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.

Let me tell you, I don't like Giada De Laurentiis. I am not sure why aside from the fact that she is incredibly perky and far too thin to be any kind of a cook, especially one who specializes in Italian. Bob likes her a lot. He defends her perkiness and waistline by saying both are genetic and I should cut her some slack. Hmmm. Our debate about old Giada has been going on for years now. He would sneak and watch an episode of her show and I would enter the room and start grumbling. I am not a Food Network fan anyway, so Giada in all her glory was just too much for me.

Giada De Laurentiis has recently started a line of products for Target. I have been canning lately and let me tell you, canning tomatoes is not for sissies. It is a long, hot process that takes all day. So ready to eat, jarred sauce from the store is not an uncommon sight in my pantry. I stumbled by an end rack of pasta sauces, knew I needed some and put some jars in the cart without really thinking about it, thanking the shelving folks for allowing me to skip one trip down an aisle with glass jars and my three children in tow.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and opened the Creamy Tomato sauce by Giada. Oh my gosh, this stuff is like heaven in a jar. Great for immediately dipping bread in, pouring cold over hot noodles for kids when you are in a hurry, etc. It is delicious. Seriously delicious. So, I suppose I'll have to stop all the Giada hate now because I will be buying this sauce again.



The cool wet weather has really helped our tomatoes, believe it or not. They were struggling just to hold steady during the weeks and weeks of massive heat and this past week of cooler temperatures and some rain has helped ripen up so much fruit that we are going to be canning tomato sauce today. Neither Bob nor I have ever canned so it should be a real adventure for us.

Yesterday we picked peaches at a local farm, so those will be made into jam and peach butter in a few days. Today Ella pulled the rest of our carrots, I believe the ones pictures are the variety Cosmic Purple. She also picked some chard, we have tons more but I am running out of ways to serve it at this point. A neighbor mentioned chard soup yesterday so I suppose I'll be looking for a recipe. Our green beans are starting to prolifically produce as well, but the kids are really enjoying them by eating them immediately after picking.

Ella loves to garden and help with veggie prep. She pulled the carrots and raced inside to wash them, using the only sink she can reach without a step stool. Who knew our half bath would get so much action this season!


Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains

I had the pleasure of visiting this bucolic and gorgeous place this past weekend. It is so breathtakingly beautiful, I will never forget it. There are cabins for rental in the cove along with several hiking trails. I hope our family can vacation here some day.


Spotlight On

I kept seeing this book discussed in various places that I visit online so I ordered it and have really enjoyed it. Frankly, I am in awe of families that can really be self-sufficient. I do my best with vermicomposting, growing some of our own veggies in the spring/summer/fall and buying organic when I can. I try and make my own bread and get local meat. But I have yet to try my hand at making homemade yogurt or sewing all my kids clothes. The ladies who seem to have the time for this also seem to have a slightly different household workload than my own with their spouse also around the vast majority of the time. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that sometimes practicality wins in my life and that means occasionally pulling into Chik Fil' A or using plastic ziploc bags and ditching them or throwing out leftovers instead of using them up.

But if I am really getting down to nitty gritty honesty, my biggest problem is lack of discipline. This is an overarching problem throughout many areas of my life from how I choose to spend my free time to not planning ahead to pack nutritious food prior to heading out with the kids knowing I am going to be tired and hungry and susceptible to pulling into Chik Fil' A. I definitely have a sense of entitlement that I should have fun and free time to waste on Facebook and video games instead of choosing to spend that time doing something more productive. Speaking just about this very thing on her blog, Sharon Astyk wrote a really great piece in response to an article written in Salon about the book. It was a really thought-provoking blog post and I encourage you to follow this link and read it. It made me think and since I read the post I am more aware of the things I take for granted that I can buy easily and cheaply.

Here is an excerpt from her post:

There's a kind of willful incompetence that is endemic in our society, and it is the territory of privileged folks who characterize basic, functional human work as something you need a special gift for. And this serves them well. As long as you don't know how to do something, and can naturalize your "flaws" as just "how you are made" you don't have to apologize for the fact that you are sticking someone less privileged with your work. In fact, you can totally sympathize with them, and totally care about justice for people just like them - at the same time that they get paid badly or treated badly for doing work you could do too.


Granny's Gumbo Recipe

Brien's Granny was born and raised in south Luzianna and grew up cooking Cajun goodness. She brought these recipes to Brien and his family when she would come to visit. Her style of cooking involved LOTS of garlic, "pepper" (cayenne!), and sea food. Mm.

She had moved to Williamsburg prior to her death, and even though she could no longer see, I can remember her standing in the kitchen with Brien, imparting her knowledge and wisdom of cooking all things yummy. I'm not sure what triggered it, but recently, B has had a hankering for seafood gumbo. He took himself into the kitchen and went about replicating Granny's recipes--for of course, nothing was written down, it was all in her head.

Well, we think this recipe is now ready to share:

Granny's Gumbo

1 cup bell pepper
1 cup celery
1 cup onion
1 cup carrots
6-8 cloves garlic
1/2 cup flour
1 stick butter
chicken stock
2 pounds meat of your choice
1/8-1/2 t ground red pepper (depends on how spicy you like it!)
salt to taste

1 cup onion
1 cup celery
1 cup carrots
1 cup bell pepper
(I typically chop it fairly fine so it will cook quickly)
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press

In a large Dutch oven over medium-low to medium heat, melt a stick of butter (please, NO margarine!!). When the butter has melted, gradually add in a 1/2 cup of all purpose flour. You MUST stir this constantly. It will become hot hot hot and quite sticky and has been referred to as Cajun Napalm, so be sure you don't splash any on yourself.

You will keep stirring the flour/butter mixture until it is about the color of peanut butter. Then, add the onion and garlic. After about a minute, add the remaining veggies. Cook these until they are well softened and the onion is clear, about 10 minutes or so.

Add a carton of chicken broth/stock (or, make your own), and stir until slightly thickened. Add your meat (in this case, 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined, 1 pound scallops with the small muscle removed from the side--although, this evening we made it with chicken and smoked sausage), and cook until meat is heated through or thoroughly cooked.

Add the seasonings and serve over rice.



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