Friday 17 June 2016

Smile for the camera

I always find the weeks before going on vacation a little nerve-wracking, with so many things still to be arranged, both at work and at home. Cat-sitters need to be briefed as to how her majesty likes to be treated, paperwork needs to be sorted and lists to be ticked off.

This is not in any way helped by the fact that I hate packing, especially clothes packing. We are going to Wales, after all, so we have to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Our holiday will also involve a lot of walking and the Pembrokeshire coast path certainly cannot be tackled in frivolous summer dresses and sandals.

So, it is the time of year when my jeans (which I do not wear throughout the year) have to be dug out of the suitcase on top of the wardrobe. This is followed by a trying-on session, when anything too tight is discarded. Believe me, that suitcase must have magic powers, as some years it has clearly shrunk all the trousers and I have to go last-minute shopping. This year, I'm happy to say, the suitcase was on good behaviour!

Last weekend, I have been choosing vintage tops to combine with the dreaded jeans, and of course I am taking some dresses too. With my clothing case packed and zipped up, I was glad to have this out of the way, although there is no guarantee I will take things out and add others until the very last moment.

What else did we do last weekend? Some time ago, we were asked by my friend's daughter if we wanted to do a surprise family photo session for my friend's birthday. It was on Saturday and it was good fun! Jos was the main photographer, having past experience with this kind of photography, but I tagged along and took my camera as well.

We went to the Middelheim park in Antwerp, which is an open air museum of sculpture and visual arts and a great setting for a photo session.

Ingrid, my friend, was at secondary school with me for four years, after which we lost touch.

We met again via Facebook after 30 years in 2009 and she turned out to be living in the next village.

We now see each other regularly and our husbands, both being retired, even more so, as they meet every week for a drink.

The weather was great, the atmosphere was relaxed and a great afternoon was enjoyed by both the models and the photographers.

Of course, I took the opportunity to make some blog photos as well.

I love this fun photograph taken of Jos and me by Ingrid's daughter Cynthia.

I still have to finish the last of the packing, as we are leaving very early on Saturday, but I don't want to leave without showing you my finds of last week.

I bought these two dresses at Vintage Styling, which sadly will no longer be there by the time I get back ...

And finally, while waiting for the bank to open, I found this amazing book in a bargain book shop. I'm sure it will keep me occupied for a while ...

Pembrokeshire, here we come!

I won't have Internet access for two weeks, but then again I'll have a catch-up with you all to be looking forward to when I get back.

See you!

Tuesday 14 June 2016

The girl with the mousy hair

Although I have been colouring my hair on and off since I was about 17, last week was the first time I had it done at the hairdresser's.

Since I'd last coloured it myself (or rather, have Jos do it) a couple of months ago, I noticed that my hair was behaving badly and didn't look as shiny and healthy as it used to.

My hairdresser, who I've been going to for over 20 years, confirmed that it was becoming dry and brittle and told me it was probably a menopausal thing. Oh, dear! He prescribed some medicated shampoo, which was rather expensive, and although I was sceptical at first, it seems to be slowly doing the trick.

He is using gentle products for colouring, so I wanted to give that a go too. I must say that it was worth it, if alone for having the whole thing, which includes the inevitable mess, taken out of my (or rather, Jos's) hands.


Looking at my ramrod straight hair now, it is hard to believe that I was a curly-haired baby and toddler.

Here I am playing in my grandparents' garden in the summer of 1963.

The year I turned 3, we moved from a small flat to the newly built house where my dad still lives. There was a garden, with a sandpit I loved playing in. This, however, resulted in huge dramas every night, when my mum had to comb the knots out of my hair.


Something had to be done and my mum promptly took me to the city (Antwerp) for my first-ever visit to a hairdresser. Not just any old hairdresser, mind: this one had what looked like merry-go-round horses instead of chairs, which he used for cutting children's hair.

A quick search on the Internet revealed that this hairdresser is still around, still using the same horses after all these years, although I'm sure his salon looked quite a bit different in the 1960s.

In spite of the horses, I didn't like it one bit and I remember bawling my eyes out.

The result was a pixie cut, which was much easier to maintain and which I had until I was about 6.

I was allowed to grow my hair again after that, but if my mum had been dreaming of once again having a curly-haired daughter, she must have been sorely disappointed!

As a teenager, I started to dislike my rather thin, straight hair and especially its mousy colour.

So, when I was 17, I started colouring it (and the bathroom mat in the process) jet black, as I wanted to look like my then heroine, Siouxsie. As I was a punk, lanky and mousy hair was a definite no-no! My parents were none too pleased, though ...

I have no photos of my own from around that time (my dad had starting filming with a Super 8 camera), so you will have to make do with this one which surfaced on Facebook. It was taken in front of one of Antwerp's notorious punk clubs in the very early eighties. I'm sure you'll be able to pick me out straight away!


In the mid eighties, after I had started work, I had it permed (as one did), and went back to my original mousy colour.

This photo was taken at my very first flat by my then boyfriend.

By the end of the decade, thankfully, I was thoroughly bored by the silly perm and grew my hair just long enough to have it cut in a bob reminiscent of 1920s starlet Louise Brooks. It was a popular hairstyle at the time, inspired by Cacharel's Loulou perfume, which was introduced in 1987.

I also decided to colour it again, this time a vibrant auburn. It was my signature style for almost 10 years.

Clockwise from top left: 1990, 1992, 1995 and 1998
In 1999, just after we moved into our house, I had it cut short on a whim. It then gradually got shorter and shorter (don't ask) and I also stopped colouring it.

I cannot look at the majority of the photos taken around that time, and I am certainly not ready to share them. My hair was way too short, my weight had crept up and I looked 10 years older than I do now.

It took hours of browsing through photo-albums to come up with some I am reasonably happy with, They were taken after I had lost weight again - if anything, I was too thin for a while, as unintentionally the weight kept dropping off.

The last photo (bottom right) was taken after - nearing 50 - I'd had an epiphany and started growing and colouring it once again, although this time around it was not just the mousy colour I was keen to hide!

Clockwise from top left: 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012

Now, enough about me. What about you? Do you have any hair issues or stories?

Friday 10 June 2016

Through the looking glass

In a previous blog post, I showed you part of the display of odds and ends on top of our bathroom cabinet.

As it got some lovely comments, I thought I would show you some more details.

So, welcome to my bathroom!

First of all, I must say that our bathroom is one of the smallest in the history of mankind and that it was not what sold us the house.

It has naff flowery tiles and just the space for a hipbath-cum-shower, a washbasin and a toilet.

There is no possibility of an extension and not much room for improvement, save for a complete overhaul, so all we’ve done to it so far is purely cosmetic.

The boring bath taps were replaced by much nicer ones found for just a couple of Euros at a flea market many years ago. The "K" is for "koud", which I think you guessed means "cold".

In order to break the monotony of the floor-to-ceiling tiles, we added these bath prints which were bought in Bath (I'm not joking!) many years ago.

The mirror was a recent addition, charity shopped for € 8.

We paid the same price for the vintage bathroom cabinet, also charity shopped. It was made by French company Gilac from a plastic material called Ornamine, and it's very heavy. It probably dates from the late 1950s or early 1960s. The cabinet has three oval-mirrored doors with a little drawer beneath each one. One of the mirrors has some damage, but we decided not to replace it, as it does not really bother us.

We are on the lookout for more Gilac items for our bathroom and have already found some hooks as well as a bathroom stool in a similar design.

The odds and ends on top of the cabinet were collected over many years.

The wooden Boots first aid box was bought in an antique shop in Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire two years ago. It still contains a list of instructions as well as some of its contents: medicated wound dressing, a triangular bandage and an unopened bottle of smelling salts!

The Shingling Clipper box, with the 1920s shingle-haired lady on the lid, still contains the actual clipper inside.

The powdered shampoo, which needed to be dissolved in water, was one of the first products marketed by German company Schwarzkopf. The shampoo as well as the cartons of kirby grips were found at various flea markets over the years. The lady adorning the shampoo package always makes me think of Cate, whose hair is just as lovely.

This box (top left and bottom right) containing a Valet "Auto Strop" Safety Razor (but without the actual "Auto Strop”) still has the instruction leaflet inside. It’s got a Bakelite brother which does not live on top of the bathroom cabinet, but which I wanted to show you anyway. This one still has the razor as well as the “strop”.

Since we’re on the subject of bathroom paraphernalia, a bar of Sunlight toilet soap is a must, of course. Although this particular bar is more recent, Sunlight soap was already marketed in Belgium in 1888, and in 1905 a factory, "Savonneries S.A. Lever Frères", was opened in Brussels, which was a model factory just like the one at Port Sunlight.

The disposable razor, complete with little packet of razorblades, is German made and found at a local flea market last year. 

Last but not least is our vintage roll of "Popla" toilet paper.

Popla, a Dutch brand of toilet paper, was well-known for its iconic TV ads, the earliest dating from 1964. It made use of a popular children's song with alternative lyrics which accompanied an animation film featuring a king, an emperor and an admiral, all using Popla toilet paper of course!

I 'm sure a lot of people have long forgotten the original words to the song but can still remember the lyrics to the TV ad's version.  I'm betting that any Belgian and Dutch readers are already singing along by now ...

Tuesday 7 June 2016

I'm just sitting watching flowers in the rain

It was a strange week last week and the weather being absolutely atrocious did not help. Someone should tell the weather gods that we're well in to spring by now! On Monday, it was raining heavily all day, so much so that part of the high street in our well and truly landlocked village was flooded. Not that I noticed, as I was at work, where I didn't even venture outside during lunch break.

Although things improved from Tuesday onwards, it was still dreary and overcast. Time to be cheered up by the tail-end of the sales at Think Twice.

This is what I bought for € 1 a piece:

First up is this pastel-coloured summer dress with sprigs of flowers in blue, aqua and purple, which I accessorized with lilac and purple. And a little posy of wilted Cosmos!

These two handbags both needed some cleaning. The cream one is a little worse for wear but will therefore come in handy when I need a summer bag which is not too precious. Oh, stop all those excuses, will you Ann! You just couldn't resist buying it at that crazy price!

I really should do something about the handbags, as I am running out of space.

Can you believe this gorgeous psychedelic print maxi was also just € 1? It has a label which says "Nicole Bernard, Paris". Sounds posh, doesn't it? I couldn't find anything about it on the Internet, though. But I felt fabulous posing in it, so who cares, really?

If you are wondering what I'm doing in that first picture, I was actually trying to put some flower(s), more specifically, a little Fuchsia bell, in my hair.

My final purchase was this pale yellow polka dotted dress, which I fell in love with on the spot. It was missing a button, so I replaced the lot with much nicer ones which were in my stash. They came from a high street shop blouse, which fell apart. I knew they would serve their purpose one day when I salvaged those buttons.

I wore the dress on Sunday to go to town. We went to a barbecue at the care home where my friend's mother Lydia is living. While the barbecue itself was absolutely fine, we escaped when they were about to start the "entertainment" (silly cabaret singer with clownish false eyelashes, anyone?) and took Lydia into town for a drink.

Starting from top left, here's Lydia with my friend Princess Inez, our friends Kris and Marnix, Inez's daughter Isabelle and her girlfriend Anke, and why: here's Jos and me as well.

I have to point out that Jos, in continuation of the seaside theme of one of my previous posts, is wearing a wonderful sailing boat print shirt!

The café we went to, now called Gustav, is very sumptious and has long been connected with Antwerp's opera, with which it is sharing a building.

It had been a warm and humid day and a thunderstorm had been predicted. Sure enough, by the time we got home it was raining yet again.

Lately, I have received some lovely comments about our garden from my blogging friends. Don't be deceived though, as I am only showing you the nice bits. It is all a bit wild and unkempt and I'm not joking when I'm saying it's a jungle. But the local wildlife loves it, and so does Phoebe.

We adopted Phoebe, who was found among stray cats, just over 7 years ago. The organization who picked her up thought she was domesticated and put her up for adoption. She was probably dumped by her previous owners and she certainly had a hard time surviving among the more experienced strays. Even after all those years, she still is quite a scaredy-cat and never ever leaves our garden.

She is actually quite a posh cat. She doesn't have a cat-flap. Oh no, Madam has her own doorbell! There is a sensor right next to our back door and when she comes to the door, the portable doorbell starts playing, very appropriately, the Pink Panther theme, accompanied by a veritable light show.

It can be quite annoying if she decides to hang around the back door with no intention of coming in. Believe me, you'll never want to hear that Pink Panther tune again ...

Friday 3 June 2016

I never promised you a rose garden

Last weekend was a quiet one. We didn't go charity shopping on Saturday and although there were a few local flea markets on Sunday, the weather was too unstable for the outdoor one and we didn't fancy the one being held indoors, which we have visited before and which can be a bit hit and miss.

On Saturday, the weather was fine, and we were happy doing some pottering around the house and garden.

It was warm enough to have lunch outside at our little table amid the lushness of the garden, which is at its peak this time of year.

There is plenty going on in the garden. No roses though!

It looks like we will be getting a bumper crop of gooseberries this year. They are the red variety, ripening to a sumptuous wine red, so they are nowhere near ready for picking yet.

Our inherited Cotoneaster bush, still going strong after all these years, is positively alive with the buzzing of all kind of bees, who seem to be strongly attracted to its rather nondescript little flowers.

Look at that pretty snail hiding under the Hydrangea leaves, quite sleepy now but waiting for the cover of night to start chomping its way through our precious greenery.

On the bottom left is my dad's cat Zebedee. Isn't he a cutie?
Our Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) haven chosen the company of our pot-grown Oregano and are discarding their furry bonnets one by one to show off their pretty orange faces. They offer a welcome change of diet for the bees.

We only ventured outside our leafy domain (quite a euphemism for a garden measuring only about 4,50 by 12 metres) for a quick visit to the garden centre, where we bought some Lavender, Million Bells to put in our pink plastic hanger and a pot of pink Cosmos.

For the Lavender, we chose the Hidcote variety, which is compact and has lovely dark purple flowers. We have massed them in a big terracotta planter on our windowsill, where they will - hopefully - act as a natural air freshener to mask the musty smell which comes from our unpleasant neighbour's house whenever he opens his back door. This variety also reminds us of our visit to Hidcote Manor near Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds in 2007. Oh my, can it really be already nine years ago?

I wore flower-print dresses on both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday's was a multi-coloured Karelia dress printed with a meadow full of flowers.
I added a raffia belt and some blue beads which echoed the splashes of blue in the dress.

I chose flowers for Sunday's dress as well, this one a pink, blue and tan print, accessorized with a blue vinyl belt and a string of small light blue beads.

Flowers also feature on the two dresses I bought last Thursday at Think Twice, who were once again having one of their sales on. While out shopping with my best friend Princess Inez, this is what I found.

This pretty blue, purple and green striped dress has a multitude of trailing flowers at its hem. I already wore it to work, with a green belt and birds brooch and some pink beads. I found the navy handbag at the same time. Both were € 4.

The second dress is this new-to-me one from retro label Hearts & Roses. I don't usually do retro dresses but this one was too pretty to leave behind and fit me perfectly to boot. Seriously, at € 4, it would have been rude not to snap it up.

On Sunday, our pottering was mainly done inside the house because of the weather. I finished some long-overdue repairs on a dress, did some ironing (!) and cuddled up on the sofa with this lot:

Not long now ...