Friday, February 12, 2016

Making some progress

I've managed to get moving and get a few things done the last day or two. Not huge amounts but most of what I wanted to get done and a couple of other small things that just kind of worked out. For example, I've been carrying around a library book to return for more than a week. Kept forgetting or walking/travelling different directions that didn't pass by the library. Yesterday, on the way home, I was going to go to the main library at the train station but after another not terribly pleasant experience at a copy-shop (seems that sometime in the past few years a law may have been passed requiring all copyshop owners to be rude and unhelpful) I decided to just go straight home. Then I decided to stay on the tram for one extra stop to go to the bigger supermarket to get milk. And when I got off the tram it occurred to me that this stop was very close to my local library so I had a quick look at the opening times on my phone and had twenty minutes left till closing time. So that was great. Such a small thing to do, bringing a library book back, but it can take ages sometimes to just do it.

I've almost sorted out things with the social welfare office. I missed a call from them yesterday because I was in the bathroom and when I came running out I saw it was from a private number so didn't bother rushing anymore. I've been avoiding calls from a very persistent insurance agent and assumed it was him trying a new method. But found out today when I actually called in to the social welfare office that it was them. Although it did only ring once and not the "several times" the woman noted in my record. At least the person I spoke to was able to answer one question so there's only one outstanding query now and they will ring me back on that. And I will make sure to answer even private number calls!

I called my travel insurance place to get some confirmations that I need for my health insurance place and the tax office. I called my legal insurance place to enquire about a quote for professional liability insurance (the type the other persistent guy is trying to sell me) and found out that since I don't earn much I'm probably covered by my existing private policy. I've applied for almost all of the jobs the social welfare office has asked me to (ridiculous waste of time since none of the jobs are anything I'm interested in but you have to play along with them). My trip to the copyshop yesterday means I have 20 copies of all of my references and certificates ready to go so tomorrow or the next day I'll focus on sending out applications for some of the jobs that actually interest me. I can just print my CV and application letters at home but the big stack of references is done and ready to go. I also priced envelopes at several different places so that when I run out soon I'll know where to go for the best price (surprisingly it's not Woolworth). And stopped at the post office to buy stamps and make sure that if I were to use C5 envelopes instead of C4, it would cost the same in postage. Since I was walking to a copyshop a bit further away I just went to the post office on the way rather than my nearest one. And because I was slowing down just there, I realised I was very close to the opera shop and called in there to check that if I can't find my subscription tickets, they will re-issue them to me without any hassle.

I've phoned my veg box delivery place to amend my order to take account of the low carb diet I'm switching to and took the opportunity to ask them about jobs there. Might be something different to do and I'm definitey going to consider applying there for at least a part-time job. I've called my health insurance place to confirm that the social welfare has been covering my insurance since the beginning of December, which means that I'll get a refund of the premium I paid myself for December. And on Wednesday evening I cooked the red cabbage I had, which I've almost finished already. I'll heat the rest of it to have with some pork later this evening. When I was going out yesterday I remember to bring the empty bottles to the bottle bank and I brought the rubbish down after remembering to add the egg yolks to the bin. I made icing sugar last week and put the yolks in Tupperware in the fridge, intending to use them the next day but then not actually eating much that day and forgetting about them. I hate to throw food out but am very happy I remembered before they had been there too long - rotten eggs smell bad!


Yesterday I even got the washing done. And I dusted off the blanket box I use as a bedside locker and put away the bedclothes I washed last week. I really need to try and dust that blanket box every week. There is always soooo much dust where I live.

All in all a relatively productive couple of days. Nothing earth-shattering achieved but lots of little things. And every little thing achieved is just that bit much more less swirling in the back of my head. Now I'd better go off and find something good to do with the black radish I got in my box this week. Not to mention the four Chinese cabbages. I thought I'd ordered 1 but it turns out I'd ordered 1kg. I think I'll be searching for room in the freezer for a lot of that. Hope everyone has a nice weekend. Mine is going to be chockful of rugby. Never would have thought I'd become a genuine sports fan but it seems to have happened. It's weird but nice. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Where can I find my mojo?

I have such a lot to do and am lacking focus. Trying to come up with a title for this post and choosing this one though, I find myself questioning whether I've ever had any mojo at all. As the old joke goes, I think my get up and go has got up and gone.

Last night, I promised myself I'd get straight up and going this morning but of course, these promises really need to come in the harsh light of day. Or the grey, miserable, rainy light of day as it was here this morning. I didn't just turn over and go to sleep though, I did switch on the light (didn't sleep until very late so it was after ten when I woke up but it was dark enough today to need lights on almost the entire day) and I read for a while.

Then I got up to make myself a cup of vegetable bouillon and ate that along with some leftover prawn crackers. I wanted to use them up entirely. After that I read for another little while before I remembered I needed to ring the social welfare office with some questions. Did that and tried to organise a meeting with my accountant so that he can check the forms I'm submitting to them to make sure I'm accounting for my sideline income properly. I'm not trying to hide anything but no harm in making sure it's all correct while still presented in as favourable to me a way as possible. After that I did actually get up but didn't move much further than the couch, where I have whiled the day doing not much of anything. No, wait. I did spend two hours sorting out some stuff for choir. I'm definitely starting to hate being the librarian - it might be time to pass that job on to someone else. 

I wanted to use up the prawn crackers because I'm planning on starting the blood sugar diet and seeing if I can do that for a week or two. Have been feeling like a detox would do me good and having just read the book, it seems an interesting idea. Even if I only do it for a couple of weeks, it's better than not doing it and really, it's pure luck that I haven't developed diabetes (older sisters did) so anything that could help reduce the chances of that has to be good. So anyway spending a day or two finishing up whatever crap I have in the house seems like a good idea. Which reminds me to make a note to phone the veg box place and cancel my standing order for potatoes every two weeks. Maybe that's what I need to get me going again. A proper to-do list.

I also need to phone the health insurance place because the social welfare office has now told me that they've been covering my health insurance since the beginning of December (even though because I quit my job rather than being fired, I'm only entitled to unemployment money from the end of January) so I have to phone them and see if I can get back the premium I paid to them directly. Feels like a bit of a one department not communicating with another situation but it might have to do with my sideline income and me needing to pay additionally because of that.

I wasn't terribly active when it came to sending out applications in January and am supposed to do 5-10 every month so the aim this week is to get 8 applications sent out. Tomorrow I need to go and buy a box of envelopes and some stamps. Much easier to just need to pop out to the letterbox across the road then have to walk to the post office every time I want to send something.

It's just gone ten o'clock now and I'm going to head to bed. Hopefully I'l manage to sleep fairly quickly. I really need to break the cycle of being up late and then sleeping late. It was five o'clock on Sunday morning before I got to bed (was visiting a friend for a birthday party but because I was staying with her, I had to stay up until the last guests left) and it really takes me a while to get over that kind of thing nowadays. Must be getting old. :-)

Friday, February 05, 2016

Freezer filling up

Fed myself for yesterday and today and have lots of soup left over to fill the freezer with.
Six very generous portions of vegetable soup and two of pumpkin soup. I could have gotten seven or eight portions of veg soup but I wasn't sure I'd fit it all into the freezer. It's very thick soup so these portions will actually be even bigger when I've added a bit of water. These are 400ml containers. My favourite basic Tupperware, by the way, but being discontinued. Not sure why I dislike the new version so much but there it is. I think it's the lids. And then I think I'm definitely getting too old, or something, because that's a really silly thing to have a reaction to.

Anyway, I am at least getting somewhere with using up the veg. Will need to have another big cooking session next week - that'll be either Tuesday or Wednesday since Monday is the big Karneval day and I'm going to go and watch the parade. First, I need to go and wash all those pots.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Soup

I've had a cold over the past week or so and cooking went out the window. I've even ordered takeaway three times in the last ten days, something that is highly unusual behaviour these days. The forced inactivity over the weekend was what needed to happen though. Having struggled through the first few days of the bad stage of the cold because I had things to do that couldn't be put off, it was time to just take to bed and stay put. I should be seeing my friend who is going through chemo in three weeks and I don't want to risk still being sick then.

4 carrots, 2 onions, a small head of garlic and half a celeriac

All of the not cooking, however, means that I've developed a bit of a backlog of vegetables. I thought about cancelling my box for this week but in the end decided one good big session of soup-making might be what was called for. So, taking a leaf out of Sue's book, I've just put the following into the oven to roast. I've used sesame oil, just a small amount, and sprinkled a teaspoon of cumin seeds over it all.



I liked the idea of roasting the veg first to intensify the flavours. It's not a new idea to me but just seemed to somehow hit the spot for me when I read it yesterday. I've often found that in various aspects of life. You can be aware of something, you can even have heard of something often but it's not until you happen across it at the right time/right place/right frame of mind that it clicks and you take the idea on board.

So, the first soup will be a mixed vegetable soup. As well as the roasted stuff, I'll add some cabbage, a leek and a few potatoes. I might also throw in a couple of small Jerusalem artichokes, which arrived in my box this morning.

I still have two small pumpkins to use as well and another larger one arrived this morning, so pumpkin soup is definitely on the cards. And I have lots of carrots so I'm going to make some spicy carrot and lentil soup. Need to buy more garlic but Karneval started about half-an-hour ago so most shops will be closed for the rest of the day. Since it's raining and grey and miserable, I'm just not that bothered about trying to get out. I might fish some of the roasted garlic out of the pan above when it's done and put that to one side to use. I ended up roasting the entire head of garlic I had as it was very soft and starting to mold on one side. I really should get in a couple of jars of the minced stuff, it really is one of those things that is just so convenient.

Most of that soup will have to go into the freezer, obviously, but that does give me a good basis for future quick meals. I'm kind of feeling like a soup month wouldn't be a bad idea anyway. I'm not interested in too much effort at the moment but am desperately craving lots of vegetables and soup's a good way to take care of that.

And then I'll just have some Jerusalem artichokes left, some carrots, a couple of leeks, plenty of potatoes, a red cabbage, a white cabbage, half a Savoy cabbage, onions and half a celeriac. I see a lot of soup in there. And colcannon. Yum.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Writing

Came across this in the acknowledgements of a book I read this weekend (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson in case you were wondering, a lovely book that I enjoyed quite a lot).

"Thank you to my Brooklyn writing community, including write Katherine Mosby, who first taught me to appreciate the beauty of the sentence."

"The beauty of the sentence" - I like that. I think it struck me because I had a conversation with someone last week about writing and he was asking me if I'd go to a writing group with him. When we first met a few months ago he did mention to me that he had written a novel when he was a student (never published and he now claims that it's rubbish) and I, in turn and laughingly told him about my attempt at doing the 3-day-novel contest a few years ago. I had forgotten that conversation. Having been thinking over the last few months about perhaps trying my hand at writing a romance novel or two as a way to generate a bit of passive income, it seemed somehow apt that I happened to bump into him again and that he had obviously remember our previous chat about writing.

All I need is an idea or two. Since he chickened out of sending me the first chapter of his novel (I'd offered to read it for him but in the sober light of Monday morning he decided he couldn't bear the thought of it), I thought perhaps seeing my attempts might encourage him. So, without thinking too much about it I found the file of my 3-day-novel attempt and read through it quickly. And then sent it to him before I could chicken out.

I actually started two different novels that weekend. Got about two chapters done of each of them but since I had no plan at all and no idea of where I really wanted the stories to go, that was about as far as I got. And I haven't looked at them since. But I haven't deleted them either, which tells me a lot. It was interesting to read back over them. And actually, the first one wasn't too bad. Slightly whacky but really not too bad, I don't think. The other was okay as well but is a bit more on the trite side. Perhaps one day I'll go back to them.

What I found most surprising is that really, what little I did manage to come up with was quite creative really. And creativity is always the thing that I feel I'm most lacking in. The seminar on stress that I did over the last while was interesting in that it touched on the effects of long-term stress on cortisol levels and the brain. I think life in general and then, maybe, life living with depression and high levels of stress can really have an impact on creativity. I don't remember ever being particularly creative as a child but I think now that perhaps I had a tendency to conflate "creative" and "artistic" and, just because I wasn't any good at drawing or painting, it meant I wasn't creative. Need to get past that. I found myself reacting quite strongly to Jane's creativity bootcamp (see That Curious Love of Green for details) idea in lots of ways when I first read about it. Perhaps it's slowly becoming time for me to really pay attention to that part of myself. I'm not sure what that will look like but a number of things seems to be coming together to suggest that writing will definitely play a part. I'm (sort of!) looking forward to the ride.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Matching plates and bowls up

I few months after I moved here, I bought a set of second-hand dishes (you can see a picture on this old post). I still love these dishes but unfortunately a collapsing shelf when the cupboard door was open a few years ago means that I have almost none of the red plates or saucers left. I think I have one plate intact and four saucers (one which has a tiny chip out of it). The bigger sideplates have the pattern on them and I have plenty of them so I just use them and only occasionally think about how nice it would be if I had some of the red. I've toyed with the idea of going to one of those paint-your-own-ceramics places and seeing if I could re-create the colour but, well, that's one of those things you think about but almost never actually do.

On the spur of the moment last night, I called into a shop down the road from me. Not a pound shop, but not a million miles off either. They sell lots of cheapo stuff and then a few more expensive things. But if you need to grab a photoframe or a plastic box for under the bed, it's the place to go. I was thinking to myself as I headed out that maybe I should buy a small bowl in an effort to encourage myself to eat more salad. I'm not a huge fan of it in winter but a small side-salad with my dinner wouldn't be too hard to incorporate into my day. Perhaps if I had a nice bowl just for the purpose? I do have the soup bowls from my dinner service but they're not a great shape and a bit too big for what I was thinking of. The few small bowls they had along the lines of what I was thinking weren't really calling to me though and none was even close to matching any of the colours I have. I used to love having a mishmash of stuff but since I got this set I do make a bit of an effort to have matching things - not sure if that's something that happens as you get older anyway. I think perhaps wanting matched or non-matching stuff is one of those things that comes and goes in phases.


And then, just as I had decided to leave rather than spending money on something that wasn't really right, I passed the nice pottery section, where they have colourful hand-painted tagines and that kind of thing. Including, this week, a 2 for 3 special offer on the tapas dishes. I have to admit I normally walk right past this bit because gorgeous as the colours are, it's too tempting. But the big yellow signs caught my eye and then I spied some red stuff. Including some small bowls. And look: not a bad match at all, is it? It's not quite the same but close enough and, most importantly, it doesn't clash.








 
I grabbed the two small bowls that were there, added an olive dish type thing as my freebie and am happy out now. I wasn't really planning on spending money, don't have any to spare but this was totally worth it. I've been wandering in and out of the kitchen all day admiring them. More expensive than I might usually buy but for ten euro, not a reach-for-the-credit-card moment either. And although at first I hesitated because they might be too small, they're a bit deceptive so just the right size for a decent, but still small, portion of salad. And yes, I have tried it out already.

Colours are a bit strange in this photo but you can see the size of it beside the saucer, really not big at all. But big enough and I think it'll be a big help for February when I start paying closer attention to portion control.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Meal planning

Marisa over at foodinjars put up a post yesterday about how she approaches weekly meal planning. I thought I had written about how I do it before but can't find anything now and since I tend to go through phases of using slightly different methods it seemed like a not entirely terrible idea to make a note of what's working now. It might not work forever but it has been pretty successful so far.

Edited to add: Ha! I knew I'd written something about this before and today I randomly found it. Not a full post but just as part of a longer post on a productive evening last August.

Because I get my organic veg box delivered on a Thursday, it meant having to change up how I approached the week completely. Since you get your delivery on the day everyone else in the same area gets theirs so I can't change it. When I was still working, I used to check the order every Monday morning, make any changes (it's an excellent system and I can make substitutions online up to a couple of days beforehand) and then print out the order. These days, and not having a working printer at home at the moment, I've decided to wait and just use the delivery docket. I'm more flexible on time anyway so I can pick up anything else I need on the same day so it's not such a big deal to not have my plan ready in advance.

So here's this week's:
Might not be the prettiest but I find doing it by hand works better for me.
As well as the list of what I'm getting, I add the main things I already have in the fridge.
Then, I list the days, with two lines going from each: one for lunch, one for dinner. Even though my meal plan week really starts on Friday, I still always start this list with Monday.






This week I got lamb's lettuce, a pouch of red cabbage with apple, onions, leeks, potatoes and apples. I also run through my calendar to try and make appropriate choices for days where I might have a lot on. Being at home almost all days at the moment certainly makes this task a lot easier, though. I do prefer to eat a hot meal in the middle of the day and I can do that without having to think about flasks and heating stuff up in the morning.

Sidenote: Pru, if you're reading, my food flask is a brand called Emsa - I tried to leave a reply on Elaine's post but it wouldn't go through. Tried commenting on your blog last week, too and that didn't work either (that was a link to Dr. Doom's post on investment policy statements, which I thought you might find interesting - also links on that website to the jlcollinsnh stock series, which I've heard lots of praise for).

Where was I? Ah yes, the joys of not going to work every day. Anyway, once I have my meal plan set out, I make a list on the other side of the page with any items I might need to buy in. My store cupboard is looking fairly well-stocked at the moment so it's not much. And I picked most of this up while I was out and about this morning. I had an unexpectedly productive day, actually. I only went out for half-an-hour and ended up spending more like three hours going all over the place and getting seven or eight niggly little things done and dusted. All I'm missing now is ground cumin - I might try and make it to one of the Turkish or Indian supermarkets tomorrow. I crossed thyme off the list in the end because I remembered that I have a big jar of herbes de provence and that'll do instead. I keep a memo on the first screen of my phone with a note of anything I've noticed that I need to stock up on, too, so between that and my meal plan list, I'm all sorted.

My final step for meal planning these days is to enter what I've handwritten into another memo in my phone. No excuses if I'm not home to say, "Well, I have nothing to cook at home, I'll eat out/get chips on the way home". Not having to make a decision and not even needing to remember what I had on the list makes life just so much easier.

The main thing is to always remain flexible. So long as you're not running the risk of something going off, switching meals around or bumping them to next week is fine. Today, for example, I ended up out of the house for much longer than planned and was really hungry by the time I got home. I'd already put two slices of bread into the toaster before I'd even taken my coat off. There was no way I was going to wait for as long as it would take curry and rice to cook, no matter how much of a very quick recipe it was. I knew I still had a few slices of bread left though and tea and toast hit the spot very nicely.

I made the curry (bhuna recipe from mortgagefreeinthree except that I used beef) this evening and have just polished off a huge plate of it. And a smaller plate of lamb's lettuce, 'cos I really need some green stuff in me at the moment. It was fantastic, even if I do say so myself. I made a double portion (so it should have been four servings) but ended up eating nearly half. I'm giving myself until the end of January to get back to cooking properly all the time and then I'll concentrate on portion control a bit. I've used up the last of my curry-in-a-hurry paste though, so need to make more soon. I cooked the white beans I'll need for the Turkish bean salad this morning so they're in the fridge and ready to go. While the curry was cooking I washed the lamb's lettuce so it's easy to just grab a couple of handfuls of that for the next couple of days to go with whatever else I'm eating. And I think tomorrow morning I'll get the leek and potato soup going in the slow cooker before heading out for a walk. That way, it's done and will be also just be sitting in the fridge waiting to be used. And with that, my cooking for the week will be more or less done.

Forgot to mention that Marisa also posted a link to a page she has of recipes she likes and uses - definitely something I want to do so I'm going to add a page to my (not-used for a long, long time) food tracking blog and start making a list there.