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I won! I won! I really won!!

to 10px; WIDTH: 355px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/SbxBPF37bgI/AAAAAAAACxU/b9SN9bXAK6I/s400/cat+on+gerbil.jpg” border=”0″ /> I won! I won! I really won!

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>The last time I won something I was in 3rd grade. At the end of the school year my teacher gave away the class gerbil. Weeks prior to the grand drawing, Mrs. Garretson sent home Parental Consent Forms for the parents to sign, giving their young ones permission to enter the competition. My mother neatly signed her name on my “chance to win” slip saying discretely to my father, “She’ll never win. What’s the harm in letting her enter the drawing?”

Mom ate those words on the last day of school before summer vacation when I carried my gerbil (complete with cage and running ball) out to greet her at the car. Sadly, however, a few days later my cat, Princess Elizabeth, ate the gerbil when a traveling evangelist visited our home. You might wonder about the correlation between a missionary and the cat eating the gerbil, but this is a key element in the story. The evangelist had brought with them not only a stack of Bibles but also their child (whom they couldn’t find a babysitter for). My mother later described “said child” as “The Holy Terror”.

“The Holy Terror” wrecked havoc in the living room while mom and the missionary were having an intense conversation about God. So my mom, my dear old mom, sent “The Holy Terror” to my bedroom to play. All was going fine until “The Holy Terror” decided that my newest pet needed to meet my cat. The rest is, as they say, history. Since the cat ate my gerbil I haven’t won another prize.

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Thus, imagine my surprise when Kristie, the blogger behind Girlville (aka, My Craft Closet), did a “Birds of Change Drawing” and I was the grand prize winner! She notified me just as I was about to move from Amsterdam to Berlin and the package, which arrived a week or two later, was the first package I received at my new home in Germany! Nothing makes me happier than a package in the mail! I’d like to give a special thank you to Kristie at Girlville!

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/SbxBbr-O3TI/AAAAAAAACxk/w88u3JScXzM/s320/DSC04441.JPG” border=”0″ />to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 258px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/SbxBbmhVr_I/AAAAAAAACxs/YKEKTCkMn1Y/s320/DSC04442.JPG” border=”0″ />to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kcTb8DnPVW4/SbxBbdL2OuI/AAAAAAAACxc/OMVc7MQzinc/s320/DSC04384.JPG” border=”0″ />Diva Readers, I encourage you to check out the pondering of “an over 30-something with a husband, 4 cats and a tendency towards unfinished projects…” She loves reading, cooking, knitting, sewing, painting, needlepoint(ing), playing with her 4 kitties (one of whom needs liposuction), baking, watching TV, refinishing furniture and making lists of things that she’s started doing but not yet finished!

Now – I suspect you’re a little jealous that I’ve got a birdie and you don’t…. if I were “The Holy Terror” I might stick out my tongue and say “Nanny, nanny, boo-boo – I have a birdie and you don’t!” – however, I’m simply not that kind of girl. I’m a nice diva and I play well with others (although I do occasionally run with scissors) – thus I’m going to let you in on a little secret! You too can own a birdie!

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Kristie not only blogs and crafts and blogs about crafting, she also has a fabulous Etsy Store called Fait Pour Vous (Made For You) where she sells her hand-made creations. She does limited edition and custom orders. You can shop by theme (St Patrick’s Day or Wine & Things, etc), paintings or merely items on sale. When you stop by to visit her, do make sure you tell her “A Little Birdie Sent You!”

THANK YOU GIRLVILLE!!!

Until next time,

The Antiques Diva™

(Photo at right taken by The Diva while her husband The Wine Guy drove from Amsterdam to Berlin for their most recent move. Catpuccino sat at attention on The Diva’s lap ready to take his turn at the wheel should WG need a break from driving!)

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Note to reader: To the best of my knowledge, no gerbils were harmed in the taking of the top “intro” picture. The tos/31847658@N00/1414078784/” target=”_blank”>photo of the cat watching the gerbil is merely a stunt double found in a Google search and “borrowed” from Flicker. If you’d like to hear more tragic details of my childhood… my brother’s dog later ate Princess Elizabeth, then my parent’s house blew away in a tornado (along with my mom) and all our family photos were lost (my mom was found). Thus no photo of Princess Elizabeth, my gerbil or my childhood remains. But for photos of a stranger’s cat, tos/31847658@N00/sets/72157603920996756/” target=”_blank”>visit Rigsby’s flicker site.

Antwerp Fashion Shopping

Dear Antiques Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>I am catching a flight from NYC to Amsterdam tomorrow to come visit you and am looking so forward to our “Girls Trip” to Antwerp! I was thinking about your series “Living La Diva Loca” and thought you might be able to recommend a boutique in Antwerp where I could buy a new gala gown or floor-length cocktail dress? I know you bought your gown in Holland, but by chance do you have any fashion addresses in Antwerp to share?

Bisous,
La Reine
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Dearest La Reine,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>I am looking very forward to your visit and our girls trip to Belgium. I know of a few addresses of “must go” places in Antwerp, but I decided that my friend The Belgian Beauty would be able to answer your question a million times better than I could. The Belgian Beauty waxes so poetically about Antwerp shopping that she has me quivering with excitement each time she pulls out her little black book….

so Ta Ta from Me – The Antiques Diva™

… and Greetings from The Belgian Beauty!

The street to shop is the Schuttershofstraat, which runs parallel with The Meir – the main shopping drag. You might find something at Princess on the Meir, but I recommend you go around the corner to the Schuttershofstraat where you’ll find Natan. Here you’ll find designer gowns by Eduard Vermeulen, who is known for his simple (therefore not cheap) evening gowns. At #9 is Antwerp’s best shoe shop Coccodrillo. For beautiful Belgian leather purses you can go to Delvaux — the Belgian equivalent of Hermes.

Around the corner of the Schuttershofstraat is the Huidevettersstraat, with Belgian fashion such as Scapa and Caroline Biss. Around the other corner is the Lange Gasthuisstraat, with a huge Flamant store in a beautiful old house. Upstairs inside Flamant you can have something to eat or drink as well. Not to be missed is the Dries Van Noten flagship store on the nearby Nationalestraat #16 — if you like his style, that is!

For Italian fashion, a beautiful shop is tonnylinders.be/” target=”_blank”>Tonny Linders at Oudaan #20. I don’t know if they also have Belgian designers, but just go inside and ask and enjoy the impressive ornate interior! They sell Valentino and such but are very friendly — even to me when I only buy there only at the end of summer sale, for 10 % of the original price!

There are fancier shops on the Frankrijklei, at the other side of the Meir near the Opera. There is a huge vintage shop I want you to know about, it’s called Pardaff and is near the Opera and the Atheneum [a school]. I forget the name of the street but if you want a “big name” second-hand evening dress you could find it here. There is another vintage shop in the Steenhouwersvest, near the Kloosterstraat, where all the antique shops are clustered.

I hope you have successful shopping & will find the perfect evening dress! Have a good time in Antwerp! If you need any more information, just let me know.

The Belgian Beauty

Braai and Jabulisa – A South African Treat!

hile my friends in America were celebrating Labor Day with barbeques and one last dip in their swimming pool before flipping on the switch to their gas fireplaces for autumn, here in Holland, on the other side of the pond, we’ve been doing a little end-of-the-summer-barbequing as well – South African style!!

When The South African Princess and her charming beau, Dr. Braai (pronounced Br-Eye), invited us to a Sunday afternoon backyard barbeque, my husband, The Wine Guy, and I would have walked over hot coals to get there. Fortunately for us, our friends didn’t make us “Braai-virgins” go through any initiation rites and the only thing they asked was that we bring a bottle of wine to go with the barbie – a task we were certainly well equipped to handle. Though they didn’t get picky specifying what type of wine we should bring, I’m certain The Doctor had a preference for us to bring a to complement the vast quantities of meat we were about to inhale. When braai-ing, none of that prissy “Chateau de la bla bla blah a la France” will do. Braai-ing is a strictly masculine endeavor and must be done with a sufficient amount of grunts and hollers.

Even the mild-mannered, excruciatingly polite and gentle Doctor was found next to the coals with a longneck in hand making his entourage of Merry Men guffaw in the most surprising and shocking of manner. I can’t imagine whatever they might have been discussing which could cause such an uproar. Though I was certain I wasn’t allowed to enter their “fire pit”, I dared to go beyond the bush. To my surprise, as I peered through the fog of testosterone and smoke, there wasn’t a Weber® Grill in sight!

I was quickly to be informed that a sissy gas grill, like we use at home, was sacrilegious to a Braai-Purist. The Doctor liked to barbeque traditional South African style – using a drum barrel turned side-ways and cut in half, drilled with ventilation holes to provide the perfect degree of air circulation. Traditionally, this might have been converted from an old wheel barrow or washing machine drum, but The Doctor was a tad too classy for that- his was hand made in Rotterdam!

Hours before we actually sat down to eat, Dr Braai had built his fire, using a technique passed down from father to son. As we were a rather large party, I felt that the benefit of the drum grill was it’s mammoth surface area, allowing vast quantities of mouthwatering meat products to be plucked from the flames ready to be served in unison to the salivating guests. While I recognized the lamb, there were also a few imported items with which I was unfamiliar. First were the very Afrikaans boerewors – a fat and spicy sausage. Next to them were the sosaties, a lightly curried meat kebab similar to an Indonesian satay.

Realizing that I was not necessarily welcome to be standing around with the boys by the barbeque, I went back to sit with the women-folk. An unwritten law of braai- ing is that the grill is strictly off limits for women. It is the one time a year that the South African male rolls up his shirt sleeves, flexes his finely tuned barbequing muscles and shows off his culinary genius.

Women-folk are to congregate in the kitchen making side dishes, such as the grit-like maize porridge “pap en sous” and homemade chutneys. The South African Princess and her two lovely daughters had already taken care of these tasks, leaving us ladies foot loose and fancy free! I installed myself on a plastic thrown and sat in The Princess’ lovely garden sipping punch and eating grilled fruit kabobs and corn on the cob.

It was a thoroughly civilized way to start the party, with the boys fetching refills and picking up our discarded kabob sticks afterwards. I decided that I could get used to being waited on hand and foot by the boys! I was already calculating how I could get my husband, WG, to become the braai-master in our home. Since moving to Europe, he hasn’t barbequed as often as he did when we lived in the States and this is a situation I hoped to be remedied soon. Perhaps he needs his own drum grill? My washing machine has been near death for quite some time – perhaps we could put it to good use when it washes it’s final load?

As often happens when the ladies get together, the conversation turned towards who
had children, who didn’t, who was expecting and who wanted to be. Then as if on queue, the Van P’s arrived with their freshly picked and ripened baby girl. The Princess ran inside to get a quilt to spread over the grass between us ladies on which to lay the baby. While everyone else was ooing and aahing, I murmured, “Isn’t IT beautiful?”

Several ladies shot me a disgusted look – inquiring with their eyebrows over my use of the word “IT”. ”No, No, No, you misunderstood,” I cried! “I wasn’t talking about the baby, I was talking about the quilt!” The South African Princess quickly piped in, “I made it!”

I remembered that she was the owner of Jabulisa, an online quilt fabric shop based in the Netherlands offering South African 100% cotton quilt fabrics, patterns, and kits. Immediately, the poor baby was forgotten and all the ladies began asking questions,“Did you make the quilt hanging in your entrance?””What about the one in the hall next to the kitchen?”

Mimi, the expectant mother of the group, said she’d love to make a quilt for her next-born son and immediately set a rendez vous for a private quilting lesson with The South African Princess. The inquiries continued and, though I’d been the one everyone frowned at when they thought I had called the baby an “It”, they were the ones who asked to see the store-room for the fabric, leaving the beautiful baby faster than you can say “Jabulisa”.

I’ve never been interested in quilting, but then again I had never seen South African fabrics before. I was already wondering if it was appropriate to make a skirt out of the quilting fabric, for the animal prints were right off last year’s runway. The ethnic prints (or what I considered to be traditional patterns) were so safari chic and the Field of Flowers line was calling out to be made into quilted pillows for my guest bedroom!

As I’m not a quilter, what stole the show for me was the charity project Jabulisa was doing with Ina le Roux. Le Roux, while doing a doctorate on Venda Folk Tales, was overwhelmed with the lack of economic opportunities in the northern region of South Africa. She decided to bring business into the area by inspiring the Venda women to embroider their folk tales, helping them to not only raise money but to preserve their oral tradition. I fingered a small, 10 X 12 embroidery of a corn-on–the-cob and thought what a perfect reminder it would make of this day.

Suddenly we girls were laughing with perhaps the same commotion (if not cacophony) the boys had displayed earlier around the grill. Only now it was The Merry Men who were wondering what all the fuss was about.

“Time to eat,” they yelled, “Come & Get It!”

One by one, we ladies descended the steep, Dutch staircase to sit for our dinner – all of us feeling a spirit of comradery. If The South African Princess and her lovely beau, Dr. Braai, had invited us to their backyard barbeque in hopes of making us happy, then certainly they’d achieved their goal.

For it seems I’ve forgotten to tell you that while “Braai” in Afrikaans means Barbeque, Jabulisa means, “to make happy”. Not only was Dr. Braai’s barbeque to die for, but also The South African Princess’ fabric was divine! We were one happy bunch, boys and girls united together at last, laughing and having a wonderful time.


From my barbeque to yours,

The Antiques Diva ™

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