Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Potentially delicious new recipe

Just want to jot this down here because it's looking and smelling so delicious at the moment, I feel like I may have just invented a delicious new recipe.

I cooked some chickpeas yesterday but couldn't get enthusiastic about making them into any kind of a dish. So instead I took the pumpkin and leek that I cooked last week but never got around to making into danishes and made it into a pastryless quiche instead. It was about thirty seconds of active work and although I ended up overcooking it slightly, it was really delicious. Note to self: the quantity from the danishes recipes was enough for a quiche made using 5 eggs in the small white dish.

Anyway, this evening, I needed something fast so I picked up some turkey pieces and decided to just have them with some red cabbage and apple, since I knew I had a jar of that and would just need to heat it up. Aaagh, but the chickpeas are still in the fridge from yesterday. So, I put a 250g portion into the freezer, something I always mean to do but forget.

That left 300g of chickpeas. I sliced a couple of onions and sauteed them in some peanut oil and added a teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste. Then I added a grated carrot (hooray for using up things that have been in the fridge for far too long already) and a tin of tomatoes. And for good measure, a small Tupperware container of Chinese cabbage that I had in the freezer. So pleased I thought of it, as it was the last "old" thing I had in the freezer and I'd been trying to figure out what to do with it. I add two teaspoons of ras el hanout spice and when it has all cooked for a while, I'll add the chickpeas and that'll be two very generous portions or three smaller ones, I think. Really hope it lives up to its promise now. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Procrastinating and pictures

I have a master's thesis to proofread and it is almost hurting my head. It's rather philosophical in nature and that's never my best area. I tend to get bogged down in thinking, don't necessarily have the tools to be doing a lot of that kind of thinking, but I find it difficult to distance myself from the ideas and just concentrate on whether that comma should be there or not. So today (and yesterday), I have been dillydallying and there has been quite a lot of procrastination. For a while early this afternoon I thought I was making good progress but now it's after nine and I still have nearly 30 pages to get through. Aaagh.

On the other hand, as has happened before, procrastinating on this task has meant that I've actually picked up and done, or at least started, a few other tasks that I have been procrastinating on for a while. So I've hung a few pictures up, or at least stood them up near where I want to hang them, to see if they work in that spot. After all of my pictures came crashing down in a pile now long after I moved, resulting in many broken frames and smashed glass, I was faced with the spectre of having to spend loads of money replacing them all. And so I did what I am wont to do in situations like that, pushed them to one side and ignored the situation.

I ordered one frame online a few weeks ago and it felt so good to hang that picture up again that it has been in my mind to do a few others soon. So during the week, I hung the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster that I was given for my 40th birthday (I'll be 42 soon!). I did put that into a frame more than a year ago but never did get around to hanging it. There's a small chip of glass out of one corner from the toppling incident in July but otherwise it's fine. So I went ahead and hung that in my hallway.

The frame on the picture I have of St. Patrick's Cathedral was completely destroyed and it's an unusual size (fairly old and imperial rather than metric measurements) that's hard to find something for here. Today, while clearing stuff from one pile, I found two empty frames that used to hold pictures that I have since gotten more suitable frames for. And it occurred to me that they weren't that much smaller than the St. Patrick's picture. So I checked it out, and ended up just cutting away the extra mounting board (less than two centimetres top and bottom and barely half a centimetre each side) and put it into one of those frames. I am so pleased with it, it actually looks better, I think, than the original frame. Just need to find the perfect spot to hang it now.

And then I hung my Derek Beggs' print. And I've search for and found the music I promised a friend I would give her soon. And found the health insurance form I needed to find. Not to mention that while doing that, I found a whole pile of health insurance and pension stuff that I never got around to filing before moving and that I was looking for recently.

So, I may be looking at a late night working after all that procrastination, but at least it was a pretty productive day.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Languages and teddy bears

So, it's two weeks since I posted last and Fiona asked me a question in the comments, which I also hadn't gotten around to answering. Since my answer started to get a bit long, I decided to make a post out of it.

First of all, about the teddy bear she commented on: I got that teddy bear when I was seven (I think). Around then anyway. My dad had to go into town, an unusual occurence, and I remember it was around christmas and there were stalls on Henry St. Thinking about it now, he was probably picking up a present for my mum, or collecting something she had ordered. I don't remember why I got to go with him, I'm not sure if I just asked and he said ok, or if there was a babysitting issue. That seems less likely though because it was just me and him and if it was a babysitting issue, my younger sister and brother would have come too. At any rate, he bought me that teddy from one of the stalls and it lived on my bed the whole time I lived in my parents house. After that, it came with me, mostly living in a bag of other toys and being dragged out from time to time for a visiting child to play with. That bag of toys was whittled down over the years to really just the ones I couldn't bear to let go of and when I moved to Germany eight years ago it came with me. Except I didn't know anyone with kids when I moved and although a few friends did have kids a couple of years ago, I never really entertained at my place. However, at some stage about four or five years ago when I was clearing up I suddenly starting to feel really bad that poor old Ted, who has been with me for so long, should be shut away in a bag. He was always the first one on my list of toys (yes, even as a child, my penchant for lists and filing was very strong and all of my toys had a name and a number on my list). So, since then, he has perched on top of a cupboard, or now, on top of a shelf. I like to think that at least he gets to see what's going on now. And since he's there, he also gets the occasional cuddle. I've decided that no-one should ever be too grown-up to hug a teddy every once in a while.

Fiona actually asked the following: Do you find the translating very difficult & do you now think in German as well as English?

Funnily enough, someone in choir asked me the same question about what language I think in just a few days later. And the short answer is yes, I definitely do think in German now. I switch between both actually, particularly now that I'm working through English far more. It does make German a bit harder but from a translation point of view it's really better that I regularly think in English, too.

I don't find translating very difficult but I enjoy language so although it can be frustrating sometimes, if you're the kind of person who rarely manages to just look up one word in a dictionary without getting distracted by other words on the same page or led up to looking up more words, then it's more fun than not. I've been learning German for 28 years though, and speaking it for 23. Although I'd love to claim that I was so brilliant at languages I've been able to speak it for as long as I've been learning it, that just wasn't the case for me and so I consider myself to have been speaking it since about two or three months after the first time I lived in Germany.

That ties in with the thinking in a different language aspect, too. The woman from choir who asked me if I think it German wanted to know if I hear what someone is saying, translate it in my head and then reply. And that is kind of what I did for the first couple of months. It made conversation very difficult though because by the time I'd figured out what people were talking about, thought of and translated something to say in reply, invariably the conversation would already have moved on. You just don't really get minutes to formulate your answers in a normal conversation. At some stage I started to understand immediately, without having to pick out words and translate them in my head and as far as I remember that was about two or three months after living here. Admittedly, my first time here meant four months working in a cafe in the small village of Ruhpolding in deepest Bavaria, where the accent is already thick enough to cut with a knife before even taking the dialect into account. It's possible that it might have only taken a few weeks to reach the same stage in a town where most people spoke high German. Who knows.

The only exceptions that I have found over the years are maths and music. But if you think of either of those things as languages in their own right, then it kind of makes sense. I'm not sure I can explain it very well but I know I'm not the only one who has experienced it. I simply cannot add well in German. I can say all the numbers, if you tell me a number I can repeat it to you, write it down, visualise it in my head. But ask me to add, say 25 and 46, and I have to do that in English and translate the answer in my head to get the German answer. I think maths exists at a more instinctive level than spoken language, if you know what I mean. You can think sums faster than you can articulate them. And everyone has their own way of adding in their head. For example, to add 25 and 46 my thought process would basically be, sixty, seventy, one. Someone else might think 25 plus 50 minus 4. But really, you probably think it so quickly that it's hard to say how you got to 71.

Music is somewhat similar but a bit more difficult for me as I'm not that good at it. I did do piano lessons when I was a child though and obviously enough made it into my head to make it partially instinctive. If someone asked me to sing a C, I wouldn't be able to do it. But if you asked me to pick out a C on a sheet of music, I can. If a conductor says, let's start from the B flat, I can find it immediately. But, if a German conductor says the same thing I don't just "see" the note immediately on the page. I have to translate what they're saying into English first. Mostly I don't bother with that to be honest and just sort of figure it out by starting a split second behind everyone else. It's definitely something I notice, however. It just feels like music is another thing that happens at a less conscious, and therefore faster than language, level.

So there you have it. Feel free to chime in in the comments about your own experiences with languages. If you speak a second (or third, or fourth, of fifth) language, do you think in it?

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Sunday evening 6th November 2016

Haven't done one of these for a long time but it's eight o'clock, I've just watched a film, and am feeling nice and relaxed and in the mood for something easy and friendly. These Sunday night chit-chat used to be hosted on a blog that I haven't read for a long time but even before I stopped reading it, she had stopped doing them, I think. So now I just see them on The Occassional Nomads and that's about it. Still a fun way to pass a half-hour or so, I think. And I need to get better at remembering the good things happening during the week as well. I've really been trying hard to add to my "little things" page and this is kind of like an extension of that.So, let's start off with a picture, even if it's a few weeks old now.
Still a work in progress but I'm so happy that I painted these shelves. And the tall boy.
This evening I am:
Reading: Otherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong, a book of short stories based on the characters from her 13-part Otherworld series. I read the first two or three when they first came out or not long after and then kind of forgot about them until a couple of years ago when I was delighted to find out there were 13. Well, I think there were 11 at the time and then I just had to wait for a while. There are five books of short stories, too, and I'm enjoying this one. Good reading, nice escapism. I picked up a Maeve Binchy book at the library the other day, so that's next, I think.I finished Radical Homemakers yesterday and will have to pull together some thoughts on that and post soon.The short version is: highly recommend it.
Listening to: Nothing at all, it's all quiet here.
Watching: I got a couple of DVDs out of the library on Friday so today I watched Long Way Down, a film about four strangers who meet when they all decide to kill themselves by jumping off the same tall building on the same night but don't, as one after the other, they've been interrupted. Some funny moments, a cried a little bit at one point, but not overly sentimental. And it is a a great cast. Yesterday I finished rewatching the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice (yes, the one with Colin Firth). I haven't watched that for years and years and had forgotten how good it is.
Cooking/baking: Not much. I made some kind-of-quesadillas earlier (think toasted cheese sandwiches with Thai sweet chili sauce but made with wraps instead of bread) earlier and have some vegetable and lentil soup that I should heat up to finish off. One thing I dislike about my new place is that even though the weather is cooling down nicely, my tiny kitchen is in the middle of the building so it stays fairly warm all the time. Great for my heating bills but not so great for being able to store food, or leave a pot of soup out overnight. Will need to get in the habit of bringing stuff out to the balcony for the winter.
Happy I accomplished this week: Quite a lot on this list this week when I think about it (which is kind of the point, I suppose). I started bullet journalling, with moderate but at least some success. Including actually taking out some crayons and drawing a bit on the inside cover. I also finished emptying a moving box which I had been dreading and kept putting off as it was full of little bits and pieces. Very pleased to have that done now, though. I also got a nice box and gathered all of my Weight Watchers stuff in one place. It was interesting to actually look through it all again, especially my weigh-in cards (I was 98kg, which is about 15.5 stones, or 215 lbs) the very first time I went, which was in my final year of school. How I would love to be that weight now. I may never go back to Weight Watchers but as an historical record of my life, it is really interesting. In particular, all of the tracking diaries for weekly eating, of which I have a lot. Really want to go through them in detail at some point to try and pinpoint some of what has worked well in the past for me. I forced myself to take a deep breath and just go to the monthly dinner of the local chapter of the association of translators on Wednesday - I actually had a pretty good time (and stuck to my plan to eat cheapest thing I could find on the menu and just have one drink) and felt like I'd made some good contacts. And, last night, just before I was about to go to bed, I noticed an email had arrived to my work (translations) account. I opened it and it was a request for a really urgent translation that needed to be done today. I replied immediately and got the job, so spent my afternoon bringing in some much-needed cash. So glad I didn't just leave it and think it could wait till Monday. And finally, the new frame I ordered to replace one that broke during my move arrived and I immediately put the picture into it and hung it up. Place feels a little bit more like home with every small step.
Looking forward to next week: Not a whole lot, I have to admit. But I'm not dreading anything either, so I'll take it. That's all that I really want at the moment - things on an even keel.
Thinking of good things that happened this week: Well, most of this is covered up above I think. Two other nice things were going out to lunch with a couple of colleagues one day and having a lovely meal. We have tentatively agreed to go collecting elderflowers when spring comes around and to have an afternoon making something with them. And yesterday one of the women from my local choir phoned just to make sure I was alright, as I missed rehearsal the last two weeks (I was away the week before last and then at the translators' meet-up last week and the person I told had forgotten). And my friend who normally phones me on Thursday morning wasn't able to but did manage to catch me for a few minutes in the afternoon, which was lovely.
Grateful for: Good friends.
Bonus question: Oh. Well, until Laura posts her chit-chat later on I won't know what this question is. But if anyone has a question, on anything, feel free to ask in the comments!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

New month, spending for October, and NaNoWriMo

Although Halloween is becoming more and more known here (I even saw a few kids out trick or treating here last night), it's not a holiday. In Ireland, they changed things around a few years ago so that the bank holiday is always on a Monday, so this year was one of the few where the bank holiday was actually on 31st October. Over here, however, 1st November is a bank holiday so actually, it makes it perfect for having a quiet start to a month, and a chance to line up anything you want to get done over the month.

For me that means a couple of things. First of all, I'd like to say thank you to those who commented on my "knees" post and for the words of encouragement. I really am trying to not let it set me back and to continue on with some of what I wanted to achieve regardless, so a good start to a new month is coming at a very good time. I took a week off work last week and was in Dusseldorf for a few days. I had an appointment at the dentist and, since I have had lots of dentist issues in the past I at least wanted to go back to the really good one I had finally found one last time. Looks like I will need some work done, however, and spending 80 euro to get to and from every dentist appointment is not very sensible. But I think I am going to stick with him for now. This is one of those situations where at the moment making the decision to spend money is the better choice for now.

During the week I sometimes had that old familiar feeling of "oh no, don't want to have to go back to work", but surprisingly by the time Saturday rolled around I was actually feeling alright, even almost eager to get back to work. That feeling was very unfamiliar. Knowing that my second day back was going to be a bank holiday was just the icing on the cake.

So, I came back home on Saturday and have actually started getting a few things done. First of all, I started laying out a bullet journal (see video above for what it's about). I've been thinking about this since I first heard about it a few months ago and I finally managed to get a pretty good idea in my head of how I could make it work for me. I knew I had a nice, pretty notebook somewhere and it didn't take me long to find it. Extra advantage of having had to look for it is that I sorted through some stuff that I haven't paid much attention to since I moved and it was good to get that a bit sorted (still a lot to do, but at least I know what's where now). So, I've started that. I will stick with my small diary for the daily stuff and the rest of it will go into the big notebook. I wrote a key to the various symbols I will be using in the front of it. I did a FranklinCovey What Matters Most (time management) course years ago in my first real job and I still use some elements of that, amended slightly over time I'm sure. I really wanted to try and incorporate those things that I do already and use stuff that I have been using for years, so I'm not using all of the elements described in the video. I also dug out a box of crayons, coloured pencils, and markers and decorated the front page of my bullet journal. I will not be one of those people who develops their journal into a work of art but I do want to make sure to incorporate colour into it, as I know that is a very useful tool for remembering stuff. And occassionally doing something like drawing should hopefully encourage my creativity in general.

As well as spending time setting up my bullet journal, I started to tackle one more moving box, which is one full of small bits and pieces that I have kind of been dreading. I'm doing just a bit every day and have already dumped a huge amount of paper into the recycling. I know I have kept some things other would have thrown away but I am very happy with the progress I'm making on it.

The other creative outlet I want to try and force myself to do a bit, to see what comes of it, is writing. It is, after all, National Novel Writing Month. While I am not going to try and write a novel this month, I did actually start writing something last month and even managed to more or less get a vague outline for it down on paper. So I am setting myself the challenge of writing 500 words a day. The discipline is more what I'm after really, I suppose. And 500 words is not a lot, really. This blog post is already up to, let me check, 859.Which is probably more than enough for now.

I'll finish up with a summary of my spending. While I did track this pretty well this month, I didn't make a note of everything on the last day and a half in Dusseldorf and I kept forgetting to ask for receipts. Partly that is because I'm getting more and more out of the habit of shopping, which is not a bad thing. I'm fairly sure I remember everything, although I may have been a few cents off on a couple of items. As always, the amount I spent seems to exceed the amount I actually spent, i.e. the individual amounts I tracked add up to way more than the amounts on my bank and credit card statment. I'm going to just go with my spreadsheet having an error in the calculations somewhere. November's spreadsheet is waiting to go and there is already a difference of 5 euro. I know where it's coming from but it's taken account of in one of the formulas so shouldn't show up as a difference, which is why I'm sure that it's my formulas that are throwing up the differences. I'm going to continue just tracking daily spending, as that is currently what's important, and I'll worry about rejigging my spreadsheet again in a few months.

See here for a lengthy explanation post of some of the workings of my budget spreadsheet. Here's how the totals look for October.

Banking section (euro/% of salary/% of total income):
  1. Rent 590 / 60% / 25%
  2. Private pension/investments 50 / 5% / 2%
  3. Various charities 65 / 7% / 3%
  4. Transfer to Irish account 485 / 49% / 20%
  5. Basic income supporter 6 / 1% / 0%
  6. Annual expenses (incl. holiday savings) 0 / 0% / 0%
  7. Transport 39.40 / 4% / 2%
  8. Other house related 0
  9. Dental insurance 36.80 / 4% / 2%
  10. Visa (my old Irish credit card) 0
  11. Phone/internet 32.05 / 3% / 1%
  12. Mastercard 600 / 61% / 25% (used this a lot in September while waiting on payment of an invoice)
  13. Misc. (food etc.) - cash 145 / 15% / 6%
  14. Misc. (food etc.) - debit card 94.20 / 10% / 4%
  15. Bills (not including phone) - 40.00 / 4% / 2%
  16. Tax account 0 / 0% / 0%
  17. Bank charges 0
  18. One-off out 124.56 / 13% / 5% (this includes 49 euro also paid to mastercard, which for strange reasons I had to record here. I left just over 100 euro unpaid, just in case I ran into problems later in the month but should be able to clear it this month)
  19. One-off in 1,409.00 (mostly translation work income with a couple of small refunds)
Cash section (euro / % of salary / % of total income) - this should equal the totals for mastercard, cash and debit card above. It never has yet. I did also withdraw 120 euro from my Bank of Ireland account - I knew it was ambitious to transfer 485 at the beginning of the month but still feel like this was less than if I had tried to not spend it from my German account, planning to transfer what was left at the end of the month.
  1. Transport 49.30 / 5% / 2%
  2. Food - necessities 251.94 / 25% / 11%
  3. Food - luxuries 186.48 / 19% / 8% (this should be higher, I think I miscategorised a lot as necessities - I was away and eating out a good bit this month)
  4. Canteen food 56.00 / 6% / 2%
  5. Toiletries 0.67 / 0% / 0%
  6. Gifts (incl. postage, card and wrapping) 61.27 / 6% / 3%
  7. Clothes 68.99 / 7% / 3% (new shoes for winter, a couple of long sleeve t-shirts and a hoody, as well as a couple of pairs of slippers which will be xmas presents)
  8. House/garden 83.57 / 8% / 3%
  9. Medical 21.39 / 2% / 1%
  10. Other 401.55 / 41% / 17% (however, this includes 276.76, which is the balance carried over on the MC from last month so now that amount is essentially counted twice. However, as the plan is to never carry over a balance, I'm not going to worry about changing that. Other expensive things happening this month were website renewals and travel insurance).
So there you have it. Some might think it pointless to have totals that don't reconcile but for now it's enough for me and, most importantly, I tracked daily spending mostly accurately every single day.