Monday, July 27, 2015

Feeling good

In an effort to acknowledge that not everything is always bad I just wanted to say that today I feel good. I feel like I've had one of those mental shifts that occur from time to time and make life just seem easier. And so I am trying to appreciate it and enjoy the power of now without giving in to the voices in the back of my head warning me that the next fall into a black hole is inevitably coming.

I washed the pots from last night this morning before work. Had tasty banana for breakfast and brought muesli into work for a mid-morning snack as well as some yoghurt. And a salad for lunch. And ate that lot plus two squares of dark chocolate and stayed away from vending machine. Walked home from work. And it was so lovely to see the clean dishes just needing to be put away. Lunchtime Tupperware is now steeping and I'll wash it in a minute. I've sat down with some crackers and quark dip and it was delicious. Phoned internet company to register that phone and internet are down and am really glad that I have a smartphone so that I can get online regardless. And I'll heat up the rest of the quiche shortly and eat it along with a couple of slices of toast dripping in lovely Irish salted butter.

Today life is good.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Stocking up

Despite my longing to have a day where I sleep till I wake and then stay lazing in bed for another couple of hours or even the entire day, I did get up at a relatively reasonable hour this morning. Partly because I'd forgotten to turn off the alarm. Sigh. Anyway, I got up and then did go back to bed to read for a while but all the time, in the back of my head, was a little argument with myself going on about how I'd feel great if I'd just get up and do some cleaning and shopping versus how nice it would be to just laze. And at the same time planning out the order in which I'd need to do things if I did get up.

In the end I got up around quarter to eleven and immediately set to doing the hoovering. That also involved getting the recycling and the rubbish ready to go out the door, since underneath those bags seems to be one of those natural gathering places for crumbs. Once I had done that, I put a wash on, gathered a couple of Tupperware containers and was out the door.

Once I'd gotten rid of the rubbish and recycling the first stop had to be the market. I was paid yesterday so it's a new month with new money but I want to make sure that I stay in budget so had a list to stick to. And resisting temptation at the market is just as difficult as ever. I had some money left in my purse from "last" month and didn't want to spend anymore than that so I deliberately didn't go to the bank to get more cash. And, with a pain that was almost physical, I left behind all the gorgeous looking stuff that I really didn't need and managed to only buy one thing that wasn't on my list (as they didn't have one thing that was on the list, there was money for it). Then I popped over to the fair trade shop to get a couple of things there.
The lettuce is so fresh it's practically melt in your mouth, hmmm, can't wait for it

From the market:

  • Big head of organic oak leaf lettuce - €1.60
  • 2 organic courgettes (568g at €3/kg) - €1.70
  • Organic tomatoes (1kg at €6/kg) - €6.00
  • Organic chives - €1.50
  • Sunflower oil - €2.90
That lot left me with a bit less than €2 in change in my purse so I called into Drogerie Markt and bought a packet of washing soda for 95c. The rest of that change went into my sealed pot and so everything else comes out of this month's money.

From the fair trade shop:
  • Organic olive oil - €10.90
  • Organic chocolate - €2.30 (big increase. I haven't bought this for a while but it used to be €2.00)
  • Organic raw cacao powder - €4.80 (expensive for 250g but I want to try making some healthier sweet options, like these raw brownies from Deliciously Ella so hopefully this is a good investment)
Once I had gotten that expensive organic stuff out of the way, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck and that means heading to Aldi. I'm spoiled by having five supermarkets within a few minutes walk - Aldi and Edeka are the furthest away, being, oh, a good six minutes stroll around the corner. So, I did the sensible thing and stopped in home first, dumping my first bag of shopping in the hallway, tucked in beside the stairs. I love living in the kind of building where I can do that and leave something sitting for an hour or so and come back to find it exactly where I left it.

I had a list going into Aldi and a plan to not spend more than €20. In addition to the list, I also wanted to get one or two basics. If I do that every couple of weeks, I should be well stocked over the winter. My plan is to not need to spend any money on food during November or December, other than for my vegetable box delivery. And this is what I was able to get for €19.25 (yes, I did indeed traipse around Aldi adding up every single thing on the calculator on my phone).
There might have been one more banana in that bunch that didn't actually make it home with me - what a delicious breakfast though

From Aldi:
  • Organic low-fat milk - 99c
  • Flour - 32c
  • Tin of tuna in water - 99c
  • 1 jar green olives - 69c
  • 1 jar black olives - 69c
  • 1kg muesli - €1.49 (giving it a try as it was the same price as the Edeka one which I got last time and liked. This has a very similar ingredients list and was the only one with no sugar. There is a lot of dried fruit in it which will probably make it a bit too sweet to I'll add extra oats from time to time to lessen that a bit)
  • 1 carton passata - 39c
  • 1 tin whole tomatoes - 39c (costs 5c more to get the chopped ones, I can spend a fortune on organic and local foods but refuse to pay the extra to get chopped. Go figure.)
  • 1 tin kidney beans - 45c
  • 1 bunch organic, fair trade bananas - €1.20
  • 1 large packet fish fingers - €1.49
  • 2 small tubs of cream - 40c each
  • 1 tub of low-fat yoghurt - 45c
  • 1 tin sardines - 75c
  • 1 block of gouda cheese (at €4.99/kg) - €1.96
  • 1 block of parmesan (at €14.99/kg) - €2.88
  • 1 tub quark - 45c
  • 1 ball of organic mozzarella - 89c
  • 2 packets of 8 small wraps - 99c each (it's hard enough to get wraps here, unless you want to get the expensive Old El Paso ones so I was pleased to see these "special" items this week)
And so I just had a quick trip into Edeka to buy some totally non-frugal, non-healthy treats. And see if they had any of the elderflower and raspberry yoghurt that I like. They didn't.
That packet of Sensations might not mange to make it through the day
From Edeka:
  • Sensations Thai sweet chili crisps - €1.69
  • Riffels salted crisps - €1.99
  • Chips crackers - 99c
  • Large bag maltesers - €2.22
  • Chocolate raisins - €1.09
And half a loaf of bread from the bakery next door. I took €25 out of the bank on the way home, bought the bread (€1.59) and the rest is to do me for the week, including going to the quiz tomorrow evening. 

Of course, shopping is really the easy part. It's using the stuff up and letting nothing go to waste that's the real skill. To give myself the best chances of doing just that, some of the above was decanted into Tupperware immediately and stored in the freezer, fridge or storecupboard. Like so:

Salted crisps into the big white "Bellevue" Tupperware container. Gouda and parmesan cheese grated and into the freezer (popped the rind of the parmesan into the box, too, as I've read you can add that to soups/stews for a bit of extra flavour). The muesli went into a 1.7lt flip-top but since I still had some left over from the last time, it didn't quite fit. So the rest has gone into a small round one and I'll use that up first. The crackers have gone into a 600ml Hit-Parade (am probably going to have guests sometime this week so wanted to have something on hand just in case) and the maltesers and chocolate raisins into a 1lt Clarissa. That's in the fridge and, along with the nice fair trade chocolate, should be more than enough to satisfy any cravings for a couple of weeks. 

When all that was done, it was time for lunch and the lovely roasted sweet potatoes from yesterday that had been heating up were ready and waiting for me to dig in. And then, I have to admit, it was a bit of a struggle again to convince myself to put down the book and wash the floors. But I wanted to wash the floors before putting the second wash on so that I'd be able to wash the e-cloth, too. Took a while and I had almost convinced myself that hoovering had been enough. After all, I'd washed them last week and I do live alone, no messy kids or animals or anything and I do spend most of my days out so they wouldn't really need to be washed. Or do they? I took a picture to remind me in future when I'm having this argument with myself that washing the floors is a really, really good idea.
Okay. Hoovering is definitely not enough. This was the state of the water (and look at that cloth!) after washing the floors. 
Anyway, floors are done, bathroom has been cleaned, one wash is done and hung up to dry and the second is nearly finished. I do now have a few things to wash up (it never ends, does it?) and need to spend a bit of time cooking but apart from that, I'm calling the housework more or less done for this weekend. The basics are covered and I'm going back to my book.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Have I mentioned yet that I found a quote on mortgagethreeinfree recently that really resonated with me?

Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most

I started reading MFin3 last year and for some reason I never added it to my list of links and then forgot about it. I revisited in the run-up to christmas and got a great recipe for advocat cake, which became the most popular thing I baked all winter. And it had been on my mind to go back and have a look again for a while. So, for the past week or two I've been making my way through the archives and getting lots of inspiration. And a tutorial for making a thermal cooking bag, which I can't wait to try and make.

But that quote, which I printed out and have sitting propped up against the wall in my sitting room, is ringing in my head every day. No more excuses, if I want to take a month off in November I need to start saving big time. I don't have enough time to do anything other than scrape every cent together that I can. And if I want to lose weight, then eating large packets of crisps every day won't get it done. If I don't want to have to face piles and piles of washing up at the weekend then ignoring the couple of things that need to be washed every day will not help.

Last week, on Friday no less, I had my first proper fast day. The 5:2 fast diet did work really well for me when I started it way back in summer 2013 and although life got derailed a couple of months later, I've only ever half-heartedly gotten back to it. But that won't get it done. So, Wednesday was my second and so far it's going well. Didn't do one today for a couple of different reasons but I think I'll go back to my old pattern of Sundays and Wednesdays being my fast days.

This week, despite being very tired, work being pretty crap and feeling in general kind of overwhelmed, I have been managing to spend very little money and cook proper meals, using up all of the veg that has been sitting around for a couple of weeks. Or months, in the case of these sweet potatoes.
Terrible photo, I know but it looks lovely in real life, I promise
So I've been getting home from work so wrecked I don't want to do anything. It's a constant battle in my head on the way home to not stop in the supermarket to buy something frozen to throw into the oven or at a fast food place to buy chips or a kebab. And it has been warm. Not terribly, usually around the mid-20s but really, really humid and stuffy all that time. I have been making it home without giving in every day though and then I've just been collapsing on the couch. After half-an-hour or an hour, by which time it has started to cool down, I've gotten up and headed into the kitchen.

On Tuesday I used up baguette from the freezer, half a jar of my own passata from last year, a grated courgette, the last of some grated cheese and a couple of slices that were in the fridge begging to be used up as well as the other half of the very big tomato that I'd gotten to have with my salad at lunch time. Delicious French bread pizzas - more nutritious, tastier and more filling than the frozen version. While they were cooking I sliced the remainder of the courgettes and sauteed them (buying me a couple more days time to do actually use them up) and got the washing-up done.

On Wednesday morning I managed to be slightly organised in the morning and had time to mix up some quark with some tuna and a "lemon curry dip" spice I have. Half of that into a Tupperware container along with a couple of sliced up scallions became lunch when it was added to the last of my lettuce and a wrap. In the evening, I just went into the kitchen to get the washing up done and then since I was there I decided to cook the cabbage I'd meant to do at the weekend anyway. That cabbage is one I got two weeks ago and I did not want any more veg going to waste. And so, although I wasn't going to, at half-ten at night, cook the full meal as planned (red split lentils with cabbage from Smitten Kitchen), I thought at least I could get a headstart and make the cabbage part of it. Oh my is all I can say. I used four times as much cabbage as given, added bacon bits, increased the spices, used dried chilies instead of fresh and ended up cooking it for longer than the recipe says (because I was doing the washing up. Yay me!). But it seems to be a forgiving recipe and was absolutely spectacular, if I do say so myself. I wasn't even going to eat any, being on a fast day and not actually particularly hungry but it smelled so good I couldn't resist a small plateful. The rest went into the fridge in Tupperware to wait for me to do the lentils.

On Thursday then I took the rest of the quark and tuna mix to work for lunch, buying a couple of bread rolls on the way to work to have with it. And when I got into the kitchen on Thursday evening, I ended up just heating up the rest of the cabbage and eating the whole lot of it. Okay, I was very full (had some garlic bread with it) but if you had told me a few years ago I'd happily sit down to a very large plate of cabbage and not much else, I'd have called you mad. While that was cooking I threw together a quick pastryless quiche, using up the courgettes, the rest of the sliced cheese, some more of the bacon bits and the remaining eggs along with a good sprinkling of herbs. Half of that became my lunch today and I'll have the rest tomorrow. And I even got the washing-up done before sitting down to eat.
Pastryless quiche. Still not quite sure why I don't just call it baked omelette. 
So, now I have some chard and some bread beans in the fridge (they've been there since last Thursday and I haven't checked to see if they're actually surviving) and I have some carrots and celery as well. Then there's the remaining quarter packet of bacon bits, the rest of the jar of passata and another container which has the other half of the quark, which I mixed up with an Italian herb mix. This evening, although I did end up eating the frozen pizza baguettes I had in the freezer (really, not a patch on the homemade ones from earlier in the week), I used the time they were in the oven to do the washing up. And then decided that since I had the oven on, I really should cook those sweet potatoes. So I peeled and chopped them, added a glug of oil and then mixed cumin and salt (a la the Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty that I have made several times in the last couple of years) with the addition of a little bit of coriander, cayenne and cinnamon. Then into the oven with them. That'll be a quick and easy lunch tomorrow then.

In the same way that Mr. Money Mustache talks about exercising your frugality muscle, I'm slowly trying to build up my disciple muscle again. It's all just the normal stuff that millions of people do all the time all over the world but to be honest it has taken every bit of energy I've had spare this week. This week it seems like taking a break and sitting (or lying) quietly for a while after getting home has been the key to getting the food side of things sorted. We'll see how next week turns out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Small wins

I overslept today, should have been in work half an hour ago and am just waiting for the train now. But, I'm not spending money on a taxi ('cos when I'm this late 10 minutes won't make much difference!) - win.

And despite the lateness I took a few minutes to put salad into a Tupperware container, yoghurt into another and muesli and milk into yet another. Breakfast, lunch and healthy snack - win. I even took a minute to stop at the shop on the way and buy a tomato to go with my lettuce and mozzarella.

Small things but I'll take it. And make sure to prepare tomorrow's lunch this evening.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Where does the time go?

Today has flown by but although I haven't gotten quite everything done that I wanted to, I have had a fairly productive day. It's only the last few hours that have gotten away from me, since it was getting a bit too warm to be moving much and I lay down on the couch with a book.

Yesterday I had my first proper fast day for a very long time. It felt great. Definitely easier to fast in hot weather, I think. I still don't quite keep to counting calories strictly but I do skip one meal (usually breakfast, which is more in tune with what my body seems to actually want anyway) and then make sure the other two are very light, with minimal or no snacking.

Today, a friend kindly offered to come over and help me write an application letter. He was going to be here at half-ten so I was up early for me on a Saturday and trying to tidy up a little bit before he arrived. Did get the bathroom cleaned, the floors swept and washed and myself into and out of the shower and dressed before he arrived so that wasn't bad going. I moved the big pile of ironing onto my bed and that's the last thing I'm going to tackle today, as soon as I've finished writing this. It ended up taking us two and a half hours to get a good letter together so hopefully that work will pay dividends. He also suggested a slight change to my CV which I think is actually a pretty big improvement - always good to get fresh eyes on something.

Once he was gone, I got the first wash into the oven and then headed out to buy a few bits and pieces. I more or less stuck to my list, just got the one or two things on it and a couple of herbs and spices that I've been missing for a while. Then it was back home, stopping for a nice chat with the designer who has a shop downstairs. I got a late lunch into the oven, did the few bits of washing up that were there and put away the shopping. I even put the herbs and spices straight into proper jars and labelled them. Then it was a phone call with another friend who I'd sent my letter to for proofreading. By then, the washing was finished so I got that out and hung up to dry and the second wash into the machine before I finally sat down to eat. Did the washing up immediately (really trying to keep this up - three days in now and it's going alright so far) and descaled the kettle. Now the second wash has been hung up to dry and the stuff that lives on top of the washing machine (when it's not actually running) has been moved back. It's a small thing but I so often leave the stuff just sitting on whatever surface I found to park it on and it'll be a good start to the week to have it already all tidy. Since I got the washing done today and it is hot at the moment, that should all be dry by tomorrow so I can have the clothes horse put away before the week starts as well. Hoping the effort will pay off by encouraging me to keep things a bit tidier throughout the week.

Anyway, the sun has just about passed behind the buildings across the way (isn't that a fabulous sky this evening?) so it's time to go and start opening windows now that the temperature will be dropping a bit. Then clear off the stuff piled on my bed and have an early night. Babysitting tomorrow so I'll need all my energy for that. Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Eiffel Tower comes to Dusseldorf

It's the annual French festival here this weekend and town is packed out. I've wandered up and down the stalls (most of them are for food and drink to eat there and then, only a few selling 'stuff') but only had a quick merguez sausage. Queues for everywhere else are too long for my kind of patience. Think I'll be back here for lunch tomorrow.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, July 06, 2015

Itchy neck

It seems like I might be having a bit of a reaction to something but I'm not sure what. Yesterday evening I had a shower and headed off to the Irish pub for the Sunday night quiz. I wasn't there long when the back of my neck started to feel a bit sore and then itchy. I kind of thought it was just sweat making it itch but it also felt slightly bumpy. Not really bumpy but just not as smooth as normal.

It was much the same this morning when I got to work and I asked the woman I share an office with (K., poor thing, she has to put up with an awful lot from me!) if there was a rash. She said yes, that it looked a bit like a heat rash or something perhaps. It was a bit irritating on and off all day and definitely worse after I was out during lunchtime and the sun would have been shining on it. And again when I got home this evening. I contorted myself with a couple of mirrors to try and get a look and it's definitely something not normal going on back there. And it seems to have migrated to my face a little bit, too.
Not loving my neck/shoulder from the front. And this is after giving the cream time to work, when the rash has actually gone down a lot.
Luckily I remembered that I still had some cream left from a couple of years ago when I ended up feeling diseased like this for the first time. And unbelievably it's still in date - only two months to go but I'll take it. Even checked to make sure it wasn't one of those that's supposed to be used up within a certain amount of time after opening. I slathered it on about half an hour ago and the relief is palpable. Now I just need to figure out what caused it.
And really not loving it from the back. 'Cos yeah, that ain't pretty. And it feels worse to the touch than it looks. Also it is, once more, really hard to take photos of skin/a rash(especially from the back) and I'm sure ye could all do without seeing it but you know, my blog, my record of my life and all that. 
I did have a few strawberries yesterday and Saturday but honestly, they really weren't nice and, apart from the ones I froze yesterday, I ended up dumping the rest. Even having been left to macerate with tons of sugar and even after mixing that with yoghurt, they still didn't taste good. Not even good enough to force myself to eat. K. tried one and agreed they were beyond being worth the effort. So although strawberries are often a culprit for this kind of thing, I'm not sure I ate enough for that to really be it.

Otherwise, not long before it started yesterday I had dinner, which was salad (organic from veg box), a tomato (organic from market) and pork chops (not organic, from market). Dressing was olive oil (about half full bottle so not terribly old), mustard and blueberry vinegar (that was pretty old, just wanted to use up the last of it). Sauce for the pork chops was just some mustard mixed with a bit of yoghurt (fresh jar, only bought last week). And I drank nothing but tap water yesterday while I was at home.

I did use a new bottle of cider vinegar when I was washing my hair but otherwise the Weleda shower gel that I often use. And I did use some of the very small amount remaining in an old bottle of hemp oil. Since the rash came up on my neck and I used the oil mostly on my face and neck, I'm inclined to think it might have been that (very old bottle) and will dump the rest of it just in case. Would really hate to be allergic to strawberries although I might try and make more of an effort to only get organic ones from now on. And hopefully this cream will get rid of this rash very quickly. Not fun at all.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Bits and pieces

I spent nearly two hours soaking in a cold bath yesterday evening and it was bliss. I didn't even read or anything, just dozed a little bit and felt the relief of cool seeping into my way to overheated body. And the temperatures cooled down enough to have the windows open and get a decent night's sleep, too. It has nearly reached 30 degrees again by now but I've gotten a few things done this morning before it got too hot.

I got one wash into the machine last night before going to bed and when a short summer storm (lasted about 10 minutes, rain and thunder and lightning and then it was gone) woke me at about six o'clock I had to get up to close over the window anyway and thought of it. So I just went ahead and hung up that washing and got the second lot into the machine. Glad now that I did because I wouldn't have felt like it later in the heat. Went back to bed after that and slept until nearly half-ten. A few nights of not great sleep catch up quickly. I got up then, hung up the second lot of washing to dry (half of the first lot was dry already) and then headed into the kitchen.

I've been cooking very little over the last couple of weeks so my veg delivery has been building up. And the fridge needed to be cleared out anyway, I knew there were two old jars of yoghurt sitting in the back that had been there for months so I had done part of it yesterday and wanted to do the rest today. I also wanted to make sure to wash the lettuce I got in my veg box last Thursday because otherwise I'd end up not using it at all. I ended up having to simply throw out one or two things that just were past saving. I hate doing that so will need to pull my socks up, so to speak, and just get better again at actually cooking and using up what I have.

I bought three punnets of strawberries yesterday (it's costing 2.50 for one, 6 for three at the moment) and was really looking forward to eating them over the weekend. I washed a large bowlful yesterday and sat down to enjoy them in the evening and was so disappointed. They just weren't terribly nice nor particularly sweet. Any strawberries I've had this year have been fabulous, which somehow made it even more disappointing. I sprinkled them with sugar and left them in the fridge overnight and will have them with some yoghurt today. And I'm going to just freeze the remainder I think. I can use them in smoothies then.

As for veg, once I'd gotten rid of most of what was past saving I have three kohlrabi, about half of a Chinese cabbage and half of another type of cabbage called Spitzkohl (like a pointy white cabbage), some young garlic and a few tomatoes. So I'm going to chop all of that now and saute it. I'll add in the rest of a jar of passata that I opened during the week and will use that during the week with some pasta. Might freeze half of it. Actually, I think I'll do the cabbage separately and freeze that. That'll work.

I also have a couple of aubergines, courgettes and some more tomatoes that I bought at the market yesterday. Will be using some of that in a sweet potato curry that I'm thinking of doing in the slow cooker. Have had two large sweet potatoes hanging around for the longest time and it's time to use them. The delicious curry I had at a Laotian restaurant last week reminded me how much I love it so might as well use what I have to make some, even if most of it goes into the freezer.

So, so far today has been fairly productive. I may treat myself to another cold bath when I'm finished in the kitchen.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Hot again today

The promised 42 degrees has not materialised although the last time I looked at the thermometer (about two hours ago) it was nearly 37. Where I come from five consecutive days of temperatures reaching 25 degrees is considered to be a heatwave so the past few days have involved me mostly trying not to move and very glad that work does have a form of climate control. It's not quite air conditioning but it usually stays in the low 20s so along with a fan on my desk from time to time, it's possible to stay cool enough to still work properly.

Today, I woke up at eight o'clock after a very bad night's sleep (it was very warm all night). Instead of rolling over to try and get another hour's sleep I checked the temperature. It was 26 already so I dragged myself out of bed, tidied out the fridge a bit, brought the rubbish down and went off to do a bit of shopping. Got home just before ten and closed the windows and I haven't been back outside yet. Although maybe I should try it for an hour - there was a nice breeze down by the river yesterday. The thought of putting clothes on is kind of unbearable though. I may just run myself a cold bath instead.

Managed to eat some tomato and mozzarella salad though so at least that's something. Trying to just keep drinking water - food is not too interesting at the moment. Still, at least it's not raining.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Panoramic sunset

I just discovered the panorama function on my smartphone camera. How cool!

And this is another one where I swung round on the bench even further so it goes all the way from one bridge to the next.

posted from Bloggeroid