So what exactly is Girasole Retreats all about??

Well, it is my absolute pleasure to be working alongside 2 beautiful ladies that I am so blessed to call my friends ūüĆĽ


Francesca, Shauna and I met at work.  We had an instant common denominator in that we all have a connection to Italy!

Francesca was born in Tuscany and spent the first 25 or so years of her life there!  Shauna and I both studied Italian at University and spent some time living there. I personally spent 3 years of my life living in the beautiful city of Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region.

But I digress… it may have been our love for Italy that first drew us to eachother, but I truly believe that ultimately the universe transpired to make our paths cross.

We have each followed our own individual career paths but our connection has always stayed strong.  So while we may no longer share an office space, we are so delighted to work together towards a common goal.

We all share a desire to help bring peace and wellness to our families and those around us. A desire to find light and love in our own lives and help guide others to do the same.

And so Girasole Retreats was born!

The name we have chosen – Girasole – is the Italian word for Sunflower. The flower that follows the sun! An ideal symbol for what we hope to achieve ūüĆĽ

This is truly mind and body wellness at its finest!

We specialise in 3 different areas –

I am the Pilates provider (read more about this here)

Francesca is our Reflexology specialist (read more about this here)

Shauna is our EFT Practitioner (post coming shortly with more information from Shauna ūüôā )

Together these 3 practices can help you arrive at a deeper state of mind and body wellness – our ultimate goal!

Our WEEKEND retreats are held at Lorne House in Holywood, Co. Down, and we hope to have some DAY RETREATS in other locations around the province in the near future.

At our retreats you will enjoy:

– Exploring posture and core strength with me on the mat through beginner-friendly Pilates sessions

– A Choice of either Reflexology or Indian Head massage from Francesca.

– An introduction to EFT with Shauna where you will learn more about this amazing mind and body technique and discover how it can dramatically help you with issues such as anxiety or stress. You will also have a time allocated to you for an individual session with Shauna where you can delve a little deeper into any specific issues you may have.

We may also bring other practitioners along to offer you the chance to receive further treatments such as Reiki, NLP, Aromatherapy massage and others…

So I, along with many many others, am¬†on¬†a ‘Wellness Journey’ right now..

I know it’s a bit of a buzzword at the minute and you could almost say that wellness has become trendy or fashionable.¬† I actually think this is wonderful!¬† The fact that more and more of us are investing our time and money on ways to improve our wellness can only be a good thing!

So, as I work on my own overall wellness I am learning A LOT and I want to share it with you all ūüôā

When I first started out,  I rather naively thought wellness was just really about eating right, being active and learning how to meditate.  I now understand that there is SO much more depth to it than that!

Did you know that there are 6 dimensions to overall wellness?

No, neither did I!  But when I started to read a bit about them it just makes total sense and is in perfect keeping with the holistic mind body wellness that I am striving to achieve.

Below is a very brief outline of each of the 6 dimensions:

(Photo and information adapted from ‘Clark College’ and ‘National Wellness Institute’)

1. OCCUPATIONAL – feeling satisfied in your work. doing something that is in keeping with your personal beliefs, values and interests and having the opportunity to use your unique gifts and talents.

2. PHYSICAL – understanding the importance and impact of regular physical exercise. Realising how much better it is to fuel your body with food that makes you feel great in the long term rather than short term gratification which ultimately impairs your physical wellbeing. Looking and feeling better also leads to greater self image and boosts self esteem.

3. SOCIAL – being aware of your impact on environments and other people. Being respectful of others and of your environments and working with them rather than fighting against them.

4. INTELLECTUAL – seeking new knowledge and stretching your creativity and mental capacity. Seeing the importance of not becoming self satisfied and unproductive and instead spending time on intellectual and creative pursuits. This will ultimately improve your problem solving skills and better equip you to deal with whatever life throws your way.

5. SPIRITUAL – recognising the search for meaning and purpose in human existence. Living your life in harmony with your beliefs and values and living this way with such ease that it becomes difficult to live or behave in any other way,

6. EMOTIONAL – awareness and acceptance of your own feelings. Having the capacity to manage your feelings and the behaviours related to them and being understanding and accepting of your own limitations. Having the ability to cope effectively with stress and express your feelings with ease.

So, ¬†I know what areas I personally need to work on the most…. what about you?¬† Do you feel like any one of these dimensions is in a good place right now?¬† What steps can you put in place to get closer to overall WELLNESS?¬† What do you need help with?

And please feel free to Get in touch with any questions or ideas!

So, just over five years ago, my life changed and I became a mum.¬† I’m not going to go into all the crazy changes that motherhood has¬†brought about in my life…¬†that isn’t the purpose of this post.¬† What I want to focus on here is the change that I have experienced in my MIND since I became a mother.

I have found that in the last 5 years my mind has become busier and busier.  So busy that I have had to seek out and implement ways to quiet it down and save my sanity!

Now I’m not saying that motherhood¬†has driven¬†me insane!¬† However I will admit that I struggle sometimes with the¬†noise¬†that¬†fills my head since the children arrived.

Motherhood made me reassess EVERYTHING!  So much so that I have completely changed my career!

After my son was born I was fortunate enough to be able to reduce my working hours in my office job to part-time.  This was partly for financial reasons and to save on the extortionate childcare costs, but also to give me the luxury of spending some more time with my son in these early years.  I was very lucky to have this opportunity and I am so grateful for how that all worked out.

However, switching from full-time to part-time left me feeling rather unfulfilled in my work and that is when the “noise”¬†started to increase.¬† Mixed in¬†amongst the new and terrifying emotions¬†that come with being a new mum, was a distinct feeling of lack of direction.¬† What was I doing?¬† Where was I going?¬† Who was I??

That is when I took the plunge and decided to get qualified in fitness & Pilates.  Something I had secretly always wanted to do, but never believed that I could or should!

After some time, my little daughter¬†came¬†¬†along ūüôā¬† Suddenly I was a mother of 2 small people!¬†¬†A mother of 2 with a part time job and a¬†business¬†to run¬†in my ‘spare time’.¬† ¬†Eeek!!¬† The noise levels started to increase….in every way imaginable!

Before I continue, I really want to stress how grateful I am!¬† I have 2 beautiful children,¬† I had a job that paid me and let me rearrange my hours to fit in with the kids… and I had the support at home to be able to go out and follow my dream teaching classes in the evenings and weekends!¬† I fully appreciate how fortunate I am for all these things.

However…. the busyness that all these things brought about has been a struggle and there have been times when I have questioned everything and wanted to run away somewhere quiet and possibly never return!

Fortunately, the universe intervened and at the end of 2015 I was thrown a life line!¬† This might seem like a strange life line to some as it came in the form of REDUNDANCY!¬† That awful word that so many of us have unfortunately¬†heard in recent times…¬† Business wasn’t good and the company I worked for needed to lose some people from their workforce.¬†¬† Thankfully for me, this was actually exactly what I needed to happen.

My husband’s cousin had spoken to me previously about a company called Forever Living, a health and wellbeing company.¬† I had heard of this company before and was already using their signature Aloe Vera Drinking gel, but I wasn’t interested in taking on anything else from a business point of view.¬† That was before the redundancy word came along!¬† Now the timing was right, so I met up with her again and got myself set up as a Forever Living business owner.¬† I knew instantly that this was the perfect business for me to work¬†alongside my fitness and Pilates work.

So my office job came to an end in the summer of 2016 and since then I have been fully responsible for my income and fully responsible for the childcare of my 2 children!  (Terrifying but empowering in equal measure!!)

So, what has all this got to do with a mindset challenge??

Well,¬† this noise in my head wasn’t going away.¬† In fact, spending more time with the children increased the noise both in my house and in my head!¬†(they both love to chat!!)¬†The new¬†uncertainty and anxiety about work was filling my head with worries and stress.¬† The new possibilities of what I could actually do were filling my head with ideas and I was finding it increasingly hard to focus.¬† I was in a state of overwhelm!¬† Too many ideas and not enough time to quietly focus on them and figure out which ones to go with and which ones to leave alone or postpone until later….¬† I felt that sense of lack of direction creeping back in.¬† This was horrible because I had been so sure that my new status of ‘self-employed’ was going to be nothing other than fulfilling!

Thankfully, I was not alone!   Thankfully I had found Forever Living!   I am so thankful for all the people I have met through this business as they have had a MASSIVE impact on my mindset, which is the whole focus of this blogpost!

The team that I am part of is just fantastic.  They put on regular trainings for us and these are not only to learn about the products, but also to help us work on ourselves.  This was so unexpected for me and  I had no idea of the impact that this whole experience was going to have on me!

I have been introduced and exposed to so many inspiring people and books and tools to use to help work on my mindset since meeting all my Forever Living friends and colleagues.¬† We encourage eachother to focus on the positives in our days¬†and to spend a little time every day working on ourselves, to find ways to better manage our time, to improve our focus and productivity, to continually aspire to better ourselves…

This sort of encouragement was exactly what I needed and came to me at exactly the right time!¬† Isn’t it funny how often things come to you just when you need them the most?

So, having experienced first hand how wonderful it is to have the support of others when it comes to working on your mindset and also how powerful your mind is and what an impact your thoughts can have on your life, I decided to instigate a challenge!

I created a group on Facebook and ran a challenge about creating and maintaining a positive mindset.

After just a few days I could already feel the positive vibes being shared in the group!

There was only one rule for the challenge – commit to dedicate at least FIVE MINUTES EVERY DAY towards working on your mindset.¬† This could be done first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or at any random time throughout the day when you feel inspired to do it.¬† You¬†could use the time to write in your journal, meditate, sit in silence,¬†go for a contemplative walk, write¬†down some things¬†you feel grateful for, visualise where you would like to be, speak out some positive affirmations…. really anything at all!¬†¬† It just had to be focussed around positivity and you had to commit to do something every day for 21 days.

Why 21 days?  Well, research shows that this is how long it takes to form a habit.  It then takes a lot longer (90 days or more!) to sustain it and keep it going, but there is now a lot of research to prove that 21 days is a good length to aim for when trying to create a new habit.

I really cannot recommend these minsdet practices enough.  Do them regularly and you will definitely start to notice a difference.  Make mindset work a daily habit and it will honestly change your life!

I still have a lot of noise in my life.¬† Of course I do!¬†I have 2¬†small children! ¬†I also live in this crazy social media world!¬† A world where we are never truly alone and never fully quiet… We are contactable 24 hours a day and by people from all corners of the world!¬† It is a wonderful world and social media is a wonderful tool to use, especially for us small business owners!¬† But it is also dangerously addictive and can become a massive time thief!

So I urge you to take some time out EVERY DAY to work on YOU.¬†¬†Away from your phone, away from the notifications and updates…¬† Just you and your mind.¬† ¬†Make a commitment to yourself, stick to it and then wait for the magic to happen ūüôā

Maybe you are already a fan of Reflexology and need no convincing on the matter at all!¬† Or maybe you have heard of it before but you don’t really understand what benefits you can expect from it or why you should try it?¬† Is there really any more to it than a nice relaxing foot rub??

Well, allow me to enlighten you a little by borrowing some words from my wonderful friend and colleague Francesca ūüôā

Francesca has been a practitioner for 4 years now.  She has a kindness and generosity of spirit that is truly remarkable and she puts her heart and soul into every single session that she delivers.  I personally found regular sessions with Francesca during  my    second pregnancy enormously beneficial and therapeutic and I still try to get a session with her as often as our schedules will allow.

Here is¬†a little information from¬†Francesca about the history and benefits of this wonderful holistic therapy –

Modern reflexology is based on an ancient form of therapy. There is evidence of some form of foot and hand therapy being practiced in China as long ago as 4,000 B.C. and also at the same time in Egypt, as depicted in the tomb of Ankmahor. The North American tribes of Indians are also known to have practiced a form of foot therapy for hundreds of years.
The re-discovery of some form of systemized foot treatment is accredited to Dr William Fitzgerald who called it Zone Therapy and drew it to the attention of the medical world between 1915 and 1917. It was in 1915 that an article entitled ‚ÄúTo stop that toothache, squeeze your toe‚ÄĚ was published in ‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs Magazine‚ÄĚ, written by Edwin Bowers, which first brought Dr Fitzgerald‚Äôs work on Zone Therapy before the public and eventually reintroduced as the widely used complementary treatment that it is today.
Alongside conventional medical care, reflexology can help to improve quality of life and bring comfort to those living with certain conditions. Some of which are listed below:
  • Migraine
  • Sinus problems
  • Digestive disorders including IBS and Constipation
  • Hormone imbalances, including PMS and the menopause
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Chronic conditions e.g. MS, ME/CFS, Lupus
So what better way to literally put up your feet, take a break from the business of everyday life and treat your body and soul to a well-deserved health boost!
If you get the opportunity to come along to one of our Girasole Retreats you will get the pleasure of experiencing¬†Francesca’s Reflexology¬†for yourself.¬† I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Please feel free to get in touch to arrange an individual appointment with her –
Francesca offers home visits and offers shorter sessions for children as well.  Why not get the whole family booked in for a family visit?!

Before I get into the details of our inaugural retreat, please have a quick read here¬†for a little more about the history of how “Girasole Retreats” began.

When the 3 of us first started chatting about the idea of putting something like this together, I honestly don’t think that any of us really believed we would actually do it!¬† It was more of a “wouldn’t it be great to do this one day?” kind of chat initially.

IMG_3708But a little fire had been sparked up inside us and it was persistent!  Before we knew it we were looking at potential venues and mapping out a schedule.  We were (and still are!) convinced that our combination of Pilates, Reflexology/Indian Head Massage and EFT/Tapping was one that people needed to experience to attain a greater wellness of both mind and body.  We became determined to make it happen!

After contacting several places and having difficulty getting somewhere that we felt would really suit what we wanted to do, we finally came across Lorne House in County Down.¬† After chatting with the one of the coordinators on the phone we were so hopeful that this would be “the one”.¬† We made an arrangement to go for a viewing and kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn’t be disappointed.

Being mums of young children, getting out during the day on our own isn’t easy!¬† So in the end, we arrived at Lorne with SEVEN small children in tow to have a look around!!¬† The staff were so accommodating and politely smiled as our little darlings ran riot round the beautiful house, running up and down the staircase, climbing onto the windowsills and screaming in delight at this fun new ‘playhouse’!¬† It wasn’t exactly the perfect conditions for scouting out a peaceful venue for our first retreat!¬† However,¬†even amidst this chaos and stress, we knew that we had found our place.¬† It was perfect ūüôā


The old house commands respect as soon as you enter it.  The rooms have beautifully high ceilings and large bright windows with views of the gorgeous grounds from the ground floor and Belfast lough from the first floor.

The carpet feels soft and luxurious under foot and despite its size, there is a lovely cosiness that is just so welcoming and comforting to feel.  We just knew instantly  that our guests would enjoy staying here!

The space available was perfect for our requirements and we were satisfied that we would be able to achieve the ambience and setting that we wanted for our guests.  We got our date booked, paid our deposit and got to work!!

Our planning sessions were a few sporadic evening gatherings, with the kids in bed and a chance to chat uninterrupted (mostly!!) and a lot of WhatsApp chat and conference calls.¬†We planned the timetable, the food, the content of each of our individual sessions…everything was thought out and organised to the very last detail.¬† All we needed now was guests!¬† Would anyone want to come??¬† Are people even interested in what we have to offer??¬† Would anyone see our ad or hear our call??¬† This was the scary part – putting ourselves out there!

Thankfully we have Shauna, our EFT practitioner!  This amazing technique was something that we all used frequently in the weeks and months in the lead up to our event.  Regular practice helped us all to release that fear and move forwards with our excitement and enthusiasm.

We were so grateful to have all our spaces filled and to hear how excited everyone was about coming!

Then the day arrived!  The nerves and excitement were high!!

We were so delighted to be welcoming our guests to such a beautiful venue….¬† It felt great to guide everyone up the beautiful staircase and show them to their bright, spacious bedrooms.

Then, it all began.

After stretching out in an hour long Pilates session (read more about my Pilates here)¬†in a beautiful bright and sunny room, the guests enjoyed some healthy snacks and juices before hearing Shauna’s personal story.¬† Shauna explained how she discovered the world of EFT and what benefits she has personally experienced from it and demonstrated to our guests how they could use it themselves.

Individual treatments were then on the schedule with each guest receiving a chance to enjoy either Reflexology or Indian Head Massage with Francesca and an individual EFT session with Shauna.

We served a vegetarian meal and finished the evening with a relaxing, seated stretch and meditation session before leaving our guests to either head off to bed or stay up a while to chat and enjoy each others company.

The next morning began with some Sun Salutations in our beautiful sunny room followed by a healthy breakfast.   While Francesca and Shauna finished their individual sessions, I led 2 groups down to the shore line.  This was approximately a half hour walk and, being blessed with a dry morning thankfully, it was so pleasant to get out and enjoy the fresh sea air.

Here is a small collection of memories from the retreat.

It was just such a joy to share this experience with all these beautiful women!  Shauna, Francesca and I feel so blessed to have had such a warm, welcoming and receptive group of people at our first retreat.   The feedback we have received since has been overwhelmingly positive and so so encouraging!

The most common comment we received was to make the whole experience longer!  Well, we have listened and we already have plans to make this happen!

We are returning to Lorne House in February 2018 for another overnight retreat.

We are so looking forward to welcoming our 12 guests along! Would you like to be one of them?

Please just get in touch to get your space secured or for any more details.