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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Making a box lamp

My bedside lamp is perfect for reading, but way brighter than what I need when I wake up for a midnight pee. This is not TMI. We've all been there.

Rather than buying a nursery night light, I thought I'd have a go at making my own. I got an old tea box from a friend who found it in a cupboard while moving house. It turned out to be the perfect size and shape for my first real-world electronics project.

a cute tea box

Turns out this type of project is perfect for a beginner. You can get almost all the parts at Jaycar, and don't even need screws, glues or solder to create something you can use right away. So here's how to make a super simple box lamp...

making a box lamp

Parts

1 x yellow, orange or red LED (I'll talk about why in a sec)
1 x 68ohm 0.5W metal film resistor
1 x microswitch
1 x mini breadboard
1 x AA battery holder
2 x AA batteries
3 x breadboard wires
Some masking tape or blu-tac.

Setup

box lamp setup diagram

Connect the microswitch's NC pin to ground, then attach the switch to the inside of the box, where the closed lid will keep the lever pressed down.

box lamp schematic

This is probably what the schematic would look like if I knew what I was doing. BE WARNED: I'm not good with schematic diagrams. The switch part might be wrong.

Choosing the LED bulb

Really, you can use whatever colour bulb you like. For a box lamp serving as party lighting or a stage prop, it doesn't matter. But my lamp was intended for the intermissions between sleep, so I had to pick a warm colour (ie. no blue light) to minimise any 'awakening' factors caused by light.

I've been using f.lux on my computer for a while now, so it's hard to recall the improvement it made to my bedtime experience. But I remember being impressed with it at the time. Light hacking is a thing in our house.

inside the box lamp

Why a tea box?

Before making this lamp, I sketched out my dream designs. Squares with slots. A copper panel touch sensor. Something Escher-esque, though that was just my shit drawing. But nothing sat right with me.

A lot of my making projects left me with that feeling. Guilt, I guess. I had grand plans of things to make and sell, but I'd get to the bit where it was just possible, then back down. I'm not sure what's up with that. I want to say I feel guilty making new things when there are so many of the same new things out there already.

With this project, I wanted to give new life to an old piece of junk. It's a lovely box, and a shame for it to end up in landfill without a second chance. I love the feeling of recycling. It's what got me into gardening. And I'm quite fired up about learning electronics right now, though it still feels like a strange thing to identify with.

Baby steps, I guess. First, this silly junk lamp. Next, calling myself an engineer until I actually become one.

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?

Changing and learning and Christmas

Year's end approaches, and I don't feel like the calendar brings a fresh start this time around. I suppose it's because the last 12 months have been full of fresh starts. So 2016 must be about continuing, learning, experimenting, getting used to life as it is now.

I pushed very hard for the first three months of freelancing, and now in Month Four, I'm in a good place. I like my clients, I'm interested in my work, I reckon I can ease off the accelerator and try a few things out. I don't want to call this a groove, because a groove so easily becomes a rut when you're not looking. This is a pit stop.

What I'm excited to try over the next few months:

Finishing my manuscript. Forget the thrill of completing a first draft - that's so three weeks ago. Now, it's like someone gave me a new toy for Christmas. One I can fiddle with until it becomes something another person can read without vomiting. It's nice to not be starting from scratch. Even though my first draft is a pile of poo, I am still one first draft ahead of where I would otherwise be. Yay!

Making a product. I spent the last 6 months in prototyping and testing (ie. ruminating over a test piece). Then my prototype failed. Then I found a better way to go about the production. And now I'm waiting on materials so I can make a batch. I'm spending a lot of spoons on the freelance writing side of my life right now, but nowhere near as many spoons as when I was still working an office job. So, hopefully the new materials are legit, and this thing can finally be done.

Trying fermenting and pickling. Since I can't keep furry and feathered livestock yet, I shall start with microscopic ones. A friend gave me a glossy wipe-clean booklet on fermentation, and offered one of her Herman babies when he's ready. That plus a kombucha SCOBY, kefir from Mum, and whatever vinegar mothers I find in our pantry should jumpstart a nice bubbling, smelly kitchen.

Cleaning my typewriter. Did you know one of the best typewriter oils on the market is the same oil you use in a gun? Neither did I. I have an old Olivetti Lettera 22 I've been meaning to get in touch with. As time passes, my fingers grow increasingly itchy to pull it apart, scrub under the folds, and give it a rub down. Today, I made a shopping list of tools and supplies for this project.

my cousin's Christmas ham

This Christmas felt like the least stressful in a long time. Instead of everyone buying gifts for everyone, we played Secret Santa. I used to have doubts about this game, as it's always been associated with office parties and buying for people I hardly know. But it's way less awkward among friends and family. Turning our family gift habits into a game made things fun again. Especially with a low price limit, giving us licence to get creative.

Actually, we tried a couple new Christmas practices in my family this year. The main one being that Mum doesn't shoulder the burden of feeding everyone. She's our local matriarch, and has always assumed responsibility for putting on a banquet. But this year, family lunch was pot luck.

What I observed:

  • Everyone contributed.
  • Every dish was a conversation piece.
  • There was no one person having to worry about everything.
  • There was no reason for anyone to feel like they weren't doing enough.

Best of all, Mum didn't have to spend a day and a half preparing everything.

I've learned I'm sensitive to patterns and repetition. Particularly in the last few years, I've felt at odds with my family's Christmas habits. They're more habits than traditions, as we don't fiercely cling to them as much as fall back on them when the holiday arrives. At times, they've struck me as the perpetuation of activity long after we'd run out of circumstances that made them ideal. Like when people move from mild climates to arid ones, yet still insist on keeping a lawn.

I suspect my growing stress over the years has had something to do with falling back on habits no longer suitable for the climate. I daresay we once found our groove, and somewhere along the way, it became a rut. At least for me. My mum is not old, but older. Us kids - my siblings, cousins and I - are now the adults. We have income and responsibilities, passable cooking skills and a new generation of kids to treat. And as people, we change and grow, and learn new things about each other. Maybe I'm the only one in my family who thinks so, but these new habits seem to me like the right fit for where we are today.

Can I call them "new habits"? Next year could be different still. Hopefully we'll be able to adapt.

The "Mona" glove

the

Ah! I am excited. One of my goals this year is to put something cute in a shop. Yesterday, I delivered the "Mona" gloves to Lucy In Disguise, and independent retro, recycled, vintage and handmade store in Subiaco. :)

The lowdown:

  • Handmade, 100% wool, natural dyed wood button, hand wash only.
  • Available in limited supply from mid-Autumn at Lucy In Disguise in Subiaco.
  • Part of my quaint goods collection at The Softery.

Funny timing - just a couple hours after I dropped off the glove, the weather turned a huge corner and we got super rain all evening. Google weather says the cool weather is finally here, at least for another week. Get your gear ready - winter is freakin coming!!

Crocheted cowl with giant chocolate button

crocheted cowl with giant button

This is a quick and easy crochet neck thing, if you're looking to make something cute for winter - Lemon Balm Button Cowl by Fiber Flux.

my button looks like a chocolate!

My giant chocolate looking button was too big to go through the stitches, so I modified it using the Dummies guide to crocheting a buttonhole.

shell stitch edging, also called a scallop edge

This edging was made using a shell stitch (the pattern refers to it as a scalloped edge) for a bit of extra cuteness.

Somehow even though this finished piece was smaller than in the pattern, I ended up using more yarn than estimated. Wat.

I'm looking forward to cooler weather. You know, it was 39 last Wednesday, then 24 on Friday, and now we expect to go back up to 38 next Wednesday. Can someone please tell the government their HAARP needs a reboot? :) I know I moaned about the cold when we were in Japan, but it's different now. I'm at home with two fuzzy, purring heat bags, and have plenty of HEATTECH from UNIQLO.

MY BODY IS READY

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