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.
Orange Kissed Cookies

I found this recipe while looking for something to take to a cookie exchange. I decided I wanted a lighter cookie that would complement the heavier chocolate and nut varieties that always seem to be prepared during the holidays. My husband did most of the preparation for these cookies and we ended up needing to use a cookie scoop to get them a uniform shape and size after baking.


  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • Directions
  1. Cream white sugar and shortening; add eggs and stir. Add sour cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla; stir and set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add little by little to the creamed mixture and stir well. Add 3/4 cup orange juice concentrate, and 2 tablespoons orange zest. Drop onto greased cookie sheets by teaspoonfuls.
  2. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 10 minutes. Frost cookies when they are cool.
  3. To Make Frosting: Mix together 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, 2 Tablespoons of the thawed orange juice concentrate, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 4 Tablespoons of melted butter, 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar or enough to make frosting of spreading consistency.

Salt Dough Ornaments

My kids are having a great time painting their salt dough ornaments today! Such an easy craft that brings lots of smiles and also cheers up a Christmas tree.

1 C. warm water
1 C. flour
1/2 C. salt

Mix together, roll out and cut shapes with cookie cutters
Poke a hole through the top of the ornament
Bake at 250 degrees for 4-6 hours


Lemon Icebox Pie

This pie is incredible for a number of reasons.  One, it's lemon.  Hello, citrus fruit!  Two, it's insanely easy to make.  Three, it's utterly delicious!  

Lissie was reading some article Wednesday night and this recipe was given. I decided then and there it would be a perfect addition to my birthday pie buffet, especially as I had all the necessary ingredients on hand! :o) 


1 8oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon (or more if you desire)
1 graham cracker pie crust (okay, so I had to go to the store for this one)

Beat cream cheese with mixer until good and soft.  Add condensed milk and mix until combined.  Add lemon juice and zest (we added the zest to the recipe since we're big citrus hounds in this house) and again mix until combined.  Pour into crust and refrigerate. 

Yes, it really is that simple.  And, goodness me, so tasty. :o)

Cheesy Potato Soup

Brien is not a big fan of soups.  He doesn't like hot liquids in general, actually (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, you name it).  But, he'll eat a creamy or thick stoup or stew. 

I've been busy on a home improvement project and wanted something quick and easy for dinner that we could eat on for a couple of days.  Enter this easy potato soup that I sort of made up.

*about 3 pounds potatoes, cubed
*1 onion, diced
*3 cartons chicken broth
*6 T flour
*1 1/2 cups milk
*1 1/2 blocks cheddar cheese
*sour cream
*chives, chopped

I have a large crock pot, so this fits my pot.  You may have to modify accordingly.  Put potatoes, onion and broth in crock pot set on low.  Cook all day.  I cranked mine to high about two hours before I was ready to eat.

Mix flour and milk and add to soup.  It will be cloudy and thicken, about twenty minutes.  Add cheese (more or less to taste) and allow to melt, stirring it to help it along.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream, bacon and chives.  It's thick, hearty and tasty.  :o) 


Chicken Chowder

Here's a nice hearty soup for a cool fall day:

Chicken Chowder

Serves 4-6

6 slices bacon, chopped
8 scallions, white parts chopped fine and green parts sliced thin
3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
2 celery rib, sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-size pieces (After I remove the chicken from the carcass, I divide the meat into thirds and put each third separately into the food processor and pulse a few times.)
1 cup half-and-half

1. Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve in the pot 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, and remove the rest. Cook scallion whites, carrots, celery, and salt in bacon fat until vegetables are softened. Add flour and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Stir in chicken broth and potatoes and bring to boil; then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until all vegetables are tender. Add the chicken and the half & half. Cook on low until the chicken is heated all the way through. When serving, sprinkle with bacon and scallion greens.

Fall Garden

Apparently I am not planting a fall garden this year because I haven't done it yet and I'm past the point for most everything to have time to mature before killing frosts. I may still do some various greens and lettuce, we'll see. I've never had a season in which I've been so "meh" about planting things. I'm typically in a constant state of planning, planting, seed starting, bulb obsession, designing new landscaping projects and so on. I think maybe I OD'd a bit this spring and summer since we completed so much landscaping and it was another long, dry summer. August was cooler but still mostly dry and then September has been so wet and rainy that I think fall will be here with cooler temps and we will have missed out on our last few weeks of summer. Even with the heat, summer is only second to spring in my favorite seasons of the year. I like to be warm and I like to see things growing and vigorous and colorful. I like being outside and swimming and picnics and watermelon. On the other hand my grass looks better than it has since April with all the rain we've had tickling those roots and making it glow a nice dense green.

I am also interested in pursuing a few other hobbies this fall and winter. I started a family herbalist course a year and a half ago and it fell by the wayside with the busy-ness of a new baby and a traveling husband. I'd like to complete it. My 6 year old daughter wants to learn how to sew. I am not the best seamstress myself but I've gotten better over time with my machine. We're starting with some hand sewing projects for kids for her and see if her interests continues. She's also become a little obsessed with treasure hunting so we are going to be ramping up geocaching and visiting historical sites that have active digs. I'm just starting research into this right now but we live in an area that is brimming with historical significance, I'm betting I can find a few things that would thrill her.

This blog has been too quiet. It has always been a quiet blog but I'm hoping to pick up the pace a bit as we have more things to share again. I'll be trying some new bread recipes as the temps cool off and I am also going to be trying my hand at freezer cooking for the first time. I'm a pretty lousy cook and I really have no interest in getting "better" - I like tasty and easy. With that said I am a huge fan of the crock pot and my husband isn't so much. I'm going to be on the hunt for some recipes that are actually really good in a crock pot and do not call for ingredients like Rotel and taco seasoning packets. There's been a little too much junk food in our lives in the last few months and it is time to clean up a bit before the cold seasonal blahs hit.

Fall Wish List

Serbian Spruce

Crape Myrtle Coral Sport x3

Wintergreen Boxwood x6

Daylily - Little Strawberry Shortcake x9

Peony - Sherbet x4

Agastache - Apricot Sprite

Dahlia - Showcase Decadent


It's that time of year again.

I wait and wait and wait all fall, winter and early spring for things begin to grow and show life out in the garden. And the bulbs shoot up in March and keep going through early May. By then there are perennials peeking up and I know all will be well in my world. How anyone could stand to live in a perpetually cold or dry place, I do not know. My husband mentioned a job transfer to Minnesota once and I almost had a heart attack! I need a decent length growing season, at least zone 5, to make me content.

Anyway, August heralds in the shabby month of gardening. This is when I always wish I'd focused more on structure rather than on color and blooms. I like messy, rambling, big and busy gardens. I do like a bit of structure but only so that the whole garden doesn't look totally desolate in the winter months. But August also sees me rethinking what I've put where and what I can do to improve things. August is about the time it gets so hot that most things are getting leggy and dry, blooms are having trouble really looking their best. My roses look so promising as they bud and then quickly brown and dry out in the heat. My hydrangeas each have blooms that feature crispy petals. My geraniums last only about a day and I'm deadheading them before all the petals have bloomed because the rest of the flower ball looks so pathetic. Even the petunias are starting to look a little desperate.

I just gave most of my garden a major hair cut (er, stem cut). It was time. So now I have a lot less blooms to blot out the ratty foliage. I'm planning on rearranging the north side shade bed quite a lot. I can see better now that the astilbes really are getting too much sun where they are at. I can see that the hellebore I had such high hopes for is probably never going to reach the 36 inches promised on the plant tag and it needs to move forward. I can also see that I should have been more patient and bought fewer hostas because they are now crowding each other out.

I feel as if I am in a holding pattern. It has been in the 90s-100s for the past two weeks. We have a drip irrigation system installed that is keeping everything happy and well-watered which is good because I can hardly stand to be outside for more than a half hour at a go. My children cannot take the excessive heat either so we have been cooped up inside just the same as we are in January.

September will arrive soon and then I'll get my spirit back. I'll start haunting online plant nurseries and visiting my favorite local nurseries and cajole my husband into digging more holes for me in the ground. I can see where we need more structure and I'm starting to plan exactly what we'll need.

I'll keep you posted!


The Glory of Morning Glories

Oake's Daylily Festival

Gardening is in our blood. By “our” I mean my entire family. I have vivid memories of helping my grandmother in her flowerbeds where she tried to grow beautiful things in sandy Florida soil. My other grandmother also loved flowering plants. Once, when I was a teenager, she sent via railway express a bunch of lilies of the valley, cut but in bloom, to my mother who loved them. (They will not grow in Florida.) Mother loved flowering plants, too, but Dad did most of the gardening in our family. He and Mom split the work—Dad took care of what was outside and Mother’s responsibility was our home’s interior.

I came to gardening slowly, though even as a young single woman I always planted things wherever I rented, leaving them behind when I moved. And as a young mother I did some gardening. One year the Impatiens got taller than Jessica who was eight at the time. After my children were grown I took up gardening with a vengeance. When I bought our townhouse in 1994 I immediately began to transform the property. I had an end unit on a corner lot and there was more to landscape than I originally thought. Slowly, over time, I created new beds. I began to dabble with daylilies and fell in love with them. A coworker gave me a catalog to Oake’s Daylilies near Knoxville, and I have been a daylily gardener ever since. I mostly buy from Oake’s because of the high quality of their plants. When I sold the townhouse in 2009, I left behind more than 50 varieties of daylilies.

When I moved into my present home, I knew I needed to live in the house for a year before I began to work on the gardens. I needed to get a feel for the property. The fifth owner of an older home in an established neighborhood, all previous owners had different ideas as to how to landscape. So, I inherited a hodgepodge of overgrown plants and shrubs taller than the house. The last owner had five children, and I can promise you their mother did not have time to garden!

The flowerbeds of single-family home on a large lot have proved to be a bit overwhelming. Trying to bring order to chaos is a daunting task. The first important decision I made was to leave the back half of the property as woods. Here and there I have found and moved perennials from this wooded area, which leads me to believe that at some point that jungle was also landscaped. But it is now overgrown and too much for me to keep up. I actually like the wild nature of it all. It is filled with goats’ beard, money plants, Virginia creeper, sedum, and wild daylilies.

When I left the townhouse I was in mourning for my daylilies but decided to move on from them. I also made the decision that my new home would be surrounded by perennials, but I would not add any daylilies to the ones already there. Feeling overwhelmed by all that needed to be done, I began to rework neglected beds adding various perennials here and there. I took out huge, overgrown shrubs and created beds. Then I began to plan, albeit slowly. Gardens are a work in progress always and an act of blind faith. Creating them is good for the soul.

The front of the house gets hot, hot, hot so much so that the front door in summer must be touched gingerly. The side beds get some sun and the back is in almost total shade. After working on things for two years I finally made some hard decisions. One of the most important is that I still love daylilies. It just made sense to put them where it is too hot for many other plants. So, early this morning found me outside adding a few daylilies to a bed we dug along the driveway. A couple of weeks ago, I added several to my front beds. Today I will place a little name tag next to each one so that I can always remember which daylily is which. While I do know many by name, I can still get confused when I have several of the same color.

As I stated above, I LOVE Oake’s Daylilies-- Every year Oake’s has a Daylily Festival and this year Rachael and I planned our trip to Tennessee around it. Each year we take Dad on an outing, and how convenient it is that Oake’s is only 45 minutes from his house and somewhat on our way home. We easily found the place and with two young children in tow, made our way to the fields. These beds are for show only; the beds from which they sell are located elsewhere. All in all, the breathtaking beauty of so many daylilies all in bloom at the same time made our heart sing. Needless to say, a pleasant time was had by all, and I can’t wait to go back next year. In the meantime, I will continue to work on my yard, a major work in progress.

More pictures from the Oake's Daylily Festival follow ...


Gorgeous in JULY!


Baby Bird

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Late Spring 2011

Things have changed in my garden so much since my last post. Spring blooms have pretty much petered out at this point and I've cut back almost all the bulb foliage now. As things come up and get bigger I see where I need to move things around again this fall. I've also started thinking about how to completely revamp the front beds but that will have to wait until fall or spring for sure.

Plants and garden items that I've blogged about in previous months are now in the garden growing and supporting. I couldn't be more pleased with the trellis we put on the south side of our house. The roses that we planted as bare roots in early spring have all flushed out and are putting on vigorous new growth and we are starting to see the first round of blooms, which I think is remarkable considering they were sad, bare little things just 60 days ago.

I've gotten the summer veggie garden planted. Unfortunately I lost most every seedling I started myself to some bizarre disease/fungus and I had to buy my plants from a nursery but all look to be thriving well and I'm looking forward to some new things we've not grown before including cucumbers, eggplant and watermelon. We have 9 tomato plants this year despite my plan of growing 4 - I can't just seem to help myself. We've got beans, 5 types of peppers, chard and melons growing as well. I am also trying an EarthBox for the first time to trial it and so far the growth on the tomatoes in the box is beating those in the beds - they are lush, big, healthy and vigorous plants.

Christopher Marlowe Rose:

Westerland Rose:

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