Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sugar Free September: Days 18-30

Great orange tip butterfly: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy autumn and farewell to September! I chose the butterfly photo for this article as a salute to wild Wednesday and also because the whitish parts look kind of sugary in person. This reminds me that there are plenty of sweet things in life that are sugar free.

This month had a lot going on but the primary new habit I've been building is a low sugar lifestyle. With a few exceptions, I've stuck to my original plan. It wasn't always easy but the better I was about sticking to the plan, the fewer cravings I experienced and the easier it got. 

I had expected to lose some weight but that didn't turn out to be significant (I did lose a little but then went on a new medicine that caused me to gain some. Now I've lost most of that and am about back at where I started). However, there have been other benefits: a bit more energy, fewer cravings, the good feeling that comes from knowing I'm doing something good for my body and a little bit of money saved from not buying "treats". So I'm going to continue this lifestyle change indefinitely in hopes that I'll have even more energy increases (or at least maintain what I have now), better health and hopefully weight loss (once I get the rest of the suspect medicine out of my system).

Did you join me in this challenge? How did you do? What was hardest for you? How did you deal with that? What benefits did you see? I'd love to hear from you!

Related posts:
Sugar free post 1:
Sugar free post 2:
Sugar free post 3:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Chrysanthemum, Zinnia, Tiny Marigold, Verbena and Flower Arrangement Photos

Golden Chrysanthemums: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy floral Friday and welcome to "this week in my Maryland garden!" Fall has arrived and the chrysanthemums are starting to bloom. It's a beautiful season. Autumn blessings to you and yours!
Little floral arrangement: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Last week's post featured some of the flowers I entered in my local county fair.  I made this arrangement out of some of the survivors (they'd been cut for the fair over a week before I got them back so it's a blessing that any survived at all). I believe the little cup/vase contains: yellow, orange and pink zinnias; yellow chrysanthemums, Mexican bush sage and a caladium leaf.
Sun soaked zinnias: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
The zinnias have been the star of our garden this year. Last year it was dahlias. Will be interesting to see what happens next year.
Teeny tiny orange marigold: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
These are the smallest marigolds I've ever grown. Most are under 1/2" in diameter. They didn't bloom until late in the summer but I'm glad they finally did. 
Violet verbena: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
I found this pretty bicolor verbena struggling under the giant red zinnias. I'm sharing the photo to remind myself to mark it so I don't plant zinnias all around it next year.

The garden is winding down but we still have one kind of chrysanthemum that hasn't bloomed yet so you'll get at least one more floral Friday/Maryland garden post this year. Then I hope to sprinkle in photos taken in other gardens this summer to brighten some of our winter Fridays.

Thank you for visiting! May God bless you!

Related posts:
Autumn flowers:
Multicolored chrysanthemums:
Yellow chrysanthemums & more:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monarch Butterflies from Brookside Gardens

Monarch on pretty foliage: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy wild Wednesday! This week I'm featuring beautiful monarch butterflies from Brookside Gardens' Wings of Fancy butterfly exhibit. They have a nice butterfly garden in the exhibit with both local and exotic butterflies as well as gorgeous outside butterfly gardens with wild local butterflies.
Monarch butterfly on agastache: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
It's always a blessing to be able to visit a butterfly garden but I think this is my favorite.
Monarch butterfly on pink zinnia: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
The monarchs seemed most active on this visit and it was neat to catch them on so many different kinds of flowers and plants.
Monarch with shadow: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
 I believe this monarch butterfly is resting on a giant elephant's ear leaf.
Monarch butterfly on lantana: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
They clearly loved the lantanta flowers. The exhibit is staffed with many kind hearted volunteers so if you visit and want the name of a butterfly or plant, just ask and one of the volunteers probably knows or will find out for you.

Thank you for stopping by! May God bless you and all of His creatures!

Related posts:
Exotic butterflies:
Monarch butterflies on chrysanthemums:
Monarchs on tithonia:
Cute critters on flowers:

Note: I wasn't asked or paid to write this post and all opinions are my own. I just like butterflies and Brookside Gardens. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Blue Ribbon Flowers for Floral Friday

Little orange zinnia flower: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy Floral Friday! This is a special edition of "this week in my Maryland garden" as all the flowers were grown in my garden but the photos were taken on location at the fair (several days after they'd been cut then judged and displayed). The flowers looked nicer the day I cut them but I wasn't able to get photos at that time.

I am amazed, honored and excited to have been awarded at least 21 blue ribbons in the flower department (I entered in 49 categories)! A large number of my entries were in the zinnia categories, such as the pretty little orange zinnia in the photo above.
Medium white zinnia flower: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Until I'd entered in the fair for the first time I thought you could only enter one type of flower for the fair (for example, one rose, one zinnia, one marigold) but it turns out that my fair has many categories, mostly based on color and diameter/size (and they even get out their rulers when you submit to make sure you're entering in the right size category). I think I was able to enter three different white zinnias, in the "under 1 inch", "1-2 inch" and "2-4 inch" categories, and two, including the one above, won blue ribbons. Pretty neat! Especially since I grew these white zinnias from seed.
Giant red zinnia winner: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler
I was especially excited that my giant red zinnia, also grown from seed, won a blue ribbon. I thought I'd have giant orange, pink and purple to enter too but while they were close, none of the pretty ones were over the 4" in diameter required for the "large" zinnia category. Only the red had large enough blooms. Although, when I bought the seeds, they were all supposed to be red anyway. The giants of other colors were a surprise blessing.
Miniature bicolor dahlia: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
My dahlias have mostly petered out  but I was able to enter two in the miniature category and they both won blue ribbons. The bicolor one, pictured above and a burgundy one.
Red hybrid tea rose: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
The roses are also producing fewer blooms now that autumn is approaching but this divine smelling red rose won a blue ribbon. My pink one won a lesser ribbon but the person who earned first place definitely deserved it.

Hearty thanks to my kind hearted husband who carried all my vases in for me and waited patiently while I entered everything! And for all the times he watered my flowers for me too! And congratulations to him on his photography ribbon!

Thank you for visiting! May God bless you!

If you'd like a vote in selecting this week's most popular flower photo, please let me know which photo you like best from today's post. Also, if you enter in your own county fair, I'd love to hear about it! And feel free to share any tips on entering fairs too. 

Related posts: 
2013 county fair flowers:
2012 county fair flowers:
County fair flower art:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sugar Free September: Days 9-17

White zinnia flower: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
My Sugar Free September experiment is going very well. Very few cravings now, which is great. The weather has been cooler and I think being outside more helps reduce cravings; although it could just be that eating less sugar in general leads to fewer sugar cravings.

I started a new medicine and my weight has gone up (unfortunately) but I hope once my body adjusts that will be less of an issue (if not I'll ask to switch medicines). Until I started the new medicine I'd had three days in a row with greater than usual energy (a real plus!) and I suspect that was due to the reduced sugar consumption. I used some of that extra energy preparing for my county fair and, God willing, tomorrow's floral Friday post will feature some of my blue ribbon winning flowers. I think flowers are nicer than sugar.

Hearty thanks to all who are encouraging and helping me with this journey towards greater health and less sugar consumption! Kudos and strength to those of you joining me on the journey too! May God bless you and keep you all!

Related posts:
Sugar free post 1:
Sugar free post 2: 
2013 County Fair Flowers:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Red, White and Blue Flowers and Haiku Poem for 9/11

Giant red zinnia flower: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
May God bless America and you too, dear friend.

It's September 11th and I don't feel right with my usual start to my floral Friday/this week in my Maryland garden post. But I do have a little haiku poem and some red, white and blue flower photos to share. Every day, I pray for our country and for God to thwart terrorists' plans. My heart aches for all those who lost loved ones in terrorist attacks. May God heal their hearts, comfort their pains and light their paths.
White zinnia in sunshine: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Haiku Poem for September 11th
Nine one one... somber
day of reflection, mourning,
remembrance, prayer.
Blue salvia flowers: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
As heavy as my heart is, I still love flowers. And I'm thankful to have these red, white and blue ones to share with you.
Red salvia flowers: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
The red salvia just started blooming this week. Perfect timing.
Blueish Mexican bush sage: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Someone mentioned how they like these "blue" Mexican bush sage flowers so I thought I'd include them here. Their petals are super soft, like pussy willows. I've loved them for a long time but this is the first year I've grown them.

Whatever is happening in your heart, mind and soul today, I pray that God will give you just what you need and bless you, America, and comfort all those who mourn.

Related posts:
National day of prayer:
National Cathedral:
Isaiah 40:31 prayer:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Butterflies, Honeybees and Moths Love Agastache Flowers

Swallowtail butterfly on agastache: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy wild Wednesday! I'm really thrilled with the way the agastache (also known as hyssop) flowers are attracting a nice range of insect wildlife. We put in five plants this spring and I suspect we'll add more next year. 
Honeybee on hyssop: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
I'm especially happy to see honeybees on the agastache. We get lots of bees but honeybees seem to be in the minority.
Three skippers on hyssop flowers: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
If you look closely you can see at least three skipper moths on this hyssop plant.
Coming in for a landing on agastache: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
While not technically a good picture, I like that the moth is coming in for a landing while a honeybee is enjoying another flower. These insects know how to share.

Thank you for visiting. May God bless you!

Related posts:
Big bees:
Dogs and bees:
Bees and flowers:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sugar Free September! Days 2-8

Giant star-shaped cactus flower: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who were kind enough to encourage me on my journey to curb my sugar intake and hopefully lose weight too! There have been many temptations but so far my sugar free eating plan is going well. Eight days in, I've stuck to my plan with only two exceptions and I'm one pound closer to a healthy weight.

The two exceptions were 1) a really bland dinner... I just couldn't stand the flavorlessness and had some watered down orange juice with it. About 1 oz juice to 8 oz water. Haven't worked out the sugar grams there but I'm guessing it was over 5. Lesson learned: I'm making sure we have lemon juice on hand now because sprinkling that on would have done the trick without the sugar. 2) I was super thirsty on the way home from a day trip and had already drank my 3 stainless steel bottles of water and I had 3 sips of my husband's fruity drink. That might have been less than 5 grams of sugar but it definitely wasn't part of my plan. The real issue with this is it led to intense sugar cravings for the rest of that day and all night. Lessons learned: I now know those kinds of drinks are not good for me at all and I'm better off waiting until I can get some water (or even better, bringing a fourth bottle on future trips).

Most of the time, though, advance planning made sticking to my sugar free eating plan much easier. Not having junk food easily accessible, having lots of fresh veggie snacks easy to reach in the refrigerator, bringing healthy snacks on road trips and so on. Basically, I'm trying to make it as easy as possible to eat healthfully and as hard as possible to eat junk.

Starting this second week of September I'm feeling good about this journey and thankful to those of you joining and encouraging me! May God bless you!

Related posts:
Sugar free September post 1:
Amazing berry banana smoothie:
Banana cream health smoothie:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Dahlia with Skipper, Unusual Zinnias, Vinca and Dill

Skipper moth on bicolor dahlia: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy floral Friday and welcome to "this week in my Maryland garden!" It's been hot and we've lost some plants but overall the flowers are doing great despite the heat.
Pink puffy zinnia: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
I love these puffy, pom pom type zinnias and this pink one is my favorite of the bunch.
Bicolor vinca flower and bud: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
We've got a variety of vina flowers but this was the prettiest of the week.
Yellow dill flowers: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
In the naturalized herb garden we have this volunteer dill and I like its cheerful yellow flowers.
Giant red zinnia: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
And the giant red zinnias are going strong. Some are nearly five feet tall and need staking. But it's worth the effort for their gorgeous flowers.

Thank you for joining me on this week's mini garden tour! May God bless you!

Want to help determine this week's most popular flower? Please share which photo you like best from today's post! I'll be gathering your votes from various sources and posting the results in the comments section of this post next week.

Related posts:
Unusual flower photos:
Pom pom cherry blossoms:
Late summer flowers:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wild Deer in Quiet Waters Park

Baby deer foraging in woods: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Happy wild Wednesday! I was blessed with the sighting of a beautiful deer family while walking in Quiet Waters Park this week. The deer kept an eye on me but didn't seem bothered; just watchful. 
Two baby deer: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
The family, as far as I could see, consisted of an adult female (doe) and two fawns (babies). I love the spots on the young deer.
Mama deer: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
 When some other walkers approached the deer's ears went straight up but they didn't run away.
Mother and baby deer: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
 I've only been to Quiet Waters Park a few times but I might start going more often.
Alert baby deer: Copyright © Phyllis Wheeler, 2015
Because baby deer are adorable.

Thank you for visiting! May God bless you!

Related posts:
Brave baby deer:

Baby bull and goofy goats:
Deer family video:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sugar Free September! Day 1

Image by Pippalou of
Almost five years ago I went sugar free (among other things) and lost 35 lbs. After a few years I started to be more "flexible" with my eating and bit by bit I allowed sugar back into my life and the pounds crept back on. Granted, I had some serious illnesses and injuries during this time too (and they definitely contributed to the weight gain) but I've decided go to back to my sugar free way of eating. Starting today.

I like the sound of "sugar free" but I am not truly going 100% sugar free. I'm allowing whole fruits, a small amount of juice in my morning kale smoothie (a tradition I've kept up since about 2011 although I didn't add juice at first... someone who occasionally makes my smoothies for me added juice and I started adding it too after a while), and on days when I feel I need it, a treat with 5g or less of added natural sugar/maple syrup etc. I'm aiming to reduce the amount of juice in my morning smoothie slowly so I don't miss it and eventually eliminate it, just using whole fruit instead. Really, this is a low sugar diet. But low sugar September isn't as nice sounding as sugar free September, which I already find motivating. "Sugar free September" is more of a mantra for me than an accurate description of my eating plan. My eating plan is a personalized cross between Dr. Fuhrman's "Eat to Live" diet and the Peer Trainer flexitarian plan.

Today I stuck to my plan and feel good about it. I only had one big bout of sugar cravings today and managed to pray my way through them without caving. God is good!

I am ready to return to a healthy weight and hope this experiment brings me closer. I'd love to hear any supportive comments you want to share and if you have successfully lost and kept off a meaningful amount of weight I'd love to hear your success story.

If you want to join me on your own version of a sugar free diet I'd love to hear about your journey.

Thank you in advance for your support and encouragement! May God bless you!