Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Party Week!!!! Start your own birthday traditions!!

Today is my BIRTHDAY, (insert applause, hoots and joyous laughter here)!!!!  My 34th year of life here on this glorious planet of ours!  This will be a short and sweet post because I've got some serious celebrating to do, but I wanted to share with you a wonderful birthday tradition that we started here at the Toadstool.  Our birthday morning always begins with a warm croissant and a cup of hot chocolate for breakfast, (served in bed of course), for every member of our family!  So simple, and yet we all SO look forward to our turn in bed being served by our loved ones.  

Ruby and Matilda, of course they had breakfast in bed with me!!!

My beautiful breakfast tray...Ruby picked the flowers and drew me a says, "My heart, My home" on it!!!

 I think it's so nice to start a birthday tradition that is your families little secret...something that you, and only you know about, beyond the birthday party routine!  (oh, and now you know my families little's between you and me)!

Do you have any special birthday traditions of your own...please share them with us!!

This week is going to be filled with party inspiration and ideas...Thursday is Ruby's birthday, (she's going to be 7), so we're in full party mode!  I'll also share with you tomorrow some pictures of our celebration and our favourite vegan chocolate cake recipe...that even the worst cook in your house can whip up successfully!

Now...grab your horn, put on your pointy party hat and make a wish for me!

Ruby took this pic of me, the birthday girl, first thing this morning!!

in full birthday bliss
Maureen xox

Friday, May 28, 2010

Date Night With Sushi

Life in a rural area with two small girls has inspired resourcefulness when planning date nights with my honey. Over our last 12 years together I have come to realize and honor the importance of taking time out for each other.  About three years ago I discovered my love of making sushi and hence our date night with sushi tradition was born. I like to make preparations throughout the day, tidying the space we  hang out in, buying a bottle of  organic red wine and creating a quiet space in my heart and mind to bring to our evening together. Our sushi nights are a gift that has become nourishment in our busy and full lives. I enjoy the reminder and opportunity to slow down, look at one another, share where we are at and savor our connection in the glow of candle light.

Sushi Recipe with a Shanti Flare

Basic supplies to find

Any well-stocked Korean, Japanese or Chinese grocery( or now even our local grocery store, metro) should have all the utensils and specialty ingredients on hand.
· Wasabi powder or   prepared wasabi
· small  bowls for dipping
· Pickled sliced ginger
· Bamboo sushi rolling mat
· Chop sticks
  Sushi  rice
  Rice vinegar

sushi rice

The key to all types of sushi is the sushi rice. There are a lot of ways to make sushi rice, and most of them will end up pretty much the same. Here's the method I use
Begin by rinsing the rice. You used to have to rinse rice to remove talc that used to be used to coat rice. Now rice is coated with a cereal starch instead, so this isn't strictly necessary, but I find I get better results when I rinse my rice. If I don't, the rice doesn't end up as sticky as it should be. The method I use to rinse my rice is simple, I measure out how much rice I'll be using, usually 2 cups, into the bowl, then I fill it halfway with water, swish it around, and slowly let the water drain out. I repeat this until the water is fairly clear.
The ratio of rice to water I use is 1:1. When I make rice at home, I usually cook 2 cups of rice with 2 cups of water. If you can, let your rice and water sit for about 20-30 minutes before you cook it (after rinsing it). Once again, this is not necessary, but I find I get better results this way. I follow these steps:
  • Bring rice and water to a boil
  • Reduce heat to a simmer
  • Cover rice and water, allow to cook for 10 minutes
  • Turn off heat and allow rice to steam for 20 minute
While your rice is cooking you can make up your sushi vinegar. The ingredients and ratios I use per 2 cups of uncooked rice
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • combine these ingredients in a small saucepan and heat them until the salt and sugar are dissolved. The idea behind the sugar is to cause the tartness of the vinegar to be lessened, while the salt is to bring out the flavor of the vinegar while cutting the sweetness a bit.  Once your rice is cooked, place your rice in a large flat bowl or rice cooling bowl. I use a large pyrex casserole dish. Evenly sprinkle your sushi vinegar mix over your rice, and using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the rice and vinegar well.Try to avoid using metal, as it will change the flavor of the rice. Be careful not to break the kernels of the rice or to flatten the rice or it won't have the same look and feel to it. Once it's well mixed, using a fan or a plate, fan the rice down to room temperature. By doing this, the rice will have the right glossy look while still being nice and sticky. If you don't fan it, the rice's hull won't remain intact as well and kernels will break when you use it. At this point, your rice is ready to use.  

While the rice is cooking i also assemble my filling

avocado sliced
carrots sliced in thin fine strips
red pepper in fine thin strips
thinly sliced strips of cucumber
thinly sliced strips of scallions
toasted sesame seeds

(my new favorite)
smoked salmon
very lightly steamed asparagus (cooled right away under cold water)

  • Once the rice is ready to go, you can place your Nori on a bamboo mat. Make sure the rough side of the Nori is facing up.
  • Before handling the rice, pour a little water and rice vinegar into a small bowl or measuring cup. Dip your fingers in this mixture and it will keep the rice from from sticking to your fingers.

  • Lay your filling horizontally on top of one another on the very bottom portion of the Nori.
  • If using Sesame Seeds, now's the time to lightly sprinkle the seeds over the entire bed of rice. The black ones are very tasty
  • Now to roll I start by taking the very bottom portion of the Nori sheet and tightly begin wrapping it around the filling. Then slowly continue rolling it, keeping it very tight the entire time. To seal the roll, dip fingers in the water solution and dampen the end of the Nori, similar to sealing a stamp.
  • The roll is complete. If not serving right away, simply through this in the fridge. Once ready to serve, grab a knife, get it wet and slice the roll into 1 inch bites.

For the dipping sauce I like to change things up from plain tamari (soy sauce) into my own creation

I like to mix these ingredients to taste
grated ginger
maple syrup
fresh squeezed orange, mandarin or grapefruit
toasted sesame oil

Arrange your beautiful creation, light some candles, decant your wine and surrender to decadence divine.

"To keep the fire burning brightly there's one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart-about a finger's breadth-for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule." - Unknown


Thursday, May 27, 2010

My magical, mosaic table!!!

Remember those toadstools we made a little while ago...if not you can find them right here!

Keith, (my partner in crime), decided that they were stools, and they needed a magical table of some kind.  Lucky for me, when inspiration hits, he is a do-er...out came the jigsaw and plywood, and before I knew it he had a tabletop cut out for me, and even found an old piece of our apple tree that we had to cut down last year, (to use as the base).  I knew just what I would stained glass pile is steadly dwindling due to my recent mosaic projects, so I had to use what I had, and use it well.  I thought I could do a rainbow sort of thing on it...anyhow...I think it turned out pretty darn good!

One of my goals for this season is to naturalize our yard a little...basically pretty it up.  I was noticing that every picture I took out there had piles of random stuff in cars, play lawn mowers, play trucks, toy bulldozers, you name it.  We are also trying to simplify and declutter...truth be known,  barely any of these toys are played with anyhow.  However, I'm betting that this little spot in our yard will be the perfect place for many a garden tea party!

Now how enchanting is this...the bare patch of dirt will soon be covered with some wood's next on the evergrowing outdoor project list!!

Here is my sweet little miss enjoying a pretend snack of leaves!

We recently posted a tutorial on mosaic during our gardening week...found HERE    If you want to do a project like this, the same simple rules apply...cut out your plywood base, put the mosaic on top, grout, screw into a base of some sort, and stick it in the ground.  Alternately, you could use a bigger stump and just sit in on top!
I enjoyed spending a few nights out in my porch doing this really didn't take that long, and I used it as time to meditate as I was putting it all together!


On a totally unrelated note, awhile back I won a wonderful giveaway on Gardenmama...I wanted to share with you what I won, and take this as an opportunity to thank the lovely lady who's wares I won...
Thank you Samantha of pipodoll!  Her beautiful gnomes and art prints, (as well as many other delightful creations), can be found at HERE and she also has a lovely blog which can be found at:  Check her out!

Happy Crafting Y'all!
Maureen xo

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homelearnin' together! (aka another beautiful day)

Welcome to another beautiful day here at the Toadstool!  It was far too hot for crafts today, instead Ruby started her morning with some yoga...(just like her daddy).  However little sister decided that a downward dog looked so much like a bridge that she just "had" to go Ruby had a lesson in tolerance...actually she's already got a PHD as far as tolerance goes...

Matilda was thrilled to have made her big sister laugh...doesn't this picture just scream JOY!!!!!

On the last Wednesday of every month, (from Sept-June),  we have our Discovery Days at a local community centre.  We have an eclectic homeschool community here...we are in a rural area, so if you are the least bit open minded and into getting together with the kids, well, you're one of us!  I started organizing our Discovery Days 2 years ago, and it is the one thing that has "stuck" with our homeschoolers...we get together one day a month and host a day of elective classes...the classes run for 45min-1hour and they can be about anything...we've had knitting, geography, french, sign language, science, art, name it.  The kids get to sign up for whatever class they want and the parents each have a job to do!  As of late, we've finally managed to get people from our wider community to get involved in coming and teaching, (usually for free, sometimes for a small fee).  We also have a nursery for the babies, and preschool classes for the 5 and under crowd!

Here is one of the lovely volunteers from our community doing yoga with some of the kids...the other kids were learning about wind downstairs and outside playing soccer!

Usually we get 20-30 kids out, but today was a sure sign that things are winding down for most of our homelearnin' families...we had about 12 kids out, and due to the intolerable heat that we've been having up here, we had to cancel our farm trip for the afternoon...but, as homeschoolers we are great at being farm trip?  Let's go to the beach instead!!!!  Watching those kids in the water brought back those carefree moments of my own childhood...seeing the kids run in head first!!!  Delightful!  One of my friends used to say that Canada's national motto should be, "it's fine once you get in!", it was just fine...everyone was astonished that the lakes are this MAY!!!  We are so blessed to live in this area where clean lakes are in excess!

Just another beautiful day...

Maureen xo

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's Gardening Week...Let's Make a Toad Village!!!!

Alright...before I can begin todays tutorial I have a confession to make.  I have frog and toad phobia, (I don't me if it hops, is greenish, covered with spots, I don't like it)!  At one point it was so bad that I spent the night sleeping in my car because there was a toad on the front step, (that I couldn't move, no matter how large a stick I wielded)!  I've been working on this ridiculous fear of mine because I live out here in the country, and toads are my closest neighbours...they LOVE our walkway and I do appreciate the hard work they do in the garden, (eating all the not so good insects)...also, I don't want to pass on this fear to my daughters...I mean, how remarkable are these creatures to our children?!  On that note, and because I am ready to conquer my fear a little bit more, welcome to Toad Village!!!

To make your own Toad Village you will need:

A few terra cotta pots, medium sized are best (as many as you want, depending on how large you want your village to be)!
paint, paintbrush
waterproof varnish
stones to line the pathway, leaves, straw, whatever you want to fancy up your village and make the toads abode a little more comfy

Start by painting your will only need to paint one half of it, as the other half will be buried in the soil, (as per the pictures below).  After they dry, put on a coat or two of waterproof varnish.

Find a spot in your garden or yard where you want to put Toad Village...bury your pots halfway in the soil, and line the bottoms with straw, old leaves, whatever you have on hand.  Put up the clothesline and VOILA!!  You could also fashion some walkways, make a little pond...the possibilities are endless!  This is a super simple garden could take this a step further and learn about the toads in your neck of the woods, read 'Frog and Toad' aloud, etc... 

Here is our finished the heart of our vegetable patch, a little slice of paradise for the toads in our lives!  Hope you are all having fun outside in your own gardens!!!  Thanks for coming by this week!!

Sunshine and smiles, seeds and mud!

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Gardening Week...Let Make Crystallized Flowers!

I have fond memories of eating crystallized flowers on my grandmother's cakes. She would often surprise us with placing them on one of her decadent cakes in the dead of winter !  I decided to try my hand at making these myself and perhaps delight my girls in the same way. I spent the evening last night lost in a space of painting these delicate little blossoms with a some tunes, a sweet spring breeze and a glass of wine...a  lovely  way to quiet my mind and think fondly of my grandmother who always had magic at her finger tips.

Candying Flowers Recipe and Method:

  • You will need:

  • 1 –2 egg whites (or about ¼ cup of the pasteurized variety)

  • Finely granulated white sugar (about 1/2 cup)

  • Tiny, clean, artist’s brush

  • Cup of cool water

  • Wax or parchment paper for drying the flowers

  • Paper or cotton towels

Cut the prettiest blossoms you can find at their peak of bloom, taking care to keep enough stem on them to allow you to hold them easily (3 to 4 inches).

Use only unsprayed flowers. This cannot be emphasized enough

Beat the whites from two or three fresh eggs with a whisk or fork, until they have lost their original heavy texture and become a bit frothy.
. Place about a cup or two of finely granulated white sugar in a soup bowl - this will be used to dip the flowers.
. Taking a single flower at a time, use the tiny brush to gently – but completely – coat the entire flower blossom, one petal at a time. Do NOT immerse the blossom in the egg white, as it causes the flower to take-up too much egg white. It will then not harden properly.
.Dip the egg-washed blossom into the sugar, taking care to get the sugar onto each petal. Gently shake off any excess sugar.

Place the blossom on wax paper – or parchment paper – and snip the flower blossom off its stem-holder.
. Allow the blossom to completely dry and harden.
. Store in an airtight container – they will keep for weeks.

We choose to use violas, pansies, white and purple lilacs, phlox, mint and pinks!

"Oh mom, WOW can we try these?"!  One more way to enjoy the magnificence that surrounds us!

in sugared beauty

~ Shanti ~

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Gardening Week...Let's Make Garden Markers...

It's another beautiful day at the Toadstool.  Today we're going to make some garden markers...our veggie garden is in desperate need of it.  I just dug up a bed that I had planted days ago...having forgotten completely that it was planted...oh my!  This was a craft born out of neccessity!

You will need:
medium sized rocks
weatherproof varnish, (I just use the stuff from the craft store)

To start...

First we used gesso and primed the rocks white. 

 Then we put on a solid coat of paint...wait for it to dry and...

Paint on your picture...we did ours in the style of alphabet cards...with a picture of the veggie and then the letter it starts with...we did it mainly because there wasn't room on our rocks to write the whole word, but I think the result is cute!

Paint on a coat or two of weatherproof varnish.
Stick in the garden and enjoy...and for fogetful mammas like myself, now you will remember what you have in there!!!  You could also do this for your flower beds, herb garden...whatever you darn well fancy!

Now...I've got to get back to my garden!!!!  Today the garden will get some tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, manure and a big ol dose of TLC!!!

Happy Gardening and Happy Crafting!
Maureen xo

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Gardening Week...Let's Make Toadstools for the Garden!!!

Greetings from the Toadstool!  Last week when I posted our felt toadstool tutorial, one of our lovely readers gave me this fantastic idea.  This idea comes from an old issue of 'Family Fun' magazine, (issue unknown)...I don't know what theirs looked like, but this is how we made our outdoor toadstools.

We used...old wooden salad bowls, (these all had cracks in them)
red spray paint
white duct tape

First get all of the dirt off of the outside of your bowl...put it on some newspaper outside and spray it whatever colour you desire, (we did ours red), according to the instructions on your paint.

Then, I cut the white duct tape into little circles and stuck them all over the bowl.  I don't know how the duct tape will hold up, but it sure was easy to says it is weather proof, so we'll see.

Drill a hole into the underside of your bowl.

Screw the mushroom "cap" onto a log, and there you go!!!

This was a delightful little project to do for the kids.  When one of Ruby's friends came over, one of the first things she said was, "Wow, those are cool toadstools"...they really bring an element of *magic* to our yard! 
Thank you again beautiful reader for this idea! 

Keith has decided that our toadstools should be "chairs", and he's already cut out a table top for us to of  my dreams for our yard is to have a more naturalized playspace for the children, a space that is beautiful and can't help but inspire magical play!  I think though, that we will be scouring our local second hand stores for smaller bowls, to make some more enchanting little toadstools to put here and there!

Hope your day is magical & crafty!
with love

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's Gardening Week...Let's Check Out Edible Flowers

One of my favorite things to plant are edible flowers. This is the time of year I eagerly await the spouting and blossoming of my beloved edibles. I love the joy in continually harvesting a bounty of beautiful  flowers, using them to garnish plates, decorate cakes, sprinkle on salads, nibble on right out of the garden and share with my girls in the play of  food art. I  love that these exquisite and elegant faces of nature, bring such delicious beauty to the creations they grace!

                   Here is my 10th wedding anniversary cake I decorated ~ using
organically grown polish  roses, violas, marigolds and daisies.

         My daughter Luna's rainbow birthday cake using bee balm, 
        nasturtiums,  calendula, mint, borage and violets.

   served with this rainbow fruit salad ~ garnished with a rainbow of  flowers

      My favorite edible ~ the tender, peppery, sweet nasturtiums that come 
  in brilliant sunset colors

        Luna's center piece of calendulas that she created for our dinner table

         The lilacs are bursting here right now and are EDIBLE!
             To celebrate this, the girls and I are making lilac blossom ice cubes for
our company tonight!

I am amazed at the amount of edibles you can grow and be inspired  to bring your food to life with! check out this link, it guides you through what flowers to plant, how to use them and what they taste like.
go HERE for more info

also this link is great to see what they look like when shopping for them at a green house.

in  edible  delights
 ~ Shanti~

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Gardening Week...Let's Plant Butterfly and Bee Baskets!!!!

Happy Monday from the Toadstool!!!  The weather has made a remarkable recovery up here in the woods.  It's time to get outside and do some planting!  We wanted to plant some baskets this year that were full of bee and butterfly friendly flowers and plants.  This morning, before heading out to the greenhouses, we did some research on what kinds of plants we'd need.  I found THIS link very helpful for determining some of the butterfly friendly plants.  Here is a short list: 
for butterflies...zinnia, sage, marjoram, violets, asters, verbena, dainthus, pincushion
and for the bees...asters, sage, basil, lavendar, rosemary, zinnia, calendula, verbena, gaillardia
*this is just a short list...and these were some of the plants I knew would be easy to find in our local greenhouses.

here are some of the butterfly friendly plants that we got...zinnia's, sage, dianthus, violets

and for the bees...verbena, rosemary and lavendar...

Ruby is putting soil in our baskets...we just used potting soil...

and here she is planting one of our butterfly friendly hanging baskets...

this is one of the butterfly friendly baskets...all done!

This was a wonderful project to do with Ruby...she helped with the research and came with me to pick out the's a tremendous way to teach about the importance of butterflies and bees as well., (our bee friendly basket is at the top of the post)!

We also had an inpromptu visit from our lovely friend Megan, (and her son Oscar)...she was on her way to the city when her vehicle started to "smoke", on her way back to her homestead, she stopped by...and how honoured were we to have her come by, not only because we adore her, but because it was her BIRTHDAY!!!!  Dinner and cake were in order, and of course we sent her off with a butterfly basket of her own!!!  Happy Birthday dear kindred soul...we love you Megan!!!! (and Oscar too)

Happy Gardening Everyone!!!!!
Come back every day this week, for some delightful garden projects and inspiration!!!!



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