Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Second hand news

With the weather going up and down like a yo-yo, the temperature often fluctuating wildly within a single day, deciding what to wear in the morning can be a hard nut to crack.

Take last Saturday, which started out grey and miserable and with a definite chill in the air.

We had a long weekend to look forward to, with Monday off as well with, as I already hinted at in my previous post, not one but two flea markets chalked in.

First up is Saturday's which, in view of the unstable weather, fortunately was an inside event.

Your eyes might be deceiving you in thinking it's a dress I'm wearing, but it's a skirt and blouse combo, which turned out to be a match made in heaven.

The skirt is modern, bought in the sales a couple of years ago, and I have it in navy blue as well.

The blouse, on the other hand, is one of my Diolen delights, picked up at Think Twice. With its simple green and blue floral print and white collar and button placket, it was love at first sight. 

Looking at it more closely when I got it home, I'm thinking that it probably started life as a dress, which I imagine to have been a short A-line mod dress. How cute that would have been!

The temperature dictated that I wore a cardigan on top, its colour picking up the bits of blue in the blouse's print.

I thought it looked a bit bland so I added a contrasting colour by using an orange belt. Further accents of orange can be found in my ring and the brooch I'm wearing on the blouse's collar, which has an embroidered orange flower at its heart.

The chunky wood and plastic necklace came from Accessorize, when they still had a shop here in Antwerp.  I've had it for absolutely ages. 

A final colour pop is provided by the tapestry handbag, its design featuring two huge roses. 

There were less stalls than usual at the flea market, as is often the case this time of year. It did look fully occupied at first sight, but there were huge gaps between the rows of stalls. This was due to the presence of a television crew, who were using the venue for Belgium's watered down version of The Antiques Road Show.

We ignored proceedings and the people queuing up to have their items valued, and browsed as usual, pausing for lunch and coffee mid-way. 

And then there was this scary green-eyed doll, which had my friend Inez and me in fits of laughter. 
But have no fear, we did not buy her!

We did buy other things, though! Don't they make a pretty little tableau on our garden table? 

Of course, by then it was late afternoon and the sun had decided to come out and play after all.

Now let's zoom in and see some details!

As you are probably wondering what the yellow and blue cylinder shaped object is, I am starting with that.

Well, I'll keep you no longer in suspense: it's an unopened can of scouring powder, a predecessor of the more famous VIM, if you like. On the side it mentions "Verkocht zonder Zegels", meaning that it was being sold without coupons. This dates it firmly to the Second World War or immediately after.

It definitely predates 1946, as it has still got the pre-1946 Flemish spelling.

The next item is a wall hanging letter rack, in the same style and colours as the newspaper rack we already own, bought at the same flea market earlier this year.

I couldn't resist bringing home these two sewing baskets, which will come in handy for storage. 

Tania, a seller who follows my blog, brought the small round blue and white one with its cute butterfly closure especially for me. Thank you, darling!

Displayed on top of the largest basket are some of the smaller pieces we found, including two cheap flower corsages and a transparent yellow plastic ring.

But these are the real stars, of course, all but the German souvenir brooch featuring Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, bought from the same stall.

Both the blue and gold Bambi and the swan pendant brooch can be spotted in the display pictured on the top right of the flea market collage.

I almost walked away from the Murano glass necklace as it didn't come cheap, but Jos insisted on buying it for me!

Now, I cannot possibly sign off without showing you some of the other things which have recently relocated to Dove Cottage.

They were gifts from our lovely friend Inez, who is in the procesrefurbishing her apartment.  Isn't she an absolute angel for thinking of us?

This vintage wooden mantle clock, by renowned German clockmaker Junghans, is in perfect working order, and charmingly chimes the half-hours and hours.

These magazines dating from the 1950s are just the top of the iceberg, as Inez gave me a whole bag full of them, including a volume dating from 1937-38.

I can envisage many an hour spent looking at the fashions of the day and the at times very entertaining advertisements!

I'm still thinking of how best to display these delightful Bakelite chocolate moulds, but they're a wonderful addition to our collection of kitchenalia.

After a thorough clean, this 1930s coffee grinder is now gracing our kitchen wall, replacing a smaller one which we will be selling on at our local flea market in July.

This too is in perfect working order and is destined to earn its keep as coffee is made in the proper way here in Dove Cottage, starting with the grinding of coffee beans.

That's all I have time and space for for now, but I will be telling you all about Sunday's flea market in my next post!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

A lawn full of Daisies

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, 
the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.  
~Through The Garden Gate, Elizabeth Lawrence~

Last Saturday, we packed a picnic and went to the park.

The weather forecast said it was going to be a fine day, so I went bare legged for a change, but even after multiple applications of body lotion lashed with self tan, my legs were still a milky white.

The dress I'm wearing was a last minute choice and in spite of initial misgivings, it turned out to be a good one. It was warm enough to go without a jacket, so I'm just wearing it here for some quick photographs before stuffing it into the boot of our car and setting off.

Strangely enough, the orange felt flower was the only brooch I was wearing that day.  I kept the rest of my accessories in shades of butter fudge brown, in keeping with the flowers in my dress's pattern.

It's mid-May and the park is almost at its lushest. The paths between the trees, meandering and disappearing from sight, hold promises of a fairy land beyond, where ivy cascades over tangled thickets of thorn, growing tendrils in all directions, with Sleeping Beauty's castle tucked away in its heart.

There's a grassy scent in the air, and soon there will be the cloyingly sweet smell of flowering privet hedges, transporting me all the way back to my childhood.

The village I grew up in was still quite rural back in the early sixties. Our house was at the end of a cul-de-sac in a new housing development. Ours was one of the first houses to be built there, so for the first few years we were mostly surrounded by wasteland and semi-meadows. 

These were the perfect places for adventures involving the building of camps and hide-outs. 

I had my first experience of stinging nettles there, and in Spring and Summer there were wildflowers to pick and assemble into small posies, which my mum put in lemonade glasses on the kitchen sill. 

Dandelions and Buttercups. Cuckoo Flowers and Campion. And Daisies! Let’s not forget about them! Daisies could be linked into chains and made into crowns which turned little girls into princesses, or fashioned into makeshift jewellery. Their yellow hearts left a pungent smell which clung to my fingers as their “he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not” crowns of pure white petals were blown away by a summer breeze.

Somehow the days seemed to be longer then - sunnier and more fragrant too. Now the hours seem like mere minutes, chasing each other around the clock until they become days which string together into a row of tomorrows.

The sun was climbing higher, almost reaching her zenith, so we carried our picnic basket to a secluded bench near a bank of lilac rhododendrons.

Here you can see one of my dress's redeeming features, two large patch pockets! 
They would have come in handy for carrying treasures, but the dresses I wore as a little girl never seemed to have pockets. They were made by my grandmother and all of the same rather shapeless variety, interchangeable but for the fabric they were made of.

I love Daisies in a lawn, the more the merrier! The little girl in me wants to walk among them barefoot and let them tickle her toes.

There's a sea of fluffy Dandelion spheres too, their seeds drifting like tiny parachutes in a crazy choreography. 

Here's your chance to see me without glasses. In the top right photo I'd taken them off to rub off a fingerprint, just when Jos clicked the shutter. It took me years to reconcile myself to having to wear glasses, preferring contact lenses, but I'm so used to them now that they've become an essential part of me.

Part of the park's pond has been drained for some reason, and a family of ducks was foraging its silty bottom in search of tasty bites to eat.

White geese were having a siesta in the shade of a tree, honking lazily at our approach. Oh, it's them, I could almost hear them think!

At the water's edge, clumps of yellow flag Irises were dancing like exotic ballerinas among the reeds.

Doing a double take: while Jos was making photographs, I snapped him with my phone's camera, his orange shirt coordinating with the yellow-leaved tree beyond.

Leaving the park behind, we would have been mad not to visit the nearby charity shop, where one of our first finds was this sturdy wicker basket, a snip at € 0,50. It definitely came in handy for carrying all our other finds!

Then I came across an orange skirt in a light wool fabric, still with its tags on. All skirts were half price, so I paid the princely sum of € 2. As luck would have it, there was a pair of orange shoes in my size as well! They were mine for € 4.

Here's me modelling my orange finds in the garden. I added a short-sleeved white polyester blouse sprinkled with chocolate brown spots in different sizes. They do look a bit like the chocolates at Choco Story in Bruges!

Other finds included two jewellery trees (both € 0,50), which I initially planned to use at my flea market stall in July. Meanwhile, they have already found a home in Dove Cottage.

The jewellery, two necklaces and a bracelet, were charity shopped as wel.

Next up will be not one but two flea markets to go to. I wonder what will cross our paths there!

I'm taking my orange skirt to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Let there be light ... and chocolate!

On Monday, the last full day of our extended weekend break in Bruges, we lingered over breakfast, loading up our plates with different kinds of bread and other delicacies, while enjoying glasses of home made apple juice and strong cups of coffee.

Rain kept plinking into the puddles which had formed overnight, drenching what we could see of the garden through the rivulets of raindrops which had gathered on the breakfast room's windows.

When the rain finally eased off, we made a beeline to our car and drove down to Bruges, where we once again left our car at the station car park and made use of public transport to reach the city centre.

The rain might have stopped but it was still gloomy, with nasty clouds promising more rain overhead. This, however, did not deter our fellow tourists, who had once again gathered in their masses, intent on taking over every square centimeter of the city's cobbled streets.

From the bus stop, we meandered in the opposite direction of the day before, making our way via the Vismarkt (Fish Market) and a narrow passageway going under the quirky name of Blinde Ezelstraat (Blind Donkey Street) to the Burg, which might very well be Bruges' most architecturally interesting square.

At the end of the alley, a gateway passes under a building which seems to come straight out of a fairy tale. This is the Civiele Griffie (Old Civil Registry), which was built in the Renaissance style in 1537.

Before walking underneath the archway, we looked up to see Solomon standing tall with Prosperity to the left and Peace to the right.

On the Burg itself, the full splendour of the building is revealed, its recently restored facade opulently decorated with columns and gilded friezes and statues, with Lady Justice balancing the scales in a prominent position on top.

The crowned shield flanked by the gilded lion and brown bear represents Bruges' intriguing coat of arms.

And look, only one tourist in front of the building. Quick, let's grab this unique photo opportunity!

Next door is arguably the most impressive building on the Burg, the Town Hall. This magnificent  Gothic building dates from 1376, making it one of the oldest in the Low Countries. Its facade is richly decorated with gothic windows, turrets, statues of the Counts of Flanders and biblical figures and the coats of arms of subordinate towns.

In a corner of the square is one its smallest buildingsthe Basilica of the Holy Blood. The flamboyant facade, with its gilded statues and medallions representing the Counts of Flanders and their partners, is actually a 16th century staircase that connects two chapels: the lower Romanesque Saint-Basilius-chapel and the upper neo-gothic Holy Blood-chapel.

The church houses a relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. Originally built between 1134 and 1157, the church was promoted to minor basilica in 1923.

After admiring the square's lavish architecture, we were getting hungry, so we made our way to the nearby Markt, where we had a meal on the terrace of the same restaurant we went to on our first day.

It was cold and the first drops of rain were starting to fall, so we were glad the terrace was covered and that we were sitting quite close to a heater.

We both had a craving for witloof in de oven, a classic of Belgian cuisine, which we'd seen on the menu. The dish consists of endives (or chicory) heads, which are rolled in ham, covered in a cheesy bechamel sauce and cooked in the oven, usually served with mashed potato. Yummy!

It was clear by now that we weren't going to see the sun again that day, so we had to make do with this sun-shaped cracker which came with our drinks!

We'd planned to walk to the Hansa Quarter after lunch, which we did, but the weather gods were well and truly against us, as it had started raining heavily.

There was nothing for it but to bring out the unwieldy umbrellas, which made taking photographs quite an ordeal. Along the way, we'd bought some cheap see-through plastic rain ponchos, looking a bit like oversized rain bonnets. At one point Mr. S. decided to wear his, which ended in fits of laughter. No way was I going to wear this!

From the 13th to the 15th century, Bruges was the most important trading centre in North-West Europe. In the old Hansa Quarter you can admire the mansions of the wealthy merchants of the era, and the whole quarter is drenched in a timeless atmosphere which is particularly charming, even on a rain drenched day!

And look, there's that bear again! This one is taking pride of place in a niche of the Poortersloge (Burgher's Lodge), which was built towards the end of the 14th century, and which was the place where wealthy citizens and foreign merchants met socially.

There's a legend attached to the bear, of course, involving a knight in shining armour called Baldwin Iron Arm, who heroically freed the city from a particularly aggressive bear. You can read the full story here.

Pelting down ever more more relentlessly, the rain drove us to a nearby museum. Or rather: two museums housed in one building, for which we bought a combined ticket.

The most popular one, Choco Story, tells the history of cocoa and chocolate, from its Mayan and Aztec origins to chocolate as we know it today.

Our ticket came with a free bar of chocolate (displayed on the museum guide on the top left) and it all started very promisingly with a huge chocolate egg, marking the museum's opening in 2004.

The museum is laid out over three floors and the average visit is supposed to take about one hour.

First we were taken through the customs, beliefs and everyday lives of the Mayas and the Aztecs, how they used cocoa as an offering to the gods, later using cocoa as a drink (equivalent to today's champagne - top right) and as a currency. On the bottom left is a piggy bank containing cocoa beans.

Later, the Spaniards adopted the drink, but added sugar to it, after which the sweet drink became the favourite beverage at Europe's royal courts.

All very interesting, if the crowds of tourists hadn't all decided to come as well, blocking the displays and making the going quite tough. As if this wasn't bad enough, there were bottlenecks at the three spots which had chocolate dispensers and where you could eat as much chocolate as you want. Needless to say, these were very popular!

Anyway, let's proceed with the history of the chocolate bar, which started much later that that of the drink. I was surprised to find out that in 1847 the first tablet of chocolate was moulded in England! 

Initially, chocolate was made by craftsmen only, but then industrialization gradually took over chocolate production and the rest, as they say, is history!

In the last part of the exhibition, we admired the many chocolate moulds, and learned about the history of Belgian producers, like Côte d'Or and Jacques (below). In these displays we recognized some things from our own little museum at Dove Cottage!

By then, we'd had quite enough of chocolate, not to mention the crowds, so we made our way to the turnstile entrance of the second museum, Lumina Domestica.

The museum contains the world’s largest collection of lamps and lights. More than six thousand objects tell the story of interior lighting, from the earliest prehistoric clay lamps and oil lamps that look like they’re holding a genie, to the light bulb and even LED.

We'd left the crowds behind stuffing their faces with free chocolate as, apart from one other couple, we were all alone, so that we could admire this amazing collection in peace!

We were quite dazzled by the time we left the building, finding that mercifully, if only temporarily, it had stopped raining.

Before heading back to our B&B, there was time for one more photo of me posing on one of the bridges crossing the Spiegelrei, a particularly picturesque corner of Bruges.

Friday, 11 May 2018

All around my hat

With still one day of our weekend in Bruges to go, I wanted to give you a break by reporting you about last Saturday's flea market.

The rain clouds which had dominated our little sojourn had evaporated by the time I had to go back to work on Wednesday. Typical, isn't it? But we were in luck as when the weekend rolled along we were back to Summer weather and it was as if nothing had happened.

Saturday was a glorious day and perfect for our first outdoor flea market of the year.

In our haste to get going, we forgot all about outfit photos, and I had to recreate Saturday's outfit on Sunday, with photos taken in our garden. Yes, that's the assault of greenery you can see behind me!

But let's get back to the flea market first. I'd taken my compact camera with me but even if it was dangling from my wrist for most of the time, hardly any photos were taken, as I was far too busy browsing.

I started out wearing a lightweight turquoise jacket but after lunch (I'm sure you won't be surprised if I tell you we'd brought a picnic) it was stashed away as it was getting quite warm, but with a welcome breeze preventing it from becoming too hot!

My white wicker handbag was charity shopped for next to nothing, and it was with some glee that during one of my lunch breaks this week I happened to see a similar one in Mango retailing for just under € 50.

If you look carefully, you might notice the change of hats! Initially I grabbed the hat I wore all through last Summer, a plain one which I'd customized by adding a hair band. You can see a close-up of it here.

But then I fell in love with this little hat which was on display behind one of the market's stalls. As luck would have it, it was my size, so not only did I buy it, I spent the rest of the day wearing it too!

I was wearing a maxi skirt with blue and yellow flowers interspersed with blue, green and black diamonds and stripes on a burgundy background. I bought it back in Autumn and this was actually its first wear. The blouse with its floppy pussy bow and psychedelic floral print in yellow, orange and white, has been in my wardrobe for at least two Summers. Both came from Think Twice.

The straw belt was a high street find and very comfortable to wear as it's got some stretch in it.

I was complimented quite a few times on my outfit and at one point I overheard one of the stall holders, who must have been English, exclaiming to his neighbour: look at how well turned out she is - and her husband's the same! I liked that last part the best, and obviously Jos was very chuffed when I told him.

Only minutes into the flea market my eye was caught by a cup painted with the most exquisite flowers on an otherwise quite uneventful stall at the end of a row. I picked it up to have a better look but then thought the better of it as we do have quite enough solitary cups already. Rounding the corner, I saw a bag full of assorted tableware, with not only a second cup but two saucers and two dessert plates as well, both in a quirky octagonal shape.  For € 5, there was no way we were going to leave these behind. The porcelain is quite thick and sturdy and made in Italy.

Shortly afterwards, I zoomed in on this pair of suede and patent leather Hotter shoes, still in good nick, and in a lovely burgundy, almost plummy colour. They were a size 5 (I usually take a size 4 to 4 ½) but they were a perfect fit. Even better, they were only € 2! 

Some Googling revealed that the model is called Valetta and when I Googled that I came across a blog post from 2012 from Mim! It's a small world, isn't it?

Continuing on our rounds, we happened upon a stall we immediately recognized as Ilona's. She's one of our favourite sellers, with a stall full of the most wondrous stuff, from which we never come away empty handed.

This time, a green ceramic deer and two tiny Scottie dogs caught our eye.

The Scotties are mounted on magnets which, as magnets are wont to do, pulls them together, while at the same time they start chasing one another when one of them turns tail.

Aren't they the cutest pair ever?

Doesn't the green deer look familiar? Well, it did to us, putting us in mind of the green deer lamp we bought at the castle back in April.

We thought that they could be friends, and here they are, living happily ever after on our mantelpiece.

Then there was a stall selling vintage and retro clothes, where I picked up two deadstock vintage frocks in pristine condition. Quite a rarity these days, especially at flea markets!

The first one, in blue Trevira with a diamond pattern featuring dainty rose buds, came with a self fabric belt with a slide buckle. 

There's no label in this pretty frock, which has a print of tiny squares in different blues, green, orange and white, with a solid white collar and cuffs and a tie belt. I'm sure it would look equally good or even better with a belt in one of the print's colours.

Sunday was spent at home and in the garden, doing nothing much. I'd taken a tumble down the stairs on Saturday night, leaving me with a bruised left arm and painful muscles in both upper arms, so I was sort of licking my wounds!

Anyway, it looks like we will have a bumper crop of gooseberries this year. I don't think we ever had so many. I do hope they will have ripened to a rich red and be ready to eat before we're off to Shropshire mid June.

Before I sign off, I wanted to show you two of my garden favourites, which are currently in full bloom, Allium (I think they are  Allium aflatunense, which is the most common type) and Aquilegia 'Nora Barlow' with its double pink blooms with white tips, resembling pom poms!

Watch out for my next post, in which I will regale you with our adventures on our last day in Bruges!

Meanwhile, I'm taking my outfit to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!