Tuesday 31 May 2022

Rainy days are here again

I keep having to check the calendar to make sure that my brain is not playing tricks on me. I mean, how can it be that yet another month is drawing to its close and that Spring, in its meteorological sense at least, will soon be well and truly over. 

The arrival of June traditionally means it's almost time for our annual holiday, but as something starting with C did put a spanner in the works for two years running, this year our nerve ends are well beyond frazzled. We hardly dare to believe that it's finally happening and that, in fact, in only three week's time, fingers, toes and everything else crossed, we will be back in the UK!

Obviously, my blog hasn't quite caught up with the times as usual, the month of May having only just passed its halfway point here.


With the mercury having climbed well beyond 25°C, there was talk of imminent rain and the threat of a thunderstorm, but apart from a sky darkening with a gang of angry black clouds and a couple of scattered raindrops which seemed to have lost their way, nothing had happened by Wednesday the 18th of May.

As I had a hairdresser's appointment during lunch break, I breathed a sigh of relief that my coiffure was spared from being spoiled by the untimely arrival of a shower!

The muggy temperatures dictated that I wore one of my favourite Summer dresses, a swishy 1980s does 1950s one with a wavy red on white print and crisp white cuffs and collar. And no, I haven't got the faintest idea why I'm holding out my hand as if for a handout. Did I detect one of those lost raindrops, perhaps?

In lieu of the dress's original boring white belt, I used a stretchy cream one with a round buckle. As an aside, these kind of belts are perfect for sitting at my desk all day without it digging into my midriff.

I'd been wearing a light blue cardigan on top when I set out that morning, so the light blue beaded necklace was worn in its honour. The brooch with its tiny embroidered flowers was found in an antiques emporium in Shrewsbury during our last UK holiday.

We'd been watching with growing excitement as the first of the flower buds appeared in our Oriental Poppy a couple of weeks earlier, and thus we were more than thrilled to be counting no less than 10 of them by now. 

Meanwhile, delicate orange Welsh Poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) were turning up left, right and centre. Their ancestors originally came from a plant sale at an arboretum many years ago - they are quite a rarity here in these parts - and they really seem to have a mind of their own, self-seeding liberally wherever they fancy.  

We finally got that thunderstorm accompanied by heavy rains in the early hours of Thursday, with Jos having to jump out of bed to close our bedroom window in order to avoid a minor flood.

Thankfully, it had stopped raining by the time I had to go to work, even though the sky was still oppressively overcast and the temperature had dropped to 22°C. Upon leaving the house, we both happened to look up and spot the heron standing majestically on top of the chimney belonging to the museum of folklore. I just had the time to snap it with my phone's camera when, having made its selection from the breakfast menu, it flew off.

In spite of the sun doing her very best to join us, she never got a look in and in fact, by lunchtime it had been gradually becoming darker until it looked as if time had suddenly accelerated and midnight was upon us. Then the heavens opened with a surge of pent-up water, the curtain of rain driven by an apocalyptic wind lashing against the office windows. Needless to say, I decided against going for a walk during my lunch break!

Although it was over in less than an hour, the onslaught had created quite a bit of havoc in the garden, flattening most of the poor Lupines, some of which had broken off as they were unable to bear the weight of their waterlogged flowers. Fortunately, most of them were on their last legs anyway, with a new flush of baby spikes already waiting in the wings. Still, I cut off the still pristine tops of one or two of the battered spikes and gave them another couple of days of life on our kitchen shelves.

Thankfully, we'd already staked the Delphiniums, sparing them the same fate as the Lupines.

The dress I was wearing is another vintage Summer favourite, dating from and impersonating the same decades as Wednesday's. It's got an abstract Mid-Century pattern in black, blue and red, an invisible zip at the front and a most delightful tie collar. Oh, and pockets! Let's not forget about them!

I picked up the red bits in its pattern with my accessories which included a vinyl belt with a rectangular buckle, a glass beaded necklace, glass ring and cat brooch. 

It was only when we were taking the outfit photos that I suddenly noticed my ring was missing. I was fairly certain I was still wearing it when I got home, but couldn't find it anywhere. Turned out it had slipped from my finger when I was trying to save the Lupines, as I found it winking at me in the border.

While Jos was out on his usual newspaper round on Friday morning, I made close-ups of the ring and cat brooch. Or at least, I tried to do so, as a certain someone was adamant on giving me a paw! Funny that she only went for the cat brooch an couldn't care less about the ring.

The charity shops provided the bulk of my outfit that day as everything but my shoes and pink plastic ring was charity shopped at one time or another. 

The floaty floral pleated skirt was bought at Oxfam in October 2020, while the King Louie blouse, if I remember correctly, was a lucky find in our most local charity shop. It's got a deep purple stripe in its plaid, which prompted me to wear the purple woven belt.

Further accessories were a pink beaded necklace and metal pink-hearted flower brooch. The latter has a blue, yellow-hearted twin, which you can see here.

Another thunderstorm accompanied by gale force winds had been forecasted for the afternoon so, after Jos's return, we wasted no time in making a start with our weekly charity shop trawl so that we'd be back at home before all hell broke loose.

Our first shop, usually one of the better ones, was a disappointment as there were lots of empty rails and shelves due to a refurbishment. The second shop, however, more than delivered, with  no less than two skirts and three tops ending up in my trolley.

The black and white cotton polka dot skirt is button-through and has pockets, while the ochre and brown tartan one is a wool blend, both its material and colour making it perfect for Autumn.

The aqua top with its blowsy flower pattern is by King Louie, while the loose fitting green, blue and cream one's label had been removed. Always on the lookout for yellow based blouses, the cheerful sunshiny yellow cap sleeved one sprigged with blue and white flowers was a no brainer!

It was well past midday by now and dark clouds were scudding across a granite grey sky. We hurriedly scoffed the sandwiches we'd brought before driving home. Soon, big fat raindrops splattered our windscreen, but it was only after Jos had dropped me off at Dove Cottage that it started raining in earnest. Taking the car back to the garage, he had to wait out the worst before being able to walk home.

That, however, was the long and short of the forecasted storm, which much to our relief turned out to be one in a tea cup!

The garden breathed huge sighs of relief as its thirst was finally quenched and, opening our kitchen window, I breathed in that heavenly earthy scent which follows the first rain after a prolonged dry spell.

If late frosts had somewhat stunted the growth of our Hydrangea, it had now been making up for lost time with a plethora of acid green flower heads, some of them hinting at the blue hue they will eventually develop into. 

There will be a plethora of strawberries in our hanging bucket too, now going into their third season. 

The Salvia on the bottom left has survived the Winter in its pot and its visitor, Ms. Ladybird, and her future offspring will hopefully make a meal of its black aphids infestation. 

Sunny spells alternated with patches of cloud on Saturday, but for once it remained dry all day. The temperature in the meantime had dropped another couple of degrees to a modest 19°C.

We slept late-ish and, after our usual fruit & yoghurt breakfast, I spent the morning doing household chores while Jos treated the garden to some well needed TLC, pruning back the Ivy and giving the Spirea a haircut.

I decided to give my recently charity shopped chevron wrap skirt its first outing. The verdict is that it's a joy to wear although I needed a black half-slip worn underneath for modesty's sake.

The short-sleeved salmon pink ajour knit jumper is an old Think Twice find, while the crocheted belt with its huge round wooden buckle was picked up in the Mango sales in the Summer of 2020.

I picked up the wooden brooch encrusted with tiny shells from our favourite indoor flea market in April 2018, while the ring was bought in the closing down sale of a high street accessories shop.

The afternoon saw us driving to an out of town toy shop to pick up a present for grandson Cas, who will be celebrating his first birthday next Sunday. After weeks of trawling the charity shops, we'd had to admit defeat as we couldn't find anything that fit the bill. Anyway, the toy we eventually decided on has been thoroughly tried and tested by Jos in the meantime :-)

On our way back, we nipped into the small charity shop in a neighbouring village. Not expecting to find anything, I was thrilled to happen upon this groovilicious handmade dress.

That's all I've got time for now, so I'll be back with Sunday's adventures and what happened the next week in a couple of days. See you!


Thursday 26 May 2022

May's guilty pleasures

May definitely put her glad rags on in her second week, with temperatures in the low twenties and lots of sunny spells. The mild mornings even prompted me to leave the house bare-legged, ditching the  nude nylons, scorned by many, for the first time this year. 

Work had been rather slow so I lingered a bit longer during my lunch break wanderings. I might even have made a couple of naughty purchases. Naughty, as in new rather than second hand. Not feeling too guilty though as the vast majority of my wardrobe remains either vintage or second hand. Sometimes needs must, though, especially as Think Twice has been a bit of a disappointment lately. But more about my purchases later!

Although the temperature would eventually reach 20°C on Friday the 13th, it was overcast and a bit blustery when we set off on our weekly charity shop trawl after breakfast. I'd been quite optimistic and left the house wearing just this blue cropped cardigan as an extra layer. I soon regretted not wearing a coat, particularly when we were in the second shop we visited, which had its warehouse doors open for ventilation, creating a goosebump inducing draught.

As I've been wearing a lot of skirts lately, my collection of vintage dresses has been somewhat neglected, the rail of cheerfully patterned frocks giving me reproachful looks whenever I open my wardrobe. So, here's a classic Ann outfit, based around one of my favourites, this 1970s does 1940s floral delight.

From its multiple colours, I picked blue for the rest of my outfit and accessories, including the aforementioned cardigan. Apart from the pink flower corsage I pinned to the latter, as well as my blue ring, everything was charity shopped or found on various flea markets. Yes, the blue slingbacks, which are by Miz Mooz, are second hand as well. They were a very lucky € 4 charity shop find back in September 2018!

Our rummaging fix at Oxfam and our most local charity shop yielded a couple of Summer tops, some books and a cute little lamp, as well as another item I can't divulge here as the person it is supposed to be a gift for might well be reading my blog. 

But before I show you my finds, here's the first of that week's naughty buys. 

Recently an outlet shop selling shoes at greatly reduced prices has popped up in the small shopping centre near my office. I often take a shortcut through there and, on Tuesday, having some time to spare before I had to return to the office, I thought I'd suss things out. Well, what can I say but that I was unable to resist these quirky wooden soled beauties! They are by the Spanish ART label, and the model in question is called Amsterdam, with a row of typical Amsterdam houses stitched on the insole. They originally retailed at € 125 but they were mine for € 55.

What's more, they are ridiculously comfortable, as I wore them to the office and for a wander during lunch break the very next day without any problems whatsoever!

Now, back to the charity shops we go, and here's a roundup of the tops I found. 

Both the orange one with its blue leafy pattern (above), and the burgundy and greyish green button through blouse (below) are by Liberty Island, a brand sold in a Belgian high street shop.

The red and blue chevron T-shirt (above) is by Belgian label Who's That Girl, while the red and white polka dot top (below) is from River Woods.

The day's star buy, however, was this little owl lamp. Standing only 16 cm tall, it was missing a light bulb, a replacement of which proved to be impossible to find due to its diminutive size. There was nothing for it but to replace its socket so that we could use a slightly larger lamp, by which time we'd spent more on replacement parts than we had on the lamp itself. No regrets though. He's super cute and his eyes are quite mesmerizing!

We were home in time for lunch, after which we drove to our local branch of  C&A, as Jos was in need of some new pairs of trousers. Mission accomplished, I spotted this fuchsia pink organic cotton blouse with the most exquisite embroidery on its balloon sleeves. 

The perfect match for my second naughty lunch break buy, an organic cotton floral maxi skirt with two fuchsia pink crocheted lace strips at the hem.

Wearing this, I would definitely blend in with this glorious pink corner of our garden, where Lupines, Red Valerian and Aquilegias are competing for First Prize.

Sadly, the Lupine's foliage is suffering from powdery mildew, which often happens as a result of a long spell of dry weather with infrequent watering. Apart from those plants who spend their lives in pots, or any new arrivals to the garden, I'm not in the habit of watering unless perhaps once in a while during a heatwave. Surely, water is far too precious to be used with abandon!

At the very least, the dry spell seemed to be keeping the slugs and snails at bay for the moment, although I was none too pleased to see a naughty pair of scarlet lily beetles on the remains of one of our precious Snakeshead Fritillaries!

The local population of bees, on the other hand, seem to relish a change of diet, and often dart over from the Cotoneaster bush for their fill of Lupine nectar.

I started Saturday by doing a shoe changeover, putting away most of my boots in favour of Summer shoes and sandals. At the same time, I took the opportunity to do a major cull of all those shoes my feet no longer agreed with, filling a total of three bags to be taken to the charity shops.

The weather gods treated us to another sunny day and, with Friday's wind having taken a backseat, the 22°C shown on the thermometer felt deliciously warm.

Charity shopped in December 2019, the skirt is somebody's quirky handiwork, with a visible red side zipper and featuring random felt circles and patches of visible stitching. With its sturdy cotton fabric and its midi length it is an absolutely joy to wear, making me crave more skirts in the same vein.

Its companion that day was a vintagegeen and white polka dot blouse with a peplum and attached tie belt. A vintage Edelweiss, Poppy and Cornflower brooch, charity shopped yellow wooden Les Cordes necklace, ivory coloured bangle and red bracelet and ring were the accessories of the day.

Oh, and I might have found an alternative to my red Clarks Cloudsteppers in these blue shoes from a comfort shoe brand called Ladyflex.

Saturday afternoon saw us driving down to the garden centre for some annuals and to the DIY store for replacement parts to fix the owl lamp.

Then, while Jos was lavishing some TLC on the owl, I took an armful of wrinkled clothes downstairs to do a much needed spot of ironing. Annoyingly, my steam generator iron seemed to have run out of steam and refused service so that I  had to use my old enemy, the steam iron, instead. 

Meanwhile, Bess has taken another big step and now loves climbing onto Jos's lap at every opportunity. She's been trying out my lap as well, but I guess I'm too fidgety for her liking.

The mercury gleefully climbed to 26°C on Sunday and although the sun definitely didn't need a helping hand I dressed in sunny yellows and oranges. 

Both the groovilicious tiered maxi skirt and the yellow blouse with its tiny leaf print were last year's charity shop finds. One of my stretchy chevron patterned belts came out to play as well. Both the necklace and the boat brooch were flea market finds, while the charity shops provided the red bracelet and yellow Bakelite bangle. My tomato red sandals were a sales bargain in the Summer of 2020.

After breakfast, I put on my gardening apron and gloves and went into the garden to plant up the annuals we'd brought back from the garden centre. 

These included some pink Argyranthemums (top right) as well as a selection of Calibrachoa (Million Bells) and cheerful yellow Sanvitalia to make up a hanging basket.

That's our rickety potting shed on the top left, with Jos not wearing his pink shirt for once.

We also added to the passageway jungle with a couple of pots of shade-tolerant Lobelias.

It's such a lush green space out there and a lovely sight to greet us whenever we look out of the kitchen window.

So, that's another weekend done and dusted. Do join me again for more of May's pleasures - guilty or otherwise - in a couple of days!

Saturday 21 May 2022

Musings and ramblings

Hello and thank you for joining me again for another episode of my usual musings and ramblings. 

Before I go any further, however, I think I need to put things straight. If my last post gave some of you the impression that churning out blog posts has become just another chore, let me tell you that it hasn't and that I have absolutely no intentions to stop blogging. Au contraire, I couldn't live without it and the only regret I've got is that I didn't start blogging sooner. Furthermore, it has been my blog and my wonderful bloggy friends and readers (yes, that's you!) who have kept me sane all these years, in particular the last two!

So, let's continue where we left off, shall we? 

Saturday the 7th of May had a sunny start, with some patches of clouds in the afternoon. There was no sign of the forecasted rain, but still a bit windy and at 20°C it was the perfect opportunity to wear one of my short-sleeved flower infused Diolen Delights.

Found at Think Twice pre-blog, in the Summer of 2015, there would be quite a few entries if I were to do a Sheila style Flashback on it. I know for a fact that it went to Wales with me in June 2016 and that it accompanied me to Bruges in April 2019, so it's safe to say it's a well-travelled dress!

It has also been at least once before to the destination I took it to that afternoon. And no, this is not Dove Cottage I'm standing in front of. Our house might be tiny, but it's still quite a bit bigger than this one, which is part of a row of fake houses. Now, where else can it be than in the very place where nothing is what it seems: Middelheim Sculpture Park.

This make-believe street is a work of art, of course. It's called Surroundings, dates from 1972-73, and its creator is the Italian artist Alik Cavaliere (1926-1998). I forgot to take a photo of the complete installation, but you can see it here, on the museum's website.

Further outfit details:
Flower embroidered denim jacket: Think Twice
Green apple ring and beaded necklace: Charity shopped
Cream stretchy belt and my beloved red Clarks Cloudsteppers: retail

I'm not sure what Surroundings is all about, the but the artist himself summed it up as follows: "I have always used material like a director does, or a storyteller. I work with memory and try to find paths, labyrinths, where I can meet spectators and then get lost with them in the work itself. That can happen both psychologically and physically." 

Not sure if that makes you any the wiser though.

As usual, we wandered at will, without any itinerary whatsoever, meeting works of art along the way. Some of these feel like old acquaintances, like Dr. Koeberlé (1914, top right) by sculptor Emile-Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929), one of a series of busts which greet you soon after stepping through the park's main entrance. 

Among the Bluebells and other wildflowers, an enigma (bottom left), Forme Inhumaine (1954-55) by André Bloc(1896-1966).

We took the path running at the edge of the park, and were spellbound by this view. Half-closing our eyes, the patch of white clouds seemed to be taking on the form of a snow-capped mountain peak. 

The path was lined with a true menagerie of sculptures, as most of them were representing animals of some kind, even if we had to read the plaques on some of them to find out what they were exactly.

There were birds (top left and right), a very obvious bull, and a cow, the latter of which Jos insisted on keeping company as they were both born in the same year!

We were nearing the Braem Pavillion by now, its whiteness more brilliant than we'd ever seen it before. Not surprisingly, as its brick exterior is currently being repainted!

Jos snapped the photo below, top left, through one of the wings of the big black bird you can see in the above collage.

Facing the pavillion are two ghost-like plaster figures seated at a table. This sculpture is called Dialogue (1974) and it's the work of Antwerp-based but German-born sculptor Albert Szukalski (1945-2000).  

He used living people as the models for plaster figures, laying lengths of fabric soaked in plaster over their bodies and allowing them to harden. The remaining husks of pale plaster were then coated in polyester to weatherproof them. 

As I was walking to Antwerp's botanical garden the other week, I spotted one of his ghostly works on top of a building. 

One of our favourites, which we revisit again and again, and which has appeared on the blog many a time, is Kolom by Belgian artist Felix Roulin (1975). This polished metal column has one or more human figures trapped inside, different body parts of whom can be seen through holes in the column. 

Its main attraction for me, however, are the distorted reflections it offers, creating endless photo opportunities. 

We ended our walk by gravitating towards the museum café, where we sat ourselves down on one of the tables on the terrace and indulged in huge slices of flan with a generous layer of cream and topped with nuts.

Those slices were so huge and filling that we skipped our evening meal and had a quick sandwich instead. I'm making a mental note to order only one slice for the two of us next time!

Sunday was a gorgeously sunny Spring day, even if the mercury never reached 20°C. 

In Dove Cottage's garden it was a couple of degrees warmer as usual, of course, and we even put up our funky 1970s parasol, which used to belong to my parents. 

We were all out of bread, so Jos walked down to the bakery in the village to get a loaf and some pastries, which we ate at our little courtyard table. We used the 1970s Emsa plates we'd scored at the indoor flea market back in April, while the mugs are vintage late 1960s Boch ones. The kitschy sign propped up against the wall of the shed was an old charity shop find and proclaims that the sun also shines behind the clouds!

The garden continues to thrive and is becoming lusher by the minute, but this is what caught my eye that weekend. The first flush of the Lupine spikes are now almost over, but here they were still in their prime. They are Lupinus "My Castle", which is one of the tall Russell hybrids.

Once again, our tiny garden will yield a bumper crop of gooseberries (top right) and we were overjoyed to see the first of the flower buds in our Oriental Poppy (bottom left).

Aquilegia "Biedermeier" (bottom right), with its mass of pale pink flowers, seems to be the only of the Aquilegias I planted last year which hasn't been taken over by the overzealous "Nora Barlow".

Both Kniphofia (top right) and Phlomis russeliana (bottom left) are slow burners, finally coming to life respectively one and two years after they were planted. 

No such problems for the Snapdragons (top left) and Mimulus (bottom right), which are into their second year, having survived the - admittedly mild - Winter in our garden.

The rest of the day was spent pottering as usual. I did manage to exchange my Winter coats for my Spring ones, hanging some of them outside the full-to-bursting coats wardrobe ready to wear. Blue and green seem to feature prominently!

Finally, let's have a proper look at my outfit!

I was wearing the floral wrap skirt I charity shopped back in April, picking up the orange from its floral pattern with a vintage orange polo top. I merged the two with one of my stretchy belts with a faux tortoiseshell buckle.

For some reason, my necklace seems to take on a bluish hue in the photos, but its beads are tortoiseshell as well.  The gold rim of my brooch frames a mottled orange and green centre stone.  

And once again my feet were happy in my ridiculously comfortable Clarks Cloudsteppers! It'll be a sad day when I finally have to let them go ... but let's not think about that just yet.