Bulgaria: Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria visit Veliko Tarnovo
When people hear ‘Bulgaria’ they think of Sunny Beach in Varna which is a tourist hot spot in the summers, or they think of the snowy mountains and ski resorts in Borovets and Bansko. Yet there is so much more to Bulgaria than those two destinations.

My mum lived in Veliko Tarnovo for three years which is a city situated in the middle of Bulgaria. It’s about 4 hours away from the capitol, Sofia which is close to the ski resorts, and 4 hours away from Varna where Sunny Beach is situated. It is literally smack bang in the middle of the country. She chose to live here because whilst it is still geared up for tourists and there are things to do and see here, it is a slower paced lifestyle and you’re surrounded by an array of forests, gorges and caves! What’s not to love? Many people who do visit here, opt for a short stay or day excursion. It’s exceptionally beautiful all year round and there are many coaches or tours operating from both sides of Bulgaria to enable you to visit Veliko Tarnovo, perhaps you need a break from skiing and fancy touring around this quaint town covered in snow? With its cobbled stones and traditional buildings what’s not to love? Or maybe after days of sun bathing on the Sunny beach strip you fancy a day of culture? Either season, Veliko Tarnovo is a place you must visit!

Many expats prefer to buy and live in villages just outside Veliko Tarnovo. Land and property is cheap to buy because many young Bulgarians go to work in the cities- preferring a more London-like lifestyle whilst British expats have been renovating these huge farm houses and turning them into Bed & Breakfasts, hotels and retreat centres thus reviving the entire area for the locals to thrive from- tourists bring money which supports local shops and markets.

Visit Bulgaria

day trip to Veliko Tarnovo

living in Bulgaria
My mum sadly does not live in Bulgaria anymore. Due to health and personal reasons she has recently moved back to the UK for the time being but she loved living out there. She loved the people, the food and the simple way of life so who knows what the future holds? In comparison to Spain and France, it is is also a cheaper place to live, your money will stretch even further and you’ll feel comfortable.

I loved our family home, I was sad to let go of my childhood home, she still kept it and rented it out to a family back in Blackpool however it was a weird feeling of excitement for this new adventure living abroad and resentment for allowing a new family live in the house I grew up in. But it was a smart financial move to do this, renting out our house in Blackpool gave my mum a small income to live off in Bulgaria (on top of her retirement pay), any savings she had went towards renovation and decoration of her new Bulgarian home.

My childhood was a financially difficult time for my mum as a single parent barely affording food and heating yet things began to change in my late teens and my mum became a retail manager and over the years also became a landlady to 4 properties, that’s when we began to live more comfortably, it was then, she decided to work towards owning a property abroad- for a while she did think about the usual destinations like Spain, France and Cyprus but then she remembered how much she adored our family holiday to Borovets, Bulgaria when I was six years old which she scrimped and saved for, for years! She adored the wooden beamed houses and cabins, she adored the locals and way of life so she went back out there and fell in love with the house in Veliko Tarnovo. She sold all those rental properties in the UK to help buy and renovate it and I was so proud of her for achieving this, we were dirt poor when I was a kid and people were amazed my mother achieved this dream as a single parent, she is living proof that no matter your circumstances you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and it is her strong willed, tenacious spirit that inspires me and I’ve become a lot like her now I’m a grown woman.

So below are a few photos of the Bulgarian house and its vast garden that my mum owned, I just loved visiting her there, it was a nice break away from England and inspired Jon & I to live abroad because we could physically see the possibilities just from staying with my mum in Bulgaria and both of us dislike the lifestyle in the UK. We even thought about buying a property and land in Veliko Tarnovo to run our businesses from- I’d set up a yoga & belly dance retreat and Jon thought about running photography tours. We are still considering this dream, but not found the right country for us to make that move just yet!

Fancy living in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria? Click on the link to look at properties: Yantra Homes

buying property in Bulgaria

holiday in Veliko Tarnovo

expat in Bulgaria

expat living in Veliko Tarnovo

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Cicada Earrings

Cicada Earrings

A the moment I have a mild obsession with insects, I have my main totem animals that I love and have loved for years such as the Elephant, Whales and Manatees as well as Dogs, the Leopard, the Honey Bee and Hummingbird but every now and then new animals pop into my life, perhaps as a messenger or as a symbolic representation of my life in that moment in time.

Back in college and during my Art A levels, I was encouraged to study and draw insects contained in boxes and I borrowed them from the Biology department. I still find botanical and insect illustrations highly interesting and I adore looking through books of vintage illustrations and photography from artists and biologists who studied plant and insect life in the Victorian era, there is something beautifully nostalgic and creepy about vintage drawings I just love.

So, much like my college years, I’ve gone full circle and I’m now interested once again, in studying bugs, I want to draw them and add these drawings to my illustrated poetry book- I feel like they’d add an earthy and eerie vibe to the book which displays themes on love and magical realism- I want it to feel slightly of this world but have elements of other worldliness too.

For some reason, I have been drawn to the Cicada insect (pronounced Sic-kay-da). We discovered this flying insect when we ventured to a small island off the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2014. Many people mistake them for Locusts and in a way they can be, they are considered pests by the locals and they do swarm at certain times of the year.

Upon this new found obsession I found some cicada earrings on etsy that I just had to have. There was just something so gorgeous yet creepy about them. They looked almost Egyptian, very mystical and strange, so I bought them. Out of interest I researched the meaning to the Cicada beetle to see if perhaps they’re symbolism is relevant to my life and thus could be the reason why I am drawn to them?

Here is what I found:
The cicada can live underground for years before emerging alive and intact. Because of this, it is an ancient symbol of resurrection, immortality, and transformation. Feng Shui wisdom says if you are about to have a career change, or you’re about to marry, or moving to a new house, graduate from school, migrate to a new place or country, then you will be drawn to Cicadas and their magick, carrying or wearing a cicada will help ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Reading this I couldn’t stop smiling. All of the above is true. I have been waiting for years for the culmination of my teaching career, so many people were impatient with me and asking why my career hadn’t taken off yet, and whilst a lot of it was to do with external factors beyond my control, it was also realizing there had to be a right time and so I kept a lot of things underground to stew and now I am emerging and ready to take flight. I am now promoting my yoga classes and actually teaching!

I do feel like I’ve been reborn or transformed from the person I was two years ago. In 2014 I suffered with an episode of depression and high anxiety, I was seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist every week to help me through the pain. Today I feel like I have my charisma and confidence back, I feel alive and full of hope.
*I also feel like I am on the verge of a career change: Leaving my part time job to teach more and more classes and group workshops as a community activity leader for a mental health organization.
*Migrating to a new country: Has been discussed for a while, Jon & I have talked about moving to the Far East (hence why I did my TEFL teacher training) or even to New Zealand.
*Graduate from a school: I’ve almost saved my target amount to do my 200hr yoga teacher training, I’m now deciding which training I opt for and where-either Thailand or Bali?
*Moving to a new house: Our current house was an investment project and still is, it helped us get on the property ladder and our lodger’s rent pay’s our mortgage. We might rent the house out completely to live abroad and have a small income from the house or sell it to buy a suitable home to perhaps start a family wherever in the world.

The fact is, the Cicada has come into my life as a message of great change, after years of waiting patiently, lying dormant and slowly manifesting the right tools for the great change. Read more about the symbolism of cicadas here:
Cicada spirit animal

You can buy them Here: The Moon & the Sea Etsy

I do find it so interesting, animal spirits come into your life when you need them most. The Leopard came into my life when my depression was lifting and I had this craving to feel sassy and sexy so I bought leopard print knickers!
These big cats are also silent but deadly- meaning, I know people underestimate me because I’m quite a quiet person, but they really shouldn’t as I can be a force to be reckoned with. Unsurprisingly, my shadow animal is the moth- I have a phobia of moths and they represent the soul or identity- which is something I have struggled with for years, acknowledging my soul journey and valuing my identity.

We should take note of the animals that appear in our daily life, they have a message for us from the divine cosmos, what animal are you drawn to or keep seeing at the moment? Does its symbolism correlate to your current life situations and endeavors? Do some research as to what animal you are most drawn to and why?

Simple Things in Sweet November

Simple Things Magazine
It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to update you all on what is going on in my life. Sometimes time speeds up until there is a moment where you kind of stop and look up at the moon and remember you need to rest or simply catch up with a good chat and a brew. So this is just that.

I’ve nearly finished my Priestess training, with only the Yule sabbat left to be initiated on. Becoming a Priestess means it simply enables me to run sacred feminine circles, workshops and retreats. I wanted to do something like this for yoga & belly dance classes, to make them more than just fitness classes, I wanted my teachings to be holistic and mystical. In this training I’ve learned so much about Paganism, moon cycles, how to guide people through visual meditations, the symbolism of plants, colours and animals, how to create an alter and much more. It’s been an incredible journey and I started out doing this purely for myself, for self reflection because I was so focused on the external world and I needed something that brought me back to myself, back to the magic in the mundane, becoming a priestess has really done this for me. I know people will think I’m weird and scoff at all I’m doing, but it’s water off a ducks back, I don’t care anymore, life’s too short to care what other’s might think of you, as long as I’m happy and I’m doing no one any harm then that’s all that matters.

This Friday I’m teaching my first Teen Yoga & Belly dance class. I’ve been asked to mix it up a bit because some boys are interested and a lot of the kids are stressed because they’re revising for exams and some are also hyperactive. I’m planning a short but fast sun salutation to tire them out,a yoga game, a couple of challenging poses then some deep pranayama breathing to settle them down. After that for 40 minutes I’ll teach a beginners belly dance session. I’m really excited about this but I’m not getting my hopes up, many people who’ve worked with teens had a disastrous first class, it’s to be expected so I’m not going to create a perfect lesson plan because I feel like I may have to wing it!

We’re going away for three weeks this Christmas! We’re actually spending Christmas day in a different country! I’m so excited! I’m not giving away where we are going just yet as the journey hasn’t been fully organized, yes we’ve bought the flights however Jon had to spend a week in Russia last week so we haven’t sat together properly to iron out kinks and plan a basic itinerary. I’m just super stoked I won’t have to deal with the overt consumerism over Christmas, it’s going to be so quiet and heavenly.

I’m making more dream catchers in the new year, these are all commissions from friends but also they act as prototypes for an etsy shop I want to open, I need sample photos to show potential customers what I create so the next batch are two bohemian Bridal catchers, a Neon (glow in the dark catcher) and two sacred feminine catchers- one white and one deep, womb red. By that point I’ll have a variety of size, colours and styles to exhibit online and I’m looking forward to having this as a little side business project.

On top of this, the new website is still being worked on and I hope to have it go live in the new year. It will house yoga & belly dance information like where I’ll be teaching, prices and schedules for upcoming workshops & retreats, as well as info on dream catcher making workshops, a page will be created to feature tabs to all the sites I’m published on, my dream catcher samples will be there too with a link to my etsy shop, plus the usual gallery, bio, resume and contact details and a link to this blog. With that comes new business cards, leaflets and photography too so stay tuned for new yoga & belly dance photoshoots!
I’m sorting out my teaching insurance, yoga alliance and Independant Yoga Network memberships as well, this is really important for my little teaching business.

My Illustrated Poetry book has taken a slight back seat this year as I have had no time to work on it, other than one new poem which I’ll illustrate and publish in the new year perhaps with Rebelle Society. The concept of the book has changed also as I want to include short stories, photography and collage, this is a project close to my heart and publishing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do.

I’m still saving for the 200hr yoga teacher training which will be on a Thai island for 3 months (plus a couple of weeks in Bali) but currently have an injured right leg, I’m allowing it to heal so my yoga practice has been a gentle one for a few weeks now, for this reason I’ve pushed the yoga teacher training back til late Spring and this is also why my partner & I are going on a Christmas holiday instead. I also plan to do a Fitness Instructing Level 2 to gain more knowledge of the body and general fitness and I want to specialize in Yin Yoga. I’m currently Weight training at home with my yoga practice plus a dance workout thrice weekly to keep fit and feel stronger. I feel like I’m ready to get back into studying the body and I really need to freshen up my knowledge of Anatomy & Physiology!

That’s pretty much me really and we leave the UK for our 3 week holiday on the 10th December so I have much to finish up before then, including 4 modules for the Level 3 VSCE Mental Health training and a list of scheduled blog posts- so much writing, so much study and so much planning!
What are you currently up to and do you have any New Year plans?

*Photo of me reading Simple Things Magazine- taking some time out from my busy schedule for some rest in cozy socks.

Dream House: A Novel by Catherine Armsden // Book Review

“Dream House” is a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on a concept I often think about…..home. How does one let go of a childhood home one loved deeply? How does one create a home of one’s own that feels as important and powerful as one’s original home? These themes are very relevant to my personal life right now and I relate so deeply to the main characters in this novel. Seven years ago I left my childhood home and all its memories encased in the cabinets to start a new life with my partner in the city of Plymouth, three years ago I visited my mother for a week in the house I grew up in one last time because she was renting it out to another family in order to live in Bulgaria. The strange feelings I had of happiness and excitement for my mum achieving her dream and even jealousy of another family enjoying our family home was a peculiar experience and now three years on, my mum has had to give up her dream home to come back to the UK for health reasons, the grief I felt was intense for my family never had much, this home abroad was a symbol of hope and rekindled relationships, my sister was planning to get married in the vast garden by the wishing well and I hoped for future travels to further explore Bulgaria.

The attachment one has for a home is an interesting thing and the bereavement one feels can be heart shattering. Even living in Plymouth with my partner doesn’t always feel like my home, it’s his house and financially belongs to him which he hopes will act as an investment property and because of this, I don’t really have a say in the decor and he’s kept it minimal yet elegant so it sells quickly when the day comes to sell it. So being in a building that feels more like his business project than ‘our space’ energetically, is a little unsettling to me.

So this novel really makes you reflect on your own concepts of home and the relationships formed around and within it. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are gorgeous and there is an ever so slight hint of Magical Realism which I adore, at times Catherine describes the house as a living, breathing being and each sentence is lush with sensory detail and emotional complexity. You can almost hear the front door sigh with sadness or the kettle squeal with relief when boiling water for a brew. I also love that the plot takes place in Maine which is a part of America I wish to visit one day, I feel very drawn to the place, it’s a beautiful part of the world.

Published with Yellow Pear Press, this is Catherine Armsden’s first book, and she is an architect by profession. The book deals with family conflict and the connection that some people have with the home they grew up in. It is not a book of action, but a book of reminiscence and emotion. It deals with many subjects–unfulfilled dreams, marriage, mental illness, homosexuality, alcoholism, and suicide.

Gina, the protagonist and her sister are cleaning out their childhood home after the death of their parents. When Gina returns home she can’t seem to settle back into her life as a wife, mother and architect. She begins to fall apart and decides to return to her hometown and take a look at her life in this house. Memories, both good and bad surface to tell Gina’s story.. She begins to reconcile her relationship with her mother and discovers the life she has always wanted. This seems like quite a simple plot however Catherine’s writing weaves magic into each crevice, nook and corner of the home, her description of house hold appliances, the weather and the environment surrounding the home is so moving and poetic, every word breathes life into inanimate objects and structures, she gives them a soul.

This is a perfect winter read, it’s slow, with soothing sentences mixed with childhood memories and slightly dark themes. It’s reflective and relatable. This is a perfect novel to cozy up with in a vast arm chair by the crackling fire, wearing your favourite oversized sweater and tote socks whilst drinking a velvety chamomile tea.

Buy the book here: Dream House: A Novel

I’ve also written book reviews for Yogi Approved click, on the links below:
Six Soulful books for the summer
Five books for the Winter reading list
Five books for your Fall reading list

And Bad Yogi:
8 Poetry books to inspire your yoga practice
4 books by inspiring yoga teachers

Here are some other book reviews published on the blog:
Book review of Fen: A short story collect by Daisy Johnson
Book review of Rupi Kaur’s The Sun & her Flowers
Book Haul: Obscure Poetry Books I recommend
Book Haul: Empowering books for Wild women
Book review of Plum by Hollie McNish
Book review of The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwod-Hargrave
Book Haul: Picture books for little Yogis & ESL Learners
Review of The Rialto Poetry Magazine
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Book Review of Love poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans

Three Boho Dream Catchers

dream catchers
I finally found the time to finish these beauties off. These three dream catchers were created for three teen girls in mind, I met them and their mom on the Teen yoga teacher training and the whole family were so lovely towards me, I wanted to send them hand made gifts as a thank you.

So I wanted these dream catchers to be sophisticated enough so that as the girls grow up the dream catchers won’t look childish, they needed to be colourful and full of life, and each one was made with each girl’s personality in mind. I felt they all needed to have a similarity to them though so I kept their basic style the same to show they belong to three sisters but each have a slightly different colouring or charm that brings out their individuality.

This first one was made for the youngest of the three. She’s theatrical, quirky and full of beans. She was always moving around, doing cartwheels and wearing very flamboyant harem pants. I wanted her dream catcher to emulate that, so her flowers are the most colourful and she has been given a butterfly charm to represent her free spirited nature.

hand made dream catchers

Artist Katie Ness
This second dream catcher is for the eldest. She’s into fashion design, shopping and perhaps running her own business one day. Her personality is more reserved but curious. I wanted to create a dream catcher that represented her femininity as she becomes a young woman, her colours are subtle and earthy with her main charm being a rose quartz for self love and universal love and a tree charm for growth and potential. Blue howlite is also added for communication and encouraging a sense of calm because she has dyslexia (Like me) it will help her reduce any anxiety she might have about speaking/listening/writing/reading and let her know she is smart and beautiful in her own way.

boho dream catcher

floral dream catcher
The last dream catcher is for the middle sibling. She appears to be a cross between her younger and elder sisters. She’s confident yet inquisitive, thoughtful and full of ideas and she has a lot of confidence in speaking her mind in groups so blues for her throat chakra were used. She has a love of nature, animals and in particular horses and horse riding. I didn’t have a horse charm so instead I embellished her catcher with leaf charms and a tree charm as well as blue howlite for serenity and communication.

dream catchers in Autumn

arts and craft ideas
All three young women were amazingly confident, well spoken and free spirited in their own unique way which is a testament to their mom who has raised them to be kind, thoughtful and full of charisma. I wanted to capture their personalities in the dream catchers and I do hope they like them.

Everything I make is made with love, I also imbue them with Reiki, bless them with sage and create a moon blessing ceremony for them too so that when they hang their dream catchers on the wall of their bedrooms, the dream catchers should radiate positive and peaceful energy, aiding them in a restful nights sleep and giving the girl’s good vibes in their personal spaces. I do enjoy creating these dream catchers, they are a simple pleasure that brings me into a state of meditation, they are a simple thing, a sweet past time that brings me peace of mind when the rest of my life is so hectic and there are more on the way. I have been commissioned to created a Neon (glow in the dark) catcher, two Boho-Bridal catchers and two goddess inspired catchers so stay tuned for those. I look forward to creating the next dream catcher by the roaring fire and drinking a soothing chamomile tea, utter bliss.

rainy day activities

shamanic healing dream catchers
I shall be setting up an etsy shop in the new year for any one interested in a bespoke dream catcher lovingly created by me. It will also link to my new website which will include teaching information (prices/venues), Bio with CV, tabs to all the platforms my writing is published with and projects I am working on. I am super excited for this website to go live! Everything will be revealed soon!

If you wish to see other dream catchers I have created, click on the links below:

Summer Solstice Dream Catchers

Vintage Bohemian Dream Catcher

Autumn Dream Catchers & Workshop ideas

Dream Catchers in Cornwall