Stuff I learnt in floristry class

Hello!

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve been going to a beginner’s floristry class since January. I’m not very good at it, but I don’t even care because I really enjoy it. I’ve even made my peace with the fact that my nemesis is florists’ foam (also known as oasis, which does make me think of the Gallaghers.)

alliums

I do, however, enjoy putting bunches of flowers together (although I think I’m not allowed to call them ‘bunches’ now that I’m *sort of* trained. I think I’m meant to refer to them as bouquets…) I’ve learnt some great tips about choosing flowers and putting them together, which I would have liked to have known before I started putting stuff together.

  1. Bleach your vases and change your water

28235344_10155296869792267_8276381645575148795_oEvery time you have an empty vase, fill it with water and put a few drops of bleach in it and leave it overnight (although I forget and sometimes leave it a few days…) Empty it and rinse it out. This will kill any bacteria and means that you’re starting with a clean, germ-free vase. It’ll mean that your flowers last longer from the get-go. In a similar vein, make sure you change your water every couple of days.

Some people swear blind that a drop of bleach in the water works to keep flowers looking fresh, although I would only do that for roses; for anything else I use a teaspoon of sugar or, if I have it, the packets of flower food you get with supermarket flowers.

2. There’s nothing wrong with supermarket flowers! 

27021216_10155227044562267_3429879072351896780_oI do love going to the florist, but it is expensive. There’s nowt wrong with supermarket flowers- I use them quite a bit for class, and a florist recently recommended I buy focal flowers (i.e. the main flowers in an arrangement) from a florist, the secondary flowers from a supermarket and the greenery from a garden. To be honest, it depends on time/money as to whether I have time to do all of that. But you can definitely gussy up a couple of bunches of Aldi’s finest- arrange them in a symmetrical pattern, twisting the stalks if you can, any foliage on the outside, and tying off with string. Chop the bottoms of the stalks off evenly- et voila! A tied bouquet! The only thing I would say is that supermarket flowers do not tend to last as long as florist bought flowers, but when they’re cheap as chips, who cares?

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment

IMG_20180214_083541_236I think one of the reasons I’m not terribly good at the lessons is that I’m not very keen on the formality of what we’re being shown. This is just my thing and no judgement on the teacher (who I love) or the whole world of floristry. It’s just me being an awkward sod. I tend to prefer smaller arrangements that suit a more vintage taste, which have a country garden look to them. This is what I will continue to make once I finish my course, and what I enjoy making. As one of Brighton’s top florists told me, ‘It’s not rocket science and there are no hard and fast rules.’ (He was quite dismissive of a lot of the formal structure of floristry- and seeing as he did my wedding bouquet, I tend to trust him!) One thing I would say: supermarket flowers tend not to smell much. If you want that, consider buying some broom or something like stocks from a florist- even one stem of these will lift your bunch of flowers into something a bit more special.

4. A few tweaks can make a bouquet look way more expensive

IMG_20180311_131728_492Around Valentines and Mother’s Day, flowers will be at their most expensive. If you wanted to make something flowery in the run up to those, I would heartily recommend you buy supermarket flowers for the bulk of it (especially if you want roses or tulips) and then go to a florist for a few finishing touches. The bouquet about was commissioned by Benn for his mum and I did go to a florist where I know I will get a good deal (and a discount for being a student, hurrah!) This is more my style- I love stuff that looks like I could just pluck it from my garden on a sunny June day and it’s nicely balanced, I think. Anyway, there are a few things I’ve noticed when you put together a bouquet:

  1. If you want roses, but not the expense, you could try lisianthus (the deep purple flowers above) or ranunculas, which are pretty in a similar way but often without such a steep price tag (although they will never be as cheap as daffodils or carnations!)
  2. Eucalyptus is having a moment. You can get the traditional varieties, with large silver leaves, or the smaller leafed variety, which is in the arrangement above. The good thing about eucalyptus, especially the bigger type, is that it will literally make any bunch of flowers look more expensive. Probably because it is quite expensive, but it would be a price I would consider paying for something special. To be honest, though, I’d just have vases full of it round the house I love it so much. If you want nice foliage, consider pistachio leaf, which is nice and half the price. Foliage is super important and I almost never have enough.
  3. If you want to make something look vintage, go with wax flowers. These tiny pink or white flowers are a bit of a discovery for me and also seem to be having a bit of a ‘moment’. Oh my god, I love them. They look like something from a Victorian wedding and they last an AGE. They aren’t hugely cheap, but they are cheerful and really add something to the flower arrangements I make. These would go in my vases with the eucalyptus.

5. Use Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration

I have a Pinterest board where I keep all things floristry- I love looking at flower combos, as well as different colours and presentation options. I’m also obsessed with the language of flowers and what different flowers meant in Victorian times. I then use this as a starting point for ideas. There are also some really great Instagram accounts run by florists, with different styles and specialities. Have a hunt around and find your style. Then, go and have a go. It’s really, honestly, not that hard. Seriously- look at some of the mistakes I’ve made!

If there’s anything you’d like to know, but I may have missed, let me know either in the comments or on Twitter. Enjoy your flowers!

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Tips for walking to work

Hola! So, as I wrote last time, I’m now in a new job! Most days, I walk to work and very often walk back too (childcare pick up allowing…) This is fine, except it’s just short of 3 miles each way. I like to walk- I like to see the seasons changing and stomp out any tension. Plus, I had to decide whether I was willing to pay gym fees or after school club fees and, as it’s generally frowned upon to to send your kid to the pub for a few hours after school, my money goes on having him looked after.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(5)

I am very much dressed for the weather here, although I look miserable.

I’ve been walking to work since I was temping in September and I do really love it- but there are a few things that have made my life easier and more comfortable, which is super important when you’re walking so much everyday.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(2)

  • Breakfast- I will usually have a cup of tea and a smoothie made of Adagio’s Chocolate Matcha, banana and oat milk. This is good, because a) it means I have a banana before I’ve even woken up properly and b) I like to think that the matcha does me *some* good. It doesn’t have an overly chocolatey taste, but gives it a nice sweetness- just enough for the morning. I might also try and have something like toast or I’ll take something like oatcakes to eat at work, especially as the walk can make me really hungry. I also like using oat milk because it gives the smoothie a bit of a porridgey flavour and a bit of a fibre hit, which is obviously good (I think.)

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(1)

  • What I wear on my feet is very important, especially on a long walk. I will wear Doc Martens if the weather is bad, but they’re heavy. My go-to boots and shoes are Sketchers- they have memory foam and are lightweight, meaning I feel lighter on my feet and my legs don’t ache at the end of the day. (Benn bought me some Sketchers slippers for Christmas too. My feet feel permanently heavenly- and my posture is good as a result, too.)
  • I’d also recommend a good backpack- I hate my arms being restricted! I currently use one I picked up ages ago from the Ollie and Nic sale, but I’m on the hunt for something bigger- along the the lines of the Jansport bag I coveted at school but never got.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(3) The biggest things that have made the most difference to my walking commute though, are the following:

  • A good antiperspirant- no-one wants to be stinky! I experimented with different brands and found that this one is the best. Also, there’s no point wearing fancy perfume when you’re walking. I’ve resorted to bodysprays and lament the fact that Impuse no longer make Zen and/or O2 scents. Considering a Twitter campaign.
  • Keep Cup– I bought mine in November and I use it mostly on cold days, when I need warming up. With Pret and Costa offering money off hot drinks, and concern about the environment, this is just a bit of a no-brainer for me. Fun fact: as a result of taking this into work, I have caused six other people to buy one. Am awaiting my commission.
  • Bluetooth headphones and Spotify- I used to have rubbish headphones and a rubbish phone. It took ages to listen to anything and I spent a long time trying to get anything to work. My in-laws bought me a great pair of headphones and I treated myself to Spotify Premium and it has honestly improved my commute no end. I have podcasts and playlists and I can honestly say that I look forward to my walk to work every day. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(4)

*All of these products are here because I love them- there are no affiliate links on this post. I was sent the matcha to review, but will be purchasing this once my sample runs out!

 

 

 

How I left my job and changed career

DollyParton-9to5

A year ago today, I resigned from my ten-year teaching career. I remember it well, mainly because it was the day of Trump’s inauguration and I’d had no sleep the night before. I’d been planning on resigning later in the term (Benn and I had talked about me resigning the year before and agreed that the best time would be when D started school- no more nursery fees), but for some reason I found myself pouring out my thoughts to my line manager, who was amazingly supportive. I wrote my letter there and then, although I decided I would stay til the end of the year: this would give me time to sort myself out, but also I wanted to see my students through the year.

I then began to plan. I saved as much money (read: not much) as I could every month and joined agencies specialising in helping parents find work (spoiler: they were crap.) I spoke to people who could help me- one friend gave me really good advice about CVs. I researched, planned and saved. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified- I was leaving a job I’d done since I was 23, with relatively good money for the days I was in work (but not those I was working outside of school hours) and school holidays guaranteed. I had never looked for a job as a parent. Hell, I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in eight years.

The time went REALLY fast. I took the summer off and started looking for work the week after D started school. I wrote a skills-based CV, which showed what I could do (and is easier to adapt for the skills required by each job description.) I also narrowed down the sort of places I wanted to work- charities, public sector- and signed up for job alerts. I scoured job boards for the NHS, the council, universities and the civil service. I applied for three jobs and was offered interviews for them all (I accepted the second job and got excellent feedback from the first. I didn’t attend the third interview.) I bought a basic black dress in the summer sales, which I wore with a plain cardigan (I felt like a younger Miss Marple, tbh), but it looked smart and presentable.

I was lucky in that I got a temp job for a few weeks, which brought in a bit of money, but I budgeted HARD. I cut all non-essential costs and used the library. During times when I wasn’t working, I kept myself busy: looking after the sheep, learning French, going to a free weekly knitting group.

I started my job in the public sector in December and it’s very different. I’m also working five days a week until the end of next month, which has brought a temporary boost in money but headaches with childcare. I’ll be a lot less well-off once I go down to three days, but better in terms of health. I sleep better, I’m happier and Benn and D have noticed a huge difference.

I have had to deal with an odd side-effect though: losing a sense of identity that was tied up with my job. It’s liberating and less scary now, but it’s definitely taken a while.

For anyone looking to change lanes, I will tell you it’s potentially hard- I was lucky that Benn was happy to pick up the slack, even if it means a change in lifestyle for us for a while- but the rewards can be utterly worth it.

Where I’m at in December

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I have a new theory- the more horrible the world seems, the earlier people put their Christmas tree up. It’s either that or Instagram and I’m pretty sure I’m not entirely wrong. The boys persuaded me to put our tree up on the first weekend of December, which felt early- but then I realised that, for the last few years at least, I’ve been so fed up and exhausted by work as we sail into Christmas season, I’ve been the one insisting that the decs go up: part coping method, part over excitement. I gave in, the tree went up.

Speaking of work, I’ve just finished my second week in my new job. It’s very interesting (although some of the theory is drrrrry) and I’m feeling confident about working around D- he’s loving after school club, which is a HUGE relief! My new bosses are also keenly aware of the importance of work/life balance; it’s very different to what I’ve been used to. I still haven’t quite shaken off the Sunday afternoon weirdness that comes with not having a huge pile of marking to do.

When it comes to extra time, I’ve been spending it well: I’ve made a load of Christmas presents (all knitted, bar one), read loads, done sheep duty and just actually rested. I’m sleeping well, breaking a well-worn battle with insomnia. My next plan involves more blogging (I have a few blog post ideas: more tea, career-related stuff, writing stuff), although our laptop is so horrendously slow, which is one of the main reasons that blogging has been on the back burner. I’m currently working on our tablet, which is not ideal to be honest. But hey-ho! Onwards and upwards.

September, September

I love September. I love the change in the air as we hurtle towards October; I’ve already started wearing handknitted socks and my new uniform is cord/denim skirts over leggings, paired with men’s jumpers that I’ve had for years. What’s different, of course, is that although I have the ‘back to school’ feeling- especially as D has started school now- for the first time in a decade I haven’t actually gone back. Although it’s weird, I’m not missing it so much. It’s lovely to still be in bed at the time I would usually be walking to meet my lift.

me

Hibernating is cool.

I am sort of at a loss, though. I have six hours a day with nothing much to do. As a teacher, every part of my day, from 6.50am to at least 5pm was accounted for and busy, so this has been a bit weird. I am a rubbish housewife, although I DID manage to clean the bathroom the other day, so…

So what have I been doing? Well, I started applying for jobs properly this week and got an interview for the first job I applied for- although it turned out that the hours were never going to work around childcare for D. However, I got some excellent feedback about my interview and CV (which, FYI, I’m using a skills-based template for, which is much better when you’ve been in a job for a long time. You tailor it according to the job spec/skills they’re looking for, which is much more useful for showing employers what you can do. It is more time-consuming than a traditional CV though…) I’m hopeful that something will come along soon, but I was very pleased that I managed to score an interview so soon into my search. It’s just a matter of perservering.

vintage-secretary

I am not this happy when I am job hunting.

I have also been exercising more, which I might write about in a future post, and working hard to get my skin into a happy place- it turns out that I have inherited my mum’s tendency to get acne as an adult. I’ll also probably be blogging a bit more, if only to make myself LOOK busier than I actually feel.

But until then…. roll on autumn!

I’m leaving teaching

In just over two weeks, I will be stepping away from a career that has come to define my life- ten years, my identity, hours and hours of work just… gone.

tenor

There are lots of reasons why, some much bigger than me and others that are more personal. You’ll know of the biggies: the workload (and a curriculum that I feel is deeply, deeply flawed and unfair), the pay and pension issues, the funding issues that mean we can’t do everything we need to do in order to make sure that those in our care are happy and healthy individuals who can think independently and creatively in a world that is becoming ever more challenging. Teaching has changed so, so much in the ten years that I’ve been doing it that I honestly can’t understand why people still want to train- and that those who have trained in the last couple of years seem to be told that it’s normal to be overworked, underpaid and to strive for constantly outstanding lessons, otherwise you’re a crap teacher. (I promise you, that last one cannot be done all the time if you want to have anything that resembles a work/life balance.)

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“A work/life balance, you say?”

On a personal level, I’m tired of the commute. I’m lucky enough to get a lift, so I’m not at the mercy of the railways, but it’s still exhausting. I’m tired of having to work when I get home; it’s not cool to be sat on the sofa when your 4 year old gets home and his face drops because you’re marking again and probably will be when he goes to bed. I’m often exhausted (and/or working) on the two days I week I have at home with him. Teaching is a job that never stops. For example, today I’m finding it very hard to not check my email. We are always contactable in a way that I never experienced early in my career. I have to mentally shut myself off from this if I am to get any work/life balance, otherwise I could drive myself mad- and I have done. I am pretty sure that most of the anxiety attacks I have experienced in the last few years have been as a direct result of work. I’m a good, conscientious worker; I hate letting down my colleagues and, most importantly, my students. I also want to be around to take D to school- leaving at 6.50am everyday isn’t the best thing for this.

So I’m going. I resigned in January (on the day of Trump’s inauguration, as it happens.) I’d had a tearful discussion with one of my bosses about it, (although I’d decided the previous May with Benn, in a Pizza Express on our anniversary, as he had picked up that I wasn’t happy and hadn’t been for a while. He asked me what I needed and said that he would support it.) I knew that I needed at least a break, if not something more permanent, otherwise I would be at risk of becoming one of those horrid, bitter and jaded teachers we all remember having. I genuinely adore most of my students and I didn’t want to inflict that on them. I mean, I’m a tired teacher, but I’m not a horrible one. I also knew that moving to a different school wasn’t an option. I just need to be out of a classroom.

Five months have flown by and I have no plans. This is a deliberate choice, for now. I wanted to keep giving my focus to the kids in my classes without worrying about other stuff. I also have the holidays to sort out my CV and interview skills (teaching interviews are unlike any others I have ever had. My last non-teaching interview was in 2005.) I also need some time to unwind and sort my head out; my identity has been so intertwined with my job that it’s going to take some time to sort myself out. I have been asked if I want to do supply/private tuition, to which my initial reaction is:

tumblr_ml2rlfaQC71s5ipdco1_400.gif At least for now. I need to focus on my own kid and getting him settled in school. Also, I really need a break on correcting people’s spelling. Never say never and all that, and I will miss my students, but for now I’m quite happy to leave teaching to other people.

People find it really hard when I tell them I have no plans. I mean, I’m not going to live off Benn (I managed to save a bit- so if you’ve invited me out recently and I’ve said I’m skint, you now know why…), but I am going to take some time to find something new. I have no idea what, yet, but I’m sure something will come up. And yes, I won’t have the holidays, but I will have my evenings and weekends back- 90% of parents cope with holidays, I’m sure we will too. It also means that if Benn’s office does finally get its long threatened move to Croydon, I’ll be around for D. We’ll just be reversing our roles a bit and I’m OK with that. I probably won’t have the same sort of wage, either, but you cut your coat according to your cloth and I’ve coped before- I’ll cope again. Right now, I’m looking forward to reading, writing, listening to music, all without a deadline.

But if you do see any jobs in Brighton, give me a shout, yeah?

You should vote

Tomorrow you should vote. I wrote this list on Twitter, but I thought I’d put it here as a handy guide too.

IMG_20170607_094950_381 Vote for kids: for schools, for tuition fees, for the 4 million kids in poverty, for the kids in care, for kids who have little hope under this government.

Vote for the NHS: for the doctors and the nurses and the dentists and the midwives and the health visitors.

Vote for the elderly: for the vulnerable, for the lonely, for the dementia patients, for the poor.

Vote for the disabled, who have been so cruelly treated under this government.

Vote for the environment, for us and our kids- and the kids yet to come.

Vote for women: for those in shelters, for the women in NI who have to travel to access safe and legal abortion, for the WASPI women, for the fight for equal pay.

Vote for your council: for libraries and swimming baths, for Sure Start and day centres, for parks and playgrounds.

Vote for the emergency services.

Vote for infrastructure and the economy, for jobs.

Vote for the workers: for your rights, for those on zero hours contracts, for those paid a pittance, for those denied access to employment tribunals.

Vote so we’re not lumped in with bloody Trump.

Vote.