Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Wheeeee! Can you believe there are only two more sleeps until the big guy in red comes along? Wherever you are, however you celebrate, the gang here at Jorth wish you the very best of the holiday season. May your celebrations be full of laughter, good food, excellent company and many, many blessings. Bald angels are optional!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A pre-Christmas dip in the frog pond


"Jorthy, Jorthy, Jorthy. Can you feel me shaking my head? Surely you should know better than to attempt a piece of knitting that requires more than a smidge of concentration when you have a gazillion other things buzzing around that noggin of yours, all clamouring for your attention. You were bound to make a mistake!

To the frog pond, young lady, and rip it out and start again. And don't even think about bleating about how you are only two stitches off, and nobody would notice. YOU would notice, and it will bug you to kingdom come unless you fix it.

Oh, there there. Don't you be crying now. Really, you were never going to get it finished for Christmas. Aim for New Year, instead. There's a good girl."

The knitting god sat back down, and rested against the mountainside, whilst on her couch Jorth wondered with a sigh if there really was a voice in the wind telling her what she ought to be doing, or if she just had a particularly loud knitting conscience. Pulling the needle out she began to unravel the stitches, reflecting that if a job was worth doing it was worth doing well, but nagdammit it would be nice to let a mistake slide just once or twice!

(Pattern from Rowan Kids)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas dinner menu

Looking for an elegent but simple Christmas dinner party solution? Then look no further, because we had just that very meal at chez Jorth on Saturday, and it went down a treat. Plates were licked clean, people swooned in escasty, bellies were clasped as slow, soft moans of culinary delight issued forth... well, maybe not, but the plates did all come back clean, and that's gotta count for something, right?

Most of this can be prepared in advance, which is my general trick when hosting a dinner party. I hate slaving away over a hot stove whilst everybody else is having fun, so I try to do most beforehand, and then just quickly heat up the courses as needed.

Are you feeling hungry? Good - let's go!

Christmas Dinner #1

Christmas Dinner #2

Christmas Dinner #3

Chilled beetroot and chilli soup
Caramelised onion and tomato tart with rocket salad
Raspberry ice cream slices with raspberry coulis

Chilled beetroot and chilli soup
1 onion, diced
4 or five largish beetroot, peeled and diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, or more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 litre vegetable stock or water
Greek style yoghurt, to serve

1 - Over a medium heat, place olive oil and onion in a large saucepan. Saute onion until golden, then stir in the chilli flakes. Cook for another two minutes.
2 - Add the potato and beetroot plus stock, then bring to the boil. Cover and simmer, cooking until the beetroot is tender (up to 45 minutes).
3 - Allow the soup to cool, then blend in a blender until smooth. Place in fridge for at least 2 hours or until chilled. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

This soup is equally good warmed, too.

Caramelised onion and tomato tart with rocket salad
For the tart:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 kg brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in half

1 - In a large open pan heat the olive oil over a medium low heat, and place in the onions. Slowly cook the onions until they begin to turn a dark golden brown - about 20 - 25 minutes. They should be much reduced in size.
2 - Add the brown sugar, and allow to mix in with the onion juices, along with a decent amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside to cool somewhat.
3 - Preheat the oven to 180 C. Allow the puff pastry to thaw a little. Place one sheet each on a baking tray, and score a 2cm border around the edges, making sure the knife doesn't cut all the way through the pastry.
4 - Place the onions on each sheet of pastry, and top with the cherry tomatoes. Brush the edges of the pastry with milk. Cook for 30 minutes, swapping the trays over in the oven halfway through. Cut into quarters and serve with the salad.

For the salad:
4 good handful of rocket, washed and dried
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons best quality olive oil
2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1 - Place the rocket and cucumber in a large bowl.
2 - Combine the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard in a cup, and briskly stir until combined. Pour over the salad, and toss to combine.

Raspberry ice cream slices with raspberry coulis
For the ice cream:
1 cup milk

2 cups cream
1 vanilla bean, split and with the seeds scraped out
6 egg yolks
¾ cup caster sugar
350g frozen raspberries, partially thawed

1 – Heat the milk, cream and the vanilla bean and seeds over a medium heat until the mixture is hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat.
2 – Meanwhile, place your egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, and beat until pale and thick. Slowly pour the cream mixture into the egg mixture, beating continually.
3 – Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and heat over a medium low heat, stirring until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.
4 – Pour the mixture into your machine, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last 5 minutes of churning, add the raspberries.
5 - Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Place the ice cream in here, and cover with more wrap so no ice cream is exposed. Freeze for at least 2 hours, then turn out onto a board when read to serve. Cut into nice thick slices, and top with the coulis and serve immediately (unlike me, who let mine melt a bit - see the pics. Ooops!)

For the raspberry coulis:
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
1 cup water
3 tablespoons caster sugar.

1 - Place the raspberries and water in a small pan. Heat until the mixture comes to the boil.
2 - Place a sieve over a bowl, and pour in the raspberry mixture. Push as much of the raspberry mixture through the sieve into the bowl, until only the seeds remain. Pour the raspberry juice mixture back into the pan.
3 - Reheat the raspberry mixture, bringing to the boil with the sugar added. Reduce to a simmer, and allow to reduce. Take off the heat, and allow to cool. Use the coulis as a sauce for the ice cream slices. Also very good mixed into milk for raspberry milkshakes, or poured over pancake stacks with sweetened marscapone.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's for dinner - Zucchini Pasta

Zucchini Pasta

I'm just going to come out and say it - this meal is not a dieter's friend. It's full of cream, and carbs and cheese. But by gee, it sure does taste good! Just do as I do - serve with a big fat garden salad, and put the cream container in the recycling as soon as you can. Out of sight, out of mind!

Zucchini Pasta

350g penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
4 zucchini
300ml cream
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

1 - Cook pasta in a large saucepan until al dente. Drain.

2 - Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and lemon rind, and cook for a minute, or until it starts to smell good. Coarsely grate the zucchini into the pan, then cook gently until the zucchini is wilted.

3 - Add the cream, the parmensan and good amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Once the cream has been warmed through, add the pasta to the pan and toss through the sauce. Serve with extra parmesan on top.

Speaking of all things cooking, I've got an article on Mum's Business detailing my top 5 cookbooks. What are yours?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Earrings for Christmas and a giveaway!

Earrings #1

I got cornered by the school Christmas fete commitee a while back. "Jorthy!" they cried. "Make something for our Christmas stall!" I agreed because (a) it's for a good cause and (b) I'm scared of them. Hee hee!

So here I am sat today, beading away merrily. I haven't made jewellery in ages, and I'd forgotten how much fun it is. Now, I'm not one to keep the fun to myself, so I've decided as a wee Christmas thank you to all my readers for reading my blog, I'd give a pair away. So leave a comment before sundown on Friday, stating which pair you'd like (pearl, chrystal, red or green), and follow my blog and you could be in with a chance!

I'm happy to send overseas (although they may not make it there by Christmas). The hooks are stainless steel, just in case anybody is like me and can't wear the cheapy stuff.

Good luck, and thanks for entering!

UPDATE: Congrats to Cat, the winner!

Earrings #2

Earrings #3

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ruffle Skirt

Ruffle Skirt

I am secretly a little bit in love with this skirt. Well, not so secretly now that I've told you, but it's pretty darn cool and even though I am about 28 years too old for it, I kinda want one for myself. It's got spots! And stripes! And gathers! And flowers! And an elasticised waistband (being an old fart, I'm all about the comfort)! And thanks to my awesome colour choices you could wear it with a blue, red, white or pink t-shirt! And if you have a mum who will make you a t-shirt to wear with it, then all the better. Hooray for Ottobre Design Magazine!

The Tyger adores it, which is good as I plan on making her a corduroy version come winter. It was the quickest sewing project of this year - I think it took me 2 hours all up, and that included tracing out the pattern and cutting out the fabric. Now that's what you call satisfying sewing!

Project Details
Pattern: Cocos ruffle skirt #15 from Ottobre Design Magazine 1/2011
Fabric: Three different quilting fabrics from GJ's Discount Fabrics
Notions: 54cm of 25mm wide elastic for waistband

The t-shirt the Tyger is wearing with it is yet another Rosalind t-shirt, sans buttons this time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holibobs at Venus Bay

Helllooooo! Did you miss me? I'm sorry for disappearing for a week, but Venus Bay beckoned and I could not resist. We had such a marvellous beachy getaway - there were long walks along the shore, pippis burrowing back into the sand, amazing food, plenty of sand to cling to hair toes skin, knocking about with favourite friends, and great big gusts of fresh ocean air to blow away the cobwebs. Just what I needed.

Venus Bay #1

Venus Bay #2

Venus Bay #3

Venus Bay #4

Venus Bay #5

Venus Bay #6

Venus Bay #7

Venus Bay #8

Venus Bay #9

Venus Bay #10

Friday, December 02, 2011

What's for dinner: Quick Vegetable Tart

Vegetable Tart

I knew this tart had gotten the seal of approval when I heard my daughter exclaim "It looks like pizza, but it tastes even better!" She then demanded that the leftovers go into her lunchbox for the next day. I think she liked it!

Ingredients (makes two tarts):
2 sheets puff pastry, slightly thawed
4 tbsp sundried tomato paste
6 - 8 button mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 cup grated mozzarella

1 - Preheat oven to 200C. Line two baking trays with baking paper, then place a sheet of puff pastry on each. Score a 2cm border around each sheet, then prick the pastry within the border with a fork.

2 - Spread the area within the border with the sundried tomato paste, then top with the zucchini, mushrooms and capsicum. Scatter the mozzarella over the vegetables, crack some pepper over the top then place the tarts in the oven. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the border pastry is nicely puffed up and golden. Cut into squares, and serve with a green salad.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wherefore art thou, button?


"How are you my pet?" inquired the dressmakers's dummy of the dark pink dress sitting upon her. The dummy, you see, had begun to get a little worried about her. Mostly clothes were put upon her, left for a day or two and then hung up in the wardrobe, finished and blissfully happy about being able to claim their place sartorially. But this dress had been on her for a week or more now, and the happy mumurmings about being made and how lovely her matching lining was had ebbed off until little more than silence was had.

"Oh", said the dress somewhat listlessly. "I'm fine, I suppose. Just waiting to be finished up. I've been occupying myself these long, dragging hours with silently reciting Shakespeare."

"Shakespeare!" said the dummy. "Well, my dear, in times of trial much comfort can be found for us in the wise and knowing words that the great have left behind. But fret not - I'm sure you'll have your very own place in the wardrobe in no time."

"I guess so", said the dress, "but the Bard does keep my anxious mind busy. Would you like to hear me recite?"

"Of course" said the dummy, who considered herself to be quite the literary sort.

The dress cleared her throat, and then launched into verse passionately: "My button! My button! My kingdom for a button!" So vehement was her delivery that the dummy found herself wobbling about on her stand.

"Withdraw, my dear!" said the dummy when she finally regained her balance. "We all like a bit of Richard III, but I believe he's asking for a horse."

"Who cares what he is asking for!" cried the dress. "All I want for is a button, and then I'll be out there being worn like the rest of the dresses. But instead I'm stuck here, a wee buttonless orphan. Talk about a summer of discontent!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monster Christmas Giveaway!

Monster Christmas Cards #1

Yikes! Do you know what tomorrow is? It's the first of December, that's what! Which means that I had really better get a skedaddle on, and start sending all of my overseas Christmas cards before I miss the boat.

Thankfully I have a most excellent card contact: Wendy June. She's an artist, illustrator and designer who makes some of the most awesome art I have ever laid eyes on. So this year I'll be sending some of her fantastic Monster Christmas cards to friends and family who live too far away to receive cookies in the post (I'm all about the grand plans at Christmas).

But here's the best bit: you can too! Wendy has generously gifted me with a packet of her Monster Christmas cards to give away on the blog. Hooray! The pack contains 6 cards with envelopes, proudly made by Wendy herself right here in Melbourne. To enter the draw, just leave a comment, preferably with a monster pun. I'll give you a couple to get started: Here's hoping you have a monstrously good Christmas! Or maybe Santa's coming tonight, tonight... oh no he's not. I ate him. Buuuuurrrrp!

Really? You ate Santa? Nah, these monsters are too sweet to eat Santa. Look at those eyes - they just want a cuddle. So leave a comment, and they could be yours. I'll close the competition on Friday morning Melbourne time, so if the winner is overseas I'll be able to post it before the international posting cut-off date. Good luck!

You can check out more of Wendy's fine, fine work at her website, shop or her Etsy shop.

Monster Christmas Cards 2

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate and marshmallow surprise cookies

Cookies #2

Last week I had a bit of a groan about how bad I was, spending my evenings wasting time on the internet. I must say I have much improved since enforcing my evening internet curfew: I've finished both the front and back of the Tyger's cardigan, and gotten lotsa lotsa sleep. Yay! Go me!

But the internet is also a pretty darn awesome entity (try and keep me off it during daylight hours!). For example, when I first started using it, there were very few crafty blogs or websites. But there was Now, you can say what you like about Martha, but you can't deny the lady runs a pretty impressive ship. It's so good, and so far reaching that during my Christmas beach holiday of 2005, as I was cruising the aisles of the Aireys Inlet newsagency, I happened to chance upon an issue of Holiday Cookies, published by MS. "Ooooh!" I thought delightedly. "A Martha Stewart magazine! Here in sleepy Aireys Inlet. And it contains nothing but cookies! This surely will be a keeper!"

And it was, and has been ever since. Whenever I am in need of some biscuit inspiration, that trusty mag is still the first thing I turn to. But if it hadn't been for the wonders of the internet I wouldn't have known who Martha Stewart was. I probably wouldn't have let the magazine catch my eye, hidden as it was amongst all the other titles. I certainly wasn't looking for it - you don't expect to find incredible food magazines in the newsagencies of beachy country towns. And I wouldn't be enjoying these so-bad-but-so-so-good Surprise Cookies.

So thanks Martha, and the internet! And trust me when I say these cookies are good. They are so good you will keep gobbling them, even as you feel your teeth start to drop out from all the sugar. They are so good you may even renounce your Aussie citizenship, and embrace wholeheartedly all things American and marmallowy. They are so good that when you check the pantry pre-grocery store trip to see if you require any more rolled oats for porridge, you really are scanning to make sure you have enough cocoa and sugar and vanilla extract for your next batch.

Cookies #1

For the cookies:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
115g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
about 15 marshmallows, halved crosswise

For the frosting (or icing as we call it here):
3 cups pure icing sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 - To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 170 C. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, then set aside. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on a medium high speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed to medium, and mix in the egg, milk and vanilla. Mix in the flour mixture slowly, until all combined.

2 - Using a tablespoon, drop generous spoonfuls of the dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes. Take out of the oven, press a marshmallow onto the centre of each cookie, then put back in the oven for another 2 minutes, or until the marshmallow has melted. Let cool on a wire rack.

3 - To make the frosting: Put the icing sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside. Melt the butter with the cocoa powder in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the butter mixture to the icing sugar. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Spread about a tablespoon of the mixture onto the top of each cookie, covering the marshmallow. Let stand until set, about 10 minutes.

Makes about 30.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...



Er, it's a bit early, isn't it. I couldn't help it, though - I am helpless in the face of tinsel! Couple that with Ella Fitzgerald singing "Let It Snow!", and I am putty in the Christmas Season's hands.

I love all of it: Getting down the box of ornaments from the very top shelf, the oohing and aahing (and occasional groaning) at the sight of forgotten decorations, the bad Christmas playlist as we gather around to decorate the tree, and the magical moment, even after all these years, when the blinds are drawn and the switch is flicked and the Christmas lights douse the room with their festive glow.

But best of all is watching the Tyger. She becomes almost magnetically attached to the tree, and cannot stop herself from touching and rearranging the ornaments. She's been like that since she was a bub - every year you can count on a guilty face as a thoughtfully repositioned glass ball goes smashing to the ground. One year, in fact, she became so over-enthusiastic about showing the tree to a visitor that she actually made the whole tree topple on to the poor girl, whose name, ironically, was Holly. Fear not - nothing was hurt but a bit of pride. And another 6 glass ornaments.
Embarrassing tree-dramas aside, it's a pretty special afternoon. Now that the Tyger is a bit older, we bake biscuits afterwards as the lights flash on and off, and top off it all off with a glass of bubbly (grown ups only, of course!). Sigh - I lurve Christmas traditions. Wanna share yours?

PS If you want to see some pretty cute Lego animation, click on the Let It Snow! link. Since the Tyger received a Lego Advent Calender from her aunty, it felt rather apt!

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's for dinner: Roasted Vegetable Tabbouleh

Roasted Vegetable Tabbouleh #1

Roasted Vegetable Tabbouleh #2

You can make this dish any time you like, using whatever roasting vegetables are in season, but I love making it now, when the tomatoes are really coming into their own. With their rich juices intermingling with the lemon and feta, you can practically taste that summer is here!

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly diced
250g jap pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
1 zucchini, cut into chunks the same size at the pumpkin pieces
4 tomatoes, quartered
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
200g feta, cut into cubes
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup of burghul (cracked wheat)
half a cup of chopped parsley

1 - Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the vegetables in a large roasting dish, and massage the oil evenly into them. Season with some freshly cracked pepper and salt, and then roast for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

2 - Meanwhile, combine the burghul with 1 1/4 cups of boiling water in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff the burghul with a fork once all the water has been absorbed.

3 - Combine the burghul with the roasted vegetables, lemon juice, parsley and feta. Serve.

Serves 4.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Internet Curfew (and hopefully more knitting)

Phildar Knitting

I used to quite like dinner time. A lovely home cooked meal, the happy faces of my family beaming back at me, the conversation flowing as we each chatted about our days.

But now I dread them. For I know that the Tyger will, at some stage, fix me with a piercing stare and ask "So Mum... did you get any knitting on my cardigan done today?" My only answer will be a head hung low in shame.

But tonight, tonight I am chaining myself to the couch and knitting like fury! The cardigan will...get...done! Before summer is over. I swear on the goddess that is Debbie Bliss!

Seriously, though, how did our grandmothers do it? In between all the washing and cooking and cleaning, and all without fancy new labour saving appliances. I asked my Dad recently about this, and he said his mother (a woman with a mere, oh, 7 children) just always had something in her hands that she was working on. Plus, I guess, they didn't have that marvellous time stealer called the internet. I know I personally waste too much time hopping from one site to another, not really being interested, just mindlessly clicking away. Better check The Age again, just in case there's a new headline. Oh look, there is - somebody went to court for embezzling something. Whoop-de-doo! Does it affect me? No. Can I do anything about it? No. Then why the heck am I wasting precious minutes reading about it?!?

Don't get me wrong - the internet is a wonderful place. I've met people through it who I now regard as dear, dear friends, gotten work from it, and am daily inspired by all the crafty goodness that is contained within my beloved blogroll. But I need to be more disciplined about the time I spend on it. My worst habit is slouching in a chair after dinner once the Tyger is tucked up in bed, and wasting a good hour at least just meandering through various sites. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but they are not even good crafty sites - it's usually bad magazines and gossip. This must come to an end. I want to be living my life, not just reading about what others are doing in theirs.

So less internet browsing for me, and more knitting. The evening curfew is a gogo! I want to look back at the projects on this blog and think "Boy! I really got some stuff done!" Moreover, I want to be proud of myself. It's hard to be proud of yourself when your evenings are often spend reading what Madonna is supposedly up to. And I don't even LIKE Madonna!

Just think of what I could be doing with all that extra time - I could be knitting up a storm. Or tracing out patterns. Or learning a new language. Or reading Simon Schama's entire back catalogue. But instead I'm reading about how weird Madge's face is looking of late. Nothing to be proud of there, but plenty to be ashamed of. It's not exactly setting a very good example for the Tyger, either.

What do you guys think? Do you waste a lot of time online, or are you more disciplined than I?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sabrina the dressmakers dummy

I'd like you all to meet my dear friend Sabrina. Not only is she one gutsy broad, but she totally rules the clothes hanging in my wardrobe. Nobody messes with this mannequin!

Sabrina #1

Nah, seriously, I often get asked about my dummy, so I thought I'd tell you a bit about her. She's pretty darn old - I'd say she was a 60's or 50's model. A friend of mine spotted her in a garage sale one day. She knew I sewed, and would love a dummy, so she went over to the lady running the sale and asked how much she wanted for her. The lady said "I really just want to clear this stuff out - I'll take what you'll offer." Much to my friend's embarassment, she only had $1.65 on her, but the lady said "She's yours!" and pocketed the shrapnel, presumably happy to have a bit more space cleared more than anything.

So Sabrina, as I named her, came to live with me (I tried to pay my friend the $1.65 back but she wouldn't hear of it!) As funky as Sabrina looks, she's not really in good enough condition to be used as a true dressmakers mannequin. Most of her parts don't slot together very well, and last time I tried to adjust her, the bolt I was twisting broke clean off in my hand. So I mostly just use her for photos, or for letting garment pieces hang until I am ready to sew them again. She wears the cover (spencer I believe somebody called it yesterday) because it keeps her insides warm. Nah, I think it is to give a smooth line over her moving parts. She's definitely not like the new models where everything fits together perfectly!

So that's Sabrina. She's pretty old, and fairly useless as a dummy, but I wouldn't be without her. Besides she's always good for a photoshoot, or to even insert as a character in those daft stories I can't help myself from writing. If you were after a good adjustable dress form, though, the Diana models are very good. Tessuti Fabrics sells them, and will be more than happy to order in a size for you if so required.

I'm feeling bad that poor old Sabrina is sitting up there all naked. This is a family-friendly blog - I can't be having any nudey rudeys sitting about! Better put something on her quick smart...

Sabrina #2

...oh look! That Butterick 5601 is coming along nicely, innit? (hee hee!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butterick 5601 in progress

Pink Dress In Progress

"Do you think it's a mid life crisis?" asked a red top plaintively.

"Who blimming well knows" replied a red scarf glumly. "All I know is that once upon a time it was us red clothes that did it for her. But now we've been ditched for pink. PINK!" The red scarf was so aggrieved by this fact that he would have spat in disgust if he could.

"At least it's quite a ballsy sort of pink" said a red coat that was smug in the knowledge that until Jorth sewed a new one, she at least would be worn again. "I don't think I could have borne it if she went crazy for some wishy-washy pale princess pink." She peeped through the wardrobe door at the dressmakers dummy and asked tentatively "What do you think, Miss Mannequin?"

"What do I think?" asked the dummy with evident pleasure. "All I know is that I'm feeling very Roland Mouret and I like it!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Innocent fun and overlockers


Ach! Who needs a tv when you have hands and a pen, eh?

In other breaking news, I gave my first sewing class today. I was a wee bit nervous, but I think it went quite well! Even if I did have to do the tricky bits of overlocking for them. Actually, I don't blame them for handing those bits over to me - overlockers can be darn scary things. Especially if they decide to be tempremental halfway through a class, like mine was. Bad machine! Bad!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Broad bean, asparagus and zucchini green curry

Broad Beans

Broad bean, asparagus and zucchini green curry

What do both asparagus and broad beans have in common, besides being green and delicious? They both have super short availability, so don't wait to cook this! You could, conceivably, make this with frozen broad beans but I wouldn't bother, as they always taste of nothing to me. Fresh ones, however, sing with the flavours of spring.

Now, don't you start getting all angry at me, shaking fists in my direction and so forth, espousing "Maaaaaan! That Jorth, she is one crazy lady. Who she think she is, getting me to shell broad beans after a long day? She LOCO!" Trust me - it only takes a few minutes to shell the broad beans, and since they are added at the end of cooking, you've plenty of time to cook them whilst everything else is simmering away gently. I'd hate for you to miss out of the spicy, coconutty and fresh springy taste of this because you are worried it's too much work. It's not at all - you just have to do a few simple things at the same time.

Are you ready? I totally am - let's go!

15 - 20 broad bean pods
1 bunch asparagus, cut into thirds
1 zucchini, diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp green curry paste (or more if you like your curries really hot, but I like this heat to be gentle so you can taste the vegetables)
300ml coconut milk
basmati or jasmine rice, to serve.

1 - Shell your broad beans, then take the bean and add them to a small pan of boiling water. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes or until tender, then drain in a sieve, running cold water over the beans to stop them from cooking. Once they have cooled down, peel the outer skin off and set the beans aside.

2 - Meanwhile, heat the oil on a medium heat in a large saucepan or wok. Add the green curry paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and zucchini, and stir to coat with the paste.

3 - Add the coconut milk and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil, then gently simmer for 7 minutes, or until the vegetable are tender and the sauce has thickened. Add the peeled broad beans, and simmer for another two minutes. Take off heat and serve over rice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Orange icypoles


Three freshly squeezed oranges + some icy pole molds + a few hours in the freezer = one very happy girl!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Weather-based knitting insults

Geranium Knitting

"Well!" said the leader of the knitting circle with a flourish of her head of tightly permed grey hair. "Another winter has come to an end, so it's time to pack away your needles, and we'll see you ladies again once the dreaded summer has passed."

"Really?", said Jorth in surprise. "But I'm just getting my knit on! Yes, I know I didn't have a great winter, what with waiting forever for balls of yarn to arrive, or just generally being a slo-mo, but I've hit my knitting stride. Do we really have to finish up for the year?"

The leader gave her a beady eyed look and said in a voice that she usually reserved for her 46 year old still living at home son, "It's summer now, Miss Jorth. Who on earth wants to be knitting in the heat?"

The rest of the knitting group looked on with no little anticipation. It was better than a tennis match, watching the verbal volleys going on between Jorth and the leader. Sensing that the ball was in her court, Jorth said "Well, obviously I don't want to knit with cotton. Boy, does that make my wrists hurt! But there's plenty of other lovely fibres out there, and with the extra daylight hours I'm sure I'll have all those cardigans I've planned for the Tyger knitted up in no time."

The assembled ladies sighed. As far as they were concerned, Jorth had hit the ball straight out of the court. The leader gathered up her knitting bag and said "May I be so bold to ask, Miss Jorth, what prevents you from knitting so much in the winter, when the conditions are far more favourable? Truly, I'm simply dying to know."

Jorth looked somewhat embarrassed at this scornful question. She fidgeted for a brief moment before answering, "Oh, well, when the sun goes to bed so do I."

"That would indeed explain it!" said the leader snootily. "So once again I shall bid farewell to those of us who can actually sit up in the winter nights to knit, and I'm sure that we all wish you the best with your summer knitting, and pray that your sweaty fingers do not sully your yarn too much." Smiling at her victory shot she sailed out of the room, leaving Jorth feeling rather small behind her.

"Don't worry about her too much" said a small women with a dowager's hump but a twinkle in her eye that Jorth hadn't really noticed much before. Leaning in conspiratorially she said "Sometimes when she carries on like that I imagine myself sticking a knitting needle in her eye, and it makes me feel ever so much better!"

"Ta!" said Jorth, suddenly grinning. "Although, I probably should be a bit more regular in my knitting. Perhaps an hour every day, after dinner, sun or no sun. Otherwise I'll never get through my planned project backlog."

Her new friend smiled. "The long list of projects is, to my mind, more a sign of a true knitter than the weather. But perhaps", patting her gently on the arm, "a little bit more regularity wouldn't go astray."

Please tell me I'm not the only one who knits away in summer (yes, maybe with the odd sweaty hands). Does anybody else have any summer knits planned?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mum's Business

Bunny Tail

Hello! Just a quick post today to let you know that I'm writing for a new website called Mum's Business. It's an online community for mums, full of clever ideas on cooking, crafting and doing fun stuff with your kids. There's even tips on running your own small business and making a stylish home.

I've got a feature article up at the moment on making a quilt full of memories for the Tyger. Hope to see you over there - it's a fun place to be!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday on the bike with Galumph (and Tyger, of course)

Sunday #1

Sunday #2

Sunday #3

Sunday #4

Sunday #5

Sunday #6

Sunday #7

Sunday #8

Well there are worse things than staring at the water on a Sunday.
There are worse things than getting up at seven
To climb onto your bike
And go riding to Half Moon Bay
Dodging big fat rain drops
As you marvel at weddings
After lying in the sand
30kms from the city
On a Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
(My sincerest apologies, Mr. Sondheim. I couldn't help myself!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's for dinner: Tofu and vegetable stir fry



Marinated tofu is your friend. It sits there, quietly, in the fridge, just waiting for its chance to shine. And when you come home tired, and devoid of ideas for dinner, it will be there, ready to step in at a moments notice. In fact, if you listen carefully as you slump in front of the open fridge door, anxiously scanning the contents for possible dinner solutions, you may even hear it whisper "Use me! Find the somen noodles in the pantry, grab the few remaining vegetables in the crisper, and turn us into a delicious stir fry!"

Now, you may not consciously hear the little tofu voice. But you may very well hear yourself telling your eating partners, as you shovel mouthful after mouthful of tasty stir fry into your ravenous maw, that thank heavens you didn't ring for take away. Because this super quick, super easy and super healthy stir fry is that good! Trust me - tofu doesn't lie.

1 tbsp sesame oil
200g marinated tofu, cubed into 1cm pieces (I used Soyco Japanese Tofu - it's so good I could eat it by itself)
250g pack somen noodles
3 cups of chopped vegetables: I used mushrooms, red capsicum and broccolini, but bok choy, beans, asparagus - anything in season, in fact, would be good here)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1 - Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add the somen noodles, and cook for 3 minutes. Drain.

2 - Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large wok on medium-high heat. Stir fry the vegetables until just tender (you still want a bit of crunch), then add the tofu.

3 - Add the sauces. Once the sauces are bubbling away nicely, add the noodles. Mix well, so all the noodles are coated in the sauce and serve.

Serves 4