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.
19 Cities ... Here I come!

The publisher I work for has given me a new assignment. I am to travel to 19 US cities (over the next year or so), visit historical sites, take photographs, and then blog about my experiences. The blog will be directed at 6th and 7th graders. The cities are ones that middle school students who take the required class, United States History 1865 to the Present, study over the course of the yearlong class. For someone whose bliss truly is to travel and experience new things, this is an incredibly exciting prospect. My head is spinning as I think of all the places I will go and everything that I will experience. Just last night I was watching Food Network and one program highlighted three different food sellers in NYC. One was a restaurant that sells only homemade pies. What could be better than that? Who doesn't swoon over homemade pie? Heck, I'd even like to work in that kind of place. So, yes, food is a consideration along with historic sites. After all, I have to eat while I am away, and I only want to eat the best of the best food available. Today I briefly watched a program on National Geographic about New York Harbor. Holy cow! Do I ever want to set off on this adventure.

I need help figuring out what to see in each location. I've already come up with two criteria. First, I must visit at least one place that is well known. As an example, when I go to Philadelphia, I surely must visit Constitution Hall. Second, I want to visit little known places that are historically significant, ones that can easily be overlooked. I have been told that art museums can be included. I think it would be fun to visit places that the students will enjoy reading about, perhaps a toy museum or something of that ilk. So, below are my cities. If you have any suggestions about historic places I should visit OR restaurants with to-die-for food, please post a comment.


1. New York City
2. Boston
3. Philadelphia
4. Pittsburgh
5. Atlanta
6. New Orleans
7. Miami
8. Chicago
9. St. Louis
10. Detroit
11. San Antonio
12. Santa Fe
13. Denver
14. Salt Lake City
15. Los Angeles
16. San Francisco
17. Seattle
18. Juneau
19. Honolulu

Landscape Plans

Right now my yard is a constant work in progress. As I've mentioned before our lot has a lot of challenges. We are on the corner and we back up to a cul de sac - both are huge positives. And prior to moving in I didn't realize that because our street side yard is north, it is the perfect place to set up some chairs in the shade and watch the kids play with their friends in the cul de sac. Lots of other families seem to agree and we have all sat in the grass, on blankets, on chairs and even stood in my north side yard over the last several months while children played because it is the perfect spot. It is also a great place for children to play as it is visible from all other yards on the cul de sac, so we had a lot of sprinkler/wading pool play in this side yard lots of afternoons this summer. Our yard may not be ideal for privacy or for appearance but for practicalities sake, there have been so many good advantages that I am really beginning to love it.

With that said, it needs to look a whole lot prettier than it already does. I've been planning obsessively and my husband has been working like a dog to get it whipped into shape. So far we have a gorgeous island with trees anchoring our tiny back yard and giving us a hard break between our property and our neighbor's drive way. Eventually the cryptomeria will grow large enough to afford us great visual privacy and the crape myrtle and japanese maple on either side of the cryptomeria will soften the privacy screening effect. It is really pretty right now as the seasons change. We have been (with the help of our neighbor who owns a pick up truck) getting loads and loads and loads of compost to amend the beds that we already have and to create new beds with. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to grow plants in subsoil that has been dredged up during the building process and then compacted into dense, unrelenting clay with sod laid over. The pH of our "soil" is 5.1 - yes, I heard your gasps through the computer monitor. SIX lime applications are going to be needed over the next several months to correct the extreme acidity of our "soil".

Over the last few weekends Bob has helped me create a very long, narrow bed that pops out into a much larger semi-circle beyond our house that runs along that shady north side of our house. I really wanted to grow some climbing roses up the side of the house to soften it but they were just never going to work well because of the intense shade. We've put in three hydrangeas, two Annabelles and an Endless Summer Blushing Bride to anchor the narrow part of the bed, along with some hostas and huecheras and at the end of the bed where it pops out and widens considerably and gets loads more sun we put in a Korean Spice viburnum and a Chasteberry/Vitex tree (shrub). I am going to be working in 200 spring blooming bulbs into this bed sometime in November when the weather decides to finally cool off. I am going to be growing a variety of climbers in this bed to cover the wall about 6 feet up, possibilities include climbing hydrangea, honeysuckle (yes, I know it can be invasive) and spring blooming sweet peas or maybe even... GULP... ivy. We'll see what I can figure out. I would rather in look like it is naturally climbing rather than trellised so that is posing some problems as I sort out what to choose. I will probably end up with a combo of a few plants and it is really fun trying to find the perfect ones. With the hostas and heucheras near the driveway I will work in some columbine to give it some pretty blooms in the late spring/early summer. I also plan to put in skip laurels all around the heating/cooling units in the spring to hide their ugliness from view.

In the back of our house we will be putting in stairs off of the covered back porch. The stairs will come right off the middle of the porch and on either side will be garden beds. I am hoping for a naturally shaped patio that follows the shapes of the garden beds and bumps into the large tree island, we'll see what happens budget-wise in spring. In the beds on either side of the stairs will immediately be Pinky Winky hydrangeas. They can take full sun, are repeat bloomers and are gorgeous. To the left of the stairs just beyond the hydrangea will be a Bloomerang lilac which will get to be about 5-6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. In front of the lilac will be spirea and some other blooming perennials that I will not have to stress over on an annual basis. We'll see what I come up with before March/April. To the right of the stairs just beyond the anchoring hydrangea will be two shrub roses, not yet sure which varieties, I could absolutely see any number of possibilities there. I am almost sure they will be a soft pink or white to complement the hydrangeas. I am creating a sea of yellow and apricot roses in other parts of the yard so I have some room for some soft pinks in the back. On the porch rails above each bed will be rail flower baskets and I will be putting in jasmine, my very favorite floral scent which performs beautifully on my back porch.

On the south side of the house running along towards the veggie garden beds and attaching to the main front island bed I will be planting 4 types of roses. Hopefully they will be gorgeous as this is the sunniest and hottest part of my yard. I will most likely put some leafy perennials in front of the roses to soften the effect in case the roses defoliate due to heat, disease or something else. Roses are reputed to be finicky, you know, and I am counting on a lot of trial and error before getting it right and having them do well in my garden.

I am still trying to plan the front beds. Our builder is replacing 17 shrubs in the next week that I think are shockingly awful in both hardiness and appearance - the japanese holly inkberries have got to go. Once I know what I'm getting (hopefully it will be better) I can plan to either use those in the future landscape plan or know I am going to have to pull them and try and budget for something else to go in their place. I'm working on some plans now but all could change in two weeks. I'll keep you posted. I definitely want something climbing on the side wall in the photo above and I also want the beds to look full, dense and interesting. Quite a challenge considering how pitiful they are right now. I put a lot of red and white annuals in to give some pop in the front this spring/summer and I tried to cover up with coleus this summer the ratty shrubs that are going to be replaced. Let's hope next summer it looks a lot better from the street than it did this year.


Roses - Final Decision

I've decided on which roses I am ordering. I've read and thought about and reconsidered and now I've settled and I am moving on until next spring, which I'm sure I'll have decided on a few more. Let me tell you, diving headfirst into the world of rose growing is quite an adventure. There are something like 100,000 varieties, there are hot debates about spraying for disease vs. not within the rose growing community along with differences in opinion on original root or grafted root and if grafted then with what - multiflora, Dr. Huey, fortuniana and so on. There are some roses that are gorgeous but have fallen out of popularity and are now almost impossible to find (which sort of makes them even more desirable for some reason!) and others that are not so great, in my opinion, and can still be found in late October at the local big box home improvement store. It seems most people want pink and easy and going a little farther than that makes the experience all the more interesting for me as a gardener.

I've discovered that I have very little interest in pink and red roses, I much, much, much prefer yellows and apricots and some showy whites. The one exception is the Christopher Marlowe which is supposed to be an incredibly watermelon/salmon/orangey-pink that sounds very interesting and has certainly caught my eye. I've decided to order all my roses bare root from a Canadian seller, Pickering Nurseries, who graft onto muliflora root stock. This rose seller is really highly reputed in the online community so I am ready to give them a go.

For now the front beds will receive Christopher Marlowe by David Austin and OSO Easy's HoneyBun by Proven Winners. Both are low, small growers which will give a nice pop to the front of my house. I am going with the HoneyBun because I am new to growing roses and I want to see if a rose bred particularly to be disease resistant really is compared to the showier, more finicky roses I seem to prefer (from images).

Next, we will be creating another bed along the south side of our house which will extend the existing front bed island down the side towards our garden boxes. What is most exciting about this bed is that my husband has no idea it is going to be created! He really thought we were done with landscaping this fall aside from mulching and I know he is going to be just thrilled to discover yet more sod needs to be removed and more holes need to be dug and more compost needs to be liberally dumped into the area - creating these kinds of garden beds are really his favorite way to spend the weekend . In this bed I will stagger from largest to smallest four rose varieties. First and biggest is Tamora, followed by Charlotte, followed by Crocus Rose and finishing up the bed is the short, creeping Pillow Fight. I really, really want to try Bouquet Parfait but it is darned hard to find and it has a blush of pink instead of yellow. Pillow Fight will no longer be available for purchase after 2010 as Weeks is pulling it from the market so that fact along with it's yellow centers pushed it into the cart rather than me taking the time to chase down Bouquet Parfait.

We removed a medium sized pine tree last weekend that was going to eventually get too big for where it was planted near our neighbor's much larger cryptomeria (the landscapers just put it in based on the plan for the house right before we closed rather than realizing that longterm it would never work out, ridiculous) and now there is a nice bare spot begging for a medium sized shrub. I will be putting in Crown Princess Margereta there, another David Austin variety because she packs a lot of punch with her color and she is almost thornless, which is a plus since she will be close to where children are playing. It was really hard choosing her, the lack of thorns being the most important feature. I was loving Grace, and Sweet Juliet as well.

Moving back to the front of my house, there is a wall on the right side of my front bed that is begging for a climber, and I am going to give Maigold by Korbes a try. It is a gorgeous peachy/yellow rose that is supposed to be a prolific bloomer and I think I can train it to climb. 5-6 feet or so feet to give a nice splash of color.

If we decide to move forward with a patio in spring then I will probably order Grace and Lady Emma Hamilton to go in huge pots to add some color to the space. Or maybe not. We'll see what has caught my fancy by then.

A couple pics to show where roses will be planted.

This long stretch behind the laurel and in front of the veggie beds will be a dedicated rose bed, it gets full sun all day until around 4 p.m.

This interior wall will be where Maigold is planted. Let's hope she likes it here! It also gets full sun from sunrise until about 3 p.m. so she should be fine.


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