February 16, 2017

It just never gets old . . .

Mother Nature . . . a million blooms . . . and that million and one is just as spectacular.  ❤

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
My Carolina Jessamine is buried beneath the ever growing, super aggressive Dutchman's pipevine ~ but every year it works and works to put out a handful of blooms.  And every year I'm thankful for those few showy yellow flowers, especially when they appear in the middle of winter.

This past weekend I was doing some serious trimming around the garden and found a chrysalis on a branch I was hauling roadside.  I clipped it off and brought it on the patio . . . and yesterday morning, before work, I spotted this beauty.  I've probably seen hundreds of emerging butterflies, but it never gets old.

I didn't want him to be stuck on the patio all day, so I transported him to the butterfly garden to finish drying and by lunch he was long gone.  Today I had two monarchs fluttering about.  I'd like to think he (or she) was one of them.

I have been a nature lover my whole life . . . and even after all these years . . . I still think it's magical!

February 8, 2017

Garden art, veggies, and a new plant!

From a gardener's standpoint, at least one who is trying to grow tropicals in a non-tropical zone, this has been a wonderful winter season so far . . . not a single day of frost (knock on wood).  I have a mango tree full of mangoes, Mexican tithonias that have never stopped blooming, and butterflies already laying eggs.  I know all that can change next week, but for now ~ I am very thankful.

I've stayed fairly busy all season long ~ adding new garden art (I've become a recent fan of reading statues) . . . 

. . . and keeping up with the veggie garden.  This past weekend I had both the kids over helping themselves to kale, broccoli, herbs, etc.  It warms my heart to see them out there harvesting stuff to take home.  Even with a mild winter, my cold season veggies have done exceptionally well.  So yep, already have my spring veggie seeds ready to go.  :-)

My resident hummer left sometime in early January with no sightings in February either.  But there are plenty of blooms to provide nectar (being enjoyed by the bees) and I still keep the feeders out (also being enjoyed by the bees).  :-)

This past weekend Jen came to visit and we took a trip to the farmers market.  Since Philip broke his foot we haven't been in weeks (at least 3 more weeks to go too!).  There is one plant vendor there that I just love as he always seems to have something new . . . or at least something I "need".  This weekend it was something new - a rose allamanda (Strophanthus gratus).  This one is trained as a shrub (they can also climb) ~ and the blooms smell amazing . . . like a cross between an orchid and a rose.  I had never seen one before so home it went.

While at the farmers market, we also hid some painted rocks.  Here in Lakeland (and other cities too) there is a group of folks on Facebook called "Lakeland Rocks" (30,000+ members).  The idea is to paint rocks, hide them, and also hunt for them too if you'd like.  It's a pretty big deal - with the City even getting involved.  I like it because it gets people (especially kids) out and about - and away from their electronics.  I also find it very relaxing to paint the rocks, although I'm not much for finding them.  Some of the really large rocks (bigger than a softball like the one above) I've painted and placed around my garden.

And others, like these sugar skulls, I've hidden around town (or given to Jen as she LOVES anything sugar skull).  :-)  This was started by one family . . . and has really turned into a huge community project.  Such a great idea ~ and so much fun!

Well, that's it for now . . . counting the days till spring (40).  💗💗💗

January 15, 2017

Big News for the Hart Family


Our Jen and her boyfriend flew to Denver on Friday to go skiing . . .

. . . and then this happened ~ on a mountain top!  💓

Congrats Jennifer and TJ!  We love you!

January 10, 2017

Winter garden surprises . . . and other stuff

I ate my lunch in the garden this afternoon ~ quickly ~ so that I could get up and tinker.  And it's usually when I'm "tinkering" that I discover something.  Today it was a few somethings . . . unexpected somethings . . .  😊 ~ like these first blooms on my giant milkweed transplants I started last spring.  Love this plant!

I also really like my clerodendrum wallichii (photo of blooms can be found here) and although most clerodendrums seed (and spread) easily, I was actually surprised to find one (and only one) seed on my plant today.  This particular clerodendrum has long stems of cascading white flowers - stunning when in bloom ~ and was sold as a plant that attracts butterflies.  I never saw any pollinators near my blooms, but it's still a keeper.  I might try and start a few plants via this seed ~ only because I love planting seeds.  I guess I should do a little research first to see if it's even possible.

Here's my biggest lunch hour surprise!  Nothing says a warm fall season (and so far a frost free winter) like a bloom spike on my Clivia miniata.  I forgot to cover this plant earlier in the week when we had temps dip into the 30's for a couple of days.  Today I was checking for damage, but instead found blooms.  How cool. 💞  You can bet I'll bring it in before the next cold snap!

Now this isn't a surprise as I have native Everglades tomatoes popping up EVERYWHERE (the birds love them).  But I wanted to share how early these start producing.  This is a tiny plant that's randomly growing in the gated garden.  The entire plant is not much bigger than my hand and yet it already has two sets of blossoms forming.

And not far from that tiny plant is a larger bush growing among the banana trees.  This plant has over a hundred little tomatoes forming ~ some just beginning to ripen.  It takes a major frost to hurt these guys ~ such a great, carefree choice for cherry tomatoes.

Other volunteers that have appreciated our warm weather are the Mexican tithonias.  These are as giving as the tomatoes as they sprout up all over the place too.   I let them go to seed because I read that the birds will visit the seed pods/flower heads . . . I've yet to see that happen, but I sure do get a lot of volunteers ~ and that's a good thing . . .

~ since we still have some winged visitors.

Moving on . . . 

This past weekend I went to visit Philip in his workshop with a special "asap" request . . . I needed a letter holder.

The next day he gave me this - made out of scrap cedar and oak wood.  I just LOVE it!  💓  

Prior to my "asap" order, I requested a table for the family room.  What I love most about Philip's creations, besides the fact that they are made from local trees, is that they are perfectly imperfect.  I think it adds character and charm.  This photo doesn't do it justice . . . it really is a beauty.

Well, that's all I've got.  Not really . . . I always have something I want to write about.  I could write forever . . . but I'll refrain only because I don't want to completely bore you.  I will mention I'm going to be making some organic beeswax candles soon.  Oh - and those 100% beeswax candles I ordered from Holy Nativity Convent (which can be found here) were amazing.  So much so that I placed another order.  So why am I making my own?  Because I have two pounds of beeswax I need to use up.  Making beeswax candles isn't the easiest thing to do because they want to crack . . . but I'm going to give it one more whirl.  They can still be used with cracks, they just aren't as pretty.

Happy Tuesday!


January 8, 2017

When it's too cold to go outside and play . . .

In the 30's here in Lakeland, FL this morning ~ following an all day, much needed rain yesterday (loved the rain, hate the cold).

It's way too cold outside for me . . . and the girls are trying hard to look pathetic since I wont do the morning walk (we did drive them to the trail for a run though - you'd think they'd be grateful!).  That's the extent of my ventures outside.  Our highs today will be in the low 50's . . . still too cold.  So I'll continue to do what I did yesterday ~

. . . make beautiful lavender bar soap (used organic olive oil, palm kernel oil, castor oil, hemp oil, and lavender and patchouli essential oils ~ smells amazing) . . . and bath soaks . . . and whatever else strikes my fancy.   I really want to try some whipped body butter again.  My first attempt was a bust so I'm a little leery, but I keep reading how easy it is.

While I've been tinkering with my soaks and soaps, Philip's been busy in his woodshop.  More on that later.

Stay warm and may your gardens be safe from the cold and the winds.


January 4, 2017

Skin Cancer 101

Most of us living in Florida have heard about the dangers of skin cancer.  Not only am I a 4th generation Floridian (eye roll . . . I know, I say that a lot), but I was/am a sun worshiper.  Not much for church anymore, but the sun?  Yes, I have worshiped the sun ~ slathered in baby oil kind of worship (although not since my teens).  On my list of the top 10 things I love in life would be the warmth of the sun on my face.  In fact, when it's time for my journey to end, I can only hope I'm experiencing that feeling one last time.

But we all know how life works . . . too much of anything is just not good for you. Maya Angelou said it best - "Moderation in all things. And even moderation in moderation. Don't get too much moderation, you know?".

And oh how Philip and I have loved the outdoors since we were kids.  Not only did Philip play outside, he worked outside for most of his adult life too.  Even now, as a Chief Engineering Inspector, he spends quite a bit of time in the sun.  That's not going to change . . . but a number of things are.

There are three major types of skin cancer:  basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.  If you had to pick one to have (kind of like picking our last president - the worst of three evils) . . . you would want the basal cell kind.  It doesn't spread.  Squamous cell can spread, but rarely does . . . and melanoma ~ well, melanoma just plain sucks.  You would never pick melanoma.

Philip has squamous cell carcinoma.  Hopefully the more accurate way to put that is Philip HAD squamous cell carcinoma ~ as today he had "it" removed.  The bitch about this particular cancer is that if you've ever had it, the chances of getting it again are 50/50.  The good news is that when caught early, it's completely manageable.  Now you can bet I'll be going over that man with a fine tooth comb from here on out!  😍  I could never, in a million years, imagine my life without him.

So we switch to long sleeve work shirts and a hat . . . 50 spf sport fishing shirts.. . . daily sunscreen . . . and no more skinny-dipping in our blow-up pool every summer (which really sucks, but you do what you gotta do). 😏

I'm sharing this because one - I tend to share too much . . . and two - the doctor said that once the damage is done . . . well, it's done.  So it's important not to allow the damage to happen.  So my advice is . . . cover up ~ cover up now ~ and no more skinny-dipping!

As for my weird growth behind my ear . . . it's seborrheic keratoses - sounds freaky . . . but it's harmless and heredity (and already occupies many other body parts).  Just another thing to thank my father for.  There's no doubt I am my father's child - lock, stock, and barrel.  I can only hope my kids love me as much as I loved him.  💗

I can't end this post without a photo.  Now, I could photograph Philip's squamous cells, but that would be just plain gross (and the smell during his procedure - oh man, wasn't expecting that!) . . . how about I end with something pretty I captured this morning?


January 3, 2017

Too good not to share . . .

I read a lot of blogs ~ usually lurking behind the scenes quietly and rarely leaving any telltale signs of my visit (I'm even shy in blogosphere).  A couple of weeks ago I stopped by Simply Living (Sherry's Blog) and was introduced to an author and artist named Susan Branch.  Give me a book about a tiny cottage in the woods on Martha's Vineyard and I'm already half sold.  Add to that book handwritten pages, personal photos, drawings, quotes, etc . . . and I no longer care that it's a memoir (which I normally don't read) . . . I'm completely sold!

This has been a really tough couple of weeks for me stress wise.  Philip is dealing with more than a broken foot ~ he's also been diagnosed with skin cancer (we have our first post biopsy appointment tomorrow to learn more).  However, just prior to getting that call, Jennifer spotted this large growth/ flat mole behind my ear while visiting with us the day before Christmas.  Wouldn't you know I had just cancelled my yearly dermatology appointment too?!  I've had pre-cancerous spots removed many times from my face so naturally, being the hypochondriac that I am, I assumed it was cancer (I have bad, bad genes).  I worked myself into such a frenzy - that's anxiety for you.  Only my frenzies are quiet and internal . . . really the worst kind.  I said all that to tell you how amazing this book is because I'm a non-medicated, anxiety suffering, hypochondriac - and this book has been my saving grace the past two weeks.  Such beautiful pages - like the book itself is a work of art in a very cozy, warm way.  It even includes recipes that I want to try ~ can you believe that?!  I hate cooking!  😊  Flipping page by page, reading Susan's story, the quotes, looking at the photographs . . . it had such a calming effect on me.  It really provided a sense of ease when I needed it most (at bed time) . . . I mean really, one can only drink so much wine.

If you like a really cozy home or a sweet story or just a beautiful book (I don't think the cover does it justice), you might want to check out Martha's Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.  It's part 2 of a 3 part series, although I don't think it needs to be read in order.  Susan (after reading her book I feel like a first name basis is okay 😉) also has a blog (Susan's Blog) that is nearly as charming as her book ~ or maybe more so, I don't know.  I found a new source for my beeswax candles from her blog ~ ~ ~ a convent!  Holy Nativity Convent located in Brookline, Massachusetts to be exact.  First order should be here this week.  I think that's pretty cool.

Well that's it . . . no garden stuff in this post, but I couldn't resist sharing Susan's blog and book (she's written many books - this just happens to be the first I've read . . . second one has already been ordered).

Make sure you're using sunscreen!


January 1, 2017

100% Organic Peppermint Lip Balm

First let me say HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I love new beginnings . . . a time for fresh starts and new goals.  I have a number of goals this year - all of them health related as I've reached that point in life where one's body isn't as forgiving as it used to be.  😏

My garden is in great shape and since we're still home bound, I thought I might make something.  Not dinner, that's covered with collard greens and black eye'd peas simmering on the stove.  Smells delicious ~ and makes me think of Mom (it was one of her favorite dishes).  Nope - I decided to make some organic lip balm.  Mostly because Jennifer asked for it and I'm on my last tube.  This stuff feels amazing.  I use it a half dozen times a day and can't go to bed without putting some on.  It's so very soothing.  It is also so very easy to make!


1 Tbsp organic unrefined Coconut Oil
1 Tbsp organic Cocoa Butter (equates to four wafers)
2 Tbsp organic Sunflower Oil
1 Tbsp plus 1 teaspoon grated Beeswax
15 drops organic peppermint oil
3-5 drops of Vitamin E Oil


Place beeswax and oils and butters in a double boiler and gently heat until the beeswax has melted. Once melted, remove from the stove top and stir in the essential oils and Vitamin E. Immediately pour the mixture into your lip balm containers. Allow your balm to cool completely before sealing the containers. Makes enough to fill 10-11  tubes.

While I was working on this post (in the bird room), a hummingbird was visiting the garden and feeding on my red passion vine blooms. That's a first for me.

I have two feeders stationed through-out the garden that I keep clean and full and never once have I seen a hummingbird even slightly interested in them.  I guess given the choice, they prefer what Mother Nature has to offer.  Can't say I blame them.

May 2017 be a healthy and happy new year for us all . . . .


December 31, 2016

Hard to keep a good man down . . .

The good news is Philip doesn't need surgery on his foot . . . the bad news is he's in a cast for at least 12 more weeks.  He's already racking his brain as to how to wrap/protect his cast while on a 36 hour fishing trip scheduled in January for him and Jr.  The man is crazy.  Prior to us learning he had two broken bones, he kept trying to convince me he was up for a hike.  I'm like "Babe, your foot is swollen and you're limping . . . I'm not taking you hiking!". But that's Philip.  He knew I wanted to explore some trails this holiday break and he was willing to walk in pain to make that happen.  Actually he did ~ as we took a trip to a new trail in Fort Meade the first week we were off . . . but it was such a disappointment (liter every where) that we only spent a half hour on the trail.  Plus I knew then that he was pushing through some pain to walk and I'm not that mean (usually).  ;-)

Philip is damn near perfect . . . which in and of itself can be pretty annoying (I am so very flawed).  But what can you do?  He's suppose to rest his foot as much as possible, but what is he doing?  Woodworking.

I needed a little table to go beside the couch that would allow me to put the lamp I wanted on it without said lamp interfering with a cool "bookshop" piece I have hanging above (found that cool piece at Goodwill!).  Philip had the table ready in two days.  That is an oak table made from local trees.  

After the table, Philip asked me if I wanted him to make a couple of bird houses with scrap cedar wood (from Charlie's, aka Jr.'s, table).  Well of course I did!  I thought that was a fish hanging out front (photo above), but Philip said it's an arrow showing the birds the way to the entrance . . . which is covered in wire since rats like our bird houses more than the birds.  LOL

I mean if he insists on being on his feet . . . by all means, make "me" something.  😀 Even as I type this post, he's in his workshop.  Of course Santa did bring him a new table saw and planer.  Hey, Mrs. Hart is no dummy . . . I don't care what they say.

And here is where I'm typing.  💓  The bird room (back patio) is the best room in the house.  Santa brought me a new laptop and blogging while the birds are singing (and are they ever singing!) is pretty sweet.  

I'm going to close this post with a few photos of my Bones.  We have 4 beautiful dogs - each with their own distinctive personalities, but Bones ~ from nearly day one ~ stole my heart.  She's my buddy, my best friend (shhh - don't tell Philip).  And she is as goofy as the day is long.  The only thing she ever chases is lizards . . .

. . . and she always needs help catching them ~  (notice Nikki on the far right of the photo? Now Nikki can catch anything!  She brings us rats, snakes, etc. . . . she's a 3 legged beast!).

But Bones ~ my precious, sweet, loving, not too bright Bones  - she may be slow, but my word do I love that dog.  Once you let an animal into your heart . . . you are never the same.  And that's a good thing.

Well, it's time to drag Philip out of his workshop.  We have an exciting New Year's Eve planned . . .  beer and wine by the fire pit (and the rest of his "fine" cigar) and burgers on the grill . . . I'll be out by 9 PM ~ out and blessed.  

Here's hoping 2017 is a healthy and happy new year!!!!

December 29, 2016

An EXTREMELY rare sighting in my garden ~

He doesn't drink or smoke . . . and to find him sitting during daylight hours is beyond rare . . . but let him break his foot in two places and all hell breaks lose.  A beer and a fine cigar ~ if you ask me, he certainly deserves both.

We had a three week vacation this holiday that was to consist of a lot of hiking and local trail exploring.  Needless to say we haven't ventured far beyond the garden.

Queen's Wreath in full bloom
And the garden has been more than accommodating with the plants a bit confused with our very warm fall.  Hummingbirds visit often (two through out the day today) . . .

Tabebuia trees in bloom
. . . and blooms have stared early.  The tabebuia trees are most brilliant and the blooms remind me why I put up with the crazy seeds each spring.  I bet I pull a hundred or more seedlings up through out the garden each year.


Philip and I have reached the stage in life where every Christmas we find ourselves saying "Can you believe another year has gone by?".    I so love the holidays and all the decorating that starts the day after Thanksgiving  ~ broken foot or not.

Our entire little home is transformed . . . 

. . . and the effect is always one of coziness to me.

We've had our challenges this holiday season - more than just broken bones.  But we know we are blessed . . . and have so much to be thankful for.  Every morning Philip sits in my garden and says "Babe, this is beautiful."  And I feel the same way.  Challenges or not, life is good.