Sunday, April 25, 2010


Slightly better day today. Did all the ironing (including the duvet cover left over from last week) and have put everything away. Made a cake - of course I left it in the oven a tiny bit longer than I should so it's a bit crispier around the edges than it should be. And either the almond extract I could get here is much stronger than what's available in the States or this is far more of a bakewell type cake than I realised. I love almonds but really amn't fond of almond flavoured things (like marzipan - yuck!) so next time I try this I will leave it out I think. While trying to figure out what to go looking for when I needed to get almond extract though, I came across this blog and I think making my own vanilla extract has to be added to the list of things to try soon.

That's the jam tart on the right - it uses up a whole jar of jam so maybe I will manage to go through all that runny plum jam before it's time to start making jam again this summer. Apart from the almondy taste it's really delicious.

I also made a quiche with onions, broccoli and feta which has turned out quite well. I'm keeping food easy this week. Have quiche and apart from that am planning cheese and bread and not much else. Am out with book club on Tuesday anyway. I've just made a stirfry (finally, after thinking about it for weeks) including using some of the mung bean sprouts I sprouted last week. Most of the washing up is done now, just the pot and pan and what I'll be eating off shortly left to do.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Black hole

I feel a bit like I've fallen into a black hole again - trying not to go too far into it but every time this happens it feels like I have less and less energy to fight it. Managed to get some stuff done today regardless but still not making much progress. Cleaned the bathroom and hoovered and washed the floors. Still need to do the washing up and tidy the kitchen a bit but did get the washing on.

I need to start making a note of when I feel like this so I can see if there's a pattern to it. Don't think I'll find anything as simple as a link to my monthly cycle but you never know.

Last Wednesday I didn't actually have choir practice (we're on a two-week break) so I didn't have takeaway but just came home and had the last of the bean casserole for dinner. Then I went to bed, read for a while and slept. I have been so tired this week. Thursday and Friday I was craving hot, greasy food enourmously and I gave into that. I had a currywurst and chips for lunch on Thursday and have absolutely no clue what I ate for dinner - I'm not even sure I ate any dinner at all, I think I just came home from work and went straight to bed. On Friday I had a gyros with chips for lunch and a pizza for dinner. I got off work an hour early and went to sit in the park on the way home but was still much earlier home than normal. I went to bed to read for a while around eight but barely finished a couple of pages before I started to doze off. It wasn't even dark out. I did wake up around seven this morning but couldn't drag myself out of bed. I'd love to say I was dozing until I got up shortly before nine but I wasn't really, just couldn't seem to stop thinking very depressing thoughts. I was late enough by the time I got going that I didn't go to the market, as that would have made me late for the garden. Went there but even the beautiful sunny day and the few hours in the garden didn't make me feel as good as they normally do. I just felt like I was in the way and not able to do anything right. I hate feeling like this. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yes, I have completely given up on any title other than what day it is - too much like hard work.

Had porridge again for breakfast.

Lunch was the rest of the lettuce with some cheese and the remainder of the dressing from last night all packed up like so:

I do love tupperware, can you tell?

Snacks: one square of chocolate, one cup of hot chocolate, yoghurt with berries, very generous square of chocolate brownie, 2 apples, 1 banana.

Dinner: bean casserole. With another square of brownie for dessert.

I realised last week that I was much hungrier on Tuesday than I had been on Monday. Not sure why that is but it was the same this week - I definitely had more appetite today than yesterday.

I still didn't iron that duvet cover but did put a wash on to wash the blanket I keep on the couch (and which H. usually ended up covering himself with when he fell asleep on the couch most nights while he was here). And I went swept all the dust off the floor. And all the washing up, including the dehydrator trays, is done except for the pot I heated my dinner up in and the plate and spoon I used.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Eaten today:
Porridge made with local, unpasteurised milk as always with a teaspoon of sugar
1 small apple
1 square dark chocolate
Four slices bread with about 50g cheese and a couple of spoons of chutney (a pumpkin based one this time - the pumpkin ones really seem to improve with age, they never taste as nice at the beginning)
Yoghurt with some dried berries
1 medium apple
Forgot to bring a bottle of water to work and only drank about a litre of water - such a pain to have to keep getting up and going to fill a glass and I can't always get away from my desk. Filling eight or ten glasses in one go isn't the most practical solution either. Have filled a bottle for tomorrow already.
1 square of chocolate brownie/cake. This one:

It's a recipe from my Fabulous Cookies book although I didn't have any self-raising flour or baking powder. Still turned out all right I think and was satisfyingly choclately.

Had a martini when I got home as an aperitif while I was preparing dinner. Then I remembered I had opened a bottle of sparkling wine as a treat for myself yesterday. Finished the rest of that (about half of it I think) with dinner as well and have to admit I am feeling just a bit tipsy now. Apologies here and now for any and all typos and any more nonsensical writing than usual. It's quite fun this feeling, haven't been tipsy for a while now. :-)
Had a small salad for a starter and then a portion of the bean casserole for a main course. I took a break between courses by chopping up the last three boskoop apples I had bought at the weekend for the dehydrator.
One square or orangey dark chocolate and two Kinder Schoko Bons for dessert.

The bread I made yesterday ended up looking like this:

I'm loving the bread slicer although it took me a few minutes of left-handed awkwardness to get it working this morning. The bread on the other hand, although it's okay, is extremely yeasty tasting. I haven't made bread for a long time and it's even longer since I made a yeast bread and the very simple recipe I have used in the past from this book calls for fast acting dried yeast. But the yeast I had bought here a while ago just had instructions on the back for activating the yeast with water and sugar before using it so I decided to wing it a bit and activated the yeast first using part of the water needed for the recipe anyway. It definitely activated:

And the bread did rise well and is a good consistency (although it did take longer to bake than expected - I really do need to get a proper cooker soon). It's just this very yeasty, almost beer-like taste which bothers me. It's still very edible, especially smothered with cheese and chutney but just not as tasty as it normally is.

All the washing up is done this evening as well. It does feel good to be entering a third week of keeping on top of things. I did the all the ironing last night (I knew a couple of glasses of sparkling wine would keep me motivated while doing it :-) ) except for one duvet cover, which I will do tomorrow. Haven't made much progress on the filing but got a little bit sorted. Have put away all the washed and ironed stuff as well. Didn't have a very productive day in work today - did good work while I was concentrating but found myself easily distracted. Did spend some time re-reading through the flylady basics. I remember finally getting around to reading through some of the flylady website a few months before leaving Ireland, took some of the stuff on board but never did anything much with it except for now and again. I don't agree with absolutely everything she says but there is a lot of good stuff in it. A lot of what I've been doing for the last two weeks is kind of what she aims towards too.

So just for the hell of it, here are a couple of things gleaned from various places such as flylady, tescopoly, Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts and various other blogs and bits and pieces on t'interweb and all filtered through my brain to become:

- The time you spend doing housework is time you are spending loving yourself and your family (unless you live alone, then it's ALL just loving yourself)

- Broken window syndrome - if something is out of place, you're more likely to leave something else cluttering up beside it. If a place is well looked after, you'll look after it better.

- Keep the sink tidy - not going to use windex or any other chemicals to shine it but keeping it wiped down and making sure I wash the dishes at least once every day does keep things under control. Important: if I put away the dishes when they are dry, the next lot of washing up doesn't seem half as onerous.

- Making the bed every morning. Actually, I did start doing this a few years ago and then I saw a piece on some documentary about dust allergies and so on where they showed some microscopic stuff of what probably lives in your bed along with details on the temperatures and humidity needed for them to proliferate. So now I fold back the duvet in the morning to air the bed properly. When I get home from work, I fold it up to the top of the bed to air out the bottom part. But I have been trying the last couple of weeks to at least to that - leaving the duvet scrunched up in the middle of the bed or whatever way it landed when I got up serves much the same purpose but does lead to a broken window syndrome type effect as well.

And finally, here's an amusing (well, I thought it was funny) little youtube link:
Dan and Dan - the Daily Mail Song - what can I say. I'm a pushover for rhyming songs!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The coming week


Porridge for breakfast
Bread, cheese, chutney for lunch
Snacks will be yoghurt, apple, banana and choc brownie type yoke I have in the oven at the moment
Bean casserole for dinner with a small salad as a starter

Salad with some cheese and bread
Same snacks
Bean casserole for dinner

Cheese, bread and chutney
Same snacks
Dinner will be a takeaway on the way to choir (bought using lunch vouchers)

Bean casserole for lunch
Same snacks
Stirfry veg with rice

Lunch - bread and cheese and chutney
Dinner - omelette

Seems a bit boring but that's as much as I have energy for to be honest.

Freecycle score

I spent a couple of hours yesterday traipsing down to the very far end of Dusseldorf to pick up my new freecycle score:

It's a hand-operated bread slicer. I've given it a good cleaning now and am going to make some bread later to do me for lunches for this week. I have a bean casserole on cooking at the moment, which will be dinners for the week as well as some salad in the fridge. I'm really excited about this find. The woman who was giving it away has just gotten a freecyled electric one so she has been using it until very recently. It's not too terribly sturdy but on the other hand, isn't even half the size of the electric ones, which tend to also be for meat slicing. The white tray folds up as well, so it really doesn't take up too much space. I've thought about getting one of the electric ones but I don't really want any more gadgets using up energy and they are heavy and large and really need a permanent spot to live in, which I just don't have in my kitchen. Until now I've mostly just gotten my bread sliced at the bakery when I buy it - I'm often pretty bad at cutting bread with a knife, especially if it's supposed to be thin enough to fit into the toaster. If you need a much wider at one end slice of bread though, I'm your woman. If you ask for your bread to be sliced when you buy it, it is always put into a plastic bag afterwards but if you just buy the loaf without getting it sliced, it's simply wrapped up in paper. So less plastic in my future as well. And it is much better to just slice it as it's needed as the bread doesn't dry out as quickly.

Here's the bean mixture I'm using for my casserole just before I set it to soaking yesterday:

Red kidney beans, black beans, haricot beans, mung beans, brown lentils, green lentils, chickpeas and yellow oriental lentils.

Typically, after cooking it doesn't look half as colourful, in fact, the black beans seem to have leached most of their colour into the cooking water so until I added some tinned tomatoes and a good big spoonful of tomato puree, it was al looking a bit grey and dreary. Have added some carrots and onions as well and that together with some herbs and a few sausages are it. It smells good.

Just remembered that I meant to put in some of the broad beans that I have in the freezer since last summer as well. Oh well, they can go in when I'm heating it up tomorrow.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Cheesy bread roll for breakfast. 1 square of dark chocolate (and realised that it's 85% rather than the 70% I normally get - that explains why it takes so long just to get through even one square of it). A muesli bar and 1 cup of hot chocolate. Cheeseburger and chips for lunch. 2 apples and some dried apple slices. 1 florentiner (a nut and honey cakey biscuity thing). Three slices of bread with some cheese and chutney or cream cheese. Cup of tea with the last of the milk and a nice cup of herbal tea waiting for me now too.

I barely seem to have the energy to blog more than what I'm eating at the moment. That's not very interesting to anyone who may be reading but although I have always before been a fan of the paper tracker whenever I've gone to weightwatchers, this time writing it online seems to be working out better so I'll keep on doing it while I can.

Not that I've actually gone back to weight watchers - that's an expense I just can't be doing with at the moment.

Going to keep my purchases at the market to a minimum tomorrow - milk, yoghurt, apples and a lettuce will be about it I think. Will get some sausages in the supermarket if I can and make a lentil or bean casserole. Have some beef in the freezer and will take that out for Sunday I think.

Gardening tomorrow morning and after that I am heading off to the far south of Düsseldorf to pick up something very exciting that was offered on freecycle today. At least I think it's exciting. Hope it turns out the way I expect it to be. Will post photos after I get it tomorrow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another week nearly over

Busy day yesterday and I am tired today. Need to get to bed and sleep early.

Yesterday's food:
Soothie made using one very ripe banana, an apple, a spoon of vanilla icecream and some yoghurt
Cheesy bread roll

2 squares of Gepa dark chocolate
1 cup hot chocolate
2 jam tarts
1 small apple

Spring roll and chicken with cashew nuts and rice (and the colleague who invited me for lunch insisted on paying which I wasn't expecting at all)

1 medium apple

2 small slices of quiche

1 small beer (and the new guy in choir who was with us insisted on paying - also very unexpected)

Couple of slices of turkey salami
Cup of tea and jam tart

Today's food has been a bit all over the place.

Porridge with milk and sugar
1 cup hot chocolate
2 squares dark chocolate
1 medium apple

2 bread rolls (one whole grain, one rye)
Cream cheese
Last of the turkey salami
2 jam tarts
Handful of dried apple slices

Slice of strawberry and mascarpone cake
Yoghurt with handful of dried berries

Boiled potatoes with some cheese and chutney
2 more jam tarts and a cup of tea while I was waiting for the potatoes to cook.

I felt very weak this afternoon. I thought it was just the heat but no-one else seemed to think it was hot. That happens anyway but I was starting to get clammy in that just before all out sweating kind of a way and nobody else seemed to think it was a particularly warm day at all. It passed after a couple of hours. In fact from about half-four I was watching the clock wishing and hoping it would be six o'clock soon so that I could go home and not actually being sure that I would make it that long. But then at around quarter to six it seemed to pass and I actually got something done that it was great to get out of the way before tomorrow so I didn't even mind staying forty minutes longer than planned.

I started wondering if I was missing meat as I haven't had a huge amount of it this or last week. But I checked the receipt from the market last week and I had 110g of turkey salami and 422g of the smoked chicken. What was in my lunch yesterday was probably about 200g. So that's more or less three-quarters of a kilo of meat this week, which seems to me to be more than enough. I often don't eat meat anyway so it's actually hard to tell if this is more or less than I am used to eating.

Otherwise today I actually got around to renewing my library books before they were overdue. Must make more of an effort to read them now! And I'm still keeping on top of the washing up - just about. Walked home slowly from work this evening and stopped in the supermarket to bring back some emtpy bottles. Didn't buy anything though so now have about four euro in cash in my purse and still have 18 lunch vouchers left.

I'm going to go for lunch with a friend from work tomorrow and we will go somewhere that takes lunch vouchers. I have almost nothing left in the fridge, which is good - I'm really going to keep trying to be a better judge of how much I need so that I can use everything up before it goes off. I have only had a little bit of the cheese I bought last weekend so do not need to buy anymore this weekend. There is still some cream cheese left and that needs to be used so I might get up early enough tomorrow morning to pop out and buy bread and have bread or toast and cream cheese for breakfast. And I'm not buying anymore of it this weekend either. It's one of those things that I can sometimes get through within a few hours of bringing it home or else it sits there. There's only a small amount of milk left too, just enough for a cup of tea in the morning I think.

Now, must go and have a look at what I had actually planned to have for dinner this evening and lunch tomorrow because I honestly have been racking my brains about it for the last couple of hours and have no idea what I thought I would be having.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Did the ironing while waiting for the washing machine to finish. Yay me!


Eaten today:

Breakfast - porridge with milk and sugar

Mid-morning - apple, cup of hot chocolate

Lunch - two smaller slices of quiche

Mid-afternoon - yoghurt with handful of dried berries, small apple

Throughout the day - most of a bar of Lindt chocolate - made the mistake of buying the orange intense one. I normally buy gepa fair trade chocolate and they have a nice orange dark chocolate too but the lindt one wasn't quite as dark and had bits of nut slivers and candied orange peel in it. Very easy to eat and not quite a satisfying from a chocolate point of view - there was no way just a couple of squares of this were going to hit the spot. Have to remember not to go to that supermarket to buy chocolate if I don't make it to the fair trade shop, there's another supermarket just down the road that does sell fair trade chocolate.

Walking home - ate another small apple

Am having the rest of the salad for dinner with some turkey salami and cheese, maybe some chutney as well. And potentially a jam tart for dessert. Am enjoying a glass of martini as an aperitif after having done the washing up and before sitting down to eat.

We got our lunch vouchers today which is a big relief as I am going for lunch with a colleague tomorrow and have no cash. I also have choir rehearsal tomorrow and recently a few people have started going for a drink after rehearsal. It's a great way to get to know people a bit better and a beer is not that expensive. But two euro is a lot when you don't have it. I can go to the bakery tomorrow to buy something and get change back on a lunch voucher which should sort me out. Not everyone will give change on them but the supermarket which sells fair trade chocolate does and I walked the little bit extra to there after work this evening and bought a bar of chocolate as well.

My sprouts are not sprouting - probably should have tried using that packet before it was six months past it's best by date. I've put a wash on and am about to put the last of the apples into the dehydrator. If I don't do that before eating I won't at all. Still haven't done the ironing but because of the marathon session the weekend before last I still have clothes left that I can wear for work so that's nice. But I'm getting there on the whole not letting things catch up on me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Too much food

I still need to work on figuring out how much food I need. That's what comes of years of overeating - I'm so used to filling in the gaps with rubbish it's hard to judge how much I actually need. I can eat chocolate way after I'm too full to manage anything else. I have found this every time I started at weight watchers - it was quite difficult to keep away from eating rubbish because I was perhaps craving sugar or just needed to break the habit but the biggest problem was always quite simply too much food. Because of course it's real food and not just crisps and chocolate.

Today, I have eaten what I had planned, plus a big slice of cake (well, actually I couldn't decided which to have so I had a small slice of both which means overall one very big slice - two halves sometimes make more than a whole) for a colleague's birthday. When I was chatting to her later she also paid me a very nice compliment and something like that is always nice to hear.

But despite not eating anything else I am really feeling quite full now. There's no way I could eat a small salad followed by a stirfry with rice now. So I'm going to have the chicken with the salad instead of keeping it another day. And that will be it.

Eaten today:
Porridge made with full-fat non-pasteurised local milk and a spoonful of raw cane sugar over it.

One square of lindt chocolate (leftover in my work desk drawer from Friday - I made it last nearly two hours this morning) plus a cup of hot chocolate.

A small apple.

Two slices of quiche - I have to say, this is the nicest quiche I have made for a long time. Really delicious but I think one slightly bigger slice will do tomorrow.

Cake - half slice rhubarb and apple and half slice cheesecake.

Yoghurt with handful of dried berries.

Two jam tarts - shouldn't have bothered. I really only ate them because they were there, they would have kept until tomorrow.

A medium size apple.

And now I'm going to go and have some salad with some smoked chicken and perhaps a little bit of cheese and chutney.

I'm feeling a bit nervous now. H. has to have gotten the letter I wrote last week by now I think. Either he'll take it seriously or he'll be ringing me up asking what bullshit is this. Thankfully he has no credit for his mobile phone so he can only sometimes ring me from work, which means only during the day, which means that unless he's on a day off, drunken meandering conversations aren't too likely. But the thought of it is still in my head. Think I'll have an early night tonight. Can't think when I'm sleeping.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting things done

Not much of anything much but a good day all round.

Walked for the best part of two hours.

Put the leek and (now) potato soup on to cook when I got home and had the last two squares of that bar of choclate to keep me going. Phoned a friend and ended up chatting to her for just over an hour but while we were talking I was wandering around the kitchen clearing off the table and generally tidying up all the little bits and pieces that I seem to accumulate very quickly on the kitchen table.

Ate my lunch while reading this month's book club book, Handmaid's Tale.

Did the washing up that was there and made pastry. Chopped up the apples that I bought last week to dry but that I hadn't gotten around to doing. Boskoop are really great, love their taste and I think they dry really well but I have now discovered that at this time of year, they really don't keep very well. Even though they were only a week old some of them were too far gone to be any use. Lesson learned. I need to pay more attention to what apples are good when.

Came in to the computer to watch the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy but what was listed on surfthechannel as the latest episode turned out to be somebody's home video of them doing a workout. So I settled for watching Gossip Girl instead.

After that, back into the kitchen to roll out the pastry and make jam tarts.

Also made a quiche which I need to go and take out of the oven soon.

Washed the salad I bought yesterday and took the lambs lettuce I bought last week out of the fridge, fully expecting to have to throw it out and knowing I shouldn't have left it there so long. But three cheers for Tupperware (plus a bit of a dose of it's kind of scary, how do they do that), the lambs lettuce which has been sitting in a salad crisper for the past week was absolutely perfect. I didn't have to throw out one single bit. I chopped up the smoked chicken breast (which is delicious), some is gone back in the fridge to have with a stirfry tomorrow, some went into the quiche and some into my salad. And opened a thing of feta cheese which I bought ages ago but was still a few months within date. Most of it went into the quiche but with some for my salad this evening. The remainder of a jar of dried tomatoes which was still in the fridge also went into the quiche along with some onions and the eggs I bought last week. I used up the jar of jam which I also had open in the fridge for the jam tarts. Used up the last of a jar of mustard in the salad dressing as well and dug out the bottle of martini that has been there who knows how long and treated myself to a very large glass of it. Well, I did say that I was going to use up all the stuff that was in the fridge and freezer and that allowed me to make use of one of the ice-cubes from the freezer as well!

Kept at the washing up as I was dirtying things too so now there are only the dishes from my dinner to do.

I also put some seeds on to sprout. First time in my new sprouter, hope it works. I tried this a few months ago in a jar with muslin over the top of it but I was a bit hazy on exactly what to do and ended up with a smelly mouldy mess. So I decided to just buy one of the ready-made jars with a fancy top and, more importantly, proper instructions.

Update: just back from the kitchen where I went to rescue the quiche and just went ahead and did the last bits of washing up. That feels good. My brother just rang as well and that was a nice chat. The quiche smells absolutely fabulous but apart from picking at a prominent piece of feta, I have resisted. The very dark looking bits aren't burnt by the way, that's just some dried tomato which floated to the top of the egg.

And now I'm going to spend a half-an-hour reading a few blogs, drinking a cup of tea and having a jam tart. By then my apples should be finished and I can switch off the dehydrator before going to bed. I didn't do the ironing but not everything was quite dry anyway - I will do my trousers tomorrow before work and the rest when I come home.

Food for next week:

Breakfast - porridge
Lunch - quiche
Snacks - jam tart, yoghurt with berries, apple
Dinner - salad as starter then stir fry veg and smoked chicken with rice

Breakfast - porridge
Lunch - quiche
Snacks - jam tart, yoghurt with berries, apple
Dinner - salad (assuming I won't finish it all tomorrow) with turkey salami and cheese

Breakfast - smoothie
Lunch - out to a Chinese restaurant with a colleague
Snacks - jam tart, yoghurt with berries, apple
Dinner - quiche

Breakfast - porridge
Lunch - bread, cheese, chutney - turkey salami
Snacks - jam tart, yoghurt with berries, apple
Dinner - pasta with tomatoes, onions, carrots and whatever else I find in the cupboard that might be interesting to add

Breakfast - porridge
Lunch - leftover pasta
Snacks - jam tart, yoghurt with berries, apple
Dinner - no idea, I do still have some potatoes left so if I have the energy maybe some fried potatoes


It's Sunday morning, another lovely sunny but not too warm day (it was only 6 degrees when I got up about an hour and a half ago). Started off by doing the washing up which I had left there since Friday morning - after a great week I went and ended it up like that. Typical. It was only a pot, a bowl and two small plates since I haven't really eaten at home since then but still, it's the principle of the thing. Will keep on trying I suppose.

I didn't eat a huge amount of anything yesterday really, had a cheesy bread roll for breakfast on my way to the garden, then a couple of slices of bread and some biscuits there once we were finished for the morning. I came straight home afterwards because I was just so tired. I had woken up shortly after seven but then fell back asleep until after nine which meant I had a dash to the market before heading straight to the garden (late!). Thankfully there wasn't a big queue for the dairy van so I was able to get some milk, yoghurt, cream cheese and two small wedges of cheese reduced in price because they were the last little corners. It is much easier to slice cheese off a nice square piece but the little bit of effort it'll cost me is more than made up for by the at least 1.39 per kilo price reduction. I also bought a half a loaf of spelt sunflower bread, which was my contribution to the after-gardening break. There was a small corner of that left which I took home with me and that, with a small amount of cheese and some chutney along with half a packet of pringles I found in the cupboard and four squares of chocolate, were all that I ate yesterday evening. Actually, once I got home I put a wash on and went straight to bed. I was that tired, I thought I might doze for half an hour and then have some energy for the rest of the day. Conked out completely and didn't wake up until six o'clock.

I still could have gotten up and gone to the supermarket but I decided I didn't need anything badly enough (although I completely forgot I need distilled water for the iron if I'm going to continue my good work of being prepared for the week so now I'll be ironing without steam or trying to decided if boiled water will do just this once) and apart from getting up to hang up the now washed clothes and put another wash on, I did nothing except read for a couple of hours before going back to sleep. No, wait a minute, that's not true, after reading for a couple of hours I got up and in the way that these things happen although I was only getting up to put on the second wash, as it was going to be a hot wash, I decided it would be a good idea to wash the e-cloths I use for washing the floor. I had used the dry sweep one a good bit to tide me over last weekend rather than hoovering properly. So then I decided I would wash the floor properly as well so that I could quickly put the wet cloth in for a good wash too rather than waiting until today to wash the floor and then having the wet cloth sitting in the laundry basket for a week. So I spent a half-an-hour hoovering really well and washing the floors and got my wash on around half-eight. Pushing my luck for having it finished before ten (after which time there's not supposed to be any noise in the building) but at least it was done. And the floors are clean. And then I read for another hour before going to sleep.

I did the same thing this morning as yesterday, woke up around seven but despite thinking I was fully awake, before I managed to get up I had fallen asleep again and didn't wake up until nearly nine. So I got up, hung up the washing that finished last night and did the washing up. Have spent the last hour or so checking a couple of discussion forums, sending a thank-you email to the friend who had me over for dinner on Friday night, checking my emails and worrying about my budget (no matter what way I slice it I have almost no more money to spend this month and won't have any next month either if I'm going to manage to have something for when I go away). I do get what they call lunch vouchers in work. These are vouchers worth 3.07 each and for every day I'm working in the office for at least one hour I get one voucher. I think I have 19 due to me for last month and we should get them by the end of next week. You can use them in local restaurants, we don't have a canteen in work so this is my company's way of subsidising our lunches. The great thing is that most of the supermarkets near me will take them as well as two bakeries near work. They are going to be very useful to have this month for sure.

Once I've finished here I am going to head out and go for a walk and then see where the day takes me. I may peel a few potatoes before I leave so that I can pop them into the rest of the leek soup and have it not long after I come back.

Other market purchases yesterday: onions, turkey salami and a smoked chicken breast, some apples and a lettuce. All in all a modest amount of stuff but more than enough to feed me well throughout the week as long as I stay focused. I have planned to go out to lunch on one day with a colleague but otherwise will be bringing my lunches with me and eating properly at home in the evenings.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Not a bad week

I nearly didn't make it through the work day yesterday without succumbing to cravings to eat chocolate. At about five o'clock though someone offered me a piece of nut cake their mum had made for them and that with a cup of hot chocolate (my second of the day - I don't do that often) kept me going. I decided to stop at the supermarket on the way home though and buy some dark chocolate for today. I needed to buy a few things to get to the minimum charge for using a debit card though but luckily there are selling barilla pasta at half price so I grabbed a load of that and three bars of lindt chocolate (which was also reduced - 23% off) which left me spending just over 10 euro. I also took 10 euro out of the bank this morning as I wanted to make a contribution to a birthday pressie for a colleague and apart from buying a couple of bread rolls this morning I used most of the rest of that tenner to buy more pasta on the way home this evening as well. If you find a bargain, might as well make the most of it and the pasta had a good long best before date on it as well.

Actually I am also pleased that last night and tonight I didn't give in and go and get some takeaway of some kind. I had a kind of stressful day yesterday (expected given that it is month-end in work), ended up working till nine and missing choir and then arrived home to a letter from my friends ex-landlord. My friend, H. who stayed with me for a couple of months and has now moved back to the Black Forest to work there again had been on to me yesterday anyway complaining that his unemployment money still hadn't come through and asking me to ring them to find out why. I did do that but since I don't have a power of attorney for him with them, they could only tell me some documents still needed to be submitted. Since I know I hand delivered those documents myself, it's frustrating to not be able to then get put through to someone who can help me more. Anyway, I've made copies and will send them registered post tomorrow and hopefully that will help. But all in all I was feeling a bit under pressure from his whole situation. He is an alcoholic and has gotten very bad in the past year or two and although I want to help him if I can he causes most of his own problems or at least causes them to get worse by not dealing with the bureaucracy properly and I'm getting sick of him expecting more help and pity to be honest. So when I arrived home to that letter from his ex-landlord (apparently his roommate and so-called friend who was going to take over the flat on his own after H. left has just moved on somewhere else so now the landlord wants not only the four months rent owing to him (which is what he so badly needs the unemployment money for) but also claims that H. now has to pay full rent until the end of August unless he finds someone else to take on the flat as well as repairs for the bathroom boiler and anything else he finds which needs fixing) it was just too much. And even more frustrating that I couldn't get through to H. on the phone. I very nearly went out again to buy something very greasy for dinner but then just decided no, I am going to tell him I am staying out of this problem and he has to sort it for himself and I made myself some toast and had that with some cheese, chutney and the rest of the turkey salami. I had two squares of chocolate as a dessert too.

I went straight to bed afterwards to read for a while and tried intermittently to get through to him on the phone but couldn't and finally I actually just wrote him a letter. I sent him on the landlord's letter and told him that I couldn't help him with this problem and he would have to sort it out for himself. I also told him that he was going to have to start taking a bit more responsibility for his problems because I am not sure how much more I can take and that no matter how much I love him I will cut contact with him before I allow all of his shit to destroy me. I hope I hit the right balance between letting him know I was serious while still letting him know that if he does try to sort himself out I will support him. I had to write that letter although I'm sure it's going to hit him hard. It shouldn't as I've actually had that conversation with him twice over the last weeks but I'm fairly certain he just wasn't listening (or didn't want to) or else just didn't remember it. Anyway, it's in writing now and fingers crossed he will be sober when he reads it and that way he'll have heard it drunk and sober so no excuses for not remembering.

But enough of all that. This is supposed to be about the positive aspects of this week. I have made and eaten breakfast at home every day (and have porridge oats soaking in the fridge for tomorrow morning). I have brought lunch into work and eaten it every day. I have brought yoghurt and fruit into work to have as snacks and have eaten what I have brought every day. I have made dinner at home every evening. I have done the washing up every day. I've put away the washed dishes every day. I finally got around to taking out my wee wipes again and have been using them. I walked home from work one day.

I haven't eaten any takeaway or canteen food although again this evening I really wanted to stop for a pizza or something on the way home. I had leek soup in the fridge but despite loving leeks I just haven't been able to get enthusiastic of the thought of another big bowl of that. But then I remembered that I also needed to use up the rest of the cream cheese I got last weekend so I fried up a couple of small onions, drained a load of leeks out of the soup and bunged them into the frying pan as well, mixed the garlic and chive cream cheese with some milk and added that as well and made enough pasta for two large portions, which means I've also taken care of lunch for tomorrow.

I did go over budget but not by too much. I have put a wash on this evening which gives me a bit of a start on the chores at the weekend. I finished the milk and the youghurt and the cream cheese. In short, more or less everything I bought to eat this week has been finished - no throwing food out. I do still have some leek soup left but I will put some potatoes into that on Saturday and it will make a nice lunch. I'm invited to a friend's house for dinner tomorrow which I realised is the first time I will be going to dinner in one of my 'new' friends' houses (i.e. new since I moved here) and that is exciting. And I wrote a difficult letter. And posted it. And today I also sent an email to my oldest sister (the one who stopped talking to most of my family for no apparent reason a couple of years ago - I decided last year that I don't care if she doesn't want to talk to me I am going to talk to her and never let her get away with saying it was because I never made an effort, but it's hard to talk to someone on the phone who barely gets a monosyllabic sentence or two out so I'm trying a few emails now as well).

Actually I did go over budget by more than planned because yesterday I also booked a flight to go home for the weekend at the end of the month. It was a cheap flight but I am very happy that I have booked it - when I phoned my brother to see if he was around that weekend he sounded so happy that I would be going to stay with him in his new apartment that it just made me day really. I rang him again yesterday evening after having written that letter and we had a good chat.

All in all, not an earth-shattering week but I feel like I accomplished a lot of just exactly those extremely simple things that most people take for granted and that I just don't always do.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

No-spend day

I read a few finances-based blogs a while back and one of them was using a particular method for organising your finances and getting out of debt. I did click through to the link but to get the information and join the discusssion forums you had a pay a subscription so I didn't bother. What she did mention often on her blog was no-spend days. Without reading what the 'official' idea behind this was it seemed to me to be a good idea. In fact it's amazing how easy it is to feel like there's something wrong if I don't take my purse out at all during the day. Even if it's just to buy something in the bakery for breakfast on my way to work (which happens more often than not).

Today was a proper no-spend day. Despite staying up much later than planned last night (I didn't finish the filing but did cut up three of the t-shirts while watching 2012 - a film which wasn't really worth staying up late for at all) I got up in time this morning to hoover up all the glass from the dish that fell off a cupboard last night, have a nice long shower to wake myself up and cook myself breakfast. I bought a goose egg at the market at the weekend and scrambled that. It was HUGE! With two slices of sunflower seed bread toasted and slathered with butter I was definitely full before leaving the house so absolutely no excuses to stop in the bakery. I also washed the pots from last night and took the recycling stuff down to the bins.

I have deliberately not gone to the bank again as I have definitely already spent as much as I had budgeted for this week but I know if there is cash in my purse I will find something to spend it on. So I have 1.83 in small change and that's it. Mid-morning I was contemplating whether or not I would use some of that to get some chocolate from the machine in work (which definintely isn't the kind of nice dark chocolate which would best satisfy any chocolate cravings) when I remembered that I hadn't finished a bar of chocolate last week. There were still two squares left in my desk drawer so I had them instead and then a short while later an apple.

It helped that it was fairly busy in work as well. I had nothing else (except for some water, I usually get through 1.5 litre bottle during the day) until lunchtime, when I walked to a nearby park and ate some of the pasta and veg that I made yesterday. For a snack in the afternoon I had brought some yoghurt (I still have half a jar of dried redcurrant and blackcurrants left from last summer so I'd put a good handful of them into it as well) and I also had a few brazil nuts and a cup of hot chocolate (healthwise no better if not worse than eating chocolate I suppose, but moneywise, much better since it's free). I walked home from work and ate another apple while doing that and am feeling very good about myself for having eaten everything I set out for myself this morning withouth leaving something out because I'd replaced it with an unplanned something else. Have some leek soup heated up and waiting for me now. I think I have definitely achieved my 5-a-day today!

Monday, April 05, 2010


I thought it would be interesting to write down in black and white what the actual fixed expenses I have are. This is all in my excel budget spreadsheet as well but I suspect that I'm so used to looking at that, I don't really see it any more.

Rent - 560
Gas/electricity - 35 (usually get a little bit back after the annual readings are done)
Pension - 150
Bus/train ticket - 55
Home phone/internet - 26 plus whatever I spend on calls

Annual expenses (divided by 12 and rounded to give monthly amount)
House insurances - 17
Travel insurance - 7
Bahncard - 18 (gives me 50% discount on train travel)
Choir - 12
Rental association - 5

Total (not including servicing debt): 885

That's quite a bit really. I also try to put about 15 a month aside for preserving supplies. Still being fairly at the beginning stage of preserving my own stuff I need to build up a bit more of a stash of jars as well as replacing lids as necessary. Not to mention someday I would like to get a pressure canner and a much bigger dehydrator than the one I currently have.

My aim this month is again to spend as little money as possible so that I have a good amount left at the end of the month - I would like to be able to transfer at least 100 extra to my credit card. However, I do need to pay two dentist's bills so will need to keep to a strict budget to achieve this. I still have a few things I need to finish from the freezer and did buy some cheese, apples and veg at the weekend so I really shouldn't need to buy anything more along the lines of food for at least a week. And will perhaps only need some more cheese and milk at that stage.

I wanted to do a two-day detox over this weekend but haven't done so. I did have some chocolate on Saturday but that was the last of it and apart from a couple of biscuits left over from Christmas that I found yesterday (thank goodness for tupperware - they were as good as new) I ate nothing sweet yesterday. I still have a few biscuits left and just had a couple with a cup of tea so hopefully that will stave off any sugar withdrawal headaches. I have a pile of leeks to make soup with, a bunch of chard which I plan to add to a tomato-based pasta sauce and that will give me lunches and dinners for the rest of the week with bread and cheese and chutney to keep a bit of variety going as well. I'll see if the stress of month end (which means billing needs to be done in work) makes me long to reach for chocolate and potentially buy some good dark chocolate to get me through that without eating too much.

Now, I did very little of what I planned to do yesterday. I bought ten folders on Saturday and was determined to do all the filing that I have essentially been ignoring since I moved here. I have a suitcase full of stuff on the living room floor and I am sick of looking at it. I had promised myself that I would do it yesterday no matter how long it took but I didn't even start it. So my reward of spending today reading my library books and with only the ironing as a chore is out the window. I am going to do the ironing now (it's not something I actually do very often but I'm getting sick of needing to be up a few minutes early every day just so I'll have something ironed to wear to work). Then I think I'll see how it goes. It is another gorgeous spring day and a nice walk in the park, although it was supposed to be part of my reward for having finished the filing yesterday, might still need to happen just to get some fresh air into my brain!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Getting stuff done


13.30: the estate agent who has his offices in our back courtyard rang the doorbell, surprised he is here today but that was great as he had taken in a package for me during the week and I was able to go down and collect it

14.15: have managed to do all the washing up, wipe down the counter and washing machine and put back the stuff that normally lives there (have to take it off when I'm using the machine and this is working out well as it means everything gets cleared off and wiped down at least once a week)

14.25: am enjoying a quickly put together lunch of bread, cheese and chutney and am on to my second cup of herbal tea


16.18: have done ALL the ironing, even bedclothes (always such a pain to do but I should make more of an effort as it does make them fold up smaller, handy when you don't have much storage space) and have put everything away, including the clothes horse which sometimes seems to be in permanent residence on the sitting floor. I've also put the leek soup on to cook and have made another quick lunch of bread, cheese, chutney and herbal tea. And I've sorted out the t-shirts I bought last summer which are now too big for me - I need to chop these up before I start wearing them again as they really are too big for me. I bought cheap t-shirts last year knowing they wouldn't last long, planning to cut them into strips and make a rag rug when then were past respectable use. I still have enough of the size smaller to do me. Am glad to have sorted them out now rather than hanging on to t-shirts that really aren't in great condition and hanging off me.

21.30: did go for a quick walk (just over 30 minutes) and combined it with a trip via the donate old clothes container to get rid of a bag of clothes that my lodger left here to be gotten rid of. Before I left I cleared off the 'day bed', which has been the main couch in my living room for the last year and dumped all the stuff out of the suitcase onto that. Brought the suitcase straight down to the cellar - no excuses anymore, all that stuff needs to be filed and put away properly before anyone can come over to visit. Put away the ironing board and iron. Took some measurements in my bedroom. I have been using my couch bed as my bed for the past year and although a year ago I was sick of sleeping in a single bed (the 'day bed') now I'm more sick of not having the nice couch I wanted in my living room. I also recently bought another wardrobe and cupboard so that my lodger would have somewhere to put his stuff - he is gone now but does still have some stuff here. I had rearranged my room quickly to fit it in but having taken some measurements I think I see a better way to do it so for sometime in the next month the plan is to move the couch back out into the sitting room, move the day bed back into the bedroom (a pain as it doesn't quite fit through the door so I'll have to take it apart) and basically move the rest of the bedroom furniture around too. I want the living room to be finished (except for painting) finally. Have food cooking as well - swiss chard, carrots, onion, wild garlic, home canned tomatoes, lots of pepper and herbs. That'll go nicely with pasta for lunches.

I got april fooled

Well and truly caught out. Wednesday and Thursday were much cooler days than we've been having recently, temperatures in the morning down to 4 or 5 again rather than the 10 or 11 we've been getting used to over the last few weeks. And I'd seen pictures and heard about the blizzards in Ireland and the UK as well as us having a brief sleet and hailstone shower on Thursday afternoon. So on Thursday evening, when I was waiting in the train station to go home and I saw the weather forecast on one of the information screens saying that Friday was going to be extremely cold with temperatures between minus twelve and minus seventeen, I just believed it. When I came home I made sure to close all the windows and I turned on the radiators in all the rooms so that just in case it got below freezing overnight, nothing would freeze up. At seven on Friday morning it was only four degrees so I assumed it would keep getting colder. My sort of half-thought out plan of going out for a long walk didn't seem quite so appealing any more so I switched it to a day of mostly staying in bed reading. I remember texting my brother at around ten to say that the cold weather didn't really seem to be materialising but I think it was late afternoon before I copped on that it wasn't just the weathermen making a mistake - it must have been an april fool's joke. Looks like despite my increasing cynicism over the last few years, I'm still as gullible as ever!