Mom to Sebastian // Founder of LIFE AU LAIT
Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal
Recently we spent an idyllic day in Prince Edward County, or “The County” as the locals call it. We fell in love with the picturesque scenery, delicious food, the beautiful wines, and of course—the wonderful people. Lonelle Selbo was a fashionable city gal, through and through, then after her son was born she made a big move out to the country, launched a gorgeous digital magazine highlighting the best of the region, and has since fully embraced rural living. They say The County has the friendliest people and this rang true to us from the start, when Lonelle sent us her curated list of ‘must-dos’ for our day-trip, welcomed us with a big warm hug, and then insisted on switching seats with us at her farm table so that we could take in the waterfront view. We enjoyed a fabulous charcuterie board she ‘baked’ while chatting all things business and parenting.
Let’s start with your life in Toronto and your decision to move here to the County.
Well, I ran fashion and lifestyle magazines in Toronto before my son was born in the summer of 2014. I was literally on the phone with my team from the hospital while I was in labour, “Move that story to this section! Swap that photo out for this one!” But from the first moment I met my son Sebastian—it was over: I threw in the towel for mommy-hood and stayed with it until this year when he started Junior Kindergarten. My husband Mark, Sebastian and I moved out here in 2017. Our plan was to grab a hold of the Canadian dream and live a simple country life—but what we found here was so incredibly beyond that.
And this led to the the birth of a new child…LIFE AU LAIT!
Yes! LIFE AU LAIT was born in November, 2018, but behind the scenes it had been in the works for nearly 2 years and, honestly, there were a lot of minutes in that time when I thought it would never see the light of day. The second we landed in the County, I knew right away that I had to capture what it was like to live in this place and started mapping out the concept for the magazine, but work life looked so different here. I had no team, a tiny budget and the busiest, sweetest kid who needed my focus. With every week that ticked by, I felt more anxious about whether I was up to the job. The magazine had to represent what it meant to live here—it had to be perfect. Looking back at all that went right versus wrong, I realized that we all dream and we all hit roadblocks—but what is really important is to share them with each other, so we know we’re not alone when things get heavy, and to help us find the courage to keep pushing on.
So I pushed on. I slowed it down intentionally. I took baby steps, swallowing the guilt about this new pace. With just me behind the wheel, I wondered whether maybe LIFE AU LAIT should be a blog—but County life didn’t make sense exclusively in my voice. Plus I had lived and breathed magazines for more than 15 years and was still starry-eyed about weaving together great minds and voices to tell a story. In the beginning, I was the ‘everything’ of the magazine—creator, editor, designer, photographer, writer…as well as wife and mom.
Eventually LIFE AU LAIT launched to the most overwhelming show of love and support from so many and I realized that the more love you put into your work, the more you get back. Then in the new year, I got really lucky and found some of the best people to beef up the masthead and help spread the word about this magical place.
Everybody we ask says this is a very special community.
It is an incredible community. There is this really unique intersection of art, food, wine and culture. Sebastian goes to school in this amazing little country schoolhouse where the headmaster comes out to greet everybody, high fives the kids and knows all of their names—it’s such a tight knit group. I truly believe that everything you do in your life leads to you finding a place that just fits, and for me, this is the place.
How did the name LIFE AU LAIT, come about?
The early days of the brand started with the huge and eternal concept of ‘lait’—milk. Milk plays critical and controversial roles in both infancy and motherhood, it’s one of the most powerful industries in Canada and yet it’s an iconic part of the simple and sweet life. Those are all part of our experience of life and captures this beautiful chapter so very powerfully for me.
Living out here, as well as your background in a creative industry, must give you so much inspiration.
I pull inspiration from every single thing that happens around me, particularly here. Every person I meet is talented, driven, interesting, cool—they motivate me to always be better too. And I’m moved every time I look up to see this beautiful infinite lake view. The water here changes every single day—some days it’s a classic Lake Ontario, glassy and dark, sometimes it’s the aqua blue and has big waves, like the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes the sun and the moon glint off of it like diamonds, other days there are gigantic icebergs or sparkly ice slushies…and everything in between. Then there are the multi-coloured lilac forests, the streets lined with hollyhocks, the pop-up ponds in summer that ducks teach their ducklings to swim in…that turn into killer ice rinks in the winter. There is also culture and fun, amazing fledgling businesses run by incredible people working so hard to bring their passions to life so their children can live in this magical place. This stuff is inspiration by the heart-ful.
It sounds truly amazing. Is it even possible to say you have a favourite part of what you’re doing? Or do you love it all?
I’m really enjoying hanging out with all the great people in all the great places. I love getting out, exploring, doing something new every day and having beloved experiences to go back to on the regular. Being able to capture moments all day long with my family and my friends fills me with an insane amount of joy. Oh, and also, eating all the food and drinking all the wine with my amazing team-mate Kirstyn Mayers (also a mompreneur and owner of @outletfoodco and @pochettebloomfield).
What about some challenges?
It can be hard to run a business when we’re (my husband and I) both working from home. It’s so tempting to want to have more family time because we’re in such close proximity. And of course, it can also be difficult to be everywhere all the time—there are so many things that happen constantly around the County that I feel obligated (and really want to) to be present at, but of course, this just isn’t possible. So, learning to say ‘sorry, but no’ is a challenge for me!
Do you guys have a typical kind of day?
Our little dude opens his eyes somewhere between 6:45 and 7:15am and bursts into our bedroom in typical ‘Krameresque’ fashion. He’s very chatty in the mornings and we get a stream of random things coming at us about everything he’s been thinking about all night until one of us gives up and crawls out of bed to turn on the coffee. Mark makes breakfast and school lunch and I get Sebastian and myself ready and we slowly get our act together to leave the house for around 8:30. By the time we’ve dropped Sebastian at school and landed somewhere—either back home or in my “floating office” ie. somewhere cool in the County that I’m going to be working from that day, it’s about 10am and I have a solid 5 hours of work until I have to leave from wherever to pick him up again.
It’s a busy, but beautiful-sounding day. Do you have to make a concerted effort to make time for yourself between work and family life?
I feel like a pretty lucky person who basically gets to work every day doing my dream job or spend time with Mark and Sebastian, my number one faves. I’m a serial over-committer though, so sometimes I get burned out and totally crash emotionally and have to work from bed for a day, but I usually feel pretty self-indulgent about that considering my work week schedule reads something like: Barrel wine tasting with X winemaker / Restaurant opening, lunch with X chef / Charity gala for art auction / Floating office in mobile sauna / Beach shoot with pizza and kids / etc. I mean, stop complaining, right?! The thing is, while all the things I do here are amazing and beautiful, and wonderfully idyllic—my job is to exhibit something that represents someone’s livelihood, the embodiment of their hard labour, talent, and dreams. Because I take that job very seriously, I take on a lot of self-imposed pressure and sometimes need to force myself to step back and wind down.
What is your go-to dinner recipe?
I totally stink at cooking. My husband, however, is a former chef and he has a beautiful repertoire. I stick to creative, pretty stuff, like cheese & char boards.
Which you clearly excel at! Each item is so lovingly placed and artfully curated. Are you as organized with your work? Any tips for how to stay organized?
Organization is my lifelong challenge and especially after becoming a mom. I found that my focus was always only on Sebastian and everything else just flew out of my brain. Four years later, I’m pretty sure this is a permanent condition! These days I use a planner pretty religiously, take copious notes, and always remind everyone to remind me of basically everything constantly.
We live by our planners and we can’t seem to get completely away from analog!
Is there something in your closet that makes you feel great?
I have totally simplified my shoe collection since moving to the County and basically, I live in Blundstones all fall/winter because they go from the vineyard to the brewpub, and then slip ons in the warm season, like Natives or Soak slides that take me from town to beach with cuteness and no fuss. It’s insanely liberating to always be comfy, situation appropriate, and look cool enough—though not high fashion in your footwear. I’m loving it.
Are you loving on any Instagram accounts lately?
My friend Lauren from @thisrenegadelove is a forever inspiration. She’s a champion for all that’s good in the blogging industry, she’s a lovely human, and she takes beautiful, honest photos. Another person I love is Tara McMullen who’s just joined the LIFE AU LAIT team as our official photographer. She’s an incredible mom to the most wonderful little boy. She’s so talented and real and brilliant and her photos and captions about motherhood and life are so inspiring. Then there are the gajillions of winemakers and chefs and farmers and makers and other County gems that make up the balance of my Instagram follows…
Being a city girl, would you ever move back to Toronto or is it PEC for life?
As you can probably tell, I’m pretty smitten with The County. When we planned to move here we planned to live our lives in the countryside and travel regularly to all the great cities we love across the globe. While we do travel a little—mostly to New York and London (my husband is English and all of his family are there), I’ll admit that we’ve stuck pretty close to home since moving. Between the beach, food, wine, and culture…it’s a hard sell to leave.
It sounds like the County has a plethora of cool peeps living and working here and it feels like you know most of them! Is there anyone you’d really love to meet that you haven’t yet?
This year it’s David Frum. He has a place in the County and he’s a great political writer. I’m totally not—I typically distance myself from politics—but I love talking to great people about great things they know and (since Hitchens is off the table) I’d love to sit down, drink wine, and chat politics and life with David!
What are some things about being an entrepreneur in PEC that you feel are unique to the area/environment?
There’s an interesting landscape here because a lot of the business is seasonal, so people hustle really hard in the low season to stay afloat and never get to stop moving in the high one. Our magazine exists for both the locals and the tourists, so there isn’t ever a down time, but the reality of the number of tourist-reliant businesses here that we support isn’t lost on me and is something we always have to consider in how we approach our content at different times of the year.
Have you noticed differences with your parenting style in PEC versus in Toronto?
I have definitely embraced the lifestyle and the pace here. In Toronto, I felt I didn’t connect with the community as much in the mommy playgroups where I was the only mom in a sea of nannies. I loved my ‘caregiver crew’, but I was missing that connection with other parents, where we could chat about our long terms goals for myself and my child. Out here in PEC the children’s amenities are amazing. There are a ton of other young families and we’re all going through similar things with our kids as they grow up together. And don’t get me wrong, we love country life, but believe that it isn’t always straightforward! There are septic tanks to deal with, bug clouds that come out in June, and a major influx of goose shit on the lawn when they get home from Florida in the spring. But we look at all of these things as great adventures and funny down-the-road stories and, in the end, Mark, Sebastian, and I get to go through it all together.
How do you stay motivated to hustle all year long? We would be totally distracted by all the amazing things happening all the time!
I’m a romantic, I guess. I see the beauty in absolutely everything and the love I have for this place and the people in it is all encompassing. I love working with people who are extremely talented and passionate about what they do, which I’ve found here almost without exception. I’ve worked in publishing for a long time and never felt this way about my job before and I know it’s because I’m investing in the place I plan to spend my life in. The place where Mark and I will raise my beautiful little boy and watch him grow up breathing clean air, eating vegetables straight out of the garden, and feeling the soft, white beach sand in between his toes. It’s all pretty motivating.
If you’re considering a trip to Prince Edward County, be sure to visit LIFE AU LAIT and read up on all the great places to visit, and learn all about the people and their stories. We didn’t want to leave and it certainly won’t be our last trip to the County—with a vibrant and dynamic startup/parenting community there are so many more stories to share.