The un-sparking of joy. KonMari update 6 months on.

Ok, I am calling BS on the Marie Kondo method. After my joy filled rose tinted post several months ago about organizing my entire life I need to come clean about my fall from the organizational wagon. When the impossibly well presented Marie Kondo popped up onto my Netflix watch list in February I looked around at my living room which was strewn with various neon coloured bits of plastic and eyed the bulging drawers I daren’t open and felt decidedly non joyous. This sweet lady was offering to spark joy in my life and all I needed to do was throw out all of my things in return. Simple, easy, I. can. do this.

So I drank the Koolaid, I immediately binge watched the entire show and decided I needed to get my life in order or I risked becoming one of those people who hoards newspapers and becomes the centre of a television show documenting how I was crushed to death by my lifelong collection of greeting cards (it’s a problem, I keep them for no reason). No, this would not be my fate. Everything needed to go and it needed to go now.  So off I went with my bin bag (that’s garbage bag for you North American’s) and began holding every piece of clothing I owned hoping for the elusive feeling of “joy”. Unsurprisingly, much of my pre-pregnancy closet did not spark joy so into the bag it went and off to the donation centre. I earnestly held towels, ornaments, shampoos and other random household items in my search for joy and most of them found their way into the bag too. A lot of times the notion of joy gave me pause. Honestly, how can a towel spark joy? It is necessary but I don’t have a strange magic feeling when I hold it. What about my wireless skin coloured bras? it offers comfort yes, but joy? no. Soon I had my husband involved and a mountain of bags ready to leave my house. I was an organizational wizard, neigh a goddess. Why hadn’t I done this sooner? I recommended the book to everyone who would listen to me. I carefully took pictures of my drawers and promised myself and Kondo that I would NEVER fall back into my old ways.

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Warning: this is an unrealistic, Utopian ideal.

Well it was all sunshine and lollipops for a few weeks. I carefully folded everything into strange triangles and put them into my drawers. I blogged about how amazing I felt and sang the methods praises. I must have been nauseating. But then things inevitably went awry. I must preface this by stating that I am a closet messy person. My house is organized and tidy on the surface but I have a nasty habit of sweeping stuff off counters and into the nearest drawer. It started small. Cables escaped their carefully organized box prisons. Bras were shoved into dividers rather than being carefully laid out. clothes were pushed into drawers in haste with the 0.5 seconds I had to myself.  Socks lay divergent on my bedroom chair. Folding the laundry became an EVEN WORSE job as I now had to take ages folding everything so bloody small. Perhaps a pivotal moment in the sullying of the Kondo method came when my 4 year old decided she wanted to dress herself daily and pulled every item of clothing out of her drawers. I could not face refolding. I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry Kondo but I have had my awakening. This was not sparking joy.

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She totally sparks joy but the mess that her new found style expression leaves does not.

So has my life turned into disarray and a joyless void since I stopped following the KonMari method? In a word, no. Folding and putting away my laundry, whilst not speedy, does not take 10 business days. I don’t want to cry in the fetal position every time my kid opens a drawer and spills the contents onto the floor with no regard for the hours of careful folding I have put in. It wasn’t a completely wasted exercise though. I have become a little more mindful of putting things back in their place, but I’m realistic. Sometimes you’ve gotta throw everything in the nearest drawer because you have company coming over. Sometimes you have things that just don’t have a “place” and end up moving between drawers. Sometimes All the time you don’t have time to fold your underwear into neat little squares. I’m not saying that her ideas are without merit, millions of people have bought her book and found a calmer life through her method but for the average, busy mum it is just a level of organization that is simply unattainable.

So there you have it. I throw my hand up and admit that I’m a messy person. I’ve been waiting 33 years to become a proper grown up who knows how to fold a fitted sheet and cared about folding underwear but it’s just not happening you guys. Will I ever be a grown up? But you know what? It doesn’t matter, what sparks joy for me is a relatively tidy home that is a place of calm but where you’re not afraid to get comfy or put your feet on the couch. Just don’t look in the drawers.

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Musings On Friendship In Your 30s.

It seems like your 30s are a decade of many questions and mysteries. Why are my veins sticking out? Is that a grey hair? Why don’t my shorts fit? What do I wear? How do I parent? Why can’t I sleep despite being perpetually exhausted? But one of the trickiest mysteries is why is it so blinking hard to make friends?

Friendships throughout the years

Humans are by nature pack animals. We seek out others to make tribes with and have done for millennia. Taking a look at our own lives, making friends throughout the years never seemed that much of a challenge. Lets go back in time for a moment. In the school yard you were a kid who had no idea who they are or what they wanted yet making friends was as simple as sharing a bag of crisps or playing a game of Little Mermaid. In Comprehensive school you got separated from your primary school pals and formed new bonds over the Bunsen burner which led into going to the park and chasing boys after school and then your first nights out on Bacardi Breezers and ten quid in your pocket. University saw you move away from home and into halls of residence with the giddy sense of freedom yet the responsibilities of adulthood being so far away. People from all over the country were thrown into the same situation and just like that you fell into easy friendships with room mates, course mates and randoms you met at the union. Who remembers waking up on a Sunday morning with a dozen friend requests and multiple tagged pictures? It was easy, it was fun, it was…natural. Then in a blink of an eye university was over and yet again you moved, either back home or away for a job. This seems to be where those carefree, easily formed friendships got a little trickier. Now you were an adult and probably had a job that required at least an iota of professionalism. New people at work needed to be vetted before friending on Facebook or asking them for a drink after work. Welcome to the minefield of adult friendship forming.

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Behold the wonders of early 2000s fashion. Side belts, kilts and halter tops. Wait is that a..TIE?

I am an adult now, I am important and serious.

I think that a big change we go through with our friendships as we age is the fact that we develop a stronger sense of who we are, understand what we need (and don’t need) and lose some of that carefree childlike attitude that allows us to talk to practically anyone who crosses our path and ask them to join in our imaginary game. Add to that mix the lack of organic meetings (like school or uni), partners and children and it seems like an impossible feat to make new friends once you hit your third decade on the planet. Everyone is just so freaking busy and not to mention the fact that they might be plants from your boss to befriend you only to access your Facebook and divulge its most hideous content to your superiors resulting in your termination and social disgrace (Okay maybe that’s a bit dramatic and my Facebook doesn’t have anything THAT incriminating on it but I’m definitely more wary than I was many moons ago in the union when everyone and anyone made the cut to my friend list).

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Taking a short break from annoying absolutely everyone by retelling stories from school.

I moved across the world when I was 23 and left behind all my friends which was torture. I haven’t ever been a flavour of the week type of friend. I chose my mates carefully and have been friends with my girls since school. I love them more than anything. Each one makes me laugh and I wouldn’t want to imagine life without them. I’m a very lucky girl to have them. Now if they’d just move to Canada already! My best friend in the world, Charlotte, and I have been friends for almost our entire lives. I mean it started off a little rocky between us but a teacher forced me to sit next to her one year and the rest is history. I still chat to her practically every day and when we’re together its like we’ve never been apart. We have millions of in jokes and stories from our childhood and perhaps why I find making friends at this point in life is that lack of history. There’s something so special about having your lives intertwined for so long you can’t remember them not being there. Now just because you didn’t go to school together doesn’t mean you’ll never be amazing friends. I will say that I’ve got some amazing friends here in Canada who I cannot imagine being without. Many of them I’ve been friends with for years now so we’re building a new history together. My closest friend here keeps me sane, makes me laugh till my sides hurt and loves her wine as much as I do.

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My Swansea girls. Not to brag, but they are literally the greatest (and most gorgeous) girls in the world.

Let’s hear it for Mum Tinder

A major problem in your 30s is the lack of organic friend meeting opportunities. You’re probably done with school and don’t go out as much unless it’s with your kids and you spend an abnormal amount of time chasing them around persuading them to go to the bathroom and not much time looking like the carefree, approachable perspective friend you hope to be. I joined the Peanut App (think mum Tinder but way, WAY more wholesome) and I’ve been blown away by how many 30 somethings seem to struggle to find friendships that are meaningful. So many women say they’re lonely or find it hard to get out and meet people that it seems somewhat pandemic. I’ve decided to put myself out there during this maternity leave and I’ve made it my mission to say yes to anyone who wants to meet (within reason of course, I do not wish to be made into a lampshade or have my organs harvested and sold on the dark web) and to take a chance on asking fellow mums out on play dates or for a drink. It’s actually been an incredible experience and I’m amazed of the response you get when you just put yourself out there. I’ve met some incredible women who I have so much fun with. Sure it wasn’t the most organic way to meet but it works!

Another reason is that we’re busier now than ever with careers and families, but I remember my parents always having people around or going to their friends’ houses for dinners and parties. This left me wondering if it is a generational thing? Or is it the advent of the smartphone and how we now message people for our friend fix rather than taking a chance and ringing the doorbell to see if they’re in for a chat? It absolutely blows me away that no one just calls around their friend’s house for a coffee or a wine on a whim but it is a somewhat military style operation that must be organized and reorganized a month in advance. Why are we so scared of inconveniencing people? I guarantee you that many of your friends are probably sitting at home wishing someone would just ring the bell and take the freaking pressure off of all. this. damn. planning. I fear spontaneity is an art lost on many millennials.

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Some 80s frienship flavour. My beautiful Mummy and one of her besties, Kim. Oh and that’s me.

FEAR

Maybe the real reason that making friends as you get older has much to do with fear. Fear of not liking other people, fear of not being liked, fear of being too much or too little, fear of offending people, fear of being made into a skin suit (this fear is REAL when you are meeting internet people guys…just me?). Maybe if we could go back to that carefree child we once were who danced with abandon in public and thought nothing of pretending to be a cat with a perfect stranger then we would find it a lot easier to connect with other people as we age (or find ourselves the subject of an unflattering newsreport).

There seems to be many reasons as to why your 30s seems like some kind of friendship black hole whether it be lack of natural circumstances to meet, being cooped up covered in baby sick and barely functioning, or just plain old fear. What we need to do is take a chance on friendship, put ourselves out there and start making new stories with new friends that soon become old friends. That way you can be part of the biggest clique in the nursing home (on Wednesdays we wear support stockings).

Love,

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Hello…it’s me again.

Hey friends,

I know, I know it’s been a long time. I started off this blog guns blazing and I desperately wanted to create something that people would flock to amidst the saturated blog market. It started off swimmingly, I was featured in Scary Mommy  and I felt unstoppable. The response to the article was widely positive (of course some lovely people felt the need to minimize by feelings from behind their keyboards but that’s the internet for you) and it was amazing to have people from all over the world reach out to me. I was asked to be a part of a collection of expat stories for a book which was really special. I felt unstoppable. But then, I started to run out of steam.

Desperate to make the blog a success that might allow me to supplement my income, I lost focus and direction and focused on writing about what was popular and might get more hits rather than what I really cared about. I became too bogged down in affiliate programs and honestly the content suffered. I started this blog as a space to be real about the trials and tribulations of parenting as an immigrant (not expat, thank you keyboard warriors) farm wife and to share things I am interested in. It’s time to get back to that and if success comes then fantastic but what’s more important is connecting with other women and men who might get a little laugh and support from my ramblings musings.

At the same time as trying to be the world’s most unlikely influencer I decided to start taking better care of myself and found that nap times were taken up by getting active rather than writing and my little window of available time slowly got smaller. Add to that the never ending mum guilt of having a 4 year old that constantly wants to play and I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write. Now, I chose to say yes to play as much as possible as I know my daughter will be going to school soon and I just want to soak up every delicious minute with her so I’m not complaining, it just naturally happened that the blog took a back seat. I just tried to enjoy this maternity leave as much as possible, I went on trips, took lots of pictures and made new friends. Oh and let’s not forget the most stressful, long planting season EVER (yes I’m a farm wife to those of you who are new) and my little space in the internet just gathered dust.

Now I feel like I want to write again. Maybe it’s the giant upheaval that’s coming in the form of returning to work? I mean I’ll have so much more time now right?!  I’m not sure but I hope that whoever is reading this blog is happy to have me back and enjoys what’s to come!

Love,

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Top Questions About Tidying Clothing The KonMari Way Answered

Hey guys!

I’m pleased to announce that I’m three weeks deep into the KonMari method and so far so good. Full disclosure: I did cheat a little and only did it on the top two floors of the house. Now, before you let out a collective gasp and Marie starts turning in her twinset let me say that my basement is a whole other level of tidying that I cannot handle right now. As I’m on maternity leave all my teacher crap necessities are piled in the laundry room (hey, they’re in Rubbermaid containers!) and I can’t tackle that mountain until next year once I’m back in the classroom and my resources can find a new (hopefully permanent) home. Also there are loads of baby things down there that we’re not sure what to do with. The basement has also become the place where any discarded furniture and scatter cushions that I changed my mind about go to die. It is like an Aladdin’s cave of relics of decor past down there. So we agreed that one weekend in the spring we’ll hire a big bin and go to town. Phew now I’ve got that confession of my chest I’m ready to talk to you all about the first phase of tidying: Clothing.

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How I Began Tidying My Clothes The KonMari Way

Before you start with the method you really do have to get your head in the game. You need to be fully prepared to tidy and have some notion of what brings you joy. This part I found easy to wrap my head around as I don’t attach sentimental value to clothes. I generally see them for what they are; bits of fabric that I bought to serve a purpose at one time or another. The only non-negotiables are my wedding dress and my girls’ going home outfits. Other than that everything is fair game.

Visualize What You Want To Achieve At The End Of The Process.

Before I started this journey I was feeling about low about myself and a little lost with my clothing identity. I have gone through a few years of just buying things for function and not for “joy” as such. I’ve bought cheap things that go tatty and don’t make me feel particularly good. No more. My goal is to only buy things that make me feel fabulous and to take the time to invest. My visualization was of a wardrobe that was calming to look at. Not cluttered with random clothes but a wardrobe that was complimentary, streamlined and classic. I pictured myself in these clothes and I felt good. I pictured myself going into my closet to pick out my clothes and I felt really good. I was now ready to work towards making that visualization a reality. This might sound absolutely nuts but have a think about how you want your closet to look or even how you want yourself to look. The power of thought is quite profound.

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Some Questions I Have Been Asked

Do You Really Have To Pile All Your Clothes

Honestly I was not looking forward to this as it was a huge mess that I did not want to deal with. However, by making a frighteningly huge mountain of clothes I was actually forced to finish my tidying up as I couldn’t just leave it on the bed and I was confronted with a visual of how much I had bought over the past few years. When your clothes are in the drawer or hanging up it doesn’t look as much as when you put it all together. I was absolutely gobsmacked with how much I had accumulated and a little taken back with how much I must have spent.

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Do you really have to hold each piece?

In short, yes. I am not into thanking inanimate objects at all but I really feel that physically holding each piece is an important part of the method. Why you ask? Because in holding each piece you are forced to look at it and truly consider where it fits in your life and whether it sparks joy. In the past when I have been cleaning out my closet I just flipped through the hangers and donated the pieces that immediately made me cringe. When I actually dumped everything out and looked at each piece I could truly recognize what made me happy. I was actually pretty shocked at how much stuff I hated. That might seem like a strong word but I actually hate a lot of my clothes. They don’t represent me and I am not sure why on earth I felt the need to purchase those items. I put it down to my early 30s clothing crisis that I’m trying to work through. Oh and the fact that I am addicted to cheap clothes. I know, I know but I can’t walk away from a bargain.

How do you decide what goes?

By holding each item and truly deciding whether or not it has a place in your new vision for yourself. I had 3 piles on the go: donate/trash, keep and maybe. In the end I donated the maybe pile as I thought that if I didn’t care enough to keep those items in the first place then they probably didn’t truly bring me joy. See, I’m growing into a woman Marie would be proud of.

marie kondo folding

Did I find it difficult?

Now that it is all done and dusted I can’t say that I found the process all that tricky. I was in the right frame of mind to discard any clothes that I no longer need and I truly wanted an organized life. I do find the folding a bit tedious but I worked so hard I want to keep it up.

How I’m keeping it up

Like I said above, when you spend the better part of a week tidying clothes you naturally feel like you want to maintain it. I am also a little addicted to seeing everything so neat and organized so that is spurring me on. I feel so much calmer knowing that everything is in order. Also, putting away my clothes and getting ready in the morning is a lot more simple now a mountain of fabric isn’t falling on my head at any given opportunity. It really does become a way of life and so far, so good.

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What I learned

You Need To Embrace the art of letting go

I ended up getting rid of 8 bags of clothing between myself and my husband (I think 6 were mine). I realized that I was holding onto items that I hadn’t worn in years because I was holding onto that version of me. Honestly it is not a version of me that I’m happy with. By throwing them away I’ve let go of that person and now I’m ready to fill my closet and my life with only items that spark joy. I promise you that the emotional weight that is lifted from letting go of all that clothing is AMAZING.

I Really Hate Folding

Ah folding. In all honesty I have not completely mastered the KonMari folding method and seeing as I have really deep drawers sometimes organizing in her way isn’t practical. However I tried my best. There are lots of great resources on Pinterest to teach you how to fold and it does take a lot of practice. I have found it really time consuming when I’m folding the laundry. However, I will say that with all the effort I put into folding I am much less inclined to throw my clothes carelessly into the drawer. You sly old fox Marie Kondo, that’s your plan isn’t it. If you are a folding officiando please get in contact with me to show me your ways.

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marie kondo perfect shirt fold

Overall, once you get started, tidying up the KonMari way is actually very maintainable and leads to an enormous sense of well being (anyone else singing Parklife now?). I really recommend getting started right now and discovering how awesome it is to live a tidy life. If my teenage self could see me now. I suppose things that bring you joy change as you get older. Whereas once a trip to a sticky floored nightclub brought me happiness now I enjoy folding and organization. Ah life.

the best shoe storage

plastic shoe storage box
I got these amazing clear shoe boxes from Amazon and they are PERFECT for stacking my shoes and keeping me organized. You can get them here and they’re on prime!

Happy purging friends! I’m moving onto Komono next, pray for me.

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A Day Trip To London With A Baby and Dino-Mad Toddler

On December 14th 2018 we braved the transatlantic red eye with the girls to go and visit my family and friends back in the UK. It was Aria’s first flight and to say we were a little nervous was an understatement. Back in October in the deep trenches of her colic when we booked the flight I wasn’t feeling overly confident in our chances of her NOT screaming bloody murder for the entirety on the 6+ hour flight. But it was Christmas, I needed my Britain fix and we were going. So off we went to Toronto Pearson airport in the midst of the Christmas travel rush with our arsenal of luggage and we began our journey to Wales.

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Disclosure – this post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase anything through the post you wont get charged a penny more but I get a little something to keep the lights on.

Get that bassinet seat whatever it takes

Surprisingly, the flight itself went really well. When we first got on board and the temperature in the cabin soared to what can only be described as Sahara level, Aria started to cry and would only stop when someone stood up with her (not idea when you have to be sat down to take off). But then, something magic happened, she fell asleep. I couldn’t believe my luck as I gingerly sat down (why is it that children know when you switch from standing to sitting?) and attempted to buckle my seat belt without waking her. Emmy was set up with her Ipad and neck pillow and happy as a clam. This wasn’t her first rodeo so I knew she would be a pro. Before I knew it we were up in the sky hurtling in a tiny tin can across the Atlantic to the motherland. The flight passed quickly (thank you flight attendant for the extra bottle of red wine) and I really believe that upgrading to the bassinet seats was a lifesaver. If you didn’t already know, parents with infants (under 25 lbs) can opt to sit in the bulkhead and get a little bassinet that clips onto the wall. One parent gets to sit in the extra legroom seat free of charge with Air Canada and we paid to upgrade Emmy and my husband. Not only could Aria sleep in the bassinet, but Emmy could play on the floor. Travel hack – put your paraphernalia on the floor so people don’t use your legroom as a walk way. It also seemed that the bassinet metered people from walking in front of us which was great as we were right behind the toilets and people seem to think that pacing between them makes the occupant move faster (side note, what the heck are people doing in there??).

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Reading For The Night

We arrived in Heathrow with red eyes and some what muzzy heads to crisp air and glorious sunshine. My parents came to pick us up and took us to Reading where we would spend the weekend before heading onto Wales. I love Reading, it’s a beautiful city with lots of history, great restaurants and bars. We took a much needed restorative nap and then headed out for some drinks to get the Christmas period started. We found The Fisherman’s Cottage pub on the river a short walk from my family’s flat.

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed into London. I know, it was a bold move the day after a transatlantic flight with two jet lagged children but with a packed Christmas schedule we had to get it done. My daughter is OBSESSED with dinosaurs and I knew that she would just love the exhibit at the Natural history museum so off we went on the train to London (somewhat) bright eyed and bushy tailed.

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Navigating the Tube with an infant and toddler

Before we left for London I umm’d and ahhh’d about taking the pushchair for Aria.

Pros – I could put my crap in the basket at the bottom and not have to strap 15lbs of baby onto my body for the day.

Cons – I’d have to push a pretty bulky travel system around central London and the Tube for the day.

Something else to consider is that we’d have to carry Emmy a lot as she doesn’t “do” walking and has been spoiled with a double pushchair. Times are a changing toots.

You’re going to want a great carrier

My pushchair is not made for the city, it is made for the snow and massive North American cars so I decided to whip out the Lillebaby and wear Aria. I got the Lillebaby complete all seasons as the big ticket item for our second baby. Emmy categorically refused to be worn so I never really splurged on a carrier for her. I had a couple of cheap soft carriers that I got on sale at Winners but neither were comfortable and honestly trying to put her in there was akin to putting a cat into a bathtub. Also I got hot, real hot wearing my little furnace. I knew that with baby number 2 having my hands free to wrestle baby number 1 would be clutch so after much research I landed on the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons. I could not be happier with my purchase! It is so comfortable and you can adjust it pretty much everywhere. You don’t need an infant insert and it’s good from birth so you just plop babe in and go. There’s a zipper panel on the front that exposes mesh so you can get some air into that sucker and keep somewhat cool. It is also ADORABLE and I don’t feel all crunchy and granola eating wearing it. I got mine in black and white stripe which is just about masculine enough for my husband to wear but the gold details are pretty enough for me. If you need a baby carrier I honestly cannot recommend it enough. The Lillebaby is hands down the best thing I’ve bought for my kids.

I get that it is a bit spendy but I cannot rave about this carrier enough. If you want to baby wear you’re going to want comfort and you’re going to want your baby to be comfortable too. Aria was in the carrier pretty much all day (apart from lunch and coffee breaks for a stretch) and she was so happy and comfortable. She falls asleep almost instantly in it. It is MAGIC.

The Natural History Museum – Nirvana For The Little Paleontologist

We arrived at the Natural History Museum by tube at around 11 am. It was super busy outside because of Winter Wonderland. We picked up some mulled wine from the little van selling drinks and cakes and walked up the museum (they even let us bring it in which was brill seeing as it was scalding and I didn’t feel much like chugging a big cup mulled wine, not very responsible). As always, admission was free which was great as we only intended on staying an hour or so to see the dinosaurs. Britain is awesome for free things. We headed to the dino exhibit straight away and it took about 45 minutes to walk around it with a very slow and very easily distracted toddler. She LOVED the massive robotic T-Rex. It was really well done and for a little paleontologist it was just the best thing ever. All good adventures end in a gift shop as we all know and I was dreading it but we escaped the gift shop with one dinosaur egg toy which was nothing short of a miracle. After we sat in the cafe for a drink and a potty break (well coercing Emmy to go but that child’s bladder is a vault in public places. That’s a whole other blog post). It was really busy and I’d say avoid it if you can on a weekend but it was good to sit down and get a snack into the dino lover.

Zizzis for lunch

We got the tube to Covent Garden which is my least favourite stop. It is so busy and there are loads of steps to climb if you can’t get into the lift. I was a little salty that we had to stop there but I was pretty surprised that we got straight into the lift and up to street level. It was packed so I was glad I wore Aria in the Lillebaby. She was still asleep at this point and had been for the whole day. Her first trip to London and she slept the whole time! I know people can be a bit reluctant to go to a chain when London has so many fabulous eateries to offer but we had 2 kids with us and I don’t know how well we would have fared at a white table place. Emmy would have definitely been crawling between chairs and you can guarantee that is the time Aria would decide to scream her bonce off. So we booked a table ahead of time in Zizzis to save walking around trying to get a seat somewhere the week before Christmas. We sat in the window which was perfect for distracting the toddler and Aria could lie down on the bench seat. The meal was delicious and the service was awesome. Definitely the fuel we needed after a morning full of exploring.

Covent Garden and 7 dials for a stroll

We decided to take a walk after lunch to Covent Garden to see the tree and the lights. It was absolute magic. I don’t think there is anything more gorgeous than London at Christmas and it did not disappoint. I managed to get lots of Instagramable shots which my husband absolutely hates loves me doing . We walked up to 7 dials and it was chocolate box beautiful with the twinkling lights and people bundled up with their Christmas shopping. I actually felt like I was in a Hollywood christmas movie that I always scoff at as “unrealistic”. I mean honestly where does Kate Winslet live in The Holiday to have a cottage like that outside of London? and how did Cameron Diaz’s character fit all those coats into that tiny case? I call B.S. Anyway I seem to have gone off on a “The Holiday” tangent again.  We got some nice pics and then dropped back down to Covent Garden to get the tube to Paddington. I let my brother wear Aria at this point and he looked like quite the modern dad about town.

Pro Parent tip – make sure the baby and the nappy bag aren’t in different carriages on the train.

When we arrived at Paddington I was bursting for a pee. However the train was on the platform and if we had any hope of getting a seat we had to hustle and get on board. Not being a hardened commuter I jumped on the first carriage I came across with the nappy bag attached to my back and told my brother that I would run down the train once I’d gone to the toilet to give him the baby supplies. So I jumped on with my Mum and husband and off went everyone else towards the end of the train. We got a table seat which was a bit of a unicorn moment and I went off to the toilet. I got back to my seat and told my mum I would run a bottle down to my brother for Aria in case she was hungry. I pushed my way down the rapidly filling train through endless carriages. As I entered first and jogged to the end I realized the door would not open to the next carriage. Perplexed, I looked out of the window and saw the nose of another train facing me. Oh. No. We were on one of those massive trains that are two smaller trains stuck together. I was standing there with a bottle in hand staring helplessly at the other train that held my brother and my probably screaming 3 month old. I didn’t have my purse or wallet on me so I figured if I jumped off and ran up the platform I would risk being left behind with no way back to Reading so I went back to my seat and frantically messaged the rest of our party. When I heard nothing back I assumed Aria was all good and would be fine until we got to Reading in half hour or so.

I was wrong…

Upon disembarking the train at Reading station we were greeted by a very red faced, sweaty and frazzled bunch. The resembled the scene in Twister when they strap themselves onto those posts and survive the F5 “hand of God”. As my brother thrust the sweaty carrier, straps loosened haphazardly into my hands it became clear a struggle had ensued. Apparently Aria decided she wanted out of the carrier shortly after leaving London and broke out her best screams until her wish was granted. My brother had no idea how to release her from her canvas prison carrier and the buckles and adjustable straps that make the Lillebaby so great also make it a bit tricky for novices or people who have never strapped a baby to themselves. A struggle ensued to get Aria off his increasingly overheating body (if only he knew about the handy dandy front mesh panel) quickly. Thankfully, between the three of them they finally liberated her before my brother passed out. Once free the challenge of removing her coat began. My brother, his girlfriend and my stepfather wrestled her tiny, yet surprisingly rigid, arms out of the coat to the increasingly curious passengers on carriage B. Aria was in a right mood now and refused to settle unless being walked around the train. A problem on the evening Sunday service from Paddington to Swansea as anyone who has been on it will tell you. You are like sardines. If you enjoy getting up close and personal with random people who usually have eaten a tuna sandwich or garlic then this is the train for you. My Stepfather had to kind of waddle within a 1 foot radius to maintain some movement to appease my darling daughter. What people must have thought on that carriage? A young couple and middle aged man with a baby with absolutely NO supplies. Reckless! Stolen baby! Thoughtless! I feel bad that I was sat scrolling Instagram in carriage N without a care in the world.

So that was our day in London. My little dino lover had the time of her life, we got to experience the magic of Covent Garden at Christmas and we learned the hard way that the baby should never be separated from the nappy bag no matter how perilously full your bladder is. Parenting is an adventure.

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Have you got any tips for navigating London with two kids in tow or any recommendations for cool dinosaur attractions?

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My farmhouse style guestroom makeover on a budget.

I thought I was so grown up when my husband and I went into the brick and purchased our very first bedroom set. It was a glorious cherry wood sleigh bed, chest and bedside table combo and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. It would be the PERFECT addition to our home and I would love it forever and ever.

I guess farmhouses weren’t built for giant queen beds…

I remember the day it arrived at our red brick farmhouse. The delivery truck rumbled up the long driveway and came to a halt outside of our ancient front door (the only one wide enough for any furniture to fit through). The delivery men struggled up the porch with the huge boxes and queen mattress set and started the very steep climb to our “master” bedroom. I use the term “master” loosely as this bedroom was about the size of a large shoe box with no en suite and a minuscule closet. However, it had beautiful stained glass windows and a working vent (very important during a Canadian winter).  As the boxes mounted in the room, I began to sweat. We previously had a double Ikea bed and Hemnes chest in the room and it was pretty tight. Even in pieces, this bedroom set seemed ginormous. However, I kept the faith and thought back to the beautiful lacquered cherry set and how awesome it would look. The time came to bring the mattress up the stairs and everything came to a halt. Apparently they didn’t have queen sized beds when the house was built and the mattress became wedged in the staircase. “No problem, we’ll try the straighter back staircase”, I said cheerily to the delivery men. After one attempt which resulted in the mattress becoming tightly stuck into the stairwell, they wiped their brows and told me I was on my own. Off they went in their delivery truck leaving me with a mattress wedged in my stairwell and no clue how to get it to my lovely sleigh bed frame. Already my love affair with this bedroom set began to cool. However, I soldiered on and after cutting some door frames, the box spring and a lot of shoehorning and swearing we got the mattress up the stairs and onto the waiting bed frame. It looked awesome and again I told myself I would love it forever and ever. It came with us when we moved to a newer house in town and was a much better fit in our new “real” master bedroom (with an en suite and walk in closet, what a time to be alive). Then Joanna Gaines entered my life and so did my love affair with chalk paint and white wood furniture. My beautiful cherry set began to look tired and a little outdated. Moreover, the set was beginning to look a little rough around the edges after being manhandled up and down a farmhouse staircase, put into a delivery van and put back together again. I reasoned that we needed something fresh for our master bedroom and that the sleigh bed would be much better suited to our guestroom. There it stayed for a couple of years, and slowly but surely handles began to fall off, the veneer began to chip and the screws loosened. My beautiful grown up bedroom set was a sad shadow of its former self.

The Farmhouse Style Makeover begins

One evening when I was pregnant with my second child I had the nesting urge come on strong. I decided that I hated everything in the house and every paint colour on the wall and it had to be changed IMMEDIATELY. My parents would be staying after the baby was born and they needed a fresh bedroom. I got my husband to help me paint the walls in Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist one Friday night and determined that the beautiful new colour would benefit from beautiful painted furniture. I was a woman possessed. I looked online at beautiful white painted solid wood bedroom sets but couldn’t help balk at the price tag. I was going to be on maternity leave and I couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars. However, in my crazy pregnant nesting state I NEEDED to do something about the room or I couldn’t rest. So I thought, why spend thousands when I could achieve the painted look myself for the price of a can of paint? If I ended up ruining the bedroom set then it wouldn’t really matter as I didn’t like it anyway and if it worked, then just call me Joanna Gaines. So I went out to Home Depot and picked up two cans of Rust-oleum chalk paint in linen white, brushes and drop sheets and returned home and set straight to work.

Here’s how I turned this…

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into this…

First things first, can you really use chalk paint on wood veneer?

YES! Now I wont say that the finish is as hard as nails but the very nature of chalk paint allows for imperfections so the overall look is actually complimented by a bit of wear and tear.

How to paint veneer with chalk paint

  1. Prep your furniture. You will need to wipe down your furniture with a damp cloth to remove all dust. Here is where all of you hardened chalk painters and professionals will probably collectively gasp but I didn’t prime. I know, I know, priming is key but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want to spend more cash on primer.
  2. Shake up your chalk paint and try a test area to see what kind of finish you will achieve. You will want to use a firm, short bristle brush for control and cover. You can buy special chalk paint brushes but I didn’t do this and the result was as good as when I’ve used the expensive brushes in the past.
  3. Paint the first coat on your furniture and wait a couple of hours until it is dry.
  4. Repeat with a second coat.
  5. Depending on whether or not you want to see brush strokes you might want to add a third coat. I only went over some areas for opacity.
  6. Once the final coat is dry you get to have fun distressing. I used a very fine grit on my electric mouse sander as a I am lazy and don’t have the arm muscles necessary for hand sanding. I also wanted a pretty intense distressed look so I knew that an electric sander wouldn’t be too much. If you want a more delicate distressed finish then you’re going to want to use a sanding block. There isn’t any rhyme or reason to my distressing, I just focused on areas that would have had a lot of wear (around handles and corners) and sanded until I could see the wood underneath. It is easier to distress more if you need to so go easy.
  7. When I was happy with my distressing I wiped everything down with a cloth and applied beeswax to protect.
  8. I found cup handles in a brushed nickle to update the look of the piece and add a little farmhouse style.bedside table

Finishing touches

My beloved sleigh bed was dated and held together by years of braces and I thought that splashing out on a new bed would be something I could stretch to. I actually found the bed frame for under $300 at Walmart and LOVE how the rivets add a little edge to the feminine feel of the room.

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I finished off the room with a painted sign from Homesense (you could easily create your own). I painted a wooden box I had lying around with some left over chalk paint, filled it with 3 dollar store mason jars and some fake lambs ear foliage to add that Fixer Upper-esque pop of green.

And there you have it. It took me a weekend to complete and I am beyond happy with the result. The whole room came in at around $500 if you include all the paint, the bed and finishing touches.

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Now onto my next chalk painting project…

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Create a personalized Santa Gift Sack (like the ones you see on Etsy) On A Budget.

Easy craft tutorials are my jam

Full disclosure I SUCK at sewing and anything to do with textiles. I honestly CANNOT cut a straight line (it bodes well for rustic look crafts but not for things that I would actually want to see the light of day). I’m sure there are hacks and tips on Pinterest that promise to help even the most remedial of cutters but I fear I am past saving and more to the point, I just don’t have the time. I did start out an ill-fated at home business during my last mat leave making headbands after complaints of cutting off the circulation to children’s brains (OK that might be a slight exaggeration from me) I put my Singer into the basement where it has not seen the light of day since.

Despite my ineptitude, I do love a good craft. I’m actually a semi-decent artist and I really enjoy tapping into that creative side that yearns to wear a beret and walk around in dungarees with paint artfully smudged on my cheek. I usually stick to wood and painting activities but for whatever reason, I sometimes like to take on a challenge. Maybe there is a part of me that desires to be on a Pinterest fail website.

You don’t have to spend a lot to create a personalized gift sack

A few years ago I got a personalized Santa gift sack for my eldest daughter and I paid a small fortune for it (much to my husband’s lament). I thought it was the cutest sack I’d ever seen and I was waxing lyrical to anyone who would listen about this mom’s skills with the silk screen printer. I loved my little Santa sack and it looked just PERFECT under our tree. Fast forward 3 years later and it is my second daughter’s first Christmas. Always weary to avoid second child syndrome, I want to make sure sweet Aria has everything her sister has. I couldn’t remember the name of the place where I got my first beloved sack so I did a quick Google search and lo and behold a PLETHORA of the same sacks came up. “Wow, she’s done well with her little print press” I thought to myself and then I looked closer and noticed multiple sellers offering the same sacks. Well knock me down with a feather, I paid for handmade when I could easily have made it myself. I am an Etsy mug (non-Brits I don’t mean the type you drink out of, I mean someone who has been fooled). Now I’m not knocking Etsy sellers AT ALL. I just wanted to share with you a cheaper way if you’re on a budget like most of us are. With a cheap sack ofF Amazon, my hardly used iron (another relic of my business past) and some heat transfer letters I set about making my very own Santa sack.  Just because I like you so much, here are the instructions so you can too!

You can create a personalized Santa gift sack that looks like this…

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In the amount of time that your baby will nap (about 20 minutes max if your kid is anything like mine). If you click on the pictures it will link you to where I bought my materials.

What you need

    1. Santa sack – here is the one I got off amazon
    1. Iron transfer letters – You can be as creative as you want but here are some suggestions of ones that I found on Amazon (click to shop). Please think carefully about what size you want to use. Emerson’s sack uses 3 inch letters and Aria’s uses 1.5 inch.


    1. An Iron
    1. Ironing board
    1. Pressing cloth (I used an old napkin
    1. Thick carboard
    1. Glass of wine (optional but it really does add to the experience)

Instructions to make a personalized Santa Gift Sack

  1. This goes without saying but order the sack you want off Amazon. If you have Prime it will be with you in a couple of days!
  2. Once the sack arrives you’ll want to press it. I didn’t wash it like the instructions said on the heat transfer paper (whoops, but it worked perfectly) but if more laundry is your thing, go ahead!
  3. Put the thick cardboard in the sack to separate the front and back.
  4. Cut out the letters you want and place them on your fabric. Follow the pressing times for the brand that you use (it’s usually a few minutes front and back of each letter – MAKE SURE YOU USE A PRESSING CLOTH UNLESS YOU WANT A HOT MESS ON YOUR IRON).
  5. Bask in the glory that you have crafted. Sip your wine and admire your work.
  6. Tell your husband all about how much money you saved.

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Happy crafting!

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Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links. While you wont pay a penny more, it helps me keep the lights on (and keeps me in wine).

So you want to be a farmer? Things you really need to know from a farmer’s wife before moving to the country.

The sun rising above a dew covered field, the sound of cows mooing and roosters crowing, your children sitting around a scrubbed pine table. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? This is the image most people have in their mind when they think of the farmer’s life. In reality it isn’t all fresh eggs and tractor rides (well OK, there are a lot of those). Living and working on a farm is tough and time consuming and it really is a way of life. It is like the third person in your marriage, the thing that is constantly in the back of your mind and can be the main strain on your finances.

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In the zeitgeist of “homesteading” moving to a farm is something that many people dream of and more and more often, people are packing up their “corporate” lives to head to the country in the search of a simpler existence. It seems like the perfect investment doesn’t it? With the move towards whole foods you would think that people would be demanding fresh food from their smiling local farmer in a flat cap (what, don’t all farmers wear a flat cap in your mind too?), However, farming is a very cliquey business where you need serious cash flow, connections and grit to make it.

Here are the top things you need to consider before moving to your dream life in the country.

Do you know what you’re doing?

I know this sounds silly but do you honestly, truly know what you’re doing? Have you researched your industry? So many people have the big dream to raise chickens to sell eggs or to buy 100 acres to live off but in reality, that isn’t a big enough operation to support your family. You’ll be able to make lots of omlettes sure but probably wont make enough to quit your day job (maybe unless you run an omlette blog or Instagram and in that case good for you and your weird niche). If you’re thinking of keeping animals do you know welfare laws, how to properly look after them and slaughter laws? There is a lot of red tape when it comes to selling meat in Ontario. Is there truly a demand for your product?

judy garland farming GIF via Giphy

The isolation

This was the biggest issue for me as a city girl. It is likely that you will have to move very far away from the city (and perhaps your family) in order to afford a plot big enough to carve out some type of living. If only one spouse is farming then the other is left alone for long periods of time and this can put a strain on even the strongest of marriages.  Being a harvest widow is no joke! I genuinely think it would be easier if both partners were to work side by side (which puts another set of strain on a marriage I guess!) building a business together. I have always felt a little removed from the farm and like it is a very separate sphere that belongs to my husband and I sort of slot in alongside it.

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The time 

Following on from the above point, farming takes A LOT OF TIME. You can’t just stroll in with your Starbucks at 9am and clock out at 5pm. Things break, animals die, people need your services around the clock. If you want a set schedule then this lifestyle is not for you. However, there is some degree of flexibility when there is rain or if your operation is big enough to have multiple employees. Moreover, you have to accept that vacationing will be very difficult if you have animals that need tending (unless you have some awesome family that will take on the farm when you’re gone). It is hard to plan your life around the farm and it is definitely something I myself am learning (albeit a little unsuccessfully sometimes) to be gracious about.

The dollar dollar bills

Farming is a money pit. It is estimated that 80% of new farms will fail in the first two years with that number growing into the 90s at the 5 year mark. Add this in with higher lending costs, weaker farm income and land prices cooling and the picture for new farmers isn’t all that rosy. The reality is that big farms are getting bigger and small farms are struggling to get a slice of the pie. You will need a lot of money for your start up and will probably have to look at a dwindling bank account until your farm gets established. This is hard for many people to deal with and is the leading reason why so many throw in the towel after such a short period of time.

The take away

Farming offers many opportunities for a wonderful life. You can be your own boss, work outdoors in the fresh air and see the (literal) fruits of your labour. If you do well then the reward is handsome and some farmers are lucky enough to sell their farms to developers for a significant wad of cash. Your family can be self sufficient and live a wonderful life away from the hustle and bustle of the city. My children love playing at the farm and going for tractor rides, it really is the best place to grow up. But farming is grueling and embeds itself deep in your soul. Those of us who weren’t raised on one baffle at how much heart goes into running a farm. My husband is a third generation farmer and his day to day life on the farm is still full of problems and complications despite being pretty established in our community. I know that market prices of livestock and crops play on his mind a lot. Even if you’re happy to take the monetary risk for your new business (ad)venture, there is the loneliness that farming brings. I moved from the city in Wales to the country in Ontario and for me the biggest adjustment was spending so much time alone on the farm. It got so much for me that we moved into a small rural town so I could at least see another human on a daily basis.

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Lately I have been looking at farms in Wales and trying to feel out whether my husband would be game to try. His answer as a fairly successful farmer, “you must be nuts. There’s no way we can start out again and be successful”.  Now if someone who has done well and has the expertise necessary thinks this way then maybe starting a farm is not a decision that should be taken lightly. However, if you think you’ve got what is takes go forth and farm my friend! I hope to see you at the farmers market in your flat cap in the summer!

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Surviving as a harvest widow. How to deal with life when you’re a farm wife.

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Now before I start this post let me say that I know that I signed up for this lifestyle and everything it entailed. Yet, that does not make it easier when the long days of harvest set in during the early autumn and I slowly, but surely, lose my marbles only to regain them again around Christmas time. In many respects, being married to a farmer is excellent. We have flexibility (most of the time) when he needs time off, we live a fairly comfortable life, our children get to grow up playing in endless fields and they definitely will learn the value of hard work. However, being a farm wife can often be overwhelming and lonely, especially when you’re a very long way from home. I used to think that the homesickness and farm wife lifestyle were two separate issues, but now when I look back at times that I’ve yearned for my home most, it generally coincides with harvest or planting.

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The term “harvest widow” is kind of morbid but it actually refers to those crazy times in the farming calendar that fall in July and then again in September – late November when as a farmer’s wife you rarely see your husband. Most mornings he is up before me and the kids and most evenings he doesn’t return until long after I get to bed. Pros of this – I get to watch Gossip Girl unashamedly all evening while quaffing wine in my thermal PJs. Cons – I have to juggle the two kids and the craziness of dinner and bedtime (usually after a very long day of work at school for me!). It’s insane, it’s intense but it’s our life. Over the past decade I’ve come up with some coping mechanisms, that I’ve had to really hone since having two kids (single mums, I have MAD RESPECT for you! It is not an easy gig being alone!). Now I must admit that this year has been especially hard with the addition of our second daughter and I have felt tiredness like you wouldn’t believe. But here we are at the end of November with the final stretch of harvest before us and I can happily say I made it. Perhaps a little softer from comfort eating, teeth a little more stained from red wine and hair more than a little crazy from 4 month roots but I made it.  So I thought I’d share some coping tips with you all. Even if you’re not a farm wife, I’m sure many of us have husbands who are away a lot and like to feel like we’re not the only ones going through this.

Some tips from the international farm wife

  1. Focus on the fact that this too shall pass. I cannot reiterate the importance of those 4 little words. It will not be like this forever, the crop will come off the field and life will return to normal.
  2. Think about all the benefits. You get so much quality time with the kids, all the cuddles, all the kisses (OK, all the stress too but this is about being positive!). You can watch all the crappy TV you want without your other half moaning. You can paint your nails and wear your face mask in blissful solitude. Want a long bath, take it and your husband wont be disturbing you asking where easily located items are.
  3. Say YES to help. It is tricky in our situation as my family live across the Atlantic but I have had to become a lot more comfortable accepting help from my in laws and most importantly asking my mother in law for help when I need it.
  4. Get people to come to you. My dear friends are always happy to pop around with a coffee or tea (or wine, it is always 5 o’clock somewhere) for a chat. It isn’t the most exciting but after talking about potty, poop, dinosaurs and why the dinner you served is not poison all day, adult company is not just appreciated it is NECESSARY.
  5. Plan something that is just for you. Now this is tricky as harvest usually takes away the other main caregiver but if it rains and he can be home then go out and get your nails done. Enlist grandparents or a babysitter to watch the kids and go on a night out. You cannot become a hermit for 3 months. It will wear you down trust me. Hell, I just like going to Walmart alone for an hour. It is BLISS I TELL YOU!!!
  6. Try to get out to the field for a visit. I usually pack the kids up and stop for a coffee or take out and take my husband lunch or dinner. I really treasure those 15 minutes he stops in the car to eat with us and I know he does too.
  7. Send pictures of the kids to him so he doesn’t feel like he’s always missing out.
  8. Make the most of rainy days and Sundays. I know it seems crazy to say but rain days are your best friend as your husband will usually be home at a sociable hour. It truly is learning to dance in the rain.
  9. Have a well stocked wine fridge. You are deep in those parent trenches girl, take a load off sometimes!

Do you have a husband that works away from home a lot? How do you cope?

Jo xxx39310816_279434165994563_8158740834922004480_n(1)

The accidental farm wife

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“Don’t end up falling in love with an Australian and moving across the world!” These were my Mother’s pearls of wisdom before I set out on my three month adventure to Australia and New Zealand in 2008. Well, I took her advice…kinda.

Ten years ago after failing to secure a place on a graduate placement I decided to travel to Australia and New Zealand to clear my head. I booked the whole thing on a whim during my lunch break. It was crazy but maybe someone, somewhere in the cosmos lined up the whole thing because it was on that trip that I met my husband, a pig and cash crop farmer from Ontario. I remember laughing when my husband first told me what he did for a living as in Wales there aren’t a lot of eligible young farmers around. I pictured him with a small farm spending most of his days pottering around on a tractor. This wasn’t exactly the case and after trying to make it in Wales together, the reality that he couldn’t just up and leave his family farm set in so we packed up and moved to Canada.

Flash forward ten years and I live in a small town in Ontario, thousands of miles away from my home town of Wales with my husband and two daughters. I’m a primary school teacher and I absolutely love my day job. I have another job too, being a farm wife is no easy task. Add to that being an ex-pat and it can sometimes seem like the perfect storm. Here on this blog I hope to share my adventures on the farm, in the classroom and my every day life and create a space to give advice to others in my position (come on, surely more than one of us has met a dreamy farmer and uprooted their life!) Come join me for the ride!

Jo