Old Shed Turned Beautiful Kids’ Clubhouse

Did you ever dream of having a clubhouse as a kid? I did. The closest I got to a clubhouse is when my grandma would pull everything out of her shed at their cottage on Georgian Bay and we’d have a Teddy Bear’s picnic. Those were the days.

So in 2021 when I found this adorable house near the lake in Burlington, which we now call The Beach House, one of the selling features for my kids, (especially my three girls), was this old shed on the property that we planned to turn into a beautiful clubhouse.

So, last summer, true to my word we made it happen. We gave it a good clean, hired a painter and had them paint it to match our other shed, which I had already had painted to match our house.



I had my oldest daughter Beau go with me to shop for the furniture and accessories which ended up making the space perfect and simply adorable. I must say, the inner child in me is a touch jealous, and I am so glad I was able to create this special space for my kids.

Table, chairs, rug and pillows are from JYSK. Accessories are from Dollarama and Ikea.

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Derailed By Life And What I Am Doing About It

This post is part 2 of a two part series. You can read part one here: Expectations Of the “Default Parent” And The Unrealistic Pressure On Moms Of Kids And Teens

Let’s talk about what being “derailed” looks like for me and what I am going to do about it…

My biggest obstacle lately is life. That sounds sooo dramatic, but it’s true.

I will be going along, eating well, exercising, having a put together house, filling all the emotional cups, excelling in my career and then life comes a knocking… a kid sick, or especially since the pandemic… an anxious kid, an unavoidable social commitment, or a repair needing to be done.

I rarely crumble under the pressure of life and I have become better at saying no and grasping that as a solo mom my available time is pretty much cut in half. I will be trying soooo hard to do everything well that although I mentally am handling it, my body says, “nice try lady… here’s a migraine” or “here’s a SIBO flare up.”

Then all of sudden I am physically taken out of the game so to speak.

I need to clear my schedule, or put off chores, or eat whatever my body can handle, or skip the next few days of exercise and move into survival mode.

Wasn’t I done survival mode once my kids got a little older? Apparently not.

Recently I took a step back to look at the big picture and accepted that this is life, or at least my life and I cannot just eliminate stress or how my body processes it. But I need to learn how to manage it more than I have been, so I have started doing some things to create a net to catch me, a fail-safe.

Now before I get into all of these solutions, I want to be real for a minute. I started this post weeks ago and am now finishing it in the midst of a big derailment thanks to unavoidable social commitments (way too many in a row for this introvert) and a season of my kids fighting more than usual. I am currently on day four (which typing it out feels so small, but living it feels like a lifetime) of survival mode and today I am slowly climbing my way out of it and putting these solutions in place.


I am going to say this and really hear me out… meal plan and batch cook on weekends if possible. This for me is massive. Due to picky eaters and my sensitive gut, I cannot always be eating the same dinners as my kids, so typically on Sunday I will batch cook 3-4 meals for myself a week. I make sure they are really healthy and satisfying.

Lately that has been fish, steamed spinach, quinoa, another steamed or roasted green vegetable and roasted sweet potato. You have no idea how much I thank “Sunday-me” when I am totally spent and not only have a meal ready for me and not extra dishes, but it’s healthy and keeps me on track with my clean eating which in turn prevents SIBO flare ups.


I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person. I have been my whole life. So I am constantly fighting against that urge. That’s exercise for me. I will go hard and daily and then get derailed and take big breaks. This wasn’t working. So lately I have been making specific goals each week and focusing on a minimum of 3 good workouts with some kind of movement most other days.

When I reach my luteal phase I switch it up to walks and yoga. And on days when I physically cannot workout because I am beyond spent or am dealing with a migraine or SIBO Flare up, I am kind to myself and take a break. But then I get back to it as soon as I am well again.

Living with Migraines

The older I get, the more consistent my migraines are. I am finally learning to live with them. I know my triggers… stress, heat, wine (during certain times of the month), over-doing upper body exercise without stretching before and after and laying down to rest too much. I my friends, am a delicate flower.

But really understanding my many triggers has helped me a lot to prevent full-blown migraines. I stay in-tune with my body as much as possible and that is half the battle. But here’s what I do to minimize, or heal them:

  • Take 2 Advil Migraine pills before I get one but when I know I am vulnerable
  • Eat nuts, especially almonds
  • Put an ice pack on my neck and a heating pad on my hips
  • Move. It is so tempting to lay down but that is the worst thing I can do for it
  • Drink lots of water
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Drink coffee
  • Eat complex carbs and avoid refined sugar
  • Put Voltaren Extra Strength on my neck and shoulders and repeat as needed
  • Stretch

Lastly is keeping a clean house. Here is my advice to you about this one. Your house will ebb and flow. Do what you can when you can. Also, purge your stuff and give everything a home. I am constantly purging and rarely buy anything new.

Life will happen. Focus on what’s in your control and in the meantime, be KIND to you yourself.

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Expectations Of the “Default Parent” And The Unrealistic Pressure On Moms Of Kids And Teens

“I cannot catch a break!” I said defeatedly to mom friends last week as we walked from our parked cars and houses to the school. “I hear you.” was the reply from all of them.

This is almost a daily conversation… another one of our kids was sick or it’s the appointments, kids needing to be picked up from school, a car needs to be fixed, and more and more and more.

All while juggling our careers and yet somehow trying to figure out how to have dinner on the table, exercise, eat healthy and keep our houses clean and more and more and more.

Moms… we are the default parent. And being a solo parent myself, I feel that even more. Sunday to Friday, when my kids live at my house, I am the mom and the dad. My partner Ben and I live in separate houses during the week to each parent our kids separately.

My mom friends and I are all in our mid thirties to forties and have school aged kids and teens. I think the difference now is that when my kids were really little and in diapers, less was expected of us in a way. My focus was to raise my babies and anything else was gravy.

Now don’t get me wrong, being a mom to a baby or toddler has its own exhausting and relentless hamster wheel, but somehow we weren’t expected to do and accomplish so much then.

Now that my four kids are in school and are getting older the expectations are greater, but the schedule and unpredictability of life keeps expanding. Throw in a lower capacity courtesy of the pandemic and the result is we are spread too thin.

How did we get here? I think a lot has to do with societal expectations and if you think about our generation, we had our babies at a time when the mom as the default parent wasn’t challenged like it is now, so we are kind of fighting against history.

I also think we put a lot of the expectations on ourselves. Here we are out of the baby and toddler fog and trenches… this is our time to rise, rediscover who we are, reconnect with the forgotten friendships and advance in our career.

So when we are still so held back and being pulled in so many directions it can feel frustrating.

This reality really sunk in for me over the last couple weeks and I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. Although frustrating, in the end I always try to focus on what is in my control.

What is in my control is saying NO more. No to social commitments, no to my kids (including picking them up from school when it’s not necessary), and no to hosting as much.

I think more than anything what helps is acknowledging that I am constantly trying to do the impossible and sacrificing myself over and over again. This has allowed me to create more boundaries and has given me the confidence to stop the people pleasing and allow myself to be first more often.

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Stepping Out of the Spotlight and Building a Thriving New Business

“Visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear. From it. From us. For a while. And see what comes to you in the silence.” – Michaela Coel

I have spent the past year and a half building The Water Cooler alongside my Co-Founder (and boyfriend) Ben, and our amazing team including Jess, our Creative Director.

You may remember that about six months ago I made some big announcements about Nesting Story coming back and new team members and contributors helping me. But soon after that I realized that I was trying to do WAY TOO MUCH!

The saying you can’t do it all is so true.

On top of trying to nourish two businesses, I also had two teams to manage and of course, four kids… two of which needed a little extra attention during that time.

If you have followed me for a while, especially on Instagram you know I am a Greys Anatomy super fan, and I often pull advice and life lessons from episodes of that show. Kind of like how Tom Hanks’ character in You’ve Got Mail gives Meg Ryan’s character advice from his favourite movie The Godfather… “go to the mattresses.”

In Season 4, Episode 17, Freedom Pt 2 of Grey’s Anatomy, Bailey makes the hard decision to give Izzy the keys to the clinic. Bailey has seen the bigger picture. She loves the clinic, but she doesn’t love it as much as she loves surgery, being Chief Resident or her family. She’s seen the bigger picture and she can’t do everything and still have everything, so she has to let some pieces go.

I had seen the bigger picture and I had to let some pieces go. One of those pieces was Nesting Story… at least Nesting Story as a business.

Although sad, there was also this feeling of relief. Not only was I freeing up time for myself, but also I was taking the pressure off of myself of having to share so much of my life, allowing me to have more privacy.

I was also able to remove myself from the spotlight of being a Content Creator/Influencer, which is not my favourite and focus on creating something I am passionate about… building brands, helping businesses tell their story online and creating tools to empower small businesses to effectively use social media to market and grow their community.

The Water Cooler has gone through some transformations since launching in 2021 and I am so proud of where it is now. We narrowed our focus (branding, social media, video editing and YouTube management), and Jess and I have spent the last four months creating The Water Cooler Academy, consisting of a series of online courses and a monthly membership, as well as now offering one-on-one coaching.

Jessica Rickus, Creative Director and Joanna Fowler, CEO and Co-Founder of The Water Cooler.

I am beyond proud of the roster of incredible clients we have, our team and the Academy and know that as we complete the chapter of quietly building, we can now focus on growing, teaching and being more visible.

Now that I don’t pursue brand partnerships with Nesting Story and I do not have the pressure of creating content and sharing my story with the pressure of growth and generating an income, I think I may actually feel like sharing here from time to time. I definitely have a lot I’d like to talk about, and honestly, I miss blogging.

I am definitely not ready to go back to YouTube. At least not like I used to. It feels too exposed. But here, where it all started has this feeling of coming home. Of integrity and like I am connecting in a really authentic way while still honouring my boundaries.

Actually just before writing this I poured through the most recent comments left on some of my blog posts. It made me remember what I used to love about pouring my heart out in this format. That feeling of knowing I cannot be the only one experiencing this.

Okay. I’ve gone on for a while now. But I have shared here the way I love to share… just letting it flow as if I am catching up with a friend over coffee. So, I’ll see ya around?

I am still very active over on my Nesting Story Instagram stories, so head on over there to check in. xo

Following Your Passion – Meet Maria

I am so excited to join Nesting Story as a contributing blogger. Drawing from my experience as a scientist, skincare formulator, entrepreneur, garden grower, mother, wife and overall beauty enthusiast, I will be writing about all things beauty, nature and balance. I wanted to introduce myself and tell you a bit about how I came to the place that I am in my life.

Picture this: you’re 12 years old and you get an assignment at school. The teacher offers you two scenarios- You can only pick one and explain why you picked that one. You have to pick between an activity after school: dance vs violin lessons. You can only pick one, the one you want to do the most. Well this was me at 12 years old and you know what I said? I wanted to do both! Yes, I could take violin lessons and dance because I loved both things equally. I remember my teacher coming back to me and telling me that wasn’t the assignment. He wanted me to just pick one side. I still remember that lesson so clearly. It’s one or the other, but, “why can’t I have both?” I thought. I’ve been that person since I could remember, always seeking a balance between two sides.

As a child, I moved quite a bit – different schools, different cities, and different countries. At 12 years old, we settled in Canada. The theme of adapting, changing, and balancing became more and more important to me as I grew up. Without balance and perspective, things can feel really difficult and unfair. Everything in life has a ying and a yang, an up and down, a dark and light. We are either in the beginnings, the middle or the end of our own life chapters. To me, balance comes from understanding where you are in life and making the most out of that place and time. It’s perspective.

Throughout school, my love had always been the sciences. I loved learning everything about the mechanisms that govern our being, whether it’s how brain cells work together or how two simple molecules interact to create a compound that we cannot live without. So naturally, my career centered towards research – neuroscience research to be exact. I studied the effects of hormones on the brain. I loved it – the unknowns, the troubleshooting, and finding an answer to a long-awaited question!

As I became a mother and my focused changed, I started to dream about creating something bigger, more personal, for me and my family, while at the same time spending more time doing the other things I loved, like being outside and growing a garden.

This is when my passion for science and nature started merging.

It all came together when we moved to a small farm outside of the city. Life was busy; but at the same time, things slowed down. The nature around us was so calming. I was inspired. I wanted to start a garden and create something beautiful – but I didn’t know what that was just yet.

My skincare routine was always something I looked forward to and a ritual I’ve had since I was in my teens. In fact, I find everything to do with beauty so relaxing – whether its applying a face mask, playing with makeup or doing my hair. There’s a power in beauty, a feeling it ignites, a confidence – not just from feeling beautiful, but from knowing how to care for yourself in a way that is personal to you.

This was it! I could combine my love for science and nature and create beautiful skincare products – products that would help other women fall in love with that self care time too. So I did. I grew flowers, learned how to extract their beneficial compounds, how to blend them with clinical ingredients, and eventually, how to created effective skincare formulas.

I took a chance and started a skincare brand, and I haven’t looked back since!

Blending my love of nature and science to create beautiful products is now my passion. It allows me to be creative, spontaneous, and dream big, while also requiring me to be organized and realistic. It’s the best of both worlds. I love creating something beautiful that helps others find a moment of balance and beauty in their lives.

I look forward to sharing my love for all things beauty with you.