Tuesday 27 April 2021

And Spring arose on the garden fair

If it was still a bit too chilly for the time of year, with frosty dawns and a stiff breeze, at least the sun had decided to pay us an extended visit in the weekend before last.

Now we could have done any number of things in such weather, all of which would unfortunately have required meticulous forward planning. Our first priority is to avoid crowded places, where we have to slalom through groups of people and do the Covid shuffle until we're dizzy. At the same time, we are more than just a bit bored with walking in the same places, selected for their quietness, again and again. Bored of all the regulations and limitations drowning every last bit of spontaneity.

Sometimes it's hard to recall just what the old, pre-Covid, normal was like.

So, more often than not, we stay put behind Dove Cottage's front door, which fortunately includes our very own handkerchief sized corner of heaven.

No forward planning whatsoever was involved in Saturday's outfit. Or was it? I happened upon this dress while I was making a start with my seasonal changeover the weekend before. It hadn't been worn at all this Winter and I was actually going to put it in the flea market boxes when I decided to give it one last chance.

The dress in question, its leaf-strewn vertical bands of navy, pink and red meeting chevrons in the skirt, has always been one of my favourites. Then why even consider getting rid of it you might wonder? Well, the last time I tried it on it had become far too snug on me and after closing both its side zipper and front buttons, its seams were ready to burst, which made me all but burst into tears.

I put it aside for a final try-on and mentally prepared myself for disappointment, when lo and behold: it fit me perfectly again. I could almost hear those seams sigh in relief.

I took advantage of the specks of green throughout the dress's pattern to pick green as an accent colour for my cardigan, brooch and necklace. I then had a bit of a problem finding a belt in the right shade of green and was just about to give up when I remembered this one, which belongs to a Summer dress. The dress's pinks were kept company by the two sugar pink flower corsages I pinned to my cardi.

It might not be very noticeable in the photo, but I was wearing rusty red opaques. My navy ankle boots were only worn for the photos, as I was either in my slippers or my ankle wellies all day.

Clearing the pile of dead wood as well as a considerable amount of rampant ivy did not only create additional space to add yet more plants, it also freed up the terraced edges of the sunken part in the centre of our garden. Here, Dove Cottage's original owner had lovingly created a rock garden complete with a little house and windmill, and presided over by a tacky plastic garden gnome pushing a wheelbarrow.

Some of the original planting still remained when we took over the garden, but were replaced one by one over the years, as we tried to cram in as many of our cottage garden favourites as possible. As our little plot had become quite neglected in recent years, allowing the ivy to become a huge out-of-control monster, the terraces had all but disappeared completely.

That Saturday morning, I made a start with restoring it to its former glory, planting Sedums and Sempervivums and adding pebbles, shards of terracotta pots and two stone pumpkins which I found lying around in the garden.

I was delighted to see that the one and only Fritillary bulb which had deigned to come up was bearing not one but two flower heads. Elsewhere, colour was supplied by the vibrant Pulsatilla flowers and a medley of violas and pansies.

The red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) which we planted last year is preparing to shine once more and we can be quite certain of another bumper crop of white currants.  Bluebell spikes can be glimpsed among their abundant foliage and the shed and back wall is dotted with the first of the unfurling rusty-red lacquered Virginia creeper leaves.

"And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
-  Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant 

Garden pursuits finished, it was time for lunch, after which I traipsed upstairs to catch up with blogland. Meanwhile, Jos was due at the vaccination centre, where everything went like clockwork. As luck would have it, he was even able to see his granddaughter Saar, who is volunteering at the centre.

As instructed, Jos took a paracetamol as soon as he got home and another one before going to bed that night, and we are happy to report that he did not suffer from any side effects whatsoever.

As usual, our Saturday night plan was to watch one of our extensive collection of crime series DVD's. After recently finishing the latest series of Vera, we decided to re-watch the whole series from the beginning.  Unfortunately, our DVD player - an ancient thing we inherited from my Dad - refused to cooperate. It had been playing up since a couple of weeks, taking several attempts to read a DVD. This time, however, we had to admit defeat after half an hour of fruitless attempts. Instead, we read and listened to our DAB+ radio before retiring for the night.

Sunday was another gorgeously sunny day, the mercury climbing to 14°C.

The perfect weather to continue with the garden jobs, if it weren't for my right index finger, which I'd sprained a while ago and was now quite sore after all the strain I'd put it under on Saturday.

Instead, I just sat there looking longingly at the plants we'd brought back from the garden centre and feeling quite sorry for myself, until Jos suggested he'd to do the digging and planting while I supervised. Obviously, that was fine by me!

That meant I didn't even have to change into proper gardening gear.

The starting point for that day's outfit was the skirt, a handmade affair in a crepey fabric with a swishy lining, picked up at Think Twice many moons ago. I suspect it is 1980s although its print is doing its utmost to look as if it came straight from the 1950s.

The frilly blouse with its galaxy of hearts, stars and flowers, which sports a Kookai label, was charity shopped last September.

The crochet belt was a post Lockdown I sales bargain, while the Cameo brooch was a flea market find. More crochet appears in the necklace - another charity shop find - which I've worn on the blog many times before and surely needs no further introduction.

The tree trunk is all that remains of the deceased Lilac. Too big to chop up for council collection with the tools at Jos's disposal, we decided to make a feature of it and put it in an upright position in the corner, to be used as a frame for the herbaceous Clematis jouiniana ‘Mrs. Robert Brydon’ to climb upon. Mrs B. is kept company by the bottom half of poor plaster Venus, victim of a March storm.

The plant on the bottom right is Achillea ptarmica 'The Pearl', Wikipedia tells me its common names include sneezewort, sneezeweed, bastard pellitory, European pellitory, fair-maid-of-France, goose tongue, sneezewort yarrow, wild pellitory, and white tansy. Some of which I like better than others!

We also planted Geranium 'Tiny Monster' and Polemonium caeruleum or Jacob's Ladder.

We're conveniently skipping Monday's office day to arrive on Tuesday the 20th of April. Gloriously sunny and with the temperature soaring to an almost unheard of 17°C, it would once again have been a day made for gardening. Naughty index finger, however, was still giving me gyp. 

Instead, we made a trip to the nearby town of Mortsel for the purchase of a new DVD player, or rather, Blu-Ray player. As we were still in semi-lockdown, shopping in non-essential shops was only possible by appointment. However, this particular one allowed people to just turn up and queue. As luck would have it, we were the only customers and were soon helped by a friendly and very knowledgeable young man.

I was surprised to see that I only wore this skirt, found at Think Twice in February 2018, less than two months ago. With its symphony of olive, burnt orange, magenta and bright blue flowers, I could have picked any of these colours to accompany it, but often gravitate towards blue. This time, it found its perfect match in the blue of this three-quarter sleeved top, which was still airing after its last wear on the 1st of January!

The eagle-eyed among those who've clicked the link might have noticed that I was wearing the same necklace back then as well. The stretchy belt with its multi-coloured round plastic buckle is an old retail buy, as is the chartreuse cardigan. Both bangles were charity shop finds.

As neither of them were caught on camera properly, I made flat-lay close-ups of both the brooch and the ring. The brooch was picked up at an outdoor flea market. If I remember correctly, I only paid € 1 for it, and its cost per wear must be down to mere cents by now, as I have been wearing it quite a lot over the years. The glass ring was a high street buy.

I'm doing a mini Sheila style flashback on the skirt here. There's only about five months between the two photos. Apart from confirming that indeed blue is often the skirt's companion colour,  I am struck by how much my hair has grown in that short space of time. The photo on the left dates from the 1st of October while the one on the right was taken at the end of February. I'd just been to the hairdresser's the day before on both occasions! 

Obviously, I couldn't say goodbye for now without updating you on our lovely Bess's progress.

She is becoming more adventurous and affectionate by the minute. In fact, neither Phoebe nor her predecessor Poesie were ever as fond of petting as she is. Picture this: you have to go to the bathroom during the night and are being followed by a cat who constantly winds herself around your legs, then, purring loudly, lies herself down at your feet until you're finished, demanding cuddles at all times!

Look at that cute little face, and the rusty spot on top of her head. As this is where the petting first started, we are calling this her on/off button!

So, that's it for now. Until next time, please do stay healthy and happy!

Thursday 22 April 2021

April come she will

Trawling through last April's blog posts in search of something in particular, I couldn't help but notice just how green and advanced the garden was this time last year. A steady string of bright sunny days combined with the novelty of only working two days a week guaranteed that a lot of our time was spent out there and that it was thriving like never before.

The balmy temperatures prompted the wearing of a bevy of short-sleeved frocks and tops, more often than not without the need of layering a cardi on top.

But what hit me the most was the general air of positivity exuding from my posts. How blissfully unaware we were of the fact that we would still be living with the virus and its consequences more than a year later! 

Now, if only the weather deities would stop conspiring against us and lighten our hearts with consistent true Spring weather!

It was mostly dry, with a mixture of clouds and sunshine and about 11°C, on Sunday the 11th of April. Although quite an improvement on Saturday's washout, the rain seemed to have washed away what was left of my energy levels, so that nothing too strenuous was on the menu that day.

After re-wearing Saturday's outfit for photographic evidence, this is what I changed into.

As far as I can remember, I hadn't worn this chocolate brown polka dot patterned Diolen dress with its solid white collar in years, so that Sunday's outing was long overdue.

I always seem to gravitate towards sky blue when it comes to accessorizing it, this time adding a charity shopped King Louie cardigan and beaded necklace, while the opaques I wore were a darker, turquoise-y shade of blue. My brooch, with its mottled red and white centre stone, was a flea market find, while both the rosewood flower corsage and peachy plastic ring were old retail buys.

A stroll through the garden to inspect its progress revealed that it was doing very well indeed. 

The newly planted perennials in the Clematis border seem to be rubbing along just fine with its older neighbours. As for the eponymous Clematis at the back, both are showing signs of life, although the white flowered one on the left appears to be a lot more enthusiastic than it lavender sister on the right. Strangely enough, the latter was the one which flowered profusely last year, while the white one remained completely flowerless.

Bess, on the other hand, is thriving, and getting into her stride more and more with each passing day. Her latest thing was going into the Snooze Bay and knead its fleecy cushion while purring loudly. Often, her purring continued while she was around us, which obviously made our hearts melt. If we were worried about her not making any sounds when we first brought her home, she has definitely been making up for that in the last two weeks or so.

April returned to her usual fickle self on Monday. The day had gone off to a bright, sunny start, when all of a sudden, about mid-morning, I noticed the dark foreboding sky enveloping the cathedral's tower.

Minutes later the corner of Antwerp I can spy on from my office window was treated to an almost horizontal onslaught of sleety snow. Then, in the blink of an eye, the sun reappeared as if nothing had happened, leaving a trail of prism-like raindrops on the windows.

I WhatsApp'd a photo of Antwerp's weather conditions to Jos, who sent me the below photo in return. Apparently, back at home, the sun had tempted him outside to tackle a job which was long overdue and couldn't be postponed for much longer.

The bundle of branches is part of the remains of the Lilac tree which had been dominating our garden for many years. It had a magnificent winter-flowering Clematis armandii growing through it, but both of them had sadly died over the previous Winter, the Lilac finally succumbing as a result of all the weight it had been carrying over the years.

Tackling its dead wood had been one of Jos's first jobs last Spring, spurring along our garden's new lease of life. However, as we'd either been too late for April's garden waste collection - if there even was one during Lockdown 1 - we'd stacked up the wood in the area next to our garden bench, taking up a good chunk of valuable garden space, as you can seen in the below collage.

We did, however, make a feature of it by leading the infamous climbing Nasturtium into its direction, at one point covering it almost completely.

As Antwerp's wintry showers had reached Dove Cottage by now, Jos had to abandon his project. There wasn't any time left for procrastination though, as Spring's final garden waste collection would be on Friday!

Fortunately, the next day, Tuesday, was a dry and sunny day, albeit still a bit too chilly for the time of year at barely above 10°C.

Thoroughly fed up with my long-sleeved frocks, I'd caught a peek of this short-sleeved one while making a start with my wardrobe changeover during the weekend.

Green-based and sprinkled with tiny dots in a multitude of colours, its fabric's weight was heavy enough to cope with the none too Springlike temperature, especially with a pink, yellow, green and grey long-sleeved top layered underneath. The dress itself holds bittersweet memories as I found it at Think Twice during a day trip to Bruges on Jos's birthday in September 2019.

I took advantage of the mustard coloured spots in the dress to wear a belt, necklace and opaques in that colour, throwing on my long-line mustard cardigan for extra warmth. The dress's green background was echoed by the flower brooch pinned to my cardigan and the green wedge-heeled lace-up shoes which were a charity shop find back in January.

In the above photo, I am standing in the now cleared area where the remains of the Lilac tree had been. It did take quite a bit of back-breaking effort, but look at all that space we've created. In a tiny garden like ours, every inch definitely counts. We've also cleared a lot of the rampant ivy, creating even more space on the other side of the low wall visible in the photo on the top right.

Wednesday was another uneventful office day on which the sun played an on and off game with the clouds. The day wouldn't even have been worthy of a mention if it hadn't ended in such wonderful way.

Bess had started following us - and Jos in particular - around in the evenings, rubbing her head against our legs and our outstretched hands. We weren't in a hurry to start petting her but that evening, when I tentatively put my fingers on top of her head, she let me be and even allowed me to stroke her. This act must have unleashed a well of pent-up need from her side, as ever since then she is constantly clamouring for cuddles, purring loudly at the merest touch.

A sunny start to the day again on Thursday, but the temperature had dropped to a chilly 9°C at the very utmost.

After our usual non-office day fruit & yoghurt breakfast and Jos's return from his daily trip to the newsagent's, we drove to the garden centre. I was reasonably busy for a weekday, with people prematurely buying annuals and bedding plants in spite of the risk of overnight frost.

While I was making a couple of wardrobe changes, I happened upon this emerald green blouse, charity shopped a couple of years ago. It is long-sleeved and apart from its ruffle placket, it also came with a removable bow tie which went through a loop at the back of its neck. Too much of a good thing, I  actually removed it when I got it home, and it got promptly mislaid. Instead, I added a brooch at its neckline.

The blouse's companion for the day was this pink skirt patterned with yellow, blue and emerald green flowers. The blue in the skirt was represented by a cardigan in a similar shade. And yes, I am wearing nylons (brr, a bit too chilly!) and opted yet again for my green wedge-heeled ankle boots.

Further accessories were yellow and green hued bangles and one of my stretchy chevron patterned belts.

By the time we made it to the garden centre, the sun had disappeared and rain seemed imminent.

Nevertheless, we braved the inclement weather by browsing their outside tables of perennials, again taking advantage of their ongoing buy 5 get one free promotion. 

We bought two varieties of Sedum, Geum chiloense ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’, Geranium phaeum, Geranium ‘Tiny Monster' and Polemonium caeruleum or Jacob's Ladder. Not included in the promotion was Clematis jouiniana ‘Mrs. Robert Brydon’, which is a herbaceous Clematis rather than a climber.

After lunch, I reluctantly donned gardening apron and gloves for a stint of gardening in spite of the uninviting greyness of the afternoon. I'd hardly made it outside when the sun joined me.

I decided to make a start with sowing the Nasturtium seeds, using a plastic tray with individual pots I discovered at the back of the potting shed. It has a transparent lid to shield the contents from frost.

That done, I weeded a small area at the front of the garden, where Lily-of-the-Valley and Alliums happily share space. There, I sprinkled some of the California Poppy seeds, sieved a layer of compost over them and gave them my blessing!

A return of the clouds and a painful finger - more about that in a later post - drove me inside again, leaving the rest of the endless but enjoyable gardening tasks for another day.

And with that, I bid you goodbye for now. As always, do stay safe, sane and fabulous out there!

Sunday 18 April 2021

Hope springs eternal

I've been very prone to mood swings lately, the pendulum often swinging towards anxiety. The least little thing seems to get me in a huff and believe me, you don't want to be around me when I'm like that.

Mercurial at the best of times, my temper is my own worst enemy when my stress levels go into overdrive. The pandemic and its seemingly never-ending implications might be the worst offenders, but give me a string of sunny Spring days, and I'm right as rain again. 

Oh the weather, so much to answer for!

But there are still many things to be thankful for, so let's start with those, shall we? 

Jos has had his first dose of Pfizer vaccine yesterday, and doesn't seem to be acting any stranger than usual today. That doesn't mean I'm no longer stamping my feet in frustration like a petulant child at the slowness of our vaccination roll-out though, but still, it's a step in the right direction. Oh, and then there's Bess, who is filling our hearts with gladness, especially now that she has discovered the joys of petting!

But first, let's go back in time once more, to Easter Monday to be exactly. If at first glimpse it might look like a perfect specimen of a Spring day, don't be fooled! Not only was it quite chilly at a measly 7°C, a blustery wind was tugging at my hair and trying to put my clothes into disarray. 

We would be treated to a succession of snow flurries and hail that day, so it was nothing short of a miracle that we found a dry moment in which to hastily nip outside and quickly snap some photos to show you my outfit. 

I didn't take off my cardigan, though, so I've added a close-up of my blouse's funky pattern to allow you a better look. The blouse in question was a flea market find. I instantly recognized it as I have a dress in the same pattern, with red trim and buttons rather than the blouse's yellow. It's from a retro label called Zoë Loveborn, and at the time I patiently waited for the dress to go on sale before snapping up the last one in my size.

It isn't the first time I wore the blouse with this vintage Diolen skirt, as I think they're a match made in heaven. For warmth, I wore a turquoise cardigan on top, tying in with the turquoise in both the skirt and blouse. The cardigan is from the Belgian Sweet Soda label and was charity shopped, as were the belt and necklace. 

Both the flower corsage and brooch were retail buys. I'm sure you'll recognize the latter as one of the three brooches I bought from Katshop the other week.

The day being too cold and miserable to even contemplate doing anything outside, most of it was spent reading on the couch. I picked up The Letter by Kathryn Hughes during one of our last charity shopping trips before our current lockdown. It was exactly the feel-good read I needed after the more challenging non-fiction Brides in the Bath one.  

As Monday was a public holiday, I had to go into the office on Tuesday instead. The weather was even more miserable than Monday's - and several degrees colder to boot - which wasn't exactly helpful at getting myself out of bed that morning. On top of that, I had to make some changes to my outfit at the last minute - I was taking the easy way out by rewearing Monday's outfit - when the zipper on my skirt came apart.

Work wasn't all too busy though, which is always a blessing when one's head is full of cotton wool.

Snow flurries drifted past my windows and there was hardly a soul brave enough to venture out onto Antwerp's forlorn looking streets. Even the cathedral was hiding behind a veil of mist, a sensible thing to do with scaffolding disfiguring its tower.

It briefly cleared up during the afternoon, but as luck would have I'd only just stepped outside after work, when the heavens opened again and gleefully pelted me with hail. I took a selfie while waiting under a shop's awning for Jos to arrive, my scarf temporally decorated by hailstones, which had lodged themselves into its frills, and my glasses typically misted up as a result of mask wearing. Life would be so much easier if I had 20/20 vision. Or, alternatively, if Covid-19 didn't exist!

Let's end the day with a ray of sunshine courtesy of Her Royal Highness, Princess Bess.  

This was before her petting days, but look how confident and adventurous she is becoming. Of course, after all those shenanigans, she needs her beauty sleep. Here you can admire her unusual mix of pattern and colour.

Wednesday was another office day, and as I'm not used to working two consecutive days, I was more than glad when Thursday finally arrived.

We were just about to get up when all hell broke loose and the intermittent man-made earthquakes caused by the piling machine across the road started in full force.

After a couple of hours, I was starting to feel quite dizzy and nauseous - exacerbated by worrying about the effect it would have on Bess - so that at one point we desperately needed to flee the house. 

Less than 15 minutes by car from Dove Cottage, the site of the Art Deco water tower in the neighbouring village of Reet turned out to be the perfect getaway.

In spite of the glorious sunshine, they day's highs of 10°C were still accompanied by the blustery wind which had been plaguing us for days. In my hurry to escape, I'd forgotten to add the cardigan I'd planned to wear. On its own, my coat - a short, brown and cream checked swing coat from the Spanish brand Sfera, charity shopped in February 2018 - was barely sufficient to keep the chills at bay.

It was OK as long as we were on the site's lower levels, where we briefly basked in the sunshine at one of the picnic tables while admiring the blossoms as well as the sparsely planted frilly yellow daffodils and bright orange-red tulips.

The gate to the cage-like structure containing the staircase to the tower's top was open for once, so it would have been silly not to climb them for a panoramic view of the clay-pit scarred landscape nestling in nature's fresh Spring greens.

We watched cotton wool clouds scudding across a sky of blue and wind turbines gaily waving their arms, but it was too cold to stay up there for very long. I was even starting to regret not wearing gloves!

Safely back on ground level - those see-through stairs remain quite scary for vertigo sufferers - we found a sheltered spot where I was able to remove my coat and show you the dress I was wearing underneath. This is another wardrobe stalwart, vintage and handmade, its print a fireworks of blue, red and white dots and dashes on a black background.

My accessories were a red belt and necklace, which were both charity shopped at one time or another, and another one of my recently acquired cat brooches.

Back at home, we were greeted by a scary-eyed Bess and the sight of two repro advertising signs which had toppled to the kitchen floor, dislodged by the eternal shaking caused by the infernal machine.

In a huff we stormed off to the construction site, where much to our relief we were informed that they had almost finished. True to their word, Friday was an oasis of quiet, with both the site and our two-doors-down neighbour's kitchen extension works at a welcome standstill.

Unfortunately, I had another office day to look forward to, half of which was spent with a lingering headache. To make matters worse, it was a sunny day, while the weather forecast was for a washout on Saturday.

In spite of the inclement weather, this turned out to be quite a good day. 

At first I couldn’t settle to anything, but then I decided to make a start with the seasonal wardrobe changeover.

Fairly confident that I wouldn't be needing them again until next Winter, I pulled all my warm woollen and polyester frocks from my wardrobe, making piles of them ready for the vacuum bag, and replacing them with the first batch of short-sleeved frocks.

As usual, I'll keep working on this bit by bit until Summer is well and truly on its way, but at least I've taken the first step, which always seems to be the hardest. It is, after all, quite a daunting task when you have a maximalist wardrobe!

I then had a look at the busted zipper of the skirt I wore earlier that week, wondering if my limited sewing skills would extend to replacing it. It was worth a try, especially as I found a black zipper in the correct size in my stash. And you know what, it was surprisingly straightforward. Not perfect, perhaps, but who cares? The skirt's got a working zipper once more!

That only leaves Saturday's outfit. However, as the weather remained truly horrendous all day, we didn't have a chance to take photos. So, showing true blogging dedication, I wore it all again on Sunday, before changing into that days's outfit.

I've had the skirt, with its impressionist chevron pattern, earmarked for while, and although I initially had a more Springlike outfit in mind, I found it a perfect companion in the form of this turquoise based Paisley patterned blouse.

Both are vintage finds from Think Twice, but while the blouse, with its satin-like fabric, has lost its contents label, I was surprised to see that the skirt contained 12% silk alongside its ubiquitous polyester.

More turquoise was added in the form of my opaques, while I picked up the green in the blouse's pattern by adding a green cardigan, necklace and apple-shaped ring. 

The cream background of the skirt was echoed by my vintage flower brooch, while the chocolate brown in its print was highlighted by my moc croc belt. The belt and snake print ankle boots, along with the opaques, were the only retail items in my outfit.

I'll be back with more outfits as well as a return to the garden in my next post. Do stay healthy and happy, wherever you are, and let's keep our fingers crossed we'll all have our jabs before too long!

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Once more in misted April, the world is growing green*

We're almost half way through April by now, and so far the month has more than lived up to her reputation for capriciousness. Bright sunny spells walked hand in hand with a sharply stinging wind which made the temperature drop to the low single figures, and with clockwork regularity snow flurries fell from lead-grey skies. The snow didn't stick or at least didn't hang around for long, but I could have sworn I could hear the mocking laugh of the weather gods when they turned the world outside our windows into a giant snow globe.

If it wasn't for the fact that what's its name put a bit of a damper on things, last April's weather couldn't have been more perfect, so I can only presume that we're now getting two Aprils' worth of those proverbial showers.

It all started well enough, though, as in continuation of the last days of March, Thursday the 1st of April was another glorious Spring day, even if the temperature had dropped from its plus twenty heights to a mere 18°C. 

It would have been the perfect day for a stint of gardening, but alas: due to the Easter holidays I had to work on Thursday instead of Friday that week. This was a bit of a wrench, as much cooler temperatures had been forecasted for the weekend, and indeed, by Friday we'd landed feet first into the single figures again.

Making the remainder of my Winter wardrobe work for its money, I reached for this vintage coral polka dot dress. An early Think Twice find, it has been gracing my wardrobe for many years, and it seems I always manage to squeeze in at least one wear of it each season. 

In true Sheila style, I looked back at its previous wears on the blog (I counted at least 5 times) noting that I always seem to wear it with shades of blue. What's more, I combined it with exactly the same cardigan and necklace - both of which were charity shopped - in March 2019. 

More blue appeared in the glass beads on my Art Nouveau style brooch, a flea market find, and the ring, which if I remember correctly was picked up on the high street. In an attempt to break the blue rut, I added a vintage snakeskin belt. There's nothing faux about this one: it's the real thing and I snapped it up at the indoor flea market in December 2018.

There was an unmistakable nip in the air, but as the sun was still gracing us with her presence, it was a now or never situation where gardening was concerned. The rest of the Easter weekend was looking pretty dire indeed.

First up was a trip to the garden centre! There was a buy 5 get one free sale on perennials, which was the perfect excuse to have a splurge.

In spite of the fickle Spring weather - or perhaps because of it - the world is growing green indeed, with leaves unfurling and new growth appearing as if by magic overnight.

Our Spirea bush, which happened to be one of the first plants we added to Dove Cottage's garden after moving in all of 22 years ago, has set up its yearly fireworks show of tiny white blooms. At the back of the garden, the first of the waxy red leaves of Virginia creeper have joined the precocious honey suckle foliage scrambling up the concrete wall. Both of these are garden stalwarts as well.

After lunch, I planted out all but 3 of the 13 plants we'd recently brought back from the garden centre, before my back insisted I call it a day. At the time of writing, they're still waiting out there, as do the Nasturtium and California poppy seeds which happened to find their way into my shopping trolley.

My heart made a leap of joy when I spotted that one of the Fritillary bulbs I planted near the pond in Autumn had decided to pop up its head after all. I'd almost given up on them. Non-ribetting frog is watching it with one of its beady eyes lest any of the garden's population of slugs and snails has marked it out for its next meal. 

The plastic cloche on the bottom right is one of a set brought back from the UK in the mists of time. I use them whenever I think a plant might be in need of a bit of encouragement. Here, it's helping along the new growth I discovered in one of my patio plants. Having discarded its label long ago, it's a toss up between Echinacea and Garvinea, both of which flowered their heads off well into Autumn last year.

A stiff breeze and ditto back and knees didn't deter me from doing more garden work on Saturday morning. In spite of the weather forecast, the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds all day, warming things up sufficiently to have the mercury climb into double digits.

Before I show you my gardening handiwork, here is what I was wearing. I was totally convinced that this skirt and blouse combo was a first, but when I scrolled through my Instagram squares in search of the skirt's last wear, I was stumped to find that just over a year ago, I wore it with the very same blouse! Zero points for originality, but it does seem to work, so why not?  I was quite relieved to see that at least my accessories were completely different back then.

Both the blouse and the skirt were Think Twice finds, the skirt being handmade, lined and graced with satisfyingly deep patch pockets. I picked up the chartreuse in its floral pattern by adding a charity shopped belt in a similar shade. I kept to green for the Miracle brooch pinned to the blouse while the colour appears yet again, alongside blue and brown, in my long beaded necklace.

My opaques echoed the blues of the blouse and I wore a pair of navy ankle boots for the outfit photos.

Obviously, I changed into my ankle wellies for my gardening session, wearing an old fleece jacket and my long denim gardening apron on top for warmth as well as protection.

I gave the red dotted vinyl tablecloth on the table in the passageway a thorough clean and removed the dust and grime from the old bathroom mirror at its back. Then I made neat stacks of the smaller terracotta pots I'd emptied and cleaned out the previous week. Having once again forgotten to protect the old ceramic wash basin from frost, it had now developed several large cracks, so that there was nothing for it but to add the shards to my stash, to be used for decoration and drainage.

Its contents of marbles, my brother's childhood ones brought back from the parental home, was decanted into a smaller bowl standing idle in the kitchen cupboards. On a whim, I used some of the larger ones to decorate the tops of the terracotta pots. 

Both the blue floral and green enamelled tea pots used to live inside the house but ended up in the garden after a recent cull.

Easter dawned grey-skied with no trace of sunshine until late afternoon. The distinctly dismal weather, however, was greatly improved with a handful of chocolate mini eggs from our local Leonidas shop. And what better way of serving them than by putting them into vintage papier-mâché eggs decorated with Easter scenes! The latter were old flea market finds I'd almost forgotten about.

Something else to look forward to that day was the arrival of our first visitor since last Summer! We were expecting Jos's youngest daughter An, who arrived on her e-bike from the nearby town of Lier, where she lives with her two cats, Spookje and Hazel. 

It is almost a given that I forgot to take photos, as we were far too busy chatting. 

She came bearing gifts, too. Apart from a pot of daffs and two mice and a bag of cat treats from her cats to our Bess, she also presented us with some of her authentic arts and crafts.

We are delighted to finally own one of her amazing miniature drawings - it only measures 5 x 6 cm - which is already taking pride of place on our sitting room wall. She also made us a tiny handcrafted pot of flowers, standing barely 7 cm high.  I've only put it next to the plant on our window sill to emphasize its smallness. Far too risky to leave it there, now that Bess is getting more adventurous by the minute!

But that wasn't all. On one of her final Pre-Covid flea market forays, An came across some wonderful additions to our Bakelite collection, in the form of these shaving soap and brush containers. 

In spite of the greyness of the day, I was determined to wear cheerful Spring colours, emulating blue skies and sunshine.

My flower sprinkled sky blue dress, with its generous pleated skirt and tie collar, was just perfect for the occasion. I tamed the rather cumbersome tie with a yellow hearted brooch. The dress's belt loops are the telltale signs that it originally came with a belt, but this was long gone by the time it leapt at me from the rails at Think Twice. Knowing me, I probably wouldn't have worn it with the belt anyway.

Instead, I opted for a textured off-white belt with a mottled plastic buckle, which has the added attraction of a small dangling fish. Perhaps in honour of the 1st of April, as the traditional April Fool's pranks are being called April Fish in Belgium, as well as, according to good old Wikipedia, in Italy, France, and the French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada,

Sunshiny yellow was provided by my charity shopped H&M batwing cardi and my opaques. Oh, and the pale yellow cat brooch I bought from Katty's shop the other week.

And speaking of cats, what about a short video starring the new Princess of Dove Cottage?

This is a first for me, so I do hope it works.

* The title of this post was borrowed from An April Morning by Canadian poet Bliss Carman (1861-1929).