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.
Vintage Remedies

I've been a fan of Jessie Hawkins for a couple years now. I have a few of her books including Vintage Remedies, Lavender, and Herbal Crafts on my bookshelf. I've been planning on taking her online Family Herbalist course through Vintage Remedies for awhile but have been waiting for the right time. Ella and Gabriel are in a good routine and Gracie is starting to find a schedule of her own which brings more calm and stability to my life. I can expect that our daily routine will stay fairly consistent at this point. So, I've ordered my materials and begun the process of starting the course. And I'm happy that this will be a project that I will be able to fit around my home life. I had to suspend my sewing lessons for now because my husband and I agreed that it was cutting too much into our family life on the weekends because I was away for 4 hours each Sunday.

Today I received Ms. Hawkins newest book in the mail, The Vintage Remedies Guide to Real Food. I think we already do a pretty good job of eating whole, natural foods but it will be nice to thumb through and to add to my bookshelf. My packet of workbooks and materials should arrive in June and then I'll be underway. It is a self-paced course so we'll see how quickly I can move through the coursework.



Do "food safety" standards set by state and federal governments not seem like a total joke to anyone else?

I read an article today about the sale of raw milk being vetoed by the governor Wisconsin due safety issues and I just had to snort and snicker a little. Lobbying can really work if there is enough money to be made by an industry which has a huge incentive to protect their market share. Do I think that raw milk can pose some potential health risks if the farm(er) is unclean and negligent? Sure. I also know that there is feces sold in factory farmed meat all available for purchase at your local grocery store every single day. More and more people are becoming infected with e.coli from "safe" foods also available for purchase at your local grocery store.

Let's not forget that we allow, support and tax the sale of guns, explosives, alcohol and cigarettes in this country. No one ever dies from using any of those items, nope, nope, nope. I think if we can allow mentally ill people to purchase weapons that we should allow rational people the choice of purchasing a typically safe food product. I think if we allow people to purchase a product that has no health benefit whatsoever and is known to cause debilitating cancer that we could allow people a bit more autonomy in their dairy purchases.

If you aren't personally interested in raw milk, great! I just don't see how any state or local government can honestly say that they are forbidding the sale of it for safety reasons when our food supply in general is so seriously compromised yet subsidized by our federal government. Do I think raw milk is a product that is 100% safe for human consumption? No! Which is why I choose to home pasteurize our milk. But the public safety shtick is really ridiculous when you make comparisons of products which are deemed unsafe and are illegal and those that are truly unsafe that are legally sold.

Hypocrisy is what it is.


Card Making

Right after Hannah died, Rachael and I began making cards. It seemed to help us both as we grieved over the loss of one of the most precious children I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We often got together at her house or mine to make cards together. While Rachael has a fabulous studio, I've never had a good place to make cards, and hauling everything out to do so was quite a commitment. Recently, I decided to make my downstairs (basement level) into a multi-use room. My grandchildren's toys are there, and it's where they like to play. I keep a bed there in case I have an extra amount of company. All the CDs are there and also a small television set. Best of all, there are a plethora of built-ins and it finally dawned on me that part of them could be used to store my supplies making them easily accessible. So, I now have a studio of sorts. This past week I've enjoyed spending time there making cards. I've played with all sorts of things--my embosser, embellishments, odd color combinations, interesting ribbons, and so on. The results of most of my week's work can be seen in the photos below. Some of the cards I like, and some of them I'm not too happy with. But, I had an enjoyable time making them, so even the ones I think aren't so great were fun to create. I made others, but didn't take pictures of them. Perhaps, I'll post them another time.

You can't see the embossing on the two bottom cards. They look better in person. I like the card at the top for two reasons: First, I like the stamp set, and second, I like the colors in the designer paper.

These cards are all okay. I like the one on the bottom right best. The top two ovals were made using nestabilties and my Big Shot machine. I liked how the ovals turned out so much that I ordered a couple more sets of nestabilities in different shapes.

I like all of these cards, but I'm gaga about the one at top left. I'll use that layout again for other cards. It's time consuming and a bit tricky, but the results make it worth the effort. Perhaps if you click on the photos you can see more detail.


Just Guess

My husband snapped this on his cell about a year ago. I hadn't seen it until tonight and the laughs have been indescribable! Classic, that's all I can say.

The Element

I first saw Ken Robinson's TED talk about a year ago and I have watched it a few times since because I love his ideas, I do believe that we need to begin to value intelligence outside of the mainstream respected areas of maths, sciences and languages and begin to allow students to have more freedom in directing their own curriculum based on their strengths and interests (within reason, of course!). Tailoring education for each human being from early childhood makes sense and technology is at a point in which this could really begin to happen if we can collectively let go of our need for measuring all human intelligence and knowledge by such narrow standards.

I suspect that I feel strongly about this because while I managed to successfully navigate my way through the K-12 public school system I had zero desire to continue my formal education further than what was required of me by society and my parents. I did complete an AA degree in my early 20s because I felt the pressure to continue once I got married but frankly, it hasn't done anything to improve my life aside from introducing me to one of my best friends and also allow me to tell people at dinner parties that I do indeed have a little college education and I am not just a hairstylist. I've found that my formal education level matters a lot more to other people than it does to me. (Believe it or not I once had a client at my salon ask me what I wanted to do for a real career someday.)

I purchased Sir Robinson's new book, The Element, on audio recently and I am not quite finished listening to it yet, but so far I've found it to be really enjoyable and a "quick" listen (read: not boring). In the book he talks extensively about human capability, valuing all types of human intelligence, and encouraging people to find what they are not only innately good at but also passionate about to become their life's work. I know as a parent I would be nervous if one of my children fell in love with fencing, for instance. It seems like a hobby more than an avenue to financial stability and success as we currently measure it. A couple years ago my brother in law and his wife quit their jobs and hiked the entire Appalachian Trail over a 6 month period. I admired their bravery at stepping off the traditional path for awhile and trying to complete their goal which they were so passionate and excited about. What I love about K. Robinson's book is that he makes you realize how much happier we would collectively be and how much more quickly we could advance in all areas of life if we were each inspired to contribute our best because we were doing what we love.

I've made no secret in the last several years that I am a huge Lord of the Rings fans, both book and movies and I watch the movies and reread the trilogy almost yearly. To think that Tolkien took his interest in medieval poetry, lore, and an obscure Scandanavian language and created such a deeply layered and intricate history and story with multiple created languages is really remarkable. What drove him to do that? He had no dream of being published when he began, he simply started on the project because he was interested and thought it was a fun thing to pursue. I have been recently watching the Appendices that were sold with the extended versions of the movies again and I am struck by how closely the documentaries on the making of the LOTR and the points made in The Element coincide. For instance, the two main creative artists for the LOTR movie project were Alan Lee and John Howe. Both are very gifted artists who had previously drawn extensively images from the books as they imagined them. They produced artwork for calendars and other obscure LOTR gear and were contacted by Peter Jackson when he began working to develop the films to help him design sets and other conceptual art. These two artists, in their niche area of LOTR artwork were able to provide expert and pivotal material to bring the books to life. The movies required the expertise of all manner of people who had chosen work in specialized crafts areas - weapon-smiths, historical reproduction tailors, set designers, artists like sculptors, pencil artists, painters, hair design, make up, etc. were all required to pull of the project.

For another example, K. Robinson mentions a brilliant billiards player in his book. This woman was supported by her parents from an incredibly young age to devote herself to perfecting her game play and she is now a world champion. I can see myself talking my child out of a talent like that - will it be marketable, provide an adequate living for her lifespan, etc.? But then again I tell myself daily that we are losing collectively social arts that were once integral to the livelihood of humans everywhere - how many people do you know that can card and spin wool, or grow grain and mill it into flour that can be use for baking, or find food in the wild, or even know how to care for a basic vegetable garden, mend a sock, sew garments or make food from scratch? Not too many, at this point. I dare you to try and go completely processed food free for one month. Frankly, I'm not sure I could do it. My point here is that we do not place value on knowledge in a lot of areas that maybe we should.

I look at Ella and I realize that she is just beginning her formal years of learning. And I do not want her to lose her joy and wonder and excitement at learning new things. If I canvas the adults I know in my life for the most part we are all too busy to be actively learning new things and we are too tired to do much more than flip on the TV after the kids have been bathed and put to bed. Most people I know work at jobs they don't particularly like, run around all weekend doing chores and getting kids to sports events and lessons, tutoring and whatnot and never take the time to really continue to grow intellectually themselves. We are too busy, too stressed and really disinterested because our memories of formal schooling really suck. This includes me.

Imagine our world if more people were able to find work that was inspiring and invigorating for them instead of a grind? Imagine if we could choose work for the joy of it rather than the economics of it. I see my husband so tired and stressed most of the time because of the demands of his job. I hope my children become passionate life-long learners, are readers and artists and search constantly to experience life instead of just surviving it. I think I model adult self-motivated learning at times, though my excuse is that I am really in the trenches with little ones right now so that makes it harder. The first 7 years of parenting another human being is a bit like indentured servitude - you don't do anything without considering that little person first and there is a lot of hands on manual labor that takes an enormous amount of time that doesn't leave a lot left over for pursuing ones interests. It really is a great design by God to help adult humans gain some humility, to be honest.

With that said, my job right now is to cultivate an environment in which my children retain their excitement and natural born capacity to learn. Babies come right out of the womb all ready to master new skills like breathing, latching on for breastfeeding and they just keep going from there at a rapid and wondrous rate over the first 3 years of their life. And the interest in learning new things seems to hang on for awhile but begins to taper off around middle school. It is almost like years of school begin to erode their self-directed interest in learning and I suspect this is because children are given very little freedom in traditional school settings.

A couple places that I find interesting as a parent of young children:


Charlotte Mason


Strawberry Picking


I love plants, I've grown to love gardening as an adult. It is an endeavor full of possibility and rewards for some basic effort put forth. I tend to a tomato plant a few times a week and I get loads of tomatoes for a few months to enjoy and eat. The pay off is worth the effort.

We bought a brand new house in December and the house is in a brand new neighborhood which means that the landscaping is all immature. And it is builder grade stock for the most part - builders are so cheap they won't even spring for boring old boxwoods any longer, you're lucky if you get a few spindly azaleas, japanese hollies and some monkey grass to spruce up the front of your house. We did get an "upgraded package" so we got a laurel and a crape myrtle thrown in as well. Nothing to brag about, for sure.

Our backyard is really pretty awful to be honest. It is shallow and bumps into our neighbors driveway. We are on a corner and the people behind us face a different direction so their side load garage is our view from our back porch. They are nice people to be sure, but our view is not so nice at all. There is zero vegetation in the backyard aside from grass so clearly it was going to be up to us to spruce it up a bit and to block our lousy view as well as create a pretty significant barrier between the backyard and the driveway to keep little feet from running over to it.

I've researched my heart out because buying a tree is a much different proposition from buying a six pack of petunias or a tomato plant. Those are $5 decisions and easy to let go of if they don't work out. Trees, especially mature trees, cost a lot of money. We don't want to over-plant the space in our zeal to block out our lousy view and yet we don't want to wait 20 years for the view to be improved. And we do have a pesky little consideration in the form of a budget!

We've planned a long, mulched bed that will run the length of our porch and will include several trees and some shrubs. We've elected to do the planting ourselves to save about a thousand dollars - in my world that is a lot of money to fork over! We decided on two cryptomeria, 1 japanese maple and 1 crape myrtle. We will have elaegnus and nishiki willow to fill in along with a 6 foot tall skip laurel to be placed in between and forward of the two cryptomeria to help fill in the space a bit while we wait (years) for the trees to grow and mature.

I'll try and post a few pics over the weekend as the bed takes shape and things get planted. As Bob has reminded me a few times, "Happy Mother's Day!".



My 28 month old son is trying to potty train (he just needs his mama to get consistent and on board with it, but that is another post) and this morning while I was getting him breakfast he took himself to the bathroom, took off his diaper and completed his business with no help needed from me. After he was finished he did ask that I help him get cleaned up and I did. And then I was so excited that I squealed:

"You earned a treat from Target! After breakfast we will go out and you can choose a new toy!"

And so we did. And that, my friends, is the problem. My first instinctual response was to buy him something to reward him. Aside from knowing that material rewards are not necessarily the greatest motivator for kids, aside from knowing that I could have offered him another type of reward or bonus for his success to show him how proud I am of his ability and independence, still my first gut response was a material reward. And once it was said I had to follow through.

Likewise, Ella has been working on memorizing some prayers and we have especially been working on the Hail Mary. At the beginning I promised her material rewards for memorizing the prayer, which is completely counter-intuitive to what I really want her to learn from the process. If I always have to dangle a carrot to get my children to cooperate in learning/performing in a way that I feel is productive then how will they ever learn that sometimes doing or learning something is worth it in and of itself. How will Ella ever learn that prayer is a gift and a privilege if I make it seem like something that needs rewarding to get through it?

I cannot believe how hard this is to beat. I am really a consumer, one who is capable of justifying just about any purchase I make that is unnecessary. And I am teaching my children that not only is being a consumer is OK, it is a way to reward yourself. This is definitely not the message I want to be sending to them and yet I choose to do it all the time. I'm not writing this as a confessional post, I am simply saying that I recognize that I have a problem and I am genuinely unable to stop myself. Which is really the description of an addict, is it not?


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