Saturday, 29 July 2017

Eye on savings

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 24 July 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Alt + Shift

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

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

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

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 July 2017


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

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

Friday, 7 July 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

The perfect fabric for a quick and easy test project.

I drew and outlined the pattern I had made.

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

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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note to self: And keep it off.

Monday, 3 July 2017


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

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

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

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

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

That bottle just ran out.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 July 2017

(FI36,11) EDIT:FI34,98

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

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

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

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

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

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