Tuesday, 28 February 2017


We joined the carnival in our local neighbourhood today. Probably mostly for the children but with smiles and a little dancing, we went in the parade with the grandparents, got covered in confetti and streamers and were completely incorporated.
I laughed for hours. At the gorilla, the clown mother, the three year old granny with a cane and a pacifier, the LEGO children and all the other wonderful people within and without costumes.

Afterwards, we rested with a glasses of port wine at our local cafe, being called darlings and sharing thoughts about the weather. We may not speak the language very well, but with kindness and a proper display of happiness, we fit right in. I love the Portuguese.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Good life

We are living the good life out of Lisbon at the moment.
Even the good life has better days than others and let me tell about Wednesday.

The alarm woke us up at seven. I made coffee and opened my computer to start work. In pyjama, slippers and fleece jacket. The man drank his coffee in bed but came up around eight for a shower. He sat down across from me and opened his computer. He sorted out a technical problem for a client and while waiting for uploads, rehearsed Portuguese verbs and vocabulary. I had a short phone meeting with a client and then took a pause for a shower and to dress. The man made us our breakfast porridge which we ate while still working. At half eleven the man packed up and went to his Portuguese course. I go on working while drying me hair, doing dishes, taking out sardines from the freezer for lunch, drinking coffee, eating a light snack in short breaks. And buzzing in the postman in the staircase when he rang the doorbell.
About half three the man came back, and opened his computer for some work. He started cooking lunch and did his homework. At three, I was finished and logged out of my virtual office. We ate lunch and packed up our study books to go out.
We strolled through the narrow streets of our neighbourhood, aiming for a favourite square. Instead we found a private garden open to the public with a wonderful view.
We sat there reading, admiring the view, talking to each other and looking at people until six when the garden closed. Strolling through the streets looking for a place with a view to have a drink, we went to a cheese and wine bar. We were the only guests, sat at the only table on the street and had wine of the week and three cheeses. It was divine.

When the sun had come down, we slowly walked down the hill and then up the hill to our apartment, and cooked dinner.
I logged on to my virtual classroom for my masters studies, wrote some comments based on the days reading, added to the paper in production, proofread yesterday's notes, and had the dinner the man prepared with a glass of wine.

Afterwards, I was rehearsing Portuguese vocabulary with him. I also prepared my reading for the next day, logged onto work email to see if anything was urgent, logged onto study account to read comments from other course participants, did dishes, brushed teeth and went to bed before ten. The upstairs bedroom was colder than expected because that day we had forgotten to close the window shutters at sunset.
Wi-fi in our apartment does not reach my side of the bed so I read a book before falling asleep.

I work my regular hours but get out early in the afternoon because of the time difference to my colleagues. The man is between projects and only does maintenance for his clients. Tomorrow I will have a day off and tour the town and museums on my own while the man is in school and does his afternoon run. We'll met at home for dinner and then possibly go for an evening stroll. We do not need much more than this.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

New town

We have moved to Lisbon for a month.
After a few days, we have settled in, we see the differences, find our way and figured out how things work.
I am in love.
I love the Portuguese who stop to ask if they can help, who greet and smile at strangers on the street, who hold the door, who leave the seat for old women, who step aside for old men on side walks and who are are naturally curious about events on the street.
(When I open the window to see what the screaming is about outside, there are five other heads peaking out too.)
I love Lisbon because it is beautiful, especially since it has hills and viewpoints (coming from Amsterdam this is wonderful) and for giving me strong leg and bum muscles.

We have our apartment in upper Alfama/Castelo. It is touristy but behind all that, it is a village. There are times during the day when the streets are empty. Between the tourist restaurants there are cafés in backyards, lunch restaurants in corners and the neighbours say hello.
We hung our laundry outside on lines in the sun (when there is sun) and we air our house every morning to get the moisture out. We wear warm clothes inside and light clothes outside when the outside is warmer then the inside. I insisted on an apartment with heating so we can be warm in the evenings and that was a good thing as it rained almost three days in a row when we got here. (We still brought our warm sleeping bags and have used them).

We have memorised the tram and bus lines and we jump on and off with our zapping bus passes. We walk up and down the hills, almost always arriving to where we wanted to go but always always finding something new and thought provoking on the way.
We find everything because we live close to where Saint Anthony was born (he is here the saint to go to if you lose anything).
So far, I have bought a postcard.
And food.
We cook at home as much as we can. Both to keep costs down and to experiment with the local foodstuff. 
The man is taking an introduction course in Portuguese (an old dream of his) and do all the housekeeping. I work from home my regular hours and continue my studies. Evenings and weekends are spent walking around our new town.
Otherwise we don't really do anything extraordinary or indulge ourselves in any way.

Monday, 13 February 2017


Seven years ago, I almost cancelled a blind date.

I got very cold feet in the last minute and almost did not get on the train.
But I knew, my blind date had already left his country to meet me in a town half way.
And I may have many faults, and I am not an especially good person, but I am at least a good date.

So I went.

Tonight we have been together seven years and we are in Lisbon, Portugal.
It is so wonderful and we are so in love with the town, we forgot the date this morning.

By one o'clock I texted the man at his Portuguese course announcing that it was our anniversary.
Two hours later he read it and announced that it indeed was.

After work, we went for a drink. Tonight we are having chicken at home.
Happy not Saint Valentines day. It is the best day.
It is also every day.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


There is a stranger in my house. He arrived yesterday after lunch and looks very distinguished.
I have never met him before.
He on the other hand walks around as if he owned the place.
I do not quite know what to do.
I try to talk to him and he insists everything is fine.
He makes me a bit shy, he is indeed looking very good.
He vaguely resembles the man but it is most certainly not him.

The worst thing is that he wants to cuddle and kiss.

No, we do not have a new cat. Yet. Unfortunately.
The man has new glasses and looks completely different. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Clothes brush

This is the single item that has saved the most money percentage wise since I bought it over twenty years ago. 
I used to be a hairy rocker banker lawyer (or at least two out of four) wearing only dark clothes and used mine every day. The man also has one because he used to live with cats and this is the item cat owners need more than anything.

It is an ordinary clothes brush using the pile of a fabric together with static electricity to get lint, hair and dust off your clothes.

It is a little harder to work than a cheap sticky tape roller but once you figured it out, it lasts a lifetime. It never dries out, you never need to replace it and it will always be available.
Clean it by brushing it backwards on a regular piece of cloth, vacuum or wipe if sticky. It will be good to go again the next day.

When you have used up all existing rollers or other clothes brushes, get one. You will only need one the rest of your life. Choose the simplest, sturdiest, most simple looking one you can find.

Use it if you have one.
Your clothes will also remain looking good longer. You can reduce laundry and that wear and tear by brushing clothes instead of laundry - especially for dry-cleaning clothes.

Sunday, 5 February 2017


We leave on our adventure in a few days and we are eating out of our cupboards and freezer to empty everything before we go. (The fridge and freezer will be cleaned out and turned off for the month away.)

We plan our meals to use up as much of what we have and only buy items that are essential to make a meal. We bake pie, bread and cakes from opened packages of flour and yeast (and eat them saying, why are we not always baking bread and pies? Probably because we normally do not eat much bread and even less pie.)

A badly battered envelope with dried tomato soup from some camping trip, probably from 2015 in France appeared in an emptying cupboard. We cooked it and added some left-over green cabbage and some white rice that had stuck to the pan. It was served with hard bread (knäckebröd) we had been given from the family whose cremated mother is currently living in our book case, topped with cheese. Not the urn. The bread. It was tasty, very very tasty.

There will still be food in the house when we leave but only dry, in cans and unopened.

Saturday, 4 February 2017


I was recently invited to go skiing one evening in one of the small ski slopes around.
Some friends had a minivan and got all middle aged women involved to go skiing without children.
I was ecstatic, until I realized I would not be home from work that evening until very late.
One of the few times in the year, I work late and it stopped me from an adventure.
Normally, it is always life before work, but in this case, I put promises and commitments before... before... before myself. (A bad old habit I need to keep an eye on.)

I miss skiing.
I have skied after the time I got a concussion in Austria that made me go and see all the sites from the film Sound of music in Salzburg. (A story for another time.) But by now it has been a long time, at least eight years. I have barely even been into any proper amounts of snow since then, or even had any good cold days in that time. (That means more than a meter of snow and at least -15 degrees C.) I did not think I would miss it but I do.

I am hanging on to my ski clothes to be ready when I get a chance.
But there will be no skiing in the season of 2016/2017 - either.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Project Pipes - part 2

The second part of Project Pipes is finished.
Our shower room now has water pipes, radiator and stands for the sink in gleaming white.
The chalk is gone, the rust is gone, the flaking paint is gone and all pipes have a uniform colour.
It almost looks as good as in the kitchen we did last year.

It is amazing. It truly is a huge improvement.
It is wonderful that the pipes have stopped begging for attention. Now they just do their job and nothing more. It is much more peaceful to shower without a list running in ones head: "should do that, that, that, and that" ... "and that".

The total working time was about a week and a half with a short hour of work every other night (as we were painting in the actual space for showering, some adaptation had to be done to evenings when showering was needed). Painting pipes is a simple job but it did require to sit on the cold shower room floor.

The job is by no means perfectly executed but it does not matter (we live in an old hospital and most things are a little loop-sided). It is much better than it was before

The cost of the job was nothing - except that I managed to get a big fat paint stain on a pair of jeans and it is refusing to come out. The paint was left over from the kitchen job. Sandpaper, covering plastics and scrubbers as well as rollers and brushes are also from other earlier projects and could be reused again.

They are all cleaned up to be used again after this.
I have noted that a Project Pipes part 3 as well as a Project Pipes part 4 will be needed in the future - unfortunately.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


It is the first day of the month, and I count my money.
It has been a tradition since 2009 to calculate my own net worth once a month (and not more often than that, unless I worry about money. So yes, more often than that. But not that often.)

I count all financial assets, except the value of my apartment as I need to live somewhere. I also do not count assets in pension systems that I have no access to or control over. I deduct all debt (although I have not had debt since 2010 when, even if it may not be the best thing to do tax-wise, I paid off the mortgage and the remaining student loans.

I divide the total amount of assets with an number that is my annual budget. It is the amount of money I can live on long term without making major changes to my lifestyle (because I have lived within this annual budget for many years no). There are months when I do not keep the monthly budget but that evens out over the year.

The number I get from the division is the number of years I can live on my assets (here I am hoping that the price increases will be covered by the increases in value on my assets). I also still have income, although I only work 80% since 2013.

This month I have a financial independence number of 32,47. This means that I can live for 32 and a half year on my assets with my current budget. It is no a glamorous lifestyle, it does not include many restaurant visits, no car, no luxury, no indulgence and I cut my own hair. But it is a lifestyle with books, studies, low-cost travels, camping and intellectual curiosity. I legally retire in 17 years so it should cover it.

I have spent the last six - fifteen - twenty-five, NO, SCRAP THAT - I have saved ALL MY LIFE, and very diligently the past six years to get to where I am today. I am grateful for my young me.


"Everything here costs three times more than it did a year ago. It is incredible how costly everything has become; what used to be 30 francs is 100 now, and everything is sky-high. I do not demand anything from the King or my son, let alone from Monsieur Law; but I do like to be paid exactly, so that my servants do not suffer want So far, I am happy to say, I do not owe anything to any merchants or anyone, and it would upset and grieve me very much if I had to go into debt.

That reminds me of something that once made me laugh quite heartily. When the late King was still alive and the Duchesse du Maine was spending such horrendous sums on lavish parties, theatre performances, ballets, fireworks, and so forth, she and her husband sent for the superintendent of my household because they were jealous that I was keeping up my rank and asked my superintendent, "Tell us, how does Madame manage not to make any debts? After all she is not rich." My superintendent coolly replied, "Madame is never extravagant; she only spends what she can afford, and in this manner she does not owe anything and does not have to borrow." To this they had no reply, and they dismissed him."

14 September 1720
Saint Claude, France

From Duchess de Orléans to Raugräfin Luise

(Letters of Liselotte vand der Pfalz, Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchess d'Orléans. 1652-1722. Translated and edited (splendidly) by Elborg Forster.)

Remember that:
"Madame is never extravagant."