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.
Blackberry Farm

Bob and I took a 4 day trip to Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN last week.  It was wonderful!  The weather was perfect with crisp air and blue skies.  The air smelled of falling leaves with a hint of woodsmoke.  The Smokey Mountains were a riot of color and just magnificent.  It was a magical trip.

I first learned of Blackberry Farm years ago.  I don't even remember when or where but I did live in Knoxville, TN for a year with my aunt while I was in high school and perhaps I heard about it back then.  Anyway, I've always wanted to visit as the service was supposed to be excellent, the food out of this world (it was) and just a relaxing place to stay.  The place has a very genteel southern feel and it is peaceful and quiet.

Sometime in early spring I was reading my favorite magazine, Southern Living, and they had a best places to stay in the South article.  In it was featured Blackberry Farm.  I decided that this was the year we would make the trip.  I began doing more research about the place and I discovered that their farm/garden to table program is pretty top-notch.  I was curious about how the garden was run on property and what is supplemented in the way of produce and supplies.

I chose to take a tour of the garden with the gardening manager.  He was very nice and informative.  Most people are hearing now about heirloom seeds and organic gardening.    I am particularly interested in heirloom seeds and the work of some specific seed companies because I am concerned about companies like Monsanto compromising the integrity of agriculture as a whole.  Patents  on seeds, seeds then cross-pollinating onto small farms and farmers, who never intentionally "stole" that genetic material being sued by huge, monstrous companies for damages is just outrageous.   I buy products that contain GMO crops - but I try to make informed choices, especially when I choose to plant veggie seeds in my own garden.  It is tough to find the right balance, but I don't think perfecting avoidance is the goal, I think balance and awareness is key.

Anyway, I discovered that Blackberry Farm, like the Gettles of Baker Creek Seed, Seed Savers Exchange, FedCo and other farmers and seed suppliers is working hard to find and preserve heirloom seeds from extinction.  I respect that Blackberry Farm sends out their gardeners on seed finding trips, supports seed trials in their gardens and then outsources that seed to local farmers to help grow produce to support their resort's restaurants.

I was very surprised to learn that Blackberry Farm is attempting to grow truffles - in East Tennessee!  How neat is that?!  The gardener I spent time with was especially proud of their truffle experiment.  Apparently they are on year 6 and should know within a couple years if it worked or not.  Several years ago a UT PhD student successfully grew truffles for his dissertation work, researched local places to sell them to and found Blackberry Farm.  BF then in turn decided if the student made it work then maybe they could too.  The truffle industry in France is about as corrupt as the tulip trade was in the 16th and 17th centuries.  It will be interesting to see if Blackberry Farm and their gardeners are successful with this experiment.

I'm happy to financially support via my patronage a company that chooses to fund work that I think is important for our collective good.    I had a great time there, felt very relaxed and loved every minute of our fall trip and even better I felt like in some teeny-tiny way I was helping support work that is meaningful and important.  Bravo, Blackberry Farm for supporting small, local, organic farms and striving to save heirlooms varieties from extinction.


We Made A Cake

Ella is participating in American Heritage Girls and is desperate to earn as many badges as she can so her vest is full and pretty like the girls who have been in the group for a while.  I really like the program and I appreciate the clarity and consistency of the badge program.  She chose a few different projects that she wanted to pursue and we got started with the Cake Decorating badge-work this week.

She needs to dye frosting various colors for part of the badge-work so she selected a cake with pink frosting (I know, you're totally shocked).  This particular cake was featured in the book Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson.  I'd love to write out the recipe but it's a newish book and I have no idea about the copyright restrictions.   As it happens, the cake we made is featured on the cover below.  Not that ours looked like that!

This cake required hard to find ingredients like Dutch processed cocoa, so much butter that my heart is still palpitating and I had to actually take a bowl of egg whites and heat them up over a simmering pot of water.   Never again, I say.

We made raspberry buttercream frosting to go on top and it took longer to make than a Betty Crocker cake takes to mix and bake.  I kid you not.  My four year old son got particularly animated when it was time to mush the raspberries through a strainer and get all the juice but none of the pulp out.  I am still finding raspberry juice splatters all over the kitchen.  He definitely had a great time.

Heating egg whites over a pot of simmering water.

This cake turned out to be amazingly tasty and light and fluffy and the frosting was to-die-for good.   I just wish the author's bakery was close to my house so I could buy one of these cakes the next time I get a craving for it rather than having to slave over for hours myself.

We made the cake on the cover of the book pictured above.  Doesn't quite look the same, does it?!  

Ella is halfway to earning her badge with the making of this cake and I earned a nice glass of wine.  This book is great, even for a non-baker like me.  If you like making cakes, this is a book to have on your shelf!  Even as a non-baker, I'm glad I've got it handy as this cake was literally the best cake I've ever made.  Yum.

John Fullbright

I'm always happy to find a new-to-me musician who I think writes and plays amazing music. I recently discovered John Fullbright, a guy in his early 20s from Oklahoma who plays good old Americana music. He's an interesting blend of folk, blues and rock. His album From The Ground Up is probably going to be my most-played album this autumn.   It is just really awesome!



It's been cool in the evening the last few weekends so we've put the kids to bed and built a little fire in our fire bowl.  No marshmallows or hot dogs or anything of that nature to be seen, just a fire and chairs and some wine or beer to take the edge of the cool night.  

I've found it remarkable that we've had friends and neighbors stop over to sit awhile, to talk and drink and laugh.  This is so much better than plopping in front of the computer or TV to waste the evening hours.  Company with talk of politics, kids, sports, and other various odds and ends to fill our evenings with instead of thoughtless activities that are entertaining but shallow. 

I like this fire bowl.  My husband and I sit outside and talk.  We talk all the time when we are together but it is usually about the children, or what I am doing with Ella in our homeschool, or about his job or bills, or something else not related to us.   This little fire feels primal and participatory in a way that sitting on the couch inside does not facilitate.  We talk, we laugh, we share.  These are all so important and get left behind in the busyness of life. 

I have to smile at how the guys who sit around the fire like to poke and prod it, "build" it up to make more heat.  I don't know - maybe they are actually doing something productive.  What makes me laugh is that I, and none of the other women, seem to feel the same need to attack the fire every five minutes.  But the process of building and keeping the fire warm seems to be a bonding experience of sorts, which I can appreciate.  Women talk and men poke at the fire with iron prongs.  This is good. 

We've priced out some small square pavers to make an official spot in our yard for this little fire pit.  I'm sure the grass will be glad to finally be dug out instead of succumbing to the heat and torture every weekend.  Bob should finish the project tomorrow. 

The men talk of cold winter nights under the stars outside with this fire and a beer.  The women smile and think they are crazy.  We'll see what happens! 

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