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Category Archives: Personal

Living in Porto, Lifestyle Design, Guidance by Lesley, Lesley StefanskiEndless walks around Porto-03Endless walks around Porto-04
When I think about our time in Porto, it seems almost a blur. A delightful glorious blur of moments and events that honestly have no particular meaning other than we are doing exactly what we set out to do. We are living our lives, as we would live it in Vancouver, but in a new city.

Over coffee and pastries we talk of how if someone were to ask “what did you see? what is a ‘must do’ in Porto” we almost wouldn’t know what to say to them. Mostly because we are living, and enjoying, and just being in the most natural way that we know how. Of course we have seen sights and tourist attractions, but we don’t view them as attractions mostly because we just fall upon them during our daily walk, hardly ever having a destination in mind except to wander. It is exactly how we want it, and it is beautiful.

Endless walks around the city, sometimes being caught in thundershowers that we run for cover laughing the whole way. But we always find a new cafe or shop to enjoy and explore. We walk side by side, his hand in mine or my arm in his enjoying each other’s company, the thoughts we share, or the moments of silence and just being together.

A delightful glorious blur of moments.

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We find ourselves in an organic cafe for an early dinner and there the owners offer to take Isla from our hands to allow us to enjoy our meal. We happily accept and we savour each bite while they give her a tour of the space. Again, at another establishment with a beautiful garden terrace, that we enjoy during an afternoon of unexpected sunshine, Isla delights the owners and they too soon ask to take her and parade her around while we enjoy our meals. It is one of the most delicious meals we have had in weeks and promise to come back.

I walk around the city centre in the rain pushing her in the pram to help her to fall asleep. Within minutes she is fast asleep and I make my way slowly in and out of stores. There is a mixture of luxury stores next to what would be considered dollar stores, and I enjoy the eclectic mix. Surprisingly, or not, we are most welcomed into the stores that sell the most luxury of items and almost shooed away from the economical ones. And I find a comfort in that…that as I walk around with a soaking wet buggy I can peruse the likes of Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Ralph Lauren in ease without feeling the need to rush off with my babe in tow.

He works, endlessly and diligently to wrap up the final stages of his project – typically working from the moment he wakes till the wee hours of the morning with breaks in between to spend time with us. I wake with her and cuddle in the darkness so not to disturb him. The two of us spend time alone in silence with the exception of the love we express to one another – her with her little giggles and exclamations of glee and me with my endless hugs and kisses while whispering I love you. In these moments, when the world is just beginning its day, her and I spend time alone and it is one of the most precious of moments.

At the end of the week I draw myself a hot steaming bath, one that burns to the touch, and sink in. My body fully relaxes and my I allow my mind to wander. For two hours I drift in the waters and end up writing pages and pages of thoughts that have been turning in my mind for ages. When I finally leave my place of rest I feel completely restored and inspired by everything I have released onto my journal and the insights it brought me.

Live your desired life thumbnailDownload the Live Your Desired Life workbook and learn the 4 easy steps on how I started to live the life I always dreamed of that you can start implementing immediately.

Living in Porto, Lifestyle design, Lesley StefanskiThunderstorms in Porto-02Thunderstorms in Porto-05Thunderstorms in Porto-07
The thundershowers stayed for what felt like ages, but it was exactly what our little family needed. We bundled closely together, lingering for hours in soft white sheets, pausing every couple of hours for family naps, and then walks out in the rain at least once a day. We slow everything down. Our breakfast routine is no longer cereal in a bowl but toasted bread, sautéed spinach, boiled egg, and of course more tea. She sits in her white highchair enjoying breakfast right along with us…talking in the way that she does and exclaiming in glee whenever she eats something she enjoys. I find that there is so much enjoyment in preparing delicious meals in the kitchen and then having my family together to enjoy them. It is unbelievably rewarding and satisfying.

We explore the city and every day we come home with a list of places we want to see again or shops I want to delve into even further. On one excursion with just myself and Isla I stop into an antique store and find myself bringing a beautiful silk scarf to the counter to bring home. I am invited to a gathering later that week, Isla included and I find we are in the most friendly city ever. We find a café that serves beautiful lattes in white cups while we are seated in plush blue chairs and the concrete walls are covered in artwork.

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Our flat is situated perfectly within the city, anything and everything is at our fingertips. When the rains cease for awhile I throw the windows open and breathe in the fresh air and find so much delight in the view. A manicured garden, cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, a gazebo where lovers stop to kiss or bands play sweet melodies. In this moment I know it is important for us to have a view and the ability to open our windows, wherever we live.

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Live your desired life thumbnailDownload the Live Your Desired Life workbook and learn the 4 easy steps on how I started to live the life I always dreamed of that you can start implementing immediately.

Porto Portugal
We settle into our new home as quickly as possible, and soon realize we left the comforts of England behind us and are faced with the much familiar feelings of living in a place where we know no one nor the city we live in. Google translate quickly becomes our go-to website and we wander up and down streets looking for grocers and pharmacies thinking it would be easy to spot. How quickly we feel like we are transported back to Holland and our time in Den Bosch.

This city, however, is beautiful. Endless cobblestone streets beautifully laid out with thought and care. Everywhere I turn my artistic eye is inspired and I find myself reaching for the camera more than I have in months. The food is gorgeous and delicious and the locals unbelievably friendly.

By the second day our belongings are put into their respective closets, the suitcases stored away for the next 30 days, and again the piano music is playing while a kettle boils hot water for tea. The weather is gorgeous and we set out to explore as much as possible walking along unfamiliar streets but somehow always knowing which direction is home.

That evening the weather changes and we are greeted with thunderstorms and thundershowers that shake the home and beat against the windows so violently. We snuggle in close pulling on layers to keep us warm and pouring copious amounts of tea. I find myself at ease cooking up a storm for my small family in the modern kitchen.

It is slower, much slower than London, but so perfect for our season away.

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Thoughts on motherhood
She tugs my sleeve for what feels like the 100th time in the past five minutes and I feel myself waning. I feel the patience I had intended to have for the day become droplets in my well instead of ever flowing. I breathe in a restorative breath, hoping that it will bring some clarity. Instead I find myself checking the time and begin to count down the minutes till I will sing her her lullaby and put her to bed for the night.

And then instantly my heart hurts, that would mean twelve hours without her.

How easily I have become attached to her, how quickly my heart wants to spend every moment with her. How is it possible that just a few years ago the thought of having a babe to call my own would cause me intense anxiety but now the thought of being away from her causes the same reaction? How has this has become me?!

A woman who never dreamed of being a mother, now flourishing and relishing in the role.

Being a mother is very different than I anticipated it to be. It is more glamorous and more antagonizing all at the same time. It has pulled me apart by every seam possible but has somehow managed to sow me back up into a greater version of myself than I could have ever imagined. My body now has marks and lines that only come through childbearing, but my heart has been etched with a love that can only come from loving so deep and so endlessly. These love marks began with Mister and she has made them so profound that just like the lines on my body they will be there for all eternity.

I am not a mother who has endless patience but I do have a love that somehow fills me up when I find myself completely depleted before the end of the day.

When that moment finally comes, the one I have been counting down to, she nuzzles herself into her favourite spot: her body in my arms and her head into the crook of my arm right against my breast. I sing her the lullaby we chose for her months ago and I rock her gently in the stillness of the night. Her eyes begin to flutter so I kiss her forehead and lay her in her bed and whisper “we made it my little love, and tomorrow we will make it again”.

Images: Chris Loh