Monday, 25 January 2016


When I was little, my mother served oatmeal porridge for breakfast Monday to Friday.
In the weekends we could get cereal, yoghurt, toast or something else. For days we went to school it was a warm cooked breakfast. Always. Nothing else would keep us until lunch  - or keep our tempers up long enough to make us eat the school lunch.

(Yes, in my mother's country we were served a warm school lunch of good quality every day for free as a part of our free education. With milk. And often fruit. Every day.
Eating in a food hall holding a lot of people has its disadvantages but I was raised in a small town so the school was quite small and consequently the school dining room was bearable.)

The man is raised in another country with different routines and most certainly different traditions for both breakfast and lunch. I have won. Or my mother has one.
We all now eat following my mother's advice.

Breakfast is oatmeal porridge.
I have lived in many countries and it is difficult to find the right tasting oatmeal,
Around 2011, the man and I cooked through all brands of oatmeal readily available in all the different shops.Yes, we did proper porridge tastings.
We read on-line about different cooking methods and techniques.
We read books about oatmeal porridge.
Eventually I had to compromise.

We now eat porridge for breakfast every day. It is the quickest, cheapest and most filling breakfast.
We only eat one specific brand of oatmeal. It is not the cheapest but it is not proper Scottish oats either.
The porridge is cooked in a pan slowly for about two minutes (stir!) and it is made with milk.  (I think a microwave could do the job in 30 sec's but we do not have a micro wave and will apparently not get one either).
Anyway... the mad man then adds sugar and/or raisins and nuts on it. It increases his daily calorific intake which he needs - and likes. He eats his porridge hot. I wait until it has cooled a bit and then gulp it down in a minute. We both easily feel full until lunch.

For two persons, we go through a half a kilo package of oatmeal in about two weeks.
Often we skip breakfast entirely one day of the weekend and eat pancakes instead.

Breakfast (with pancakes) probably costs us (two persons) 4€ a week, at least less than 20€ a month. Without the nuts that is.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


Winter boots is generally a difficult thing.

They must to be warm when worn outside but not too warm when going in somewhere.
They need to be normal looking so they can be worn to work and to nice trousers.
They need to keep wetness out but also be breathing not so soak my feet on the inside.
They should last more than one season so they have to be somewhat durable. 
Most importantly their soles must be adapted to walking on ice and be made of a material that can handle low temperatures. (I insist on this problem as I have a wonderful pair of very warm hiking boots that make me sure footed until the temperature drops below freezing when the soles turn to slightly wetted soaps.)

Through my life I have tried different styles and versions:
Suede boots (not good for rain but I still remember them fondly from a very snowy winter)
Cowboy boots (very slippery but oh, I was so cool)
Slouchy boots (nice in the office with suits but not very warm)
Big heavy warm scooter boots (and a pair of indoor shoes in the pocket)

I do not have a lot of shoes any more but I still have more than I need. I have strange feet and buying shoes is never an easy thing. I used to buy all shoes that fit and that looked fine. I still have more shoes than I need, especially since I have changed my life and I need very much less now.
This winter I wear the hiking boots I bought 2014. They almost immedetaly turned out to give terrible shaving on the heels. I have hammered them both from the inside and the outside but the problem persists. They can not be worn in warm weather. They can not be worn while carrying a back pack. I also found out that I actually can not even hike an entire day in them in cold weather without a back pack. However, they look nice, they are warm, they are not completely water proof but I think I can improve that, they are stable and sturdy and I can wear them an entire non-hiking day. So far, they have turned out to be a really great pair of winter shoes and I expect them to last me a few seasons at least so I do not need to buy winter shoes. They still remain to be tested on ice however.  

These boots may have been a wrong buy for what they were intended for but they have turned out to have been the right buy for something else. I am glad I kept them and has been able to put them to use for something else. After all, I had already made one mistake. I am glad I did not make the second by throwing them out too fast. This has given me free winter boots for this winter and possibly more.

Are you happy with your winter or bad weather shoes?

(Sorry New Zeeland but here in Old Zeeland it is sadly wet and icy right now. We all think envious of you in the Southern hemisphere.)

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Eventually, a new frying pan will have to be bought.
With bought, I of course mean acquired and by new I mean new to us.

The man's frying pan is a cheap supermarket non-stick pan. It has had a long life. It is by now a stick pan. It was almost out the door two years ago. We however have a place for it so it has been kept as a spare - and it is occasionally used.

I bought a large lidded branded good quality non-stick pan spring of 2010. I thought it would last me a long time. Unfortunately, it has been mistreated and I can already see an end to its versatility. I also have a fabulous forty year old cast iron frying pan that the man carefully and expertly reconditioned to perfection. It will last us another forty years. Unfortunately, it is not big enough for all our frying needs. It also does not have a lid.
Because of who we are, we also have a pancake pan. Cannot live without pannekoek.

So on to the wish list a currently somewhat unquantified and unspecified frying pan has been entered. The pro's and con's must be analysed further.

We do have a cast iron wok, formerly used as flower pot, currently serving as cable and charger holder, that might enter into use again. It is after all the cheapest frying pan I know of. One that we already own is free.

How many frying pans do you have?

Monday, 18 January 2016


The cold has hit us. (It is really only frost and just about below zero (C)). Even I have turned into a continental hot-house flower and I will call it cold.

I have abandoned my rain clothes - the jacket and the trousers that does both rain and wind through most of the year.  I have dug out my proper winter coat.

My winter coat is a jacket without any brand label and without any other distinct features than that it has a hood, deep pockets and is warm. Very warm.
I know I bought it at some low-price sports clothes market shop and I am sure it is sewn by some poor slave worker in appalling conditions. I do not think I paid more than 50€ for it but then it was a long time ago. Probably - 2007 - possibly?

I know I will continue to use it until the coat dies. Not only because it is the work of somebody hard labour. But also because I usually only use it a few weeks per year. I try not to wash it every year as I notice that it looses the warmth by each laundry. Spot-cleaning of collar and lower end of sleeves is enough (as well as wiping of occasional mustard stains down the front from eating at the football club.) I do not have any need for a warm winter coat.

I wear with my rain trousers to keep the chill out. (I fit into my new jeans but there is really not any room left for long underwear.) I add another layer of socks in my boots, at least one of them are knee high. I put on sleeves with double mittens and I don my very juvenile hat with flaps.

I know how to dress in the cold and I will not suffer from it. I normally do not dress very well and there is most certainly no need to dress well when there is the occasional cold snap. I do have a nicer coat for light winter and fall that would keep me warmish if I really have to dress properly for winter. (That coat is bought in 2008 on a sale for 30€ because it had lost its belt. I still wear it without its belt and it serves me very well.)

I pride myself from knowing how to dress in the cold. When I was a student in Wisconsin, U.S.A, in the beginning of the 1990's, I had a doctors appointment one morning in the winter. Out of all the patients that had come in that morning, I was the only one with still normal body temperature. All others, everybody else (and we are talking the northern part of the US with very long and cold winters) all of the others had dressed insufficiently and managed to lower their body temperature, and some of them dangerously so.

Sunday, 17 January 2016


I have been working my way through my sweaters since December. I have also been working my way through my pile of not so nice t-shirts, tank tops and tops.
I am now quite bored with all the tatty t-shirts. I have packed them away, and am now living a life of luxury using only t-shirts from the "good pile".
It is truly luxury. It is as if I have got a brand new pile of clothes. I have not worn them for almost a month and they all feel new and fresh.
I like that I have nicer things saved for special days, even if it is just a nicer pair of jeans or a better cotton t-shirt than on regular days. 

I read about people who make capsule wardrobes by choosing a set number of garments to only use during a set period of time. I do not think I have enough clothes to do that, and I do not think I need to. I do not live in complete wealth any more.

I have some surplus though. I use my surplus to feel my wealth and to provide luxury in my normal life. Most days however, I use just normal, tatty clothes and I try to wear them until the end of their natural life.

I have found that there are three sweaters that really are worn. Not worn out and still OK for work with a jacket over it. None of them are nice though. Other than that, there is nothing wrong with them. I like them and I wish they were not that worn.

But they are worn and they need to be worn out. Consequently, these three sweaters are to be used every week until they fall apart beyond repairs. They are always put back on top of the sweater pile when all other sweaters (if any) are put at the bottom of the sweater pile. I usually take a sweater from the top so this will ensure that I use them more often than others.

I will also be on the road for a few weeks and if I bring these, they will for certain be used all the time.

Saturday, 16 January 2016


We share all costs of food and household goods equally, the man and I.

All receipts go into a bucket in the kitchen with an initial on it. When the bucket is over-flowing, somebody adds up the receipts. The amount is kept on a note in the bucket until next time.

I am usually ahead although the man pays more often for food. I pay for other things and in other countries and that gets added 'to the bucket' to cover food costs.

It is completely an honours game but we are both very fair about it. Personal food is not included unless it is shared. Personal hygiene is not included unless we buy two toothbrushes at the same time. Sweets, chocolates, alcohol is included if bought with the food even if that is not equally shared. Personal lunch in the office is not included but the cost for lunch boxes are.
It usually equals out over a few months. We are both quite generous towards each other.

Still, we do count. I insist. (Of course I will be insisting but it is really a shared task and we really like it.) We do remind each other to put receipts in the bucket or I will add a note if there is a receipt missing. Trips or weeks ends away are usually counted separately to share costs but the overspending on one will go in the bucket too.

Unfortunately we do not count regularly so no statistics can be made. We have also not kept the numbers.
The bucket was counted at the end of 2015.
The man had then paid 115 euro more than me. For the two last months of the year, the bucket covered 445 euro (for both of us). However, I was away at least three weeks, and most lunches have been on our own. Some hygiene and all cleaning or house products are included as well as any shared alcohol, snacks, holiday dinners as well as food and drink for a party. We didn't buy much extra for the holidays otherwise, that is not how we make a meal special. There was also no shortage of food in the cupboards and freezer when the bucket was counted.

No, I do not know how we do it. It seems to be very little money spent on food. We do most of our cooking at home with lots of vegetables, but not vegetarian by any means.
And we go through a good kilo or two of cheese a week.
I think I will try to monitor food costs a little more closely in 2016. I budget 200-250€ a month for food (everything shared from the food shop) and I think we should probably try to spend that next year. This will mean even more biological food of higher quality (more than today).

Friday, 15 January 2016


"For it too often happens that riches bring self-indulgence, and superfluity of pleasures produces flabbiness as we can see in wealthy regions and cities (where there are merchants).
Now those who sail to distant places are no longer content with home comforts but bring back with them unknown luxuries.
Therefore because wealth is generally the mother of extravagance, the prophet mentions here expensive household furnishings, by which he means the Jews [now read: everybody] brought God's judgement upon themselves by the lavish way they decorated their houses.
For with pictures he includes expensive tapestries like Phyrgian embroidery and vases molded with exquisite art."

John Calvin Commentary on Isaiah 2:12, 16, written around 1550, published and revised many times but the above is

quoted by Simon Schama in The Embarrassment of Riches An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, University of California Press 1988, page 289.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


We had the youngest child over for a few hours the other day.
Reading, eating, talking and playing games left us filled with joy but also exhausted. He is a quite extraordinary six year old. He taught himself to read years ago. He has a very quick intellect and a sharp eye for novelties. Most extraordinarily, he really likes us.

He is the child of the man's oldest friends and although we generally do not like children, those two have managed to generate not one but two rather interesting people.
Who presently are defined as children.

His visit made us go through all the games we have.

I have a lovely chess set a friend in California once gave me. I still have very rudimentary knowledge of chess but it is still something I like to do and want to do more. My chess set is another of these things I do not think I ever will get rid off.
The man has kept the games from his childhood, Backgammon, Rummikub and Mens erg je niet.
We were also given by the trash gods late last year a wonderful Dutch 1992 version of Trivial Pursuit.
We also have two decks of playing cards.
To summarize, we have more games than we need.

The child identified quite correctly that games are only temporarily fun while a miniature train set can provide endless pleasure and interest.
The train now runs around the legs of the dining room table.

We still run it. The child went home days ago.

Monday, 11 January 2016


Filling the table salt shaker from the large, value pack of salt, I say:
- Why is the package wet?
- Has something spilled from the top? the man asks.
- We'll have to  empty the cupboard then.
- This is wet too.
- Look how dirty it is.
- We'd better move the cupboard then.
- I'll empty all the food.
- Should we move all the cupboards?
- Look how dirty it is.
- Is it leaking from the pipes?
- We'll clean it all off and then we can see.
- Can you take all the frames off too, including the nails, please.
- I'll get the vacuum cleaner first.
- Look, maybe I should move the fridge.
- Look how dirty it is.
- If you scrub the pipes, I can scrub the wall.
- We'd better clean the entire wall.
- Can we use the paint cleaner on the wall?
- We have paint too.
- If you go to the basement for the rollers I'll get the paint.
- I'll fill the holes with plaster first.
- I get water all over the floor when I scrub it.
- But you could put the proper painters cover plastic on the floor first.
- It is done, it took ten minutes.
- Look how clean it is.
- Let's make lunch on the camping cooker.
- We'll let it dry for a while.
- It is so clean that maybe we do not have to paint the wall.

To make a long story short - now we are re-painting the kitchen.
One wall at the time.

Thursday, 7 January 2016


70 mm film, made for me (and others like me) by one of the most interesting film makers of our times.

I have been to see the unique extended original version of Quentin Trantino's 8th movie The hateful eight. The original 70 mm version in the only cinema in BeNeLux (Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) that can handle a format like that.

It was bloody. Bloody fun and bloody good camera angles.
Will Jennifer Jason Leigh be nominated for an Academy Award?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


I picked up a book from the street library the other day. I found very few sentences marked although the book has obviously been read many times.
These were the marked sentences:

- Auto suggestions will be direct rather than indirect. A positive one has much more force than a negative one. p 64

- In giving yourself a suggestion, acceptance by the inner mind is needed or it will not be carried out, no matter how much you may consciously want this. p 65

- Coué [that is Émile Coué) made a sage observation - "When the imagination and the will are in conflict, the imagination will always win." p 68

- The law of the dominant effort - the idea always tends towards realisation and a stronger emotion always counteracts a weaker one. p 68

- The real secret to positive thinking is belief. p 94

The book was: Leslie M. LeCron clinical psychologist Self-hypnotism The technique and its use in daily living, Signet 1970. According to the cover she is a clinical psychologist; according to Wiki she is an anthropological linguist and this book does not appear among the listed publications.
 Yes, it will go back into the street library (open exchange book case).

There is however something quite compelling about these sentences. I wonder what the previous reader was trying to make of the whole thing about auto-suggestions (today more often called mantras) since this is the only topic underlined. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


One of my health targets for 2015 was to take control of my weight. I have not done as well as I wanted but I have not failed. Currently I am 4,5 kg over target weight.

The goal it to come down to 0 or at least lose 3 kg and keep it off for the full year.
3 kg does not sound much and it isn't. It will not make me thin. It is a start and the finish is to keep it off for the year.

It is an attainable goal, not a vision. -3 kg will however make all your current clothes fit so much better (and may get you into some of the clothes you already have). That will save you a lot of money this year.

We all know what to do to lose weight. Stay hungry! Drink water instead of snack.
Move more and eat less. Keep doing it. That is what it is all about.
Personally, I primarily need to stay off the potato chips and the sweet bags. 

I plan do do monthly updates on my weight, just as I do with my money. This is my main health target for the year. It is just the top of the health plan though.

Monday, 4 January 2016


Köln - Keulen - Cologne
We are going to Cologne for our next trip. I have prepared by going through all my books collecting facts and impressions about the town.

Thomas of Aquino, Petrus de Danica and Gustaf Trolle all went to university there and the two first one studied under Albertus Magnus who died 1280. The university was known as "stock-conservative" and was one of the last to abandon Aristotelian theory about physics. (Do not get me started on the f%#&n Aristotle.)

The current Dome and cathedral was founded on an earlier church but had its founding stone laid on 1248. The cathedral holds the relics of the Three Magi - the three holy kings whom we know with the help of Marco Polo to have been neither holy nor kings nor three, and the relics have been proven to be no older than the 4th century. We will be there for Three Kings Day and will possibly, reputedly just as Chaucer's The wife of Bath, go and visit them as a pilgrimage. (I can however not find the quote in my abridged modern language Chaucer.)

Population has been estimated to 15 000 in around the year 1200, 37 000 by 1320 and after the plague in 1348/1350 to around 20 000. This and other things causes the work on the cathedral to slow down in the 14th century. When King Philip II of Spain came to visit 10-14 July 1550, holy relics were for sale and he bought loads. The crane on the tower can be seen on many paintings from the 14th to 18th century as a symbol of the town.
The original building plans for the Dome were apparently found again in 1814 and the building continue in 1842, finalising the cathedral in 1880.

In 1825 Erik Gustav Geijer visited and wrote about the city in his diary. The crane was still there on the cathedral tower. He liked the town more than Baron Riesbeck, William Bedford and W. M. Thackerey who came through on their respective Grand Tour.

We will visit the Wallraff-Richartz Museum and the Schnütgenmuseum. We love the Ludwig Museum but after having spent more than six hours there in 2013 (and got ushered out for being the last ones) we are going to give that a miss this time. We also hope to fit a visit to the St Ursula basilica, monastery and bone collection (the bones of the ten thousand virgins!) in the brief visiting hours, hopefully avoiding having to got to Mass just to get in.

The city held a peace conference between April and November 1579, was the founder of  Kölnfederationen where the hanseatic cities along the Rhine, with some other cities and the kingdom of Sweden joined forces against the kingdom of Denmark, and had a Fyrstmøte in 1523 on what to do with the deposed king Chrestian II of Denmark (nothing, he got no money).

The Jesuits built a headquarter with the St Maria Himmelfahrt where they developed the adoration of Mary and Anne as saints. Reputedly the use of the rosary also originated in Cologne.

In 1471 William Caxton learnt to print with movable types in Cologne before he became the first printer in England. In 1914 Walter Gropius designed and constructed the now famous and recognisable factory buildings for the Werkbundexhibition. In August of 1914 trains with forty-four waggons went over the Hohenzollern bridge every ten minutes with troops and equipment for the German advancement on France.

In 1943 and again later, the city was bombed to pieces. Although the Dome was hit by seventeen air bombs and was damaged, the tower still stood. All non-degenerate art had been removed in advance (the degenerate art of course confiscated long before the war) but the art museum buildings were destroyed. They have now been rebuilt and are continuously rebuild and developed with new interesting exhibitions every year, making a re-visit often worth its while. There is also a historical mustard mill, making, sacrilegiously, mustard with beer.
Recently a lead emblem with three kings from the 14th century was found in a Swedish archaeological dig, showing that somebody had made the pilgrimage to the shrine of the three magi and returned home - only to loose the souvenir.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Endless wealth

"You don't really know yourself, Ellie, how wonderful it is to have all the money you have."

But I did know. I had been learning, learning a great deal in the last few weeks. I'd stepped as a result of marriage into an entirely different world and it wasn't the sort of world I'd imagined it to be from the outside. So far in my life, a lucky double had been my highest knowledge of affluence. A whack of money coming in, and spending it as fast as I could on the biggest blow-out I could find. Crude, of course. The crudeness of my class.
But Ellie's world was a different world. It wasn't what I should have thought it to be. Just more and more super luxury. It wasn't bigger bathrooms and larger houses and more electric light fittings and bigger meals and faster cars. It wasn't just spending for spending's sake and showing off to everyone in sight. Instead, it was curiously simple.

The sort of simplicity that comes when you get beyond the point of splashing for splashing's sake. You don't want three yachts or four cars and you can't eat more than three meals a day and if you buy a really top price picture you don't want more than perhaps one of them in a room. It's as simple as that. Whatever you have is just the best of its kind, not so much because it is the best, but because there is no reason if you like or want any particular thing, why you shouldn't have it. There is no moment when you say "I'm afraid I can't afford that one." So in a strange way it makes sometimes for such a curious simplicity that I couldn't understand it."

Agatha Christie Endless night, chapter 11.

Saturday, 2 January 2016


Task for January: Presents and decorations for the year.

What are you planning to give away as a present this year? Did you get anything that will be suited as a present for somebody else? My mother knitted me a lovely pair of mittens and I immediately gave them to my mother-in-common-law who was very amused and happy about them. I got a spatula that unless used by then, will make a lovely gift next season. (I left the tag on it.)

If you did Christmas decorations, it is time to plan for taking them down. Sort through, inventory, store safely.
At the same time, sort through all holiday decorations for all seasons. Spring decorations, Midsummer, birthdays, Fall and harvest festivals, light festivals and of course what you have left from this years New Year's party. Most can probably be re-purposed for several celebrations.

We hang small electric lights for birthdays, and the same banners are used for all celebrations. We keep them up all through the dark season. They brighten our mornings and evenings.
Buy nothing for the holidays in terms of decorations this year. Live with what you have, or make your own. Make any excuse you want but nobody cares, nobody important will think less of you for not having new decorations for the season. It is the companionship that matters.

If you really wish you had new or other decorations for the holidays - make a list of what you want, to see what you can make during the year, find in the second hand shop, be given by friends or actually decide that you do not need. You can even make banners from this years holiday cards (if you got any) and hang them next year. If you really wish you could have more decorations for next year, now is the time to buy what you need for Yule next year. They are all on sale.
Just remember what you have. Make a list.

Friday, 1 January 2016


My green gloves finally have a hole in them.

With my frugal attitude and careful preservation of everything I own, how could that possibly be a good thing?

When I changed my lifestyle around in 2010, gloves and mittens was one of the first things I started looking at.
I had had a period where I would loose one glove of a pair. And usually not one from each but I would end up with three left hand gloves.
So I identified these cheap synthetic green gloves as my next par to loose. (They were possibly bought some time around 2008 when I had a green phase.)
They lasted me through that entire winter. In the spring of 2011, I bought for 1 € a black pair of really cheap fleece gloves at the sale of the cheapest sports shop in town. They were to be my second pair to loose.
Two weeks later I found a very nice pair of brand name hiking gloves in a trash heap. After cleaning they became my third pair of gloves that I could loose. (Seriously, I think the previous owner wore them new, got them dirty and threw them out.)

The green gloves and the cheap black pair have stayed with me for four years. I never managed to hang on to both of them for four years. I thought I would move on to the nice hiking gloves the following winter.

Now, however, the green gloves have a hole in them. By now, also, I have changed. The hole will be mended and I will probably be able to wear them the rest of the winter, way into 2016.

Waiting in my storage box I have the following gloves and mittens:
The above mentioned brand name warm hiking gloves.
Another high quality brand name fleece gloves
Four pairs of hand knitted gloves my mother has made (and I am grateful for every pair, before her hands gave up on fine knitting).
Ski-gloves I hope to use soon.

I really do not need any gloves or mittens within the foreseeable future.