VG, GF Autumn Crumble Recipe

Autumn is the season of abundance for fruit, in particular apples, pears and berries so it’s always good to have a few recipes on hand to make the most of it. One of my favourites is crumble because it is so quick and can be made using store-cupboard ingredients.

The traditional crumble is made using flour and sugar and butter but I have experimented with various fillings and this is by far my best creation yet so I wanted to share with you. The ratio you need is 2:1:1 for crumble so it is so simple to swap out ingredients. This version is also vegan friendly and GF if you use GF approved oats.

Ingredients:

2-3 Cooking apples

2 Pears

75g Pure (Dairy-free Vegan Spread)

75g Sugar (I use brown sugar for extra crunch)

150g Mix of Oats and Almond Flour

Powdered Cinnamon

100ml Orange Juice

Drizzle Agave Syrup (can swap out for sugar)

Handful Sliced Almonds (for topping)

Method:

Peel the fruit and slice into thin chunks and place into an open top ceramic dish.Add a glug of Orange juice (not too much but enough to keep it juicy). Drizzle on agave syrup (or some sugar) and add about a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients (sugar, oats, almond flour) to a mixing bowl and mix. Then add small chunks of Pure Spread and start ‘rubbing’ in with your hands until the mixture is crumbly. It will be more crumbly than traditional versions using wheat flour.

Pour the crumble mixture over the fruit. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top and place in a pre-heated oven.

Bake for around 30-40 minutes at about 180 degrees. I prefer to cook at lower temperature for longer to stop the almonds burning. You know it is done when the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden.

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I hope you enjoy your Autumn treat, let me know in the comments if you gave it a go or if you have your own crumble variation!

 

 

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How To Create Your Own Photo Boards

Recently I started experimenting with photography, investing in a DSLR camera and paying for online photography courses. One of the major things that came out of my research is how much I favour natural light photography over studio photography so have decided to use natural light exclusively.

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Reflector boards are really important to ensure you get less harsh shadows and can get enough light into the shoot. I have been using a North facing window mainly in early afternoon as that is when it seems to be best and I purchased some large A1 Foamex boards from Hobbycraft (4 for £10!) and can prop these up around my shoot and even use as a base.

The next step was to work on backgrounds so I visited a large DIY store and took some samples of wallpaper (don’t worry I was shopping for other items too!). I carefully picked ones that were quite realistic looking and weren’t too contrasting. There are some amazing textured vinyl style papers now including brick effect, tiles and slate etc.

These made the final cut; a rustic painted brick, a whitewashed wooden plank and a black stitched leather. All I did was trim them to length using a craft knife and used repsitionable spray mount (also Hobbycraft) and stuck it onto the backs of the A1 Foamex board. I made sure to line it up with two edges so I can use it as a wall without a gap. It’s easy peasy to just switch the boards round when I need either white or background or use two together.

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This is a really cost effective and quick DIY that means you can switch up your photography backgrounds very quickly without investing in photo boards that you might only use a couple of times.

What do you think to this DIY? Do you have any ideas of your own for shooting with natural light? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email!

 

Brand Challenge – The Results

A few weeks ago I had the idea of organising a social media challenge in an attempt to help clarify my own brand and hear from the community about their own businesses. I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t the riproaring success that I had hoped for and it was mainly down to being hit by an Instagram ‘Shadowban’ on day 2 of the challenge.

If you don’t know what a Shadowban is then it is when any posts that use hashtags do not show up in searches and therefore it kills engagement. The way I knew it had happened was my engagement dropped to 10% overnight so to confirm I created a new account  to spy on myself (essentially looking for unique hashtags that I have used and seeing if I appear in the results). There doesn’t seem to be any real reason behind it but some people suggest it is overusing hashtags or using hashtags that are ‘banned’. Whatever the reason it is frustrating and demoralising. I ploughed on with the challenge regardless, I just opted to not use any hashtags until the ban was lifted; which was nearly 2 weeks later.

One of the positives that came out of the challenge was the content that I managed to create for my social media and I will show you some of the posts. Another positive was seeing the people who were joining in and I’ll shout out a few at the end.

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The challenge covered topics including Logo, Ethos, Mood, Collateral, Colour Palette & Typography. You can see the posts searching #CCBrandChallenge

Thank you to those that took part via Instagram and Facebook, here are a few of my highlights. I’m hoping to redo the challenge in the future and hopefully get more of the community involved as I think branding is such an important topic that every business needs to build on.

From left to right:

@zetaemmedesign
@hanmadeincornwall
@sallyflorencedesigns

Has anyone else been hit by an Instagram Shadow ban, can you shed anymore light on it? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Clarise Crafts Brand Challenge

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed me alluding to a ‘secret challenge’ that I intend to set myself. Recently I’ve felt somewhat distant from my tribe and I thought this was a great way to reconnect. What better way than to do it through my favourite topic and via the wonder that is social media.

You might already be familiar with other challenges like this providing daily prompts to inspire your posts on social media. They work most effectively through Instagram but you can share your message anywhere that is public and visual, it is also most suited to small creative businesses.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve not always stuck to these kind of things in the past even though I have enjoyed taking part. Hopefully as you are reading this you are interested in joining in too and this should take some pressure off. Even if only one other person joins in I will delighted as I’ve set this mainly as a challenge for myself.

RULES

I’m not a strict taskmaster so there are no real rules but you will need to use the hashtag #CCBrandChallenge if you want me and others to see your posts and I recommend posting daily to keep the momentum. I will be running mine Monday 4th until 11th September. If you want to share the prompt sheet with your own followers that would also be fabulous but there is no obligation. It will be posted on Instagram and shared to Facebook and Twitter; my username is @ClariseCrafts.

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THEME

The theme or topic of this challenge is my specialist subject: BRANDING. This may or may not be something you feel confident in but hopefully by the end of the week you will felt inspired in some way. I’ve put together a little explanation into some of the terms used on the prompt sheet to help you but feel free to ask me if you are unsure on anything.

  1. BRAND NAME – Quite simply this is your business name or your own name if you have a ‘personal brand’. Try to find a creative way to demonstrate your brand name, not just a logo and if you have a captivating story behind your name, add it as a caption!
  2. ETHOS – This is what your brand represents. It is likely to be linked to your unique selling point. Ideas could include photos of your recycled packaging, a work in progress shot showing how your hand-stitch every design or anything you can think of.
  3. MOOD – Your brand should have a ‘mood’ that is conveyed through your tone of voice, your photography and every single part of your business. I’m really excited to see what you come up with for this one.
  4. LOGO – I couldn’t do a brand challenge without including logo, even though it is only a small part of what makes your brand. If you don’t yet have a logo, maybe show some inspiration or ideas and get your followers to help you make some decisions.
  5. COLOUR PALETTE – Colour is so vital when we talk about brand and it can convey so much. Find a clever way to show off your brand’s colours.
  6. TYPOGRAPHY – If you are like me and love your fonts it can be so hard to narrow it down to only a couple but this really is the best way to keep your business professional and stylish. If you have some gorgeous hand lettering then this is the place to show off.
  7. COLLATERAL – This refers to anything physical belonging to your brand; website, flyers even product photography. Show me what you’ve got!!!

I hope you enjoy taking part and please don’t worry if you miss a day or two, get them in the wrong order or start late, anything goes. I look forward to seeing you on this journey into branding.

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My Cruelty-Free Make Up Bag

Today I want to talk about something a bit different to usual. Recently I started looking into cruelty-free make up. For some reason, despite being an animal lover it is something that I was completely ignorant of; I suppose I assumed that in 2017 we weren’t still rubbing chemicals into bunnies eyes but I was really really wrong. Once I started investigating further it became quite obvious how many everyday brands still test on animals and I made it my mission to become a conscious shopper.

I began testing out some recommended brands and slowly but surely my make up bag is now almost completely cruelty-free. My two favourite brands appear to have become The Body Shop and Barry M as they are readily available on the high street and also very affordable. Only recently has The Body Shop detached itself from it’s parent company L’Oreal who still test on animals and I’m so glad they have as I have been pleasantly surprised by their make up selection.

Here is a little delve into my current make up bag which is handmade by Chloe of By The Lock Handmade and you can see her Etsy Shop here.

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I’ll list the contents in order of how I apply my make up. I use almost all these items every day whether I leave the house or not! I do not use a moisturiser or a cleanser, just warm water to wash and I have completely clear skin now after suffering with severe adult acne for a couple of years.

  1. Instablur, The Body Shop – It’s a bit hard to get used to but it does it’s job as a primer, it’s not as silky as my previous one from Benefit.
  2. Concealer All in One, The Body Shop – I use shade 00 as I am pale but will pink undertones and it provides good coverage for under my eyes without being cakey.
  3. Fresh Nude Foundation, The Body Shop – This is a light and silky foundation and again the shade 015 is a pink undertone. Last time I accidentally bought 012 which looked the same in the shop but didn’t look as natural as I wanted when on my face. I would say it is a medium coverage and I found it difficult to get used to at first as for years I had been using a very full coverage foundation. It does look very natural which I think is the most important attribute.
  4. Loose Face Powder, The Body Shop – I prefer the matt look so I use a loose powder and this is one is proving good so far.
  5. Shimmer Waves, The Body Shop – I wasn’t certain if this was supposed to be blusher or eyeshadow when I bought it as it is in both sections so I use it for both. It is not very pigmented so only just for a natural hint of warm colour.
  6. Illuminating Highlight Palette, Barry M – I like the idea of this but in reality it is a little on the powdery side. It is however cheap so I mainly use the lightest shade and pretend I know what contouring is.
  7. Thin Felt Eyeliner, The Body Shop – I’ll admit that up until a month ago I had never used eyeliner but I got this one free at an event and I’m starting to get the hang of it now and I like the effect. I only make the effort to use this if I actually leave the house though!
  8. Showgirl Mascara, Barry M – This is not too heavy, thick or clumpy, it is simply darkening and lengthening which I like. I already have quite long lashes so don’t need to go too crazy. I find the quality of this is pretty much the same as more expensive brands so I would recommend it if you want to save a few pennies.
  9. Matt Me Up, Barry M – This is a recent purchase but I love it! It is called 24 carat and I didn’t understand how it could be metallic and matt at the same time but it is and I love it because it is so unusual. It comes with a lip liner in the kit too.
  10. Brushes Various, The Body Shop – I used to use the Boot’s Organic make up brushes but they were looking a bit tired so I purchased these ones from The Body Shop and so far I’m quite impressed, especially with the stipling foundation one, it gives much more even coverage.

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Hopefully you enjoyed this look behind the scenes of my face and that is encourages you to think about buying cruelty-free if you don’t already. There are plenty more brands out there, you just have to look for the leaping bunny logo which you can find out more about here: http://www.leapingbunny.org/guide/brands

Is it time for a rest?

Last month I did something I’ve not done before. I closed my Etsy shop for a whole week! It was terrifying but also necessary.

Being self employed is tough especially when it comes to evenings, weekends and especially holidays; how do you switch off? I know that I find it impossible to completely ignore my emails etc. out of office hours but it is vital for your mental health.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I am a workaholic and I’m also not ashamed to say I enjoy my work (most of the time anyway!) I don’t have any major commitments and don’t really have any hobbies except enjoying a bit of cooking, reading, walking. This year I’ve been persuaded to go away more than usual and if you know me you will understand how anxious I am in the weeks leading up to the trips. I try and get through the stress by reminding myself that I will enjoy it once I am there.

Earlier this year we visited Iceland, which was certainly one ticked off the bucket list but I decided we needed to go somewhere warm to make up for how cold we got back in March. I’m very impatient when it comes to holiday hunting so we just booked on the first one I found online, turned out I was very lucky as we booked a very luxurious villa in Fuerteventura; the perfect place for switching off.

Fuerteventura is the second largest island in the Canaries but it is not as highly populated as most of the others. The weather is fairly consistently mid 20’s with a breeze so warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities without getting too hot and bothered.

As I mentioned earlier, the accommodation we had was quite spectacular, it was a few kilometres out of the most popular town Corralejo but as we had a hire car included we knew that wasn’t an issue. It was beautifully peaceful; we had our own private hot tub, swimming pool and terrace. Breakfast was included and it was very impressive, doughnuts for breakfast anyone?

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It was really easy to get about on the Island as there are not many roads and traffic is minimal. Public transport is notoriously bad so a hire care is really recommended! One day we took a trip down to the South to visit the Zoo and Botanical Gardens, it was a real highlight as love animals and I really love giant cactus.

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We also took a dune buggy tour one afternoon, 3 hours of whizzing about in the sand getting very dusty but also getting to visit some little places on the West coast. We loved the fishing village of El Cotillo so much that we went back for our last day. Our best meal of the holiday was there too in a fish restaurant overlooking the sea.

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So that is what I did whist I had full week of my shop in ‘Holiday mode’. I’ll be honest and say I did check my messages a couple of times but knowing that nobody could actually purchase anything gave me the few days off headspace that I needed to be able to come back full throttle. I really do recommend it, even if you are a self confessed workaholic or worried about the loss of earnings, your brain will thank you. I hope you liked my little snippet of my trip and if you have any questions about visiting Fuerteventura feel free to ask me in the comments but I’ll leave you with my tips for having an Etsy shop break.

5 TOP TIPS FOR TAKING A BREAK FROM YOUR ETSY SHOP

  1. Time your holiday for a relatively quiet time. A couple of years ago I went away in September; generally my busiest month of the year and it was so stressful. I will not make that mistake again. Everyone’s business will be different; if you sell wedding stuff then you will want to be around for late Spring, early Summer, if you sell woolly hats, you can probably spare a week or two in high summer.
  2. Give your customer’s plenty of warning that you will be unavailable between certain dates and by unavailable that means you wont be able to respond to queries etc. either. You could mention it on your social media channels, put up a banner on your shop and alter your announcement. Just remember to switch it back when you return.
  3. Use the automation features provided by Etsy. This might include the ‘Holiday Mode’ but also the automatic convo response. You can set it to magically send a reply to anyone who contacts you.
  4. Stick to your cut off deadlines. As I sell mainly custom items which require a couple of days to prepare I close my shop a few days in advance so that I have plenty of time to clear them before I go away. In the few days before that I message any customers to explain about the cut off point. You also don’t want to be working right up to the line as that leaves no time for packing that suitcase or for any urgent last minute jobs that you might have forgotten.
  5. If you really have to check your messages whilst away, be strict with yourself and set a time limit. For example only look once every other day. I found that deleting the apps from my phone and switching off notifications helped as I was less inclined to have a quick peek if I had to login through the browser every time.

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Brand Brilliance Book Launch

As a huge fan of Fiona Humberstone’s self published book ‘How To Style Your Brand‘ I was excitedly following her journey as she created and published her second book less than 18 months later.

The new book is called Brand Brilliance and my copy arrived last weekend but I resisted looking into it until I could read uninterrupted. I managed to make a good start on the train journey down to London and I can already see why it is a best seller!

I accepted an invitation to attend the launch party and despite it being a rather long round trip (over 6 hours) I thought it was worth it to get an opportunity to meet Fiona (The Brand Stylist) as well as a room of other creative entrepreneurs. I chatted to some interesting people, soaked in the atmosphere and got my copy of the book signed of course. There was even an opportunity to wrap it in some beautiful papers.

The event itself was held at the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn and it was such a fabulous setting. As I was there early I got to spend some time in the very busy bar and lobby area beforehand trying to calm my nerves with a Merlot! It gave me a a tiny shred of confidence to approach a lady I recognised who turned out to be Rona of Flowerona. It meant I didn’t have to go into the room on my own.

The book itself will likely get it’s own review post but so far I can confirm that I am already hooked. It is full of beautiful inspiring photography and the tone of the book is professional but informal at the same time. It reminds me of having a conversation with a mentor. For anyone who is involved in the creative industry or is keen to find ways to perfect their own brand look and values than I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Just the beautiful texture cover and metallic foiled lettering alone is enough to shout ‘take my money!’

In the Q&A session at the launch, Fiona hinted at a follow up so I will be awaiting news of that and I will look forward to following the journey again from start to finish.

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What I’m reading…

I recently joined an online book club, I liked the idea of it as there was no pressure to read a book I really didn’t want to and it was a very slow pace. I’m quite a speedy reader but finding time when my eyes are not too tired to read after a day looking at the screen can be quite tricky!  The book club suggestion for April was Just Kids by Patti Smith and I read it in about a week so it inspired me to get back into reading more….

…so I thought I would share a quite run down on what I am dipping in and out of at the moment.

I recently read Emily Ley’s Grace Not Perfection and enjoyed it’s uplifting messages so I immediately went online to track down something similar. I came across Elizabeth Gilbert- Big Magic and purchased it on impulse. Not realising at the time of ordering it is the same author as Eat, Pray, Love (which I havn’t read). The premise of the book is good but I’ll be honest and say I’m struggling with it a bit as it’s quite repetitive now I’m over half way, I’ll see how it goes.

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Next up is a charity shop find from last weekend Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. As a bit of a grammar stickler I have been meaning to read this for a few years and when I saw it for 50p I couldn’t say no. The cover was a bit grimy so I removed it to see the lovely black cover with gold writing on the spine. Only a little way in but so far it has caught my attention, it is only a short one so think I’ll whizz through this one.

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Reading doesn’t just have to be about novels, I recently discovered Flow Magazine and purchased the latest issue (17) as well as a tonne of back issues from their website! The articles are so beautifully written and the magazine itself is a work of art, it is quite pricy at over £10 but it is worth it when you consider what you get inside. I’m taking my time and enjoying mindfulness whilst reading these.

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Another non-book is this audio book I have on the go, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Dr Yuval Noah Harari. It is quite a beast of a book; so far I’m about 2/3rds and still have over 9 hours to go! I love social history and this fulfils my need to continue learning. I would recommend it but as it is such a long book, an audio book is a good option if time is limited as you can listen whilst commuting/ at work/ doing chores etc.

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As a treat I purchased a new release this week Cows by Dawn O’Porter. I havn’t started this yet and will wait until I finish one of the above but it has great reviews. Has anyone read it? Or have you read anything else you’d like to share? Leave me a comment and we can have our own mini book club!

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1 Minute Product Photography Trick

This trick really is super-easy and one you probably already have the supplies at home to use. I learnt about this trick from watching a vlog by Chloe (By The Lock) You can see her YouTube channel here. It is perfect for if you are wanting to photograph small objects using natural lighting only and is especially good for flatlays.

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All you need is a large piece of thick card (or a few sheets stuck together) and tinfoil. Simply fold the tinfoil around the card, you can stick it down if you want but I left it loose so I can unfold the excess to make it larger. Voila, you have created a LIGHT REFLECTOR.

To use the light reflector just hold it up at the opposite side to the light source and the light will bounce back reducing any harsh shadows on the edge. Here is an example showing with and without the reflector, I have not edited these photos, they are just shot with my iphone and the light through a North facing window.

I’ll admit that my photos are not amazing but this simple trick has really helped improve the shadow issues I was struggling with so why not give it a try and see what you think?

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Final photo post-editing. (basically I brightened it!)

Printmakers Circle – Sunny Bank Mills

I am very fortunate to live close to Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley, the former indoor studios for Emmerdale Farm! It is now host to a variety of businesses including artist’s workshops and a gallery so is a fantastic creative space that you should visit if you get a chance. The current exhibition; Printmakers circle piqued my interest as I am a fan of printmaking techniques. I don’t want to give too much away but here are a few pictures I took during my visit today:

Above: Gallery space

The highlight for me was the work of Ian Scott Massie, I also purchased a postcard of his Brighton Pier print as we recently visited Brighton and I loved the colours. My absolute favourite was the Salt’s Mill print on the right.

A visit to the gallery isn’t complete without a look round the shop, it is crammed full of work from local artists, you can get everything from jewellery to bath products to home furnishings. Don’t forget to sit and relax with a cuppa and a homemade cake whilst you are there too!

The exhibition is on until 14th May 2017 and you can find out more here. You can also keep up to date with the printmakers circle on their Facebook page.