Projects & Phlowers – First Roses/Grain Alcohol – Update

The first rose to bloom in my 2021 garden was ‘Blue Lagoon.’ This beautiful rose is one of my oldest bushes, and is so large, I have to trim it to keep it off the back wall of the house. It is very disease resistant, and best of all, the flowers are sweetly fragrant.

The fragrance makes it a perfect choice to add to my Grain Alcohol Springtime blend. Last year, I wrote of using Vodka to extract the fragrant floral oils from flowers. I had a bit of success, however, the immediate results of using the higher proof Grain Alcohol has been truly exciting. Unfortunately, the color of the petals is also extracted. At this time, because of the mix of many colors, the Grain Alcohol is a muddy brown, but the scent, oh my, the scent is sublime.

I only use flowers that are edible, or that I have researched as non-poisonous. There are some beautiful fragrant flowers that I don’t use. Lily of the Valley is an example of a fragrance I like, but the plant is toxic, and isn’t something I want to take a chance with in my extraction. Skin can absorb the oils in the extraction so anything that is edible seems to be a safer choice.

The pink of the petals will disappear in two days. The fragrance in the flower will transfer in the same amount of time. I’m eagerly awaiting the blossoming of honeysuckle in our area. I will work on this jar until the end of May and then begin a ‘Summer’ jar of fragrant flowers.

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology/Part 19 – Frequent in Praise/Increasing in Thankfulness

Praise to our Father in Heaven increases our thankfulness. I also want to thank him today for all the beautiful women in my life. For my mother, my mother-in-law, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, sisters, sister-in-laws, aunts, daughter-in-law, nieces, cousins, grand-daughters, friends, extended family members, and I thank him for all the new ladies he will bring into my life in the coming years. God has blessed my life with so many beautiful women. I thank him for his presence in my life, and for the love of so many. God bless you all on this Mother’s Day.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon – John’s Doxology

“These doxologies occur again and again throughout this book as if to remind us to be frequent in praise; and they grow as they proceed, to hint to us that we also should increase in thankfulness.”

Photo Challenges – Yellow Sunshine in the Raindrops

The photos in this post are part of Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge – May Macro. This dahlia, and others, are waiting to be planted in pots alongside my front porch.

These pretty begonias will be planted alongside of them. I usually plant in pink color schemes in the front, this year I’ve decided on sunshine yellows and purple.

The torenia has a pool of rainwater in the center.

Torenia is also known as the wishbone flower. I shook away the water from this blossom so the wishbone would be visible.

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology/Part 18 – His Compassions are Divine

Sometimes, I can come up dry and empty when it comes to writing blog posts. Isn’t it amazing that at those times when we flounder, and can’t seem to get ourselves together, or moving in the right direction, His Compassions toward us are still divine?

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” ~Psalm 91:4

He lifts me up. He hides me under His wing. God is so good. Praise His Holy Name.

C.H. Spurgeon – John’s Doxology –

“Words are but air and tongues but clay,
But His compassions are divine.”

We want to get out of these fetters, and rise into something better adapted to the emotions of our spirit; I cannot emulate the songsters of Immanuel’s land though I would gladly do so; but as Berridge says

“Strip me of this house of clay,
And I will sing as loud as they.”

Phlowers & Pheathers – April 30th, Growing in the Garden/The Hummingbirds Return

We have been seeing a small ruby-throated hummingbird for two weeks. It has been visiting the feeder of nectar I have outside the kitchen window. Every other day, I bring the feeder in, soak it in hot, sudsy water, and refill with newly boiled sugar water. (2 Cups water, 1/2 Cup sugar) Hummingbird feeders can spread disease or become contaminated with mold. A great article on feeding hummingbirds can be found at EcoSystem Gardening.

NOTE: Thanks to a reader for the great comment about cleaning with vinegar. I did a bit of research on it and this is a good choice for cleaning the feeder. Also, another good idea is to use a brush to thoroughly clean all the nooks around the feeder openings. Here’s a link to more ideas for cleaning a hummingbird feeder. How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder.

Mandevilla Vines come in a variety of colors. I chose to grow the pink flowers this year. These vines are beloved by hummingbirds. The vines bloom from Spring until Autumn, they do well in full sun, but also need to be shaded from the hottest late afternoon rays. I am growing the Mandevilla in a pot so that when summer is over I can bring it indoors for the colder months.

My mandevilla flowers are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day and also an entry in this week’s Skywatch Friday.

I have three hanging baskets a yard or two away from the hummingbird feeder. These are filled with plants I know hummingbirds adore. Blue Suede Salvia and Vista Red Salvia, also called sages, have the trumpet-shaped flowers that perfectly fit a hummingbird’s beak and tongue. These plants do great in full sun, but also can take a bit of shade too.

My beautiful Vermillion Cuphea, also known as Firecracker plants, are always a favorite with the hummingbirds. I grow them in the ground and also planted in pots. Last Autumn, the Firecracker plant I grew in a pot easily transferred to the house. It grew well all winter, and this week I placed it outdoors on the patio again. It is doing well, although some of the uppermost leaves, after growing in the lower light of the house, promptly became sunburned. Since I pinched the tops of these stems, new branching will soon leaf out and cover up the scorched top leaves.

Cuphea plants in a row will make a nice seasonal hedge. This plant is perennial in warmer climates.

Phlower – Tuberose Begonias

I purchased this beautiful Begonia last week. Shhhhh….if truth be told, I purchased three of them and placed them in a terracotta pot to grow indoors. The plants fill a 10 inch pot, creating a gorgeous view from all sides. I’ve been turning the pot a quarter turn each day to keep the stems growing and blooming evenly. I have the plants in one of my sunniest windows.

I’ve grown begonias sold for outdoor planting, indoors, for many years. They do very well living inside the house. The one problem area I need to be careful of is not letting the top of the soil become soggy. I plan to use some of my leftover seed starter mix on the top layer. I have a devil of a time getting this medium to become wet for planting. Maybe it will be the perfect soil topping for the begonias, and keep their lower stems dry, while easily letting water reach the roots below. Another tip for growing begonias in terracotta is to frequently wipe the upper lip of the pot with a damp rag. This will remove built up salts that could eat through a stem that rests upon the pot’s rim.

I found a good site with great information on growing tuberose begonias outdoors – Longfield Gardens – TIPS FOR GROWING TUBEROUS BEGONIAS.

My beautiful pink begonia is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Photo Challenge – Dewdrops

Bright April – Dewdrops – The word dewdrop brings to mind poetry. It’s such a pretty word for an ephemeral miracle of condensation. I thought this was a perfect photo for ‘getting to know you,‘ courtesy of the lens-artist photo challenge #145. Laying on the ground to get a perfect capture is very much who I am, the photo tells a bit of my story in that aspect, and so lets you know a little about me.

Each tiny dewdrop resembles a streetlight. I wonder if they illuminate the way of insects traversing the sprigs of grass. The brightness of this square will be my last entry in Becky’s April – Bright Square Challenge.

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology/Part 17 – If You Begin…

If you begin praising God you are bound to go on. The work engrosses the heart. It deepens and broadens like a rolling river.” ~C.H. Spurgeon

Often, praise for my Father in Heaven, begins like a gentle stream within me, moving in the right direction, steady, bubbling with joy. Sometimes, praise begins in the quiet hours of the night. I wake, and my thoughts rest on Him, and I say before sleeping once more, ‘I love you Lord.’

Just as C.H. Spurgeon says in this paragraph from ‘John’s Doxology,’ when I praise God I am bound to go on. Praising the Father of all Creation does engross my heart. I love Spurgeon’s illustration that praise can begin with a tear of gratitude, going on to join the everlasting hallelujahs that surround the throne of God. Amen!

The portion I’ve based this post on is below. It seems daunting in it’s length, but if you have time, try to read it through. It shows the wonderful way Spurgeon led his congregation through the Bible passages for this sermon. What an amazing preacher and Bible scholar. What always comes through to me as I read his words is this man truly loved God.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon – John’s Doxology

Secondly, let us look at THE OUTBURST ITSELF. It is a doxology, and as such does not stand alone: it is one of many. In the Book of the Revelation doxologies are frequent, and in the first few chapters they distinctly grow as the book advances. If you have your Bibles with you, as you ought to have, you will notice that in this first outburst only two things are ascribed to our Lord. “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” Now turn to the fourth chapter at the ninth verse, and read, “Those living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne.” Here we have three words of honour. Run on to verse eleven, and read the same. “Saying, thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.” The doxology has grown from two to three in each of these verses. Now turn to chapter v. 13. “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Here we have four praise-notes. Steadily but surely there is an advance. By the time we get to chapter vii. 12, we have reached the number of perfection, and may not look for more. “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.” If you begin praising God you are bound to go on. The work engrosses the heart. It deepens and broadens like a rolling river. Praise is somewhat like an avalanche, which may begin with a snow-flake on the mountain moved by the wing of a bird, but that flake binds others to itself and becomes a rolling ball: this rolling ball gathers more snow about it till it is huge, immense; it crashes through a forest; it thunders down into the valley; it buries a village under its stupendous mass. Thus praise may begin with the tear of gratitude; anon the bosom swells with love; thankfulness rises to a song; it breaks forth into a shout; it mounts up to join the everlasting hallelujahs which surround the throne of the Eternal. What a mercy it is that God by his Spirit will give us greater capacities by-and-by than we have here! for if we continue to learn more and more of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge we shall be driven to sore straits if confined within the narrow and drowsy framework of this mortal body. This poor apparatus of tongue and mouth is already inadequate for our zeal.

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden/April 23, 2021

I love bleeding heart bushes and their blossoms. The heart-shaped droplets truly do resemble hearts. These beautiful florets are my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

From just a few rhizomes my grape iris have multiplied over the years into several large patches of deep purple bloom. These are also a Springtime favorite of mine. The fragrance they emit is outstanding.

Grape hyacinths are blooming in shades of periwinkle along the borders of several gardens.

The Johnny-Jump-Ups that overwintered are filling the hanging baskets and blooming over the edges. They are gorgeous.

Phlowers – Flower of the Day/Bright Yellow Alyssum

The beautiful gold tones, the delicate details, of Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) are blooming in my garden today. A perfect choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day and also Bright April Squares Challenge from BeckyB of Winchester.

My Plant is about ten inches tall, and about that size in width too. I planted it last Spring and it came through a snowy New Jersey winter very well. The flowers only bloom one time for me, but the bluish green foliage blends in well with other garden plants.

My golden alyssum florets and stems press perfectly. I gather a few and place them between the pages of a book. Long after the outdoor blooms have come and gone, the pressed flowers from this plant are still vibrant and intact.

The Spruce has a great article on growing Yellow Alyssum. (Aurinia saxatilis)

Pots and Pans – Meringue Cookies

When we vacation in Jamaica I adore having meringue cookies for dessert. They are always available at the lunchtime buffet in the Cornwall Hotel.

I rarely find meringue cookies in my area, but then, do I really look hard enough? Recently, I came upon Ina Garten’s recipe for Salted Pistachio Meringue cookies and my craving for them would not be denied.

Ina Garten’s recipe made a large cookie and appeared time-consuming. The meringue needed to be whipped for 10 minutes, but I loved the idea of pistachios and salt on the top. I had some pistachios in the pantry and felt it was a perfect opportunity to use them.

I found another Food Network Star’s recipe for meringues. The Pioneer Woman’s recipe was super-simple, prettier, called for no special ingredients, and was very easy to make. I added Ina Garten’s topping and had the perfect cookie.

The cookies are not for everyone, I think they are a bit of an acquired taste. I know I probably would have turned my nose up at them when I was a child. My husband doesn’t care for them. I, on the other hand, have to stop myself from eating a dozen at a time.

They keep very well. Mine are about four days old and still light and crisp, stored in an air-tight mason jar. Delicious!

Here are the two recipes I combined:

The Pioneer Woman – How to Make Meringues – Vanilla Meringue Cookies

Ina Garten – Salted Pistachio Meringue Cookies

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology/Part 16 – Unfurled

I love coming upon fiddle ferns springing up from the floor of the woods. After sleeping underground all winter, they unfurl from beneath the blanket of leaves that have enriched the soil. When I think of all Jesus has done for me I can relate to those ferns. If I am tightly wound, and dismayed by the rapid changes in our world, his presence calms me, and helps me grow upright and more in love with Him each day.

Jesus is our Redeemer. Instead of reaping the penalty for our sins, he washes us clean and raises our head, he makes us priests to God. How can I not praise Him? I pray that every heart will be filled with his love. I believe each of us, by serving Him, can, and will, make a difference in this world.

C.H. Spurgeon – John’s Doxology

“To him that lov’d the souls of men,
And wash’d us in his blood,
To royal honours raised our head,
And made us priests to God;
“To him let every tongue be praise,
And every heart be love!
All grateful honours paid on earth,
And nobler songs above!”

Thus much upon the condition of heart which suggests these doxologies.

Photo Challenges – Bright Dandelion and a Wildflower Walk

I love dandelion puffs. Backlit by the morning sun, the photo becomes naturally monochromatic. There are some interesting sparkles shining in the fluffy parachutes. The correct name for the fluff is pappus. You can find more dandelion information on Quora.

Today, I came upon a great blog called Good One God Challenge. My entry for the challenge is this beautiful dandelion. The dandelion against the sky is part of Skywatch. The square shape and the bright sunshine makes it perfect for today’s Life of B – April Squares Bright challenge entry. While not bright in color, the photo conveys a sense of brightness in the contrast.

I found the beautiful puff of dandelion on this week’s wildflower walk. These bright and beautiful wildflowers are blooming now in my Mid-Atlantic state of New Jersey. (Do squares in a square count as a bright square? I’ll have to ask Becky.)

Top to bottom, left to right, the wildflower names are:

1. Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) – An invasive groundcover in the mint family.

2. Speedwell Persian (Veronica-persicaiolet) – Very small flowers, but they capture the color of the sky. It’s everywhere at this time of year in NJ, but soon disappears when hot weather arrives.

3. Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) – This plant is invasive, but it also has the beautiful yellow petals of buttercups, and is in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae.

4 Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Nutritious, the plant has many benefits.

5. Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) – Although it can be invasive, it is an important wildflower for early pollinators. In this photograph you can see a Cabbage White Butterfly feeding on the small flowers.

6 White Violets (Viola blanda) – These are lovely, but like many wildflowers, can become invasive and take over your garden beds and lawn.

7. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) – I learned this wildflower is a wild edible, but also can be invasive.

8. Periwinkle (Myrtle vinca) – Not just a wildflower, this plant is sometimes sold in garden nurseries as an evergreen groundcover.

9. Indian Strawberry (Duchesnea indica) – The small strawberries are not edible. The leaves can be used to treat eczema.

Phruit – Dragon Fruit

Today I’m taking part in the Squares Challenge/Life of B/April – Bright . I think these Dragon Fruit I recently purchased are the perfect choice for bright.

Dragon Fruit, proper name Pitaya or Pitayaha, come in two colors, a beautiful bright sunshine gold, and these amazing magenta-crimson variety. So far, after sampling both types in the past few weeks, I am a little more partial to the gold, Perhaps the red variety wasn’t quite as ripe as it should be though, so I will give it another two chances…exactly the amount of dragon fruit I still have left.

After reading the link below, I was able to conclude my Dragon Fruit was ready to eat. The fruit was bright in color and the ‘wings’ on the skin had browned a bit and started to wither.

3 Ways to Tell if a Dragon Fruit is Ripe

I took a chance when I purchased this fruit. It is very expensive. For some reason I thought they grew on trees. I was surprised to find they are a type of cactus. A piece of the stem from the cactus is visible on one end of this fruit. Would I be able to propagate it using this stem? I don’t know, perhaps I’ll give it a try. I do know I will be saving some of the seeds in an attempt to grow them into a plant. I’ll update my progress in future posts.

How to grow a Dragon fruit from fruit’s seeds.

The seeds in a Dragon Fruit are edible, much like a Kiwi. I slice the fruit in half and scoop it out with a spoon. I prefer the fruit to come to room temperature if it has been stored in the refrigerator. Delicious!

Place – Wildwood, New Jersey/Small and Large

We recently spent an ‘off-season’ night in a Jersey Shore hotel right where the North Wildwood Boardwalk begins. It was chilly, but being avid beachcombers, we ventured out near sunset. These photographs are part of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge/Size Comparison of Objects.

Jersey Shore beaches, especially in Wildwood, are usually low and flat. Beach replenishment is the purpose of these sand dunes, and they will eventually be leveled off. They are huge. You can see how small the people in the distance appear alongside of them.

We can’t wait until the sounds and sights of New Jersey’s boardwalks are back to normal again.

Somewhere in those waves are the porpoises we saw swimming in a pod. It’s the first time I’ve seen them at this time of year, and in such large numbers. By the time I pushed the shutter button on my camera, they were back underwater again.

I’ve visited the Jersey shore for over five decades. I don’t think I’ve missed a summer in all that time. This sand dollar is a first. They are rare to find on our beaches. They are usually broken up by the heavy surf. Could the sand dollar have been scooped up with some of the dune sand and then washed away onto the beach? I don’t know how it happened, but I was blessed to find it. One small sand dollar on a very large beach…a miracle.

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology/Part 15 – Enthusiastic Joy

While visiting Jamaica, I remember watching for the start of sunset each evening. Unencumbered by the trees and buildings that block out sunsets where I live, the beautiful glory of God’s gift to us in the Jamaican sunset over the ocean was a source of enthusiastic joy within me.

I love what Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached in this portion of John’s Doxology. The sight and thought that prompted him to enthusiastic joy was the multitude of the redeemed. I hope and pray that when I think of the brotherhood of those who love Christ Jesus that I will be prompted to enthusiastic joy too.

C.H. Spurgeon – John’s Doxology

Once more. I think we have brought out two points which are clear enough. John had realized his Master, and firmly grasped the blessings which his Master brought him; but he had also felt, and was feeling very strongly, his communion with all the saints. Notice the use of the plural pronoun. We should not have wondered if he had said, “Unto him that loved me, and washed me from my sins in his own blood.” Somehow there would have been a loss of sweetness had the doxology been so worded, and it would have hardly sounded like John. John is the very mirror of love, and he cannot live alone, or rejoice in sacred benefits alone. John must have all the brotherhood round about him, and he must speak in their name, or he will be as one bereft of half himself. Beloved, it is well for you and me to use this “us” very often. There are times when it is better to say “me,” but in general let us got away to the “us”; for has not our Lord taught us when we pray to say, “Our Father which art in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses,” and so on? Jesus does not bid us say, “My Father.” We do say it, and it is well to say it; but yet our usual prayers must run in the “Our Father” style; and our usual praises must be, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins.” Let me ask you, beloved brethren, do you not love the Lord Jesus all the better and praise him all the more heartily because his grace and love are not given to you alone? Why, that blessed love has embraced your children, your neighbours, your fellow church-members, myriads who have gone before you, multitudes that are round about you, and an innumerable company who are coming after; and for this we ought to praise the gracious Lord with unbounded delight. It seems so much the more lovely,— this salvation, when we think of it, not as a cup of water of which one or two of us may drink, but as a well of water opened in the desert, ever flowing, ever giving life and deliverance and restoration to all who pass that way. “Unto him that loved us.” Oh, my Lord, I bless thee for having loved me; but sometimes I think I could adore thee for loving my wife, for loving my children, and all these dear friends around me, even if I had no personal share in thy salvation. Sometimes this seems the greater part of it, not that I should share in thy compassion, but that all these poor sheep should be gathered into thy fold and kept safe by thee. The instinct of a Christian minister especially leads him to love Christ for loving the many; and I think the thought of every true worker for the Lord runs much in the same line. No man will burst out into such joyful adoration as we have now before us unless he has a great heart within him, full of love to all the brotherhood; and then, as he looks upon the multitude of the redeemed around about him, he will be prompted to cry with enthusiastic joy

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden/April 9, 2021

I planted a new Forsythia in the side garden. It seems to be doing well, and the bright yellow blooms have been a mood booster for sure. The Forsythia is part of this week’s Friday Skywatch.

Daffodils are still opening and blooming in several different colors and sizes.

Starflowers are opening up in the side garden.

Siberian Squill, one of my Springtime favorites, reflects the gorgeous blue of the sky. This dainty flower is my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day. (I had originally, in error, named this bulb plant as Glory of the Snow. Reading another bloggers post I realized I had the wrong name and changed it to the correct label.)

Periwinkles are my ‘never-give-up’ flower. They are surrounded on all sides, overtaken by English Ivy, yet they wiggle their way through the tangled stems and bloom every Spring.

“Flowers are the music of the ground. From earth’s lips spoken without sound.” ~Edwin Curran (American Poet)

Place – Cape May Bunker

The old World War II Bunker is still standing on the beach at Cape May Point State Park. The history of the bunker can be found on the Atlas Obscura site. This is an interesting site to explore. It’s always fun to find new and unknown history to visit in person or virtually.

This rusty old relic is my choice for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge of Rusty or Decayed.

Praise – Charles Haddon Spurgeon/John’s Doxology/Part 14 – Peace with God

We are living in a time when peace seems near impossible. It’s not necessarily warfare I am speaking of, although that could spring up at any moment, but more so the constant pecking away of politicians, false media reports, and manufactured crises for stealing away freedom, human rights, and prosperity.

For those who have given their hearts and lives to Christ Jesus, it is a blessing to have the assurance that no matter what happens here on earth, Jesus has made peace for us with God. From every fiber of my being I thank him for giving his life for me, for taking my sins upon himself, for opening the way to eternal life and everlasting fellowship with him in Glory.

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. ~ Revelation 21:23

C.H. Spurgeon – John’s Doxology

“O how sweet to view the flowing
Of the Saviour’s precious blood!
With divine assurance, knowing
He has made my peace with God.”

This well-grounded assurance will throw you into ecstasy, and it will not be long before the deep of your heart will well up with fresh springs of adoring love. Then shall you also praise the Lord with some such words as these: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”