Let’s never, ever, ever move again.

Let’s never, ever, ever move again.

As a teenager and young adult, I would only see my Dad sporadically, maybe every year, perhaps a little more often, perhaps a little less. He was a quiet man and I can be quite shy, so I mainly remember lots of our meetings being quite awkward. I hope that the silences were companionable for him at least. I have to assume that we weren’t both frantically trying to come up with something to say.

It always seemed a little ridiculous to try and explain what had happened in the last year or so, so instead we’d do a super-quick recap and then just chit chat about current affairs and programs worth watching on TV, or what kid of music we like, or what other people were up to.

It was with a huge shock that I just realized that I last wrote here at the end of February. I intend to write on an almost daily basis, but somehow life wins out. It’s been an incredible journey to emigrate twice and settle in a new city, again. Parts of that journey make a great story, but lots of it is incredibly mundane. I’ve been putting off the “and so that is how we found a house and settled in Portland, Maine” update because it seems too big, too hard to chop into easily assimilated pieces. So instead, this is how we moved to the house we knew we’d move to, but almost didn’t.

When I last wrote, we’d been in a hotel room for 18 days… we ended up staying there for a whopping eight weeks. Having your breakfast made for you everyday is not to be sniffed at. Dealing with a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night in a pack and play in your room, plus two school-age kids sharing a bed and fighting at night, in your room, was not so much fun. It had it’s moments, this whole experience.

We tried so hard to convince ourselves that we could become country folk by sheer willpower. That we would be fine in our solitude and a good school system. That the house in the sticks would be what we needed it to be. Turns out that when the house negotiations got tricky, we were happy to put down our chips and leave the table, without a backward glance.

And so in a funny turn of events, we ended up moving into the house that we found on Christmas Day 2013 when we were in New Zealand. We found it online, the neighborhood looked good, the back garden was enormous, and it’s actually in Portland. The house itself was difficult to figure out from the highly selective photos online. It is a single family house that was chopped up into a duplex at some point; the original staircase was half removed and a back staircase built in its place.

We tried and tried to figure out how the upstairs related to the downstairs, and we couldn’t put the pieces together in our heads. We found a realtor online who came to the house and photographed it for us. Then we looked at the photographs of random walls captioned with things like “this is where the staircase used to be”, and we were still none the wiser.

Even so, it felt like our house. It would be our house.For a while, it even looked like we could arrange everything from New Zealand, and move straight into it when we got to Portland. How easy, how marvelous.

A complete and utter miscommunication somewhere along the line (I’m letting it go, in the spirit of Frozen) meant that we stopped pursuing this house, even though the owner was open to our situation, and even though the house had huge potential. When we couldn’t find anything else in Portland we came to look at the house, our house, the one we decided to move into while still on the other side of the world.

But we weren’t feeling it. The guy living downstairs was off-putting, to put it politely, the lack of space for laundry felt wrong, the whole house just didn’t seem right. But as more and more houses seemed even less right than this one, this one rose to the top.

And so after some lengthy negotiations, in March, we moved in. The guy downstairs finally moved out three months later. “Our house” is indeed “our house”. It’s a bit weird, but it is wonderful. The top floor apartment has a kitchen and enough rooms for all the kids to have their own space. Downstairs is in need of a complete renovation, but we’ll get there at some point.

We just opened up a doorway at the bottom of the stairs so we can go upstairs and downstairs without going outside. It’s pretty exciting. Imagine how it was for the cats (oh yes, we have two cats now!) to one day discover that they had a whole new floor to explore.

We’re still unpacking, our stuff arrived from New Zealand mainly in one piece. We ‘re still finding places for everything. We still need furniture so we can put everything away. We’re still figuring it all out.

But, I’ll say this. This house is exactly what we hoped that it could be. It’s big and spacious and has heaps of potential. Yes it needs work, lots of work, but it is our home now. We’re not moving again. I was never a big proponent of the “woo-woo” way of life, but this is exactly what we hoped for. Plus there are two wonderful little girls in the house opposite, who are the exact same ages as our two bigs ones. They’re like this cool little gang. It’s perfect, it really is everything we hoped for.

Let’s Sleep on It

Let’s Sleep on It

For the last eighteen days, we have been living in a hotel while searching for a house. We’ve become a bit of a fixture here, we have “our table” in the breakfast room, the front desk staff know the kids by name, in fact they even bought presents for the girls. It’s a good hotel, we’re as happy here as you can be when five people share a room and one of them has forgotten how to sleep for more that two hours in a row. We’re in the Old Port area of Portland, so bars and restaurants and cafés are just a hop, skip and a jump away. You might find us in one, trying to eat dinner before the baby melts down in a puddle of thwarted opportunities. Louisa took her first few steps in Denver, but she’s perfected her baby toddle in the hotel here. She does not like anyone or anything to stand in her way, oh no. To say that she is stubborn is an enormous undestatement.

For eighteen days we have been looking for the perfect house in the perfect neighbourhood. Actually, scratch that, we’ve been looking for a house in a neighbourhood. We’ve moved enough times to know that compromise is the name of the game when you’re house-hunting. If you can’t have it all, then what can you have? What must you have? What can you let go?

We’ve been trying lifestyles on for size. Could we live here? How would this work? We’ve found epic houses in towns which leave us cold. We adore Portland and have found some ok houses in meh neighbourhoods, and terrible houses in good neighbourhoods. We found an amazing house in a picturesque town with the best schools in the State, only to decide the next morning that we are always going to be city people. Then we found a potentially fantastic house just outside the city center. We would make it work, the kids could share a room, we don’t need a big studio or a garden. But the next day we both awoke knowing that the group of people hanging around on the street corner opposite, and the “characters” of the neighbourhood were perhaps not the ideal neighbours that we’re hoping for as we raise our three little girls.

It hurt letting that house go, but in doing so we made a choice for the family rather than a choice for us grown ups. Neither of us are searching for a life characterized by worry and hyper-vigilance, even if the cafés are awesome and the museum is on your doorstep.

We scrabbled round some more options. Can we live without a washer and dryer? What about sharing a house? Each time our desire to be in the city almost topped everything, but not at the expense of being in a home that doesn’t make you happy. Portland is a wonderful place, and probably for that very reason, houses are hard to come by. And so we kept on looking, around and about, each time deciding that really Portland proper is the place for us.

We had thought it would be easy. Buying a car was easy. Lars looked online at used cars in our price range that would fit us all in. He emailed some dealers. The dealer who replied and brought the car in question to our hotel had the sale right there. Easy peasy. Also, not a minivan. Win, win.

But houses seemed to get harder and harder. We kept willing for a mindset shift, trying to force a change somehow. It didn’t seem to be working. But really, at the end of the day, we know what we need. We have three amazing girls. They need to be safe and secure and given the opportunity to take advantage of the best education we can find. We have our artistic practice. We need time and space and limited distractions so we can get on with it. And we have our family. We need the space and ability to have some calm in our chaos. We need room to be together and also space to be apart. We need a house that functions when they’re wee, and will still work when they’re teenagers.

We want a house in a neighbourhood where we can chat with the neighbours and walk our as-yet-hypothetical little dog. We want cafés and restaurants and a bookshop or two. We want community. This is the one that we are letting go a little. It is ok, it will be ok, we will just have to get used to it. Our community will be there, they might just be a little further away.

We wanted it to be easy, and yet finding a house seemed so hard. But maybe it was easy all along, we just had to wait for the mindset shift rather than trying to force it. Today we went back to the amazing house on the outskirts of a small town, fifteen minutes drive from Portland. It has space. It has a barn. It has a ton of trees and presumably grass under all that snow. It has enormous potential but perhaps most importantly it has a sense of calm. Sunshine. History. Quiet.

We’ve decided to get over ourselves. This house gives us everything we really need and we’re fifteen minutes away from everything we want. We have our fingers crossed that this is the one, that everything will come together to work out.

Our comfort zones are being expanded, we’re city folk not country folk, but if ever there was a time to try something new, this is it. Fingers crossed, it’s going to be awesome.

It’s either going to be utterly brilliant or a bit meh. I vote for the former.

It’s either going to be utterly brilliant or a bit meh. I vote for the former.

We’ve moved quite a lot over the years. Some dramatic moves, from Edinburgh to rural Wisconsin, from Minneapolis to New Zealand, and other quieter moves, four blocks over, five blocks down. Of all the houses we’ve lived in, there has been three that have made my spirits soar every single time I’ve turned the corner and caught sight of our house, our home. An elusive balance of location, neighbourhood, and aesthetics, some houses have it, and others simply don’t. They will always be the homes that stand out for me as really important landmarks in our lives, all places that could have been our forever home under different circumstances.

There are certain vistas over a city that prompt a sharp inhalation, a quick tummy flip, a dizzying nanosecond of thought where you realise just how lucky you are. Wow. I am here, right now. Wow. The train ride from Newcastle up to Edinburgh, along the coast. That second as you enter the city as if from the underside and feel dwarfed by its shear magnificence. Every single time I made that journey I paused to reflect on the wonders of living in such a city, no matter what else was going on around me. And now, having been away from Edinburgh for twelve and a half years, it is still one of my most poignant visceral recollections of the city. In fairness, so many other memories have that delightful cloudy feel of being wrapped in just a bit too much alcohol, they’re much less tangible, much more wooly around the edges.

Other times you turn the corner to home and it’s just, well, home. There it is, just as you left it. Other journeys are just trips that you make. The view from the air is just another perspective on the same, albeit one you see much more rarely.

Today we flew in to Boston airport for the first time ever. And it felt filled with the excitement and possibility that this could be our place. The place that lifts your heart and sets you free and makes you delight in your reality, delight in the fact that you get to be here, now. Wow.

After two plane rides and a two hour coach trip, our traveling circus family have set foot in Portland, Maine, a city we have never visited. Portland, Maine is the city we have decided will be pretty damn awesome for us to raise our kids and be ourselves.

We don’t know anyone here, and we don’t really know what to expect beyond what we’ve seen online and heard second hand. And yet, we pretty much just moved half way around the world to be here right now. In the morning we will see Portland in daylight for the first time, with the hope that we fall in love, or at least into a good strong like. Failing that, we can at least hope for a companionable silence.

You know what though, I have a really good feeling about this.

Where to from here?

Where to from here?

Denver is a great place to have an extended layover. We’ve been here for three days now, trying to recharge our batteries and relax and see some sights. Our first sights were primarily the inside of shops, lots of lovely American shops. Our luggage is in Minneapolis and we are in Denver so some shopping was inevitable. And after a year or so in New Zealand where choice is limited and prices are sky high, it was mind blowing to find great winter jackets for the kids on sale for $20. Delicious.

Call me shallow, but it was so very, very good to go and have a cup of coffee and a cake in Barnes and Noble’s, then let the kids hang out in the children’s section for an hour. Just like the olden days. We feel like we’re home, America feels right and it feels good.

Alas we can’t stay in a hotel forever, although it would be quite lovely for a wee while longer. We need to get on with finding a place to lay our (many, new) hats and call home. Currently we’re thinking Portland, Maine looks good, and we’re looking for a property finding miracle.

We have to check out tomorrow so we will have to make some decisions today. We are booked on a flight to Chicago mid-afternoon. We may or may not get on that flight, but we do need to track down our bags. Maybe we should stay on the west side of the country until the bitter winter storms ease up everywhere else… Decisions, decisions.

One foot in front of the other. It’s all good.

Back in the USA!

A million moons ago we had a fitful nights sleep in Auckland, New Zealand. Since then we have had a pancake breakfast at our neighbour’s house, and wept. Deconstructed and sold the baby’s cot and our bed. Ferried a tone of furniture out to various neighbour’s houses, and wept. Sold our not-so-trusty minivan in the nick of the time back to the dealership with merely $73.20 left for us to pay on the loan, and did not weep. Almost left the stroller in the back of the minivan which would have made me weep. Said goodbye to our fabulous set of neighbours many times and wept. Forgot to say goodbye to our cat who self-selected to move to the neighbour’s house rather than move with us. Emptied out our house as best we possibly could, racing against the clock all the way. Turned away the cleaners who came at noon because the very tired baby was finally asleep and we still hadn’t emptied the house. Packed up seventy metric tonnes of our stuff into four giant bags, one carry on and four backpacks. Piled up our bags outside the house, said some more goodbyes. Texted a neighbour to ask her to empty the food out of the cupboards and fridge. Texted the realtor to tell him not to panic, our neighbour would finish the clearance. Said one last set of goodbyes (for the record this was all with the same three households) and left in a minibus taxi.

$200 in excess luggage fees and an Air New Zealand ticketing employee so helpful I hugged her, we were ready to go to security. We were so much THAT FAMILY with too much luggage and a screaming baby and bags falling over and contents spilling and oh my goodness just one step in front of the other. A sushi lunch and some souvenirs for the girls, and for the first time we felt like we could almost relax.

A twelve hour flight. As good as we could have hoped. Entry into the US and going through immigration needing to get Louisa, our baby born in New Zealand, permanent residence. All of our fears and all of the horror stories we’d been led to believe faded away. We were through customs with a visa in less than 15 minutes. Unbelievably lovely officers, super sensitive to the fact that we’d been travelling with three kids all day. An absolute ray of sunshine and a weight lifted.

A shuttle to the terminal. A ridiculously rude ineffective check in. Hot dogs and bagels in the terminal. A 90 minute delay on our flight to Denver. A certain missed connection to Minneapolis. Another hour on the plane on the runway waiting to leave. And now, we are in the air. Exhausted but happy. We’re all watching TV. The girls are watching the same cartoons they watched in New Zealand. Lars is watching his beloved and well-missed ESPN. Louisa is thankfully sleeping. And I am trying to process where we’ve been and where we we going.

Leaving New Zealand and moving back to America was this giant unknown. We might not have wanted what we had, but we knew what we had and there is a great comfort in that. And actually as soon as the girls finished school for the year, and Lars finished work for good, we started to relax a bit and have a much better time. The sun was shining, Auckland is undoubtedly a beautiful city. The act of leaving meant that we were aware of the transience of what we had. We spent much more quality time with our neighbours and we did our best to revisit some of our favorite spaces and places. The last six weeks have been tricky and uncertain and odd, but they have also ensured that we will go back to Auckland. We will revisit the good friends that we have made and we will go back and visit the parts of New Zealand that we never got to.

We have to go easy on ourselves though. This last year has been quite the venture. On the one hand I’m so sad that we didn’t get to see the whole country, but on the other hand, this year was not the time. An emigration, a new school, a new job, a new baby, a new house. Perhaps not the best year for travel. And now, we’ve left it behind. We bring an experience and friendships and a widened world view home with us. And now we have to make a new home. So where do we go from here?

The airline will put us up in a hotel in Denver tonight. We’ve never been to Colorado, so that’s pretty exciting. We had a hotel room booked in Minneapolis for the next couple of nights, but that’s ok. We’re going to try and be the kind of people who go with the flow. Maybe we will go to the east coast via Minneapolis, maybe we will come back in spring after the great thaw of 2014. It feels right. It all feels right. We’re back, and this adopted country of ours is home.

When we made the decision to move back we consciously chose to think of it as a series of small steps, one after the other. We didn’t want to get overwhelmed and we couldn’t plan too far in advance. So we sit here in the air flying above this great nation not really knowing what lies ahead of us. It might not be easy but it’s going to be good. Great in fact. It seems extraordinarily fitting that little Louisa has just started putting her steps together and learning to walk. She falls, she tumbles. She stands up and loses confidence. She delights herself when it works without even necessarily knowing what it is that she is trying to do. And she falls again. But she gets up again and again and again. And she will succeed in walking and running and living her life to the full. As will we. It really is going to be awesome.

Difficult Does Not Mean Impossible (How our Indiegogo campaign became a metaphor for our life)

Difficult Does Not Mean Impossible (How our Indiegogo campaign became a metaphor for our life)

In the beginning, there was an idea to move from America to New Zealand. It started as an inkling, an opportunity, a job posting. An application was put in, a phone interview took place. And then Lars was called to interview. A university in Auckland wanted to fly him over 9000 miles to see if he was a good fit for the position. Lars flew, he presented, he was wined and dined, he was offered the job. Meanwhile, back in Minneapolis, I was looking after the two big girls, and riding the lasting waves of morning sickness, I was about 4 months pregnant. We were in the home we wanted to stay in forever, we had plans. Our plans had never involved moving to New Zealand, and then suddenly they did.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t want to move our growing family to a place that I’d never been, but we decided that if we didn’t try it, we’d never know. And so we packed up and left. It was heartbreaking, but Auckland surprised me in a good way. Perhaps we can do this I thought to myself. Perhaps this will be ok.

Fast forward a year and a bit and obviously we’re leaving. Auckland is an amazing city, I love to go downtown and just be, just hang out and feel like you’re part of something dynamic and exciting. There’s a whole side to the city that we’ve never experienced, of course. With three small children, no babysitter and limited funds, the fancier restaurants and bars are pretty much behind an invisible curtain, but I can imagine that living here under different circumstances could be all sorts of wonderful. But for us, the decision to leave was both straight-forward and agonizing. We would leave behind the hopes and dreams and the opportunity, and walk into the unknown.

Deciding to leave was the easy part in many ways. The rest of it requires a huge leap of faith. We’re not woo-woo people, by and large, which is why we’re having to undergo this massive shift in mindset in order to get through the journey ahead.

If we believe that this is going to be difficult then it probably will be. If we think that it will be impossible then we’re pretty much ensuring that it will be.

And so, goddammit, we’re going to make it work. We’re going to make it awesome. It will be awesome because we say it will be. And we are both really freaking stubborn people when we put our minds to it.

Around the time that we decided to leave, we realised that we were effectively trapped here. It cost a gazillion dollars (approximately) to move our family over here. The university paid for an enormous amount, but we certainly contributed a hefty, hefty share. We ended up giving away a ton of stuff in the US, small appliances, kitchen equipment, furniture, clothes so that what we had would fit in the small shipping container that the university allowed in the budget.

Auckland is expensive, really, really expensive. Rent here for a small, dark, damp house was twice the cost of our three storey, four bedroom house with front and back garden in Minneapolis. Everything seems to cost at least twice what we are used to paying. All the stuff that we gave away in America, we gradually tried to replace over here for three and four times the cost. We were always running behind financially, living from paycheck to paycheck in a way that we had never anticipated when Lars was offered this fancy-pants, seemingly well-paid job. Which is all to say that living here has been financially tricky, and our savings account is woefully empty.

So, how could we leave? Flights out for five seemed to range from around $6000 to $9000. Quotes to ship back our stuff ranged from $5,000 for just boxes up to $19,000 for everything. With credit cards maxed out and few ways left to turn, we decided to start a new business venture, fast. We had been making recipes into paintings from the year when we cooked along with Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats, A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners. We took the images and created a new website, The Rachael Ray Project. From there, we decided to widen the reach of the endeavour so that people can have any recipe made into a painting, so we created The Recipe Painting Project. We got a couple of orders in which was a huge boost, and the plan was to start heavily marketing the ventures. But heavily marketing a new venture, looking after three children and getting ready to emigrate are not necessarily things that can all happen at the same time. At the end of each day once all the kids are finally tucked up, I’m ready to sleep and dragging myself back to work seems like a hard slog.

Some of the wisest advice I get comes from my Biz Ladies, three smart cookies across the world who I have never met in real life, but they are a lifeline to me. We get together on Skype every couple of weeks to brainstorm and cheerlead and problem-solve, and they pretty much always have wining ideas. But when they suggested that Lars and I crowdsource the journey home I was skeptical. It seemed so ask-y, so in-your-face, so vulnerable. What if we came across as losers? What if no one gave more than a pity penny? What if we failed with a capital F? But really, deep within those doubts, it also seemed like an excellent idea.

Researching successful crowdsourcing campaigns, I kept coming across quotes saying things like “we spent six months preparing our campaign and worked with a team of designers, PR firms and virtual assistants to ensure that it was a success.” I was afraid. Other people advised “make sure that you prime your extensive mailing list in advance so that your strongest supporters will back you on the first day”. Ok. Yes. That. That would work if we had an extensive mailing list.

So instead we came up with a project, we decided to make The Bacon Sandwich Visual Cookbook, probably the world’s first bacon sandwich-based art-cookbook hybrid. We borrowed our neighbours house, filmed a video, edited it, wrote a description and launched. And amazingly, people pledged! Some small, some large, one magnificent. People came. They showed up and they showed us that we’re in their thoughts. You back crowd funding campaigns because you either believe in the person, or the project. It all comes down to belief. Belief that by offering your support, you can be part of making something great. Words can’t really describe what it means or how it feels when someone from your past quietly makes a donation. We’ve been incredibly touched by support from people that we never imagined would come forward. It’s been mind-blowing.


We’ve raised just over $4000 to date. With the amazing support of 51 strangers, friends, colleagues and former students (oh how magnificently students have stepped up to the plate) we have got this far. $4000 is immense, truly. When we set up the campaign, we set our target at an ambitious $14,000. We figured that amount would be difficult, but not impossible to raise, and it would allow us to fly home, set up a basic studio and complete this project. We’re almost at 30%. It’s huge, a few weeks ago I never would have imagined that we could get this far, but here we are.

Right now, we have two timelines or countdowns simultaneously running in our heads. The fundraiser ends in five days. All being well we’re getting on a plane in eleven days. There’s so much going on that there’s almost nothing going on. We have so much to do that we’re barely getting anything done. We’re trying to experience Auckland as a family before we go and yet there’s the constant feeling that we should be pushing more, posting more, doing more, packing more. We should be having more fun, banking more memories, doing more impressive stuff. People keep asking us what we’ve seen and where we’ve been and what we’re going to do before we leave. We can’t help but feel inadequate when the answer to all of those questions is not island-hopping or bungee-jumping or trail-walking or hot-spring-adventuring. We’ve seen Auckland, we’d like to see more of Auckland, and then we will be leaving Auckland. While we do that we are also running a huge crowdfunding campaign, ideally without annoying too many people with our incessant Facebook posting. Plus we are trying to find a place to call home in a country we haven’t yet returned to, in a city that we’ve never yet been.

It’s almost too much to process. So instead, we’re trying our very best to stay upbeat, to remain positive, to choose to believe that it’s all going to be more than ok. We could look at the length of time left on our Indiegogo campaign, see how far we still have to go and just give up. We could look at how daunting it is to move to yet another new city and throw in the towel. We could decide that none of it is going to work, that it’s all over, that it is too hard, we could label it as impossible.

Or we could choose success. Yes, we have a huge way to go to reach our fundraising goal, but it’s doable. Maybe it’s difficult, maybe not, but it’s not impossible. And yes, moving the family one more time but without the security of a traditional job is daunting but not impossible. Everything is possible Seriously. Maybe it looks crazy from the outside, maybe people think we’re nuts, but we have decided to believe.

I believe in the power of people, in community, in support. When we work together we can do amazing things. And I believe that individuals can change their lives phenomenally from the inside. For the next year our plan is to move, settle down, and create a home and a life that works for us. It may be unconventional, it may turn out to be nothing like we imagine, but it will be ours. We will rebuild from within, one day at a time. And when our foundation is strong, we’ll be there building a community.

One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. Walk to the edge. Hold hands. Close your eyes and leap into the unknown. And trust that the wind has got your back.

If you’d like to be part of our epic journey, please share the campaign with your network. If you’d like to be thought of with huge smiles and virtual hugs, please donate to The Bacon Sandwich Visual Cookbook campaign on Indiegogo.

Nineteen Days (A list of things I should probably be thinking about)

Nineteen Days (A list of things I should probably be thinking about)

Apparently we have a semi-plan. In nineteen days we may well be jetting back from New Zealand to the USA. If all the things that are dancing around up in the air neatly align and fall into place in the Tetris stylee, then we are indeed out of here. We will know in eight days if it’s time to go, and if it is, we will have eleven days to figure everything out. Right now it seems very doable, very matter of fact even, but I can feel a vague sense of panic circling in the periphery in a slightly sinister fashion.

So what is there to do to keep the panic at bay but make lists? And in the absence of enough mental focus to make the actual lists, I’m going to compile my uber-list of things that I will need to make lists about right here. And if the first step in getting help is admitting that you have a problem, then I’m going to come out with my biggest problem right now and get it into the open. It is the second of January, 2014 and I am delighted to say that this year I do indeed have in my possession the ultimate diary/ planner/ journal. It’ll probably make my life this year amazing just by it’s shear existence. But, alas, I do not have the correct pen. I have pens, yes, but none of them are quite perfect enough to write in the diary. So the planner is still pristine.

My name is Helen and I have a stationery-centered procrastination problem.

Ah, much better. Back to the matter at hand. Lists. Yes. Here we go.


  • Buy a pen (Not just any pen, a fine, black ink pen, preferably gel)

  • Write something in the diary (neatly, I do not want to have to buy a new diary because I messed it up)

  • Probably go back and write down the things I’ve already done this week and then cross them off (neatly) in a slightly smug fashion

  • The diary has space for ten goals for 2014. Think of some

  • Try not to decide half way through writing down the goals that they are lame (see earlier, no new diary because I messed it up)



  • Decide where to fly to + what route to take

  • Figure out how to entertain the baby in a seat. On a plane. For hours and hours.

  • Figure out how to pay for tickets

  • Buy tickets


  • Make a list of stuff to pack in suitcases

  • Make a list of stuff to take on the flights

  • Decide what to keep and what to sell and what to give away

  • Decide for once and for all if the furniture comes with us, or is sold and replaced

  • Likewise the mixer and the toaster…

  • Get all the moving quotes in and choose a company

  • Figure out how to pay to ship stuff half way round world

  • Book and pay for the shipping of the stuff

  • Keep the coffee machine out until the very last second


  • Decide definitively where we should live

  • Find a house to live in

  • Figure out what to do in between flying back and moving in somewhere

  • Find a school for the big kids

  • Figure out logistics of a studio space


  • How do we get to Ikea?

  • How does Ikea get stuff to us?

  • What do we need to get straight away?

  • What sort of menace will the baby make if she’s not in a cot?

  • How do we make the kids rooms seem like their own immediately?


  • Make sure to say goodbye to people this time

  • Make sure the kids understand, adjust and are settled

  • Walk round Target and lick stuff (kidding! I’m just going to roll around in the aisle basking in the sweet fluorescent glow of Choice)

  • That’s all I can think of for now. So, I think it’s obvious that I need to prioritise. So first thing tomorrow, come what may, I’m definitely going to go on a pen-hunt. Those goals for the year aren’t going to write themselves.

    PS If you want to help with the paying of the flights, please feel free to contribute to and share the word about our Indiegogo campaign. Only 13 days left of incessant Facebook posting!

    Home is… where you say it is?

    Home is… where you say it is?

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the notion of home, and how we create that sense in both our minds and in our physical space.

    They say home is where the heart is, but as people live more and more mobile lives, by choice or through circumstance, the definition of home becomes more and more difficult to define and harder to encapsulate. Little pieces of place and experience all form some shape-shifting sense of “home”, which is both everywhere and nowhere.

    Where are you from? It’s complicated.

    Is home where you were born? In that case I am home in Britain, my husband is home in Denmark, our two eldest are home in America and our youngest is home right here in New Zealand. Our three children then all have their sense of home dictated by happenstance, by our location at the time of their birth. This seems somewhat erratic now that there are two different home countries in the mix for one set of siblings.

    Perhaps home is defined by your passport, which becomes even more random according to the rules of your country of birth. Our eldest two are American because they were born there, regardless of their parents heritage. Our youngest is not a New Zealander because she was born there but her parents weren’t citizens or permanent residents (but if she’d been born there before 2006 she’d have been a New Zealander, but before 1949 she’d have been a Brit…). Either way, the youngest of our tribe still doesn’t share her home with her sisters, instead her home is in Britain, a home she inherited from me, despite never having been there.

    Or is home where you grow up, or where you spend the majority of your time? And if so, what happens when you’ve been away from that home longer than you lived there? What happens when you keep moving?

    And what happens when you have a young family and you are desperate for you all to share the same sense of home, is spite of location and nationality? As a family unit we cannot all have a different sense of home, can we? I suppose that Louisa, who is only 14 months, probably has the purest sense of home. She has no sense of different continents or culture or nationality or nostalgia or loss. Her home is wherever we all are. When we are all together, she is home.

    That definition is delightfully uncomplicated, and I so much wish that we could all adopt that sentiment. But for us grown ups, at least, it’s more difficult. We were in the States for 11 years and for much of that time I thought of “home” as being in the UK. A mix-match of Whitley Bay, my childhood home-town, Tynemouth, my teenage-years home (where my mum still lives, so it will always be our UK base), and Edinburgh, my chosen-home for University and beyond.

    For the first couple of years, America was just where we lived, but eventually it became home in the more traditional sense of the word. We would have to qualify which home we were talking about in discussions, home-Europe or home-America.

    We moved to the States with not much more than our books and records. Our things needed a space to rest and so we started all over again, making our house into a home. Slowly over time, via Ikea, we created our space, our sanctuary. We made each house that we lived in into a home, our home. As a friend once mentioned, all our houses look the same. Different countries, different cities, different housing styles, but always the same interior aesthetic. And it is that sense of how we live that always created our space and defined our home.

    A house for us became a home when our stuff was there with us, when the artwork was on the walls, the books were on the shelves and the stereo was functioning. Even when we were surrounded by boxes amidst utter chaos, sitting on the floor with a beer and takeaway food, we were home. It never failed us.

    When we moved to New Zealand, we assured the kids that as we were all going to be here together, everything would be fine. Our stuff would arrive three months after us, but we were all together and so we had everything that we need, right here. We stayed in a hotel while we found somewhere to live. Even though the hotel room was teensy, we actually did have everything we needed. We were on a big adventure with our two brave kids and my enormous belly, their almost-here baby sister.

    Once we found a house to rent we bought beds and a horribly uncomfortable cheap sofa. We made tables out of cardboard boxes and awaited the arrival of the baby and our stuff. Perhaps we were more excited about the sofas arriving… The baby came and it was wonderful for her to finally be here with us, but it didn’t really feel like we were bringing her home from the hospital, more that we were just picking her up and taking her somewhere where we happened to be living.

    We were all unsettled, and understandably so. Moving country and starting a new life with a new job and a new school and a new baby within a six week time-span is not exactly a walk in the park for anyone. We told ourselves it would all get better and it was all going to be ok. We were sure it would, and we were positive that once our stuff arrived everything would improve in leaps and bounds.

    Our excitement was tangible. On the day our shipping container was due to arrive I was expecting a call to say that they would be here in ten minutes. I got the call, but was told that our container was full of cobwebs and they’d need to fumigate instead of deliver. We were so disappointed. But we’d been without our stuff for over three months, we could do a few more days…

    The funniest thing happened. Our stuff arrived and it was wonderful to have our sofas and our books and our artwork. The kids were delighted to see their soft toys and books and games again. But our furniture from our old life was far, far too big for the house we were renting. Nothing really fitted, which made everything awkward. Our two sofas had to be jammed together to fit in the same room, so someone always ended up getting their legs trapped in the tiny gap. Our bookshelves were mammoth in the space, and the fact that they were crammed in the dining area meant that you couldn’t really move your chair in or out from the table. The stuff that we had craved for so long just made daily life more awkward. Where once there had been empty spaces and room to breathe, we now had all this annoying clutter. Our house looked like our home but it still didn’t feel like it.

    At some point we thought that maybe we’d feel better if we bought our own place, so that we could paint it and make it our own without asking for permission from someone else. We jumped through hoops, we moved once more. Our stuff was still too big, our lives still didn’t fit into the house, but it felt better. We put excess furniture into storage under the house and created an office/ dining/ studio/ bedroom. It wasn’t ideal, but it was ok. Surely the elusive sense of “home” would be with us soon. Any day now. Really, it must be on it’s way.

    But it didn’t come. What followed was an acute sense of longing and loss. We’d given up too much, our chosen country, our friends, our lifestyle, our sense of ease. It wasn’t just the lack of space, or the lack of insulation, or the lack of a garden which grated, it was the lack of our own lives. We had our stuff, we had our little family. We should have had all that we needed. And yet we didn’t. We just wanted to go home.

    America was the place where we created our home, where we made our own space and defined it by our togetherness. We had made traditions and memories, activities and thoughts which transcended walls. By moving away from America, we realised just how much of what we’d had had been given away. We thought we had just left behind pans and cake tins, outgrown clothes and unloved books. We thought our family of friends, our memories and our sense of place would come with us in our hearts. We hoped they would be enough to sustain us while we started over.

    Unfortunately it felt like we left too much behind and didn’t find enough here to replace it. We were always looking backwards to what we left, not forwards into the future. In New Zealand we feel fragmented, there are too many pulls in too many directions. We want to make it work, we want to leave. We want to settle, we want to be elsewhere. We are all finding and defining own own sense of community as we simultaneously pull away from it.

    Now that we have made the difficult decision to leave behind everything we moved here for, there is a sense of loss, but there is a lightness, a sense of hope. We are in many ways coming to terms with a loss and grieving a dream. We put an opportunity on a pedestal and decided that it would be our dream. But it wasn’t. Admitting that it wasn’t our dream was both crushingly difficult and immensely liberating. If this wasn’t what we wanted then we didn’t have to suffer any more to make it work. We could leave it behind. We could walk away and we wouldn’t have to keep looking back. We could create something new.

    And it is with that immense sense of relief and hope and opportunity that we are making the next step. As of today, the 22nd of December, we do not yet know when we are leaving or how we are leaving or what we will take or exactly where we will end up. We’re ok with that. We have to be, but this time it isn’t a forced acceptance, it’s a genuine acceptance. The next part will be difficult, but that’s ok, it’s all par for the course. We hope to leave in the next two or three weeks but we have to be patient and trust that all the parts that need to fall into place will do that soon. We will go when we go.

    When we get to wherever we are going, we are going to find a house and make it our family home. We need a place where we can all just be, where we can sit quietly in the stillness and absorb this crazy journey that our lives have followed. We need the space and time and calm to be ourselves, to redefine who we are when we aren’t stressed or anxious or feeling like fish out of water. We need a space that is a refuge, an oasis of predictability in an uncertain world.

    When you are always anticipating just one more move, it is almost impossible to concentrate on living the life you have right now. The grass always seems greener, the opportunities more plentiful on the other side. As a massive part of our quest for happiness we are prioritising finding a place to call home, where we can abandon ideas of moving again unless we really, really want to.

    Home is what you carry around inside you. Home is your sense of self. For us, home will always be a mixed bag of spaces and places and experiences and people from all over the world. We need to find a house to hold that, a physical space to attach to the mental space. We will find one, we will create one, we will figure it all out. Because we’re all here and we’re all coming and we have everything we need, right here, in our hearts and with each other.