Monday, April 17, 2017

A TEDtalk conversation about female friendship

Randomly came across this today and really enjoyed it. I've admired Jane Fonda for a long time, and Lily Tomlin, too and I've really enjoyed watching Frankie & Grace over the last couple of years. And this talk is very interesting. Funny chitchat at the beginning and then becoming more serious with some very informed and very interesting points.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some photos of my (messy) place

I never really did ever post many photos of my new place after I moved. And now it has already been almost a year and I'm still not quite finished fixing things up. After the initial few months of unpacking, painting some of my old furniture, etc., I needed to be just living in my space. I got everything to the stage that there was just one pile of ten or twelve boxes to unpack, all stacked up on one side of my bedroom, in front of the cupboard that most of the stuff would go into. I want to paint and/or varnish that cupboard though and decided that if I just unpacked stuff into it, I'd never get around to it.

For the long weekend this week, I've basically decided to do nothing other than read, watch films and do nothing. Things have just been far too hectic for the last while and I've been getting overwhelmed so it was time to consciously spend time doing as close to nothing as possible and leaving all the other stuff behind. I did have a small burst of energy this morning however and so I spent a half an hour moving some furniture around. I've been thinking about doing this for a while and I wanted to see what it would look like.

'Scuse the mess in most of these photos - as this was a spontaneous rearranging of furniture the photos are honest to goodness candid ones. This level of mess may be very stressful for some of you to see but for me, it's such a big improvement on how I was in my old place (and getting better all the time, actually) that it feels pretty good. And excuse the quality of photos, some even blurrier than my usual.



This is the end of the living room beside the balcony with the couch (also guest bed) and my two armchairs. I really don't need two armchairs but one is the final one from the three-piece suite I took from my parents' house and although I hate the cover (I will get it recovered one day), I really love it to sit in. The other chair is one a friend gave to me when she was moving a few years ago and needed to downsize. I'd always admired it when I visited and couldn't bring myself to refuse it. Anyway, at some stage I thought it would be nice to have an armchair in my bedroom, to curl up in and read, and to free up a bit of space here.







Here are another two photos of the rest of this room. I deliberately took them in such a way that you can easily see where one bit ends and the next begins - it's a nicely sized but not huge room and although I could do with getting rid of some more stuff, I'm not quite there yet. One step at a time.
This is the far end of the room, where I have my dining area. The other big thing I gain from moving one of the armchairs is a feeling of slightly more space so that, whenever I find one I like and can afford, I can put in a proper table without making it feel too cramped. I think. The table that's currently there is 2'x3' (60x90cm), which is fine for just me but doesn't give a lot of space for ever entertaining (I might do, one day, you never know), or using it for anything other than eating.

The nice cabinet hasn't quite been finished either and stuff is a bit higgledy-piggledy in it. I plan to paint it red but got sick and tired of painting last year and put that on hold. Also started dithering between bright red or dark red. Opinions on that issue welcome. (It's actually a fairly flimsy, pretty damaged piece that I bought for 20 euro second hand so I'm not feeling any "painting would be such a mistake for this beautiful piece of furniture" issues at all.





And this is the middle part, which functions as my work space. You can see the table (the stuff on the table is mostly stuff I moved out of the way to be able to move the chair), and the edge of the will-someday-be-red cabinet. Next to that is my writing desk (with red floor protector for the chair to sit on), and beside that you can see the armchair. That should all give you an idea of the amount of space.







This is the corner of my bedroom that I decided to put the chair in. After my initial dreaming / getting carried away thoughts on doing this I did actually measure and realised that it would barely fit in that space.

However, since I was still toying with the idea several months later, I decided it was at least worth trying.




This is the still-unpacked side of the bedroom, on the other side of the bed. As happens, over the course of the last six months or so the neatly stacked moving boxes seem to have attracted a layer of stuff on top.






I know I'm going to be fairly busy for the next couple of weeks but I think once we get into May, with hopefully less rainy weather, I'm going to move these boxes out to the balcony and paint/varnish the cupboard before unpacking it all. There has been a bit of a change of plan though and it's one of those things that proves yet again how you sometimes have to live in a space for a while before making final decisions on things.
Did I ever post a photo of the lovely built-in cupboards here that I immediately designated as jar storage? Here's one (or three, actually) I took last year before I'd even unpacked all of my jars.
Over the winter, however, I realised that these cupboards back onto heating pipes of some kind next door. I put a thermometer in them for a while and they were regularly over 20C, which is just too hot for decent food storage. So, now I'm thinking the jars will go into the cupboard in the bedroom, and the material, yarn, and other crafting supplies, currently still in boxes, will go into these built-in cupboards in the hallway.


Even more reason to varnish or paint that cupboard really well - at the moment the wood is completely porous so if a jar ever leaked (it happens), I'd never get the stain or smell out of the wood. So, that's the plan for now. We'll see how it works out.


One final photo now, of the living room after moving the blue armchair into the bedroom. I'm not entirely happy yet and suspect I'll end up moving this chair around a bit until a find an angle that I like. Or maybe I'll give up on having the footstool there at all (although I do love to use it).




By the way, in case anyone is wondering, the couch could go lengthways along the wall rather than the window (I'd need to shift the desk an inch or so to the left to make space) but there is not enough room to have a chair opposite it without blocking the door out to the balcony. No "after" photos of the bedroom or the other end of the living room yet though. I want to wait, live with it a while and maybe even get photos of a neat and tidy space to show you. So that's it for now. Would love to hear what you think of it all.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Net worth - April 2017

It seems hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I did one of these posts (here's the one from May 2015). Then again, it doesn't seem possible that this time last year I had just been offered a new job and I was spending the weekend traipsing around Heidelberg viewing as many apartments as I could find. At any rate, one of the pension companies hadn't updated my address before the annual statement was sent out in January and then it seems to have gotten lost in limbo a little bit. However, after several phone calls and a couple of different people trying to figure out what happened, it finally arrived here last week. So here are my updated totals, not all from exactly this week but all from this year. It's kind of annoying that I can only get some of these once a year but at the same time it helps for me to not be stressing about the ups and downs of the markets.

Actually, I have checked these numbers a few times over the last couple of years so I'm going to go ahead and post each increase, rather than play around with my spreadsheet and having to add up increases to get one figure from May 2015 to now. And it nicely shows the couple of times the markets were definitely going down rather than up.

September 2015
Increase in net worth overall: -1.85%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: -6.74%
Irish Retirement Bond: -7.95%
German Riesterrente: +1.58% (actively paying in to this pension)
German BAV: +31.09% (I think I was usually just adding in what I was paying in to this pension)
Vodafone shares: -9.76%



February 2016 (three months after leaving work)
Increase in net worth overall: 4.12%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: -7.65%
Irish Retirement Bond: 0% no updated information
German Riesterrente: +17.36% (actively paying in to this pension, although at a substantially reduced rate since I was no longer working in a highly-paid job)
German BAV: +12.5% (I think I was usually just adding in what I was paying in to this pension and once I left that job, no more payments were made)
Vodafone shares: -8.02%


October 2016 (five months into new, part-time job)
Increase in net worth overall: 2.92%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: +12.80%
Irish Retirement Bond: 0% (no updated information)
German Riesterrente: 0% (actively paying in to this pension, although at a substantially reduced rate since no longer working in a highly-paid job but for whatever reason didn't update the number with payments made)
German BAV: 0% (no more payments being made into this pension and no updated information on value)
Vodafone shares: -8.30%


February 2017
Increase in net worth overall: 7.39%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: +8.21%
Irish Retirement Bond: 11.58% (annual statement received)
German Riesterrente: 0% (actively paying in to this pension, although at a substantially reduced rate since no longer working in a highly-paid job but for whatever reason didn't update the number with payments made)
German BAV: 12.58% (no more payments being made into this pension - this information is from a statement I received after I finally got around to phoning them to give them my new address)
Vodafone shares: -6.87%


April 2017
Increase in net worth overall: 2.45%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: +2.70%
Irish Retirement Bond: 0% (no updated information)
German Riesterrente: 5.91% (actively paying in to this pension, still reduced rate - I decided to leave this at lower rate and start investing in ETF. We'll see how that works out.)
German BAV: 0% (no updated information)
Vodafone shares: 0% (no updated information because I've forgotten my username and password for the online investor centre and keep forgetting to phone them to sort it out!)

ETF savings plan: no change yet as April is the first month. But nearly two years after setting up this online investment account I finally managed to set up one of their savings plans. It's only 50 euro a month, which will go to buying an MSCI World ETF but it's a start at investing at least.

It's nice to see I'm very close to tipping over to the next "-ty" number, i.e. forty rather than thirty. It doesn't feel like about 5,000 is a huge amount of an increase over two years but given that I wasn't working at all for seven months of that, and have been only working 20 hours a week for almost a year, maybe it's not that bad to have not substantially added to it. There'll be no early retirement for me, I think, as my current net worth is about a tenth of what it would need to be to finance my life.

But that's alright. I've been doing a bit of reading around what my state pension entitlements are. The university held a seminar for international employees on pensions and I think I'm finally starting to understand some of the complexities. I'm hoping to have an individual appointment to talk to someone but that probably won't happen until early next year. I did have one lined up for earlier this year but unfortunately had a very bad cold/flu-like illness/bronchitis and had to give it a miss. At least my boss was able to take my spot so it wasn't a complete waste. At any rate, if I have understood it correctly, based on the time that I worked in Ireland, I have an entitlement there to the second-lowest rate of state pension. That's currently about 150 euro per week. It remains to be seen whether there'll actually be any state pension to speak of by the time I make it to pensionable age, assuming I do make it that far, but let's be optimistic. If I was old enough to be collecting it today, that amount would cover my rent for the month. And I'll have whatever small amount coming from my private pensions and investments, as well as my German state pension. I may never be rich but at least there's a good chance that I'll be able to cover expenses and not have to work until I drop.

Starting at the beginning of April, my hours increased to 30 per week (this will mean net salary of about 1,350 instead 990 per month). I have also finally found a mini-job, which is paying me 400 per month, less just a small deduction for pension. I could have opted out of that but it's about 40 euro a month that I probably won't miss much now and will appreciate having in 25 years or so. That's the theory anyway. But apart from the pension deduction the rest of that 400 is tax and social insurance free. It's long hours (2.5-3 hours six days a week) but the tax-free status makes it a not as bad hourly rate as it seems at first. I'm just covering for someone who had to go and attend rehab for a month for a bad back. Her time there may be extended but probably not and then I'll finish up. It's a nice little amount of extra cash but I have to admit that I find the inflexibility of six early mornings every week is getting to me and I don't think I'd want to keep it up long-term. But now that I'm trained in, there might be the possibility of picking up occasional hours, which would probably suit me better.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Films I really should get around to watching sometime

Someone mentioned Donnie Darko on twitter the other day (it's fifteen years old), which reminded me that I haven't actually seen it yet. And this weekend I've been thinking about some other films that I've somehow never gotten around to watching. Many are classics, some are not. My brother and I made a list years ago when we were watching a program about the Top 100 Films and for a while we  worked our way through some of the classics we hadn't seen but when the list was lost, the idea fizzled out somehow. For those times when I'm pondering what to watch, however, I thought I'd start another list. And to jog my memory, I went looking for some top 100 lists on the internet. Wow, so many films I've yet to see.

  1. Donnie Darko
  2. Citizen Kane
  3. Goodfellas
  4. Lawrence of Arabia
  5. Tangled
  6. Tarzan (the Walt Disney cartoon)
  7. On the Waterfront
  8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  9. Apocalypse Now
  10. Blade Runner
  11. The Manchurian Candidate
  12. The French Connection
  13. Scarface
  14. The Shawshank Redemption
  15. Green Mile
  16. The Deer Hunter
  17. Rocky (I did go to see Rocky IV in the cinema for a friend's birthday but haven't seen the others)
  18. Easy Rider
  19. Kes
  20. The Crying Game
  21. My Beautiful Laundrette
  22. Rabbit-proof Fence
  23. Brief Encounter
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Stepford Wives
  26. Anything Goes
  27. Mad Max
  28. The Martian
  29. Brooklyn
  30. Room
  31. The Danish Girl
  32. Enigma
  33. The Theory of Everything
  34. 12 Years a Slave
  35. The Shining

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Holiday goals changed to doing nothing

Well, I made it to Halle and even managed to only miss one rehearsal. Although I have to admit that although I was at the Friday rehearsal my voice was not always quite as present. It was another great weekend and I really enjoyed the performance on Saturday night.

As always, it was fantastic to meet up with old friends as well as meeting new ones. This time round we even made the effort to participate in one of the non-singing activities, dragged ourselves out of bed early one morning and went off to see the State Museum of Prehistory. The few hours we spent there were not enough to do more than scratch the surface of what this amazing musuem has to offer. I'd highly recommend it if you are ever in Halle and will definitely be going back there.

Since the Happy Birthday Handel weekend coincided with Karneval this year, we even got to enjoy the parade on Monday before we had to leave. When I got back I was tired but happy, always the best way to come home from some time away, I think.
This year we also discovered the Irish pub in Halle, called Nante's (Nante is the nickname of the guy who owns it). We had a great night out there - they let us borrow one of their guitars and we started a really fun singalong session.
I now have the rest of the week off as I needed to use up some holiday time. I had planned to spend the time sorting out my balcony. The tiles badly need to be cleaned and then I wanted to buy some stones, soil and compost and get my pots filled and ready for planting a few things. If I got very adventurous I thought I might manage to finish painting my CD shelf. And maybe one or two other things as well. But instead of all that, I think I'm switching to just doing nothing at all. Well, that's about as much as I've done the last two days and it feels about the right speed so I'm just going with it. But even doing nothing I've still gotten one or two things done. Today, for example, I took out the documentation for the bank I opened up an investment account with and then never got around to actually setting up properly. I knew that had dragged on a bit and so when searching for tax-related stuff recently I had put anything I found dealing with that account into one place.

It took me several phone calls and resetting passwords etc. but today I finally got it set up. And I added in a current account as well as the investment account. This bank, ING-DIBA, does not have any charges associated with its current account. I've been happy with my current bank up to now but there are two reasons I've decided to bite the bullet and change. The first is that the selection of ATMs near me for my bank or any of its partner branches is really poor. The second is that I fell foul of their lodgement limit again this month. I thought it was 1,100 per month but it seems it's 1,200. I need to go back and check the last time this happened - I think they may have increased that amount and I didn't notice. At any rate, I was about 30 euro short of that last month, which means that I need to pay the 9.90 monthly charges. The current account, you see, is only free if you lodge at least 1,200 per month. This is the second or third time since I left my more-highly-paid job that this has happened. Since ING-DIBA doesn't attach those kind of conditions to their free current account, and offers free withdrawals from all ATMs, regardless of which bank, it just makes sense to switch. Even if I am kind of dreading having to trawl through everything to make sure I notify all of the places that I have direct debits set up with. In the meantime, I set up a savings plan to start investing in my first ETF fund. I'm excited. It's several years since reading something on Fiona's blog led me to Mr. Money Mustache and although my 50 euro a month savings might take quite a while to build up to anything substantial, it's a start. Or it will be, from the middle of April and then every month after that.

Tomorrow, I have to attend an organising meeting for the March for Science before running off to my choir rehearsal. And then all of a sudden it'll be Friday again and the weekend will be here. So, I'm not going to put myself under pressure to achieve anything else other than chilling out and trying to get rid of the rest of this cough. Yep, I'm still actually sick and totally fed up with coughing and sneezing. So a goal of doing nothing for the next few days is entirely appropriate!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Out of action

I had a feeling of almost having sniffles last Sunday but soldiered on through the day, got some work done, finished up my Coursera course (should have realised how lousy I was actually feeling when it took me three times to actually pass the final quiz though!), started dosing myself with vitamin C. And woke up on Monday feeling worse, definitely a cold coming on. Not a problem though. I don't work in the same place I used to, no pressure to feel like I have to go in no matter what so I just sent and email to my boss, told her I was sick and that I wouldn't be in and then took the day easy. Spent most of it on the couch, drank plenty of fluids, and went to bed early. Woke up on Tuesday feeling worse. And then even worse again on Wednesday, due to not getting to sleep until after five o'clock because of all the coughing. So off to the doctor I went. Typical answer, it's a flu-like infection. They seem to use that term here a lot, nobody ever just says you have a cold.

Anyway, he prescribed me some tablets to help loosen the phlegm to ease the cough, told me to take paracetemol or ibuprofen as well and gave me a sick note for the rest of the week. And here we are, it's Friday, I'm about to run out of tissues, feel just as bad if not worse than I did on Wednesday, and to top it all off, I'm feeling really, really sorry for myself. Like, alsmot in tears crying because I'm feeling so sorry for myself. I think I might actually have man-flu!

I'd better get better by Wednesday, that's all I can say. Thursday is the start of my annual trip to Halle to sing Messiah and meet up with friends from Ireland and I am not missing it!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Too much cheese

It seems like there couldn't possibly be such a thing as too much cheese, doesn't it? But today I met my limit. Totally my own fault, too, there just wasn't even a reason for me to keep on eating it. It all started with me getting confused about how to match up my meals with my schedule today. I should have had some scrambled eggs for breakfast before leaving the house, leaving me with soup in work in the late afternoon, an apple as a snack, and a smoothie to take with me this evening when I went to a lecture. But I really wasn't hungry this morning so I just left it and it wasn't until I was actually in work around half-ten that I realised I wouldn't be home for another 11 hours and only had the soup and smoothie with me.

Although there have been days in the past week when that ended up being more or less exactly what I ate, realising in advance somehow made me start getting that kind of fearful what-if-I-get-hungry worrying going on in my head. At the same time, I didn't want to leave eating so many of my daily caloires until after arriving home late in the evening. At lunchtime I went over to the small uni shop to see what they had that might fit in with the blood sugar diet and not require cooking. I ended up buying a tin of tuna (which I thought I'd be able to leave in my desk for future similar occasions), some cheddar cheese, and two boiled eggs. So I had three options and everything would be fine.

I ended up deciding to have the tuna with my soup and that was a huge lunch that left me almost too full. And yet over the course of the afternoon, I kept reaching for that goddamn cheese. I wasn't evening doing anything nice with it, like, oh you know, cutting it with a knife. Just tearing little chunks off the small block. I have to admit I really felt kind of sick by the end of the afternoon. So much so that I didn't even bother with the smoothie. It'll keep until tomorrow. I weighed the cheese when I got home and it looks like what I ate was just over 75g. That doesn't sound like a lot but I think it'll be a long while before I get any kind of a longing to eat cheese straight like that again!