Friday, April 20, 2012

Spinach and Feta Pastries

Spinach Feta Pastries

There was a tense situation occurring in the Jorth household this morning, and it wasn't pretty. Three people were standing around the last two remaining spinach and feta pastries left over from the previous night's dinner, and all were trying to claim them as their own for lunch that day.

"I had dibs on them last night", said the Tyger matter of factly. "I said if I liked them, then I would have them for my lunch, and I did like them. So they're mine!"

"Darn it, she's right", said Galumph. Looking sideways at his wife, he said "Quinces on porridge for breakfast, pastries for lunch, celery with cream cheese for recess and strawberries for snack - the kid's doing it hard."

"Oh yeah", laughed Jorth, resigning herself to a sandwich for lunch instead. "Real hard!"


What? You want the recipe for pastries so good that your family might even come to blows over them? Allright, here 'tis:

250g packet frozen finely chopped spinach, thawed
100g feta, cubed
2 eggs
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, slightly thawed
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 - Preheat oven to 190 C.

2 - Squeeze out any moisture from the frozen spinach, then place into a bowl. Add 1 beaten egg, feta and nutmeg and mix to combine.

3 - Cut each sheet of pastry into four quarters. Brush the edge of each quarter with the other beaten egg. Place a spoonful of the spinach mixture into each quarter, and fold over, pressing edges together. Repeat with remaining quarters.

4 - Place the pastries on a baking tray, and brush with remaining egg. Cook
 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

This is a great base recipe. I often add other ingredients, such as lentils, cooked cubed potato, roasted sweet potato or pumpkin, corn kernels, sun-dried tomatoes - pretty much anything hanging around the fridge! Walnuts are a lovely addition as well, but since the Tyger's school has a strict no-nut policy (and Tyger has a firm 'bring left-overs to school whenever I can' policy) I thought I'd best forgo them this time.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 5

Green Knitted Dress - Ribbing

Even though their show was broadcast on a Saturday, Bob the Bobbinator liked to head into the office during the week, and do a bit of prep work. It was 'me time', as far as Bob was concerned. He could happily research the coming weeks events or sit quietly pondering which questions to ask the next crafting athlete coming in for an interview. It was peaceful, tucked inside his little hidey hole of an office, and far from the constant demands on his time that he encountered at his weekday job as head and founder of Genuine Lace Industries, Inc. What was once a small collective devoted to keeping alive the skills of handmade lace in the face of machine knitted lace was now a world famous lace heritage institution, with lace artisans flocking there from all over the globe to learn about the history and techniques of handmade lace, and to attend the many workshops and classes which were dedicated to keeping the fine skills alive. Don't get me wrong - Bob loved his job, but appreciated being able to sneak off occasionally and be someone other than the patron saint of lace, which so many viewed him to be. That grubby little office was his sanctuary, where he could enjoy other aspects of the textile world in relative quiet, and he relished the snatched hours he spent there.

His little bubble of peace was disturbed on this day, however, by the exultant entrance of Jean-Luc, who was laughing scathingly as he placed a series of photos on Bob's desk.
"Go ahead and look at the pretty pictures of your little friend!" said Jean-Luc, settling himself down in the easy chair wedged in the corner. "And what do we see? Is she chasing Olympic glory, stitch by stitch, making that green dress grow? No? Quelle horreur! She is buying wool for another project, and lookee here - casting on for it. What a dilemma! I believe it is against the rules to begin a new project whilst competing in a Crafting Olympics event. What a disgrace for her - to not only have broken the rules, but to have flaunted the action in public. It seems she will never win gold now. C'est dommage!"

Bob stared at the photos, open mouthed. It was true - the pictures did show Jorth knitting away on a project that was definitely not her Olympic marathon dress. Looking angrily up at Jean-Luc Bob said "I don't know what you are up to here, but you can just stop right now."

Jean-Luc dropped the smirk from his face, and was suddenly all business. "Oh, I will stop. I will stop as soon you have let me Tear You Down. If you do not want these pictures showing Jorth failing woefully in her marathon race, then you will go on the air and declare that you made a big mistake in publicly supporting her."

"I don't understand", said Bob. "What is it exactly that you have against the girl?"

"Oh, I have nothing against Jorth at all. It's you I want - she will just be unfortunate collateral damage. However, I can play nice - let's make a petite deal. I shall spare her from the public revelation that she has broken the rules if you promise me you will resign live on air after telling the world that you made a big mistake in backing her, and since you are such a big nincompoop who does not know what he is talking about, you can no longer trust yourself to broadcast."

"And then you get to have the show all to yourself", guessed Bob. "I get it. Still, the listeners will never believe it. Jorth is the best one in the field - do you really suppose all those people who tune in every week will believe that she won't come through with the goods?"

Jean-Luc threw back his head and laughed the laugh of the certain. "You saw the pictures yourself - as soon as she had purchased that new Debbie Bliss yarn, she couldn't help herself from casting on right then and there. A knitted dress marathon is a very long race, and Jorth has proven in those pictures that she was suffering project fatigue. She could not afford any distractions if she was to get the dress finished, but yet she succumbed to the temptation to give herself a break from the dress by starting up a new project, like so many failed knitted dress marathoners before her. There is nothing so hard to believe in that, especially since we both told our audience how it took her two long years to get that yoga wrap completed."

"S#*%!" said Bob, remembering that particular broadcast. "You sly macraméd runt. I bet you think you're pretty clever, don't you, spinning us into your web like that. Well, what if I decide not to play ball? I refuse to be blackmailed like this!"

"You can refuse all you like, but the fact is that Jorth has already broken the rules and could be disqualified anyway. Besides, if you don't resign on air like I want you to, then I shall reveal all about your shady lacey past."

"You're bluffing!" said Bob.

"Mon ami, I never bluff. It is too boring. But since you doubt, let me just say this: how are your friends over at the Chantilly Machine Lace Company these days?"

And with that parting shot, Jean-Luc pranced out of the room, savouring the shocked look on Bob's face.


The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 1

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 2

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 3

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 4

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sewing? Oh yeah, I remember that.

McCalls 5975

"I remember Jorth" said Sabrina the dress maker's dummy sadly one day to nobody in particular. "She used to sew all the time - oh, the things she would make! But now that she's so busy writing and knitting, I believe she's practically forgotten what a sewing machine even is."

None of the clothes hanging quietly in the wardrobe dared breathe a word. They knew how quickly reminiscing turned to tetchiness with Sabrina. Suddenly, however, Jorth walked into the room. She went to the bureau, and opened up the drawer that contained the sewing patterns. After rummaging around for a moment or two, she withdrew McCalls 5975, and stood there scratching her head and gazing at it.

"The stash! Look in the stash!" implored Sabrina in words that were quite deafening to the clothes, but oddly silent to human ears. Perhaps, though, such fervently delivered messages have a way of getting through, for Jorth did indeed begin to fossick around in the stash, and to everybody's delight withdraw a bright purple ponte knit that had been languishing in there for quite some time.

With a smile Jorth headed to the kitchen table, and began to unfold the pattern pieces, whilst in the bedroom Sabrina gave a whoop of joy and announced "She's back! Our sewing friend is back!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quinces and the possibilities therein


"So fellas", inquired the first quince. "What do you think she'll do with us this year?"

"What do you mean?" squeaked the second. "She'll do what she always does - chop us into bits, whack us into the dutch oven, pour boiling flavoured sugar syrup over us, then slow cook us until we turn maroon in colour and are too soft and tender to beg for mercy!"

"Good grief!" replied the first quince. "I was more wondering if she'll roast us with a lemon and sugar combination, or go for exotic Indian spices like cinnamon and star anise. If we're lucky we'll be served with porridge in the mornings, or maybe as an evening treat, with ice cream or greek yoghurt. Oh, just think of the possibilities - we could be baked into a cake, spooned over pancakes, reduced down into a paste and served with cheese... the list of mouth watering options goes on and on. Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be good."

"Good?" exclaimed the second quince in disbelief. "Bugger that and your fancy accompaniments. I'm too young to die!"

In a calm Zen-like manner the first quince said gently "Everything dies eventually. It's part of the natural cycle. The seed is planted, the plant bursts forth, flowers, yields fruit, then the fruit dies to pass on the seed. And so the circle goes on.

   "But - if you can live on as a memory, or even better - a super tasty memory than gets turned into a recipe for all to share, then you've achieved a very special kind of immortality. No quince could ask for more than that. We're lucky we ended up in the kitchen of Jorth - she's pretty good at sharing the tasty memories."

"You're right!" said the second quince after a moment's thought. "I can live on forever that way. Bring on the knives!"


For the record, I peeled and diced 5 quinces into largish chunks and tossed them into my heavy enamel casserole dish, then covered them with a syrup made of 1 cup of brown sugar to 4 cups of water. To this I added 6 cardamon pods, gently crushed with a flat knife, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon ground ginger. Covering the dish, I put them in the oven heated to 140 C. My house is smelling pretty darn good at the moment as they slow cook away!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Post battery chickens

Farm #1

Farm #2

I think I might set up my very own stock photography business. I'll call it "Chickens In Motion", because I have a whole folder full of chicken photos, each and every one of them blurry to the extreme, with the example above being the lone exception. The chickens, which are former battery hens now being looked after by my mother-in-law, are cute and all, but have no idea how to stay still.

Although, if I'd been trapped in a cage for the first 18 months of my life I'd be all bop bop with my head and scamper scamper with my feet, too. Can't really blame them. When my m-i-l first received them, she said they didn't even know how to walk properly. They spent a few days tentatively flexing their feet, and only moving a step or two at a time, looking rather freaked out at that. Poor things. It's nice to see them having a better life. From the latest report, they are now roaming freely around the entire massive backyard, and scratching the dirt with the best of them. Hoorah!

Gosh, enough freed chicken sentimentality - let's get back to business. If you need a pic of a fuzzy chicken, give me a call! I'm your girl! But do ring before dinnertime, as I'll be busy making lasagne. Silverbeet, not chicken.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 4

Debbie Bliss Navy Cashmerino DK

It was a cosy scene indeed inside the radio studio. The 'Radio - Live' light cast a warm reddish glow over the three heads chatting away into their respective microphones as the program neared its end. After chuckling heartily at the last answer given Bob the Bobbinator said "Well, Jorth, it's been a real pleasure to have you in today, and to hear all about your attempt to win gold in the Knitted Dress Marathon in these, the 2012 Crafting Olympics." Turning to his co-host, he inquired "Any last questions for Miss Jorth, Jean-Luc?"

"Mais oui!", answered Jean-Luc, who had been in suspiciously good humour all day long. Fixing Jorth with his smirking countenance, he asked "Do you foresee any events which may possibly derail your medal ambitions, mon cherie?"

Jorth looked back at him, a mite confused. "Er, none that I can think of. You know, I'm just focused on getting out there, and giving 110% percent. I've got my head in the game, and my blinders on. Nothing can keep me from Olympic glory - well, except maybe new yarn. Joke! Joke!"

"Good girl!" said Jean-Luc. Wagging his finger at her he said "Keep those blinders on - we don't want any distractions on the home straight!"
"No indeed", concurred Bob. "Thanks for popping in today Jorth, and to all the listeners at home - keep on crafting, folks!" He hit the play button for the finishing music, and then removed his headphones, giving his belly a good scratch as he did so.

Jorth stood up, and collected her things. Hoisting her knitting bag over her shoulder, she said "Thanks ever so much for having me in today, fellas. I've never been on a radio show before - it was so exciting!" Turning to Bob, she quickly embraced him and said "If you ever need a guest again, give me a call!". As he chortled away she moved to Jean-Luc and said "It really was a pleasure to meet you, Jean-Luc. I know that the fields of macrame and knitting can be sometimes viewed as competitors, but you have really opened my eyes to the art and skill involved in macrame. That belt you are wearing is the most amazing textile piece I think I've ever seen. Don't tell me you made it yourself!"

Jean-Luc had no issue about swallowing her flattery whole as he believed every word she said, being in possession of quite a healthy ego. "Of course I did - who else could create such intricate knots, and position the beads just so?"

"Only you!" answered Jorth with a smile, doffing an imaginary hat. "You truly are an inspiration!", and with that she enveloped him to in a long, lengthy hug, taking the opportunity to caress the beaded fringes of the belt. Jean-Luc, dirty bugger that he was, took the opportunity to snuggle his pelvis in as close as he could, and was not at all pleased when the embrace came to an end.

Suddenly Jorth glanced at the clock on the wall and exclaimed "My word - check out the time! I must dash - so much more knitting to do. See ya, fellas!" and with that she flew out the door. Jean-Luc, too, began to make moves to leave. Pausing only by the door to examine his reflection in the mirrored surface he sighed "Ah, such a jolie femme! I do hope that nothing comes between her and her goal. You know how distracted these knitters can be when faced with new yarn. I do hope she really was joking about that."

Bob glared back at him. He had not been at all pleased about the post-interview snuggling that had gone on. "I dare say Jorth knows what she's doing. I wouldn't be too worried about her", he stated with quiet rancour.

"Of course", said Jean-Luc as he left the studio, smirking at Bob one final time. He marched towards the exit, but instead of turning left to head home, as he usually did, he turned right, and walked down the street, past all the nice cafes and gift ware shops, continuing along until the tenor of the street changed from sweet suburban street to bleakly lit danger alley. This was the part of town where druggies regularly stuck their hypodermic needles into doors for fun, and if you ever went there after dark and didn't get assaulted with a broken bottle whilst being solicited by a pimply underage whore whilst treading in a sludge of fecal matter whilst being vomited on by a drunk then you could consider yourself relatively unscathed, and with nothing decent to brag to your friends about.

Jean-Luc, however, obviously knew this neighbourhood well enough, and had taken care to cover himself and his ludicrous macrame belt with a big black coat, the collar of which he turned up as he entered a bar. He walked over to a grimy table in the darkest corner, and ordered a triple port. Before his drink arrived, he was joined by a geeky looking young man, with stained tracksuit pants on, a t-shirt that might once have been blue, and filthy looking dank blonde hair. Squeezing his considerable girth into the corner seat, he introduced himself as Hansel: full-time hacker and snoop, part time crafter.

"Let us make this quick" said Jean-Luc, glancing around the mostly empty bar for prying eyes. "I need you to hack into the system of Jorth's favourite yarn store, and send out an email from them declaring that all yarn for the next week only will be 50% off. Can you do that for me?"

"Easy!" huffed Hansel. "Do you reckon she'll fall for it?"

"But of course" replied Jean-Luc with disdain. "You yourself knit, do you not? Would you resist such a sale?"

"No way!" said Hansel. "Rowan and Debbie Bliss and Noro at half price? I'd be there as fast as my chubby legs could carry me!"

"In which case you may miss the sale." said Jean-Luc coldly. Ignoring Hansel's wounded look, he said "So this is the deal - you send the email, and then spy on the yarn store until Jorth arrives. Knitters can never resist a sale, she will be there for sure. Then you take pictures of her making her purchases, and send them to me pronto. I want to luxuriate in the evidence, safe in the knowledge that her Olympic marathon will be sent off the rails as she is distracted by her new, cheap knitting projects."

"Hang on a mo" said Hansel. "We haven't discussed payment yet. This is a tricky job to pull off - I'll need to be hiding away in camouflage if I'm going to get those pictures, and I want to be properly paid for that."

"Oh, do not worry, my grande friend." said Jean-Luc, smiling slyly. Putting his hand into his coat, he withdrew a sleek shining case, and waved it front of Hansel's eyes. "Would this, perhaps, do as payment for your troubles?"

Hansel gazed at the case greedily, and moaned delightedly "The Addi Click Interchangeable Needle Set, featuring 10 different Addi tips, three gold cords and the connector, all packaged in a soft black case which is fastened with the Addi Heart Pin!" Reaching forward to grab the case he squealed "I'll take the job!"

"Not so fast, sausage fingers! Mon Dieu, control yourself. You shall get your prize when I get mine. Do we have a deal?"

"Deal!" agreed Hansel fervently, looking disappointed when the case disappeared back into Jean-Luc's jacket, and the jacket and it's owner stood to leave.

"Excellent!" said Jean-Luc over his shoulder as he left the cafe. To himself he muttered as he strode down the street "All I have to do now is wait for Jorth to take the bait."

His patience was rewarded when two days later he answered his mobile phone, and heard the breathy tones of Hansel inquiring "Do I get extra Addi circulars for being stuck in a tree for the last 8 hours?"

"Depends." replied Jean-Luc.

"Well", panted Hansel, "I think I should because from my leafy position I took some freaking awesome pictures of Jorth buying up big in the yarn store, and she even cast on some navy blue Debbie Bliss Cashermino DK whilst still in the shop!"

"Then, you rotund crafter you, say hello to your new Addi needles. And Jorth, you can say goodbye to your Olympic campaign!" crowed Jean-Luc. Hanging up on Hansel, he began to dance around his room, delighting in the fact that he had pulled off his scheme. If he had any qualms at all about ruining her chances to make it into the history books, they did not show as he jazz-hands about with glee.


The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 1

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 2

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 3

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail

What did you do on your Easter long weekend? We got on our bikes and rode....

The Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail was our destination, so we packed our life into two pannier bags and caught the train to Lilydale.

Behold - the beginning of the trail!
Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #1

No rail trail ride is complete without Sammy the cheetah, who by all reports quite enjoyed the feel of wind in his whiskers. I, meanwhile, revelled in the autumnal glory...

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #2

...and wondered if we should stop here for lunch. Wouldn't you?

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #3

Instead we rode on to the Carriage Cafe in Seville, and ate in a old school rail carriage compartment. I scanned the other compartments for Poirot, but the famous Belgian and his little grey cells were a no show.

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #4

Back in the saddle, and past bucolic landscapes that reminded me so much of my dairy farm childhood. I even got all sniffly sentimental at the smell of cow dirt. Galumph and the Tyger just shook their heads and tried not to breathe in too deeply.

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #5

Hello, handsome!
(The bike rider is a bit of allright, too!)

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #6

See log. Must clamber upon. That appeared to be the Tyger's mantra for the day...

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #7

...when she wasn't topping up energy levels with lolly snakes. Very important, apparently.

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #8

The dancing grass flowers waved us towards the end, lifting our spirits and giving a boost to tired legs.

Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail #9

I'd ride the trails forever if I could.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Knitting for survival


Galumph turned to me the other day and said, apropos of nothing, "How long would it take you to knit sweaters for all of us?"

"Don't tell me!", I exclaimed in glee as I jumped up and down excitedly, "you've finally decided to let me knit you one!"
"Actually", admitted Galumph, "I was imagining that we were trapped in a house somewhere with a terrible blizzard on the way, and we only had a week before it came. Would you be able to knit us sweaters in the week and save us from certain death?"

"Hold up there, buddy. Why wouldn't we just leave the place, if such a nasty blizzard is coming?"

"Aha!", answered Galumph. "Because our car is broken down, and we can't leave. And it's a strange summer blizzard, so we didn't bring any warmer clothes than t-shirts and jeans."

"So we're staying in a house that just happens to be filled with yarn - right? What sort of place is this?"

"Err..." said Galumph, scratching his head. "Oh, I know - it's a former wool store that never did very well, because it's stuck up high in the mountains. But it does have plenty of yarn, and all the patterns you could ever need."

"Stuck in a house with a blizzard on the way and more yarn and patterns than I can poke a stick at? Sounds like heaven - when can we really go?!"

Galumph laughed and said "Trust you! But seriously - the blizzard is on the way, and our car is broken down, so we can't leave. Can you knit the sweaters and save us from hypothermia?"

"I don't get it - why would you set up a yarn business on the top of an isolated mountain?"

"Well", said Galumph, "obviously it wasn't a very sound business decision, which is why she rents it out now as a knitter's retreat slash holiday home. C'mon love - will you save us?"

I stared at him, somewhat hard, I'm afraid. "Why wouldn't we just ring for help?"

"Because we've also lost electricity. And that's why we can't heat the house, and the mountain side is denuded, so we can't even gather firewood. It's dire, honey. "

I pounced at the obvious hole. "Then how the heck did we know about the blizzard? Riddle me that one!"

"Because we saw it on the tv before we lost electricity, and because we lost electricity we can't ring for help. Plus we forgot to pack our mobiles."

"We can't just hike out?"

"Nope - you badly sprained your ankle running into the house to check out the yarn."

I was beginning to wonder if we should cave in and finally buy a tv ourselves if these were the conversations we were going to have if we continued living without one. Taking a deep breath I said "So let me get this straight - we are stuck in the magic yarn filled house on the denuded mountain side, with no car, and no electricity but one sprained ankle, and the blizzard is coming that will kill us all, unless I manage to knit the sweaters to keep us warm and cozy in a week, right? I guess I could if I was knitting every hour I could stay awake... but what about food? I'd need food to keep me going!"

"The owner, thankfully, was kind enough to leave lots of tinned food, and we'd have just enough gas in the cylinders to cook, but not to heat. Hey, maybe I could help with the knitting too - would you trust me with the sleeves?"

I thought back to his last attempt at knitting, and shuddered. Diplomatically I answered "Er, I think your job might be to keep the Tyger entertained, all of us fed and to fill every nook and cranny with balls of yarn to stop blizzardy drafts coming in."

"Hooray!" said Galumph. "I knew your knitting would save the day!"

"Just don't expect any intarsia or cables, buddy. Or anything knitted under 5mm. This will need to be the plainest, speediest knitting ever."

What about you? Could you and your amazing knitting needles/crochet hooks save your family from a chilly death if you, like us, were stuck in the worst holiday home on the planet? Or would you just burrow under piles of yarn and hope for the best, and spend the time plotting how to sue your travel agent?

PS: Although somewhat embellished, this was actually a real conversation. Heaven help us.
PPS: Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

holiday moment caught/by camera/by heart

Holidays #1

Holidays #2

Holidays #3

Holidays #4

ne'er to come again/
this brief moment in time/
the leaves will keep falling/
she will keep moving/
and leave me behind.