I am not a morning person. Never have been and probably never will be. I’m not likely to ever catch that worm. But when moving house added the extra stress of a long commute to my morning routine, I felt my morning mood getting worse and worse. (Both my boyfriend and my colleagues can probably attest to that. Sorry guys.) Time for a change. Time to beat that morning mood monster. Enter this month’s mantra: Kick Morning’s Butt.

Morning routine

What the experts say

Like the geek I am, I started with some research. One theory particularly triggered me: In Laura Vanderkam’s “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast“, she states that mornings are the best time to tackle crucial tasks. Why? Because people’s willpower and control tend to get weaker throughout the day. We just get fed up with making the sensible choice. Salad for lunch, pizza for dinner. Makes total sense.

So what distinguishes successful peeps from the rest of us? They focus on the first things first, while they are fresh and have a full daily dose of willpower to spend. They get up (early!) and get cracking at:

  • An important professional task
  • A personal passion project
  • Exercise or meditation
  • Quality time with their loved ones
  • Planning and strategizing towards their life goals
  • Getting their daily dose of news

Aside from the lightbulb powered by Vanderkam’s vision on willpower, I naturally turned to some of the ideas of my life guru Gretchen Rubin, to makeover my morning:

  • A good morning starts the night before, by simply getting to bed in time (I know ultimate #girlboss Arianna Huffington will agree).
  • Loving actions inspire loving feelings (and what better to start the day with).
  • To keep up with a new routine it should become a habit, like brushing your teeth. Something you don’t question, but just do.
  • The one minute rule: for some people (represent!) outer order inspires inner peace. Any chore that takes less than one minute should be done immediately, which will eliminate a lot of clutter.

How could that work for me?

Let’s be real. Tackling all of the things “successful peeps” do in the morning, would just set me up to fail, and probably even feed the morning mood monster. Priorities and baby steps. So I thought about the key things that poison my morning: feeling tired, feeling rushed and feeling like I am wasting time being stuck in the car. Easy. Now, what are things that make me feel happy? Feeling loved, learning new things and feeling like I am making healthy choices.

With that in mind, and considering what I’ve learned from the experts, I resolved to try these seven baby steps to make-over my morning routine

  1. Sleepytime alarm: rigorously following Gretchen’s advice I set an alarm at 10 PM, to remind myself to GO TO SLEEP.
  2. Buy some time: I set my morning alarm 45 minutes earlier, to eliminate the rushed feeling and have the time to add a few new happy habits to my morning routine.
  3. Snoozers are losers: No use setting the alarm if you will snooze that extra time away!
  4. 7 min workout: I am a total victim of the willpower trap, and have had a hard time keeping up my evening work-out. So why not try a quick daily morning workout. (I quite like this app since it gives you a routine, meaning I don’t have to wreck my sleepy brain coming up with exercises).
  5. Start with love: Take time to snuggle with the BF and pet my cat, before starting my morning routine. I get a tiny snooze pass for snuggles :)
  6. Listen and learn: I’ve always been a fan of audiobooks during my commute, but mostly stuck to fiction. On my way back from work I just don’t have the mental energy to listen to anything too serious. But Vanderkam’s willpower rule would suggest this to be different in the morning… Enter my new “reading”-routine: marketing/business/personal improvement in the morning, shameless fictional indulgence in the evening. With an alarm at the hour to make sure I switch to the radio for the news :)
  7. 5-minute clean-up: Inner peace through outer order definitely applies to me. The general application of the one minute rule and one quick household task before I leave the house will surely add to my feeling of efficiency.

How did that work for me?

Did I magically become a morning person by sheer force of will? Not even close. But I did manage to slightly tweak my routine for the better. Let’s take stock:

Success: the sleepytime alarm (prevents losing track of time when you’re Netflixing the night away), getting up earlier, starting with love (that one is not hard to keep up :) ), the audiobook reading routine (since I took up this habit, I’ve feasted my ears and mind on “Start with why”, “Blue Ocean Shift”, “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” and plenty of episodes of “The Happiness Project podcast” on my way to work).

Work in progress: 7 minute workout (daily proves to be unrealistic, but on the upside: have done at least 2 of them every week. Still waiting for this to become like brushing my teeth though.. ), snoozers are losers  (my bed is just so nice and warm…) and the 5 minute clean-up. These last two seem to be directly related to the amount of sleep I get, the former for obvious reasons and the latter because it is the first one I skip when I am running out of time.

So all in all, still some work ahead, but a good start! And I have to say: walking into the office on time (no rush!) and feeling like I already accomplished even the littlest of things, really did boost my morning mood. So there’s that.

What about you? Could your morning routine use a makeover?

Love, C.

My parents raised me well. When you visit someone, you don’t show up empty-handed. Just not done. So, whenever I’m going on a new-born baby visit I am confronted with somewhat of an inner conflict. See we Belgians have this wonderful habit we call the “diaper account”, where we just wire money as a gift to the new baby and its parents, for them to spend on whatever they desire or need. Very practical. Very rational. My efficient side loves it. My well-mannered side, not so much.

Excuse me? Entering a person’s home to celebrate the birth of their child with nothing but a virtual stack of cash? Outrageous. Enter the ongoing quest for original little gifts, to hand over along with the promise of that very practical donation. The latest episode in this series: cute little cuttings in personalized pots. Baby plants for baby people.

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How to go about this?

Couldn’t be easier. All you need are some cuttings (I went for aloe vera because babies deserve the cleanest air we can give them, don’t they), small terracotta flowerpots and letter stamps. Just stamp the name of the baby girl or boy on the pots, and you have the prettiest personalized gift. Very simple, very sweet.

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Clumsy girl tip: use some masking tape as a reference to stamp in a straight line. And never mind if you’ve created a few blotches when stamping. It’s handmade, remember? It’s not supposed to be perfect.

Happy crafting!

Love, C. 

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Can hardly believe this is actually happening! After three wonderful years, I am officially moving out of my little happy place. What can I say. Love made me do it.

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I’ve had such a great time creating a home out of this little house, adding more personal touches and vintage discoveries over time. Many a visitor told me they could just it tell it was my place, the moment they stepped across the doorstep. A lovely compliment, I always thought. ^^  Granted: I really let my inner (or maybe not so very inner) girl loose between these walls. (More pastels, anyone?) It was exactly what I wanted at that time in my life, and what I felt brought out the best in this light and lovely house. And didn’t it look nice and cosy in all its girliness?

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Now it’s on to a new interior mission. A new home. Naturally, my favourite part of moving is decorating the new place. (Beats the boxes routine by far…) The new house surely has a different spirit than this one. An older soul. I’m thinking a touch of boho, a pinch of vintage and an urban jungle vibe. I cannot wait to make it ours.

A new chapter, a new happy place.

Love, C.

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I love glass jars! Whether it’s in your home office (bye bye heaps of paperclips, washi tape, and other wandering knick-knacks) or on your kitchen cupboard (for flour, pasta our your M&M stash), they are both fun and functional.

161013-diy-jars-158-dsc_3387-2A personal touch makes just about everything better, doesn’t it? With a tad of DIY you can pimp the jars’ lids and turn them into unique deco items. For this example, I used toy dinosaurs (because: why the h*ll not), but you can create this effect with any little trinket. I personally have a few little cat figurines, saved from my grandma’s collection which would be perfect! Maybe next time around :)

161001-diy-jars-011-dsc_3240-2161001-diy-jars-082-dsc_3311-2The simple steps to take:

1. Glue the figurines on the lid (press down firmly!)
2. Let dry (an overnighter is always a good idea.)
3. Spray paint in a happy color.
4. Ready!

Easy peasy, right?

This post first appeared on Hello Sunshine

I rather like having catchy, inspirational quotes in my interior. However, when my mood changes, I would love them to change with me. One day you want a kick in the but to get that pile of work done, the next you want to remind yourself it’s ok to take a breath. Fickle? Not at all! These clipboards will easily keep up with your mood swings, with a dash of color and a touch of color for that little something extra

dsc_4427-diy-clipboard-6As with all my favorite DIY projects, this one is very easy to do.

WHAT YOU NEED:

 Clipboards
 Acrylic pint for that happiness factor
 Brushes
 Masking tape
 Gold leaf for a bit of bling
 Glue
 Duster brush


HOW YOU GO ABOUT IT:

Define the pattern you want with masking tape, for clean geometric shapes, and paint your clipboards in a happy color. In my case, two layers was enough for a good coverage. Remove the masking tape immediately after the second layer. Let the paint dry before you proceed with the gold leaf (an overnighter is always a good idea).

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For the gold leaf spots: add little strokes of glue across the painted surface. Lay the gold leaf carefully across the painted area and press down gently (or stroke across it with the duster brush) and let dry. Brush away the residual gold leaf, not stuck to the clipboard by the little strokes of glue, with the duster brush. That’s all there is to it!

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Happy crafting!

This post first appeared on Hello Sunshine

It’s the merriest time of the year again! If like me, you are part of several Secret Santa groups (people know I am a sucker for gift-giving…), you might still be looking for some original gift ideas. Believe me when I say: nothing says “extra mile” like a handmade present. However, when you go for that DIY gift, you’ll want something that looks a bit impressive but is actually fool-proof. Because you won’t want to wrap anything you don’t feel proud to give to your loved ones, do you? These two handmade gifts are pretty perfect in that regard! Easy and festive!

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Vintage teacup candles

You will need: teacups, long skewers, candle wax (you can use leftovers or get little wax beads at a crafts store), candle wicks and the little metal tabs to hold your wick. (I got wax, wicks and beads at the Banier).

  1. Pick up some pretty vintage teacups at a flea market or second hand store (I got these babies at the vintage Walhalla that is Burkelbloem Ghent)
  2. Cut off a piece of wick and attach the metal tabs to one end. Knot the other end to the skewer.
  3. Melt the candle wax carefully in a metal bowl above a pot of boiling water (“au bain marie”, as we tend to call this)
  4. Dip the metal base in the melted wax, to easily attach it to the middle of the bottom of your cup (this will stop the wick from moving to the side of the cup/candle).
  5. Place the skewer on top of the teacup, it will keep the wick upright.
  6. Carefully pour in the melted wax. If you feel extra festive you could add some glitter :) Let it cool and set.

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Mason jar snow globes

While I was picking up my candle-making-necessities at the Banier, I got inspired by a display of Christmas scenes in mason jars. As you can imagine, I stuffed some tiny trees, fake snow and little wooden animals in my basked as well. So easily persuaded by a little prettiness :) Stumbling on a collection of the cutest vintage deer and little Christmas tree decorations in the Burkelbloem right after this impulse buy told me it was fate though!

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It takes a little dexterity to get all your little elements into the jar and keep them upright (I used a skewer to give them gentle little nudges), but aside from that, this is the easiest thing ever! You just open the jar, stuff it all in and: voila!

Hope you’ll have fun making these, and even more fun giving them ^^

Love, C.

Is it just me or can this season’s trends take you pretty much anywhere you want to go? Flipping through fashion magazines (yes, for some things I still go old skool print) scouting styles for Hello Sunshine’s AW16 look book, I had the feeling just about anything can be on-trend, if you just own it. And isn’t that exactly the beauty of fashion these days? Because the best trends are the ones you can really make your own, aren’t they? The ones so adaptable to your personal style, you could basically dive into your wardrobe to create the desired look, without even having to rate the new collections. (Something I know my sustainable fashion guru Mara would approve of ;) ).

Case in point: anyone who knows me, knows I’m far from the rock chick type (let’s face it, I just cannot pull that bad girl vibe off…). But a softer, more feminine interpretation is definitely right up my alley! Enter the sweet rock chick look from our Hello Sunshine AW16 look book: badass black softened by pink and burgundy hues; sturdy (p)leather combined with delicate fabrics and flattering skirts: love it! So me, that every item from my version of this look has been part of my closet for quite some time. (Except for the leather jacket that is, borrowed that one from my dear Katrien). This A-line skirt is actually one of my most priced vintage pieces! I got it at Think Twice years ago (during my vintage treasure hunts prime time aka my student days) and still wear it all the time. The high-waist, calf-length fitting combined with a pair of heels always gives me a powerful #girlboss kinda feeling.

Speaking of #girlbosses: had such fun with our band of badass Hello Sunshine babes, shooting this look book! Almost felt sorry for poor Carina, getting this unruly bunch to behave in front of the camera. But what a kickass job she did! Can just feel the happy girly vibes when looking back at our pics, which is why I thought I’d share some of the unpublished images here. I’m usually rather awkward and stiff in front of the camera, but felt so empowered by this group of girls I went all attitude and (rare!) full teeth smile. Feeling comfortable in your skin, surrounded by your girls, that’s true girl power for ya <3

Have a look at the full Hello Sunshine AW16 look book here!

Delicate Rock Chick

Delicate Rock Chick

Delicate Rock Chick

Time sure flies by! In its signature way, Facebook just reminded me that one year ago today, I was in the middle of our South African adventure (I’m guessing somewhere between Coffee Bay and Tsitsikamma….) Can’t believe it’s been a year already! And please (pretty please!), can I go back, like.. NOW? (More about this trip of a lifetime here).

Apart from a bunch of great memories, life lessons and unforgettable sights, I came back from this trip with what might be considered a bit of a weird fascination. A weak spot, let’s say, for one African creature in particular. A teeny tiny obsession… with zebras. There is just something so fabulously illogical about them! A classic prey animal, with such a bold, striking print… I almost felt like there was a certain philosophy to it. Be your fabulous, extravagant self no matter what others think, and all that. The fact that I later found out the black and white stripes actually do serve as camouflage against mostly color blind predators, in no way diminished the fascination or inspiration brought on by this beautiful creatures.

I even decided to dedicate the final project of that year’s photography course to it. Because when you start brainstorming around these extraordinary animals, the possibilities are endless! From zebra prints, over zebra cakes to zebra crossings… A versatile subject if there ever was one. I had so much fun with it!

Special thanks to my fellow travellers Ben (for the inspiration!) and Katrien (for her modelling and awesome zebra socks!) .

Hope you like the result :)

❤ C.

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Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Lonely Planet Cuba.

This quote. Nail on the head. Cuba is such a multifaceted destination, with its unique culture, colourful sights, vibrant streets and warm people. But admittedly: as a spoiled Western tourist, there can be a few minor hiccups in your smooth holiday experience :) Who ever said good things come easy? Yet, as with most things, an open mindset and a little preparation go a long way! Based on personal experience, and tips I got from other Cuba survivors/lovers, here are my 10 Cuba Commandments:

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1/ No time like the present

It’s becoming a bit of a cliché about traveling to Cuba, but now really is the time to go there. Although you can already feel the effect of the big bad Western Wolf sneaking into the Cuban streets (hello, tourist facilities on every corner), there are still plenty of authentic Cuban elements to enjoy. A stay among a Cuban family, a drive in a classic 50ies car, salsa tunes resonating through the streets, leisurely walks amidst decaying colonial wonders and discovering revolutionary relics all around.

2/ Su casa es tu casa

For anyone looking for the true Cuban feeling, staying at a casa particular is really the way to go! You can go the planned route (control freaks, represent) and book through mycasaparticular.com or go rogue and just wing it. In high season this could be a bit tricky (yes yes, control freak…) but there are plenty of options. A great way of going about it is asking the owner of one casa you stayed at (and liked!) to recommend/call the next one (especially if your Spanish is pretty much non-existent, like mine is). Chances are they’ll recommend you another great spot with a similar spirit.

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3/ Come prepared

Beside the summer holiday basics, there are a few Cuba-specific things you might want to stuff into that backpack: Pens and notebooks for the kids you meet on the streets (felt a bit weird about this myself, but turns out it was a real winner!), plenty of sunscreen (because no, you cannot just buy it there and yes, you will have to take a bus out to a resort somewhere to get a ridiculously expensive bottle of the precious good), for my fellow bookworms: enough reading material (because the only one’s you’ll find there are about the revolution) and of course the good old lonely planet. Oh and paper tissues. Trust me on this one.

After all your essentials are packed, make sure you leave some room for the 2 bottles of rum and 20 cigars you are allowed to bring back ;)

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4/ Suspicion will protect you

With the growing flux of tourists, the Cuban hustlers are on the rise as well. Especially in Havana, we felt this very strongly. I’m sad to say that after a few days I was suspicious of anyone trying to start a chat with us on the street. They all seemed to have a friend/brother/cousin who can get you the best mojitos/cigars/party. And want to gain a little money in the process…

5/ Suspicion will limit you

On the other hand, the jineteros we met were always pretty friendly about it. I’ve never really felt threatened and honestly think Cuba is not a country where you should fear getting aggressed or anything like that. Poverty is just an everyday reality on its streets, and if some friendly smooth talker can gain a few bucks (because it really never is much more than that) by bringing you to a local salsa party or a great place to have a mojito, what’s the harm, really?

Imagine the experiences you would be missing out on by just blocking every local person trying to have a chat with you. Let’s share the wealth and the Cuban vibes, shall we? I know, I’m terribly naive… Which is probably why we got hustled as much as we did, but what the hell, we had a great time in the process :)

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6/ Push yourself

So you never really rode a horse (check) and you’re pretty scared of getting on the back of one (double check). That shouldn’t stop you from trying out the best way to explore the beautiful hills of Pinar del Rio (since you would be crazy to try to cover that much ground on foot, and even crazier to drive a bike in that heat…) And who cares your back makes you feel like a granny for the next few days? #worthit

7/ Take a breath

While you should push yourself to get on that horse, there’s no shame in spending a little down time at the beach or on a Plaza Vieja terrace while listening to some salsa either, is there? Especially when you had a few too many mojitos the night before, and walking up and down the cobblestones of yet another (granted beautiful) colonial city under the Caribbean sun just seems like more than you can bear. Take a breath. Have a coconut drink. 

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8/ Walk the untrodden path

We went the classic route for a 2 week stay (Havana – Vinales – Trinidad – Varaderos) and even though you’d definitely want to see those highlights (except for the last one which was a bit of an all-inclusive-mass-tourism bust for us), you’re not the only one… It’s funny to realize that the person you met on a terrace/pool/bus in Havana is sitting next to you at a restaurant/bar/beach in Trinidad, on several occasion. Chances are you are all doing the same itinerary. Which can be pretty great when you meet some awesome peeps along the way (you know who you are <3), but does make you feel like somewhat of a herd animal after a while.

So even though this is a bit of a hypocritical recommendation (since we didn’t really do that ourselves), I’d say: take the time to go explore some of the less traveled areas. I have this feeling there might be a lot more authentic Cuba to be found there.

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9/ Make it about the journey

So yes, a 5-hour bus trip might not be your favorite way of spending your Cuban days. Nor is the 2 hour wait before you can even set foot on that bus (what, you expected it to leave when planned? You should know better by now). But here’s where that cliché about it “being about the journey, not the destination” should be your new personal credo. Because you will be driving through some amazingly beautiful sights on your long-ass bus drive. And the bus station waiting room is a weirdly perfect place to people watch or exchange experiences with fellow travelers.

10/ Discover YOUR highlights

Be it through recommendations or by accidentally stumbling upon them: you are sure to discover some unforgettable experiences and wonderful spots in Cuba. A sample of our favorites? Sipping a de-li-cious Mojito at El Dandy and tasting the wonderful food in the vintage ambiance of La Lamparilla. A ride across the city in an old 50ies convertible. Discovering the beautiful Vinales greenery on horseback and rewarding ourselves with tapas at the 3J Bar afterwards. Wandering the “photographic tour” of Trinidad (thank you, Lonely Planet!), having drinks on Plaza Major’s rickety stairs and shaking our booty at Disco Ayala (also known as “The cave”) in Trinidad.

Hasta Luego :)

<3 C.

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I think it’s fair to say this week was a dark one for our little country. I feel shocked, scared, sad and a little numb. But most of all, I feel this burning need not to let them win. Let them scare us into changing the way we think, the way we act, the way we live our lives. So I’ll allow myself to feel shocked, scared and sad. Just for a little while. And then I’ll pick myself right up again. And celebrate the good in this strange and harsh world. Because if there is ever a time to cherish the little things and enjoy every minute spent with the people you love, it’s now.

So I hope you’ll be spending your Easter weekend doing exactly that. I know I will be. Beside some family quality time, consider having some Easter fun with your girls. After all, they add so much sunshine to your life, don’t they. A small tip for extra fun: surprise each other with little Easter gifts, to celebrate your friendship. Because who said Christmas was the only holiday for giving gifts? Your girls deserve a treat!

I personally had a little pre-Easter brunch with  lovely ladies Petra, Liesbeth, Jessie and Hanne last week. Yummy food, inspiring chats, girly gifts and lots of laughs: it was such a positive energy boost! Exactly what the doctor ordered to fight the darkness that was this week. Fun fact: a bunch of digital girls together means not having to feel bad about taking ages to photograph/snap/instagram your meal before anyone can take a bite. Love these girls!

Happy Easter darlings
Lots of Love ❤️ C.

PS: Yup, couldn’t help but adding a little new-job-goodies to the brunch table… Still riding that new-job-high!

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