Monday, October 26, 2009

WW - week 11

Down half a kilo today. Total weight loss since August 6.3 kg or 13.889 lbs - I'm going to call that my first stone!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More chutney.

I've spent the whole day at home, didn't get out for my normal Sunday morning walk as I slept for nearly 12 hours last night and so wasn't awake until after 10 this morning. I bought loads of tomatoes yesterday - they're nearly finished for this year I think and I wanted to make a couple of more batches of chutney and some more ketchup. Before deciding whether to go out for a walk or not, I actually counted up all the time I would need considering a batch of chutney needs to cook for three or four hours and I knew if I went out I would probably not get both done so I just stayed in. I had to do the washing up that I had let pile up for the last couple of days first though. I hate it when I do that and yet every once in a while it still happens. Since I was doing that I also decided to scrub the sink with bicarb and lemon and since I was doing that I thought I might as well use the rest of the bicarb to give the cooker a good scrub. And then since I was doing that I gave the butcher's block type thing that the cooker is on top of a good scrub too.

And that is how the day has gone really. I've done a load of things I've meant to do for ages but not because I actually intended to do them but rather because something else I was doing made it make sense to then do the next thing.

Once I'd chopped the first lot of stuff for chutney making (this time round I used tomatoes, pumpkin, quince and apple) I set it to cooking and then sat and read my book for about twenty minutes. I have to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace before Tuesday. It's almost 1000 pages long (and that's only if you leave out the foreword and all the footnotes) but we chose such a long book because we didn't have any meeting in September and so had plenty of time to read it. I've actually had the book since the beginning of September but just cannot get into it. It took me about two weeks to finish the first chapter and today I've only managed to read about thirty pages.

Of course, the silver lining of this situation is that I now have a lovely clean apartment. I took down the tomato plant finally (and used what few tomatoes I had gotten, mostly still green, in the chutney), and moved the telephone table and frame that had been supporting it out into the hall. I was going to move it into the kitchen and put my herbs onto it but I realised that it will fit exactly into the space beside the door which currently has nothing but a stool which seems to accumulate piles of rubbish on it so I'm going to clear off that stuff tomorrow and put the telephone table in place there. I also put up a couple of nails to hang a picture and more securely hang up the notice board. And since I had the hammer out I put up a nail to hang the shoe horn on and another one in the kitchen to hang the dustpan and brush from. These are two things that I constantly feel like I'm tripping over and it feels good to finally have a place for them to go. Since the plant was moved from the window in the sitting room I swapped the small couch and armchair around again so the room feels more spacious again as well.

The first batch of chutney turned out really well I think. The second one has pumpkin, tomatoes and pears and apples. It was a bit runny when I put it into the jars and could probably have done with cooking for another while but I was just ready for the days cooking to be over. I still haven't made ketchup but might try to get that done tomorrow after work.

I could only work for two hours in the biogarten yesterday as I had to go to a friend's house in the afternoon and needed to catch a train. I started off picking up nasturtium seeds from the ground around where the plants are/were. Had to fill one bowl with the brown ones (already fully dried) and one with the green ones (not dried yet). Then I packed some weird root vegetable which had been harvested in sand. I've forgotten the name of it now, some South American plant I think. After that I packed a few buckets of jerusalem artichokes in sand as well. And then I pulled out the stakes and supporting cords from the tomato plants which had already been removed. Since I was leaving early I didn't expect to get to take anything home but H.M. the master gardener told me to make sure I got something. I took some jerusalem artichokes (called topinambur here), a small bunch of parsley and some chard. H.M. told me his favourite way to cook chard is in a pasta bake with sheeps cheese and some tomatoes so I decided to do that today. I cooked some pasta first and put it into an overproof dish. Then I sauteed the chopped up stems of the chard for a few minutes. I added an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and then the chopped up leaves as well and left the whole lot for a few minutes while I chopped up some tomatoes. I mixed the chard and onion into the pasta and added some feta on top of that. Then I left the tomatoes to cook down for about fifteen minutes after which I poured them on top of the pasta as well. Then the whole lot went into the oven while I did the dishes and tidied up for about the fifth time today. I had hoovered very thoroughly earlier but decided not to wash the floors until tomorrow but then everything else was so nice and clean I couldn't stand it and since the pasta wouldn't come to any harm if it was left it a bit longer I decided to wash all the floor as well and then had a shower myself as well so that when I sat down to dinner, although it was later than planned, I felt really good. It was delicious too.

So it was all in all a very nice weekend, even though I didn't get a walk in or manage to read my book. I don't even want to bother but I have to try and get a couple of hundred pages read before Tuesday if I possibly can. I love book club and it has meant that over the last year I've read lots of book I never would have otherwise but goodness gracious it is difficult sometimes to keep at it.

P.S. The Germans don't have a separate word for slugs, they're just called naked snails. How could you not love such a logical language?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I have a few dozen ideas for posts that I would like to write but never seem to be able to drag one to the forefront of my head and focus on it for long enough to actually get it written while I have time. I think I need to start making notes in a small notebook whenever the thoughts pop into my head and then I can use that as a reference later.

Work has been okay the last day or so after starting off very badly this week. I think in a way I had such a great weekend that the crapness of Monday felt even worse than it was. And it was pretty bad with one of the managers deciding to display his extremely unpleasant and arrogant side. I actually spent some time on Monday updating my CV. Need to tweak it a bit more and then do the English version as well. I've calmed down enough by now that I'm not going out looking for a job immediately. But I want to be prepared just in case anything came up out of the blue (which I think only happens in films) and just in general to make myself feel less trapped. The thing is that for what I do, I'm really very well paid at the moment (partially due to having transferred within the company from a country with far higher take home salaries which they had to try and get close to matching). But being sensible, until I have cleared my debt I cannot afford to earn much less than I am now.

Money is occupying my mind a good bit these days. I would like to try and save enough so that by this time next year, I have enough in saving to be able to pay off the rest (i.e. the last eight months) of my loan. As it's a fixed rate loan I can't pay it off early without having to pay penalties, but I'd be happy just to have the money saved up and earning a little bit of interest while the last months were being paid off. I don't see much scope for saving much until the new year but am planning to budget and track properly for November and December so that I will hopefully be well placed to start in January.

I've been reading a bit about what's called prepping (survivialism but not quite as extreme to my mind) and trying to get my head around all that as well. It's hard to decide how much I want to do. I do think that in my lifetime we're going to see huge changes in the world and it seems only sensible to make preparations to deal with whatever my come. And there is lots of stuff that can be done before you start having to consider finding somewhere to build a bunker. And the whole idea of living a simple life has a lot in common with the whole area of prepping in terms of self-reliance at least. On the other hand, a so-called simple life is generally one in which you're trying to rid yourself of an excess of material possessions and prepping involves accumulating things in a manner which comes a bit too close to hoarding.

I feel like I've been on a roller-coaster my whole life when it comes to hoarding. As a teenager and in my early twenties I almost never threw things out (pop psychology will say it's because of losing my mum at age 11 and I think there's a lot in that idea). However, by my early twenties I had at least stopped buying so much new stuff. For example, it was around that time that I decided I was only going to buy souvenirs that had a practical use. So plastic Eiffel Towers were out, nice mugs were in. Slowly but surely I gained the ability to be able to get rid of things. I still have some things which no-one else would keep but at this stage I've kept them for so long it's particularly difficult. So they are shoved in a cupboard to be dealt with someday.

Where was I? Oh yes. So, in my mid-twenties when I started to find out more and more about simple living, voluntary simplicity and frugal living one of the first things that always popped up was to consider if you really need everything you have. And now I'm in a place where I'm contemplating filling the place up with stuff again. It's all very frustrating although I'm sure I will find a balance eventually.

I bought a tent during the summer at a shop that was closing down for renovations. This is a good thing to have if I was ever in a situation where I did have to run for the hills, isn't it? But, in the meantime I have persuaded my brother to come camping next summer for a few days. So I will get a use out of it and learn some new skills, while hopefully having a lot of fun too.

And when it comes to food, after spending a long time getting to a stage where I didn't have cupboards full of stuff that ended up getting thrown out because it had gone off, I'm back somewhere that insists it is a good idea to have supplies on hand. But now I know that it's essential to actually use up what you've bought in a timely manner. I have a few packets of pasta and rice tucked away but am thinking of hunting down an Asian supermarket to buy a large bag of rice, for example, and break it up into smaller packets for storage and use. First, I'm going to ask at the fair trade shop if they can order in large sacks of stuff. Because sticking to the principles I try to keep to in terms of organic/fair trade/local is important as well, I think.

Part of my difficulty at the moment in posting is that I start writing about one thing, drift onto another and then don't know how to end. I envy those people who are able to write well-constructed, well-thought out blog posts. But, obviously, not enough to bother doing the same myself! Maybe one day.

In the meantime maybe I'll add a few lists to the sidebar to keep me focused on what I want to be doing and what I have achieved. But first, I think some sleep is in order.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book meme

I've never really done memes (which I always call me-me in my head because I think that makes much more sense than rhyming it with theme. These are after all all about ME) but I thought this one was fun when I saw it. I don't tag other people either but feel free to do this on your blog if you like.

Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages..

The rules are:

Open the book to page 123, find the 5th sentence and post the next 3 sentences...

I thought my nearest book was The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer (I really, really need to get reading that book club book soon but in the meantime I am nearly finished re-reading all the GH books I have) but then realised that Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book was on my other side and much closer so here it is:

Put the vegetables through the mouli-legumes to make a puree and return it to the pan. Reheat, mixing in the butter and a little milk to make a good consistency that is soft, but not at all sloppy. You can also use this recipe as a basis for soup.

WW - week 10

Didn't go to ww this evening as I went to the airport with my brother, who was flying home after spending a long weekend here. If I get out of work on time tomorrow I will go to a class then, if not I will leave it till next week. Took a bit of a break over the weekend anyway so am not so much expecting a weight loss as hoping the probably weight gain won't be too much.

Tuesday: made it to WW this evening albeit ten minutes late. I was 200g up which is just less than half a pound. That's okay and now I have a new week to start instead of wondering all week if I'm up or not and not concentrating on eating the right things and exercising properly.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I've struggled with my finances since I was about 17. Actually, having written that sentence I realise that it was when I started college that I started spending more than saving. At least at that stage I wasn't spending more than I was getting.

I have tried various methods for controlling my spending over the years, some more successful than others. Most of them work for a while and then don't seem to be as effective anymore. And then a few years later I might go back to them again.

I haven't tracked my day to day spending for a good few months now and want to start doing that again at the beginning of next month. I did set up a savings account in August to start saving money for annual expenses but since it hasn't been added to my online banking, I haven't actually put anything into that account yet (the money that was earmarked for it has gone to pay some annual expenses which came up in September anyway). So tomorrow I need to get out the information and phone the bank to see why it hasn't been added to my online banking yet. If I get that sorted by the end of the month then I will be able to set up a standing order for the day after I get paid.

The expenses I have planned for are:
House insurance - 150 per year - this is two different insurances, both required under the terms of my lease
Travel insurance - 90 per year - the only time I travelled and didn't bother to get insurance, all my bags were stolen, so now I get an annual policy and don't have to think about it more than once a year. The policy I had in Ireland only covered travel outside Ireland but the policy I have now covers worldwide travel plus domestic travel further than 50km from my home.
Bahncard - 220 per year - this rail card gives me a 50% reduction on train fares within Germany and 25% of fares in many adjoining countries for journies started in Germany. I can easily save enough money to justify this expense, three journeys to Frankfurt or Hamburg in a year covers the cost of it and since two of my best friends live in Frankfurt and Hamburg respectively, three journeys are easily done.
Choir subscription - 140 per year
Mieterverein (renters' association) - 66 per year - useful for dealing with things like making sure my annual charges are correct and noticing that the management company had charged me for the transfer of bills into my name when I moved in even though my contract stated that the person moving out would be charged for them and for help in general with any issues that may come up.
Organic centre/seedsavers - 35 each per year - I would like to continue to support both these organisations although I didn't actually pay the subscription last year. That stuff is all in a big pile still to be dealt with.
Preserving supplies - about 165 per year - this amount purely because it brings my monthly total for combined annual expenses to a nice round 75 euro. I spent a lot of money buying jars this year which I should have saved properly for first. But I didn't want to miss another sumer of preserving efforts. A cupboard shelf full of chutney and jams and other food to see me through winter makes me feel this was the right thing to do. It will be a few years before I am where I'd like to be in terms of preserving and so I want to dedicate some money to this properly. After five years (again, no other reason for this number other than that it's a nice round figure) I would hope to have everything I could possibly need and thereafter only need to spend a small amount each year buying new lids or rubber seals when necessary and the occasional box of labels. If I join Slow Food at the beginning of next year then the annual sub for that is about 80 euro. I'd probably just reduce my preserving supplies amount a little bit to compensate.

In addition I spoke to my financial adviser/insurance broker guy a while ago about pensions and retirement plans. I have just been paying the basic state social contributions since I moved here so I knew I needed to get something set up. I have set myself quite a high amount (for me) to contribute each month but haven't made a final decision yet. On paper it should be doable but in reality I never seem to have money left over at the end of the month so I'm wondering how I'll manage if I'm sending 200 euro off to pay for cups of tea when I'm 65! But it has to be done I suppose. There are tax breaks to be taken advantage of as well so I need to get my head down this week and read through the stuff he sent me and just make a decision.

I also asked about setting up some kind of insurance so that in the event anything were to happen to me, my family (none of whom are particularly flush) wouldn't have to bear any funeral costs etc. That's fairly inexpensive, only about 20 euro a year and for the peace of mind it will give me will definitely be worth it. We also spoke about insurance in the case of not being able to work. While I am still paying off my large loan (less than two years to go and it's at a fixed rate) and given the economic climate at the moment the thought of not having work does prey on my mind a bit. I will work at anything so if the worst came to the worst I do believe I would be able to find work fairly easily (there are rarely shops around here without signs in the window looking for help for example) but whether I could find well-paid work is another issue altogether. However, it seems that because I have been in therapy i.e. attended counselling with a psychologist, I would be deemed ineligible for most of this kind of cover. Stupid reasoning really, I'm less likely to have a nervous breakdown and not be able to work because I have done something to improve my mental health but because I've done something for my mental health it apparently throws up warning signs in the actuaries minds over here because I have obviously admitted I have a problem. Sigh. Anyway, I feel like I am on track to get some proper provisions in place for my financial security. I almost always paid into a pension when working in Ireland (there were alway a few months break whenever I changed jobs before I could start paying into the new plan) and although I cashed in one of those (equivalent to about 18 months worth of payments) when I moved here, the others can't be touched until I retire. I'm sure they're not worth half of what they were worth when I last checked (before the move and before the financial crisis hit) but it's still over ten years of paying into pensions, often with additional voluntary contributions so I do have something already in place. Now it's time to be more focused on what I actually what to achieve. And then try and reconcile that with the feeling in my stomach that it's all a load of shite anyway and who the hell knows what kind of a world we'll be living in in 30 years time.

I have more things I want to say about finances. I've found that finance blogs are a whole other huge area of the blogosphere and have started reading one or two. My next big goal is going to have to be to get some kind of a contingency fund started. Because if the general advice is to have between three and six months worth of salary squirreled away somewhere then I am, for want of a more elegant expression, right royally screwed. My sole contingency is the credit I have available to me through the overdraft facility which is still active on my Irish bank account (and still used on occasion) and my Irish credit card (which has seen a lot of use since I moved here and needs to be brought down yet again). Not quite comforting.

But at least I had a very nice weekend. Which I will post about some other time. Now it is definitely time for bed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Winter is coming

Until last week temperatures here had been holding pretty steady at around 10 degrees overnight and up to 17 during the day (although with a bit of a wind chill factor). I think one morning last week when I woke up it was 9.5 degrees and then it rained for a few days and the temp came back up. This week is different, 7 degrees yesterday and 4 this morning and it went down to 3 overnight as well. So I've had the windows closed at night time although I'm still leaving them open during the day so that there's a bit of air in the place when I come home. I think no matter where else I might end up living, I'm always going to want German windows. You can open them fully to the side (like a door) or you can open them by tilting the top inwards.

I have taking to wearing a hat in bed again even though I don't really need it yet. It's a comfort thing. I really should knit myself a nice proper nightcap sometime.

I don't remember when I turned the heat on for the first time last year, must look back through the blog and see if I made a note of it. My brother is coming to visit tomorrow for a long weekend so it's likely it'll be on a while then. He tends to stay up much later than I do watching DVDs and listening to music and sitting around while the temperature is dropping rather than sleeping under a warm duvet could get a bit cold I imagine.

Normally I make an effort to clean up when people are coming. Admittedly often less effort when he is coming because he knows me so well it doesn't matter if there are piles of paperwork lying around or if I didn't get around to putting the laundry away. But I've basically done nothing but basic cleaning for about a month and the place is, to say the least, a bit of a mess. All of the chutney I made as well as the salsa and piccalilli is in jars in boxes stacked in the kitchen and hallway. I have two big cupboards in the hallway and I wanted to clear out stuff from one of them and but all the jars in there instead. I did actually start clearing one of them out on Sunday so now I have a pile of shoes and boxes lying around in the hallway as well. Will try and get up early in the morning and do something about that lot at least. Of course I could be doing it now but I'm just in after choir practice and I am tired so I'm just going to head straight to bed instead.

Monday, October 12, 2009

WW - week 9

1.2k (just over 2.5lbs) down this week. Wow. I definitely need to keep up on all the long walks at the weekend. After the chocolate and wine tasting on Friday followed by the constant nibbling at various bits and pieces on Saturday I really didn't think I'd be down this week. And to be down that much is just amazing. I was so convinced that I hadn't had a great week that I did all that cooking yesterday to make sure I had lunches covered for the week and I have the chickpeas on cooking now which should give me something to eat on the evenings I'm not going to be able to come home straight after work. So that gives me a good start into the new week anyway.

Total weight loss since August 6 kilos (just over 13 lbs)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A few photos

I made pizza sauce today and have another batch of tomatoes in the oven roasting now for a second lot. The farmer at the market yesterday said he expected to have tomatoes for a few weeks yet. He'll probably pull the plants up in the next week or two and then it'll be a couple of weeks before everything that's left on them is finished. Feels like a long time - I must remember to make a note of the last week they have tomatoes so that I can remember it for next year.

In an attempt to do something nice and autumnal at home (Germans are very into their 'deko' stuff and will kit out their houses according to the season all the time - we're not talking just about a few flowers either), I made up a little platter with some of the things I've found while out walking the last couple of weeks and added a candle too. It's a small start but although I take the piss out of the Germans sometimes the idea of making small decorative adjustments insde to reflect the seasons outside is something I really like.

And here's a picture of the first two tomatoes I harvested from my plant at home.

I ate these with some bread and cheese for lunch. They weren't very big but very, very sweet. There are a few more just turned red now and others nearly there so I'm going to wait until the end of the week to eat them. My brother will be over for a visit then and it's always nice to share the harvest. I planted some spinach and lettuce in my window boxes a couple of weeks ago as well and they have sprouted now so I might even get to have my own supply of salad leaves during the winter. We'll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seed and plant swap

Today was my first proper day volunteering at the Bio-Garten but as it was the annual autumn seed and plant swap, it wasn't really a proper day at all. So it was a longer day than usual as it only started at 1 and went on till 4 so I was there from 10.30 setting up and then until nearly 5 putting everything away again. But it was fun and nice to meet some of the other volunteers. There seem to be quite a lot who only volunteer on Tuesday afternoons and since I work on Tuesdays I won't often get a chance to see any of them.

I did feel a bit in the way from time to time waiting for someone to tell me what to do but once we started putting tents and things up (we've had the worst weather today that we've had so far this autumn and it rained a LOT) it was okay. Being tall does make one useful on occasion. There was also loads of lovely food to eat which various people had brought along. I hadn't brought anything as I thought the usual gathering for tea and a bite to eat wouldn't happen because of the event but they had a table set up inside for all the workers to come in and take a break from time to time. I spent most of the time the event was actually taking sitting in there, chatting to some of the older members and washing up whatever cups and plates and things were used. I'm going to make an apple tart to bring along next week though as I felt bad to have turned up with nothing.

The seed exchange was amazing to look at. It was raining so hard I didn't bother to bring my camera but there were one or two short sunny spells in between which would have been good for taking pictures. Oh well. There were hundreds and hundreds of different types of seeds which had been collected from the garden. You could bring your own seeds in and exchange them for ones from the garden or just get some seeds in exchange for a small donation (about 1 euro for each type which is a very good bargain in my view).

The garden is in the middle of a huge park in Dusseldorf so all the big stands with the plants and so on were just outside the entrance in the main part of the park. As I don't have a garden I didn't look too much (it was very, very difficult to stay away from the seeds as it was, never mind plants too). But I did buy two surprise bags of tulip bulbs, which will make nice presents I think.

By the end of the day I was getting a bit bored but at that stage it was time to start taking everything down again so I got stuck into that. I got home just after six (having made a quick stop in town to buy a new small backpack to use for every day - needed a new one so I can start carrying rain gear with me every day again. One day I'll have enough to buy a really good one that will last for years but for now it was another 5 euro jobbie) and changed into my pyjamas straight away and put all the muddy clothes I'd been wearing straight in to the washing machine. I had to ring my brother and lay down while I was doing so as my legs and feet were killing me after having been standing for such a long part of the day. Once I'd spoken to him I actually ended up falling asleep until nine o'clock. Bad idea normally but actually now that I've been up for a couple of hours and had a lovely toasted ham and cheese sandwich along with a few cups of tea (decaf - since I can't drink caffeine I do always have some decaf tea on standby although I norally just stick to herbal and fruit teas). I even made a pot of tea instead of just one cup and dragged out a milk jug too. Great end to a great day really.

Monday, October 05, 2009

WW - week 8

Another 500g (just over a pound) down. Yippee. Am very surprised after the amount of food I ate this week but I did go for that very long walk on Saturday and a couple of times last week I walked home from town rather than getting the tram the one or two stops it takes. Exercise really does make a difference it seems. So, renewed determination to keep going and try to do better this week at sticking to just eating what I've planned to eat. No harvest festivals to go to this week so that will help :)

Weight loss since 13 August = 4.8 kilos (10.5 lbs)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Things I still need for the apartment

I'm also in a bit of a list frenzy at the moment and have decided to put them up here so that I can keep track better.

Still to do in or buy for the apartment, some still just haven't been done since I moved in, some have been on the wishlist for a long time and are not so important

1. Cooker, gas hob and electric oven if possible
2. Kitchen cupboards, at least one floor to ceiling one
3. Possibly a cupboard to put the washing machine into and give me some worktop space
4. Gas cylinders for cooker
5. Coffee table - I'd like to get one of the plastic kids tables from Ikea, covered with a cloth it'll look fine and if I have kids to visit they have somewhere to colour etc. without their mothers worrying about them making a mess (which always seems to bother visitors way more than it does me, even if it's my home that the mess is being made in)
6. Lights in the bathroom and kitchen
7. Put up curtains
8. Paint kitchen
9. Paint hall
10. Paint bathroom
11. Paint sitting room
12. Paint bedroom
13. Make curtains to hang around butcher's block to stop everything on the shelves of it from getting so dirty
14. Reupholster kitchen chairs
15. Reinforce middle shelf in kitchen dresser
16. Really good big kitchen knife
17. Tiles for the bathroom.
18. Bed

Slow Food and Bio-Garten

On Thursday evening I went to my first Slow Food event. I've been meaning to join for years, with a renewed decision to do so when I moved here as a means to meet people but when I still hadn't gotten around to it by May this year I decided to wait until January. The annual membership fee is based on the calendar year so even if I joined now I would have to pay for the full year and then again in January and although it's not a huge amount of money it seemed silly not to wait. Then I found out that non-members can still attend some events and signed up to the harvest thanks one "the secret of shining bread" - an evening with wine, bread, cheese and olive oil. The baker who was the main speaker runs a bakery which is not too far from me called Hercules. It's not close enough to be an everyday bakery for me but from looking at the map it's only about half-an-hour's walk away, which is a nice distance to walk for some really great bread. Not so long it feels like a chore but long enough there and back to feel like I've earned an extra slice. So something to do next weekend perhaps.

One thing I found fantastic was that not only did they not try to sell us anything (it was held in a big wine depot, Lust4Wine and I really did expect to feel obliged to buy at least a couple of bottles of wine or something) they pulled out a load of paper bags when people started to leave and tried to get everyone to take as much bread away as they could carry. I found that very refreshing. I ate lots of bread and cheese, including a fabulous chilli cheese. When I asked where the cheese came from though the baker's wife said she had just bought it in from the organic wholesaler so I may need to do a bit more digging to find out where exactly it came from. I also had two slices of Zwiebelkuchen or onion cake, which is a fab seasonal favourite and in fact was the thing which persuaded me that onions might not be all that bad to eat (way back in 1994, the year I was here for a semester in college and still mostly only ate potatoes and meat and bread). It was the best one I've tasted for a long time.

When I first arrived it seemed like a lot of groups of people had arrived together and I felt like I'd end up sitting on my own, eating a bit and leaving again but once people sat down to eat the conversation flowed, not easily exactly but sufficiently well to be enjoyable. So I chatted a bit to those around me and of course, being foreign always make the first conversation a bit easier because it's answering all the 'where are you from, why did you come here' questions. And it was really nice to talk to people who are interested in Slow Food as well.

Then, yesterday morning I went to the organic community garden run by the local community college. I went during the summer to volunteer and found out they try now to just take volunteers on twice a year and do a proper introduction to the others who are members of the 'Arbeitskreis' or work circle and to the garden. In a way it's also to make sure that the people who show up really are interested before they start spending time explaining everything about what they do etc. So I had to wait for a few months but finally the day arrived. I'll be working there every Saturday from 10 until 13 and most weeks people bring something to eat, perhaps a cake or something, and after work is finished everyone gathers in the small house/big shed and has a cup of coffee and a bit to eat while discussing what's been happening in the garden, what needs to be done etc. I hope to learn a lot and think I am really going to enjoy working outside again for a few hours a week. They seem like a nice bunch of people. Next week is the annual plant exchange so there won't be much work in the garden itself but I'll go along to help set it up at least and have a wander. I'll try to remember to bring my camera and get some photos as well.

After that I met a friend to go for a walk in the woods which was great as well. Altogether I think I walked for about two and a half hours because I also got a tram that doesn't stop too close to home but instead of switching trams to one that does, I just walked the rest of the way as well. There were bunches of people out collecting chestnuts as well, whole families. It was great. Although somewhat dangerous sounding in the woods in general as you never seemed to know if the next wind was going to bring an acorn or something similar crashing down on your head. I'm loving the autumn here. Today it's a beautiful sunny day so although I've had a slow start and spent the morning watching Iron Man I'm going to hop in the shower now and then head out for the rest of the day.