Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Somtetime to-do lists help a bit

  • Bring down rubbish and recycling: Done
  • Wash dishes (before 8 as someone will be here to service gas boiler "between 8:00 and 15:00"): Done
  • Put on wash: Done
  • Put on second and third wash of old bedclothes in sports bag and finally sort them into keep/donate piles?: Third wash on but will have to wait with the rest until what I've washed already has dried since there's no room left to hang anything.
  • Send out five applications: Didn't get this done but did prepare five sets of references, CVs, envelopes and brought laptop with me. Got one letter done on train and have posted that. Will see what else I find.
  • Decide what to bring to Halle (music, concert clothes and shoes, warm clothes): Done
  • Pack - this will also involve ironing one or two things as the ironing facilities in the hotel are not the best: Done
  • Choir rehearsal: Done
  • Cook any veg that won't survive the weekend: Done
  • Clean floors: Done
  • Decide on lunch to pack for train on Thursday (leaning towards salad which means going out to buy salad): Assembled and ready to go in the morning.
  • Charge kindle: Done
  • Save pattern to laptop so that I can knit on train without internet access: Done

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Get up and go is gone again

Sigh. After a few productive days last week, culminating in a job interview on Friday, the weekend and this week so far has been a bit of a washout. I really don't have time for that though, so I'm hoping that writing a list here might help me to knuckle down and get stuff done tomorrow. So, tomorrow I need to try and get most, if not all, of the following done:

  • Bring down rubbish and recycling
  • Wash dishes (before 8 as someone will be here to service gas boiler "between 8:00 and 15:00")
  • Put on wash
  • Put on second and third wash of old bedclothes in sports bag and finally sort them into keep/donate piles?
  • Send out five applications
  • Decide what to bring to Halle (music, concert clothes and shoes, warm clothes)
  • Pack - this will also involve ironing one or two things as the ironing facilities in the hotel are not the best
  • Choir rehearsal
  • Cook any veg that won't survive the weekend
  • Clean floor
  • Decide on lunch to pack for train on Thursday (leaning towards salad which means going out to buy salad)
  • Charge kindle
  • Save pattern to laptop so that I can knit on train without internet access

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday evening

I used to do these Sunday night chit-chat posts every week but then the format changed, I think they went away entirely for a while and then I kind of stopped reading the original blog that started them and I got out of the habit. Laura over at the Occasional Nomads has been doing them for a while though so this evening (well, it's nearly midnight so it's almost Monday morning!) I thought I'd join in. It's a nice way to round off the week, look ahead to the next week and have something to post when you thought you had nothing to say.
A cowl I knit for my sister's birthday last September.
Never got around to posting about it and it's not worth its own post really, so here's a photo.

This evening I am:

Reading: Cooked by Michael Pollan. I've been reading this on and off for a couple of weeks. Interrupted last week to read Out of the Shelter by David Lodge, which I really enjoyed. I've read three of his books now, all quite different but all very enjoyable so I think I'll be adding more of his stuff to my reading lists in the future. Next up I'll be reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which is this month's book club book.
Listening to: At the moment very little. It's late and just the occasional tram or car passing outside. If we were to talk about what CDs I've been listening to this past week, I've been switching between the Dixie Chicks, Bach's Mass in B-Minor, the soundtrack for Nashville and a recording of my choir from a concert we did last November.
Watching: I've been watching thirtysomething, which I almost never got to do when it was originally on television. Really enjoying it. Need to get to the library this week and see what else they have. Want to watch thirtysomething again though; so many things happened that I wanted to comment on or talk to someone about.
Cooking/baking: I've done no cooking or baking this weekend. Have parsley roots to use up though so will make oven chips out of them tomorrow, maybe with some sweet potato.
Happy I accomplished last week: Got some forms filled out (after multiple phone calls with the social welfare office for a week) and submitted. Had a productive day that day in general. I cut my hair (without making a mess). Had an interview on Friday and one way I prepared was by travelling to the place it was being held on Thursday to make sure I could find it and knew exactly where to go. After the interview I contacted a friend on the spur of the moment and we went for dinner and then into town for a few drinks and had a good time. And this morning, finally managed to meet up with the friend who is also now my accountant and got some things cleared up and a plan in place to get my taxes done soon.
Looking forward to next week: Happy Birthday Handel! Every year I travel to Halle to perform Handel's Messiah with about 400 other singers from around the world. Including several from Ireland who have become very good friends. I'm really looking forward to it. It has become such a special time each year.
Grateful for: Having managed to (just about) earn enough money translating to keep me going during unemployment before payments from social welfare kick in. I didn't intend to be out of work for this long (four months now) but I needed the time more than I realised and I am so glad I've been able to take it without have to settle for a job I hate.
Bonus question - what social media platforms do you use: Well, I blog, obviously. Also use twitter and instagram but don't really post often on those, it's more to follow other people. And retweet what they're saying. I do have a pinterest account but just use it to pin things I want to find again and not really to interact with others. I'm not sure if whatsapp counts as a social media platform, since it's more of a messaging platform but I do use that a lot. Not just to exchange text messages with people without charge but recently also to keep in touch with my group of friends from school. It's nice to have the group interaction there a bit.

So that's my Sunday evening. Didn't quite make it to the end without crossing over into Monday but sure what's a few minutes between friends....

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Humming along

I love to sing. I'm not a great singer. I can mostly hold a tune although not always. I do well enough in choir because, really, it's not too hard to do when you've got ten or a hundred (depending on the choir) others singing the same as you. I'll even do my best to take my turn at a sing-a-long, although I really need to find a good song for that. Still haven't quite found the right one. I'm not much of a one for being front and centre either so mostly I'm happy to be singing along and need a bit of persuasion to get up on my own (I'll admit that sometimes I'm longing for someone to try and persuade me, silly though that may be).

Despite some friends' opinions that I should go on The Voice or similar program, I know that I'm not good enough for that. My voice doesn't have that certain something to be really good and, to be perfectly honest, I'm quite wooden, I suppose you might call it. Well, I suppose I can inject a certain amount of emotion into my singing but I'm definitely more of a sing the notes the way they're printed singer than someone who is able to take a song and make it their own. If I ever were to want to make a spectacle of myself on television, I'd be one of the thousands you never see. Not terrible enough to be made a show of, not good enough to wow. I'd say it would be more like polite applause, thank you for coming in, have a nice life.

But, I love to sing. Even during my darkest times I have almost always managed to keep going to choir and that has undoubtedly helped me through a lot. I always know when I'm coming out of a tough time because seemingly all of a sudden I'll catch myself humming, if not downright singing, throughout the day, with some tune or other never far from my lips. I'm so happy to have reached that place again. My dad was a singer like that, too, so something just feels right about there being someone singing in the house. Even if it's just me.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, February 15, 2016

Today I...

...was up and out on time to walk to my counselling session without having to rush (and arriving five minutes early) and didn't get too wet in the sleety rain
...remembered to bring my big backpack with me
...walked to the music shop after my session to pick up music for choir
...walked home from there and made myself some scrambled eggs for a late breakfast
...then remembered that I still had some sardines and onion left in the fridge, so I ate that as well to use it before it went off
...changed from jeans and nice jumper to tracksuit bottoms and slightly less nice but warmer jumper when I got home
...put away the clean dishes
...managed to catch up on reading some blogs while waiting for a phone call from the social welfare office
...remembered to take a multivitamin (no more colds for me this year!)
...exchanged emails with a friend who helped me out with something
...caught up on new episodes of The Good Wife and Madam Secretary
...had a phone call from a lovely, helpful woman from the social welfare office (amazing how much better the day is when you can a civil servant of that type on the other end of the line), which cleared up the last of the questions I had (including her volunteering some information which is probably going to work to my financial advantage)
...immediately set about filling out the rest of the forms they needed from me, photocopied and filed them straightaway, too
...typed up a quick cover letter and put the whole lot into an envelope
...also photocopied a form I needed to send back to my health insurance place to claim my €100 bonus for last year (you get this for doing a certain amount of things from a list, like having a smear test, getting a dental check-up, being a non-smoker, having a normal BMI, being a member of a sports club and so on)
...browned the mince to use for the cabbage roll stuffing
...changed back into "outdoors" clothes
...gathered empty bottles to return
...dropped one empty bottle into the bottle bank and brought the rest back to the supermarket to get the deposit back
...bought one bottle of beer so that the crate I have will be full again (it's from my leaving do from work, someone wandered off with a bottle so I needed another one to have a full crate to bring back for the deposit)
...stopped and bought stamps so I could post my letter to the health insurance place
...stopped at Woolworth and bought myself a hat since I had forgotten mine and temperatures have been hovering not much above zero all day
...managed to find a sale rack and buy a hat for €1 the tram to the social welfare office and dropped the forms off (official deadline to hand them in was today; because I had queries, I would have had a few days grace but I just wanted it done)
...walked home in a different direction - 3.81km and it took nearly 55 minutes but I did it. Gorgeous walking weather though, cold but not raining or sleeting anymore and beautiful colours in the sky as the sun slowly set
...had time to think while walking, enjoying the memory of a lovely message from someone special yesterday home before it was dark
...changed back into "indoors" clothes
...collapsed on the couch and wrote this for my blog

All in all, not a bad day. Amazing to think all of that took up just over ten hours. I'm going to chill out now for a while and then perhaps actually get around to stuffing some cabbage leaves.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Using up vegetables

I'm really making an effort to use up all the veg I'm getting delivered every week. I think I'll have to take a break for a couple of weeks soon, but for now I'm getting through things and, most importantly, not throwing anything out. Of course, I haven't helped myself by making the mistake of ordering 1 kilo of Chinese cabbage last week instead of 1 Chinese cabbage. Chatting to my sister the other evening about that, she mentioned a recipe that involved stuffing cabbage leaves with mince and rice and cooking in a sour cream sauce. So I've spent a fair amount of time yesterday and today down the internet rabbit hole that appears when you type golubtsy into the search engine. Not to mention typing "is it possible to freeze cabbage rolls".

I did stuffed cabbage rolls before to use up some veg that I'm not fond of (turnip!) by mixing it with something I do like (potatoes!) and stuffing the whole lot into cabbage leaves and baking it all under a cover of cheese. Enough to make anything palatable. I was sure I had posted about that, complete with photos, but all I can find is a mention of it in this post. So I can't check exactly what I did. Pity. I really need to get back to blogging this stuff. It might not be the most interesting read for others but these are the kind of records that are a huge part of the advantages of blogging.

So, this week I had ordered the Chinese cabbage specifically because turnip and parsnips were both in my veg box. I can change anything I want to each week but I do try to just take what they're suggesting as that's usually what they have most of.
1 peeled + 1 unpeeled black radish, 3 parsnips, 1 small turnip
However, I'm really not much of a fan of parsnips or turnip and thought that mashing them with potatoes or sweet potatoes and stuffing cabbage leaves with them would be a good idea. I also got some black radish this week, which I've never cooked before. It's supposed to be a bit more like horseradish or daikon than like the small red radishes, which seems perfect for my purposes.

Black radish, turnip, parsnips, carrots, onion and garlic
I'm currently roasting the radish, parsnips and turnip along with 3 carrots, an onion and 8 gloves of garlic. I've just seasoned with a bit of salt and plenty of black pepper. I think I'll add some nutmeg to the mash at the end but I might end up adding my favourite chilli/smoked paprika mix instead. Time enough to think about it tomorrow when I make the finished dish. I bought 300g beef mince to add in but am thinking I might leave out the rice that seems to be traditional.

On Friday evening I made pork in the slow cooker and added in loads of veg, too. Two onions, three leeks, two carrots and three apples and then a Chinese-inspired braising liquid. For that I used lots of soy sauce, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, some honey, some maple syrup, 5-spice powder, ginger, coriander, cumin, small amount of spicy smoked paprika and vegetable stock. After five hours of cooking on low the meat had shrunk a lot and there was a lot of liquid left so I added in some brown rice and left it on for another hour and a half or so. I also left it to cool overnight so by yesterday morning I had a moist dish but no excess liquid. Not really what I had originally planned but actually perfect. I've just re-heated and demolished a huge portion of it for my 'brunch' and I have three more portions in the fridge.

During the week I braised a red cabbage with some onion, apples, red wine, cinnamon, some lingonberry compote, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. That was fun. Even when I was chopping the cabbage it smelled very woody/cabbagy. I remembered reading somewhere that means it can make you particularly flatulent. When I had the whole thing cooking I suddenly remembered reading somewhere that a small spoon of bread soda will help with that. So I sprinkled a very small amount over the cabbage. Completely forgetting that I'd only just added the vinegar. And the lesson that day was that sprinkling bread soda on top of vinegar on top of apples and red cabbage will make the apples turn blue. And about five minutes later I remembered that that bread soda trick wasn't a preemptive strike against cabbage-induced flatulence but meant for cooking beans! Yep, apparently Blazing Saddles might have been an entirely different film if they'd only had some bread soda around (I cannot tell you how much I have always hated that scene but there's the link for those of you otherwise inclined). At any rate by the time I was reheating the cabbage for my second portion the next day, the blue colour was gone again. All's well that end's well. As is often the case in my cooking, it tasted lovely, even if it wasn't terribly pretty.

So, there you have it. I still have 2.5kg of potatoes to use up but I've cancelled my standing order for them so that I can do the low-carb thing for a while. I have some raclette cheese in the fridge, too, so will probably invite people over for raclette next week, which would use up most of those potatoes.

Otherwise I also still have some Jerusalem artichokes, a white cabbage, four Chinese cabbages, plenty of carrots, two leeks and a medium-sized pumpkin. If I can sort the freezer out a bit, I'll blanch most of the cabbage and freeze in it portions. It's handy to have it like that. Just cooking all the food isn't enough though, I need to sit down and do a meal plan. Somehow I've skipped that the last week or two and I should know better. First though, it's off to the pub to watch the rugby. Hope everyone has a lovely Sunday.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Making some progress

I've managed to get moving and get a few things done the last day or two. Not huge amounts but most of what I wanted to get done and a couple of other small things that just kind of worked out. For example, I've been carrying around a library book to return for more than a week. Kept forgetting or walking/travelling different directions that didn't pass by the library. Yesterday, on the way home, I was going to go to the main library at the train station but after another not terribly pleasant experience at a copy-shop (seems that sometime in the past few years a law may have been passed requiring all copyshop owners to be rude and unhelpful) I decided to just go straight home. Then I decided to stay on the tram for one extra stop to go to the bigger supermarket to get milk. And when I got off the tram it occurred to me that this stop was very close to my local library so I had a quick look at the opening times on my phone and had twenty minutes left till closing time. So that was great. Such a small thing to do, bringing a library book back, but it can take ages sometimes to just do it.

I've almost sorted out things with the social welfare office. I missed a call from them yesterday because I was in the bathroom and when I came running out I saw it was from a private number so didn't bother rushing anymore. I've been avoiding calls from a very persistent insurance agent and assumed it was him trying a new method. But found out today when I actually called in to the social welfare office that it was them. Although it did only ring once and not the "several times" the woman noted in my record. At least the person I spoke to was able to answer one question so there's only one outstanding query now and they will ring me back on that. And I will make sure to answer even private number calls!

I called my travel insurance place to get some confirmations that I need for my health insurance place and the tax office. I called my legal insurance place to enquire about a quote for professional liability insurance (the type the other persistent guy is trying to sell me) and found out that since I don't earn much I'm probably covered by my existing private policy. I've applied for almost all of the jobs the social welfare office has asked me to (ridiculous waste of time since none of the jobs are anything I'm interested in but you have to play along with them). My trip to the copyshop yesterday means I have 20 copies of all of my references and certificates ready to go so tomorrow or the next day I'll focus on sending out applications for some of the jobs that actually interest me. I can just print my CV and application letters at home but the big stack of references is done and ready to go. I also priced envelopes at several different places so that when I run out soon I'll know where to go for the best price (surprisingly it's not Woolworth). And stopped at the post office to buy stamps and make sure that if I were to use C5 envelopes instead of C4, it would cost the same in postage. Since I was walking to a copyshop a bit further away I just went to the post office on the way rather than my nearest one. And because I was slowing down just there, I realised I was very close to the opera shop and called in there to check that if I can't find my subscription tickets, they will re-issue them to me without any hassle.

I've phoned my veg box delivery place to amend my order to take account of the low carb diet I'm switching to and took the opportunity to ask them about jobs there. Might be something different to do and I'm definitey going to consider applying there for at least a part-time job. I've called my health insurance place to confirm that the social welfare has been covering my insurance since the beginning of December, which means that I'll get a refund of the premium I paid myself for December. And on Wednesday evening I cooked the red cabbage I had, which I've almost finished already. I'll heat the rest of it to have with some pork later this evening. When I was going out yesterday I remember to bring the empty bottles to the bottle bank and I brought the rubbish down after remembering to add the egg yolks to the bin. I made icing sugar last week and put the yolks in Tupperware in the fridge, intending to use them the next day but then not actually eating much that day and forgetting about them. I hate to throw food out but am very happy I remembered before they had been there too long - rotten eggs smell bad!

Yesterday I even got the washing done. And I dusted off the blanket box I use as a bedside locker and put away the bedclothes I washed last week. I really need to try and dust that blanket box every week. There is always soooo much dust where I live.

All in all a relatively productive couple of days. Nothing earth-shattering achieved but lots of little things. And every little thing achieved is just that bit much more less swirling in the back of my head. Now I'd better go off and find something good to do with the black radish I got in my box this week. Not to mention the four Chinese cabbages. I thought I'd ordered 1 but it turns out I'd ordered 1kg. I think I'll be searching for room in the freezer for a lot of that. Hope everyone has a nice weekend. Mine is going to be chockful of rugby. Never would have thought I'd become a genuine sports fan but it seems to have happened. It's weird but nice. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Where can I find my mojo?

I have such a lot to do and am lacking focus. Trying to come up with a title for this post and choosing this one though, I find myself questioning whether I've ever had any mojo at all. As the old joke goes, I think my get up and go has got up and gone.

Last night, I promised myself I'd get straight up and going this morning but of course, these promises really need to come in the harsh light of day. Or the grey, miserable, rainy light of day as it was here this morning. I didn't just turn over and go to sleep though, I did switch on the light (didn't sleep until very late so it was after ten when I woke up but it was dark enough today to need lights on almost the entire day) and I read for a while.

Then I got up to make myself a cup of vegetable bouillon and ate that along with some leftover prawn crackers. I wanted to use them up entirely. After that I read for another little while before I remembered I needed to ring the social welfare office with some questions. Did that and tried to organise a meeting with my accountant so that he can check the forms I'm submitting to them to make sure I'm accounting for my sideline income properly. I'm not trying to hide anything but no harm in making sure it's all correct while still presented in as favourable to me a way as possible. After that I did actually get up but didn't move much further than the couch, where I have whiled the day doing not much of anything. No, wait. I did spend two hours sorting out some stuff for choir. I'm definitely starting to hate being the librarian - it might be time to pass that job on to someone else. 

I wanted to use up the prawn crackers because I'm planning on starting the blood sugar diet and seeing if I can do that for a week or two. Have been feeling like a detox would do me good and having just read the book, it seems an interesting idea. Even if I only do it for a couple of weeks, it's better than not doing it and really, it's pure luck that I haven't developed diabetes (older sisters did) so anything that could help reduce the chances of that has to be good. So anyway spending a day or two finishing up whatever crap I have in the house seems like a good idea. Which reminds me to make a note to phone the veg box place and cancel my standing order for potatoes every two weeks. Maybe that's what I need to get me going again. A proper to-do list.

I also need to phone the health insurance place because the social welfare office has now told me that they've been covering my health insurance since the beginning of December (even though because I quit my job rather than being fired, I'm only entitled to unemployment money from the end of January) so I have to phone them and see if I can get back the premium I paid to them directly. Feels like a bit of a one department not communicating with another situation but it might have to do with my sideline income and me needing to pay additionally because of that.

I wasn't terribly active when it came to sending out applications in January and am supposed to do 5-10 every month so the aim this week is to get 8 applications sent out. Tomorrow I need to go and buy a box of envelopes and some stamps. Much easier to just need to pop out to the letterbox across the road then have to walk to the post office every time I want to send something.

It's just gone ten o'clock now and I'm going to head to bed. Hopefully I'l manage to sleep fairly quickly. I really need to break the cycle of being up late and then sleeping late. It was five o'clock on Sunday morning before I got to bed (was visiting a friend for a birthday party but because I was staying with her, I had to stay up until the last guests left) and it really takes me a while to get over that kind of thing nowadays. Must be getting old. :-)

Friday, February 05, 2016

Freezer filling up

Fed myself for yesterday and today and have lots of soup left over to fill the freezer with.
Six very generous portions of vegetable soup and two of pumpkin soup. I could have gotten seven or eight portions of veg soup but I wasn't sure I'd fit it all into the freezer. It's very thick soup so these portions will actually be even bigger when I've added a bit of water. These are 400ml containers. My favourite basic Tupperware, by the way, but being discontinued. Not sure why I dislike the new version so much but there it is. I think it's the lids. And then I think I'm definitely getting too old, or something, because that's a really silly thing to have a reaction to.

Anyway, I am at least getting somewhere with using up the veg. Will need to have another big cooking session next week - that'll be either Tuesday or Wednesday since Monday is the big Karneval day and I'm going to go and watch the parade. First, I need to go and wash all those pots.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


I've had a cold over the past week or so and cooking went out the window. I've even ordered takeaway three times in the last ten days, something that is highly unusual behaviour these days. The forced inactivity over the weekend was what needed to happen though. Having struggled through the first few days of the bad stage of the cold because I had things to do that couldn't be put off, it was time to just take to bed and stay put. I should be seeing my friend who is going through chemo in three weeks and I don't want to risk still being sick then.

4 carrots, 2 onions, a small head of garlic and half a celeriac

All of the not cooking, however, means that I've developed a bit of a backlog of vegetables. I thought about cancelling my box for this week but in the end decided one good big session of soup-making might be what was called for. So, taking a leaf out of Sue's book, I've just put the following into the oven to roast. I've used sesame oil, just a small amount, and sprinkled a teaspoon of cumin seeds over it all.

I liked the idea of roasting the veg first to intensify the flavours. It's not a new idea to me but just seemed to somehow hit the spot for me when I read it yesterday. I've often found that in various aspects of life. You can be aware of something, you can even have heard of something often but it's not until you happen across it at the right time/right place/right frame of mind that it clicks and you take the idea on board.

So, the first soup will be a mixed vegetable soup. As well as the roasted stuff, I'll add some cabbage, a leek and a few potatoes. I might also throw in a couple of small Jerusalem artichokes, which arrived in my box this morning.

I still have two small pumpkins to use as well and another larger one arrived this morning, so pumpkin soup is definitely on the cards. And I have lots of carrots so I'm going to make some spicy carrot and lentil soup. Need to buy more garlic but Karneval started about half-an-hour ago so most shops will be closed for the rest of the day. Since it's raining and grey and miserable, I'm just not that bothered about trying to get out. I might fish some of the roasted garlic out of the pan above when it's done and put that to one side to use. I ended up roasting the entire head of garlic I had as it was very soft and starting to mold on one side. I really should get in a couple of jars of the minced stuff, it really is one of those things that is just so convenient.

Most of that soup will have to go into the freezer, obviously, but that does give me a good basis for future quick meals. I'm kind of feeling like a soup month wouldn't be a bad idea anyway. I'm not interested in too much effort at the moment but am desperately craving lots of vegetables and soup's a good way to take care of that.

And then I'll just have some Jerusalem artichokes left, some carrots, a couple of leeks, plenty of potatoes, a red cabbage, a white cabbage, half a Savoy cabbage, onions and half a celeriac. I see a lot of soup in there. And colcannon. Yum.