In Preparation For Our Retreat to Romania

One day a friend and I were discussing how some people still practice traditional crafts to earn a living. She told me that this is still widely practiced in Romania. We were talking about how inspiring it would be to visit Romania... the seed was planted. That night I searched for accommodation that would facilitate such a retreat.

Retreat accommodation.

Retreat accommodation.

We found a stunning house in the Putnei Valley, surrounded by forests and mountains.  The owners of the house are committed to preserving Romania's history and heritage.  The house is tastefully furnished with hand crafted items and salvaged vintage finds.

Old traditionally built house.

Old traditionally built house.

Breakfast bar made out of the corner of an old house that had been destroyed.

Breakfast bar made out of the corner of an old house that had been destroyed.

It felt like a perfect collaboration.  I booked it and decided to jump in at the deep end as usual. I do not have a ready market or audience to fill this retreat, I just took a leap of faith. Also I desperately wanted to go there myself.

Last weekend we flew to Romania to finalise the details for the retreat. We landed at Cluj Napoca airport at midnight. In the dark, I could not see what Romania had in store for me.  At 5:00am the sun came up around us. This is the view that met us.



My heart began to skip with anticipation.

When we finally arrived at the retreat accommodation , I found it to be perfect. This house has clearly been designed with love and care. At the back of the house, there is a river and a forest. Within the grounds is a kitchen garden for use by retreat guests.  The decor consists of hand crafted furniture, knitted blankets and woven rugs.  A perfect nest from which to explore the countryside.

We had a busy day ahead of us. Firstly we visited a local weaver. She has her own sheep, sheers them and washes the wool in the river. Thereafter she spins it by hand and dyes it (when necessary) with locally foraged plants.  She then uses the yarn to weave gorgeous rugs.  I bought a rug, feeling completely honoured to have had the opportunity.

We visited a number of other awe inspiring crafters and makers. I was completely taken aback by the simple lifestyle and subsistence living still in practice to this day. 

The workshops included on the retreat are photography and styling with Dean and Jeska Hearne from The Future Kept and Lobster and Swan Blog. Renee from East London Knits will be teaching us how to knit top down sweaters. We will learn to spin too.

The itinerary is made up as follows: Mornings will be spent exploring and adventuring. Afternoons will be whiled away participating in workshops. The evenings will be spent by the fire knitting, spinning, crocheting and weaving in the company of inspiring people.

Our retreat to Romania will be the experience of a lifetime. It will take place between the 24-28 October 2016. Accommodation, food, airport transfers to Cluj Napoca airport, trips and workshops are included in the price.  Each attendee will also receive the most exquisite gifts.

If you would like to join us please follow this link to book.  I promise that you will not be disappointed.



The Way We Live in the Country

What a difference a year makes. When I look back to some of my old posts, I feel like cringing. My views, my interests and my dreams have changed so much.  I guess that's the thing with blogs... it  creates a record, whereas in the past we would all evolve without even noticing it too much.

Two days ago I read a lovely book, The Way We Live in the Country. The photos are little windows into country life, I poured over it from cover to cover a number of times already.  I guess what appealed to me was how little, everyday details tell the story of the lives we lead. My family and I do live in the countryside, it's still something relatively new to us. We have only lived here for the past three years , having moved from London. However, my husband and I are country people at heart and we love the space, the beauty and the quiet of the countryside.

Only a few days ago I had a conversation with Emma from A Quiet Style about her dilemma. Should she move to the country or not?  I think many of us consider this at some point. Even those that are die hard city dwellers, often like to bring a touch of the countryside into their city lives.  I thought it would be really lovely to have a 'diary' of countryside living on Instagram. A gallery of peoples' everyday captures that epitomise The Way We Live in the Country. Thus #thewayweliveinthecountry was born.  I would enjoy it if you would join in, share your pictures. You do not need to live in the countryside necessarily, share moments that bring the country living feeling to your life or home.

I have recently been to Ireland on an inspiring Lens and Larder retreat,  (more about that soon). What really appealed to me on this retreat was the whole 'farm to table ' approach which both Imen and Cliodhna promote.  Imen's cookbook, The Farmette Cookbook, is filled with recipes for delicious, wholesome food.  The photos in her book, about her life on a farm in Ireland, illustrate beautifully the new hashtag #thewayweliveinthecountry.  With this in mind, I asked Imen whether she would like to play along with the new hashtag gallery. She generously offered to gift a copy of her cookbook to a participant. Imen will choose her favourite image in a few weeks and this lucky person will receive a copy of Imen's new cookbook.

So, don't miss out. Join in with the new hashtag # thewayweliveinthecountry. You do not need to live in the countryside, perhaps you only dream of it, perhaps you holiday there  or perhaps you just like a little touch of countryside in your city life. 

Assisting at a Local Milk Retreat.

Last summer Beth Kirby of Local Milk asked me whether I would like to host a knitting and weaving workshop at her Winter Retreat here in the UK. Naturally I was delighted.  Beth created a mood board of colours that she loved and I set about dyeing the yarn with natural plant dyes. Time passed so fast and before I knew it, February had arrived and with it the Local Milk Winter Retreat.

The retreat was held at Goddards, in Abinger Common. This fascinating property is available to rent through The Landmark Trust.  It was the perfect setting for a retreat that really emphasised slow living.  Guests spent their days learning about food photography and styling from Beth.

We enjoyed sumptuous feasts prepared by chef Aaron Teece of  Studio Neon.  The ingredients were bought predominantly at local farm shops and were so tasty.  Each meal was a mini celebration as the guests were presented with a gift left on their plates every time. These gifts had been wrapped with care and attention to detail... it made everyone feel special. Thanks to Sadie Jane for all the time spent on details. ( Find her on Instagram @londonrose).  Such a lovely opportunity to hold conversations and get to know the different people that had attended.

Marte Marie Forsburg also joined us for a day of food photography, cooking and styling.  Guests enjoyed the inspirational stories of both Beth and Marie.


Afternoons and nights were spent knitting and weaving. I am so pleased that all the participants learned to weave and knit a hat..  Sitting at the fire, drinking tea and knitting was the perfect way to spend those cold winter days. It also created an opportunity for people to get to know each other and I am sure a few lasting friendships were formed.

A Change of Direction

I have not been blogging for a few months now. In that time I have been thinking about the things that are really important to me. Life has a way of making you stop and reconsider sometimes.  In July I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma ( Breast Cancer). It happened very suddenly... I felt a lump, thought nothing of it. I have been told that its normal for women to develop lumps sometimes. I thought I should check it out, only to have peace of mind. Listening to the doctor confirm what it is was, was surreal... surely it can't be true!!!!!

Just like that, instantly my life and the lives of my children and my husband changed. Instantly I knew the only thing that mattered was that I see my children grow up, that I be around to be in their lives for as long as I can.

Ireland 2015

Ireland 2015

Everything has settled down now. I am having chemotherapy and I am grateful that my situation is not as bad as other people's.  Now I have begun to think about ME, what about my life. How would I like to live? Many of us forget about ourselves when we are busy with our families. I now know that I need to find time to do what I enjoy too. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love my children, I love my husband. However, I am a person and I need to take a moment in time to do some things that are just for me.

This is how the weekend retreats were born. For the past two years I have run workshops for yarn lovers that lasted only for a day. It is great fun, but after the busyness of the workshops were over, everyone left to go home. There was no time to sit and enjoy a meal together, to talk about our lives and our interests, to listen to what is happening in the lives of others.  This, I feel, is really missing in today's society for some of us. After all, talking, eating and enjoying a meal, getting to know another person better, whilst enjoying crafts and activities together... surely these are life's memorable moments too? Surely when we go back home to our busy lives of caring for others, of working, of being the responsible adult...we will do it so much better? Refuelled by inspiration , relaxation, laughter...a moment in time to be YOU.

Life is too short, in my opinion. I can't sit around waiting. The first retreat is planned for 10-13 June 2016. It's in a beautiful house in Rye, Sussex.  There is a heated pool, a Hamman steam room and a view of the sea.  More details of the house can be found here.  There will be two workshops on Saturday and one on Sunday. Details of the workshops will follow, but I guarantee they will inspiring.  A cast on party on Friday night will kick start events ( Crocheters and beginner knitters will be catered for too). All meals are included, and of course delicious cakes will be enticing us throughout the weekend.  The retreat is for three nights, check in on Friday evening and check out on Monday morning.  Prices and booking will be available soon. However, if you are keen to find out more, visit my Facebook page here .

A Workshop With Beth Kirby

It's been so long since I have written here. Life has been frantic for some reason or another and I have been unable to find a balance and a steady pace.  It gets like that sometimes I guess, for most of us.

I do, however,  need to share my amazing adventure in Italy. About three weeks ago I flew to Italy to participate in a 6 day workshop with Beth Kirby from Local Milk .   I arrived late on the first day due to having missed my flight from Rome, so unfortunately I missed the introductions of the other 11 people that attended.  I did make it in time for dinner prepared by Beth, it was the most welcoming sight to my travel weary soul.

A workshop with Beth Kirby

 Each day breakfast was a lovely ritual in this beautiful setting. It was delightful  to come downstairs, eat, chat and just share little bits of our lives and goals with like minded people.  

A workshop with Beth Kirby

The actual learning on the course was unrivalled by any other course I have attended (and I have attended a few).  I now feel that I have a good working knowledge of my DSLR camera. Previously I just changed settings randomly. Now, if I am not achieving the result I am after, I KNOW which settings to change.  I understand my camera and can now enjoy the full benefit of the camera's 'manual' setting. 

A workshop with Beth Kirby

Each day was full of new learning experiences. We learned about different types of photos and how to style effectively to get our desired message across. Beth is a very attentive teacher and we each received a fair amout of one-to-one tutorials and advice from her.

A workshop with Beth Kirby

Food styling was a big portion of the course and it was so inspirational. Beth's love of the ritual of sharing food really shines through here.  The food was a delicious detail of the trip. We went to dinner in two local restaurants, enjoyed Beth's fine cooking and also had an amazing meal prepared by a local family. Good food really turns strangers into friends, I find.

The house was sublime. This setting provided the perfect tranquil backdrop to a day full of brain work.

A workshop with Beth Kirby

It was so sad to say goodbye to everyone and it took weeks to return to my normal self, and continue with my daily activities.  I would definitely go to another workshop with Beth. Though I learned so much from her, I am sure she has at least twice as much more that she could teach me.  Really, I would just go for her company, she is down to earth, straight forward and so likeable .

A workshop with Beth Kirby

Sensory Play Friday: Baby Oil

Ever since we made the cloud dough, Lyla has been asking to play with the baby oil.  Today I agreed to her request. I gave her just under half a bottle of baby oil.  (I do recommend that you either have old clothes on or use an apron.)

Sensory Play Friday: Baby Oil

Part of the enjoyment was having the independence to pour the oil herself and deciding how much oil she wants. (She did not pour it all at once, but did eventually use all of it. ) Oh my goodness!! She was delighted.

Sensory Play Friday: Baby Oil

She rubbed her hands in the oil, rubbed the tray and eventually even dipped her nose into it. It was her best sensory experience and it was initiated by her own interests.

Sensory Play Friday: Baby Oil
Sensory Play Friday: Baby Oil

An important lesson for me, is to remember to follow HER interests. It leads to the highest level of interest, learning and exploration. When she is done, it leads to the greatest personal satisfaction for her.

Sensory Play Friday: Baby Oil

Writing Letters

When they say a 'picture speaks a thousand words'.... In the photo below, everything is laden with meaning. The letter writing that my father loved to do. The vintage writing set that I bought for him about 20 years ago, that he gave to me 2 weeks ago. The lilac which he loves so much and which reminds him of his own mum.

My father lost his wife last year, very suddenly. We were all shocked, she was healthy and it was not expected. So many things were left unsaid for him. It breaks his heart. They went to bed one Friday night after talking about their plans for the holiday they had planned a few weeks away. She had a stroke and never regained consciousness. She passed away two days later.  The fact is, he now feels so very lonely.  We make every effort to see him every weekend, but its not the same.

Next week I am away for the week. Though he does not see me during the week, we chat on the phone a number of times each day. Whilst I am away, we will have less opportunity to talk. He will feel even more alone. I have been worrying about this, as I do, whenever we go away.

Then I remembered when I moved to the U.K. I was 19 years old and all alone. My father wrote me a letter every single day. It was the highlight of every day for me. Waiting and listening for the postman. To hear the clatter of the letter flap made my heart soar. For three years he wrote me every single day, posted a letter every single day so that I could receive my little ray of light... every single day.

So, I decided to write him a letter that will arrive next week, whilst I am away. I hope it will make him feel loved.  

Taking a moment in time


Sensory Play Friday: Exploring Rice.

Today I filled the tray with uncooked rice. I know you are thinking that this does not sound very adventurous, but it was perfect.  Lyla is reaching the age now where she is slowly growing out of pure sensory exploration, the 'what is this?' stage.  She is now moving into the 'what can I DO with this?' stage.

Sensory Play Friday: Rice Exploration

What is essential for this activity to be stimulating is: a few different sized containers, containers with spouts like jugs, spoons, jars with lids, narrow mouthed containers, funnels and spoons.

Sensory Play Friday: Rice Exploration

Lyla enjoyed filling the containers with the spoon.  This activity is especially great for developing motor skills.

Sensory Play Friday: Rice Exploration

She loved pouring from one container to another.

Sensory Play Friday: Rice Exploration

She also ate large amounts of uncooked rice. (Please excuse the red ink on her fingers and face, left over from the previous activity this morning).

Sensory Play Friday: Rice Exploration

Lyla is 2 years and 4 months old. I think, for her, this activity was very interesting. She remained engaged and busy for a long period of time, completely absorbed in what she was doing.  This is definitely an activity that I highly recommend.

Sensory Play Friday: Rice Exploration

Sensory Play: A Holiday Round -Up

Firstly, I have to apologise for the fact that this post did not go out on Friday. I was away and unfortunately, I had very weak/erratic internet service.

Last week was school holidays which meant that I had all 4 of my children home with me. I love it!       

It does mean, that my photos are a little busier than usual.  We were just so busy doing so many different things for different interests on each day. So I decided that the post needs to be a 'round-up' of what we did.

Sensory Play

We played with water and paint brushes... the best kind of mark making. Large and satisfying, when the walls and floors are your canvas.

Sensory Play
Sensory Play

We added shells to the water too. They are fun to wash.

Sensory Play

The children remembered an almost forgotten resource, tiny little Teifoc bricks. These are mini real bricks. They can be re used after  washing away the special 'cement'.

Playing with Teifoc bricks
Playing with Teifoc bricks

On Friday we used shop bought modelling dough and loose parts. The loose parts included lolly sticks, craft match sticks, buttons and googly eyes.

Taking a moment in time: sensory play

Little Miss 4 was totally absorbed in this activity.  She made a number of little creatures. ( Even though the dough was too crumbly and not very satisfying).

Taking a moment in time: sensory play

Little Miss 2 on the other hand preferred exploring with the loose parts.

Taking a moment in time: sensory play

She spent a while trying to line up the googly eyes.

Taking a moment in time: sensory play

This activity was great for small motor development.

Thank you for stopping by. See you all for more sensory play on Friday.

Bye x

40 Facts About Me for The Hive

Tomorrow I fly to Berlin for  a bloggers conference,  THE HIVE .  The organiser of the event suggested we post 40 facts about ourselves so that we can get to know each other.  I was reluctant to do this as I thought I have nothing really interesting to say about myself. Then today I realised it's just for fun and it's a little snippet about myself so that others get a little window into who I am. So, here it is:

1) I came to London from South Africa when I was 19.

2) I planned to stay in London only for 1 year. 20 years later, it is where I call home.

3) I grew up as an only child until I was 13, then my father remarried.

4) I planned to have only 1 child, then thought he would be lonely. Now I have 4 children.  

Taking a moment in time: 40 Facts for The Hive

5) After each child I gave every single baby thing away, thinking I would have no more....Only to have to buy EVERYTHING again and again and again.

6) I can not pass up a viable business opportunity.  I was brought up to chase that pot of gold.  I am working on resisting the temptation.

7) I am trying to embrace doing things for enjoyment and not to make a living out of every idea.

8) My husband tries to be the voice of reason in each of my business ventures, but I am a very convincing sales person.

9) Each time I start a new business, I need it to be better than its competitors. I spend time researching the market. Perhaps the enjoyment for me is in the challenge of setting up and running a successful business.

10) I have had a lingerie business, I have had an online wooden toy company , I have run a subscription art club for children, amongst other things.

11) My best ideas happen in the shower. Perhaps because its the only place where I can hear myself think. 

12) I genuinely feel you need to be passionate about what you do because then you will do it best.

13) I often run on gut feeling and passion, later followed by logic and planning.

14) I am impulsive and once I have a viable idea, I need to implement it immediately.

15) I am impatient.

16) My greatest passion is children's learning. I believe in allowing children to blossom and be free to express themselves. I believe in experimentation and creativity. I believe in allowing children to be individuals rather than forcing them to conform.

Taking a moment in time: 40 facts for The Hive


17) After establishing the  lingerie business, I sold it on because I did not enjoy convincing others of what looks good on them.  I am a decisive shopper myself.

18) I ceased trading of children's toys as I had a baby and I was pregnant at the same time.... I simply could not manage.  The best thing about this business is that it gave me insight into the best toy manufacturers and how to equip my nursery to an extremely high standard. I prefer natural open-ended toys rather than loads of plastic (Lego being an exception to this rule).

19) I suspended the children's art subscription because it took me away from doing art with my own children.  It was very successful and customers were disappointed, but I hope to continue to offer this through by blog and perhaps in the future I would like to get back to this wonderful idea.

20) I still run a children's nursery school.  My greatest passion.

21) I would have loved to be a 'maker' as my career.  My father was a textile technician by trade.  

22)  My father, being German, preferred for me to do something more practical. Something that provided a more consistent income.  It took years of trial and error to find my 'thing'.

23) I am a teacher. I have studied Montessori Education, I have studied for a BA in Early Childhood Education, and I have trained as a Forest School Leader.  When I choose to do something, I need to know everything about it.  Different view points make for a fuller picture.

24) Two of my children go to school. I home educate one, and the other is a toddler.

25) When I arrived from South Africa, I lived for summer. Now I prefer Autumn. Spring is lovely too. I do not like winter.  I feel the cold hurts my skin.

26)  I am fussy about food.  Taste is EVERYTHING!

27 ) Instead of trying to turn every single thing into a business for myself, I now run workshops helping others improve or establish their businesses.  It's great. I get to brain storm and problem solve business ideas and practice.

28) I LOVE wool. The colours, textures, hues. The way it knits up. The way the colours and patterns unfold like a story.  I guess it runs in my blood. I remember playing with cones of wool in my father's knitwear factory when I was a child. The smell of wool takes me back to my childhood.

29) I want to make everything!!!!!!

30) My blog started without much planning. I am still finding my 'place'. 

31) I have a tattoo and would love to get more.

32) I believe EVERYTHING happens for a reason. If you are paying attention you will see how all the pieces fit into the puzzle.

33) I get bored easily.  My brain needs to be busy all the time. My hands need to be busy all the time too. (Preferably on different things).

34) I am planting a kitchen garden with a PLAN this year. I have planted kitchen gardens for 6 years now.  I wonder whether I will stick to the plan.

35) This year I am planting a 'cut flower garden'.

36) I am also planting a dye garden. ( so that I can dye wool for personal use)

Taking a moment in time: 40 facts for The Hive

37) I gave up Diet Coke last year. It was like a drug for me.

38) I do not drink tea or coffee, I do not like the taste. I do  love the smell of Earl Grey Tea and have a box of it in the cupboard just for the fragrance.

39) I am in awe of the beauty in nature that we take for granted and often walk past without noticing.  I am trying to stop and take a moment to see the beauty.

Taking a moment in time: 40 facts for the hive

40) I believe in CARPE DIEM.