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!