Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Bright lights on a cold night

Hello there! Remember me? While we've only been away for five days, it somehow feels much longer, which surely must be a sign that we really did get away from it all. On the other hand, it does feel as if the days whizzed by at the speed of light, which is strangely contradictory.

I had to go back to work on Monday, and when I unlocked the door that morning and walked into the semi-darkness of the office, taking note of the mountain of unfinished files on my desk, I wistfully thought back to the Monday of last week when, after a bit of a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast, we put our luggage into the boot of the car and drove off to pastures new. Well, not that new actually, as we'd already been to the same place last year but I'm sure you're getting the gist.

Our destination was Middelburg, the charming capital town of the province of Zeeland in the south west of Holland. And while it is safe to say that we were going abroad, the journey only took us just over an hour!

After a gorgeously sunny but crisply cold weekend, it was a bit of a letdown that the weather forecast for the week ahead wasn't looking all that good. In fact, dark clouds had been gathering all morning  and it started raining before we were even halfway there!

We'd booked the same airbnb as last year, a small but perfectly formed cottage dating from 1890, which has been tastefully decorated and equipped with all mod cons.  After all, the cottage's owner, Eveline, actually lives there herself when she is not renting it out.

We arrived at about 1 pm and after helping us unload our luggage and guiding us to a nearby street where our car could be parked (the street the cottage is on is narrow with very limited parking), our thoughtful host left us to make ourselves at home. 

It was still raining at that point, so I'll show you around the cottage first. 

There's a cosy sitting room with a large sofa and an Art Deco style armchair arranged in front of a wood burner.

The sitting room leads through to an open plan kitchen with dining area, with French windows giving access to a tiny courtyard garden. There's a compact but comfortable bathroom leading off the hallway, while a flight of stairs takes you up to a large bedroom under the eaves.

We had a late lunch and, as the rain still didn't show any sign of abating, we decided to go grocery shopping before hitting the town. I'm happy to say that by the time we left the small local supermarket, a watery sun was finally showing its face.

I was snug as a bug in my travelling outfit consisting of a warm lined green with a bit of red tweed skirt and green fur collared vintage jacket (an all-time favourite), which I wore with a scarf in autumnal shades of browns and purples and a jaunty pink beret.

The boots were a retail buy from last month. I'd been looking for an affordable pair of tall, comfy boots in this particular yummy shade of chocolate brown for years, so I was overjoyed when I came across these in a recently opened high street shop in Antwerp. I'd brought a spare pair of boots with me as they hadn't yet been properly broken in, but there was no need as I wore them all week, walking for miles without the least bit of pinching or soreness.

Our cottage is on the outskirts of the town, but only a mere 5 minute walk from the town centre, along and across a picturesque canal, and then crossing a second one.

Before the weather gods had the chance to change their minds, I quickly snapped the pale blue, almost wintry sky peeking through one of the trees lining the canal, bare-branched with only a handful of withered leaves still hanging on for dear life.

On the bottom left is the striking Kloveniersdoelen building with its Flemish gables. Built in 1607, it has served as a place for target practice for marksmen (‘kloveniers’) and as a military hospital. At present, it is home to a small cinema and a restaurant.

Our first port of call was a street called Langeviele, and in particular a shop selling all manner of souvenirs, as Jos was intent on buying a pair of slippers shaped like traditional Dutch clogs. 

Slightly envious of the pink pair adorned with the obiquitous Dutch kissing boy and girl which I bought at the same shop last year, he was sorely disappointed when they didn't have the yellow ones in his size back then. As luck would have it, he was now able to grab the very last pair in his size! 

The Langeviele leads into the direction of the town's main square, passing some empty and forlorn café terraces along the way. 

The square itself is presided over by the former town hall (bottom right), a lavish late Gothic building, with its oldest parts dating from 1458. Its façade is covered with sculptures of the lords and ladies who have once ruled Zeeland.

We also caught our first glimpse of the iconic 14th century Lange Jan tower (top right) which is part of a large abbey complex. With its 90 metres, the tower is soaring above the town and is visible from far and wide in Zeeland's flat-as-a-pancake landscape.

It was well past 4 pm by then and daylight was starting to fade in favour of the gloaming. Twinkling lights were appearing in shop windows and spotlights were bathing the historical buildings in a magical glow. 

But while I was still snug as a bug, Jos was feeling the cold in his leather jacket. As he was in desperate need of a proper winter coat - we had been scouring the charity shops for months - we decided to do a rare spot of retail shopping, finding this gorgeous duffel coat - a true classic - in C&A. As you can see, he started wearing it straight away, carrying his leather jacket - and the clogs - in a bag.

It was getting late and we were getting peckish, so we dived into a café where we indulged in cakes and cappuccinos.

Our spirits sufficiently restored, we wandered through the cobbled lanes, ending up at a little square right in front of the Lange Jan, lured by a flower shop's luxuriously illuminated windows and some gilded poems set into slabs among the square's paving stones.

The poem on the slab I'm standing on freely translates as: the cloud rains out into sea, bird after bird falls apart, feet feet take us with you.

The tower itself, with its lavishly decorated wedding cake layers, was looking particularly enchanting, glowing like a magic lantern in the fading daylight.

There was even more magic back at the main square, and it wasn't just the town hall's splendour which was being spotlighted here. 

One shop in particular was prematurely sporting seasonal decorations, while cozy lamplight was spilling from the still empty pubs in an attempt to draw us in.

But not even the gaily lit stall selling the traditional oliebollen - a kind of fried doughnut balls - was able to tempt us, as those late cakes were still a bit in the way.

Soon we were back at the canalside, where the imposing Kloveniersdoelen building was putting in its two pennies worth by being lit up like the proverbial tree. 

Then we recrossed the canal and, finally on our homestretch, the remaining daylight was now beating a hasty retreat, with the distant traffic lights painting the water with rainbow coloured stripes.

One by one, lights started appearing in the windows of the houses opposite, where fires were lit to accompany people on their evening routines.

And soon, we would be home too and doing the same, settling in for a cozy evening in front of the fire, mulling over our dream of a day and making plans for the next.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Tales of a wet weekend

By the time you are reading this, we will be in the middle of a mid week break abroad, but as I still had a couple of loose ends to tie up, I thought I'd treat you to a scheduled post.

The First of November, All Saints Day, is a public holiday here in Belgium, and as this year it was on a Friday, we had a long weekend to look forward to.

Typically, after a working week full of gloriously sunny Autumn weather, Friday was another damp and dismal day.  

I tried to keep my spirits up by wearing this vintage, mustard yellow shift dress. Its print, with its scrolls and giant flowers, always reminds me of opulent wallpaper.

I kept my accessories relatively simple with a multicoloured necklace, a turquoise chunky ring and a gold rimmed ceramic brooch displaying some oriental poppies. Well, it was that time of year again when one wears poppies, wasn't it?

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that I was wearing the bright blue ankle boots I snapped up in a charity shop the previous weekend. Did I mention they only cost € 6?

In spite of the weather playing foul again, it wasn't a totally wasted day, as I had a visit from a lady who bought lots of stuff from me at our flea market back in July. She came for a rummage through my bags full of Winter clothes, and I'm happy to say she went home with no less than five dresses, three skirts, a jumper, a blouse and a jacket, leaving me with quite a bit of pocket money!

Initially, there was some improvement in the weather on Saturday: even if it was quite windy, at least it wasn't raining, so that there was no need for an umbrella. Charity shops, here we come!

If you think you've seen this skirt before, you are absolutely right: it is a fairly recent find, which Angelica was modelling a couple of weeks ago. Now, finally, it was my turn!

There's a choice of colours in its print, but I decided on autumnal shades to keep it company.

The tweed jacket, which has both green and purple in its plaid, was bought from a local shop eons ago and after narrowly escaping the giveaway pile a couple of years ago, it has now fully earned the space it takes up in my coats wardrobe. To its lapel, I pinned my official poppy brooch bought in Ypres. My other outerwear consisted of a sage green beret and a purple crushed velvet scarf.

I struggled a bit with what to wear with the skirt, finally settling on this rose red blouse, which I bought back in 2013 from a delight of a vintage shop which has sadly stopped trading. Further accessories consisted of a pale green belt and beaded necklace. Oh, and did you notice that my opaques and ankle boots were an almost perfect match?

Our rummage in the charity shops yielded some cozy knits and a tweed skirt, but alas I forgot to photograph them. But our main find was this utterly kitsch 1950s ornament.

When I pointed it out to Jos, mentioning that € 7 was quite a fair price, he exclaimed over it, as it turned out his childhood home contained something quite similar.

There's even some photographic evidence. Here's a thirteen year old Jos, with his Dad, Mum and sister and yes, there it is on the mantelpiece!

We added some battery-operated fairy lights which makes it look quite atmospheric at night.

Now I've truly had it with the weather forecasters, as Sunday, which they had promised would be mainly dry with a possible guest appearance of the sun, turned out to be a wet day through and through.

We were off to an antiques fair in a romantic castle about half an hour from where we live, which is being held biannually, in April and November.

As the fair itself isn't huge - browsing it takes about an hour or so - we usually combine it with a walk around the estate. In all the years we've been going there, this was the first time the weather wasn't cooperating.

Still, after our visit to the fair and a car picnic - the photo in the below collage, top right, was taken through our windshield - we took our ancient umbrella from the boot and went off for a wander.

No photos of the castle itself this time, as it was almost completely covered in scaffolding, but you can catch a glimpse of it across the lake, with me doing my Mary Poppins impersonation in the foreground.

The incessant rain had formed a thin layer of mist which curled around the edges of the lake and hung indolently between the tree tops, slightly veiling their autumnal splendour.

The once crunchy carpet of leaves had become a soggy, slippery mass, so that the longed for leaf kicking was out of the question.

I did my best to match their vibrant shades by wearing pumpkin colours: a burnt orange beret and an embellished crushed velvet scarf edged in tiny pumpkins ... err ... pom poms!

It was my boots' final voyage as the years had finally taken their toll, but what a grand finale they had walking along the leaf strewn woodland paths.

And here's what I was wearing beneath my old tweed jacket. The bottle green cord midi skirt was a recent find from the vintage per kilo shop. I combined it with an aubergine spotty blouse from Think Twice and a charity shopped belt and cardigan.

And now, without further ado, here are the things I found at the fair.

First up is the odd one out. I simply couldn't resist this chestnut brown croc handbag.

It almost goes without saying that I found some brooches. In fact, I bought a total of nine brooches from different sellers.

On the top row, another micromosaic one and a behatted and furred lady's head, which both came from the Brooch Lady's archives.

My two favourites are on the bottom row: a celluloid brooch featuring two Scotties in a sailing boat and a gold-rimmed Lucite brooch containing some garden pinks.

Here are the others. Clockwise from top left: top hat and riding crop, a handmade leather Scottie dog, a waterside scene, a large, shiny gold tone flower and a pearl bodied fish.

What is your favourite?

I will be back with another set of adventures next week!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Do the Daylight Shuffle

I was going to tell you all about last week and the ensuing weekend, when suddenly it dawned on me that I forgot to show you the outfits I wore in the penultimate week of October.

To be more specific, the only two outfits we were able to photograph out in the garden after work, as during the rest of that week both the weather and my mood put a spanner or two in the works.

Let's start with this black dress, with its striking print of green and white triangles, which has been a wardrobe habitué for many years.  I echoed the triangles by adding a white vinyl belt with an unusual, triangular shaped buckle.

My necklace, with alternating white, green and tan coloured beads, was a gift from a flea market trader a couple of Summers ago.

In order to provide some contrast, I wore a bright orange cardigan on top, to which I pinned what I'm calling my flapper girl brooch, the girl in question wearing a green hat and gloves, with a white fur draped over her shoulder, and thus tying in completely with the colours of my dress.

Later that week, with the weather somewhat brighter and the temperature quite mild, I was inspired to wear all-over flowers, starting with a skirt I scored at a charity shop event back in Spring. Its profusion of green, tan, orangey red and white flowers never fails to make my heart sing.

Delicate flowers are dotted all over this coral crepey blouse, which felt like the skirt's perfect companion. A recently charity shopped moss green suede belt kept it all in check. All other accessories, including the vintage celluloid flower brooch, are second-hand finds as well.

Tweed jackets and blazers are yet another weakness of mine, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. I had been looking for a green based jacket for ages when I spotted this one in a charity shop last Autumn. As is often the case, I then found another one only weeks later, so that I now have two of them. They're sufficiently different to justify keeping them both.

The clocks were put back one hour that weekend, which is putting paid to any outside outfit photos on a weekday evening for the time being. In spite of the extra hour's sleep, I was feeling out of sorts all week. Isn't it time they stop all that nonsense? Daylight saving? Don't make me laugh! Daylight shuffling would be a more adequate term in my book. There, I've said it, rant over!

On the upside, we were finally treated to some crisp, sunny days and, even if they were weekdays, I tried to make the most of them by going for walks in my lunch break and enjoy Autumn in the city.

The chilly mornings prompted the first wearing of berets and gloves and having a bevy of both to choose from, I'm always trying to match their colours. The turquoise frilly scarf is back too. I think I wore it on constant rotation last Winter, and I'm sure you'll get to see it on more than one occasion this year as well.

Trying to find a suitable place for indoor outfit photos is a nearly impossible task as we hardly have anywhere which combines suitable lighting and a reasonably neutral background.

We've been trying out this spot in our spare room which unfortunately isn't ideal. The artificial lighting is terrible for getting colours right while at the same time giving me a ghostly pallor. I'm pale enough as it is, thank you. But it'll have to do for now.

This dress, with its rainbow stripes on a reddish purple background, is another old favourite. I snapped it up at Think Twice on one of my Friday afternoon vintage shopping trips with my friend Inez a couple of  years ago.  It looks much redder than it actually is in the photo on the right, so I've added a close-up taken in daylight. My cardigan, to which I pinned a vintage Bambi brooch, is King Louie by way of a charity shop.

One advantage of the daylight shuffle are the gorgeous sunsets I get to experience at the office. My phone's camera has been doing overtime catching all these gloriously coloured skyscapes.

We did another indoor photo session that week and although at least my outfit colours show up marginally better here, my face is a ghostly shade of white. But never mind, it's all about the clothes, isn't it?

The blue embroidered corduroy skirt, orange cardigan and chocolate brown belt were all charity shopped, while I found the brooch in an antiques centre in Shrewsbury. The vintage satiny black floral blouse was a fairly recent Think Twice find. This was one of my trial and error separates outfits, and I loved it so much that I'll definitely be wearing it again.

Another day, another lunchtime walk, this time taking me to the shops! 

On the top, left and right, is Dries Van Noten's beautiful flagship store, based in a sumptuous corner building still displaying the shop's original name, Het Modepaleis, which translates as Fashion Palace. Originally built in the late 19th century, it received its current neo-classical look in the early 20th century. Sheila, I photographed this especially for you!

On the bottom left is one of the sculptures guarding the entrance of a well known Antwerp department store, while on the bottom right is a famous old shop specializing in gloves!  They started trading in 1884 and the art deco building they are housed in was custom built for them in 1929. The building is listed and still has its original shop interior.

Obviously, my actual shopping trip didn't take me to any of these.

As there was yet another sale at Think Twice, this was where I was headed. The day when everything is € 4 is my favourite, as there's still quite a bit of choice, with even some new arrivals thrown in. As prices go down even further, the shop descends into chaos in spite of the salespersons' efforts to keep everything in check.

Here are some of the items I found and which Angelica is only too glad to model for you, starting with a black flower pot print midi dress in a wool/polyester blend. It is labelled "Pat Patty tricot", which unfortunately I couldn't find anything about.

This midnight blue shirt dress with its busy multi-colour flower print and self-fabric buttons is handmade and fully lined.

A watercolour flower print in orangey reds mingled with cream makes this floaty chiffon dress a perfect pick-me-up for a dull day.

And finally, a Crimplene maxi with the funkiest of prints and accordion pleated butterfly sleeves!

Well, that is it for now. Yesterday I waved goodbye to the office for a week, as we're going on a little break. I can't say I will miss it, not even the late afternoon sun's shadowplay of our building's windows on Antwerp's skyscraper opposite.

There will be some radio silence from me, but I'll be back to comment on your lovely blogs next weekend.

See you on the other side!

Monday, 4 November 2019


Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are whirling fast.
~Sara Coleridge, "The Months," 1834

And it's not just the leaves that are whirling fast, either. October too, has whirled past in a blur of dull rainy days. We've hardly had any proper, leaf-kicking, Autumn weather to speak of yet and those days which seem to be made for walks in the woods, to simply enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of the season, could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

And now, without a backward glance, she's bade us farewell, perfidious October, and passed the Autumnal torch to that misery of a month, November.

But there will be one more backward glance from me before I'm putting the lid firmly on the box labelled October.

So, for the sake of the continuity of this blog, I'm taking you back to that month's last weekend.

Let's start with what I was wearing on Friday! 

This cheerful little frock, in purple with a lilac and pink flower print and row of tiny blue buttons, came from a shop in Antwerp called Melting Pot, which sells vintage and second hand clothes at € 15 per kilo! It's a bit of a jumble of a shop, but I've managed to unearth the odd treasure.

The dress is long-sleeved and lined, and there's every indication that it was handmade. I opted for bright pink to accessorize it. Both the belt and the beads were charity shopped, while the chunky ring was an old retail buy.

As we had an important task to fulfill, I left work early on Friday: we were cat-sitting Abby, the delightful British Shorthair belonging to Jos's son and daughter-in-law.

They only live about 10 minutes up the road from us and, as they were enjoying a couple of days away, we were only too glad to go and feed madam, and keep her company for an hour or so.

I was wearing my recently purchased faux-Lea Stein cat brooch in her honour.

I always surprise Abby's servants with a photo session of their little monster, but I'm sure they were none too pleased when they saw the antics of their butter wouldn't melt darling using the back of the sofa as a scratching post and molesting plants!

Phew, cat-sitting is quite exhausting, especially as we're no longer used to such playfulness. Our Phoebe's clearly above such matters, preferring to use our sofa for naps. And more naps!

Here's a proper look at what beyond any doubt is my favourite pair of boots. They're vintage and were snapped up at Think Twice last Winter. For the record, I am wearing nylons here! The chartreuse long cardigan was another charity shop find. 

Saturday morning was spent changing around my coats wardrobe which basically consists of putting the coats of the season in the left segment within easy reach. There will be further changes when Autumn segues into Winter. The coats which are currently on rotation live downstairs in the hallway.

I can't wait to wear my berets again, and not just for their warmth either. They are perfect for bad hair days as well. Look at all those glorious colours! I've got more, but they didn't fit in the picture ...

Now what could be that strange illumination in the sky? The headlights of a spaceship, perhaps? I'm so glad I've got my twin with me, so that we can clutch each other in fear!

After lunch, we were off to visit Her Royal Highness again, a tiresome task that we made lighter by combining it with some charity shopping. 

It seems I was wearing variations on a theme that weekend, embracing above the knee frocks two days in a row.

I actually woke up thinking I would love to wear this vintage shift dress, but scouring my wardrobe's rails, I could find no trace of it. Then I remembered I put it in the "shall I keep it or not" pile. What in heaven's name was I thinking?

The dress is of Scandinavian descent, from the Swedish "Aspens" label, and the fabric it's made from is called "asplene".

Fun fact: when I googled the label, one of my own posts from 2017 came up in the search results!

I combined it with chartreuse opaques, a long pink cardi (I definitely need more of these!), and my tan boots which cost all of € 2 in a charity shop last year. 

My accessories were ivory coloured carved beads, a dusky pink vintage brooch and a fused glass ring I bought in Bruges back in April.

Look at that little diva stealing my limelight! 

Seriously, though, I wish we could rent that staircase as a photo studio, as it has proved to be just perfect for outfit photos.

Additionally, there's a huge slab of reinforced glass between the kitchen on the ground floor and the sitting room on the second floor, which we gladly made use of for some photographical experiments.

Before returning to Dove Cottage, we drove down to the charity shop at the edge of our village for a well-needed rummage.

There were shoes and boots galore! Among the mass of scruffy blacks and browns, I spotted this pristine pair of bright blue ankle boots, which have just enough of a heel not to torture my knees and back.

These two Mid Century wall plaques, clearly leftovers from the previous week's retro event, caught my eye. 

The larger one is signed Rufinelli, Assisi on the back, while the smaller one only mentions Made in Italy. I do, however, suspect they're both from the same pottery. 

They are about to join the crowd on the wall of heads in our spare room. 

As lately I seem to have a penchant for wearing separates, I've been on the lookout for more skirts, especially since some of last Winter's have become a tiny bit too snug. After coming away empty handed for weeks, I struck gold that day, as I found no less than four. 

From top to bottom: a Wow To Go chevron print midi skirt, a classic Prince of Wales check midi skirt, a vintage handmade black floral skirt and a cotton retro print circle skirt, also handmade, all of which are expected to make their debut on the blog shortly.

So, that was it for now and I'm leaving you with another seasonal quote. See you next time!

The drifting clouds are dark and drear,
The blossoms die of cold and fear,
The wild wind mourns the fading year,
And winter threatens near.
~Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen, "November", c.1864