The Most Amazing News

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Oh friends, I just received the most amazing news.  My favorite blogger/author, Amanda Blake Soule, will be featuring my garden photos and writing on her blog tomorrow.  I invite you to check out the post tomorrow (Friday, July 22) at www.soulemama.com.

I am completely overcome with excitement and gratitude at being given this wonderful opportunity to share with those around the world, what wonderful things are going on right here in Rockford, Illinois.  A true blessing indeed.

And, this news does not come on any random day either.  Today we celebrate my mom’s birthday.  If this is not a true sign of a guardian angel mama always looking out for her babies, I don’t know what is.  You always told me to keep writing, Mom.  And I have been.  Just for you.

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Obsessed

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Obsessed.  There is no other way to describe what is happening in this house right now after discovering this new craft.  The possibilities are endless.

A Vessel

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Friends, I’m telling you, there are times when it is just awesome to have a dad who owns a hardware store.  For those times you want to paint a room, or unclog a drain, or make a basket.  Wait, what? Yup.  I think I did indeed just find a new obsession:  rope basket making.

For months now, I have been eying Amanda Blake Soule’s baskets made with clothesline on her blog.  I yearned to make one myself, but was not confident in my sewing ability.  Then Taproot’s “Folk” issue arrived on my doorstep, and within its pages were step-by-step instructions for these rope baskets.  So, this week I decided to give it a try.  I went to my dad’s hardware store, bought some clothesline, and got to work.

Now let me be clear…I am by no means a seamstress.  I can barely handle sewing pajama pants and nightgowns for my girls.  So believe me when I tell you, these baskets are a cinch to make, and so much fun!  And there is something so meditative about working in a circular pattern, which made this particular project that much more wonderful.  Once I got started, I couldn’t stop.  Have I said making this basket was a blast?  🙂

Dinner ended up being super late to the table and my family was starving, but I made a fabulous basket!  I think I will find myself in the rope aisle of my dad’s hardware store again very soon.  Man, this is fun!

(P.S.  If you are in my family, plan to get a basket for your birthday this year.  And Christmas.  And on a random Tuesday.)

Tea with Jam and Bread

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My eldest gal turned nine this weekend.  How is it possible that my precious girl is so near double digits?  Needless to say, this weekend was filled with all kinds of party action.  And true to form, each party was historically-based, for my daughter who loves history more than any third grader I have come across.

On Saturday, she hosted her girlfriends for a Victorian tea party for her girlfriends and their dolls.  They sipped on her favorite raspberry peach tea, and snacked on our favorite cupcake recipe from this cook book.  (We used this natural food coloring this time, and I must say, I loved it!  We have run into trouble in the past with natural food coloring in that it did not hold the color very well, but this one worked like a charm.)

This tea party was especially close to my heart because when I was nine, my mom held a tea party for my sister and me.  It is one of my fondest memories I have as a child, and I was just thrilled when Gianna suggested a similar tea party for her birthday on this particular year.  We could just feel Mana’s presence with us all day long.

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Then on Sunday, we ventured back to the time of the pioneers for her Little House on the Prairie-inspired party, celebrated with our family.  My daughter is quite the organizer, and planned the entire menu, decorations, and kids’ activities, all on her own.  The afternoon featured center pieces and a fun pomander activity (and mulled wine…my contribution to the day) from Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings.  She also found tons of fun pioneer crafts for the kids in Pioneer Projects by Bobbie Kalman.  She then made her own corn chowder with a recipe from her newly acquired Lincoln Heritage Trail Cook Book.  And of course, a pioneer party is not complete without homemade butter and bread, so we baked her favorite honey oat bread from The Rhythm of Family by Amanda and Steve Soule.  And for those who may be wondering, I made the girls’ skirts from a vintage coverlet I found at a thrift store, and I purchased these bonnets to complete the pioneer ensemble.

The shining sun, crisp autumn air, and scent of campfire and cloves mingling in the air left us all feeling that this was truly a wonderful way to close our weekend.

 

 

An Afternoon Project

As we prepared to begin our homeschooling adventure last week, I needed to do some pretty hefty cleaning and organizing.  Our crafting space in our basement needed some extra special attention because it had gotten a bit out of control over the course of the last two years.  (Yes, I am sad to say this is how long it had been since I organized this space.  And maybe how long it had been since I had cleaned it too.  Ooops.)

Anyway, while organizing my hovel, I found a ton of scrap fabric that was just asking to be used for something quick and fun.  So I pulled out one of my favorite crafting books, The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Blake Soule and her husband Stephen Soule, and got to work on the handkerchief pattern.  I love using this pattern to make cloth napkins so as to not contribute more waste to the landfills with paper napkins, and it also helps me to get rid of lots of scrap fabric.  It’s a win win.

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Baby Love

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We have a few friends who had babies born near the end of the year, so of course those new little ones needed a little bit of homemade baby love from the Fagan abode.  I found a sleep sack pattern I hadn’t used in a while, and using some nice jersey fabric, crafted a little sack for the new baby girl.  I then dug out my favorite lotion recipe from The Rhythm of Family and, leaving out the essential oils, made some great lotion perfectly suitable for a baby’s sensitive skin.

There is surely something special about giving a new mama and daddy something unique for their precious little one.  I am so thankful to have the opportunity to share a little homemade goodness with these amazing new parents.

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From Scratch

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In our family’s attempt to make as much as we possibly can here in our home, there are those weeks that go by when we are in the midst of a creating whirlwind, and suddenly I look at the calendar and it’s Wednesday.  This is one of those weeks.  Oh boy.

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There have been baskets and baskets of beans harvested from the garden, more than we could ever eat at this time.  So, this weekend we rinsed, cut and froze most of our harvested beans to set aside for the winter months.

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We are to that point in the growing season where some of our plants have gone to seed.  So this weekend, entrenched in vines and leaves of green, we pulled out arugula and collected the seed pods for late fall planting.  Then replanted carrots and beets for fall harvest.

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I opened my linen closet last Friday to a cavernous black hole, completely void of any form of soap, lotion or shave oil.  The girls and I got to work and rounded out the weekend with a fresh batch of lotion (I use the recipe from this book.) and shave oil (my recipe can be found here), and a new eczema-friendly soap concoction.  (The recipe for this soap to come soon.)

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And last but not least, there is the fermentation frenzy that has taken over our house the last two weeks.  I don’t often become overly obsessed with much, but oh my, I think I may just be in love with Sandor Katz, his book The Art of Fermentation, and all of the nutritional benefits fermenting has to offer.  I gave this book to my husband last summer for his birthday, to aid him in his beer-making endeavors.  But I now find myself huddled with my morning coffee, spilling over the pages of this book, completely enraptured by the content.

Amidst the fermenting madness is fresh made yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, and kombucha.  The constant growing process of it all is just amazing, and the wonderful probiotics offered naturally in these foods is simply mind boggling.  I have so much more to learn, but I am sure enjoying the entire process along the way.

I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful start to your week!

Early June Happenings

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The Fagan home is abustle now that school is complete, and the long-awaited summer is underway.  We are taking full advantage of the crisp mornings by getting chores done and out of the way well before eight o’clock, and then we spend our time basking in the balminess of the afternoon warmth, sipping citrus-infused water and reading in the warm sunlight.  Sneak in there time for summer homeschooling sessions, baking some ambrosial honey-infused dishes, and testing out new homemade personal-care items, we have truly been filling those hours of extra daylight the summer so graciously offers  us.

Here are the happenings around here during this first week of June…

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~The peonies are in full bloom, painting our landscaping with breathtaking pink vibrancy.

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~Learning doesn’t stop over the summer months.  The girls and I spend the first hour or two of each day completing a few homeschooling lessons.  My heart melts when my little ones say, “I love summertime when you can be our teacher Mommy.”  Love.

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~I came up with a lovely vegetarian spin to a lip balm recipe I found in Long Way on a Little by Shannon Hayes.

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~A. MAZE. ING. “Everyday Oat Bread.”  Better watch out Tyler, because I think I have a new love.  The recipe can be found in Amanda Blake Soule’s The Rhythm of Family.

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~Our first attempt at growing hot peppers seems to be working out so far.  Fingers crossed.

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~I’m not quite sure if there is a better combination:  sun, wine and good reads.

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~My girls actually came up with the idea of drinking “fancy water” (as they call it 🙂 ) while we catch some rays outside.

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~A fairy garden in full bloom.  Such a beautiful birthday gift for a four year old little girl.

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~Salad for dinner with greens from our garden, topped with a dandelion vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette recipe can be found in Taproot Magazine Issue 1 :: Soil.

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~It’s strawberry time!  Woohoo!

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~Oh the garden…Always work to be done, but always a place of peace and beauty.

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~And for a snack after all of that energy is expended in the garden:  “Holiday Rounds” from Keeping Bees by Ashley English.  Another great dessert that uses no refined sugar.  Yummy.

What have you been up to lately?  Share a link to your early June happenings in the comment section.

Drawing Fun

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Ever since our February trip to the Northwoods, and my visit to this fabulous antique mall, I have had some lovely vintage fabric sitting on my shelf, just begging to be fashioned into some type of lovely.

Inspired by the “Felt Pencil Roll” in The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule, I made some adjustments to the pattern and created a lovely crayon/colored pencil roll for a brand new “Big Sister” friend of ours.

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So Fresh and So Clean

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Amid the hustle and hustle of the past few weeks, I ran to the linen closet to grab a bar of soap and some lotion and found the shelves that normally house these items to be completely bare.  So, we spent much of our St. Patrick’s Day afternoon making some new soap, lotion and deodorant.

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I used my favorite lotion recipe from this amazing book, but instead using olive oil as I normally do, I used a cold-pressed organic grape seed oil.  It ended up making a much lighter lotion, which I really like.

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A friend of mine steered me towards this great homemade deodorant recipe, and after wearing it in a multitude of situations, I have found it to work wonderfully!  In fact, I would even venture to say it works better than my organic store-bought deodorant.

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And last but not least on our to-do list: soap.  I created this recipe after researching those essential oils known for their anti-bacterial properties.  I hope you enjoy this soap as much as we do!

Making of a Home’s Anti-Bacterial Soap

2 pounds Melt and Pour Soap Base (I use this Goat’s Milk Soap Base.)

1/2 cup palm oil

4 eye droppers of Vitamin E oil

20 drops clove essential oil

20 drops lemon essential oil

10 drops rosemary essential oil

8 drops eucalyptus essential oil

5 drops cinnamon essential oil

5 drops tea tree essential oil

a shallow pot or saucepan

a glass bowl

wooden spoon

soap molds (You can purchase these at your local craft store or here.)

Fill the pot or saucepan half full with water.  Bring to a simmer.  Place the glass bowl in the pot of water to create a double boiler of sorts.  Place the melt and pour soap base, palm oil and the vitamin E oil in the glass bowl.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it melts.  Remove the bowl from the heat and add the essential oils and stir.  Allow the mixture to cool slightly (enough to thicken the mixture just a bit).  Pour into your molds.  Allow to rest until completely cool.  Remove the soap from the molds.  Allow the soaps to cure for about two weeks before you use them.

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