I'm daughter to Lissie, sister to Jess, wife to Brien, mom to Hannah, Lily and Eleanor. I am a stay at home mom to my girls, and my free time is dedicated to gardening (I confess I'm still a novice and look to Lissie and Jess for advice), baking and cooking, and card making. I'm doing my part to make the earth a bit greener, trying hard to avoid processed foods and HFCS, and find the "slow food" movement intriguing and inspiring. I love visits to my local farmers' market, fresh produce, reading, getting out in nature, and spending time with my family.


Catholic, homeschooler, lover of books and great wine and an amateur gardening addict.


I'm Melissa aka "Lissie", mother of Rachael and Jessica, and grandmother to a passel of the sweetest children on the planet. I'm a semi-retired public educator and professor who works from home for a small publisher. I am a lover of all things beautiful ... flowers, the mountains, nature scenes, the innocent faces of children, and my rock and fossil collection, to name a few. I enjoy shopping at the farmers' market for fresh foods and then experimenting with new recipes. Good food and good wine delight me. I love to travel so my suitcase is always packed. Like my daughters, I take pleasure in simple things ... clothes drying on the line, tomatoes so fresh they are still hot from the sun, good books, and interesting movies. I'd like to know everything before I die.
Day Lilies

I live in two places. Yes, I own two houses. No, it is not convenient. And ... what woman needs seven toilets to clean? We Americans are nuts. Digression aside, at my favorite house, I am a daylily gardener. I have over fifty varieties! I love each one so very much and they bring me great pleasure. They are easy to grow and not fussy about the soil though they must have good sun. Sadly, I don't get to see my daylilies very often because I don't live in that house very much at present. But I'll be moving back as quickly as I can to enjoy tending to my babies. Surely they miss me because when I'm there I tend to my daylilies every single day during the blooming season. So, it is ... daylilies are my bliss. The best place I have found to purchase daylilies is Oake's in Knoxville. The link is


Getting Started

At the recommendation of a commenter, I checked into Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds this evening. Before I knew it, my shopping cart was full and I was checking out!

I purchase a variety of peppers and tomatoes, some yellow squash, zucchini, pickling cukes, corn, basil, chives, dill, peppermint, cilantro and parsley. I think I may be a bit "teched"...;o) I'm actually quite excited to get started on this gardening endeavor as I've truly missed it over the years.

B and I are fairly certain our soil is not quite rich enough to grow healthy plants so I'm already planning on purchasing some manure and peat to mix in with the topsoil we will be purchasing and turning into the soil.

The seeds will be awaiting me upon my return from KC and I know Lil and I will have a BLAST starting them. :o) Let's just hope I can keep them alive. Lord knows how much I love tying up tomatoes...UGH! However, the fruits of our labor or really worth it.

I also purchased these three books from Amazon this evening. I figured the first could help me where I have no sense of gardening. The second I've been meaning to read FOREVER and I'm highly inspired to read it. The last one, well, I figured it could help me out with my limited space.

I'm planning on growing some of the herbs in pots and hope Mel here can help me maximize the space I'll have available.

I'll be sure to post photos of my seed packs when they arrive! :o)


Beginning Again

The seeds never sprouted and I've learned some lessons. First, a mist of water from a spray bottle isn't enough to get seeds to germinate despite what the books say. Second, central air in a house keeps the air very dry despite having a built in humidifier. Third, our dogs must be interested in the plants because when I went down today a couple of the pots were tipped over and most likely were attacked by a wagging tail.

I got the potting mix nice and moist with hot water, and my husband put some great trays on top of the heating mat that are very shallow and hold just about half an inch of water which should hopefully help solve the drying out problem. I've got cling wrap over the top of each little pot to make a greenhouse effect. Let's hope something happens this time around! This has not been a good start to my industrious plans for a veggie garden this year. Glad I am able to correct on some trial plants before the tomatoes have to be started in a week.


Making Plans

We have a small plot of yard I'm hoping to turn into a veggie/herb patch. I would ideally like to plant a few stalks of corn, cukes, tomatoes (plum as well as some lovely slicing variety), green peppers, green onions, pumpkins, LOTS of basil, cilantro and parsley.

Brien has already delineated the area so we need to purchase either some peat or top-soil (or both...) to mix in with the soil we already have. I'd like to start some seeds and transplant so I foresee a trip to Lowe's in our future. :o)

I have a tendency to start with big plans and then let them fizzle as the heat of summer wears me down and out. Poor Jessie has rescued and resuscitated my flowers more times than I can count. Now, though, I've posted these plans on not one, but TWO blogs so I'm more likely to suck it up and get out in the heat and humidity and weed, water and nurture my plants. I look forward to doing these things with Lil as I know she'll get a kick out of it. My main fear is having her "weed" all the seedlings...

I'll need to keep a close eye on her, I know. :o)


Seed Starting Bump

Ella and I started a few seeds last week. I was getting frustrated because every time I checked on them the starting mix was dry as a bone. I kept spraying with the bottle per Martha's instructions and they would dry out within an hour. Then it dawned on me- I was supposed to create little greenhouses with plastic cling wrap to keep the moisture in. I hope our seeds aren't doomed. I will wait another week and if nothing starts to sprout we will just start over again. I'm glad our first trials were done with seeds for dianthus, a few herbs and my peppers. All those can be bought started at a plant nursery if they are a total flop. My tomatoes seeds will need to get going in another week or two so I have to figure out the system prior to that because all those varieties are heirlooms and not often found started because most people prefer to grow the disease/weather hardy hybrids. Keep your fingers crossed that my seeds sprout!


Greek-(ish) Spaghetti

I was craving Greek spaghetti Thursday evening and decided to try and recreate the recipe found at The Cellar. They have the best Greek spaghetti and I am always BEGGING to eat at The Cellar when we visit the 'burg.

I sauteed yellow squash, zucchini, sliced baby bellas and green onions in olive oil in a large frying pan. When they were almost soft, but not quite, I added four minced cloves of garlic and a half pint of sliced grape tomatoes.

While all the flavors were merging, I chopped some kalamata olives and crumbled feta. I removed the veggies from the heat and added the kalamatas so the flavors could fuse. I added the veggie blend to the pasta along with some olive oil and tossed and then added the crumbled feta.

This was fairly decent but I'm going to modify it next time. First off, I won't add the kalamata to the sauteed veggies. I will also use MUCH more garlic and Much less pasta (I used an entire box of capellini). I will also toss the pasta with olive oil to keep it from sticking and then add the veggies as a sauce on the top.

I look forward to trying again. Jessie, if you try a Greek spaghetti, let me know how yours turns out. :o)


Granny Tess Chetties

Granny Tess was my mother-in-law. She was an old country woman who cooked on her wood-burning stove. My husband, Tony, was twenty years older than I so when I was in my thirties, Granny Tess was in her seventies. She had chickens and made everything from scratch. Every Sunday was chicken noodle soup day. She told me her secret ingredient was one tablespoon of tomato paste. One of my favorite things that Granny Tess made was a potato dish. I have never tasted anything like it. After Paul moved to the US and called potatoes, chetties, on a regular basis, we adopted the term ... thus "Granny Tess Chetties" as the name of a favorite dish was born. Here's how to make it:

Cube into 1/2" pieces several large red potatoes. You can leave the skins on but remove any blemishes. Boil them.

While the chetties are cooking, dice a large onion. Melt a stick of butter in a small frying pan and sautée the onions until they are soft and clear.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them well. Add the melted butter and onions. Then, while you are stirring with your right hand, add evaporated milk with your left. You want to coat the potatoes well but you don't want everything to become too soupy. You want nice wet potatoes. Salt and pepper the potatoes and stir well. Serve immediately.


Southern Biscuits

Take a medium bowl and dump in Elliston flour (Virginia's Best--self-rising) until the bowl is about 2/3 full. Cut in Crisco until the flour is crumbly. Make a well in the middle of the mixture. Pour in milk. Stir with a large wooden fork until a ball forms. Sprinkle flour on the counter and put the dough ball on it. With your hand flatten it a bit and sprinkle flour on the top. DO NOT work the dough because you will end up with biscuits as tough as hockey pucks. Cut out the biscuits with a drinking glass that has a thin rim. Dunk the glass in flour before each biscuit cut. Put the cut-out biscuits on a cookie sheet with a bit of space between them. Bake at 425 F until they are brown. Don't be surprised by how tall the biscuits are. Eat while they are hot! These biscuits are delicious when slathered with butter, lemon curd, apple butter, jam, jelly, etc. Once the biscuits get cold, they are yummy if you cut them in half and place them one a plate and then smother them in chicken and gravy. Life doesn't get much better than that!


An Introduction of Sorts

I feel as if I'm taking over Jessie's blog! You see, Jess, Lissie and I are all very anxious about our environment and our effect on it. We are interested in sustainable agriculture, buying local and organic and feeding our families wholesome, healthful meals.

Jessie had begun this blog as a way to document her ideas, her gardening, anything that didn't quite fit with Tangential Thoughts. This morning, while we were chatting, she decided we needed to document our family's journey into the world of food and more. She decided (and I agreed) a blog would be a lovely place for us to post our favorite family recipes as well as new ones we come across that look yummy.

I have been striving towards simplicity in our foods and food choices. I have long thought organics are a much better choice for my family for many reasons. Yes, they are more expensive, however, they are produced without the use pesticides, often on smaller, family-run farms. Ukrop's provides me with local organic produce whenever possible. I prefer organic dairy products and meats. I have long held that little girls are maturing and developing faster than ever because of all the hormones that are pumped into the cows. I may be full of nonsense, but, what if I'm not? Additionally, we don't need to ingest all the antibiotics that are pumped into the cattle, poultry and pork. Besides, organics just TASTE better! :o)

I also have a theory about all the preservatives and additives we're pumping into our children through all the processed foods available today. Our lives are SO busy we fall into the trap of purchasing items that are quick and convenient, whether it's fast food or pre-cut packaged apples. If we're going to homecook meals, they often come from boxes and cans. I wonder how much of this contributes to AD/HD, ADD and childhood obesity? I'm sure the research is out there, I just haven't found it yet.

I don't remember much of the cooking from my childhood coming from boxes and cans. We ate fresh produce from the garden and from our friends' and families' gardens. Mom and Papa both prepared food from scratch and, quite frankly, Jessie and I were quite trim and healthy children. I'm working toward more healthful cooking and eliminating HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and trans fats from our diet as well as processed foods. I want us to be healthy and happy together!


Starting Our Seeds

Last weekend my husband set up our work table and the grow lights for starting our seeds. This is our first attempt to grow anything from seed so I am only hoping for moderate success. My two gardening bibles of the moment are Month by Month Gardening In the Prairie Lands and Martha Stewart's Gardening From Seeds. So far both have proved to be useful references for a novice like me.

Our growing season has officially started. We have sown indoors the few plants that need 8-10 weeks to grow prior to being planted outside in the late spring. We started peppers, lavendar, rosemary and dianthus. I'm hoping to see some evidence of our work in the next week or so. Let's hope some seeds germinate and sprout! My daughter was very disappointed to not have gardening gloves so she grabbed her winter mittens and insisted on wearing them. The child knows how to improvise!


No Knead Bread

I subscribe to Mother Earth News and in their Dec/Jan issue there was a recipe for No Knead Crusty Bread. I've attempted bread baking here and there and I can personally vouch for how important the kneading process is to made light, fluffy bread so I was skeptical that this recipe would be as good as the article claimed. But what did I have to lose?

The only drawback to this recipe is that you have to start the bread almost 24 hours before it is completed so you have to plan ahead. I whipped the dough together in about five minutes and then covered it and let it sit for 18 hours. I then followed the remaining instructions and a few hours later I pulled out of the oven a delicious, crusty loaf of bread that is perfect for just eating with butter, eating with heartier meals like stew, or having with cheese and wine. It is very similar to a crusty french style bread. I will definitely be making this again as it was so easy and so tasty.

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.


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