Raindrops on My Skylight

Today was a day of much-appreciated rain. Sitting at my desk in my bedroom cum office at the top of the house, I heard it pounding away all day. Very comfy to listen to when one is dry and warm, knowing that it’s welcomed by nature, since it hasn’t rained much in the last couple of months. It is a tad cool – in Germany the days between May 11 and 15 are known as the days of the “ice saints” (die Eisheiligen). Those are the saints Mamertus, Pankratius, Servatius, Bonifatius and the “cold” Sophia. After May 15, it’s said, one can be reasonably sure that night frosts will no longer occur to endanger newly planted crops. Since I’m living in a very warm part of Germany, there won’t be any night frosts, but the temperature is expected to go down to 1°C tonight. I bought a plant for my patio last Friday that I’ve wrapped up in a plastic bin liner (not having anything better to hand) just in case that’s too low a temperature for it.

Last week and the weekend were nice and warm with temperatures around 22°C, even a bit higher, which is my favourite temperature range: anything between 20° and 25°C. Higher temperatures, I don’t much care for. That’s why I’m not so keen on summer, because weeks of 32°C (or more) is just too hot for me. 2018 was dire, with the heat and drought starting in May and lasting into September. August and September are usually at least slightly better, because the sun starts setting earlier again, but June and July are just awful when it’s hot and sunny. Curious Dog doesn’t much care for those temperatures either and I always need to go on his afternoon walks very late, when the sun is low and the shadows are long. Oh well, plenty of people like hot summers. Just my personal predilection. I don’t mind it if the heat stays in June, July, and August, but now-a-days, those are not the only hot months. We’ll see how it develops this year. But since we are already almost at mid of May, it hopefully won’t get as bad as 2018. The woods could do with a rainy summer, they still haven’t recovered from the droughts of 2018 and 2019. So, I’m happy it’s raining.

On Friday, I got some more plants for the garden. About four smallish lavender plant, which Mum and I planted under and next to the big rosebush (already blooming, lovely yellow-red flowers). Also, a clematis, that I planted up against the wall and fence to the neighbour’s yard. I already planted one last year, but that was too near the hedge and didn’t thrive (it’s still alive, maybe it’ll grow some this year). I also planted another flowering plant, for the bees, that I don’t know the name of. I used to have a huge version of this one at another flat, which had a balcony cut out of the roof. It was lovely, but the plant was invested with loads of little bugs and it was a pain trying to get rid of them without resorting to pesticides (which I never do, and certainly won’t do if it happens again – bad for nature and bad for Curious Dog). Hope it doesn’t get bugs here and that it doesn’t get eaten by snails.

Before we could plant the lavender, we had to remove a kind of plastic ground sheet that was laid under a covering of wood chips. I don’t know if this ground sheet was intended to keep the earth moist or to prevent the growth of weeds, but it was laid in all the flower beds in this yard (not too many, since it is a very small yard). I’ve removed it everywhere except under the huge butterfly bush, but I’m planning to get rid of it there, too. If it were something that would rot away, fine. But plastic? I’m not having plastic in my yard. Also, those ground sheets keep shedding bits of plastic string and I’m worried that birds (or other small animals) will pick it for nesting and get tangled.

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So that was Saturday. Gardening. It got quite hot and sweaty. I like a garden, but I’m not so enthusiastic about the work associated with it. Especially since I also did quite a lot of housework on the weekend. I hate it when the weekend has more work in it than a workday (but it wasn’t that bad, I’m exaggerating). The best thing about cleaning and gardening the feeling of accomplishment afterwards. Just a pity that it doesn’t stay accomplished but has to be repeated all the time.

On Sunday I did some cleaning as well and, in the afternoon, we watched Antman on Disney+, which we hadn’t seen before. It was entertaining and I’m looking forward to watching the sequel, Antman and the Wasp. I also binge read Martha Wells’ new Murderbot novel Network Effect. It was great – a real novel, not just a novella, like the other installments. I like them all. They are sci-fi dealing with the adventures of a construct, a kind of android with human parts. They are real-pageturners, but the most appealing thing is the way the Murderbot interacts with humans and other AIs. Spoiler: it’s not really a murderer, rather the opposite. I hope Wells writes a few more of these novels.

I also finished this month’s section of War and Peace. I’m now at the half-way point and it’s all good. Although I’m glad I’m reading it slowly, in installments, as otherwise I think I’d get sick of it. Too much high-level soap opera. It is kind of like a soap opera, except not so unrealistic. All the characters keep suffering reversals of fortune and feeling. Some of them are plain stupid or casually evil. Most of them annoy me at one point or another. But in smaller bites I’m enjoying it.

We also tried out two new dishes this weekend. One with mushrooms, bell peppers and savoy cabbage lightly fried in a pan and then deglazed with an orange juice and soy sauce. Served with whole-wheat pasta. The other with pre-cooked lentils to which pineapple pieces were added before simmering everything in coconut milk seasoned with lemongrass, a bit of curry, and a lot garam masala. Served over whole-grain basmati rice. Both recipes were easy to cook and absolutely delicious. They will be added to our collection of permanent recipes.

Today, we’re making a cream of broccoli soup. It’s the right weather for a nice warm soup: cold and rainy. Curious Dog and I got very wet on our afternoon walk.

Keep safe, world.

Keeping Busy

I worked on Friday morning on a stupid mindless task which basically took until 2 p.m., meaning that I did a couple of hours overtime. I’m going to use that time to go grocery shopping this week. I was listening to YouTube videos while I was working, the sort that you don’t need to watch. That’s what made it bearable. I should ask my team if we can’t somehow find a way to automate the task, although I think I remember that something is already in the making. Can’t come soon enough for me.

I didn’t do anything much else on Friday, apart from walking with Curious Dog and a bit of meditation.

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Saturday, I didn’t need to go shopping, as I’d already been on Wednesday. So, I went out early in the morning while partner was out walking Curious Dog. I met them on my way to the bakery to pick up some bread for the next days and of course CD refused to leave me at the bakery. Once I got our bread, we continued the walk through the town and along the banks of the small river that flows through our town. It was nice. I hadn’t actually walked on that side of the river before, as I usually take CD through the fields at the edge of town or through the woods.

When we got back home, I did an hour’s worth of meditation and then rolled up my sleeves and did a thorough cleaning of the ground floor of my house. I hoovered all the rugs (one in the hall and two in the living/dining room. Then I took them and the chairs out onto the patio and washed the floor in the very small guest toilet, the small hall and kitchen, and the large living room. I don’t usually do that this thoroughly. Usually I just hoover everything and wash the floor around the rugs. But sometimes one needs to be a bit more thorough. Afterwards, I was knackered. We also did two loads of washing, one white, one for coloured clothing. The new cotton gloves we bought for grocery shopping sure shrunk in the wash. They can still be worn, but if they shrink again in the next wash, they may end up being too small. We hung the washing up outside in the sunshine and almost all of it got dry. Good use of the still lovely weather. It got cold and overcast on Sunday.

After all that housework on Saturday, I did a quick clean of the bathrooms on Sunday, but since I’d done them the weekend before, it didn’t take long. Still, I’d meant to do the stairs and the upstairs hall (very small) but didn’t get around to it. I always have ambitious cleaning plans and never follow up on all of them. Too lazy. Cleaning house is such a never-ending job. I need to wash the windows, too. And tidy up the cellar. Ah, well eventually things will get done.

I spent about 2.5 hours meditating on Saturday, with sittings in the morning, early afternoon and at night and about 2 hours on Sunday. It was great. My meditation practice is a great help in these times, I’m sure I would be more anxious to no avail without it. It also helps to me regulate my mood in daily life. Not to get upset at stupid stuff. I’m more mellow at work and don’t get annoyed as easily as before. I try to be kinder. I don’t get into a foul mood when I do housework. I’m more aware of my reactions to situations and can sometimes manage to modulate by behaviour or my mood. Not always, not even most of the time, but definitively more often. It also helps me to stop procrastinating — again, not always, but there’s definitively an improvement. It took a while to develop, though. You really need regular practice. Just a couple of sittings every now and then won’t do it. But I have read somewhere that even just 5 minutes a day will be helpful. I started out with 15 minutes a day a couple of years ago and now I do 30 to 60 minutes on workdays and longer on the weekend when I have more time. Occasionally, I’ll just do 5 minutes a day, if I’m really busy or somehow don’t find the time, but that doesn’t happen often.

Also did some cooking and some watching of movies. Watched the last episode of Star Trek: Picard. Watched two episodes of The Mandalorian, as we got Disney+, a six months free offering along with my normal Telekom TV offering. Quite nice!

Now it’s Monday and the lovely spring weather has taken a downturn; still mostly sunny, but cold and rather windy. Really cold, with subzero temperatures at night. Some of the blooming magnolias turned a rather unbecoming brown colour. I hope fruit trees aren’t affected. Some are already starting to bloom but are hopefully not far enough along to be affected.

The downside to all the weekend activities was that I didn’t have time to read much and didn’t manage to finish Song of Solomon, although I’m almost done. Definitively won’t make my March reading goals, but maybe I can catch up over Easter. A very unimportant problem, considering the global situation, which is, sadly, not yet improving.

Keep safe, world.

Weird Dreams

This morning I woke up straight out of a dream, a very weird one about house-hunting. In it, I met up with an estate agent who took me to see an apartment. It was a very big one, with lots of bathrooms (one with a shallow tub the size of a double bed, one with an extra deep tub, dark green). There was lots of marble and the apartment was totally open plan and all on one level. The odd thing was that the biggest main room turned into the shop of a car dealer’s, with just a different floor pattern to mark where the apartment ended, and the shop began. Very weird.

Then the estate agent told me a cat came with the apartment, and I told her that wasn’t a good idea since we had a dog. And then, she took me out to lunch with the landladies, who were two older American women who wanted me to sign the lease straight away. It was €2400 per month without utilities. Much too expensive for me, of course. First, I prevaricated, saying that I needed a night to think on it, but in the end, I told them that it was too expensive and that nobody wanted to share their living quarters with a car dealership. That’s when I woke up. How odd!

Maybe it was a kind of flashback to when I was house-hunting last year, except that I never had dealings with an estate agent (much too expensive). All the houses I viewed I found online and dealt with the landlords or ladies directly. And I anyway only looked at two, the second one is the house we’re living in now.

I didn’t do much else except that I took Curious Dog for his three daily walks and that I baked a few oat cookies. They turned out ok, but could have done with some chocolate chips, which I didn’t have. Did a bit of reading, and meditating, and talking on the phone with my partner.

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