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.
Spring Garden 2012

Here is the front of the house. It has been a long slog to get these beds not looking shabby and empty. At this point we really just need the hollies and boxwood to mature and fill in and the perennials to have another year to get excellent root systems in place to look their best. You can see roses, day lilies, lamb's ear, tulips, sedum, phlox, fountain grass and much more popping up. The tulips are especially gorgeous with a soft cream variegated with light pink.

I put in Little Strawberry Shortcake day lilies all along the row of japanese hollies in front of the garage and they are started to sprout up out of the ground. I am looking forward to seeing if their color is as intense and pretty as it looked in the Oake's catalog. We'll see!

Here is the south side bed that gets a ton of sun. I can't believe how vigorous and large these Westerland roses have gotten in one year. The clematis growing up in between is also looking very happy and gives a nice color pop. I don't remember what it is called but the flowers are large and purple. You can also see the bearded iris is getting ready to bloom. I've got woodland phlox in bloom and the spiderwort and the Bloomerang also look great. Our utility lines run through the middle of the bed and I am going to put in river rock and put a large planter with Joe Pye Weed in it to cover the view of the utility box. I think it will be really pretty.

We extended this south side bed to swoop out in front of the raised garden boxes. These boxes and the playlet beyond are easily viewed from the street and I thought it would be nice to my neighbors to provide a bit of screening. We put in a Natchez crape myrtle and I am going to be planting three David Austin roses in the bed as well. They are Lady Emma Hamilton, Grace and Carding Mill. All the perennials mixed in around the roses will be purple to contrast and include russian sage, salvia, catmint, lavender and some ornamental grasses. I threw in some dwarf evergreens for structure. The roses shipped yesterday so this bed will be completed in the next week.

This tree island in the back yard that blocks our view of our neighbor's garage and driveway has really come a long way. We have almost no back yard so we thought that trying to put in a solider row of narrow evergreens would actually visually make the problem appear worse. The usable space is limited so I'm glad we put in a dense, pretty island of larger trees and didn't try and save the extra 10 feet which in the long run really wouldn't matter much in terms of practical usage. The japanese maple is starting to leaf out and I am glad as it is my favorite garden purchase for this house. It is lovely. We put two adirondack chairs in the back to provide comfortable adult seating while the kids are being supervised on the play set.

North side of house, shade bed. Down near the railing the bed gets a good amount of afternoon sun so we have more plant choices. We added the skip laurels around the AC units last fall and added the trellis this spring. I planted a zepherine drouhin rose along with the gold flame honeysuckle for the trellis as I've read that particular rose is somewhat shade tolerant. I think it will get 6 hours of direct sun a day in the late afternoon so we'll see if that is going to be good enough.

This Korean Spice Viburnum is the best smelling flowering shrub of all time. It is worth having for the two weeks of spicy perfume it provides each spring even if it fades into the background after the flowering is finished. The vitex is starting to leaf out and really steals the show in the hot summer. All the day lilies are perking up along with the rudbekia, hosts, yarrow, balloon flower and so on.

We added wide center stairs off our porch this spring. We hired a super carpenter and he fabricated a gate system out of the pre-existing rail. We need it because we have very young children who cannot easily escape off the back porch. I am really happy with how they turned out and the entire railing/pillars need a new coat of paint to freshen them up.


I'm A Stranger Here Myself

(Stealing the title from the exceptionally funny Bill Bryson book!)

Hello, friends! It's been awhile. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and well, that describes this blog pretty well. You'd think with three contributors that at least one of us could manage a post per week - well, clearly that just isn't how it has played out.

As for me, I've been busy homeschooling this year (our first year) and even though it's first grade it has taken a lot of my free time. Keeping up with the 4 and 2 year olds fills in the remaining gaps of time. Even so, a lot has been updated, improved and managed while the chaos has gone on all around us.

Gardening is my first love and I spend from December to February plotting away and what I'll buy, where I'll plant it and how much money I need to carve out from the old budget to make it happen. We've installed two new trellises, pyracantha, planted 6 new roses, more clematis, more lavender, monarda, coreopsis, phlox, salvia, a large (and expensive!) crape myrtle, and created whole new bed in the yard. I'll try and find time to snap some pictures soon. Our trees are leafing out, the red twig dogwood and spiderwort are particularly magnificent this spring adding little pops of color in a sea of medium green. The tulips and daffodils provided some early spring charm when I was ready to lose my mind from the bleakness of the landscape. Professional landscapers can publish all the books about "winter landscaping" that they want but the bottom line is that some hellebores blooming and red twig dogwood stems do not make a garden. It is bleak and gray and brown and d.e.a.d.

Spring has always been my favorite season as the world springs to life again. Animal babies are born and plants wake up and show up after a long sleep. This year has been the allergy year of hell for me - as I've never suffered from seasonal allergies prior to this I can tell you that I am particularly outraged about it all. All the 24 hour allergy remedies stink and I've had the best luck with old fashioned 4 hour Chlor-Tabs and Zitador eye drops - just in case you are wondering. :-)

Last but not least, even though I hate to cook and do it as little as possible I made a dish recently that was totally easy and very good. The recipe follows:

Chicken with cannellini beans and tomato sauce

  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed red chilli
  • 1 x 400g can no-added-salt chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g can no-added-salt cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
  • 2 tsp salted baby capers, rinsed, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley
  • 2 (about 250g each) chicken breast fillets, halved horizontally
  • Steamed green round beans, to serve


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