My passion for homemaking began when I was in 8th grade, making home-cooked meals for my dad, younger sister and brother. Having a hot meal on the table for my family was important to me, even then. I was creative when preparing new dishes, and quickly learned that simple ingredients made from scratch rivaled anything that came out of a box – both in taste and cost!

As a young wife, my mother-in-law taught me to cook the Polish/Czech food that my husband, John grew up eating. Bess explained the importance of using fresh, home-grown vegetables, and together we planted a garden overflowing with tomatoes and peppers, a staple in many of our family recipes. She instructed me in compost-making and traditional gardening methods that fed the soil and wasted nothing; the secrets of an abundant garden without expensive fertilizers or dangerous pesticides. When the summer garden overflowed, Bess taught me how to can and preserve our bountiful produce for winter meals; beginning with simple canned tomatoes, then adding pickles and jams. Our garden continued to flourish and grow - and soon so did our family!

When John and I welcomed home our premature twin daughters, it was important for me to provide them with healthy nourishing food, without added sugar, salt and preservatives. In the early 1980s, organic baby food was not readily available, so I invested in a Vita Mix and made my own baby food with the vegetables we grew in our sprawling suburban garden and fruit from local orchards. The tiny girls thrived and 7 years later were joined by a brother. As our kids grew, all three joined us in the garden; learning to pull weeds or picking raspberries - usually eating them all before we could make any jam! They also enjoyed helping in the kitchen; making up fun meals for dinner, adding ingredients to the sauce pan or learning to knead bread. They are adults now, away at college or out on their own, but we still gather together to forage for mushrooms on warm spring mornings and for hearty family meals filled with laughter and love.

Since those early days of marriage and motherhood, I have enjoyed spending warm summer evenings and cool fall days filling mason jars with strawberry jam, peach preserves, zucchini pickles or roasted peppers. John is sometimes at my side; ladling tomatoes, cutting cucumbers or stirring the blueberries as they simmer. Together we carry the jars and carefully stack them on the shelves – knowing that we will be warmed during the cold days of winter that lay ahead and that we will be able to share the bounty of our labor with friends and family – and you!

Join me on my daily adventures in the garden, kitchen, classroom and outdoors and share the simple pleasures of Wholesome Living. Stop by often for a taste of home.

Working with Mary on this project has been a pleasure. We see eye to eye on values and accountability while sharing a common world view of sustainability and simplicity. Plus, Mary's homemade, all natural canned goods are delicious!

-Erik Brandt, efb115Design