Movie Time

It was still cold and rainy, and so a perfect day for going to the movies.

We went to the earliest showing of Avengers: Endgame, at 11 a.m. We like going early, as it leaves the rest of the day for other things and we don’t like going to bed late (except on New Year’s Eve). Well, it was enjoyable and thrilling, had lots of good special effects, lots of emotions, and maybe just a tad too many battles. I’m going to get it for our collection when it comes out on disk or blue ray (depending what’s cheaper). Then we can check out all the things we missed. I don’t want to publish any spoilers, but I was sad about the death of some characters. Even super heroes don’t live forever, I guess.

We returned at around 2:30 p.m. and had tea and cake instead of lunch (we’d had some popcorn at the movies). Then I took Curious Dog for his afternoon walk.

We watched Sweet Bean on TV at night. This is a very good Japanese film about an old lady who wants to work at a dorayaki shop. This is a shop selling a kind of pancake with bean paste. It’s a very nice story about friendship and finding joy in adverse circumstances (the old lady has been kept apart from society for most of her life because she had leprosy, and the other characters also had to face difficulties). It was a quietly beautiful film (especially in contrast to the blockbuster Endgame).

Rainy Day

I was out with friends Thursday night, actually a book club outing at an Italian restaurant. The club discussions were lively, as usual, and the food was good. I had a vegetarian lasagna, which was good, but not as good as the mushroom risotto I had last time at another restaurant. I did, however, find that there was too much cheese in the lasagna. Next time, I will choose a dish without cheese, or with just a little bit. I’ve really lost my taste for cheese (except for a little bit, now and then when I can’t get vegan food) – in fact, I was worried the lasagna wouldn’t agree with me, as it contained so much cheese and I’ve had the experience of not tolerating it very well before. I just felt like lasagna, because I hadn’t had it for so long, but was a bit disappointed, because the cheese totally overpowered the taste of the vegetables.

It was raining on Friday morning (though not that much, more a kind of drizzle). I went grocery shopping and bought some more white asparagus, as we wanted to have it again. Also mushrooms and dark beer for a mushroom goulash for Sunday and various other foodstuff.

As it was raining, we watched Avengers: Infinity War in preparation for going to see Avengers: Endgame at the movies on the weekend. I think we haven’t even watched Avengers: Age of Ultron yet (or I’ve forgotten it), but we didn’t have time to watch that one too. I think we missed quite a few of the films in the Marvel universe since we stopped going to the movies when we got Curious Dog in 2014. We did get some of the films on disk, but not all. Anyway, it was fun and I’m looking forward to seeing Endgame.

I also did some house-cleaning, walking with Curious Dog and baking. My partner prepared and cooked the asparagus and so I did the baking. A simple yeast dough spread out like pizza, with frozen cherries and crumbles on top (Kirschstreuselkuchen). It was very good. I used a mix of whole and white flour and put some almond slivers in among the cherries.

In the afternoon, I did a longish walk with Curious Dog. We found that some of the meadows are now populated with cows and their calves. Some of the cows even had bells around their necks. Very idyllic, but I think CD found the ringing of the bells slightly unnerving. But then, he’s easily unnerved. It was a lovely walk, still slightly rainy, but everything nice and green and not too wet.

At night, being in the mood for super hero films, we watched Black Panther. It was great, very nice visuals and lots of action, as expected. And a nice look at a super-advanced African civilization. Really something else. I hope there’s a sequel.

This & That

I woke up half an hour before the alarm, so I used the time to do my mediation. Not as long as usual, but it worked. I don’t do this often, because I’m usually too sleepy in the morning, but occasionally it works well.

Today was my only real office day this week, since Monday was a holiday and the other two days I was on training. It’s been slow at work the last two weeks due to Easter vacation time. I’d checked my mails each day before and after the course and there were only a couple of things that had accumulated. When I was done with my usual quality checks and with the things in my inbox, I had time to do corrections to a couple of my documents. I have some other corrections, but there’s time for that next week. Next week things will pick up again, no doubt, so it was nice to have some time for less important tasks that nevertheless needed doing.

Yesterday my new hiking boots arrived. I got them from my mother for my birthday, but I only ordered them just before Easter, because I kept having second thoughts about them. They are a kind of barefoot shoes, and quite expensive. They seem to fit well and are comfortable (wide at the front – lots of space for my toes). I hope they will last at least two years, as otherwise it’s hard to justify the cost. I’ll try them out properly on the weekend, walking Curious Dog. Ever since I’ve had CD and go for walks so often, my hiking boots wear out real fast. None have lasted more that two years and last Winter I got a cheap pair that was a good fit, but they wore out even faster than expensive ones (after a couple of months, they didn’t even last the Winter). Well, the future will show how these ones do and whether they are worth their price.

Otherwise, I had a conversation with my manager which went well, as it usually does. Just a quick update on all my projects and tasks and how my training went. Since I really liked the training, I may recommend it to the rest of my team.

Looking forward to the weekend!

Mindfulness & Weather

The second day of training was intense. We learned a lot about how to cultivate empathy and compassion and did exercises on how to apply this in our work life. We also looked into what motivates us and where we want to be in a few years. The last one was quite difficult for me. I’m more of a wait-and-see-what-comes-up and less of a planner, especially regarding work. I find that this attitude has served me well. I’m at a place professionally that suits me, and I’m open to new opportunities if they come up. And I’m pretty sure they will. My job is subject to continuous change and something always comes up. So, I’m not worried about my work life (it might be different if I were aiming for some kind of leadership career, but I’m not interested in that, I prefer staying on the expert, non-management track).

Anyway, as I already mentioned in yesterday’s post, the real benefit from this training will come from keeping up the meditation habit. I’m optimistic about that; as I’ve already been meditating for a couple of years and am seeing that it’s good for me, I’m unlikely to stop. Also, for me meditation has a spiritual aspect that fills a need for me.

I took Curious Dog for his walk later than usual today, because it was still hot outside when I got home at around 5:30 p.m. and so we had dinner first: Spinach with tofu and mashed potatoes, very good. Then I took CD on the usual week-day track through the fields and back through town. Well, all the time we were walking, dark clouds were coming up from the West and suddenly, it turned windy, with strong gusts just like at the beginning of a thunderstorm. CD didn’t like that at all, and dragged me quickly all the way back home, just stopping to greet one of his dog friends. The wind whipped up lose stuff, mostly blossom petal from all the flowering trees and a lot of dust. It got in my eyes and between my teeth. It’s very worrying that rain in summer is so often accompanied by storms in recent years. And they always seem to rise up so suddenly. I’m also worried about the drought. There’s rain forecast for the weekend and I hope it rains a lot, and continues to rain frequently, so that we don’t have another horrid hot dry Summer as last year.

During meditation, I heard the wind blowing all around the house. The worst of the storm passed us by, and we only got a few drops of rain.

Mindfulness Training

The course on mindfulness today at work was fun. Most of it wasn’t new to me, but it was nice meeting lots of people also interested in mindfulness and hear about their experiences and expectations. There were all sorts of people from beginners to meditators who have been doing it for years. We learned a few tricks about being mindful for short moments at work (in addition to a formal meditation practice). Those are quite interesting – I may copy them out and stick them to my monitor at work, to remind me to do them every now and again.

The real habit to create, is, however, a regular meditation practice. That automatically carries over into daily life after some time. At least that’s my experience. Quite often, I spontaneously notice that my mind is not in the moment, but off ruminating or fantasizing. I’m hoping that these realizations will happen more often.

On my commute today, I saw a small herd of shaggy brown cattle on a hilly meadow. They weren’t there last week. It was early, and they were huddled in a corner, resting. And I also saw them on the way home. A tiny moment of joy.

Curious Dog and I heard the cuckoo call again on our evening walk, although I don’t know if CD pays attention to bird calls.

My meditation practice was good. I guess it’s always good; it doesn’t matter if one is distracted as long as one sticks with it with self-compassion and loving kindness. This is probably the best habit I’ve ever started, and I hope I never drop it.

Last Day of Easter

I stayed up late reading The Overstory. It’s about the huge biodiversity being wiped out by logging the forests of the world, focused on those in the US. It also shows the lives of a handful of people and their reaction to the ecological destruction. The lives of the characters form a kind of web, and the forest too, are enormous living webs that humans don’t understand but still destroy. It’s depressing. The world will revive, it has eons. But what will happen to humankind — nothing good in the short run and who knows what in the long. It’s amazing that humankind can be at once so creative and so destructive, blind and unfeeling toward nature and other beings.

Today we had home-made pizza for lunch, with salad. Easy and quick and always tasty. This Easter weekend has seen a lot of different, delicious meals, pumpkin soup, mushroom risotto, pizza, cake and desert. It’s amazing what three people can put away. No wonder I have to go grocery shopping every second day (not quite, but almost).

Well, back to work tomorrow. At least it’ll be two days of training, that’s bound to be more fun than normal office work. I’m looking forward to it. Also, a short week, only three days, instead of my usual four. And there’s another public holiday coming up next week, the first of May. Another short week! In Spring and early Summer there’s lots of public holidays in Germany and then there’s a long dry spell until the public holidays in Autumn. Summer is also really busy at the office, despite Summer vacation time.

I dug out some dandelions in my yard — I like the flowers, but I don’t want them to increase too much. It stops being funny when the entire lawn turns into a dandelion carpet. Also, I cut some of the longer grass bushels with a pair of scissors. I’ll have to think about getting a small pushmower soon. I want to plant some insect-friendly bushes and flowers. I wonder if there’s anything that grows in the shade next to or under the rhododendron hedge. I’ll have to look it up.

Curious Dog is getting curiouser and curiouser in a weird way. Sometimes he just refuses to go where we want to go. This afternoon he didn’t want to go along a field with me, for I don’t know what reason. I had to drag him and entice him with some treats. Last time we went walking there, we heard a few loud bangs, like toy guns or something. He doesn’t like bangs, and then pulled to go home, which we did. Maybe remembered that.

Anyway, when I overcome his reluctance with a bit of dragging (and treats, although treats don’t help that much), he perks up again afterwards and continues on like always. But it’s a pain. He also does it very often when we meet other dogs, even if they are far away. He wants to wait and play with them. But, of course, not all dogs want to play with him, and sometimes I don’t have time. He lies down, sticks his claws out and tries to grow roots. And then I almost end up pulling his harness over his head. And it’s not as though we don’t let him play with other dogs a lot, we do. He can be really stubborn.

I heard a cuckoo call three times as I was trying to drag Curious Dog along.

Meditation practice was again rather chaotic, with lots of wayward thoughts. Still, any sitting is better than no sitting and thoughts are what the mind does.


A very restful day.

It started out with me taking Curious Dog on his morning walk. A jogger greeted us with “Happy Easter” and the sun was shining. We walked up the hill and over the bridge at the top. At the edge of the village up there, we met two women with other dogs, and they played with CD a bit – even running into a horse paddock. One of the horses ambled over for a look, but the dogs had already run on. Then we left the others and walked back down to town through the woods. Very pleasant with the new green showing, the breeze, and the singing birds.

My partner was using the time at home baking a cake for coffee and trying out a new desert for lunch. He’s got a sweet tooth, he does. Both turned out delicious.

We had white wine and mushroom risotto for lunch (before the desert). It was good, though the glass of white wine knocked me out a bit. I’m not sure if this is real, or something that I believe will happen to me and then does. I was sleepy even though I took CD for his lunch walk to wake me up. We walked around the near-by fish pond. A family were out there fishing and a pale (but rapidly turning red) couple were lying on the bank, sunning themselves. This was the first time I’ve seen someone fishing there.

In the afternoon, we watched an episode of The Bridge, and then a few more at night. We had the cake for afternoon coffee. It was sweet and fruity, made with lots of blueberries and a bit of cashew cream on top. Lovely.

I also spent a lot of time reading, including in bed at night.

My meditation time was not calm at all. I had a million wandering thoughts and basically spend the entire 45 minutes trying kindly to return to the breath. Maybe a contrast to the calm day?

Very sad to hear about all the violence in the world in the news on TV at night. Easter somehow made it sadder than usual, because Easter should be all about peace.

Fence Building Snafus

Today, we wanted to finish our fence project, as far as possible. We hit some annoying snags:

  1. The shaft of my partner’s sledgehammer broke off as he was trying to hammer the post anchor into the ground. We had to revert to using the back end of the axe head. That was OK.
  2. The second post anchor couldn’t be anchored, because there was some obstruction in the ground where it was supposed to go. That wasn’t OK – I need that post.
  3. The fence wire wasn’t long enough for the space under the hedge. So, I made a kind of ugly netting out of some left-over clothes line and chewed dog leashes, which I will have to replace with something nicer. The neighbours may think we are bonkers. Curious Dog showed his appreciation (or whatever) by peeing on it.

So basically, the fence is still not done. I think we must be among the most inept of fence-builders in the history of fences. I still haven’t ordered the garden gate, either, because I haven’t found one that’s right for us. At the rate this is going, Summer will be over before we get the fence done. Oh, the incompetence.

At least the rest of the day was fine. Went grocery shopping in the morning. It was very full, because the shops where closed on Friday and will be closed until Tuesday. I got white asparagus for dinner, the first of the season. It’s grown hereabouts, and we always have some during the season. For lunch, we had the left-over half of yesterday’s pumpkin baked in the oven, very nice. We also had some herbed tofu and Mutti had made a Grünkern spread. Grünkern is unripe spelt grain that’s smoked over beech chips. It has a hearty taste and is supposed to be healthy. We also use it in soups.

For dinner we had the asparagus with salt potatoes and a soy yoghurt sauce with spring onions. My partner peeled and cooked the asparagus (it’s a tradition) and potatoes, and I mixed the sauce. Yum!

Otherwise, I continued reading my book and we continued watching the second season of The Bridge. It’s very convoluted and half the fun is trying to guess how it all fits together. At the moment, we’re wildly guessing and probably totally off the mark.

In the afternoon, at 4 p.m., I took Curious Dog for his walk. It was sunny and hot, and he panted a lot and drank from the two wells we passed. They have public wells (marked “non-potable” — I won’t be drinking from them, but they look fine for the dog) here that look like watering troughs for horses. Must be historical artefacts, as they look old.

I also managed my 45 minutes of meditation, which went as usual. Not particularly great, but also not bad.

Apart from the fence annoyance, it was a lovely day.


Holiday Activities

Last night, I dreamt that at work we had such huge parking lots around our office buildings that helicopters were used to shuttle the employees to their office buildings. The helicopters had a kind of cage around the cockpits where people, exposed to the elements, hung on while the pilots flew them where they needed to go. I was the last one to be dropped off on one shuttle trip. The pilot forgot I was still hanging on, and started doing aerobatics, looping the loop and such things, until I knocked on the cockpit roof to let him know I was still there. Then I woke up. Very odd.

In contrast to my usual laziness on holidays, I was amazingly effective in the morning. I baked muffins while my partner and Curious Dog were off walking, and then cleaned all the floors on the ground floor: kitchen, loo, hall, and living-room. All of that before lunch.

For lunch my partner cooked cream of pumpkin soup (one of his specialties), which was perfect. Probably it’ll be the last one until Autumn. We like pumpkin soup, but not usually in Summer. It was a fitting soup finale!

In the afternoon, we watched The Shape of Water, which we have on blu-ray. It was ok but I kind of expected something else. I thought the water person was really made of water, not some man with gills. But the relationship between the water person and the mute cleaner was very touching.

I also had a lot of time for reading (currently reading The Overstory, by Richard Powers). I walked with Curious Dog, a fairly long route, uphill, over a bridge, through fields, and then back down to the town through the woods. They’ve done a lot of logging recently. When we returned, an Italian ice-cream van was just stopping right in front of our driveway. We all had the first Italian ice-cream of the year. I had yoghurt and blueberry. Sadly, the blueberry wasn’t as good as the ice-cream we used to get at our last place. The van was from one of the neighbouring villages, but there’s an ice-cream parlour here in town, too. We’ll be trying that out soon.

After dinner, we started watching the second season of The Bridge, a Danish/Swedish co-produced TV crime series. The second season seems to be about eco-terrorism, but who knows what other ramifications will occur. One of the main characters is an autistic police detective. It’s riveting.

I was so busy all day, with house-cleaning and more pleasant occupations that I almost didn’t have time for my meditation practice, but I managed half-an-hour. One would think it’d be easier to find time to sit on holidays, but in reality they disrupt normal habits. I shall try to do better tomorrow. But 30 minutes are better than 5, or none at all!

I enjoyed getting so much done early in the day, while still having time to hang around reading and watching series. Hopefully, I will remember this, and repeat it on other weekends.

Green Thursday

German for Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.

My commute was even faster today, as it is vacation time and there’s noticeably less traffic. I think there are two weeks of Easter school holidays here, the weeks before and after the Easter weekend. The Autobahnen will fill up with vacationers, but that won’t affect my commute.

I had to finish up one last document, and publish at least some of correction I did yesterday, which I managed. The other corrections will get published next week. And I finished the updating the last document; then there’ll be some downtime until the next deadline. But there’s always enough to do, and the next update will be a very thorough one for which I will have to remind a lot of colleagues to update their sections.

My quality issue from yesterday refused to clear up on its own, and I had to get support involved. Luckily, they came up with a solution that didn’t need any extra work from me.

Otherwise, I had one dreadfully boring meeting and then finished the work day early and left for home at 3 p.m. Long weekend ahoy! On the way back, I did some grocery shopping.

We had a traditional Green Thursday meal: A yogurt dip with seven different green herbs, spring onion and garlic with boiled potatoes and radicchio salat (the salad is non-tradional) A simple, fast, and delicious meal.

Weather was great again, almost too hot on the evening walk with Curious Dog. My meditation practice went well. I had the skylight open to enjoy the warm air and singing birds, but someone a few yards on was cleaning their patio with a steam cleaner. It was amazingly loud and quite drowned out the birdsong, but I took it as a meditation object, which was surprisingly effective.