On discovering a baby

Look!

Ok, you might need some help if you don’t know what you’re looking for..

Isn’t it awesome?! 4 of the 7 miniature schrimp I bought a month ago were ‘pregnant’. At some point I noticed that they were no longer carrying their eggs, but there was no sign of the babies anywhere.

Until now.

I was beginning to wonder if they’d hatched at all.

Now I’m looking forward to watching the babies grow up 🙂 I say babies, so far I’ve only seen one, but I figure if one’s survived, the chances of a few of the other 400 or so surviving are pretty high. Higher than the chance of me seeing them in 350 litres of well-planted aquarium. Especially when they don’t start off particularly colourfully.

On aphids (and making a mess in the kitchen)

On the grounds that I still don’t feel like doing all the things I ought to be doing, I stopped at a garden centre on my way home from work and bought another bag of compost..

..which I then proceeded to spread all over the kitchen floor. (It’s cold outside, and I need to wash the floor anyway).

All things considered, it was a productive evening.

I rescued this:

out of its tiny pot. (For some reason it was also in a cage, I hope it won’t attack me now I’ve let it out).

Then I rescued this:

out of its even tinier pot:

I transferred the chrysanthemums out of their pots and into the last 3 balcony boxes and a tub (and snuck hyacinth bulbs in between them). The flowers have pretty much gone over, but they might as well have a proper home to be over in.

Then I found pots for my hibiscus cuttings which have been rooting (in a jar of water) since about March:

And then, because I was on a roll, I dealt with the aphid infestation:

I’ve never seen them go quite as crazy as that before. The poor plant’s seen much better days.

I gave it a major haircut and washed all the visible bugs off. Probably have to wash it every day for a while.. Looks a bit happier now though. I’ll have to get a spray bottle too.

I still have several to pot on, but I’ve run out of decent sized pots so they’ll have to wait.

I’m so glad I have my own kitchen! 🙂

I’ll add pictures of yesterday’s plants tomorrow.

On making a mess in the dark

I started planting my balcony boxes almost a month ago. Various things kept getting in the way, and I kept wishing I could get out and finish them.

Today, I left work earlier than usual and decided to ignore most of the things I should have been doing, and instead spent the evening playing in the dirt.

Since someone messed with the clocks, it’s dark by 5, but luckily I have a light on my balcony.

I ran out of compost, almost exactly at the same time as I ran out of boxes (if you don’t count the 3 waiting to be started).

I also ran out of warmth quite a long time before that, so I was glad of the excuse to go in for a hot shower! Autumn is cold and damp 🙁

Tomorrow I will pick up a couple more sacks of compost – for the last boxes, and for the new houseplant arrivals.

This is the state I left it in:

Edit – the morning after:

The balcony was covered in plastic grass when I moved in.

It’s now covered in plastic grass and wet compost.

🙂 joy

Does anyone have any good ideas for getting the compost out, besides washing it? My balcony is right over the front door – it has to be a resident friendly idea

(And yes, this is probably why people buy those huge potting mats…)

On complicated coffee

I went out for coffee with a guy from school and his wife today. I’d borrowed some books for him and he was returning them now that school’s over. It was too cold to stand outside the library for long so we decided to find a café. Most cafés don’t appreciate cards, so I went to find an atm while they went to find a suitable café. By the time I joined them, they’d already chosen a table and ordered.

Turns out you can’t go up to the till and add to an existing order, no, that would be too simple. Instead you have to go through a rigmarole involving going to the cake counter to choose a cake, getting a piece of paper with a number instead of a piece of actual cake, going back to the table, giving the paper to the waitress when she comes to take your drink-order, then waiting for her to bring whatever you ordered. You can’t go to the waitress, you can’t get your own drink, you can’t carry your own cake.

Life is complicated. I knew that. I also know that I don’t go out very much ans haven’t had much practice at placing orders in posh cafés. I didn’t know how complicated simple things like ordering cake could be. I also didn’t realise that it’s normal for a slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate to set you back more than 10€.

In the end my friend from school paid for all of us to say thanks for the books. With the money I didn’t spend in the café, I bought approximately 3 months worth of fish food and 18 plants for my house and balcony, and still got change back. That seems to be a much better way to spend money, even though I really enjoyed meeting up with them and appreciated having a place to sit out of the cold.

On bathing twice in one day

I am most definitely not a morning person.

DB most definitely is.

During the week I have to be dressed, breakfasted and out of the house by 7am (7:10 at the very latest), and DB demands that I eat breakfast with him at least once per weekend which involves being up by just gone 8. Over the last couple of years I have managed to gradually move breakfast time from 7:30 to almost 8:45, but that is still too early for my idea of a leisurely weekend breakfast… (Remember how I said DB is a morning person? 8:45 is practically lunchtime in his mind ;))

That leaves me ONE day per week when I can sleep until I wake up, instead of when I’m woken up. I look forward to those days*.

***

Yesterday was our ‘common breakfast day’ (with fresh breadrolls from the bakery down the road, courtesy of DB who is glad to be up and doing something, anything, even queuing for breadrolls at early o’clock in the morning, as soon as he wakes up. Plus, it gives me 15 extra minutes to humanise enough to be able to make breakfast table conversation, so we all win ;)).

Today should have been my sleep in day. Instead, I was out of bed and in the bathroom before 8:30. Voluntarily. On a Sunday. I must be mad.

***

We got new fish and a couple of new aquatic plants last weekend. We still need some (=lots) more plants, and maybe some more fish. That’s quite an expensive game in ‘normal’ shops, so when we found out that the local fish club has a sale on the first Sunday of the month we decided to try our luck there. Being a very morning-orientated country, the sale opened at 10am. Being a very morning-orientated person, DB said we should be there when they open the doors. We were taking DB’s dad with us, so we needed to plan in another few minutes to pick him up. ETD 9:40.

***

Being busy in the evening has disadvantages. I’d fallen into bed, passing neither ‘Go’ nor the bath, despite knowing that we had a very important fish sale to get to relatively early and that I had to wash my hair before going anywhere near other people. Not sensible.

Plus, I wanted to cut another few centimetres off while it was still wet.

Hey ho. There went my lie in.. The things you do for love (and fish) and all that.

***

The fish sale was held in a cellar. Close to 40 mini-aquariums were lined up In the middle of the room; the current owners on one side, the prospective owners on the other. There were more people than I’d expected, and most of them had sharpened their elbows specially. There were obviously no ‘reserve fish’ so once they’d been sold they were gone.

We were approximately 10 minutes ‘late’ (if you can even be late to a sale), courtesy of my breakfast** and already there were seriously depleted aquariums.

DB looked for plants while I fell in love with some white catfish. I asked for two, so they could keep each other company. The first was out of the water and into the bag before I’d finished asking. The second got a fin caught up in the net so he gave me a different one and hung the net in the water so the fish could “free itself”. I paid and went to find DB. After looking round the rest of the sale room with a bad feeling, I went back and said I wanted the one in the net too. It was still hanging and didn’t look like it was capable of anything more than struggling. It took a while, and a lot of under-breath-cursing, but eventually my baby catfish was free to join the other 2 in the bag. In retrospect, I should have demanded it be freed immediately, but anyway. I think 3 is better for them anyway. Probably 6 would have been even better than that, but I don’t know enough about them yet.

In other news, DB’s dad bought 20 assorted small fish and I won a bottle of aquarium-plant-food in the raffle.

***

Once home, it was time to get the fish and plants into the aquarium. I let the bag float on the surface and concentrated on the plants, since the fish have to acclimatise to the temperature and new water before you can let them out.

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Excuse the awful photo – it’s what’s to be expected when I use my phone to take pictures through 8mm glass, water and a not-quite-clear bag… 😉

Our biggest aquarium is 2m long and about 65cm deep. To plant anything in the 2inch gravel layer, you have to remove the outer lid, climb up a stepladder, slide the glass lid to one side, and lean over – one hand in the water, one on the edge for balance. Usually DB does Aquarium-related things, this time I wanted to be involved, especially since I had my first very own fish.

What I didn’t realise was just how short my arms are, and just how sensible it would have been to get undressed first!

There were something like 20 plants to go in. The first went in ok, the second was just far enough away to get the edge of my [short] sleeve wet.

The third was enough to submerge the rest of my sleeve.

By the time I got to the last one, I might as well have got into the tank.

***

The fish were happy to be released, and darted round the tank like mad things until they realised they had so many hiding places to try out, whereupon they vanished, seldom to be seen again.

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***

I left them to it and went off to have my second (/third) bath of the day 🙂

 

 

* I realise that there will most likely come a time when I can’t sleep as long as I want on any day, but in the meantime I intend to treasure all the chances I can get 🙂

** I would’ve been happy to eat in the car, but DB isn’t a fan of crumbs….

On flowery selfies

DB said I was extremely mean for only taking pictures of ‘my’ plants, and not his – especially when his are flowering and mine are dying down for winter.

Anyway. I present, in all its glory, DB’s flowering plant!

image

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On taking leave of the one armed sweeper

I moved into this flat almost exactly 3 years ago. In that time I have walked to and from my workshop/the train station something like a thousand times.

A one-armed man lives on route and seems to spend a large portion of his life outside sweeping. It doesn’t seem to matter much what he sweeps; snow, dust, leaves, cigarette stubs, he’s just always out there on the pavement. Unless that is, he’s kneeling in the garden planting rows of identical, perfect plants. Pansies in winter, primroses in summer. They’re the most evenly positioned plants I’ve ever seen, and the most regularly watered. I’m sure they bloom longer than anyone else’s too, though, so it must be working.

I don’t know when we started nodding as we passed, or greeting each other, but it was probably just after I moved in.

Anyway. I haven’t seen him in ages, being as how I’ve been in Berlin so often and working so much overtime. This morning he gave me the widest grin and said, “Good morning!! Where are you? So long no seeing!!” in his broken German. I explained that I’d been away and that I was moving soon. We shook hands and he wished me all the best.

As I walked the rest of the way to work, I thought about how I knew practically nothing about him, and yet he’d cheered me up on so many occasions, just by existing. There’s something ridiculous about feeling sorry for yourself when you see a smiling one-armed man clear a path through the snow more quickly than you can walk along it…

I hope he carries on with the sweeping and planting for a long time.

I’ll miss him.

On the usual suspects

So.

Here we are again.

My house and me.

Faced with a whole lot of chaos and a deadline and armed with only 14 hours, of which I plan to sleep through at least 8.

I’m going to yet another wedding tomorrow and won’t be home until AFTER my dearest BF arrives. I’ve told him where the key is, so that’s not a problem. The problem is the state of my house. One of the problems.

I’ve been away a LOT recently (and have several posts stuck in my fingers waiting impatiently to get out) and working late when I’m home. In my head that ought to mean I’ve had less time to mess things up, but it doesn’t. It means I haven’t done any housework or washing (besides last night’s load) in weeks (/months??). Nor have I had the energy to unpack my suitcase. Or my backpack. Or deal with the mail. Or the dead flowers. Or any of the other things on my table for that matter.

In short, it looks worse than it has for a long time.

And it’s embarrassing.

I wouldn’t be quite so bothered if it was ‘just’ the DB and me. He knows me, and he’s only here for one night before we head off to Berlin in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The more major issue, is Studying-D. I don’t think I’ve mentioned him before, which I suppose goes to show how big a role he plays in my life. We go to the same parties, and know lots of the same people. Anyway. He lives just over an hour away (by public transport) and goes to uni near where I live. He’s currently researching/writing his dissertation and losing an extortionate amount of his ‘spare’ time travelling. His girlfriend asked me yesterday if he could live here while I’m away in return for watering the plants and his parents paying me rent. Travelling backwards and forwards to Berlin is pretty expensive, and he’s a decent sort of bloke and I get on with his girlfriend, so I agreed. Thing is, he’s moving in on Sunday. It’s half past 9 on Friday evening. I’ve just got in (okay, so 3/4 hour ago) and I haven’t eaten yet. I’d like to make the house not only presentable enough for a sleepover stop between the BF’s meeting and Berlin, but for a week of someone else living here. I should have started yesterday? Well, yes, probably. Except I got in at midnight and needed to be up at 7.

Time to stop waffling and make a start methinks.

This could be interesting.

Oh yeah. I also need to make a trifle*.

*and think of a way to get it to the wedding without spreading it all over the train.

 

[edit: you can read “What I did when” here]

On crisis cleaning

< or chaos to passable in something like 40 steps >

I Crisis Cleaned as mentioned in my last post. This is “how to make your house presentable in lots of hectic steps” – I’ve grouped them roughly by room/area even though they definitely weren’t done in order. It’s probably not an interesting read (unless you have a good imagination and want to be horrified by how far away I was from having a guest-friendly home), I just wanted to be able to remind my future self how good I can be if/when I get unmotivated:

Balcony – I think starting with the worst and/or most important is generally sensible, especially when you have a deadline to meet. The balcony was therefore top of my list – you can’t barbecue inside, even if you can sit on a sofa in a sea of books and other ‘stuff’.

  • carried plant pots off one balcony, through my house and onto the other one to make space for an unspecified number of barbecue guests, trying not to drip water on the sofa or step on anything with my less than squeaky-clean boots as I went. The floor needed washing anyway, right?
  • swept the dead-plant-debris into a corner. Having dropped several months’ worth of dead flowers straight onto the floor (too lazy to gather them up each time I deadheaded) it was covered in a thinnish layer of dead brown mush.. I’d also torn out the old plants (deadplanting?) in order to put the bulbs in. And seemingly spilled quite a lot of compost in the process…
  • washed balcony – dry sweeping really didn’t help much – by tipping 2 buckets of water out and splooshing it about with the broom
  • washed table and chairs – how does plastic garden furniture get so gross when you’re not watching??
  • scooped all the plant debris and grott out of the drain and into a bag
  • emptied the rejected birdfood and rotting apples into the bag
  • peeled most of a Theraband off the tiles and threw it away – it smelt funny so I put it out there last year.. Apparently they stick to the tiles and disintergrate if you let them

Bedroom – okay, probably shouldn’t feature next on the list of importance, but it’s furthest away and had the least icky floor, so I figured it would save mop-washings… it didn’t really, but it was fairly quick to do.

  • put rug/mat, under-bed-boxes and the washing basket onto the bed
  • took the washing to the bathroom
  • binned tissues
  • piled books/papers/pens onto bedside table
  • mopped floor without sweeping it first. I have one of those rubber brooms. They’re fantastic things – not only do they get into all the groutlines between my floortiles, they also don’t seem to create dustclouds the way ‘normal’ brooms do. And you can use them wet as well – super. What didn’t occur to me until it was too late, was the fact that using the broom to wash the balcony meant I couldn’t use it to sweep my house – they take a while to dry and while they’re wet you can’t really sweep with them, not without making thick wet dust trails anyway.. Doh! I got my mop out and mopped without sweeping first. I’m not sure if I recommend it. It obviously means you don’t have to sweep and wash the same area separately, which saves time. On the other hand, you use at least as much time as you save washing the mop-head because it gets covered in all the things you would normally have swept up first. Swings, roundabouts and learning curves.
  • picked the drawing pins out of the wet gunk and put them somewhere I was unlikely to stand on them
  • once it was dry I put the boxes, basket and rug back and made the bed again.

Kitchen

  • washed up all most of the stuff I don’t trust the dishwasher with
  • threw away bag of mouldy breadbuns. I am against buying too much food only to throw it away when it goes off, but I am also against eating mould even if the ‘best before’ date is still valid. They were the sort you finish baking yourself and I’d bought them in anticipation of my return over New Year when everything would be closed. In future I’ll have to freeze them instead of trusting the bbe date.
  • emptied dishwasher
  • washed cutting boards – I have a stack of them and it’s soooo tempting to take a new one instead of washing the last one 🙁
  • mixed a new batch of muesli. I probably wouldn’t have spent the time mixing it during a crisis clean if it hadn’t meant I suddenly had a whole load more space on my kitchen counter 😉 I love crunchy muesli, and I love chocolate muesli, and muesli in general really.. What I don’t love is how much sugar there is in the crunchy and chocolate varieties, and I don’t really need so much chocolate or crunch-per-mouthfull so I mix a box of each with a bag each of finely and coarsely rolled oats into a huge plastic tub. There’s just enough room in there afterwards to shake it up. Makes my day when I have decent muesli for breakfast 🙂
  • washed floor. Twice.

Dining room – I really need to do some ‘decluttering’ in here. It’s basically my ‘storage’ room. And the room I spend most time in. My bedroom’s for sleeping, my sitting room for sitting, my kitchen for cooking and my dining room for everything else. My desk is in there too and the papers, cables, pens, envelopes with random ideas scribbled on them, mice, webcams and other computer paraphernalia multiply and spread out from my computer as if it was being paid to do so… The tops of all the cupboards double up as shelves as does the dining table. My ‘real’ shelves with their carefully balanced shoeboxes are a lifesaver but will soon need some me-input to prevent them collapsing under the weight of their responsibility. My plants drape themselves from any remaining horizontal space and my books block each other from view in double-rows on my bookshelves. The whole effect is more that of a creative scrapyard than anything else. Given that I was working under pressure I could only hope to scrape the surface.

  • rearranged the plant rack; emptying the various plantgraveyards into the bag and making space for the bulbs I still need to plant, as well as most of the empty pots I’ve rescued
  • got rid of the bag of mouldy compost. I have less than no idea how compost goes mouldy but it’s very annoying that it has. It was seed compost. I don’t have a car and I live far enough away from the busstop to make fetching heavy things a nuisance..
  • cleared the table by putting the files back in their cupboard, shuffling all the remaining papers into a pile and all the ‘small stuff’ into a shoebox and plonking them both onto my desk. Wiped it down and dried it. Empty tables are astonishingly motivating – there’s so much potential for putting things on them (for some reason kinetic energy comes to mind; the only thing I still remember about it, is that the higher something goes up, the more energy it gathers to come down with.. Transfer the idea to the table, and the emptier it gets the more space there is for other stuff :))
  • shook out doormat
  • washed the floor

Sitting Room

  • shook out doormat
  • moved all the sofas, plants, tables, stuff aside; washing the floor before moving everything back again. It took 4 or 5 attempts to do the whole floor
  • made the guest-bed look good, or at least useable. I’d stacked my unvarnished picture frames on it. They landed on the table in the dining room. So much for having an empty table.
  • binned the dead plants, took the dead flowers to the kitchen, watered and dusted the leaves on the living ones

Porch – was so good I didn’t need to do anything.

Hall – was still good from Wednesday 🙂

  • emptied my workbag and banished it to a better corner
  • swept up all the leaves and other bigger stuff I’d mopped into a heap (the hall is in the middle of my house) and binned them
  • washed the floor.

Bathroom – I do this last. Something about not wanting to wash the other floors with too many germs I guess. Not that there should even be that many more germs on the bathroom floor than on any of the others seeing as I don’t share with small children or a bloke 😉

  • loo and sink were already sparkly thanks to all the swishing and swiping I’ve been doing 🙂
  • picked up all the washing and put it in the basket. I have no idea why I don’t put things in it straight away but there we are. If I’d known I wasn’t going skating I’d’ve put the washing on to wash, I didn’t because it probably wouldn’t’ve been finished before I’d had to leave and since my cousin burned his house down with a duff washing machine I’m not too keen on leaving it running when I go out…
  • put the washing basket in the bath with the bath mat and the dustbin, balanced the scales on top of the washing, and the loo brush on top of the loo
  • washed the floor. Why is it mops don’t stay where you put them? I leant mine against the bath for a moment to move something and it promptly slid down knocking the looroll into the slightly damp bath and almost unbalancing the scales from their perch on top of the washing. When I tried to catch it I bashed the loobrush, thankfully not quite knocking it onto the floor
  • once the floor was dry I put everything back where it belongs
  • wiped the inside of the bath down. It’s amazing how much hair I lose every time I wash! I know I ought to get rid of it each time but sometimes I just don’t…
  • washed the mop out thoroughly and put all my cleaning stuff back in its corner.

So that’s it. Chaos to passable in something like 40 steps. I would like to say I got it all done in 2 1/2 hours but that would be a lie. I cheated and did some more once I’d phoned to say I wasn’t going out.

On polishing plant leaves

– Or ‘what I do with my free time’ –

 

Planning is overrated, pointless and a waste of time.

I think I’ll give it up.

I haven’t yet, but I might. It would save me a lot of bother and probably time and effort as well.

Someone’s bound to ask how I’ll notice the difference since I don’t plan much or often anyway. I expect they have a point. The actual objective difference is probably indeed minimal. However. I imagine the subjective difference from my perspective would be huge. Imagine life without let downs…

Sometimes I see organised people who make detailed plans and then proceed to follow said plans precisely and in the exact manner they expected to. I have to wonder how they do it. Is it a matter of training? Do I need to practise more and it’ll be ok? Do they plan the sorts of things that just work? What do they know that I don’t? In my experience life doesn’t work like that.

On Wednesday we (a group of people I know) decided to go iceskating. Yesterday I spontaneously agreed to have them all over here for a barbecue afterwards. So far so good. Okay, so my house was a bit disorganised but that’s no big deal. They know me and I there was time between work and going out.

The Glass Thing I was working on took longer than expected so I got home at just gone 4 instead of 20 past 3. Hey! Still no big deal. I needed to be out at just before 7 to catch the various busses and trains to get me to the ice-rink so I still had approximately 3 hours to sort things (and myself) out. So far still all good.

Trying to sort an entire house before people come over is what Flylady calls ‘crisis cleaning’. As Crisis Cleaning goes I’m almost a professional 😉 Sometime I even invite people over especially as motivation.

I clean houses in a manner which vaguely resembled those lawnmowers that mow by themselves; I don’t start in one corner and work my way around. From an onlooker’s point of view it probably looks crazy – I know I’d love to see a bird’s eye video in highspeed…until I cringe and turn it off that is 😉 – I dart about, moving everything to one side, washing the bit of floor that shows, tidying elsewhere until it’s dry so I can move things onto the dry clean bit and wash the next section, all the while going back and forth to the bathroom to wash the mop head. It’s probably not the best system but it works for me and I was in my element doing it with a fairly tight schedule.

I cleared and washed my balcony -breaking and mending my rubber-broom in the process-, wiped down the plastic chairs and table, put things away, moved furniture, washed the floors, ate a bowl of cereal to tide me over until after skating, emptied the table, … Basically, I was on a roll. I was sure I was going to be as finished as I needed to be by the time I had to leave. I had my shoes on, my skates were in a bag by the door, my jacket was hanging on it’s hook (my purse with money and my buspass in the pocket), the key in the door. As soon as my cleaning-time was up I’d be off like, well, if not like a rocket, then at least like a person on a mission. The house wasn’t going to be perfect, but I wasn’t aiming for perfection and who needs perfection to grill a steak anyway?

And then whooosh! I was hit full on by a severe stomach cramp and a 5 second toilet-warning (remember what I said about rockets?).

I shall spare you all other details, cause I’m nice like that 😉  Suffice to say half an hour later I was on the phone to the others to say I wouldn’t be going skating after all.

 

How is that fair?!

 

I know no-one said life was going to be fair. But still. I didn’t think I was asking too much to want to go out occasionally… It’s bad enough being ill over both Christmas and New Year. Why does my body not want me to do ANYthing more exciting than wash doors at midnight? Why can I not stay well long enough to do anything fun? If anyone asks what I did with my Friday evening, I will have to tell them I spent it dusting and polishing the leaves of my houseplants. Which is true but not really tell-worthy.

 

But hey. I should be more grateful. At least the house looks good and the plants are shiny. (Also, a good friend of mine has been wheel-chair bound for ages and paraplegic (sp??) for almost a year, so, in comparison, I really have nothing to mope about…(ever :S) Prayers for her recovery obviously always hugely welcome)

Amaryllis

AmaryllisAnd that’s before it started… (I’d left it in its box until today, because I was going away for Christmas and didn’t want it to die due to lack of love (and water). It seems it doesn’t need much (of either)… *grins*