Thursday, December 03, 2015

About the Retreat

After months of planning, envisioning, imagining and collaborating, we held our inaugural Nurture Retreat. On the shores of Lake Simcoe, in a 130 year old house on spiritual grounds, 11 of us (plus a ghost or two) spent two nights and 3 days focused on creativity and self care.   

Loretto Maryholme is a special place. As soon as you drive on the property you feel a sense of deep peace. Time slows down and breathing becomes deeper, fuller and more free. The air is clear. The sounds are soft. The lake invites.  

Friday afternoon, our guests trickled in while we finished pressing pashminas, clipping thorns from roses, preparing self care kits and unloading restorative yoga supplies. The grounds were explored and some took advantage of the best weather of the weekend and took a dip in the lake. 

Showing guests to their rooms is a treat at Loretto Maryholme. Each room is decorated with soft colours, each bed has a different quilt, and rooms have access to a sun filled washroom with a clawfoot tub. The bath salts Tahlia included in the self care kit were perfect to use while letting go of any unwanted burdens we brought with us. I witnessed those burdens lifting out of people over the three days - the magic of being creative in community.

Friday supper was a hearty homemade vegetarian chilli served with fresh corn bread in cast iron skillets. We clinked glasses of red wine as we shared across the table with our new kindred friends. Dessert was pavlova with berries - the most deliciously sweet dessert balanced with tart fruit. 

After we allowed our supper to settle, we nestled into our restorative yoga nests created by Tahlia. Feeling full and sleepy, the poses really felt deeply meditative and relaxing. The smells of sage and sweetgrass floated in the air. The sounds of Krishna Das and sacred chanting mantras eased our thoughts. 

After a solid sleep, Saturday morning rolled in grey and cool. The day started with meditation and breakfast prep. We were drawn to the kitchen by the smells of scones baking and beeswax candlelight. We gathered to drink coffee and tea and rave over the selection of scones. The delicate fresh whipped cream mixed with homemade peach and red current preserves was a natural match made in taste bud heaven.

Jess set up her floral workshop while everyone had a bit of down time. When we met again, foraging baskets in hand, we set out into the grounds and looked for botanical gems. Some of us were drawn to the decay and others to the last bits of summer life in their glory. The dampness in the earth told a story of impending fall yet the gardens bursting with colour and life let us know summer's flame had not yet burned out. 

We gathered in a time of transition. 

After collecting our bounty and settling in to the workshop space, we recieved instruction and pearls of wisdom. 

Let the arranging be a meditation. 

Let the flowers speak. 

Let the imperfection be the beauty. 

And the arrangements! Oh my. The diversity in the shapes, fullness, colour and spark. Everyone showed their inner selves through their creations. And the pride I saw in each person to see the beauty they created and the joy it brought. 

And the hunger it builds in us...

Lunch was set buffet style in the kitchen. A fantastic spread of buns, grilled veggies, olives, pickles, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, tortilla chips, savoury garlic and onion jam and crackers.

We feasted. Again. We circled. We connected. 

Down time was essential and we parted ways while I set up my art journaling workshop table. The table where we circled for all of our gatherings. Full of good energy and a place of comfort and expression. Our home base. 

Vintage linens, sheets of floral wallpaper used as workspace placemats, stamps, paints, magazines, plates of odds and ends, words of empowerment, homemade paper packs, art journals to upcycle and women circling again to hear about how we can tell our stories visually. 

There is no such thing as making a perfect art journal. 

The music swayed and we cut and pasted. Hours passed. Art journals were created. Some with titles. All with the creative fever of needing to express. 

A home base for feelings and visions to manifest. 

Moving along was only necessary so we could, again, nurture our bodies with the energy of homemade food. This time, we all learned how to make pasta from scratch.

BUT FIRST...a dip in the lake. Because I promised everyone, including myself, I would jump in the lake and I could not break the promise. Tahlia and I ran to the dock and I was certain I wouldn't be brave enough to actually jump. The grass was wet with rain, the sun was setting and it was a chilly end of summer evening. When we arrived at the dock, I saw the most beautiful sight. To the left, a double rainbow. 

To the right, the most glorious pink and purple sunset. 

  The water was warm and we jumped in. We shouted for the others to join and thankfully everyone came down to the dock to see the stunning view. Sonja and Jess joined us in the water and it felt as though we got to celebrate together in the best way - with some amateur synchronized swimming and handstands. 

Now back to the pasta... 

Once I was dry and warm, folding the fresh raw egg into the flour with my bare hands felt like a kindergarten play table. Taking the time, moving with intention (after Sonja reminded me to "be gentle" with my pasta) and forming the product with my hands made me feel much more connected to the meal ahead.

After letting the dough meditate under a blanket of damp paper towel, we cut it into slices and ran it through the pasta maker. Again, back at the kindergarten play table, I used a fancy machine to shape the dough - just like I used to do as a kid with play dough. We worked as a team, each stationed on one task. It was a brilliant production line, I must say. 

And, the sauce. Oh my. Sonja has a recipe for the tastiest tomato sauce I have ever eaten. It cooks for a long time with a half an onion in it. A must try.  

Seasonal peach crumble for dessert. Pre-yoga, if you can imagine. 

Restorative yoga turned into laughing aka giggling yoga. We needed to let some energy out and it felt pretty darn good. The red wine might have contributed. But again, the sleepy restorative yoga led by ever patient Tahlia was relaxing to the point that some of us even fell asleep.

Sunday morning began with a bit of extra sleep followed by a new moon meditation. Breakfast of shakshuka (eggs cooked on top of a tomato and red pepper sauce) wafted in the air and we happily yet reluctantly sat down for our last meal together.

The final workshop led by Tahlia was a herbal delight. We made a bath salt blend and a sugar scrub. Mixing the ingredients with our hands and melting the coconut oil with our body heat was relaxing and fun. The smells of dried wild roses, coconut oil and cane sugar will live in my scent memory forever. The process of creating the sugar scrub and washing our hands afterwards turned into spa level hand treatments. We were soft, exfoliated and smelling great.

To complete the jars, we created hand stamped labels. We named our blends, knowing we were taking them home with us. We wanted to remind ourselves of the things we had learned over the weekend.

With the programming coming to a close, we had one last sacred activity to close our circle. We walked the Labyrinth in silence. This is the one thing I'll keep mostly to myself. It was a profound spiritual experience. I was thankful to walk it with the group of 11 and to end with our own individual internal reflection. It was a beautiful send off. 

As we cleaned up, packed up and closed up, it was hard to say goodbye. It felt like we were there a week, but I also could have used one week more. 

Thank you to my Nurture crew - Sonja, Tahlia and Jess. 

Thank you to Alyssa and Evonne, our trusting photographers.

And a extra special thank you to our participants. I learned something from each one of you I will hold on to. Thank you for trusting us. 


The Spring Nurture Retreat is open for registration.


*All photos by Alyssa Wodabek and Evonne Bellefleur*     


  1. This is outright incredible. What an amazing experience - I'm almost transported through your words! How I wish this was closer to me! XO

    1. Hi Meggs! Thank you for your complimentary words :)Where are you located? We'd love for you to join us virtually on Facebook, if not in person. You can find us at:

      Hope you're having a good day and wishing you a Happy 2016!


      Sonja, founder, Nurture: A Retreat


Comments make my day!