Friday 28 August 2020

The odd uneven time *

We're well into August's final week by now, and the weather seems to have changed completely almost overnight. With the rain pitter-pattering on the landing's skylight behind me and strong gusts of wind making the birch tree in our neighbour's front garden groan and sway, it definitely felt as if Autumn had arrived prematurely on Tuesday.

It's hard to believe that only a week before the thermometer was still nudging the low thirties and that we were groaning and moaning about having to live through yet another sweltering, sweat-inducing day.

The few showers we'd had earlier last week had been welcome treats for the garden, the flowers showing off the smattering of raindrops as if they were precious jewels. They were soon evaporated by the strength of the sun, however, as she had another go at putting the plants' resilience to the test.

The heatwave decided to give it one final push on Thursday before last. 

Browsing my wardrobe for that day's outfit, my eyes alighted on this sleeveless vintage frock. With its drop collar and its cheerful blue, orange and white colour scheme, it has seen the light of day every Summer ever since I found it at Think Twice several years ago.

I picked white and a hint of orange for my accessories, which included a beaded necklace from a sorely missed vintage shop, a flea market brooch and one of my trademark plastic rings.

There had been another National Security Council meeting that morning resulting in a couple of minor relaxations of the rules. No more sneaking around and secretly meeting in the charity shop aisles as shopping in twos would be allowed once again starting the following Monday.

But we were only Thursday, and I was feeling a bit jittery, so I suggested we go to the small charity shop in the next village and try our luck.

This is generally one of the quieter shops, and their stock can be very hit or miss, but it seemed we were in luck this time. While we acted as if we were two strangers, and Jos went off to browse the records at the back of the shop, I perused the well-stocked clothing rails, finding not one but two dresses.

The very hard to photograph red gingham one (which rather looks like polka dots here) is another King Louie, while the blue and white one is from Belgian high street shop Lola Liza.

A pair of brand new looking black Clarks shoes in my size for just € 4?  Yes, please!  I already have this model in burgundy (a flea market find!) and they are insanely comfortable. Perfect for Autumn as an alternative to ankle boots.

My heart made a little jump of joy when I spotted this vintage hand-made jacket. With its funky and colourful pattern, it effortlessly stood out among the rail of yawn inducing jackets. Its fabric has a deliciously silky feel and it is lined in a shimmering pale blue.

Just as I was about to pay at the till, I noticed a couple of brooches in a display cabinet. Priced at € 1 each, it would have been downright silly not to snap them all up.

All this for just € 22!  I'd quite forgotten how rewarding charity shopping can be.

On our way back home, we stopped at a large local shoe shop, as Jos needed a new pair of slippers. With the sales still ongoing, it was almost inevitable that I too made a purchase ... which you'll get to see later on in this post.

The temperature was supposed to drop considerably on Friday, but the day started bright and sunny, so that soon it climbed back into the high twenties.

The garden is showing signs of impending Autumn nonetheless.  Half-hidden by the faded and drooping blooms of our Hydrangea, the first of the flower heads are appearing in the Sedum spectabile (top right) we planted many years ago. With its fleshy foliage and constellation of tiny, star-like, soon-to-be pink flowers, they are a late Summer source of nectar for the garden's army of bees. 

The Japanese Anemone I planted back in July surprised us with its first flower buds (bottom left), while a bee was going crazy over yet another Siamese twinned flower head produced by the purple Osteospermum.

I opted for a skirt and top combo that day, a happy marriage of vintage and modern. 

The Diolen skirt with its vibrant flower pattern is one of my favourite Think Twice finds ever and has been with me for many years. The top with its cowl neck and tiny bird print (which unfortunately seems to be disappearing into oblivion in all but the close-up photos) was charity shopped, as was the necklace.

And here's the ubiquitous stretchy belt again, making yet another appearance. The butterfly brooch is one of my modern pieces, while the tomato red sandals are my naughty buy from the shoe shop the day before.

Buoyed by the previous day's success, we were raring to go and check out two of our favourite local charity shops that morning. I have been missing my rummaging fix for far too long already.

Two groovilicious long-sleeved tops ended up in my trolley. The green, brown and yellow shirt on the bottom right is from Belgian label Wow To Go, and I already have a dress in the same pattern.

A close-up of the pattern of the one on the top left reveals that it is actually made up of birds, which isn't immediately apparent when looking at it from afar.

The jewellery display in one of the shops came up trumps as well, with a handful of necklaces and a yellow-hearted brooch.

But my best find of the day must have been these glorious cork-soled red sandals from vintage style shoe label Miz Mooz. Again, they look as good as unworn, and the best is yet to come: their incredible € 3,20 price tag!

Now, this is where this post would normally have had its conclusion, treating you to a glimpse of Phoebe under the influence! 

After ignoring the catmint I'd planted for months, the silly beast has now taken a liking to it after all and regularly takes a good sniff when passing it on her way to the back of the garden.

I was going to publish this post on Thursday and then squeeze in another, to be scheduled one before we leave on Sunday. Being strapped for time with an additional office day this week, there was nothing for it but to make this one a little longer and leave it at that.

Let's start by having a look at what I was wearing on Saturday. I forgot to make a journal entry, but the polyester frock I'm wearing is telling me that the temperature must have dropped sufficiently enough to justify wearing it. I remember wearing an orange cardi on top for most of the day, which apparently I'd ditched for the photos.

My accessories consisted of a caramel coloured leather belt, an old wood and ceramic necklace, charity shopped bangle and bracelet and a glitter and brown plastic ring. Oh, and my vintage brooch, which was a gift from my friend Inez.

The garden is looking very lush, which I hope it will continue to do for some time yet. We are fully aware we might lose some of the patio plants while we're away, and can only hope for the best. Which would be that it regularly rains in Antwerp, but remains dry in the west of the country!

My final outfit is last Sunday's, when we were invited to a bubbled and socially distanced family barbecue at Jos's son and daughter in law. You know, the humble servants of  Lady Abby!

The weather did let us down a bit at first, as we woke up to a grey and rainy morning, but the sun came out later and all was well. 

Nevertheless, I'd progressed to wearing three-quarter sleeves, nylons and ankle boots. Couldn't run the risk of catching a chill, could we? 

The dress is an old retail buy and I'm still head over heels with its print after all these years. But while I often use red as an accent colour, this time I took the lead from the yellow bits in the print, adding a yellow necklace and ring. The green flower brooch is one of those I picked up at the first charity shop we visited on Thursday.

Then the rain and stormy weather came. August rain and skies pitch black with storm clouds. The sky ringing with crows cawing and screeching blue murder. The sun going down while making one more attempt to set the day on fire. An unmistakable scent of pending Autumn in the air.

Did we already have Summer's grand finale?

So, this is it then. I'll be welcoming our week away with open arms.

Stay safe, and I'll see you at the other side!

* From The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 8 August 1952:

"August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time."

Sunday 23 August 2020

The light in August

I can barely get my head around the fact that this time next week we'll be on our yearly sojourn to Belgium's west country. There's still quite a few things to wrap up at work, for starters. And then there's my favourite pastime of packing to be done.

I'm starting to feel a bit faint when I'm thinking about the latter, so let's not get into that yet ... now where did I put those smelling salts?

I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger in my last post, so I'm making a brief return to Friday before last and show you those charity shop finds as promised.

In spite of shopping still being a solo activity (this will be changed again as from tomorrow!), we sneaked in together by taking separate trolleys and secretly meeting in the aisles! Naughty, naughty!

Then Jos grabbed a coffee at the cafeteria, while I browsed the well-stocked clothing department. With the heatwave on its last legs, but warmish weather still on the cards for the next week or so, I kept my eyes peeled for easy, breezy Summer tops.

I almost did a double take when I spotted the pink twin of my favourite green peasant style top, bought in the New Look sales two years ago. It goes without saying it couldn't make its way into my trolley fast enough. 

These two stretchy cap-sleeved pussy bow tops are of the wash 'n go variety and will be the perfect companions for a multitude of skirts. They are also very suitcase proof, as they can be rolled up and tucked away without the least bit of creasing. 

As always, I made a beeline for the rail of dresses, but in spite of being spoilt for choice, nothing I fancied was in my size. Until I pulled out this one for closer inspection! 

In 100% silk, it's from Essentiel Antwerp (look, Sheila!), whose flagship store is opposite the spot where Jos is picking me up after work on my office days. Their dresses start at € 195, so I think the € 13,50 I paid for it was money well spent. I'll have you know that this is expensive for this particular chain of charity shops, so somebody has clearly done their homework!

The background colour was very hard to photograph, as it is leaning more towards green in real life.

Our only non-clothing purchase was this reproduction Tala icing set. It was displayed on a shelf of tins and priced similarly as the empty ones (€ 1,30), so I'm guessing that this time somebody hasn't been doing their job properly and never thought of opening it. Admittedly, there was hardly any weight to it, plus the icing syringe and nozzles fit so snuggly into the packing that no movement could be detected at all.

A collection within our collection of kitchenalia, we already own several proper vintage Tala icing sets, including this one, which the reproduction set must have been based upon.

I'm swiftly skipping to Saturday before last now. 

With the temperature hovering around the mid-twenties, it was still more than warm enough to warrant the wearing of more of those lightweight Summer clothes.

The black cotton button-through skirt with its white daisy print and triple layer of rick-rack is vintage 1970s and from the Merry Finn label.  The blue based, multi-coloured pussy bow blouse, on the other hand, is a modern King Louie piece by way of the charity shops. 

As a nod to the skirt, I accessorized with a black and white beaded necklace and black-rimmed flower brooch. Tying in with the turquoise bits in the blouse, I added a turquoise textured belt at my waist.

Everything but the tan espadrille wedges - a sales bargain last Summer - was acquired second hand.

I planted up the pansies we'd brought home from the garden centre, one of which I gave a home in a leaky enamel coffee pot recently vacated by a Lobelia which hadn't survived the heatwave. 

Yellow Rudbeckia mingles happily with purple Verbena, while annuals such as candy striped Petunia, creamy yellow-hearted Lantana and Fuchsia are still blooming their hearts out.

A dome of perfect blue Summer sky watched over it all, dotted with the odd wispy cloud. It's August, that often bittersweet month, undeniably on the cusp of two seasons. 

For some inexplicable reason, this photo is making me both happy and sad in the same breath.

There's nothing like the sky in August and the languidness of her days, yet:

"Whilst August yet wears her golden crown,

    Ripening fields lush-bright with promise;

Summer waxes long, then wanes, quietly passing

    Her fading green glory on to riotous Autumn."

-  Michelle L. Thieme, August's Crown 

Now that it was starting to cool down inside the house, it was time for some long overdue housework.

My journal tells me that on Sunday, while Jos vacuumed and mopped the rooms downstairs, I dusted our bedroom and the landing. Then, before the mood escaped me, I cleaned the bathroom surfaces and part of the kitchen's. 

There was a storm brewing, so before all hell was let loose, we went outside for outfit photos.

You'll immediately recognize the top, which I'd plucked from the ironing pile where it had ended up after washing, so great was my desire to wear it. The skirt was another recent charity shop find, which I wore on the blog not all that long ago. Cool in double 100% cotton!

Both the pink, yellow and white woven belt and the wooden beaded necklace were old charity shop finds. Even the peep-toe slingbacks I'm wearing were charity shopped. They're Clarks and they were waiting for me in Bridgnorth in June 2019.

The storm finally arrived late afternoon with enough rain to forgo my watering duties that evening.

Nothing to report about Monday's moderately busy office day, so I'm skipping that and hopping over to Tuesday.

The vintage Shelton Stroller dress I was wearing never fails to make an appearance each Summer, so I was rather surprised it was still hanging unworn in my wardrobe this year.

With its fit and flare silhouette, wide, drapey tie collar and smooth satiny fabric in an abstract red, blue and black print on a white background, this late 1950s, early 1960s dress is a joy to wear.

I tamed its tie by pinning it with a Miracle brooch and accentuated the waist by adding a red vinyl belt.

I used plenty of red for the rest of my accessories as well, including a red plastic ring and red and white beaded necklace. A white and blue polka dot bangle kept my red one company.

We went on a veritable charity shop sprawl later that week and finds were plentiful, so I'm afraid I'll have to leave you with another cliffhanger.

Until then, do stay safe, sane and as fabulous as possible!

Thursday 20 August 2020


I'm currently counting down the days (10 to go at the time of publishing) to our little holiday in Belgium's west country. We'll be staying in our usual little thatched cottage overlooking a picturesque private lake and I'm keeping my spirits up by imagining sitting on the cottage's terrace and enjoying the view over the fields towards the hills on the French border in the distance. 

I'm fully aware that things might be just a little different from our previous eight (!) visits, but I expect that being able to escape the rut I seem to be in lately and having a well-needed change of scenery, will be balm for the soul nonetheless.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's pick up where I left you in my previous post, which was smack dab in the middle of the mother of all heatwaves!

Temperatures were expected to come down from their great heights in the days following the weekend before last. Or at least, that's what those bothersome weathermen had us believe. But no, the mercury still gleefully climbed towards the mid-thirties on Monday. To say I was glad to escape to the coolness of my airconditioned office is quite an understatement.

Sadly, back at home some of our plants didn't cope all too well with the relentless heat. So, it's goodbye to the Iceland poppies, which have literally burnt to a crisp, while the glossy dark burgundy leaves of our Heuchera "Black Sea" have definitely lost their original colour and sheen.

Then there are those plants which seem to thrive in hot weather. Take our Portulaca, which is living happily in its lilac tin bucket suspended from one of the branches of our rampant privet. It is a small, succulent annual with fleshy foliage and colourful blooms that vary in colour, from yellows and tangerines to hot pinks and reds. The tiny flowers close when the sun goes down, but every morning they greet the day again with their cheerful little faces.

On the bottom right, you can catch a blurred glimpse of them behind the chocolate scented flowers of Cosmos atrosanguineus. Another hot weather lover, these are just starting to dwindle after having flowered profusely for months. 

Yes, alright, I can hear you thinking, but what about your outfit? And are you wearing trousers again? Well, yes I am, and what's more, I bought them in the sales during lunch break on Monday. They're from the same Mango shop where I'd bought the red jumpsuit last year, and I knew resistance was futile as soon as I clapped eyes on them.

Not only do they look fabulous, with their Paisley-esque yellow, green and turquoise print on a creamy background, they are easily the most comfortable trousers I've ever worn. Plus, they have pockets!

They also have huge slits on the side of each wide leg, offering sufficient ventilation on a hot day.

Of course, I had to wear them immediatly on Tuesday. I've had the teal H&M top I was wearing with it for eons. Admittedly, I'd forgotten all about it until I recently found it tucked away at the back of a drawer. The butterfly pendant was among the charity shop jewellery haul of a couple of weeks ago.

Being another 30 degrees plus scorcher, I started the day with some early morning gardening accompanied by the busy bees taking full advantage of our garden's spoils.

As Jos was in need of a pair of shorts, we tried our luck at the local C&A shop, where fortunately we found what we were looking for. Then, after lunch, I caught up with blog comments and continued making holiday plans.

I also sorted my growing collection of face masks which at the latest count number more than twenty!

I recently found a little shop around the corner from my office selling a huge selection of cheerfully printed cotton ones, so I admit I went a bit crazy. The nice girl at the till even offered me a reduction! She was admiring the curtain couture skirt I was wearing and we ended up talking about second hand shopping as well as venting our thoughts and frustrations on the current C-word situation and its do's and don'ts. I left the shop a much happier person!

These are some of the masks I bought, minus those which are currently in the wash and those which Jos has claimed for himself.

As they needed a home of their own, I offered them this small pink polka-dot suitcase, which I think is most suitable!

That evening, we were regaled by a thunderstorm and heavy rain, which unfortunately only cooled down things slightly and very briefly. It did mean only having to water a couple of pots under the awning, though.

Jos, who is even less heat resistant than me, couldn't resist nipping out into the garden in his pyjama bottoms and offer his thanks to the rain gods!

And all the while, the sun kept on doing its daily descent, shining like a fiery ball between the trees, with the rain pouring down in buckets.

There was still no escaping the heat on Wednesday before last, except for at the office with its deliciously cooling bur rather noisy airco. 

Promises, promises! It should have been relatively cooler that day, but the temperatures still hovered around the mid-thirties. That afternoon, I had a long talk with my lovely boss, during which we agreed to continue with the temporary part-time unemployment after the initial end date of 31 August which, in all honesty, I'm finding quite a relief. 

Thursday was a very clammy and stifling day, again with temperatures of well over 30° Celsius. 

By mid-morning I was already sweating profusely, in spite of wearing this cool cotton piqué Summer dress. A € 2 flea market find back in April 2018, I had to use my very limited sewing skills and move the already asymmetrically closing buttons a bit, as initially it was a bit too big on top.

I just love its blowsy green flower print and bottle green flower-shaped buttons, which is why I grabbed it from that flea market rail without giving it any further thought. 

Its companions that day were an orange half-elasticated belt, one of the recently charity shopped Les Cordes necklaces, a floral brooch and yellow and green bangles.

A slightly cooler day on Friday, the temperatures finally dropping into the high twenties.

After our usual fruit and yoghurt breakfast, we decided to throw caution to the wind and drive down to the local charity shop. What with the latest restrictions which only allowed solo shopping, we hadn't been to any charity shops for weeks. I'll show you the things we found properly in my next post, but here's a little taster. 

The Echinacea "White Meditation" was brought back from the garden centre, which we visited afterwards.

After much deliberation, I gave in and finally bought a Crocosmia. This one is called "Carmine Brilliant" and as it didn't fit into the booth of our car, it shared the passenger seat with me!

It started pelting down as soon as we got home, turning our dusty garden path into a minor river. At one point, I needed my ankle booties to wade through the puddles to the end of the garden.

The pots of pansies which had made their way into my shopping trolley were looking a bit sorry for themselves at that point.

Showers came and went all afternoon, so that once again I was saved the task of watering the majority of the patio plants.

During one of the sun's brief visits, we were able to snap some outfit photos, so that I could show you the wonderful floral dress I was wearing. Instantly evoking holiday memories, it was a gift from Vix when we met up last year, and worn to visit a dream of a garden only days later.

Further holiday memories were provided by my necklace, a charity shop find during last year's west country holiday. The brooch and ring were flea market finds, while the stretchy belt, with its funky triangular pattern and mock tortoiseshell buckle, was a sales bargain back in June.

So, that's it for now. I'll be back with those charity shop finds and more outfits on Sunday.

Until then, keep on keeping safe, my friends!

Sunday 16 August 2020

Glaciers melting in the dead of night

Our heatwave has finally upped and left, leaving us with much more bearable but still warm enough temperatures in the mid to high twenties range.

In spite of all our efforts, Dove Cottage's upstairs rooms still feel as if we've left the oven door open, and we know from experience that it will take a couple of days at least for things to get back to normal. Until then, there's nothing for it but to bear those sweaty, glacier melting nights!

We were still in the thick of it on Friday before last. With temperatures set to reach 37°C, Code Red weather warnings were issued, advising people to spend the daytime hours in a cool indoor space and keep doors and windows closed to keep out the heat. As usual, not too much exertion and a regular fluid intake were also on the list for surviving the sweltering heat.

Always contrary and unwilling to face a string of days spent indoors, after breakfast we packed a picnic and drove back to Blaasveldbroek, the nature reserve we only visited on Tuesday.

Those of you who read my previous post might remember that we took a wrong turning somewhere on our way back to the car park, ending up walking along some paths we'd never walked before. It was on one of these paths, not far from a second, smaller car park, that we noticed a boardwalk leading down from the path to a platform at the edge of a pond. We could even make out a bench, but weren't able to go down and investigate as there was someone sitting on it.

Hoping for a stroke of good luck this early on this baking hot day, we parked our car under the trees in the small car park, and with some trepidation, strolled along the path leading to the boardwalk, all the while keeping our fingers firmly crossed. 

There was nobody there, how absolutely divine! We made our way along the boardwalk and sat down on the bench, taking in the view and relishing the fresh and still relatively cool air. The only sounds were the high pitched clucking of a plump of moorhens (had to look up the collective name) and the rhythmic thwoks of an early morning tennis game on one of the courts hidden by the trees somewhere behind us.

All too soon, the sun's rays pierced through the canopy shading our secluded little oasis, dappling the bench with searing sunlight. We decided to walk into the direction of the visitor's centre, where shady picnic benches would be on offer.

But again, our walk turned out to be longer than intended, taking us along a mixture of sun-baked trails and woodland paths, and along various stretches of water, including Hazewinkel, a well-known rowing course at the edge of the domain (bottom left).

The visitor centre and surrounding picnic area were completely deserted, so that we were spoilt for choice, opting for the long communal picnic table situated on the secluded so-called otter and beaver island.

Afterwards, we trudged back to the car park, making a slight detour to the boardwalk and bench, where we watched dragonflies hovering over the lake in search of a meal. Speaking of the latter, we fortified ourselves for the journey home by eating the waffles we'd brought as dessert.

A final view of my outfit, which consisted of the charity shopped Zara trousers I wore on our previous visit, this time accompanied by a printed cotton shirt picked up on a charity shopping trip back in July.

The searing and sultry temperatures continued over the weekend, prompting me to wear clothes I'm only considering on the hottest of days.

Take this jumpsuit, for instance. I'm unashamedly wearing retail here and not even a sales bargain at that. Making a shortcut through Antwerp's walk-through Mango shop, it was love at first sight last Summer.

I can report that it was extremely comfortable to wear and didn't cling anywhere. For the sake of modesty, I did pin a brooch to its decolletage. After some trial and error, I found one that fit the bill perfectly! The wooden beads were the only thing I could bear against my skin

Any gardening is confined to either early morning, when there's still enough shade in the garden to do my deadheading round, or from 9 to 9.30 onwards, for a watering session when the sun has dipped below the horizon.

Hats off to all the annuals who keep going in the face of extreme weather conditions!

I almost forgot to show you the back of my jumpsuit, which is another reason why I was hardly sweating in it at all!

We put up our 1970s parasol - a family heirloom - in our bistro courtyard, even though it's too hot to sit out there. This is mainly for our poor plants' benefit, in order to prevent those residing there burning to a crisp. I even took down the two pots hanging from the brackets of the enamel sign, as keeping them up there would have resulted in their untimely demise.

The King Louie halterneck dress I wore on Sunday was another charity shop find, incidentally picked up in the same shop near Bruges as the Zara trousers.

Too hot for accessories, I kept it simple by pinning a vintage daisy brooch to the dress, and briefly wearing a fused glass ring. Shortly after taking the photos, I took it off to yet again wash my hands, and forgot to put it back on.

The red suede Gabor wedges were last Summer's sales bargain.

Once again, we mostly took shelter inside, at one point dragging ourselves out of our lethargic states to lug a bag of holiday maps and booklets downstairs.

If all goes well, we will be in our usual cottage in Belgium's west country in two weeks' time. Do keep everything crossed for us please!

I'm leaving you now with some more garden loveliness, as in spite of it all, and helped with some of our rather sweaty tender loving care, some plants are still thriving. 

Our hanging strawberry plant is still treating us to regular berries, while pale pink Malva, lavender Salvia and a happy marriage of Verbena and Rudbeckia stubbornly refuse to succumb to the heat!

This will be my first post published through the new Blogger interface, so I do hope everything goes well. Wish me luck!

As always, do stay safe, sane and fabulous! Hope to see you again next time!