Finding Stillness

A couple of weeks ago I went on an adventure that took me completely by surprise, and it has changed me in more ways than I would have thought possible.  My adventure began with my Mom who wanted me to attend a photography workshop in Rivers, Manitoba with the amazing Kim Klassen.  Funny enough Kim was one of the first bloggers I followed when I initially discovered the world of blogging 5 years ago.  Since that time my Mom who is also a blogger (and kick butt Instagrammer) has become good friends with Kim.  Anyway, my mom mentioned that there was an opening in Kim’s Finding Stillness creative workshop, and that I should go with her.  I worried about going because so many of the attendees are rockstars and I just wasn’t sure I’d fit in.  But I got over myself and decided to take this time and spend it with my mom and myself and maybe learn something new.  Life is too short to be afraid of adventure.


What happened instead is so much better than I ever could have imagined.  I spent a wonderful week one-on-one with my Mom which is such a gift, and met people who touched my heart.  All in the quiet, beautiful town that is Rivers, MB.  And I learned so much.  And not just about cameras.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

The beautiful and giving, Kim Klassen.

While I was visiting Rivers the most unexpected thing happened to me…I met two of the most beautiful souls, Kim and Aeleen.  These women are the kind of people that make you feel welcomed and special right down into your heart.  They’re the kind of people that make you feel like they’ve always been a part of your life, except that you just met them.  Strange how these things happen, and so unexpectedly.  The way they opened up their homes and hearts to me is a gift I will always treasure…I was so sad to say goodbye when I left…but I’ll be back.  They feel like family.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Aeleen. Oh my heart, this woman is the kindest soul.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend 2 days with just my Mom, Kim and Aeleen before the actual workshop started, and I have to say this was my most favourite part of the week.  As they prepared for the workshop I tagged along on flower gathering adventures, collected Virginia Creeper from abandoned secret gardens, foraged ditches for grasses, stuffed myself on freshly picked apples, enjoyed endless treats from the Honey House Bakery, soaked in all the gorgeousness of Kim’s studio, and just really got to enjoy my time with these 3 special women.  It was amazing.  Le sigh.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Where I spent most of my time though, was at Kim’s studio where she hosted Finding Stillness.  So let’s talk about this space.  Wow.  Kim and her husband John bought an old newspaper building in downtown Rivers, which they then converted into this studio.  When I first walked in here my heart literally skipped a beat…I think I even gasped.  I had no idea what my dream studio/workspace would look like, until I saw this.  Floors, ceilings, walls, curtains all awash in white.  So bright and cheery and dreamy.  Shelves and bookcases displaying books, teacups and a treasure trove of photo props.  Be still my heart.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

But I have to say that the kitchen space was my absolute favourite…it just drew me in and suddenly I wanted to bulldoze my kitchen at home to make way for this dreamy open concept.  I absolutely loved everything about it.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

I just really loved walking around Kim’s studio and taking pictures of things as they appeared to me.  I liked the quiet feeling of taking pictures of things that inspired me, or spoke to me somehow.  Or just looked quietly beautiful.  Even every day things like teacups, rolling pins, flowers, books…

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Everywhere I looked there was something beautiful…a bucket of prairie flowers, a copper strainer, a set of twinkling lights, a display of apples, an inspirational message…I loved everything in this space.  And I felt so at home.  Like this space was calling to me, saying this is it, this is what you have been trying to imagine for yourself, your home, your blog, and you didn’t even know it.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

More about Finding Stillness…so what was I doing here?  What kind of beautiful magic brought 13 women to Rivers, MB?  Finding Stillness is a 3 Day Creative Still-Centered Gathering put on by Kim Klassen and co-creator Aeleen.  It is a gathering of like-minded women who share a passion for photography and creativity.  A place to learn, grow, collaborate, share, and connect.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

With workshops for things like wreath making, which was hosted by Aeleen and my Mom.  Seriously how amazing are they?  (this is what we used all the secret garden Virginia Creeper for)

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

It almost felt like we were in a magazine spread for Martha Stewart.



We were given photo opportunities to shoot things like naked cakes and still lifes.  We had special guests come in to create fancy coffees and rustic flower arrangements, all for us to take photos of in the ways that made us feel creative.  Kim so generously opened her studio up to us, and allowed us to move around and use all of her props to create photo displays…it was a photography dream.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Kim also graciously shared her wisdom.  I learned SO much from her…she was fascinating to watch.  It’s so apparent how much Kim loves what she does, and believes in wholeheartedly.  She shares all of her tips and tools with no fear…if she discovers something whether it’s a new social media or a tripod or a camera or a Light Room tip, she shares it.  I believe this is why she’s so successful…she truly wants everyone to succeed.  That is a gift.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

We also shared some meals together…even these were stunning.  I was so honoured to find out that Kim, Aeleen and Kim’s Mom made my Summer Roll Salad Bar for lunch one day.  And the way they laid it all out was incredible…so beautiful.  (on a side note, when I went to look at my blog post for this, I realized the formatting got all screwed up in a blog plug-in update, and I was horrified to see that they would have had a jumbled up recipe to work with.  GAH…it’s fixed now.  Sigh)

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Anyway…what an amazing lunch together in the studio.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

One of my favourite times of the day though, was stillness hour.  One whole hour of complete silence.  No talking.  You could read, take pictures, Instagram, nap, go for a walk…the only rule was that you had to be quiet.  It was lovely…I should institute this at home.  😉

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

Oh, and I couldn’t talk about Finding Stillness without mentioning Ben.  Ben is Kim’s golden doodle, and he was so lovely to have around.

Finding Stillness 2016 {A Pretty Life}

I don’t know what I went to Finding Stillness to find per se…I really just went hoping to learn a few photography tips, spend time with my Mom and have some quiet time to myself.  I didn’t know what to expect, at all.  But I left Finding Stillness with a renewed sense of energy…a feeling that I wanted to shake things up and make magic happen.  I am ready to take not only my blog, but my life to the next level.  Life is too short not to.  I’m feeling refreshed, inspired and alive…and that is priceless to me.  I am so thankful that I took a chance and went on this journey.  (I’ve since bought a tripod, signed up for Light Room and more of Kim’s classes…I can’t wait to get going again)

If you want to see more from Finding Stillness, just search the hashtag #FindingStillness2016 on Instagram (this will link right to the hashtag for you…just click on the coloured text).  There are so many wonderful images there!

– – – – – –

Thank you SO much to Kim and Aeleen for a wonderful adventure in Rivers…I will treasure my time with you.  And to my Mom who always encourages me…I can’t express how valuable this time with you, was to me. xo


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  • Reply Kim October 5, 2016 at 11:07 AM

    oh my word…. tears dripping onto my keyboard (much better than the leaky drip drip from above yesterday)…..argh…..

    I’m overwhelmed by your beautiful words….
    Having you here… in the studio…. Honestly Jo….. I can’t imagine FS without you now…..

    Watching you with your mom….. your beautiful photos……. I mean seriously…. they are amazing…..
    I loved watching you ‘see’ and ‘be’ in this space….

    It filled my whole heart…. and I’m beyond excited to watch what unfolds moving forward.

    I am truly blessed by you….so much love…xxx

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 7:53 PM

      Thank you so so much Kim…I enjoyed my time immensely. Truly one of the highlights of my life. xo

  • Reply Heather October 5, 2016 at 11:07 AM

    I was agog watching your Instagram stream as you went through this class. I could feel your excitement over it all and it made me want to be right there with you!

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 7:54 PM

      Thank you Heather…I’m happy it came across the way I had hoped. I was so inspired.

  • Reply Barb October 5, 2016 at 11:24 AM

    I’ll be back later to comment when I can see … right now I’m laughing and crying …

  • Reply Tiffany @ myDIRT October 5, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    What a dream world you stepped into. I can’t imagine how inspirational that place would be in person. Stunning doesn’t quite cover it. Thanks for sharing Jo-Anna. PS, I had NO idea your mom was a blogger too. I peeked at her IG and WOW! You sure have a talented family.

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 7:55 PM

      That’s exactly what it felt like, a dream world! I enjoyed my time so so much…I was beyone inspired! And my MOM! Right?! So talented.

  • Reply Andrea October 5, 2016 at 11:46 AM

    I have never had any wish to go to Manitoba till I saw this workshop was happening. So wish I could have gone… thanks for sharing it here!!! Your photos are fabulous!

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 7:56 PM

      Too funny, I felt the same way, but WOW was Rivers gorgeous! And thank you for your lovely comment…I had such a wonderful time!

  • Reply Kyla October 5, 2016 at 4:18 PM

    Oh this is just beautiful and amazing. And warms me all over.

  • Reply Patricia Mark October 5, 2016 at 4:35 PM

    Beautifully written. It makes me wish all the more I could of been there. I can feel the stillness thru your words.

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 7:57 PM

      Oh thank you Patricia! It truly was wonderful and inspiring…I hope I can go back someday.

  • Reply Misty Hamel October 5, 2016 at 4:55 PM

    Ah-mazing! Like Heather, I was glued to your IG feed while you were at Finding Stillness.

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 7:58 PM

      Oh thank you Misty! I had so much fun posting during that time…I wish I never had to leave!

  • Reply Laurie @Vinyet Etc October 5, 2016 at 7:14 PM

    Oh my goodness lady, this is like you pulled a heavy blanket off of the most beautiful treasures… I feel like I’ve just read your heart! I am a massive fan of your Mom’s (just learned she was your Mama) not only of her beyond stunning work but her open soul, so real and welcoming! And to see and follow your adventure, I am speechless and in awe! All I can think to say is thank you so much for pulling that blanket off and sharing these priceless gifts!

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 6, 2016 at 8:01 PM

      Oh Laurie, you are the sweetest person ever. I just know you would have loved it there…maybe I’ll see you in Rivers next year! It was a magical time, and so amazing to spend with my Mom…she’s so talented isn’t she?! xo

  • Reply Chocolatebaker October 9, 2016 at 4:00 PM

    Hi love love love this piece. You have made me take out my 35 ml .it is so hard to find a place that still does film.thank you for sharing this with our moms. Take care

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife October 29, 2016 at 12:38 PM

      Hi! I’m so sorry I missed your comment! I am so happy you enjoyed this piece…I loved my time there so much so I hoped it would inspire something in people. I’m thrilled you’re taking our your camera…happy photographing!

  • Reply Erin Bogle November 18, 2016 at 12:24 PM

    Wow, I am in total and complete awe at this post. I feel like it’s exactly what I’ve been searching for. Thank you for posting this and for introducing me to Kim’s beautiful world of stillness. I feel a renewed sense of energy just from reading this. Thank you!

    • Reply Jo-Anna@APrettyLife November 19, 2016 at 6:18 PM

      Oh Erin that is the nicest thing to hear…I felt the same way about being there, it was exactly what I needed too. It was wonderful.

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