zondag 21 januari 2018

Mr. Blue Sky

Opening our curtains on Sunday morning, we were met by a strange phenomenon: a bright blue sky and pale amber sunlight. After all those grey days, it felt really weird, as if aliens had landed in our back garden.

No time to waste, so after breakfast we dressed warmly (it was a bit chilly) and went outside for a long overdue top up of our Vitamin D levels.

This dress, in a funky rust and brown printed fabric, was a € 4 bargain from Think Twice, bought back in November. I secured its tie with a Cameo brooch with unusual pale green background, and added a belt in forget-me-not blue.

On top went the "hairy" green cardigan I'd charity shopped on Saturday, adding a contrasting rust coloured enameled brooch. The ring is one of my € 1 buys from last week.

My Tweed jacket, which you have seen before and is part of a suit, kept me warm all day, helped by a green knitted scarf and green woolly hat. I wore flat heeled boots this time, a very comfortable pair which was definitely made for walking!

Our destination was a small but charming town less than half an hour's drive from Dove Cottage, which goes by the name of Lier.

Lier is located at the spot where two rivers, Grote Nete (Big Nete) and Kleine Nete (Small Nete) meet, creating a third river which, flowing downstream from Lier, is simply called Nete.

We parked on the outskirts of town, then walked along the river's towpath until St Margaret's Church could be glimpsed rising above the rooftops, shimmering brilliantely against the deep blue of the sky.

The church is reigning over the cobbled streets of the enclosed beguinage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.

In its quiet streets time seems to stand still, in spite of the constant stream of tourists, their voices echoing in this tranquil place, where once widows and unmarried women led a religiously inspired but independent life, under the leadership of a "grand dame", or "grootjuffrouw" in Flemish.

Surprisingly we almost had the place to ourselves on this sunny Sunday morning. When we passed one of the beguinage's gates on our way back in the afternoon, we could see that it was quite crowded.

They say the early bird catches the worm. Well, here the early bird was rewarded by endless photo opportunities without having to constantly work around the crowds!

This particular type of beguinage is called a 'street beguinage", and the one in Lier has 162 houses spread over eleven narrow streets.

At the centre stands St Margaret's Church, constructed in the 17-18th century. Construction started in 1664 and the church was dedicated in 1671. The top section of the front wall, together with the bell tower, was only completed one hundred years later. This period of time is shown by the architectural styles: while the main part of the church is baroque, the bell tower shows a clear rococo influence.

This narrow passageway is called "Hemdsmouwken" (meaning "shirtsleeve") due to its shape, and it is only 98 centimeters wide at one end. It was originally meant as a fire-break, to stop fire from spreading from one row of wood-and-loam houses to another.

The houses in this street, dating from around 1720, were the beguinage's last extension. With their generous proportions, they were inhabited by rich and aristocratic ladies. They were built on the site formerly used by the beguines for washing and bleaching linen and wool. The street's name, "Grachtkant" (meaning "canal side"), refers to the beguinage canal which used to run here.

By the time we left the beguinage, our stomachs were rumbling, so we ate the sandwiches we'd brought sat on a bench overlooking a bend in the river.

Afterwards, we strolled towards the town centre, along a scenic and much photographed stretch of the river, with classic views of the Hoogbrug (High Bridge), with some old town houses beyond.

Across the river is the picturesque building, "De Fortuyn", its striking, red and green shuttered façade, enhanced by the blue of the sky, meeting its reflection in the gently rippling water.

Can you spot the duck who had the audacity to disrupt the building's mirror image?

As we were in need of a hot beverage by then, we decided to check if the coffee shop we'd often frequented in the past was still in business. It was, so we sat ourselves down and warmed ourselves on cappuccino and hot chocolate, for which I seem to have a craving lately.

We'd ordered some chocolates (pralines) to go with our drinks, and Jos's coffee came with a complementary chocolate with the shop's name printed on it.

We made our way back via the Grote Markt, Lier's main square, and through Lier's main shopping street until we reached the town ramparts.

The statue on top the building on the top right is still sporting a Santa hat. Somebody should tell him Christmas is well and truly over!

Upon reaching the ramparts, which form a green belt around the town centre, we followed these until St Margaret's Church and the beguinage came into view, and we were nearing the end of our walk.

By then, clouds were starting to gather once more, a foreboding of the stormy weather to come.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style, as usual.

dinsdag 16 januari 2018

Mellow yellow

After hearing about the extreme weather conditions in other parts of the globe, it seems a bit silly to complain about grey skies and a bit of rain.

Still, there have been more rainy days than we've bargained for and we've hardly seen more than a few hours of sunshine in the last two months.

When the weather forecast promised us a long-awaited sunny weekend, we did a little jig and made some plans.

But Saturday dawned with a persistent fog, against which the feeble January sun hardly stood a chance.

To cheer ourselves up, we decided on some retail therapy, in our case, of course, involving a trip to the charity shops! What an exciting life we are leading ...

A long overdue outing for this mellow yellow dress!

It's made from a heavy polyester fabric, which the label identifies as Crinklé Terylene. The bulk of the dress has got a simple, slightly shiny, yellow flower print on an off-white background, with strips of solid yellow accenting the collar and the fake pocket tabs. The buttons are covered in the same yellow fabric.

To break up the pattern I used a shiny vinyl belt in a caramel brown, echoing the hearts of the flowers in the print. My other accessories were amber coloured beads and a blue framed plastic flower brooch.

Another wear of my burnt orange tights! They seem to go with quite a lot of my outfits, so it's a good thing I was able to find another couple of pairs at the market stall. To balance it out, I added the chunky orange cardigan I charity shopped during the Christmas break.

The embellished brown boots (I love the cutouts at the top) were charity shopped as well, back in December.

In fear of getting bored with the coats and jackets I have on rotation, I pulled out this brown checked swing coat, which I found it at Oxfam about two years ago.

You've probably noticed my yellow beret, which I couldn't take off as my hair was all over the place. I also wore my green furry supermarket scarf (so soft and cosy!) and a pair of teal gloves. I love how my cardigan's orange cuffs are cheekily peeking out from under my coat sleeves ...

On to our shopping trip, which certainly wasn't a wasted one. Minutes after walking into shop number one, we spotted this plaster bust of a pale but blushing Mary and baby Jesus. Even though poor Mary has had an accident, they pair came home with us joining our little collection living on top of a bookcase in our front room.

I also found several items of new-to-me clothing. From top to bottom: a blue and pink cardigan from retro label Zoë Loveborn, a hairy green cardigan from Thelma & Louise (a ridiculously expensive Belgian label), a King Louie dress and a charcoal skirt in a fine charcoal corduroy fabric by River Woods.

If I'd bought these new, they would have cost me around € 300 - gasp! - so the € 19 I paid for all four items can be considered quite a bargain!

The sun was making headway through the clouds when we came out of shop number two so, as we were parked near the small park in Duffel, we wasted no time, threw our gear in the boot, grabbed the camera and went for a walk.

The perfect backdrop to show you my final finds of the day: these two miniature Spanish fans, for € 0,25 each. Even though they are tiny, they seem to be quite effective, so ideal for keeping in my handbag to combat any hot flushes en route.

The park in question is not very large, but always a joy to visit, with its imaginative planting, water garden with stone fountain, pond complete with waterfowl of all plumage, and access to the adjacent river's towpath.

But all is not well. Although the council is doing its utmost to keep it all nice and tidy, their well meant plans keep being thwarted by the resident hoodlums, who leave mountains of empty beer cans as well as a trail of destruction in their wake.

An avenue of newly planted trees had been decimated, several young saplings deliberately snapped off.

At least this tree was allowed to grow old and die gracefully and is now playing host to a colony of fungi.

As the sun was sinking lower, we made our way back to our car, with sore feet in my case, as my boots were definitely not made for any substantial walking.

Before I sign off, let me show you some of the bargains I bagged in the sales last week.

These rings were going at € 1 each in the closing down sale of an accessories shop.

And last but not least, these wonderful teal Miz Mooz shoes, which I managed to grab with 60% off, including a snug orange box for Miz Phoebe!

Linking again to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

vrijdag 12 januari 2018

Got my feet on the ground

Going back to work after the Christmas break was hard enough as it is and to be faced with the crowds going mad at the first day of the sales didn't exactly improve things.

But, as they say, if you can't beat them, join them, so that's what I did, although it was totally unintentional.

As I was battling through the crowds in the small shopping centre near my office - I needed to pick up something at the chemist - I passed the shop where, a couple of months ago, I'd spotted a gorgeous burgundy fake fur wrap.

Being used to second hand shopping, I baulked at seeing its price, possibly exclaiming "How much?" in the process. As the shop wasn't too crowded, I took a chance and popped inside. And there it was, reduced by 50%. Result!

Obviously, I had to wear it on Saturday to show if off, although it wasn't nearly cold enough for wearing fur, fake or otherwise.

I wore it with my belted Tweed jacket and my fluffy purple beret.

Underneath, I was wearing a vintage dress picked up at one of Think Twice's sales.

It's a fit and flare model with a cowl neck and the fabric has a busy Paisley print in muted colours. There's a variety of greens in it, as well as sky blue and peachy pink.

I added a lilac belt and a long, chunky, green necklace.

On top, a royal blue cardigan, on which I pinned a brooch with different coloured stones in earthy tones, which was charity shopped in Wales back in 2016.

On Saturday morning, we took down our decorations and dismantled our Christmas tree, putting them away in our basement for another year.

Then, after lunch, we did some leisurely charity shopping, and ended the afternoon with coffee and cake at our final shop, which has a rather nice cafeteria.

I have dozens of belts, the majority of them charity shopped for € 1,50 or less. At prices like this, you can afford lots of variety, so I always look out for belts in different colours and styles.

I always look out for cardigans too, this time picking up this pink one with black collar detail and black buttons.

The row of photos on the right show a vintage pink Paisley print skirt. It's handmade, and I love how they used a contrasting bright green zip!

Jos was in luck too, as he found a brand new shirt from Massimo Dutti for next to nothing.

On Sunday, we had another date with our favourite indoor flea market.

I'm taking you through what I was wearing first.

The long orange cardigan on the left was another charity shop find from Saturday. Although it worked really well with my outfit and I wore it in its entirety on Monday, I changed into a short bottle green cardigan for our outing, as I was planning to wear a short jacket.

Jos actually thought I was wearing a dress, and indeed, the skirt and blouse went unexpectedly well together, with similar geometrics going on in their prints.

I matched my brooch to the ladies on the blouse and after trying on and discarding several necklaces, I finally settled on this ochre yellow and gold one.

Have you noticed that the green stone of my ring matches the brooch lady's cloche hat in shape as well as colour? I only did when I was looking at the photographs.

It had turned bitterly cold overnight, so we did most of the outfit photos at home. I am looking quite pale and ghostly in them, which isn't helped by the fact that I wasn't wearing lipstick.

All ready to go with my green jacket, favourite scarf, orange beret and tights and dark brown vintage gloves. The burgundy handbag has a cross body strap as well, perfect for some hands free browsing!

On to the flea market, which wasn't as big as last month's, and not overly crowded. My guess is that most people were out sales hunting as most city centre shops were open.

It did mean we were able to see it all - we are usually quite cross-eyed by the time we reach the last two aisles - and we found quite a few treasures too!

Zooming in on the strangest oddity first, we picked up these feet with their varnished toenails, advertising a shoe brand, from a favourite stall. They are made of some kind of moulded plastic. The stall's owner (a follower of my blog!) bought them at a flea market back in the day when she used to work as a window dresser. Neither she nor I had any luck finding anything about them on the Internet.

Another favourite stall yielded this plaster head on a heavy stone plinth. She has joined the others on our spare room's mantelpiece.

More oddities! I was drawn to this sad looking wooden Scottie and was wondering about the indentation on his back, when the stallholder told me it was a pipe holder. I couldn't very well leave the poor thing behind, and was given a beautifully crafted and marked pipe to go with him.

The tin on the top right was a gift from the lady who sold us the feet, while the tin with the 1930s lady was issued by chocolate brand Côte d'Or to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1933.

These vintage deadstock woolly hats were just € 2,50 each, so I bought three of them as I couldn't make up my mind. I already wore the green one to work this week.

There were some brooches too, of course, picked up at various stalls. With prices ranging from € 1 to € 7,50, my purchases didn't exactly break the bank.

Although I obviously love them all, my favourite is the wicker brooch embroidered with straw poppies. As it is also the most fragile one, it might only get the odd outing.

Which one is your favourite?

maandag 8 januari 2018

Tickled pink

Time moves on relentlessly, each day a page torn off the new year's calendar, at this time of year still promising endless possibilities.

But before we plunge headlong into the new year, I am setting the time machine one more time for last month.

It was on Boxing Day that the sun finally made a timid appearance and as we had been cooped up inside for long enough, a bracing walk was what we needed.

Our destination was one of our favourite parks in Antwerp, Middelheim, which is a less than fifteen minute drive from our home.

It was just our luck that once we'd got out of our car, the sun had disappeared behind some nasty looking clouds, and a cold wind was blowing when we crossed the open space leading up to the main part of the park.

Things warmed up considerably once we were under the shelter of the trees, helped by the occasional appearance of the sun, who was trying her very best to keep one step ahead of the persistant clouds.

My outfit of the day was a long sleeved black, floral patterned dress, with a full skirt and a cowl neck, which of course isn't visible here. I wore it with a green cardigan, the sleeves of which are just peeping out from under my jacket's sleeves, green tights and black boots.

You can have a better look at the dress here.

My green fur-collared jacket, warm yellow chunky knit scarf and red beret were keeping me warm and toasty.

Oh, and a pair of fingerless gloves, necessary for taking photographs!

If you've been following my blog for a while, you might remember our previous visits to this open air museum with its eclectic collection of sculptures.

This really is a park for all seasons, although some of the sculptures were covered up or even removed to protect them from harsh winter conditions.

In this empty space, the artwork hasn't been removed at all. Here, the visitor is encouraged to become an artwork for the duration of one minute. Or long enough to strike some silly poses and make some photographs!

Although we took a different route than usual, the Braem Pavilion pulled us in like a magnet, the low, curvy, white building appearing like a mirage through the trees.

The pavilion usually hosts an exhibition of some sort and this time was no exception.

The current exhibition, called Recall Sculpture, shows a collection of sculptures on loan from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA), and as they were originally purchased at one of the biennial exhibitions organised by the Middelheim Museum from 1951 until 1989, they have, in a way, come home!

Clockwise from top right: Door (1975), by Erzebet Schaar (bronze), Rain (1957), by Mark Macken (bronze), Saturne (1962) by Julio Gero (iron) and Omaggio al Cosmonauta Nr. 2 (1962) by Arnaldo Pomodoro (bronze).

Fausto Melotti, The Dance, 1973 (gilded brass and plexi)

Apart from a few exceptions, the majority of the pieces on show were table top sculptures which were presented on raised platforms.

I grabbed a brochure, so that I could identify the pieces later, but unfortunately it only showed the placement of the sculptures with a list of numbers, making the artwork difficult to identify later and requiring a fair amount of guessing and googling for this post.

I loved the backdrop of floor length dusky pink gauzy curtains, which really offset the sculptures, bathing them in a warm glow.

Clockwise from top left: me looking at Peace (1952) by Mark Macken (bronze), detail of The Big Dancer (1951-53) by Marino Marini (bronze), Standing Girl (1949) by Charles Leplae (terracotta) and detail of top left.

The works all date from the 1950s to the 1970s, a period during which artists broke free from the oppressive straitjacket of the war years, resulting in a wide variety of materials and themes, which was in sharp contrast with the government restraints on art during wartime.

Emerging from the warmth of the pavilion, we continued our walk, crossing Ai Weiwei's Bridge Without a Name.

The museum's café inside the park's castle was beckoning with hot drinks, in my case a delicious hot chocolate topped with whipped cream!

Dusk was falling rapidly, the gloaming providing an eerie shadowplay of silhouetted artwork, bare-limbed trees and fluffy white Clematis seed heads.

Refreshed in both body and soul, we made our exit the way we started, through the Artist's Entrance (created by Dutch artist John Körmeling), proclaiming some of the resident artists' names in lights.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style for the first time this year!