Sunday, 17 January 2021

All wrapped up

At long last, my blog has reached the final days of December, and the time has come to say goodbye to the annus horribilis that was 2020.

And about time too, I should think. The new year is marching along relentlessly and we're already more than halfway through its first month. Admittedly, nothing much has changed, and things will probably get worse before they get any better. Although the vaccine is offering us a ray of hope, it is still a feeble one, and it looks as if the pandemic will remain prominently on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Still, there are good days as well as bad, and I keep trying to focus on the former!

But once again, I'm getting ahead of myself, as December's last three days are begging to be chronicled. So let's get that job done, shall we!

Talking of jobs, I needed to go into the office for a couple of hours on the year's last Tuesday. 

We drove into Antwerp by mid morning, parking our car in the multi-storey car park near my office building. Even at the early-ish hour of 10.30 am, there was a queue to get into the car park, and by the time we left in the early afternoon, the zombies had arrived in droves.

Watching from the office windows while I finished a couple of tasks, Jos couldn't help noticing that about every car in three was one with Dutch registration plates. The Netherlands are currently locked down, with non-essential shops closed, but it's all too easy for them to cross the border into Belgium to get their shopping fix, putting even more pressure on our already far too crowded shopping streets!

I was wearing a Belgian made vintage dress I picked up in a charity shop while out shopping with a friend many years ago. Although I was instantly smitten with its pink and purple flowers dancing across a criss-cross patterned background towards its hem, it was the Bakelite buckled belt which clinched the deal.

To its bodice, I pinned a burgundy ceramic leaping deer brooch (a close cousin of the green big-eyed Bambi brooch from my previous post). My other accessories were a chunky chartreuse, teal and burgundy beaded necklace and a teal plastic ring. Oh, and let's not forget the crochet flower corsage I pinned to my teal King Louie cardigan. 

Back at home, we just had time for some outfit photos before I crashed on the couch, where I spent the rest of the afternoon reading my latest book. 

Tell The Wolves I'm Home is the debut novel of American author Carol Rifka Brunt, published 2012. The novel's protagonist is a quirky 14-year-old girl in 1987, whose gay uncle has died of AIDS and who subsequently develops a friendship with his boyfriend. It is a compelling coming of age story which had me gripped until I turned its final page. Now, what to read next?


The next day, Wednesday, was mostly cloudy, with the odd ray of sunshine as well as the odd shower, and a fairly reasonable 6°C for the time of year.

While Jos did the final food shop of the year, I vacuumed the downstairs rooms, and then indulged in playing around with my wardrobe, composing an outfit for our New Year's Eve walking meet-up.

My outfit of the day was based around one of my all-time favourite dresses, a bottle green Diolen Delight with a funky yellow, orange, white and biscuit coloured geometric pattern.

I couldn't believe my luck when I laid eyes on it in a charity shop in January 2017. The only thing I didn't like about it were its original buttons, but that was soon remedied by replacing them with vintage yellow ones from my stash.

I accessorized the dress with a tan leather belt and beaded necklace and a green, gold-tone and faux pearl brooch I charity shopped back in August.

After putting away the shopping and having a spot of lunch, we were gasping to escape for a breath of fresh air and, as we were having one of those sunny spells, we drove down to the water tower for yet another attempt to spot the Atomium in Brussels from its viewing platform.

My outerwear consisted of my plaid swing coat and green boots - both charity shop finds - and a green beret from Think Twice. My scarf was an old retail buy and the burnt orange opaques I'm wearing were a gift from the lovely Kezzie, who was kind enough to send me these and some other pairs she was no longer wearing about two years ago.

Much to our disappointment, the gated stairwell leading up to the water tower's viewing platform was locked so, in order not to have had a wasted journey, we stopped off at the nearby charity shop.

It's one of the smaller shops (but still bigger than the average UK charity shop) and can be very hit or miss. I was just about to write it off as a miss when I spotted this gorgeous butterscotch Astrakhan jacket. I have no idea whether it is the real thing or not but I was sold after I tried it on, so it came home with me.

That evening, with the weather forecast for New Year's Eve predicting a 90% chance of rain, we made the sensible decision to postpone the meet-up we'd planned with our friends Inneke and Maurice to a later date.

To say we were disappointed is quite an understatement. After not having seen each other for months, we had been very much looking forward to our get-together, which would have supplied a silver lining to the year's final day.

Feeling a bid subdued, I decided against wearing the outfit I'd lovingly put together and, perhaps driven by the mood of the day, wore a pale green, grey and off white vintage dress instead. 

I'd recently pulled it out of the flea market boxes, deciding to give it one more chance, as I cannot seem to decide whether I like it or not. Although it really is most delightful in person, I'm simply not feeling it. Pale colours like these are so not me, I think. I really need your honest opinions here!

In order to make it more me, I spruced it up by wearing it with a burgundy King Louie cardigan, the multi-coloured woven leather belt I'd recently charity shopped and my pink, purple and orange wooden beaded necklace. To the dress's bodice I pinned a burgundy orchid brooch and I added a pale green flower corsage to the cardigan.

I hadn't planned to wear this outfit outside the house at all, but then, after a rainy start, it suddenly started clearing up, the sun playing peek-a-boo with some drifting clouds.

Needless to say, I was in a foul mood, as it would have been the perfect day for our meet-up after all! 

I'd originally planned to vacuum the upstairs rooms - I was already imagining myself chasing dust bunnies with a vengeance - but as the sun was still out in full force after lunch, it would have been downright silly to spend the rest of the day inside.

Hoping that it wouldn't be too crowded, we selected one of Antwerp's edge of town parks, Den Brandt, for an afternoon stroll. 

Based around a romantic late classical castle surrounded by an English landscape style garden and undulating parkland interlaced with invitingly winding paths, it might well be one of  Antwerp's most picturesque parks.

With highs of only 5°C, it was of course the perfect opportunity to take my newly purchased jacket on its maiden voyage. Additional warmth was provided by a red and purple scarf, purple beret and a pair of fingerless gloves.

Note my tapestry panelled handbag, the broken strap of which Jos was able to repair, so that it can join me once more on our outings.

I always forget to mention my sturdy chocolate brown boots and floral walking stick, which are obvious essentials for possibly slippery Winter walks.

Although we obviously weren't the only people making the most of this unexpectedly sunny afternoon, there are plenty of opportunities to veer away from the well-trodden paths, indulge in some soggy leaf kicking and pretend there's only the raucously cawing crows for company.

After circuiting the park while trying to avoid the crowds which had suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere, a view towards the castle opened up, looking rather fetching framed by shrubs and trees and with the pale Winter sunshine reflecting in the murky pool on the bottom right.

People were queuing for take-away coffee at one of the castle's gatehouses, but however tempting it was, we just couldn't be bothered, preferring to have coffee and perhaps a warm waffle topped with cream in the safety of Dove Cottage.

But not before taking a final selfie, which for once didn't turn out too badly. 

So, that was it, that strangest of years, 2020, all wrapped up and packed away.

I'll be heading into 2021 from my next post onwards and cannot help but keep wondering what the journey will bring. 

Stay safe out there, wherever you are!

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Any way the wind blows

What a difference a day makes!  If on Christmas Day, a bright blue sky and dazzling sunshine had provided balm for body and soul, Boxing Day's weather plunged us back into the bleak mid-winter. 

There was no change in temperature, the thermometer still stuck at around 5°C, but the absence of the sun and the overnight appearance of a blustery wind made it feel decidedly colder. The wind would steadily increase in force over the day as it was gearing up for stormy weather. 

We kept a close eye on the weather forecast as Storm Bella was expected to sweep over Belgium on Sunday, but as it looked set to remain dry until the early evening on Saturday, we thought we'd better get out of the house and go for another walk while it lasted.

The chill in the air called for the wearing of a jumper and, as we were still in festive mode, I dug out this vintage diamond knit white acrylic one, which is enhanced with a bit of sparkle. It was a charity shop find back in December 2019.

You won't often find me wearing black and white, but I did that day. I thought this black heavy-weight crepey wool skirt - vintage, made in Germany and picked up at Think Twice in February 2018 - would be the jumper's ideal companion.

Unfortunately, as it was quite a dark day, it was a nightmare to properly catch it on camera. Therefore, I  included some close-ups so that its fabulousness can be fully grasped.

Strips of leather and folksy embroidered flowers are sewn in a chevron pattern near the hem and there are two elaborate fabric flowers with black sequinned hearts on the front.

My only accessories that day were a cerise triple string of beads, a vinyl belt in the same colour and a vintage celluloid brooch with delicately carved flowers, bought from the Brooch Lady in April 2017.

While we were having lunch, consisting of one of Jos's homemade soups, we brainstormed on where to go that afternoon. Over the last three years or so, we'd unwittingly started the tradition of going for a stroll around the sculpture park on Boxing Day. However, as we'd made plans to meet up with friends for a walk and a long overdue catch-up in the park on New Year's Eve, this kind of ruled it out.

Then I hit upon the idea of going to the so-called blue bridges, a scenic spot in the nearby town of  Rumst, which lies at the confluence of three rivers. In 2002, two very popular foot and cycle bridges were created here. I didn't take photos of them this time but you can find a collage I made after a previous visit here.

The dykes and towpaths on the riverbanks give access to several nature reserves and offer the opportunity for a plethora of walks. 

On weekends and holidays, however, it can be quite busy here, the bridges and towpaths often  terrorized by groups of cyclists, which are a real plague for walkers, who must be prepared to jump out of their way at all times.

At first sight, there weren't too many of these about that day, but we still wanted to walk somewhere we were guaranteed of some peace and quiet.

Then we remembered the "Oude Netearm", which is a small nature reserve established around an obsolete part of the River Nete. This was formed when the river was partly diverted in the 1970s for the construction of the E19 motorway, when a number of the river's meanders were separated from the main river, creating an elongated marshland.

Our attempts to walk the paths which criss-cross the reserve were regularly thwarted by patches so muddy that we had to give up and retrace our steps. 

To combat the by now stinging wind, which was deceptively benign in the woods and grasslands of the flood plain but reared its head whenever we were on higher ground, I was wearing  a fur collared and cuffed Tweed jacket, accompanied by a frilly red woollen scarf. To my two-tone brown knitted turban hat - an old charity shop find - I'd pinned a green faux-leather flower corsage.

Peeking out from my jacket cuffs are the sleeves of the floral knit cardigan I was wearing underneath. Even if I only wore it for the walk and basically it wouldn't be seen, I still made sure I wore something which matched the rest of my outfit. I am, in fact, a fully paid-up member of the Secret Society of Secret Matching, a phrase coined by fellow member and lovely Instagram friend @jessiejessyg!

In the colder months, for instance, the t-shirts I wear underneath my dress or top usually match at least one of the colours of my outfit. Now don't tell me that Jessie and I are the only ones!

After walking along the towpath for a stretch, we came across a bridleway leading once again into the nature reserve. As the path looked mercifully free of muddy patches as far as the eye could see, we decided to throw caution to the wind and make one final attempt to enter the reserve.

The path meandered through hazy woods, passing the victims of earlier storms, often adorned with lichens, and lush meadows spongy with mosses.

We stepped out of the way so that a man walking his dog could pass us by. Issuing a greeting, his brows furrowed when he spotted our non-welly-clad feet, informing us that the path would soon become flooded and that our feet were inadequately equipped to deal with it.

So, back to square one, or rather, the towpath, once more.

Chased by an ever stronger wind, its icy sting making our eyes water when we walked against it, the rain-pregnant clouds scudded across the sky, huddling together and knitting themselves into a granite grey blanket which would eventually block out the remaining daylight.

So, not just back to square one, but back to our car too, where we were especially thankful for the seat warmers which are an unsolicited bonus feature of our car.

Storm Bella started regaling us with a gale force wind overnight, which lasted until late afternoon on Sunday, and came accompanied by lots of rain.  Consequently, we didn’t venture outside all day, as it was far too dark and miserable. 

Luckily, Dove Cottage and its garden sustained no bigger damages than two pots which were blown off the little table next to the bench at the bottom of the garden.

No outfit photos were taken either, but you're still getting to see what I was wearing as I wore it again in its entirety on Monday.  

I was Queen of Patterns, wearing stripes, chevrons and plaids!

The plaids were provided by my vintage Gor-Ray skirt, with its single front and back pleat, which was a lucky charity shop find just over two years ago. You'll probably recognize the chevron patterned belt which joined my collection quite recently and which I've already been wearing a number of times.

The stripes came in a multitude of colours and were supplied by a jumper from New Look, which was an old sales bargain.

My outfit was completed with a black and white beaded necklace and a vintage green ceramic big-eyed Bambi brooch. I was wearing my beloved burgundy boots and if I remember correctly my opaques were the same shade of blue as the stripe in my jumper.  

Storm Bella had left a grey drizzly day in her wake, with temperatures dropping towards freezing point.

After breakfast, and while Jos went to the newsagent's, I washed my hair, and then we hopped into the car for a rummage at one of our approved charity shops.

There, a trawl of the clothing aisles produced three very tactile and strokable finds!

First up is a vintage chocolate brown velvet midi skirt sporting diagonal trails of cream lacy flowers.

You'll get to see me wearing it in one of my next posts. My only gripe with it is that it doesn't have a large enough slit at the back, so that I was a bit hindered when walking in my usual striding gait.

A burgundy furry Monster Vest (Sheila's term) was up next. Originally from Zara, if I remember correctly, but I have removed its scratchy label in the meantime.

My final find was this dusky pink furry hat. There's no label to identify its origins, but I like it that it is lined, which helps in giving it a bit of structure.

The year was swiftly striding towards its end, but we still managed a couple of walks and a final charity shop rummage before it was over.

But that, as well as the outfits I wore, will be for a next post.

Stay safe, sane and fabulous, everyone!

Saturday, 9 January 2021

In praise of apricity

After a seemingly never-ending string of grey and rainy days, we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to the sun streaming in through our windows on Christmas day.

We hadn't made any plans for the day, but before you start feeling sorry for us, please don't, as this is exactly the way we like it. For many years, we didn't even get dressed until late afternoon, lounging around in our pyjamas until it was time for dinner. In that respect, Christmas was indeed different this year. After sleeping late-ish, and having our usual fruit and yoghurt breakfast in our dressing gowns, I stood myself in front of my wardrobe trying to decide on something festive to wear.

My eyes soon alighted on this black floral frock which for once isn't vintage nor even second hand, but a bargain picked up in last year's January sales.

 I came across it when I wandered into the shop during one of my lunch breaks, but at only 10% off I couldn't justify its purchase. But once again my patience paid off. Fast forward several weeks when, walking past the shop again, its window announcing further reductions lured me inside. And there it was, reduced to 70% off. I am saying "it", as there was only one left, which happened to be in my size. It did have a minor flaw, which granted me a further reduction, and turned out to be easily and invisibly remedied. 

Its teal, maroon, yellow and cream florals are joined by dashes of gold, which prompted my choice of belt, charity shopped about two years ago. I opted for pops of orange in the form of my necklace and chunky cardigan. The latter was a bare necessity as the temperature had dropped below 5°C, and the frock's fabric, although lined, is a thin and all but see-through viscose. I enhanced its neck tie by adding a ribboned sugar cane brooch, a gift from the lovely and very generous Gisela!

I was wearing a pair of pair of burnt orange opaques - layered over a pair of nude nylons for extra warmth - adding the festive socks you can see in the first collage. I'd picked these as well as another pair up in a village shop earlier that month. 

I only wore my burgundy boots - the only vintage item in my outfit - when we briefly nipped out for outfit photos, exchanging them for my trusty wool-lined chocolate brown ones when we went for a walk after lunch.

The at times heavy rains of the last couple of weeks ruled out a trek to one of the nature reserves as, established in former clay extraction areas, their sticky, muddy paths would be virtually impassable. 

Another option would have been the sculpture park, but it was closed on Christmas day and, same as any of the other city parks, would have been far too crowded for our liking anyway.

Our dilemma was solved when I hit upon the idea of going for a stroll around the park in the neighbouring town of Duffel. One of our regular haunts which we used to frequent before or after a browse at the charity shop a stone's throw away, our last proper visit dated from January 2020.

By the time we made it over there, the sun was hiding behind a layer of ominous looking clouds, but we persevered, hoping that the rain forecasted for late afternoon would hold off.

Besides, I'd brought my own sunshine, in the form of Monica's beret and scarf. For their first outing, they were accompanied by my purple fake fur and yellow snake print bag, both sales bargains, from January 2019 and January 2020 respectively. 

Apparently, I was wearing lots of naughty non-second-hand purchases that day!

The park has been laid out along a stretch of the River Nete, whose towpath is running behind the line of trees reflected in the pond. The sun managed to break through the clouds again just as we were marvelling at the mirror-like qualities of its surface on this crispy cold and windless day.

The barren winter landscape with its silhouette trees and ghostly desiccated reeds and grasses was transformed by the sun's golden rays, which at this time of year, only days after Winter Solstice, were low and blinding.

How delicious it is to bask in their glow. Apparently, there's a word for it: to apricate!  Apricity is an old English word for the warmth of the sun on a winter’s day.  I love old English words, a telltale wriggly line appearing under them as I type. 

The park seamlessly segues with another, smaller one which lies to the south-east of it, its focus being the atmospheric ruins of a castle.

Ter Elst castle is one of the oldest buildings in the province of Antwerp, dating back to the 12th century when it was owned by the Hildincshusen brothers, the oldest known lords of Duffel.

It was enlarged and transformed into a magnificent castle in the 15th century, when it received notable guests such as Margaret of York and Philip the Fair.

The castle was rebuilt after having burned down during the religious turmoil of 1584. Sources from the 17th and 18th centuries show an extensive complex, consisting of several wings and towers with a courtyard, surrounded by a wide moat and landscaped gardens. 

By the end of the 16th century it was used as a presbytery. In 1799 the castle was seized and sold by the French occupiers, after which several of its buildings were demolished. 

Finally, in 1879, the castle was sold to a certain C. Funcke, who established a brickyard in its immediate vicinity. This remained in business until the First World War, when both the castle and the brickyard sustained serious damages.

Sadly, the remains of the castle fell into ruin until it was acquired by the council in 1972 and it received protected status.

The surrounding park was opened to the public in 1982 with the castle itself being available for events. I remember going to a flea market in the park on a hot August day, with a brass band playing in the castle grounds across the moat. Shortly afterwards, the castle grounds were closed to the public.

With every subsequent visit, the castle's main tower seemed to be leaning ever more precariously, and we often approached it with fear in our hearts lest some part of it had crumbled or taken a tumble since we were last there. 

Consequently, we breathed a huge sigh of relief when back in January we noticed that some kind of scaffolding had been erected inside the castle and that plans seemed to be afoot to restore the evocative ruins.

More scaffolding had appeared in the intervening months, but did nothing to detract from the moated castle's photogenic quality. The clouds had all but departed now, unveiling a deep blue sky which joined the proud castle's preening in the mirror of its moat.

Walking the muddy paths circuiting the moat, we could hear the plaintive bleating of sheep, echoing and ricocheting off the castle walls, but it was only when we passed the bridge crossing the moat that the source of the bleating was revealed.

The lords of the castle have long been dead and gone, its rule now taken over by a flock of rare breed sheep.

Ducks and geese glided placidly upon the moat, until a family started feeding them chunks of bread. Suddenly, the quietness was shattered by the appearance of a flock of shrieking gulls, leaving the poor waterfowl begging for leftover crumbs.

We'd come full circle now and were leaving the castle ruins behind us, re-entering the park and retracing our steps back to our car. 

We were starting to feel peckish, and waffles and cream awaited us at home. But not before appreciating some more apricity before we went off!

The weather forecast looked pretty dire, with storm Bella lurking around the corner, so I'm glad we were able to make the most of this sunny Christmas day.

I'll be back soon with more walks, outfits and general non-adventures. Until then, do stay safe and hopeful, my friends.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Sparkle and spice

Yesterday was my first day back at the office and although this wasn't exactly something I was looking forward to, it turned out not to be too bad in the end. After eleven days at home, we were both starting to lose track of time, so that I was actually glad to be able to have some kind of routine again. I didn't relish the early start, but once I'd dragged myself out of bed, I was good to go.

Outside, the day couldn't have been more dismal, one of those wet midwinter days which finds it hard to let go of its cloak of darkness.

Although it was the first day of the January sales, the awful weather seemed to have put off at least some of the bargain hunting zombies. From the lofty heights of the office windows, I could only spy a handful of umbrella wielding people carrying soggy shopping bags.

Work itself was reasonably quiet, with only a small amount of emails trickling in during the day, so that I was able to catch up and ease myself back into office rhythm at a leisurely pace. 

Talking of catching up, I've still got quite a bit of this to do before my blog reaches the end of December so, without further ado, let's go back in time once more.

It was the Sunday before Christmas, cloudy but with the temperature still hovering around a quite un-Christmassy 10°C. 

In order to immerse myself into the festive season, I was wearing a dress with a bit of sparkle, even if it  was nigh on impossible to catch any of it on camera.

My dark olive green dress, with its off-white, pink and lilac print and dropped waist, was a Think Twice sales bargain from December 2019. 

I accessorized it with a pink flower corsage and mottled green and white beaded necklace, while lime green opaques and a fuchsia long-line cardigan kept it company. 

With the garden slowly but surely going into Winter mode, I was thankful for any bit of colour, be it provided by the frilly variegated leaves of Heuchera 'Can Can' (left), some cheery-faced purple pansies or the last hurrah of the tuberous Begonia leaves (bottom right).

Most of the day was spent inside the house, doing nothing more strenuous than some gentle pottering, reading and catching up with blogland. 

Meanwhile, Jos was in the mood for some baking! As we'd picked up a package of Speculaas mix from the garden centre's baking department, as well as a wooden mould with three different biscuit shapes, it was about time we tried these out. 

We'd also recently come across some additional moulds in the charity shops, including the intricately carved one shown above. This one, however, turned out to be unsuitable due to its varnish finish, and was presumably meant for decoration purposes rather than biscuit making. It's already displayed among the rest of our kitchenalia collection in the meantime.

The other charity shopped wooden mould is the one on the left. It is double sided, with the lady's male counterpart on the other side.

Jos used my Dad's food processor to make the dough, and then the fun of making the actual biscuits could begin. We had been warned that it might take several attempts to get the hang of getting the biscuits out of the moulds in one piece, but we were able to churn out several near perfect ones from the word go. After about 15 minutes in the oven, they came out a wonderful golden brown and left our kitchen smelling heavenly of spices in the process.

These crunchy, caramelized spiced biscuits are typically associated with the feast of Saint Nicholas - the original Santa Claus! - which is celebrated on 5 or 6 December, depending on whether you're in the Netherlands or in Belgium. Speculaas dates from medieval times, and its original spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and white pepper.

The mercury climbed to an almost Springlike 14°C on Monday and Tuesday, alas accompanied by at times heavy rains, particularly on Tuesday.

While Jos went on a mission to stock up on drinks, I vacuumed the whole of the downstairs, with Phoebe fleeing to the spare room once she caught sight of her arch enemy, the vacuum cleaner.

After our success with the Speculaas biscuits, we then decided to get some more of this seasonal mix now that it was still available, so off to the garden centre we went.

My outfit that day was built around the floral Wow To Go blouse I'd found at Oxfam, which I paired with my pinkish-red polyester and mohair blend skirt. I wore a contrasting ochre yellow belt with it as well as my charity shopped H&M batwing cardigan in the same colour.

Same as the blouse, the necklace was a recent charity shop find. 

My outerwear consisted of my ancient cream, tan and blue plaid coat and my tan Burberry beret, the latter worn to hide my unruly hair rather than for warmth.

Due to the ongoing restrictions, shopping is still a solo activity here in Belgium, so I waited in the car for Jos to come back with his purchases, which included four types of our favourite bread mix.

He reported that not only were things very quiet and relaxed inside the garden centre, he had also spotted several couples shopping together. Nevertheless, we'd better set an example and stick to the rules, however bothersome they may be.

Wednesday was my last working day of the year 2020, and it was with a sigh of relief that I got into our car when Jos drove up to our pick-up point. Antwerp's streets were thronging with shoppers, same as every year in the final days before Christmas, the only difference being that the majority were wearing their masks, if not all correctly. I couldn't get out of there fast enough!

Thursday was another grey and wet all-dayer, and with an overnight drop in temperature to about 7°C, we hid from the hostile world outside. Thankfully, Jos had already done all our food shopping on Wednesday, so that we didn't have to brave the last-minute shoppers.

Time to wear a bit of sparkle again, this time in the form of this vintage dress - once more from Think Twice - its groovy lilac and purple on grey pattern threaded with Lurex. Again, you'll have to use your imagination as the camera failed miserably in picking it up.

It was so dark that we didn't even attempt to take outfit photos outside, trying out our chandelier lighted bedroom instead. Not ideal, but at least I didn't die of hypothermia. The plum coloured lacquered leather belt was an old charity shop find, while the painted wooden brooch was a recent one. A pair of aubergine opaques completed my Christmas Eve outfit.

I spent most of the day on the couch with my latest read, the engrossing and beautifully written Catching The Tide by Judith Lennox. Having previously enjoyed her novels The Winter House and All My Sisters, I was as good as guaranteed a great read when I plucked this one from the shelves at Oxfam.

We finished the day by watching some mindless feel-good television accompanied by a background soundtrack of snoring supplied by our little black monster.

How we spent Christmas itself and what I was wearing will be the subject of my next post.

Until then, please do stay safe, sane and fabulous. Sending an extra virtual hug to my friends and readers in the UK, who are at the dawn of another strict lockdown.