Sunday, 31 December 2017

Targets and goals for 2017

I set annual ambitions, or targets, for each new calendar year within the categories of money, work, studies, health, family, friends and lifestyle.

The financial target for 2017 was actually reached already in March when the stock-markets boomed. It was quantified as the value of all my assets and have remained over that level since then. I increased the target but the value of my assets never reached that high. I am however still very happy that with the resent drop in value, my assets are still above the target for 2017. This target is check. For next year I will re-use the second target of 2017.

The health target had several parts to it. The weight target is check and double check. Heart is what the heart is but with three months of partial sick-leave, that target is a complete fail. The target for next year is set at staying alive and handling the symptoms. With my dark sense of humour, that is a reasonable target if I say so. The physical and mental training is going well, although knee and calf need rest before the part of physical training that is running resumes. For the year the physical targets have increased through the year and is achieved beyond all imagination and beyond all ambitions. The food has changed into vegetables with the ambition of twice weekly fish and once monthly meat and the target is check. Sleep, teeth, eyes, sex and other health targets are all good.

The family target is a fail with death, quarrels and time running out for any possible re-connections. However, a new family member will be born soon (preferably now according to his mother to be). The result is what it could be, sad but accepted. The door will be open and guarded also next year.

The friends target needs to be better quantified and tracked in order to assess its completion. For next year I will add a target to increase the amount of acquaintances and decrease the number of FB connections, preferably to zero. The established target of being in touch with everybody on my friends list at least once during the year will be kept.

The study target has gone well and is a check (which was not at all certain). For next year the target will be to finish the thesis and graduate MA. Right now the progress is not looking good at all.
The language target also will need to be better quantified, but I have been reading in French, Dutch and German during the year so as the target was formulated, it is a check. The four other languages are used for work and are a resounding check. For next year I want set a specific target for Dutch, I speak surprisingly well when enthusiastic and without way out and with some effort and work, that could actually become something.

The pleasure target was not developed much beyond the extensive stay in Lisbon during Februray-March and the visits to Paris - but with two bicycle camping trips in the summer not even the health issues (mine as well as other family members) there has been plenty of pleasure. The plans for events during 2018 need to step way up quickly as currently only our anniversary trip is planned (and not even booked).

2017 was not a great year but it did contain great things and continued to provide a stable basis for progression into 2018 and some targets will be kept for next year and continued attention and ambition.
Which categories do you have for your 2018 targets?

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Bought clothes 2017 - summary

By May 2017, I had bought the following clothes during the year:
2 micro-fibre long sleeved t-shirts
4 standard cotton t-shirts
1 vintage football jersey
2 wool hiking socks
1 blue t-shirt with buttons (trash find)
1 cotton striped long sleeved t-shirt
1 pair of full price original black Levis' 501 jeans

Total amount of money spent: €60 (not including value of gift cards given as payment for on-line surveys nor clothes provided for free by the trash-gods.

Since then, during the rest of the year, I have bought the following clothes:
1 cycling shirt
10 socks
2 sleeping socks
bra (on sale and identical to the one previously bought)
1 light weight fleece for running
1 second-hand wind breaker

Total additional amount spent: €63 (where the running fleece cost €35 and was a comfort buy when the causes of my heart condition was finally identified (diagnosis on symptoms is only half of it). It was worn daily for at least two months and brought much joy.
The trash-gods also provided a few t-shirts, several dresses, a rugby sweater, a pair of jeans and several sunglasses, all still being used.

I bought clothes for a total of €123 in the year. The budget was €10/month, totally €120, but the aim was to spend no money at all. So the spending was kept within the budget but the goal was not.

The year started with no clothes left un-used in "storage" but it ends with lots of clothes packed up, back in storage. Different clothes though. The storage is now filled with clothes that I like, of good quality and style but that currently does not fit me because I managed to lose so much weight. My thin-bags are emptied completely, mid-sized clothes are adjusted and taken in and all my fat-clothes (not nice phrases but we all have those clothes) is packed with clothes a size or two larger than the present body. Unfortunately, the fat bag also includes my brand new Levis' jeans as they were bought at the beginning of the weight loss when I could not imagine that I actually would succeed, or even dream of the extent of the weight loss. (I somewhat regret donating so much good clothes in 2010 just because I never thought I would ever be able to wear it again.)
Currently I am back at my pre-40 weight. This is the weight I steadily kept through my twenties and thirties abut completely lost track of in my forties. I will not pursue a lower weight but keep a keen eye on the scales to keep it steady.

I am going into 2018 with a €120 budget for clothes, again with the goal not to spend it. This must be spend on tight fitting, well fitting, tailored, high quality clothing for my current body. Nothing can be loose-fitting (I have plenty of those clothes, even if it is only because it is on a larger size.) I hope the trash gods will continue to be generous and especially in the region of slim and long jeans.
My clothes wish-list is currently very short, there is very little I need. The only item that I right now want, and almost need but not quite yet, is a second sports bra. 

Friday, 8 December 2017


Today I have completed my fifth walk-run in two weeks.

I run in a pair of white running shoes that are almost unused but at least eight years old. Surprisingly, they seem to function well (normally running shoes only lasts a few years due to material deterioration, regardless if used or not).
Because it is winter, I use hiking socks as running socks. They are padded for toes, heals and shaft but mesh in the instep and top. (I think I bought three for €7 in 2016).
For running trousers I keep my indoor yoga-exercise trousers on and they are at no less than ten years old, probably closer to fifteen. When I go out, add my lined sports trousers from the early 1990's. They are bright blue and bulky but keep warm and dry quickly (and I already have them which is the most important thing.)
While it is cold, I will use cotton t-shirts and fleece sweaters to run in (I am rather warm wet than cold dry). When the weather gets warmer, I'll switch to a quick dry short sleeved and a long sleeved top/jacket to run in (that is if I keep this running lark up until the weather gets warmer).
Over that I put a bright green wind breaker of a fancy brand with a slight oil stain that I bought for €2 in the second hand shop fall of 2017. (I have recorded the buy in my list of bought clothes in 2017, but I have not yet updated it on-line.) It has been a real treat! It keeps me nice and airy while also being light weight and cheerful. Under it, I wear the sports-bra from 2016 (the only surviving sports-bra in the house).
I also wear fleece gloves and a fleece hat (which also holds in place my head phones connected to my phone for the running program). My hair, that nobody sees, is in two pig-tails with elastics off the street.

Wearing white shoes, bright blue trousers, bright green jacket and black gloves and hat with my red cheeks - I am a cheerful sight in the park. Not that anybody cares - everybody just try to run a little bit, move a little more and live slightly better, possibly longer.

I use the free NHS Couch to 5 K program, more information here. I add lights and reflexes if I go after dark. So far no injuries. I could pat myself on the back, but completion is not entirely due to willpower - the man usually comes with me to keep me running. If you keep up your movements without support, you are better than me.

I want another sports-bra, and possibly new running shoes by the summer, but nothing is really needed until then. Free is good.

Monday, 4 December 2017


On the first day of each month I calculate my assets. I count all assets but exclude pension right, the apartment where I live and any assets that I can not control yet. Divided with my annual budget this amounted to 36,14 years. This is less than last month even though I still work and have had savings but it doesn't worry me too much. Knowing that there are assets available for my modest and frugal lifestyle for 36,14 years (with the hope that future price increases will be covered by interests and dividends from investments) is mentally very soothing. I share my life but not my money with the man. He will reach financial independence sometime during next year (when FI reaches 25). Not that it will change his working habits in any way but it is comforting

Health-wise the month has gone from bad to better. The heart condition is almost under control and I am back at work half time. There are good and bad days but it works out so far and I feel optimistic for next year. I am on partial sick leave for the rest of the year just not to force anything. This gives time for lots of serious work including cognitive behavioural mental training, relaxation lessons, breathing exercises, yoga and daily physical training. And knitting. Knitting is very good soothing.

The last week I have added running to the daily exercises and walks. Four expeditions with interval running in the park, most of them together with the man (he is a proper runner) and it is really nice. I don't like jogging but running fast as the wind is fun (for the minute or so that I can do it). Weight wise I have managed to come down to the weight I had when I was between 25 and 40. I will try to keep it so officially the dieting is finishing. (I call this weight -5 kg, meaning it is 5 kg less than the amount I would never go past although I was +6-9kg at the beginning of the year. It has been hard work and although I am no longer following the NHS Weight loss that I used to, I will stay mostly vegetarian with two fish a week. (Cake and mayonnaise only if home and self-made.))

The growing season of the year ended recently with the harvest of the last chilli peppers. Lots of learning and experiences and even some edibles. The freezer is filled with frozen mint for the winter. This year I only planted from existing old seeds and the outcome was mediocre. The tomato seeds did the best though, even when years out of date. We have made a list of things we can and will plant in the future (and an even longer list of what not to attempt again).
Indoor plants have now come in off the balcony and the outdoor plants have been covered up. The temperamental bougainvillea (aka the hysterical teenage girl) of course threw a tantrum by being placed in the kitchen (our coldest room in the winter). She lost all leaves and flowers on the day when only I was at home. I swear, it looked like I had had a go at her with a chain saw. She does not like change. (Not to worry, we've seen it all before and she'll be fine again by next summer.)

In late February 2010 (in the Valentines sale after I had moved into an apartment with a bathtub) I bought a bath kit that also included a brand-name ladies shaver with several blades. For some reason that razor has not gone dull until now although I have used it continuously. But this month, November 2017, it has been replaced with an equally branded razor with several blades. If it lasts another seven years I will be fine until the year 2024. Then I can use the replacement blades for another seven years. (If each head lasts seven years, the thing will end up costing me €0,60 per year and I will not have to bother until 2030 or so. That will be enough.) This replacement razor is the most important buy this month. There is very little is on the shopping list for next year with the exception of more (and smaller sized) sports clothes and the dream of a new (to me) bicycle.

We don't celebrate christmas or any other religious holidays this month. Bu we have set up candles and hung more lights and winter decorations to fight the winter darkness while we dream of spring.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


On the first day of every month, I look at my assets, calculate my net worth and count out my financial independence number by dividing the net worth with my estimated annual budget.

Currently the FI-number is 36.58. This means I can live over 36 years within my current annual budget without income, provided the interests and dividends from my assets correlate to the expected price increases (which would consequently establish a need to increase the annual budget or adjust the life style appropriately if possible).

The high FI-number is really good and soothing news as I am currently on sick leave. The galloping of my heart took over my life and although there was no need to call an ambulance (although I am always prepared with nice underwear if it should happen again), work became an impossible task. After a few weeks under the covers, I am now back on half-time and it is so far working well. I spend the reduced hours on doing lots of mental exercises and studying project and people management to find ways to contribute to solving some of the problems at work. Work has been helpful, and although competence could be higher, they mean well and want solutions that work for everybody. My university studies have been put on the back burner (not a good place for a final thesis but a suitable place for it due to the circumstances). I feel a slight increased interest to return to my stack of papers but I will let it simmer for yet a little while.

I am keeping up the physical exercises however and I can now do more than 60 sit-ups and 20 push-ups in a row. I do do many more exercises but I use those as measuring tools. The man has developed even more than me and now has the body his 16 year old self dreamed about (not bad for 52). Considering that I last fall worked diligently to learn how to do push-ups and finally managed to do one (that is 1, I repeat 1) proper push-up, I count this progress as a complete success.

The weight target has also been a success. The +/-0 kg target aimed to come down to the weight I never was to go above, was after hard work during the spring and summer eventually achieved. With the almost automatic continued weight loss due to the new lifestyle (increased general physical activities and portion control), I am currently on -4 kg.
In total compared to the all time high, I have lost 14 kg (I am guessing this is about 28-30 pounds for the non-Europeans, including the want-to-be non-Europeans ;) ). This of course means nothing to anybody else (but you can easily figure out your own target) but for me it means that all my clothes fit, fit well or have become too large. Even some of my shoes are too large.
If I lose another kilo and keep it off, I will be back on the weight I without effort kept through my entire working life until promoted. (As a student, I was 10 kg lighter, and as a teenager, another 10 kg less. With my length-wise over-sized body, that was natural and healthy for me but not fashionable.)
Anyway, I am now keeping my weight, eating normally and only measuring the amount of physical activity I get in the week. I aim to keep the daily exercises, the daily walk and the weekly longer and harder event.

The last months has also seen me in my mothers county several times, even in my mothers presence (although not too much to general relief). The family was gathered around a coffin and were, in the way traditional for my family, joined together yet again. The drama was kept to a minimum while the number of paper tissues consumed in a single hour reached world record levels. Some good things came out of it however. There is a general joy for the baby to be born into the family early next year, (the first in twenty-five years), as well as the progression of several plans to meet up in the future without coffins.

With all that has been going on, my reduced income, a cancelled project for the man and some shakes in the stock markets, we pulled the plug on all travel plans for the forthcoming months for financial reasons. Not that there is any reason to pity us. In 2017 we spent a month in Lisbon and I had almost three weeks in Paris. We did a week together in my mothers country with a few days doing nice things and we had no less than two week long cycling-camping vacations during the summer. We will be staying at home, recuperating, recovering and working as much as we can the rest of the year (the man just got a replacement project too so he's happy.) We have bought national museum passes, allowing free or discounted access to most museums in the country, and will look into all the wonderful free events our home town is providing us. After all, we live in Amsterdam, the world's safest, most progressive and most beautiful capital. To keep our spirituality up as the pagan atheists that we are, we read daily a page in Bruce Lee's manual to martial arts which is based on Zen and mindfulness (while trying to learn how to beat the crap out of a sand-bag).

I sometimes miss blogging and I often write posts about inventorying, assessing, budgeting and clearing out, in my head. I read some bloggers with irregular intervals but am often too lazy to comment. This has to do with the concentration problems caused by the heart issue, not from a lack of interest. I often applaud your progress, events and stories. There might be an odd post from me with something that I have thought of, but I only aim for a post on the first of the month in the foreseeable future.

ps. I have a new (to me) tea mug. It is bright yellow and makes me very happy!

Monday, 2 October 2017


The stock market where my assets are invested, is back up and running fast fast fast after last months dip.
The total financial independence value is 35,45 years - meaning the total amounts of assets divided with my annual budget.

It sounds nice but with a new administrative system, a new HR department, a dearly beloved dead relative and the fact that I broke my favourite tea mug in half, not everything is rosy.
Not even the weather.

There are good things.
I try to focus on the good things.

My weight is good. -3,5 kg. Meaning 3,5 kg under the weight that I promised myself I would never go above. In total since March I have sliced off about 10 kg.
With another 2 kg off, I will be back to my pre-40 years of age weight.

And I have some money.
That is always nice.

Friday, 1 September 2017

FI30 or so

The international stock markets are coming down and the current value of all my investments and assets are going down with it.
It is not pleasant but it is expected and it does enable some interesting purchases of shares that even I find affordable now.
I normally calculate my financial independence number - or my assets - on the first of every month, but not this month.
I see it drop on all accounts and I just can't be bothered at the moment. It will drop until it can drop no more and the will be nothing to do about it. Everything I hold is bought for long term so I am not selling anything. Just close my eyes and go and stare into the sunshine.

I am also travelling for work, living in an unrealistic bubble of hotel, trains and heavy mashinery, working 7am-11pm and having random meetings with random people.

It will be fine, I will stick my head into the sand financially for another month.
Later this month, I'll have a look at it.
Now: life, work and the thesis professor is calling. 

Monday, 28 August 2017


The trash gods have been very generous lately. Particularly the trash gods of Paris provided astonishing gifts and contributions. I am very grateful and not at all ashamed.

There is a wealth of opportunities in other people's trash put out on the curbs, in the garbage found on the roads and in free-stuff-boxes.
Personally, I only take what I like and can use. Others gather what yet other people will like and can use. Together we reuse and reduce the environmental impact of other peoples consumption so it is a worthy cause. And frugal.

In Paris, I found and rescued:
Bag of skin-care samples including eye-cream, day-cream and a bottle of serum for the older skin. (Perfect for my skin type, a brand that I like but had never heard of and the total value is around €80 retailed). The carrier bag was dirty but it still had the tissue paper in it when I found it so the content was clean. I am completely over-whelmed with this find. I have never ever before found anything similarly fantastic and it is truly the star-find of my life.

Red unused vintage (style of 1960s) dress that fits me perfect (or will when I have taken it in and adjusted it some; I'll show a picture when it is done.) The dress is my style with sleeves and high neck-line with an almost knee length skirt. It comes out of an obscure French haute-couture house and is in such a gigantic size that even I can fit everything of me into it and still have room to tailor it to my body.

Dark blue denim jeans with zippered pockets. I have not worn blue jeans in thirty years but these are long enough for my long legs, slightly hip-er than anything I would buy and very comfortable so I am happy with them. Oh, and free. They were dirty on the knees but never washed so clearly only used once. The dirt came out with a simple laundry circle.
From the same stack of neatly folded trousers which were put on the street for anybody who needed them, I also took a pair of checkerd trousers, currently slightly too small in the waist which is nice, and a pair of summer trousers that I since then have lost the liking of, so they will be moved onto a charity shop. I left all the trousers that were not my style for somebody else.

Blue and white rugby shirt with 3/4 sleeves and cropped on the hip as used by bicyclists. It also came from the stack with the trousers. It has a logo for a local cycling team, the colour is good and it too was almost unused. It serves me well for summer evenings when it gets colder. I had nothing similar so even if I did not really need another sweater and never would buy something in cotton, I am very happy with this.

Two pairs of sunglasses, both brown. One authentic pair of RayBan which is my favourite style although I have never ever owned anything by the brand itself. Also one no-logo pair, more rectangular, which is the one I prefer. This means that the total cost of all sunglasses in five years is still €7,20 and now I most certainly do not need to buy sunglasses for a long time.

Now, the trash gods only need to provide me with a new sports-bra and I will be set for clothes and stuff for the year.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Internet free

I have broken a personal best.
My new record is now eight days in a row without internet activity.
I did not log on anywhere for anything or look at any screen.

Being out cycling in the wilderness with a not so smart phone as the only tool for connection, helped.

We have spent eight days cycling across the wildest parts of the Netherlands. It means that there were uninterrupted  kilometres of forestry and wild heather and sand dunes. But also that there would be a café serving coffee and apple-cake at suitable intervals and villages with public transport and super-markets throughout the day. Camp-sites almost everywhere. It is difficult to camp wild here, it is so densely populated, but easier by being member in an organisation who provides access to simple, rustic camp-sites off the tourist comfort routes. Which we are, so our camp-sites are non-commercial, rustic and almost peaceful areas to camp in.

Sleeping out seven nights in a row with more than unstable weather requires some skills and resilience. We only brought two cycle bags each and had our trusted tent rolled up on top of one of the bicycle bags. Me again on my city bike, the man on his touring bike.

The total costs came to €267 for two which is more than I expected since it only contained one meal in a restaurant (well worth it as we happily ate our way through a large lunch while the thunderous rains passed). However, there was a lot of cake and anyway, €134 per person for eight days of vacation is acceptable.

I also spent €32 on a new, very needed pair of walking shoes and €15 on a high-tech, brand-named exercise t-shirt in a lovely colour that fits me perfectly. Both were worn immediately, actually, the new shoes replaced the old straight in the shop. Both on sale, both with extra reductions on the sale-price as it the last weeks of sales.

I also spent €10 (over the top expensive) for a bicycle mechanic who early Monday morning replaced my broken break wire, again giving my bicycle breaking abilities. I was happy to pay an over the top price as he fit the five minute job into his already planned day before he started on everybody else's bicycle and we could cycle on.

Coming back to the internet after eight days, there was very little of news, messages or emails that felt important to read or respond to. The lesson learned is that living in the real life, in real time with real people is good, and enough for a good life.

Although I am supposed to be off blogging and mostly off the internet, I am apparently still reporting my spending and inventories on-line.
After eight days, I also came back with a number of blogg posts in my notebook.

Friday, 25 August 2017


With the weight reduction, I fit into all my trousers again.
Some of them I can fit with a thick sweater tucked into the waist band. Some now sit on the hip.
All, however, need a belt to stay up.
Several have already been taken in with wedges sewn into the waist band or had the waist taken in in the back (if they have mid-back seam.) Not all of them can however be taken in as much as I need.
My trouser stack is rapidly shortening, and nothing fits perfectly. 

I have raided (with permission) the man's trouser stack.
Five years ago I gave him -lent him to use- the jean's in his waist size that I no longer fitted into.
You see, the man and I have the same trouser size. Length and waist. We also like the same style of jeans. However, years ago when we met, I had already gained an inch (and since then, another inch) and could no longer fit into the jeans I had. So he could have them, to use.

Now I fit into them again and I got them back. They are even slightly on the big side, and slightly worn. I have an eye on all his other jeans, and he is invited to use mine (as several of them are men's trousers anyway). I am however told in no uncertain terms that his brand new G-star Raw jeans are off-limits. (They are probably too big for me anyway, but they are really cool so it may not stop me. "Off!", the man said. "Meow", I said, "I just want to touch, meouuw, just touchy.")

So the jeans with waist sizes, both one inch and two inches larger than currently needed, are folded up into my "fat-bag". I am not throwing them away. Who knows if I manage to keep the weight off when winter is coming? They can come in handy for mid-winter, who knows. Unfortunately, this also includes my BRAND NEW Levi's jeans I bought just this autumn. They are too big in the waist but there was then no way I could know that I would manage to do this transformation by now, and hey, at least I will have a very nice pair of jeans waiting for me if I do gain weight back on.
I do not keep clothes that currently does not fit me in my wardrobe. When I dress and something does not fit me, it is NOT hung back into the wardrobe. I just fold it up, not always neatly, and push it into the fat bag. (The fat-bag is zipped up and lives in the back of the man's walk-in closet together with tents and extra pillows. Easy to get to, difficult to take out.)

In Paris, the trash-gods also gave me a pair of dark-blue (that I never wear) denim jeans with zippers and seams in odd places. They are according to the labelled size not supposed to fit, but they are long enough and although slightly too large in the waist, fit well enough to use. And also almost brand new! I spent almost the entire second week in Paris in these jeans. The trash-gods also provided a nice pair of grey glen-checked thicker trousers that are currently too small in the waist, but since I own no "thin clothes" any longer, they came home with me as they are long enough for me.

I am left with the following trousers:
2 off-white (previous suit) trousers
2 linen trousers, one black, one white
3 office/suit trousers, barely used
1 Levi's 501, black (returned by the man)
1 Levi's 715, black
1 Shaft black which got a new zipper after they were bought in the second hand shop.
1 dark-blue denim Paris trousers
3 hiking trousers
1 pair of skorts
1 pair of shorts (the ones that was really ill-fitting before, now sit very nicely on my hips)

Into the fat bag have gone:
1 brand new Levi's 501, black
1 old much worn, bum almost falling out, Levi's 501, black
1 hot pink skinny chinos, a street-find that just can not be taken in enough to fit
2 pairs of shorts that need suspenders as well as a belt to stay up

In the thin bag, I have a pair of dark grey thicker glen-checked trousers that I have ambitions to fit over my belly (when the belly is smaller than now. I mean if the belly ever gets smaller than now).

Into the on the way out-bag went:
2 very worn black office, previous suit, trousers that were very comfortable to wear around the house but are so worn that I really should not go out in them, not even to the corner-shop.

So, still I have no need for trousers. Trousers are on the NO BUY list.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Paris 2017 costs

For my personal records and potentially also for some general interest, this is a report on expenses for spending almost three weeks in Paris.

The first trip was to pet-sit five days for friends of friends. Total amount of money spent included an excruciatingly expensive ride on the fast-train (also late both directions) and was probably around €350.

The second trip, just two weeks later, was to cat- and garden sit for an old colleague while the family went on August vacation (just like all French people try to avoid and still do).
The man could spend the first week in Paris too. We worked most mornings and after lunch or early afternoons we went out to walk the town and the surrounding areas.
The first week, including two museum fees (covering three museums) we spent in total €313,09 for two, including one sushi dinner and one dinner at a lovely Mauritian restaurant. The total cost has been included in our running budget and paid through our bucket system.

The man had to go back home for work so the second week I was left on my own. I was on vacation from my job so I left the house and the cat early in the morning, returned late in the evening and spent the entire day in the manuscript room of the Bibliothèque National - Richelieu frustrating over spidery handwriting in huge ledgers from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. One day and the weekend I roamed the town, walking from morning until evening, or until I could handle no more, and then went home for dinner and cat.
That second week I spent €105, not including the €20 fee to access the research part of the Bib, nor the international bus that cost me €53 round trip but took time. The sum however does include metro tickets (ten single tickets for €14,90), coffee (costing €0,4 in the machine or €3,5 at any hippy corner café) and food (from supermarket, always taking food with me for the day, usually a can of lentils and fruit, buying fresh bread (€1-2) from a baker in the afternoon as a supportive or restorative afternoon snack. In Paris, you can still walk down the street with a baguette in one hand, ripping pieces of it, stuffing the warm bread in you mouth. However, you can not ever bite straight down into you baguette! ("Infidel!", said nobody ever because in Paris most don't care.)

I paid my accommodation by feeding and watering cats, dogs and gardens, so there were no further costs for our in total 19 days in Paris; July and August 2017.

By the way, I noted that during the second and last week, I was stopped by French people no less than three times asking for directions. I still can not speak modern French properly to save my life but apparently I made myself fit in quite nicely. (It probably helps carrying a computer bag.)
The trash gods were also very generous in Paris. I'll tell about the French finds some other time.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Salt dispenser

For Jenn and others with interest,
This is our new salt dispenser.  (Not a promotion for any manufacturers or brands of salt, although, Hurray for companies who sell products in practical, refillable and reusable containers.)

Why is this special?
It is an anniversary salt dispenser for the company's 80th year.

I also add a picture of the cat I was pet-sitting in Paris for two weeks. 


For a few months, I have pursued project Salt.
Not a big project, not a lot of work and possibly, also not very important.
Project Salt is however the continuation and result of my lifestyle.

Our favourite salt dispenser broke (the lid came off its little hinge). It worked but it accentuated the need for a new salt dispenser.
That then accentuated the fact that we have a nice salt grinder for rock salt that we do not like.
We also do not like rock salt. We thought we did, we have tried. Both rock salt from the Himalayas and salt rocks from Austria. As well as course salt from France and somewhere else, I don't know where. They have been used and used up with disappointing result.
Mostly because the salt level is unpredictable and you may end up either under- or over salting your food, regardless if you salt while cooking or directly on the plate.
It could also be that the nice salt grinder isn't sufficiently nice; that it should be made from ceramic (although it is) or by a specific brand (which it isn't) or that we use it wrong (possibly, we are not geniuses, just normal).
We made the decision to use up all the salt in the house, buy a pound or two of regular cooking salt from the regular supermarket for 30 eurocents or so and then use use that. With a new salt dispenser, preferably found for free.
I have spent the last few months and weeks going through all spice racks, cupboards, camping equipment and all and any other space for storage to find and use up all available amounts of salt in the house.

As I have now come back from Paris, I brought a salt dispenser back. It is a regular salt container that you buy 100 grams of salt in, in a super market, when you do not buy a whole bag of salt. But this one is FRENCH. And it has a lid that closes.
The salt ran out while I was there, and not intending to go through all cupboards of my house owners, I bought the smallest amount of salt available for them - and took the old empty one with me home. (Yes, their old empty one was better than the new filled one I bought them; not for them, but for me.)

The last remnants of course salt was brutally been emptied out from the nice salt grinder. (It has been  cleaned out and put back in the kitchen cupboard awaiting new content. Probably pepper.)

The new FRENCH salt dispenser was refilled with salt from a whole bag of salt.
It is a wonderful souvenir. Every morning when adding salt to the porridge, we can read words in French and remember our weeks living in Paris.

The rest of the bag of salt is closely closed and tucked back into the cupboard. I do not expect to spend any money on salt or salt dispensers in the forthcoming 12-months.
Salt is now a NO BUY.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Money and muscle

Money makes more money.

Muscle makes more muscles.

Gather your money and build your muscles - you know how and how not to.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Last calendar month my FI-number was 34,98. Or 35 years.
This meant that my assets divided with my annual budget would simply speaking last 35 years. This I call the Financial Independence number.
This of course comes with a few conditions:
- Price increases in the future need to be compensated by interests or dividends. Or additional income.
- I need to live within the annual budget. This is a very frugal budget but it is also a budget that I have lived within for several years now. However, this is with the current lifestyle and changes in lifestyle will need to be addressed with (possible) changes in budget. I will not reduce the annual budget but I may consider increasing it. The annual budget always needs to be larger than the annual needs and costs as it is impossible to predict everything and the funds need to be available also for accidents. See Eye on Savings. Not the disastrous, life-changing accidents of course. For those, the annual budget will need to change.
- If the growth rate of my assets is higher than the price increases, I could safely withdraw a certain amount every year without reducing capital. I know the SWR numbers and I put no trust in it and do not use that. My financial future does not include any financial risks at all.

I count my assets the first every month, excluding any possible value of my apartment (as I always will need to live somewhere) and the value of any pension funds that I cannot access until I retire. This includes both private and national pension rights as once paid into, I have no or very little control over the value. They will however pay out in about fifteen to seventeen years.

Last calendar month the stock market were my money are placed, went down. Since then, it has gone down further. I have bought some stock in companies that I believe in but where the fickle and short-termed stock market discounted the value. These shares were bought with savings from this months salary (as I still work four days a week).

The current financial independence number is 34,27, meaning I can float financially within my annual budget for another 34,27 years. I have lost half a years annual budget in a month - at the same time, there has been several months in the past when I have gained as much or even more in a month. Swings and roundabouts - stock markets and financial risks.

I keep one months moving costs on a debit card, six months total costs on an easily available savings account, ten years in stocks and the rest in solid index funds. I also still have a job and keep myself updated with qualifications, trainings and merits.

It has taken many, many years of savings to get me to a position like this. However, it has only taken me six years to change my life so that my spending is low, my lifestyle is frugal and my work is to make money - not my life. Not an easy process by any means, but possible for anybody.

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. 

Friday, 30 June 2017


Weight loss

I have only one advice to anybody trying to lose weight.
No, two. Three perhaps.

1. Look up NHS Weight loss plan online. It is a 12 week help to lose or keep weight off. It is free, it is in English, it is no nonsense, it is healthy and it has an excellent calorie counter.
2. Go vegetarian as much as you possibly can.
3. Don't drink calories, avoid alcohol, juices, smoothies and all those high-calorific liquids
And move, move, move. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you move.

Of course, if you really want to lose weight, actually really want to, not just wish that you would lose it without the work, you have already skipped the soda and the take-outs. 

Boil an unlimited amount of vegetables with salt, put a slice of cheese on top and dinner is done.
Boil three eggs for in-between meals if you need them.
Boil porridge in the morning. 
Boil vegetables and mix it in its liquids until soup for lunch
Move more. Exercise if you can, but move, move, move.

The instructions are really that simple. 
Move and eat simply.
It is the execution that is hard. 
The first step is the worst.

Don’t be the biggest looser. Lose your weight slowly, no faster than 0,5 kg/1 pound per week unless it is coming off quicker naturally.
Don’t be the biggest looser and don’t quit.
Eat, eat, eat – never go hungry. 
Move, move, move – never stop the muscular motion.

I refuse to look at new targets until I have reached my target weight and proved that I can keep it. Meaning for me that I stay within a kilo (about 2 pounds) of my target weight for at least three months.
Still not quite there yet, and I need to stay motivated. 
This is really hard. Much more difficult than work. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017


I wore glasses until 2006 and never could wear sunglasses. Then I got lenses and the world of sunglasses opened up to me. Currently, I am going through sunglasses like I have nothing else to do.

I remember that in 2010 when I started reducing my possessions, I had several pairs of sunglasses. I know I wore an ugly pair for a few months until I just got rid of them so that I could wear a nicer pair that I had. As soon as I did, I promptly broke the nice pair.

I know I bought a pair in panic on a day out in 2012 for probably €2,50. That pair now has a large crack in each of the glasses but are still serviceable as an emergency pair.
Today I keep 1€ as my maximum price for sunglasses (because that is what the cheapest cost around here). I've bought I think two €1 glasses in the last three years.

I suppose I could double or even triple the budget for each pair of sunglasses that but I am not at all sure that I would get better quality. They all are sold on the European market by reputable importers and are marked with the correct standard and CE-labelling (because that is what I look for - regulatory compliance). They are what they are and since I am a human destroyer of sunglasses, I will not pay for brands.

The fourth pair of €1 sunglasses in three years broke in my bag this spring. That was a pair I had high hopes for. I even spent 20% more on them than before. 1,20€. They broke  within three months.
Yes, I know, I could use a case and not let them rattle around with all of my other stuff in my bag. Do you do that?

I don't. After all, the previous third pair lasted over a year!
And the second pair before that survived four years.

I brought the broken sunglasses on the bicycle trip. I did buy a fifth pair after the fourth pair broke but although quite stylish, they turned out to touch my apple cheeks when I wear them. That is very annoying. I really do not like that. (Yes, I have huge apple cheeks.)

The cracked glasses was not a problem, but one day I woke up in the tent and the side frame was broken. Easily fixed with a little metal piece found on the ground and some duct tape. However, a new pair was urgently needed. Three days later when we cycled through a relatively large town, a new fifth pair was bought in semi-panic due to the strong sun-light.
The cost was enormous: 4€. Horrible.
But they fit well, are in my type of design, the glasses are very dark and the only thing I have to say against them is that the frames are blue. Bright blue. Electric bright blue.
Hey-ho, what is a girl to do. At least I will look cool. (Yes, I do look cool, don't argue with me.)

This brings the total amount spent on sunglasses since 2012 to 5,70€ + the above mentioned 4€.
7,20€ in five years is more than 1€ per year but I hope the blue and the touchy pair of sunglasses will last several years.
Otherwise, I always have the stylish cheek-touching pair and the broken pair in reserve.
This is also a story on how to accumulate stuff.

How many sunglasses do you have? How many have you had in the last five years?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Air mattress

I bought a light weight air mattress for camping in Scotland probably around 2006. It weighed around 500 grams and packed into a small pouch the size of a bread roll. The best thing with it was that I could finally sleep in a tent without a) having my hipbone digging into the ground and b) freezing. The light weight air mattress increases the protection from the cold ground. I sleep very cold and often freeze during the night, even it if is warm outside during the day. I have a mountain down winter sleeping bag that goes down to -15 degrees C to keep me warm. The only time I did not zip it up during night was in August during the hottest summer along the Côte d'Azur (outside Nice).

The Scottish mattress lasted many years.
Eventually one of the ribs started leaking and a replacement was found, probably 2011 (although I remember buying it and where, I cannot remember when).
The man had an identical air mattress. When his broke in the middle of the night on a hiking trip in the German mountains 2012, we went into a village-town, found a very exclusive camping/outdoor shop and on the spot he bought the best air mattress they had.
The man has slept peacefully and happily ever since.
Me, I have been happy with my 2011-mattress. I have however had a new air mattress on my wish list for a long time. I had researched it. I knew exactly what the market was. I knew size, weight and volume of what I wanted to buy. I looked at all available models and I have lain on many shop floors trying them out. The prices are high and not a purchase to make on a whim unless needed.
I would buy a new air mattress as soon as the existing air mattress gave up - under the condition that we continued to sleep outside regularly.

We still sleep outside every year.
The old air mattress lasted five years.
During the cycling vacation 2017, it started to leak.
I was not exactly happy about it. I was however immediately looking at the map for larger towns that would have a camping shop. (General sports shops does not generally have this sort of outdoor equipment.) Two days later, one minute past opening hour and after having cycled for two hours, we stood outside a shop from our favourite chain of outdoor equipment.

Ten minutes after, I had a new air mattress. Better than expected because of technical development and cheaper than predicted. That week the shop had a 15 % discount on sleeping mattresses. Thank you for that, serendipity! In the end it cost me €140 (or the equivalent of 1 to 2 nights in a hotel-ish location).

The remaining nights of the cycle trip I slept on my new air mattress - just as well as I always sleep outside. This means that wish list item air mattress is crossed out and placed on the do-not-need-to-buy list for the next 5-10 years.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Hanging wardrobe 2017

I differentiate between clothes that are folded and clothes that are hung on hangers.
There is no good reason for this, other than the obvious: I do not have a lot of wardrobe space (because I really do not need a lot of wardrobe space) and because I do not have a lot of clothes that requires ironing.

I am meticulous about my ironing, having been taught by an expert in my young age.
I would never, ever fold an ironed garment. Except when I have to pack. Then my heart breaks (or possibly something a little less melodramatic).

The hanging wardrobe contains my 9 jackets, one delicate knitted cardigan, one ski-jacket, one self-sewn bathrobe and seven trousers on five hangers. That means there are 16 hangers on the top-level.

The hanging wardrobe also contains 19 hangers with various types of tops and shirts, and one hanger with two skirts on it. In total there are 20 hangers on the lower level of my hanging wardrobe.

With that the wardrobe is full (it is only 45 cm (half a meter, say a foot and a half) wide and the standard height.) I have coats and dresses in the man's huge walk-in wardrobe and also my shoes.

That's it, that is what there is. That is all I have.
19 hanging tops, shirts and blouses.
Now I will work my way through it, using or altering everything.
I am especially looking for a chance to use my ski-equipment. Fat chance for that in the northern hemisphere in July.

Do you have an enormous hanging closet filled with clothes, all ironed and colour coordinated?

Sunday, 25 June 2017


I have turned all hangers in my hanging wardrobe back-to-front.

Coming home from a cycling week+, doing laundry and unpacking everything, I developed a longing for nice clothes. Clothes that sit fitted to the body. Clothes that are ironed. Clothes that look a bit more sophisticated than micro-fleece and poly-streach.
The weather also changed from hot-hot to semi-cool.
This means that I have been wearing clothes out of my hanging wardrobe since I came back. It is very very nice. I feel very civilized.

The hanging wardrobe contains jackets, office trousers and tops that are ironed (or at least crease when folded). So in short, office clothes. That I very rarely wear to the office because I don't have an office type of job and rarely meet clients any more (and when I do, I wear high visibility gear and a hard hat).

The ambition from now is to wear the so called hanging clothes as long as we are in town. Some of these shirts I barely wear in a year but it is handy to be able to jazz up in full office regalia at a moments notice so they stay. Some if it, I use all the time and some I can not remember when I last wore. With the latest weight loss, I have also unpacked the thin-bag with clothes that I like and that are of good quality, but that I have not fitted into for a while. Those needs to be worn.
I also must see what I still can wear and what I need to alter. If I can't wear it or alter it, it will just have to go into the fat-bag until further notice.

Because if you ask my advice: Never ever keep clothes in your wardrobe that you do not fit into (at least sometime during every month). If it is good clothes that you like but just will not zip up right now, PACK IT UP. Label it the thin-bag, and if you are really organized list the content and the sizes on the outside so that when you do loose that weight, you can shop for free in your own wardrobe.

To make sure I know what has been worn and not been worn, I turned all hangers backwards. When I take something out, I have to un-hook the hanger back-wards. But when I hang it back in (after wearing, washing and ironing if needed), the hanger will be hung back in normally.
I can therefore see what has been worn from today until that day. And hopefully, when I dress, I will chose something unused.

I still have my ironing to do, but I plan to count the hanging tops (covering upper body) when that is done.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Cycling trip 2017

I really like this cycling trip thing we do occasionally. Normally I prefer walking. It gives time to think, time to see and it is easy to stop and to observe. Walking forces you to stop in uninteresting places to rest and during the time there will always be something to see, think or be wondered about.  Some places however are so crowded, or flat (or uninteresting?) that cycling is the only method of movement.

We took our bikes, me on my normal iron horse city bike and the man with his touring bicycle. Loaded bicycle bags, me with my donated chunky plastic bags and the man with his branded specially fitted bags. The packing was simple as we just followed the tried and tested packlist 2015, established years ago for the two of us. There were very few changes to packlist 2017, but this time we enforced the fundamental packing principle: Clothes are packed 2+1, one to wear, two in the bag. Nothing more, nothing less. Two pairs of socks for example rotates every second day, with the worn pair washed in the evening. The third pair are kept as spare, for the days when laundry does not dry or washing isn't done. We also knew we would have predominantly good weather so rain clothes were packed but only one warmer sweater for evening.

We had warm weather. The temperature kept going up. After six days it was closing in on 35 degrees (C). My dna grew out of a very cold sea and I am not adapted to warm weather. I live well around 20 and 25 is a good warm temperature. When it pushes 30, my brain boils and by 35 I do not leave the basement.

Cycling went fine until the temperature went up to the 30s, then my brakes would not operate any longer without loud protests. Unfortunately this coincided with us approaching the "mountains" (a term really only used ironically in these low lands) where roads are build by flatlanders who think that a good road goes straight down. As well as up. I walked many hills up and my brakes screamed their way down all hills.

Camping is lovely and as it is still so called low season, plenty of space every where. One night without car or electricity and only a tent is around €15. We slept out eight nights, cooked most of our own food and ate cake every day. Or vlaai as they call it.

In total, with trains for us and the bikes, together we spent €468 and did not deny ourselves anything.
It could have been less and it could have been more.
(Actually, it was more but that was money spent on replacing equipment or fulfilling wishes.)

Thursday, 15 June 2017


The bike bags are packed, the bum pack is filled with essentials, the weather is heating up and vacation is granted.
The tent is rolled up and the sleeping bags pushed down.
The gas cooker has a filled canister and the food bag is filled with dry items. The man baked onion and cheese bread and I boiled all eggs in the house.
We have contracted a plant water'er .
With one day warning, we are going on a bicycle trip.

First an hour on the train and then along the river in the direction of Belgium. Or Luxembourg. 250 km or so.
We'll see if we get there. Somewhere.
Back in a few days, a week - or two.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


I count a lot of things. Money, trousers, pens, memories and blessings...
Now I also count calories.

It is not easy.
I thought it would be easy. I thought it would be just adding numbers up.
And it is.
But I have to figure out what the number is first.
And that means I have to find out the kilo-calorie content of everything I put in my mouth (or have put in my mouth).
And then I have to figure out how much I ate, so I need to weigh and measure everything I eat.
So on the kitchen scales everything goes.
My guess for what things weigh is really off and so I weigh everything.

Did you know that two slices of cheese (and I use a Norwegian cheese slicer, a ostehøvel) weight almost 30 gram?
And since 100 gram of cheese is almost 400 kilo-calories those two slices of cheese are 120 kcal?
I did not know that.
And I have never eaten two slices of cheese at any given time. Ever.
Twenty is a more likely number. Or an entire block of cheese.

But not now, because now everything goes into a food diary.
All or most of what I eat is home cooked from scratch so is a little fiddly.
But at least until I learn how to measure, weigh and count properly I will try to keep this up.
I mean, at least until I learn what food items needs to be limited and what are free to indulge in.

We went cycling the other day. Four hours, 48 km. It burned around 1400 kcal.
Everything I ate that day has been religiously counted and if need be, re-measured until I had a complete food diary for what I ate that day.
Breakfast porridge, coffees, two double sandwiches with cheese and mustard, boiled egg, home made veggie stir-fry (no fat) with rice, a beer, a glass(-es) of wine and some lemonade came to 2081 kcal.
It took three days to put all the numbers in and there may still be something missing.
Excel did the adding up.

It has been very very educational.
That day I can see that I myself drank the excess calories which I could easily have avoided.
I will keep it up for more days until I learn to put the right stuff in my mouth.

Monday, 12 June 2017


The kettle is leaking.

The water kettle we bought less than two years ago is leaking in the bottom. Water everywhere after just a few minutes.

THEN we had the choice between buying cheap for short term or slightly not cheap for longer term.
(The choice of buying cheap electronics for short term is available to us because we have access to free collection of waste electronics for recycling with the environmentally best  treatment options. If not - then cheap electronics would not be an option for us. I am aware I ought to include a full CSR (corporate social responsibility) analysis of the product and the manufacturing company when I make purchases like this but there is just enough to worry about right now as a single consumer.)

Cheap lasted less than two years, 22 months to be correct. Cheap cost for us 5€ per year or 45 eurocent per month. (Total social and environmental cost not included but we pay separately for waste collection and treatment here, and worth every eurocent.)

I had the glue in my hand and looked at the mess, and just decided I had had enough.
The choice right NOW was not to fiddle, test and try to repair it.
The choice was between buying slightly less cheap that will last us longer or to buy better quality regardless of cost.
Unfortunately, after hours of research, quality is not an easy variable for an individual consumer to use. Because it is not identified or quantified. The national consumer institutes does do tests on different products and they to set up different variables to identify quality.

Legislative compliance is however something both identified and quantified. The product legislation for the market with the EU and EEA member states requires that most products, and definitely electrical appliances, must have a label with the CE mark and the standard it complies with. Non-member states have their own rules (looking at you, UK). I have also even seen RoHS compliance labels but although compliance is mandatory, labelling is not, and it is anyway just minimum requirements to be allowed in and onto the market.

But because the kettle - or water cooker as it is known in EU English - is urgently needed, we bought cheap. €8,65. This is 15% cheaper than two years ago which is a little worrying. The design is a little more flash than we are used to (it has an extra ridge down the front, who-oh-o) but size, effect, function and cordlessness is still the same. It is not a fast boiler but then we are not in a hurry.

Please check back in spring 2019 for an update on how this kettle is doing.

I already have a bit of a guilty conscience for not buying at least a brand name, but..., although... and one never know...
Are you handling these purchases differently?

Saturday, 10 June 2017


Before having thrown the useless oil lamp out - finally! - I was dreaming about real candles.
It has been uncommonly cold the last week. 
Candles that light up.
Candles that smells nice.
Candles that warms up a room.

I knew we had lots of candles but of course the question was:
How many candles and candle holders did we hold?

Besides my antique candle sticks to which I have no candles and unless I go completely satanic or medieval (latter more likely), no candles will ever be placed in my pricket candle sticks
(pique-cierges gothiques) and most certainly never lit. 

The man has two pewter candle holders for long candles on top of a book case. Currently we have one long candle in one of them. That is a good start isn't it?
We might put long candles on the wish list for later in the year. It really isn't something we need but it might be something we want if the right sort comes along.

We also have 128 tea lights. One unopened bag with 100 tea lights and one opened with a few left.
Some are already in the soap stone candle holder we use for tea lights.
All tea lights are all the small, burns for 4-hours variety (because re-lighting tea lights is not easy and you get more light for your buck if you let it burn out naturally, while in the room of course. The melted candle can ignite and become a much bigger candle. A dinner torch. Not fun. So I always buy the smaller ones.
In the cold and dark season, we light one or two tea lights per evening at home and let them burn out. Because we are lazy we do not replace the empty cups everyday but rather change them all in one go.
So they all sit in a tray with stones from around the world. (Don't light this many tea lights this close together at once, they will ignite each other. True story, seen it happen several times.)

I took a tour around the house to look for more candle paraphernalia. There is an old cigarette lighter on a book shelve for lighting the tea lights. There are two glass tea light holders in the kitchen cabinet that we drink whiskey out of (nice and heavy in the bottom) and I know I have a brass candle stick in storage (that I love but don't need right now).

How many candles do you have?