Saturday, August 31, 2013

3-day-novel contest - day 1

Well, I forced myself to stay up until midnight last night so that I could start my novel right at the start of the 3-day timeframe for this contest. Still had no idea what I was going to write about so right there, I've failed on one of their main recommendations, which is to have some sort of outline prepared at least. Despite that, I opened a document, set the formatting to the required double-spacing, 12 point font and typed my name, followed by chapter 1. And then proceeded to get into this whole flow of things and get a very promising start by finishing the first page really quickly. Having made my token start and with several ideas floating round my head, I decided to get to bed and get some sleep before having an early start this morning.

And since then, it's all gone. Things that seemed witty and interesting last night were just flat and dead this morning. It's now almost three in the afternoon of day 1 and I'm no further along than I was more than twelve hours ago.

So, anyone any suggestions for a makey-up word to describe a many-legged creature that stinks, can be knocked out by the smell of a rose and dissolved when liberally splashed with vinegar?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A man fell out of a window last night

Just after eleven o'c.lock last night, a few minutes after I turned off my computer and while I was reading through some notes before heading to bed, I heard lots of shouting from outside. This happens every once in a while here, thanks to having two very popular and big pubs near me and living, as I do, just across from a taxi rank. I honestly couldn't say how long the shouting went on for before I noticed. Just after I did however, sirens sounded and I saw that there were flashing blue lights stopping right outside my building. I had a quick look out the window down at the street but couldn't see anything. People sounded alarmed though so I went into the bathroom to open the window there fully and have a proper look. I had visions of a fire (it was the fire brigade who had arrived, along with the police) and was kind of wondering if I needed to be getting dressed and the hell out of my apartment. I was looking down at the street and noticed that people were looking at the building on the other side of the road. I looked over there and was stunned to see a man hanging from the window ledge directly opposite me. I live on the fourth floor, people, so this guy was not just hanging a few feet off the ground.

He seemed to be scrabbling to find a purchase with his feet so either he was trying to jump and changed his mind, or he fell out somehow. No idea. People were shouting encouragement to him. "Come on, man, you can do it, just hold on, hold on tight," and that kind of thing. The fire brigade had taken out what looked like an inflatable mattress (in giant size) but they hadn't even unrolled it fully, never mind inflated it, when he just fell. It happened so fast.

I've heard the thunk a body makes hitting the ground before, something I'd forgotten about (I used to help my sister out at the Irish Parachute Club and there was a guy whose parachute got tangled, so although he was slowed down a bit and didn't quite go splat, he did hit very hard, breaking his leg, if I recall correctly). It's a horrible sound though - somehow shocking in its ordinariness and lack of drama.

It took a  few seconds for the shock to hit me and I started shaking. I retained enough sense to realise it might be a good idea to not be entirely on my own while feeling like that so I went into the sitting room, grabbed the phone and rang my brother. By the time he answered I was in tears and felt ill. I have diarrhoea though and had eaten nothing yesterday evening, which I will always be glad of. My stomach was churning. The poor man, by now, had five or six paramedics/firemen working on him. His trouser legs were cut open but then I could see that he was moving one leg, so it seemed like they did that to check - his right leg was not moving though and seemed to be at a not entirely natural angle, I think, so it seems like it was broken. His shouts and cries, while horrible to listen too, at least meant that he was alive and, it seemed to me anyway, compus mentus to some extent at least. Surely recognition of the pain you're in is a good sign? It took a few minutes for them to hook up a drip though, which I assume had a strong sedative in it as he quieted down then. My brother kept talking to me the whole time, calming me down (yes, apparently I find it calming at a time like that to hear things like "Wow, that really is some fucked-up shit") and I did so after a couple of minutes but I still felt the need to watch out the window to see what happened. They got him up onto a stretcher and one of his hands was completely bandaged - there was blood on the pavement as well,. So it looks like a mashed-up hand, possibly a broken leg and who knows what kind of internal injuries he might have.

After that one fireman washed down the pavement while lots of others were folding up the inflatable thing again. I could see police in the apartment across from me, too, but couldn't  tell if there was anyone else there. Surely not, though. If you were in an apartment with someone hanging out the window, surely you'd make some effort to grab hold of them or something? I was left with a mind spinning with the most bizarre thoughts. Among others, that I really should start doing a lot more sport, especially upper body strength exercises. Just in case, you know, I ever fall out a window and need to pull myself back in.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday night chit-chat and sealed pot update

Time is flying by and I noticed this evening that the evenings are starting to draw in earlier. It's half-eight now and it's more than halfway to dark outside. I do generally like this time of year though, when there are still sunny days but the temperatures are dropping to more enjoyable levels (that's around 20 degrees for me). Don't need a jacket yet but long-sleeves don't go amiss and I'm more likely to wrap my cotton scarf around my neck in the evenings sitting outside than to need it for extra sun protection during the day.
Found this little pot the other week - perfect size for sterilising my mooncup in. Should save lots of water usage over the remaining lifetime of my mooncup. Have had my eye out for something like this for over a year now so was great to find it at a not too expensive price (6.95), as well.
On to tonight's chit-chat...

What are you:
Still haven't finished Transition but haven't had a lot of time to read, to be honest. Nearly 80% of the way through so might get it finished this week perhaps.

Veronica Mars (finished season 3 last week and started in on season 1 again this week)

Listening to
Thunder. Storm has just arrived overhead. In the fifteen minutes since I sat down to write this we've gone from halfway to dark to full dark, the thunder is no longer in the distance and a massive downpour of rain just started.

Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers/balls. Try them, they're delicious and so easy to make. Also made a chickpea salad to bring to a barbeque this afternoon. Unfortunately, the bad weather meant a not-great turnout so now I have far more left than I had planned for this week. Will have to do some switching about of my meal plan to accommodate it.

Happy you accomplished this week
Tried a new recipe. Despite not at all feeling like seeing people or being in public last Wednesday after work I met up with people from choir to visit the Japanese centre (EKO house), which has a Buddhist temple and a traditional Japanese house. Glad I did go in the end, it was lovely. Yesterday I cycled all the way into the city centre (about 15 minutes) and then home again later. Very pleased with myself for that. Also brought a couch cover and my summer duvet to be cleaned after having them sitting on the floor in a bag waiting for months and months.

Looking forward to next week
Lots going on this week. Choir night out at the Irish pub on Wednesday. Irish Days in Leverkusen on Friday. And, of course, the 3-day-novel contest starting on Saturday.

Grateful for this week
A relatively secure job with a decent paycheck at the end of each month. Even if I don't always do the most sensible things with my money.

Bonus question: Are you sad that summer is coming to an end, or looking forward to the fall months?
Funny that this is the question this week since in my last post I commented on how I like this time of year. In a way, I'm sorry that summer is coming to an end. I did a lot but in some respects (preserving food) have done almost nothing, and won't really have a lot of time in the last few weeks of the season to get a lot done. Still, I'm looking forward to slightly cooler weather and hoping to get lots of walking done. Would really like to get back to my old routine of going walking in the woods for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. Even more so if I manage to get confident enough on the bike that I could cycle there, too.

If you want to join in with Sunday night chit-chat just post your answers to the questions above, add a photo, quote or whatever and head over to Half-Dozen Daily to link up with our lovely host, Carla.

And finally...
Sealed pot update
Still not managing more than the loose change from my purse, but I did clear that out three times this week. Every little helps.

Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers/balls

Since coming across A Girl Called Jack a couple of weeks ago I've been trying to read through her archives and keep having to stop to make notes of recipes and meal ideas to try out. Jack was a single mother (just got engaged so not so much single anymore, although definitely still a mum) living on benefits in the UK, who got into a serious financial situation and decided that she would just have to find ways to feed herself and her toddler healthy meals while spending as little as possible, which was the very little that she had. She is a so-called austerity cook and costs out her recipes on the blog (based on prices from her local supermarket). And she highlights important facts, such as it potentially being cheaper to buy a tin of beans because even though dried beans might be cheaper, they require more electricity to cook and so on. Not to mention that the dried stuff tends to come in bigger packs and for those watching every penny, that outlay might just not be in the budget (21p for a tin versus a pound or so for a bag of dried - if literally every penny counts, that pound might be just out of your budget).

Reading her blog does raise some interesting issues for me. She has had very little money and buys everything possible from the supermarket own brand value ranges. I've spent the last few years often paying more than most people for some items of food as I've focused on the issues of buying directly from farmers at fair prices, fair trade for items not available from my area and so on. I can, of course, understand that if the decision of whether to buy directly from a local farmer or buying the cheapest range from a global supermarket chain directly affects your ability to feed your child (or yourself) then there isn't much of a decision to make. I do still think that at some point though, if you're not involved in a literal "it's this or starve" situation, that the issues of how food is produced, how much the producers are paid and so on are really important. Some of the earlier posts I read on her blog were also about the lack of a proper market where she lives, for example (one had just been closed, I believe) - it's important to remember that not everyone is as lucky as I am, to live only five minutes walk from where the local farmers' market sets up twice a week.

One of her most famous recipes is her 9p burger. There was a link to a video (warning: that video starts automatically) posted on her blog recently and they just looked so easy to make, I decided I really have to give them a go. I've been wanting to try more variations of bean burgers anyway so this seemed like a good place to start. I did take the 'easy' way out and buy a tin of beans to try this out. Mostly I try to buy the dried beans and cook them myself but I wanted to see if this recipe really was as easy as it looked and I was also interested to see what the price of tins of beans was in my local supermarket. A lot more than it is in the UK apparently. Most of them were around the 1.70 per tin mark. I got the one cheaper option (around 70c) - must have a look in Aldi to see how much they cost there. While I think I'll mostly stick with cooking dried beans, there's no denying that a tin in the cupboard could make for a very quickly prepared meal in a pinch.

I was all set to make these for dinner tomorrow and then she posted a variation which I decided would be nice to try, too. So I made these today and, so to speak, used the leftovers in advance.

There was a recipe for tostada shells on Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity the other day which I also wanted to try out as I had wraps in the freezer I wanted to use up so I combined the two. For the burgers, I chopped the onion quite finely (not as finely as Jack does but more finely that I usually bother to), added a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and fried that in some olive oil, grating the carrot on top of the whole lot, too. I then forget to check the recipe properly and just threw the teaspoon of cumin directly in on top of that lot but oh well. I drained and rinsed the beans and then boiled them for about ten minutes. At the same time I coated the wraps with the oil and water mixture and put them into the pre-heated oven on top of jars.

Once the beans had boiled, I mashed them and then mixed them in with the carrot and onion mix. Shaped three small burgers to use for tomorrow's dinner and then used the rest (about half) of the mixture to shape six small balls, which I fried before putting them into the nicely crispy tostada shells. I then poured about a cupful of the passata into the pan (note that this will spatter madly going into the hot pan) and heated that up with all the flavours left in the pan from preparing the bean balls before pouring it over them in the shells. Added the last handful of salad from the garden last week and had a meal that, well, it was really too much for one person but so delicious I finished it all anyway. Must remember that those wraps, although they seem quite small, are very thick so one is definitely enough.
Sorry about the photo, was very hungry by the time these were ready and just barely remembered to take one before digging in. Burgers for tomorrow are in the Tupperware container in the background
I'll be making these again often, I think. So, so very good. Highly recommend giving them a go.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Patience needed and in other, 3-day-novel news, help required

Pay hit my bank account this afternoon. If were able to transfer every cent of it to my overdrawn Irish account I would very nearly clear it. But of course I can't since there are bills to pay and what with having to pay for my course this month, it's going to be a spendy one. Still, I have transferred enough to bring the Irish account down to a nice round number - although if I don't get my tax refund soon I may end up having to "take back" some of the money I've transferred. We'll see. I also did make a transfer to my annual expenses account, which was completely drained this month. Looking forward to building that back up again. And I transferred 50 euro to my holidays account, just so that I can feel like there is something to look forward to. I feel like I'm spending most days just waiting for the next payday so that I can see my debt going down and my savings going up. Since I only get paid once a month though, that's a bit of a waste of time.

One thing I will be doing do occupy my time soon is participating in the 3-day-novel contest. When I first heard about the contest earlier this year (I read about it on Married With Luggage - oh, and linking just reminded me I never got to watch that video so I'd better get on that), it just captured something in me immediately and whatever that spark was, it lasted until registration was announced. I signed up way back at the beginning of June when registration opened. I think most people think they could write a book, or at least that most avid readers probably do. I also know that it's a whole lot harder than some people make it look. However, this contest is ideal, I thought. I can spend three days churning something out, quieten down any writerly yearnings and, best of all, someone will read it. But I don't actually have to go through the stress of trying to find a publisher, submit, deal with rejection and whatever else is the life of an aspiring writer. With tens of thousands of entrants and a fairly realistic idea of what my writing ability is, I am not expecting to win. I'm still going to do it though, just to be able to say, "I've written a book".

The only problem is that since I first heard about the contest I've sort of frequently thought, "what will a write about". Turns out that although I have a fair command of English, I'm a bit lacking when it comes to, you know, imagination. I even organised a notebook specially for making notes on anything that might occur to me. There are about three words written in it. While on holiday I thought I'd make a list of character names, thinking I could get the kids to make a bit of a game about it. Between one thing and another though, that didn't happen. My page had 25 lines and I decided that was a good number so I'm looking for 25 names for me to build into characters around which to construct a story. Have managed four and a half on my own so far - anyone care to contribute?

I did mean to borrow the Rory's Story Cubes that I gave my niece as a present as well but I forgot that, too - might pop into the local toy shop tomorrow and see if they've made it over here yet. I haven't even a clue what genre of book I'm going to end up writing and can only call my approach write-by-numbers. If I assemble some of the components, I'm hoping that once I sit down to write, I'll be able to get somewhere with that. Any and all ideas much appreciated. Spread the word to your friends and let them know that in about eight days, there's going to be at least one crazed blogger searching madly for ideas and inspiration!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fasting and meal plan

Well, yesterday evening/today was another fast day. I probably need a few more before I decide exactly how I'm going to try and make it work best for me. I ate lunch yesterday, had a snack at about 4 and then just after six o'clock I had a slice of quiche. After that I didn't eat anything else. I was out with people from choir and we went to a place I'd never been before and the food people ordered smelled amazing so I'll have to make sure to go back there soon on a non-fast day. We didn't get there until nearly nine o'clock though and although it all looked fabulous I wasn't actually hungry so it wasn't too much of a struggle. Although I do usually go out with choir on a Wednesday, it's normally after rehearsal, i.e. around ten o'clock by the time we get anywhere. And it's definitely much better for me not to be eating a meal at that hour so fasting on Wednesday evening still makes sense to me.

I was fine without any breakfast this morning, too and it was already around 11 before I really started to get hungry. I even went and got myself a fork from the kitchen to bring to my desk so that at 12 o'clock I'd be all set to start eating my salad. And then by 12 I was busy doing something and just thought I'd finish that one thing before eating, followed by being interrupted to get something else given to me and then really just finishing that one thing before eating. So it was actually after 1 before I did eat. I was hungry, very hungry even, but not in agony or pain of any kind. I had salad made up of lettuce, a couple of dried tomatoes (was supposed to have been fresh but I didn't have any so made use of what was in the fridge rather than feel like I was only allowed to have rabbit food) and a simple vinaigrette. Unplanned dessert was a sweet I found in my drawer while looking for something else this morning and very impressed I was with myself for waiting four hours to eat it, too.

I did find that I was hungry during the afternoon, though. I had a small amount of yoghurt at around 5 to keep me going until I finished work, got home and was able to cook dinner. Had to pick up a package from the post office and then got delayed chatting to a neighbour, putting a wash on, doing the dishes from yesterday and checking a cookbook for a potential recipe I nearly changed my mind to doing. So it was actually nearly half-eight before my veg went into the oven. For the last half-hour or so before that, I had started getting really, really hungry with accompanying threat of heartburn so I decided to have the last slice of quiche while I'm waiting. So definitely way more than 500 calories today but at least I got part of it done. I'm happy enough with that for now I think. I'm still not convinced (too many years of Weight Watchers?) that simply calorie counting is really the best way to choose what to eat so I'll have to see how I end up planning my meals in the future.

I also tried to get a meal plan together for next week but ended up with something that has a lot of question marks. Part of it will just be seeing what's at the market and part of it is potential but not firmly planned events/eating out. Also, despite being hungry this afternoon when I was trying to put this together, I felt really lacking in inspiration and had to resist the temptation to just copy last week's plan.


No breakfast (fasting)
Lunch out
Tostada shells with (beef of some kind? chicken?)

IBN barbeque (bring courgette salad and chickpea salad?)
Wraps with cheese and sweet chilli sauce

Chickpea salad
Carrot, cumin, kidney bean burgers

Salad (+ cold leftover burger?)
Pasta with tomatoes, onion, garlic

Leftover pasta
No dinner (fasting)

No breakfast (fasting)
Salad with tomatoes
Soup from freezer

Lunch out
Irish Days in Leverkusen?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meal plans work

My meal plan for this week didn't quite start according to plan as I didn't make it to the market on time on Saturday. And I've been later getting up than is ideal so breakfasts so far this week have been from the bakery and lunch was not organised for Monday. However, I arrived home this evening, not specially hungry and not at all in the mood to try and figure out what to eat (since in my head, my whole plan was shot anyway). And then I was writing down what I'd had for lunch (quiche instead of the planned tomato tart, as I didn't have enough tomatoes for that but did have a few eggs on hand so not too far off track) and noticed that this evening, I had actually planned for pasta with courgette and tomato. I did get a courgette and one big tomato from the garden on Saturday so I actually have what I need to make this. And I'm supposed to make enough that I can have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Sorted.

If I had just been sitting here trying to think of what to eat, I'm not honestly sure that I would have remembered the courgette. Too often, when I don't have a plan and amn't in the mood for anything in particular, the fallback position is bread of some kind. Or worse still. just going to the supermarket and getting a giant bag of crisps. I know meal plans work and get annoyed with myself when I don't use one and yet it still surprises me over and over again how much healthier and easier eating is, even if you don't manage to stick exactly to a plan for one reason or another.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday night chit-chat and sealed pot update

Given that I've been on holiday for two weeks, I wasn't prepared to completely lose my refreshed and ready to go state of mind all of a sudden yesterday afternoon. I decided that despite the holiday, I needed and was going to allow myself a duvet day today. I feel marginally better now and am hoping to get through tomorrow without too many difficulties.
A church in Lyon with nice sky and clouds, too
What are you:
Still Transition but I am slowly getting there

I've been watching Veronica Mars. So looking forward to the film coming out

I've prepared pastry so that I can make a quiche quickly tomorrow after work but that's about it

Happy you accomplished this week
Unpacked my case fully the evening I got back from France. Bought new batteries for my phone (suggestion from my sister, I just thought my house phone wasn't working and I'd have to get a new one). Wrote a meal plan. Did the ironing and washing up and made pastry for tomorrow.

Looking forward to next week
Nothing in particular really. Just hoping for a slow, steady plod through the first week back at work after holidays. There is a concert I hope to attend next Saturday morning and the Irish Business Network annual barbeque on Sunday - should be nice.

Thankful for today
My wonderful brother

Bonus question: what is your favourite candy treat?
Chocolate. Without a doubt. If I have to narrow it down further than that, though, it gets difficult. As a kid, Smarties were definitely my favourites, although like many others, I did feel they were less nice after they introduced the blue ones. I just actually looked it up and that was the same year Rowntree was taken over by Nestle so maybe they really were different. These days, a good dark chocolate is more likely to do it for me though.

If you fancy joining in with Sunday night chit-chat, post away and head over to Half-Dozen Daily to link up.

Sealed pot update (sealed pot challenge hosted by SFT)
Not much happening with the pot this week. Just emptied loose change from purse into it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Meal plan

Lunch at garden
Fish with rice (no later than 19:00)

No breakfast (fasting)
Tomato salad
Spiced dahl (recipe from fast diet book)

Salad with tomatoes
Tomato tart

Tomato tart
Pasta with tomatoes, courgette, onion

Cereal (porridge if not too warm)
Leftover pasta and/or salad
No dinner (fasting)

No breakfast (fasting)
Potatoes and eggs

Lunch out
Bread and cheese (no later than 19:00)

I'll be keeping track of what I actually eat over at my other blog, rather than boring everyone by only posting what I'm having for dinner every day :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013


One of those final two annual bills I paid recently was for my BahnCard. This is a card that I pay 240 euro for every year in order to get 50% off rail fares within Germany. It also gives me 25% off rail travel in adjoining European countries if I start my journey in Germany. Travelling to Frankfurt and back three times in one year will already have saved me the 240 euro that I've paid and since it's almost definite that I will do that or similar trips it is worth it for me to get the BahnCard. In addition, for every euro you spend on rail travel, you can collect points. I have also added the credit card function (that's my German mastercard) so that I can also earn points for everything I spend on that card. It's 1 point for 1 euro spent on travel and less than that (about 1 point per 3 euro spent) for other spending. And this is where I really start reaping the benefits. Those points can be traded in for various rewards, among which are rail tickets. I took some time recently to go through the last two years and make sure I really am saving money but even though I knew it was worth the expense, even I was surprised.

In 2011-2012 I saved over €550, just on the travel I did that year. I also got a 'free' ticket, which would have cost me around €75. In 2012-2013 again, I saved nearly €500 just for travel I would have been doing anyway. In addition, I have saved another €400 by means of a couple of long journeys on 'free' tickets. One of them was first class, last November when I travelled to Bad Reichenhall and the other is for this well-used specimen, which is what I used when I travelled to and from France last week to visit my sister.
One train ticket - price on the right-hand side = xxxxx.xx = best price ever

Actually, the ticket is from Germany to Geneva, as the train connection to where my sister lives isn't great from there, so I get off at the airport and get a bus, which only takes an hour to where she lives. I have done this journey once going via Paris but the change in Paris was awkward and I didn't make the connection on time, leaving me having to get another train later, changing in Lyon and then travelling on and arriving a few hours later than planned. Not really worth it as I didn't save all that much on the special offer from Thalys.

The only thing about the free tickets is, like so many special offers, that you are restricted to travelling only on the train you have booked. I understand the reasoning for this but don't like it. Part of what I love about train travel over air travel is the flexibility. If I miss my train by a minute or two, I can just normally just get on the next one - not quite so easy if you miss a plane by a minute or two. This flexibility is generally the reason that I prefer to use my BahnCard to book tickets rather than trying to book what they call Spartarif (savings tariff). These are the tickets that really are great value - travel within Germany from 29 euro - but tend to be snapped up very quickly. And again, you are restricted to travelling only on the train you have booked. To give me a true picture of the savings I have made with my BahnCard, I should have also made a note each time I bought a ticket, if there was a Spartarif ticket available and how much that would have cost. I do check when booking a ticket but rarely see a special offer valid for the journey I want to make. I'm going to keep a closer eye on this over the coming year and make a note of it along with the other costs, to try and have a more accurate picture of what the costs are. All in all, though, I do love my BahnCard!

First fast day

On the way home from France today I changed onto the last train just after 8. I was lost in thought as I recovered from having had to walk up one very long platform (was sitting in the second to last carriage) and then down another one (had a seat in third from last carriage of an even longer train - typical) in the fifteen minutes between one train arriving and the other leaving and it occurred to me that I don't need to wait until my holiday is over and I'm back at work to start this whole 5:2 fasting thing. Based on the timetable I think will work optimally for me, I would normally fast from after lunch or mid-afternoon snack on Wednesday until lunch on Thursday. Well, as the idea is to go 12-16 hours without eating, I realised that I could just start straightaway.

As I was travelling today, I had a light enough day with regard to food, albeit one that involved far too many crisps. I had two slices of toast and a glass of milk for breakfast at around 10 o'clock. At around half-one, I had a packet of crisps, followed an hour or so later by some cherry tomatoes and some chipsters. I ate my pasta salad at around six (pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil) as well as the rest of the cherry tomatoes and a few more chipsters. All in all it was just over half a 500g punnet of tomatoes, half a packet of mini mozzarella balls and just over half a packet of chipsters. When I realised at eight o'clock that I could start my fast I was a little bit hungry so I just finished off the last of the chipsters and had two squares of dark chocolate and that was it. I've also drunk two litres of water over the course of the day, just finishing the last of it now. Which I'll probably regret when I need to get up during the night to pee. Oh well.

I'm up later than planned as I got home at 10 and first had to air the place and then decided to unpack, rather than sit looking at my case for a month before fully emptying it. I have the washing machine full and ready to be switched on in the morning and everything I brought back with me is put away. I've also managed to write down a few of the things I mean to do tomorrow. I'll be out and about from early so missing breakfast probably won't be too big of an issue. Given that it's nearly one now and I intend sleeping until I wake naturally tomorrow, I probably won't have all that long to go before getting to eat tomorrow anyway. Sixteen hours from eight o'clock is twelve noon tomorrow - let's say half past, since it was about quarter past eight that I took out the last of the chipsters to finish eating them and it definitely took longer than two seconds. Tomorrow morning I need to go to the doctor to get my hayfever shot and I have to wait 30 minutes after getting that before I can leave. I have a couple of things I'd like to do in town as well so I think I'll head straight there after the doctor and aim to do things in such a way that I end up going to Habitat last. It just so happens that Habitat is beside a nice Italian place, where, although the atmosphere is not as nice during the day as it is at night, I plan to get a bruschetta for lunch.

Technically, on a fast day, I should be aiming to eat around 500 calories. Well, I've never been much of a one for counting calories, so it'll take me a fair while to get the hang of that and for the first few weeks at least, I'm just going to go with eating light meals. The bruschetta in this place is three small rounds of Italian bread (lots of holes in it), topped with tomatoes and garlic and, admittedly, just a bit too much olive oil. But it's a filling portion and, most importantly, a limited amount. I suspect if I were to make my own lunch at home, I'd end up just eating for hours. We'll see how it goes anyway. Thus far, having stayed up later than planned, I am feeling a little bit hungry but not very. Even if I weren't fasting, I probably wouldn't bother eating at this stage of the night anyway. Time for bed and we'll see how things look in the morning.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday night chit-chat and sealed pot update

Having a great time on holiday, just chilling and hanging out with my sister and her family. With views like these, how could you not love it?

What are you:
Still working through both Transition by Iain Banks and Die Grosse Liebe by Hans-Josef Ortheil. Getting there, though.

Listening to
Television in the background and the last bits of cleaning up happening in the kitchen.

La Vita è Bella is on in the background. The kids are watching it with my older niece occasionally asking me if it's time to tell her younger sister to stop watching because it's getting too "serious".

I made loads of pastry today for my sister's freezer. It's the one thing I always get compliments on so when I'm here I make pastry, roll it out and roll it up in greaseproof paper and then put it into large ziploc bags to freeze. It's handy for her to have on hand once the school year starts and she's running around between teaching and bringing the kids to and from school and sports. Even better, I got to eat some this evening as my sister decided to make quiche.

Happy you accomplished this week
I've been having a lovely time on holidays, which is about all that was planned to be accomplished this week. I did get a lot done on Monday before leaving. Had an appointment with the pensions people and found out what I needed to submit to them to complete the transfer of my information from Ireland. Had my third appointment with the photographer and left my apartment somewhat clean and tidy before leaving (even washed the floor!). And I've put some thought into how I'll manage food and meal planning from September on.

Looking forward to next week
Another week of holidays.

Thankful for today
Family to share good times with.

Bonus question: can you walk well in high heels? Do you wear them often?
Nope and nope. Never really could and at my weight, it's just far too uncomfortable. Having said that, I do have two pairs of heels that I am looking forward to wearing again when I have lost weight. Although one pair might not fit me anymore at all. They have a block heel that's just above the height that would make them comfy enough for daily wear but are really cute with jeans (another thing I'm looking forward to wearing again). And I have some really cool boots with a heel that's not really too pointy but still high enough to count as high heels.

If you fancy joining in with Sunday night chit-chat, post away and then head over to Half-Daily Dozen to link up.

And finally:
Sealed pot update
Actually, unlike some, I haven't done anything while on holidays to move my sealed pot savings along. I did loan my sister five euro and when she paid me back the next day I put it into my camera case. Going to try and keep it separate and then into the pot it goes when I get home.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Planning for September

I'm nervous about starting my course in September. I have a lot of work to do on getting my German grammar up to the required standard all the time, haven't been in a classroom environment for a very, very long time and am particularly nervous about having to do joint writing again. Sounds silly, I know, but I was never very good at it and dropped it as soon as I was allowed in school (which means in the second year of secondary school, except for German). As certain words are capitalised in German it's difficult with block capitals to tell if I've capitalised a word or not. I wanted to start practicing and so, when I sat down the other day to do a half-an-hour of grammar exercises, I decided to go ahead and try it in joint writing. To say that my writing has not improved since my schooldays would be an understatement. I could remember most of it but it looked like a seven-year-old had been writing (with apologies to seven-year-olds everywhere for the insult).

Apart from the academic side, however, I am nervous that being out and about so much will start to interfere with my planning with regard to food, preparing meals, general housework and basically just trying to keep things a little bit 'normal' at home. Something I already struggle with anyway. I'm hoping that having more to do will work out in making me more efficient at getting things done as that can sometimes happen. The cliche is that if you need something done, you should ask a busy woman to do it and cliches don't become so without any basis in truth. Nevertheless, if I want to continue with my very slow but at least somewhat consistent weightloss, it seems like a good idea to get some kind of plan in place to help to minimise the impact of being on the go more than has been normal the last few years. So I have to work on meal planning for months at a time I think.

I have also just finished reading The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting - Lost Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer - the official 5:2 diet. I first heard about 5:2 dieting when Sue from our new life in the country mentioned it. I was a bit mystified as to what it was but since then have seen more and more reference to it popping up all over the place. I got the book just to see what the scientific basis was and although the science and the research, as they state repeatedly in the book, is still in its very early days, what studies have been done (mostly on mice and rats, human studies are only just starting now, for the most part) the anecdotal evidence in favour of this method of eating is largely, if not entirely, positive. And reading through the details of the plan, well, quite a lot of it is what I've already been doing. Starting my weightloss with a two-day detox of eating soup and so on. While I'm not generally a fan of 'depriving' myself, that being a good way to almost guarantee overeating, I have been mulling it over and am going to partially incorporate the intermittent fasting plan into my life and see how it goes. Again, what I have come up with for me is based on the things I have been sometimes doing anyway over the last few months and so, I'm not introducing a whole new way of eating so much as being more consistent about some thing I have previously done incidentally.

The Fast Diet (fast as in abstinence but a nice play on words, too, don't you think?) basically involves eating normally (but not excessively, obviously) on five days of the week and fasting, i.e. limiting your calorie intake to 500 calories (600 for men) on the other two days of the week. How exactly you do that is up to you. The book was written by a man and a woman - he eats a breakfast, skips lunch and eats a light dinner in the evening. She eats a breakfast, has an apple or similar snack as a lunch and then eats a lighter dinner in the evening. They both do separate fasting days, although some people like to do the two days together. Most people also seem to prefer to have their fasting days during the week. I don't think either of those methods will work for me so here's how I envisage making it work for me:

Monday: normal eating
Tuesday: normal eating
Wednesday: half-fast day - eat breakfast and light lunch then fast
Thursday: half-fast day - no breakfast (fasting since lunch day before), normal lunch and sandwiches or similar in evening (this will be day I have classes in the evening)
Friday: normal eating
Saturday: fast day - no breakfast, late lunch and just a snack in the evening
Sunday: normal eating
I will alternate the Saturdays and Sundays so that on the weeks I'm in the garden, I have a good breakfast before I go.

I quite often skip breakfast on a weekend morning (I'm a big fan of brunch on the weekend) and often don't get up early enough to eat breakfast at home during the week - if I follow that with a very busy morning in work I don't struggle with getting to about half-ten or eleven before hunger pangs start assailing me. So it makes sense to use that to my advantage. I also, particularly during the kind of hot weather we've been having, often don't feel hungry in the evening at all. On the other hand, the thoughts of missing lunch and having to work through a whole afternoon are enough to set me dreaming of pizza and many bars of chocolate from the vending machine.

For the normal eating days, I will continue trying to eat as well as I can, as I have been doing the last while, i.e. no eating between meals, a planned snack at four o'clock to keep me going in the afternoon. I need to reintroduce the aperitif, as I discovered again a few weeks ago that eating just lunch and an apple at four o'clock does leave me plenty hungry by the time I get home, which increases the chances of not wanting to cook a proper meal and instead grab something that I can eat right now (bread if I have it, full big packets of crisps a distinct possibility!). Having a supply of aperitif type snacks on hand will help me to have something to nibble on while cooking/preparing food. And yes, sometimes that will mean crisps, but actually preparing myself an aperitif will mean mindfully eating just a few in a bowl rather than scoffing the entire packet.

So, I need to stock up on the following:

  • Olives (I like the plain green ones in brine)
  • Crisps (there is a crisp product here called Chipster and I've been really enjoying them the last few days. They're just that bit salty enough that eating a lot of them wouldn't interest me too much. I have space in my case and will buy a few boxes to bring home.)
  • Popcorn
  • Crackers
  • Fruit and nut mix
  • Any other suggestions? I really wish I liked raw vegetable sticks but I really, really don't like raw vegetables.
I weighed myself at the beginning of April. Although I didn't start watching what I eat in earnest immediately after weighing myself in April, I'm counting that as my starting weight. Which means that since the second week of April I have lost just over 5kg, or 11lbs. Spread over the seventeen weeks, that's just over half a pound a week or about quarter of a kilo. Not a huge weightloss but one I am very happy with, especially given that I did have a couple of weeks of going off track. Now I just need to do the same again about ten times over and I'll be golden. LOL

Monday, August 05, 2013

I'm diseased!

At some stage yesterday evening I noticed a small patch of either a rash or possibly insect bites. I wasn't sure but it wasn't itching so I just left it. No bother this morning either so I carried on with my day. After a couple of hours out and about, however, I noticed a blister on my thumb. I was on my way to an appointment with the pensions people (and that was lots of fun - I now have to go off and find some written proof of the time I was in school and college, great, 'cos Ireland is so good at documenting everything!) so couldn't do anything about it. By the time I got out of there, I had a couple more blisters where the rash had been. I finished the rest of what I needed to do in town and headed home, reaching my road, where the skin doctor's surgery is conveniently also located just after four. I had to wait nearly an hour and a half but with these hands, wouldn't you have waited, too?
The left - strangely elongated

The right

It is weirdly difficult to take photos of your own hands and rashes and blisters, I have to say. The plasters covers the places where the worst blisters were. They got lanced by the doctor. I also got a prescription for some cream to use tomorrow. Over the course of the evening, a few more blisters have developed. I'll see how big they've gotten by the morning before deciding to lance them or not. Best of all, he asked me straight away if I'd been working in the garden. I told him I had but only on Saturday morning and that the rash didn't show up until Sunday evening. That didn't matter, though, he said it's definitely "grass dermatitis". Although since the only things I did in the garden were erecting nets over the Grunkohl and thinning carrots, I wonder if "carrot-top dermatitis" might be more accurate. I really don't need to start having allergy problems at my age. And since one of the things I love most about gardening is being able to get my hands in the soil, having to wear gloves the whole time will be a right pain. Let's hope it proves to be just a one-off thing!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

What I preserved in 2012

Moving this off the side-bar and into a post for posterity.

3 batches tomato ketchup (3.5 litres)
Bottled tomatoes 9 x 1 lt., 5 x 750 ml
Bottled peaches 1 x 750 ml, 1 x 500 ml
Bottled plums 3 x 500 ml
Bottled strawberries 4 x 5 lt.
Dried peaches
Dried plums
Dried strawberries
Dried apples
Passata 3 x 750 ml + 500 ml in freezer
Spicy tomato sauce 2 x 500 ml, 5 x 450 ml

Sunday night chit-chat and sealed pot update

Can hardly believe it's already Sunday evening. While I have managed to get some stuff done (see my earlier post for all of the food-related messing up I managed to do this week), very little of it is the stuff I really wanted and needed to be doing today. The sun has nearly gone over the houses opposite though so I'm hoping to be able to open the windows soon and that maybe some slightly cooler air might come in to energise me. Although quite honestly, I suspect I'll just call it an early night and hope that means I wake up extra early in the morning. The tomatoes are bubbling away on the cooker, though, so I need at least another half-an-hour to let them cook a bit more and get them into the freezer.
Basil pesto (minus the cheese since most recipes recommend leaving it out if you're going to freeze it). 14 big 'cubes' topped off with a bit more oil and enough left over for a pasta lunch tomorrow. From my three bunches I managed to get 100g of leaves and I found a recipe that used 100g of basil with 25g of pine nuts (I had 30g in the cupboard) so I just went for it.
What are you:
On to chapter two of Transition now. Got side-tracked again, a re-read of a Georgette Heyer book this time. I've noticed that mid and late summer is a time when I turn to re-reading easy books again and again. I have a long train journey on Tuesday so I'll try to spend at least an hour reading Transition though.

Listening to
An ambulance just went by and I can hear the tram approaching. The slight bubbling noise of the tomatoes coming from the kitchen. Otherwise, it's all quiet here at the moment.

Arrow. I realised that I just stopped watching it halfway through the season so I thought I'd try and catch up on the last few episodes. Like the books I'm reading at the moment, it's all about switching off brain at the moment.

Yes, let's not focus on the three bags full of food that I need to bring down to the bins this evening, let's focus on the positive. Today I've pureed nearly a litre of strawberries and frozen in ice-cube tray or ice-lolly moulds. I've removed one lot of not quite solid 'cubes' and put them into a ziploc bag - needed the tray to put the pesto into. And I have a huge pot of tomatoes on the cooker, cooked with a couple of courgettes and a couple of onions. Destined for the freezer to make me fast dinners during the autumn when I'll have very little time. And I had a lovely tomato and mozzarella salad for dinner. Best of all though ...

Happy you accomplished this week
... I've done the washing up. The only thing left to do is the jug that had the pesto in it and the pot the tomatoes are in. Yay me. I've also taken down some books that have been living on a shelf in the hallway for months and put them into a bag to bring to the library to donate tomorrow. And sorted all the bottles I need to bring back for a deposit or to recycling. Apart from that, although it involved some very long hours, I did get a lot done in work this week. And I had a lovely chat with my brother on the phone and another one with a good friend. I also managed to get around to contacting an insurance broker to make sure that the insurance I have is suitable and find out about organising a couple of other things. And I got some good work done in the Bio-Garten yesterday.

Looking forward to next week
Visiting my sister for a week. Not only because it'll mean spending time with her and her kids but also because I get to travel there and back by train (for free, since I had enough points to get a voucher for an international journey) and she lives in the mountains. I cannot explain to people from where I live how much I miss having mountains or hills in the background every day. Really looking forward to it.

Thankful for today
The fact that I am privileged enough that even though my massive amount of food waste this week is shameful, it won't actually make a difference to my eating properly. Particularly as this was the week in which I found the blog A Girl Called Jack and read her Hunger Hurts post from just over a year ago. Check out her recently started campaign to buy someone #22mealsforacoffee. And also, selfish though it may be, I am incredibly thankful to live and work in a country that not only has decent holiday entitlements for workers, it also has a law that states at least one of those holidays must be at least two full weeks long.

Bonus question: what was your least favourite subject in school?
Hmm, this is a difficult one to answer because I generally loved school (despite never having any of those inspiring teachers that show up in films all the time. LOL). If I'm allowed to choose gym as a subject then that definitely has to go top of the list. And otherwise science, I think, especially chemistry and physics. We did "science" for the first three years of secondary school and that meant a chemistry module, a physics module and a biology module. Biology is the only one I kept on for the last two year and that was only because the conventional wisdom was that you must do a science subject. Didn't much like maths either but once I managed to get out of the honours class in my second-last year, I enjoyed it. Really, really hated accounting and statistics in college though. Numbers just aren't really my thing.

If you'd like to join in with Sunday night chit-chat, post away and then head over to Half-Dozen Daily to link up.

Edited to add a sealed pot update:
I didn't think I had anything at all to add this week and so wasn't bothering to post an update. But I did try and get some order into the Table of Doom after all and lo and behold, found a ten euro note hidden in some receipts. Cannot think how I didn't miss it. So, rather than sticking it back in my purse, it has gone straight into the sealed pot.

How not to do it

I'm having a week of non-happening on the food preserving side of things. I got up early to hit the market on Wednesday before work and bought tomatoes and strawberries, planning to dry some tomatoes and puree and freeze strawberries, as well as drying one load. I did get the tomatoes I'd bought for drying done by staying up late after choir on Wednesday evening but then worked late on Thursday (till 11), Friday (till 12) and was at the garden yesterday morning and work again in the evening (for six hours rather than the planned one or two). I'm off for the next two weeks and the things I was planning on doing the last couple of days didn't happen because it was unexpectedly busy but doing the overtime to clear most of it means I can relax and enjoy my holiday at least.

What all that work also meant though, was that I forgot about the tomatoes sitting in the dehydrator. So instead of getting them into a jar on Thursday evening, they sat there until today. One batch of slightly mouldy (I was aiming for a bit more than semi-dried to marinade and put into oil) tomatoes and a lot of fruit flies.

I did eat some of the strawberries I bought on Wednesday, just as they were and in smoothies but since I also bought raspberries (yum!) not as many as I might otherwise have. Which means that they were sitting in the fridge until today as well. About half of them were salvageable so that at least was 500g that I put through the liquidiser and have freezing in ice-cube trays at the moment. Just the right amount to fill my two Tupperware ice-cube trays, too. Despite knowing that I did still have strawberries in the fridge, I got all carried away and decided to get a few more strawberries yesterday: enough for one batch of dried and so that I would have plenty for eating today and tomorrow and for my trip on Tuesday. As I went to the garden yesterday though, I just ran out quickly to the market and brought everything back and dumped it in the hall. And then, after coming home from the garden I collapsed into bed for an hour, got up and went to work. Obviously it was a lot warmer than I realised yesterday but I ended up having to throw out at least half of what I bought yesterday. Those strawberries were not just a bit soft and bruised, there were plenty that were fully covered in hairy mouldy something or other and absolutely beyond help. I had a handful of only slightly bruised ones in a smoothie this morning and managed to rescue 450g, which is also liquidised and  freezing at the moment (two small novelty ice-cube trays, 5 ice-lolly moulds and a small amount for a smoothie tomorrow). You'd think after five years I would be used to the fact that if you buy stuff here during the summer, you really need to process it on the same day - it's just too hot not to.

I also bought five kilos of tomatoes yesterday (actually a bit more but she only charged me for five), planning on cooking them and freezing in small ziploc bags. Since I didn't get to that yesterday, I'm nearly scared to go and see how they have fared without having been put in the fridge. Better than the strawberries, I hope at least!

And finally, the three bunches of basil I bought. Why I didn't even think to put them into a glass of water, I'm not sure. Early mornings just aren't my thing, obviously. I wanted to make pesto to freeze in ice-cube trays. Then yesterday evening, I stopped at the supermarket on the way to work and couldn't find any pine nuts. And I forgot you can use other nuts so didn't buy anything. I'll try a small batch with what I have in the cupboard and maybe at least mince up the basil and put it in oil until tomorrow. The ice-cube trays are all in use with the strawberries anyway. So that was bad planning on my part, too.

I don't know. I just need to write myself a letter to open before attempting to start any food preserving next year I think.

And because there weren't very many people in the garden yesterday I have a bag of stuff I got from there, too. That has just been sitting there, too, without being put in the fridge like a sensible person would have done. One lettuce (mad-looking as it was starting to bolt and so it's really elongated), a few chard leaves (I was supposed to add them to my smoothie but forgot), some of the carrots I thinned out yesterday (that seems to be my job this year although it was far more difficult yesterday than it was five weeks ago) and a ridiculous amount of cucumber. For those new to my blog, I hate cucumber and think it's one of the foulest tasting foodstuffs there is. But they have a serious glut and so I offered to take some and make some pickles. Can't even do that today though because all but two of my half-litre jars are already in use and they made a point of asking me not to use large jars. Sigh. Bad planning all round and really, I should be spending today tackling the Table of Doom once and for all, sorting out what I'm taking to France with me and packing. I do have tomorrow as well, but I have several appointments and won't be at home too much.

So, yeah, that's how not to do it. Such a monumental waste of food, all as a result of just not engaging my brain properly first.