Sunday, 31 October 2010

DVD Review - Flower Design Made Easy

Flower Design Made Easy is a flower arranging and floristry DVD with some very good aspects and some which I found a little tedious.  I enjoyed the flower designs and arranging very much and the presenter was very competent but I found there were too many menus and would have preferred the DVD to run through each section without all the playing each section independently and having to back to the section menu each time.

The basic information section which contained information on conditioning, tools, after care etc, was very good, despite having to access each one individually, which perhaps is good if you want to review sections a few times.  I am not sure about her method of leaf shining with olive oil, it did give the leaves a lovely shine but would it not make them prone to collecting even more dust than if left naturally shined.  I'm not really a fan of leaf shine, except where the arrangement calls for it and certainly wouldn't throw leaf shine at every bit of aspidistra, fatsia, monstera or phormium that I used (as one of my class mates at college did!!).  In a very artistic of architectural design leaf shine can work well, but often a clean leaf works much better giving a totally natural look.

She did use lots of garden foliage, chrysanthemum and carnation which meant a lot of the arrangements were well within the pocket of the ordinary arranger - again it is nice to see lots of exotics and expensive flowers used, but those arrangements are often difficult to recreate due to the cost and availability of some materials.  She also used some calla and some very large gerbera so added some more expensive material into the DVD which balanced the materials out well.

I also felt she threw the threaded grasses at almost every arrangement which was perhaps overdoing it slightly, some I didn't think they worked with naturally, but did like the way she threaded a variety of items onto the grasses such as hypericum, which makes a much nicer and more natural alternative to beads.  I also loved the basket she used for one arrangement which was so rustic and unusual.

Some of the designs were a little too ambitious for a beginner, so I feel this DVD would be more suited to the improving and more advanced arranger.  She was very clear in her explanations of how to do and the techniques she showed which is vital in any DVD such as this.  Her explanations and demonstrations of a aqua packed hand tied arrangement were very good and I feel I learnt something from it too as she gave a very good explanation of how to spiral the stems and how to place stems to ensure you get the spiral.

Overall a good DVD but more for an intermediate arranger, a complete beginner may struggle to achieve some of the arrangements she created,  but all flower arrangers would gain something from this DVD. 



Reading challenge 14/16 - currently reading If I Was by Midge Ure

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Jamie Returns To School

It was the start of term once again, and Jamie is now a Year 6 (er), which means this will be the last year he has at EVS.  Here he is all ready to go in his new school uniform, the Y6's get to wear a different colour jumper to mark their special place in the school and as the Headteacher told them on the first day, with that special place also comes special responsibilities and the need to work extra extra hard in this their SATS year.  My little man is growing into a big man!  Here's to a very good school year!

Jamie trying to look cool!!
Can you spot someone watching what is going on - she won't be left out!!



Reading challenge 14/16 - currently reading If I Was by Midge Ure

Friday, 29 October 2010

September Flower Club

Flower Club seems to come round more quickly month by month and here we were again, after dropping Jamie at cubs I headed off to pick up my friend J and then we headed off to club, both eagerly looking forward to the designs we were going to see.  I was also looking forward to showing J and S (my darling old tutor and mentor) all the photos from The Bucks County Show and giving them all of the details of the show itself.  I took some photos along and quite a few of the other ladies from flower club were interested in the photos too - I seem to be the only one who competes at the moment, it would be nice to get some others interested and then we might be able to form a team for the Nationals or even Chelsea (no calm down Sue!!).

So the demonstrator was, as usual, brilliant and I totally loved her designs - here they are with just a couple of comments from me!

J and S really really loved this one and whilst it makes really good use of the stand and the aspidistra leaf manipulation is good, I just feel that the anthurium get lost in the design and they don't have the impact they can have, I feel it may be down to the lightness of the colour of the wood, but fully understood why the demonstrator had used it.  I may have used a different colour chrysanthemum - a pinker one but I am not being critical as she may not have been able to have sourced the colour she really wanted either way - it is a lovely design.

The stand for this one is so interesting (but not the most interesting she used in the evening) and her use of accessories was really good too.  You cannot tell from this picture but the roses were the most amazing colour, sadly she didn't have the variety but they were a stunning shade of orange, a real wow colour.

I didn't get a good angle on this arrangement for this photo, but it was a pair of arrangements which flowed one into the other and then back again, in shades of pink and green.  Her containers were again very unusual, a wicker-twig effect wreath ring is the best description and the arrangement was lovely.  There is a lot of variety of colour, shape and texture in this arrangement too, which is essential in all arrangements.  The dense fatsia, contrasts with the fronds of the palm leaf and then wisps of ming fern (which is also great for covering up the mechanics of any arrangements).  Lots of variety in the shapes of flowers too which adds to the interest in the arrangements.  A lovely arrangement.

One of my favourites of the night, the simplicity, drama and sophistication of black, white and green takes some beating for me and I really really loved this one.  A very simple design with the flowers, but when you have roses as beautiful as these were, you really don't need to overpower them with much of anything else.  Again her container was brilliant, I think it was a garden planter which had been sprayed black and something I am going to have a go at when I find the right planter but I love the shape of this one.  I love Mitsumata (the twigs in the middle of the design giving the height which balances the height of the container and I now have an idea of how to use the flat midelino sticks which are pretty new onto the market, which the demonstrator used to add movement and texture to the left of the arrangement (as we look at it) which also balances the palm leaves on the right.

My favourite of the night is, I think, the pair designed on the large silver balls, which were by far the most interesting  containers of the night, on a night when the demonstrator had some of the most unusual and cleverly used containers of any of the demonstrators that I've seen.  In this instance she had used light shades and as soon as I can find some like these then I will be getting myself at least one as it is the perfect shape to make a crescent arrangement on, as you can see in the picture below.  At first I thought she had made them herself out of the aluminium wire which is available from florist wholesalers but chatting to her later she said she had bought them, envious - yes I was!!

I love this one particularly with its lovely shape and think these would look really  good for a wedding reception, one of those very girly pink and silvery do's!!  Silver can be quite a hard colour to work with but teaming it with pink does the trick.  The soft ruscus and dendrobium really do all of the hard work in getting the shape of the crescent, really love this.  She contrasted the pinks with a very pale green carnation which just adds an extra colour into the mix (she called it pistachio but it may also be known as prado pino).



Reading challenge 14/16 - currently reading If I Was by Midge Ure (getting there over half way through now!!)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Book Review - Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Just a note of caution if you haven't read this book there may be spoilers!

I have really struggled with the Midge Ure book and so it got cast aside again for Angels and Demons by Dan Brown which was a thoroughly enjoyable read, as expected.  I had planned to try and read this first before I saw the film, but ended up seeing the film, although there are some huge differences between the book and film - not in the form of plot etc but a very important character in the book is totally missing from the film, and some minor plot changes alter it slightly.  The changes of course made reading the book more interesting to see what was missing from the film.

The book takes place over a period of less than 24 hours and is pacy and action packed all the way through, the action moves from America, the CERN Complex in Switzerland to Rome and Vatican City.  The book is easy to read and is very much a page turner, I tried to imagine Robert Langdon as having a face other than that of Tom Hanks but it was Tom's face which constantly popped into my imagination as I was reading it.  Other than that seeing the film didn't really have too much of an impact as I had forgotten most of the details which helped in reading the book.  I enjoyed the book so much that I borrowed the film again and watched that too - that was very enjoyable too, Jamie loved it so much he is trying to read the book himself and Mike even watched the film!!

This is of course one of those books where you have to forget about the realistic aspects of access to the Vatican, moving from America to Rome in a matter of a couple of hours (taking in Switzerland en route!) otherwise the plot wouldn't work.  Robert Langdon is called in to help interpret and investigate the mysterious death of a CERN scientist at the hands of what looks to be the The Illuminati.  This takes him to Vatican City where the Cardinals of the Catholic Church are just about to go into Conclave following the death of the Pope.   The Preferati, the most likely Cardinals to succeed have been kidnapped and one an hour will be killed throughout Rome at significant sites to the Illuminati, on the Path of Illumination, seemingly as revenge for the persecution the organisation faced throughout its history.

There is name dropping and this time it consists of Galileo, Raphael and Bernini amongst others, the backdrop of Rome and the intrigue of ambigrams and the Illuminati which all make this book so very readable.   Lots of intrigue, historical drama, murders, excitement, a very very good read.
As for the film, well I enjoyed it much more second time around and could fill in the blanks where I needed to and consider which and why certain aspects of the film were altered.  Very enjoyable film - good fast paced entertainment.  I would thoroughly recommend both.  I am very much planning to read another Dan Brown in the near future.

Ciao for now

Reading challenge 14/16 - currently reading If I Was by Midge Ure

London Day Out

We had our traditional end of the summer holidays visit to London and this time Jamie had the choice of going wherever he wanted to and he chose The London Dungeon, which I wasn't too surprised at, because he has been mentioning he would like to go there for some time.  The dungeon is part of the Madam Tussauds Group but it concentrates on the darker side of London's history, the place is not really scary - just fun scary, but, saying that I am not sure I would consider taking a child younger than 10.  It is very easy to find, just a couple of minutes walk from Southwark station, I would certainly recommend booking in advance (which gives you a timed entrance) or getting there very early.  We had booked in advance and got there quite early so the queues were not too bad, but when we came out the queues were quite substantial.
We had our picture taken trying to behead Jamie (which you can buy at the end - we did of course), when we first entered the Dungeon and you go around as part of a group of about 15 - 20.   The first area is a mirrored labyrinth, which no matter how much you try to keep a perspective gets you totally lost and confused.  It is a good ploy to mess with your senses before you enter the rest of the dungeon.  The next area covers some of the history of death and disease in London, with added sound effects and real rats (thankfully behind a screen)!  The man below is animated and kindly vomits for you when you pass him!!

A view of the dungeon from outside.  It is by the very nature of the subject very dark inside and some of the areas are cobbled to add to the atmosphere - so comfortable shoes would be an essential.  Jamie and I held hands quite a lot - just in case - and tried to deny to the other that we had jumped at certain points when, of course, we had!!

You are guided around through some of London's most unsavoury historical times, or to meet some of London's more unsavoury historical figures.  You can see some of the instruments of torture which were used during the Middle Ages and if unlucky enough one of the costumed players guiding you through may pick you out to be the guinea pig which may be quite unpleasant if it were The Hook (used to hang people from in many and varied ways - not just using tethered hands or feet) or the Tongue Tearer (I'm sure we all know someone that would be useful for!!)

You are then sent before the Judge who sentences you to prison after having a bit of fun with 2 or 3 of the group, here one or two of the crimes can be a little bit cheeky (!!) but the serious side is seeing just how petty some of the crimes which were punishable by death really were such as "stealing a pocket handkerchief" or "cutting down fruit trees".  Once the group had been sentenced we were sent to prison in a boat via the river and headed off through traitors gate in the Tower of London.  The boat trip was good fun!!

We then had the opportunity to meet some of London's unsavoury characters such as 'Bloody' Mary Tudor, we learnt about the early medical history, the body snatchers and the experiments, we went for our haircut by Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (this was perhaps the most frightening part of the whole tour - I will say no more!!)

And then it was the most famous or infamous of London's killers - Jack the Ripper, as we wandered through the London streets frequented by the poor unfortunates upon which Jack prayed we were told about his crimes and shown some of the more famous pictures (be warned some are graphic and it was here that a couple of young children ( about 7 or 8 years old) had to leave as they became frightened) of his crimes and given a short film about some of the suspects.  After that we payed a visit to the Ten Bells Public House where Mary Kelly his last victim was seen on the night of here death.  We enjoyed a drink and a chat with the landlady who knew Mary well!!

It is an enjoyable morning or afternoon visit, perhaps slightly over priced but that is London.  After the Dungeon we wandered towards Southwark Cathedral and the eateries situated in that area.  We decided on a Spanish paella bar where Mike and I had a glass of Sangria, the food was only average, but it was convenient to the area we were in.  After that we had a wander in Southwark food market and found a stall selling the most amazing array of speciality beers, from all of the country and the world.

We then headed to The Clink Museum, which was much smaller and quite pricey for what it was.  It was the history of Prisons in the London area and had some more torture implements and a block and axe as you can see below.  This is unlikely to keep you occupied for more than about half an hour so was a bit of a disappointment.  So we consoled ourselves with coffee and cakes, which we sat and eat looking out at the replica of The Golden Hind.

The London Dungeon is well worth a visit, The Clink Museum is interesting and informative but is unlikely to keep you interested for very long, one to slot in if you are passing it by perhaps on your way to Shakespeare's Globe or the Tate Modern which are a few minutes walk further down the river.  An enjoyable  and mildly scary day out for us!!!!



Reading challenge 14/16 - currently reading If I Was by Midge Ure

Monday, 18 October 2010

Bucks County Show - Flower Arranging Competition

And so for the big one at the County Show - the flower arranging, and I will make no apologies for this being the most important of all the classes in the show that we entered  well how did we do - I was beaten by my own son - can you believe that!!! 

Children's Arrangement - An Arrangement in a Cup and Saucer

I was thrilled that Jamie wanted to give the flower arranging class (for children) a go and we had a few thoughts about what he may do as his class was 'An Arrangement in a Cup and Saucer'.  We had a look around for a suitable cup and saucer for him and eventually found one which was decorated with VW Camper Vans, very on trend and very suitable for a boy.  So we had a think about what type of arrangement may work in the container and I suggested Jamie may want to have a go at a gear stick which is sticking up out of the cup.  That design eventually became a flying saucer/satellite arrangement which was brilliant.

I had some of the lucky bamboo (Dracena sanderiana) left over from my demo a couple of weeks earlier and showed Jamie how to attach a ball of foam to the top of the bamboo and then show him how to base (cover) the foam ball with the button chrysanthemum and he made a brilliant job of it - to be honest his basing was better than some of the basing from some the students from the Floristry course I was on (!!!!!!)

He then added in some decorative pins to make it look like a satellite and finished the bottom with some bright pink carnations and light green conifer and  a little bit of pittospoum which matched the pins in the top of the design.  He did an amazing job and should have been rightly proud of himself, when I saw the completed design I was pretty sure he stood a very very good chance of getting placed in the competition.

When I saw the other designs in his class I was almost certain he was going to be placed well - but I wasn't letting on to him, as you can never tell quite which way the judges minds are working!!

Well of course he was placed and he got First place as his design was so fantastic - he would, had he entered the adult category also have been placed too - so I am glad he was only in the children's competition!!

An Arrangement in a Cup and Saucer - Adult Class!!

This was I felt the easiest of the classes to interpret and I decided to go for a traditional look, with a traditional cup and saucer and a very simple round posy style design, using very 'English' flowers such as carnations and freesia, playing on the whole idea of tea for two and tea-time.  I had thought about using a very large cup and saucer but decided to go very traditional.  I was really pleased with the finished design.  Some photos of my design below both in situ at the show and after the show at home.

And how did I do well I came second!! - so I was very pleased.  My certificate and comments card are below.  With a design like this it is really important to keep the flowers in proportion to the cup and saucer so I used spray carnations as single carnations would have been too big and I ensure the foliage was small enough to keep the scale of the whole design. 

My only mention here but the rules state that you have to complete the designs in situ and not bring them completed.  We were led to believe the following day from a steward that someone did bring completed arrangements to the show and that person was I believe placed in two categories - perhaps the show does need to tighten up on its procedures for the sake of those competitors like myself and the other ladies who worked in atrocious weather conditions completing our designs in situ for some 4, 5 and 6 hours.  Like myself there were other who may have been placed higher if the reports about this incident are correct.

Table Arrangement for a Wedding

Again for this design I decided to do something which would be very traditional and something which would obviously have a place as a table centre for a wedding.  I wanted to bring in some bright wedding colours, some ribbon, bling and candles and feel I did all of these things very well.  Again I was really pleased with the end result of the arrangement which is below.  Bright pink carnations and white roses make up this design, I have added some beaded wire to the outside of the candle to bring the pink through the design and add a little bit of sparkle to the arrangement.

Nor was this an incredibly expensive design and so could be used for a number of tables and would take a wedding through the sit down meal and onto the evening reception too so I felt this one covered all aspects.  The judge like it too as I got a third prize for the design which pleased me. 

A Bit of Bling

The final entry from me was in the Bit of Bling class and this was the one which was both large, difficult and very expensive as it turned out and not one to be repeated.  It was christened 'The Abomination' by me as when I left late on the Wednesday evening I totally hated it and felt it didn't look the way I had planned for it to look.  I was convinced this would be totally rejected by the judges but in the end it got a 3rd place so I was both very surprised and totally delighted.  I had been placed in each section I had entered.

 This design was in a martini glass and used cone shaped oasis which was then based in what felt like hundreds of roses - it seemed to take forever and what with the weather (torrential rain), mud (from the rain), cold (from being in a tent in torrential rain) and the poor light (from being in a tent with torrential rain!!) it was hard work!!  The really positive side of this is it has given me lots of ideas of how to improve this style of design if I ever need or want to do something like this in the future.

The judges comments were totally fair and I had not expected so much water to leak from the oasis - add that onto the learning experience too.

So overall very pleased placed in each category, did much better than last year's 2nd and highly commended and Jamie won the children's - wonderful.

Reading challenge 13/16 - currently reading If I Was by Midge Ure
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...