Thursday, 23 January 2020

A stitch in time

The dust has settled and life at the office has gone back to normal. Nevertheless, my blog is still a week or two behind real life so that, while the calendar tells me it's January 23, I've still got to tell you about what I've been up to in the week and weekend before last.

Not that I've been up to very much at all, mind you. At this particularly uneventful time of year, the days and weeks seem to hurtle by even faster than usual, in hindsight making it almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.

But there have been a couple of bright sparks throughout, even if they were mainly provided by what I've been wearing.

A promise is a promise, so I'll start with that burnt orange velvety skirt last seen wearing by Angelica. Finally, that week, it was my turn!

There's something quintessentially 1970s about orange and brown, which people are forever associating with that decade. In later times, the colour combination was jokingly referred to in a what-were-they-thinking kind of way, but fashion designers back then definitely must have known what they were doing, as I for one think orange and brown is a great and timeless look!

So, in honour of the decade in which I did most of my growing up, I plucked this brown floral vintage blouse from my wardrobe and introduced it to the skirt which, rather than being vintage, is from a modern-day brand called American Outfitters. Never heard of them? I can't blame you, as in spite of its name, it's a Belgian label founded in the late 1990s.

I'm sure you must have recognized the teal King Louie cardigan, the woven belt and the beads, as they're all regulars on the blog, all of them charity shop or flea market finds. The brooch was a flea market find as well, bought from the famous Brooch Lady in February 2017. 

The week had been a particularly grey and wet one, the days dark and dreary, making my eyelids droop by mid-afternoon and filling my head with cotton wool.

On Fridays my office closes early, so that there was still a smidgen of daylight about when I was on my way home. The sun had finally managed to chase away the eternal rainclouds, only to start setting soon afterwards, back-lighting the clouds with the last of her orange glow.

The latest Think Twice sales had been in full swing that week but pickings had been rather slim until at the end of the week I stumbled upon this exquisite white raffia handbag. I keep telling myself I should stop buying more handbags, but there was no way I could resist taking this beauty home for only € 4.

I paid the same price for a green speckled polyester dress, which unfortunately had lost some of its buttons. No big deal, as I didn't like them much anyway, so I scoured my stash of vintage buttons, hitting upon these perfect, and far nicer, replacements.

I already wore the dress to work last week, but as things were a bit hectic no outfit photos were made, which I'll have to remedy by wearing it again soon.

While I had my sewing basket out on Saturday morning, I decided to strike the iron while it was hot and finally tackle the partially detached side zip of a dress I bought in the Think Twice sales several months ago. 

Upon closely examining the dress, I noticed several split seams had been repaired by its previous owner using what looked like black darning yarn. To make matters worse, some of these so-called repairs had been done on the outside of the dress, so that there was nothing for it but to remove them all and re-do them using the appropriate sewing thread.

I may be far from a natural at sewing but even with my limited skills I managed to do better. Some people!

Here is the dress in question, which admittedly I only wore for these photos. I'd planned to wear it for work in the week ahead but I totally forgot, so it is still patiently waiting its turn.

The starburst brooch and the snakeskin belt were both flea market finds, while the ring came from a market stall in Bruges. 

Now this is what I really wore that Saturday for another rummage at the charity shops.

I love pleated skirts and dresses, and have several of them inhabiting my wardrobe. Among them, this vintage frock with a print of tiny squares in blue, pink, red, lilac and turquoise and a row of squarish red buttons at the bodice.

I added a wide red woven belt and turquoise beads and pinned a red posy brooch to my turquoise cardigan. Again, most of my outfit is vintage or second hand, except for the tights and the ankle boots. The latter is an old but favourite pair, which has been to the cobbler's a couple of times during its lifetime.

Here, and in the above collage, you can see how wide the dress's skirt actually is. Perfect for twirling or doing a little jig, but not so perfect for that day's weather. There was a fierce and chilly wind blowing so that I had to keep clutching my skirt while on our way to our garage and in-between shops. And why, oh why, did I have to wear this gorgeous but inadequately thin fur collared jacket?

I could tell you all about the fluffy pink scarf I was wearing or the pink and white knitted beret, but I'm sure you wouldn't have been listening, having your eyes fixed firmly on my handbag!

Isn't it fabulous? OK, I have been very, very bad, as I bought it new in the sales at Mango. Also, two handbags in one week, in spite of my self-imposed handbag ban! 

Enough said, let's go charity shopping instead.

Back in the 1970s, brown and orange didn't just rule the catwalks. It was omnipresent and I'm sure that every self-respecting home had its fair share of these colours in its furnishings and homewares.

We snapped up this plastic bread basket from the German Emsa brand in our local charity shop for € 1,50 that day. Made to resemble wood and decorated with a rim of orange and yellow flowers, we already have several items from the same range, including a spice rack, a coffee filter holder and an egg-timer. 

Oh, and we've got egg cups and a jam pot as well! The big brown flower decorated melamine tray isn't Emsa, but vintage St. Michaels, found at a retro event back in October 2017.

We went to another shop a bit further afield that day as well. Rummaging their well-stocked clothing department, I initially thought I'd hit the jackpot upon spotting a whole colour range of apparently deadstock berets. Unfortunately they were all the same size and too big for me, although I am now regretting leaving them behind as they were only € 1 each.

As it is, I only bought this red knitted hat - also deadstock, with a still pristine C&A label - as well as a long and super soft multi coloured scarf.

My final find of the day was this rather gorgeous cardigan in a navy honeycomb pattern on pink by Belgian brand Lucy Has A Secret. As it would have originally retailed at a silly price (at a guess, I'd say upwards of € 80), surely € 4 was a bit of a bargain. 

So, that's it for now. I'll be continuing with my catch-up in my next post. 

In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, my friends!

Linking to Nancy's Fancy Friday linkup this week. Do go and check out this lovely girl!

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Start as I mean to go on

Last week has been quite full-on workwise, with my lovely bosses visiting from Miami, so that any blogging activity was restricted to reading and commenting on your posts rather than churning out one of my own. 

There was no way my muddled brain could have coped with creating my signature collages, let alone writing coherent sentences and stitching them into something worth reading.

But having wrapped up December in my last post, there's now a queue of January outfits waiting to be shown, which means I need to get my skates on, even if I'm skating on rather thin ice.

I'll start by casting my mind back to the first day of the year, when I decided to welcome in 2020 by starting as I mean to go on, which is wearing lots of colour. So, nothing new under the sun, really.

Nothing new where my New Year's Day outfit was concerned, either. The red wool-blend skirt,  a Think Twice find back in December, got another outing. Its fabric is super soft which makes it cozily comfortable, and equally perfect for a walk in park as for a lazy day on the sofa, feeling quite sorry for myself as I had to go back to work the very next day.

To accompany the skirt, I chose this handmade vintage blouse, in a satiny fabric, with the most ginormous spoon collar ever. Its print reminds me of a moonlit sky on a starry night, but with the added bonus of flowers in pink, red and green.

The tan woven belt pulled the two halves together, while providing yet another texture, while I added the red and white metal beaded necklace for further interest.

The grey of the day was briefly interrupted by an episode of blue sky and sunshine, so we hopped into the garden for outfit photos, for which I wore a pink and white knitted beret and the Anthology boots I charity shopped in November.

Phoebe came out into the garden with us and sat on our bench contemplating life, as she does.

The garden's main colours at this time of year are provided by the remains of the fiery red Cotoneaster berries and the prolifically flowering Winter Jasmine, but there's still quite a lot of green about as well.
The winter-bare shrubs, some harbouring the last of the autumn leaves, are a safe haven for our visiting garden birds, who happily make use of our fast food facilities.

Blue tits are our most common visitors, with the odd sparrow and wren thrown in, but ruling the garden - and in particular the food facilities - is our resident robin.

Once in a while, we are regaled by a small flock of long tailed tits, who noisily flit around the garden, delighting us with their antics. This one - top right and bottom left - sat posing for just long enough for me to take several photographs, before it flew off with his/her friends. 

My first days back at work were marred by rain and a public transport strike, so I was quite thankful the working week was a short one. After two days I was totally ready for another weekend!

Saturday was a lacklustre day which definitely needed another dose of colour and this outfit was just what the doctor ordered to restore my senses.
First wearing of this vintage handmade shirt dress with its generous sprinkling of green, pink and brown flowers on a navy background. Its fabric feels like cotton and thankfully it's fully lined, making it warm enough for a not too cold winter's day.

I added a cerise vinyl belt and a dusky pink vintage celluloid brooch, a charity and flea market find respectively, while the wooden disc necklace was an old retail buy from Accessorize who once upon a time had a shop in Antwerp.

A fuchsia cardigan was added for warmth, its tie neck fastened by a vintage scarf clip. The aubergine plastic ring, another old retail buy, is one of my favourites. 

The burgundy boots came from Think Twice, and the opaques are Le Bourget in a colour called Linden. They were a sales bargain two years ago, and I loved them so much that I went back for a back-up pair.

You'll probably have guessed we went charity shopping that Saturday, so without further ado, here are that day's finds.

The cobalt blue lightweight boat neck jumper delightfully closes with a row of white buttons on one shoulder. It has a single blue stripe near the cuffs and at the hem, which is why I didn't tuck it into the skirt, which would have looked better.

The skirt in question, in a burnt orange velvety fabric, was another one of my finds. It has a single pleat, both at the front and at the back. The white jumper threaded with lurex is vintage and has a posh Paris label.

The wide, shiny green belt Angelica is wearing above, as well as the maroon necklace she's wearing with the first outftit, were also picked up that day.

My final find was yet another heart-patterned King Louie cardigan, in red this time. I've acquired quite a collection of these over the past year, all from charity shops.

I wore it almost straight away, as it was just the perfect companion for the dress I wore on Sunday.

The celluloid brooch with its charming twosome of Scottie dogs was a lucky € 1,50 charity shop find last March.

The dress is one of my all-time favourites and has been with me for many years. It's Crimplene and has a pussy-bow and a print of trellises and flowers. Isn't the Shamrock label delightful?

I'm sure the white vinyl belt with its unusual triangular buckle needs no introduction as it's one of my most worn belts, bought from a vintage shop which has sadly stopped trading.

I found the funky red boots in the softest of leathers at a flea market in November 2018.

I liked the outfit so much that I wore it again in its entirety for work that week, as I did my new-to-me skirt, but that, I'm afraid, will be for a next post.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Scenes from the bleak midwinter

On the last Sunday of 2019 we embarked on our final walk of the year.

Admittedly, apart from the odd stroll in the park, we hadn't been on a good old ramble for quite a while. Time and tide had been against us, not to mention that eternal spoilsport, the weather.

At the end of a string of wet weeks, that weekend's forecast had been for reasonably dry and sunny weather accompanied by - shock, horror! - some light overnight frost. Had the weather gods finally cottoned on that it's Winter in these parts?

In any case, that Sunday morning we wasted no time in going for that long overdue walk, choosing  one of our favourite nature reserves, Blaasveldbroek, as our destination.

The reserve is about 20 kilometers from where we live and, with its 675 hectares and a choice of foothpaths, it's the perfect place to stretch one's legs. My long-time readers have accompanied me there more than once over the years.

So, after breakfast we dressed warmly to combat the barely above freezing temparatures, donning coats, hats, scarves and gloves, and packed some sandwiches and a thermos flask for a wintertime picnic. 

The day did have a bit of a cloudy start and a lingering haze initially put paid to the sun's attempts to grace us with her presence.

Once or twice, patches of blue appeared in which fleecy clouds seemed to huddle together for warmth.

There's fauna and flora in abundance, too! Speaking of the former, arriving at the visitor's centre, which lies at the heart of the reserve, we were met by the resident cat, a Phoebe lookalike, albeit quite a bit slimmer and friendlier than our grumpy monster.

There were two big grey hairy pigs in a fenced off area which they were in the process of digging over completely with their snouts, in search of who knows what. However, they didn't keep still for a single moment, so that I was only able to catch one of their mud encrusted snouts on camera.

The fearsome but funny bronze beaver (one of a pair) and the enchanting carved wooden ducks probably need no introduction as they have appeared on the blog several times before.

You've already seen most of what I was wearing that day in my previous post, but I still had to show you my outerwear.

The jacket, in a mustardy brown and with furry collar and cuffs, is part of a skirt suit. I've gone off the skirt, but the jacket is still making an appearance each winter. I usually wear the boxy jacket with a belt, this time opting for a burgundy leather one. My ears were kept toasty by my woolly beret from Think Twice and I added a charity shopped scarf in oranges and pinks.

This marshy reserve really is a place for all seasons, and I am definitely an all-seasons girl, finding delight even in the so-called bleak midwinter: the solemn trees reflected in the swollen waters, the thin shards of ice escaped from a puddle, a dead branch giving life to mosses and lichens.

We always stop for photographs in this marshy meadow, even if this time we had to stay close to its edge as the rains had made it quite inaccessible unless one was wearing wellies.

In spite of the cold, I had no need for the pair of leather gloves I'd brought, making do with my fingerless knitted ones, which are far more convenient anyway for a constant photographer like me.

The mottled blanket of clouds was getting denser, the skeleton trees shadow-playing against the gloomy sky. Gentle giants, they are, but even gentle giants do not live forever, victims of old age and fierce winter storms.

Near the end of our walk, just before the turning to the muddy car park, a half-drowned landscape awaited, a graveyard of gentle giants.

Giddy and light-headed from fresh unsullied air, we returned to our car, and drove back home, happier in our skins than we were before.

And so the final days of the year were upon us, leaving me with a final handful of outfits to share.

First up is what I wore on Monday, to run some errands in our town. But laid back days like these are no reason for me not to get dressed up, so out came this charity shopped frock, handmade and with a seasonal print featuring flowers, leaves and berries, in brown, green, red and white.

The furry maroon cardigan is one of the three I scored at the charity shops just days before, and shown in my previous post. 

I picked golden yellows for my opaques, beaded necklace and orchid brooch. The brooch can also be worn as a pendant and was a flea market find.

I opted for full-on colour on New Year's Eve, starting with my dotty Diolen frock from Think Twice, matching the ochre dots with my short-sleeved batwing cardigan. 

The cardie is H&M by way of the charity shops a year or two ago. The long, black and white beaded necklace was another recent charity shop buy, while the green flower brooch - almost exactly the shade of the green dots - was a flea market find.

And now, for the grand finale, I'm introducing you to the outfit I wore to wave goodbye to the old year and welcome the new.

I was determined to wear this glorious Scandi print maxi skirt but initially didn't have the faintest idea what to wear with it. Then I remembered the vintage jumper and blouse in one which I picked up for just € 1 from Think Twice a month or two ago, but promptly forgot about.

It was short enough to wear untucked but I thought it benefited from the addition of a belt, choosing a fabric covered one which I think once belonged to a dress. 

The brooch with its mottled ochre and green stone was yet another flea market find. One of my favourites, I chose it to enhance the yellow bits in the blouse's sleeves and collar.

The final touch was my Art Deco style necklace, one of my best charity shop jewellery finds ever.

And so, that was it, 2019 all wrapped up and put away in a drawer. And about time, I should think, as we are - eek!- mid January already!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Taking it easy

How I love those quiet in-between days bridging the excitements of Christmas and New Year's Eve and offering a welcome pause for body and soul.

This is the only holiday longer than the odd extended weekend when we are not swanning off elsewhere, and having a handful of empty diary pages is pure bliss to me.

Sleeping just that little bit longer, enjoying leisurely breakfasts, spending a couple of hours happily pottering around the house or reading during the daytime: they are all little nuggets of luxury for me. Those little things that make me the happiest.

Having the time to go through my wardrobe and endlessly try out outfits is another such luxury I cannot afford myself during my busy working weeks.

Originally, I had this blue velvet skirt earmarked for our Boxing Day walk, but it didn't look right at all with the psychedelic print blouse I'd picked out, so I ended up wearing it with another skirt.

On Friday - the final one of the year - I gave it another shot, digging out this vintage Karelia blouse to accompany it instead. Both the skirt, which is handmade and mercifully lined, and the blouse were Think Twice finds, but with a quite a few years between them, the skirt found only a couple of months back.

The burgundy leather belt with its massive buckle, and the partially textured necklace (some of the beads seem to be wearing woolly jumpers!) were charity shopped, while the brooch, a blue bird in flight with a sparkly head and wings, was a flea market find. 

Speaking of charity shops, these in-between days are just perfect for a spot of shopping too, as at this time of year they are considerably less crowded than usual.

We decided to stay local that day, visiting a small shop in a neighbouring village and then the larger one in our own.

Our rummage in the first shop yielded a white vintage Pyrex jug with a cheerful border of flowers near its bottom and a red plastic lid. 

It has already been roped in as a water jug, as we have recently stopped buying bottled water, using tap water to which we add a so-called EM ceramic chip, which is treated with effective microorganisms, to purify it and improve its taste.

We also found two glass vintage canisters. As they are printed with the name Kraft, we suppose they must have originally contained foodstuffs, especially since the plastic lids have ordinary metal screw-on ones inside. The red one is for storing coffee while the the green one is meant to hold flour. Being bilingual Belgium, the contents are displayed in both languages, Flemish and French.

While rummaging in our hometown's shop, we came across a set of coasters in an owl holder, still in its original carton, as well as a set of owl decorated placemats. We bought these as a present for our friends Ingrid and Maurice, who were hosting New Year's Eve this year. As Ingrid loves owls and has a quite a collection of owl related ornaments, we couldn't have picked a better present.

Saturday saw some improvement in the weather, with a couple of welcome sunny spells at last. 

The perfect weather, in fact, to combine another charity shopping trip with a stroll in the park. The somewhat chillier temperatures prompted me to wear a vintage Viyella dress I bought from the lovely Diane at Ashmans Antiques & Old Lace in Welshpool last June.

I was completely bowled over by its spectacular print and amazing collar, but now that it was finally getting its first outing, I discovered its drawbacks. First of all, the dress's waist is awkwardly low, sitting just above my hips and making them seem even curvier than they already are. This meant that I couldn't use the self-fabric belt it came with, replacing it with a wide purple woven leather belt instead.

On top of that, the dress is unlined, and the fabric kept bunching up, even if I was wearing a full slip underneath.

I then had the brainwave to belt my cardigan over the dress, which considerably improved the proportions. The dress is still on the naughty bench until I decide its fate. Quite a few people chuckled when I mentioned this on Instagram, but that's what happens with misbehaving items of clothing!

I'd almost forgotten about these blue boots, which were a charity shop find about two years ago. They're no longer in the best of shapes, but good enough for what we had in mind.

The burnt orange opaques were a gift from Kezzie, who sent them to me last year together with several other pairs she was no longer wearing.

We hadn't been to this park near the big charity shop in Duffel since November, and most of the trees were quite bare by now, with just the odd leaf still foolhardy enough not to give in to its inevitable fate, audacious hangers-on to seasons past.

It was only mid-afternoon, but the light was fading already, painting the horizon with pastel shades against which the trees' silhouettes provided a stark contrast.

My outerwear consisted of my 1960s swing coat, a lucky find in Oxfam, my sage green beret and my moss green furry supermarket scarf. Oh, and I'd picked out a blue vintage handbag to go with the boots.

We made our way past the sun-dipped, moorhen filled pond and briefly walked along the river's towpath adjacent to the park. 

This poor little toy rabbit was quite dirty faced and must have gone feral having to fend for itself. 

Then we noticed this strange red cigar-shaped vehicle racing across the towpath at the opposite side of the river. The wonders of this park never cease to amaze us!

Nor do the wonderful things we keep unearthing in the charity shops, like the small wicker sewing basket on the right. I photographed it next to a regular sized one so that its diminutive size can be fully grasped. I already have several sewing baskets (all but one being used for other purposes), but this one was far too cute to be left behind.

I struck gold in the jewellery department as well, with no less than four necklaces.

There's always space for another cardigan or three, isn't there? The furry one on the left has no label, but has already been worn twice. The middle one is from a Belgian high street brand, while the pink and purple houndstooth one is by McGregor.

Finally, this delightful jacket caught my eye. It's from the Spanish Kling brand and it looks as if it was hardly worn at all. It's still slightly crumpled but Angelica insisted on wearing it anyway.

Oh, and I found the vintage tartan hat, which is actually a cross between a cap and a hat and has a distinct 1960s feel to it, in the same shop. Aren't they a brilliant match?

I'm ending this post by showing you what I wore on Sunday. 

It promised to be a crisp but sunny day, so we were off for a good long walk, which I will tell you all about in my next post.

I dressed weather appropriately in warm woollies, starting with a rust brown plaid midi skirt and topped by a floral wool-blend H&M cardigan, both charity shopped.

My accessories of choice were a red plastic cat brooch and one of the necklaces I'd scored on Saturday. 

My feet were happy in my wool-lined chocolate brown boots and my ears were kept toasty by my woolly beret, another Think Twice treasure.

Now, off we go! Hope you'll join me on my walk next time.