Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Making presents

Just a very quick one as I'm down to just eight minutes of my 30 free minutes of wifi in the airport. About to fly back to Ireland. Hoping no more family drama will materialise (got caught in the middle of some yesterday).

Broke this year so decided to make presents. Then had no time. And stupid airport security rules means I'm missing on out being able to get at least one, probably two things done while waiting and flying. Oh well. As it turned out, I got nervous about being late so stopped work before I was finished and came here early, so I've actually spent most of my time waiting working. All finished now (although pretty badly, some of it, to be honest). But it's done.

So, I have three hats (two of which are a bit on the small side, serve me right for knitting late at night and not paying enough attention), one pair of wrist-warmers/mittens, also on the small side but should be okay for a small teenager, and one pair of nearly finished wrist-warmers (which are called pulse-warmers in German, by the way). Ten people to give presents to, well nine, 'cos brother said he didn't want anything. Actually, eight, 'cos I have a Tupperware bowl for my sister that I got a few months ago when it was on special offer. Just won't take the money from her for that. So three and a bit left to do.

So, for the sake of expediency, I made some biscotti. Bitter chocolate and salted peanut (wasn't supposed to be salted but everyone's going mad for salted chocolate these days and the salted peanuts were cheaper) and a gingerbread variety. So that'll do for a couple of people, too. With enough left over to have if I invite people over in January. Might do a few photos then, too. Only two minutes left so no more time to add them to this post.

Hope everyone has a very happy christmas or whatever variety of fun you might be celebrating at this time of year.

Monday, December 21, 2015

It doesn't take much

I've been feeling almost overwhelmed, almost panicky (about not yet having a new job, nor having actually spent much time looking for one) and wondering where the hell time is going to. I've been doing lots of translating work so there is some money coming in for January but still, I thought I'd be set by now. Of course, doing all that translating work has meant not having time to look for a new job so it's a bit of a tricky situation to be in. I've been slowly getting a handle on things and am starting to work a bit more efficiently at least.

Over the weekend I had a proofreading job to do. I got it on Thursday afternoon and they needed it by Monday. This job actually came via a friend of mine and she really kind of organised it because she wanted to help me out with my side business. I got part of it done yesterday and finished it off today. I had estimated 3-5 hours and even though it was longer than originally planned it took me just 4. But I just had a phone call from her and it seems that we were talking at cross-purposes a bit. While I was offering proof-reading, she was expecting editing. As in, take a hatchet to our 34 pages of text and make something better out of it. And I, to be perfectly honest, just don't know how to do that. Especially not when it's all about a scientific institution and the various projects it's involved in. As far as I'm concerned the text was fine - it wasn't particularly boring (even for me as a not-at-all-interested-in-this-topic layperson), it wasn't repetitive and I did amend the few things that were just bad English. So now, I'm feeling very disheartened really. I did what I said I'd do but I feel bad that I couldn't just immediately say to her "oh, of course, well I'll jump right on that and send you back a new version pronto". Worse than a miscommunication with a client is the kind of mix-up that leads me to disappointing a friend. I've never had a problem working with or for family or friends but this has definitely affected me. Not specially helped by the fact that there will be an assistant position opening up at her lab and she has already suggested me for it. So I'll probably have an interview in early January. But given what a mess this proofreading job turned out to be, I'm definitely in two minds about whether or not I'd be actually able to work with her/them.

Perhaps I'm just too stressed or tired for it all now. Different kind of stress than I used to have at work but life is nonetheless pretty overwhelming at the moment. I've got a 26-page document to translate, technically before the new year but I know it would be good to get it back to them on Wednesday. I haven't any money to buy presents this year but since I'm flying to Ireland on Wednesday evening and am spending christmas with most of my family (and since no-one ever actually got around to organising a Kris Kindle) I'm feeling a pressure I don't normally have. I had decided to knit everyone something since I do have quite a stash. I actually even went and bought some cheap (but cute) yarn - the type that I normally stay away from that's not wool and instead made up of a mix of various things starting with "poly". So Woolworths got a very small amount of money from me and I decided I'd spend most of last week knitting and everything would be fine. Except then I got some more work in and spent most of last week working (big document I'd spent the week before translating - they decided they wanted to have it in Excel rather than Word and since they agreed to pay for it. Took nearly as long as it took to translate the bloody thing in the first place, although I was doing the whole thing, including the stuff two others had translated). So, yeah, not much knitting done yet.

I may need a holiday.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Notes from Becoming Your Real Self

A friend loaned me this book a while back and I've been on and off enthusiastic about reading it. There are some parts that are very helpful, some parts that are difficult to work through, triggering all sorts of responses from mee, and some parts that I find pretty reductive and/or downright disagree with. I think for anyone who has never had the benefit of working directly with a good therapist, it's a very good starting point. But as happens with most books like this, it's trying to be all things to all people and so it is a bit lacking in nuance, I feel. I'm not rushing out to buy it but I wouldn't dismiss out of hand the idea of coming back to it and reading it again. Again, like many books of this type, you'll probably take different things from it each time, depending on where you are in your life at any particular time of reading.

At any rate, there is plenty of food for thought and I wanted to make a note of some of the stuff I've marked. Having read most of it a couple of months ago, I can't always remember why I marked everything (I wish I could get over my dislike of writing in books although given that this is someone else's book, I couldn't have done that anyway) but I'm sure I had good reasons for all those little bookmarks. I found it interesting, although it's probably not surprising, that I flew through and didn't take much from the section on Anger and Anxiety yet spent much longer on and had to work through, rather than just read, the sections on Depression, Self-Esteem and Social Anxiety.

One thing that I think he does very well is the section on suicide and especially how to act around someone who may be suicidal. There's some really good, practical tips and advice there. Suicide is a huge problem all over the world and I don't think I know anyone in Ireland who hasn't been lost someone to suicide, even if "only" an acquaintance. It is a huge problem there and it's good to see it being talked about more and more over the last few years. 

Page 54: Sometimes we Irish find it hard to do affirmations. It is a part of self-expression that has been squashed over time by powerful others. Despite the Irish saying "Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí" ("Praise the young and they will bloom"), certainly for those of us who are middle aged and older, praise is not something we commonly heard from authority figures when we were growing up. It did not seem to be part of the philosophy of the majority of the religious who ran our schools. Finding fault was considered the most effective way to form our characters.

Page 56: There is one fundamental finding from over 125 years of psychological science: you can act your way into a feeling, but you cannot feel your way into an act.

Page 85:
Imperfection. It's okay, it's real, to be imperfect. Don't seek perfection. Don't let perfection become the enemy of the good. Most people who are perfect are unhappy.
Nutrition. Take care of your body - it's the only place you live in.
[It's possible I was also annoyed by this one, and that's why I marked the page so I'm adding in anyway]Faith. The power of faith can offer help, support and sustenance during times of need.

Page 88: [Given that I also marked this page, I think it was likely that I was getting annoyed at the reference to faith. I know many people get great comfort from their faith but, coloured by my own experiences obviously, I also think it's something of a cop-out and shouldn't be given much, if any, of a role when it comes to achieving good mental health. And even using the slightly ambiguous "faith" or the even more ambiguous "spiritual" it seems to me that in 99% of cases, at least where I come from, that faith/sprituality is going to mean "religion", which is exactly what can be least helpful when it comes to achieving good mental health.]Be spiritual. Faith, prayer and spirituality play an incredible role in some people's emotional life. There is massive research to show that all of these act as important stress buffers. Many of us have latent beliefts that could be activated. This can afford you another avenue for growth and exploration.

Page 89: Get out of your comfort zone. We need to challenge and to stretch ourselves; otherwise our world only gets smaller. I know people who have had a lifetime full of money and yet won't spend any on themselves - generous, thoughtful people who won't go on a holiday, who number their successful days by how little they have spent, who won't go out for a meal. Why? You only live once. [YOLO should possibly become like a Godwin's Law - whoever uses it as a justification for anything loses their argument. In any case, the implication that not spending money will make you miserable is something I really, really dislike because too many people will grasp immediately onto the idea that spending money will make you happy. And that's something, I'm fairly certain, that has been disproved fairly often. This is one of those instances where I feel the book is very reductive and lacking nuance.]

Page 106: Doing things for a quiet life is a barrier between you and your real self.

Page 128: Major life events, such as bereavement, unemployment, illness, a new baby, separation and divorce may trigger a depression, but such life events in themselves do not cause depression or bipolar. [This is important for me to remember. No matter how often I accept that depression in an illness, each relapse can feel like a failure, rather than simply a relapse.]

Page 132: You will find that the terminus of depression isn't an inevitable one, and that the course of that train journey can be changed. While the beginning is always the hardest, once you tell yourself that there is hope, anything is possible.

Page 140/141: For some people, though not all, who experience depression, their early childhood may be characterised by emotional loss and sadness. Sometimes this loss is tangible - say, the death of a parent; for others the loss is more subtle: the non-availability of love, growing up in a cold or harsh environment. In these circumstances something is missing, but this goes unrecognised, because the state of loss becomes the child's norm.

Page 146: There is increasing evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness in the treatment of depression and, importantly, in the prevention of relapses.

Page 152: With depression, you have a negative lens on the world that filters out positive achievements and positive personal qualities.

Page 153/154 lists a load of qualities and tells you to choose those you possess. I remember doing something similar with my own therapist at the beginning, when I struggled to find the words to say how I was feeling and he would hand me a list to choose from. And since I often struggle to find good things to think about myself, this will be a very useful tool.
Accountable, adaptable, adventurous, alert, ambitious, appropriate, assertive, astute, attentive, authentic, aware, brave, calm, candid, capable, certain, charismatic, clear, collaborative, committed, compassion, connected, conscious, considerate, consistent, contributor, cooperative, courageous, creative, curious, dedicated, determined, diplomatic, direct, disciplined, dynamic, easy-going, effective, efficient, empathetic, empowering, energetic, enthusiastic, ethical, excited, expressive, facilitating, fair, faithful, fearless, flexible, friendly, generous, good, communicatior, gracious, happy, hard-working, have integrity, honest, honourable, humourous, imaginative, immaculate, independent, innovative, inquiring, integrated, intelligent, intentional, interested, intimate, intuitive, joyful, knowledgeable, leading, listener, lively, logical, loving, loyal, loyal comrade, manges time well, networker, nurturing, open-minded, optimistic, organised, patient, peaceful, planner, playful, poised, polite, powerful, practical, present, proactive, problem-solver, productive, punctual, reliable, resourceful, responsible, self-confident, self-generating, self-reliant, sense of humour, sensual, serves others, sincere, skilful, spiritual, spontaneous, stable, strong, successful, supportive, tactful, trusting trustworthy, truthful, versatile, vibrant, warm, willing, wise, zealous.

Page 162: The advice I give here is generic, based on my experiences. This is no substitute for an individualised mental health assessment that takes into account your unique story, desires, beliefs. [So glad this comes up and feel it cannot be repeated often enough. This book is an excellent tool but it will not be able to fully replace proper therapy with a competent professional.]

Page 167: Because depression is so insidious - it can creep up on you, grab you and potentially choke the life out of you - the treatment needs to be incredibly proactive, utilising multiple approaches simultaneously.

Page 182: "Thoughts are thoughts - they are not facts."

Page 189: [I'm including this because it is important and if you feel so inclined, please find the corresponding information for your country and post it on your blog or anywhere else it might reach somebody. It's given as part of the Safety Contract and Plan.]  If you are feeling suicidal contact Samaritans (in Ireland) on Freephone 116 123 or Console (in Ireland) 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444. A quick google gave me the following numbers for Germany: 0 800 / 111 0 111 and 0 800 / 111 0 222.

Page 191: Your life is worth living. You have a lot to offer. With the right help and support, you will move to a place of hope; to a place where you will grow, be nurtured and nurture others; to a place where you will be loved and you will love others. In may not seem like that now. But you can move towards a life in which you will live with compassion towards yourself and others. You have so much to give. You have so much more to grow. Give yourself time and space to live authentically.

Page 192: ...I believe we need to have a broader national conversation about living well - a conversation that moves beyond mental health to the development of mental and emotional fitness as a proactive strategy to protect ourselves and our youth.

Page 249: People who are constantly putting others down, criticsing everything and making cynical comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger.

Page 259: That's what self-esteem is: our internal evaluation of our worth. ... ... ... We all see ourselves in the light of the attitudes, comments and reactions expressed by others - parents, teachers and friends - in our younger years. Recovering from the negative messages we absorbed in those years can take a lot of effort.

Page 262: Your self-esteem develops in childhood and during your teenage years. Events and how you are treated during those times can affect how you think of yourself as an adult. ... ... ...Having low self-esteem means that you believe yourself to be of little value. Factors leading to low self-esteem often occur when you are young and vulnerable.

Page 263: Similarly, low self-esteem is a drag on you; it complicates your ability to navigate the inevitable challenges that arise in your life; and even when everything is plain sailing, it stops you from progressing with as much purpose and direction as you might otherwise have.

Page 270: Similarly, with low self-esteem you have a selective lens on the world that filters out your positive achievments and positive personal qualities.

Page 272: When things don't go right, don't be hard on yourself. Remember to aim for "good enough". There is no such thing as perfection. The person who seeks perfection is more often than not a very unhappy person. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. [Something my recent American visitors said to me and I remember at the time thinking that although I'd heard it before, it had never really resonated so much before. I'm thinking of printing it out and framing it for my wall. Perfectionism, trying to accept that that's what I do/what holds me back and how to deal with it might be the next big thing I have to try and deal with. It has kept coming up as a theme over and over from multiple sources over the last few months.]

Page 276: When you were growing up, you may not have learned how to take good care of yourself. In fact, much of your energy may have been expended on just getting by, or on taking care of others, or on being "well behaved". It's now time to take good care of yourself. Treat yourself as a good parent would treat a young child, in a nurturing and encouraging way, or as one very best friend might treat another. If you work at taking good care of yourself, you will find that you feel better about yourself. Learning to look after yourself is important: it gives you the energy to tackle other things that are going on in your life.

Page 312: So weigh yourself at least once a week to track your progress. [Aaaaaggghhh. The entire section on Emotional Eating simply left me with the impression that this is not at all his area of expertise. He kind of (not quite but kind of) conflates emotional eating and eating disorders and in the process does neither any favours. Again though, this is all very coloured by my own experiences.]

Page 322: Not even going to type what he says here. He lists the different types of emotional eating as blowout, grazing, compulsive overeating, food addiction (saying that food addiction is an extreme form of compulsive overeating). When last I checked (about eight years ago) compulsive overeating was not listed in the DSM as an eating disorder (nor was food addiction). I joked with my therapist that until they gave it a Latin name, it wouldn't be taken seriously as an eating disorder. I do know, however, that I had always struggled with the label "food addict", at first grateful that there was a label and then disappointed that it just didn't really say what it was. Attending my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting and hearing people introducing themselves as compulsive overeaters, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I'd never heard the phrase before and it was just so much more accurate than food addict. I'm obviously not a mental health professional and things may have moved on so that his descriptions are indeed what is now the accepted norm but, all in all, I wasn't impressed with this part of the book.

Page 358 (a section in the appendix on how to find the right therapist): How many session do you think I'll need? I am not a big fan of therapy that doesn't end or that goes on for years. It says to me that the emotional control (power) in this situation is with the therapist and not with you. Any experienced therapist will know how long they work with most of their clients and will be able to give you a ball-park figure of the number of sessions you can expect to have. [I wonder if this is the kind of thing therapists argue about all the time. Or if it's a CBT versus psycho analysis thing, perhaps? It seems to me that any therapist who tells you in your first session or even before your first session that you can expect x number of sesssions is the very opposite of a good therapist. How many people would then expect to be "fixed" after  about that many sessions and feel like a failure if they weren't? It took me almost a year to be able to get through a therapy session without crying for the best part of the hour. How could anyone have predicted that in the first couple of sessions with my relatively straightforward, not terribly serious issues? It was only during many months of work that some of the more serious issues even came to light.]

Overall, this is an excellent book and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to start looking at their own mental health or refresh themselves on things they may have forgotten. I hope I haven't fallen foul of any publishing/copyright issues by typing out so much (if so, publishers please contact me and I will remove those parts of this post). I suspect I'll end up buying my own copy of this as I think it'll be a useful tool to have around from time to time but for now these notes will do.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Climate Conference Paris

Today world leaders are meeting in Paris at the beginning of a conference on climate. You may have seen this called COP and in case you haven't had time to look it up, I did yesterday and found out that stands for Conference of Parties. Indeed. Not quite a "does exactly what it says on the tin" moment when I read that. I felt like the "c" must surely stand for climate - surely the most important conference on the most important topic in the world might mention that topic in its name? Oh well, I suppose COP is just one of the names.

Anyway, I helped out at the event held in Dusseldorf yesterday. This year, instead of a demonstration and/or march, it was more of an information event and it was held inside. And a good thing, too, as the weather was miserable and I suspect that lots of people wouldn't have ventured out to stand in the cold and rain for three hours.

There were lots of different things on offer, with lots of information on reducing your carbon footprint. And we had a couple of giant "postcards", so that people could take photos and post them to whatever social media services they use (under the #EarthToParis label). And interesting speakers, none of whom spoke for so long that anyone got bored. All in all, it was a pretty good event.

There was an article about it today in the Westdeutsche Zeitung (that's the postcard I made in that picture - I'm famous!). And now there's a short video of the event on youtube, too. Article and video in German, which very few of those who read this blog can understand but what the hell. I'm posting them for posterity. Or something.

It was great to help out at this event - part of what I wanted to do "when I have time" was to try and become a bit more active in supporting causes I believe in. And the kind of help I'm best at offering is the turn up before everyone else and set up chairs and stay after everyone else and clean up kind.

It is, however, somewhat disheartening to realise that so many people are so new to the idea of climate change or of doing anything in their own lives to change their impact on the environment. It just seems like such a long time since I became aware of things like carbon footprints (ten years ago now, because it was around the same time as I discovered blogging and in fact, blogging is the reason I found out so much at the beginning). And even before that environmental friendliness was something I thought really important and had done since I was in school. A whole lot more than ten years ago now.

I know that every individual person who makes even one small change is good. Any progress is progress. But it all feels a bit hopeless again at the moment. Our event did inspire me to try and redouble my own personal efforts, some of which I have been more lax about in the past few years. But still, it seems like we should have moved on by now from "turn off devices that are on stand-by" - how can it be that there are people who aren't aware of that? So, perhaps it's just the way of things when it comes to big crowds and humanity in general, I suppose: you end up inspired and defeatist in equal parts. Which means I'll try to forget about the defeatist clamouring in my head and go for a walk now to try and glory a bit in a nature (even if it's already dark) to swing the scales more heavily to the inspired side of things.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finally getting around to some of those great intentions

One of the things I originally planned to do with my time off was to lose weight and get fit. Walking for an hour every day was one of the intended ways of doing that. We're 21 days into the month and yesterday was the first time I actually did it. Going well then. Hooray for goals.

Today, however, is the second time so that something of a start at least. I even convinced myself to walk past the television tower (my original goal) and continue down to the end of the little park beside it and back again before taking a short break.

So here I sit, taking just long enough to snap a quick picture and post. Because it's 5° and five, no, six minutes is more than long enough of a break!
posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Some of the good about being home all day

Being able to cook lunch by heating up some leftover rice, a couple of "curry in a hurry" disks, throwing in some green beans for good measure and topping the lot with fish fingers.
And while rummaging in the freezer discovering that there are two half-muffins from that time in August when you made a big batch of Jack in a Pinch's vegan banana muffins. Slathering them in butter makes them less vegan but perfect for a grey November afternoon.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, November 16, 2015

Feels like the weekend

Weird thing to say on a Monday morning, perhaps, but since I'm now entering my third week of not working, I really thought I'd have more of a feeling of being relaxed and raring to go. As it is, I feel more like it's still just the weekend and I'm not quite there yet. I worked ridiculous hours in my last two weeks and that, on top of the preceding seven years, will obviously require more than just a couple of days to recover from.

I had really wanted to just spend a couple of weeks doing nothing but between choir (we had two concerts this past weekend and extra rehearsal the weekend before) and translating (did a couple of pro bono jobs but also had some paying work), not to mention housework (turns out, when you're at home most of the day, everything gets dirtier much quicker, who woulda thunk it?), I've only really managed one full day of nothing. And it was lovely. I read all day long.

I'm not complaining really because all of the stuff I mention above is stuff I would normally have been trying to fit around working a full day as well. So, even if I have had things keeping me busier than I really wanted these first few weeks, I've also had time every day to eat proper meals, read for a couple of hours and catch up on some phone calls. Blogging has fallen by the wayside though. I just don't have enough time to read and there's nearly too much going on in my head for me to be able to get it all down on paper. I'm sure I'll get back to it properly though. I just need to get into a routine again. For now, though, I need to get to work. I've just received an email from a publisher asking me to send them details of my conditions in order to see whether they'd add me to their pool of translators. No idea how to go about that - I'm still very bad at the don't want to oversell and miss out/don't want to undersell and end up working for peanuts debate currently raging in my head.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Now that's a chorus!

It's a bit crude and crass but it definitely made me laugh out loud when I stumbled across the Bellamy Brothers singing Jalapenos this morning.

"Life ain't nothin' like a bowl of cherries
There's too little laughter and too much sorrow
It's more like a jar of jalapenos
'Cos what you do and say today
It don't go away to stay
It'll just come back and burn your ass tomorrow"

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Curry in a hurry

Thanks to MFin3's fantastic curry in a hurry paste and a small amount of prep work at the weekend, I had time before work this morning to yhrow a curry together in just a few minutes. Well, maybe twenty-five minutes but that includes ironing a shirt and washing and dressing myself, since multi-tasking is the order of the day.

I hadn't prepped the chard and beet specifically for this, just to have them cooked before they went off. I also bought some beef pieces that I didn't want to go off so browning those to maybe use tonight gave me just enough time to remember the curry paste and I sprang into action. Chopped an onion and half a kohlrabi and sauteed quickly. Added chopped (boiled) beet and chopped (sauteed) chard. Then the beef.

Defrosted three wedges of curry paste in the pan I had browned the beef in and then used juice from a jar of tomatoes to deglaze the whole lot and that, along with the tomatoes, went into the pot. Boiled it hard for ten minutes and have left it wrapped up in a blanket. Interested to see what it'll be like when I get hone at lunchtime, which for once I can do today.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Lazy Saturday extreme

It's a bank holiday so shops are closed and it has been a lovely quiet day on my otherwise busy road. I have a ton to do but ended up having another mega stressful day in work yesterday (only four weeks left thankfully) and then staying up until after one watching and reading stuff on the internet. You know, waiting until midnight and then deciding it'd be a good idea to start looking into the details of what exactly an invoice has to contain and that kind of thing. So my day started off with me waking at half-nine and stumbling to the bathroom before deciding to go back to bed and lie down while deciding what to do with the day, since my original plan of going into work just really wasn't enticing me. Before I could even think about it, though, I'd fallen asleep and didn't wake up until half-one. Well okay so. That's as good a plan as any.

I got up and made some toast and then went back to bed and spent a couple of hours reading newspaper articles online and watching the Late Late Show, Ireland's Friday night chat-show. There's a documentary on Panti Bliss coming out soon (The Queen of Ireland, trailer here; see here for the amazing speech Panti gave in the run-up to the marriage referendum in Ireland - I'm about as lefty liberal as they come but that speech certainly gave me a lot to think about) and Rory O'Neill was on the Late Late talking about it, along with his parents. I also caught the interview with Professor Green (had no idea who that was (singer/rap artist, in case you're similarly tuned out)) but it was a very interesting interview, particulary as I met someone this year who suffers from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, not to mention that he is also a person who was "left behind" after a suicide.  After all that I caught up on twitter and instagram and then got up again for another couple of slices of toast.

While the bread was toasting I put a wash on, did the washing up from last night and decided that I'd move from the bed to the couch for a few hours. So here I have been sitting for the last three hours or so. Following the rugby online, texting briefly with my sister, texting a bit less briefly with a very wonderful man who I am so grateful to have as a friend, catching up on discussion forums and blogs and trying not to get frustrated than neither blogger nor wordpress seems to want to allow me to comment anywhere today. So, sorry to those whose blogs I read regularly - I honestly have been attempting to comment recently but I'm sure it'll all start working again soon.

It's now eight o'clock and I think I'm going to go and rustle up some more toast. The first batch was just with butter. The second was one slice with butter and the other with a French terrine (goose and something, I've forgotten now but it's delicious, a small jar bought from a shop that has unfortunately since closed down). I think I'll go with tomatoes and basil for this next lot. Perhaps I'll even have a bit of salad on the side. And then, well, then I might watch some of the I, Claudius DVDs that my sister loaned me during the summer before having an early night. It has been a singularly unproductive day but I have needed it and the fact that I'm actually feeling tired enough (but not in the grumpy, headachey, overtired way you might expect) to contemplate sleeping again very soon tells me that I might have been right to have yet another day of doing almost exactly nothing. Perhaps this will be the weekend that I finally actually kick this cold to the kerb once and for all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Creativity bootcamp starting tomorrow

Just in case anyone might be interested, the marvellously talented Jane over at That Curious Love of Green is hosting a creativity bootcamp for the month of October. I'm not joining in as my October is already more full than I can manage (and I don't do FB either :) ) but I'm going to consider doing my own mini-bootcamp in a couple of months. Still, I thought some of you might be interested in joining in and there's still a day to sign-up (that FB group will be public until tomorrow and then made private with just those who have signed up) so off you go. And if you want to check out Jane's ambitious plans for her month, click on over to this post.

Would love to hear if anyone decides to join in. I have found Jane's blog really inspiring and I think a month-long creativity challenge is an excellent idea.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Moving on slowly but surely

After wrecking my head for a few weeks with trying to figure out websites, domain registration, hosting and all of that, this evening I finally made a step forward. Two really. I have registered the two website names that I wanted (one simply my name, one with a translations focus) and I've signed up for hosting. A few people suggested self-hosting but from what I've read about it, it would be beyond my current capabilities and I simply don't have the time (or inclination) to do that at the moment. The five euro a month charge for hosting will be more than worth it to me. A web developer friend has offered to build me a website at a substantially reduced rate but that will have to wait until the business has made enough money to cover the cost. Until then I'll figure out something very basic with my contact information and that will do. The main thing will be getting the email set up. Once I've done that, I will go ahead and order business cards. And that will be more than enough outgoings for one month.

So things are slowly moving forward. I got a rush job in from a contact who runs a translation agency late last Monday and stayed up very late doing that. Need to meet him soon to confirm rates and payment but it was a good opportunity as it was a new client for him and if they were happy with this job, they would be moving all of this particular business to him. And he, in turn, would give me the largest part of that work. I'd be happy with that. I approached him at an event during the summer to see about getting some work and offered to do a test translation for him. He phoned me a few weeks ago to see if I could do a short legal paragraph, again at short notice. I offered to get it done during my lunch break that day and did so. When we met a few days later and he said we should talk about money, I told him the first one could be free so long as he gave me a second one. So that piece of cheekiness seems to have worked out so far. We'll see how it goes. Working for an agency doesn't generally pay well at all and working directly for clients would pay nearly double what most agencies offer but starting out it's certainly an easier way to build up experience.

I'm now also registered with the national association of translators and listed in their directory, which will hopefully bring in work, too. Side-business seems to be officially up and running.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Contemplating a logo

Just on the off-chance that one of my readers does this kind of thing or knows someone who does (and in the hopes this doesn't end up with me being spammed). I'm getting my sideline of translating up and going and about to order business cards and register a website. All terribly grown-up, yikes!

Anyway, it has got me thinking about the question of logos. And I have no idea how much getting one of those designed costs. I'm not terribly convinced it'd be a good value way to spend money, based on the kind of small side-business I'll have but it wouldn't hurt to gather some information and even pricing options. So, if anyone knows anyone who does that kind of thing or does it themselves, let me know.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Where I was and where I am

I'm finding it partially very therapeutic and partially almost painful to read through old posts. Have only read the first few months of this blog for now. In many ways, I have come a long way since I started all this. But, in many other ways, I'm dismayed to have not come further and, in some cases, to have stayed exactly where i was or even gone backwards. I'm taking some small comfort from the fact that I am about to make a huge change (job - all very uncharted territory until I get a new one but getting closer to quitting day now). Today is my sister's second anniversary and it doesn't seem possible that it has been two years already. I still miss her just as much and go through periods where it doesn't seem possible to feel that much pain and keep going. But of course you do keep going and it passes on again until the next time I find myself thinking "must give A. a ring and tell her about that" or something similar.

At any rate, I do want to continue on with going through some of the old lists I printed to see where I was then and where I am now so here's an update (in red) on one very old list:

Chemical cleaning products at home - I decided when I wanted to switch to eco products that it would not be a good idea to simply flush away the products I already had and am still trying to use them up (a year later! I was always a sucker for special offers, didn't realise how much I of a stock I had built up). At this stage I think I'll try and give them away.   -  If I remember correctly I ended up trying to use up what I had and eventually, months, if not years later ended up bringing them to the recycling centre, which had a hazardous waste disposal section. These days I mostly use vinegar and bread soda, with a handful of eco products (toilet cleaner and washing-up liquid from Frosch, mostly, although I also mostly use vinegar and bicarb to clean the toilet with. I’ve lived here for seven years and think I’ve bought toilet cleaner twice or three times). 

Shower gel/body lotions etc. - as above, I've been using up what I had. Nearly finished.  -  Well, a few months after this I gave up shampoo altogether. Nowadays the only one you’ll find in my place is the leftover bottle from when my brother came to visit. Handy to have something when visitors are looking because they’ve forgotten their own and/or only had hand luggage so didn’t bring many liquids. As for shower gel, well, I mostly use proper soap nowadays (will get to making my own soon, really I will). I do also have a Weleda lemon shower gel to use – just ‘cos sometimes it’s nice to have something different. And, again, if I have visitors, some don’t like to use soap. I had the body lotion thing sorted by starting to use the hemp oil and body butter from Innocent Oils but then Helen closed the company in order to focus more on her family. Still miss it and haven’t really found something good to replace it with. Mostly just grabbing stuff when I’m desperate. I currently have the following lying around. This is definitely one I need to work on.

The Elizabeth Arden stuff was a birthday present last year. So far have only used it once because, quite frankly, it has a horrible smell. The aloe vera lotion and bio-oil I bought last year when I was in Ireland in June and it was unexpectedly sunny - I needed something to soothe my nearly sun-burned skin and got the bio-oil because there was one of those buy two things get second half-price offers on and I'd heard about it being very good. And the marigold tub is a German traditional type of moisturiser - vaseline based and I use it on my feet.

Deodorant - tough one this. May use some holiday time to experiment with eco products - it took me years to find a "conventional" one that works for me. – I went all around the houses on this one. Used rock crystal for a long while, found it mostly great and then at some stage it just sort of seemed to stop working almost all the time and I was frequently quite stinky. Then I got a skin infection under one arm so I dumped the rock crystal (it wasn’t the cause of it but had to get rid of it in case there were any nasties lurking, better safe than sorry and all that). I switched to Weleda lemon deodorant and it was pretty good but not consistently so and for the most part, I’m back to just using a conventional one. I do still use the Weleda sometimes but mostly when I’m off work and it’s not such a big deal if I end up a bit smelly. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery to me really – no matter what I use, I will still have occasional days where within a couple of hours I stink. And other days are completely fine. It’s all a bit strange but I’m not inclined to spend the time monitoring my life/diet so closely that I’d be able to find any patterns. For the most part, I know that cleaning myself properly once a day is the best way to not smell unpleasant.

Toothpaste - need to replace soon and will try Kingfisher or similar brand.  – I now use the Weleda ratanhia toothpaste. Tried a couple of the others but didn’t like them. Sometimes miss the minty-fresh feeling of your standard toothpaste but then when I use a standard one it seems so strong and you end up with so much foam in your mouth that I’m happy to go back to my Weleda.

Make-up - I don't wear much so will stick with what I already have and think more about it if/when I need new stuff.  – I dumped almost all of my make-up before moving to Germany. Kept lip-liners and eyeliners but pared them well. Also kept a few lipsticks that I’d never actually used (bought multiples trying to get a good match for when I was a bridesmaid for my sister’s wedding). About four years ago, when I first started seriously thinking about getting a new job, I got a few basic bits again (and got a few as a christmas present that year, too). But given the price of make-up these days and the fact that I still almost never wear any, I’m not really putting any thought into this one. I wear a very small amount for choir performances but just eye make-up and lipstick. The less I have used over the years on my skin, the more sensitive it seems to have gotten and I’d rather not aggravate it by slapping on foundation and multiple layers of whatever it is you slap on these days. In fact, I think the last time I wore full make-up was for my sister’s wedding (in 2006). 

Face wipes - so convenient. Have been reducing use but can't quite give them up yet.  – Have totally given these up. Well, I say totally but I do have a small travel pack that comes into service on those rare occasions (i.e. choir performances) when I need to remove make-up. Or just to freshen up between performing and heading out to celebrate all night long. But, I’ve acquired a couple more small Tupperware containers and started knitting my own cotton facecloths so just need to be a bit more organised in bringing a pre-soaked face cloth with me when needed. MFin3 also had a good idea that I might try out. Although if I buy the stuff to make those I'll have to make mega amounts to give to people as presents, I think - otherwise I could end up with more bottles hanging around for years.

Sanitary towels - have used organic ones before and they're okay, need to try and get them more often but they are more expensive.  – Well, long-time readers will know that I first switched to washable pads (love!) and then finally, a few years ago, to the Mooncup (love!!!). Won’t ever go back to disposables and will try and encourage anyone who cares to listen to consider switching to non-disposable options. Actually, just looking at that old post again, Liz from Pocket Farm suggested the Diva Cup to me - that was the first time I had ever heard about it (and I actually thought she was sending me to a joke website at first). 

Petrol - until I can afford a hybrid/runs on vegetable oil type car the only thing I can do about this is minimise my use of the car. Already use bus for to and from work. Must get fit enough to use bike.  – Got rid of the car a few months before I left Ireland and don’t have one here at all. Have a monthly ticket for public transport, got a second-hand bike and am a member of several car-sharing programs (and even so haven’t driven a car here for more than two years). May someday need to get a car again, especially if I manage to end up living in the country or a small town but for now it’s just not necessary.

Philadelphia light - a Weight Watcher's necessity. I have a serious weight problem but eating more fresh food and less processed food will help a lot. There are certain products that are very useful in making low-fat meals and this is one of them. – And how very far I’ve come since writing this. Still very overweight but have learned so many new dishes and, more to the point, have changed my eating habits quite a bit so that what I do cook involves far more vegetables. And if I do use something like cream cheese it’s more often a full-fat version from a local farmer but using less of it. My use of processed foods has gone way down.

Colour catchers - can't afford to keep buying new white underwear. – Still use these. Feels like I really should find out what exactly they’re made of, do they decompose harmlessly and so on. But, as long as I’m only washing for one I think I’m going to continue needing these because I don’t feel like starting to only wear one colour clothes for the rest of my life.  Actually, a quick google leads me to conflicting information. The company claims they're environmentally friendly (because of less washing mostly, I think) and that they're fully biodegradable. Comments from various other people online claim to want to stay away from them. However, without any actual information to back up their actions, I think I'll stick with them for now. I generally use one a week for the two or three small loads I might wash.

Clothes - don't buy many and because of my size don't have much choice anyway. When I lose weight I would also like to start looking at buying more organically. – Same here as well. I try to avoid buying clothes at all and when I really have to, can’t really afford to do anything but buy cheap (which in my size means C&A or M&S Mode, and occasionally on a trip back to Ireland Marks & Spencer (although they don’t do long in my size anymore so that’s less and less until I lose enough weight to get back into sizes that do have long versions) or Evans). Actually am reaching a stage of badly needing to get some new work clothes but hopefully the weightloss will continue this time and in a few months I’ll start fitting into other stuff I already have again.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Another post of prices

Just to keep a record, some of the prices of what I've bought today:

Putenfarm Ritte
Chicken (974g @ €4.90/kg) - €4.77
Turkey salami (97g @ €25.50/kg) - €2.47

Feinkost Turan
White beans (1kg bag) - €4.99
Ground coriander (55g jar) - 99c
Dried tomatoes (230g @ €9.99/kg) - €2.30

Hof und Feld
2 small red onions and 1 large leek (500g @ €1.99/kg) - €1.00
1 head garlic (55g @ €12.00/kg) - 66c
1 packet cumin seeds (40g @ €24.80/kg) - 99c

Johannes Thees
Organic tomatoes (1.124 kg @ €6.00/kg) - €6.74
4 chilis, 2 long red ones and 2 red/green round ones (62g @ €18.00/kg) - €1.12

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Things I learned from my first flea-market experience

  • Bring a chair (my lovely friend's hubby gave me one to use and I was very glad of it). 
  • Always have someone around (next door stallholders if nothing else) to look after your stall while you nip off to the toilet. 
  • Bring food and drink. No point in blowing your entire profit by eating from the inevitable food stalls and chip vans.
  • Bring some kind of transparent plastic sheets to cover stuff if it starts raining (or a pavillion type thing if you have one). The cheapie plastic sheets you can get for covering furniture while painting would be good for this - I saw lots of people with them. I did think to bring rubbish bags but that mean my stuff was covered when it was raining and no-one could see anything, even though people were still walking around under umbrellas.
  • Almost as soon as I arrived to start setting up I was approached by a man asking if I had any jewellery for sale (I didn't). Then a few minutes later another one. And then another after that. I assume they're traders of some sort who do the rounds first thing hoping to snap up any bargains. Must ask someone with more experience of flea markets whether it's a good idea to deal with these guys or better to keep the stuff and sell to the general public.
  • Having a float of some change is a really good idea. I probably overdid it with 40 of notes and 45 of change but at least 20 or so will make life much easier. 
  • Decide whether your priority is to make money or to get rid of stuff. If it's the latter, just price to sell. Yes, everyone says you have to haggle but not everyone likes to and if the point is to get rid of stuff...I admit it, I'm a bit like Brian in this respect.

    • Tuesday, September 08, 2015

      Flea market

      Well, it all ended up being a rush and a hassle in the end. Perhaps a better mood overall might have helped me react a bit better to several irritations but at least it's all over and done with now. On the morning, although it wasn't due to start until 10, there were people coming around at eight o'clock already. So instead of a nice neat stall, with nicely folded clothes in lovely piles, I ended up with something looking more like this
      I'll add more photos to the what's on the way out page - really couldn't get any good ones as I was trying to take photos and set up and fend off the eager early customers all at the same time but it's important for me to have a visual reminder so that I don't start panicking about not having certain things anymore.
      Oh well. I did sell some clothes, and the women who bought them were all happy to see larger sizes for a change, since you don't necessarily always get that at a flea market. And, since I priced to sell (50c for one, €2 for five), people weren't too hesitant. I also got rid of a few other bits and pieces and some of the stuff a friend had given to me. She was going to get rid of some stuff anyway so told me I could have it to sell instead. I didn't manage to sell the hand-made lace edged white linen bed clothes that her great-aunt made in about 1860 - that was one of two things that she wanted to have money for (€50, in case anyone is interested in some antique Swiss bed linen). No-one was interested in the singing bowl either, even though she was prepared to let it go for €30 (about half what she paid for it). Apart from those two things almost everything else that wasn't sold at the end of the day didn't come home with me again though. We detoured to the charity clothes collection bank and then to a local Give Box to leave the rest of the stuff.

      It's getting shorter (each ring represents €20)

      It was a cold and rainy day and I managed to get myself a cold over the weekend (not helped after Saturday's market by spending Sunday afternoon at an open day on the farm I get my vegetable delivery from) but all in all, I did come out with some money. Not a huge amount, but enough to tear a couple of rings off my paper chain.

      All up, it came out to €28.10 profit. I paid €25 for the table and €20 for a deposit. Got the deposit back and made enough to cover the cost of the table and €28.10 was on top of that. So, €60 gone to savings and the rest into my purse, since I needed money anyway. I raided my 50c tin (which isn't actually sealed) for change for a float so that money also went back into the tin. I am thinking of cashing all of that in to add to my savings, though. It was intended to be the start of a moving fund but making sure I have enough money to cover a month off work is more important now, I think.

      So, I've had two days at home to try and shake off this cold because I decided trying to drag myself into work and letting it drag on for weeks would be counter-productive. I haven't been able to do much so I still need to get all of the clothes I'm keeping back into the wardrobe but I have managed to get the stuff I had put to one side into the washing machine with some dye, which means I have refreshed a few things back to being wearable for another little while.
      The light is not cooperating but I might do more photos at the weekend. For now, here's what I dyed yesterday - all of these things were dyed either black or dark brown. I love the way colours interact with each other.
      The tiniest of babysteps but it's something at least.

      Friday, September 04, 2015

      The mess always gets worse before it gets better

      At least, hopefully, it will get better eventually. I have a stand at a local flea market tomorrow and am kind of regretting now that I said I'd do it, as I haven't done the slowly but surely gathering of stuff over three or four weeks that I had planned on. A ridiculously bad mood has been plaguing me since my last post and I've totally lost my good eating, cooking, exercising and keeping things going mojo. Well, I have mostly managed to keep on top of the washing-up, only leaving things lying once or twice for a day.

      Throw in an upgrade to Windows 10, a resulting/coincidental issue with my anti-virus followed by an hour or two searching the web for a solution and an incredibly frustrating 45 minutes interacting/trying to interact with Microsoft's online tech support during which I managed to burn the white beans that were going to form the basis of my first healthy lunch for two weeks, not to mention leave me leftovers for tomorrow, and, well, bad mood all over again today.

      But I'm trying to get through some stuff at least and trying to be as ruthless as possible in deciding what to get rid of. So a lot of clothes that have survived previous purges are on the pile - even some that actually would fit in to the KonMari standard of "does it bring you joy".
      A lot more are staying, many that don't actually fit at the moment but once again I was faced with the fact that I have quite a lot of good quality clothes, better quality than is sometimes available these days and, the last two weeks notwithstanding, I am losing weight and will be able to use them again soon enough. Still, I have a fairly big pile going and more to sort through so it's something at least.

      Monday, August 17, 2015

      A not terribly successful day's cooking

      Ever have one of those days where nothing turns out quite right? No huge disasters but just one not quite right after another? That was yesterday. And I'd been feeling so positive about it all. I was making bread for goodness' sake! So, here are some notes for myself for next time.

      I do love my green pot

      In my oven it needs longer than 30 minutes plus 15 without a lid. I should probably get my hands on a thermometer at some stage to figure out how close the dial is to the reality of what happens in there. At any rate, the bread sounded fairly hollow when tapped on the bottom but apparently it needs to sound really hollow because when I cut it open, it was, well, not really doughy but just the wrong side of gooey. I could only cut a very thick slice and I toasted that - twice through the toaster fixed it up fine. Looks good though and it did taste nice so one to try again for sure. And my 20cm, 3 litre pot was the perfect size for it.

      Spiced cabbage
      I made this before using sweetheart cabbage and scoffed basically a half a cabbage in one evening. Turns out, this recipe doesn't work quite so well with savoy cabbage. I think it'd be good with white cabbage, might even work with red cabbage and napa cabbage would also be okay. But the darker, looser leave cabbages probably not so much. So disappointed.

      Red pork
      I can tell what my sister meant when she says it tastes exactly like the takeaway version but it's not for me. It's nice enough but, I just felt like there are way tastier things to do with meat and kind of wished I'd followed by first instinct and just cooked half of the pork this way.

      Pastryless quiche
      Still need to grease the pan before adding all the ingredients. Looks like I will be eating this quiche with a spoon to scrape it out of the dish rather than cutting nice slices.

      Remember to put enough milk into the container with the muesli. Was in a rush this morning so didn't quite pay enough attention and ended up having a snack of muesli that had absorbed almost all of the milk - not my favourite thing.

      Oh well. All very first world problems I know. Here's hoping this wasn't the start of crappy cooking streak. I do have them sometimes but things have been going well lately and it definitely makes the whole cooking at home and eating healthily much easier when there are more successes than "meh" moments.

      Sunday, August 16, 2015

      No-knead bread and red pork

      I was supposed to meet a friend to go for a walk this morning but as it was lashing rain we cancelled and instead I sat down to read another couple of posts from the mortgagefreeinthree blog. I'm nearly finished and honestly kind of glad because I'm starting to feel a bit stalker-ish! Great blog though and I've already tried loads of things from it - good little easy enough and don't take too long projects. I'll work up to the other stuff.

      2.5 kg bread flour fits perfectly
      into my Tupperware
      500g instant yeast
      opened and promptly decanted
      Tupperware containers
      and into the freezer.

      Anyway, today's first post was for a no-knead crusty loaf and since I bought flour and yeast online (convinced by Elaine's recipe for 30-minute rolls that I could possibly get back into bread baking after all without too much effort) at the beginning of the month, I decided what the hell and headed into the kitchen to whip up a quick loaf. I've been reading about no-knead bread ever since the now famous NYT article, have watched youtube videos and even got myself a cast iron saucepan a while back so it was time to just take the plunge.

      And you know what? This really is one of those it took me longer to find the scissors to open the yeast packet than it did to make the dough kind of recipes. Everything dumped into a mixing bowl and mixed together to a sticky dough. I used a trick I learned from the Mary Berry book that has the only yeast bread I've made up until now (Book People bargain years and years ago) - to get warm water of the correct temperature mix half boiling and half cold water together. The resulting water is the perfect tepid temperature to activate but not kill the yeast.

      Now she does this as an overnight rise, bake in the morning kind of a loaf so I reckoned if I put it to rise at about ten o'clock in the morning then I'd have something lovely to bake this evening.

      That's a Tupperware "Peng" bowl, don't know what it's called in
      English, maybe a "ping" bowl? Note the flat lid.

      No-knead bread costs
      400g bread flour = 45c
      Half-teaspoon yeast (internet tells me a teaspoon is just short of 3g, so 1.5g) = 1c
      300ml warm water (not digging out annual bill to figure this one out!)
      1 tsp. sea salt (it's so long ago since I bought salt I have no idea anymore what it cost)

      I bought that particular Tupperware mixing bowl a while back on a special offer - the idea of making yeast bread has been ruminating for a very long time!

      The flour I bought was from a website called - I'm still not sure what led me to it or even to ordering stuff online but I just had a day a few weeks ago where I thought I needed to stop messing around and just get to actually doing stuff. At any rate, I got 2.5kg bread flour, 2.5kg wheat berries, 1kg milk powder, 500g instant yeast and 4 different spices (smoked paprika (sweet), smoked paprika (spicy), juniper berries and a chili spice mix (habanero, jalapeno chipotle, smoked paprika). I used that spice mix last night for dinner actually and boy, is it spicy. I had a smallish celeriac and half a large kohrabi so chopped both into chip sized pieces, blanched the celeriac and then cooked them both in the oven, along with the turkey pieces I bought yesterday. But before it went into the oven I mixed a good glug of olive oil with a generous teaspoon of the spice. I think I'll be trying to remember to keep to using it in increments of half-teaspoons in future. Just on the edge of my tolerance and that was after I added some quark to the edge of my plate to use as a dip to take the heat off. But, it's really delicious so I'm glad I bought it. And I've found a way to eat celeriac that I don't mind, so it's all good.

      For dinner this evening I'm doing spiced cabbage and some of the pork belly I bought yesterday. My sister sent me this seasoning mix for red pork so I mixed up one packet of that with water as per the instructions, chopped up the pork into several strips, added a teaspoon of honey and some sliced fresh ginger to the marinade (just because - also discovered I have no soy sauce so have added that to my list to restock) and now the whole lot is sitting in the fridge for a few hours to marinate. And it looks, well, it looks kind of gross to be honest but I'm assured it will taste great. Marinading meat is never really the prettiest thing to look at. At least the colouring is natural (beetroot powder).

      Anyway, back to the bread and now you'll see the special thing (or at least the special advertising point LOL) of my "Peng" bowl. With the lid on it is sealed up tightly and I like that as it means no need to use cling film or shower cap or any other kind of eventually disposable plastic. But it's not so tight that it won't come off and as the dough proves and rises the lid does, too, and eventually it will "ping" open. Here it is after three hours and not long before it popped open:
      Slightly different angle than the photo above but I hope you can see how the lid has "risen" along with the bread
      Since it's a no-knead, long rise loaf of bread, I've closed up the lid properly again and I'll leave it now for another few hours. But this evening, not including fuel costs (and I'll be doubling up in the oven later as I'll have the quiche to go in at the same time) my loaf of bread will be costing me say about 50c and about four minutes of my time so far. That's pretty impressive. Although, I just remembered that there was a €3.90 delivery charge - I bought eight items from backstars and it was a standard charge so just less than 50c per item if I wanted to divide it like that. Even if I allocated the entire 50c for the flour to this one loaf of bread I'm still not over €1 for the whole thing and that is a third of what I'd pay in any of my local bakeries. Really hope this is as tasty as I'm anticipating it to be!

      Saturday, August 15, 2015

      Saturday shopping

      I spent a lot of money today. Most of it in the form of lunch vouchers. This is one of the perks I get in work which I will really miss when I leave. Every day that I spend at least an hour in the office, I get one voucher. Since the value of these vouchers went up a couple of months ago from 3.07 to 4.50 each, it's a sizable chunk of change, especially for those months where I have no holidays. Normally I use these vouchers for going out to lunch or buying unplanned for stuff at the supermarket. Most supermarkets take them, some of the bakeries near work, most of the restaurants near work and so on. Yesterday, I remembered that one of the butchers on my road also takes them and since I had seen a sign outside there yesterday for a special offer on pork belly and my sister sent me a packet mix of spices to make Chinese red pork something or other last week, I decided adding a bit of meat into one or two of my meals this week might be nice. And since my vouchers had arrived last week it really felt a bit like the pressure was off and I went into Edeka and stocked up on some rubbish, too.

      It was a bit of a running hither and thither afternoon though. I had hoovered and tidied up a bit before leaving the house so that was something. And I had a shower and washed my hair, even though we're having the kind of weather again that makes it feel like it's a waste of time, since two minutes after getting out of the shower you start sweating again. Still, at least it's not raining, I suppose.

      First off I popped across the road to throw a bottle into the recycling and then I went into Rossmann to print out some passport size photos. Since I was there I also got a packet of washing soda. Then it was into the butcher to get some pork belly and chicken pieces and I threw in a couple of the nice spicy dried sausages they have, too. Round the corner to hop onto the scales in the chemist (5.5 kg down in the four weeks I've been properly back to doing the 5:2 fast diet) and then I jumped onto the tram to head to the other end of my street as I had a package I needed to drop off at the Hermes shop (sending my broken Kindle back - I miss my old Kindle, but that's for another post). Once that was done I stopped into the small shop with lovely meats and cheese and treated myself to 50g of a French salami with hazelnuts. And then finally it was off to Aldi and Edeka, stopping only on the way to bring two letters to the post office. One a form for my health insurance place informing them that I'll be finishing work at the end of October and so my status will change to "voluntarily" insured rather than "employed". And the other my application to join the German Association of Interpreters and Translators (which was what I needed a passport photo for). So that's two big things ticked off the list. Oh, I also found time to stop into the opticians to get my glasses adjusted, they weren't sitting quite right and it was just enough off to be a bit annoying. So it took all afternoon but I feel like I got a good bit done. And now for the food - I squished everything in but I think most of it is visible, although the buttermilk seems to have been covered by the crackers. Oh well.

      Rossmann (€2.94 cash)
      8 passport photos - €1.95
      Washing soda - 99c

      Brosi (€9 vouchers and €1.25 cash)
      Pork belly (598g @ €7.50/kg) - €4.49
      Turkey pieces (218g @ €13.90/kg) - €3.03
      2 spicy sausages (124g @ €22.00/kg) - €2.73

      Tischdame (€2.10 cash)
      Salami with hazelnuts (50g @ €42.00/kg) - €2.10

      Aldi (€15.40 cash via debit card)
      1 lt. milk - 99c
      1 kg museli - €1.49 (looking back I bought this on 25th July so looks like a kilo lasts me three weeks)
      500g organic lentils - €1.55 (special offer this week is a whole load of organic stuff - not sure Aldi normally sell lentils so good to get them)
      500g organic white beans - €1.55 (same special offer)
      Yoghurt - 45c
      Labello - 99c (near cash register - I know I'll need one soon so grabbed it)
      6 fair trade organic bananas - €1.31 (you can just see one at the top of the photo - very green bananas but in the heat at the moment, these should be just nice by Monday)
      1 tin tuna - 99c
      1 tin tomatoes - 39c
      Organic mozzarella - 89c (after taste testing both the organic and non-organic I prefer this one. The other is a bit creamier, which is nice, but this one just has more flavour, even if it is a bit firmer)
      Quark - 45c
      1 A4 folder - 99c
      2 packets 8 wraps - 99c each (these were a special offer a few weeks ago and only seem to be selling very slowly but since they're delicious and in date until December, I grabbed another couple of packets)
      2 x feta - 69c each

      Post office (23c cash)
      23c (one of the letters I was sending was over the standard weight so I had to add to the stamp I already had)

      Edeka (€13.50 vouchers and €4.48 cash - annoyingly she wouldn't just take another voucher and keep the 2c - the till wasn't programmed to allow her to do that and if the till won't allow it there's no flexibility. I would have put stuff back but there was already a long queue behind me so I just paid the cash for the rest and moved on - no point in annoying everyone else just 'cos I was hot and bothered.)
      1 lt. cider vinegar (for hair) - €1.69
      1 large tin coconut milk - €1.29
      Washing-up liquid - €1.49
      1 lt. white vinegar (for cleaning) - 39c
      1kg frozen green beans - €1.69
      Buttermilk - 39c (special offer - so I think there's some soda bread on the menu for next week)
      1 large packet maltesers - €2.79
      Riffels crisps - €1.99
      Sensations crisps - €1.69
      Chips crackers - 99c
      Dark chocolate - €1.09
      Spray bottle - €2.49 (want to make my own cleaners to spray on tiles and so on so will be stocking up on a couple more of these over the next while)

      So all told, I make that €45.31, which is a lot of money. I've gotten quite a few things for the store cupboard and enough rubbish to easily see me through two weeks, I think. Next week I should only need milk and yoghurt. In fact, I think I'm going to give myself a little challenge to not spend anything more than one €4.50 voucher next weekend. It means buying slightly more expensive milk and yoghurt (Aldi don't take the vouchers) but I have more than enough otherwise to get good food on the table every day.

      Friday, August 14, 2015

      Re-visiting old lists - January Cure Assignment 2

      Back at the beginning of January I started the Apartment Therapy January Cure. I didn't get much further than this assignment I think but since I was reminded of it while searching for something else I decided it would be a good place to start doing something I've been thinking of doing for a while anyway - revisiting some of the lists I have posted over the years and seeing what, if anything, has changed. So here we go, my original list and updates/comments, if I have any, in red.

      • Clear workroom half of bedroom (so that it can actually become, you know, my workroom)
        • Paint
      • Clear sleeping half of bedroom
        • Clear pile beside blanket box - done (and no new pile has accumulated)
        • Clear pile in front of cupboard unit - done (and no new pile)
        • Clear telephone table - took me a minute to even figure out what this is. Not completely done but I have moved this table to the other end of the bedroom so at least it's gone from the sleeping half.
        • Clear out locker 
        • Glue locker drawers properly
        • Sand down locker and paint?
        • Clear shelves of cupboard unit
        • Paint
        • Patch duvet cover
        • Check blanket box for potential bedclothes for dying - not really but I did pull out one or two things that I'm just going to get rid of
      • Finish emptying box (which the Table of Doom contents got transferred into last week when I had guests coming)
      • Find good way to store magazines
      • Go through loose recipes, get rid of what I'm never going to use and file others properly
      • Hang Van Gogh postcards - have hung three of these, need to figure out where I want to put the rest.
      • Wash rug - not yet but I did fold it up and put it to one side, don't really need it until weather gets cold anyway.
      • Clean couch
      • Clear out crafting cupboard so that two bags on top of it can go in it
      • Sand and paint crafting cupboard
      • Sand and paint tallboy
      • Sand and paint bookshelves
      • Re-paper end wall
        • Move bookshelves
        • Strip old paper
        • Hang new paper
      • Clean all doorknobs and window handles - did windows in sitting room but that's all so far
      • Set up wifi
      • Hang keep calm poster I got for my birthday - got frame and put it into frame so just need to get nails up and actually hang it
      • Paint hallway
      • Clear built-in cupboards in hallway
      • Put black backing paper in picture frames of Strasbourg pictures
      • Finish stripping paper in bathroom
      • Re-paper and paint bathroom
      • Hang pictures in bathroom - despite not having done the rest I have hung one picture
      • Get and hang new bathroom cabinet
      • Clear top of fridge
      • Put up shelves in kitchen
      • Strip paper in kitchen
      • Re-paper kitchen
      • Clear filter on washing machine
      • Deep clean cooker
      • Pot up aloe vera plants

      So, not a huge amount done but I'm really glad I "found" this list again as a number of these things are small and easy fixes so I'll try and fit them in soon.

      Thursday, August 13, 2015

      Trying to get ahead of myself

      It has been a warmer than expected day today, with temperatures heading to 30 degrees and a bit beyond. I'm trying hard to just appreciate the last month or so of summer but have sweat buckets the last couple of days so it's a bit of a struggle. At least it hasn't rained - it didn't stop for even a second on Tuesday. More thunderstorms and rain are expected overnight. Hopefully they'll have cleared up by morning.

      Despite the heat I got up about an hour after getting home this evening and headed into the kitchen to heat up my leftover spiced cauliflower and potatoes for dinner and cook up the two tomatoes leftover from last week together with a courgette I bought yesterday with just about the last of my money (46c still left in my purse). I ordered onions and tomatoes as extras in my vegetable box today so I chopped up one of the smaller onions and threw that in the pan with some garlic, too. The courgette was big so really I've got a very large portion for the freezer which will do two pasta dinners come winter.
      More photos taken in terrible lighting but it's mostly to serve as a reminder to me so it'll do. Broccoli on the left and courgette with tomatoes and onion on the right.
      Otherwise I was just going to put the rest of the veg into the fridge but since I was waiting for dinner to be ready anyway I thought I'd just wash the Tupperware stuff from lunchtime and the container my dinner had been in. Got that done and then thought about how I would have a much better time in the morning if I just washed some salad now and had it ready to go. So I did that. The rest of the lettuce went into the salad spinner and into the fridge (the Tupperware salad spinner comes with a separate lid so that you can store the lettuce in it - very handy). Then I decided that since I was doing that I might as well chop a tomato and scallion and prepare the dressing. So that's all done and ready to go.

      The divided box was the free gift at a Tupperware party last year and it is the business. So I've got a tomato with a little bit of olive oil and basil leaves in the bigger section, a chopped scallion on one side of the smaller sections and a simple vinaigrette dressing in the other. Since it's all going to go into the salad at lunchtime tomorrow it doesn't really matter if it turns upside down in my bag and the dressing mixes in with the rest of the stuff. But for now, it's all separated and nothing's getting soggy.
      Then I set to, putting the carrots into a suitable container, ditto the cauliflower, the tomatoes went into their bowl, the onions into their container, the apples into the fruit bowl and the broccoli...well, the broccoli, to be completely honest, didn't look like it was going to survive very long. I want to use it to make a broccoli and feta quiche at the weekend so decided that it'd be easier to just cook it now. So I did that. And, for the first time ('cos I didn't really realise it was a thing you could do before), I actually chopped up the entire stem into small bits and cooked that, too. I'll get good at this frugality thing one day and not miss a trick but for now I'm happy to have learned yet another one. That definitely made a big difference to the amount of broccoli that I cooked.

      So, for just over an hour's effort (it was very hot so I was taking my time about things and kept having to stop to wipe the sweat from my glasses when it dropped down - I may need to find myself a sweatband, channel my inner John McEnroe, like) I feel like I am way ahead of myself foodwise for the coming week. I printed out the list of veg I was getting yesterday and spent ten minutes of my lunchtime going through that, adding what I still had in the fridge and making a meal plan for next week. Taking into account the various activities I have on and fast days and so on. From that, I wrote my shopping list and I'll be off to Aldi first thing on Saturday morning to stock up on what will be, it turns out, mostly dairy products.
      Rough and ready but it works for me - I've given up on trying to keep a fancy notebook or anything like that for my meal plans and shopping lists. Most of the results of this work will get saved into a memo on my phone so that I can check on it any time.

      It's very sobering to realise how far food can really go when you're paying attention. Or at least, the sobering thought is how little attention I've been paying for so long. However, those thoughts come with a determination not to ever fall back into those ways again. Mindless behaviour rarely leads to happiness - I know that, now I just need to start living it better.