Friday 16 June 2017

Packing up my troubles

Yesterday was my last day at work, which I managed to wrap up nicely, in spite of the hurdles thrown up in the last couple of weeks.

With our packing done and dusted this morning, we are now free to enjoy the rest of the day in peace and mentally prepare ourselves for our journey tomorrow.

While Jos has been known to throw a couple of thing into his suitcase at the very last moment (and would forget some crucial item if I weren't there to offer some guidance), I usually plan my holiday wardrobe well in advance.

In fact, the suitcase containing my clothes was packed almost two weeks ago, although I must admit I've taken out and added the odd item (or two) in the meantime.

Obviously, I am taking a couple of dresses. These two stretchy King Louie frocks, which I've had for many years, are super comfortable and I even rode a bike wearing one of them while on holiday in Belgium's west country last September. Their other advantage is that they can be stuffed in a suitcase without any fear of crumpling.

Our cottage does have an iron and ironing board, but I've never used them in all the years we've been going there.

The rest of my wardrobe will be dark denim jeans and a pair of red trousers to offer some variety, there's a selection of differently coloured lightweight cardigans and, apart from the peignoir (see previous post) to waft around in, I'll also be taking my Phoebe PJ bottoms.

I'm also taking a small case with accessories: scarves, necklaces and hair flowers to be used as brooches.

The vintage factor will be provided by a - large! - selection of tops, mainly vintage ones picked up at Think Twice, as well as a couple of new-to-me tops from flea markets and charity shops.

As we travel by car, and have oodles of space, there is no need to travel light, which is an absolute relief. How else would I be able to whittle down my wardrobe to just a few items for a holiday in Wales ... ?

The weather got progressively warmer and sunnier this week, and these are some of the outfits I wore to work.

New-to-me navy skirt combined with a cotton polka dot top from Think Twice. And the red shoes, which won't be going to Wales with me after all.

1950s style green printed rayon frock (Think Twice), combined with pink belt and beads and my most comfortable pair of Clark's wedge sandals.

Same sandals again, but this time I'm wearing a sailing boat printed Seasalt frock bought in Cardigan a couple of years ago. The orange piping called for orange accessories: belt, beads and bangle.

As we didn't have electricity at work for most of the day on Tuesday, I even had the time to squeeze in some last minute shopping and a short visit to MoMu, Antwerp's fashion museum.

In the gallery, and free of charge, there was a small exhibition of dresses by legendary Belgian fashion designer Ann Salens (1940-1994), who won acclaim for her colourful knitted and crocheted "bird of paradise" dresses, made from silk and artificial silk, which she sold at her shop in Antwerp's Wolstraat opened in the late 1960s.

Part of the Antwerp avant-garde scene in the 1960s, she was a natural talent, who refused to become commercial.

The dresses' former owner, who gifted them to the museum, was the female half of iconic Belgian showbizz duo, Nicole & Hugo, who started out in 1970. While not a fan of their music, their - often matching - stage outfits were something else altogether, and their 1973 passage at the Eurovision Song Contest did not go unnoticed, if only for their flamboyant purple Las Vegas style outfits.

The dresses on display all date from the 1970s and although there were only a few, they were presented as if in a red velvet lined black box, on black faceless models, which really made them stand out.

Afterwards, I sauntered back to the office, and passed the magnificent baroque St-Carolus Borromeus church, built between 1615 and 1621.

The square in front of it (which used to be the haunt of Antwerp's punks in the 1980s) was virtually empty for once, so I couldn't resist taking some photos with my smartphone's camera.

After having played the tourist in my own town, I am now ready to be a tourist in Wales. Although, after that many visits, I might be considered as a bit of a semi-local?

So, goodbye for now. Or as they say in Welsh: Hwyl!

See you in two weeks' time!

Monday 12 June 2017

Reds are sweet and greens are sour

Although it was in no way deliberate, there seemed to be a red theme going on this weekend.

On Saturday, I wore a red Diolen dress bought from Think Twice two years ago.

I only realized afterwards that it was the dress I wore when travelling to Wales last year.

The dress has a green and white flower print, which was the inspiration for my accessories: a green vinyl belt with round buckle (Think Twice), a string of green beads (Veritas, a haberdashery and accessories chain), a white vintage bangle (charity shop) and a red bracelet bought on the high street.

The bracelet is one of my favourites, reminding me of those gorgeous Venetian Millefiori paperweights.

The ring I wore is a white metal, one size fits all one, and has a green oval shaped stone mottled with pink. If I remember correctly, I found it at a flea market.

I wore a pair of new-to-me red shoes, from Spanish label Brako Anatomics. They came from Oxfam, which I visited after I'd been to the hairdresser's for a cut and colour on Wednesday afternoon. They still had their original price tag of € 105,- but they were mine for € 10.

They looked like candidates for Wales, so I tried them out to go charity shopping on Saturday. The jury's still out on them though, as I ended up with red toes and heels after wearing them.

As an aside, I was rather chuffed when Kristel, one of the volunteers at Oxfam, who is following my blog, greeted me with "Hello, Princess!".

You have probably noticed my hat, and might have wondered if it was new. But no, it's the hat I found at the antiques market at the castle back in April.

While popping into town, I came across some cheap elastic hairbands with flowers, and thought they might make great hat bands. And they do. And I can change them according to my mood, too!

On Saturday afternoon, we visited a charity shop near Antwerp's airport, one we only visit about once a year.

I was in luck, as I found a belt and some jewellery.

The mottled yellow bangle is probably Bakelite!

I also found a gorgeous crepe jacket, which I will be showing you later in this post.

The red theme continued on Sunday. The forecast was for humid weather, so I pulled a cotton button through vintage skirt out of my wardrobe. It's midi length and printed with white daisies on a black background, with three rows of white rick rack near the hem. And pockets!

I combined it with a red top (bought in the sales a couple of years ago), a wide red belt, a string of black and white vintage beads (both Think Twice, as is the skirt), and black Clarks wedge sandals (Oxfam).

This chap and his friends, together with a cheeky pair of blackbirds, have been plundering our white currant bush for the last couple of weeks. They didn't seem to mind that the currants were still a bit greenish, but we did, so until now, we were unable to pick our fair share.

Since they are slowly beginning to ripen, becoming almost transluscent, with a faint blush, they are finally ready to eat. Or at least, some of them are. We managed to pick enough to add to our breakfast fruit salad for a couple of days.

Another one of our garden heroes, a red Pelargonium, has survived winter in its pot which is hanging from our little potting shed. It has finally developed lots of flower buds, some of which are already showing a hint of red. Maybe we get to see the first of its flowers before we leave?

While our little garden table was still firmly in the shade, I took a sewing project outside.

I am going to take this peignoir, which I dug out from the bottom of our linen chest (I had forgotten all about it), to Wales, but the buttons needed replacing, as they were far too small and slippery and refused to stay closed (you can see one of the original buttons next to card with the "new" ones).

These slightly faded rose coloured vintage buttons from my stash are bigger and a perfect match for the peignoir's blowsy flowers and the ribbon decorating its cute heart-shaped pocket.

While our winter pansies refuse to give up flowering, the showy flower heads in our hydrangea are slowly taking on a bluish hue, almost as if shouting: never mind those silly little flowers, look at us!

In a shady corner, lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is feeling quite at home, with its soft green scalloped leaves framing frothy yellow-green flowers.

Finally, here is the crepe jacket I found on our charity shopping trip.

It is from King Louie, and still for sale on their webshop for € 99,95.

Guess what I paid? € 4!

With its great cut and flattering shape (I especially love its slightly flouncy back), I'm sure it's going to be a wardrobe staple this summer!

Thursday 8 June 2017

A bevy of bargains

Last weekend was another extended one, with Monday off as well, which was very welcome as, after the week I'd had, I was knackered!

If the weeks heading up to my holidays are always a stressful time at the office, a full system breakdown lasting several days didn't exactly make things any better.

It was a good thing Think Twice was in the middle of another one of their famous sales, so that I could indulge in some guilt free retail therapy.

Over several lunch breaks, I visited each of their three shops in Antwerp, finding bargains in all of them.

First up, another cotton frock. At this rate, I shall have to change the name of my blog very soon!

It's handmade, with the former owner's name tag sewn in (she was called Anne!), and with its funky print it did its best to cheer me up when I wore it to work on Friday.

The dress and I weren't looking our best when we got home, so after washing and *sigh!* ironing it, I let Angelica do the honours.

Then there were two cheerful floral print skirts ...

... and a wayward navy and white pleated one!

This groovy blouse will be joining my holiday wardrobe!

Finally, there was this olive green bag made out of the softest of leathers.

I was too tired to do much on Saturday, so I pottered around the house and ticked a few items off my pre-holiday to-do list.

I chose this sunny yellow and green dress, which I charity shopped back in March, to which I added a yellow belt with a round buckle. My jewellery consisted of a necklace made of small yellow discs (charity shopped) and a yellow plastic bird brooch bought in Cardigan a couple of years ago.

A small yellow handbag completed my outfit.

My hair was due for a cut and colour session (another thing to be ticked off my hectic schedule) so it was looking a bit lanky and lacklustre. I didn't want to wash it just yet (my hairdresser says I have to restrain myself), so I added a hair clip in a bid to draw away attention from the hair itself.

We went on a half-hearted charity shopping trip, visiting only one shop, and not even featuring a walk in the nearby park.

After trawling the clothing aisles, picking up a shirt for Jos and two green cardies for me, I was prepared to call it a day, when I spotted this  gorgeous straw handbag.  Expecting it to have been produced in China or similar, I was amazed to see a Made in Italy tag inside. It's a little out of shape, so I've filled it with empty carrier bags until it starts behaving again. At € 2, it was a steal!

On Sunday, we were in for a treat: a huge flea market with over 700 stalls was taking place in a neighbouring village. While the main part is held on some recreational fields, there are many more stalls to be explored in the surrounding streets.

The weather was perfect for it (last year it was bitterly cold), so I wore a floral two piece and turquoise accessories. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds, and whenever she disappeared it was a bit chilly, so that I was obliged to play an on and off game with a turquoise cardigan.

The best part of the flea market is on the playing fields, offering a good variety of stalls. 

We spotted these Bakelite chocolate moulds, and as they were only € 3 each, we chose two, one with four little acorns and another one with two seahorses. According to the seller, they date from the 1950s.

Although we do not actively collect Bakelite, we pick up the odd piece now and then. Apart from a couple of Bakelite radios and some kitchenalia, we have a some smaller items on display on a shelf of a 1930s cabinet.

These small plaster heads were only € 3 for the two and although slightly damaged, they were too good to be left behind.

It might surprise you that I only bought one brooch, but isn't it a beauty?

I also picked up these two new-to-me tops for € 2 each, which will be perfect for Wales, and which have gone straight into my suitcase. With their retro look, they will cheer up a pair of ordinary jeans no end.

My final purchase, also for € 2, was this vintage dress. This too has gone into my suitcase. I already own a winter dress with the same print but in different colours.

On Monday, I sorted out the rest of my holiday wardrobe and packed it away, ready for take off!

Not long now: just one more week at the office where, I'm glad to report, computer problems have finally been sorted!

Sunday 4 June 2017

If the shoe fits

It's not what you think!

I haven't gone mad in a shoe shop, nor have the sales started early. There wasn't even a charity shop or flea market involved in this major shoe haul!

No, these five pairs of new-to-me shoes were a gift from a friend, who was doing a cull and was getting rid of those shoes she was no longer able to wear.

Lucky for me, we have the same size (4, or 37 here in Belgium).

I particularly love the sandals and the sling backs (which, would you believe it, were my friend's wedding shoes!), and I finally own a pair of gold shoes now!

In order to fit them all in, I cleared some space by getting rid of a bag full of boring shoes I'm never wearing.

Meanwhile, summer arrived with a bang, as we were having a mini heatwave last weekend. It was an extended weekend for most here in Belgium, as schools were closed on Friday after Thursday's public holiday, and lots of people had the day off as well.

As is tradition on days like these, the roads to the coast were chock a block with traffic (the papers said that over 500.000 flocked to Belgium's 67 km of coastline), but the nearest we went to the seaside is this 1950s souvenir from Knokke, Belgium's poshest seaside resort, found at a charity shop.

On Saturday, we started the day with breakfast at our little garden table, enjoying the quiet and relative coolness of the morning.

I wasn't wearing polyester for once, but rather 100% cotton!

This vintage handmade dress screams 1970s, with its cheerful flower print in red, yellow, orange, olive green and white on the darkest of brown backgrounds.

The dress was picked up at Think Twice, and the moment I laid eyes on it, I was willing it to fit, as I was head over heels in love. But in spite of its small waist, closing with a side zipper, it's got a wide skirt that effortlessly skims over my hips.

Its pale yellow rick-rack, which can be seen peeping out from the square neckline and which has been sewn about 15 centimeters above the hem, has a mind of its own, and no amount of ironing gets it to lay flat. As if it isn't bad enough that the dress itself has to be ironed. Oh, the things one does for love!

I'd piled on the accessories, and was wearing yellow beads, with a cluster of beads at the bottom (vintage shop), an orange plastic ring and yellow, green and red bangles (charity shops and flea markets). The leather look green flower corsage was a retail purchase in last year's sales.

Oh, and I wore my new-to-me gold shoes, a comfortable pair of ballerinas.

The high temperatures, which do not really agree with either of us, forced us to take things at an even more leisurely pace.

While it was still relatively cool, I walked into town to pick up some essentials, returning via our village's weekly market where I was tempted by a pot of marguerites.

Then we just sat and enjoyed the garden ...

... and its wildlife.

A splash of orange is provided by the intricately shaped Nasturtium flowers and the first of the delicate, papery thin Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica), who seem to be chosing a different place to settle every year.

The ground covering Geranium, with its host of pink flowers, has decided to keep the gooseberries company, while they slowly ripen to a ruby red.

In the afternoon, we paid a brief visit to our local charity shop.

We were overjoyed that it had air conditioning, so while Jos was having a free cup of coffee, I had a look around, and bought this red polka dotted white dress.

In fact, I already saw this dress a couple of weeks ago and while it was a perfect fit, I noticed a stain, which I wasn't sure I'd be able to remove.

As luck would have it, I'd forgotten my packet of make-up remover tissues I usually carry for the purpose, so I made sure I had them with me this time. I was able to fade the stain a little, so I took a chance, thinking that I could always hide the stain with a brooch or flower corsage. And the best thing is that it was now half price, as they were having a sale!

I guess good things come to those who wait ...

I'm happy to say that after washing the dress, the stain has disappeared completely!

Other recent charity shopping finds, which I haven't yet been showing you, include two blue scarves, a long-sleeved shirt and a lightweight cotton blouse sprinkled with flowers.

There were some books too:

The book on Art Nouveau and Jugendstil, a heavy 425 page coffee table tome, is well worth the € 8,50 we paid for it.

The delightful book on the right promises a guided tour of ten of literature's most famous houses. There's Dorian Gray's house, for instance, but also the House of the Seven Gables and Baskerville Hall.

Oh, and Manderley ...

"We turned the last corner, and so came to Manderley.  Yes, there it was, the Manderley I had expected, the Manderley of my picture post-card long ago.  A thing of grace and beauty, exquisite and faultless, lovelier even than I had ever dreamed, built in its hollow of smooth grassland and mossy lawns, the terraces sloping to the gardens, and the gardens to the sea."
~ Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

... which puts me in mind of our first holiday together in 1995, when we spent a sun drenched week or so in Cornwall. 

Such wonderful memories!