Thursday, May 31, 2012

Happy "National Macaroon Day" 2012

Who knew that there was even such a thing as National Macaroon Day? My husband and I love coconut macaroons. I make him Martha Stewart's macaroons (the best recipe I've found to date) except that I don't shape them like pyramids (he prefers more "normal" shapes) or dip them in chocolate (he likes them plain). The photo below is of my favorite allergy free (at least for me) commercial (store bought) macaroons. I'll be posting a review of them soon. Please comment below if you'd like to see the review sooner rather than later.

What is your favorite cookie?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Anniversary Wishes in the Form of Three Haikus

Image source:
Was writing a dear couple friend's wedding anniversary card this morning and decided to make it more special by crafting a haiku (short poem with specific syllable counts for each line) for them. The other two are dedicated to couples everywhere. Good marriages are most certainly a cause for happiness.

Happy Anniversary Haiku I:
Wishing both of you
"Happy Anniversary"
Filled with bliss and joy!

Happy Anniversary Haiku II:
May your happiness
On your anniversary
Be vibrant and bright.

Happy Anniversary Haiku III:
May God bless you two
On your anniversary
And may your love grow.

Originally published here on November 7, 2011. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Echinacea, Marigolds, Dahlias and Ghost Ferns: This Week in My Maryland Garden

We finally have an echinacea (coneflower) bloom! If you've been following my blog you might recall that about 20 days ago I first noticed a flower bud forming on our largest plant and last week the bud was looking beautiful but was still green (no pink or purple color). Finally, yesterday I noticed the first full bloom and this morning snapped this photo of it. I seem to recall that last year the plant had darker flowers. Not sure if that means this is a seedling from the original plant or if our soil needs to be amended (probably the latter) but I'm just happy to finally have a flower on it. If you're curious about what echinacea seedlings look like here are some photos of some I transplanted in April.

I love the coloring on this marigold.  The yellow and deep red are a nice contrast. So far, of the whole three flats of marigolds my dear husband planted we have only one casualty. It's right in the middle though so I'll either have to grow one from seed soon or buy one single plant to fill in the hole.

Here is a tiny little yellow dahlia bloom. The flowers on this plant are less than two inches wide. We didn't keep the tags but when we first planted them the flowers were a bit bigger. My guess is that this points to our soil needing amending or at least the plants needing fertilizer. The heat has arrived here in Maryland though so benign neglect is now the order of business in our garden until we get a cool spell.

Speaking of coolness, in our shady side garden this ghost fern, aka Japanese painted fern brightens up the shade in a violet saturated section of the flower bed. We used to have some astilbe back here but I see no signs of them this year.

Do you change your gardening habits as the weather heats up? What's blooming in your area today?

May God bless you with the beauty of His creation!

Monday, May 28, 2012

RIP Tracey Sandefur

Beautiful Bunny Photo By Leele
Today I learned that my friend Tracey Sandefur, also known in the Castle Age gaming world as Bunny Gilgamesh, passed away from a heart attack. My heart aches for her family and friends and they have my deepest sympathy and will be in my prayers. 

Tracey and I have been Facebook friends for over a year and she has brought joy to my heart and been a faithful and fun Castle Age companion. We shared membership in CAMP (Castle Age's Most Prestigious) and supported the group (and therefore each other) daily. She made me smile and was one of those rare souls you could always count on. The world is poorer for having lost her and she will be sorely missed. Below you'll find a fantastic traditional poem by our mutual friend Joanne Lawson and two little haiku poems by me, all three in honor of Tracey. I hope her soul can feel the love of her 2,400+ friends. If you knew Tracey and would like to contribute a poem that you wrote, I'll be glad to consider publishing it. Just email me at

Farewell Poem from Joanne Lawson
Bunny you were bonny
And very very funny
You lived your life a bouncin’
And a hoppin’ round our pages

When anything needed clicking
Or a shoulder for to cry on
You were there to help your buddies
With your lovely bouncy bunny

We will miss you popping over
And your pics among the news reel
We will miss your kindred spirit
Among the group walls as we click them

Fly safely bouncing bunny
To the fields of love and plenty
Where your love will last forever
Among the pastures of the Blessed

And when we come to join you
We will sing of love rekindled
In the meanwhile dearest Tracey
Travel safely dear friend

-Written by Joanne Lawson and published with her permission

 Farewell Haiku I from Phyllis Wheeler

You touched many souls
Rest in peace dear Bunny G
Treasured in our hearts 

Farewell Haiku II from Phyllis Wheeler 

CAMP mate, loyal friend
Trusty battle companion
You are sorely missed 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Poem

Image by KConnors

On Memorial Day
Our thoughts turn to thankfulness
To those who gave their lives
Who fought with guns and knives

Who braved the unthinkable 
Endured the impossible 
Thinking not of their own life 
Not necessarily even the current strife
But valuing freedom, honor, 
Selfless service, loyalty, 
Duty, respect, 
Courage and integrity
Over the pain, 
Back breaking hard work, 
Mental strain, 
And grueling hours.
Each of you is a hero 
Strong and brave. 
You live on in our hearts 
Beyond the grave.
They say freedom isn't free 
You know that is true. 
Thank God for liberty. 
Thank God for you.

Poem written by me on May 31, 2010  

Friday, May 25, 2012

17 Great Loving Action Habits to Improve Your Marriage

Photo by jdurham
  1. Pray for and with your spouse
  2. Listen to your spouse with your full attention
  3. Validate your spouse's feelings
  4. Consider your spouse's point of view
  5. Notice your spouse's good qualities
  6. Thank your spouse for what he or she does for you
  7. Serve your spouse in ways that are meaningful for him or her
  8. Honor your spouse's boundaries
  9. Spend lots of time with your spouse
  10. Be honest and trustworthy with your spouse
  11. Forgive your spouse
  12. Reassure your spouse of your unconditional love for him or her
  13. Give your spouse thoughtful gifts (can be free or inexpensive)
  14. Write your spouse a love note (it doesn't have to be long)
  15. Ask your spouse how you could be a better spouse and then do what he or she asks (as long as it doesn't disagree with your own morals or God's word) 
  16. Treat your spouse like you used to before you were married. Odds are you were kinder, more polite and more agreeable in your dating phase (if that's not true for you then kudos to you)
  17. Compliment your spouse often (item 5 will help with this one)
The first twelve loving action habits to improve your marriage were adapted from "Loving Your Spouse with a Whole Heart" by Whitney Hopler in the Live It e-newsletter dated May 10, 2012. Her article was "a report on the practical applications of Dr. Greg Smalley and Dr. Shawn Stoever's book, The Wholehearted Marriage: Fully Engaging Your Most Important Relationship, (Howard Books, 2009)."

The last five ways to value your spouse (loving action habits) were my own additions.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A New Way To Think About Productivity

Coneflower photo: Robert Louis Stevenson quote
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
I love this quote. It's a great reminder to step back from our busy lives and think about what actions we can take today that will make our lives and/or the world a better place tomorrow and in the years to come. It's also a great reminder to take time each day to focus on the big picture instead of the little details of daily living. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy crossing off items on my to do list as much as the next person. But I also make sure that every day there are things on my list that will have a positive influence on my most important values and long term goals (so daily I'm planting seeds that will hopefully bring a rich harvest in terms of my long term goals).

Even more important are the seeds we plant with our attitudes and interactions. Seeds like sharing a smile, helping others, learning to be more patient, volunteering and giving to charity can make the world a better place and while we may not personally see their harvests we can feel good about each little seed we plant.  

So my photograph with the quote by Robert Louis Stevenson ("Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.") is my little seed gift to you today. I truly hope it encourages or inspires you. May God bless you, dear reader!

Discussion (I'd love to hear from you!): What kind of actions are you taking today to make the world a better place tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rainy Day Flowers: This Week in My Maryland Garden

I took these flower photos in my Maryland garden during a break between rainstorms yesterday. As you can see our Stella d'Oro re-blooming day lilies are finally in bloom and there are plenty of buds promising more flowers to come.

 This is a scented geranium we bought in the herb section of a local garden center. We were pleasantly surprised to see these little pink flowers on it.

 Here are the red tipped wax begonias I mentioned in last week's garden post.

Our African daisy plant has been going strong since Ben purchased it back in March

Our echinacea (this one is a purple coneflower) is getting closer to blooming. Last year we had purple, white and yellow echinacea but the yellow and white seemed near death by the end of fall so we're not sure whether the ones growing in their spot will be yellow and white or seedlings from one of the original purple echinacea plants we'd planted in previous years.

I'm guessing this plant with the tiny blue flowers is a weed but it's in a spot I don't care about so I'm letting it be for now. Do you happen to know what it is? 

Hope you enjoyed this week's photo tour of my Maryland garden. Which was your favorite photo of the post? Feel free to comment below or email me at May God bless you and keep you!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

National Garden Photographs

Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
These photos are from a recent trip to the National Garden (part of the US Botanic Garden) on the Mall in Washington DC. You can see the top of the National Museum of the American Indian in the background of both the photo above and below.

Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
 The rose garden is really beautiful and they incorporate some nice potted arrangements as well.

Photograph by Ben Wheeler
You can see the Capitol building in the left part of the background of this photo. In addition to the white wisteria growing up the concrete and metal arbor there is lilac wisteria further down the arbor and it smells wonderful.

Photograph by Ben Wheeler
Of all the rose pictures we took on this visit I like this one best. I'm thankful that my husband and I share a love of photography and that our nation has so many beautiful gardens to enjoy.

In case you're wondering, I am still doing the unplugged Sundays experiment.  It's been a bit challenging but rewarding too. I had planned to post a summary at the end but if you want me to post about it sooner let me know. Of course, I won't be on line tomorrow (it's Sunday) but I will be checking comments again on Monday.

What is your favorite garden? Have you ever done a technology fast? I love hearing from my readers! You can comment below or email me at May God bless you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Herb Day At US Botanic Garden

After enjoying Garden Fest at the Smithsonian Castle we walked up to the US Botanic Gardens and were thrilled to find their Herb Day celebration. What a blessing to encounter two great events in one day! As you can see from the sign above there was a lot going on but there were even more activities than what was listed on the sign. There was also herbal tea making, herbal greeting card crafts, herbal fairy dust making (in the children's garden), interactive educational displays throughout the gardens and more.

Here's a rabbit (sculpture) hiding in a bed of lamb's ears.

A brightly colored bird house in the Children's Garden.

 I loved this herb garden poster.

And this herb poster caught my eye too. The US Botanic Garden is free (although donations are accepted) and has many different sections with an amazing variety of plants.

It was fun to celebrate herbs at the US Botanic Garden. At home, we grow a variety of herbs (not nearly as many as the US Botanic Garden though) and it's nice to just snip off the amount you need for dinner right before cooking. Do you grow or use herbs?

May God bless you!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Garden Fest Photos from the Smithsonian Gardens

Smithsonian Castle Garden: Photograph by Ben Wheeler
This weekend my beloved husband Ben and I went to the Smithsonian Castle's gardens and were pleasantly surprised to find their Garden Fest happening. They had activities for all ages, live music, dramatic readings, temporary tattoo stations, garden and lawn information stations, mural painting, tomato plant potting, outdoor yoga, a fun table with giant floral hats and butterfly wings for participants to try on and much more.

Garden Fest Actors: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
 In the above photograph you can see some of the actors performing a dramatic reading.

Garden Fest Butterfly Wing Table: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
If you click on the picture to enlarge it you'll see the guy in the yellow shirt removing a set of butterfly wings. Closer to the front you can see one of the giant floral hats.

Garden Fest Floral Hat: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
In the above photograph you can see a lady modeling one of the giant hats. You can also see some of the other butterfly and flower props on the table with the red tablecloth as well as some of the Smithsonian Castle's beautiful roses farther in the background.

Succulent Container Garden: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
This was both Ben's and my overall favorite entry in the container garden contest. Participants were allowed to vote on their favorites in six different categories (see photograph below).

Garden Fest Container Garden Contest: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
In the above picture you can see two more of the container gardens from the contest as well as the six categories in which Garden Fest participants could cast a vote.

We had a great time at the Smithsonian Castle's  Garden Fest and hope they'll host it again next year.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day Wishes

A rose for mothers everywhere: Photo by Phyllis Wheele

I won't be online tomorrow due to my ongoing unplugged Sundays experiment so on this Mother's Day eve I'm wishing abundant joy to every mother in the world and especially to my own dear Mom, Grandmother, Mother in Law, Sisters in Law and the motherly friends in my life (you know who you are and I love you)! May your Mother's Day be filled with blessings and may your children rise up and call you blessed. May you see the love you've showered upon your child/ren reflected in their eyes and actions and may God bless your parenting today and always.
Tonight and tomorrow I'll also be praying for all of you for whom Mother's day is painful, whether you have suffered from infertility, death of a child, mother, someone else dear to you or some other personal pain. May the God of all peace be with you and comfort you in this difficult time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Multicolored Blooms: This Week in My Maryland Garden

If you follow my blog you know I love flowers. I just snapped this rose photo minutes before this blog post. It's such a joy to view God's handiwork in the garden!

 This week our honeysuckle vines started blooming. Love the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle!

This week our yellow irises started blooming too. Most of our irises don't have a scent that we can detect but the yellow ones smell sweet and delicious, kind of like honey. Here you can see a ladybug perched on the yellow petals. I think I took this photo and the ones below yesterday afternoon.

My husband planted three flats of marigolds in the front yard and it's brightened things up quite a bit. Should look even nicer once they fill out. Soon the zinnia seedlings will join them and, God willing, the bed closest to the street will be full again.

I'm not sure if this plant just hadn't bloomed before (it was previously buried in a clump of grass, courtesy of previous residents) or if it's one of our regular blue irises that mutated to include the nice white variegation. Either way, it was a nice surprise.

What's growing in your garden? Are there any plants you're especially fond of or looking forward to seeing bloom?

Our oldest echinacea (purple cone flower) and Stella d'Oro day lily both have buds so hopefully I'll have flower pictures from those plants to show you next week. Until then, may your heart be filled with joy and may the God of all creation be with you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Flowers at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Wild Rose: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
As promised in my original post about our trip to Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, here are the flower photographs. This first image (above) is likely a wild rose. They were growing abundantly throughout the nature trail.

Variegated Iris: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
Most of the irises at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens were bright yellow, like the one pictured below but the white and yellow variegated iris above caught my eye. The yellow irises were growing in large clumps all over the aquatic gardens and you could see them here and there along the nature trail.

Yellow Iris: Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
 You can see some more yellow irises in the first of the goose family photos posted here.

Water Lily: Photograph by Ben Wheeler
White water lilies abounded in the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. According to a park flyer the more exotic water lilies will start blooming next month followed by the lotus blooms. Which of the flower photos did you like best? Have you ever been to an aquatic garden?

May God bless you!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Using Zuma Blitz Powers for Super High Scores

A screen shot of my highest score to date in Zuma blitz
My Tips for Selecting Powers and Achieving High Scores in Zuma Blitz

Just about every week I'm asked via Facebook wall posts and email messages just how I achieved my current Zuma Blitz high score. Now, I'm far from the best player in the world, but my current high score is displayed above and my last two weeks' scores were over 3 million. I'm sharing this so you know that I have personally reached high scores and this isn't just a theoretic article but a practical one. This article focuses on which special powers I use and why I choose them.

Analysis: Which Zuma Blitz Powers Are Best
Every week the Zuma Blitz developers come out with a new puzzle. Before I use any powers I get a feel for the board by playing without any powers at all. In fact, I play far more games without powers than with powers. After playing a few games I analyze the data Zuma Blitz provides and make a determination as to which will serve me best this week. Truly, the best combination of powers will vary for each player based on their own strengths and weaknesses in the game in general and on the current puzzle in particular. I like to pick powers based on my strengths for the current week. So, for example, if I find that I got a crazy high amount of points from the fruit, then I'll pick the fruit power. Basically, I match the three powers (I either play with all three or none) to my three highest scoring areas for this week's puzzle.
My Usual Selections: My Favorite Four Zuma Blitz Powers
I'm guessing that most of you either don't want to take the time to analyze your strengths or just want to know which powers I use. If that's the case, here is my secret. Most of the time I use the multiplier, the time bonus, and the chain bonus. These are the three powers on your second screen (assuming you've reached a high enough level in Zuma Blitz to have access to all three) and in picture two for this article. However, when a puzzle is tougher for me, I tend to replace the chain bonus with the fruit bonus.
Timing: When to Use Zuma Blitz Powers
As I mentioned earlier, I play more often without powers than with them. This lets me bank my mojo (what you need within the game in order to access your powers.
When I do not use powers:
• When multitasking (for example, watching a movie and playing Zumba blitz at the same time).
• When tired, hungry or otherwise distracted.
• Before I think I've got a good feel for the new puzzle of the week.
When I do use powers:
• When I feel especially alert and focused.
• Once I think I've mastered the current week's puzzle well enough for the mojo expense to be justified (this is just an intuitive thing. If I figure out how to quantify it I'll amend the article or write a new one).
I hope this article was helpful for you! Best wishes for high scores in Zuma Blitz!
Personal Experience

Adapted from an article written by me and originally published at Associated Content/Yahoo Voices

Goose Family Photographs

I photographed this goose family with their precious goslings at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens yesterday.
The parent geese didn't seem to mind me taking photographs but they did maintain a fair distance from me. I loved the protectiveness shown here with both parents flanking their young goslings.

 Geese swimming across a small section of the aquatic garden.

This gosling's from a different goose family and appears to be a single offspring. Its parents were far more protective than the other set of goose parents but I couldn't resist getting at least one picture of the cute little gosling, especially because it seemed to want to come over and meet me (it's parents prevented that but it was still cute to see). Hope you enjoyed my goose family photographs. May God bless you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens Photos

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens Visitor center: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens Nature Trail: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
My husband pleasantly surprised me today by taking leave and making a day trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. This was our first visit to the park and we took the nature trail first. When we visit in the future we'll spend less time on the nature trail and more time in the aquatic gardens section. I'm planning follow up posts featuring photos of a) flowers b) an adorable goose family c) other wildlife so be sure to check back again soon if any of those topics interest you.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens Trail: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: Photo by Ben Wheeler

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Irises: Photo by Phyllis Wheeler
Hope you enjoyed this overview slideshow. May God bless you!