Friday 27 April 2018

A brief foray into Summer

And then it was Summer.

No slowly easing into Spring by getting gradually warmer day by day.

No shedding your warm Winter coat for a lighter one, then switching to a Spring jacket until finally, one day in late May perhaps, you're leaving the house wearing just a cardigan, returning home bare armed, the sun caressing bits of skin which haven't seen the light of day for months.

Not this year! No, April, fickle and cruel at the best of times, pulled off the worst April Fools' joke of all by letting us believe it was June already, then making a U-turn back to Mid-March.

The garden's the jungle it usually only becomes in June, but still with the fresh greens of early Spring.

Plants which were late as a result of the long and harsh Winter seemed to have caught up overnight and people were already flocking to garden centres, prematurely stocking up on Summer annuals. Look at them all shivering in window boxes and hanging baskets, poor things!

Yes, Dove Cottage has a tiny pond, a.k.a. Phoebe's giant drinking bowl

But I'm digressing, as I still have to tell you about last weekend and the warm Summer days that came before it.

I've been persevering with the wearing of my Summer skirts and the mixing of floral prints. 

The starting point of this outfit was an off-white skirt, which was next in line and hanging ready for wear. Its red and yellow flower print prompted my choice of a blouse. That, and the fact that the blouse's cool and lightweight fabric was just perfect for a sweltering day at the office.

It is sprinkled with small flowers in many hues, and there's pale yellow piping at the collar, sleeves, yoke and button placket, and I dare anyone not to sigh a happy sigh at the sight of it.

Accessorized with a red belt, mother-of-pearl flower posy brooch, white plastic ring and ivory coloured necklace, I felt on top of the world that day.

As a bonus, the midi length of the skirt was ideal for going tights-less for the first time as they weren't revealing too much of my still far too pale legs. 

Saturday was another scorcher which we sought shelter from in a leafy nearby park, where we picnicked and went for a short walk.

Nothing too strenuous as I'd suffered a slipped disc in my lower back earlier in the week. After a day or two of hobbling around painfully things had started to improve, but I didn't want to jinx the weekend away we have booked for ... tomorrow! 

The sight of the wooden bridge, with the lush grass dotted by bluebells and cow parsley reflected in the water, a view reminiscent of the Monet painting but minus the Water Lilies, made my heart sing with happiness.

I didn't really need the blue vintage jacket I was wearing, but I loved the contrast with the yellow of my frock so, after posing on the bridge, it was swiftly removed.

In addition to the butterfly I'd pinned to the jacket, there were quite a few real life ones flitting among the wildflowers and gorging on their life-giving nectar.

The quietness of our surroundings was suddenly broken by a gaggle of ducklings and their parents, Mum and Dad having their work cut out keeping their little flock in check.

The enchanting play area was devoid of any children, so I made myself at home in this natural wigwam, complete with tree trunk seats.

The dress I picked was charity shopped last Winter, and this was its first wear. I took the lead from the colours of the flower print by adding an orange plastic ring and chunky necklace, while the blue bits were repeated in my belt. 

The shoes were a bargain from last Summer's sales. They are flat-heeled and comfortable to wear and its closed toes saved me the bother of painting my toenails. As they are quite open at the sides, I ended up with my shoes full of bits of twigs and last year's leaves.

Fortified in body and soul, we then made our weekly trip to the charity shops.

Another remnant of the Retro Day, this vintage portable water heater cost us all of € 2,50. 

I can't remember the price of Jos's Donegal Tweed cap, but isn't the shop logo wonderful? 

We also picked up two cushions for our garden chairs, paying € 1 for the two.

These all came from our most local shop: two brightly printed chiffon scarves, a vintage apron with the most glorious of prints and a new-to-me jacket.

As I'm typing, temperatures have plummeted dramatically, and I had to dig out one of my Winter coats to wear on our extended weekend break.

Leaving you now with some garden views from better - or at least warmer! - times.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

Monday 23 April 2018


My wardrobe switch-over couldn't have come at a better time, as in the space of only a couple of days we have gone from Spring to high Summer with temperatures reaching just under 30°C.

And back to 18°C at the time of typing - but never mind, that's typical of April, isn't it? Fickle as they come. I'm sure we're in for some April showers soon!

I can't believe how lush the garden has become in only a matter of days. You can almost literally watch it grow.

Phoebe loves having her outdoor space again, with lots of places to hide in while spying on the local wildlife, or to bask in a sunny spot until it gets too hot and she's ready to move to a shadier one.

Small as our little plot is, it is still full of surprises, especially at this time of year. Take the delicate flower on the top left, a lonely survivor of the dog's tooth violet (or Erythronium) bulbs we planted many years ago. The species is called Pagoda, and it's plain to see why, as the nodding, buttery yellow flowers do resemble the tiniest of pagodas.

On the bottom right is Narcissus 'Bridal Crown', its double, creamy, yellow-hearted flowers releasing a quite intoxicating scent, especially when warmed up by the sun.

And look at the little stone dove, which in just a week's time can barely keep its head above the abundant geranium foliage.

With all the flower power going on, I felt a strong need to compete. Looking at the contents of my wardrobe, there is no denying that flower prints feature abundantly, and that they come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

So, let's retrace our steps to Sunday before last, before the temperatures soared to summery heights.

Having recently rediscovered my Summer skirts and pleading guilty to my neglect of them last Summer, I'm trying to make sure to put that right this year.

That I would be wearing my floral blazer again was a given. After all, it had been patiently waiting for me since February. I added a ceramic flower brooch which if I remember correctly came from Think Twice and chose the gorgeous rose-printed tapestry handbag I found at a flea market a couple of months ago.

I also wore Saturday's yellow booties again. They combine a traditional Western shape with feminine cut-out flowers. Cowgirl boots, perhaps?

This time, I combined the jacket and booties with a peachy pink skirt with florals in green, purple and yellow. 

I was determined to wear as many flower prints as possible, so after trying on and rejecting several tops, I chose this green fitted one (helpfully, it has a zip almost all the way down the back), with a pointy collar and turned-up short sleeves. Oh, I almost forgot: it's got a truly wild print of blowsy Summer flowers, orange being the most prominent colour.

A wide white belt did its best to keep the peace between the two totally different florals.

As if there weren't already enough flowers, I chose a blue plastic flower ring, and finished my outfit with a chiffon scarf featuring yet another flower print. You can see a detail of it on the bottom left in the collage of prints.

We were all set to go to a brunch, which unfortunately was called off at the last moment as our hosts were plagued by a stomach bug.

As a result, we found ourselves at a bit of a loose end, until I remembered there was a flea market in Antwerp, even if it was our not-so-favourite indoor one.

Jos donned his new-to-him jacket, charity shopped on Saturday. It was crying for the addition of a pocket square, so I donated one of my smaller scarves, a yellow polka dot one. Mr. Suave indeed!

The flea market itself was below average with lots of gaps between the stalls, but we hadn't expected otherwise.

However, I still managed to find a few odds and ends.

This vintage hand made Summer frock with its gorgeous green flower print and closing asymmetrically with divine green flower buttons was just € 2.

I never say no to more scarves, especially at € 1 each. The white, red and blue one with the umbrella print has a St.Michael's label.

With none of my favourite stalls present, I wasn't expecting to find interesting brooches, but I did. These two were just € 3 each. My favourite is the one on the right, featuring ... more flowers!

How could I not buy this gorgeous green wooden fan, with a different flower print on each side?

I'm leaving you for now with last Monday's outfit, when after work it was straight out to the garden to play one of Phoebe's favourite games, which involves trying to catch soap bubbles blown by me!

The green and yellow checked top, sprinkled with white flowers, was perfect for wearing the ceramic daffodil brooch I bought in Cardigan last year.

Linking with Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style as usual.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Spring fever

The sunny weather we have been graced with since last week seems to have finally snapped me out of the lethargy I've been in for the last couple of months.

Life is still a bit tough work-wise, as I'm still spending most of my days at the office on my own, and will remain doing so for the foreseeable future, but now that the days have been getting longer, temperatures have been rising, and nature has been having its annual wake-up call, at least it feels like there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

We've been quite productive, finally booking a long weekend away at the end of the month (just over a week now!), as well as browsing holiday brochures, ordering maps and booking our channel crossing for our upcoming holiday in June.

I've also been making a serious dent into my twice-yearly wardrobe switch, putting away almost all of my Winter stuff, and digging out my Summer frocks from our antique linen chest where they have been hibernating for six months

Hello, my lovelies, welcome back! It's so good to see you, and I can't wait to wear you all!

While I was sorting through my Summer stuff, I came across this skirt which I'd completely forgotten about. There's a belted blouse to go with it, but as it's a bit shapeless on me, I decided to play around with some Spring separates.

Instead of the blouse, I added a short-sleeved fine knit vintage jumper in the brightest of yellows. I've got a whole collection of them, in different colours, but in all fairness I don't wear them very often, as the weather's either too warm or too cold for them.

A thin layer of wispy clouds was playing a game with the sun on Saturday, making it just the right temperature for an April day, and so for wearing said jumper!

I tried tucking it in the skirt, but ended up wearing it out, with a wide orange belt, picking up the orange from the skirt, at my waist.

Once I got that settled, accessorizing was easy: a long, beaded necklace in the freshest of greens, a blue-rimmed brooch, bracelets in green and royal blue and a chiffon scarf in vibrant citrus shades.

I was still wearing nylons, as it wasn't that warm yet, and besides I don't want to give people a fright upon seeing my translucently pale winter legs. Need to get the fake tan out!

I also wasn't ready to give up wearing boots, but I'm sure these frivolous yellow ones are perfect for this time of year! They're becoming a bit scruffy, and it'll be a sad day when I finally have to let them go.

It was a toss up between a short-sleeved jacket and a three-quarter-sleeved one, so I wore them both. Not at the same time, obviously!

I left the house in this gorgeous yellow-based floral blazer, in a light-weight tapestry fabric. I picked it up in a charity shop back in February, and I've been eyeing it longingly ever since, waiting for the perfect weather to wear it.

Where were we off too, you might wonder? Well, it has been three weeks since we went near any charity shops ... But more about that later!

Before we hit the second shop, we stopped at the park for a picnic and outfit photos.

In search of the perfect spot, we came across a clearing in a thicket of willow shoots, freshly mulched with a crunchy layer of fragrant wood chips.

In the background, the tranquil water of one of the lakes was shimmering, adding to the sense of magic created by the veiled Spring sunshine slowly but surely breaking through the clouds.

Spring has definitely sprung now, and the few remaining daffodils, their limp ans straggly foliage the soul food for next year's flowers, have been joined by tulips and grape hyacinths.

Pattern mixing of a different kind with this short-sleeved textured polyester jacket, its blue matching exactly the shade of blue in the skirt.

I love the contrast of the mesmerizing, groovy print with the skirt's florals. More flower power was added by the wicker and straw poppy brooch.

We didn't come home empty handed, that's for sure. Here is our loot from the two shops we visited. Pickings had been very poor lately, so we were in for a surprise!

Here's a round-up of what we found.

A pair of rather sensible brown shoes to be worn to work on a "bad back" day (€ 3), a vintage orange Tupperware container for € 1,50 and a couple of belts for € 1 each. That's not a bad start at all.

And then there were these:

Clockwise from top left: a colourful pussy-bow summer top from Belgian label Mayerline, still with its tags, a small plaster bust of St. Rita, one of our village's patron saints, Blackeyes by Dennis Potter, of  Singing Detective fame - how 80s is that cover! - and a small wooden souvenir box.

I always look at the jewellery displays and this time my eye was caught by some amber coloured bangles and a long chain necklace with a definite Seventies vibe.

Last but not least, we found this Retro Day remnant in one of the shops. 

Oh dear! Or should that be, oh deer?

The plaster lady with her two pet deer has clearly seen better days, the paint cracked and with lots of chips showing the white plaster underneath, but how absolutely adorable are the deer! Especially the one on the left, looking up at plaster lady with big Bambi eyes ...

They're already feeling quite at home in Dove Cottage with its growing collection of deer!

Sunday 15 April 2018

Home & Garden

I bet you're all dying to know what we bought at the castle so, without further ado, let's have a peek at the things which came home with us.

And the winner is ... Sheila! You were spot on, dahling! Well done! We bought the green deer, which is actually a  lamp. A 1930s Art-Deco lamp to be more exactly.
I mean, it's green, it's a deer and it's Art-Deco: if ever an object ticked all the right boxes, then this is it.

The wiring was a bit dodgy, so Jos, who's a skilled electrician, changed it and added another lamp fitting and hey presto: less than a day later it was already taking pride of place on our sitting room's mantelpiece.

Dove Cottage actually dates from the 1930s, so it couldn't have come to a better place, even if it does have to share the limelight with several other favourites.

Centre stage is taken by this pretty wooden pendulum clock, which Jos found at a local junk shop.

On its left, behind the deer, is a vintage floor and furniture wax canister. This, as well as the tiny sample pot next to it, was gifted to us by my parents around the time we moved into Dove Cottage, and have been in the same spot on the mantelpiece for coming up to twenty years now. They both came from a shop in our village, which used to be owned by a great aunt, one of my maternal grandfather's sisters. The shop, of course, is long gone, but I walk past the house it was in every weekday morning on my way to the bus stop.

Moving to the right now, where there's a motley crew of objects vying for attention. The amber glass candlestick is 1930s as well, and so is the Art-Deco bonbonnière on the bottom right. The ceramic couple, wearing traditional Dutch costume, is identical to the pair I used to play with when staying at my paternal grandparents, resulting in quite a few breakages and the ensuing gluing on of heads!

In front is a souvenir ashtray from Expo 58, the famous Brussels World Fair, containing a souvenir book of matches with an image of the Atomium.

Lurking in the recess is a plaster statue of Our Lady of Boom, which we picked up in a charity shop. Boom (the "oo" is pronounced like the "o" in bone) is the town where Jos grew up.

Above the mantelpiece is a mirror in a gorgeous wooden Art-Deco frame, which was going for a song in a charity shop as its glass is riddled with black spots. Reflected in the mirror is our 1950s light fitting, also charity shopped.

This cosy corner in our sitting room is a meeting of styles from different decades. The chairs are 1950s which we had to Phoebe-proof with plaids. The metal shelving, produced by Dutch company Tomado, and currently highly collectible, is 1950s as well, and so, of course, is the framed Expo 58 poster.

Back to the 1930s with the inlaid wooden side table. On top, a late 1950s Bakelite radio. The framed photographs are of my grandparents in old-fashioned bathing suits at the seaside (left) and Jos's mother carrying one of her plants on the right.

Opposite this corner and above the modern flat screen television (we do have some mod cons!) are two display cases carrying the poshest of my Barbies, with some of Jos's Davy Crockett collection on the right.

Is it a boy or a girl? I've never been absolutely sure, but he or she is carrying a jug of ostrich feathers, very fashionable in the 1920's.

I couldn't resist the kitsch wooden wall plaque with a tableau of plastic deer, going for € 0,50 in a charity shop. The display of vases and birds on the bottom right is sitting on top of a cabinet.

I'm the first to plead guilty when it comes to clutter, but all these objects have a soul and a story to tell. They have found a place, not only inside Dove Cottage, but in my heart as well.

After this little detour, it's back to the rest of our finds. 

As you'd probably expected, I bought several brooches. I selected four from the Brooch Lady's folders, and found another three at one of the stalls upstairs.

How cute is that cuckoo clock? The celluloid deer and the carved mother-of-pearl bird brooch were just € 5 and € 7, which is quite cheap. They both needed cleaning, but just soaking them in soapy water already lifted most of the dirt.

Have you noticed the stylish little hat in the group picture? The minute I laid eyes on it, I was in love. The stall's owner urged me to try on a rather spectacular 1920s cloche hat, but I had my heart set on this one, even though it didn't come cheap.

I thought it would rather suit the snooty Idina, so here she is modelling it for you!

The weather continued to be fine on Sunday (I'm still rambling on about last week here) so we spent a bit of time in the garden. I'd already done some serious pruning on Friday afternoon, getting rid of some of the exuberant ivy which is threatening to take over our little plot. A huge heap of twigs and cuttings is now ready to be collected by the town council in a week or two.

We also planted out our poor rhubarb plant which had been waiting patiently in its pot. No need to plant any more Aquilegia, as they self-seed like mad: look at those little seedlings huddling together in this terracotta planter, abandoned after the demise of its original inhabitant. 

More signs of Spring in other parts of the garden. Our Clematis armandii is slowly reaching its zenith, the warmth of the sun releasing its heavenly almond scent. The little stone dove will soon be surrounded by the small pink flowers of our ground-covering Geranium, while Alchemilla mollis, commonly known as Lady's Mantle, is one by one unfurling its downy leaves. Quite unexpected, as I'm sure I didn't plant it there. Yet another of our self seeders!

As much as I love green, our garden was sorely in need of a bit more colour, so we made a trip to the garden centre to pick up some flowering Spring plants.

You've got to love a bit of flower power ...

I'm not very visible in this post, so I will take Idina and her fabulous new hat to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style this week!