Merry Christmas!

Angel

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!

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A pre-Christmas dip in the frog pond

Polly

"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)

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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

Menu:
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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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Wherefore art thou, button?

Buttonless

"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!"

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