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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How I left my job and changed career

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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.

Skincare stuff I swear by

Been reading the @mumsnet thread about skincare recommendations and bloggers. I thought I'd show some of my regulars (all bought with my own money!) and most of them are repurchases. I'm still looking for a good day cream though- suggestions welcome! #skincare:

I’ve been reading the recent posts on Mumsnet about trust in beauty bloggers and their recommendations (basically there is no trust in the big bloggers, due to them working with brands and non-disclosure.) Now, I have worked with brands in the past- and it was fun. It never affected my opinion, I always disclosed and I did genuinely find good stuff that helped my eczema (which flared up around my eyes when I was pregnant and has never really gone away.) I also find great recommendations online, especially from Jane at British Beauty Blogger and Sali Hughes at the Guardian.

Anyway, I started thinking about what I use on my face regularly and the products I repurchase. I don’t know about you, but I HATE it when beauty recommendations are stupidly expensive. I don’t have the money to spend £40 on a serum or whatever. All of the products I recommend here can be bought on the high street- and some are regularly on offer. I am on the hunt for a decent daily cleanser and a day cream with a high SPF, so let me know if you have any recommendations! Also- quick disclaimer: none of these links are affiliates.

Nip+Fab Deep Cleansing Fix- £7.95– This is often on offer, but worth the price if you pay full whack for it, as a pot lasts AGES. I use it to remove makeup and it’s lovely and rich; it offers comfort to my sore and sensitive skin. It also moisturises a little. The only downside is that the smell is weirdly antiseptic, but I can get past that as it works wonders on my skin.

Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Facial Pads £12.95– I’ve been using these since just after Christmas and they’re nice. Maybe not £13 nice, but they do make my skin feel smoother. I am super paranoid about acids on my face though, so only use them a couple of times a week and only at night. I would probably buy again if they were on offer.

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Quick Fix Facial Masks £4.99– I discovered these about a year ago on a lunch break and I keep going back to them (as much as I like Lush fresh face masks, I always forget they’re in the fridge.) I’m currently using the sensitive skin one and it smells heavenly AND calms my skin. Win/win.

Trilogy Rosehip Oil £16.50– This is my desert island product. I was originally sent this as a trial product when I was pregnant (for stretchmarks) and it quickly became established as part of my routine. So much so, in fact, that I have it on subscription and get a new bottle every four months, which is about right for my usage. My face doesn’t feel 100% until this is on at night- and if I miss it, my skin is very prone to eczema flareups and spots. I like that it’s fragrance free and has a light texture. It is brilliant.

Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum £2.69– Thanks to a recent Sali Hughes column, this is now out of stock, but I can confirm it’s really nice. Nothing fancy, nothing life changing, but a comfortable serum that works last thing at night and under makeup in the morning. I also like Vichy’s Hydrating Serum, which my friend Kerry bought for me last year, but it’s a lot more expensive than this one and I can’t always afford to spend £17 on a serum.

Superdrug Naturally Radiant Renewing Night Cream £5.99 and Brightening Eye Cream £5.99– as I write this, the whole Naturally Radiant range is on offer (as it usually is, in one form or another.) I actually really like Superdrug’s skincare ranges and think that they’re simple, affordable and reliable. The night cream is thick and comforting (although the jury is out as to whether I like its scent, but hey-ho, at prices this good, I don’t particularly care..) and the eye cream soothes my eyes if they’re in a pre-eczema stage. Good stuff.

Patisserie de Bain Hand Creme in Sugared Violet £3.99– I am OBSESSED with this. I love violet flavoured sweets and this hand cream, made in Haworth (home of the Brontes) is the best hand cream I’ve ever used- especially for knitting. I buy it for everyone and the range of scents is lovely. Definitely worth investigating if you’re a hand cream addict.

Carmex Cherry Lip Balm Pot £2.69– I know that lip balm with camphor etc in it is meant to be the devil, but I love this and have been a paid up Carmex devotee for about fifteen years. As long as I use it sensibly, it’s fine and I like the sweetness of the cherry and the traditional Carmex tingle. For what it’s worth, I tried the posh Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm once and was unimpressed. But it was only once and my friends who rave about it have used it for a long time, so who knows? All I’ll say is that you’ll wrest my Carmex from my cold, dead hands. Unless it’s a tube- I’m not keen on those.

These have all worked for me and are proper staples in my bathroom. Let me know what yours are- or if you’ve tried any of these.

Resolutions for 2016

Good morning, Sunshine- welcome to 2016!

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I’ve been thinking about resolutions. They have to be a) quite easy and b) quite quick to achieve some kind of result because I am essentially lazy and have the willpower of a small child. Also, I don’t believe in detoxes and all that jazz (despite owning books with titles like ‘I Quit Sugar’! Which is hilarious, as it ain’t ever gonna happen.)

Anyway, so I was thinking about what I wanted to achieve in terms of small, manageable goals and this is what I came up with:

  1. Declutter the house. I’ve actually started this already, but it’s definitely an ongoing process, especially with a three year old. I’m going to try and be ruthless with books, clothes and other things- and I’ll be looking at D’s stuff to root anything out that he’s too big for. No doubt most of the stuff will go to charity shops, but as it is a rolling thing, I may do a few car boot sales and eBay auctions too.
  2. Go veggie for a month. I’ve been vegetarian, on and off, since my teens. The reason I want to do this now is not so much a ‘post-Christmas detox’, but more about making me (and my family) a bit more adventurous when it comes to cooking vegetables. Benn is not keen on joining me in this, as he’s training for a marathon and is a massive carnivore. I, on the other hand, don’t eat that much meat, but I’m not varied in the vegetables I eat. Plus, this will give me an idea for what I’d like to grow in the garden this year. I’m open to this becoming a more permanent thing, but think that a month is a manageable start.
  3. Buying bans. Ack, I hate this term, but I can’t think of another term. I’m going to stop buying books (which I’ve done before, with some success) and yarn. You can read about how I’m going to go about a book buying ban on my book blog, but in terms of my yarn buying ban, I have to use my stash as much as possible. I’ll talk about this in a future blogpost.

I think three resolutions is enough for now. I like to see the year as a work in progress and that resolutions are not set in stone. We’ll see how it goes.

What are your resolutions?

Finally- I’d like to wish you a happy, peaceful 2016.

 

The Thrifty Knitter (and Reader… and Other Things Too)

I am at that awkward stage of the month where I have enough money to get to and from work-with maybe the odd Diet Coke thrown in- and to pay my phone bill. It’s OK, though, because I don’t need anything extra and the house bills are paid; I know I’m in a fortunate position. I have started thinking though, because D is now in nursery, which is more expensive than our previous childcare and we don’t get the extra help that comes when he turns three (in October) until January. So, with birthdays and (whisper it) Christmas on the horizon, I’ve been thinking about how to save a bit of money. I have form for this- when on my maternity leave three years ago, I had to do some financial gymnastics- but now we own our own house, have a car and live further out of town, so things are a bit more complicated. I’ve written in the past about my love of eBay shopping for clothes, but here are some more ideas I’ve had.

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For example, take knitting and my other crafty pursuits. I have loads of basic materials- yarns, needles, fabric, patterns and books. Do I usually buy more without too much thought? Yes. Could I instead think about what I have and use that instead? Yes. I have tons of knitting books and yarn stashed in most rooms of the house (and garage). I need to start using this up instead of automatically going on Ravelry to find something and then buy new wool. If I don’t have the wool, I don’t make it. Simple. I am going to finally start knitting the jumpers I’ve promised D and finish off a few WIPs.

books

I am a huge believer in libraries. I credit them with helping me through the dark days of early motherhood, when often the library was the only place I could get to. Most of the books reviewed on my book blog are library books and I’m lucky that Brighton and Hove has a brilliant library service. I also have TONS of books on my shelves that have yet to be read. But still, I am a compulsive book buyer and I buy every book with the intention of reading it. People buy me books too, as they know how much I love them. So my goal is to read more of what I have. I’m thinking for every three of my own books for every book I bring into the house- library or new.

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One of the hangovers from maternity leave is that my makeup budget is still quite modest. I generally buy cheaper brands (but, oh, I dream of owning a Chanel lipstick in the ‘Pirate’ shade, because who wouldn’t?) I do have a tendency though to go a bit mad when the new A/W shades are released though… so this year, I have decided that I won’t buy anything new until something is used up. Also, one of the first things to go in any lean period is my Lush habit. I can forgo bubble bars!

These are small ideas and kind of buy into (ha! PUNS!) the idea of consuming less, which is always a good thing. I’ll also be thinking about when and why I go into town- if I want to see friends, can I invite them here and bake a cake, instead of going out and buying a slice for the same amount it would’ve cost to make a whole one? Do I need more tea if I have some at home? I’m finding myself questioning whether I NEED or WANT stuff and find that, often, I can take or leave what I’m looking at. If I can leave it, then I can save a bit more money.

What are your thrifty tips?

Eco-friendly home energy saving tips*

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Initially, when I was asked to write this post, I thought “But it’s summer! I don’t need to think about the merits of energy saving!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that energy saving isn’t just about the energy efficiency of heating- although obviously that’s a big part.

Being eco-friendly is very important to me; I spend a lot of time trying to cultivate a garden that encourages wildlife (I even have a compost heap these days) and it makes sense that I try to carry this on inside the house. There’s also the financial benefit of keeping costs down- D is about to start nursery and childcare is NOT cheap! So saving pennies where we can will be useful.

Here are some simple (CHEAP!) tips we use, chez Pomfrett, to save energy:

1. Turn off electronics at night- we switch most electrical things off at the mains before we go to bed; being on standby wastes electricity and costs money. Plus it probably lessens the chance of the house catching fire or something.

2. Save water- This is probably the one I struggle with the most. I LOVE baths and would definitely have one over a shower any day. However, I am making a conscious effort to be better at this by limiting baths, sharing water or re-using water (such as using the water veggies have been boiled in- once cooled- to water the veggies outside.) I’m also going to install a couple of water butts outside. If you really want to save more water, you can put a brick in the cistern of your toilet so that you use less water when you flush. Even only using the water you need when you boil the kettle can make a difference.

3. Think about temperature- There are two areas where this is a ‘thing’. Firstly, and most obviously, room temperature. Benn and I indulge in a competition every autumn to see who’s the first to crack and turn the heating on. As I am a knitter, I am slightly ahead in this game- I have knitwear and socks to aid me in my quest. I am also a hardy Yorkshire woman to his Sussex softy. D is usually running around at full pelt, so barely notices the cold. When we do turn the heating on, we then battle with how hot we want the house and which rooms we need heating; there’s no point heating the spare room, for example. We also generally turn the heat down once we’re warm. There’s no need to maintain a sauna-like ambience.

Secondly, and more boringly, the temperature you wash your clothes at can be eco-friendly. By turning a 60-degree wash down by twenty, you still get a good wash AND save a bit of money. I know, it’s boring yet economical. But all those bits soon add up!

What have I missed? Tell me in the comments!

**This post was written in conjunction with Best Electric Radiators**

How to shop for clothes on eBay

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I buy most of my clothes secondhand- and a lot of them come from eBay; I’ve been doing so since I was a sixth former and I like to think my game is fierce. Often, when I tell someone one of my dresses came from eBay, I get an answer like ‘Oh, I have no idea where to start with online shopping!’ or ‘How do you know it’s going to fit?’

So wonder no more, mystery friends! I thought I’d share my tips on how to navigate the online thrift shop with ease and (hopefully) style.

1. Know your size

It’s really handy to know what size you are in certain shops- for example, I know I’m a 14 in some and 16 in others. I also make decisions based on whether I think a particular garment will be comfy/flattering in a bigger or smaller size. Be warned though- some shops’ sizes have got smaller in recent years. Damn recession.

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2. Have a brand in mind

I love Monsoon clothes, but am rarely able to afford to buy from the store- so I often keep an eye on what’s new on eBay. I know that Next, M&S and Dorothy Perkins often offer things I like and I always avoid Primark on eBay. It never lasts and is often priced way up more than it should be. I also find H+M to be hit and miss with sizing, so I try to avoid it if I can. It’s often handy to have a saved search for these things.

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3. Buy out of season

I just bought a brand new Next winter coat for a tenner (and £3 p+p). Last year I bought some calf length DMs in the middle of July for £50. Buying out of season means you beat demand and can snag some bargains.

4. Consider a budget… and stick to it

It’s really easy to get carried away on eBay, so I think of what I’m after and how much I want to spend. Then I take a look at the Buy It Now options first, as you’re paying a fixed price. I’m also a great fan of seeing these lots from the ‘lowest price first + P+P’ angle.

5. Think about what you like- and will you really wear this dress?

Some of the eBay mistakes I’ve made have been when I’ve bought something that is really not my thing (for example- high heels. I never wear high heels, so why I thought I’d wear some patent pink stilettos is beyond me. Yellow makes me look washed out if I wear too much of it and pleated skirts make me look like I have the legs of a wrestler. So if anyone can explain why I bought a mustard dress with pleated skirt, I’d be interested.) So I stick to things I like. Mostly skater dresses with birds on. Also, never fall for that part of your brain that says ‘Oh, I’ll alter it!’ 1) You won’t and 2) that way, madness lies.

6. Be zen when mistakes happen

Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve planned your shopping spree, you end up with a dud. It happens. If it does, I either resell, give to a friend, or (more likely) donate it to a charity shop.

Do you buy from eBay? What are your top tips?