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.
Two Patterns

I've got two patterns I've been itching to get out and try my hand at making.  I am pretty sure both are above my skill level but not trying means I won't ever figure out how to sew well.  I've got the Reader's Digest Book Of Sewing that has helped me quite a bit when I've been stuck while working on other small projects so I hope that will keep me going with these patterns.

The first I am going to try is the Sew Liberated Schoolhouse Tunic pattern.   It has pleats (!!) and sleeves so will be more challenging than I've tried on my own before.  I will probably make a mock up version in cheap muslin first to get a bit of wind in my sails before I cut nicer (expensive) fabric for the real deal.  I found this tutorial on the blog, Don't Fear the Ripper, and let me tell you, I'll be using it!

I found another pattern I like really well, the Tova pattern by Wiksten.  It is similar to the Schoolhouse Tunic but has a bit more structure.  It is definitely an Intermediate level pattern which makes me nervous but we'll see how brave I feel after I've given the Sew Liberated pattern a whirl. 

If I become totally flummoxed I may call my former sewing teacher in Ashburn at the NOVA Sewing Studio and see if she'll let me come and receive help for a few of the trickier parts of assembling the garments.  Ella has made a few things from her children's sewing book, Sewing School, that we got during last school year and she loves to stitch while listening to me read aloud or while listening to audio books in her room.  She's old enough now to attend classes so if we can carve out time in the old schedule maybe I'll look into going bi-weekly for lessons again.  



I find that I prefer really fluffy, ruffly, gaudy flowers.  I find this puzzling because I am not typically a ruffly, fancy girl.   My wardrobe is pretty sedate as I spent a good chunk of my adulthood in solid black during my years working as a hairstylist in a salon.  It has taken me years to comfortably wear colored or print clothing and I still typically favor very neutral colors and classic styles.  My home has some strong color but nothing is particularly fancy or "shabby chic" or anything along those lines.

So why do I like such outrageously gaudy flowers?   I love roses, puffy phlox, hydrangeas, peonies and dahlias.  I love zinnias and petunias and verbena.  I always plant geraniums, euphorbia and sweet potato vine that creeps everywhere.  I adore larkspur, double hollyhocks and showy daylilies.  I could keep going but you get the idea.

I've been planning for two new beds that we will be putting in and planting this fall.  One will have a crape myrtle as the anchor and then have a mix of peonies and roses.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I really like the single blooms on Coral Flower Carpet roses, so I will be sticking with those.    I am most certainly going with Coral Sunset peonies because they are pretty and apparently have strong stems to hold up the flower heads.  I am trying to focus on structure over blooms and it is very hard for me.  I need to find some solid evergreen plants to anchor the beds.  Maybe I should explore ornamental grasses a bit more.  I'm not really sure at this point, I just know that I need to continue to think and plan and consider plants that I wouldn't typically be drawn to.

Suggestions are appreciated!


Bœuf Bourguignon

This recipe is easy to make and tastes oh, so good.


1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced

6 small pearl onions cut into fourths

3 Tbs butter

1/4 lb bacon, diced

1 lb Top Sirloin steak, cut into 1" cubes
1 Tbs flour

1/2 cup Burgundy wine

3/4 cup beef broth

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp ground thyme

1 1/2 cups carrots, diagonally sliced
hot buttered noodles

1 1/2 Tbs parsley chopped

1.  In a large skillet, sauté mushrooms and onions in hot butter until golden brown.
2.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
3.  Add bacon to skillet and fry until crisp; remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
4.  Add Top Sirloin steak to skillet and fry in bacon fat, stirring frequently, until well browned.
5.  Return mushroom and onion mixture to skillet and add flour; toss until flour disappears.
6.  Add wine, beef broth, bay leaf, garlic and thyme.
7.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
8.  Add carrots and cooked bacon, and cook covered, for 15 minutes longer.
9.  Season with salt and pepper.
10.       Before serving, remove bay leaf.
11.       Serve over hot buttered noodles. Sprinkle with parsley.


August Garden

As always, the garden is starting to look tired due to the heat, and frankly I am also getting rather tired of going out in the blazing sun to care for it.  I've been watering, pinching back here and there but for the most part we've definitely entered the wild and wooly days of late summer.  The catmint and agastache are desperate to be cut back hard and my Westerland roses are out of control.  It is going to take a ladder at this point to prune and when I get around to it in late September, I am going to prune them back significantly.

There are a few plants that are still putting on a pretty good show and they are always troopers for me.

Sedum, it is just coming into its own right now. 

Blushing Bride Hydrangea, I prefer the soft blue so I keep it more acidic.  The contrast between the blooms that are drying out and those that are newly blooming is very pretty.  

Gold Flame Honeysuckle.  This is my last year for her to live in my garden as she needs more sun and room to grow well.  She's going to my neighbor's house in October but right now she's very lovely and sweet with some pretty blossoms.  

Thank goodness for crape myrtles.  I know they are probably as ubiquitous as Knock Out roses but they are so reliable for being pretty in late summer.  I have all Natchez as I thought white blooms on the trees would be a better neutral backdrop longterm.  

Blue Chip Dwarf Buddleia.  This has been a big surprise for me this year.  Last year I planted them and they did OK but this year has been amazing.  They required just a tiny bit of pruning in May and they have pumped out pretty purple blooms all summer long with zero maintenance other than being on the drip system.  The hummingbirds, bees, butterflies have loved them and my kids have been fascinated getting a view of all the critters at their eye level.   I got these from Lazy S Farm, they ship plants about as perfectly as one can and they were $9 per quart which is much cheaper than I've seen them anywhere else.  They grow so fast that it doesn't matter if you start with a quart sized in April.  

We have small kids so these pots, which I love, block off a long fall down the cement stairs to the basement.  The coleus, lemongrass and sweet potato vine all love the heat.  

Very pretty purple shade for the drying Blushing Bride blooms.  

Buddha Board

I found a small Buddha Board in a tiny eastern themed shop somewhere in North Carolina when my mother was still a professor at ECU.  I am pretty sure I only had Ella at the time and I may or may not have been pregnant with Gabriel yet.  My point is that this little toy was under $20 and has survived three kids and lots of play time over the last 5 years.  This is one toy that I can highly recommend as being worth the money and space to store it.  It has given my kids countless hours of fun and entertainment and they all are still as entranced watching the board dry so they can start over again as they were the first time they used it.  Best of all the only added materials you need are a paint brush and water so it is virtually mess free.

This is one perfect toy for young toddlers and up.


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