Sunday, August 20, 2017


This evening, late enough at just after nine o'clock, I ate some salad as a starter. Just the small amount of oakleaf lettuce I had left in the fridge with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing. Then I had some pasta with a sauce made up of just about everything else in the fridge that needed to be used up. Two small courgettes, three leeks, and some tomatoes, along with a onion and garlic and a tub of cream cheese with wild garlic. I ate half and half is now waiting in Tupperware in the fridge to serve as lunch tomorrow. Actually, I didn't use up all of the courgette, leek, onion and garlic mix as there was too much to fit into the pan. So, after I'd make the sauce for the pasta, I quickly cleaned the pan and filled it up again with the rest of that stuff. I'll be away for a day or two and when I get back, I'll be able to use that to rustle up a very quick dinner. So, at least I've gotten something productive done today.

I'm not doing well at the moment, kind of having a bit of a crisis of confidence, feel like I've had a headache for three or four weeks, am stressing about money, not sleeping very well, and to be honest feel like I'm slipping into a bit of a depressive episode. Feelings of depression are not at all helped by starting to hear mention of suicide prevention day from different sides. Although it doesn't fall on the same date every year, it's always around the same time and suicide prevention day four years ago is the day my sister killed herself. It somehow rubs salt in the wound to be hearing about it for weeks leading up to the day.

And at the same time I have occasional moments of almost pure joy when I'm doing something and realise how different my life is now than it was two years ago. Whether it's walking down the street and catching a glimpse of a gorgeous building or the hills in the background, or doing something for work and realising I don't feel like what I'm doing is a soul-crushing waste of time, or even just stepping outside onto my balcony to take a deep breath of fresh air.

I wonder if I could just get rid of this headache, would things feel better. It's definitely a stress headache, bordering on migraine and it started halfway through the summer school I organised and attended a few weeks ago. So I wasn't terribly surprised. But I just haven't been able to take time to let it clear up as work has been so busy (I have taken two separate days off in the last three weeks but my boss has been away so it has been really busy, with a couple of tasks to take care of that don't occur very often and are just that bit more difficult). Anyway, I have another day off this week and am going to try to extend it to two days. Maybe that'll help. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Looks like those back training classes are paying off

It has been a long couple of days, especially today, when I spent just over six hours on my feet serving food to the hordes of visitors at my choir's main fundraising event. Essentially just a load of tables and benches set up in a playing field in the hills about our town with plenty of food and drink to keep everyone happy. It goes on for three days and it is amazing to me how it possible manages to get a more or less constant flow of people on each of the days. I've been going to back training classes for the last few months and today was one of those instances where it feels like they probably are helping, even if I almost never manage to do any of the exercises at home. I was there this morning just before ten and by the end of my shift, at four o'clock, I was tired but not really very stiff or sore. Feels like progress. I was stiffening up a bit this evening, as I sat at my computer working, but a nice long shower has sorted that out and now I think I'm just ready for bed.

Moon shining clearly

I did go to the birthday picnic by the river yesterday and although that means that I'm a bit behind on the translations I'm doing, I'm glad I went. As expected, I did have a good time and it was nice to catch up with some people I haven't seen since April and meet new people too. Everyone was really nice and friendly and it was all really relaxed. And we got to watch the sun set and the moon rise over the hills as well. I really do love living in such a beutiful place. It soothes my soul to be able to look at the hills every day and the sky always feels somehow bigger here than it was in Dusseldorf.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Ten Things

I'm taking a cue from Andy and posting a list of ten things just to write something, anything.
"...writing ten things from the day. Not good, bad or profound, just ten observations"

  1. I should be translating and am procrastinating.
  2. Today I have baked a banana/coconut cake, a fruit of the forest yoghurt cake, and a batch of vegan banana/coconut muffins. 
  3. I really need to buy baking powder that isn't out of date.
  4. I'm currently nursing 12 mosquito bites, all from Thursday but all looking red and nasty - appaently the mosquitos around here particularly vicious this year.
  5. I love calamine lotion.
  6. I killed a mosquito yesterday before going to bed. So there.
  7. I'm going to a birthday picnic on the Neckar this evening, which I think I will probably enjoy very much, but I don't want to have to go to it or be at it. 
  8. After nine years, it still feels wrong to have to close the windows when it get warm outside.
  9. So far my plan to paint or draw something two or three times a month has resulted in one attempt at a painting in a copybook this year but the August page of my Monet calendar is calling me to attempt something similar.
  10. Ten things really can be difficult to come up with. But I have to go and rescue the muffins from the oven anyway. 
Anyone else have ten things to write about?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

It's already August

Which means it's quite a while since I last posted. For a while I just had nothing to say and then I felt like I had too much to get down. Just today three separate topics crossed my mind that I want to write about. Just smallish things so since I didn't just make a quick note immediately, I've now forgotten all of them. Posting something every day is probably asking a bit too much but I'm going to try writing at least a little bit every day for the next while, even if it's just writing down the name of a topic that I might like to put some more thought into and write about in the future.

I've now been here over a year and am also coming to the end of an extremely busy time in work, with a really busy time in translating just starting. I did the annual report for an NGO last year and this year they had a tender process for translation work for the next two years and invited me to submit a bid. I spent far more mental energy on the whole thing than I should have but it involved finding a native speaker to do the English to German translations as well as an English native speaker to proofread the stuff I translate. It all worked out in the end though and I ended up winning the job. It means a fair amount of work more or less guaranteed for the next two years, starting with the annual report again. Maybe I'll finally manage to get an emergency fund in place.

For my day-job, I have two interviews coming up. I am currently working at 75% (i.e. 30 hours/week) and my contract, which is non-renewable, runs until the end of May 2018. Basically a decision needs to be made whether or not the graduate program I am working for will continue beyond the intial phase. Financing from the state has been secured to allow all of the students currently enrolled to finish up the three-year program, i.e. up to 2019. However, because of the nature of the financing, the admin position can only be filled using the type of non-renewable 2-year contract I am on. So, if a decision is made to continue the program either as is or in a slightly different form, financing has to be found. This shouldn't be too much of an issue according to the professor who is our coordinator. However, he is approaching retirement age (in the next four or five years) so the issue of having someone continue on fighting for and coordinating the program at the higher level is a serious consideration, too. So, as of the last meeting we had where we discussed it, I wasn't left feeling terribly confident that the program will actually continue. And, perhaps more to the point, it didn't sound like if it does continue, the new arrangements will be in place before my contract runs out. With different financing, you see, the program would essentially become a project, and projects can have admin people on fixed-term but renewable contracts.

As it happens, there have been a spate of ads for other admin positions so I have applied for two and will probably apply for another couple next week. One in particular sounded really interesting and it's a full-time permanent position to boot. In the university sector that is practically unheard of for admin positions. As all jobs are always eligible for job-sharing arrangements I applied saying that I would be looking for 25%-50%. Honestly though, if I get a good feeling and am still interested during and after the interview I think I will tell them that I'd also consider full-time. I'm a bit nervous of that but it's probably the sensible thing to do. I have been so lucky with the people I now work with that I am a bit scared to potentially give that up. But I may have to give it up next year anyway. The other thing making me nervous is actually the full-time aspect. I'm more attracted now to the idea of having two 50% positions because at least there is a certain amount of freedom then if one isn't working out. You're just a little bit less trapped then, when it comes to finances.

The other interview is for another professor in the same institute I work at (different building though, our institute is spread out over four buidlings as it's made up of two faculties that merged a few years ago). It's also a temporary position but a project-based one that has a three-year contract and, if the project were to be extended, the possibilty of renewing the contract. It's a 50% position so either I'd share it with someone else and just do half of it (so 25% of a full-time, to bring me up to 75% in total), or I'd have to cut back my hours at my current position. That position is really moving even further away from classic secretarial work though, so it's a tough one. Technically these are all admin/secretarial positions but this one in particular is definitely moving much further in the direction of project management than I really like. But since classic secretarial work seems to be dying out anyway, that's something I need to take into consideration.

So, all in all, I don't much like the uncertainty of my current position but I'm kind of nervous to change anything about it, too. Hitting the one-year mark has definitely led to lots of reflection though and one thing is for sure, I am really glad that I left my old job and my old city. Those two things were definitely good choices for me.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

One week in and mostly keeping to it

I did cave on Friday. I was really hungry by the time I finished my first job and was heading to the second and having been unable to get interested in the smoothie I had prepared, I ended up buying something in the bakery near work. Lunch was salad with pickled onions and dried tomatoes. I ended up not getting home until eight, though and, still not interested in the smoothie, I caved and bought chips. I did eat some of them on one of my bread rolls at least.

Yesterday, I actually woke up hungry, a rare occurence for me. So I brought that smoothie with me to the last day of my side-job and had it there. Between that and the last two bread rolls for lunch (old-school, toasted and with just butter and marmalade) I was stuffed for most of the day. In the evening I went to the supermarket to get some milk, yoghurt, quark and bread but I did come home with a quantity of junkfood, too. I ate most of the crisps while waiting for my soup to heat up and then had that with some toast. I finished the crisps today and I've been nibbling chocolately things on and off all day. After a couple of slices of toast for a late breakfast I thought it was high time to make something a bit healthy.

Having had to search through the freezer to find the yeast earlier in the week, I had been reminded of several things I had in there. So out came the containers (400ml ones) of, respectively, cabbage, chickpeas, and mince. I also used up two tins of tomatoes and three handfuls of lentils so it feels like I'm making some progress at least.
This afternoon I sautéed a couple of sliced scallionsin one pot, and in another a chopped onion. Added a spoonful of minced garlic to each. Then a tin of tomatoes and the mince, along with some dried basil and herbes de provence, went in with the onion. To the scallions, I added the other tin of tomatoes, a tin and a half of water, the cabbage, soaked lentils, chickpeas and a generous half a teaspoon of smoked paprika. I left both pots simmering for a good long while. The smoky cabbage soup in particular I wanted to be not quite soupy, so that I could ladle it onto slices of toast (I did and it was delicious!). The rest of the soup and all of the bolognese will go into the fridge for meals this week. And for next week I think I'm going to buy some veg to add to a couple of tins of beans and coconut milk to make a curry. Still need to figure out what to do with the capers and pickled greem peppercorns as well.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Bread and soup

I was hungry this evening as I was finishing up at work and I knew that the soup I took out of the freezer to have for dinner wouldn't be enough. I decided that I'd make sure to leave work on time and then call in to the bakery on campus before they closed. And by the time I'd actually finished work about an hour later had already forgotten and just headed straight for the bus stop as usual. Oh well. On the way home I remember the 30-minute rolls from the Mortgage Free in Three site that I'd made before and decided that was what I'd do. And it would mean I could have a couple for lunch tomorrow, using up another tin of something from the store cupboard.

Got home and was actually so hungry but also so wrecked that I just sat down and scarfed a huge handful of nuts and raisins while going through my post. Good news came in the post today, as my annual electricity bill came in. They just get a reading once a year and then you find out if the payment you make every month was enough or not. Since I apparently use only a bit more than half of what is average, I'm getting a big refund, just short of €120. I had actually phoned in February to give a reading in order to check if the payments I was making were appropriate and had already lowered the monthly payments after that call. Will be nice to get the money back.

Once I'd rested for twenty minutes or so I headed into the kitchen. I just went straight to the website for the recipe and I really should have checked the blog post I wrote about making these rolls before, too. To wit: 
Same jug, overflowing again
I did at least remember about the sugar and used a little less, as well as a bit more salt. I don''t have any eggs at the moment but I read through the comments and somebody else had made them using just water as a substitute so I decided it was worth a shot. I actually added about 2 extra spoons of oil and 2 spoons of water, rather than just water. And then a very small amount more of water when the mixture wasn't coming together very well. I decided to just make eight slightly bigger rolls rather than the twelve the recipe calls for. I don't have enough space in the freezer to store a lot at the moment and even though it's the same amount of dough, eight will disappear faster than twelve. They really did turn out quite giant and two, along with the soup, has more than filled me up. I'm almost disappointed 'cos I'd love to go and have another one, this time slathered in butter and jam. Maybe tomorrow. I could do one tuna and one jam roll for lunch, I suppose. Or maybe toast one to have in the morning. It's only the 3rd of May but so far this eating from the storecupboard thing really isn't going too badly.
Rolls after 5 minutes of kneading and 5 minutes of rising

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Eating all the food

I randomly started sorting out the big cupboard that I keep most of my food in last week. Can't remember now why I started. I moved a couple of things around to try and be able to even see what was in there. It is now almost a year since I moved here and that big cupboard kind of became the place to just put stuff into because it was too big to wait until I had figured it out - I just needed the space.

It's three shelves worth of deep cupboard on top of the fridge. So it's as deep a the fridge and goes from the top of the fridge (almost shoulder height on me) up to the ceiling. Since I'm tall I can still reach stuff on the top shelf but to get to things at the very back of the top shelf, I do need to stand on a chair. I have a few things stored elsewhere in the kitchen that don't need to be used very often and I'll move them into that space at some stage. For the moment I'm not baking very much either so the mixing bowls are fine up there.
What I was mostly sorting last week was the bottom shelf. I didn't even sort, really, just looked at everything that was there and checked dates. I think that I've become very conscious of the fact that since I've been here a year now, anything in the cupboard that I know I brought with me has been there for a year.

There was one packet of sauerkraut that was already slightly out of date when I moved, for example. I knew that and should have made sure to eat it fairly promptly after the move but I didn't. Just haven't been able to get enthusiastic about sauerkraut for the longest time. So out it went and I found one or two other things that aren't far off their best before dates that I will need to keep an eye on and use up soon. Quite apart from that, however, I realised that because the cupboard is so deep, there is actually a sizeable amount of food in it. I have therefore declared May to be an eating from the storecupboard month. Well, I was thinking about doing that and then yesterday (a bank holiday here), I was sitting on the couch, hungry, not in the mood for the effort of trying to come up with a meal, contemplating ordering a takeaway and realised how silly I was being.

Since I had just looked through the cupboard last week, I knew there was a box of Bratlinge in there and I decided I'd better give them a go before they became one of those bought the box to try and never actually got around to it things. I've eaten these before at a friend's house but had never made them myself and it was so easy. I actually tried looking up recipes afterwards to see if it would be easy to make a homemade, rather than a boxed version, but it seems like Bratlinge is also used as a kind of a catch-all word for any non-meat burgers.

So, for example, the kidney bean, carrot and cumin burgers I often make wouldn't be called burgers in German, they'd be Bratlinge. I vaguely remember a time when vegetarian food was a bit strange and you'd hear people talking about nut cutlets. I think these days burger tends to just get used for anything burger-shaped, regardless of whether it's meat or not. These Bratlinge were of the spelt and oat variety, just a box that was on special offer one week at Aldi. You just add a small amount of boiling water to the contents of the pouch, stir well and leave it to sit for ten minutes. Then you can form the mixture into burger shapes and fry them for four minutes on each side. Really easy and really delicious, too. I also cooked some rice and warmed up a pouch of red cabbage with apple. Very filling dinner for not a whole lot of effort. And all from the storecupboard. I'm going to try and keep that up for the rest of the month, or until the food runs out. Honestly, I think the month will run out before the food does, though. I'm planning on only buying fresh fruit and veg, and probably eggs and milk at some stage. Today that meant a head of lettuce, an onion and a bunch of enormous scallions.

I wasn't quite organised this morning so I did buy a falafel wrap for lunch. But when I got in the door this evening, instead of just sitting down, which I really wanted to do, I went straight into the kitchen. I finished off the last of a jar of olives to keep the hunger at bay while I was cooking. I say cooking but there wasn't much of it. I put pasta into my Tupperware poacher thing and while that was "cooking" mixed up some stuff to eat with it. To start with, a small tin of sardines (I don't even particularly like sardines, why do I have five tins of 'em?), I just tipped the whole lot into a bowl, oil and all, since I figured otherwise the pasta might be a bit dry. I chopped up one of the giant scallions and added that, along with a couple of dried tomatoes from a jar of semi-dried tomatoes in oil. Added some dried basil and oregano and then remembered I had ordinary dried tomatoes in the cupboard as well. So I soaked a couple of those in water, chopped them and added them as well. Finally, I chopped up the feta that was in the fridge and which should, according to the package, have been used by last Sunday. I'm not a stickler for dates on packages but feta is definitely one thing I have found to rarely last much longer than the package states. So I used half of it this evening, and have the rest of it for lunch tomorrow. With all of that my bowl was already full and when I added the pasta, it made for a huge dinner.

While I was waiting for the pasta I also washed the salad I bought earlier and put some of it directly into a separate bowl to take with me to work for lunch tomorrow. Made up a quick dressing using mustard, oil, and pomegranate molasses, and then chopped up another giant scallion and a couple of semi-dried tomatoes to go with the feta. I'll add all of that to the salad leaves just before I eat tomorrow. Not sure yet what to do for dinner tomorrow but I do still have some soup in the freezer and it would probably be a good idea to eat that before warm weather hits and soup is the last thing I'll be interested in eating.

Tonight's dinner on the left before I added pasta. On the right is
stuff to add to salad leaves for tomorrow's lunch.

I think I'll take and post photos of some of the meals I come up with this month. You'll have to forgive the terrible quality in advance. There is no natural light in my kitchen and I know myself I'd get frustrated with running through the apartment to get outside for a photo on the balcony and then back to the kitchen every single time.