The last few days, week or so, have been quiet. Not only nursing myself through a cold (which wasn’t that bad, just miserable), making sure it didn’t get any worse, but just recharging the batteries some, putting things away and slowly getting back to life here in England after the Euphoria of the Netherlands. Battling post holiday blues too, i guess.

I’ve been working some on the holiday snaps, cleaning them up and so on, but also on some of the more “artistic” photos i’ve taken, rendering them with different colours, thinking about them, and of course, building up the photoketh blog. There’s still work to be done on that, on more photos and finding appropriate quotes/poems to go with them – what i like is that its a way to learn about new quotes or poetry, so it expands my literary world & keeps my mind active – always a good thing (so, i suppose, is the exercise of creating, exploring, and playing – keeps the mind young). The photos i took in the Netherlands and existing photographs i’ve taken before now will keep me occupied for some time but at some point, in order to keep growing as a photographer, i will have to get out and explore with my camera beyond where i’ve been so far –  even if its only to local locations when they open/are available.

I’ve also been thinking about where to go next. Not so much geographically, as with projects. Obviously there’s the great Keth Makeover project, which is still ongoing: i need winter/autumn clothes and Sez gave me a lovely pattern for a winter coat for my birthday, which i want to make at some point, possibly 2 of them – one heavier than the other, but it will depend on what fabric i can find. I’ve started to go through all the major pattern companies, looking at various patterns, not just with an eye to suitability but also durability – can i make more than one, two, three, four outfits from the same pattern? Is it easily adaptable so that over time i can make many outfits from that pattern without it being too obvious? i’ve been checking them against the internet as well, for reviews – a few have been ruled out already for bad reviews or difficult FBA (full bust adjustments). I’m thinking mostly in terms of tops, although i have seen one pair of cargo pants that i’m considering, but i’m trying to wear more skirts (and i have a number of skirt patterns, enough that i can make just about every basic skirt shape i could possibly wish to wear). Even where i do wear trousers (e.g. to walk Jess) i tend to wear either jeans (which are difficult to make) or tracksuit bottoms (which, frankly, i can buy cheaper) so its not worth my time to focus on the bottom half too much. I’m looking now for wardrobe staples, not tops to wear to special occasions, i have plenty of those, its the every day that is more difficult. Things like waistcoats & shirts, basic tshirt styles, and of course accessories. a good outfit is made or broken by its accessories.

I’ve also got to continue with the changes i have made so far. Small changes, such as, if i’ve worn slobby old clothes to walk Jess (which i do when the weather is poo), then i change when i get home. i want to get another pair of shoes, this time for winter smart every day wear – i can wear my boots, but i can’t wear those with a skirt, and i’d like a pair of leather shoes, perhaps low heeled court shoes, or similar, that i can wear with tights and a skirt, and that won’t cripple me – i.e. i can wear shopping etc. i love the ballerina slippers and mary janes i got about a month ago but they aren’t really for wearing when its very wet and this summer has been anything BUT dry/sunny and it doesn’t look as though autumn is going to be much better! i may look at getting a pair of leather mary janes/ballerina slippers. we’ll see. I’ve been trying to wear my hair down more – which is harder, cos it gets in the way – but it does force me to think about what i look like, and i find myself looking in the mirror several times a day when its down to make sure it looks okay, which is another good thing, at least for me, helps with the self esteem issues.

In terms of diet and health, i had noted a drop in my weight before we travelled to the Netherlands. I’d been so busy i’d not been comfort eating, and, more importantly, i’d not had a third meal. With me rising relatively late (usually around 10am-11am) and not having breakfast for a couple of hours at least (I tend to walk Jess after 1 cup of coffee, but before food), and with Michiel rising relatively late also, our “lunch” is other people’s evening meal (i.e. around 7-8pm most nights), and the third meal of the day is often quite close to bedtime. I started to omit this meal from my diet, if i was hungry i would eat something, but it was rare that i was. This happened quite by accident and to my surprise, i noted the scales dropping before i worked out what it was. I actually dropped below 17 stones, which has been hard for me in the last few years – its seemed like a line that i could just *not* drop below – and here i was, i’d done it without even really looking. The first time the scales blinked “16:13” at me, i stood there, blinking back at it, not quite believing what i saw!

Anyway, i had resigned myself to regaining some of that weight while we were in the Netherlands – all that lovely food and wine – but told myself not to be silly, that i could lose it again and that frankly, i was on holiday, and so i just forgot about it all, and when we got home, i weighed myself the morning after we landed back here, and to my surprise, i was still under 17 stone. I thought about it some more, to have *not* gained any while we were there was a puzzlement: Granted, we had walked a great deal, i’d climbed 2 flights of stairs most days, but if you know about how calories and exercise work you know that you have to exercise a great deal just to burn off the extra calories inherent in all those chips and mayo and wine (and with no fake sugar there, we’d been having loads of sugar in tea and coffee)! Then i thought about our eating patterns, and understood that inadvertently, i’d continued the same trend most days of having 2 main meals, a large breakfast, a largeish lunch/evening meal, and nibbles when i was hungry. So, by way of an experiment, for the last week we’ve both been eating that way: a dutch style breakfast, with 3-4 slices of bread, ryvitas, crackers, with a selection of cheeses and cold meats and healthy olive margarine, nibbles about 3 hours later, just three small bowls of either crisps, rice crackers, nuts, or similar stuff, shared between us, then about 2 hours after that, our main meal, often eating less of that than we had previously, as we were still full from all the other food. I’ve made one banana cake since we came back, which was eaten over the course of the week (and the last bit was thrown away), but otherwise that’s it. i’ve only had something to eat after the main meal once or twice, and Michiel the same (but he has longer to go between his main meal and coming to bed than i do), and we’ve both lost a couple of pounds in the last week, so this is now our confirmed new way of eating. Eventually we’ll plateau, but when that happens, we’ll rethink it, maybe remove the nibbles or something.

The other major change since we returned has been around tea: Michiel’s mum gave me a vaccum flask/teapot in one, which holds around 1 liter of water, and a box of different kinds of fruit tea, dutch style. In the last week we’ve been drinking about 3 teapots worth of tea a day, in different flavours – we’ve had apple and cinnamon so far today – and as a result our consumption of squash has dropped dramatically, which is good not only in terms of health but for the wallet as well. the vaccum flask keeps the water very hot – so well, in fact, that i can make a pot of that tea up for Michiel before i go to bed around 2am and when i come to empty it out around 12 hours later for another cup of tea, the water is still steaming.

As well as the Great Keth Makeover Project, there’s other things to think about as well. Winter is coming, Autumn feels like its already here, and with the power bills going through the roof, its a good time to have a rethink about how to conserve power. Our main energy usage is electricity – not just the computers, but light and the various power sucking units we have around the house (TVs, video, DVD player, fridge/freezer, kettle, microwave etc) and we’re going to have to think through how to conserve with those. With regards to heating, the wardrobe revamp will help with that, with the emphasis on layering, but some things need to be done around the house too. I’m still working on knitting a blanket for the bed, although the way i’m going, it may be next summer before i get it finished! The bed isn’t so much of a problem, especially once we’re snuggled down – if it gets really cold, we just wear socks and things to bed, which we normally don’t. I’ve been meaning to change the curtains in the living room for ages, as that’s a major weak point in the living room, buy thicker material, with proper full length lining. I want to make a sausage for the bedroom door, as we close that door at night to keep the bedroom cool, and it will help to keep the heat in the rest of the flat. I may see if i can make a curtain for the front door as well, to help conserve heat through that exit.

However, with those kinds of projects, i’m holding back because before we went on holiday, we finally put in for an emergency transfer with the housing association. We’re just fed up with the grief we get from the local kids, and the time away with Michiel’s family, the peace and quiet of the Netherlands (and the contrast when we got home, not 2 hours home and a brick was thrown against the living room wall) really showed me just how much it affects our quality of life and our relationship with each other. Its an ever present strain we don’t notice, most of the time, except when it changes. We didn’t honestly expect to hear anything very quickly but we got back to a letter from another housing association in the area, offering us a 2 bedroom first floor flat in a quiet cul-de-sac not far from here…. and we missed the closing date. We could’ve screamed with frustration – Michiel got on the phone on the monday, but to no avail, the housing officer didn’t care why we didn’t get back to her, and all she could say was; “if the people i’ve offered it to don’t want it, i’ll come back to you” and that, we’ve had to be content with. That was on wednesday last, when he finally got hold of her (her voice mail was full.. silly woman), so i don’t hold out a lot of hope for it. Towards the end of next week i’ve to make sure with our housing officer that we’ve not been bumped back to the bottom of the list – Manchester housing operates under a points system, and as an emergency transfer, you get lots of points. If you turn down a property, and the housing officer doesn’t think its a good reason, you can lose those points, and go right to the bottom of the list – and then it can mean several years before you get a chance to move. So hopefully we’ll either hear on that flat positively, or be offered somewhere else reasonably soon and then we can settle in. Of course this affects any projects for the house – there’s no point doing any new curtains or anything because we could be moving and they may not fit the new place, but on the other hand, what if we don’t get offered anything until May next year, and we could be saving money with the new curtains? its a difficult question.

With the potential move, one of the prices that may have to be paid is the garden. I’ve asked for one; its by no means certain i will get one. Michiel has promised (and i will hold him to this) that if we get a flat without a garden, he will help me find and set up an allotment. (He’s reading over my shoulder as i type and has protested: “I never said set up the allotment, i said set up WITH the allotment.. ” note to self: always read the fine print!) but since there’s a waiting list for allotments i may not have a garden at all next year. So we’ll have to see. I am determined, that whatever happens, i take the perennials that are in the garden now with me (couple of honeysuckles, the raspberries and strawberries and my rose), but all can be grown in pots/buckets and if necessary, i’ll beg space on a neighbours patio or something for them… i’m sure i’ll find somewhere.

However, if we do manage to get a 2 bedroom flat (we have been told we will under no circumstances get a house as houses are in demand and you have to be a family to get one) then the difference it will make is substantial. Not only do we have a potential guest room, but i may also have space to set up my craft stuff, without having to worry about it all being in the way of Michiel, and it will enable us to have more space from each other, which is a good thing when you’re together 24/7. It does depend on what we get and of course where, and then there’s the moving costs to worry about as well.

The final thing to think about, in the middle of all this, is Christmas. Christmas is uncertain this year, at this point. Not only do i have no idea where our home will be, i also have no idea where we’ll be. There is the thought that Michiel’s parents may want us to visit them for Christmas, its been a couple of years since we were over at that time of year and they want to be close to their family at the moment anyway (for private reasons). At the same time, his parents are moving, they have sold their house, but at this point they don’t know where they are moving to, so its all up in the air. At the same time Michiel’s sister is having a baby, due in February, and she has said she wants us there for that, so they may say well, leave it until February. Who knows. Of course that affects Christmas with my family, i don’t get to see either of my grandmothers very much any more so any chance i do get to see them, i grab, and Christmas is one of the opportunities i get – usually my maternal grandmother stays with my parents over christmas and they bring her up to us for the day on 27th Dec for another “christmas” day. If thats not possible this year, then obviously i’ll be trying to see my family either during December or January, so with all that in mind its difficult to plan for Christmas this year, and at this point i’m simply trying to think about simple Christmas presents for family that can be given, if necessary, ahead of time, that travel well, and that if (god forbid) we get the nod to move 2 weeks before Christmas can be packed into a box and found easily!

All this means that the next 4/5 months are likely to be rather hectic, and awareness of that means that these weeks are .. breathing space. Time to set our affairs in order, to go through the house, do those little things you’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got round to doing. I want to move around the bedroom, sort through our books, clean the kitchen (and i mean deep clean, top to bottom), and prepare the garden for winter. Time to be still, look around, aware of the changing of the seasons. I always think of this as the end of the year, personally, culminating in halloween – a very pagan attitude, but its one that strikes me as being right, somehow – the garden has ended, the quiet and stillness of winter is ahead, the year has died.. its a season of reflection and .. yes. of assessment. Long walks through the autumn countryside, reflecting on life and death that is present in the changing of the season.. it speaks deeply to the soul, to those who are in tune with nature in any way.

This is just some of what’s mulling over in my mind at the moment, and the todo list on the right will change in the next week or so, to reflect some of the decisions i’ve reached. I’ll be posting a list of the patterns i’m going to buy, what i’m going to make, longer term projects i’m going to start undertaking. Autumn is a time of change as well, and that makes it exciting, and of course, i’ll keep updating this blog with the journey that i’m on. For now though, the quiet days and assessments will continue, until i’m ready to put my plans into action.. watch this space!