Bridget Gleeson, living in Venice

Dreams Into Reality: Venice, A Beautiful Crumbling Mess

Bridget Gleeson, living in Venice

Photo Copyright by Bridget Gleeson

Dreams Into Reality, Bridget Gleeson, Venice By Bridge, Italy Photography, Venice, Italy, Inspiring Lives

Photo Copyright by Corrina Tough

Beautiful Bridget Gleeson is today’s inspiration as she took her dream of living in Venice and turned it into reality, not once but twice. 

Some of us wait for the best part of our lives to take a step in the direction of our heart’s desires and often it means unlearning a lifetime of ‘shoulds’. It takes courage to follow your dreams because often you are going against a lifetime of doing things a certain way but that didn’t stop Bridget Gleeson at almost 60 moving from New York to Venice. 

‘Our’ Bridget, (I say our because when a woman takes such a brave move she changes the lives of all of us) today made a second dream a reality, taking her beautiful heartfelt photos of Venice and sharing them with the world in her shop. I’m the happiest woman on the planet to celebrate this moment and know that those of you who love Venice and haven’t been able to travel this year, will love nothing better than having your favourite city on your walls, made with love and care from a woman who dared to live her dream.

Over to you Bridget…


In the past couple of years, what belief or habit has allowed you to move to Venice and start a new life at nearly 60?

I think it all started when I began to change my belief from I should have done this move 10, 20 years ago, this dream had passed me by, to the real truth of the matter. Simply put, it’s really never too late, you get to write the story of your life, nobody else. It’s up to you. Believing that can be very hard at times, yes. But once I began to think about it that way, so many new ideas and opportunities start to show up in my life. It was a whole new way to look at my dream, like a riddle to solve. A test of how can I make this happen? A good bit of blind faith and “what’s the worst thing that could happen” didn’t hurt either! I also started at that time the habit of starting to do one small thing every day, or sometimes every week, to keep the dream alive and moving forward. Small changes and habits over time have a cumulative effect, and can really make things happen for you. That was tough for me because I’m typically a 0-60 kind of girl, and often with no patience! I think knowing that 60 was not too far around the corner gave me that extra nudge. I’d read or heard about other woman who were doing the same thing, making a dream come true in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond and I thought, “Why not me?”


You have an exciting new project sharing your beautiful photos with the world. What happened during 2020 and the Covid pandemic that encouraged you to bring this to life?

When we first arrived in the summer of 2019, Venice was warm, sunny, and packed to the gills with people! We were busy settling in and seeing friends and doing a bit of travel and just getting situated. It was a busy fun time, but not much time for my creativity other than a fabulous photography retreat in Puglia in the autumn. Venice 2020, and Italy for that matter, was a whole different time, sadly enough. The quiet of lockdown gave me the time to really think about things and life in general. When we were finally allowed to wander more than 200 meters from our apartment, there was literally no one around. Aside from the markets and stores, there were very few people here. In that void of people and tourists, and as we went to do errands or walk our dog, I started to notice things I hadn’t before. That’s when my camera came into play. I started to take it with me everywhere, and see Venice through its lens. Photography shows you how to slow down to the moment of what’s right in front of you. Without the crushing crowds, I started to see the beauty of Venice everywhere, and it was incredible. Then as I started to share more on Instagram, people began asking about my photos and the seed was planted.

Bridget Gleeson

Photo Copyright by Bridget Gleeson

How has creativity influenced your life and your relationship with yourself and others?

Finding this new creative outlet has let me quiet down my busy, hyper brain and catch my breath. It’s made me appreciate the small details. It’s my new daily gratitude list, but in photos, which I love. My life here made me start to dream of different ideas, and this brand new project comes from my love of Venice, but really wanting to share the beauty of the entire city. Especially in 2020, when so many miss La Serenissima and Italy and are counting the days until they can return. I completely understand that longing. I’ve met many wonderful, talented good-hearted people doing beautiful things with their life and creativity, and sharing it on Instagram. The friendships and the spark of creativity I get when I see all these brilliant ideas come to life, what a gift it has been!

Bridget Gleeson

Photo Copyright by Bridget Gleeson

Share with us the meaning behind your series A Beautiful Crumbling Mess?

This first series in my new print shop came about one afternoon while I was looking at my photos, I realized I had very few shots of the places people typically want to see when they check off all the boxes. I completely understand that, but Venice is found in the small Campos and narrow calles too. Venice is 16 centuries old, can you imagine?

So in some places, it feels like the city is crumbling down around us, bit by slow bit. It certainly felt that way last autumn after the disastrous grande aqua and the subsequent flooding. Yet, there was still an overwhelming sense of beauty in that crumbling mess—the red-brownish colors of the endless brick, next to the changing hues of green in the canal. The tiny delicate flowers in the cracks, and the flowing vines, wrapped and entwined in the exquisite ironwork you find all over the city above doors and guarding windows.

I want people to see the beauty in all of it, and then find the beauty in their own lives, where it may now be hard to uncover and see. It’s a series that reflects beauty, but also persistence and determination. It must take a bit of toughness for those small shoots to poke thru the brick and flower! I chose to believe we can all show up to bloom again, embrace your crumbling mess, at whatever age, and own your story.


Bridget Gleeson, living in Venice

Photo Copyright by Bridget Gleeson

I imagined during this process of moving from New York to living in Venice and starting a new life, you often felt scared, overwhelmed, or confused. What did you do to keep moving forward and believing in what you were doing?

Moving is stressful, right? I’d moved overseas before with my husband, but it was a corporate move; somebody else was in charge! This time, we were on our own! There was self-doubt, oh god, what have we done, overwhelmed by all the things and yes, confusion. I just kept thinking about what I wanted, and that kept the doubt for the most part away. I also had a strong memory of the last time we were in Venice, which had only been several months before. We’d been going to Venice on holiday for a long time. Each time for a little longer and when we lived in Switzerland, several times a year. The last time we went, we stayed a month. On our last night, after an evening shared with friends, we were crossing over the Accademia Bridge on a cold clear January evening. The city surrounding the Grand Canal looked dreamlike, as it often does in the winter months. I stopped to take it in and suddenly felt overwhelmed by emotion.

I started to cry a bit, and my husband asked me, “What’s this all about, are you okay?” (He knows how sentimental I am, and, well, the Accademia Bridge will do that to you.) I turned to my husband and said, “I don’t want to leave. It’s almost like I can’t leave. Next time we come to Venice, we’re coming for good.’’ I wiped my tears, sighed, and we slowly walked back to the apartment we were staying. I took in every last sight one last time before we headed back to New York City in the early morning.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying be careful what you wish for, well, I have to say it’s true! Within six months of sending that proclamation to the universe into that winter sky, we found ourselves living in Venice.

Bridget Gleeson, living in Venice

Photo Copyright by Bridget Gleeson

What would be one tool, habit, or piece of advice you would give to another woman approaching her sixties that wanted to take a leap of faith?

Leap! Have 100% faith in yourself, know that you can do whatever you set your mind to. I’ve learned in the last few years how incredibly important mindset is. What you say you can or cannot do is how things will turn out. That said, I think it’s so important to find other people to support you in whatever it is you want to do. My photography and this project would have never come to life if I hadn’t had a group of wonderful, kind, smart encouraging women supporting me along the way! It’s also so much more fun than doing it on your own. I do believe it’s important to think about what you want, what’s your big why? Do your research, be prepared like a good scout, and then go do whatever it is you want to do with your beautiful messy life. It’s waiting for you, trust me on that.


Thank you Bridget for sharing your inspiring journey with us!

You can check out Bridget’s wonderful work here at her newly launched online shop.

Follow her on Instagram.


Carla x


luxury skincare, la fervance, melissa obeid

Dreams Into Reality: Launching a Luxury Skin Care Brand in France

 follow your heart, luxury skincare france, dreams into reality, inspiring lives, la fervance, melissa obeid

(Images: La Fervance/Jolene Denes Photography)

Dear Lovelies, I’m very excited to share with you Melissa Obeid’s story on bringing to life her unique dream and vision of creating a luxury skincare range in France. 

I’ve had the enormous pleasure of trying this beautiful product, and as I said to Melissa, ‘It’s like a Hermes handbag in a jar!!’

It’s pure craftsmanship and luxury and everything you would expect of a beautiful luxury skincare product made in France with an interesting Australian twist. 

Over to Melissa…

follow your heart, luxury skincare france, dreams into reality, inspiring lives, la fervance, melissa obeid

(Image: La Fervance/Jolene Denes Photography)

Why a luxury skincare face cream in France?

Creating a face cream in the global cosmetics hub was certainly not the intention when we arrived in France!

The concept of a sustainable, luxurious, 100% natural and proven-active skincare brand was one I had in Australia, where we had actually commenced the process. Then a few weeks into our French family sabbatical in 2016 and the inspiration struck! The momentum kicked in and I was engulfed in this extraordinarily powerful flow of making the vision a reality in the prestige cosmetics mecca as nothing beats that ‘Made in France’ positioning. I realised it was hugely ambitious, but with the encouragement of Jamie and our children, I maintained my focus, a blind faith and after almost 4 years whilst living in Provence, Paris, of highs, lows and ‘many reasons to give up’ — LA FERVANCE was born.

It’s the first clean luxury beauty brand to fuse the best of Australia’s enchanting environment and centuries of French savoir faire into entirely original and highly sophisticated and balanced formulations from 100% natural origins, at a time when many brands are using ‘off the shelf/standard’ formulations which are ready to label due to their lower costs and quicker time to market. Our benchmark was excellence within every touchpoint, and we refused to compromise on any element of the brand or product development. Market trends and commercial factors were never our driving force. The launch of our ‘iconic’ Eclat Extraordinaire embodies the essence of our adventure, brand values and represents a new philosophy in clean beauty. France felt like the most natural place to make all of this happen.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a husband who supported this dream and has been prepared to work with me to make it happen.

follow your heart, luxury skincare france, dreams into reality, inspiring lives, la fervance, melissa obeid

(Images: La Fervance/Jolene Denes Photography/Melissa Obeid)

What attracts you to living in France and how has it influenced creating La Fervance?

I’m convinced I must have had a past life in France! Despite the various dramatic events which have transpired whilst living here, I’m unperturbed. Each time I step onto the streets of Paris or whilst in Provence, feels like my first time and whilst I may look like a local, I act like a tourist, constantly pausing to take pics of building facades, doors, vineyards, corners, tables, chairs, old people… Not half as amazing as your pics, Carla, but with that same perspective of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

After living in Paris in the 90’s where I studied at the Paris Fashion Institute and worked in fashion for a couple of years, France has a special place in my heart. Later my role at the National Gallery of Victoria was perfect as we staged many French exhibitions, so I got my ‘French fix’ regularly.  

Around my 45th birthday, Jamie saw I was missing France, so decided he’d bring me and the kids to my ‘happy place’ for a ‘few months’. The relocation from our comfortable life in Bayside Melbourne for a sabbatical was sudden, but within 8 weeks of making the decision, we were on the plane — long-stay visas in hand and an unknown adventure awaiting. On 12 July, we celebrated 4 years to the day! Whilst a true-blue Aussie at heart, with Lebanese heritage, for me, France feels like the centre of the universe, from where we can easily access other parts of the world. When I’m not here, I feel like I’m missing something intrinsic to my identity.  

I’m also passionate about history, so clearly I’m in the right place and despite some aspects of living and doing business in France being highly frustrating — this quirkiness is charming in itself (sometimes!)

The pursuit of excellence, traditions, quality, and overall inspiration I receive whilst here has influenced every element of the LA FERVANCE story. The ‘Made in France’ positioning is essential to the brand and I feel the inspiration around Napoleon & Josephine’s fascination with Australia and the Bourdin expedition to Oz in 1800 strongly here, which in turn influences the energy which LA FERVANCE exudes.

follow your heart, luxury skincare france, dreams into reality, inspiring lives, la fervance, melissa obeid

(Images: La Fervance/Jolene Denes Photography)

What have been some of the joys of living your dream?

The hugely diverse group of people we’ve crossed paths with along the way, many of whom have become close friends and de facto ‘family’. Inspiring and playing a part in some of their journeys has been most rewarding.  

The crazy synchronicities which have occurred so frequently, and which have impacted where we are now. Even meeting you, Carla, was via my now dear friend Jolene Denes, whom we initially met whilst principal dancer au Moulin Rouge — retiring in 2016 and who’s now our LA FERVANCE photographer. She’s another Aussie living in France.

Achieving what so many said would be ‘impossible’ and pushing through the consistent obstacles to see my dream become a reality and doing this all with our own personal funds. 

The sense of freedom and gratification one feels from pursuing a soul-led life, over an ‘average’ one, despite the latter offering more comfort and security.

Exposing our children to European road trips, locations, languages, cuisine, history, new friends for life, French schooling, and the LA FERVANCE adventure. They have lived the entrepreneurial journey and seen us work tirelessly to create this brand. 

Discovering my inner strength, capabilities and working through some significant personal growth.

Reaffirming the power of integrity, good manners, and respect for oneself and others. Seeing our brand appear in British VOGUE, Tattler, ELLE Paris.

Introducing the brand into retail in Australia, Paris, London, Canada, St Tropez, SKINLife in Portugal, in Lourmarin Provence and the highly reputed SKINS Cosmetics network — and thriving during the global pandemic which hit soon after the brand launch.  

follow your heart, dreams into reality, inspiring lives, la fervance, melissa obeid

(Images: La Fervance/Jolene Denes Photography/Melissa Obeid)

What have been some of the challenges of creating a luxury skincare range?

Oh Mon Dieu! SOOO many! This journey is not for the faint-hearted.

The Covid-19 global pandemic and all that this entailed (entrepreneurial 18-hour days & home-schooling included!)

A home-sick Aussie hubby and feeling torn between returning to the stability of Oz or pursuing the LA FERVANCE dream in France.

Being far from friends and family – especially my amazing, self-sufficient 94-year-old Grandmother.

French bureaucracy and the various delays and roadblocks which are highly frustrating to a ‘can-do’ person.  

The numerous time-consuming visa renewal procedures. Copious amount of requirements and paperwork.

Selling our first home in Melbourne, which held a strong sentimental connection for my children and I. This was a difficult decision. We were prepared for a short sabbatical in France, so when this extended and we created LA FERVANCE, an injection of funds was necessary. Either we returned to Oz and kept this rental property, or sold it and remained in France. I felt so strongly about LA FERVANCE so I chose the latter.  

Four years and investing 100’s of thousands into the brand and living abroad expenses and on the assumption it will succeed is a great challenge, but I’d like to think ‘fortune favours the bold.’

How did you know you were on the right path when you were launching a luxury skincare brand?

I’ve asked myself this question on many occasions over the past 4 years.  

For me, it’s waking up each morning with renewed energy and inspiration to continue with this chosen mission, despite the challenges which present along the way.

The excitement I feel about the project, the energy it evokes during meetings and the way the LA FERVANCE story inspires all who I share it with. 

I truly LOVE what I do — despite the long days, juggling the project with a busy family life and all whilst living in a foreign country. I believe it’s the entrepreneurial spirit in which I was raised, and which runs through my veins. It’s really quite addictive. 

The bizarre way this inspirational journey found me in many respects and how I could not imagine myself finding as much joy doing anything other than what I’m currently doing.

Someone once encouraged me to ‘Live a BIG LIFE’. I guess I took his advice!

la fervance, melissa obeid

(Images: La Fervance/Jolene Denes Photography)

Any advice to someone who has a dream and needs to take the first step?

Absolument! Just do it! Simply take ‘that’ first step. Whether it’s that initial phone call enquiry, an online search, a course, whatever — simply commence. If it’s the right dream, things will fall into place, flow effortlessly and then it’s up to you to write the rest of the story. Life is too short to procrastinate or live with regrets.

The universe will help those who help themselves, so give it a go, or you’ll never know. Regardless of the outcome, you will have lived new experiences, created an interesting story and who knows what amazing outcomes you may enjoy! Not to mention inspiring young people in your life in positive, ‘go getting’ ways.

Block out the ‘noise’ from negative people or those who chose not to follow their dreams, as this will only create doubt and pull you back. Instead, surround yourself with inspirational people, stories, podcasts, places to motivate that drive and determination. 

If Jamie and I could put everything on the line to create a luxury skincare brand in the luxury skincare mecca of the world, then I truly believe anything is possible!


Melissa has very generously offered a code CARLA25 for my divine readers and you receive 25% off on checkout:

Just like coming to France!!! 

Thanks to Melissa for sharing her story.

Carla x

If you want to know how you can live more wholeheartedly, reconnect to your joy, creativity, and purpose, download my Free Workbook here.

Claire Lloyd and Matthew Usmar, Dreams Into Reality

Dreams Into Reality: Renovating a Shack in Tasmania

Bushy Summers A historic Airbnb on Lettes bay Strahan Tasmania

All photos copyright Claire Lloyd

Gorgeous friends, Claire Lloyd and Matthew Usmar have turned their dreams into reality by renovating an original shack on Lettes Bay, Strahan, Tasmania. They are the first people to be featured in a new series called Dreams Into Reality, where people have a dream and share with us how they make it a reality.

It’s one of my favourite things to celebrate dreams that come true!

So over to Claire and Matthew who share with us the steps along the way, the difficulties and the joy. 

Young girl picking apples at Airbnb Bushy Summers shack in Lettes Bay Tasmania

How did you come to find a shack on the waterfront in Strahan, Tasmania and what inspired you and your partner to buy it? 

Several years ago, I bought a beautiful ceramic bowl in Sydney. I was so taken with the bowl that I tracked down its maker, Zsolt Faludi and I decided to travel to Tasmania to meet him. 

This was my first trip to Tasmania, I travelled from Hobart to the Huon Valley and then along the East Coast to Launceston. I fell in love with this amazing part of the world. 

I wanted so much to share my experience with Matthew, my partner, so the following year we took the trip together, but this time decided to explore the wild, West Coast.

I booked the Captain’s Rest, a divine miner’s cabin in Strahan for a couple of nights and we headed there from Launceston. 

We arrived in Lettes Bay on a warm sunny late January afternoon and as we stood at the water’s edge surrounded by charming miner’s cottages and resident ducks I said to Matthew, ‘What do we need to do to get a place here?’ 

renovating a shack in strahan tasmania

That was it, all I had to do was ask the question. 

Matthew wandered off and within an hour returned with news that he had been speaking to a man with a cabin to sell. 

It didn’t seem possible, but it was, and we didn’t think twice.

Matthew worked together with a local builder to put Bushy Summers back together in a new exciting way, what was one of the joys for him in working on this project from start to finish? 

Matthew is an artist and is multi-talented, so this was a wonderful project for him. He worked with the guidance of Trevor,  a local builder and a real character. They worked well together, and Matthew learnt a lot from him but when Trevor stopped at the end of the day, went missing in action or to another job Matthew kept going. He was like a man obsessed. Through his new learned skills, he quickly discovered he had the ability to do most things.

Matthew loves creating and for him, this was a new kind of creating and it made him proud, the house is very much his.

beautiful bathroom by Claire Lloyd and Matthew usmar Lauder at their Airbnb Strahan Tasmania

A claw legged bath in bushy summers airbnb strahan tasmania

I know you have such a beautiful vision when it comes to homes, what was the feeling you wanted to create in this sweet cabin? 

I never stray from my vision which is based on light, space, and simplicity. 

So, they were my basics. My aim then was to create charm and cosiness with views from as many parts of the cabin as possible. 

It’s a small cabin so the space needs to flow easily from one room to another.

The view out to the bay is spectacular, with enormous skies and lots of water and it was important to incorporate it into the cabin. 

We achieved this by putting in a slightly larger window out to the bay and mirrored this window with an internal window between the sitting room and the bedroom. You can lie in bed and look out to the water and beyond.

We reused an existing door and converted it into a stable door so when the weather is warm it can be opened for an extended view and fresh air.

bedroom bushy summers airbnb strahan tasmania

A corner in a renovated shack in Strahan Tasmania decorated with velvet cushions


When you have a dream, it seems everyone else has an opinion. Did people think you were mad renovating a place in Tasmania? 

People always have an opinion that’s one of life’s joys. I only ever go on my gut feeling, as does Matthew, so we didn’t give any attention to opinions.

What has been one of the great joys for both of you in bringing back to life this sweet piece of Australian architecture. 

I think the joy was in the doing. The journey is always the most exciting.

We worked so hard together on Bushy Summers, Matthew even more so. Working like this brings a closeness, it’s been a lovely collaboration.

We worked for months and months through some shocking weather. We bought a lovely old caravan and put it next to the shack, which is where we slept. The caravan had no electricity and only a bucket to pee in at night. Some nights it was so cold I could have wept. Other nights the wind would rock the caravan so hard that we thought we would end up in the bay. But then there were beautiful calm moments when you’d open your eyes and have a front seat to the most amazing sunrises in the world. It was a big adventure. When we look at the results we are so, so happy. We have a story about every part of the house, these stories will amuse and entertain us forever.


Admiring the view in a renovated shack in Tasmania by Claire Lloyd an Matthew Usmar Lauder

Dreams Into Reality, Artist Matthew Usmar Lauder contemplating the view at Bushy Summers Strahan TasmaniaI love your love of details and both of you have put so much love and care into the place. What are a couple of your secrets to making it a unique nurturing space?

The first thing is making the space flow well and getting in as much light as possible. Having little places inside where you can lie or sit with a book in the sunshine is a definite must. The fabrics you use are important. I have always been a lover of beautiful natural fabrics. At Bushy Summers we have used hand dyed velvets, linens, wool and good quality cottons. Our delicious linen sheets are from Bedtonic, they are divine to sleep under. It can get very cold so we have lovely quilts and blankets so you can snuggle up. 

Matthew has incorporated some of his wonderful art, paintings and pieces he has made, along with found objects add another layer to the look.

We love welcoming guests and sharing our special place and you will always find a bottle of Tasmanian wine and some local bread, jam and eggs waiting for you.

view from bushy summers airbnb shack strahan tasmania, Dreams Into Reality

Dreams Into Reality, Claire Lloyd and Matthew Usmar Lauder on the doorstep of their shack strahan Tasmania

All photos copyright Claire Lloyd

Any advice for someone who has a dream and wants to take needs to take the first step towards turning it into a reality?

Just do it, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, if you honestly feel it in your heart, go for it!

You can enjoy Matthew and Claire’s beautiful work and the view on Lettes Bay via AIRBNB HERE


Huge thanks to Claire and Matt for sharing their joy with us in our first Dreams Into Reality series.

Carla x

PS, you may also enjoy this read about A GREEK ISLAND HOME by the same clever couple

If you want to know how you can live more wholeheartedly, reconnect to your joy, creativity, and purpose, download my Reawaken Your Lust For Life PDF here.

Life Purpose, collage Photo of joyful Italian mamma Popi

Saying Goodbye to Florentine Mamma Popi

carla coulson, florence, popi

When I got a call that Popi was dying I booked a flight straight away and flew to Florence to say goodbye to the women that helped me find my life purpose.

Popi was the one that set me on the path that was right for me. She was my darling friend, as naughty as any sixteen year old, even at 88.She was the one that pointed out I loved photography when I didn’t know what the next step would be. She was the one that gave me a safe place to live whilst I changed lives and careers on the other side of the world and she taught me to follow my heart.

Some of you will know the effect Popi had on my life and others won’t.

Our paths were meant to cross, often I feel like twenty years ago I was carried all the way to Florence by a bunch of helping hands to meet Popi. If I had to name the top 3 influential people in my life, she would be one of them. Twenty years ago, I didn’t know what the word ‘synchronicity’ meant but now I know that is exactly how I arrived on Popi’s doorstep. When a tiny ‘monk-like’ pensione in Piazza Santo Stefano decided to renovate in the middle of August, the sweat, noise and chaos pushed me to find an alternative.

I took up my fellow Italian language school friend’s offer to check out where he was living. He referred to it as paradise, it sounded like hell to me!  A home with a 68-year-old Florentine mamma called Popi who rented out rooms to students of which there were currently 6.

It was love at first sight!

For those of you who read Italian joy you may recall I took the only room available that had a single room that I couldn’t open my cupboards at the same time as standing on the floor. It didn’t matter.

“Casa mia é casa tua!” My house is your house and for the lucky ones that got to sit around Popi’s table and live in her home this is exactly how we felt. She dished up stories and home cooked Florentine recipes of ribollita and pasta ai fajoli and a guzillion other delicious things whilst we felt loved.

I knew I wouldn’t be the only one booking a ticket to Florence, there were literally hundreds of us that found our way to her doorstep in need of something that we probably didn’t know exactly what at the time but sitting at Popi’s table, she helped us figure it out.

Life Purpose Florence images of madonna and Christmas lights

There were so many tears shed as the plane landed in the small airport of Florence, the beauty of the Tuscan hills blurred through the tears but it still managed to take my breath away. Patches of bright green fields, then lines of grey, green olive trees that looked fluffy at this time of year, rows of dark green cypress and those sweet hills that surround Florence that almost look like  a green glove that holds Florence in the palm of its hand. Just as you land, if you crouch down low you see the Duomo rising above Florence,  with her white whalebones holding the terracotta roof together. I have seen it hundreds of time before but it’s beauty always stuns and for a couple of seconds I forgot to breathe.

It feel like twenty years were winding up, the decade was almost over. Popi had called me to Florence and now she was saying goodbye. The women that led me to photography and my life purpose was now leaving and I too was moving on to a new phase of my life.

I ran my hand along the white and green stone of Il battistero and chose my favourite streets as I went one last time to see this special soul. Florence had never looked so good, she was decked out for Christmas in her best regalia and walking her back streets was a sensual pleasure. A pleasure I had almost forgotten about but my body hadn’t.

Popi taught me 3 great lessons: don’t sweat the small stuff – it just doesn’t matter, to live for the day because that is what we have in our hand right now, and to follow your heart.

The longer I sat around her table, for the first time in my adult life, I started to feel like roots where growing down into the ground, at this point I couldn’t see where the road was taking me but it felt good and I felt safe, secure, loved and part of something. In a funny way, all the people at Popi’s table were searching for something and it felt great to be part of a group that the only thing we had in common was that we wanted to do something that would make our hearts sing.

Following your heart takes courage but it’s the moment we stop letting ourselves down.  

When I walked into Piazza della Signoria in Florence on a hot august night, it felt good and I decided to trust that ‘feel good’ feeling, as long as things felt good I would keep going. Popi taught me to keep saying YES to myself.

There were so many tears shed for Popi, for the love, the joy, the shared memories, the laughter that would explode in our bellies and that would bounce of the walls into a summer Florentine night when the rest of the neighbourhood had gone to bed hours ago. For the days driving in Tuscany with Mina blaring from the speakers and Popi, Eric, Philippa and myself singing as loud as we could. Popi showed me that our spirit has no age, it doesn’t matter what your calling is and it doesn’t matter at what age you find it, but when you find it everything changes.

carla coulson, florence, popi

Popi’s calling was found by accident one day when she offered a foreign student in a gym, complaining about her accommodation in Florence, a room in her empty post-divorce home. After a messy divorce, Popi found herself not wanting to go home at night so for her it was the perfect solution. She could cook, nurture, and pass onto these two lovely souls all the very best things to do in Florence, the intricacies and stories of the culture and do the thing that she loved the most, feed you. “Mangia Mangia” was her mantra.

By day, she had her job at Pucci and by night she couldn’t wait to rush home to attend to these two lovely souls. It was the beginning of a love affair that would stretch from Roma to Rio and back. There are no words to describe the love, openness, generosity, warmth and curiousity that being loved by Popi was.

That was almost 40 years ago, and Popi’s calling was us. The people that she inspired, the lives she saved, the hearts she mended, the wisdom and the joy she passed onto people from Mexico and Switzerland, Australia and Spain, America and Germany, Greece and Holland, Colombia and Portugal and numerous other countries around the world.

Our lives, our days are precious and with the passing of someone so dear, it’s a reminder to live life. The solace in Popi’s passing was that she ‘maxed it out’, she packed so much love and generosity into her 88 years that I could see she was ready to go. When the call came a couple of days later, I felt that she could rest in peace, she came, laughed, she loved, she inspired and did so much good in the world.

I had those two precious days with a woman I love and who will always be in my heart and thoughts.

She was my earth angel and now I know she has simply switched sides, she is watching over me from above.

For those who followed ‘our story’, I know you too will feel a little sad so I’m sending you love and the words Popi told me all those years ago when I had the choice to go back to my life or change it: ‘You only have one life – live it.’

Remember to love, be kind, generous and do your best.

Wishing you a Happy New Year,

Carla x

International Women’s Day – Remember Who You Are

international womens day, young girl in bloom wattle, paris, paris flowers, celebrating women, yellow,


Dear Ladies,

What a joy it is to write to you on this beautiful day to celebrate women. Women rock!!

We are part of an ancient order that sometimes we need to remember. An order that has the beat of life in her heart and dance and music in her soul.

Let’s face it, we rarely give ourselves a pat on the back, we often put everybody before ourselves and still do it with love. Mother’s juggle numerous personalities in a family often going without and balance the hundreds of tasks each day that it would take a team to do.

Today I wanted to encourage you to remember who you are, the feminine things that reside deep within us, that are often considered weak but are in fact our strengths. You are a marvellous, beautiful being that has the power to create whatever it is in your life you desire.

Let’s go:

Sisterhood – The bond between women is priceless. Between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, aunts and nieces, old souls and strangers and women whose souls speak to ours. The ‘knitting circle’ or ‘fire-side’ chats of women, are the thing that preserve traditions, stories and ways of doing things. The stories and love we share as women are the things that gets us through the difficult moments, they mend broken hearts, are the starting point to healing deep tragedy and are a place of pure joy where we laugh till we cry. Sisterhood is the best medicine on the planet.

Emotions – Oh yeah those emotions are rudders, antennas and x-ray machines. Your emotions should be celebrated because it means you FEEL something. When you feel something you are connected to the most powerful force on earth, life. They are a way of showing on the outside what is going on in your heart. Hallelujah!

Intuition– Yes, girls if you use your emotions like a sat-nav they will guide you through life, telling you which road to take, which boyfriend to say YES to and when to run as fast as you can. It will give you access to your personal superhighway of information that you can’t get from a book, magazine or encyclopedia. Yabba dabba doo for our intuition!!

Compassion/Empathy– Now ladies, the fact you can put yourself in the emotional shoes of someone else is like having a handful of kryptonite in front of Superman. Having the capacity to FEEL how someone else feels give you so much more information about that person and their situation and you are no longer just making decisions using one power, logic. Opera bow!

Creativity – Women create the miracle of life, they give birth to new and beautiful beings every day and it still blows my mind every time I see a woman pregnant. I stop in awe at the enormity of what is happening right there in front of my eyes, that is life being made in real time. Women’s creativity is endless and I believe we are truly in ourselves when we are creating, whatever that may be. Taking a photo, dancing, drawing, painting, baking a cake, setting a table, embroidering, designing a house, carving a chair or singing a song. Go girls!

Ability to evolve– Maybe it is the fact that women are the gatekeepers of life that we have the ability to keep evolving, moving and changing with life. Women find it easier to accept change and it is a gift handed down over the centuries so that life keeps on keeping on. I’ll boogie to that!!


If you want to know how you can live more wholeheartedly, reconnect to your joy, creativity and purpose, download my Free Workbook above.

So my beautiful sisters, on this special day of the year, stop and pause and remember who you are.

Take some time out to light a candle for yourself, for the women in your lives that you love and cherish, for the women who we may not know yet or reside on the other side of the planet but we are connected through this beautiful shared gift of being a woman

Thank you for being part of my life.

Carla xx