We couldn't believe our eyes when the sun streamed in through our windows once more on Sunday morning the 13th of February! Surely it couldn't be true that we would have a whole weekend of dry and - gasp! - sunny weather? Had the weather gods finally taken pity on us? We kept eyeing the sky suspiciously in case they'd change their minds and gleefully send another little black rain cloud our way ...
The mercury climbed to a delicious 12°C, but once outside a blustery wind was doing its best to throw a spanner in the works.
From my dresses which as yet remained unworn this season, I pulled this vintage blue and white houndstooth patterned one I found at Think Twice in February 2020. I'd spotted it during one of my lunch breaks but decided against buying it at full price, a fact I instantly regretted once I was back at the office. Nevertheless, I didn't go back for it the next day, deciding to let it simmer and see what happened. When it turned out to be still on the rails on my next visit to the shop, I took this as a sign that it was meant to be.
I took it with me on our Silver Anniversary trip to Bruges that month, which would be our last getaway for a while, as we all know what was about to hit us just a month later. Still, I always think of that handful of gold-framed days whenever I'm wearing it.
Red seems to be the obvious choice for layering and accessorizing, so I added a red glass ring and beaded necklace, vintage red plastic brooch, a charity shopped red tie-neck cardigan and a pair of red opaques. A white felted flower corsage was pinned to the cardigan. My blue ankle boots came out to play as well, even if they were only worn for the photos.
The sun showed up an accumulation of dust bunnies, which shamed us into doing some long-overdue dusting and vacuuming of our sitting room and hallway.
After lunch, though, the lure of the garden proved to be too strong, in particular as every time we opened our back door, a heady fragrance wafted inside and tickled our nostrils. The fragrance belongs to Sarcococca, or Winter box, an evergreen winter-flowering shrub bearing diminutive yet highly scented flowers. Just a boring evergreen shrub for most of the year, it starts developing delicate, creamy-white, pink-tipped flowers between mid-December and January, before releasing their sweet honey scent, which never fails to lift the spirits even on the dullest of days, from late January or early February onwards.
I just went into the garden the better to savour the scent, but ended up sweeping up yet more leaves and clearing up some of last year's tangle. Although I couldn't help noticing lots of new - and quite precocious - growth in many of our perennials, hardly anything seemed to be in flower apart from the Winter box and our old but faithful Winter Jasmine, which has been treating us to boughs of starry yellow flowers since November.
And then it was Monday!
I'd been contacted by Kezzie
in the previous week, as she and her husband were planning to spend their half-term break in Antwerp. I'd sent her an email full of tips on what to do and places to visit and, after exchanging WhatsApp messages, we arranged to meet on Monday in the early afternoon. I'd taken the afternoon off and had only just arrived at our meeting place less than 5 minutes from my office, when she messaged me that she and her husband were still having lunch around the corner. I went to meet them there and, although I admit to being just a tiny bit nervous, chatting to both Kezzie and her husband came quite naturally. They are both the nicest people imaginable.
Before we left the restaurant, we exchanged gifts. Funnily enough, we'd both decided on brooches. Aren't the ones Kezzie got me absolutely delightful?
Then we walked back to the square where we'd originally planned to meet and visited the stunning baroque St. Charles Borromeo Church together.
I only showed you its magnificent façade
back in December, so why don't I take you straight inside this time?
The church was built between 1614 and 1621 under instructions of the Jesuit order. Originally, there were 39 ceiling paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, but unfortunately nothing remains of them but a handful of sketches, as a fire destroyed them and many other works in 1718.
The interior is quite impressive, and you can easily spend a couple of hours here admiring it all. Obviously, our time was rather limited, as we were eager to do a spot of shopping at Think Twice, better known as T2, where everything was now going for € 2.
In order to make the most of our time, I took Kezzie by way of back streets to the nearest T2 shop in a street called Lange Klarenstraat. Much to our dismay, however, we were faced with a queue of people wanting to go for a rummage. As due to Covid-19 regulations only a limited amount of people were allowed into the shop at one time, we had quite a wait ahead of us. The time passed quickly, though, as we were chatting non-stop.
Kezzie was wearing a rose patterned cord skirt she'd found at T2 during the weekend, as obviously she had already been shopping without me as well. She certainly didn't leave empty-handed this time either, even if she later slightly regretted not going for the dirndl dress she is holding up for inspection.
I only made one purchase, which is the deadstock Diolen skirt pictured above.
After leaving the shop, Kezzie accompanied me to the spot where Jos was picking me up, so that she could say hello to him too. How utterly sweet of her!
The weather gods, if not on their absolute best behaviour, didn't behave appallingly either, sending lots of sunshine their way, even if there was some rain first thing in the morning on both Tuesday and Wednesday. I spent my lunch break of the latter having a colour and cut at my hairdresser's.
Meanwhile, Kezzie kept me up-to-date on what they'd been doing. I was delighted to learn that they even visited one of my favourite haunts, Middelheim sculpture park!
Quite unexpectedly, we met again on Thursday, just before they were leaving. Kezzie messaged me saying they'd left their apartment and were wandering with their luggage. As I was on my lunch break and wandering as well we ended up having a drink together, after which I accompanied them to the their final stop, Rubens House, making a short cut through Antwerp's botanical gardens along the way.
It had been a whirlwind of a week, and a joyful one at that, so before I knew it Friday had rolled along once more. We'd already had a visit from storm Dudley on Thursday evening, but were expecting worse to come as gale-force Eunice was about to arrive on Friday afternoon.
As we didn't want to miss our weekly charity shopping trip, we got up earlier than usual, making it to our first shop not long after opening time.
Regular readers might recognize the brown and orange plaid skirt I charity shopped back in January, when I wore it with a multi-coloured striped jumper for its first outing. Airing it outside my wardrobe, I couldn't help noticing how well it went with the spotty Monki blouse it was sharing space with.
And so, an outfit was born!
It was the blouse's first outing, being a recent charity shop find as well. My only gripe with it is that it wrinkled quite easily, but as I'm in a forgiving mood, I'm letting it stay for now.
I thought it was the perfect canvas for Kezzie's faux-Lea Stein cat brooch with its orange eyes and ears. The transluscent brown beaded necklace in its turn matched the buckle of my teal stretchy belt, while I added the teal cardigan and chunky plastic ring in the latter's honour.
Our first stop was the 2-storey charity shop in Mechelen, and I thought I'd give you a taste of what it's like. Lots of people must have stayed at home due to Eunice's imminent arrival, and as you can see we had the place virtually to ourselves.
The photo at the top left was taken from the entrance, the orange counter being the tills. There are some random pieces of furniture here, while the shelves ahead are full of general bric-a-brac, mainly consisting of various decorative objects.
Venturing further into the shop, there's a large book corner, followed by an equally large display of crockery and household wares.
We then pass through the main furniture aisle (top left) from where you can see the stairs leading up to the second floor, which is dedicated to clothing, textiles and a children's department complete with all manner of toys as well as baby stuff.
Our next stop was at the 3-storey one in Duffel, where I forgot to take photographs of the huge ground floor furniture department. Clothing is in the basement here, and the top left is just one of the many aisles here. The shopping trolley, obviously, is mine, and as you can see I there's already something in it!
In fact, I was in luck in both shops, but I'm afraid you'll have to be patient, as my finds will be for my next post.
We ended our visit in the cafeteria on the first floor, which has everything including the proverbial kitchen sink.
While we were enjoying our beverages - mine was a hot chocolate - we could hear the wind gaining strength and see it tugging ferociously at the trees across the road.
Time to call it a day, drive back home and batten Dove Cottage's hatches!