Sunday, 18 April 2021

Hope springs eternal

I've been very prone to mood swings lately, the pendulum often swinging towards anxiety. The least little thing seems to get me in a huff and believe me, you don't want to be around me when I'm like that.

Mercurial at the best of times, my temper is my own worst enemy when my stress levels go into overdrive. The pandemic and its seemingly never-ending implications might be the worst offenders, but give me a string of sunny Spring days, and I'm right as rain again. 

Oh the weather, so much to answer for!

But there are still many things to be thankful for, so let's start with those, shall we? 

Jos has had his first dose of Pfizer vaccine yesterday, and doesn't seem to be acting any stranger than usual today. That doesn't mean I'm no longer stamping my feet in frustration like a petulant child at the slowness of our vaccination roll-out though, but still, it's a step in the right direction. Oh, and then there's Bess, who is filling our hearts with gladness, especially now that she has discovered the joys of petting!

But first, let's go back in time once more, to Easter Monday to be exactly. If at first glimpse it might look like a perfect specimen of a Spring day, don't be fooled! Not only was it quite chilly at a measly 7°C, a blustery wind was tugging at my hair and trying to put my clothes into disarray. 

We would be treated to a succession of snow flurries and hail that day, so it was nothing short of a miracle that we found a dry moment in which to hastily nip outside and quickly snap some photos to show you my outfit. 

I didn't take off my cardigan, though, so I've added a close-up of my blouse's funky pattern to allow you a better look. The blouse in question was a flea market find. I instantly recognized it as I have a dress in the same pattern, with red trim and buttons rather than the blouse's yellow. It's from a retro label called Zoë Loveborn, and at the time I patiently waited for the dress to go on sale before snapping up the last one in my size.

It isn't the first time I wore the blouse with this vintage Diolen skirt, as I think they're a match made in heaven. For warmth, I wore a turquoise cardigan on top, tying in with the turquoise in both the skirt and blouse. The cardigan is from the Belgian Sweet Soda label and was charity shopped, as were the belt and necklace. 

Both the flower corsage and brooch were retail buys. I'm sure you'll recognize the latter as one of the three brooches I bought from Katshop the other week.

The day being too cold and miserable to even contemplate doing anything outside, most of it was spent reading on the couch. I picked up The Letter by Kathryn Hughes during one of our last charity shopping trips before our current lockdown. It was exactly the feel-good read I needed after the more challenging non-fiction Brides in the Bath one.  

As Monday was a public holiday, I had to go into the office on Tuesday instead. The weather was even more miserable than Monday's - and several degrees colder to boot - which wasn't exactly helpful at getting myself out of bed that morning. On top of that, I had to make some changes to my outfit at the last minute - I was taking the easy way out by rewearing Monday's outfit - when the zipper on my skirt came apart.

Work wasn't all too busy though, which is always a blessing when one's head is full of cotton wool.

Snow flurries drifted past my windows and there was hardly a soul brave enough to venture out onto Antwerp's forlorn looking streets. Even the cathedral was hiding behind a veil of mist, a sensible thing to do with scaffolding disfiguring its tower.

It briefly cleared up during the afternoon, but as luck would have I'd only just stepped outside after work, when the heavens opened again and gleefully pelted me with hail. I took a selfie while waiting under a shop's awning for Jos to arrive, my scarf temporally decorated by hailstones, which had lodged themselves into its frills, and my glasses typically misted up as a result of mask wearing. Life would be so much easier if I had 20/20 vision. Or, alternatively, if Covid-19 didn't exist!

Let's end the day with a ray of sunshine courtesy of Her Royal Highness, Princess Bess.  

This was before her petting days, but look how confident and adventurous she is becoming. Of course, after all those shenanigans, she needs her beauty sleep. Here you can admire her unusual mix of pattern and colour.

Wednesday was another office day, and as I'm not used to working two consecutive days, I was more than glad when Thursday finally arrived.

We were just about to get up when all hell broke loose and the intermittent man-made earthquakes caused by the piling machine across the road started in full force.

After a couple of hours, I was starting to feel quite dizzy and nauseous - exacerbated by worrying about the effect it would have on Bess - so that at one point we desperately needed to flee the house. 

Less than 15 minutes by car from Dove Cottage, the site of the Art Deco water tower in the neighbouring village of Reet turned out to be the perfect getaway.

In spite of the glorious sunshine, they day's highs of 10°C were still accompanied by the blustery wind which had been plaguing us for days. In my hurry to escape, I'd forgotten to add the cardigan I'd planned to wear. On its own, my coat - a short, brown and cream checked swing coat from the Spanish brand Sfera, charity shopped in February 2018 - was barely sufficient to keep the chills at bay.

It was OK as long as we were on the site's lower levels, where we briefly basked in the sunshine at one of the picnic tables while admiring the blossoms as well as the sparsely planted frilly yellow daffodils and bright orange-red tulips.

The gate to the cage-like structure containing the staircase to the tower's top was open for once, so it would have been silly not to climb them for a panoramic view of the clay-pit scarred landscape nestling in nature's fresh Spring greens.

We watched cotton wool clouds scudding across a sky of blue and wind turbines gaily waving their arms, but it was too cold to stay up there for very long. I was even starting to regret not wearing gloves!

Safely back on ground level - those see-through stairs remain quite scary for vertigo sufferers - we found a sheltered spot where I was able to remove my coat and show you the dress I was wearing underneath. This is another wardrobe stalwart, vintage and handmade, its print a fireworks of blue, red and white dots and dashes on a black background.

My accessories were a red belt and necklace, which were both charity shopped at one time or another, and another one of my recently acquired cat brooches.

Back at home, we were greeted by a scary-eyed Bess and the sight of two repro advertising signs which had toppled to the kitchen floor, dislodged by the eternal shaking caused by the infernal machine.

In a huff we stormed off to the construction site, where much to our relief we were informed that they had almost finished. True to their word, Friday was an oasis of quiet, with both the site and our two-doors-down neighbour's kitchen extension works at a welcome standstill.

Unfortunately, I had another office day to look forward to, half of which was spent with a lingering headache. To make matters worse, it was a sunny day, while the weather forecast was for a washout on Saturday.

In spite of the inclement weather, this turned out to be quite a good day. 

At first I couldn’t settle to anything, but then I decided to make a start with the seasonal wardrobe changeover.

Fairly confident that I wouldn't be needing them again until next Winter, I pulled all my warm woollen and polyester frocks from my wardrobe, making piles of them ready for the vacuum bag, and replacing them with the first batch of short-sleeved frocks.

As usual, I'll keep working on this bit by bit until Summer is well and truly on its way, but at least I've taken the first step, which always seems to be the hardest. It is, after all, quite a daunting task when you have a maximalist wardrobe!

I then had a look at the busted zipper of the skirt I wore earlier that week, wondering if my limited sewing skills would extend to replacing it. It was worth a try, especially as I found a black zipper in the correct size in my stash. And you know what, it was surprisingly straightforward. Not perfect, perhaps, but who cares? The skirt's got a working zipper once more!

That only leaves Saturday's outfit. However, as the weather remained truly horrendous all day, we didn't have a chance to take photos. So, showing true blogging dedication, I wore it all again on Sunday, before changing into that days's outfit.

I've had the skirt, with its impressionist chevron pattern, earmarked for while, and although I initially had a more Springlike outfit in mind, I found it a perfect companion in the form of this turquoise based Paisley patterned blouse.

Both are vintage finds from Think Twice, but while the blouse, with its satin-like fabric, has lost its contents label, I was surprised to see that the skirt contained 12% silk alongside its ubiquitous polyester.

More turquoise was added in the form of my opaques, while I picked up the green in the blouse's pattern by adding a green cardigan, necklace and apple-shaped ring. 

The cream background of the skirt was echoed by my vintage flower brooch, while the chocolate brown in its print was highlighted by my moc croc belt. The belt and snake print ankle boots, along with the opaques, were the only retail items in my outfit.

I'll be back with more outfits as well as a return to the garden in my next post. Do stay healthy and happy, wherever you are, and let's keep our fingers crossed we'll all have our jabs before too long!

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Once more in misted April, the world is growing green*

We're almost half way through April by now, and so far the month has more than lived up to her reputation for capriciousness. Bright sunny spells walked hand in hand with a sharply stinging wind which made the temperature drop to the low single figures, and with clockwork regularity snow flurries fell from lead-grey skies. The snow didn't stick or at least didn't hang around for long, but I could have sworn I could hear the mocking laugh of the weather gods when they turned the world outside our windows into a giant snow globe.

If it wasn't for the fact that what's its name put a bit of a damper on things, last April's weather couldn't have been more perfect, so I can only presume that we're now getting two Aprils' worth of those proverbial showers.

It all started well enough, though, as in continuation of the last days of March, Thursday the 1st of April was another glorious Spring day, even if the temperature had dropped from its plus twenty heights to a mere 18°C. 

It would have been the perfect day for a stint of gardening, but alas: due to the Easter holidays I had to work on Thursday instead of Friday that week. This was a bit of a wrench, as much cooler temperatures had been forecasted for the weekend, and indeed, by Friday we'd landed feet first into the single figures again.

Making the remainder of my Winter wardrobe work for its money, I reached for this vintage coral polka dot dress. An early Think Twice find, it has been gracing my wardrobe for many years, and it seems I always manage to squeeze in at least one wear of it each season. 

In true Sheila style, I looked back at its previous wears on the blog (I counted at least 5 times) noting that I always seem to wear it with shades of blue. What's more, I combined it with exactly the same cardigan and necklace - both of which were charity shopped - in March 2019. 

More blue appeared in the glass beads on my Art Nouveau style brooch, a flea market find, and the ring, which if I remember correctly was picked up on the high street. In an attempt to break the blue rut, I added a vintage snakeskin belt. There's nothing faux about this one: it's the real thing and I snapped it up at the indoor flea market in December 2018.

There was an unmistakable nip in the air, but as the sun was still gracing us with her presence, it was a now or never situation where gardening was concerned. The rest of the Easter weekend was looking pretty dire indeed.

First up was a trip to the garden centre! There was a buy 5 get one free sale on perennials, which was the perfect excuse to have a splurge.

In spite of the fickle Spring weather - or perhaps because of it - the world is growing green indeed, with leaves unfurling and new growth appearing as if by magic overnight.

Our Spirea bush, which happened to be one of the first plants we added to Dove Cottage's garden after moving in all of 22 years ago, has set up its yearly fireworks show of tiny white blooms. At the back of the garden, the first of the waxy red leaves of Virginia creeper have joined the precocious honey suckle foliage scrambling up the concrete wall. Both of these are garden stalwarts as well.

After lunch, I planted out all but 3 of the 13 plants we'd recently brought back from the garden centre, before my back insisted I call it a day. At the time of writing, they're still waiting out there, as do the Nasturtium and California poppy seeds which happened to find their way into my shopping trolley.

My heart made a leap of joy when I spotted that one of the Fritillary bulbs I planted near the pond in Autumn had decided to pop up its head after all. I'd almost given up on them. Non-ribetting frog is watching it with one of its beady eyes lest any of the garden's population of slugs and snails has marked it out for its next meal. 

The plastic cloche on the bottom right is one of a set brought back from the UK in the mists of time. I use them whenever I think a plant might be in need of a bit of encouragement. Here, it's helping along the new growth I discovered in one of my patio plants. Having discarded its label long ago, it's a toss up between Echinacea and Garvinea, both of which flowered their heads off well into Autumn last year.

A stiff breeze and ditto back and knees didn't deter me from doing more garden work on Saturday morning. In spite of the weather forecast, the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds all day, warming things up sufficiently to have the mercury climb into double digits.

Before I show you my gardening handiwork, here is what I was wearing. I was totally convinced that this skirt and blouse combo was a first, but when I scrolled through my Instagram squares in search of the skirt's last wear, I was stumped to find that just over a year ago, I wore it with the very same blouse! Zero points for originality, but it does seem to work, so why not?  I was quite relieved to see that at least my accessories were completely different back then.

Both the blouse and the skirt were Think Twice finds, the skirt being handmade, lined and graced with satisfyingly deep patch pockets. I picked up the chartreuse in its floral pattern by adding a charity shopped belt in a similar shade. I kept to green for the Miracle brooch pinned to the blouse while the colour appears yet again, alongside blue and brown, in my long beaded necklace.

My opaques echoed the blues of the blouse and I wore a pair of navy ankle boots for the outfit photos.

Obviously, I changed into my ankle wellies for my gardening session, wearing an old fleece jacket and my long denim gardening apron on top for warmth as well as protection.

I gave the red dotted vinyl tablecloth on the table in the passageway a thorough clean and removed the dust and grime from the old bathroom mirror at its back. Then I made neat stacks of the smaller terracotta pots I'd emptied and cleaned out the previous week. Having once again forgotten to protect the old ceramic wash basin from frost, it had now developed several large cracks, so that there was nothing for it but to add the shards to my stash, to be used for decoration and drainage.

Its contents of marbles, my brother's childhood ones brought back from the parental home, was decanted into a smaller bowl standing idle in the kitchen cupboards. On a whim, I used some of the larger ones to decorate the tops of the terracotta pots. 

Both the blue floral and green enamelled tea pots used to live inside the house but ended up in the garden after a recent cull.

Easter dawned grey-skied with no trace of sunshine until late afternoon. The distinctly dismal weather, however, was greatly improved with a handful of chocolate mini eggs from our local Leonidas shop. And what better way of serving them than by putting them into vintage papier-mâché eggs decorated with Easter scenes! The latter were old flea market finds I'd almost forgotten about.

Something else to look forward to that day was the arrival of our first visitor since last Summer! We were expecting Jos's youngest daughter An, who arrived on her e-bike from the nearby town of Lier, where she lives with her two cats, Spookje and Hazel. 

It is almost a given that I forgot to take photos, as we were far too busy chatting. 

She came bearing gifts, too. Apart from a pot of daffs and two mice and a bag of cat treats from her cats to our Bess, she also presented us with some of her authentic arts and crafts.

We are delighted to finally own one of her amazing miniature drawings - it only measures 5 x 6 cm - which is already taking pride of place on our sitting room wall. She also made us a tiny handcrafted pot of flowers, standing barely 7 cm high.  I've only put it next to the plant on our window sill to emphasize its smallness. Far too risky to leave it there, now that Bess is getting more adventurous by the minute!

But that wasn't all. On one of her final Pre-Covid flea market forays, An came across some wonderful additions to our Bakelite collection, in the form of these shaving soap and brush containers. 

In spite of the greyness of the day, I was determined to wear cheerful Spring colours, emulating blue skies and sunshine.

My flower sprinkled sky blue dress, with its generous pleated skirt and tie collar, was just perfect for the occasion. I tamed the rather cumbersome tie with a yellow hearted brooch. The dress's belt loops are the telltale signs that it originally came with a belt, but this was long gone by the time it leapt at me from the rails at Think Twice. Knowing me, I probably wouldn't have worn it with the belt anyway.

Instead, I opted for a textured off-white belt with a mottled plastic buckle, which has the added attraction of a small dangling fish. Perhaps in honour of the 1st of April, as the traditional April Fool's pranks are being called April Fish in Belgium, as well as, according to good old Wikipedia, in Italy, France, and the French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada,

Sunshiny yellow was provided by my charity shopped H&M batwing cardi and my opaques. Oh, and the pale yellow cat brooch I bought from Katty's shop the other week.

And speaking of cats, what about a short video starring the new Princess of Dove Cottage?

This is a first for me, so I do hope it works.

* The title of this post was borrowed from An April Morning by Canadian poet Bliss Carman (1861-1929).

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Shake, rattle and roll

If the contents of this post are a tad incohesive, it's because Dove Cottage is currently surrounded by building sites. Two houses down on the right are having a kitchen extension done, with builders knocking down the existing one, while on the other side of the crossroads on the left, which is about 50 meters away, the construction of a new block of flats is being prepared. The latter is by far the worst, as foundations pilings are being driven into the ground by a giant machine, making poor little Dove Cottage and its contents rattle and shake and, at one point, two frames crash down from our kitchen wall!

Thankfully, Bess has been mostly sleeping through it all. Nevertheless, as the dining room seems to be  taking the brunt of these man-made earthquakes, she does look a bit wide-eyed and confused whenever the shaking is at its worst. Speaking of Bess, as it's obviously that I have to, she is doing very well indeed, taking giant steps towards making Dove Cottage her home. She even ventured upstairs for the first time yesterday!

Oh, and I've got other news as well. Last Friday, Jos's vaccination invitation finally fell through the letter box, and I'm happy to say he'll be getting his first jab on April 17! Yay!

As you are probably used to by now, my blog is doing its time-machine trick, taking us back to the last weekend of March, starting with Saturday the 27th. 

After a sunny and reasonably mild Friday at 13°C, the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees by Saturday, and we were treated to a day of intermittent light rain and sudden bursts of sunshine.

Being a bit bored with my Winter wardrobe by now, I scoured my wardrobe for things that hadn't seen the light of day this season yet. In fact, it might have been this vintage dress's first proper outing ever.

I came across it at an outdoor flea market a couple of years ago and although it didn't come cheap and there was no opportunity to try it on, I took a gamble on it, which I'm happy to say has paid off.

Long-sleeved and in a lightweight semi-sheer but lined fabric, it's the kind of garment that usually falls between seasons, not nearly warm enough on a single digit Winter's day while generating hot flushes on a sun-soaked Spring one.

I love its flattering shape, its feathery magenta and off-white pattern on a deep blue background and, of course, its keyhole neckline.  As it was rather chilly, I wore a t-shirt underneath, but as it kept playing peek-a-boo through the keyhole, I added a strategically placed brooch to keep it in place.

Other accessories included a pink plastic ring and a multi-coloured shell bracelet. To my fluffy mustard cardigan I pinned one of my flower corsages. I have quite a collection of these and was happy to read in Goody's blog post earlier this week that I'm not the only one!

Returning from my rescheduled hairdresser's appointment the previous day, I suddenly remembered Katshop, a shop selling all manner of cat related things which had opened opposite the salon last Summer.

I went for a browse, had a chat with its lovely owner Katty and bought a battery-operated little gerbil for Bess (see below collage, bottom left) as well as some colourful cat brooches for me!

On my way back to the office I hopped into Dille & Kamille, which sells authentic home, kitchen and garden goods, from where I picked up plant labels, some divine smelling soaps and two tiny cartons of chocolate eggs.

Bess loves playing with her gerbil, honing her mouse hunting skills by chasing it across the floor. She's also quite fascinated by the white plastic wind-up mouse, which she nevertheless watches from a safe distance as it makes its unpredictable trajectory through the room.

But why oh why did we have to buy a scratching post with a black plush covered seat? It's a good thing we've still got the pet hair magnet gadget we purchased many years ago!

When on Saturday afternoon it looked as if the rain clouds had finally departed elsewhere, I spent some time in the garden, inspecting the borders and cutting back the old growth of the perennials where required. I also made a start in clearing the pots of expired patio plants at the back of the garden. 

There are big fat flower buds in the Pulsatilla vulgaris (common pasqueflower, top right) I planted back  in Autumn, and I was overjoyed to see that last year's Oriental Poppy has burst back into life with abundant foliage (top left).

On Sunday, the sun was shining brightly, but as the 14°C indicated by the thermometer was cooled down considerably by a strong wind, I initially scrapped my gardening plans for the day. 

I'd settled down to a day of pottering, including sweeping the dining room and the stairs, when the siren call of the garden - and that table full of plants - became too loud to ignore after all. 

That morning, I was in no doubt that I was going to wear this particular skirt, which was part of my haul at the charity shop's retro event back in March 2019. Isn't its orange-red, lime green, caramel and white floral pattern a sight for sore eyes? 

My lime green opaques were a no-brainer, but some head-scratching was involved before my eyes alighted on this rusty red polka dot blouse. This was a charity shop find as well, bought on the same day as the floral Zara blouse I wore in my previous post.

Other outfit particulars: 

  • Cardigan, necklace and red perspex ring from various charity shops
  • Brooch: flea market find
  • Belt, felted flower corsage and boots bought on the high street

I donned my gardening apron, gloves and ankle wellies and potted up all the Spring plants which had been patiently awaiting their turn. 

That only leaves the perennials we brought back from the garden centre earlier that week. They'll be next in line after I figured out where to put them!

Nature kept cranking up her thermostat that week, starting with a balmy 20°C on Monday. The perfect temperature to get cracking with some more gardening, but unfortunately it was one of  my working days. Apart from a bothersome technical hick-up first thing in the morning, the day was uneventful, so I felt a bit sad pining away inside, looking at that cloudless blue sky and breathing in that none too fresh city air through the office's wide open windows.

Thankfully, the glorious weather continued on Tuesday, when we were treated to Summery highs of 23°C.

With most of my Summer clothes still in hibernation, I opted for a crispy cotton long-sleeved blouse rather than one of my Crimplene short-sleeved dresses which I'm keeping out all year around. 

A charity shop find back in the mists of time, this pale yellow and brown daisy print blouse is from a label called Mandarin & Mint, who I believe have or at least used to have a shop in Antwerp.

I combined it with a vintage 1970s skirt, one of my earliest Think Twice finds which, with its diagonal black, grey, brown, orange and coral stripes dotted with flowers, was love at first sight.

The sun was shining fiercely, so that we had a hard time finding a suitable place to make outfit photos where me and my clothes wouldn't be bleached out by her glare.

Note that I'm wearing opaques in spite of the temperature. I'm not ready to go bare-legged just yet! Besides, I'd only blind you with their day-glo paleness!

Accessories were all orange based, from my ancient half-elasticated belt, beaded necklace and flower moulded ring to the large enamelled vintage brooch.

I changed into worse-for-wear gardening gear to clear away the rest of last year’s pots, grouping them together in the passageway, stacking up the terracotta plant pot dishes, and collecting any broken posts to be used as crocks for drainage. 

One of the pots contained two Aquilegia seedlings which I planted out in the garden (top right). 

My final task was to find an out of the way space for the spent Spring bulbs which I'd lifted from their pots. The initial plan was to let them rest and die down for planting out next Autumn, but when I noticed that one of the Iris reticulata had developed a new flower, I planted it in the border there and then.

And speaking of bulbs, look at all those Alliums coming up. Even our garden angel looks quite pleased with them!

I hope you've been having some lovely Spring weather where you are? 

Ours, unfortunately, didn't last. But that will be for next time. In the meantime, as always, do stay healthy and happy!

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Spring Fever Blues

On Sunday the 21st of March, traditionally considered the first official day of Spring, the sun was conspicuous in her absence. Without the glow provided by her rays, the 9°C indicated by the thermometer felt decidedly chilly, making us feel especially thankful that we'd had the foresight to go for a ramble on Saturday. 

The day's gloom added to the Spring Fever Blues I'd woken up with, which in their turn had been kick-started by the doom and damnation our country was once again engulfed in as day by day the infection rate seemed to be creeping up to alarming heights.

Having no plans whatsoever, I got dressed with comfort in mind, selecting this navy houndstooth patterned vintage dress which hadn't seen the light of day since last February. It was during our Anniversary trip to Bruges - a far happier occasion - that it was granted its first outing.

Wearing red opaques with the dress is almost a given, and I kept to the same colour for my charity shopped beaded necklace and my vintage brooch - a posy of red plastic berry-like flowers growing from burnished gold stems and leaves - which was a flea market find in January 2019.

It was late afternoon when we realized we hadn't taken any outfit photos yet, so I quickly threw on the red slubbed Colours of the World jacket I found at Oxfam in February, pinning another vintage brooch on it for good measure. With its tiny turquoise beads nestling inside a gold-tone flower, this too was a flea market find, bought from the formidable Brooch Lady back in 2016.

I wasn't entirely happy with the photos we made rather hurriedly that day, which wasn't in the least helped by the fact that my hair was trying to do its own thing in spite of the fact that I'd just washed it.

The better part of that Sunday was spent reading on the couch. 

Who needs sunshine when Dove Cottage's sitting room, with its cheerful orange walls, provides its own all year around?

Monday was the start of another wonky working week. Now that I'm working additional Fridays, Mondays are the quietest days of the week, so that I was able to get through my tasks in no time. It wasn't quiet in the literal sense though, as a brand new fire security system is being installed in our building, accompanied by lots of noisy drilling. Hence, I escaped the office during lunch break and went for a walk, during which a gift box of cat toys happened to make its way into my basket.

Bess happily plays with all the toys we provide her with and in the few weeks she has been with us she has accumulated a toy collection to rival any child's. 

Both the terracotta tile and the wooden sign are UK holiday souvenirs from many years ago. The tile, which came from the family run Black Dog workshop in Wells - which google tells me has since moved to Bath - even pre-dates Phoebe. The very fine cat who lived at Dove Cottage at the time was our grey and white tabby cat Poesie, who was adopted by Jos and his youngest daughter An as a kitten. She lived to the age of 17 and we said goodbye to her in 2009, just under a month before Phoebe came into our lives.

Tuesday was a sunny day for once, with the temperature making its way into the low double figures.

The sunshine streaming in through Dove Cottage's windows showed up the accumulated dust and cat hair, so I swept the upstairs rooms, the dining room, the hallway and the front room, while Jos promised to do the kitchen and bathroom on Wednesday.

As you can probably deduce from the outfit photos' backdrop - the famous white painted brick wall of our garage building - we actually went on an outing that day.

I was wearing another one of my black floral frocks, a vintage handmade one scattered with poppy-esque flowers, I picked up both the pink and the green from its pattern for my accessories. These included a pale green fabric belt with a decorative metal buckle which used to belong to a dress I've long since let go, and a charity shopped pale green necklace. The colour pink was represented by my opaques and cardigan.

Among the poppies, the yellow of the ceramic daffodil brooch clearly stands out. This was another holiday souvenir, bought from a craft shop in Cardigan, Wales in June 2017.

And look, here are my moss green wedge ankle boots again!

My outerwear consisted of a Spring weight herringbone Dorothy Perkins coat - an old charity shop find - finished with my fluffy sugar pink scarf and purple beret.

We were off to the garden centre, where we were overjoyed to see that their outside space offering perennials, climbers, small shrubs and grasses, had re-opened after its Winter closure.

It was only natural that we made a bee-line for it, and a happy twenty minutes or so was spent browsing its treasures. Jos didn't think twice when he spotted pots of red hot pokers (Kniphofia uvaria) and, keeping in mind their apparent scarcity and elusiveness last Summer, bought two of them for good measure.

We also fell for Armeria maritima 'Floral Dreams', or Sea Thrift, which already had some early flowers although its usual flowering time is May. This is the only one I planted out immediately, leaving the rest for another day. After all, there will be plenty of time as long as I'm working at my current three day schedule.

Our final purchases were two kinds of Aquilegia, an unusual pom-pom flowered Achillea, a dark maroon Hollyhock (Alcea rosea 'Nigra') and Delphinium 'Black Knight'.

Oh, and we bought a new doormat as well, it's the blue, red and white patterned thing on the bottom left. 

Wednesday was the day of our government's emergency meeting, during which our current semi-lockdown was decided upon. While I was on the phone with my boss, and we agreed to continue with our reduced hours, my hairdresser left a message that he could fit me in on Friday, which was the last day before the new regulations would come into force. In spite of it all, I did a happy dance for these two positives counterbalancing the overall air of negativity.

On Thursday we were treated to the usual mixture of sunshine and clouds, which came accompanied by a fairly mild 13°C. 

Still somewhat knocked for six by the news of the impending semi-lockdown while trying to make sense of the usual maze of incomprehensible rules this inevitably goes hand-in-hand with, I was feeling a bit maudlin that day. Apart from a walk into town to get some toiletries and catching up with blogland, I didn't do very much at all that day.

A good portion of its morning was spent playing with my wardrobe and assembling the day's outfit.

The green and white plaid textured polyester skirt is an old Think Twice find and is just right to capture those hesitant first days of Spring. Nothing Springlike whatsoever about the explosion of Summer flowers adorning my Zara blouse, which was picked up in a charity shop last July.

Both the brown belt and the green vintage Dralon cardigan were charity shop finds as well, while the green butterfly brooch was a retail buy from a small, quirky shop near my office in Antwerp. My collection also contains its pink and blue sisters.

That just leaves my chocolate brown beaded necklace which, if memory serves me right, came from Think Twice.

I contemplated planting up the mass of Spring plants patiently awaiting their fate on the table right outside our back door, but I simply couldn't muster up the energy required.

With Spring having only just sprung, I was fairly sure they could wait another day or two.

Before I call it a day, though, why not leave you with some floral cheerfulness?

Pandemic or not, they don't seem to have a care in the world but to bloom to their heart's content.

Do stay happy and healthy, my dears!