Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friendly Encouragement and Impromptu Family Photos

Models: My neighbor, Steve, and his granddaughter
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
The bulk of my day yesterday was spent with home repair contractors (which seems to have been the case most weekdays since early April but, God willing, has finally concluded) and nursing a migraine. But it was one of the most beautiful (and cool) days we've had in a while and I didn't want to miss out on enjoying the blessed weather so in the late afternoon I put on my darkest sunglasses and a hat and did some gardening. To my happy surprise not only one but three human and two canine friends popped over to encourage me.

I didn't have my camera out when Midge popped by so I don't have a photo of her but we hadn't seen each other in ages and it was a great visit. I can't see so well when I have a migraine so when she honked I waved but really had no idea to whom I was waving. On impulse she stopped her vehicle and we enjoyed a brief but wonderful visit. It was wonderful to see her so vibrant and healthy and learn that she has a new job she loves. Her kindness definitely lifted my spirits.

Just a few minutes later my neighbor, Steve, and his granddaughter were walking by with their dogs. I don't often get to see Steve's granddaughter as she doesn't live here and last time I saw her I'd promised to take some pictures for them so I grabbed my pink point and shoot camera and we had an impromptu photo shoot.

I love this shot of the two of them. Steve is a devoted grandfather and his granddaughter basks in his affection. She's a sweet young lady with a bundle of energy but she'll slow down for a hug or a kiss on the head.

This is their dog Max. I think he's a pug. He's been thriving under Steve's family's care. When they first got him I think he was about double his current weight. He moves and breathes a lot better now. Someday I will learn to use (and get) some fancy photo editing software and when that happens I have some fun in store for Max's photo.

This is their dog Biscuit. I've known Biscuit since she was a puppy and she reminds me of my Mom's best dog ever, Little Bear. They're both mixed breed dogs but little bear was relaxed and Biscuit is a always moving. This isn't technically a good shot but I thought it was funny and cute anyway.

I still have the tail end of that migraine but it's sure nice to have friends who'll say hello when they see me out in the garden.

What cheers you up when you aren't feeling well?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fun Flowers and Foliage: This Week in My Maryland Garden

This week brought our first hosta blooms. Although we grow hosta more for their foliage (leaves) than flowers, it's still nice to see the delicate purple and blue blooms in our Maryland garden.

 Day lilies are still going strong. I like this orange double bloom with red accents.

 Yellow and red bicolor marigold flowers.

This bee seems to enjoy the echinacea (purple coneflower). Bees have been flocking to these flowers, especially on the larger plants. Even three of my seedling echinaceas have flowered already. 

I was thrilled to see this caladium leaf popping up through the soil. The creamy leaf background with red accents is striking. I'd planted the bag of mixed caladium bulbs in late March (per package instructions) and had counted them as a loss because I hadn't seen any sign of them yet.

So this second caladium leaf makes two out of eight bulbs that bloomed. I'm hoping to see six more in the next few weeks but won't be shocked if no more pop up. I like the pink center and it's a nice contrast with the fading old fashioned bleeding heart foliage.

Hope you enjoyed this week's flower and foliage photo garden tour!

What was your favorite photo from this post? What's blooming in your area right now?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fun Ideas from the Children's Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum

My husband and I enjoyed a walk in the U.S. National Arboretum's Children's Garden, more formally known as the Washington Youth Garden. I thought they had some clever gardening ideas and hope you enjoy the photos. Above is a garden room created by leaving space in a three walled giant sunflower garden. The sunflowers aren't blooming yet but I thought this was a neat idea and it will look even more fantastic once the giant sunflowers show their sunny yellow faces.

Here is a mini garden in a wheelbarrow. The radish seedlings are already up (and I'm thrilled to find out that I'm not the only one growing seedlings in this heat) and it looks like their flower seedlings will soon sprout.
 They have colorful signs with plant names. The photo above is from the herb garden section but they also have a berry bush section, at least two butterfly gardens, a huge vegetable garden and more.

 This giant bird seems like the garden's mascot and probably serves as a scarecrow too.

Seeing this literal garden bed made me smile and probably laugh out loud. I thought it was a highly creative idea.

If you live in the Washington D.C. area and have kids (or just like interesting gardens), you'll probably enjoy the Washington  Youth Garden. The vegetable, herb and fruit gardens aren't always open to the public (even with the main part of the U.S. National Arboretum is open) so you might want to call ahead and make sure the gates will be unlocked before driving over.

May God bless you this summer and always!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bright Blooming Flowers and Tiny Peppers: This Week in My Maryland Garden

This is my favorite of our garden's day lilies. I think it's an "El Dorado" day lily and we got it from a catalog many years ago. We originally purchased six. One died in the first winter. The rest had survived until this spring's excavation but I won't know for sure how many we have know until all the day lilies have bloomed this year (in our hurry to save our plants we didn't have the time to tag them). Right now it looks like we have three survivors. If you like day lilies you can see a whole bunch of beautiful photos here.

I've been trying to get a decent photo of our red and yellow bicolor dahlia since we planted it but this is the best so far. It wasn't labeled as a dwarf plant but it's only about six inches high so I think that's what we got. The flowers are pretty enough that I don't mind though. You can see our yellow dahlia here.

I'm not sure why blogger isn't letting me put any words between the cosmos and pepper plants (could be the problem is with me and not blogger though for all I know) but this is an open bloom on the orange cosmos we grew from seed. You can see the first not quite opened bloom here and the whole plant in context here.

Next up is my husband's miniature pepper plants. He knows what kind of peppers they are but I don't. They're cute though. He has two of these plants.

Last week I posted a photo of our blue hydrangea and here's one that seems to be undecided as to whether it's going blue or pink. I thought the raindrops on the petals were pretty.

Although eventually I'll do a separate post about this (when I have more posts up) I'd love to introduce you to my newest blog, the benign neglect gardening journal. It's part garden journal, part tips and tricks on saving money, effort and the environment while enjoying your garden. Here's the link:

May God bless you and may your gardening (physical and proverbial) be fruitful!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Family Handyman's "Refresh Your Home: 500 Simple Projects & Tips to Save Money, Update & Renovate" Book Review

This week I checked out Family Handyman's Refresh Your Home: 500 Simple Projects & Tips to Save Money, Update & Renovate and was pleasantly surprised to find over 24 tips and projects that we can actually use in our home.

Some of the projects are involved, like building the under cabinet drawers pictured above. I think I'd need to do a simpler project before tackling this one but I love the idea and we could use the storage.

Some of the projects will only take a few minutes, like drilling holes in our plastic bench (which is just sitting in the back yard collecting water and debris because we never use it because it doesn't drain).

 I thought the above idea was a clever way to dispense twine, string or coned yarn.

And there were plenty of tips throughout the book (you can see some of the painting tips in the photo above). I made a list of the projects I want to do (some are in progress and others won't happen for years) and will either be checking this book out again from the library as needed or buying a copy for the house (first I have to pick a book of at least the same size to give away so we have room). 

Do you have a favorite home repair/remodeling book? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Poem & Wishes


Photo by bluekdesign

Happy Father's Day to fathers and father figures everywhere! May God bless you, equip you to be the great father He wants you to be and give you wisdom and strength for your fatherhood journey. May your children show their respect, love and appreciation for you. To all those who have lost their earthly fathers, may they feel their heavenly Father's comfort today and may their happy memories be a balm to their souls. 

I was blessed to be able to have a nice long chat with my own father today. I wish I could have hugged him, as I do every time I see him (which is rare because we live so far apart).  If you are within hugging distance of your father I urge you to hug him and tell him you love him. Even if he's a tough macho guy and you don't think he wants to hear it. Deep inside I bet he'll be thankful. 

A Wise Father: Father's Day Poem

 Thank you for being a strong man 
A good man
One who showed me I can
Thank you for being there then
For being there now
For being there when
It's a wonderful feeling
To know you love me
For all eternity
Whether I am rich or poor
Strong or weak
For evermore
The things you've taught
Were not for aught
It's your wisdom I've sought
It's your words that helped me
Make the right decisions
And become who I was meant to be.

Poem written by me and originally published at on May 7, 2010

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hydrangeas, Cosmos, Primrose and Day Lilies: This Week in My Maryland Garden

Our hydrangeas are blooming in our shady back yard this week. Hopefully the flowers will turn even more blue as they mature.
This is our first cosmos flower of the year. It's just starting to open up. I love that we started this plant from seed. It makes it even more precious.
I believe this is an evening primrose. These flowering plants are climbing up our variegated rose bush, lilacs and fence.
Here's our first regular day lily bloom of the year. It's a sweet pale yellow and I love the frilly edges. In an earlier post we showed you our Stella d'Oro reblooming day lily, which was the first of any kind to bloom this year. The rebloomers are still flowering and should continue blooming through frost this fall.

This is our variegated rose bush (the one that has the evening primrose, above, climbing up it). Every flower is slightly different and I enjoy seeing the various patterns that emerge.

Hope you enjoyed this week's floral photo tour of our Maryland garden! May God bless you!

Which was your favorite photo of the post? What's blooming in your area? Do you have any flower gardening secrets to share? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy 40th Anniversary

Renee & Jerry's Wedding Photo

Here's a piece of marriage advice from a wonderful woman who, even after 40 years together, still loves her husband deeply and looks forward to spending time with him: "After 40 years of marriage you learn that each of you has to be your own person. Embrace you differences. Makes for a perfect marriage." Renee

Happiest Anniversary wishes to my dear friend Renee and her husband Jerry! May your every dream come true and your love flow deeper and wider than the largest ocean.

Haiku for Renee & Jerry's 40th Anniversary
Forty years of love!
Happy anniversary
Renee and Jerry

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dazzling Day Lilies

My husband and I braved the heat today for a short walk in the U.S. National Arboretum and we were thrilled to find their day lily garden blooming with a nice variety of day lily flowers. It looks like this is just the beginning, so if you live in the area you should have a few weeks to enjoy the day lily show. Above is a nice red day lily with a yellow center.

 Here's a pure bright yellow day lily.

 A nicely contrasted day lily close up photo (macro).

 Here's a rare double bloom day lily flower in a nice peach color with hints of yellow.

I wish I could have gotten a better photograph of this striking day lily. It was more striking in person. There was a couple canoodling on the grass nearby so I didn't spend much time on this photo but the flower was really beautiful.

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy some of my other U.S. National Arboretum photo tours, such as the amazing azalea walk,  fun herb demonstrations in the National Herb Garden and rainy foliage on Earth Day.

May God bless you this weekend and always!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Calmness Power

This quote was just what I needed today and I thought perhaps some of you might like it too. No matter what is going on I find that remaining calm and keeping my voice level serves me (and those around me) better. Of course, doing it is a lot harder than knowing it should be done but awareness is the first step to fixing a problem.  May God bless you and may He transform us into our calmest, most loving selves!

Quote source: "Real Simple" magazine, July 2012 edition, page 54

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Chance To Do Your Best

This quote came courtesy of Real Simple magazine's free daily thought email list and I liked it so much I opened up Paint and made a picture out of it. Hope it inspires you too. May God bless you and may you do your very best each day!

What is your favorite quote?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pink, Purple and Blue Flowers: This Week in My Maryland Garden

This is the first week our spirea (at least that's what I think it is) has bloomed this year in our Maryland garden. All of the blooms are pink but usually it has white flowers too so hopefully we'll see those later this season.
 This is one of our new additions and our first Veronica plant. It looks more blue in person.
This is the same echinacea (coneflower) flower I photographed last week but it looks a lot more pink now, which is great. You might have noticed that I cut off the bottom of the bottom petals in both photos. That's because something nibbled on them and I thought the un-nibbled parts looked nicer.

Here's our first buddelia (butterfly bush) bloom of 2012. I planted a few seeds from this bush a week or two ago and they've already sprouted so I'm hoping we'll have 3-5 more of these butterfly attracting plants blooming before fall.

Hope you enjoyed this week's flower photos. May God bless you!

What's blooming in your area this week?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy "Hug Your Cat" Day!

Our 16 year old Japanese medium haired black cat
July 4th is Independence Day but you don't have to wait for a reason to celebrate -  today, June 4, 2012, is Hug Your Cat day! I personally suspect that most cats would prefer petting to hugging but my two lovely cats like snuggling and gentle hugging. Happy Hug Your Cat day to all my feline loving friends! May God bless you and your kitties too.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Herb Demonstrations at the US National Arboretum

Mary Lou Winder demonstrates herbal jewelry making
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler

Today my husband and I went for a walk at the US National Arboretum and happened upon their free "Under the Arbor Herb Demonstrations". What a pleasant surprise and blessing! According to a National Herb Society representative, 2012's herb of the year is the rose. Most of the demonstrations focused on roses. In the above photo you can see Mary Lou Winder making beads from roses. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you can see some of her hand made rose jewelry (earrings at the bottom left and necklaces at the bottom right of the photo). This was, to me, the most amazing part of the event. I'd never heard of jewelry made from roses before and Ms. Winder kindly explained the process and demonstrated the last two steps for me.

People discussing herbs and looking at the variety of $1-$3 herbs for sale
(there was a sign indicating that proceeds went to charity)
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler

National Herb Society, Tidewater Division, Year of the Rose Display
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
Display of herbal products made with roses
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
All of the displays were fun and had interactive elements. I was able to try a handmade rose petal salve and they even had some handmade chocolate candy balls made with rose hips (I didn't try any because it had powdered sugar which often has corn starch and I'm allergic to corn and all of its by products but it looked yummy.)

If you want to see some of my husband's and my US National Arboretum photos I have a photo tour of their Famous Azalea Walk as well has some rainy day foliage photos taken on Earth Day 2012. Hope you have a pleasant surprise in store for you this weekend. May God bless you!

Have you had a pleasant surprise lately? I'd love to hear about it!

Disclosure: I wrote this voluntarily and wasn't asked to write it. As usual with most of my posts (unless specifically specified otherwise) I have no financial relationship with any of the people or organizations mentioned in this post although I am a frequent visitor of the US National Arboretum.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Unplugged Sundays Experiment Results

After making it through all five scheduled unplugged Sundays I can safely say that, while it was a worthwhile experiment, being completely unplugged is not that relaxing to me personally. Still, I only broke the unplugged rule once in five weeks (and it saved me about six hours so I'm not all that sad I did it, though I would have liked to say I stuck with it 100%) and I did learn a lot. Here are my good, bad (aka challenging) and moving forward thoughts and experiences.

The Good & Great
  • I learned that my husband really loves me not having the laptop on while we're watching tv together in the evening. He wants me to focus on whatever we're watching instead of dividing my attention between the two activities.
  • I also learned that he doesn't like having the mouse in between us and he will sit closer to me and snuggle (yippee!) if I don't have the laptop on when we're sitting on the couch together.
  • I read a much larger than normal number of books, finished knitting a scarf I'd been working on since January and had some great conversations with loved ones.
  • I think I slept better. This isn't scientific... but I woke up feeling more refreshed than usual on the Monday mornings following my unplugged Sunday experiments.
  • I lost three pounds! This probably has more to do with my diet and exercise habits but it occurred during the experiment so I figured I'd include it here. I'm now at my lowest weight in about nine years (praise God!).
The Challenging
  • I knew I used the computer a lot but I didn't realize how hard it would be to not have access to my internet based prayer lists, calendar, contacts list, organizing tools (including the list of books I've read - I admit I broke the experiment once to check this list but it saved me six hours of reading because, yes, I had already read the book in question), weather forecasts, knitting pattern bank... you get the idea. I like electrons a whole lot more than paper.
  • It was incredibly hard to stay offline from bedtime Saturday night until Monday morning. I actually contemplated staying up until midnight one Sunday so I could "check" on things. Like Facebook or email could be that important? It was like the internet had some kind of hypnotic spell over me that made me think about it way more than is healthy. I think I was an internet addict. Maybe I still am. But at least now I know and I can work on it.  
  • Being unplugged on Sundays made for more work on Saturdays. 1) I had to actually print out my prayer lists and any directions or organizational materials I might need for Sunday on Saturday night. 2) I like to wish all my Facebook friends happy birthday so instead of being able to do so on Sunday I had to make a list of the folks who had Sunday birthdays, set a reminder on Saturday night, and do the posts Saturday night.
  • I woke up to over a hundred emails on Monday morning (and that's just my personal account). I like to keep my inbox empty (or at least nearly empty) so 100+ seemed like a lot of work to deal with. Granted, it's nothing like the 30,000+ I once had but I never want to go there again.
Moving Forward
  • In order to spend less time on the laptop in the evening (honoring my husband by not having it on when we're relaxing together on the sofa), I deleted some of my Facebook apps. These were mostly games that either I played less for my own enjoyment than to help my friends who play the game or were kind of annoying me with all the pop ups. I still have my favorite five games but five is much better than ten.
  • I'll probably do a more practical, modified version of unplugged Sundays. I still want my Sundays to be devoted to worship, rest and family, but I don't think there's a problem with going online to check the weather or look up a knitting pattern.
  • Unless I'm on medical bed rest (in which case the internet is a true blessing) I am aiming to reduce my overall screen time, a little at a time, until I get it where I think it's more reasonable.
Thank you for sharing my unplugged Sundays experiment/journey! May God bless you!

Have you done a technology fast? How did it go for you if you did?