Thursday 20 June 2019

Two weeks in June

Holiday preparations are in full swing here at Dove Cottage!

Today was my last day at work and tomorrow we'll finish the dreaded packing. I've already packed away most of the essentials, but there are clothes and shoes strewn all over our bedroom. Whittling them down to a manageable pile, while still leaving me with enough to cover four seasons isn't the easiest of tasks.

Then, on Saturday, we will be getting up at the crack of dawn for the start of our journey, which will once again take us to Shropshire and the Welsh Borders in the UK.

And on Sunday ... well, we've already got a little treat planned for that day!

But before I bid you au revoir, I still have to tie up the loose ends of the last two weeks.

So, let's start with this frock, which I wore two weekends ago. Lovely though it is, it didn't make the grade and won't be travelling with me. I mean, look at those pleats! I don't think they would survive the journey unscathed.

It's been in my wardrobe for absolutely ages, and it was in desperate need of another outing. Its print, which has more flowers than the average garden, never fails to put a smile on one's face.

Especially when worn to - finally! - our first outdoor flea market of the year!

We'd been on tenterhooks all week, as stormy weather had been predicted, but fortunately the worst of the wind had died down by Saturday night, with Sunday dawning an almost picture perfect early summer's day.

Orange being the most predominant of the print's colours, I accessorized the dress with an orange belt and one of my Cameo brooches, which has an orangey background. The dress's navy bits were picked up by my beaded necklace and flower ring.

On my feet, my trusted Clarks Cloudsteppers. This was a huge flea market, so we had a lot of walking to do.

My straw bag with its appliqued cornflowers was just the right size to carry essentials. 

Sadly, this year's edition of the flea market, which we've been going to for many years, was a bit of a disappointment. The fields and surrounding streets where the market was held seemed to be colonized by stalls selling cheap tat, toys and children's clothing, leaving only a handful of  stalls worth looking at.

I did manage to find a couple of things, though, so that the journey wasn't a completely wasted one: a vintage skirt and jacket, and a round wicker bag, which I had been on the lookout for but wasn't prepared to buy new.

The next day, Monday, was a holiday in Belgium, but as the weather wasn't on its best behaviour, alternating sunny spells with bouts of rain, we stayed at home, doing some pottering and a bit of lounging.

The dress I plucked from my wardrobe was charity shopped on Retro Day back in March, and this was actually its first wear. It is clearly and a bit clumsily handmade, and features a deep, collared V-neck and three-quarter length sleeves. Upon seeing its colourful, exotic print, you might be forgiven in thinking that the fabric is waxed cotton, which it isn't. It's a kind of thin terry cloth material, for want of a better description.

I pinned a pearly brooch to its collar, which somewhat disappeared into the print, and opted for shades of brown for the rest of my accessories.

Back at work, I spent one of my lunch breaks visiting a new charity shop selling only clothing, which has recently opened in a side street of Antwerp's main shopping thoroughfare.

The shop is nicely laid out and the stuff they sell is above average but generally a bit on the expensive side. I mean, a King Louie dress for € 24 ... no, thank you!

Nevertheless, these two necklaces, still on their retail cards, came home with me. They were € 3 each, which isn't too bad.

We woke up to torrential rain on Saturday. In a lull between two showers, we made it to our garage without getting wet, and went off for our usual charity shopping trip.

We'd taken the camera, jokingly telling each other that it might clear up later so that we could take outfit photos in the park. Well, wouldn't you know, by the time we got there, the sun was out! 
Miracles do happen!

Here's a look at what I was wearing. 

The dress is another one I've had for ages. Its floral print features coral, brown and green on a pale lemon background. I'd set out wearing both a cardigan and my orange leather jacket, but with the sun shining it turned out to be too warm for both.

My yellow cardigan, with its pattern of hearts and tiny heart buttons, is King Louie, and was charity shopped earlier this year. The flower brooch I pinned to it is actually a hair clip!

The dress has got a tie belt, but in honour of the small splodges of green in the dress's print, I substituted it with a green leather one. I also added my green "birds in flight" brooch to its collar.

Further accessories were a chunky coral ring and one of my new necklaces!

Having completed our circuit of the park which not only looked but smelled heavenly, especially after the rain, we walked over to the charity shop across the road.

I've donated quite a few bags of clothing in the last couple of weeks - I actually spotted one of my vintage short-sleeved jumpers on the rails - which made it a completely guilt-free shopping experience.

My finds, clockwise from top left, were: an organic cotton scarf from Antwerp label Froy & Dind, still bearing its tag, a wide, red-brown leather belt, a pair of navy espadrille wedges and a short kimono cover up.

But the icing on the cake was this soft-as-butter taupe cord blazer for Jos. The pocket square is made from an orange Paisley print tie, which I found still packed in its plastic wrapper.

As the rest of that weekend and the following week was a flurry of last minute preparations and wrap-ups, that will be it for the month of June.

So, there will be no posting from me for about two weeks, as I will be mostly off-line, although I might be reading your blogs whenever time and WiFi allows.

See you in July!

Saturday 15 June 2019

The joys of second hand shopping

In the week after our mini heatwave, temperatures plummeted considerably, and we were back to what passes for Spring in this part of the world. In other words, we were treated to rain, sunny spells and thunderstorms, more often than not all within one day.

On Saturday before last (yes , I know, I'm lagging behind again), the weather was quite stormy.

A gale force wind put paid to any walks in the park, as they were all closed for safety reasons.

I plucked this half-forgotten frock from my wardrobe. Strictly speaking, I didn't actually forget about it, but I'd mentally put it into the "to be tried one more time" pile, as it was a bit tight in the chest area, which caused some gaping. As it fit me perfectly otherwise, I managed to solve the problem by adding a press stud between the first and second button.

Some kind of outerwear was needed, so I wore my Lilli Ann Knits coat on top. I love this coat to bits but I'm trying to wear it only sparingly as it's not in the best of conditions, with lots of loose threads which seem to multiply with every wear.

I thought its chartreuse, white and navy plaid worked well with the dress's higgledy piggledy stripey print featuring forest green, turquoise and yellow. Judging from its condition and that of its label (it's made in England, by Leygil London) I don't think it was ever worn. 

The dress buttons all the way through with forest green buttons and I added a belt in the same shade of green. To tie in with the yellow, I added a yellow, orange and white beaded necklace, while the turquoise bits were matched by my chunky turquoise ring.

While I was sitting here in the garden, in the calm after the storm, I suddenly remembered I had yet to show you my Think Twice bargains of the week before. Well, I did mention a bagful of bargains in my previous post, didn't I?

I will be putting this chocolate brown floral maxi skirt away for Autumn, as it's a heavy, lined Crimplene. On the other hand, I could very well be taking it with me to Shropshire, as I've been hearing tales of dire weather conditions.

The 1970s shirt, with its dagger collar and purple buttons has the funkiest of prints featuring coffee pots, cups and old-fashioned coffee grinders! How is that for a pick-me-up?

I'm hoping to wear this floaty Trevira number with its blowsy flower print and frilly butterfly sleeves as soon as it gets warmer again. 

But then again, it will be a toss up between this one and the cotton deckchair striped Summer dress I picked up at the same time. Double breasted and with a wide notched collar and a half belt at the back, it is a true classic. Its label says Jan Sue of California. 

Oh, the joys of second hand shopping! You never know what you'll find, which makes it exciting, you won't end up looking like everyone else and you're making a statement against fast fashion, all at the same time.

Are you participating in Slow Fashion Season? You can sign up here. The idea is that 10000 people commit to not buying new clothes from 21st June - 21st September to raise awareness to the fact that fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world.

There's just 6 days left to register: just click on the link, enter your email address and click Take Part. It's easy peasy, so just do it. At the time of writing, over 9700 people have taken the pledge. Oh, and second hand shopping is allowed! And it so much more fun, too! 

And that's what we did to defy the weather last Saturday. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that Saturday usually is our charity shopping day. Even if we come back empty handed, which happens from time to time, the thrill of the chase never pales.

This time, we found a mini picnic basket, which - surprise! - I'll be using as a handbag, several scarves, a yellow belt and a hand-painted wooden souvenir plate depicting the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges.

One of the scarves is a souvenir too. I was drawn to its vivid colours and the image of the shuttered window with its box full of geraniums at its centre. I'd seen the name Tirol, but it was only when I looked at it more properly at home that I realised it's a souvenir from the Winter Olympics held in Innsbruck. Some googling revealed that the last one was in 1976, but there was another one there in 1964 as well. My guess is that it is from the former.

At another shop, I ended up trying on an armful of clothes, which all came home with me, as did the necklace I'm wearing below.

The skirt and blouse are both from Belgian label Wow To Go, while the cropped cardigan is from Zoe Loveborn, a brand which used to be sold at a local chain of shops. I've got quite a few of their cardigans, all bought second hand over the years.

This short, cobalt blue raincoat was also part of my catch. It's from Vero Moda, and will be a welcome addition to my travel wardrobe. I thought my Tirolean scarf looked just perfect with it.

Heading back from the fitting rooms, and walking past the rail of dresses, a flash of colour caught my eye. 

This groovy wrap dress is from H&M. It must be well over 10 years old and I remember it vividly, as I used to own it dress in a different - much more sedate - colourway. I almost instantly regretted not getting this colourful version, but never went back for it. 

I no longer have my other dress, as I donated it to charity when it no longer fit me, and I obviously wasted no time in making this one mine!

All I'm wearing in these two outfits, as well as two long-sleeved tops which I've added to my travel wardrobe, cost me the princely sum of € 25. Yes, that includes the raincoat!

If you haven't done it before, browsing charity shops for your fashion fix might seem a bit daunting at first. But persevere, and you will be rewarded. Don't be put off, if at first you find it a bit overwhelming and you don't seem to find anything you like. Don't go shopping with a list, but keep an open mind, and dare to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. 

Once you get the hang of it, you'll never go back to retail. But that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Happy hunting!

Monday 10 June 2019

Lazy hazy Summer days

In the weekend before last temperatures soared to Summer heights.

They had been on the rise since a couple of days, as if to ease us gently from Spring into Summer, when suddenly they were turned up to full volume, reaching the high twenties by Saturday.

It was the First of June and, while Summer hasn't officially begun in the astronomical sense, it does mark the start of meteorological Summer. And oh my, did it start with a bang!

Enticing us with the first of the velvety red roses, the park near our favourite charity shop was beckoning us to come in and stroll along its shady paths.

Birdsong floated down from the leafy canopies and summertime pollen triggered itches and sneezes.

I'd picked up the maxi skirt I'm wearing here just days before at Think Twice, one of a bagful of € 4 sales bargains. It's handmade and the fabric suggests curtain couture, and isn't that print fabulously suited for a Summer's day? 

And look: bare feet and sandals! No close-up of my badly painted toenails, though. I'm such a Clumsy Fingers in that department.

I shopped my wardrobe, as they say, for the vintage orange cap-sleeved blouse, with its melange of black, white and peachy spots.

A pale green cameo brooch was pinned to it, and I added a string of carved, ivory coloured beads and a brown moc-croc belt with a tortoiseshell buckle.

The only retail items I'm wearing are the sandals, snapped up in last Summer's sales, and the basket bag, which was an impulse buy from a high street pop-up in Antwerp. No regrets, though, as it's fast becoming my most worn bag.

The frames of my sunnies, on the other hand, are the bargain of the century. They are from Rodenstock, and I found them in a charity shop for € 0,50 back in 2013. I had them fitted with prescription lenses and they are still going strong after six years!

The thermostat was cranked even higher on Sunday, when the mercury climded to the mid-thirties.

The heat which was trapped within the walls of Dove Cottage's garden drove us inside, but rather than succumb to indolence, we racked our brains for a cool place to escape to.

Once again, the park in Boom, which is only a 15-minute drive away, came to our rescue. 

As Thursday had been a public holiday, and lots of people had Friday off as well, most of them must have flocked to the seaside, so that we had the park virtually to ourselves. We even found a parking space in the shade.

Boom's delightful town park, all of 27 hectares, used to be part of a larger wood which, in 1925, was turned into a park. 

It is triangular and shape and laid out along the banks of a brook, the Bosbeek (beek is Flemish for brook), which meanders through it.

The cotton 1950s Summer dress was another one from that week's Think Twice bargains.

It's still a bit wrinkly, as I'd washed it but couldn't muster the energy to iron it. Still, I was adamant to give it its first wearing, as it was perfectly suited to the weather.

I added a red vinyl belt, a red and white beaded necklace and a couple of plastic bangles in similar shades. All accessories charity shopped, except for the white plastic ring, which is an old retail buy.

The brook's water is quite murky in places, its surface milky and opaque, which made the ever-changing mosaic of light and shade created by the gentle breeze confuse eyes and camera lens alike.

Several paths converge at a clearing. Now which one shall we take? And do we need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find our way back?

It's early Summer, and the trees have donned their best verdant hues, while the grass verges still have a freshness they will have lost in a month or so.

The brook ends in a series of pools, where the water is like a freshly cleaned mirror, shimmering in the haze of the afternoon.

Circling it and arriving at the brook once more, we crossed a bridge to return along the other side.

But first it was time to rest my feet while reclinng like Little Mermaid on a rock at the water's edge, with the pond a dream-like mirage behind me. 

Linking with Patti's Visible Monday and Mica's Weekday Wear Linkup.

Thursday 6 June 2019

Lemons and limes

We have just survived the first of the really hot days this past weekend, with sweltering temperatures of over 30° Celsius. I know that some of you thrive in this kind of weather (yes, I'm looking at you, Vix!) but I'm finding it increasingly hard to cope with.

But before I tell you about what I wore and did to stay cool, I'm taking you back to the weekend before last, when there was still enough of a chill in the air to wear not only Crimplene but one of my lightweight Summer coats as well.

On Saturday, en route to the charity shops, we stopped at the park in Boom. And no, it's not pronounced the way you think it is, the "oo" is phonetically represented by [o:] and sounds roughly like the "o" in "born".

Admittedly, I didn't really need the coat by the time we got to the park, but as I don't think it has ever made it onto the blog, I decided to wear it especially for you! The things one does for blogging!

Another Think Twice bargain, I actually didn't have to think twice when I spotted its lemony loveliness on the shop's rails two years ago.

Wearing it is the ultimate pick-me-up on a sluggish day, as it provides the visual equivalent of an energy drink, but without the caffeine hit and the sticky sugar hick-up.

In real life, it does look more lemon than lime, but either way I seem to both blend in with and enhance the greenery of the park, while contrasting with the magenta hues of the Rhododendrons.

I even attracted the attention of the resident bees and butterflies, who must have mistaken me for a flower.

Underneath the coat, I was wearing a much neglected Crimplene skirt suit with a short-sleeved jacket.

In fact, I have several of these in my wardrobe, as for some reason I quite simply cannot resist them. 

But the bottom line is that although I do tend to wear the skirts, I don't wear them very often as suits, as I think they are tricky to style. When does one wear them, for starters? When the weather allows for short sleeves, it's usually much to warm for them. And although I could layer a long-sleeved top under the jacket, I'm not sure that it's the look that I'm after.

Anyway, that morning I decided to bite the bullet and pulled this one out of my wardrobe.

The jacket being a bit boxy, it obviously needed a belt. I went for contrast by choosing a purple vinyl one, staying with the same colour palette by pinning a purple peacock brooch to the jacket's collar.

Not wanting to be too matchy-matchy, I picked a vintage orange beaded necklace, found at an antiques centre in Newcastle Emlyn, Wales a couple of summers ago.

I've just noticed that, although quite unintentionally, it matches Jos's shirt!

Isn't he looking dapper in his colourful attire? The blue shoes are a recent buy from a local shop. He bought another pair, in pale blue, as well.

At the charity shop, I had a good old dig in a huge box full of scarves, coming up with these three. The pale green, metallic finish shoes, which looked as good as unworn, were a no-brainer.

While queuing at the till, I spied this gorgeous pendant necklace. It looks slightly Art Deco to me, so I gave the honours of showing it off to the gorgeous green-dressed Art Deco lady who lives on our bedroom's mantlepiece.

The weather continued to be sunny, albeit quite windy, on Sunday.

Sheltered from the elements, Dove Cottage's little walled garden is thriving.
Sadly enough, only one single Allium globe appeared amid the greenery provided by the rampant ferns. I must take note to plant some more in the Autumn.

Year after year, the honeysuckle growing against our garden's back wall, delights us with creamy flowers emanating the most heady of scents. We found this baby climber, aptly named Honey Baby, at the garden centre shortly after we moved into Dove Cottage.

And look, here are the first of what looks to be a bumper crop of white currants, most of which will probably be eaten by greedy wood pigeons. But they're welcome to them, as we love watching their clumsy acrobatic antics. 

And here's the indisputable queen of our garden! There's no keeping her inside at this time of year, when there are all these sensory delights out there, not to mention the wildlife she is keeping a watchful eye on. She's no match for the wood pigeons, but field mice, beware!

That Sunday was Election Day and, apart from the European Parliament, here in Belgium we were also voting for both the Regional and Federal governments. 

Our polling station was at the local library and on our way back we took the opportunity to take some photographs at the exuberantly planted front garden of the deanery.

The eagle-eyed will notice that I'm wearing the shoes bought at the charity shop the day before.

That's if you can take your eyes off the flower-strewn Diolen dress I'm wearing. The flowers in question, in white, pale grey, moss green, pink and orange, are floating on a background of darkest green.

In other words, the perfect dress to pause and pose among the flowers!

Linking my lemon coat to Nancy's Fancy Friday!