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.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Photos of repaired trousers

Frugal Paragon did a post a while back about fixing the worn inseam of a pair of jeans. Since I am also, to borrow her phrase, not a woman who is plagued with thigh-gap, I am all to familiar with this issue. A few years ago, I decided to try out one of the many tailors to be found all over in Germany.
I think it's just lining material used for the 'patch' - very soft
The problem wasn't just a worn seam, but that the material had actually worn right through. Since it's hard enough to get a pair of trousers to fit me and these were about the only nice, non-work, light trousers I had for the summer, it seemed worth the chance that a professional could do something. And I was amazed at just what is possible when you know what you're doing. Such a simple fix but I'm light years away from ever being able to do it myself. All he does is place a piece of material over the area that needs to be fixed and then sew lots and lots of lines to fix it in place.
You can see where the material is a bit balled but no holes!

And that's it. You can barely see it from the outside. Easy enough with black, I suppose but he really does match up the colours so well, too.

Since then I've had a couple of other pairs of trousers repaired in the same way and nowadays I try to be a bit more pro-active with the whole thing, paying more attention to my clothes in an attempt to get them fixed preemptively where possible. With that in mind, a few months ago I put a pair of black work trousers into a bag, meaning to take them to my lovely local tailor as the material had started to ball on the inside leg and I could see it was wearing though. True to my usual style I then left that bag sitting for a couple of months until my favourite trousers, combat-style very lightweight summer trousers that I bought in Australia when I was there developed a rip. I didn't think they were quite at that stage but they were nearly at the end of a second summer of heavy wearing so fair enough. I am thrilled that I got these trousers done actually, because starting to cycle a bit more means there's even more wear and tear on that part of the legs so having them already reinforced is great.
Here's the second pair - material is a different colour so easier to see but it was the same colour as the trousers on the reverse
And here's the outside - you can see the outline of the 'patch' more on this one, I think because of the lighter colour
I love being able to extend the life of my clothes like this - cheaper than buying new trousers (if I could even find nicely fitting ones) and less waste. It was only a few weeks ago but I'm ashamed to admit I've already forgotten how much I paid for this. It's in or around ten euro per pair of trousers, I think, possibly a bit less. I don't have a problem paying professionals to do a good job though and am very happy to support a family business like this one.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tattoo or not tattoo

Ha. I'm so witty and I'm sure totally original with that title! Actually, I was just going to pop on to do a quick post about how I've had two no-spend days this week, with two very low-spend (just one thing on each of those days) days to boot. And I've been singing on and off all day so although the greyness is still hovering somewhere in the back of my head, things seem to be picking up a little bit. I have been making quite a bit of effort to cook and eat properly and trying to get up a bit earlier so that there's less rushing around in the morning. And I had a fabulous meal at a friend's house after work on Monday, which seemed like a really great way to start the week.

But instead of all that, what's most on my mind is trying to decide what I would get if I were to get a tattoo. I've never really had a very definite view on tattoos. As a teenager, along with many other somewhat rigid views that I've long left behind I was totally convinced by the "maiming yourself and can never change it, stuck with it for life, even when you're old and wrinkly" argument. Of course, once I started to learn to actually think for myself and, to a certain extent, as more and more people started to get tattoos and they became about more than just anchors and naked women on sailors' arms, I moved a bit away from that idea and it has to be admitted that some tattoos really are absolutely fabulous works of art.

Next up in my thought process is that I would like a small tattoo. Probably the Newgrange sprial, which I (along with a gazillion other people) have always loved. Not being much of an artist, I didn't have much to offer the world in terms of doodling but if I ever did doodle in school it was invariably attempts at that spiral. Or Forever Free, which became my favourite song when I first heard it at about age 16. Where was I? Oh yes, spiral. Probably on my back, down around my hip, I think. Somewhere that no-one except me and a few select others would ever see. Except I kept waiting until I'd lost weight because I reckoned getting one at this size, with the skin stretched so much, would end up being pretty horrible looking when I lost weight and toned up. Although at this stage I may be getting past the stage where my skin is ever going to just "snap back" even if I do ever manage to actually slim down.

Today I happened to see a friend of a friend and someone commented on her tattoo (an anchor, very nicely done, I have to say) and she mentioned she'd only gotten it recently. For some reason, I found myself thinking, you know what, it'd be kind of nice to get a tattoo. If I got one on my upper arm, or even my shoulder, the whole skin shrinkage thing (if that's even actually a real thing!) wouldn't be as much of an issue, I don't think. I don't think I'd get one on my wrist or lower arm (although I'd kind of like one on my wrist) because even if I wear long sleeves I never make it more than a few minutes without pushing them up to my elbows and I do still have to work. I think I may need to think about it a whole lot more but I even asked that woman earlier where she'd gotten it done and I think if I'm at the stage of asking people where they're going to get it done and how much it costs, I'm a lot closer to the decision to get one than ever before. Part of me even seems to think that it's an entirely appropriate thing to do during this approach to my 40th birthday. That's just leaves the question of what to get. I'll keep the spiral as a weight-loss reward, I think, as originally planned. But if I were to get a tattoo on my arm or shoulder (I like the look of them on the shoulder but would prefer one that I could see without contorting in the mirror, I think), what should it be?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kitchen goings-on

Today mostly felt like I was trapped in a comedy of errors. It seemed like nothing was going right but I still managed to get a bit done in the kitchen at least.
Tomatoes and onions waiting to go into the oven
5kg of tomatoes and just over half a kilo of onions, with garlic, basil, salt, pepper and sugar added gave me just over 5 litres of passata, which I simmered for an hour to end up with 3 litres (also used some straightaway, it's verging on being too salty but just about stays on the right side of delicious)
Passata cooking down a bit and the small pot on the right is a couple of eggs poaching in some of the freshly made passata
And a small quiche that I made after remembering that I had some leftover pastry in the fridge. Delighted I thought of it in time to get it into the oven straight after the tomatoes, too.
It's late now but I need to get back into the kitchen for just a few more minutes and wash the lettuce I bought yesterday so that it's all ready to go for lunches during the week.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tiny houses

Or, in this case, apartment. Love this design - I often say that I don't necessarily need a huge place but that it's essential for me to have at least two separate rooms, preferably three (I'm not much of a fan of open plan, although it can look nice, I don't like it for living in). But this sorts of turns all of that on it's head and leaves me wondering how I would find living somewhere like this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lovely passata

Picture taken in bad light but this is really a gorgeous colour in real life - managed to get a good mix of yellow, red, pink and darker red tomatoes in to give this wonderful orange.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to can with a full-time job and lots of other stuff to do

Basically, in starts and fits. After having been sick last week, which meant the tomatoes I bought at the market just sat in their bag in the hallway all week I really needed to get something done with them this weekend, whether I felt like it or not. One unexpected "benefit" of my cycle yesterday was that sitting down for a lazy afternoon wasn't as appealing as it might normall be on a grey Sunday afternoon, since sitting down at all for more than a few minutes was kind of painful.

So I headed into the kitchen and tackled the bag of tomatoes. I'm very glad that the temperatures had dropped a fair bit last week as I ended up only having to throw out two of them and cut parts of three others. Not bad overall - I had bought six kilos and ended up with just over five and a half. Just sliced in half and spread on two roasting trays with some chopped up onions, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, sugar and olive as per the recipe for roasted tomato passata in the River Cottage Preserves book. I got that lot into the oven and set about making an apple tart to bring to the pub quiz.

It all worked out well really, got the pastry made, then left that cooling while I peeled and chopped the apples. Once that was done I rolled out the pastry, assembled the tart and then left that to rest while I took care of doing the washing-up and hunted for my mouli. At that stage the tomatoes had been in the oven nearly an hour so out they came and the tart went in. It did take me nearly half an hour to get all of the tomatoes through the mouli and I ended up with close to 5 litres and just enough time to wash the roasting trays before it was time for the tart to come out of the oven.

I didn't have enough time to can the passata before leaving for the quiz however and decided I could do that this evening. Completely forgetting that I had book club straight after work this evening. Still, I made it there, had a lovely meal, chatted a bit about the book (which I still haven't finished and have to admit, am finding kind of boring and annoying but that's just the way it goes sometimes with book club) and then, a bit later than planned, around half-nine, made my excuses and rushed home. Put the passata on to boil and reduce a bit, washed some jars and then set the water canner full of water to boil.

While waiting for all of that to come to a boil I made myself a cup of tea and phoned my sister. Ended up on that call for a bit longer than planned, which is how I found myself at quarter past eleven heading back into the kitchen to fill jars with passata. It's now ten past midnight and I think the water canner is just nearly about to reach a boil, so another half an hour or so and I'll be able to get the jars out and then I can head to bed and will count off the pops of the lids sealing (used Leifheit jars with the two-part lids this time, rather than the older glass lid jars) as I fade off to sleep. It might seem like madness but if I want to do crazy things like canning some of my own food and still live a typical urban office worker life, that's just the way these things go. And there's even enough passata left to have with some pasta tomorrow for dinner. It's nice when things work out.