalls were Happy Feet Play Mats (amazing sensory mats) and Steiff. The cuddly toys are so cute and beautifully made.
It all looked so pretty and festive that I had to stop for a picture in my Christmas hat with Reuben.
(Wondering about the hat? I wore a daft Christmas hat to my first BlogOn and people won’t let me get away with not wearing one since. It’s tradition now – the sillier the better!)
The Toy Awards
The toy awards is always brilliant. Businesses enter toys into the awards and we collectively vote on what we like best! Votes are placed based on what categories they fall into, as well as an overall winner. At the end of the day, all the toys from the awards get to go home with the lucky bloggers who win them in the raffle! Just look at all those shelves of toys – and there were more to the right of me!
Another thing you have to look out for at BlogOn is the amazing cake! They are always huge, beautiful and sponsored by one of the businesses at the event. This year, it was sponsored by Fabula. As a brand that brings nursery rhymes to life without the use of screens, the characters on the cake were perfect. If you can’t tell, they’re Incy Wincy Spider, Five Little Monkeys (Jumping on a Bed) and The Wheels on the Bus! It definitely has to be one of my favourite cakes so far. It was super cute!
Okay, back to the raffle. Money raised by it goes into the Blogger’s Community Fund which helps bloggers in times of desperate need. It is 30-45 minutes of CRAZINESS! From the way winner’s names are shouted out to witnessing people running down the corridor, it’s mental in the best way. If you’re lucky enough for your name to be read out, you go to the toy award stands and pick something you’d like from all of the prizes there. It’s amazing!
I usually come out with a prize or two, but this year I won a whopping NINE prizes!
I’ve given a couple of things to the kids already, while some things I’ll stash as presents. Not in this picture is the kid’s picnic table with a built in sink (with tap) and sand tray that I won. I was so fortunate to have my name called early on and made a beeline straight for them!
I had to get my husband to come and help me because there was too much for me to carry. Reuben seemed impressed by my wins!
BlogOn is fun, but it’s hard work too. My brain felt like I was going to explode from concentrating so hard while I was in the sessions. I don’t remember the last time I spoke to so many people in such a short time, either! My back and legs were aching from all the standing and walking. The time goes so quickly and it always feels to me like I’m racing to try and get the most out of the day. So it’s great to have a party in the evening where you can just unwind and reflect on the day.
The party always has a sponsor. This year it was 34SP.com with a Hawaiian theme! Upon arrival, there were leis, cocktails and mocktails with suitably tacky decorations.
There was an amazing pick ‘n’ mix which took me right back to the days of Woolworths (I still miss that shop).
A photo area saw us posing with silly Hawaiian props, which was great fun!
Much hilarity ensued with the limbo…there was a fair bit of cheating going on! It had been way too long since I’d danced to Macarena and the Cha Cha Slide, but alas, a couple of hours into the party, Reuben had had enough and I had to leave to get him settled. Luckily I managed to fit in so much fun at the party and catch up with a few bloggers I knew as well as meeting some lovely people I didn’t!
I feel like this bit almost needs a blog post of its own! You might think you’ve seen a goody bag before, but you haven’t until you’ve seen the BlogOn ones. There’s a reason Laura has to hire a storage unit to keep all this stuff in, because there is loads! I can’t wait to try all these products out. I’ve categorised the contents so you can see everything much more clearly than a group shot of everything:
Food & Drink
Toys & Games
Craft & Stationery
Beauty & Wellbeing
So there you have it, another incredible BlogOn. Thank you so much to everyone involved for making it the event it is. I can’t believe it’s over just like that, but already looking forward to next year’s! Now, to start thinking about the next hat…