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.)

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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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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.

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Hello! I feel like it’s been ages since I sat down and actually blogged properly. Truth is, I’ve been super busy with work and stuff and it’s all kind of run away from me a bit. It happens.

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It’s always busy in the spring- it’s crunch time for getting Year 11 ready for their exams and I have to make sure that their coursework is all present and correct (this can sometimes feel like I’m herding gigantic kittens and managing a large load of printing at the same time). I also have to keep up with the rest of my work in a job that has recently made the top 5 most stressful jobs. Yay!

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Then, of course, I have a three year old at home- which is like herding many tiny kittens at the same time, with the added bonus of a really thick actual cat thrown into the mix to add to the fun. I’m not complaining though. I’ve learnt a lot about Lego Star Wars in the last few weeks and Bronte brought in a slow worm, which led to an interesting discussion with D about creatures that live in the garden.

I also recently started taking on a bit of freelance work: mainly proofreading and copywriting. It’s good to do some jobs that bring in a bit of extra work and money, and I’m choosing jobs that I can fit in around everything else. I’m not daft- I take work when it’s quiet elsewhere- but I enjoy it and I prefer it to signing up to do exam marking, which is way less flexible.

So, the upshot, I’ve been busy. But definitely in a good way. I’ve still managed to do bits and pieces that I liked (I’ve been working in the garden and I have three books on the go at any one time, as per), but I’ve appreciated them more than normal. I’ve also been sleeping BRILLIANTLY, which really is no surprise.

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The fact is, if I actually admit it, is that I like being busy. It shows me that I’m well and that my mental health is OK. It may be that it’s not always the right thing to do, but at the moment it serves me well. I like feeling useful and I like getting stuff done.

BUT! I am looking forward to the long weekend! I finished marking all of my Year 11 coursework (a Very Big Deal Indeed) and I have no work to do this weekend, bar prepping some display stuff. D is staying at his grandparents’ tomorrow and I am looking forward to just taking it easy. And I will very much enjoy and appreciate some downtime. After all, I think I deserve it.

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I think I’m turning into Amy Farrah Fowler

You know when you go through life, consuming pop culture, minding your own business and then one day it hits you- you’re turning into a character from a TV show? I have recently had that epiphany. And it’s not someone cool, detached (like my beloved Scully, or Buffy, another favourite), but Dr Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory.

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A bit of background on this- I am currently teaching The Big Bang Theory to a GCSE Media Studies class (they have to learn about scheduling and audience pleasures and how the two combine), so I am watching A. LOT. of it at the moment. And although I look nothing like the actress who plays Amy, Mayim Bialik, I have noticed some similarities.

Our dress sense- Despite the fact that, in my head, I dress more like Bernadette, I know that it’s with Amy that my TV wardrobe lies. There is waaay more evidence in that direction. Fabulous knitwear that cool people would never wear,  in similar colours to the knitwear I own? Check. Glasses? Check. A sensibly proportioned handbag, often worn cross body, despite sometimes being hideously unflattering? Check. Sensible shoes? Check. A love of tights in interesting colours? Yep. We also share a deep-seated love of SHINY THINGS.
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Our significant others- I am married to a Sheldon. OK, Benn is nowhere near as bad as Sheldon in terms of social awkwardness and he’s sporty, as opposed to geeky. But he does like routine (you can set your watch by our meals in my house) and he does get very, very passionate about the things he’s interested in. He also looks very similar to Sheldon- tall, slim and short cropped hair. We could definitely do cosplay as Shamy any day of the week. Plus, Benn really likes cats.

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I appreciate my friends- a lot. Like Amy, I was badly bullied growing up and I know how hard it can be as a kid, not knowing who your friends are on any given day. This means that I love having a solid group of friends now that I’m an adult- although not enough to commission larger than life-sized portraits of them. Amy’s alone with that one.

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Car dancing- We both enjoy a good spot of car dancing, although Amy dances to Neil Diamond. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to the man in the Jaguar in the traffic jam on the A27 Monday night who was ahead of me and my friend for about five miles. I’m hoping you found my enthusiastic rendition of the dance routine to the song ‘Stop’ by The Spice Girls entertaining, rather than alarming although judging by the way you sped off as soon as you could, I’m guessing the latter was the case.

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Amy may not be as sexy as Penny, or as cute (and scary) as Bernadette, but golly gosh darn it, there are worse people to realise you’re a bit like. I’m keeping my knitwear and sensible shoes- and I WILL be proud of them.

 

Which TV character do you most resemble?

 

Taking it easy

Another half term comes to an end and I don’t have much to show for it- which, actually, is lovely. It’s the first time in months where I haven’t had work hanging over me and I’ve been able to enjoy D and, for three days at least, Benn’s company.

On Sunday last week, we ambled up to the local windmill to see the sheep (yeah, I live somewhere that has its own windmill- although it’s now a house. Bit disappointed, to be honest.)

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My boys

The sheep were quite good value:

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Apparently, they’re a hardy northern breed and the flock is owned by the council (I had a chat with the lady who was looking at the electric fence.) Where we live is part of the South Downs national park-I had no idea- and the sheep are used to keep the grass down and to help rare species, such as orchids, thrive. When I went back on Thursday, they’d gone. They get shipped around to other areas on the Downs. I imagine they’ll be back before long.

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Speaking of animals, Bronte has taken to bringing in a whole host of creatures from the woods- we’ve seen slow worms, mice and birds; this week I had the honour of trying to save a sparrow fledgling, who I shall henceforth refer to as Terminator Bird.

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This bird was rescued from the clutches of Bronte, who had already eaten one sparrow that day. I gingerly donned gardening gloves and popped him in a box. Excited by the prospect of a Learning Moment With Nature, I showed D the sparrow. Our exchange went something like this:

Me: (Enthusiastically) Look! A birdie! Do you think he has a name?

D: Oh, yes.

Me: (Encouragingly) What do you think it is?

D: (Looks incredulously) Birdie.

He clearly has his father’s imagination.

Anyway, the birds survived that and an escape attempt from the box that meant I was tearing up my office for half an hour before I realised he was watching me from across the room. After much hilarity, in which we resembled a bird/human Benny Hill sketch, I finally re-caught him and gave him to the brilliant Roger’s Wildlife Rescue to look after (they don’t usually take fledglings, but as he’d been subject to a cat attack, they wanted to check him over.)

Otherwise, the holiday was a welcome respite from the madness of exam preparation. We took advantage of the warm weather to read and relax- although I think D was a bit ambitious in his choice of material…

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What I learnt by sorting out my wardrobe

What do me and a New York socialite have in common?

As of today, we both have wardrobes sorted according to season. I was inspired by this post to get myself organised.

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If left to my own devices, my home would probably resemble something like this.

I am queen of the floordrobe. I drive Benn mad with my disorganisation and me ironing ANYTHING is pretty much unheard of. So I surprised myself with my desire to sort my clothes out according to season- I think it was a culmination of the post above and the fact that I have a spare drawer under the bed.

As I sorted things, I found clothes I hadn’t seen in month; the jumper I knitted myself, my favourite eBay bargain dress. I organised my scarves on a coathanger in a way that is TOTALLY worthy of Pinterest.

I also noticed some things:

  1. Most of my clothes are secondhand- bought from charity shops, eBay and cast-offs from friends.
  2. Of those that I bought myself, lots of them are very old. Many pre-date having D by a couple of years at least.
  3. The newest item of non-workout clothing is a pair of jeans that I bought in the ASOS sale and hated on first sight. I really like them now.
  4. I have fifteen long sleeved black t-shirts. FIFTEEN.
  5. I have dozens of scarves, but I will happily keep collecting them.
  6. I used to wear a lot of skirts (hence the t-shirts) but now I’m more into dresses with leggings.
  7. I tend to wear the same things regardless of season, but make them ‘season appropriate’ with knitwear and accessories.
  8. I have a lot of knitwear.
  9. Despite what I would have expected, due to my fondness for grey, most of my clothes are relatively colourful.
  10. I am much better at being ruthless than I used to be- one dress is on eBay and I have a bag for the charity shop ready to go.

I have yet to tackle my chest of drawers, but that is in my near future. I would like some new clothes, but whether I’ll get round to buying any is another thing. I would also like to have more handmade clothes (I have loads of accessories, but few actual garments.)

Tips:

  1. Have the eBay app on your phone ready to take photos and sell stuff straight away.
  2. Have loads of coathangers- more than you expect you’ll need, as they double up for hanging stuff like scarves, tights, belts and bras (I guess, if you were so inclined!)
  3. Have a good, sturdy bag to hand for charity shop donations.

It’s actually quite theraputic and, dare I say it, enjoyable!

Grown up colouring and the art of getting a bit Zen

I was recently sent a copy of the first issue of Art Therapy magazine to review. As I recently wrote about how close I was to burnout, I was willing to try anything- ANYTHING- to get my mind a bit quieter.

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Please, do forgive me for the use of carpet as background- this was a hasty photoshoot.

I started having a go at grown up colouring (which is obviously a ‘thing’ now) while watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (also a ‘thing’) and found both immensely enjoyable.

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Thing is, for the first time in a few years, I am on ZERO medications. This means I am dealing with the world uninsulated for the first time in a long time. I need distractions from stroppy toddlers, coursework marking and the post-exercise agonies my body is determined to inflict on me. Both colouring and Kimmy Schmidt are good, positive antidotes to stress.

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Colouring in makes the imperfect perfectionist in me happy- I like everything to be symmetrical and the patterns in the magazine encourage this. I may have got a D in GCSE Art (I didn’t even want to take it in the first place, to be honest but choices at my secondary school were somewhat limited….), but by Jove I think I’d get at least a C in colouring in! I also think I’m going to be OK with my stress, too.

Issue 2 of Art Therapy magazine is now available.