Saturday, November 23, 2013

So close

I just realised how close I'm getting to being debt-free. I have a line on my budget spreadsheet to calculate my net worth. It's not really my true net worth because I do have pensions to take into consideration so it's more of a cash net worth, I suppose. I don't often look at it to be honest, it was more something I used as motivation when I was paying off my big loan and I wanted to see the minus tens of thousands figure going down every month. However, I just realised that it's almost out of negative figures, which is nice. Obviously, once my rent and all the other bills are paid next week it will go down again but today the balance of my overdraft is almost completely offset by the balance in my current account and the balance in my savings. And really, since I'm pushing things anyway, I'm hoping that my sealed pot savings will reach the 100 euro mark so if I were to add that in, I would in fact not have a negative net worth anymore. Nice feeling. I'll enjoy it for the next 24 hours anyway. You've gotta hold on to the little things!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chipping away

Another payday and another frenzy of transferring money here, there and everywhere. I did not do well at sticking to any kind of budget in November, just can't seem to get any kind of discipline going at all. But with payday still coming a week early (I hope that continues for at least another couple of months, when they finally switch back to really paying us at the end of the month it's going to be a very long month), I'm declaring this the start of the new month.

So, I have made a large transfer to my Irish account to clear off about a third of the overdraft. The plan was to just make a smaller transfer this month but as most of my spending for this month will be during my four-day weekend in Dublin in a couple of weeks I decided to transfer more and then I can use my Irish card while I'm there. I think knowing that I'm spending out of overdraft will help keep a curb on spending rather than attempting cash. I do have some things that I already know the prices of so I can sort of estimate and hope to not spend too much more than 300 euro. I'm surprised at how expensive everything has gotten every time I go back though so I'm not sure if that's really doable.

I have a hairdresser's appointment which will cost 45 for a wash, cut and blow-dry. I have a flotation session booked which will cost 60 - a friend offered to treat me to that for my birthday so I should get that money back but for the moment am planning it in. And on my birthday I am treating my brother to dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant, which neither of us have been to since I left Dublin five years ago - I don't expect to come away with very much change from 100 but am really looking forward to it. This review tallies perfectly with my memories of the place, although it is from 2005 - I'm really hoping it hasn't changed much. Otherwise I have a few things I want to buy to bring back with me (baking soda and some cheese I can't get here) and then there is of course the cost of lunches and dinners in general. I won't be doing anything extravagant with these, will fill up with breakfast in the hotel every day and see how things pan out.

Otherwise I have, as usual, transferred some money to savings for annual expenses and some to savings for travel. The bill for the remainder of my February trip to sing in Halle will probably arrive in January so I want to have as much of that put aside as possible before then. My choir subscription will also fall due in January so that's put aside. And I've transferred money onto my mastercard so that I can pay for my ticket to travel to Frankfurt for New Year's as well as a small amount of spending money.

But other expenses are also accumulating in the background. Interest charges on my Irish account will be levied at the end of December. I just recently got a notification letter from the television licence people. I don't have a telly but at the beginning of this year they made this charge compulsory for each household so it was only a matter of time before I got the letter. Of course, despite planning to put aside the money each month I never did so now I'll have to find the 200-odd for that as well as the 200-odd for next year. Actually, I'm putting this off as long as possible but it will need to be paid in the first half of next year. I think I'll get a reminder letter soon and I'll fill that out and send it in and then it'll take them a few weeks to send the actual bill. You can choose to pay monthly, quarterly or annually but I do prefer one annual transfer rather than having a monthly direct debit set up.

Just after I come back from Dublin I have an appointment at the dentist and then I will also find out whether I do need to have  root canal and how expensive the treatment will be. Then it will be a couple of weeks waiting for all the insurance stuff to go through and I'll need to find money for that in January, too. Without any of that, I'd definitely clear my overdraft in February but I'll just have to wait and see. Not knowing how much the dentist will cost, but knowing already how expensive it can be makes everything a bit uncertain. Oh, and it just occurred to me that I'll also need to pay for the next module of my translator's course. Details haven't gone up yet but I'm pretty sure it will start by the end of January. They're fairly slow at taking the money though so I might not really need to have that available until the end of February. It's just all swimming around in my head at the moment and I don't know whether I'm coming or going. It all feels very neverending again and that's the time when I have to be extra careful to not just give up and start spending, spending, spending.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kitchen - before

Again, this is all very warts and all so just pretend you can't see the dirt or the mess. One day I'll have a proper kitchen but given the price of them, this was put together piece by piece over a couple of years. I started with the sink and one of the serving trolleys along with a two-ring hotplate. At the same time I had a book shelf in here. Then I got the fridge and washing machine. At around the same time my sister gave me a mini oven she had in her cellar so I was all set for white goods for a couple of years.

Next purchases were the dresser and a round table and four chairs as well as a second trolley/butcher's block (all second-hand). So the book shelf could be returned to holding books again and I was kind of happy with all that for a while although I had great plans to reupholster the chairs and to make some kind of a curtain to hang around the trolleys in an attempt to keep the dust off everything that I never got around to. Maybe one of these days. There's a post here with photos of how it looked around then.

A couple of years after I moved in I bought a cooker. Another year or so later I got my hands on a rectangular white table on freecycle. I wanted it for my bedroom/office/hobby room (planned space for the other half of my bedroom) but once I had it in the house I thought it would actually work better in the kitchen. I had already realised that it was a bit too cramped to actually have more than one person over to eat so I moved the round table into the sitting room and set up the 'new' one in the kitchen. Instant counter space. So here's how it looks today. Along with a whole lot of mess.

Left-hand side taken from the kitchen door. The two boxes at the far end have jar lids and a few smaller jars in them. Since I ended up not really doing any preserving this year, these are still fairly full. Just need to move them back to a cupboard, once I find a space. The suitcase is full of music as I'm the librarian for our choir, we found out unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago that our normal rehearsal space was closing for renovation and I just had to clear everything out of our lockers in a hurry. So my suitcase full has just been sitting on the kitchen floor since.

Taken from the same spot at the door, view of the other side.

This is the main storage I have in the kitchen. The cupboard on the bottom is full of Tupperware. The drawers have cutlery and other utensils - although they're a tiny bit too small really. The top part has dishes on the bottom and the right side of the two upper shelves with food, spices etc. on the left.

This really needs to be painted, I think, and I'm leaning towards a blue colour for that. Or else I'll chicken out and just do a simple white. It's not a solid wood piece or anything, just a simple varnish and there are actually a few deep scratches on it (the reason it was so cheap even for second-hand) so painting would help to get that dealt with, too. I think I may get a couple of basic white cupboards from Ikea to hang high on the wall, i.e. above the dresser. That way I could move the stuff out of the tallboy, which is currently in the sitting room, back into the kitchen. Just had a look and they're on special offer at the moment with 20% off. Hmm.

And here's the view taken from the window towards the door. I have a couple of things hanging on the walls as I just didn't have anywhere to store those big things and I always liked those kitchens with rows of copper pots hanging from the walls. Even if the amount of dust that accumulates here means anything being left out is actually a really bad idea.

And finally. I bought a stripey Lars Contzen wallpaper to use in the kitchen and just have to get around to putting it up. Well, the hard part is stripping off the Raufaser that's there, I suppose. Like the bathroom, it's starting to come away in places anyway, so I really do need to replace it. And, like the bathroom, the previous tenant just used a standard paint so it's not possible to wipe it clean at all. Not the best for a kitchen area that gets used for more than just heating frozen stuff up in the oven. I plan to put that on the big wall and use a plain white everywhere else. The brown happiness picture I bought the other day will go on the big wall - it's a good colour match to one of the smaller stripes in the wallpaper. And the stuff I currently have hanging on the wall will probably go back but just moved around a bit. I'd really love to put a shelf up across the end wall, on top of the door, too. For cookbooks and the like. That's definitely a project for the future if I end up staying here longer than another couple of years though. Just to give you an idea, I held the paper up against the wall behind the copper jam pan. I think it'll be nice and bright and cheerful in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My very first traditional christmas cake - soaking the fruit

A month (almost to the day) after saying I was going to do it, I finally got a start on making a christmas cake today. I did have some currants and sultanas on hand, the currants already far past their best before date but when it comes to dried fruit I tend to take the view that if it smells okay and tastes okay, it's probably okay. Especially if it's going to be soaked in alcohol anyway. I also did have some almonds well past their date but I decided to give them a miss. Although I tend not to be able to really taste the difference, I know that the oils in nuts can become rancid and that some people really are able to taste that.

So I put the following into my giant Tupperware mixing bowl:
625g currants
225g raisins
225g sultanas
200g glace cherries (only supposed to be 175g but each pack was 100g and the difference was about three cherries so what the hell)
100g mixed peel (used half and half orange and lime)

Then I had a search for some brandy, I was pretty sure I had part of a bottle somewhere from a failed attempt at something else and was surprised to actually find two partly used bottles and two further small bottles. The opened smaller bottle seems to be cognac I bought in France (at least all the writing is French) but I have no idea who might have drunk some of it. Definitely wasn't me. At any rate, the last of the two opened bottles and one of the small bottles was exactly 350ml.

Although the recipe I am using doesn't call for it, soaking the fruit in advance seems to be a very popular part of the process and so I'm doing that for a couple of days before moving on to the actual baking. That leaves me with one small bottle (100ml) to use for spooning over the cake over the next few weeks.

Bathroom - before

There's a colour Crown paints used to make called Soft Duck Egg Blue and I would love to have that in the bathroom. But note the "used to" - it doesn't seem to be in their range anymore, in Ireland anyway. Their UK website does still have it listed but only delivers to the UK - maybe I'll see if I can arrange a trip to some cousins there next year :-) . Or perhaps I'll try to get some made up somewhere. Otherwise I'll just go with white here, too. Either way, I'll need to put up new Raufaser first, what is there is starting to come off in places and just generally looks terrible. You can usually paint it between three and five times before the weight of the paint starts to pull it away from the walls apparently.

My bathroom is pretty basic. It's long and narrow and so there is no space for any cupboards or storage really. It just has a plain white suite, which I can be thankful for I suppose. Hey, it could have been avocado plastic, I suppose. The toilet seat and lid are a horrible grey to match the terrible grey PVC tiles. The previous tenant seems to have been even worse at DIY than I am. I loathe those PVC tiles and would love to rip them out and get proper ones fitted but since (a) they seem to be stuck down with super glue and (b) I am only renting after all, I will probably just get an offcut of some basic, one-colour lino and put that down.

'Scuse the coat, it's my winter one which needs to come into use again so I washed it and this is the easiest place to hang it to dry. I should possibly also mention that I dislike the shower rail immensely here, too but I'm not likely to bother replacing it as long as it doesn't fall off the wall itself.
The cabinet/mirror is one left behind by the previous tenant (the place was not well cleaned out, I suspect she got nothing of her deposit back and probably ended up having to even pay more on top of that) - it's pretty ugly but functional so until funds allow, I'll keep using it.

Actually, there are a couple of fairly cheap and simple options available in Ikea so I'll probably get one soon enough. Then it'll just be a matter of trying to see if my friend of a friend handyman is available to come and put it up. There are very strict conditions in my lease about fitting anything onto the tiles so I'd rather get someone who knows what they're doing to take care of it. This one, for example, is quite nice and available either in white (always a good choice) or this dark brown.
This is just the other side. As you can see, there really isn't any space to put anything and because there is a slight 'step' in the wall higher up, I can't even just hang a cupboard up there. Still, I use very basic toiletries and since I don't use shampoo or a lot of the other stuff most people seem to find necessary I don't really need much storage space anyway. You can see the patch where the Raufaser was starting to peel off the wall so I ended up just pulling some of it off in order to try a tester of colour without having the yellow underneath affect the outcome too badly. Also, ripping the paper off walls is kind of therapeutic (until you'be been doing it for weeks on end!)

So that's the bathroom. The smallest room and the one that needs the most work. If money was no object, I'd just get the whole place tiled in white from top to bottom. Hate, hate, hate having the wallpaper in the bathroom. It just seems somehow unhygienic to me. At least when I put new stuff up and paint, I can make sure to use a paint that doesn't start running if it's touched with water!

Monday, November 18, 2013

1940's experiment - rations

I came across a blog called 1940's experiment recently. Although I can't remember now how. At any rate, with a very large amount of weight to lose and having stumbled a bit since my sister died, I've found it interesting that I happened to come across a blog written by someone with similar weight issues. It's perhaps not a coincidence that I think my sister would have been really interested in the idea of dieting by eating only wartime rations but that kind of thing is happening a lot these days so I'm trying to just accept it as part of the grieving process and not focus too much on the fact that I don't get to have that conversation with her.

I've now started going through the archives and only a week or so in, have already found at least one recipe that I really want to try (vegetable turnovers). She also posted a list of what the adult rations were in 1940 and I just wanted to copy it in here, along with the conversions to metric. It's funny but although it's more normal for me to think of my own weight in imperial (lbs and stones), I mostly have to use metric for food.

Weekly ration for 1 adult 
Bacon & Ham 4 oz = 113g
Meat to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around about 1/2 lb minced beef) = 226g
Butter 2 oz = 57g
Cheese 2 oz = 57g
Margarine 4 oz = 113g
Cooking fat 4 oz = 113g
Milk 3 pints (okay, I can manage pints but for the sake of completness that's 1.7 lt)
Sugar 8 oz = 226
Preserves 1 lb every 2 months = 454g
Tea 2 oz = 57g
Eggs 1 fresh egg per week 
Sweets/Candy 12 oz every 4 weeks = 340g

In addition to this a points system was put in place which limited your purchase of tinned or imported goods. 16 points were available in your ration book for every 4 weeks and that 16 points would enable you to purchase for instance, 1 can of tinned fish or 2lbs (= 907g) of dried fruit or 8 lbs (= 3.6kg) of split peas.

You can bet there wasn't a whole lot of food waste in them days!

Hall - before

Right then. When I said warts and all I really meant it. I may have tidied up one or two little things but as you will see from the photos that appear this week one or two things is by no means enough to make any difference. But if I waited for a day when I could stage everything nicely, I would be waiting a very, very long time. Besides, maybe these photos will at least encourage some people to think that their place isn't so bad after all. As usual, they're not great photos but just enough to give you an idea of the space.

Note about my apartment
My place is 58 square metres big, which google tells me is nearly 625 square feet. This is really plenty of room for one person but it's not laid out very well which leads to quite a lot of dead space in some rooms. As always in a modestly sized place, there are lots of attempts to fit stuff in anywhere I can.


This is the view from the kitchen door, which is opposite the front door of my apartment (coats hang there). The shelves aren't the same black as the other two pieces, they're a very dark brown. But close enough to black that it's not really obvious. The pile of boxes in front of them is just waiting to be moved down to the cellar. The stuff I've decluttered recently is also there waiting to be moved out next Saturday. Shoe-horn and clothes brush are just hanging on nails beside the door and my cycling helmet is hanging on a hook on the side of the shelves. 

And here's the view from the other end, i.e. from the sitting room door. The bag hanging on the handle of the drawers contains vaccum-pack bags, which I got to pack some spare bedding and stuff into. That's a work in progress, so they just hang there waiting for now. The small mirror hanging on the wall is fairly new so the mirror hanging on the door of the cupboard will move somewhere else. The duster tends to move around to wherever I've been using it and get hung on a convenient doorknob. Oh, and the tea-bags are some I bought in Ireland in September to send to a friend. Procrastinators of the world unite!

And just for fun and kind of because I think it'd be fun to have a record of the things I hang on the walls, here's a close-up.

Print of a Dürer hare (moving in present from a friend - years ago when we were did our semester abroad in Germany I got a present of an address book with this on it. That was stolen years later and she was thrilled to find the same address book for me years later and then when I moved in here she couldn't resist getting me this picture). Cheapie black-framed mirror. Derek Beggs calendar.

And on the other side there's a small cork noticeboard. A poster of The Circle of Life - White Cloud and a small picture I bought as a teenager which says "The greatest kindness we can offer each other is the truth". I still hold to that sentiment although I'm not as fond of the style of picture now as I was then. Oh, and there's also a tester patch of creamy coloured paint which I did recently, just to make me feel like I'm doing something.

So that's that. The main thing to do here is move the stuff that's just sitting waiting to be moved but hopefully over the next while that stuff will leave every week and be replaced by more stuff waiting to leave. Paint over that horrible orange colour. Move the pictures and things around a bit - at the moment they are mostly just hanging on nails that the previous tenant had put in. And the mirrored doors that you can see at the end of the hall in one of the photos above hide two big cupboards which also need a serious clearing out and tidying up.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Decorating concepts and inspiration

One of my favourite newly discovered blogs is Two Men and a Little Farm. I spent a very enjoyable few weeks recently trawling their archives and catching up on their tale of buying their dream farm and doing it up, while still living during the week in the city home. One thing that has really made an impression on me is the way they pull lots of different small things together to over time create a very pleasing whole. I've never really paid much attention to the ins and outs of interior design other than leading through one or two books my mum had when I was a little girl. I'm sure I've come across lots of stuff over the years of reading various blogs and discussion forums as well but for some reason, perhaps a right time right place thing, a lot of things have been clicking into place in my mind while reading through TMAALF.

One thing that really caught my attention was how they have made decisions ahead of time about the colour palette for each room. They also have very definite ideas of the style they like, which I'm not quite as definite about. But the colour thing? I reckon I can do that. In fact, more and more over the last couple of years, I've been heading in that direction anyway and have slowly been gathering things in complementary colours for a couple of spaces. But now I know I can take it a step further and totally pull an entire room together by, for example, painting furniture. Since most of my furniture is second-hand, very little of it matches and I've occasionally dabbled with the thought of sanding things down and painting them. Having a mishmash of stuff didn't really bother me though. Perhaps it's my advancing age or maybe it's just also having seen my sister getting her house done bit by bit since they moved in there a couple of years ago but these days I'm definitely leaning more towards a more cohesive look.

This post ended up becoming far too long so I'm actually going to split it up and post separately about my plans for each room. Although I have lived here for five years now, I haven't really done a huge amount to make the place my own. In Ireland, most places you rent come furnished so I've just always been used to living with an assortment of bits and pieces that might not go very well together. And decorating is a big no-no. If you're lucky, you'll be able to get permission to put up a few nails to hang some pictures but you can forget about painting or anything else. You just live with the colour scheme your landlord likes and, if you're lucky, are in a place that has been redone recently and is probably the very non-offensive magnolia colour which now seems to be standard.

Here in Germany things are very different. Most places come completely unfurnished - a bathroom suite must be provided but a kitchen, for example? That's usually down to you. If you get lucky you might be able to buy the previous tenant's kitchen, if not, like me, you have to buy everything, right down to the taps. Most people, I now know, paint when they move in somewhere and really, it makes sense to do so before you move all your stuff in. I didn't really get that when I moved in and although the management company told me I was responsible for decorating to me the place didn't really look any worse than most places I've lived before so I didn't think it was worth going to the expense. That leaves me now with a whole load of furniture and stuff to move around if I want to start painting and papering.

Before going any further though I definitely have to mention Raufaser, the woodchip wallpaper that is ubiquitous in Germany. You will almost never see just a nicely plastered and painted wall and only occasionally 'ordinary' wallpaper. And even that is usually reserved for places that people own (and home ownership is just not as common here as it is in many countries). So, most places for rent, including mine, come covered in Raufaser. Even the ceilings. And my obligation as a tenant is to hand the place back in the same condition I received it in. There is one wall in the sitting room which has yellow wallpaper on it - it's starting to peel off and does need to be replaced. Everywhere else is Raufaser. I have bought wallpaper for that wall and also for the kitchen though. Hopefully there won't be any problems when I do move out even though I've changed it. Knowing it's just a rental also means I've dithered on whether or not and how much money to spend. I honestly didn't even think I'd be here for five years and even though I will hopefully be moving on in a couple of years, there's no point in leaving it any longer. It will do me good to devote more time to really trying to create the kind of space I want to live in and I think it will actually leave me better able to prepare myself for a move. Coming up over the next week or so, photo-heavy posts of each room. Warts and all, which means that you'll all be able to see how decluttering will have to be a major part of any efforts on my part!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

One in, one out

Today was the second week of attending the introduction to behavioural therapy seminar which the therapist I found insists on everyone doing before starting individual sessions. While I thought at the beginning that this is probably a good idea, and while so far it has been interesting to learn a bit more about the development of modern psychology (a topic I find interesting anyway), I'm not really convinced that the guy leading the seminars is as good as he needs to be to keep things going and in order for the group to get the most out of these sessions. I consider myself lucky in that I have already been through all of this before, as although I am learning new things about psychology, I don't know that his explanations and methods of going through some of the basic tools we can use to get through to a more positive place would really have been effective for me. Since I am already familiar with them (basic mood monitoring stuff and simple breathing meditative techniques) I am sort of ignoring the bits I don't like of what he's doing and just concentrating on the positives.

This morning on the way home, I walked a slight detour so that I would pass by the Turkish supermarket (with its delicious feta dips and pitta bread) and the bike shop (still don't have a pump for mine). I noticed that a new shop had opened up across the road selling what looked like expensive interior design stuff and I debated whether to go in or not but when my eye snagged on the sign which had "outlet store" in small letters, I thought maybe it wouldn't be as far out of my price range as I expected and decided to take a look. It's not so much an outlet store as it is the sole physical shop for an online retailer. Lots of what's called shabby chic with some things costing far more than I would ever pay for what they were and other things seeming to offer ridiculously good value for money. I wandered around a little bit and as I was doing so I was coming up with a new challenge for myself: to not buy anything else new until I have gotten rid of at least 100 things from my apartment.

And then on the way back out to the front of the shop, I spied this and it just fit in with where I am at the moment, or at least where I'm trying to get to and, at a price of 9.90, it wouldn't break the bank. So I went ahead and got it. It sort of fits in with a lot of thoughts about decorating and building a home that I've been thinking recently, too but that's all for another longer post on another day. What do you think? Too kitschy and sentimental?
This will eventually hang in the kitchen as it should go nicely with the wallpaper I got to put up there. In the meantime, rather than shove it in a cupboard for months I've put it on a blank piece of wall in the sitting room, just beside my bedroom door - it'll be right in my line of sight several times a day and as mantras go, it's not a bad one.
Of course, now I really need to get rid of a few things. I at least need to stick to the one in, one out principle. I did start a couple of weeks ago actually, when I decided to get rid of these small vases, which I picked up at Ikea years ago.
I was visiting a friend in Brussels and it was my first time in Ikea so I just had to buy something. And these happened to be in one of the baskets beside the kitchen area where he was getting his stuff from.
I've dragged them around, tried to find various uses for them and they've just never really fit in with anything and so I finally decided to just let them go. Even when I had decided to get rid of them, I still found myself dithering about perhaps keeping the white ones, as they almost match a very nice full-size vase that I was given a present of last year. But I know getting rid of them is the right thing to do. Perhaps I'm moving closer to accepting and living by that well-known William Morris quote: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." (Also, having just looked that up to make sure I quoted it correctly, I think I may need to spend some more time reading about William Morris, he sounds like a fascinating man). I haven't actually gotten them out of the house yet but they are in a bag, all tied up and standing near the front door along with some books waiting to be taken to one of the second-hand shops. Next Saturday I will take them downstairs when I'm heading out to my seminar and leave them in the entrance hall. When I get back it'll just take me a few minutes to pop in and grab them and get to the shops just around opening time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Green fields of France in German - Es ist an der Zeit

Just found this, after having heard a while ago that there was a German version of this song. Really quite lovely lyrics, slightly different but still true to the sentiment of the original. Have to learn the German words now. This song is one of my favourites to sing when parties get to that stage of the evening that people start singing at. Would be very cool to be able to sing it in German, or switch from English to German for example.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sunday night chit-chat and sealed pot update

Haven't done one of these for a while and since it just happened to be seven o'clock when I decided I'd like to post something, Sunday night chit-chat it is. First off, here's a photo from this weekend. This was the view from the bedroom I was staying in. The view from the room we were rehearsing in was similar - very hard to keep your concentration when all you really want to do is keep looking outside. Bear in mind that it rained almost the whole weekend so it looks a bit dim and gloomy but I think it's still gorgeous.
View from Haus Hammerstein
What are you:
The Godfather. Surprisingly to some, I've never read this. In fact, I only saw the film a few years ago. I'm really enjoying it, I have to say, it's an easy read, which is kind of what I need at the moment.

I've been watching Scandal recently and quite enjoying that. Don't think I'm going to watch much more of anything this evening, though.

Listening to
Fairly quiet here at the moment although not as quiet as it was in the place in the photo above. Just some traffic going past outside from time to time and the sound of the wind blowing through the window in my bedroom, which I really need to get up and close soon.

Not a thing. I do have a red cabbage to cook but I'm tired and I'm hungry and I think I'm just going to pop out to one of the restaurants on my street and have a simple meal out. The cabbage can wait until tomorrow (or if I feel a burst of energy after coming back, I'll put it into the slow cooker to braise overnight and have some ready to put into my flask for lunch tomorrow.

Happy you accomplished this week
Just getting through it was good. I find that dealing with grief tends to come in waves and this week was a bad one, when my sister was on my mind almost all the time because it seemed like every single thing reminded me of her and I was never more than a few seconds away from wanting to cry (or actually crying). It was good that I was away singing for most of the weekend, I think. I did manage to finally reply to an email from HR with details on the translating I want to start doing freelance in my spare time so at least that's over to them to deal with now. And I got the hoovering done before leaving for the weekend - as well as the dishes. That's such a simple thing but always feels good to know it's done.

Looking forward to next week
Concert next weekend. Have a day off on Thursday with a few appointments arranged and need to get the present for a colleague who has invited us all to her birthday party next Saturday. Also starting the cognitive behavioural therapy seminar that the counsellor offered to me. The way the practice works is that they have an introductory meeting or two to get an idea of what's happening in your life, how you're doing and all that, as well as getting all the paperwork out of the way. Then you do a short seminar series on how CBT works, what to expect etc. (including exercises to actually start helping yourself, I presume) - the one I'll be doing is eight weeks of one and a half hours. After that you can do further seminars tailored to whatever particular issues you might be dealing with (sleep, stress, bereavement or whatever) and after that you move on to individual therapy sessions, if necessary. It might not be the right fit for all people but I think it'll work well for me at the moment so I am cautiously optimistic that the whole thing will be helpful and trying not to focus on the fact that it involves getting up earlier on a Saturday than I normally have to get up during the week!

Grateful for this week
Growing up with a father who sang all the time and made it seem like the most natural thing in the world to always seek out a way to have singing in my life. I may not ever be as good as he was but I hope I'll always love to have singing as a part of my daily life the way he did.

Bonus question: describe your "perfect pizza"
Very thin, crispy base. Tasty tomato sauce on top of that, but not too much. Topped with cheese that is cooked to just the right side of golden, melty goodness and a couple of basil leaves to impart that little extra something popped on top just before serving. The simple ones are the best.

If you want to join in with Sunday night chit-chat, post away and then head on over to Half-Daily Dozen to link up.

Sealed pot update
As for my sealed pot, well, it has gotten the change from my purse but that's the most it has gotten for weeks now. Only four weeks left so there won't be a huge amount more going into it before the grand opening but I'm still going to take whatever is in it and buy myself something beautiful at the craft show in Dublin when I'm there. And I'm going to enjoy every single second of it. SFT has opened up the sign-up list for next year so if you'd like to join in with your own sealed pot challenge for next year, have a think about what goal you'd like to aim for, head over to SFT's Life after Mortgage and put your name down. Then you have four weeks to make yourself a sealed pot (i.e. stick sellotape around the top of a lid on some kind of canister that has a hole cut in the top LOL) and start saving.

Friday, November 01, 2013

I burnt the bloody quiche

Heading off for a choir rehearsal weekend ahead of our big concert next week. It's a bank holiday here today so we'll arrive there to start at two o'clock, sing until about six when we'll break for dinner and then sing again for a couple of hours before finishing for the evening. Tomorrow will be much the same except with rehearsal between breakfast and lunch as well. Meals are provided but what is not provided is nibbles and drinks for the evening when we've finished rehearsal and are having our "gemütliches Beisamensein" which translates literally as a comfy togetherness, or slightly less literally but more appropriately as a cozy get-together. I did pick up a cheap packet of those mini pretzel mixes but then I thought to myself that it'd be nice to bring something homemade and decided that if I got up early enough today, I'd make a big quiche and, if there was any pastry left-over, some small apple bites.

I did get up fairly early and so made a big load of pastry straightaway (using a full 250g block of butter with 500g flour, pinch of salt and cold water, just in case anyone was wondering). Got some bacon bits fried up, some onion to go with it, chopped up a couple of the tomatoes I got at the market last week (probably the last week there'll be any this year), rolled out the pastry and put it into one of the big trays that came with the oven. I figured it was easier to do a huge quiche and then cut it into small squares than it would be to do mini quiches. It was baking away happily, I put some apples on to stew and rolled out the rest of the pastry. The quiche was starting to look good but wasn't quite there yet so I came into the sitting room to quickly get some stuff together for going away and check my emails. Not even ten minutes later I was just about to start writing a quick blog post and I thought I should check the oven. Bloody hell but the sodding quiche is burnt. Aaaaghhh. So much for getting up at (what felt like) the crack of dawn specially to bake for other people! It's not quite burnt so much that it'll be inedible but it's definitely, at least on the top, going to by much closer to the rubbery side of egg dishes than it should is nice. I might "forget" to take it out this evening until after everyone has already had a couple of drinks!
It has been cooling for about quarter of an hour here so it has subsided a bit and the cracks aren't quite as obvious
But it's alright, I still thought, tomorrow I'll bring out the apple bites and all will be forgiven anyway. Just had a quick look in the oven and I think I must have overfilled every one of them 'cos they're leaking away goodo. Every single bloody one!
It may be time to take a break from trying to do anything in the kitchen. I should have known when the Romertopf pork wasn't really very good last week that I'm going through one of those ruins everything phases. At least I still have an hour or so to shower and pack before I have to leave. I may forget my plans to do a bit of ironing and cleaning before I leave - who knows what would happen!