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.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Neverending loop

Sometimes life feels like a neverending series of meal plans, budgets, washing up, worrying about money, procrastination, worrying about all the stuff I'm not doing (but should be) because of said procrastination and feeling bad for not being the kind of person I should be/want to be/wish I was. That's kind of where I'm stuck at the moment - keeping on keeping on but feeling like it's all pointless.

Given that I haven't written a meal plan for weeks and that definitely doesn't improve my life in any way, however, I do need to at least try and get back on the merry-go-round as far as useful things are concerned. After the Tupper party last week and having invited a friend to dinner yesterday evening, as well as having been unwell and not eating much for a couple of days, I'm in danger of soon needing to throw out a whole lot of food if I'm not careful. So need week will need to be a week of meals made using the bits and pieces leftover from the past week or so. I do need eggs and butter, so will head to the market for them on Saturday. The strawberries are great at the moment, so I'll be buying some of them, too, perhaps even enough to make some jam. Otherwise, I'll be trying to just look straight ahead and not notice any of the other wonderful things on offer at the moment.

I had a phone call from my brother today, who needs some money for rent, as his landlord had phoned the agent because he was late. He had apparently been planning to pay it next week but presumably has been late once too often and so needed enough to be able to pay it today. After the electricity bill last year I really thought he was getting on better with budgeting properly although it is true that a couple of months after that, he did stop talking about it. He has agreed to sit down in June when I am there and talk properly about a budget, so we'll see how that goes. I have mentioned to him before that he needs to get his act together particularly because if I change jobs next year as planned, I will be earning far less and just not able to help him out. I said that again today and he sounded as if I had never mentioned changing jobs or any of it before, ever, in any way. That smarted a little bit, I have to admit as I've been talking about my plans for well over a year now.

At any rate, I have a couple of weeks to try and figure out how best to convince him to start budgeting properly. I was wondering if an app like YNAB might work for him but he has only a basic phone and although he has a laptop he doesn't have internet access (unless he goes somewhere with free wifi) - once you have the app I don't know that you really need to be online to use it but I'm not sure. And it may be that old-school on this one would work best, with a plain hardback notebook and columns laid out. It's kind of hard to know what to do as I know that budgets will always work best if they're what you yourself find useful and my way of thinking is not necessarily going to match is. On the other hand, I also strongly suspect that if I could just hand him something and say it's all prepared, all you need to do is use it, there's a better chance he actually would. It's hard to know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to make kimchi

A few years ago a friend introduced me to a great Korean restaurant in our town. With each meal, you get a selection of small dishes of vegetables, mostly spiced and, among other things kimchi is one that always features. And it turns out I really like it. It never occurred to me to try and make it myself until last year I read a how-to on the Framboise Manor blog. Never got around to figuring out where to source Korean red pepper flakes and just sort of forgot about it. Looking at that how-to post it's from August and given the events of last September, that would explain that, I suppose. I was at that restaurant a few weeks ago and a friend commented on how good kimchi is for you, it's a good basic (as in high pH) food apparently, if you're into that kind of thing. That reminded me that I wanted to try it out myself.

Anyway, in the comments of Kymber's latest post someone posted a link to an Australian blog with another how-to for kimchi. Seems like a totally different recipe and now I really want to try both. And maybe more. So I decided to do a quick post with these links and, if I come across others in the future I can just add to it and keep everything in one place. And one day soon hopefully I'll get to add my own contribution, too.

Framboise Manor post: kimchi (or as i like to call it - kymberchi - teehee!) - a how-to

Flood-Proof Mum post: Focus on Fermentation Week: Kimchi

Anyone tried to make their own kimchi before?

P.S. Just in case Flood-Proof Mum happens by this post: I wasn't able to find any way to comment on your blog without being directed to set up a google+ account. But I'm enjoying it so far and look forward to at least being able to read through the archives.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Of pies and Tupperware

Yesterday I spent the morning whirling like a dervish in an attempt to get my apartment into the kind of state that I wouldn't mind other people seeing. I also needed to move my sofabed out of the bedroom and put it back into service as a couch so that I would actually have enough seats for the ten people who I was expecting at my Tupperware party. First party I've had for years and years and it was just as much fun as I remembered. Had beginner Tupper-Ladies though, so it was all a bit chaotic.

Good fun though and the turnover was pretty good so I have a couple of good freebies to look forward to. I do find myself somewhat torn between not wanting to be encouraging consumerism and actually hosting an event that I know will involve almost everyone spending money on stuff. But since I do use almost all of the Tupperware I have on a regular basis I know how good it is so at least I can know that even if it's expensive, it's not a complete waste of money. I know my first couple of pieces of Tupperware were presents when I lived in Germany before and that's 18 years ago but they're still going strong, despite the heavy use I give them. I did buy several things as well and I have to admit that I know I will get a thrill when I see it all piled on the table after I receive the order.

So now I have to decide whether to leave the clutter in the bedroom or move it back out to the sitting-room and to be honest, I'm leaning heavily towards leaving it in the bedroom. Even though I've only just started getting that space clear a few weeks ago. I think the clearing of the living room has been way more effective though and that I'll start to invite more people over, even just for coffee. Always a good incentive to keep the place halfway tidy. So I'll see how it goes with trying to tackle one small pile/one bag/one box every week and maybe I'll end up with a properly decluttered bedroom pretty soon, too.

This evening I'm off to the pub quiz again. I brought an apple tart with me last week and everyone was very impressed so I got carried away and promised a cake for this week too.

I decided to make the easy jam tart I've done before. Wish I had thought to look back through the archives before I made it though because I've made exactly the same mistake and it's a bit better done than it should be. At least I did remember about the almond so I just used some of my homemade vanilla extract instead. But hopefully it'll still be edible enough to satisfy the lads and lassies in the pub.

Maybe I should wait until everyone's had a drink or two to take it out. At at least I'll be giving the lads another chance to annoy me by telling me it's not a tart, it's a pie. If one of them remembers his promise from last week though, I should be taking home a bag of rhubarb with me this evening, so it'll definitely be worth having made the effort.

That's all from me for now. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Getting To Know Me in 10 Questions: The Travel Edition

Stealing this from Live to List, who in turn robbed it from somewhere else. That's just the way t'internet works, innit? Honestly, I'm kind of struggling with a touch of depression at the moment. I haven't quite fallen into a hole and I am fighting it hard but it is a struggle. For some reason this time round I don't really feel like I'm finding the words to write it out either so I might do a few of these meme type posts to see if it gets the juices flowing, so to speak.

  1. Your most treasured passport stamp?  I remember going to Prague on a school trip when it was still in Czechoslovakia and being so excited to get a stamp in my passport. But it turned out we had a group passport so I didn't get one. I think I was so disappointed I've never really been able to get excited about it since. Also, almost all my travel has been within Europe, so no stamps anyway.
  2. Can you recite your passport number if asked? Not at all. Not even a little bit.
  3. Preferred method of travel: plane, train or automobile? Trains all the way. I, along with all my siblings, used to get really bad motion sickness when we were kids. Train's the only thing I've never been sick on. I still can't read or do anything else in a car or bus so it's a really boring way or me to travel. And I love that even if I miss my train, I can just get on the next one in a couple of hours.
  4. Top three travel items? Books (these days my Kindle), comfy shoes, a shawl/huge scarf, preferably my hemp one, which works equally well to keep sun out or warm me up.
  5. Hostel or hotel? Hotel if possible
  6. Are you a repeat visitor, or do your prefer to explore new places? Both, I suppose. There are so many new places I would like to see but really, I prefer to really get to know places and feel at home there. Actually, I think that's the reason there'll be less and less travel in my future - I find myself yearning more and more for just one place to stay put and feel like it could take a lifetime to really get to know a place that well.
  7. Do you read up on your destination, or do you wing it? I wing it. Although I always make a token effort and get a guidebook or two from the library, I rarely do more than flick through. And yet my best holidays have often been the ones where I've travelled with people who've done loads of research.
  8. Favourite travel website? Don't have one. I do use roomex to book hotels, usually, so I suppose they deserve a mention.
  9. Where would you recommend a friend to visit, and why? Slovenia, to go walking and be able to fill your water from the gorgeous rivers. Boston - 'cos lunch in Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market!
  10. You're leaving tomorrow and money is no object: where are you going?* Siberia. Or anywhere else on my list!

*[pedant hat on]The original meme, or at least as many as I clicked through to, had "money is no option". Assuming that the question isn't about where you'd go if you had absolutely no money, I've corrected it.[/pedant hat off]

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm not penniless

I spent some time going through some of my old pension stuff. Luckily, I seem to have had this thought before and it was all in the same box. Actually, I think when I was moving here I contacted the various places to see whether or not I could get any of my pensions cashed out. Of the three pensions I had in place (I was lazy about transferring pensions schemes to new employers, which is why there were three), only one had been paid in to for less than two years. So I took the tax hit on getting that cashed out and that money was just a bit more than the movers I used to get here. I was glad of it at the time.

And that left two. I have to send a letter to one company to notify them in writing of my change of address and they will post me a full benefit statement. They don't seem to do online.

For the other I actually found a letter with log-on details for their website and amazingly, even though it's seven years since I got that letter and the company has since been taken over by another one. So I was able to see that the money I did pay in to that, along with the matched contributions from my employer at the time have increased by over 45%. After going down past -30% in early 2009. So although I'm pleased with the increase, I'll take the "funds may fall as well a rise" very much to heart. It's not a lot of money, less than eight thousand in that plan, but at least there's something there. Along with whatever is in the other pension and what I have in my private pension here, I'm on the way to fifteen thousand.

When I was still in debt I was very careful to not add any of this to my net worth calculation. I needed that to be focused on clearing debt and moving towards a positive figure. Now I need to start looking to the future. I'm not entirely sure I believe stock markets or society as we know it today will still be around by the time I get to retirement age but for now, I'm trying to stay optimistic. So I'll continue to invest a small-ish amount into pensions as long as I'm working so that at least I'm making use of the tax breaks. I may never make it to a Mustachian style early retirement but maybe one day I'll manage to buy a house. Once I get through this year, find a new job and move, I think that has to become my priority. For now, it's nice to know that if I do ever manage that, at least I've already taken care of having a bit extra on top of a state pension so that I can enjoy the occasional slice of cake to go with the delicious homemade cider I'll be sipping on my front porch at 65!

Monday, May 12, 2014

eTalks - The Secrets of Food Marketing

If you feel this is something that needs to be heard, please share the link with your friends and social media circles.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dervla Murphy

In today's Irish Times there's an article about Dervla Murphy. I have to admit, I don't think I've ever heard of her before, but reading through her comments and reflections on life I really wish I had. I'll have to get a hold of some of her books and give them a read, I think. She's a travel writer and, judging by the names of the books she has written, has cycled round most of the world. I'd really recommend having a read of the article, I think they leave them available to read for a few weeks and once it's archived you can pay to get access. Here are some of the gems from that article - I found myself nodding along all the way, yes, yes, exactly, yes.

"I believe that when we’re dead we’re dead, and that’s it. I often wonder if that makes me live my life a different way."

"Money is very important to me from the viewpoint that I would hate to be in debt. That’s the way my generation was brought up: if you wanted something you saved up. If I had to borrow to keep afloat I’d be really, really upset. I’ve no ambition to have more money than I need. I wouldn’t like to be without financial independence. I suppose there are some women who don’t mind being dependent on a partner or husband, but I couldn’t imagine doing that."

"I wouldn’t really call myself a feminist. ... ... Where I do get fiercely feminist is about abortion. I hate the idea, but, even more, I hate the idea of forcing women to carry and deliver a baby they don’t want. I think it’s outrageous that you have a whole load of men making those decisions ..."

"What do I think of politicians? A pile of f**king s**ts is what I think of them. All parties. Can you write that in The Irish Times or will they censor it?"

"I think the time is coming when Ireland should be self-sufficient in food. ... Imagine, Ireland is famous for potatoes, and there are potatoes from Israel in a shop here in Lismore. We should be growing all our own food. We’ve lost the run of ourselves."

"What I value most in others is honesty. What is life without it?"

"I have learned to be suspicious in general of the consumer society, to be deeply suspicious of it."

"I’m very solitary by nature. When I have company I enjoy it, but essentially I’m a solitary person."
What a fantastic life she must have led. I'm looking forward to reading some of her books and getting to know this interesting woman a bit better.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Mr. Money Mustache

A few months ago, just around the start of the year, I found Mr. Money Mustache thanks to Fiona mentioning something about being mustachian. I had no idea what she was on about and assumed it was some kind of Australian slang but googled it anyway. 'Cos, you know, Australian slang is funny.

Anyway, it's an amazing blog (and the website has expanded to now include discussion forum, which also look pretty good) and I've been slowly making my way through the archives. There is so much in every single post that I'm not getting far quickly but that's okay. Most of the time I even try to not get sucked into reading the comments, which almost always are just as interesting and go on for even longer than the posts themselves. I commented on a post at Absolutely Sweet Chaos about it and feel like I helped contribute in some small way to Jen totally embracing her badassity, too!

It is giving me lots of food for thought and there are lots of posts I want to comment on and then I find myself thinking that I should wait because he may have covered what I want to say in a later post (very often the case so far). There are also lots of points that I want to take away, think about and write about myself here. Today was a case in point. Yesterday I read this post about whether or not peak happiness really comes at $75,000 per year (I manage to read two or three posts during lunchtime most days, of course that involves staying at my desk during lunch, which isn't the best of habits but for now that keeps me away from the shops and machines full of chocolate so it's all good). Today, there was a reader case study, with a very interesting comment section that I also read through, followed by a post called Is it convenient? Would I enjoy it? Wrong question. And I had a couple of paragraphs of a blog post nearly finished in my head so this evening say down to try and get it on paper. Do you think I can remember even vaguely what the hell they were about though? Not a hope. Even having skimmed back through those posts, I can't remember what blinding flash of brilliance occurred this afternoon that had me brimming with interesting thoughts.

So instead you get a post full of links to other people and I've decided that I really need to start making notes when an idea for post occurs to me because otherwise, I'll never write even half of what I want to.

Friday, May 02, 2014

It's a start

All I've done is move the furniture into the space and already I feel like it's more than enough. I'm going to not move some stuff back in at all - need to just get it sorted, dumped or stored in the appropriate cupboards. Looking forward to actually being able to use these drawers again. And really need to make sure enough floor space is left clear that I can use a chair to sit at the desk!
Writing desk to the right, leaving enough room to open it without hitting the drawers. The table is blocking the radiator but what the hell, that was blocked anyway. This winter was mild enough that I didn't use it at all and by next winter I'll have decluttered way more, I'm sure. The four boxes under the table and the suitcase in the corner are what's left of my former lodger's stuff. I'm going to ask him if he has another friend who could take it. Just don't have the room and have more than enough of my own clutter!


It was a bank holiday yesterday and so I took today as a holiday in order to give myself a four-day weekend. Since it was my boss' last week before two weeks holidays and she spent the three days this week clearing everything from her desk that has been undealt with for months (meaning working till around nine every night), I am more than happy to have today off. Even if I do have mountains of work waiting on my desk for me on Monday.

Yesterday, I had a very lazy day, sleeping very late and only graduating to the couch at about one o'clock. If I hadn't had to go and meet someone at six, I wouldn't even have bothered getting dressed. I spent the afternoon setting up a LinkedIn profile for myself (handy for when I start my job search later in the year hopefully), surfing the web and exchanging emails with ecopunk, who doesn't believe I'm a hippy. Funny man.

I had been trying to convince myself that I'd spend some time this weekend sorting out the mess that is my bedroom and last night, when it was getting a bit chilly and I wanted to just go into the bedroom to grab a fleece and close the windows, I ended up spending half an hour dragging lots of that crap out to the sitting room. So no choice but to continue it today. And I'll have visitors tomorrow so I have to make some headway today. My main goal is to be able to move the writing desk into the bedroom. A lot of the stuff piled up will simply go back in but at least I'll have an idea again of what is there and it'll be a bit more tidily piled, allowing me to work on it in smaller amounts at a time over the next while.

It seems like after a certain amount of time has passed though, your eyes become accustomed to sliding over the dust and not realising just how horribly dusty and just plain old dirty things have gotten. I'm not bad at cleaning around things but that end of the room has gotten so bad that it wasn't even feasible to move things and clean around them. So I'm faced with sights like this (it was worse than it looks in this picture, believe me)
Still, that section has now been hoovered and well washed (hoovering alone just wasn't going to cut it!) and I'm just waiting for the floor to dry before I go back in and start rearranging furniture. I did manage to get a good look at one small basket that I have had for years and used for many different things over time. And in the bottom of it what looks suspiciously like that dusty stuff that is moth eggs. So out it has gone. Cost a pang but I cannot take the chance. Baskets are lovely but they just don't go well with moths!