As always, I’m terrible at getting my Head & Heart monthly post done in a timely manner! Now most of the way through April it’s a bit hard to cast my mind back to March, but I’ll give it a try…

“A monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw.”

One Thing for March

My One Thing for March was going to be a home office makeover, but challenges early in the month made that feel a bit too ambitious. My goal wound up being to just keep swimming and make it through. Some months that’s enough of a goal, I think!

I’m grateful for

Alone time. I’ve long ago learned to (mostly) deal with my shyness and I do like meeting people and socialising – as long as I can have a good bit of breathing room on my own afterwards. I generally try to keep my weekend socialising to a maximum one thing per day, or just one for the whole weekend if I can get away with it. It sounds like a weird excuse to make to people but I’ve discovered how necessary that space is to me, and I’m grateful I’m able to make time for it.

I’ve been thinking about

How we put people into boxes. A pretty standard starting point in a conversation with a new person is “So, what do you do?” (the other one I get a lot is “Where are you from?”, “Yes you’re Australian, but where are you from?”). It make sense, an effort to categorise people and the way we tend to refer to acquaintances for those who can’t remember names well. But conversationally is it really the best option? If someone is really into what they do it’s easy to follow up with more questions, but if you don’t know enough about their profession to carry on the conversation or they seem to really hate their job then it’s a bit of a dead end. I also feel like more people I know are taking breaks from their career, changing course, have an unusual situation that’s difficult to explain or just really don’t feel like their job is a big part of their identity.

The past month I’ve had a few people tell me, separately, that they don’t like to ask “what do you do” and go with something more along the lines of “what are you passionate about?”, which sounds like it could be a pathway to much more interesting conversations! What do you think?

I’m excited for

A week off. I booked a whole week off of work in July (my birthday week!) without any plans. It feels a bit weird taking time off when it’s not for travelling somewhere and it’s difficult to not start thinking about what projects I could complete with a whole week free, but the point was more to have some time to relax, think and not be rushing around. I just read about Bill Gates taking a week off twice a year for his “Think Week”, so I feel a bit more justified, although I don’t think I’ll be taking a helicopter to a remote cottage and blocking all calls.

What I’ve been doing

In March I was mostly just madly trying to get Issue 2 of Side Project completed and into stockists. The hard work certainly paid off and now it’s full steam ahead with the next one!

I’ve been reading

The Life-changing Art of Tidying Up,(aka that konmari method book) by Marie Kondo. I intend to write a proper review on this one – the book itself reads oddly, but I did actually find it rather life changing!

I gave up on On the Road – I can wade through a classic if I feel like I’m getting something out of it, but the characters and their escapades just don’t hold enough interest for me in this case. Life is too short, and my to-read list is too long.

More from me elsewhere

Side Project – Issue 2 is out (and sold out)! I didn’t write anything for this one, but tried my hand at editing, proof-reading and some illustrations.

Interview on Duke St House Blog – the lovely Amy interviewed me about Side Project and what goes on behind the scenes!


 

Join the fun by writing your own Head & Heart post for the month and submitting over on Helen’s blog at Lime Tree Bower.

Photo of African penguins at Burns Beach, South Africa. Which I will finish posting about eventually!

After our safari tour in Kruger Park we were driven back to Johannesburg (Jo’burg), then flew down to Port Elizabeth (PE) on the south east coast of South Africa to begin our drive along part of the famous Garden Route.

As it turned out locals tourists alike had the same idea – every hotel was full to the brim (thankfully we had booked a few days earlier). Beaches were teeming with people and the smoke of portable braai, which is taken far more seriously than an Australian barbecue. We visited the beaches along Jeffery’s Bay (JBay), St Francis Bay and Plettenburg Bay (Plett – are you sensing a trend here?) and ate oysters in Knysna.

We saw the Big Tree and crossed the huge suspension bridge in Tsitsikama National Park, and visited the worlds largest free flight bird aviary, nerdily identifying spotted birds in the guide book. We walked through forests in George, clambered through beautiful formations in the Cango Caves and dined on ostrich, kudu and springbok at the foot of a mountain Swellendam.

The landscapes in this part of South Africa varied greatly from beautiful beaches to native forests to dry shrub areas that reminded me of Australia. But coming from such a flat place myself, I’ll always be fascinated by hills and mountains.

We ended up having to rush this part of our trip in 4 days to make it to Cape Town in time; it’s really a stunning part of the world that deserves a lot more time to do properly. Just try not to do it around the new year to avoid the crowd!

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Well February flew by – unsurprising I suppose, considering it’s such a short month. Still have to make time to pause and reflect on how things are going for Head & Heart :)

“A monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw.”

One Thing for February

Yep, I’m just going to go ahead and chuck my own extra category into my Head & Heart posts this year. As mentioned earlier, this year I’m setting myself One Thing as a goal for each month as my version of resolutions. In February The Boy and I went without meat, which was in fact not as difficult as we had thought. Hot weather lends itself well to simple salads and cold vegetable quiche. Legumes, eggs, cheese and nuts were our friends; mushrooms and eggplants stood in for meat often. I missed meat in dishes I’m used to it being featured in, and The Boy got sick of salad, but we made it through the month without any slip-ups. I think I expected to feel different (carnivorous friends warned I would get tired and slow; vegetarian friends said they felt lighter and more energetic), but I didn’t notice it. We’ve gone back to eating meat in March, but I’m much more mindful of eating less meat, more vegetables and overall much more simply.

I’m grateful for

The great response we’ve had to Issue 1 of Side Project, which is now sold out! We even had some wonderful readers write great testimonials for us, which I am SO grateful for. I really hope we can maintain the enthusiasm for Issue 2!

Owning our own place – there’s been some drilling of holes and upgrading of bathrooms going on lately, and that’s something you just can’t do in a rental property.

I’ve been thinking about

The moments in between. Waiting for the bus, in line at a shop, dentist waiting rooms, making a cup of tea. I used to try to fill those moments with things that give me a false sense of productivity – checking social media, trying to quickly read an email, jotting things down in to-do list apps. But I think that not trying to fill the gaps can give the mind time to wander and be creative, which is probably more valuable than scrolling through Twitter.

More exciting ways to cook vegetarian meals. I’m not sticking with a completely meat free diet, but there are benefits to not eating meat every day which I’d like to keep up. After a month I’m kind of stuck for ideas for vegetarian meals that aren’t too repetitive – any suggestions?

I’m excited for

Emergence Creative Festival, which I will be at by the time this post goes live! I’ve been to conferences relating to tech or to food, but this promises to be more of an ‘un-conference’ spanning many creative disciplines and mixing in some of South-West WA’s awesome food and wine. I really want to look beyond my own industry for inspiration going forward, and this looks like just the place to kick things off. Yay for my job!

Messing around with film photography. It’s expensive, time-consuming and you never really know how things are going to turn out until it’s too late, but there’s definitely something in film that you just can’t get with filters. I’m bringing my old Ricoh along to Emergence and we’ll see how we get along.

What I’ve been doing

Watercolour painting. Okay, just a little bit of dabbling at this point, but it’s so fun! To me it feels a much freer and casual medium than acrylics or oils, which I’ve never gotten the hang of, but still more committal and textural than digital art.

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Learning more about magazines, writing and social media at Perth Writers Festival. The three of us in the Side Project team attended a day of talks all about magazines, with speakers from some of my favourites – Kinfolk, Dumbo Feather, Uppercase, Alphabet Family Journal and Smith Journal. It was so cool to hear about others’ experiences starting a publication and making it sustainable.

I’ve been reading

Still struggling through On The Road – why do I do this to myself?

Also a lot of proof-reading and editing Side Project Issue 2, which is much more fun!

I’ve been spending my money on

We had a bit of a splurge on a Fitbit Aria smart scale, after our cheapo Target one kept giving vastly different results each time you stepped off and on (3kg can do a lot to a girl’s self esteem okay?). I don’t think it’s going to magically help me lose weight, but it is consistent in its measurements and syncs via wifi!

More from me elsewhere

Some free printable love cards featuring flamingos, and a write up about the brush lettering workshop I ran up on the Side Project blog.

My experience in a letterpress class over on my lettering and calligraphy blog, teresawatts.com.

A couple new public transport haikus up lately.


Please do check out the main Head & Heart list on helario.us, and join in the fun if you’re in the mood for sharing!

I am not naturally a neat person. As much as I idealise minimalism, my personal ‘decorating’ style definitely tends more towards the chaotic than the calm. There’s plenty of studies to suggest that a little chaos is good for creativity, but quite often my little home office gets to a point where it’s actually difficult to work in. That’s why for March, my One Thing will be a bit of a home office makeover (or at least a severe tidy-up).

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This is my office at its tidiest. It usually doesn’t stay this way for long.

My “office” is situated in a bizarre quirk of this 1970’s complex – it’s in an entrance area which was technically planned to be a balcony, but built on as an extra room. I was standing just to the right of my front door when I took the above photo, so as soon as you enter our unit you can see the mess peeking through the dividing bookshelf. It gets chilly in the winter and overheated in the summer, but the abundance of natural light is cheerful and having lived in far smaller places previously I enjoy having my own bit of space.

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Sadly this is only a small portion of my hobby stuff, and artwork needing to be framed.

My ‘standing desk’ (aka an IKEA desk with a sawn off IKEA coffee table sitting on top of it) sits against one window, tall black shelves turned on their side against another, and a sewing cabinet against the third. In one corner sits an easel and a little trolley with paint stuff and various other bits of junk, despite the fact that I have yet to complete an actual painting. My shelves tell the story of my most recent hobbies, with the older stuff currently taking over a cupboard in The Boy’s study. Most of this stuff isn’t touched for months at a time, especially as my spare time these days revolves around Side Project and calligraphy. It’s untidy, dusty, and not really the best use of space for what I do these days.

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My standing desk, and an embarrassing amount of dust

Part of me would like to get a proper standing desk, but having one half elevated and the other at sitting height means I can sit down for calligraphy and stand for computer work, without having to worry about moving a desk up and down. It does however require some organising, and that foot stool isn’t really high enough for me to work properly whilst sitting. And I still love my green grass rug!

So anyway, here’s the plan:

  1. Rationalise stuff on shelves and surfaces down to the essentials; let go of old hobby items or banish them to the more hidden craft cupboard until I feel like picking them up again.
  2. Come up with a better system for a tidy desk, with less stuff cluttering it up.
  3. Get a better chair; consider getting a new standing desk.
  4. Frame up those languishing bits of artwork.
  5. Decorate the area above the black shelves – I’m thinking hanging a big piece of plywood/pine/pegboard and hanging things, or painting a mural. Some ideas below:
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I’m hoping that a clean, calm and organised work area will make it easier to do my calligraphy and lettering practice, and look a little less embarrassing as the first thing people see when they come over!

How did my meat-free month go you ask? I’ll be getting to that in my next Head & Heart post soon! How are you getting along with your New Year’s resolutions?

South Africa was honestly not on my radar of places to see, until The Boy and I were invited to a wedding in Cape Town. A destination wedding is no fun unless you spend some time exploring the destination, so we flew over to Johannesburg two weeks early and went straight over to Kruger Park for one of my favourite parts of the trip – safari!

It was about 6am when we arrived in Jo’burg (apparently South Africans love their abbreviations as much as Aussies do) after flying all nigh, and we had somehow missed the fact that it was a four hour drive to Kruger – which actually turned into almost six hours after waiting to pick people up at various hotels and airports. So when we arrived at the camp I was feeling run down and more interested in napping than the organised sunset drive.

It was a good thing I didn’t miss it though, because it pretty much hit every mark straight away. I wanted to keep my expectations in check because you can’t just predict the behaviour of wild animals, and being a national park the drivers aren’t permitted to drive off the road. So this first safari drive blew those expectations out of the water. Impala are absolutely everywhere, and other antelope (kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck) as well as wildebeest were spotted as well. Giraffes? Hanging out by the road munching on trees. Elephants? One walked so close everyone got nervous and we had to drive off. Rhinos? Stare-off on the road before posing for a photo by the setting sun. Lions lazing on their backs. Buffalo wandering past. Giant insects literally hitting us in the face (okay, that part wasn’t so cool). We were drowning in wildlife, finding four of the ‘big five’. It was amazing, and a dangerously high standard to set right on the first night.

We stayed in a little round hut (rondavel) in Skukuza, the main camp in Kruger Park, and as part of our tour ventured out on a morning and an afternoon three hour drive each day, with not a lot to do but eat, drink and relax in between. Lacking wifi, I ended up spending happy hours sketching the various animals we’d seen that day during our breaks. The meals provided by our tour company were served in a big communal tent, with occasional visits from the local scavenging monkeys and warthog family. I chatted to people from all over the world, swapping photos and tales of the day’s sightings.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was how green the park was – apparently during the summer that area of South Africa gets a lot of rain, resulting in beautiful but camouflaging foliage. The next few days were alternately cloudy and stormy, and I gratefully accepted a hilariously gigantic thermal rain poncho for protection and warmth in the open vehicles we rode in as the rain bucketed down.

The drives after the first one weren’t quite as jam packed, but having already seen so much it all just felt like bonus anyway. We drove to the river – overflowing due to the rain – to see hippos from a safe distance. We spent ages watching two lionesses strolling in the drizzle. Even on the days when we didn’t see much big game, there were monkeys, birds, tortoises and even a dung beetle rolling his ball (and wife) across the road. Our drivers were knowledgable about the local plants and wildlife, told stories about their experiences in safaris, and were excellent at spotting animals then rolling quietly up to them for a good view.

I have to admit I was a little devastated when another group had a leopard (the last of the big 5 to see!) walk alongside their car in the morning drive, then spotted it again in the evening. And I was maybe a little jealous of those who had thought to bring a telephoto lens (I used my 24-70mm) to take wonderful closeups. But there isn’t any point in dwelling on could-have-beens – especially when it was already so much more amazing than I had expected.

I think that a safari is a must-see in Africa, unless you really really aren’t impressed at all with huge, unique, amazing animals. It might sound touristy and be more expensive than self-driving through the park, but packaged tours give you the benefit of a knowledgable driver and a relative amount of certainty that you won’t be trampled in a wildebeest stampede like Mufasa. The tall, open vehicles give the best view but can get surprisingly chilly when it rains, so bring something warm and something to pull your hair back. A telephoto lens is great to have, but I was lucky enough to have a lot of animals wander close enough to get decent shots anyway. There’s a lot of luck involved in general, so having a decent amount of time (we had 3 nights, 4 days) gives a better chance of seeing more animals.

Go in with realistic expectations, but cross your fingers for some amazing sights!

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