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.
Vita-Mix 5200

Happy 10th Anniversary! My husband and I gifted each other the Vita-Mix 5200 to celebrate. We've been drooling over it for a couple years now and we found it at the best price we've yet seen at a Home and Garden expo today. They were out of the black model at the expo so we ordered and it will be delivered next week. The price tag of this blender is pretty steep (hence waiting a couple years to take the buying plunge) but we will now easily be able to grind our own grain into flour, make hot soups or ice cream in minutes, make homemade nut butters easily, and most exciting for me I can start including a green smoothie in my morning routine!



Farm Fresh

I like supporting small, local businesses and when I can also get farm fresh products while supporting small and local it is a win for everyone involved in the transaction. Eggs and milk that were produced and gathered this morning on a clean, small farm have an unbelievably delicious taste that can't be described. Ultra-pasteurized milk that stays "fresh" for 2 months just can't even compete in terms of taste and nutrients of grass-fed, free range cows that are well tended personally by a family, and the same goes for chickens.

Today I met one of the owners of Day Spring Farm and along with her were her three children (homeschooled) who were helping out. The family runs a very small farm and supplies locals with fresh chicken, lamb and beef, eggs, and milk. Due to state laws farms in Virginia cannot sell raw milk so people join together, sort of like a CSA for dairy, and buy shares of a cow and then pay monthly a portion of the feed and boarding costs. In the spring my children will get to go and visit the cows and chickens that will be supplying some of our food. I love that the family has a little metal money box set out and the entire system is run on the honesty policy. You pay for your monthly feed/board fees and then add in money for whatever else you have ordered whether it be eggs or meat. You just jot down the amount you are leaving and list what you've bought and go on your way.

As I was driving to Philomont today to pick up our milk and eggs for the first time I really enjoyed being in rural northern Virginia. Most people associate sprawl, Tyson's Corner, the Metro and other congested, commercial areas of this part of the state when they think of Northern Virginia. But just a few miles outside of all that congestion is beautiful farm land and horse country. You just can't believe how horse mad the areas of Middleburg, Leesburg and Purcellville are. All along the older roads are old stone churches, hand stacked stone walls, paddocks full of horses, big country houses that have a unique colonial look to them. There are small country general stores and old mills that you can tour, wineries and farms. It is well worth the time if you are ever in this part of the country and want to see some beautiful scenery to get on Route 50 and just drive west.


Tasha Tudor

I have grown increasingly fascinated by Tasha Tudor over the past few months. Most people are very familiar with her artwork of quaint scenes reminiscent of the early Victorian period. As I've explored gardening and the history of many plants (I particularly like heirloom plants even if they can have more problems than modern hybrids because the romance of their stories and the knowledge that someone somewhere liked them enough to take the time to save and pass down the seeds is very appealing to me) I've continued to bump into references of Tasha Tudor and her unbelievable gardening skills.

I checked out from the library Tovah Martin's book titled Tasha Tudor's Garden and devoured it in one day. I hope to add the book to my own collection at some point because the photographs are just beautiful and Tudor's gardening style is very similar to my own: she prefers big, showy and romantic flowers, she likes to stuff her garden full of plants so it looks full and untamed. She favors frilly roses and bright pink peonies, pastel poppies and lots of plants that creep, spread and grow to gargantuan heights. Me too! I like a combination of cottage garden style with the biggest and showiest and prettiest flowers that I can find. My favorites are hydrangeas, hollyhocks, climbers like morning glories and clematis, creeping verbena and so on. My husband prefers a tidier landscaping approach with japanese maples, some well placed begonias and accent stone. So it was nice to find a fairly kindred gardening spirit in the pages of the book about her marvelous garden.

As I read the book it became clear that Tasha Tudor lived a life very much on her own terms. She believed that she had lived before in the 1830s and she wanted to live that same lifestyle again in the 20th century. She had her son build her farmhouse by hand, whittling the wood pegs and piecing the entire thing together with antique tools. The only electricity used in the process was at the mill where the local trees were hewn into boards. The house contains two large hearth fireplaces and a wood cooking stove. It has looms and spinning wheels and pretty much everything that Tudor used on a daily basis was an antique from the period she loved. I believe she had no electricity and her one concession to modernity was the installation of a telephone. She also had quite a menagerie of animals including goats for milk, chickens for meat and eggs and several Corgi dogs that kept her company. She dressed in Victorian style clothing which she made herself from seed to finished product - I don't know any other simple living folks who literally grow their own flax to make into linen.

In many ways Tasha Tudor reminds me of the Nearings, though Tasha didn't have a political/social agenda in her decision to live simply. She just liked it and managed to find a way to support herself and the life she wanted to live. I admire that so much. I've been thinking lately how easy it is to just do the expected, strive for all that modern life has to offer and I wonder if we aren't missing joy at times. Obviously, the real trick to a successful life is to find something that really brings you joy and contentment and figure out how to support yourself doing that very thing. So few of us manage to achieve this nirvana of work and living.

I hope to be able to find the DVD's about Tasha Tudor through library interloan and am now perusing her cookbook and the book about her heirloom crafting. In addition I found a very interesting book, Renewing America's Food Traditions by Gary Nabhan that discusses all sorts of foods that we used to eat but are become "extinct". It seems to fit into this theme of looking to the past to find more fulfillment in today's busy world.


Poisonous Plants

A very helpful list from Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living that I use as a reference because I have a dog and small children in my household. I am going to link images of the more common plants that can show up in yards and gardens.

American False Hellebore
Anemone (wind flower)
Angel's Trumpet
Azalea - All parts are dangerous
Baneberry - berries are poisonous
Black Locust - flower is edible
Bleeding Heart - leaves and roots
Bouncing Bet
Butterfly Weed
Castor Oil Plant - one or two castor beans can be fatal to an adult
Celadine Poppy
Chokecherry - leaves and seeds are poisonous
Christmas Rose - seeds and all plant parts are poisonous
Cockle, Corn or Purple - All parts poisonous
Columbine - All parts of the plant are poisonous
Crocus - autumn bulbs are dangerous
Daffodil - if eaten bulbs can create GI issues
Daphne - eaten berries can cause death
Datura - (Angel's Trumpet)
Daylily - Roots are poisonous
Deadly Nightshade
Death Camas
Desert Rose
Dieffenbachia - burning and irritation of mouth and tongue, can cause swelling
Digitais - (foxglove)
Dutchman's Pipe - all parts poisonous
English Ivy
European Bittersweet
Foxglove - All parts are dangerous
Frangipani - poisonous sap
Garland Flower - poisonous berries
Hemlock - deadly poisonous
Horse Nettle
Hyacinth - eaten bulb creates GI illness, can be fatal
Iris - entire plant is poisonous
Jack in the Pulpit
Jessamine - berries are fatal
Jimson Weed
Larkspur (delphinium) - poisonous seeds and leaves
Laurel - all parts can be fatal
Leafy Spurge
Lily, Flame - all parts are poisonous
Lily, Glory - tubers are poisonous
Lily of the Valley - leaves and flowers affect the heartbeat, stomach and mind
Lobelia - poisonous
Lupine - all parts including seeds are poisonous
Marsh Marigold
Marvel of Peru - all parts poisonous
Matrimony Vine
Meadow Saffron
Mistletoe - berries can be fatal to children and adults
Monkshood- all parts, including roots are poisonous
Morning Glory - all parts poisonous
Mountain Laurel
Narcissus - Bulbs are poisonous
Oleander - leaves and branches are poisonous
Poinsetta - even one leaf can be fatal to a child
Poison Ivy
Poison Oak
Poppy, Horned - roots are poisonous
Poppy, Iceland - all parts poisonous
Poppy, Somniferum - fruit and sap are poisonous
Rhododendron - all parts can be fatal
Rosary Pea - seeds can be fatal
St. Johnswort
Skunk Cabbage
Solomon's Seal
Star of Bethlehem
Yew - berries and leaves are fatal


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