Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome to my kitchen

Thought some might like to see my new kitchen. Here's a before picture of one side - bear in mind that in Germany you quite literally need to move everything including the kitchen sink (and tap come to that). I took this picture on the day I moved in.

This is how it all looks now - I have, of course, not gone with the traditional fitted kitchen style but rather cobbled together what I could for as little as possible.

The fridge and washing machine are both new but not big-brand names - I wanted to get the highest efficiency rated possible for the limited budget I had. I have had the tallboy for a long time. It used to be in my dad's bedroom and then mine and has travelled with me since and served so many different purposes. The nice dresser is one of my second-hand bargains (40 euro).

This is my cooking corner:

I bought one of the butcher block type units from Ikea and the second from the second-hand Ikea stuff website, from a couple round the corner from me and 10 euro cheaper than the new one. The oven was donated from my sister's cellar - I went to visit her in France in December and brought it back on the train with me, worked well as a conversation starter I can tell you. Until I have enough saved for a proper cooker the two ring hotplate and oven do very nicely although I miss having a gas cooker.

And here's my new sink. Built the whole thing myself (from flatpack - special offer from the local big DIY place and never again. Didn't realise before I would become so opinionated about sinks!). I did get a plumber in to hook it up though which was just as well as I didn't realise that when he told me to "get any standard tap" he meant "get any standard tap that fits the pipes coming out of your wall" and I had bought entirely the wrong shape one. So he ended up having to go out and buy one for me which cost twice what the sink and cupboard did. Lesson learned and at least I'd feel a bit more comfortable having a go at hooking up a sink and washing machine myself next time. I think. Maybe.

And, the last corner with my second-hand table and chairs (60 euro) and a lamp donated by a friend. Will get around to getting the electrician in to fit lights to the ceiling one of these days. One of those things I would have just done myself in Ireland but the wiring here looks completely different and I want to get it done properly the first time.

And finally, a shot of my new dishes. Well, new to me anyway. I saw this set in the second-hand shop when I first went in and bought the table and chairs and thought it looked really nice. But, I had enough plates and bowls and mugs to do me and more important things to spend my money on. Told myself I’d go back at the end of the month and get it if it was still there. In the end I couldn’t afford it then either so didn’t even bother going back and then at the end of the second month wandered in to see if they had any more decent furniture in and yer woman recognised me and said she still had the pottery I liked but had put it away in the back as it wasn’t selling and if I wanted it she’d give me a good price. Couldn’t really argue with 60 euro for the whole set! There are 70 or 80 pieces altogether so it’s less than one euro a piece. The picture doesn’t do the red colour any justice at all though. It looks a bit pink here but it’s really a vivid, vibrant shade of red. I did some checking on the internet to see where it was made and it's from a ceramic works in the Black Forest (which might explain why it appealed to me so much as most of the time I lived in Germany before it was in the Black Forest) which closed in 1989 so I know it has to be at least 20 years old. That's practically antique!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A foodie triumph

Well, to everyone else it's probably just normal eating but to me having a not great day at work, feeling like you really want to stop and buy something greasy on the way home for dinner (even though you know you have food at home that needs to be eaten before it goes off)and even giving in and buying a bar of chocolate and some peanuts on the way home and even after arriving home and looking at the food you have still thinking that it's not what you want but then.....then deciding to at least have a slice of toast and while that's cooking deciding you might as well throw that soup into the pot to heat up and so while waiting for the soup to heat up the first slice of toast gets the last of the cheese and a bit of chutney put on it and becomes a starter, then having a brainwave and adding the mettwurst that also needed to be used soon into the soup to heat and eat with it and putting the yoghurt and stewed apple into a bowl just in time for the soup to be ready and all of a sudden you have a three-course meal waiting for you of healthy, almost all homemade food, well, that to me is a triumph. A TRIUMPH! And in fact, another reminder that I don't really need to eat that much if I eat properly because I realise I'm full when I'm full and not half-an-hour later when I've eaten twice as much as I need. I need to buy in some more easy starter type foods again as having a little something to munch on while cooking the dinner really does help me not to overeat (for those who didn't know it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to register food and so, if you've gone straight to a main course and shovelled it in because you're really hungry and think you need seconds because you're still hungry, it might just actually be that your body hasn't caught up on itself yet).

Actually, my starter and main course have filled me very well so I'm waiting for a while to have my desert. If I decide not to bother it'll do for breakfast tomorrow morning. This is another thing I struggled with for years and still do - it is okay to leave food on your plate if the alternative is overeating. The part to work on is getting the portion control right in the first place so that you don't have too much food on your plate.

The problem with having food that really needed to be used was that I visited a friend for the weekend. He is a chef but one of those who has no interest in cooking at home and just tells me to go to the restaurant to eat. I'm happy to go and get my dinner there but he wouldn't exactly be much of a one for the whole three regular meals a day life and forgets that most people do need to eat more than once a day (he tends to graze all day in work and drink beer at home so doesn't eat a huge amount of actual meals - how someone with so little interest in eating can be such a good chef escapes me but I know he's not the only one) so when I visit I usually end up going to the supermarket on the way or, like this weekend, realising I'll arrive too late to do that and so bringing food with me from home (which also meant I could use up those last few veg in the fridge to make soup rather than leave them there for another week when they might even have been beyond redemption by soup). As it turned out I didn't finish all the soup or all of the yoghurt and stewed apple I had brought with me. This was due to a number of delays on the way home and a somewhat disturbing decision to try a McDonalds and see if I was missing anything (had a burger and small chips, gone in about ten seconds but at least I only had mild indigestion later) and a ham and cheese brezel yoke (also something I haven't had for years and it undoubtedly contributed to the indigestion) which meant that I wasn't hungry enough to go to the trouble of taking anything out of my bag on a very packed train to eat later. But with all the delays I was so wrecked by the time I got home I just dropped my bags when I came in and went straight to bed. Then this morning I was going to be late for work and didn't give them a second thought either. So, given that the soup and yoghurt and stewed apple had been out of the fridge for a day and a half by the time I got home this evening they really did need to be used or dumped. I am very happy that I didn't waste them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Officially Karneval starts on 11 November at 11.11 but actually not much happens until the Thursday before lent starts i.e. today. So, since I am living in the Rhineland and they are big into their Fuenfte Jahreszeit (fifth season) I got to finish work at 12 today and will have a day off on Monday as well.

Today is Altweiber (old women's day) and at 11.11 celebrations begin. One of the other departments in work had a bit of a gathering which I went to - someone in my department wanted to know why I hadn't organised something but I haven't really been here long enough to know what the traditions are. I've promised them a small celebration for St Patricks day.

Anyway, today is the beginning of the five day party period leading up to Ash Wednesday. In Ireland we used to just have Pancake Tuesday (in order to use up all the 'luxuries' like butter and eggs it's traditional to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday before starting the fasting period of lent) but in this part of Germany they go all out and it's generally raucous and debauched behaviour for five days. And what the wild women are supposed to do today is grab a scissors and hack off mens' ties. I've known about this tradition for years but never seen it in action. To be honest, most of the guys in work didn't wear ties at all today and those that do know it's going to happen and wear really old ties that they don't mind losing. It did occur to me that it's a complete waste though but I have now decided that if I save up any ties I collect over the years I will be able to make a quilt or something out of them. I'm trying hard to move back into a Pollyanna frame of mind you see and be able to find the positive in everything.

It started to snow just as I left work so I came home fairly quickly, just stopping in quickly at the second-hand place to see if the manual sewing machine is still there (it is and in the meantime they got another one in, this time a singer but it has been sold already) and also managed to pick up a two part Readers Digest book of plant (50 cent for each book). Then just bought some cold meat and cheese and some nice broetchen to have for lunch. And so for the last two hours I've been just sitting around reading stuff on the internet and finishing a book I'd been re-reading. It hasn't continued snowing though so I'm going to head out now and have a quick wander around the Altstadt. Big crowds and parties are not my thing but since I'm here I'll go and have a look. Maybe by this time next year I'll feel more like celebrating and joining in.

Knowing that there's a good chance my street will be fairly noisy for the next few days though I am taking off for the weekend and going to visit a friend up in the north of Germany. Looking forward to the few days away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Comment moderation

Spambots seem to have found me so I have enabled comment moderation for the time being.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shopping - 14th Feb

From market:
148g turkey salami - 3.48
122g duck tornados - 2.43 (a kind of kebab with duck meat in a spicy marinade)
114g turkey pieces - 0.92
I also bought six eggs from this farmer but realised today she didn't charge me for them, will have to pay next week.

6 elstar and 2.5 kg bag of boskoop apples - 3.70

1 kg potatoes and 100g mushrooms (both organic) - 2.40

From kaisers supermarket:
Milk - 1.09 plus 0.15 cent deposit on bottle
Bar of chocolate - 1.89
Jar of yoghurt - 1.09 plus 0.15 cent deposit
Frosch washing-up liquid - 1.59
Bacchus wine - 4.69

From baker (this is my main foodie treat of the week usually):
Half a loaf of organic wholegrain rye - 1.60
2 organic slawiner (a type of bread roll) - 0.74
2 chocolate croissants - 1.96 (only actually asked for one but had a newbie serving me so didn't make a fuss - was glad of it later as I had to go straight from my new tai chi class to a four hour choir rehearsal and was famished by the break so the second croissant and an apple went down very well)
1 slice organic apple cake - 1.60

Yesterday was a good day. I had one thing planned which I didn't manage to get to due to sleeping later than I thought I would. I found out that the VHS (volkshochschule - local community college) also has an organic garden in the town where you can go along and help out on Tuesday afternoons or Saturday mornings from 10. As I'll now be doing tai chi from 12 every Saturday morning I would only be able to spend maybe an hour there but it would be good to be doing something outside and, hopefully, I might be able to start bringing my fruit and veg peelings there to compost. Otherwise it was a long, busy, tiring but satisfying day.

I intended to go and distribute leaflets advertising choir's next concert at a couple of other concers that were taking place in Dusseldorf today but it started sleeting around lunchtime and was definitely a day to stay inside. This morning I decided to make sure I did a conditioning vinegar rinse in my hair today and after heading to the bathroom to do that I decided that I should clean it first. I ended up doing a very thorough job (which was needed as I only skimmed the surface last week) and also trying something I first heard about ages ago but hadn't done before. I am now a very big fan of a lemon quarter sprinkled with bicarb as a method of cleaning hard water scum off the bath and taps. The taps on the bath, which I've tried before to get sparkling, are actually sparkling now. Once the place was clean I did the vinegar rinse on my hair and had a nice hot shower. And made an effort to keep those taps sparkling by drying them off immediately. I also moved a window wiper into the bathroom so that I can wipe down the tiles immediately after having a shower, which should help with the water deposit build up in future too.

Spent a quiet afternoon watching Jeeves and Wooster on the internet and then at one stage, after having gotten up to make a cup of tea, had a fit of energy and decided to wash the kitchen floor (also something that badly needed doing as I've just been making do with sweeping it for the last couple of weeks and mopping up any spills with a cloth). Of course, to make that worth my while I had to sweep well and since I had the brush (microfibre cloth type) out I did a quick run around the whole apartment. I also shook out the tablecloth (the thing about all the wonderful German breads is that lots of them come with seeds in them and they do tend to get everywhere), which meant I had to clear off the books that were on that. New tablecloth on table (white of course, just in time for me to spill a dirty big spoonful of chutney on it - what on earth ever possessed me to buy a white tablecloth!), floor swept, potatoes for dinner scrubbed and in a pot of water and then I washed the floor. Did a quick swipe around the rest of the place while I was at it but a really, really thorough job of the kitchen floor. Feels like a weight off to have done it. It's one of those things that preys on my mind when it's not done and yet I sometimes have the greatest difficulty just getting up and doing it. Switched the cooker on under the potatoes while I went away to let it dry and spent a while on the phone to my brother. So, kitchen is all tidy now, dinner dishes washed and put away and leftovers in the fridge for lunch and the makings of dinner tomorrow. Another good day. And time now for bed so that I can get a reasonable night's sleep and maybe get into work early tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Must be a bit frugal at least

After posting about my budget the other day I decided to phone the council and find out exactly when the readings for gas and electricity are taken only to find out they had been taken a couple of weeks ago and my bill had been posted to me that morning. What a coincidence. The person who lived here before me either liked overpaying and getting the refund at the end of the year or I really am getting to be frugal in my use of electricity and gas because I seem to use about one third of what she did. They reduced my payments going forward but I asked them to put them up a little bit and I'll monitor the gas meter monthly from now (which I wanted to start doing anyway) to see if their level was realistic or if it's better to keep paying the higher amount (still much lower than I've been paying till now). I do need to get an electrician in to fit some lights as I've just been using plug in ones up to now (so much light from the street lights that you wouldn't need a light in the bathroom at night anyway but my recent visitors disagreed and I do hope to have visitors again) so I can check with him whether or not there is a generic key available for the cupboard where the electricity meters are kept or if I really would have to get the management company out every time I wanted to take a reading.

On top of another fairly crappy day in work (the kind that makes you decide by the end of it that it really would be a good idea to make sure your CV is up to date) it was nice to check my bank account and find out that the refund from the council was there already.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

January 2009 budget

Part of dragging myself out of my latest downturn has been to track my spending very carefully. I managed to get my spending under control a few years ago and consolidated all my debt into one loan (which I still have a little over two years to pay off but on a fixed rate). At that time I held on to my credit card but with a low limit and paid it every month. I only used it for the convenience factor of booking tickets etc and on my budget spreadsheet had things set up so that as soon as I spent something on my credit card I entered it into my budget as money gone from the bank.

This has worked well for me but sometime last year I read a very interesting blog post (more than one in fact) where somebody talked about knowing how many hours you actually need to work to finance a particular thing (taking your hourly rate, subtracting tax, expenses of getting to work etc) and also talking about things as a percentage of your total income. With that in mind I added a new section to my budget spreadsheet to track my spending. Previous attempts at tracking spending had involved my carrying around a little notebook or using my diary and I never seemed to be able to keep it up for more than a couple of weeks.

Being aware that I was moving and knowing I had almost no savings with which to finance the move I upped the limit on my credit card and increased my overdraft facility so that I would be able to use both of those things as interim financing (and aware of it being not the cheapest way to finance anything). I had calculated that between getting the deposit back from the house I was renting, one pension which I was able to cash in (if you've paid into a pension for less than two years in Ireland you can cash it in if you want to although will have to pay a lot of tax) and what little savings I had plus tax relief I needed to claim for medical expenses and any I'd be due on leaving the country I would have enough to cover the main moving expenses. This was indeed the case although I haven't actually submitted the last of my tax claims and so the credit card and overdraft are still there but their days are numbered. I did not, however, stick entirely to budget and didn't keep as tight a control on my spending as I should have during the first few months here. Many of my frugal habits are second nature by now so I haven't done too badly but I needed to rein things in and really get myself under control and so in January I started tracking properly using my spreadsheet again.

It is split into two sections, one for money coming straight out of the bank and one for cash spent. There is still some overlap between the two but I hope to start using it more accurately as time goes by so that the amount I have on the top section as miscellaneous/food etc should equal the amount of cash that I track on the bottom section, where I have each day divided into the categories I mostly spend stuff on. Since the spreadsheet is in excel and I don't yet have office on my home pc I make a note of whatever I spend over the weekend (take receipts in shops that offer them and write everything else on the back of those receipts) and fill it in on Monday morning in work.

So, for January my breakdown of spending as a percentage of my net income was as follows:
From bank
Loan 22.11%
Rent 24.73%
Concern 0.94% (this is a very small standing order to a charity in Ireland)
Transport 2.39% monthly ticket
House related 4.42%
Phone/internet 3.14%
Misc/food etc 16.44%
Gas/electricity 2.61% (I pay the same amount as the previous tenant, they will take readings once a year and adjust my payment up or down accordingly. I'm hoping it will be less.)
Transport 0.98% (a couple of taxis plus paying trams for visitors)
Food necessities 9.64%
Food luxuries 7.16% (there were a few bottles of wine this month, which pushed this up I think)
Canteen food 4.75% (I added this as a separate category as I could never make up my mind if it fit better under food luxuries or necessities - I brought food from home into work about half the days in Janaury. This includes not just canteen food but also the occasional lunch out in a proper restaurant with colleagues)
Toiletries 0.07% (I'd have to check the receipts but I'm pretty sure this was for toothpaste. I find it really interesting to know that a tube of toothpaste cost me 0.07% of my take-home pay)
Gifts incl. postage 2.17%
Lotto 1.49%
House/garden 1.77%
Medical 0.27%
Other 2.47% (this included music for choir and joining the library)

This all gives me a total of something like 106% and as I know I didn't use my credit card and did actually have money left over at the end of the month (had to make sure I kept some as I had finally gotten the bill to pay the real estate agent's commission and couldn't afford to pay it all from one month's pay) that's why I want to work on getting rid of the overlap between the two sections of my spreadsheet. The easiest way to do this is to use cash to pay for everything other than standing orders and as this is something I would like to do anyway it's what I'm going to do.

Ideally I'll have something like bank 65%, cash 25% and the remaining 10% would be what I had left at the end of the month, which then goes into savings. At least here I have some hope that simply the cost of living won't use everything up. I have been managing on what I earn (gross salary is higher than Ireland but taxes and insurance are also much higher so I earn less net) and taking into account I've also bought furniture etc I am hopeful about my chances of saving properly in the future. My goal for the moment is to have at least 100 euro still in my current account at the end of each month. This month I had to pay the real estate agent fee and will have the expense of a choir weekend away and I am going home the first week in March so I may not be able to start with that until the April but I will take each day as it comes. As with everything else what for others are minimum limits, for me are triumphs and if I get to the end of the month and still have any money left it is a big deal.


There are some things which do remind me on a regular basis of some of the reasons I am glad to have moved to Germany. Every little helps and even when I'm caught up in the worst of a what's-the-point-of-it-all mood that applies even more so.

Bread has to be one of the best things about living here. In fact, my only complaint (hey, I'm Irish, I'll always find something to moan about!) is that it means I haven't bothered making my own bread at all since I got here. And since I live alone I can't buy every type of bread every week and just have a bit of each and know someone else will finish it. I had a freezer full of leftover bread before I calmed down a bit and started to only buy one loaf of bread at a time. In fact I just took the last of my frozen bread out of the freezer to make breadcrumbs with for a pasta bake this evening. But the bakeries even open on a Sunday morning now so I can go and get myself a roll or two and have a nice leisurely breakfast.

Which connects to another thing I love about Germany - shops don't open on Sunday. Or bank holidays. Well, actually the state I live in apparently passed a law recently that shops could open on a Sunday (the law allowing bakeries to bake and sell for a few hours on Sunday mornings happened sometime in the last 10 or 12 years - I definitely remember my first couple of years in Germany that bakeries would sell Sontagsbroetchen on Saturday evenings) and there are a couple of small newsagent/tobacco shops which do open but for the most part everything stays closed except for a special Sunday opening a couple of times a year. As I live on a main street this has the added advantage for me of bringing a much quieter place on at least one day a week.

Technically, Sunday (as well as every day between 12 and 15 and every evening after 10) is also a quiet time i.e. you're not supposed to hoover, use the washing machine, cut the grass or anything else that makes noise. Depending on your building and rental contract you might not even be allowed to shower during this time. Sometimes it is a pain and I do sometimes ignore it, for example I didn't get the hoovering done yesterday so I did it this morning and I have a wash running as well at the moment as I didn't get it all done yesterday and I had towels I wanted to run on a hot wash (which I do every couple of months to help also clean out the machine a bit). I know I'm very busy for the next four weekends so it made more sense just to do it now. But, for the most part I try to keep myself to getting things done during the week or on Saturday mornings. It means I have very busy Saturday mornings but by Saturday afternoon things are mostly done and I feel like I have the rest of the weekend to myself. Years ago, when I was a student here shops closed at 12 on Saturdays except for one Saturday a month when they could stay open till 16. Many shops still do close around lunch time on Saturday so I just pretend to myself that I have to get everything done by 12 - it's an added incentive to get things done and not just meander.

I do live on a main street and it is very loud so I won't be staying here for a very long time but oh how fantastic it is to have my own place, something I would not have been able to afford in Ireland. I pay 550 euro a month for a nice, fairly big apartment - the same in Dublin would easily cost 1200 and far more for a decent quality. The area I am living in is really great too. I'm only a couple of stops away from the Altstadt if I want to find nightlife or shopping. But all the shops I actually need are within less than ten minutes walk.

There is a farmers' market twice a week just around the corner and it's a proper one, where all the farmers have to come from within a certain distance from here. I do most of my food shopping there on a Saturday morning. There is a big fruit and veg shop just down the road as well so if I fancy the non-organic, out of season imported stuff it's right there. Lemons and bananas are about it although I recently discovered that the fair trade shop just a few doors up the other way sells bananas sometimes too. There are three butchers, one of which sells a lot of organic meat and one of which is a real hippie kind of place that I like a lot. There are three bakeries within a minute of my house, one of them is a long-established one which has five shops in Dusseldorf and the other which I buy from has two shops in Dusseldorf and is more expensive but does a lot of organic baking. If I need a supermarket there are five within a few minutes walk - Rewe, Kaisers (the two big ones, comparable to Tesco say), Aldi, Plus (similar to Aldi) and Edeka. There are numerous small newsagents/tobacco/lotto shops. Three bookshops. A library. Loads of small restaurants, although there is a predominance of Italian restaurants which is all a bit boring after a while. Have to go further afield for Chinese or Indian for example. There are shoe shops and clothes shops as well although apart from Woolworth, they tend to be a bit on the pricey side. There's the aforementioned fair trade shop, a Bio Supermarkt (organic supermarket) and a healthfood shop. And my bank is just across the road as well. There is an optician and a leonidas shop. Chemists as well, plenty of hairdressers (haven't been able to bring myself to go to a German hairdresser yet though even though I badly need a trim) and even an Oxfam. There's a wool shop only about 15 minutes walk away and I also have two branches of Cash & 'Raus nearby, which is a charity helping long-term unemployed and which sells second-hand stuff. One of the ones near me sells mostly books but they all also sell furniture and I have bought most of my stuff there. There is a great toy shop which nearly makes me wish for kids (and the money to buy the stuff - wow, good toys are expensive) and a hardware and household goods shop which is also a wine shop and which sells everything I could need at prices which are for the most part comparable to the big DIY centres. And the Rhein is only ten minutes walk away.

And finally for now, the public transport here is great. I have a monthly ticket which costs me less than I paid for a monthly student ticket when I was in college in Dublin - 14 years ago!!. I can travel on trains, trams and buses within the Dusseldorf city area during the week and at weekends and in the evenings I can travel within the whole area covered by my local network, which is about an hour or two in any direction. And on weekends or evenings I can bring a second person with me as well, which is very handy for when someone is visiting.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Small steps

I am slowly pulling myself out of a very bad depression. Hope to start blogging a bit again as it does help me to clear my head. After a not terribly easy start to my job over here things went downhill and although I was sort of prepared to not necessarily like my job as much as I had done in Ireland, I wasn't really able for all that did happen. The person I came over to work for ended up out sick for a good while and shortly after she came back we found out that the new project she was heading up (which she told me about the first week I was there and which sounded really interesting) would have to be run from Frankfurt and that kind of left me in a weird place. It wasn't really a case of there no longer being a job for me but being so new to the German office (and having had to commit to a six-month probation period here despite my 4+ years with the firm in Ireland) I just didn't feel too secure. On top of the financial pressure of having moved (expected and planned for but nonetheless worrisome), the general stress around a move (regardless of how much you want it, moving countries is a very big deal) and the heat of the end of summer here it was just all a bit too much. There were a few incidents in work which made me feel...hmmmm...hard to describe...perhaps uneasy fits best. I think in part it's just the way things are in the German workplace but the politics are something else here. There was defintely nothing like it in the Irish office and certainly not for humble secretaries. Here, I felt like I was being passed over in important decisions affecting me and also being pulled hither and thither on a playing board between various management and HR people but, and this is the big difference, with none of them on my side. How and ever, I finally transferred to another department four months into my probation and this week was the end of my probation period so at least I have that little bit of security. Of course, I'm now working for someone I probably wouldn't otherwise have chosen to work for which is not ideal but I'm just trying to make the best of it for now and give myself a chance to settle properly before contemplating looking for a new job (given the current economic climate this is a good idea anyway I think).

The few days off at Christmas helped me to relax somewhat and I think did my boss well too as he seemed to be making a big effort in January. He's getting a bit difficult to deal with again now but will have a holiday in March which will hopefully improve his mood somewhat again. I have also realised that I much prefer working for someone older. He's only five years older than me and very immature in some ways and some days I end up thinking "but I don't want a kid!". At least I am getting back on track as regards food. I have definitely been more "normal" about food since I moved here but through this whole thing have still have periods which I've given in to all my worst habits. This week has been okay though. I had friends visiting at the weekend and made a big dinner on Saturday. On Monday and Tuesday evenings I heated up and ate the leftovers of that. And Wednesday, Thursday and this evening I finished off the bread I had bought along with some cheese, smoked goose breast and some of the chutney I made when I first got here. I walk home from work most days, it takes about 40 minutes. Every day while walking I start thinking about what I can get on the way home to eat for dinner and every day I come home without stopping off to get a pizza or kebab or to eat in a restaurant is a triumph (and only partially because I really can't afford to be eating out all the time even if it is much cheaper here). If I also wash and dry the dishes and put them away it's an even bigger triumph but I'm still working on doing that every day. And that is what my days are made up of at the moment. Just trying to get through each one and do those normal things that don't necessarily happen when deep in depression.

In general I am happy that I made the move and although things haven't worked out perfectly I still have a very strong feeling that I was right to leave Ireland. I might not end up here for a long time but feel like I'm on the road to wherever it is I'm meant to end up. I do miss the nice soft water in Ireland though.

@Cindi: in case you read this, I am sorry for not sending your needle book and pin cushion. I actually did make them on the last day possible of the swap but I had felted both and they needed to dry out and then the pin cushion was huge, much bigger than I'd planned but the pin cushion was tiny in comparision. And it was all around the time the crap in work started and I just couldn't deal with it all. They are on my table and I would like to get to them in the near future to see what I can make out of them. I've sort of got a bug up my ass (if you'll pardon the expression, not sure where I heard it but it just came to me and seems to fit the situation) about it at this stage and really want to make them presentable rather than starting from scratch with something that wasn't what I had planned if you know what I mean.