Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gone again

My laptop died a couple of weeks ago so I'm back to just ocassionally spending an hour or two in the internet cafe when I can.  So I won't be around much over the next while.  My first thought was too hell with debt, I'm going to use my coming-at-the-end-of-November-bonus to buy a good computer (until now I've bought second-hand ones from work, very cheap but they don't last more than a year or so - so in the last three years I've spent 300 euro on three different laptops, just not worth it).  But I've spent more time knitting, reading and listening to the radio or music over the last couple of weeks than I have done for months and it might be a good thing to not have a computer for a few months.  If I wait until I've paid off all my debt and then save to get one, I know I'll feel really good about it.  And if I don't manage to hold out the eight or nine months that's probably going to take, well, at least I can pay down as much of my debt as possible before cracking and adding a bit more back to it.  A bit of time might even mean that I research my options properly to make sure I buy something suitable for my needs and that will last a good few years.  Anyway, that's the plan at the moment.  I am going to buy an external harddrive soon though - my laptop is not quite completely dead and I can get about three or four minutes out of it in one go if it has been left alone in a cold place for a day or so (that trick of putting a dodgy harddrive in a freezer is not just an urban legend - for some problems it really does work althought when I worked in tech support we were supposed to absolutely deny that).

In the meantime I'm contemplating an iPhone to keep up to date with stuff a bit better but I'm very undecided.  The only reason I'm considering it is because work have arranged a special deal with vodafone so after a small one-off payment (around 50 euro), I wouldn't have any further monthly costs as it would be covered by the work flat-rate package.  When I got the email about it a few months ago I had no intention of getting an iPhone so I just didn't really read it properly.  I've heard people talking about it recently though and given that it'd be an easy way to at least have some online presence, I'm going to dig out that email and read it through properly.  I think something like basic internet and all calls within the country are covered, which sounds almost too good to be true.  But of course there is a downside, in this case the fact that since I would have a company phone, my number would be in the company outlook address book and I would essentially be contactable 24/7.  With my old boss that would have been enough to stop me because he would have taken advantage of it all the time.  But my new boss isn't like that and is very much into the idea of a decent work/life balance and all that (and really into it, not just paying lip service as so many do).  So it's something else to think about.  Or I could get an iPad privately - not sure it would do everything I'd need and it would mean tying myself into at least a two-year contract, which I'd prefer not to do.  All in all, lots to consider.

For now though I'd better head off to the garden centre/building supplies place and find something to kill moths.  Yes, I found the infestation of clothes moths finally.  And then another one.  Who knows how many there are.  I've gotten moth paper and these ridiculously strong-smelling lavender oil yokes for keeping moths away - luckily I already had lavender sachets in my wardrobe and drawers which might have prevented an infestation in my main clothes storage.  At least so far I haven't found any there.  Where I did find them however was in the cupboard where I keep my craft supplies - wool, material, candle-making stuff and anything else that might be useful sometime.  As I've been knitting again recently, I've been using stuff out of this cupboard.  And while searching for my giant needles, I dragged out the baskets of felting wool/roving and silk strands ('cos I thought it would be practical to take it all out of the plastic bags and have it in baskets instead - looks nicer and is easily accessible!) and noticed what looked a bit like a big patch of dust.  Looked closer and saw one or two moths and realised it was all the eggs that I was looking at.  This all happened at around eleven o'clock last Sunday night and I nearly cried.  It's a good thing I have been starting to feel better recently because if that had happened to me six months ago, I really think I would have ended up in hospital with a severe nervous breakdown.    I risked the wrath of neighbours and switched on the hoover to get rid of what I could see and after struggling with myself for twenty minutes or so I dumped the whole lot of baskets and roving etc. into a big plastic bag and straight out for the rubbish.  There would just be no way to rescue it - as soon as I tried to wash it at a temperature that would kill them, it would felt.  So, nearly two hundred euro's worth gone just like that.  Serve me right for not bothering to use the stuff more often after having gone to the expense of buying it!

Two days later it was the first really cold evening we've had and I decided to take out my patchwork blanket, which was over the other side of the sitting room on the basket which contained all of the ripped up t-shirts that I planned to make a rag-rug out of as well as the Lorna's Lace wool that I won in a competition shortly after moving here but which got all tangled and that I'd ocassionally take out to untangle a bit more.  I sat with the blanket snugly around my legs for a couple of hours and it was only when I was folding it that I noticed some 'dust' on one bit, looked closer and could see larvae squirming.  Eeeeww.  It felt like they were everywhere.  I hoovered the first patch of 'dust' I saw and what larvae I could see but it was kind of like cobwebs and as soon as I started seeing them, I just kept seeing more and more.  So the blanket went into a big plastic bag with the top tied securely but I just couldn't bring myself to throw it out.  Two years of work went into it, not to mention the amount of money the wool cost.  I've dumped the basket with the t-shirts and other wool, hoovered as best I can all around and have hung up sticky yokes as well to catch any moths that might already be around.  Now I want to see if I can get something to kill the already existing larvae.  If I can't I'm going to get a big plastic box with lid and leave the blanket steeping in water with lots of vinegar, which someone suggested might work.  After that I'll wash it in the washing machine as hot as I can without destroying it.  Or bring it for dry cleaning perhaps - not sure how they'd react to being handed something full of clothes moth larvae.  We don't really have moths like that in Ireland, so this is all new to me.  If anyone has any suggestions or tips for dealing with the infestation (or indeed on choosing a new computer) please leave a comment.  From what I've heard so far I've resigned myself to the fact that it may be months or years before they're completly gone.  But I want to minimise the damage at least.

Have a lovely weekend all.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

My Dream Farm

I'm watching the first episode of Monty Don's series My Dream Farm.  The series, according to the DVD cover, charts the progress of six new farmers in their first year of working the land, guided by gardening and farming guru, Monty Don. 

I haven't quite gotten to the end of the first episode yet but had to stop it to make a note of what was said at one point.  In order to try and capitalise on their resources, this couple came up with several ideas for adding value to the products of their farm.  One of those products is sheep and, given that a fleece will only sell for about one pound, they thought about using the wool to produce duvets.  They found a nearby mill to process the fleeces and Monty Don was able to arrange for a couple of commercial buyers to come and visit.  While both buyers thought that the price was too high, it's this line from the John Lewis buyer which has me seething: "[the price] probably hasn't been considered for a high street environment.  I think Dick and Pauline have really approached it from what it actually costs for them to produce one unit."  And this, I think, is part of the problem with our entire economy.  While allowing that economies of scale may lead to some savings, expecting a price to come down by 30-50% is a bit much, I feel.  They didn't seem to be fazed on hearing the news but I note that their website shows John Lewis as one of their stockists now.  I know a short DVD spot will never give the full story but I do hope that they were able to sell at more than what it cost them to produce!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Random thoughts

What on earth is this all about?  92 year-old refused whiskey because she had no ID proving she was over 18.  And this in a country that doesn't even have an official ID card. Reading this article just after having watched V for Vendetta again, it's just a bit worrying.

I've been paying very little attention to the news over the last while so am not too terribly informed about the occupy campaign.  But satire is always fun:

Someone just drove past with Come On Eileen blaring out the windows.  Loud music in cars normally annoys me but this time it has made me smile and I almost feel like getting up and dancing.  But my head is too stuffed up to contemplate that for long.

Read this today on a discussion board: "i really dont have the faith or courage to try a differnt brand"
You might think, fair enough, but what really bothered me might be more obvious if you see the start of the sentence " ive eaten this brand of turkey almost every year since i can remember".  Now, I'm a sucker for tradition in many ways but turkeys/meat just shouldn't be a 'brand', each individual animal should have its own taste based on so many different factors.

And a late edit to add that it may be silly, but I think I want one of these.  What a shovel!  And gotta love the spaghetti western music they've used.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Amazing sounding workshop in (I think) New York state

Jenna at Cold Antler Farm is having a workshop on emergency preparedness with one of the two speakers being James Howard Kunstler.  Wow, how amazing would that be?  Such a pity this isn't happening close to me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Random thoughts

  1. When did underwear start to mean just knickers/underpants/panties?  I still think of underwear as, well, everything you wear under your clothes - bra/vest, knickers, stockings/tights/socks.  If I hear someone talking about a pair of underwear, it just sounds strange.  If I'm talking about writing a list of what to pack to go on holidays, I don't write bras and underwear because that's just saying the same thing twice.
  2. When did all the men on telly start shaving their armpits?  The bare chest has certainly seemed to have become more and more common but it's only in the last couple of years that it's occurred to me that much of that is artificially bare and I've realised that because I started to notice how many men don't even have any hair under their arms.  What I understand even less than these men who feel the need to de-hair themselves are the women who find it appealing.  I find men so much more attractive the way nature made them (women too, come to think of it).  I also keep remembering with a smile that bit in James Bond when he's in a Japanese bath of some kind and the Japanese man makes a remark about how the attendants are giggling over the amount of hair on James' chest, to which Sean Connery replies something like "a bird will not nest in a tree without leaves".
  3. For no reason in particular I found myself reading the wiki entries on what exactly baby boomers are, which led me to find out that I'm apparently from Generation X.  It reminds me of that old email that did the rounds a bit more than ten years ago about how the current set of people entering college would have been born after 1980, which means they have no real memory of the Reagan/Thatcher era and don't understand the philosophical importance of 'wax on, wax off'. 
  4. Someone recently reminded me about the documentary Inside Job - not sure if I mentioned it but it's well worth a look.  It goes into the reasons behind the financial crisis and is probably not the kind of film you might expect when hearing 'the latest Matt Damon film'.  This is a trailer for it on youtube.
  5. Just came back to edit this post after reading this blog post from sallygardens and clicking through to a trailer for a documentary called Gasland (including someone being able to set the water coming out of their kitchen tap on fire by holding a lighter to the tap before turning it on - mad!).  Worrying issue - will have to find out more about this.  My first thought is that Ireland is just not a country big enough to be taking any chances with what land it does have.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Budgeting after debt elimination

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about budgeting and how to manage it once I'm out of debt.  The sad fact is that if I'd handled my budgeting better over the last three years (since I moved here) I'd already be out of debt now.  Even if I'd been budgeting properly in the last few months, I'd be far closer to my goal of being debt-free by the end of 2011 (which is not going to happen now).

A few months ago I found this budget spreadsheet on the marriedwithluggage blog.  I've come across lots of different budget spreadsheets over the last few years of reading more personal finance blogs and websites but never found anything I liked better than what I had developed myself.  But this one, I really like.  Others have always seemed far too complicated and awkwardly set up for my use and so I have just stuck with what I came up with myself, which I have refined over time (probably to the extent that to anyone else it wouldn’t seem simple at all but that’s the way these things go).

However, having learned quite a bit about money, budgeting and, most importantly, my relationship with money (which is sometimes none too healthy) I have learned that I do need a different way to budget. At first I told myself that I would need a new way to budget because I would be out of debt and would have more money at my disposal and would need to make sure not to go crazy buying stuff I don't need or want.  I'd even started writing a blog post about it, very little of which is making it into this post becuase after writing it and after messing around with this new spreadsheet for a bit I realised that my thinking has been flawed all along (given how long I've been in debt, some might say that doesn't come as a big surprise).

Actually, I've changed my mind and am going to include here the bulk of what I started writing a few months ago.  Come to think of it, I think this was mostly what I posted in a comment to that blog above.  I was obviously so impressed with myself I decided it was worthy of a blog post of its own.

Begin: At the moment I simply can’t budget in a big way for things like eating out, entertainment, clothes or basically anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.  I make my fixed debt payments, pay whatever other bills are due, make only slightly higher than minimum payments to credit card and by the time I’ve transferred a small amount to savings to cover annual expenses there really isn’t an awful lot left so it gets divided by the number of weeks that month (four or five) and that’s what I have to spend on everything that week.
By July I will have finished paying off some large dental bills that have really been hurting the last few months (I should have paid them over longer than six months, but that would have involved interest so I decided not to do it) and also have made my final payment on the big loan I took out five years ago. After that I will have some overdraft and credit card debt but plan to have that fully cleared by the end of the year.

So I will need to start thinking much differently about the way I budget and actually budget for what I need in various categories.  I must start keeping my daily log again so that in a few months I have a somewhat realistic idea of what I actually need to be spending on the various categories.
End quote.

You see, what I realised after having written that (in April, I just checked) and allowed it to simmer under the surface while I struggled with a massive depression and a bad work situation, is the fundamentally flawed aspect at the beginning of it.  "I simply can't" when really the truth is that I simply don't.  And now I need to just start doing it. 

Since I made my final loan payment at the end of July I haven't done too well on actually keeping to the kind of budget I was.  Partly because I'm just so sick and tired of having to be careful.  And I've always struggled with that line between what is sensible budgeting and what is sackcloth and ashes budgeting anyway.  Sometimes trying to keep myself sane has come before getting myself out of debt more quickly but I made the decision a while ago that as long as I do things consciously then I am okay with that.  But I definitely don't want to be sitting here in October 2012 talking about still being in debt.

Using the spreadsheet above I actually played around with how I would do if I was earning different amounts of money (I needed this badly when I had started looking for a new job so that I could figure out how much of a drop in salary I could sustain if necessary).  And I found that a big help.  I also needed some different categories and, since I have a tendency to need to micro-manage spending at least for a while until new habits establish themself, I broke some categories down even more.  For example, I don't have any pets so that section was gone.  I replace it with a breakdown of not just food and drink but more detailed.  Because I don't just spend my money in one place.

Food became:
  • Farmers' Market
  • Fair trade shop
  • Supermarket
  • Other
  • Preserving supplies
Drink became:
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Water (I buy fizzy water - sometimes I like someting fizzy to drink but I haven't got the sweet tooth for things like coke or fanta these days.  It's also handy to have for guests - if a German asks for water, nine times out of ten, they'll mean fizzy)
  • Other
This post is long enough for now and doesn't quite say all that I wanted it to say but I'm just going to hit publish anyway.  If I think too much about this stuff part of it goes away before I can finish.  My main point for now is that the type of budgeting I 've been doing just won't cut it if I ever want to get to a healthy financial situation.  But it's not just the budgeting that needs to change, it's the way I think about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Random thoughts

I bit the bullet and bought myself a really good pair of shoes.  It seems like for the last few years I haven't bought many shoes and when I have it has mostly been of the cheapish and reduced even further in a sale variety.  And, as sometimes happens, most of the shoes I do have, have started all falling to pieces at the same time.  And I've gone into a shop or two and tried on whatever was on sale but nothing seemed to quite fit right.  So this morning I went to the shop which is also the place where the make the orthotics that I got last year.  I figured they'd at least have shoes that will offer decent support and would probably know their stuff.  I still bought what was one of the cheaper pairs of shoes there but at 120 euro, that's about five times more than I would normally spend on shoes (maybe a bit less than about twice as much as I've spent on hiking boots).  They're black boots, just about ankle high (which I wanted because I have a couple of pairs of trousers that are just a teensy bit too short that I'll now be able to wear more often), extremely comfy to wear, my orthotics fit in them no problem and she said there would absolutely not be a problem with getting them repaired or re-soled when the time comes.  She spent plenty of time listening to exactly what I wanted, paid attention to it and went looking for what I was after and then afterwards, also spent some time telling me how I can best care for my new shoes.  Well worth the money so far.  Here's hoping the shoes live up to my expectations now!

And today I remembered one of the really good things about keeping a blog because I bought a red cabbage yesterday and although I cooked this dish quite a lot last winter, I just couldn't remember exactly what I needed for the basic recipe.  A quick search and I had all I needed.  Just waiting for it to finish cooking now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another very interesting documentary

Saw this a few weeks ago as well and really enjoyed it.  Just now thought to look for the website - it's a French film and the translation of the title isn't quite what I would have thought it would be but really works: Think Global Act Rural

Do try and see it if you can - there's a trailer on that website too.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Random thoughts

Some of the (very, very many) films that are almost guaranteed to make me cry, in no particular order:
  • Love Actually
  • The Parent Trap (any version of it)
  • Ghost
  • Armageddon
  • Forrest Gump
  • Terminator 2
  • The Great Escape
  • V for Vendetta
  • The Truman Show
Every once in a while I realise that something from my childhood has had a bigger impact on me that I thought.  My dad was a firm believer that your pockets were for keeping money, keys or a hanky in but under no circumstances for keeping your hands in.  It was a big no-no for any of the lads working for us (not to mention for any of us kids) to be standing around with their hands in their pockets.  I always thought it was a bit over the top.  But now I find myself occasionally watching a film or television series (even sometimes just in work or out and about in daily life) and being so incredibly irritated by people standing around in even the most formal setting, with their hands in their pockets.  You're meeting the president?  Why not walk into the room with your hands in your pockets.  About to tell someone they're dying?  Sure, leave your hands in your pockets. The things our parents drum into us and those around us often stay with us whether we realise it or not.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Random thoughts

Still don't seem to be in a place where I feel like I can get back to normal posting any time soon.  Part of this is the recurring thought that I have nothing of worth to share.  This has been a big problem for me in general during this bout of depression and goes beyond the usual low self-esteem issues I've always struggled with.  However, I do have lots of ideas for things I want to post about and quite a few half-started drafts and I will try to spend some time on them over the next few months.  In the meantime I'm just going to occasionally post mish-mash posts of random thoughts.  I do far too much over-explaining anyway.  So here goes:

I've just ordered The Friday Night Knitting Club, a book which I bought (in an airport I think) a few years ago, read, was fairly sure I wouldn't read again and so it went into the pile for the charity shop.  Only for me to remember a few months later that I had meant to copy down the instructions for knitting an afghan patchwork type blanket.  Following the not terribly huge success of the Blanket Project I would really like to give this type of thing another go.  But with bigger squares and an overall smaller blanket.  Because while it might not look great and while it may be coming apart at the seams (yes, I really need to learn some sewing/finishing skills) that blanket is made of almost pure wool (this stuff)  and will keep me warm on the coldest of days or nights. 

A friend in choir told me recently about a new car-sharing scheme in our town.  I knew there were one or two in operation and had always planned to find out more and it was great to talk to someone about their experiences.  And even better, the closest place the cars are parked to me is the car park just about four minutes walk from where I live.  I plan to join up soon but am undecided as to whether or not I'll start using it as an excuse to just start using a car for everything.  Time will tell.  Need to save up enough for the deposit first.

I've done so little to make any headway with the house since this post.  The armchair is full with a pile of clothes to be ironed/folded/put away and the yellow couch is completely covered with stuff at this stage.

I have moths in my bedroom.  So annoying and I really need to start dragging stuff out and seeing if I can find any particular spot of infestation.  Have only seen individuals ones and am killing any I do see when I see them (or throwing them out the window if it happens to be close to it, which it rarely is).  But the place I have seen most of them is in the corner very close to my bed.  I've been sleeping on the couch for the last couple of weeks and trying to convince myself it's only because I wanted to spend a couple of weeks sleeping in a double bed again.  Have thus far only found one blanket with a hole in it and washed that at 60 degrees so hopefully even if there were any eggs laid on it (in it?), that will take care of it. 

I went into a shop the other day because I need to buy a laundry basket.  Came out with a small footstool.  That's just the way things are at the moment.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miscellaneous stuff on Sunday evening

I find it more and more difficult to watch American shows or comedies these days - the absolute horror that comes over people if they see a naked body part (apart from during sex scenes - and even then I still find myself wondering why so many women seem to feel the need to leave their bras on during sex), or if any bodily function is mentioned is harder and harder for me to accept because what used to be an over the top reaction added in for laughs has become so mainstream that it seems to have become the 'normal' way to think.  This thought has been brought to mind again recently as I started watching United States of Tara - I realise it is used in part to emphasise the difference between some of her alter egos and her but there have been a couple of parts where the daughter has really irritated me.

I've been to see two films in the cinema this weekend.  Long time since I've done that and apart from the heat (most cinemas here, at least the smaller ones, tend not to be air conditioned) I've really enjoyed it.  First up was Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three.  Some Like It Hot was a firm favourite at home when I was a kid and I've seen The Apartment and Buddy Buddy several times but apart from that haven't really seen a lot of Billy Wilder's films.  One, Two, Three was hilarious.   "Is everybody in this world corrupt?" - "I don't know everybody."

The second film was Taste the Waste - this is a documentary that was shown on television here a while ago and I remember only finding out about it a week or two later, when it was no longer available online.  Either it was just advertising for the film then or it has simply gained enough popularity to now be shown in cinemas all over.  Check if it will be near you soon, ask about it if it's not and maybe if enough demand is created, it will be shown all over.  Shocking footage (even when you know the facts behind it already) of the sheer quantities of food thrown away every day.  And of course, the statistics (yes, we all know the statistics can be made to say what you want but still...): the amount of food thrown away in Europe and North America could feed every starving person in the world. Three times over.

One of my local bakers was in the film too.  Knowing his shop, I know that he already offers day-old bread for sale at a reduced price (20% off).  Whatever is still leftover after that used to go to make animal feed but is now crushed up and mixed with sawdust to make pellets that he can use to heat the ovens to bake the bread.  If every bakery in Germany were to do the same, we'd need one less nuclear power plant.

Anyone else seen any good films recently?  I picked up a few leaflets for cinemas and theatres etc. and really want to try and make an effort to get out and do things every once in a while.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Meal plan for week 36

Lunch - Zwiebelkuchen and tomato salad
Dinner - Chicken parcels (roasted on top of slices of courgette and tomato) with boiled potatoes

Lunch - Spinach and feta tart
Dinner - Leftover chicken and fried potatoes

Lunch - Spinach and feta tart
Dinner - Tomatoes and courgette with pasta

Lunch - leftover pasta
Dinner - tomato salad

Lunch - tomato salad
Dinner - I may go digging around in the freezer

Totally out of ideas - probably whatever of the list above I don't actually get around to making/eating.

How much is a good night's sleep worth?

Well, today the answer is 60 euro.

I arrived back late last night and after opening all the windows to let some air into the apartment I couldn't resist hitting the computer so that I could update my budget spreadsheet.  I had been keeping an eye on my bank accounts while I was away and had even thought to bring my list of codes so that I could do some transfers as soon as I got paid.  My overdraft balance is looking pretty improved at the moment but I have to admit I will need to withdraw money from that account before the end of the month as I have a few more bills due which are just about going to wipe out my current account.  I could have transferred less to the overdrawn account so that I was left with enough to cover the entire month but I think I will be far more careful to spend less when I know it's money coming from an overdrawn account than I might otherwise be.  I finally got the payment from the financial aid program in work - I had applied for that in relation to the tooth implant I had done last year (which cost 2,800 euro, of which I paid 2,500) and they offered me just over 1,200.  Fantastic.  It was paid to me with my salary and was partially taxed so I came out with 924 euro extra.  It's hard not to moan about it being taxed but really, it was money for free so how can I complain?  That money has been put aside to pay for expenses incurred while on holiday and also to pay for our planned choir trip in October.

I also finally received my tax refund, which amounted to nearly 1,500.  I have to figure out if that's correct now, based on the assessment notices that arrived while I was away.  I can't make head nor tail of them.  I seem to have gotten a big payment for 2008 (expected, as that was the year I moved here and I only worked here for five months as well as being able to offset some moving costs), a very small one for 2009 (when I had actually tried to offset some moving costs as well, which I had only received the invoice for in 2009) and then another big refund for 2010 (totally unexpected as I only had a few standard things to offset).  Mind you, if the one for 2010 is correct I'd be happy enough because that should be approximately what future years look like.  I think I'll need to get up early one day next week and take a trip down to the Finanzamt to check.

When I got back yesterday I saw a notice in the hallway that my upstairs neighbour is having a party this evening.  If I had known that earlier, I would have just stayed in my sister's for another day.  At least he has given a day's notice this time - he had a party last year not long after he moved in without mentioning it to anyone and I had to go up a couple of times before they finally turned the music (and the dancing) down to a level I could sleep through at two o'clock.  Having had a long day travelling yesterday following a lovely but not quite as relaxing holiday as hoped (families are just hard work sometimes!), I had been looking forward to a couple of nights' good sleep in my own bed before starting back to work on Monday.  With the prospect of a party raging above my head until the small hours tonight I decided that I really don't care about spending money on something that's a bit unnecessary and went trawling the internet to see if I could get a cheap hotel room for the night.  Yes, there is a possibility that I could find a friend to loan me their spare room or couch to sleep on, which would obviously be cheaper.  But I've been with other people more or less non-stop for two weeks and I really needed these couple of days to myself (which is why I came back a couple of days early in the first place).

I couldn't find anywhere for less than 79 euro online (for just the room, no breakfast) without having to travel for nearly an hour but when I was walking home from the market I realised that there's at least one hotel on that road that I pass by all the time and barely even notice.  I walked in, asked if they had a room and am glad I did, as they did have one and it's all mine for just 60 euro, including a full breakfast in the morning.  There's no bath so my idea of making an evening of it and having a nice long soak has been scotched but on the plus side it's only four minutes walk away from home so I won't have to spend half an hour getting there either.  Some might consider this a foolish waste of money but I think the hopefully good night's sleep I will get is absolutely worth it.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Preserving efforts 2010

  • 3-berry jam
  • Apple jelly
  • Apple juice (I just found two litre jars of juice that I had shoved in the back of a cupboard that normally doesn't have anything food related in it - very annoyed because one is showing signs of a slightly slimy film on top so I assume the pastuerisation that occurs with the steam juicing still isn't enough to preserve for more than a few weeks.  On the other hand, it might be turning into a vinegar mother so I'll have to look up a bit more about that before throwing it away)
  • Apple sauce
  • Dried apples
  • Bread and butter pickles (I really dislike cucumber, one of the foulest tasting vegetables there is in my opinion so avoiding it during the current e-coli outbreak is no hardship - however the pickles I made last year to use up a glut from the garden went down very well with the people there so I will probably make lots of these again in the future to use as gifts and to bring to potluck type dinners)
  • Broad beans (frozen)
  • Cherry jam (and now I know there's a difference between sweet cherries for eating and sour cherries for making jam with - not liking and therefore never eating cherries, how was I supposed to know?)
  • Chutney (made one lot and it burned - thought I had rescued most of it on time but opening a jar several months later led to a tasty chutney with a horribly sulphurous aftertaste)
  • Redcurrants (dried)
  • Dilly beans
  • Kasundi (made at the request of friends - far too oily for my tastes but they seem to think it tasted the way it should)
  • Peach, nectarine and apple jam 
  • Peas (frozen)
  • Raspberry jam
  • Dried strawberries
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Strawberry jam
  • Bottled tomatoes
  • Dried tomatoes
  • Dried bananas

Monday, May 09, 2011

Decent start to the week

Despite faffing around for most of the day yesterday, not getting a lot done (although I did get a second draft of my CV finished) and really wanting to go out for a walk once it cooled down a bit in the evening, I decided before I left to cook the pasta sauce I'd decided to do to have for lunches this week.  Of course, once I started doing that, I decided to also make the banana bread I wanted to do to use up the really on their last legs bananas as well.  So once I got going, I ended up spending the best part of an hour and a half in the kitchen, it was after eight when I put the pasta bake into the oven and I was so tired I knew I was better to just go to bed early.  If I had gone out I would have also felt good but I would have gotten a second wind and ended up staying up late again.  I think it was the right decision as I went to bed around half-nine, read about two pages before falling into a deep sleep and slept right through until the alarm this morning.  I needed a good sleep.

But, I did get the pasta done.  I used two jars of tomatoes with herbs that I bottled in August and had totally forgotten about.  Sauteed a couple of chopped up onions and a large carrot for a few minutes, added the tomatoes and as a bit of an afterthought threw in the last handful of last year's broadbeans from the freezer.  Let that lot simmer away gently while the banana bread was baking and at the same time let some pasta cook in the tupperware poacher.  Put the pasta in an ovenproof dish, poured the sauce over it, topped with some grated cheese and once the cake had finished baking, put it in the oven to finish.  Ended up with three normal and two very generous portions of pasta bake, all neatly waiting in their tuppreware in the fridge to be taken to work as lunch (except on Wednesdays, when I eat in the canteen but I will bring some pasta bake for tea before choir practice so it's more or less the same thing).  Had one today and it was lovely.  So apart from Wednesday, shouldn't be spending a lot of money this week. 

I also saw a very interesting post on Food in Jars with a recipe for breakfast baked eggs in a jar - I think I will give this a go as I too feel the need to get back to some more veggie heavy meals.  I quite fancy the idea of preparing the veg on Sundays/making sure I cook something on Sundays that leaves me with leftover veg, then taking five minutes to assemble these on a Monday morning and leaving them to bake while I get ready for work.  Lovely substantial hot breakfast to start the week and then a cold jar already waiting for you each morning.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Random tip on logging into gmail and blogger with different accounts at the same time

Not sure anyone else ever has this problem but since I've accidentally found a way around it, I thought I'd post it.  Of course, this could well be something that has a much easier solution that I just never knew about and somebody smarter than me will comment to let me know how bad my knowledge of technology has really become.

My problem being that when I created this blog, I was (and still do) mostly using a yahoo email address.  At some stage I wanted to create a new email address (I have several, some with my real name, some with usernames from various forums or websites, some just used to sign up for newsletter or something that might potentially lead to increased spam etc.) and I decided to use gmail, which lots of people seemed to have taken to using.  I have to admit, I really don' like it but I used that address for a couple of things that have become fairly regular (such as organising book club) so I do need to check it regularly.  And if I was already logged into my blog I couldn't log into my gmail account without logging out of blogger first.  Which kind of irritated me. 

Entirely by accident I recently discovered a workaround though.  If I'm logged into blogger and open a new window (or tab), go to youtube and log in there with my gmail account I can then go straight to the gmail site and it will open my email.  Without making me log out of blogger first.

So there you have it.  I may be the only person that had that problem or found it annoying but that's how to get around it if you need to.

Spending recap - week 18

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.  This recap is only cash or debit card transactions for day-to-day spending.  Anything that is paid in a different manner (e.g. monthly bills going straight from account) and bigger one-off expeneses are not included.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.  Also includes eating out.
Canteen food = eating lunch out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport  13.50
  • Food necessities  30.66
  • Food luxuries  55.82
  • Canteen food  27.10
  • Toiletries 0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage)  21.85
  • Clothes  12.00
  • House/garden  25.85
  • Medical 0.00
  • Other  23.70 (12.50 was music for choir)
Total spend this week:  210.48
Total spend this month:  210.48

This week's recap includes two weekends as I did last week's a couple of days early to coincide with the end of the month.  And this week includes the final day of my holidays as well, with some slightly frivolous shopping and eating out.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A slight error

But a very frustrating one.  I had planned to use some of the money I am due back from my annual house expenses to pay to visit my sister in France at the end of June (on a side note, when I brought the annual reckoning to the renters' association to get it checked out she said that normally, for an apartment the size of mine they would expect heating costs to be around 700 a year - mine are closer to 200, I'm getting a refund of over 300 - by her reckoning I should normally need to pay an extra couple of hundred every year and I'm very glad I don't need to).  As I will only have a few days off work and not an entire week the 8 hour train journey might have been a bit much so although I prefer not to fly, I promised her I would check out flights - the train costs a bit less than 200 euro so there was a chance flying might also be a bit less expensive or even that a flight one-way and train the other might work out cheaper. 

I was waiting for the refund to actually arrive (should be any day now) when I saw today that Lufthansa were doing a special offer.  Flights have to be booked by tomorrow so I assume it's a mother's day campaign (it's mother's day here tomorrow).  I was able to get a flight for 99 euro so decided to go ahead and book it using my company credit card.  We are allowed to use these for private purposes as well, as the bill is paid directly from our own bank accounts anyway.  However, it's a typical German credit card, which needs to be paid off in full each month.  I don't use it often but using my ordinary card would have taken me right up to the limit so I decided to use the company card to be on the safe side.  Then I noticed on the booking page that if I used paypal instead of just doing a direct card transaction, I wouldn't have to pay a 5 euro credit card booking charge.  So I added my company card to my paypal account and chose that as the payment method.  And when completing the transaction got a little mouse-trigger-happy and ended up clicking complete before actually changing the paypal transaction to the other card.  I've transferred the money immediately to my card from my Irish account but that leaves my Irish account very close to its overdraft limit.  I will leave things like that for a week and if the refund hasn't hit my bank account by then I'll just go ahead and transfer money from my annual expenses savings account to cover it. 

I hate having to juggle like that, especially because of a silly mistake on my part.  On the other hand I am very pleased to be planning an extra-long weekend with my sister and her family.  It will do my soul good to spend some time there and it'll be lovely to see the house they bought and just moved into a couple of months ago.

Maybe it will take my mind off the dentist.  I went to the old dentist on Monday to have the repair done on the broken crown.  He said that if a bit breaks off again, he will replace the entire crown.  Then on Friday I went to my new dentist for the planned cleaning and organising a timeframe for the three onlays I need to get (he did a temporary cement filling to give me time to pay off the crown work before needing to pay out more).  After the cleaning was finished (the usual, she said everything looked fine but I really need to try and keep up a more regular flossing habit - I have promised to try harder on that), the dentist came in to have a look.  He was not impressed with the broken and repaired crown story at all, particularly when he saw that the repair leaves a big gap between that tooth and the one next to it with no contact point at all.  He has told me that I should definitely complain about it and insist on getting a new crown as that kind of gap will just lead to paradontical (periodentical? - sorry, not sure of the English translation and the online dictionary's not helping at the moment) problems.  Wonderful.  I'm not looking forward to that conversation with the old dentist.

From the new dentist I received the forms to send in to the health insurance place to get their part of the payment organised (but this time it should be organised properly so that I don't have to pay and get a refund, they will just pay that portion directly to the dentist).  I'll send that in and in the meantime wonder about how I'm going to find the 1,400 or so I need to pay for my portion.  This new dentist doesn't have a fance agreement with a central billing place you see so financing it over six months isn't an option.  The assistant told me that if I made fairly big downpayment I could spread the rest out over three months so that's what I'll do, I suppose.  Pay 400 when the job is done and then three further monthly payments of just over 300.  I'm hoping the health insurance will take a long time to get back to me (and that my teeth hold out!) so that I can potentially push the appointment out to July.  Once I've finished with my loan repayments, I can put that money towards the new dental work, so not having to pay anything until the end of July would be ideal.  It means making more than small payments to the credit card and overdraft will have to go on the backburner again but it has to be done.

The cleaning I had done cost 50 euro (another change from the other place, where the basic cleaning treatment was 90 and they tried hard every time to sell the 'luxury' package that was about 130).  Since I am now paying a whole lot of money for dental insurance, I will phone them on Monday to find out how to claim that back.  If I recall correctly, I can claim up to 250 euro in the first year so I will claim for the cleaning and then the rest when I get the onlays done, which will help absorb the downpayment at least.  It's costing me a lot every month for that additional dental insurance but given the state of my teeth and the knowledge that they're really not going to get any better at this stage, it looks like I will be making full use of it in the years to come.  The amount I can claim increases every year until after five years, I should be able to claim around 90% of the costs of just about any work that needs doing. 

Right, not much else to report.  I showed my CV to some German people from choir who spent a good hour tearing it to pieces so it has taken me a few days to get over that.  It was all well-meant (well, most of it, one guy tagged along who I don't know very well and it was much harder to take criticism from him because I just don't have any basis of trust built up with him) and much needed but was also another reminder that if you ask a German for an opinion, you are very likely to get a very direct answer.  No pussyfooting around by any means.  Other than that, the only thing going on is that Düsseldorf is gearing up to host the Eurovision Song Contest next weekend and it's actually getting kind of exciting watching the Eurovision coaches passing by and seeing the signs going up all over.  I haven't watched the Eurovision for years, since before it was split into the format where there are semi-finals first.  But this year I will be finding a pub to follow it in.  Not just because it's being held just down the road from me (quite literally - a max. ten minute drive down the road around the corner from my street) but also because the Irish entry is Jedward.  And although I found them intensely annoying when they first made an appearance (and was glad I didn't live in Ireland anymore and therefore could easily avoid them) I have actually kind of started to enjoy them over the last couple of months.  They keep popping up on discussion board and twitter links and they are, to use a phrase sometimes popular in Ireland, completely for the birds ( here's a sample interview from youtube - they don't come on until about ten minutes in).  They've started making an impression here already so it'll be fun to see if they do well in the Eurovision. 

But that's enough waffling for now.  Off to floss well before heading to bed :-)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Nearly there

I'm back in work but had to take a moment to check my Irish bank account - it was a holiday in Ireland yesterday so there were no updates.  But loan payment has gone out now and finally, finally, after five very, very long years I am down to just two payments left to do.  And once that's gone I can really attack the credit card and overdraft.  One more step down the road to debt free!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Holidays - day 6

Got up around nine, ate a proper breakfast (including a newly opened jar of last year's raspberry jam - delicious although my notebook tells me that when I made it I didn't think it was as nice as the year before's jam).  Did the dishes and headed out for a walk to a nearby park.  While there I saw the May Day (Workers' Day) parade passing, which was interesting.  Didn't bother following along to go and listen to the speeches though, just headed back through the park and up an incline, where I sat in the sun for twenty minutes or so peoplewatching and musing.

I resisted the temptation to buy an ice-cream or something nice from the bakery on the way home and once I got here got stuck in to getting my CV finished.  Oh my goodness but OpenOffice can be a finicky, annoying program to use.  This is why I've kept putting off getting my CV finished - I ended up just starting from scratch as too much of the Word formatting was just getting skewed.  Have designed a completely different format based on some a found on the internet - I'd used the same old one for at least ten years and it was getting very old-fashioned looking even to me.  And of course I needed to make sure I was using the type of layout popular in Germany, with plenty of space for a photo on the front page etc.  Now it's very annoying that I can't manage to re-size the photo properly (for whatever reason it's opening up as a nearly full-page).  Sigh.  I thought I was going to have to sneak into the office this evening to do it there but as I'm typing this I am remembering a piece of software that was available for free download to do just exactly that so I may see if I can find that.  Just need to have something to send in to the recruitment agency I spoke to on Friday and want to send it early tomorrow morning. 

And I've caught up on some blog reading, done the ironing, put everything away and swept the floors.  Not a bad day's work so far really.  Just wish I didn't have to go back to real work.  I do still have tomorrow off but since I have a dental appointment at 12, the day is going to be a bit of a washout I think.  I'm getting the crown repaired which broke at the beginning of April (yes, the one I only just got at the end of November and which I have only just made the final payments on).  But for now on this sunny evening there are strawberries demanding my attention.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Holiday - day 5

The market was on again this morning and although I'd have enough to last me to next Wednesday I don't usually get to it before work so went to get a few more things to get me through to next Saturday.

Market spend:
164g turkey salami = 3.85 (23.50 per kg)
2 x litres milk = 2.40 + 3.00 deposit on bottles
1 x small yoghurt = 0.89 *
366g cheese = 3.26 (8.90 per kg)
2 punnets strawberries = 7.00 (first of the season - they had some on Wednesday but I was too late so went early today)
1 bunch (a kilo) rhubarb = 1.50**

*Unfortunately they've stopped making their own yoghurt, which was available in re-usable containers and although the yoghurt they are now selling is also from a local farmer and free-ranging, grass-fed cows, it's in a normal throwaway plastic container.  So I bought an extra litre of milk and one small yoghurt to start me off and will be back to trying to be organised enough to just make my own yoghurt. And I've told them why I won't be buying yoghurt from them anymore.
** From the florist - asked if they use chemicals or if it's essentially organic and she said they use an absolute minimum of whatever is necessary and since for rhubarb that's really basically nothing, I went ahead and got it from her rather than paying the 4.60 for the same thing from the organic farmer.  Sometimes I feel like he is just taking the piss to be honest - I am prepared to pay a mark-up for organic as it does involve more work but rhubarb?  That, in my experience, pretty much grows like a weed and doesn't need a whole lot of care - certainly not enough to justify a nearly threefold price increase.

Otherwise, today I have done very little.  I didn't make it out to the launderette yesterday evening after all, the storm kept up for a good while so I settled in to watch some internet telly.  So I went today and got the other sofa cover and a duvet that I use for guests washed.  I also stripped the bed and threw the bedclothes into the washing machine at home and that's nearly dry now after hanging for the last few hours so I'll put the same duvet cover back on this evening, which will save me having to iron it (I don't feel bedclothes really need to be ironed normally but it does make a difference to how much space they take up so if they're going into the blanket box, they need to be ironed).  I'll use the summer duvet and then all I'll have to still wash is the winter one I've just taken off the bed.  In fact, I am considering heading back out to the launderette now just to get it done and finished with.  There'll be a shower and clean nightie this evening, all the better to appreciate the freshly made up bed!

And as promised, here's the photo heavy part.  Some pictures of my living room from a couple of weeks ago.

 The pile of ironing (okay, it looks slightly worse than it is because underneath all that is my knitting bag too).

Complete with bits of paper on the floor - wonderful.  Actually they blew on to the floor because I had the window open to air the place out but having said that, they did sit there for at least a week before I picked them up.  There is a name for this which I read about in Tescopoly but I don't have my copy anymore (who did I loan it to?) - basically if there's a house with a broken window, it's more likely that other damage will be done and people will be less likely to keep things clean and orderly.  Similarly, if the place is such a mess anyway, what difference does it make if there's a couple of pieces of paper on the floor.

The big couch - not entirely cover in stuff but that's really only because I always kept space clear to sit on.  Since the desk was completely covered it has been months since this was the only place I had space to sit and use the computer as well.

And now for the after.  There are still areas of not a bit messy but lets face it, clearing the CDs away from near the stereo is never going to last for more than a few hours anyway until the next time I'm listening to something.
Lovely, lovely clear space and my lovely red cover back where it belongs.  I do prefer this one so much to the basic cream one.
No more ironing to do!  Although I've just put on a wash of what I've used this week thinking I might as well be fully ahead before going back to work on Tuesday.  Will iron all of that as soon as it's dry - I love to sit in this chair and read.
Still more to be done but two piles is more manageable than what was there before.  Hope to do a few minutes each day over the next few weeks.  And more importantly, not add to it, which means getting back into the proper habit of dealing with stuff as it arrives.

Here's something else that I still need to tackle but is just going to have to wait until I have more days off or an unexpected surge of energy - one of the big cupboards in the hallway:

Actually, the towels, tablecloths and so on are a bit more orderly already as I needed to sort them out to fit in all the stuff that had been languishing on the armchair of ironing.  I could probably do with decanting the plum vodka into bottles at this stage.
But the lower half of this cupboard needs some serious work.  I'm not really even sure exactly what's in there anymore.  The white plastic bag is a few bits and pieces I had nowhere to put and needed to get rid of out of the hall before some guests arrived for dinner at some stage and it has just sat there since.  I don't know if you can see it clearly but the jar of chutney which got knocked over last summer and leaked all over the place for a couple of weeks before I discovered it is in at the back there - I was sure I had cleaned that all up but apparently I didn't even get around to righting the jar.  So I really need to get in and clear that mess up.  What's in there is actually stuff from 2009 because since I hadn't actually gotten around to clearing out this cupboard last autumn, I never got around to putting away all of last summer's stuff.  That has mostly been sitting on top of the hallway table - covered by a nice piece of material whenver anyone was coming over.  At least I've used up a good bit of it now.  But long past time to be sorting this out I think.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spending recap - week 17

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.
Canteen food = eating out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport 2.60
  • Food necessities 20.74
  • Food luxuries 35.20
  • Canteen food 0.00
  • Toiletries 0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage) 3.99
  • Clothes 4.50
  • House/garden 46.55
  • Medical 0.00
  • Other 18.40
Total spend this week: 131.98
Total spend this month: 457.57

Food luxuries and other are high this week due to being on holiday - these amounts include dinner out with book club as well as several cups of tea/hot chocolate and snacks in cafes (I even went to the Starbucks on my road for the first time since moving here nearly three years ago - sooo expensive for a bad selection of herbal teas and a not very nice muffin, really not worth it).  House/garden is the money spent in the launderette plus the steam juicer and sage plant I bought.

I've posted this early as it's the end of the month - I generally run my budget (such as it is) from Saturday to Friday but I've been doing these spending recaps from Monday to Sunday so there'll be a slightly too early one at the end of each month.  And I can't interest myself in changing either of those two things so it'll just stay that way for now.

Edited to add that this month, I had just eight no-spend days.  And I strongly suspect that most of those were just days I didn't leave the house at all.

Food Waste Friday - 29 April 2011 and days 3 and 4 of holiday

I do have some waste this week but mostly as a result of finally admitting that a couple of things that were in the fridge were never going to be used and just biting the bullet and getting rid of them.  Pure waste.

A small amount of wild garlic cream cheese.  Why did I not just eat this with some of the soda bread I made last week?  No idea.  I had to get rid of some of that bread as well as it went inexplicably rock hard within a couple of days - gone to the ducks in the park so at least not a complete waste.

The olives and gherkins have been there since, I think, the end of January.  I brought the jar to a friend's house for a potluck dinner and she insisted I take the remainder home with me.  I sort of assumed I'd drag them out the next time I had someone over for dinner but haven't had anyone here since then.  Although I like olives a lot I really can't stand anything from the gherkin/cucumber family and the olives in that jar have a gherkin taste so that means I have no interest in eating them.  If I was starving I would.  But I'm not.  So I won't.

And finally a small carton of sour cream.  Which I bought for a specific recipe that never got made.  The expiry date was from the end of February so although it's sealed and it's sour cream (which the internet tells me can stay usable for baking well past the expiry date if it's unopened) I've gotten rid of it.  I'm not likely to do anything with it in the next few weeks so will err on the better safe than sorry side.

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Other than clearing stuff out of the fridge I've done a few bits and pieces around the house.  Yesterday I scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom, kept up on the washing and the washing up and otherwise read a lot and went for my groupon neck massage and pedicure then watched a very silly film in the evening.  Today I woke up ravenous so the idea of spending an hour doing housework before breakfast did not appeal at all.   I ate breakfast and read for an hour then tidied up the fridge, did the washing up and swept and washed the floors.  Along with more washing, folding away the dried stuff and hanging up more to dry. 

The friend who lived with me last year for a few months left some stuff here, among other things clothes and bedclothes.  All of which, although clean, still had the damp musty smell from his old flat in them.  So I washed a few just after he left and then forgot about them.  But I wanted to start using that wardrobe properly so it needs a good cleanout and I finally got the last of the stuff washed today.  I think I've done two washes every day this week to get through it all but as the weather has been warm, it's drying quickly so that's good.  I'm packing it away into a suitcase as it drys - have no patience with him taking up my usable space anymore but since I can't afford to hire a car and drive the six hours or so to where he lives, I'm just going to pack it away and let it sit out of sight until someone else is visiting him. 

After a nice lunch of bread and cheese with some chutney, I read for another while, waiting for three o'clock to roll around so that I could put the washing machine on again (not supposed to run it or do anything else noisy during half-twelve and three).  I also phoned a few recruitment agencies to start getting a move on in that respect.  Have to email them my CV and references and we'll see where it goes from there.

And then I started sorting a few things out in the sitting room as I wanted to put away the rest of my bedclothes and they live in the blanket box which also serves as my coffee table.  Rather than just moving the stuff off the top of that onto the couch, which I have to admit I sort of planned to do, I just started sorting through it.  There were receipts and things from the last couple of times I emptied out my purse and instead of just putting them to one side I took out the folders with my bank and credit card statements and actually sorted them properly, attaching them to the relevant statements and even clearing a similar pile from my desk while I was at it. 

That ended up taking far longer than I thought (as it always does) - over two hours.  I also sorted and cleared away all of the choir stuff that has been lying around for a few weeks (I was looking for a particular piece of music and ended up starting to sort years worth of stuff out and then getting sidetracked and just leaving it all in a messy pile on the couch - and the concert I needed it for was in mid-March so it was past time to get rid of all that stuff again). 

So, all of the bedclothes have been put away - I've taken out a lighter sheet to swich over from using the heavier flannel that it's getting too warm for and will change that tomorrow.  Since that meant the big couch was nearly free of mess, I cleared everything else off it too, took off the cream cover (which was only supposed to be temporary while I got the other one cleaned - the one that sat down in the cellar for about a year and a half and only got washed this week) and put back on the newly cleaned red one.  Feels good to have things starting to fall into place again.  I still have two very large piles of papers and stuff to go through but it has been a good start.  I was going to head out to the launderette to get the cream sofa cover cleaned and we had a massive thunder storm with torrential rain.  I think the rain has just about eased off now so I think I'll have dinner and do it after that.  They're open until after ten I think.  Will post photos of my newly cleaned space tomorrow - although it's not raining the clouds are still very dark so I'll wait until sunlight to take pictures.  Oooh, there's some more lightning and the thunder is following it almost immediately.  Might wait until tomorrow to venture out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spending on day 2 of holidays

Today I went shopping.  To make sure I don't have any unexpected cashflow issues at the weekend I used my credit card to pay for some clothes and as that won't be included in my weekly spending recap, which is cash/debit card, I wanted to get it all down now.  As soon as I get paid the money I spent on the card will go into my savings account to pay the bill at the end of the month - I do have it but just in case we don't get paid tomorrow as expected, wanted to leave myself that bit of leeway.

What I bought on the card were some much needed clothes for work - particularly needed if I want to go for interviews.  I do still need another pair of light summer trousers - I got two last year but one of them has already been repaired twice and I just don't think it's worth getting them fixed again.  Will see. 

C+A - 3 blouses + 1 t-shirt top = 65
C+A - 1 fleece = 4.50 (this was a totally unnecessary splurge buy, reduced from 19 and won't get used till next winter probably but as splurges go, 4.50 is on the more reasonable scale)
Toasted sandwich, hot chocolate + tip = 7.00
Half a loaf of spelt/yoghurt bread (organic) = 1.55
1 packet of 20 plant clips to send to my brother = 3.99
Bookclub: salad with fried potatoes + eggs, 1 fizzy water and 2 shandies + tip = 17.00

Market spend:
4 x apples = 0.50
1 x sage plant (organic) = 2.50
1 x lettuce (organic) = 1.50
6 x eggs + 3 x large carrots (organic) = 3.07
1x litre milk (unpasteurised) = 1.20 (+ 1.50 deposit on bottle)
148g cream cheese with wild garlic = 2.21
4 x slices cooked ham = 3.82 (18.90 per kg)
2 x slices leberkäse with wild garlic = 0.44 (12.90 per kg) - leberkäse is another type of cold meat, sort of a pate/meatloaf type concoction

The other thing I have spent money on this week is a steam juicer.  I had decided while having a bad weekend to do some window shopping on ebay with a view to buying one in the summer sometime.  There were two second-hand ones for sale that I was keeping an eye on and when the second one was still at 3.50 half an hour before closing on Monday evening I decided to put a bid on.  A new one in the shops, shinier but smaller and more lightweight, cost 69.99 last year.  I kept to a bit less than my ebay limit of no more than 20 euro including shipping and ended up being the highest bidder at 11.05 - with 7 euro shipping that's 18.05 for something I know I will use a lot.  I'm very pleased and if I'm honest, although I know shopping won't fix things and I need to be careful not to spend money I can't afford, I think that small 'win' on Monday evening meant disproportionately more to me than it should, but in a good way.   Small amount of light in an otherwise dark day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Holiday - Day 2

Bit of a late night last night - got out of the cinema around half-nine and went for tea and a chat afterwards so it was nearly eleven by the time I got home and then I read for a while before sleeping.  Seven o'clock was difficult this morning and it was actually half-past before I got up.  Took a while to get going but I started in on the ironing and then just kept going.  Stopped for a break to have some breakfast, put a wash on and a couple of time to check emails, as well as finally getting through to the central dental billing place to make sure there's no penalty for paying off the last bill early, but kept going back to it until it was all done just after eleven.  That includes all the bed clothes and some winter stuff that has been sitting there since February.  Feels good to have it done and the ironing board and iron put away. 

I made a quick trip to the market and bakery and am now catching up on some blogs.  Need to dig out all the documents I need to bring to the renters' association and will head off there in a hour or so.  After my appointment there, I'm going to wander around town for an hour or two, sit and read somewhere for a while perhaps and then head to book club.  The days are flying by and I'm trying to ignore the voice in the back of my head telling me how nice it would be to never have to go back to work. 

Tomorrow I need to do some serious work on my CV and make some phone calls.

Jersey Shore in the style of Oscar Wilde

I've never seen Jersey Shore but I looked it up the other day because people do keep mentioning it.   And then today Stephen Fry tweeted about this and I have to say it does make me giggle:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holiday - Day 1

Trying to move on from yesterday's very bad day (the tears just kept coming sometimes prompted by something, sometimes not - I hope a late appointment slot opens up soon with that therapist, not sure waiting much longer is a good idea).

Anyway, I set the alarm for 7 today and got up at 10 past, after only snoozing it twice.  That's progress at least.  7 is the time I would like to start getting up until the winter again - gives me an hour to myself before getting ready for work instead of dragging myself out of bed at quarter past eight and rushing to get to work on time.  My hour of housework hasn't quite worked out.  It took me fifteen minutes or so to get moving after getting up (toilet, brushing teeth, getting dressed).  I decided to just try and get the stuff done that I didn't get to over the weekend, which should have been easily achievable in an hour.  But then I started getting stuck into the kitchen properly.  I've done the dishes, cleaned the oven, cleared off all the crap that was collecting on the windowsill, finally (nearly a year later!) put the two-ring hotplate that used to be my cooker away and gave the small electric oven a good scrubbing and packed that up as well to go down to the cellar (and it's outside the door already so I have to bring it down next time I leave the apartment).  Haven't done the top of the fridge yet though, which is the other magnet for stuff to gather.  Still, what I did along with general cleaning and tidying and putting a wash on, took me more like an hour and a half.  For the last half an hour I've been checking emails, done some online banking, phoned to make an appointment for a massage and pedicure (a 19 euro groupon, I was supposed to go to the chiropodist soon and that costs 35 so for less, plus a neck massage, an ordinary pedicure will do for now) and checked my diary for what else is on this week that I have to do. 

Right, it's after half-nine, I need to do the hoovering and then that is it for housework today.  I think I may take my book and head to the launderette with the second couch cover - it's down in the cellar in a suitcase and it's the one I'd prefer to be using anyway.  Will take that and the summer duvet and spend an hour reading my book while they wash.

Update at 15.00:
Did the hoovering, got the washing hung up and another one in the machine.  Sat and had a nice breakfast (rice krispies, a banana, a cup of herbal tea).  Gathered everything up for going to the launderette.  Just before leaving decided to move the two smaller aloe vera plants from the top of the veg holder to the newly cleared windowsill.  I badly need to repot the aloe veras and thought moving them would remind me.  Of course they were all tangled up and I promptly knocked one over so less than half an hour after finishing the hoovering I ended up with soil all over the kitchen floor and newly cleaned windowsill.  Sigh.  At least I did actually clean it up immediately, even if it did delay me getting out.  One newly cleaned (again!) windowsill and floor, a nice long shower and some clean clothes later, I finally made it out the door.

Went to the launderette, stopping in the cellar to get the sofa cover (which was off course at the very bottom of the piles of stuff) and rearrange things there a bit better.  I even thought to stop at the bank to get change but of course the launderette is very high-tech these days and will not only take notes in the machine, it will give you change.  Unfortunately the XXL machine isn't all that XX so I had to do two loads - at 9 euro each, that is expensive.  It's a good thing the cover comes apart into two pieces.  I was able to do the summer duvet in one of the ordinary machines, which are still bigger than a normal domestic one.  That's 3.50.  I did try washing the smaller section of the sofa cover in a smaller machine but it really wasn't clean when it came out so I put it into the bigger one.  A waste of 3.50 but good to know for future reference.

Called in to the internet cafe on the way home to print out my groupon and chatted to a neighbour I bumped into for a few minutes when I came back.  And made it all the way up the stairs with the now heavy suitcase.  The duvet had to be tumble dried but the sofa cover is explicitly not supposed to be (it has that white material as a lining that can't be ironed or tumble dried).  I put it through an extra spin cycle but it's still very heavy while wet.  Hard to believe that all of that plus getting lunch on to cook (potato cakes with tuna and onion), finding somewhere to hang up the sofa cover (too heavy for the shower rail, which is what I had planned on) and taking the rest of the washing out of the machine as well has brought me up to three o'clock.  Actually, quarter past now.  Time to eat, relax for a while and then head out to meet my friend for the cinema.  Don't have to meet her until after half-six but I may wander a bit on the way and perhaps stop somewhere for an ice-cream. 

Monday, April 25, 2011


I've just sent an email to one of the main contacts for the garden to say that I won't be coming back for a couple of months.  That decision came a bit out of the blue, particularly since one of the nice things I was thinking of doing this week was taking the opportunity to go and garden during the week, which I normally can't do, but as I was reading the latest update email asking for details on who will do what for the open day in a few weeks I felt a wave of "just can't do it" rush over me.  I started to write an email saying that I wouldn't be back to work on Saturday mornings until maybe June and then realised that's only a few weeks away and changed it to June or July.  I was going to write something along the lines of 'but of course I'll help out for the open day' and I just couldn't do it.  I cried the whole time I was writing the email but to be honest I have been crying on and off all day so far.  Something had to give and I had considered giving up the garden for a while but felt that what I get back from it was enough to make up for the effort of going there.  But it's better to take a break and go back to it fresh than forcing myself to be up and out early every Saturday morning. 

I will try to use these next weeks to get back to some kind of proper routine, perhaps focus on getting a walk or a swim in and starting to lose some weight again.  I saw some photographs of myself taken on a recent choir weekend, the kind where you don't know they are being taken so haven't been able to hide yourself beside a conveniently plant or something.  I knew I had put weight on again but, based on how clothes are fitting, am not quite back to my biggest but these photos were just shocking.  I do not see that fat woman when I look in the mirror and the way I felt when I saw those photos combined with everything else that has happened over the last year and everything in work over the last couple of weeks has just gotten on top of me.

Last year sometime blogger introduced a stats function and since then I check every once in a while.  There is rarely a time when someone hasn't landed here because of searching "how not to get overwhelmed", which leads them to this post, which to be honest, will be absolutely no use to anyone trying not to get overwhelmed.  And I still don't know how to stop being overwhelmed by what life is throwing at me.  Throw in some guilt for feeling like life is throwing too much at me when I know millions of people all over the world and even probably dozens on the street I live on have it much worse than me.  But there it is.

I thought I had a point to this post but I've forgotten it if there ever was one.  I may need a nap.

P.S. Just as I was about to hit publish on this post, the song below came on the radio/internet (I've been listening to an Irish country station that I always loved when I still lived there).  It seemed to fit the moment:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spending for week 16 and holiday plans

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.
Canteen food = eating out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport 7.00
  • Food necessities 24.45
  • Food luxuries 37.79
  • Canteen food 6.80
  • Toiletries 0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage) 0.00 
  • Clothes 0.00
  • House/garden 1.93
  • Medical 0.00
  • Other 8.90
Total spend this week: 86.87
Total spend this month to date: 325.59

Another very spendy week although most of that is actually next week's budget and was spent yesterday on groceries.  I treated myself to a trip to the English shop because I had a craving for mini-eggs and the mark-up on stuff there is just ridiculous.  It'd be cheaper to fly to England every couple of months and stock up, which is why I only go there once or twice a year (well, I've been there three times so far since I moved here nearly three years ago - generally a taste of what I think I'm missing at exhorbitant prices is enough to convince me I don't really miss it that much - a sample price I noticed that most people can compare, I think, is Arm and Hammer bread soda, a 454g/1lb box costs €2.60/US$3.80).

I did bring my lunch in to work every day except the one day a week that I meet some of the other secretaries for lunch in the canteen.  And I ate dinner at home every day too - as well as lunch on the holiday and weekend.  Had a real craving for pizza yesterday, which I kept at bay by remembering first of all that I already had the last portion of bean casserole in the fridge to be eaten and secondly, by heading to Aldi to buy flour and deciding while there to get a frozen pizza.  In the end I decided on these small pizza baguettes, six in a box for €1.79.  They don't taste great but are alright.  Next time I'll add a bit of cheese (cheddar from the English shop) and they'll be fine. 

I have the next week off work and have a few things planned that will need money so it's not good that I've already spent most of the budget.  I was hoping to not spend the entire refund from the health insurance but will break into the rest of that to pay for what's happening this week - need to go to the launderette and get the duvet cleaned and badly need to do the couch cover as well (it has only been spot-cleaned so far - it's nearly three years later and past time).  And I need to send my sister her (January!) birthday present.  Things like that.  I should send my sister in France the christmas box I put together as well but it's kind of heavy so I've already told her I'm not going to and will put the money towards a ticket to go and visit them at the end of June.

Now if could just shake off this horrible depression and get moving on some things.  I have a document I promised to proofread for a friend at the beginning of the month but all the crap that has been happening in work (not to mention working every day until after eight) has sent me off in a tizzy again and I am having difficulty coping.  My plan for the week's holiday was to spend an hour before breakfast every day completing one task (finished in less than an hour okay, not finished then quit after one hour regardless).  Then a nice sit down breakfast with a pot of tea followed by an hour or so sitting in the armchair listening to the radio, some music and/or reading.  Spend half an hour on the phone to employment agencies to find out what the job market is like and/or preparing CV etc.  Maybe a short walk before lunch and then spend the afternoon out and about, going to museums or parks or whatever takes my fancy.  On Tuesday evening I'm meeting a friend at the cinema for an anti-nuclear film and talk.  On Wednesday afternoon I have an appointment with the renter's association to check my annual charges bill and then in the evening it's book club.  Now just need to find the will to actually get out of bed every day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spending for week 15

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.
Canteen food = eating out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport -14.00
  • Food necessities - 40.78
  • Food luxuries -31.17
  • Canteen food -36.81
  • Toiletries -0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage) - 0.00
  • Clothes - 0.00
  • House/garden -1.99
  • Medical -0.00
  • Other -1.60
Total spend this week: 112.35
Total spend this month to date:238.72

A very spendy week with no cooking or preparation of any kind, which is always expensive.  Amazing how that happens as soon as the financial pressure is off a bit.  I did go to the market today and have bought more or less enough food for the next two weeks (market will be closed over the easter weekend I think).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Food waste

Quite often on Fridays, I participate in the Food Waste Friday series hosted by the Frugal Girl, in which people blog and/or comment about what food they have wasted and had to throw out during that week.  Lots of people find it helps to keep them accountable.  I remember telling my brother about it and he actually got kind of angry about the idea that people needed to feel the need to shame themselves - it wasn't the reaction I was expecting because I know he tries never to waste food and hates food waste.  But at the same time I could see his point.  He has far less difficulty than I do in not succumbing to a lot of the 'normal' behaviour that is 'expected' of good little girls and boys and follows you in to adulthood.

For myself, I find it interesting to make a point of checking my fridge every single week, when before I would maybe only do it every month or so.  I'm more likely to use something up before it goes off because I am checking more frequently what's in there.

The thing that has really surprised me though is what some people consider to be gone off.  I noticed this when I visited a friend a while back as well.  I was completely shocked to watch her go to her fruitbowl and just start turfing stuff onto the counter to go into the bin.  Now, I don't generally eat supermarket fruit and veg but when visiting friends I don't turn my nose up at their choices for feeding themselves either so although it was really annoying to see the amount of packaging still attached to some of what she wanted to throw out, I didn't comment on it.  But I had to say something about the waste of fruit because even from where I was sitting across the table, none of it really looked bad. 

I stopped her getting rid of two bananas, which were just about to start getting brown spots.  Okay, I know bananas are a bit of a divisive topic and there are lots of people who won't eat them once they've gone past green.  But when I got her to show me the apples, they were absolutely fine.  They hadn't even begun to go even a little bit soft or wrinkly.  There were a few nectarines as well so although it felt very strange to be eating a nectarine in February, we both sat and ate one there and then and I had an apple as well.  Her reasons for wanting to throw the apples out?  'They've been there for at least two weeks I'm sure'.  How on earth are we at the point of just not knowing that apples can keep for months and months in the right conditions?  I've always known I was weird for not minding eating wrinkly apples but to not even look at them and just arbitratily decide to throw them out because they were bought a certain amount of time ago kind of blew my mind.  And we're not talking about a townie like me, this is someone who grew up on a farm.

Reading the blogs of other people talking about their food waste continues to astonish me with what people consider to be waste.  From those who won't keep or eat yoghurt or milk if it has been allowed to reach room temperature, to the green banana brigade, those terrified of eating chicken that has been out of the fridge for a short while (okay, terrified might be an exagerration and chicken, especially raw chicken, does need to be treated with care but overreaction seems to be very common) and those who think that if a potato has started to grow 'eyes' it has gone off (the fact that most potato peelers come especially equipped with a bit at the top designed especially to dig out the eyes should be a clue, folks).

It would be easy to just think that there are lots of stupid people out there but I know that's not the reason for most of this.  We're talking about mostly very intelligent people who just don't know.  I know when I was a young adult I was fairly slavish about best before dates and it's possible I still would be now - I just don't buy an awful lot of stuff that comes with a date on it.  And I know I can keep stuff fresh for ages by keeping it in tupperware but sometimes it just feels so wrong that something sitting in my fridge for a week still smells and looks okay that I might throw it out without needing to.

But learning how to tell if an egg is still fresh was one of the best things I ever learned.  Realising that chopping the bad bits off something solid is okay and that not everything that is mouldy will be mouldy all the way through was important too, as was finding out that this may not be a good idea for less solid foods, like jam, since the spores are likely to be all the way through and not just resting on top.  Knowing that if I did ingest a tiny bit of something that might be slightly gone off, it probably won't kill me is important (and I don't believe I'm the only person who has on occasion been so hungry they've taken a bite from a slice of bread before bothering to butter it and only when they do so look at it properly and realise it's growing something!).  I still have lots to learn and I'm very happy that I'm open to it.  Of course the biggest lesson to learn in dealing with food waste is to not buy so much.  I grew up in a very big family but I live alone now and I still struggle with figuring out how much to buy/not buy purely because I have all of these fixed ideas in my head from childhood of how much space the weekly shopping should take up.  Like so many other things, it's time and more to let go of the past - but very difficult.