Friday, 26 December 2014

The blog is dead! Long live the blog!

A Christmas present to my blog (cos that's totally normal, right?) - a spruced up look, a new address and a new name!

The Procrastinatrix was a name I started using when I was at uni, and the act of blogging, while good in that I was writing, was actually expert procrastination (I should have been writing my thesis).

But lately I've been thinking about it, and feeling that the name doesn't suit anymore. It makes me feel a little bit guilty, and as though it's implying that the things I'm writing about are the periphery of my life, the stuff I'm messing about with when I'm supposed to be doing something else.

But actually, the things I write about are the things I want to be doing, and the things I enjoy doing (for the most part). These days the blog is less an avenue for procrastination and more a way of chronicling and celebrating the things that I'm doing. With the occasional rant thrown in for good measure.

So a new name. I tried to come up with something interesting, something quirky, something that would encapsulate everything I might ever potentially write about...a fool's errand. I've never been good at naming things (naming my short stories was always impossible). Then I thought, hey, my supporters' newsletter at SU has been called The Bexfiles for the last few years, so why mess with a good thing? (and I didn't even come up with that name, but oh well)

All my new posts now are going to be over at - though as most of you seem to read this from Facebook or Twitter links, it's probably not going to actually affect things that much. If you're an old-school bookmarker or RSS reader though, you'll want to update to the new URL.

See you over there!

Friday, 19 December 2014

What I read this year

Reading is the best! Hooray for reading!

Looking back over the year is kind of cool (thanks to Goodreads - see the collage below). I read 28 books this year! Many more than I would have in the recent past, and mainly thanks to Audible and needing to be occupied while I drive. There's no way I would have read (or been able to afford) all these books if I had read paper versions. I've also read a lot more nonfiction than I normally would.

I'm trying to work out what my pick is for the year, but it's hard. I don't know that it was my favourite, but lately I've been thinking about scenes from The Goldfinch; Tartt's characters and settings were very memorable, even if the story was long and slow (but it was kind of nice to have a book like that, that unfolded gradually). Some books, like the Terry Pratchett, John Green and the Hugh Howey, were consumed quickly and enjoyed greatly but not especially memorable. Some, like One Thousand Gifts and The Art of Asking, gave me a lot to think about and I wanted to quote from every five minutes.

I've just started Just Kids by Patti Smith, which was a BHB retreat recommendation from many people, and it's great, even if Smith's deep monotone voice wants to lull me to sleep. I don't know if it'll sneak in under the 2014 wire though.

What have you read this year? What was your fave?

Raising Steam
The Goldfinch
The Lacuna
The Signature of All Things
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
The Rosie Project
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Fault in Our Stars
Sarah Thornhill
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
The Charming Quirks of Others
Outliers: The Story of Success
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
The Fictional Woman
Dad Is Fat

Rebecca's favorite books »

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Bathroom update: complete!

And fancy!

Those bears are unaware of their fate
Day 1 - destructo

Dave roughing in the plumbing

The best waterproofing in town

Taking shape

Masterful tiling by Cory and Bryce

Almost there...

...and DONE! One day ahead of schedule, too!

Thank you a zillion times to Ash, Cory and Bryce from Davies Carpentry and Renovations. You guys are champions! Also Amanda and Rod at Beaumont Tiles Caringbah are pretty great too, if you ever need nice things for your bathroom.

Best Christmas present ever.

macro view

It's been a big, heavy week. Even if you try to avoid reading or watching the news too much, it's hard to avoid hearing about the awful things happening in Sydney and Peshawar and all over the world. Even though most of our actual day to day routines haven't been affected by these things, it's hard not to feel a general sense of anxiety and bleakness about the world we live in.

At times like these, I need to go macro. I need to zoom in and be thankful for the things that are good in my everyday.

Pleasing collision of patterns in our new bathroom floor tiles

The abundant fireworky explosion of fuschias on the fence

New bags for The Spire Market nestling on the hatstand

The fat roundness of delicious dumplings being steamed on my stove.

The verse and questions in today's Bible Society live light reading:

I hadn't thought much about the angels in the Christmas story before, other than in their role as messengers. And in depictions, they tend to be portrayed in that distant, too-bright, formal kind of manner; well it would have been scary, true. But thinking about how they celebrate in heaven, and how they long to look into God's word, how joyful and excited they must have been to give this good news of Jesus' birth to the people!

I'm tired and a little heartsore. But there are good things to see and think about, all around.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

bathroom update

So it's been almost a week without a bathroom. Mum almost checked into a hotel under the strain. I haven't minded so much, except because my routine is now scattered from studio, to laundry, to kitchen sink I keep forgetting to do things like brush my teeth in the morning. *shrugs*

Everything became a lot easier once I installed the Separett Villa toilet on Thursday, and mum didn't feel the need to escape anymore. It was very easy to install and I felt so hardcore as I drilled holes through the cabin wall and all that. I've never been so excited about a toilet.

the most exciting photo of a toilet ever
And they're right, it actually doesn't smell!

I'm a bit annoyed about the floor in the bathroom. Well, annoyed is a bit strong; mildly irritated perhaps. I thought I'd just finish up using the floorboards from the main room but I didn't quite have enough. And I wasn't going to spend another $60 on a new packet. So there are little gaps and weird bits in the corners that I have to work out what to do with. *shrugs*

I have to say, even though I do a bit of a bodge job, it's very satisfying being able to DIY.

The main bathroom itself is coming along nicely. It doesn't look vastly different, as so far it's just been things like concreting and waterproofing. Those guys do not do a bodge job - they are very careful and thorough, which is what you want, really!

Can't wait to see the fancy bits go in!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bathroom adventures

Hello people of the world!

A lot has been happening at Casa Jee lately (Casa Jee doesn't sound right. Chateau de Jee? Maison de Jee? The Jeepod? Jeepad? Hmm. I'll keep working on it). If you recall, we borrowed a little bit more money from our banking overlords to enable us to build me a working studio in the backyard, go on the creative retreat to Bali, re-concrete our driveway so we can drive frontways out into the 70km/hr traffic on our road instead of backing into it (not for the fainthearted). The last thing we are doing is renovating our bathroom.

To have a bathroom while the main bathroom was being worked on, I had hoped to put in a little ensuite in the studio, but the money didn't stretch that far. I investigated more of an 'off grid' solution in the form of waterless toilets - not the horrible hippie toilets with a giant pit underneath that made you feel like you were sitting on the edge of a noisome cavern. These ones are much more civilised and are a good green solution - they don't use any water but are odourless (apparently), they don't put anything into the sewer, they eventually turn everything into compost, and seem pretty easy to deal with in terms of maintenance and cleaning.

Mum wasn't too keen initially but came around to the idea, as long as I was the one who cleaned it, etc (she's always been happy for me to do my worm farming/composting as long as she didn't have to deal with it). It seemed like this would be a good solution while the main bathroom was getting done and I could install it myself, so we ordered the package. Unfortunately, the timing didn't quite work out (the shipment was delayed at customs) and it won't arrive til Friday. And the bathroom got ripped out on Monday. Hmm.

So it's our little bathroom adventure time at the moment. I've rigged up quite a good shower in our outdoor laundry, with this camp shower. We drop the pump into the half filled washing machine, and the flow is actually pretty decent, good enough to wash your hair with. Toileting is a little more indelicate and involves a bucket. And holding on til we get to work. But that's okay. Only a couple more days of that.

We've got the excellent Davies Carpentry and Renovations working on our bathroom. Ash is the boss (I work with Desleigh, his wife), and has a crew of very friendly and efficient guys working with him. It's so nice to have guys on a worksite who are pleasant, polite and don't swear their heads off. And I love being able to give business to people we know and trust, and who I know will do a good job. The whole thing is going to take 10 business days, so by the end of next week our brand new bathroom should be ready.

Day 1 - left: beginning of the day, right: 7 hours later
In layout, it will be the same as the old bathroom, except without a bath. The bath was too small to be worthwhile, and was awkward to climb in and out of (particularly for mum with her sore knees). We wanted to try and change the layout but after consulting with Ash realised that this was really the only way things could fit in a very small space.

It's also interesting listening to the guys as they look at the tiles and products we've bought, mutter an inevitable "hmmm" and then try and work out how to make it all work. Everything fits, it's just the finer details of what side is the power point on and what kind of tap mixer will work and discovering large floor tiles aren't as easy to work with in terms of working out where the water runs if the floor gets wet and things like that. We just picked things we liked the look of, not knowing about the logistics side of things! And that's why you hire people rather than doing it yourself - so they sort out all the details of how to make it work.

Renovating isn't the most relaxing thing to do, of course, but I'm still enjoying the novelty of being able to do stuff to a house. Being able to say "I want to change that" and changing it. I think that's the best part of owning a house (or owning whatever meagre percentage we've paid off).

Monday, 1 December 2014

Monday delights

A dear child I know said this morning: "I just can't deal with whirlpools today!" and his mother noted, "Mondays: difficult for all kinds of reasons". I thought well, why not share some things I've been into lately that might counteract the Monday whirlpool? (though none of these will help the dear child, sorry JB)

Art of Asking: Amanda Palmer
I finished this on the weekend and was sad to get to the end! Such a wonderful book - part memoir, part motivator, part love letter, part kick in the butt. I'm not always into Amanda's music (I have to be in the mood because it's pretty full on) but I love her spirit, her enthusiasm, her trust, her joy in making art. She is brave and bold but also vulnerable and human and I think that's what makes her so interesting.

Aside from the theme of asking for help and learning to accept it, one of the threads that constantly shines out throughout the book is how important being honest, being real and being accessible to her fans is to the work that she does.

"Like all real relationships, my relationship with my fans wasn't some schtick I came up with in a marketing meeting. On the contrary, I'd spent many marketing meetings banging my head against the long conference table. Throughout my career the fanbase has been my one big significant other to me, a thousand-headed friend with whom I have a real, committed partnership." (audiobook chapter 3)

It reinforces everything that Clare and Pip and Big Hearted Business say about finding your peeps and speaking to them, connecting with them. Also, being prolific on social media isn't the key to success; Facebook and Twitter are tools you use to connect with people - the relationship is the key.

Listening to the audiobook was a great way of reading this book, I think, because it felt like you were having a great chat with a friend. Details of where to buy are here.

Yes Please: Amy Poehler
I started listening to this on my way in to work today. As soon as she started reading, all I could think was "I love her! I love her! I love her!" Listening to Amy Poehler is also like listening to a great friend talk. She's unrelentingly encouraging and honest and funny. Just the preface alone, where she talks about how hard it was to actually write the book, is wonderful.

This bit reminded me of a conversation I had with Karen on the weekend: "Many people suggested ways I could carve out more time for my writing but none of their suggestions involved the care and consideration of the small children who live in my house. Every book written by men and women with children under the age of six should have a 'sleep deprived' sticker." (audiobook chapter 1)

I was just listening to the first chapter as I pulled up at work, about the evil, seductive demon voice in your head ("like Darth Vader combined with a sexy Kathleen Turner") that gives you low self esteem and bad body image - on the audiobook this voice is actually provided by Kathleen Turner. So rad. I didn't want to get out of the car, but I had to. Well that's something to look forward to on the drive home!

Side note: check out Smart Girls at the Party, the website Amy is part of, aimed at girl awesomeness. The motto is "change the world by being yourself".

Outback Choir
We watched this last night on ABC. Such a marvellous, uplifting doco! It's all about the work Michelle Leonard does in regional NSW, inspiring and encouraging children to express themselves with music through the Moorambilla Voices Regional Choir. She auditions kids all over the place for about two weeks, and gathers together a choir. She works with them at a camp-style workshop to learn a repertoire of songs which they perform with an orchestra at a gala concert. The kids who are interviewed seem so lovely; unaffected, excited, talented. Leonard says: "Kids are bored out here. And it’s easy to get negative. But the things that have always been the same - the humour, the resilience, the creativity, the capacity – it’s still all there. It just needs a vehicle.” It's just wonderful. Check it out on iView.

Hope you survive the Monday whirlpools!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Studio: the spruce

With the creative energy injection I got in Bali, I've spent most of my spare time since I got back sprucing up the studio, which has been great and a different kind of 'making' than the usual crafty stuff.

I love making spaces pleasing and comfortable. It makes me feel good, makes my mind clearer. It usually doesn't last all that long once I start using the space; the detritus of everyday life builds up like barnacles on the hull of a boat, and then I have to go through a big, refreshing clean up to get it back to feeling good.

But now I have the abundance of two spaces - my bedroom, which is now a lovely quiet space with a large bed and room to move, and my studio, which is big enough to house all my stuff without it looking like a cave of crap.

It's been so great to be able to set up a space to my requirements, the fulfilment of a long-held dream. There are three main areas in my 20 square metre studio: I have a desk for my computer-based work, a sewing table for my crafty work, an empty space in the middle of the floor for doing yoga / setting up my massage table. There's also now a guest bed which means we can now have people come and stay over if necessary. And best, there is storage along one wall for all my empty containers and oils and towels and fabrics and magazines and markers and coloured pencils and photography gear and recording gear and stuffed toys and...

Amazing what you can fit in 20 square metres! The luxuries of a) a spare room, b) a workspace that isn't my bedroom and c) empty floor space cannot be overstated. I am so so so grateful for it.

This past weekend I borrowed A's chainsaw and carved up some old railway sleepers that he had pulled out of his garden (he's building a pool). I made some steps up to the studio, and started on the garden path that will go around the side to the garden behind the studio, also making use of some big fat river stones A didn't want. I've got bruises on my leg from where I rested the chainsaw while trying to start it - I have never felt so puny as repeatedly yanking on that starter cord and nothing happening. And I was a bit frightened of the chainsaw at first, to be honest, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. It's surprisingly exhausting! My cuts are pretty, er, rustic, mainly because I couldn't be bothered to tidy them up. Oh well, just sanded the edges and put some pot plants along the sides.

Next for the studio - installing some sort of bathroomy bits.

But now I need some crafting time, making something a bit more delicate that requires scissors instead of chainsaws and thread instead of giant nails.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Collecting dots

I've been listening to Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. I'm about halfway through it, so not able to give a full review yet, though I can say at this point I love it.

The starting point for the book was her TED talk, also called The Art of Asking, where she talked about her experiences as a street performer in Boston and learning how to ask for what she needed. As well as talking about asking - asking for money, asking for support, asking for anything - she talks about the importance of finding and connecting with your fans, and weaves in stories of her history, of the important people in her life, including how she met, fell in love with and eventually married Neil Gaiman. Being a fan of both of them, and remembering their respective blogging during the period of their courtship, it's really interesting hearing her reflections on that time. It's also absolutely lovely hearing about how their artistic lives started to affect one another. I heard this quote on my way home tonight and loved it:
We started to blend with one another, the only way we knew how, using art. Collecting and connecting the dots of each others' lives. All art, no matter what shape it is, has to come from somewhere. We can only connect the dots that we can collect. 
Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking, chapter 4 (audio book)
I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the book. And if you haven't seen the original talk, here it is:

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


I love finding out where people come from, their history, how they got started in life. Julia Zemiro's Home Delivery is pretty good for this, where she takes comedians back to where they grew up and talks about what they were like in their youth, places they loved, their schools. This season I've particularly enjoyed watching her chats with Bill Bailey and Ross Noble.

I guess the thing that I love about it is recognising that so many people I like started off the same way. Just nerdy kids at school, trying to work out where they fit in, having one or two special teachers or a wonderful parent who recognised something unique in them and encouraged them to pursue it. And as they go on, it's not that they set out to forge these incredible careers, it's more them delighting in the silliness and weirdness of life and taking interesting opportunities as they come up.

It's so easy to buy into the lie that people only succeed only because of their connections (like a famous parent, or a rich family or whatever); of course, being well connected make life easier in some situations. But it's so great hearing about Bill Bailey and his mates just starting up a comedy club because they thought it might be fun and having no idea what they were doing. Reminds me of uni days and the open mic night we used to run at Blackwattle Canteen down the end of Glebe Point Road, where performers would stand on the huge common table and we'd all hope that guy who just went on and on wouldn't turn up because he was a bit painful, and I'd make giant pots of minestrone soup and Heath would make coffee. I think my favourite performance was Matt G and his quiet guitarist singing Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah, with the lights glinting off the black water behind him, and the room completely hushed. It was magic.

Man, I miss that place. I just went and looked through my photo albums (old school!) for a pic and can't believe I have hardly any photos of the place. If smartphones had existed then, I would have heaps. But when you had to pay to process the photos, I was much more sparing! Rats.

Heath, I hope you don't mind I used this photo, but it's kind of perfectly sums up my memory of the place, sitting watching people making coffee and food while I sat with my notebook and camera, dreaming big dreams. :)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A most diverting weekend

This weekend has been pretty good. Started with lots and lots of coffee, delicious food and amusing company in the form of the Philipses at John Smith in Waterloo. Got some painty craft in, hung some pictures and did some product photography in the studio while watching Newsroom season 2. Made a pav (love making pavlovas - always impressive looking and tasty), then took it and had a yummy dinner with Uns and Streets, followed by hilarious games (I still can't believe I won).

Today I attacked the greenery alongside the studio. I needed to clear a path to get to the pleasant rainforesty garden at the back, a job that included getting rid of a tall tree fern stump. Unfortunately the ground is thick with vines so digging anything out wasn't so easy. Mostly hack and slash and I just leaned on the tree stump with my full weight until it broke off. That was quite good. And it's done! Next project is to make an actual path; A next door gave me a huge pile of river stones from his garden that he didn't want so they will feature in it somewhere. Reuse! Hurrah!

There was even time for a rest before heading to church for music rehearsal.

Paused at Krispy Kreme on the way home from church for a milkshake and doughnut and then found myself in the midst of Tony Abbott's motorcade coming from the airport. That was weird. Also all the cars were white; maybe it's only in America (or TV) that the leader's cars are all black. 

Then crocheted and watched Cilla on the ABC with mum. Enjoyable series - also resonant, watching this talented girl being frustrated at being in the typing pool (which was a good, respectable job) while longing to be a rock singer. 

So show and tell - here's my current crochet project:

I love this rippley project and the colours too of course. The thing about using different colours is I get impatient for the next colour change almost as soon as I start a new colour. I just want to see how it looks!

Craft, church, cooking, singing, friends,  good things to watch and enough rest. Thank God for perfectly balanced weekends! 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

back to reality

So life immediately post-retreat was been pretty good. It's been a pleasant drift back down to earth, finally getting into my studio (above) and enjoying the savouring of big dreams and possibilities.

But then I expended all my energy on moving all my stuff from my room down to the studio and building lots of flatpack furniture (my life is pretty much brought to you by IKEA); mum kept saying "you've done a great job...but you'll be so tired!" and I'd just smile and keep going. And then sleeping has been okay but I'm waking up tired and sore, so I gave in after months of suspecting the bed has been sabotaging me and bought a new bed even though I can't quite afford it (but that's pretty darn exciting, can't wait for it to arrive). And then I forgot to take my meds (WHY is it so hard to remember to take those darn tablets every day?). And then I went back to work and although it was wonderful to see everyone, we had a calendar planning day and boom, there's a year of work just stretching out before me.

And now, although I am sitting in my lovely studio, I am feeling rather sad.

That feels very ungracious, because I've had such a wonderful couple of weeks! I'm trying to let the sad thoughts and the imposter-syndrome rubbish just keep moving on by - it's not based on reality, and is just the result of post-event slump combined with depression. It's pretty much to be expected, really.

Must be kind to myself!