Thursday, October 16, 2014

Here's the actual photo

As I may have mentioned, still trying to figure out this whole smartphone thing!

Visual journal - 16th October 2014

Second attempt to post this. Have installed a different app since it seems blogspot won't let me switch between accounts. Or at least I can't figure out how to. Still getting used to having a smartphone.
Anyway, l have a week off now to study for my exam, which is next Wednesday. I spent yesterday mostly in bed, trying to shake the cold that started last Thursday as well as recover from a very late night after the football on Tuesday.
This morning I was up early for a therapy appointment and then went straight into town to get a few things done. So, not much studying done yet but I did get to snap this nice picture of the Rathaus (the town hall) along with the statue of good old Jan Wellem.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Veggie update

Just a quick one to make a note of how I'm getting on so far with the organic vegetable delivery. The timing was really not great and I might have been a bit to ambitious to get my first one just before financial year-end at work, not to mention two weekends full of choir activity.

I'll start with the bad. The giant head of lettuce languished in the fridge and I had to admit defeat and throw it out on Thursday evening - knowing that I was going away for the long weekend (Friday was Reunification Day and a holiday here).  The sprouts are still in the fridge and still within their best before date but I really amn't sure I'll use them. And the corn is also still just lying in the fridge - I haven't actually checked it and it might be alright, even if corn really is one of those things that tastes best eaten as fresh as possible.


Otherwise, although I'm starting to build up a bit of a surplus of vegetables, I was at least able to use up a couple of things. I decided to make the spiced cauliflower and potatoes on Tuesday evening and took some duck out of the freezer to go with it. What I hadn't planned on was working until just after ten o'clock. Still, because I had left the duck out to defrost I set to when I got home just after half-ten. I turned on the oven as soon as I got in the door and then I prepped the cauliflower and peeled potatoes in double-quick time. Finished the last potato just as the thermostat on the oven clicked off so I threw everything into a dish and put it in to roast while sat down to check a few emails. I was up early on Wednesday to help out at an event at work so did leave at my normal seven o'clock time that evening, came home and then cobbled up all the leftover cauliflower and potato. I could have easily made that much into a second meal but there was no other time I was going to be at home to eat it so it was finish it or throw it out. I grated cheese over the top of it, heated it up and it was delicious. Then I grated the rest of the block of cheese and put that into the freezer. There'll be no more cheese wasting in my house!

The pumpkin is still fine and I haven't yet used the fennel but overall I'm glad that even during what turned out to be an incredibly busy week, I managed to use some stuff.

Due to the bank holiday on Friday the delivery last week came a day early, on Wednesday. This weeks delivery had: 1 head of lettuce (a different type), 5 tiny small pears, 2 cox apples, 6 eggs, 2 kohlrabi (1 medium, 1 large), 1 head of red cabbage, 2 fennel bulbs, 7 small tomatoes and a huge bunch of parsley.

Knowing I'd be away for the weekend I forced myself to put everything away properly so instead of just sitting down after getting home from work, I spent the fifteen minutes checking and clearing out the previous week's veg and putting the new stuff into Tupperware and into the fridge. The lettuce was not in great shape, to be honest and I stripped off the outer leaves immediately. I think it's a butterhead lettuce, which I don't really like very much so I might struggle to finish it but I'm going to get up when I've posted this and wash it at least, so that it's ready to use for lunches during the week.

I gave a friend the new fennel immediately, since I'm not a huge fan and still had the previous week's one sitting in the fridge. And also gave her and another friend who happened to be there one pear each. I brought the pears away with me and ate two for breakfast on Saturday so just have one of those left. They're really delicious, even if they're not the most attractive looking pears I've ever seen. The delivery note lists them as Clapps Liebling.

Once I got home today, quite tired after the weekend away, lots of activity, late nights and a long drive home I had basically decided that I was going to go out to eat but all of that stuff was calling to me so when I spied the eggs I decided I could just do something with those. When I actually went in to the kitchen to cook something I had a brainwave and decided to do a pastryless quiche, I'd gotten mozzarella on Thursday, thinking I'd make a tomato tart but just didn't have the energy to be making pastry, easy though that may be. Only problem is that I forgot that the last times I've made pastryless quiche, I've used my small ceramic dish, and not the larger two-part metal one. And the two-part one, it turns out, isn't water-tight or liquid-proof in any way at all. All of a sudden, wondering how to use up the 15 eggs I now had on hand seemed like less of an issue and I spent more than half-an-hour trying to sop up egg from the cooker, all over the oven, the floor and just what felt like everywhere. What a mess.

I ended up managing to tip everything into a different dish and once the oven was halfway clean, I did get to make and eat what turned up to be a pretty good dish. I used up the tomatoes, the smaller kohlrabi, two leeks that have been in the fridge for well over a month at this stage and a small onion, as well as the mozzarella and all but two of the eggs (I reckon at least five or six eggs worth got sopped up and thrown down the drain). Oh well, just another reminder that trying to do new things while tired probably isn't a very good idea.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Organic veg box

I'm running a bit ragged trying to keep up with everything and kind of losing the battle. Partly in reaction to that, I'm trying to do things that should make things a bit easier. Although I'm not sure if they really will or if I just want to feel like I'm doing something to make things a bit easier. At any rate, last week I ordered myself a weekly veg box from a local organic farm. I placed the order online and they phoned me the next day to check if there was anything I didn't want. I couldn't think of anything to say except peppers (can't eat) and cucumbers (don't eat). They don't just sell their own produce and do buy in from other places - although everything is organic, I don't know that it's really all local so I've chosen the regional box (cost ca. €13 per week) plus 6 eggs. And on the phone, I made sure that she knew that the whole regional aspect was what was most important to me. The delivery cost is €1.50, although if I can persuade other people in my building to order as well, that cost is shared among everyone. There's also a €6 deposit on the crate that it comes in.

First delivery was this morning, it didn't arrive until after I had left for work but my friend who owns a shop in the bottom of my building agreed to take it in for me and all I had to do was pick it up from the bike shed when I got home this evening.

1 giant head of lettuce, 1 pretty big cauliflower, 1 medium size hokkaido pumpkin, 3 apples, 1 fennel bulb, 1 cob of corn, a packet of alfalfa sprouts and, of course, 6 eggs.

Will need to phone them and strike sprouts off the list of things to send me. I do eat them but not that much and if I want to, I can just sprout a few seeds myself. Apart from sprouts being one of the things there have been serious food scares about in recent years (and if memory serves correctly it was organic sprouts in particular), it's more plastic packaging that I just don't need.


I'm also dithering a bit on the eggs. While still from my state they are pushing the boundaries of local as far as I'm concerned. Googlemaps tells me that the village they come from is 164km from my house and that 100 miles, the somewhat arbitrary but generally accepted locavore standard, is 160km, The farmers at my local farmers' market must come from within an 80km distance of the market, so I know I have a 'more local' option available to me. And there is of course the added mileage of the eggs being delivered to the farm that does the deliveries, which is another nearly 20km further away and then back again to me on delivery day.

There are a couple of reasons I decided to give a veg box delivery a try.

  1. To try and keep spending under control and consistent - no impulse purchases at farmers' market!
  2. To force me to cook proper, healthy, veggie-focused meals again - no paralysis of choice!
  3. To save me the pressure and time of having to get up and moving and out early on Saturday mornings.
If I start having to go to the market just for eggs then I'm defeating the purpose of saving myself time and stress on Saturday mornings. And possibly also leaving myself open to the temptation of buying stuff I don't really need. So I'll have to really think about it before deciding what to do.

All in all though, I'm pretty happy with what I got. I'm not a huge fan of fennel but I think I'll cut it up very small and use it for a pasta sauce of some kind. Corn on the cob is always good, as is pumpkin. Jack Monroe had a lovely recipe for cauliflower pasanda in the paper the other day that I'd love to try and I also have potatoes and have been wanting to do the Smitten Kitchen's spiced potato and cauliflower again, too, so using up that cauliflower won't be a problem. And the salad will be used up in wraps and such for lunches. I'll need to do a bit of a marathon cooking session at the weekend though, as I'm very, very busy for the next ten days or so and just won't have much time for cooking and will need to just have stuff prepared and ready to be heated up as much as possible.

And, just to prove that it really is all organic, I even got the token slug along with my delivery

P.S. A couple of bloggers have started a funding campaign to help Phelan, the lovely and tenacious Homesteading Neophyte, who will never ask for help for herself. See framboise manor for more details, or go straight to the gofundme page. The aim is to raise enough for them to get connected up to the power grid before winter hits but Phelan blogged yesterday about the pipe of her woodstove exploding unexpectedly so any additional money over and above the original goal of $1,000 will be just as much appreciated and put to just as good use. If you have even a couple of euro/dollars/choose your currency to spare, please consider donating something.

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?