Monday, 14 August 2017

Salt dispenser

For Jenn and others with interest,
This is our new salt dispenser.  (Not a promotion for any manufacturers or brands of salt, although, Hurray for companies who sell products in practical, refillable and reusable containers.)

Why is this special?
It is an anniversary salt dispenser for the company's 80th year.

I also add a picture of the cat I was pet-sitting in Paris for two weeks. 

Salt

For a few months, I have pursued project Salt.
Not a big project, not a lot of work and possibly, also not very important.
Project Salt is however the continuation and result of my lifestyle.

Our favourite salt dispenser broke (the lid came off its little hinge). It worked but it accentuated the need for a new salt dispenser.
That then accentuated the fact that we have a nice salt grinder for rock salt that we do not like.
We also do not like rock salt. We thought we did, we have tried. Both rock salt from the Himalayas and salt rocks from Austria. As well as course salt from France and somewhere else, I don't know where. They have been used and used up with disappointing result.
Mostly because the salt level is unpredictable and you may end up either under- or over salting your food, regardless if you salt while cooking or directly on the plate.
It could also be that the nice salt grinder isn't sufficiently nice; that it should be made from ceramic (although it is) or by a specific brand (which it isn't) or that we use it wrong (possibly, we are not geniuses, just normal).
We made the decision to use up all the salt in the house, buy a pound or two of regular cooking salt from the regular supermarket for 30 eurocents or so and then use use that. With a new salt dispenser, preferably found for free.
I have spent the last few months and weeks going through all spice racks, cupboards, camping equipment and all and any other space for storage to find and use up all available amounts of salt in the house.

As I have now come back from Paris, I brought a salt dispenser back. It is a regular salt container that you buy 100 grams of salt in, in a super market, when you do not buy a whole bag of salt. But this one is FRENCH. And it has a lid that closes.
The salt ran out while I was there, and not intending to go through all cupboards of my house owners, I bought the smallest amount of salt available for them - and took the old empty one with me home. (Yes, their old empty one was better than the new filled one I bought them; not for them, but for me.)

The last remnants of course salt was brutally been emptied out from the nice salt grinder. (It has been  cleaned out and put back in the kitchen cupboard awaiting new content. Probably pepper.)

The new FRENCH salt dispenser was refilled with salt from a whole bag of salt.
It is a wonderful souvenir. Every morning when adding salt to the porridge, we can read words in French and remember our weeks living in Paris.

The rest of the bag of salt is closely closed and tucked back into the cupboard. I do not expect to spend any money on salt or salt dispensers in the forthcoming 12-months.
Salt is now a NO BUY.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Money and muscle

Money makes more money.

Muscle makes more muscles.

Gather your money and build your muscles - you know how and how not to.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

FI34,27

Last calendar month my FI-number was 34,98. Or 35 years.
This meant that my assets divided with my annual budget would simply speaking last 35 years. This I call the Financial Independence number.
This of course comes with a few conditions:
- Price increases in the future need to be compensated by interests or dividends. Or additional income.
- I need to live within the annual budget. This is a very frugal budget but it is also a budget that I have lived within for several years now. However, this is with the current lifestyle and changes in lifestyle will need to be addressed with (possible) changes in budget. I will not reduce the annual budget but I may consider increasing it. The annual budget always needs to be larger than the annual needs and costs as it is impossible to predict everything and the funds need to be available also for accidents. See Eye on Savings. Not the disastrous, life-changing accidents of course. For those, the annual budget will need to change.
- If the growth rate of my assets is higher than the price increases, I could safely withdraw a certain amount every year without reducing capital. I know the SWR numbers and I put no trust in it and do not use that. My financial future does not include any financial risks at all.

I count my assets the first every month, excluding any possible value of my apartment (as I always will need to live somewhere) and the value of any pension funds that I cannot access until I retire. This includes both private and national pension rights as once paid into, I have no or very little control over the value. They will however pay out in about fifteen to seventeen years.

Last calendar month the stock market were my money are placed, went down. Since then, it has gone down further. I have bought some stock in companies that I believe in but where the fickle and short-termed stock market discounted the value. These shares were bought with savings from this months salary (as I still work four days a week).

The current financial independence number is 34,27, meaning I can float financially within my annual budget for another 34,27 years. I have lost half a years annual budget in a month - at the same time, there has been several months in the past when I have gained as much or even more in a month. Swings and roundabouts - stock markets and financial risks.

I keep one months moving costs on a debit card, six months total costs on an easily available savings account, ten years in stocks and the rest in solid index funds. I also still have a job and keep myself updated with qualifications, trainings and merits.

It has taken many, many years of savings to get me to a position like this. However, it has only taken me six years to change my life so that my spending is low, my lifestyle is frugal and my work is to make money - not my life. Not an easy process by any means, but possible for anybody.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Eye on savings

Today I had a lesson to remind me why I save and have savings.

Something got stuck in my eye last night somehow. I was not doing anything special, I had not been doing anything special and still, when I took my lenses out to go to bed, something cut into my eye. The eyeball. Blood red. Painful.
No amount of rinsing made any difference. Eye drops hurt.
When the man came home, I was in bed with one eye closed and slightly whimpering.
Eventually, we called the medical hot-line and was, after eliminating the high-risk scenarios, advised me to take a paracetamol and seek medical help in the morning if it didn't get better.

It didn't get better (but I did sleep).
After half an hour on the phone, I had a doctors appointment within the hour. We were there early and I got in directly.
Examined, treated, advised and medicated within ten minutes.
Two small darkblue fragments were removed. Unindenifiable.
All this in English (well, sort of, but very helpful since English is not the language of the county where I currently am)! Banned from wearing lenses for a while, so I'll be blind bat Betty for a while.
As I am uninsured here, I had to pay full price. 105 euro.
Now, about ten hours later, my eye has almost healed and life can go on.

And this is why savings are so important. Accidents will always happen, even when this probably never will happen to you.
With savings readily available, I could throw money at the problem and make it go away.
If I had not seen a doctor immediately, the problems would increase and threaten my eye sight.

Because I have access to national universal health care, I will get most of the money back, but that is in this case beside the point.
It is important to have savings enough to pay for that first visit to a doctor.
Access to competent health care even more important.
Insurance too, but the first doctors visit is often vital to get arranged quickly.
(and the rest of the world feels very concerned for all Americans this week.)

Monday, 24 July 2017

1560s

There is so much changing right now - so many new thoughts, so many new lessons, so much to think about. I can not keep up, I can not hold on to it - I think I will just let go and flow with the flow of changes.

I went to Paris and learned how to ride the metro, where to go for a research pass, how to handle the 16th century ledgers, how to feed a cat, how to walk a dog, how to survive in 30 degree heat (Celsius) and how to ... a thousand other things. It was only for a few days, I have been there before, I have done all of these things before and still - it changed me.
I came back to the man a different person than I had left.

I am going back to Paris for two weeks later this week to care for another cat, in another house, in another part of town. Once the word got out that I was house-sitting and working from home, the offers came immediately. I am now covering the August vacation for a former colleague, living, working, and sleeping out of her house while watering her plants and feeding her cat. The man will join me as much as he can work remotely from his new project.

The urge to buy things is gone. My focus is now on my research project, my master's thesis and my book.
The need to clear out my house, my wardrobe, my stuff is reduced. It is done and I have other things to do.
The need to loose weight is also reduced, as I have lost another 3 kilo beyond my target of ±0 by just living the new lifestyle of daily movement and normal portions of clean food. Eating is a lot less important than it used to be, training is the new fun and I feel that I will loose more weight with just this new normal way of living. (It was mightily hard work to change habits, learning how to eat normally and how to do daily exercises and activities, but now, four months later, it is a new normal thing.)
The stock-markets are falling and my financial value is reduced every day. I still have plenty though, my financial independence money is still above 30 years with this frugal budget. Maybe it is time to stop looking at the assets and just living the normal frugal life. I still have a job that pay my (low) monthly expenses and provides savings.
I take buses and eat ready-to-eat chick-peas out of the can for lunch with pasta for dinner. I work and read and write.
That is all possible within a normal frugal budget.
My life is now firmly wedged into the 1560's; the life, times and people.

I will take a break blogging and just flow with life. If anybody has any tidbit of information (with source of course) regarding the 1560's, please tell me.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Alt + Shift


Now I live in Paris on my own, with a cat, a dog and a research pass to Bibliothèque National where I read 16th century documents in the old Palais de Mazarin. It is very warm. I live in a small apartment on the north bank of the Seine. I walk the dog three times a day in the inner city and I cuddle the cat who prefers her life in a window. I eat at home and go for long walks through the city. But I am not a tourist. I have a job to do, a life to live and things to do. Today I've been in the library all day. Tomorrow I am meeting an old colleague for Sunday brunch. We'll compare notes on what we did on Fête National.

This new life will only last five days. At the end of this, I will leave all this behind and return to the man who is at home working hard.

I am house, dog and cat sitting a long weekend for friends of friends.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Colander


The handle of the colander has been wobbly for quite some time.
Yesterday it broke off.

Now we use the colander like this. A pair of almost worn out tounge-and-grove pliers do their possibly last service.
It works fine - almost fine anyway. Good enough. No emergency. Plenty of time to think if we need a new colander. Maybe we can change our behaviour and use the lid on a pot to pour off excess water? Maybe we can use the smaller colander that we now use as a fruit bowl? Maybe we can use the sieve more although it isn't quite big enough for pasta or salads? Maybe by using the sieve more, it would break too and we could replace two with one. 

Even if we think we want a replacement colander, some thought would be needed as to what that new colander look like? One handle or two handles? Perhaps somebody has invented a collapsible colander/sieve - we are always short of space.
Perhaps if we wait long enough, somebody will even give us one. Or we'll find one on the street or from the second hand shop.
Perhaps if we wait long enough, we'll stop eating pasta and have no need for a colander.
Possibly this is nothing we need to worry about for yet another couple of months.

Because even if the handle broke on the colander, we still have a fully functioning colander, although looking a bit unconventional. So we don't have to buy anything.

The problem, if there ever was one, has been fixed.

If anybody is in Paris over the coming weekend quatorze julliet, for Fête nationale,  let's meet for an aperitif or a café creme.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Growth


"The process of removing obstacles to growth can be as simple as forgoing certain daily habits. Researchers estimate, for example, that roughly half of an American adult's leisure time is spent in front of a television set. Over a period of forty years, that represents tens of thousands of hours that could be more profitably be spent learning a foreign language, practising a musical instrument, developing a new business idea, building a crafts project, or engaging in hundreds of other activities spanning all seven intelligences. Similarly, other common leisure-time activities, such as reading magazines and newspapers, talking to others or "spacing-out", do virtually nothing to move you into exploring new intellectual terrain. Bu simply choosing to stop engaging in these activities, or cutting them back, you can open up windows of time to pursue the development of hidden potentials."

Thomas Armstrong, 7 kinds of smart, revised and updated with information on 2 new kinds of smart (1993), p 160.
The book presents psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, in an unfortunately rather poor, jumbled and by now completely out-dated way. There are many interesting things in professor Gardner's theory and you can read more here.
In Armstrong's book, only the quote above caught my attention.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Toile

I have lost the required five kilos! It does not sound much but I have also lost at least 20 cm round my waist. I am NOT ALLOWING MYSELF TO BUY CLOTHES until I know I can keep it off.

I am still allowed to sew clothes though.
In the house, there are fabric, thread and patterns so several things could be done without really generating any costs.

Naturally, I do not fit any of the standard sizes of the patterns in the pattern guides. (I have never).
Into my pattern making books I went.

I used to be really good at sewing and pattern making in the early 80s (1980s). Me or my mother made all my trousers through the teen years as nothing in the shops would fit me.
I developed into to ballroom dresses, and even made the pattern for a friends wedding dress. She wanted an 80s dress in the 80s, but in the style from the 1880s. With odd requests like that and with her odd size, nothing was available in shops. So I spent weeks making patterns like an ill paid seamstress in a Charles Dickens book. Her mother sewed it together and that was the true slave job. She looked lovely though.

Enthusiastic, thinking I was in my teens and had kept all my skills, I measured, counted, drew and sketched the top part of a skirt (thinking of some projects I've been pondering for some time).
Just the top part. Just something simple and quick. Just to see what my new size and measurements would be. The paper pattern was scaled down and I decided to re-draw it on fabric to make a toile (or maquette if you are more sculptural).

A few months ago the man threw out some worn out summer trousers. I had promptly grabbed them and saved them in my fabric stash. The colour was fine, the texture smooth and soft and the trouser legs could be usable for something.

The perfect fabric for a quick and easy test project.

I drew and outlined the pattern I had made.

I sewed it together quickly to see how it would fit.
Well, it didn't.
Fit. It didn't fit. Not at all. Nowhere.
Not over the arse primarily. Very depressing.
Not even when opening all the side- and mid-seams. Not a chance.
More there, less here, lower there, longer there and if everything is redone and recalculated and re-sketched and remeasured - possibly something could be made of it.
So back to the measuring, counting, drawing and sketching I go.
But not right now. Soon, but not now.

I know there is nothing wrong with my behind. It is mine. It is the only one I have. I built it.
But I am glad I made a test piece.
I am glad I did not use the pattern I was so proud of to cut into fabric I paid for.
Do you make a toile when you sew?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Weight±0

I have lost 22 centimetres around my waist since March. I have lost at least five kilos since then and possibly close to ten since January.
I have am now down to my target weight, the weight I would never go beyond. I am not thin. I am just where I used to be.
Most importantly, I am within a healthy range of BMI!

I have upper arms that looks like arms instead of water balloons. No more bingo flaps.
I can also stand one one leg again.

In two years, I have gone from an unfortunate shower accident and shoulder physio-therapy with a prescription for exercises to do (or I would have to come back), to an increase into micro-exercises, the daily walk and then on to some more physical activities. Not really sports though, just movement.

The ambition was that whenever I thought I was fat or without muscle tone to get down on the floor, up against a wall, do some micro-exercises.

Lift legs. Bend forward. Lift a book above the head. Pull the exercise elastic. Lift a weight with arms. Stand on toes. Balance on one leg. Try to plank (yeah right..., I still keep trying that one) Do a few sit ups. Try a push up. Lean against a wall. Hold the belly in fifteen seconds.
Doing exercises was the only target, not the amount of it.

The aim was to never watch commercials on the TV without doing exercises simultaneously.
One day I managed to do a push up. On my knees.
I was thrilled. It had taken several weeks!

Three months later I could do three. On toes. Some days.
Then five.
Now I can do almost fifteen - and on my toes. Then I drop to knees and do another five-seven.

When we came back from Lisbon this spring, we caught bad colds and were in bed over a week. When we came up weak and shaking, we decided something had so happen.
Bellies were started.
We found an app in the app-store that was free and contained a short belly-exercises program.
It had no screaming.
There was no fanatic cheering. No music!
Just a normal looking person showing the exercise and a timer that gives a soft bell when starting.

We almost died doing the first program for five minutes. 
We kept it up and after two weeks, it got easier.
We fitted it into the morning routine after drinking coffee and going for a shower, the time previously used for aimlessly browsing the internet.
After a month, we increased the timer to a total of seven minutes. Then to ten.

Then the last week before the cycling vacation we tried to level up the program. We thought we were so fit. NO GO. We are now back to ten minutes on the first level.
I have however, added arm exercises to the program and the man does some of the movements he needs for his sports. We also stretch a lot!

The lesson has been learned: It does matter how much physical activity one has, but a little is better, much much better, than none at all. With time, also slowly performed exercises will generate benefits, and make it easier to do more.

The hardest exercise is never the last one you do, it is the first.
The one that you start with is the one you usually didn't do.

Look at NHS wellness lose weight program. Use their good and common sense advise.
And keep it going. 

Note to self: And keep it off.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Mosquitoes

The warm weather is alternating with cold weather and the mosquitoes are breeding.
They love it; their paternal and maternal instincts are going crazy. Eggs everywhere.
Three days after the rain stops, the mosquitoes hatch.

I was raised in mosquito-land.
You can be bothered by them or you can focus on something else.
You scratch like crazy and it doesn't limit the itch. All it does is to leave scars.
You can cool the skin with ice, you can sooth the itch with camphor or salt-water, you can spit on it.
The scars fade but leave on me, white spots as the pigmentation is destroyed (not that I had much to begin with anyway).
However, slowly, an immunity can be built up.

A few summers in the early 1990s, I taught canoeing to children and tourists.
This meant I lived by the shore, with the mosquitoes for the entire season.
I decided I needed an immune system against them in full working order.
They were just too many to stay away from.  So I let them bit me. Unrestricted.
Wore sandals and shorts at dusk.

The bites were all treated individually and immediately. In the beginning, each bite was covered with local anaesthetics to reduce the itch and the reaction.
When it got bad, the allergic reaction was reduced with anti-histamines (allergy tablets).
When I worked in Massachusetts, I bought Sting-Eze (product name, I am sure there are many others equally good and this is not necessarily a personal recommendation, just an observation that it worked for me). It contains Benzocaine and had a snazzy little nozzle to apply on the bite by the drop.
It lived in my pocket and in my hand for three solid summers.
As the allergic reaction to the mosquitoes was reduced, I used it less and less.

I bought a new bottle in Wisconsin eight years later, nineteen years ago.

That bottle just ran out.

This home-made immunisation worked a very long time and for the type of mosquitoes I had where I lived. The Guatemalan mosquitoes were different but also had malaria so there was a strict-no-bite policy for them. Later on I lived inside in an office for many years and did not get bit by mosquitoes very often..

Now 2017, my immune system is wearing thin and I am again starting to react to mosquito bites.
I bought a German product Juck-Reiz in an emergency a few years ago. It is oil-based and more natural I think. I'll keep with me from now on. For two reasons.
One to apply to mosquito bites hoping it will work on the reaction
Two to keep me amused as I smile every time I read the name. (I am easily amused.)

If need be, I'll stay outside and let the mosquitoes bite me for a season to re-immunise myself again.

Note: Mosquitoes are very different in different countries and regions. Some carry deceases and you should not let them bite you unrestricted. People are even more different from each other. If your initial allergic reaction is severe, do not do this without medical support. You have been warned. I am not responsible for the consequences.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

(FI36,11) EDIT:FI34,98

The English speaking countries of the world have just dragged the financial markets of the world into volatility and decline. Yes, you should be sorry Canada, and no, it is not all right, mates down under, but still, you are not the main culprits.

So when counting my assets this morning, logging on to all bank accounts, pension institutes and including the money in my wallet, it is clear that the value is a lot less than it was just a week ago. But also a lot of bids for shares at ridiculous prices have gone through on the market, looking good for a possible future. I am  not overly concerned, it could be the traditional summer vacation/intern activities and the markets have been very-very-very hot the past half a year or so. Most financial bloggers have reported all time high and my assets have rolled through all predictions like a steam train on crack.
So it is cooling down. Take some time in rehab.
I have margins.

With my frugal lifestyle, careful spending and unusual set-up, I indeed have margins. The margins are a financial independence value of 36,11. (NO, IT ISN'T, SEE BELOW) Meaning all my assets (except the value of where I live as I always will have to live somewhere and pension rights which I can not control or touch) divided with my annual budget, would last me 36,11 years. (NO, IT WON'T, SEE BELOW.) This includes a hope that interests, value increases and dividends will cover the cost increases and inflations of the future. I have six months of emergency funding on a savings account and the rest in funds, stocks and locked savings.

It is easier to live frugally when there is a cushion to catch you if bad things happen, to deflate when the pressure increases and to pump back up when nothing unusual happens and most certainly to spread the annual payments over the different months of the year.
It is well worth continuing to live frugally after the hard dog years are past and the savings cushion is pumped up.

I am very grateful to my younger me who did not spend the well earned high income on socks and doughnuts but on education, property and shares.
I will do my best to make my older me equally proud of me.

EDIT: I AM A NINCOMPOOP, A DING BAT AND A NILLY WILLY and I can't count before breakfast. Financial independence number is actually 34,98 (I had included pension-money so it wasn't wrong, it was just wrong because I never do as I can't touch them. The incredibly high FI-number bothered me the entire day and I just recounted. I am a fool. So now you know. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Loss


Weight loss

I have only one advice to anybody trying to lose weight.
No, two. Three perhaps.

1. Look up NHS Weight loss plan online. It is a 12 week help to lose or keep weight off. It is free, it is in English, it is no nonsense, it is healthy and it has an excellent calorie counter.
2. Go vegetarian as much as you possibly can.
3. Don't drink calories, avoid alcohol, juices, smoothies and all those high-calorific liquids
And move, move, move. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you move.

Of course, if you really want to lose weight, actually really want to, not just wish that you would lose it without the work, you have already skipped the soda and the take-outs. 

Boil an unlimited amount of vegetables with salt, put a slice of cheese on top and dinner is done.
Boil three eggs for in-between meals if you need them.
Boil porridge in the morning. 
Boil vegetables and mix it in its liquids until soup for lunch
Move more. Exercise if you can, but move, move, move.

The instructions are really that simple. 
Move and eat simply.
It is the execution that is hard. 
The first step is the worst.

Don’t be the biggest looser. Lose your weight slowly, no faster than 0,5 kg/1 pound per week unless it is coming off quicker naturally.
Don’t be the biggest looser and don’t quit.
Eat, eat, eat – never go hungry. 
Move, move, move – never stop the muscular motion.

I refuse to look at new targets until I have reached my target weight and proved that I can keep it. Meaning for me that I stay within a kilo (about 2 pounds) of my target weight for at least three months.
Still not quite there yet, and I need to stay motivated. 
This is really hard. Much more difficult than work. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Sunglasses2017

I wore glasses until 2006 and never could wear sunglasses. Then I got lenses and the world of sunglasses opened up to me. Currently, I am going through sunglasses like I have nothing else to do.

I remember that in 2010 when I started reducing my possessions, I had several pairs of sunglasses. I know I wore an ugly pair for a few months until I just got rid of them so that I could wear a nicer pair that I had. As soon as I did, I promptly broke the nice pair.

I know I bought a pair in panic on a day out in 2012 for probably €2,50. That pair now has a large crack in each of the glasses but are still serviceable as an emergency pair.
Today I keep 1€ as my maximum price for sunglasses (because that is what the cheapest cost around here). I've bought I think two €1 glasses in the last three years.

I suppose I could double or even triple the budget for each pair of sunglasses that but I am not at all sure that I would get better quality. They all are sold on the European market by reputable importers and are marked with the correct standard and CE-labelling (because that is what I look for - regulatory compliance). They are what they are and since I am a human destroyer of sunglasses, I will not pay for brands.

The fourth pair of €1 sunglasses in three years broke in my bag this spring. That was a pair I had high hopes for. I even spent 20% more on them than before. 1,20€. They broke  within three months.
Yes, I know, I could use a case and not let them rattle around with all of my other stuff in my bag. Do you do that?

I don't. After all, the previous third pair lasted over a year!
And the second pair before that survived four years.

I brought the broken sunglasses on the bicycle trip. I did buy a fifth pair after the fourth pair broke but although quite stylish, they turned out to touch my apple cheeks when I wear them. That is very annoying. I really do not like that. (Yes, I have huge apple cheeks.)

The cracked glasses was not a problem, but one day I woke up in the tent and the side frame was broken. Easily fixed with a little metal piece found on the ground and some duct tape. However, a new pair was urgently needed. Three days later when we cycled through a relatively large town, a new fifth pair was bought in semi-panic due to the strong sun-light.
The cost was enormous: 4€. Horrible.
But they fit well, are in my type of design, the glasses are very dark and the only thing I have to say against them is that the frames are blue. Bright blue. Electric bright blue.
Hey-ho, what is a girl to do. At least I will look cool. (Yes, I do look cool, don't argue with me.)

This brings the total amount spent on sunglasses since 2012 to 5,70€ + the above mentioned 4€.
7,20€ in five years is more than 1€ per year but I hope the blue and the touchy pair of sunglasses will last several years.
Otherwise, I always have the stylish cheek-touching pair and the broken pair in reserve.
This is also a story on how to accumulate stuff.

How many sunglasses do you have? How many have you had in the last five years?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Air mattress

I bought a light weight air mattress for camping in Scotland probably around 2006. It weighed around 500 grams and packed into a small pouch the size of a bread roll. The best thing with it was that I could finally sleep in a tent without a) having my hipbone digging into the ground and b) freezing. The light weight air mattress increases the protection from the cold ground. I sleep very cold and often freeze during the night, even it if is warm outside during the day. I have a mountain down winter sleeping bag that goes down to -15 degrees C to keep me warm. The only time I did not zip it up during night was in August during the hottest summer along the Côte d'Azur (outside Nice).

The Scottish mattress lasted many years.
Eventually one of the ribs started leaking and a replacement was found, probably 2011 (although I remember buying it and where, I cannot remember when).
The man had an identical air mattress. When his broke in the middle of the night on a hiking trip in the German mountains 2012, we went into a village-town, found a very exclusive camping/outdoor shop and on the spot he bought the best air mattress they had.
The man has slept peacefully and happily ever since.
Me, I have been happy with my 2011-mattress. I have however had a new air mattress on my wish list for a long time. I had researched it. I knew exactly what the market was. I knew size, weight and volume of what I wanted to buy. I looked at all available models and I have lain on many shop floors trying them out. The prices are high and not a purchase to make on a whim unless needed.
I would buy a new air mattress as soon as the existing air mattress gave up - under the condition that we continued to sleep outside regularly.

We still sleep outside every year.
The old air mattress lasted five years.
During the cycling vacation 2017, it started to leak.
I was not exactly happy about it. I was however immediately looking at the map for larger towns that would have a camping shop. (General sports shops does not generally have this sort of outdoor equipment.) Two days later, one minute past opening hour and after having cycled for two hours, we stood outside a shop from our favourite chain of outdoor equipment.

Ten minutes after, I had a new air mattress. Better than expected because of technical development and cheaper than predicted. That week the shop had a 15 % discount on sleeping mattresses. Thank you for that, serendipity! In the end it cost me €140 (or the equivalent of 1 to 2 nights in a hotel-ish location).

The remaining nights of the cycle trip I slept on my new air mattress - just as well as I always sleep outside. This means that wish list item air mattress is crossed out and placed on the do-not-need-to-buy list for the next 5-10 years.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Hanging wardrobe 2017

I differentiate between clothes that are folded and clothes that are hung on hangers.
There is no good reason for this, other than the obvious: I do not have a lot of wardrobe space (because I really do not need a lot of wardrobe space) and because I do not have a lot of clothes that requires ironing.

I am meticulous about my ironing, having been taught by an expert in my young age.
I would never, ever fold an ironed garment. Except when I have to pack. Then my heart breaks (or possibly something a little less melodramatic).

The hanging wardrobe contains my 9 jackets, one delicate knitted cardigan, one ski-jacket, one self-sewn bathrobe and seven trousers on five hangers. That means there are 16 hangers on the top-level.

The hanging wardrobe also contains 19 hangers with various types of tops and shirts, and one hanger with two skirts on it. In total there are 20 hangers on the lower level of my hanging wardrobe.

With that the wardrobe is full (it is only 45 cm (half a meter, say a foot and a half) wide and the standard height.) I have coats and dresses in the man's huge walk-in wardrobe and also my shoes.

That's it, that is what there is. That is all I have.
19 hanging tops, shirts and blouses.
Now I will work my way through it, using or altering everything.
I am especially looking for a chance to use my ski-equipment. Fat chance for that in the northern hemisphere in July.

Do you have an enormous hanging closet filled with clothes, all ironed and colour coordinated?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Hangers

I have turned all hangers in my hanging wardrobe back-to-front.

Coming home from a cycling week+, doing laundry and unpacking everything, I developed a longing for nice clothes. Clothes that sit fitted to the body. Clothes that are ironed. Clothes that look a bit more sophisticated than micro-fleece and poly-streach.
The weather also changed from hot-hot to semi-cool.
This means that I have been wearing clothes out of my hanging wardrobe since I came back. It is very very nice. I feel very civilized.

The hanging wardrobe contains jackets, office trousers and tops that are ironed (or at least crease when folded). So in short, office clothes. That I very rarely wear to the office because I don't have an office type of job and rarely meet clients any more (and when I do, I wear high visibility gear and a hard hat).

The ambition from now is to wear the so called hanging clothes as long as we are in town. Some of these shirts I barely wear in a year but it is handy to be able to jazz up in full office regalia at a moments notice so they stay. Some if it, I use all the time and some I can not remember when I last wore. With the latest weight loss, I have also unpacked the thin-bag with clothes that I like and that are of good quality, but that I have not fitted into for a while. Those needs to be worn.
I also must see what I still can wear and what I need to alter. If I can't wear it or alter it, it will just have to go into the fat-bag until further notice.

Because if you ask my advice: Never ever keep clothes in your wardrobe that you do not fit into (at least sometime during every month). If it is good clothes that you like but just will not zip up right now, PACK IT UP. Label it the thin-bag, and if you are really organized list the content and the sizes on the outside so that when you do loose that weight, you can shop for free in your own wardrobe.

To make sure I know what has been worn and not been worn, I turned all hangers backwards. When I take something out, I have to un-hook the hanger back-wards. But when I hang it back in (after wearing, washing and ironing if needed), the hanger will be hung back in normally.
I can therefore see what has been worn from today until that day. And hopefully, when I dress, I will chose something unused.

I still have my ironing to do, but I plan to count the hanging tops (covering upper body) when that is done.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Cycling trip 2017

I really like this cycling trip thing we do occasionally. Normally I prefer walking. It gives time to think, time to see and it is easy to stop and to observe. Walking forces you to stop in uninteresting places to rest and during the time there will always be something to see, think or be wondered about.  Some places however are so crowded, or flat (or uninteresting?) that cycling is the only method of movement.

We took our bikes, me on my normal iron horse city bike and the man with his touring bicycle. Loaded bicycle bags, me with my donated chunky plastic bags and the man with his branded specially fitted bags. The packing was simple as we just followed the tried and tested packlist 2015, established years ago for the two of us. There were very few changes to packlist 2017, but this time we enforced the fundamental packing principle: Clothes are packed 2+1, one to wear, two in the bag. Nothing more, nothing less. Two pairs of socks for example rotates every second day, with the worn pair washed in the evening. The third pair are kept as spare, for the days when laundry does not dry or washing isn't done. We also knew we would have predominantly good weather so rain clothes were packed but only one warmer sweater for evening.

We had warm weather. The temperature kept going up. After six days it was closing in on 35 degrees (C). My dna grew out of a very cold sea and I am not adapted to warm weather. I live well around 20 and 25 is a good warm temperature. When it pushes 30, my brain boils and by 35 I do not leave the basement.

Cycling went fine until the temperature went up to the 30s, then my brakes would not operate any longer without loud protests. Unfortunately this coincided with us approaching the "mountains" (a term really only used ironically in these low lands) where roads are build by flatlanders who think that a good road goes straight down. As well as up. I walked many hills up and my brakes screamed their way down all hills.

Camping is lovely and as it is still so called low season, plenty of space every where. One night without car or electricity and only a tent is around €15. We slept out eight nights, cooked most of our own food and ate cake every day. Or vlaai as they call it.

In total, with trains for us and the bikes, together we spent €468 and did not deny ourselves anything.
It could have been less and it could have been more.
(Actually, it was more but that was money spent on replacing equipment or fulfilling wishes.)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Away

The bike bags are packed, the bum pack is filled with essentials, the weather is heating up and vacation is granted.
The tent is rolled up and the sleeping bags pushed down.
The gas cooker has a filled canister and the food bag is filled with dry items. The man baked onion and cheese bread and I boiled all eggs in the house.
We have contracted a plant water'er .
With one day warning, we are going on a bicycle trip.

First an hour on the train and then along the river in the direction of Belgium. Or Luxembourg. 250 km or so.
We'll see if we get there. Somewhere.
Back in a few days, a week - or two.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Counting

I count a lot of things. Money, trousers, pens, memories and blessings...
Now I also count calories.

It is not easy.
I thought it would be easy. I thought it would be just adding numbers up.
And it is.
But I have to figure out what the number is first.
And that means I have to find out the kilo-calorie content of everything I put in my mouth (or have put in my mouth).
And then I have to figure out how much I ate, so I need to weigh and measure everything I eat.
So on the kitchen scales everything goes.
My guess for what things weigh is really off and so I weigh everything.

Did you know that two slices of cheese (and I use a Norwegian cheese slicer, a ostehøvel) weight almost 30 gram?
And since 100 gram of cheese is almost 400 kilo-calories those two slices of cheese are 120 kcal?
I did not know that.
And I have never eaten two slices of cheese at any given time. Ever.
Twenty is a more likely number. Or an entire block of cheese.

But not now, because now everything goes into a food diary.
All or most of what I eat is home cooked from scratch so is a little fiddly.
But at least until I learn how to measure, weigh and count properly I will try to keep this up.
I mean, at least until I learn what food items needs to be limited and what are free to indulge in.

We went cycling the other day. Four hours, 48 km. It burned around 1400 kcal.
Everything I ate that day has been religiously counted and if need be, re-measured until I had a complete food diary for what I ate that day.
Breakfast porridge, coffees, two double sandwiches with cheese and mustard, boiled egg, home made veggie stir-fry (no fat) with rice, a beer, a glass(-es) of wine and some lemonade came to 2081 kcal.
It took three days to put all the numbers in and there may still be something missing.
Excel did the adding up.

It has been very very educational.
That day I can see that I myself drank the excess calories which I could easily have avoided.
I will keep it up for more days until I learn to put the right stuff in my mouth.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Kettle

The kettle is leaking.

The water kettle we bought less than two years ago is leaking in the bottom. Water everywhere after just a few minutes.

THEN we had the choice between buying cheap for short term or slightly not cheap for longer term.
(The choice of buying cheap electronics for short term is available to us because we have access to free collection of waste electronics for recycling with the environmentally best  treatment options. If not - then cheap electronics would not be an option for us. I am aware I ought to include a full CSR (corporate social responsibility) analysis of the product and the manufacturing company when I make purchases like this but there is just enough to worry about right now as a single consumer.)

Cheap lasted less than two years, 22 months to be correct. Cheap cost for us 5€ per year or 45 eurocent per month. (Total social and environmental cost not included but we pay separately for waste collection and treatment here, and worth every eurocent.)

I had the glue in my hand and looked at the mess, and just decided I had had enough.
The choice right NOW was not to fiddle, test and try to repair it.
The choice was between buying slightly less cheap that will last us longer or to buy better quality regardless of cost.
Unfortunately, after hours of research, quality is not an easy variable for an individual consumer to use. Because it is not identified or quantified. The national consumer institutes does do tests on different products and they to set up different variables to identify quality.

Legislative compliance is however something both identified and quantified. The product legislation for the market with the EU and EEA member states requires that most products, and definitely electrical appliances, must have a label with the CE mark and the standard it complies with. Non-member states have their own rules (looking at you, UK). I have also even seen RoHS compliance labels but although compliance is mandatory, labelling is not, and it is anyway just minimum requirements to be allowed in and onto the market.

But because the kettle - or water cooker as it is known in EU English - is urgently needed, we bought cheap. €8,65. This is 15% cheaper than two years ago which is a little worrying. The design is a little more flash than we are used to (it has an extra ridge down the front, who-oh-o) but size, effect, function and cordlessness is still the same. It is not a fast boiler but then we are not in a hurry.

Please check back in spring 2019 for an update on how this kettle is doing.

I already have a bit of a guilty conscience for not buying at least a brand name, but..., although... and one never know...
Are you handling these purchases differently?

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Candles

Before having thrown the useless oil lamp out - finally! - I was dreaming about real candles.
It has been uncommonly cold the last week. 
Candles that light up.
Candles that smells nice.
Candles that warms up a room.

I knew we had lots of candles but of course the question was:
How many candles and candle holders did we hold?

Besides my antique candle sticks to which I have no candles and unless I go completely satanic or medieval (latter more likely), no candles will ever be placed in my pricket candle sticks
(pique-cierges gothiques) and most certainly never lit. 

The man has two pewter candle holders for long candles on top of a book case. Currently we have one long candle in one of them. That is a good start isn't it?
We might put long candles on the wish list for later in the year. It really isn't something we need but it might be something we want if the right sort comes along.

We also have 128 tea lights. One unopened bag with 100 tea lights and one opened with a few left.
Some are already in the soap stone candle holder we use for tea lights.
All tea lights are all the small, burns for 4-hours variety (because re-lighting tea lights is not easy and you get more light for your buck if you let it burn out naturally, while in the room of course. The melted candle can ignite and become a much bigger candle. A dinner torch. Not fun. So I always buy the smaller ones.
In the cold and dark season, we light one or two tea lights per evening at home and let them burn out. Because we are lazy we do not replace the empty cups everyday but rather change them all in one go.
So they all sit in a tray with stones from around the world. (Don't light this many tea lights this close together at once, they will ignite each other. True story, seen it happen several times.)

I took a tour around the house to look for more candle paraphernalia. There is an old cigarette lighter on a book shelve for lighting the tea lights. There are two glass tea light holders in the kitchen cabinet that we drink whiskey out of (nice and heavy in the bottom) and I know I have a brass candle stick in storage (that I love but don't need right now).

How many candles do you have?

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Presents

Finally!
Finally!!
Finally!!!
I can throw out the useless present the man accepted when I was away.

A friend of ours had received a present from a client that I think she had to accept and she offered it to the man who accepted it.
It was a little stupid oil lamp holder to put in a stupid empty wine bottle.
To which we of course had to go and buy our own lamp oil. (Not a huge investment.)
And then we had a wine bottle on the table for months and months.
With a little oil lamp in it that kept breaking more and more as the months went by.

The little oil lamp has been lit every night in the dark season just to use it up.
The little oil lamp did not provide any warmth.
It did not light up the room.
It smelled
It would extinct if the window was opened.
It was an all round completely useless thing.
It was not purely ornamental but empty wine bottles are not really my style of interior design.
Not even if they have an oil lamp in them. It did DO something but it did not fulfil any kind of need.

And almost every time I refilled it, I estimated how long until the lamp oil was used up.
I dreamt of the day I could throw the whole thing out.
It took way longer than expected. It lasted almost a year!

But all bad things come to an end and FINALLY I filled the lamp with the last of the lamp oil. 
One single evening later, the bottle for the lamp oil, the empty wine bottle and the little oil lamp went into the recycling (because we sort our waste carefully).

Lesson: Don't accept presents you do not want. Make sure the next owner really wants something to use it when you pass unnecessary items along. 
I know, I could have just thrown it all out (the man agreed to its uselessness) but that would have been a total waste of the useless thing.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Quark

I made a vegetable casserole last night because I found a recipe using quark (kvarg for the Scandies  and kwark, quark or queso kvark in most other languages). It has become the hipster-vegetarian protein source by choice so it is now sold everywhere. I had almost forgotten about it. I know it from my childhood on a hot summer day with a tea-spoon of jam in it. (It is not cottage cheese!) Pirogies around the Baltic sea are usually filled with it. Cheese cakes are made from it.

In a magazine I found in the neighbourhood free book shelf, I found the
Potato, tomato and courgette layer. (Slimming World from October 2008; as good as new)
Mine looked like this and was delicious.
I calculated that the calories for what I made was about 230 calories! (I only used one egg, and slightly more quark, skipped the cheese and added more vegetables to my bigger form  (The man had a giggle fit when I explained how well I had followed the recipe - as a force of nature I refuse to be tied down to a recipe.) There was nothing left for him by the time he got home.

Later in the evening, following the rule that you can eat anything you make yourself, I made cake.
Just a small 50 gram butter, two egg sponge cake, baked on low heat for 45 min to make it moist.
No picture.
We ate the whole thing after dinner while the rain and storm tore through the country.

I just calculated the calorie content. 2200 kcal.
I ate half.
I enjoyed it.
Bite me.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Weight+2

I am trying to come down to ±0. I am currently stuck on +2.
This means that I want to lose another 2 kilos (almost five pounds).
Then I will be within healthy BMI.
Then I will be down to, but not passing, the weight I promised myself I would never go beyond.
(No, I will not be thin. That is not a target weight or dream weight. It is just not over-weight.)

With the work and attention to exercise and food the past two months, I have stopped gaining.
However, I am really am stuck at +2.
So now I am stepping it up a notch.

I downloaded the NHS weight loss programme http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/weight-loss-guide/Pages/weight-loss-guide.aspx where the target is 150 minutes of movement a week, one strengthening exercise a day, 1400 calories for a woman a day including five vegetables.

Through the daily exercises, the daily walks, the cycling and the hiking in the weekends and as we still mostly eat vegetarian, most of it is already accomplished. 

The hard part is the calories. I have no idea the amount of calories in food.
The task I set to try to learn is to
- note everything I eat
- weigh food when cooking
- figure out the calorie content by reading food labels or using on-line info.  (Does everybody know that there is almost 400 kcal in 100 gr of cheese? 100 grams of cheese is very little cheese!
I have never eaten so little cheese in one go in my entire my life.)
- record all calories.

After two days it has turned out that I really do not eat 1400 calories per day (however I do not eat 3000 calories any longer so good on me!! Yay!).

Thankfully I like my porridge plain and that is only 150 kcal (no milk). (I have eaten oatmeal porridge for breakfast most of my life so having another portion for lunch is not a problem.)
Then I can keep snacking on fruit, raisins, müslie bars, strips of iceberg salad, cherry tomatoes, green beans or knäckebröd through the day. ('cause I am a snacker, I like to snack, but I have noticed that it really doesn't matter what I eat as long as I have something next to me.) My coffee is less than 20 kcal per cup and I have at least 4 a day. And lots of water.
I then eat a normal dinner with the man in the evening and with as much cheese as I want.
But only one portion. And it has to be a normal portion. (We cook for 4; he eats the rest or makes lunch boxes with the left-overs - usually just eats it. He needs to keep his weight up.)
I have a bit of fruit for dessert.

And after two days, I moved from +2 to +1,7 so it is clearly working. Now I will work on keeping it up for a week and then weigh myself again.

Do you count calories or do you just starve yourself as a diet?

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Cycling

Going outside cycling in the countryside so no internet today.

Friday, 2 June 2017

FI35,32

I count my assets the first of every month and I have for a very long time.
This means I log on to all accounts and pension institutes and make a note of the current value in my notebook. Then I add it all up and divide it with my annual budget.
(I do not including the value of anywhere I live as I always need somewhere to live and not including the value of assets I do not control, such as pensions.)

I went into super-saving in 2009 when I thought I was about to lose my job.
I found that my annual budget could come down considerably and that my saving could go up.  There was no need to spend the left-overs of the month. I paid off my mortgage in 2010 and my student loans the same year.

I now live within an annual budget that is a quite normal income for most people and still have some room for further savings in it. The reason I talk only about my annual budget is that it it not always possible to stay within the monthly budget. Several months of the year, I live well below the monthly budget. Some months a lot of extra costs, annual fees and expenses, are paid and that has to come from money saved previous months. Together it is a safe annual budget. (The man has his own budget, we share expenses only, for different reasons.)

I did not forget to count my financial independence number (FI-number) yesterday - due to chock.
Currently my investments are doing really well. In 2009, my goal was to have 25 annual budgets in assets. The theory is that this enables a 4% SWR (safe withdrawal rate) which will regenerate the assets indefinitely. (Look it up, don't take my word for it.)
This month I had an FI-number of 35,32. That means that I can live 35 years without further income from my job (fingers crossed hoping that the coming cost increases is compensated by interests and dividends on the investments). It is very humbling and I am very very grateful to my past self for the hard work that has added up assets slowly over time until they by now grow themselves.

Now, to be fair: I own no property, no car and no wealth beyond these savings. I do have a nest and pension rights not included. I also have saved like an anti-social idiot through my entire life.
Still - it seems that if I continue to live frugally, I don't have to worry about losing my job again. (My boss does not know this.)

Do you count your money? It is a great encouragement towards saving. 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Trousers2017

How many pairs of leg coverings do you have?
Did you have to take all of them out of the wardrobe AND do laundry to be able to count them all?

I did. I had to. It took a few days and required a written list.
I have 30. Not 30 pairs of trousers. That would be silly.
But 30 pairs of different sorts of bottoms. They all fit but they are not all in great shape.

This consists of:
4 pairs of jeans (one pair to be discarded, I am just waiting to have my bum fall out of the back one last time). Because I have worn out the oldest most worn clothes over the last year, the remaining three pairs of jeans are in very good condition. One is bought from a second hand shop.

7 pairs of office trousers and all almost identical style and brand. Although this is a vast overstatement. 2 of them are really worn and not suitable to wear out of the house any more. 3 are in good shape, mostly because I rarely wear office clothes any longer although I used to and these are kept to fulfil random needs to dress up into a proper nice office lady again. 2 are white (off-white) because some of the things I had to do in my previous lifestyle was to attend conferences in hot weather and my regular dark suits really would not be suitable or comfortable. So I got an off-white suit from my regular style and brand with an extra pair of trousers. It was a life saver many times just changing the tops. And now, when that part of my life is properly over, I have two pairs of off-white office trousers for the summer.

3 pairs of summer trousers where two of them are identical, one white, one black and the third one was given to me by the trash gods last year. I found a pair of hot pink trousers in my size in a trash pile and they almost fit (I have taken them in in the waist) and they are almost long enough (but I wear them rolled up as a proper hipster). They are not my regular style but I enjoy them because of the colour. I do leave the house in them. We'll see if they remain after this summer season is over.

3 pairs of hiking trousers because I have spent a lot of time camping, hiking, cycling and living in the woods and although I now mostly just hike with my back pack, good gear is needed. Well fitting, durable, sensible colour, side-pockets, light-weight and quick-drying. They are not cheap and they can not be sourced from the trash piles but they last a very long time (if the weight is kept constant - or at least comes down after a week or two on the road).

4 pairs of pyjama trousers or should they perhaps be called sleep- and lounge wear? Soft trousers most certainly not to leave the house in. Two in cotton about to wear out but still hanging in there, one in silky quick-drying material for summer camping and a thicker pair for cold winters. I hope to sew my next needed pair so I get the softness I want and most importantly, the length I want from my pyjama trousers.

2 pairs of sports trousers are also available. They include one pull over warming gear left over from my more sporty life style of my university years and although well over 25 years old by now, in excellent condition (just a few repairs) and still used (although not very often for sports, as I do not do that kind of sports). I also have a pair of yoga-pilates-jazz dance stretchy trousers that I got for nobody knows what reason but they are used when doing pilates on the floor with my ten year old pilates DVD and does not really take up much space so they will stay. I also hope that if I hang on to my exercise gear that fits me, I will shorten the distance to actually performing exercises.

5 pairs of shorts, skorts and skirts can also be used to cover my bum. This includes the only pairs of shorts I currently own, which were found on a street corner and although excellent quality and my size really are not very flattering at all for my body. Actually to be frank, they make me look ugly. I should get rid of them. I have said it before. I also own two skirts, both parts of suits and the same style, brand and material as the office trousers above. I don't wear skirts, I don't like skirts, and not dresses although I also have two of those. I feel skirts are restrictive and they remind me too much of my conservative upbringing and conservative previous work life. I also have very much too much length of leg for most skirts, often showing off way more than is appropriate for a woman almost 50 and my underwear too. I prefer skorts. Skirts with shorts under. Commonly used by golfers, tennis players and hikers. Really convenient for travelling in religious countries and for sitting down to picnic anywhere.

30 pairs of bottoms, and it should be down to 25 in a few months when the "on the way out" pairs have been discarded.

The conclusion TL;DR of counting all my bottoms is that I now KNOW that there is really nothing I need for the bottom section of my wardrobe. Unless the trash gods gives me something irresistible.

How many bottoms do you have?

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Plants2017

Finally the scaffolding has come down.
The roof is mended, the entire house is painted and we have repaired and painted windows (outside) and new floor boards on the balcony.
After almost two months, we can walk onto the balcony again.

We are the lucky ones. The other half of our apartment house just got their balconies covered and wrapped in building scaffolding.

The Seeds of 2017 that germinated and survived are now outside. The old and free seeds did as expected not give much.

I have ten cabbage plants (but there is one or two that looks very unhappy and may not make the transition). I also have nine tomato plants growing strong and I hope that they will give some of the promised cherry tomatoes.

There are also four fennel plants and five broccoli plants. It is a little late in the season for them to go into larger pots if I was hoping for any harvest this year. But that is the current situation and that is what I will have to work with.

The large crate with wild strawberries flowered inside and started ripening berries as soon at it got into the warm outside. There will be any enormous harvest this year, but the pleasure to hunt for dessert after a dinner on the balcony makes it worth the work.

The man grew hot peppers and they are coming up fine. A bird visited yesterday and decided it was fun to pull up the little plants. Most were rescued and replanted but when the trash gods provided half of an old bird cage today, it come home with me and now protects the peppers.

The man also grew artichokes - even if we really not have space for the full sized plants. Only two survived into pots and I have high doubts that they will survive the week out.

A small pot of parsley is struggling to grow strong but hopefully something will develop into fresh herbs. I also have one strong parsley plant that grows in my oak tree pot. Together they strengthen each other and it is great to always have access to fresh parsley.

My oak tree was given to me by a bird who last year dropped an acorn in our crate of plants. By the time I found it, it had germinated and got potted somewhat sloppily. Apparently it was done right though and my little oak tree has survived both the winter (covered outside) and springtime (inside). Oakie's pot is not very big and I try to stint its growth in order to keep it "balcony sized".

We also have a plum tree that we are SO happy to have back out on the balcony after six weeks spreading her leafs, flowers and budding plums all over our living room. It truly has been a wild spring but finally Prunie is spreading her long arms over the edges of the balcony.

The temperamental bougainvillea the man has had more than ten years, is equally happy to be back outside. She hates us and anything that changes. A proper pre-teen. Any movement results in a tantrum where she looses all her leafs in protest. This year however, Bougie went from a warm kitchen to a hot summer day and so far - fingers crossed, although not very hopefully - she seems satisfied.

Yes, all our larger plants have names. They are mostly female but not always. It depends on how they behave. I talk to them too, mostly soothing as if to toddlers, especially when addressing Bougie. They are family members until we get adopted by cats or dogs again.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Cycling in Amsterdam

The hoards of tourists are descending upon us in Amsterdam for the summer season.
Seven years ago, I was a tourist too, and I still have the scars. This year however, there seems to be more tourists than ever and, possibly, stupider than ever.
The stupidest tourists are the ones who walk. The second stupidest are the ones on bikes.

If you know how to cycle, or at least can keep your balance while you actually move yourself forward faster than walking speed, by all means - rent a bicycle in Amsterdam. It is the best way to see the town that really isn't that big. Cycling in Amsterdam is an experience. It is also beautiful.

If you do not know how to cycle, or you have not cycled since you were five - DO NOT cycle in Amsterdam. The traffic is not for for the faint hearted, and by traffic I mean cycling traffic. If you are attempting to drive in Amsterdam, remember you have no rights, no right of way, no right to pass, no right to the road, there are no demands that you can make. Cars in Amsterdam have only obligations! The primary obligation is that you must always let bicyclists pass regardless where they come from. (Cars other than taxis that is. We are all scared of the taxis.)

If you know how to cycle, and you also know general traffic rules, you will be fine.
By all means rent a bicycle, and get a really low bike so that we know from far away that you are an amateur bicyclist.  If you are German, do wear your bicycle helmet. If you are not, and not in full bicycle racing gear, don't. (Several people die in bicycle traffic in Amsterdam every year, so this social restriction is a bit unfortunate but there it is.)
But most importantly: follow the traffic rules. It is easy.

Cycle on the bicycle path.

That means cycle on the effing bicycle path and it includes that you only cycle on the bicycle path. You do not ever stop on the bicycle path. Don't walk on it. Not even with your bike. Don't ever stop with your bike on the bicycle path. (Also don't stop with your bike on a bridge, a corner, a crossing, a tram stop, or any other place where other bicyclists are trying to get past.) Don't even cross a bicycle path walking slowly.

Keep the speed when cycling on the bicycle path. If you want to cycle slowly, get of the bicycle path and ride on the foot path. (Yes, I know, but if you are that slow, people will manoeuvre around you.)

Look where the hell you are going! Don't look at your friend. Don't look at the view. Don't use the camera. Most importantly, don't look at your phone. Not while riding a bike. Not unless you know what you are doing. And you don't. You're a tourist.

Remember that the bicycle path in Amsterdam is actually a motorway. We cycle everywhere, in any weather, every day and we know where we are going. We are not enjoying ourselves. We are going somewhere and you are in the way. Yes, you are. Always. By definition.
You do not stop in the middle of the motorway to wait for your friend, do you? (If you do, don't be surprised if you get physically hit by other bicyclists). And if you do, you must stop to the right on the path, never on the left.
And for crying out loud, cycle on the right hand side of the bicycle path, also when narrow, so we can get past you without pushing you in the canal. Don't hang left, don't cycle in pairs, don't wobble, and never ever ride in the middle.
If you don't know where you are going, get off the bicycle path. Quickly.
And watch out for the buses, trams, tram tracks, and the never ending road works.
Simple rules really.

If you leave your bike somewhere, lock it. Lock and chain it. Through the front wheel, frame and something fixed. Use two chains if you need to. Don't ever park you bike in places where nobody else has parked their bike. If there is space for your bikes, is usually because THE BIKE IS IN THE WAY AND YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE STUPID ENOUGH NOT TO REALISE. Park in the bicycle parking stands. They are everywhere.
Oh, you think the bicycle parking stand is full? No it isn't.
An Amsterdam bicycle parking stand is only ever full for amateurs (or the ones with nice, expensive bikes). Our bikes are huge, steel framed work horses that survive anything. We usually just shove it in there. A bicycle stand always has room for one more bike - mine.
Don't chain your bike to the public urinals. (Or if you do - and I still know who you are - don't be insulted when somebody tries to tell you and then really do not be insulted when a drunk shoves past you to go piss on your bike from inside the urinal. While you still are sitting down working on the chain lock. Yes, you did!)

Sure, Amsterdammers also makes mistakes in traffic, but it is not these mistakes. There are many very tiny, sometimes invisible, small signs used between cyclists that enable fast cycling through town without hitting each others bike - not very often at least.

If you are so stupid that you walk on the bicycle path, or step out into the path, or cross it without giving way to the passing bicyclists, we will (and that is not only I and it is most certainly not that we may do it), WE WILL ride into you to teach you a lesson.
Or we will hit you with the handlebars as we pass you to teach you a lesson. Or with the bicycle cases or the huge crates we have attached on our bikes only for this purpose.
We most certainly will violently ring our bike bells at you. If that not clearly enough expresses how stupid we think you are for walking on or into the bicycle path, we might also shout verbal insults at you. They will wish you ill-health and be mostly in Dutch. However, most of us are multi-lingual and we may even stop and in your own language insult your lack of intelligence, just so you understand how stupid we think you are for walking on the bike path. Or shake a fist at you. (Less common, but not impossible if you are really stupid, you might be spit on.) Sometimes, we will ring the bike bells even if you have not even done anything, because we want to get your attention and stop you from walking out in front of us. Because you will. You all do. You are all stupid. And we don't have the energy to tell you. Not all of you. Not every day.

That is why the police who will fine you for causing bicycle traffic accidents. They also can take your bicycle away from you, also if rented, and ban you from cycling in Amsterdam. Or they should. Some of you are really not safe to let out into traffic on you own. And in groups you are even worse. 

Do come to Amsterdam, enjoy the rudeness and please don't leave until you have had at least one angry bicyclist ring the bell at you. At least that is what I think you all aim for.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Ornaments

Most people have ornaments in their home.

Here is my best advice regarding ornaments if you are not moving.
Pack them all up.

If you really miss something specific in a few weeks, put it back. This is not torture, it is a chance to change.

Feng Shui say that nothing has an impact after six months. The message of ornaments will disapear and have no impact in your life. If you like me live with a blind person (not literally), ornaments for them blend into the background within a few months or weeks (days!) and does not matter.
If you are like me, you are impacted and activated with change and ornaments is one of the easiest ways to change your home life.

Take a look at everything on window sills, shelves, fireplaces, tables and walls.
Does it DO anything?
Is it a candlestick with a candle you actually light? Is it a lighter? Is it a lamp? A bottle opener? Is it alive? If it doesn't breath or have a function - pack it up. Just that. Just packing it up. You are not to get rid of it.

Now enjoy your space for a few days. Perhaps even weeks.
Do you miss a particular item? Unpack it.
Do you want something special? Do you have something already that will work? Unpack it.
Do you want something you do not have. Put it on your wish list.
Do you need something that does something special?
A storage shelf instead of an ornamental table?
A living plant instead of  porcelain kitten?
Is aunt Gertrude's old vase now finally out of the way and you can display your own pottery? (Leave her vase packed up. You are more important.)
Fill the space you pay for and call home with yourself and who you are now.
If you are happier in the past, keep the things that ground you. Otherwise, display reminders of a future that excites you.

The first time I cleared out ornaments and packed them up was 1997. I mentioned it at a couples dinner some days later (those were those days and that lifestyle). The woman ran -RAN- around the apartment looking for ornaments to prove me useless. She found a gigantic pine cone on a window sill that I had brought back from Rome and came back to the dinner table to finish her food dressed in the satisfaction that I was a useless liar and ornaments were good. She was never invited again.

I am not sure what this story tells about ornaments. Or about me for that matter.

Sometimes it is difficult to change, but it is almost always impossible to change others in any other way than by quiet example.

If you are moving, get rid of everything that is purely decorative. (I say this although nobody will do it but it might make you think.)
Your new home will need new decorations.
Your new life should be decorated with new ornaments.
Be your current, or your future.
The past you will always have within you.


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Handle

For weeks I have been walking around with a screw driver in my hand bag.

I am a zero spender and we live in a rental apartment where we are responsible for everything inside.
The kitchen is fine (not good) but fine. The kitchen cabinet handles are dreadful however. And of course, once I had seen the handles, noticed the handles, decided the handles were dreadful - I could think of nothing else. We needed new handles.
I talked to the man, he wouldn't mind new handles. But the old had to be saved so that if we move out, we can put them back in. (Yes, national rental regulations are very different.)
Of course we do not want to spend money on something we do not own but I had a plan.
I measured the existing handles and especially the distance of the holes in the cabinet doors.
And then I put a screw driver in my pocket.

I had seen that old kitchen and bathroom cabinets were common on the street of large waste collection, sometimes even other days. The cabinets usually still had the handles left on them.
If I had a screwdriver with me, I could rescue - evacuate - liberate - steal - reuse - adopt to a new home - the handles so callously put out on the street by the previous owners.

The daily walks around town now had one eye looking for old cabinets.

They were plenty, with and without handles. Some handles were horrible. Some where non-standard. Some where wonderful but then I did not have the screwdriver with me. Usually when I was far away from home and could not go back for them later.

But then the other day - the handles appeared. The gaudiest, elaborate, standard in size, non-standard in appearance, handles appeared. (I still had to go home for the screwdriver because by now it lived in my hand bag and this day of course I went on the walk with out it).

This is a picture of the old next to the new handles.
There were only three of them but we only needed three for one side of the kitchen.

Personally, I think they are a great improvement although I am not sure that I like them that much.
The man loves them and finds them amusing, hilarious and because they are not at all like anything in our kitchen, the best thing ever.
He now wants six other different sorts of handles the the six remaining kitchen cabinet doors.

I keep the screwdriver in my pocket and keep looking for handles to add to what will, if all goes according to the man's plan, be a very eclectic mix of handles in an otherwise quite standardised kitchen.

The best thing? They can be removed in thirty seconds and changed into something else.


Friday, 19 May 2017

2009 to now

2009 I dreamed.

I dreamed of not being alone.
I dreamed of being financially independent.
I dreamed of having a less demanding job.
I dreamed of being intellectual.

Hopeless, hopeless dreams. It would never happen.
It didn't just happen. Nothing never just happens. Everything takes work and many, many little steps.

I went on-line and went on bad dates. One I almost didn't go on. It almost didn't become anything. The connection almost sank several times. But somehow we managed to keep the relations ship sailing and I am not alone.

I started super-saving, found ERE and worked on the steps. Within five years, I had change my financial lifestyles and had 20 annual budgets in assets. Since then it has only increased.

I was kicked out of my job, I found another, I hated it and I found yet another further down the career path. Less demanding, slightly boring. I changed my life to be more focused on the non-job part of living. I worked hard to get a job that stays within 8 hours of the day. Then I cut it to four days a week.

I started an on-line course at a university in a subject that only interested me and had no value in my work related life. I never mentioned it to friends. I read the literature at night when I was awake with insomnia worrying about my job. I wrote the papers on trains, planes and taxis. I attended on-line seminars from any location and at any time I could wrangle away. The professor was enthusiastic. The following semester I took another of his on-line courses. I later took the full first year course load part time, on-line. Then switched universities to do the second year course (as the first university did not do second year on-line). The third year course was started at a third university that was no good. I dropped it and restarted the third year one year later at a fourth university and I graduated with a bachelor of arts in my chosen subject. The fourth year I struggled with the third university as they were the only ones doing it on-line and worked hard to make them do their job of actually educating. The firth year the same and it is not quite over yet.
Preparations for my masters thesis have been difficult, not to say very difficult, with the third university. 
Today I was confirmed to do my masters thesis as a separate course, on-line, part time at the first university. Although the course does not exist, they will make it happen.

My supervisor and mentor is my first professor.

In his favourite subject. In the subject of the first course I took on the subject of history.

(Different approach, same fascination.)
My entire education is after all his fault, his responsibility, his doing - only fair that he takes this project to the end.

He is also the kindest, most supportive, motivating, patient and most genuine person I think I have ever met. (And no, that is not how you get ahead in academia. But it is how research is kept active.)

Amazing what dreaming and many small steps can create. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Bought clothes 2017

So far in 2017 I have bought the following pieces of clothing.

2 micro-fibre long sleeved t-shirts
bra
4 standard cotton t-shirts
1 vintage football jersey
2 wool hiking socks
1 blue t-shirt with buttons (trash find)
1 cotton striped long sleeved t-shirt
1 pair of full price original black Levis' 501 jeans

Total amount of money spent: €60
No, that does not add up. Not with a pair of Levis' being €90.

I take surveys on-line and get paid in gift cards which I use in one of my favourite department stores which supplies me with clothes, underwear and hygiene articles.
I also pick up clothes from trash piles, donation boxes and friends. I use the same criteria for those pick-ups as I do when buying in a store. There are more people out there (and with more normal sizes) who will take what will not fit or suit me.

The clothes are black, grey, white, blue, red and beige. (Not entirely according to plan but not far off.)
One is striped horizontally which I have not worn in many years but like. (That is according to plan.)

The bra is complementing, border-lining replacing the bras bought after thorough research in 2015. One is behaving strangely and is worn out. This is the one that has been used the most and treated the worst (hand washing in hotel rooms does not go easy on clothes). The second is still in the running but needed a companion.

My need for t-shirts is by now completely filled up and t-shirts join tank-tops on the list of NO BUY.
But I now have a range of different t-shirts in varied colours and materials for a multitude of uses (pyjama, sport, casual, work, and going out). Long- and short-sleeved, round- and V-necked, extra long as well as normal length. (The extra long t-shirts are worn with a shorter top or sweater, perhaps a top or a sweater that otherwise is too short to wear.)

The jeans replace the pair of black jeans (bought 2009) that I managed to get paint on two months ago when I did project pipes. I used a magic marker for clothing on the stain to be able to use them until I was ready for a new pair. (This pair will be left in the nest to be used as emergency/laundry trousers.) The new pair of jeans will also replace the previous pair of Levis' 501's bought 2010 that I love but any day expect to have my buttocks fall out of (although many and serious mending there really is very few threads left in the bum area). I will have do to a serious inventory of stock of my trousers, (Edit: I DID) but I think I will be fine for the rest of the year. I did after all manage to suit up in office gear some time ago so even if there isn't amount, there sure is versatility available.

I still plan to buy socks (black) this year (but not yet) unless my life-style changes which would probably require some sort of office clothes, but it isn't looking threatening at the moment. I would be fine for the first week though, I have handled party situations with existing clothing and otherwise I don't think I need anything else.

T-shirts go on the no-buy list while socks go on the wish-list, but I will wear out a few more before I buy ten identical new pairs.