Wednesday

DIY Upholstered window seat


 DIY Upholstered Window Seat: Learn to make your own window seat cushion and save a ton of money!


I have a quick and easy tutorial for you today that will save you loads of money if you're after an upholstered window seat (or bench seat) without the price tag. This little nook might just be the space I miss the most from our River House, which we recently moved out of.

I'm slightly obsessed with window seats and have to have one in my life. But the cost of paying an upholsterer to make a custom cushion for such a large area is very expensive. So this time around, I decided to have a go at it myself. I was surprised how easy it was!

First, I measured up the area. Then I had my local hardware store cut a lightweight piece of thin ply to size. I had a piece of foam cut to size as well. I chose a 3-inch thick, medium density foam from Clark Rubber. If the area will get a lot of use, high density foam would be most durable over the long term.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

I checked that everything fitted snugly - perfect!

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

I purchased a length of heavyweight canvas-style fabric, ironed it, and cut it to size, allowing a generous margin at each side for folding. I then placed my foam and board face-down on the fabric.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

Folding over the edges to keep the fabric looking neat, I brought up one side and stapled it into place using a staple gun. I started in the center, then did the opposite side in the center, pulling the fabric taut. I continued down one side, pulling the fabric sideways as I went so it remained taut down the length of the board from one staple to the next.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

With one side stapled firmly, it was time to tackle the corner. It was a similar process to wrapping a present. I brought the fabric up on the diagonal to make a corner fold, and held this in place with one hand while tucking the excess fabric on the floor snug against the width of the foam and board.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

With the first corner fold stapled into place, I then brought up the triangle of fabric on the floor and made a second diagonal corner fold.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

Here's the second corner fold stapled into place.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

Continuing to pull the fabric taut, I repeated this process for the opposite corner.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

I then continued stapling down the length of the board on the opposite side, this time pulling the fabric firm across the width of the board - but not so tightly that the edges of the foam became rounded. Two final corners, and then it was done!

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

I held my breath and flipped it over, hoping for a smooth, wrinkle-free surface. Perfect!

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

The upholstered seat cushion slotted into place like it had always been there. With the cushion snug against the walls, the corner folds are invisible.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

I added some cushions to complete this cosy nook, which is in our kids' playroom.

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

Having a seat cushion transformed this corner of the room. It instantly became an inviting, cheerful space where the kids loved to curl up with a book. I also loved sitting there to watch them play.... something I miss for sure in our new house!

DIY upholstered window seat by A house full of sunshine for Practically Functional

You can see some more photos of our playroom in this post, including the DIY gallery wall I made for our kids' artworks.

DIY Kids art gallery wall by A house full of sunshine

What's your favourite place to curl up and relax in your home? 

Friday

Gratitude journal with washi tape cover


Gratitude is powerful. I'm beginning to think it may even be essential to happiness.

Lately I've been taking some steps to pull myself out of the low place I've been in this year and bring some positivity back to my life. Ever since reading Ann Voskamp's beautiful book "One Thousand Gifts", I've known there is something sacred about thankfulness. It truly has the power to transform. I even wrote about it in my book.

But thankfulness all too easily gets lost in the shuffle of life. How can we fix that? How do we make gratitude a daily habit, like brushing our teeth or hugging our kids?


With these thoughts stewing around in my brain, I came across a powerful article from Michael Hyatt, entitled "Perceived scarcity in a world of outrageous abundance." His words cemented everything I've been thinking about lately:

"Yes, there are a million things we don't have. But there are a million things we do. If we can see through the right lens, we have all been given more than we can possibly ask or imagine.

That lens is called gratitude, and it's a lens that amplifies everything good in our lives instead of causing it to shrink to insignificance."


I read those words over and over. The problem with depression is that it amplifies everything that is bad in our lives. It takes small failings and enlarges them until WE are the failure. It takes everyday struggles and expands them until LIFE ITSELF is the struggle. And in the process of zooming in on those bad things, the good stuff gets crowded out. We can't even see the good any more.

How do we flip that on its head? By changing the focus. Grabbing the magnifying glass of our attention and zooming in on the good that's already present in our lives.

To build a habit of thankfulness, I decided to start keeping a gratitude journal.

I purchased a plain Kraft-covered notebook from Officeworks and cracked open my stash of washi tape. Some of these rolls were from Typo, some from Target. 

Want to make your own?

Start by sticking down a row of contrasting tape on an angle.


Rule off a straight line and trim the tape. A stanley knife would be easiest, but I didn't have one handy so I just used scissors.



Add a second row of tape at an angle to the first.


Rule off and trim both ends of the tape. I made my second row shorter than the first, for contrast.




Lastly, use a liquid chalk marker to write your journal title...


... and add the year, if you so desire.



I'm trying to remember to write something I'm thankful for in my journal every day. Even if it's just one thing.

As I do this, I'm discovering gratitude in the simple little things all around me. Things I might have looked straight past before, on my way to something "more important".

The smell of a lemon, sharp-clean and invigorating.

Coloured pencils in a red tin bucket, creativity at my kids' fingertips.

A drizzle of golden honey on white yoghurt.

A Bible verse that speaks to my heart.


And I think I'm beginning to learn that the small things just might be the big things, after all.

What makes you grateful today? Share one thing you're thankful for in the comments.

Linking up here: Hit me with your best shot, Work it Wednesday

Thursday

Fragile: an Easter story


I'm sitting here simply breathtaken by the absolute beauty of an egg.

And I need to talk about it. 

If you came here for a tutorial on how to make these speckled eggs, that is coming up at the end of this post. But first... can I tell you a story?

It's to do with beauty. The beauty of a blown egg, emptied out, fragile enough to crush in your hand with the barest effort. It's to do with Easter. And it's to do with my life, and yours.


See, this week something happened. I made a scary decision to open up about a really personal struggle and let the world know that I am not okay

I thought I knew what would happen. Most would ignore it. Some would understand. And I was pretty sure a fair number of people would be annoyed. Most of you signed up for a home-making blog after all, not for me to spill my guts on the screen.  


I published my post, went to bed, and lay awake the rest of the night, unable to sleep. What had I done? How could I be so reckless? What made me think that exposing my vulnerable heart on the internet could ever be a good idea? 

Mixed in with the worry, I felt a lot of shame. Now people would know all my stuff. My secret, not-so-pretty stuff. I prepared myself for the inevitable barely-masked disapproval. The virtually-raised eyebrows. The cyber-silence that would leave me feeling uncomfortably exposed.


Instead, I woke up after an hour or two of snatched sleep, and this happened.

Messages began pouring in. Blog comments, emails, private messages, Facebook comments. The messages were filled with love, care and concern. A lot of people... a LOT of people... said they could understand. 

That they'd felt the same way too. 

The messages undid me. I cried my way through many of them. Spent four hours that day trying to respond to all of them, and couldn't finish. Spent another several hours the next day. 

Friends called, dropped round, offered help. I felt drenched in grace. 

And I realised that like much in life, the truly worthwhile things are often the exact opposite of what we expect. 


I thought I had to keep it all together. Be strong. Put on a good face. I thought that was how I would inspire people.

But it was when I emptied myself out.... when I let myself become fragile and truthful, and shakily placed my inmost heart in the hands of my readers... that people were inspired. 

And there, cradled in those hands, hands that could crush me so easily, I found beauty.

The beauty of unexpected tenderness, of kindness undeserved and grace unasked for.

So I'm looking at these eggs, all emptied-out and hollow. They're fragile, for sure. 

They are also beautiful.


And it makes me think of Jesus. The King of heaven. People had predicted his coming for centuries. They thought they knew how it would be. He would come in glory. Rule in triumph. Lead his people in splendour.

Instead, he emptied himself out. He came fragile and utterly helpless. Just a baby. The king of heaven placed himself, literally, in human hands. A newborn infant who needed to be held and soothed and fed. He relinquished every right, every scrap of power, and came to us powerless, placing himself trustingly in our grip.

So much beauty. It didn't look anything like what we expected. The truly beautiful things seldom do.


This Jesus grew and continued to empty himself out for us. He washed the dirt off our feet. He touched our unclean leprous skin. He ate with us and wept with us and loved us in our mess and our sinfulness. He gave sight to the blind. He embraced the untouchables. He walked for miles along dusty roads to bring healing to the sick and hope to the hopeless. He loved and gave, gave and loved. 

And what did we do with this gift? This divine, luminous beauty?

We crushed him. He put himself all fragile in our hands, and we took the power he'd given us and destroyed the one true, beautiful thing this world had ever seen. 

A broken body hung on a cross, like an eggshell crushed in a fist.

But even then... beauty.

Because like so much in life, the truly worthwhile things are the exact opposite of what we expect.

In the fragility, there was the power.

The hope of the world, hung all dying and broken on a cross.

"The son of God... loved me and gave himself for me." (Galations 2:20)

I could not think of anything more beautiful.


Looking at these fragile, emptied-out eggs, I feel like Jesus is trying to tell me something. That maybe, a student is not above her teacher. That if the king of heaven can relinquish pride and status to pour himself out for others, maybe that's what he wants from me as well. 

From all of us.

To empty ourselves out, truthful and vulnerable. To put the realness of our inmost self in another's hand, giving them the power to treasure our offering or break it. To quit the pretence and the hiding and the masks and offer our true and fragile self, a simple gift. 

It's scary as hell. I know this.

But there is nothing more beautiful. 
 

  1. Blow eggs (I used this method)
  2. Mix 3/4 cup boiling water, 1 tsp white vinegar and about 1/2 tsp food colouring. Submerge blown eggs in the dye for about 5 minutes. I used a glass to weight my eggs down. (See pics of the process here)
  3. Use a toothbrush to spatter eggs with dark brown paint.

Happy Good Friday, friends! And: thank you. Truly.

Saturday

I am not okay



I've been putting off writing this post forever.

The longer a silence goes on, the harder it is to break it. I'm conscious of the fact that we have hundreds of new subscribers on board since the last time I posted (thank you for being here!!)... and this is not exactly the way I would have chosen to welcome you.

The thing is, I am not exactly okay.

It's hard to talk about, so I'm going to start with something easier. Something external to me and big and dramatic that might just take the focus away from the small and hard and personal things for just a little while longer.

It's been approximately forever since my last post. There was a good reason for my silence at first. The day my last post went live, we were hit by a Category 5 cyclone. I live 5 minutes from the beach.... just south of that little dot on the map called "Yeppoon".


The day before impact, the cyclone had been predicted to hit the coast quite a distance north from where we live, and then only at a Category 2-3. In the last 24 hours, it intensified extremely quickly into a Cat 5. And unfortunately for us, the path kept shifting south, until it was heading directly for us. Tropical Cyclone Marcia was predicted to make landfall in the early hours of Friday morning.


I won't lie: I was scared. It started out kind of exciting and thrilling - a cyclone! I'd never been in a cyclone before. We bought torches and spare batteries and found candles and matches. We kept checking updates and watched the news reports.

Somewhere before bedtime on Thursday night, though, it wasn't so fun anymore. By this time, the storm had blown up to epic proportions, and I knew too much.

I'd done some reading up on the Bureau of Meteorology website and learned these fun facts:


Experts were comparing it in intensity to Hurricane Katrina. I saw visions of flattened, devastated neighbourhoods and wondered if we'd still have a house in the morning. If anyone would. 

Lots of people were evacuating from the coast and fleeing to Rocky, or to the cyclone shelter in Yeppoon. Should we go? Should we stay? It had all happened so fast, I felt completely caught off guard. Only that morning on Facebook I'd been joking about the impending cyclone interfering with my social plans. All of a sudden, it was no longer a joke.

Thursday night, I hardly slept. 

First thing in the morning, we built ourselves a bunker in the Walk-in-Robe. We lined it with mattresses and stocked it with water, snacks, torches, and games for the kids. They thought it was fantastic. A secret hideout! Hooray! 

We tried to keep it lighthearted and make a game of it, but truthfully, I felt sick with anticipation. I had no idea what to expect in the next few hours. Would the windows shatter? Would the roof fly off? Would debris slice through the house? Would I be able to protect my kids?


The wind started to pick up outside. On the news, the Premier warned us that we were about to go through a "terrifying and harrowing experience." Amazingly enough, this didn't help me feel any better.

Then the power went out. It was happening.


We watched the trees in our backyard blown nearly horizontal from the force of the wind. The roar sounded like a freight train screaming past within inches of our home. 

And yet, the more intense the storm became, the calmer I felt. It was the oddest thing. 

Before the power went out I'd been talking to some friends on Facebook. I knew we had people praying for us from all over the world. I could actually feel the prayers. The sick panicked feeling slowly ebbed and subsided. During the worst of the storm, I lay down on the mattress with Allegra and we both fell fast asleep.

We woke to an altered world.

It took some time for us to register what had happened. Half a dozen trees in our backyard were snapped in two from the ferocity of the wind. But our house was fine. Our street was fine. The people sheltering down the road from us in the Rec Club were fine. There were trees down over the roads everywhere and a few fence panels blown out here and there, but the houses we saw in our neighbourhood were all remarkably intact. 


How was this possible? A Category 5 storm was supposed to flatten everything in its path, wasn't it?

We limped into Rocky down a debris-strewn highway and couldn't believe the contrast. Rockhampton, half an hour further inland, where the storm had eased off to a Category 3 by the time it hit. And it was like a warzone. Hundreds of powerlines down across streets. Piles of twisted steel and debris. Massive trees blocking roads. Roofs missing. Carports and sheds blown away.





This was my father-in-law's place after impact. The bedroom roof was torn off completely, leaving the room open to the sky.


The house was deemed unfit for habitation and taped off. They were told they couldn't go back inside.

Thankfully the in-laws have a fully furnished second house which escaped unscathed, so they have somewhere to live. But needless to say, they were shaken by the experience. They were sheltering downstairs in the bathroom when the roof ripped away - I can only imagine how frightening that must have sounded.


It took us a while to understand what had happened: that the cyclone had grazed past the edge of us on the coast, and hit Rockhampton straight on. After seeing the devastation from a Category 3 direct hit in Rocky, I can only imagine how tragic the outcome could have been for everyone on the coast had we sustained a direct hit (as had been predicted) while the cyclone was still at Category 5. 

Without doubt, lives would have been lost. 

Even catching the side of the storm at its fully fledged fury, Yeppoon (just to the north of us) was hit hard and suffered some serious damage. But I believe it's God's grace that the path of the storm veered sideways, sparing the coast the most powerful winds at the height of the cyclone's intensity.

With hundreds of power lines down in the wake of TC Marcia, the city and coast sweltered in the tropical heat. The power was out almost everywhere and would remain out for a week. No air-conditioning, no fans, no refrigerators. Food spoiled. The sound of generators became the noisy theme of the still nights. People queued for hours to buy petrol from the one or two servos with power. 


After a day in the dripping hot humidity on the coast, we fled to hubby's Rockhampton office where miraculously the power was still on. The bliss of air-conditioning!! Those rooms became quite the drop-in centre. At night we had wall to wall bodies, upstairs and down. It felt good to be able to help others out. 

We knew we'd been incredibly fortunate. Some people had lost everything. Still, for the first couple of days after the cyclone, I kept catching myself tearing up at odd moments. I think it was delayed shock. My body saying, "What the hell just happened!" The terror of waiting for the storm to hit, the intensity of it all, the wash of weak relief afterward, the unsettling strangeness of driving around town seeing a familiar landscape made alien, ugly, scarred. Enormous trees ripped up whole by the roots. Piles of debris and branches on every street. A world in chaos.

In some way, the turmoil of the outside world matched the turmoil I had been feeling inside for quite some time. Months, actually. 

And here's the hard part. The bit that's scary and difficult for me to talk about.

The fact is, I've been struggling with depression.

There. I said it.

I am not okay.



I guess it really started last year, around the time we were getting ready to move. It was to be our third move in three years. I'd been planning for it, but everything changed at the last minute and all of a sudden we didn't know where we would be moving to

We'd put all the pieces into place for a big move to the other end of the state, but an unexpected opportunity came up and we started seriously considering a local sea-change instead, from the city to the nearby coast.  We were relying on some specific external factors to help us make our decision, but the answers we needed never came. All of a sudden it was crunch time - schools needed to finalise the kids' enrolments for the new year, and we had to make our choice.

I started having panic attacks. The first time it happened, it was triggered by someone at church asking about our plans for our move. Everyone was confused about what we were doing. Heck, we were confused about what we were doing.

I tried to answer, and found I couldn't breathe. I could barely speak. It felt like my lungs were being squeezed and I couldn't get enough air in. I felt dizzy. My heart battered in my chest like I was being chased. I burst into tears.

It got worse, to the point where trying to get the kids off to school in the morning was enough to trigger a panic attack. I felt anxious all the time. I'd never had anxiety before. I'd been stressed out before, of course, but this went so far beyond stress. It was a constant burning, churning in my gut. Heart galloping. A feeling of inexplicable dread and terror. It was horrible. And nothing touched the sides of the anxiety. Deep breathing didn't do a thing. Nothing helped.


Our church held a two week revival, and things went really downhill at that point. The intensity of what I was going through reached a whole new level. I went to church every night, and every day the anxiety grew worse. I had never felt such an oppression in my entire life. I felt under attack.

Now, please understand that I'm not  saying ALL depression or anxiety is a spiritual attack. It's a real thing, a physiological thing. I know - I grew up in a family where serious mental illness was a part of our lives. You wouldn't tell a person with cancer that it was caused by some spiritual problem. Same goes for any illness of the mind. I feel really strongly about that.

However, during that particular week of my life, I definitely felt under spiritual attack. It made me get stubborn. I knew I had to keep attending the services. I received prayer and felt God move in tangible ways. But it wasn't until after the revival ended, at a women's Bible study meeting when my pastor's wife began praying for me, praying with passionate authority against anxiety, that the power of God swept through me so strongly that I was left literally on the floor unable to stand up.

And the anxiety left.

Gone.

Instantly, completely and utterly gone. It was breathtaking. I could hardly dare believe it.

It has never been back.

I know without a doubt that God healed me. Pure grace, because I'm sure I wouldn't have survived the chaos of the end of last year if things had continued the way they'd been going. I wouldn't have coped.

In the end, we made our move blindly. Without the vital information we needed. Praying for guidance. Stepping out into thin air and hoping for the best. Feeling as if everything we'd expected to happen had been turned on its head.

And we entered a weird sort of limbo full of uncertainty and waiting.

Waiting for answers. Waiting for our house to sell. Waiting for the right door to open so we can buy some land and get settled here.

Waiting for those thin blue lines on a stick.


We’ve been trying for another baby for what feels like forever and is actually somewhat over a year. Every month that I’m not pregnant I get really sad, and then the next week I have a bad day with the kids and I’m all conflicted over whether I could even handle another one. Basket case much? I’m 35 years old, I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and every month that ticks past it feels like my chances of ever having another child are dwindling. I know what infertility feels like – we had trouble conceiving our first child too, even with medical intervention – and it’s just not a fun place to be in.

Enter mental opponent number two... depression.

Ever since our move, I've struggled to settle in to our new community. In all honesty, I've felt incredibly lonely and isolated. As a stay-home Mum, I rely so much on my outside support networks - playgroup, playdates with friends. I never realised quite how much those things meant to me until I'd left them behind.

The process of meeting new people and getting involved in local groups could have happened a lot quicker except that we sold our second car shortly after we moved, and so I've been stranded at home a lot of the time. My routine flew out the window. I couldn't make classes at the gym, so I stopped exercising altogether. I heard about a great playgroup I would have loved to join, but I couldn't get there.

I've missed blogging. I know it all sounded good in my Balance post, but truthfully, since cutting back this year, I feel like I've lost part of myself. I know blogging shouldn't determine my worth, but the fact is, without this creative outlet, I've felt discouraged and worthless.

Image by twobee, Freedigitalphotos.net
At the same time, depression makes it much, much harder to face blogging. I withdraw from people and I get scared about what others will think of me. The blank white screen is unutterably daunting. What if they hate me? What if I have nothing worthwhile to offer? I probably don't. I already feel like a failure. It's easier to run away and hide, not to even try.

My thoughts have become increasingly negative. I've spent entire days either crying nonstop or slumped lifelessly at the table while Allegra watches TV. I've always been a highly motivated, go-getter type of person, but this year everything has felt like an effort. I haven't been able to sleep and I forget to eat. My concentration has been shot.

I've been seeing a doctor. My depression is classed as "moderate", not severe, so I was given a choice whether to go on medication or try some other things first. At the moment, I'm trying some other things.

And you know what... they've been working.

The last two weeks, things have been looking up.

Some key circumstances have changed. We bought a second car. What a ripple effect that's had. I've finally been able to get out of the house with Allegra and go to playgroup. I've started exercising again four times a week. I've met some people - truly lovely people. I've had grown-up conversations with other ACTUAL ADULTS. I've joined B-school and have been ploughing my way through the work, feeling a sense of purpose returning to me, a sense of achievement and accomplishment that I've missed so much.

Things have changed.

I'm sure if they hadn't, this post would have languished as a Blogger draft forever, for if there's one thing depression steals, it's courage, and sharing this has taken every bit of courage I possess.

I still have down days. I'm not all better yet. But I'm putting this out there in the hope that it may speak to someone else who has been through or is going through the same thing.

The first step is simply to do what I've done today. You don't have to share your naked soul with thousands of readers. Just tell a friend. Tell your partner. Just say the words.

I am not okay.

And see what happens. Things can only get better from here.

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