In Gratitude


Awhile back, I use to post trinkets of thanks each week.  I felt that in expressing my gratitude I was able to put positive vibes out into the atmosphere, and illustrate that it is often those seemingly minuscule or insignificant items or events that end up constructing a full life.

So, after a four year hiatus, on this 13th day of April, I am so very grateful for…

~a new computer and refreshed space in which I can write.

~Apple Support and their aid when this non-techy gal tried to set up the above mentioned computer. Whew.

~my seven year old, who led me through on the of the best yoga sessions of my life.

~this new book by Ashley English, and the fabulous recipes it contains.  Many of these recipes are sure to find themselves on my kitchen table in the very new future.

~a freshly mulched garden. (And yes, that is a glass of wine on the fencepost.  One needs some mode of relief from the back pain of hauling said mulch, right?)

~several days with family this upcoming weekend—sure to be filled with farmer’s markets and swimming, farm-fresh food and tasty cocktails, laughter and tears.

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.



In the Garden

It’s August!  This means we have entered the jungle-phase of the gardening season.  In order to move about the garden, one must weave in and out of the labyrinth of branches and vines.  And while doing so, one may come across our cat sleeping amongst the beans, or perhaps a groundhog who has found his way into our tomatoes.  (Talk about a bit of a fright when not expecting that guy.  Oh boy.)

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But amongst this tangle of vegetation there is a great deal happening, and our kitchen is finding itself brimming with our garden’s bounty.  The tomatoes have now grown taller than me (and standing at 5’11” that is saying something), and for the first time EVER we have been able to grow broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage!  We planted ever-bearing strawberries two years ago and we are now reaping the rewards of an amazing second round of these lovelies.

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A few weeks back, as I mentioned in this post, I hung some herbs to dry.  This week my girls helped to take the leaves off these dried plants, grind them by hand, and then can them for the winter months.

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Also in the herb department, our basil and lavender are just beautiful this year.  I decided to try out Ashley English’s Lavender Lemonade from her book //“>Quench (using stevia to replace the sugar) and it was delicious!  I have also been making basil-lime water infusions and it puts a whole new face on my family’s hydration needs.

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I pulled most of our carrots this week and tried my hand at lacto-fermentation.  So far, there is a lot of fermentation goodness in the form of carbon-dioxide bubbles rising to the surface of the jars when I burp them each day.  I am very excited to taste these in a few more days.

Coming up next week, I hope to share with you some of the recipes I have been working on, which feature so much of this garden goodness.  Until then, enjoy the remainder of your week!


Culinary Inspirations


Just to give some forewarning, today’s post is going to be Monday-ish.  You know how Mondays are?  It’s the day when you wake up and have a million thoughts, plans and lists going all at the same time–that’s this post.  Monday-ish.

So, here we go…Give me a good book and an even better piece of produce and I am a happy camper.  Last week, I reached for two of my favorite books and some of my favorite spring-time produce, and I was off.  I have often talked about this book before in past posts, but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is a book that will change your world.  Not only is it a beautifully crafted piece about Kingsolver and her family’s journey toward eating locally, but it is also filled with the most delicious recipes! I looked out my kitchen window to find our strawberry and rhubarb bed was overflowing with goodness, so I knew this was the book I needed.  I went with one of my favorite recipes in that book: the strawberry rhubarb crisp.  This recipe is a family favorite, using very little refined sugar, and I love cooking it up in my small stoneware baker because I can cook in it and serve from it.  This time, I chose to dish up this gooey creation in our nourish soup bowls, which I thought looked just lovely because of the matching color profiles.  The other reason I have so many of these bowls on hand is because $2 of every bowl is donated to Feeding America.

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Also growing in our strawberry and rhubarb bed is asparagus.  We didn’t have a great crop of asparagus this year, so we supplemented our own with some from the farmers’ market.  I tried a new recipe, pistachio-crusted asparagus with feta vinaigrette, from Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings to showcase this delicious perennial.  It was absolutely divine.  In fact, every recipe I have tried from this book has been a crowd pleaser.


Now you may have noticed that when discussing the strawberry rhubarb crisp, I mentioned (and linked to) a few of my favorite kitchen essentials.  Please understand, it is not my intention to lure you to my blog with discussions of holistic living and sustainability and then try to sell you something.  Instead, I would love to share some of the kitchen items I use every day, because they help to make my life easier.  My hope is that in sharing this information, I can also help to make your meal preparation easier.

The other reason in sharing this information with you is to provide a means to contribute to my family financially.  After 3 years of debate, I have decided to leave teaching for good and homeschool my daughters.  I have wanted to homeschool ever since my eldest went off to kindergarten, but always held back because homeschooling was just too very far outside the box at that time in my life.  But as I mentioned last week, I need to do what I believe is best for my family, and for us, homeschooling is where it’s at 🙂  I have never beed more sure of a decision in my life, but the fact of the matter is that there will be a gap in our income.  I have worked (or maybe I should say dabbled) as an independent consultant with Pampered Chef for over five years, and I believe it’s business model is one that is keeping with my family’s belief structure.  It is based in Illinois (where we live), many of the products are made in the U.S., they provide funding to Feeding America and the American Cancer Society, and they allow women and men to work from home and put their families first.  So, from time to time, I will share some products that I use, and it is up to you whether or not you would like to link to them and find out more information.  I hope you understand my reasoning in doing this.

Well, if you have followed me through to this point, you have made it thought my Monday stream-of-conciousness post.  Books.  Produce.  Recipes.  Pampered Chef.  Homeschooling.  Lots of Action.

I wish you all a wonderful week, in which you can work through all those thoughts, follow through on all those plans, and check off all those items on your lists.  Happy Monday, friends.

At This Moment


At this moment I am…

~continuing to stitch away at some new dish wash cloths.

~very thankful I got caught up on all things school yesterday.  I feel that I can take a big breath and a sigh of relief.

~even more thrilled I got all of the above mentioned work-type items done yesterday, because we have a day off of school today because of the frigid temperatures.  Hooray for snow days (Well, cold days) 🙂

~checking on my curing soap I have stowed away in my basement.  More on this adventure in next week’s posts.

~preparing to ferment a new batch of kombucha.  The cold weather has really slowed down my kombucha brewing, but I’m hoping I can get a new batch up and running today.

~reading Michael Pollan’s newest book, Cooked:  A Natural History of Transformation.  As with all of his texts, this one does not disappoint.  It is truly captivating, and also so informative and inspiring at the same time.

~organizing craft supplies.  My little ones mentioned before their heads hit the pillow last night: “Mommy, if we don’t have school tomorrow, can it be Valentine-making Day?”  Well gals, Valentine-making Day it is!

~flipping through Ashley English’s A Year of Pies.  I feel as if a day off school warrants a day of eating pie, right?

~wishing you all a warm Thursday, friends.

Our Holiday

I hope this past holiday season found you all well, and in a state of food, fun and family bliss.  Happily, all our family members remained healthy for the duration of our holiday break, enabling us to truly enjoy each moment of these past two weeks.  Here is a bit of those things we enjoyed as 2013 exited, and 2014 began.

20131228_150549_resized_2Sledding at one of our favorite parks–Rockford Park District’s Aldeen Park.

IMG_6441Enjoying this amazing egg nog hot chocolate recipe by Ashley English.

IMG_6476 IMG_6482Taking in the majesty that was our church on Christmas Eve.

IMG_6506 IMG_6529Engaging in some fabulous retro games and projects.  Can you believe they are now selling these oldies but goodies again?  Love it.

IMG_6443Indulging in Ree Drumond’s bacon maple scones from this wonderful cookbook.


Playing in the magical fairy tree house built by Santa’s elves.

IMG_6555 IMG_6560Taking in the silence of our backyard on a snowy New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year, friends.  I hope 2014 brings much peace and happiness to all of you.

Beans, Beans Everywhere

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One thing is for sure, we have a LOT of beans coming through our kitchen door these days.  So many beans in fact that there is no feasible way to eat them all.  Enter “Operation Dilly Bean.”  If you have never eaten a pickled bean, a.k.a. dilly bean, you must make it your duty to eat one this year.  A dilly bean earns a solid ranking in the top 3 list of pickled veg in my book.  Yum.

This past Sunday found me hovering over the kitchen island chopping beans and breathing in vinegar fumes, with visions of dilly beans dancing in my head.  The past few years I used a dilly bean recipe from this book, but this year I decided to mix things up a bit and try something new.  I used the basic pickling recipe from this cookbook, and based on how great Miss English’s other recipes are, I’m sure this one will not disappoint.

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Early June Happenings


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…



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


~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.


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


~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.


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


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


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


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


~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.


~It’s strawberry time!  Woohoo!


~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.

Spring Break Baby

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We just wrapped up Spring Break, and what an adventure it was.  We first traveled to Madison, Wisconsin where we visited with family, celebrated and gave thanks over yummy food, and even squeezed in a bit of pool time.  We then ventured back to the Northwoods for some quiet time with my husband’s grandparents.  Nature in all her glory surrounded us up there.  We were lucky enough to see a bald eagle and many, many, many deer.  Oh my.

We returned home to lawns completely cleared of snow, a garden in desperate need of some TLC, and four whole days of break remaining!  So, we strapped on our new garden boots and set to work.  I had forgotten how much I missed being outside…just “in” it…you know.  It was just fabulous.

I hope this Monday has been wonderful for all of you so far, and may you all have a lovely week!

Al Naturale


Another of my favorite days is right around the corner.  Sure, it is snowing outside as I write this, and the temperature last night dipped well below freezing, but no matter.  Easter is just a few short days away.

Our house is always abustle with baking and crafts at this time of year, but our most favorite of all activities we find ourselves immersed in is dyeing those lovely little Easter eggs.  For the second year now, we have opted to use natural dyeing agents to dye our eggs, and let me tell you…If you have never dyed eggs this way, you must try it!  The entire process leads to a day full of fun, and this year we were even glad to find ourselves in our toasty kitchen from all that steam the pots were kicking off.  I mean it was twenty-five degrees outside.  Oh my.


There are many resources out there with a bunch of great ideas for natural dyeing agents.  The book we used this year was Keeping Chickens:  All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English.


One recommendation I would give is to try to find organic white eggs to use with these natural dyeing agents.  These are sometimes difficult to find, as it took me driving to three different stores before I could find some, but it is well worth it.  Last year we dyed organic brown eggs and the colors did not pop as much as they did this year.



Just to give you a frame of reference, starting with the yellow egg and moving clockwise…yellow (turmeric), violet (cranberries), brown (coffee grounds), pink (beets), bluish violet (blueberries and blackberries).