Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - the year in books

Inspired by a couple of other bloggers who have recently posted lists of the books they have read this year, I have decided I will too.  Only I haven't kept a list so I'll just start off with what I do remember and then add to it as and when I remember anything else.  I can't find all my library receipts and the few I have found from the start of 2010 have reminded how bad my memory is (maybe a bit worse in this case because some of the books I've read were so forgettable and/or the memory of them badly needed to be supressed).

I'm going to start with the book club books (I'll put BC after them) although I didn't actually finish all of them - I will eventually.  I've also managed to read a good few books from my unread shelf - these are mostly the kind of books you buy for 10 for 1 euro at library sales and flea markets when you see one you want to buy and then figure you might as well get another nine and just grab anything that looks vaguely interesting or is by someone you've heard of.  I did that a few times five or six years ago and am still working my way through the pile but at least making some progress on it now.

I will put (RR) in brackets after something I've re-read - there are some books, such as by Georgette Heyer, that I invariably read every year when the escapism of new fiction isn't enough and I want to escape into familiar stories that always make me laugh or cry.  I've re-read a lot of stuff that's already on my shelves this year, partly to stop myself buying new-to-me books and partly because I love to read good books over and over. 

And finally, I am including some non-fiction stuff which I know I read start to finish but am not including various cookbooks, books on preserving, gardening books etc. that I have dipped into again and again but not necessarily sat down and read cover to cover.

  1. The Women - T.C. Boyle (BC book which I didn't finish on time for meeting but should finish this weekend)
  2. Daddy Long Legs – Jean Webster (BC)(RR)
  3. The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear - Walter Moers (BC - not finished)
  4. The Disappearance - Philip Wylie (BC)
  5. American Gods - Neil Gaiman (BC)
  6. The Deep End of the Ocean - Jacquelyn Mitchard (BC - the one book club book this year that made me wish I had the time back that I spent reading it - where its reputation comes from I do not know)
  7. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon (BC)
  8. Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (BC)(RR)
  9. The Omnivore's Dilemna - Michael Pollan (BC)(RR)
  10. Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist (BC)
  11. Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel (BC)
  12. Frederica - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  13. These Old Shades - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  14. The Foundling - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  15. A Civil Contract - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  16. Cotillion  Georgette Heyer (RR)
  17. The Black Moth - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  18. The Corinthian - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  19. World Made by Hand - James Howard Kunstler
  20. Nancy Astor - Derek Marlowe
  21. The Dwelling Place - Catherine Cookson
  22. Kate Hannigan - Catherine Cookson
  23. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  24. A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin
  25. A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow - George R.R. Martin
  26. A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold - George R.R. Martin
  27. Food Rules, An Eater's Manual - Michael Pollan
  28. The $50 and up underground house book - Mike Oehler (not finished yet)
  29. In Defence of Food - Michael Pollan (RR)
  30. Bitten - Kelley Armstrong (RR)
  31. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver (RR)
  32. Growing Out of Trouble - Monty Don
  33. A Knight of the Word - Terry Brooks (RR)
  34. Angel Fire East - Terry Brooks (RR)
  35. No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstrong (RR)
  36. Brand New Friend - Mike Gayle
  37. Matters of Choice - Noah Gordon
  38. The Rabbi - Noah Gordon
  39. Ninja Soccer Moms - Jennifer Apodaca
  40. The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan (RR)
  41. The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan (RR)
  42. The Dragon Reborn - Robert Jordan (RR)
  43. The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan (RR)
  44. The Fires of Heaven - Robert Jordan (RR)
  45. Lord of Chaos - Robert Jordan (RR)
  46. A Crown of Swords - Robert Jordan (RR)
  47. The Path of Daggers - Robert Jordan (RR)
  48. Winter's Heart - Robert Jordan (RR)
  49. Crossroads of Twilight - Robert Jordan (RR)
  50. Knife of Dream - Robert Jordan (RR)
  51. The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  52. A Taste of the Unexpected - Mark Diacono
  53. A Man of Property - John Galsworthy
  54. The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
  55. Beauvallet - Georgette Heyer
  56. The Film Club - David Gilmour
  57. The Appeal - John Grisham

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So much food, so little space

I've had a quiet few days but have ended up with a lot of food on my hands.  Because of working so late every night last week I didn't cook at home at all so I still had a big butternut squash to use up and because the farmers' market won't be back for a couple of weeks I thought it best to stock up a bit and use the opportunity of a three-day weekend to get some cooking in advance done.  But now my freezer is full and I still have things to cook. 

I bought two turkey pieces on Wednesday.  I wasn't really sure what the English for these two pieces is, it's essentially the entire leg cut into two.  I looked it up and am offered drumstick and thigh.  Of course, drumstick.  My goodness, how quickly you loose words when you're not using them every day.  On the other hand, the size of these bits is not necessarily what comes to mind with the word drumstick, which is usually a little thing that a little kid can easily hold in one hand to eat.  The drumstick was nearly 900g and the thigh nearly 500g.  Big difference in kilo price at 3.20/kg and 5.30/kg respectively but total price for each was nearly the same (2.59 and 2.76).  And I used both on Friday to make a casserole. So these were browned a bit in the pan:

And added to leek, carrots and onion:
And topped up with some stock:
And cooked it for about an hour at 150 and another three hours at a bit less than 100.  I just sort of left it in on that low heat until I was hungry.  Didn't plan a four-hour cooking time but the meat was just falling off the bone when I took it out.  So much so that I decided to take the two joints out of the casserole first and strip the meat from the bones entirely.  I'm glad I did because as I was doing so it occured to me that it'd be nice to keep some of it aside to add to the pumpkin curry which was the other big meal I wanted to prepare this weekend.  So I had a generous helping with some of the casserole and some boiled potatoes (afra, a floury type) and the rest filled up a big tupperware container and went into the fridge.  I did have a moment of something like disconnect when I was sorting out the meat as it has been a few years since I cooked a turkey and the only turkey I would have cooked in the last while would have been an occasional fillet from the breast.  And somehow we've gotten so used to all poultry being 'white' meat, so the look of this lot made me smile, thinking of those friends I have who would not want to eat it because they only eat white meat.

Not a great picture, especially since the steam rising from the hot meat obscured everything a bit but I left the white-handled knife on the plate for comparison. :)  The piece on the right is the thigh, which was almost entirely meat and on the left is the drumstick, which was more meat and less bone than I had actually expected.

I've also made a butternut squash lasagne, which I had a piece of yesterday and what would fit has gone into the freezer, which has left me two more small portions in the fridge for this week.  I had some of the squash/cream cheese sauce leftover as well so that also went into the freezer to be used as pasta sauce some evening when I'm stuck for time (I discovered that it defrosts really quickly).  For dinner yesterday I had a small piece of steak with mashed potatoes.  I boiled a big pot of the afra and mashed them and the rest of the mash is in the fridge waiting to be made into potato cakes this evening. 

At the moment I have the rest of the casserole heating up in a pot with some potatoes added to it and some of the turkey put back in.  Some of that will be lunch and the rest for during the week.  And I still have lots of pumpkin to turn into a curry.  It occurs to me that now may be a good time to take some of the pureed strawberries out of the freezer and use up.  I put a good few portions in there during the summer, planning to use them for smoothies but then my magic bullet died so I haven't had any smoothies for ages.  Book club is supposed to be held in someone's house next Tuesday as a potluck type affair so maybe I could concoct some kind of dessert that would use up some of the strawberries.  Leaving me a bit of room in the freezer for some curry.  Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wooly blankets

A couple of years ago I decided to knit a patchwork blanket for a friend's 40th birthday, which I then ended up barely finishing in time for his 41st!  And, being honest, I didn't finish it very well, it was very much a bung it all together any which way kind of business by the time I was finishing.  And it turned out to be totally unappreciated by said friend too, who I think barely even noticed it was there and almost certainly never used it.  Through a various range of circumstances, it has ended up back in my house with a few other things I am looking after for him and I told my brother (who was completely in love with the blanket and throughly disgusted that my friend appreciated neither the blanket nor the work that went into it) that if it wasn't missed, I would give it to him.  I can always knit my friend a jumper or something he might actually want.  But a few weeks ago I had visitors who had never seen the finished blanket so I dragged it out to show them.  And since then I've discovered it is so much better than any other blanket I have for curling up on the couch with.  You don't even realise how cozy and warm you are until you want to get up and the (comparative) chill of the air hits you.  I took a pattern for a baby blanket and made it lots bigger which means I hadn't taken account of the fact that it's so heavy it is completely dragged out of shape all the time.  And since my sewing/finishing skills are just barely above non-existent it has at least one hole in it already.  I will fix all that up sometime as well as perhaps blocking it properly and adding a small border around the edge.  But in the meantime, I'm enjoying snuggling under it during the cold weather and my brother may just have to wait a long time before he gets his hands on it.

I read a book a while ago called the Friday Night Knitting Club.  Although it was a novel it also, as far as I remember, included a pattern for making an afghan (which was knit by the various characters through the course of the book) out of various squares.  I'm a bit annoyed with myself that that book was mistakenly put into the charity shop pile before I had a chance to try it out but given how much I love this patchwork blanket, I can definitely see more of the same in my future.  But with bigger squares.  Each of those little ones took between 20 and 30 minutes to knit (I'm not a fast knitter)!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Posty surprises

I've had a couple of really, really horrible days in work with the prospect of more to follow.  I have found zero christmas spirit this year and don't even care.  Haven't decorated and don't plan to.  Haven't organised to do anything and don't plan to.  The fact that the holidays fall on weekends this year means we don't get a lot of time off anyway (if a holidays falls on the weekend here you don't get a Monday off to 'make up' for it), just the Fridays that are Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.  I'll head to the market tomorrow to stock up since they won't be back until the second week of January but I don't have any plans for fancy meals either.  Just a bit of time at home to cook and enjoy some simple food will be enough.

So with all this grumpiness following me around in work the last couple of days, not to mention the tiredness which is inevitable when you end up working twelve and fourteen hours a day (because a few weeks ago my boss started again on the whole 'make sure you leave on time' thing - so that people will get annoyed no-one is there to help them and he'll be able to justify hiring another person - but what he fails to grasp is the fact that if I am only there for eight hours, I can only do eight hours of work, which means things are left undone and then I have to work like a maniac to catch up), it was even nicer than it might otherwise have been to come home to some nice surprises in the post.  First of all was the not so nice surprise that is the (hopefully) final bill from the dentist.  Good: it's about two hundred less than his estimate.  Not so good: the health insurance won't pay me their part (about three hundred) up-front; I have to pay it first and claim it back from them.  Oh well.

But the very nice things were a christmas card from a friend who had a baby in July.  I missed seeing her by about a day when I was home and since I'm not on facebook and she kept getting my email address wrong I haven't actually seen the baby yet.  So it was lovely to get a photo of what must surely be the cutest baby in the world.  :)

And then I got a big envelope from a friend who only lives a few minutes away from me and couldn't figure out what she might be sending me.  It's a copy of an essay about a book we discussed recently, which she said moved her greatly and she wanted to share it.  What a lovely thing to receive.  So it looks like I will have to make time to do something special this weekend after all and make sure I have time to sit down in piece and quiet to read it. 

The world's not such a bad place sometimes.  And I can always comfort myself further with the fact that hopefully this time next year I will be heading in my notice at a workplace I like less and less all the time. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to waste money

Decide that your christmas present to yourself will be something from your list of stuff it would be nice and/or useful to own sometime.  In the interests of frugality and not going overboard on buying new (to me) stuff while still in possession of lots of debt, decide second-hand books are the way to go.  Forget to notice that one small word at the end of the title (after managing to see it on at least ten booksellers before the one you chose) and somehow assume that because of the price, it must be the big book you were looking for.  Be disappointed that after forking out TWENTY-TWO POUNDS  (that's TWENTY-SIX euro, for one book! - thirty-four dollars so anyone reading from the US will understand my annoyance), what you receive is not a recent addition of the home canning bible, the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

While the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving RECIPES is lovely and interesting and all, it's a reprinted (so only a new edition by virtue of the fact that it's a reprint) 56-page book.  Big pamphlet might even be more accurate than book.  And frustrating because from what I can see online it is at least forty years old (if not closer to 70, which the following sentence makes me think might be the case: People must eat well to be well, and be well to do the work that must be done for Victory.).  And I know I've heard that not all canning recipes from pre-sometime in the 80's are actually safe to use.

And mostly annoying because it's my own stupid fault and I don't have enough money to be doing stupid things with it.  Sigh.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Book Review - A Taste of the Unexpected by Mark Diacono

Far too many months after receiving a review copy of this wonderful book, I am finally going to share (that is an affiliate link by the way, if you click on it, I get a small amount of reward points from amazon - I think, I'm new to this whole thing).  It's not that I left the book lying around or found it so boring I didn't know what to say.  On the contrary, I've found myself reaching for it every couple of days to read another bit or re-read something (for a third or fourth or fifth time).  I think I've just been feeling the pressure of having promised to write a review.  And then felt so guilty about not writing it yet that I haven't even been reading Mark's blog, which I really miss.

So without further ado let me start by saying that this really is a fantastic book and I'd heartily recommend it.  The premise of the book is to introduce people to some varieties of food to grow that may not be traditionally grown (in the UK) but which are now more viable due to improvements in varieties coupled with taking potential climate change advantages into consideration.  He also mentions a few very traditional but no longer very much in favour things, such as quince and medlars.

The first section deals with choosing what to grow and preparing your space.  And I think there is much to be said for his philosophy of letting flavour be your guide, growing some unexpected flavours, growing things that are either entirely unbuyable or very expensive to buy, growing transformers (e.g. spices, where just a little can completely transform a meal).

Then there is a section on growing and eating, which devotes a couple of pages to each fruit/veg/herb/spice/nut - varieties, how to grow and care for it, harvesting and, very importantly, what to do with it once you've harvested it.  There are a couple of recipes for each crop, most of which have left me longing to have a garden of my own so I could grow and eat all of these amazing things.  Luckily, some of what is listed in the book is already grown in the community garden I volunteer at here so I have some hope of trying a few of these in the foreseeable at least.

You can tell while reading the book that Mark Diacono is passionate about what he is doing.  He also seems to have a far better developed palate than I do but despite the fact that I may not be able to distinguish "...a citrusy, lemon sherbet wave that gradually gives way to warm heat...", I badly want to grow my own Szechuan pepper just to see what he's on about.  And although I didn't get around to it this year, I can't wait for next year's walnut harvest to show up at the market so that I can make fesanjan, a sweet-sour Persian dish.  And that's to say nothing of the fuchsia fruit leathers, the lamb and quince tagine, choclate soufflés with apricot sauce, medlar and apple chutney, nectarine salsa, autumn olive jam, lemon honeysuckle bars, wineberry vinegar, oca saag aloo, carolina allspice rice pudding, cardoon gratin, hot and sour daylily soup not to mention mulberries (which, I am ashamed to admit were for me until now just a very lovely candle scent - I've never seen or tasted mulberries in real life).  Hmmm, have to stop now, I'm making myself hungry.  No wait, one more fabulous thing, there's even a recipe for making your own Chinese five-spice mix.  And I'm not quite sure whether I should be fascinated or just plain scared by the Egyptian walking onions (completely going off on a tangent here but about thirty years ago a friend of the family gave us a Speak + Spell for christmas and that's how I learned to spell both Egypt and onion and it seems strange to write both those words so close together now), which I find kind of freaky looking. 

The book finishes up with a directory with some basic information on sowing, tools, planting a tree, a list of suppliers (mostly UK-based obviously) and recommended further reading.

All in all I think this is one of those books that I will refer back to again and again and I can see its pages becoming somewhat grimy over the years as I use it in the kitchen and, eventually, in my own garden.  If you're looking for a nice christmas present for the gardener or wannabe gardener in your life, do have a look at the Taste of the Unexpected.  It's got enough basic information to be really good for beginners but I think it's also unusual enough to appeal to the more experienced gardener.  And the photos are wonderful enough to justify it's existence as a coffee table book even if you don't like gardening at all.  I did receive my review copy for free but I will be ordering one for my brother soon and I have several friends who can expect to be getting copies for their birthdays next year too.

P.S.  I was just testing the amazon link to also let people know that normally it is possible to just change the country code in an amazon link to get your own country's page for that book (i.e. changing to .de brings me to the German site).  It didn't work for the US site though and it seems that across the pond the book is called The Food Lover's Garden: Amazing Edibles You Will Love to Grow and Eat. Just so's you know. :)

Monday, December 06, 2010


The doctor reckons I do have an inner ear problem.  These problems are, according to him, brought on by either an infection of some other kind (and since I haven't been sick lately that seems unlikely to be the cause) or by stress (hmmm, wonder if that could be it).  I have tablets to take and have been taking it easy on my day off.  I'm supposed to go back to him tomorrow if I'm still not well and get a sick note for work but what I'll do is probably go into work first and go to him if I'm finding it difficult.  So at least I'll be able to make sure anything urgent is taken care of because honestly, at the moment, I have no idea what is on my to-do list in work.  I write one every Friday before I leave and then mostly forget about it until I look at it again.

I have not, however, allowed my illness to give me another excuse to not cook proper food and fall back on the takeaway train.  I bought a teeny small pumpkin and butternut squash from the market a few weeks ago and hadn't used them up.  The pumpkin was starting to go off so this weekend I bought another one, plus another butternut squash, with the plan of making something with at least one of those things for dinner yesterday.  But the friends who were visiting wanted to invite me out for dinner so we went for tapas instead.  I did cook the pumpkin quickly yesterday afternoon as I knew I may just leave it slowly rotting otherwise and didn't want to do that.  So this afternoon, I chopped up the smoked chicken breast I had bought at the market as well (my friend's son wanted to try all the different things at the christmas markets so we ended up eating lunch out both days as well - which means I had a lot of food to use up), with some onion and garlic, sauteed that lot and then added the cooked pumpkin, a small tin of coconut milk, the same amount of water, a spoonful of kasundi (and promptly dropped the not quite fully closed jar as I was turning around to put it back into the fridge!) plus a chopped up chili, lots of black pepper and loads of curry powder.  The result, after a half an hour or so of simmering is a very tasty, not too spicy soupy-puree consistency curry.  Very delicious with some rice.

While waiting for that to cook I peeled and chopped the butternut squash and put that on to cook with just a small amount of water in the pot.  I also added a good dose of salted mediterranean herbs so that it will be a completely different flavour that today's dinner.  Of course I forgot about it being on the cooker for nearly an hour but it was on a low enough heat with the lid left on so the liquid didn't boil off and leave everything to boil at least.  I stirred it all around and then added in the tub of garlic and chive cream cheese that also didn't get eaten at the weekend.  Stirring vigourously enough to ensure that was mixed in was enough to roughly puree the whole lot and I have to say it looks and smells amazing.  I was trying to think of what I would actually do with it but I think a little bit heated up and spooned on top of some pasta tomorrow evening will be just perfect.  Might freeze the rest although I'm not certain about freezing something that has cream cheese in it.  May just make a small lasagne with the rest of it tomorrow as well.  Now all I need to do is use up the salad I also bought at the weekend and despite my visitors not having eaten what I bought with them in mind, I should have no food waste this week. 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Spinning around

Well, not me.  Just feels like the room is.  I woke up in the middle of the night and a couple of minutes later had a horrible sensation in my head, just like the room was spinning around or something.  It's hard to describe but was very unpleasant.  I lay still for a while, terrifying thoughts of "what if it's a stroke" etc., going through my head.  Got up, went to the bathroom, checked my eyes, which looked fine and there was no disfiguration on either side of my face.  So obviously that's not what a stroke feels like.  Back to bed, turned over and it happened again.  Couldn't sleep so over the next half an hour or so I lay quietly and tried to turn over a couple more times and it happened again every time.  At that stage I got up and woke up my friend, who has come over with her son to visit for the weekend.  I was so grateful that there was someone here, I was scared and needed someone to be here.  We suspect an inner-ear infection - her mum suffers from vertigo and she said what I described sounds very like it but since it's (so far) only happening when I'm lying down it's probably due to an infection (she looked up stuff on the internet - I refused to since I would have found something to convince me I only had a couple of hours to live!).  I did manage to sleep for another few hours afterwards but the same thing is still happening if I'm lying down and turn over.  Looks like sitting up or moving around will be a better option for this birthday.  I will head to casualty if it gets any worse but I think I'm probably okay waiting to go to the doctor in the morning.  Why is it that Saturday/Sunday night is always the time things like this seem to happen.

Apart from all of that, it warmed up during the night so the white landscape we were expecting to wake up to has turned into a damp, grey, drizzly day instead.  C'est la vie.  Maybe it'll mean the crowds at the christmas markets won't be as, eh, crowded today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Still here

Just been having a lot of laptop problems.  After a week of trying to recover what files I could I ran out of space on the few data storage devices I had and decided I would just have to get a new one for the last few things.  No big deal, a usb stick isn't that expensive and always useful.  We got paid today though, which includes my bonus payment and so I've taken a lot of the money I was going to use to treat myself this month and have treated myself to a new laptop.  Or at least another second-hand one from work.  Luckily as the entire company has been upgraded to windows vista recently, there were a few available so I got a four-year old machine that hasn't been quite as extensivelz used as the last one I got, which was, if I remember correctly, six years old.  So, 150 gone that I wasn't planning on spending, didn't need to spend and probably shouldn't have but I seem to be unable to deal with complicated situations at the moment without having a melt-down so I think it was probably just the best thing to do.  I need to get myself sorted out properly with regard to data back-up and that kind of thing though as I cannot count on having money to buy another computer any time soon.  Not to mention that work are unlikely to have many second-hand machines for a while now since everyone just got new ones and I have already bought a couple and they started talking about limits today (in reply to which I have offered to bring back the ones that don't work any more to prove to them that I'm not just selling them on or something).

Otherwise, I transferred money to my Irish account (the overdrawn one) and to my annual expenses savings account immediately after we were paid today so at least that is now more or less removed from reach.  I knew that I had to do it that way, otherwise it would just get swallowed up by things I need (for which read things I could really do with having but can survive without for another while).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Feeling lost

I feel very lost at the moment.  I'm struggling with feelings like having wasted my life, not getting anywhere, not knowing where I want to get , not caring (but deep down really caring so much I'm scared to let it all out).

I can talk about my plan to pay off my debt by the end of 2011, save for a few months and then go travelling/wwoofing for a year or two.  But at the same time I would really like to be settled somewhere.  To have found my 'home', the place where I can put down deep roots and stay.  I tend to put down roots wherever I go anyway, I've always been like that.  But I haven't yet found 'the place'.  And a very, very big part of me cannot get rid of the feeling that it's not actually the place, it's the people that will make that decision for me.  Or rather one person.  That special man who will complement and complete me and me him.  Lots of people say you can have a very full life on your own, you don't need a man to be fulfilled etc., etc. and I agree.  And that's the way I live my life.  I'm not sitting around just waiting for Mr. Right to turn up so that I can start living my life.  And I'm not dolling myself up every weekend and hitting the pubs and clubs desperately going through a long line of frogs in the hopes of turning up a prince.

But deep down in my heart and soul I do feel that I would be better as part of a couple.  I feel like I badly need to be loved and, perhaps even more so, need to love.  I need to have an outlet for all this love and passion that feels trapped inside me.  And no matter how much I love my family and friends or my hobbies/lifestyle, somehow that's a different kind of love and passion or perhaps it's just simply not enough of an outlet.  It's something of a paradox to not believe that everyone needs to have a special person in order to be whole while more and more coming to believe that I do.  Or maybe it's not.  Maybe that's just the most trite kind of thinking.  If there's one thing I'm good at it's sitting on the fence and trying to have all things all ways.

At the moment, I'm also questioning my reasons behind wanting to go travelling/wwoofing because I realise that a lot of it stems from the fact that I am not happy in work (changing jobs is not an option until my debt is paid as I am not likely to find a similar salary anywhere else).  And I wonder if I would feel more settled here or perhaps would allow myself to settle here more, if I liked going to work every day.  While I'm fairly certain I don't want to stay here forever, perhaps telling myself I'm going to move in the next couple of years is part of what is preventing me from feeling at home here. 

I don't actually have any point to any of this, no conclusions to draw.  Just have to start getting some of this out of my head.  We had a 'coaching' session in work on Friday - I work with two other secretaries in a so-called team.  Which is to say, I should be with one other secretary working for my boss but because of budget cuts that position wasn't re-filled and so the two secretaries across the hall had to take on part of 'my' work.  And one of them in particular is a very difficult person to deal with and also works very differently from me and makes no attempt to hide the fact that she finds me lacking in just about every way.  They complained about the "atmosphere" and so one of their bosses organised an external professional to come in and help us work on it.  It was a very intense session and really not much came out of it except that they have a very low opinion of me and, in my opinion, a fairly over-inflated view of themselves.  There was no practical aspect to it at all, such as coming up with ways to improve things although I was able to slip in a suggestion that we have a meeting once a week to catch everyone up on everything.  We're not supposd to talk about our communication or working together or any of it for the next four weeks (when we will have a follow-up session).  One thing it did make clear to me though is that although my boss and the rest of the team I work for are extremely challenging and difficult and just sometimes downright annoying people to work for, that's not actually what I hate the most.  It's the personality clash with this other woman which makes me not want to go to work every day.  My boss told me again on Friday that I am working too much and he is very nervous that I will work myself to a point of no return where I just give up and a few months later quit and nothing will change my mind (someone ratted me out and told him I was there last Sunday).  But what is clear to me now is that it's not the amount of work.  It's not even the fact that I don't get paid overtime anymore (officially I'm not supposed to do any at all).  I like working.  And if I go in on a weekend to get some stuff done in peace and quiet, they tend to be the kind of tasks I really like doing and it's fun because there's no pressure on.  But what does stress me out and would send me towards that point of 'I have to get out of here no matter what' is a bad atmosphere and unfriendliness and not being able to get on with someone.  We'll see how it goes over the next four weeks but I am hopeful that things are getting busy enough now that the budget cut decision from a year and a half ago will be reversed and I'll just get a second secretary working with me and not need to work with those other two at all. 

For now, I have a pile of cleaning and cooking to do and I brought a book back to the library yesterday and treated myself to a few silly films on DVD.  I have a couple of scented candles lit, the washing up and first general clean-up in the kitchen is done and now I'm going to lie on the couch, cover myself with a blanket and watch a film (I watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night and sitll have Burn After Reading, The Odd Couple, Pirates of the Carribbean 3 and Stealing Beauty on offer). 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food Waste Friday - 19 November 2010

The oops I nearly forgot about it edition.  I did go through the fridge this morning and even took a photo but now I can't find my camera so that will just have to wait.  I've been sort of distracted by reading bits and pieces of the news from home and although there is some humour to be found (see previous post), overall the whole situation is very worrying.  I heard that the army have had all holiday time suspended for the 7th and 8th of December, which is when the budget is due out - possibly an urban legend but if it's an indication of the mood over there, that in itself is troublesome.

Foodwise this week I had not a lot of waste really but annoying nonetheless.  Last weekend I decided to make beetroot and chocolate brownies - although as usual I ended up making this in my flower shaped silicon tray so slicing into brownie squares wasn't possible.  But it's not as if I'm a purist or anything so that's okay.  When it had cooled slightly after coming out of the oven I had a quick taste, even though it was kind of late and I certainly wasn't hungry.  It was delicious.  The kind of delicious that requires all sorts of willpower to put the knife down and step away from the cake.  Had a big slice on Monday in work and it was yum.  Had another on Tuesday and the taste of beet was starting to really come through, which I hadn't noticed before.  By Wednesday, the smell of beet was quite strong when I opened the container it was in and the taste was stronger again.  By Thursday morning, I couldn't even face the thought of it.  So while this is a great recipe and really, really good to eat when still a bit warm from the oven, I don't think I'll be making it again unless I know I have enough people around to finish it off straight away.  With 250g of butter and 250g of chocolate in it, this is a definitely a speical occasion only recipe I think.

The two beets that I had cooked and not needed to use for the brownies/cake also went out today - I couldn't face using them.  Should have grated them and put them straight into the freezer to use when making this some other time but.....hindsight, it's a wonderful thing!

Apart from beets and beet-related stuff though, I have nothing to report.

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Ireland for sale


Ireland for sale on ebay....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mouldy apple sauce

Just noticed while chopping up some apples for the dehydrator, that one of the jars containing apple sauce from a couple of weeks ago has starting a mouldy patch.  Picked up the one next to it and it has the same problem.  The jars are still on the table because I haven't even gotten around to putting labels on them or filling in the total number to my log.  Oh well.  These two jars were ones which I didn't process in a water bath so obviously removing most of the juice must also remove a lot of the acid which allowed to do this before.  It's a pity as the water bath processing for apple sauce is a pain.  However, I've gotten some tips on how to manage it better so hopefully next time will see an improvement.  In the meantime I'm a bit annoyed because the two jars that have spoiled are leifheit jars with two part lids and that's just a waste of good lids!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A very German dinner

Determined to start incorporating more cabbage into my diet, I've started the week off with red cabbage with onions, bacon bits and apple.

 I'd show you a photo but blogger doesn't seem to want pictures this evening.

I sauteed an onion and lots of garlic sauteed in some olive oil, bacon bits added to that and then red cabbage (which I’m sure I didn't chop nearly neatly enough for a proper hausfrau) with a dollop of butter. Steamed that lot for a few minutes and then added a good splash of red wine and another of red wine vinegar with some salt and pepper. And last came some thin slices of apple. Now just waiting for some potatoes to boil before eating. Although I have to admit I was very hungry and a few olives didn’t quite satisfy so I’ve already had a bread roll schmiered with the free piece of leberwurst I got the other day. Very yum indeed. This cabbage had better be nice, I don’t have time to drink the rest of the bottle of wine just to be able to stomach my dinnner :) 

On a completely unrelated note, I just received an email with a link to Fish Fight.  Haven't looked at it in detail yet but it seems to be about a campaign to stop perfectly edible fish being thrown back into the sea (dead that is, throwing them back alive is something else obviously).  Might be interesting for some people. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not quite so lazy weekend

I'm not sleeping too well at the moment, which means if I get the chance (like at the weekend), I'm sleeping a bit later in the morning.  The rain continued all day yesterday so I knew not much would be happening in the garden.  I did need to go there though to return a book to somebody.  First I went to the market to pick up the suet I had ordered - not there for the second week running.  I have to ring the farmer in the middle of the week to remind them to put it aside for me.  I bought some beets so that I can make some of these brownies, got some hazelnuts to make honeyed hazels and a couple of sausages to put into a bean casserole this week.  Then I dropped a pair of trousers off to be repaired and headed to the garden.  There were, as expected, only a couple of people there, having a coffee and a chat rather than really doing much work.  I hung around there for an hour or two and was happy to take a few leeks home with me then and took a small red cabbage as well (need to start expanding my range of 'kohl' recipes - let's face it, in this climate eating locally in winter means eating a lot of things from the cabbage family!).  But then before leaving one guy went out to pick up windfalls so I ended up also bringing home a bag full of them.  Will have to try and find time to do something with them too.  I get my dehydrator back from the person I loaned it to tomorrow so will have to put that back in action.  And I want to give the chili apple cheese mentioned here a try too.

After getting back from the garden all I wanted to do was soak in a hot bath and get some of the cold, clammy, wet feeling out of my feet but before I did that I decided to put another wash on, then I hung up the washing that was done, swept the floors, washed the floors, cleaned the bathroom and after all that decided a shower was all I had time for before heading out to film club.

This morning I slept late enough then got up, hung up the rest of the washing, thought about doing the washing up and went to work instead. Only intended to stay for an hour or two but got stuck in to clearing out my to-do tray, which was mostly full of already done stuff just waiting to be filed properly. So I didn’t actually get the two things done that I wanted to but it’s a huge relief to have done what I did because it means I’m sure that there isn’t something lurking at the bottom of the pile that I should have done and forgot about. Never mind the fact that it took me closer to six hours either. I have a nice tidy to-do list ready for tomorrow so that’s something anyway.

I ate an apple on the way home but since all I’d had all day apart from that was a käsebrötchen, a few kinder schokobons and spicy peanuts (very healthy I know) I was pretty hungry. But I had bought a couple of bread rolls this morning on the way into work and so didn’t let myself just stop somewhere and pick up a pizza or chips or anything and came straight home. Took the cheese out of the fridge and then decided to just do the washing up before I ate. So now that’s done, I put the beets on to boil, sat down to have some bread, cheese, turkey salami, chutney and a beer.  That was about two hours ago, I've been reading blogs and catching up on emails so now I have to get up and make some brownies.  And chop up the beet leaves to add to the onions and tomatoes I'm also going to use to make a sauce for pasta.  And cook some pasta.  Then put all of it into tupperware for lunches this week.  And it's nearly half-nine.  I must be mad.

Edited to add a couple of photos.  It's eleven o'clock now but as well as cooking I also spent 20 minutes on the phone to a friend who phoned and have done almost all the washing up. 

Sauteed onions, garlic and the stalks from the beets.  Added the three tomatoes from the garden and a tin of tomatoes with some pepper and herby salt.  Then added the rest of the beet green and have covered the pan and turned the heat off.  The residual heat with be more than enough to steam the greens.  I cooked some pasta in my tupperware poacher while all that was being prepared so I'm all set for lunch tomorrow.

The brownies were incredibly easy to put together.  They're supposed to go into a 20x25 cm baking tray but I just used my flower shaped tupperware, which is 23 cm across so close enough.  Looks good and smells good.  And I have two boiled beetroots leftover - I may make another half batch tomorrow :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Food Waste Friday - 12 November 2010

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

I'm not long in from work, bought myself a kebab for dinner on the way home and have no interest in going anywhere near the fridge or tidying up or clearing out in any way.  That's the way it goes sometimes.  I know I do have a very small amount of cream cheese left - I brought the rest of the tub to work today and bought a breadroll and had it with that for lunch but didn't quite finish it.  It was fine though so I think it might do on a slice of bread for breakfast tomorrow morning.  Apart from that I don't think there was anything to get rid off.  I'm not doing much in the way of shopping this weekend either as I have a few things to get use up and it's just easiser to do that sometimes if you have no choice about what to eat and just have to use what's there.

I do have tomatoes that I bought last week - I still haven't gotten around to making the kasundi relish that some Australian friend asked me to try making.  I have great plans to do things in the evenings but by the time it hits four or five o'clock I'm getting so tired in work that I can't even contemplate doing anything apart from going home to bed.  It hasn't helped that it's been raining for a couple of days now.  At least we're not getting the ferocious storms that are hitting Ireland and Scotland - leaving people without electricity even.  Actually I need to get working on figuring out how to light a camping stove type thing.  I bought a couple of small ones on ebay last year, even bought a bottle of spirits and since then haven't been brave enough to try it out (with a  large dose of I'm not really sure what to do).  Wish I knew someone who was into camping who could just come over and teach me this kind of thing.  I have plenty of candles stashed in two or three easy to get to places (with boxes of matches also stored with them and in a few other places too) so light wouldn't be a problem if the electricity ever did go out here.  But having something to heat up water or cook with is something I don't have until I figure out how to light those camping yokes.  Come to think of it, I should buy some replacement gel burning things for my fondue set too, there's nothing says that cheese is the only thing you can cook in that pot.  I think living on a main road with lots of restaurants and pizza places and the like nearby means I assume I'd be fine even if something did happen.  But it'd be nice to feel like I was prepared myself too. 

Hmmm, that was a bit of a tangent there, where was I?  Oh yes, kasundi.  Well, maybe I'll get to that tomorrow.

So, not much food waste this week and a few tasks tomorrow to keep things under control.

Edited about half an hour later:  as soon as I'd written the above I was overcome with an unbearable need to get up and check that I really did know what was in my fridge (I also remembered I still had some milk and decided to drink a cup of that to help finish it off).  I couldn't have been more wrong about very little food waste this week.  What is the matter with me?  I made lovely vegetable soup nearly two weeks ago, have looked in the fridge numerous times since then for various things (including FWF last week!) and somehow managed to do it without even seeing that jug of soup.  Ridiculous behaviour!

I also found these:

Some apple/nectarine jam which is starting to mould, some quince juice which looks fine but based on the state of the apple juice behind it, I'm not taking any chances on it.  The quince juice was supposed to go toward making some jelly and the apple juice was the leftover bit from my steam juicing efforts and was supposed to be a nice treat for my breakfast the next morning.  It got shoved to the back and has been there for over two weeks as well (since I gave the juicer back two weeks ago, it has to have been at least that long).  I think I just didn't look at an entire shelf of the fridge at all or something.  I'd like to say I just need a holiday but I'm not sure that would be enough.  I definitely need something!  Honestly, how many other people would have this growing in their fridge and not notice?

Shudder, shudder, shudder.  I will be scrubbing out the fridge tomorrow, that's for sure.  Eeeewwww.  And what a waste of some really delicious food!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's all connected

The muscles in your back I mean.  Turns out that I don't only have a problem with my shoulder/neck but also my lower back. When the orthopaedic doctor said earlier in the week that the acupuncture I had been getting was mostly to deal with my lower back pain I was a bit surprised. I thought he had only put that down so that the health insurance would pay for it (I had heard that they don’t always pay, it depends on where the pain is) because when he asked me about lower back pain I just said, no more than usual. At my weight and sitting down all day it’s sort of inevitable that my back gets very tired and sore anyway. So today I went for my first physio session. He asked me to go back to the same place that I went for massage and heat therapy during the summer and it turns out the masseur I had before when I went to this place is probably just the grumpy one because the guy I had to day was lovely. He introduced himself before we got started and asked me questions about where and how it hurt as well as explaining what he was doing the whole time. What a difference.

Anyway, before starting the physio he said he wanted to check exactly how the muscles felt so I lay down and he started poking and prodding. He asked as well about my lower back so I tried to explain about that and then he started poking there..”does that hurt?”…”a bit, not much really”…”does that hurt?”…”nah, fine”…”does that hurt?”…”flippin heck! ow ow ow ow OUCH!. Yes.” So it loooks like I really do have a problem in my lower back as well and the pain I thought was sort of getting better is mostly getting better because I’ve just stopped moving my arm in any of the ways that I know are just going to hurt. He said I’m actually still too bad to start doing physio so today I just had a massage again. He won’t start exercises until the pain has reduced a bit because he said that just causes more damage than good – working through the pain in this case is apparently not worth it. Well, okay then. Have five more sessions over the next two weeks and we’ll see how it goes from there.

I also went to the shoemaker to sort out my new arch supports. He took the box of my foot impressions that I got from the orthopaedic doctor the other day (that was strange, it's like a shoebox filled with an oasis-like substance that I had to stand into) and then I also had to stand on this glass plate set into the floor. It was basically like a fancy foot photocopier. He said that the arch supports I have are actually completely wrong for me, I need softer ones with more support under the ball of my foot. It’ll be interesting to get them next week and see what, if any, difference they make. And at 5.61 I think the price is right, too!  The physio/massage will cost less than 20.  I may moan about how much I need to pay for health insurance every month but when something is wrong (except, obviously, for dental work) you get what you need without having to worry about where to find the money to pay for it all.  And when you've got a pain in your back, you need all the silver linings you can get :-)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Taste the Waste

Just heard about a documentary that was shown on telly here a couple of weeks ago (I don't actually have a television so have just read about it online now).  Trailer here.  Apparently there will a full length film in cinemas next year.  Looks interesting and the statistics given in that trailer - no idea where they're from or how reliable they are but they are shocking!

What would you like to know?

I have dozens and dozens of things floating around in my head that I would like to write about.  I've started some posts and need to find some time/get more organised so that I can actually make writing a proper part of my routine.  I've definitely kept up this blog far more consistently (despite sometimes long gaps) and for far longer than any other diary I have ever attempted.  Part of the reason for that is, I think, that although I do for the most part write this purely for myself, the knowledge that people might read it, helps to keep me away from the worst of my teenage drama queen self.  Trust me, I have on occassion re-read some of the stuff I wrote in the few diaries I tried to keep - cringeworthy stuff, all of it.  I have to admit that typing also helps as I can type far faster than I ever could write and so I can have some hope of getting my thoughts down before my mind has flitted away to something else or my thoughts have gone off on a tangent, leading me so far away from my original point that I forget it.  That still happens of course, but not as much. 

Some day when I have a bit of time I will have a read back through the archives as I have a feeling I am guilty of fairly often saying things like 'more on that later' or 'I'll post an update in a few months' and then never actually doing that.  I know I am long overdue for an update on my no-more-shampoo experiences for example.  My new plan is that if I ever do write in a post that I will post an update or something similar, I will immediately start a new post and thus have a draft saved and sitting there as a reminder for me.  We'll see how that works out.

In the meantime, I thought I might take this opportunity to see if anyone who does read along with me wants to know anything in particular, would like me to expand on something I have already written about, has a topic they'd like me to post about - so, any questions? 

Friday, November 05, 2010

Food Waste Friday 5 November 2010

I nearly had a no waste week but there was some mozarella in the fridge that I ended up not using when I bought it and all of a sudden, it's nearly a week past it's best before date.  I'm generally fairly flexible about dates but mozarella and feta cheeses are two things I just can't convince myself don't taste or smell a bit funny once they're past their dates.  So out it went.

Otherwise, I failed miserably on my second batch of applesauce cookies and now have a big tupperware container of crumbs at my disposal.  Very tasty crumbs mind you.  I had a friend over for dinner yesterday and she suggested I use them to make something else, which is a great idea.  She mentioned a brown betty (and I have to laugh because I remembered that today as a betty brown and googled it, getting a load of hits for a Texas politician which left my wondering if I had given my friend one too many glasses of wine with her dinner!).  So I might give that a try.  Or perhaps make a trifle type thing.  Or a cheesecakey type something.  So hopefully part of next week's waste won't be to report a load of crumbs going in the bin!

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I've updated my totals on the side.  My goals, set at the end of August, were fairly arbitrary really and it doesn't look like I will achieve them.  Or at least not in the way I was thinking.

  1. Reduce cc debt to 3,500: still 350 left to go on this one, if I gave myself a budget of almost nothing for December I could manage to do this.  But I won't.
  2. Reduce overdraft to 2,250: just over 100 left to go on this one - achievable, this is only slightly off-track
  3. Save 400 in annual expenses account: won't be achieved as I hadn't accounted for one expense that needed to be paid. 
  4. Save 20 each month for my birthday present: haven't managed this at all
  5. Have 40 no-spend days between 30 August and 5 December: completely forgot to start counting these - probably managing three a week on average
What will make a difference is that we actually are going to get a bonus in work this year and this will be paid out at the end of November.  I've gone through various options of how to allocate this money but what I have decided to do is throw almost all of it at my overdraft, keeping just a small amount as a 'treat'/birthday/christmas money.  Many might say that I shouldn't do that because I haven't 'earned' it but I know myself and I know that letting myself do this will make January and February much easier.  I have a tendency to overspend in January, it's one of the months I've always been most likely to reach for the credit card and it's better to try and get myself into a position where I don't feel under pressure.  Allowing myself to have a bit extra during December, regardless of whether I actually spend it or not, is the right thing to do as long as I don't try to fool myself into thinking I can spend recklessly.  I'm not talking about keeping hundreds aside!

I hope to get some tax back soon as well and think I can also send in my application to get some of the money for my tooth implant back soon.  Work have a scheme where you can apply for one-off financial help in unusual circumstances.  There's a certain budget set aside for this every year and a committee decides on each case individually as far as I understand.  However, one of the things that they do help out with, is expensive dental work (crowns, implants, bridges and so on).  It's limited to about one thousand euro and they may deduct an amount equal to how much you would have paid for a supplementary insurance which would otherwise have covered the cost, or some of the cost of the work.  So hopefully I might be able to get something under that scheme as well.  So by January or February I might be very close to clearing my overdraft.  It would be nice to have one debt less!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Steaming and bottling/canning apples

Last week I borrowed a steam juicer from the bio-garten and also brought home three large bags of apples (mostly windfalls). I am very in love with this piece of equipment and will be keeping my eye out to see if I can pick one up second-hand once I have a bit a money.

Basically you chop the apples up small (wash them first and chop the 'hairy' bit of the end and remove the stalk but leave skin on and use core too), then put them into the top colander-like part of the steamer, like so:

The very bottom part gets filled with water:

Then as the steam from that moves up into the main part of the pan (through a funnel arrangement) the apples slowly start cooking and releasing their juices down into the middle part:

And you can then collect the juice out of the spout. The juice is pasteurised when it comes out and will keep for a long time so long as you put it into sterilised jars or bottles.

We had done this a few times at the bio-garten but each time they just dumped the pulp remains onto the compost. I asked if it wasn't possible to use it for something else and the main consensus was that it was mostly lack of space and jars that stopped us from doing anything else with it in the garden but at home, you would just put the pulp through a mouli, making applesauce and then put that in sterilised jars too. Or mix a bit of honey into the pulp, spread it out thinly and dry it as a fruit leather.

So, when I had the steamer at home I decided to give it all a go. The first lot, I juiced and got three litres of juice plus one smaller jar. I put the pulp through the mouli, adding in the juice from the smaller not quite full jar just to use it up. All went into sterilised jars and seemed fine.

Three litres of juice and 1 x 1 litre jar, 3 x 3/4 litre jars lus 1 x 450 ml jars of apple sauce.  Annoyingly, I know now first-hand why it is important not to bump against or touch your jars as they are sealing.  I did this not long after bottling this stuff up and the seal popped down almost immediately on the one I hit against.  I reckoned it wouldn't seal properly so was very surprised the next morning to see that all were sealed tightly (took rings off and held jars up by lid, no problems).  But a week later and I have just checked those jars again as I still need to put labels on them (yes, I tend to collect jars of stuff to the point where I'm going to lose track of what's where before I get around to putting labels on).  And surprise, surprise the big jar of applesauce is not only a bit loose, it's not even close to pretending to be sealed and there's a lovely layer of furry stuff on top of the sauce.  I can't actually remember if this was the one I did knock against but it seems likely.  Sigh.

But moving on.  When I did the second lot I was a bit pressed for time so I got just over two litres of juice out of a pot and a half full of apples and then put the rest through the mouli (i.e. far more liquid than the first lot). I put a small amount of this into sterilised jars immediately but the rest went into a big bowl as I didn't have time to deal with it.

The next day I decided to look up t'internet to see what people say about bottling applesauce the day after you've made it. Didn't see anything suggesting it wouldn't be possible but almost everything I read insisted that it should be processed in a water bath (unlike what I had been told before). So, to be on the safe side, I heated up what I had made the day before, put it into jars and processed it in a waterbath. It took a while for it to come up to boiling and then I let it boil for just over ten minutes. Took them out and one had definitely opened as the water was looking decidedly applely.

I had used one glass jar (with rubber ring and glass lid) and the rubber seal seemed to have slipped so I was putting it down to that. The rest were leifheit jars with the two part lids. I tightened up the rings and on one of them, apple squished up around the edges. Ok, I thought, so one of them was too loose and now two jars won't seal. Fine.

This morning I checked to see and the glass lidded jar didn't seal as expected. The leifheit jar which I thought wouldn't seal did but one of the others didn't.

ALL of the leifheit jars, though, had apple around the inside of the rings when I took them off. Like this one:

But despite this, the jars are sealed even though I assume there is apple stuck under the seal as well and I'm not sure if that's a big problem or not.  If any of you more experienced canners out there have any advice, I would very much appreciate it.

Although I don't have the steamer any more I do still have some apples left and I was going to just make ordinary stewed apple and bottle it. I've done that once before and didn't process it in a water bath and it was fine months later, which is what the people in the garden had also said. So I'm curious if people here have done that too or do you always process it in a water bath?

I'd really like to put up enough stewed apple/apple sauce/dried apples this year to do me through the few months in late spring and summer when fresh apples just aren't so nice.  But this is just making it seem like more work than I'm able for at the moment.

Still, on the positive side, I will be making applesauce cookies today.  I can freeze some of it as well as I have very selflessly made space in the freezer by eating the last of the vienetta for breakfast. :-)  I've loaned my dehydrator to someone for a couple of weeks so can't make any leathers at the moment.

Apart from that it's a new month so I'll post another budget update in a day or two once all the usual transfers and payments have gone through.  I did take advantage of the shops being open yesterday (normally shops only open on Sunday two or three times a year here) to go into a shop for larger ladies (the name of which would translate as 'All Round Chic' - can't decide if I hate it or think it's amusing) that is usually closed when I am passing.  I badly, badly need new trousers for work and managed to get a pair of navy trousers, which means I can wear those navy shoes I bought years ago, just before my then only pair of navy trousers gave up the ghost.  So I don't need to worry about buying new black shoes for work for the moment either.  At 69.95, they were a very reasonable price as well.  I haven't bought many clothes for a while (apart from my summer lifesaver 2 for 10 euro t-shirts) but based on what I see in shop windows and what I hear people talking about I was thinking that if I came away with change from a hundred I would be very lucky.  And since I was in town I popped into one of the big department stores and bought a nut cracker.  For the past two years I have bought fresh nuts when they appear in the market and then never gotten around to actually using them because I don't have a nut cracker (or floors hard enough to take the strain of a nut being hammered into submission on them).  I actually still have the hazelnuts and walnuts I bought last year.  So those I bought on Saturday will be shelled very shortly and I might even try one or two from last year to see if they've gone completely rancid or might still be something edible.  If I can get more hazelnuts next week there will be a couple of jars of honeyed hazels in my future.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Food Waste Friday - 29 October 2010

A couple of days late but I didn't think I had anything to dump this week (apart from about five apples - but they were the only ones out of three very big bags of windfalls). And then I opened up my cake tin to have the last of the apple tart I made and it had started to go mouldy. Booo.

I have a very full fridge after the garden yesterday added to calling to the market without having really had a proper list in my head so I will definitely need to dedicate some time to cooking this week!

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Friday, October 22, 2010

Food Waste Friday - 22 October 2010

Few things gone out today, partially due to a couple of unexpected late nights working, which meant grabbing chips on the way home rather than eating what I had here and not having time for the processing I also had planned.

The main culprits though have been as a result of not quite coordinating the food for film club properly last weekend.  Because it was being held in someone else's house, they assumed I was just bringing dinner and went ahead and bought bread and olives and dips to nibble at beforehand.  I intended to cut up the loaf of bread I had bought but when I went to do that on Monday evening it was already rock solid.

So, gone in the bin this week:

Most of a loaf of bread
Some leftover salad leaves (but I did rescue the cherry tomatoes out of the salad and they were delicious!)
Half a zwiebelkuchen (because I was so busy eating all the other leftovers from film club I forgot it was there)
2 apples and a few strawberries that went rotten before I got to them (there was supposed to be apple and strawberry jam happening you see)
1 large tomato and the remains of a bunch of coriander - same thing
The remains of the white sauce I made for the lasagne last weekend which ended up not being used for a second dish after all (due to aforementioned excess of leftovers combined with late nights at work)

I have a lot of apples still to process - need to get into a routine with the dryer again but also want to start making jars of stewed apple for next spring when the fresh apples aren't so good anymore.  I had a half-day today and have Monday off as well.  Hopefully will get lots done!

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Blown it

Only one day into my good intentions and they're already out the window.

Bought at the market today:

1 kg tomatoes
1 kg onions
5 carrots
All organic, total: 8.10

1 butternut squash (nearly 2kg weight, the smallest they had)
2 medium courgettes
1 bunch coriander
All organic, total: 6.50

750g beef pieces
2 sausages
Total: 9.78

1 smoked chicken breast
1 chicken schnitzel
Total: 7.98

2.5 kg potatoes (anuscka)
1 bottle apple juice
Total: 4.50

All adding up to just over 36 euro.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Budget for this week

My budget for this week is 50 euro.  I am going to try again to keep 10 until Wednesday.  I had a list of things I need to buy for, among other things, making a cake for tomorrow's seed and plant exchange at the garden and later in the week, food for film club, a lot of which I will get from the market tomorrow but some of which was supermarket fare.  Since I need to bake the cake this evening, I decided to go to Aldi on the way home for the supermarket stuff.  I had flour and raw cane sugar but not enough butter and no eggs.  Although I normally buy eggs from the farmer at the market, I know Aldi do organic and free-range as well and that will do when pressed for time.  I went in with the aim of spending no more than 10 euro, which will leave me 30 for the market tomorrow.  As I'll be buying meat I think that will take up about 10 euro and the rest will be for fruit and veg as well as some cheese.

My total in Aldi came to 9.60, which I am pleased with as it was difficult enough to not be tempted to stock up on things just because I was there and it's so cheap.  It's five minutes walk from my house and not like I can't go in and stock up any time! I did treat myself to a jar of olives though.

Aldi grocercy shop
  1. Cornflakes 600g (I don't know the brand but the ones they had in Ireland were nice so hopefully these will be too. - 99c
  2. 1 litre organic milk - 89c
  3. Packet feta cheese - 85c
  4. 2 balls of mozzarella cheese - 69c each
  5. 1 kg white sugar - 69c (I usually buy whole cane or raw cane sugar from the fair trade shop but at 3.10 a kilo, that's a big difference, especially since I'm making a cake for people who probably usually use and prefer white sugar.  Is that presumptuous of me?)
  6. Baking powder sachets - 29c
  7. White flour - 25c (I wasn't planning on getting flour although it was on my list.  I usually buy organic flour but this price is ridiculous in comparison to the nearly 2 euro I normally pay)
  8. Buttermilk - 29c
  9. Olives - 79c
  10. 10 free-range eggs (the organic ones had no mention of whether they were free-range or not) - 1.59
Total: 9.60

I've decided (aided by a timely recipe in today's Mother Earth Newsletter) that a veggie lasagne would be a better idea than a bean casserole so if I can get a butternut squash at the market tomorrow, I'll do that.  That means I still need to buy some lasagne.  I also have a bar of chocolate on my list and would like to get some bananas for eating so if I have money left after the market tomorrow I will go to the fair trade shop too.

Since we are having the seed and plant exchange day at the garden tomorrow it's not likely we'll be doing any harvesting so that means no extra free food this week.

Food Waste Friday - 8 October 2010

No photo today but I have three small pots of homemade yoghurt and half a pot of bought waiting to go out.  I know I bought the pot the week after making yoghurt as I ate the first few pots of it so quickly I didn't think it would last long and as the farmer didn't have any milk left I just decided to buy yoghurt instead of making more myself.  That bought yoghurt has a best before date of 17 September - I tried some during the week (since yoghurt doesn't go off as such, just gets more sour) but it was definitely past being palatable.  So out it goes.

I love yoghurt and yet sometimes I just forget about eating it for weeks at a time or just don't fancy it or, or, or...
When I eat it, I could eat it twice a day.  I'd like to be a bit more consistent about it.  Something to work on.

Other than that, though I have nothing to get rid off, which I am happy about.  There's cheese that definitely needs to be used up soon but hey, an excuse to eat more cheese is good.  No point in trying to eke it out to the stage where it starts to get too mouldy to be usable.  There's making things last and there's being silly!

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Nearly there

I've just about made it to the end of the week without going overboard on spending next week's money already.  Yay.

I took ten euro out of the bank yesterday but also brought lunch with me in my wide-neck flask so while I did go and meet colleagues in the canteen for lunch I didn't buy anything there.  Of course later yesterday evening I dropped my bag and my lovely new flask, which I have only used four times (although I bought it in May when I was in France) went smash.  I had a quick look on the internet as I was still in work and it turns out Thermos products are all made in the Far East now and they don't ship replacement glass parts as they're too delicate for shipping.  I had to steel myself to throw it out but in the end gave it straight to the guy who was cleaning the office.  I kept the lids, which will be handy as spares if I manage to find another one but there was no point bringing the rest home and trying to convince myself I would somehow clean it of all the little slivers of glass and use it just as a non-thermos flask.  It would just sit there getting in the way. 

On the way to choir I bought some chips and that was dinner along with the one small slice of quiche that was left.  Still less than half of what I would have paid for lunch in the canteen and, as everyone was very tired, we didn't go for a drink after rehearsal either.  So today I still had seven euro burning a hold in my pocket but that was all to the good as I needed to send my sister her birthday present and card.  That, plus a scratch card (gave in to the temptation, didn't win), some bananas from the fair trade shop and an egg from the biosupermarkt have left me with just a few cent in my purse but soon there will be banana bread to eat so it's all good.  As I was coming home a slightly different way to swing by the later opening post office I also stopped into Drogerie Markt to pick up two things that were on my list for this weekend: washing soda and distilled water.  They had  no distilled water (typical, they must be expecting a big order, there were a few cleared shelves) so I bought a bottle of toilet cleaner as well as two packets of soda to bring the total up to a relatively reasonable amount to use my EC-card (debit card - but still lots of places insist on a minimum charge of 5 euro).  It was still only 3.53 but she didn't say anything. 

I have a long list of things I want to buy at the weekend.  Saturday week is going to be a busy day.  The biogarten is having a party so I will be there for most of the morning and afternoon and in the evening, it's the second month of film club.  I'm choosing the flim this month and that means sorting out the food as well.  At least it's held in someone else's place (they have the biggest telly and most space) so I don't also need to worry about what my house looks like.  But as I'll be busy all day I won't have time to cook so I am making stew or shepherds/cottage pie and a bean casserole, which taste better on the second day anyway.  But that means buying everything out of this week's money.  So I've been making a list and trying to write down ahead of time what everything is likely to cost.  This has been a continuing problem in my attempts to budget to date - normally I set an amount of money and just spend till it's gone and then can't get anything else or, all too often, 'borrow' from next week's money.  Hopefully I will manage.  I am telling myself now that I will not buy lots of tomatoes in a frenzied attempt to make the most of the last of the fresh ones available by making more salsa or chutney or something else time consuming and instead will just concentrate on buying a few things to make some lovely meals for eating immediately.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Tired but got things done

When I wasn't home from work until nearly eight I really wasn't sure that I wouldn't just collapse on the couch for a while before crawling off to bed.  But I put some water into the canner and switched on the cooker before I sat down and watched one episode of mad mean online while eating my dinner.  So then I had to get up and start doing.  I washed the last of the dishes from yesterday evening and this morning (and just realised I didn't take my flask out of my bag so did miss something after all).  Topped and tailed beans and packed them into jars.  I thought I would have five or six jars so used three-quarter litre jars to make sure I would have enough space in the water bath.  And ended up with two jars full.  Typical.  I could have filled another one but I decided to keep the older, bigger beans out to use tomorrow.  Hardly worth getting the big canner out for but I still haven't gotten all the burnt bits off the bottom of the stockpot so it's all or nothing. 

Added some garlic and dill seeds and made a brine using a mix of white wine vinegar and ordinary table vinegar with water and salt.  I also added the cayenne pepper to the brine after it had boiled in an attempt to have it dissolved into the liquid a bit better.  It worked but not all that well.  Maybe cayenne pepper just doesn't really dissolve.  Of course there wasn't enough so I had to scramble to make some more quickly to top up one of the jars. 

When that went into the cooker I washed up what dishes I had used and wiped down the table and then starting peeling and chopping windfall apples from the biogarten.  They're in the dryer now and I'm about to sit down with some tea and toast and a slice of cake.  I am tired so it will be bed soon after that for me.

I ate some of the grapes today that I got in the garden on Saturday.  Wow.  Such sweet and incredibly juicy grapes.  I haven't bought grapes for a long time as they're not really produced in large quantities around here (and definitely never saw local grapes for sale in Ireland) and this is my first time eating such fresh ones.  They did remind me why I hated grapes as a kid - not because of the taste but because of the pips.  Luckily as an adult I seem to be able to get over that in order to appreciate the flavour.  It just goes to show though how used we become to things being a certain way.  When I was a kid grapes came with pips in them and that was that.  Then in my late teens seedless grapes became very popular or else you bought grapes that were very big and firm and very easy to pull apart to get at the seed before you eat it.  But these small purple grapes I had today are too delicate for that kind of manhandling.  And despite their small size some of them had two or three seeds in them.  But although it seemed like a bit harder work to eat them, they were definitely worth it. 

I think grapes will have to be on my list of things to grow when I have my own space someday.  Mark Diacono has the right idea, I think.  I'll be posting up a review of his new book, A Taste of the Unexpected very soon. 

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Lots to do today

Went to work for five hours this morning - a pain in the neck but will be a big help to me tomorrow. It's year-end and I have a very, very busy and stressful two and a half days ahead of me. Meant to bring home one other thing to do but forgot as a manager came into my office just as I was getting ready to leave so I just grabbed my bag and ran before I got asked to do anything.

Still, I have more than enough to do here as well:
  • Make and process salsa - 4 half-litre jars in the water bath now
  • Bake a cake - something choclatey since I have no money to actually buy chocolate - changed my mind and made jam tarts, 12 individual ones and the rest a small cake. Buns slightly burnt but don't taste it.  Made the buns with some of the apple jelly and peach jam I made last week and the cake with some of last year's plum jam
  • Make pickled beans - this will have to wait until tomorrow
  • Get a load of apples into the dryer - could do this but have decided that cooking dinner at quarter past ten is late enough, it can wait until tomorrow.
  • Possibly make some stewed apple - I'm actually not sure I have enough apples for this.
  • Make stirfry for dinner (make enough for at least two portions of leftovers) - rice is cooking now
  • Clean floors - done.  And my hoover is giving up the ghost. It wouldn't stay on so I ended up nearly doing the splits while trying to keep one foot on the on button and reach around me far enough in each direction to get the whole floor hoovered.
  • Have bath and wash hair - well, had a shower and washed hair so close enough.  A bath would only have happened if I had gotten to everything else on the list because that would have meant I had time for it!
  • Get up on chair and investigate black marks on kitchen wall - clean it off and keep an eye on it - took the lazy way out and used a slightly damp cloth on the end of the mop to wipe it off.  Came off very easily, now just need to wait and see if it's something that will grow back.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Grocery spend

Returned one glass jar and got 50c deposit back.

Flassrath Apple Farm
750ml apple juice - 1 (returned empty bottle as well so no need to pay deposit)

Organic farmer no. 1
1 kg mixed colour tomatoes - 4.50
Bunch coriander - 1

Organic farmer no. 2
500g onions - 1.20
500g soup tomatoes (i.e. bruised or slightly damaged) - 1
little bit less than 500g plum tomatoes - 1 (half a kilo would normally cost 4.50 but I told him I only had 4 euro left so I didn't have quite enough for a full 500g along with the other things)

And that quickly ten euro is gone. And then I realised that I didn't have any limes left and only one lemon. I took 20 euro out of the bank, which is my book club money for the end of the month. Half has gone into an envelope and with the rest of it I bought:

2 limes - 1.30
3 lemons - 1.20

el Martin
5 fair trade bananas - 2.50

Reformhaus Hilger
750ml organic cider vinegar - 2.10
6 large organic eggs - 2.53

If it's that easy to suddenly be rid of 20 euro it's no wonder that I so frequently end up spending more than I have just through not paying attention and thinking that somehow or other it'll all work itself out!

I also ended up with a huge haul from the biogarten:
Four or five big handfuls of beans - dark purple, purple striped pods and green
4 tomatoes
Small bunch of grapes
Lots and lots of apples, some Cox, some windfalls of different varieties
Small punnet of raspberries (actually, I ate most of these while still there and finished the rest while waiting for the tram. Yum!)
Chinese cabbage
A few oniones, including one small red one with the top still attached, which is apparently also very good to eat.
1 nachi

Friday, October 01, 2010

Food Waste Friday - 1 October 2010

Well, another month has started, may as well try to get back into the swing of things a bit. Last weekend was the first weekend for a long while where I felt able to do much of anything (apart from things which were absolutely necessary, which, thankfully, I mostly manage to get by with doing more or less sufficiently). I went to the garden on Saturday morning and spent the morning peeling and chopping windfall apples for the juicer. Fantastic yoke - I had seen photos online before but couldn't get my head around how it worked so it was great to see one in action. When I think of juicer normally I think of an electric machine that takes up way too much space and is a pain in the neck to wash. Over here though, it's more like a steamer that you just use on top of your cooker with a small amount of water in the bottom and that steams the juice out of the fruit and you decant it as you're going out of a small tube in the side.

I brought home two large jars of that juice to make apple jelly with. I also badly needed to finally use up the two kilos of tomatoes and one kilo of plums that I had bought two weeks earlier. Yes, the first week after I got paid and finally had some money again I went to the market to hopefully get enough tomatoes to make some salsa for over the winter and to dry some. And then sank back into depression and apart from one dehydrator load a week later managed no more than to remember to put them into the fridge so that they at least wouldn't dissolve into a smelly mush on the kitchen floor.

So this week I have had some food waste as, even being in the fridge, I still needed to get rid of a few tomaotes and bits of tomatoes that were starting to mould. The small bunch of coriander I had gotten was also long gone past usable. So I decided to make chutney using could be rescued of the plums (nearly three quarters going by weight, which also includes the stones so not too bad - wouldn't have eaten them fresh though!), topped up to a kilo with tomatoes and the hokkaido pumpkin I had also bought at the same time. I even took my time to make sure and chop the pumpkin up into really small pieces, something I generally don't have the patience for. And then the bloody chutney burnt. After only about two hours cooking. Aaagh. So in a couple of months I may potentially have a lot of food waste. Yes, I did. Trying not to stir any of the burnt stuff back into the bulk of the mixture, I got it all into jars (20 x 230ml). But it's hard to tell how badly affected most of it is. Very frustrating as until it started to burn badly the smell had been absolutely divine.

Otherwise I also had to dump a couple of peaches. Bought a couple from the greengrocer's on the corner as well as a pineapple (pineapple was on special offer at 99c each so I decided to get one to dry and then I misread the sign on the peaches and nectarines and thought I was getting a great offer at 1.49 per kilo but it was 1.49 per pound so really just a very average price) but despite processing them the day after I bought them, a few had already started to rot (at bruised places) and one or two were quite simply rotten through. I'm less and less impressed with the fruit I get at that place and think I will stick to lemons and limes when I need them from now on.

From what I did get from the peaches and nectarines I used some to fill up the dehydrator and the rest to make jam. Added the juice of a lemon and used 1:1 jam sugar but not at a 1:1 ratio as that makes it far too sweet (but it was the only sugar I had on hand and it needs to be used up anyway). I thought it had set fairly well but unlike strawberry jam, rather than getting firmer as it cooled, it seems to have gotten a bit runnier. Oh well. At least it tastes nice.

I used the same sugar, again at a slightly less than 1:1 ratio to make the apple jelly as well. That really stayed runny but I got fed up waiting for it to set so just gave up and potted it up anyway. I had one half-jar of peach jam which I topped up with apple jelly and put some into a very small jar as well for myself. Then I added a shot of brandy and put the rest into very big jars. They're for the garden and they are very fond of their jam 'mit Schuss'.

And my biggest achievement this week has been to actually use up the pak choi and chinese cabbage that I brought home from the garden on Saturday as well. I chopped up the pak choi and sauteed it briefly before putting it into three large freezer bag portions and into the freezer. I'm really not convinced about freezing it since I've generally used very small pak choi leaves in salads or stirfries before. But this thing was massive and everyone else in the garden seemed to think freezing it would be okay. And there was a recipe in my Good Housekeeping book for sauteed pak choi too so it's worth a try and will be something handy to grab and dump into a soup or sauce. I also used up the last of the tomatoes, which had been chopped and put back into the fridge by making a quick tomato sauce and added the chopped chinese cabbage to it. I probably wouldn't have thought of doing that myself but it was one of the recipes in Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book and I have to say it was really delicious. Had a big helping of it today in work for lunch. I heated it up this morning and cooked some wheat to go with it and put the whole lot into the wide-necked flask I bought at the beginning of sumer. That thing is definitely going to earn its keep now that the weather is getting cooler!

Apart from what I've mentioned about I also threw out a really, really rotten apple which managed to be hiding underneath an envelope underneath a piece of paper (of the important type - left out so that I would remember to deal with it at the end of the month, but I forgot/didn't realise there was an apple under it and was somewhat surprised when I tried to pick that piece of paper up and it basically dissolved in my hand - yuck). And a small carton of creme fraiche which was a couple of weeks past it's use by date. At the beginning of the month I obviously thought I was going to do a lot of cooking but my mood wasn't able to match up to my expectations.

I do also need to get rid of some yoghurt too but am waiting until I feel a bit more up to it. It's three or four small jars of yoghurt from the last batch I made myself but as I know I haven't made yoghurt for over a month, the thought of the smell is putting me off dealing with it. Maybe tomorrow. Yoghurt can be surprising sometimes, it doesn't really go off, just gets more and more tart I suppose.

It's a new month but it going to be a very expensive one. I ran out of money well before the end of the week and instead of just holding out for the last few days, some busy evenings and lack of organisation until yesterday mean that I've already spent most of next weeks money. I have ten euro in my purse and I'm going to try and head to the market tomorrow and see if there are a few last tomatoes up for grabs and get that salsa made for the winter. I do still have ten other euro for this week still in the bank but I want to try and hold out until Wednedsay before taking that out as I am due to go for lunch with people from work then. We'll see. The lure of chocolate might be too much for me before then! But it's better for me to have one more week of little or nothing to spend and then have enough for the rest of the month than end up borrowing from next week every week, which just ends up being stressful. Here's to a slightly closer to keeping on budget month of October!