sanlive.com

Hello, my name is Sandy.

Gathering my party

My past year has been full of lucky coincidences. Bordering on uncanny.

Like, one day, I looked at my post-konmari wardrobe and decided it was time to buy more work tops, then literally the next day, someone gives me two brand new shirts from the office swag box. Another time, just as I loaded up a job board to look for new gigs, I received a message from someone who needed some writing done.

And then there was the time a $300 cheque arrived from the tax department, just as a couple of bills were due. That was rad.

The latest exciting coincidence is a far nerdier one. I had been... ahem... thinking of hunting down a D&D meetup group.

^^;

But turns out I didn't have to brave the wilderness of people I don't know, because some dudes at work were up for a game.

We played Pathfinder, a fantasy RPG by Paizo Publishing, based on the 3.5 ruleset of Dungeons & Dragons. After the customary half-hour of creating characters and mashing chips into our hungry mouths, we set out in search of the legendary Black Fang.

quest party in a dungeon

The first time I tried to play D&D, it was in a group I didn't know well, who I didn't have enough in common with. I was also very new to tabletop RPGs and RPG culture, and in a particularly anxious phase of my life, so it was an uphill climb on all fronts. Eventually, my enthusiasm waned and I left to go play Five Pint Fridays instead.

People make a party. There's no doubt about that.

There was a time where, in my naïveté, I believed if you could find people who liked the same stuff you did, you'd find instant friends in them. This was followed by years of meeting people I didn't gel with despite us having the same hobbies.

Turns out it takes more than hobbies to sustain a friendship. You need compatible temperaments and perspective, overlaps in sense of humour, an awareness of each other's needs and communication styles, and enough similar life experiences to be able to relate to each other. Finally, you need an enthusiasm for the friendship, or at least for the activity you're sharing.

party, dice and character sheet

XP has taught me that if you do the things that align with who you are, you wind up in situations that suit you, and meet people you can get along with - maybe even people with whom you have the right things in common. You do what you do, and the more you it is, the more you you'll get.

In recent months, I have been doing a lot of me, exploring work and passions with greater intent and direction. I'm "following my heart", I guess you could say. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - one of my favourite, most influencing books - remarks on this, saying when you follow your heart, when you want something, "all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

Yeah, it's romantic, and probably not scientific. But maybe the coincidences this past year aren't uncanny at all, but the result of a heart-following, intrinsically motivated year of paranoidly overpaying my tax bills and meeting people who just keep spare shirts lying around. People who I have enough in common with that we can have an awesome, entertaining and comfortable evening of role-playing.

wearing hats and playing roles

So this time, almost exactly ten years after my first D&D attempt - as soon as I realised everyone was just as keen as I was to wear a hat and pass around props - I felt very at ease.

And how's this for a coincidence: when we all sat down to customise our characters, one of our players proclaimed his name would be Santiago, after the protagonist in his favourite book, The Alchemist.

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?

What I've been up to lately

It has barely been two months, but offices and cubicles feel so foreign already. This morning, I got out of bed at 9. Is this the slippery slope to becoming nocturnal again? I hope not. I like getting up early nowadays. But for the last few nights - tsk, tsk - I've stayed up past midnight, reading.

Reading. This is now essential to my professional development. Even fun reading has become a matter of study. Heaps of things are now a matter of study. I may as well tell people I'm a full-time student with heaps of prac assignments.

So here's what's been going on:

Gardenhand - After spending 2 years bumbling over how to do this, it's finally live: my gardening blog. Not much to look at now, but I have a pile of notes and drafts waiting to be written properly - answers to questions people have asked me about setting up and maintaining their gardens, little how-to's, and tips for outdoor and indoor planting.

Office Plants - Speaking of indoor planting, this project has also been keeping me busy and out of trouble. Friends setting up small businesses and home offices have asked about putting greenery in drab indoor spaces. So I'm building this site as a resource for busy office people, and as an excuse to study and grow more plants. I am loving my maidenhair fern, which I bought after writing the plant profile.

hand-lettered poster, work in progress

A hand-lettered poster - Some days, I wake up full of self-doubt. My Inner Critic suggests I'm delusional for thinking my recent life changes could ever work. Standing next to my Inner Critic, though, is an odd pair of characters. I can't find a reference to them on wiki, but I call them my Inner Drill Sergeant and Inner Cheerleader. I'm not crazy, I promise. These guys only live in my head. I know they're not real. :) Sarge is all brass tacks. He reminds me that I don't get to eat if I don't get shit done. Cheerleader is sweeter. She hangs onto positive, motivational quotes for the days I need them. Anyway, this work-in-progress poster is of something she's told me often since I started freelancing.

Inktober (day 4) - I started playing Inktober, thinking it would be a breeze after 100 teacups, but... nope. I got six days in, which you can see on my insta. It was fun, but some days, I didn't feel like drawing. I wanted to read about plants, fuss over my new tillandsia, do art that didn't involve ink. Oh well, there's always next year. I do want to finish the story of this boy and his sea adventure. Maybe I can do Inkvember and Inkcember.

Writing, and editing. I can now say I've gone through the process of pitching, writing, revising, and selling a story. Yay, achievement unlocked! More on that later, when I get a copy of the newsletter running the article. I also hit a small milestone last week in writing an article over 2000 words. I didn't think I'd ever have the patience for that, but well - it's done and I feel ever so slightly more capable.

Reading. The damn book that's been keeping me up was "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card. So good. I thought it would be an extension of a town's relationship with the native population, but it turned into this massive question of philosophy and ethics. I love story books that give you things to bring back to real life. I've just finished reading "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" by Justin Cawthorne. It's a fast read, and gave me the creeps, like a good horror story should. It also kept me up late. I'm now confident I'll blitz my 20 book pledge.

Ned's Pup - A fundraiser for an extended family member with autism. Ned's a good kid. :) It was nice to use my website-making skills to help out. The family are running a couple of events to help raise the money - small charity dinners, a quiz night, stuff like that. We're sitting on $2100 at the moment, so there's a long, long way to go.

And finally, Planetbase - It's like Dwarf Fortress, but in space. I love base builder and resource management games. And I love space. After spending the day super focused on tilling the career fields, it's nice to go colonise a planet. Mm, come on, little space men and women. Build me a bio-dome. ^____^

Now, how bout you? What have you been up to?

100 Days of Teacup (Set 2)

setting up a teacup photo

Teacups are still happening. Here is the second set of 20.

Day 21: Watercolour crayon

Day 21: Watercolour crayon, using old Caran d'Ache Aquarelle Neocolor II.

Day 22: Dots

Day 22: Dots, ink on paper.

Day 23: One continuous line

Day 23: One continuous line, red fineliner on paper.

Day 24: It'll do

Day 24: It'll do. Green fineliner on paper, along with my batch cooking plan.

Day 25: Packing with teacup

Day 25: Packing with teacup. Artline marker on cardboard. Packing began then, and is still going. Ironically, there are no teacups in this box.

Day 26: Felt cutout

Day 26: Felt cutout.

Day 27: One continuous wire

Day 27: One continuous wire. Used craft wire. This was meant to be a beaded teacup, but my beads were sealed up in a packing crate.

Day 28: Sketch on a paper fan

Day 28: Sketch on a paper fan. I regret using colour pencils - the surface was too bumpy. Next time, I will try felt tip markers or watercolours.

Day 29: A smallish cup

Day 29: A smallish cup. Used an Artline 231 tech drawing pen.

Day 30: Keynote shapes

Day 30: Keynote shapes. I spent 2 days designing presentations. Pretty bloody exhausted by the end of it, but day 30 needed a teacup.

Day 31: Teacup stamps

Day 31: Teacup stamps. Drawn in Acorn, printed by Australia Post's personalised stamps service. This is nice as a one-off treat, but generally terrible value. 20 custom local stamps cost $27, which works out to $1.35 a stamp. The service seems to target people having special parties or weddings, and I'm thinking for a party that special, you'd invite a lot of guests... that's a lot of over-priced stamps. Guess I won't be having a special party any time soon!

Day 32: Pastel version of stamp artwork

Day 32: Pastel version of stamp artwork.

Day 33: Drawing with the flat side of pencil

Day 33: Drawing with the flat side of pencil.

Day 34: A RimWorld teacup

Day 34: A RimWorld teacup. It's all fun and games until half your colony gets malaria, your hunter loses an arm in a snake attack, and a fat pirate decomposes in your strawberries cos no one will dig him a grave.

Day 35: My teacup-shaped todo list

Day 35: My teacup-shaped todo list.

Day 36: Washi tape and wire

Day 36: Washi tape and wire.

Day 37: Finger painting in Sketches (iPad)

Day 37: Finger painting in Sketches.

Day 38: Peas, glue and ink on canvas

Day 38: Peas, glue and ink on canvas. With most of my art supplies packed away, I'm relying on salvaging what I can from what's still lying around the house.

Day 39: Ink on tracing paper

Day 39: Ink on tracing paper. Yep, more salvaging. I found the tracing paper under a yet-to-be-KM'd pile of crap in a corner of the study.

Day 40: Photo stitch

Day 40: Photo stitch. A copycat of art @blaizey made for me. I used a lovely business card from Lovegrove Photography, which came inside a thank you card for supporting his wet plate collodion photography campaign.

So, that's the second set. I noticed an interesting psychological thing around day 32. My mind would frame the creation of a teacup like it's some huge undertaking. But in reality, even the more complicated pieces - like the washi sculpture and stamp artwork - didn't take much time. Hmm... or maybe they did, but I was in flow and did not notice.

Anyway, nothing in the last 20 days felt like it took a great deal of time or effort, and at no point did I feel unable to do recreational stuff like watching tv or playing games. When life tasks needed to take priority, I found I could compensate by figuring out how art could be integrated into those tasks. All I needed to do was remember and spare a thought - the rest seemed to follow on from there.

I wonder if expectation is the reason some people grow away from creative endeavours. Expectation that if you're gonna do something, it should be bonkers amazing. Then it's so daunting, you never even start. This, over years and years.

But just to hammer out a thing - good or bad, for the sake of experiencing its creation - there's no expectation there. You don't spend extra energy constantly checking yourself while you're doing it. You just do it, and then look upon the thing once it's done.

If the lesson from the first set was to regard perspiration ahead of inspiration, the lesson from this set is surely to jump in and try stuff while being comfortable with the idea of failure. You know, there are so many areas in life where failure is largely irrelevant. Making tiny teacups for 100 days is one of them. What else might be too?

Instagram