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.
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

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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. :-)

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