Hello, my name is Sandy.

Of fun times and fresh starts

The sun set strongly on the year. We spent Christmas week in Sydney, with most of the days down at the farm. I've never been there in the summer, and it was remarkably green versus what I was expecting. We spent the days eating and drinking and giving each other shit, then kicked off the evenings with tranquil hill views.

This is the first Christmas I've been away from my folks (not counting the year we went to Japan cos we still had a family Christmas a couple days before) and I missed them terribly. But I can't complain too much. I have three families now, and they're all pretty rad. Getting to hang out with the family with brothers was a rare treat I'm so grateful for.

rifle targets set up along a fence

We played with an air rifle on Christmas day. I bloody loved it. I have great plans to visit a gun range sometime this year and learn the art of marksmanship.

And I played heaps of Avernum: Escape from the Pit. It was exquisite to sink my head into a game and decompress - and get a strategy RPG fix to tide me over until my next D&D session. It was a bit surreal playing computer games and surfing the net at high speed in the sticks.

You know what was awesome, though? Writing. I only did a bit, but did it under a tree surrounded by birds and nature sounds. Is it the most productive way to write? Probably not. But wow, it felt good and I hope to make writing holidays a more regular thing.

a street performer squeezing herself into a tiny box

Back in the city, we saw a contortionist squeeze herself into a little box. I don't usually stop for busker shows, but I couldn't help it for this one. It was odd and unique, and kind of amazing to see what the (someone else's) human body can do.

giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit

Also saw a giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit, which, after spending the last few months following @forest_fr1ends, was utter perfection. Merry Christmas, tw*ts.

planner, notebook and pen

Aaaaaaand now we're home and ready to start 2017 with a bang. Already, I've been rock climbing (bouldering), geocaching, karaoke-ing and gaming with friends, and it's only been two days.

I now have a navy blue Hobonichi Weeks and a cheapo little notebook to keep me on track, along with clear, achievable goals and some strategies for accomplishing them. I have felt like I could be doing more, working smarter, working harder... I wrote some thoughts about it in Soft Signal.

I've started asking myself, "What do I want to get out of this X?" Where X could be the day, the week, the month, the quarter. Let me share a couple of things I hope to get out of this week:

  • Working on my novel
  • Gaming with friends done 2/01
  • A crafternoon done 2/01
  • Working on my Pico-8 game
  • Visiting the Ninja Academy done 7/01
  • Visiting a shooting range (or at least finding a good one to check out)

What do you want to get out of this week/this month/this year? Find me on social media and let's chat about it.

Postcards from Komaneka at Tanggayuda, Ubud

We went to Bali earlier this month, and despite everyone's recommendations for where to go, what to see, etc., we had our hearts set on a "writing retreat".

This meant no touristy things, no specky camera, and nothing that constituted being "busy", so we could focus on resting, recovering from stress, catching up on reading, and getting some Nano done.

We picked a private pool villa at Komaneka at Tanggayuda (Ubud) for a holiday home, enjoying all the perks and facilities (and getting some writing done). And here are the somewhat grainy, potatophone postcards to show for it...

one-bedroom pool villa

Our one-bedroom pool villa with a small sitting area, tiny dining table, bed, desk and bathroom. Oh, and the pool in the backyard. It was all very comfortable. I could live in a place like this if it had a kitchen too.

bathroom with stone bathtub and atrium

Very spacious bathroom/dressing room area. Note the stone bathtub and gorgeous atrium view. It had a pond too. We were treated to beautiful frogsong every bloody night.

stone bathtub with atrium view

Stone bathtub in all its glory. I was skeptical about how comfortable it would be to sit in, but it's actually quite nice. Yes, that's a cushion on one side. :)

small personal pool with deck chairs and a daybed

Here's our private pool. Most of the non-raining day time was spent out here pm the daybed, writing in fresh air and jungle ambience.

view of reception and boutique from the courtyard

The resort complex was just beautiful. You're surrounded by nature everywhere you go, and the manicured stuff blends in well with the wild stuff. There's grass, garden beds, trees and vines all over the place, along with the bugs and critters that go with them.

Above is a view of the reception area and the boutique from the courtyard. Below is a view of the courtyard from the steps.

view of the courtyard from the reception steps

wooden swing

A quaint wooden swing just next to the Batukaru Restaurant, where we took our included breakfasts and dinners. I think the trees on the left are banana, and the fruits on the right are pomelo. These weren't labelled, but some trees around the property were.

Like this one...

large jackfruit

A big ol' jackfruit, with a jerkfruit next to it for scale. :o)

restaurant bar level seating

The top floor of the restaurant is a bar area, though you could be forgiven for thinking it's just a lounge. We went up one afternoon to check it out. It was unoccupied and unmanned; we wouldn't have guessed it was a bar if we hadn't been told. We sat around on the many comfortable seats just enjoying the peace and the view.

restaurant bar level view of mountain over the jungle canopy

Looking over the canopy at a mountain.

stairs lined with ferns

They really go all out on making this place beautiful. This stairwell was just outside the entrance to our villa. Maidenhair ferns all over the place!

I took a few photos of fungi and bugs, but I'll spare you today. Will share those another time when I figure out what species they are.

salak, passionfruit and tangerine

We got to try some local fruit. The yellowskin on the left is a passionfruit, the greenskins I think are tangerines (though my mum called them "green skin orange" when I showed her this photo), and the gnarly ones on top are called "salak", or snake fruit.

Salak flesh looks like a giant garlic segment, but has a tarty-sweet flavour, a potato/apple-like texture and an astringent mouthfeel. So yummy. I wonder if we can get it here in Perth.

salak fruit, peeled

Balinese dancer

We got to watch a Balinese dance performance as part of a special BBQ event. They do one every month, where you feast on Balinese food and enjoy some culture.

offerings to the spirits

On our last day, we tried the afternoon tea: a daily event involving Balinese kueh (cakes). When we arrived at the teahouse, we saw a few of the staff preparing offerings. Spirituality is embedded in ordinary life. You'll see little offering 'bundles' like these wherever you go, most of the time with a bit of food on top, and maybe some incense too.

The staff kindly taught us how to make them using leaves, grasses and flowers from around the area. It made me wonder what aspects of everyday life at home could be made better by making offerings. Spirits aside, the ritual and reflection is sure to have some psychological and well-being benefit.

We had food for the stomach too. These are the very tasty pieces of kueh we got to eat.

sweet corn kueh, banana cake, black rice with palm sugar, sweet potato with palm sugar

From left to right: sweet corn with rice flour pudding, banana cake, black rice pudding with palm sugar, sweet potato with palm sugar. I much prefer Asian desserts to Western desserts I have these days, just for how tasty they are without being too sweet.

Things I didn't photograph:

The free yoga lesson.

Komaneka at Tanggayuda runs complimentary yoga classes twice a week, plus other times at their sister resorts in other parts of Ubud. I had no idea my body could bend that way. The instructor was a riot, and although our classmates weren't very social (I think everyone was a bit shy), it was nice having all of us beginners attempt things together.

The massages.

Mm, so good. Before we left, I scoured the net trying in preparation, but found nothing. So, here are some notes for travellers from Perth:

  • Expect Perth prices. Not quite dayspa massage prices; more like Chinese massage prices. Maybe even slightly more after adding the service fee and sales tax.
  • Disrobe and lie face down on the table. Keep your undies on, unless they give you disposable dayspa undies.
  • They'll most likely ask if it's OK to massage your head. This is a cultural thing. Balinese culture considers the head sacred, so the therapists check first.
  • The face massage is nothing special or exotic. Just someone rubbing your face. I recommend skipping it, so those minutes get used elsewhere.
  • You will be oily afterwards. It's fine.

The noises.

Being in the jungle, you'll be treated to a bevy of wild sounds. Don't be alarmed. Nothing will attack you unless you bother it first. But expect to hear these noises if you stay at this place:

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.

Postcards from the country

dog in a box

We are home from a lovely Easter weekend trip to rural New South Wales. As always, getting away from normal life and the usual haunts makes me think about what I leave for and come back to.

For the first time in ages, I did not come home feeling the need to make big changes or start giant projects. We're in the midst of flux, of movement; I don't feel the raging turmoil that comes with being stagnant and not realising it yet.

Today, I'm taking time to settle back in, with a little drawing, a little writing, and reminiscing about peaceful country getaways~

flowers on the breakfast table

flowers in a vase with a painting in the background

kitsch country decor

glass botle shelf decoration

profile of cute King Charles Cavalier spaniel

a garlic braid

butter on a toasted hot cross bun

flowers in a vase

patterns on a couch cushion button

carpentry with wood planks

a bent nail in a wooden pillar

a brass tap with cobwebs looking out across a field

wire sculptures between trees

fog over a paddock

foggy roadside

a tree in the fog

a path leading into the fog

a labrador x kelpie relaxes on the lawn

a cow peers at you

clouds of fog over land

a quad bike with a farm-made box

pink flowers in a country garden

rose and rosehips in a country garden

lavender silhouettes against clouds and sky

more beautiful country roses

roast pork dinner

a cosy fire before bed

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!

Flowers and rainy windows

a shelf of paintings

Oh yeah, the farm and house we stayed at are chock full of awesome paintings. I'm a noob about art, but since trying to paint, I like looking at things other people do. Anyway, most of the awesome paintings were done by Sydney-based artist, Ali Wood. She even let me check out her studio. Thought you might like to see. :)

creative space

a creative table

I love seeing other people's setups and works in progress. It makes their work relatable, and that's important to me as a person in an audience.

Ali's rainy window stuff got me into her work. They're not photo-realistic, but they're what I see when I shut my eyes and remember. That's what appeals to me about her paintings, and paintings of that ilk, I think. They echo my memory more than my eyes, so I feel closer to them.

Stephen King talks about something similar in On Writing, where you refrain from over-telling so there's still room for the reader to fill in the blanks. This makes them feel closer to the work because they've done some of the telling on their terms.

painting of a vase

What blew my mind was seeing a painting of a thing, then seeing it in real life. Like seeing a celebrity in the flesh after many years, and making the connection between the virtual and the real.

the vase in person

Anyway, I'll probably sound dumb, saying more. Here are the rest of the photos I got of her paintings and tools.

so many paintings of flowers in vases

more flowers in vases!

just decoration, or art about to happen?

pencils and brushes

props and pieces on a creative table

oil painting of a road through the trees

You can find more Ali Wood stuff at her website and her instagram.