Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Didi Lou Crafts. Wishing you peace, joy, and all the best that the holiday has to offer. May this incredible time of giving and spending time with family bring you joy that lasts throughout the year.

In a few weeks it will be the first anniversary of creating the website, although Didi Lou Crafts didn’t start trading on Etsy till March and at fairs till August, so we haven’t quite hit a year of trading yet.

It is always a quiet time here at Christmas, but I am keeping busy. New stock is on order or has already been delivered, new items are being painted and decorated and various craft fairs already contacted for bookings in 2016. Keep an eye on the Events Page for news of bookings and the Etsy store for new products.

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Lunchtime Fair at One Valpy

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Today’s fair was the last for Didi Lou Crafts for 2015. Didi Lou Crafts has done a total of 11 fairs since August, 8 of those in the last 6 weeks. This was another corporate lunchtime event. It was well organised, but disappointingly not that well attended. So a mixed bag with regards these lunchtime corporate events, but definitely something I will consider again for next year.
craftfair151218-2_tnThe advantages are that there are less stalls, being mid week, many stallholders are not able to do a mid week lunchtime because they have other commitments. I found out about these two through other contacts, they are not as easily findable as most fairs and markets. If these two are representative of most then they are held on company property and it may be that many are free, but parking was not so easy for these two, that may vary with other companies. I will keep my eye out for more of these next year.
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Lunchtime Fair at The Blade

craftfair151216-1_tnSerenaded by a steel band, overlooking the city, Didi Lou Crafts was at the corporate christmas lunch for The Blade building in Reading today. Staff in the building also got lunch and a free casino as well as the steel band playing christmas carols and there were only 6 stalls with Christmas and/or handmade items.

craftfair151216-2_tnIt was a good fair for Didi Lou Crafts, particularly because there was no table fee. The organisers were very friendly and helpful and the staff from the building visiting us were particularly interested in the handmade items. As has been the case at many of the recent fairs, the Christmas decorations sold well, particularly the Christmas suncatchers but also the decorated hearts and the little decorated notepads which are popular all year round and at this time of year make a great little stocking filler.

craftfair151216-3_tncraftfair151216-4_tnTheir tables were only 4 foot by 2 foot, but the young man helping was very happy to let me use 2 tables. Once we started packing up, we were offered some of the buffet lunch. One lovely woman helped move my boxes down in the lift while I collected my car from the public car park and even helped me load up the car. It is definitely an experience I would repeat and I am pleased to say I am doing it all over again the day after tomorrow at a sister building just down the road.

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We were up on the 13th floor of The Blade, in what seemed like a conference and entertainment room. The view from up there was amazing, almost 360 degrees over the town of Reading.

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Another Christmas Fair

craftfair151212-3_tnDespite it being a drizzly Saturday afternoon mid December, this fair was reasonably well attended. It was an average fair for me, although I believe I did better than many of the stallholders. The organiser delivered a lot of leaflets and advertised in a lot of places, but it is a new fair, one that will be repeated, so hopefully it will build a following over time as people realise it is a more regular fixture on the calendar.

craftfair151212-2_tnFor me, the sellers were mostly Christmas decorations again, the glass painted suncatcher decorations very popular again. I now have only a few days till the next one mid-week. I will have very little time to make new stock so thankful I made enough Christmas stock over the last few months. I have already started my stock for the new year, with more supplies ordered. Valentine’s Day is the next big push for me.

craftfair151212-1_tnI am really enjoying doing the fairs, but they vary so much. I am beginning to recognise some of the regular stallholders too. Looking forward to the new year and already starting to enquire about fairs for 2016.

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Winter Soups

As it gets darker earlier, we all tend to change our eating habits from salads and barbeques to stews and soups. Nowadays supermarkets give us a false sense of the seasons, as most fruit and vegetables are now available all year round, but we get an organic vegetable box weekly from Abel and Cole, so have a sense of when different vegetables are available.The time for leafy greens and new potatoes has long passed and now we are getting more root vegetables.

I make soups in winter and one of my best purchases recently was a slow cooker. It leaves me a lot of time for crafting. I can put the soup on in the morning and as we pass it during the day we give it a quick stir and top up the liquid if necessary. The smell slowly permeates the house and we look forward to the soup later that evening. Even better is having it with bread done in the bread maker or perhaps with a quick soda bread done in the oven. I freeze any leftovers in individual containers.

The week before last we had leek and potato soup with parmesan soda bread. Most soda bread recipes have buttermilk in them, but I managed to find one that was just milk and added the parmesan to it, so it was my own recipe as such. Last week we had root vegetables and pasta soup, with swede, carrots, parsnip and potatoes. I also used the bread maker last week to make beetroot bread which was rather unusual, having a consistency similar to malt loaf.

I have the urge to do a bacon and corn chowder soon, it has been too long and we have lots of lovely potatoes each week. My favourites at the moment are carrot and coriander soup and spicy roast parsnip soup. I often adapt the spicy roast parsnip one, using other vegetables including potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and butternut squash.

parsnip2Here is the recipe for the spicy roast parsnip soup:

Turn on the oven to 220C. Get out a thick baking tray (think the sort you roast your meat and vegetables in for Sunday roast).

Get a clean plastic bag. Into it pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (not extra virgin). Add 1 teaspoon each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and ground tumeric.

Now peel and chop 1 large onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 carrots and 675g parsnips. As you prepare the vegetables put handfuls into the plastic bag and shake then empty the vegetables onto the baking tray. Keep going until all the vegetables are prepared and on the tray. Place the tray of vegetables in the oven. Roast the vegetables for 30-45 minutes. You want them to soften and gain some colour.

Set up the slow cooker. Empty all the roasted vegetables into the cooker and cover with water. Add 1-2 vegetable stock cubes. Cook on a slow simmer for a few hours. Allow to cool slightly. Pour into a bowl or jugs, be sure to get the last bits of the spices out of the cooker bowl.

Spoon into a blender and process until smooth. Pour back into the slow cooker and turn back to high heat. Continue blending the mix until it is all completed. Allow the soup to get up to a temperature that has it simmering again. Serve and enjoy. (Note: this is adapted from a recipe I found online which didn’t include using the slow cooker, but I don’t recall where I found it, so I can’t acknowledge the original source.)

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Metallics

The most popular craft that uses metal is jewellery making. Jewellery making is over subscribed in the area, so much so than often the local craft fairs state they will not take more jewellery makers. I happen to know that at least two people in the area who run multiple craft fairs during the year started running fairs because they were jewellery makers and struggled to find enough fairs to attend.

Didi Lou Crafts often uses metallic paints, stickers, glitter and other effects that sparkle or shine on items. Below are some examples, including decorated pots, wooden drawers, paper mache boxes and embossed and sticker cards.

metallicThe Christmas Angel Peg dolls sold really quickly at fairs, the silver ones first. I wanted to make more but couldn’t source the components again at such short notice, so perhaps I will make more next year.

doily angels_tnIf you head to the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy store you will find many of the items shown above still available to add that metallic shine or glitter to your day.

 

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Indoor Market

craftfair151205-1bThis market went reasonably well. Part of the appeal was definitely the ability to book photos with Santa, so there was a constant flow of people/families for that. Luckily Didi Lou Crafts was placed in the entrance on the ground floor, so people had to walk right by the stall. A high traffic area is great, even though the wind was cold coming through the open front door. I am not sure I would have done as well upstairs or round the corner. I deliberately had different (or additional) stock to the previous night’s stall, mostly because I expected a more mixed group of shoppers at this fair, which was the right call.

craftfair151205-2bThere are a number of problems with being a lone stallholder, such as handling toilet breaks, but my experience after a number of fairs is fellow stallholders are happy to watch the stall for a few minutes, so I rattle as I head off, cash box in backpack. Some people have the advantage of a spouse to drop them off and pick them up, which is a help unloading the car and saves the problem of finding parking. This fair was in the centre of town and I had to load with the hazard lights on surrounded by buses. I was very late leaving, because when I got back to the car park to get the car there was a long queue to leave and someone stuck at the barrier (and whilst the car park has two in barriers, it only has one out barrier). Not something I can really control and I’ve had similar problems at a previous fair where there was a huge queue to pay for the parking, so I have to admit it is easier when the location has a free car park on site, but that isn’t always the case. The next fair does, but the last two I have booked for this year have the same problem as this fair, being in the middle of town, so needing to unload then head off to park before returning to set up, in a busy town so close to Christmas. Still Christmas is likely to be the best time of year for me. Amusingly, in terms of making items, I am already planning my spring stock, considering Valentine’s Day and Easter and thinking about what sort of new summer items I might make to increase sales at that time of year.

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Evening Fair

craftfair151204-2bWhilst it was not a bad fair, I think a nursery shopping night is not necessarily the right fair for Didi Lou Crafts. The target audience of the items I make is definitely not young children. This sort of fair would better suit a sewing or knitting specialist making children’s toys and clothes. This fair also featured a lot of non-craft products, including beauty products. I think Didi Lou Crafts does better in a craft fair, where people are specifically looking for items with that hand made feel.

craftfair151204-1bI also found the short period of the fair, only two hours, not necessarily worth the effort. I have a few other short fairs booked over the coming weeks, perhaps they will be different. Each fair is a learning experience, and for that I am grateful.

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