Wednesday, 17 April 2019

All's fair at the castle

During two weekends a year, in Spring and Autumn, Castle de Renesse is the romantic setting for a small antiques fair, which we have been visiting for quite a few years now.

The castle is located in the sandy soiled and pine rich countryside to the north of Antwerp, just over half an hour's drive away.

Landscaped gardens and parkland complete with a picturesque lake and a couple of smaller pools surround the castle, blending seamlessly into ancient woodland.

As quite miraculously we always seem to have the weather gods on our side on our outings to the castle, an hour's browsing of the stalls set up in the castle's rooms is usually followed by a picnic and a meander through the castle grounds and beyond.

On the first Sunday of April, the weather gods were more than compliant, with lots of sunshine and temperatures of up to 20° Celsius.

I very daringly opted for short sleeves, choosing a turquoise Crimplene frock with a groovy cream, green and grey print. For contrast, the dress's collar was adorned with a posy of cheerful orange flowers, but indulged some matchy matchy-ness by choosing green beads and a turquoise belt.

Green opaques balanced the outfit, and my feet were more than happy in the emergency booties I was obliged to buy a couple of weeks ago.

As I was mentally going through my jackets for the perfect one to wear, I was reminded of a green new wool suit I bought at a vintage market several years ago. Its jacket turned out to be the perfect match, even if, combined with the sweat-inducing Crimplene, it would be much too warm later in the day.

Making our way to the bridge which would take us to the castle's courtyard, we were disappointed to see that scaffolding had been erected, spoiling the enchanting view of the castle and its reflection in the moat.

It's a good thing we'd been there before, so that I could pinch some of the photos I'd taken on previous visits for you to admire.

Against the faded grandeur backdrop of the castle's interior, all manner of delectable objects are displayed, many of them with a price tag well beyond our budget.

However, there are still enough reasonably priced goods on offer for us to return year after year..

Following her absence last Autumn, we were relieved to see that the Brooch Lady was once again presiding over her folders of brooches. As she's well into her 80s we were more that just a little bit worried. It turned out that she'd taken a fall back then, but had now sufficiently recovered to take up her pitch at the castle again.

These are the five brooches I bought from her.

The brooch on the top right dates from the second world war. It is handmade and the beautiful lady with her 1940s up-do and string of pearls is painted directly on a piece of fabric. Below, on the bottom right, you can see how the brooch's back has been constructed.

The plastic anchor brooch is a souvenir from a Belgian seaside resort.

By lunchtime, we picked up our picnic basket from the car, and made our way to the one and only picnic table in the vicinity of the castle.

It offers a fabulous view of the castle across the lake but, as even from this distance the scaffolding was all too prominent, no photographs were taken this time, except for the sunbathing tortoises and the topsy-turvy duck performing its ablutions.

By then, I'd removed the chiffon scarf I was wearing and tied it to my handbag's handles. Do take a good look, as it'll be the last you'll see of it. It was only by the end of our walk that I noticed its absence ...

Our walk took us pas the ice house, which has a gazebo built on top of it. This is more of a folly than a real gazebo, as there is no entrance at all.  One can only walk around it and glance through its intricately grilled windows.

The ancient oak tree on the bottom left has been cordoned off to protect it, with the path which used to run next to it diverted to the other side of the picturesque pool you can see below.

What a joy it was to be walking along this delightful avenue of trees. Clothed in clouds of youthful green, a gentle breeze sighing among them, they seemed to be whispering secrets.

It was while we were taking a break at a picnic table hidden in the woods that I noticed my scarf was gone. I scanned the straight road we had just walked along but to no avail.

Back at our starting point, we were both in need of a restorative cup of coffee which, in a mad moment, we decided to accompany by ice cream with hot chocolate sauce. Little did we know that they would be so huge!

I'll finish by showing you our other finds of the day. 

There are always vintage buttons galore at one of the stalls upstairs, and I picked up three cards for my stash. How charming are those navy celluloid ones carved with red, turquoise and yellow flowers? 

The mystery objects on the bottom left are tiny boxes containing 35 mm film reels. There was a whole box of them, from which Jos selected these three for our manually operated toy projector. Dating from the 1950s, it was given to Jos by his brother-in-law in the early 1960s.

Finally, joining our collection of kitsch is this old religious print. Adorning the mantlepiece of many a Flemish living room back in the day, it admonishes not to swear, as god can see you. As I'm always pointing out to Jos, it doesn't mention that god can hear you, so we're quite safe with this on our kitchen wall.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Blossoms and blooms

Who was it again that said April is the cruellest month?  Ah yes, it's the opening line of  T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Published in 1922, it is a landmark of twentieth century poetry.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

And although volumes have been written by fellow poets and critics alike on Eliot's modernist masterpiece, the fact remains that, indeed, April can be quite cruel. After the long Winter months, April contains the promise of Spring which, more often than not, it is unable to deliver on. It keeps teasing us with a handful of mild and sunny days, only for it to become cold and wet again, as if to spite us.

This year, we have been counting our blessings as some of April's true Spring days coincided with the weekend. Take last weekend, for instance, when, miracle of miracles, it turned out to be fine on both Saturday and Sunday.

As Sunday was already spoken for, we meant to take it easy on Saturday, but just lazing around wasn't quite what I had in mind. In fact, my original plan was to crack on with my bi-annual wardrobe change-over. The lure of being out and about was too strong, though, so I left the Winter clothes I'd taken off their hangers, ready to be put away in favour of a glut of Summer frocks, piled up on a bedroom chair. There will be rainy days to get on with this task soon enough!

The short, brown and cream checked swing coat I was wearing was charity shopped in February last year. Although it does look deceptively like a vintage 1950s one, it is modern, from Spanish brand Sfera.

It has got a little half belt quite high up in the back, which in the photo below makes me look like the hunchback of Notre Dame. I was, in case you are wondering, getting a pesky stone out of my shoe.

The shoes, or rather boots, in question were a serendipitous charity shop find back in December, found just after I'd given up on my search for boots in this exact shade of green and succumbed to a pair from a regular shop. But not to worry, as I've been wearing both pairs!

The daisies are back! Oh, how I love daisies in a lawn! They remind me of Summer holidays spent in my childhood garden, camping out in my Dad's scruffy old tent pitched up on the lawn.

Note my lime green opaques and my tapestry handbag in hues of chocolate and caramel.

The coat's generous collar called for a larger brooch, so I opted for this one, with its oval orange and green mottled stone.

The park is almost literally being transformed before our very eyes. Plants which have lain dormant during the Winter months are one by one receiving their wake-up calls. 

Look at that forward little tulip showing off the latest fashion in mellow coral. She and I were wearing similar colours, did you notice?

I last wore this crepey blouse, a bargain from Think Twice, on a mild Autumn day, but surely its colour suits every season.

I combined it with the bright floral skirt I picked up at the Retrodag back in March and added a sage green woven belt, a string of jade green beads I bought from H&M eons ago and a gold tone ring with a green stone. 

My green squirrel brooch insisted on coming along in the hope of catching sight of its red cousins living it up in the park.

Quick, let's snap the new Hosta shoots before they are being devoured and decimated by the resident population of slugs and snails!

Beneath the frothy white blossoms, several nesting boxes were waiting for lodgers to come and raise their families.

We stood and watched the antics of a clutch of fluffy ducklings out exploring with their Mum. There were a total of five, including a wayward one which Mum had a hard time keeping in check, and which consequently isn't in the picture.

Spring flowers are scattered like gemstones in the park's hidden corners, spikes of grape hyacinths with their tiny blue bell-shaped flowers and a single delicate dog's tooth violet.

I could sit here for hours, watching the flowers grow.

Instead, we sauntered to the charity shop which is a 5-minute walk from the park.

Not expecting to find much, I halfheartedly scanned the rails of tired looking fast fashion cast-offs, when suddenly ... Well, what can I say? How amazing is this vintage maxi? How fabulous is that print? And those sleeves! They make those on last week's Diolen dress pale into insignificance!

The label says Modelly, which I couldn't find anything about.

I had to put it on for a photo session when we got home. Here I was just about to demonstrate the ginormity of the sleeves, when I suddenly noticed our neighbour was up on the roof.

I'm sure they all think that we are a bit weird but frankly speaking, I don't give a damn!

Linking my new frock to Nancy's Fancy Friday.

Monday, 8 April 2019

A walk in the woods

After being plagued by April showers all week, it was a relief to be able to sample the delights of Spring on the Saturday before last.

Such a gorgeously sunny day it was that I was prompted to wear white, which is practically unheard of. Well, not plain white, obviously. I confess to not even owning any plain white garments. I do have several white, printed Summer frocks, though, which at the time of writing are still stashed away in the linen chest which holds my out-of-season clothes.

I also have a handful of long-sleeved ones, which for some reason I've been utterly neglecting. Trawling my blog, I could only find two occasions when I was wearing such frocks (here and here).

But let's get back to that Saturday morning. Standing in front of my wardrobe, I was feeling a bit bored with most of what I saw: that end-of-season boredom which happens twice a year, regular as clockwork, in April and October. Then this delicious print caught my attention.

I fell head over heels for this handmade dress at Blender Vintage Shop at the end of 2013. Gingerly lifting it from a rail full of colourful vintage attire and taking it into the fitting room with some trepidation, I squeed with utter joy when it turned out to be a perfect fit.

That Saturday morning, I decided to give the dress another outing, as it matched my mood and the weather perfectly. I love its fit and flare silhouette, with its wide circle skirt, which was made for ... yes, you guessed it: twirling!

My first thought was to accessorize it with pink, but after adding my pink beads and a translucent ring containing pink flowers, I thought adding more would make it too sugary. So I went for green, starting with green opaques, then a slim green belt.  The dress's shawl collar ends in a fiddly little tie, which I secured with a green flower brooch. No harm in adding more flowers, is there? The brooch is modern, bought from a small shop in Antwerp.

There was no need for a hat or scarf and indeed I could even have left my jacket behind. The jacket in question, a grey tweed one, was charity shopped last October, and has embroidery down one side. My orange leather bag was a sales bargain earlier last year.

We are always looking for new-to-us walking areas not too far from home and, after we were told about a small nature reserve in a neighbouring village, called the Uilenbos (transl. Owls Wood) by my godson, we were eager to go out and explore it.

However, it took us quite a while to find the reserve's entrance and starting point for the two walks which have been lead out, as it wasn't very clearly signposted. Eventually, after getting directions from a fellow walker, we found it and, leaving our car in a grass verge at the side of a rather busy road, we finally set off.

Bees were busy visiting the yellow flowers of lesser celandine, a flower which William Wordsworth (he of the host of golden daffodils!) seemed to be fond of, as he wrote no less than 3 poems about them!

Pansies, lillies, kingcups, daisies, 
Let them live upon their praises; 
Long as there's a sun that sets, 
Primroses will have their glory,
Long as there are violets, 
They will have a place in story: 
There is a flower that shall be mine, 
'T is the little Celandine.
From To The Small Celandine, 1802-1807

Some may consider this a weed and it is indeed quite invasive, but as it's one of Spring's earliest flowers, it's hard to find fault with so much yellow cheerfulness!

Venturing deeper into the reserve, the magical sight of hundreds of wood anemones caught us by surprise.

A spring delight, the wood anemone grows in dappled shade in ancient woodlands.In spite of their innocent and fragile appearance, these star-shaped flowers spreading like a veritable galaxy across the woodland floor, are quite poisonous!

The botanical plate featuring the wood anemone (below), as well as the one featuring the lesser celandine (above) were both taken from this delightful flower book found at a UK charity shop during one of our holidays. Although no publication date is mentioned, there is a handwritten dedication inside, dated Christmas 1942.

Uilenbos is a recent acquisition by Natuurpunt, which is the  the largest Belgian nature conservation organization, and was opened to the public in the Autumn of 2017.

The small reserve of 17,5 hectares consists of two thirds of dry oak and beach wood and one third of wet woodland intersected by a quietly gurgling brook.

The area is of high natural value as it is the habitat of several rare species of plants and birds, including at least 5 species of woodpecker. I couldn't find any mention of owls, though ...

The wood's dense undergrowth of bracken is the perfect hiding place for the resident population of deer, who come here to give birth to their fawns in May. Hence, part of the reserve is off-limits between May and August.

We walked our own combination of the two available paths, enjoying being out and about on such a glorious day, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of early Spring. 

As we'd forgotten to take a bottle of water, we were gasping for a drink by the end of our walk so, on our way home, we stopped for a well needed cup of coffee at a nearby charity shop, which has the added bonus of a small café.

And since we were in a charity shop, it wouldn't hurt to take a look around, would it?

I only struck gold on the jewellery front though, taking home these three necklaces. I'm particularly enamoured by the heart shaped pendant, which is made of glass and looks like a slice of one of those Millefiori paperweights.

But I still have to show you the previous week's finds as well, starting with a camera, in its original packing and accompanied by its instruction manual, for our vintage camera collection. A remnant from the Retrodag, its price was reduced to € 3.

The Kodak Tele-Ektralite 600 pocket camera has a folding cover that becomes a handle when you use the camera, with ability to switch from normal to tele lens. It was manufactured between 1980 and 1982. 

The set still contains the Kodacolor 400 film which came with it, but unfortunately the box mentions that it has to be developed before September 1982!

In spite of the fact that I already own several vintage quilted dressing gowns, there's always room for one more, especially if it's in as pristine a condition a this one.

Last but not least! I still can't get my head around the fact that I missed this vintage Diolen dress on the Retrodag itself, but here it was hanging among the other remnants.

The Summer frock has got the most delightful floral print and a deep square neckline edged in white. But its most outstanding feature must be the jaw-dropping angel wing sleeves! Obviously I can't wait for the perfect Summer day to wear it.

I had to tape the sleeves to the wardrobe doors in order for you to fully appreciate the size of them!

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style and Mica's Weekday Wear Linkup.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The promise of Springtime

Ah, the first flowers of Spring! Those bashfully nodding snowdrops, the trees and shrubs clad in delicate blossoms and the daffodils with their frilly petticoats! Nothing bashful about them, that's for sure!

Nothing bashful about Dove Cottage's first Spring flowers either. 

Many years ago, in a moment of madness, we planted a climber to grow through our lilac tree.

The climber in question is Clematis armandii, also known as evergreen or winter flowering Clematis. In our garden, the first flowers usually start appearing in March. It is a vigorous evergreen climber with long, leathery and glossy dark green leaves and clusters of creamy white flowers.

For the first couple of years, the plant presented us with only a handful of flowers. But ever since Jos started pruning it back rigorously after flowering, as the poor lilac tree was buckling under the climber's weight, more and more flowers appeared each Spring.

Now, there are literally hundreds, and their sweet almond scent, which carries far and remains trapped inside our garden walls, is quite intoxicating, especially on a warm, still day.

Trying to compete with this profusion of flowers may seem like a daunting task, but it's nothing my flower power wardrobe can't handle.

I dug out this lightweight skirt suit which was charity shopped back in 2015, its dense floral print not one for shrinking violets. There's no label so I suspect that it was handmade, and it's fully lined, producing a satisfying swish-swish sound while prancing around in the garden.

A caramel belt was added to define my waist, and I added chocolate beads and a brooch with cream leaves and chocolate berries.

Although not a patch on the Clematis flowers, this coy little Anemone managed to grab my attention by peeking out from the rampant ivy leaves it is surrounded by.

It was the Saturday before last and, after a couple of gorgeous Spring days, the sun had decided to play hooky once more.

After a quick dash to the charity shops, we made an equally quick tour of the park, which seems to be getting greener by the minute, the weeping willows sporting hazy curtains of golden green.

Tired of my Winter coats and jackets, I tempted fate by wearing my lilac tweed jacket which I picked up at Think Twice in the Autumn of 2017, pinning a celluloid cameo brooch to its collar.

My raspberry beret and fluffy pink scarf, which were flea market and charity shop finds respectively, complimented the flowering currant bush with its drooping clusters of pink hued flowers.

A bright blue sky greeted us on Sunday, and the sun was out in full force, as if she had to make up for her absence on Saturday.

Although it was still a bit windy, the day was definitely too good to be wasted inside, so we ventured out for a short walk in one of our favourite parks, Middelheim. Those of you who have been following by blog for a while might remember that this is not just an ordinary park, but includes an open-air museum of sculpture.

We entered the park through its east entrance, passing through this simultaneously futuristic and retro looking structure. Its three slender pillars rise up into a three-fold, mushroom-shaped canopy, which seems to be inspired by those iconic 1950s petrol stations. The names of some of the artists whose work is represented in the museum are incorporated in the canopy. 

This is, in fact, one of the museum's works of art, which is called Artiesteningang (Artists' Entrance), by John Körmeling, a Dutch artist who occupies the no man’s land between architecture and art.  

I was wearing a long-sleeved frock I bought during Think Twice's latest sales days, at the same time as the green dresses I've shown you in one of my previous posts, but which I didn't tell you about as I knew I would be wearing it very soon.

Here's a close-up of its psychedelic print, which includes red, orange, lilac, turquoise and burgundy, the latter of which I repeated in my cardigan, belt, opaques and boots. The multi-coloured beads were a flea market find many years ago, while the cream and tortoiseshell flower brooch was charity shopped.

We meandered through the park, our itinerary decided by our mood and the fact that some parts of the park were closed off as a result of the recent storms, which had made quite a few hapless victims among the park's ancient trees.

We met several fellow walkers, like these Walking Sisters (1960-61) by Italian artist Elia Ajolfi (1916-2001).

The red container you can see behind them is also part of a work of art, by Belgian artist Luc Deleu. 

Hats off to this joyful girl, by Belgian sculptor Mark Macken (1913-1977). The sculpture is called April and dates from 1957.

My own hat was a last minute addition to my outfit, as I'd left the house hat-less, and this one happened to be in the car. 

You've seen it, and the teal jacket, before. I've been wearing that jacket a lot lately. Teal really is a surprisingly versatile colour.

I briefly joined the Professor (1969), a creation of Hungarian sculptor Imre Varga. After talking about poetry and the meaning of life, we shook hands, and I left him to his peace and quiet, blowing out the candles which had been burning rather pointlessly on this sunny Sunday afternoon.

Then we pulled up some chairs made of silver and gold, and sat in a sunny spot watching the world go by until it was time to go home.

Linking my pink and lilac outfit to Nancy's Fancy Friday linkup!