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Category Archives: Personal

Lesley Stefanski, Vancouver
We wake up to the cool crisp December air and it instantly feels like Christmas. After travelling for over 28 hours we linger over breakfast and slowly put ourselves together before heading to our final destination, our downtown condo.

Once we’re packed, for the last time, and secured into the vehicle we make the trip West and as we descend the hill to our home I take in a long breath then sigh, a restorative sigh. We are home! And I am so happy.

After years of wondering where home was, and even though we knew earlier this year that we would be staying in Vancouver longer than the initial anticipated 3 years, we now know that Vancouver is home. And always will be home.

We walk into a home that smells of lemon and cleaning solution and a fridge stocked full of groceries from my mom. There are white flowers placed in a white milk jug to celebrate our return. And the view! We stand at the window taking it all in while memories of the past two and a half months flash in front of us. What a life we live!

Setting to work putting our belongings away and starting the laundry everything feels just right. We stop for a quick lunch at one of our favourite cafes before heading back home to a setting sun. There is piano music playing, as always, and when I dim the lights memories from last year come to mind. The anticipation of our baby and celebrating our last christmas alone. Then there was the memory of different piano music playing but the way the lights dimmed memories of Isla’s first days with us with the dark night sky and sleepless nights. Everything becomes a glittering memory with the cool crisp December air.

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Our last few days in Porto flow easily into one another as we finish off with three different Port tours as well as a visit to the Bolsa Palace near the river bank. We take walks along the river’s edge in the sunlight taking in the city that we called home for a month in as much as possible. We visit our favourite restaurants for the last time to enjoy our favourite meals as well as to say goodbye to the ones who have served us. On one of our last evenings we venture to a new restaurant and the whole way Isla is awake and crying – we think it might be a horrible evening and consider cancelling our reservations. However we are greeted with smiles and helpful hands who whisk our baby away to entertain her while we enjoy a three course meal. It is one of the most relaxing meals we’ve had in awhile.

Our last night in Porto the city begins the Christmas celebrations with christmas lights, antique markets, marching bands, outdoor ice rinks, as well as beautifully displayed Christmas markets. We walk around one last time enjoying all the sights and sounds, walking one last time up the steep hills before stopping for one last family selfie in front of the lit up Christmas tree. It was the perfect send off.

We begin our journey home with a happy smiling babe, who everyone calls the most happiest well behaved baby they have ever met. We are asked time and time again if she is always like this and we answer with pride “yes”. We are calm and relaxed, knowing there will be moments of tears and cries from her. When we are standing still in a lineup for over two hours she is awake and somehow happy, always looking for the next person to smile at, to spread some cheer and make their day.

Then finally, after many many hours of travelling, we crawl it into a familiar bed and we all fall asleep together. When we wake up at 7am the following morning on December 1 we realize our European adventure has finally come to an end, but our life as a family is still beginning.

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We prepare for our trip south and we are packed into one backback before jumping in a taxi and then on a train within an hour. As we settle into our seats we smile at each other that being the well seasoned travellers that we are it takes no time to fill a bag with only the things we need for a weekend getaway. She sleeps soundly on the train and when she does wake she is happy to enjoy sitting on our laps playing with our faces and hands.

We arrive into Lisbon and instantly feel the pulse of the city and the warmth of the sun on our faces. What a change from stormy Porto! A quick walk from the station we enter into a luxurious apartment right in the centre of the city with a view down a famous street that meets the water. We unpack and settle in before placing her in the stroller to grab a quick bite at a nearby cafe. With eclectic furnishings and the friendliest baristas Mister and I eat in silence while they entertain Isla so we can enjoy our meal. I grab a cup of fruit salad and savour every single bite of kiwi, pineapple, mango, and grapes. It is so delicious I cannot help but smile.

We stroll through the city to another nearby station and hop on a train West. We step off the platform in the most magical of places where there is a beautiful flowing energy that makes you think of secret gardens and fairies dancing in beams of light. We walk the cobblestone path through a thick forest that smells of fresh rain and spring water, the air thick with humidity but a coolness of dew on your face. We make our way to a beautiful and majestic country estate with an indian influence. Everything is simply romantic filled with light and open spaces. We spend as much time as possible walking through the house and through the gardens before we have to make our way home. Throughout the whole experience Isla babbled and exclaimed in her excited way whenever we walked through a passageway in the home or through the forest, completely happy with our excursion. And while we made our way home she fell asleep in his arms, completely at peace to be with us. We place her in the pram later that evening to go out for dinner at a nearby restaurant and have a delicious meal that once again we savour and enjoy completely. We talk excitedly about the past few weeks together, how much Isla has grown and the little person she is becoming, we talk of our plans for the next couple of weeks and most importantly our last week in Europe. When we finally crawl into bed we are tired, full, satisfied and completely energized.

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The next morning we are awake early and ready to start the day with anticipation. We leave the flat and walk across the street to a nearby hotel lounge where we enjoy a delicious breakfast and a latte while Isla sits in her highchair, content and happy. She gravitates everyone towards her with her smiles and willingness to giggle and play peek-a-boo with ease. We walk the streets towards Igreja do Carmo and take in the beauty of the old ruin and the magnificent stone carvings and the view of the city below. Our afternoon is slow wandering around the city, the air thick with the smell of roasting chestnuts as we make our way through the streets taking in as much as possible. We stop into a lingerie store where I stock up on beautiful italian lace bras and then later I stock up on classic cardigans in grey, navy, and black. We take a tram to nearby Mosteiro dos Jeronimos where the building is filled with such intricate architectural details that everything looks like lace. Once again everything is breathtaking. We head out for dinner later that evening and under a candle lit dinner where the room smells of delicious vanilla we sink into deserts that leave a lasting flavour on our tongues.

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Sunday morning we take our breakfast once again in the hotel lounge where they are excited to see Isla. We linger over bowls of fresh fruit, buttery croissants, and tangy orange juice. With our stomachs full we explore the castle above the city, spending as much time as possible before the rain sets in and our train whistle blows to take us home. She sleeps almost the whole train ride home while him and I sit in our seats next to one another we hold the other’s hand filled with love – for each other, for her, for travel, and for this experience of living abroad.

The evening we return from Lisbon we feel a jolt of energy run through our system as we realize it is our last week in Porto and our last week in Europe. We place her in her pram late at night and wander until we find a restaurant that is open and find a french influence tapas restaurant that delights us completely. We savour each bite and sip a smooth yet bold Portuguese red wine. While she sleeps next to us we talk of traditional elegance and how we want that to look like for us. We also talk of a chateau in the mountains where we celebrate future Christmases together, starting our own traditions and way of doing life.

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Lesley Stefanski, Lifestyle Design
Our second to last week in Porto is filled with all the familiar rituals of daily life. Of waking in white sheets and bringing her into our bed so she can crawl and explore to her heart’s content while we wipe the sleep from our eyes. Of laundry tumbling then being hung to dry, playtimes on the hardwood floor where she learns to crawl up and down the couch with such ease and speed that soon the bed is no challenge for her. Of bottle washing, feedings, and bedtime snuggles. All within its own space in time.

Porto is filled with hills so we get our daily exercise pushing her pram up and down the steep hills to our many destinations. Everywhere we turn we met with beautifully restored buildings with gorgeous tile work and intricate ceiling details and also with completely run down and ruined buildings that it is impossible for anyone to live there.

We take a walk to a near by manicured garden and lay my scarf from Tanzania on the damp grass to let her crawl around and explore her surroundings. The view of the city is gorgeous from the stone walls the surround the garden and the greenery is just starting to change from the lush hue of summer to the tangy hues of autumn. She crawls over and under us and we leave her be, happy to watch her from our spot on the grass.

We find a quiet little restaurant that serves that most delicious burgers that we frequent often and becomes our go-to lunch spot.

Lesley Stefanski Coaching, Lifestyle Design,
As I sway her from left to right, left to right, left to right I feel her body slowly get heavier in my arms. We just finished one of those epic meltdowns that babies and toddlers have when they are fighting sleep and you end up wrestling them in your arms and a head smash was bound to happen.

I am tired and exhausted, and there is a to do list repeating itself in my head reminding me of the things I wanted to do an hour ago. It is hard to turn off the to do list, the things I wanted to do for myself, but I know in the end it is worth it.

In this moment, nothing is as important as swaying her left to right feeling her snuggle into my body the further she slips into sleep.

In this moment there is nothing as important as hearing her breathe deeper and her tiny little hand curled up next to my chest.

In this moment, in this season, nothing is as important as her.