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.
Soft Kitty

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

My sister and I both love The Big Bang Theory.  Fans of the show will recognize "Soft Kitty" and understand why G is singing it for her Aunt Rachael with the broken ankle!

Making Progress on the Snowman

I'm such a huge Olympics junkie I've been spending my time sitting in front of the TV surfing between the channels covering the Olympics, cross stitching to keep my hands busy.  By the time I went to bed Friday evening, I have finished this much of my snowman.  I was quite distracted by the Opening Ceremony (tell me Mr. Bean wasn't hysterical) but managed to get quite a bit completed.  The white is so hard on my eyes...Ugh.

I pretty much worked the day away yesterday and by yesterday afternoon, I had this much finished.  I was more than happy to have all the white FINISHED...or so I thought.  Drat. I still need to put in some snowflakes. 

And, here it was as of noon today. :o)  There are still things that need to be done (and I quite forgot just how much time it takes to cross stitch) but I'm pretty pleased with my progress.  That's quite a bit of work for a weekend.


A Very Happy Birthday

My husband knows what makes me happy.  Flowers, excellent wine and a coconut cake from Wegmans.   And I've got three sweet kids who made me brownies and homemade cards.  I'm ready to start my 34th spin around the sun now.  



I don't actually know how long the blossoms stay on the plant but it seems like they open and drop within a day.  I gather them up and put them in tiny bowls of water trying to keep the fragrance just a little longer.  Jasmine really does smell better than almost anything in the world.  It is the highlight outside of my July and August.  Love.  


Summer Music

Alright, well the pic of Brandon Flowers is definitely for my own personal viewing pleasure.  I love his music and he is pretty easy on the eyes as well (okay, VERY easy, and, yes, we're both married so I shouldn't be looking anyway, but... ).   I've been listening to his Flamingo album almost daily the last couple months so he is currently a prominent fixture in my daily life.

Tristan Prettyman released My Oh My yesterday on iTunes and I snapped it right up and have downloaded it into this mix.  Love it.

Recently my sister posted a few summer songs she's enjoying and I liked seeing what she's got in her current music rotation.  I make a new music mix every so often, load it onto my iPod and enjoy it until my mood shifts.  I find that the seasons play a role in my mood for music.  This summer I've been drawn to mellow music - probably due to the overwhelming heat.

Summer 2012:

Tuna Casserole--A Family Favorite

Every family has their favorite recipes.  Every family has their favorite made up recipes.  As I posted on my blog yesterday, one of our family favorites is Lissie's tuna casserole. 

Family lore has it Liss was desperately trying to come up with a well-balanced, yet quick and easy meal one night and was limited to the ingredients she had on hand (life is not always easy for a single mom with two little ones only 20 months apart in age).  This was the end result.  :o)

4 small cans tuna, drained
2 cans Cream of ________ soup (Liss uses celery, we use mushroom and cheddar)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
10 oz frozen peas
1 soup can of milk (I know, I know, sounds weird, but we use the can so we can get the dregs of the soup out)
1/2 cup mayo
1 bag egg noodles
Colby cheese to taste

While you boil water for the noodles, sautee the onion until just soft--this allows them to cook fully when baking.   When noodles are cooked and onions are just soft, mix everything together and pour into a greased casserole dish.  Top with shredded cheese and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. 

(Mom, Jess, this is right, right? I didn't forget anything?)

Simple, inelegant, delicious. :o)


Trying To Keep Busy

Lissie taught me how to cross stitch when I was eight years old.  This was a form of craftiness I loved and had my own little sewing kit filled with DMC embroidery flosses, Aida cloth and more.  Sure, often those flosses were used to make friendship bracelets, but I also did quite a bit of cross stitching. 

I loved to cross stitch, and completed a couple of larger pieces when I was in college.  Then, I got married and discovered this amazing thing called the "Internet" and the next thing I knew, I no longer had time for cross stitching (husband, children, my internet addiction) and my flosses and patterns languished in the closet.  Feeling sorry for them, I found a friend who cross stitched and gave her every last one of my cross stitching goodies and bid them a fond farewell.

Who knew I would be desperately needing them 10 years later?  I'm unable to do anything other than sit with my foot elevated at the moment and I'm getting BORED!  My lovely friend Robin suggested I pick cross stitching back up as I was tired of the 'net and couldn't focus on reading anything. 

Just let me tell you, cross stitching is obviously not the "in" thing any longer.  I had a miserable time trying to find a pattern I would enjoy doing and have some use for, I couldn't find a hoop to my liking, and there was no Fray Check to be found anywhere! 

I finally found these cute snowmen and decided I could definitely do something with them.  If nothing else, I can frame them and put them out at Christmas with the rest of my snowmen buddies.  ;o) 

I remembered how to find the center of the design and my cloth and got to work, only to have to remove five rows of stitches 30 minutes later because I had miscounted.  GAH!!  Then, I had to remove more work last night.  That tiny bit of stitching up there?  That is over five hours of work.  No, I'm not kidding. 

It makes me wonder what I was thinking to pick up this piece. Doh!! But, I loved the colors and figure I'll be cross stitching from now until the end of time, and surely in that time I can get this finished.  Right?


Leonid Afremov

Leonid Afremov is a Mexican painter I stumbled upon via Pinterest.  I immediately fell in love.  I like very dramatic color contrasts as I prefer bright, sharp, vivid color to muted shades.  His ability to capture glowing light with a pallet knife impresses me.

I don't know the first thing about "good" art.  I know when I go to art museums or galleries and I see "art" that I could personally make that I am unimpressed.  Four pieces of plywood painted in various shades of paint scream "The Emperor's New Clothes" to me.  But what do I know - I have no art work hanging in a professional art gallery.  I know what I like and that is that.

I first saw a painting by Leonid Afremov titled "Where Dreams Come True" and I knew immediately that if I could find a large enough print of it I would buy it.  I had no luck of finding it.  The pallet knife creating the colors in the trees is really compelling to me.  I found another painting of his called, "Stroll In the Fog" that I liked very much as well and I was able to buy a print of it in a gallery wrapped canvas.  I now have it hanging over my fireplace and I cannot express the pleasure I get seeing it every day.

"Where Dreams Come True"

"Stroll In the Fog"

On my wall

Up close

Keeping it real - this is what my family room usually looks like!



As my sister just seriously broke her right ankle and had surgery on it yesterday and my mom is there helping her out for the next couple weeks, I think I'll be holding down the fort over here at FYB.  My niece's 5 year Heaven Day is on Thursday this week, so the entire family is already feeling pretty emotionally raw anyway.  My sweet sister needs not one more bad thing to come her way in any July for the rest of her life.  And can I also just add Syria, Syria, Syria.  Oh, and this colossal heat wave (...climate change anyone ?) that is making me stir crazy inside with my kids which is sacrilege for summer.  Anyway, I thought a post about my yearly planting failures would fit right into the general mood I've been carrying around with me.

I'm no expert gardener but I've messed around enough with various plants that at this point I typically expect plants to behave as advertised if I am giving them at the minimum the care conditions and appropriate watering that they need.  That means if the tag reads, "full sun, sandy or clay soil" I expect the plant to be pretty carefree.  This has not been the case with May Night Salvia.  What kills me is that I see this growing in plenty of other places in which I know no one is taking any care at all with it and it looks beautiful.

This is what it is supposed to look like:

Mine don't look like this because they have withered and died.   Mine are brown and shriveled.  They were planted in sun, in leaf compost, well mulched and are watered slow and deep every 3 days on a drip system.  I simply have no idea what happened here.

Next are the Golden Jubilee tomatoes I tried this year.  I have grown lots of varieties over the years, most I've started from seed myself.  This year with my husband traveling an insane amount for his job (read M-F) while homeschooling my oldest and taking care of my 4 and 2 year olds, I decided to just buy seedlings and hope for next year.  I bought 8 seedlings, Golden Jubilee being one of them.  She actually got lucky enough to be planted in an Earth Box.  So calcium or uneven watering should not be an issue at all.  Somehow this lady has given me loads of tomatoes and every single one has the most pronounced blossom end rot I've ever seen on a tomato plant.  Sure, I get a little every year here and there and never like this.  I'm almost ready to pull the plant and just dump it.  Nothing is usable on the fruit.  Ack.  So frustrating!

Last is Zepherine Drouhin, an heirloom climbing rose I decided to give a try this year.   Apparently she is somewhat shade tolerant.  Apparently not in my yard.  I suspect that this rose is more shade tolerant if it were originally planted in full sun and then over the years a tree or something began to filter the light more and more.  Once well-established she may very well be reasonably shade tolerant for a rose.  But in my yard, 4 measly hours of direct sun are keeping her from putting on much growth.  I am not even sure what to do, she's alive and looks healthy, just not making much progress growth wise.   She needs a new home and I've got nowhere to move her.  

With all this said, I am overrun with cucumbers and I have so many tomatoes coming in that I know canning will be happening this weekend.  So, those are two positives to cap off the end of a failure themed post.  


Angeline Winery

My father in law and husband are big wine aficionados, and during the 12 years I've been married I've learned to appreciate and enjoy wine as well.  I have had Angeline Pinot Noir on several occasions that my in laws have hosted and it is superb.  Even better it is well priced.

I prefer very dry white wine.  I was happy to find an Angeline Sauvignon Blanc at Wegman's the other day.  We paired it with garlic and butter dressed scallops over pasta and a light salad of tomato and cucumber tonight.  It is a fresh, crisp wine that is very enjoyable.   Highly recommend.

Around Here

We had our first s'mores party last night and let me tell you, 15 children aged 10 and under with flaming sticks and marshmallows is not for the feint of heart.   All the parents had fun helping the kids with their sticks and s'mores and then when they'd finally reached their fill we moved to the porch and the kids ran off to play.  The parents had some fun drinks and it rained which made the children ridiculously happy.  The adults stayed under the covered porch and enjoyed watching the kids run around in the rain.  My yard is full of gooey, melted marshmallows so it is going to be no shoes past the garage door when coming inside until we mow again.   We'll probably have one more party before the end of the summer, it was very fun! 

Here are some pics of things that I am enjoying around my house.  

My drapes are finished and Bob hung them for me.  I'm calling this my birthday present (and I'm pretty sure he is too!).   

The Maid of Orleans jasmine is beginning to bloom.  Jasmine is my very favorite floral scent and I always, always grow some in pots on my porch so I can enjoy it every year.  I underplant it with white petunias as this variety is a climber that I attempt each year to grow in a pot, so it still shoots off weird, long stems and the similar but low growing petunia helps even it out visually.   It works out, I prune it back when it gets out of control and I still get lots of blooms.  

My favorite little pot of flowers right now.  Coral petunia and verbena - very cheerful. 

We've been lucky enough to find the nicest, cleanest, most affordable painter ever and while he was here repainting our porch he painted our adirondack chairs and they look so much better.  Love!

The Pinky Winky hydrangeas on either side of the porch stairs are blooming prolifically this year.  This is their second year in the ground and despite the horrible heat they are performing wonderfully.  They are on a drip watering system so I am sure that has helped them keep putting on a show.  

Corn!  Do you see that tassel?  That is a corn cob growing.  We grew corn as kids when my mom and dad both had large in ground gardens at their houses but I have never given it a go in garden boxes and it is growing really well.  It must be 8 feet tall at this point.  My Ella can hardly wait for it to be ready to pick and eat.  

I planted two of these little Coral Flower Carpet roses and while the blooms have been scarce so far (I planted in late May and it has been hot) they are the cleanest roses I've ever grown.  They've never been sprayed and have no sign of black spot at all.  I'm very pleased so far. 

This is an up close shot of Pinky Winky hydrangea.  I love that the panicles of flowers just keep getting longer and longer as the summer wears on and they slowly turn from white to pink.  

I found this photo of a mosaic of BVM on Etsy and it arrived and is just gorgeous.  The shot was taken inside a Russian church.  I put it in a simple frame and it is on my kitchen counter. It makes me happy to look at as I wash dishes.

This new Amstel King ficus tree was a gift from my good friend and neighbor.  She knew I've been wanting one and she got it for me for my birthday!  It needs a bit of pruning and a nice new, pretty pot.  I love it.  

*No pic of this but tonight for dinner we are eating a salad of black cherry tomatoes, Brandywine tomato and cucumber - all from our garden.  Soooo good! 



My kids love to toast marshmallows and eat s'mores. Frankly, I do too! What is not to like, right?

My husband and I have been planning on adding some kind of fire bowl, pit, outdoor something or other for the last few years but could never seem to find the right thing or the right price.

I am a big lover of I find a lot of good stuff there and I find competitive pricing and free shipping. Big plus.

During a recent perusal we found a selection of fire pits on sale. I wanted something that was up off the ground but substantial in size and not completely ugly. When considering fire pit options, this is harder to find than one would think.

Enter the Bronze Scroll Fire Pit. Love! It arrived a few days ago and is perhaps even bigger and prettier than I had imagine. S'mores here we come.


Small Town Parade

I love living in a small town. And there is little better than a small town parade, the kind of parade where anyone who wants to can join in. Today I braved the 90-degree weather to attend Blacksburg's annual Fourth of July parade. I found a shady spot, sat down and enjoyed myself thoroughly. 

Blacksburg is home to a large research university with 28,000 students. But, in the summer most of the students are gone and we are just a homey little place. During these months we bump into all our friends and acquaintances as we make our way downtown. Whether it is a movie (with free popcorn) for $4 at the Lyric on Monday night or having a bite to eat at the Cellar, I am guaranteed to run into someone I know The same cannot be said the rest of the year.

So, friends, here are a couple of photos that illustrate the small town America is still alive and well.


Yes, yes, I know, I know, I owe you two more batches of daylilies.  But, I got distracted! As most of you are aware, summer is not my most favorite season.  I loathe the heat and humidity, the soaking in sweat the minute you walk outside, the mosquitoes, the blistering heat of the seats in the car...I could go on and on. 

However, I've been trying to embrace the heat and misery and simply enjoy the moment and being in it.  It's been a struggle, but I'm working on it.  ;o) We went out for ice cream tonight and I didn't even think about the fact it was so hot the ice cream was dripping faster than we could lick it.  I swear!  Everyone around me was mentioning it, but I was simply enjoying my ice cream. :oP

I was thinking of my extreme dislike of summer and decided to try to find things to enjoy about summer, and lo and behold, I came upon Michael Franti & Spearhead and their song "Say Hey (I Love You)". 

Holy smokes is it catchy and pop-y and so summery.  Then, I found "The Sound of Sunshine".

Again, another summery fun and bubbly song.  I'm sure I'm so late to the game with these guys, but when I find something fun, I have to share. :o) 

And, speaking of summer, tomorrow is July Fourth.  We're having a family picnic with Nana and Pop and I was put in charge of dessert.  Have I mentioned it's hot here?  I mean, really really HOT? No?  Well, it is.  Trust me. :oP  Sooooo, I wanted a light, cool, refreshing dessert and immediately went to Lemonade Cake.  Here's the recipe:

1 box yellow or lemon cake mix (since I'm a citrus junkie, I go for the lemon)
1 box instant lemon pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup veggie oil
1 small can lemonade (I typically use a regular size can)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I double it--see above)

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the first five ingredients.  Pour in greased 9"x13" pan and bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Mix lemonade and sugar and microwave for one minute. Pour over cake while hot.  (I typically poke some holes in the cake before pouring on the lemonade, and don't use all of it when I use the regular can.) Serve chilled. 

I cannot express how quick and easy this cake is, nor how delightfully refreshing on a hot day. :o)

Enjoy your summer! I would LOOOOVE it if you would share your quintessential summer songs and recipes as I'm trying to do my best to make the most of this most miserable time of year. ;o)


Oake's Daylily Festival Part I

Lissie and I were beyond excited to attend the Oake's Daylily Festival this year.  When we attended last year, there had been flooding and torrential rains and we wound up covered in mud from the squishy ground.  We had thought that given the dry weather this year we would avoid that problem. Nope.  Next year we'll know better. ;o)

And, as many of you know (and are probably experiencing), we are ROASTING here on the east coast.  It was HOT Friday morning.  But, that didn't deter us.  We arrived, got our free daylilies (Miss Tinkerbells for Lissie, Lil and me, and a Sparkling Orange for Beanie) and began touring the grounds.  I could have looked all day they were all so beautiful.  Truly. 

However, given the heat, and the fact we were there with a six year old and a two year old, alas, our visit was only about an hour and a half long.  I snapped as many photos as I could of all the daylilies that caught my (or Liss's) eye.  I find that I'm really drawn to corals, oranges and reds, and also like pink-ish ones.  I'm not as fond of a startling eye zone, and really like blooms that are full and ruffled along the edge, preferring blooms that are about 5"-7".  Here is the first batch of daylilies I loved.

Big Kiss makes me swoon.  So does that price tag. ;o)

Love this one.  Such a gorgeous color.

You know what, I could make comments about all of these guys, but I think I'll just let the flowers and photos speak for themselves. :o)

How sad was I to see this beauty and the one before it weren't for sale?  Not that I'm buying any daylilies right now.  Ha!

This one wasn't a fave, but I thought the ruffled edge that was a different color from the petals was interesting.

I'll post batch two tomorrow. :o)


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