Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tea Party at Panola Valley Gardens - ABC of Summer Fun (Letter T)

On Sunday, August 13th, Sophia, Olivia, and I went to Panola Valley Gardens for an afternoon tea. The flowers were beautiful.

As we walked from the parking lot to the pavilion (in the background) where the tea party was being held, there were colorful gardens everywhere.

There were annuals combined with perennials.

There was a very light rain, so the flowers were covered with rain drops.

There were sheep grazing in the pasture in the distance.

Statues were in some of the gardens.

The afternoon tea menu was displayed so we knew what to expect.

The tea cups and pots were displayed on a table. Each guest could pick one cup and saucer; and there was one tea pot for each table.

Olivia liked the black tea pot, so we picked that one.

The tables were under a pavilion that had glass doors. Since it was sprinkling, the glass doors were closed.

The girls by the tea cup and tea pot table.

We had our own table in a quiet corner which was nice.

Our centerpiece was red and greens.

The table next to us had a centerpiece with pinks and purples.

This was our table setting. Each table had different color napkins, placemats, plates, and cups.

What was nice was that each table was reserved for only the guests in one's party. So, there was no need to make small talk with strangers.

There was lemon curd and Devonshire cream for the scones; and a fresh fruit plate.

We enjoyed a variety of sandwiches.

Sophia enjoyed sampling a variety of sandwiches. There were plenty of sandwiches for us to try each one.

There was a chicken salad sandwich and spanakopita that we all liked. Sophia and I liked the egg salad sandwiches too. 

The scones were delicious. Soft, slightly sweet, and flavorful - blueberry, raspberry, and cinnamon-apple flavors.

There were a variety of desserts.

The girls were so excited to try macaroons.

Each of the desserts was different from the other which was nice. There was such a variety in taste throughout the afternoon tea.

We all enjoyed the experience and would like to go back at another time. There are both lunches and afternoon teas throughout the summer. Perhaps this will become an annual activity for us.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Outdoor Mom's Journal - August

During our outdoor time this week we went....around our yard mostly. I'm surprised when I walk around the yard and look at trees from different angles.

This one, pictured below, was probably no more than 15 feet tall when we moved here in 1995. Now, it towers well above that and shades a good percentage of the northeast section of the backyard.

I also took the dogs on a long walk (45 minutes each; 1 1/2 hours total for me) as well as short walks just to have them go to the bathroom and see something different than the backyard.

Saw three deer on our walk which was a highlight of the week. The dogs were super excited to see the deer leaping across the road and into a field. Their white flag tails gave away where they were headed.

I always like looking at the clouds too. So many different formations, colors, and textures depending on the weather and time of day.

I was practicing some calling to the dogs to see if they would come to me.

Aspen was happy to play that game.

She put a lot of effort into running as fast as she could to me. 

She's such a great dog. All the dogs are so good. They get along very well now - like they've been together their entire lives.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...was not outside, but it had to do with wildlife. We went to a program at the library about reptiles and amphibians. We all learned a lot of new facts about various types of wildlife - like a corn snake, soft-shelled turtle, gecko, and alligator.

We also saw a Cane Toad (pictured below) that will puff itself up to appear larger to enemies. It originally was from South America, but was introduced to different countries and continents - including Australia. Originally, it was introduced as a way to reduce insects that were damaging farmers' crops.

The Cane Toad has poison glands near its head that, when consumed, are toxic. So, with no natural predators, however, the Cane Toad multiplied. The toad then became invasive and a pest more than a help. Human intervention needed to happen to control the Cane Toad population.

We also learned about bearded dragons. It is called “bearded” because of the dragon’s ability to flare out the skin in the throat region when it is threatened or territorial.

There was a boa constrictor that we all touched.

 It was very smooth and so docile.

Apparently, though, boa constrictors can take down larger animals - including deer, wild boar, and other big mammals.

The other inspiring thing are the flowers this year. Our Oriental Lilies did exceptionally well and provided a fragrant entry to and from the driveway to the home. There were a variety of pinks and whites. This one is one of the last remaining lilies of the season. 

The prairie wildflowers also are doing well. Off and on during the season, the flowers have been  blooming. This purple one has many flowers on it now.

The honey bees and wild bees have been visiting the flowers and blossoms. It's been nice seeing them have a variety of things to choose from for their nectar and pollen sources.

In June, I planted violets and pansies underneath the pine trees by the back door. The garden center staff said that they will last a little while in June, but by July - with all the heat - they will be gone.

There are still some flowers blooming which has been nice to see. They are so dainty and colorful; and definitely like the shade of the pine trees.

I also tried something new this year: borage. It's supposed to attract bees, so people put it in their garden. The plant gets pretty big and there are these unusual flowers on it.

There's another type of flower that I really like: Lantana. These colorful little flowers have a variety of different colors on them - pinks, oranges, and yellows. 

They are annuals, and add so much vivid color to a planter that I have them in. They are right outside the mudroom window, so multiple times per day (when I let the dogs outside), I get to enjoy them.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...why does one of our horses drool excessively during the summer, but not the other one?

Found out that the drooling is linked to red clover. According to EquiMed, "Horses grazing in pastures where clover is present face health problems depending on the type of clover, how much is present in the forage, and whether or not it is contaminated with fungus or other toxins."

EquiMed continued, "Horses grazing in pastures where clover is present face health problems depending on the type of clover, how much is present in the forage, and whether or not it is contaminated with fungus or other toxins."

It seems like this condition is linked to "the toxin slaframine in Red Clover [that is] infested with Rhizoctonia leguminicola which causes excessive salivation." It also can result from molds that grow in the sweet clover.

What is comforting to know that the red clover plant is not toxic. However, it is an annoyance for both the horse and owner because horses will slobber a tremendous amount. Slaframine poisoning is the official name for this condition. It's not life-threatening which is good. 

"Basically, the slaframine stimulates the salivary glands and causes horses to drool. Although this is a nuisance, horses rarely suffer any health effects from grazing infected clover," EquiMed noted.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting....tomatoes and herbs mostly. Sophia entered dried rosemary in the county fair and received a blue ribbon; and I entered dried chives and basil from the garden. Both received blue ribbons as well.

Picked a bowl full of tomatoes from the garden this afternoon along with a pepper and some basil. This year, the tomatoes have done the best out of all the vegetables (mainly due to the rabbit situation).

I added nature journal pages about....nothing yet. I still need to get caught up with my July entries before adding some for August. The time just seems to be going by too quickly.

I am reading...
books unrelated to nature and wildlife at this moment. Most of the time reading is spent on reviewing curriculum and writing syllabi for the upcoming homeschooling year.

That being said, I'm excited about this year's curriculum that Olivia will be using for history. It has a nature journaling component to it as well as poetry that focuses on nature poems.

So, I'll be reading more about nature and wildlife next month once we start working on that curriculum.

I am dreaming about…wanting to see the last states that I haven't explored yet in the United States; and taking the girls to states they haven't visited yet.

Ohio and Georgia are the only states left that I haven't visited.

It would be nice to see some state and national parks in the states we visit. Some of the best memories from trips I've taken in recent years are from visiting parks and sanctuaries.

A photo I would like to share...
this is thistle that is growing on our farm. It is a nightmare in terms of trying to get rid of this stuff. Although the flower is pretty - such a beautiful shade of purple - and the bees and goldfinches love it, it plays havoc with the horses' manes and forelocks.

Today, as I was trying to smash the plants down (which are about 4 1/2 feet tall at this point), my hair would get stuck in the burrs. It happens so quickly and then you're tangled.

With the horses, the burrs get tangled in their manes and forelocks. They just pull them out of the plant when they move. They wait until we remove them since they can't do that on their own.

In my case, I could use my fingers and remove my hair from the burrs. It took a while. The burrs had a very firm grasp on my hair. 

I remember my dad telling me to get rid of thistle and burdock. They cause more problems than what they are worth. It's time to take his advice and put it into action.

Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Simple Woman's Daybook - August 10, 2017

For Today...

Looking out my's overcast...perhaps another rainstorm is coming.

I am thinking...about my Mom. On August 15th, it will be two years since she died.

Mom with Jordan (nephew), Olivia, and Sophia.
(Taken on May 28, 2015.)

Two years ago today would have been the last time I saw her. We went to Fare for All to get some food and we were going to go grocery shopping to get items that her PCAs had suggested she get. She was angry about having to get items on the list because she was getting concerned about how much her medical care was costing.

Mom, Sophia, and Olivia at a church festival.
My mom loved attending festivals; and having a delicious meal.
(Taken on August 10, 2014.)

We ended up going back to her home and she suggested we have lunch together. I'm glad that we did. It ended up being a very nice lunch - both Sophia and Olivia were there - so they were, as well, able to see her the week that she died. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture that day. (The last photo I have of my Mom was taken on May 28th.)

Interestingly, all her grandchildren and children saw her that week. That was highly unusual that she would have seen all of us in one week. We were all so grateful that we had that opportunity to see her.

I am thankful...for a free session on the Pilates Reformer. It was to give me a demonstration about how it worked and see if it might be a good fit for what I'm needing and looking for in a workout. It definitely is!

I used a Pilates Reformer similar to this one.

It worked muscles that aren't normally worked, it was low-impact (good for degenerative disk disease in my lower spine and arthritis in my knees), and reminded me of when I used to dance (ballet and pointe lessons).

One of my favorite evenings and mornings which means I can keep my windows open at night now.

I am creating...I just finished a mug rug for the county fair. It is embroidered and made from wool felt. It ended up not being judged because apparently all mug rugs are sewn on the machine...or at least the ones that they wanted to judge. Nonetheless, it was from a pattern that I have had for many years. Finally got around to making it.

Also made a window star. It's a combination of three different window star patterns. Enjoyed making it and trying something new. It took 400 folds to make the window star.

I am wearing...khaki shorts and a black cardigan. It has become my "go to" outfit during the summer. It's been easier wearing the same outfit and not have to think about what to wear. I can focus on other things.

I am reading...curricula and getting the girls' homeschool classes set up. I'm done with Sophia's classes and am working on Olivia's now.

This is a very different year because both the girls are in high school - Olivia is in 9th grade and Sophia in 11th grade. The girls are getting a head start on some of their classes as a way to lighten their academic load during the year. With Sophia taking two PSEO courses, she'll be spending quite a bit of time on them.

I am hoping...that the impact of resigning from being the 4-H leader for the club I started and led for three years was the right one for the girls. I need to be able to focus more of my time in supporting them with their courses. I can't do that if I'm trying to do programming and run a club. It just took too much time away from homeschooling.

Sophia giving a demonstration about how to make donuts
at a 4-H meeting.
(March 2017.)

Yet, it did provide a wealth of experiences for them in such a variety of project areas, skill development, and leadership opportunities. I'm grateful for the three years they were able to fully experience 4-H.

I am learning...that I need to take care of myself better than what I have been doing over the past five years. A lot of grief and loss issues that definitely have affected me - not only the loss of both my parents, but the loss of some friendships...or at least what I thought were friendships.

In my kitchen...Sophia made blueberry muffins with fresh blueberries this morning. She also made lemon bread with fresh lemons. What a difference fresh fruit can make in baked goods (versus frozen fruit and lemon juice in a jar).

In the school room...I'm looking forward to this year because it is the first year - in many years - that I won't have the distraction of leading a 4-H club or I'm not caregiving for my parents.

The last time I was truly focused on homeschooling without a lot of obligations was probably in 2008.

Sophia making a book.
She's adding a piece of straw to the page about scarecrows.
(Taken on October 19, 2007.)

Olivia stopping on a nature walk to do some nature journaling.
(Taken on September 7, 2007.)

Wow...I didn't realize it was that long ago. Almost nine years. Sophia would have been almost 8 years old and Olivia would have been almost 6 years old.

My Dad just came back from an 11-day stay at a hospital.
Sophia was feeding him since he was having trouble feeding himself.
(Taken on November 4, 2011.)

Those nine years were filled - perhaps overfilled - with activities and life experiences.

A break from the day to read some of the books that came from Sonlight.
(Taken on April 22, 2010.)

It will be interesting to see how these next few years - two years of high school for Sophia and four years of high school for Olivia - will unfold.

In my garden...there's some vegetables and herbs that the rabbits haven't eaten! After losing all the onions, carrots, beets, cucumbers, and radishes to rabbits, we finally have some food to harvest.

It's not a lot compared to past years. However, it's flavorful!

Board room...on my Organization and Simplicity Pinterest board, I have a pin for a Konmari checklist. With less on my plate with overseeing a club, I'll have more time to focus on creating a more organized home. I've heard many good things about getting rid of things that no longer "spark joy" in one's life using this method. The list has a step-by-step checklist of the things to go through and simplify in the order recommended by Konmari method.

Shared Quote

A moment from my day...we were at a capital campaign luncheon today and a couple of people at our table asked Sophia and Olivia about projects they were working on and if they were competing at the State Fair this year.

Olivia will be going in Video/Filmmaking for a video she made about how she envisions a better world. She focused on a local humane society; and hopes that one day all animals will be in loving homes. This is the video she made that she will be competing in at the State Fair; and that will be shown throughout the Fair in the 4-H Building: A Better World for Animals.

Sophia playing the harp for a cat waiting to be adopted.
(Taken on April 8, 2016.)

Sophia will be competing in the Computers project - about how she created a website for her new CD of harp music. She used SquareSpace as a platform and chose one of the templates. From there, she completely changed the look - from the photos, typeface, and content. It truly became her own website which was fun to see develop.

This is Sophia's CD of harp music.
Her website is at

Closing Notes....thank you for coming by and visiting.