Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Jewellery 2018

A few years back, I gathered all jewellery in my jewellery box. (I kept on gathering until I didn't unexpectedly found any more anywhere.) The box is made by my father, has a simple lock and I painted it white some thirty-five years ago. It is just a box, not really intended for jewellery, but I have squeezed a tray from another box into it to make two levels and to hold everything. The box is almost full.
All of it is dress jewellery and very non-precious stones and materials. What now doesn't fit, will now not be kept. The items with value are kept in a fire-proof safety box.
The monthly task for February was to go through it all and wear as much of it as possible to make sure that I still like or care for everything I hold.

In the box are - all costume jewellery and without monetary value:
Two watches.
Three long necklaces.
Four brooches.
An old soap box with frivolity ear rings, mostly eighties style (including gigantic rhinestone earrings for my diva days, gigantic black rings for playing Sandy in Grease, gigantic flies in soft plastic for Midsummer parties).
Box of pendants; memorable and rarely worn but put on cheap chains to spruce up boring suits.
Six pairs of normal earrings.
Six different sorts of short necklaces and three thin chains with small pendants.
Five bracelets.

Wearing jewellery in February every year brightens up the dark month in northern Europe and keeps me from needing any more.
I have worn everything this last month.
Except the brooches.
There is just something about brooches that is not my thing right now. On the hat, on a scarf, on a collar, on a shoulder - it is always is in the way and snags everything. There was no day in the entire month when I felt comfortable wearing any of my mother's brooches or the brooch a boy gave me when I was six. (It is a spider so I am keeping it.) If anybody has any advice on brooch wearing, I'll be happy to hear it!

I also have a fire-safety box with items of any value (monetary or mental, not just jewellery). I have worn the gold (plated) watch although it does not work, my grand-mother's old silver bracelet, my mother's gold-pearl necklace and the gold necklace one of my first boyfriends gave me. Most of the rest jewellery is scraps and crammed up to be sold one day of need.

The reason I wear my decorative items regularly is to stop me from looking at or buy or make any more. I even went to the diamond polishing factory the other day without being even slightly interesting in any jewellery. (The machinery on the other hand - marvellous!)

The only thing not in the boxes is the ring and the watch I wear everyday. The watch shows date and day and time and the ring has no meaning except that the man has an identical one.

I have no wishes or needs for any more jewellery.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Home life 2018

The only thing that fascinates me more than change, is diversity.
I have limited patience with fiction, as it rarely - ever? - surpasses reality.
Other people’s lives are endlessly interesting and here is ours.

We are a couple who live together. So we cook together, do dishes together and clean together.
Mostly at the same time (but we are unusual so do not take that as an example) but definitely for each other.
We are also two adults. Nobody is in charge of anything. Anybody can ask the other for anything.

We have no rules, but we have routines. If one cooks dinner, the other does dishes. I vacuum more often because I have hair. The man cleans the toilet more often because he cares (more than I do, I am rather gross-resistant). If you do laundry, you hang and the other will fold, eventually. Each puts clothes back in own wardrobe and irons own clothes, if needed. We have his and hers tool box and both fix things (we are annoyed about different problems). I dust, clear cups, throw papers, fold blankets more often than the man because he cares not. He waters the plants. If he leaves clothes on the floor, I walk on it (not on purpose but I am not sidestepping). Anything needed is written on the shopping list and is bought by the next person going to the shops.

He cooks better than I do, but has less inspiration. I can feed twenty hungry twenty year old's from an empty kitchen (having been trained at cooking at the student club at uni) in twenty minutes. Often I make the meal plan, cut and chop and while the man cooks and spices, continuous to do dishes, set table and fill water bottles until food is served. (We cook all our food at home from scratch every day.) This is if I am at home.

We have a varied work life. We go from not working, to working from home, to working in a local office, commuting an hour each way to working abroad weeks at the time. Changes are constant. Routines doesn’t change much though but whoever is at home, will do more than the one who travels. And usually has the place clean and the dinner ready when the other comes home. If not, no problem. Both are excused for anything and both adults fully capable to take care of the other.

If I came home to a list of chores on the fridge door with tasks to perform and check off, I would emigrate. Again.
Especially if there had been no gentle reminding, prodding, nagging and outright arguing over the issue before. Preferably a mature conversation.

I do in the house what I see need to be done and I prioritise having it done before a lot of other things.
Having a clean kitchen in the morning is something I value. So I do dishes and clean the table tops in the evening.
Some evenings I don’t.
Some evenings I don’t have to because I live with someone who also likes to make morning coffee in a clean kitchen. So he does it too.

When the man is away, I eat potato chips for dinner. Out of the bag.
The man pretends he doesn’t know.
When I am away, the man does all his dishes while I travel from the airport. Or that is what I think.
Both behave better together than apart.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Fridge

When I said that decluttering was easy- just don't buy anything and keep breaking stuff - I didn't mean the fridge!!

A few months ago we started being annoyed that the fridge door didn't close properly. It was diagnosed as one of us could not close the door properly. The identity varied.

We started kicking the door shut, slamming it, tapping it twice to be obvious.
"At least I can close the frigg... the fridging door".

A few weeks ago we figured out that there were a problem with the hinge on the door.
The bottom one was weak so the door sagged and could not close properly.

The door was from then on closed by lifting it carefully and then closing it.
It worked fine.
No problem at all.
Maybe we wouldn't need to buy a new fridge.

But maybe we did.
Weeks went by and we did nothing about it.
It worked fine, no problems. The fridge wasn't even very old. Only eleven - oh really, you bought it then?, so - twenty three years old.

Looking more carefully on the hinge, I realised it was not the hinge that was the problem.
It was the bottom of the door that was deteriorating and the hinge had nothing to hold on to.

Maybe we did need a new fridge. Energy efficiency alone said we needed a new fridge.
Looking into the market, we realised that we wanted exactly what we had (size and volume) and that nobody sold anything that small any more. Maybe we only needed a new door? Or even just a spare part. Where there spare parts to our fridge?
Searching further into the depth of the manufacturer of the current fridge (to be exact freezer-fridge) there were spare parts.
I like spare parts.
Diving into the lists, diagrams and identification numbers displayed on three national spare part providers web sites, I enjoyed myself immensely for two hours.
I resurfaced and realised, the piece broken was not offered as a spare part.

Still in pyjama, the tool boxes came out (both his and hers), the battery operated drill was charged up and the fridge door and the hinge came off. Several modifications later, added a quite large spacer disc picked up off the street some time (I like shiny things), the hinge came back on and the door was reattached.
Closed perfectly.

It only took three days for us to stop lifting the door when closing it.
We are still buying a new fridge but with a little bit of handy magic, we are now not in a hurry.
But I doubt the fix will for very last long.
We need to look into freezer-fridges of the smaller kind. My favourite thing to do. (irony)

I added a new fridge-freezer to our wish-list (and try to forget about it hoping the man will do it).

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Cold

At 11 o’clock, I was fine, happy, energetic.
At 1, I felt the first tingle at the back of my throat.
At 3, I was rolled up in blankets shivering.

In the meantime, I had sprung into action. Vitamins supplements, anti flu medication, paracetamol, a bag of potato chips and half a Brie cheese had been eaten quickly and a liter of lemon infused water quickly drunk. Feeding the body is essential to keep the immune system working.
Also a hot shower, three layers of clothes, warm socks, scarf and hat had been arranged to keep the body warm. With teeth brushed, tongue scraped, mouth gurgling fulfilled to reduce continued bacterial growth and to limit contamination, I went into full on fever by early afternoon.
Prepared.

I have had it before. I know what to do. I am prepared and I act quickly at the first sign.
I rarely get sick but when I do, it is intense. Like small children intense but usually short lasting.

Now, about 24 hours later, all that remains is a slight sniffer in the nose and some disorientation.
The heart didn’t like is at all however and is acting up.
The baby illness grew into a toddler temper tantrum.
But I am prepared for that too, and should be back on all cylinders within the next 24 hours or so.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Soles

Inventory.
Know what you have.
Control begins with a list.

And oh man, did I get water on my watermill the other day (meaning I was proven right with something I have been saying a long time).

I needed an inlay sole for one of my running sports shoes the other day. I knew I had saved some from old shoes. However they would all be perfectly good pairs and I only needed about a quarter of a sole. Unnecessary to cut up something that could be used for something better. They also would not be the right kind. I was eyeing the soles I had put in my indoor slippers in December.

The man said he had come across a pair of spare soles in the basement when he was digging through some of his boxes when clearing during Project Closet. Did I want them? Depending what they looked like, sure.
They turned out to be the kind I also already have and don't want. 
However, I opened the package saying "3 pairs" and found one.
Oh no, not one pair.
One sole.
Left.
But still only one.

For years (years and years, more than ten) the man had known that he had spare inlay soles.
Which is good to know. Except he didn't.
He had only one.
The first step of inventory is to know that you have something.

I still needed soles so I promptly cut a quarter out of the inlay soles in my slippers to tape down into my running shoes.
(It worked perfectly and no more protests from the knee.)

I have three inlay soles in my wardrobe, stored together with my extra shoelaces, shoe polish and rags in the same place I keep my shoes.
One is a new pair of leather imitation soles (with a third spare left sole the man graciously donated One pair was previously used in my rain boots (now dead).
Another pair are the brand name insoles originally in my brand name hiking boots from twenty years ago (now dead).
I realise I have drastically changed the amount of shoes from 2016 until today.

(There will be a follow up.)

Monday, 19 February 2018

Mirrors - 3

Beyond my favourite hand held mirror from Hungary in 1989 and the little compact mirror from Japan in the early 1990s, I have few other mirrors.
There might be a mirror on the inside of a powder compact, but since that belongs to make-up packed down into the medical first-aid kit (when else does one need make-up?), it is never used as a mirror.

I have however a sliver of a mirror. It comes camping to use when to put lenses in in the wild. It is only two x five centimetres and is probably rescued from a lipstick case (that is what it looks like, but I have NO memory of ever owning a lipstick case, possibly why I do not use lipstick, but I equally have no memory of where this little mirror actually does come from).
Any way, it is mine, it has a purpose. It is not pretty but it is light weight and inexpensive and if it breaks in my backpack, I will not be unhappy.

The house also has a long mirror on the inside of a wardrobe door, a mirror in the shower room and one on the side of a kitchen cupboard (because that is where we keep our lenses and get dressed for going out (hat, scarf and collar adjustments with the last minute "Hey, you look good" pep-talk.))
We have a separate toilet room and that has no mirror.

That is is. There are no more mirrors in the house. Conclusion: do not need any mirrors.

(I wrote that and then it hit me. "No, not right now you don't. But the shower room mirror has been struck by the mirror plague and is becoming fashionably distressed! How long are you going to like that?" I might be going on a mirror hunt within the year. Best put a new mirror on the wish list.)

How many mirrors do you have in your house?

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Tiles 2018

The annual tile scrubbing has been performed.

We have tiles in the shower room, the toilet and in the kitchen.
Yes, yes, we clean the tiles regularly as a part of the normal cleaning of these rooms. That means they are clean, but not scrubbed.

Now they are scrubbed, de-calcified, the white grouts scrubbed and all edges cleaned thoroughly. Nothing fancy used, just washing liquid and vinegar.
And a scrubber.
With a lot of elbow work of course - also with my left hand.
At the same time the floors got washed, not just mopped. It is a very pleasant result.

This of course has been carried out in the commercial breaks, during the meaningless interviews and the waiting times of the Winter Olympics. The man and I have lots to watch as our two countries does not perform in any of the same sports. But we do on the other hand have six different national TV channels and three other national radio channels to keep track of the different sports (sometimes simultaneously in different languages) so it is nice with a little cleaning break every now and then.

The work is contemplative and peaceful. Not difficult and while it still requires attention, the brain is left to wander in the subconscious. Unconsciousness gives relief from time and space, from cognitive boundaries and mental demands. The ghosts, the forgotten, the avoided pops up for attention.
I find cleaning a very therapeutic, meditative, Zen-like activity when I get into the ... the zone, the groove, the mood...?
The visible result is even better.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Antwerp


The trip to Antwerp was lovely. I had forgotten how many things about Belgium that I really love. We both came home with lots of new experiences, inspiration, interests, and new knowledge. Not a single new item bough.

The opera was not great (the story is uncomplicated and some of the characters silly and deserves to be slapped). The Opera however is a traditional building and wonderful in itself. The performers fantastic and the dancers truly inspiring. The scenography by Marina Abramovic´ was just as dramatic and fantastic as the reviews have said. I really admire what she creates and although she sometimes scares me, it it just for my own good.
Just look at this picture from the OperaBallet Vlaanderen:
It was even more fantastic than it looks. 
Our seats had restricted view but with binoculars there was very little we missed.
The patat met afterwards (fries with mayonnaise) were, of course, the best in the world.

Also memorable from the weekend was the Museum van den Bergh - currently part of the Ecce Homo exhibition in Antwerp and with several pieces moved around - but so good, such fantastic house, such extraordinary collection that we went back twice in one weekend. Now a must for every visit to Antwerp.

Another must is Belgian food - I had jambonneau (ham on the bone) and although I am predominantly vegetarian these days, Belgian cuisine will make me disregard that. It is wonderful. I also had rabbit in beer stew - equally unforgettable and delightful.  (When I eat meat from animals I have not killed myself, it really has to be worth it.) It was worth it.

The bus trip was smooth and enjoyable and punctual - the trains to Belgium had major delay that weekend (when don't they?) and considering I think we paid €7 per person one way, the train to Belgium is out of the question for future trips.

All in all a wonderful weekend. In total (with transport, good hotel two nights in the centre, bus, opera, entrance fees and all food, snacks and coffees included) we spent €200 per person.
We celebrate the anniversary of our first meeting with a trip back to the scene of the event - and Antwerp never disappoints.  (Could the renovation of the Schone Kunsten Museum BE any more delayed? Yes, it can! Now the reopening has been delayed another two years.)
Mais c'est la Belge - je vous adore!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Opera 2018

In the last twenty-five years or so, I have seen Puccini's Tosca on stage in Greifsvald, Monteverdi's Orfeo in Gent, Philip Glass' Akhnaten in ... somewhere ... and that is it on the opera list.
On Saturday I will see an opera by Debussy performed in Antwerp.

Come and join us.
We will be the couple on the third balcony behind the pillars on the 19.30 performance of Palléas et Mélisande. In jeans, eating raisins out of our pockets and drinking water in the intermission.

Afterwards, we are going for the best Vlaamse Friets (Flemish Fries, the best in the word) with frietssaus (some may call it mayonnaise but it is very different) the nearest corner snack bar can offer.

We leave early Friday morning and the rest of the weekend will be filled with art (contemporary, modern and old), fashion (as avant-garde as we can find it) and history (printing and religion) with lots of walking of the cobblestones and avenues. Back home late Sunday night, having bought nothing. We travel on the cheapest long-distance bus service available, bring sandwiches and fill the bottles with tap water.

It will be magical!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Art



"To the man who loves art for its own sake, remarked Sherlock Holmes, tossing the advertisement sheet of the Daily Telegraph aside, it is frequent in its least important and lowliest manifestations where the keenest pleasure is to be derived."

Arthur Conan Doyle - The adventure of Sherlock Holmes, The adventure of the copper beeches

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Airport games

Airports and hotels quickly lose their charm when travelling is no longer an exciting part of life but rather a mundane or difficult lifestyle.

There are ways to make stays at airports better.
- Go for a walk.
Travelling is not good for training. One way to get some physical exercise into the travel day is to go for a walk through the airport or the terminal. Kastrup, Copenhagen, Gardemoen, Oslo, Helsinki Vantaa airport, even Schiphol in Amsterdam are excellent for a long walk after check in and security. You can easily get several kilometres of walking done before having to get onto the next cramped flight.  Stockholm Arlanda Terminal 5 for international flights is dreadfully small and cramped. I actually try to go through security as late as possible here. The three domestic terminals all provide ample walking space.

- Eat all samples aka Find a treasure
Some airports have food samples available. Sometimes they are difficult to find. They are always there in Copenhagen and in Amsterdam. They just have to be found. Go look for any free-be handed out. Cheese, cake, tea, herring, chocolate. Go for a treasure hunt. A leaflet will count as a find if nothing else is available.

- Buy and pack an imaginary suitcase (game unsuitable for shopoholics!)
Imagine that you luggage is lost and you are required to buy a new outfit and bag of toiletries at the airport before you leave. This is fun and frustrating in equal measures for me. Very little fits my body and very little is in my style or colouring. You may find it easier to buy sexy lingerie than regular underwear. Brand name deodorant sprays than an efficient deodorant. Toothbrush? Difficult. Jeans? Forget it. Personally, I might end up in shorts and a t-shirt.

- Find ten things to smile about - or to
Look around, notice your surroundings and focus hard on finding nice things. Anything that can make you smile. Anybody you can smile to. A bright yellow colour. A sleeping baby. A ray of sunshine through a window. A flower in a vase. Somebody looking happy. Anybody behaving kindly to a stranger. Smile for yourself and for others. Hold a door for somebody and feel nice about yourself.
Keep it up until you clock ten things that you have smiled about.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Project Closet Closed

We have finally closed Project Closet.

The final act was to sell the left over floor boards. The buyer came and picked it up today.
The man got a little bit of money.
The buyer got boards enough for a smaller project than ours. We got to close ours.
we got lots of space in the basement.
The man got a new floor in his walk-in closet. Lots of new space available both in the closet and in the basement. He also cleared out the content of everything in the closet, went through everything and placed each thing where it ought to be, threw some and packed everything left into logical piles.
At the same time the floor boards are out of the basement, the remaining items also cleared and re-stacked, leaving lots of remaining space. Not yet enough space for a fourth bicycle though.

The cost for the project was the cost for the white wall paint (25 litres, €25 on sale). There is a lot of left over paint on purpose and this will used for the other rooms that also need repainting.

Everything else was already available in the house. Even the skirting boards was already standing in the basement. EDIT: It was however not quite enough and had to be complemented with some additional strips for €7. The man also bought new saw blades for €10 that will also be used for other projects.
The other costs were already covered by previous projects and except the skirting boards, the money spent on this project will also be shared with future projects.
This enables us to carry out those projects with less financial strain.

This is how several tasks often can be carried out as zero cost projects.
Do what you already have the resources for. 

For the first time in months we have an apartment where there is nothing stored in the hallway or the living room. Nothing is annoying us and reminding us to get something done.
Everything (most thing) are in their place and
It is very relaxing.
Tomorrow there will be a project to clean, vacuum and mopping all floors.

This relaxation also opens up for the next project possibilities - thinking - planning - preparing.





Friday, 2 February 2018

Jewellery and valuables - February 2018

The monthly task for February 2018 is to go through 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."

My ambition for February 2018 is to try to use and wear all jewellery and other personal decorative items in February. It is such a drab month in the northern hemisphere and needs all cheering and colour that can be invented.
If I don't want to wear it, I should put the thing aside - either to be on its way out (gifted, donated or chucked) or to be put in the memo-box. Unused, unloved items really should not clutter up my jewellery box.

Years ago I gathered all jewellery and other personal items in a wooden box with a lock my father made for me when I was six. The more valuable items (in either monetary or emotional terms) that I don't use got locked up in a separate box, more to not get lost than to be kept safe.
If you are looking into handling jewellery this month, this is a first and occasionally difficult step to be repeated over and over again until you find a solution that suits your life and surroundings.

February is also a month after the end of the year, and most annual summaries should have arrived from all service providers and bookkeepers. Looking through it all now will make me prepared and make me prepare for the annual tax declaration (for me in March and May).
This is really really really boring and contrary to any and all of my natural talents and interests.
I am however very very interested in being independent and in charge of my own life so I force my self every year through the entire process. I have forced myself through this process since the beginning of the 1990s and it does not become fun, but with every decade, it does become slightly easier as I slowly learn to do it and understand what I do.
(And paying off debt and consolidating assets makes it all simpler.)

I will be rattling cheerful jewellery through February.
I even wore earrings yesterday for the first time since February last year. 
It's been a good year when earrings are not needed.
 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

FI36,05

Puhu -
the stock markets recovered just in the last minute. One of my investments currently stand on at a loss but it is a tiny part of the total assets and I will be fine by the time this investment need to be realised.

Currently I own 36,05 annual budgets - I call that my financial independence number. I count all my assets on the first of every month through. This FI-number means that I can live on my current frugal budget for 36 years hoping that price increases will be compensated by interests, dividends and value increases (that is a hope, nothing is certain).

I own almost nothing beside these assets. I have no car. I have no art, jewellery or watches worth much. My tiny apartment is worth a few annual budgets but nothing more. This value is not included as I always will need somewhere to live. I also do not include retirement funds or pension plans that I cannot control until the day I retire. That will pay out nothing for another 17 years so everything and anything can happen with those assets until then.

I am grateful that I have paid off all debt and for everything I have managed to save since then and have been able keep holding on to through conservative, long-term investments. I keep an eye on it but take as little risk as possible.
I use these assets to feel secure in my otherwise odd life and hopefully to dare to live a life that is filled with knowledge and experiences rather than possessions and worry.

The focus for 2018 is still on health, weight and head. Mental training, physical activities and many intellectual stimulants. And cheese.

Today I took a day off and because Amsterdam currently has the least amount of tourists, we went to the van Gogh museum. I got yelled at because I took a photo (forty big posters that photography was not allowed and I still forgot - dingbat I am, I am.).
But look...
Copyright: van Gogh museum, Amsterdam
Vincent van Gogh painted (copied) Hiroshige too! I knew but I didn't know they were on display.
Pleasant surprise! ("NO PHOTO!)