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Spring Skincare Shakeup

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Hello Friday!  Hope you’ve had a good week whatever you’ve been up to – mine’s been absolutely mad.  It’s been one of those weeks where I haven’t actually done much or been out and about (lucky, I guess – the weather’s been mental here in Cardiff!), but have had a lot going on.  That being said, I’m so happy it’s the weekend – time for a little R&R and some pampering! 🙂

I feel like my skin’s going through a bit of a shift in season right now.  It’s been feeling a bit… winter-lagged (is that word?) for the past few months.  Dry, a bit sad-looking and a little bit more red and sensitive than it usually is – so, I’ve been loading up on anything that’ll inject it with some added moisture, scrub away the winter scales and inject a little radiance. But we’re heading into Spring now and so I’ve had a little bit of a skincare shakeup, and these are the products I’ll be using from now until the weather heats up.

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*Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes and Lips

I’ve been a massive fan of Clinique’s Take the Day Off Balm for a looooooong time.  It’s so satisfying massaging a blob of the stuff into my face and watching my makeup instantly dissolve.  Even more satisfying is smudging all my dark eye makeup until I look like something out of a horror movie – but sometimes I need a little extra elbow grease to remove all that liquid liner, waterproof mascara and liquid lipstick.  Enter Clinique’s Lids, Lashes and Lips formula which I was very kindly gifted by Clinique Cardiff.  It’s gentle (no stinging watery eyes or dried out lips!) and I’ve started using it when I go in for a second round of makeup removal – just to make sure everything’s squeaky clean before I start my deep cleanse.

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Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion

Honestly, I’ve been thinking of making the move towards acids when it comes to exfoliating my skin – especially now that we’re heading into summer and technically those dry scales of winter shouldn’t be a problem anymore – but I’ve been using this little number from Kiehl’s for so long that it’s going to be tough to try something new!  I’ve had really dry skin all winter and this dude’s been my one and only for scrubbing away dead skin and polishing up the new.  You only need a tiny amount and some gentle circular scrubbing and it really does the job.

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Nuxe Nirvanesque Enriche for 1st Wrinkles

I picked up this baby in TK Maxx when I was looking for something to really soothe my super dry winter skin at night and it’s honestly one of the most beautiful face creams I’ve ever used.  I mean, I’m a little way past “first wrinkles” stage – but this little gem’s been really helping to keep my skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated – and dewy!  I wake up with “I’ve had ten hours sleep and ten bottles of water” skin, and it smells really lovely.  Unfortunately, I’ve got a funny feeling that they’ve discontinued it – I mean, a quick google will find you a tub of the stuff, but I can’t find it being sold on the Nuxe website – but hey, I’ve adored everything I’ve ever bought from Nuxe, so if anything it’s converted me into giving the rest of their skincare rage a go. I’ll definitely be on the hunt for one of their lighter moisturizers to take me through summer. 🙂

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*Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly

As I said before, I’m still coming out of winter with skin suffering from a bit of a hangover.  It’s been dry, sad and a little bit more sensitive than usual.  I’ve only just started using this hydrating jelly from Clinique, but so far so good.  I’ve been using a very small amount in the morning just to give my skin a little bit of a moisture boost, and to protect it from pollution when I’m out and about.  Because it’s lightweight, I think it’s going to make a great moisturizer when the weather heats up over the summer and I might make a full switch over in a couple of months.  Early days though, so we’ll see.

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*Elemis Peptide 4 Thousand Flower Mask and Eye Recovery Cream

Still a massive fan of this combo – and I think I’ve spoken about them a few times already.  The Thousand Flower Mask is an absolute dream when my skin needs a bit of a pick me up (it really smooths everything over and brightens things up) – I tend to use it on a Sunday evening after a bath and after I’ve exfoliated with the Kiehl’s Micro-Dermabrasion Cream – just when my skin isn’t necessarily looking for any added moisture, just something to generally perk it up.  The Eye Recovery Cream has been working wonders on my tired, winter-lagged eyes – keeping those dark circles at bay and working on those fine lines. 😉

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Nuxe Nuxuriance Ultra Mask

Again, Nuxe are quickly becoming one of my favourite beauty brands – their products are all such a treat.  I picked up this little mask from TK Maxx (all hail) on a whim and have been enjoying pampering my skin with it a couple of nights a week before I go in with my moisturizer.  It’s packed full of Hyaluronic Acid to smooth out the fine lines I’m staring to get and also claims to plump up skin and even out tone.  It’s got a metal roller that you use to squeeze and apply the product, and as it goes on it cools and reduces any puffiness.  The only thing I don’t love about it is the smell… but to be honest, it soaks in so quickly that you barely notice it.

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

*This post contains affiliate links; to learn more about them, click here.

Let’s Stop Self-Defecating (…yes, you read that right)

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Happy April Fool’s Day!  I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely useless when it comes to playing practical jokes… and telling jokes full stop, to be totally and completely honest!  I either give the game away by giggling too soon or I screw up the punch line, and my go-to joke is the one about the panda who goes to a restaurant and eats shoots and leaves.  The one thing I am good at, however, is laughing at myself.  A couple of weeks ago, I managed to play the most ridiculous practical joke on myself while I was refilling a cook’s blowtorch.  When I (stupidly) decided to check whether it was working and pulled the trigger, the lighter fumes ignited and I was momentarily consumed by a ball of fire that not only burned my fingers but also singed off most of my eyebrows and a lot of my hair.  After the initial sobbing shock and cries of “my hair!!!” (and the call to NHS Direct to see if I needed to hop it down to A&E…) I did what I always do after I’ve done something stupid; I laughed long and hard over what an utter nob I was.

There’s nothing better than having a good ol’ chuckle, is there?  Even when times are tough having a laugh about it – y’know, a proper tear-streaming, snorting, rib-aching, gasping for air kind of laugh – is better than any kind of medicine.  And self-deprecation (or “self-defecation”, as I used to call it until someone stepped in and corrected me… yeesh…) is the one woman stand-up routine I’ve been performing since I can remember.  I slip into it so easily these days: if someone compliments my anything, I’ll launch head-first into a bit where I take out a metaphorical magnifying glass and hover it over every flaw I have and can think of.  Like, the dog hair clinging to my brand new black jeans, or my vampire skin that’s hilariously allergic to fake tan, that ketchup stain on my new shirt, my flat chest, my misbehaving hair and *tap tap* “Hey, is this thing on?”  I’ll downplay my own achievements and shrug them off as pure luck – as simply being in the right place at the right time – because – come on now – there’s absolutely no way this train wreck is capable of achieving anything on her own other than maybe inhaling three cream eggs in thirty seconds.

Har de ha.

And I know I’m not alone in this.  We’re all guilty of slipping into that old routine in social situations, aren’t we?  Whether we’re with our mates or with a whole crowd of new faces – it’s an easy way to seem more human – more relatable – to come across as humble instead of arrogant and therefore more likeable.  In theory!  But are we harming ourselves in the process?

If I’m constantly poking fun at myself and telling other people that I can’t cook to save my life, that I only wear flats because I look like drunk giraffe in heels, or that the reason I got that big promotion was completely down to luck rather than my own hard work, I’m going to start believing it myself.  And for what?  To spare someone else’s ego?  To be liked?  At that point we’re not self-deprecating anymore, we really are just self-defecating – shitting all over ourselves and our achievements!  And that ain’t cool, my friend!

I came across some sage words of advice on how to own your achievements and talents a while ago and it really stuck with me.  It’s basically all down to learning how to self-deprecate in a self-aggrandizing way.  I mean, you’re still poking fun of yourself – but you’re doing it in a much kinder, more positive way.  For example, instead of rolling your eyes and telling yourself and others “I can’t cook to save my life”, laugh at that burned slice of toast and declare proudly, “I clearly need my own cookery show – watch out Nigella Lawson!”  Next time your eyeliner’s wonky or you’ve gone in too hard with the blush, don’t pull the ol’ clown face gag out the bag – just have a chuckle and say, “Nailed it.”  Or the next time you send out an email full of mistakes (and to the wrong person – yikes!), instead of coming down hard on your writing skills just laugh and say, “Hey, I was clearly robbed of that Pulitzer.”  It’s a small switcheroo that’ll help change your mindset and have you owning both your flaws and achievements in a more positive way.

Let’s have a good ol’ laugh at ourselves without being the fool.

Anyone played any good April Fools pranks today?  The closest I got was Sunny politely informing me at 6.30am this morning that our toilet was backed up and spilling over – hilarious!  NOT.  Have a great week!  🙂

Pineapple and Coconut Tray-bake

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Happy Mother’s Day – for Sunday!  It’s honestly one of my favourite days of the year, because not only do I get to celebrate the fabulous Mama Cwtch (more on her in a sec…), but it’s also kind of a Spring milestone, isn’t it?  Once Mother’s Day swings around (in the UK at least – I know you American lot celebrate it a little bit later) there’s usually blossom on the trees and the weather is hopefully (finger’s crossed!) starting to turn towards summer.  It’s been warm and sunny all week here in Cardiff, and it’s been bloody lush!  LONG MAY IT REIGN.

I owe a lot of things to my lovely Mama – my massive boat feet and sensitive skin for one (thanks Mum!), as well as my impulsive nature (let’s do this right now!!!) and love of photography.  But also my sweet tooth and love of baking (I’m always the first person to suggest stopping for tea and a cake – if my Mum doesn’t get in there first!).  The first cake I ever made was a simple Victoria Sponge with my Mum standing on a stool in our kitchen, and boy how far I’ve come since then. 🙂

This pineapple and coconut tray bake is nothing special to look at fresh out of the oven, but is totally transformed with a layer of coconut buttercream and a scattering of flowers made from dried out pineapple rounds.  I saw the idea in this month’s Tesco Food Magazine and I think the Hummingbird Bakery do something similar – and it’s such simple but genius way to finish off a cake!  Sweet!

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Pineapple and Coconut Tray-bake

Ingredients

  • 125g Butter
  • 100g Self-raising Flour
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 50g Desiccated Coconut
  • 150ml Buttermilk
  • 1 fresh Pineapple
  • Poppy Seeds

for the buttercream:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream
  1. Give yourself a little bit of time and make the pineapple flowers a day ahead.  Slice the leaves and prickly outer layer of your pineapple off, and then use a teaspoon to core out those spikes.  Turn the pineapple on its side and very carefully thinly slice half of the pineapple into rounds (save the other half, you’re going to use it later!).  Next, set your oven to a low heat (around 100°C) and grab a muffin tray.  Turn it over, and place the pineapple slices over the cups – then pop them in the oven.  It’ll take them about an hour an a half to dry out fully and curl at the edges.
  2. To make the cake – set your oven to 170°C and then grease and line a rectangular baking tray.
  3. Cream together the caster sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Then, beat in egg.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients (the flour, baking powder and desiccated coconut) and then fold into the buttercream and egg mix.
  5. Gently stir in the buttermilk, then pour the mixture into the baking tray.
  6. Remember the leftover half a pineapple?  Slice it neatly into rectangles, then arrange over the surface of the cake, making sure to overlap them as the cake will rise and expand as it bakes.  Bake in the oven for 60 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Leave the cake to cool.
  7. While the cake is cooling, whip up your buttercream by creaming together the butter, icing sugar and coconut cream.  Once the cake has cooled, spoon it over the surface.
  8. Arrange the pineapple flowers over the top, then spoon a little bit of buttercream into the centre of each.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds, then serve! 🙂

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You can see a video of me making this cake on IGTV.  Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful mamas out there! 💛

How to do a Spring Wardrobe Audit in Seven Steps

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I’m definitely not one of those women who can survive on a super-streamlined capsule wardrobe.  I mean – don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love the idea of it and devour Capsule Wardrobe videos on Youtube like I do Cream Eggs… but in practice?  Nope, this gal likes options – lots of options – and is still clinging on hard to that Original Rudeboys T Shirt she bought in Topman back in 2004 (even though it’s literally falling apart and has gaping holes in the armpits…).  I like a full wardrobe (I used to work in a costume warehouse, go figure!) – I like to have lots of options and I love rediscovering old favourites.  But, I’m a bit of a hoarder, and for that reason I have to make sure I do a little bit of a wardrobe audit at the start of every season just to see exactly what I’ve got and what I need to add (and, more importantly, what I don’t need to add!).  Just like everyone else right now, I’m also trying to think about sustainability when it comes to fashion, my personal style and I’m trying really hard to only buy items that suit me, that I need and  ones that I know I’m going to wear and love until they fall off me in pieces!

This post is basically a step by step guide on how you can start doing an audit yourself, with a few handy print outs to help you keep track along the way 🙂

The Idea

The basic idea behind the audit is to transition your wardrobe from Autumn/Winter to Spring/Summer and back again in a way that helps you see what you’ve got hanging up, what needs to go (does not spark joy!) and any gaps that need filling.  By doing it, you get a better idea of your personal uniform – the styles and colours you reach for again and again – and will be better equipped to stop yourself from spending needlessly each season on items you a) Don’t need, b) Don’t suit you, and c) Just won’t wear.

The best time to do it is usually a month or two into the new season (the end of September and the beginning of April seem to work well) because by that time the weather should have started to shift, you’ll have seen enough of the new season trends to know exactly what new bits and bobs you fancy adding, and you’ll still have time to pick up some old season bargains in the sales to fill in any gaps!  Make a note in your diary or on your phone and block out one whole day to focus completely on your audit.

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Step One: Take Everything Out

Right, let’s get this show on the road.  Before you can get sorting, you need to get everything out.  In true Marie Kondo style that basically means pulling everything out of your wardrobe and throwing it into a big pile on your bed or on the floor.  You need to see what you’re dealing with and then work on each item individually.

Step Two: Buh-bye Autumn/Winter!

Now it’s time to get sorting.  A massive part of a new season audit involves reflecting on the one that’s just finished.  As you sift through your pile of clothes, shoes and accessories think about the items you kept reaching for again and again.  What items did you wear to death?  Which outfits worked?  Which ones didn’t?  What items didn’t you wear once?  What kind of items are missing?

Begin sorting the clothes into three piles:

  1. Love it, keeping it“Never wanna give you up, Never wanna say goodbye!”
  2. Maybefor when you’re on the fence…
  3. Ditch it “Thank you, next!”

Be as ruthless as you can! Donate or Depop everything you’ve fallen out of love with and doesn’t fit anymore, and recycle any items that are damaged (that might even mean turning them into something else; all my old t shirts usually retire and turn into pyjamas at some point!).

“Thank You, Next”

As you’re going through, start making a shopping list of any items you need to replace, items that you need (I really need a black pair of jeans… I could do with a jacket to wear when I’m walking the dog… I don’t have a smart pair of boots to wear out…) and any trend items that you would want to add.  You’re going to pack this list away with your winter wardrobe; some of the items on the replace and need lists you might be able to pick up the sales immediately (if so, highlight and then tick them off the list!), and as for the trend pieces you’ve been eyeing up – you’re going to shelf the urge for a while.  When autumn swings back around you can re-evaluate where you are with them and have a handy shopping list ready to go. 🙂

“Love it, Keeping it”

Pay close attention to your keep pile because it’s going to give you a really good idea of what your ideal wardrobe is going to look like.  Look at the colours and styles you keep reaching for time and time again – maybe you’re a confirmed “Jeans and a Nice Top” kind of girl like me, maybe you’ve got a thing for tailoring and maybe it just turns out that your wardrobe is as black as your soul.  That’s great!  At least now you know what works for you and what’s worth spending money on. 🙂

“Maybe…”

Once you’ve finished sorting, go back to your maybe pile and see if you’ve changed your mind.  Maybe there’s an item in there that might be quite useful, maybe it’s a transition piece that could work during either season, maybe you’ve found a better version in your love it pile and no longer need it, or maybe you’re still on the fence.  That’s okay!  Throw it into your keep pile and you never know, you might fall in love with it all over again and be glad you held on.

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Step Three: Pack it Away

Hopefully now you’ve whittled everything down to just two piles.  Bag up everything you’re getting rid of (depending whether you’re donating, depop-ping or recycling) and then turn your attention to your keep pile.  Time to pack it away ready for next year!  I’m lucky, my bed’s got secret storage underneath it so I like to pack away last season’s clothes into vacuum bags (love them!) and keep them stowed away and out of sight – and more importantly, protected from dust, damp and moths.  For extra credit, pop them all in the wash before you store them – and don’t forget to pack them with something to keep them smelling fresh.  Don’t forget to add in your shopping list – you’ll need it next season! 😉

Storage Tips and Tricks…
  1. You know those little scent boosters you can throw in the washing machine?  Pour some into a small organza bag and then pack away with your clothes to keep them smelling fresh! (I also like to hang a few in my current wardrobe to keep my shirts smelling nice) 🙂
  2. Similarly, you can stuff a couple of dryer sheets into your shoes to soak up any sweat and keep them smelling fresh.
  3. Consider wrapping delicate fabrics like silk and occasion-wear in tissue paper before storing – or use an old pillowcase!
  4. Spruce up your shoes before putting them back in their box.  Clean off any mud, polish them and get the heels mended so they’re ready to march next season!
  5. Make sure you throw in some protection from moths.  Moth balls are toxic to pets and children, so consider using cedar wood instead.

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Step Four: Hello Spring/Summer!

Right! Time to get your summer garb out of storage!  Finally!  Hopefully you’ve packed it all away neatly and all it needs is a bit of a steam to bring it back to life.  Lay everything out on your bed and see what you’ve got.  If you already performed an audit at the start of autumn, then you’ll be ready to go; if not then swing back to step two and get sorting!  As you’re reacquainting yourself with your spring/summer wardrobe there might be a bit of extra streamlining to do.  Are there any items you were unsure about last year that you can comfortably make a decision on now?  Is there anything that doesn’t fit?  Hopefully everything’s come out looking brand new, but sometimes there might be an item that doesn’t survive.  I had a red faux-leather jacket a long time ago and had to chuck it because it literally just disintegrated in storage!

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Step Five: Outfits

Time to get your wardrobe working for you!  Think about how you spend your time on a weekly basis.  List three activities that you tend to do every single week, including work and then try to come up with three outfits for each of those activities using the clothes you’ve got in front of you – ideally for three weather scenarios (dry, wet and changeable).  If you’ve got an instax camera, why not snap some photos of these outfits?  Or you could print out some old Instagram snaps of outfits that worked, or just list the items!

As you’re building your outfits, you might find another opportunity to streamline.  Are there any items that just don’t fit in with your day to day uniforms?  Think about whether it’s time to toss ’em!  Keep your shopping list close as you might find there are a couple of items you’d like to add to it.

Keep these outfit lists handy somewhere in your current wardrobe (maybe clipped to hanger on their own, or tacked up on the doors), then pack them away with your wardrobe when the season ends – they might come in handy next year!

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LOL, “Brunch on the weekend” – because I only get dressed properly if there’s going to be food involved.

Step Six: What’s Missing?

Time to refer to that handy shopping list you made at the end of last season.  You might find that it’s all still applicable and you’re still lusting after that rattan bag you had your eye on last summer, or maybe you’ll just have a good old laugh, wonder what the hell you were thinking and be glad you didn’t splurge on something you were never going to wear!  Deal with the “Want” and “Replace” lists first – cross out anything that doesn’t apply and tick the items that do!

Next move on to “Need” list.  Look for gaps in your uniforms; maybe you don’t have a spring jacket, or threw out your only pair of sandals last year.  Jot these items down!  Then, you’re ready to set yourself a budget and shop!

(*If you’re in Cardiff then don’t forget to sign up for St Davids Shopping Centre’s Big Night Out – which is basically a student lock in with tonnes of discounts and treats… but you don’t have to be a student, win!  It’s completely free to sign up and it’ll be the perfect opportunity to go refresh your wardrobe!) 🙂

Step Seven: Organise!

Phew!  Home stretch!  After all that sorting, it’s time to (make a cup of tea first, and then) put everything back into your wardrobe in an easy to see, easy to access way.  Think about arranging items in some kind of order – whether that’s by colour, by item or by outfit.  Whatever works for you!

Tips and Tricks for Organising your Wardrobe…
  1. Make sure you’re using the right hanger for each item.  Invest in some hard-wearing wooden ones for heavy items like coats, felt-lined ones for delicate items and grippers for trousers and skirts.
  2. Don’t forget your cedar balls to keep those moths away, and scent boosters to keep things fresh!
  3. The top shelf of my cupboard gets really messy – use dividers to keep those piles from toppling over.
  4. Get crafty when it comes to storing accessories.  For example, office filing boxes are great for storing purses and clutch bags, and hooks are great for handbags.
  5. Use ring-pulls to double up hangers and arrange outfits together.

And that’s it!  Happy auditing! 🙂

If you fancy giving a wardrobe audit a go then you can download my Audit Shopping List here, and the Uniforms List here. Come on them, come clean!  How many pairs of jeans/t shirts are bashing around at the back of your cupboard?  😉

DIY Pressed Flower Manicure

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Here’s something I didn’t mess up this week, because let me tell you – it’s been a corker!  I’ve burned food, dropped things, walked into things, banged my head… Oh!  And I set my hair alight with a kitchen blowtorch.  I’m so relieved it’s the weekend!  And aside from the singed eyebrows and burnt hair, at least my nails are looking good!

I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was really clever, but you know how it goes – when it comes to Pinterest; recreating what you see there’s always a bit of a gamble.  Either it works out, or it’s a disaster (and I’ve plenty of those this week…).  But this worked out!  It’s so easy to do; all you need are some small flowers, a pair of tweezers and some clear nail polish.  Perfect to celebrate the arrival of Spring! 🙂

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Pressed Flower Manicure

The first thing you need to do is harvest some small flowers.  Forget-Me-Nots are just starting to bloom and work perfectly, but any small flowers or colourful petals will do.

  1. Sandwich the flowers in a sheet of grease proof paper, then wedge them in a large, heavy book or catalogue.  You need to leave them for about a week to fully flatten out and dry out before using them on your nails.
  2. Prepare your nails; trim them, file them, you do what you gotta do.  You’ll want a nice smooth surface to arrange the pressed flowers on.
  3. Keep the flowers you’re going to use close to hand, then apply your base coat of polish.  I pretty much exclusively use Essie polishes (I love the pigments and formula – you won’t see me wearing anything else!), but any neutral base colour will do.
  4. Whilst the polish is still tacky, use the tweezers to arrange the flowers on the nail – pressing gently.
  5. Next you’re going to add as many clear top coats of polish as it takes to fully seal in the flowers.  And that’s it!

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Have a great weekend! 🌼🌼🌼