Monday, April 30, 2012

Fish Grabbing Bird Photos

Photograph by Ben Wheeler
Celebrating my first Unplugged Sunday, my husband and I went to the National Zoo and were treated to the sight of these medium sized birds (they looked about 12-18" tall) sneakily grabbing the fish that the Zoo's keepers had strewn across the front lawn of an empty exhibit.

Photograph by Ben Wheeler
The birds would try to wait until no humans were around to grab their fish but this one was eager for its fish. It stood peering at us from on one side of the tree and then stealthily walked around the back and peered at us from the other side. It would start to approach the fish and then scurry back behind the tree when other zoo visitors approached. This continued for a while. 

Photograph by Ben Wheeler
Then suddenly it ran up, grabbed a fish and flew away. Do you happen to know what kind of bird this is? There weren't any keepers around to ask (they must have tossed the fish in just before we arrived) and the exhibit was unmarked. I guess the birds are allowed to be wild as they were flying in and out of the exhibit at will. Whatever kind of bird it is, it was fun to watch. May God bless you!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Unplugged Sundays

Inspired by Minimalist Mom's the Big Unplug and a desire to devote Sundays to worship and rest, I'm doing an unplugged experiment of my own. Starting tomorrow and for the month of May I'm committing to unplugged Sundays. For me this means (as you can figure out from the above paint image I created for this post) no internet, email, Facebook, text, cell phone or news.

Internet (including missing the interaction with my fabulous Facebook friends) will likely be the biggest challenge. I don't think I've had a while day without getting online for something in years. Even when our home internet has been down or I've been in the hospital I found a way to get my online fix. 

Disconnecting from text, cell phone and news is less of an issue as I almost never text or watch the news anyway and the last time I checked my monthly cell phone usage for talk time the total was 12 minutes (yes, for the entire month). It's email, Facebook and even blogging (those I follow in addition to those I write) that will be the challenge. I'm claiming Philippians 4:13 as I believe this is God's will for me at this time and will strengthen my walk with Him. If all goes well I may do a whole week of technology fasting / unplugged living this summer.

Have you ever done a technology fast? How did it go? Please comment below as I'd love to hear about it! Of course, I won't be logging on tomorrow but I'll gladly check for your responses on Monday.

May God bless you!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

First Blue Irises of 2012

I guess you can tell from my recent posts that I have gardening on my mind a lot lately. What a joyous time of the year spring is! I just couldn't wait until Tuesday for my regular "This Week in My Maryland Garden" post to share my first blue iris blooms of the year. I've been wondering whether we'd have a light or dark blue iris bloom first this year and it turns out they both had their first blooms today! The light blue photographed better but the dark is just as lovely.

In the background of this dark blue iris photo you can see some healthy looking day lilies on the left and some struggling day lilies on the right. I think they're all Stella d'Oro reblooming day lilies but with all the craziness from the excavation I won't know for sure until they start blooming. The struggling day lilies on the right were not just dug up, thrown into pots for a few weeks and then replanted but had also sat potless (with roots exposed) for a few days because we ran out of pots and buckets. And as if that wasn't enough torture for the poor plants I decided to divide them before replanting them (they needed it). Hopefully they'll recover and in a year or two look fantastic again.

Seeing that I'm posting about the garden I'll share about my echinacea (coneflower) experiment.We have a nice butterfly/hummingbird garden which started out with one big purple coneflower. It dropped seeds and then we had three. And then my beloved husband bought a white coneflower and a yellow coneflower bringing our echinacea count to five plants.

Unfortunately for us neither the white nor yellow coneflower plants appeared to make it through the winter but fortunately for us we had a few more seedlings reappear this year. Now, odds are strong that they will all be purple coneflowers but we might get extra blessed and have one or two turn up white or yellow. We won't likely know until mid to late summer because I moved five of them over to the main front yard garden area (which got expanded after the backhoe excavation ordeal) and transplanting tends to delay blooming (at least in my experience). Here's what the little transplants look like now.

This is an overview and there are actually 6 echinacea plants in the above photo but two of the holes (on the right) have seedlings that are hard to see. One of the holes has two seedlings. If they both survive they might be a bit crowded in a year or two but if either one even survives I'll be happy.

Here's a close up of one of the seedlings and here's a lesson learned. I'd never transplanted echinacea before. It turns out that they have a big center tap root in addition to the normal little roots and that tap root is tenacious. I was doing the transplanting after some heavy rain and the plants just didn't want to come out of the ground. Had I known about the tap roots I'd have dug twice as deep as I thought I needed to. That would have made the job a lot easier.

Hope you enjoyed my iris photos and echinacea story. What's going on in your garden?

If you have any tips on growing echinacea or replanting roses (they're next on my put-back-after-the-excavation list) I'd love to hear them! May God bless you!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tulips, Fire Poker Lilies, Japanese Maple & More: This Week in My Maryland Garden

In between rainstorms yesterday I popped out to take these photos for you. Here is what is likely our last tulip of the year and it's a beauty. I think it's a parrot tulip and like the red and white contrast.

Here is one of our first rhododendron blooms of the year. We only have one rhododendron bush but it's a big one. The azaleas are still blooming too.

I suspect that these are fire poker lilies. They're in the shade (imagine we should move them but we still have hundreds of plants in clumps in pots waiting to be replanted since the yard excavation so moving things is taking a back burner to getting our front yard put back together).

 Looking forward to seeing blue iris blooms before next week's post.

When our windows are open the Josee lilacs fill our rooms with their sweet scent. Our old fashioned lilacs aren't likely to bloom this year but I'm just happy they survived the overzealous pruning they received last fall. We still need to dig out the dead wood (which is more obvious now that the tree like bushes now have leaves) so that air will circulate better and hopefully the lilacs will get even healthier.

The Japanese maple seedling I posted about last week and had transplanted directly into the ground wasn't looking so good so I got three more (in hopes that at least one will survive). One is pictured above. They're all in pots and seem to really like the potting soil more than the regular garden soil.  Of course, they'll be more likely to survive if I weed around them so I think I'll go do that after this post.

Every time I view the amazing variety of plants and flowers in my garden or anywhere out in the world I'm amazed at God's creativity and thankful for the beauty on this side of heaven. Imagine how much more vibrant and amazing it will be in paradise! May God bless you and may you enjoy the beauty around you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Azalea Walk Photos

Azalea garden with stairs: Photo by Ben Wheeler
Every spring I look forward to walking through the U.S. National Arboretum's fantastic Azalea collections. The woods seem to burst with every color azalea in existence and it's a beautiful hike through the azalea laden forest. According to the Friends of the National Arboretum Save the Azalea & Boxwood Collections brochure, "nearly 10,000 azaleas cover Mount Hamilton at the U.S. National Arboretum in a blaze of color. The annual spectacle draws as many as 100,000 visitors to the Arboretum during peak blooming season in April and May."

Bicolor azalea: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Azalea path: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Sunlit azalea path: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Azalea garden bench: Photo by Ben Wheeler
Hope you enjoyed this photographic walk through the National Arboretum's Azalea collection. May God bless you!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day - Leaf and Raindrop Photos

Hosta leaf with raindrops: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Happy Earth Day! Although it was raining heavily my husband and I decided to celebrate with a walk through the US National Arboretum's Asian Garden this afternoon. We didn't encounter any other people on the paths, which is really unusual. I guess the weather kept them at home. The sound of rain falling in the quiet gardens was beautiful music to my ears and an nice way to celebrate Earth Day. Hope you enjoy our rainy foliage photos!

Leaves and raindrops: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Hosta leaf with raindrops: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Ornamental grass in rain: Photo by Ben Wheeler
Did you do anything to celebrate Earth Day? Whatever you did, I hope you enjoyed it. May God bless you and all those who are trying to be good stewards of our planet Earth!

Related posts:
Raindrop photos:
Day lily photos:
Hosta photos:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Multicolored Blooms, Seedlings, Garden Decor & More: This Week in My Maryland Garden

We've had this geranium (potted) for about a month. I took this photo yesterday (all of the photos in today's post were taken by me either this morning or yesterday) and today I moved it to a bigger pot.

Our potted African daisy is also doing well. I loved the coloring on this particular flower (yellow, lavender and the pale white petal tips).

When I was writing last week's post our yard had been obviously (and significantly) excavated. My fantastic hubby took a day of leave and spent part of the weekend mixing in 6 cubic yards of top soil and laying 11 cubic yards of mulch so now the front yard looks a whole lot better (yay, Ben!).

Hopefully when it's time for next week's post we will have replanted the front yard plants that survived the excavation (we had multiple rose casualties but. God willing, it looks like most of the day lilies and irises will survive). Because so much grass was torn up we decided to expand the flower beds and the hosta you see in the photo above will likely be relocated to the front yard. The snow on the mountain is kind of crowding it out anyway so it will be better for the hosta once it adjusts. I'm hoping to divide the clump into 4-5 smaller plants.

These Chinese character stepping stones are one of our few bits of garden decor left after our giant white rock and other decor were victim to the excavation process.

This is a Japanese maple seedling I'm hoping will make it.
 Last week none of the seedlings Ben planted in March were physically distinguishable from one another but this week we can clearly see that these are cosmos seedlings.

And these are zinnia seedlings. Ben only planted cosmos and zinnia so it's easy to tell them apart. I planted a fresh batch of annual zinnia seedlings yesterday (to fill space in the front yard this summer while we work on a long term plan).

This little fern was stuck under a pile of leaves on our shady side garden. I pulled it upward so it could get some sun and crushed the leaves around it so they will break down faster and eventually provide  nutrients to the little fern. I suspect it's a Japanese Painted Fern (aka Ghost Fern) so once it recovers it should be beautiful.

In late March I posted a photo of our old fashioned bleeding heart and it's still blooming beautifully. This week our new fringe leafed bleeding heart started blooming. I just planted it last fall so it's a tiny plant but it should eventually grow to a decent size and bloom from about this time of year to frost (unlike the old fashioned kind which die back after their spring blooming period).

Hope you enjoyed my photographic tour of my Maryland garden! May your blooms be bountiful and may God bless you!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Isaiah 40:31 Prayer For You

Photograph by Ben Wheeler

 Isaiah 40:31 "but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Praying Isaiah 40:31 over my dear readers today (that means you!). May God give you the strength, wisdom and forbearance to wait upon Him,may He renew your strength so you rise up on wings like eagles. May you run and not be weary, may you walk and not faint. May He bless everything you do and say and may it be according to His perfect will. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You Could Win A Beautiful Japanese Garden Print!

Japanese Water Garden Print

Back side printing on Japanese Water Garden Print
As you know if you follow my money saving blog, Frugal Phyllis, my friend Taylor is having a giveaway a day this week in celebration of her 25th birthday (Happy Birthday Taylor!!!). Today's giveaway of the Japanese water garden print is sponsored by me and I sure hope one of you, my dear readers, will win! There's no cost to enter but you get different number of entries for different tasks (such as following my blog or tweeting about the giveaway) and you have to be a follower Taylor's blog in order to enter (see source link below for more information). Your odds of winning should be excellent so I hope you'll enter. Also, you still have time to enter yesterday's $25 gift certificate giveaway.

Good luck to you if you enter!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vegan Melted Savoy Cabbage With Herbs

Photo by Kakisky
I saw the Melted Savoy Cabbage with Herbs recipe on page 158 of the May 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping and wanted to make a vegan and dairy free version. I haven't made it yet but want to pass the magazine on to a friend so am posting my proposed recipe here for future use. I'll post a comment when I make it but if you beat me to it please let me know what you think and if you modify it please share what you did. Thank you and enjoy!

Vegan & Dairy Free Melted Savoy Cabbage With Herbs Recipe

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 head savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1/8 tsp pepper

  1. Heat oil on medium in a 5 quart sauce pot, add the small onion, cooking and stirring for 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in the cabbage, water and salt and then reduce heat to medium-low.
  3. Cover and cook 15-20 minutes or until cabbage is very tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the green onions, herbs and pepper.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pictures of Bentley, My New Dog Friend

This is Bentley. He's 14 months old, part dalmatian, part unidentified mix and a whole lot of love. He's really my neighbor's dog but they let me love on him like he's my own so I thought I'd share his cuteness here.If you have a good idea what kind of mix he is in addition to dalmatian please comment below or email me at and I'll share it with his new parents.

Walking around his new back yard.

 He really was investigating the flowers. Cute!

 Basking in the sun.
Spotting a potential canine friend across the street. Bentley is loving his new home and I feel blessed to have a new dog buddy. May God bless you with abundant love dear friends!

Azaleas, Lilacs, Ghost Ferns, Tulips and Backhoes: This Week in My Maryland Yard

Welcome to my Maryland garden! It's been a heartbreaking week for our yard so I'm really glad to have some pretty flower and foliage photos to share with you (from the non ruined parts of our yard). This white azalea is actually growing in a sunny part of our yard. The bush was there when we bought the house. Someday we might move it to the back but utility lines run under it so most likely we'll just leave it where it is.

The backhoe work I mentioned last week turned out to be significantly more extensive than expected. Instead of losing one flower bed and a 3' x 40' length of sod, the plumbers had to excavate much wider and deeper, in their words, "turned out big enough that you could install a swimming pool." Not that the front yard is the place for a pool. So we lost three major planting beds (front of house, along sidewalk and along driveway) along with about a 40' x 20' area of lawn. Because the soil at the bottom of the excavation is now what's on top of our lawn we need to amend the heavy clay soil before we can put back the plants we managed to save (which are looking kind of sad in their clumps and pots, but the ones in pots are looking better than the ones in clumps).

I love these Japanese painted ferns, also called Ghost Ferns. They're shorter than many ferns and look nice near the front of a shady garden bed.

Our Josee lilacs are starting to bloom. They already smell lovely and that should only improve over the next couple of weeks. These are reblooming lilacs so we'll be able to enjoy their scent on and off through fall but the greatest profusion of blooms is in spring.

Angelique tulip close up. I love the pink and white combination of this beautiful flower.

Our seedlings have started to sprout. By midsummer (God willing, of course), we should have enough Cosmos and Zinnia to please the local birds and butterflies.

As hard as it was to have an astronomical plumbing bill and have such a large amount of flower bedding and yard destroyed, God and good friends helped me greatly this past week. Also, others' suffering (a friend lost his wife and another her father) showed me that in the greater scheme, my loss is not as great as it feels. I still have my beloved husband with me and precious friends who encouraged and prayed for me. You are priceless and I love you all. Thank you for being part of my life. May God bless you!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Good News & How to Become a Born Again Christian

Happiest Easter wishes dear friends! Christ is risen and eternal salvation is assured for those who believe in Him and follow Him as their Savior. As Billy Graham said, "God loves you! It makes no difference how deep in the mire of sin and transgression you have gone. He proved it by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you on the cross. At this moment you can receive Christ into your heart. God will give you this supernatural love until you love the whole world. That is the solution to the international problems we face at this hour. It is the solution to your personal problems - to let Christ come in. When Christ comes in, love comes in and love shines forth."

How to become a born again Christian:
"The Bible says that when we put our faith in Christ, God pours his love into our hearts. God forgives our sins and gives us eternal life. You need to admit that you are a sinner and receive Him by faith as your Lord and Savior. You can begin a relationship with God by praying a simple prayer like this:

'O God, I am a sinner. I'm sorry for my sin. Forgive me. I want to turn from my sin. I receive Jesus Christ as my Savior; I confess Him as my Lord. From now on I want to follow Him. In Jesus' name, Amen."

If you prayed this prayer today heaven is rejoicing! If you comment below or email me I'll be glad to answer questions about your new Christian life. You can also visit to sign up for a free weekly e-mail devotional, email for help from Billy Graham's Evangelistic Association or call 1-877-247-2426 (toll free) Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to midnight or Saturday from 10:00 am to midnight for help, resources for New Christians or more information.

May God bless you this Easter and always!

Source: All quotes from the June 2011 edition of Decision magazine, page 5.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Cat Photo Fun

I had planned a fun feline Easter photo session with rabbit ears and Easter eggs but with the excavation craziness it just didn't happen. So today (this is actually being posted on 4/26) when I decided it was time to put our Easter card away (thank you Teresa, Carla, Mama & Snowball!) I thought it was a good opportunity to sneak in some fun Easter cat photos. Hope you enjoy them! You can see our St. Patrick's day fun feline photo session photos (with leprechaun hats and shamrock necklaces) here.

I thought the pastels of this fabulous afghan made by my dear friend Renee (thank you!) were kind of Easter-y.

Here both cats are smelling the Easter card. Apparently cats must investigate mysterious cards with rabbit covers.

The other two photos with the Easter card were adjusted for brightness and contrast but I decided to leave one in the original state. I think she looks all mysterious as a black cat in an almost black background.

May the God of all peace bless you dear reader!