Woo-hoo! First jam ever! This is French-style jam with exactly two ingredients: evaporated cane sugar and fruit. Thanks to Bea’s guidelines over at Zero Waste Home, I now know that extraneous jelling agents like pectin aren’t actually necessary to create delicious jam.


This has to be the tiniest batch of jam ever made. When I finally got up the nerve to give it a go, I realized that I had exactly 3oz of evaporated cane sugar on hand. Which meant that I could jam exactly 3oz of fruit. Which turned out to be exactly one half of a black plum — ha! No really. I had to eat the other half of the plum. But that’s ok. This is the most delicious jam I’ve ever tasted and I know exactly what’s in it. And I’ve finally jumped the jamming hurdle and know what I’m doing, so next time should be a piece of cake. I couldn’t be happier with my itsy-bitsy concoction. :)


Home, sweet home

Something terrible has happened. I have so many unposted projects that I’ve stopped taking pictures when I do a new one. I’m not sure exactly what the hangup is, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with perfectionism. And with expectations. I started getting a lot of comments at random parties and chance encounters from people that I had no idea were following my blog… you’d think that would be a good thing, right? Well, for me, it was somehow a lot easier / less stressful to post when I thought no one was listening, ha! People started asking for advice and treating me like an expert… have I mentioned that I have no idea what I’m doing half the time? I just tackle something that’s bugging me until it’s bugging me a little less. And move on from there.

Oh, and I also tend to get into this weird pattern of bar-raising where I feel like every post has to top the last. Well, that’s impossible to do for very long. Unless, of course, you just stop posting altogether. Which is the strategy I seem to have employed recently.

On the bright side, I’ve also been really busy working on our hostel booking site and haven’t had a ton of time to blog. Anyway, all that just to say that I enjoy posting about my accomplishments, but they can’t all be awesome. Sorry world. A lot of them are just babysteps toward making my space a place I enjoy being in. And recording the process is as much for my sake as it is to inspire anybody else. It’s so easy to only see the things that remain to be done… this blog is my “scrapbook,” to help me remember and enjoy the journey.

So without further ado, a babystep.


If this scene rings a bell (pun intended), you probably read about my new doorbell. Well, something else was missing.


We’ve also been living for the past 8 years without a proper address. Which also caused considerable confusion whenever we threw a party. In fact, I bought this nice, new shiny #2 for my last party, but didn’t get a chance to properly mount it in time. So I stuck it on the door (packaging, included screws, and all) with removable 3M adhesive strips instead.


It was kind of a hit. I asked everyone as they came in if they’d seen my latest home improvement. Way to lower the expectations. ;)

I did get it mounted eventually. Here it is hanging out with our new doorbell.


It’s kind of impossible to get a picture with proper perspective in this narrow space. I was straddling our banister and the neighbor’s fence as it was.



It’s crazy, but having a real address makes a big difference. It’s like I put us on the map. This little $3 piece of brass goes a long way toward making what I always saw as our “temporary living space” feel more like home.


How to use Pinterest

I want to point out that Pinterest is what you make of it. (A lot like everything in life, actually, but I’ll try to stay on-topic.) Pinterest can make you miserable and bitter, or it can be a fire hydrant of inspiration. An easy way to make yourself miserable is to create a board titled “If Only” or “When I win the lottery” or anything else along those lines. Even “Dream Home” is risky territory. I very nearly created such a board myself, but I backspaced right over the word “dream” and replaced it with “ideas”. The difference is subtle, but huge. I’m not collecting pretty pictures of things so that I can fume in jealousy over what I don’t have. I’m collecting pretty pictures of things so that I can curate and discover my own style, so I can bring better into focus the direction I want to go in my own home.

I really, really try to avoid pinning things that I know I could never own or be able to attain myself, given enough time and effort. It’s a grey area, of course. I’m not saying do not, under any circumstances, pin that astronomically priced item. If you love it that much, pin away, and then be on the lookout for something vaguely similar within your price range or try your hand at DIYing it. Just don’t pin the whole catalog worth of astronomically priced items “because they’re pretty”. There are an infinite number of pretty things which you could spend all day obsessively pinning, but the idea is to curate the digital representations of beauty which have the potential to (directly or indirectly) increase the actual beauty in your own real life.


Metal working

This is an older project, but deserved a mention. My first-ever metal working project.

So I decided I wanted to start using a money clip. I found this very nice one on Etsy and almost ordered it…


…but vaguely remembered already owning something similar. Oh yeah. Found it. This ancient, ugly, and scratched thing.


Yuck. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it was pretty scratched up… and I never did like that geometric pattern. Also, the engraved initials were only about half as deep as the rest of the engraving, making them look like an afterthought and making the whole thing look cheap (which it was).

So I broke out my favorite rotary tool. I figured if I tried to spruce up my old clip but ruined it in the process, I’d have every right to splurge on a new, pretty one.


It took four different Dremel bits and about an hour… but in the end, I ended up with a beautiful brushed metal clip that I actually want to use!


…and saved myself the $40 of a new one. :)

PackerShack: Better Hostel Search

For those who don’t know, Lih and I have been working on a side-project, PackerShack, for a little over two years.


This project was born out of our own frustrations trying to find great hostels while backpacking. It’s a familiar scene while travelling abroad: you’ve just arrived at a new city (and you’re only spending 2-3 days there)… but before you can fully begin to relax and explore, you must spend the obligatory 45 minutes or so at some crappy internet cafe squinting at the tiny monitor from 1980 in order to find and book a hostel for the next leg of your journey. And all the hostel booking sites suck. You have to open lots of tabs across several different sites to make comparisons between hostels and wait while the poor overloaded machine cranks to keep up with you.

Not anymore. Our nifty new hostel booking engine has a huge combined inventory and all the tools you need from price comparison to reviews and photos at your fingertips.


But I digress. I have some big news. Lih and I have both officially quit our day jobs to focus on PackerShack full time!

The good news is that our hard work over nights and weekends has paid off: we already have a great product. The challenge now is getting the word out. The bad news is that as two software engineers, that’s the part we don’t know how to do! This will be a learning experience, for sure.

No, we have no expectation of making a million dollars… we’re just aiming for a trickle of steady income. Enough to cover the rent would be spectacular. You know, to take the “must” out of getting up and going to work every day, allowing our jobs to be more about what we believe in and enjoy doing. We’ll see.

The plan is to give it everything we’ve got for the next 6 months or so and get our fledgling project off the ground. Wish us luck. Oh, and please spread the word. We’d very much appreciate a click on the like button below — every little bit of publicity helps!!

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