Monday 4 October 2021

Sixty and counting

As I'm writing this post, both our September holiday and my birthday, which fell on its final day, are making their descent into the mists of time. 

Trawling through the myriad of photographs and trying to decipher my diary entries hastily scribbled down at the end of each day has been a joy in more ways than one. As usual, my series of travelogue posts have been keeping the memories alive, while at the same time alleviating the serious case of post-holiday blues I've been plagued with ever since we came back.

So, it's with a bit of a heavy heart and a more than my usual amount of procrastination that I'm finally settling down to the task at hand, and tell you about Sunday, the 12th of September.

There was a distinct lack of sunshine when we opened our curtains that morning, the sky a dull and solid grey, which the sun would try in vain to break through all day.

The gorgeous bouquet I'm holding in this photo was an early birthday present from my lovely bosses, Victor and José who, cunningly employing the assistance of my equally lovely ex-colleague Kris, had tracked down my holiday address and ordered its delivery from Miami.

It was when we briefly came back to the cottage for lunch in between the day's activities on Saturday that owner Marino rang the bell and deposited a mysterious carton box with my name on it on our doorstep. At first we were mystified as to who the flowers were from, but then all was made clear when we spotted a card taped inside the box revealing the senders' identity. I confess to having shed a tiny tear or two. Haven't I got the most wonderful bosses?

But back to Sunday! We'd booked lunch at a restaurant about 12 kilometers from the cottage, so we had a leisurely morning of lounging around until it was time to leave.

With all that time to spare, why don't I show you around the cottage? As I already mentioned, our little home away from home is an all-in-one first floor studio apartment in a delightful oak-framed and  thatched cottage, situated above the owner's car port. In spite of backing on to the owner's property, it feels completely private. The cottage even has its own monumental wrought iron entrance gate!

The studio is very spacious, and has a dressing area, sitting area, kitchen block and breakfast nook, with a comfortable and cozy bed and separate small but perfectly formed bathroom at its far end.

The view from the breakfast nook and adjacent balcony is of course unsurpassable, but I'm sure you already know that. 

I'd packed this festive almost but not quite maxi dress especially with my birthday lunch in mind. Originally from a high street shop, it was charity shopped a couple of years ago. I've heard this length called midaxi, a term which like most new fashion trend words gives me the heebie jeebies. Well, if needs must: on vertically challenged yours truly, most midi length dresses can be considered midaxi!

I kept my accessories simple, choosing my faithful old wooden discs necklace from Accessorize, and a modern plastic butterfly brooch from my travelling jewellery capsule. I also thought it was the perfect opportunity to wear the copper and turquoise cuff I picked up at the local charity shop earlier that week.
I did think of Sheila when I spotted it!

Our choice of restaurant was a posh-ish establishment called In De Zon, in a place called De Klijte in the foothills of the hilly countryside south of Poperinge. It probably doesn't take a linguistic genius to surmise that the restaurant's name translates as in the sun, and it would be about the only sunshine we'd see that day!

We had a free appetizer of cold cauliflower soup and scrumptious paté on toast. For our main meal, Jos had rack of lamb, while I went for a most delicious Osso Bucco.

Then we briefly returned to the cottage and lounged around until the clock struck 2, and we were ready for the day's next installment.

The second Sunday of September is Open Monuments Day in Belgium - I since learned from Beate that there's an equivalent in Germany on the same day! - offering the opportunity to visit historic buildings which aren't usually open to the public. As I knew we'd be in Poperinge that day, I'd perused the event's website and secured a visit to a local landmark many weeks ago.

The place we visited was a private property, a newly renovated villa built in 1900, previously known as Chalet Schabaillie, a mansion whose romantic tower gives it the appearance of a castle.

The house was named after its original owner, brickmaker A. Schabaillie. During the First World War, he was suspected by the British of espionage: they thought he was passing messages to the enemy at night! But it was just the moonlight reflecting in the tower windows of his little castle.

We were taken on a tour by its current owner, a young architect who, against all odds, trials and tribulations, managed to restore the villa to its former glory. 

So, that was the final day of our holiday wrapped up. And although we said goodbye with heavy hearts on Monday, those same hearts were making little leaps of joy at the thought of seeing our little rascal, Bess, again!

Apparently, she'd done really well during our absence, making friends with catsitters Inneke and Maurice, who'd kept us informed with daily WhatsApp messages complete with photos!

Still, she seemed pleased to have us back and hardly let us out of her sight for the first couple of days. I was glad I'd taken Tuesday and Wednesday off as well, so that we could both give her the attention she deserved.

Inneke and Maurice also left me birthday presents! Apart from a pot of small Sunflowers and a gorgeous card, handmade and painted by Maurice, there was a gorgeous wooden board. This was handmade as well, by the husband of Inneke's cousin who are serendipitously running a donkey farm together in Poperinge, called Het Ezelspad.

Then it was time to quench the thirst of our long-suffering patio plants and hanging baskets, as the poor things had to contend with a minor heatwave while we were away. I'd given everything a thorough soaking before we left and grouped together as many pots as possible in the shady passageway next to the kitchen. Nevertheless, there were one or two casualties, while the hanging baskets were now definitely looking well past their best. 

The Nasturtiums seemed to be in their element, though, taking advantage of the state of neglect to further colonize the garden. Here, they were looking quite pretty scrambling through the now fully flowering herbaceous Clematis 'Mrs. Robert Brydon'.

Tuesday was spent unpacking, doing a first wash load, and spending time with Bess, obviously.

While rummaging in the linen chest, where my out of season clothes are stored, I was surprised to find this vintage Summer dress, which hadn't even made it into my wardrobe yet. As time for my Summer wardrobe was ticking, I took the opportunity to wear it on this glorious late Summer's day, on which the mercury effortlessly climbed towards the mid-twenties.

As usual, when I'm wearing this dress, with its crêpe-like, lined material, cute square buttons and tiny bow at the neckline, I'm wondering why I'm not wearing it more often. No, don't answer that. There are simply not enough days in a season for wearing its entire designated wardrobe!

Time for another garden inspection. Apart from the old stalwarts still blooming their heads off, I was delighted to see that our Monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii 'Cloudy') had finally deemed to open its first flowers (top right).

Another day, another outfit! This was what I wore on the final day of my time away from work.

The sun was again conspicuous in her absence, and although the temperature was still quite reasonable, I decided to give one of my good old Diolen Delights an outing. One of my favourites at that, in jade green sprinkled with white, light green, yellow and pink flowers.

Instead of pink, my usual go-to colour for its accessories, I opted for dark red and burgundy, which I think offered the perfect contrast.

It was back to work on Thursday, but I'm skipping both Thursday and Friday here. After all, apart from catching up at work and finding my way again among the chaos created while I was gone, there's nothing exciting to tell.

The same goes for Saturday, when we just mooched around until we hit upon the idea of going to the charity shop near the park in Duffel. In pre-Covid times, visiting both the shop and the park had been one of our regular Saturday outings. Until now, we'd steered clear of charity shopping on a Saturday in a bid to avoid the crowds. However, going on holiday had given us a taste of something verging on the old normality, and about time too, so off we went. 

The sun had come out of hiding by then, and with the temperature again climbing well into the twenties, I wore a skirt and top combo, both vintage pieces, from Think Twice and the charity shops respectively. The cream woven belt is a recent addition and a cheeky retail buy at that. 

For our walk, I grabbed the orange hat, bought as an emergency at the seaside, from the car.

As for our visit to the charity shops, we needn't have worried, as it was quieter than we'd known it to be on a weekday. On the downside, finds were far from plentiful, but I was still happy to come across this silky floral dressing gown!

That's it for now. I hope you'll join me again for another catch-up in my next post.


  1. Happy Birthday. So sweet of your bosses to send you flower at your place of holiday.
    Lovely pictures.. looks like you had a nice time.

  2. Happy Birthday, Ann! Mine is on Saturday - of course, we are seasonal fall birthday girls! My bosses give me shoe gift cards, so I know what it's like having amazing bosses - I'm sure they appreciate the wonder that you are! What gorgeous flowers - in that first pic, at first, I thought you had a dramatic collar on, but it's the trees!

    Coming home from a holiday is always my favourite, as I get so excited to see Vizzini. I'm so glad Bess managed without you!

    Love your last-of-summer looks! That orange hat is fab on you, as is that lovely birthday dinner dress, and your found-again blue and white dress.

    Ugh, that is a stupid word. We have midis and we have maxis - there is no need to define another length with such an ugly word. It's up there with "jeggings" (shudder).

    Yay for your copper cuff!

    1. Fall birthday sisters :-) I know the guys - my bosses - appreciate me, they are more like friends than bosses!
      Going back home to our cats does make the end of our holiday somewhat less bittersweet!
      I do hate "jeggings", both the word and the item of clothing ... xxx

  3. happy birthday! (belated)
    <3 <3 <3
    how sweet your bosses are - sending you such a pretty bouquet...... the special lunch sounds mouthwatering and the brick villa is right up my alley - those floors!!
    love the dress with the paisley pattern and the azur/white one on you - looking gorgeous. about lenghts: in german we have only ugly words to describe them - from mini (which is ok) over "kniekurz", "knielang", "wadenlang", "knöchellang" zu "bodenlang"..... uff.
    lovely photos of bess - cats are so very very social - is´t it?!
    hugsies! xxxx

    1. Thank you Beate! Those floors were antique Villeroy & Boch! Bess is our first reasonably social cat! And oh yes, we have some of those words too: knielang is the same, and I think "knöchellang" would be enkellang in Flemish :-) xxx

  4. You are a woman after my own heart Ann, stretching your birthday celebrations out as long as possible.
    I’m glad you’ve managed to get away even if it’s not to the UK. It’s so nice to see the places you’ve visited and the things you’ve seen. I feel like I’ve had a holiday myself now heehee.
    Take care lovely friends xxx

    1. Thank you Lynn! We always go away at the beginning of September, but this time we extended it so that I could have my birthday there! xxx

  5. Glad you had a wonderful Birthday - how lovely to receive flowers on holiday. Your photos of Bess are stunning - those eyes! Lovely outfits as always Ann - pale blue looks great on you. I too suffer from post holiday blues - especially at this time of year…time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it? The suspected espionage story of Chalet Schabaillie really captured my imagination - to think that such monumental decisions were potentially based on the flimsiest of evidence. Hope you’ve settled back into work - at least you have model bosses! xxx

    1. Thank you Claire! It's been said before that I look good in pale blue, and it was my favourite colour for the longest time, now replaced by green ... That story really captured my imagination too, these really were extraordinary times! xxx

  6. Happy Birthday!
    That was so lovely of your employers to take the time to track you down and send flowers. Thoughtful gestures these days are so rare.
    I can't manage all the new names for old clothes. I'm still trying to understand "Shacket" for an oversized shirt.
    Lucky to find the light blue dress and get in a wear before the summer's end. It is such a pretty shade of blue.

    1. Thank you Goody! Ugh, "shacket" really is a horrible word. Up there with "jeggings", I think :-) xxx

  7. Oh happy birthday Ann. Your bosses are great! You look amazing in this paisley dress and the birthdayflowers! 🌺🌸 Orange suits you very well I think. Hach and you look fabulous in this blue dress with burgundy accessoires. 💕
    Have a good week! With a very huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina, I know, they are such great guys, more like friends than bosses :-) xxx

  8. It seems you had a lovely birthday! Have I already congratulated it? I think I did, but it case I forgot- happy b-day. How nice of your bosses to send you flowers for your's impressive how they managed to track you while you're on vacation. I love that festive maxi dress you wore. The striped blue and white dress is gorgeous as well. The blue floral one is so beautiful with the red necklace and belt. Red accessories look great with this dress.
    Bess is adorable. Great to see photos of her and to know that she's doing well.

    1. Thank you Ivana! I did have a great time indeed, although we're not doing big celebrations. Just celebrating life, I guess! xxx

  9. Happy belated birthday! the flowers are such a beautiful gift and how nice your bosses could surprise you on holiday! Your maxi dress is beautiful too. I never heard the term midaxi before but as midi dresses are maxis on my petite self most of the time, I can see why it needs a different way to describe a midi dress, haha!

    Hope your week is going well :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you Mica! Yes, midi dresses are practically maxis on me too :-) I'm still not fond of the word "midaxi", though :-) xxx

  10. Happy Birthday! What a sweet gesture from your boss! You look beautiful in the maxi dress.

  11. Happy Birthday!. Totally agree that you have some Wonderful Bosses, sending you flowers is such a beautiful present!. And glad to see you enjoying the celebration, the flowers, the food at the restaurant, dressed up in your fab paisley dress (and the cute wooden necklace), looking fabulous!. I'm in love with the copper and turquoise bracelet, this kind of pieces are so amazing! (and rare as hen's teeth here!)
    This brick villa looks stunning, so lovely to see it restored!.
    Glad that Bess has done well with catsitters, lovely to see her cuteness again! ;D
    And also lovely to see you in the blue dress with one of my favourite brooches of you ever (and I love your collection!). Looking fab in your jade-Green dress with burgundy accessories, such a gorgeous 'autumnal' colour combo.
    Looking particularly fab in last photos, the park looks inviting and your summery outfit puts a smile on my face, with the cute orange hat and floral skirt!
    Hope you're managing well your back to 'business as usual'.

    1. Thank you Monica! Would you believe the copper and turquoise bracelet was only € 1.5? I love ignorant charity shops like that :-) Oh, and that's definitely one of my favourite brooches too! xxx

  12. Happy birthday Ann , welcome to the sixties. How wonderful of your bosses to send those beautiful flowers . I have enjoyed catching up on your holiday posts , the area is so beautiful . Your Bess must have been so excited to welcome you home again.

    1. Thank you Jill, I know I'm in good company now that I'm in my sixties :-) xxx

  13. Hello Ann, happy birthday to you! Looks like you've been treated wonderfully with all those beautiful flowers and gifts. What top bosses you have! It is such a great idea to have an Open Monument Day. The brickwork and tower on the old Chalet is amazing. Loving your blue dress with dark red jewelry look and what a fab charity shop find that silky dressing gown is. I see you have other holiday posts I have missed, so will return to take a peek..... Lulu xXx

    1. Thank you Lulu! We're not that big on birthdays, but we thought turning 60 deserved some special treats! The Open Monument Day is a great idea indeed, according to Beate they've got it in Germany as well! xxx

  14. Happy, happy 60th birthday! Studies have shown people state they're happiest in their 60s and I have to concur. Your birthday flowers from your bosses were beautiful.

    Lovely, lovely outfits. I've a few 'midaxis' - horrible word - as I'm short, too and sometimes they are actually maxi on me. Your green outfit looked turquoise in the photo and loved the deep red accessories with it. Fab striped Diolen dress and the skirt and top outfit with orange accessories was so cool - the hat was the icing on the cake.

    What a brilliant house you got to look at on Open Monument Day and what a fab birthday lunch.

    The handmade birthday card and chopping board were lovely - what thoughtful gifts.

    Bess is a marvellous cat and so pretty!

    Have a great weekend.

    1. Thank you Vronni, and that's good to know! I'm glad I'm not the only one who hates the word and is short enough to have a midi look like a maxi on her :-) The green dress might be more of a teal than a green. I'm slightly colourblind in that area! xxx

  15. I love your wooden board. So lovely. I am a huge fan of wooden boars and use one daily for a quick cold supper.

    Happy Birthday!

    xxx Regula

  16. Glad you had a wonderful Birthday.

    Your flowers from your bosses were beautiful.

    You look fabulous in the dress!

  17. What a memorably awesome birthday celebration - complete with some seriously gorgeous blooms from your (very!) thoughtful bosses.

    May the coming year of your life be every bit as cheery and beautiful as that wonderful bouquet.

    Autumn Zenith 🎃 Witchcrafted Life

  18. Just having a ctach-up! I'm delighted that you had a wonderful birthday and how lovely that the bosses tracked you down and sent those stunning flowers, it just goes to show how treasured you are!
    Bess is so beautiful, it must be a wrench to leave her! xxx

    1. Thank you Vix, those flowers were the loveliest surprise, and I immediately knew who was responsible for giving them the inside info :-) xxx

  19. So glad you had such a lovely birthday and what gorgeous flowers!
    I absolutely love the new dressing gown, what a find.

    1. Thank you Gisela! I've only worn the new dressing gown once so far. It's more of a Spring/Summer one, and I've reverted to my warm fleecy one for the moment :-) xxx

  20. Those flowers are beautiful - you deserved a brilliant birthday. (And well done Bess for *not* giving you any presents!)

    1. Thank you so much, Mim! I've still to receive my first present from Bess :-) xxx