Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day of Reading

I declared today a Day of Reading, hoping that I might actually get to finish one or more of the seven or so books I have started but not finished. It's now twenty to eight and I have read exactly zero pages of any books. Sigh.

When I got back on Sunday evening I broke the key in the lock of my front door. Luckily it happened just after I had actually opened the door so I didn't have to sit in the cold hallway while waiting for a very expensive Sunday night emergency locksmith visit. Last night, I had some friends over for dinner and one of them, who's a bit of a handyman, took the lock apart to see if it was possible to get the broken bit of key out. No go and I needed to get a new cylinder. So this morning, instead of curling up with a few books, I had to get up and out. Made a few phone calls first, to arrange to catch up with some friends who are in town for the holidays and then headed out. The small place on my road did have cylinders on sell but the prices started at 42.00 so I thought it might be worth the 15 minute tram journey to the big chain DIY place, Toom. Not a very big difference in price but I was able to get a good one (the type that lets you still open the door from one side if you forget to take the key out of the other side) for 34.99. And while I was there I picked up the three LED bulbs I needed.

I was just back on my street when W. rang to ask me if I was home as he wanted to come over and install the new cylinder. So that got done and while he was doing it I got the bulbs fitted. Then we sat and chatted for a short while until it was time for him to head off to meet someone. I heated up leftovers from last night for lunch and while that was heating took care of a couple of emails. Ate lunch and finished tidying away the dishes and was just starting to think I might be able to pick up a book when another friend rang to say she'd be there in twenty minutes. I had asked if she would be able to drive me to Ikea sometime. So, despite running through as quickly as possibly we were still in there for over an hour and a half. It was really crowded. I normally quite like Ikea and get lots of inspiration for trying out different things but today I just couldn't wait to get out of there.

I needed to buy a mattress and the Lattenrost (the wooden slats that go under the mattress) for the new bed frame, which was one of my birthday presents. Unfortunately they don't do the same mattresses they did six years ago so I could just get a bigger version of the single one I have and like. Typically, the one that was really comfy cost €600. I had €160 worth of vouchers and wanted to spend as little above that as possible. There were two others that were alright and from a price point of view far more reasonable so I went for one of them and grabbed the cheap wooden slats as well. I added two simple stools and a picture frame and was able to spend my vouchers plus just short of €30 of my own cash, so not too bad at all. J. and her son helped me carry the stuff up to my apartment after driving me home so now, here it is, nearly eight, I have my sitting room floor taken up with the mattress which is supposed to be left for 72 hours before being used (it was vacuum packed in a roll) and am kind of thinking maybe now would be a good time to crack open a book. Oh well, best laid plans and all that. I least I did achieve some things today.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

8 things to get rid of

I saw a few people mentioning Apartment Therapy and their January Cure and decided I would sign up, too. Since then, even more bloggers that I read regularly have signed up and I'm kind of starting to get excited now. I have a very busy January and February ahead of me so I might only actually manage to do one or two days but that's still more than I would do otherwise so it's all good. I've been browsing the apartment therapy site and found an article that seemed like it would be a quick, fun fix for a bit of decluttering. Seems like I've already done most of them though. Oh well.

  1. Coffee mugs - while I do have quite a few, I don't have many more than I use on a regular basis.
  2. Travel size toiletries - don't have any, never take any the odd time I do stay in a hotel.
  3. Old medication - did this a few years ago and now check everything at least once a year.
  4. Vases - ha! I wish. I usually end up using jars for flowers. I have four vases, three of them quite small and only suitable for one or two flowers.
  5. Food storage containers - well, we all know how much I love Tupperware and between that and preserving activities, I do have a lot but again, I do use it all so nothing much there to get rid of. I could, admittedly be far better organised though. 
  6. Party supplies - I think last year I finally managed to use up the last paper napkins I had (I think they were five years old). I have one set of birthday candles and as for ordinary candles, well, I have an awful lot of them but use them every day. I've actually got very little in the way of plastic cutlery left and will need to keep an eye out next summer - I try to buy sturdy stuff that can be washed and re-used often.
  7. Craft supplies - okay, probably could do with getting rid of or starting to use some of this up. On the plus side, what I have is more or less restricted to one cupboard and is semi-organised.
  8. Books - did a huge clearout before leaving Ireland and am strict now on only keeping paper books that I will read again and again.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mountains, too much food and Magic

Happy christmas all and thanks for the good wishes. I'm in my sister's in France for a few days (reminder to self that next time it really isn't worth paying the extra for a recliner on the night train) and having a chilled out, fun time.

We had the main xmas dinner yesterday evening, then did presents this morning. There were 72 presents under the tree! There are seven of us here. They were mostly small stocking filler type things with one or two bigger presents. I think the big hit though, was the Magic the Gathering gift set myself and my sister got for our nephew. He was so excited he was literally hopping and dancing. We were going to get him some booster packs of cards but then I saw the gift set - for the same price as four booster packs you got a collector's box that holds up to 2,000 cards including separator tabs, labels and four booster packs. He has already spent a couple of hours organising his cards today and when not actually doing it, he has been talking about the best ways to do it.

After presents I showed my nieces how to make icing and we iced the cake. We had last night's leftovers for lunch and after all that was cleared off, we went out for a walk. It's getting cold but with views like this, who could resist?

It drizzled a bit but the rain mostly held off and we had a lovely walk. And then I came back to make mince pies and a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. I really should make roast potatoes more often, they're soooo good. We rounded off the evening with a viewkng of Frozen. Can't believe there has been so much hype about it. There are some amusing lines but it can't compare to Aladdin or Little Mermaid at all. Still, it was a nice way to end the day. Now to get some sleep before seeing what tomorrow will bring. Hope everyone is having an equally enjoyable time no matter how you're spending it.
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finding it hard to concentrate on the positive

I'm missing blogging more regularly and over the last week or so have found myself trying to figure out why, since I would like to be doing it, I'm not just actually doing it. I'm struggling a bit to fully understand it and also struggling a bit to articulate the glimmer of understanding I have at the moment.

It just feels like, although there are lots of good things happening in my life at the moment, any blog post will very quickly become negative. Because it feels a lot, at the moment, like the good stuff is pretty superficial and the slightest examination of it will expose a morass of not so good stuff. Most of the time I don't feel like anything much is wrong but just that if I allow myself to really think about it, I'll realise I'm teetering very close to the edge of a very bad phase. Kind of feel like I'm hanging on by a thread but by not thinking about the thread, I can ignore the sheer cliffs below.

Anyway, the function of the blog as a diary to look back on and remind myself of various things is one I find myself wanting more and more to get back to, so here's some of what has been happening the last couple of weeks.

One xmas cake baked. 2 batches of mincemeat made (a few weeks ago) and first batch of mince pies done. Batch of apple, pear and ginger mincemeat started this evening and fruit for second xmas cake soaking. I'm very late with the cakes but just haven't had the long baking time at home at all over the past few weeks. I also made an advocat cake for the first time last week and it went down very well in work, so I am pleased to have a new recipe to add to my repertoire.

I celebrated my birthday and in the end 25 people turned up to help me have a really wonderful evening. And I enjoyed the Viking Splash Tour the next day just as much as I'd hoped - our tour guide, Barry the Brutal, kept us laughing the whole time and I learned a couple of interesting new things about Dublin, too. The craft fair was great, too and although I had a lot of fun spending my sealed pot money, and going back on the Sunday to spend some more money I was given for my birthday, the best part was finding a guy who I realised would be able to make me something that I would love to give my brother. So I've commissioned a piece for his birthday in July and am excited beyond bits about it. And last but not least, the very sore back that I acquired a few weeks ago when babysitting for a two-year-old was all but taken care of by another lovely flotation session at the Harvest Moon Centre. So yeah, lots of positive to try and concentrate on!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sealed pot opening 2014 and challenge aims for 2015

It's that time of year again, time to open up my sealed pot (see SFT's Life After Mortgage blog for other participants in this year-long challenge) and see how much my not terribly regular donations of spare change over the past year have amounted to. I thought it'd be less than last year as I kept forgetting about it to be perfectly honest. And I had no notes in this year's pot at all. I was very surprised when I lifted the pot down from it's shelf as it was far heavier than I had expected.
Hard to judge from this angle how much there is although there are a lot of 1 and 2 euro coins to be seen
All of that made a nice little pile though...

...even better looking when it was all counted and nicely stacked up though.
I have been saving my 50c pieces separately and they have now gone back into their money box and I'll continue putting away as many of the 50c pieces I get as possible and that money will go towards hopefully moving next year. €66 isn't bad (I miscounted at first and thought I had nearly €70, which just goes to show me that making little stacks like this is a great idea, since I'm obviously not capable of just counting coins properly). Although I didn't have any notes this year, and overall had fewer coins, I had a far larger percentage of higher denomination coins so my total, even without the 50c pot, was actually slightly higher! Hooray! Here's the breakdown:

Yep, that's right, even after I take away the 50c pot money, I still have a grand total of 

I had a lot of fun spending my sealed pot money at the National Craft and Design Fair last year and I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not I find anything nice at this year's fair. I'm flying to Dublin on Thursday after work and will be at the fair on Friday morning and possibly afternoon, before meeting up with friends and family to celebrate my 40th birthday. 40 years, my goodness how time does fly. Thanks again to Sue for hosting the Sealed Pot Challenge - it made last year's birthday lots of fun and it looks like it'll do the same again this year. I'm not feeling much of an urge to look for anything in particular though - kind of feeling like I have enough stuff at the moment. So I'll go along and enjoy looking at everything and really enjoy the feeling of knowing I have the money to get something if I want to.  

My third pot from last year, by the way, was an unmitigated disaster. I don't think I managed to get more than two five euro notes into it at the same time at all, or keep anything in it for more than a few weeks. Still want to try it again next year though. And I will seal up my pot again tomorrow and off we go again. Along with my 50c pot, of course - I am really pleased with how that one went. So 50c pieces for moving and the big pot for something nice for my birthday - possibly not at the same place next year though, a lot will depend on whether or not I manage to find a new job and move next year. Watch this space.

If you'd like to join in with the Sealed Pot Challenge for 2015, head on over of SFT's blog to put your name down. See you there!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday cooking

Still struggling a bit to get things under control but today has so far been a pretty good day. The first day this week that I was able to just sleep until I woke up (so that typically, even after waking and going back to sleep twice, when I was finally awake it was still only half-nine). I'm fighting a bad cough though, so really wanted to take it easy and sleep as long as possible.

I stayed in bed for a couple of hours and read a few chapters. I've done this a few times now and I think I'm going to make it my new Sunday morning routine. Wake when I'm finished sleeping and then read one chapter of each of two books. At the moment I'm reading "Das Große Los" by Meike Winnemuth - a German journalist who won half a million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and spent a year travelling the world, living for a month  at a time in a different city. It's a lovely read and lends itself well to reading a chapter at a time. This morning I read July, which she spent in London. And when I was finished that, I picked up "Tackling Depression" by Ian Birthistle and finished reading the chapter I must have started months ago. So for the next five weeks or so, I'm going to aim to read one chapter each of those two - I'm taking the fact that I have exactly five chapters left in each of them as a sign.

After reading, I lay for a while, wondering if I might doze off again but that didn't seem to be happening and despite wanting to take it very easy, in the hopes of knocking this cough on the head before it turns into a full-on cold, I had a lot of things to do and felt more of an urge to get up and do some of them. First up, the ironing. A fried came around yesterday and very kindly put up curtain rails in my sitting room. It took hours, the rails I bought and attempted to hang years ago were not going to work, in his opinion so I just took the advice of someone far more experienced in DIY than I am and we headed off to the local DIY centre to see what we could find. Got rails, a decent ladder and some LED bulbs - my seven bulb light in the sitting room has had one bulb after another die in the last couple of months and I was just waiting for the last one to go before getting new ones. Since we were there, I went ahead and got a few - they're pricey enough (although nearly the same price as the older style energy saving ones at this stage) so I just go four and will get the rest at the end of the month. My friend, T. being far more particular about things than I am, insisted on finding some way to tighten the shades on the light as well. It hasn't particularly bothered me that they hung a bit loose but I have to admit that it does look nicer now. Anyway, after a lot of work I finally have curtains rails hanging in my sitting room. But the curtains I got a while back from another friend who was leaving town need to be ironed - I hung one, just to see what it was like and although I could put them all up, telling myself I'd iron them soon, at this stage I've waited so long than I know it's better to do the thing properly once and for all. I have a mountain of other stuff to iron as well.

Since I had so much ironing to do I got up and immediately got stuck in to it. Or not. Nope, instead I headed into the kitchen and started doing one thing, then another and ended up spending the best part of two hours there. But, finally, I am sort of caught up on my vegetables. I have thrown out a shameful amount of food since I started getting the box delivered every week but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. So, today I used up the turnip, most of the Chinese cabbage and a couple of the carrots that were delivered this week, along with all of the potatoes I had on hand and half an onion. I've made cabbage rolls and they're just waiting now to be put into the oven when I want dinner.
I've also chopped up and sauteed two leeks that were just about on their last legs, along with the other half of the onion and some lardons. I'll use that tomorrow in a big quiche. I have a LOT of eggs to use up, too. I have a small amount of Chinese cabbage left, as well, and I'll either add that to the quiche, or keep it and make colcannon when I get my veggie box delivered on Thursday. I'd adjusted my order so that I'll just get eggs every second week now and every other week, I'll get potatoes. At the moment my fridge is looking in pretty good shape. I still have a Chinese cabbage from a couple of weeks ago, celeriac, plenty of carrots and two leeks from this week. So I'll have to have a think about all of that. I really want to do carrot and kidney bean burgers again soon. Realistically I'm not going to use the celeriac in anything other than soup, so I might make a big pot and freeze some of it perhaps. But for now, I'm happy to feel like things are coming under control, dinner's ready to go, the washing up has all been done (except the dish that the cabbage rolls are in) and I've been sat down for about an hour at this stage. That means it must be time to do the ironing!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Xmas baking

Got mincemeat made, now for the cake. Cakes actually, I'm going to try and do two this year. And I briefly toyed with the idea of using the half packet of suet I have leftover to make a very small pudding but then I read the recipe - seven hours total cooking time, on top of 40 minutes prep? You must be joking. Maybe next year. For now I'm happy to have gotten the mincemeat done. By dint of using tin foil instead of the proper lids I got a double batch done so I really hope everyone will be in the mood for lots of mince pies this year. And until December, I get to enjoy having a couple of very pretty jars to look at.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Here's the actual photo

As I may have mentioned, still trying to figure out this whole smartphone thing!

Visual journal - 16th October 2014

Second attempt to post this. Have installed a different app since it seems blogspot won't let me switch between accounts. Or at least I can't figure out how to. Still getting used to having a smartphone.
Anyway, l have a week off now to study for my exam, which is next Wednesday. I spent yesterday mostly in bed, trying to shake the cold that started last Thursday as well as recover from a very late night after the football on Tuesday.
This morning I was up early for a therapy appointment and then went straight into town to get a few things done. So, not much studying done yet but I did get to snap this nice picture of the Rathaus (the town hall) along with the statue of good old Jan Wellem.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Veggie update

Just a quick one to make a note of how I'm getting on so far with the organic vegetable delivery. The timing was really not great and I might have been a bit to ambitious to get my first one just before financial year-end at work, not to mention two weekends full of choir activity.

I'll start with the bad. The giant head of lettuce languished in the fridge and I had to admit defeat and throw it out on Thursday evening - knowing that I was going away for the long weekend (Friday was Reunification Day and a holiday here).  The sprouts are still in the fridge and still within their best before date but I really amn't sure I'll use them. And the corn is also still just lying in the fridge - I haven't actually checked it and it might be alright, even if corn really is one of those things that tastes best eaten as fresh as possible.

Otherwise, although I'm starting to build up a bit of a surplus of vegetables, I was at least able to use up a couple of things. I decided to make the spiced cauliflower and potatoes on Tuesday evening and took some duck out of the freezer to go with it. What I hadn't planned on was working until just after ten o'clock. Still, because I had left the duck out to defrost I set to when I got home just after half-ten. I turned on the oven as soon as I got in the door and then I prepped the cauliflower and peeled potatoes in double-quick time. Finished the last potato just as the thermostat on the oven clicked off so I threw everything into a dish and put it in to roast while sat down to check a few emails. I was up early on Wednesday to help out at an event at work so did leave at my normal seven o'clock time that evening, came home and then cobbled up all the leftover cauliflower and potato. I could have easily made that much into a second meal but there was no other time I was going to be at home to eat it so it was finish it or throw it out. I grated cheese over the top of it, heated it up and it was delicious. Then I grated the rest of the block of cheese and put that into the freezer. There'll be no more cheese wasting in my house!

The pumpkin is still fine and I haven't yet used the fennel but overall I'm glad that even during what turned out to be an incredibly busy week, I managed to use some stuff.

Due to the bank holiday on Friday the delivery last week came a day early, on Wednesday. This weeks delivery had: 1 head of lettuce (a different type), 5 tiny small pears, 2 cox apples, 6 eggs, 2 kohlrabi (1 medium, 1 large), 1 head of red cabbage, 2 fennel bulbs, 7 small tomatoes and a huge bunch of parsley.

Knowing I'd be away for the weekend I forced myself to put everything away properly so instead of just sitting down after getting home from work, I spent the fifteen minutes checking and clearing out the previous week's veg and putting the new stuff into Tupperware and into the fridge. The lettuce was not in great shape, to be honest and I stripped off the outer leaves immediately. I think it's a butterhead lettuce, which I don't really like very much so I might struggle to finish it but I'm going to get up when I've posted this and wash it at least, so that it's ready to use for lunches during the week.

I gave a friend the new fennel immediately, since I'm not a huge fan and still had the previous week's one sitting in the fridge. And also gave her and another friend who happened to be there one pear each. I brought the pears away with me and ate two for breakfast on Saturday so just have one of those left. They're really delicious, even if they're not the most attractive looking pears I've ever seen. The delivery note lists them as Clapps Liebling.

Once I got home today, quite tired after the weekend away, lots of activity, late nights and a long drive home I had basically decided that I was going to go out to eat but all of that stuff was calling to me so when I spied the eggs I decided I could just do something with those. When I actually went in to the kitchen to cook something I had a brainwave and decided to do a pastryless quiche, I'd gotten mozzarella on Thursday, thinking I'd make a tomato tart but just didn't have the energy to be making pastry, easy though that may be. Only problem is that I forgot that the last times I've made pastryless quiche, I've used my small ceramic dish, and not the larger two-part metal one. And the two-part one, it turns out, isn't water-tight or liquid-proof in any way at all. All of a sudden, wondering how to use up the 15 eggs I now had on hand seemed like less of an issue and I spent more than half-an-hour trying to sop up egg from the cooker, all over the oven, the floor and just what felt like everywhere. What a mess.

I ended up managing to tip everything into a different dish and once the oven was halfway clean, I did get to make and eat what turned up to be a pretty good dish. I used up the tomatoes, the smaller kohlrabi, two leeks that have been in the fridge for well over a month at this stage and a small onion, as well as the mozzarella and all but two of the eggs (I reckon at least five or six eggs worth got sopped up and thrown down the drain). Oh well, just another reminder that trying to do new things while tired probably isn't a very good idea.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Organic veg box

I'm running a bit ragged trying to keep up with everything and kind of losing the battle. Partly in reaction to that, I'm trying to do things that should make things a bit easier. Although I'm not sure if they really will or if I just want to feel like I'm doing something to make things a bit easier. At any rate, last week I ordered myself a weekly veg box from a local organic farm. I placed the order online and they phoned me the next day to check if there was anything I didn't want. I couldn't think of anything to say except peppers (can't eat) and cucumbers (don't eat). They don't just sell their own produce and do buy in from other places - although everything is organic, I don't know that it's really all local so I've chosen the regional box (cost ca. €13 per week) plus 6 eggs. And on the phone, I made sure that she knew that the whole regional aspect was what was most important to me. The delivery cost is €1.50, although if I can persuade other people in my building to order as well, that cost is shared among everyone. There's also a €6 deposit on the crate that it comes in.

First delivery was this morning, it didn't arrive until after I had left for work but my friend who owns a shop in the bottom of my building agreed to take it in for me and all I had to do was pick it up from the bike shed when I got home this evening.

1 giant head of lettuce, 1 pretty big cauliflower, 1 medium size hokkaido pumpkin, 3 apples, 1 fennel bulb, 1 cob of corn, a packet of alfalfa sprouts and, of course, 6 eggs.

Will need to phone them and strike sprouts off the list of things to send me. I do eat them but not that much and if I want to, I can just sprout a few seeds myself. Apart from sprouts being one of the things there have been serious food scares about in recent years (and if memory serves correctly it was organic sprouts in particular), it's more plastic packaging that I just don't need.

I'm also dithering a bit on the eggs. While still from my state they are pushing the boundaries of local as far as I'm concerned. Googlemaps tells me that the village they come from is 164km from my house and that 100 miles, the somewhat arbitrary but generally accepted locavore standard, is 160km, The farmers at my local farmers' market must come from within an 80km distance of the market, so I know I have a 'more local' option available to me. And there is of course the added mileage of the eggs being delivered to the farm that does the deliveries, which is another nearly 20km further away and then back again to me on delivery day.

There are a couple of reasons I decided to give a veg box delivery a try.

  1. To try and keep spending under control and consistent - no impulse purchases at farmers' market!
  2. To force me to cook proper, healthy, veggie-focused meals again - no paralysis of choice!
  3. To save me the pressure and time of having to get up and moving and out early on Saturday mornings.
If I start having to go to the market just for eggs then I'm defeating the purpose of saving myself time and stress on Saturday mornings. And possibly also leaving myself open to the temptation of buying stuff I don't really need. So I'll have to really think about it before deciding what to do.

All in all though, I'm pretty happy with what I got. I'm not a huge fan of fennel but I think I'll cut it up very small and use it for a pasta sauce of some kind. Corn on the cob is always good, as is pumpkin. Jack Monroe had a lovely recipe for cauliflower pasanda in the paper the other day that I'd love to try and I also have potatoes and have been wanting to do the Smitten Kitchen's spiced potato and cauliflower again, too, so using up that cauliflower won't be a problem. And the salad will be used up in wraps and such for lunches. I'll need to do a bit of a marathon cooking session at the weekend though, as I'm very, very busy for the next ten days or so and just won't have much time for cooking and will need to just have stuff prepared and ready to be heated up as much as possible.

And, just to prove that it really is all organic, I even got the token slug along with my delivery

P.S. A couple of bloggers have started a funding campaign to help Phelan, the lovely and tenacious Homesteading Neophyte, who will never ask for help for herself. See framboise manor for more details, or go straight to the gofundme page. The aim is to raise enough for them to get connected up to the power grid before winter hits but Phelan blogged yesterday about the pipe of her woodstove exploding unexpectedly so any additional money over and above the original goal of $1,000 will be just as much appreciated and put to just as good use. If you have even a couple of euro/dollars/choose your currency to spare, please consider donating something.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Net worth mid-September

Back at the end of May I posted my first net worth update and I was curious to see if there had been any improvement. I still don't quite have a routine or method for this down and I think it'll take me the guts of a year to really be able to see exactly what's what. That accounts for the fact that, according to my spreadsheet, my net worth has gone up by just over 12.5% in just over three months. About 3% of that is due to my starting the new pension plan with work. I don't know how to figure that one out exactly yet so for now I'm just counting what I've paid in - when I do get a statement (I think at the end of the calendar year) I'll have to do an adjustment to take account of fees and what not. Hopefully they'll also point me in the direction of an online tool that will allow me to check balances on a regular basis.

I wasn't able to check my Irish retirement bond so just left the value of that the same for now. I logged in to the website for my German Riesterrente for the first time and I think there is definitely something off there, as the total was substantially higher than my last statement (which I received in January). Again, I think perhaps when I get the next statement at the end of the year I'll see all the fees having been deducted and that I'm just not seeing that at the moment - especially since the difference I'm seeing is more than €400 more than the amount I have actually paid in to that pension so far this year! Next time I go to visit my friends in Frankfurt I might bring some stuff with me and try and go through it with them. My friend's husband is a pretty savvy investor and good with that kind of stuff.

I did however, all by myself, realise that I was making a mistake in my spreadsheet. Or at least I think I was. I was calculating the percentage by dividing the amount of the change by the total value. But I was taking the total current value and I think actually I should be looking at the amount of the change as a percentage of what the previous total value was. Does that sound about right? Would love to hear from anyone who also calculates the percentage increase of their net worth and how you figure that out. Maths has never really been my strong point.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Photos of repaired trousers

Frugal Paragon did a post a while back about fixing the worn inseam of a pair of jeans. Since I am also, to borrow her phrase, not a woman who is plagued with thigh-gap, I am all to familiar with this issue. A few years ago, I decided to try out one of the many tailors to be found all over in Germany.
I think it's just lining material used for the 'patch' - very soft
The problem wasn't just a worn seam, but that the material had actually worn right through. Since it's hard enough to get a pair of trousers to fit me and these were about the only nice, non-work, light trousers I had for the summer, it seemed worth the chance that a professional could do something. And I was amazed at just what is possible when you know what you're doing. Such a simple fix but I'm light years away from ever being able to do it myself. All he does is place a piece of material over the area that needs to be fixed and then sew lots and lots of lines to fix it in place.
You can see where the material is a bit balled but no holes!

And that's it. You can barely see it from the outside. Easy enough with black, I suppose but he really does match up the colours so well, too.

Since then I've had a couple of other pairs of trousers repaired in the same way and nowadays I try to be a bit more pro-active with the whole thing, paying more attention to my clothes in an attempt to get them fixed preemptively where possible. With that in mind, a few months ago I put a pair of black work trousers into a bag, meaning to take them to my lovely local tailor as the material had started to ball on the inside leg and I could see it was wearing though. True to my usual style I then left that bag sitting for a couple of months until my favourite trousers, combat-style very lightweight summer trousers that I bought in Australia when I was there developed a rip. I didn't think they were quite at that stage but they were nearly at the end of a second summer of heavy wearing so fair enough. I am thrilled that I got these trousers done actually, because starting to cycle a bit more means there's even more wear and tear on that part of the legs so having them already reinforced is great.
Here's the second pair - material is a different colour so easier to see but it was the same colour as the trousers on the reverse
And here's the outside - you can see the outline of the 'patch' more on this one, I think because of the lighter colour
I love being able to extend the life of my clothes like this - cheaper than buying new trousers (if I could even find nicely fitting ones) and less waste. It was only a few weeks ago but I'm ashamed to admit I've already forgotten how much I paid for this. It's in or around ten euro per pair of trousers, I think, possibly a bit less. I don't have a problem paying professionals to do a good job though and am very happy to support a family business like this one.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tattoo or not tattoo

Ha. I'm so witty and I'm sure totally original with that title! Actually, I was just going to pop on to do a quick post about how I've had two no-spend days this week, with two very low-spend (just one thing on each of those days) days to boot. And I've been singing on and off all day so although the greyness is still hovering somewhere in the back of my head, things seem to be picking up a little bit. I have been making quite a bit of effort to cook and eat properly and trying to get up a bit earlier so that there's less rushing around in the morning. And I had a fabulous meal at a friend's house after work on Monday, which seemed like a really great way to start the week.

But instead of all that, what's most on my mind is trying to decide what I would get if I were to get a tattoo. I've never really had a very definite view on tattoos. As a teenager, along with many other somewhat rigid views that I've long left behind I was totally convinced by the "maiming yourself and can never change it, stuck with it for life, even when you're old and wrinkly" argument. Of course, once I started to learn to actually think for myself and, to a certain extent, as more and more people started to get tattoos and they became about more than just anchors and naked women on sailors' arms, I moved a bit away from that idea and it has to be admitted that some tattoos really are absolutely fabulous works of art.

Next up in my thought process is that I would like a small tattoo. Probably the Newgrange sprial, which I (along with a gazillion other people) have always loved. Not being much of an artist, I didn't have much to offer the world in terms of doodling but if I ever did doodle in school it was invariably attempts at that spiral. Or Forever Free, which became my favourite song when I first heard it at about age 16. Where was I? Oh yes, spiral. Probably on my back, down around my hip, I think. Somewhere that no-one except me and a few select others would ever see. Except I kept waiting until I'd lost weight because I reckoned getting one at this size, with the skin stretched so much, would end up being pretty horrible looking when I lost weight and toned up. Although at this stage I may be getting past the stage where my skin is ever going to just "snap back" even if I do ever manage to actually slim down.

Today I happened to see a friend of a friend and someone commented on her tattoo (an anchor, very nicely done, I have to say) and she mentioned she'd only gotten it recently. For some reason, I found myself thinking, you know what, it'd be kind of nice to get a tattoo. If I got one on my upper arm, or even my shoulder, the whole skin shrinkage thing (if that's even actually a real thing!) wouldn't be as much of an issue, I don't think. I don't think I'd get one on my wrist or lower arm (although I'd kind of like one on my wrist) because even if I wear long sleeves I never make it more than a few minutes without pushing them up to my elbows and I do still have to work. I think I may need to think about it a whole lot more but I even asked that woman earlier where she'd gotten it done and I think if I'm at the stage of asking people where they're going to get it done and how much it costs, I'm a lot closer to the decision to get one than ever before. Part of me even seems to think that it's an entirely appropriate thing to do during this approach to my 40th birthday. That's just leaves the question of what to get. I'll keep the spiral as a weight-loss reward, I think, as originally planned. But if I were to get a tattoo on my arm or shoulder (I like the look of them on the shoulder but would prefer one that I could see without contorting in the mirror, I think), what should it be?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kitchen goings-on

Today mostly felt like I was trapped in a comedy of errors. It seemed like nothing was going right but I still managed to get a bit done in the kitchen at least.
Tomatoes and onions waiting to go into the oven
5kg of tomatoes and just over half a kilo of onions, with garlic, basil, salt, pepper and sugar added gave me just over 5 litres of passata, which I simmered for an hour to end up with 3 litres (also used some straightaway, it's verging on being too salty but just about stays on the right side of delicious)
Passata cooking down a bit and the small pot on the right is a couple of eggs poaching in some of the freshly made passata
And a small quiche that I made after remembering that I had some leftover pastry in the fridge. Delighted I thought of it in time to get it into the oven straight after the tomatoes, too.
It's late now but I need to get back into the kitchen for just a few more minutes and wash the lettuce I bought yesterday so that it's all ready to go for lunches during the week.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tiny houses

Or, in this case, apartment. Love this design - I often say that I don't necessarily need a huge place but that it's essential for me to have at least two separate rooms, preferably three (I'm not much of a fan of open plan, although it can look nice, I don't like it for living in). But this sorts of turns all of that on it's head and leaves me wondering how I would find living somewhere like this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lovely passata

Picture taken in bad light but this is really a gorgeous colour in real life - managed to get a good mix of yellow, red, pink and darker red tomatoes in to give this wonderful orange.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to can with a full-time job and lots of other stuff to do

Basically, in starts and fits. After having been sick last week, which meant the tomatoes I bought at the market just sat in their bag in the hallway all week I really needed to get something done with them this weekend, whether I felt like it or not. One unexpected "benefit" of my cycle yesterday was that sitting down for a lazy afternoon wasn't as appealing as it might normall be on a grey Sunday afternoon, since sitting down at all for more than a few minutes was kind of painful.

So I headed into the kitchen and tackled the bag of tomatoes. I'm very glad that the temperatures had dropped a fair bit last week as I ended up only having to throw out two of them and cut parts of three others. Not bad overall - I had bought six kilos and ended up with just over five and a half. Just sliced in half and spread on two roasting trays with some chopped up onions, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, sugar and olive as per the recipe for roasted tomato passata in the River Cottage Preserves book. I got that lot into the oven and set about making an apple tart to bring to the pub quiz.

It all worked out well really, got the pastry made, then left that cooling while I peeled and chopped the apples. Once that was done I rolled out the pastry, assembled the tart and then left that to rest while I took care of doing the washing-up and hunted for my mouli. At that stage the tomatoes had been in the oven nearly an hour so out they came and the tart went in. It did take me nearly half an hour to get all of the tomatoes through the mouli and I ended up with close to 5 litres and just enough time to wash the roasting trays before it was time for the tart to come out of the oven.

I didn't have enough time to can the passata before leaving for the quiz however and decided I could do that this evening. Completely forgetting that I had book club straight after work this evening. Still, I made it there, had a lovely meal, chatted a bit about the book (which I still haven't finished and have to admit, am finding kind of boring and annoying but that's just the way it goes sometimes with book club) and then, a bit later than planned, around half-nine, made my excuses and rushed home. Put the passata on to boil and reduce a bit, washed some jars and then set the water canner full of water to boil.

While waiting for all of that to come to a boil I made myself a cup of tea and phoned my sister. Ended up on that call for a bit longer than planned, which is how I found myself at quarter past eleven heading back into the kitchen to fill jars with passata. It's now ten past midnight and I think the water canner is just nearly about to reach a boil, so another half an hour or so and I'll be able to get the jars out and then I can head to bed and will count off the pops of the lids sealing (used Leifheit jars with the two-part lids this time, rather than the older glass lid jars) as I fade off to sleep. It might seem like madness but if I want to do crazy things like canning some of my own food and still live a typical urban office worker life, that's just the way these things go. And there's even enough passata left to have with some pasta tomorrow for dinner. It's nice when things work out.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


This morning, after only procrastinating a little bit, I got up on the bike and headed off to Kaiserswerth, a small town on the outskirts of Dusseldorf. Wasn't at all sure I'd make it but I was nearly the whole way there before I started to feel like I could really do with a break. It's a nice cycle along the river.

Once I made it as far as the castle ruins, I did get off the bike and take a break. Rested against a wall for a few minutes, had a quick wander around and then sat for a while and ate an apple. After a bit less than half-an-hour (it's a bit cold today - other days I could imagine hanging around for longer, soaking up the sun and reading or something) I decided to head back. The wind had picked up and move a bit so that what came at me from the side on my way there was now coming at me full on from the front. And I had put on my jacket while sitting and decided to leave it on as rain looked not too far off. All of a sudden I was barely able keep moving at all. Such a difference. I struggled on for ten or fifteen minutes, not making much headway and even being passed out by one jogger! So I decided that the resistance my rather capey jacket was creating might have something to do with it, even though it didn't really seem to be billowing too much. It was still far more difficult than the outward journey but taking off the jacket definitely helped. And the rain stayed more or less away - just a drizzle really and not all the way home. I was going to take a photo of my bike but in the end didn't bring my camera as I didn't want to chance stopping to get lots of photos becoming an excuse to keep stopping while I was on the road.

It took me nearly an hour to get there and just exactly an hour to get back. Which is kind of slow. On the other hand, if you had told me I'd be able to cycle for two hours at all, or that I'd make it 22km (nearly 14 miles), I probably wouldn't have believed it. And I'm getting a bit better at judging stopping and starting while taking account of the back pedal brakes. I think I'll leave the bike where it is for a couple of days but I have a few things to do on Wednesday both before and after work that would be made slightly easier if I use the bike, I think, so I'll plan on taking it out then. I can feel it in my legs and arms a bit at the moment but it's my bum I think I need to worry about recovering by then!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Will I never learn?

Came down with an ear infection on Friday a week ago, complete with vertigo and feeling like I was going to throw up on and off though the afternoon as well as a killer headache. I left work early and came home to bed (but did take advantage of being back so early to stop into one of the shops on my road to buy a couple of cheap frames for the posters I ordered from allposters recently and didn't feel a bit guilty about it either).

On Saturday I had quite a few things to do so I dragged myself out of bed and set off to do things. Had to collect my new orthotics and a couple of other things. Given that it was Saturday morning I also decided to stop at the market to buy some salad for the week and while there was tempted into buying loads of tomatoes, thinking to myself that rather than just bottling, with the attendant faffing around skinning and hulling and all that, that I would make roasted tomato passata, which would be absolutely doable even while not feeling too good. Unfortunately, I underestimated how bad I was feeling because although I did get quite a bit done on Saturday, Sunday was a wash-out. I didn't even manage to get the washing up done and then, since the washing up wasn't done nor the kitchen cleaned, I couldn't exactly start working on the tomatoes. Basically, I stayed in bed almost all day. Got up very late afternoon, had a shower and got dressed and headed out to the quiz, which somehow seemed like a good idea although I kind of struggled to make it to the end of it. The thing I find with ear infections is that if you don't have severe vertigo it's really easy to underestimate how sick you actually are. I ended up not going to work on Monday and Tuesday and, although I was feeling much better and thought I'd get to use that time to at least catch up with washing-up and cleaning, I did nothing at all. Slept a lot and read a small amount. 

So with choir after work on Wednesday and very busy days in work on Thursday and yesterday, I've ended up having a week where I nearly stopped going into the kitchen because the dishes were starting to look a bit scary and I just didn't have the time or energy to even think about dealing with them. And a large bag of tomatoes still sitting on the floor in the hallway. Sigh. At least the weather took a turn for the worse this week and it was cool enough that I think some of them should still be salvageable. 

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get everything done this weekend, as I'm still a bit tired and, to be completely honest, really struggling with not falling into a hole of depression but so far I'm doing alright. I'm just waiting for my third washing machine full of clothes to be done and I've done two sinkfuls of dishes and just have a few cups left. So nearly back to something approaching normal But will I ever learn that when I'm sick, I really need to not do things like buy kilos of tomatoes, thinking I'll have the energy to process them! Not to mention the salad that has been sitting in the fridge since last Saturday and that I haven't even looked at since!

To finish on a slightly more positive note, I sent off my application for doing the translator's exam in October this week so that's something.

Edited to add one more positive thing: I did get a pump last week and this evening, having promised a friend to check on her cat while she's away, I took the bike out, cycled part of the way there (had walked halfway before I got the nerve up to get on the bike!) and all the way back. I'm still way too nervous, especially with traffic and trying to be careful of tramlines but it's a start. I can feel the stress in my shoulders and neck still, though - definitely have to work on it some more.

Monday, August 04, 2014

False economy

This weekend, rather than buying tomatoes at the farmers' market from the local, organic farmer, I decided that my local corner greengrocer had an offer that was too good to miss. 99c per kilo for German (no further designation so no idea how local) tomatoes. Okay, at that price you're bound to have to throw out a few mouldy or squashed ones but, you know, have to be practical. Until I have my own garden I have to find a way to accommodate the cost of bottling my own tomatoes and this, I thought it one way to do it.

I did this a couple of years ago and I remember at the time thinking that really the tomatoes weren't great and that I wouldn't bother another time. But the bargain seemed to good to miss so I did it again. Because I did remember that when I opened and used those jars in the winter, they weren't half bad. However, out of the 8kg I bought, I barely managed to get enough tomato to fill five 1 litre jars. The amount of mouldy or otherwise bad ones to throw out actually wasn't too bad, maybe eight or ten tomatoes plus cutting pieces off some more. And I had no sooner sat down to start processing them than I remembered what I hated last time. These tomatoes are just not the ripe ones I'm used to from the market, despite the look and feel of them. And/or they're the type bred to have a super tough skin. So the usual method of blanching in hot and then cold water to loosen the skin so that it just slips off just doesn't work. I ended up taking nearly three fucking hours to get them all done. What a waste of my time. What a waste of a huge amount of tomato which just wouldn't come away from the skin. It was like watching someone peeling a potato the size of their hand and ending up with a one inch square.

So, although I did start very late, far later than planned due to my inability today to get moving at all, I definitely still didn't think that I'd be sitting here at one o'clock waiting for the water bath processing to be finished. So, no more bargain tomatoes for me. Unless perhaps I get them to roast and then put through the mouli to make passata.

In other news, I am either heading into another crappy depressive episode or have the worst PMS I can remember having for years. I've burst into uncontrollable tears several times today, am struggling to move against the tidal wave of worthlessness and what's-the-point-edness that's threatening to drown me and the thoughts of actually having to fill out that form my therapist gave me is crippling. That's the form that's supposed to give them an idea of how I'm finding the treatment and also be used to convince my Krankenkasse that I should get another 15 sessions (or whatever arbitrary number they've decided on). I had a quick read through the day I got it and it has been stressing me out ever since but I have to hand it in on Tuesday (also the day I meet my new therapist since the one I had been working with has now gone on maternity leave). I'll be glad once it's done but genuinely don't know what I'm going to answer for some of the questions. If I'd known there was going to be a fecking exam I would have taken notes during my sessions!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

What I preserved in 2013

It wasn't a lot but here's the list anyway:

Basil pesto (frozen - 1 x Tupperware ice-cube tray)
Bread and butter pickles (1 x 1 lt, 2 x 500 ml, 6 x 290 ml)
Strawberries (pureed and frozen)
Tomato, courgette, onion sauce (frozen - 5 x 500 ml, 1 x 250 ml in ziploc)
Dried apples
Dried strawberries

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


First batch of tomatoes - all sealed properly, I've taken the clamps off now. Gives me a thrill every time I remove a clamp and the lid stays put. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Here's something Bridget never did

Bought a bit more than 4 kilos of tomatoes at the market yesterday, which my notes told me should be about enough for five 1 litre jars. Spent a couple of hours today giving the kitchen a better cleaning than it has had for months and then set to. Water bath canner on the cooker, jars washed and waiting, boiled as well as chilled water ready and waiting. It took me another hour to get the tomatoes skinned, chopped and into jars. At least I was cleaning as I went though, which helped at the end when I didn't have a ginourmous pile of stuff to do.

For whatever reason, though, the 3.85 kilos of tomatoes that I had (after skinning and hulling) only filled 3 one litre jars. I could have quickly cleaned a half-litre jar to fill with what was left but I did the sensible thing and put that into Tupperware to have with my salad for lunch tomorrow. Don't know how it happened because I have several entries in my notebook and for all of them it worked out as about 4 kilos of whole tomatoes for five 1 litre jars. I do have a note made once that it took that many because I had chopped them rather than leaving them whole. Perhaps I was packing them in very tightly this time round. Or perhaps they weren't as juicy as before. On the one hand, it is somewhat disappointing to do all that work and only have three jars for it. Not least because the organic farmer is selling for 5.00/kg this year, which is crazy expensive. (I bought half good tomatoes and half "juicing" tomatoes, which are blemished, split ones - fine if you're going to use them immediately, you can cut out the bad parts and only 3.50/kg).

On the other hand, of course, I have three big jars of tomatoes to put away for the winter. Hooray!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beer and crisps for dinner

Bridget Moonwaves has been a naughty girl. Invited friend over for tea. Excellent motivator to clear up sitting room and pretend I live like a 'normal' person. Delayed getting home as stopped to mention to the builders renovating shop across road that my apartment was lit up all night due to the new lights they'd put up, resulting in lengthy discussion of how none of it is their fault and I'll have to wait till shop re-opens and then complain to the people there. Lovely.

Got into apartment with five minutes to spare before guest arriving. Luckily guest is also Irish so actually had twenty-five minutes to quickly rush around, gathering piles of stuff and throwing it into bedroom, then closing door to present air of clean, calm and serene living space, gently scented by melty citrus and vanilla wax thing. Not candle, obviously, as do know the word for candle.

Despite best intentions of nice tea and ginger nut biscuits, kettle hadn't finished boiling before we'd decided to have beer instead. Beer and crisps for dinner is v. v. bad. Also, v. v. delicious.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Am domestic goddess

No. of chocolate bars planned to be eaten today: 0 No. of chocolate bars actually eaten: 2 (bad) No. of minutes spent thinking how lovely it is to wake up in someone's arms: 15 No. of minutes actually spent waking up in someone's arms: 0 No. of taxis required to get to work on time following wasteful daydreaming of arms: 1 (v. bad)

Brought healthy lunch to work. Is salad with tomatoes and one slice of bread as healthy option lunch cancelled out by having not one, but two cheesey breadrolls for breakfast/mid-morning snack? Think, on balance, not. The two bars of chocolate from the vending machine at five o'clock however, were definitely not a good idea. Also, chunky white kit-kat tastes yuck.

However, following success of preparing (and eating) delicious lunch and upon arriving home this evening having immediately sat down to repair rip in seam of trousers, am feeling like domestic goddess. This feeling is greatly assisted by focusing gaze firmly on laptop screen and not on piles of things waiting to be sorted/put away/ironed/otherwise dealt with. Did walk home (and then some), delivering two lots of Tupperware from my party a few weeks ago, leaving a much smaller pile now. V.v.glad tax return completion does not fall under pervue of domestic goddess.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mad about the boy

Got first local tomatoes at the market this weekend - v.v.good. Also, reading Mad About The Boy and have decided to post only in the style of Bridget Jones for the week. Book was irritating for first couple of pages but once used to style again was much better. Just like reading the first one. Change of writing style will (a) lead to better results on online writing style test and (b) help self rediscover lighter, funnier side of personality.*

Am obviously also channeling Bridget in the kitchen as have just made salad dressing a culinary disaster. First using sunflower oil instead of nice olive oil, then dropping spoon of mustard on floor. However, have done washing up, which means Tupperware salad bowl will be dry, ready and waiting for lunch tomorrow. V. good.

*(c) also will assist in keeping posts concise, leading to increased blogging activity (e.g. only seven minutes required for this post, leading to more efficient life and wonderfully happy, organised and zen self).

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Just a mini-rant because I want to have this written down somewhere. Just back from the doctor, where I went to get the results of my recent blood tests as part of a general check-up. Everything is fine. Annoying that he doesn't give the actual numbers but whatever, that always seems to be the way unless there's something wrong. I specifically asked about Vitamin D, having specifically asked for the test for that to be done. When I had it done a couple of years ago I measured at, if I'm remembering correctly, just 7. Between 30 and 100 is good, less than 20 is a fairly severe deficiency. The doctor prescribed me a very strong Vitamin D supplement, which I take every two weeks. When I remember, I have to admit. I find it difficult to remember every two weeks so do sometimes end up skipping. After coming back from Australia at the beginning of last year, I actually completely forgot about it for months.

At any rate, my level now is up at 22, which is a huge improvement, I think. Since my bottle of capsules is almost empty, I asked for another prescription only to hear that he's only allowed to prescribe a course of Vitamin D once and that if he were to prescribe it a second time, he'd get hassle from the health insurance company. How ridiculous is that? Particularly since, although there has been a big improvement, I'm still technically in the deficient range. I asked him if I should even just buy them myself but I can't get them without a prescription (there are obviously other, less strong supplements that you can buy in any supermarket) and he waffled a bit about how he could maybe give me a "green" prescription (you get a pink prescription for stuff the health insurance pays for and a green one for stuff you have to pay fully for yourself) but even that, it seems, would have been difficult and he has essentially said that I have to wait for my levels to drop again. Totally fucking ridiculous. Did I say that already? Particularly since the thing Vitamin D is particularly important for is assisting in the uptake of calcium in the bones, kind of particularly important for a women who is slowly but surely approaching menopause age you'd think!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fasting and saving

Back to the Fast Diet this week, or at least trying to get there. I did my first fast day on Wednesday but part of that was needing to get something to eat before choir, as I wasn't quite organised enough to have something with me. Went to a pub near where we rehearse, thinking I might get some soup and noticed they had penna all'arrabbiata, which I remember from WeightWatchers days as being a relatively good restaurant choice. It was a huge portion though. Really far more than one person could manage, even one not trying to fast. I still ate a bit more than half, more than I really should have and I was stuffed. Otherwise it was a fairly successful fast day. Today was my second and it was also pretty good.

Went into work this morning to catch up on some desperately overdue printing out and saving of emails. As per usual, what I thought might take three hours or so took closer to five. I didn't have breakfast and planned to leave work by about half-twelve to get home for lunch by one. Ended up staying there until just past three but two squares of dark chocolate and a cup of vegetable broth (I have a small Tupperware container of bouillon powder in my drawer) kept me going for less than 120 calories. Along with a litre of water in my new Tupperware bottle, which I'm loving, I have to say. And when I got home, by the time I'd eaten my planned wrap with salad and tuna mixed with quark and some pickled onions I was very full. There was some chocolate cheesecake at the quiz this evening so I definitely went well over even though they were very small slices. I did walk home at least. And I'm set for bringing lunches this week, too.

But look what I got! A friend of mine has a small translation company and mentioned a while ago that she was very busy and would give me something to do. When I was at her house on Thursday evening we got talking about it again and she sent me a contract to do as a trial. I will admit that it was very difficult but she said that on first reading she was delighted with it. She's going to go through it in detail later and send me her marked-up version so that I can see the things she thinks don't quite fit (hopefully there won't be too many of them). And in the meantime, she handed me this in return:
Well, okay, I had to give her back a fiver, 'cos that was the price we'd agreed on (still far more than I was comfortable with for a first trial)  but still, I've decided that this is officially the start of my 40th birthday fund.  :-)
Along with getting mountains of washing done yesterday and all the washing up done today, I'm calling it a pretty successful weekend all round!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A glimpse at my future

Apparently, this is the kind of thing I have to look forward to if I go ahead and start trying to earn money as a translator. LOL

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Chimneys

While I was in Dublin I stayed in a hotel not far from where I grew up and right on the sea. I took masses of photos, mostly of the same thing, hoping one might be good enough to get printed out in large and hang somewhere. I kind of have an idea of doing the same thing with a few different landmarks over the next few trips back there so that I can someday have one section of a room showing some of the best of my hometown. Or perhaps just have the different pictures dotted throughout the house. When you can see things all the time and then all of a sudden they're not in your background anymore, you do sometimes feel the lack somehow.

Anyway, this time round the photos are of the chimneys. These chimneys form part of the power station at Pigeon House or, as wikipedia tells me, actually Poolbeg Generating Station on Dublin Bay. It's funny how you know some stuff about your hometown but how often when you actually go looking for the facts you realise you only knew half bits and pieces of the actual information. At any rate, driving along the coast road as a child, on the way to visit my grandparents on the northside of the city, or on the way to the airport, we always looked out for the first view of the chimneys. My dad used to run a garage along Sandymount Strand, from where I took most of my photos. That was years before I was born but it did mean that he always had the answers to our questions about the area. What's that, why, when where etc., etc., etc. As an adult I used to love going to Sandymount Strand to walk along the beach or, if the tide was in, along the lovely promenade that was built. It was a lovely Sunday morning thing to do, although you had to get there fairly early or the place would be crowded. For once I was in Ireland during a heatwave so the weather was amazing and the light was incredible, although at times the sun was nearly too bright to allow really good photos. Here's one of my favourites of the chimneys though.
The chimneys, taken from Sandymount Strand

It would have been lovely to get this photo when the tide was in. Sandymount Strand is one of those where you can walk for more than half-an-hour to get to the sea when the tide is out and yet only leaves a few inches of beach visible when the tide's fully in. Here's one taken the following day but from Blackrock, which is a few miles away, when the tide was coming almost in.
The chimneys, taken from beside Blackrock DART Station
And there were lovely clouds just a small bit to the left of the chimneys in this one, which would have made it perfect. I can kind of understand why artists can end up painting multiple pictures of the same scene. So many variations.
The chimneys, taken from Sandymount Strand. That's not sea in the background though, it's mist evaporating.
I happened to land in Dublin on Saturday evening and by the time I had collected my rental car and driven over to the southside, it was dark. I had just turned on to Sandymount Strand when I noticed the moon. And it was incredible. I pulled into the first car park to get out and look at it, because I really wasn't sure I could look away and didn't want to end up crashing the car! It was gone within a few minutes but it was one of the most amazing moonscapes I have ever seen (I want to say it was one of the most amazing moons I've ever seen but it's the same moon every night, after all!). It was giant in the sky, flaming red and so low it looked like it was perched on top of Dun Laoghaire pier. Along with the smell of the sea and the sound of the waves (moon and waves, anyone?), well, I have to admit I did get a little teary-eyed. But that's not the kind of thing you can photograph and hang on your wall so I'll stick with the chimneys for now. Anyone have a favourite of the photos above?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Everything's moving so fast

I can't believe we're already halfway through June. This evening I'll be on a plane to Dublin to spend a couple of days there and mainly to see one of my best friends getting married. I'm looking forward to it and really looking forward to not having to be in work for a few days.

It feels like things there are really catching up and I won't have a chance to fix everything before it all goes tits up, if you'll forgive the expression. It's not one I really like but just fits here. I stayed late yesterday to at least try and sort out the mess that is my desk and at least get a bit of an overview of what's to be done. I thought I had a pretty good idea of the very long list of stuff I need to do and was plugging away, realising I wasn't even going to get one of the bigger tasks finished when I moved what I thought were two files that I just needed to get filed and found another one underneath them. It had been totally hidden from sight somehow but contained workings for an invoice that should have been sent out the last week of April/first week of May. Crap. I couldn't believe it when I saw it and quite genuinely felt like just getting up, walking out of the office and never coming back. My stomach was in knots. I still cannot really figure out what happened but that is the second really big mistake I have made since September. And that I just have no reason or excuse for. That panicky feeling? That's the reason I tend to not make big mistakes - I loathe that feeling and would rather spend hours working extra every week to be sure everything's done properly than be a bit less picky. Let your guard down for just a little while and see what happens. I sent my boss an email immediately but what could I say really? She did read the email almost immediately (I could see it had been opened in her inbox) but didn't reply. I haven't looked at my Blackberry today. I'm kind of hoping by the time I get back next Friday she'll have calmed down a bit. But it's really bad that my annual review has to be done by the end of June. And since I'm hoping to leave before another one comes around, my evaluation for this review will be what my reference will largely be based on.

When I got home last night I was still too keyed up to sleep so I set to, finally doing the washing up that has been collecting since, I kid you not, just over a week. As I said, things are catching up with me! I have barely even opened the door to the kitchen this week as I knew what I'd be looking at. Got it all done and the place sorted out a bit. Labelled and stored the jam I made nearly two weeks ago as well.

This morning, I've been taking a long time to get going (obvious by the fact that it's one o'clock and I'm still talking about morning). I've one wash that will be finished shortly and another to go in immediately as there are things I need to bring with me that I didn't get around to washing during the week. Typical. Hopefully they'll be mostly dry by the time I need to leave. I've tidied up a bit and just finished hoovering. Need to wash the floors now. And then myself. And then find some food. I think I'm just going to go out for lunch and save myself any more washing up duty. And at some stage I have to pack, too. So I really should get a move on now.

Here's a link to some photos taken after the big storm last Monday. I haven't quite figured flickr out (after something like seven years - I really need to do something about that) so most of the photos are without captions or names but you can get an idea. We have had some spectacular sunsets, too. Although I find the sunset setting on my camera seems to make everything very yellow rather than enhance the red. But you can get an idea of the devastation.

Monday, June 09, 2014

What the actual fuck!?!

That was kind of the reaction we had this evening when we came out of the restaurant following this month's book club. We went to Okinii, a Japanese restaurant not far from the main train station. Highly overrated, by the way - food was nice but service was pretty abysmal (especially given that you order everything yourself via an iPad at your table) and quite frankly the whole thing was more expensive that I would be bothered to pay again. At any rate, we were sat way down the back and it's quite loud and we were engrossed in conversation so it wasn't until I went to the front of the restaurant to go to the toilet that I saw it was absolutely lashing rain. And I saw lightening, too so when I got back to the table I duly told the girls that it was lashing rain and storming. None of us really reacted more than to wish we'd brought umbrellas and then we got back to our discussion.

Fast forward to about another hour later, just before eleven we left the restaurant and it was still spitting rain a bit. Got to the first cross street down the road, looked to the right and saw the fire brigade with lights flashing and blocking the road. Well, to be honest it wasn't them blocking the road, it was the two or three trees and large branches that were. Seemed unusual and interesting and then we continued on. I crossed to the tram stop and then noticed there were lots of very big branches across the lines at a few places. Since it seemed likely the trams weren't running as a result I turned around to walk up the road to the nearest underground station, figuring at least the underground would be running. But it turns out, not so much. I did get to the platform just as one tram was about to arrive, which was running to one stop before mine so I hopped on that and met one of the friends I had been with and separated from when I went off to get my tram. We both decided that since it seemed all the other trams, trains and buses weren't running, we'd get taxis. But when we got out of the underground we could see even more trees down, blocking most of the taxi rank, as was the portaloo that's there for the taxi drivers. And no taxis in sight but a longish queue waiting.

Walking it was. We set off together, as the first part of our route lay together and when we got to where I would normally have turned off the entire road was blocked with police stopping people from turning up there. Again, trees down and across the road. I asked them if the road along the river was clear and the answer was stay away from anywhere with trees (living in such a nice green city, that's pretty hard to do!) and it's all at my own risk. What a sad state of affairs the world is in when that's the first thing the police have to think of to say: at your own risk.

I kept walking along with my friend until we got to the river. Had to walk around a lot of large branches and trees blocking the way and passed one poor smashed car but luckily no injuries to be seen. There were lots of trees down all along the river, too. And glass smashed out of billboard type poster pillars with the posters also torn to shreds. My house, at least, seems to have escaped any damage but there are tiles on the pavement next door and further down the road, again, a few trees down. The big tree across from mine seems okay though. And look at this photo posted on twitter. Amazing. https://twitter.com/laaarry/status/476091835598004225/photo/1
This person must be just around the corner from me - I can also see this ERGO building from my window. There are more photos of that girl's twitter feed if you want to see the kind of thing I'm talking about. As well as lots of remarks on insurance companies getting what they deserve and irony. LOL
And this is at the side of the supermarket just down the road from me: http://twitpic.com/e5tn24
Amazing photos online of cloud formations, too, like this one from a nearby town: https://twitter.com/23af09/status/476107511318466561/photo/1

All in all, I feel a bit like in a film when some mad action is taking part outside while the oblivious in the restaurant keep eating and drinking and come out at the end of the film when the hero has saved the world and is just sitting down to relax and they're wondering why things look different!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sand safety

The lovely Earthchicknits has once again posted a reminded of the dangers of sand hole collapse. She came very close to losing her then three-year-old son seven years ago when they were at the beach and he fell into a hole dug by some kids earlier in the day, which then collapsed on top of him. Thankfully, a woman who helped them search after he went missing remembered the hole-digging from earlier and they found and were able to dig him out before  the worst could happen. Unfortunately, a majority of sand hole collapses involving people do end in death and so Earthchicknits does a lot to spread the word and  try to make sure that everyone knows about this problem. I grew up in Ireland and although it's not the place with the weather to spend every day on the beach, as an island country, spending time on the beach was definitely part and parcel of normal life. And yet I had never heard of this at all. The only safety notices I ever remember were always to do with water safety. Although a quick google reveals at least one death in the last few years so even though it may not be common, it does happen. So, please, do your bit to spread the word. Visit Earthchiciknit's blog, pin the sand safety poster, tweet, blog or post the message on whatever social media you use, talk to people about it and, above all else, when you're at the beach, please make sure to observe good sand safety.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Scorn not his simplicity

I may have posted this before. One of my favourite songs and, as mentioned in the video, absolutely the definitive version. And even though I know this was recorded for a television show it still has that great feel of a few musicians just coming together to make music, with some joining in just for a while, some not etc. as the mood takes them. Brilliant stuff.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How to lock your bike properly

Saw this earlier on LPA Rebuild and thought it was worth sharing. I haven't been out on the bike this year yet and really want to save up and get myself a ladies version of the bike I have so that I'm more likely to not be put off going for a cycle. I just wish the guy in this video had explained why he's so scathing about combination locks since that's what I have. Mind you, I also have a bike that cost me 20 euro and am using a lock that cost slightly more than that so going by his rule of thumb, I'm not doing too badly. Heehee.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Net worth update at end May

I still don't actually know my net worth as although one pension company managed to update my address, they seem to have lost the request for an updated statement of benefits so I need to phone them again on Monday to request that. However, from the other pension I have in Ireland, I received the statement of benefits in the post today and it has spurred me on to consider perhaps doing a monthly, or at least an every-few-months update on my net worth. It might even just be an annual thing, as I don't think I can get a statement of benefits for my Irish pensions more than once a year. But perhaps I'll manage to keep track online. We'll see. I'll probably keep doing this as long as it keeps going up and quit if the markets start to tumble again anyway!

I am currently calculating my net worth as being made up of the following:
Irish Pension
Irish Retirement Bond
German Riesterrente
German BAV (starting soon, this is the pension with employer matching benefits)
Vodafone shares

I will not be including bank accounts, at least for the moment. Ideally I'd like to get around 5,000 in place as savings/emergency fund. After that, I'm thinking that every additional 1,000 I save should be moved into a proper investment of some kind, i.e. something that offers more than the approximately half a percent interest currently available for ordinary savings accounts. That day is pretty far off in the future though, so plenty of time to figure it out before then.

And my net worth has risen by 0.11% since the last time I checked, which was only about two weeks ago, so that's alright. I'll take any gain as a good thing. Now to go and see if my prize bonds once anything this week.