Saturday, 24 June 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?

Thursday, 8 June 2017


I can throw out the useless present the man accepted when I was away.

A friend of ours had received a present from a client that I think she had to accept and she offered it to the man who accepted it.
It was a little stupid oil lamp holder to put in a stupid empty wine bottle.
To which we of course had to go and buy our own lamp oil. (Not a huge investment.)
And then we had a wine bottle on the table for months and months.
With a little oil lamp in it that kept breaking more and more as the months went by.

The little oil lamp has been lit every night in the dark season just to use it up.
The little oil lamp did not provide any warmth.
It did not light up the room.
It smelled
It would extinct if the window was opened.
It was an all round completely useless thing.
It was not purely ornamental but empty wine bottles are not really my style of interior design.
Not even if they have an oil lamp in them. It did DO something but it did not fulfil any kind of need.

And almost every time I refilled it, I estimated how long until the lamp oil was used up.
I dreamt of the day I could throw the whole thing out.
It took way longer than expected. It lasted almost a year!

But all bad things come to an end and FINALLY I filled the lamp with the last of the lamp oil. 
One single evening later, the bottle for the lamp oil, the empty wine bottle and the little oil lamp went into the recycling (because we sort our waste carefully).

Lesson: Don't accept presents you do not want. Make sure the next owner really wants something to use it when you pass unnecessary items along. 
I know, I could have just thrown it all out (the man agreed to its uselessness) but that would have been a total waste of the useless thing.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


I made a vegetable casserole last night because I found a recipe using quark (kvarg for the Scandies  and kwark, quark or queso kvark in most other languages). It has become the hipster-vegetarian protein source by choice so it is now sold everywhere. I had almost forgotten about it. I know it from my childhood on a hot summer day with a tea-spoon of jam in it. (It is not cottage cheese!) Pirogies around the Baltic sea are usually filled with it. Cheese cakes are made from it.

In a magazine I found in the neighbourhood free book shelf, I found the
Potato, tomato and courgette layer. (Slimming World from October 2008; as good as new)
Mine looked like this and was delicious.
I calculated that the calories for what I made was about 230 calories! (I only used one egg, and slightly more quark, skipped the cheese and added more vegetables to my bigger form  (The man had a giggle fit when I explained how well I had followed the recipe - as a force of nature I refuse to be tied down to a recipe.) There was nothing left for him by the time he got home.

Later in the evening, following the rule that you can eat anything you make yourself, I made cake.
Just a small 50 gram butter, two egg sponge cake, baked on low heat for 45 min to make it moist.
No picture.
We ate the whole thing after dinner while the rain and storm tore through the country.

I just calculated the calorie content. 2200 kcal.
I ate half.
I enjoyed it.
Bite me.

Monday, 5 June 2017


I am trying to come down to ±0. I am currently stuck on +2.
This means that I want to lose another 2 kilos (almost five pounds).
Then I will be within healthy BMI.
Then I will be down to, but not passing, the weight I promised myself I would never go beyond.
(No, I will not be thin. That is not a target weight or dream weight. It is just not over-weight.)

With the work and attention to exercise and food the past two months, I have stopped gaining.
However, I am really am stuck at +2.
So now I am stepping it up a notch.

I downloaded the NHS weight loss programme where the target is 150 minutes of movement a week, one strengthening exercise a day, 1400 calories for a woman a day including five vegetables.

Through the daily exercises, the daily walks, the cycling and the hiking in the weekends and as we still mostly eat vegetarian, most of it is already accomplished. 

The hard part is the calories. I have no idea the amount of calories in food.
The task I set to try to learn is to
- note everything I eat
- weigh food when cooking
- figure out the calorie content by reading food labels or using on-line info.  (Does everybody know that there is almost 400 kcal in 100 gr of cheese? 100 grams of cheese is very little cheese!
I have never eaten so little cheese in one go in my entire my life.)
- record all calories.

After two days it has turned out that I really do not eat 1400 calories per day (however I do not eat 3000 calories any longer so good on me!! Yay!).

Thankfully I like my porridge plain and that is only 150 kcal (no milk). (I have eaten oatmeal porridge for breakfast most of my life so having another portion for lunch is not a problem.)
Then I can keep snacking on fruit, raisins, müslie bars, strips of iceberg salad, cherry tomatoes, green beans or knäckebröd through the day. ('cause I am a snacker, I like to snack, but I have noticed that it really doesn't matter what I eat as long as I have something next to me.) My coffee is less than 20 kcal per cup and I have at least 4 a day. And lots of water.
I then eat a normal dinner with the man in the evening and with as much cheese as I want.
But only one portion. And it has to be a normal portion. (We cook for 4; he eats the rest or makes lunch boxes with the left-overs - usually just eats it. He needs to keep his weight up.)
I have a bit of fruit for dessert.

And after two days, I moved from +2 to +1,7 so it is clearly working. Now I will work on keeping it up for a week and then weigh myself again.

Do you count calories or do you just starve yourself as a diet?

Saturday, 3 June 2017


Going outside cycling in the countryside so no internet today.

Friday, 2 June 2017


I count my assets the first of every month and I have for a very long time.
This means I log on to all accounts and pension institutes and make a note of the current value in my notebook. Then I add it all up and divide it with my annual budget.
(I do not including the value of anywhere I live as I always need somewhere to live and not including the value of assets I do not control, such as pensions.)

I went into super-saving in 2009 when I thought I was about to lose my job.
I found that my annual budget could come down considerably and that my saving could go up.  There was no need to spend the left-overs of the month. I paid off my mortgage in 2010 and my student loans the same year.

I now live within an annual budget that is a quite normal income for most people and still have some room for further savings in it. The reason I talk only about my annual budget is that it it not always possible to stay within the monthly budget. Several months of the year, I live well below the monthly budget. Some months a lot of extra costs, annual fees and expenses, are paid and that has to come from money saved previous months. Together it is a safe annual budget. (The man has his own budget, we share expenses only, for different reasons.)

I did not forget to count my financial independence number (FI-number) yesterday - due to chock.
Currently my investments are doing really well. In 2009, my goal was to have 25 annual budgets in assets. The theory is that this enables a 4% SWR (safe withdrawal rate) which will regenerate the assets indefinitely. (Look it up, don't take my word for it.)
This month I had an FI-number of 35,32. That means that I can live 35 years without further income from my job (fingers crossed hoping that the coming cost increases is compensated by interests and dividends on the investments). It is very humbling and I am very very grateful to my past self for the hard work that has added up assets slowly over time until they by now grow themselves.

Now, to be fair: I own no property, no car and no wealth beyond these savings. I do have a nest and pension rights not included. I also have saved like an anti-social idiot through my entire life.
Still - it seems that if I continue to live frugally, I don't have to worry about losing my job again. (My boss does not know this.)

Do you count your money? It is a great encouragement towards saving.