Sunday, March 03, 2019

Back from holidays and changed some targets

I've had such a lovely time the last couple of weeks. First up was a day visiting a friend in nearby Stuttgart, including hanging out with her grandkids, which earned me the name of "the funny lady" (die lustige Frau) from her four-year-old granddaughter (she couldn't remember my name and wanted to know if I'd be coming back to visit again, I think). That makes me smile when I think of it.

Random sculpture in Halle  


Then it was back home to pack for my annual visit to Halle to sing Messiah for the Happy Birthday Handel event. Once again, it was a long weekend that was fun and laughter and singing and friends from just about the second I arrived and until we all headed off to the train station together on the Monday afternoon.

After that, my friends flew home to Ireland while I went on to Leipzig for the day and then Dresden the following day until the end of the week. It was really interesting to see Dresden but I was surprised somehow that I loved Leipzig so much more than Dresden. I will definitely have to go back and spend more time in Leipzig.







I felt so comfortable walking around there, just like I'd found one of those places that makes me feel at home straightaway. The monument you can see in the background of this photo is called the Monument to the Battle of the Nations and it pulled my eye toward it immediately. Definitely want to go back and see that up close. I was amused to realise after staring at it for about quarter of an hour that it actually was that particular monument, as my friend had kept telling me about this monument in Leipzig that he found amazing and it turned out to be exactly this one. I have to say, I completely agree with him. Even from a distance, it was fascinating.
From the panorama tower in Leipzig





Panthers, Semper Oper, Dresden


I arrived back late on Friday night and then got up to head off to aquajogging yesterday morning, with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home. Otherwise, I have not gotten up to much this weekend. Did one load of washing before I ran out of underwear completely and I've kept on top of the washing up, even actually giving my Brita jug a really good scrubbing, which it hasn't had for, well, lets just call it several months since it's had anything but a bit of a half-hearted swipe.

I am not looking forward to going back to work, though and have faced up to the fact that I really am not enjoying it. So, among other things I did this holiday, I applied for a new job. It was only advertised internally, which is usually a sign that they actually have someone internal in mind for the job, but we'll see what happens. I think it could be a good fit. Even if I don't get it though, I'll keep an eye out and need to move this to a bit more of a proactive issue now.



Coming home was at least a bit of a chance to catch up on my finances though and I've just updated my savings targets on the sidebar. Annual savings are down to almost nothing again and will be completely depleted next month after paying an insurance bill. Can't wait for a few months then to build that up again but that is what it's there for, after all. I have also upped the total target for my emergency fund and my investments, so that my percentages have fallen even though the totals are slowly increasing. But for a couple of reasons, I decided that €5,000 is an amount that I feel better with for my emergency fund than €2,000. For one, it's pretty close to six months worth of expenses - well, it's five months of barebones expenses anyway, which feels close. And for another, it is approximately how much I would need if I wanted to move. So even though moving would not be an emergency, it feels like having that much put away no matter what just gives me options, which kind of takes the pressure off a bit. So, I'm aiming to continue adding at least €50 per month to that account but also going to try and add as much as possible of any translation income I get in the coming months.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Envisage your life - part 2

Just a short one this, and one for a weekend day, not just for every day. Matinee film. I loved this as a kid. Every Saturday there would be a film, often a black and white film and/or musical, on television at around half-one or two o'lock. That is something that deserves a place as a tradition in the life I would like to lead.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

More weekend cooking

Another weekend draws to a close and it has been a busy one. After aquajogging yesterday it was a rush into town for choir rehearsal and after that I hung around town for an hour before heading into one of the Irish pubs to watch the rugby. The place was packed, with most tables reserved so I ended up standing the whole time, which is one of my least favourite things to do. After it was over, I headed home, cycling part of the way. I had my bike with me as it wasn't raining and it had meant I'd be a few minutes quicker getting to the tram from the pool and be able to cycle straight to the church we were rehearsing at in town instead of having to change onto the bus.

Then this morning I was up at the crack of dawn to get into town on time for another short rehearsal before singing at ten o'clock mass - the end of semester mass for the university. The trams only go once an hour on Sunday mornings and it often seems to come down to arriving 45 minutes early or 15 minutes late kind of thing. After a reallllly long mass, I headed back home and declared the afternoon one for the sofa. I even managed to doze for about 40 minutes. And then it was up and on the run again as I was performing with my little local choir at a 95th birthday party. Small town life. Before going to that, though, I sped around, chopping up vegetables and opening tins and throwing everything into the slow cooker. So I'm waiting for the last half-hour of that to be done and then I will declare cooking done for at least the next week. In the slow cooker: 275g leek, 250g onion, 75g chard, 150g carrots, 175g kohlrabi, 1 tin of tomatoes and 1 carton of passata, a small 130g tin of peas and carrots, and a 400g tin of white beans. Along with enough water to cover the lot, a couple of spoonfuls of veg stock powder, a teaspoon each of cumin and tumeric, and three teaspoons of smoked paprika. Forgot to add garlic but I can live with that.

When I got in this evening, I also chopped up the other leek (225g) and an onion (100g) and sauteed them along with a small packet (just over 100g) of lardons. That's now in a Tupperware container in the fridge and I can use it to give a quick and easy veg boost to meals over the next week - adding it to a cheese sandwich, for example, or scrambled eggs. I also bought salad again this week and have that washed and ready to use in the fridge as well. Along with the two portions of cabbage soup I still have left over and the one portion of leftovers curry, and some sliced ham and sliced cheese I bought, I should be well able to get through the coming week of far too much extracurricular activity. I have choir on Tuesday (rehearsal), Wednesday (singing at another uni mass then concert rehearsal with the orchester), possibly going to a Wikipedia monthly meeting on Thursday, final rehearsal on Friday, and concerts on Saturday and Sunday. And on Saturday I have aquajogging and want to try and get to see the rugby before heading to choir. On Sunday, I will be sleeping in and then I have signed up to go to dinner with choir after the concert that evening. So, a far too busy week and I think it's safe to say that I will not be cooking much of anything next weekend. But what I've done this weekend should last at least into the start of the week after next. The aim is as little canteen or takeaway food as possible.

The leftovers curry I made yesterday deserves a mention before I sign off. I may never be able to replicate it but it is very good. I had a half a tin of coconut milk in Tupperware in the fridge and wanted to use that up and decided to do a quick curry with everything else that needed to be used up. So I actually got out of bed relatively early yesterday and, after bringing a wash downstairs to the cellar, started cooking. In went: 25g chard plus the leaves from the kohlrabi, 75g onion, 1 portion of cabbage soup, the coconut milk, 1 generous teaspoon of almond butter, 1 teaspoon of Thai green curry past, 100g cooked cabbage, a good handful of green beans from the freezer, a good splash of lime juice, and the last of the older potatoes and sweet potato that really needed to be used up. That ended up being 450g potatoes and 175g of sweet potato. Definitely not at all a balanced meal in terms of proportions of veg to carbs (even if you count the sweet potato as veg, which I'm not supposed to) but oh so good. I put some in a flask and brought it with me and ate it in between choir and going to the pub yesterday. That was a huge win because they serve Irish breakfasts and proper chips (with vinegar!) in that pub. Maybe next week.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Envisage your life - part 1

I read a book a while ago that mentioned actually trying to describe what your ideal day would be like. Partly as a way of putting it out to the universe but also partly as a way to clarify what exactly it is that you do want. This is another one of those things that I've wanted to write about for ages but haven't.

I even once had a bit of an epiphany about how that day would look but didn't write it down and it faded away and I've never managed to recapture whatever it was. One thing did occur to me today though so I think I'm just going to write these random individual items as I think of them. Perhaps at the end of the year then, I can gather all the individual bits together and see how my day is shaping up.

Part 1: No fixed time to start work (ok, really ideal day has no employed work at all but for now...). I can get up at seven, or eight, or nine, or ten. I can just get washed and dressed and head straight to work. Or I can take an hour or two to cook or prepare myself breakfadt. Or I can head straight out but spend an hour or two stopping off at the post office, or getting the shopping done, or drop in to the library. Or I can move no further than the armchair in my bedroom and read for a while before starting the day. And then when I get in to work, I can just do my work and work whatever number of hours I'm supposed to work and that's that. No stress, no hassle.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Notes on a Sunday

Haven't the wherewithal to write a particularly cogent post today but had things I wanted to write about so perhaps a few notes will just do for now. Don't let the perfect (ha!) get in the way of the good and all that.

  • Blogger is letting me post pictures again so I've added the two random ones I wanted to add ot my last post to this one. 
  • I've never paid a huge amount of attention to the stats on this blog but used to look every once in a while (or every day for a while and then not at all for ages) and noticed that one search term that seem to lead people here a lot was "how not to get overwhelmed" - except they mostly landed on this post, in which I talk about how overwhelmed I am. I have thoughts about this and it's one of those things I have wanted to write about for years, ever since I noticed it. Maybe one day.
  • Went to the doctor on Friday and got a referal note to go and see a psychologist again and even spent a half an hour searching for one in my area and sent one an email to see if they have a free spot. I'm very all over the place at the moment, possibly with some delayed shock from a minor car accident I had in December and had a bit of a breakdown the week before last related to that so I just need to go and get help. Feeling very alone, especially because my brother, when I have phoned him over the last few weeks, has not been answering. I know he finds January tough and is extremely busy at the momeny, especially helping a friend whose husband had to go into hospital but I have seen that he has been on social media so I'm not too worried about him. Just a bit hurt because this time around I needed to talk to him and he hasn't phoned back. But I haven't actually sent him any messages saying I need to talk either. Not sure why but just couldn't manage to type any messages. At any rate, I hope the doctor I contacted has a place free soon.
  • In the meantime, I'm trying to keep going with all the stuff that I know is helpful and that I need to do.
Light dusting of snow near work
  • Went to third aquajogging session yesterday - I am really enjoying it. I did a full hour on the bike at the gym on Friday evening, too, and then walked home (it's about 25-30 minutes to walk at my speed). I had two heavy bags with me though and between that and the aquajogging yesterday, I was really feeling it in my arms yesterday - especially my lower arms. 
  • Yesterday I made cabbage soup using a recipe from a Jane Grigson book I bought a few years ago on the strength of a recommendation from a blog I read. A book I have only glanced at before. But a recipe for cabbage soup that consisted of cabbage, onions, apples, garlic and ginger seemed like a good idea. It's nice, although more watery/liquidy than I was expecting. 
  • Read about Zuckerberg deciding to integrate Whatsapp and Instagram into FB - not impressed. I suppose I'll replace insta with more blogging again. And I've now installed telegram, too - now to just get everyone I know to do the same so we can telegram instead of whatsapping.
 
  • I took the pork that I bought last July and never got around to using out of the freezer yesterday and even mixed up the spice mix so that I could give it a few hours with the rub before putting it into the slow cooker today. As soon as I got up this morning I checked and it had finally defrosted so I did the spice rub immediately. 
  • Also made "fake" tomato ketchup last night to use as the basis of the braising sauce for the pork today. By fake I mean that I mostly used my recipe for tomato ketchup but used a tin of tomatoes rather than fresh and not bothering with the whole sieving and reducing aspect. This comes from my first adventures in pulled pork where I used up jars of runny tomato ketchup I had made and it was so good, I was disappointed when I had no more of those jars left.
  • Got the pulled pork into the slow cooker about two hours ago. Instead of making another soup, which I had bought other veg for, I just decided to add that veg to the pulled pork. So I sauteed two leeks, three onions, five cloves of garlic and a kohlrabi. Put most of that into the bottom of the slow cooker but held back a couple of spoonfuls to use in my breakfast (which I ended up not actually eating until about  half-three - it has just been that kind of day). Added the meat with it's lovely spice rub. Made up the brasing sauce using about a litre of water, a couple of spoonfuls of veg stock powder, two teaspoons of honey, a big glub of white wine vinegar (the last of the bottlw) and the ketchup I prepared last night. 
  • Brought washing down to the cellar to get it into the machine. Someone got there before me so I came back upstairs and when I went back down I brought down the rubbish and the recycling. That's a win. I've even put a new bag into the bin already. Going to go down to collect my washing now and it just occurred to me that I never emptied the bins in the bathroom and sitting room. So I'll do that and feel like I'm one step closer to a clean home. 
  • Breakfast was leek/onion/garlic/kohlrabi mix with the chopped up leaves of the kohlrabi, the last slice of ham and last two slices of cheese, all scrambled with two eggs and eaten along with a slice of toast. It was very tasty, even if I do say so myself.
  • I even did most of the washing-up while the eggs were cooking.
  • My two-euro coin to use in the lockers at the swimming pool is stored in the little case I have for my business cards. Forgot about that yesterday until I was nearly ready to leave the pool and was trying to think of where I could store my coin so that I wouldn't have to ask them for change every single week.
Found dolphins on my ukulele!
  • I cleared off the top of the chest of drawers in the sitting room to put the slow cooker on top off. It has been a landing ground for junk ever since I moved here. I put away the things that do already have a place to live and the rest is in a big shopping bag. Need to start doing small amounts of sorting every day. I put clear off writing desk and file stuff from table on my to-do list for January and haven't done either of those things yet. Although I have cleared up the table a bit and tided up the non-paper stuff that had gathered. 
  • I bought a special flat-plug extension lead to plug the slow cooker into. Most of the sockets in this place have ended up behind pieces of furniture so I was glad I thought to check if such a thing as a flat-plug exists. Now I won't have to have multiple pieces of furniture with a two or three inch gap to the wall. Need to get one or two more for other spots but this was definitely a purchase that sparks joy!

Monday, January 14, 2019

More soups and stews


My efforts to keep cooking and eating healthily continue and I haven’t had a bad episode of backsliding yet. I’m not eating perfectly, could definitely do with cutting some more chocolate out but I have plenty of days now where the only chocolate (or sweets of any kind) that I eat is one or two squares of dark chocolate. Compared to days of yore, where I could easily down five or ten bars, this is a huge improvement. I did allow myself a “cheat day” last Friday (it was a very carb-heavy day) – it was good to do it because it staved off the beginnings of feeling cravings but half a cheat-day would have done, to be honest. 

I signed up for aqua jogging through the local community college, classes are held in my local swimming pool and I paid €56.80 for eight weeks. The first class was last Saturday and I really enjoyed it. Above all because I was able to do it! In November, I also signed up for a local gym so that I’d be able to compensate a bit for not cycling to and from work a couple of times a week. I went once and then we had a couple of weeks of good weather so I was cycling to and from work anyway. Then I hurt my back and wasn’t allowed to do any sport, including cycling. Then I got a cold. And then it was already halfway through December and, well, let’s just say I’ve ended up being one of those people who starts using the gym in January. Sigh. My plan is to go on Monday evenings after work and I did that last week. I thought maybe Wednesdays might be a good day to add as my second day but that didn’t work out last week. And then I checked my calendar and saw that not only do I have an extra choir rehearsal today (Monday), I also have an appointment with my dietician on Wednesday after work. I may bring my swimsuit with me as the dietician has a room in the physio practice that is attached to the local swimming pool (benefits of small-town living) and then I could go swimming for a while after my appointment. I may just bring my stuff with me and then see how I’m feeling on the day. Somehow at the moment the more “outs” I give myself from having to do something, the more likely I am to do it. I even ended up going to the gym yesterday afternoon, to make up for missing this evening. Although that was partially a procrastination effort, too, as I just couldn’t get in the mood to cook yesterday.

I even, despite my boast of healthy cooking and eating, got myself a “doner box” (doner kebab meat and chips with the garlicky sauce) on the way home from the gym, more procrastination. My sister rang just as I was finishing eating that and while I was on the phone to her I started gathering the stuff I needed to make what I had planned so that when we were finished talking, I could just start chopping veg immediately. So, this week I made a pumpkin soup and a lentil and chicken stew. The pumpkin soup is a bit watery looking but that happens to me with pumpkin soup a lot and will be fine, I’m sure. I used a smallish Hokkaido pumpkin (625g) and a medium size onion (125g) with a spoonful of coconut oil (thinking it might give a bit of the flavour of pumpkin curry made with coconut milk without actually using an entire tin of coconut milk). 750g of veg which will give me four portions of soup – according to Australian guidelines (there’s a discussion over at MMM on getting your full five a day of veg and two of fruit that was started by an Australian, hence the Australian guidelines) that about 10 servings of veg, or 2.5 servings per portion. 

For lunch today I had the last portion of beetroot soup from last week – had the last few portions of that with feta crumbled over the top so that I had some protein in the meal. Soooo good. And for dinner this evening, I brought a portion of the lentil stew I made yesterday. It is really good, even if I do say so myself and so I’m going to make a note here of what I put in it so that I can hopefully reproduce it in future. 

I used 300g (dry weight) of lentils, 400g of chicken breast chopped into small pieces, 250g carrots (2 chopped, 1 grated), 100g onion, 170g mushrooms (a small tin that I chopped into smaller bits – still don’t like mushrooms but it’s a cheap way of adding veg), 2 cloves of garlic (all I had left), a tin of tomatoes (240g drained weight) and 500g passata. I used olive oil to sauté the onions and chicken and added just enough water to cover everything (then cooked with the lid off to allow it to thicken somewhat). For spices, I used 3 generous spoonfuls of smoked paprika, 3 of cumin, 1 of turmeric, and 1 of coriander, with about half a teaspoon of salt and half of pepper. But the main thing is the smoked paprika, which gives such a lovely flavour. It’s very good with the chicken. The whole thing gives me 1,260g of veg and I reckon I’m going to get about six portions out of it, which will be 2.8 servings of veg per portion. I’m interested to see what my dietician thinks of it though – I feel like there’s way too much in it between the lentils and the chicken but I think I kept to the recommended portion sizes alright. 

The sample plans she gave me are great in a way as they are built around combining elements from three building blocks: veg, carbs, and protein. If you’re leaving out carbs then you can choose two proteins. Not eating enough protein, or not eating protein with every meal (better for keeping your digestive system on an even keel throughout the day) is still a bit of an issue for me but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. Where I’m currently trying to find my way is because eating lots of one-pot meals in winter is not as straightforward as choosing something from each section for each meal as the stuff is all combined in advance for several meals. So, I’m bringing details of what I’ve been making to my appointment to see what she thinks. For now, I have 11 portions of food in the fridge (still have two of last week’s veg soup), which means that even for a ridiculously busy week like this week, there are no excuses for not eating properly. And I’ll be doing my best to keep up with washing the various Tupperware containers every evening, even if I’m home late, because more than anything else, keeping on top of the washing-up is very important if I’m going to keep actually going into the kitchen to cook!

P.S. Had two cute, random photos to share but blogger is not cooperating so it's just another wall of text this evening. :)

Sunday, January 06, 2019

New year, new soup

The new year is going alright so far, and I've been making a big effort with food. On New Year's Day, I sorted some stuff in the kitchen and moved the tins and jars that were just getting lost in the big, deep cupboard over to the smaller cupboard. I moved the Tupperware containers from that cupboard over to the big deep one. I know what's in those containers and it's much easier to move them around to get at what's in the back if I need to. Glad I did this as I found a few things a lot (like, a couple of years) past their best before dates and a few things just past or getting very close to. Now, I have a better overview of what I have on hand and have been using that to help plan meals.

This weekend, I've managed to get active for at least long enough to make soup. One pot yesterday and one pot today. Yesterday's was beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger soup - a soup I intended to make at the start of December but never got around to. Still had the vacuum-packed already cooked beetroot in the fridge though, so just went for it. It also meant I used up the last three carrots that had been in the fridge for quite a while, as well as the last of the onions that had been there for a good while, and just for good measure I threw in a few of the mushrooms I bought yesterday, too. Got four good-sized portions (about 400ml) out of it. In total there was 900g of veg in that soup, and 100g of apple
Carrot, beetroot, apple and ginger soup
Then today, I just made a basic vegetable soup using carrots, onions (I bought a new bag of carrots and net of onions yesterday), potatoes, leek, and mushrooms. That's 775g of veg and 375g of potatoes.
Veg soup before being pureed
After I pureed it, I got almost as much out of it as the other soup: 3 x 400ml and 1 x slightly smaller. So, that's eight portions of soup in the fridge and I still have two portions of a curry I made last week left as well. Looks like lunches and dinners for next week as sorted. This evening, I'm going to have some pasta with pesto. Ok, I won't have any veg on my plate but at least I'll be using up some of the jar of pesto, one of the things that was languishing in the cupboard, getting very close to its best before date. I made pesto chicken last week so now I just have half the jar left. Just thinking about this and decided to chop and fry an onion to go with the pasta (a fairly big onion, so half is in the fridge to use in scrambled eggs during the week) and will throw in a couple of dried tomatoes, too. There! That'll count as at least one serving of veg, even if it doesn't make it to the 50% of the meal rule.

And finally, I did go and spend my sealed pot savings at the craft fair in the RDS this year. I have to admit that although it was lovely to go again, it wasn't as good as in previous years. It has gotten far more commercial, with fewer stalls where it's the actual crafter/artist just selling their own stuff. My big splurge was a knitting bowl and I also bought a mug that I just really liked the shape off (and didn't even realise the colours on the side actually formed a picture until I had taken a photo of it) and a tin mug, which I can use to heat up milk to make hot chocolate with. Must remember to fashion some kind of a holder for the handle so that I'll actually be able to hold it to drink from after heating the milk!
Knitting bowl made of cherry wood, ceramic mug and tin mug