vrijdag 21 april 2017

Is there honey still for tea?

No chocolate eggs or bunnies for us last Sunday. Nor did we join in an Easter egg hunt. No, we were going on a different hunt altogether. And yes, you have got it quite right: we went on another flea market treasure hunt!

It was quite chilly, so I was glad I didn't put away all the long-sleeved stuff.

I've had this burgundy Merry Finn dress, sprinkled with tiny pink diamonds, for a while now, but it was waiting for the perfect occasion to wear it. It's got a flower border pattern, which is repeated on the breast pocket and collar. Its slippery polyester fabric has an equally slippery lining, so that I was making swish-swish sounds with every move. And look: it's got pockets too! I actually only discovered them during our photo shoot!

For contrast, I added a light blue cardigan (with red and mid blue accents at the cuffs) and light blue plastic beads and ring.

The jacket I chose for the occasion is a 1980s does 1930s Sears number, to which I pinned a gold tone brooch set with a turquoise stone.
The blue scarf striped with a multitude of colours came from a cheap High Street shop (Zeeman, for my Belgian and Dutch readers) and I have it in pink as well.

The flea market is a firm favourite, the quality of the stalls much better than those in Antwerp.
Still, it didn't have its usual capacity, which was probably due to the Easter break.

Upon entering, we almost walked into this flamingo, which instantly made me think of Melanie!
It was too big to take home with us, though, not to mention far too expensive, as was the majority of the objects displayed on this stall. Most of it was still there when we walked past on our way out ...

It didn't take us long to make our first purchases, all from the same delightful stall: a brooch with an intriguing stone, a vintage string of beads and a pocket watch chain. The enamel goose brooch came from a different stall.

We also found this cute trio of poodles - mum with her two puppies attached by little chains - on the first stall.

We have a glass Bambi ornament in the same vein.

I'm guessing both ornaments date from the 1950s.

We halted in front of this contraption (bottom left), which I recognized to be a Teasmade. Having come across similar ones in several books on vintage, it was the first time I saw one "in the wild".

Belgium isn't a nation of tea drinkers, and I was raised on coffee from a tender age.

In fact, I only had my first taste of tea when on a school holiday in Austria, aged 11, and I thought it tasted disgusting.

Later, I learned to appreciate tea, especially upon discovering there was more than one variety!
After all, you cannot call yourself an Anglophile and not like tea!

Among the usual jumble of stalls selling heaps of clothing, crates of books and records, not to mention those stalls consisiting of nothing but cartons containing a lifetime of accumulated junk, there are those whose display halts you in your tracks.

We were tempted by a cheerful stall full of vintage crockery, part of which you can see in the above collage on the bottom right.

We bought this French coffee pot complete with a removable filter for brewing coffee. Not only does it look great against the blue walls of our kitchen, it produces seriously strong coffee, as we were about to find out the next morning.

From the same stall came this French, green enamel salt container which, knowing us, we will use for something else entirely. It is joining the other green enamel kitchenware we already have.

Then it was time for lunch, which for once didn't consist of a picnic. We splashed out and had coffee and a roll in the cafeteria, which is situated smack dab in the middle of the flea market, so that you can watch proceedings while you eat.

It was also in view of the aforementioned Teasmade. As I've finally succumbed to a smartphone, I started Googling the damn thing and found out that it was a 1950s one, produced by Goblin. I also almost choked on my roll when I saw the prices it was going for.

After lunch, we casually sauntered by the Teasmade stall, acted as if we had no idea what it was, patiently listened to the seller's explanation and eventually asked for the price. It turned out to be so much less than what I'd seen online, that we said we'd take it there and then. This is quite unusual for us, as we have an agreement not to buy anything unless we know the perfect place to put it. Oh, well, you only live once, I suppose.

 As it was, it didn't take long to find the perfect place.

Back at home, we proceeded to clean it up, as it - especially the kettle - was quite dirty. It came up a treat, though. Not only that, it is in full working order.

And we found it mentioned in our Collecting the 1950s book!

Although they are meant to be kept by the bedside, to wake you up in the morning with a cup of tea, the thing makes quite a racket, which goes on for about 10 minutes until it comes to the boil. The pressure of the steam then forces the boiling water along the chrome tube at the top and into the tea pot. After the kettle has emptied the platform it stands on rises and cuts off the current, at the same time switching on the alarm and the lights.

I can foresee this becoming quite the party trick!

Goblin manufactured their first Teasmade in 1937. It was made of plywood and had an actual lampshade. Due to the outbreak of war, however, production was halted and only resumed in 1947.

From 1949 until 1955, they produced the D21 model, which in design was the predecessor of our Teasmade. This one, however, had a plywood body and an accompanying wooden tray.

From 1955 until 1960, it was replaced by the D25 model, which was made from cream urea plastic (a kind of Bakelite), with an orange Goblin figure on the front. Sounds like ours, then. But some more Googling revealed it to be the D25b model, which was produced in 1960, the only differences being purely cosmetic, like the colour of the clock's face and hands.

If you are interested, you should check this fabulous website run by two Teasmade collectors, from which I gleaned my information as well as the fabulous ads.

Now, all this writing about coffee and tea has made me quite thirsty. Shall I put the kettle on?

maandag 17 april 2017

The Princess and the Wardrobe

To say I was glad the long Easter weekend finally rolled along is a bit of an understatement.

Even if the weather could have been more obliging - Spring seems to have deserted us for the time being - it was pure bliss to claim time as our own and to leave the daily grind behind for a couple of days.

Just some well needed peace and quiet, sleeping just that little bit longer and doing things at our own pace.

Apart from a flea market on Sunday, our diary was quite empty.

Which was fine by me, as I was hoping to crack on with my winter to summer wardrobe switch. So, on Friday after breakfast I retreated upstairs, followed by my trusty helper, Phoebe.

I started by removing most of my winter dresses from their hangers and making piles of them in readiness for the vacuum bags. There were decisions to be made as for the time being I am keeping some of my long-sleeved dresses in my wardrobe. After all, it isn't summer by a long way yet!

Then, out came several bags of summer frocks, all but the flimsiest high summer stuff for now.

Soon, our bed was piled high with dresses in every colour of the rainbow.

This was the time for assessment and casting a critical eye on each and every one of them.

Dresses I remember being quite snug or a little on the large side were put aside to be tried on later.

Things that do no longer make my heart sing are put into piles for charity or to be sold at a flea market this summer, and I can report that I was quite ruthless!

Those that remained (still quite enough, don't worry) were transferred to the waiting hangers, sorted by colour and put into my wardrobe.

There, that's better! Isn't it a cheerful sight? I can't wait to start wearing them.

By then, my little helper had had quite enough and decided she needed a nap.

I too took a breather at this point, and I'm giving you a break from all the frockery as well, by showing you some of the treasures that live in our bedroom.

We bought the green-frocked Art Deco lady with the birds, one of my favourite pieces ever, well over 15 years ago. The small plaster bust of the lady in the green hat was charity shopped around the same time. The vanity set, made by Belgian crystal glass manufacturer Val Saint Lambert, was charity shopped too, in 2015, and cost € 8 for eight pieces, including a bedsite water glass and carafe.

Let's continue, there's more work to be done!

The rest of the summer frocks (you didn't think that was all, did you?) were transferred to my other wardrobe in the spare room.

This wardrobe also contains skirts and suits (on the left) as well as most of my handbags, which badly needed sorting out, as I kept cramming them into every available space.

So, out they all came and believe me: there were a lot! This caused me to have a little wobble, so that I completely forgot to take photographs. In the end I managed to create some kind of order, so that I will now be able to find things more easily.

Our spare room, which is quite big - the same size as our bedroom - doubles as a study, library, archive, dressing room, boudoir and extra wardrobe space. Because of the colour of its wallpaper it is known as "the blue room".

On the mantlepiece, Twiggy and Sybil share their space with various bits and bobs and the chimney breast contains an ever-growing collection of "heads". We were able to buy the 1950s lady in the white headscarf quite cheaply as she's got a bit of damage (hardly noticeable in the photo). The drawing of the lady in the big hat contains real dried flowers and came from a flea market, while the 1960s wooden wall plaque was charity shopped.

I was quite sweaty after all the hauling around with bags full of clothes, so I changed into one of my newly unearthed short sleeved dresses. This one was uncomfortably snug last time I wore it, so I was very pleased to find it wearable again, which is nothing short of a miracle.

Though probably not for long, as we had coffee and a very indulgent cake at the charity shop after dropping off two large bags of donations. Oh well, I guess I deserved that after all the hard work ...

The groovy boots were bought at the charity retro event back in March.

I wore them again on Saturday for another charity shopping trip. That morning I felt inspired to do another round of clearing and assembled no less than five bags of jackets, tops and skirts I have fallen out of love with.

The skirt, which I found at the back of a shelf, was bought new from a cheap high street shop many years ago. I combined it with a 100% polyester short-sleeved green jumper from Think Twice. Apart from the boots and the handbag, this is the only vintage I was wearing. The tweed jacket was once bought in the sales, but for some reason it has hardly been worn, while I've had the spotty scarf for so long that I can't remember where it came from.

I was going to be good and not buy anything at the charity shop, but when I saw these amazing shoes for € 5, I knew it was futile to try and resist ...

woensdag 12 april 2017

It's April in my heart again

How fickle April is!
One day she decides to behave as she, the first full month of Spring, is supposed to. Then, at a moment's notice, temperatures drop considerably and it's like another season altogether.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.
~Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time

How right Mr. Frost was!

I was wearing a light jacket on Saturday, which I could easily have done without, and Sunday was even better, but by Monday I was back in my winter coat.

Saturday's outfit consisted of several pieces which have been in my wardrobe for a quite a while, but which only now got their first outing.

The dress, in a lightweight and lined Trevira fabric, has an eye-catching geometric pattern in blue and white, with elaborate turn-back cuffs, a massive and dangerously pointy collar and large blue flower moulded buttons.

I used red as an accent colour by adding a red vinyl belt with a square plastic buckle, in keeping with the dress's geometric pattern, a string of red plastic beads and a flower embellished red plastic ring.

Blue,white and red is a classic combination, and always a winner, but I decided to add a lighter blue as well, by choosing this belted jacket.

The final touches were a daffodil brooch, a blue, white and red spotty scarf and a roomy tan handbag,

Where we we going, all dressed up like that? Not that I'm not always dressed up, mind you ...

In spite of the sunny weather, we went to an indoor flea market, which is taking place on a monthly basis from October to April, in Antwerp. We'd missed the March edition, and as this was the last one of the season, we simply had to go.

As usual at this time of year, however, and especially on a fine Spring day like this, there were quite a few gaps between the different stalls, and the quality of the remaining ones was generally rather poor.

There were quite a few good jewellery stalls, though, and it didn't take long for me to find the brooch on the left, which is ticking more than one box, as it's a Lourdes souvenir too!

Then there was the Brooch Lady, who usually has a stall on this market. We'd only seen her a week ago, but she'd brought different folders of brooches, and as we probably won't see her again until October, I splurged out on two little works of art: a Celluloid brooch featuring a carved out ship and lighthouse, and a Micromosaic brooch featuring flowers on a black background.

Meanwhile, Jos found this Art Deco marble photo frame for only € 4. It is now holding a photograph of Jos's Mum (the girl on the right) and her family, dating from shortly before the First World War.

After we'd eaten our packed lunch and had a much needed cup of coffee, we browsed the rest of the stalls.

I spotted this Sylvac ornament at a stall selling pretty little things for next to nothing.
I was attracted to it because of its colour as well as the little dog, but hadn't cottoned on that it was Sylvac until I turned it around. In the meantime, I've seen them on the Internet selling for much more than what we paid. Which is a good thing, as sadly it didn't make it home in one piece. Somebody whose name I won't mention wasn't too careful ... and had his job cut out gluing it back together.

From the same stall came this cute boxy 1960s handbag, which has a large mirror in its lid.

On our way home, we passed one of Antwerp's most picturesque parks, Den Brandt, which we last visited back in January when it was a veritable winter wonderland.

In spite of it being such a gorgeous day, there weren't too many people around, although quite a few joggers crossed our path. We, however, strolled at a very leisurely pace.

Hidden at the edge of the park is a so-called bunker village, built by the Germans in 1943 as headquarters for the Atlantikwall in Belgium.

The part of the park behind the romantic castle,which was built in the late classical style, is laid out as an English landscape garden, interlaced with invitingly winding paths.

There's also a folly in the form of a fairy tale, English style cottage.

Sunday had an almost summery feel to it, and would have been ideal for a longer walk, but unfortunately we'd agreed weeks ago with my brother and sister to meet at my dad's house.

No reason not to dress up, though, even if just a little bit!

We weren't exactly in the mood to do much clearing, especially as we've come to a stage where the only stuff left are things nobody really wants or knows what to do with, and which is mainly stored in the dusty, stifling attic.

I looked through boxes of old school stuff and kept a selection of my earliest exercise books, including one full of drawings I made in nursery school. I never had any talent in that direction, so I'm glad some of them had helpful titles added by the teacher, together with a date stamp.

The one on the left is called "handkerchiefs", while the one on the right mentions "sewing equipment".

I was thrilled to find this folder (left) containing postcards and letters dating from the 1970s, as well as my old cassettes dating from the same period, but I was getting odd looks when I insisted on taking home a piece of crumpled and torn 1960s fabric, which used to be our bathroom curtains.

Oh, and there was this series of professionally taken photographs done for my First Communion, in May 1968.

Don't I look like a little Princess, with my little crown of fabric flowers?

zaterdag 8 april 2017

Back in time at the castle

Last Sunday, we visited a castle. As it happened, a small antique market was being held there. We were there before, two years ago, and both the castle and the surrounding domain, where a pleasant walk can be enjoyed if the weather is fine, are well worth a visit.

And fine it was. In spite of the forecast not being that great, it turned out to be a bright, sunny day. April at its best, in fact.

Castle de Renesse in Oostmalle is just over half an hour from Dove Cottage, in the north of the Province of Antwerp, a quiet, rural area dotted with heathland and  pine woods, the smell of which transport me back to my childhood. The village of Oostmalle's claim to fame is that it was hit by a tornado in 1967.

The earliest traces of the castle date from the 15th Century, the only visible remains being the keep tower.

In 1542, the castle was destroyed by raiding troops, who burned down both the castle and the village.

A couple of years later, Jan van Renesse built a new castle and outbuidings. It is said that the castle was visited by such dignitaries as Emperor Charles V,  William I, Prince of Orange and Margaret of Parma.

Unfortunately, in the next couple of centuries, the castle was regularly plundered and used as a soldiers' billet, until it fell into decline, and the upper court and farm buildings were dismantled in 1793.

In 1830 the de Renesse family left the castle and it was sold to a certain Viscount Leonard du Bus de Gisignies (quite a mouthful!), who converted the service buildings to a country house. An English garden was established in the park and several Sequoias were planted.

During both World Wars, German troops moved into the castle.  There's a story that during WWI, a German officer committed murder and then suicide, and legend has it that he is the notorious castle ghost, who is still roaming the castle to this day.

A final make-over took place in 1920, when the castle was renovated in Flemish neo-renaissance style. The building work, however, was stopped after the completion of the right wing.

The castle has been protected since 1982, and has been under the ownership of the local authorities since 1983.

Stalls were set up on two floors, allowing us to take in the opulent, if in places somewhat shabby interior, which is awaiting the necessary funds for restoration.

As we had hoped, the Brooch Lady had a stall, and Jos took the opportunity to take some photographs while I was browsing the many treasures she'd brought, so that you can finally meet this formidable, 85 year old lady.

I ended up buying three brooches from her. The round one with the delicately carved flowers is an early plastic one and I believe it might be from the 1930s or latest 1940s. The others are the bouquet of three flowers (top right) and the round one in the middle, which has a green stone set in a circle of tiny pearls.

I found two more brooches at other stalls. The trio of flowers (bottom right) is a Celluloid one, which I bought from the Brooch Lady's neighbour, who apparently took a shine on me and almost halved the original asking price.

Still on the ground floor, we fell in love with this exquisitely decorated Art Deco trinket box made from green Bakelite.

The owner told us it was produced by a Belgian company called Ebena, whose factory was in Wijnegem, near Antwerp. For only 10 years, between 1921 and 1931, they produced beautifully decorated Bakelite objects, like tobacco and cigarette boxes, bonbon boxes, toiletry sets, vases and jewellery boxes.

Ebena items are now highly sought after, so we need not worry that it will turn into another collection, as consequently prices are exorbitant! We got this one for a reasonable price as it isn't in perfect condition and has lost some of its shine.

At a stall on the first floor selling haberdashery, old lace (and possibly some arsenic in an old apothecary’s case) and a myriad other little treasures, Mr. S and I both found hats, which we ended up wearing for the rest of the day.

Afterwards, we returned to our car to retrieve our picnic basket, which we took to a conveniently placed picnic seat, with a view of the castle across the lake.

Properly fortified, we then took off for a walk around the domain.

The view of the castle over the lake is quite picturesque, so much so that a frame has been erected in the perfect spot for taking photographs.

Soon we came to this little gazebo perched upon a knoll, which we climbed for a better view. It seemed to be purely for decoration, as there was no way to get inside.

Little did we know that it was built on top of an ice house. If we'd walked around the knoll itself, we would have seen the entrance. As it was, I only found out about the ice house while researching this post!

Our walk took us past a pretty little cottage, which used to be the bailiff's cottage, and which I would happily trade with Dove Cottage any time.

After negotiating the meandering paths through the park, we ended up at the back of the castle, where a magnificent, protected Sequoia was reigning over the domain.

We took turns to sit and pose on a beautifully weathered tree trunk. A perfect spot to sit and stare, mourning the fact that yet another weekend had almost come to its end.

I am leaving you now with the particulars of my spring outfit:

Dress and handbag: Think Twice
Jacket and both brooches: flea market (the fish brooch came from Wales)
Scarf: charity shopped
Cardigan, opaques, flower ring and booties: retail
Hat: bought that very day!