Joy in the Present


Each of us has a handful of life experiences that truly changes us.  Those experiences that get deep into our veins and alter the core of our inner self and the lens through which we view the world.  I can confidently say my family and I just experienced such an event.

Over the course of the last eight days our family ventured East.  We made many, many stops and saw numerous amazing sights, but the reason for our trip was to participate in a family stay at the Knapp family’s local living school, Koviashuvik.  While on this absolutely gorgeous homestead we learned, laughed, created, and soaked up all we could from this astounding family of four who live in harmony with the earth in a way I have never before witnessed.

As I sit before this screen, I realize there is no way I can adequately express, in words, our time spent with the Knapps.  Instead, I have decided to let the photographs tell our story.  The word Koviashuvik means, “a time and place of joy in the present moment” and I invite you come along with us on our adventure to a time and place where I can say I was fully present and filled with the most wonderful sense of peace and joy.

IMG_2908 IMG_2909 IMG_2910 IMG_2926 IMG_2933 IMG_2969 IMG_2981 IMG_2998


IMG_2896 IMG_2899 IMG_2900Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040284Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040289Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040303Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040312IMG_2905IMG_2911 IMG_2913 IMG_2914 IMG_2915 IMG_2917 IMG_3002Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040390IMG_2922 IMG_2925 IMG_2943Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040354Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040364

IMG_2977 IMG_2974 IMG_2929

IMG_2928Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040424Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040435Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040444Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040463

IMG_2946 IMG_2948 IMG_2953 IMG_2954 IMG_2964Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040562Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040571Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040572Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040381Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040384Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040609Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040635Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040639Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040643IMG_2978 P1040490 IMG_2979Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040521

IMG_2932 IMG_2980 IMG_2940Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040370Photo Credit: Ashirah KnappP1040498



There are those times when each of us needs a breathe of new life.  When the grind of our day to day tasks feel a bit too heavy to bear, and we need an opportunity for fresh air to fill the fibers deep within our being, giving us a renewed direction and energy to guide us further on our personal journey through life.

This greatly-needed internal recharge took place this past weekend, which I must say was perfect timing for this mama who was trying her best to stay afloat in her desire to maintain a holistic household, while feeling pulled down by the current of a fast-paced, industry-driven society.  Our family made the trek to Lawrence, Kansas and attended the Mother Earth News Fair where we were allowed the wonderful opportunity to interact with over 10,000 like-minded individuals, seeking that same recharge we were so desperately needing.

IMG_5518 IMG_5515 IMG_5514IMG_5535 IMG_5532 IMG_5531 IMG_5542 IMG_5553 IMG_5568

Our time was spent learning about everything from primitive drilling skills, to chicken keeping, to fermenting, to non-traditional building methods, and everything in between.

But the most wonderful moment of the weekend came in those last 60 minutes of the fair, when we were privileged enough to listen to Joel Salatin speak.  Back home when my husband or I bring up this name, people look at us with raised eye brows while muttering, “Who?” beneath their breaths.  But at the fair in Kansas, all of these people…

IMG_5572 IMG_5571

not only know him, but crowded in amongst one another to listen to him articulate just what it means to be a true steward of the Earth.

IMG_5574 IMG_5573

Chills formed on my arms before the presentation even began because the energy in this space was palpable.  The words Mr. Salatin greeted us with were, “It’s lonely out there isn’t it? But look around you today.  It feels a lot less lonely right now doesn’t it?”  Tears brimmed in my eyes at hearing these words because yes, I had recently been feeling so very lonely.  Lonely in my thoughts, beliefs and ways of life.  But looking around this space made me feel so whole again because I am not alone.  Not by a long shot.  There is an entire community of people out there trying their best to live more deeply, trying to raise families in a way in which they tread a bit more lightly on the Earth.  I left Kansas inspired.  I left recharged.  I left anew.

IMG_5578 IMG_5577

May each of you feel a sense of rejuvenation and renewal as you move through your week.  Today I leave you with Joel Salatin’s final words of his presentation.  I hope they move you as they did me…

May all your carrots grow long and straight,

and your radishes be large and never pithy.

May the coyotes be struck blind by your pasture chickens.

May all your culinary experiments be delectably palatable.

May the rain fall gently on your fields,

the wind be always at your back,

your children rise up and call you blessed,

and may we all leave the world better than we found it.

Cooking Sauce with Daddy


While I was enjoying myself at a baby shower in the beautiful Anderson Japanese Gardens, my girls were home making pasta sauce with Daddy.  My husband gets huge bonus points for this because not only did he cook with the girls (a feat in and of itself), he took pictures of them doing it!  In honor of this momentous occasion, today I bring you a blog post written by the man himself…


Pasta sauce, or “sugo” has a special place in our family.  Every holiday I can remember involved Grandma Jan’s giant pot of sauce, simmering on the stove, filled with meatballs and hunks of pepperoni.  The pasta was always an afterthought, the lowly vessel on which more sauce could be ladled.  Her recipe was given to her by her mother-in-law, my Great-Grandma Lou.  She could flat-out cook and to this day, her skills bring the conversation to a halt, as eyes glaze over in remembrance of what she could do in the kitchen.  Although she is no longer with us, her memories inspired a lazy Saturday to turn into a sauce making event that I was honored to share with two excited and delightful sous chefs.  

This time of year brings us tomatoes, onions, oregano, carrots, and basil right out of the garden.  Despite eating more than we process, there were enough tomatoes to get the project started.  The girls both helped with Gianna pulling carrots from the garden and Addie peeling cloves of garlic.  Both girls helped peel onions and prep the herbs.  We absolutely destroyed the kitchen, used every cutting board in the house, and left onion skins all over the floor.  Despite the mess, I was able to spend a few hours with my girls recreating the smells and flavors that I remember growing up with.  My most sincere hope is that they will remember these moments and find time to create them with their children and grand children, so that future generations will know the importance of food, family, and the sense of community only found in the kitchen.

IMG_4987 IMG_4988 IMG_4992IMG_4996

August Action


There has been a lot of action of late in our gardens.  It is truly at its peak, and despite the near 100-degree temperatures this week, we find ourselves entwined in vines of all sorts, harvesting all this fabulous veg.

IMG_4630 IMG_4628 IMG_4757 IMG_4785IMG_4819

Tomatoes make an appearance at our dinner table each night, for I am not sure there is a better fresh vegetable on earth than a homegrown tomato.  Herbs are being dried each day in order to preserve them for the winter months.  Onions and beans are being diced and then destined for the freezer.  And who could forget our school garden, from which we just reached the 100 pounds donated mark!  Yup, the students of Cathedral of St. Peter School have donated 100 pounds of fresh produce to the Plant a Row for the Hungry program at our local food pantry.

So much wonderful August action in the garden right now.  I hope all of you are finding yourselves in the midst of such garden greatness as well!

Our Summer Kitchen


With the garden flourishing, there is a lot of action in our summer kitchen.  Thank goodness for the cool temperatures that graced us last week!  It made the whole idea of standing over multiple pots of boiling liquid all day a lot more tolerable.


Grandpa Dit’s Bread and Butter Pickles were first on the to-do list.  One of my favorite canning goodies.


Preserving sweet peppers for winter.  I take the time now to dice the peppers, and then freeze them in plastic freezer bags.  Then in the winter I can just pull them out and add them to anything calling for some sweet pepper love.


A new one for us: Jalapeño Jam.  It sure smelled good while making it.  I guess we will see how it tastes in a few weeks.  Fingers crossed.


After harvesting our rhubarb, I chop it up and freeze it in freezer bags so we can enjoy this spring and summer treat all winter long.


Our tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  I must say, our tomatoes are kind of lack luster this year, which is very disappointing because putting by tomatoes is my most favorite produce to preserve.  But here is one nice sized basket I was able to garner from the garden last week.  I made tomato sauce with this collection, and then froze it in our deep freeze for the winter months when throwing pasta in a pot and adding a jar of homemade tomato sauce is just what those little school girls want for dinner.


B.L.T.s  I would be hard pressed to find anyone who does not think this sandwich tops the list of greatest summertime foods.  The bread is from Banana Cherry Bakery, the bacon is from the hog we purchased from this farmer, the tomatoes are from our garden, and topped off with a touch of homemade mayo.  (I use Jamie Oliver’s mayonnaise recipe from this cookbook.)  Oh my.  Delicious.


And we all know that when you eat those salty B.L.T.s you need something sweet after, right?  We whipped up a batch of this amazing cinnamon sugar popcorn.  Wow. It has quickly become a staple at our snack times this week.


The makings of our dinner from last night, and breakfast this morning.  I love the fullness that this time of year brings.  Such garden abundance is truly a blessing.

Beans, Beans Everywhere

IMG_3533 IMG_3528

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.

IMG_3543 IMG_3563 IMG_3566

In Gratitude


This Monday morning I am grateful for…

~a wonderful vacation to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  (Lots more to come in tomorrow’s post.)

~those family members and close friends who pitched in to help keep the Fagan suburban homestead running in our absence 🙂

~Downton Abbey.  Oh my.  I have recently discovered this show, and have been devouring the DVDs ever since.  It’s like a great British novel brought to life.  What could be better?

~the leader of our book club for choosing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for our next read.  I am thoroughly enjoying being transported to the isle of Guernsey in the 1940’s each and every time I unfurl the pages of this novel.

~peas and beans just bursting in our home garden.

~a first hand learning experience for my girls.  We plan to head to the local food pantry this week with our first donation from our school garden.

~the Mason jars strewn across my countertop, just waiting to be filled with all kinds of canned deliciousness.

~the fermentation frenzy that is about to begin this week…woohoo!  Kombucha, yogurt and kraut oh my!

~all of you gathered here today!  Wishing you all much happiness and health this week!

What do you eat in February?


Local watermelon.  As strange as that may sound, yes, for dinner last night we feasted on local watermelon we put by way back in early September, and let me tell you…It was delicious!

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle several years ago, I longed for the days of  “looking at all [those] jars in the pantry [giving] me a happy, connected feeling, as if I had roots growing right through the soles of my shoes into the dirt” that Barbara Kingsolver so eloquently describes in her amazing piece of writing.  And today, many years later, I truly believe I can confidently make that statement with my head held high.  We have established food security for our family.

Our dinner last night was a reminder of this.  With a lovely beef roast from a local grass-fed cow that was processed in October; green beans hand-picked by two adorable Fagan gals, bread and butter pickles made with cucumbers from one of my favorite farmers, pickled beets featuring the dazzling brilliancy of the Chioggia beets pulled from our very own dirt in the backyard, and who could forget that locally grown watermelon frozen in a bit of water and local honey.  Every element on our plate last night came from a place I know and from people whom I trust.


All of those hours spent hovering over the hot stove, in the sweltering heat of this past summer, seemed worth it when all I had to do was head to my basement last night, grab some meat and veggies from our freezer and a few jars off the pantry shelf.  Since beginning our journey toward sustainability, I am filled with an extreme sense of gratitude that I never thought possible.  It seeps into every one of my pores and I can feel it in every fiber of my being.  The Earth has provided us with so much, and by harnessing these gifts in a conscientious manner, we have been able to provide food for our family, even in the dead of winter.  God is good.


A Year In Review

It is hard to believe that this blustery day in February marks the one year anniversary of Making of a Home.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been following my musings over the course of the last year!  I am deeply grateful for each of you.

Today I would like to share with you some of my favorite (and your favorite) posts from this past year.  Thank you again, and be on the look out for some new and exciting changes and additions to Making of a Home over the course of the next year.


Chocolate Anyone?






Laundry Day






Let Them Read



Rhubarb Goodness



Spring Soup



It’s In My Blood



Pastaless Lasagna 



Fuasa—Italian Easter Bread



Generational Wealth



Farm Fresh



Ode to the Strawberry






Grandma Dit’s Carrot Cake



Canning Day



New Chapter



Suburban Homestead



Walk with Us



Thanksgiving 2012





This past Sunday, we spent the day in the warmth of our kitchen’s arms, making Italian antipasto with my husband’s grandmother.  There were a lot of veggies, and even more chopping, but the best part of our afternoon was spending time with Grandma.  These are the moments that I hope my girls carry with them throughout their lives.  Moments when they are home.  Surrounded by family.  Learning lessons passed down from one generation to the next.