Posts in Making
ASSEMBLY WINTER GATHERING 2018

It’s been a couple of weeks since we had our Winter Assembly Gathering so I wanted to show you what we got up to! It was such a beautiful evening. 40 women; making, eating, and getting to know each other as we gathered at this years Winter venue, Portadown Town Centre Market. The amazing Lauren from @litphotographyni captured the whole evening for us so beautifully - makes me want to do it all again…

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We had The Edible Flower team on board for catering so we were kept fully fed and watered from arrival - spiced rum with hot apple juice and homemade pretzels that I can’t stop thinking about to this day. Those girls are geniuses with their flavours and expertise. They really are top class caterers and it’s always such a pleasure to have them on the Assembly team.

Once everyone arrived we split off into workshops - half heading over to Becky to learn about natural remedies and make a healing herbal tea and the other half over to Gill, (our amazing florist who installed that beautiful foliage suspension and the incredible circle installations while having a newborn baby in her arms) to make some natural alternative wreaths!

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And then we feasted! We had four courses of amazing food by Team Edible Flower. They knocked it out of the park with the menu. Lentil, beetroot and goats cheese starter, slow cooked beef rendang with jasmine rice for mains, spiced ginger cake with caramelised apples on top for dessert and rose meringues and green tea to finish. Glory be. The eating is my favourite part. It’s when everything slows down and we get to sit and chat and take our time and savour.

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The table was set with beautiful stonewashed linen tablecloths c/o our friends at Linen Me and simple, elegant brass candle sticks from the amazing Fetch and Sow. We hung warm light festoons c/o Lights4Fun from the industrial ceiling to bring some warmth to the space (hanging them caused some serious marital tension between Dave and I but it was worth it in the end…). We also used Linenme napkins to wrap up the little treats we put together for all who attended. Everyone received a gorgeous paper-cut print by Cotton Papier, a pair of my favourite ever bamboo socks by Thought Clothing, a little sample of Neals Yard Hand Cream and Facial Serum from small batch Irish natural beauty company Sana Naturals. A big thank you to the awesome brands that contributed gifts - they were perfect.

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As always, being round the table, getting to make and learn and be together felt magical. What a serious delight it is for me to bring women together in this way - to make space for our own creativity and to build community. I don’t take it for granted that women are brave enough to buy tickets and come to Assembly for the first time on their own, or that they come back because they have made connections they want to foster. Thank you to everyone who came - it’s only ever as good as the women who come.

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All of these images were captured by Lauren from LIT Photography who is such a talented warm person and a real gem to work with. Aren’t they wonderful?

Finally, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been part of Assembly this year. To those of you who have joined the Members Community (almost 80 of you now!), everyone who has hosted, helped or attended one of our Gatherings, Sessions, our charity Clothes Swap and Skydive, the Winter Market and the Movements Group Coaching Course (PHEW). Needless to say it has been such a learning curve for me to lead in this way this year and I have absolutely LOVED meeting so many amazing women here in Ireland who are doing incredible things, have brave and beautiful ideas and want to be more courageous with their lives. Here’s to all of that and more in 2019.

P.S. My monthly newsletter ‘The Understory’ is going out this week - if you want to get it, see the box below!

INSIDE THE ASSEMBLY SPRING/SUMMER GATHERING!

It's been a few weeks since we had our Assembly Spring/Summer Gathering for the year so I thought I'd take you inside and show you what we got up to.

These Gatherings are pretty all consuming for me in the lead up - so much thought, preparation, promotion, sourcing and energy goes into putting this day together and I love it. I do. It flexes creative muscles in me that I want to build but make no mistake, it also takes a small army of helpers around me to make it happen. I am so grateful for all the people who were on my team for this Gathering - so many beautiful women who made it all come together - with their skills, expertise, encouragement and generosity. 

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We headed back to the gorgeous home of Erin and Jo (The Edible Flower) in Saintfield for this years Gathering and it is such a warm, generous space. It takes a special couple to have the courage and tenacity to be able to host 40 women for the day so effortlessly. They cleared out space for us, cooked delicious food for us, led a workshop, lit campfires and were generally amazing. 

Setting up and bringing a vision of table settings and flowers and backdrops is such an exciting part of this role for me and I was so lucky to have Kelly from Ciderpress Lane as my right hand woman to help with setting up. Kelly runs similar dinners and workshops through her awesome business Ciderpress Lane in Seattle, Washington and we connected over IG ages ago through mutual friends. It just so happened that she was in Ireland on vacation the same time as our Gathering was happening so I scooped her up and was so thrilled that we could finally meet in real life and she could come and be part of Assembly with us! 

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I also had the absolute pleasure of bringing in Lindsey from The Wildflower to make the table come alive with some gorgeous spring blooms. I cannot tell you how happy these flowers made me - they were the perfect peachy tones and really made the table look so special (you'll see them in situ later on down the post). Lindsey is such a dream to work with and totally got my ideas and the feel I wanted to create. If you ever need anything floral done, she's your girl.

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We were also so lucky to have Steph and Matt from This Old Home come and bring some of their stunning backdrops for different spaces around the Gathering. These guys have such style and warmth and their gorgeous wooden backdrops brought a really unique element to the different spaces around the property. The dressed wooden triangle finished off our dining space beautifully and the chevron backdrop we used to serve welcome cocktails from was something really special. Such a gorgeous fam they are (their beautiful boy Tom got in on the action while we set up) with such creative know-how.

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After everyone arrived and had a seasonal cocktail and some canapes we broke up into workshops - one half of the group heading out to meet with Jo and learn about seasonal gardening, growing your own veg and getting a chance to pot some plants to take home. Erin and Jo have a large vegetable garden where they grow much of the food they cook and cater with so Jo took us on a tour. I don't know anyone more enthusiastic about soil, crop rotation and the ultimate joy of growing your own than Jo. She is utterly joyfully contagious and a wealth of info. They are going to be running some twilight gardening sessions (with yummy food included) on their property during July/August so if learning more about this stuff is your thing you should get along! 

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While one group got their hands dirty, the other half of the group headed over to the cow byre to meet up with Tonya from Infinity Farm. Tonya is an urban beekeeper and came along to take a workshop on making beeswax products. Everyone had a chance to make some scented beeswax lipbalm and an eco-friendly beeswax wrap (alternative to cling film/tinfoil) to take home! The smells coming from the workshop space were heavenly as everyone had a go at blending essential oils into their beeswax lipbalms. 

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Then to feast! And feast we did. The Edible Flower team put on such a spread of food for us, I was satisfyingly bursting at the seams at the end of the night. Soup, scones, homemade sourdough pizza made in their brand new wood-fired pizza oven with local, seasonal toppings and the most incredible rhubarb pavlova to finish. 

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Denby provided us with sets of plates from their new Studio Blue collection and they looked beautiful on the table with the optical white stonewashed linen tablecloths and indigo linen napkins provided by the wonderful LinenMe. It's all of these small details that bring a table together, don't you think?

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Our amazing designer Nat from  Keady Row  did up our menu/manifesto cards for each person in our new Assembly branding.

Our amazing designer Nat from Keady Row did up our menu/manifesto cards for each person in our new Assembly branding.

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Everyone was also treated to a little gift from two amazing companies. Some organic sunscreen from Green People and a beautiful selection of candles and tealights from The Botanical Candle Company (which were opened with audible gasps at how beautiful they were). The candle scents were 'Greenhouse' and 'Cutting Garden' which just felt so perfect given our seasonal workshops. Big huge love and thanks to Green People and The Botanical Candle Co. for being so generous with their products. 

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How gorgeous are these mamas with their fresh new babies? Assembly is always accommodating of new babies (and you'll never be short of someone to hold your baby while you eat)!

And so this is where the magic happens; around the table. Conversations deepen, connections are made as we relish in the simple pleasure of eating and drinking together. It's always my favourite time to take stock - to look around the room at people getting to know each other, laughing and making space for their own nourishment. Such a joy.

After dinner we retreated to the campfire and had warm milky chai tea before we said our goodbyes and packed down.

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Thank you so much to everyone who made our Spring/Summer Gathering such a treat. To those who came, threw themselves into workshops and made new connections, to our incredible hosts and the team of women who brought it all together. A special final thank you again to our amazing photographer Rachel from Martha & Pine Photography. She captured the day so beautifully and these images are all her amazing work. She is a magician.

If you want to be part of what Assembly is all about - making space to reflect, learn, gather and grow into our creative selves - then you might want to think about joining our Members Community. This is a warm, inclusive group of women from the North and South of Ireland who want to invest in the community aspect of Assembly on a regular basis. Members get discounts on tickets to all Assembly events, get together at members only meet ups, have access to live workshops in our buzzing private facebook group and have the opportunity to take part in special projects together that empower women in need. 

If that sounds like something you'd like to be part of, come join us! Doors are only open for a little while so click here to join today! 

INTRODUCING... ASSEMBLY SESSIONS

If you've been around this space for a while you will know that for the last year and a half I have been organising a new venture: Assembly Gatherings. These gatherings have been really significant for me - a real medley of all the things I love to do (outside of my work and home life) - organise, bring ideas to life, connect amazing women, help make spaces beautiful, get creative and work with talented creative women. EAT.

Almost 100 women have been part of Assembly Gatherings in the last 18 months and I'm really grateful for how it has developed and grown. This is largely because of the women that attend. They are openhearted and warm and they truly get it. 

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At the beginning of the year I asked these women for their feedback - to help me to shape the future of Assembly because I felt like it was becoming an important feature in my life and in some of theirs and I want it to serve us all well. Assembly, above all the beautiful food, styling and workshops, is about giving women essential space to meet kindred creative spirits, to collaborate and learn. And the feedback was that they wanted more of that - more opportunities to truly connect - to really dig in and share. 

I don't know about you but my creativity needs midwifery. There is not a creative process that I've been through - whether launching a blog, a charity project, an online course, or any other idea that I haven't needed the advice, support and cheering on of other women. I think a lot of us realise we need this. We aren't made to work in silos, slogging it out on our own. We are made for creativity in community - to be around women who can help us birth our ideas by listening, advising, helping and sharing.  

All of this to say that I want to tell you what's next for Assembly!

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Assembly Sessions are smaller (25 people max), more intimate events for women really wanting to dig into their creative space and find supportive community. They are more frequent than our big, banquet all-day style Gatherings but give more space for sharing and getting to know other like-minded women. Sessions are where we dig in, Gatherings are where we celebrate. 

Assembly Sessions will run four times a year, will be stripped back but have the same beautiful Assembly identity of food and gathering in beautiful spaces and will be focused on both the inner work of being a creative and some of the practical skills that can see our pursuits flourish.  These are not business networks or formal forums - these are safe spaces for soulful creatives to bring out the best in each other.

I'm excited to tell you that our first Assembly Session will be happening next month! Together we are going to unpack the some of the things that hold us back in our creative lives - either in our professions, hobbies or other creative pursuits. This is such an important topic to shine a light on because every single one of us have fears and niggling voices of criticism in our heads that we allow to dictate how we show up in the world. This Session is going to help us manage this and unearth the tools we already have to be brave and wise.

Here are more details: 

SESSION 1
'FACE THE FEAR - DO IT ANYWAY' 

SATURDAY, 3RD MARCH  2pm - 6pm (late lunch included)
COST: £50

BLICK STUDIOS - MALONE ROAD, BELFAST
 

SESSION INCLUDES:

+ Lavish late lunch buffet banquet by the incredible Lorna, from Tacacucina.  

+ Breathing & body connection exercises with yoga teacher Oonagh Todd.

+ Reflective workshop led by me: Unpacking the voices that hold you back & taming the inner critic. Finding and connecting to your own true voice of wisdom. 

+ We will be led in reflection and visualisation exercises and we will have the opportunity to unpack our thoughts around these important areas of our creative lives through journalling and group discussion. Journals and other goodies provided!
 

THIS SESSION IS FOR YOU IF:

+ you want to feel more empowered in your creative journey. 

+ you are tired of letting fear and negative voices in your head hold you back from flourishing.

+ you feel stuck or unsure if your contributions are worth anything in the creative realm.

+ you want to reconnect to the calm wisdom that you have inside you.

+ you desire to make space for nourishing your body and soul.

+ you want to be inspired by & connected to other like-minded women.

If any of these things are true for you - this is your time!

I have a real feeling that this is the beginning of seeing women support and cheer each other on each other like never before - of being generous with each other, modelling a new way of being creative in community. I would so love you to be a part of this so if you have any questions, please let me know. Don't forget - spaces are limited (quite a few places have already gone!) so don't wait around - our last event sold out within 12 hours...

Can't wait to see you there!

5 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE MORE ETHICAL IN 2018

Now is an amazing time to make some green changes to your everyday. The slog of January is over and the motivation of the new year is beginning to hum in the background…

Maybe you’ve felt drawn to be a little more earth conscious and you want to find a way to begin that journey in an attainable way. Maybe you have realised that as humans we are both the problem and the solution to so many major environmental and ethical crises in the world today. What you need to know is that being green, eco, ethical or sustainable doesn’t have to be complicated. 

I’m talking small steps that really make a difference. That’s what this blog is all about – showcasing simple ways to be more thoughtful about how we live; understanding that modern life and being ethical don’t have to be conflicting or difficult to marry up. There are ways and means to begin our eco journey without feeling overwhelmed – here’s my starter for five for 2018:

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1) Change up your toothbrush. This is a tiny effort and a huge impact. We all (hopefully) brush our teeth, but plastic toothbrushes never biodegrade and end up in landfill, causing damaging greenhouse gasses and ruining ecosystems that help our planet to thrive. Bamboo toothbrushes are cheaper than plastic ones, are completely biodegradable and in my opinion – nicer to look at than plastic ones. I love The Humble Co. & especially love their Humble Smile Foundation – such an amazing ethos within the brand and the dedication from dentists and dental hygiene professionals wanting to support vulnerable people around the world is commendable. It’s so simple to buy these instead of your usual plastic brush (options for bamboo brushes online are endless now). What are you waiting for?!

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2) Make one DIY cleaning product. Try just one. Our homes are supposed to be safe havens but many of us are unaware of the amount of toxic chemicals that reside in our everyday products. Maybe this is your year to try out a make-it-yourself cleaning recipe. Maybe a simple water, white vinegar, castile soap & essential oil mix for an everyday spray? I got my amber glass spray bottles (shown above) here if you wanted to do the same. Or try one of Hannah’s tried and tested recipes? Even better, get your hands on Wendy’s new book ‘Fresh Clean Home’ and pick a few things to try this year so you can ditch the toxic chemicals in your home once and for all.  

3) Reduce your clothes shopping. Try a little fast fashion fast – no clothes shopping for a month. The strain that the fashion industry puts on the environment is devastating – not to mention the questionable supply chains and workers not given basic human rights. Put the money you would have spent on a few bargain items in a safe place and at the end of the month find an ethical brand or independent maker you love (check out Wild Flora Clothing for some incredible seamstress skills and properly well made garments) and buy something special from them. Try and buy something that will get a lot of wear - good basics are worth investing in.

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(Jumpsuit of dreams c/o Wild Flora Clothing)

4) Bring your bags! How many times have you been to the supermarket and got to the checkout and realised that you forgot your bag for life either at home or heaven forbid, in the car – right outside…? Intentions are good but we need to up our game and reduce our dependence on single use plastic bags (even if we could argue that they are dual use because they end up lining our bins...desperate times). Same goes for bringing our own bags for loose products (fruit/veg). Make this the year that you decide to not buy any more bags for life – even if it means you have to do the walk of shame to the car with a trolley full of bag-less unpacked items. 

5) Get reusable bottles/mugs. Not just any though – so many of them are badly made, fall apart easily or are made from toxic materials. Find one that is sustainably made. There are some expensive models in the market but don't let that put you off the search. We have found these One Green Bottles really good value and so good for not only helping us remember to take our water with us but also for keeping water cold all day and reminding me especially to up my intake of H2O. We are also big fans of Keep Cups. I have this one and get asked about it all the time. I use it a lot, try to keep it in my bag and have brought it into coffee shops and given it to them to fill when I’m ordering a take away.

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Five simple things - which ones seem doable to you? Let me know in the comments here or on IG/Facebook etc. 

If stuff like this is interesting to you, you’ll love my newsletter ‘The Understory’.  It drops every first Saturday of the month (that’s THIS Saturday!) and it’s packed full of amazing articles I've found, podcasts that have stirred my soul and my oversharing thoughts on everything to do with ethical living, feminism, creativity, parenting and more. Sign up below to get it...

ASSEMBLY FESTIVE GATHERING
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Our final Assembly Gathering of 2017 has come and gone. On Sunday afternoon 35 of us huddled around campfires, dined on delicious local food, foraged in the freezing sunlight and forged new friendships. 

With ice and snow covering most of the country over the weekend, it felt like madness to be hosting a dinner and workshops in a stone barn at the beautiful property of Laura & Ben in Downpatrick. Miraculously though, the sun came out as people were arriving and it wasn't long before we forgot about the cold and immersed ourselves in conversations, food and making. We forgot about the cold. We forgot about the cold. Maybe if I write it a few more times it will be true. It was cold. 

A year into running Assembly Gatherings has taught me a lot about the power of female resilience; of the wide open hearts of women who want to connect. Each time we have a gathering it feels like we are steadily building an army of supportive women, ready to propel and promote each other. I can feel it in my bones and see it in the way people are connecting both online and in person.

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Assembly festive gathering
Assembly festive gathering
Assembly Festive Gathering

Once everyone arrived safely and the ice (literally and figuratively) had been broken, we headed into the barn for lunch which Grace and I had set up and Grace styled beautifully as our dining spot (big thanks to the lovely Laura for also helping out, and to Linen Me for the gorgeous linen table napkins). Our host Laura (who runs the gorgeous tipi venue Finnebrogue Woods) had been busy cooking up the most incredible meal for us in her kitchen down below the barn.  We feasted on moroccan roasted chickpeas, carrots and feta to start, steamy hot beef and prune tagine (with Dexter beef - one of Laura's family businesses) and finished off with the most glorious Nearynogs chocolate and salted caramel tart that you ever did taste. We tucked in, poured the wine and Long Meadow cider and the room was filled with chatter and warmth. 

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assembly festive gathering

It was so much fun to put together the gift bags for everyone with some beautiful ethical and local treats. We had stunning prints from some of the amazing female artists that were in attendence - Lisa from White Chalk Studio and Paula McGurdy .  We were also treated to some cozy socks from Thought Clothing, rich spiced hand cream from Green People and all natural calm balm from local maker A Blissful Blend

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Assembly festive gathering
Assembly festive gathering
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assembly festive gathering
assembly festive gathering

After lunch we split up and did some workshops. One half off to the forest to gather greenery for wreath making with Janice from Gathered Threads and the other half huddled into the back room of the barn to roll truffles and learn about bean to bar chocolate making from Northern Irelands only stoneground chocolate makers - Nearynogs

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Assembly festive gathering
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Assembly festive gathering

Lauras property spans over fields and woodland and with the afternoon sunlight fading, we felt like we were in Narnia...

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Assembly festive gathering

Meanwhite back in the barn, Dot and Erin were leading us in a chocolate tasting session, sharing about their family business and giving us truffles to roll and take home. 

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assembly festive gathering
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assembly festive gathering

Can you even get over how beautiful these images are? Sheesh. Kat Mervyn captured the day perfectly for us and I'm so grateful. Kat is not only a mega talent behind the lens, but also makes me howl every time she opens her mouth. 

Thanks so much to everyone who braved the snow and ice to come and spend the day together and the wonderful team of women who helped to make it happen. I am keen to develop Assembly in the coming year - to see how we can really bolster support for creative women here in Northern Ireland and use the big pool of female talent here to learn from.  

Here's to Assembly Gatherings 2018!

 

ASSEMBLY SPRING/SUMMER GATHERING - ALL THE DETAILS...
ASSEMBLY SPRING SUMMER GATHERING

It's been almost two weeks since 30 of us met at the most beautiful property in rural Co. Down to make, eat and build community as creative women.

We couldn't have had a more perfect evening together. I say that without any hesitation of over-selling what we experienced and in full gratitude to the team of incredible women that made it happen. 

I had many moments of hesitation about doing a gathering so soon after the passing of my mum but it really was the tonic and focus I needed to push through a little bit more. Once again I was blown away by how courageous and honest these women were. All coming from different walks, different backgrounds and different points in their creative journey. It was a gentle, warm and inspiring night. I will try to keep my words few here and let the incredible Kat Mervyn do the talking through her lens as she captured our gathering so perfectly in these images.

The sun shone so magically all day and into the evening, after a week of rainy autumnal weather. As we set up and got things ready, we could all sense in the air it was for us - that mother nature was cutting us a break. Erin and Jo's place felt so right as the location of our Spring/Summer venue and the work they have done to the property so far is really impressive. There was a really peaceful atmosphere as we set everything up - taking our time, stopping to drink coffee and chat. I couldn't get over how calm and organised Erin was in the kitchen (on the outside at least!) - it really helped to create a chilled atmosphere.  So much so that as people began to arrive, I felt like I was just having some mates over to my house! Everyone was greeted with homemade cocktails and canapes and we started to break the ice gently with warm conversation and finding common ground. 

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assembly spring summer gathering
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assembly spring summer gathering
Yes, that is a jug of elderflower gin cocktail...

From there we split into workshops - half of us heading to the dining room to watch Jo work her magic as she expertly showed us how easy it was to make our own divine homemade mozzarella. The other half were led up to the loft room of one of the barns to meet Alison from Astrl Fibres and get started with some basic macrame skills. It is such a joy to watch people do their thing leading workshops, knowing that what they are teaching or talking about it driven by passion and purpose. 

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assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering

After the workshops we headed into the cow byre to tables laid before us so elegantly by Grace. Every last touch was just stunning, a total feast for the eyes. We joked all day that Dave thinks Assembly Gatherings is just an excuse for me to pretend to have a wedding again every season. He is not far off the mark there, I cannot lie (we did not have the pinterest wedding frenzy 10 years ago that there is now so allow me to indulge this just a little). Really though, there is something so inviting about a table laid thoughtfully - beckoning you to sit, relax and dissolve into the atmosphere of things. Soft dusty pinks, palest greys, greenery hung overhead and brass touches set such a calming tone in the space. Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.

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assembly spring summer gathering
Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.
Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.
Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.

Erin and Jo (The Edible Flower) put on a meal for us that was really unforgettable. Every dish full of colour, flavour and heart. They have such a knack for making food that looks and tastes incredible, and I love how much of their herbs and ingredients were picked from their own gardens just hours before being served to us. Pea and mint soup, breads with za'atar, eastern spiced pork belly, falafel with tahini yoghurt, butternut squash and mozzarella with hazelnuts and thyme. Have mercy. We finished up with a dreamy apricot, almond and sweet geranium tart that blew my mind and almost tipped me over the eating edge.   

Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.
Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.
Grace has a way of doing this so effortlessly.
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering

Add in some home-brewed belgian beer and wine and I'm not sure any of us were up for doing too much else but we saw the sun was going down so we headed out for a walk, taking pictures in the fields as the day drew in. 

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assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering

As we retired back to the campfire, Erin and Jo had hot chocolate, mint chocolate tea and proper homemade marshmallows waiting for us. We lingered, chatting some more and exchanging details for keeping in touch. 

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assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering
assembly spring summer gathering

Thank you so much to everyone who came, contributed and encouraged. If you wanted to but weren't able to join us this time, please do sign up below to get first news about the next gathering. I love doing this, bringing people together and working with such talented women to make it happen. It will be Autumn before we know it and I can't wait to do it all over again.