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. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I've been wondering the last couple of days why it is I find it so difficult to keep up momentum on doing anything. All in all, the year has started off alright and slowly but surely I've been keeping up with and implementing some things that I really want to do. Normally, those small successes reinforce the desire to keep doing them, since feeling good feels, well, good. And yet I struggled somewhat at the weekend, yesterday was a mixed bag of just doing things and struggling. Today feels like it has been an exhausting struggle and even the fact that I've just had some of my homemade chicken and vegetable soup for dinner isn't feeling like any kind of a success at all.

I'm going to head to bed shortly and maybe read a few pages of something before sleeping. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. On the surface, there isn't much actually wrong. I'm beginning to suspect that I've just reached a place where dealing with the next level of issues is possible and so things are coming to the fore in my mind, even if they're still mostly in my sub-conscious and even if otherwise life is pretty good. I've been buying frozen fruit and making a smoothie to bring to work every day. This has meant that I've eaten almost no sweet things at work at all. That is huge for me. And I've been eating a lot of soup as well. So my intake of fruit and veg is way up and if most of it is in liquid form, that's actually suiting me at the moment. I almost feel like my digestive system has recovered from the excesses of December. Next week I'm going to start a few weeks of the blood-sugar diet and I'm looking forward to it and hoping I'll feel as good doing it as I did last year.

I even got some walking in over the weekend. The women's march in Heidelberg might have been a slow walk through town but it did mean that when it was over, I had to walk right back to the other side of town again. And I actually walked a bit further and crossed the bridge towards the tramstop before the very busy one in the centre of town. Then on Sunday it was back into town and a brisk walk to the church where my choir was singing. I didn't sing with them this time but went in to help out on the door and listen afterwards. Then I helped with dismantling the stage and rearranging chairs again and walked back down the town. I actually used my app that time and was surprised to see that it's just over 1km from that church to the centre - it feels like longer. Heidelberg, like many valley towns, always feels very long and getting anywhere seems to involve walking along the very long main street (or one of the parallel streets, which I have been trying to do recently in an effort to avoid crowds and get to know the town a bit better). The main street is 1.8km long in total, so it's not the shortest street I've ever know by any means. I just looked that up to be able to put a figure on it and will believe what Wikipedia says. Also interesting to note that the street was first built in 1220 (not quite as long as today thought) and although it has seen some changes, it still follows the same path. I've only ever known it in its current incarnation as a pedestrian zone (which it became in 1978). It's hard to believe it used to have cars and two-way tramlines on it all the time.

So, I've walked a bit. And my knees are only starting to hurt a little bit so I think if I go easy for the rest of the week, maybe I'll be able to go for a longer walk at the weekend. And I'm eating pretty well. I'm even studying a bit, as I started a five-week online course. And yet...things just feel like a struggle. The unrelenting, unremitting task that is life just keeps on going and that is just how I seem to feel at the moment. Here's hoping it won't take too long before life doesn't feel like so much of a task again. At this stage, I'd settle for this stupid coldsore going away. I think that may be what's bothering me more than anything really!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday 15th January 2017

It's too early to say that the dark days of winter are behind us but, after someone else commented on it a couple of weeks ago, I have to admit to having taken to checking the sunset and sunrise times on a weather app I have on my phone on an almost daily basis. It is definitely helping me to know there is a minute or so more daylight today than a few days ago, for example. Even if you can't really see the difference. Still, we are almost up to five o'clock before the sun sets and I think it is also helping me to remember to look out the window and enjoy the sunset - I have a tendency to be so firmly in my little world of hibernation that I nearly forget that it isn't actually just permanently dark out. And today's sunset was really beautiful.

This evening I am:
Course materials for an online course I've started. I actually signed up for this a few months ago but missed the starting few days for one reason and another and decided to give up before I even started and just wait for the next time round. It started again last week and so I've spent some time going through the introductory module yesterday and today and now am reading some of the extra materials they linked to. It's all about sustainability and the green economy and so far it's very interesting. The book I'm reading at the moment is one a friend bought for me recently by Jonathan Bardon. It's called Hallelujah, the story of a musical genius and the city that brought his masterpiece to life. As you might imagine, it's about Handel and the premiere of Messiah in Dublin and I'm really enjoying it. Especially as it'll only be another few weeks before I head off to sing Messiah in Halle again.
Listening to
When I haven't been listening to lecture videos for my course I've had Beethoven on in the background (5th and 6th Symphonies in case anyone was wondering).
I finished rewatching Jericho yesterday and really enjoyed that as I realised that I never got to see the last three episodes before. It has made me want to re-read Dies the Fire again, too. And maybe World Made by Hand as well. I'm planning on watching a film this evening but haven't decided what yet.
I made a huge pot of vegetable soup earlier, so I'll have some of that for dinner. I also made and tried chia pudding for the first time today. Well, I say made but really I just put some chia seeds into a cup of milk and left them in the fridge overnight and had that for breakfast this morning. Wasn't a huge fan of it. I think I'll try just adding a few to smoothies instead.
Happy I accomplished this week
I got my bullet journal started and have even made some progress on getting some things on my to-do list done. In order to do one of those things I cleared a space in the kitchen that became a kind of dumping ground just after I moved in. Once I had that cleared I could move the stuff that was stacked on the floor. Baby steps but sometimes I need to live with a mess for quite a while before I change it. And having lived with the mess I really appreciate the new non-mess an awful lot. I also brought back some DVDs to the library on time and handed over the book that I bought for them. They have a great scheme coming up to christmas where they put up a huge poster with details of books they'd like to have and you can tear off the little tag with the details and buy the book for them. You get a donation certificate from the town hall for your tax return and a small-town library gets to improve their selection of books a little. And I'm very happy that I've managed to keep on top of the washing-up again this week. I may leave things lying but it all gets done and cleared at least once a day.
Looking forward to next week
There's a lecture on in the university tomorrow evening that I'm going to try and get to. It's about citizen's rights for minorities in Europe so should be interesting. And next Saturday I'm going to join the Heidelberg version of the global women's march. Is anyone else joining in their local march?
Thinking of good things that happened this week
It snowed on Friday evening and night and things looked picture pretty. And then it had mostly melted from the streets and paths by morning, leaving just the pretty to look at white on the distant hills and on rooftops, while allowing everyone to walk around normally without slipping or sliding. And I had some good chats with my boss on a few different topics. We also got the paperwork started for extending my hours to 30 per week from April.
Grateful for
The fact that even though we might be close to the edge, the apocalypse hasn't actually happened yet and I get to live my life in warmth and relative security. Also, chocolate. I don't think there's ever really a week where I'm not grateful for chocolate. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Another recipe attempt and some brain unloading

Recipe first. This involves the pork fillet that I bought at the beginning of December and have had in the freezer. Inspired by Two and a Half Men's recent post and feeling like there's a good joke about how their loin was bigger than mine but not finding it, I decided to try to do something with it. I don't have a meat thermometer though and wasn't going to be able to use that method of timing the cooking. So I read through a couple of books, thinking I might do it in the slow cooker but rejected that in favour of amalgamating a few things from a few different places, memory included. And I've added meat thermometer to the list of things I need to buy.

So, I've lined a dish with some tinfoil, oiled it with a small amount of olive oil and put a good layer of sliced apples on the bottom (two fairly big Boskoop apples). I chopped and fried and onion in some butter and sprinkled that on top of the apple, adding five cloves of garlic that I roasted yesterday but didn't finish eating with the rest of the veg. Waste not, want not. Then I poured some olive oil into one of my little yellow bowls (probably about a tablespoon, maybe a bit less) and added herbes de provence, probably about the same amount. I rubbed that all over the pork and laid the pork on top of the apples, onion and garlic. I poured about a mugful of water over the apples and then wrapped the tinfoil loosely over the whole lot. Well, tightly sealed but not tightly packed, if you know what I mean. It has been in the oven at 190C for twenty minutes and I think I'll check it in ten minutes or so.

Since the oven was on anyway, I also roasted 200g of unblanched almonds for ten minutes. I bought a kilo of almonds months ago to try making almond butter and have slowly but surely been eating them but never actually making almond butter. Really want to try it out once and for all. Not least because it's one of the ingredients in these genious ginger cakes and they sound delicious.

Otherwise, I just really wanted to post something. I miss blogging (I first of all wrote writing there but that's not entirely accurate) and amn't sure why I've been so sporadic in doing it recently. I don't quite feel up to any kind of every-day-challenge but I want to try and make a bit of an effort to do things I enjoy more.

I had a very lazy break over the holidays and have done exactly the same this weekend, including on the bank holiday on Friday. It's a bit funny really. It's not the kind of lazy lying around that is just being lazy. I really feel like I need it to unwind. Even though it seems like there are probably better, more active ways to unwind. When I finished work just over a year ago I spent weeks not doing much  and wouldn't have done anything at all except that I had to (sorting out stuff with social welfare, tax office, and doing translation work that came in). It was March before I really started to feel like I was getting over work and starting to actually do something every day, like going for long walks and really looking for a new job. It almost feels like I found a job too soon now. I could have used another four or five months I think. Recovering from overwork and chronic overstress takes a long time. And having to go through an extremely stressful time like I had during the move just took so much out of me. If I hadn't had those few months inbetween, I don't think I would've managed it.

It was my guest from hell in July that really threw me for a loop and, since that visit was unfortunately timed for just before a really busy period in my new job, it took me a few months to get over it, even as I tried to really, consciously, fight it and not just let myself be dragged back down into a hole of depression. It's hard to explain really. I suppose the analogy of a piece of elastic fits to a certain extent. After years and years of being stretched too far, I just can't bounce back to where I was before. And I have less stretch in me now, too. My head is, for the most part, however, pretty clear. It's not quite the same overwhelming, grey cover on my brain feeling of depression - so I'm hopeful that I really have made strides forward and am now getting to a stage of needing to just look after myself a bit, cherish myself a bit and allow myself the time and space to realise and accept that in between depression, long-term overwork and stress, and being able to lead a more normal life, there's a whole lot of space and I can't just go from one to the other. I have to keep focusing on the amazing and positive changes I have made in my life in the past year and keep moving in that direction. Even if I'm not there yet, I'm much closer than I used to be so even though it feels like I'm letting time just slip past me, I need to be kind to myself and give myself this time that I obviously still so desperately need.

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 year in books - the stats

A summary of what I read last year - see the same thing for 2015 here, 2014 here, 2013 here2012 here and 2011 here.

  • Books by male authors:21
  • Books by female authors:40 (15 of those were the "research" romances)
  • Fiction: 54
  • Non-fiction: 7
  • English books:71
  • German books: 0
  • Books re-read:22
  • Book club books:2

Fiona asked me in a comment on the previous post whether or not I used an app to keep track and I thought I'd just add in a bit about what I do here. Although it seems like the answer to anything you might possibly want to do is "there's an app for that", I really do just work better with pen and paper. The first year I did one of these lists, I cobbled it together from what I remembered, receipts from the library or from Amazon, emails arranging book club and so on. Nikki from bookpunks/clickclackgorilla mentioned that she kept a note in the back of her diary and since I thought that sounded like a good way to do it, I started doing that and have kept it up ever since. Like so:

It's nice to have it in the diary for each year, even if the only other things in the diary are appointments. I do still hang on to them and it's nice to look back. I'm just about to run out of space in the one box that I have designated for this purpose though, so will need to make a decision about whether or not to get rid of the earliest ones.

I did join goodreads when that came out but I'm not great at updating it and, after a few months of spending hours trying to add all the books I have ever read (an impossible task), I now mostly use it for making a note of books other people mention and that I might like to read sometime. Although I use an amazon wishlist for that, too, so I'm a bit all over the place really. Which proves yet again that if I want to actually do something, pen and paper will usually work better for me!