Pignoulet**In the interest of transparency, I’d like to state that I was asked to review the Domaine du Pignoulet Pilates Retreat in exchange for this blog post. (I paid for flights and transfers.) If you would like to read my full disclosure policy, you can do so by clicking here.**

Pignoulet was a pinch me experience! 

When I was invited to review the pilates retreat offered by the owners of Domaine du Pignoulet – a stunning restored farmhouse in the French Pyrenees – I thought I might be dreaming. Thankfully I wasn’t, and it was the most amazing weekend I’ve had in a very long time.

You can read about my incredible bonding experience with the other nine bloggers I went away with here. Our three days together were full of delicious food, interesting discussions and debates, pilates classes (obvs) and as corny as it might sound, soul searching. It’s hard not to end up reflective after an experience like this.

We laughed, cried and stayed up way past bedtime drinking local wine putting the world to rights. I mean seriously, what more could a group of tired mums, with twenty five children between them, possibly want out of a retreat?

A little bit about Pignoulet and it’s owners

Susie and James Wetton are a husband and wife team with big hearts and wonderful ideas. I like to approach things like this without too many expectations, but to say I was blown away by every element would be an understatement. From the second we started approaching the entrance to the house I was mesmerised. Driving through the wrought iron gates, past the barn and onto the sweeping driveway, the brightly painted shutters and masonry meant the house felt warm and grand at the same time.

James’ parents bought the house in 2000 and fully restored it, and he and Susie bought it from them in 2016. They are now living out their dream semi-retirement, which has been many years in the making. I found listening to their story of ditching the rat race and living life on their own terms incredibly inspiring.

PignouletThe rooms were spacious and clean with comfy beds and powerful showers. We didn’t spend very much time in our rooms, but had lovely views when we did. The night sky was absolutely stunning with all the stars on display twinkling brightly. Really does make you think about the awful air pollution in London.

We had brilliant weather for September, and were able to spend a few hours by the pool each day, which was amazing considering it had started getting chilly back home in the UK.

What the food was like at Pignoulet

Susie and James were up against it to cater for our lot. Between us we covered paleo, vegan, celiacs, and almost every other allergy/food intolerance you can imagine. Not only did our fabulous hosts feed us well, but the incredible food was served in an inclusive way. No-one was made to feel like they were an inconvenience and nothing was too much trouble. We ate every meal together, and there was plenty of choice.

Far from dishing up underwhelming free from processed nonsense, serious effort went into ensuring our party was suitably looked after. This is really important for people like us, who often feel excluded when we eat out. The local wines were delectable, and completely natural which meant no hangover the next day!

PignouletBreakfast and lunch were served on huge help yourself plates, and dinner was a three course affair. Breakfast included grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, home made granola, fresh fruit and lots of (herbal and caffeinated) tea and coffee. Lunch was salads, fresh bread, cured meats and local cheeses.

Dinners were carefully crafted morsels of deliciousness – stuffed chicken, huge stuffed roasted peppers, baked sweet potatoes, to name but a few components. One of the desserts was low sugar vegan chocolate mousse, which was out of this world. I really have to hand it to them for pulling this off so impressively.

What the pilates was like at Pignoulet

You’re in safe hands with Susie, who has been self-employed for the last 15 years as a personal trainer, sports massage therapist, pilates teacher and Nordic walking instructor.

We did two classes on the Sunday, and one on Saturday and Monday. By lunchtime on the Monday I was feeling it. Pilates is all about working the core muscles, strengthening and stretching. For some the classes will be the main reason for going to Pignoulet, but for me they were like the cherry on top of a delicious cake. Although I’ve not done pilates for many years (getting on for twenty), I really enjoyed it.

Susie’s teaching skills are phenomenal, and it’s made me want to continue practising at home, as well as finding a local teacher. I came back from the retreat with sore abs, which felt like a rite of passage. Sitting by a pool without children is lovely, but most people find it boring after a couple of hours, so it was brilliant to have a fitness element to the trip, and something other than eating to plan the day around.

 

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(#AD) When I was asked to review the pilates retreat offered by the owners of @pignoulet – a stunning restored farmhouse in the French Pyrenees – I thought I might be dreaming. Thankfully I wasn’t, and it was the most amazing weekend I’ve had in a very long time. Susie and James Wetton are a husband and wife team with big hearts and wonderful ideas, who have quit the rat race to live their dream semi-retirement. I like to approach things like this without too many expectations, but to say I was blown away by every element would be an understatement. Pignoulet was a pinch me experience! 🧘‍♂️ It was incredible having the time and space to bond with the other nine bloggers I went away with (see previous post). Our three days together were full of delicious food, interesting discussions, lovely pilates classes, and as corny as it might sound, soul searching. It’s hard not to end up reflective after an experience like this. 🧘‍♂️ We laughed, cried and stayed up way past bedtime drinking local wine putting the world to rights. I mean seriously, what more could a group of tired mums, with twenty five children between them, possibly want out of a retreat? I highly recommend checking out Pignoulet if you’re in the market for some R&R! Head over to the blog for my full review. . . . #freefromgang #freefromgangontour #pilatespignoulet #pilatesparadise #pilateslovers #Pilates #retreat #pilatesretreat #france #gascony #mindfulness #relaxation #meditation #frenchcuisine #specialdiet #bloggers #bloggerretreat #getaway #yoga #weekend #retreatyourself #dailycalm #france4dreams #allergytravels #mummytries @lecoindemel @glutarama @freefromfairy @freefromfarm @glutenfreealchemist @sneakyvegblog @peachicksbakery @dairyfreekids @_just_eilidh 💖

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A few tips for getting the most from your Pignoulet pilates retreat

A three day and night retreat will set you back £450, excluding flights and transfers (check out this page for more details). Although excellent value for money, given once you’re there everything is included, it’s vital to ensure you get the absolute most from your trip.

– avoid the temptation to capture each moment by tuning out to your phone as much as possible.
– don’t stay up too late, don’t drink too much. I could have definitely gone to bed earlier both nights, but I love to chat, so…
– just enjoy the classes, even if you’re a novice. Switch off the “is everyone looking at me?” monster. No-one is watching you because they’re too busy with their own practise.
Pignoulet– expect tears, time out from everything is bound to stir up repressed emotions and bring them to the surface.
– do a little extra each day, but don’t over exert yourself so you’re exhausted coming home. We went to a quaint French market on the Sunday, and had a nice hilly walk on the Monday. Combined with the pilates, these two activities were perfect.
– nothing is too much trouble for Susie and James, they can cater for anything as long as they have plenty of advance warning.

I think a retreat like this is the ultimate self-care, and worth every single penny. I’m going to pay for next years’ stay in monthly instalments, which will make it manageable.

Especially if you have small kids like I do, I’d advise putting together a little plan for the thud back to earth. Inevitably it will hurt more than you’re expecting it to. Allowing myself to take it easy for a few days after meant my zen experience didn’t go to waste. I arrived home around 2am on the Tuesday morning, and got very little sleep that night. I was prepared for Tuesday to be difficult, but Wednesday was worse.

Here are a few things I did to ease myself gently back into normality:  
– asked my in-laws for Polly to go and stay with them for a few days, which she did Tues-Fri. I still had two kids to look after during those days, so it wasn’t exactly another holiday, but it definitely helped.
– prior to leaving I organised a food shop to be delivered the day after getting home.
– didn’t put too much pressure on myself work wise and took the day off social media and emails on the Thursday.

PignouletWill I do anything differently next time

We opted for Easy Jet flights from Luton to Toulouse, which were at awful times both ways, but such a bargain they were difficult to resist. Coming from South London, and being a non-driver meant it was a massive journey for me.

I’m very grateful to the lovely Mandy (her blogs are Sneaky Veg and Cook Veggielicious, you really should check them out!) for driving me to and from both airports, but it involved two late nights and one very early start out of the four days.

There are other flight options (both airport and time wise) which would lighten the load in this aspect, so I’ll be aiming for something a bit friendlier next year.

Pignoulet

Photo Credit: Le Coin de Mel

Full address and social media links

Domaine du Pignoulet,
Chemin de la Maoube,
Ladevèze-Rivière, 32230, France
Email: info@pignoulet.com

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Reviews from my fellow retreaters

Eilidh | Emma | Kate | Laura | Vicki | Mandy | Midge | Mel | Rebecca

I honestly cannot thank Susie and James enough for their hospitality. I’m feeling chilled out, inspired and shall be recommending Pignoulet to every single person I know. If you’re in the market for a retreat, or just a bit of R&R, you know where to head.

Until next time, Pignoulet! 

There is much talk about omega-3 fatty acids, but what is all the fuss really about?

Along with omega-6 fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids are vital for humans to function healthfully. They are known as essential fatty acids, and they contribute largely towards maintaining the structure and function of our bodies cells. They help us absorb vitamins and minerals, promote nerve function, aid in the production of hormones and not only prevent, but treat disease.

omega-3 fatty acidsOur bodies can not naturally produce these essential fatty acids, and unfortunately mainstream Western thinking largely deems all fat to be bad for our health (even though it’s now been proven that there are good fats we need).

If you are among the many who are not consuming enough omega-3s through diet alone, you might want to consider taking a good quality supplement such as OmegaBrite. After an independent study conducted at Ohio State University, OmegaBrite became the first omega-3 clinically shown to reduce stress in a normal population.

Not all omegas are created equal

Omega-6s are found plentifully in grain based oils and lots of enriched processed foods. While we need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, most westerners consume far too much omega-6 and not nearly enough omega-3.

Our diet has massively evolved over the last few centuries, and it’s knocked our nutrient sources and ratios out of whack. Back in ancient times, it was thought that they would consume a 1:1 diet of omega-3s to omega-6s. Nowadays the average person consumes a diet consisting of twenty to thirty times more omega-6 than they do omega-3.

This adaptation has occurred too fast for our bodies to adjust, and is believed to be a huge factor in causing many ailments including inflammation, arthritis, skin disorders and depression. As with all vitamins and minerals, the best way to give ourselves a boost is to eat more foods containing them.

omega-3 fatty acidsFive foods that will naturally boost your omega-3 fatty acids

Mackerel: not only is this oily fish a great source of Omega-3, it’s also rich in vitamin D, protein and selenium. It’s said to help our chances against cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, as well as age-related vision loss and dementia.

Walnuts: these crinkly nuts have always been seen as brain foods, which makes sense, given how much they look alike. As well as their omega-3 benefits, walnuts contain vitamins C and B6 as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate. They also contain minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

Chia seeds: these tiny black seeds come from the Salvia Hispanica plant, a relation to mint, which grows natively in South America. Chia seeds were a staple for the Aztecs and Mayans, and have shot to fame in recent years for their ability to provide sustainable energy. They’re small but mighty, and in addition to omega-3 they contain calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, B2 and B3.

Flaxseed: is high in dietary fibre, but low in carbs and high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium. Flaxseed helps to make our skin and hair healthy, and can lower cholesterol. Flaxseed are naturally gluten free and rich in antioxidants. They support digestive health, and could assist us with preventing certain types of cancer.

Egg yolks: I could personally talk about the multiple benefits of eating eggs all day long. As long as they come from a quality source, eggs are an incredibly versatile wonder food. Egg yolks are easy to digest and contain vitamins A, D, E, K and B12, along with omega-3.

This fantastically detailed article by functional health guru Dr. Josh Axe details the top 15 foods we should be eating to boost our omega-3 intake.

omega-3 fatty acidsAbout OmegaBrite 

OmegaBrite is an extremely pure 90% Omega-3 Supplement, physician formulated by a Harvard trained psychiatrist to promote cardiac and joint health and an overall positive mood. OmegaBrite’s unique EPA:DHA ratio 7:1 is available in an easy to swallow 500mg gelcap that delivers powerful anti-inflammatory effects and promotes overall better health, as well as improving cognitive clarity.

Produced using Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP), each batch of OmegaBrite is third party tested before, during and after production to guarantee quality and purity. Each gelcap is manufactured using nitrogen blanketing to prevent oxidation, resulting in an odour free, no aftertaste capsule.

For more information on pharmaceutical grade omega-3 supplementation, and comprehensive research sources, head over to OmegaBrite.com.

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**Disclaimer: this is a collaborative piece, click here for my full disclosure policy.**

We’re just over halfway through winter and it’s feeling pretty chilly here in Blighty. As we head into the coldest part of the year, I’ve been thinking about ways to sneak vitamins and minerals into my children to ensure they have a head start to stay healthy.

To help fend off the dreaded bugs and to support their immune systems, they’ll be taking their Haliborange supplements every day, as well as eating a varied and nutritious diet. Here are a few extra creative ways I’ll be boosting their immune systems even further.

Why is calcium important and how can we eat more of it?

vitamins and mineralsCalcium is vital for teeth and bone health, especially for growing children whose bodies are achieving peak bone mass. As a family we don’t eat a huge amount of dairy, so I’m always on the hunt for extra ways to get calcium into us all. Did you know that a cup of cooked kale, or a tin of sardines (with bones) contains more calcium than a cup of pasteurised milk? It’s quite fascinating once you start looking into it, check out this article for more info.

Although most of us throw them away, egg shells are an excellent source of calcium. They are mainly calcium carbonate, made up similarly to our bones and teeth. A simple way of preparing the shells is to boil them (to remove bacteria) then roast them in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes, allow to cool and grind to a powder in a blender. When the powder is added to soups and smoothies it’s undetectable. I call that a win!

Why is vitamin D important and how can we eat more of it?

We need vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium, and deficiency in children could lead to bone disorders such as rickets. Unlike many other vitamins and minerals, vitamin D is largely made by our own bodies by converting chemicals it receives from exposure to sunshine. Unfortunately, when you live in a country like the UK, you can’t rely on the sun making an appearance every day, so it’s vital to boost vitamin D where possible. Check out this article for signs of deficiency.     

Red meat, oily fish and eggs are all great sources of vitamin D, as well as certain mushrooms (especially maitake). As long as they’ve been exposed to UV light, these mushrooms are exceptionally high in vitamin D because their skin absorbs it from the light the way human skin does. Even my ridiculously fussy eater Freddy can be persuaded to eat mushrooms that have been sauteed in coconut oil and sea salt from time to time. 

Why is iron important and how can we eat more of it?

vitamins and mineralsIf you don’t have enough iron in your system, your body won’t be able to make enough healthy oxygen carrying red blood cells. This could lead to iron deficiency, also known as anemia, which is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Thankfully we can avoid it by eating lots of iron rich food. Red meat and liver are high in iron, as is spirulina, a type of algae. Check out this article for the top ten best foods to eat for boosting iron.

Other great iron sources are raisins, pistachio nuts and dark chocolate. The children love making bark in our house, and it never lasts longer than five minutes. Simply melt dark chocolate (I use 85% cocoa solids, the higher the better as it will be lower in sugar), then stir in a handful each of raisins and pistachios, then allow to set in the fridge. It’s absolutely delicious, and also makes a fab gift. 

What are your favourite ways of sneaking vitamins and minerals into your children? Tweet me @mummytries

**Disclaimer: this post has been sponsored by Haliborange. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

Vitamin A: helps support normal vision | Vitamin C: helps support the immune system | Vitamin D: essential for the normal growth and development of bones in children | Vitamin B12: contributes to normal energy release.

Food supplements do not replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

I spent most of the week before Christmas totally floored by mum flu! It couldn’t have come at a worse time, as hubby had to work…  

I don’t do low level coughs and colds that last all winter, and I don’t get properly sick very often. When I do though, it completely wipes me out. Not very helpful with three lively home educated children to look after.  

Almost everyone else in my little family had been under the weather for the two weeks before I got sick. Freddy had literally spent days coughing in my face, so it wasn’t a surprise when my head started feeling fuzzy. Having been stone cold sober for weeks I knew it wasn’t drinking related, and went to bed that night fully prepared to wake up feeling rubbish.

Truth be told I wasn’t banking on being hit square in the eye with mum flu, but that’s what happened. Here’s what I did to ensure a super speedy recovery, just in case any of you lovely lot are feeling it now.

Don’t be a martyr, you need bed rest

mum fluTop of the list of things that will get you back on your feet, is proper rest. Now I know that as a busy mum, you don’t want to hear that. Especially not on the run up to Christmas / a birthday / a holiday / busy time at work. BUT, if you don’t get adequate sleep you will prolong your illness. It really is as simple as that. Plus if you have full blown mum flu, chances are you also have a forty degree temperature and horrible fever. You’re probably shivering under a hoodie, blanket and duvet, and your arms and legs more than likely feel broken.

You couldn’t soldier on even if you wanted to. So go to bed, and let anyone and everyone do everything else. The world will not stop turning, I promise. Proper rest is the only thing that will get you back to functioning. I was fortunate that I came down with mum flu on a Saturday evening, so had all day Sunday for hubby to take the parenting reins. After that though, it was business as usual with my three. Which is where all the things listed below came into play. 

Probiotics for your gut

Those who have been following me for a while will know that I am all about the gut health. New followers will learn this pretty quickly (you can read this for more info). Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut, and I firmly believe this to be true. I currently drink around one litre of home made water kefir every day, but when I was ill I was drinking at least two litres, and also supplementing with a potent multi-strain probiotic.

I will do everything in my power to avoid antibiotics, and I view probiotics as the ANTI antibiotics. They replenish your gut with healthy flora, rather than wipe out the good along with the bad (which is what antibiotics do). Obviously if I had a severe infection and needed antibiotics, then I would of course take them. In most cases though, mum flu isn’t a serious infection, it is your body’s way of telling you to slow down.               

Turmeric to help with inflammation

mum fluInflammation is the way the body responds to viruses, which is why it can be impossible to move when we have the flu. Also, if the lungs become inflamed it can lead to breathing problems and phlegmy coughs. Turmeric is a natural way of combatting inflammation and I’m a huge fan of the stuff. For details on the ridiculous number of health benefits to be had from it, read this comprehensive post from the fabulous Dr. Josh Axe.

I made a tonic at the beginning of the year by fermenting 500g of organic turmeric with cider vinegar (probiotic, anti-inflammatory) and some cold pressed honey (natural antibiotic). It’s not a nice taste, but my word is it potent. I would highly recommend making your own tonic, so you have it on hand for emergencies.      

Vitamin C to help quash your cold

Vitamin C is vital for body tissues to repair themselves. When it comes to getting the immune system back to fully functioning after being sick, or healing wounds, the more the merrier. My wonderful neighbour sent over an elderberry based tincture for me, which was very kind of her. It tasted disgusting, but as my lovely 8yo Polly said:

“Mummy, all medicine that gets you better tastes horrible.”

She has a very good point, and herbal tinctures never taste nice, but they are amazing when it comes to healing. Elderberry, which are the tiny little black berries which come out late summer after all the buttery elder flowers disappear, are exceptionally high in vitamin c. These trees are plentiful where I live, and next year I plan to pick a load of berries when they are at their best, and freeze them for times like this.

Any other immune boosting supplements you can get your hands on

Two years ago I started making what I call wellness bombs, which are home made organic vitamin capsules. The shell is pure gelatin, and inside is an even mix of turmeric, dried rosehip and dried amla fruit – which are both high in vitamin c. Here’s a little video I did with the kids, to show how easy they are to make.

What are your best natural healing tips? Tweet me @mummytries 

Water Kefir: make your own supply of powerful natural probiotics What is kefir, and why is it so good for me?

Kefir are little live strains of gut-health promoting bacteria and yeast, and are exceptionally good for our bodies. The grains can be fermented in either water or milk, and makes a fermented drink which is one of the most powerful, and cost effective, natural sources of probiotics we have readily available to us. 

Whilst milk kefir is very potent, and could create a die off reaction while your gut bacteria is changing.

Water kefir (also known as tibicos) is much gentler on the gut and easier to introduce as a starting place. It’s still a great source of natural probiotics, and especially if you have issues with digesting dairy products, it could be the better option.

The cost saving is phenomenal

Water kefir grains are hardy, and once established can live forever providing you look after them. I started drinking one litre of water kefir daily about a year ago, and after three months I was able to stop taking probiotics supplements. Once established, a month’s supply of water kefir will cost around £2 in comparison to £30 for good quality supplementation.

When I first embarked on the GAPS Diet back in 2014, gut health was still considered a little bit woo. Nowadays it’s mainstream, and was recently discussed on the BBC program Trust Me I’m A Doctor, where home fermented foods came out winning.

You can buy a large portion of water kefir grains here for just £3.99, including UK postage.