Thursday 25 October 2012

Quick and easy recipe: Tomato Soup

I've been making home made soup for many years now - they are (usually!) quick, easy and cheap. Plus my soups are often so hearty and filling that they can fill you up for a main course. I batch cook mine, making double quantities and freezing them - that way I've always got a standby dinner to hand that's almost instant after a quick defrost in the microwave!

This is one of my favourites which I make all the time and would love to share with you:

Easy Home Made Tomato Soup 

(for approximately 4-8 people, depending on the size of your bowls, the size of your people and the size of their appetite!)

1kg tomatoes
1 or 2 Sweet Potatoes (normal white potatoes are fine too, although I think sweet potatoes add an extra sweetness and colour)
Vegetable Stock (I usually just use a stock cube, nothing fancy!)
Approximately 50g butter

Peel and dice the potato, then melt the butter in a large saucepan. Throw the potatoes into the pan and stir about over a medium heat. Meanwhile, simply quarter the tomatoes (no need to peel or finely chop). Keep giving the potatoes a stir, then sling in the tomatoes. Give everything a stir and cover with vegetable stock - just enough to cover the vegetables, not too much. I like to add in a few grinds of pepper too. Bring everything to the simmer and let it bubble gently away for about 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are soft. You now need to process the soup - you can either use a food processor/blender, or a handheld blender. Give the soup a whizz until its is smooth, then pass it through a sieve to get rid of the tomato seeds. The soup will probably be quite thick so you'll need to smooth it through the sieve with a spoon - keep going until you've got about a desert-spoon of mulch left in the sieve. Warm the soup back up, and add 1 teaspoon of sugar. This sounds weird I know, but it takes away any bitterness and make the soup taste lovely and smooth. I don't usually add salt or anything else but you can if you like. If the soup is too thick add a little water until its the consistency you like.

You can fancy-schmancy the soup up with a few chopped herbs, or a swirl of cream would look pretty - but mostly we have ours simple and just served with some part-baked rolls from the oven. Yum!

What's your favourite soup recipe?

Sarah :)

Thursday 18 October 2012

Halloween Freebie!

Free Printable Halloween Wine Labels
Boo! If you're planning a spooky party for Halloween this year, you might like a copy of my free printable wine labels! They look great, and help everyone keep track of their glass too - to download, just click here.

The labels are best printed onto heavy paper, such as 160gsm card or gloss photo paper.

Feel free to share this post on Facebook or Twitter, etc - just click the share buttons below!

Sarah x

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Things to love about Autumn...

There's no denying there's a nip in the air now and Autumn is well and truly here - yes, it is chilly but let's celebrate all the great stuff about this season:

1: Hot Chocolate - this is definitely the time of year when a mug of steaming hot chocolate comes into its own (with a choccy biscuit to dunk of course - or if you're feeling really decadent, a Cadbury's Flake!)

2: Halloween and Bonfire Night - two events that literally demand you stay up late and eat sweets and/or hot dogs!

3: Beautiful misty mornings - when you open the curtains and see the mist, or frosty white grass...

4: The Clothes - dressing for warmth and cosiness, and being able to hide under a coat when you need to nip out on the school run!

5: The Colours - spotting awesome autumnal trees with red and orange leaves.

What do you love about Autumn?

Sarah x

Thursday 11 October 2012

Office inspiration...

PhotoFairytales HQ is not a grand affair - my office is, let's say, compact and bijou! However, amongst all the paperwork and general organised chaos (if you've seen my hole punch by the way, let me know) there is a little oasis - one that I often sit back and look at during the day. Sometimes I'm gazing at it in contemplation, often I'm not particularly focused on it, but it definitely has a calming affect!

The item my eyes travel towards is my Annora Spence picture - I've had it for years, can't remember where I bought it, don't even know it's title (probably something like "Man with Dog and Sewing Machine") - but it is without doubt one of my favourite things. The colours are stunning, the style is simple, the image is one of stillness. And I love it.

Annora Spence is without doubt one of my favourite artists - should I ever be in a position where I can afford one, I would love LOVE to own one of her works "properly". Annora studied printed textiles in Liverpool and Birmingham in the 80's, and since the early 90's she has worked successfully as an artist exhibiting in the UK and abroad. Her work uses various mediums, and the colours range from deep and warm tones, through to soft, pale shades as seen in her current gallery. I'd happily own any of them - please!

If you haven't discovered this wonderful artist, you can see more of her work by clicking here.

I know that whenever I hit an inspiration wall, sitting back and gazing at my beloved picture hanging above my computer will point me in the right direction. And along with the phrase "keep it simple, stupid", the other phrase I like to ask myself is: "what would Annora do?"...

What do you have that fires your creative juices? - leave a comment and let me know!

Sarah x

Thursday 4 October 2012

Christmas: the Top 5 reasons why you need to change your habits this year!

Anyone who creates or designs their own work, and sells their work independently, is (it seems) automatically geared up for supporting other similar artisans. Since starting PhotoFairytales I’ve been lucky to make some wonderful contacts and friendships with other designer-makers. We all seem to recognise the spirit and passion we have for our work, and feel a desire to support one another.

Most designer-makers, crafters and handmade artists are already buying work from fellow sellers. Now, the question is, how do we get consumers at large to forego the high street and the major player websites this Christmas, and buy from the smaller independent sellers instead?

Getting people to go shopping is not a problem - OK, so sales in retail have been suffering of late thanks to the recession, but ultimately we are still buying gifts for loved ones, and the odd treat for ourselves and our home. Whilst people may find that they need to budget a little more carefully, one thing that they may not be aware of is that buying handmade is a fabulous way of making their spending work. I’m not suggesting that buying handmade is going to be cheaper than buying from the high street - in some cases it isn’t - but it’s often of a similar price, and hey, you’re discovering something amazing that has been made with love and passion (and not thrown together on an assembly line).

So here are my top 5 reasons why you need to change your shopping habits NOW:
  1. Stop lining the pockets of the big guys - When you make a purchase from a small, independent designer-maker you are supporting an individual. A real person, who has put their soul and passion into that item you’ve purchased. You’re not lining the pockets of a huge corporation, you’re making a real difference to the life of one, single person (or tiny team). You’re helping them to look after their family, and to keep their business alive. Your purchase makes a difference - a HUGE difference! And the best bit of all is that the person you’ve just bought from probably buys their supplies from another small independent business - so the money you spend keeps working and supporting these people.
  2. Help the UK economy - if you buy something from a UK designer-maker you are directly helping the UK economy. You aren’t a link in the chain unwillingly supporting those factories in China.
  3. It’s the thought that counts - it’s a cliché, but this is a phrase that comes into its own when you buy handmade. We’ve all done it: walking around the shops aimlessly trying to find “something” for “about £x” for someone. How many times have we picked something up in a shop and thought “that’ll do”? I’ve done it, and I bet you have too! But by changing your shopping habit and channelling your effort into finding something different you automatically unearth not just “something” but a little treasure that is totally unique (and often totally bespoke too - how posh is that?!).
  4. Stop searching for something “different” - if you often find yourself trying to buy something a little unusual, this is another reason why you need to buy handmade. Designers and creators are passionate about new design - they live and breathe what they do and are always striving to do something new. Handmade artists, crafts people and designers offer unique value: giving you that special feeling that only an item made with passion can create. If you want cutting edge design with soul, something more “next season” than last, you know what you need to do!
  5. Help the environment - if this is something you feel passionate about, then buying from a small, independent business is a great way of doing it. No huge lorries carrying massive bulk deliveries covered in acres of packaging. No factories. Often no commuting (given that many designer-makers work from their own home)! Buying vintage is also the ultimate way of recycling of course.

So, other than buying from PhotoFairytales (of course!), where else do you shop when you want to discover a gorgeous handmade, independently designed/created item? What great places (online or offline) have you found to unearth treasures? 

Do you make, create, or design gorgeousness that you think everyone should buy this Christmas? 

Will you pledge to change your habits this Christmas (in which case, why not tweet this post or give it a like on Facebook and tell everyone!)? 

Leave a comment or a link and let me know!

Sarah x

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