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?