Saturday 31 December 2016

An enchanted place

"... and by-and-by they came to an enchanted place on 
the very top of the forest called Galleons Lap  ..."
~ A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

We wandered through the park which had slowed down for winter, towards the water garden with its gently bubbling stone fountain.

If its water looks frozen, it is just a trick of the light: it is only frozen in time.

By-and-by we came to an enchanted place, which was almost perfect for a Teddy Bears Picnic. 

But in these days just after the Winter Solstice, it would be far too cold, and darkness upon us far too early for a proper picnic.

The bears' tea would freeze in their cups and dainty sandwiches and cakes would crumble in clumsy mittened paws.

Sunlight was scarce and its source very low on the horizon, casting strange elongated shadows; the sky a pale Wedgwood blue painted ceiling, with a handful of hazy cotton wool clouds.

The dying sun was turning the spongy bed of bracken into a fiery carpet fit for fairies and pixies, dotted with mossy pillows for them to dream on.

And look, wasn't that a phantom I saw, come and gone in the blink of an eye? Could it have been the Ghost of Christmas only-just-past?

And isn't that a wood nymph on the bridge, staring out over the pond and soaking up the remains of the winter sun?

Near the wooden bridge, the water birds gathered, the honking geese lording it over the complacent ducks. 

They live in hope of a handout, crusts of bread and such, to supplement their meagre winter diet. Life for them isn't a picnic in the park.

Soon the sun descended even lower, her final weak rays piercing through the leafless trees, creating an eerie landscape of silhouettes.

As the gloaming enveloped the park, it was time to go home and light the fire, and draw the curtains on the long and bleak midwinter night.

"And by-and-by Christopher Robin came to an end of things, and was silent, 
and he sat there looking out over the world, and wishing it wouldn't stop."
~ A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Nowhere fast

Every year when the month of December is in sight, I start looking forward to Christmas! Get away with you, I can hear you think, you don't even like Christmas. You admitted as much in your last post! I can almost see the eye rolls in my mind's eye ...

Well, it isn't so much Christmas itself I am looking forward to, but the ensuing holidays, as our office always closes for a week or so.

As the weeks leading up to Christmas are usually the busiest of the whole year, I breathed a sigh of relief when last Friday I closed the door upon the mountains of paperwork and the miniature Christmas tree I put up to humour my Christmas loving colleague.

Nine days without any plans whatsoever except not getting up at the crack of dawn and not having to live under the tyranny of the clock. No overcrowded buses and no Christmas Zombies ...  Pure bliss!

Apart from a quick dash to the shops on Saturday, to pick up an order, we'd planned to stay firmly ensconced inside Dove Cottage, especially as the weather was far from inviting us to venture outside.

Indeed, we were going nowhere fast!

On Christmas Day, we have our own tradition, which involves lounging around in our pyamas for most of the day.

Not any old pyamas, mind you. We prefer doing things in style! I wore a full length vintage quilted nylon dressing gown from Think Twice and Jos's chique dressing gown is a vintage St. Michael one found in a charity shop!

The vintage slip I wore underneath was another charity shop find.

We weren't the only ones in pyamas and no, I don't mean Phoebe ...

These 1960s and early 1970s Mattel dolls are dressed in nightwear of the era!

We started the day as we meant to go on, with a leisurely breakfast, followed by a menu of daytime television, reading and listening to some music.

Elvis's Christmas album, which Jos, who used to be a huge fan at the time, bought in the1950s, had its yearly outing. Which is more than enough, I should say!

By dinner time, we dressed up for a festive meal in honour of my dad. No special outfit was planned. I just stood in front of my wardrobe and pulled out this orange polka dotted dress, which I combined with a navy blue cardigan. As a nod to Christmas I pinned on a sparkly reindeer brooch.

Speaking of sparkly, we started off dinner with drinks served in vintage Babycham glasses.

As a starter, we made a retro-style prawn cocktail, which we served in vintage beer glasses found at my dad's!

We also used my parents' dinner service for the first time, which I admit felt a bit weird. I even got a lump in my throat taking the plates out of our cupboard as, after all, this time last year we were still doing the same thing at my dad's ...

Ending this post on a positive note, we're raising our glasses (only Jos couldn't wait) to spending Christmas exactly how we like it.

Hope yours was everything you expected it to be.


Saturday 24 December 2016

And so this is Christmas

I confess I am not much of a Christmas person.

It's not that I have anything against Christmas, mind you, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone their Christmas traditions, but I just ... don't feel it.  I feel like I am on the outside, looking in through holly festooned windows at other people celebrating the day.

At the danger of sounding like a right old Scrooge, the thing I do not like about Christmas is the spend, spend, spend mentality which seems to take over even the most frugal of people.

It doesn't help that I'm working in the centre of Antwerp, near the city's main shopping street. At this time of year, it's a hazard venturing outside during lunch breaks, as there's a constant threat of being overrun by what I call the Christmas Zombies, who are on a mission to spend their hard earned money on the most useless of presents.

Family heirloom from Jos's parents

Still, in spite of all this, I put up a Christmas tree, even if only to display my vintage Christmas ornaments, consisting of family heirlooms as well as flea market and charity shop finds.

The ghost of Christmas past only shows me the odd snippet, which will have to make do as looking through the photo albums of my childhood, there don't seem to be any photographs taken at Christmas.

Having only a very small family (both my parents were only children), we always spent Christmas day at my parents' house, together with both sets of grandparents.

We had a tree, which my mum and I decorated at the start of the Christmas holidays. And we had a nativity scene, peopled by little plaster figurines which had been my mum's since she was a young girl and must therefore date back to the 1940s. The manger itself was made of plywood by my dad, its roof draped with cotton wool snow.

My mum's 1940s nativity set

On Christmas, my dad picked up both sets of grandparents for a family get together.

Presents were exchanged, but apart from one year when I got a much coveted Barbie outfit, I can only remember boxes of chocolates and monogrammed hankies.

The women generally had to make do with luxury soaps or cheap cologne, and there were always boxes of cigars for the men.

A set of my parents' best glasses

Some kind of sweet white wine, of which I was allowed a sip, and which tasted revolting, was poured in my parents' best glasses.

After I left home, I didn't go home for Christmas for years, spending it with friends instead, or with my ex boyfriends' families, although it wasn't always on the day itself. For many, many years I lived without a Christmas tree or indeed any Christmas decorations at all.

Icicle decorations which belonged to Jos's parents

Only after I met Jos, did a sort of Christmas routine enter my life.

We went around to my parents for dinner on Christmas Eve, and we spent Christmas itself, which we re-christened "Pyjama Day", lounging around the house, with just the two of us.

This tradition is still standing, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

After my mum died in 2001, we took over Christmas Eve dinner, first at our house, later at my dad's.

Now that my dad is no longer with us, there will be another shift in our traditions, which feels a little strange but liberating at the same time.

Whatever your Christmas traditions are, I am wishing you all a happy and stress-free one!

Tuesday 20 December 2016

The whole of the moon

The pattern of bright and sunny weekdays interspersed with depressingly grey weekends seems to be on repeat.

Regardless of the weather, any outfit photos, or indeed any decent photos, can only be taken at the weekends, which is rather limiting.

One morning last week however, I did take out my camera and from the kitchen window took this photo of the low winter moon hiding behind the trees a couple of gardens away.

This is the view from the same vantage point on Saturday morning.

We were all set to go and visit a couple of charity shops, but our hearts weren't in it, knowing that at this time of year we would probably find nothing but Christmas tat.

There was a flea market in Antwerp, but we were so disappointed with its last edition in November that we'd vowed to give it a miss this month.

Weighing up the pros and cons of the flea market versus the charity shops, the flea market won in the end, and we were glad it did, as the general quality of the stalls was so much better than last time.

Having half promised to show some more of my black patterned dresses, I pulled out one of my favourites, another Think Twice find.

This "Petri" dress, a Swedish design, has a riotous geometrical pattern in white, red, orange and yellow as well as differently sized white spots.

Describing it like that makes it sound over the top, but it isn't.

In fact, I think it's cheering up a grey day like this no end!

I added a wide orange belt and, echoing the spots in the dress's pattern, a salmony orange cardi patterned with small white dots.

The brooch, featuring a posy of winter pansies, was charity shopped in Wales. The beads came from Think Twice (again!) and the ring is from a cheap high street shop. I can't resist a plastic ring, and have them in every colour under the sun.

I wore my favourite fake fur-collared winter jacket (dare I say it: from Think Twice!) and a pair of boots I charity shopped a month or two ago. I wasn't looking for another pair of black boots but was tempted by the neat row of buttons. They have been a staple ever since.

I'm sure you'd want to take a closer look at the dress's pattern, so here it is!

Back to the flea market, where the only thing that annoyed us was the endless Christmas music in the background. Even though I was only half listening, I ended up with a Christmas ear worm of the worst kind. Ugh, it's still there three days later! I'm going to be a good girl and won't mention which one ...

There were so many goods vying for our attention and quite a few stalls were having a clear out, which I'm not really sure is a good sign.

The upside is that we didn't spend very much, yet came home with a bagful of lovely things.

This clear green vase with white painted interior is ornately decorated with a multi coloured glass flower. We already have a similar one in orange, which it has joined in the meantime. It was ours for € 3.

From the same seller, we bought this small enameled copper dish for € 1. Aren't its colours a feast for the eyes?

As we were on a roll, and the stall really had the most wonderful things, we ended up buying this pristine box of stereoscopic images of the Cote d'Azur ...

... as well as this little vintage lamp.

The lady in the photo is my maternal grandmother, Bertha, who really deserves a post of her own sometime.

What about brooches? Well, obviously I couldn't pass the "brooch lady's" stall. She'd brought the gorgeous micro-mosaic one (top right) especially for me.

The peacock also came from her, while the other two were bought from random stalls.

I fell in love with this elephant pendant, which I added to some redundant jewellery wire I had lying around.

It's going to look great when worn together with one of my elephant brooches of a similar style.

Maybe Gisela's love of elephants is rubbing off on me?

Next up was this vintage biscuit tin to add to the collection in our kitchen.

Our final purchase of the day was this fabulous green Murano glass dish with handkerchief rim.

Then it was back home, where I decided to try out some funky Christmas decorations. Here, I added strings of magic mushroom fairy lights to two vintage beer glasses found at my dad's house.

There, that should do the trick!

What do you think?

Friday 16 December 2016

Raspberry beret

Last weekend, I bought a raspberry beret, though unlike the subject of Prince's song, I didn't find it at a second hand store, but at last Sunday's flea market.

I'm always on the lookout for berets, which I'd like to have in as many colours as possible. Jos would add that I'm always losing them, but honestly, that's not true: I only lost two so far. To be fair: they were two of my favourites, both "Kangols" to boot. It's a good thing they were all bought second hand, but still ...

Anyway, I am digressing here.

The flea market we went to on Sunday was the last one of its kind this year. It's an outing we always look forward to, as we've yet to come home empty handed.

I started out wearing a red felt hat - and not the beret, of course - as well as a purple flower embroidered velvet scarf, which I bought for € 0,50 at a flea market about a year ago.

The red woollen jacket often accompanies me to flea markets at this time of year.

I actually prefer wearing a jacket rather than a full length coat to fleas, so that I can rummage through ground level boxes without ruining my coat's hemline.

I couldn't resist wearing my new blouse, which I combined with a 1970s Trevira front-pleat A-line skirt in a greyish blue. I have the same one in chocolate brown, and both still have their original belts.

This time, I replaced the belt with a shiny black vinyl one.

I chose a blue cardigan to wear on top and my accessories consisted of a red plastic ring, vintage red plastic beads and a brooch featuring a pair of sparkling blackbirds.

We had hardly made a start when we came across this wooden Scottie dog. I don't know what it is with me lately. Although I am much more of a cat person, cute dog ornaments and brooches suddenly appeal to me. But no worries, I'll still end up a crazy cat lady, of that I'm sure!

Next up was this 1950s hairdryer with chrome body and Bakelite handle. Originally priced at € 8, but already reduced to € 3 as the guys selling it were having a clearance, we were practically begged to take it off their hands for € 2.

It's from a German brand named "Schott" and it seems that there was a black Bakelite version as well.

Apparently, it is missing the nozzle, but I never use that anyway.

It was still in working order, but Jos has been bringing the electrics up to date so that I can actually start using it.

From the same stall, we bought some more Bakelite, both at silly prices.

A small lidded box ...

... and a cute little torch.

We continued our journey, and had only gone a few paces when a boxful of vintage buttons caught my eye.

I am not a sewer, just a  "replacer-of-buttons", which of course is a necessity when buying vintage clothing, and I can never ever resist a rummage through some vintage buttons.

They are so much nicer than what's on sale nowadays, and as these were only € 1 per set, it would have been rude not to buy any.

The "brooch lady" doesn't have a pitch at this market, more's the pity, but I still managed to find a couple of nice brooches, as well as a pair of amber coloured earrings, for € 2 each.

It looks like one of the elephants was trying to escape, the little rascal, which was soon fixed by my personal handy-man, Jos.

I came across several drool-worthy brooches, but all were way beyond what I was willing to pay.

The owner of one stall, who trades at several flea markets we are frequenting, automatically says € 10 when asked for a price. Now, I'm not saying that some of her things aren't worth € 10,- but she never, ever differentiates. If you look doubtful, she adds that the item is "old".

Nevertheless, we can never resist asking her the price of at least one item just to test her.

Ever since I blogged about my first proper collection, the keyrings, I always look out for them on flea markets and often end up buying some I remember having as a child.

Aren't those chocolate bars and the Dreft washing up liquid (Belgium's version of Fairy Liquid) super cute?
I loved playing with these as a child, so no wonder most of them didn't survive ...

Our last purchase was the raspberry pink beret, which cost € 2, and which neatly brings us back to the start of this post!

No flea markets this weekend, so what shall we do?

Whatever it is, it won't be Christmas shopping, that's for sure!