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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Autumn

greenbookmaroonbook

Autumn is definitely here. I drove down the motorway yesterday with the wind tossing the autumn leaves around. Whilst I planted some bulbs a week ago, I have a few more to put in, but it is raining, so I will have to leave that till another day. Our clocks change tonight, so it really does feel like it is heading for winter. At least the craft fairs now are all indoors, which is less work, no putting up the gazebo, but the weather can have an effect on the numbers that attend.

redwreathgreenwreath

This time in two months, it will be Christmas Eve. I have completed most of the Christmas items for Didi Lou Crafts, with a few in reserve just in case. Last fair Didi Lou Crafts had close to 300 items of stock, although many of those are small items that are not suitable for selling on Etsy. I do want to list a few more items on Etsy over the coming weeks. I have some new secret stash books to list and I will also add some wooden wreaths. Keep an eye out for these on the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts

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Sun Care

shelterAs people start to head off for their summer holidays, can I remind people to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, to find some shade, drink plenty of water, cover up when possible, to use sunscreen as needed and wear a hat and sunglasses.

I grew up in Australia. I have fair skin and red hair. As you may guess, I had problems in the sun. Our primary school uniform was a sleeveless dress, but my mother made one with sleeves to protect the tops of my arms. Every time I wore that dress there were comments made about it and my parents were called into the school several times about the issue, but they insisted I wear that dress on the sunniest days. It wasn’t until my secondary school days that the “Slip, Slop, Slap” campaign started about sun protection. In full, it was “Slip on a shirt, Slop on sunblock and Slap on a hat”. I am glad to report that the primary school uniform was eventually changed to include short sleeves and a hat.

Please take care this summer, sun protectionnot just for yourself, but for those around you who need your help to understand the risks of the sun and the need to cover up, whether with clothes, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses or a shaded area.

Didi Lou Crafts does not have any items that will help with protecting your skin in the sun, but this is an issue I feel strongly about, so forgive the lack of product recommendation today.

A handmade craft item can be a wonderful gift for a summer birthday, but don’t forget to order well in advance to allow for your vacation time. Our range of products can be found at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts.

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Outdoors

I have mixed feelings about outdoors. With my fair skin I need to be careful in the sun, but the British weather can be very unpredictable. Trampling in the rain, cold and wet and muddy or icy underfoot isn’t necessarily my idea of fun, but then neither is blistering heat, so I am very unlikely to be found on a beach in Spain in the middle of summer getting a tan, because I burn to a frizzle and then peel rather than take on a nice colour. I camped a lot in the past, but am less inclined to do so nowadays. My idea of a holiday abroad, if not visiting family, is to see historic sights and I have a list I am slowly working through, a bucket lists of sorts. I am far more likely to be found holidaying on our soil, with my mother, when she comes to visit and spending time with her crafting.

four_seasonsWalking in the countryside is good and I am slowly exploring places nearby, and revisiting ones I like. Some of the photos on my blog come from those trips out. I am not keen on being bitten by insects, but I do like being outside in the fresh air, particularly in non crowded spaces, like parks. Even just driving through the countryside is nice and I like to observe the contrasts of the seasons as I visit the same places again and again.

bulbsHaving grown up overseas, in a place where the vegetation was mostly evergreen, I still marvel at the change of seasons here. I like the crisp winter mornings with the mist enveloping the skeletons of trees, branches bare, and in some cases, the dense mass perched in the branches marking where birds nested the previous spring to raise and fledge their young. The first hints of spring come with the blooming of the snowdrops and then the slow transition of colours, one after another as time travels through crocuses, daffodils, tulips and bluebells, before the blossoms on fruit trees add patches of white and pink to the landscape. Now the leaves start to appear and not long afterwards the pollen. Stopping recently at a motorway services on a windy day, that pollen was very obvious, dancing in the breeze. Summer and the nights are longer, and more flowers bloom, now in a riot of colours. We have a buddleia bush in our garden and it is certainly earns its nickname, the butterfly bush, so many flittering over it. One of my favourites is to see the later summer poppies on the roadside. And then, almost suddenly, it creeps up on you, the green of the leaves fades into yellows, oranges and browns before dropping to create an autumnal carpet. For me, I notice it mostly as the now dead and brown flowers of the buddleia drop onto the car. The night closes in, wrapping each day in a dark blanket earlier and earlier and all seems almost bleak, although Christmas and the New Year give reason to celebrate, and those trees which are skeletons once more can play host to twinkling fairy lights. We wrap ourselves up in scarves, hats and gloves and wear thick coats, and create our own little clouds as we breathe out, our warm humid breath hitting the cold air. Then just when one starts to despair that the cold will never end, those first hints of snowdrops come again.

plantersVisit Didi Lou Crafts at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts to see these pots and many other items inspired by nature.

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Animals

I enjoyed watching the birth and first few kipenziweeks of Kipenzi’s life recently, thanks to Animal Planet. Kipenzi is a reticulated giraffe born at Dallas Zoo on April 10th. Reticulated giraffes are classified as Vulnerable in the wild and whilst one can argue zoos are not the same as being in the wild, captive breeding can help to keep certain animals from extinction. (Photo from Dallas Zoo website at http://www.dallaszoo.com.)

Some of my guilty pleasures are that I check the Longleat news at times to see the new births, I surf pets4homes.co.uk trying to decide what pet I’d like, I sit and read the stories on the animal rescue site, I love Eldad Hagar’s dog teddy hug cardrescue videos on Youtube, I like Cole and Marmalade’s adventures and I keep up to date with the Simon’s Cat cartoons. It is said we are a nation of pet lovers. I would argue that it is more widespread than just here in the UK, though I admit it does not seem to be true of all nations or of all people.

We don’t currently have a pet. When we were both working full time, in my opinion it wouldn’t have been fair to keep a pet. Now that my bunny flower cardhusband is medically retired and I am working from home most of the time, it is something I have pondered, but have not come to a decision about yet.

Didi Lou Crafts does not make gifts for pets, but perhaps it is something I should look into. In the meanwhile, check out some of the cute animals on some of the cards for sale at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts/Cards.

teddy daffodil card

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Flowers

With very little effort, we have had flowers2some pretty flowers in the garden this spring. So far we have had daffodils, tulips, lily of the valley, daisies, grape hyacinths and forget-me-nots out in bloom and expect to see the cottontail lavender, the red and white roses and the budlea in the coming weeks. I have put in some tomatoes and mange tout this year. I’ve had success growing tomatoes in the past, but not with much else, so the mange tout is an experiment. The first flowers are already out on the tomatoes, but no sign on the peas yet.flowers1

My favourite flowers are exotic: frangipani, flannel flowers, snowdrops, and white orchids, but I also like white flowers, most bulb flowers and many roses. I like seeing fruit blossom and wild poppies when out and about. Seeing flowers out in the countryside is a true pleasure. I’ve been out walking recently, enjoying the spring, and have had the joy of seeing bluebells, blossoms, violets and primroses.

Flowers are given on valentine’s day floralitemsand mother’s day and also commonly seen at weddings, but are a nice gift for wives, mothers and girlfriends at any time (although they could be for anyone).

Didi Lou Crafts offers vases and pot plants for sale to take those flowers (and other plants). See https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts for these and other items.

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