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.
7 Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary.  I've been reading her Quick Takes and some of the other bloggers that join the weekly meme for a couple years now but this is the first time I've ever participated.

1.  I recently bought some clothes online from a few different companies.  I really love a particular pair of walking shorts that came in one of those orders and I was wearing them the other day when I had to go to the mall to get a replacement for my iPhone.  I decided while I was there that I liked the shorts well enough that I would pop into the brick and mortar store that I ordered them from and get another pair or two in other colors.  The saleswoman began to help me and we combed through the store and even checked the online site for a match.  Finally she said, "Let me check the tag inside your pants."   I know you already know what I am going to write.  The shorts I was wearing were not from that particular store.  I definitely felt like an idiot!

2. I've removed 75% of the apps on my iPhone and I am much happier.  It was cluttered before and they were taking up too much space.  It is too bad you can't Craigslist or Goodwill old apps that were mistake purchases that you no longer want. 

3. Ella and I took a knitting lesson a few days ago.  She learned to finger crochet and we now have chains of crocheted yarn all over our house.   It looks like a pink yarn explosion around here. 

4. I have always said my favorite color is yellow and I think it still may be.  But I do not like most yellow flowering plants.  Isn't that weird?  I'm continuing with my love affair of coral and I found Watermelon Treat zinnias and Flame Coral phlox in the last week and think both are gorgeous.  

5.  I've been reading The Creed In Slow Motion by Ronald Knox and it is amazing.  Really amazing.  It is solid Catholic theology but written in a very accessible way.  During WWII in England, he unexpectedly became the chaplain for a group of teen girls who had been displaced from London due to the air raids.  This book is a series of sermons he gave during Mass to these girls.  It has been an excellent read for me as a still newish convert but it is the perfect book for teens.  It is smart and sensible and doesn't condescend as it teaches the reader.  

6.  I've been enjoying reading Wildflowers and Marbles, a Catholic/Charlotte Mason based homeschooling blog.  This mother is dedicated and organized.  I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal but when it comes to homeschooling (because I do not want to screw it up!) I plan and plan and plan way ahead of time.  I can only dream of becoming as organized and neat as she is, though.   There are some super ideas on this blog, including forms you can download and her "Morning Basket" approach that gets their day off on a calm, uplifting start.  

7.  Ella's birthday is next Thursday and we having a low key family day this year.   We are thinking some of her favorite foods, an ice cream cake and the pool.   I asked her yesterday what she thought I was going to give her for her big day and she groaned, "You always give me books."  HA!  She's right - she's getting books from me.  She's getting each "Meet" book for the historical American Girls and she's getting the entire boxed Anne of Green Gables set.  She's getting some other things as well but she knows to always expect at least a few books from her mama.  

Death To Japanese Beetles!

I have really awesome Russian neighbors.  They are older than me and have an adult son so I try to keep my kids from driving them crazy.  On the whole we have a very nice neighborly relationship.  Gardening is the main bond at this point as it seems the one thing we've got in common.   They've given me a pie for making the view from their kitchen sink pleasurable while they do their dishes.  I spend all summer trying to convince them to take the surplus of veggies out of my beds.  So far they've been happily accepting cucumbers.  We live on small lots so if we are outside at the same time doing yard work, chances are we are going to bump into each other. We share our gardening successes and aggravations, ask for advice and plot future projects together.  None of us are trained horticulturalists or landscapers.  We are trial and error and like to trade our hard learned tidbits of info. with each other.

My neighbors have been driven batty by the onslaught of japanese beetles that are devouring almost everything in our gardens.  My rose leaves are lacy, they are eating the buds before they even have a chance to open.  My apple trees, gladiolas and crape myrtles are also suffering.  They are now onto the chaste trees and munching happily away on both flowers and leaves.

I hate them with a blind passion.  At least the rabbit who is visiting often is cute and there is only one of him to contend with.  No solution had been found to adequately deal with this dreadful little insect.  I kept meeting my neighbors outside as I shook my rose bushes as they were trying and collect beetles in a bucket of soapy water - every few hours.

A few days ago I mentioned that my granny would dump "grey water" otherwise known as used dish water on plants at times.  I wondered if the soap in the water would deter the bugs.   With nothing more than a hunch a spray bottle was procured, a few squirts of Dawn were added to the water inside and we stood together as my front bed rose bushes were inspected and found to be loaded with japanese beetles.  He sprayed and we stood there hopefully watching.  Within 30 seconds the beetles looked drunk and sloppy.  Within 5 minutes they were all dead.  DEAD!

We stood together and laughed.  I do believe some arm cheering occurred.  I almost hugged him!

Do I think this is really a longterm effective solution for japanese beetle control?  No.  But I DO know that it makes me inordinately cheerful to watch those suckers die right before my eyes.  Creatures of God they may be, but my roses are prettier and deliciously fragrant so in comparison the beetles are extraordinarily low down on my list of creatures to appreciate as part of the miracle of life.  Yuck is about all I can muster up when I think of them.

They died!  This solution is cheap and easy.  I've done the expected poking around on the internet and it appears that this is indeed an old-fashioned remedy.  There are heated arguments over which dish liquid to use and whether to add anything else to it to make it more effective.   Dawn is cheap and working well so I'm sticking with that for now.


ETA on June 28th:  I have been spraying once or twice a day and it does work.  Unfortunately the cottoneaster planted right behind it is shouting its displeasure as it is turning yellow and looking pretty sad.  It's got to be the detergent bothering it.  So, the beetles will get to eat my roses and I'm going back to shaking them off instead of spraying.

On The Cusp Of Summer

While in Williamsburg my mom asked me to post another round of pics of my yard so she could see how things are progressing.  Mostly everything is looking bigger and a bit more wild.  My secret is Miracle Gro indoor fertilizer spikes for all my containers.  I have no idea why they are listed as indoor use when they work perfectly well outside in containers as well.  I put in one for each plant in a pot sticking it right down into the root ball.  I have to replace them about ever 4-6 weeks.

This is probably my favorite area of the garden.  I really love the intense colors.  The chaste tree will get moved this fall as it is going to outgrow this space quickly.  I'll fill in with more South Seas  daylilies behind the catmint.  I think this spot looks pretty good considering all these plants are only on their 1st or 2nd year in the ground.  

South Seas daylilies with the chaste tree beginning to bloom behind. 

Apricot Sprite Agastache and Lavender

The veggie beds are growing like crazy.  My tomato placement this year was poorly thought out. They have grown into an 8 plant jungle which will make harvesting the fruit much more difficult. There are two Earth Boxes behind the beds with 2 tomato plants each in them and then four more in the bed in the back left.  I've already gotten a couple Black Cherry tomatoes this year and they, along with Paul Robesons are hands down the best tomatoes that have ever passed my lips - and I've grown and eaten a large assortment of varieties!  

The corn is doing well despite the bunny visiting and having his breakfast, lunch and dinner in our garden.  Gabriel actually asked me last night after I read a Beatrix Potter story for him if I was going to put the rabbit visiting our garden into a pie.  I just may if he keeps on pigging out over here!  

We've got four cucumber plants and will never be able to eat all the cucumbers being produced on those vines.  We've got several varieties of peppers, kentucky blue wonder beans, parsley and a couple varieties of basil busily growing here as well.  

These japanese beetles are disgusting.  I am really posting so people can feel sorry for my roses.  

Front view of the house, per my mom's request. 

I have actually had three cars who were driving by my house stop and roll down their window to tell me how much they love these window boxes and ask me where I got them and how I knew what to plant in them.  I had one person ask me if I worked for Merrifield Garden Center, which is funny since I think I single-handedly support their store with my constant purchases!   I wish I made some money from this addiction of mine instead of it eating away at the old budget. 

What is more fun than a sweet dress up princess with a paci in her mouth?  She loves to come out with me and "help" me as I weed and water every day.  

Gardening Books

We made a trip to Williamsburg to visit my sister, Rachael, and for our girls to celebrate their birthdays.  I stopped by the Williamsburg farmer's market on Saturday to pick up some Rockahock Farm Cherry Butter, which is perhaps the best fruit spread ever produced on the planet.  Yum!  Anyway, when I was in Colonial Williamsburg getting the cherry butter I realized that there were mature, full sized, huge and gorgeous chaste trees (vitex agnus-castus) everywhere.    I have two in my own yard that are still shrub sized and I liked how the trees in CW had been de-limbed at the bottom to make a multi trunk tree (similar to a crape myrtle) with a large canopy on top.  Of course, I needed to drag my husband back to CW so he could see the trees and figure out how to trim one of our chaste trees into a more tree like form.

My mother and sister agreed to watch my children and we headed back out.   Those of you with young children will appreciate that all the stars have to align and your karma must be brimming with positive juju to make an occasion such as this happen.  To be out, alone with my husband and in a pretty place for taking a stroll?  AND the weather was perfect - not too hot or too cool or too humid or too anything.   Perfect.  We left saying we'd be right back but ended up spending at least an hour.  Bob saw the trees, made the appropriate oohs and ahhs to please me and then we headed into the historic district to walk around.  We popped into a little shop that sold soap and candles and overpriced pottery.  I spotted this new Colonial Williamsburg garden themed book:

I already have a few other CW books, all lovely in their own way.  I've spent some time looking through this book admiring recipes that I will probably never take the time to make and marveling at the thought of actually hosting a lovely garden party someday.   There are instructions for making the beautiful wreaths and garlands that are so prominent in Colonial Williamsburg during the holiday season.  There are also fun instructions for things like sugaring flower blossoms, making a lanterns, homemade valentines and making potpourri.  I love everything about this book!   

On the drive home there was a lot of traffic trying to leave the peninsula and get back onto 95N.  I always have children's books downloaded on my iPhone and iPod for Ella to listen to in her room during her rest time.  The books are generally classics that are above her current reading level but she can enjoy having them read aloud to her.  We decided to listen to The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett to entertain us during the long drive home.  I haven't read it since I was just a little older than Ella but as we listened together I found that I enjoyed it as much as an adult as I did as a child.  I didn't remember how prominent gardening is in the story to heal the spiritual wounds of two of the main character children, Mary and Colin.   As a child I did not appreciate the gardening as I didn't know how to visualize what precisely a crocus or a snowdrop was but now I do.  I think I may have a much more accurate mental image of what the secret garden looked like in the imagination of the author.  This story is a gem.  If you have young children, get the book and read it aloud to them.  

Blood Thirsty

I have murder in my heart.  I have a hit out on a little brown bunny and I will show him my southwestern VA roots if I catch him.    I don't think there are any members of PETA who garden or they would no longer have such warm and fuzzy feelings about animals.  Many years ago I read a book called This Organic Life by Joan Gussow.    In the book she goes round and round with possums, rabbits and other critters who want to use her garden as their personal buffet.   A student in one of her classes displayed shock at some of her critter control tactics (traps and drowning to name two) and she was amused by their naivety.  I could relate because there is nothing more aggravating than working hard and looking forward to your harvest or blooms and realizing that a little pesty creature is benefitting from all your hard work.   My children love the book "Whose Garden Is It?" and I've got to say I always identify with the gardener!

I've come to the conclusion that I am far more tolerant of mammals and birds than I am of bugs and reptiles.   I don't care if it is their habitat that I am intruding upon - get the hell out of my yard!  Bees and pollinators - fine.  Please come visit.   Spiders are occasionally tolerated if they help manage the swarms of mosquitos that seem to enjoy eating my kids and me alive from late afternoon through evening, but only in small doses because I am not particularly fond of hairy, creepy spiders.   The japanese beetles have descended upon my yard and I am not happy.  I've never seen them so thick in any year before and I am at a loss on how to control them.  I'm thinking of getting several bag traps and hanging them in the woods that are near my house to try and draw them away.

Let's just say that after gardening for a few years I have a lot more empathy for large scale farmers who are trying to grow produce to support their families.  I can see why big agriculture has turned to pesticides and insecticides and who knows what else.  It would be devastating to lose your entire crop because a swarm of something decided to come in and decimate it.  I'm not justifying the use of poison on food, just that I can understand wanting a little security.


My neighbor snapped the pic of the bunny eating my corn a couple weeks ago.  She was looking out her kitchen window when she spotted him.  


Daylily Blooms

After seeing the lovely blooms in the posts my mom and sister wrote, I thought I'd post some photos of the daylilies that are beginning to bloom in my garden.  Lady Elizabeth and Little Strawberry Shortcake just bloomed in the last 24 hours and they are both so pretty, definitely worth the wait.  

My mom and sister are so dizzy in love with daylilies that I don't think they've met one that they haven't enjoyed.  I am a bit pickier.  I don't care for strongly color contrasting variegated daylilies so I choose mostly solid varieties.  

Lady Elizabeth

Little Strawberry Shortcake 

South Seas (my absolute favorite) 

Red Hot Returns

Happy Returns 



Years ago I fell in love with daylilies. It was when I lived at the townhouse and the soil was horrid clay. I had over 50 varieties and I left them behind when I moved in 2009. At my new location, I began to figure out what to do with the nine or ten large flowerbeds that had been untended for years. It has been slow going, but I'm back to putting in daylilies. I began last year and then waited patiently for this summer to arrive so that I could see the fruits of my hard work. And now they are beginning to bloom! I think I have about twenty varieties so far, but not all of them will bloom this year because I planted some of them early this spring and they need to get established. Here's what I is blooming this week:

Ack! I can't remember the name of this one.
Blushing Summer Valentine

Red Volunteer
Lavender Vista
 Once you plant daylilies, there is nothing more to do except periodically pulling dead foliage off the bottom of the plant. They are easiest thing to grow on the planet. They thrive on neglect and bad soil. I've never met one I didn't love.

Daylily Obsession

I have become a bit obsessed with daylilies.  You see, the front of my house bakes in the summer and I have had a miserable time finding any flowers that will grow, let alone thrive in those beds.  Lissie told me daylilies could survive anything and were insanely easy to grow so I took a chance. 

Well, I'm utterly smitten and am constantly trying to create new beds so I can have even more lilies.  Poor Brien. :oP

What follows are the daylilies that have bloomed or are currently blooming in my yard. 

I have no clue what that sweet little daylily up there is.  What I can tell you is it's a rebloomer that first blooms early. 
This one is Bitsy.  Bitsy has tall scapes (about 24") but teeny little blooms.  It is a prolific rebloomer and I typically have Bitsies blooming from March to October.

This was a new addition last fall.  This beauty is a Siloam Nugget.  She is a delicious golden color that did not photograph well at all.  She's short and squat but oh so lovely.

And, every once in a while, she'll throw a double. :o)

This is lovely lady is Little Strawberry Shortcake.  The scapes are short, but the blooms are nice sized.  It's a great daylily for edging or in the front of beds.  I just love it.

This is a Red Volunteer.  We have a TON of red daylilies since Lil helped select them and she's a bit of a fiend for red. ;o)

Oh how I love love LOVE this one.  This is Strawberry Candy.  I love the color, I love the ruffles, I love the blooms, I love the height, I love everything about it. :o)

This is Frankly Scarlet.  She's RED RED RED.

This is Pardon Me.  She's up front and is a nice rebloomer.  The blooms are a bit on the smallish side, but it is a lovely daylily.

This is my Miss Amelia.  She's out front as well, and has just started blooming.  She has tall scapes and can be a light yellow to almost white.  Mine is more yellow.  She is also a rebloomer (in fact, I purchased the "Rebloom Collection" from Oake's and planted them out front.  More bang for the buck, you know. ;oP).

This is Chorus Line. She's a rebloomer as well, and a lovely pink.  Most of the pinks I have (I purchased the "Pretty in Pink" collection) are rather coral-y, but this one is PINK.

This is such a pretty little daylily.  She's Lullaby Baby and she has the loveliest sparklies (diamond dust or some such I believe) and ruffles.

Rootin' Tootin' Red.  How could I pass up a flower with such a name?  Lily, of course, loves it.

This is Scarlet Romance.  Another lovely red.  I've had to be careful deadheading the reds as the spent blooms will stain anything they touch.  Lil has used them to "paint" the fence.

Strawberry Candy again.  I did mention I loved it, right?  Look at the color on that ruffle!

This is Mae Graham and is the first year she's bloomed for me.  She is a coralish pink and so pretty.  It turns out I'm a sucker for a ruffled edge. Who knew?

And here's Corryton Pink.  This is the first year she's bloomed as well.  In fact, I'm anxiously awaiting all my pinks to see how they do.  She's a more peachy pink.

Oh goodness, I can't remember this one.  Drat! Something red, though. ;o) 

Oh my stars am I in looooooove with this lovely lady.  This is Autumn Wood and she is a stunner.  Her scapes are short, but this is a big bloom.

And, look at the multi-color on those petals.  This is my first year with this beauty and I'm so happy I splurged.  I had a couple Groupon deals and free shipping otherwise it NEVER would have happened.  I'm el cheapo when it comes to ordering daylilies. ;o)

This was my freebie from the Oake's Daylily Festival last year.  She too is rather peachy/coralish but wow, what an eyezone!

She was put in Lil's garden of Frankly Scarlets and seems to be holding her own. ;o)

Lily's garden.  Those Frankly Scarlets are so very red.  They look almost velvety and are so stunning. 

I'm still awaiting a number of pinks and will post after they bloom. 

Lissie, the girls and I are all heading to the Daylily Festival again this year.  I'm dying to place an order before we go so I can pick them up there--they give you the BIGGEST plants!--but I have no clue where I'd put them.  It's official, I'm obsessed. :o)



I finally decided on what fabric to use for drapes in our family room.   A circular arrived promoting a Calico Corners sale and on it were drapes made in a fabric that I immediately loved.   The colors will work perfectly in our home and I love the bright, bold print!

A family friend is doing the sewing.  I've ordered 24 yards of fabric and lining material, so we are committed now.   I'm looking forward to seeing the completed project.



Three new favorites, all planted this year:

Little Strawberry Shortcake Daylily

Coral Flower Carpet Rose 

Watermelon Punch Phlox 

*Images found online.  Need mine to bloom! 


(C) 2010
Blog design by Splendid Sparrow