Saturday, 27 January 2018

Food - January 2018

My monthly task for January 2018 was Food:
"Go through all leftovers and remains in cupboards, storage, freezer, and fridge. Use everything dated by the previous year, look especially at spices."

Eating all food that is already paid for and brought into the house,  is one of the most efficient ways to reduce food expenses.  
It also reduces food waste, lowers the environmental impact and creates attention to consumption of food - including all sorts of issues with a persons relationship to food.
We normally eat out all cabinets before we turn everything off and leave for summer vacation. This year we instead ate our food souvenirs for the winter holidays. With a little bit of planning, we went into January with almost empty food storages (except breakfast oatmeal flakes that was bulked for the coming year last summer. The only thing left in the freezer were herbs harvested from the balcony during the summer (mint, parsley and saliva) and home-baked bread (using up all opened flour packages). The only thing left in the fridge were pickled herring, soy sauce, bottled lemon and sirop to mix lemonade. 

The clear out started with a quick go through of all food storage, while making a quick list of things we ought to eat. This included all fresh food and vegetables, everything frozen and everything of unknown age, all opened packages, as well as anything with lower storage time than unlimited. 
That gave us a list with opened cans of different curry pastes, picked cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, chillies, mustards as well as different vegetables. Spices were gone through and anything with very little left, was added to the list.

Combining them for a new dish or adding at least one of them to lunches and dinners became a sport. 
Anybody who could use up something got to strike it off the list and was handsomely complimented.

We also decided to make our own ice-cream with the (in the last year unused) electrical ice-cream machine. The man is an ice-cream fan, especially with chocolate and whipped cream. I don't really like either. He likes the idea of making his own and I encourage that. All ice-cream eaten in the latest years has been bought. 
Finally making home made ice-cream for our new years guest the result was delicious but a) it's not worth the work b) it's not worth the money c) it's not worth the calories and d) the xffing thing doesn't even work properly! Even the man has finally declared the ice-cream machine useless and it (will any day soon) be moved to the bag where we collect electric and electrical waste before it will be taken to the city collection point.

The total amount of space cleared up in the kitchen after this clear out is astonishing.We really do not need to build more cabinet space!
We used the after-holiday sales to stock up with storage food in bulk and bought: rice (four different types), pasta (three types), beans (three different kinds in cans), lentils (two types), couscous, bulgur (two types) and polenta (only fine grain). This ,with the Japanese and Asian styled food and condiments, sets us up with the resources to quickly and easily cook from scratch.

Such as pancakes with cheese for breakfast today.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018


"   Brightly coloured Japanese prints began to arrive in European ports in the 1850s - Monet bought his first at Le Havre in 1856, and by the 1860s La Porte chinoise and L'Empire chinoise in Paris were two of the leading shops selling oriental wares of all kinds. Both were frequented by Baudelaire, the Goncourts, Zola, Bracquemond, Tossot, Whistles and Manet. At this point it was contemporary prints that were available prints that were available: works by such as Utamaro, Hiroshige and Hokusai were not generally imported until the mid-1870s.
  Japanese influence existed on two levels. On the more superficial plane it provided a background to life and props for paintings. Whistler collected blue and white china and painted his mistress in a kimono; there is a Japanese painting in Degas' portrait of Tissot, and two Japanese prints are featured in Manet's portrait of Zola."

                     The Thames and Hudson Encycopaedia of Impressionism by Bernard Denvir [1990],
                                                                                                                        page 120-121.

Utamaro (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Hiroshige, ukiyo-e print of the bridge in Shimomeguro, Meguro

Hokusai (British Museum)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018


Last week I bought kombo for the first time in years. Now I am making dashi, both simple kombodashi and bonitodashi, the most basic bouillon for Japanese cooking.
Kombodashi is water with a piece of kombo seewead. Bonitodashi is water with kombo and flakes of a dried fish called bonito. The combinations, the variations and amounts are numerous. No salt.

I have combined dried seaweed with different amounts of fish flakes in differently tempered water and with varying length. The kitchen and the fridge are filled with pots.
Some of them have a weak sense of the sea, others strongly fishy, some a mild combination and neither is disgusting. If we had had a cat, it would have loved me.

I will used the different concoctions for different purposes to see if I can understand the flavours and reactions it creates in the food.

I already cooked sushi rice with bonitodashi and it was marvellous. The best I have ever made.
Possibly even the best I have even eaten.
The fish, the wasabi, the gari, even the soy sauce - completely superfluously. I could eat with my hands out of the bowl standing in the kitchen and be eternally happy.
This was a rice to remember.

I also have cooked a sort of Japanese bouillabaise or hot-pot called Chiri nabe. I used one of the weaker kombodachis and I added a lot of vegetables for more flavour. It looked fine when served. Then I had to add salt. And soy sauce. Then sesame oil. And then we just closed our eyes and ate it with a sandwich with cheese afterwards. Not good at all. A meal to remember.
I will try it again with different dashi, different fish, different vegetables and definitely a different day (with a big dessert prepared).

So far a bonitodashi (brewed, cooked and stewed with the Viking secret recipie) is the favourite.

Monday, 22 January 2018


I have a lovely compact mirror. Besides my hand held mirror from Hungary, it is one of my favourite items. (Sorry about the potato picture.)

It was bought in Japan in 1997 or so and given to me by the people who started me on Japanese food all that time ago.

It has a regular mirror on one side of the inside and a magnifying mirror on the other.
The case is metal with a carved scene of a Japanese woman in traditional costume in a Zen garden.

One of the mirrors came loose and I glued it back in again. That worked fine. Unfortunately it seems the glue ate a little of the silver-oxide (or what ever mirrors are layered with these days) so there is a permanent spot in the magnifying mirror.
Note to self when gluing mirrors - only use as much glue as necessary (and if possible make pretty pattern just in case it goes through) or use tape.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Asian flavours

Working to eat out the cupboards following the aim for January 2018, new food is needed and new storages are being bought.
With an eye on the opportunity to change, I proposed that we left our tomato, mushroom, onion, cheese food and moved our flavours into Asian and primarily Japanese food.

We went to tree different Asian food stores and I bought:
Udon, Somen and egg noodles
Kombo and bonito flakes
Dashi powder (the two ingredients above make dashi but I wanted to try the quick version)
Mirin, sake, sesame oil, Japanese soy (the low salt version of the only brand possible)
Rice vinegar and hosin sauce
Tofu (firm and silk) and Tempeh
Wakame and nori sheets
Rice paper for spring rolls (loempia)
White sesame seeds to roast. grind or sprinkle
I did not buy yuzu because it was a bit expensive so I will continue using regular lemon/lime juice.
I did however buy flavoured dried fish in strips because it is so tasty. Better than potato chips.

I have been experimenting and cooking Japanese (i.e. attempting to cook...) since the mid 1990s. It has taken a very long time to understand the cooking methods and ingredients. I neither read nor speak any Japanese (beyond the words Anjin-san taught me in the TV-series Shogun in the 1980s.)

My main focus is sushi and I have always especially been fascinated with the cooking of rice.
I cook sushi rice at least monthly and very often for guests (it is cheap, impressive and almost fail safe). I have all the special tools that I need (and most of them are not special but they are identified as the sushi cooking tools.

I now want to improve on my Japanese cooking and I want to experiment with flavours.
The first thing I will do is my own dashi.
What should I think of when cooking Japanese and especially dashi?

Friday, 19 January 2018


I aim to be a good human being; a just, correct, long-term wide-scoped good person.
Not nice. I despise nice. Nice is for sissies. Nice is value based and determined by the situation and feelings. I do not aim for nice. Cows are nice and look where it got them.

I came in contact with a truly good person yesterday and I have a new role model.
A letter came in the post (yes, a letter came in the post).
A letter from a complete stranger informing me that she had been sent my airline tickets to her phone and that she could not find any other information about me than my post address.
(Hooray that all the work I have done to stay off the Internet with my private details has worked.)
She gave me her phone number and it is the same as mine - with two digits swapped.
Guess who the idiot is who swapped the phone number when ordering the ticket?
Oh yes, yours truly.

Instead of cancelling the tickets, taking the money, ordering more, using them or in any other way causing trouble,
and instead of doing nothing, leaving me to suffer perpetual from my own mistakes,
this wonderful person took the time, effort and postage to write me a letter to my postal address (it was on the ticket) informing me of the situation.

I am not sure I would have bothered - but this truly good person did. I really want to be bothered and taking the time to help others.
I have a new hero, a new role model, an entirely new level of ambition for my personal life.

I sent her a text message and thanked her profusely.
She immediately responded with a funny, kind and good message.
Now we are phone number relatives and it is fascinating.

Even more fascinating is that with different phone numbers, in different phone number series, this person lives less than 40 km away from my home in Scandinavia.

Thursday, 18 January 2018


In 1992 I was a night owl together with my next door neighbour.
One night she showed me the new wallet she had just bought. Brown leather with the perfect set-up inside. It was beautiful. The leather was soft. The interior was exactly what I needed.
I wanted it. Badly.
The following day, actually probably same day in the afternoon, we set out to buy me an identical.

The shop had only ever had one and it was the one they had sold her.
I looked at her with puppy eyes but no budge. The wallet was hers. She was keeping it. 

Three months later, she did not use it any longer.
I got it.
I have used it every day since then.

Tonight I spent well over an hour in my hotel room with a sewing needle and regular sewing thread in an almost matching colour, resewing the edging that had come loose.
I looked the brand up on-line for the first time and it is nothing special, nothing exclusive.
Similar but not identical, can still be bought for €10-20.

I don't care. I already have the wallet I want and want no other.
I was going to say that I do not need another but that is not true.

I do have a second wallet. The two wallets have different jobs and content.
The brown leather wallet does not fit all euro-bills so it is only used for Scandi-money and cards.
When commuting between the countries, I switch wallets at the border.
In the Euro-zone, I use a slightly larger brown leather wallet covered in its original but very worn goat hairs. I bought it on a flea market for €2 five years ago. I commonly refer to it as the goat.
The goat keeps my Euro safe.

Monday, 15 January 2018


"                                       November 16 [1981]: Port of Spain, Trinidad

I have been monitoring my health pretty carefully and am concerned about my weight - I'm up around 200 pounds, about 35 heavier than when we got here. Dana, too, has put on weight and is nearly bursting the seams of his jeans. We'll have to cut down on the starches and sugars we've become accustomed to, and still crave.
Dana's sores and wounds are pretty well healed, though my own continue to give me problems. My two biggest salt sores, though vastly reduced in size, are still oozing fluid and, sometimes, pus. In my years of research for the trip, I read about tropical infections, and am determined to have any sores healed by the time we go into the jungle, where the heat, humidity, and foreign germs can turn a mere scratch into a major medial problem. We'll have to doctor all our bites and wounds no matter how small. Malaria and dysentery are other problems that have stopped many more experienced jungle travellers than ourselves. I have pretty good resistance to disease, but that's probably what they all say - I can see it on my tombstone: "He had pretty good resistance to disease."     "

Don Starkell and Charles Wilkins Paddle to the Amazon
(p 231 in my 1989, Prima Publishing, edition)

Sunday, 14 January 2018


In my apartment I have Venetian blinds - or rather, I have one because the apartment is so small there is only one window. (The man's apartment have only curtains and pull down blinds.)
The window is rather modern and the blind is of the same age.
However, I still managed to break off the holder for the stick last year.

Today, when I dug through a box of stuff to try and sort it out (to make the box fit into another shelf), I came across all spare parts for blinds that I kept from when I repaired all blinds in my old house before selling it (nothing adds value to a property cheaper and quicker than functioning and clean window blinds).

I wiped off the window frame, and noticed that what was needed was a stick holder, a string holder (the winding part) and a new plastic end to the string. In the box with spare parts I found a brand new stick holder and  the broken stick holder, a sting holder and five new plastic ends.
Carefully detatching the stick holder, I carefully nailed on the new one, possibly two minutes job. Unscrewing the sting holder, the identical new one was in place within thirty seconds. Then all knots on the string were slowly untied (one of my secret talents is to untie difficult knots), the old end slid out, the new slid on (in the right direction on the first try) and the place for the new knot was estimated, this took possibly up to ten minutes. The strings are not very clean and slightly frayed right where the string gets wound onto the windy sting when the blind is pulled up. Ideally the strings could be changed and also the stick could be exchanged. (I have everything needed for this job in the repair box but it will not happen now.)

I decided to make the string knot so hiding the frayed part and shortening the string slightly instead. Tying hard, cutting the ends evenly and sealing the ends with the fire of a lighter, not burning my fingers when flattening the melting ends, the plastic end was pulled down hard to cover the knot and the end. This took up to five minutes.

Then I repacked the left overs of each item in its different little plastic bag, folded up and stapled shut, repacking the box with repair items, another minutes or two It finally fitted into the shelf and disappeared from sight.
I patted myself on the shoulder for the twenty minute job well done.
Then I promptly forgot about it.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Work part 237

Dear Diary,
Today when I walked into the office, full of pro-active ideas to solve the latest administrative crisis and malfunction, I immediately got into a bad argument with my manager. I walked out of the discussion within a minute with words that this did not go well and we'll talk about it later-something.
Sitting down starting my computer, I wondered why I was there on my day off (!) to work for the clients when the company who get the money, do not treat me better.
Calmly but tear-y, I packed up my papers. I was asked in the door to stay and talk about it but left. The manager called and texted. I called back later and we talked. He apologised for his words and he is forgiven.
The reason for the argument is his frustration which is the same reason as my frustration.
The eminent need for administrative changes.

I can suggest solutions but I am not in a position to implement them, nor am I in a position where that sort of process management is in any way a part of my job description.
I am a specialist, highly qualified, autonomous and irreplaceable within current budget and operations. The problem is administrative, low-level, generic and replaceable. It is caused by the new owners of the owners of the company I am employed by.
Their work is impeding my job and I end up not only doing their job, but also verifying, and re-verifying that the result is correct. I resent it but their company culture is without personal responsibility and lacking result ambitions so that is moot.

My Financial Independence assets that with the current low frugal budget will last me over 35 years, and a pension (equally frugal) that will start paying out in 15 years, is by each week becoming much more important.
Changing jobs is difficult as I also need to change countries - but then, hey, changing countries isn't the problem. I've done that before, several times even.

So why do I not just jump the ship and jump the border?
Am I again staying too long in a bad relationship?
Let's talk about this again tomorrow, dear diary, after I have talked to all my friends and family.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Free things

After several days on the road and long days on site and many many days with fourteen hour workdays, I come home and empty my bags before next tour next week.

From among the safety gear and the dirty socks, falls packages of instant coffee, tea bags and sugar cubes, mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion, pens, wrapped biscuits, hard candies in paper and even mint chocolates, magazines, hankies and toothpicks. Travelling in rich countries is to wade through free stuff, gifts and availables. I take it all, say please and thank you and could I have another one if you wouldn't mind. Is there also one for my friend?

I take what they will give me and I will save on tooth picks, hankies, magazines, mint chocolates, biscuits, pens, sugar, tea and coffee as well as any an all things left over from what I have bought in the cheapest supermarket to eat on the road to avoid airport cafes and the train dining car. I will happily snack on a sugar cube if I can wait for my dinner until the cost drops.

I have no shame - except for stealing. Like Meatloaf, I will not do that. 

Monday, 8 January 2018


The monthly tasks for 2018 will be the following:

January: Food
Go through all leftovers and remains in cupboards, storage, freezer, and fridge. Use everything dated by the previous year, look especially at spices.
February: Jewellery and valuables
I also do my annual financial net worth calculation, estimating my annual budget and determining if it needs to be increased in February in preparation for the annual tax declaration.
March: Clothes.
Go through all clothes in the wardrobe, try everything on, hang back if it fits. Pack all clothes that doesn’t fit in a “your time will come” box. Inventory everything left in the wardrobe. Hopefully something will be left - but then if not, I had nothing to wear anyway. I will keep a list of all clothes I buy this year.
April: Camping, sports, summer equipment
Most of us are outside more in the summer time than in winter and spring. Now is the time to go through everything. Air your sleeping bags, all of them. If you don’t want to air it – do you really want that sleeping bag?
May: Kitchen
Clean every cupboard in your kitchen. That means empty every shelf in every cupboard. Only put back into the cupboard what you have used during the year, that works, is clean (cleaned) and of good quality. Put all questionable items, nicked porcelain, more than twenty plastic containers to store food in and anything else you don’t understand in your “on the way out” box.
June: Winter clothes and bedding
Clean, wax, impregnate, air and hang back into the wardrobes all cold weather or winter clothing. Air all bedding, blankets, mattresses, covers, etc.
July: Bags
Find all bags in the house, include suitcases, rug sacks, reusable shopping bags and all handbags. Don’t forget your exclusive new year’s clutch and your grand mothers handbag.
Clean each one of them. Open all compartments, empty the content and brush the lining of each pocket. How many bags do you have? Note the number.
August: Electronics
Find all things in your house that needs electricity to operate (easily recognised as it has a cable or needs batteries).
Clean your hard drive. Do a back-up of all the content to USB, dics or cloud storage. Download all photos from your phone. Print special photos. At least send the most important documents in an email to yourself.
September: Shoes
Weather is forever changing and most should get to used in a year. All shoes should fit comfortably, heeled, cleaned, sorted and have functioning shoelaces.
October: Underwear and sleep wear
All underwear, including socks, lingerie and night wear. Count it, assess each one for wearability. Put the worst ones on top after each laundry and try to wear them first, to wear them out. If you keep them for "laundry days" you will end up with only bad underwear.
November: Books
It is time for sofa and tea, to go through the book-shelf, appreciate each book you keep (re-reading it is the ultimate test although slow) or use it for references. All other books - the advice is to sell or donate which I know I will not be able to keep. I will also not be able to hold a goal of not buying any more books, or even one-in one out. But I will at least count all my books and I will keep a list of all books bought and brought in this year.
December: Presents and decorations
What are you giving away as a present? Sort holiday decorations for all seasons, Xmas, Easter, Fall, Midsummer, birthday, new year.
Buy what you need for Christmas in December at the sales in January this year - that is now! Go buy Christmas decorations. Not tempted? I don't blame you, packing it up is a pain. 

I will also work on a longer Fucket-list for 2018 - including all the things I will not do this year.
(Thanks Klahanie commenting on She who seeks for the idea!)

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Washing up liquid 2018

As predicted, January brought sales on cleaning material.
Our laundry detergent is never on sale though as it is a store brand (and we are not changing to avoid all risk if contact allergies).
But washing up liquid was 2 for 1 and we bought two.
We have no dishwasher and do all dishes by hand. Two bottles will last us a year.

 The budget on washing up liquid for 2018 is spent and closed.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

John Knightly

"The whole party were but just reassembled in the drawing-room [after dinner], when Mr Weston made his appearance among them. He had returned to a late dinner, and walked to Hatfield as soon as it was over. He had been too much expected by the best judges, for surprize - but there was great joy. Mr Woodhouse was almost as glad to see him now, as he would have been sorry to see him before.

John Knightly only was in mute astonishment. - That a man who might have spent his evening quietly at home after a day of business in London, should set off again, and walk half-a-mile to another man's house, for the sake of being in mixed company till bed-time, of finishing his day in the efforts of civility and the noise of numbers, was a circumstance to strike him deeply. A man who had been in motion since eight o'clock in the morning, and might now have been still, who had been long talking; and might have been silent, who had been in more than one crowd, and might have been alone! -
Such a man, to quit the tranquillity and independence of his own fire-side, and on the evening of a cold and sleety April day rush out again into the cold! -

Could he by the touch of his finger have instantly taken back his wife, there would have been a motive, but his coming would probably prolong rather than break up the party. John Knightly looked at him with amazement, then shrugged his shoulders, and said, 'I could not have believed it even of him.' "

In chapter thirty-five of Emma by Jane Austen (first published 1815).

Friday, 5 January 2018


In the planning leading up to project Closet, all saws in the house were tested and found lacking.

None of them cut finely or straight enough to cut the laminate floor boards we wanted to use up and put into the walk in closet. The plan was to rent a proper, professional saw for a day to do the job.

Then the man thought again. Could it possibly be that the electrical stick-saw was useless because the blade was bad? Or was the blade possibly not attached appropriately? Or could it be the wrong blade for the job? I said.
The saw was brought up from the basement again, inspected, blade taken out, put back in, found wobbly and dull but when tested again - cut perfectly.
Great relief.

Together and joining our heads through communication, we again proved that we are better together than apart. (Any sociologist attached to Durkheim could have told us that.)
Very proud of ourselves we cycled away to buy a new blade and under floor foam for isolation (heat, damp and noise) while thinking of all the things we could cut now when we have a functioning saw.
Floor boards not only for the cupboard, but also for the bedroom and the office (potential upcoming projects), the curtain rod, table legs, balcony bench - endless options.

Knowing what we have, that it works and how it works was well spent ten minutes of actually digging the thing out and checking it out again.
This time we got lucky - one saw was better than we thought.
Most of the time stuff ends up being worse (but then at least we don't have to pay rent for it).
That also means that all the other saws are on their way out.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Project Closet

We are working in the closet because we need space in the basement.

With three bicycles and hope of a fourth, the storage space in the basement needs to be reorganised.
A lot has already happened in the last years with the storage shelves actually used to store things in and at least two large boxes either emptied and trashed or emptied and filled with something else and placed on a shelf.

There were however four large boxes with left-over flooring in the basement. It has been there since three weeks after the man moved into this apartment over ten years ago and it was about to be thrown out.
Then somebody said - but don't we actually need new flooring in the walk-in closet?
The carpet in there is nasty and loose from the floor, with stains from cat puke and don't ask me what else, the walls have grey seventies wallpaper and a yellowing ceiling. It all got very obvious after the man put a new, proper ceiling light in there to ensure electrical safety. 

So Project Closet was born about two years ago.
There has been slow progression since then.
Emphasis on slow but never the less, steady progression although mostly mentally.

Was there enough flooring in the basement to cover the closet floor? After measuring, reading labels, calculating and at least two trips to the basement over a period of a few months the answer came back, yes, there was X m2 in the basement and the closet needed >X m2. We made a note an put it on the notice board close to a year ago. When the balcony furniture was to be put in the basement storage after the 2017 summer, we took the packages out of the basement to give us some more space, and we put the packages with floor boards in the hallway to act as a constant reminder to move the project along.

Did we have paint to paint ceiling and walls? Another few trips to the basement and digging into the remnants of project painting the kitchen it was clear that we did not. Reading paint information, looking for prices, calculating the ability to cycle out to the cheapest place to get the best and cheapest paint, and eventually a deal came up and off we went. We bought enough white wall paint to cover the two-three next projects too. It has been standing in the hallway the last two months, acting as a shoe rack and a constant reminder to move the project along.

Do we have the tools needed? One night after dinner with a glass of wine, this question surfaced again and instead of intellectualising the issue, we got up off our planning bums and gathered all remaining painting tools and equipment in a corner of the kitchen. Brushes, rollers, handlers, tape, plastic to cover, buckets, stirrers and a bunch of what-not's. It was all there, nothing was needed and now everything was in plain sight, ready to be used at no notice. It also acted as a reminder to move the project along.

Do we have a saw that can cut the floor boards? After a dig through all tools and stuff that should not have contained tools but did, a number of different saws (both electrical and hand powered) were collected for testing. Eventually a left over piece of floor board was added to the pile of saws and yet some weeks later, the test was carried out. Result: No saw that we own cuts finely, straight or strongly enough to cut floor boards. None of our neighbours would have anything suitable that we could borrow. A proper saw will have to be rented and a renting company for what will be the right kind of saw is to be found and also with a plan for how to transport it home and back and this is still in progress. First the room has to be painted in its entirety.

Do we have time to start it? Obviously the work has to be done while not working full time, or travelling or stressing over anything else for a few days or weeks. The man has been in large projects all fall which kept being extended and expanded. While the money was rolling in, only the mental preparatory work was being done. No date was set for when the actual work was to be done but the planning became more and more detailed.

What do we do with everything in the closet while working in there? Now this is not really my problem since I only have coats, dresses, shoes, tent and a big bag with curtains in there. The man has everything he owns in there, including most of his clothes. We do however have a foldable airing rack for hanging clothes stuck away in a corner that I've had for years and kept (and moved two countries over) just in case I didn't get enough closet space when I moved in here. It was brought out, opened, tested and placed in a corner of the living room in the beginning of December to be ready for when the man got time and inspiration to actually start working in the closet and needed to empty it.

It happened yesterday.
Now the living room is filled with hanging clothes, boxes of camping gear and clothes and stuff everywhere. The old carpet is outside in a bag waiting to be picked up by the city large waste collection and the man is happily whistling while working in the closet.
I supply the feminine touch with cheerful cheering on.
It is the closet for his stuff after all.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Will & Feeling

"Will and feeling are like Janus, two-faced. Sometimes emotion is in the ascendant, at others, will or desire preponderates. Consequently some objectives influence the will more than the feeling and others enhance the emotions at the expense of the desire in one way or another, directly or indirectly, 
the objective is a magnificent stimulus and one which we are eager to use."

Tortsov in the chapter Inner Motive Forces, of
Contstantin Stanislavski An actor prepares (first published in Britain in 1936).

My copy is translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood and published by Bloomsbury.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

CD 2018

I gave away and sold most of my CDs in 2013 when I cleared-out and sold my house.

I copied most of the content but not all onto a hard-drive.

I only kept the irreplaceable or emotional music on physical discs.

At the time, it was an easy task to go through. The process had very little emotional strain as most of the CDs had then be in storage for more than five years and very few had been missed. Even fewer were kept after two unemotional go-throughs with a week of rest in between - as well as two visits to "buying CD's" shops.

Today I counted 30 physical CDs. When I looked through them, three turned out to be language CDs and could be moved to the language book shelf with its accompanying study books and one, well one was a bit of a surprise.

I own Tom Lehrer, no surprise for anybody who have heard me sing at parties.
I own Herbert Grönemeyer, Krash (Krash-macher) and several bands from my formative years.
And Manu Chao Próxima Estación: Esperanza.
I also own a double album with live recordings from Woodstock.
I have kept CDs from several amateur musical theatre productions I have attended.
I kept, and I am so happy I did, Michelle Shocked Short Sharp Shocked as it is (almost) unobtainable now - even if I can play the album almost in its entirety in my head any day of the week.

It also turned out that I owned not one but two of Robbie Williams swing-blues record Swing when you're winning. I mean I do love it, but twice, why would I have bought it twice?
Isn't there something extra stupid about owning doubles? Possessions moves in mysterious ways. I placed one copy resolutely in the box for "on the way out, possibly as presents".

After looking through them all, I own 26 CDs with music, comedy and theatre.

My aim is to listen through all CDs all this year.

I also aim to ensure that the music hard-drive is still operational and accessible. I have not listened to any of this music in at least three years but I do not want to loose it all just because I am inattentive and careless. With access to digital music being limited (and to ensure artists rights, rightly so), I may have to depend on my own bought, saved and safely stored music in the future.

Remind me if I don't report back on this aim within the year.
How many CDs do you have? Have you counted them recently? 
And albums? And cassettes?

Monday, 1 January 2018


I count the value of my assets on the first day of every months. This month my salary was decreased due to sick-leave and then the markets dropped hard on the last day. The value of 35,81 is either the beginning of a disaster (in relative terms) or a bump in the road. It may not mean very much because it is just a number but it is the number I track.

I call the number my Financial Independence number and is the result of dividing my total net worth with my annual budget. It means that the value of my current assets will last me during almost 36 years without further income with the hope that any cost increases (requiring budget increases) is met with interests and divided from the assets. The value of the assets does not include the cost or the value of my tiny apartment (as I will always have to live somewhere), nor pension rights that I can not access yet.

These assets does not cumulate without the effort but it is not based on any enormous amounts of income, but rather the level of frugality for my lifestyle. For New Years we had dinner at home with a friend who doesn't celebrate it and then went over to some other friends with a strategically placed balcony (and an even more frugal lifestyle than ours), watched fireworks, played games and drank for mid-night a bottle of sweet white wine somebody gave us years ago as a birthday present while eating home made fruit salad at midnight. This is a five year tradition but the tradition is also that the weather is dreadful and the fireworks are difficult to see.

During the winter and calendar year change festivities, we eat all the food souvenirs from the year. This year it included cans of tripe, duck, pickled herring and liver sausage (yes, pickled liver) and a small frozen chicken. Not really food for vegetarians but hey, even vegetarians can eat meat on occasions (or not, entirely up to the individual vegetarians). All served with enormous portions of vegetables. Nothing especially expensive or exclusive, but fun and amusing to eat and makes great stories.

During the month I have cut my own hair and mended or took in several pieces of clothing. I made two extra holes on a belt myself and can continue to use it. No money was spent on additional clothing, hygiene articles or hair products. We have started to share the same brand of skin cream, lens fluids and toothpaste (supermarket brand) which reduces the total amount paid even if it now comes out of the shared household accounts instead of the personal spending. (Deodorant, soap etc are still personal due to individual requirements, except shampoo and conditioner that I will always have to pay myself as I am the only user of such things - and owner of head hair.)

I also sewed up my leather slippers for the forth time and a pair of soles in them to keep warm during the cold floor months. It looks a bit funny but I am becoming rather good at it by now.

Slivers of soap
All small leftover scraps of soap have been collected in a jar during the last two years and now I ground them all up with just a bit of water, let them rest over night and shaped three new bars.
After drying out in the open for three weeks, they are just perfect.
I have a similar collection for left over candle paraffin that will become new candles in the future. Every little scrap goes into a bag to be melted down, no wax is ever thrown out.

We have not had dinner out this month (last month was two, each less than €30 for two; one worth it in hindsight, the other not and a lesson learned). We fill our water bottles every time we leave the house and we each have one or two cheap muslei-bars from cheap multi-packs in pockets and bags for situations of hunger or peckishness on the way. It is a simple way to reduce the need or want for unplanned spending.

In December I also did no spend any money topping up my cash card for my mobile phone or spend any money on my bicycle. The front light got damaged when parked in town and it could not be fixed although I tried, but I had a replacement that I can use until that too breaks and get something better when all bike-lights in storage are used up. Of course I did the work myself, and cleaned and oiled the chain.

I own no car (but I stare at a lot of them on the streets) so I use my bicycle to go everywhere. For longer distances we have an excellent public transport system and for even longer trips we use the international coach companies more and more. It might take time but time is free and the view is included. I did not have to pay money onto my travel card for local transports this month as some planned trips where cancelled. Next month; this year; money will have to be added though.

We do daily muscular exercises with a free app and train using loose weights either one of us has owned for more than twenty years. There will be no need for gym memberships this year either. We have a long way to go before we have exhausted all existing resources for physical exercises.
For mental training I dug out a book with cassettes (!) and a walkman (!!) needing only two new batteries. The cassettes came from a flea market sometime early 1990's and include exercises on breathing, relaxing, mental focus, problem solving, strategy building etc. After at least three months of daily listening to each exercise over and over again and only moving on when I get it, I still have four exercises left. They should last me another good month or two. Using already existing resources adding time to the problems rather than more stuff, is a cheap way to move forward, away from issues that currently are seen as problems. (Our guest last night told us she wanted to start running and had bought new trousers and a book on running. She had not been out running yet though.

We continue to declutter our house by the simple means of not buying anything and breaking stuff. I handle the last part, the man the first. The last month I managed a flower pot, a vase, a tea saucer and almost the non-stick pan we use daily for morning porridge. (I forgot the pan on the stove and the porridge burnt stuck to the non-stick.) With limited and careful cleaning, a long and intensive soaking in vegetable oil and scraping using archaeology methods, the burns could be lifted and the non-stick surface rescued. It will however never be as non-sticky as it used to be, and those careless minutes surely reduced the lifespan of the pan with years. I do not recommend de-cluttering by destroying the most useful items, but admit it is efficient!

I have for a long time needed a weekend-bag replacement (the airlines have over the years been very helpful in snagging and ripping my beloved Gabol bag bought in Madrid ten years ago). The  Christmas gift card from work was quickly used to order a new (but brandless) bag that will be delivered next year. I have to admit that my job not only pays a salary, pension, insurance and furthering specialisation while keeping me busy and keeping me from spending money - they do also cover costs for things I would otherwise have to pay for myself out of savings. Not only this bag, but also printer toner and paper, notebooks, some electronics, and lots of the coffee drunk. I probably should make a note of these costs covered when budgeting for a life without work - but not now.

Before the end of the year, I paid as much of fixed living costs as I could (insurances, housing fees and rent primarily). It makes only a very small difference but it does lower the taxes to be paid next year somewhat.

2017 ended with a decreased FI-number but for the year in its entirety, the total FI-number went from 32,3 to 35,81. From living without income from 32 to 35 years. As my target for savings was to save at least one annual budget per year, I really truly am very grateful and lucky.
I also want to thank my past self for all coffee not bought, all decorative items not needed, all happiness not bought but instead found for free in views, thoughts and daily adventures.