Tuesday 30 October 2018

Some kind of wild October gladness

While Autumn has by now well and truly crept up on us, with a viciously cold north-easterly wind plunging the temperature into the single figures, followed by a day of non-stop rain, it is hard to imagine that only a matter of weeks ago, we were blessed with sun drenched days on which we were able to go walking coat-less and bare-armed.

Too good to be wasted inside, the continuing Indian Summer days lured us outside two weekends ago, although any plans for longer walks were scuppered by the fact that my knee decided to play spoilsport.

I bought the skirt at Think Twice back in February, imagining it to be a high Summer piece, but now I think the colours are even better suited to a sunny Autumn day.  I combined it with a 1980s acrylic knit cap-sleeved jumper in hot pink, its triangularly patterned yoke and shoulders accented by tiny white squares.

It is by Quimo, a Danish women's knitwear brand founded in 1937, and I accessorized it with a plastic twin flower brooch and an olive beaded necklace. The ring was found at our favourite flea market a couple of weeks ago.

Casting around for somewhere new to walk, which wouldn't be too far and certainly not too strenuous, we decided to check out a park on the outskirts of the nearby town of Mechelen.

We have often passed Tivoli Park while on our way to the flea market venue, noticing its main entrance through an ornamental, stone pillared gate next to a gaily blue and white shuttered and gabled gatehouse.

It is a typical 19th Century domain surrounding a castle which looks out over a lake and an English style landscape garden.

There's a moat running around the domain, but the chronic lack of rain is apparent, notably where it is crossed by a quaint little bridge, where it was completely dry, leaving only a trickle of carelessly littered empty cans and wrappers.

The existence of a children's play area did put us off a bit, especially when on a day like this, parents and their boisterous children seemed to have flocked here, making the most of what could possibly be the last of the gorgeous late Summer days.

There's a folly in the shape of a little temple, which closer inspection reveals to be in an advanced state of disrepair, its fate undoubtedly sealed by its rotten timbers.

It's the castle itself which plays a starring role here, turned into a venue for business conferences, and with a restaurant in the orangery at the back.

With an orchard, picking garden, petting farm and nature trail mainly aimed at children, there is something for everybody, although we do like it a little bit quieter.

There's a small café next to the play area as well, but seeing how busy it was we gave it a wide birth and, with my knee hurting even when walking on level ground, we decided to call it a day.

By Sunday, my back had joined my knee in behaving badly, but I still refused to be defeated.

I dressed in a Summer frock that had escaped the changeover by hiding at the bottom of a pile, its white and navy vertical stripes joined by navy, pink, red and green flowers tumbling down towards the hem. A bright pink belt, green beaded necklace and red raffia envelope bag were my main accessories.

We drove down to one of Antwerp's loveliest parks, Den Brandt, where you've joined me quite a few times before (here and here, for instance), entering via the walled garden at the left of the park, which is guarded over by a little Buddha, a present from the Ambassador of Nepal in 2004

Leaving the walled garden via a set of steps and then proceeding slightly uphill through an avenue of majestic trees, I was glad I'd brought my walking stick for support. This usually stays at home for a simple walk in the park, only coming out when climbing or rough terrain is involved. Yes, I know you are laughing, Beate!

We foraged for sweet chestnuts and beech nuts, which were found in abundance among the thick carpet of leaves.

At the edge of the park is a series of bunkers, which were built by the Germans in 1943 as headquarters for the Atlantikwall in Belgium.

These, or rather the fascinating museum which is housed in the largest bunker, can be visited the first weekend of every month. 

Emerging from the path which runs next to the row of bunkers, the park's romantic castle, which was bathing in the hazy Autumn sunlight, could be glimpsed between the trees.

On the grassy field at the back of the castle, people sat and watched the world go by under a pale blue sky dotted with cotton wool clouds. 

We watched it all from a well placed bench, our hearts brimful of Sunday afternoon melancholy.

Linking my forgotten Summer frock to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

Friday 26 October 2018

Nothing new under the sun

The weather continued to be unseasonably warm into the second week of October (and beyond!) and thus short sleeves remained the order of the day.

The Crimplene frock I'm wearing here was recently found for € 4 at Think Twice, who were having yet another one of their famous sales.

It's been a while since the shops yielded anything even remotely interesting as lately most of their stock is predominantly 1980s leaning toward the - gasp! - 1990s. Not exactly my thing!

I know from experience that it pays to have some patience, as it's usually during their sales days that the really interesting stuff is starting to appear on their rails. As most of the bright young things frequenting the shops do not seem to care one jot for anything 1970s or earlier, the shops consider these only worthy for being sold at ridiculously low sales prices. Which obviously is fine by me!

The days when everything sells for € 4 are my favourites, as it's then that I usually luck out. After that, in the final days when prices go down to € 2 and then € 1, chaos reigns, with heaps of discarded clothing everywhere and endless queues at the totally inadequate two fitting rooms.

I zoomed in to this Crimplene mod dress with its groovy print and vertical pocket tabs with chunky buttons the minute I walked in. I wasn't going to brave the queues, but judged it was my size and took a chance. I must say I'm getting to be quite good at measuring with my eyes!

You might recognize the poodle brooch, as it's from my latest flea market haul. The necklace, which looks as if it was made of holly berries, was charity shopped, while the glittery plastic ring is an old retail buy.

On second thought, the necklace's cluster of little red beads are quite reminiscent of the Cotoneaster berries which currently seem to put our garden on fire.

They are competing with the slowly diminishing blooms of our Fuchsia magellanica bush. You can see both of these garden champions as a backdrop for some of the outfit photos in this post.

The perennial plants in our garden have started their slow process of decay, gladdening the heart with their spectacular Autumn colours, before dying and feeding the soil for next year's growth.

But let's show you some more of my Think Twice finds.

What about this Crimplene two-piece? At first sight, you might be forgiven in thinking it's a dress, but it's actually a skirt and top. Again, I was initially drawn to its funky print, but on closer inspection, I was even more smitten. The skirt is just short of a pencil shape, without being too tight fitting. And then there's the top! What can I say? It closes with a back zipper, has two little slits at the front for additional comfort and a rolled collar finished with a little side tie. I'm swooning!

If the explosion of colourful flowers in the print of this maxi frock wouldn't have been enough to convince me it had to come home with me, then the attached little capelet would certainly have clinched the deal.

Here's a peek at the back to see the capelet in its full glory!

This deliciously strokable chocolate brown velvet maxi skirt, with its eye-catching print, is waiting for the perfect Winter's day, when I'll be grateful for its warmth. When that day comes, I might be wearing something warmer on top but for now, I thought this plaid print pussy bow blouse, an earlier Think Twice find, looked perfect with the skirt's almost holographic print. Even my camera lens got a bit confused when I tried to capture it.

My penultimate find was a black circle skirt, which looks virtually unworn. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it was the pink rick rack at the hem and the two panels of green and pink embroidered flowers which piqued my interest!

I was trying to make the most of the early evening sunlight and pose for outfit photos in the garden when I got home, but the truth is that on some days I have just enough energy left for kicking off my shoes and flopping down on the sofa.

October tries to trick my mind into thinking it's still Summer, but failing miserably, in spite of regaling us with temperatures in the high twenties.

Nature speaks otherwise, her Autumnal sights, sounds and smells filling our senses.

Amid the juxtaposition of Summer and Autumn, I am wearing yet another transitional short-sleeved dress, in jersey polyester this time. The low but dazzling evening sun almost bleached out the yellow, but I included some close-ups for a better look at the print.

And what better than blue, the very colour of the late Summer sky, to accessorize it with? The brooch is once again from my latest haul. I've been trying to wear them all before storing them away in my brooch boxes.

More Crimplene on Friday. It's been a while since I last wore this olive textured polyester shift dress. Last time, in October 2016, I combined it with pink, but now I took the cue from the two brown buttons at its dropped waist to wear a beaded necklace in the same colour.

I pinned on yet another of my latest brooches and wore my leopard strap watch! I keep hearing that animal print is all the rage now. Could I possibly be on trend? That'll be the day!

And here's the last of my Think Twice finds. 

I can safely predict I'll get a lot of wear out of this 1970s zippered denim jacket sprinkled with embroidered flowers. After having had its first outing, it has now been stashed away until next Spring, when I'm sure I'll be happy to see it again.

As it was a tiny bit chilly in the morning, I left the house wearing a floral print red scarf, tying in with the red blooms on my jacket.

So, that was my fashion fix for that week. A guilt-free and environmentally sane fashion fix, I should add, as there's nothing new under the sun here!

In other news, we have booked another little trip somewhere in November, so there will be another travelogue coming up soon!

Meanwhile, I am joining Tina's Pink Friday linkup Party with my olive and denim outfit!

Monday 22 October 2018


Now, don't get me wrong. I do appreciate this Summer bonus time we've been having as much as the next person, but it's been playing havoc with my schedule!

Especially as I had taken October's first Friday off to do my wardrobe changeover. Outside, the sun was doing overtime, but here I was, lugging around mountains of clothing and getting sweatier by the minute.

I'd already packed away all the high Summer stuff in the two vintage suitcases it usually hibernates in.

Then, I freed up valuable hanging space in my main wardrobe by making neat piles of my other Summer clothes, ready to be put into the vacuum bags which would soon become vacant.

Then, out came my Winter frocks! I checked over and gave thought to each and every one of them, making piles of anything I'd fallen out of love with, ready to be donated to charity or for re-selling at next year's flea market. These made a total of four bags of clothes, and I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

Meanwhile, my little helper, Phoebe, was getting sleepy and soon dozed off in the sunshine.

All that schlepping around had done my back in, so that by Saturday I was good for nothing.

We were off to see an exhibition of Expo 58 items put up by an acquaintance, and with the temperature in the mid twenties, I actually needed something summery to wear. 

Now this was a dilemma! As all my Summer stuff was having its annual beauty sleep by now, I was left shipwrecked between Summer and Autumn. The best I could come up with were a handful of transitional short-sleeved Crimplene frocks, which I'm keeping in my wardrobe, ready for next year's first days of Spring.

At least, this one looks sufficiently Summery, don't you think? I made the most of its riotous colour scheme by adding a purple beaded necklace and a green belt. The belt actually belonged to one of the dresses I gave to charity. While I was prepared to let the dress go, as I never wore it anyway, the same couldn't be said for the belt with its gorgeous buckle!

As a nod to the season, I added some Autumn leaves brooches.

I last wore this floral tapestry blazer back in Spring, but I do think it's equally suited to an Indian Summer's day. Another autumnal brooch was added for good measure. This gold tone one features a sculpted oak leave and two acorns.

We had just time for one charity shop on the way home, nipping into our most local one, where I found this amazing coat. There is no label identifying its contents but its heavy weight might be an indication that it's the real thing. I just knew I'd have regrets if I didn't take it home.

Another thing which came home with us is this chair. It is one of a pair and has been living in our garage for a couple of weeks now. It's a family heirloom from Jos's side, Jos and his sister having one each. At some point, after Jos and I had not long been together, Jos's sister offered to re-upholster ours in the same way she did hers, and that's the last we saw of it.

After his sister passed away back in August, we have now inherited both chairs, the other one needing some minor repairs before coming home.

They are rather special, as they used to be part of the furniture of a ship called the Baudouinville, which was built for the Antwerp based shipping company Compagnie Maritime Belge in 1939. She was a passenger ship operating between Antwerp and the then Belgian colony Congo, but was captured by the Germans in 1940 and anchored in France for the remainder of the war.

As indicated by the numbers screwed on top of the chairs' backs, they were used in the ship's theatre.

After the war, the by then fire damaged ship was towed back to Antwerp and dismantled. The chairs, together with some other bits and bobs, were salvaged by Jos's Dad and eldest brother, who used to work in a ship-breaking yard just after the Second World War.

I was feeling more or less back to normal on Sunday, which was a good thing as we had our first indoor flea market of the season to go to.

There was a little nip in the air, so I decided to give one of my lightweight suits an outing. This brown on grey textured polyester suit was all mine for the incredible sum of € 4 in one of Think Twice's sales a couple of years ago. It made its debut soon after I took my first baby steps in blogland, here.

For my top I kept to a similar shade of blue as I did back then, as I think it works really well with the suit, but I'd never have dreamed of mixing prints at the time! 

There's green in the blouse, which I matched with my necklace, belt and squirrel brooch pinned to my jacket, while the pink bits prompted my choice of brooch on the blouse itself.

Finally adding one of my tapestry handbags, I was ready for the hunt.

And this is what we came home with!

It's been ages since I had a decent haul of brooches, so I was glad to add a total of six to my collection. 

The irregularly shaped amber colored stone belongs to a chunky ring, and my treasures all just fit into the decorative wooden box I found at one of the stalls.

Two chocolate related items, both from Belgian chocolate brand Côte d'Or: a gorgeous tin which used to contain chocolates and a chocolate mould for the brand's iconic chocolate bars featuring an elephant, the brand's emblem, on each piece.

I've been a good girl and haven't bought any handbags for ages. Plus, I sold a couple of handbags at the flea market back in July. Not enough to free up sufficient space for new buys, but still ...

How could I leave behind this vintage raffia beaded handbag. Its ridged framework and handle, which I suspect are Bakelite, do need a bit of a clean, though.

My last find was actually my first. I was immediately drawn to the gorgeous colours of this embroidered canvas bag, which closes with a zipper, is fully lined and has an envelope-shaped outside pocket closing with a loop and wooden bead.

All in all, not too bad for the first flea market of the season, which wasn't operating at its full capacity yet. 

We have once again taken out a subscription and will be returning soon!

Meanwhile, I am linking my suit to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

Thursday 18 October 2018

Walking up that hill

We're more than halfway through October, and I've just realized I still owe you the last episode of my travelogue of our week's holiday back in September.

So, let's get started with what I was wearing as usual. You might have noticed that I did make a point of posing for outfit photos on our little balcony each morning!

This was the second day that the sun was already there to greet us when we got up. However, the temperature had dropped quite considerably and even if the wind had died down by now, it was rather chilly out there.

I'd already worn my trousers a couple of days earlier, but here they are again. Styled differently, obviously. I'm including a close-up of their print, as I was asked by Tina whether I was wearing denim when I first wore them. They're from this Summer's H&M sales and the same style as the floral pairs I picked up at the same time.

My long-sleeved top with its profusion of Summer flowers on a cobalt blue background, was a charity shop find and, as it is rather loose-fitting, I added a hessian belt - also charity shopped - to define my waist.

A chunky pink ring, beaded necklace and flower corsage completed my outfit. Oh, and I added a green cardie on top.

The weather forecast promised another dry, if cloudy, day, and we had plans! I'd printed a seven kilometer walk off the Internet, in the hilly country to the south of Poperinge, called Heuvelland (transl. Land of the Hills), which would skirt and climb the hill Kemmelberg. While the word berg is Flemish for mountain, these are all just hills really. In a low country like Flanders, anything bigger than a molehill is already considered a mountain!

Imagine our disappointment when, arriving at our destination, we found the village square and surrounding streets fenced off due to a cycling event. Even in the unlikely event that we would have found a parking spot, there was no way we were going to risk getting run off the road by a bunch of doped up cyclists!

Now, what to do? 

Consulting our walking map, we decided to drive in a westerly direction and go for a walk on another hill, the Catsberg. If this conjures up a hill full of cats, then I have to disappoint you, as the name is derived from a Germanic tribe, the Chatti.

And so it is that we found ourselves in France by accident!

The Catsberg or Mont des Cats is situated near the village of Godewaersvelde, its Flemish name indicating that historically this was part of Flanders, but now lying just over the border with France.

In order to get our bearings, we stopped and strolled around the village, which is classed as a Village Patrimoine, a traditional village of historical interest. Godewaersvelde is a typical border village, and its economy used to thrive on its proximity with Belgium, when there was still a border as such. 

We explored its picturesque streets with taverns on virtually every corner, and visited its church built in the neo-Gothic style in 1906.

Intriguingly, the book sharing box (below, bottom right) contained a copy of the London A-Z!

We came across a road signed to the Catsberg, but before rejoining our car, we had a fortifying cup of coffee in one of the village's taverns, Het Blauwershof. Once again, this is a Flemish name, suggesting that this used to be the haunt of smugglers, who are called blauwers in the local slang.

Following the signs, we then proceeded up a winding road ascending the 150 meter high Catsberg until we reached its highest point where a splendid panorama of unspoilt countryside awaited us.

Here we parked our car and ate our picnic sitting on a bench and admiring the view.

On top of the Catsberg is the abbey of Sainte-Marie du Mont, dating from 1825, where cheese and beer is still produced by Trappist monks.

The abbey's buildings are partly hidden from view by high walls, and can only be fully admired from a distance.

After lunch, we decided to do the shorter of the indicated walks, the Balade des Katts, for which pink signs had to be followed. Should be a doddle, no?

The walk started by a descent into the wood, which is called the Heremietenbos (Hermit's Wood), and where soon a little chapel could be glimpsed between the trees.

A mossy sign told us that this was the Chapel of the Passion, dating from 1857. This is a so-called "fever chapel" where people came to pray for the healing of the sick, leaving behind pieces of cloth and tissues belonging to those who were unable to make the journey.

Disappointingly, the chapel doors were firmly locked - possibly to avoid the spreading of disease on account of all those tissues! - but there was a grimy porthole through which we could see its interior and make a hazy photograph.

Having long lost the pink signs by then, and with paths leading in every direction, it was inevitable that we took a wrong turning, ending up in a field with a 200 meter television transmitter.

On a clear day, the transmitter is visible from our cottage's balcony, and even more so after dark, when it is lit up with a row of blinking red lights.

Finally, we found a pink sign among the profusion of way markers, and we were back on track on a path through the woods.

Shortly after emerging from the trees, we joined a tarmacked lane from where we could see the abbey lying in the distance across the valley.

Having finished our circuit and made it back to our starting point, the day wasn't over just yet. 

On our return journey to Poperinge, we stopped at another French border village with a Flemish sounding name: Boeschepe. 

This sleepy village's claim to fame is its magnificent post mill, the Ondankmeulen (yet again an old Flemish name), which dates back to 1802.

We have, in fact, been here before, back in 2013. At the time of our visit, on a blisteringly hot day, we met two village officials, the older one still speaking the peculiarly old-fashioned sounding version of Flemish (or Vlemsch, as opposed to Vlaams, which is what we speak) which used to be the prevailing language here.  We talked with them about the mill's deterioration and their plans for funding its restoration, so we were happy to see a sign mentioning that the mill was restored in 2016.

Next to the mill is another tavern with a Flemish name (De Vierpot), and from the grassy field surrounding the mill, the transmitter on top of the Catsberg could clearly be seen. 

We were feeling a bit wistful, as one does on the last day of one's holiday. This rang especially true this time, as at that point we weren't sure whether we would ever be able to return. 

Now that we know that we probably will, looking at all the photographs we made while sitting on our balcony isn't all too poignant.

On our last morning, before packing up and driving home, there was time for one more photo session.

I was wearing the skirt I'd arrived in but added a different top this time. My short-sleeved nautical style jumper, originally from Belgian label Who's That Girl, was a lucky charity shop find. I have it in navy too.

So, it is goodbye but not farewell to our lovely little thatched cottage. Hope to see you again next September!

Linking my walking outfit to Nancy's Fancy Friday. Do check it out!