woensdag 18 januari 2017

January days and their scarecrow trees

"Pale January lay
In its cradle day by day
Dead or living, hard to say."
-  Alfred Austin, Primroses

For most of us living in the Northern hemisphere, January isn't exactly a favourite month. After the - if often forced - excitement of Christmas, January seems drab in comparison.

If the days are lengthening, it is hardly noticeable in the first few weeks after the winter equinox.

Only on the occasional sunny day does the light seem to linger just that little bit longer.

But sunny days are few and far between in this first month of the year. It is, after all, only the very beginning of winter and spring still a long way off.

In spite of all this, I wouldn't have it any other way, as I quite like the change each season brings.

I'm actually glad to be living in a part of the world with proper seasons!

(Photos dating from January 2014 and 2015)

The trick is not to give in to the downward spiral January often brings, and to add some much needed colour to every godforsaken winter's day.

This vintage St. Michael dress, with a pattern of yellow and brown flowers on a cream background, was just the thing, especially as it is made of a heavy polyester fabric to keep me warm.

It came with a slim brown belt but I like it much better with a slightly wider yellow one, bringing out the yellow in the dress. The round white metal buckle, in its turn, echoes the circle shapes in the dress's pattern.

By far my favourite feature of the dress is its unusual brown plastic buttons.

I chose yellow for my cardigan and tights too, adding yet more, if illusionary, sunshine.

Due to the freezing temperatures, we were obliged to do a photo session inside the house. And look who's come to steal some of my limelight! Oh well, then she'll have to earn her keep and be a model. Not being a cuddly cat, she couldn't wait to get away, though.

Friday's weather, in spite of severe storm warnings, wasn't too bad, with periods of sunshine in between flurries of sleety snow, but by evening more and more clouds gathered and we were treated to all kinds of semi-frozen wetness.

In spite of a murky start, the sun soon made an appearance on Saturday morning. Of course, once we decided to leave the house, she decided to call it a day and to make way for leaden skies and more snow.

My charity shopped fake fur coat was put to good use against the biting cold. Once again, I chose my woolly turban. I also grabbed my warmest gloves, a colourful knitted pair found at our village's weekly market.

Silly poses? Oh yes!

The weather conditions didn't keep us from visiting our favourite charity shop, where it was unusually quiet for a Saturday, allowing us to browse at ease.

There were many new additions in the book department, and after some deliberation, these came home with me.

We don't really need more books, as we're still only half way through sorting out my dad's, but I'm sure we'll find space for them. We also regularly (re)donate books to charity, so that some kind of balance is being kept.

Even the clothing floor (this shop actually has three floors!) didn't disappoint, as I found an abstractly patterned green polyester vintage dress (in my size, for once) and a green skirt. I'd been looking for a plain green winter skirt since last year, but couldn't find one that ticked all my boxes. The shape, colour and size of this one were just right, and it is lined too! Here, Angelica is wearing it with a flowery blouse from Think Twice.

My last find of the day was this red felt hat, which came with a bonus brooch!

Since last weekend temperatures have dropped considerably, so I guess it's time to dig out the jumpers ...

zaterdag 14 januari 2017

Walk out to winter

Last Saturday we had this winter's first batch of snow. It wasn't much exactly, but frost had turned the thin layer of snow into ice, as Mr. S. found out when he made an attempt at shovelling the stuff from our pavement.

By morning, snow had been replaced by drizzle which instantly froze, making the roads even more slippery than they already were.

Even Phoebe, who used to love playing in the snow when she was younger, wasn't particularly keen and watched the strange white substance from a safe distance.

I only ventured outside to take a couple of photographs, and then busied myself with some long overdue sewing projects and a bit of ironing. Yes, even a Polyester Princess has to iron from time to time, though preferably not too often.

I was wearing a 1940s style polyester/wool blend dress, bought at a shop called Vintage Styling, which sadly stopped trading last year, and added a fake fur capelet for additional warmth.

I also wore a pair of fur-trimmed "granny" slippers to keep my feet warm and cosy!

After this uneventful Saturday, we were raring to go out on Sunday. Thaw had set in overnight, and most of the snow on the streets had gone, leaving clumps of black-smudged ice in its wake.

It wasn't nearly as cold as the day before, so I wore a psychedelic print shift dress in brown, orange and green, with a green charity shopped cardi on top. I know it looks bluish in the photos, but it's definitely green. Or is it?

As we were flea market bound, I opted for a comfortable pair of flat heeled brown boots.

So soon after the holidays, we didn't expect much of this flea market and indeed, there were many empty gaps where stalls should have been. Even the otherwise faithful "brooch lady" seemed to have given it a miss.

Nevertheless, I did find a couple of brooches on other stalls.

This art deco-style insulated coffee pot came home with us as well. It is made in Holland and marked "Benraad". The coffee pot itself has some crazing but is in otherwise perfect condition and it fits inside a chrome, felt-lined outer shell.

It was only early afternoon by then, and we were our way back home, driving along a road between two parks, when we suddenly had a "Stop the Car" moment.

A low mist had settled over the landscape, and was hovering between the trees.

We got out of the car and, despite the fact that we were not wearing the most suitable of shoes, decided to go for a walk.

This park is called "Den Brandt", and its romantic castle, originally built in 1790, was renovated in the 1870s in late classical style.

The statue in the castle's French garden is by German sculptor Walter Schott. It is called the "Three Graces", or - a name I much prefer - the "Dancing Nymphs".

They have been dancing their rapturous dance since 1910 and on this dreamlike Sunday, they seemed to be floating in strands of mist, with crystal droplets of ice growing from their fingers and chins.

In the grounds beyond, the carpet of snow combined with the unsettling mist provided an eerie backdrop to our winter walk.

We kept to the grass as it was a hazard walking on the cobbled pathways, where treacherous patches of ice were lying in wait to trip us up.

In spite of the slippery circumstances, I tried out some silly poses in the firm believe that practice will eventually make perfect.

If we'd had our walking boots on, we could have wandered for hours, as there were photo opportunities with every step we took.

Finally we shuffled back to our car and drove home, leaving behind the ghostly monochrome winter world.

woensdag 11 januari 2017

White chalk written on red brick

One fine morning during our Christmas break, we were all set to do some charity shopping.

I couldn't wait to wear the vintage velvet skirt I'd bought at a local charity shop the day before.

It was when we were on our way to the till that Jos suddenly noticed the skirt had a Think Twice label still attached, showing its original price of € 12.

If you are wondering why someone buys a vintage skirt, and then gives it to charity with the label still attached, as a regular Think Twice shopper I think I know the answer.
My guess is that it was bought at the tail end of one of their sales, when everything goes for € 1 or € 2. Whoever bought it probably took a chance and bought it without trying it on as there would have been the usual long queue at the changing rooms.

Anyway, it fits me like a glove and I only paid € 4. So thank you, whoever you are!

I combined the skirt with a blouse from ... yes, you guessed right ... featuring ginger tabby cats, a charity shopped belt and ditto beads and a brooch found at a flea market in November.

Both the jacket and the boots have already featured on this blog a couple of times before, as they are firm favourites.

As for our charity shopping trip: it wasn't much of a success.

Apart from the St. Rita plaster bust I showed you in my previous post, I only found a fake fur jacket for € 8 and a scarf for € 1.

We were going to stop in at another shop on our way back but changed our minds as the weather was far too gorgeous to be spent inside.

So, in remembrance of my dad, we stopped by at the place where we said goodbye to him, one of the playing grounds of his childhood.

Between 1859 and 1864, a chain of eight fortresses was constructed around the city of Antwerp, seven of which are still in existence today.

One of them, sadly, had to make way for a busy road and a shopping centre ...

The majority of the remaining fortresses were sold to the local communities in the 1970s and have been converted to semi nature reserves and landscape parks, while some of the buildings house museums or are being used by local clubs and societies.

As you can see, I already donned my new coat and scarf for the occasion, although it wasn't nearly cold enough to be wearing a fake fur coat.

My dad's fortress, as I will call it, has - among other things - a tram museum, a nature class and a co-working space. Wouldn't mind working there, actually. There's also a well-established bat sanctuary which is normally out of bounds and can only be visited once a year with a guide.

You can walk all around the fortress's moat, which is teeming with wildlife. Apart from the ubiquitous ducks, geese and moorhens, several fish-diving cormorants can be spotted.

In the late December sun, the red brick walls of the buildings, with their many decorative details, were positively glowing.

The peeling and cracked paintwork, pockmarked sandstone details, and rampant ivy, moss and lichen only add to the buildings' evocative charm.

Part of the path which follows the moat in my dad's fortress passes through some of the derelict buildings.

Any glass has long ago disappeared from this room's windows, and its exposure to the elements has allowed the woodwork to rot and a carpet of leaves to settle on the cobbled floor.

Eventually, we returned to the water's edge for the final stretch of our walk before heading back to our car.

A last photo opportunity before calling it a day: these ducks were particularly obliging, posing on a waterlogged branch, accompanied by their topsy-turvy reflections in the moat's gently rippling water.

zaterdag 7 januari 2017

Save it for a rainy day

The weather gradually got colder during the Christmas break, and although the majority of the days were of a nondescript and mind-numbing greyness, on Friday we woke up to a frosty day with clear blue skies.

Our tangled mess of a garden was looking almost pretty, the overgrown shrubs and decaying ferns looking as if they were dusted with icing sugar. The ivy leaves looked particularly fetching, edged with a lacy border of tiny crystals.

It was exactly the kind of crispy winter's day that I love, and perfect for a bracing walk.

Dressed in my favourite winter coat, dark green and fur collared, I felt ready to face the outside world we'd been hiding from for a couple of days.

The coat was a € 4 Think Twice find, but I didn't like the buttons and it was a little shapeless. So, out came my stash of vintage buttons to replace the original boring ones (sorry, didn't take photos, as I wasn't yet blogging at the time), and gave it more shape by nipping in the half belt at the back and fastening it with a button.

The woolly turban is my current favourite as it's keeping my ears warm and toasty. I bought the fur muff at a flea market a couple of years ago. Perfect for waiting for the bus on a winter's evening, with a pair of gloves underneath.

Our outing took us to a nearby park, where we stopped to have a car picnic before walking the perimeter of the park's large, elongated pond, which was covered with a thin layer of ice.

Here and there, ducks were bathing in the the ice-free parts, and causing a bit of a ruckus, while the the odd couple was dozing on the grassy banks, with the crooked silhouettes of the leafless trees meeting their reflections in the crystal clear water.

Look at Mr. Suave's (thanks, Fiona!) new hat, found at Expo 58!

He's been wearing it ever since and causing quite a stir when he's walking the streets of our sleepy town. Now he's even more popular with the older ladies!

As for me, I'm striking a few silly poses, although I will probably never be as adventurous as Goody!
But hey, I'm trying ...

In the quiet of the park, I could practise at ease as, apart from the ducks, we only met the odd dog walker, who seemed to give us a wide berth.

We finished the day by visiting a couple of nearby charity shops.

There's always room for some more hats, which Twiggy was kind enough to model for you.

I couldn't believe that this pretty one, featuring a crown of feathers, was only € 0,50.

These two vintage paperbacks, which came from the same shop, were € 0.25 each, and are both worthy additions to my re-kindled collection.

The one on the left is an American Pelican book dating from 1947. When during the Second World War it became impossible to import Penguin and Pelican books from the UK, their American branch started publishing the books themselves rather than importing them. This continued until 1948, when they were rebranded as Signet Books.

On the right is a 1949 Pan Books edition of The Avenging Saint, previously published as Knight Templar in 1930. It was the fourth book featuring Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood-inspired anti-hero, Simon Templar, alias "The Saint".

I'm sure some of you remember the original television series of The Saint, starring Roger Moore, which ran from 1962 until 1969, with over a hundred episodes.

I was amazed to find that The Saint Club, which is mentioned on the back cover, still exists today. They even have a Facebook page!

Inside the book, there was this vintage voucher, which I liked so much that I framed it:

It's from a long defunct shop in Antwerp, called 't Regenfrakje (litterally meaning The Little Raincoat), which - accoding to the voucher -  sold overcoats, Egyptian bedding, poplin, trench coats, waterproofs, leather jackets and sports jackets.

The heading says Gij kunt geld sparen, which translates as You can save money: indeed, it entitled you to a 5% reduction.

Unfortunately, even if the shop would still be there today, the voucher was only valid until 15 April 1950 ...

Oh, well, I'll buy a second hand raincoat then!