Friday 29 July 2016

There beneath the blue suburban skies

This post was going to be all about last weekend's adventures and finds but alas! it wasn't to be.
With only a couple of things found at Blender Vintage Shop to show you, and Jos having caught a kind of summer flu and thus scuppering the weekend's charity shopping and flea market plans, I was a bit at a loss for this post's theme.

As I was having the blues, I stood in front of my open wardrobe just to look at my dresses, which usually is the best therapy in the world!

Although I profess not to have a favourite colour, I was nevertheless struck by the amount of blue my wardrobe contains. In fact, a whole section of it is dedicated to nothing but blue, ranging from delicate powder blue to navy.

I am often told that blue suits me and compliments the colour of my eyes and when I see photos of myself wearing blue, I must admit that there is some truth in this.

Blue was my favourite colour as a child and I remember having a blue swimsuit and winter coat. I actually have pictures of me wearing both, but as they are in black and white, they are quite useless for the purpose of this post!

When I was three, my dad, who was a carpenter, made me a doll's wardrobe and bed, which he painted light blue. After I was done with them, they were inherited by my sister, who is ten years younger, and eventually the little wardrobe ended up in her own daughter's room.
When my niece outgrew it, I was able to rescue it from the dump just in the nick of time. It is now living in our kitchen and it is just the right size for all those small kitchen odds and ends.

The blue paint has rubbed off in places, but I just love having this chunk of childhood memory in my everyday life!

When I was six and in first grade, I had a blue dress with flower trim at the collar. This dress was made by my grandmother, Angelica the dressmaker's daughter, as indeed were most of my clothes at the time.

Hurray for school photographers, as here's a class photograph in full colour, taken in first grade, in which I am wearing the dress in question. As I'm the only girl in blue, I'm sure you will be able to pick me out immediately!

In honour of the blue theme there seemed to be going on by now, I wore blue dresses on both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday's dress was a turquoise short-sleeved one, with a tie at the neck.

Now, turquoise is a colour I am often drawn to. However, being slightly colour blind, manifesting itself in a problem differentiating between certain shades of green and blue, turquoise is a particularly tricky one for me.

In colloquial Flemish, the colour is sometimes called apppelblauw-zeegroen, which translates as "apple blue, sea green", which in fact sums up the whole problem for me!

Sunday's dress was a sleeveless midi navy one with light blue and white spots and a pleated skirt.

I shied away from navy for many years, as it reminded me of school uniforms, which in Belgium are quite often navy blue. And I didn't even have to wear uniform at my school!

When we had new windows fitted in our kitchen two years ago, after long deliberation and many paint test pots, we chose a turquoise-y blue (see, I'm being very careful here) as the new colour for our kitchen walls.

After it was finished, I posted this photo on Facebook with the caption "Kitchen Blues".
One of my friends commented it looked more like kitchen greens. But it is blue, isn't it?

I guess he meant the dress ...

Oh, the confusion!

Apart from the walls, there are quite a few blue items on display in our kitchen, collected from flea markets and charity shops over the years.

There's a shelf containing white and blue ceramics, including a Cornishware bowl and salt shaker as well as a Blue Domino breakfast set.

The top shelf of the same unit contains a set of blue and white canisters identifying their contents in French.  On the bottom left is a Boch sugar bowl, made in Belgium, and on the right a set of vintage Pyroflam dishes, made in the Netherlands.

Dotted around the kitchen are an English-made BEL cream maker, and some vintage Tala items like this cook's measure and icing set.

This gorgeously decorated tin was used for storing Brinta, a Dutch brand of breakfast porridge.

Further tins include one from Dutch brand Verkade, which used to contain ice cream wafers and a rare Smith's Potato Crisps one.

This tin tray advertising Wright's Biscuits and picturing their famous mascot, Mischief, is a favourite, in spite of it being a little worse for wear.

I love vintage packaging and these packets of soaps and starch are part of another little collection.
Typically for Belgium, their contents are mentioned in both Flemish and French.

Finally, another blue favourite which lives in a display cabinet in our dining room.

This Heatmaster tea set, probably dating from the late 1940s or early 1950s, was bought in a charity shop in Aberaeron last year. We'd spotted it on a Saturday but didn't buy it, which we regretted by Sunday. We were lucky that it was still there when we went back for it on Monday!

Now I'm ready for a more action packed weekend, starting with a round of the charity shops tomorrow ...

Tuesday 26 July 2016

She's a dedicated follower of fashion

Last Thursday, the 21st of July, was Belgium's national holiday and so we had a welcome day off.  The majority of people in Belgium (me included) couldn't care less about what the holiday is actually for. Patriotism isn't exactly strong in Belgium: only the odd Belgian flag is being spotted in the streets, and some of those are leftovers from Belgium's passage in EURO 2016!

As it's a holiday in the middle of summer, when the weather is fine people tend to flock to our country's meagre 67 km of coastline, resulting in endless queues on the motorways. 

No visit to the seaside for us, though. No, we had much more important things to do.  We drove to Blender Vintage Shop, which sadly is currently holding its final sales before closing down altogether, to collect an eagerly awaited new addition to our household.

Meet Twiggy!
Although there seem to be quite a few of these so-called Twiggy mannequin heads for sale (and a lot of them at crazy prices!), I wasn't able to find much actual information about them online.

It seems that in spite of their 1960s look, they date from the 1970s. They were supposedly produced by a French company called Huard, and were used by upmarket French boutiques to display headpieces and scarves. In spite of clearly being based on the iconic and quintessentially British Twiggy, I do indeed detect a certain French "je-ne-sais-quoi" about her.

I'd spent the morning rearranging the mantlepiece in our second bedroom-cum-office-cum-boudoir to make space for her and here she is, happily sharing the space with my other bits and bobs!

She isn't, however, the only Twiggy I own. 

In 1968, Mattel (of Barbie fame) produced a Twiggy doll,  the first Mattel doll fashioned after a celebrity.

She had the same body size as Francie and Casey, dolls introduced by Mattel in 1966 and 1967. 
These dolls were smaller and less buxom than Barbie in order to wear the Mod fashions which were all the rage back then.

Twiggy's namesake was sold in a yellow, blue and green striped mini dress and yellow go-go boots.

Although Twiggy could already choose from the extensive wardrobe produced for Francie and Casey, four tagged outfits were created exclusively for her.

During the time I was collecting Mattel dolls, I was lucky to be able to acquire all four of the outfits, although only two of them are complete with all their little accessories. All of them are quite hard to find.

I got my Twiggy doll to earn her keep and made her model all the outfits for you. 

First up is Twiggy-Do's, which is one of my complete sets: a ribbed knit sleeveless dress accented with green and white bands. 

Accessories included green and white beads, a yellow vinyl shoulder bag and yellow knee socks and shoes.

The next outfit is called Twiggy Turnouts, a mad mini dress in a metallic fabric, with a multicolour striped bodice and silvertone skirt, accented with a wide silver belt at the hip. 

She is supposed to wear silver go-go boots, which alas are missing, but I think the short grey boots she is wearing aren't too bad either. The outfit also came with a swimsuit, of which unfortunately I only have the bottoms.

Twigster consists of a wild yellow and orange print knitted dress combined with a scarf. As it was a hot day, Twiggy begged me to take it off quickly, though. 

Again, the short orange boots she is wearing are a substitute, and the plastic case, which is supposed to contain her make-up kit, is empty.

Finally there is the outfit named Twiggy Gear, which is the second one I was able to buy complete. Twiggy loves wearing this jumpsuit, which has a striped knitted bodice and white vinyl trousers. It closes at the back with a real zip, and is accented at the dropped waist by a blue vinyl belt.

But that's not all! Look at her pink hat with blue vinyl trim, and her cute blue shoes!

The outfit also came with a plastic camera, which I attached to Twiggy's hand with a small clear rubber band. 

Now why didn't Mattel think of providing it with a strap? Nobody just has their camera in their hands, have they? Especially not a camera of that size ...

Finally, I'll show you what I wore to collect Twiggy on Thursday: a sleeveless brown on white box-pleated Tricel dress, accompanied by a white vinyl belt. The dress does have a self fabric belt, but I didn't think it looked right.

The brooch I'm wearing is a vintage ceramic one.

I also wore vintage light blue plastic beads, a white plastic ring and my Miz Mooz sandals which I bought in the sales a couple of years ago.  I paid a silly price for them as there was a difference in colour between the two, which was easily rectified by putting the darkest one out in the sun for a couple of days.

For some reason I think that my dress wouldn't have gone amiss in Mattel's Twiggy collection, although I'm sure Twiggy would have worn it a lot shorter!

Friday 22 July 2016

Memories are made of this

Welcome to the last stretch of our Welsh holiday!

By now, it was the Monday of the second week, and as the sun was shining for a change, we decided to visit the National Trust owned Stackpole Estate in South Pembrokeshire. This beautiful estate comprises 12 square kilometres of farmland, woodland, lakes, beaches, and cliffs.

The freshwater lakes, known as the Lily Ponds, or the Bosherston Lakes, are man-made and were created over 150 years ago by the damming of three narrow valleys by the earls of Cawdor, then owners of the Stackpole Estate.

Stackpole Court itself is no longer there, having been demolished in 1963 to avoid having to pay taxes on the empty building, leaving behind only the estate's outbuildings, parkland and beaches.

From the car park at Bosherston, there is a lovely walk around (and over) the lakes, which in June are carpeted by water lilies.

Within minutes, we were joined by the local wildlife, including a cheeky little robin and a heron treating the lakes as a fast-food restaurant. Oh, and there's me as well ...

A little diversion and an uphill scramble were rewarded by a bird's-eye view of the lakes.

After about 30 minutes the landscape changed dramatically as we were getting closer to the sea and eventually the beach at Broadhaven South came into view.

The rock which beckons tantalizingly in the distance is Pinnacle Rock, also known, for obvious reasons, as Church Rock. Just as I was about to take a picture, a heavyset couple dressed in hideous beachwear plonked themselves right in the middle of my frame.

After our picnic, we joined the coast path climbing away from the beach for a closer look at Church Rock.

Next day was a bit of a letdown, as it started raining as soon as we had reached our destination, the Georgian seaside town of Aberaeron in Cardiganshire.

After a car picnic without a view (unless our windscreen wipers were going at full speed), we drove to the nearby National Trust property of Llanerchaeron, a 18th century Welsh gentry estate which has survived virtually unaltered.

The house was built by John Nash in 1795.

Unfortunately, I couldn't take a proper photograph of the outside, as it was covered in scaffolding.

Exploring the house, servant's quarters and stables kept us occupied (and dry!) for a couple of hours.

By then the sun had come out and we were able to pay a short visit to the farm buildings and walled garden.

On Wednesday the weather was truly horrendous, too wet even to properly enjoy some retail therapy in the pleasant town of Carmarthen. Needless to say, no photographs were taken.

Thursday proved a little better (it could hardly be worse, couldn't it), but the weather was still very unstable.

We opted for a short coast path walk starting from nearby Ceibwr Bay, in West Pembrokeshire, also National Trust owned.

Ceibwr Bay is a tiny inlet of rocks surrounded by tall cliffs and it's a really wild and remote place, with amazing folds in the rock strata in the cliffs.

One mile to the south is The Witches Cauldron, which we decided to walk to.
Pwll-y-Wrach or The Witches Cauldron is a large collapsed cave forming a hole in the clifftop, where in rough weather the sea comes surging into, thereby giving it its name. When we were there a couple of years ago, the weather was mild and there was only a tranquil pool of water in the cauldron. Now, in spite of the weather, it was virtually empty.

It had started drizzling by then, so we walked back in a hurry, but by the time we were back at Ceibwr Bay it was dry again, just in time for our picnic with a view.

Friday was our last day and we were starting to feel quite melancholic. The ultimate picnic with a view was called for and we drove to a famous viewpoint overlooking Poppit Sands at Gwbert. Although we were only the second car arriving at the car park, we certainly weren't the last. It was clearly the place of choice for local people to have lunch in, and with a view like that, who can blame them?

After lunch, we drove to Poppit Sands itself, at the opposite side of the Teifi Estuary, for a final walk along the beach.

It was quite blustery and with a temperature of only 17°C not what you would expect of a summer day at the end of June. As you can see, the beach was virtually empty and the lifeguards certainly didn't have a very busy day.

With one more backward glance at the sea, all too soon it was time to pack our bags and say goodbye for another year, leaving behind our footsteps and taking away lots of lovely memories.

-- The End --

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Painting the town green

... and you can take that quite literally!

On Saturday, they were measuring out and marking the pitches for Sunday's flea market, to be held in the village streets, in green spray paint!

By coincidence, I was wearing green that day: a short-sleeved button-down dress in a stripy fabric featuring different shades of green. While the stripes run vertically on the bodice, the ones on the skirt run diagonally, creating chevrons at the back and front.

I combined the dress with various red accessories, mainly so that I could wear, and show you, my new red block-heeled vintage shoes. The heels had a few scuff marks, but these were easily removed. Apart from that, the shoes are in almost perfect condition and are quite comfortable too.

The clear perspex ring, enlosing an air bubble and swirls of green, yellow and blue, was found at a charity shop a couple of months ago. The bangle and bracelet were cheap retail finds.

We went charity shopping on Saturday, but that proved to be rather disappointing, so we stopped at the garden centre for some colourful plants to replace the ones that did not survive our holiday.

We got a pot of lemony yellow Surfinias, reddish pink Cosmos with feathery foliage, cheerful yellow Coreopsis and some Echinacea, which were greatly appreciated by the local population of bees.

As we needed to make space for the pots, we started cutting away some of the ivy which is running rampant in our garden. While we were doing so, we noticed that the arch, which leads to the area next to our kitchen, was sagging. It was a cheap metal one which we bought many years ago, and it had rusted through in a couple of places.

The arch with the Clematis montana in better days

It was carrying the weight of a tangled mess of  Clematis montana which had unfortunately died on us a year or two ago and was now being colonized by the ivy. There was nothing for it but to demolish the whole thing and it is unbelievable how much lighter that part of our garden is with the arch out of the way.

Sunday was the day of the flea market, which was being held in our street as well as the surrounding ones. The people who had the pitch in front of our house had parked their car on the pavement in such a way that we had problems getting out of our front door. We'll make sure to have our own pitch there next year!

I was again wearing  green: a knitted top with slightly puffy short sleeves and embroidered flowers in white and pink, which I combined with a brown flowery maxi skirt I bought for € 1 at Think Twice last week.

My accessories included a bracelet featuring an array of Saints, an orange textured plastic bangle, some amber beads and a vintage rattan handbag with a metal clasp and rattan cross-body strap.

The day started out cloudy but it was very humid, with occasional bursts of sunshine. At one point it was looking like rain, but fortunately the weather gods were lenient this time.

Jos's youngest daughter, who inherited the "thrifting" gene from her dad came all the way from her hometown, 14 kilometers away, on her e-bike, and my friend Princess Inez arrived on her bike as well.

Look at Princess Inez's cute white summer gloves, which she was inspired to wear by Jessica, whose blog she is an avid reader of.

I made my first buys within minutes: two fans for € 0,50 each, one of them a black lacy Spanish beauty.

My next find was a new-to-me red and white polka dot blouse with pussy bow, which you can see me trying on in one of the above collages.

I actually got the dark blue plastic bird brooch for free!

My other finds were:

- A pair of retro-style Clarks shoes, hardly worn, for € 7,-.  In fact, during lunch break today I saw a similar pair of Clarks shoes prices € 110,- which means I've saved a whopping  € 103,- !  Not that I'd ever pay that much for a pair of shoes ...

- A rack for storing pots of herbs, from the 1970s Emsa range we are collecting, complete with original pots

- A cute toffee tin with some cheerful Nasturtiums on the lid

- An orange "apple" ice bucket, which of course I will not be using for ice-cubes, as that would be far too obvious! No, I will use it to store some of my ever-expanding collection of jewellery

After a lazy lunch back at ours, we did a final round of the market. The sun had come out in the meantime and it was getting to be quite hot.

Look at us ladies of a certain age, fanning away to keep the hot flushes at bay ...

Since the hot weather has decided to stay with us for a couple more days, I have already made good use of that fan - my personal portable air conditioning - although I must say I've been getting some strange look on the bus.

In my next post, I will be giving you the final installment of our wet Welsh holiday, before it slowly recedes into the mists of time.