Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Spending month

It is common to have a super saver month in September. A 'I will not spend any money at all if I can get away with it until I really must'-month. Trying for the highest savings rate. Keeping a row of no spending days and keeping it for as long as possible. Anything legal is allowed to keep the wallet closed during this month.

After a few years and a long row of the super saver months, live style changes and super saving becomes common, normal and the average life.

After years of super saving, I am giving myself a spending month. Not a super spending month, that would be silly. But a spending month.
It started last week. 

So far I have bought hot dogs and coffee and even a bottle of water when travelling.
I have taken the bus short distances.
I am even considering buy pizza. I have even gone to the supermarket without a clear shopping list. I have even gone shopping, randomly browsing shops with just stuff in them.

I am sadly failing.
I never bought the pizza as I realised it was quicker to just make porridge.
I did not buy anything new in the supermarket. Nothing I do not normally need; actually even less as I could not remember to buy what I needed.

I even went to shops to spend my gift cards, just randomly aiming to spend them.
I failed that too. There was very little I wanted and what I could consider all had something wrong with it. Not the right size. Strange materials. Sleeves too short. Not the right colour. Nothing available that I didn't already have. No new needs presented themselves. I was considering a blouse (just not in black), a bowl (but it will not fit in the kitchen cupboard) and a book (but really, there are books for my classes arriving by post in a day or two and by then I really will not need something new).

What I want is a car but there is just no where to park it in Amsterdam. What I want is an experience (but the gift cards are all for stuff).
I am a failed buyer. A failed shopper. A failed super spender.


HURRAY!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Work

I like my clients and I like what they do.
I however wish they would hurry up.
Almost four on a Friday afternoon and I am not done yet as they are not done yet.
Leaving an expensive consultant in an air conditioned conference room is not good business.

I really can not write them up for it. I know what they are doing.
I sent them to do it.

Now, can I possibly drink another cup of coffee.
Or should I just doodle something rude under the conference room table?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Packing up

I am packing for a few weeks.

The need includes work in office and industry, family and friends in house and outside as well as my own home.
The time is at least two weeks but could be a month or even more.
Everything must fit in hand luggage.
The weather will range from rain and hailstorms to the current heat wave.

Puhu - I am struggling.

I must be strategic.
Jeans, shorts and summer trousers. Check
Five tops max because this is the easiest to acquire or borrow. Easy clean of course.
Jacket for office but now must add a very light cove of some kind. Something warm.
Rain clothes. Socks and underwear. Sleeping clothes.
This time also bathing clothes as family currently is located in a beautiful lake side spot.

The stuff will include small amounts of hygienic products, glasses, bug stick and jewellery.
Work papers and computers. Chargers.

What am I missing?
The flight leaves this evening.




Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Harvest

Three sprouting potatoes from the bottom of the fridge went into a crate of left over soil on the balcony in May. More soil and water was added during the summer.
Then we left for a month. The plants died without flowering. The dream of a potato harvest withered too.

STILL, look what I found yesterday.






 I eat my potatoes with butter. Sorry about the potato camera used.

Now I know that I can grow potatoes and feed myself at least once without much work.
Are you harvesting you potato crop too?


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Spark

Do you have items that spark joyously? 
Things that you look at and just makes you feel confident, content and have happy memories of? 

Do you also look around and see something that you just do not want to see for any reason? 
That thing that doesn’t work, that thing that you know you should get rid of, the thing you have no use for and it belonged to somebody that you didn’t particularly think of very fondly?

You know you could. You say you should but it ends with that and a sigh. "I really could ..."
Now is the time to do it.
Lift your eye and go and sort out that one thing you see that you do not like.

It is also easier to find the things you enjoy by cleaning and accounting for everything in your house, section by section, at least once a year. 
You  usually know immediately which things you like more than the others.
Find those. Notice those. Love those.
The items you love, you will be happy to clean, dismantle and thoroughly appreciate. You will be happy adding work to then by mending, polishing, cleaning, ironing or washing.

All other items are just draining you. 
Get them out of your ownership. Get them out of your house. 
At least put them all to the side. 

Keep them separate from the happy things you have. 

I see a computer monitor that has not been used the last year and a pile of papers. I will talk to the man about the monitor and I will sort that pile of papers. Now.
Now I will.
now I do

Monday, 22 August 2016

Art

I like art.

I used to say quoting the Pope in the Michael Angelo skit by Monty Python: I do not know much about art but I know what I like.
I later learnt more about art and definitely stopped knowing what I liked.
Very different types of art opened up to me with a little bit more knowledge. I developed from my teenage deep love for the Dutch masters and ventured into different types of art, both backwards and forwards in time. I now even like modern art, installations, events and all forms of expressions: paint, dance, video, uncommunicative, plaster, graphics - you name it.

I do not like all art. I do not like everything of anything. I do not even understand most of what is presented as art. But there is really something about art, modern art, young artists, experimental artist that shoves, drags and transports us and our society to see the unseen. It is good for us. That opening of a thought, any thought, is always a good thing; regardless of what value we as individuals put on the quality of the thought.

So I like art.

I found the most addictive little art game on-line the other day.
The United Nations World Food Programme has a free education, free food web-site called www.freerice.com It has advertisements where 10 grams of rice is donated with every page view. This is something I support and I have opened my Ad-blocker for them.

And it is addictive!

The site works as a free learning site and with every answer, a donation is made. I think you can log on and keep track of how much you donate, but I have not done that.
I donate kilo's a month anyway. Because I am addicted to the Famous Paintings subject.
The game can be set for different subjects, vocabulary, geography, human anatomy etc but also Famous Paintings. The game is simple.
They show a famous painting and my task is to identify the painter. Easy?
Yes, the first few rounds.
After that... Let me not give it away. Try it out. I get noting for it, you might learn something and the United Nations Food Program get more rice to fight hunger with.


Sunday, 21 August 2016

BANG!

BANG!

I bought a piece of art.
I liked it, I thought it looked interesting and the thrift shop only charged 50 eurocents for it.

After a bit of research, an email to an international expert, a glance at international sites for selling of items and some further reading about colonialism and history, I now know why.
It has a lot of interesting aspects.
I also know that my investment has is worth hundreds of per cent more than I paid for it, and that a lot of people would not even touch it.
I have hung it on a nail on my wall.

What I bought is a 19th century copy of a painting by Antonio (Anthony) van Dyck.

It is a portrait of James II of England (James VII of Scotland), also known as James Stewart. It is a detail from a larger painting showing the three oldest children of Charles I. (There are other paintings showing the four-five-six-seven oldest children of Charles I (Queen Elizabeth II of England owns some of them and they are displayed at Windsor Castle.)

The original of my little detail is painted probably 1635 and could possibly be from the one on display in the Galleria Sabauda in the Palazzo Reale Museum in Turin, Italy. At least it looks like this, copied http://www.jacobite.ca/gazetteer/Turin/GalleriaSabauda.htm ). 







The accompanied text from the Jacobite.co site, notes other versions of the same painting, also originals by Van Dyck. One is supposed to be in Dresden (probably Gemäldegallerie Alte Meister, but I have so far not found a picture on-line, and I have no recollection of it from the time when I called Dresden home). 



Another version by Van Dyck is supposed to be in Stanford Hall in the UK. Today Stanford Hall is today a wedding and party venue of the more exclusive kind. They have posted pictures on-line and in one of them (which I have rudely screen-shot). The Van Dyck can be seen on the wall.



 My little painting is nothing like this. Nor does my house look anything like this.

My little painting is very fine, detailed, delicate and could possibly be painted on glass. 
It is a delight to see - under a magnifying glass. There is a tiny, tiny signature (NOT Van Dyck).

It is set in ivory under a convex glass (slightly dirty on the inside ) surrounded by a not too fine yellow metal ring. It is ready to hang and it looks like this in a mirror image:


I long to break into the frame to see the back of the miniature portrait and to clean the glass but I suppose I should not. Similar 19th century copies of unknown paintings set in ivory are sold on-line for between €55-75. I am guessing that it could fetch more as it is a copy of Van Dyck and of a very very historically controversial person. If I ever sell it, I will make a donation to the thrift shop organisation.
However, it is not for sale at the moment. Ivory older than 1947 is legal to sell and the back clearly shows that this little thing is older than that. However, it is not uncontroversial to sell ivory, and a lot of people will not touch it.

I have hung it on my wall with pictures of other Catholics while the Orange family looking angrily at them from the Protestant wall.


The international expert I asked? Bendor Grosvenor from the BBC series Fake or Fortune. See his blog in my link love list to the right. Not that he gave much of an answer, but he did answer!


By the way, did you know Samuel Pepys on 11 April 1669 complained that James as the Duke of York was looking too long at his wife ("did eye my wife mightily")? You find also find Samuel Pepys Diary in my link love list to the right.

All links in this post are to link love sites, nothing commercial.



Friday, 19 August 2016

Clothes2016

We came home from our trip with our 12-13 kilo backpacks and our 2 kilo bags of clothes.
As almost everything we used for our month in Ireland was camping, hiking or running gear, it washed and dried quickly and could be folded up.
I stopped there.

I wanted to take the time to go through all my clothes before everything went into the wardrobe.
Counting, trying on, assessing needs and removing items that really should not be used much more.
I even attempted to dust and clean all shelves and hangers.

I didn't get through it all. Not even I live up to my, usually continuously reduced, requirements.

However, what I DID DO was the following:
Pile of not to be used much more-clothes:
I did bring and completely wear out some clothes in Ireland which were thrown in a container (for household waste) on our last day, including a pair of old jeans (buttocks hanging out). But as soon as I opened the wardrobe at home, I immediately saw items that I did not or should not wear much any more. They all immediately went into a pile containing odd bras, worn out socks, badly fitting tops, shorts and some almost completely worn out trousers. I will see if I will use any of this at home (I do work from home sometimes) and try to dress myself from the pile. But I doubt much of it will be selected for re-use and it will go into my "on the way out of the door" box. I will go through these as well as all other items already in the box and then be done with the whole lot. Most of it is not even good enough for charity. I do wear out my clothes but then I also have a storage of good clothes not currently in use to draw from, so I do not really need to buy new things. 

Start counting clothes and assessing needs:
I got as far as the following:
Trousers: NO NEEDS. In total 18 pairs of items to wear on my legs, including very nice, almost unworn office trousers as well as sports trousers, shorts, shorts and hiking trousers. Pyjama trousers and skirts are not included (but is seriously easy to add: 4 pyjama bottoms and 2 skirts).
Underwear: NO NEEDS unless it is free, then I can buy three very specific items in the right colour, size, design and price (so far quite elusive items). But other than that, the need for underwear, including bra's and slips is fulfilled.
Pyjama: NO NEEDS but want a silk pyjama and since they are very expensive (about €70 and my budget would be around €5) it is a no go. Still a want though. Otherwise four bottoms, three tops, two gowns and a pair of sleeping socks will see me through the winter. If I need any more, this is something I could and should sew.
Socks: NO NEEDS although I thought this was what I would have to buy this year. But with 10 warm socks, five long socks, 6 short sockies, 8 traditional black cotton socks for the office, two cheerful socks, 2 sport socks and a pairs for sleeping, I really do not need any more during the winter. Then - in 2017- I will go and buy a ten-pack of my favourite supermarket basic standard black socks (which has a distinct feature so that the man and I can differentiate between our otherwise identical standard black socks). I will then toss out all the old office socks in one go.

I did not get around to count and assess needs among tops, light sweaters, warm sweaters and jackets - but if I remember correctly and look at the piles and piles of clothes I still own (counted in 2015) -
I do not need anything soon anyway. I was given a t-shirt from the archaeological dig we attended this summer. Great quality with a funny print and I will wear it a few times and then probably sleep very well in it for about ten years.
If something changes, I'll get the clothes I then need. But I am not buying for just in case.
I have all the just in case I need.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

BABPS

Bites, aches, bruises, pimples and scratches  -
slowly they are starting to heal.

A week ago, I got severely bit by something that I have never been bit by before. I know that because my immune system told me there were absolutely no anti-bodies in my body against whatever that bug was.
I got five huge, wide, high and irrrrritatitngly itching blotches in a lovely blue colour.
(Finger, arm, bum, hip and toe)
I dove deep into my old storage of antihistamines and allergy pills for some relief.
Within four days, the blotches were starting to reduce. (And possibly completely without any help at all from the allergy pills I was eating double doses of - as I had a lot in storage.)
Now, a week later, I am left with the blue spots and the scabs from where I scratched the skin off. In another week of so, I hope all signs of them will be gone. The apartment is cleaned and vacuumd and emptied and bug-proofed and I have not got any new ones in a week.


The bruises are all starting to heel too. The typical volunteer archaeologist knee bruises are finaly starting to fade. Knee pad were of course used but I just could not stay on them.
This summer I have looked like a hard working exotic dancer or a hard working Catholic nun.
I was looking forward to some shorts or even a skirt in the warm weather when  -bang- I walked straight into a bedpost and bruised the entire leg. I now look like a four year old after her first bike ride. Band-aid and everything.

The scratches are mostly all my own doing but climbing Mesolithic tombs and the accompanying fences (barbed wire fences!) did nothing for the civilized look. The worst scratch across the upper arm is healing nicely and can almost be hidden by a t-shirt.

The pimples will clear with better food and cleaner water. I again realised how good the tap water is in the Netherlands and in Sweden, in comparison to Ireland and Belgium. Drinking a normal amount of water every day (not too much and not too little) cleans my skin and I will probably have another week or so until the cleaning and cleansing reaches from the inside all the way out. Not digging in dirt is also going to help the skin to heal itself.

I like roughing it for weeks and even months at a time. This adventure really has not been roughing it very much, although the work was very physical. Most nights we slept indoors and we always had clean tap water and even something that could be called a shower available. Not just quite the standard of living even my home apartment can give, even its low standard is higher than that.

I am very happy to have a home of my own where I can heal my BABPS.
It may not be much but the adventure this summer again made me grateful that I have it. Small as it is by normal standards, tiny by most, shocking by some, it is safe and clean and mine.
My home base is truly my first priority.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Arms

My arms started to do the double wave bye bye.
You know, the ones where you wave once with the hand and once with the floppy bit of the inside of the upper arm.

The plans for the adventure to Ireland and all the the physically hard work that it would include (archaeology is not for the weak), also included a lot of arm strengthening exercises.
I have very little sport equipment but I do have some. The plan was to do more physical exercises when watching telly or reading in the sofa. These micro exercises which I have described earlier, really made a world of difference.

Not only did all the physical hard work (think chain gang, breaking stones) not injure my arms or shoulders;
not only did I have the strength at the end of every day to lift my knife and fork for dinner (although I will admit I did feel them the first week)
but together it also actually have resulted in giving me quite nice upper arms.

The upper arms do not flap anymore.
The inner arms do not flop anymore.
The shoulder is stronger and there might even be a hint of minuscule muscle to be seen occasionally.
Most importantly, the little cushion between the chest and the arm is almost entirely gone.
(Ladies: is there a name for this useless thing? The thing that ruins every sleeveless dress or top on a woman past hmpf-hmpf-something of age?)

Anyway, my point is:
With very little effort, no sweat, no thought and only the occasional "ouch, ouch, huff, puff, only one more", I have gained armstrength and nice looking arms.
Not bad for no money at all, is it?

Monday, 15 August 2016

Costs for Ireland trip

We went on adventure and were gone 28 days.
We attended two paid for courses; one with all included accommodation, one with self-catering accommodation.
We stayed two nights at a hotel in Dublin, one night at a country side hostel and four days at a stormy camp-site with a marvellous view. We flew to Ireland and travelled by bus four times and paid one museum entrance (museums in Dublin are free).
We went out for lunch 8 times and dinner once, eating at home or cooking our own food the rest of the time. We bought coffee 24 times and beers 11 times.

For two (excluding the cost of going to and from the airport at home) we spent €5296,60.
Or almost €190 for two a day, which as you know is almost €95 per day.
This is the sort of trip I have done every second year for the last twenty years and the sort of money I am happy to spend when something extends my horizon, my brain, my knowledge and my experiences. Per person it took around two months savings.

The cost I regret is the price we paid for the hotel in Dublin. We knew we would not spend any time in the room beyond sleeping but we really should have booked something way out of centre, rather than trying to stay as close to the museums as possible. We got a cheap room as we booked months in advance but we still paid way to much for what we got. I think that is the biggest disappointment, that the hotel was cheating us on what is a standard hotel room. Accommodation prices are however very high in Dublin in general, but local transports are good and easy to handle and there is really no point in staying in down-town Dublin. There is nothing special about it if you are anything like us. We have hordes of tourists at home in Amsterdam and was not going to Dublin to see or be more drunk fools on the streets.

For this amount of money we got two individual certificates of participation as well as references which can be used for any future ventures into archaeology and would look nice on our CV's (if we bothered about that). We got an experience of a life time, several months worth of dedicated reading of the history of Ireland as well as the early catholic church. We still have months worth of reading about stone, iron and bronze age ahead of us (personally I am very partial to bronze). We learnt much, realised even more and found ourselves adaptable to very different life styles. Waking up after sleeping in a tent really is the nicest thing ever.

We made new friends, new acquaintances and learnt about what it is about some people we do not like and how to deal with them in a difficult work situation (holding a mattock when somebody is irritating requires a lot of self control from this pagan, heathen and somewhat brutal Viking woman). Most people doing odd or unusual things are nice, generous and unconcerned with minor issues.
The Irish most of all.
It really is no wonder my relatives liked the eastern shores of Ireland when they arrived some 1200 years ago.




Sunday, 14 August 2016

Rain clothes

Let me rant...

Producers of rain clothes are insane!
Do they really think that anybody who buys cheap or inexpensive rain protection gear will get used to the out doors and ever, ever, ever go out in the rain again when they get soaked in the rain?
People do not!
If you get stuck outside in bad rain gear you will go inside, and stay inside. For the rest of your life!
You will never go back to buy another set of cheap rain gear for the next time you go out in the rain, if the first set left you soaking and unhappy.

If you buy insufficient rain clothes to children, you efficiently condemn them to a life indoors! They will go out once, get cold, wet and miserable, go inside and stay there.
That is what will happen if the children you care for are in a climate with rain and stuck with crappy rain gear.

It really is worse with bad rain clothes than without.
Let me say that again, as it is counter intuitive, and I need to remember it myself.
It is worse to be outside in the rain with bad rain clothes than no rain protection at all!
If it is warm enough or you move vigorously, no clothes at all is probably the best in the rain. (As skin dries faster than any quick drying fabric.)

Bad rain clothes soak water into your normal clothes, traps that as well as any moisture yourself generates and increases the wetness. (Self-generated moisture? Yes, or you could call it sweat although you do not have to actually sweat.) Bad rain clothes also tends to loose any rain protection properties first over the shoulders and in the crutch. Then those parts will be where you get soaking wet. Not thighs or lower end of your trousers which wouldn't matter much and dry quickly. But imagine walking into a restaurant, pull of the nice and proper looking rain gear, revealing trousers that look like you just wet yourself. After holding in a few litres of liquid. Then proceed to eat you soup sitting on a newspaper.

So - lesson learned.
Even for a few weeks use, even for heavy dirty and clothes destroying use, cheap rain clothes does NOT do its job.

I am therefore in the market for good rain trousers (defined by protection and breathability and strong enough to take the wear of a bike saddle, and of course light weight. (Do not even mention the brand Mac in a Sac as it is as crappy as the supermarket gear, just with a larger marketing budget). I am also in the market for a heavy duty rain jacket (or I will use my proper heavy rain coat more, possibly even shortening it to make it more versatile). I will also dig out my 1976 army rain coat to be ready for the outdoors.

Rant over.
Are you ready for rain?

Saturday, 13 August 2016

FI over 30!

Counting my assets is a delight these days.
Having had paid vacation makes it even better. Money keeps coming in while I go do something else.
This is why people go for dividends paying shareholding companies by the way.

After almost two months not looking at money at all (and most certainly not the stock market) I have counted my net worth - or as I call it - my Financial Independence index.

In the meantime my part of the stock market has re-bounced from what I see was a considerable low. I have also spent considerably less than expected (as a lot of money was made available for just in case and then never used). Most of the costs of the month in Ireland were paid in advance, spread out over several months (course fees, bus tickets, airfare, lodging - even camping food).
The consequence is that for the first time since I paid of the tax authorities, I have landed on a FI over 30 - actually 30,26.

This means that with my annual budget, I can live over 30 years without further income (keeping fingers crossed that the increase in costs are equal to the increase of the value of assets).
My annual budget is real and comfortable although in the eyes of most, quite austere.

My annual budget is however based on my current lifestyle and costs, tried and tested over years and where there is room for a new washing machine, weekend trips and books if need be. It also provides a comfortable cushion to spread costs over a year and to reduce worry. It is an annual budget very many people must live on, even while working and possibly also raising children (and without the financial security) so it is by no means impossible.

I count my assets very very conservatively. I do not include the market value of the small apartment without debt where I live (as I live there and always must live somewhere). I also do not include the value of various state, employer or even private pension schemes I belong to and will start paying out in 15-20 years as I know very little of their value then.

So why do I still work? Because I like what I do currently, I like the structure it gives my life, because the man still works, because for the first time in my life I work for a company I respect with bonkers owners and managers whom I respect, but I might want to get out if a new owner comes in, and primarily because I am really good at what I do and my clients need me and there is nobody like me to replace me. And I like that very much!
Besides, I have another year of part-time studying to do before I finish my masters degree and I can just as well keep working until then. And I like having money coming in.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Ireland

Pick twelve random persons off the streets in western Ireland and they can talk for Ireland at Olympic levels.

Be prepared to learn a lot about any random stranger you meet at a crossroad or a pub within a few minutes. They all have a short introduction about themselves and you must be ready with your own. It should be practised so it rolls easily off the tongue, especially if English is not your first language. Also practice to get an  automatic Hi, howareya, with a quick answer Grandgrand. When you have that down you are ready for the Irish countryside. It takes about two weeks.



I have had a month of Doing, Thinking and Learning. 
No planning, no financial thoughts and very little internet. Just a lot of Living. 

I am not the same person as a month ago. 
My jokes are new, my references have changed and I have found a new place to call home. The benefit of going to few places and staying a longer time, is that eventually you become a part of the street scene. Not that my name is known (mine is really odd) but I am known by sight (benefits of an equally odd appearance) and greeted with recognition.

Meeting people you like once in Ireland, makes them friends; the second time you meet, they are old friends, and by the third time, you are met with What? Are you still hanging around here? You had better come home with me to see the amateur film I made twenty years ago. 

So we did. Several times. With different people. (Once the film was from 1959). 
Equally charming when you spend the days trudging around the countryside, climbing fences and seeing the Mesolithic tombs, views and hills.

Most of the trip was spent at an introduction course, training to be an archaeologist. I have been taught to handle trowel, mattocks, shovels, buckets and historical artefacts. I have handled at least 50 kilo of late medieval animal bones as well as stained glass windows from 1263, brooch from the 13th century, pottery from the same time as well as an Irish coin from 1460. I have personally dug most of these things out of the ground and I have held them in my hands (grubby hands but still my hands). 

The brooch stirred the archaeologists in Ireland and went straight to the national museum. The animal bones went to the zooarchaeologist for identification. (Nobody envied her that job. From picking the bones one by one I say pig, cattle, a few sheep, fish, bird, oyster and the odd field mouse.)
We had a wonderfully, unusually successful dig and have again learned how little we know. 
We have walked new roads and seen new sights. 

I still have not learned to look right when crossing the road.

Money

"If you care for money too much, it is only the money you see, everything else is in shadow"

Hercule Poirot in Lord Edgeware dies by Agatha Christie (1933)