Saturday, 24 June 2017

Cycling

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.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Buying clothes in 2017

Having gone through my clothes and discarding quite a bit, I know that I might need to buy (find) clothes during 2017.
Very little clothes have been bought the last five years. I am starting to wear out clothes and reducing the amounts. I went trough everything last year and did an ambitious project trying to wear out the worst which also has reduced the amounts. I now have very little that I do not use.

Reducing my weight a bit, at least temporarily, also has allowed me to dive into the bag with 'thin' clothes (the bag with 'fat' clothes have been used very much lately - sigh.)

I know that there will be a few needs coming up in the clothes section during 2017. Socks is one thing. Pyjama trousers is another. Or maybe I actually don't need anything?
I want to get the right things if I do get something, even if it is from the trash gods, so I have been amusing myself with planning what to buy. So that when or if I buy anything again it will fit with what I have and support my current lifestyle.
I need to consider colours. My wardrobe is quite monochrome and I want colours, that fit me and that fit the rest of the clothes. 

First decision is to stay away from pink, corals and even red. They make me happy to wear but really does not suit me. My pale skin goes ruddy red really quickly. A pink sweater with my blond hair and a ruddy cheeks makes me look like a piece of pork. The reds are also too strong from my lifestyle which is more low energy and low key. They also do not go with work, making me look to much as a fire extinguisher and really clashes with the high-viability vests.

I will also stay away from the blues. Most blues that is. I never wear blue jeans and up until about ten years ago, I never wore blue. Then I found periwinkle, lavender and royal blues. These nuances suit me really well and I can wear it every where. It is really limited to a few very specific blues though. And I have enough, there really isn't anything I need right now.

I love the greens, especially apple, lime and grass green green. They suit me and make me very happy. Not business like though and again the shade of green has to be exactly right or it goes very wrong. Most of my camping and outdoor gear is high-tech hunting gear that comes in florescent orange or forest green. I consequently already have a lot of forest green and really should not add more without joining the forestry service. Or join the army.
Orange is the monarchist colour of the Netherlands and although useful for football, it can only be worn specific days. And I am not an orangist monarchist. Nor do I support their national football team (although they sourly need support the poor sods.)

Yellow in general is not a colour that suits me and I have not worn it much since I left my teens.

So what does that leave me?
Black.
White.
Browns,  greys and the beiges.
Check. Got all that.
(And all you artists out there can cringe as much as you want, when it comes to clothing, black and white are indeed colours.)

And patterns. I am left with patterns. 
I think I will attempt to aim for patterns. Something graphic, organic, non descriptive, certainly not text, brand or glitter. No stripes and no checkers unless it is gingham, glenchecks or pepita.
Very difficult but I think that the 1960s, Mary Quant and Mondrian could be inspirations.
I think that the right pattern could sort out the problem with colours.

I also want to look at fabrics. Texture in a garment brings just as much to clothes as the colour and their nuance does. Of course the garment also must be well-fitting, good quality but the fabric and its texture does make a difference. I want to stay away from 100% cotton, but rather aim for wool, silk, viscose or new high technical function materials that dry quickly and never smells. But they can not make me look like a hunter, camper, hiker or hobo. Still the garment must be something that enables me to go to a fancy restaurant if I want to without changing.

Combining these requirement, and within my budget (as low as possible and possible for nothing) should fulfil my goal for clothes.
It would give me clothes that I can wear for a very long time with minimum annoyance. 

It could possibly lead to a situation where I get NOTHING new at all.
That could be fine too.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Coffee

We have counted and calculated our use of coffee.
Four packages of coffee, 500 gr, lasts us about three months, when we work.
This means that we use 12 packages of coffee a year, say 15 just to even it out.
15 packages of coffee cost us about €75.
Add to that about four pots of instant coffee through the year, say five to give margins.
That costs us about €20.
The rest of the coffee we drink is paid for by our respective offices or client.

We probably only go out for coffee once a month at home. Add generously speaking €10 per café visit a month (always with cake!), that makes another total €120 in a year. Just for café visits.
We never buy take-out-coffee unless we travel, and even then we sit and drink our coffee like civilized people.

Actually when travelling, take out coffee can be a relatively large part of our travel budget (buying coffee 24 times in 28 days). When hiking and camping though, we have the camping cooker with us, and always make morning coffee in the tent or drink it standing at the espresso bar to keep the price low.

Adding up, this would make an annual budget of €215 just for coffee. Minimum.
Out of which 55% minimum could be coffee in a café. With cake.
Those are horrific numbers!
If we also would have paid for take-out-coffee, the amount of money (AND calories) for just coffee would have sky-rocketed. We much rather save that money and spend it doing something we will remember.

These are the numbers we use when making the decision whether to have coffee immediately or to go home first and drink it there. Or go without.
(We drink tea, and a lot of other things too, but that is not coffee.)

How much do you spend a month on take-out-coffee?

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Pricket

I own a pair of much loved, much cherished and very imposing brass pricket candlesticks.

Pricket candle sticks means that they can only be used with church candles (the ones with a hole in the bottom).

I bought them in 2002 from the police when they sold stolen items where the owner could not be identified. So I do not know where they come from but I know they have been stolen. They are now mine until somebody with a better claim comes along.

The candlesticks are very HEAVY, 8 kg each and made from brass. They are almost half a metre high and with a base plate of 0,4 metre and a top plate (to catch the dripping candle wax) about 0,3 metre wide. They dominate any room and I love them.

They look like they could be made in the 16th or early 17th century and they look Flemish or German (Nuremberg) but then not quite. They could sit on a kings table or a catholic church altar but not quite. Not everything is right.

Since they became mine, I have spent a lot of researching and reading books on historic candlestick designs and metal works. I can identify any kind of European metal candlestick at a glance - except my own. They are unidentifiable and this has possessed my mind for close to ten years.

Yesterday they were identified by an expert. The most adorable little man with white hair and a bushy moustache and with extreme knowledge, he knew immediately what they were
- and what they were not.

My candle sticks are not 15th century and they are not 16th century.
They are also not 17th century.
However, they have something from each period, different styles are combined, making them resembling various 16th century candlesticks style without being copies or anything.
They are definitely made in the early 19th century.
Further than that, it is not possible to identify them.
But he loved them too.

He also made clear that they are most probably not made for any kind of religious community (although there are very similar candlesticks in my favourite synagogue - where I go for the music, and they let me in, pagan as I am, because they are good people and because good people do not care about a persons religion but their actions - but I digress....)

Anyway, they are valued to 600-800 € the pair, not more.
It is sad they are not from my favourite historical period but it also means that I now can use them, admire them, display them and be proud of them.

They are mine and nobody can or will take them away from me. 
I also do not need to add to my home insurance or donate them to a museum or even write a monograph about their history so that they are not forgotten in art history.

I can just love them and finally show them off.
(Banana for scale.)

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Alcohol

One of my short term ambitions from March 2017 was to have a month without alcohol.
It was one of the easiest promises ever.
Except that I didn't quite make it.
During the month I had wine with a very special dinner with good friends. So I cheated.
It was worth it.

I didn't drink anything else that month. I still consider that ambition reached.
At the very last day of the month, I also went to that fancy party with free bar.
Just my kind of thing.
I still only managed two glasses of wine because of the bad coughing.
Good wine though.

At the end of the 30 days, we decided that the ambitions were done with and we bought wine for a weekend dinner.
Unfortunately the wine wasn't great. I didn't drink much of the bottle.
Some went into a sauce a few days after.

Since then, the weather is also cold, and although there is now both wine and beer in the house, we have not drunk it. I am now going past six weeks of the initiation of the ambitions and so far nothing more has been drunk. Warmer weather is coming though and normal routines will be resumed.

The best is that with this short term ambitions, we have managed removed or at least reduced the casual, conventional, routinely, repetitive drinking of wine with dinner or weekend.
It might come back, but it has been good to change the pattern.

I think the man misses his drink, he has a small whiskey occasionally.
Me, I am Viking. There is a different attitude to drink in my culture. 
I drink at parties and to get drunk.
If there is no party or I can't be drunk: I don't see the point in alcoholic drink. It really has to be good or I will not drink it.

So by now, with age and different lifestyle, I of course get drunk very quickly.
It is not pretty.
I want to listen to Lordi (try this Youtube if you dare) or ABBA, Kim Larsen or even A-ha. (But by then it is really time to go home).

Monday, 1 May 2017

FI34,68

There is at the moment very little I want to change in my life (except trying to loose those pesky +3 kilogrammes. It is not going too great at the moment but hey-ho, at least I have not gained.) Even the weather is decent. I suppose it could be warmer, the balcony renovation finished and some of my seeds and plants growing better. But it will do.

It is quite good right now. Family is alive, friends are doing well, the man is happy. Even school feels good, papers are progressing according to plan and the plan for the final thesis is developing. The job is a little boring but there is a glimmer of advancement or change at the end of the year. If not, I can just turn the computer off and look for other things to do. Such as finishing that final thesis (I expect to be in full academic panic by then.) I could look around for other involvements, perhaps permanently settling in the man's country. Perhaps get an allotment. All this is thought about the future and I am happy with right now. I do not need much. One of those things I do not need any more is a job. I want one though, I like what I do. But the shape and forms of it could be unconventional.  That is what financial independence does to you.

The financial independence number for the month of May is 34,68, meaning with my current low annual budget proving the current low fuss lifestyle, I could keep this up for 34,68 years. I am now not doing much to increase the numbers. I save the same amount every month that I have always done but with more money saved and invested, the interests and dividends are self-generating more assets.

I am very grateful to my forefathers who instilled a careful attitude to money in the family which I inherited as a child. We have always saved. I have always saved. Sometimes for a special cause. Most of the time just to have the ability to do things. I paid my own independent trip abroad at fifteen from my own money (it would not have happened otherwise). I left home at sixteen. I worked every summer and through school. I have never had a service job, always technical, dirty and well-paid. I held onto the money until I needed it. I have never been broke. I kept a buy ban for two years before I bought my house. I happily emptied it and sold it 2013 after ten happy years and did not buy a new one. I got rid of most of my belongings. I moved into the base and moved abroad again, and again. I lowered my expectations and got rid of the things I could not live without. I became free, reduced the expenses and invested the liberated funds.
That process took five years. The latest two years have only been growing the financial independence because life is good as it is and currently I ask for nothing more.
So I keep saving.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Walk

One of my short term ambitions from March 2017 was to keep the routine of a daily walk.

Both for weight control, stamina, strength and to see things around me.
I need to keep track of my heart after the time when I rode the pling-plong taxi to the band-aid house and although I am cleared for running, I really never did get into running when I tried it before. It is just not my thing to exercise for sweat.

I do micro exercises, every so irregularly a session pilates on the living-room floor from a dvd and I hike with back-pack for vacation.
However, I do go for a walk most days.

Every day, the ambition is to go for a walk. Most days after work it happens and when he can, the man will come with me. We then do a walkie-talkie and get the stress and concerns of the day out of our heads. Most days when not working, either one of us will say Walkie? and like old dogs, the other will wag the tail, get out of the sofa and go for the shoes.

Usually the walk takes 20-40 minutes and goes around the neighbourhood. Sometimes adventures happen and it takes two hours or more to come home. We try not to eat out but we sometimes do the shopping or errands during the walks.
Mostly we just walk. Stomping, hand in hand, through the city, the parks, along the canals, going to see different sights or developments or places where buildings are coming up, or past the zoo to the the flamingos, or down the seedy neighbourhood to reclaim the streets and say hello to all the young men hanging on the streets.

The point with the walk is to introduce and keep medium-level physical activity into a daily routine.
The plan is to do it every day, every single day. It isn't more difficult than it can be done everyday. I hardly need a rest day to recuperate or such nonsense. There are immediate benefits mentally (de-stress, connect and consider my surroundings) and physically in the long run.
It took a very long time to find a way to have time and energy for exercise in a form that I could be comfortable with and feel like doing most days.

How do you get your daily activity?
This is my way.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Wheels

My wheels have been to service and for repairs.
I usually do most things myself but this I could not do. At lest I never got around to doing it.
A new gear box was clearly needed and with that new breaks.
I suppose that the new parts could just be slotted in as replacements for the old but I have been riding with bad gears and insufficient breaks for too long and something had to be done.

I found a repair man with a lazy eye and greasy hands who knew exactly what I wanted and what I did not need. He fixed everything in a few hours and left the broken back light for me to fix on my own whenever I get around to it. I paid him happily and instantly forgot about it. It was already budgeted in my joy-money.

I took the wheels out for a pure joy ride today. Riding hard past children, train crossings and past cyclists without fear as the brakes works perfectly.
Gear up, and up, up, up and up and faster and faster along the river.
The wind in my hair and sun in my eyes. Free falling with Tom Petty.

Did I mention that the only wheels I own is my bicycle?

Portion

Fun fact:

If you portion control the eating for two months, lose weight and eat healthily - and then for your birthday have meat, cheese, wine, beer, snacks and candy -
 you get a tummy ache...

... as a gift.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Left

I am naturally right-handed so I need to focus on strengthening my left arm.
I try to use both of my arms.

I have broken my right wrist twice in my life living with a cast for a month each time.
Once playing football (international version where you really do not use your hands but I am so exceptional, I managed to break my wrist anyway. Sigh!)
The other time I broke my wrist was on a bar fight wrestling with a friend. (I was in another bar fight when I sucker-punched an annoying guy without breaking my hand - and without being arrested. I did get thrown out of the bar though.)
ANYWAY...

Both times with my right hand in a cast were very difficult.
Both times I have managed and I learnt to use my left hand more.
I still do try to use both hands as much as possible.
I type with both hands. I remote-control with both hands (so I can eat with my right and remote with the left if I want to.) I stir the porridge with my left. I try to brush my teeth with my left (which I can not do yet) and to unlock the door and turn the handle with my left (which I can do if I focus and look at my hands). It is handy in every day life to be ambidextrous.

It is good to train the left arm by just using it more in everyday jobs. I do not recommend breaking your hand just to do this (but most things have a silver lining and this is what I got from that.)
My ambition to increase my physical activities also has worked and I now have much stronger arms.

I also try to wipe the doors with the left hand. It takes somewhat longer time but it is really good exercise. I still have six to go though.

Can you use both hands? 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Vegetables

One of my short term ambitions for 2017 was to have a month without meat from March.
That did not work out completely. It took a few weeks and a few public announcements to remember that I was not to eat meat.

Now, six weeks later I can say that at least during the last three weeks I have not had meat. (I think.)
I have had fish and egg and cheese and dairy so I am neither vegetarian nor vegan.
Nor do I aspire to be. Not yet and not labelling myself as such.

But currently we have no meat in the house (except fish, and although it is illogical, I will treat it differently). We didn't buy any when we stocked up last time and we decided that if we really want meat one day, we will go and buy it then. Then we will buy exactly the meat we want and the best we can get. None of that 'cheap as possible, keep it at home just in case' because that stifles the creativity to eat without meat.

A bit of creativity is needed to change the routines in the kitchen. The man is very good at cooking and I am very good at using up left-overs and using what is just about to go bad before it does. Together we keep track of each other.
Thankfully we both already like lentils, beans, carrots, potatoes and I have forced cabbage and kale through to having become a staple food item in our house because I like it.
We cook pasta with veggie stir-fries and cheese on top, all and any Indian and Asian dishes, lentils, beans, polenta, couscous, pumpkin and all steamed/boiled veggies with sardines, mayonnaise, aioli, chilli sauce etc. on the side. When it is cold, we make roasted vegetables in the oven. We try to buy and use all available vegetables to find new flavours and favourites, both fresh and frozen. We also use all spices in the house to vary the flavour.
Tip for adults: Steam endive, serve with a few slices of a strong cheese on top and mustard on the side. Better than pizza.

The food prices are down considerably!!
It is amazing how cheap it is to eat predominantly vegetarian! There is no budgetary limit to the quality and price of meat that we ever want to buy, because we save probably close to half of our weekly food budget by not buying meat. The fish vendor sells us the best and the freshest there is and still it is cheaper than our standard meat almost every day budget.
Beat that!
With six no-meat days a week, meat becomes a delicatessen. Something to splurge on. Something to demand quality from. Something to research and wait for. Something to cherish. Ecological from small farmers. Game. Best cuts. Prepared with care and consideration.
It is not a 'what did I just eat' item any more.

Vegetables are the staple in our house now and although the man always has been very good at demanding his two veg per meal - I am now on board too.

And another side effect - besides being environmental and animal friendly (not for fish, I admit) is that I am dropping weight like there was no tomorrow.
Even with (home made) cheese sauce on top, a portion of steamed veggies NEVER reaches the calorie levels of meat.
Not even lean meat.

Do you have a favourite vegetable?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pens

I steal pens.
I do not mean to. I really don't. I do not do it on purpose. But it is a fact.
If you lend me a pen, you are highly unlikely to see that pen again.
A pen in my hand stays in my hand and I will, unless I focus or you are attentive, leave with it.

This is socially not a large burden. Pens are spoils of war in office surroundings.
I however end up with a lot of pens at home.

Around 2010 and especially 2013, I started gathering all pens in all parts of the home, from all bags, and all drawers. They were stored in one place and one place only. I hoped this would enable me to use and use up the pens I have and possibly focus my attention on not bringing more pens home.
I also established a complete BUY BAN on pens. This buy ban has been in effect ever since!

Now, in 2017, I am finally low on pens. I have two pens in very odd colours that were bought to an office where I worked around 2005, in these rather unusual colours so that "the pens would never leave the archive". To this day, I hear the exasperated voice of the archivist who never had a pen available. We all vowed that these pens would never leave the desk in the archive.
I  have two.

I also have pens that I bought when I graduated in 1994 and left the university book store. I bought several because how could I ever possibly live without these special pens? I still have five (in three different colours). They are really very good pens.

I also have some very nice, brand name pens that unsuspicious people have lent me over the years.
Thankfully, none of them is VERY expensive. I have never managed to walk away with a something really good. But still, they are pens definitely bought to be used for special things. I have several.

But I am finally running low on cheap pens. I hardly have any pens left from hotels, conference centres, companies or brands. I have been very diligent the past few years to use up the non-special ones, one after another, and then throw them out. I go through the pens almost every year to make sure they still work and throw (or re-build) the ones that doesn't. (As a part-time student, I still take a lot of notes with pens.)
The good pens were bundled up and tucked away until the bad pens were used up.

I have started using the good pens now.
The enormous masses of pens has finally been reduced. I make no promises that I will not bring home more hotel pens or conference writing material but those days are past and very few of those pass my hands any more.
I can see the end to the excess. I can see the beginning of a life with very few pens in the house. The extravagant amounts of office material that I have accumulated over the year is reduced.
I can start dreaming about special pens again.

Does anybody have a pen to lend me?

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Shopping behaviour

I am starting to see a pattern.

I try to create conscious decisions for the future. I try to eliminate random purchases, influenced by marketing or promotions. I try to buy what I want for the price I want to pay for it - and I am willing to wait for the right moment.

Going through everything I own, identifying, counting, assessing and remembering, shows that I have not done this before too well.
That is what the list of jackets I own from yesterday tells me.

In the past I have bought, or have been given by the trash gods, jackets randomly.
I have grabbed them as they pass me by on the commercial roads. Many of them have been great purchases. For example the stylish coat ten years ago for €30 that I still use and will use another ten years is the best example. The five almost identical office jackets were more thought through purchases. (Or I bought one, loved it and went out to buy all I could find in my size in reasonable colours.) Many others are just great jackets that I still hold on to because I own them, can never replace and love - but not really must have.

Several of these have been bought on a whim.
The suede coat from Scotland. It is mine, it will not fit anybody else. It is just perfect. But I rarely wear it. Suede in a rainy country is not very suitable. It is also slightly too warm and bulky to wear as an indoor jacket. If I ever meet anybody who loves it as much as I do, I will gladly let this one move on.
The opera jacket from Shanghai. It is made to measure, it is perfect for its job, and solves all problems dressing for fancy opera, theatre or other similar events. But I really very rarely go to these events any more and with my increasing age, independence and (ehm) sophistication - when I go, I go in normal clothes and do not dress up any more. I'll be in the cheap seats anyway and times are changing - who cares what you wear to the opera! I could easily let this jacket move on too - any long-armed, wide-shouldered large sized woman out there in need of a black opera jacket?
The velvet tail coat. This is my new years eve jacket, my outdoor wedding jacket, my dress for the cultural events with the culture workers jacket. Put it on and I am turned into a cool, edgy, fun person - half Slade, half Adam and the Ants, half Downton Abbey. But it just doesn't fit perfectly over the shoulders and I am not skilled enough to fix it (not in velvet!) and so far not engaged enough to have somebody else do it well for money. I could survive without it.

All these jackets were bought on a whim. None of them were looked for, thought over, analysed or even contemplated before purchase. Not like the rain jacket in 2015 or the three-season jacket from 2016.
So I see a pattern of the past creating consequences now and for the future.

The plan for shopping already put in place must be followed: All purchases must be considered in advance. Spur-of-the moment purchases are usually not completely right. (I have more examples, and more recently too, unfortunately...)
Lesson learned:
Just because I have bought some lovely jackets over the years that I have managed to find a (theoretical) use for, does not mean that I should continue doing so. Enough is enough.
No more jackets. (period)
No purchases of really anything without a thought through plan. 
No purchase or anything over €20 without a 30 day waiting period.

I hope this will stop the random purchasing.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Jackets2017

I have counted my jackets and coats. The difference to the list from 2016 is that this time I also included office and indoor jackets:

I have more than I ever would have though.
- 1 brown thick winter coat (old, at least from before 2008, but can manage another season as it is only used in freezing temperatures).
- 1 black three-season long jacket (bought 2016)
- 1 long black, tailored flared coat (bought H&M on sale in 2007 for €30 because it had lost its belt, still stylish for when I need to be stylish)
- 1 rain coat (white, black, wonderful but not very practical and doesn't get used much, bought 2011)
- 1 beige summer coat (probably early 2000 sometime)
- 1 brown suede jacket, almost like the black leather one John Travolta wore in Get Shorty (bought in Dunfermline in Scotland in 2006 for £5 in a charity shop)
- 1 rain jacket (the much beloved bought 2015)
- 1 ski jacket (the rarely used one bought mid-1990 and there is still hope to use it)

- 1 green from around 2005 with metal buttons that fits perfect and makes me look really cool (why do I not wear it more often?)
- 1 black summer jacket (a gift from the trash gods 2015)
- 5 office jackets almost identical (three black jackets, one white jacket and one dark grey are identical and all are bought around 2008. Stretch, machine wash, excellent quality. One or two are at the end of their life).
- 1 black velvet opera jacket made to measure in Shanghai 2009.
- 1 antique velvet coat with tails from a second hand shop in Brussels from 2010, probably 1970s.

I have 17 jackets for the four seasons I live with. I really do NOT NEED ANY JACKETS!
Note to self: STAY AWAY FROM JACKETS and COATS.

How many jackets and coats do you have?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Doors2017

High time to de-snot all doors and handles in the house.

We have 9 doors in the apartment. Each door has two sides and two handles.
That means that there are 18 larger amounts of painted door area to wipe and sanitize.
There are also 18 handles to clean.
And of course, 18 door frames must be cleaned at the same time.

It is also very good arm exercises and I try to use both arms for the job.

I'll let you know when I have wiped all 9 doors, handles and frames.
One down - eight to go. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Seeds2017

Since 2013, I have strived to grow fresh herbs on our small balcony.
Mostly because the cost of fresh herbs that the man wants to use is just horrendous. Partly because I want to be self-sufficient. A bit is also that the man wants to grow flowers (flowers!!!) and I really have no patience spending time on items that I can not eat. (Forever the utilitarian.)

Currently, the man's apartment is in the middle of an enormous exterior renovation. Last fall the front was wrapped in scaffolding for months. Now the back - and our balcony - is covered by netting and scaffolding. The floor of the balcony will be removed any day now and we have had to move everything off it. Including the plum-tree that has spent the last three weeks in our living-room and absolutely LOVES it. She (we call her Prunie) is spreading all branches and displays a wonderful range of pink and white flowers over half of the room. It is beautiful. (We crawl around being bumble-bees pollinating as much as we can but we may probably not get any plums this year.)

Even if we do not know when we will have access to the balcony again, I have started germinating all an any seeds available in the house. They are all very old this year but maybe some will germinate and can be planted.

So far the tomato seeds have germinated (eight little seed spurts has gone into a seed pot) but the parsley has not. Neither has the dill, aubergine or the broccoli but they have not had much time yet either. There is still hope.

I germinate them on kitchen paper on a plate with plastic foil over in a shaded window (I have a lot of those right now) in a warm room (few of those available as we try to keep the heating as low as possible to not encourage Prunie to much).

I still have lots of different seeds to try out but all of them are quicker to grow and really should not stay indoors very long after starting to grow. We may after all not have access to the balcony until June.
Hopefully some of the seeds, already paid for and close to just being thrown out, can give us something home grown to eat later this year - or at least some skills.

Are you germinating? Your seeds.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Dresses

I own two dresses. One grey. One black.

Both are remnants from my previous lifestyle. Both are chosen to be long-term money saving items.
Both are bought no less than ten years ago and used no more than ten times each. I have no memory of what I paid or even where I bought them, but they have saved me much concern and bother.
Both have saved me a lot of money.

Let me just add that I do not like dresses and skirts are possibly the only other piece of clothing I detest wearing more. I do not wear dresses and skirts unless I have to. That is why I only have two dresses and two skirts and wear almost neither. But most people are different. Many of them ought to learn some new tricks.

In my previous lifestyle I often needed to wear dresses. Cultural and professional reasons mostly. I really would struggle not conforming by wearing a dress. So I wore dresses for work when I had to.

However, since I wore dresses for work, nobody really cared what I wore as long as it was appropriate. It was a cultural uniform. A professional tool.

Sometime in the mid-2000, I simplified the dress-part of my life. I got a simple dress, used it every time, dressed it up differently every time, wore my hair differently and always looked professional.

For example, a simple good-quality, fitted knitted black dress, knee-length, demure, easy to clean, easy to stretch and easily forgettable.
The dress is also very easy to dress up and to change with accessories. I still own it.
And last night, the black dress saved my life.

We were invited to a fancy 50-year party with dress requirements. I could possibly force my way through the event in trousers but with the dress in my wardrobe, I did not have to force anything.
With the recent weight decrease, the dress fitted very nicely too.
An extravagant, dramatic glass-bead necklace the man gave me for a birthday, a pair of nice-lady office shoes, and a pair of silky pantihose from the sock drawer bought more than ten years ago and still in it original packaging, completed the ensemble.
A black and gold shawl picked up in a metro-shop as an emergency-buy before a cocktail party in 2009 for €5, my mothers clutch bag from the 1950s and my regular three-season jacket from last year was added.
With washed hair, some hairspray, some foundation and a lick of shimmering eye shadow (no mascara as I don't have any) I was ready for my close-ups, Mr DeMille.

(That I was coughing my lungs out every five minutes was not part of the plan.)

The man put on his grey designer suit from when he was a fashion slave, ironed a white office shirt, polished his daily shoes and added a vintage bow-tie I bought him from a dingy second-hand shop some years ago and that matched my neck-lace.

Together we looked exceptional.
We photographed ourselves extensively before we left for the party.
(The pictures do not show that we were coughing every five minutes and had to cut the party somewhat short.)

I can not repeat this miracle every month but I was very happy to pull off last nights "performance" without too much concern.
If I have to dress up with these people the next time, I'll wear the grey dress.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Weight

I have a goal for my weight.

I need to come down to 0. Not zero weight but down to the target weight. Not a goal weight, not a dream weight, not anything glamorous. But the target weight is what I am aiming for. It is a weight that I really shouldn't have passed at all but am now struggling to come back to.
I let it happen. I have to do the job. I have to do it now. If I gain any more, it will just be more difficult to remove it.

Currently I am a +4. I have four kilos to lose and keep away for ever.
I have been +9 and I have been +4 before.

Right now I am down to +4. During the month in Lisbon I got a lot of exercise. Lisbon is hilly and uneven so it is a constant aerobics exercise to walk around. Combining it with healthy food and the Portuguese portion sizes the weight stopped piling on and started coming off.
Did I really have to prove again that it is less food more exercise that makes the weight come off?

After that I spent almost two weeks on site and in the base. There I have to keep food very simple. I have no fridge and there is very little access to fast food (and I am picky and cheap so fast food is out anyway). When I came back to the man, we went to bed for a week in colds.

When I came back from Portugal, I made a few short-term goals with regard to food.
No meat, no alcohol and keeping the portion sizes Portuguese.
In the last month, I have had one glass of wine with friends. I have had meat three times (four including yesterday): one portion of grilled chicken, one main course of high-quality beef and at the airport I found myself gobbling at the tasting stand for salami - twice - until I remembered that salami is meat. (Duh!)

There has been a fantastic change. Not really on the scale, I am still on +4. But thighs are slimmer, belly less protruding, and waist a lot less.
I finally have a waist less than half of my height (this is apparently a simplified tool to measure bodies with). I also have a BMI within healthy again. 

Thank heavens, because I have to break out one of the old nice dresses from my old lifestyle and a pair of nice lady office shoes AND a pair of nylons (pantihose) for the nice party tonight.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Cough

Cough Cough Cougrrrrrrgh Cough Cough, that has been my beat the last week.

Nasty nasty cold sunk me totally. I have spent a good week in bed, actually eight days so far. I am still not well, but for the first time since I arrived, I am out of bed and staying up. Thank heavens for a online-based job and flexible work hours! Although I have been mostly in bed, I have carried out all urgent tasks and a lot of routine tasks I normally never have patience to do, and will not loose too much work time.

I was not alone in bed. The man completely went down too in a similar cold. Like to old cats, we have slept, snored, coughed and blown our noses through a week of constant companionship. Sleeping in the day, coughing in the night. Up for a shower, back to bed for a nap. Eating every cold remedy available in the house. Roll and roll of nice lady butt toilet paper used to blow noses. The days have passed one by one almost un-noticed. With a change of pyjama every second day and a shower almost every day, only laundry has been done regularly.
Food has been eaten but not the normal amounts. Food is cooked by anybody with temporary energy. The other cooks food in the next phase of awakeness. Thanks to poor appetite and basic provisions at home food has been available. However, two days ago we went to The Good Veggie-Shop (not actual name) and stocked up. Yesterday the man claimed he needed meat (first meat in almost a month) and went across the street to "Bad Supermarket" (commonly known as) and bought some with some other provisions.

Today vacuuming has been done and I think we are on the mend. The sheets are changed and I have started the sanitation project (wiping walls, door handles, switches etc from coughing residues. Toothbrush is boiled and cleaned. Gross? Ohyes! But I am not risking re-infection.)

We are still coughing and still blowing noses but the virus infection is gone. So now we drink enormous amounts of liquids (non-caffeinated) by the hour to clear phlegm and mucus from sinuses and lungs, staying clear of bacterial infections. No exercise, warm clothes and hearty, healthy food.

The aim is to be presentable at tomorrows big party!