About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Monday, 23 May 2011

"Fail cake is still cake"

I once took objection to being called a perfectionist by a colleague. She was quite surprised because she'd meant it as a compliment, but to me, a perfectionist is a neurotic person (I was married to one once; I have rather strong feelings on the subject).

When working on something, there are essentially two approaches to deciding when to stop: Either aim for the best we can do (optimising) or aim for good enough (satisficing). The trouble with optimising - and this is especially true for highly able people - is that one's idea of The best I can do may be a very high standard indeed, so high that in practice it's unattainable - The best is the enemy of the good.* This is why I don't like being called a perfectionist; I see myself firmly as a satisficer - able to recognise good enough and so finish that task and happily move on.

The thing is, my idea of good enough is very variable, depending on the task in hand. At work, my standards have always been very high. I simply don't care that everyone else working in my field is happy to do it that way - if I can see a mistake, I will work to correct it (and then persuade everyone else...) A new boss was once concerned about the amount of time I was spending on a consultancy project. I explained about the lengthy calculations that I hadn't forseen at the start of the project, but once spotted, needed doing. And people would notice if it was wrong and we'd look bad? he asked. No, I replied, No-one would notice, but we'd be saying something that isn't true.

On the other hand, when it comes to the domestic arts I really don't feel these high standards are necessary. When I made a baby blanket for my sister, I gave it to her even though it was wonky, and she was pleased with it.

My sister's baby, wrapped in wonky blanket

When it comes to cooking, it doesn't matter if things don't come out quite the way I intended, so long as they're edible. I tried icing cupcakes the other day, and it wasn't a great success. I put too much water in the icing so it was very runny. The cakes were also rather small because I'd forgotten to put baking powder in (I was surprised that made so little difference).

Fail cakes

Fail cakes are still cakes.**


*I had to look up who said this. Apparently it was Voltaire. Very wise, that Voltaire.
**I didn't have to look up who said this as I was there at the time. It was my husband. He can also be very wise.


  1. A valuable lesson that I need to learn. I am going to go and write it on my wall right now. 'Fail cake is still cake.' Love it :)

  2. I found this really thought provoking - saw a lot of myself in your descriptions, although I'm not saying which :)

    Cute babe, blanket looks very snugglesome.

  3. Fail cake is still cake! You are absolutely right with this. I am definitely a neurotic perfectionist (now in recovery ;-) ), and the Voltaire quote is spot on.

    Baby looks delighted with the blanket ;-).


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