Thursday

Unique gift ideas for your man


So.... you know how I wrote that blog post about Balance? Well, a big priority for me this year is to focus on my marriage.

One of my big love languages is gift giving, but if I'm to be honest, I've really let that slide recently where my husband is concerned. I was so stressed-out and busy before Christmas that it was all I could manage to organise presents for the kids before we went away. Hubby got an "experience gift", but it was given in a bit of a half-hearted manner, and there was nothing for him to actually unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. My next plan was to take him shopping for our anniversary a few days later, but that didn't end up happening either. Whomp-whomp.

So that's why my thoughts have turned lately to Valentine's Day, which is only 2 weeks away after all.


I don't know about you, but when you've been married to someone for 14 years like I have, it's easy to get into a gift-giving rut. The usual T-shirts and golf-balls and socks have all been done to death. We're no longer struggling newlyweds, and anything Stephen really wants throughout the year, he is pretty much able to go and buy for himself. So that leaves me a bit stymied in the present department.

I decided this year to start early and really have a good look around for something unique and creative that would be meaningful to Stephen. Of course, that's easier said than done during school holidays with three kids to tow around from shop to shop. Not to mention that I didn't have a clue what I was looking for.

Thank God for the internet.

Turns out, there is heaps of cool stuff out there. Quirky, fun, useful, meaningful and unique stuff that I think my hubby would really, really like, but that he wouldn't necessarily think to buy for himself. Stuff that (*cue singing angels*) can be ordered online with a few clicks while the children are asleep and I'm wearing my pyjamas and eating chocolate ice-cream.

Now THAT sounds FAR more appealing to me than enacting a repeat of our last shopping trip, which involved impromptu sibling wrestling matches in Aisle 3 and a sanity-shattering toddler meltdown at the checkout.

Mothers everywhere, let us pause in a moment of profound gratitude for the inventor of online shopping.

I had so much fun searching out cool gift ideas that I decided to put together a gift guide for anyone else in need of inspiration for the man in their life. I can't be the only one who gets stuck for ideas, right? I hope you find something here to spoil your special guy, whether it's for Valentine's Day, a birthday or just to say "I love you".

All retailers are U.S. based, but ship worldwide (including to Australia!)  

Note: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means I receive a small commission on any purchases made, at no extra cost to you. Please consider supporting your favourite bloggers by shopping through their affiliate links - it enables us to pay the running costs of our sites and continue to share free content for your enjoyment. I appreciate your support!


1/ Scratch Map: Use a coin to scratch away countries you've visited and reveal the colours underneath. We love travelling as a couple, and have seen a fair bit of the globe together. We've often talked about coming up with a way to celebrate and remember the places we've been, but our ideas have always seemed kinda cheesy. I think this is the bomb.

2/ Pick Punch: Does your man like to strum a guitar? I'll bet he can never find his pick when he needs one. This is the best invention ever for music-loving types. It enables you to punch a pick out of old membership cards and credit cards. Stephen already has one of these, and he LOOOOOVES it, swears by it, and uses it all the time.

3/ Past, Present, Future Watch: We're all trying to live more in the moment... so this watch only shows the present time. Now that's a meaningful gift. Nice sleek, minimalist design, too.

4/ Batman First Issue Comic Book Cover Cufflinks: For the MARVEL-ous man in your life... (te he)

5/ Driftwood iPhone Charging Dock: Because everyone should charge their phone in a log. (How perfect would this look on a manly office desk??)

6/ Personalized LP Record: Choose your names and up to 5 songs significant to you as a couple. Float-mounted on glass, it looks pretty darn awesome and is super sentimental to boot. I would very much like to see this hanging on the wall of hubby's music studio.





7/ Sole Sox: Does your man fancy a foot-rub? These anatomically correct socks show all the pressure points on your feet for the perfect massage.

8/ Tom Carter Voyager Watch: This is one good-looking watch. I love the black and white dual-tone thing it has going on - the perfect blend of hip, sophisticated, and kinda sporty. Your man could equally wear it to the gym or to a fancy dinner.

9/ Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag: Chocolate and lollies are the lovers' gift of choice, right? Be unique and stick 'em in something cool. Like this funky glass ziplock bag. It's like an art object filled with jellybeans.

10/ Personalized Couple Art: Well, this is just sweet. Fulfill all your lifelong ambitions to be a whimsical long-legged line drawing, with your partner right by your side. Romantic, with a nice understated design... I like it.

11/ Vintage Typewriter Key Cufflinks: Made with authentic vintage typewriter keys set in sterling silver. Select any combination of letters for a personalised gift - your husband's initials? Yours and his together? Sweet and discreet.

12/ Seat Buckle Belt - Volkswagen: I don't know, I can't stop looking at this. If my hubby were really into cars I would totally give him a seatbelt-belt. He is my lovebug, after all.

13/ Double Money Clip: My husband has a money clip and it changed his life. No more wallet bulge in the jeans pocket. He loves it and won't use anything else. But it is tricky to load up too many cards and too much cash or you risk something coming loose. Now THIS is a smart idea I've never seen before: a double-sided money clip for double the storage capacity. It may look small, but I know for one my man would truly use and appreciate this thoughtful gift!

14/ Skyline of Love: Personalise this canvas with your names and the skyline of a city that's significant to you both. Choose from any U.S. city or a huge list of cities worldwide. (Including Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast.)


Let's chat: Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets stuck coming up with new present ideas for the man in my life. Are there any gifts on this list that catch your eye? Who else here has "gift-giving" as their love language?

Tuesday

On blogging, burnout and finding balance

In my last post I talked about the concept of choosing One Word for the year. Only I haven't told you yet what my word is.

It's kind of funny how many words are needed to explain just One Word.

Let me try.

Just before Christmas, I did something a good blogger is never supposed to do.

I disappeared. Without warning. For quite a long time. Five weeks, to be exact.

So where did I go? Well, among other places, here:


Aaaaaand here. Pretty nice view, huh?


2014 was a burnout year for me. It was incredible, wonderful, and challenging. But by the end of the year, I had nothing left. It wasn't just the blog, although that was a major part of it. I took on too much all round - commercial decorating jobs, private decorating clients. I kept saying "yes" even when I didn't know how I could fit those things in. As a stay-home Mum, my "office hours" are limited to the hours after the kids are in bed. (And as every Mum knows, by the time the kids are finally in bed, you are already EXHAUSTED.) I was basically trying to pack a full-time workload into what should have been my downtime. Working a day shift as well as a night shift, every day of the week. I love what I do, but I had no margin left in my life. No time for "me".

I couldn't remember the last time I'd read a book (and I love to read more than anything else.) My marriage was suffering. I struggled with feeling anxious and overwhelmed. I stayed up later and later, trying to get everything done, and still couldn't get through it all. I felt like I was letting everyone down, but the only thing that could "give" was time for sleep. I was living exhausted.

In the middle of all this, we moved house. You know what that's like. My whole life felt chaotic. But meanwhile, the blog was really starting to take off. New opportunities, more traffic, more success, if only I could just keep those plates spinning and do more.

More. Always more.


Of course, it was not sustainable. At gut-level, I knew this. But when you're on a trajectory, it's so hard to change course. Life hurtles faster, you gain more and more momentum, and how do you pull back from that? I've spent so much time and energy building something here; I'm so invested. I wanted the growth, the momentum. It was killing me, but wasn't this what I'd always dreamed of?

It took a wake-up call from my marriage to realise that, no. That is not what I wanted. That's not what God called me to, here - growth at the expense of everything else: self, sanity and husband included.

Even so, when I disappeared, it wasn't by choice - at least, not at first. The thing is, we went away on a family holiday to Tasmania for a month. And my husband, quite rightly, put his foot down and said "no" to blogging.


I'm embarrassed to admit that it was excruciatingly hard to let go. I had several Christmas projects completed and photographed that I really NEEDED to blog about before Christmas. Those posts never got written. They'll have to wait for next Christmas.

It weighed on me, my absence. It was like this magnetic pull. I worried about what people would think. How my stats would plummet. Whether I'd ever recover momentum. I'd always intended to have posts pre-scheduled before we left, but with the house move, the rush of decorating clients, the blogging deadlines, I just didn't get there. Leaving a silence like that, an empty space, felt weirdly off-balancing.

And yet, slowly, I learned to let go. And in the process I gained perspective.


My stats did plummet. Of course they did. And at first it felt so painful to watch - like a personal failing. But then I realised what I was doing. How dumb it was, letting myself feel upset over some numbers on a screen. How ridiculous! How meaningless! They're not a measure of my success, and never will be. When I get to the end of my life, do I think people will be standing around my grave shaking their head over the state of my blog traffic in December 2014?

I would hope people will say this: She lived well. She loved her husband and her kids and her friends. She put God first and she had an impact in this world.

The last can only ever flow from the first. I had it all the wrong way around.

So what have I been doing the past five weeks that I haven't been blogging?


I found starfish in rockpools with my children.

I read a book a week - inhaled the stories like someone coming up for air.

I had long indulgent baths looking out over the bay.


I watched the flames flickering in the fireplace and thought about nothing at all.

I went on long hikes that left my muscles aching and my spirit full.

I reconnected with my husband, the wonderful man I'm blessed to have been married to for fourteen years.


I visited windswept playgrounds to watch my kids climb and run and laugh.

I tasted delicious and unusual new foods, like a tofu taco with mint and cabbage salad, pickled cucumber and cashew ginger aioli.

I spent long minutes holding the warm weight of my daughter and stroking her silky curls.

Allegra at 2 - nickname "Diva".

I laughed and confided with dear soul-friends.

I tickled and tackled and snuggled with my boys.


I ate too many cheese platters and drank too much good coffee and wine.

I visited new places and learned more about this beautiful country I call home.

I ate squashed sandwiches from a backpack on soaring, wind-swept cliffs.


I watched my children giggle with their grandparents.

I wept at a memorial site.

I listened to live music and felt the beat through my feet.

I made pizzas with friends and ate them hot and crisp from the pizza oven they built themselves.

I watched yachts sail safe into harbour.

I cuddled babies and saw all the potential of a life yet to be lived in their enormous blue eyes.

I totally did not pose my children in this awesomely cheesy fashion, FYI.
They just did it all on their own. Synchronised stair sleeping. It's the latest thing.
What didn't happen? Emails and blog comments didn't get replied to in a timely manner. New posts didn't get written. Work didn't get done. And you know what? The sun kept shining. The world kept turning. Maybe some people shook their head at me. Maybe I disappointed people or even offended them. I've worried a lot in my life over what people think of me. Only I guess I've come to realise that I care most of all what my family thinks of me. That comes first. That's most important.

So what's my word for 2015? You've probably already guessed.



The thing is, I plan to be here for the long term. I don't want to flare bright and burn out in my first or second year.

So maybe that means my blogging schedule will look different from most. Maybe I won't be able to blog three times a week like I'd planned. Maybe... gasp... some weeks I won't be able to blog at all. I mean, good grief - take last week for example! This post was written a week ago, and I ran into some irritating technical problems that kept me up all hours and prevented me from posting any sooner.

But the world kept turning and today my firstborn started Grade One and tomorrow my second son will start Prep, and note to self, what's more important - really?


All that to say, if you're the sort of reader who likes to check in regularly and see what's new, I encourage you to subscribe by email, so my posts come straight to you at their own unique pace. (Plus you'll get my free e-book that has been getting heartfelt feedback from women all over the world - you can read more about it here. What's not to love?)

It's not that I've lost my passion for what I'm doing, or that I've run out of ideas and inspiration. Quite the opposite - this feels a little like gently applying the handbrake while hurtling down the highway at 100 km an hour. I'm more fired up and excited about this blog than ever. My brain is constantly bursting with creative ideas, new projects, fresh topics. Just this morning I sat down and wrote a list of fifteen new posts I'm dying to write. I have far more content than I have time to blog about it. My greatest frustration right now is time; time to make it all happen.


One day when the kids are all in school I'd love to work from home full-time doing this, but in the meantime, I'm not going to wish my life away. My main role right now is as a mother and wife, and I'm committed to giving my husband and kids the best of me. I'm not going to offer them the scraps of my time and attention. And if we can work out some sort of universe-defying balance so that everyone's needs are met and I can simultaneously thrive in this creative business venture... well, that will be awesome too.

My goal is to thrive, so rest easy, I do have some universe-defying plans in place. ;) Plus I have some awesome new opportunities coming up this year that I CANNOT wait to share with you!


What I do know is that I'm going to continue to do my absolute best here, without sacrificing the things that matter. I'm going to guard my marriage and protect the margin that I need to stay sane and healthy. I'm going to say "no" to stuff, even some really good stuff.

And even if that means I don't grow this blog quite as quickly as I would have liked... even if it means taking a deep breath and releasing my perfectionist expectations of myself... I know it's all going to turn out okay.

Here's to balance.

Let's chat: Have you ever struggled to find balance in your life? Do you have a word for this year?

Linking up here: Hit me with your best shot

Thursday

How to ditch the resolutions and achieve MORE this year


I have a secret. I'm anti-New-Year's-Resolutions.

Which is kinda funny, because for years we've done this thing with our friends on New Year's Eve where we share our resolutions and invent silly ones for each other. It's fun and it's become something of a tradition.

I even did it myself for years, quite seriously, sitting down and writing a carefully thought-out list and adding my signature at the bottom to make it all official. Except that by February, the list had found its way to the junk drawer, and by March it was stuck somewhere in the filing cabinet, which we all know means it will Never Be Seen Again.

Call me cynical, but the one thing this has taught me is that New Year's Resolutions don't work.

We're halfway through January. Let's be honest. How many of you are still going gung-ho with those optimistic resolutions you wrote with fireworks shining in your eyes and a brand-new untouched year stretching ahead of you?

Looking back at previous years - how many of those resolutions lasted past January? Past Easter? Or (heaven help us) right to the end of the year?

Don't get me wrong... I'm all for goal-setting and planning to succeed. I'm not trying to rain on your 2015 parade. It's just that I think there's one major problem with resolutions. You could call it a fatal flaw.

It's this:

There are too many of them.

It goes like this. You look at your life in its current state and think about everything you don't like and want to change. Then you get your pen and paper and make a massive list of all the things you need to do to reach your supposed ideal state of perfection over the next twelve months. The list looks like this:

Lose weight.
Exercise five times a week.
Run a half-marathon.
Eat salads for lunch every day.
Give up wine.
Give up chocolate.
Write a book.
Learn to speak French.
Be a better mum.
Be a better wife.
Take up volunteer work.
Give up TV.
De-clutter the entire house.
Spend more time with friends.
Rise at 5am daily to have Quiet Time before kids wake up.
Read the entire Bible in one year.
Never be late to anything ever again.

.... and on and on it goes. Of course, a hundred different people will come up with a hundred different lists, but you know what your list looks like, don't you? We've all written one.


It's like trying to knock a pebble off a fence using a spray bottle on the mist setting. Your energy is flying off in a thousand different directions just like those miniscule droplets of water. The pebble might get damp, but it's never gonna budge. What you need to do is tighten the nozzle. Let it rip with one single, focussed, powerful jet of water. And bit by bit, as you continue to squirt that pebble, it will nudge incrementally closer to the edge until finally it falls off.

Okay, so you've probably never pictured your life as a pebble on a fence, but you can see what I'm saying, right? All our New Year's goals and resolutions could be summed up in one mission: A BETTER YOU. But when we try to tackle too many different areas all at once, we diffuse our focus. And our list of resolutions, instead of motivating us, ends up merely documenting our shortcomings. That darn pebble just won't budge. We get to the end of the year, and we're just the same as we've always been.

I don't write New Year's resolutions anymore. I don't live my life by a list of failures I want to "fix". I've found a better way. And guess what? - I've achieved more in the years since I decided to ditch the resolutions than I ever did before. Even better, I've grown and transformed as a person.

Want to know my secret?

It's this: I choose one word for my year. Just one. One word to resonate through my days, weeks, and months. One word to frame my decisions and attitudes.


One word is different from a goal or resolution. Resolutions can be broken. They set you up for failure. One word is about the process of transformation. It sets you up for success.

One word is a mindset. It informs your choices and your daily habits. It's such a little thing... just a seed, really. But planted into a life, it slowly puts down roots and grows.

A list of resolutions is easily forgotten, but even this scatter-brained mother of three can remember one word.

The One Word philosophy has become an enormous movement. Chances are you've heard of it already. You can find out more information direct from the source at the My One Word website. You'll find a treasury of words chosen by thousands of different people, each word unique to its bearer.

Intentional.
Transform.
Truth.
Grace.
Simplify.
Present.
Brave.

Your word is a gift. I've found that when I pray about my word for the year, God gives me a vision of how he wants me to grow. The words he's given me in the past have been powerful. They've given me focus and clarity. Unleashed growth. Led to real, long-term, lasting change.

Because after all, it's better to do something about one thing than nothing about everything.



I'm excited this year about growing One Word closer to the woman God wants me to be.

So what's my word? Stay tuned - I'll be sharing it in my next post. And yes, my One Word for 2015 may just have something to do with my unexplained absence from this blog for the past five weeks. You deserve an explanation, so I'm going to lay it all out and let you know exactly what's been going on.

Until then, why not think and pray about your word?

Let's chat: Have you ever chosen One Word for your year before? What do you think of this concept? Is there a word you feel nudged toward?

Monday

Driftwood & watercolour advent wall hanging


Thank you to Etsy shop Salt & Wood for sponsoring this post. My borderline obsession with said shop and all gorgeous products therein is entirely my own. Use the code SUNSHINE30 to get 30% off printables used in this post - valid worldwide until Dec 31st.

Ever since our kids have been old enough to count down to Christmas, I've wanted to do something special for Advent. And then every year I completely forget about it until it actually IS advent, and December sneaks up on me all sneaky-like, and before I know it the first week has already gone by and suddenly it dawns on me that I've missed my chance yet again

And then I look at all the creative Advent-calendar projects being pinned all over Pinterest by the creative blogger people of blogland who are far superior in organisation to me, and I get a serious case of homemade-Advent-envy and then sigh and pack away my Advent dreams for another twelve months.

NOT THIS YEAR, people.


Well, the first part happened exactly the same. The forgetting and all. And the first week of December going past. Yep. All that.

Only this time, I thought to myself, SO WHAT? 

So what if I'm a week late getting my Advent calendar made?

Is there some special police task force scrutinising blogland for Advent infringements? I think not. (At least, I hope not.)

Who knows, I thought - perhaps there are other less-than-perfectly-organised readers out there who need permission to not even care that they're a week-something late to hop on board the Advent train. 

I mean, are we rebellious or WHAT?! It's basically anti-establishment, the whole thing. We're non-conformist crafters, that's what we are. Delinquent DIYers. We are bad to the bone.

Besides, I just happened to find the EXACTLY PERFECT printables which instantly inspired wondrous visions of Advent loveliness, and I just couldn't wait another twelve months to use them. I needed them in my life at once. 



Here's how!

DRIFTWOOD & WATERCOLOUR ADVENT WALL HANGING


You will need:
  • 25 x Kraft coloured pocket envelopes (I found mine at Spotlight)
  • White canvas (I purchased 1 metre and cut it down to size)
  • Heat 'n bond hem tape
  • Circle punch (optional)
  • Christmas Advent calendar printables in watercolour (also available in chalkboard if desired)
  • Glue stick
  • Craft glue
  • Driftwood (optional)
  • 2 x 800mm long, 20mm wide pine Moulding (or half-round dowel if not using driftwood)
  • Screws and hanging rings
  • Power drill


STEP ONE: 
Lay out your fabric and arrange the envelopes in a rough grid, then measure top and bottom and trim the fabric to size.


STEP TWO:
Hem your fabric. I used heat 'n bond hem tape, because I don't sew. You just iron it on, peel off the paper backing, then fold over the hem and iron again to bond it together.








STEP THREE:
Use a staple gun to attach the hemmed canvas to the pine moulding.

The moulding is to help the fabric hang smooth and flat, because if you stapled it directly to a bumpy, irregular piece of  driftwood, the fabric wouldn't sit right. If you use a really smooth, straight branch, you should be okay to skip this step.


STEP FOUR: 
Use your drill to screw the moulding onto the back of the driftwood.


STEP FIVE:
Attach your picture-hanging hooks.


STEP SIX:
Trim the flaps off the envelopes.


STEP SEVEN: Use a circle punch to create a finger tab at the top of each envelope.


STEP THREE: Cut out and affix your Advent calendar printables to the front of each envelope. They are scaleable to whatever size you need to fit your envelopes. I printed mine at 8.5cm square.


STEP FOUR: 
Attach your envelopes to the prepared fabric using craft glue. I used a garage remote control as a spacer between the rows, and a leftover piece of the moulding as a straight edge to line the envelopes up against.



STEP FIVE:
Hang your advent wall hanging and admire!



I absolutely love the texture of the driftwood, which I found on the beach near our place. It adds so much visual interest. I've been dying to use it in a DIY project of some sort, and this was the perfect one! I love how the mint, aqua and turquoise tones of watercolour evoke a sense of the ocean.


The detail in these designs is so lovely - each number is unique, but they all work together in harmony.


To finish off your calendar, you need something to go inside your pockets. I slipped some handmade salt dough ornaments into each one - I'll be sharing the simple recipe in an upcoming post. Each night, the kids will be able to remove an ornament from the pocket and hang it on the tree. I'd also like to slip some Bible verses inside, so we can read a little of the Christmas story together each night.



I think the driftwood wall hanging is a perfect complement to the rest of our beachy décor. (If you missed my Christmas home tour, you can find it here.)



It goes so perfectly with the custom Christmas prints I ordered from Salt & Wood!


Basically, I love everything this woman creates and want her to design my entire life. When I first discovered her, I may have sent her a gushing fan-girl email expressing as much. Thankfully she wasn't scared off. In fact, she has been sweet enough to offer a very generous special exclusively for readers of A house full of sunshine. You can enter the code SUNSHINE30 at checkout to receive 30% off any purchase - valid worldwide until December 31st!

If you're feeling festive and want to decorate your home for the Christmas season, you can't go past a lovely printable. Etsy prints are my go-to decorating cheat for instantly transforming a space in a hurry, on the cheap. (We're talking about pocket change here, people! About the same price as a cup of coffee! Plus, you're supporting an independent artist, which is something I'm really passionate about.)

The prints are available as an instant download that you can print at home and pop in a frame, or even just tape straight onto the wall with washi tape. You can also take them into your local print shop (like Officeworks) and have them printed on canvas, which looks utterly gorgeous, or print them oversized like I did in the picture above, or whatever your Christmas-loving heart desires. 

Forget the tinsel, girls, prints are where it's at.

 Check out these other lovely designs from Salt & Wood:





Feeling inspired? There are so many more where those came from. Have a browse at Salt & Wood and add the shop to your favourites so you can easily find it next time you're on Etsy. And don't forget to use the code SUNSHINE30 to get 30% off your purchase! Discount valid until 31st December.

Happy Christmas decorating, friends!

Let's chat: Does your family have any advent traditions? Any other Delinquent DIYers out there who left it all a bit late this year, but still want to hop on board the advent train? Tell me I'm not alone. Ooh, and HOW GORGEOUS are these prints??! Do you have a favourite?

Linking up here: Your Designs this Time, Get your DIY on

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