Thursday 16 June 2022

Loose ends

I don't think it has sunk in yet but today was my last working day before the holidays. Tomorrow, we will finish our packing - 30°C and more have been forecasted, so that'll be fun - and after an undoubtedly restless night we'll be off in the early hours of Saturday.

As usual, I've got a bit of catching up to do, so let's get this thing started, shall we?

A short ride in the time machine takes us back to the first weekend of June, which started with a warm and humid Saturday on which the mercury climbed to 27°C. 

Not the greatest start to the long Whitsun weekend, as I wasn't feeling very well. I'd been suffering from tiredness, a lingering headache, sore eyes and a slight feeling of nausea - all telltale signs of one of my recurrent migraines - since Friday, and of course the weather only managed to exacerbate things.

I walked into the village after breakfast as I needed to pick something up from the chemist, then crossed the street to Zeeman, a Dutch chain of bargain shops, to buy some socks for Jos. By the time I got home, I was quite exhausted and needed to have a lie-down.

The outfit I'd picked for the day was an effortless one.  I'd already earmarked the recently charity shopped button-through black and white polka dot skirt for its first outing, then had a quick browse through my Summer tops, where the green flower sprigged one instantly leapt at me.

Adding accessories was child's play, with the stretchy black and white chevron belt picking up the colours of the skirt and the orange-red beaded necklace tying in with the flowers in the top's pattern. I added the brooch for good measure, hoping some of the lady's good looks would rub off on me and make me feel better. Not sure it helped, but the skirt having pockets definitely did.

Things had greatly improved by the evening when, before settling down to an episode of the latest series of Vera, I quenched the garden's thirst with freshly pumped up well water.

Both the hanging bucket of strawberries - now going into its third season - and the hanging basket planted up with two varieties of Calibrachoa (Million Bells) mixed with cheerful yellow Sanvitalia, are doing very well indeed. 

We've already picked several handfuls of juicy strawberries for our fruit and yoghurt breakfasts in the meantime. The dusky purple Million Bells have been christened 'Blueberry Scone', which I admit was one of the reasons they ended up in my trolley at the garden centre!

While our early flowering Clematis "Guernsey Cream" is bearing its silken seed heads, it's now the turn of its neighbour to shine. Going under the rather unimaginative name of "So Many Lavender Flowers", the climber does exactly what it says on the tin, although it still has a long way to go to grow to its full height of approximately 3 meters.

Verbena rigida (bottom right), a shorter version of the omnipresent Verbena bonariensis, is popping up all over the garden, although typically not in the spot where it was first planted. 

The pink flower spikes of Astilbe chinensis "Pumila" in the passageway next to our kitchen are getting fluffier by the minute. The plant has been claimed by a tiny green grasshopper-like creature, which has been squatting there for weeks. Edit: sadly, the little guy is currently missing ...

By Sunday morning, my migraine symptoms had upped and left, although I was still feeling somewhat tired.

Just a tiny bit envious of the poppies in our garden, I decided to give them a run for their money and wear my vintage poppy dress which, if I remember correctly, I must have picked up at Think Twice.

I kept it simple by continuing its pink and green colour scheme, adding oodles of green in the form of my cardigan, beaded necklace and birds-in-flight brooch, and a tiny bit of pink by way of my ring and socklets, which you can see peeking out from my green suede ankle boots.

The green, pink and white fabric belt probably once belonged to a dress, but it was languishing in a box of belts in a charity shop.

The temperature had dropped well below 20°C by now, and soon the forecasted heavy rains arrived, making me switch my suede ankle boots for a less delicate pair.

It continued raining all afternoon and into the early evening, which rather scuppered the plans of a garden party for grandson's Cas's first birthday.

He loved his birthday cake, but refused to wear his crown. His first bicycle had him stumped, but he absolutely adored the Noah's Ark, which was his present from us. Jos, however, was a bit sad that he had to let it go ...

Monday was a bank holiday, but the weather gods weren't too cooperative and sent us grey skies and the odd shower, with a moderate 18°C.

What with two days of leisure, I had a bit of a catch-up to do, so I swept the downstairs rooms and then picked out some more clothes for my holiday shortlist. As the latter had become more of a longlist by now, and I could no longer see the wood for the trees, I asked Jos to help me make my final choices.

Then, in the afternoon, we got a visit from our new cat sitter, who will share the burden of looking after Bess with our usual cat sitter, Maurice. Our new candidate is a lovely lady living just a couple of houses down the road. She ended up staying for almost three hours and she even got to pet Bess, albeit very briefly!

After she was gone, we ordered a 14-day National Trust touring pass for our holiday, which will save us quite a bit of money.

We didn't take any photos that day, so the outfit I'm wearing here is from one of my office days.

The weather kept being quite changeable, offering the usual menu of clouds, sunshine and showers, with the mercury darting around 20°C. The perfect weather for one of my vintage Diolen Delights, in palest green patterned with dainty orange, yellow and green flowers. It has got an attached self fabric belt, which in this case I didn't mind at all. I wore a pair of charity shopped orange shoes and added a beaded necklace and ring in the same colour. Pinned to the dress's collar was the cheeky little fellow on the top left.

The garden is still throwing up surprises on a daily basis. There's the first of undoubtedly countless of flowers in our Geranium "Rozanne" (top right), for instance. Then one day I spotted a splash of red near the bench at the top of our garden from our kitchen window. Initially, this had me stumped until I realized it was Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’, which I thought we'd lost. I love how it is playing happy families with its purple relative, Salvia nemorasa "Caradonna".

I'm just loving the jungle vibes of the narrow passageway ... and the sunshiny yellows provided by Helenium "The Bishop" (top left) and Gaillardia "Kobold" (bottom right).

We've got masses of drumstick Alliums (Allium sphaerocephalon) ready to burst out of their skins. But my current favourite must be the ruby pincushion flowers of Astrantia "Primadonna".

Saturday - we were the 11th of June by now - had a cloudy start, with more and more sunny spells later in the day, and highs of around 22°C.

After a morning of pottering, we made a couple of sandwiches, and were off for a stroll and a rummage at our favourite charity shop in Duffel.

I had my heart set on wearing this red flower sprinkled cotton vintage blouse, and selected a sorely neglected box pleated skirt as its companion. Incredulously, I don't think it ever made it to the blog. Isn't it flower meadow and rainbow stripes pattern just gorgeous?

I picked up the sky blue in both patterns for my belt, butterfly brooch, ring and shoes, and added a long yellow beaded necklace.  

We stopped at the park to eat our sandwiches, go for a short stroll and make outfit photos. Then  we strolled over to the charity shop where I once again managed to find plenty of things.

It has just dawned on me that I still had to show you my finds from our visit to our most local charity shop on the 1st of June, so why don't we start with these?

Apart from a blue vintage slip, which I didn't photograph, and a navy and green Breton top which is already packed away in my suitcase, these three items ended up in my basket. From left to right: red flower sprigged long-sleeved blouse from Vero Moda, a pair of pristine navy low-heeled shoes with straps, and a King Louie dress printed with birds and flowers.

Saturday's finds included beige spotty vintage dress with pleated skirt,  a Vila Joy green and blue top (packed away), a red Wow To Go top with white flower pattern (an upgrade of one I already have), and a Morris & Co. for H&M long-sleeved blouse.

Oh, and this French Connection short-sleeved thin knit top, which I wore straight away on Sunday.

Doesn't it look a treat with the lemon and forget-me-not patterned black viscose skirt I charity shopped almost exactly one year ago? The tan leather belt is an old favourite featured here countless of times.

My necklace is another one I charity shopped last year. Both Bakelite bangles - which I admit I only wore for the photos - were charity finds as well, bought for the silly price of € 1,50 each! 

It's been a busy week - so many loose ends to tie up, both at work and at home - so that's it for now.

I'll be back in the first week of July with tales of adventures. Do keep your fingers crossed that all goes well and that the weather isn't too atrocious.

One thing is certain: we will miss our funny, sweet little Bess something fierce ...

See you on the other side!

Friday 10 June 2022

Goodbye May, hello June

Time has been slipping through my fingers again, so although the calendar is claiming we've reached the 10th of June, my blog hasn't even made it to this month yet!

In fact, Summer still seemed a long way off on Sunday the 29th of May. At a chilly 14°C and with the odd sunny spell alternating with cloudy ones and plenty of showers, it felt decidedly unsummery, the weather more suited to one of those famously fickle April days.

So, it was long sleeves and layers to the rescue once more!

My green and white plaid polyester jersey skirt, which was an old Think Twice find, isn't exactly a Summer one either! Much as I love it, I'd rather be wearing lightweight cotton skirts this time of year.

As its main companion, I went for this wildly patterned long-sleeved vintage acryl blouse, its matching green joined by purple, yellow, red and tan. My blog tells me it was charity shopped in August last year, yet this was its first outing. 

No such thing for the yellow trimmed chocolate brown cardigan. This is from a retro label called Zoë Loveborn and came to me by way of a charity shop many years ago.

The long green necklace with its wooden beads was a present from my friend Inneke, while both my green plastic ring and stretchy belt with hexagonal faux-tortoise shell buckle were bought on the high street. 

While we were taking photograph  I realized that, unusually, I wasn't wearing a brooch. Oh, never mind, surely I was still way more dressed up than the average person on a stay-at-home Sunday!

With the weather not playing nicely, going for a walk was out of the question. As was a pottering session in the garden. Instead, we donned our aprons, grabbed dusters, cleaning cloths and glass cleaner spray, and tackled the rest of Dove Cottage's display cabinets.

First up was our collection of antique cameras and photography equipment which lives in the hallway.

Then we moved to the sitting room where two more cabinets flank our sofa.

One of these contain a collection of Expo 58 memorabilia, which is mainly Jos's field of interest. He's been fascinated by Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World's Fair which was held from April to October 1958, ever since he visited the fair as an impressionable 11-year old.

Opposite this cabinet is another one containing more of my vintage Barbies. Although I stopped collecting many years ago, I have close to 100 dolls and even more vintage Mattel outfits, all dating from around 1960 to the mid-1970s.

Here are some of my 1970s dolls lounging in their sitting room! The furniture was a flea market find but the majority of my dolls were acquired either on eBay or at specialist fairs. Finding vintage Barbie stuff on flea markets has become quite a rarity.

As we had a long weekend coming up - Monday the 6th of June was Whit Monday, a bank holiday in Belgium - I wouldn't be able to take my usual Friday off as well. However, as I couldn't face working a 5-day week, I took Wednesday the 1st of June off instead.

It was another day of sunny spells and showers, the mercury making the effort to climb to 17°C.

As Jos had other obligations that morning, I decided to tackle some of the things on my to-do list, starting with making photos of Saturday's charity shop finds.

Our visit to the three-floored charity shop in Duffel had been a fruitful one, as I found no less than three skirts, three tops and a maxi dress.

The black midi skirt with its wavy grey, white, orange and yellow stripes is by Claude Arielle Couture, which I'd never heard of but which apparently is a Belgian label. I thought it went rather well with the caramel, white and blue patterned short-sleeved top, which is by the Danish Vero Moda label. 

I don't generally look at labels when I'm shopping, but rather go by touch and sight. Neither do I look at size labels too much. Although clothing in this particular chain of charity shops is organized by size, it wouldn't be the first time that they got their sizes mixed up. Plus, sizing can be quite varied, which is why my wardrobe contains everything from an XS to an XL.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted this vintage psychedelic maxi skirt which, in spite of initial doubts, fits me perfectly. The green, turquoise, pale blue and yellow patterned blouse I combined it with is by the Belgian Wow To Go label, and its pattern is pentagons, not dots.

The final skirt and top combo consists of a delightful turquoise skirt in a felted fabric, patterned with orange and blue birds perched on branches, and a black, green and pinkish beige striped top by H&M. If you look carefully at the close-up on the top right, you might even detect a bit of sparkle in the latter.

I won't be giving Angelica the honour of modelling the maxi dress, nor will I offer you a look of me wearing it for the time being. I've packed it away in my holiday suitcase, and hope to give it its first outing in Shropshire. Just look at that glorious pattern, though!

Right, back to Wednesday! 

Clearly on a roll after making those photos, I then made a start with sorting out some travel essentials, made a shortlist of the clothes I would like to take on holiday, deadheaded and watered the pots in the garden and whizzed through the kitchen with a cleaning cloth. I had just finished when Jos got home around 1 pm.

After lunch, we drove to our local charity shop for a rummage, finding a couple more things in the process. I'll have to try and remember to make photos for a later post. 

I was just on my way to the fitting rooms to try on my finds when I ran into my friend Inez, whom I hadn't seen for months.  A lot of squealing ensued, and we spent a happy hour or so having the mother of all catch ups while enjoying a cup of coffee in the shop's cafeteria.

The rest of the afternoon was spent immersed in my latest read, which I find quite unputdownable.

It was back to work on Thursday, where I was faced with an extremely busy day which felt like a punishment for my lovely day off on Wednesday. It was sunny and the temperature had apparently climbed to 20°C. Not that I had time to enjoy any of this, as I worked flat out through my lunch break.

Work was still hectic, but less relentlessly so, on Friday. The weather gods had made another effort and treated us to a sunny and warm day with highs of about 24°C.

I've been seriously shirking my blogger duties lately, hardly ever making the effort to take outfit photos after work. Being home just that little bit earlier that Friday, we stepped out into the garden, so that I could show you what I was wearing.

Both my grey and white striped seersucker skirt and turquoise floral King Louie top were recently charity shopped. As was the pink translucent necklace, which I found back in March.

The pink plastic butterfly brooch and ring were both retail buys, which have been in my collection for absolutely ages. On my feet, the ridiculously comfortable ART clogs, which I snapped up at a very bargainous price in a outlet shop last month.

I'm rather strapped for time, so this will be all for this post. But of course, I cannot possibly leave you without a glimpse at some of the treasures in Dove Cottage's tiny plot.

There's the last of the lilac pansies, getting quite leggy now, and the first of the cheerful yellow Geum chiloense "Lady Stratheden", now going into its third season. Deep purple Salvias are thriving as well, while its neighbour, Gaillardia "Kobold", is developing more colour with each day. At the time of writing, the flowers' orange-red petals have emerged, providing a wonderful contrast with the purple of the Salvias.

Finally, here's a view towards the bench, its back completely overgrown by Virginia Creeper. It might very well have disappeared completely by the time we get back from holiday! 

Here, the Oriental Poppies are still playing as starring role, enjoying their moment before the rains came.

Sunday 5 June 2022

Poppy love

May's penultimate Sunday was a gloriously sunny day on which the thermometer indicated highs of about 22°C. In spite of the perfect Spring weather, however, we were both quite inexplicably in a maudlin frame of mind.

After breakfast, which as on most Sundays consisted of one of Jos's cooked ones, I was aimlessly wandering through our downstairs rooms when I decided I could no longer bear to look at the dusty shelves of our various display cabinets. Admittedly, they were long overdue a thorough cleaning inside and out, so I made a start with the two vintage Barbie cabinets in the dining room.

I was originally going to link to a photo of these cabinets from my blog, but much to my surprise I couldn't find one at all. How is it possible I never showed you these in over six years of blogging? Anyway, I had to quickly nip downstairs and snap a photo with my phone.

By the time I was finished, it was almost midday so, while having lunch, we discussed our options for the afternoon. Neither of us was in the mood for a longer walk, but we desperately needed to clear away the cobwebs, so we settled for a stroll in Walenhoek, a nature reserve  about 10 kilometers from our home.

Having learned my lesson after being repeatedly bitten by ravenous insects this time last year, I not only slathered my arms in insect repellent, but also wore a pair of trousers instead of taking the risk of going bare-legged. The latter were a charity shop find back in January, and this was their first outing. 

As I'm of the opinion that blue and green should definitely be seen, I combined the trousers with a green, sailor-style, short-sleeved knit top by Belgian label Who's That Girl. This too was charity shopped - my blog says in 2016 - as were the haori style cover-up and the navy and white beaded necklace. The ceramic seascape brooch was picked up in a crafts shop in Cardigan during our wet Welsh holiday in June 2017.

The area doesn't really need introducing, as most of you have walked here with me many times before.

It's one of the local nature reserves established on former clay pits, which the forces of nature soon reclaimed after the industry declined in the late 1970s. Now, it's the perfect place to catch one's breath, often in both senses of the word.

We decided on a short stroll this time, starting on shady woodland paths and making a loop around some of the domain's numerous ponds now flanked by yellow flag irises, their cheerful faces peeking from among their faintly bluish green sword-like foliage. There were frothy Elderberry flowers aplenty too.

It seemed that quite a few people had had the same idea as us as we met several fellow walkers, either walking their dogs or on a family outing. Sadly, this meant that our favourite bench, on a spit of land jutting out into the largest of the ponds, was already taken.

At regular intervals, there were signs admonishing people to take their litter home. Not that this seemed to be making an iota of difference, as fly-tipping keeps being a major problem here. 

The working week started cloudy and overcast, the temperature again dropping below 20°C. My main gripe with the weather gods, however, was that they flicked the switch of their rain machine just as I was about to go home on both Monday and Tuesday so that I ended up getting thoroughly drenched.

Wednesday's humdrum office day was made better by Jos sending me a photo of the first two of the Oriental Poppies which had burst into life. I always think it's a wonder how those papery petals which have been neatly origami'd inside those tight-fitting buds can turn into such magnificent large cup-shaped flowers!

Equally magnificent are the indigo flower spikes of our Delphiniums they have to share their limelight with. 

With no further sign of rain on the horizon, and the clouds having made way for some sunny spells, my lunchbreak walk took me to Think Twice (for Kezzie: the one in Kammenstraat!) where I was surprised to see another sales in full swing with everything down to € 4.

I managed to snap up a Berwin & Wolff skirt made in Germany, its hem trimmed with broderie anglaise, and a fudge coloured short-sleeved acrylic jumper with a bunch of tulips in its weave.

Thursday was Ascension Day, which is a public holiday in Belgium. This meant sleeping just that little bit longer, having a leisurely breakfast and taking my time to select my outfit for the day.

Instead of having the blues, I was wearing them!  After doing my wardrobe changeover, I thought I was missing some skirts, which eventually I found tucked away in a bottom drawer. Among them was this blue on white floral one, which was charity shopped last Summer.

Taking it to my shelf of long-sleeved blouses and holding it up against several of them, it was love at first sight between the skirt and this vintage polyester blouse, with its pattern of stripes and naive flowers in matching shades of blue.

I married the two lovebirds by adding a stretchy raffia belt with a big rectangular raffia covered buckle, added one of my portrait of a lady brooches and a necklace featuring multi-coloured craquelé stones. I matched the latter with my blue-stoned ring.

We had our friends Inneke and Maurice over for a long-overdue catch-up involving coffee, tea and apple cake. While Jos and Maurice - who weekly meet for a drink -  were chatting, Inneke and I went through my bags of discarded shoes, from which she selected two pairs. So glad at least some of these are going to a good home!

The rest of the day was spent not doing very much at all. I finally finished the late Lucinda Riley's 800-page The Missing Sister and pottered around house and garden.

The two initial poppies had now been joined by several of their sisters - there would be a total of twelve in all - and look at how tall the Sweet Peas have become in such a short space of time. They are almost half-way up the obelisk now and I'm hoping they will start flowering soon!

A photographic foray into the garden usually yields some oddities and curiosities. The seed heads of Clematis "Guernsey Cream" are almost as gorgeous and infinitely more fascinating than the flowers themselves. 

On the top right, the ghostly beginnings of another survivor from last Summer, Gaillardia "Kobold", will soon develop into dazzling yellow-tipped red daisy-like flowers.

A single raindrop caught in a fuzzy Alchemilla mollis leaf caught my eye, as did the whorled clusters of pale yellow hooded flowers in our Phlomis russeliana.

Although most people here took Friday off as well, I opted to go in to the office in order not to get too far behind with work. A decision I regretted by lunch time, as Antwerp's shopping streets were simply inundated with people, which made me turn heel and go back inside.

The measly 17°C we were treated to on Saturday the 28th of May was somewhat redeemed by the day's sunny outlook.

Browsing my wardrobe full of vintage dresses, this forest green frock patterned with purple yellow-hearted flowers called my name the loudest

Although there's no pink in its print,  I thought the fuchsia pink of my cardigan and belt was a close enough relative of the purple for them to get along nicely. My beaded necklace matched the colour of the flowers almost exactly. My faux Lea Stein cat brooch, in its turn, tied in with the fawn colour of the foliage in the pattern.

Different shades of green completed my outfit, as I pinned a fern green flower corsage to the cardigan, and wore my favourite bright green suede ankle boots.

We went on an impromptu visit to our favourite three-floored charity shop in Duffel that afternoon, which was unexpectedly successful. I'll show you what I found in my next post.

Afterwards, we took a short stroll through the park where we sat down on a bench and watched the world - and in particular, those marshmallow clouds - go by.