Saturday 27 January 2024

January blues

As at the end of January my blog has only just made it to its beginning, it's clear that I've got a lot of catching up to do.

But first things first: I would like to thank you all for your well wishes! I'm glad to report that I've been feeling much brighter this past week as, physically as well as mentally, I seem to be on the mend.

For the sake of continuity, I will have to relive it all though, starting with my first day back at the office on the 2nd of January. Although I didn't exactly relish the early wake-up call, my days of leisure had apparently managed to recharge my batteries even if that pesky cold had done its best to throw a spanner in the works.

The amount of work waiting for me at the office was more than reasonable and as the builders renovating the Art Deco tower building were apparently still enjoying their holidays, it was a haven of peace and quiet for once.

Determined to keep things positive, I ignored the rain which kept falling down in buckets all day, and walked to the nearest Think Twice shop for a browse. The shop in question is in a cul-de-sac with one of the entrances of the recently restored Stock Exchange (Handelsbeurs) at its dead end. 

The ground floor with its beautiful central square is open to the public, but lately only during the school holidays. I instantly abandoned my original plan when to my delight I noticed one of its doors standing wide open.

The original Stock Exchange was opened in 1531, and it was the first one ever built specifically for this purpose, becoming the model for other exchanges all over the world. The original building, which was designed by the Antwerp architect, Domien De Waghemakere (1460-1542), burnt down on two occasions, in 1583 and 1858. 

The architect incorporated a courtyard surrounded on four sides by unusual Moorish arcades. It was originally open to the sky so that God could observe the transactions, but was later roofed over to protect the merchants from the harsh northern climate.

After the last devastating fire in 1858, a new stock exchange was built. 
The current opulent neo-Gothic building was designed by architect Joseph Schadde (1818-1894), who incorporated many of the original building's features, and was completed in 1872.

It went on to serve as a stock exchange until 1997 when most of the business was moved to Brussels. 

Until that time, the courtyard was also used for book markets and events - I remember going to gigs and parties here in the late 1970s  and early 1980s - and the renowned Antwerp Fashion Academy held many of their famous end of year student fashion shows here. Access to the courtyard was eventually closed off for safety and security reasons in the late 1990s, after which it stood empty for almost twenty years.

But then a miracle happened: the city finally found the necessary funds to renovate the building, which took place between 2016 to 2019. 

It was re-opened to the public in October 2019 and if you ever find yourself in Antwerp during the school holidays, it is well worth stepping inside to admire the Moorish arcades, the walls decorated with world maps, the stunning stone columns and the 56 wooden stockbrokers offices.

The figure of the 19th-century architect looks down on the courtyard from a first-floor balcony (below, bottom left).

The metal roof structure has been repainted in its original green rather than the rusty brown shade it was painted in prior to the renovation. This serves to bring out the best in the floral motifs in the roof. They symbolize the goods which were once traded here: barley, grapes, oats, hops, tobacco and cocoa, among others, and thus refer to the original function of the building. 

Here, the architect was well ahead of his time: with their striking ornamental character, these wrought iron structures could be considered a forerunner of Art Nouveau!

The photos were taken on two consecutive days, as it immediately became apparent when I visited on Tuesday that my phone's camera wasn't up to capturing all those magnificent details. I therefore returned on Wednesday, armed with my proper camera.  

As for that browse at Think Twice, I did manage to nip in on Tuesday and find this floral pussy-bow frock.  

It was on the Wednesday that our bosses walked in, paying us a surprise visit from Miami. Although inevitably somewhat exhausting, these visits are usually quite enjoyable, as they are both really nice guys. This time, however, things went a bit pear-shaped, as my colleague and I had quite an unpleasant altercation with them just before they left on Friday. For obvious reasons, I won't be able to go into any kind of detail, but let's just say that my anxiety levels went through the roof and I was down in the dumps for days.

I definitely wasn't feeling up to much on Saturday, so needed lots of colour to get me through the day.

As by now the temperature was on a slippery slope towards freezing point, this thin knit dress of many colours, charity shopped in February 2022,  couldn't have been more perfect for the job. I layered a green long-sleeved t-shirt underneath and was wearing opaques in the same colour, although you need X-ray eyes to see them.

The green wooden necklace is from the Belgian Les Cordes label via the charity shops, and both the darkest green textured leather belt and the waffle knit orange long-line cardigan were old charity shop finds as well. 

Only my tan boots and the little yellow bird brooch were once bought brand new on the high street.

We spent the morning dismantling the tree and banishing it to the basement for another year.

Although initially clearly showing her disappointment, Bess eventually took it into her stride and was happy to have her scratching and climbing posts back where they belong.

Sunday had a dull and grey start, but as the mercury took another dive towards freezing point, the weather gods regaled us with sunny spells and a clear blue sky later in the day.

Both my patterned blue velvet midi skirt and red and navy jumper were found at Think Twice, albeit with several years between them. I couldn't get over how well they got along together!

I can't remember whether the brooch - a girl wearing blue and white and holding a posy of diamanté flowers - was a flea market or charity shop find, but the red beaded necklace was definitely the latter.

The half-elasticated belt with its massive square buckle was picked up from a high street shop near my office in the Autumn of 2022.

As we do every Winter, we have been supplying the winged visitors to our garden with free food. We had been wondering why the left side of our little feeder seemed to be emptying much faster than the one on the right. The mystery was solved while we were having breakfast that morning! In order to avoid the greedy wood pigeons from eating us out of house and home, we have moved the hanging strawberry bucket elsewhere, but still they keep finding ways to get at the feeder.

We went to Jos's son and daughter-in-law for a family get-together in the afternoon. As is the tradition here in Belgium, our 2 and half year old grandson Cas was "reading" his Nieuwjaarbrief (New Year's letter). Children here are expected to write a letter with New Year’s wishes for their parents, godparents and grandparents, which is then read out loud in front of everyone. Obviously, at his very young age, Cas can neither read or write, so it was his Mum, Carolien, who did the honours, with a little help from Cas.

As a reward, he was given presents, ours being puzzles and a Playmobil road sweeper which Bompa (granddad) Jos and Nana Ann dutifully assembled.

In order to close the gap between my blog and the present, I am fast forwarding to the Friday of the next week, the 12th of January. 

In the run-up to the 1st of April, when I can finally start my official 4-day weeks, I am trying to ration my Fridays off so as not to eat into my holiday quota too much. That day, however, I took the afternoon off, to take a rest from what had been an exhausting week and nurse my newly emerged lurgy.

The week had been sunny but cold, with temperatures well below freezing point even during the day. After I had been wearing skirts and jumpers all week, I deemed it time for a dress. 

This Crimplene one, its fabric a mix of polyester, wool and angora, is an old favourite snaffled from a consignment shop several years ago. It's got its original self-fabric belt, which this time I exchanged for the same belt I wore with the dress of many colours. Again, I layered a long-sleeved top underneath.

Apart from my green suede boots, the rest of my outfit were either flea market (ring and bird brooch) or charity shop (cardigan and necklace) finds. 

So, that's all I've got time for now. I'll be back with the rest of the weekend and part of the next one in a handful of days. See you again soon!

Monday 22 January 2024

Twixmas tales - Part 4

 It feels a bit strange still to be blogging about our Twixmas adventures during January's penultimate week. At the same time, however, my constant lagging behind has been a blessing in disguise as I'm not sure there'd be much I could tell you about otherwise. 

Right up until last weekend, we hadn't gone for any walks since the one mentioned in this post and, apart from the briefest of rummages last weekend, trips to the charity shops have been far and few between.  I'm fully aware of the fact that this is very unlike me but, to be honest, my mind's not really in a good place right now. Let's call it a mixture of the January blues, a more than average measure of work-related anxiety and my current lurgy which has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

So, it's with great pleasure that I'm inviting you to take a seat in the time machine and join me on a short trip to the near past: Saturday the 30th of December.

Let's start by having a look at what I was wearing that day! I was adamant to give one of my latest Think Twice finds, the vintage wing-collared orange jumper, its very first outing. I didn't have to think long and hard about its main companion: with the orange stripe in the plaid of this chevron-patterned skirt it was actually a no-brainer! The latter was well worth wrestling off a charity shop dummy in January 2022.

After having been neglected for the better part of last Winter, I've been wearing my green suede calf-length boots quite a lot lately. They are the perfect length for offering a glimpse of my - obviously orange - opaques.

My accessories were a tiger-eye in a nest of gold metal necklace - a flea market find back in January 2019 - and a tiny Léa Stein bird brooch picked up on a trip to Middelburg in August 2022.

As the weather forecast for the Christmas break had been pretty dire, we couldn't have been happier when it turned out the weather gods sent us a parting gift of a handful of dry and sunny days. 

Combined with the 10°C declared by the thermometer, it would have been downright silly not to take advantage of the glorious weather by going for another walk. 

Only 10 minutes up the road, in the neighbouring village of Aartselaar, leafy Solhof Park is the perfect place for a short head-clearing walk. As we walked towards the park's entrance after parking our car, we passed some partially flooded meadows as a result of the relentless rain of the last couple of months.

The narrow paths meandering through the trees in the park itself were relatively mud-free, but I was still glad to have changed out of my suede boots and into my old walking workhorses.

The Wedgwood blue sky offset the starkness of the bare Winter trees and the satisfyingly crunchy deep-pile carpet of leaves at their feet. The wet but relatively mild weather had woken up the first of the catkins while a family of fungi had taken up residence on some of the dead wood scattered on the forest floor.

First outing for the purple and lime coat I charity shopped earlier that week, and which I wore accompanied by my purple mohair beret and my fringed sage green scarf.

Whenever we walk here, our feet lead us into the direction of the gazebo which, at this time of year, is clearly visible on its yew-clad knoll (below, top left). The knoll is home to an old ice house, which is said to be in excellent condition and one of the rare remaining examples in the area. Firmly padlocked, it is now a place of hibernation for a colony of bats.


The knoll can be climbed by way of a narrow, yew-hemmed path spiralling up to the top. It's not exactly for the faint-hearted as it's quite eroded in places, and I'm always glad of my walking stick, which helps me keep my balance.

At the very top, the gazebo awaits, its conical roof resting on gnarled and graffitied pillars. There's a view towards the white stuccoed manor house, originally dating from the late 19th Century but now much modernized and turned into a featureless hotel.

Back on solid ground, we continued our walk, taking note of the high water levels in the moat and marvelling at the monumental trees, some of which are at least 100 to 150 years old.

If you go down to the woods today ... be sure to watch your step as there are strange creatures lurking between the trees!

And then the year's final day dawned, which is when we realized we still had a little project lined up.

After we'd brought these two ladies home from the indoor flea market's December edition, they had been patiently awaiting their fate. Now was the time to introduce them to their sisters - and little Mexican brother - on the spare room's mantelpiece! 

The rest of the day was spent not doing much at all and resting up in anticipation of our New Year's Eve get-together with our friend Inez. 

No longer used to staying up after midnight - which is well past our usual bedtime - we were fully expecting to nod off on Inez's sofa before the clock struck 12!

We didn't - if only just - and had a lovely time eating, drinking - alcohol free bubbles and wine - and being merry.

We had Jos's homemade minestrone - which we brought along in our soup maker - as a starter, followed by Inez's main course of mince, feta and spinach filled peppers with new potatoes.

Dessert was a delicious ice cream Bûche de Noël, also supplied by Inez.

We found Inez's frock at Think Twice during one of our cappuccino fuelled catch-ups, while mine was a charity shop find in December 2020.

It's by the German "Ein Fink Model" label, and I'm including a close-up of its fabric of golden yellows and oranges threaded with Lurex. 

The brooch, a white metal scroll with dangly little chains ending in tiny pearls, is one of my oldest in terms of ownership, and may well have kick-started my collection.

We drove home in torrential rain and were in bed by 1.30 am, which of course we had to pay for the next day. In spite of a generous lie-in, I felt out of sorts all day.

There was plenty of Lurex in my New Year's Day dress too, although it isn't very noticeable in the pictures. I picked up this purple and lilac patterned dress for next to nothing in the Think Twice sales back in December 2017 and up-cycled it by changing its buttons. 

My purple pleated belt as well as the chunky orange long-line cardigan are old charity shop finds, while the orange metal flower brooch was a gift from my lovely friend Kezzie last February.

The necklace, with its purple, pink and orange wooden beads was found on the high street back in the mists of time.

Having finished Kate Morton's Homecoming, I selected the year's first book from my TBR pile. For some reason Jonathan Coe's latest offering is making me crave chocolate ...

I'm hopeful that, with a little more time on my hands in the near future, I'll be able to increase the number of books I'm reading. I didn't exactly count them, but it can't have been much more than twenty or so in 2023, which is quite shameful.

I wonder what else will 2024 bring? 

I've no idea, but Bess is looking forward to a future filled with cuddles and treats!

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Twixmas tales - Part 3

It's hard to believe we're more than half way through January by now. How the hell did that happen? 

So far, the year's first month has been a bit of a disappointment. Forget about the concept of Blue Monday, I'm inclined to introduce Blue January instead. Not only have my stress levels gone through the roof lately, I seem to have succumbed to the dreaded lurgy again, due to which I've been coughing my lungs out since last Thursday. 

OK, that's quite enough of my moaning. Let's return to happier times instead!

My Christmas break was still in full swing on Thursday the 28th of December and, as my previous cold seemed to have taken a backseat for now, I was determined to enjoy every minute.

Helpfully, the weather gods were clearly taking pity on us by sending - oh miracle of miracles - yet another dry day our way. But although the day's highs of 11°C were more than reasonable for the time of year, an at times blustery wind made it feel somewhat colder than it actually was.

I found the raspberry dress, which is sprinkled with tiny white stripes and yellow and white dots, at Episode - part of a Dutch chain of vintage shops - in February 2019. As its fabric is quite thin, with only the skirt being lined, I layered a yellow long-sleeved t-shirt underneath, which you might be able to catch a peek of between the bodice's tiny raspberry buttons.

I refrained from using yellow for the dress's companions and accessories, which would have been the obvious choice. Instead I wore a chunky knit caramel cardigan by Rhétorique - charity shopped in May - and a matching pair of opaques. Both my flower-infused brooch and Murano glass necklace were flea market finds, while the stretchy belt with it faux-bamboo buckle was picked up on the high street in March 2023.

While Jos was running an errand that morning, I took out my sewing basket and attached a loop to the purple and lime coat I found on Wednesday, so that it could be hung up on our hallway's coat rack.

Then, after lunch, we decided to make the most of the dry if somewhat cloudy weather conditions by going for a walk. Our destination of choice: Fort 5 in the neighbouring village of Edegem.

After Belgium gained its independence in 1830, the fear of a European conflict or invasion remained, primarily from the Netherlands and France. In 1859 it was decided by the Belgian government to defend the city of Antwerp by surrounding it with a 15 km long earthen rampart with 19 gates, based on a plan of military engineer Capt. Henri Alexis Brialmont. 

It also had an advanced ring of 8 almost identical brick forts, commonly known as the Brialmont Forts. All the forts, except for Fort 1, are still in existence today, and most of them have been turned into nature reserves and recreational areas, with part of the buildings being used by a variety of local clubs.

Fort 5 is closest to where we live: a mere 10 minute drive is all it takes to the car park near one of the domain's entrances. Immediately upon entering a magnificent view of  the moat opened up, with a mighty blue heron statuesquely perched on a toppled tree.

Instead of taking the obvious route, skirting the moat, we turned left on the path running behind the playground and, after taking another left turn, found ourselves walking in as yet unknown territory. 

We did not worry about getting lost, though, as we could soon catch glimpses of the brick and sandstone fort buildings shimmering through the tangle of trees. 

Then we came across the remains of what we think might have been the main entrance gate to the fort and which, in spite of countless of previous walks here, we'd never happened upon before. 

Beyond the gate, a cobbled pathway lead us to the long row of atmospheric moss and lichen incrusted fort buildings, their woodwork in various stages of dereliction, and carrying the weight of over a century's worth of trees upon their roofs.

From here, we continued our walk along a path meandering through the semi-wilderness (below, top left), until we arrived at a grassy open space. At the other side of this, we spotted a familiar-looking low brick building, which seemed to have burrowed itself into the earthen mound, with eyes half-closed giving the impression of having a thatched roof.

It was then that we realized we'd been here on a previous walk when, with some trepidation, we'd had a peek into the creepy passage lying beyond the arched doorway on the bottom left. 

Now, we only had to round the corner to find ourselves at the water's edge. 

If the weak Winter sun had been making feeble efforts to break through the layer of grey at the start of our walk, she had by now given up all pretence. The sky was darkening as the afternoon progressed and it was only the wind, which had increased in force as we walked, which prevented the rain-pregnant clouds from discharging their cargo there and then.

The world had once again reverted to greyscale, the only colour provided by the bleached wood of the bird hide and the orderly row of ducks who sat looking forlornly at the wind-rippled water of the moat.

The narrow winding path along the moat eventually takes you to the spot where the fort straddles it. Here, the path enters a low tunnel, passes through a handful of draughty cobwebbed and graffitied rooms, and out again at the other end. 

Before entering the tunnel, I briefly paused to show you my outerwear, consisting of one of my favourite vintage coats - on constant rotation with my fur-collared Princess coat - accompanied by a charity shopped yellow double knitted beret and the colourful pom-pom scarf I'd picked up the previous day.

The brooding sky and the wind which was making the branches of the trees ominously creak and moan made us quicken our step, anxious to re-join our car before the weather caught up with us.

Still, although Winter gets a bad rap all around, there's something to be said for these quintessential Winter landscapes, all but devoid of colour and framed by the twisted and gnarled skeleton trees.

We made it back unscathed, and the rain was kind enough to hold off until we were safely ensconced at home. 

The year's final Friday brought grey skies and showers, the mercury still effortlessly climbing into the low double digits

I had this black, grey and red plaid wool-polyester blend dress earmarked for an outing for a while, and I'd even mentally sorted out its companions. Not that I deviated very much from its previous incarnation, worn after I brought it home from Think Twice at the end of 2022.

Its short sleeves almost dictated that I layered something long-sleeved underneath, and this red t-shirt turned out to be just perfect for the job. I echoed this with my red opaques and red elasticated belt with massive square mock croc buckle.

Both the chunky off-white flower brooch and the black and off-white beaded necklace are vintage, the former a flea market find and the latter bought from a sorely missed vintage shop I used to frequent.

A special mention goes out to my fake snake ankle boots, which were a sales bargain from New Look when they closed down all of their Belgian shops in 2019.

After the usual fruit and yoghurt breakfast, Jos did the year's final food shop, while I cleaned up the little kitchen cupboard we found at the indoor flea market earlier that month. It still needs a replacement handle for the yellow door, but it will definitely do for now.

We hung it up in its designated space, which we were relieved to find it fit exactly! Phew!

We currently store kitchen towels and cloths behind the yellow door and packets of tea behind the blue one! There was also some space to put a couple of our vintage tins on top, relieving a full to bursting shelf elsewhere in our kitchen.

The framed print is vintage and a true Flemish classic, admonishing you to refrain from cursing, as God is watching you! We've got two of those around the house, not that we are taking too much heed ...

Friday 12 January 2024

Twixmas tales - Part 2

I woke up with a head full of cotton wool on Boxing Day.  As congested sinuses had made me toss and turn all night, I could only thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to get up when it was still pitch dark outside and that I could spend the day doing whatever tickled my fancy. In fact, nobody would have batted an eyelid if I'd wanted to spend it lying on the sofa if so inclined.  

Wasn't it just my luck though that I had to be plagued by a head cold during my week off? Admittedly, it was miles better than being struck down by a serious case of the flu like I was last year, but I could still have done without it.

I started feeling a bit better after a healthy dose of fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, after which I had a good old rummage in my wardrobes (note the plural!) in search of the perfect outfit to suit my mood as well as the day. 

No athleisure wear for me, thank you, and God forbid I'd stay in my pyjamas all day!

So, out came this navy blue Diolen dress, its pattern a seemingly incongruous mix of yellow and tan flowers and seashells. 

Blues and yellows were the colours of choice for my dress's companion, a zig-zag patterned Zoë Loveborn cardigan charity shopped back in November. The blue flower corsage I pinned to the latter was echoed by my moulded plastic flower ring. 

My necklace featuring multicoloured wooden disks was bought brand new from Accessorize and has been in my collection for many years. 

The day was miraculously dry and sunny for once and with the temperature still a more than reasonable 12°C, it was clear that the sofa would have to wait another day.

It has long been a tradition of ours to go for a walk in Middelheim Sculpture Park on Boxing Day, even if the weather was determined to put a spanner in the works a couple of times. This year, however, wild horses couldn't have kept us away!

Art has been on the move here all through 2023 and will continue to do so in 2024, as a mind-boggling total of 224 works are in the process of being given a new home. I'm pretty sure that Odyssey (above, bottom right) wasn't in this particular place before. Dating from 1968, it is a work by the American sculptor Bernard (Tony) Rosenthal (1914-2009). 

The hesitant Midwinter sunshine was spotlighting Antony Gormley's Firmament III, which I suspect is among the 50 or so works of art in the park which are inseparable from their location and will therefore remain in situ.

The same will definitely be the case for the make-believe street called Surroundings (1972-1973), an art installation by the Italian artist Alik Cavaliere (1926-1998).

Moving a sculpture that has been anchored in the ground for decades is no easy task. Moreover, they are all unique works of art, each of them requiring its own preparation process, method and approach depending on its materials and vulnerabilities. The relocation of a total of 224 different works of art is, therefore, a hugely labour-intensive job. 

After the transformation, the sculptures will be on display in completely different clusters, inspired by the different types of landscape in the park.

Meanwhile, normal service is disrupted, with some parts of the park temporarily out of bounds, and a not inconsiderable amount of sculptures hanging out together in the adjacent open-air depot before being allocated their new location.

Believe it or not, but the massive tire which has suddenly materialized at the back of the Braem Pavillion is a work of art too: dating from 2012, it is part of  Pièces à conviction (Pieces of evidence) by the Belgian artist Michel François (b.1956). It used to be in the part of the museum called Middelheim-Laag on the opposite side of the road.

Vierkantrohre Serie D (above, top left) by German artist Charlotte Posenenske (1930-1985) has been attached to the side wall of the Braem Pavilion since 2017. It consists of a set of six hollow forms made of galvanized metal that appear to be parts of an industrial ventilation shaft. Very convincingly, it seems, as I only found out this was actually a work of art when I was browsing the museum's online catalogue a couple of years ago.

Bosque Metalica (above, bottom left) has found its new location near the Braem Pavillion as well. Dating from 1971, and thus a contemporary of the Brutalist pavillion, the sculpture which consists of eight separate elements in black, green, orange and yellow, is by the artist Jorge Dubon (Mexico, 1938-2004).

Making a shortcut through a carpet of leaves to avoid a particularly muddy stretch, we came across Artisticus Confusa (2020), a whimsically shaped aluminium flower of nearly one metre tall, created by Tom Volkaert, who was born in Antwerp in 1989.

The gold painted chair is part of the park's furniture. These, and their silver painted sisters can be found all over the park and are perfect if one wants to take a breather or just, sit and stare at a particular work of art, or perhaps even temporarily become part of it.

This sculpture, which I believe is new to the museum, was caged to protect it from the elements. Although I hadn't seen it before, it instantly rang a bell, as it reminded me of the sculpture on display in the courtyard of the 800-year old castle known as Het Steen standing on Antwerp's quayside.

Sure enough, when I looked it up, it turned out to be by the same artist, Sharon Van Overmeiren (b. 1985). It is called The Voyage of the Mascot and dates from 2021.

We ended our afternoon walk in the Museum Café, where we shared a hefty piece of cheesecake, and enjoyed cups of cappuccino (Jos) and hot chocolate (me).

Although more rain had been forecasted for Wednesday the 27th of December, it never materialized. I know, stranger things have happened but still ...

I was rewearing the as yet unphotographed outfit I wore on my last office day of the year, featuring a happy mix of charity shop and retail buys.

The forest green faux suede skirt is an old sales bargain from Mango and an absolute joy to wear. Here, it is joined by a rose-patterned jumper from King Louie, by way of the charity shops. Both the label-less sparkly pink cardigan and the green Les Cordes necklace were charity shop finds as well.

My one and only Christmas themed brooch deserves a special mention, as it was a gift from the lovely Gisela, who blogs under Miss Magpie's Musings.

Apart from the odd sniffle, I was feeling so much better and, what's more, I was craving a rummage at the charity shop. 

We drove down to the three-floored one in Duffel where it was quite busy as it seemed a lot of people had had the same idea. Or perhaps they'd come to donate their unwanted Christmas presents?

Anyway, here's a quick look at what I found. 

Above, from left to right: brown marled knit hat, groovily patterned blouse by Belgian label Claude Arielle, tan mock croc belt by CKS, which is yet another Belgian label, and chunky yellow, white and dusty pink knit scarf with pom-poms!

In spite of my self-imposed coat ban, I couldn't possibly resist this purple and lime patterned one, although the photo doesn't do its colours much justice. To make up for this, I'll be wearing it in one of my next posts!

And now, it's time to divulge which one of my lady brooches turned out to be the bargain of the century.

Ta-dah! I'm sure this isn't the one you expected it to be! Bought for less than € 10 at the indoor flea market a couple of years ago, I only found out its true nature and value by accident in the Summer of 2022 when I was looking up a Léa Stein brooch I'd picked up in a vintage shop in Middelburg.

It turns out that, although not marked, this was a Léa Stein too, and one of her earliest and most valuable at that, estimated between $ 200 and $ 300. It's one of her serigraphy (screen printed) brooches dating from the late1960s and the early 1970s. The most collectable among these are the romantic or nostalgic female portraits, a plastic version of Victorian miniatures, so to speak.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Léa Stein, who was born in1936, she is a French artist and accessories maker known for her compressed plastic buttons, brooches and bracelets. She is often hailed as the most notable and innovative designer of plastic jewellery of the 20th century. 

Stein entered the fashion industry in 1957 working in textiles, and by 1965 had developed an interest in plastic. She worked with her husband, the chemist Fernand Steinberger, to develop a process of layering very thin sheets of cellulose acetate (or rhodoid) and laminating them to form a multi-coloured sandwich of plastic, which was then baked, cooled and cut into shapes. The process could take as long as six months!

Her brooches are avidly collected and generally command high prices and it therefore won't come as a surprise that they are often imitated. 

There's a very interesting and useful Facebook group called Lea Stein Appreciation of which Mme. Steinberger herself is a member and to which she sometimes contributes whenever there is doubt if a certain piece is a Léa Stein original or not.

I will be back with more adventures soon!