Saturday, November 07, 2009

Let there be light

I finally rang the guy to come and see about installing lights and he came last week and had a look and told me what I need to buy. So I did a quick search on the internet and found the details for this place, which is basically a big warehouse selling end of line lights and seconds and that kind of thing. I had bought one lamp from a big DIY place not long after I moved in as I at least wanted to put one up in the bathroom. Turns out that like so many of those chain DIY places, the staff hadn't a clue/didn't care about what they told me and what I bought isn't suitable for a bathroom at all. So, I'll put that up in the bedroom, which is also where I have the sewing machine set up and it'll be a good worklight and I can continue to just use the bedside lamp for those times when I don't need a bright light. The place I was at today had two guys who really did seem to know what they were on about and they were very helpful. I dithered about the light for the kitchen for ages and finally chickened out of getting the blue one and went for a more standard three-light arrangement. It had nice white glass fittings but one was broken and another broke when he was taking it down off the wall but he had already told me that since they couldn't find any others of that type I could take a different colour glass fitting from a different light if I wanted so I got some nice bright orangey/yellow ones instead. I may go back and get that blue one I was looking at though - I wasn't sure it would provide enough light for the whole kitchen but I might go back with the chair cushions and if the colour matches well enough get it anyway and see if it would work. I'll wait and see how money goes for the rest of the month. As well as those I bought a very simple red lampshade for the sitting room. It is very slightly damaged on one side at the top but you can't really see it, I could just feel where the chip was when I was holding it. And I got a properly enclosed one for the bathroom (plus an explanation from the guy on what to look out for in future which was handy). At a grand total of 85 euro for all three, including bulbs (the three bulbs for the kitchen light are energy saving ones, the other two just ordinary incandescents but sure spares are always handy to have) I think I didn't do too badly. I saw about five other lights which I really liked, some of them more expensive but all for far less than you would pay in a 'normal' shop. I got chatting to another customer while I was there and she said she had also used the services of an electrician they had given her the name for before and he was really good and very competitively priced so I also got his number from them. Always handy to have that kind of a contact. All in all it was an hour very well spent.

As it was raining this morning we didn't do any outside work in the garden. I wouldn't have minded but the head gardener decided we would work on seed saving instead. During the year at whatever time the seeds are ready for harvesting the flowers or stems are put into paper bags and then during the winter the seeds are actually removed and sorted. So today I tried to get at the seeds for meadowsweet, which are so tiny it's impossible to completely separate them from their hulls. Then I did something which was a member of the mauve family and finally some hollyhocks, just so I could have something easy to do before I went home.

In two weeks time there won't be any working in the garden but two of the members of the 'workers' cirlce' are going to give a talk on propogating, which should be interesting. On that Saturday I won't have to be there until 11 o'clock so I am going to take the chance to go to a shop I found up the road from me which sells wallpaper and carpets etc. The bathroom here has horrible lino tiles laid on the floor and I'd really like to get proper tiles in there (with proper grouting rather than the lines of dirt which seem to line the lino tiles in there at the moment) but although I could probably get tiles relatively cheaply, getting someone to fit them could be expensive so I thought in the meantime maybe I could try buying an offcut of ordinary lino and just laying that myself. I couldn't do a worse job that what's down there at the moment I don't think and at least with one piece of lino the dirt wouldn't be collecting in the cracks. Besides, a gray floor is just depressing to look at. They also had large offcuts of carpet in that shop (I window shopped for about twenty minutes there last Sunday) and I was thinking I might get one big enough to use as a rug in the sitting room. It would protect the wooden floor somewhat and be a bit cosier in winter I think. I'll have to measure the floor space but they had fairly big pieces for about fifteen euro so it might be possible to do. Rugs to cover that much space, even cheap ones, cost at least sixty or seventy euro and hundreds if I wanted to try and buy one I actually like. I was half thinking it might be possible to use the sewing machine to sew an edging onto a piece of carpet but I'm not sure how feasible that would be. Am getting caught up in a lot of plans at the moment but it's good to keep chipping away at the various things to do around the place so that I can make the place a bit more homey for myself. The lights will make a big difference and as soon as they are installed I am going to invite some people over for dinner.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Weekend

I had a lovely weekend. Up early on Saturday to get to the market before heading to the community garden. Picked the last of the tomatoes there then pulled up and chopped up the remaining plants and removed the stakes and string which had been holding them up. Picked the dried parts of another plant as well. I did ask what it was but since I didn't have anything to write with the name didn't stay with me for long. Some kind of an oriental which had a lovely scent to it, a bit citrusy and really good. The master gardener said that we'll harvest the seeds out of those dried pods on one of the days in winter when it might be too cold to work outside. The parts of the plant which weren't dried were chopped right back then. And finally I dug a big hole so that the buckets of jerusalem artichokes packed in sand could be buried. We put the buckets in, covered them with other slightly bigger buckets placed upside down over them and then packed the earth back in around and over them.

Then I had an hour to myself at home before heading out to a Darkness Ritual. This was at the same place I went to the Harvest Thanks Ritual at the end of September. This time the idea was all about accepting the darkness of winter into your life and letting go. It was a far more introspective ritual than the harvest one was, much more meditative. I didn't enjoy it as much and found it difficult to focus really but when trying to concentrate on what it was in my life that I needed to let go off I found myself thinking that it wasn't letting go I needed to do but rather holding on. I was thinking about my oldest sister, who hasn't spoken to me (or most of my other siblings) for about three years now. As is the way things always go in our family there hasn't been any big argument or anything so there's nothing to work on to try and figure out what the matter is. It sort of started when she was going through a hard time after her hubby had been sick and she really just wanted to retreat from the world for a while so we gave her her space as requested but she just got less and less interested in keeping in touch with any of us at all. I persevered for longer than the others, even calling in unexpectedly once but you do get tired of the two minute phone calls which end with a sudden "I have to be somewhere else" and always being the person making contact and when she didn't even bother to show any interest in our youngest sister's wedding I had had enough. I've been through so many stages on this whole roundabout that it was impossible to keep track. I'd decide it was her tough luck and if she wanted to be like that then fine, whatever. Then it'd be her birthday and I'd think well, I'll just ring and say happy birthday. Or I heard her hubby was sick again (and bear in mind, this is a guy who married into my family when I was nine, so he has been around for a long part of my life) and would ring to find out how he was. I don't think I actually managed to speak to her for the last three years or so though. Either no-one or her hubby would answer the phone. But last week I had a really strong compulsion to just phone her and ask if we could start talking again. Don't know where it came from although part of it was because I realised that I hadn't turned my calendar onto October and I know it was because I didn't want to have to think about her birthday (it didn't work and her birthday really preyed on my mind this year, more so than usual). So, I decided that the thing I needed to let go off was all the hurt and anger and grief that this whole situation has caused me and then I just needed to make contact with her. So when I came home after the ritual I gave her a ring, her middle son was just heading out so answered the phone and almost immediately said "hang on, here she is now" (I'll never know whether, if her hubby had answered the phone, she might have realised it was me and made signs at him that she wasn't there, which I suspect happened more than once in the past) and put me on to her. I didn't go with the self-pitying, somewhat dramatic "please can we start talking again" in the end but was able to use halloween as my excuse for ringing and start a conversation by asking if she had dressed up or done up the house or anything. It was a bit of a stilted conversation in a way, felt like it was taking a lot of effort, if you know what I mean, but we did talk (well, mostly I talked) for about twenty minutes which is a good start. I've just decided that I'm going to ring her at least once every two months and talk to her whether she wants it or not and that I am not going to give her the opportunity to turn around in 20 years time and tell me that it was all because I was so wrapped up in my own life that I was never interested in what was happening with her. I'm just going to keep on keeping in touch and she can like it or lump it but if she wants to lump it, she's going to have to say that directly.

There you have it. Despite the fact that I didn't like the ritual as much as the last one, I am glad I went and have signed up for the solstice one in December. Something good (hopefully) came of the whole thing at least. And I do really like the idea of marking the seasons in some way.

Yesterday then I had my fabulous session of trying on clothes I thought would still be too small but weren't. While doing that I cleared a proper space in my wardrobe to store the dried goods I've been trying to stock up on a bit. I also started a spreadsheet to make sure I keep track of exactly what I have and when it's good until. It was good to see it all in one place. I realised that I have plenty of pasta but really should get some more rice and some other pulses as well. I'm going to ask at the fair trade shop if they can buy in a big sack of rice and depending on how much that is, might just buy one big sack and make it into little ones myself.

After doing that I headed out for a walk. Did the same round as before so about two hours of walking. I'll probably do it again another two or three times (maybe with a slightly heavier bag) before looking at a different route.

When I got home I did the few bits of washing up from the day before, put some pasta leftovers covered with cheese into the oven to heat for dinner and chopped up some apples for the dehydrator. Once I had eaten, I set about chopping stuff up to make tomato ketchup and while that was cooking I chopped veg to make soup, using up the curly kale that I had brought home from the garden. I also chopped up veg and tomatoes to make a sauce for lunches during this week. Once the ketchup was made and bottled (only two 120 ml jars, I swear I get less and less out of that recipe every time I make it) I put the onions, courgettes, garlic and tomatoes on to cook with a load of herbs and when that had softened up well I added in some chopped chicken breast. I left it cooking but it never really seemed to start smelling good so I finally dumped a slug of balsamic vinegar and a few crushed dried little chillies into it. It remained uninspiring but I got four good sized portions out of it. What a difference a night makes though. I had the first one for lunch today, just bought a roll to eat it with and it was delicious. I think I'm finally starting to be able to use chillies in cooking properly.

I left some porridge steeping in milk overnight and had the first porridge of the winter for breakfast this morning. Hmmm, I love porridge. Off to put more steeping now for tomorrow and will add a handful of the dried berries from earlier this year. They were a delicious addition this morning.

WW - week 12

1.1kg down today, which is nearly 2.5lbs. Total loss since August = 7.4kg or 16.3lbs.

I decided to give myself something to aim for yesterday by trying on my good hiking trousers and seeing how far I needed to go to fit into them. Haven't worn them for probably two and a half years. And they fit. Actually, they're even a tiny bit loose so I'll have to find the belt now too. I'm sooo pleased. I pulled out a pile of trousers to try on and there's one other pair of nice casual black trousers that fit again as well. And some tracksuit bottoms, which I bought in Aldi once but then couldn't get into when I got them home. New wardrobe without having to spend any money (now)!

Monday, October 26, 2009

WW - week 11

Down half a kilo today. Total weight loss since August 6.3 kg or 13.889 lbs - I'm going to call that my first stone!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More chutney.

I've spent the whole day at home, didn't get out for my normal Sunday morning walk as I slept for nearly 12 hours last night and so wasn't awake until after 10 this morning. I bought loads of tomatoes yesterday - they're nearly finished for this year I think and I wanted to make a couple of more batches of chutney and some more ketchup. Before deciding whether to go out for a walk or not, I actually counted up all the time I would need considering a batch of chutney needs to cook for three or four hours and I knew if I went out I would probably not get both done so I just stayed in. I had to do the washing up that I had let pile up for the last couple of days first though. I hate it when I do that and yet every once in a while it still happens. Since I was doing that I also decided to scrub the sink with bicarb and lemon and since I was doing that I thought I might as well use the rest of the bicarb to give the cooker a good scrub. And then since I was doing that I gave the butcher's block type thing that the cooker is on top of a good scrub too.

And that is how the day has gone really. I've done a load of things I've meant to do for ages but not because I actually intended to do them but rather because something else I was doing made it make sense to then do the next thing.

Once I'd chopped the first lot of stuff for chutney making (this time round I used tomatoes, pumpkin, quince and apple) I set it to cooking and then sat and read my book for about twenty minutes. I have to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace before Tuesday. It's almost 1000 pages long (and that's only if you leave out the foreword and all the footnotes) but we chose such a long book because we didn't have any meeting in September and so had plenty of time to read it. I've actually had the book since the beginning of September but just cannot get into it. It took me about two weeks to finish the first chapter and today I've only managed to read about thirty pages.

Of course, the silver lining of this situation is that I now have a lovely clean apartment. I took down the tomato plant finally (and used what few tomatoes I had gotten, mostly still green, in the chutney), and moved the telephone table and frame that had been supporting it out into the hall. I was going to move it into the kitchen and put my herbs onto it but I realised that it will fit exactly into the space beside the door which currently has nothing but a stool which seems to accumulate piles of rubbish on it so I'm going to clear off that stuff tomorrow and put the telephone table in place there. I also put up a couple of nails to hang a picture and more securely hang up the notice board. And since I had the hammer out I put up a nail to hang the shoe horn on and another one in the kitchen to hang the dustpan and brush from. These are two things that I constantly feel like I'm tripping over and it feels good to finally have a place for them to go. Since the plant was moved from the window in the sitting room I swapped the small couch and armchair around again so the room feels more spacious again as well.

The first batch of chutney turned out really well I think. The second one has pumpkin, tomatoes and pears and apples. It was a bit runny when I put it into the jars and could probably have done with cooking for another while but I was just ready for the days cooking to be over. I still haven't made ketchup but might try to get that done tomorrow after work.

I could only work for two hours in the biogarten yesterday as I had to go to a friend's house in the afternoon and needed to catch a train. I started off picking up nasturtium seeds from the ground around where the plants are/were. Had to fill one bowl with the brown ones (already fully dried) and one with the green ones (not dried yet). Then I packed some weird root vegetable which had been harvested in sand. I've forgotten the name of it now, some South American plant I think. After that I packed a few buckets of jerusalem artichokes in sand as well. And then I pulled out the stakes and supporting cords from the tomato plants which had already been removed. Since I was leaving early I didn't expect to get to take anything home but H.M. the master gardener told me to make sure I got something. I took some jerusalem artichokes (called topinambur here), a small bunch of parsley and some chard. H.M. told me his favourite way to cook chard is in a pasta bake with sheeps cheese and some tomatoes so I decided to do that today. I cooked some pasta first and put it into an overproof dish. Then I sauteed the chopped up stems of the chard for a few minutes. I added an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and then the chopped up leaves as well and left the whole lot for a few minutes while I chopped up some tomatoes. I mixed the chard and onion into the pasta and added some feta on top of that. Then I left the tomatoes to cook down for about fifteen minutes after which I poured them on top of the pasta as well. Then the whole lot went into the oven while I did the dishes and tidied up for about the fifth time today. I had hoovered very thoroughly earlier but decided not to wash the floors until tomorrow but then everything else was so nice and clean I couldn't stand it and since the pasta wouldn't come to any harm if it was left it a bit longer I decided to wash all the floor as well and then had a shower myself as well so that when I sat down to dinner, although it was later than planned, I felt really good. It was delicious too.

So it was all in all a very nice weekend, even though I didn't get a walk in or manage to read my book. I don't even want to bother but I have to try and get a couple of hundred pages read before Tuesday if I possibly can. I love book club and it has meant that over the last year I've read lots of book I never would have otherwise but goodness gracious it is difficult sometimes to keep at it.

P.S. The Germans don't have a separate word for slugs, they're just called naked snails. How could you not love such a logical language?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Posting

I have a few dozen ideas for posts that I would like to write but never seem to be able to drag one to the forefront of my head and focus on it for long enough to actually get it written while I have time. I think I need to start making notes in a small notebook whenever the thoughts pop into my head and then I can use that as a reference later.

Work has been okay the last day or so after starting off very badly this week. I think in a way I had such a great weekend that the crapness of Monday felt even worse than it was. And it was pretty bad with one of the managers deciding to display his extremely unpleasant and arrogant side. I actually spent some time on Monday updating my CV. Need to tweak it a bit more and then do the English version as well. I've calmed down enough by now that I'm not going out looking for a job immediately. But I want to be prepared just in case anything came up out of the blue (which I think only happens in films) and just in general to make myself feel less trapped. The thing is that for what I do, I'm really very well paid at the moment (partially due to having transferred within the company from a country with far higher take home salaries which they had to try and get close to matching). But being sensible, until I have cleared my debt I cannot afford to earn much less than I am now.

Money is occupying my mind a good bit these days. I would like to try and save enough so that by this time next year, I have enough in saving to be able to pay off the rest (i.e. the last eight months) of my loan. As it's a fixed rate loan I can't pay it off early without having to pay penalties, but I'd be happy just to have the money saved up and earning a little bit of interest while the last months were being paid off. I don't see much scope for saving much until the new year but am planning to budget and track properly for November and December so that I will hopefully be well placed to start in January.

I've been reading a bit about what's called prepping (survivialism but not quite as extreme to my mind) and trying to get my head around all that as well. It's hard to decide how much I want to do. I do think that in my lifetime we're going to see huge changes in the world and it seems only sensible to make preparations to deal with whatever my come. And there is lots of stuff that can be done before you start having to consider finding somewhere to build a bunker. And the whole idea of living a simple life has a lot in common with the whole area of prepping in terms of self-reliance at least. On the other hand, a so-called simple life is generally one in which you're trying to rid yourself of an excess of material possessions and prepping involves accumulating things in a manner which comes a bit too close to hoarding.

I feel like I've been on a roller-coaster my whole life when it comes to hoarding. As a teenager and in my early twenties I almost never threw things out (pop psychology will say it's because of losing my mum at age 11 and I think there's a lot in that idea). However, by my early twenties I had at least stopped buying so much new stuff. For example, it was around that time that I decided I was only going to buy souvenirs that had a practical use. So plastic Eiffel Towers were out, nice mugs were in. Slowly but surely I gained the ability to be able to get rid of things. I still have some things which no-one else would keep but at this stage I've kept them for so long it's particularly difficult. So they are shoved in a cupboard to be dealt with someday.

Where was I? Oh yes. So, in my mid-twenties when I started to find out more and more about simple living, voluntary simplicity and frugal living one of the first things that always popped up was to consider if you really need everything you have. And now I'm in a place where I'm contemplating filling the place up with stuff again. It's all very frustrating although I'm sure I will find a balance eventually.

I bought a tent during the summer at a shop that was closing down for renovations. This is a good thing to have if I was ever in a situation where I did have to run for the hills, isn't it? But, in the meantime I have persuaded my brother to come camping next summer for a few days. So I will get a use out of it and learn some new skills, while hopefully having a lot of fun too.

And when it comes to food, after spending a long time getting to a stage where I didn't have cupboards full of stuff that ended up getting thrown out because it had gone off, I'm back somewhere that insists it is a good idea to have supplies on hand. But now I know that it's essential to actually use up what you've bought in a timely manner. I have a few packets of pasta and rice tucked away but am thinking of hunting down an Asian supermarket to buy a large bag of rice, for example, and break it up into smaller packets for storage and use. First, I'm going to ask at the fair trade shop if they can order in large sacks of stuff. Because sticking to the principles I try to keep to in terms of organic/fair trade/local is important as well, I think.

Part of my difficulty at the moment in posting is that I start writing about one thing, drift onto another and then don't know how to end. I envy those people who are able to write well-constructed, well-thought out blog posts. But, obviously, not enough to bother doing the same myself! Maybe one day.

In the meantime maybe I'll add a few lists to the sidebar to keep me focused on what I want to be doing and what I have achieved. But first, I think some sleep is in order.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book meme

I've never really done memes (which I always call me-me in my head because I think that makes much more sense than rhyming it with theme. These are after all all about ME) but I thought this one was fun when I saw it. I don't tag other people either but feel free to do this on your blog if you like.

Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages..

The rules are:

Open the book to page 123, find the 5th sentence and post the next 3 sentences...

I thought my nearest book was The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer (I really, really need to get reading that book club book soon but in the meantime I am nearly finished re-reading all the GH books I have) but then realised that Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book was on my other side and much closer so here it is:

Put the vegetables through the mouli-legumes to make a puree and return it to the pan. Reheat, mixing in the butter and a little milk to make a good consistency that is soft, but not at all sloppy. You can also use this recipe as a basis for soup.

WW - week 10

Didn't go to ww this evening as I went to the airport with my brother, who was flying home after spending a long weekend here. If I get out of work on time tomorrow I will go to a class then, if not I will leave it till next week. Took a bit of a break over the weekend anyway so am not so much expecting a weight loss as hoping the probably weight gain won't be too much.

Tuesday: made it to WW this evening albeit ten minutes late. I was 200g up which is just less than half a pound. That's okay and now I have a new week to start instead of wondering all week if I'm up or not and not concentrating on eating the right things and exercising properly.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Finances

I've struggled with my finances since I was about 17. Actually, having written that sentence I realise that it was when I started college that I started spending more than saving. At least at that stage I wasn't spending more than I was getting.

I have tried various methods for controlling my spending over the years, some more successful than others. Most of them work for a while and then don't seem to be as effective anymore. And then a few years later I might go back to them again.

I haven't tracked my day to day spending for a good few months now and want to start doing that again at the beginning of next month. I did set up a savings account in August to start saving money for annual expenses but since it hasn't been added to my online banking, I haven't actually put anything into that account yet (the money that was earmarked for it has gone to pay some annual expenses which came up in September anyway). So tomorrow I need to get out the information and phone the bank to see why it hasn't been added to my online banking yet. If I get that sorted by the end of the month then I will be able to set up a standing order for the day after I get paid.

The expenses I have planned for are:
House insurance - 150 per year - this is two different insurances, both required under the terms of my lease
Travel insurance - 90 per year - the only time I travelled and didn't bother to get insurance, all my bags were stolen, so now I get an annual policy and don't have to think about it more than once a year. The policy I had in Ireland only covered travel outside Ireland but the policy I have now covers worldwide travel plus domestic travel further than 50km from my home.
Bahncard - 220 per year - this rail card gives me a 50% reduction on train fares within Germany and 25% of fares in many adjoining countries for journies started in Germany. I can easily save enough money to justify this expense, three journeys to Frankfurt or Hamburg in a year covers the cost of it and since two of my best friends live in Frankfurt and Hamburg respectively, three journeys are easily done.
Choir subscription - 140 per year
Mieterverein (renters' association) - 66 per year - useful for dealing with things like making sure my annual charges are correct and noticing that the management company had charged me for the transfer of bills into my name when I moved in even though my contract stated that the person moving out would be charged for them and for help in general with any issues that may come up.
Organic centre/seedsavers - 35 each per year - I would like to continue to support both these organisations although I didn't actually pay the subscription last year. That stuff is all in a big pile still to be dealt with.
Preserving supplies - about 165 per year - this amount purely because it brings my monthly total for combined annual expenses to a nice round 75 euro. I spent a lot of money buying jars this year which I should have saved properly for first. But I didn't want to miss another sumer of preserving efforts. A cupboard shelf full of chutney and jams and other food to see me through winter makes me feel this was the right thing to do. It will be a few years before I am where I'd like to be in terms of preserving and so I want to dedicate some money to this properly. After five years (again, no other reason for this number other than that it's a nice round figure) I would hope to have everything I could possibly need and thereafter only need to spend a small amount each year buying new lids or rubber seals when necessary and the occasional box of labels. If I join Slow Food at the beginning of next year then the annual sub for that is about 80 euro. I'd probably just reduce my preserving supplies amount a little bit to compensate.

In addition I spoke to my financial adviser/insurance broker guy a while ago about pensions and retirement plans. I have just been paying the basic state social contributions since I moved here so I knew I needed to get something set up. I have set myself quite a high amount (for me) to contribute each month but haven't made a final decision yet. On paper it should be doable but in reality I never seem to have money left over at the end of the month so I'm wondering how I'll manage if I'm sending 200 euro off to pay for cups of tea when I'm 65! But it has to be done I suppose. There are tax breaks to be taken advantage of as well so I need to get my head down this week and read through the stuff he sent me and just make a decision.

I also asked about setting up some kind of insurance so that in the event anything were to happen to me, my family (none of whom are particularly flush) wouldn't have to bear any funeral costs etc. That's fairly inexpensive, only about 20 euro a year and for the peace of mind it will give me will definitely be worth it. We also spoke about insurance in the case of not being able to work. While I am still paying off my large loan (less than two years to go and it's at a fixed rate) and given the economic climate at the moment the thought of not having work does prey on my mind a bit. I will work at anything so if the worst came to the worst I do believe I would be able to find work fairly easily (there are rarely shops around here without signs in the window looking for help for example) but whether I could find well-paid work is another issue altogether. However, it seems that because I have been in therapy i.e. attended counselling with a psychologist, I would be deemed ineligible for most of this kind of cover. Stupid reasoning really, I'm less likely to have a nervous breakdown and not be able to work because I have done something to improve my mental health but because I've done something for my mental health it apparently throws up warning signs in the actuaries minds over here because I have obviously admitted I have a problem. Sigh. Anyway, I feel like I am on track to get some proper provisions in place for my financial security. I almost always paid into a pension when working in Ireland (there were alway a few months break whenever I changed jobs before I could start paying into the new plan) and although I cashed in one of those (equivalent to about 18 months worth of payments) when I moved here, the others can't be touched until I retire. I'm sure they're not worth half of what they were worth when I last checked (before the move and before the financial crisis hit) but it's still over ten years of paying into pensions, often with additional voluntary contributions so I do have something already in place. Now it's time to be more focused on what I actually what to achieve. And then try and reconcile that with the feeling in my stomach that it's all a load of shite anyway and who the hell knows what kind of a world we'll be living in in 30 years time.

I have more things I want to say about finances. I've found that finance blogs are a whole other huge area of the blogosphere and have started reading one or two. My next big goal is going to have to be to get some kind of a contingency fund started. Because if the general advice is to have between three and six months worth of salary squirreled away somewhere then I am, for want of a more elegant expression, right royally screwed. My sole contingency is the credit I have available to me through the overdraft facility which is still active on my Irish bank account (and still used on occasion) and my Irish credit card (which has seen a lot of use since I moved here and needs to be brought down yet again). Not quite comforting.

But at least I had a very nice weekend. Which I will post about some other time. Now it is definitely time for bed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Winter is coming

Until last week temperatures here had been holding pretty steady at around 10 degrees overnight and up to 17 during the day (although with a bit of a wind chill factor). I think one morning last week when I woke up it was 9.5 degrees and then it rained for a few days and the temp came back up. This week is different, 7 degrees yesterday and 4 this morning and it went down to 3 overnight as well. So I've had the windows closed at night time although I'm still leaving them open during the day so that there's a bit of air in the place when I come home. I think no matter where else I might end up living, I'm always going to want German windows. You can open them fully to the side (like a door) or you can open them by tilting the top inwards.

I have taking to wearing a hat in bed again even though I don't really need it yet. It's a comfort thing. I really should knit myself a nice proper nightcap sometime.

I don't remember when I turned the heat on for the first time last year, must look back through the blog and see if I made a note of it. My brother is coming to visit tomorrow for a long weekend so it's likely it'll be on a while then. He tends to stay up much later than I do watching DVDs and listening to music and sitting around while the temperature is dropping rather than sleeping under a warm duvet could get a bit cold I imagine.

Normally I make an effort to clean up when people are coming. Admittedly often less effort when he is coming because he knows me so well it doesn't matter if there are piles of paperwork lying around or if I didn't get around to putting the laundry away. But I've basically done nothing but basic cleaning for about a month and the place is, to say the least, a bit of a mess. All of the chutney I made as well as the salsa and piccalilli is in jars in boxes stacked in the kitchen and hallway. I have two big cupboards in the hallway and I wanted to clear out stuff from one of them and but all the jars in there instead. I did actually start clearing one of them out on Sunday so now I have a pile of shoes and boxes lying around in the hallway as well. Will try and get up early in the morning and do something about that lot at least. Of course I could be doing it now but I'm just in after choir practice and I am tired so I'm just going to head straight to bed instead.

Monday, October 12, 2009

WW - week 9

1.2k (just over 2.5lbs) down this week. Wow. I definitely need to keep up on all the long walks at the weekend. After the chocolate and wine tasting on Friday followed by the constant nibbling at various bits and pieces on Saturday I really didn't think I'd be down this week. And to be down that much is just amazing. I was so convinced that I hadn't had a great week that I did all that cooking yesterday to make sure I had lunches covered for the week and I have the chickpeas on cooking now which should give me something to eat on the evenings I'm not going to be able to come home straight after work. So that gives me a good start into the new week anyway.

Total weight loss since August 6 kilos (just over 13 lbs)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A few photos

I made pizza sauce today and have another batch of tomatoes in the oven roasting now for a second lot. The farmer at the market yesterday said he expected to have tomatoes for a few weeks yet. He'll probably pull the plants up in the next week or two and then it'll be a couple of weeks before everything that's left on them is finished. Feels like a long time - I must remember to make a note of the last week they have tomatoes so that I can remember it for next year.


In an attempt to do something nice and autumnal at home (Germans are very into their 'deko' stuff and will kit out their houses according to the season all the time - we're not talking just about a few flowers either), I made up a little platter with some of the things I've found while out walking the last couple of weeks and added a candle too. It's a small start but although I take the piss out of the Germans sometimes the idea of making small decorative adjustments insde to reflect the seasons outside is something I really like.

And here's a picture of the first two tomatoes I harvested from my plant at home.

I ate these with some bread and cheese for lunch. They weren't very big but very, very sweet. There are a few more just turned red now and others nearly there so I'm going to wait until the end of the week to eat them. My brother will be over for a visit then and it's always nice to share the harvest. I planted some spinach and lettuce in my window boxes a couple of weeks ago as well and they have sprouted now so I might even get to have my own supply of salad leaves during the winter. We'll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seed and plant swap

Today was my first proper day volunteering at the Bio-Garten but as it was the annual autumn seed and plant swap, it wasn't really a proper day at all. So it was a longer day than usual as it only started at 1 and went on till 4 so I was there from 10.30 setting up and then until nearly 5 putting everything away again. But it was fun and nice to meet some of the other volunteers. There seem to be quite a lot who only volunteer on Tuesday afternoons and since I work on Tuesdays I won't often get a chance to see any of them.

I did feel a bit in the way from time to time waiting for someone to tell me what to do but once we started putting tents and things up (we've had the worst weather today that we've had so far this autumn and it rained a LOT) it was okay. Being tall does make one useful on occasion. There was also loads of lovely food to eat which various people had brought along. I hadn't brought anything as I thought the usual gathering for tea and a bite to eat wouldn't happen because of the event but they had a table set up inside for all the workers to come in and take a break from time to time. I spent most of the time the event was actually taking sitting in there, chatting to some of the older members and washing up whatever cups and plates and things were used. I'm going to make an apple tart to bring along next week though as I felt bad to have turned up with nothing.

The seed exchange was amazing to look at. It was raining so hard I didn't bother to bring my camera but there were one or two short sunny spells in between which would have been good for taking pictures. Oh well. There were hundreds and hundreds of different types of seeds which had been collected from the garden. You could bring your own seeds in and exchange them for ones from the garden or just get some seeds in exchange for a small donation (about 1 euro for each type which is a very good bargain in my view).

The garden is in the middle of a huge park in Dusseldorf so all the big stands with the plants and so on were just outside the entrance in the main part of the park. As I don't have a garden I didn't look too much (it was very, very difficult to stay away from the seeds as it was, never mind plants too). But I did buy two surprise bags of tulip bulbs, which will make nice presents I think.

By the end of the day I was getting a bit bored but at that stage it was time to start taking everything down again so I got stuck into that. I got home just after six (having made a quick stop in town to buy a new small backpack to use for every day - needed a new one so I can start carrying rain gear with me every day again. One day I'll have enough to buy a really good one that will last for years but for now it was another 5 euro jobbie) and changed into my pyjamas straight away and put all the muddy clothes I'd been wearing straight in to the washing machine. I had to ring my brother and lay down while I was doing so as my legs and feet were killing me after having been standing for such a long part of the day. Once I'd spoken to him I actually ended up falling asleep until nine o'clock. Bad idea normally but actually now that I've been up for a couple of hours and had a lovely toasted ham and cheese sandwich along with a few cups of tea (decaf - since I can't drink caffeine I do always have some decaf tea on standby although I norally just stick to herbal and fruit teas). I even made a pot of tea instead of just one cup and dragged out a milk jug too. Great end to a great day really.

Monday, October 05, 2009

WW - week 8

Another 500g (just over a pound) down. Yippee. Am very surprised after the amount of food I ate this week but I did go for that very long walk on Saturday and a couple of times last week I walked home from town rather than getting the tram the one or two stops it takes. Exercise really does make a difference it seems. So, renewed determination to keep going and try to do better this week at sticking to just eating what I've planned to eat. No harvest festivals to go to this week so that will help :)

Weight loss since 13 August = 4.8 kilos (10.5 lbs)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Things I still need for the apartment

I'm also in a bit of a list frenzy at the moment and have decided to put them up here so that I can keep track better.

Still to do in or buy for the apartment, some still just haven't been done since I moved in, some have been on the wishlist for a long time and are not so important

1. Cooker, gas hob and electric oven if possible
2. Kitchen cupboards, at least one floor to ceiling one
3. Possibly a cupboard to put the washing machine into and give me some worktop space
4. Gas cylinders for cooker
5. Coffee table - I'd like to get one of the plastic kids tables from Ikea, covered with a cloth it'll look fine and if I have kids to visit they have somewhere to colour etc. without their mothers worrying about them making a mess (which always seems to bother visitors way more than it does me, even if it's my home that the mess is being made in)
6. Lights in the bathroom and kitchen
7. Put up curtains
8. Paint kitchen
9. Paint hall
10. Paint bathroom
11. Paint sitting room
12. Paint bedroom
13. Make curtains to hang around butcher's block to stop everything on the shelves of it from getting so dirty
14. Reupholster kitchen chairs
15. Reinforce middle shelf in kitchen dresser
16. Really good big kitchen knife
17. Tiles for the bathroom.
18. Bed

Slow Food and Bio-Garten

On Thursday evening I went to my first Slow Food event. I've been meaning to join for years, with a renewed decision to do so when I moved here as a means to meet people but when I still hadn't gotten around to it by May this year I decided to wait until January. The annual membership fee is based on the calendar year so even if I joined now I would have to pay for the full year and then again in January and although it's not a huge amount of money it seemed silly not to wait. Then I found out that non-members can still attend some events and signed up to the harvest thanks one "the secret of shining bread" - an evening with wine, bread, cheese and olive oil. The baker who was the main speaker runs a bakery which is not too far from me called Hercules. It's not close enough to be an everyday bakery for me but from looking at the map it's only about half-an-hour's walk away, which is a nice distance to walk for some really great bread. Not so long it feels like a chore but long enough there and back to feel like I've earned an extra slice. So something to do next weekend perhaps.

One thing I found fantastic was that not only did they not try to sell us anything (it was held in a big wine depot, Lust4Wine and I really did expect to feel obliged to buy at least a couple of bottles of wine or something) they pulled out a load of paper bags when people started to leave and tried to get everyone to take as much bread away as they could carry. I found that very refreshing. I ate lots of bread and cheese, including a fabulous chilli cheese. When I asked where the cheese came from though the baker's wife said she had just bought it in from the organic wholesaler so I may need to do a bit more digging to find out where exactly it came from. I also had two slices of Zwiebelkuchen or onion cake, which is a fab seasonal favourite and in fact was the thing which persuaded me that onions might not be all that bad to eat (way back in 1994, the year I was here for a semester in college and still mostly only ate potatoes and meat and bread). It was the best one I've tasted for a long time.

When I first arrived it seemed like a lot of groups of people had arrived together and I felt like I'd end up sitting on my own, eating a bit and leaving again but once people sat down to eat the conversation flowed, not easily exactly but sufficiently well to be enjoyable. So I chatted a bit to those around me and of course, being foreign always make the first conversation a bit easier because it's answering all the 'where are you from, why did you come here' questions. And it was really nice to talk to people who are interested in Slow Food as well.

Then, yesterday morning I went to the organic community garden run by the local community college. I went during the summer to volunteer and found out they try now to just take volunteers on twice a year and do a proper introduction to the others who are members of the 'Arbeitskreis' or work circle and to the garden. In a way it's also to make sure that the people who show up really are interested before they start spending time explaining everything about what they do etc. So I had to wait for a few months but finally the day arrived. I'll be working there every Saturday from 10 until 13 and most weeks people bring something to eat, perhaps a cake or something, and after work is finished everyone gathers in the small house/big shed and has a cup of coffee and a bit to eat while discussing what's been happening in the garden, what needs to be done etc. I hope to learn a lot and think I am really going to enjoy working outside again for a few hours a week. They seem like a nice bunch of people. Next week is the annual plant exchange so there won't be much work in the garden itself but I'll go along to help set it up at least and have a wander. I'll try to remember to bring my camera and get some photos as well.

After that I met a friend to go for a walk in the woods which was great as well. Altogether I think I walked for about two and a half hours because I also got a tram that doesn't stop too close to home but instead of switching trams to one that does, I just walked the rest of the way as well. There were bunches of people out collecting chestnuts as well, whole families. It was great. Although somewhat dangerous sounding in the woods in general as you never seemed to know if the next wind was going to bring an acorn or something similar crashing down on your head. I'm loving the autumn here. Today it's a beautiful sunny day so although I've had a slow start and spent the morning watching Iron Man I'm going to hop in the shower now and then head out for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nice day

Actually it was a kind of boring, kind of stressful day in work but this evening was nice. Choir practice and the guy who sits behind me became the first person to ask me if I had lost weight. I don't generally like people commenting on my looks too much but sometimes someone can say something simple in such a way that really does boost motivation for keeping going.

I also phoned a self-storage place today to try and get an idea of prices in Germany. At the moment a unit between 4 and 6 sqm cost about 100 euro a month to hire so that's 1,200 to start off my list of things to save for if I want to take a year off work. The price could easily change in the next three years but at least I have an idea. It's low enough that it makes more sense to put everything in storage rather than trying to sell everything and then needing to buy again when I come back I think.

I'd like to buy a map of the world to put up on my sitting room wall. I've meant to do this for a while but thinking of travelling gives me even more reason to get one. I don't think I'll go too far from home but I would like to try the following at least:

Germany (might ease myself into things by getting some wwoofing experience in a country and language I'm familiar with but use it as an opportunity to spend time in the Black Forest again)

France (if I decide to travel for a full year then I will try to spend half of that time in France, it's about bloody time I learned to speak it properly. Ideally I'd like to wwoof in areas I haven't been before at the beginning and then possibly somewhere near where my sister lives for a month or two).

Italy (apart from one day in Venice I've never been)

Spain (possibly just for a long holiday rather than wwoofing - I would really like to see Granada and have never been to Barcelona or Madrid either (getting snowed in to Madrid airport for a day doesn't count))

New Zealand (if my sister is still living there and I haven't visited her before then)

Siberia (have always wanted to go there)

Of course this all makes it seems like I need to spend a lot of time learning languages in the next couple of years but I think I might just forget about Italian and Spanish other than picking up a phrase book before actually going there. I can say please and thank you, which are the important things. I did French in school and have done various evening courses over the years but never really got very far and just need to actually be living there and speaking it I think. I can manage if I'm on my own and absolutely have to and I need a few months of that really. And I suppose I could drag out the Russian books and start learning the alphabet again as well. Maybe I could actually open 1001 Russian Verbs this time round!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Plans

At the moment the pressure of debt is driving me a bit mad and, as these things often go, making me want to spend, spend, spend. It occurred to me today that if I have a goal in mind (other than the admittedly very nice but nonetheless somehow kind of intangible seeming goal of being debt free) perhaps it might make it easier for me to wrap my head around still needing to pay off my loan for another nearly two years. I was thinking six months or a year off work would be nice. So, for my 38th birthday (goodness gracious, I'm getting rather old!) I am aiming for having no debt and enough money saved to pay rent (or storage) for six months or a year and for me to go off and travel the world. Two years to clear loan and a little bit more than a year to save after that. In that time I will also work on losing weight and getting fit. Apart from all the other really good reasons for doing that, smaller clothes take up less space and if I'm going to be living out of a rucksack that is going to be very important. Of course I've told my sister I will try to save enough to go and visit her in New Zealand next year so will have to see if I manage that. I think if I had actually saved enough to go to New Zealand next year I'd be tempted to just keep it towards a much longer trip in a couple of years. But on the other hand sometimes you've just got to go for it and do things. Who knows if she'd even still be living there then.

I also feel hopelessly inadequate for the kind of life I want to be leading and am really feeling the pressure of not knowing how to do stuff. I'm learning all the time and have done so many things in the last few years that I wouldn't even have dreamed about doing beforehand that I know it can be done but I just feel like time is slipping by and I'm not really going where I want to be. So, if I had a long time to travel I would mostly do so by WWOOFing, I think. That way I could also get a bit more first-hand knowledge of lots of things I might not otherwise get to experience.

Mostly, a lot of the time, I just think I need a boyfriend. This boyfriend would of course be wonderfully talented and able to teach me lots of the things I want to do but wouldn't, obviously, ever make me feel like he was better than me just 'cos he could actually do all that stuff already and better than me.

Sigh. I wrote most of that about a week ago and most of it still applies although following the harvest thanks celebration I attended at the weekend I have allowed myself to feel proud of what I have achieved this summer (even if a good part of what I achieved was simply mistakes to learn from - I try to look on it from the point of view that I'd never have learned anything if I hadn't made mistakes). I know I still have so much to learn but although it is going more slowly than I feel like it should, it's going at about the level I can handle and that's okay.

I need to be very careful with money for the next couple of months though and really, really need to get my arse in gear and do my tax return. Which should take care of the credit card bill which has crept up on me again. I am also due to get a bonus in work in a couple of months time and have already decided that that money will go towards buying a proper cooker rather than into a savings account with a view to clearing my loan faster. I have a fixed rate loan so would be penalised for making extra payments off it and although I do want to start working on building up savings so that by the time I have the last six months of it to pay off, I will have enough to cover those payments already in savings, I also need to balance that desire with the other things which I need. And after having been hampered to a certain extent in this year's preserving efforts by the lack of a proper cooker, it has moved up the priorities list somewhat.

On a positive note, after a good start to weight watchers, I had a few weeks where I stayed the same and then was up and then didn't make it to class at all but I went back again yesterday and I was a bit more down than I had put up so overall I'm now 4.3 kilos (that's almost 9.5 lbs) down since 13 August. I've worn my jeans twice now (although they are uncomfortable after eating a big meal and the real test will be how well they fit after washing!) and need to put elastic into my work trousers because they are falling down and I only have one pair in the next size down and need something to keep me going until I get past that. If I need to I will buy a new pair of trousers but I'd rather try and wait another few weeks and be able to use something I already have. I've been enjoying making some soups this past week too, which I've been having for dinner when the evenings are a bit cooler but am still able to eat plenty of fresh tomatoes for lunch as well. It's a good food time of year.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harvest thanks

I went to a harvest thanks ceremony type thing on Saturday evening. I've posted about it here so won't repeat it all here again. But I do want to post the photos of the presents I gave and received on the evening here.

This is what I made.

It's a dishcloth which I also used as the wrapping for a few tealights. The colour doesn't come out here but it's white and lilac rather than the kind of grey colour it looks like in the photo. I used a clashing colour ribbon so that it might be more obvious that it wasn't actually supposed to be a bag, even if I had it all trussed up like one.


And this is what I received.



The incense stuff to burn on the charcoal yoke is something called meadow wort.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lost my foraging cherry...

...but gained some berries. Look!



I was out for a walk in one of the forest parks not too far from me when I noticed some elderberries. I've been dithering about gathering some for a while and had decided that the tree I found near work might be too close to the main road and generally being a bit scared of the whole thing. Silly perhaps but that's the way these things go. So, having decided that I had missed my chance this year and that next year I would definitely go foraging and pick elderflowers and then later in the year elderberries, I spied these ripe berries (all of the other lower branches had been stripped already, I could see where bunches of berries had been broken off but, obviously, by someone shorter than me). There were lots more berries very high up but I got these without too much trouble. After stripping the black ones from the stalks (a quick read of the internet let me know the green ones are not ripe and could make you sick if you eat them, no mention of the dark red, not quite ripe ones but to be on the safe side I won't use them) I had 75g of berries. Not quite the 500g called for in the pontack sauce recipe I've had my eye on for a while but I'll do my best and have them steeping in 75ml cider vinegar in a low oven now.

I'm excited and also nervous. Hope it works out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WW week 2

Needn't have worried. Weight loss 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs). Definitely need to keep going for long walks at the weekend. It helps a lot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jeans and wishes

I have not had a great ww week and have gone rather close to maximum points (i.e. including using up extra points earned from exercise) on a couple of days. Didn't think it'd be so hard in just the second week but I'm trying to make the plan fit my life rather than ditching all the food I normally eat for the duration and then ending up putting weight on again as soon as I stop so I have accepted the fact that things will go slowly. And I'll find out tomorrow how things have actually gone and am secretly hoping it won't be too bad. I am going to cheat a little by going to an afternoon class rather than an evening class so I won't have just eaten my dinner but that's just hedging my bets rather than cheating really :-)

It occurred to me at the weekend that the trousers (knee length trousers are becoming essential to staying cool enough to stay sane in the summer here) I bought in a sale only about three weeks ago were feeling a bit loose so I decided to take a chance on trying on a pair of jeans I bought the weekend before last. There is a shop on my road which sells everything from pricey furniture and bedding to cheapie clothes and shoes, household goods and knickknacks and a somewhat strange collection of 'posh' foodstuffs. They are closing down for renovations at the end of this week and have been selling stuff at really reduced prices for a few weeks now. I have bought a few things, including huge pillows to use for my couch and some very handy measuring bowls (I bought one small one and used it so much the first week I had it I went back and bought more), a big bag to use for my knitting stuff and two pairs of jeans. I love wearing jeans but haven't worn any for years at this stage. I decided to grab a pair of the biggest ones and the next to biggest ones because at 5 euro each I felt they were worth taking the chance on, especially since they were 34' leg jeans, which are not always easy to come by. I tried them on when I got home and although I was able to pull the bigger ones all the way up I couldn't even think about trying to close them. I decided this morning that just for fun I would try them on again and that I would be able to use them to track my weightloss progress over the coming weeks, thinking that being able to wear them would be something to look forward to. They pulled up much more easily than before and to my amazement I was able to close them with only a teensy, tiny bit of effort (honest, there was no lying down on the bed nor nothin'!). And I've had them on for a couple of hours now and they are actually comfy. I was half expecting to need to take them off after a few minutes just so I could breath easily again. It feels like a big moment.

I have a few days off work and took advantage this morning and went to the farmers' market. It's the same one I go to at the weekend but much quieter. I went fairly early, hoping to get to chat to some of the people I buy from regularly for a change but I ended up with the most impatient woman behind me (and she seemed to be following me from stall to stall) who kept huffing and looking pointedly at her watch while I was making my choices. If a couple of other people hadn't shown up behind her just then I would have just let her go ahead of me because I can't stand that kind of thing. I bought 1.5 kg strawberries and one small punnet of raspberries. I'm going to make one more batch of jam and then the rest of the strawberries are just for eating. I asked the guy today and he said he reckoned there are only about two weeks of strawberries left so I am going to take full advantage and eat as many as I can fresh while I can still get them. I also bought about 4 kg tomatoes, 2kg courgettes and 2kg onions. Yep, there are a few more batches of chutney in my immediate future. Wish I had more jars!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meal plan - 22nd to 28th August 2009

Saturday 22nd
Breakfast - after coming home from the market, bread roll with some turkey breast, tomatoes, cheese
Lunch - wrap with salad, tomaote, turkey breast, mozarella
Dinner - salad with seeds, tomatoes, cheese and vinaigrette dressing

Sunday 23rd
Brekkie - banana followed by a kaesebroetchen while out walking
Lunch - flammkuchen at flea market (v. v. bad points decision but I did enough walking to cover it I think. And it was delicious.)
Dinner - chicken parcel with salad. Slices of courgette then slices of tomato with a chicken breast fillet on top of that, slices in the chicken breast with a piece of garlic and a piece of mozarella and loads of herbs and black pepper all wrapped up in a tinfoil package (leaving plenty of room for steam to circulate) and cooked in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes. Love this dinner and haven't made it for ages.

Monday 24th
Brekkie - yoghurt with banana [made into a smoothie along with some strawberries]
Lunch - the second chicken parcel in a wrap [yum]
Dinner - salad [salad with some turkey breast and cheese]

Tuesday 25th (knitting group after work) - late in work so didn't make it
Brekkie - bread roll or toasted bread with frischkaese (cream cheese) [had this for lunch and just a kaesebroetchen from bakery for brekkie on the way to work. I was late and disorganised!]
Lunch - pasta with tomato, courgette and onion sauce which I made this evening. [had this for dinner instead]
Dinner - bread and cheese

Wednesday 26th (day off work and no choir in the evening)
Brekkie - yoghurt with fresh fruit from market
Lunch - pasta with tomato, courgette and onion sauce
Dinner - potatoes with scrambled eggs

Thursday 27th (day off work, ww in evening but may try and find a morning class instead)
Brekkie - smoothie [made with yoghurt, strawberries, raspberries and banana]
Lunch - potato salad [kaesebroetchen]
Dinner - rice with tomato, courgette and onion sauce [fried potatoes with tomato and courgette, cheese and turkey salami]

Friday 28th (day off work)
Brekkie - toast
Lunch - may try to do something with that box of quinoa I bought a few months ago and haven't known what to do with.
Dinner - possibly out, if not, bread and cheese.

The onions have arrived

I was delighted to see new harvest onions at the market a couple of weeks ago and bought a pile of them this week, along with some new harvest apples and plums, courgettes and tomatoes. And made chutney no. 1 yesterday. 17 x 240ml jars. The next couple of months are going to be tough, waiting for it to mature but I am really looking forward to it already. I bought a box of 45 jars, thinking I'd have some for next year as well but now I think I'll need to go back and buy more. Want to do at least one more load of tomato and plum with courgette based chutney and one load with pumpkin as well. I've also been looking through the River Cottage Preserves book again and have nearly convinced myself that I want to make piccalilli. Definitely want to try the hearty ale chutney as well, not to mention the figgy mostardo.

I dried some more tomatoes as well and have a load of strawberries drying at the moment. I bought 1.5 kg of strawberries but somehow only 1.2 kg made it into the dehydrator. Wonder how that happened?

Otherwise I've been trying to fit some exercise into my days. Went for a swim on Friday so I have finally gone in to the pool up the road from me and checked it out. It's amazing. A quick check on wiki tells me that it was opened for the first time in 1902 and the fact that it not only had a swimming pool but also baths and showers was good for the people living around as apartments in those days didn't necessarily come with those facilities. It was destroyed in a bombing in 44 but was able to reopen in 45 and was renovated in the late 90's. They don't use chlorine to disinfect it but some kind of membrane electrolysis. The changing rooms are individual 'cabins' and line the pool (plus there's a balcony above with more). So you walk down the back of the cabins, find your number, enter by the door, which you can lock and there is a cupboard to lock your stuff into. Then you simply open the curtain which hangs across the other side of the cabin and you are standing poolside. Showers are then down the other end of the pool. It was a bit weird to have a shower after swimming and then have to walk the length of the pool with a towel wrapped around me but really, anyone with nothing better to do than be watching me would have been able to see less than when I had my swimsuit on (I was glad I had brought a big towel though!).

This morning I took the tram out to Rath and walked up into the woods again. Walked for about an hour although the heat meant I needed to stop after 15 minutes of uphill and wait until I'd cooled down before getting going again. Even at nine in the morning it was heading for 20 degrees. Great if you're doing nothing but hot if you're moving around. Then this afternoon I met a couple of friends and we went to a huge flea market. Not very much interesting there although I was able to pick up a couple of brown bottles, which I know my brother has been looking for and I also snagged a copy of the Emperor wears no Clothes in English for 4 euro. I've been wanting to re-read it.

Oh, and for any youtube (or indeed art) fans out there, this is a video of the woman who won the Ukrainian version of "Got Talent". I'd never heard of sand animation before but thought this was amazing. It's telling the story of the German invasion of the Ukraine during WW2.
Kseniya Simonova

Friday, August 21, 2009

WW week 1

Weight loss = 2.5 kilos (which I was calculating as about 5 lbs since it's roughly double. But I just did a quick google and apparently it's 5.5 lbs. Even better!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bottled tomatoes

Here's the finished article:


The large jar with its lid slightly off is the one I used yesterday for dinner. I remembered just in time that I had wanted to take a photo. All of the lids sealed properly so although I'm not going to take any chances and will use these fairly quickly I think it was a good first attempt and I understand far more about the whole process now. If I can get my hands on a not terribly expensive gas one-ring hob next week I think I will go ahead and do some more. And I have big plans for next year.

Meal plan 15 - 21 August 2009

Really struggled writing this plan, not sure why. Am going to have to start adding breakfast as well or I will continue to call into the bakery every morning for brekkie, which won't help my weight loss at all.

Saturday 15th
Brekkie - kaesebroetchen from the bakery.
Lunch - planned bread and cheese but just ate a small square of cheese because I was busy doing stuff and intended to have an early dinner.
Dinner - ended up being even later than normal despite planning on it being early. But, I did cook the pasta with courgettes, tomatoes and onion that I've meant to do for the last two weeks and I added in some beef which I had in the freezer, defrosted and chopped into thin strips. I used one of the large jars of tomatoes I bottled last week and despite my misgivings everything seems to have worked the way it was supposed to and they were really delicious. As I hadn't had much for lunch and needed to bring up my points total for the day I added in some mozarella that was nearly at it's best before date. Really, really enjoyed this meal and have three portions of leftovers for lunches during the week.

Sunday 16th
Brekkie - smoothie made with yoghurt, strawberries and a couple of teaspoons of the runny raspberry jam
Lunch - Couscous with tomatoes, onion and lardons as well as some broccoli on the side and some mozarella to top it off. This being my first time to actually make couscous I massively overestimated how much I would need and now have two portions of leftovers in the fridge as well. Which means I'll move around some of the stuff I had planned for the rest of the week to accomodate them.
Dinner - corn on the cob [nope, a bowl of cornflakes]

Monday 17th
Brekkie - keeping it simple I think I'll go for a bowl of cornflakes. Am actually looking forward to colder weather to start eating porridge again! [check. Was disgusted to realise last night that what I thought was a new full box of cornflakes in the cupboard was actually a nearly empty one so it's all gone now]
Lunch - out to Vapiano (pizza/pasta) with friends from work [penne arrabiatta]
Dinner - originally planned to do sauteed carrots and onions but may just have some of the couscous leftovers [couscous leftovers]

Tuesday 18th
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit [kaesebroetchen]
Lunch - Pasta leftovers [check]
Dinner - out with book club [salad with fried potatoes and egg]

Wednesday 19th
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit [kaesebroetchen]
Lunch - couscous leftovers [pasta leftovers]
Dinner - corn on the cob and pasta leftovers [couscous leftovers]

Thursday 20th
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit [pasta leftovers]
Lunch - pasta leftovers [scrambled eggs and corn on the cob]
Dinner - omelette [kebab]

Friday 21st
Brekkie - yoghurt and fruit
Lunch - rice with chinese vegetables (huge packet of frozen veg in the freezer which I had forgotten about)
Dinner - possibly out so not going to plan anything

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weight watchers

Went back to weight watchers on Thursday evening. Haven't been since I moved here and only went sporadically the last few months before I left Ireland. I still have my card from then though and the last time I went was 2 July, so a bit more than a year ago. I got her to weigh me in pounds as well as kilos. I'll just get weighed in kilos going forward but I wanted to see if there was a difference from what I weighed the last time and was absolutely thrilled to see that I've actually lost 7 lbs. I think I had lost more when I first moved here but put a bit on over winter again but it's a really big boost to know that overall I'm down. I've eaten plenty of crap since I moved here but just the different lifestyle and food available seems to be helping (as does living on the 4th floor with no lift I'm sure). I only went to one OA session when I arrived as it clashed with knitting and I decided the social contact of knitting was more important at the time. I'll keep on with ww for a while and maybe start going to a few OA meetings again in winter.

The ww program has changed though. Or, what is more likely, it's just slightly different here. So I have lots of figuring out to do over the next while but I think I might just drag out my Irish books and follow the plan I'm used to. The main thing for me at this stage is to start incorporating a lot more exercise into my life. I did this on Tuesday last week by walking home from knitting. It was still bright enough to do that (as the walk mostly involves walking through a park which I've been told I should avoid at night) but won't be in a few weeks so I have until then to figure out a way around it. It's really not that far from home, less than a 30 minute walk and only one stop on the underground. I heard recently that they've provided a space somewhere out the back of my building to keep bikes so I might start saving for a bike soon too.

Am heading off now to go (finally) to the organic garden run by the community college and see if I can volunteer there. I've intended to do this since February (when I even went to go and find it so that I'd be able to find it again when it was open without any problems) so it's about time I think.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Feckin' tomatoes!

Managed to get the tomatoes into jars after cleaning the kitchen, the jars and pots and anything else I thought I might be using. Did the hot water and cold water thing to get the skins off and then put them into jars. Got way more than I thought and ended up washing another large jar quickly to put the last of them into. Had no lemons left at that stage so added some vinegar instead. Will use that one first I think.


So, total of six kilos of tomatoes gave me 3 x 1 litre and 5 x .5 litre jars. Of course they wouldn't all fit in the canner so I had to put one of the smaller jars on top of the others. Same height as the the larger ones so hopefully it'll be okay.

I didn't de-seed the tomatoes as they were very fleshy to begin with but they ended up much juicier than I thought at the beginning. Oh well, it's all a learning curve I suppose. And my 2-ring hotplate is underperforming as spectacularly as I feared. I put them in there at just after seven o'clock and it took nearly two hours to boil (I had added a couple of kettles of boiling water, not just cold) and has boiled a little bit on and off since but never really properly. Temp hasn't gotten above 85 degrees either. But they've been in for nearly three and a half hours now and I'm tired and want to go to sleep so I'm taking them out. To hell with it. At the very least I'll find out in the morning if my first attempt at water bath canning worked at all. I suspect it won't with at least one of the leifheit jars as I was left with a spare ring but no lid at the end. I caught one instance where two lids were stuck together before I used them but obviously must have missed one before that. Too tired to care though.

Here's a pic of the hotplate. The small pot had the lids in it, when they had boiled for 10 minutes I moved it on top of the oven, which had the jars in it and gets very hot on top as well. The red pot is a 13 litre stockpot which I heated water in to blanch the tomatoes in. And you can see the size of the water bath canner beside that. I think that having both rings on on the hotplate seems to actually detract from the amount of power each gets so I have the canner on the larger ring with just a bit of it on the smaller one and had the smaller ring on just for a short while.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Jam and tomatoes

Boiled up the plum jam again having added the juice of a lemon to it. Still hasn't really set in any noticeable well despite a good twenty minutes. Have put it in jars anyway and will just put it away and forget about it.

Made another batch of the raspberry jam but this time added some strawberries as well (750g raspberries, 350g strawberries) and as I hadn't attempted making pectin stock again used jam sugar this time. Still hasn't really set very much but definitely more than last time. I kept a good eye on it this time and used a thermometer which showed that the temperature didn't really get much above 92 degrees so although I know only a bad worker blames their tools, I'm starting to wonder if the hotplate cooker I have is really up to the job.

I bought six kilos of tomatoes today to bottle them and bought some new jars as well. I've added a category of 'preserving supplies' to my annual budget costs. This year I'm just paying as I go but it'll take me a couple of years to build up a supply of jars I think so it seems sensible to put a small amount of money away each month to cover it rather than being broke every summer. I have friends saving jars for me as well and heard recently about a flea market which is held near here every week or so and will check that out for bargains as well.

So, tomorrow will be my first attempt at bottling tomatoes. I reckon six kilos of tomatoes should give me about 8 half-litre jars. I have seven half-litre jars and three 1 litre ones. Think I will do two big ones and the rest in the smaller ones. I checked the water bath canner and seven jars will fit in it at one time so that should just about fit. However, it is way too big for my cooker. If I leave it across the width of the two hotplates it leaves just a bit on each edge so of course the entire pot will not be directly on the heat at any time. Hopefully it'll work out. I have a few lemons and from what I can gather from various sources I need to add approx. the juice of half a lemon to each half-litre jar, stuff it with the skinned and de-seeded tomatoes and top up with boiling water if necessary, making sure to get any bubbles out. Then put the lids on, but not too tight and for the leifheit two-part lids make sure to release them a quarter turn before they go into the water bath to be boiled/processed for about 40 minutes.

Wish me luck!

Meal plan 8 - 14 August 2009

Saturday 8th
Lunch - burger [beef mince from the organic butchers made three lovely burgers to go with some of the tomato ketchup I made last week]
Dinner - Had planned on doing pasta with the courgette I still have from last week and some tomatoes but ate lunch at about four o'clock so that was dinner too. Not too warm today but still over 20 the whole day. Don't have much appetite.

Sunday 9th
Lunch - pineapple rice [done and delicious]
Dinner - salad [tomatoes and mozarella]

Monday 10th
Lunch - pasta leftovers [since I haven't actually cooked any pasta this obviously isn't going to happen so it'll be rice leftovers instead]
Dinner - plans to meet a friend [had a lovely salad with fried potatoes and a fried egg]

Tuesday 11th
Lunch - rice leftovers [check]
Dinner - scrambled eggs with bread + cheese [went to knitting and walked up so was later than expected but not really hungry so just had some cereal]

Wednesday 12th
Lunch - pasta or rice leftovers [bread, cheese, turkey salami]
Dinner - bread and cheese [cereal]

Thursday 13th
Lunch - pasta or rice leftovers [last of the rice and some yoghurt with strawberries]
Dinner - omelette with salad [just omelette made with one egg, tomaote, onion and some cheddar cheese plus one slice of bread]

Friday 14th
Lunch - out [had leberkaese with fried potatoes and salad, yummy]
Dinner - salad [didn't have lunch until after MRI so not until around half-four. No dinner, wasn't hungry or in the mood for eating]

Friday, August 07, 2009

Adjusting to a different climate

Although I don't feel like I'm that far away from where I grew up and lived for most of my life according to viamichelin it's 961km and that is enough to mean a very different climate. That was part of the reason I wanted to leave Ireland, just couldn't handle another rainy summer. But still, adjusting to the reality of a different climate is another story. And even though I have lived in Germany before I was mostly much further south and in or near mountains as opposed to the very flat place I live now (about 40km from the Netherlands and the flatness continues until a bit to the east and north of here).

That means that although it may get slightly warmer down south, it is very humid here and even at nighttime doesn't cool down much, unlike in the mountains where at least you can get some air. Yesterday it was 27 degrees when I went to bed at half-ten and, when I got up around midnight it had 'cooled' down to 21.

It is interesting learning to deal with it though and having to modify my behaviour to what seems to me to be completely illogical. So, to keep my apartment cool I've discovered recently that I should be closing the windows, not opening them to let in the air. Have a day off today and closed up the windows (except the one in the bathroom, which for smell reasons I prefer to leave open) not long after I got up. At that stage, it was nine o'clock and 22 degrees both inside and out. It is now just after 11 a.m. and while I'm sitting here feeling that it's a bit stuffy and rather warm, it is 4 degrees cooler in the apartment than it is outside (26 and 30 degrees respectively). Crazy stuff, don't think there has ever been a day in Ireland where that would happen but maybe I just never realised it might be a possibility there. It has also been difficult to get my head around the fact that I have to be looking out for damp and mould in the summer due to the humidity rather than in the winter due to the, eh, damp.

I've just checked the Met Eireann website and opened up the review of 2006, which is the latest they have up there. The mean annual temperature was 10.6 and it was the hottest year since 1997 although with the coldest March. The highest temperature recorded was 32.3 on 19th July and that was the highest temperature recorded since 1976. Temps for Dublin Airport were: mean 10.3, highest 26.5 and lowest -5.8. So that'll give you some idea of how different it is. Checking the forecast for today and the next few days in Ireland it seems to be highs of 16 to 20 (which I'd consider to be really nice weather) with lows of 10 to 13 overnight. While in Dusseldorf we have between 24 and 31, with rain due over the weekend and so the temps potentially dropping to 17. It's just a whole other world.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Vertical garden experiment

Here are some photos of my attempts to grow a few tomatoes indoors. I've discovered there are lots of things you need to pay attention to when growing indoors and in this climate: humidity and lack of airflow are big problems. Going away on holidays didn't help either as most of these plants are now completely withered. The few flowers I've had have shrivelled up and died before even properly opening. Apparently growing indoors can also lead to more sterile pollen (can't remember exactly why now, think the lack of air flow and potential dryness from growing in containers play a role) and the lack of wind means you do need to hand pollinate. Anyway, it has been interesting to do and once I clear out the dead plants this weekend I'm going to plant another few salad and spinach seeds and see if anything will come up and how long it might keep going through the winter. It should stay warm enough here for another seven or eight weeks, it doesn't really start getting cold until well into October (even based on my Irish idea of cold being different than the Germans', many of whom seem to consider anything less than 19 degrees worthy of cardigans and jackets.


This window box had two tumbler toms in it and a spinach plant. It was my most successful looking effort before going away and the most damaged when I got back. The spinach sort of seems to be coming back to life and the tomatoes aren't quite dead but I suspect when I cut off the damaged parts there really won't be a lot left.




And this was the contraption I created to try and get a few things growing. I'm actually pleased with the way it turned out but it's not really suitable for tomatoes, which just need bigger pots than this offered. But I'm going to try it again with just salady things and see how it goes. To the right you can see the other window box with the huge tomato plant. This was the plant I bought as a small one rather than growing from seed. You can see the size of it there and that was after the top three feet or so had bent over and snapped off. It probably survived the best but has only produced a few small flowers. There are a few on it now so I'll see if anything comes of it. I ran out of stakes big enough to tie it up a long time ago.

In the middle is a telephone table which I got from freecycle (it came up just when I was wondering how to get this whole vertical gardening thing going). I needed to have something which was on wheels so that it could be near the windows and thus the light during the day while I was at work but that I would be easily able to move out of the way in the evening when I got home and wanted to open the windows wide (necessary to air out the apartment and cool the place down). On top of it is a frame constructed using the shorter parts of two tomato tents I used in the garden in Ireland. So I have roughly a square foot frame, which just fits nicely on top of the telephone table and is about three feet high. Hanging from one side I have a kind of a metal fence part with some baskets, which is actually a kitchen utensils arrangement which I purchased from eBay for 4 euro. I lined the baskets with some plastic backed material and filled them with soil. I could have done a better job of lining them - there are bits where they leak so there is a towel in permanent position on the floor underneath them. And they are too small for tomatoes but the salad things did seem happy enough. Until they dried out and died that is but that's a minor point.

On the far side (i.e. facing the window) and just barely visible in this picture is a hanging bag, the kind you might use to put your toiletries in when travelling. Again I lined each pocket with some of the plastic backed material and filled it with soil. Unfortunately I didn't take account of how heavy the soil would be and so it was very difficult to get it to hang without completely sagging forwards. I'm glad I tried it though - if I had some way to support it a bit (maybe attaching lengths of bamboo stakes to give it a more solid structure then this could work although again only for smaller plants.

I have a third window box resting through the middle of the frame. I did this mainly to weigh it down and stop it falling over and as the tomatoes grew, tried to train them through the gaps in the metal part so they would get more light. These two plants are the ones with the least amount of damage so although I haven't seen any flowers on them yet they're going to get a good feeding at the weekend (assuming I can find anything to feed them with - so far all of these plants have only had water and whatever was in the compost they were planted it).

So there you have it. My first attempts at vertical indoor gardening. Mostly a plant it up and let's just see what happens effort I have to admit but I don't care about not getting anything edible out of it, I think it has been worth it just to have been able to grow something this year after all. I'll be very excited if I can get some more spinach going to use heading into (and maybe during) winter.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Jam

I think I'm going to become one of those people who just can't make jam. Tried again this evening, this time plum jam. It's the recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book and calls just for plums, a bit of water and ordinary sugar so I reckoned it must be easy enough. But no. Boiled for just over twice the length of time given and it's even less like jam than the raspberry attempt of a few weeks ago. I definitely don't want to add any more sugar as it is already extremely sweet. If I have the energy tomorrow evening I might try re-boiling it and seeing if that helps at all. But seriously, it's like plum coloured liquid with bit of fruit floating in it - not even a pretence of setting!

I also overdried the tomatoes but ho hum. They're in a jar full of oil and some vinegar now and I'm sure I'll find them edible enough to add to a pasta dish of some kind in the winter.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Meal plan and various preserving efforts

Second attempt at making tomato ketchup today after having remembered to actually buy cloves this time. Looks good. I used a mixture of tomatoes as I had bought a mixture from the market yesterday to try and see which ones I liked best. Aren't they pretty?



But what about the insides?
Even better! I liked the yellow and the green ones the best - they were very tasty and very sweet. The darker green striped ones were my least favourite.










Forgot to buy onions though and only had about half the amount called for in the recipe so I decided to make up the difference with some courgette. The recipe calls for allspice and cloves to be used but I had a look at some other recipes as well and decided to add a touch of ginger and mace as well. Tastes nice although by the time I got it reduced to a ketchup consistency there wasn't much left. Have two small (I think they were 240ml) jars and another one two-thirds full. They had already been cooling for half an hour when I realised one of the lids wasn't tight. Looks like ketchup is going to be that thing this year that just never seems to go right!

The last batch is now being called relish and is tasty although not particularly ketchupy. I'm going to buy a load of mince next week at the market and have a burger feast.

I also have a kilo of tomatoes on drying as well as 250g bilberries. I've cooked chickpeas and mixed with tomatoes and feta cheese to have for lunch during the week (the rest of the dressing has to wait until tomorrow morning as I forgot to buy lemons). And I put most of the strawberries I had bought into a pot and cooked them down for ten minutes. They'll go in a jar in the fridge and I'll have them during the week with yoghurt. And best of all, I have cleaned and tidied up after myself.

Given my apparent lack of ability to control myself when I'm at the market (I was giving myself this weekend off from any major cooking or preserving efforts but all that went out the window when I got to the market and realised plums and all the different types of tomatoes had arrived while I was on holiday), I have decided to start doing proper meal plans again. It means I'll be able to use up the food I have properly and of course it does save the effort of having to put any thought into meals during the week. I tend to only plan for lunch and dinner as breakfast is the same all the time. I am going to try and plan in deserts for dinnertime as well though.

Saturday 1 August
Lunch: cheese, turkey salami, tomatoes, bread
Dinner: boiled new potatoes, broccoli, chicken (bought marinated in wild garlic, absolutely fabulous!)
Dessert: plum crumble with yoghurt

Sunday 2 August
Lunch: cheese, turkey salami, tomatoes, bread
Dinner: leftover potato salad with broccoli and mozzarella cheese [wasn't feeling hot enough for salad so ended up making an omelette with the potatos and broccoli, a few tomatoes and some cheddar cheese]
Dessert: yoghurt with some of the raspberry jam that never was, strawberries and plums [had a few strawberries but was too full for anything else]

Monday 3 August
Lunch: chickpea salad
Dinner: lettuce, tomatoes, seeds, dressing and bread [still had potatoes left so fried them with an onion and a couple of tomatoes - washing lettuce just seemed like too much effort after the day I had it work]
Dessert: stewed plums [following the plum jam which wasn't fiasco of this evening I don't want to see another one for a while - am finishing a bottle of beer for dessert and having a few squares of chocolate]

Tuesday 4 August
Lunch: chickpea salad
Dinner: pasta with courgette, tomato, onion [more changes, very hot day today so in the 30 degrees it was at 8 o'clock when I got home I didn't feel like cooking at all. So I washed the lettuce (lots of little bugs on it, killed by the cold in the fridge I think - I look on it as confirmation that it really is organic, no pesticides on my lettuce) and had that with some tomatoes, some wine cheese and some farmers' cheese, the rest of the turkey salami, a few toasted sesame seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds and a vinaigrette dressing with one slice of bread at the end to mop up the dressing. Delicious and just filling enough.]
Dessert: yoghurt with raspberry and strawberry [I actually had this as an afternoon snack and am now sitting with my last six small squares of chocolate and going to savour eating each one of them]

Wednesday 5 August
Lunch: pasta leftovers [as I didn't have any pasta yesterday it was more chickpea salad for lunch]
Dinner: eat out before choir rehearsal [worked later than planned so only had time to grab a brezel on the way to rehearsal and then had a couple of slices of toast, one with cheese and one with raspberry jam when I got home]

Thursday 6 August
Lunch : pasta leftovers or chickpea salad (assuming I'll have some of one of these still leftover) [the last of the chickpea salad, a smaller portion supplemented by a chocolate croissant from the bakery]
Dinner: pineapple rice [latish home from work and too hot for cooking. Waited until it was a bit later and somewhat cooler and had some more salad, same as Tuesday minus the salami].

Friday 7 August
Lunch: pineapple rice [am at home on a day off so lunch was the last of the salad with a couple of slices of toast, one to mop up the leftover dressing and one smothered in raspberry jam as dessert]
Dinner: bread and cheese

In other news I finally finished the patchwork blanket I was making for a friend's 40th birthday and managed to give it to him for his 41st. Was up early that morning trying to get it finished and it is decidedly more amateurish looking than I was hoping for but I just wanted to get it finished so wasn't being too careful about the end of it. I reckon the next time I visit him I'll have a go at blocking it and maybe that will help! Wish I could say it received a rapturous reception but unfortunately he was still half asleep when I was leaving so I just told him I had left his present there for him and when I phoned the next day to see if he had remembered to look I caught him just as he was heading out the door to work and all I got was a bit of a distracted 'yes, I liked it'. Disappointing but it's so nice to be finished I'm not that bothered. I'll probably visit again sometime in winter so if he's using it, well and good and if not then I'll tell him how much my brother liked it and offer to make him something else instead. I have a few dozen squares left of colours that I decided didn't work with the overall colours I was using so I am going to put them together into a baby blanket for a friend who had a baby a couple of weeks ago. Honestly the double blanket didn't work as well as I hoped and one of the problems was that it was just too heavy. If it is used, I'd say it won't be long until it's completely dragged out of shape (which kind of makes me feel better about not getting to finish it nicely).

I also finally had my appointment for an MRI on Friday to see if there's anything in particular causing my foot numbness. They hadn't told me though, that if I was going to get something to calm me down I would need to take the full day off work so I've rescheduled it for in a couple of weeks and gotten an afternoon appointment. I didn't think I'd be too bad, it's mostly my legs that are clautrophobic and if I had been able to put something between them then I thought I'd be okay. But they didn't let me do that and then bloody hell that hole they were trying to put me into was small! She also started moving me backwards much quicker than I expected so my plan to have my eyes closed before I went in didn't work. I only held out until about half my head was in and nearly had hysterics. I was surprised at my reaction being that extreme and it took me a good long time to calm down. They've promised me that when I go back and get an injection next time, I'll love it and want to come back every day. I'm not too sure that valium (which they mentioned and I assume is what they give you) is all that good and am very nervous about going back but it has to be done. At least the appointment is for a Friday afternoon so I'll have the weekend to get over it.