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Purchases that keep on giving #4: Magazines

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Part of my magazine collection

At one time or another I have been intensely interested in learning to skydive, taxidermy, knitting, sewing, oil painting, kung fu movies, film noir, kalashnikovs, diamonds, poisons, the subprime market crisis, science, forensics, the causes of birth defects, cooking, makeup, serial killers, the periodic table, embalming and loads more. Some of those interests are enduring, some were fleeting. Time goes very fast for me when I am learning about something just for the sake of it, but aside from a few things, the interest generally wanes after that.

That’s why I absolutely love my magazine subscription to Stack. They send me a new magazine or two each month on a random topic, put out by independent publishers. The ones I’ve received so far have covered street art, boxing, interns, gay men, plants, bicycle riding, Los Angeles, music, film, graphic design, happiness and inventions. It’s like Christmas once a month when my subscription arrives.

It’s also a purchase, and it’s one I considered long and hard about cancelling when I started my year without spending. But it’s something I decided to keep simply because it brings me so much joy. There have been a few standouts since I started, and I wanted to share two of them because they’re doing an amazing job and I guess its hard to survive in as an independent publisher in the digital age.

The Plant

This was my very first one and it’s still one of my favourites. It’s a beautiful, full-sized glossy magazine that features interviews with gardeners, landscaping tips, recipes based solely on commonly-grown edibles, gorgeous photography, erotic plant-based fiction (not even joking), an in-depth look at a feature plant and advice on growing more and better.

It’s a fun one to flick open now and again, and fills me with a desire to be more wholesome and self-sufficient. And to get out of the city. Which is completely unrealistic for me because I lose my shit when a pigeon flies in my direction and don’t even get me started on insects.

.

.

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Works that Work: A magazine of unexpected creativity

Works that Work magazine aims to “publish articles that give you great dinner stories to tell your friends.” And they do. This is by far my favourite and I will get a subscription to it once my year of not spending ends. It’s only put out every six months, but the writing is of such a good standard and the topic is so broad that it could cover just about anything.

The issue I received had a fascinating long read on people who had lived through the siege of Sarajevo – the longest in modern history – and the way they had been forced to improvise to complete simple, every-day tasks. From hauling water up endless flights of stairs with no elevator to home-made thermos mugs constructed from salvaged boxes and bubble wrap, the people interviewed actually looked back on the time as one of the most interesting of their lives. Necessarily forced to develop a sense of community, people shared their inventions as quickly as they could and in a time with no conveniences, intermittent electricity and extreme danger, they innovated the most incredible things from the most unlikely materials.

There were so many other great stories in there as well: how the native Sami people of the arctic constructed dwellings that helped them follow reindeer herds across the tundra, how an entire city is constructed out of nothing every four years for the holy Indian festival of Kumbh Mela, and how the invention of a cheap solar lightbulb is changing lives in the Philippines.

My Stack subscription is a calculated spend that brings me far more joy than the 12eu a month price tag costs me. And it lets me peek into all sorts of interesting corners of our amazing world.

And by the way, if you’re like me and get crazy interested in things for a short time, you might also have felt like there was something wrong with you. I have always envied people who can sustain a deep, abiding interest in a single topic and find contentment in it. The people who always knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I’m still figuring it out, but I’m no longer punishing myself for all my interests. I’m learning to celebrate them, as I’m working my way through this book: Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. It’s a really liberating read for me and I feel much more at peace with my ADD and my broad array of interests.

And don’t worry, I didn’t buy the book. It’s something I’ve had on my shelf for a long time but have never actually sat down with. That’s another benefit of not spending, it forces you to shop your own bookshelf. And you bought everything in it for a reason, even if you haven’t gotten to it yet!

Cheaters Anon.

Photo Credit: Dave's Domain via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dave’s Domain via Compfight cc

“My name is Siân and I have cheated.”

So in my last post I renewed my no-spending vows and promised to reveal exactly how I had cheated.

But first, a little story. When I arrived in Munich 3.5 years ago, I was pretty much stone broke, or “financially embarrassed” as my friend Jean and I like to say. I had decided that nothing would stop me from accepting the job offer, but looking back, I really did it tough at first. I had to buy the cheapest of everything, because my boyfriend in Sydney and I had just forked out a load of cash for a new fridge, washing machine, dishwasher, mattress, sofa and side tables, so savings were non-existent. Plus, the role here involved a huge pay cut.

I had also not realised the way the rental market works in Germany. The TENANT pays the real estate agent a non-refundable fee of 2.8 times the gross rent of the new place. Whaaaa? In most cases, for NOTHING! Literally, these people stick an ad in the online search site, thousands of people apply (because Munich has a chronic rental housing shortage), they hold one open-house for 20 mins at a super inconvenient time, collect a thousand applications and pick the first one that meets the criteria. Done. For that, they earn around 2 grand. From the tenant.

My first apartment rented for 780eu a month. I had to pay two months’ rent in advance, a bond of 1500 and then a real estate agent fee of around 2000. All this on top of the furniture I was repaying at home, plus my flights…and I still hadn’t been paid my drastically reduced salary.

Long story short, I had to buy really cheap shit. Including a mattress. I bought the most inexpensive Ikea one I could find and slowly realised I might as well be sleeping on the kitchen table. I haven’t been able to replace it since then.

I’ve been sleeping poorly because of it. I realised last month that over time it had become so bad I was actually avoiding going to bed, knowing I would toss and turn for hours and never be comfortable, waking with stiff shoulders and a burning neck. Here’s a snapshot from my sleep tracker app of what an average night looked like for me:

2014-12-18 17.16.19

 

I didn’t want to spring for a new mattress (see what I did there?) at this stage in my financial development, so I decided to try something else first. I know amazon have their issues, I really do. But what I love about it as a consumer is that I can see what everyone else thinks of a product. Mattresses and pillows in particular are difficult to buy, because what feels comfortable for three minutes in a show room may not be what feels good long-term, when you test it in the privacy of your own privacy :).

So I picked the best-rated pillow and mattress-softening overlay and they were delivered the very next day. And holy land of nod do they make a difference to me.

It’s still not quite like sleeping in a good hotel, or my old bed in Sydney. And still, one of the first things I will buy when I am debt-free next year is definitely a really quality box-spring bed. But in the meantime, here’s what sleep looks like now:

2014-12-18 17.35.01

I know, right??! Progress.

I also bought:

Measuring cups and spoons. German baking and recipes go by weight, so you can find the world’s most advanced kitchen scales that can measure the exhalation of a cricket, but not a single “teaspoon” or “cup”. I figured it was much better use of my resources to simply buy a set than spend endless hours converting things in all my recipes. I am happy with this choice.

The Best Paleo Recipes 2014 ebook. I am getting a recipe book for Christmas, I know. And I didn’t need this. But it was on sale for $19.95 USD, (which it still is) and I liked a couple of the recipes I had seen sneak previews of. I definitely need more recipe books, because I cannot free-style in the kitchen like all those incredibly gifted people who can. I am paint by numbers or nothing at all.  This ebook seemed like a good choice.

So those were my cheats. I am not proud of them, but I am consoling myself with the fact that they all in some way contribute to my health. Sleep most importantly. And there was not a single wasteful or silly item, not even a cheap piece of costume jewellery that I’d have tired of after the first wear.

Even though I cheated, I consider that I cheated well. I feel like this is progress. And today, that’s good enough for me.

Renewing my vows

Photo Credit: 'sad♥girl' via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ‘sad♥girl’ via Compfight cc

I seem to have fallen prey to a little something known in the industry as “scope creep”. You know, when someone asks you to proofread a short document and suddenly it’s midnight and you’re doing the cancan on a table in Tijuana with Carlos? Oh wait…different story.

When I initially “closed my purse” the rules were quite clear. Aside from food, skin care and medical care, NOTHING else was in scope. Well…I’ve sort of been gently nudging the goalposts a little as I struggled to stick to this and came up against obstacles I hadn’t expected, and now I’ve moved them so far that it’s just not cricket anymore. Oh wait…different game.

So here, I would like to renew my vows. There’s a post coming later this week about what exactly I’ve been naughty with, and how even though I have been naughty, I’m still making better choices. But for now, here are my vows. Again.

Dear Me,

I swear to keep my purse closed in good times and in bad, through Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, in the face of huge discounts, cool products and upcoming events where I don’t have a single thing to wear. I promise to keep it closed in summer and in winter, spring and autum, until next August do us part. I remember the reasons why I started this (which are written here if you dropped the ball on that), and I commit to them again.

I owe this to myself and I want to do it. Now, and…until next August as I said.

And please, please for the love of god stop drooling on the pillows while wearing fake tan. Oh wait…different vows.

Love,

Me.

Building Rome – Steady as she goes

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Can’t talk! Got a novel to write. I’m participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month and you can cheer my progress in the widget on the right hand side.

In other news, here are my goals from last week in the Green Embers Building Rome weekly goal setting event:

  1. Go to crossfit three times. DONE! Read more about it here.
  2. Bring my lunch each day. DONE! Cooking up a storm over here. Thank god for the interwebs providing me with a constant source of paleo recipes! 
  3. Eat fermented food three times a week. DONE!
  4. Eat NO grains. (I’ve actually already been doing this for three weeks. I feel like a NEW person.) DONE! Getting easier and easier. And I feel like a million dollars. 
  5. Get my outline ready for Nanowrimo. I am going to attempt to write a novel in 30 days. Anyone else out there doing this?! I need some buddies! DONE! And the games have begun! 
  6. Continue Sober October until the end of October. DONE….well. I went to a Halloween party on the night of the 31st of October. Debauchery ensued. And it occurred before midnight. However! I kept myself only to blood vodka jelly shots that went from fake plastic syringes into my mouth. Well that and marshmallow vodka. So partial credit.

And my goals for the next week are basically the same. They will be for a while. So this might be the last time I check in on them during November. It’s hard. I’m busy! Still got around nine-tenths of my book to write. But I might share some good passages on here if I feel like my muse has done a good job 🙂

Good luck with your goals!

Building Rome: Wait…what week is it?

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It has come to my attention that I have no freaking clue what day I check in with my goals on. So from now on, it’s Mondays. Ahh Mondays. That shitty, shitty day where you remember you haven’t won the lottery and you have to get up at 630am again. Or in my case, when the snooze button runs out. Which is approximately 15 minutes after first alarm, but a good while before second alarm. Second alarm is set for the last conceivable minute that I can get up, tie my hair in a knot, run a washcloth over myself, and leave the house decent enough not to cause alarm to the general populace.

It should only be used in extreme cases.

But I digress.

Here are my goals from last week, from the Building Rome event hosted by the lovely Green Embers,  and how I did on them:

  • I will not spend any money. After the Finland debacle, I’ve been very careful with this one. Mission accomplished. 
  • I will go to crossfit twice this week. Nailed it!  
  • I will bring my lunch each day this week. Also a gold star on this one. Have not missed a single day of packing my own lunch. Even though I eat in the company cafeteria with everyone else and the heavy, eastern-European cashier who looks like an extra on Orange is the New Black makes me hold open my containers for her. Yeah right. Like I would steal that food. Bitch, please. 
  • I will continue Sober October. This is going to be a BIG test. I am going to the Whiskey Festival with friends on Friday, and a very good friend is visiting this weekend. Not just any friend, an Irish friend. I have decided that for Friday and Saturday nights, “sobriety” will mean two standard drinks. Just for those two days, and only because these two events are pretty rare and special.  OKaaaay. So. This one. Huh. Well, I not only tumbled off the wagon, I hit every sleeper on the track during the night of the whiskey festival. The glorious, delicious whiskey festival. I literally don’t know how many I had, but it was enough to cause a bone-crushing headache the next day. And to not remember taking at least half the pictures I found on my mobile the next day. Which mainly involved hands holding whiskey glasses. Case in point at the top. I didn’t notice the middle finger. That’s what happens when you drink with boys. Aaaand, then I drank again the next day and the next. Not half as much. Just two drinks on Saturday and one on Sunday. But then I dusted myself off and got back on the wagon, and rode it clean through to Friday. When I tumbled off it again. This time I only had a single Moscow Mule. And now I am back on it again. 

I would like to give myself extra credit here, because I did not drink on Sunday. Not even when a bird flew into my apartment. An actual bird. Which then totally panicked and started smacking itself against the window. The closed one. Not the open one it had just flown in through. I am PETRIFIED of birds. And there was no-one here with me, and my distress calls went unanswered. Mostly because I am not sure any sound actually came out of my mouth. For the next ten minutes, this bird and I moved around each other with flaps and screams and ducking, while I tried to get the window open wider for it, and it shat on the sofa, floor, and coffee table and did laps of the kitchen. Eventually when the door was wide open, I cautiously retreated and then curled into a ball on the floor. As soon as the thing FINALLY flew out, I got up and slapped the window shut and so it shall remain forevermore. Most terrifying moments of  my life to date. And I had a whiskey bottle in my hand thirty seconds afterward. But I talked myself down. The strength this required cannot be underestimated.

  • I will add fermented food to my diet 3 times a week. Done! I’ve been eating sauerkraut and drinking kombucha at least 3 times a week. 
  • I will do at least one page on any of my creative writing projects. Done! I have been outlining in preparation for National Novel Writing month. Which is a new goal below. 
  • Complete my German homework, and watch a half hour episode of a familiar show in German. Nope. Didn’t even go near this. Apologies to my darling German teacher. I will do better this week, Carmen, I promise.

And on to this week’s goals! We’ve got some big ones here.

  1. Go to crossfit three times.
  2. Bring my lunch each day.
  3. Eat fermented food three times a week.
  4. Eat NO grains. (I’ve actually already been doing this for three weeks. I feel like a NEW person.)
  5. Get my outline ready for Nanowrimo. I am going to attempt to write a novel in 30 days. Anyone else out there doing this?! I need some buddies!
  6. Continue Sober October until the end of October.

I think that’s enough for now, don’t you? 🙂 Good luck on your goals!

Building Rome – Back on the rails

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Soooo, last week I posted my first ever goal list and then skipped off to Finland to ruin goal #1, before coming down with the black death and neglecting to lift a finger on goals #2 – 5.

Here’s what they were for last week, along with my progress updates.

  1. Financial: I will not spend any money (obeying these rules). Uh, so I didn’t really stick to this.
  2. Fitness: I will go to crossfit three times next week. Nope, not this either. I was way too sick to even go to work, let alone work out.
  3. Creative: I will get started (one page min) on the outline for the TV series idea I have. Also a big zero on this front. I was more concerned with keeping drool off my pillow and wondering how many tissues a human can use in one day.
  4. Health: I will take my own lunch to work each day next week. Here I get partial credit. I did bring lunch to work the only day and a half I was in, and the rest of the time, I only ate food I had cooked. When I was hungry at all, that is.
  5. Creative 2: I will write 2 pages for my chapter of the book I am cowriting with one of my BFFs. I think you can already guess where this one went.

However! I have still made some headway on some things. And the goals have changed slightly, perhaps expanded.

Here they are for this week, which is Week 42 of Green Ember’s Building Rome challenge:

  1. I will not spend any money So far – Finland excepted – so good.
  2. I will go to crossfit twice this week It’s not the usual 3 because I am building back up after the ‘flu. One already down one to go.
  3. I will bring my lunch each day this week. 3 from 3 so far!
  4. I will continue Sober October. This is going to be a BIG test. I am going to the Whiskey Festival with friends on Friday, and a very good friend is visiting this weekend. Not just any friend, an Irish friend. I have decided that for Friday and Saturday nights, “sobriety” will mean two standard drinks. Just for those two days, and only because these two events are pretty rare and special.
  5. I will add fermented food to my diet 3 times a week. This is to aid with gut healing – more on that below.
  6. I will do at least one page on any of my creative writing projects.
  7. Complete my German homework, and watch a half hour episode of a familiar show in German.

It’s a lot, but I am feeling 99% healthy again, and cooked up a huge batch of food on the first day of my sickness, before collapsing into bed for marathon 12-hour stretches.

I have been inspired to add fermented food to my diet (goal #5) after reading a series of really interesting posts on the Eat.Drink.WoD. Blog. The author decided to cut out a bunch of foods and increase others, to see what would happen and how she would feel. The results were pretty spectacular. If you want to read more:

Here are the rules she followed, and her motivation for starting.

Here is a revelation she had part-way through.

And here’s what she discovered at the end.

Happy reading, and good luck with your goals!

Building Rome – my first goal list

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

There are several things I know about myself.

  1. I would get my pinky toes surgically straightened if that was a thing
  2. I need whiskey in the apartment
  3. If I am stressed or upset about something, even without realising it, I: smoke, lose sleep/sleep poorly, obsessively think about what has upset me, drink (more than usual), cry easily over ridiculous things like a shoelace snapping, get short-tempered with people I love, laugh very little, get a break out, get a cold sore and avoid time alone.

I was going to make my very first Building Rome goals list more about getting over my breakup. But I have done an internal checklist and realised that actually…I’m not going through any of these things. I have no idea why, but I am happy, I am spending lots of time alone, I’m not really drinking, I’m not thinking about things, and I only really genuinely wish him well. He was a fun addition to my life while we were together. I seem to have nothing to get past and work on. Hooray for me!

However, the rest of my life is something of a shit show. Well, in some areas anyway. So now that I am joining in on the game, my goals are more about my life ambitions. And my body and general health. Here they are (inspired by* the Mental Mama category system):

  1. Financial: I will not spend any money (obeying these rules)
  2. Fitness: I will go to crossfit three times next week
  3. Creative: I will get started (one page min) on the outline for the TV series idea I have
  4. Health: I will take my own lunch to work each day next week
  5. Creative 2: I will write 2 pages for my chapter of the book I am cowriting with one of my BFFs.

There. Getting those done for a week will make me feel pretty awesome!

It’s a short week too, since I’m in Finland until Monday night. On something of an extreme holiday. Not in the usual sense of adventure sports, but because the girlfriend I am going to visit is severely pregnant and a small human could pop out of her at any moment. The very idea that I could be called upon to be of service in a birthing situation gives me cold sweats. Come on little girl, hang in there until I am on the plane home! 🙂

 

*totally copied.

My thought for the day – brought on by a bad one

Photo Credit: Gemma Bou via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gemma Bou via Compfight cc

Today was not what would be classed as “a great day.”

I freely admit to being somewhat premenstrual (TMI, sorry), but I got up early to get in to work early. The trains were all delayed and I ended up arriving close to normal time. Then I had to hurry off early for a nail appointment. I am away at a company workshop next week, and feel I need to look a certain part. When I got to the salon, they told me I should have forewarned them that I had nail polish that needed removing. They apparently allow an extra 10 minutes for this, but it was ok because today they had time.

45 minutes later I was getting dangerously close to missing my crossfit class, and there was apparently still 10 minutes to wait because someone else was at the lone nail station. I mean really? It’s a nail salon! I decided I couldn’t wait, but they told me I had to pay for the removal and tidy up they’d already done. Great.

Except I had no cash and they didn’t accept card. A trip to the bank later (and WHY are there so few of those fuckers in Munich?) I would not have made class. And my nails looked horrible. So I stopped by a tiny salon on the way home that could fit me in on the spot. That should have been a clue, but I was desperate.

I’ve ended up with clumpy polish and ragged cuticles, and I’m pretty sure my colour is embedded with nail dust from a thousand other customers. But whatever. Of course, the trains were also delayed on the way home. So I’ve finally arrived and poured myself a whiskey. I deserve it.

It made me think about some things. I have lots of goals in this life, and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think you should stop expecting more of yourself until you die. But where it’s bad, is when it stops me from thinking I am good enough now.

I catch myself thinking: I’ll be proud of myself when I have x in the bank, when I do y for a job, when my closet looks like this, when I’ve lost z kilos, when I can run so far, when I own paintings by Martine Emdur, or Beth Hoeckel, or Yago Hortal. When my home looks a certain way or my hair is a certain length. When I’ve had my eyes lasered, when I can ride a motorbike and grow plants from seed.

This sometimes stops me from realising that I have a lot right now. I am happy, healthy and whole with great friends and an amazing family. I’m funny, I am fun to be around and losing weight would be nice but I am in the healthy range now. I have all my teeth, all my hair and all my faculties. And I’ve achieved a lot too. I’ve lived in lots of different countries, I get to write for a living, I’m good at my job.

Whenever I see someone who struggles to walk properly, or has a terminal illness, or can’t find work, or even know someone who finds it difficult to make friends, it makes me realise I am being a giant douche.

Yes, I am a work in progress. But I am also perfect now.

Things I would buy this instant

I’m taking a deeeeep breath. Because the feeling rushing over me is very, very familiar. It’s the urge to spend. And it’s almost overwhelming.

I was in York, England for 5 days and just got back last night. Walking along the old town main streets I saw SO many cute shops and boutiques that don’t exist here in Munich. And when I came back and looked in my closet, I felt a little…impoverished. Also, the more cooking I do, the more I realise there are machines that can do bits and pieces far, far more quickly for me. I don’t have to sacrrifice my knuckles to the Grating God – I can shove the whole bag of carrots in a food processor! Or I could if I had one.

I feel like my grandma must have felt when washing machines were invented – the HOURS she would have spent scrubbing and wringing (although my grandfather was apparently famed for the strength of his arms and hence the amount of water he could wring from a wet piece of clothing, so that helped) and hanging. She could have had all those hours back. Same goes with the ironing. And the cooking. And that’s kind of how I am feeling now.

So here are the Top 5 things I would immediately purchase, if my purse wasn’t closed.

1. This jumper:

http://www.zalando.de/ltb-teki-strickpullover-dust-lt121i013-003.html?wmc=DIS49_RT_DE_DS_2012648.&opc=2211

It’s cute and warm and cosy and it’s on sale for 22euros. TWENTY TWO clams. That’s hardly any clams at all! I couldn’t knit it myself for the same price! Mostly because I can’t knit, but you see what I mean.

2. This meat grinder:

fleisch-und-teigwolf

Germans are mad for a pig. Mad for it. The nation was raised on swine. You can get it in just about any form – although they sadly don’t do bacon the way I know it. Instead of the hearty, thick, crispy slices I grew to love, there are wafer-thin, artificially smoke-flavoured “English-style” jobbies. Not the same, Deutschland. Not the same. Anyway, while minced pork is readily available, and minced beef can also be found, the country is curiously absent of minced chicken, turkey, lamb or any other animal you care to name and mince. And a lot of the recipes I am desperate to try call for such ingredients. If I had this chap (and he’s only 30eu!) this would be a problem of the past. Sigh.

3. This pressure cooker:

pressure cooker

Has anyone ever tried to soften adzuki beans? Anyone? I soaked the beggars for two solid days, and then boiled them for 90 minutes. At the end of all that, I could still have sold them as bullets. I stood on one and shattered my femur, but the bean was still intact. The key, apparently, is a pressure cooker! I don’t know what kind of wizardry it works, but it gets the job done – pronto. And because they cook faster, they use less energy too…so I would be saving the world at the same time as I saved myself some time. Sorry, that was a confusing sentence. I would not just use it for beans. Loads of nomnompaleo recipes use a pressure cooker, and they are recipes I want in! my! belly! This fellow is only 50eu. Reduced from 89! I’m losing money every minute I sit here writing about it.

4. This book:

kings ransom

Has anyone else grown up with an extremely patriotic parent no longer living in their homeland? Welcome to my life. My father was born in Wales, of Welsh parents and Welsh grandparents. He was schooled in Wales, studied in Wales, got his degree in Wales. He loves Welsh choir music, Welsh rarebit, Welsh weather, Welsh landscapes, Welsh songs, Welsh history, Welsh welshiness. His whole family stayed in the same village and he alone of them – urged along by my poor Spanish mother whose family had emigrated to Wales during her early teens and who hated the bitter weather – left the Welsh stronghold and moved to Australia.

His heart never made the trip.

Our family home had a Welsh “shrine”, filled with flags and lovespoons and framed quotes and stacks of CDs of welsh people singing (Tom Jones, take a bow). He had an artist weld him a Welsh dragon out of iron, which he used as the emblem for his bar. And he pressed upon my sister and I, most earnestly and unrelentingly, for years and years, the idea that we had to read everything Sharon Penman had written about the medieval history of Wales. We resisted, as children and teenagers do, but the day came where I’d finally had enough. I’d read his stupid book just to tell him I hated it – then he’d leave me alone.

Except I loved it. I cannot recommend her books highly enough. We started with Here Be Dragons, then Falls the Shadow, then the Reckoning and since then I have greedily devoured every single thing she ever wrote. As an historian, she writes so accurately that she footnotes any deviations she makes in timing or location for the sake of plot. As a first-class writer, she keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though you know how things turned out most of the time. She gives real, round life to historical characters. She particularly loves writing about Henry II and Elenor of Aquitaine and their “Devil’s Brood” which included Richard Lionheart and Evil King John Lackland.  I’ve read them all, except this guy. Also, the rest of his mates – everything she ever wrote – are in Australia, on my ex-boyfriend’s bookshelf. I will rebuild the collection, but in the meantime – I want to read this one!!

5. This air fryer:

51gCy2APoLL__SL1500_

I am a complete sucker for anything fried. Fritters, chips, bhajis, pakoras, patties – you name it, I will put it in my mouth and eat the hell out of it. This gentleman costs only 200 (!), and can not only offer me a lifetime of happiness, but can also cook a batch of fries on A TABLESPOON OF OIL. If you need further reasoning, you have no business being here.

Now, had I have purchased everything on this list, I would have spent at least 250eu.  And there is no doubt that I would have bought it all before I started this challenge. And next month, there would have been some equally tantaslising products I “needed”. And here you see where my money was going each and every month. And why it’s a damn good thing I am keeping my purse shut.

Speaking of purses, I GOT MY BOND BACK!!!! Finally, I cannot believe it’s over!

BONUS Travel Tip: If you find yourself in York, strolling along “Grape” Lane (which was called Grope Lane until a few hundred years ago, or less. It was thought that the original, bawdier name would deeply offend the visiting Queen Victoria should her royal eyes have fallen upon it. God knows what they did with the prostitutes who gave the street its name) do yourself a favour and go visit this restaurant: El Piano. It’s vegan, ALL gluten free and home to some of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted! This pig smashed her hooves in all sorts of joyful things and wore such a permanently delighted expression that her similarly impressed (gluten-and-meat-eating) boyfriend secretly took pictures of pig in unflattering, cheek-bulging ecstasy. The fritters are to die for, as are the felafel salad, the baby burger, the currant chutney, the mathematical chips, the quinoa-pineapple salad and whatever that purple thing was. I ordered so much food that the chef came out to warn me these were all adult portions. “Bring them to me!” I commanded, before gobbling them all up. Best of all, they sell kits so you can re-create some of the goody goodness at home!

If I spend in a forest and noone sees it, did it really happen?

Photo Credit: Gabriela Gattaneo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gabriela Gattaneo via Compfight cc

It’s just about a month since I committed to not spending. I haven’t seen any benefits yet (see previous post for reasons why), but I feel inordinately proud of myself…for a person who has achieved nothing at all!

But I do have a slight confession to make.

Past Sian had ordered and paid for a couple of skirts from H&M. They subsequently got put on back-order and she forgot them. They were delivered last week. Now, after unpacking them, Present Sian realised she wasn’t that into them any more, so sent them back.

That should, I guess, technically speaking, have been money that I just plugged off my debt. However! I needed a new pair of shoes for a wedding. Hear me out! This was not just “I have nothing to wear” it was literally “I only have motorcycle boots or flip-flops and neither are appropriate footwear for a wedding where I will meet my boyfriend’s family for the first time.”

So I bought a pair of appropriate, lady-like, please let me keep sleeping with your son type shoes. I came out even, financially speaking, so I technically did not spend anything…even though I bought something.

What do you think? Did I cheat??

Further to this, would people please stop inventing cool shit? I just saw this on Kickstarter: the memobottle. Is “donating” to Kickstarter in return for a copy of the product being developed, classified as spending? Is it? I’ve decided to refrain at the moment, but holy hell, if you start looking around that site, you end up with your purse wide open before you even know what you’re doing. People are amazing!

I have also started attempting to trick my brain into thinking it’s spending, by building up a virtual wardrobe. After being introduced to the concept of Capsule Wardrobes over at Un-Fancy, I have decided to use my year of financial celibacy to perfect the idea and get a better sense of my style. And the great part is, I can do it without spending money!

I scoured online shops and selected the 37 pieces she recommends for a good capsule (“9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, and 15 tops…2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats”), and pinned them to a pinterest board I started for the purpose. Then I added the pictures to an app I already had on my phone – Stylicious. The app lets you classify the clothes into tops, bottoms and shoes, and then scroll through the 3 layers on 3 wheels to mix and match until you find a combination you like. You then clip them together and you’ve got an outfit! Here are my ongoing efforts, but please don’t laugh at my inability to crop!

And lastly an update on the story of the worst neighbours and landlady ever. I STILL do not have my bond back, and they are STILL in discussions about the rental contract. Honestly, the fucking Kyoto Protocol was signed in less time than this!

Please keep your fingers crossed for me – or, as they do in German, your thumbs pressed!