Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday cooking

Still struggling a bit to get things under control but today has so far been a pretty good day. The first day this week that I was able to just sleep until I woke up (so that typically, even after waking and going back to sleep twice, when I was finally awake it was still only half-nine). I'm fighting a bad cough though, so really wanted to take it easy and sleep as long as possible.

I stayed in bed for a couple of hours and read a few chapters. I've done this a few times now and I think I'm going to make it my new Sunday morning routine. Wake when I'm finished sleeping and then read one chapter of each of two books. At the moment I'm reading "Das Gro├če Los" by Meike Winnemuth - a German journalist who won half a million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and spent a year travelling the world, living for a month  at a time in a different city. It's a lovely read and lends itself well to reading a chapter at a time. This morning I read July, which she spent in London. And when I was finished that, I picked up "Tackling Depression" by Ian Birthistle and finished reading the chapter I must have started months ago. So for the next five weeks or so, I'm going to aim to read one chapter each of those two - I'm taking the fact that I have exactly five chapters left in each of them as a sign.

After reading, I lay for a while, wondering if I might doze off again but that didn't seem to be happening and despite wanting to take it very easy, in the hopes of knocking this cough on the head before it turns into a full-on cold, I had a lot of things to do and felt more of an urge to get up and do some of them. First up, the ironing. A fried came around yesterday and very kindly put up curtain rails in my sitting room. It took hours, the rails I bought and attempted to hang years ago were not going to work, in his opinion so I just took the advice of someone far more experienced in DIY than I am and we headed off to the local DIY centre to see what we could find. Got rails, a decent ladder and some LED bulbs - my seven bulb light in the sitting room has had one bulb after another die in the last couple of months and I was just waiting for the last one to go before getting new ones. Since we were there, I went ahead and got a few - they're pricey enough (although nearly the same price as the older style energy saving ones at this stage) so I just go four and will get the rest at the end of the month. My friend, T. being far more particular about things than I am, insisted on finding some way to tighten the shades on the light as well. It hasn't particularly bothered me that they hung a bit loose but I have to admit that it does look nicer now. Anyway, after a lot of work I finally have curtains rails hanging in my sitting room. But the curtains I got a while back from another friend who was leaving town need to be ironed - I hung one, just to see what it was like and although I could put them all up, telling myself I'd iron them soon, at this stage I've waited so long than I know it's better to do the thing properly once and for all. I have a mountain of other stuff to iron as well.

Since I had so much ironing to do I got up and immediately got stuck in to it. Or not. Nope, instead I headed into the kitchen and started doing one thing, then another and ended up spending the best part of two hours there. But, finally, I am sort of caught up on my vegetables. I have thrown out a shameful amount of food since I started getting the box delivered every week but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. So, today I used up the turnip, most of the Chinese cabbage and a couple of the carrots that were delivered this week, along with all of the potatoes I had on hand and half an onion. I've made cabbage rolls and they're just waiting now to be put into the oven when I want dinner.
I've also chopped up and sauteed two leeks that were just about on their last legs, along with the other half of the onion and some lardons. I'll use that tomorrow in a big quiche. I have a LOT of eggs to use up, too. I have a small amount of Chinese cabbage left, as well, and I'll either add that to the quiche, or keep it and make colcannon when I get my veggie box delivered on Thursday. I'd adjusted my order so that I'll just get eggs every second week now and every other week, I'll get potatoes. At the moment my fridge is looking in pretty good shape. I still have a Chinese cabbage from a couple of weeks ago, celeriac, plenty of carrots and two leeks from this week. So I'll have to have a think about all of that. I really want to do carrot and kidney bean burgers again soon. Realistically I'm not going to use the celeriac in anything other than soup, so I might make a big pot and freeze some of it perhaps. But for now, I'm happy to feel like things are coming under control, dinner's ready to go, the washing up has all been done (except the dish that the cabbage rolls are in) and I've been sat down for about an hour at this stage. That means it must be time to do the ironing!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Xmas baking

Got mincemeat made, now for the cake. Cakes actually, I'm going to try and do two this year. And I briefly toyed with the idea of using the half packet of suet I have leftover to make a very small pudding but then I read the recipe - seven hours total cooking time, on top of 40 minutes prep? You must be joking. Maybe next year. For now I'm happy to have gotten the mincemeat done. By dint of using tin foil instead of the proper lids I got a double batch done so I really hope everyone will be in the mood for lots of mince pies this year. And until December, I get to enjoy having a couple of very pretty jars to look at.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Here's the actual photo

As I may have mentioned, still trying to figure out this whole smartphone thing!

Visual journal - 16th October 2014

Second attempt to post this. Have installed a different app since it seems blogspot won't let me switch between accounts. Or at least I can't figure out how to. Still getting used to having a smartphone.
Anyway, l have a week off now to study for my exam, which is next Wednesday. I spent yesterday mostly in bed, trying to shake the cold that started last Thursday as well as recover from a very late night after the football on Tuesday.
This morning I was up early for a therapy appointment and then went straight into town to get a few things done. So, not much studying done yet but I did get to snap this nice picture of the Rathaus (the town hall) along with the statue of good old Jan Wellem.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Veggie update

Just a quick one to make a note of how I'm getting on so far with the organic vegetable delivery. The timing was really not great and I might have been a bit to ambitious to get my first one just before financial year-end at work, not to mention two weekends full of choir activity.

I'll start with the bad. The giant head of lettuce languished in the fridge and I had to admit defeat and throw it out on Thursday evening - knowing that I was going away for the long weekend (Friday was Reunification Day and a holiday here).  The sprouts are still in the fridge and still within their best before date but I really amn't sure I'll use them. And the corn is also still just lying in the fridge - I haven't actually checked it and it might be alright, even if corn really is one of those things that tastes best eaten as fresh as possible.

Otherwise, although I'm starting to build up a bit of a surplus of vegetables, I was at least able to use up a couple of things. I decided to make the spiced cauliflower and potatoes on Tuesday evening and took some duck out of the freezer to go with it. What I hadn't planned on was working until just after ten o'clock. Still, because I had left the duck out to defrost I set to when I got home just after half-ten. I turned on the oven as soon as I got in the door and then I prepped the cauliflower and peeled potatoes in double-quick time. Finished the last potato just as the thermostat on the oven clicked off so I threw everything into a dish and put it in to roast while sat down to check a few emails. I was up early on Wednesday to help out at an event at work so did leave at my normal seven o'clock time that evening, came home and then cobbled up all the leftover cauliflower and potato. I could have easily made that much into a second meal but there was no other time I was going to be at home to eat it so it was finish it or throw it out. I grated cheese over the top of it, heated it up and it was delicious. Then I grated the rest of the block of cheese and put that into the freezer. There'll be no more cheese wasting in my house!

The pumpkin is still fine and I haven't yet used the fennel but overall I'm glad that even during what turned out to be an incredibly busy week, I managed to use some stuff.

Due to the bank holiday on Friday the delivery last week came a day early, on Wednesday. This weeks delivery had: 1 head of lettuce (a different type), 5 tiny small pears, 2 cox apples, 6 eggs, 2 kohlrabi (1 medium, 1 large), 1 head of red cabbage, 2 fennel bulbs, 7 small tomatoes and a huge bunch of parsley.

Knowing I'd be away for the weekend I forced myself to put everything away properly so instead of just sitting down after getting home from work, I spent the fifteen minutes checking and clearing out the previous week's veg and putting the new stuff into Tupperware and into the fridge. The lettuce was not in great shape, to be honest and I stripped off the outer leaves immediately. I think it's a butterhead lettuce, which I don't really like very much so I might struggle to finish it but I'm going to get up when I've posted this and wash it at least, so that it's ready to use for lunches during the week.

I gave a friend the new fennel immediately, since I'm not a huge fan and still had the previous week's one sitting in the fridge. And also gave her and another friend who happened to be there one pear each. I brought the pears away with me and ate two for breakfast on Saturday so just have one of those left. They're really delicious, even if they're not the most attractive looking pears I've ever seen. The delivery note lists them as Clapps Liebling.

Once I got home today, quite tired after the weekend away, lots of activity, late nights and a long drive home I had basically decided that I was going to go out to eat but all of that stuff was calling to me so when I spied the eggs I decided I could just do something with those. When I actually went in to the kitchen to cook something I had a brainwave and decided to do a pastryless quiche, I'd gotten mozzarella on Thursday, thinking I'd make a tomato tart but just didn't have the energy to be making pastry, easy though that may be. Only problem is that I forgot that the last times I've made pastryless quiche, I've used my small ceramic dish, and not the larger two-part metal one. And the two-part one, it turns out, isn't water-tight or liquid-proof in any way at all. All of a sudden, wondering how to use up the 15 eggs I now had on hand seemed like less of an issue and I spent more than half-an-hour trying to sop up egg from the cooker, all over the oven, the floor and just what felt like everywhere. What a mess.

I ended up managing to tip everything into a different dish and once the oven was halfway clean, I did get to make and eat what turned up to be a pretty good dish. I used up the tomatoes, the smaller kohlrabi, two leeks that have been in the fridge for well over a month at this stage and a small onion, as well as the mozzarella and all but two of the eggs (I reckon at least five or six eggs worth got sopped up and thrown down the drain). Oh well, just another reminder that trying to do new things while tired probably isn't a very good idea.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Organic veg box

I'm running a bit ragged trying to keep up with everything and kind of losing the battle. Partly in reaction to that, I'm trying to do things that should make things a bit easier. Although I'm not sure if they really will or if I just want to feel like I'm doing something to make things a bit easier. At any rate, last week I ordered myself a weekly veg box from a local organic farm. I placed the order online and they phoned me the next day to check if there was anything I didn't want. I couldn't think of anything to say except peppers (can't eat) and cucumbers (don't eat). They don't just sell their own produce and do buy in from other places - although everything is organic, I don't know that it's really all local so I've chosen the regional box (cost ca. €13 per week) plus 6 eggs. And on the phone, I made sure that she knew that the whole regional aspect was what was most important to me. The delivery cost is €1.50, although if I can persuade other people in my building to order as well, that cost is shared among everyone. There's also a €6 deposit on the crate that it comes in.

First delivery was this morning, it didn't arrive until after I had left for work but my friend who owns a shop in the bottom of my building agreed to take it in for me and all I had to do was pick it up from the bike shed when I got home this evening.

1 giant head of lettuce, 1 pretty big cauliflower, 1 medium size hokkaido pumpkin, 3 apples, 1 fennel bulb, 1 cob of corn, a packet of alfalfa sprouts and, of course, 6 eggs.

Will need to phone them and strike sprouts off the list of things to send me. I do eat them but not that much and if I want to, I can just sprout a few seeds myself. Apart from sprouts being one of the things there have been serious food scares about in recent years (and if memory serves correctly it was organic sprouts in particular), it's more plastic packaging that I just don't need.

I'm also dithering a bit on the eggs. While still from my state they are pushing the boundaries of local as far as I'm concerned. Googlemaps tells me that the village they come from is 164km from my house and that 100 miles, the somewhat arbitrary but generally accepted locavore standard, is 160km, The farmers at my local farmers' market must come from within an 80km distance of the market, so I know I have a 'more local' option available to me. And there is of course the added mileage of the eggs being delivered to the farm that does the deliveries, which is another nearly 20km further away and then back again to me on delivery day.

There are a couple of reasons I decided to give a veg box delivery a try.

  1. To try and keep spending under control and consistent - no impulse purchases at farmers' market!
  2. To force me to cook proper, healthy, veggie-focused meals again - no paralysis of choice!
  3. To save me the pressure and time of having to get up and moving and out early on Saturday mornings.
If I start having to go to the market just for eggs then I'm defeating the purpose of saving myself time and stress on Saturday mornings. And possibly also leaving myself open to the temptation of buying stuff I don't really need. So I'll have to really think about it before deciding what to do.

All in all though, I'm pretty happy with what I got. I'm not a huge fan of fennel but I think I'll cut it up very small and use it for a pasta sauce of some kind. Corn on the cob is always good, as is pumpkin. Jack Monroe had a lovely recipe for cauliflower pasanda in the paper the other day that I'd love to try and I also have potatoes and have been wanting to do the Smitten Kitchen's spiced potato and cauliflower again, too, so using up that cauliflower won't be a problem. And the salad will be used up in wraps and such for lunches. I'll need to do a bit of a marathon cooking session at the weekend though, as I'm very, very busy for the next ten days or so and just won't have much time for cooking and will need to just have stuff prepared and ready to be heated up as much as possible.

And, just to prove that it really is all organic, I even got the token slug along with my delivery

P.S. A couple of bloggers have started a funding campaign to help Phelan, the lovely and tenacious Homesteading Neophyte, who will never ask for help for herself. See framboise manor for more details, or go straight to the gofundme page. The aim is to raise enough for them to get connected up to the power grid before winter hits but Phelan blogged yesterday about the pipe of her woodstove exploding unexpectedly so any additional money over and above the original goal of $1,000 will be just as much appreciated and put to just as good use. If you have even a couple of euro/dollars/choose your currency to spare, please consider donating something.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Net worth mid-September

Back at the end of May I posted my first net worth update and I was curious to see if there had been any improvement. I still don't quite have a routine or method for this down and I think it'll take me the guts of a year to really be able to see exactly what's what. That accounts for the fact that, according to my spreadsheet, my net worth has gone up by just over 12.5% in just over three months. About 3% of that is due to my starting the new pension plan with work. I don't know how to figure that one out exactly yet so for now I'm just counting what I've paid in - when I do get a statement (I think at the end of the calendar year) I'll have to do an adjustment to take account of fees and what not. Hopefully they'll also point me in the direction of an online tool that will allow me to check balances on a regular basis.

I wasn't able to check my Irish retirement bond so just left the value of that the same for now. I logged in to the website for my German Riesterrente for the first time and I think there is definitely something off there, as the total was substantially higher than my last statement (which I received in January). Again, I think perhaps when I get the next statement at the end of the year I'll see all the fees having been deducted and that I'm just not seeing that at the moment - especially since the difference I'm seeing is more than €400 more than the amount I have actually paid in to that pension so far this year! Next time I go to visit my friends in Frankfurt I might bring some stuff with me and try and go through it with them. My friend's husband is a pretty savvy investor and good with that kind of stuff.

I did however, all by myself, realise that I was making a mistake in my spreadsheet. Or at least I think I was. I was calculating the percentage by dividing the amount of the change by the total value. But I was taking the total current value and I think actually I should be looking at the amount of the change as a percentage of what the previous total value was. Does that sound about right? Would love to hear from anyone who also calculates the percentage increase of their net worth and how you figure that out. Maths has never really been my strong point.