19 LESSONS LEARNED FROM 19 YEARS AS A CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR

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A few years ago someone called me a "Serial entrepreneur". Fair call. Whatever I do never seems to quite fit into a category, but there was so much truth in those two words. Entrepreneurship is not something you plan - it just happens. It's who I am. It's in my veins, my DNA, and I can't seem to help "falling into business". The elevator pitch is a struggle when you're continuously taking on new identities and businesses and projects. After a while, when asked what it is I did, I'd sigh and say "depends what day it is, I'm a creative". And then the other person would usually look at me all knowingly like, and I could see what they were thinking - that I was some airy fairy artistic type that listened to Bjork and slept in late and then fluffed about with some paint in an exhilarating moment when the inspiration hit. Granted, there's some truth in that. But I'm more of an old school 70s/80s music type. Give me Michael Jackson, the Beegees and Stevie Nicks any day. At the risk of this turning into a thesis, I'll just get right to the point (all 19 of them, for the 19 years I've been in a business of some sort). My biggest lessons learned through this ever changing landscape of creative entrepreneurship:

1. There is a season for everything.

Time just keeps on marching on and it doesn't slow down for anyone. I've spent so much time thinking about stuff and planning stuff, only to never get the actual stuff done. Suddenly it's September again, and I remember that I wanted to launch my "XYZ" before Christmas....just like I wanted to the year before, and the year before that. And the ten years before that. Before you know it, fifteen years have passed. Actual! I think back to when I started my first business and I was a fresh faced 20 year old. ALL OF A SUDDEN, and I mean, REALLY suddenly, I'm almost 40. I've almost doubled my age, and lived half of a full human life. I think back on all the dreamt up projects and what could have been, and what I wanted to be, and sometimes I feel like I'm still working towards launch. Don't get me wrong, I've done and launched a LOT (serial overachiever here, do not knock it), but there are things I've spent far too much time dreaming about doing, that I've missed the opportunity because I didn't think I was ready. Granted, some things do need time to marinate, and some things are actually better off left as dreams in your head - as the reality is not as wonderful (like my dream of opening up a whole foods eatery - it looks amazing in my dreams....). If you do happen to miss the boat while you're dreaming however,

2. There will always be other boats.

Have you ever had an idea, and a month later after "sleeping on it" 30 times you realise it's not that great, or it would be better if it was like this or like that? Sometimes in the excitement of the creative moment when we think something is AMAZING, we are blinded by our own excited-ness. Everything is rose tinted and it's hard to see the flaws. I do believe there is a season for everything, and when the time is right and the circumstances allow, you can jump on another boat, if you missed the first. There are some things that are best left until things align. There will be other boats to sail, and if there's nothing suitable, you can always build your own.

3. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Biggest thief. Biggest, biggest thief. It's so easy to compare our EVERYthing with others edited, cropped and filtered SOMEthings. Still a lesson I'm learning. Sometimes it's hard to find the joy. Especially if you're coming out of a winter period in your life, or you've been dealt a few life blows. But the moment I do find that joy again I want as much as possible to maintain that joy - not to be robbed of it. Stay away, comparison! Don't compare your progress, your perceived lack of progress, your goals, your perceived outcomes, to anyone else. Pay attention to your own learning and progress. That's what matters. 

4. Honour your promises

Don't make promises you can't keep. Say no when you need to say no. It's so so easy to say yes, yes just rolls off the tongue. It's much harder to say no. You don't want to disappoint, you don't want to miss out, you don't want to lose an opportunity, and you don't want to let someone down. I'm telling you, it's far worse to let someone down because you couldn't follow through with what you said yes to. Also, how many times have I come up with an idea, and then announced "Watch this space!!!" and then nothing happens? And I see this everywhere! "Watch this space" and "stay tuned" and I'm like ooh ooh can't wait! And that's the last you hear of it. I'm go guilty of this. SOOO guilty. Not wallowing here though! I watched an interesting Ted Talk by Derek Sivers about the reasons you should keep your goals and ambitions secret - people who talk about their ambitions are less likely to achieve them. We all think oh, if I announce XYZ then I'll be accountable and have to commit. That "good feeling" you get when you share your amazing goals with people, that's your mind actually being tricked into feeling that it has already been achieved. And because you've felt that premature gratification of the "social acknowledgement", you're less motivated to complete the work to actually GET IT DONE. Interesting huh. I know it's true in my case. On a side note, can I just say that I have always been SO impressed when particular businesses SUDDENLY announce an amazing new thing out of the blue?! It blows me away! I'm like wow, didn't see that coming and that's freakin' amazing!

5. You don't need a business plan. You need a map.

I've talked about this in previous blog posts. Business plans are for bank managers and investors. Are you a bank manager or investor?! Probably not. You might need one FOR a bank manager or investor from time to time, but you don't need one to run a business. You need a map. This can be visual - like an actual map. It can be a bullet list. It can be a brainstorm bubble. Whatever it takes to show you WHAT you want to achieve, WHERE you want to get to, and HOW you're going to get there. That's all you need to know. It's visual, and it paints an overall picture of your vision.

6. You gotta spend money to make money.

Pay the $15 a month for the accounting software. Please. It'll save you in headaches at the end of the year! (and time wasted). And pleeeeeeeease. PLEASE. Pay for an actual accountant. Don't do your accounts yourself, or even pay a cheap book keeper to do it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the money you will save from having a proper accountant far exceeds the cost of hiring the accountant. Trust me.

Spend money on your branding, website and visual collateral. It makes a huge difference and it's worth it. And remember, money isn't always $$$. Bartering, collaborating, swapping services, is a real thing. Find someone who can help you, and who you can also help.  

7. You need people.

You can't be everything to everyone, even though you probably think you can, or you think it's the only way. You need people, and that means different things to different people. A cleaner perhaps? So that you don't have to spend 5 hours cleaning when you can be creating content, building business relationships, or working on that latest commission. And a support crew - so vital. Whether it be a little posse you've befriended on Instagram, that you can regularly chat with about different things, a Facebook group you can depend on, a local creative group you can get together with....we all need support.

8. Know when to let go, and when to hold on.

When I sold my flax business in 2011 people were shocked. "But that's your baby!", "Why?! This was the biggest thing that ever happened to you!"....Perhaps I did run away when things got too tough, but I don't regret doing so. When I started getting attacked personally, and when I couldn't bear the overload anymore, and when it was no longer serving me, or my well being - that meant I couldn't serve myself, or my family. Besides, I was entering into another phase in life - a growing family. As a fledgling mother crossed with a hands on entrepreneur, I couldn't manage the new dynamic. I still had many lessons to be learnt. So I decided to pass on the batten, and it is now thriving under someone else's care. Hold on to things that give you energy. Let go of things that deplete it.

When to hold on:

When you're sinking and someone throws you a lifeline. Hold on for dear life.

9. Yourself, and your creativity is ever evolving.

I hated pumpkin when I was a kid. Now I love it. What you may like today, you may not like next month. My tastes for things have certainly changed dramatically from year to year. We are human! We are in a state of constant flux. We are bombarded with inspiration from every direction, and some things tickle our fancy, others don't. Don't fear change. Creativity evolves, with the ebb and flow of life. Just go with it. Something great might happen.

10. Done is better than perfect. But always strive for excellence.

I'm still learning this. Perfectionism is like a thorn in my side, like an anchor on a ship that wants to sail away, like a foot stuck in mud. Perfectionism paralyses me. It stops me from posting blogs, sending emails, sharing images, finishing projects, and handing in that assignment. I'm learning to embrace imperfection. The perfectly imperfect. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi embraces this, for want of a more perfect word, perfectly. My idea of "perfect" is probably extreme. Just put your work out into the world already Christall! Do things when you aren't ready to do them. Launch your website when it's got the bones and not ALL of the content. Because most people will not even know any better, you're the only one that knows it also needs this, that and the other done to it. A website sitting in unlaunched mode is going to get you nowhere. Progress over perfection wins hands down. And as Dad always said, always strive for excellence. Perfection is not excellence, perfection is a road block to excellence. Ideas are useless without implementation.

11. The juggle is real, and the work is hard.

Everyone's on this quest for the elusive "balance". It possibly exists, in some far away dimension, but more often than not you're juggling children's sports and work deadlines and sickness and events and taking your dog to the vet and writing blog posts. If you like juggling (I don't mind it) then that's okay. If you're not great at juggling you WILL drop some balls, it's all part of it. There may be a time when something's got to give, and you'll need to put a few balls down. Or, pass some of the balls to someone else. How to get rid of some of those balls? Stop doing the things that aren't actually important to your life or business, and that don't move you closer to your goal.   

12. It's okay to not have it all worked out.

Sometimes this whole "business" business is totally winging it. Basically getting things done matters more than planning on getting things done. You can't make money until you put yourself and your offerings out there - what good is it if you have a whole lot of product or services to offer the world, but nobody knows about them? They're just sitting pretty in your mind or in your basement. There's no money in the bank there. Just put yourself and your stuff out there, and when the things need to be done, you figure out how to do it. I started my first business by accident because someone wanted my product that they'd seen on the news. I was forced to work it out. And I built a flourishing, successful business from those rugged beginnings when I didn't have a clue.  

13. Don't be obsessed with numbers.

Popularity doesn't pay the bills. Oh yeah I want 100K followers on Instagram - absolutely! But I get enquiries and job leads every single day, and the most common theme in the emails is "I found you on Instagram and I just love your photography!". Numbers do not matter. Your followers being genuine does. People that actually follow you because they like what they see, and that have a little relationship going on with you. Never buy followers - those bought numbers don't hire you or pay you for your cool stuff. And please, don't do that whole follow/unfollow stuff to try and gain followers. It's SO obvious, AND annoying. I block those accounts! Be obsessed with forming genuine relationships with your loyal followers, and giving them incredible, genuine content. Content is king.

14. Understand that imitation is human nature.

We learn by imitation. Babies learn by imitation. It's human nature to want to aspire to be like someone you admire, or to want to mimic something/someone you perceive as awesome. Don't be sooooo offended when someone copies you. I also learned this the hard way. 

Copyright infringement and stealing someone's intellectual property however is NOT okay. EVER. I've spent oodles of money over the years protecting my (former) patent, and defending it in and out of court. Exhausting. And costly. But necessary in those circumstances. This is a whole new blog post, so I'll leave it at that. I would say the blog post is coming soon, but I don't want to make false promises! (see what I did there, I'm learning!)

15. You can't please everybody, and nor should you try.

Your vibe really does attract your tribe. Your tribe might be different to my tribe. If someone's not into you or your thing, don't sweat it. Focus on the people that actually care about what you do.

16. Be proud of your success.

Nobody likes a show off. But you also don't need to hide your successes for fear of being labelled a show off, or an "over-achiever". Tall poppy syndrome is a real (nasty) thing, and yes there are people out there that may attempt to belittle you for your success. You have every right to stand tall, and proud. Celebrate your success and your wins - you deserve it! 

17. It's okay to fail.

Failure is often the best teacher. It's also extremely humbling. 

18. Take time to care for yourself

So important. Burn out is real, and it's not fun - for you or for anyone around you. Take time to care for your body, mind and spirit. 

19. Keep it real, and be kind.

Be authentically you. Don't be a bot. 

And with that, I'm going to publish this piece that's been sitting in my drafts 40% finished (or is it 60% unfinished) for six months. I picked it up again today and thought what the heck, see you later perfectionism, this blog post is quite useless sitting in my drafts - get it out girl! So here I am, embracing the perfectly imperfect, which in reality, is more than perfect.

Christall

 

 

 

PLUM & LEMON ALMOND CAKE, A NEW OVEN, AND A NEW DIET

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I have a new oven. Not a brand new oven, but the oven of my dreams nonetheless! A lovely, big, commercial, 900mm wide, 6 burner, gas, cooking machine! It's actually been sitting downstairs in the garage for about six months, after we bought it off Trade Me last year for $450 - SUCH a good score we got. And it's been sitting in storage as we WERE going to wait until we totally renovated our kitchen before getting it all installed - gas and all. Because that makes sense right? Right after we've renovated two bathrooms, fixed the basement bathroom, replaced the roof, insulated the house, painted the house....

Turns out the house had other plans for us, and the original oven gave up the ghost last week. Granted, it was falling apart. I had to jimmy the door so that it stayed shut, and only two elements worked (one blew up when I turned it on!), and it was just the ugliest thing. Such are the joys of buying a totally original 1960s home to renovate. So anyway, the oven went kaput, RIGHT in the middle of a food styling job!! Cue urgent calls to a gas fitter and electrician to disconnect the old and connect the new. Thankfully we'd started demolishing part of the kitchen pantry last year, so our new, larger oven could actually fit - phew!

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Naturally, after finishing my food styling job, I was chomping at the bit to have a good cook inside this new oven of mine. My parents plum tree was overloaded with ripe, juicy plums just begging to be made into something delicious. Mum had been busy bottling and preserving but couldn't keep up with the overload of produce. There's definitely been an abundance of home grown fruit all around the region this summer with the unusually warmer temperatures. I picked a bag full of plums and went to my pantry to see what I could whip up.

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I'm all for ease when it comes to cooking. Not because I'm time poor (which I kind of am, but I digress), but because anything to simplify life in any way is a good thing in my opinion. My husband and I also started a new "diet" on New Years day. Uh huh. I said diet. On New Years day. We thought we'd give Keto a go, due to the success my Dad has had losing a lot of weight, and reversing his diabetes, and more recently being inspired by my sister in law and her husband who we saw after Christmas - who was just GLOWING. I've always wanted to glow. And both my husband and I do need to shed a few kilos. This past year I've become so sluggish and tired, I can't fit my clothes anymore, and as I approach the age of 40 (!!!!!) this year I felt I really needed to do something about my health. It's always seemed to take a back seat while my children's health has been always my primary focus. Time to think about myself for once - after all we only get one life and one body and I'm halfway to eighty!

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So we just jumped straight into it. No real planning, just decided on New Years eve that we wanted/desperately needed a change in lifestyle and to get rid of some very bad eating habits, and on New Years day we just dove straight in - following a 30 day plan as a guide. I think the crazy amount of water I needed to drink made me instantly glow. That's always been something I've seriously lacked. I could literally see the pores on my face bursting with radiant hydration! About time, my poor, dehydrated, neglected pores!

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So the first few days were actually okay. I did experience major sugar withdrawals and had headaches and generally felt lousy. I'm a sugar addict from way back, and I think I literally ate a years worth of sugar in December alone. I'd sit and watch a movie after dinner and eat an entire block of creamy milk chocolate in one sitting - just terrible! But after five days I was through that, and I was starting to feel more energetic, and alive. The following week I did experience what's called Keto Flu - not like the flu, but when your body is changing from utilising glucose for energy to ketones because you now lack glucose - it can do some pretty crazy things! One entire day I could barely move I was just soooooo lethargic. But then I got through that, and also the eating was totally fine - lots of meat, veges grown above the ground, and good fats. Oh, thankful for the good fats. They really do keep you satiated, and I love having my lunchtime or mid afternoon fat bomb berry smoothie or mocha frappe or bulletproof coffee! Yes!

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In the third week we started intermittent fasting - something I never thought I'd be able to do, but I thought gosh if my Dad can do it (and he loves his food) - so can I. So basically we ate (and still eat now) between 12pm and 8pm, and fast for the other 16 hours, making sure we fill up on good stuff and healthy fats to keep us well satiated until lunchtime the next day. This was actually easy for me, believe it or not. I've never been a morning eater - my stomach just couldn't tolerate eating first thing - so extending that out for a few more hours was no problem. When I read about the benefits of intermittent fasting I definitely saw how it could help me in more ways than one.

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That said, the whole time while doing strict keto my muscles felt terribly fatigued, and it just didn't seem right. I knew I had to listen to my body and not push it places it really couldn't go. After a bit of research, I realised my body may have been starting to use up the glycogen stores in my muscles, due to the lack of carbs, (maybe, could be something else though!) and so in week three I decided to transition to more of a low carb, high fat diet, rather than strict keto. Oh how my muscles thanked me! I had been struggling just walking up the stairs (and that's not right!!), so listening to my body in this instance, even if it meant "failing" at keto, was the best thing. After all, bio-individuality yeah. My food philosophy has always been eat what you love, and what loves you in return. Something wasn't loving me. Physically and mentally I was feeling amazing - except my poor legs. I had that clarity of mind everyone goes on about, and never in my life have I woken up feeling refreshed and clear headed and invigorated - even though I only get about six hours sleep per night. It was just my legs that were struggling - it felt like they were dead weights.

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Changing up to more of a low carb diet, with intermittent fasting, and being flexible about this as well, has been the best thing for me. My husband has had no problems doing strict keto and he works out every morning, no problems. Males aye?! But he eats whatever I cook and give him, so he's not strictly keto anymore either. He's still dropping the pounds (three times faster than me - men hmmmm) and has loads of energy which is great - as I was getting worried about his "falling asleep standing up" habits.

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All in all, the best thing about having started this diet is the fact that I've been incredibly mindful about what it is I'm putting into my body. And to me it's not a diet, it's a little change of lifestyle and mindset. I've gone GF, DF, paleo, gut healing, low fat, raw - you name it - before, but nothing's ever stuck as it was very prescribed, and as a passionate foodie and food stylist it was torture! So we'll see how we go with this new lifestyle and change of eating habits. Because I really do like to have my cake and eat it too - literally.

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And with that, here's a very simple yet delicious recipe using the plums from Mum and Dad's tree, lemon and a handful of wholesome ingredients. What's more, you just put the whole lot in the blender (or food processor) and blitz it - effortless! I've said prep takes five minutes, it's probably more like two minutes, depending on how long it takes you to walk to the pantry to retrieve the ingredients. The nutrition values are based on using butter and sugar (refined or unrefined), but you can substitute the butter for coconut oil for it to be dairy free, and the sugar for granulated sweetener such as NatVia. Gluten free, dairy free (if using coconut oil), paleo, and faaaaairly low carb! Best served warm, with a dollop of cream or yoghurt. Enjoy xx.

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Serves 8

A delicious gluten free, dairy free cake (if using coconut oil) with a beautiful balance of tart and just the right amount of sweet.

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 35 min

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups almond meal
3 Large eggs
1/4 cup sugar/granulated sweetener of your choice
100 grams melted butter
1/2 a lemon - skin and flesh
1 tsp baking soda
10 plums - pits removed, halved

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

METHOD:

  1. Grease or line a 20cm cake tin.

  2. Put all ingredients except for 6 of the plums into a high speed blender or food processor (including lemon with skin) and blend until smooth.

  3. Pour batter into the cake tin. Place the rest of the halved plums evenly on top of the batter, flesh side up.

  4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into middle comes out clean.

  5. When cooled, transfer from cake tin to a serving plate.

  6. Dust over 1 tsp of icing sugar using a sieve if desired.

  7. Serve warm, with cream or yoghurt!

  8. This cake will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days, preferably in the fridge in warmer weather.

SIMPLIFY. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

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You haven't received an order or enquiry all week and you feel like you've been pushing pushing pushing your 'thing' out there amongst the noise....but no one can see or hear you. Your coffers are getting low and you're beginning to second guess the passion that brought you this far, and your reason for being in business. Maybe if you were doing what that person over there seems to be doing amazingly, you'd be right. Maybe your 'thing' isn't in anymore, and what people really want is "xyz". But your thing is "efg". Perhaps you're on the wrong path altogether and you need to jump on over to that other one because that looks like it leads to awesome places!  All valid thoughts, when you're second guessing yourself.

It’s tempting to want to diversify or expand your product range or add in some more offerings, especially when you’re having a lean week.

Or when you feel like you’re stuck, or your boat is sinking, or you’re treading water.

Or because you’ve seen a shiny new thing that someone else is offering.

It's easy to believe that "adding more" to what you're already doing is going to be some sort of magic pill that's going to make your business and life sky rocket, but all you're really doing is choosing another path out of pure desperation, or even envy. The old FOMO syndrome - guilty here! Or you're choosing another path because things aren't going the way you expected them to, and if like myself, patience isn't high on your list of virtues.

When you're struggling to run or even walk, the last thing you want to do is add more weight. When your boat is sinking the first thing you need to do is get rid of some excess stuff that's weighing everything down.

Growth is not always about adding more to get "bigger". A lot of the time it's about removing more, to make "progress".

I know I know. You're a creative, like me. You have a million ideas and probably a thousand of them are viable and would totally work if you had all the hours and the days and the resources and the money.

But you'll end up with a business map much like this image of the beach. Tracks from all sorts of vehicles going this way and that. Spaghetti junction. Makes a pretty picture but not an ideal business (or life) scenario.

I've got huge dreams. I want to be everything and do all the things. But my most recent business map looked like a mangled spiders web. Yes, all wonderful and sometimes exceptional ideas - but they're never going to get anywhere except on a piece of paper if I try doing it all at once. Because overwhelm.

And because paralysis.

When your business map looks like someone dumped two minute noodles on your desk (and in your brain) it's paralysing. You don't know where to start, what to start, when to start, why you're even starting...

So you stop. Can't do anything. You go watch a movie instead or sort out that cupboard that's been neglected for the past two years. Or, you go round and round the loops in your business map, trying to pull it all together and make it work, but you're not really making any progress. A bit of this and a bit of that.

Simplify.

Come back to your CORE OFFERINGS and work out how to make it work. Don't complicate things that don't need to be complicated. Don't add things that aren't aligned with your WHO, WHAT, HOW and WHY. Don't add "xyz" when you are "efg". Remember why you are doing what you're doing, and what your true passion is. Get back to the core of what your customers want and why, and what YOU want and why.

Pare back. Separate the wheat from the chaff. Have a deep cleanse. Reset.

You don't need business plan - business plans are for bank managers and investors.

What you need is a map, and it's only one page. And it doesn't resemble a scribble pattern.

I'll show you how next week.

Keeping it simple, real, and heart centred.

Christall x

ON MY 39TH BIRTHDAY - A LETTER TO MY 16 YEAR OLD SELF

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Dear Beautiful Girl Yes, you are beautiful, inside and out. You may not think so right now, but oh, believe me when I say this. All these things that you don't like about yourself now, you will long for in the years to come. That flawless complexion, your radiant health, your bright eyes and those skinny minnie legs. But you will also learn to embrace your imperfections, your scars, and your quirks, because that's what makes you, you. And there is no one like you.

You will learn a lot of things, girlie.

You're so eager to get out and find your place in this big wide world. Your glory box is filling up and you're hanging out for the day you get to experience freedom, make your own rules, be independent and have a go at adulting. You think time is going waaaaay too slowly. You have imaginations of what uni and having your own house will be like and it all can't happen soon enough. Patience girl. One day you'll wake up and you'll be 39, and you'll be wishing those years back.

The same things your Mum worries over you about, you'll worry about over your children, but tenfold more. Yes, your children - they will come at the right time, don't you worry. You're as clucky as a duck but it's just your hormones. I know you have a crush on someone new every month and your heart panics when you see them - it's significant enough to mention in your diary, in morse code. I've read your diaries - I have them all, and I know your language too. It's okay though, because I am your true friend, and I will never betray you. I'll be with you every step of the way in this journey of life, as you navigate freedom and restraint, overwhelming challenges and immeasurable success, the lowest pits of hell and the highest mountains of pure joy.

You think about your childhood sweetheart all the time, and wonder what could've been had he replied to your letters, or you'd had the courage to tell him how you felt when you saw him last year. Little do you know he never got your letters. Little do you know that one day, when the time is right, and when you least expect it, you will be brought together. Little do you know, that your dreams will literally come true, and you will marry your childhood sweetheart. Have faith.

Your primary school teacher told you that you could be whatever you wanted to be in life, and you took her seriously. You will achieve more than you could ever have dreamed. You will be highly successful and win awards and accolades for your work at a young age. Stay humble.

You'll be driven to achieve more and more, and you will live a life of creative entrepreneurship. It will carry you off at times to places you'd never dreamed of, and opportunities will abound. Stay grounded.

You'll experience people's true selves, especially when there's money or fame involved. Don't ever sell yourself short. People are only in it for themselves, and you're the only person you can trust. Stay true.

I wish I could tell you that life will be perfect. But life is not. There is a season for everything - including winter. You'll go through many winter periods, and face many challenges, but you'll always come through to spring. Always. You'll experience tragedies that are so great you don't think you could possibly survive - the pain is too much. Believe me girl, when I say you will survive. The scars from these tragedies will always remain with you, and will flare up every now and then in bad weather, but serve as a reminder that life is real. These experiences shape you, and your truth. Don't be afraid. You will get through. I promise you.

You'll begin to realise that it doesn't matter how good a person you are, tragedy does not discriminate. No one on this entire planet is immune to tragedy, or loss, or grief. Good or bad, happy or sad, tragedy strikes where and when it does. Still, be a good person. Be kind. Live your life to the full, and make every day count. LOVE your family. Appreciate your siblings. Even when your brother teases you about the way you run.

You'll achieve amazing things, girl. You'll fail and you'll fall, but you'll always get up and try again, or try differently. You'll learn to live in the process of creativity, and in doing so, learn what's important to hold onto, and what to let go of. Your life will start to get lighter once you start to shed some of the material things that are weighing you down, especially once you drag everything from one house to the next....to the next....to the next.... Yes, you will get your house. Be patient. And keep the diaries.

You have an inbuilt homing beacon, and no matter where you are in the world, you will always know where to find home. Trust the process.

You've got so much to discover, and so much is being discovered around you. You're entering into an age of technology and one day you'll even have your very own cell phone. You don't even know what the internet is, because it hasn't been invented yet. The world will be at your fingertips and it will excite you so much. You'll want to do everything and be everything, but you're also susceptible to burnout. The perfectionism trait within you is strong and you're either all or nothing, perfect or zilch. You'll learn to loosen up, because burnout ain't fun. And you'll start to appreciate the concept of perfectly imperfect. Live in the calm.

As you get older, you'll start to hear about being authentic, being true to yourself. And you'll realise that a big part of who you are as a person, is actually your faith. It's not something you talk about much. You stopped talking about it years ago when you were laughed at. But it's strong, and is a big part of how you got through all these things. People believe in whatever they wish to believe in. You also can believe in whatever you wish to believe in. You know personally what is real, and what you have experienced. You can't see love, but you will definitely experience it and know it is real. You can't see anguish, but you will one day know this to be real too. Likewise, you can't see God, but you will know Him and experience Him in ways that you cannot deny. There will come a time where you cannot walk, for the pain in your heart is too great that your legs are numb, and He will bear you on eagles wings. No one can take away anything that you have experienced. You know your truth.

And one day, you'll wake up, and you'll be 39 years old.

Your kids will bring you a coffee in bed, homemade cards and presents, and look at you with wonderment and excitement - these beautiful human beings that you grew and nurtured and brought into this big scary world, calling you Mum.

And you'll wonder how is it that you got to 39 so fast, and what you could have done differently in your life.

Nothing. Life is what it is, and will be what it will be. Make your days count. Even the ordinary days. And especially the extraordinary ones.

Learn the secret to contentment. It's not achieving everything you want, and it's not success. You've had all that, and you still weren't satisfied.

You and I both know there's only one thing that can fill that void place deep within your being.

Love,

You.

 

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I speak according to lack, for I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be content. I know also how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to lack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 WAYS TO STYLE A KILLER FLATLAY

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I do love a good visual story. Visual storytelling is what I'm all about, and many of you as well, even if you don't realise it. The way you can tell a story through a single image is fast becoming the way to stand out amongst all the 'noise' of this busy, online environment. Most people only remember 20 percent of what they read, but, they are likely to remember 80 percent of what they see. Now that we live in a world absolutely saturated with visuals, it's even more important to make sure you are on point with your content, and make what you are putting out there into the visual world count, and memorable for all the right reasons. How do you get seen above the noise without being shouty? (!!!!) Have you ever wondered how some images just have a way of embracing a theme and really making it sing? Besides the rule of thirds, great lighting, props, backgrounds and other visual elements that make up a flatlay, there's also the all important matter of COMPOSITION.

Now I could harp on about composition and be very textbook about it, but wouldn't that just kill your creative vibe! Instead, I want to introduce you to what I've named THESIX PERSONALITIES OF THE FLATLAY.

I'm going to show you just how composition can create the whole look and feel of an image, and by tapping into these "personalities" you can discover how to create optimum impact with your visual storytelling. After all, a good story needs to be compelling, and must be able to form a connection with the audience...it needs a personality.

Introducing....

THE PRECISE

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Exactness and precision is the order of the day (pun absolutely intended). Not a hair out of place, not a blemish in sight. The Precise demands perfect execution, meticulously measured and carefully considered. Most of the space in the shot is filled, the only negative space being the exacting gaps between the perfectly placed items. The Precise is all about "More is More", showing off everything you've got. Yet due to its stringent personality, everything is carefully selected and even more carefully curated. The image itself has straight edges, created by the clever placement of the props, and framed by the empty space about the perimeter. Embrace this personality in your styling when you have lots to show off, but you need it to be succinct. Like presenting pieces in a fashion collection, the elements of a recipe, or a themed collection of products. This is a visual feast, but executed with a degree of discipline. Keep your lines straight, your gaps uniform and be selective about your props. The Precise is perfection, and someone has to do it.

THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION

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The product is the hero here. The Centre of Attention demands the limelight - everything else is purely complementary, yet it can't be without. Here, the product takes centre stage, and the other props in the image draw your eyes to the main event. They frame it. They celebrate it. They let the main product sing and they harmonise. It's like a diva on the stage, surrounded by her back up singers and dancers - there's a lot going on in the background sometimes but it's all for the sake of the lead singer. All eyes are on her. Tap into this personality if you are wanting to sing a brand's praises through captivating imagery. This is a great way to elevate a brand or a particular product, and express the brand's unique concept and character by way of the surrounding props - those harmonising back up singers.

THE FREESTYLER

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The Freestyler is the "Messy Bun" of Flatlays. You know that perfectly imperfect, "just-jumped-out-of-bed-but-I-look-amazing", casual yet flawless. The perfect balance of styled and strewn. It's busy but not frazzled. It exudes confidence and panache, and a certain amount of "oh yeah, I just threw that together and it landed like that" sophistication. Organised chaos. The Freestyler is highly engaging, inviting you into a moment in time - like a Sunday brunch captured mid-conversation, or a busy work desk captured mid-email. People seek real, candid moments, so The Freestyler does this, conveying authenticity, real life and even evoking nostalgia. The elements of the flatlay extend beyond the frame giving the viewer a sense that there is much more to be seen here. They're layered and fun. Such is the nature of The Freestyler. It's a busy life, but the living is easy. Moments in time, products in situ, meal prep, foodie flatlays - The Freestyler does it all.

THE LONE STAR

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The Lone Star is exactly as the title suggests and doesn't require a lot of extra frills. Interestingly, your eyes are more likely to be drawn to an item placed off centre, than to one smack bang in the middle. Around two thirds of the image is negative space, a clever element in composition, which draws the eye directly to the intended focus. The star piece deserves all the spotlight and it's placement off centre is deliberate, and without too much distraction, encouraging the audience to learn more about it. The focus stimulates the senses and creates a sense of want. Embrace The Lone Star qualities when you want to give something extra special attention - perfect for a master dish or a superior product that stands out from among the rest.

THE DANCER

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Fluidity and movement are the outstanding features here. From hand bag spills (I wish my handbag contents looked so good!) to scattered ingredients on a bench, The Dancer invites the viewer into the performance. The image is alive and prancing, almost animated, and evokes a sense of fun, action and enjoyment. An ordinary image using ordinary props can become so visually dynamic with the added dimension of movement. The Dancer is all about the whole performance. Every movement, every tantalising element, work together to set the scene. It's so exhilarating, you can almost hear the music.

THE INDULGENT

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The Indulgent embraces the brief with gusto and serves up a visual feast that leaves the audience wanting. The placement of the props lead your eyes off the page, suggestive of more of this indulgent feast continuing outside the frame. We know that a good visual is not only pleasing to the eye, but it stimulates all the senses, and The Indulgent certainly delivers a full sensory experience. The light shines on the whole feast within the frame, yet hones in on the intricate details - the ones that make your mouth water. The Indulgent is overly generous, luxurious, comforting, and always delicious. It's the absolute epitome of visual feast. Mmmmm!!!

Well there you have it, six ways to create a different visual story by embracing one or more of these personalities. I've got six "styling in sixty seconds" videos to share on each flatlay style which I will be sharing on Instagram in the coming days, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, enjoy injecting some personality into your composition - I'd love to know how you get on.

Christall x

"LISTEN TO YOUR GRANDMOTHER" - HOMAGE TO MY KUIA - AN EXHIBITION

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Facebook just reminded me about an exhibition I held five years ago at Taylor Jensen Fine Arts in Palmerston North, called "Whakarongo ki to Kuia - Listen to your Grandmother". And what a pleasant experience as I flicked through the album of images, reminiscing not only about the exhibition itself, but the experiences, influences and inspiration behind it - some very special women who have gone before me, my kuia (Grandmothers).At the time I wanted to blog about the exhibition...but I didn't have a blog! So here I am. Sharing it five years later. This exhibition paid homage to four amazing women: Great Nanny Rangipakaru Ameria Kingi (of Maori & English descent), Nana Rata (of a Maori mother & Scottish father), Great Nana Alice (more affectionately known as old old Nana, of British origins) and Great Nana Bubby (a little, but vibrant Irish lady). 

"Whakarongo ki te hau, Whakarongo ki te ua, Whakarongo ki te ngahere

Ata Whakarongo ki to Kuia"

"Listen to the Wind, Listen to the Rain, Listen to the Forest

But listen carefully to your Grandmother"

Whakarongo ki to Kuia tells a story. It's about who I am as a person, and what inspires me. From the green plains of the Manawatu, to the rugged King Country hills, my forebears, and the effect of this rich heritage which runs through my veins." This exhibition was a result of research into my female ancestry. And what a rich ancestry it is! In this fast paced, digitally enhanced world I felt the urge, even beckoned, to rediscover life as my Grandmother's had lived. What I found out about them inspired me. Their stories were real. Their lives were simple. Times were tough, and they were tougher!

All completely different women, of different origins - yet their blood runs through my very veins, and in some respects has made me the person I am today. This is a homage to these incredible women who have gone before me, who have influenced me in ways they could never know, and who I live to make proud. The work in this exhibition is mixed media - predominantly acrylic on canvas, my Hapene (NZ flax), and other props and media that I was drawn to when bringing together this body of work. I especially love the old tea tins, that were reminiscent of Nana Bubby's dining room with its coal range, tea trolley, and Chinese wall hangings. 

Homage to Great Nanny Rangipakaru Ameria Kingi

Homage to old old Nana Alice

Remembering Nana Bubby's bright red lipstick on the edges of the tea cup

"Tartan Harakeke"

Hapene and flax flower posy - Nana's garden

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Thank you to my darling friend Ange for the beautiful photographs. x

OUTSIDE THE SQUARE - BEHIND THE SCENES IN MY LITTLE STUDIO

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Confession: I'm addicted to Instagram.

Instagram's a funny thing. The lure of the share, the pursuit of perfection, the illusion of having it all together, when in fact everything is a chaotic mess. I'd love to show you how it really is, but I don't want to cramp my Insta style. I admit, I look at my grid and go ahhhh, I like that. I see a photo that looks out of place and I delete it. But here's the thing, I like my Insta-space! And I like it polished. It's like...a little square of order amongst the chaos, a little piece of happy and a little feeling within that ahhhh, I just made something look great even though the three year old has just unmade all the beds, and last night's dishes are still all over the bench.

Some people don't mind sharing their mess. And I don't mind seeing it. I prefer not to share mine. Admittedly, I am a tad okay a lot OCD. I'm constantly cleaning up around everyone and wiping walls and vacuuming, oh man, I love vacuuming. I need to go to vacuuming rehab. And how I love seeing the beautifully curated feeds of some of these amazing people I follow on Instagram. Not so much perfect happy families as that usually makes me feel like crap, especially if the kids are melting down (or I am). But ones who post the beauty in the every day. Sometimes staged and styled. Sometimes curated. Other times little moments caught on camera. I'm fully aware of the illusion of perfection, in whatever form that may come - parenting, your home, interiors, the perfect life, the perfect family, the perfect meal, holiday....and I know that everyone has a behind the scenes. Sometimes Instagram is a bit like "oh look at all the shiny happy people ugh", and I know that I'm guilty of portraying a shiny happy little insta world, even when things seem to be crumbling around me. But you know what, sometimes I just like to escape the 'scenes' and pretend for a bit that there is no drama, and create a beautiful shot, and capture a lovely moment. And what sometimes happens is, I'm no longer pretending. Creating the moment, even if curated, has created an actual moment. It's like a portal into a happy place. Do you know what I mean? I'm rambling...

So I thought I'd share with you some images of my little studio, "as is". I resisted the temptation to clean and sort it before taking photos. I honestly went in with my camera and took photos of exactly how it was. Admittedly, the benchtop was clear because I was putting together a flatlay - this is one of about ten spots around my house (inside and out) that I take photos. So you'll see a little 'behind the scenes' of a flatlay as well.

My studio is a narrow little room at the back of the house, overlooking the back garden. Even though it's a small space (approximately 1.8m wide by 5m long) it has amazing light - with a window overlooking the garden, and a glass door at each end of the room. It's a lean-to room at the back of the house, I'm not sure quite what it used to be - a wash house perhaps? The previous owners painted it all white (yay), and it has a large built in work bench/desk - also painted white. Perfect for flatlays!

Here it is, piles of junk I mean treasures and all....oh and props, far too many props.

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RENOVATION DIARY - Part 2 - The Dining Room

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Finally. An actual blog post about the renovation! I've been sharing bits and pieces on Instagram for 552 days now. I know. The project that I anticipated would take 120 days max. Haha!! I've been reluctant to blog about the full process until now, because I've been waiting for it to be all completed and sold - so that in a sense I can feel like I'd actually accomplished it, and that I was not just leading you all on. I'm very happy, elated in fact, to say that the job is complete, the house is sold and settled, and I'm closing this rather large chapter of my life with a series of renovation process and reveal blogs. To be honest I would have loved to have this photographed for a home and garden magazine, but the time contraints and all the crazy meant that I just had to take a few quick photos with my good camera before I dashed out the door again (normally to drive 2.5 hours back to Hawkes Bay to pick up my kids from school!!). Yes, eight months into the project we MOVED. Now, if you've read my first blog post about how this all began, you'll know that we weren't actually living in this house. My Dad and I purchased this as a "do up and sell on". My husband ended up getting a new job in Hawkes Bay, so we had to move from Feilding....and I had to commute back and forth, juggling kids and ladders and power tools. Believe me when I say I am SO. RELIEVED. that this is done and dusted. Our budget didn't allow for too many contractors, so a lot of this was pure DIY. It was back breaking at times. By the end of it, when I was simply installing an eco panel heater in one of the bedrooms at 11pm I screamed "I'm so over this!!! I can't do it!!!!!". Damn eco panel finally got hung, and my body was so weary it felt hung over. So anyway, into the renovation itself - the kind of exciting part! I say exciting because some parts actually were. Some parts were DREEEEADFUL. But here I go, I'm starting off with the dining room - probably the second most difficult room of the house.

Remembering, this is a 1905 villa, with layers....and layers....and layers....of history. And sometime back in the fifties someone did some really awful things to the house (which we uncovered), but we managed to rescue and restore and revive. Here's the story:

The house had been a rental for some time. This first picture was taken when we went and had a look at the house before we bought it. I saw that hardboard panelling, probably installed in the fifties, and had an inkling there might be original tongue and groove match lining underneath. The thought of that excited me. Dad wanted to do a "quick makeover" - just a paint job and a new (tiny) kitchen. See that little closet looking thing on the right? That was the kitchen. On the left was the bathroom. I convinced him that we could do so much more, without getting into financial dire straits. I was convinced that there was some magic underneath these horrid wooden panels, and so we opted for Plan B - full renovation.

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I pulled up the carpet. There was more carpet underneath. Here began the saga of layer upon layer of all sorts of crazy. Oh and see that little room, below right? That was the old laundry. I'll come back to that later.

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Pulling up things like tacks and smooth edge was purely a pain in the butt. Such a tedious task. But that was nothing compared to what was waiting....

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THIS SUCKED. As I mentioned in my first blog post, the foam backed carpet was GLUED TO THE FLOOR. Glued. As in, glued. I almost broke my back pulling this layer of carpet up, since the carpet was GLUED to the floor. Did I mention it was glued to the floor? I have words in my head that I don't want to taint my blog with. This was hideous.

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Scraping took on a new meaning. Hours and hours of shovelling. We all had turns. It was horrible.

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Hey but what I was REALLY hanging out to do was to find out what was beneath that hard board wall panelling. And I gave a little preview of this in my first blog, and yes I was so right!!!! And I was so stoked!! Rip, rip, pull, smash, yank, rip, whack - I got all that panelling off, and it was amazing (in my eyes that is). Match lining! Tongue and groove! Original!!! Oh and granny green mmmm...my fave.

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But it's still not as simple as grabbing your crow bar, hammer and nail puller. The thing I discovered was that EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, is connected. It reminded me of that song "Dem Bones" we used to sing back in school..."Thigh bone connected to the hip bone. Hip bone connected to the back bone. Back bone connected to the shoulder bone. Lalalala"....You get my drift. Here's the thing. One little piece of quarter round scotia couldn't come off, because it had another piece going over the end of it from the adjoining wall....and that piece had something over it, and that other thing, and that other thing...And these pieces were native timber so they were hard as anything - you couldn't just smash it up like pine or mdf. Anyway, so it continued throughout the whole house. I feel like I'm moaning quite a bit. There was actually awesome stuff, like finishing the little jobs and being VERY satisfied with my efforts. Rewarded by that match lining discovery I tell you.

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I must say, as I stood in this dark green and brown space I felt a little freaked out. I felt like I'd just stepped back in time, or like I was in one of those turn of the century cottages like at MOTAT. Kind of eerie and nostalgic, half expecting to turn around and there be some scary wax statues hovering over a coal range. It was weird. I imagined who used to live here when the space was originally like this, and what conversations were had, how many children sat around the table. What was life like in this house back in 1905? I was actually a bit freaked out, and I wouldn't come into the house after (or near) dark at this stage.

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As much as I do love vintage green, it had to go. Mainly because of the possibility of lead paint, and because of this reason I couldn't prep the surface too much in case of loose dust particles getting to my lungs. So all kitted out in safety gear I did just a wee bit of scraping where there were big blobs of stuff, no sanding whatsoever as per advice, and I started filling holes, and then painting with this amazing primer - Zinsser BIN (or Zinsser Cover Stain - both magic). This stuff covers EVERYTHING. I've used it on formica benchtops, laminate shelves, concrete, steel...it covers everything, and makes a good base for paint. I realised afterwards that I should've done it the other way around though, and there's a reason why.

1.If I'd painted the primer first, all the small nail holes would have shown up more easily, and the primer would have filled the smallest holes anyway. 2. The gap filler would have had a better surface to adhere to.

So I did it the other way round throughout the rest of the house.

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The opposite wall was a bit of a mystery. With that ugly looking fireplace there I didn't have a clue what might be behind the wall lining. I also decided that I wanted to get rid of that window and open it up to the outside. Dad did everything required to remove the window, and then I helped him to lift it out....that must be the heaviest thing I've ever lifted.

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Just quickly - there were big wood boxes built into the outside porch on the other side of the window...and look at what the wood box was made of. That's the construction sign that is now hanging on the new dining room wall! There was no way that was going to the tip, glad I saved it. Also!!! I found these rimu french doors on Trade Me, just over in Palmerston North. They were the perfect size, and only cost $50!! Gosh having those doors in there, even at this early stage, made such a difference.

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I pulled off wall linings on that wall and was met with a mish mash of all sorts. This HAD to be gibbed over. I spent hours trying to remove these bricks from the front of the fire place, and to no avail. Then I called on hubby's help (muscles) and he managed to whack it out in twenty minutes. Phew.

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Strapping, gib and wallpaper were in order for that wall. For some reason, at some stage, the owners had added on an extra half a metre to the dining room. Hence the different floor boards to the right, and the very weird wall lining situation. Just cover that right up please. I hung my favourite wallpaper up beside the door (Resene anaglypta, Turner Tile), and went yep, that's the one.

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Now looking back to that old laundry. It was a monster of a room for a laundry, and had the toilet room adjoining. I decided to make that the new bathroom. Which meant that we could get rid of the old bathroom and kitchen, and open that whole room up completely. But that's another story. Anyway, it meant having to sort out that laundry wall, so I decided to get rid of the existing doorway (on the right) and put the door at the left. This would create a little entrance/lobby to the separate toilet and bathroom.

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Window had to come out, framing built, and walls gibbed. THEN, I found this big native timber door on Trade Me as well. It had come out of an old state house in Savage Crescent in Palmerston North. I had visions for this, and using a sliding door runner from the bedroom I got my builder to install it as a sliding door. Yes, at this stage I started to employ a builder on his weekends to do these things for me. I had seen an image of a barn type sliding door (in coral pink, one of my favourite colours!) and had visions for this door.

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Here's part of the old laundry/washhouse after I'd stripped yet more wall lining off it. Check out the wallpaper! I actually saved a whole lot of it for future creative projects....and somewhere along the line it got thrown away...probably in the four skip bins we had to hire over the year and a half. But take more notice of the door. I pulled the hardboard lining off of this as well, and there was an original villa door underneath. Winning!!

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I took the door off the laundry (since we didn't need it there anymore), and hung it in the dining room. And I painted it in my favourite shade of aqua - Resene Riptide. Knowing that this house was to sell, and not for me to enjoy and live in, it was a bold move - it certainly wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. But I did it. I wanted to and I did. And it looked fab. Also, check out the white walls! They scrubbed up so well after layers of white paint! Dulux Haunui half was used throughout, including ceilings. A very white white, with a hint of pink - not that you could really tell.

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Sanding the floors - it was like magic. Did it all myself with the sander hired from the hire centre. I've done it in a few houses now, but never on gluey floor boards. But it worked! I did go through a LOT of sandpaper rolls though. And it did take a VERY long time. The hardest part is doing all the edges with the hand held belt sander. Kind of back breaking actually.

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Tada! Check out my door. I didn't go for coral pink, since house for sale and all. But granny green in keeping with the history of the house was the call. I felt it was a nice way to bring the old back into the new. Nostalgic almost. So I prepped, filled and sanded, and painted it the loveliest shade of Dulux Geraldine. Note: not to be confused with Resene Geraldine! Which just so happens to be my favourite shade of coral pink! And check out the construction sign. It totally rocks. And I felt so good about that - rescuing that from the demolition and giving it pride of place in the house.

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My lighting. I'd had these vintage industrial light shades for a few years, that I picked up from the op shop. #notahoarder I promise. I gave them a coat of good old Zinsser (told you it was magic) and spray painted them black. The other light fittings I got from Mitre 10, and the wooden ones were to go in the kitchen, and the antique brass looking ones in the bedrooms. I got my electrician to wire up the dining lights and....

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Yussssssss. They were just as I had imagined. No. Better! Eeeeeeek! Paired with some vintage style light bulbs and boom, they rocked.

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After a very long and tiresome process, the dining room had come together. Look, it's so not like on the home reno shows, not at all. When you're doing a whole house you can't just do one room at a time. You end up doing bits of the whole house at a time. You need the sparky to wire up stuff - so you wait until you can get the whole house done - not just one room. You can't sand the floors until everything else is done! And it's pointless just doing one room at a time, with all the set up. Although, I did do it in stages. One thing can't be done, until another thing has been done. Anyway. It is done, and it looks fab. And here are the final photos of the dining room, taken by moi, before a mad dash out the door.

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NEW YEAR, NEW VIEW....NEW WORK

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You may know that about eight months ago we moved to Hawkes Bay, and to my husband's seaside 'hometown' (actually a village, not even a town!) of Te Awanga on the Cape Coast. Gosh. We've been coming here for years, since my husband's family still live here, but actually living here - breathing in the sea air, hearing the constant lapping or crashing of waves (depending on the weather), and being able to look out over the absolute vastness of the ocean itself...it does something to a wounded soul. For the first time in a very long time, I felt able to breathe. Like a huge weight had been thrown into that ocean and my worries had been swallowed up by the waves.

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And the sun rises over this ocean. And so does the moon. And it's glorious.

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It's also the very beach where my darling brother was married. Now that he is no longer with us, it's a very significant and special place for me, and as airy fairy as this may sound, I feel very connected to him as I gaze out over the horizon.

So it's no surprise that my painting has taken on a new sense of freedom and fluidity, and has indeed become very influenced by my surroundings. A quick glance at my own Instagram feed shows a real shift - from busy, colourful, eclectic and bold - to calm, white, natural, neutral, with hints of ocean blues and greens. Aqua, turquoise, teal and green....seem to be what makes my heart bounce these days. I even find myself within the home becoming more and more minimalist and pared back as I look to declutter and simplify, inside and out. Yes me! The avid collector/forager/curator! Don't get me wrong, I still love colour. I still love my 'things'. But I have a bit more of a considered approach to my home and style now. One that I feel works in nicely with the kind of lifestyle we seek.

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I've always painted my interpretations of land, sea and sky, and have always been intrigued with the horizon line. But this year I've ditched the constraints of masking tape, sections and small brushes - and have brought out the big stuff. I've also changed up my mediums, which were solely acrylic and gesso previously, with added mixed media (flax, natural materials), and have added watercolour paint and a spray bottle. The freedom I have without the constraints of everything being 'sectioned' is amazing!

I do love the work I've done in the past, and am very proud to have had commissions that adorn the walls and tables of the likes of Sky City Hotel, Creative New Zealand, Hayley Westenra and some beautiful galleries within New Zealand. But I'm excited about what's to come.

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And you know when you're finished a piece, you just know. I've been reworking this piece for weeks - on and off. Every day it changes, much like the seascape. I added the last brush stroke this morning and said yes. Done.

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It's titled "Deep Breath".

Contact me with any enquiries.

Christall x

HOMEMADE NATURAL CITRUS CLEANER

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ALL PURPOSE NATURAL CITRUS CLEANEROrange or grapefruit peels + white vinegar in a jar. Put lid on and leave it for 2 weeks, or up to 2 months, to allow all the goodness of the peels to permeate the vinegar. Give it a good shake every now and then to release some more of the goodness of natural orange oil, which is a powerful degreaser.When you feel it is ‘done’ strain it into another container, and you can use it either straight or diluted 1:1 with water. Pour into spray bottle and there you have it.It really is lovely to use. It doesn’t have an overpowering vinegar smell because the citrus has really overtaken, and the combo of both = cleaning heaven. Use it as an all purpose disinfectant, surface cleaner, shower cleaner, dishwasher rinse-aid (undiluted), stove top, floor cleaner….

So very simple! And smells great.

Put orange or grapefruit peels and white vinegar in a jar. Put a lid on and leave it for 2 weeks, or up to 2 months, to allow all the goodness of the peels to permeate the vinegar. Give it a good shake every now and then to release some more of the goodness of natural orange oil, which is a powerful degreaser. When you feel it is ‘done’ strain it into another container, and you can use it either straight or diluted 1:1 with water. Pour into spray bottle and there you have it!

It really is lovely to use. It doesn’t have an overpowering vinegar smell because the citrus has really overtaken, and the combo of both = cleaning heaven. Use it as an all purpose disinfectant, surface cleaner, shower cleaner, dishwasher rinse-aid (undiluted), stove top, floor cleaner….

PS - not suitable for porous surfaces, marble or concrete benchtops

LITTLE MASTERPIECE

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Ever wondered what to do with the stacks of amazing artwork your child accumulates over the years? After you’ve framed some of the stand out ones, there’s still so much more, and I could never bring myself to throw a single piece away. These are after all, your child’s expressions, development, imprints, the way they see the world, their marks.

A few years ago I came up with a solution, and me and my four year old son at the time created this:

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A patchwork of some of the highlights of his art, capturing little drawings and moments, and creating what he now calls his ‘story’. From this he tells wonderful adventure stories involving forests, and spiders, and fires. This hangs proudly in our living room. We also used offcuts and extra pieces to create smaller artworks for family members, a great idea for absolutely one of a kind, bespoke artwork - not to mention super special!

With my three year old son I wanted to do something a little different, yet just as effective. I have a soft spot for all things round right now, so I set about using a round template (pretty easy, I used a mason jar screw band!) and we got to work. His masterpiece has pride of place in our entrance now. He is super proud!! His eyes light up as he shows everyone who comes through the door.

Here’s how we did it: NOTE: please check with your young one first that it is okay to cut up their work. My six year old won’t let me do this! These are after all, their creations :-)

You will need: A canvas or frame with white backing board (the larger the better, for impact) High grade PVA glue Medium paint brush (for applying glue) Scissors (or a circle cutter) A round template (a mason jar screwband is PERFECT, as you can see what it is you are going to be cutting out through the 'window’) Pencil Masking tape Patience

Step by step: 1. Measure your canvas or backing board height and width (for framed work, take into account how much of the backing board will be covered by the frame, and take measurements from the edge of the open visible part) 2. Measure the diameter of your proposed circles 3. Figure out how many circles you will need with the following formula: Width (cm) divided by diameter of circles (cm), minus 2 (rounded down to nearest whole number. Taking 2 circles away is to allow for white space around the entire artwork) Height (cm) divided by diameter of circles (cm), minus 2 (rounded down to nearest whole number) Multiply number of circles for width by number of circles for height, and you have your total.

eg. Number of circles for width: 100cmW divided by 7cm = 14.29, minus 2 = 12.29, or 12 Number of circles for height: 60cmH divided by 7cm = 8.57, minus 2 = 6.57, or 6 Number of circles for width, 12 multiplied by number of circles for height, 6 = 72 total circles

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4. Time to cut out your circles! Try to use the boldest and most detailed parts of artwork for optimum impact. Trace inside your screwband with a pencil, or whatever you are using as a circle template (jar lid, round piece of card). Cut out each circle with scissors, OR a circle cutter. I never knew these existed until I had already cut my circles! In saying that, I quite liked cutting the circles by hand, strangely therapeutic. Here’s our little stack of circles ready to go:

5. Now to lay them out on your canvas or board. So that you have it perfectly centred, and with a uniform white space around the finished piece, calculate the following:

A. Width of canvas (cm), minus (diameter of circles x number of circles going across), divided by 2. B. Height of canvas (cm), minus (diameter of circles x number of circles going down), divided by 2. eg. 100cmW, minus (7cmD x 12) = 16cm, divided by 2 = 8cm 60cmH, minus (7cm x 6) = 18cm, divided by 2 = 9cm

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This gives you the measurements from the outside edge of the canvas or opening of frame, to where your artwork starts. For the width, from both sides, measure in “A"cm and mark with pencil. For the height, measure in "B"cm from top and bottom, and mark with pencil. Tape off the area that is the 'artwork space’ with masking tape, with the masking tape to the outside of the imaginary dotted line:

6. In the artwork space, arrange your circles. Move them around until you get something you like. I like to mix them up, but you may want to colour group, go from dark to light shades…

7. Starting at the top left corner, start to stick each to the canvas, working in rows going down. Brush PVA glue on the back of the circles, one at a time, and press down with fingers, rubbing over any lifting edges or air bubbles with your thumbnail. You can always go back and do this again once the entire layout is complete. Glue circles so that the edges touch the masking tape defined edge, and also touch the other circles.

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HINT: pour your PVA glue into a dish and leave it out in the open air for a few hours to become tacky. This will help stick the stiffer and more warped pieces of artwork down.

Remove masking tape, rub out pencil marks, and….It’s done!

Admire the masterpiece!

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I feel like I’ve forgotten something….maybe not. I hope this all makes sense! It may seem a little wordy and full of calculations, but it really is straight forward. We adore ours. Hope you have fun :-)

Christall x

12 THINGS I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME....BEFORE I STARTED MY BUSINESS(ES)

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I started my first business by accident. I was 20 years old, in the middle of a four year design degree at Victoria University. It was August 2000, and I got a call one Saturday morning when I was sick in bed and all clogged up, from ONE NEWS (<<<YES. This actually happened) 

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"Hi Christall, this is Andi Brutherston from TVNZ here. We've heard you're getting an award tonight from Creative NZ for this amazing new material you've invented from New Zealand flax, and you've patented, and we'd like to come and interview you for a segment on One News tonight. Could we meet with you this morning?"

Me: "Sorry, who is this? Oh I'm so sick in bed with a terrible flu. I have to manage to get myself together for the awards tonight, do you think you could come later in the week?"

Andi: "This is Andi Brutherston from TVNZ. Well I don't think you realise how much we'd like to have you on the news tonight, we really need to interview you today so that it coincides with the awards. It will just be me and my camera man. You'll be fine!" Me: "Camera man? What, so you're filming me? I'm sorry, I just woke up. Did you say the news? Like, as in, ON TV" Andi: "Yes One News tonight, we would really love to feature you." And that was the launch of Hapene Flax NZ Limited.I went to the awards dinner that night, received a scholarship (I was so excited about having a chunk of money as a poor student!), my phone rang in the middle of the evening with friends leaving messages saying they'd just seen me on the news (and not that little feel good segment at the end, noooooo, before the first ad, big time you know), and for the next few days my phone rang off the hook with enquiries from other media, people wanting my product, and even from investors.

I had a charming story, of a young girl (ahem, 20) fiddling around in her Grandparents backyard, and stumbling upon a new method of processing flax into a unique, net-like textile. No-one had ever seen anything like it (although people now claim to have done it years ago, of course), and I was able to get it patented. As I pushed through my design degree, I tinkered on the side with my new product, and the possibilities seemed endless. I had a dream, but no plan. I didn't have time. I just loved creating. All the media attention that suddenly exposed me and my product to the world literally forced me into business. Oh my gosh. I had NO idea what I was doing. All I had back in the day when the internet was still a baby, and my cellphone (a rarity) was a big red brick, was my Dad's book called 'Business Planning for Small NZ Businesses'. I devoured it in a week and the rest is history.

I've learnt from SO. MANY. MISTAKES. I've had extreme highs, and major lows. I've had loads of money, and then not even enough to buy rice. I've had struggles, triumphs, wins and losses. I've had life changing experiences. I've grown, I've toiled, I've sprinted and I've fallen flat. In 16 years I've built up and sold three businesses, and currently have a property development company, which will be winding up after I sell this villa we've been renovating. Here's what I wish I knew, before all this even happened.... 

1. There IS such a thing as a visual business plan.

Business plans. SWOT analysis (ick!). These words make me squirm, and my creative juices totally dry right up. But what if I told you that a business plan can be visual? That it doesn't have to be a 30 page, times new roman, boring document, that you never ever finish because your plans keep changing and you can't even keep up with yourself? I will show you how. And do you know what? Business plans are meant to be fluid. Changing with the seasons of life and with new opportunities. Actually, a business plan is never really finished. 

2. Sales do not equal profit.

Oh honey. You didn't think that just because there's money in the bank you can go and buy the latest greatest iMac?! I discovered, time and time again, these things called bills. Major bills. Random bills! Bills for things you couldn't even imagine. Three years later. And tax. And GST. And overheads. And packaging. And and and....so on. Budgeting is super important. And so is working out how much your product/service ACTUALLY costs. Thankfully I have wicked pricing templates. I think I might give them to you.

3. Some people won't like you.

As with anything in life, there are gonna be haters. Especially if you are AWESOME. I was so sensitive! So offended! And now in this age of keyboard ninjas, trolls, and general freedom of speech 'say what you like online but not to your face' kind of culture, haters are everywhere. Don't be offended. Block if necessary. Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate. The end.

4. But, even more people will LOVE you.

True story! They will! And wrap that love around you, acknowledge it, eat it up, thrive on it, and love back! There are so many people out there willing to offer help, amping to support you, and who pretty much become your virtual cheerleaders. I feel so humbled, blown away, and to be honest - ecstatic, when somebody emails me just to tell me how much they love my product, service, packaging, branding, painting....It's like taking 10 happy pills. And don't forget to copy and paste that amazing feedback to your testimonials. Lap it up! And say thanks so much to that cool person.

5. Running your own business with one, then two, then three kids is actually damn hard.

Wow. Did I just say 'kids' and 'damn' in the same sentence? Far out, it really is hard. It's RIDICULOUSLY HARD. Before I had my first child, I'd been in the flax business for seven years. When I fell pregnant I had these visions....baby in front pack while I attended shows, held demonstrations, chatted to lovely customers on the phone. Baby would sleep while I created, and 'kept house'. Mate. Reality? I don't even want to go here. Sickness is a big one. Times that by three, sometimes four (when I catch it all too), sometimes five (when husband does omgggg)....sometimes your days can be a write off. For days on end. No sleep. Work to get done. And when they're all well? Realistically, work can only get done when the older ones are at school, and Miss 2 is at kindy, or very occupied exploring and doing her fun stuff. Or when everyone is in bed. And that's if you're not just hanging out to lay on the couch and watch something with a glass of something! I'll stop right there. It's FLIPPING HARDCORE HARD. I do however have strategies for 'managing' this kind of dynamic....   

6. Use the services of a chartered accountant. Period.

What you will save yourself in tax, will more than compensate what you pay for a chartered accountant. I used cheap book keepers for years, and only in the past five years a chartered accountant. I will not look back.

7. Don't undervalue yourself, or your product/service, even when you're starting out.

Ohhhh this is a biggie. There's a whole new post needed for how to charge out and price your product or service. It's so easy to undercharge and undervalue our worth. But do you know what? If you know your true worth and respect your value, others will too. Super low prices, constant discounts, and being too 'affordable', can sometimes backfire. Okay a lot of the time, if you are one who values your worth. When you constantly reduce your prices (or have very low prices to start with), you attract price sensitive customers, a culture of people who will never want to buy at full price. They will always expect it to be cheap, and will scoff at prices that are higher. Is this the kind of customer for you? Is this your 'target market'? Maybe, but probably not. 'Cheap' can also give the impression that you don't really care about making a profit, or that your products aren't of much value. Offer discounts and incentives, for sure, but there are ways to attract your 'right' customer. Can I just say, that from experience (and others experiences), my most difficult, high maintenance customers (ones that actually made me cry), were ones that got my product/service VERY cheap, or FREE. You can't believe this. I can hear you now. Well it's true. They did not value my work, time, expertise or worth. They over demanded, I over delivered, and I even had a couple of people drag my name through cyber space mud. Waaaaaaa! That REALLY hurt. Don't undervalue yourself. Just don't! PS - this does not mean that all people who purchase things cheaply are awful people. No way. These are just my real life examples, and thankfully rare cases. I had attracted the 'wrong' kind of customer for me, but I learnt from it, and I worked out how to attract the 'right'. 

8. You cannot do everything, and you WILL get a bucket load of emails.

Truth. People will email you about everything. You will think you can do everything. You can't. 

9. Censor yourself. Don't moan on your business' social media pages. 

Just don't do it. Even if your little hands are itching to! If you really have to, moan on your personal page instead, and gather your supporters. However, do make sure your personal page is private. Also, did you know that if you express some alternative opinion on a public post, or have a whinge about something, or create a bit of a stir, lots of people will go and click on your profile to see what you're all about....okay, stalk you. I know this because I do it. Admit it, you do too!

10. You will spend more time on admin, rather than your passion.

Yes. Another true story. But this is okay....if your passion is admin.

11. Take time out.

I really mean this. When you live, breathe, eat, sleep and dream your business, sometimes you need to get right out of that headspace to realign yourself again. Sometimes, getting right away can help to recalibrate your business, your family life, your commitments, your personal goals, your dreams, your vision. Having a holiday is good for the soul, can help you move from a tough spot to a better place, and can give you that much needed 'step away' from your business in order to see things from a different perspective and in a new light. It also gives your brain a chance to switch off for a bit. Breathe. Be. You may not think you need it, and you may not even want to do it, but believe me when I say you'll be thanking yourself afterwards. 

12. Most importantly....don't deviate from what your heart truly wants, be authentic, and know that change can be a good thing.

Be authentically YOU. Don't try to be what you're not, or try to be a copy of someone else. Look deep into your heart and soul, and let it reveal what and who you are. A good rule of thumb....ONLY DO, WHAT ONLY YOU, CAN DO. That's your uniqueness, your point of difference, your wow. Just because you have a business plan (or not) doesn't mean you can't deviate from the plan. A business plan is meant to be always evolving, growing with your dreams, changing with life's circumstances. Don't be afraid of change. Embrace it. Get excited about it. Let it be a catalyst for awesomeness! There you go. I had a list of 30, and I managed to narrow it down to my top 12. Would I have changed anything if I'd known any of this 16 years ago? I have no idea! I've always been one to learn from mistakes. I hope others can learn from mine too. 

Go well, go hard, and be awesome.

And if you'd like to be updated when more information and awesome free business tools are available, hit the SUBSCRIBE button below.

Christall x 

CREATIVE BUSINESS DETOX

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Overwhelm. Procrastination. Too many ideas. Piles of paperwork. Half finished projects. Overwhelm. Creative Stagnation. Overflowing inbox. Workspace spreading through the house like an oil slick. Stuckness (<<< yes that's a word). Gahness (<<< not actually a word, but you know what I mean). Overwhelm. 

Does any of this resonate with you? Year after year, I seem to start the same way - full of vigour, far too many ideas, eager to do this and implement that, make this and finish that. I always, ALWAYS want to start something new. Idea explosion and inspiration overload!

Come March, and I'm all puffed out, having been overwhelmed by a mountain of ideas, plans, tasks and 'to do' lists that have now become lost amongst invoices, junk mail and bank statements.

GAH.

It's back to the grind, and I'm lost in piles of paper and 'inspiration', always trying to catch up (catch up to what, I'm not sure), and never feeling on top of things. Hello October, and I realise the end of the year is nearing (fast), I vaguely remember some of the plans I had and feel remorseful that I never got around to doing much of it this year (again), and then get swamped with everything that happens pre-Christmas that I don't even have enough brain space to think about it.

January. I'm like hey, just rinse and repeat. 

This does not have to be! So I designed a plan, a business 'cleanse' if you like, that can be done even if you're not feeling like any of the above, but especially if you are. I'd recommend doing it at least three times a year. 

This is like going to a Chiropractor for business. Getting everything 'aligned'. Your business, your commitments, your goals, your dreams, your vision. Clearing out the blockages in your creative and intellectual arteries. Decluttering your physical and digital surroundings. Removing toxins. Enhancing clarity. Restoring balance. 

Let's do this.

EXTRA FOREWORD: Don't be overwhelmed by scrolling down this entire post and thinking "OhMyGoodness". I'm not here to create overwhelm on top of your overwhelm. I've broken it up into chunks, into manageable daily tasks. Just focus on one day at a time. Ready? Set....

DAY 1 - PROCRASTINATE. I MEAN, DO THE HOUSEWORK. 

Picture this: You have a 5,000 word essay due in a week's time, or, you have accounts to get ready for your accountant, or, you have a proposal to write for a client. What do you do? Chances are, you start cleaning windows, or completely re-organising the linen cupboard that's been annoying you for 8 months, or decide that cleaning the bathroom is a much higher priority. No? You complete the task at hand? I take my hat off to you! You are good and focused!

But did you know that procrastinating by doing somewhat menial tasks can be necessary for productivity? Getting rid of little jobs that are nagging at you in the back of your mind, sorting out those piles of things that torment you every time you walk past, and you think "I need to sort that stuff out someday". The first step in #creativebusinessdetox is to unclog the 'arteries' in your physical surroundings, the things that, unbeknown to you, may be causing creative blockages.

Having a good de-clutter and clean out is a positively amazing way to boost your productivity and unleash your creative thinker. Sometimes the solution for a creative or planning blockage is to forget about the project for a while, let your mind rest, and simply let your subconscious complete its "procrastinating" - WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY. As these annoying and frustrating blockages are being cleared, your mind almost has permission to engage in creative or thinking activities. Crazy right?

Do you want to know the place where I come up with my best ideas, where I compose 2000 words in my head with ease, and where I get loads of 'eureka' moments? It's not while laying on the beach. It's standing at the foot of my bed, while I'm folding Mount Washmore. Serious. (Almost) every time. I fold a lot of washing.

I hereby give you permission to procrastinate. Go and do two or three of those nagging things that you are just bursting to get sorted. Give yourself permission. Therefore, go forth and conquer thy linen cupboard.

Also, drink a glass of water. It's good for you.

EXTRA LOVE: I really enjoyed this Facebook post a while ago by the gorgeous Sarah Laurie Lifestyles on "Tolerations", and sorting these out before we head into our planning. Great little read!

DAY 2 - DE-CLUTTER YOUR DIGITAL SPACE

Your computer. Your phone. No doubt you spend a lot of time using both. Get them running smoothly and you'll majorly reduce frustration!

Clean up your computer files! Delete unnecessary photos, files and downloads. I take a million trillion photos before deciding on one or two to use. Get rid of all the junk, the blurry shots, the stuff that doesn't work. Get rid of baggage. 

Organise your folders. Sometimes you can end up with so many it's overwhelming. Archive older ones into years if that works for you. When creating new folders, try to label them for easy and quick recognition, and add the month and year to the label. Get rid of random files that aren't in subfolders, by finding where they fit, creating a new folder for them, or deleting them. EVERYTHING needs a folder. Random things floating around, don't work for me! 

Clean your computer desktop - even a crammed and cluttered digital desktop can be counter productive, and a frustration. Create a folder for screen shots that clutter your desktop, the ones you need - and delete the rest. If you have a Mac, you don't need your programmes on your desktop, make sure they show in the Dock. Folders to have on your desktop might be Business (containing subfolders of your branding, press, business documents, social media etc), Current Projects, Inspiration, Templates and Photos. Time to give yourself a fresh new desktop background.

Sort out your BOOKMARKS!!! What a mission. Delete links that no longer are active, or you don't need anymore. Use your browser's bookmark manager to create and sort into folders. I don't use bookmarks anymore. I'm a visual person who needs to see things quickly and clearly, not as a big long list of words. Try out Pocket for visual organisation of your favourite pages (awesome for being able to access from any device), or wherever you can pin the page to Pinterest. 

Defrag, do a system clean up, run your anti-spyware (if you have a PC)

Do a BACK UP. NOW. Invest in an external hard drive to do this, AND look into cloud storage. It's a great idea - and means you can access your files from anywhere and any device. And if your hard drive blows up....you're safe (unless the cloud blows up).

On your phone - delete any apps that you don't use, clean out your photo and video galleries of stuff you don't need, or that you have synced/saved to the cloud or other device, organise your home screen, and give yourself a new background image. If you have an iPhone, DO THIS WICKED EXERCISE so that your battery doesn't die so fast!

Drink a glass of water.

DAY 3 - AUDIT YOUR ONLINE HANG OUTS

Your website. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Your blog. Google +. Pinterest. Firstly, revisit your 'About' page. When did you write it? Two years ago? Is it still a reflection of who you are, what you're about, and what you are offering to the world? Find your current voice and tell people what you are about. Write as much as you want. People like knowing about the real person behind the scenes. Create a short version for every other online platform that you use, and go through and make it consistent on each. (This is my mission this week!) Make sure your branding, vision, statements, contact details and profiles are consistent across all your online media platforms, and make sure information is current and fresh! Clear your blog and website of anything that no longer fits your current brand and voice. If possible, get someone to give your website and your other one major online space (eg. Facebook) a going over with a fine tooth comb - for grammar, accuracy, irrelevant information, gaps in information, and overall visual appearance (or do it yourself, if you can't get someone else). Decide whether anything needs updating or refreshing.Make sure your links work. Audit your Pinterest boards. Get rid of pins that no longer express your current brand and person. Make sure your titles are appropriate. Drink a glass of water.

DAY 4 - SORT OUT YOUR BITS AND BOBS (AND YOUR HANDBAG)

Studio on a bad I mean normal day

This is kind of a biggie, depending on how much you hoard I mean gather for future projects, and how sentimental you are about 'stuff'. This is where you sort out your stashes of fabric, your boxes of vintage spools, your piles of magazines.

RECYCLE -  envelopes, newspaper, old packaging that can't be re-used. You can shred large paper for future packaging, otherwise - get it into the recycling bin. My new rule of thumb is to recycle all envelopes and extra notices/brochures that come with bills STRAIGHT AWAY. Also recycle yucky plastics and unnecessary glass of course!  

HOSPICE - a box (or 10) for your local Hospice or charity shop - be ruthless. You WILL accumulate more, and you know it. Things you really don't need. Odds and ends that no longer go with anything, are no longer your style, and that aren't very cool. I had to learn to not be so sentimental about stuff. But I did keep a 'handy things for future projects' box area. TOYS!! There are far too many, it's overwhelming. You may as well sort them out too while you're at it!

CHUCK - anything broken that can't be recycled, given away, or repaired. Pens that don't work. Dried felt tip pens and markers. Falling apart handbags. Empty tubes of paint. Rubbish.

Studio on a good day

ARCHIVE: by law you have to keep business accounting documents and records for a period of seven years, so keep what you have to. Once you no longer need it (if your accountant has signed off the year and accounts filed) - ARCHIVE IT. Put it all into a box labelled 2014 (or whatever year it is), tape it up, store it away, forget about it. The only time you will ever need it is if IRD decide to audit you. No-one said it had to be 7 years of neatly filed records either. Just chuck it in a box and save yourself 8 hours work. Unless you are super efficient and love to file it neatly - again, hat off to you!

Clean out your handbag (or your briefcase, satchel or whatever it is you carry around with you each day). Your shoulder will thank you. And you will feel envigorated. 

Drink a glass of water.

EXTRA LOVE: Now here's a GREAT post from Kelly Exeter of A Life Less Frantic on The One Minute Cleaning Rule That Will Change Your Life. Some really great advice on how to deal with the clutter before it happens!

DAY 5 - ORGANISE YOUR INBOX

Time to sort out those emails. Ouch. May seem like a monstrous task. Oh it is. First of all delete spam. 

Unsubscribe from newsletters that no longer interest you. 

Go through your inbox and delete anything you don't need - newsletters, advertising, spammish type stuff. Empty your trash.

Create folders for all emails - here's mine: Inbox (necessary!), Actioned, Follow up, Orders pending, Orders sent, Receipts/Invoices, Bank, News, Testimonials, Suppliers, Personal. Put as much of your inbox away in folders as you can, but make sure you are vigilant to keep an eye on the folders that still require action. Once you've followed up or responded fully - file it into 'Actioned' straight away! Do you know how good it feels to go from an inbox of 468 messages to less than 40? AMAZING.

To feel so much more in control of your inbox, give yourself the goal to keep the number of emails in your main inbox to under 50 (or whatever is realistic for you)

Drink a glass of water.

DAY 6 - TIDY UP YOUR ACCOUNTS

Catch up day. Get all your reconciliations done. Do whatever you do in whatever accounting system you use, to get it all up to date. Work out what you can do consistently in this area so that you don't fall behind. Tidy up paperwork for accounts and file. 

Don't forget your glass of water (and possibly a panadol).

EXTRA LOVE: I highly recommend Xero Accounting - it integrates with website management, Paypal and other gateways, the automated bank and Paypal feeds are a LIFESAVER, and save hours and hours and hours of data entry. Plus the reporting is fantastic, it's very user friendly, and my accountant can just pop on into the system from his office and do his thing. (And if you click on that link, you'll probably see a video of my beautiful friend Meg from the gorgeous business Tea Pea).

DAY 7 - ASSESS YOUR CURRENT PRODUCTS/SERVICES

Are there products or services that you provide that you actually don't like? Unless they are absolutely necessary for you to stay afloat, why would you keep them? Eliminate anything that kills your mojo, that drains you (emotionally and financially), and stresses you out. 

See if you can revamp a product, or add value to low selling product by packaging it with other products. Just try it. 

Take a good look at your client feedback, your sales, your enquiries and the talk on your social media channels, and see if there is a recurring theme, find your most popular products, take note of what the people want. 

Now is a good opportunity to have that sale for everything that no longer fits your current brand and offering. 

Brainstorm new products and services! This is fun! I have a whole new post on this, but just go hard and get it all out on paper. Get inspired and excited. 

And yes, have a drink of water.

DAY 8 - ORGANISE YOUR PROJECTS, COMMITMENTS & CALENDAR

I am in the process of designing the ULTIMATE creatives planner and diary. I guarantee you there is nothing out there like it (or prove me wrong, show me! I haven't found one that ticks all my boxes in my endless search for the perfect planner!). Until then, use what is best for you. A large year planner on your wall can make a huge difference. Or perhaps you prefer a digital system (like my husband does). Use colour coding, coloured pens, stickers, highlighters, to organise your projects, personal and work commitments, deadlines and goals. Have a glass of water.

And if you'd like advanced notice of the publication of my ultimate planner, sign up for my mailing list at the end of this post.

DAY 9 - REVISIT YOUR BRANDING

Do you feel 100% confident about your brand and what it portrays? I'm not just talking about your logo, but your whole brand's persona. Your brand isn't the logo that you slap onto everything. It is your entire message to the world about who you are and what you offer. Is it speaking for you properly? If yes, awesome!! Go and have that drink of water :-) If not, now's the time to put a plan in place to revamp it. Get someone else to look at it for you and see if you are getting your message across. Write your story. Your story is an integral part of your brand. Make sure it's being told, and expressed, through the image you are portraying every time someone visits your website, Facebook page, blog. Every time you give a postcard out. Every time you send an email. I don't mean write your whole life story at the bottom of every email, but make sure your brand expresses your message in every interaction with someone, and that it is consistent, loud and clear, and you are proud of it! Engage the services of a pro if this is not your thing. It will be totally worth it. Have a lovely glass of water.

DAY 10 - CLARIFY YOUR VISION

So you've had a big clean up, you've dusted off the cobwebs, you've polished and you've gotten rid of junk. You can now see through the windows, and the sun is shining in! After all of this 'detoxing', you should be able to see things a little more clearly.

CREATE A NEW VISION BOARD (or inspiration board, whatever you want to call it). Whether it be digital, on the wall of your office, on your pin board, or on an A2 piece of card. Create a vision (using images, articles, things that inspire you, materials that make your heart bounce) that represents what you want your business and personal life to be, and where you want to be. Use it to inspire and keep you on track with your vision. Add to it. Remove elements that no longer support your vision. Write letters to yourself and pin them up. There are no rules. It's a very personal experience. It's about what YOU want. 

See if you can summarise your vision in one sentence. 

And keep this vision in view.

Have a big glass of water!

You're done! How does that feel?! I'm hoping you feel envigorated and excited about where you are heading. And if you're wondering why you had to drink a glass of water after each step....because it's good for you, and I just added that as a little exercise in habit. It's one of many habits that if done consistently, can become a normal part of your daily routine. Is there anything else you would like to do consistently, business wise or personally? Make yourself a little daily reminder, and see what happens.

Have yourself a happy business. And I'd love your feedback if you complete this detox!

I'll be expanding on all this and more in my e-workbook, which I've been working on since forever, which is a guide to create your business plan (which is not actually a conventional business plan). I just used the word business plan there because it's what you think you need. What you need is a vision, and a road map. Make sure you hit SUBSCRIBE below to take advantage of being an early bird.

Christall x

HOMEMADE MUESLI - NEVER FAIL "RULE OF THUMB"

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I have never found a shop-bought muesli that I like. I don’t like it over fruity, I don’t like it too sweet (even though I have a massive sweet tooth), I like it JUST crunchy but not soft and chewy. It’s so easy to make it just the way you like it, and I go by a general “rule of thumb”…. My rule of thumb: 3 cups of OATS (rolled, wholegrain, or mixture) 3 cups of OTHER (eg. nuts, coconut, wheatgerm, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, chia seeds) 2 Tablespoons of SWEET (eg. honey + orange juice, maple syrup, apple syrup) 1/3 cup of OIL (eg. coconut) Dried fruit to suit (added afterwards)

Put your SWEET and your OIL in a saucepan and simmer for about 2 mins. Mix all dry ingredients (except fruit) in a large roasting pan, pour sweet mixture over all dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Bake at 140 degrees for 30 mins, turning 2-3 times. It will still be soft when you take it out of the oven, but will get a nice crunch when it cools. Add dried fruit of your choice when cooled.

In this batch of muesli I used: Rolled and wholegrain oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, ground linseed, cinnamon, cranberries, apricots. My ‘sweet’ was pure maple syrup and Freshfields Apple Syrup (fantastic!), and virgin coconut oil.

Perfection for me.

x

RENOVATION JOURNAL - PART 1

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Dear Diary.

November 2014.

I just sold my third business. How cool is that? I never want to own another business ever again. I'm done. And wow, I feel completely liberated! I've been in some form of business for myself since 1999, so this newfound sense of time and freedom is quite intriguing. I wonder what I will do with all my free time? I could finish off all these quarter finished projects around here, maybe plant that vege garden, do some cool art projects with the kids. Ooooh I could do some paintings, or even read some books! I think I'm going to bake every day too. Fill the tins and the freezer in case of emergency. Sitting around just doing nothing sounds amazing. I might try that too. I'll just go make myself another coffee, and have a geeze on Facebook, see what's the haps....

Oh Dad just called. Said there's a couple of good houses for sale at the mo, and doing up a house would be right up my alley. I think he's right. It's probably about time I put my interiors degree to some use. I'm pretty handy with a tool box, my husband used to be a builder so we have everything we need, and I definitely have all the know how from years of doing up our own homes. I took a look online and checked out every detail, from google earth to the district council files and researched the era of house I'm looking at, and I've already rung the agent for an appointment to view. Could be a fun project. Okay let's buy it. I totally have all the time in the world for this. Let's have a 10 day settlement, because why not. Sign where? Sweet. Done. I guess I should ring the accountant now....

{10 DAYS LATER}

Tada! Keys in hand for this beauty 1905 character house, which has both villa and bungalow features, so I'm not exactly sure how to classify it right now (time will tell, believe me). Looks good from the front! Looks shocking from the back. And inside....hang on, I just have to back up a bit, and tell you what's happened in the last ten days, and the crash course I had in the legal sphere of....PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT. Yes. According to the IRD, I am officially a property developer. There is no such thing as "hobby" when it comes to property. Here we go.

Ten days earlier, I rang my accountant. "Do you have twenty minutes or so to chat with me about something? We just bought a house to do up and sell" I said. I'm sure he choked on his coffee. Just a few weeks before I'd told him I was done with business for now, and was looking forward to a well deserved break. Well he told me to brace myself, and get ready for a big education in property development law. Three hours later....brain overload. Property law and tax is an absolute minefield! I won't go into it, but here's what I had to do within a week:

  • Form a new company. Sigh!!! So Lowe and Co quickly became Lowe and Co Limited. Here I go again! I had just started another company by 'accident'....for the fourth time! When you purchase a property with the intention of selling it, regardless of the time frame, it has to be in a company name. End of.

  • Register for GST.

  • Learn about "associated persons", and how they can affect property I own, and how property I own can affect them, even years down the track.

  • Realise that as an official "property developer" I would be under special scrutiny by the IRD, and any other property myself or an "associated person" owned would also be under scrutiny, with the exception of our primary residence. Any rental property, or even my parents rental properties, if sold within ten years of purchase, would then be classed as being part of property development (as opposed to property investment), and thus the sale would be taxed.

  • Discover what can and can't be claimed as a property development expense.

  • Find out that insurance on an unoccupied development property is hideous.

  • Work out a plan! Just as well I'm good at that. My mapping, planning and budgeting skills went into overdrive. Phew.

I won't tire you with the rest. All I will say is, don't go into anything like this blind, and always have a good accountant. Thankfully I excel at crash courses, and I do have a great accountant.

Onto the actual renovation!! The exciting stuff. This was my new 'job'. This house was my project. So I pretty much had free reign, design wise, to do whatever I wanted to, with very tight budget restraints of course. But I do love a challenge.

First up, I just spent a lot of time investigating the place, peeling back bits of carpet and wallpaper, poking a few holes in walls...to see what lay beneath. Figuring out how far I would actually go with this project. Trying to weight up the risk of fully stripping something back and discovering something amazing....or the total opposite, uncovering a can of worms. I decided to take the risk and go the full hog. So I spent weeks ripping, smashing, pulling, wrecking, lifting, demolishing. Dad helped whenever he had a chance. Hubby doesn't really have a lot of spare time, but I called upon his skills when required - and was glad when he could do something in 20 minutes which would probably have taken me an entire day. I simply don't have those muscles (and I'm still a little scared of the skill saw)!

First up, the hallway, lounge and bedrooms. It's a typical villa style layout, with a central hallway and lounge at the front, three generous sized bedrooms coming off the hallway, and a lean to kitchen, dining and bathroom at the back of the house. Some ceilings have been lowered, some haven't. But a peek through the man hole reveals perfect original ceilings, so the added ceiling will be coming down!

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My team of mini's and I started ripping into the 'easiest' stuff. They the wallpaper, me the floor coverings. It was good at first, as the carpet was just tacked down, layer upon another layer. Revealing native timber tongue and groove flooring with no borer or rot, promising to come up beautifully with a sander. Until I got to the master bedroom and later the dining room, where every inch of the final layer of foam backed carpet was GLUED TO THE FLOOR. WHY did they do that?!!

Grrrrr. That glued down foam. That was a LOT of hard work with a shovel. Just to try and excite myself again I thought I'd check out what might lie beneath the dining room walls. I had a sneaky suspicion it might be the original match lining. I dug a little hole in the hardboard wall lining, and saw a little something that looked promising. A hint of my favourite colour, "granny green". So I ripped off a piece with my crowbar....and kept ripping....and was rewarded.

That's all for this round up! Stay tuned, there's a looooong way to go. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the very awesome.

Stay cool.

Christall x