So I’m technically a little bit late for New Year’s Resolutions, but I don’t usually let that stop me.

I’ve tried a few different variations on the whole resolutions thing – from general themes with monthly goals, to last year’s complete break from resolutions altogether. Usually I make an ambitious list and then proceed to immediately break and/or forget about it. This year I’m going for a slightly mixed approach.

My number one goal and priority for this year is simple to say, more difficult to do – properly address my back problems and get it to a point where it’s at least manageable, if not pretty much healed. There’s a lot more to it than simply strengthening core muscles, although that is something I’m working on. I’m planning to go for a more holistic approach, improving my health and habits all round to hopefully get to a point where I’m not mostly immobile for a few days every month. I’m really good at addressing the problem when things are bad, but get complacent again as soon as I feel better – how quickly we forget pain! Anyway, I’m doing things like continuing Alexander Technique classes, changing running for long walks, starting Reformer Pilates, tweaking my diet and switching my day tote bag for a backpack (less attractive but far more ergonomic for walking home with). So far so good?

Apart from that, I’m going to try choosing One Thing to focus on each month – easy to remember and keep in mind. 30-odd days is a much more manageable timeframe, good for smaller goals and trying out new habits. I’m going to pick them as I go so that they’re relevant to my headspace at the time, but here’s a bunch of ideas.

Trying out a habit

Try doing one of these things every day/week for a month. Some are more ambitious than others.

  • A daily evening/morning habit (I feel the two need to go together, as 2am bedtimes don’t go well with 6am wakeups. Here’s mine, and yes I’m mostly managing to stick with it!)
  • Write/draw/paint/something creative every day
  • Take a photo a week (daily is too much for me!)
  • Read a book, a little each day
  • Daily walk or wander
  • Bring lunch to work every day
  • Eat the recommended number of vegetables daily
  • Weekly blog posts
  • Make your bed each morning

Giving something up

Going 30ish days without something feels doable! For me it’s not so much about trying to do it long-term, but to break habits and gain some perspective.

  • Meat
  • Facebook
  • Alcohol (I usually do this for February, being a short month, though not this year)
  • Refined sugar (I think this might be too hard for me!)
  • Buying things (other than necessities)

Starting a project

There’s heaps of projects that can be finished within a month.

  • Sew a garment
  • Make something useful and beautiful from wood
  • Redecorate a room
  • Declutter the house
  • Do an online short course
  • Make or rework a website
  • Create a sellable product

Obviously I won’t be doing all of these, but I thought it would be a good idea to get some options down in case I’m lacking inspiration in the moment. It’s too late for January, but I’ll write a post about February’s One Thing next week. Feel free to have a go as well, don’t worry about when you start!

Pictured above: our new bedding, which has gone from everything white to colourful pattern explosion. I’m all about the crazy patterns this year!

For this December’s (dreadfully late) Head & Heart post, I thought I’d do something a little different and review the whole past year instead of just the month. I know that everyone has already done their year wrap-ups and New Year’s resolutions, but having just returned from holiday I hope you’ll forgive me for running a little behind!

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

2014 was a year with some big changes and challenges, some downs but a lot of ups. You can see a lot of it wrapped up monthly in my previous Head & Heart posts, but here’s a bit of a summary and maybe some things I missed previously.

What I’ve been grateful for

Friends, family, The Boy, colleagues and blogging buddies – all who keep me inspired and in check. Technology to keep me connected with them even when they’re far away. Opportunities and privilege, which came sharply into focus when I travelled. Living in one of the most beautiful and liveable cities I’ve ever visited. Having a quirky but charming home to call my own.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

What I’ve been thinking about

How to sum up a year’s worth of thoughts?

Reading and travelling inevitably leads to thinking (or the best kinds do at least). Not that I’m particularly worldly or political or philosophical, but I’m finding myself far more interested in these things than I’ve been before. It really is true that the more you learn the more you realise you have to learn, and how small you really are in the scheme of things. I’m finding myself drawn more and more to minimalism, even whilst being quite tech-centric and a bit too attached to my phone. The past few years I’ve felt a shift from striving for more typical ideals of success to kindness, happiness and inner peace (as wanky as that might sound). Defining my own version of success and not being swayed by conventional wisdom is something I’ll keep working on this year.

Letterpress wisdom

Letterpress wisdom

What I’m excited for

More Side Project issues (#2 should be out in March!). Finally getting around to making a stationery collection, with the Side Project team. A few weddings, including a very special one where I’ll be the matron lady of honour, my first time being a bridesmaidsidekick. Much more lettering, calligraphy, typography and art, which I’m hoping to get around to writing more about over on teresawatts.com. The aquaponics system we’re currently half way through installing, which should hopefully supply us with more than half of our veggies and herbs. Properly dealing with my back pain, not just when it gets bad. The year of 30th birthday parties, including my own. Bring on 2015!

harvest-4

What I’ve been doing

In the start of 2014 I really upped my dessert-making and food styling game, making an almost weekly dessert up until April. Although it ended up being too hectic to keep up that kind of schedule, I feel pretty proud of those blog posts and those delicious sweets!

I left my previous job and started a new one, with the agency I did my work experience at 10 years ago and have pretty much been trying to go back to ever since. We have a coffee machine and went to Bali for our ‘Christmas party’. I have no regrets.

I did Sketch Dailies quite regularly for some time, and found the best ever painting app for iOS. I’ve lost interest in the daily themes, but really want to get back to sketching and painting again.

Melbourne, Brisbane, Bali and South Africa (will write about the last two soonish) gave me a decent bit of travel, mostly involving heaps of eating and landscapes – just the way I like it.

I rebranded and redesigned teresawatts.com and ChiGarden, and created Teresa Sketches and Public Transport Haikus. I haven’t kept up with updating them as much as I’d like, but the intent was there!

 

Click for the case study

Click for the case study

Donating blood and volunteering for the first time turned out to be rewarding experiences, and I wondered why I’d waited so long to do it.

I dabbled in print-making with letterpress and screen-printing, and even a bit of 3D printing – all of which I still have yet to write about properly

I hosted a waste free (ish) dinner party for 13 people, which I have decided is the maximum we can fit for a sit-down meal at our place.

I taught a brush lettering workshop at Beau Est Mien, which was scary but very rewarding. Inspiration for things to come.

Along with my partners in crime I created an actual printed (on 100% recycled stock no less) zine called Side Project, the first of hopefully many issues. Making a publication had been on my list of things I’d love to do but didn’t have to drive or skills to achieve on my own, so it felt AMAZING to complete it!

Side Project launch party - photo by Sabrina Wong

Photo by Sabrina Wong, at our launch party

What I’ve been reading

Here’s a few things that made a big impact on me last year:

  • Brain Pickings – the best way to read little digestible bits of wisdom from authors, artists and visionaries old and new, conveniently interpreted by the brilliant Maria Popova.
  • Monocle Magazine – I picked up a subscription last year, and whilst they are a bit too dense for me to keep up with easily I feel smarter for having read them, haha! Also, those lovely editorial illustrations!
  • Offscreen Magazine – putting a different perspective on web and digital work.
  • I didn’t make it through many books this year, but Walden, for all it was a pain to read, put some of my jumbled thoughts together quite beautifully.
  • xkcd always and forever.

What I’ve been spending money on

As much of my money I could last year went into the mortgage – how boring! But also on travel, slowly furnishing our home, excellent food, some good bottles of whiskey, stationery and magazines. I think we’ve reached the point of being relatively comfortable living within our means, investing in things that are worth spending money on and being thrifty with what isn’t. Sometimes I do feel pangs of jealousy when I see friends going on lots of holidays, eating expensive meals or wearing beautiful expensive clothes, but in the end I don’t think that lifestyle is for me.


So that’s the year that was – coming up soon: some belated goals and resolutions for the year ahead, some travel posts, and hopefully slightly better frequency of posts than the end of last year!

As always, if you’d like to join us or see others’ posts in this monthly series, head on over to helario.us for the master list.

Lately blogging has fallen to the bottom of my to-do list, but I try to at least make time for Head & Heart each month – it’s such a good way to pause, review the past month and look ahead with future plans. So much has happened over the past month that I thought surely it’s been a couple of months since I last blogged, but it looks like I haven’t quite managed to miss this month’s wrap-up yet!

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

What I’ve been grateful for

The huge support I’ve gotten for Side Project. I’ve been blown away by the people’s generosity, the support from my friends and the words of encouragement from people who maybe aren’t the target audience of the zine but appreciate the effort that went into it and the achievement of taking an idea and turning it into a tangible product. With any labour of love project you have to wonder sometimes whether it’s worth it, but the response we’ve gotten really makes me feel like it is.

Work/Life balance. I love that I can take off at a reasonable time and still put in some good time on my hobbies and side projects! That might make me sound like a less than dedicated employee, but I definitely think that the time spent immersing myself in creative or relaxing things outside of work makes me a happy, balanced and overall better worker than if I was putting in crazy overtime hours. I’m definitely in the ‘work smarter, not harder’ camp.

What I’ve been thinking about

What is work anyway? I tend to think of it as the thing that I do to make money, but I think it’s such a limiting definition that can turn work into a negative. If ‘work’ is tasks undertaken to achieve a purpose, then my lettering, Side Project, cooking, photography etc. are work – they just happen to be work that doesn’t generate income. Conversely, a job that feels like it doesn’t have a meaningful purpose is unsatisfying because it’s something you endure to make money, rather than work in this sense. Here’s a quote on the subject attributed to French writer Chateaubriand:

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

Weddings! Three couples of friends got engaged recently and another will be getting married in just a few weeks, so I’m getting caught up in the wedding madness along with them (willingly of course). It’s interesting contrasting the just-engaged happy glow to the is-it-over-yet pre-wedding stress. Weddings are a lot more fun as a helper than as the bride!

What I’m excited for

Issue 2 of Side Project. We have some really cool contributors lined up for the next issue, and this will be the one to really test how the zine will go long term. Our lovely friends were really supportive in buying the first issue, but I’m not so sure the ones who aren’t actually interested in creative living and handicrafts will continue to buy it. It’s both scary and exciting, especially as we connect with new people who have just discovered the zine and are genuinely excited by what we’re trying to do.

South Africa. We fly out for Johannesburg in less than two weeks, then straight off to a safari before flying over to Port Elizabeth and driving along the coast to Cape Town. There’s been so much going on that I’ve hardly had time to get excited, but now that things have calmed down a little it’s starting to hit me. I’ve heard so much about South Africa, especially Cape Town, so I can’t wait to see it.

What I’ve been doing

Side Project launch! At the time of my last blog post, we were waiting for Issue 1 to come back from the printers. Since then we launched the zine with a big party at Beau Est Mien, and have since sold almost all of the 100 copies. I thought the party itself would be easy compared to the stress of making the zine, but it was one very crazy week of preparation and a very full on day getting everything set up. By the end of it I was ready to drop, but I’m so happy and proud of how it all turned out. I think having a team of three makes you all push each other to get things going, whereas on my own I’d be in the planning stages forever.

Art of Inky Letters workshop. I was asked to step in for another artist doing a brush lettering workshop, so for November I was madly practicing and preparing to feel up to the challenge. Running the workshop really made clear to me how much I’ve learned over the past couple of years doing calligraphy, and how even though I’m far from mastering it I still have a lot to share and teach people who are new to the discipline. I’m already starting to think about what I’d do differently if I have another opportunity to teach a workshop again. You can see my calligraphy and lettering work over on Instagram.

No [sham]Poo. Shampoo isn’t really something that I questioned until I started seeing references to the ‘No Poo‘ movement (what an unfortunate name!). But after reading a bit about the subject, the process of using shampoo to vigorously strip hair of oils and then conditioner to put them back on again, along with a cocktail of chemicals, feels like a very inelegant and wasteful process. Switching to baking soda and apple cider vinegar hasn’t entirely been a smooth process, and I feel like I haven’t quite gotten the balance right yet, but chasing that elegant solution keeps me going. I’ll update the blog on my progress once I feel like I’ve gotten it right, but I do encourage you to give it a go!

Alexander Technique lessons. I’ve struggled to explain the Alexander Technique to people, and to be honest it sounded far too wishy washy when I first heard about it from my sister in law. But with my ongoing back issues I felt that it was time to give it a go, especially as there is evidence of its effectiveness in treating chronic pain, particularly back pain. It’s fascinating and I think helpful so far – at the very least I’m far more aware of how I hold my body and move, and how much this has been effected by my experiences and environment. This year has been one of my worst in terms of pain levels, so I have my fingers crossed that this will be a step in the right direction.

What I’ve been reading

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Classics feel punishing when I’m reading them, but it feels worth it for those fantastic thought-provoking nuggets of wisdom and actually understanding references made to them in other texts and media. On the Road has been on my to-read list forever, and it feels appropriate reading material for travels. I’ve only just made it through the lengthy introduction/analysis so far, so we’ll see if it lives up to the hype and makes me want to go backpacking.

Tickle the Imagination. I just came across this Perth-based magazine at a market recently, and am in love! It’s kind of what Side Project wants to be when it grows up – polished, full of amazing photography and content, and distributed all over Australia. I’m in awe of editor & designer Tanya Collier who manages to single-handedly do what it takes the three of us to, whilst also wrangling kids. If you’re into crafting and handmade things, it’s definitely the magazine to see and be seen in.

Generally I’ve been a lot more relaxed about reading articles and things lately – less reading more doing. I think both are good to do, so I’m just rolling with it and gathering interesting links on my to-read-later list for when I feel like it.

What I’ve been spending my money on

 

Travel. In Bali I spent what is really a pittance on what felt like a ridiculous amount of food; I’m now booking accommodation and paying off flights and safari balances for South Africa. There’s not much I’d rather spend money on than travel.


If you’d like to join us or see others’ posts in this monthly series, head on over to helario.us for the master list.

Pictured above: The entrance to Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, in Ubud, Bali.

So as predicted October flew by with very little in the way of blogging and a whole ton of work my side project, Side Project. Apologies in advance if this post ends up pretty much just about the zine – it’s ended up a huge part of my life lately.

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

What I’ve been grateful for

Sam and Sabrina, my partners in making Side Project. I think we have a good blend of skills for producing a magazine, and I’m always in awe of their photography and styling. We all sort of push each other and bring each other back on track when we stray off topic (which is often), and it’s been challenging but really fun! I’d thought of trying to make a zine before but always concluded that it would be too much work for one person, so it’s awesome to have a team to build it together.

Other people who have been helping us outBeau Est Mien Design & Print Shop who are hosting our launch party, Bicubic who were nice enough to give us cheap printing, Apropos Provisional who will be stocking Side Project. Oh and of course The Boy, who puts up with us taking over the dining table almost every weekend for meetings.

Longer days, warmer weather. I’m trying to be healthier, doing stretches in the morning and walking home from work. The longer days and nice weather are definitely helping.

What I’ve been thinking about

Marketing, publicity and digital strategy. Previously I would have said it wasn’t really my thing – my marketing of this blog is even more woeful than its meandering content. But through tidbits picked up here and there from work and fellow bloggers, I think I’ve learned a thing or two. Side Project is a much more focused product than ChiGarden, so is much more easy and interesting to promote. I am however terrible at the elevator pitch and general schmoozing offline though – something to really work on.

Still saying no to things. I haven’t stuck to this completely, but I’m thinking of continuing it as best I can for the rest of the year. I hate turning down exciting new ideas or friends who want favours, but I feel like it’s helped my general stress levels and output quality significantly. I suppose at least it’s better to say no than to say yes, then do a half-assed job or never do it at all.

What I’m excited for

The Side Project launch party which is just over two weeks away now, yikes! If you’re in Perth please consider coming along to say hi :)

I’m headed to Bali at the end of the month with work as our ‘Christmas party’, which sounds like it’s going to be pretty amazing! I’ve only been once, as a kid, and this time we’ll be going to Ubud which sounds nice and peaceful. I don’t want to have to be too precious with a DSLR in tow, so I’m thinking of going film with the Holga and maybe the Instax. Fingers crossed I’ll get some decent shots!

What I’ve been doing

Can you guess? Yup, pretty much just Side Project. It’s now with the printers so the crazy part is over for this issue. Here’s a list of the bits I’ve been doing:

Website design and development, e-commerce setup, copywriting, email templating, handling email newsletters, digital strategy, social media pimping, liaising with suppliers, potential stockists and advertisers, interviewing, calligraphy, tutorial writing, recipe testing, recipe writing, cooking, photography, styling, promoting, editing, proofing, designing, lettering, blogging, tweeting, hosting and making heaps of to-do lists.

In particular I’m just really proud of the website, which I made in a weekend and looks pretty slick in my opinion.

What I’ve been reading

I’m rereading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, which feels perfect for Head and Heart because of the line repeated through it:

“First with the head, then with the heart.”

Despite having very little knowledge about South Africa, racism or boxing at the time I first read it, I remember it making a big impact on me as a teenager. I think my peaceful form of rebellion was reading literature that suggests challenging conventional wisdom and seeking your own answers.

I’m also working through my backlog of Monocle magazines – getting a subscription seemed like a great idea at the time, but those things are so dense and fascinating that it takes me more than a month to get through each one!

What I’ve been spending my money on

I’ve been eyeing some things in the Photojojo store for ages, but the phone charging wallet is what finally tipped me over the edge. The iPhone 6 battery is a decent leap from the 4S, but with some travels coming up I think the extra juice will come in handy.


 

If you’d like to join us or see others’ posts in this monthly series, head on over to helario.us for the master list.

Pictured above: the cover for Issue 1 of Side Project, a group effort between Sam, Sabrina and myself (okay, mostly I just hand modelled).

Whilst in Brisbane for Eat Drink Blog ’14, my sole touristy goal was to visit GOMA, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. I find modern art galleries generally miss the mark for me – perhaps I’m just not sophisticated enough – but I spent most of my first day in Brissy wandering the minimalist white and concrete halls admiring the collections.

Later at the conference, when I mentioned I’d visited GOMA, there was always a bit of confusion until I clarified that I’d visited the gallery, not the restaurant (typical foodies!). Usually I avoid cafes and restaurants at places like these as they tend to be mediocre tourist traps, but I was assured that this was one not to miss out on – and the current menu would be ending that weekend. After hearing rumours of a group lunch on the Sunday after hanging out with the bees, I was helped to gatecrash by the lovely Jemima of Feed Your Soul Perth, and sat down to a three course meal especially for the Harvest exhibition.

It was the only super fancy meal that I treated myself to whilst in Brisbane, and it was a good choice. With a focus on native ingredients and an artistic flair, the meal was intriguing and exquisite. The nice thing about dining with a group of food bloggers is there’s almost an unspoken rule to not all order the same thing, take photos of everything before eating, and pass around tastes for everyone to try.

Too much time has passed for me to give more than general impressions, but the absolute standout for me was my dessert, ordered thanks to a handy tip from Anthony of FoodMeUpScotty).  It came to the table looking like a brown, slightly wavy plate with two lines of dots drawn in it.

*SPOILER ALERT*

But as explained by the waitress, underneath was wattle custard which was then sprayed completely with Daintree chocolate paint and dotted with vanilla curd, giving a textural appearance reminiscent of the Australian desert and referencing Indigenous art. It was beautiful, surprising and most importantly a joy to eat. I’m not ashamed to say that I scraped every scrap of chocolate paint off of that bowl.

Parts of this menu, including the wattle custard dessert, appear to still be on the menu at the GOMA restaurant – worth the splurge! Don’t forget to check out the gallery, even if you’re not usually a modern art fan, as there’s plenty to see.

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