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