Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lion Cubs, Lion Dad, Clouded Leopard and Lemurs

Luke the lion basks in sun: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Happy wild Wednesday! Yesterday my dear friend Pam and I enjoyed a trip to the National Zoo. Our primary goal was to view the six cute lion cubs but Pam also wanted to see the other big cats and the funny lemurs. Luke, the lion cub's dad, lounged in the sun while his cute cubs alternated between resting and playing. I love Luke's majestic male lion mane.
Cute lounging lion cub Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
This cub was watching his mom come near. I have another lion cub post planned with a surprise photo of what he does when mom arrives. Come back soon for more cute lion cub pictures!
Lion cub curls tail: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
I love how this cub curled his tail and closed his eyes in sunbeam enjoyment happiness. This is one cute lion!
Funny lemur group: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
The lemurs were hilarious, even though they didn't move from their cluster on their tree house. I love how the middle lemur noticed me and looked me right in the camera eye when I took this photo.
Rare clouded leopard: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Usually, if we're lucky enough to see the clouded leopard, she's asleep. But yesterday she spent some time sniffing the air and looking around. I have selected five even better clouded leopard photos to share with you in a future wild Wednesday post so be sure to check back weekly if you love big cats!

Heartfelt thanks to Pam for driving and sharing her precious time with me! May God bless Pam, the zoo residents and staff, and may He bless you too!

Related posts:
Cute little lion cubs:
Playful cute lion cubs:
Tiger cub sneak attack:

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Simplifying Home 8 Week Journey: Week 4, Day 7

Once again, I didn't come close to getting everything on this week's checklist finished but I did tackle some serious clutter and I feel great about that.  Earlier in the week I organized my vanity/sink area but since then I've been working on my cosmetics/toiletry cabinet.

Above is my "after" photo for my skin care shelf. It looked as bad as the "before" picture of my body care/overflow shelf (below) before I organized it. Although one thing that didn't change is my most frequently used items are at the front of the shelf, mostly in order of frequency of use (I keep the eye makeup remover on the far left even though I don't wear makeup every day). Also, opened products are in the pink basket and backups are in the blue bin behind the pink bin.
Here's the "before" photo of my body care/overflow shelf. All of the areas in today's post were at least this bad (the color cosmetics was much worse) before organizing and clutter clearing.

I try to keep posts to five photos or less so this one has one "before" and four "afters." It's nice that I have four freshly organized areas to share with you but I'm sorry I couldn't fit in all the "before" photos.
Here's that same shelf, after purging the clutter and organizing the keepers. The blue bag on the right is my "travel" bag. It has a little stand up mirror, a full face makeup palette, mini makeup brush set and tissues so if I need to put makeup on anywhere besides my bathroom all I have to do is add my current mascara and I'm good to go. The blue bag was behind the pink bottle in the "before" photo but there was so much clutter it was almost impossible to see (and I had to pull out two things to access it whereas now I can just reach in and grab it - much nicer).
This is my primer, foundation,powder, bronzer and blush shelf, organized in that order. Like the skin care shelf, open items are in the front bins and backups are in the back bin. I use the little bamboo bin for the primers and tinted moisturizer (which I suppose could go in skin care but I think of it as makeup so keep it here). The maroon box bottom is salvaged because I liked the color and it fits my most often used items while still letting them be easy to reach. It holds foundation, powder, blush and bronzer. Someday I'll replace the blue bins with pink, red or bamboo ones but they fit perfectly and this cabinet is usually shut so I'm in no hurry.
I think of this as my color cosmetics shelf but it's primarily eye and lip products. Before my organizing and clutter clearing, the shelf was precariously piled all the way to the top with a wide assortment of products and there wasn't an inch of free space behind the bamboo sorter (which was all the way to the front edge of the shelf. So even though it might not look like much to you, it was a huge relief to me. I didn't realize how much the pile bugged me until it was cleaned up.

I have my eye products to the left and my lip products to the right with the most often used items in the easiest to reach spots. I keep a little pair of scissors in there too to make opening up new products easier.

Behind the bamboo sorter there are four little clear plastic tubs. One each for mascara, eye liner, eye shadow and lip product backups. No, I don't need so many backups but the ones I kept are all products I either like or want to try.

Tomorrow we start week 5: bedrooms and closets. I don't really feel like I'm done in the bathroom yet (there are two more shelves in my cosmetics/toiletries cabinet plus the whole the linen closet) but I can always come back to it once this challenge is over and I did conquer the areas that I use the most often. I'm enjoying my newly organized spaces.

Thank you for joining me and thank you to Trina of Beginner Beans for making her Simplifying Home challenge a free resource. May God bless you and Trina too!

How do you organize your toiletries and/or cosmetics? Do you have a great clutter clearing story or organizing tip to share? I'd love to hear it!

Related posts:
Week 1, day 1:
Week 2, day 7:
Week 3, day 3:

Week 3, day 7:   

Week 4, day 3:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Teddy Bear Sunflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Zinnia, Vinca and Bicolor Day Lily Photos

Black eyed Susan field Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Happy floral Friday and welcome to "this week in my Maryland Garden." I especially love my garden at this time of year. God has blessed me with so many flowers it's hard to choose just five for this weekly feature.  I hope you enjoy my selections. The cheery black-eyed Susans are at their peak (and they're also the Maryland state flower).
Orange zinnia: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
 This orange zinnia flower is over four inches in diameter.
Teddy bear sunflower: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
The tiny but gorgeously fluffy teddy bear sunflower blooms are adorable. 
Bicolor day lily: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
The day lilies are still going strong. We have early, mid and late season bloomers so it keeps the day lily area full of flowers for a nice part of the summer.
Red vinca: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
I love the raindrops on this red vinca. It seems to be doing fine in its hanging basket but if it starts to suffer and we have a cool day I'll probably plant it in the ground.

Thank you for joining me on this week's photo tour of my Maryland garden! May God bless, keep and encourage you!

Related posts:
Yellow finch feeds on black-eyed Susans:
2013 black-eyed Susans:
Raindrops on pretty flowers:
Flowers and insects:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Simplifying Home 8 Week Journey: Week 4, Day 3

Above is the "after" picture of my sink/vanity area. The "before" (below) wasn't so bad but I wanted to tidy it up. I tend to leave new purchases and samples out until I try them at least once but it makes for a cluttered counter.

Like usual when clutter clearing, I removed everything from the area, cleaned everything (except the makeup brushes - that's a separate project), purged the clutter, put things that belong elsewhere away and put back just what I need, use and/or love. In addition, I made a little "beautiful" sign for the bottom drawer of my cotton/q-tip container (near the top right of the photo) and a "clean" sign for my soap dispenser. I had a matching pretty marble dispenser but it didn't work well.  This plastic dispenser works well but was kind of ugly and I think the "clean" sign makes it much nicer.
This didn't take very long so I decided to do my tissue/hairbrush shelf too.
But before I get to that Baby cat wanted to make an appearance (I know I'm biased but I think she's adorable). From this angle you can see that I just attached the "clean" sign with two rubber bands. Because it's just untreated paper I wanted it to be easy to replace.
Here's the "before" of my hairbrush/tissue shelf. All the clutter made it hard to reach the tissues. Like with my vanity, I tend to leave things out until I use them. However, that weird looking pink detangler brush didn't work on my hair. I use it on my cat though (and she loves it). So I put that with the cat brushes and the rest of the project followed the same clutter clearing/organizing steps as my vanity/sink area (described above). The only difference is that I didn't make any signs and I did add a towel underneath the keepers to hide the plastic and make it easier to clean.
Here's the "after" of my hairbrush/tissue shelf. Nothing exceptional but a lot cleaner looking and it's easier to get to the things I use every day. In case you're wondering, instead of putting the hair styling kit away I put it under the tissue box to raise it up and make it easier to reach.

Both parts of this project took about 20 minutes altogether and I think it was time well spent, especially since they were my first two MITs (most important tasks) for this week's Simplifying Home Challenge. It will probably take me at least that long to clean my makeup brushes but that's my third MIT for the week (any further progress is a bonus).

Thank you for joining me and thank you to Trina of Beginner Beans for making her Simplifying Home challenge a free resource. May God bless you and Trina too!

What in your bathroom needs organizing the most? What was the most rewarding organizing or clutter clearing project you've ever done? 

Related posts:
Week 1, day 1:
Week 2, day 7:
Week 3, day 3:

Week 3, day 7: 

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Simplifying Home 8 Week Journey: Week 3, day 7

Above is the "after" photo of our silverware/gadget drawer and below is the "before." The after still needs a bit of work (I don't think we need three vegetable peelers or any plastic spoons) but I promised my husband that I wouldn't give anything away without his approval (he's our chef and the kitchen is his domain).

The old, ugly red square thing helps me open jars. I want to find a prettier one and find a better place for it. But overall, the 27 minutes spent on the drawer (including hand washing the bins/organizers, cleaning spills, clutter clearing, organizing and relocating items that belong elsewhere) were well worth it. This was the second of my MITs for the week; the first was the kitchen counter. The third was my "command center" drawer (formerly known as a junk drawer) and I'm thrilled to say that all three areas got tackled this week.
I can't believe week three of my Simplifying Home challenge is already coming to a close. Week four starts tomorrow for me and we move from the kitchen to the bathroom.

Considering that it's only been three weeks, I've had quite a few health setbacks and injuries and I have wondered if perhaps God was trying to tell me something. But I prayed on it and feel like I should just continue doing what I'm able to do and let go of the rest, at least for now. I might try the whole thing again, Beginner Beans style, in January or develop my own challenge.

Identifying my three most important tasks (MITs) for each week is very helpful. I feel like it's an accomplishment to just get those done and anything else is a bonus. It helps that I already have established some of the habits she's asking people to explore (for this week that would include buying fresh produce and filtering my water) as that cuts down on the length of the list of things to complete.

Thank you for joining me and thank you to Trina of Beginner Beans for making her Simplifying Home challenge a free resource. May God bless you and Trina too!

What in your kitchen needs organizing the most? How about your bathroom? What was the most rewarding organizing or clutter clearing project you've ever done?


Related posts:
Week 1, day 1:
Week 2, day 7:
Week 3, day 3:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sunflowers, Dahlias, Marigolds, Verbena: This Week in My Maryland Garden

Sunflower macro: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Happy floral Friday! This week my Maryland garden produced its first sunflower. We now have four sunflower plants blooming and some more just sprouting (the package said it would be about 60 days from sowing to blooming so we should still be able to enjoy them before frost appears).
Dinner plate dahlia: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
The dahlias are flower powerhouses. I love the big flowers on the "dinner plate dahlia" plants and the abundant ones on the minis. The bees do too.
Bicolor marigold and insect: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Last week featured several marigold photos but I hope you'll still enjoy this one.
Bicolor dahlia: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
This is the first of my white and yellow bicolor dahlias. I like the unusual curly petals.
Bicolor verbena: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
The verbena is another strong bloomer. These plants have been blooming since early spring. We lost a couple in the window boxes but the ones in the ground seem happy.

I hope you enjoyed this week's mini photo tour of my Maryland garden! May the God who created all these beautiful flowers bless you abundantly!

Which is your favorite flower photo from this post? What flowers make you think of summer?

Related posts:
Spring dahlias:
Dahlia macros:
Cat smells dahlia:
Yellow dahlia and more:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Simplifying Home 8 Week Journey: Week 3, Day 3

Overall kitchen counter "after": Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
I'm three days into week three of Beginner Beans' eight week Simplifying Home challenge. While I haven't gotten as much done as I'd like I am happy with my first project. Like last week, I identified the three most important tasks (MITs) for our weekly focus area (kitchen). Above you can see my newly organized kitchen counter (MIT #1).
Kitchen counter "before": Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Above is the "before" picture of the messiest part of the counter. The intention was to have coupons and sale flyers in one folder and charitable mailings in another but when the folders got full we just kept sticking them wherever they'd fit. The shallow glass bowl was supposed to be a temporary landing place for things to be put away regularly but it got filled to overflowing without our noticing. Overall, this part of the counter was a hot mess.
Kitchen counter "after": Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
I love the newly organized space. The banana bowl is back in front of the folders with fresh bananas and I think this new arrangement will work out nicely (as long as I go through those folders regularly). I took away the catch all bowl because it was just a source of procrastination. 
Phone stand "before": Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
While I was working on the messy counter I realized that the phone basket/stand area was a mess too. I wish I'd taken a photo looking down into the basket but it was as bad as the counter. And reaching into the basket to get the phone wasn't convenient. 
Phone stand "after": Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
I relocated the basket to another room, cleared the clutter, put a sunny yellow towel down for a pop of color, added some cheery decorations and it's like a whole new phone station. Plus, the phone and my sunglasses are a lot easier to reach. I want to find a "smile" saying to put down instead of "inspire" but I was working with what I had on hand. 

All together, including sorting and pulling expired coupons, pulling everything off the counter, cleaning the counter, clearing the clutter, dusting everything that needed it, putting things that belonged somewhere else in their proper homes and everything else that went into this two-spot organization project, it took just over an hour (66 minutes).

Thank you for joining me on my journey to a more organized, simplified home! May God bless Trina of Beginner Beans for providing us this free resource/challenge and may He bless you too!


Related posts:
Week 2:
Week 1:
My home vision:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wildlife at Glendening Preserve's Butterfly Garden

Wild bird: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Happy wild Wednesday! These photos are from my very first trip to Glendening Preserve's Butterfly Garden. It's in a picturesque setting near Jug Bay in Lothian, Maryland. The beautiful bird in the photo above greeted us when we arrived (I went with my beloved husband).
Wild butterfly: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
This appeared to be the only butterfly active during our visit but it hopped all over the place so quickly that there could have been more than one. There were many little moths.
Wild bee on zinnia: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
The bees were very active and seemed to love the red zinnias.
Glendening Preserve: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Here's an overview shot of the Preserve. The butterfly garden section is in front of the barn. It's a short walk from the parking area.
Dragonfly: Copyright © by Ben Wheeler, July 2014, used with permission
My husband took this beautiful dragonfly photo elsewhere but on the same day as our visit to the Butterfly Garden so I decided to include it in today's post. I'm thankful he's so generous with sharing his photos.

Thank you for visiting. May God bless and keep you!

Related posts:
Butterflies and blessings:

Dragonflies and butterflies:
Butterfly art by Denise:

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Simplifying Home 8 Week Journey: Week 2, Day 7

Ben's terrarium: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, June 2014
So much has happened since my original post that I should probably break this down into multiple posts but I will aim to be concise and still give you all the main points and lessons learned. First of all, I'm extremely thankful for Trina's encouragement in her opening to week two: "You do not have to complete every item on the list. This is all about jumping in with your best effort, whatever that may be." 

While I started this challenge with the intention of doing everything on the list for every week, my health did not cooperate. I did manage to get almost everything for week 1 done (except the foyer closet, which I'll need help to do) but I probably got less than 20% of week 2 done. However, once it became obvious to me that I wouldn't be able to follow her plan I thought about my living room and what areas would make the biggest difference to declutter/reorganize and focused there. I chose three areas: my side table by the couch, my needlecraft drawer and my aromatherapy/asthma treatment/cat treat cubby. 

I had gone through my whole living room earlier this year, excepting the needlecraft drawer, so it wasn't too bad. The three areas I selected get a lot of use and serve multiple purposes and I thought they could use a good clean out. The "worst" part of my end table was the shelf between the top and the drawer (the drawer is like a filing cabinet drawer and I put my current knitting project in there plus loose balls of yarn). You can see the "before" on the left and the "after" on the right in the pictures below. I got rid of everything that didn't belong there and categorized what remains to make things easier to find. I also unburied my owl craft and put it in front to remind me to work on it soon.

The needlecraft drawer didn't look bad but it was the area that had gone the longest between clean outs and everything was just tossed in where it could fit, instead of by category. I removed the non-needlecraft items and stuff I didn't think I'd ever use and then organized the remaining items by subtype of needlecraft. Now the drawer has separate knitting, crochet and cross stitch areas. It should be faster and easier to find the tools I need for future projects.

I haven't gotten to the aromatherapy/asthma treatment/cat treat cubby yet but am hoping to do that tonight. I have some dear friends visiting (they should arrive within the hour!) from out of state and don't want to be in the middle of that when they arrive. So if I feel up to it this evening, I'll feel really good about having completed my top three priority areas for the living room. And if not, at least I will have had a great visit with my friends. 

Like last week, I was really thankful to find that I already had some of thing simplifying home week two checklist items completed before I even started. This week, these items were:
  • Air-cleansing houseplants: I have many houseplants, including some Chinese evergreens and false bamboo (air cleaning powerhouses). However, after reading Trina's separate houseplant post and following the links therein I've decided to get a peace lily in the near future. It does a special kind of air filtering that none of my other houseplants do and I've missed having one. I just have to figure out where I'll put it before I buy it.
  • At home date night: Every night is an at home date night for my hubby and me. Because of my health challenges we don't go anywhere at night. There are advantages and disadvantages but the biggest advantage is that I have my favorite man at home with me every single night.
Hearty thanks to Trina of Beginner Beans for making this free resource available and her beautiful heart for God. May God bless her and may He bless you too! Thank you for sharing my Simplifying Home journey!

Related posts:
My Simplifying Home week 1 post:
10 minute office supply organizing:
My home vision:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Morning Glory, Marigolds, Zinnia and Mystery Flowers

White morning glory: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Happy floral Friday! I finally have a decent morning glory photo to share with you. We've had blue ones in the past but this year they seem to be all white. The pink flower in the background is an evening primrose.
Marigolds and zinnias: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
Although I've been under the weather this week (migraines), my Maryland garden is thriving. The marigolds especially seem to be growing more than any previous batch. They're much taller and wider than usual and have even spread into the pink zinnia bed. I like a well packed cottage garden look and the hot pink and bright yellow are a nice combination so I'm glad for their extra growth.
French bicolor marigolds: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
While the majority of the French marigold plants (grown from seed!) seem to be primarily yellow there are some reds, golds and oranges sprinkled in.
Marigold field: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
  In this overview photo you can see we have a carpet of marigolds.
Mystery flowers: Copyright © by Phyllis Wheeler, July 2014
This last photo features mystery flowers from a plant my dear friend Missy gave me last year. I think she said it was some kind of herb but neither of us knows for sure what it is. If you know, please share. Thank you for visiting! May God bless and keep you!

Related posts:
Day lilies, dahlias and more:
Missy's garden:
Missy's fall flowers:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wild Raccoon in National Arboretum

Happy wild Wednesday! I came across this wild raccoon at the National Arboretum last weekend. Washington DC really does have wildlife.
It let me get surprisingly close (although I still used zoom to get these photos).
What was even more surprising was that when I finished my walk it was still in the same general area. I hope it wasn't sick or injured.
 Perhaps there were some delicious berries in those bushes.
I hope this raccoon has a long, healthy life. May God bless you, this little raccoon and all of His creatures, great and small!

Related posts:
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge:
Wildlife in Aruba:
Peaceful Pond trail: