Monday, September 08, 2008

Still here

Just in case anyone is still reading, I'm still around but with greatly restricted internet access and somehow can't make myself give up too much time to bother getting all the way to an internet cafe. Settling in in Düsseldorf but am still (six weeks later) at the completely exhausted after work every day stage. Things haven't quite gone as planned in that regard as my boss has now been out sick for three weeks and it's tough running an office for someone when you've barely gotten to know the way they work, their clients etc. But I'm just trying to muddle through it and wishing I liked the person I share an office with a bit more. Oh well, such is life and I'll manage I know. But it's tough to deal with on top of moving my life here.

I'm slowly getting to know places around town and figuring out where to go to buy things. The first couple of weeks were a bit crap as I didn't know anywhere so was just popping into the supermarket for everything I needed (which, given that I didn't have a fridge, wasn't I huge amount I have to say!). And I'm slowly getting my apartment in order - still haven't completely unpacked all the boxes but ran out of furniture and storage for what I have unpacked long ago. I did decide to sacrifice the table from the kitchen so that I could set up a crafting space in my sitting room so at least now I can gather all my stuff together in one place to work away at.

I still have no cooker, ran out of money and decided that a two-ring hotplate would do for the first few months. Which seemed like a great idea until I got my River Cottage Preserves book in the post last week and decided to make chutney. Did that at the weekend but would have loved to have been able to also make some soup. And the roasted tomato passata. And. And. And. Highly recommend this book, it's the one I've been waiting for with all the detail you need to get started on preserving without having to wade through pages and pages of confusion. And the recipes are fabulous. Gotta go and get some work done. I've definitely exceeded the no-more-than-30-minutes-per-month-personal-internet-use-in-work rule!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sand hole collapse and a raffle

I'm not much of a one for supporting religion and particularly not for supporting organised religious institutions. However I do find the idea of women coming together to support each other and grow a very powerful one and so I decided to make a donation to this raffle (there are some fabulous prizes but I had to think about it a bit before deciding to go ahead and support it). I'm writing about it here though, not so much to ask other people to donate but to draw their attention to this post from a year ago explaining some of the background as to why this lady has decided to set up this fundraising effort. I'd never heard of sand hole collapses before and kept meaning to write about that post but don't think I ever did. So, now I am but am taking the easy way out and just linking to Earthchicknits' post - she really talks about it far more eloquently than I ever could.

Happy Friday everyone - my last one in Dublin, this time next week I'll be on my first day in my new job in Düsseldorf.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Needle book and pin cushion

I signed up for another swap on down to earth, this time for a needle book and a pin cushion and got matched up wtih a lady in the USA. As I could see from her blog she is a very experienced seamtress so I've been glad there's so much time to complete this swap. We have until September and given that I'm in the middle of moving that's not a bad thing. On the plus side I found out today that my stuff will be in Germany tomorrow. And I won't be there for another week! It'll be kept by a German company and delivered then - I'm just hoping now that it'll be delivered fairly quickly and not just left sitting in a warehouse for weeks.

Anyway, I received my needle book and pin cushion from Cindi today and they are beautiful. Thank you so much again Cindi, in case you're reading. They even have my name embroidered on them! I did keep my camera out of the big shipment so I'll take photos as soon as I can and post them up. And as a bonus I also got an amazing bag which will be very useful for me as I learn to sew I think - I love to have things to organise everything into. Everything was so well finished that it certainly gives me a lot to aim for in terms of sewing efforts.

Although rather than starting a load of new projects I really need to finish my blanket project first - it's H.'s birthday next Monday so he's definitely not getting it for his birthday. Unfortunately the way my finishing dates have worked out mean that I won't be able to visit him for his birthday but that of course means that I have a bit of extra time to finish it. He's a chef so can't take time off to come and visit me during the season so it's likely I won't see him until September - I may be able to take a day off work then to head up to him for a long weekend. In the meantime I know we got a first edition stamp sent to work a year or so ago that nobody wanted and I put it to one side. So I'm going to send that to him in a card so that he has something on the day and to add to his stamp collection.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Should have worked harder on that list...

Things I didn't keep but probably should have:

Screwdrivers and alan keys - at least my brother didn't manage to return my drill to me on time so he'll bring that with him when he comes over the week after I move

The extra vacuum pack bags I bought (my fault for leaving them out so they got packed by the removal guys)

Friday, July 18, 2008

12 days to go

Sent most of my belongings off with a removal company yesterday. Am still very nervous about the whole thing (particularly don't like the take-all-my-wordly-possessions-and-here's-a-big-cheque-too aspect of it!) but people ship stuff all over the world everyday and I'm hoping it'll all turn up in Düsseldorf and not too much will be broken. I caved at the last minute and kept my files with documentation relating to work, pension, health insurance and the Revenue. I've bought my brother a flight to come and visit me the week after I arrive over there and will leave a suitcase of stuff with him to bring with him as well. How ridiculous is it that it was cheaper to buy another flight where he can check in one bag of up to 20kg than it would be to pay the excess baggage on that 20kg if I were to bring it myself (at €9/kilo excess baggage is not cheap!)?!?

I have a mountain of stuff to do in work and will be doing some serious overtime in the next few days to get through it. This situation hasn't been helped by my boss being actually in the office over the last week rather than out at meetings and the fact that he's been doing more client work than admin as well which in turn generates more work for me. And he's sort of trying to make sure everything is covered before I leave so keeps calling me into his office to show him how to do this or that and confirm points he wouldn't normally bother his head with because I'd take care of it. My replacement won't start for another month so for the time he's away on holidays he'll have little or no support in the office keeping an eye on things although admittedly in the last year or so he has gotten much better about actually taking a proper holiday and not being in constant contact with the office. I'm working on a handover document for my replacement setting out everything that needs to be done on a daily basis to keep everything running smoothly and am even amazing myself at the myriad of very small tasks I do that don't seem to be 'real' tasks and yet are the kind of things that make up a good part of my day - I seem to do a lot of things that take only a minute or so but it all adds up.

It rained again today. I know it's raining a lot more in Germany than usual but I still can't wait to get away from it and at least have a bit of sunshine inbetween.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Crocs update

I don't think I ever posted the response to the email I sent to the manufacturers of Crocs querying what they are made of and this blog post reminded me of it as it casts some new questions over the issue.

The response I received didn't really answer my question but I decided to go ahead and buy a pair as I really needed a pair of something other than my hiking boots that I could wear for more than a couple of hours and I know that I never questioned what was in the orthotics I use. It's something of a cop-out I realise but I didn't have the energy to follow up at the time and know that in the case of any other medical necessity I wouldn't hesitate to use a product that would help regardless of its green credentials. And at €40 a pair crocs are a damn sight cheaper than new orthotics at closer to €200. I have found them comfy and am able to wear them all day walking around although after two full days walking in them I do need to use something else. So, they're not perfect but are a good solution for me to a certain extent.

Here is the response I received:

Thank you for your inquiry. Croc has manufacturing facilities all over the world including Mexico , Canada , Italy and Florida , Brazil , as well as China . Although our new shoes are stamped with “ Boulder , Colorado ” outsourcing our production is necessary to be able to meet the demand of the product. The hang tags attached to the shoes will tell you where the product is actually made. This labeling complies with all customs import requirements. Please note, that we do maintain a “Supplier Code of Conduct” that demands high expectations in labor and environmental standards. All of our manufacturing plants are required to follow this Code. Crocs take pride in its high moral and ethical standards relating to our community and other communities in which we have a presence.

Crocs are made of Croslite - an extraordinary impact absorbing resin material developed for maximum cushioning. Its closed cell properties resist odor, inhibit bacterial and fungal growth and are non-toxic. This versatile material can be worn next to the skin and be cleaned with just soap and water. Crocs contain no latex or rubber materials. As such, we cannot discuss its chemical components, or how it is made. After extensive testing by our company and independent testing laboratories, we can say that Crocs footwear contains no known hazardous chemicals, creates no known hazardous emissions and is completely safe to be disposed of in a landfill. Crocs launched a new recycling program, SolesUnited, in early 2008. SolesUnited is a first of its kind program created in response to the desperate need for quality footwear in impoverished countries and areas affected by tragedy. Blending environmental and humanitarian efforts, we are collecting, regrinding, and remolding your old Crocs shoes into new and donating these to people in need of shoes around the world. To learn more about SolesUnited, I refer you to visit our website at www.SolesUnited.com. I hope this information helps.

Crocs footwear is the first product, in my knowledge, to successfully market a truly comfortable shoe. Our shoes have been shown to ease and/or eliminate stress on the lower back, knee and hip joints. They are extremely light weight and exhibit many other features that are not found in other footwear. The comfort and light weight is what has made Crocs so popular. The comfort level, or cushioning effect, of our footwear requires a soft durometer material to maintain that attribute. Soft material does not wear very well, especially, if worn outside (during hot weather) on rough surfaces such as concrete. There are many variables that will affect wear, such as some people drag their feet during the walking process. We realize that more durable soles would increase the value of our product. The Scutes, for example, are made with a soft compliant foot bed for comfort and a harder outer shell for durability. Our shoes were not designed to be clones of shoes that are more expensive, heavy (composed of leather uppers and a hard rubber sole), and not any where close to being as comfortable as our product. We want to be unique and are still striving to increase the durability, create new & different styles and improve the overall value of Croc’s products. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me. Thank you.


I am fairly hard on shoes and so I suspect I may not get too many years out of Crocs which would motivate me to look for better alternatives. And of course, I'm moving to what is (I think) the home of Birkenstocks so access to comfy shoes should be a bit easier to come by. :-)

On a side note one issue I did have with the Crocs is that nearly all of the ones on sale in Dublin seem to come from China despite there being at least two factories making them in Europe (Italy and Romania). My desire to at least buy something made on the same continent coupled with my shoesize meant that I had very little choice on colour (good thing I'm not that bothered about coordinating outfits).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Contaminated manure

I'm worried and saddened by all the reports I've been reading of people whose crops have been ruined because of manure they purchased which is contaminated by a herbicide used on the grass eaten by the cows who produced the manure. A chemical in this particular herbicide 'sticks' itself to particles in the grass and is not broken down by digestion (very bad explanation see links for proper details).


This one has very good information:

And the issue is discussed at length on River Cottagehere
and It's Not Easy Being Green here

It seems that this is not just the first time this product has been involved in this kind of problem before and that something similar happened in the States a couple of years ago.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

List of what I'll need for the first few weeks

I feel the need for many lists at the moment and may need some help with this one so have decided to put it online in case anyone has any suggestions.

This is all the stuff I will need to live for a few weeks while the majority of my possessions are in transit (potentially 4 - 6 weeks). The idea is that I will have a very big suitcase (and as you're only allowed 20kg I will probably have to pay excess baggage charges - will probably work out the same as trying to get someone else to travel with me and having to pay for their flight).

Work clothes and shoes

Casual clothes and shoes

Underwear

Cloth STs and Mooncup

Toiletries - hairbrush, deodorant, soap, toothbrush and paste, moisturiser, toilet roll, nail clippers

Travel first aid kit

Towel

Tea towel and dishcloth

Air mattress and pump - and something to power pump as I won't have a car handy to use the cigarette ligher bit

2 x sheets, 1 x duvet, 1 x pillow and pillowcase (may be too hot to use duvet hence two sheets)

Knitting (won't have a lot else to do in the evenings and am way behind on my blanket project)

Iron

Adapters for plugs

Cup, plate, knife, fork, spoon - plan to buy something cheap when I get over there

What else?

I plan to buy some of those vacuum pack bags to use to make as much of the above fit into my suitcase as possible.

Countdown

The countdown is on. My one-way ticket to Germany has been booked - I'm leaving on Wednesday evening 30th July and that's just over three weeks away. It seems to be going by very fast now and I have so much to do. Had another company it to quote for shipping my stuff and am very impressed with them so far - if their quote is not much more than the others I've gotten then I'll go with them. Hopefully they'd be able to take everything away in a week or so which would be a big relief. Because the house I'm sharing already had most of the basics in the kitchen etc it won't be too hard to live without all my stuff whereas the apartment in Germany will have absolutely nothing in it so it's better if I get everything delivered as soon as possible after arriving there. I was back over there last week to sign my rental contract and checked out my building again so was able to give the shipping guy a reasonable idea of what would be needed. I'll be living on a main street with trams passing by every ten minutes or so so they'll need to use a van that'll fit into the onstreet parking spaces without blocking the trams. However I think they're fairly used to doing things like that over there so hopefully it won't be too hard. My place also faces the street so they may be able to hoist stuff up and through the windows rather than having to carry everything up four flights of stairs.

So meanwhile I have been trawling websites and the Ikea catalogue but really need to just be over there to get the kitchen and other furniture organised. There's only so much you can do in advance. I plan to buy a sink, fridge, washing machine and cooker almost immediately, possibly also a freezer (or just go for a fridge freezer). Depending on funds I may wait for a washing machine and just use a launderette for a while and may just buy a two-plate plug-in electric yoke for cooking on. There is a canteen near work where I can eat a main meal at lunchtime (and I also found out that I'll get lunch vouchers for every day I'm in the office which is great) and otherwise for the first month or two anyway it'll be too hot to cook much and it'll be fruit and salads (and bread and cheese and wurst). I would love to be able to buy loads of tomatoes for bottling though so will have to wait and see how I'd manage that.

I have been offered a couch by a friend but she lives in Frankfurt and hadn't really thought about how to get it up to me so she's going to think about that and try and figure out with her hubby if they could get it into or onto their car. If I get that I'll sleep on it for a while before committing to a bed. I'm going to bring my air mattress over in my suitcase and sleep on that for the first while.

I also found out that the secretary I should be joining (there are two in the department I'm moving to) has decided to leave and so rather than having someone who already knows all the ropes there when I start I'll be going into a department which will have had, at most, one temp for the three weeks before I start and one secretary doing the work of two for five weeks before that. I foresee a lot of filing needing to be done in my first while there. Hopefully they'll recruit someone else soon and I won't have to be doing it all by myself for too long.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Felting in Irish Sally Gardens

Yesterday I joined the lovely Rebecca from Irish Sally Gardens to learn a bit more about felting. It was a really interesting session and I got to ask all those silly questions I'd been storing up for while. I can only get so much out of a book or from reading websites and then I really just need to have someone to show me what to do and answer all those questions that just aren't covered in books, no matter how well written they are!

I arrived down to the smallholding in the lovely Leitrim just after 10 in the morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day with enough breeze to keep it a really pleasant temperature. Having met the family and heard about the rabbits from Rebecca's young daughter we sat down for a cup of tea and then set about felting. While we were doing so we had a good chance to chat about anything and everything - it was really great to meet someone I've 'blog known' for a couple of years. I'll post photos of my finished feltwork soon. I still haven't decided if I'll make it into something or just keep it as a decorative square.

After we had finished felting I got a tour of the whole place including holding a baby rabbit, seeing the chickens (and the rooster, who bravely fought off a fox recently), goats, polytunnel, raised beds, composting toilet (a work of art - Becky's hubby Dan being very talented at carpentry), oak wood and newly planted coppice, plus the lake. Such a beautiful place and so much work has obviously been put into it. We had a very tasty lunch of stirfried pork (from their pigs) and mangetout and sugar snaps from the polytunnel. How great is it that one person can start cooking while the other heads out to the tunnel to pick the rest of what's needed for the meal. I was mightily impressed with the elderflower cordial as well.

All in all a fantastic day and not only did I get to enjoy the wonderful peace and quiet, have good company, learn lots about felting and have a delicious meal, I came away with a sewing machine as well after mentioning that I share one with my sister (who will want it back when she's home from Oz and me moving to Germany might have made that a bit awkward).

Thanks again Rebecca!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Düsseldorf here I come

Well, it's nearly official - just waiting for my contract to arrive so I can sign it but I'm happy enough with the package I'm being offered and we've settled on 1 August as my start date so I have a few more weeks to get organised than I thought I would. It's very exciting and there's so much to do. Must start making lists now!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stupid doctors

Was at the hospital today for a follow-up appointment about my foot, which still has no feeling in the toes and the same thing now starting in my right foot. After a battery of blood tests (no, Mr Consultant, just because I'm overweight does not mean I have diabetes) and extensive nerve conduction tests (complete with a massive bruise from where they stuck a needle in my leg muscle to do an extra test) there's apparently nothing wrong with me and no point in doing any further test. Come back in six months or if you develop any other symptoms. I knew I was going to be told that nothing had shown up in the tests that I'd had as I'd phoned in to get the blood tests results and the doctor doing the nerve tests told me straightaway but you still have to go to the consultant to get the results officially. I was however expecting another set of tests, you know, now we've ruled out x, y and z so we're going to test for w. But no. Just live with it. All very frustrating. I'm not in pain, which is of course good, but it's extremely unsettling to have almost no feeling in any of my toes and it's definitely not normal! Grrrr. I think I'll wait till I get to Germany to get a second opinion.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pottering

Spent a lovely day yesterday pottering around the garden, in and out of the shade inside as well making and taking lots of phone calls. Great way to spend a bank holiday. I harvested compost from the plastic cone shaped composter I got from the council when I first moved into this house (over two years ago). Mostly I just kept putting more and more stuff into it and never turned it or anything, occasionally adding some organic liquid accelerator stuff (to use when most of what you're composting is grass) and some shredded newspaper. Then last year in autumn I chopped back a pile of branches from the fuchsia and dumped them in on top of all that as I had no time to cut them up small. So yesterday I tipped it over, harvested what was at the bottom (mostly well composted but quite dry and very little sign of worms but loads of earwigs). I got almost a full wheelbarrow full which I was pleased with.

Most of that went onto the bed in the front garden, where I also chopped back the last of the tulips and the comfrey. There are a couple of garlic plants growing away there and I did plant a few potatoes into it as well recently. Once I have seedlings sturdy enough to plant out I'm going to plant some out there are well.

I put the dead branches around the foot of the fuchsia, couldn't be bothered chopping them at the moment and they'll do there out of sight for another while. And I managed to tip the composter back into place without making too much of a mess of the last few weeks grass cuttings, which had been thrown in on top of those branches.

I kept some of the best compost from that lot to mix with bought compost and soil to pot on the seedlings I have. I planted everything a bit haphazardly at the beginning so ended up with tiny pots with loads of salad seedlings in them. Hopefully some of them will survive having been pricked out and re-potted in bigger pots. Ditto for the tomatoes. I'm not too worried about the five courgette and two squash seedlings as they were much bigger and sturdier. The leeks were very fragile though so am really not sure about them.

But the big news is that I found out this weekend that I am being offered a job in Dusseldorf (for the same company I work for now, had the interview a week and a bit ago) so it makes it that bit more difficult to be bothered if things don't survive. I may not actually move until the end of July though so I have some time to get a harvest if things go well. Of the two better established tomato plants I have I realised one had a blackfly infestation on Sunday but have sprayed it with this stuff my brother gave me (something organic) - hopefully that'll work. And then despite my really not wanting to I finished off the day by clearing up the kitchen and then, after soaking my feet, I washed all the floors and had a lovely hot shower before heading to bed. I knew I'd appreciate having done that when I got up this morning and it was definitely nice to have a clean floor rather than one with dirt and grass all over it!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Growing stuff

My seedlings have started to come up, hurray!

I only planted them at the beginning of last week and I know I'm pushing it to get anything much this summer but hopefully I'll get some salady crops (have sown mizuna, spinahc, purslane and some mixed baby lettuce seeds and they're all going great guns). Garlic seems to mostly have given up the ghost but I will try again with it next year and this time pay attention!

Beets are coming up as well, no sign of tomatoes yet, courgettes and squash are flying along and, very excitingly, some leek seedlings appeared. Will have to sit down this weekend and actually write down the types I planted so I have a proper record.

A friend gave me two tomato seedlings about five weeks ago though and I potted both of those into bigger pots last week and they're growing well. And my brother gave me some potatoes which he had chitted for me (i.e. he hadn't used them before they started sprouting so decided he had been 'chitting' just for me) and I shoved them into the ground out front. No harm in trying. I never fully dismantled the potato tyre stack I tried last year (the three tiny potatoes it yielded were blighted) and now it's got a really vigourous looking plant growing again. However, I've read many places to be careful not to let any blight volunteers (i.e. potatoes from a blighted plant left in the ground by accident) grow so have to dig that out and get rid of it. I found two or three similar ones out front but before they really started to grow so it wasn't too bad. There's a healthy looking potato plant also growing out of the compost again so may need to do some investigating of that this weekend.

I like growing stuff.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Noses and attitudes

Quick update on the whole hanky thing. I love it and it's another one of those things I can't believe I took so long to get around to. No problems with snotty dirty ones either, haven't done any special soaking, just throw them into the laundry basket and wash them with my usual weekly load. I think if I had a cold I'd be more careful and would probably soak them in water with tea-tree oil or similar while they were waiting to be washed but otherwise am happy with the way things are. My nose appreciates it too. I've been sneezing a lot with hayfever recently so all in all it was a good move.

My sister was home from Oz for a couple of weeks and we had a great time. We didn't have too much catching up to do as we spend lots of time on the phone doing that (apropos of which, can I recommend www.dialwise.ie to anyone making international calls from Ireland - my call charges this phone bill were 8 euro where normally they would be at least 40 euro and I wasn't trying to make fewer calls at all - one more thing I should have done a long time ago). However, it was nice to just sit and chat about anything and nothing. We never seem to run out of conversation and we had two really nice nights out with one of our other sisters and my brother which doesn't always work out (plus spouses). It's a big family and no matter how well we get on individually, when more than three of us congregate it's not always smooth going. :-)

They headed back to Sydney yesterday and before she left she gave me two lovely presents. One was a lovely photo frame with a little poem about sisters on it - I'm going to dig through the family albums and see if I can find a photo of the two of us when we were small to go in it. The other thing she gave me was a little card with the following on it (I don't see anything credited this to anyone so apologies if I'm reproducing something I'm shouldn't and if I am, please let me know and I'll remove it). She said she wasn't sure why but it made her think of me and I really like it. It articulates some things which I really do believe. And coincidentally the card it's on is decorated with some leaves which have a connection to our family and that makes it even more special somehow.


Attitude

Your life is an expression of your mind. You are free to will whatever state of being you desire through the use of your thoughts and words. The quality of your life is brought about by the quality of your thinking. Realise, the one thing you have complete control over is your attitude. See the affect it has on those around you. If you truly want to change your world, you must change your thinking. Reason is your greatest tool. It creates an atmosphere of understanding which leads to caring and love.


In other news the One Local Summer challenge started again and I missed the deadline for registering. I've gotten so bad at blogging regularly that may not be a bad thing. I had an interview in Dusseldorf last week so will hear back in the next week or two whether I get that job or not. It's all happening very fast so I may have a hectic couple of months ahead of me which could make keeping up with any challenge difficult.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Zero waste

Two websites of people who are attempting to live without producing any landfil waste are:

therubbishdiet

homecompostingrecyclingforum

It's interesting reading. I currently put out our big wheelie bin about once every six weeks (sometimes longer, rarely less) - if I was sharing a house with someone who was more into trying to live a sustainable life it would undoubtedly be less. However, one thing I'm very aware of is a tendency to think if it can be recycled then it's okay. I can put plastic bottles into the green bin (which goes out every four or six weeks) and bring soft plastic packaging to a local recycle centre - I do try not to use plastic but sometimes I don't put all that much effort into it I have to admit and all because I know I can send it for recycling. It's something I do have to work on. Particularly because I'm fairly certain there are no recycling plants in Ireland and everything has to be shipped off somewhere else to be recycled. It's reduce, re-use, recycle - recycle is supposed to be the last option.

Using non-disposable sanpro has defintely had a huge impact on the amount of waste I produce - have been using washable pads for over a year and just bought a mooncup to try it out. And I finally found all those cloth hankies which I knew I had. Decided months ago to stop using paper tissues, used up what I had and then couldn't find the cloth ones. Knowing I had them somewhere (they were my dad's, so plenty big enough for my nose too) meant that I didn't want to buy new ones and so I spent a couple of months using toilet roll. Which kind of defeats the purpose! Anyway, have been using the cloth hankies for a few days now and they're so much nicer. Lovely and soft and gentle and I don't have to worry about whether a particularly big sneeze is going to blow them to bits. Won't go back from this one. Would love to start using wee wipes/cloth TP but will need to see what my new housemate is like before trying to sneak that one in.

In other news, Saturday 14th June is world wide knit in public day - there is a knit taking place in Dublin so I'll be hopefully heading along to that. Check out the website to find one in your area/find out about starting one in your area.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Car is gone

Finally sold my car yesterday - there was very little interest in it so it went for about half what I originally thought I'd get. But I didn't see any point in holding out for someone else to maybe come along and offer me a couple of hundred euro more so we the buyer came up from Galway yesterday morning spent about ten minutes looking at the car and driving it down to the end of the road and back (not much of a test drive but as the car isn't taxed or insured I was glad he didn't want to go further), handed over the cash, filled in the form which I'll send off to the authorities tomorrow, got his receipt (marked "sold as seen no warranty given or implied", a tip I'd read on a discussion forum the day before) and headed off again. It was all a bit of a whirlwind and I can still hardly believe I've sold it. What a relief. Although I was giving in up in large part for 'green' reasons, I've been feeling bad about it sitting out there not being used and was wishing someone would take it and get some use out of it. I think that's what they call a paradox!

I rang the dentist just after the car was gone and left a voicemail asking them to phone me back to arrange an appointment. Felt like if I hadn't I'd have spent half the money before getting that crown sorted so it'll be another relief when that's done.

It's a beatiful day today - my little sister is home from Oz so I'm off to see her now. Hadn't seen her for almost a year and a half but it was like I'd only seen her last week - it's nice to have family and friends that that happens with.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Freedom

Funny how having a car and thus presumably the freedom to go further and do more didn't feel as free as I do now, when my choices are limited or at least take far more organising. I think in large part it's down to that overwhelming feeling - when the car is waiting outside the door I have so many options for where to go it's too difficult to settle on any one thing and I end up doing nothing. Whereas when I've to choose what I'm doing based on the bus timetables and factor in the time it takes to walk or get the bus somewhere I have fewer choices which makes it easier to settle on one. I'm sure there's a name for it but can't think of it at the moment - it definitely sounds like the kind of thing that will have been identified in dozens of studies. Words like world-weary, ennui and overwhelmed come to mind. (Which always reminds me of that great line in an American high-school film "I know you can be overwhelmed and I know you can be underwhelmed, but can you just be, like, whelmed?".)

Losing weight is going okay so far - five weeks in and 10.5 lbs down - it's a good, steady weight loss. Year-end is nearly over in work so hopefully things will quieten down a little bit and I'll start making more of an effort to make sure to leave on the dot at 5.30. One of the things I'd promised myself I would do in May was to attend a couple of meetings of Overeaters' Anonymous. I'm not convinced it's really for me and having read a bit about the 12-step program on their website (it's the same as AA or any of the other 'anonymous' groups) it seems even less likely; however I am going to go to two or three just to see. It's not fair to dismiss it out of hand, I might love it and find it a great help and at the very least I will be better able to figure out if the direction I'm going in trying to deal with my eating is the right one for me.

I've been thinking a lot about food and eating and eating disorders recently. It has taken me a long time to accept that I have an eating disorder and I've realised recently that part of that is because all the words used have such negative connotations. Overeating, food addiction. What I need is a nice, respectable Latin name, not something that makes it sounds like I'm just lazy and weak (that feeling might be irrational but hey, these are my 'all in my head' issues we're talking about).

A couple of months ago my therapist read me some details of the criteria for making a diagnosis of an eating disorder - even he was surprised that overeating and food addiction are not actually listed as eating disorders. There was one brief paragraph which stated that obesity is not an eating disorder (I agree, that's like saying skininess is an eating disorder!) but is a growing trend. However when he read me the criteria for anoerexia and bulimia, almost all of them, with the exception of purging, applied to me. So where does that leave me? Perhaps I'll find some answers at OA, perhaps not, maybe I'll decide the label really isn't important (I know that already but don't quite accept it), who knows, it's worth a try.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Car free

Yes, indeedy, as of today I am a car free woman. That is to say, I haven't actually managed to sell my car yet but since my insurance expired yesterday I can no longer drive it. I'm mostly feeling relief but also a tiny bit trepidatious. However, living within four miles of the city centre and within 10 to 15 minutes walk of plenty of bus routes (luckily including two which don't just go into the city centre but out to Blackrock via Dundrum and to Sandymount via Rathmines and Ranelagh) not to mention no more than about 20 minutes walk to a supermarket and only 7 to smaller shops, including a bakery I should be fine. Terenure village is just about 30 minutes walk and there are more shops there, plenty of restauants and pubs (not that I go out much), banks and the library. Really no reason for me to have a car except for (a) driving up the mountains to go walking or (b) driving out to the outer suburbs to visit friends who have bought houses (it's the only place anyone of my age can really afford to buy, I can only live so centrally because I'm still renting and sharing a house). Swords, Clondalkin etc. are all accessible by bus even if the journeys are a bit on the long side. I will miss walking up the mountains but there are some beautiful parks near me or at the other end of a bus route as well as Sandymount Strand so I'll just have to walk in different spaces for a while.

My sister is coming home from Australia in a few weeks for a holiday. I'll probably hire a car one of the weekends they're here but need to find out first what her plans are. They will definitely be heading down to the parachute club for at least one weekend and that's only accessible by car (or plane obviously) and it might be nice to go with them for a day. Will wait and see.

Otherwise I'm looking forward to getting a bit fitter by having to walk more. It costs €1.50 for me to get the bus into town but up to or over €2 to go further afield. It's probably not practical for me to buy a monthly ticket yet as it costs €85 and that's a lot of money to spend if I'm not sure I'm going to always use at least two €1.50 journeys per day - during the week that's no problem but at the weekends I won't always need to go somewhere on the bus. The flexibility would be nice though. For now I'll continue to pay just the normal fare to and from work and have bought a Travel 90 handy pack to use on weekends. That's ten tickets for €1.70 each and you can use them for two trips provided the first one starts within 90 minutes of the second. For things like going into the market on Saturday mornings I should easily be able to get in, do my shopping and be back on a bus within that amount of time. For travelling to visit friends it'll also be a saving as it'd be €1.50 into town and then maybe €2.00 out to them and now I'll be able to do the same journey for €1.70. I'm going to keep a careful log of the money I spend on transport going forward so that I can make sure I'm spending the least amount of money necessary but it's nice to have options.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

International Downshifting Week

Haven't posted for ages but have been getting a lot of stuff done. I will catch up on events soon I'm sure.

For now, just a quick post about International Downshifting Week, which starts on Saturday next, 19th April:

"If you are looking for a little help to slow down your pace and enjoy life more, this is the place for you!

Our campaign was formerly known as 'National' Downshifting Week. This year, as a result of the strong support we've received from around the globe asking if other countries can officially 'join in', we've simply decided to rename it
'InterNational Downshifting Week'!"

For more details, check out this link

As I normally find out about these things after the event I was glad to hear about this one. I already do a lot of the things suggested but I think having a 'week' is a good idea to help me re-focus my attention. Sometimes I'm so busy trying to simplify and downshift that I forget what it's all about! I'm making a good start to it though as my car insurance runs out tomorrow, 17th April and despite not having managed to sell my car yet I haven't caved and just renewed the insurance so from tomorrow I'll be a car-less person, back to enjoying the simple pleasures of walking to the shops and so on.

Happy Wednesday all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crocs

I'm thinking of buying a pair of Crocs shoes but trawling through their website to find out a bit more about them wasn't really able to find out what they're made of. So, I've sent them off the following query:

Hi there

After hearing about Crocs on a blog I read last year I've been thinking about saving for a pair. Then they became available in Dublin airport and it turns out they're not as pricey as I thought and they come in way more colours than I realised. I was however, under the impression that they were made out of 100% natural rubber but reading your FAQs see that is not true. However, I'm still not too clear on what exactly Croslite™ proprietary Closed Cell Resin (PCCR) material is. Could you elaborate, please?

I'm particularly concerned with the eco impact of every aspect of my life and so before deciding whether to go ahead and buy or not, would prefer to be in full possesion of all the facts about them. I'm not saying I won't buy them if I find out they have a high carbon footprint (hate that expression but hey, it's the buzzword du jour so why not) but I prefer to be aware of all aspects of what I'm buying.

So, my most important question is what exactly Croslite™ proprietary Closed Cell Resin (PCCR) material is. Second, where are they made? Finally, do they wear out (presumably at some stage they will) and if so, can they be repaired, if not, how are they best disposed of.

Thanks for your help.

Regards

J.


I've very tempted to buy a pair as they do seem from the testimonials to be good for plantar fasciitis and heelspurs. Would be interested to hear from anyone using these, particularly any less than glowing reports as so far I haven't really been able to find anyone who wears them who isn't totally in love with them.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A few photos from this weekend.

First, somewhat prosaic but none the less beautiful for that.
I actually managed to wash these bedclothes and get them out on the line and they were mostly dry just over an hour later, just slightly damp around some of the edges. It was a wonderful spring day, breezy but with glorious sunshine and blue skies. I did take them in just after taking this photo though as about one minute later, this appeared:

Followed by this: Better safe than sorry and I was glad I had brought them in as the rain fell on and off through the afternoon building up to a big storm last night. I normally try to rotate by bedclothes a bit but once these had finished drying inside on the back of a chair I just put them straight back on the bed. Just love the smell of fresh air in bed.


Otherwise this weekend I spent most of my time knitting. It's my last class this Tuesday and so I wanted to be finished so that I can spend that last class putting it all together and learning tips for finishing. Here's where I am now: I've also knit the neckband (on the bus into work this morning) so this evening I just need to finish the other arm. I've got a much better handle on the rib at this stage though so it shouldn't take as long as the first one did. Hopefully I haven't just jinxed myself by saying that. Despite having made it a couple of inches longer in the back and the front than given in the pattern it still feels a bit short to me but I'm hoping that once it's all sewn together and I'm actually wearing it, the weight will drag the rib down a bit rather than being as springy as it is at the moment.

And finally, the bread I made yesterday as well. Not quite the small cake of soda bread I intended (this is about twice the size it would normally be) but close enough. I had no ordinary wholemeal flower left so used wholegrain spelt flour instead. I was also a bit generous with the liquid, I think spelt just takes a bit longer to absorb or something so I thought it was dry and added some extra water (didn't have enough buttermilk left) which then left me with a much too wet mixture. Decided to just bung it in the oven and see what happened and got what might be the nicest bread I've made for a while. It could probably have done with a few more minutes in the oven as it's a touch doughy in the middle but it makes the best toast I've had for a long time.

I also found some phalcelia seeds left over from last year and sowed a good lot down at the back of the garden in the shady spot where very little else will grow. At least we might attract a few more bees in with it.

And, to my surprise, I found this growing from a plant I thought might have finished already. I didn't think carnations flowered more than a year or two and since this is technically this plant's third year and, since it is only March (carnations are supposed to flower July to September) I wasn't expecting to see a flower. Smells divine though.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Knitting progress

The weeks and days are flying away from me again. Every year it seems to be more and more true what they say about time passing more quickly as you get older. I can't believe it's St Patricks day on Monday week. A friend is getting married on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend and it doesn't seem possible that it has arrived so quickly.

I have made some progress on my jumper though, which is good. I'm hoping to spend most of this weekend working on it and would love to have it nearly finished for our class next Tuesday, which is the final one. I have really enjoyed the class and learned a lot but mostly gained a lot of confidence. Here's where I am so far:

This is the first sleeve and first inch or so of the back and front (for a bit of perspective I put a little tea light candle in a glass holder beside it). I made the sleeve about two inches longer than in the pattern and have also made the back and front eight stiches longer each. This was the great thing about the class I've done - learning that I don't need to slavishly follow the pattern measurements and giving me the confidence to decide, no that won't fit me, I'll knit a bit more.

I have to knit 8 inches more to get to where it starts to separate for the neck, then knit around the neck opening and then pick up those stitches again to knit the other side as far as the sleeve and then decreasing to knit that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Blanket Project

Stupid blogger is losing my posts again. I'm glad I had this one typed out on my pc before trying to post it!

It's a good friend's 40th birthday this summer. I stayed with him in Germany last September and while I was there knit him a scarf as a thank you present. He loves it and shortly after I came home I remembered that he would be 40 in July. At the same time I had been starting to teach my brother to knit and he was working on a baby blanket from one of the Debbie Bliss books. Basically it's a patchwork blanket made up of lots of 10cm squares, so a good starter project. I decided that I could do the same blanket but make it bigger to give to H. for his birthday. And then did no more about it. Last week I realised that if I wanted to get it done in time for his birthday I would need to be knitting at least two squares a day every day between now and the end of July. Aaagh. Better get a move on.

That estimate was based on four baby blanket sized ones sewn together, which would be about 140cm x 160cm. I'll probably try to actually make it a bit bigger than that so that it could be used as a cover for a double bed which is, I think 180cm or so. I had some wool for this project already, I'm using the Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran so I started in on it and knit a few dark brown and a few cream squares. I was thinking of doing it mostly in those earthy tones as I also had some nice green. And then I realised I also had a dusky pink and a navy. And I was already thinking it'd be nice to do a brighter colour for the border. Did I forget to mention the border?

Well, last week at knitting class I found out what moss stitch is. I really like the way it looks and it seems to be simple enough so when thinking about the blanket I thought it might be nice to finish it up with a border of moss stitch all around the stocking stich squares. That would probably give me the extra width I want as well.

All well and good but then I called into This Is Knit yesterday to see what other colours they had (I've had a strong feeling that there should be red in this blanket even though it may not go so well with my earthy tones and even though I wasn't sure that yarn is even available in red). I bought a few balls of different colours and am fast moving away from cream, brown and green to proper patchwork multcoloured. I now also have a lovely purple, wine, dusky blue, lighter green and red. Yes, they do it in red and it's a gorgeous shade. I'm knitting up a few squares in each colour so that I can see how they work together and am thinking I might be able to do up a simple spreadsheet of coloured squares to keep track of the whole thing. I'm very excited about this and have since come up with another idea. I'm positively shocking myself as I've never really thought of myself as particularly creative. I'm normally very much a follow-the-instructions kind of girl.

At the moment my plan is: knit a baby blanket sized blanket as per the Debbie Bliss pattern. Then knit a border around that. Then knit enough squares for three more baby blanket sized ones and use them to make the blanket out to the size I want (but not as simple as just knitting four small blankets and sewing them together). Finally, to knit a border around the whole thing in moss stitch. Now, I just need to decide on the colours. I also thought it might be nice (and easier) to sew all the squares together using one colour wool rather than sewing each square with the same colour wool as that square. So, I'll need to decide on a colour for that. Maybe that's where my red could come in. It's all very exciting and a good contrast to the frustration of the jumper! :-)

The Blanket Project

First, may I just say that I'm finding it very amusing that almost every time I type blanket, I actually type blankey. It's a silly thing but it has made me grin every time I've done it while typing this post (on my pc of course, I'd never do anything so silly as to type a post directly into blogger and then loose everything because of error bX-h59pth!

So, to the blanket project. It's a good friend's 40th birthday this summer. I stayed with him in Germany last September and while I was there knit him a scarf as a thank you present. He loves it and shortly after I came home I remembered that he would be 40 in July. At the same time I had been starting to teach my brother to knit and he was working on a baby blanket from one of the Debbie Bliss books. Basically it's a patchwork blanket made up of lots of 10cm squares, so a good starter project. I decided that I could do the same blanket but make it bigger to give to H. for his birthday. And then did no more about it. Last week I realised that if I wanted to get it done in time for his birthday I would need to be knitting at least two squares a day every day between now and the end of July. Aaagh. Better get a move on.

That estimate was based on four baby blanket sized ones sewn together, which would be about 140cm x 160cm. I'll probably try to actually make it a bit bigger than that so that it could be used as a cover for a double bed which is, I think 180cm or so. Of course I'm not so good with the square so at the moment I have slightly more regtangular shapes than square but I think once I've blocked them they will be almost square.

I had some wool for this project already, I'm using the Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran so I started in on it and knit a few dark brown and a few cream squares. Here are the first two brown ones, sorry, the colour doesn't come out too well.

I was thinking of doing it mostly in those earthy tones as I also had some nice green. And then I realised I also had a dusky pink and a navy. And I was already thinking it'd be nice to do a brighter colour for the border. Did I forget to mention the border?

Well, last week at knitting class I found out what moss stitch is. I really like the way it looks and it seems to be simple enough so when thinking about the blanket I thought it might be nice to finish it up with a border of moss stitch all around the stocking stich squares. That would probably give me the extra width I want as well.

All well and good but then I called into This Is Knit yesterday to see what other colours they had (I've had a strong feeling I should have red in this blanket even though it may not go so well with my earthy tones and even though I wasn't sure this yarn is even available in red). I bought a few balls of different colours and am fast moving away from cream, brown and green to proper multcoloured patchwork. I now have a lovely purple, wine, dusky blue, lighter green and red. Yes, they do it in red and it's a gorgeous shade. I'm knitting up a few squares in each colour so that I can see how they work together and am thinking I might be able to do up a simple spreadsheet of coloured squares to keep track of the whole thing. I'm very excited about this and have since come up with another idea. I'm positively shocking myself as I've never really thought of myself as particularly creative. I'm normally very much a follow-the-instructions kind of girl.

At the moment my plan is: knit a baby blanket sized blanket as per the Debbie Bliss pattern. Then knit a border around that. Then knit enough squares for three more baby blanket sized ones and use them to make the blanket out to the size I want (but not as simple as just knitting four small blankets and sewing them together). Finally, to knit a border around the whole thing in moss stitch. Now, I just need to decide on the colours. I also thought it might be nice (and easier) to sew all the squares together using one colour wool rather than sewing each square with the same colour wool as that square. So, I'll need to decide on a colour for that. Maybe that's where my red could come in. It's all very exciting and a good contrast to the frustration of the jumper! :-)

Rats!

Well, a rat. A dead one to be precise. In my compost heap. The cheek!

I went down to add more stuff to the compost on Saturday morning (would have done the same on Wednesday but it was dark so didn't notice anything) and noticed some mangy looking fur lying on top of but kind of burrowed into one corner. I've seen cats climbing over the compost heap before (collapsing the top of it every time, I really should put a solid top on it) so although it didn't really look like a cat that was my first thought, that a cat had dug in for the heat. But cats don't like to get dirty, do they? I gave the fur a poke and it didn't move and then I noticed the big long tail at the end of the pile of fur. Eeeeww!!!! Which reaction caused me to think I may not be cut out for country life one little bit! I was also, to be honest, quite scared and had every fact/myth I'd ever heard about rats running through my head. I don't run or else I might very well have run screaming up the garden into the safety of the house. As it was there was definitely some shuddering and I was no sooner in the "safety" of the house when I remembered there's a cat flap in the back door (from previous owners) which doesn't shut and my head was promptly filled with visions of giant rats invading via the cat flap to take revenge on me for messing with one of their dead.

Hmmm. Yes. This is why I never watch horror films on purpose.

I left it alone and went out yesterday morning and it still hadn't moved so I bit the bullet, grabbed it by the tail and put it into a plastic bag and threw it in the bin. Really, finding a plastic bag was the most difficult part of the exercise. But I'm still a bit shuddery.

Now for the practical bit where I need to probably dismantle that compost heap to make sure there's no nest in it (it gets turned about once a month and I've never noticed anything before). Can I use that compost safely or should I make sure to only use it on flowerbeds and not edible ones? I'm sure I've seen this discussed so will have to go and search. Anyone with any tips please let me know.

Knitting

I had a big long post about all my knitting achievements all written and then got an error when I tried to publish it. Blogger having lulled me into a false sense of security by working perfectly for months now, I didn't have a copy and had just typed straight into Blogger. Oh well.

I think I was saying how I had my second class and that after spending the entire week between classes swatching our teacher spent a good five or ten minutes checking my swatches and getting just as frustrated as I had because they just didn't seem to make sense. At any rate, we finally decided on 7mm needles - quite a difference from the 12.75mm (US 17) needles recommended in the pattern. Oh well, my row gauge was exactly right with 7mm and as this is a sideways knit that was most important.

When I was writing this post originally I had done a couple of inches and was just a few rows into the start of increasing. Since then I've spent a couple of hours at it but haven't gotten very far as increasing throws out the cable and I don't like the way it's looking. The rib pattern is RS: P2,K2 and then WS: K2, P2. For the increasing part of things I'm supposed to P2, K2, increase by 1 then continue in rib until four before the end, increase by one more and finish with K2, P2. Then do the same every second row twice more and then every fourth row nine times. However that means I don't have a simple K2, P2 rib on the WS anymore. Nor on RS then next time around. It's very frustrating but I'll do another hour or so this evening and then see what she says tomorrow evening. That'll be the third of five classes but I think once I have this part figured out I might be able to get a good go at it so that by next week I might have something that's starting to look like a jumper.

This is what it looked like at the end of my class last week:


I'm going to do a separate post for my other knitting project - the blanket.

Edited 2 March 2013: I've been clearing out some old drafts and it seems like some of the posts I thought I had lost ended up somewhere in drafts and in a later version of blogger have become visible again.  At least, I'm sure that's the reason I couldn't find them before.  Anyway, here's the post which I assume I was referring to above, just as I wrote it then.  Sorry if it's duplicating something else I've posted but since I wrote it, I decided to just go ahead and post it.


I've made some progress on my jumper. I spent all last week swatching and just could not figure it out so the day before my next class (last Tuesday) I decided to rip it all up and do new swatches which I could bring in and let Aileen decide on. This pattern calls for US size 17 needles, which are 12.75 mm. Knowing I am a loose knitter I thought maybe 10mm would do. Ended up swatching 10mm, 9mm, 8mm and 7mm to bring with me. Even Aileen couldn't figure it out and spent a good few minutes with the measuring tape and looking every bit like she wanted to tear her hair out (i.e. the same feeling as I'd had all week!). We finally decided on 7mm as being the closest on stitches and it's perfect for the row gauge, which is particularly important for this pattern.

So, I got started and have about 1.5" knit of the first sleeve. Hope to get a good go at it this weekend and get that sleeve finished and expand out into the body of it.

I also made a start on a present which I'm planning for a friend's 40th this summer. I decided to knit him a patchwork blanket ages ago but finally realised that if I don't start soon I'll never be finished by the end of July. I'm basing it on a pattern in a Debbie Bliss book of baby patterns and plan to knit about four times the number of squares given for the baby blanket. This means I need to knit about two squares every day until his birthday so last night I did my first two. I'm using Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran, although I think the pattern uses cashmerino chunky so my blanket's going to be a bit smaller and I may decide to do more squares if I have time. The cashmerion aran has some gorgeous earthy colours which are perfect for what I have in mind. So far I have dark brown, green and cream and I'll knit what I have before deciding whether to add more colours or not. I also want to then knit a border for the whole thing, which I'm thinking of doing in moss stitch. I've just found out how to do that and love the way it looks.

I also have three scarves on the go and have promised one more scarf to another friend (can wait till next winter now I think!) and a tea-cosy to another friend. And all of that is more than enough to keep me busy for several months so I'm trying not to think about how much I want to learn to knit socks so that I can make myself some fuzzy feet. I have to say though, that it's a very rewarding hobby. Would be nice to be able to spin too so I could make my own wool but I think that will have to be a project for another year.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fruity silliness - I'm a pear! :-)




You Are a Pear



You are independent, intelligent, and a free thinker.

You can accomplish great things, especially when you do them on your own.



You are direct, honest, and sometimes even a bit brutal.

There's not much that gets in the way of you and your ambition.



While you are hard nosed, you do have a much sweeter side to you.

It takes times for you to soften toward someone, but once you do, you'll be their friend for life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Knitting

I've been knitting away and have fallen in love with Rowan Big Wool, which is 100% merino wool. And which has led to me blowing my budget for the month on buying enough of it to make myself a jumper. I had my first of five "Make a Sweater" classes yesterday evening and spent the entire time swatching. I was very pleased to learn how to do this properly though and, as I knit even more loosely than I thought, glad I took the time to do it. I'm knitting a jumper which has a sideways pattern i.e. you start at one sleeve and knit the length of that, increase once you get to the body and knit the body and then decrease when you get across to the other sleeve and knit that. It's a pattern from a book my sister brought home from the States for me last year called Hot Knits. I chose a pattern made with Big Wool as I think it should knit up quite quickly and so I'll hopefully be making good progress before I start to get frustrated. Although as I need to go down three needle sizes from what's recommended to get gauge it's going to be a bit slower than I thought. I'm ignoring minor points like the fact that I left it late to get the wool and wasn't able to get all 14 balls from the same dyelot.

I also finished my tea cosy last week and have sent it off to my swap partner in Australia. I had a lot of fun doing that as I didn't use any of the patterns available free online but instead made my own up. It was essentially the same hat pattern that I've made several times before but doubled in size. This involved a half-an-hour or so with a calculator to figure out the shaping part of it and what I ended up with was HUGE but as it was being felted that was okay. I'm not going to post photos until my swap partner receives it just in case she sees it here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday 28th after a bad weekend

Lunch was home made veg soup with a bit of chicken thrown in and some homemade bread. I've also had an apple (which I brought in) and a pear and a banana from the fruit platter in work.

Dinner will be something with chicken. I bought a chicken from Coolanowle yesterday, slightly smaller than usual but still a good size. It, plus three (very tasty) rashers and a half-dozen organic, free range eggs cost €18.19. I got some onions and a few leeks from Denis Healy as well, who for once actually had marked up what was Irish organic produce which cost €2.15. I allowed myself to be persuaded to go to the cinema on Saturday, bought popcorn there (definitely not a frugal thing to do but as filling a lunch as any other) and after the film we went for a couple, well, three drinks. That plus the takeaway I felt I needed on the way home left me not much of my budget for the rest of the week. I do have €20 left from last week which will have to do me for going out to lunch later in the week. Still, I'm glad I went out on Saturday - I rarely do anything spontaneous like that and I had a good time. Mind you, deciding to get off the bus early and stroll down Grafton Street on the way to the cinema wasn't such a great idea - I couldn't believe the amount of people and then remembered why I don't go into town much anymore.

Yesterday, after spending what felt like the whole day (but was really only a couple of hours) giving a driving lesson to a panicky friend who was having her driving test today (she passed, thank goodness) I was in no mood for doing anything in the house so I spent the last hour of glorious sunshine tidying up the shed a bit and cutting the grass, turning the compost a little and generally tidying up the garden, including chatting to the neighbour over the front garden fence for twenty minutes. I really needed to get out in the fresh air. Still didn't feel like cooking or expending any effort when I came in so I just shoved the chicken into the oven to roast. By the time it was cooked though I at least felt enthusiastic enough to strip the carcass and put several portions of meat into the freezer for next week plus some into the fridge for today. And then I also made stock straightaway.

While doing all this I managed to keep the washing up under control so this evening when I go home I just have to clean the bathrooms, the cooker and do the floors. A last quick tidy up before I go to bed (for which read, bringing everything that's lying around upstairs and dumping it in my bedroom instead!) and the house will be good enough to show people tomorrow - the landlord will be over and showing the other room to prospective new tenants. I spent a few hours knitting yesterday instead of cleaning the house and I really want to get back to it so it's an added incentive to not dally while cleaning and just get it done.

I made a new hat for my youngest niece and started and am halfway through a scarf for her older sister. This is really their Christmas box I'm making stuff for as I couldn't summon up the energy in December to make and send things. It's my nephew and brother-in-law's birthdays this weekend so I'm aiming to post stuff over by Wednesday for both the birthdays and Christmas pressies for everyone.

Budget

I've been tinkering with my budget spreadsheet. Over the past four years or so I've amended this spreadsheet to come up with a format that I can manage. It serves as both my budget planner and for tracking my spending. What I've never done is add in/figure out percentages as part of all that. I know it's important though and seeing items of expenditure expressed in percentage terms can make things hit home a bit harder (a good thing). This was mostly prompted by my rent going up so I now know that my rent has gone up by about 6% and, as a fraction of my income that's just over a 1% increase.

I've expressed expenditure as percentage of take-home pay. The only items which are taken out of my gross salary are pension, health insurance and tax/PRSI. So, for January (including my expected outgoings up to the end of the month) things look like this:
Loan repayment: 19.45%
Rent: 18.59%
Visa: 12.53%
HSA: 1.78% (this is a cash plan to supplement health insurance)
Donation: 0.83%
Car savings: 5.93% (savings account to use for car repairs and tax)
Car insurance: 1.45%
Savings: 0%
AA: 0.59%
Counselling: 2.77%
Misc. (food etc.): 49.93%
Bills (esb, gas, phone): 3.96%
Bank charges: 0.81%

The amounts on visa refer generally to petrol, parking, bus tickets and, for this month, antibiotics I had to buy (and which I should get a part refund on from HSA). I also took cash out once - something I normally don't do and now can't remember why. I use my visa mostly for the convenience and it is paid off every month in full. Bills includes the landline phone in the house but I pay separately for credit for my mobile phone, usually topping up once a month or so. The amount for bills is put into an online saving account with high interest - all of these bills are actually paid by direct debit by our landlady and I then transfer my share to her. I put more or less the same amount in each month to make sure I have enough to cover bills as they come up and am slowly building up a bit of a reserve for emergencies. I did need to spend money on a new car battery this month but that is covered under misc. as I didn't take money out of my car account this time. Misc. also covers some money which I put into savings to hold it for a month until a charge comes through on my credit card for products I ordered from Innocent Oils - I'll transfer that money back into my current account to cover part of the cheque I write to pay the credit card bill this month. The bank charges were government stamp duty on a new cheque book and the annual charge on my ATM/laser card - I have a current account with no admin fees.

Observant people among you might notice that that all adds up to more than 100% - this is because I had some extra income this month, money my boss gave me for Christmas and that my sister sent me for Christmas as well. However, it's more realistic to express things as a percentage of my normal take-home pay. Ideally any extra income should go straight into savings or be used for bigger, one-off expenses so I need to try and stop fooling myself into thinking I've managed well, when in reality it may only be the extra money I had that month that kept me afloat.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dishcloths

Having read so many blog and comments from people who knit their own dishcloths I decided to finally try my hand at it. I plan to send these to my sister in Sydney. I wanted to try this a while ago and so when I was in a shop and saw some cotton yarn I bought it and it has been sitting in a bag for months waiting for me to do soemthing with it. Of course, that was before I really copped on that there are different sizes of cotton yarn, just like wool and these were very thin types. I'm still not sure what worsted weight is but I just went for it and knit these by using the two different cottons together, one is a light yellow and one is a cream colour. The colours don't show up well in the photos.

I also had some cotton yarn which was given to me for the workshop on continental knitting I attended during the Knitting and Stitching show and it's a lovely soft one (possibly not so good for a dishcloth but what the hell). All three cloths are slightly different lengths and widths. I look forward to making some for myself now.

Dinner 24 January

I realise these types of posts will be pretty boring for anyone who may be reading and isn't possessed of any voyeuristic traits but this is a handy way for me to track my eating and cooking as well as my spending so I'm going to keep it up for as long as it's working for me with an aim of getting back to a proper tracking of my food by the end of February assisting me in losing weight.

Last night I didn't get home until just after eight and, despite the mars and crisps at six I was very hungry. I needed to make soup as I had the stock out of the freezer and in a way that was good as it forced me to cook and since I was chopping veg for soup it didn't seem too much to contemplate chopping a little bit extra to make a dinner. This is exactly the kind of evening that in November and December ended in me phoning a takeaway while walking home from the busstop so that I'd have a (very unhealthy but very filling) meal delivered not long after I got in the door.

I decided to toast two small slices of bread to eat while I was preparing the food to stave off the hunger for a little while longer. First up I made some pastry and then put that into the fridge. At this stage I'd totally forgotten about the mince I'd also taken out of the freezer the night before and had decided to make a quiche. Pastry went into the fridge to cool while I chopped onions, garlic, shallots and leeks, doing enough onions and garlic for the soup as well. I also took out some carrots, potatoes and celery for the soup and a large scallion I'd completely forgotten about. I sauteed onion, garlic, shallot and leek for a few minutes and took the pastry out to roll out. Placed pastry into a dish, spread the onions etc. on that (would normally spread a bit of mustard onto the pastry first but wasn't in the mood for mustard this time), added a few sun-dried tomatoes and three or four slices of goats cheese. I used duck eggs mixed with a little milk, seasoning and herbs and the whole lot went into the oven while I made the soup.

Washed and chopped potatoes and carrots, sauteed them plus the remaining onions, garlic and scallion for a couple of minutes and then added the stock and left to cook. As I was trying to do everything so fast I'd managed to spread out over the whole counter so next I spent a few minutes tidying up, washing the dishes I'd used and wiping down the counter. Had no sooner finished this than I remembered the mince. So, back off the draining board came the chopping board and I chopped another onion and a couple of carrots while the mince was browning a bit. This mince had a huge amount of fat in it (so I was very glad the farmer had thrown in some extra without charging me for it!) so I poured most of it off into a bowl and then added the onion. Finally the carrots and some stock and seasoning and left the whole lot to simmer while I tidied up again and took the quiche out of the oven. All of that, plus changing out of my work clothes, opening my bedroom windows to air the room, bringing the compost out and lighting some incense and candles in the living room took me just over an hour and then I was able to sit down and relax while eating my dinner. Which was delicious by the way. I've just finished the rest of the quiche for lunch today - can't believe I've finished the whole thing in two meals but I was really, really hungry last night and did go back for seconds.

I added a few frozen peas to the mince and that mix is now waiting in the fridge to be made into shepherds pie, which I'll probably do tomorrow. I had the last two tiny slices of bread as toast for breakfast this morning so will need to make more bread this evening or tomorrow. One loaf is plenty for a week and of course, the joy of homemade bread is that it keeps very well for that long. I have buttermilk though so will make soda bread again this week. I got the River Cottage Family Cookbook a while back and am dying to try my hand at sourdough bread too.

I'm trying to clear out my cupboard, fridge and freezer so will be going through them this evening or early tomorrow to decide what I can make over the next couple of weeks with what I have, adding the minimal amount of shopping to it. I've a lunch with colleages next week, a work night away plus a hen night away next weekend, am due to go back to the dentist on Thursday to have two old fillings replaced and the landlord is showing the other room to prospective new tenants on Tuesday evening so need to take all that into account as well.

Positive attitude

I just read this on the A Posse Ad Esse blog and had to share. Possibly the best reason I have ever heard of to stay positive! Fantastic stuff. Absolutely brilliant.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
~ Herm Albright

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Food and spending 24 January

Yesterday's dinner was scrambled eggs and toast - quick, delicious and filling, just what I needed.

Up late this morning and no time to even think of breakfast.

Sausage sandwich from work canteen: €1.90

Lunch was leftover pasta from Monday. I thought I'd taken soup out of the freezer but it turns out I had no soup left and took out a big container of stock instead. So I grabbed the last of the pasta from Monday and that did with an apple during the afternoon and am now having a packet of crisps and a mars.

Crisps and mars from machine: €1.40 (because I didn't have exact change got charged 10c more, oh well).

Shouldn't need to spend any more today. Looks like I'm making soup this evening, since I have stock out of the freezer. Also took out the lamb mince to make shepherd's pie - will see if I feel up to all that work, if not will just brown the mince and do the pie tomorrow. Actually I think that is what I'll do - it's supposed to be made with leftovers anyway.

Total: €3.30

Tired and dizzy feeling again in the last couple of hours - need to get home to bed I think.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spending 23 January

Lotto: €4.00
Packet of crisps and maltesers from work canteen: €1.30

Total: €5.30

Spending 21 January

From local shop (which recently became a Centra):

Glenisk creme fraiche - €1.65
Glenish cream - €1.51
Hula hoops - €0.85

Total: €4.01

Lunch on Monday was leftover roast lamb with some homemade bread and chutney (from McNally's). Snack was an apple and some more of the dried fruit & nut mix. Dinner was the leftover potatoes and carrots from Sunday layered with some onion and garlic and creme fraiche then cooked in the oven for half an hour. The hula hoops were my appetiser, eaten on the way home as I got delayed in work and was very hungry by the time I got to the shop, never mind by the time I got home. Had two Lindor sweets for dessert.

Was sick yesterday, thought it was a migraine coming on, I was feeling really dizzy when I got up so stayed home and slept for a good part of the day - any time I got up I still felt dizzy. It was very disconcerting as I'd feel fine while I was in bed but then woozy just from getting up. Was somewhat better by evening so got up and ate the soup from the freezer which I'd taken out for lunch with some more homemade bread. I also cooked a simple pasta sauce as I'd taken tomato sauce out of the freezer the night before as well. A couple of hours after eating the soup I was hungry again so I threw some pasta into the cooked sauce and reheated it, cooking the pasta at the same time. I ate some of that and will have more of it for lunch today.

The fact that not only was I able to eat, I was actually hungry suggests to me that it wasn't a migraine at all, or else an extremely mild one that only a few hours sleep was able to take care of (unlikely but not impossible). I still have the remnants of a cold and chest infection since before Christmas and I think it may be related to that. Am in work today but did feel a bit dizzy again when I got up this morning. Will see how I feel after work before deciding if I should head to the doctor or not. I'm waiting to see a neurologist about my left foot (since October, my appointment is for the first week of March), which has been numb for unexplained reasons so that makes me very nervous about any other strange symptoms. At least it's Wednesday so we're halfway through the week.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Other expenditure - 19/20 January

Paid mechanic for rest of car battery: €15
Takeaway treat on Saturday evening, beef curry from Thai Thai: €15

Remaining budget for week: €40. I have taken small change (€4.13) out of my purse and put it in a separate envelope as it'll just get spent otherwise.

Expected expenses:
Bus ticket: €3 - I have some left from previous weeks so should only need to buy tickets for one day.

Market shopping - Saturday 19 January

From Down to Earth health food shop:

Honey (Wexford) - €6.20
Chocolate - €2.50

Total: €8.70

From McNally's (organic, local) at market (I didn't write down the individual prices of what I bought but rather the kilo prices):


Potatoes: €1.75/kg
Carrots: €2.20/kg (€2.50/kg for washed carrots, didn't bother with them!)
Yellowstone carrots: €2.50/kg
Leeks €5.00/kg

I also bought 6 duck eggs, a small jar of goose fat (€5) and a pint of buttermilk (75c).

Total: €14.50

I was also delighted to see the apple guy there again so from Llewellyns (non-organic but Irish grown. These are the Elstars and Jonagolds):

2 kg Louth bramleys: €5
1 kg Elstar: €3
1 kg Red Jonagold: €3
Special offer of €1 off 2 kgs of Elstar/Jonagold

Total: €10

Grand total (including €3 bus into town and home): €36.20

Money

I have a lot of thoughts on money and the cost of food but I have to admit I've been very careless about prices for a long time now. When I lived in Germany after college I knew the price of everything I bought in every supermarket. I didn't just go to one supermarket - I went to five, which one depending on what I was looking for. That was also my first time living in my own flat but following my first experience of cooking for myself the previous year during a semester abroad, I felt confident enough to move on from Ragu to making my own bolognese sauce (I started by still buying Ragu and adding tins of tomatoes and gradually worked up to doing it all myself) and even real cheese and bread instead of easi singles and that horrible long life toast bread. I only had two rings for cooking and no oven so my diet was pretty basic - potatoes, pasta, bread, cheese, sausage, eggs, milk and cereals, fruit sometimes and an occasional piece of meat although it tended to be mince or something frozen (usually chicken) which could be fried. That was the period when I was closer than I've ever been to a normal weight although my cholesterol went through the roof so I had to learn to buy pasta made without eggs and so on and so forth.

When I came home in '97 I moved in with my oldest sister as it was an easier commute to work than from home. The idea was that I'd spend a month living with her and then find my own place but as my dad got sick I ended up staying for seven months. Had a great time though as my dinner would be more or less ready on the table every evening when I got home and she'd even make me sandwiches for lunch when she was making her kids' and husband's lunches. So, no need to go food shopping.

After that, even when I moved into my own place I somehow never got into the habit I'd had in Germany of checking and knowing the prices of everything in the supermarket. I was working in my first real job at the time so even though I wasn't being paid a lot it was way more than I'd ever had before so I just bought whatever I felt like. Of course, I couldn't really afford to do that so eventually a few years later I ended up with a huge credit card bill, got a loan to pay that off, ran the card up again, needed a bigger loan to clear all that. I feel so stupid now that I let it happen but at least I'm somewhat under control now and am slowly but surely paying my loan (yes, I do still have a credit card but it has a very small limit and, except for my wobble back in October/November it is paid off in full every month). I was reminded during last week of some financial advice I read once. It was during my first real job, working for a US I.T. company and they used to send short emails around every few months with different tips for managing your finances. Of course, at 22 most of it seemed irrelevant to me, who cares about pensions and mortgages! Other than joining the mandatory pension scheme when I was 23 I didn't really think any of it applied to me. This particular bit I remember though said that you should always aim to have six months salary in savings, to get you through any rough spots in case you might not be able to work. At the time I thought this was crazy - such a lot of money, as far as I was concerned a rainy day fund didn't have more than a couple of hundred pounds in it (and rainy days meant you needed something to wear for the weekend, not that you didn't have a job). It was still close to the start of Ireland's economic boom and as I'm not a diva when it comes to work (I have a not too proud to clean toilets if that's what going to pay me attitude) I couldn't imagine a situation where I wouldn't be able to find work. And this from someone who grew up in the '80s in Ireland, hearing nothing but more redundancies and the percentage of people on the dole going up and up all the time.

Enough of that, where was I? I'm sure I had a point. Oh, yes, savings. Well, I don't have six months worth of salary in savings at the moment but my loan is down to about six months worth of salary (gross that is, still more like ten months worth of take home pay) which is some progress at least. At this stage of my life though I'm far more aware of the need to have some savings to fall back on if necessary so it's hard to keep moving on paying my debt and not feel under pressure to be saving more. I will need money to move to Germany and so everything extra I can get will have to start being put away for that. I've done a fair bit of overtime this month so when I get paid that will need to go straight into a savings account.

This week my budget had a boost when someone who owed me €40 gave it back to me. I used that for my shopping at the market, will post list separately and also bought some honey from the health food shop - it's difficult to find Irish honey anywhere else. I've stayed pretty well on track this month budgetwise (even paying for new car battery without using money from my car savings) and although it's 21 January I still have money in the bank. Practically unheard of for this time of year. I need to help this budgeting along by making sure I'm fully aware of the price of everything all the time - I've become one of those sad people who aren't entirely sure how much a litre of milk costs. So that's my aim for the next while, not just to stick to my budget because when I've spent x amount I've nothing left but to be able to have a good idea before I go shopping what I'll get for the x amount I have with me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Soup

Dinner yesterday evening: pancakes, a couple of plain ones and a couple with cheese which finished off a tiny piece of Comte which was hiding under someting else in the fridge (it would never have lasted that long if I'd realised it was still there) and started a goats cheese I got from Corleggy recently. I quite like the taste of goats cheese but am not mad about the texture and this is a hard cheese I thought I'd try. Turns out when it's cooked in something to melt into the same consistency as most goats cheese so I think I'll need to use a much thinner slice next time. I made enough pancake batter to have a couple of sweets ones after dinner this evening.

Lunch today was vegetable soup from the freezer with some of the bread I made last weekend. I need to finish that bread off so am going to try a variation of the savoury bread and butter pudding recipe on the Beansprouts blog - I'm not sure how well it will work with soda bread but we'll see. I have eggs I need to use up as well so it seems like a good plan. I think I have some garlic cheese in the fridge as well that I can use - it's been there for a while but was very thick so some of it should be salvageable. I really need to clean out the fridge - it's one of those tasks I'm sure I don't do half often enough.

My housemate is moving out at the end of February as she has decided to try and buy this year and will move home unti she has found somewhere. I've enjoyed sharing with her and will be sorry to see her go but I think 2008 is one of those years where a lot of people will be doing big things. And since I hope to be moving to Germany I'm one of them. Have made a start on translating my CV and want to spend an hour or so on that this weekend. It's not so much the translation as all the conventions which are stalling me e.g. that it's normal to include a passport size photo with a German CV and it's expected to be a professional job, not popping into the machine in the local train station on the way home. Of course there is now legislation (part of the equality legislation) preventing companies from asking for a photo but I've been trying to get advice from a secretaries' forum in Germany and the word is you should still send one. I'll get there in the end I'm sure. I need to be doing something positive for my life this year before I start to get paranoid about my multiple-of-elevens years. My mum died when I was 11, my dad when I was 22 so now that I'm 33 I need to try and make sure any big life events are of my choosing!

It's the Saturday market for me this week to stock up on veg - I hope to keep a better record of my spending this week. I'm sticking to my budget but want to get a better idea of where my money is going within that budget.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lunching on leftovers

Well, I made far too much rice the other night and so I am having the last small portion for lunch today. I used a bigger cup than I normally would to measure the rice out. Normally I use a small mug to give two large portions of rice but since it's a while since I've cooked rice I couldn't remember which mug I used to use and obviously used a bigger one. Portion size control is something I need to work at, one of my problem areas when it comes to food.

I've a history of issues with eating since I was about 13, some of which I'd admitted to myself years ago and some I didn't even realise were there until the last couple of years. One I have been aware of and working on for a few years now is knowing when to stop eating. At home, we had to eat whatever was put in front of us, not so unusual I think, it happens to most people. The problem started when my dad remarried (I was 12, it was just over a year after my mum dying) and my stepmother wasn't too nice. She definitely had some control issues and one of the things which was imposed on us was a no exceptions to the eat everything on your plate. She also forced us to eat vegetables (I didn't eat any vegetables at the time and being forced to eat them at that stage put me off anyting to do with veg for a long, long time) and, something I only realised in later years, gave me far bigger portions than I needed. We did not have a house where you argued with the grown-ups or went against them in any way (and of all the ways of dealing with that kind of situation, mine was always to be as good as I could be, I was always terrified of being bold and was never the rebel) and so it never occurred to me to say I didn't want so much or was full and didn't want any more. I went through a stage of frequently needing to throw up after dinner, not because I was forcing myself to or wanted to, but simply because I had had too much to eat and couldn't keep it down. Of course, if you eat large amounts of food you will eventually get used to eating way more than you need and you become unable to know when or if you are hungry so it is a long process to educate yourself in both mind and body to knowing when you are hungry and when you are satisfied. Only making a certain amount of something, for example taking 30g dried pasta as a small portion, and eating only that helped a lot when I was trying to teach myself portion control. Also, finding out that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to register food was a revelation. Following the example of my sister (who is married to a Frenchman and living in France), helped a lot with this so I always try to have a small bit of something as an appetiser about half an hour before eating dinner - often that means just munching on something as I start cooking. It means that by the time I sit down to eat properly my system is working and ready to let me know when I've had enough. In conjunction with this I try to make sure I take my time eating - it's possible to get a huge amount of food into your gob in 20 minutes, possibly far more than you need if you're not paying attention. If you have family or friends around for mealtimes I think having an appertiser also helps with making the meal a real meal and not just a food-shovelling exercise.

I also try to have at least two courses because it means you're not trying to fill up on one thing, just eating enough (what my mind knows is enough even if my eyes/stomach want more) because there's still more coming. And of course I have to remind myself that even if I have finished dinner and I'm still not satisfied I can just wait for an hour and then eat something else - this is another hang-up from my teenage years as we weren't allowed to eat anything without asking first so there was no just opening the fridge and helping yourself if you felt peckish in the evening. Only, now I'm all grown up and living on my own and if I feel like having a slice of toast or an apple, I can do it. It never ceases to amaze me how deeply ingrained some things from those those eight years living with someone like my stepmother are - but 12 to 20 is a very impressionable age I suppose.

Wow, that was more than I intended to write today. It does help to write it down though sometimes. And now, back to the rice. It gets a bit boring to eat the same thing every day but it's not something that would freeze well and I prefer not to waste it so it's leftovers for lunch. I finished all the bits with meat in yesterday so it's rice, peas and broccoli today. I also have a slice of lemony cake in with me which will fill me up nicely if I'm feeling peckish in the afternoon. As well as a packet of fruit & nut mix which I started yesterday and will probably have on my desk for a week.

This evening will be something made with eggs - I'm thinking of doing pancakes, it's a miserable gray day today and pancakes are a great food for that type of weather. Actually pancakes go with almost any kind of weather - love them, love them, love them.