Emigrating to Canada – one year in

One year ago today I finished packing our four suitcases, Robert dismantled Cora’s crib and together we wrangled it into a box, secured it shut, coaxed Juniper and Toshi into their cat carriers, locked the front door to our Dublin apartment and left the keys in the post box. We headed to the airport and there began the beginning of a very long journey from Dublin to Ottawa.

I think in an effort to save myself, I mentally checked out the entire day we traveled which meant whenever there was a problem, I calmly solved it instead of having a massive melt down. Like when we missed the last train from Montréal to Ottawa and we had to get a taxi for the 2 hour journey to our new apartment at 23:00 …

I really can’t believe that was all a year ago. It’s been a good year, but it’s also been tough.


Robert and I with Cora, Juniper and Toshi, two backpacks, four suitcases and Cora’s crib. Picture via @scruffy_lookin_nerfherder.

Emigrating has been much more difficult than I thought it would be. We started from the beginning with everything. We slept on the floor for three weeks, we ate sitting against the wall since we had no chairs, we kept takeout containers to reuse as dishes, we had one pan and used it to make everything; porridge, stir fry, Cora’s formula, everything. Our first winter was tough since Robert started a new job and would be gone for 12 hours a day. It was too cold to bring Cora outside because she was a flimsy little toddler then and she was [rightly so] stir crazy most days so she screamed a lot.

Summer seemed to come quickly and again, sometimes it was too hot to bring Cora outside for long periods of time. It felt like there was about a month where the temperature was no lower than 40°C. It felt like the only time I wasn’t sweating was when I was standing in the shower. Cora was a different kind of frustrated because it was too hot to even do anything at home. The humidity was exhausting and we could barely escape it. I had an endless number of things on my list [and a lot of it pressure I decided to dump on myself needlessly], but had zero cares to do any of it because of the heat.


What Robert and I slept on for nearly 4 weeks. Picture via @scruffy_lookin_nerfherder.

We didn’t [and still don’t] have a car. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you’re living in a country like Canada where everything is so much father apart, it takes a lot of planning to get anything done. For example, for me to get paint samples from Home Depot for the One Room Challenge, I had to wait until 18:30 for Robert to come home, walk to the bus stop, take two buses to Home Depot [as there was no direct route from our neighbourhood] which took the best part of an hour and a half, choose tester pots of paint, walk back to the bus stop and do the reverse hour and a half journey home. And I ended up going back two more times until I got the right colour. If we had a car it would be a 15 minute drive to Home Depot. It’s just as bad for me to go grocery shopping except I bring a suitcase to put all our groceries in and get the bus home. It takes a lot of planning to do really basic things and now that I’m working full time, once I get home, entertain Cora and serve dinner, I’m exhausted. It’s mentally exhausting planning everything out, but once we get a car, I think we’ll be in a much better place.

Up until January I still had hip problems. There was a period where I could barely carry Cora and walk at the same time. Walking from the living room to the kitchen was a chore, so anything above and beyond that was overwhelming. I couldn’t turn a corner and pivot my hips without being in pain. A lot of emotional eating happened because what else would you do when you’re trapped indoors with a toddler when it’s -35°C outside? [This is where a lot of my anger towards “loosing baby weight” comes from. 1. It’s not anyone’s business what a woman looks like before or after she has a baby. Or regardless of her having a baby. It’s not your business. 2. If a woman does put on weight, you don’t know the endless painful physical or mental or hormonal circumstances for it happening. If she’s able to form a sentence and her child is fed, you should be applauding her].

Though most of this post has sounded like complaining, it’s meant to be far from it. It’s been hard work but I can feel we’re moving in the right direction. Through everything that has happened, we’ve never doubted our decision to move from Ireland to Canada. Even though Robert and I haven’t been out by ourselves since moving here [as we still don’t really know anyone / any babysitters. Unfortunately we’re antisocial AF]. It’s slow and hard work, but I honestly don’t think we’d appreciate our situation if it came to us easily. We have a lot more work ahead of us and I still have a long list of things I [feel I need] to do, but every day it is getting easier. We’ve been through and solved so many things as a little family of three than I could ever have imagined. Looking back over the past year and seeing the changes we’ve made and hurdles we’ve crossed makes me feel very proud and I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store.

If you’re curious, you can read the reasons why we decided to move to Canada here!

Storage bench makeover with Fusion Mineral Paint

I’m sorry. I did it again. I painted a thing. Is this get boring? Correct answer: NO.

The relentless humidity we’ve been experiencing here in Ottawa broke last weekend and in a burst of energy, I started to organize our front hallway. One of the many updates I’ve wanted to make to our hallway was to add a storage trunk of sorts that could hold our hats, mittens and scarves in the winter and store our shoes in the summer. I also wanted it to be cushioned so we could sit on it, but it could be no wider than 40 inches as that’s the exact width of the small alcove-type space in our hallway. So I did what I do best and logged in to Kijiji to see what I could find.

It took me a long time to not only find the right size storage bench, but one that hadn’t already been taken by someone with a car that could pick it up sooner than I could. I’m talking like 10 months of searching to find something, but F I N A L L Y last weekend I found a storage bench that no one wanted, that would fit our picky hallway nook and the owner offered to deliver it to me for free. Yassss.

It was a storage bench only a mother could love. It was made almost exactly 51 years ago [according to the stamp on the inside saying “October 1967”] and was covered in brown and beige faux leather material. It was pretty fugly, but I could see its potential.

It is very well made and has some heavy-duty hinges and for $40, it was a total deal in my mind. A few hours after it was delivered I was painting it with my now very reliable Fusion Mineral Paint. The storage bench isn’t going to be a major focal point in our hallway, so I wanted it to be in a dark colour that could hide the scuffs and scrapes that come with an entryway, so I painted it in Coal Black from Fusion Mineral Paint. Just like our painted tufted leather armchair!

I painted two coats of Fusion Mineral Paint’s “Coal Black” on the dark brown sections and three coats were needed to cover the lighter beige [in the photo above you can see the difference between two coats of paint on the beige vs. one coat of paint on the right. The two coats were good, but still streaky so a third coat was needed]. I took my time and left the bench for a few hours between each coat.

After the three coats were painted, I left the storage bench open overnight [so the paint on the seams wouldn’t seal shut] and by the next morning it was ready to be used.

I continue to be amazed by how well Fusion Mineral Paint works on leather [and faux leather alike]. The coverage is perfect and you honestly cannot tell it’s a piece that has been painted. I’m not just saying this because Fusion Mineral Paint sent me paint. I’m saying this because I feel more people need to know that the DIY possibilites with paint are becoming more and more endless. If you see a secondhand piece of leather [or faux leather] furniture for sale but the colour isn’t your favourite and the thought of having it reupholstered is making you gently weep, know that painting it with Fusion Mineral Paint is 9,000% an option.

Our hallway is still a WIP, so it’ll be a few weeks before I’m able to properly photograph our storage bench in its new home. But for now, I’d like to thank Fusion Mineral Paint, again, for providing me with paint to do this project [and a few more coming soon!]. It means a lot to this busy working mom who is barely holding it all together 💕

DISCLOSURE – while this post is not sponsored, I did receive this paint free of charge from Fusion Mineral Paint in exchange for a blog post. I only work with brands that I like and of course, think you will too. Thank you for supporting the companies that support The Interior DIYer.

Updating (and childproofing) our secondhand dining table with faux marble contact paper

It’s been in every dining room photo since my One Room Challenge but I never got around to properly introducing it; our updated dining room table! I updated it in May with some faux marble contact paper and I’m only getting around to writing about it now. Story of my life these days, but it was the best update I could have made to that table.

One of the many things the previous tenants left for us was their dining room table. They knew we had next to nothing since emigrating from Dublin and since they’d be buying a dining table for their new house, they decided to really kindly leave their old one.

I was irrationally excited about it as it’s a really solid table [we bought a table last October, but it ended up being very weak and flimsy]. Our dining room is also a really big room so it needs a big table to anchor it and make it feel less like you’re floating around in the middle of the ocean. While I loved the shape and size of the table, I knew I’d want to eventually update it. But exactly how was my next daunting question.

The table is for the most part solid wood, but in a deceptive way. In a few spots [as you can see on the left in the photo above] it’s some sort of MDF just beneath a thin surface of real wood. There was also no finish so the raw, untreated wood had a lot of stains it wasn’t willing to part with; nail polish, coffee and food in general. None of which could be cleaned off.

I first thought about staining the table with a wood stain, but to be honest, I didn’t like the wood pattern on the top and the already dark knots would have ended up looking even darker. My next immediate thought was to cover it in contact paper, but I was hesitant. I mean, that’s a lot of table to cover. And the edges were so fiddly.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I finally made a decision; I was trying to once again clean a smushed blueberry from a few days previous [yay, untreated wood that absorbs everything] when a massive splinter of wood from the edge broke off into the palm of my hand. And I mean it was huge [#ThatsWhatSheSaid]; it was about 5 inches long, razor sharp and decided it would much rather hang out in my hand. What if it had broken off when Cora was around? What if it happened when I wasn’t there to see it? The mind goes to fantastic places once you become a parent, so that afternoon during Cora’s nap I took out the rolls of contact paper and got to work.

It was time consuming but easy to cover the table. I took the leaves apart and applied the contact paper one section at a time. I used the same technique I used a few years ago to cover our then coffee table – you can see the full step-by-step tutorial here! [p.s. I was about 2 weeks pregnant with Cora in those photos, but didn’t know it 💕]. I also lightly sanded the legs and applied two coats of white paint [I used some leftover Behr’s eggshell paint for baseboards and doors as it was wipe-able and held up really well throughout the dining room].

I will be the first to admit it is not a perfect update. When you stand at the end of the table you can see the wood pattern in the reflection, but only if you’re really concentrating. The end leaves of the table are much wider than the width of the contact paper so there’s a random 2-inch strip of contact paper at either end. But for us right now, this table is perfect. It fits the three of us for dinner plus the hot mess of garbage that gets dumped on it. It’s very sturdy. But above all else, it is a dream to clean. No matter what you spill or drop on it, it wipes off immediately. And when you have a toddler that is an angel one minute and the 11th member of Suicide Squad the next, that’s a deal breaker. Function > form.

For anyone curious, I ordered my contact paper directly from the manufacturer. They said it’s available in Lowe’s here in Canada [but I couldn’t find it on their shop online], and back in Dublin I bought this exact same contact paper in B&Q.