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.

Blog Archive

Vegetarian Chili: Quick and Easy

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 T. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 16-oz. can dark red chili beans
1 16-oz. can black beans
1.5 cups frozen corn
Optional: shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado

1. Use food processor to quickly pulse tomatoes until coarse.

2. Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and cook the onion until soft. Stir in spices and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the corn, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Optional: Top with grated cheddar cheese and/or diced avocado.


Feast Or Famine?

Wild Cream of Mushroom Egg Noodle Bake (Hold the Canned Soup)

This is definitely a comfort food for me. It combines my love of egg noodles with creamy filling and a lovely nutty Grueyer topping. It comes compliments of Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats.

Cream of Mushroom Sauce
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
12 button mushrooms, chopped
2 T all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 cup whole milk or cream
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg (ground works)
Salt and black pepper to taste

2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 portobello mushroom caps, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 lb fresh mixed wild mushrooms
1 T fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (from 4 sprigs)
1/3 cup dry white whine
1 pound extra-wide egg noodles
1-2 T unsalted butter, softened
3/4 lb Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese, shredded
3 T fresh chives

Bring a large pot of water to a boil fro the egg noodles.

To make the mushroom sauce, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter melts, add the chopped button mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, until just tender. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a bubble, then stir in the whole milk. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer. Season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To make the casserole, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 T olive oil then the shallots and mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for about 8 minutes, or until tender. Season with thyme, salt and pepper and deglaze the pan with the wine. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the liquid cook off.

Preheat the broiler to high.

While the mushrooms cook, drop the egg noodles into the boiling water, salt the water, and cook the noodles al dente. Drain the noodles and return them to the hot pot. Add the creamy sauce to the pot and toss the noodles to coat in the sauce.

Lightly coat a casserole dish with the softened butter, then transfer the cream of mushroom noodles ot the dish and top with the mushroom ragout and shredded cheese. Place the casserole under the vroiler and melt and bubble the cheese until brown at the edges. Garnish with the chives.
As you can see, we were fresh out of chives. Who cares? It was still ooey gooey delicious. :o)


Turkey Soup

Nope, it's not this. :oP

This is my most favorite turkey soup recipe and I didn't have the pleasure of enjoying it until I started dating Brien. This recipe comes to you all courtesy of Nana. (And, YES, I should have posted this BEFORE Thanksgiving, but I only thought about it this evening since it's dinner for the next week. )

1 turkey carcass
4 quarts water
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
3 onions, chopped
2 large carrots, diced (I just sliced 'em)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
2 t salt
3/4 t pepper
2 cups half and half

Place turkey carcass and water in large dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer one hour. Remove carcass from broth and pick meat from bones (thank you bunches, Bob, for leaving ours so meat heavy!). Set broth and meat aside. Measure broth. Add water if necessary to equal 3 quarts.

Heat butter in a large dutch oven (I simply use the same one). Add flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for five minutes (I use a whisk to eliminate lumps)--this makes a roux. Stir carrots, onions, and celery into the roux. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often until they are softened. Add broth, turkey, rice, slat and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Add half and half and cook until thoroughly heated.

Enjoy! :o)


Bob's Best Salad

*This is a variation on a Food Network/Emeril's seafood salad recipe. Bob has kept the basics the same but tweaked it here and there and we have never put any meat on it. I love this salad so much that if I had to choose my last meal, this would be part of it.

For a family sized bowl of salad:


1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped and minced. Then add it into a bowl with olive oil and red wine vinegar (2:1 ratio or best estimate). Let it sit while you prepare the veggies.


2 heads of hearts of romaine
1 handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
2-3 spring onions, sliced
green olives (to taste, I'd say we use 1/4 cup!)
kalamata olives (also to taste, 1/4 cup for us again)

Once you've chopped all the veggies and tossed them, whisk briskly the dressing and immediately pour over the salad and mix well.

Bananas Soft Serve

I am a weird sort of girl who loves to read about food, loves to peruse cookbooks and food magazines yet I don't really like the mechanics of meal planning and cooking. I just like the idea of good food, I'm rather lazy when it comes to getting it onto my own table. With that said, I follow a few foody blogs, one of which is called Choosing Raw and it is written by a younger woman who lives in NYC and is a raw foodist/vegan. Am I ever going to be a younger woman, living in NYC and choosing to eat a vegan/raw diet? Nope! But her posts are interesting and I find that I am very interested in learning about extreme food lifestyles, whether it is Traditional Foods, Raw Foods, Calorie Restriction or what not. I am impressed that people can choose a diet like that and stick with it over the long term. Raw foodists do seem to be glowing with health, if they manage to squeeze in enough protein and calories (I would imagine you would have to be eating all day long) and I'll admit that I don't feel quite right myself if I don't get at least one serving of greens in a salad every day. Raw food bloggers have also introduced me to green smoothies, something I haven't been brave enough to try but I will, oh I will!

This "recipe" for banana soft serve is so ridiculously easy that it isn't really a recipe at all. You just freeze cut up ripe banana chunks and then whip them into oblivion in a food processor. The result? A little bit of heaven in a bowl. The best replacement for ice cream that I've found - it is the same texture and consistency and surprisingly the banana flavor isn't overpowering considering the entire dish is made out of bananas. I did add a couple tablespoons of milk while processing to make it a bit smoother and Bob thinks adding a bit of chocolate sauce on top would send it over the edge in deliciousness.

You've got to try this!

Urban Farm Magazine

For most of us the dream of homesteading and sustainable living is overshadowed by the practicalities of our daily lives - needing a job to provide income and health insurance coupled with needing to live in a more urban/suburban area to access said job. As a lover of magazines (the library has most for free that you can check out!) on the subjects of sustainability, gardening, crafting, cooking, etc. I think a magazine tailored to the urban homesteader has been long overdue. Most people I know live in suburbs and need to try and navigate HOA's, neighbors, and most importantly to figure out how to use the time they do have for sustainable practices wisely. I've learned that you can't do everything. Sometimes you simply aren't allowed to based on HOA, city or county ordinances or neighbors who are aggravated by anything less than a perfectly groomed jade green lawn. Sometimes after working a job all day long, making dinner and dealing with children, homework, baths, and general household chores there isn't time to do much at all.

I bought the premier issue of Urban Farm magazine with low expectations but it was really packed with all sorts of useful ideas. It is worth a look for anyone interested in making some changes while also adhering to a suburban/urban standard of living. Unlike magazines like Grit and Mother Earth News, every article inside is applicable for us urbanites. Very cool!

Simple Stuffed Shells

This is a VERY simple recipe that is pulled together and cooked up in about 30-45 minutes.


1 box jumbo shells
1 jar marinara
1 large carton ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1 egg
salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 375.

While shells are cooking, mix together ricotta, egg, salt and pepper, 2 cups mozzarella. Drain shells and cool enough to handle. Fill shells (this recipe will fill about 20 shells) and nestle together in a greased 9"x13" pan. Cover in marinara and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top. Top that with the shredded Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbling hot.


Spring Planting and Crafting

Making "grass soup":
Even though we are moving in a couple months I decided I couldn't stand it and I headed out today with some lettuce and greens seeds and put them in the ground. Most of it should be mature and ready to eat right before we have to move and hopefully we will get to enjoy some of it. I also put in radishes, and I bought a very early variety this year and they should be mature in only a month. I will make successive plantings for the next few weeks so we have a few harvests of those before we leave. Today I put out in the garden boxes two different loose leaf stir fry mixes, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, Arugula, Komatsuma Tendergreen (oriental), spinach, Broccoli Raab, Ching Chang Bok Choy, Lolla Rosa lettuce, De Morgest Braun lettuce, Garden Cress, and Petit Dejeuner radishes. We'll see what happens in the next week or so with seedlings popping up.

In other areas of the yard I am seeing hollyhocks, clematis, salvia, strawberries and dianthus peeking up through the soil. I am hoping that the hollyhocks, which are a biennial, will blossom early enough for me to see them. I bought purple/black hollyhocks last year thinking they sounded very unusual and have looked forward since then to seeing them in bloom. To think that I may miss it! I will have to get my dear neighbor to pop over a take a photo or two to email to me if they aren't in full swing by June when we leave Kansas. Last year Ella accidentally "planted" some beans when she was playing with a bag of dried beans on the deck and this year she has been sneaking pinto beans out of the pantry and leaving them all over the yard and in all my large planters on the deck. I have no idea what is going to happen with those beans but she is hopeful every single day and asks to go check and see if they've sprouted each morning when we are eating our breakfast. I am not sure whether to hope they all sprout or hope they don't - it could potentially be an enormous mess of bean vines around the yard and in those pots. Then again, she is so excited and hopeful and what is better than having your kids be really actively engaged in something that is so tangible, educational and fun!

I bought a sewing machine several months ago and I've been a little afraid of it since then. I've completed a few projects here and there but nothing that has justified the expense of the machine. I had intended to take some formal sewing classes at a local fabric shop but having a nursing babe, a busy toddler and a husband who travels a lot for work has made that more challenging to get away then I had previously realized. I discovered Pattern Review, an excellent sewing website, about a year ago and I've finally taken the plunge and enrolled in an online class. Only three lessons in and I have learned so much about sewing from a pattern! All those weird symbols are no longer so mysterious. The pattern directions seem sensical now too. I am working on the Oliver + S Tea Party Sundress pattern for my daughter for my first class project. Hopefully I'll have a finished project to post about in a few weeks.

I am also busy, busy crocheting a baby blanket for a friend's baby girl. It is a very simple double crochet stitch, one color, blanket, but it still looks pretty and comfortable - at least I think so! I intended to lay the knitting down for now because my life is very hectic and I just don't have the patience to really struggle to figure out a new skill. But then I keep seeing the best patterns that I want to knit! My friend has helped me get the basics and I've checked out Learn To Knit from the library to keep me going in the meantime.


Fields of Plenty

I'm half in love with Michael Ableman. Really. What a neat person, a human being who has found his niche, his passion and has made a life and career from it. I admire that more than I can express. I think most of us just settle, we find a place in which we grow comfortable, enjoy the income, become dependent on it due to outside responsibilities (i.e. children) and lose our way, lose our passion. And we make excuses for settling and then we stumble across someone who hasn't and we make even more excuses for why it worked out for that person, how they got "lucky" and how it is too late for us to re-route ourselves into a life and a career that are more in tune with our passions.

(In my opinion) To compound the problem, our society is very divided into those who are college bound and those who are not. Vocations that do not require a college degree should be given the same respect and acceptance. Yes, college provides a higher platform of disciplined learning but ultimately, the gift of education and true learning can come from anywhere - YOUR LOCAL FREE LIBRARY - albeit you will learn without acknowledgement of it in a professional sense. What is so funny to me about this is that I've learned more and am more passionate about learning now that I am out of structured education. I know many people who have been content to just stop once they have their coveted degree in hand. Education has been reduced to a means to an end - an adequate paycheck. It isn't that I don't agree with being able to financially support yourself and your family - I do. I just hate that education has been so tied to this goal and that once the desired paycheck is achieved the value of additional education, in any form, plummets. As this tangent suggests, I feel strongly about the weaknesses of our current educational system in our country. It isn't terrible by any stretch but it could certainly be better at really helping children fall in love with learning, to not think it is a total chore, to not think that there is a defined end goal in regards to education as a whole (grade 12 or college degree are typical). Michael Ableman is one of those people who seems to be the exception to the rule, who has clearly continued to learn about gardening, something he is passionate about. He probably did the college degree route (I don't really know) but his career has been a process of continual learning and on the job training. He has traveled extensively to learn about world-wide small farming practices, he has tried new things in his own gardens, he has written and shared his knowledge in such a way to inspire other people. He is a farmer, a small organic farmer to be exact, and an educator about the viability and necessity of urban farming.

I devoured On Good Land and after I was finished I searched my library database for any other material related to his projects or books that he authored. I found Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey In Search Of Real Food And The People Who Grow It, and it is chock full of beautiful photographs of other small farms and farmers, pieces of writing discussing those farms and recipes that he has particularly enjoyed. These people, following their passion as they grow and nurture organic and tasty food for our bellies to consume, are inspirational to me. I also found a video about Fairview Gardens, an urban farm on which he built his career. I am very much looking forward to viewing it as I enjoyed his book about Fairview Gardens so much.

I remember when I was a teenager never once being interested in helping my mother out in her garden. I didn't care about the plant names, the weeds, what needed to be transplanted, dug up and divided and so on. And she asked for help every once in a while because she probably just needed a helping hand. And I never willingly helped. She had a compost system, a beautiful enclosed small garden that was just full of gorgeous plants with a patio and the expected chaise lounger and patio set and I didn't enjoy it or learn from her as I should have when I had the opportunity to do so. It is funny to me looking back on what I liked and thought then to now, 12 years later, being passionate about gardening, urban homesteading, learning useful life skills like sewing, knitting and preserving food because I think it is priceless knowledge that is handy and purposeful and enriches my life. Thank goodness that I had a parent who did encourage reading broadly, experiencing new things and who didn't push me to achieve the standard educational goals via structured higher education. I am a better and more learned person because of her influence and support. I am in love with plants today because I wasn't forced to learn about them when I was 18. Some day I may decide to finish my college degree, to study in a field that I am intensely curious about, but for now I'll stick with the library and hands on learning in my yard, in my kitchen, with my children as they explore and discover the world around them. For now that is enough. And as for Michael Ableman, I will flip through his beautiful books from time to time to once again spark my enthusiasm for organic gardening, fresh produce and eating locally because his love and passion for his life's work is so very contagious.


Recession Gardening

CNN Article

The World's Best Fertilizer

Mom posted this comment on "Life with Hannah and Lily" and I knew it would be a wonderful addition over here.

Mom wrote:

hoo hoo! I found the recipe:

It is the following items to one gallon warm water:
1 tsp. Epsom salts
1 tsp. salt peter (Get in Rx dept. at Wal-Mart)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. non-sudsy ammonia

This is the best fertilizer I have ever used. Move over Miracle-Gro


Thanks, Lissie, you're the best! :o)


Little Bits

I've been trying to penny pinch, like most everyone during these tough economic times and I have decided to try and use the old baking soda, vinegar and water cleaning method for some areas of my house. I've read a good bit about how effective baking soda and vinegar are as cleaners but I've always been on the consumer track of believing that you need a different product for every single household job. True, some areas (bathrooms!) need disinfecting but I don't need to be wasting via packaging and chemicals and use-only-once products like Swiffers cloths and Clorox wipes. A man came out early last week to give me an estimate on having our hardwood floors buffed and shined. He asked what I've been using on them and he tsked when he saw that I was using Method's non-toxic wood floor cleaner (I have a crawling infant and don't want harsh chemicals). He said that vinegar and water did a beautiful job keeping floors clean. Bob gave it a whirl today and the floors look better than they have since we bought the house! 1 cup of inexpensive white vinegar to a gallon of water, and voila - clean floors.


My little gardener, eager for spring planting:

Even though we are going to be moving in a couple months I've decided to go ahead and plant some lettuce and radishes in my garden. I just can't stand not planting anything and both of these will be quickly productive and the lettuce will taper out right about the time we are leaving. It just killed me today to plunk down $2.99 per package of fresh herbs at the grocery store. In the summer I have more dill, parsley, cilantro and basil than I can manage and now I am shelling out big bucks for a few ounces of each. I hope with the Obama's brand new kitchen garden and bee hive on the south lawn of the White House that more Americans are inspired to give gardening a whirl. I used to believe you had to have amazing skills to have a productive garden and while its true that some things are finicky for the most part plants want to live and will try their best to do just that. Not only does the produce taste so much better fresh it is also virtually free - you can't beat that! There are so many great free resources online for novice gardeners, check this out and the sidebar links if you are interested.


I love anthropology and browsing this section at used book stores always turns up the most interesting books. Today I found:

This Common Ground by Scott Chaskey

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

When The Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce


On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm by Michael Abelman


I am a history nut, especially early to mid 20th century American history. What a century the 20th was for the world! The invention of the modern automobile, dishwasher, microwave, computer. The wars that were fought and won and reshaped the world. The advent of the internet and its dramatic impact on the global community. I love vintage inspired clothes (especially late 50s/early 60s), mid-century hairstyles, fashion and decorating. And World War II and its affect on the typical American household - for instance almost everyone had a Victory Garden during that period. Knowing that my grandparents all lived during this era, that this was their world when they were my age with young children, and considering all the ways that my life is so much easier than theirs was - the convenience of the modern world is really breathtaking when you think about it.

One of my favorite ways to get a glimpse into the past is by reading vintage magazines. McCalls, American Home, The Farmer's Wife to name a few. The ads are especially telling. There is a distinctive marketing shift in the 50s, which was the decade that hosted the dawn of advertising driven consumerism. The recipes and the advice for housewives in all areas of cleaning, decorating, fashion and health are like little time capsules. I was browsing an American Home magazine from November of 1957 today and I had to chuckle at the article dismissing the health benefits of a low-fat, lower calorie diet calling it a fad not backed by any scientific research. And the section that encouraged a busy housewife who had young children to plasticize her house - furniture cushions, tablecloths, flooring and dishes were all plastic and usually in the shades of aqua or pink! That same melamine that just caused a huge crisis in China contaminating infant formula was (and still is) used to make indestructible dishes. In the end though everything is really the same no matter which era or decade we live in - we all want to live in comfortable and pretty homes, look attractive to the opposite sex, live a long time and eat food that tastes good.


Greek Tomato Salad

Since Brien is sick, Lil and I had a simple Greek tomato salad for dinner.

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, halved and cut about 1/4" slices
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 1/2 cups feta, crumbled
2T extra virgin olive oil
1T red wine vinegar
1T lemon juice
1/4 t oregano
salt and pepper


Whisk olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano and salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.

Combine tomatoes, cukes, green pepper, and olives in a large bowl. Toss with dressing to coat. Add feta and gently toss. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Enjoy! :o)

Etsy: Buy and Sell Handmade

Shop Etsy

Brien's Chili Recipe

After making chili for a number of years, Brien started to experiment and finally came up with something we all enjoy--especially on cold days. :o)

12 ounces sliced bacon, cut into small pieces
1 T olive oil
2 pounds beef, pork, venison, bison, etc. (tonight we used stew meat. Flank steak or skirt steak work VERY well), cut into bite-size cubes
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 t (more for more heat) ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup masa flour (we find ours in prepackaged chili mixes)
2 cans red kidney beans, undrained
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking. Add bacon and onion and cook until bacon is well browned and onion is clear, starting to carmelize. Add meat and sear in bacon and onion mixture, until brown. Add 1/2 cup chili powder and garlic to meat and stir to combine. Cook until fragrant about three minutes. Add tomato products and about 2 cups of water (more for a longer simmer or for a soupier texture). Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer uncovered for a minimum of 1 hour in order for meat to tenderize and flavors to meld. If desired, add beans for the last thirty minutes of cooking (if you are going to simmer all day, take this into consideration). At this time, you will also add the masa flour mixed with cold water, enough to dissolve flour into a pourable mixture, and cayenne.

Cook for an additional thirty mintues and serve.

Things I Love

I hope Rachael and my Mom do this very same thing. We all have our own special interests and loves and it is fun to see what really inspires others.

*I know the graphics are silly, they are to make it more fun. :-)

Granny Tess' Lemon Pound Cake

I'm not sure if Mom has already posted this recipe or not. If it's a repeat, I apologize. ;o)

Ukrop's had strawberries (red, ripe, gloriously smelling strawberries) for $1.50/box today and I decided we would have strawberries with fresh whipped cream over lemon pound cake for our Valentine's treat. This recipe works best if you have a stand mixer as you have to beat it for 15 minutes.

Granny Tess Lemon Pound Cake

3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 t lemon extract

Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and beat, scraping bowl as needed. Alternate adding the flour and milk (1/3 each time), beating between each addition, again, scraping bowl as needed. Add vanilla and lemon extracts and beat for 15 minutes. <--This step is especially important as it makes the batter smooth as silk and quite fluffy. (I added a little lemon zest today, just because.)

Bake at 350 for about an hour and fifteen minutes, checking often after one hour. (I usually use my nose to tell me when it's getting close to done. Once you've made the cake a few times, you get the scent of it.)

Turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.

This next step is optional (Jessie's not a particular fan but B and I LOVE it).

1 cup lemon juice and 2 cups confectioner's sugar and mix well. Pour over cake after cake is cool. I do this by putting the glaze back in the bunt pan and putting the cake back in the pan and letting it soak in.

This cake is an excellent picnic/church function/bake sale/office surprise cake. It's quick, easy and SOOOOO delicious.

Enjoy! :o)


Quest For Craftiness

A few new acquisitions from the last several months:

Reader's Digest New Complete Guide To Sewing

Simple Gifts To Stitch by Jocelyn Worrall

The Salvage Studio by Amy Duncan, Beth Evans-Ramos, Lisa Hilderbrand

French General Home Sewn: 30 Projects For Every Room In The House by Kaari Meng

Stitched In Time by Alicia Paulson

Quick and Easy Slipcovers by Gail Abbott

and last but not least,

101 Crochet Stitches by Harmony Guides ...

I can finally crochet more than a double stitch! Woohoo!

Dreams of Daylilies

I spent ten years working on my flower beds at my Blacksburg house. The "soil" is awful--red clay (fill dirt). Over ten years I amended the soil with top soil, manure, sand, you name it. For many reasons I became a daylily gardener. Oh, the joys of daylilies are many! By the time I moved to North Carolina in 2004, I had over 50 varieties of daylilies in my flower beds. I credit them with my winning the town beautification award. I had the most wonderful ritual during daylily blooming season which lasted from May until frost because I purchased daylilies that bloomed at various times. Each day when I would come home from work, I'd take off my shoes and head outside barefooted. (I can't help it; I grew up in Florida where shoes are always optional.) Then, I'd stroll along my flower beds oohing and aahing over every bloom. I would deadhead the previous day's blooms and pluck out any new weeds. It was the most relaxing time of my day and brought me indescribable pleasure. Since I have been in North Carolina, my flower beds in Blacksburg have gone to wrack and ruin. It would bring a tear to your eye if you could see the mess they have become. However, I will be moving back to Blacksburg and though it will take me a couple of years to rectify things, I won't mind all of the work. Yesterday, my new Oakes Daylily catalog came and I've been drooling over it. Oakes is the BEST place to buy daylilies in my opinion. If you don't believe me, head over to their website and see for yourself.


I want an Amazon Kindle so badly that I could spit. Well, maybe not actually spit but pretty close to that badly. Let's just say that I really want this little gadget, moreso than I've ever wanted any piece of current technology. I am unimpressed with fancy cell phones, the Wii, iPods and iPhones yet this electronic reader that fits in your purse has me obsessed. Obsessed I tell you.

Every time I scan Amazon I see books that I want to read right now and the Kindle price is always less than a real book. I have read multiple reviews of the Kindle that assure me that it is pleasurable to read on and is extremely handy to boot - has reference guides and newspapers and dictionaries as well as being able to hold 2,000+ books. Did you just read that last sentence? 2,000 books! An entire library that will fit in your purse. Mecca, heaven, bliss, to me at least.

Alas, I am not buying a Kindle. They are expensive and I am trying to scale back and I have stacks of real books that I own and from the library all over my house just waiting to be picked up and read. I just want to stop obsessing about the Kindle. Please, if you own a Kindle tell me all the awful things about it, OK?

Knitting In The Round

I am trying to figure this out. My good friend Bonny, yarn expert that she is, has been giving me some lessons and has been incredibly patient. Knit, purl, knit, purl, hope to not make any mistakes since I am clueless on how to go back and fix them! Crochet is a bit more forgiving, you just pull the yarn and bye-bye mistakes. This is supposed to be a hat. Let's hope it doesn't take 12 years to make like my first crochet project did.

Seeds 2009

Are you ready for this? These are all the seeds I have plans to grow. Now, it seems like an incredible amount of plants but these seeds will take me from February through late Fall '09 with planting. And the herbs will all go in pots all over the place - the deck, the front walk of my house and the patio that we will be having poured this spring. My neighbor and I are splitting some of the seeds and I am sending even more seeds on to Liz to see how they fare in her garden in Virginia. Bob and I are building another long skinny bed that will just be for tomatoes and basil and two more in ground and mulched flower beds in the backyard. We are trying to make the backyard a pleasant place to sit, entertain, and for child's play so we are trying to carve out little "rooms" that will make the small area as efficient and pleasant as possible. I spent far too much money last year on annuals at the plant nursery so this year I chose direct seed, fast growing varieties and a few that will most likely self-seed for next year and the years to come: poppies, globe amaranth, sweet peas, bishop's lace, four 'clocks, hollyhocks, forget me nots, zinnias and sunflowers. And I am planning on trying the Indian companion planting of corn, squash and beans to get the most bang for the space.

I will note with a * if the seed is a repeat from last year.

Lettuces (split to be started in four cold frames in early March and then in early September):

De Morges Braun
Black Seeded Simpson
Henderson's Black Seeded Simpson
Amish Deer Tongue
Lollo Rossa
*Red Wing Lettuce Mix
Garden Cress
Mache- Verte D' Etampes


Giant Noble
Summer Perfection


*Rainbow (no success last year due to pests)
Flamingo Pink

Radish/Petite Dejuener

Asian Varieties:

Asian Winged Bean
Chinese Red Noodle Bean
Komatsuma Tendergreen
Ching Chang Bok Choy
*Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix
Chinese Chives Mix


*Genovese Basil
*Siam Queen Thai Basil
*Lime Basil
*Lemon Balm
German Chamomile
Bee Balm/Lemon
*Parsley/Giant of Italy (I grew this and flat leaf last year and both were excellent)
*Peppermint (still alive on my kitchen windowsill)
*Oregano/Wild Zaatar

-I am not growing feverfew again- wow that is a prolific (weed-like!) plant.

Melons and Squash (in ground in community garden):

Butternut Squash (maybe, I am the only one in my family who likes it)
Zucchini/Black Beauty (maybe)
Amish Pie Pumpkin
Green Fleshed Pineapple Melon (Ananas D'Amerique A Chair Verte)
Sugar Baby Watermelon (ice box sized)

Corn/Country Gentleman


Red Belgian
Patio Red Marconi
Thai Little Red Chili

Brussels Sprouts/Catskills (Fall planting)

Carrots/St. Valery (free pack of 800 seeds, probably try them in a deep container)

Cucumber/Early Russian and Early Fortune

Beans and Peas:

Asian beans listed above
Dragon Tongue
Sugar Snap Peas


White Tomesol
Amish Paste
Paul Robeson
*Green Zebra
Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge
Ananas Noire
White Currant
Sub-Arctic Plenty
Brandywine (maybe)
SuperBush (hybrid)
Italian Pompeii (hybrid)

And last but not least, the flower varieties:


Giants of California
Polar Bear
Green Envy

Bachelor Buttons/Red Boy


Oriental Scarlet

Sunflowers (we are dedicating a corner of the yard for a sunflower bed with zinnias in front):

Lemon Queen
Short Stuff
Mexican Sunflower- Torch

and various varieties of:

Red Angels Trumpet
four o' clocks
sweet peas

Big News!

I have gotten the initial approval to create a community garden in my neighborhood. Woohoo! Details will follow as I get them worked out.

Dreams of Day Lilies

When I go back to Blacksburg one of the first things I must do (in addition to finding a job) is to attend to my long neglected flower beds. I spent more than ten years working on my yard and it showed. Over fifty varieties of day lilies bloomed each summer and many other perennials graced my beds. Each spring I'd fill in with showy annuals. Things have gone to wrack and ruin in the five years I have been gone and it will probably take me another ten years to set things right again. But I am dreaming about doing it. It is backbreaking work and not something I much enjoy. But the results are worth it. Maybe this spring I won't toss out gardening catalogs. Instead I'll drool over them.


Oh, I love tomatoes. I probably garden simply because nothing beats the taste of a fresh tomato right off the vine. Last year I took the heirloom plunge only planting heirloom varieties in my garden. I like the idea of having plants with history, plants that seeds were saved from because of their taste and not because they don't crush easily during shipment. Even better, I can save their seeds and I can't do that with hybrids. With that said, I am thinking there is room for a hybrid tomato plant in my garden this year because the productivity is a lot chancier with heirlooms than with hybrids. Hybrids are bred to be disease and weather resistant and I can probably get a lot more produce than I did with the heirlooms and because I want to can and make salsa and sauce with the tomatoes this year I need a workhorse variety.

If I had 5 acres of land in which to garden I would possibly have room for all the tomatoes I would like to grow. Since I actually have four 4x4 beds and am building another 2x10 bed this spring, and other things need to grow as well I have to be choosy. Last year we employed Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method and frankly, for tomatoes I wasn't impressed. The vines did well but they just didn't produce like they should have. I think tomatoes need more space than one square foot, 6 inches deep. Then again, I've seen widespread complaints from gardeners all over the country that 2008 was a particularly bad year for tomato production, so maybe it wasn't the spacing. I am going to commit to eight tomato plants this summer unless I am able to wrangle more space at either our local community garden (only if a spot become available) or if my neighbor and I are able to convince our neighborhood's developer to give us a place here to make a small community garden for our neighborhood (I'll update if anything comes of this).

Last year we grew seven varieties:

Green Zebras, Dad's Sunsets, Reisentraube, Siletz, Wapsipinicon Peach, Sarah Black's and Brandywine

Of these varieties I would like to replant Green Zebras, Dad's Sunsets, Wapsipinicon Peach and Brandywine again. I much prefer tangy tomatoes to sweet and the Green Zebras and Dad's Sunsets have incredible flavor so they are definitely getting a spot. The Reisentraube are little red cherry tomatoes and they were fine but I would like to try a different cherry variety this year which is why they are being passed over. The Wapsipinicon Peach didn't survive transplanting and they sound so interesting from their description that I really want to try again and see if I can't get them to produce. The Brandywine is the most popular heirloom variety and the flavor was great but the two plants I had in the garden produced miserably. I'm not sure I want to waste space on them again. The Sarah Blacks produced well but were too sweet for my tastes.

Here are the varieties that I've ordered seeds of:

Orange Flesh Purple Smudged (tangerine in color with very purple tops - Ella pick!)
Paul Robeson (a famous black tomato known for it's flavor)
Amish Paste (famous for production and canning/sauces)
Sub-Arctic Plenty (50-59 day variety that will produce early and be replaced by another plant mid-summer)
Anananas Noire or Black Pineapple (multi-colored striped, fun for the kids)
White Currant (white cherry tomato)
White Tomesol (one of the very few true white tomatoes, supposed to have a fruity flavor)
Isis Candy Cherry (early cherry tomato variety - 65 days)

So, as you can see if I replant the ones from last year and choose a hybrid and grow all the new varieties I am way over budget for space with tomatoes. Choices, choices.


I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately and have decided that 2009 should be the year I live my beliefs. Because of that I have a lot of changes planned for this next year. I can live on far less than my current income and will do just that. Even though it means that I can spend less and must live a fairly austere existence, I know this new commitment will be worth it. I will return to Blacksburg and will live simply. If I cannot find employment, I will force myself to live well on an income that is far less than one-third of what I make now. Quality of life is far more important than having an income that facilitates a life of relative ease. A satisfied mind is the ultimate goal; is it not?

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