Head & Heart – July 2014

Published Categorized as Life

Ah July – for me July is a month of birthdays (including mine and The Boy’s) and a whole lot of eating and drinking. Here’s my recap for this month’s Head & Heart.

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

What I’ve been grateful for

Having the opportunity to go to STYLEAID, Perth’s biggest fashion fundraising event, which I worked on the website for. It was an amazing event with some great performances and fashion. I’ve never actually been to a black tie event before, so it was quite the experience!

Having the time, opportunity and inclination to learn new skills and hobbies, and even give back a little too. It’s occurred to me how very privileged I am (I scored extremely high on that test), so I’m trying to not just use all of it for personal gain.

What I’ve been thinking about

I’ve just started volunteering for CoderDojo WA, which is a program run on weekends to teach interested kids how to code. I’ve seen a lot of articles talking about how code literacy is an important skill for children (probably thanks to Obama’s push for Computer Science Education Week last year), but like a lot of other programmers/developers out there I think that focusing on the technical skill is missing the point. The important life skills you can learn via coding are analytical thinking, problem solving and not thinking that a failure is the end. An engineer, my dad taught me from a young age to break down problems into smaller problems, gather useful information from each ‘failure’, and use it to try a more educated approach the next time. This is exactly how I approach any web development I have to do (it never ever works perfectly the first time), but also how I try to approach life in general. I’m still figuring out how I can translate that into teaching these kids.

Sort of following on from that, I feel a bit weird talking about things like volunteering or giving blood – it sounds like I’m asking for some kind of congratulations, but that isn’t the case! In today’s hyper-connected world, promoting these causes to others who might end up helping out too is a good thing. They say it can take hearing something seven times for it to really click, so just in case this is the seventh time for you – I really encourage you to become a blood donor! They even give you a meal afterwards, which is pretty awesome. It isn’t as hard as you think it is.

What I’m excited for

Last week I started a letterpress course, with my second class this Wednesday, and I have so many ideas that I can’t wait to try. I’m learning the oldschool methods of typesetting – as opposed to having the design printed on a photopolymer plate – which is laborious but fascinating. Many original lead and wooden type cases and blocks have been donated to the school, so designing is a matter of finding the correct case in big metal drawers, grabbing out each individual character or block that you need, then laying them out into a forme with the appropriate leading (which is actually lead) ready to ink by hand and print on the proofing presses. I’m yet to make my first print, but I’ve started gathering ideas on Pinterest so I can try out as many things as possible in the six weeks.

My first attempt at letterpress typesetting; original wooden type
My first attempt at letterpress typesetting; original wooden type

What I’ve been doing

Eating, mostly. July is always a month of eating for me. Also more sketching of course; trying to get back into jogging; extending the life of my clothes and shoes by repairing them; throwing my annual winter feast; turning 29; trying to tick off as many items as possible from my 30 Before 30 list.

I’m having another go at growing salad leaves, after some previous failures. My rocket, spinach and radicchio have germinated in pots in my kitchen window, and I’ve just thinned them down to give the remaining ones the best chance. I’m terrible at thinning seedlings – I want them all to grow! – so just transferred the extras into pots outside to hedge my bets and see which location works out best. If they make it to a decent eating size I’m hoping to bring the pots in to work to add to my salads. Anyone have tips for growing salad leaves?

What I’ve been reading

I’m not sure how I’ve only just discovered the Brain Pickings blog, run by Maria Popova – each post is full of so many nuggets of wisdom taken from publications and speeches of amazing people, distilled down to their essence and translated into something I can relate to. I love how short but punchy each one is, giving me some excellent food for thought. Warning – they are peppered with links to related posts which are equally fascinating, so save yourself a good afternoon to flick through or save the best ones to read later.

I love this article about the benefit of creative hobbies – apparently giving yourself enjoyable, creative, low-level challenges is better for de-stressing than more typical passive activities like watching tv, online shopping etc. Even if your hobby doesn’t turn into a multi-million dollar company – or make any money at all – it’s still worthwhile pursuing, just for your mental health and general productivity. I now feel justified, as I have a ridiculous number of creative hobbies and side projects!

I’ve just passed the half way point of Walden, which is dragging on a bit but I will get there… eventually.

What I’ve been spending money on

Fancy dinners with The Boy for our birthdays; the Good Food & Wine Show (sadly quite boring), a bright red floor-length secondhand gown for $45 from Vinnie’s Retro (bargain!); wine; cooking ingredients. My life has relatively few expenses these days besides the basics and a few foodie splurges here and there, so I’m going to enjoy it and save whilst it lasts.

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 – taken by me at STYLEAID, at the end of the fashion show.


    1. It’s a tough one Jade, but worth reading I think! Brain Pickings however is very accessible if you’re in the mood for something thought provoking, I reckon.

  1. Yes! Love Maria Popova, isn’t she amazing?! I also read that article about creative hobbies and I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t know what else I’d be doing if I didn’t have a plethora of hobbies and personal projects to busy myself with outside of my day job :/
    PS Would love to see that Vinnie’s ball gown? It sounds like a dream!

    1. My brain feels bigger for having read Brain Pickings! So much good stuff.

      I’m the worst model ever (which is why I try to stay behind the camera), but here’s the dress!

  2. I love this post. Good on you for volunteering for CoderDojo. It sounds like an awesome program – I can imagine that the participants would really enjoy it and learn some invaluable skills. (I am currently reading the book The Social Executive by Dionne Kasian Lew and she suggests some sites to teach yourself coding, which I am going to attempt.) I think you should definitely tell the world about volunteering and donating blood. If it encourages just one other person to do the same, it’s worth it. (I see a lot of patients who rely on blood products to keep them alive, get them through treatments, or even to give them a bit more quality of life in the last weeks of life – such a great gift to them and it’s good to know that if you were in the same situation, someone else would be donating blood for you to use.)

    Where are you learning letterpress? I love the quotation you’ve chosen. I went through a stage a few years ago where I bought so many letterpress artworks and greeting cards that I had to go cold turkey. (Come to think of it, one was a Walden-related artwork – I have a few of those.)

    I’m going to check out Brain Pickings and try out your tips for saving things to read later. I just started a new job that allows me to catch public transport to work and I’m enjoying the extra reading time.

    1. Thanks Elissa! I definitely recommend having a go at learning to code, even if it’s just HTML and CSS – which are pretty useful if you have a blog.

      I’m glad people don’t seem to see me promoting these causes as boasting or asking for congratulations, and I really hope I encourage people to give as well. My dad started giving blood years ago, after my mother had a transfusion, and has been giving ever since. I’m a little sheepish that it’s taken me this long to start doing it myself.

      I’m doing letterpress at CIT, it’s one of their short courses run at ‘the Slice’ in Northbridge. I really recommend it, the teacher pretty much gives us full run of the studio and all the resources, and just advises when needed so you can do your own projects. It’s awesome!

      Reading on public transport is why I started doing it – I don’t have 3G on my iPad, so this way I can save it in the morning and have something to read during the commute. Not sure about other services, but Readability can also send to a Kindle or other e-readers I think.

      1. I am really enjoying Pocket and IFTTT, especially reading the links from my Twitter favourites. Thanks for the excellent advice.

        I will check out the CIT course. I had been planning to do some pottery there after doing an intro course in Bunbury. I think I need to give up TV so I have time to do all these things!

        The coding I hope will be helpful for a new health-related project I’m involved with (palliverse.com). It’s a bonus if there’s any benefit to my personal blog.

        Thanks again for the great tip about IFTTT.

        1. You’re very welcome! I was so excited when I found IFTTT, but was always hesitant to post about it here because I thought it would be too nerdy – ‘if this, then that’ is a programming thing after all. There’s a lot of cool things you can do with it, but I find that collecting articles to read later in one place is my favourite.

          Some of the kids I’m teaching have recommended CodeAcademy (http://www.codecademy.com/) for learning HTML. This week we worked with a tool called Thimble, which lets you code in one side of the screen and see the results in the other – you can see what I showed them here. If you click the ‘remix’ button on the top right, you can actually save a copy of the code to edit yourself and experiment with, which is what I’m encouraging the kids to do because that’s how I learned! Good luck!

  3. You should never feel bad about talking about things like volunteering or giving blood- such important things and the more we hear about things like this the better.

    Your post on tips for reading later is genius! I’m always bookmarking things and always forgetting about them. Definitely going to start using your system!

    1. I’m so glad you feel that way! I always hear that to do a real act of charity you should do it in secret, but social proof is such a huge thing that I think it’s better to be loud about it so others do it too.

      And yay for reading more! I find it so useful for saving things I find when I don’t have the time to give them my full attention.

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