Hello, my name is Sandy.

When setbacks are things to work around

screenshot of my writing folio site,

My writing folio is up. Wanna see?

I spent three days agonising over what platform to use. Three days. I remember when I'd have a new site up within hours of wanting it - back when we weren't so spoiled for choice of free website providers.

Wait. I take that back. We did have plenty of choices, but not so many good ones. Today, Weebly and Wix make it so easy to instantly publish a nice site. Weebly moreso, because you get a nicer URL with the free account. is also good, but I didn't need all those features. In the end, I went with old mate Tumblr for the super simple, pleasurable user experience.


For the last 10 days, my feet have been shuffling awkwardly in whichever direction felt best. Lots of trial and error going on here, and overcoming bad habits of self-doubt. Hanging over me is the constant fear that this won't work, that it'll never work, and I'm stupid for thinking it could. I feel like an impostor and wishful thinker.

But people tell me these feelings are normal, and I must stay the course. I dare not look too far ahead in case I get distracted by shiny things, but it seems safe to look back and reflect a bit, so here goes.

In the last week-and-a-bit, I have:

  • Experienced much fear, anxiety, insecurity and worry. It helps knowing everyone goes through this when adjusting to new circumstances, but it still sucks.

  • Also experienced excitement, optimism and what I can only describe as luck. This keeps me going. When obstacles feel less like setbacks and more like things to work around, you know things can't be too bad... or can they?

  • Consulted on someone's garden. That felt very good. I love doing this.

  • Been given a chance to try for a guest blogging spot at a reputable gardening site. It took all of my courage to contact them, so hearing back blew my mind a bit.

  • Tested my latest batch of homemade soap. It turned out better than expected. A couple more trial runs and I'll be ready to make my first soap 'product'. (Shame it takes 8 weeks to know if a batch is good. See you next year.)

  • Started playing games on Lumosity. They're supposed to be good for your brain, but I can't speak for the science of it. At the very least, small victories with cute pictures give me placebo confidence.

The plan for today is to work on my guest blog story and make a fabric & haberdashery shopping list. I have almost all the supplies I need to start sewing. More to come.

My first soap

That I made, not that I've used. Of course I use soap GOSH.

Courtesy of Chisa, this is a photo of my first homemade soap, using the "Scrubby" soap kit. It's the equivalent of baking with a White Wings cake mix, but aaaaah~ it still feels special when you're using it. Very smell! So lather! Wow!!

The kit is a 'melt-and-pour', meaning it comes with pre-made soap, which you melt, mix with nice smells and other things, then leave in a mold to set. Let me show you...

cutting pre-made melt-and-pour soap

Cutting pre-made melt-and-pour soap.

soap chunks in a microwaveable container

Soap chunks in a microwaveable container.

partway through short-burst microwave melting

Partway through short-burst microwave melting.

melted soap with orange essential oil

Melted soap with orange essential oil. This is when you add the scrub powders too.

molten soap poured in a mold

Molten soap poured in a mold.

soaps cooling on a rack

Soaps cooling on a rack. Actually, they're already cool, but it's best to leave them for another 24 hours to get even more awesome.

wrapped homemade soap bars

Wrapped and ready to go! I thought baking paper would be a nice hipster decorative thing, but it was actually shit. Tape doesn't stick to it, and it doesn't fold nicely. Don't use baking paper.

This is 100% simple soaping for n00bs, which I am. Well, I was. I feel confident enough now to try making soap from scratch, but ah... all in good time. :)

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. :)

My soap kit arrived!

Toys toys toys! -- Err, I mean, serious grown-up business supplies.

My mind has constantly wandered to soap. Making soap, the history of soap, regard for soap in various cultures. It's odd to suddenly give a shit about it. Though, actually, maybe quite predictable for someone like me.

It was Dwarf Fortress that got me interested. I love games where you start with nothing and eke out a civilisation using wit and wilderness (and as much beer as you can brew without your villagers starving to death). Soap is one of your manufactured items. You take fat from butchered livestock, and lye made from furnace ash, and come out with this vital commodity in dwarven healthcare.

In case the apocalypse happens, I want to know how to make the stuff that'll keep my underarms clean, so it's time to learn how to make soap.

Yesterday, I ordered the "Scrubby" starter kit and a book on soap-making from Aussie Soap Supplies. Hooray, hooray, they're in WA, so mail arrived today. I'm not working with lye yet. I am scared of hazardous chemicals, and want to make sure I'm comfortable going through the motions before getting my science face on.

The kit comes with pre-made soap, where all the lye has been used up in the saponification process. To make a nice bar of end-user soap, you simply melt the pre-made stuff, mix it with lovely things - oils, fragrances, grits, butters, etc. - and pour it in a mold to set.

Simple, yah?

From this step, I hope to get a feel for ingredient and mixture textures, and how they behave throughout the process. And to get my head around good hygeine practices, cos that'll be so important when it's time to use (and eventually make) the caustic lye.

I'm real excited about this. But can't start today. We just got a call from our rental agent about the house move, so the rest of my week will be spent prepping for prospective tenants to come through. Maybe it's for the best if I can't start soaping until after we've moved. Our kitchen isn't the best size for separating chemical things and food things. To be extra careful, I'll also avoid making soap that looks and smells like food.

Stay tuned. Learn with me. :)