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