Sunday 27 June 2021

In the Summertime, when the weather is hot

The weather has made a complete U-turn at the time of writing, back to April-ish tempestuousness and lukewarm temperatures, complete with showers and the odd warm and humid day mixed in to throw us off guard.

But all that was still in the future on Tuesday the 15th of June. After a scorcher of a Monday, when the mercury gleefully climbed to 29°C, the office's aircon offering some welcome coolness, we'd woken up to a moody, overcast day. 

The clouds did not prevent the temperature in making its ascent towards the mid-twenties and the accompanying humidity made me reach for one of my cotton frocks. This delightful 1950s navy blue, red and white cap-sleeved frock was yet another Think Twice sales bargain, snaffled at the same time as last post's curtain couture skirt in June 2019.

My flower necklace is vintage Murano glass and was a flea market find back in the mists of time, while the ceramic heart brooch was picked up in a craft shop in Cardigan during a memorable and particularly wet holiday in June 2017.

The red vinyl belt with its rectangular buckle, as well as the bangles, in Bakelite and wood respectively, were charity shopped.

In spite of having stocked up on insect repellent in order to avoid sustaining more itchy bites, we weren't really in the mood for a walk that day.

Instead I treated the garden to some TLC, involving a thorough deadheading and cutting back session.

I was delighted to see that the first of the deep blue flowers had opened in Geranium 'Rozanne' (top right), while our Verbena rigida - a compact variety lacking Verbena bonariensis's lofty heights - had managed to worm its way through the jungle of plants (bottom left).  

There were the first of the wild strawberries to feast on, while the repeat fruiting variety in the hanging bucket we acquired last year was simply dripping with berries, still green at the time, but slowly but surely starting to ripen.

Seed-heads were all that remained of Allium 'Purple Sensation' (bottom left), but Allium sphaerocephalon, better known as Drumstick Allium (top right), is following closely in its tracks, springing up all over the garden, some of them ready to shed their skins.

The sun only managed to get a look in by mid-afternoon. Raring to escape Dove Cottage's confines, we drove down to the Oxfam shop in the nearby town of Wilrijk for a rummage.

The clothing aisles were a bit uninspiring, but I still managed to find not one but two King Louie dresses, a short-sleeved one infused with red and yellow Summer flowers in their best-selling faux-wrap style, and a long-sleeved royal blue one with an Art Deco style print.

This woven sisal tote bag was winking at me from across the shop, so it was almost a given that it came home with me. Not that I haven't got enough of these bags already, but I'm sure I'll find a use for it.

By then, the eternal mask wearing had made Jos feel a bit dizzy so, never minding its diminutive size, he plonked himself down on a conveniently placed chair while I did a quick perusal of the bookshelves.

These three made it into my basket. I'm currently reading The Valley at the Centre of the World by Malachy Tallack. In a nutshell, it deals with the emotional journey of a man who returns home to remote Shetland and the viewpoints of the people who live there. I'm only about halfway in, so I'm not sure yet if it's a keeper. 

We're skipping Wednesday's office day, which was another sweltering one at 30°C and with full-on sunshine all day. Needless to say, the aircon had to work overtime to keep brain melt at bay and concentration levels up.

This was followed by a suffocatingly hot and sweaty night. We'd exchanged the Summer weight duvet for an empty duvet cover used as a sheet. This resulted in the odd ouchy moment whenever Bess did her usual tail-chasing across the bed. In spite of all this, I did sleep OK-ish, but unfortunately Jos did not. He had to get up really early again to take the car to the garage to have its windscreen replaced. If this sounds familiar, please don't worry: I'm not suffering from memory-loss and repeating myself. The first attempt of a couple of weeks ago came to nothing as the replacement windscreen hadn't been delivered to the garage.

With another day of +30°C ahead of us, I dressed in cool cottons again, this time combining a vintage skirt with a charity shopped H&M skirt in a pattern mix of polka dots and gingham.

Pops of red were added with my accessories: a charity shopped red vinyl belt and a vintage necklace and brooch, both of which were flea market finds.

My feet were happy in my most comfortable sandals, a pair of Clarks bought in the sales during our 2018 UK holiday.

Bees are buzzing in our garden, relishing the variety of flowers on offer. Judging from the amount of pollen collected on its hind legs, the bumblebee on the bottom left seemed to be ready to fly home and deliver its precious cargo.

And look at those strawberries! This is what happened in just two days time!

With the heat trapped between our garden walls, the only times we venture out there on hot days is in the early morning or late at night. 

That morning, I picked a posy of Sweat Peas, Dianthus, Red Valerian and curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) for the kissing Dutch boy and girl on our kitchen shelves to enjoy! 

Watering time is between 8.30 and 9 pm, when the heat of the sun has become bearable. We've got the watering process down to a tee, with Jos pumping up well water by way of the hand-pump in our bathroom, and me making several journeys into the garden with the watering can.

The hanging basket with its cream, lilac and purple colour scheme is a huge success and as long as the sun is shining, the Gazanias on the kitchen window sill are showing their fiery yellow, orange and brown faces, which remain stubbornly closed on cloudy days.

Apparently, it rained heavily overnight. Not that I noticed, as I slept like a log right through it.

The rain had brought some initial and relative coolness but once more we were in for a very hot day on Friday, with highs of 30°C. Work was quite hectic, but thankfully the office's aircon kept me going and helped me get through my workload.

Then, finally, on Saturday the day went off with a cloudy start and temperatures nose-dived to the low twenties. I even had to wear a lightweight cardigan on top of the King Louie dress I'd picked out that morning.

A charity shop find back in October, I was drawn to the dress's green based checks dotted with yellow, pink and orange flowers. At the time, I mentioned I would probably have forgotten all about by Summer, which indeed I had until I came across it again when rummaging through a bag of what Sheila would call "jammy dresses".

Apart from the sugar pink cardigan to which I pinned a yellow flower corsage, I accessorized the dress with a yellow beaded necklace from a long gone vintage shop and a bangle and bracelet which were both charity shop finds.  On my feet, a pair of orange and cream slingbacks which have been in my wardrobe forever.

We were greeted by the cheerful face of the first of undoubtedly many Nasturtium flowers when we stepped into the garden. Apart from those I sowed back in April, more and more self-seeded ones from last year's climbing variety keep popping up all over the place. In order to keep them from once more engulfing that part of the garden, I had no choice but to pull up some of the seedlings.

This Red Admiral butterfly was kind enough to pose for me while breakfasting on our Red Valerian, which is flowering almost as exuberantly as Erigeron 'karvinskianus'  (Mexican fleabane, bottom right).

Meanwhile, the Persicaria bistorta we planted next to the log path has produced one or two fluffy flower spikes, which seem to be another magnet for the resident population of bees. 

More rain, accompanied by a thunderstorm, was forecasted for later that day, leaving the garden saturated and bedraggled on Sunday, and sorely in need of a helping hand.  But that will be for another post!

In the meantime, guess who hasn't got a care in the world?

Bess says to stay safe, sane and, of course, fabulous, wherever you are!

Tuesday 22 June 2021

The heat is on

Hello there! We've just come down from a heatwave with sizzling hot highs of 33°C. Now I do know that some of you relish these kind of temperatures, but anything from the high twenties onwards is making my brain go liquid and my body languid, and I can feel myself slowly but surely turning into a sloth.

In the days which are the subject of this post, temperatures were only just starting their ascent towards the dreaded 30°C mark, but they were still quite bearable in hindsight. Our bedroom was still relatively cool and we were still sleeping under our Summer weight duvet, albeit with one leg dangling overboard whenever it got too sticky. 

Before I plunge headlong into this post, however, I 'd like to thank you all for the well wishes on the receipt of my first jab. My way of posting, switching almost seamlessly between the here and now and the recent past might have caused some discombobulation, though, as some of you seemed to be under the impression that I was talking about my second jab. This, I'm afraid, will only be on the 9th of July!

From the future to the past again now, as this is what I wore on Thursday the 10th of June. That day we were treated to temps of about 26°C, accompanied with a welcome light breeze and a smattering of clouds.

Thankfully, the mystery bites, whose itchiness had been exacerbated by sitting under a sweat-inducing hairdresser's cape on Wednesday, had benefited from the cream I'd liberally applied to them overnight. Phew, what a relief.

Those on my legs had all but disappeared by now, so that I could epilate my legs without any discomfort. I even applied mint green polish on my toenails! No closer look, as I must be one of the world's clumsiest nail polishers! Time to get out my sandals, starting with my super comfy red suede Gabor ones, which were a sales bargain a couple of years ago. 

This vintage dress always puts a huge smile on my face. Not just because of its tomato red colour or its delightful floral pattern. Obviously, I'm head over heels with its flattering silhouette and fluttery butterfly sleeves. But the main reason for that huge smile is that the label has my name on it: Lady Ann! How lovely is that?

A sage green flower corsage was added to keep the blowsy roses in its pattern company. The wooden zebra striped bangle was part of a charity shop haul in October 2019, while the plastic green and amber bracelet was an old retail buy.

Both my ring and swirly pendant are made of glass and both are holiday souvenirs, the ring picked up at a market stall in Bruges in 2019, and the pendant at Scolton Manor in Pembrokeshire in 2012.

Sauntering into the garden after breakfast, I was delighted to see that all five Oriental poppies had now opened, offering fierce competition to the delicious jewel colours of the two-tone Lupine spike at the opposite side of the garden path. 

Next to the bench, the first of the tiny but fiery flowers had appeared in the Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ we brought back from the garden centre in May.

Having pruned our Hydrangea to within an inch of its life, it seemed to take a lot longer than usual for its first flowers to appear, and when they finally did, they remained tiny for the longest time. The warm weather following a period of prolonged rain must have done them the world of good, though, as look at them now! This is one of our oldest additions to Dove Cottage's garden and still going strong after all these years, delighting us with its frothy acid green and delft blue flower heads each Summer.

Another old favourite is our "Honey Baby", a deliciously named dwarf honeysuckle, at the very back of the garden. This is not its best year, though, as it needs a lot of dead wood removed. The abundant foliage to its left belongs to Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), which arrived in our garden uninvited, courtesy of the bird seed we scatter in Winter. 

That afternoon, we went to meet grandson Cas for the very first time. His parents only live a matter of minutes from us by car, and in fact I've already taken you to their house a couple of times when we were looking after their cat, Abby. She even features on Cas's birth announcement, although we're not quite sure she's very keen on having to share attention with a tiny human!

Demonstrating the ventilating properties of butterfly sleeves on a hot day!

Friday, my final office day of the week, was quite a busy one, and with the 26°C we were once again served with, brain melt had already started creeping up on me. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the day. With the heat trapped in our little walled garden, we had to wait until the worst of it had passed before quenching the thirst of our pots and hanging baskets at about 8.30 pm.

On Saturday the 12th of June, we woke up to a cloudy day and a reprieve from the hot temperatures, at just 21°C.

Browsing my wardrobe, my eyes alighted on my favourite jumpsuit, an irresistible high street buy in June 2018. I'd been on the lookout for a jumpsuit for quite a while by then, so I jumped - pun intended - at the chance when I spotted this one in a shop known for its fast and disposable fashion. It was exactly what I was looking for and I never once regretted my purchase, which has been getting regular outings ever since. Let's call it fast fashion worn slow!

I piled on the yellow accessories, which consisted of a round-buckled belt, a felted flower corsage - another Pembrokeshire holiday souvenir - a beaded necklace and a mottled Bakelite bangle. The latter got the company of a charity shopped multicoloured resin bracelet.

As usual, the day started with an after breakfast wander around the garden. 

All our pots and baskets seem to be in fine fettle. I love how the white Lobelias are spilling over the blue enamel teapot in the passageway, and that Petunia "Picotee Blue" and Sutera "Pink Beauty" are living happily side by side in the old half-basket on the potting shed. 

The pink Foxgloves are brightening up a shady corner next to the white current bush and, in front of the bench, flower spikes have started appearing in Prunella grandiflora 'Bella Deep Rose' (bottom left), which we planted last Summer.

The forecasted hot temperatures of the week to come prompted an impromptu ironing session as I suddenly realized most of my hot weather clothes were still residing in a suitcase in our bedroom. I also repaired a fallen hem in the Lady Ann dress I wore on Thursday. After this flurry of activity, the Cornetto ice cream was a well-deserved treat, don't you think?

This was followed by an afternoon nap in our bedroom, the napping being done by Jos and Bess, while I lay reading the final chapters of my book.

The temperature stepped up a gear on Sunday, reaching 24°C. Taking advantage of all the ironing I'd done on Saturday, I dressed in my beloved curtain couture maxi skirt, a Think Twice sales bargain in June 2019. Not only is it my most-worn maxi skirt, it accompanied me on our UK holiday later that month. Here I am wearing it on a most wonderful day spent in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

The short-sleeved cotton top - also fresh from Saturday's ironing pile - was charity shopped last Summer and was a delight to wear, even if it tried to escape from the waistband of my skirt a couple of times. Not even the recently acquired stretchy belt with its hexagonal buckle could keep it in check!

Further accessories were a string of orange wooden beads and another bangle and bracelet duo. The bangle was part of the same charity shop haul as the one worn with my first outfit.

I took this photo in the relative coolness of the morning, with some of my profusely flowering pots on the old barrel at the back of the garden in the foreground. Behind these, an out of focus melange of white Lavender and Red Valerian (Centranthus Ruber), with the abundant foliage of the white currant bush in the background. To its right is one of the baskets hanging from the awning outside the kitchen, proudly displaying its deep indigo Petunias. Such floral extravaganza is making my heart jump for joy!

The rest of the day was spent doing some light pottering and reading, finally finishing the book which still resonates with me. So much so that I'm having a hard time starting a new one. Definitely in my top three of this year so far.

Now, before I wave goodbye once more, here are the terracotta pot and hanging basket I planted up the weekend before. 

The vintage terracotta pot harbours only one plant, but what a spectacular one! This is Petunia "Night Sky", its gorgeous purple flowers with white speckles reminiscent of a starry sky.

The basket also has a variety of these speckled Petunias, this one called "Pink Sky". You can just catch a glimpse of them on the right of the basket's other inhabitants, a red and yellow Calibrachoa, also known as Million Bells.

I will be back with more heatwave woes, outfits and garden updates in a couple of days. 

Once more, do stay safe, sane and fabulous out there!

Thursday 17 June 2021

Twice bitten

Friday the 4th of June was V-Day! V as in vaccination, not victory, although I was feeling quite victorious after getting my first jab. As I've already told you, all went well and I did not suffer any side effects to speak of.  Also, to give credit where credit is due, I was very impressed with how smooth it all went, given that organizing all this must have been quite challenging. All the volunteers were friendly and helpful too and my own personal "jabbing guy" certainly wasn't lacking a sense of humour!

On top of all that, I was incredulous but obviously very chuffed to read that Belgium is currently the fastest country in the European Union when it comes to the number of vaccines administered per 100 inhabitants. I'm almost ashamed of being so scathing and skeptical of our country's vaccination strategy a couple of months back!

Here I am, one day later, on Saturday the 5th of June. The slightly painful arm I'd woken up with was more or less back to normal by late afternoon. 

After having rained quite heavily overnight, we were left with a cloudy day and decidedly cooler temperatures of  around 18°C.

The gauzy fabric of the vintage dress I pulled from my wardrobe wasn't nearly sufficient to go it alone, especially as only the skirt part is lined. I was wearing a camisole underneath - as much for coverage as for warmth - but still needed a cardigan when I stepped outside.

The dress's cerulean blue backdrop is enhanced by black and white squiggles erupting in a generous layer of blowsy flowers towards the hemline. This prompted my choice of belt - and one which certainly doesn't need further introduction - as well as my necklace, which numbers fuchsia pink beads among its black sisters. 

Taking it from there, adding a fuchsia pink cardigan and ditto plastic ring was a no-brainer. A grey and white plastic swallow brooch, which is vintage and an old flea market find, was pinned to the former. 

An early morning garden inspection round revealed a hint of blush pink in the first of the Lupine's flower spikes, while elsewhere the Alliums were still looking regal even if their purple florets were slowly but surely starting to fade. 

Dashes of bright yellow are provided by Geum chiloense 'Lady Stratheden', while delicious strawberry and cream swirls are the crowning glory of Dianthus 'Megan'. Both are survivors from last Summer.

Alongside velvety Mimulus, with its profusion of different coloured flowers (top right) and moody Delphiniums (bottom right), which are both recent plantings, there are those garden stalwarts such as our gooseberry bush (top left) which has been rubbing along for years with its next door neighbour, hardy Geranium sanguineum (bottom left).

The sun reappeared on Sunday, bringing along highs of 24°C. While we were having breakfast, we spotted a pair of wood pigeons making their way towards our giant white current bush. After years of practice, they have learned how to almost strip it clean from the inside out. While one is standing guard, the other one lowers herself down into the bush, feasting on the as yet green berries.

I tried to take a photo from the kitchen window but the silly bird had just disappeared from view, and was probably sniggering at me from the depths of the bush. 

It would be curtains for the tired looking pansies and bellis in the hanging basket on the right, as we were off to a local outdoor garden centre for replacements that day

Dress of the day was the cottage garden patterned teal-based one I found at the three-floored charity shop back in May. 

I kept accessories simple, adding an old hessian belt, an aqua beaded necklace from H&M by way of a flea market and a rose-red butterfly brooch which was feeling quite at home among all those flowers!

The eagle-eyed among you may notice that I am wearing the red Gador shoes I charity shopped the other week. 

Back from the garden centre, I emptied the hanging basket and a wall-mounted terracotta pot of its overly leggy and mildewed contents, replacing them with a selection of Petunias and Million Bells.

You'll get to see the finished results in a future post, as by then the sunlight was too harsh to photograph them properly.

It is almost a given that Bess is featuring in the majority of my posts. As suggested by Vix, soon she may even write her own blog post now that she's learned how to type on my grandfather's ancient Corona!

Here she is taking full advantage of her scratching post's new position beneath the dining room window.

We have reached Monday by now which, as an office day, usually doesn't get a mention. However, this one was different as one look outside the kitchen window while sipping my morning mug of lemon and ginger tea was enough to make my heart sing. Our first Oriental poppy had shed its furry shell and was showing off its ruffled scarlet petals for all to see. 

There was no time to meet it up close, which I was only able to do that evening, after work. 

The continuing sunshine had brought yet more colour to the Lupine flower spike, which I was happy to see would be the first of many. 

That day's watering and deadheading routine turned up a tiny snail who'd made herself at home in a Petunia flower. Regretfully, this is just one of many as well. 

Tuesday the 8th of June was yet another warm and sunny day, with the odd patch of clouds, and the mercury climbing to 25°C.

Aided by another round of noisy construction work, involving a succession of concrete trucks coming and going, the gorgeous weather made us seek out the peace and quiet of nature.

I'd learned my lesson and opted for a recently charity shopped pair of wide legged trousers. For good measure I was also wearing a cardigan on top of my short-sleeved blouse. Hand to heart, I swear I only removed it for the photos!

Our destination that day was Walenhoek, a nature reserve in the nearby town of Niel, which is just a 20 minute drive from Dove Cottage. Again, this is somewhere I've blogged about more than once before.

As usual we took a picnic, which we ate about half-way through our two-hour or so walk.

Being a weekday, there weren't many people about, and we had the reserve mostly to ourselves. I think we only met about five or six people in total, one of them a jogger who overtook us - slow couches -twice.

Crossing a cattle grid brought us to the grazing area where Galloway cattle were introduced many years ago. Not that we've ever seen any of these mighty but supposedly gentle creatures.

It was with some trepidation that we took a path we'd discovered during a Winter walk back in February, when its rutted clay was frozen solid. Imagining a muddy mire after the recent rains, we were pleasantly surprised to find it bone-dry and very walkable. 

The path meanders between two ponds, and the views we were rewarded with were well worth the slight detour. We even encountered a dragonfly who willingly posed for a photo. Yellow flag Iris dotted the water's edge, contrasting gaily with the blue sky reflected in the ponds.

Our stomachs were rumbling faintly, but before searching out a suitable bench for our picnic, I descended along a slightly muddy path towards the edge of one the bigger ponds, where a stunning waterscape framed by a copse of dead trees awaited.

And here's proof that I was wearing that cardigan. Nevertheless, once again I was bitten and this time it was my left arm the as yet unnamed insects had taking a liking too. At one point, I could feel the sharp pin-prick of a sting going right through my sleeve. I didn't feel anything when that syringe entered my arm on Friday, but I did feel that undoubtedly tiny insect's sting! 

By the time I got home, the tell-tale red welts had appeared, about six of them this time, the worst two being on my left upper arm. It's a good thing I got that cream the other week, so that I could start treatment right away. That is, right after some more outfit photos, as I would need to stay out of the sun once applied.

I exchanged my trousers - which had mysteriously developed a hole during our walk - for a wide flouncy skirt, black with a sprinkling of flowers and foliage in purple, green and orange.

The multicoloured and textured necklace, the pink squirrel brooch pinned to my blouse, and the vintage green and white polka dot peplum blouse itself are all the same as worn with my trousers earlier.

On my feet, the green, buckled Kicker shoes which jumped at me in a charity shop back in March. 

As indicated by my journal, the rest of the afternoon was spent inside, nursing my bites, writing that day's blog post and catching up with blogland.

The latter is what I will do after I've clicked Publish!

Until next time, my dears, please do keep on staying safe and as sane and sensational as possible.