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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE: IN REVIEW // THE RETREAT, ESSEX

 

WHAT: The Retreat, Essex
VENUE: Creeksea Place Barns, Burnham-on-Crouch
STAY: 3rd November – 5th November

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This time last week (eeek, I started writing this the weekend after The Retreat in November, life took over – apologies for my tardiness!) I was sat around a huge, dining table, surrounded by 26 other Women who were complete strangers, sampling the utter delights of the incredible Chef, Susan Foynes. (You have NO IDEA how long I’ve been desperately seeking the cuisine by Susan, and my god, it was worth the wait!). I was on The Retreat, located at Creeksea Barns in rural Essex, the concept born by Wonder Woman, Kate Irwin.

Back in April this year, I actually won my place on The Retreat; nobody could have foreseen how rubbish this year would have/has been, nor just how NEEDED The Retreat would really be by November.

Without being a total misery, our year has been filled with ‘life experience’, let’s say. From car accidents to family medical complications, anxiety, depression, loss and most recently, my miscarriage. It’s been tough and stressful and intensely sad – but we’ve learned a lot. Had I not won my place on The Retreat, I most certainly would have been up for the 2 night stay and the agenda that Kate had so perfectly organised.

So, what went down? (Bear in mind, I ain’t so good with the concise stuff, so this could be lengthy!)

Friday 3rd November

I just about managed to get the house in order and Eli sorted ahead of my 40 min drive in time. We live in Billericay and have quite a lot of country lanes in the area, so the drive to Creeksea Place Barns wasn’t a total shock – though the amount of bends was pretty crackers! It was dry and chilly and bright and our countryside is just stunning, isn’t it? I had the company of Harry Styles’ debut album for the journey. I arrived at 4:30 and was greeted by Kate. It’s a funny old world, chatting online with like-minded Women, you immediately feel like you’re pal’s when you finally do meet – this was no exception after receiving the BEST squeeze from Kate upon meeting for the first time!

I grabbed my suitcase and bits and bobs from the car and Kate took me along to my room. I was sharing with ‘Hanna’, I didn’t know a Hanna… I was nervous, but figured, she didn’t know me either, we were in the same boat. Turns out, I did “know” Hanna, or rather I did know the @the_savvy_mummy and was following her on IG.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few introductions (and the most delicious flapjacks from Susan!) acquainting eachother with our Instagram accounts, we were led to the decked area outside for a Group Mediation, as guided by Sarah Grattan of Yoga, Health & Wellness. I’ve only practiced Mediation in the past year or so, following an event with Mothers Meetings & the Mindfulness app, Quility. The session was brilliant (though, I was petrified to ‘sing’ my name as means of introducing myself, but hey, we all did it and it definitely helped  break the ice!) and a great way to relax before dinner and engaging in more conversation with the other attendee’s. Also, just wanted to highlight that there was the most incredible full moon on Friday 3rd November. This of course was fully to blame attributed to my emotional state.

So while we’re on it, dinner on Friday evening was >>

 

 

After din din’s, a group of us relaxed on the sofa’s in the main barns before heading back to our own rooms. Hanna and I chatted till probably *too late*, but it was great to have such a lovely talk with someone so likeminded! I should at this point give Hanna a little apology for my snoring; me, snoring, who’d have thought it!

SATURday 4TH November

I had one of those sleeps where you’re mega comfy and cosy…. but also clock watching. I knew I had to be up super early for our ‘silent walk’. And just couldn’t get into a proper slumber (despite the snoring).

My alarm went off at 6:45am. I’m not gonna lie, I struggled to get out that bed! But just shy of 7am, I found myself wrapped up and with the Wellingtons on, we were gearing up ready for our Silent Walk. I’d never been on one before so was intrigued but also curious as to what I was ‘meant’ to do exactly. Truth is, nothing was expected of me. The entire weekend was pressure-free. Kate made is completely explicit that if we didn’t want to take part in something, that was fine, likewise, if you wanted to do something else, that was fine. The Retreat had to work for us all, as a group and individually.

Kate asked us to refrain from speaking on the walk, to take time to think about whatever we felt we needed to – to reflect – to also take in the beautiful surroundings. I desperately tried not to reach for my phone to take photos – but I took just this one, below. I took it at a point where we stopped for just a few minutes along the walk. I was ready to burst into tears. I found the walk particularly intense – which I certainly hadn’t prepared myself for. How could such silence make you feel so overwhelmed with emotion? I was very grateful for taking the walk with everyone, it was actually really quite poignant for me, in the end! I will definitely be trying this again – whether on my own or with friends/family. It was really interesting – and lovely not being distracted by conversation or the old phone!

Post-walk, we all made our way to the main barn for the BEST breakfast ever.

Susan & Natasha had prepared the most incredible feast. For the first time, I tried baked porridge – topped with CREAM – which was a total revelation. Susan, please send me the recipe – it was just incredible! We also had plenty of other bits to munch on ahead of the Nutrition & Training session with Jemma of @trulymadlyhealthy.

 

So from 10, Jemma joined us in the outdoor barn for the Nutrition session, where she talked through what fuel she takes on, on a typical day. Jemma gave us a take-home sheet with examples of good/bad foods and alternatives. The hot topic’s raised were ‘What Milk should we be having?’ and ‘How much BEEF can we eat?’ (LOL @LoveForTheMama).

Following the nutrition session, Jemma took us through a Training session with warm up and straight into stretching, using an elastic gym band. I paired up with mega Mama & Photographer extraordinaire, Charlotte Green. We then had to work together using the bands to stretch and pull – which was part difficult/part hilarious.

By the end of the session, I was SO HUNGRY. Susan & Natasha had prepared a warming bowl of Butternut Squash Soup, topped with yoghurt and pumpkin seeds, served with freshly baked baguettes. SO GOOD I went in for seconds.

 

After lunch, we had a few hours of ‘free time’ – I already had a back massage booked in at the Saltmarsh Spa – and had planned on being completely chilled for the rest of the time between. But what is this? A mobile gift shop filled to the brim with wondrous treats?! MERAKI GIFT is a brilliant concept, founded by Nadia following a curry evening with friends, in 2016. 4 months after the initial idea, the UK’s first mobile gift shop was ready to hit the roads! Meraki is a Greek word meaning the soul, creativity and love you put into your work – the Meraki gift truck is just that, packed full of soul, creativity and love,  travelling throughout London and the UK providing gorgeous gifts at markets, fairs and events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t leave the van empty handed – I wanted to buy SO MANY things! It was such a treasure trove. I went for a very me necklace – gold with Lightning Bolt pendant – by Ophelia.


HUSH have a similar design // Click here to shop

I also did a bit of hanging out with the ladies from @Black_and_Sigi, @AWhittinghamphoto and Charlotte, where we proceeded to sit in front of the WORST Christmas films ever, on channel 5 (whatever else!?)

Soon enough it was time for my massage. Now, I have an incredibly bad back, full knots and tension and stiffness –  especially since my car accident in March. I actually *need* massages often, so I guess I know what I’m looking for. While my massage was ‘good’ and the ‘time out’ was soooo needed, it wasn’t quite what I’d usually go for. I was also a little distracted by the ticking of the clock in the room – but hey, thats just my personal hearing issues going into over drive there, I think!  Nevertheless, the treatment was on the cheaper side, so it was fine.

I jumped into my swimming costume and headed back into the Spa. I spent a good half hour, on my own, in the jacuzzi as the sun set, looking over the rolling fields. It was just total bliss.

Caitlin Scheybeler joined ahead of our final dinner – the evening however, was quite emotionally charged, to say the very least! Caitlin is a psychotherapist and fellow mum, also founder of @MamakaLondon.

Through Caitlin we all (I tried to, through sobbing face) shared something that we had going on in our lives that we’d like to let go of – and also, what we’d like to let in – in order to lead a happier life. This evening proved, once again, that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you have no idea about – so be kind, always. Once we’d gotten over the tears and great words of advice from Caitlin, we all dug into the most beautiful final supper from Susan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, just the most glorious of meals. Susan Foynes, you have surpassed all expectations. Just stunning! I really must get to one of The Yes Mum Moon Club’s!

At this point, Kate handed out the most jam-packed goody bag I’ve ever seen! Each tote was hand embroidered by Dawn, founder of @girlfridayembroidery – such a lovely touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all enjoyed a few more glasses of wine than we’d anticipated, I think! And a lot of the group headed over to the dutifully named, “Party Barn” . We all had a more relaxed conversation with eachother, with the best music blaring! (YEP, it was that kind of retreat! We all definitely let our hair down!)

I initially attempted to get to bed at 1am. But am placing blame firmly at Kate’s door when I say I didn’t end up getting to ‘bed’ (on the sofa!) until way gone 3:30am. I’d spent a lovely time chatting with Kate’s brilliant sister, Natalie.  Natalie, I have to just say, you’re one of the most kind and caring souls I’ve ever met. Completely selfless, beautiful human.

SUNDAY 5TH November

I woke  on the sofa, to the smell of baked porridge – the time was 6:15am.  At 7am the majority of us were out on the field, with moderate hangovers. The temperature was 4c (though it felt much, much colder) and it was the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. We prepared for ‘Grounding’ by slipping off our socks and shoes, so we could connect with the Earth. Though it was absolutely freezing underfoot, it was also pretty magical – and again, I felt pretty overwhelmed with emotion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following our outdoor session (with a little bit of help from @motherofall_tings!) , we went back indoors for our final breakfast. Baked porridge and sour dough, doesn’t get much better does it! This all set us up for a Yoga session with Keeley Beech, founder of Yoga4all. Having only ‘practiced’ Yoga in the comfort of our living room, I was again nervous for a proper session – and one in front of others. Thankfully, Keely was brilliant in her approach as she caters for all abilities – also, the environment was so calm and I didn’t feel conscious about my own abilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 11:30, Jemma of @Mummas_health_hub came along to talk through her own fitness journey, whilst also  giving us her amazing hints & tips on fitness planning and fitting it all in. Jemma is a personal trainer and Mum to 2 boys, who started writing down little tips for herself, when times were so busy and she couldn’t train for the length of time that I would have liked. She talked through how she’d stick post-it notes around the house to prompt her, short exercises, sequences that took only a few minutes but were quite intense, and tips to remind her to relax too – that’s how her Pack of Hacks was born. In the time that I’ve known Jemma, I’ve found that she’s a force to be reckoned with – a true Mum-Boss with a heart of old (and abs of total steel!). 

Time soon ticked away and before we knew it, we were saying our final goodbye’s for the weekend. Though, I absolutely knew I’d be seeing a lot of these wondrous women again soon. That’s been the beauty of The Retreat – the brilliant culmination of REAL Women. There was a real sense of sisterhood across the entire weekend. We were all in it together and there for oneanother. This weekend has changed my life in so many ways. I can’t thank you enough Kate.

Can’t wait to meet up again soon – and please do give @the_retreat_essex a follow across all the channels too – there’s so much more up Kate’s sleeve and it’s bloody exciting!

 

C
✖️ ✖️ ✖️

NB: I did win my place on The Retreat, but was not asked to write a review/did not accept payment for doing so. All opinions are my own and are 100% honest. 

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Brand In Focus | Southwood Stores.

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Southwood Stores is an online concept store by Hayley Southwood, where you will find handpicked, quirky, Scandinavian influenced gifts and homewares. Hayley believes passionately about empowering women and has recently launched her own in-house label GRAY, celebrating strong women.

I first came across Hayley and her online shop back in 2013. (I can’t believe it was 3 years ago?! Time sure does fly with a toddler in tow!) At that time, Hayley was the only UK stockist of Hello Apparel; and I went straight ahead and ordered a HELLO Jumper from her, along with one of our most loved prints that sat in Eli’s bedroom, The Mountain Print by Clare Nicholson. I always loved parcels from Hayley, with the attention to detail of packaging and customer care; with some treats even winging their way over to Berlin!

Watching Hayley, via Instagram, over the past few years has been wonderful. Seeing how her little shop has grown and expanded with wicked new products and new brands, through to the launch of her very own clothing label: GRAY By Southwood Stores.  The ethos of Hayley and her shop is to be brave and follow your dreams. And she’s definitely succeeding there – having now opened her very own Southwood Stores showroom – where you can not only have a cuppa with the lady herself, but from here she also offers Social Media / Branding services with sessions operating on-site.

Details of showroom opening times are as follows:

Monday 10am-2.30pm
Wednesday 10am-2.30pm
Friday 10am-2.30pm
First Saturday of the month 11am-2pm

I could buy everything that Southwood Stores have in stock, but here are some of my current favourites hitting the top of my #MoMWishlist:

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WIRE MESH MEMO-BOARD (BLUE) – £55.00

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VINTAGE SCHOOL CHAIRS – £60.00

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PALM LEAVES – £55.00

Back to GRAY By Southwood Stores. Hayley worked really hard to find the right garments for her label – high quality and responsibly made. The slogan graphic prints are also locally screen-printed by a “woman owned business”. I think it’s fantastic that Hayley has stuck to her local roots here too – there’s nothing better than championing your local business community and spreading the love even further afield.

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The sweatshirts are super soft, wash well and have a really flattering fit. I went for the WARRIOR sweatshirt. Because, well, we’re all WARRIORS. “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about”. This is something that resonated deeply with me – and I do feel like a proper WARRIOR when I’m wearing my sweatshirt. It’s more than just words, isn’t it? It’s about how these things make you FEEL.

On top of alllllll this, Hayley is also hosting a series of Conversational Meet-Up’s, of like-minded Women. The recent one looked brilliant so look forward to the next Event’s being scheduled. You can find the latest details and tickets, here. 

Hayley is a true inspiration and I look forward to seeing how Southwood Stores continues to grow and evolve! (Oh, and I can’t wait to have a cuppa with her in person at the new showroom soon!). Keep doing what you’re doing Hayley, everything about your being is amazing. Just remember to BREATHE (and get the kettle on!).

 

MM.

*NB: This is in no way a sponsored post. I just wanted to big up a Mama who I think is frikkin amazing*. 

 

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Christmas Party Woes!

It’s that time of year when there are LOTS of invitations to festive drinks and meals. I’ve had TWO important ‘festive drinks’ and a ‘festive meal’ with external companies through work this week… AND I’ve just got back from my office Christmas Party.

I’ve documented my previous struggles with excuses for not drinking in the below blog posts:

TTC: Excuses for not drinking!
TTC: Excuses for not drinking, PART DEUX.

It’s been a struggle again, but because of my recent trips to the hospital I have just been saying that I’m on strict orders not to drink until my “blood test results come back”. I’m pretty certain that people are not convinced – but I have had quite a lot of sympathy! 🙂

So at tonight’s office Christmas party there was the usual free-flowing booze from the onset. I’m usually the one guzzling the freebie’s and dancing the night away… but things are obviously quite different this year! Upon arrival there were ready-made cocktails, with jugs of the same cocktails ready for people who wanted a refill. I obviously couldn’t drink them so politely asked the barmaid for a ‘soft drink’. To my dismay she REFUSED and said that it was the ready made cocktails for the first hour and ‘custom drinks’ could be prepared thereafter. So I said, “I don’t wish to drink a customised drink, I’d just like a lemonade or a tonic water please?”. I actually could not understand!! To my further dismay, she pulled over her manager, who reiterated to me that there were no additional drinks until after 8pm….and that I could have a glass of water if I was “desperate”. Seriously, how rude?!! Nevermind being pregnant – I could be allergic to alcohol, or alcohol may even be against my religion! (Neither of these are true, but they don’t know that!). Has anyone else had trouble with mardy waiting staff?!

Despite being post-8pm I still struggled throughout the evening to obtain non-alcoholic drinks. The music was so loud that most bar staff thought I was asking for Vodka and Lemonade when I was simply asking for ‘JUST LEMONADE PLEASE!’. By 10pm I was absolutely exhausted and frankly, sick of the people behind the bar so left ready for home! Several colleagues did question whether I was pregnant… Most of whom were pretty much beyond drunk and wouldn’t have remembered my answer the next day anyway. But I did shrug all awkward questions off with “Maybe next year”.

Because of the amount of appointments and phone calls I’ve been making during working hours (and the CONSTANT not drinking anxiety!), I feel that the time has come to tell my boss what is really happening. I’m kind of looking forward to finally getting it off my chest – albeit, I know it’s still really early doors. I’d just hate to have people thinking I’m taking advantage…

Wish me luck!

MM.

 

 

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TTC: Excuses for not drinking, PART DEUX.

Just wanted to go back on the original ‘Excuses for not drinking’ post. I took another Mumsnetter’s advice and pursued the Tonic water with ice and lemon route for my several social events this week. It worked a treat! Nobody even battered an eyelid. Perfect!

Here are some of the other suggestions put forward on my post:

ChocoBOO says:

Just don’t say antibiotics. Dead give away!

When I found out I was pregnant I said I’d been having migraines so needed to rule out causes – worked for alcohol and caffeine.

Jenniec79 says:

Be the driver? It’s the other unquestionable excuse for not drinking on a night out!

MrsDobalina says:

At work dos I always walked around with a glass of wine and waved it around, pretended to sip it but never actually drank any. This worked even at dinner – it’s amazing how little people noticed! 

At bars I ordered tonic water and asked for ice and lemon so it looked like a g+t. 

LydiaTheTattooedLady says:

There was one last time I had quite an aggressive dental infection. Dentist told me not to even risk a sip, as it can cause severe vomming.

Nice.

Whereismywine says:

I’ve got a big run/bikram yoga in the morning
I’ve got a nasty bout of cystitis – this shuts people up!
I’m on a detox
I’m driving
Ive got a big drive the next morning
I’ve got an important work meeting the next day 
I have one half pint of something at the start of the night. Often no one asks after I’ve been seen with that. Usually give it to dh. Difficult if rounds are going.
I’ve got a cracking hangover.

I wish you all the best ttc. But if it does take a while, a glass of wine or two a week would be fine, in my humble opinion.

So with what Whereismywine says in her last sentence, what you think of one or two glasses of wine while TTC or PG?

MM.