Monday, March 23, 2009

Leftovers and filing

I spent almost all day yesterday (eight hours on a beautifully sunny day!) sorting out papers and all the filing I hadn't finished doing. I now have everything sorted by year and ready for proper filing in actual folders. Actually I had pretty much everything done up to around the end of 2006, the last time I tackled it all properly and from 2007 plenty of things are processed so to speak (i.e. receipts attached to bank statements and that kind of thing) and just need putting away properly. And the piles for the other years are fairly small. But such a relief to finally, once and for all, have it done. I would often think I had it done at least up to a certain point in time and then another box or bag would turn up that I had shoved stuff into. Now that I have the space to not just shove things wherever they fit I am finally doing it properly. And I have my medical expenses tax claims ready and waiting to be processed, just need an answer from Revenue on one question and I go enter them onto the website. My couch is covered in paper: but what the hell. Definitely worth it to get this done. Then I can start thinking about doing my German tax return.

Having had to pay for the car repair I've definitely been having a storecupboard diet week or two till the end of the month. Brought all my empty bottles back to the supermarket on Saturday so that I could buy some veg at the market. Got seven onions, two big carrots and a kilo of potatoes for 4 euro and then a few slices of turkey salami and, to be adventurous, two rabbit legs. They'd been marinated in a spicy oil (mostly rosemary and chili I think) so I fried them yesterday for lunch and at them with some wheat which I had flavoured by adding a bit of lemon juice to the cooking water and then thrown some peas and corn into. Delicious although rabbits legs really don't have a lot of meat on them. I knew this. But now I really know it.

So tonight I'm having the best kind of leftovers. At least I have high hopes for it. Leftover wheat/peas/corn is being heated up, I threw in a tin of tomatoes so it didn't dry out and I had a mettwurst in the fridge which I'm also going to add. Then I had the great idea to try some chutney and have added a couple of spoons of pumpkin chutney to it as well. It smells fabulous so I don't care that the wheat will be hopelessly overcooked by the time it's heated through again.

Did some reading this weekend about vertical gardening and now have a brain brimming with ideas and wanting to completely rearrange my living room so that I actually will be able to grow some of my own food this year.

And found out today that the cost to me of repairing the rental car is 465, so will get 335 refunded to me, which will make a HUGE difference to my budget for the next couple of months (i.e. will allow me to actually have a budget instead of trying to make my storecupboard stretch that far. Which it couldn't.)

Crappy weather today, horrible black clouds but I feel good.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Age of Stupid

Just in case anyone hasn't heard about it yet, this sounds like a really interesting film. The Age of Stupid had it's premiere last week and went on general release from yesterday, 20 March. I watched the documentary of the making of the film online and thought it was very interesting. Here's the blurb about it:

The Age of Stupid is the new movie from Director Franny Armstrong (McLibel) and producer John Battsek (One Day In September). Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living alone in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance? It will be released in UK cinemas on 20 March 2009, followed by other countries.

The website is here

Monday, March 16, 2009

Water bath preserving

Just back from a week in Ireland where I lurched from one disaster to the next. Hired a car and it turned out my super duper rate really was too good to be true as it didn't include insurance (I had booked on the international rather than the Irish website and it isn't automatically included then) so I ended up having to pay for that as well. Then I bashed the car off a wall in the underground car park (honestly didn't see the corner of wall which extended about two inches into the space I was reversing into but my goodness what a horrible sound it makes in the car when you do that - I had no idea). So had to pay the 800 euro excess as the scratch went through the paintwork - should find out tomorrow if I'll get any refunded of that. If they just fix it I should, if they decide they want to go ahead and replace the entire bumper I won't see much of a refund. C'est la vie but of all the ways I might have found to focus my mind back onto budgeting this wasn't really near the top of my list!

However, I did get to spend time with lots of people. Was on the go or staying with someone the whole time and generally had a lovely time despite the worrying about paying for the car, fighting off a cold and the fact that many of the people I was catching up with are going to be made redundant in a week or two (and a friend of mine whose husband works in a recruitment agency told me that he is getting at least 400 CVs for every position they have so the chances of most of those people getting new jobs quickly don't seem too high). I'm not sure what I was expecting but I think I thought I'd have very strong feelings going back and wasn't sure if they'd be positive or negative. But really I was kind of indifferent to it all and the feeling remains that I was right to leave Ireland but wish that I was still working there instead of here. Still, I am seven months into things here and can hold out for another four and then it's nearly a year and once the year is up maybe I'll start looking for something else and to hell with thinking it's a bad idea to do that when the economy is the way it is.

It was exciting to come home to some parcels though and I picked a few more up from the post office this evening. Cue photos of my new water bath canners:

Only the shorter one has the inset part i.e. the bit you put the jars on to make sure they're not touching the direct heat source like so:

But I know a folded up teatowel can also be used and I'm sure you can buy replacements if you really want to. I am surprised at how huge these things are though. I put a corkscrew into the photo for comparison - I thought they wouldn't be that much bigger than my stockpot but they really are. So I think two is definitely more than enough. Not bad going for 5.30 plus shipping really. Roll on the summer!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I've become a consumer again

Well, I was always one I suppose but my consumption habits, in comparison to most of the people I know were fairly non-existant. Of course, having to furnish the apartment meant that I've been buying stuff on a fairly regular basis since I arrived here. In addition to actual furniture there were a lot of little things that always already seemed to be in the places I've lived the last number of years. Like a chopping board. Dustpan and brush. Better pans than the one crappy one I had. For the most part, I am happy with the way I have been spending though. Apart from a few items the first weekend I arrived (couch/bed, single bed for my bedroom, wardrobe from Ikea, sink + cupboard from Toom and washing machine + fridge from Quelle) all of the furniture I have gotten has been second-hand. But, at some stage, enough is enough and although it is tempting to keep going to see what bargains are to be had I really don't need anything further.

And then I discovered eBay. Oh my. It seems to also be a kind of a reaction to the news that so many people I know are being made redundant I think because I've been really fighting the urge to spend, spend, spend the last few days. So, I have bought far more than I originally planned to this month but am nonetheless pleased that I have not gone too wild on eBay as I can understand how easily it can be done (I bid on a pressure cooker today but after one bid dropped out and just saw that it finally went for 42 euro - I can't believe it would have cost that even brand new!). I have treated myself to a couple of DVDs (of films I have already seen a few times and will watch again) but otherwise bought things which I have had somewhere on a list of 'someday when I have money'. It just seems like time is running out to do the consumerist thing and I want to stock up on some things which should, hopefully, help me in my long term goal to being somewhat more self-reliant. Or maybe that's all just a pile of excuses for having had fun spending money I know I shouldn't (to a certain extent) have spent. I am glad to be living in Germany though as the whole credit lifestyle just really isn't the norm here and I don't really have any sources of credit readily available to me (unlike in Ireland where a credit card or overdraft increase were always just a phonecall and 24 hours approval away).

So, in order to put everything down in black and white I am listing everything I've bought on eBay. This lot gathered itself together astoundingly quickly and although I didn't pay a high price for any one thing, once the shipping costs are added and the whole lot together it very quickly has used up all my spare cash for this month (which, given that I'm about to go home for a week is not good but such is life).

Joghurt maker - 2
DVDs (x3) - 3 each
Material squares for quilting - 9
2m material - 6.55
Tupperware mini rice forms - 3
Tupperware butter dish - 2.60
Tupperware jug - 1.75
Butter dish to match my pottery - 11.52
iPod - 35.51
Water bath canner - 2.75
Water bath canner - 2.50
Pressure cooker - 8.05

Some of the silly things I did but luckily got away with:

Bid on two copies of the same film. Silly me. Luckily someone outbid me on one of them five minutes before the auction was due to end and the one I did end up buying was two euro less.

The iPod. You see, late last night it ocurred to me that looking into iPods and mp3 players was something I'd been meaning to do for a long time (based on the idea that it's probably better tan buying CDs) and I thought I'd have a quick look to see if there were any on offer. Of cousre, I don't have any idea how much something like that is supposed to cost other than having had a vague 'expensive' thought in my head so when I saw one for 25 euro I thought it would be worth breaking my 20 euro rule for. Put a max offer of 35 on it and it actually went all the way up to that but then I did win it. But in the meantime I had checked one of the big electronics shops here online and they have them on offer for 45 euro. So, a small saving and a big lesson learned. I need to sit down and really make sure I know what the things are that I still need and find out how much they normally cost.

Must go and pack. At least I know where my passport is. What bliss to have a place for everything. Everything isn't quite in its place but I'm getting there and at least the passport was where it's supposed to be.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


First of two performances of Mendelssohn's St. Paul was this evening. Am exhausted but in a good way. It was horribly hot in the church though and I nearly fainted just coming into the last section and had to sit down. Oh well, at least I was able to get up again for the last two pages (although suddenly pouring sweat and apparently a much whiter shade of pale than normal). The church we sing in tomorrow is likely to have the opposite problem and we've been told to dress warmly.

On Monday I fly home for a week. Could do with two weeks holiday but thought one week would be enough when I booked it. I'll be staying with various friends and family while I'm there and am looking forward to it. It'll be strange to go into my old work after last week's announcement but I'm glad I'll be there and at least be able to say goodbye to some of the people I know who are being made redundant. Everyone one over there is still pretty shaken up about it by all accounts and something my boss said the other day really brought home to me what the difference is in the working environment here and in Ireland. He had been speaking to one of the Irish partners (who I had also spoken to that day and who really sounded cut up about the whole situation) and afterwards came in to my office and was wondering why he had sounded so depressed or something. At first I thought he was joking but actually he was really serious and couldn't understand why he might be affected by having to have spent a day telling people they were going to be made redundant. And then cue a bit of a holding forth on his part about how sensitive the Irish are and how they really have a tendency to be melancholic (having spent two weeks in Cork years ago he is of course an expert on all things Irish). Or, as my brother said, basically being a teutonic ass. It's funny that in my personal life I find Germans to be just as warm as any other people but in work it becomes much easier to understand where the stereotype of a cold, stern people comes from. I know I have to stay put for the time being but I think mid-term I will need to look for another job and this time try and find a company or organisation that I can really believe in. I wonder if Slow Food Germany are in need of a good secretary.....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It's all hitting a bit closer to home now

Found out today that the company I worked for in Ireland are making 10% of their staff redundant (at least two secretaries from the department I worked in are among that 10%) and introducing paycuts for everyone else. I'm fairly certain that the German company is looking at this kind of thing as well although they did introduce a voluntary scheme a few months ago where you could choose to reduce your hours (with a corresponding pay cut obviously) and I had hoped that would be enough to see them through the next while. Feeling pretty awful about the whole thing at the moment. On the one hand I know friends and colleagues of mine are going to have to start signing on soon (27,600 people joined the live register in Ireland in January alone - that's not going to make finding a new job any easier) and when I think about some of the individuals involved and their lives and families it's heartbreaking. On the other hand I'm torn between a slight feeling of having gotten out just in time and the fear that actually by moving I've just put everything off for a while. Because although the situation here doesn't seem to be as grim as Ireland yet, it does seem to be getting there and although I am technically working for the same company it is actually a completely separate entity and so instead of being a long-serving employee I've only seven months of service to show. And in the back of my head is a constant refrain of please don't collapse Economy, please don't collapse for at least another three years. I'm sure I've said it before, I know it was my own fault for getting into debt and taking so long to get it under control but I just want to be able to clear that debt and still live my life (which includes being able to do things like buy a yoghurt maker on eBay). Aaaahhh, I know I will just have to roll with the punches as they come and I know there are many millions of people in far worse straits than I am. It really is starting to feel like time is running out though.

Monday, March 02, 2009

My first eBay purchase

I registered for eBay a couple of years ago but to be completely honest found it all a bit overwhelming so never really got into it or bought anything. Today I needed to make a payment through PayPal which turned into a big pain in the neck as my account was in Ireland and you can't change your address to another country, you have to open a new account in the new country. But, since I've changed my address with the credit card company to my German address I definitely couldn't use my Irish account as the details would no longer match. So, after faffing around getting the German paypal account set up I thought I would just have a quick look at eBay. That was when I realised I couldn't remember my log-in for eBay so I decided to go ahead and create one straight away.

After all that 'admin' work I decided to see if the pottery set I have was up there. I have more than enough dishes but one thing I am missing is a butter dish. I've been meaning to buy a butter dish for a couple of years but wanted to take my time choosing a really nice one rather than just a generic one from the kitchen reject shop or somewhere like that. So I've been checking charity shops and the like for something a bit special and thought if I could find one from the set I have it would be perfect. There is one posted but it's up as a rare collector's item so I'm not sure I'll even bother bidding on it - will wait till closer to the end of the auction to see if the price has gone mental or stayed reasonable. It's really nice too - I like the shape of it.

While I was there I decided to see if I could find a dehydrator as that is something on my list of things to get someday. And in my search for that I came across a yoghurt machine, almost brand new and with the auction about to end in seven minutes. So, I am now the new owner of a yoghurt machine (something else I've almost bought several times in the past but thought I shouldn't as it's so easy to make without any special equipment - the only problem being I've never been quite able to make it work!). For the very reasonable price of 2 euro I have to add and even adding the 6.90 for shipping it is a bargain I think.

I have set myself an eBay limit of 20 euro (including shipping) and a commitment to only look for things that are on my list of to-buy anyway. If I ever have a big purchase to make I can reconsider this but as a general rule it should stop me getting in trouble. One of my sisters developed a bit of a bad habit of buying stuff left, right and centre and often paying more than she would have in a shop, often for stuff she didn't need at all. I have more than enough money issues without going down that route. But, for today, I am pleased with my purchase and will in future try to emulate one of my other sisters, who just uses eBay to keep an eye out for stuff she needs, presents for the kids etc and so is able to get some very good bargains and put stuff away for when it is needed. I think the important thing is being able to let stuff go. The butter dish will be a good test for me. 20 euro would be a bit expensive for a butter dish but if I were to buy a new hand-painted one (which I had contemplated for a while) I would more than likely pay more than that. We shall see.

In other news I used my Mooncup for the first time today. Will post about that later in the week but fair warning now to anyone who may be a bit squeamish and prefer not to read about that kind of thing - I make sure to put mooncup in the post title so you can avoid it if you prefer.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Evenings getting brighter

I love when the evenings start getting brighter. Haven't noticed it particularly until this weekend as I work until at least 6 and usually a bit later so it's mostly still dark when I go home. This weekend I was away for a choir weekend. We have two concerts (performing Mendelssohn's St. Paul) next weekend so this weekend the whole choir headed off to Kloster Steinfeld again for some intensive rehearsing. The time flies by although it really is very intensive and exhausting. We had rehearsal on Friday evening for three hours then yesterday three three hours sessions. We were due to go for dinner at 6 so during the second rehearsal I kept looking out the window waiting for it to get dark so I'd know it was nearly time for a break. And then all of a sudden it was time for dinner. But it was still bright out! How fantastic.

Same today, it is half-six now and starting to get dark. I'm not long back from choir and should turn the light on inside now but actually I'm going to go out and walk for half-an-hour before the light is completely gone. It does tend to get dark very quickly here so it'll probably be fully dark by the time I get back. Happy days though, in Germany spring is considered to be March, April and May (in Ireland it's February, March and April) and today has been a gorgeous day, still cold but blue sky and sunny. Welcome Spring!