Sunday, December 31, 2017

Think I'll need to keep searching

For a good solution to regional eating, that is. I met the guy from the CSA-style program this morning and I left feeling, well, underwhelmed. I went all ready to sign up straightaway and now I don't think I will at all. I did appreciate that he was honest about the shortcomings of the program at least. Opinions welcome on this one.

Cost per month (with a commitment of a year, renewed every year for another full year): €130, which works out to €30 per week.

All of the produce comes from the same farm. Basically, the people in the association (about 180) get together and tell the farmer that they'll pay x amount of money. They also meet every six weeks (not mandatory but it sounded like most people do attend) to decide things like what's to be grown. From what I understood, the farmer who owns the farm also participates in those discussions, which makes sense. As well as "employing" that farmer, there are three other full-time farmers employed to work with him. The six-weekly meeting decided last year, for example, to increase the wages from €12 to €15 per hour, slightly higher than average for work on an organic farm apparently.

The place I would have gone to collect my stuff from is close to work. About 15 people also collect from there. It's basically just a cellar at the back of a communal/alternative student collective of some kind. And honestly, the building entrance was not very well kept and, well, kind of smelly.

Once a week someone from each depot drives to the farm to collect the stuff. I would also be expected to do that at least a few times a year (using a car-sharing car they could make available). Then everyone just brings their own bags to take their portion of stuff. This week, for example, one share was 1kg potatoes, 2 small pumpkins (each slightly bigger than a handful), 1kg onions and 500g black kale (which was totally infested with white cabbage moths).

You also get 1.5 litres raw milk every week but you have to provide your own bottles and they just fill them up. Then, every two weeks there is also meat or cheese. You more or less end up with about 1kg of meat and 300g of cheese per month, from what I understood. Various cuts, mince or salami/sausage (all beef). And finally, a loaf of bread every week, too. Oh, you can pay an extra 1.30 a month to get herbs, as well.

But while I would have assumed that a share looks very different in the summer/autumn peak season, apparently not all that much. They grow no tomoatoes, cucumbers or peppers (ok, no peppers or cucumbers wouldn't bother me). The only fruit seems to be gooseberries and blackcurrants, with a couple of litres of apple juice once or twice a year. So apart from salad, it seems like summer tends to be early potatoes, early carrots, leeks and, well, he wasn't sure what else. From photos on their website I can see beets and kohlrabi, too. And, of course, as they don't keep chickens, there are no eggs included either.

So, all in all, I'd probably end up buying a good bit on top of what I'd get from them. And given that I want to concentrate on eating to lose weight this year, such a big proportion of every week being potatoes and bread, even in summer, isn't ideal. Lots of thinking to do now.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fresh start

Carolyn over at The 1940's Experiment is starting afresh this week with both weight loss and budgeting. And so am I. I'd already been thinking about doing something like this for a while and just don't seem to get anywhere with it. I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and asked about getting help with losing weight and will hopefully have an appointment with a dietician early in the new year. It's not that I feel like they will be able to actually help me much in terms of teaching me about food (let's face it, I probably at least as much as they do on the subject of food and how to lose weight) but I need outside support to actually do something. I'm just not getting anywhere on my own. The place I'll be working with seems to be quite holistic as well, so hopefully the health insurance will also cover the cost of some basic exercise programms. I've also signed up for a new program my health insurance are offering which is a kind of mental health support scheme. Not sure exactly how that will work out but it's kind of like a step before therapy (there's a severe shortage of places with psychologists here and people can end up waiting for a long time before they can get an appointment). From what I understand it involves a weekly phone call with one of their counsellors to talk about whatever is going on and try and find ways for me to deal with everything that's going on. It was sheer coincidence that I got the leaflet for this program at the same time I was trying to get the cover for a dietician set up but I grabbed at the chance immediately. I am trying to be better at asking for help.

As for budget, well, barring one potentially crappy situation (I messed up a big translation job and am waiting to hear back from them - may have to pay them back, may have to cover damages they incurred if they ended up getting someone else to redo it), I'm actually starting to slowly get to a relatively stable place. I have enough money set aside to be able to pay my tax bill for 2016 whenever it comes in and when the rest of my outstanding invoices are paid, should have enough to cover 2017's tax bill as well. I have 450 set aside for annual expenses and 250 for travel/holidays. But, I should also be able to cover annual expenses and travels costs for the next two months directly without needing to touch the savings. Finally, I have 500 set aside in a separate savings account, which is the start of a proper emergency fund.

As I am now working full-time, I am earning almost 300 more per month than I was before. I will have a few expenses that I want to put this money towards over the first few months of the year (getting bike fixed, getting shelves put up in the kitchen and so on) but by June I want to be at the stage where I am living on my previous 75% salary and saving the extra. Will someone come back and ask me in June whether or not I've managed to do that? To be perfectly honest, I'm not really loving working 100% again and I'd rather not get used to the money so that if I can at all finagle my way to reducing hours, it won't be a difficult financial decision.

So much for the monthly stuff. On a more micro level, I'm going to start an envelope method again. I have signed up for a monthly Solawi* box (or at least, I'll be visiting tomorrow and plan to sign up) and that will provide the bulk of my food. Apart from that I will be withdrawing a very generous 60 euro per week from the bank in cash. That's actually how much I was planning on allocating every week before I took the Solawi box into account. I'm going to see how it goes. The idea is that I should be well able to not spend that amount of money every week and will be able to build up a bit of a buffer to start my envelopes off well.

I should think about what envelopes I want to have actually. Hmm. Here's a first list:
  1. Birthdays/presents incl. postage
  2. Clothes
  3. Shoes
  4. New coat next winter
  5. Meals/drinks out
  6. Exercise
So as these things come up over the first few months I'll just cover the cost from my weekly amount but I'll also be putting aside a small amount each week to build that buffer. I have a few birthdays in January and February but already have presents for those so will just need to cover the postage cost. I don't currently really need new clothes or shoes and won't really be going out much. The only exercise cost will be 10 euro per week for my back training course for about six weeks. After that the official course, paid for by work, will be starting up again.

I'm sure I'll end up changing this all a lot as time passes but it's a starting point at least. Need to just keep repeating to myself that a millionaire is made ten bucks at a time.

* Solawi is the name given to an organisation called Solidarische Landwirtschaft or literally solidary agriculture, and is similar to the CSA programs they have in the US. I pay a certain amount every month and for that get a box of food every week. Mostly veg but also meat, dairy and wheat (in the form of grain, flour or bread). Smaller amounts in winter, obviously, and if there is a disastrous harvest then it's tough luck and not a lot of food. The monthly amount paid remains the same. But it means I'll be genuninely back to having mostly local and organic food, as it really is just the one farm providing everything and that farm is located less than 7km from where I live and 15 km from where I work (my pick-up point will be close to work).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Net worth - November 2017

It's been a while since I did one of these and since one of the companies I have an old pension with finally got with the times and decided to provide online access, I may even start to try and make this a more regular thing. Just need to contact my German Riesterrente provider since I seem to have managed to lock myself out of that account. So frustrating. I've given up and just started writing down all the passwords and usernames and user numbers and various other identifiers that all these accounts need.

At any rate, the markets seem to be going up and up at the moment, so things are all looking pretty good. But even better because in addition to the long-term pension stuff, I have finally paid back my sister what she loaned me for my move last year and started building up some cash savings. Only a few hundred so far, but it feels like it won't be long before I have, finally, a proper baby emergency fund of one thousand tucked away. If I were to include my annual expenses and travel accounts, I would actually already be there. But I have to exclude them because that is money earmarked for known upcoming expenses.

I have had so much translation work in the last few months that I have quite a bit of money coming in soon, which means that when my tax bill for 2016 and my tax bill for 2017 arrive, I should have enough to cover them both. And, of course, from now on I will be doing what I should have been doing from the start but didn't always manage to do: putting aside enough of every invoice that gets paid that I do not need to worry about the tax bill coming in!

So, all in all, from a financial point of view, things are sort of starting to settle a bit. It's actually making me a bit nervous but I am trying not to catastrophise. I do kind of need a new phone but not so badly I have to rush out and get one next week. Same goes for my five-year-old laptop. One or two strange things have happened recently (so I'm getting much better at remembering to back-up regularly) and it's been nearly two years since I started having to basically use an extra cooling pad if I want to use it for more than 15 minutes, but again, no need to rush out next week to get a new one. I'll keep it going for as long as I can and then be easy, knowing that I have some savings to cover the cost of replacement, from my baby EF even if I haven't managed to save separately for it by the time I need it. Anyway, here goes:

November 2017
Increase in net worth overall: 5.81%
Made up of:
Irish pension: 2.85%
Irish retirement bond: 8.59% (increase since February, this is the one I just got online access to)
German Riesterrente: 4.91% (actively paying in to this one but have locked myself out of website so this increase is just what I've actually paid in since last statement received)
German BAV: 0% (no updated information)
Vodafone shares:  13.98% (increase since February, found my password!)
ETF savings plan: 310.87% (mostly what I have paid in, at 50 per month, but definitely gains, too, as the value is now above what I have paid in, even after the fees have been deducted)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Short and sweet

That's the way it has to go for the next little while, as I want to get back to blogging regularly but something is holding me back. So I'm going to attempt to post at least a few times a week but maybe not more than a couple of sentences. No excuses that time is too short.

Time will be short but that's because I said yes to a huge translation job that I really should have turned down. Getting it done would mean at least two or three hours a day plus all weekend and it is now threee o'clock on Saturday. Since I got the job (on Wednesday) I have spent just about two hours actually working on it. The excuse that I may be coming down with a cold is maybe good enough for having slept in so late this morning. And even for the fact that after waking up at eleven and reading for less than an hour, I took a nap for an hour. But I did actually get up and dressed then, all ready to pop out to pick up a parcel that I wasn't here to take in yesterday. But there is no good reason for me to be still sitting here two hours later.

My mood in general these days is pretty much one of self-loathing and it's hard to tell sometimes whether that's making me self-sabotage just so I can hate myself more, or if I'm just floundering because I feel so useless. Elaine from MFin3 posted a TED talk about procrastination a last week, which I've just watched. I've actually read the Wait but Why post on procrastination before but it was interesting to be reminded and also to hear the bit at the end about procrastination with and without deadlines. The shop I have to collect my package from closes at four o'clock on a Saturday so I'll definitely need to leave here very soon if I want to get my package at all. Short deadlines are definitely easier for me to react to than long ones. It's spreading the work of translating 70 pages out over the next ten days that's hard. If I had 10 to do tomorrow, I'd just do it. Makes no sense. My brain is just so messed up sometimes.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday 17th September 2017

Let's start with a random photo taken with my phone this week:

When I walked out of work on Monday, there was a perfect double rainbow arching right across the sky. Here's just a tiny bit of it. It was too big for a photo so I tried (and failed) to take a video. Oh well. To be honest I was too giddy just looking at it to be faffing around with my phone at the same time. Rainbows, to me, are just magical and will always bring a small to me face. I will quite often also end up laughing. Whatever the autumnal light is doing these days, it seems to be happening all over. I saw so many photos on blogs and instragram this week of rainbows, most of the double ones.

This evening I am:
I've moved on to book eight of S.M. Stirling's Emberverse/Change series, The Tears of the Sun. I decided to read Dies the Fire again on a whim a couple of months ago and, even though it does get a bit wearing to read them all one after the other, those cliffhangers get to me and by the end of one book I'm so caught up in the story, I just want to start the next.
It's fairly quiet here at the moment. I do have the windows open so I can hear the music from the local wine festival and funfair that's happening in my town this weekend. It's distant enough to not be annoying though.
Nothing yet but I have sat down with the intention of finding something on Netflix to watch in a few minutes. Preferably something a bit mindless. I was in the library working all afternoon, only got home half an hour ago and despite having a lot to do, I really need an hour of just switched off.
Not a thing. I grabbed a Hungarian sausage at the booth on the edge of the festival after I got off the tram and ate that while walking home. One of the things I should be doing is washing salad, though, to make sure that I have easy lunches to grab during the week.
Happy I accomplished this week
Got one translation job done fairly quickly and submitted on time. Spent two days at a congress for work and actually managed to network with people I do not know at all. And, after only procrastinating a little bit, have made a good start on the massive translation I have to finish over the next three weeks. I'll need to spend at least an hour or two every day on it, as well as more time than that over the weekends but it's great to have gotten started. I didn't manage to post my sister's birthday present on time but I did wrap everything and box it up. I'll bring it to the post office tomorrow and she'll get it only a couple of days late. My niece's birthday present is in the same box so she'll get her present a few days early.
Looking forward to next week
Start my new job tomorrow so am partly nervous and partly excited about how that works out. And my back training class starts up again on Tuesday.
Thinking of good things that happened this week
Went to the podologist on Friday and got my feet done. It had been way too long. Feels soooo good. And, saw a double rainbow! Also got some good news from my younger sister.
Grateful for
Having my own place to live. Even if I don't own it, it is great to not have to share with flatmates. 

Sunday, September 03, 2017

So it looks like I have a new job

Looks like Sundays are becoming my day for posting something. I'd like to get back to more regular and possibly even more interesting posting sometime but for now perhaps I'll just do a Sunday (or weekend) post to at least keep things going.

The week ended up being a bit of a whirlwind and my first day off on Tuesday ended up fulfilling absolutely no potential for relaxation. Started with an email from the organisation I won the two-year contract with containing the actual agreement (which took a while to read since it referenced lots of various paragraphs from the Civil Code and I'm the kind of person who will go looking up stuff like that), as well as the next job they have for me. Unfortunately it was a huge job and it would have been really touch and go for me to actually get it done in the time they wanted it done. Felt very bad about having to say that I would only do half, even though I know they do have a second translator on hand for just that kind of situation. But much as it would have done my budget an awful lot of good to take the whole thing on it would have meant translating for about four hours every single day for the entire month. On top of the day job, that just didn't seem sustainable. I'd have attempted it if they were really stuck but not just saying yes immediately was the sensible thing to do. Now I just need to get over my own feelings of inadequacy and fear of having disappointed or upset them (no indication of that from them whatsoever, these are entirely my own feelings/projections!). Not helped by finding out later that day that the final part of the stuff I was working on for them last week hadn't been delivered by the author on time and so they wouldn't be sending it to me for translation. So silly of me to feel like this was in any way a reflection of dissatisfaction with me or my work and yet there is always that niggly little voice in my head. Definitely something I need to work on.

Considering the phone call I received just an hour or two after having turned down half of the new translation work, however, it seems like it really was the right decision. Because that call was from the person I interviewed who I thought was not going to offer me the job as she wanted a native German speaker. Turns out that she decided that it'd be worth a try. She had spoken to my current boss and they had agreed that I could continue working for him for the time being but reducing my hours to 50% (20hrs/wk), and she would offer me a permanent position for the other 50% of my time. If, after a few months, it was working out, then I'd switch to full-time permanent working for her. If it didn't seem to be working out then we'd just say no harm, no foul and go our separate ways. However, as I would have a permanent (half-time) position going our separate ways would mean she would ensure that I moved to a different permanent position somewhere else in the university. I don't think I can get across how amazing this offer was - permanent admin positions in the educational sector here are like gold dust! So, all in all, Tuesday was not the most relaxing day one could wish for.

Wednesday started out ok and then in the afternoon came the call from my new boss, apologising profusely that she hadn't taken one section of one law into account and therefore I wouldn't be able to get a permanent contract for part-time with her. You can't mix and match and since my other contract is temporary, that's where the catch is. If she were to give me a permanent contract, my other contract would automatically also become permanent. But since the financing for my current job specifically prohibits a permanent position, that would cause a world of trouble for everyone. It's all good really, though. We'll extend my current temporary contract to cover 100% and then split the hours 50:50 between the two departments. After we know if it's working out or not, then we'll talk about switching to full-time permanent for her. So now it's partly just a matter of trust and partly a matter of just accepting that even if it doesn't work out in the new place (and even if, in that case, she decided not to help out with a move to somewhere else permanent), I won't be any worse off than I am now. And actually, I would have the advantage of having made lots of new contacts, probably among many of the higher-ups in the university, which is always useful. So, yeah, it looks like I have a new job and even sooner than I thought as it looks like they'll be able to get things sorted quickly on the paperwork side, since it's now just an extension of my current contract, rather than a new one. The next two weeks are going to be busy trying to get as much as possible done in my current job so that cutting back to 50% (from 75%) won't have too much of an impact.

For today though, I'm going to try and have a nice relaxing day, where I don't feel bad because I'm not doing any of the hundred things I should be doing at home. I did hoover on Thursday. And cleaned the bathroom and did one wash. On Friday, I brought an old office chair and a bag of rubber floor-mat yokes to the recycling/second-hard warehouse and the approx. two square feet of space that has cleared in my sitting room is fantastic. Yesterday I tackled the washing up that had built up while I was working that big job last Sunday and Monday and since then. I did the last of it this morning, along with the dishes from a lovely dinner last night. I've spent the morning reading bits and pieces on the internet while listening to a golden oldies-type show on the radio and now it's time to get up and have some lunch. And then this afternoon I'm actually going to go into town and go to the cinema. For the first time since moving here fifteen months ago. It's time.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A not-so-relaxing Sunday

In addition to the big annual report translation job I have going on at the moment, another client came back to me about a potential job that came up in June. It was dragged out and dragged out and then finally, last Wednesday, they came back and wanted some portions of that job done. As my client is actually also completely snowed under at the moment, he asked me to do the tricky part of figuring out how big a job the new reduced volume work is (he will pay me for my time on this but as I still had everything on file from the query in June, it didn't take too long - being a hoarder of files pays off on occasion). And then on Thursday afternoon came back to say it was a go but of course it is super-urgent. I managed to finish off what I had for the other job on Thursday evening after work and there is just one more piece of that to come but I'm not expecting it until Tuesday. Which is probably good as this new stuff needs to be done for Monday.

I had already explained that I have lots of holiday time left and could take time off to do this stuff if needed but I really wasn't expecting them to come back and say they wanted it in less than a week. I had even already asked me boss if I could take off Tuesday to Friday next week, just so that I'd be well-prepared. Oh well. I have to work on Monday because we have several things that need to be sorted out so I'll try and go in early and then head straight to the library with my laptop to hopefully finish off the translation by the end of the day (hooray for only working part-time, if I'm in by eight, I can leave at two, which gives me a good run of translating in the afternoon).

I am currently sitting in the library and about half-finished the biggest section of what I'm doing. I did a little bit on Friday after work and choir (had to sing at a funeral in the afternoon and then had rehearsal for singing at a golden wedding anniversary mass in the evening - should have snuck in a couple of hours of translation between those two but it's back up to 30 degrees every day here so I just collapsed on the couch instead). Yesterday, I did absolutely nothing. Not good when I have an estimated 18 hours worth of translation left to do. Really not sure what was wrong with me. It was probably a good thing I had to get up to go and sing at that anniversary mass, as I might have just stayed in bed all day otherwise. I stopped at a local shop to buy some lettuce and tomatoes on the way home from that. Even though it's not a great shop, it was on the way and the thought of walking the extra 500m to the good supermarket was just too much. I got lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and a few plums in the end. At least it was all German and the tomatoes and strawberries were local even. After spending an hour or two after getting home literally just lying down sweating, I read for another while and then did actually get up and make myself some dinner. I washed the lettuce (if I don't wash a lettuce on the day I buy it there is a very high chance I'll just end up throwing it out and I'm trying not to do that anymore), washed and hulled the strawberries and washed the plums. I also washed and chopped the tomatoes. They weren't great quality and would have gone mushy very quickly. So, at least I had everything ready to just throw stuff together this morning to bring enough food for the day with me. And I did have a nice dinner with a big salad as an appetiser.

I've been in the library since about 11 (five hours now) and have gotten about 3.5 hours work done. That's pretty average for me, I can only concentrate for so long before I need to take a break and just read something else. And I took a short lunchbreak, too. It's amazing how knowing you can only keep your place for 30 minutes without actually sitting in it becomes an incentive to take very efficient breaks. I've actually been making excellent progress with this translation and there has been some duplication, which always speeds things up. I actually feel like I might get as much as I wanted to get done this weekend finished today (would really like to get the 10 o'clock tram home).

While all of this translation busy-ness is going on, I also got a call on Thursday afternoon asking me to come in for a second interview for a position I thought I had been ruled out for. It's a permanent full-time position in a different part of the university. More like classical secretarial work than the more project-management-oriented stuff I am currently doing. So that's one plus. Permanent is a definite plus. Full-time I'm a bit torn on. The salary increase couldn't do any harm (about 1,700 instead of the 1,350 I currently get net for 75% hours), but I do love not having to work full days. Even adjusting to 30 hours instead of 20 was difficult to do after nine months of 50%. So there's that. And the reason I thought I had been ruled out is because it's a two-person office and the other secretary is also a non-native German speaker and the boss said at the end of the interview that she really needed a native speaker who would be able to correct grammar etc. in correspondence. So I was very surprised to be called back.

The second interview was with a different woman who the boss had asked to talk to me so that she could get a second opinion. She kind of pushed me a little bit (which I don't always respond well to - so although I didn't show it in the meeting, I felt it and still am feeling it) on whether or not I would commit to improving the flaws in my German (grammar) within, say, a year. While I have nothing against learning more and am even prepared to put work into improving, after thirty years of learning it, I think there are limits to how much can be achieved. Especially to satisfy someone else's definition of good enough. I'm torn. And yet there's not much point thinking about it unless I actually get offered the job. And on top of all that, since they're not willing to split the job (job-sharing is technically on offer for all positions at the university but they don't feel it's realistically feasible for this one - I had kind of semi-hoped the person who was leaving might entertain the idea of doing 50% and me doing the other 50%), I would definitely have to leave my current job, which I do really love, even if it's not as quite as secretarial as I enjoy. It feels like a big risk - I nearly hope I don't get offered the job, to be honest, anything to not actually have to make a decision that's not clear-cut!

Sunday, August 20, 2017


This evening, late enough at just after nine o'clock, I ate some salad as a starter. Just the small amount of oakleaf lettuce I had left in the fridge with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing. Then I had some pasta with a sauce made up of just about everything else in the fridge that needed to be used up. Two small courgettes, three leeks, and some tomatoes, along with a onion and garlic and a tub of cream cheese with wild garlic. I ate half and half is now waiting in Tupperware in the fridge to serve as lunch tomorrow. Actually, I didn't use up all of the courgette, leek, onion and garlic mix as there was too much to fit into the pan. So, after I'd make the sauce for the pasta, I quickly cleaned the pan and filled it up again with the rest of that stuff. I'll be away for a day or two and when I get back, I'll be able to use that to rustle up a very quick dinner. So, at least I've gotten something productive done today.

I'm not doing well at the moment, kind of having a bit of a crisis of confidence, feel like I've had a headache for three or four weeks, am stressing about money, not sleeping very well, and to be honest feel like I'm slipping into a bit of a depressive episode. Feelings of depression are not at all helped by starting to hear mention of suicide prevention day from different sides. Although it doesn't fall on the same date every year, it's always around the same time and suicide prevention day four years ago is the day my sister killed herself. It somehow rubs salt in the wound to be hearing about it for weeks leading up to the day.

And at the same time I have occasional moments of almost pure joy when I'm doing something and realise how different my life is now than it was two years ago. Whether it's walking down the street and catching a glimpse of a gorgeous building or the hills in the background, or doing something for work and realising I don't feel like what I'm doing is a soul-crushing waste of time, or even just stepping outside onto my balcony to take a deep breath of fresh air.

I wonder if I could just get rid of this headache, would things feel better. It's definitely a stress headache, bordering on migraine and it started halfway through the summer school I organised and attended a few weeks ago. So I wasn't terribly surprised. But I just haven't been able to take time to let it clear up as work has been so busy (I have taken two separate days off in the last three weeks but my boss has been away so it has been really busy, with a couple of tasks to take care of that don't occur very often and are just that bit more difficult). Anyway, I have another day off this week and am going to try to extend it to two days. Maybe that'll help. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Looks like those back training classes are paying off

It has been a long couple of days, especially today, when I spent just over six hours on my feet serving food to the hordes of visitors at my choir's main fundraising event. Essentially just a load of tables and benches set up in a playing field in the hills about our town with plenty of food and drink to keep everyone happy. It goes on for three days and it is amazing to me how it possible manages to get a more or less constant flow of people on each of the days. I've been going to back training classes for the last few months and today was one of those instances where it feels like they probably are helping, even if I almost never manage to do any of the exercises at home. I was there this morning just before ten and by the end of my shift, at four o'clock, I was tired but not really very stiff or sore. Feels like progress. I was stiffening up a bit this evening, as I sat at my computer working, but a nice long shower has sorted that out and now I think I'm just ready for bed.

Moon shining clearly

I did go to the birthday picnic by the river yesterday and although that means that I'm a bit behind on the translations I'm doing, I'm glad I went. As expected, I did have a good time and it was nice to catch up with some people I haven't seen since April and meet new people too. Everyone was really nice and friendly and it was all really relaxed. And we got to watch the sun set and the moon rise over the hills as well. I really do love living in such a beutiful place. It soothes my soul to be able to look at the hills every day and the sky always feels somehow bigger here than it was in Dusseldorf.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Ten Things

I'm taking a cue from Andy and posting a list of ten things just to write something, anything.
"...writing ten things from the day. Not good, bad or profound, just ten observations"

  1. I should be translating and am procrastinating.
  2. Today I have baked a banana/coconut cake, a fruit of the forest yoghurt cake, and a batch of vegan banana/coconut muffins. 
  3. I really need to buy baking powder that isn't out of date.
  4. I'm currently nursing 12 mosquito bites, all from Thursday but all looking red and nasty - appaently the mosquitos around here particularly vicious this year.
  5. I love calamine lotion.
  6. I killed a mosquito yesterday before going to bed. So there.
  7. I'm going to a birthday picnic on the Neckar this evening, which I think I will probably enjoy very much, but I don't want to have to go to it or be at it. 
  8. After nine years, it still feels wrong to have to close the windows when it get warm outside.
  9. So far my plan to paint or draw something two or three times a month has resulted in one attempt at a painting in a copybook this year but the August page of my Monet calendar is calling me to attempt something similar.
  10. Ten things really can be difficult to come up with. But I have to go and rescue the muffins from the oven anyway. 
Anyone else have ten things to write about?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

It's already August

Which means it's quite a while since I last posted. For a while I just had nothing to say and then I felt like I had too much to get down. Just today three separate topics crossed my mind that I want to write about. Just smallish things so since I didn't just make a quick note immediately, I've now forgotten all of them. Posting something every day is probably asking a bit too much but I'm going to try writing at least a little bit every day for the next while, even if it's just writing down the name of a topic that I might like to put some more thought into and write about in the future.

I've now been here over a year and am also coming to the end of an extremely busy time in work, with a really busy time in translating just starting. I did the annual report for an NGO last year and this year they had a tender process for translation work for the next two years and invited me to submit a bid. I spent far more mental energy on the whole thing than I should have but it involved finding a native speaker to do the English to German translations as well as an English native speaker to proofread the stuff I translate. It all worked out in the end though and I ended up winning the job. It means a fair amount of work more or less guaranteed for the next two years, starting with the annual report again. Maybe I'll finally manage to get an emergency fund in place.

For my day-job, I have two interviews coming up. I am currently working at 75% (i.e. 30 hours/week) and my contract, which is non-renewable, runs until the end of May 2018. Basically a decision needs to be made whether or not the graduate program I am working for will continue beyond the intial phase. Financing from the state has been secured to allow all of the students currently enrolled to finish up the three-year program, i.e. up to 2019. However, because of the nature of the financing, the admin position can only be filled using the type of non-renewable 2-year contract I am on. So, if a decision is made to continue the program either as is or in a slightly different form, financing has to be found. This shouldn't be too much of an issue according to the professor who is our coordinator. However, he is approaching retirement age (in the next four or five years) so the issue of having someone continue on fighting for and coordinating the program at the higher level is a serious consideration, too. So, as of the last meeting we had where we discussed it, I wasn't left feeling terribly confident that the program will actually continue. And, perhaps more to the point, it didn't sound like if it does continue, the new arrangements will be in place before my contract runs out. With different financing, you see, the program would essentially become a project, and projects can have admin people on fixed-term but renewable contracts.

As it happens, there have been a spate of ads for other admin positions so I have applied for two and will probably apply for another couple next week. One in particular sounded really interesting and it's a full-time permanent position to boot. In the university sector that is practically unheard of for admin positions. As all jobs are always eligible for job-sharing arrangements I applied saying that I would be looking for 25%-50%. Honestly though, if I get a good feeling and am still interested during and after the interview I think I will tell them that I'd also consider full-time. I'm a bit nervous of that but it's probably the sensible thing to do. I have been so lucky with the people I now work with that I am a bit scared to potentially give that up. But I may have to give it up next year anyway. The other thing making me nervous is actually the full-time aspect. I'm more attracted now to the idea of having two 50% positions because at least there is a certain amount of freedom then if one isn't working out. You're just a little bit less trapped then, when it comes to finances.

The other interview is for another professor in the same institute I work at (different building though, our institute is spread out over four buidlings as it's made up of two faculties that merged a few years ago). It's also a temporary position but a project-based one that has a three-year contract and, if the project were to be extended, the possibilty of renewing the contract. It's a 50% position so either I'd share it with someone else and just do half of it (so 25% of a full-time, to bring me up to 75% in total), or I'd have to cut back my hours at my current position. That position is really moving even further away from classic secretarial work though, so it's a tough one. Technically these are all admin/secretarial positions but this one in particular is definitely moving much further in the direction of project management than I really like. But since classic secretarial work seems to be dying out anyway, that's something I need to take into consideration.

So, all in all, I don't much like the uncertainty of my current position but I'm kind of nervous to change anything about it, too. Hitting the one-year mark has definitely led to lots of reflection though and one thing is for sure, I am really glad that I left my old job and my old city. Those two things were definitely good choices for me.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

One week in and mostly keeping to it

I did cave on Friday. I was really hungry by the time I finished my first job and was heading to the second and having been unable to get interested in the smoothie I had prepared, I ended up buying something in the bakery near work. Lunch was salad with pickled onions and dried tomatoes. I ended up not getting home until eight, though and, still not interested in the smoothie, I caved and bought chips. I did eat some of them on one of my bread rolls at least.

Yesterday, I actually woke up hungry, a rare occurence for me. So I brought that smoothie with me to the last day of my side-job and had it there. Between that and the last two bread rolls for lunch (old-school, toasted and with just butter and marmalade) I was stuffed for most of the day. In the evening I went to the supermarket to get some milk, yoghurt, quark and bread but I did come home with a quantity of junkfood, too. I ate most of the crisps while waiting for my soup to heat up and then had that with some toast. I finished the crisps today and I've been nibbling chocolately things on and off all day. After a couple of slices of toast for a late breakfast I thought it was high time to make something a bit healthy.

Having had to search through the freezer to find the yeast earlier in the week, I had been reminded of several things I had in there. So out came the containers (400ml ones) of, respectively, cabbage, chickpeas, and mince. I also used up two tins of tomatoes and three handfuls of lentils so it feels like I'm making some progress at least.
This afternoon I sautéed a couple of sliced scallionsin one pot, and in another a chopped onion. Added a spoonful of minced garlic to each. Then a tin of tomatoes and the mince, along with some dried basil and herbes de provence, went in with the onion. To the scallions, I added the other tin of tomatoes, a tin and a half of water, the cabbage, soaked lentils, chickpeas and a generous half a teaspoon of smoked paprika. I left both pots simmering for a good long while. The smoky cabbage soup in particular I wanted to be not quite soupy, so that I could ladle it onto slices of toast (I did and it was delicious!). The rest of the soup and all of the bolognese will go into the fridge for meals this week. And for next week I think I'm going to buy some veg to add to a couple of tins of beans and coconut milk to make a curry. Still need to figure out what to do with the capers and pickled greem peppercorns as well.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Bread and soup

I was hungry this evening as I was finishing up at work and I knew that the soup I took out of the freezer to have for dinner wouldn't be enough. I decided that I'd make sure to leave work on time and then call in to the bakery on campus before they closed. And by the time I'd actually finished work about an hour later had already forgotten and just headed straight for the bus stop as usual. Oh well. On the way home I remember the 30-minute rolls from the Mortgage Free in Three site that I'd made before and decided that was what I'd do. And it would mean I could have a couple for lunch tomorrow, using up another tin of something from the store cupboard.

Got home and was actually so hungry but also so wrecked that I just sat down and scarfed a huge handful of nuts and raisins while going through my post. Good news came in the post today, as my annual electricity bill came in. They just get a reading once a year and then you find out if the payment you make every month was enough or not. Since I apparently use only a bit more than half of what is average, I'm getting a big refund, just short of €120. I had actually phoned in February to give a reading in order to check if the payments I was making were appropriate and had already lowered the monthly payments after that call. Will be nice to get the money back.

Once I'd rested for twenty minutes or so I headed into the kitchen. I just went straight to the website for the recipe and I really should have checked the blog post I wrote about making these rolls before, too. To wit: 
Same jug, overflowing again
I did at least remember about the sugar and used a little less, as well as a bit more salt. I don''t have any eggs at the moment but I read through the comments and somebody else had made them using just water as a substitute so I decided it was worth a shot. I actually added about 2 extra spoons of oil and 2 spoons of water, rather than just water. And then a very small amount more of water when the mixture wasn't coming together very well. I decided to just make eight slightly bigger rolls rather than the twelve the recipe calls for. I don't have enough space in the freezer to store a lot at the moment and even though it's the same amount of dough, eight will disappear faster than twelve. They really did turn out quite giant and two, along with the soup, has more than filled me up. I'm almost disappointed 'cos I'd love to go and have another one, this time slathered in butter and jam. Maybe tomorrow. I could do one tuna and one jam roll for lunch, I suppose. Or maybe toast one to have in the morning. It's only the 3rd of May but so far this eating from the storecupboard thing really isn't going too badly.
Rolls after 5 minutes of kneading and 5 minutes of rising

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Eating all the food

I randomly started sorting out the big cupboard that I keep most of my food in last week. Can't remember now why I started. I moved a couple of things around to try and be able to even see what was in there. It is now almost a year since I moved here and that big cupboard kind of became the place to just put stuff into because it was too big to wait until I had figured it out - I just needed the space.

It's three shelves worth of deep cupboard on top of the fridge. So it's as deep a the fridge and goes from the top of the fridge (almost shoulder height on me) up to the ceiling. Since I'm tall I can still reach stuff on the top shelf but to get to things at the very back of the top shelf, I do need to stand on a chair. I have a few things stored elsewhere in the kitchen that don't need to be used very often and I'll move them into that space at some stage. For the moment I'm not baking very much either so the mixing bowls are fine up there.
What I was mostly sorting last week was the bottom shelf. I didn't even sort, really, just looked at everything that was there and checked dates. I think that I've become very conscious of the fact that since I've been here a year now, anything in the cupboard that I know I brought with me has been there for a year.

There was one packet of sauerkraut that was already slightly out of date when I moved, for example. I knew that and should have made sure to eat it fairly promptly after the move but I didn't. Just haven't been able to get enthusiastic about sauerkraut for the longest time. So out it went and I found one or two other things that aren't far off their best before dates that I will need to keep an eye on and use up soon. Quite apart from that, however, I realised that because the cupboard is so deep, there is actually a sizeable amount of food in it. I have therefore declared May to be an eating from the storecupboard month. Well, I was thinking about doing that and then yesterday (a bank holiday here), I was sitting on the couch, hungry, not in the mood for the effort of trying to come up with a meal, contemplating ordering a takeaway and realised how silly I was being.

Since I had just looked through the cupboard last week, I knew there was a box of Bratlinge in there and I decided I'd better give them a go before they became one of those bought the box to try and never actually got around to it things. I've eaten these before at a friend's house but had never made them myself and it was so easy. I actually tried looking up recipes afterwards to see if it would be easy to make a homemade, rather than a boxed version, but it seems like Bratlinge is also used as a kind of a catch-all word for any non-meat burgers.

So, for example, the kidney bean, carrot and cumin burgers I often make wouldn't be called burgers in German, they'd be Bratlinge. I vaguely remember a time when vegetarian food was a bit strange and you'd hear people talking about nut cutlets. I think these days burger tends to just get used for anything burger-shaped, regardless of whether it's meat or not. These Bratlinge were of the spelt and oat variety, just a box that was on special offer one week at Aldi. You just add a small amount of boiling water to the contents of the pouch, stir well and leave it to sit for ten minutes. Then you can form the mixture into burger shapes and fry them for four minutes on each side. Really easy and really delicious, too. I also cooked some rice and warmed up a pouch of red cabbage with apple. Very filling dinner for not a whole lot of effort. And all from the storecupboard. I'm going to try and keep that up for the rest of the month, or until the food runs out. Honestly, I think the month will run out before the food does, though. I'm planning on only buying fresh fruit and veg, and probably eggs and milk at some stage. Today that meant a head of lettuce, an onion and a bunch of enormous scallions.

I wasn't quite organised this morning so I did buy a falafel wrap for lunch. But when I got in the door this evening, instead of just sitting down, which I really wanted to do, I went straight into the kitchen. I finished off the last of a jar of olives to keep the hunger at bay while I was cooking. I say cooking but there wasn't much of it. I put pasta into my Tupperware poacher thing and while that was "cooking" mixed up some stuff to eat with it. To start with, a small tin of sardines (I don't even particularly like sardines, why do I have five tins of 'em?), I just tipped the whole lot into a bowl, oil and all, since I figured otherwise the pasta might be a bit dry. I chopped up one of the giant scallions and added that, along with a couple of dried tomatoes from a jar of semi-dried tomatoes in oil. Added some dried basil and oregano and then remembered I had ordinary dried tomatoes in the cupboard as well. So I soaked a couple of those in water, chopped them and added them as well. Finally, I chopped up the feta that was in the fridge and which should, according to the package, have been used by last Sunday. I'm not a stickler for dates on packages but feta is definitely one thing I have found to rarely last much longer than the package states. So I used half of it this evening, and have the rest of it for lunch tomorrow. With all of that my bowl was already full and when I added the pasta, it made for a huge dinner.

While I was waiting for the pasta I also washed the salad I bought earlier and put some of it directly into a separate bowl to take with me to work for lunch tomorrow. Made up a quick dressing using mustard, oil, and pomegranate molasses, and then chopped up another giant scallion and a couple of semi-dried tomatoes to go with the feta. I'll add all of that to the salad leaves just before I eat tomorrow. Not sure yet what to do for dinner tomorrow but I do still have some soup in the freezer and it would probably be a good idea to eat that before warm weather hits and soup is the last thing I'll be interested in eating.

Tonight's dinner on the left before I added pasta. On the right is
stuff to add to salad leaves for tomorrow's lunch.

I think I'll take and post photos of some of the meals I come up with this month. You'll have to forgive the terrible quality in advance. There is no natural light in my kitchen and I know myself I'd get frustrated with running through the apartment to get outside for a photo on the balcony and then back to the kitchen every single time. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

A TEDtalk conversation about female friendship

Randomly came across this today and really enjoyed it. I've admired Jane Fonda for a long time, and Lily Tomlin, too and I've really enjoyed watching Frankie & Grace over the last couple of years. And this talk is very interesting. Funny chitchat at the beginning and then becoming more serious with some very informed and very interesting points.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some photos of my (messy) place

I never really did ever post many photos of my new place after I moved. And now it has already been almost a year and I'm still not quite finished fixing things up. After the initial few months of unpacking, painting some of my old furniture, etc., I needed to be just living in my space. I got everything to the stage that there was just one pile of ten or twelve boxes to unpack, all stacked up on one side of my bedroom, in front of the cupboard that most of the stuff would go into. I want to paint and/or varnish that cupboard though and decided that if I just unpacked stuff into it, I'd never get around to it.

For the long weekend this week, I've basically decided to do nothing other than read, watch films and do nothing. Things have just been far too hectic for the last while and I've been getting overwhelmed so it was time to consciously spend time doing as close to nothing as possible and leaving all the other stuff behind. I did have a small burst of energy this morning however and so I spent a half an hour moving some furniture around. I've been thinking about doing this for a while and I wanted to see what it would look like.

'Scuse the mess in most of these photos - as this was a spontaneous rearranging of furniture the photos are honest to goodness candid ones. This level of mess may be very stressful for some of you to see but for me, it's such a big improvement on how I was in my old place (and getting better all the time, actually) that it feels pretty good. And excuse the quality of photos, some even blurrier than my usual.

This is the end of the living room beside the balcony with the couch (also guest bed) and my two armchairs. I really don't need two armchairs but one is the final one from the three-piece suite I took from my parents' house and although I hate the cover (I will get it recovered one day), I really love it to sit in. The other chair is one a friend gave to me when she was moving a few years ago and needed to downsize. I'd always admired it when I visited and couldn't bring myself to refuse it. Anyway, at some stage I thought it would be nice to have an armchair in my bedroom, to curl up in and read, and to free up a bit of space here.

Here are another two photos of the rest of this room. I deliberately took them in such a way that you can easily see where one bit ends and the next begins - it's a nicely sized but not huge room and although I could do with getting rid of some more stuff, I'm not quite there yet. One step at a time.
This is the far end of the room, where I have my dining area. The other big thing I gain from moving one of the armchairs is a feeling of slightly more space so that, whenever I find one I like and can afford, I can put in a proper table without making it feel too cramped. I think. The table that's currently there is 2'x3' (60x90cm), which is fine for just me but doesn't give a lot of space for ever entertaining (I might do, one day, you never know), or using it for anything other than eating.

The nice cabinet hasn't quite been finished either and stuff is a bit higgledy-piggledy in it. I plan to paint it red but got sick and tired of painting last year and put that on hold. Also started dithering between bright red or dark red. Opinions on that issue welcome. (It's actually a fairly flimsy, pretty damaged piece that I bought for 20 euro second hand so I'm not feeling any "painting would be such a mistake for this beautiful piece of furniture" issues at all.

And this is the middle part, which functions as my work space. You can see the table (the stuff on the table is mostly stuff I moved out of the way to be able to move the chair), and the edge of the will-someday-be-red cabinet. Next to that is my writing desk (with red floor protector for the chair to sit on), and beside that you can see the armchair. That should all give you an idea of the amount of space.

This is the corner of my bedroom that I decided to put the chair in. After my initial dreaming / getting carried away thoughts on doing this I did actually measure and realised that it would barely fit in that space.

However, since I was still toying with the idea several months later, I decided it was at least worth trying.

This is the still-unpacked side of the bedroom, on the other side of the bed. As happens, over the course of the last six months or so the neatly stacked moving boxes seem to have attracted a layer of stuff on top.

I know I'm going to be fairly busy for the next couple of weeks but I think once we get into May, with hopefully less rainy weather, I'm going to move these boxes out to the balcony and paint/varnish the cupboard before unpacking it all. There has been a bit of a change of plan though and it's one of those things that proves yet again how you sometimes have to live in a space for a while before making final decisions on things.
Did I ever post a photo of the lovely built-in cupboards here that I immediately designated as jar storage? Here's one (or three, actually) I took last year before I'd even unpacked all of my jars.
Over the winter, however, I realised that these cupboards back onto heating pipes of some kind next door. I put a thermometer in them for a while and they were regularly over 20C, which is just too hot for decent food storage. So, now I'm thinking the jars will go into the cupboard in the bedroom, and the material, yarn, and other crafting supplies, currently still in boxes, will go into these built-in cupboards in the hallway.

Even more reason to varnish or paint that cupboard really well - at the moment the wood is completely porous so if a jar ever leaked (it happens), I'd never get the stain or smell out of the wood. So, that's the plan for now. We'll see how it works out.

One final photo now, of the living room after moving the blue armchair into the bedroom. I'm not entirely happy yet and suspect I'll end up moving this chair around a bit until a find an angle that I like. Or maybe I'll give up on having the footstool there at all (although I do love to use it).

By the way, in case anyone is wondering, the couch could go lengthways along the wall rather than the window (I'd need to shift the desk an inch or so to the left to make space) but there is not enough room to have a chair opposite it without blocking the door out to the balcony. No "after" photos of the bedroom or the other end of the living room yet though. I want to wait, live with it a while and maybe even get photos of a neat and tidy space to show you. So that's it for now. Would love to hear what you think of it all.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Net worth - April 2017

It seems hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I did one of these posts (here's the one from May 2015). Then again, it doesn't seem possible that this time last year I had just been offered a new job and I was spending the weekend traipsing around Heidelberg viewing as many apartments as I could find. At any rate, one of the pension companies hadn't updated my address before the annual statement was sent out in January and then it seems to have gotten lost in limbo a little bit. However, after several phone calls and a couple of different people trying to figure out what happened, it finally arrived here last week. So here are my updated totals, not all from exactly this week but all from this year. It's kind of annoying that I can only get some of these once a year but at the same time it helps for me to not be stressing about the ups and downs of the markets.

Actually, I have checked these numbers a few times over the last couple of years so I'm going to go ahead and post each increase, rather than play around with my spreadsheet and having to add up increases to get one figure from May 2015 to now. And it nicely shows the couple of times the markets were definitely going down rather than up.

September 2015
Increase in net worth overall: -1.85%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: -6.74%
Irish Retirement Bond: -7.95%
German Riesterrente: +1.58% (actively paying in to this pension)
German BAV: +31.09% (I think I was usually just adding in what I was paying in to this pension)
Vodafone shares: -9.76%

February 2016 (three months after leaving work)
Increase in net worth overall: 4.12%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: -7.65%
Irish Retirement Bond: 0% no updated information
German Riesterrente: +17.36% (actively paying in to this pension, although at a substantially reduced rate since I was no longer working in a highly-paid job)
German BAV: +12.5% (I think I was usually just adding in what I was paying in to this pension and once I left that job, no more payments were made)
Vodafone shares: -8.02%

October 2016 (five months into new, part-time job)
Increase in net worth overall: 2.92%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: +12.80%
Irish Retirement Bond: 0% (no updated information)
German Riesterrente: 0% (actively paying in to this pension, although at a substantially reduced rate since no longer working in a highly-paid job but for whatever reason didn't update the number with payments made)
German BAV: 0% (no more payments being made into this pension and no updated information on value)
Vodafone shares: -8.30%

February 2017
Increase in net worth overall: 7.39%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: +8.21%
Irish Retirement Bond: 11.58% (annual statement received)
German Riesterrente: 0% (actively paying in to this pension, although at a substantially reduced rate since no longer working in a highly-paid job but for whatever reason didn't update the number with payments made)
German BAV: 12.58% (no more payments being made into this pension - this information is from a statement I received after I finally got around to phoning them to give them my new address)
Vodafone shares: -6.87%

April 2017
Increase in net worth overall: 2.45%
Made up of:
Irish Pension: +2.70%
Irish Retirement Bond: 0% (no updated information)
German Riesterrente: 5.91% (actively paying in to this pension, still reduced rate - I decided to leave this at lower rate and start investing in ETF. We'll see how that works out.)
German BAV: 0% (no updated information)
Vodafone shares: 0% (no updated information because I've forgotten my username and password for the online investor centre and keep forgetting to phone them to sort it out!)

ETF savings plan: no change yet as April is the first month. But nearly two years after setting up this online investment account I finally managed to set up one of their savings plans. It's only 50 euro a month, which will go to buying an MSCI World ETF but it's a start at investing at least.

It's nice to see I'm very close to tipping over to the next "-ty" number, i.e. forty rather than thirty. It doesn't feel like about 5,000 is a huge amount of an increase over two years but given that I wasn't working at all for seven months of that, and have been only working 20 hours a week for almost a year, maybe it's not that bad to have not substantially added to it. There'll be no early retirement for me, I think, as my current net worth is about a tenth of what it would need to be to finance my life.

But that's alright. I've been doing a bit of reading around what my state pension entitlements are. The university held a seminar for international employees on pensions and I think I'm finally starting to understand some of the complexities. I'm hoping to have an individual appointment to talk to someone but that probably won't happen until early next year. I did have one lined up for earlier this year but unfortunately had a very bad cold/flu-like illness/bronchitis and had to give it a miss. At least my boss was able to take my spot so it wasn't a complete waste. At any rate, if I have understood it correctly, based on the time that I worked in Ireland, I have an entitlement there to the second-lowest rate of state pension. That's currently about 150 euro per week. It remains to be seen whether there'll actually be any state pension to speak of by the time I make it to pensionable age, assuming I do make it that far, but let's be optimistic. If I was old enough to be collecting it today, that amount would cover my rent for the month. And I'll have whatever small amount coming from my private pensions and investments, as well as my German state pension. I may never be rich but at least there's a good chance that I'll be able to cover expenses and not have to work until I drop.

Starting at the beginning of April, my hours increased to 30 per week (this will mean net salary of about 1,350 instead 990 per month). I have also finally found a mini-job, which is paying me 400 per month, less just a small deduction for pension. I could have opted out of that but it's about 40 euro a month that I probably won't miss much now and will appreciate having in 25 years or so. That's the theory anyway. But apart from the pension deduction the rest of that 400 is tax and social insurance free. It's long hours (2.5-3 hours six days a week) but the tax-free status makes it a not as bad hourly rate as it seems at first. I'm just covering for someone who had to go and attend rehab for a month for a bad back. Her time there may be extended but probably not and then I'll finish up. It's a nice little amount of extra cash but I have to admit that I find the inflexibility of six early mornings every week is getting to me and I don't think I'd want to keep it up long-term. But now that I'm trained in, there might be the possibility of picking up occasional hours, which would probably suit me better.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Films I really should get around to watching sometime

Someone mentioned Donnie Darko on twitter the other day (it's fifteen years old), which reminded me that I haven't actually seen it yet. And this weekend I've been thinking about some other films that I've somehow never gotten around to watching. Many are classics, some are not. My brother and I made a list years ago when we were watching a program about the Top 100 Films and for a while we  worked our way through some of the classics we hadn't seen but when the list was lost, the idea fizzled out somehow. For those times when I'm pondering what to watch, however, I thought I'd start another list. And to jog my memory, I went looking for some top 100 lists on the internet. Wow, so many films I've yet to see.

  1. Donnie Darko
  2. Citizen Kane
  3. Goodfellas
  4. Lawrence of Arabia
  5. Tangled
  6. Tarzan (the Walt Disney cartoon)
  7. On the Waterfront
  8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  9. Apocalypse Now
  10. Blade Runner
  11. The Manchurian Candidate
  12. The French Connection
  13. Scarface
  14. The Shawshank Redemption
  15. Green Mile
  16. The Deer Hunter
  17. Rocky (I did go to see Rocky IV in the cinema for a friend's birthday but haven't seen the others)
  18. Easy Rider
  19. Kes
  20. The Crying Game
  21. My Beautiful Laundrette
  22. Rabbit-proof Fence
  23. Brief Encounter
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Stepford Wives
  26. Anything Goes
  27. Mad Max
  28. The Martian
  29. Brooklyn
  30. Room
  31. The Danish Girl
  32. Enigma
  33. The Theory of Everything
  34. 12 Years a Slave
  35. The Shining

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Holiday goals changed to doing nothing

Well, I made it to Halle and even managed to only miss one rehearsal. Although I have to admit that although I was at the Friday rehearsal my voice was not always quite as present. It was another great weekend and I really enjoyed the performance on Saturday night.

As always, it was fantastic to meet up with old friends as well as meeting new ones. This time round we even made the effort to participate in one of the non-singing activities, dragged ourselves out of bed early one morning and went off to see the State Museum of Prehistory. The few hours we spent there were not enough to do more than scratch the surface of what this amazing musuem has to offer. I'd highly recommend it if you are ever in Halle and will definitely be going back there.

Since the Happy Birthday Handel weekend coincided with Karneval this year, we even got to enjoy the parade on Monday before we had to leave. When I got back I was tired but happy, always the best way to come home from some time away, I think.
This year we also discovered the Irish pub in Halle, called Nante's (Nante is the nickname of the guy who owns it). We had a great night out there - they let us borrow one of their guitars and we started a really fun singalong session.
I now have the rest of the week off as I needed to use up some holiday time. I had planned to spend the time sorting out my balcony. The tiles badly need to be cleaned and then I wanted to buy some stones, soil and compost and get my pots filled and ready for planting a few things. If I got very adventurous I thought I might manage to finish painting my CD shelf. And maybe one or two other things as well. But instead of all that, I think I'm switching to just doing nothing at all. Well, that's about as much as I've done the last two days and it feels about the right speed so I'm just going with it. But even doing nothing I've still gotten one or two things done. Today, for example, I took out the documentation for the bank I opened up an investment account with and then never got around to actually setting up properly. I knew that had dragged on a bit and so when searching for tax-related stuff recently I had put anything I found dealing with that account into one place.

It took me several phone calls and resetting passwords etc. but today I finally got it set up. And I added in a current account as well as the investment account. This bank, ING-DIBA, does not have any charges associated with its current account. I've been happy with my current bank up to now but there are two reasons I've decided to bite the bullet and change. The first is that the selection of ATMs near me for my bank or any of its partner branches is really poor. The second is that I fell foul of their lodgement limit again this month. I thought it was 1,100 per month but it seems it's 1,200. I need to go back and check the last time this happened - I think they may have increased that amount and I didn't notice. At any rate, I was about 30 euro short of that last month, which means that I need to pay the 9.90 monthly charges. The current account, you see, is only free if you lodge at least 1,200 per month. This is the second or third time since I left my more-highly-paid job that this has happened. Since ING-DIBA doesn't attach those kind of conditions to their free current account, and offers free withdrawals from all ATMs, regardless of which bank, it just makes sense to switch. Even if I am kind of dreading having to trawl through everything to make sure I notify all of the places that I have direct debits set up with. In the meantime, I set up a savings plan to start investing in my first ETF fund. I'm excited. It's several years since reading something on Fiona's blog led me to Mr. Money Mustache and although my 50 euro a month savings might take quite a while to build up to anything substantial, it's a start. Or it will be, from the middle of April and then every month after that.

Tomorrow, I have to attend an organising meeting for the March for Science before running off to my choir rehearsal. And then all of a sudden it'll be Friday again and the weekend will be here. So, I'm not going to put myself under pressure to achieve anything else other than chilling out and trying to get rid of the rest of this cough. Yep, I'm still actually sick and totally fed up with coughing and sneezing. So a goal of doing nothing for the next few days is entirely appropriate!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Out of action

I had a feeling of almost having sniffles last Sunday but soldiered on through the day, got some work done, finished up my Coursera course (should have realised how lousy I was actually feeling when it took me three times to actually pass the final quiz though!), started dosing myself with vitamin C. And woke up on Monday feeling worse, definitely a cold coming on. Not a problem though. I don't work in the same place I used to, no pressure to feel like I have to go in no matter what so I just sent and email to my boss, told her I was sick and that I wouldn't be in and then took the day easy. Spent most of it on the couch, drank plenty of fluids, and went to bed early. Woke up on Tuesday feeling worse. And then even worse again on Wednesday, due to not getting to sleep until after five o'clock because of all the coughing. So off to the doctor I went. Typical answer, it's a flu-like infection. They seem to use that term here a lot, nobody ever just says you have a cold.

Anyway, he prescribed me some tablets to help loosen the phlegm to ease the cough, told me to take paracetemol or ibuprofen as well and gave me a sick note for the rest of the week. And here we are, it's Friday, I'm about to run out of tissues, feel just as bad if not worse than I did on Wednesday, and to top it all off, I'm feeling really, really sorry for myself. Like, alsmot in tears crying because I'm feeling so sorry for myself. I think I might actually have man-flu!

I'd better get better by Wednesday, that's all I can say. Thursday is the start of my annual trip to Halle to sing Messiah and meet up with friends from Ireland and I am not missing it!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Too much cheese

It seems like there couldn't possibly be such a thing as too much cheese, doesn't it? But today I met my limit. Totally my own fault, too, there just wasn't even a reason for me to keep on eating it. It all started with me getting confused about how to match up my meals with my schedule today. I should have had some scrambled eggs for breakfast before leaving the house, leaving me with soup in work in the late afternoon, an apple as a snack, and a smoothie to take with me this evening when I went to a lecture. But I really wasn't hungry this morning so I just left it and it wasn't until I was actually in work around half-ten that I realised I wouldn't be home for another 11 hours and only had the soup and smoothie with me.

Although there have been days in the past week when that ended up being more or less exactly what I ate, realising in advance somehow made me start getting that kind of fearful what-if-I-get-hungry worrying going on in my head. At the same time, I didn't want to leave eating so many of my daily caloires until after arriving home late in the evening. At lunchtime I went over to the small uni shop to see what they had that might fit in with the blood sugar diet and not require cooking. I ended up buying a tin of tuna (which I thought I'd be able to leave in my desk for future similar occasions), some cheddar cheese, and two boiled eggs. So I had three options and everything would be fine.

I ended up deciding to have the tuna with my soup and that was a huge lunch that left me almost too full. And yet over the course of the afternoon, I kept reaching for that goddamn cheese. I wasn't evening doing anything nice with it, like, oh you know, cutting it with a knife. Just tearing little chunks off the small block. I have to admit I really felt kind of sick by the end of the afternoon. So much so that I didn't even bother with the smoothie. It'll keep until tomorrow. I weighed the cheese when I got home and it looks like what I ate was just over 75g. That doesn't sound like a lot but I think it'll be a long while before I get any kind of a longing to eat cheese straight like that again!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Sunday 5th February 2017

Time is rushing by. I know they say that that happens more and more as you get older, I just didn't think I'd feel it or notice it quite this much. I'm trying hard not to overwhelm myself with doing things (especially since I already have so many things that it would be really good to get done, at home for example, or getting fit!) but it's actually kind of hard. For such an extreme introvert I end up wanting to do an awful lot of things that involve me interacting with an awful lot of people. Still, I'm trying to do my best to not volunteer for everything that comes my way.

As well as all of that stuff, I've been doing some online courses, as well as attending public lectures in the university here most weeks. There are so many interesting things to learn! The course I'm doing at the moment is on Greening the Economy and it's a five-week course. I've just sent off my week 4 assingment so it's just one week left now. I have to admit I have struggled with having deadlines and that much reading to do. And I was dreading this week's assignment but I managed to cobble something together in the end. The final week just has a quiz at the end so I'm not dreading next week at all. The quizzes are not that difficult really. Although I don't think I've managed to get full marks (10 out of 10) yet, I've usually only gotten one or two answers wrong. As usual, about half the time that's partly down to me slightly misinterpreting the question. I should work on that.

The assignments for each week were to write about something green from the point of view of an individual (week 1), a business (week 2), and a city (week 3). For week 2 I chose to write about a shop that sells loose products and you can bring your own containers to be filled.
I bought almonds, red lentils, and chickpeas, just to try it out
As most of the stuff is organic, it is more expensive than a standard supermarket but compared to an organic supermarket it's slightly less expensive. And wow, so fantastic to get home from the shops and not have to immediately throw out a ton of packaging. I really hope it stays around (it's only in its first year of business) and I'll do my best to shop there for the things they do sell. I spent some time chatting to the owner and she seems very passionate about local food, too, so where possible she tries to get stuff in from local sources and is building up a network of new sources all the time by going out and letting producers know what she's looking for. Forcing myself to go and find this shop also means I found one of the best parts of Heidelberg, where the weekly market has mostly organic and regional stuff on sale. Score!

This evening I am:
I have been reading course materials all afternoon but am finished now. This morning I read another chaper of Jonathan Bardon's Hallelujah, the story of a musical genius and the city that brought his masterpiece to life. For evenings I've got a Georgette Heyer romance on the go.
Listening to
I had Joe Dolan on earlier while I was in the kitchen, then listened to some of Messiah while I was studying, and currently I have a piece on in the background that we've just stared learning in choir. It's a fun piece from an opera called Zar und Zimmermann (Tsar and Carpenter).
I want to watch a film this evening but haven't decided what. I'm really not sure what I'm in the mood for though so may need to go through my small cupboard of DVDs to see if anything jumps out at me.
I'm still on a smoothies and soups kick and I started the blood sugar diet last Monday (planning to just do it for three weeks before switching to 5:2) so it has been a full week of cooking at home. Today I made a new soup, from my Low-Fat cookbook it's a spiced cauliflower soup. It involves turnip as well, which I really don't like much, and I wasn't sure if cauliflower soup might be a bit strong-tasting. It's not too bad actually, although I may put one or two portions in the freezer to spread it out a bit. I have other soups in there I can substitute, even if they do have potatoes in the them (not part of the blood sugar diet). While that was cooking I had lunch, which was a big salad, pickled onions (to finish off the jar), and lamb steak. It was sooo good. Dinner will be in a little while and will be the last of the spicy carrot and lentil soup from last week. I may treat myself to some fruit and nuts later, too. That will tip me over my calorie allowance for the day but I think a treat on a Sunday evening might be a good thing to incorporate. Still staying on plan and just exceeding the calories.
Happy I accomplished this week
I am really pleased that I have stuck with the blood sugar diet for a week already. I managed to work around times that I was going to be out and about for a bit longer by switching my smoothie to those times and having it with me. And I finally finished filing the stuff that was on my table. It's amazing what an incentive it was to want to get a couple of more things crossed off my January to-do list before I had to transfer them to February. I also remember to phone the electricity supplier to give a reading as I've been here eight months now and that's long enough to get a better estimate of how much I'm actually using (compared to the person who rented here before me). I contacted four more places to cancel subscriptions and/or change my address. And yesterday I went to an informal training afternoon hosted by the local chapter of the Translators' Association of Germany and learned about some software and apps that can be useful. Oh, and last week I also oiled my two wooden chopping boards. One was new and recommended doing this so I did the other smaller one I had at the same time. I bought that new one the week before christmas so I am glad I finally did it.
Looking forward to next week
Another lecture tomorrow evening, the last in this series. On Tuesday evening I'll go to a meeting to meet other who are organising the March for Science here. I've said I'll help out with that (see note up above about not getting involved in everything and feel free to laugh now). On Thursday I'm gonig to lunch with my boss and another colleague. We're going to a Thai place so although I won't stick to blood sugar diet that day, it's a relatively healthy choice. Must remember to ask them if they offer brown rice. I'm pretty sure they don't but if people don't ask, no-one will ever start to offer it.
Thinking of good things that happened this week
Lost weight, and more than I was expecting to. Had a good rehearsal at the smaller choir (larger choir is on a break between semesters and the smaller one is a pretty select group that you have to be invited to and I wasn't sure if I was really good enough). Found out that my current electricity consumption is very low apparently. So instead of paying 40 euro a month (they do a final reckoning once a year then, based on actual usage), I could be just paying closer to 10. I've left it at 20 for now, as I want to switch to a different tariff that uses only renewable energy and it'll be a bit more expensive.
Grateful for
Good friends. Good sleep. Waking up clear-headed (another benefit of the blood sugar diet).
Bonus question from the Occasional Nomad: Do you have a favourite flower?
I love carnations. Especially if they are a variety that hasn't had the scent bred out of them. It's such a lovely scent (they smell a bit like cloves) although even without a scent I still find them beautiful, just somehow simple and cheerful. I do also love peonies, although I only really remember becoming aware of them about six or seven years ago. In German they're called Whit Roses. Speaking of roses, I like them, too, although I'm not expert enough to be able to name any particular favourite. I have lots and lots of photos of roses that I've taken over the years though. I also love lilac. And finally, magnolia. In fact that reminds me that I should go and find a magnolia tree somewhere near where I live or work now. Watching the progress of a magnolia budding and flowering every spring is a real treat. The flowers are short-lived but when they're gone, the leaves that are left behind are an amazing colour green. Actually, in the sets of markers that I remember from when I was a kid (they held about 30 colours, if I remember correctly), my two favourites were a kind of a yellowy-lime green very similar to the colour of magnolia leaves, and a light purple, just the colour of the lilac tree we had in our garden.