Monday 28 December 2020

How did it get so late so soon?

Christmas and Boxing Day have come and gone. Storm Bella has raged over us, unleashing a wind that was making our old house groan and our windows rattle. 

The year's days have dwindled to just a handful and soon we'll be saying goodbye and good riddance to this hell-hole of a year. In only a matter of days, we'll once again be welcoming a new one, and more than ever, we'll be wondering what it has in store for us.

But let's not be too hasty, as I haven't finished with the old year yet. In fact, my blog has only just made it halfway through December. So, let's not beat about the bush and proceed with the task at hand before my memory fails me completely.

The handmade vintage dress I was wearing two weeks ago on Saturday was found in our most local charity shop several years ago, when I was bowled over by its Autumnal colour mix.

However, its green foliage and red berries always remind me of Christmas and consequently I only seem to wear it as close as possible to the festive season. Opening my wardrobe's doors during the preceding months, my eyes often alight on it, but just as I'm about to pull it out, I'm thinking: no, not yet, it's too Christmassy! 

I admit it does rather limit its possibilities, but that Saturday, as we were well and truly in the run-up to the silly season, it was now or never.

The red berries were echoed by my opaques, while the greenery was joined by the green boots I charity shopped almost exactly a year ago. The burgundy fluffy cardigan - which I seem to be reaching for an awful lot lately - was another charity shop find during last year's Christmas holidays.

That just leaves the funky necklace I picked up on my first post-lockdown 2.0 visit to the charity shops, its arrangement of red, white and tan plastic discs and flowers quite at home with the colours of my dress.

The day had been particularly dismal, dark and rainy, even if at 10°C, it remained quite mild for the time of year.

I just moped around the house, doing this and that, until a bit of cheer arrived in the form of a box of chocolate seashells filled with hazelnut praliné, a Belgian delicacy. We'd ordered these through Jos's granddaughter Saar, in aid of an organization she is volunteering with, offering summer camps for children.

Fortified by a handful of chocolates, I was ready to show you my charity shop finds of the previous day.

These included a chunky orange cardigan, a funky retro-print dress, a long teal-ish blue cardigan and two belts.

I wouldn't be surprised if you think the one on the bottom left looks familiar as yes, I do already own two of these stretchy zig-zag chevron patterned belts. Both sales bargains earlier this year, they have been on constant rotation, and I'm actually wearing the new one with its round, black wooden buckle, as I type!

Sunday's weather was almost a duplicate of Saturday's, but this time we were treated to some watery sunshine in the morning.

This lasted just long enough to take some photos of the pink Geraniums on the plant table under the awning just outside our kitchen door. In this sheltered spot, and aided by the continued double digit  temperatures, they are still blooming their heads off. They are joined by one or two tiny pinks in the pot to their right and the last of the magenta Cyclamen in front of them.

My outfit that day was based around another recent charity shop find, a riotously coloured and patterned blouse with a frilly button placket.

I took the lead from the turquoise in its print and wore one of my favourite skirts, in a slubby turquoise fabric, its weave enhanced with blue, green, white, red and black specks.

My belt and necklace tied in with the honey coloured stripes in the blouse's print and I referred to its main colour by wearing a ring and opaques in shades of red. Oh, and my red-eyed Bambi brooch too!

On top, my teal waterfall cardigan charity shopped at the tail end of last year, and on my head, one of my oldest berets in term of ownership, a zig-zag patterned black and white one from H&M.

I repeated this outfit in its entirety for Monday's office day, when the mercury reached highs of an almost unheard of 14°C. After a wet start, and much to the delight of the emerging crowds of Christmas Zombies, it cleared up in the afternoon. Apart from the obligatory face masks and the queues, it's as if Covid-19 doesn't exist for these crowds of crazy people.

When I photographed the views from my office window soon after getting in that morning, all was still quiet. The calm before the storm. 

Back at home on Tuesday, it was again grey and rainy for most of the day, with a strangely out of kilter 15°C. 

Not wanting to be cooped up inside the house all day, but with the weather ruling out any chance of a walk, we decided to visit yet another charity shop. 

We went a bit further afield this time, visiting the shop on the outskirts of the town of Lier, where in the past I not only found the green boots I'm wearing in the first outfit, but which also came up trumps with other lucky finds like my yellow handbag and my blue boots and burgundy Fly London boots.

And although the clothing aisles were rather uninspiring this time around, I still couldn't leave without this pristine wool blend skirt suit by posh Belgian label Caroline Biss.

Quite hard to photograph, especially on a dark day, I've included a close-up of its fabric, although it still doesn't quite capture the sparkle in its weave.

The jewellery display also yielded two necklaces for my burgeoning collection.

Then, instead of returning straight back home, we treated our car to a long overdue session at the car wash, where I had some fun experimenting with my phone's camera.

My journal tells me that after lunch, I vacuumed the dining room and hallway, after which Jos took over to do the front room. 

In the afternoon, a gap in the clouds allowed for a sudden burst of sunshine which lured us outside for outfit photos.

You might recognize the dress, which is the first one with the "Ein Fink Modell" label I'd charity shopped the other week. Thank you, Beate, for sending me the link shedding some light upon the label!

The dress's previous owner had apparently removed the bottom part of its lining, so that it now ended at the hips where it bunched up annoyingly. There was nothing for it but to take it out completely, and wear one of my vintage slips underneath.

I used bright pinks for my opaques, cardigan and dragonfly brooch, and added my famous wooden discs necklace from Accessorize. The purple leather belt is one of the charity shop finds I started this post with.

My green turban headband was crocheted for me by my friend Ingrid. It's even better than a beret for taming my unruly hair!

This might very well be my final post of the year, unless I decide to squeeze in another one at the last moment. If I don't, I'll see you on the other side of the great divide!

Before I go, I'm treating you to a glimpse of another garden stalwart which is still blooming today: a cheerful orange Nasturtium flower peeking out from behind one of our bird feeders!  A sight for sore eyes, but  a bit worrying too, as surely they are not supposed to produce flowers at the end of December!

Oh, and before I forget: this morning at 11 am, the first Covid-19 vaccinations were administered here in Belgium! 

Take care and stay safe, my friends!

Thursday 24 December 2020

It's beginning to look a tiny little bit like Christmas

In spite of all the time I've got on my hands, my blog keeps lagging seriously behind. 

This had me stumped at first, until it dawned on me that it is simply because I have more time. 

Where in the past, my blog mainly covered my weekend escapades, I'm now diligently recording all my non-working days which, apart from the weekends, also include Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays! And even if on quite a few of those days nothing much seems to be happening, I'm still aiming to show you what I've been wearing. Getting dressed up, after all, keeps being one of my greatest pleasures and in these strangely warped times often the highlight of my day.

But tomorrow is Christmas and, although my diary's next installment is supposed to continue with Thursday, 10 December, it simply wouldn't do not to bring you a bit of Christmas cheer! 

So, I'm setting the time machine's controls for the Thursday of last week, briefly skipping one week ahead to the day when we put up and decorated our Christmas tree. 

Not being much of a Christmas person at the best of times, this year in particular I wasn't feeling even remotely in the mood, and would have gladly given the silly season a wide berth if Jos hadn't insisted on the tree.

And you know what, once Jos had lugged the box containing our faithful "faux fir" out of the basement and we'd started to assemble the damn thing, I actually began to feel ever so slightly festive.

The radio was playing 60s pop songs, to which we sang along, and slowly but surely the tree emerged from its colour-coded components. After we'd completed the next stage, the slightly bothersome task of putting in the string of 100 LED lights, I'm sure you'll agree we deserved a glass of non-alcoholic beer!

Note my funky apron fashioned from a piece of 1960s tablecloth - which used to grace festive tables during my childhood - fastened at the back with a safety pin. Klassy, as Sheila would say! I was wearing this to protect my frock's fragile fabric from the faux fir needles.

Our decorations are a jumble of vintage baubles - some of them heirlooms - and anything that has tickled my fancy over the last twenty-five plus years, which includes miniature bird houses, rag doll angels, felt icicles and birds such as the clip-on wren on the top right, which is one of a pair. Oh, and I've got a pair of sparkly silver chairs as well.

The eagle-eyed among you might spot some candles too. Do not worry, though, they are obviously never lighted. They are vintage and, with their little clip-on candle holders are heirlooms from both our families.

OK, that's quite enough Christmas stuff, I should say.

Now let's get back into that time machine and return to the order of the day, which is what we did two weeks ago on Thursday.

The day didn't start very promising, all grey and overcast and accompanied by a chilly 5°C, so that we'd resigned ourselves to yet another day spent at home.

But lo and behold: while we were having lunch the sun suddenly decided to grace us with her presence after all!

Too late in the day to go for a proper walk, we were nevertheless in need for a breath of fresh air or two, so we walked down to our garage and drove to the water tower in the neighbouring village of Reet.

I dressed up in some of my warmest Winter finery, which included a coat picked up in Think Twice last year, accessorized with a burgundy faux fur stole (a sales bargain back in 2018) and a matching burgundy beret.

December's sun was sitting low in the sky, caught in the branches of the trees. Some of them were bearing strange fruits on their bare branches, which made them look like some kind of freakish Christmas trees, their baubles put on willy-nilly by hasty, clumsy hands.

We climbed the tower in the hope of spotting the uppermost spheres of the Atomium in Brussels, about 30 kilometers away. The last time we were here, on a hot Summer's day, the view had been hidden behind the lush foliage of a line of trees. But although these had all shed the last of their leaves by now, we were once again thwarted by nature as it was too foggy for any clear, distant views.

Nevertheless, the ethereal ghost-grey mist which was swathing the landscape, the flat horizon only interrupted by a far-off church steeple standing proud, evoked instant nostalgia.

Directly below us, a massive gash in the landscape has been made by one of the last vestiges of the once powerful and prolific brick-making industry. From up here, it looks like a Lilliput world, complete with Dinky Toy trucks controlled by Gulliver's hands.

The village of Reet might be a sleepy backwater, it is blessed with a small charity shop, where obviously we had to stop on our way home.

Initially, the only item thrown up by the clothing aisles was a zippered cardigan for Jos - not pictured as he is so enamoured with it he is refusing to take it off - but then I spotted a rail filled with festive clothing. Among these, a glorious vintage frock in golden yellows and oranges threaded with Lurex!

It's got a giant Paisley print, a pussy bow, gorgeous buttons at its cuffs, and it was my size! No need to think twice about this one! Strangely enough, it's from the same label (Ein Fink Modell) as the frock I found the other day.

I also picked up several brooches, priced at € 0,50 each. I took a snapshot of them while I was waiting in the car for Jos when it was his turn to go into the shop. Note the background fabric, which belongs to my beret!

Back in the garage, we took some photos of what I was wearing underneath my coat.

The pinkish-red and grey dress with its folksy print was another Think Twice find from last year. On top, I wore the chunky black and white cardigan I'd picked up at a charity shop a couple of days earlier.

At my waist, a pinkish-red leather belt, which was an old retail buy, as was the felted flower corsage I pinned to my cardigan.

The multi-coloured wooden beaded necklace was charity shopped, while the vintage ceramic poppy brooch was a flea market find.

No poppies of any kind remain in our garden, but there's still plenty going on. There's the last of the Oxeye daisies, for instance, while most of our Geraniums seem to refuse to give in to the inevitable. The pink Garvinea -  a hardy garden Gerbera - we bought back in June (bottom left) has been an absolute delight, even if by now the last of its flowers is dying gracefully. Meanwhile, the tiny leaves of our Cotoneaster, forever in competition with its berries, are still stealing the show with their fiery reds.

Friday was a wet and dismal day, with a slight rise in temperature. Wanting to strike the iron while it was hot, we visited another charity shop, where once again I was in luck.

I'll leave my finds for a next post, but before I go, I'll show you what I was wearing that day.

You've seen my orange and purple plaid H&M skirt quite recently, but that didn't stop me from wearing it again. This time, its companion was one of the tops I found at the charity shop earlier that week.

It's a thin, navy polo neck from River Woods, sprinkled with white and burgundy spots. It had been years since I last wore a polo neck of any kind, as I found it was not compatible with the menopause, but I actually loved wearing this one!

The fluffy orange Pauline B. cardigan (charity shopped) was perfect to ward off the chills. 

I added a navy belt, another charity shop find, and a long beaded necklace which was a gift from a friend. My Cameo brooch was part of my birthday Think Twice haul back in September.

So, that's it for now. 

All that's left is to wish you all a wonderful Christmas. No matter how you celebrate it, please do it responsibly. Stay safe and be extra fabulous!

Sunday 20 December 2020

These bleak December days

In spite of having oodles of time, way more than I ever dreamed possible before retirement, I feel as if I've been frittering it away lately. The surge of energy I started with back in Spring has dwindled to the odd short burst of activity before indolence sets in again. 

Covid-19 restrictions and lack of daylight are a lethal combination forcing one into semi-hibernation. 

The garden is hibernating too. One by one the plants which gave us so much pleasure in the Summer months are calling it a day. The last of the leaves have been swept up, Spring bulbs have been planted, and all we can do now is wait. 

Now, more than ever, life is a waiting game at this time of year. Waiting for time to pass, for the days to get longer again, and for the weather gods to magic away the rain clouds even if only for a day.

Two weeks ago on Saturday was such a day. For most of the morning, the sky was a blanket of grey and with a goose-bumpy 6°C, it initially didn't look too inviting. However, after having been cooped up inside the house for most of the week, we were thankful for the small mercy that at least it looked set to remain dry.

I dressed warmly to combat the chill, wearing a fur collared and cuffed Tweed jacket for which the cold was no match. The jacket is part of a suit, last worn in its entirety back in January. Found at Think Twice, it has been gracing my wardrobe for many a year. My green beret was a Think Twice find too, while the riotously coloured woollen scarf was picked up in a charity shop.

We opted for a short stroll rather than a longer walk, our destination of choice being the municipal park of the nearby town of Boom, a mere 15 minutes drive from Dove Cottage.

And look what greeted us when we stepped out of the car! The patches of blue between the fluffy white clouds gladdened our hearts. Silhouetted against the winter-blue sky the skeleton trees seemed to wiggle their twiglets in greeting and beckon us in. 

A veritable sight for sore eyes awaited us when we entered the park, where we were delighted to see that there was plenty of water in the once silted up brook leading towards the series of ponds at the far end of the park. We'd often felt sorry for the park's paddling of ducks (how delightful is that collective noun!) who had to make do with the odd muddy and foul smelling puddle.

Rather than following the course of the brook as we usually do, we opted for the path skirting the edge of the park, which in spite of having visited many times before was unknown territory for us.

Just before the path met another entrance from the main road, we turned left, making our way towards the park's heart again, passing a tavern which was closed for obvious reasons, its adjacent playground looking quite forlorn, but presided over by a gentle, mustachioed giant.

We realized we'd never been here this time of year before, and where in Summer the park's surrounding streets are hidden behind thickets of green, there was now no pretending that we were in the middle of a forest.

Looking for a sheltered spot for outfit photos, we left the path to walk among the layer of Autumn leaves. At some point, we must have disturbed a squirrel, who promptly scuttled away and, quick-as-lightning, disappeared out of sight into one of the trees.

Try as we might, we could not locate it, but I bet it was snickering up there behind the curtain of russet leaves in the fork of that tree.

The pinkish-red skirt I was wearing, in a deliciously warm and stroke-able blend of polyester and mohair, was joined by a black, rose patterned King Louie jumper which came to me by way of a charity shop.

I wore it over my skirt, adding a fabric belt belonging to a vintage dress I haven't worn in ages. For extra warmth, a dark, greyish green fluffy cardigan - another charity shop find - was worn on top. The black floral necklace was picked up at an outdoor flea market several Summers ago.

The next day, Sunday, was a very bleak and inclement day, the mercury halting at a mere 3°C.

We only briefly hopped outside for outfit photos after lunch, just long enough to show you the vintage C&A dress I was wearing that day. Another wool enriched polyester blend, the dress had been about to be put into the sell-or-give-away boxes when I decided to give it another chance.

For some reason, I thought its sage green colour would be too bland on me, but what I saw in the mirror seemed to prove me wrong. 

I accessorized the dress with a shiny vinyl, caramel coloured belt, my favourite multi-coloured beaded necklace and a brooch featuring a twinkling, amber coloured rhinestone in a nest of gold wire.

Too chilly to go it alone out in the garden, I wore a caramel beret and threw on a sleeveless "faux sheep" vest, a cheeky high street buy back in November 2017.

My memory is another blank where it concerns that day, but luckily my journal tells me I hadn't been completely idle.

Fed up with the faded buttons on my green Mango cardigan, I replaced them with these cute vintage ones from my stash. There, better!

Once again skipping Monday's office day, we have now arrived at Tuesday 8 December. 

With the temperature still in the low single figures, I thought it was time for the final stage of my wardrobe switch, exchanging the two sides of the coat wardrobe, so that now all my Winter coats are on the left, most easily accessible, side. 

I unearthed this plaid wool jacket which frankly speaking I'd forgotten all about.  Bought in a vintage shop opposite my hairdresser's, it's graced with a soft furry collar and cleverly disguised side pockets.
As you can see, I wasted no time in wearing it, accompanied by a burgundy belt, caramel beret and brown speckled scarf.

The pleated skirt with its abundance of flowers interrupted by rows of berries and Paisley joined my wardrobe in October 2019, when it was part of a € 4 a piece Think Twice haul.

Both the teal jumper and the necklace with its mix of wooden and ceramic beads were retail buys from eons ago. The burgundy leather belt was charity shopped while, if I remember correctly, the enamelled iris brooch was once upon a time picked up at our favourite and sorely missed indoor flea market

I'd been a good girl that day, vacuuming and dusting the sitting room, hallway and dining room. My reward was our first post-lockdown 2.0 visit to a charity shop.

We chose our most local one for the honour and, while I masked up and went in first, Jos followed me a couple of minutes later, as shopping is still restricted to a solo activity here in Belgium. We are also supposed not to indulge in any fun-shopping and to only stay inside a shop for a maximum of 30 minutes. Well, what's the point of going charity shopping if you can't have fun? Lately, it feels as if there's a rule against having fun and you're actually being made to feel ever so slightly guilty if you do!

Well, I did have fun, so there, and what's more, the charity shop goddesses looked down on me favourably as well!

I found two blouses (top and bottom left), a chunky knit cardigan (top right) and a Tweed skirt (bottom right), as well as a funky necklace, which you can see on top of the pile in the photo above the collage. 

You'll get to see it all in detail in my next posts, as everything except for the skirt has been worn already.

I also managed to grab a vintage dress from the rails, in a purplish blue printed with a confetti of tiny pink flowers. Its cute label shows a bird - a finch in all probability - and the name Ein Fink Modell, and although I couldn't find any information on it, I can tell with certainty is that its origins lie in a German speaking country.

The sizing seems to be a bit off, as I'm usually a size 40 or thereabouts, and this size 36 is a tiny bit generous on me! You'll see me wearing it shortly!

I'm finishing this post with a little forward leap to Wednesday 16 December, when the postman rang our doorbell bearing a parcel of joy all the way from Spain.

I simply cannot wait for the weather to get colder again so that I can wear this gorgeous scarf and beret combo crocheted by the lovely Monica! Thank you again for thinking of me!

And now, it is time to say goodbye once more. Do stay safe, my dears!

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Little black rain clouds

The year's final month tiptoed in on a Tuesday. In stockinged feet, time only left the faintest of footprints as it passed the threshold into December. The clocks tick-tocked on relentlessly, another handful of minutes of daylight shaved off each day until the Winter Solstice turning point.

The weather gods kept having the last laugh with temperatures up and down like a yo-yo and the sun playing a game of tag with the clouds.

On the menu that Tuesday, intermittent drizzle, followed by a peek-a-boo appearance of the sun and a dessert of heavy showers, the mixture drizzled with a neither here nor there 10°C.

That morning, my wardrobe offered a seasonal symphony of greens and reds, which started with the soft-as-silk faux-suede bottle green skirt. 

Both the skirt and the lightweight jumper have their origins in well-known high street shops, but while the skirt was last Winter's sales bargain from Uniqlo, the mid-century look jumper is Zara by way of a charity shop. 

Short enough to wear over my skirt rather than tucked in, I treated the jumper to a square buckled belt in exactly the same shade of green as the skirt. My jewellery collection came up trumps with a beaded necklace in a similar colour as well. And speaking of mid-century, the vintage brooch I pinned to the jumper, a flea market find with an Edelweiss in the starring role, is the real thing.

As we had an errand to run, a generous helping of burgundy was added in the shape of my boots and tweed-and-knit vintage jacket. I kept to green with my beret, but added a dollop of blue, orange and magenta with my wavy knit scarf.

Zipper teeth rather than moths had left several holes in the scarf, so in order not to make matters worse, I dug into my stash of charity shopped darning wool and settled down to some mending.

With the day a definite write-off on the weather front, my next task was selecting new reading matter from the shelf of unread books in our spare room.

I'm trying to be severe and only keep those books that have really gripped me and redonate the rest. However, I'm still fastly running out of space and have already resorted to creating double layers as well as cramming books into every available nook and cranny.

The piles on the bottom shelf below are just the tip of my reading iceberg, picked up in charity shops here as well as on our UK holidays over the years. As I still keep adding to it, there's no fear of a reading black hole here at Dove Cottage!

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender had been patiently waiting its turn. The book's protagonist is a young girl who has the ability to taste emotions in the foods she eats. I have finished the book by now, and I'm still not sure what to think of it. While the descriptive writing is brilliant, I was having a hard time with the surreal elements laced through the otherwise quite realistic narrative. A problem I didn't have with Audrey Niffenegger's equally surreal The Time Traveler's Wife.

But I'm digressing, for on that Tuesday I was yet to make myself comfortable on the couch and start my journey into the unknown territory of a new book. Before I could do so, however, there was another choice to make. Now, which of these warm Winter slippers shall I wear?

If you guessed the pair on the far right - on old charity shop find - you guessed correctly :-)

Wednesday's office day soon rolled along and as non-essential shops had re-opened on Tuesday, I certainly hadn't been looking forward to it. However, the continued dismal weather must have put a lot of people off, as the city streets weren't nearly as crowded as I'd expected them to be. At least they weren't by the time I called it a day and went home, so that I could make it to our pick-up point without having to sidestep non-complying people!

There was no improvement in the weather on Thursday, so it would have been another quiet day at home if it weren't for the demise of one of our floor lamps. 

An old IKEA uplighter with added reading lamp, it had lived next to our sofa for many years. Lately, however, it had started leaning precariously, as the tube was detaching itself from its base.

Jos's attempt to do some temporary repairs failed bitterly, and as it looked as if toppling over was imminent, which would have caused quite a bit of damage in the process, we needed to replace it without delay. 

We'd already tried a local DIY store, without success. Nor did our visit to a well-known lighting shop bring any solace, as apparently they were having a closing down sale, which resulted in the inevitable queues.

On Thursday afternoon, after consulting several shop websites, we finally found what we were looking for in another DIY store a bit further afield. As we are restricted to solo shopping, Jos went into the shop to get it while I waited in the car, keeping myself amused by taking a selfie and snapping the view through the rain-streaked windshield.

And here it is in situ! I'm not sure I'm too keen on its streamlined look, but it does do what it's meant to do, and much better than the ancient uplighter too. Besides, we can always customize it by replacing the lampshade with something more appropriate later!

The good thing is that we didn't have to spend any money on it, as we were able to pay with Ecocheques. These are vouches which most Belgian employees get on a yearly basis and which can be used to purchase energy saving devices and all kinds of environmentally friendly stuff. 

For my outfit, I took the lead from the plummeting temperatures by selecting a vintage, midi-length wool-blend dress, baskets of flowers dotted liberally on its black background.

Accessories were a multi coloured beaded necklace, an ice blue cat brooch, a translucent aqua flower ring and a turquoise belt. All of it second-hand finds, apart from the brooch.

The watery sunshine Friday started with was no match for the clouds which soon chased it away, leaving us with a dismal, cold and windy days.

This meant that our new lamp was already put to the test, working overtime to lift the daytime gloom. Its position right in front of the display cabinet in the corner did however show up the accumulated dust on the glass shelves, which were long overdue a thorough clean. This would be my task for that morning.

The cabinet in question holds Jos's collection of EXPO 58 memorabilia, his fascination for the 1958 Brussels World Fair dating back to his visits to the fair as an impressionable young boy.

His modest collection got quite a boost on the World Fair's 50th Anniversary back in 2008 when lots of forgotten items were unearthed from attics where they'd languished under layers of dust for years. Often commanding absurdly astronomical prices, unfortunately.

In the afternoon, I continued with a task I'd started over Summer, weeding through stacks of holiday brochures and leaflets and putting them into appropriately labelled box folders.

When visiting National Trust, English Heritage or privately owned properties, we always try and buy a guide book, and I was happy to rediscover those of William Morris's Kelmscott Manor, visited in 2006, and Virginia Woolf's Monk House, visited one year earlier.

The Black Country short breaks and days out guides took me by surprise. Apparently, back in 2007, when we were trying to decide which area of the UK to visit next, I'd applied for these online. We eventually went to Herefordshire that year, but little did I know I would meet Vix, who is a Black Country girl, several years later!

There must have been a break in the clouds later that day as not only were we able to take outfit photos in the garden, I am squinting in bright sunlight here. As a matter of fact, most of the photos we'd taken turned out far too bright and bleached of colour, so I'm using the best of the bunch here.

I was wearing a long-sleeved navy Diolen dress printed with sky blue and sea green motifs, yet again using greens for my opaques, belt and necklace, but adding a splash of orange with my brooch.

The blue boots were a charity shop find from just before Lockdown 2.0.

I might have been squinting in the sun, but there's no denying our micro-climate little garden is relishing the rare rays which are keeping some of our flowers going well into December.

Aren't they a cheerful sight on a bleak December day?

I'll be back in a couple of days, but in the meantime I hope you are all staying safe, sane and fabulous, my friends!