What were you doing 5 years ago?

What do you hope to be doing 5 years from now?

2 big questions right?

I spent a lot of January contemplating where I am, where I have been and where I would like to be and I realised a few things…

Firstly, I realised that I have come a lot further than I give myself credit for!

My life has changed dramatically over the last five years! The biggest change is that I became a mother of 2 when my daughter was born in May 2014, making my then toddler-son a big brother! What a whirlwind that has been!! Motherhood is the best and yet hardest thing I have ever experienced! I have extreme highs and extreme lows in my role as “mummy” – extremes that I had never really experienced before…

I have come through a complete change of career, spurred on by a redundancy from my office job of 10 years and all the emotional fallout that came with that (!!!)

I have qualified as a Pilates instructor and Meditation Teacher and am now teaching classes regularly in the community and have a regular base of individual clients as well.

And I have gone back to school to study Hypnotherapy & Counselling to add to my skillset and deepen my knowledge & expertise.

I mention these things simply to let you know what a period of transition the last 5 years have been for me. Every area of my life has changed – Family, career, studies…. Yet, before I really took the time to contemplate these things, I had an overriding feeling that I hadn’t really accomplished anything of any real significance.


Why are we so often reluctant to recognise what we have accomplished and instead focus on all the things that didn’t work out like we wanted them to?

I had so many plans that I thought about starting, but never managed to get off the starting block…. so many projects that I started but didn’t finish… And I seem to focus on these unfinished things!

I would NEVER remind my friends or children of all the things they DIDN’T accomplish!! I would never be so discouraging and negative when talking to others so why do I talk this way to myself??

This was certainly food for thought….

Another thing I realised is that I don’t actually have a clear vision of what I want to be doing 5 years from now and I’m ok with that! I know that I like what I am doing and what I am working towards right now and I have a rough idea of what I’d like to be doing in the future, but it certainly isn’t a crystal clear vision or goal…. not yet.

I have a greater understanding and acceptance of the fact that things will constantly change and I am actually really pleased to know this!

My family will change as my children grow older. In 5 years time I will have an 11 year old son and a 9 year old daughter and will be dealing with all the fun and challenges that 11yr olds and 9yr olds bring! I accept that I cannot control these changes, but that I can accept, welcome and ENJOY them!

I also recognise that while I may have clarity on the path I want to follow right now, I will probably need to change things along the way. I am quite relaxed about not knowing exactly where I will be in 5 years and I will welcome each progression and development as it comes. I recognise that change is necessary and inevitable and that without change we will never move forwards.

I also recognise that in the case of my career I do have control over these changes. I have experienced this first hand over the last 5 years!

While redundancy may not seem like something we can control, we can control how we deal with it and what we do with the situation we have been given.

I am carrying this belief with me as I progress through my self-employed life and as I develop and grow my business. And the beauty of self-employment is that I am 100% in control of what I do! If something is working well, I can develop it and do more of it! I can adapt what I am doing to fit in with my changing family.

Similarly, if something isn’t working so well or doesn’t quite fit, I can change it.

And whether you are self-employed, employed, on a career break or a stay-at-home-parent, you too have the control! Nobody else is living your life, only YOU! You are the Pilot and YOU alone have the control over what direction you take and what path you follow.

So yes, I have a rough idea of where I want to be 5 years from now. But I am willing to adapt and change this over the course of time if I believe it to be the right thing to do.

They say a goal without a plan is just a wish and this is so true! We need a plan in order to make things happen. However, we must be adaptable. Life will throw things our way that we didn’t expect….good things and bad things! We can choose to panic and feel angry that “life” is working against us and thwarting our plans, or we can choose to accept what we have and use it to our advantage. We can choose to change our plan, change our path…

For one thing is surely true – if you change nothing, nothing will change.

It was a real eye-opener for me taking the time to contemplate where I have come from and where I am going… I highly recommend you do the same and ask yourself these same questions. Who knows what new thoughts it might spark in your mind?!

As always, feel free to share if you experience any lightbulb moments! I love to hear from you ūüôā

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 ?


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 ?

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…

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 – verzellifrancesca@yahoo.co.uk
Francesca offers home visits and offers shorter sessions for children as well.  Why not get the whole family booked in for a family visit?!

I have had a passion for Pilates and Yoga for as long as I can remember.

Yoga classes saw me threw some stressful times at University and have continued to do so ever since!  My mat is what I turn to when I feel the need for some quiet me time and it never disappoints!

I have also frequented many other classes at gyms and always especially enjoyed Pilates.¬† For me it was perfect because I could push and challenge myself if I was feeling strong, but I could also enjoy slowing it down and relaxing into the fluid movements if I wasn’t feeling so good.¬†¬†It was¬†after having my first baby that I really began to fall in love with¬†Pilates.¬†¬† I loved how it helped me reconnect with my stomach again!¬† I loved how I could do quick 10 minute sessions in my living room when I felt inclined.¬†¬† I loved how safe it felt.

So it seemed only natural that my fitness career would take the path towards mat-based exercise.  It was during my Pilates training that my eyes were truly opened to how wonderful this method actually is.

I have also come to realise that there is a wide variety of styles of Pilates out there and even still, a very wide variety of teaching methods within these styles.

I simply want to tell you about MY style ūüôā

Coming from a background in Fitness, my Pilates teaching is Fitness based¬†and my primary¬†goal is to improve and build upon clients’¬†fitness levels.¬†¬†I often add a Pilates twist to what are considered¬†‘traditional’¬†exercises and I tend to incorporate the Pilates Principles into all my classes and sessions, regardless of the name or label that they may have.¬† Having a strong personal Yoga practice as well, I also love to bring my favourite Yoga elements into my classes at times.¬† Ultimately I like to feel free to design and create classes and sessions that suit my clients and I often find that combining different methods of teaching is the most appropriate and enjoyable way to do this.


My Flow crew enjoying a moment to breathe ūüôā

My main aim is to help you connect with your centre, core muscles – the centre of EVERYTHING! ¬†I also aim to help you develop and deepen you flexibility and mobility, something that we take for granted in our youth but that suddenly becomes trickier as the years go by…. ¬† I want to ¬†help make every day tasks easier and help your body to function in the best possible way. ¬† And I also want to help you slow your mind down. ¬† I focus a lot on moving with your breath and slowing movement down. My reason for this is to encourage you all to switch your mind off from the busyness that fills it all the other hours of the day! ¬†We are literally bombarded with information these days and our poor minds never get a chance to stop. ¬†I hope that when you come to one of my classes you give your mind a chance to relax a little.

My Flow & Pilates classes are mat-based and I often will use Therabands/resistance bands to help you go a little deeper into some of the exercises  (I may also use Pilates rings and Pilates balls for individual sessions)

My classes are suitable for all levels, including beginners – I will always offer options and alternatives to cater for specific requirements or issues my clients may have.¬† If you are recovering from injury or recent surgery, it is important that you consult with your doctor or Physiotherapist before embarking on a new exercise class.¬† I say this not to put you off my sessions, I simply want you to have the best possible experience of Pilates and walk out of the room feeling better and stronger than you did when you walked in ūüôā

Have a look at my current classes here.

You can also find me teaching classes at Fitmoms in Glengormley, Valley Leisure Centre & Carrick Gym – just get in touch for more details!


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.