sanlive.com

Hello, my name is Sandy.

What's been going on

I've spent the last month meandering through my weeks. I like how things are going lately. Even though my black dog still nips at my heels, he's been less a hound of Baskervilles and more, I dunno, a beagle or something.

So, wots been going on then?

Gaming

some friends need to put more clothes on

Ah... Miitomo. This is a weird, creepy, cute and awkward game built around over-sharing. Above is a picture of a friend who took his clothes off and came over to my virtual apartment. It's why you don't add just any old chum to your friends list.

my dark souls 3 character

Also, Dark Souls 3. What can I say that you haven't already heard? Nothing. But let's celebrate the sentiment. Just thinking about it makes my palms sweat and my heart beat faster. I also feel like shouting swear words at the wall.

Fooding

Herman apple cake

There's been a lot of food in my life. Cakes, breads, cookies. Above is a Herman the German friendship cake - the actual cake, not my bread alternative. It's so very moist and keeps well. We still have some in the freezer, a bit of which went into making the healthier-ish edible terrarium below.

healthier-ish edible terrarium

My terrarium isn't healthy healthy, but I'd take it over the sugary (but pretty) original recipe. For the 'drainage layer' (the rocks you put at the bottom of a normal terrarium), use nuts and seeds and add custard for moisture.

Fresh fruit and cream make great 'plants'. The plan was to extract a natural food colouring (fail) for the cream, then whip it stiff (also fail) and pipe it into little echeveria-style leaves (cbf). But yeah, I was just ready to eat, so... maybe next time. :)

homemade tortillas

Learned how to make tortillas using this Basic Homemade Tortillas recipe. It's easy, tasty, uses only 4 ingredients, but the house reeked of fried oil after, and I can't stand the smell. But I now know I want my dream home to have an outdoor wet kitchen for stuff like this. :3

Best food news: I found a restaurant that serves spicy offal noodle soup! It's a huge, filling serve for just $13 at the place that used to be Beer & Skewer in Northbridge. They've recently changed their name to something else; Mama's something-or-other.

Writing

After powering through weeks and weeks of 30-minute writing sessions on my novel manuscript, I'm getting ready to... start all over again. Dumb dumb dumb. How do you know when to press on with a project, when to reboot it, and when to give up entirely?

Giving up is not an option here, but I don't want to press on with a direction that doesn't feel right. But I also worry about the whole thing falling off if I play with it too much. This is the bane of life for everyone working in a creative field. The bane. I has it.

a pensive cat

In the past month, I've written a short story and started two new longer stories. Before the next month is over, I hope to have another two short stories under my belt. Heck, I'd be happy with a couple of 100-word stories. I just want those brainwheels turning smoothly again.

making a mess, making cocktails

A magazine I write for accepted my pitch for a piece on... cocktails! Which meant researching, testing, modifying and drinking. My favourite recipe of all was a Summer Mary, dubbed 'JanuMary' for us in the southern hemisphere. It's a lighter version of the Bloody Mary, using passata and soda water instead of straight-up tomato juice. Pound in a few basil leaves and it tastes like pizza. :) New household favourite.

Full article: 5 Easy-to-Grow Herbs for Fresh Spring Cocktails

Making

an arduino hooked up to a breadboard

I hoped to have something electronically interesting to show you by now, but you know how it is - you go to read up on how something works only to find you need to read up on a million other things before you begin to understand. The other day, I went looking for the right-hand rule. Remember that? I haven't had to use it in nineteen years.

It's amazing how we can use electricity every day and have no idea how it works. I know that's kind of the point - that you don't have to know - but I like knowing. Learning this stuff has been one mindblow after another. I had no idea how much ingenuity went into the tiny things I take for granted. Like transistors. I mean, wow.

Electrical engineers are pretty much amazing. You should shake the hand of the next one you meet. I don't think I could ever be a proper engineer, but pretending for a few hours a week is heaps of fun. I'm a fun-gineer.

What else?

I've been thinking about starting an email newsletter. When I started freelancing, one of my mentors said I needed one, but I was busy and scared and it sounded like marketing fodder so put it out of my mind. Lately, conversations have been coming up around newsletters. Friends have introduced me to some rad ones, and some I had been thinking of unsubscribing from suddenly got good. Is the universe sending me a sign? Or is this just the hot thing everyone's doing right now?

Would you sign up to a newsletter if I started one? I couldn't tell you what you'd see in it yet, but quite likely similar topics to what you see here, or what we'd talk about over tea or a beer, and other random interesting things like these:

And these:

And of course this:

If you're keen, let me know. Who knows, maybe it'll give us a chance to chat on email more, or give you something to chat about with someone you like better. :)

So, what's been going on with you?

Some time in Brunei

In January, I went "back to old country" to see my grandma for her 90th birthday. I don't go back often. Perth is home and comfortable. But I feel an awkward affinity for my 'home' country because so many people I love still live there.

Before this trip, I last visited eight years ago. Though many things had evolved, to me they all still felt the same, looked the same. This year was different. I saw a young person's memories through adult eyes. The monsters I remembered weren't as scary, the mysteries less mysterious, and everywhere, signs of time and change.

We drove past my childhood home. Grandma said she planted coconut trees there when we were little. Mum told me my placenta was buried in the front yard. We sold the house before we moved to Australia. Now, more than 20 years later, it looks run-down. Bare ground replaces my recollection of trees and a lush hibiscus bush. But our old iron swing was still there. Rusted and timeworn, but standing.

ants nest in a longan tree

Travelling. This was the first I'd been asked for my occupation in an official, legally binding context since going feral. I wrote, "writer". It felt good. Do blushing brides feel this way when they first sign with a new last name? Do transgender people feel this way when they fill out the first form asking "M or F"?

I wish I got a picture, but it was almost midnight and my sister and I spent ages trying to figure out what date to put on the form. Is it the date you depart or the date you complete the form? I still don't know.

sister looks down the canal in Bandar

We went for a boat ride down the Brunei River, between thick mangrove banks to see if we could find wild monkeys, and then through Kampong Ayer, the famous water village. I didn't take many pictures. I had my camera out, ready to go, but against the backdrop of forest sounds and our boat cutting through water, all I wanted to do was sit and stare at trees.

We saw two monkeys. You'll have to take my word for that.

a four-dollar laksa - choice, bro

Because this is about food, I'll use a food related figure of speech: this was the icing on the cake. Food, local food, in Brunei is so cheap. I had forgotten how cheap. This laksa cost FOUR DOLLARS. And it was just as good if not better than the $12 laksa you get here.

We had satay and roti and curry ayam and kolomee and Jolibee, which tastes exactly like how I remember it from when I was a kid. My one regret is not having SugarBun, because I really loved their fried chicken and filet o' fish.

My healthy eating went out the window, as is expected on holidays. The food was all very rich, and the climate so very hot and humid - by the end, I was very eager to get back to my regular diet. I made a point of updating my to-do list with "eat a meal of just vegetables".

a hydrant, I think?

It was a wonderful whirlwind of a trip. But no matter how much I enjoy a holiday, the best part is always coming home.

Seeing the cats.

Sleeping in my own bed.

And reliving the fun parts, going through the photos. Let me show you a few.

Happy birthday, Grandma! (Only 2 people knew which camera to look at.)

cooking lessons with Grandma

cutting keropok

a pile of keropok slices

Auntie's cat, Ginger

very tall plant

A crazy tall plant. I assumed it was a dracaena, but now I'm not sure.

touch me not

We called these "touch me nots". Wiki tells me they might be Mimosa pudica. I've made a video if you'd like to see them being touched.

my ant friend

This ant stopped to look at me looking at him.

KB from the aerial tower

Kuala Belait. Full photo on my flickr.

cheap fuel prices

Fuel is also very cheap.

chooks and a pineapple

satay and sauce

sweet potato breakfast

char siew kolomee

a bowling trophy full of fonts

A trophy with Comic Sans.

a plate with a pointless story

A cute plate with a pointless story.

the best Asian shirt

My new favourite t-shirt.

Shut up and eat your nutrient paste

We've been eating Soylent. Yep. It's not as gross or bland as I expected. Certainly looks like it could be made of people, but tastes like biscuits. The one we got is vanilla Aussielent. It's formulated to Australian RDI (recommended daily intake) standards, which meant nothing to me until I had a serve and felt full. No, actually, I only had half a serve, and it did me fine.

It blows my mind how cheap this is compared to real food. Not that it's fake food, but like... aaah. The whole thing blows my mind. It works out to $4 a meal, but it's not junk food. HOW CAN THIS BE?!?!

Anyway, I... like it? I think. It's only been a couple of days, and I'm not replacing all my meals - no chance of that until they make a NongShim flavour. If you're a protein shake kind of person, this could be for you. But I'm having mine hot and thick like a Horlicks. I hope the hot water isn't de-nourishing my nutrients.

Aussielent soylent powder

This first month of my new freelancing/making/homesteading life has tempered many of the anxieties that plagued me throughout my career. It's been interesting to discover that even accomplished and proven freelancers/creatives worry about being terrible. Award-winning Moby, for example:

"When you're working by yourself you can lose objectivity so quickly and molehills become mountains. I'll be working on a song and if I can't get the kick drum to sound right I'll think I'm a failure and walk around Manhattan, mourning my fate. It doesn't matter that I've made lots of records in the past. All that matters is I can't get one kick drum right. And all I can think about is my career's over and I'm going to have to become a fries chef at McDonalds."

--- Moby (pg 63, Future Music 84, July 1999)

(Thanks, Kohan, for sending me this!)

Anyway, the big lesson I learned last month was that it doesn't matter if you feel like a fake (impostor syndrome) or not good enough (perfectionism). What matters is getting the job done, and having it not be just plain shit. The best part is that worrying about this at all shows you're capable of making something better than shit. Creativity will happen through you - most of the time, you just have to get out of the way and let it do its thing. Otherwise you don't get paid and you can't afford to eat. Not even $4 soylents.

I don't expect to wake up tomorrow feeling like a million bucks forever, but today, I have a slightly better process for dealing with the lows. Maybe next week, it will be slightly better still.

And the highs that kept me going:

  • Learning more about plants - the different types, how to care for them, and what they're suitable for. I'm working on a plants site that I will show you soon.

  • Landing a private gardening job. Self-paced hours and room for creativity. My client wants to grow vegetables and herbs too. As a horticulturist, subsistence gardening is the area I'm most interested in, so you can imagine how stoked I am to veggie up a piece of someone's backyard.

  • Learning how to change a tap. And it not leaking after. (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT)

  • Making progress with making. Very slow progress, but I'm OK with that. I have almost all my materials to make my first batch of stuff. More on that later.

  • Getting a guest article accepted by GardenDrum - wee!! If you love cats and gardens, go read it and let me know what you think: How to design and plant a garden for cats

Mona checks out an ivy nook

We must catch up

a heron taking off from the water

It's been hard to sit and write lately, despite wanting to. I'm tired after work, and at other times preoccupied by little adventures. Tonight was set aside for Prison Architect, but instead I think I'll have tea and tell you what's been happening.

pumpkin soup with Gourdon

So, before we left for the farm, we turned baby Gourdon into food. Here he is as a pumpkin soup. Bland pumpkin soup. It turns out Jarrahdale pumpkins are nutty, almost squash- and zucchini-like in flavour. The pumpkin-ness is mild, so they are better suited to curries. Lesson learned. If you're making pumpkin soup, use Butternut or a fecking Kent (also known as Jap).

pumpkin curry with Gourdon

Gourdon also became a curry, the mild flavour working well with spices and chickpeas. I used too much cumin, which gives me a headache if I don't cook it for long enough, so whatever's left in the freezer will need a long, long re-heat time.

We meant to make pumpkin pie too, but what was left didn't last til we got back from holiday. I think we would have ended up with similar results to the soup. The next pumpkin adventure will need to be a sweeter breed.

electronics button panel

I finished my Arduino course, the projects book that came with the starter kit. This is what an electronics button panel looks like without the actual buttons on top. The little interlocked E shapes are non-touching ends of a circuit. When you press the button, it mashes a conductive material across the two E's, which closes the circuit and transmits the button-press.

That alone was mindblowing after a lifetime-thus-far of a) not knowing, and b) never even thinking to wonder. Imagine the exhilaration to then hack the buttons to make the device think someone pressed a button when really it was my computer sending a false signal. I felt briefly boss-like with a hint of cyberpunk.

Raspberry Pi 2, unboxed

So, now I am an expert n00b. I'm scared to fall into the trap of just reading a bunch of stuff and thinking it's as good as actually doing it, so my next project will be to set up an LED display board for some kind of computer machine. I'm excited to learn about power ampy volty chargey stuff, cos electricity never made sense to me til now. But bless my gentle, patient physics teacher for trying.

#listersgottalist fav. expressions

In April, I joined the #listersgottalist challenge, but stopped halfway because I wasn't enjoying it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the challenge, but some days - many days - I didn't find it interesting to answer questions.

I felt obliged at first to see it through, but then remembered it's important to be as good at quitting as you are at continuing. My newfound konmari habit kicked in, and I chose to focus all my art energy on #100daysofteacup, which I am really enjoying even though it's hard work.

It's awkward to convey what a difference the konmari approach has made in my life. Whenever anyone asks, I feel like that person you worry about for maybe having joined a cult. Everything making me happy nowadays can be attributed at least in part to this "life-changing magic of tidying up". The joy aspect is what hit home for me, but for a good summary of the practical tidy-up stuff, I quite liked Chisa's blog post on konmari. Go read it. :)

beans and rice at the markets

I've been batch cooking food in advance, and calculating the cost per meal given the total expense. The first batch turned out great. We got 14 meals at about $6.50 each. I'm on my second batch now, which has so far averaged at $7 a meal, with another week's worth of food left to go. This will be my part-time finance's saving grace.

The one downside is eating the same thing over and over. Even with takeaway and ad-hoc meals in between, it's... OK, it's not actually that bad except I made 3 bean-based dishes this time around, and things are not so elegant in the stomach area. Learn from my mistakes.

homemade meal

I was so very happy about this, though - this picture is of a totally homemade meal. Homemade baked beans, homemade (handmade) bread, and homemade ginger beer. And I ate it on a little wooden table Niaal made for me. :D

One day, I hope for this to be a totally homegrown meal too. I want to grow the beans and tomatoes, the flour and the avocado, the ginger and the honey. Maybe even make the plates and bowls they get served in. It's my dream to - not necessarily be totally self-sufficient and live off the grid like a mega-hippie - but to understand how stuff works and be able to provide when I choose to. Even tiny progress like this makes that feel attainable.

fantastically smooth bars of soap

And I did end up making some soap. I took a lot of photos, which I cbf editing now, so I will tell you about that another day. It was heaps fun, and not as scary as I thought, and I'm game to try making some from scratch once we're in a bigger kitchen.

All right, my teacup is empty. Time for a refill. Good night, friends. :)

100 Days of Teacup (Set 1)

The 100 Day Project, how to play

Earlier this month, I pledged to spend 100 days of teacup in #The100DayProject.

May I show you my first 20 teacups?

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows. Pencil and watercolour crayon drawing of peppermint tea, enjoyed at Sydney Airport on our way home from the farm. The crayons still work nicely, even after 20+ years.

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas. I wanted to try making textures with paint, as people have told me you can do with oils. Oils are nicer to work with, but I will stick with acrylic until I learn not to get paint on everything.

Day 3: Origami

Day 3: Origami. Original "teatime" design by Tomohiro Tachi. I followed the MrViolinPeter tutorial on youtube. It looks complicated, but if you can fold 45° angles, you can totally do this.

Day 4: Crochet teacup

Day 4: Crochet teacup. I was really pleased with this, even though I'm not in love with amigurumi. The free Lion Brand tutorial is easy-teasy. :) The base is weighted with beans, the rest is filled with wadding.

Day 5: Paper art teacup

Day 5: Paper art teacup. A friend gave me a stack of beautiful washi paper, which I left untouched in a box of precious things. I found it again while KMing and decided it was time to help those beautiful papers fulfil their life purpose.

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin stolen from a whiskey workshop at Whipper Snapper Distillery. If you're in Perth, love whiskey, and enjoy learning interesting things, go sign up for the 2-hour workshop. You learn about distilling, get to do some tasting - and The Royal is close enough for some good food after.

Day 7: Off-hand

Day 7: Off-hand. Felt-tip on paper. I have a drinking game I like to play with people. The first part is to get nicely sozzled and draw a teacup with your non-dominant hand. I wasn't drunk for this, though. Usually it doesn't go as well.

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut. Marker on paper. The second part of the game is to shut your eyes and draw with your non-dominant hand. Once in a while, things look how they were meant to.

Day 9: Jute and glue

Day 9: Jute and glue. Because the glue took so long to dry, this took 3 days to complete. It stinks of PVA. I'd like to explore this more if I could find a less smelly adhesive.

Day 10: Layered pop-up card

Day 10: Layered pop-up card. Definitely something to be said here about using good quality materials. I used glossy labels salvaged from bedsheet packaging - annoying to work with. It might be fun to try again with nicer paper.

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper. Again, good paper will make a good experience.

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell. Even though I'm used to seeing Chinese and Japanese teacups, I don't find them very teacuppy without the other parts of a tea set. So I got a pot of tea and our last biscuit. It was nice. There was a hint of passionfruit aroma. :)

Day 13: Body paint on skin

Day 13: Body paint on skin. Neshka from Little Magic - Art & Design let me try her face paint. This is a lovely type of art. And the very temporary nature makes it feel so delightful. I would probably feel differently if I was covered in it, but something tiny like this is OK.

Day 14: LED dot matrix display

Day 14: LED dot matrix display. I was working on a LED display for a project; a teacup emerged. The Freetronics DMD is great. It comes with the cable, you just plug it into the arduino - so easy. I expected to struggle, but it only took an hour-ish to get the software, play around, then make the picture appear. That includes the nervous procrastination preceding all my projects. A more experienced maker could do it in half the time.

Day 15: Charcoal on paper

Day 15: Charcoal on paper. Some study of light and shadow. I did the top wrong. I know. :(

Day 16: Watercolour

Day 16: Watercolour. This was fun. Watercolour, let's date each other.

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting. Normally, I try to prevent ink from getting on my fingers. But the stamp pad was just there. Finger was still black the next day. B-, would fingerpaint again, but won't use ink.

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella. The fails are in the background. Beauty only matters for the photo. They were all equally yummy.

Day 19: Mouth drawing

Day 19: Mouth drawing. This felt weird. I think you have to use your tongue for finer control, but I didn't want to get licky with my pen. It's hard with a fineliner, cos too much slanting lifts the tip off the page. This could be worth trying with a paintbrush.

Day 20: Foot drawing

Day 20: Foot drawing. Also feels weird, also want to try with a paintbrush.

"Show up, show up, show up," says one of the posters for #The100DayProject. After 20 days of showing up, I realise art is more about perspiration than inspiration. Ideas flow fast and free when you're in the right state of mind, but it takes discipline and perseverance to turn it into something you can behold.

There are days my discipline wavers, but I want to make it to 100. It's like exercising muscles. I want to come out the other end with the creative process feeling like the natural course of things. I am still nervous about art, but starting to feel more confident.

The bit I enjoy most is having an excuse to try new stuff, or try new ways of doing old stuff. I don't know what you call these things. Art forms? Mediums? Some of them I've wanted to try for ages, but never got around to it. This is wonderful incentive.

I'll post sets here every 20 days, but if you'd like to follow the days, check out my instagram or 100 Days of Teacup album on Facebook.

So, that's it for now. 80 days to go.

Waaaaaaah~ 80 is a such a big number. T___T

Life should be a quiet weekend away

cats are good at helping you pack

We went away for the weekend. Spent 3 days away. Lucky I have a useful cat who helps me pack. Cats are good at helping you pack.

daybed at the Bay Village Resort, Dunsborough

I love Dunsborough. We stayed at the Bay Village Resort, a quaint, clean collection of apartments, cottages, chalets and villas. It backs onto The Pour House, the pub we seem to visit every night when we're there. Upstairs from the pub is a food place. Last few times we went, it was a burger joint. Now it's a bar-restaurant called Meat People.

Meat People bar and menu

beef brisket at Meat People

We ate there a lot. I decided to be good and not take pictures of every meal. But I did take this one meal. The beef brisket, served with slaw. In fact, there's slaw all up in this place. And the salad garnishes for some of their other dishes are bloody awesome. One salad was a mix of rocket, dill, mint, coriander, and pickles. So good.

Legolas with bigger arms and more beard

A round of archery ensued. Niaal spent the lead-up getting pro tips from an ex-competitive archer friend, while I had to make do with what I remembered from the ever-so-safe Lars Andersen video (no, don't copy him, you'll get kicked out of the park). Out of the two of us, I came second, which I think is a decent effort.

possum napping in a tree

And we saw a possum napping in a tree! This was at the Busselton Archery Family Fun Park, which is pretty foresty. They have a cute mini-golf course too, and a go-kart zippy track for kids. Nice way to spend an hour or two in the morning.

sampler at Eagle Bay Brewery

Then came the beer paddle. I'd love it if more non-brewery pubs did this in Perth. Maybe a themed palette, or a tour of craft beers, or something like that. As much as I love a good pint, I can't put away so many now, so I get two beers at most out of an afternoon session. And if you're having a whole pint, you gamble when you switch away from something you like.

tasting notes at Eagle Bay Brewery

Anyway, of course I got the Eagle Bay paddle. Kolsch and Mild were my favourites. :D

daybed and table at Evviva Cafe

I like the breakfast at Evviva Café. I don't know why they need 3 v's in their name, but it doesn't make their food any less tasty. The decor is nice, bit hippy and hipster-ish, and mostly outdoors with a grassy area.

avo and poached eggs at Evviva Cafe

I loved my savoury breakfast, but Niaal's sweet pancakes were for the birds. Literally.

little honey eater eating honey

^____^

a periwinkle, Austrolittorina unifasciata

We did a lot of beaching, and looking at things on the beach. Here is a banded periwinkle (Austrolittorina unifasciata), a type of sea snail.

weird green thing we found on the beach

This is a sea booger.

noodle-shaped seaweed

Some sea noodles.

lumpy seaweed

A sea tree of sea peas.

walking on water or sandbar?

And walking seaman.

Duckstein beer samples

And then more beer. This time at Duckstein.

the road home

It's nice to be home now, and back into the swing of things. I admit, I did spend a bit of time thinking about what to do when we got home.

One big thing is planting jasmine in the front garden. People have told us it's their only plant going crazy in the heatwave, and I'd like a hardy summer plant to create a microclimate and keep other plants alive. But more about that later. We're definitely not in a heatwave at the moment (week of thunderstorm).

Another big thing is making stuff from stuff I've grown. But not cooking. We don't eat or cook enough to keep our crops in check. Without a steady purpose for herbs, it's hard to be motivated about maintaining them. So maybe if I start making nice lasting things, like infused oils or soaps, it'll be easier to stay diligent about the cultivation. I'd like to explore this more.

And I want to try making lace. And paper. I want to clean my typewriter. I want to get cracking on my EP goal for this year. I want, I want, I want...

But I feel a psychological wall between me and all these things. A wall that's probably always been there, which I'm only seeing properly since starting to get my house in order. Cleaning has surfaced much that I initially procrastinated on, then tucked away. I'm only a couple months into the 6-month konmari campaign, but with just a bit of clutter gone so far, I can actually see the stuff I'd set aside "for later". And I have now done a few of those "later" tasks.

So, I suppose the most important big thing now that we're home will be to persevere with cleaning.

Woop dee doo!

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