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!

Spinning plates

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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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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Beating tiredness one step at a time

I’m tired.

Like, really tired. It’s always stressful at work at this time of year, but I’ve never had a toddler in tow. At the moment, I’m counting down the minutes til Easter break. And that when I’m going to make some lifestyle tweaks to try and increase my energy.

Food

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I’m using birthday money to buy a food processor (how exciting! How GLAMOROUS!) and I’ve been religiously reading cookbooks, looking for interesting and healthy recipes, with an aim of increasing my veggie intake- and boosting my energy levels.

I bought the Wahaca cookbook recently and I’m looking forward to trying to cook some spicy, summery Mexican food. I already I have my eye on healthy hot chocolate and breakfast smoothies.

I borrowed Jack Monroe’s new book on a whim from the library and I love it- her style isn’t pretentious, the ingredients are sensible and the instructions are straightforward. I already made the spring veg risotto and it went down brilliantly with D especially (Benn would have liked meat, but that can be added another time.)

My friend Jeni bought me the Deliciously Ella cookbook and now all I want is the food processor, a spiraliser and my courgette seeds to grow so I can make courgetti with pesto! It’s not normally the sort of cookbook I’d think I’d like, but there are some really good ideas in here.

Running

1607067_10152692223017267_7743578639046493132_nLook at my new running shoes! Aren’t they pretty? But also: STURDY. And you can see them from space, which is super important. I’ve been neglecting my running so I’m taking it pretty slowly at the moment, mainly because I can’t go much faster (despite the woman laughing and pointing at me yesterday. Which was classy of her.) However, physical activity is going to help me sleep better and, ergo, be less tired.

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In theory, anyway.

Now I am 31

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Clockwise from top left: Myrtle Snow figure from my sister; Angelina cake from Julien Plumart; my Erstwilder fox brooch; an interestingly eyed salt shaker I spotted at the museum tearoom

Yesterday I turned 31. I had a lovely day (and also developed a raging urge to collect Erstwilder brooches.) My parents were down for a visit and so I was free to go for lunch and do a bit of shopping while they tired out D. I asked Benn for running shoes, which now PROVES I am a grownup. I mean, at least I didn’t ask for a food processor- although I’m on the verge.

I’ve never really been bothered about my age and I think that will continue. I wouldn’t be 17 again if you paid me! I see a new birthday as a new year, a bit like January 1st or the start of a new school year. It’s a good time to take stock, to think about what I want out of the coming year. Deep.

Anyway, so: now I am 31 and it feels like a good age. I’m still super busy at work, but I’m coping. I’ve been off medication for over a month. It’s a good place to start.

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The importance of being alone

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I like being on my own, something which is a rare luxury in a 24/7 society and with a two-year-old in tow. I like having my own space and doing whatever I want without worrying about someone else. My current favourite daydream is to have a plush hotel suite in a big city, a huge stack of books, enough money to do whatever I want and at least three museums within walking distance. I’d do all this by myself for a couple of days before returning home. It’s selfish, yes, but that’s the point of a daydream, isn’t it?

The thing is, with the rise of lifestyle blogs (of which this is probably one, albeit a grannyfied one that only interests you if you like not leaving the house very often) and the thing that glossy magazines insist on labelling as ‘fear of missing out’ or ‘FOMO’, we’re all in a constant state of being busy or wanting to be seen to be busy, documenting everything for our followers. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. But I love, relish and appreciate being utterly alone.

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When I first left uni, I lived on my own for six months and never really appreciated the space it gave me. I do, however, have fond memories of lying in bed on Sundays, reading magazines and not caring if I got crumbs everywhere. The quiet of my own place- essentially a tiny room in a huge converted Gothic mansion in Leeds- when contrasted with the hellish noise of shared student accommodation was wonderful.

Now I’m more likely to relish having D in bed, Benn out somewhere and a House marathon on Netflix, but the effect is the same. It’s even better if it’s a weekend or the holidays. The not having to be somewhere, or having to force myself to interact with people is blissful.

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Of course, there’s a world of difference between being alone and being lonely. I’m very rarely alone and can choose not to be if I want. An important part of keeping my depression at bay is to make sure I see people on a regular basis and I’m lucky enough to have friends nearby (also: Twitter.) I know that some people don’t have that luxury and, at certain times in my life, it’s felt like I didn’t have that either. Hopefully this means that I appreciate my friends all the more.

Being alone is good for the soul, I think. It gives us time to think, to be selfish in a self-contained way and to process things without interruption (even if that is episode 4, season 3 of House.) If we don’t allow ourselves to have proper, unstructured time alone, we’re going to go mad.

Being brave isn’t always as easy as it looks

Tomorrow, I am doing something that this time last year I never would have imagined doing.

I am submitting to two hours’ worth of dental surgery on ONE TOOTH. It’s also bloody expensive

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Seriously, I’ve had to save up to have the work done (a root canal re-done and then a crown on top of it. Joy.) It’ll be worth it though, if it means I stave off the threat of false teeth a while longer, which would cost more in the long-term anyway.

But, do you know what? When I told my doctor that I was submitting to this state sanctioned torture, she was really pleased. Because it means that after eighteen months of battling my own brain chemistry I am in a GOOD PLACE. My postnatal depression is under control and I can finally look at things rationally.

Plus, I’ve put up with this tooth and ensuing problems since having a dodgy dentist when I was pregnant. Another two hours after almost two years is nothing, right? So I’m not sure if I’m being brave as much as merely pragmatic. Either way, I’m bloody proud of myself to getting to this point and grateful for the help of the NHS, my family and friends for getting me here.

 

Life Update

Tomorrow it’s back to work- boo! Saying that, the last two weeks have been massively busy- and skint. So at least work will be a distraction from looking at craft blogs and wanting to buy ALL THE THINGS.

I have managed to make a couple of things on the sewing machine, although they’ve not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination. First off, this cute pair of shorts in gingham (which ended up being too small- I think my seam allowances are off):

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I did the 18 months size pattern, but they came out very small. I’ve donated this pair to a friend with a small baby- my enthusiastic sewing hasn’t stopped someone else’s child looking cool. I’m actually really proud of these, because they look good and I worked hard on them. I’ve decided to take all mistakes with a pinch of ‘well, it’s a learning curve.’ The next pair I made (to a 2 year old fitting pattern) DO fit, but are a bit snug for D around the waist. My learning curve? I bloody hate working with elastic. It’s drawstrings all the way from now on!

Speaking of D, WE HAVE A WALKER! Just shy of 18 months old and D decided it was time to walk. This means he’s beaten both of his parents’ records: Benn was 18 months old and I was 19 months old when we started to walk. He’s covered in bruises and has the balance of a Weeble, but he’s definitely enjoying hurtling around and giving his extended family a heart attack. My parents were down for a few days and bought him a pair of snazzy shoes- there’s just no stopping him now…

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I’ve started week 2 of Couch to 5K and haven’t yet succumbed to exercise-related death, which is a good thing. I’m yet to feel all the positive stuff that running’s supposed to bring though. At the moment, it’s kind of a mix of boredom with ‘how many times can I pass this person running in the opposite direction to me without having to give a very sheepish, very British grin?’ I definitely need to get some new running gear when I get paid though- my old Adidas hoodie gives me the type of sleeve that was fashionable with poor women in 1820.

But really, will I ever be as stylish as my ultimate idol?

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Hooray, I’m 30!

On Friday, I turned 30. Some of my friends have been a bit freaked out by reaching their thirties, but I’m pretty chilled about it. After all, it’s not like it’s middle aged any more, is it?

When I was born, 99 Red Balloons was number 1, which I don’t think is terribly cool (although Benn’s number one was The Lion Sleeps tonight, so I guess I trump that. I haven’t even HEARD of the artist at number 1 on my birthday this year- a sure sign that I’m old.)

I think I’m happy about being 30 because I’m more settled now than I have been in a long, long time. It’s nice to be confident in who I am. I mentioned to someone that I feel like I’ve felt most of my twenties treading water, but now I have a rough idea of where I’m going. Plus, I have an ace husband and a rather amusing son and hopefully soon we will have a house that ours. It’ll be nice not having a heart attack every time something is spilled (seriously, who puts beige carpet in rental properties? Sadists?)

So, yeah- bring it on, fourth decade. BRING IT ON.

Oh, hi Spring!

The crocuses are up, the daffodils are showing themselves (although, as I recently admitted on Twitter, they are my least favourite flower. Apart from those teeny ones. I like those…) and the sun decided to come out today. It is lovely in Brighton and we took D to a soft play centre which also happens to be in a garden centre. While Benn’s mum watched D, we moseyed round- me enthusiastically choosing seeds and Benn wandering around with the bemused air of a teenage boy accompanying his first proper girlfriend round Oxford Street Topshop.

Here is a cute puppy in a garden in spring. It has nothing really to do with this post. Image: tailsofhawaii.com

Here is a cute puppy in a garden in spring. It has nothing really to do with this post.
Image: tailsofhawaii.com

The thing is, after months of rain and no prospect of snow, I have decided to fully embrace spring. After all, it is nearly my birthday (which happens in the early days of the season) and also we’re in limbo with the house buying at the moment. I need to do something to cheer me up. So, plant stuff it is.

I’m also looking for new spring clothes and shoes- I have my eye on a pair of Lotta from Stockholm sandals, as my dearly beloved Birkenstocks finally gave up the ghost last year. So of course- new sandals mean new skirts, right?!

Image: Lotta from Stockholm

Image: Lotta from Stockholm

I’m also switching my home scents around; I’ve gone from heavy, spicy and sweet winter-y scents to bright, floral spring scents. I’ve been buying loads of No Mess wax melts from Busy Bee Candles and I’m currently melting Violet and Lime, which makes the house smell of Parma Violets. I also have Peony (which I had as one of my wedding flowers.) I’ll do a full review of my favourites from Busy Bee soon.

How are you preparing for spring?