Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's Handmade Holiday Week!!! Let's Make Some Pretty Packaging!!!

So...we're doing a week of Handmade Holiday goodness here at Twig and Toadstool.  The idea for Handmade Holiday came from this lovely mama over at Plain and Joyful Living!  Go check it out, and let her know if you want to be added to the evergrowing list of folks participating!  So today I decided to do a post on packaging.  While I'll admit to being lured by fancy wrapping paper, (it's so pretty sometimes), this year I want to be paper free under my tree!  Here's a simple way to make your own re-usable Christmas packaging...a drawstring bag tutorial!

I used a fat quarter to make this bag...it's about medium sized, but you can make these bags in any size and style you desire, don't feel limited by Christmas patterns...go nuts! 

If using a fat quarter, here's what I did...first fold it in half...

And in half again...cut it now into two bags...along the right side.

At the top, (unfinished) edge of your bag to be, make a notch, (about 1 1/2 inches down), and iron that little bit of fabric over.  Take it over to your machine and sew it up on both sides along that edge.

Now iron over a bit of the top, (a few cm)...then

iron over again...about an inch or so...don't make your fold past where you made the notch.

Sew it down...as close to the bottom of that fold as possible...an instant hem, and also the casing that you will be threading your ribbon through!  If you've noticed I don't believe in using pins when I sew...if you want to though be my guest...

Now sew up the sides, being careful to "just" sew up to the casing that you made.
Turn the bag inside out!  You can see it coming together now.

Using a knitting needle or some wire, tape your ribbon to it, and thread it through the top casing.

Tie on a few beads at the end of your ribbon...

Embellish to your hearts delight!  I cut out some holly shapes and used the glue gun to glue them on.  You could also applique on whatever you wish!  And there you have it...the first of many little gift bags for under your tree!

My other packaging idea is inspired from the thrift store...start collecting those vintage tins girls!!!

I've used these in the past as gifts to the neighbours...filled with fudge, and this year I'm going to be using them under our tree, with whatever fits inside.  They're beautiful, and it's so nice to give them a second lease on life!

What are some of your pretty packaging ideas that don't hurt the earth!?

Feeling kinda merry
xo maureen

Monday, August 30, 2010

Handmade Holiday Week! Let's Get Our Embroider On!!

I LOVE that Plain and Joyful Living is doing a weekly series on handmade holiday ideas and inspiration.
One thing we have been trying to avoid is the rampant consumerism that goes along with being parents...especially during the holiday season.  We all know there is a strong movement towards "less is more" during the holidays...people are feeling the stress and the loss of the true meaning of Christmas!
The reason we feel inspired to do a series of posts on having a handmade holiday is because if you're truly committed to doing this, you gotta start soon!  Christmas is less than four months away, and it will be alot less stressful and alot more enjoyable if you can start thinking about what you're going to do now, and work away at it bit by bit until the holidays hit!  Last year I started embroidering!  I should warn you, if you haven't done any yet, it can be addictive!  There is a great book called Doodle Stitching which is well worth checking out if you're new at embroidery.

Here's a sweet gift idea for any grown up, (kid at heart).  A gnome inspired tea towel.  The embroidery pattern can be found HERE!  There are many more wonderful and quirky patterns to be found with a bit of searching!  The plain, flour sack tea towels are easy to find.   Mine came from Sew Mama Sew, but I've also seen them at Canadian Tire, and really you could use any plain tea towels to embroider on!

I think this would make a lovely and thoughtful present for any mama on your list.
(or other loving souls who spend their days at the sink doing dishes)!

Here's another lovely embroidered idea.  I think it was Soulemama who made this popular!  Take a piece of your childrens artwork, and embroider it onto a piece of fabric.  You could do this as a gift for your child, (I know my daughter was mesmerized to see her drawn work of art come to life on a piece of fabric), or as a gift to a grandparent.  These embroidered pictures could be hung in a frame, turned into a pillow or added to a quilt.

I asked Ruby how she wanted her picture displayed...I was going to make it into a pillow, but she insisted that she wanted a wall hanging.  I must say it's about the sweetest thing to adorn her wall!  I did this for Christmas last year for her. 

And lastly...

the stocking!
I urge you...with the wealth of information on the internet and on sewing blogs, making a stocking is really a piece of cake!  British friends avert your eyes, (is what I did illegal?).  I found a British flag at the dump, and I grabbed it because my hubby is British Citizen.  I then cut it out and turned it into a special stocking for him!
For the girls I used the elf pattern on Wee Wonderfuls.  It is the cutest pattern I've seen!  Ruby insisted that she and Matilda should both have girl elf stockings...here is a closeup...

Each of their stockings has their name embroidered on it.  What a lovely Christmas surprise for the family!
Gotta get to work on one for me and the cat!

So, there's a few ideas to get your Homemade Holiday creative juices flowing!
Please share or add any ideas you have, project you are working on...let's inspire each other to keep it simple this year!

xo maureen

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The magic of movement!

I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

This past week our community was blessed with a visiting dance troupe!  They had workshops at a beautiful dance studio nearby for adults and children.  The workshop for the kids was called, "Where the Wild Things Are", and the kids got to explore movement, and discover how their bodies can move.  As I looked through the pictures I took during one of the sessions, it occured to me how JOYfull an exercise dancing is!  The children were positively glowing with happiness and radiating light! 

The week ended with an outdoor performance by the troupe called "Caboose".  It took place in a park underneath the towns old watertower.  What a positively wonderful spot to have a performance.  The children were enthralled to get to watch this performance as the sun set and dusk fell upon us.  It is awe inspiring to see how the body can move...what a blessing to be able to dance!   

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. ~Japanese Proverb

While my own range of movement is *ahem* less than theirs, (there will be no backflips happening in my house), I'm inspired to put on the Stevie Wonder and get my dance on!  Here's to mamas and their babes dancing in their pyjamas across the land!  Don't worry if you ain't got no rhyme or rhythm, just slap a smile on your face and get moving!
Here's to the dance!
xo maureen


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nature Inspired Fairy Party!

Creating a Fairy Party That Embraces  Simplicity and Beauty ( and doesn't bite a hole in your wallet!)

Birthday parties are wonderful fun yet they can easily spill over into too much ~ too much work, too much junk, too much pressure. So my goal in creating this party was to use what we had on hand and embrace a simple way to celebrate in style! 
For my Luna's eighth birthday she decided she wanted a flower fairy party.  I knew between working full time and wanting to really enjoy the day of the party, I needed to find easy, nature inspired ways to bring this party to life!

So we made a plan...
First she made her party list of a few friends and her cousins...

She  created some simple birch bark invitations to offer out ~ giving them all the needed information ...like please wear wings if you have them (if not we have extra) and potluck fairy food snacks (shared food is the way to go in keeping things simple!)

This was all mainly her project and she was happy to have it that way ~ she loved collecting, cutting and creating these invites...

She crafted away ~ creating  a little pine cone fairy and a maple key dragonfly to give to each of her friends  and placed them in these satin flower bags...

We then decided every fairy needs to be crowned!
So we collected our supplies ~ raffia and paper flowers...

We braided the raffia (a great way for girls to practice their braiding) and then took the paper flowers (that had wire attached) and wrapped the wire  flowers into each braided band. I also collected a big bouquet of  flowers on the day of with the intention that each girl could fill her wreath with some fresh flowers too!

Where would a fairy be without a wand to sparkle her magic all around?! 
We created our fairy wands with these lovely"wands" I found made of dyed seedpods.

Feeling they needed a personal touch we added sage and curly grass from our back yard and tied it all on with ribbons of raffia.

When the celebration day came ~  we crowned each these beautiful fairies and offered them their magical fairy wands...

Our plan was to spend to whole day at Luna's favorite spot, crooked slide park. A hidden gem in our valley that has beautiful falls, rocks to climb and hop, paths to adventure on and a natural water slide! Needless to say not long after this photo ~ after the girls had jumped into their swim suits and were frolicking and I was getting ready to pull out all the food ~ IT DOWN POURED!!!
Lucky for me, my sister who was there with her girls, lives only a bit away and welcomed us to crash her home. So we packed up in a wet flash and relocated the party.
One more lesson in going with the flow and letting go!
Luna's flower fairy cake ~ cupcakes with whipped cream topped with an edible flower.

We resumed the festivities... not letting a silly thing like the rain drown our joy!

It was a lovely celebration ~  offering lessons on this journey of motherhood  ... learning to embrace simplicity  and learning to let go and allow the unexpected with a peaceful heart.

~ Shanti ~

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The problem with pussywillows!

Take a few pussy willow buds...

Sure they look innocent enough...so fuzzy and sweet.

Add to it one set of fine looking nostrils...

do you know what you get? 

7 hours in the emergency room on a Wednesday afternoon!
Yes...I am finally the mother of a child who shoves things up her nose...I've heard that this has happened to "other" parents, you know, those parents who don't watch their children closely enough!!!  hahaha!

I could barely see the darn thing up her nostril it was lodged up so far.  However, 7 hours and many sneezes later it had come down a bit so that the doctor was able to pull it out with some tweezers.  The whole procedure took 2 minutes.   The person who invented extra long tweezers must have been the parent of a toddler!

So time to tell all...what's been shoved up your childs nose!!??

xo maureen

Embracing The Let's Get Real!

Since I was a young I have avoided the camera...insecurity, wanting to stay hidden, a desire to be documenting not on display...
So when my co-blogger Maureen posted her Let's Get Real Post ~ (inspired by Shakti Mama) , I recognized it as an opportunity to allow myself to be... the raw and real me.

Recently my Luna had her eighth birthday and my husband grabbed this shot when I had just awoken  (unaware of him) and was reading my beautiful card from her.
When I flipped through her birthday photos and found this one, my first thought was erase.
I immediately didn't like what I saw... that voice said too tired...to bare...not enough...
Then I stopped and caught a glimpse of Luna looking over me with her eager face and realized it was time to tell myself a new story...a story that embraces the truth and beauty of self love and commits to modeling self acceptance.
To quiet that voice of disapproval and embrace those parts of self that long to hide... I take the challenge.
Here is my let's get real photo...

 the sweet words I was ingesting... (written all over my face)

to mommy
The resin I want to write this
is bekas how it rele hurts to
have a baby and I am so thancful
that you went throo all of this
hard wrk to let me into this world.
I want to tell you  all Ive
oways wanted for my birthday
is love from you and to show you
how much to love you.
love Luna
I love you

~ These words stopped me to pause and appreciate the simplicity of love ~

 on goes the challenge...

I see a  girl that has that list of comparisons ready to be burned, a girl who aches to be enough... a girl who is ready to join into the sisterhood of radical self acceptance ~ not sure how ~ just piece by piece being gentle with herself...being gentle with others.

In the spirit of unconditional love

~ Shanti ~

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Comparison Challenge!!

“Jealousy is a tiger that tears not only its prey but also its own raging heart”

Nyah Nyah...I'm stronger than you are!!
Recently I came across a post at a friends blog.  It's called "Death by Comparison" and it really struck home for me.  The challenge my friend gave was to try to stop comparing ourselves to others, and start honoring the unique things that we alone are good at.   I see the comparison game being played out many times a day.  In my own life and in the lives of the people I admire.  There have been a few occasions when I see someone in our community who reads our blog, and they express their inadequacy because they aren't "crafty", and we look like we craft all day long here at Twig and Toadstool.  I always tell them, sometimes that one single craft project is about the only productive thing we do all day.  The funny thing is though, that I play the comparison game too...I'm not a good enough gardener, cook, homeschooler, employee, sewer, knitter, photographer, crafter...mother.   I compare myself to the people I know in my community, and the mamas I've met in the blog world.

I was over visiting one of my favourite blogs the other day and admiring this womans home...everything is neutral colours and pure wood...I thought for a moment, "I need to do that...I need to be more like her".  Then I looked around my house, at all the "pops" of colour all over the place, the crazy dressers I've painted, my red, white and turquoise kitchen, and I thought..."hey, this is me!"  I decided in that moment that instead of envying this mamas home, I would admire it instead...but, I don't have to have that home to create a peaceful and loving space.  There is peace in between the bursts of colour at my house!

My wish for my mama and women friends is that we start celebrating each other and the talents we have that are unique to us.  Let's STOP beating ourselves up all the things we don't do, and start enjoying the things we accomplish daily.  You know...on some days, just getting out of bed is an accomplishment!   Comparing ourselves to others comes from that deep insecure place that resides within us all...we can't be it all and do it all, (I know I'm too damn tired at the end of the day to "do it all"!).  Write down the things that you're jealous of in others...write down the things you "wish" you were better at...and then BURN YOUR LIST!!!!  Let that frail and insecure part of you go and honor the fact that you have a clean house, or that you're super organized, or that you're a mean accordian player!

My list going up in flames!  SO healing!

So I'm taking on the challenge...here's my thing I'm good at and I celebrate in myself.  I'm a crafty mom! 
My garden is a mess, my house is well, disasterous, the laundry rarely gets done, but the glue gun is always on at my house!

What are you good at?  What are you willing to celebrate in yourself??

Maureen xo

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Look Ma!!!!!

Guess what went missing at our house this week?
*sigh* is there any way to stop them from growing up?!

xo maureen

Friday, August 20, 2010

Celebrating the Gardens Bounty Week! Feeling Mighty Peachy!

It's peach season here in Ontario.  The peaches are bountiful, juicy and abundant in our local grocery store.
While I don't grow my own peaches, I do try to support and buy any and all Ontario grown produce, and preserve and eat it in season!  Here's a fantastic way to preserve the freshness of these wonderful fruits...

Spicy Spreadable Peaches

5 cups pitted, peeled diced peaches
4 tart apples, think granny smith
1 can undiluted, frozen apple juice concentrate (thawed)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
5 250ml mason jars or 10 125ml sized mason jars.

I LOVE seeing the colours and fruit sitting altogether at the beginning of the process!

Place all ingredients in a large, stainless steel pot and bring to a boil.  Boil gently for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally or until spread reaches desired thickness.  Pour into your prepared, steralized mason jars within 1/4 inch of rim.  Wipe your rims clean and put on the lids.  Place in a water bath canner for 10 min.
Put on a counter and leave them alone for 24 hours before moving them!

Yum!!!  A couple hours of canning and now we have a pantry full of peaches!!!

*this recipe comes from the Bernardin Home Preserving book...it is well worth the $$ to buy this book for yourself...it is like my bible come harvest time!

You could also make these in the smaller mason jars...the 125 ml size.  I find that those size are perfect for putting into a Christmas basket.  I make several different jams and spreads in the 125ml size, and pair it with a loaf of fresh baked bread.  What a delightful gift to receive on a cold winters night!

And, just to make your spreadable peaches a little sweeter...here are some awesome free printable lables from  How About Orange that I recently came across.  I think they're awesome and would just make your preserves look even more amazing!

I'd love to know what you're putting away in other parts of the world!

xo maureen

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Celebrating The Garden Week... Rockin' Recipes For Cucumbers, Kale and Carrots!

The Harvest Has Begun...

This year we acquired our seeds from Terra Edibles ~  a Canadian seed company that sells organic, heirloom seeds. We have been very amazed by the beautiful, vibrant food we have been able to grow and enjoy!

Our Red Russian Kale ~ love the velvety tender leaves!

Wow! Shanti, you can make a ton of kale chips with all that Red Russian Kale! Thank you, magical beings, for having me here again to share some Feel Good Guru recipes! I love playing with food, I love eating, and I love sharing my kitchen chemistry! Shanti asked me to post some recipes for Kale, cucumbers and carrots, so featuring those crunchy, cleansing beauties from the earth, a few of my absolute fave summer fixin's:

Kale gets a bum rap. It’s an under-appreciated cruciferous that needs our help to elevate its status to the clean green lean superfood that it is. I think the reason people don’t like kale is because they’re trying to eat the rough leaves right off the stalk, raw, and that can be a little, er, too healthy-tasting. But there are easy ways to prepare kale to make it delish.
Kale is one of those superfoods available year round, and one that should not be ignored by health-minded peeps. It’s incredibly versatile, extremely nutrient-rich and low in calories. Yes! Yes! Yes! Kale contains cancer-fighting phyto-nutrients, tons of vitamins A and C, calcium and iron, and compounds that actually signal our body to produce more detoxification enzymes. So why not use kale at every opportunity we can? Yes?

I try and get my kale on regularly, in soups, salads, on its own marinated in a little olive oil and apple cider vinegar, “hidden” in bean and rice dishes, or…as kale chips! Crunchy and full of flavor, kale chips can take the place of your packaged dead potato chips. It’s a superfood that’s super simple to prepare:

Kale Chips the Feel Good Guru way

1 large bunch of leafy red kale
drizzle olive oil
sprinkle sea salt
sprinkle Nanami Togarashi (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and completely dry kale.

Pull the woody stems from the leaves and break up into bite-sized pieces into a bowl.

Drizzle with a little olive oil. (Just a drizzle! Maybe only a tablespoon.) Sprinkle with a little sprinkle of fine sea salt. Sprinkle with a dash of Nanami Togarashi - (this is my favorite "secret" ingredient - it's a delicious, exotic blend of chilis, orange peel, black sesame and seaweed, and can be found at Japanese markets.) Massage ingredients into the kale leaves with your hands.

Place just one layer on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes. Pay attention because it happens fast. You’ll hear it sizzling away in the oven. Take them out when they’re nice and crunchy and slide easily from the cookie sheet.

You can sprinkle on a little nutritional yeast or a pinch of garlic powder, or use your own favorite spice combo for a tasty, crunchy bowlful of superfood nutrition everyone will love!

Thanks Moi for that great recipe...I must share that my girls devour a tray of kale chips in the blink of an eye. They are a huge hit in our home!

Our Purple Dragon Carrots ~ the girls love eating these sweet, almost spicy veggies!

 Shanti, you asked for a soup recipe here, but those Purple Dragons would make the most beautiful Raw Carrot~Walnut Pate! Here's how for a large batch that'll last a week in the fridge:

FGG's Raw Carrot~Walnut Pate

4 large garden carrots, grated (approx 4 cups, packed)
4 handfuls organic walnuts (approx 2 cups)
1 small red pepper, diced
2 Tbsp miso
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 sprigs fresh garden rosemary (or any other fresh-picked herbs)

Blend everything in a cuisinart until smooth. Form into a block on a plate and refrigerate for an hour before serving. You'll have extra, so just scoop into a bowl and reserve for another day. This goes great with endives as an elegant appetizer, makes a wonderful veggie dip, and spreads beautifully on crackers or bread.

Our Lemon Cucumbers ~  love their bright, crisp tenderness!

Mmm! Lemon cucumbers go so well in a tabouli! Here's my recipe for Lively Tabouli from Feel Good Fast:

Lively Tabouli
For 4:
2 bunches fresh organic parsley, chopped finely (about 2 cups chopped)
1 cup organic quinoa
1 cup cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained)
2 small cucumbers, diced
4 small organic tomatoes, diced
3 lemons, juiced
olive oil
sea salt to taste

Wash, rinse and soak chickpeas overnight (about half
a cup dried will yield one cup cooked). Cook chickpeas and set aside to cool.

Wash, rinse and cook quinoa. Set aside to cool.

Chop parsley and put it in a large mixing bowl.

Add diced cukes, diced tomato, chick peas, quinoa, lemon juice, a nice slather of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.

Taste and adjust to your liking. Serve with Raw Carrot~Walnut Pate and kale chips for a summer fresh, super-light, cleansing, feel good tastebud extravaganza!


 Bountiful Gratitude to the Fabulous Feel Good Guru! Thank you Moira  for joining us this week and offering your inspiration and gorgeous recipes.

How delicious the harvest is...
What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy the garden's bounty?

In gratitude
~ Shanti ~



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