Vegan Soap Recipe No. 2

During this time of uncertainty, I have found myself falling back upon activities and projects that brought me happiness in the past.  One particular task that seems to always give me a sense of peace is soap-making.  There is something about the slow process, the circular motion of mixing, and the smells of oils wafting throughout the kitchen that puts my mind at ease.

What I look forward to most is that hopefully by the time this batch of soap is cured, we will be out of the quarantine and basking in the summer sunlight with our friends and family members.

This go-round I decided to try throwing a new fat into the mix…shea butter.  I love the smooth, creamy texture the shea butter gave to this soap and I cannot wait to see how it feels on the skin! I also wanted to try to bring some summer love to this batch, so I sprinkled some dried calendula pedals (from last year’s garden) onto the top of the soap before curing.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I look forward to sharing more at-home projects with you throughout this strange time in our world’s history.  Be safe and be well, friends.

Vegan Soap Recipe No. 2

5 cups distilled water

12 oz lye

10 cups organic unrefined coconut oil

2 cups //” data-wplink-url-error=”true”>organic shea butter

Essential oils of your choosing (if desired)

Brazilian clay of your choosing (if desired) (I used yellow Brazilian clay in this particular batch.)

*Before you get started, please know that making soap with lye can be very dangerous.  You MUST be sure you are wearing proper gloves and eyewear at all times, and you must be in a well ventilated room!  

Step 1:  In a large stainless steel bowl, carefully stir the lye into the distilled water.  Stir continuously until all the lye is dissolved.  (This mixture can rise in temperature to almost 200 degrees, so again, proceed with caution.)  Allow the lye-water mixture to cool to 75 degrees.  This can often take several hours.

Step 2:  Warm the coconut oil and shea butter in a stock pot until it becomes liquid.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 80-85 degrees.

Step 3:  In a very slow and steady stream, carefully add the coconut oil and shea butter to the lye-water mixture while stirring constantly.

Step 4:  Once all the coconut oil and shea butter has been added, I use an immersion blender to get the soap to reach trace phase (the consistency of a thick honey).

Optional Step:  If adding essential oils, blend the oils in at this time.  And if adding clay for coloring your soap:  mix a tablespoon of clay with .25-.50 mL of your chosen essential oil.  Partially mix the clay into the soap mixture so it streaks.

Step 5:  Pour mixture into soap molds.  Cover with plastic.  I then place lots of old beach towels on top of the plastic wrap to help insulate the soap.

Step 6:  Allow your soap to remain insulted for 3-4 days.  Then remove the soap from the molds, cut the soap (if necessary), and place on a cooling rack.

Step 7:  Allow your soap to cure on the cooling rack for at least 2 months before using.

This Girl: Part 2

As those struggling with mental health issues know, as much as we wish these matters would simply disappear, they do not dissolve into nothingness like we hope. Each day can bring with it a new challenge to face and overcome.

Two months ago, with the guidance of my doctor, I reduced my anti-anxiety medication by half.  I had been feeling pretty darn great with this new dosage of meds.  I hadn’t even noticed an increase in my anxiousness at all.  All was well.

Enter this week: Coronavirus. Closures. Travel bans. Cancellations. Fear.

Amid this flurry of fear, I found myself in my former trigger location on Wednesday: the grocery store.  I was milling about the aisles, stocking my cart with goodies for family who plan to come to town this weekend, when I saw a man coming toward me down the aisle.  His cart was overflowing with bottled water, toilet paper, bleach and canned sardines.  Holy. Shit.

I instantly began to feel that all-too-familiar feeling of panic rise within my gut.  My teeth clenched, my breath became shallow and quick. The dizziness began.

I stopped mid-aisle and immediately began to employ the strategies my counselor passed along to me so many months ago. “This is anxiety,” my inner voice whispered. “I am safe and I will get home soon. Safely.” I took a deep, cleansing breath.  Then I smiled and chuckled to myself. (This was definitely NOT what I was expecting to happen.)  I was imagining the inner dialogue of Bleach Man as he passed me in the aisle, gazing into my my cart  filled with wine, chips, brownie ingredients and a smattering of Reese’s peanut butter eggs, “Oh my God!  Doesn’t this lady realize what is going on in the world right now?  She is crazy!”  And then, just like that, the panic subsided and never manifested into a full-blown attack.

The days that lie ahead will certainly be challenging, both physically and mentally, for all.  I think it’s so important for each of us to find our own unique strategy to navigate the days, weeks and months ahead.  Since Monday, I have found myself on my yoga mat each day. I know that my yoga practice is what I need in order to continue to fight my battle with anxiety during this season.  This practice helps me feel stronger physically, but also more confident in my inner strength.

This girl can overcome this hurdle.  We all can.  I hope this trying time helps to strengthen each of us, and in the end, we are better because of it.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~Ernest Hemingway

This Girl: Part 1


(Written in 2019)

I heard my phone vibrate as it sat, nestled in my cup holder beside my coffee mug.  I pulled into my driveway, shifted the car into park and then picked up my phone to find a tiny red number one beside the Gmail icon.  I clicked on the envelope icon and up popped a picture of a girl standing on what looked to be some sort of stage.  She was laughing in the photo, joy evident across the expanse of her face.  This girl.  Who was this girl with her head held high, poised behind this podium?


I battled anxiety for years before I even knew what anxiety was.  It started with odd feelings while standing in line at the cash register or breathlessness while waiting amongst a string of cars at a stop light.  The years flowed on and this strange feeling began to seep into other areas of my life.  What started out as discomfort while driving on the interstate and nervousness when in large crowds morphed into an animal of which I had no conscious control.  This animal consumed my life for an entire decade.

I found it difficult to stand during Mass, and found it especially grueling to stand in line waiting for communion.  I would dig my fingernail into the fleshy skin between my thumb and index finger while my hands were folded, because feeling that pain while awaiting the Eucharist was better than the all-consuming feeling that I was going to fall to the ground in front of the entire cathedral.  I was unable to drive on the interstate because my heart would begin racing so fast that my hands would shake to the point that I could no longer hold onto the wheel.  I would even find myself in the restroom of the grocery store with my head between my legs hyperventilating, and I politely decline invitations to join friends for dinner because I didn’t think I could make it through the evening without having a panic attack.

But on a sunny day 3 years ago, those panic attacks in the bathroom seemed like walks in the park compared to the feeling that overtook me at the YMCA while on the elliptical trying to catch a workout.  I was plugging away on my machine, and I had gotten to that point in my workout where I really felt like I was going strong and the beat of the music was propelling me forward.  While riding, I took in the gorgeous view of the river and watched as people walked along the bike path on this beautiful day.   I then saw an elderly man cross the parking lot below.

I wondered about him.  How old was he? Had he always worked out? Was it illness that drove him to work out? Ill.  Ill like my mom.  Ill like my mom was before she died.  Ill like my dad who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  My dad would never get to be that elderly man waltzing across the lot with ease because the disease would overtake his body, changing it into something he could no longer control.  What if I was ill too?  What if I would never be able to be like that elderly man effortlessly crossing the lot?  What if I didn’t even see that day and instead die an early death like my mom? What if I die here, now, on this silly piece of cardio equipment.

I could no longer breath, I grew dizzy. I grew so dizzy I feared I would fall, hit my head, lose consciousness, and not be able to pick my two young girls up from the childcare area at the Y.  My anxiety had never impacted my children.  Now it did.  In this moment, I questioned my ability to care for them.

I gingerly stepped off the elliptical, and clutching each piece of equipment hand over hand, I found my way to the cool metal of the door handle.  I honestly do not remember much of what happened next other than that I did make it to my girls, we must have traversed that same parking lot that the elderly man had crossed only moments earlier, and we were in our car.  And this is the point where my recollection becomes clear again.  I called for help.  I have a very distinct memory of the nurse’s voice on the phone when I told her I needed to make an appointment with my general practitioner to discuss my extreme anxiety problem.  This was the very first time I admitted, out loud, that there was a very real problem and anxiety was its name.


Now here I am, back in that same car, looking at the picture of this woman.  I recognize this woman.  This confident woman behind the podium, standing beside a man with a smile spread across her face…is me.  After hundreds of hours talking with therapists and doctors, even more time logged in the yoga studio, and finally sharing my struggles with my family and friends, I can truly say the tide has finally turned.  This girl just spoke in front of a group of nearly 500 people. The girl who couldn’t walk through the aisles of the grocery store because of the crowds.  The girl who dug her fingernails into her hands while awaiting communion. The girl who turned down friends’ invitations and had become an agoraphobic hermit.  This girl did this.  This girl.


[I encourage you to return to this space tomorrow, when I will share how I am navigating through my personal anxiety as the world seems to grow more anxious by the moment.]


At This Moment

At this moment, I am…

~awakening this space that lay dormant for 22 months.

~blending a fresh batch of handmade lotion.

~preparing for one last week of homeschool lessons before taking a much-needed spring break.

~creating my list of seeds and transplants for the 2020 growing season.

~dreaming of my new-to-me garden shed.

~loving the gentle pull toward this space again.  Thank you for joining me here once more, friends.


Handwritten recipes upon note cards.  In the world of recipe-ridden Pinterest, I fear this practice is falling (or has already been strewn) by the wayside.  But the writing itself is so very powerful, isn’t it? When I read a recipe written in the hand of a loved one, it is as if I can see the person gently scrolling the pen across the page.  Memories of that person flood my mind.

This recipe comes from my mom’s recipe box.  I was filing through it, attempting to find something very different, but when my eyes fell upon this recipe I was immediately transported to my youth.  I am running through the yard to catch up with my friends during a very lively game of capture the flag.  My mom stoops over the rhubarb patch nestled along the south side of our house.  She looks up at me and smiles.  I continue my trek, scampering barefoot through the grass as my mom clips away at the stems of the bitter rhubarb.

My mom died of a very aggressive form of cancer two and a half years ago.  One day she was active, smiling, putting her positive energy out into the universe and the next moment the cancer could literally be seen eating its way through her body.  Even now, over two years after her passing, there are days when I am going about my daily tasks and I am suddenly hit with the most aggressive type of pain.  A pain that feels as if my heart is being cut open and all that pain, hurt, and loss is spilling forth in a way that I cannot seem to mend.

The pain of this loss is real, and heavy, and raw, yet glancing at my mom’s penmanship upon this notecard grips my heart with both hands and pulls me from my emotional pit and raises me to a solid place of healing.  Seeing her scrip makes me realize that the reason I feel so much heartache over her death is because of the profound love she showed me.  For looking at this worn card immediately reminds me of the overflowing love that washed over me on that warm spring day when she raised her eyes from the intertwining ruby stems of the rhubarb plants in her garden and blessed me with her fervent smile.

Rhubarb Cake

 My mom’s rhubarb cake recipe is one I have made for years and is a family favorite of young and old alike.  I have made some minor adjustments to the original recipe (reducing the sugar content a bit and replacing the shortening with coconut oil), but the end result is still a moist, spongey cake with the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  Enjoy!


2 cups diced rhubarb

1 ½ cup sugar

½ coconut oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla


In a small bowl, mix the diced rhubarb with ½ cup of sugar and let stand.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together all dry ingredients, and set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream the coconut oil and remaining 1 cup of sugar.  Add the egg. Slowing add in the dry ingredients and buttermilk, alternating as you add.  Finally, add the vanilla.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Finally, fold in the rhubarb/sugar mixture.  Pour into a loaf pan and bake for one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes at 350 degrees.


Despite the grey, drab day, my girls and I were teeming with excitement last Wednesday as we slowly drove down Rockton Road, where the path before us turned from asphalt to crunchy limestone gravel beneath our tires.  We knew we were nearing our destination.

Coming into focus on our right was the farm that we visited many times in the past.  That wonderful place where naturally and ethically grown produce and animals thrive, and people aid in that growth with so much vibrancy and respect for Earth and what she provides for us that it is truly inspiring.

But this was not our final destination this afternoon.  Today we were venturing to a new space on the property of Angelic Organics.  Today we were lucky enough to visit the new Angelic Organics Lodge, nestled on the north side of Rockton Road on a gorgeous limestone bluff.

This space was beyond what I envisioned.  We walked through the entrance of this newly renovated space and quickly found ourselves standing on a deck overlooking an expansive oak savannah.  A muskrat scurried into the bend of Kinnikinnick Creek that lay before us, and we could hear nothing but the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, and the birds chirping happily in anticipation of warm spring weather soon to come.  The quiet of this space was so pleasantly overwhelming.  Such a change from the busy sounds of the city that we are often engulfed by on a daily basis.

Inside the walls of the lodge itself were lovely bunk rooms, a commercial kitchen, and a stunning dining hall that boasted a gorgeous stone fireplace.  And perhaps my favorite part of this building was the floors.  The flooring was made with craft paper, glue, water and then sealed with a water-based finish.  It was simply stunning!

This summer the lodge will be the home of Angelic Organics Learning Center’s Overnight Farm Camp, but the best part is, this space is not just for kids!  The lodge will host family weekends, adult farm camp, and even a weekend wellness retreat, complete with farm yoga.  Yes, please!

And if seeing the new lodge was not enough, our afternoon concluded with a chance to see baby goats, newly birthed on the farm.  And not just see them, but hold them, snuggle them and just love on them for quite some time.  It was the absolute best!

I invite all of you to check out the Angelic Organics Learning Center website for more information about all of their amazing programs.  The staff there is beyond words, and they are so helpful in answering any questions you may have about their workshops, camps, and more.  We are so blessed to have a space such as this in our area!

Honey Lavender Walnuts



My girls and I have really been trying to adjust our eating habits throughout the school day.  Instead of snacking on crackers, pretzels and tortilla chips, we are trying to move our snacking to the non-processed variety.  This has been a bit of challenge for us lately, until we crafted this recipe early this week.  Our honey lavender walnuts give you that crunch that great snacks have, while also blessing your tongue with a bit of salt, spice and sweet goodness.  I hope you enjoy!

Honey Lavender Walnuts

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup local honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash of cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms

1-2 cups walnuts (depending upon how much coating you would like)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the butter, honey, salt, pepper and cinnamon in a small sauce pan.  Stir continuously over medium heat until melted.  Remove from heat.

Add vanilla to the butter mixture and stir well.  Next, add the walnuts and stir to coat.

Turn out onto a jelly roll pan and spread out evenly.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.  Stir and spread out evenly again.  Repeat this process until your walnuts have reached a roasted degree that you enjoy.  Remove from oven.

Mix in lavender blossoms.  Allow to cool.  Enjoy!

10 Years


This year marked a pretty big milestone in the Fagan house.  This Thanksgiving was our tenth year hosting our favorite of all holidays.  We love Thanksgiving because it is a time to truly appreciate family, without the distraction of gifts and other commercial nonsense, and to simply feast upon Rumi’s words to “today, let us swim wildly, joyously in gratitude.”

This year I tried to fully embrace these words, because even though the people who physically sit around our table have changed drastically these last few years, there is still so much for which our hearts can be thankful.  It can be so easy to focus on Loss and fall into his grip because it often feels as if he is just waiting there at the ready to close his fingers around us.  But instead, this year I chose to reflect upon all the joy that has filled our dining room over the course of the past ten years.  Change and loss are definite parts of life, but on this day of thanksgiving, I chose to allow myself to be filled with joy, and love, and gratitude.  For it is all about perspective isn’t it?  Choosing a positive lens through which to look at the world can be so powerful and life changing.

More Than a Party

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A few months ago, while nestled in my bed reading an issue of my favorite magazine, Taproot, I happened upon a lovely little piece written by Amanda Riley about a gathering called a “Swap Party.”  The concept and spirit behind this type of affair really intrigued me and I knew that I someday wanted to host such an event.  I mentioned the idea to my neighbor, Sarah, who was not only on-board to co-host this swap, but she seemed to be just as passionate as I was about how amazing such a function could be.

This past weekend, we held this get-together celebrating all things handmade and homegrown, while also honoring community.  Most women at our gathering had never met prior to this evening, but there was so much magic around the table as this community of makers each showcased her unique strengths and talents.

It seems the news and social media are just exploding lately with all the ways we are different.  Separate.  But what about all those entities that bind us?  Crafting and cooking, yes.  But, those heart felt discussions sharing our experiences of love and loss as well.  Today, let us focus on those things that unify.  It is so much more liberating to search for ways to build the bridges of community than to find ways of destroying them.

Brassicas: My Beloveds


A few months back I shared my love of cabbage with all of you.  But maybe I wasn’t being specific enough, or not general enough, depending upon how you look at it.  In actuality I harbor a secret love for all brassicas.  Cabbage, kale, collards, cauliflower. I adore all of them.

So, you can imagine my thrill when I found //“>Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables at the library last week.  I was immediately smitten, and for good reason:  an entire book, all about my favorite genus of veggies!

This week our kitchen has been brimming (albeit a bit stinky) with so many fabulous dishes featuring these amazingly healthy, nourishing plants.