Product Photography is not so easy

Whilst there are many people who love photography and take it rather seriously, when I was younger I was more a “snap” person, taking photos to have memories of places visited and people seen with a cheap camera. To own a camera that took good quality pictures was definitely an investment when I was young and developing photos an expensive process. Nowadays nearly everyone has a much better camera than back then in their mobile phone and so sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Imgur are very popular for sharing photos.

canon_powershot_a2600_silver

Starting up the Didi Lou Crafts business I suddenly realised I needed to get, at a bare minimum, reasonable at photography in order to display the Didi Lou Crafts products online. I looked for short courses locally and only found photography courses for landscapes or portraits, not for objects. An untapped market methinks, although I am not the person to offer it.

lightbox

I’m finding my photography is slowly improving, although I do still find some objects challenging. I tend to do a batch of photos and then check them on the computer and go back and take any extras necessary. Having a proper tripod has helped greatly to keep the camera still. I now use a light cube with white lights. The late afternoon sun in the front bedroom seems to be the best for product photos. I’ve tried the kitchen too, under the fluoro lights, but that isn’t as good. I still take some “snaps” on my mobile phone of places and people, and when I have a new item to launch at a craft fair I will often just take one or two photos before the fair and then take a full set later, but for products it is much more involved now.

apple preserve jar_tn

What I find particularly hard is photographing glass and china, because the light shines off it. I’ve found closing the curtains is best for painted glass and china, but sandblasted glass is even harder and a coloured background is necessary. I uess you could say I am still working on improving my technique for glass and china.

pink flower mug 4_tn

I do make use of photo editing software to crop and resize photos. I will sometimes also rotate a photo slightly if necessary. Once in a while I find I need to brighten up a photo, but it is not something I have to do regularly. I have started cleaning up the background on one photo for my “primary” image on Etsy and I think it has made a difference for my sales. All I do is manually paint the whole background pure white using Paint.NET. You can see the difference with the boat below, it is exactly the same photo, just the background is changed in the second one.

boat card 1_tnboat card 1a_tn

This card and the mug and jar shown above are all available on the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy Shop here

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Risk Assessment for Craft Fairs (UK)

Risk Assessment

Be honest, you hadn’t even thought about risk assessment, had you? It really isn’t a big job once you know how. You probably need just two documents that you can then reuse for every fair.

What is risk assessment anyways?

It is a document that proves you have thought about the potential hazards and risks associated with an activity (in this case, the craft fair you are attending) and have done what you can to reduce those risks. You may need two documents, one for outside fairs where you provide your own gazebo and the other for indoor fairs. My understanding is that if you are attending a fair where the organisers provide the gazebo, the indoor fair document is valid as responsibility for the gazebo in those cases lies with the organisers.

So what does it look like?

Well there are lots of risk assessment templates available online. There are even examples to be found online. The government offer some templates and examples, but I found most to be not very useful for craft fairs. If you go looking for examples, it is best to try to find UK ones specific for craft fairs. In creating my own I did a lot of research, looking at schools and youth groups, outdoor activities and retail risk assessment documents as well as ones for crafting and craft fairs.

Didi Lou Crafts Risk Assessment

I did the risk assessment for Didi Lou Crafts to attend crafts fairs back in May last year and am happy to share a mock up of both documents here as another example:

OUTSIDE

Organisation/company: Your Business Name Description of activities: Craft Stall with gazebo at Fair/Market
Completed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
Last reviewed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
HAZARD OUTCOME PERSONS AT RISK MEASURES FURTHER ACTION LEVEL OF RISK PERSON RESPONSIBLE
Fire Burns, smoke inhalation Stallholder, general public No smoking allowed within the gazebo.
No flammable materials or electricity will be used in the stall area.
Organisers to provide general fire fighting equipment and marshals in the event of a fire on site.
Put up a no smoking sign in gazebo.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ fire safety procedures.
Low Your Name
Weather: high winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms Displays blowing over and hitting people Stallholder, general public Ensure gazebo is properly tied or weighted down and that any pegs and ropes are clearly visible. In extreme weather, displays should be packed away to prevent damage.
In high wind, double check ropes and weights.
Medium Your Name
Issues with gazebo Leaks Stallholder, general public If leaks develop, repair quickly. Have duct tape available for minor repairs Low Your Name
Issues with displays Tipping, blown or knocked over and hitting people Stallholder, general public Secure all display signs and furnishings well before setting up items for sale. Have extra cable ties, duct tape, etc to deal with minor problems. Medium Your Name
Slips, trips and falls Slips, trips and falls Stallholder, general public Avoid wires and cables that could be tripped over.
Keep areas tidy and store boxes under tables.
Take extra care in muddy situations.
Stallholder to ensure public cannot access rear of display tables.
Low Your Name
Tablecloths Trips, pulling off. Stallholder, general public Tablecloths will be positioned to not trail on ground and secured safely. None required. Low Your Name
Falling objects Bruising Stallholder, general public Ensure tables are stable on the ground before loading them with items. None required. Low Your Name
Breakable items Cuts from broken glass or pots Stallholder, general public Place breakable items away from the edges of the table.
Ensure table coverings are firmly attached to table.
Be prepared for cleaning up should an accident happen. Medium Your Name
Hazardous substances Inhalation Stallholder, general public No foreseen need of hazardous substances at this stage. None required. Low Your Name
Hazardous items Cuts and stabs General public Scissors, needles, etc, used for setting up and working in quiet times should be put away when not in use and kept away from the general public. None required. Low Your Name
Electrical Electric shock Stallholder, general public No foreseen need for electrical equipment at this stage. Lights at Christmas are battery operated. All electrical equipment to be PAT tested before use. Low Your Name
Manual handling Strains Stallholder Use trolley for moving heavy items.
Move items in manageable loads.
None required. Medium Your Name
Working in extreme weather Sunburn
Cold
Mud
Stallholder Stay under the gazebo.
Have sunblock and sunglasses.
Bring sufficient suitable clothing.
Bring sufficient suitable drinks.
None required. Low Your Name
Violence and threatening behaviour Threat Stallholder Keep calm.
Call for help.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures/staff. Low Your Name
Working alone Threat Stallholder Be aware of people around.
Keep money out of sight.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name
Theft Threat Stallholder Keep a firm lookout on what is happening, especially if large groups are around. Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name

INSIDE

Organisation/company: Your Business Name Description of activities: Craft Stall in Hall
Completed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
Last reviewed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
HAZARD OUTCOME PERSONS AT RISK MEASURES FURTHER ACTION LEVEL OF RISK PERSON RESPONSIBLE
Fire Burns, smoke inhalation Stallholder, general public No flammable materials or electricity will be used in the stall area.
Building owners to provide general fire fighting equipment. Event organisers to provide marshals in the event of a fire on site.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ fire safety procedures.
Stallholder to be aware of closest emergency exits.
Low Your Name
Issues with displays Tipping, knocked over and hitting people Stallholder, general public Secure all display signs and furnishings well before setting up items for sale. Have extra cable ties, duct tape, etc to deal with minor problems. Medium Your Name
Slips, trips and falls Slips, trips and falls Stallholder, general public Avoid wires and cables that could be tripped over.
Keep areas tidy and store boxes under tables.
Stallholder to ensure public cannot access rear of display tables. Low Your Name
Tablecloths Trips, pulling off. Stallholder, general public Tablecloths will be positioned to not trail on ground and secured safely None required. Low Your Name
Falling objects Bruising Stallholder, general public Ensure tables are stable on the ground before loading them with items. None required. Low Your Name
Breakable items Cuts from broken glass or pots Stallholder, general public Place breakable items away from the edges of the table.
Ensure table coverings are firmly attached to table.
Be prepared for cleaning up should an accident happen. Medium Your Name
Hazardous substances Inhalation Stallholder, general public No foreseen need of hazardous substances at this stage. None required. Low Your Name
Hazardous items Cuts and stabs General public Scissors, needles, etc, used for setting up and working in quiet times should be put away when not in use and kept away from the general public. None required. Low Your Name
Electrical Electric shock Stallholder, general public No foreseen need for electrical equipment at this stage. Lights at Christmas are battery operated. All electrical equipment to be PAT tested before use. Low Your Name
Manual handling Strains Stallholder Use trolley for moving heavy items.
Move items in manageable loads.
None required. Medium Your Name
Working in extreme weather Sunburn
Cold
Mud
Stallholder Stay under the gazebo.
Have sunblock and sunglasses.
Bring sufficient suitable clothing.
Bring sufficient suitable drinks.
None required. Low Your Name
Violence and threatening behaviour Threat Stallholder Keep calm.
Call for help.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures/staff. Low Your Name
Working alone Threat Stallholder Be aware of people around.
Keep money out of sight.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name
Theft Threat Stallholder Keep a firm lookout on what is happening, especially if large groups are around. Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name

They are actually not so different, the weather issues and gazebo not included on the indoor one and the fire precautions now assigned to slightly different people.

gazebo

Now make your own risk assessment documents

Well you’ve read about them and seen the ones I use for Didi Lou Crafts, so now it is time for you to create your own. Hopefully you can now see they are not as scary as maybe you thought. It really is all about thinking of the possible dangers to you and to the public and doing what you can to reduce those dangers.

As I said above, I am very happy to share this so you can use this content for your own business, in other words you are free to copy and paste any and even all of these details in creating your own risk assessment documents for your small business. However, if you are using the details online, for example on your blog, I would prefer you to acknowledge Didi Lou Crafts as the source with a link to this post.

What do I do once I have a risk assessment document?

Keep the document safe. Check it from time to time to ensure it is still up to date. For example, if you start doing demonstrations at fairs you may need to add more sections. When I got new christmas lights, I added the small bit about them being battery operated. Print a copy of each version and add them to the portfolio you take to each craft fair, so if Trading Standards ever turn up you will have a copy to give them. Be sure to implement everything you have said in the risk assessment every time, so boxes stored away, breakable items displayed away from the front of the table, no smoking sign up in your gazebo, carrying boxes in manageable loads, checking fire exits, etc. You really should be asking the organisers about their fire and safety procedures each time too, something I admit I am lax about.

What if I organise craft fairs?

That is a whole different ball game, which I have not covered here. You are likely to need written fire and safety procedures, appointed fire and safety staff and, in some cases, parking attendants. Contact your local Trading Standards for advice.

Good luck with your craft fairs.

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Happy Ostara and Happy Easter

stollenTomorrow is the spring equinox and next weekend is Easter. I’m enjoying seeing all the daffodils out in flower at the moment, we even have a few in the garden. We generally have a quiet weekend with a roast dinner on the Sunday and I often bake a stollen as we both like it (it is a christmas thing really, but I often make it at Easter time). I am going to get the slow cooker out and try cooking lamb shanks on Sunday, so I guess I need to get moving on that, and find an appropriate recipe online so I can get the ingredients in the next few days.
The period of holiday targets for crafting is almost flowerbasket silk card_tnover until Christmas. We’ve had Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday and Easter is this week, only Father’s Day to go in terms of more stock although internationally Mother’s Day is not till May, but the stock is already on Etsy for that. I am making more generic items at the moment, for example I have been working on some coasters, some male cards, some storage boxes and jewellery boxes this week. I have a craft fair booked for early April and might do a couple in June, but then the focus will be Christmas Fairs.

aztec eggcup_tnI have some Christmas stock ready, and more supplies sitting ready to start work, although I expect I will leave tackling that till June, as I want to do some silk and fabric painting before starting on the new Christmas stock. This week saw me booking one weekend fair for early November, a Christmas Gift Fair and Food Market. It is a big fair over two days, a very popular one, but with a higher cost too. Speaking with other crafters around Christmas time last year, they recommended it as a good one, so I am hoping it will be a case of higher risk equals higher rewards. I am also in the process of looking for other Christmas Fairs.

There are only a few more days left to get your easter rabbit box_tnpresents and cards. Didi Lou Crafts has hand made cards, some wooden egg cups and some fun Easter character boxes still available on the Etsy store for those last minute purchases. Check out the Easter section at Didi Lou Crafts

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Spring Fashion

I’ve really got into the fun of making treasuries on Etsy. A treasury is a collection of up to 16 items with a similar theme. I’ve averaged about 4 a week most week since I developed an interest in them. Some treasuiries I choose a random topic, others I have been doing series, for example I did a series on Spring 2016 Home Decor Trends and I have recently done a series on Spring 2016 Fashion Trends. Over time the number of items in a treasury can reduce due to sales, which is a good thing, triggering sales for other people.

Here are the treasuries I did for each of the key colours for spring:

tealfashionindigofashionburgundyfashioncoralfashionmoonstonefashionpersimmonfashiontaupefashionlemonfashionhydrangeafashionperiwinklefashion

You can check out the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy treasuries here

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On having a stall at a Craft Fair

craftfair150815-5 Didi Lou Crafts has now done 12 craft fairs since August and here are helpful hints I have picked up:craftfair150905-2

  • Pick busy fairs: It is no fun going to all the effort of preparing and attending a fair, with all the setting up and packing down, the time, the travel (and in some cases the parking costs) and you end up selling less than the cost of the table. Are they a regular fair? Do they have a web presence such as a website or Facebook page? How much advertising do they do? Some fairs also ask for an item for a raffle, consider what it is you will donate and be sure to use it as an advertising opportunity and include your business card.craftfair151017-2
  • Pick the right fairs for your products: There are Craft Fairs, Wedding Fairs, School Fetes, Summer Fetes, Gift and Beauty Fairs, Christmas Gift Fairs and many more. Some will not be the right vehicle for your target audience. Someone who does children’s toys or baby clothes is going to do much better at a Nursery Fair than a Gift and Beauty Fair. Be aware that Wedding Fairs are more about contacts, you will probably not make many sales, so take lots of advertising material for brides to take away (these are not my target audience, but reading online and chatting to other people, this is what I have heard). Location can be important, if your products are expensive you will likely do better choosing village fetes in small villages with mostly established home owners, whereas in a new estate products aimed at children will do well as it is a younger population with young families.craftfair151107-1
  • Shop Fittings: You will need at the very minimum some form of covering for the tables and some form of shelving to display your items on various levels. Some fairs ask you to bring a table too. Summer and school fetes are more likely to need you to bring table, chairs and a gazebo. You should have a sign of some sort that is very visible, you want people to know your company name and hopefully remember it. Try to keep all this within your normal “branding” image. At first I displayed my christmas decorations hanging in front of the table, but I found sales increased when I hung them from a portable clothes rail over the table.craftfair151115-1a
  • Sales Sundries: Sales at a craft fair are different to selling online and need slightly different equipment. Price tags are one requirement, put prices on everything, people don’t like to ask and that can mean missed sales. I bought little card ones on strings from Staples I think, but they are available in lots of places (I didn’t want to mess up my products with sticky labels). Those easily slip over many items and for odd shaped items, for example on my plant pots and glass vases, I attach them to a rubber band and then put the band around the item… they don’t mark and are very easy to remove. You will probably need some bags for some of your sales, particularly for bigger or multiple items but take care because some fairs are now plastic free (I use paper bags). Use the bags as an opportunity to include your business card or flyer, I preload mine and have a lovely big sticker with my logo and some relevant addresses like email and the Etsy shop on the outside of the bags. I also have printed safety/care sheets for many products that I put in the bag when the sale is made. Have a stock list and tick off items as they are sold and compare against your cash at the end of the day. I record every sale in a duplicate invoice book. Have business cards and nice flyers (A5 or A6 size) out on your table for people to pick up.craftfair151121-2_tn
  • Legal Stuff (Insurance/Risk Assessment/Certifications): You should have both public and product liability insurance. The public liability is in case someone injures themselves in the process of looking at your stock, whereas the product liability is in case someone injures themselves once they own the item. Even if they use the item in a manner it was not designed for and they try to sue you and you win, the insurance is a must as it can help with all the legal costs. If someone does try to claim against you and you have no insurance, you will be responsible for all costs until after it is resolved. Some fairs insist you have a certain level of public liability insurance, so check the small print of the fair against your policy. (Note too that some insurance policies will be reluctant to offer product liability for items being shipped to the US and Canada, do be aware of what cover you have if you are selling online). Some fairs have their own public liability cover and will allow you, sometimes at a small fee, to be covered by theirs, but you still need product liability cover. I always take a copy of my insurance certificate to the fairs, just in case someone asks to see it. Another thing I take is a copy of my risk assessment paperwork. This is a general form that shows you have considered possible problems and tried to minimise the risks of injuries. Note that if you use anything electrical at all such as lights, you will most likely need them PAT tested. Take that paperwork along too, or better still look for battery operated alternatives. Toys need CE certification. Food, beauty products and candles all have special rules around hygiene, allergens and/or safety including listing the ingredients, make sure that is all on display and you have the more official paperwork close at hand in case it needs to be checked.craftfair151204-2b
  • Money: Have some way of keeping the money close to hand but safe. I use a metal cash box and keep the key with my car keys in my pocket at all times. Other people go for money belts or bags hung over their body, often worn under their jacket. If you are manning your stall alone, other stall holders are really friendly and happy to watch your stall if you need a “call of nature” break, but remember to take your cash with you if you need to leave the stall for any reason. Have more than enough change. If you only accept cash, put up a sign to that effect. Having a machine to accept cards is not that expensive, but it is not necessarily a step you need to take for your very first fair, or even for the first year or so. Most people understand and bring cash to a fair. If you have an online store, there may be a way to access that using a phone and accept payments that way, but you will need to look into that yourself, it is not something I’ve considered as of yet.craftfair151205-1b
  • Be Prepared: Food and drink might be available at the fair at a cost, but sometimes it is hard to get away. I always have cold drinks with me. I also take mint tic tacs. Have a warm jacket, even an indoor fair can be cold. I also have a “useful bag” of little items I might need in an emergency, like sticky tape, clothes pegs, bubble wrap, scissors, pens (plural), a notebook (sometimes people want to place an order and sometimes other stall holders have good contacts… write them down), string, safety pins, glue, sticky dots… could you fix an item quickly if it needed a repair? Could you rig up a better place for your signage if against the wall?craftfair151212-1_tn
  • Stock levels: It is hard to know what stock and how much to take, especially if you also run an online shop. When I was first researching fairs lots of experienced people recommended having some small items that fit in with your other stock. I have found those little items sell well, but they are not worth selling individually online. If you take stock that is online to a fair, how will you handle any sales of those items… with one-of-a-kind items, you can’t sell it twice. Last year I put my Etsy shop on vacation during each fair, but this year I am going to try using the Etsy app from my phone to remove any listings as I sell them at the fair or remove the item from the stall if they sell online. As for stock levels, I think perhaps I am taking too much, giving people too much choice, but I take approximately 200 items to each fair (remember lots of them are those little items I don’t sell online).craftfair151216-1_tn
  • Enjoy the interaction: Treat each fair as a learning experience. They can be hard work, but they can also be fun and you get to interact with potential customers and see what really catches people’s eye. Allow people to touch your products, which is one thing online customers can’t do. And have fun!craftfair151218-1_tn

Didi Lou Crafts can be found at various fairs around Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire as and when (keep an eye out on the Events page on this website for upcoming dates), but is always open online at Etsy. See the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy shop

craftfair160130-1b

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Storage

red desk tidy_tnyellow heart drawers_tn

10 storage solutions for crafts:

  1. At christmas time, Twiglets, Cheeselets, Cheese Footballs and other savoury snacks come in a tall round container with a metal bottom, cardboard sides and plastic lid. Cover the outside with a thin layer of white paper mache. I store jewellery threads and findings in mine. These then sit on top of the radiator, which is never turned on, behind my desk, within easy reach.
  2. Old shoe boxes, particularly the one piece style (rather than box and lid style). I store paints in these. I have one for silk paints, one for glass paints and one for acrylic paints.
  3. Larger amounts of Haribo sweets can be bought from Amazon and come in a large plastic box. I store washi tape in one and use others to store the offcuts of paper from card making.
  4. I have a flat screw and nail storage case, which I use for storing sequins.
  5. I use Really Useful Boxes for storing stock and take these to fairs. I have made covers for each of the 3 sizes which I can set up on my stall as safe stable shelves. I also use Really Useful Boxes to store items as they dry between each stage of work.
  6. I have a set of Really Useful drawers with packing items such as padded bags, tape, cardboard backed envelopes, etc in the garage.
  7. A multiholed pen holder made of papermache stores all the paintbrushes, pencils, glue, jewellery pliers, decoupage and normal scissors. A copy of this could be easily made using the centres of kitchen roll cut at different lengths and put upright into a small box, such as the bottom of a family size cereal pack.
  8. My sewing items are kept in the metal tins that come at Christmas time filled with biscuits.
  9. A Doctor Who rectangular metal pail from a past Easter gift holds plastic clothes pegs. Pegs are really useful for holding things together as glue dries or for hanging small decorations from while they are drying.
  10. I use a concertina file folder to store sticker sheets. I organise them by occassion and colour.

maroonbook pink shelves_tnIf you are looking for storage solutions for jewellery, pens and other items, why not take a look at the range Didi Lou Crafts produces at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts

 

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Resolutions

Happy New Year to you all.

It is that time… when people make new year’s crayon pot holder_tnresolutions and now a week into 2016, often find their original enthusiasm already waning. It is often quoted that many people get gym membership for the new year but only manage one or two visits in January before stopping.

I have set myself some resolutions and goals for Didi Lou Crafts for 2016, including:

  • Book more effective fairs – By “effective”, I do mean profitable which is hard to predict, but I can use the lessons learnt in the last 5 months to help me make more informed choices about which fairs to book. Already I have one booked for January and am in the process of booking others.
  • Consider more expensive fairs – higher risk can bring higher rewards, but requires a lot more stock. There are 3 in particular I am considering for this year, one in autumn and the other two close to Christmas.
  • Increase the stock range – Didi Lou Crafts started with small items last year, the most expensive being £15. This year that will be extended to stock slightly more expensive items. I also plan to do a wider range of items, introducing ladies hand painted silk items, wooden fridge magnets, some kitchen items and perhaps some painted china this year. Also, if Didi Lou Crafts is going to attend some of those bigger fairs, there needs to be a lot more stock. Last year the average number of items I took to each fair was 250, but that will not be enough for those big 2 day fairs.
  • Start using Instagram and Twitter more for networking and marketing
  • Post seasonal items on Etsy in a more timely manner
  • Get up to 200 listings on Etsy – I hit 100 items on Etsy on 30th December, 2015, so 200 by the end of 2016 is definitely possible. To be honest, not being able to get to 200 due to sales would be a lovely way to not reach this goal. Here’s hoping (and marketing and networking).

love hearts cardsSo keeping all that in mind, the kitchen pot holder (see above) and the “Love Heart” fridge magnet cards for Valentine’s Day (see right) are new items completed in the last week. Do check them out at the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy shop.

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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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Proof Reading for Posters

Whether you are making a poster as a small business owner, the member of a sports club, on the committee of a school fete, or for your lost pet, a professional looking poster tends to get more response. There are so many free clip art sites available now, that it is easy to create a nice poster with great pictures too. Bright and colourful will catch the eye, but remember to make it readable too. Note though that sometimes less is more, especially if you want the poster seen (and understood) from a distance.

Of course there are professional companies specialising in larger posters printed on different materials, but with computers and printers in most homes, many can and do make small posters themselves at home, using graphics software.

I want to offer the following advice to avoid spelling mistakes:

  • Most graphics packages don’t have a spell checker, so type the text into a word processor first and use the spell checker. You can then copy and paste the text after it is fully checked.
  • Check against a normal plain background first. A busy background can get in the way. (If you are dyslexic, have you tried a non-white background? There have been studies in the past that have proved that people with dyslexia can often see issues better on a pale yellow or pale blue background, but the colour that works best for each individual can vary.)
  • Check your text using a normal font first. The eye can be deceived by strange fonts.
  • Check your text using normal case first. Again, all capitals can trick the eye. Most word processors will be able to convert the text to capitals later with one click.
  • Get someone else to look at the text too. We often see what we want to see, not what is really there, so a fresh set of eyes can help.
  • A spell checker will also miss correctly spelled words that aren’t correct in the context or missing words, so another set of eyes can pick those up.

It is not just posters, I do it for posts here on the website too as the software doesn’t pick up errors. I write up the text first in a word processor. I usually leave it a few days and read it again with fresh eyes. When I am happy with it, I copy and paste the text to the website software and preview the draft multiple times. As soon as it is published, my husband tends to looks over the text as well and points out any other errors, so hopefully I am catching any errors before the general public get a chance to see them.

It might seem like a bit of a fuss, to take such care, but as I said before, a professional looking post/poster will get more response. Mistakes can breed mistrust, so that little extra time is definitely worth it.

Good luck making your posts/posters.

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