Sunday, March 11, 2018

Life is a bit of a slog

Really trying hard to keep going these days. Not getting a lot done but everything little thing take so much mental effort it's like a huge achievement when something does actually happen.

Last weekend got a big black bag (black bags are actually blue over here, but I still call them black bags) and went out to the balcony and dumped all of the dead plants into it. At the end of July last year I had access to a car so I took a detour on the way home and bought soil, compost and stones as well as a few small pots of herbs with plans to fill up all of my big pots, pot on the herbs and maybe plant some bulbs for the spring. And the herbs have been on the balcony dying ever since. Well, I kept them alive for maybe three months. Actually, the parsley still hasn't died, so all is not lost. And the soil and compost have been lying on the living room floor. So, the dead herbs from the balcony, as well as the two amarylis that I got for birthday and xmas presents from work and left outside once they started to die off, went into the bag. And I cleaned up the mess that the sap from the amarylis made when it was knocked over and then we had minus temperatures for a while. I moved the bags of soil and compost outside, which has helped with the little tiny fly problem I've been having, and hopefully, since they had a few days of freezing weather now, too, any remaining fly-offspring have been taken care of, too. Such a simple thing to just drag those bags outside but it honestly took me a couple of months of being really annoyed at those little flies to just do it.

Since I had the industrial strength cleaner (leftover from when I moved) out to take care of the frozen sap on the balcony, I also tried it out on the sap that leaked all over the inside windowsill last year when most of my aloe vera plants died. It was absolutely rock solid and nothing I had tried had worked and it had, quite honestly, added a good bit to my feeling bad over and over and worrying what my landlord would say when he found out. But the industrial strength cleaner, while terrible for the environment, actually managed to do the trick (after leaving it to soak for half-an-hour). So that was one more thing achieved. Today I took the approximately one minute I needed to turn around the butcher's block-style rack I have so that I can easily pull it in and out from under the tiny counter, giving me a bit of space to actually work with. Something that it occured to me might be a good idea probably a year ago. But at least it's done now.

Just about an hour ago, I actually took that black bag, added all the current rubbish to it, and brought it down to the big bin downstairs. Today I have also done a wash, which is now hanging to dry. On Thursday I brought the patchwork blanket downstairs and washed it (I told my brother at the start of February I was going to send it to him - that's how long it has taken me to get up the energy to do that task). Today I've made carrot and orange soup, with five portions waiting to go into the fridge for lunches next week. I ate the final portion of pasta bake that I made last weekend and the final portion (well, ok, two portions but they were small so it's now one very big portion) of the soup I made last week is heating up for me to eat for dinner soon. I've made egg muffins to have for breakfasts again. Last week was the second week I did this and I totally burnt them so I was really careful this week. I'm using six eggs and having three muffins every day for breakfast (Monday to Thursday). This week I added a small onion, half a small leek (both chopped very finely) and a very small carrot (grated) with just a bit of salt and pepper as seasoning. 

I have my second appointment with the dietician next week and am a bit nervous. I have not, to be perfectly honest, been following her plan very much. But I have, especially in the last two weeks, started to mostly eat "from scratch" food, even if it that has often meant bread and a slice of meat or cheese. I have lost some weight, although not a huge amount but it is just taking me a long time to get my head in the game and I really want to take as long as it takes. There is just no point in forcing myself to eat a certain way without changing my behaviour from deep within. One thing I have been relatively successful with was her advice to leave 4-5 hours between meals and not eat anything during that time. I have done this at least between breakfast and lunch on most days and between lunch and finishing work on slightly fewer but still most days. Evenings are most difficult at the moment. And weekends are a bit tricky, too. I haven't yet started to keep a proper food diary. I really need to work on increasing the amount of fruit and veg I eat. I have definitely not kept to the treats twice a week idea and am still eating some kind of chocolate every day. But generally just once a day and a drastically lower amount of rubbish then, too. It might shock some that that's a reduction but there you have it.

The health insurance company has approved a year-long program for me, which means (I think, need to double-check when I see her next week) monthly half-hour appointments with the dietician and eight activity appointments (I think to be able to try out different exercise classes to find one I like). They cover the bulk of the cost and I have to pay €273 for the year (in three instalments of €170, €58 and €45). I think realistically I'll need two to three years to lose the weight I need to lose but every day I do something that aims towards that goal, well, at the moment every instance of doing something feels like an achievement. One day at a time sometimes has to be one hour at a time and sometimes it feels like all of my strength is going into simply not giving up and actually trying again, with very little leftover to actually make any progress. But as long as I can still do even that much, I'll keep trying.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Make-ahead breakfast

First of all, thank you everyone who commented on my last post. Lots of food for thought there. I think I have been/am more depressed than I realised, which doesn't help matters at all.

But I made a small positive step yesterday, having had my first appointment with a dietician a couple of weeks ago but not really implemented anything we talked about. Because my new job involves me getting up very early (leave house just after 6:30, which is really, really early for me), I have fallen back into grabbing something from the bakery to have for breakfast. So on Saturday I bought some eggs and yesterday I actually made what some call egg muffins and could also be called mini pastryless quiches or mini baked omelettes.
Just did these with onion and herbes de provence. And eggs of course. I used 10 medium eggs and it was way too much for my 12-bun bun tray so I got 12 muffins and one more huge one in a mini quiche tray. Next time I'll try it with just six eggs and make 10 muffins. Then I can just grab two on the way out the door each morning. Will experinent a bit with more fillings, too. And try to remember to add fillings to tray and pour eggs over rather than mixing fillings into eggs first. That should hopefully cut down on the amount of filling floating to the top.
No artistic merit to this photo but what the hell, at least I did something good for myself yesterday. And I even did the washing up before going to bed, too!

Sunday, January 07, 2018


My mind keeps circling around the topic of loneliness the last few days. Trying to figure out if that's the main thing that's wrong with my life. I know moving back to Ireland would not be the right decision for me for a multitude of reasons but have actually starting thinking about what it would be like. But although I would be closer to some of my best friends and to most of my family, I don't think it would fix everything else. Wherever you go, there you are.

One of my best friends flew over to Germany just after my birthday and we met up in Hamburg. The weather was atrocious but we had a lovely time. At one stage, we ended up having a conversation about friends and I realised I'd had this conversation with her before a couple of times because I've been trying to articulate something about friendship that was bothering me and that I couldn't quite get a handle on. Partly that came from making more of an effort, when I lived in Dusseldorf, to get out and socialise. To make friends. The thing is, however, I've never really been much of a one for what I'll call the pub life. Heading into your local, seeing who's there, always finding someone to chat to, etc. Dusseldorf was the first time I'd ever really had that and it was kind of nice. But I find it difficult to be friends on that more superficial level. Not that these people (or I) were any less sincere just because we didn't know each other well but just because that was the nature of the friendship. Little or no contact outside the pub so of course it's not the same as being friends with someone you met in school thirty years ago and have shared so much of your life with since.

People say that it's more difficult to make friends when you're older and there is a certain amount of truth in that. I think some of my oldest friends are people I probably wouldn't end up becoming good friends with if we met today. We're just really different people but because of decades of shared experiences and having gotten to know one another before we even knew what kind of people we were, it works. In one way making friends now that I'm older is easier, as I have learned how to swallow my shyness, most of the time, and strike up some kind of small talk if the occasion calls for it. But because I have mostly, during my life, had fewer but very close friendships, I seem to generally think that all friendships should be like that. So the more superficial kind of friendship is something I've really struggled with.

It's made even more difficult by the fact that it's not at all difficult with some people. Especially men, I have to say. I think perhaps it's because I will often follow the lead, no matter who I've met. So those who are very matter-of-fact about things, I can better react in the same way. There's no attempt to make things more than they are. While with others, it seems like if you get along well, they automatically assume you're going to be the best of friends forever. And that, I think, is something that I'm just less inclined to do these days. I'd rather just let things develop organically, or not. So much of what I've experienced just seems so forced. Perhaps I'm just very lucky to have so many really good friends and should have more sympathy for people who seem to feel a lack in that respect. Perhaps it's just the particular situation and people I met in Dusseldorf. But I have to admit that I felt more relief than anything that when I decided to move, I'd be leaving it all behind me. I didn't find it at all difficult and, to be honest, have missed very little of it.*

At any rate, while trying to articulate some of this yet again to my friend in Hamburg I was talkng about one particular woman. She is a lovely person and while we became quite good friends over the eight years I lived there, I've always sort of struggled with it, especially since having left. Even before I moved but after I'd left work, it had started to become a bit, well, onerous. Since we weren't seeing each other in work, it required more effort to meet up. I remember commenting to her once a while after we met about how funny ex-pat life is and how you end up spending time with people just because they're from the same country whereas at home, you'd never really end up spending time with the same people, because you're just so different/don't have anything in common. She got a bit offended at the implication that she and I didn't have anything in common, even though I had been speaking in generalities. Gaaaggh, I feel like I'm tying myself up in knots again to try and explain it. The same was happening in Hamburg until my friend quite bluntly said, "you mean you just don't want it [to be friends with her]". My immediate reaction was "no, no" but even with a couple of seconds I had to admit that she had absolutely hit the nail on the head. No matter how nice that woman is, I'm just really not that interetsed in being very close friends with her. For me, it was a friendship of time and place and it should now just fizzle out to an occasional meeting if we happen to be in each other's area but not be the big effort that I have felt obliged to make. So, I'm working on it and trying to figure out this astounding new idea that I don't have to be best of friends with everybody who's nice and that it's perfectly ok for me to be "superficial" with some people, even if they want more.

I had other things I wanted to braindump about loneliness but it seems like I needed to get all of that off my chest first. Loneliness is a funny thing and I'm not sure why I'm feeling it so acutely at the moment. Because I am close to my family, I do have lots of good friends, I even have a man to enjoy spending time with (although that's only a few times a year as we live in different countries, with phone calls in between, but it suits us and doesn't stop either or us from seeing other people as well; I'm so glad polyamory has become a bit more openly talked about in recent years, if I didn't even know it was a thing, I think I'd have tied myself up in knots about this otherwise) and I have hobbies which give me plenty of social contact, too. But when I was sitting in my armchair yesterday afternoon, almost physically aching with loneliness, none of them were who I needed. I scrolled through my phone contacts twice and just couldn't raise the enthusiasm to call anyone (although I did delete a few of those "pub friends" and that felt good). It's tempting to say that I just want a boyfriend/husband and that does play a big role. While I'm very happy with the relationship I do have, I would like to have someone around every day to share the little things with. Mind you, I don't think I could stand having housemates again, I do mean having someone around that I was in a relationship with. And the fact that I'm realistically never going to have children now plays a role as well. Even the fact that I could adopt if I really wanted a child but will probably never feel the joy of being pregnant and feeling a child growing inside me plays a role. But I sort of feel like all of that just doesn't quite get to the bottom of it either. So it's back to hoping that winter will pass soon and that that will make things feel better again for a while.

* "It" being the pub life and the circle of ex-pat friends related to that. On the other hand, I also became friends with a large circle of people from choir and I really miss that circle. A few became very good friends and we are still in touch and the others I see once or twice a year when I go back up to attend a concert and it's lovely. But the "pub" circle? Don't miss any of them at all and am even still relieved that I don't have to make the effort anymore.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Think I'll need to keep searching

For a good solution to regional eating, that is. I met the guy from the CSA-style program this morning and I left feeling, well, underwhelmed. I went all ready to sign up straightaway and now I don't think I will at all. I did appreciate that he was honest about the shortcomings of the program at least. Opinions welcome on this one.

Cost per month (with a commitment of a year, renewed every year for another full year): €130, which works out to €30 per week.

All of the produce comes from the same farm. Basically, the people in the association (about 180) get together and tell the farmer that they'll pay x amount of money. They also meet every six weeks (not mandatory but it sounded like most people do attend) to decide things like what's to be grown. From what I understood, the farmer who owns the farm also participates in those discussions, which makes sense. As well as "employing" that farmer, there are three other full-time farmers employed to work with him. The six-weekly meeting decided last year, for example, to increase the wages from €12 to €15 per hour, slightly higher than average for work on an organic farm apparently.

The place I would have gone to collect my stuff from is close to work. About 15 people also collect from there. It's basically just a cellar at the back of a communal/alternative student collective of some kind. And honestly, the building entrance was not very well kept and, well, kind of smelly.

Once a week someone from each depot drives to the farm to collect the stuff. I would also be expected to do that at least a few times a year (using a car-sharing car they could make available). Then everyone just brings their own bags to take their portion of stuff. This week, for example, one share was 1kg potatoes, 2 small pumpkins (each slightly bigger than a handful), 1kg onions and 500g black kale (which was totally infested with white cabbage moths).

You also get 1.5 litres raw milk every week but you have to provide your own bottles and they just fill them up. Then, every two weeks there is also meat or cheese. You more or less end up with about 1kg of meat and 300g of cheese per month, from what I understood. Various cuts, mince or salami/sausage (all beef). And finally, a loaf of bread every week, too. Oh, you can pay an extra 1.30 a month to get herbs, as well.

But while I would have assumed that a share looks very different in the summer/autumn peak season, apparently not all that much. They grow no tomoatoes, cucumbers or peppers (ok, no peppers or cucumbers wouldn't bother me). The only fruit seems to be gooseberries and blackcurrants, with a couple of litres of apple juice once or twice a year. So apart from salad, it seems like summer tends to be early potatoes, early carrots, leeks and, well, he wasn't sure what else. From photos on their website I can see beets and kohlrabi, too. And, of course, as they don't keep chickens, there are no eggs included either.

So, all in all, I'd probably end up buying a good bit on top of what I'd get from them. And given that I want to concentrate on eating to lose weight this year, such a big proportion of every week being potatoes and bread, even in summer, isn't ideal. Lots of thinking to do now.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fresh start

Carolyn over at The 1940's Experiment is starting afresh this week with both weight loss and budgeting. And so am I. I'd already been thinking about doing something like this for a while and just don't seem to get anywhere with it. I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and asked about getting help with losing weight and will hopefully have an appointment with a dietician early in the new year. It's not that I feel like they will be able to actually help me much in terms of teaching me about food (let's face it, I probably at least as much as they do on the subject of food and how to lose weight) but I need outside support to actually do something. I'm just not getting anywhere on my own. The place I'll be working with seems to be quite holistic as well, so hopefully the health insurance will also cover the cost of some basic exercise programms. I've also signed up for a new program my health insurance are offering which is a kind of mental health support scheme. Not sure exactly how that will work out but it's kind of like a step before therapy (there's a severe shortage of places with psychologists here and people can end up waiting for a long time before they can get an appointment). From what I understand it involves a weekly phone call with one of their counsellors to talk about whatever is going on and try and find ways for me to deal with everything that's going on. It was sheer coincidence that I got the leaflet for this program at the same time I was trying to get the cover for a dietician set up but I grabbed at the chance immediately. I am trying to be better at asking for help.

As for budget, well, barring one potentially crappy situation (I messed up a big translation job and am waiting to hear back from them - may have to pay them back, may have to cover damages they incurred if they ended up getting someone else to redo it), I'm actually starting to slowly get to a relatively stable place. I have enough money set aside to be able to pay my tax bill for 2016 whenever it comes in and when the rest of my outstanding invoices are paid, should have enough to cover 2017's tax bill as well. I have 450 set aside for annual expenses and 250 for travel/holidays. But, I should also be able to cover annual expenses and travels costs for the next two months directly without needing to touch the savings. Finally, I have 500 set aside in a separate savings account, which is the start of a proper emergency fund.

As I am now working full-time, I am earning almost 300 more per month than I was before. I will have a few expenses that I want to put this money towards over the first few months of the year (getting bike fixed, getting shelves put up in the kitchen and so on) but by June I want to be at the stage where I am living on my previous 75% salary and saving the extra. Will someone come back and ask me in June whether or not I've managed to do that? To be perfectly honest, I'm not really loving working 100% again and I'd rather not get used to the money so that if I can at all finagle my way to reducing hours, it won't be a difficult financial decision.

So much for the monthly stuff. On a more micro level, I'm going to start an envelope method again. I have signed up for a monthly Solawi* box (or at least, I'll be visiting tomorrow and plan to sign up) and that will provide the bulk of my food. Apart from that I will be withdrawing a very generous 60 euro per week from the bank in cash. That's actually how much I was planning on allocating every week before I took the Solawi box into account. I'm going to see how it goes. The idea is that I should be well able to not spend that amount of money every week and will be able to build up a bit of a buffer to start my envelopes off well.

I should think about what envelopes I want to have actually. Hmm. Here's a first list:
  1. Birthdays/presents incl. postage
  2. Clothes
  3. Shoes
  4. New coat next winter
  5. Meals/drinks out
  6. Exercise
So as these things come up over the first few months I'll just cover the cost from my weekly amount but I'll also be putting aside a small amount each week to build that buffer. I have a few birthdays in January and February but already have presents for those so will just need to cover the postage cost. I don't currently really need new clothes or shoes and won't really be going out much. The only exercise cost will be 10 euro per week for my back training course for about six weeks. After that the official course, paid for by work, will be starting up again.

I'm sure I'll end up changing this all a lot as time passes but it's a starting point at least. Need to just keep repeating to myself that a millionaire is made ten bucks at a time.

* Solawi is the name given to an organisation called Solidarische Landwirtschaft or literally solidary agriculture, and is similar to the CSA programs they have in the US. I pay a certain amount every month and for that get a box of food every week. Mostly veg but also meat, dairy and wheat (in the form of grain, flour or bread). Smaller amounts in winter, obviously, and if there is a disastrous harvest then it's tough luck and not a lot of food. The monthly amount paid remains the same. But it means I'll be genuninely back to having mostly local and organic food, as it really is just the one farm providing everything and that farm is located less than 7km from where I live and 15 km from where I work (my pick-up point will be close to work).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Net worth - November 2017

It's been a while since I did one of these and since one of the companies I have an old pension with finally got with the times and decided to provide online access, I may even start to try and make this a more regular thing. Just need to contact my German Riesterrente provider since I seem to have managed to lock myself out of that account. So frustrating. I've given up and just started writing down all the passwords and usernames and user numbers and various other identifiers that all these accounts need.

At any rate, the markets seem to be going up and up at the moment, so things are all looking pretty good. But even better because in addition to the long-term pension stuff, I have finally paid back my sister what she loaned me for my move last year and started building up some cash savings. Only a few hundred so far, but it feels like it won't be long before I have, finally, a proper baby emergency fund of one thousand tucked away. If I were to include my annual expenses and travel accounts, I would actually already be there. But I have to exclude them because that is money earmarked for known upcoming expenses.

I have had so much translation work in the last few months that I have quite a bit of money coming in soon, which means that when my tax bill for 2016 and my tax bill for 2017 arrive, I should have enough to cover them both. And, of course, from now on I will be doing what I should have been doing from the start but didn't always manage to do: putting aside enough of every invoice that gets paid that I do not need to worry about the tax bill coming in!

So, all in all, from a financial point of view, things are sort of starting to settle a bit. It's actually making me a bit nervous but I am trying not to catastrophise. I do kind of need a new phone but not so badly I have to rush out and get one next week. Same goes for my five-year-old laptop. One or two strange things have happened recently (so I'm getting much better at remembering to back-up regularly) and it's been nearly two years since I started having to basically use an extra cooling pad if I want to use it for more than 15 minutes, but again, no need to rush out next week to get a new one. I'll keep it going for as long as I can and then be easy, knowing that I have some savings to cover the cost of replacement, from my baby EF even if I haven't managed to save separately for it by the time I need it. Anyway, here goes:

November 2017
Increase in net worth overall: 5.81%
Made up of:
Irish pension: 2.85%
Irish retirement bond: 8.59% (increase since February, this is the one I just got online access to)
German Riesterrente: 4.91% (actively paying in to this one but have locked myself out of website so this increase is just what I've actually paid in since last statement received)
German BAV: 0% (no updated information)
Vodafone shares:  13.98% (increase since February, found my password!)
ETF savings plan: 310.87% (mostly what I have paid in, at 50 per month, but definitely gains, too, as the value is now above what I have paid in, even after the fees have been deducted)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Short and sweet

That's the way it has to go for the next little while, as I want to get back to blogging regularly but something is holding me back. So I'm going to attempt to post at least a few times a week but maybe not more than a couple of sentences. No excuses that time is too short.

Time will be short but that's because I said yes to a huge translation job that I really should have turned down. Getting it done would mean at least two or three hours a day plus all weekend and it is now threee o'clock on Saturday. Since I got the job (on Wednesday) I have spent just about two hours actually working on it. The excuse that I may be coming down with a cold is maybe good enough for having slept in so late this morning. And even for the fact that after waking up at eleven and reading for less than an hour, I took a nap for an hour. But I did actually get up and dressed then, all ready to pop out to pick up a parcel that I wasn't here to take in yesterday. But there is no good reason for me to be still sitting here two hours later.

My mood in general these days is pretty much one of self-loathing and it's hard to tell sometimes whether that's making me self-sabotage just so I can hate myself more, or if I'm just floundering because I feel so useless. Elaine from MFin3 posted a TED talk about procrastination a last week, which I've just watched. I've actually read the Wait but Why post on procrastination before but it was interesting to be reminded and also to hear the bit at the end about procrastination with and without deadlines. The shop I have to collect my package from closes at four o'clock on a Saturday so I'll definitely need to leave here very soon if I want to get my package at all. Short deadlines are definitely easier for me to react to than long ones. It's spreading the work of translating 70 pages out over the next ten days that's hard. If I had 10 to do tomorrow, I'd just do it. Makes no sense. My brain is just so messed up sometimes.