The Best Laid Plans…

Posted by mrssmythe on September 1, 2015 in Celebrations, Homeschool, iPhone photography, Musings, Out & About, Seasons |

Yesterday was the last day the girls had before school officially started, and I wanted to do something special to mark our “end of summer”. So, I planned a trip to a spot in Connecticut we’ve been wanting to visit all summer – Sonny’s Place.


They have quite a bit to do there – go-karts, batting cages, a zip-line, an arcade…. We decided, though, to keep it simple for our first visit and confined our activities to a round of mini golf.

I’m so glad we did, because Monday was incredibly hot – probably one of the hottest days we’ve had all year. Add to that the fact that we were there at two in the afternoon, and…well, you get the picture. We were roasting.

However, I want to emphasize that if it hadn’t been so hot, we would have thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The mini golf course at Sonny’s is excellent.


And, Pepper was excited to have a golf ball that matched her newly dyed hair (a temporary spray dye, in case you’re wondering).


There were fountains and pools of water everywhere – which we normally love to see, but yesterday, it was torture. We wanted to be in the water, not just looking at it.


The party in front of us – a woman and two children – quit at the fourteenth hole. The last I saw of them, the kids were in the back of a mini van, guzzling water from their sippy-cups, their damp hair plastered to their foreheads. Ginger called it quits at hole 16. Pepper and I stuck it out to the end…but just barely.

After that, it was ice cream and water for everyone, which salvaged the experience somewhat, but it was hard not to feel disappointed. I had wanted it to be an occasion for all of us – a nice, pleasant way to end the summer. Things just didn’t go the way I’d planned.

Now, contrast yesterday’s adventure with today’s.

Today, we finished school and decided – spur of the moment – to head to the spray park one town over. I sat in a lawn chair (in the shade) and read. The girls ran through the water or played in the creek. Pepper found an egg-shaped rock…


and I tried to think of different ways to photograph it.


Then I collected acorns that had fallen in the parking lot.


We didn’t spend a cent. We didn’t drive far. We didn’t do anything new or “exciting”, but, everyone went home happy. It was wonderful.

So, this evening, I’ve been reflecting on the things we plan versus the things we don’t plan, wondering why it is that the unplanned ones usually work out so much better than the ones we plan. At least that’s been my experience.

Maybe it has to do with expectations. Or, maybe there’s another explanation, entirely. Whatever the reason, it’s interesting to think about.

From the dining room table, having just placed all of those acorns outside for our squirrels to find,

Mrs. Smythe

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Technicolor Garden

Posted by mrssmythe on August 27, 2015 in Garden |

In the eighties, Lois Ehlert wrote and illustrated a children’s book that talked about how she and her mother “planted a rainbow” every year. They planted bulbs. They planted seeds. They planted seedlings from the garden center, and all with the intent of reproducing every color of the rainbow in flower form. Nothing exotic. Nothing difficult to come by. All very doable.

That idea has stuck with me through the years.

And, to some extent, I’ve tried to do that in my own garden. The problem is – I don’t have my timing down yet. The colors come in waves. Right now, my garden is pinky/purple. A month ago, it was orange and white. I have yet to produce a consistent, balanced rainbow.

Maybe I need more annuals – something that will bloom predictably all summer. And, I’m sure it would help if I planted some bulbs. (Maybe this fall). Until then, I’ll have to satisfy myself with colors in uneven ratios.

For example:



Right now, I have very little red…a couple of pots of impatiens and a petunia. That’s it.



One lone zinnia – more peach, really, than orange.



Here’s where things pick up. The black-eyed susans are out in force. Yellow is well represented.



Plenty of green all season long in the lawn and the general foliage. No worries here.



A handful of bachelor’s buttons – and some would argue these are more purple than blue. I do have some morning glories, but they’re in the backyard and are easily overlooked. I’ll have to see about moving them up to the front next year.



The butterfly bush springs to mind – though it’s a pinky purple.

And pink.


Admittedly not a “rainbow” color, but profuse in the garden right now. I have cosmos upon cosmos upon cosmos. Three quarters of them are pink. The rest of them are pink and white.

So, having taken stock (and, admittedly, talked your ear off about flowers), I’m excited to see what I can put together for next year’s garden. Hopefully, I can achieve a more balanced rainbow – and even if I can’t, it’ll be fun to try.

From the dining room table, thinking some lipstick red tulips might be a nice touch,

Mrs. Smythe

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Curiosities and American Impressionism

Posted by mrssmythe on August 26, 2015 in Art, Museums |


The girls and I headed to the Springfield Museums on Tuesday, eager to see the new “Cabinets of Curiosity” exhibit which just opened at the Smith Museum. How could we resist a collection of “rarely seen” objects pulled from the vast (and undoubtedly fascinating) Museum storage vaults?

Oh how I wish I’d had a better camera. There are things in that room that defy description – things that really need a photo as evidence of their existence. Things like a taxidermy rodent with eight legs (I think they sewed two of the little beasties together). There are stuffed birds under glass domes and ancient Greek pottery, a whole case of tiny Chinese snuff boxes, puppets, a suit of armor, a stuffed squirrel whose tooth grew up through its skull, a case for a mummy, and a beautiful book from the 17th century. And these are just the things that spring to mind.

The exhibit isn’t overly large, though – just one room. But don’t let that put you off. I think this would be an excellent way to introduce a young child to museum-going. You have a little bit of science, a little bit of history, a little bit of art, and it’s all in one place. It’s almost like an abridged version of the Springfield Museums.

Anyway, we had fun.

Afterward, the girls and I popped over to the D’Amour to see “American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists’ Colony”. And here’s where we bogged down.

No – I shouldn’t say “bogged down” – that sounds negative.

What I mean is, here is where we slowed down. At least I did. Because there is so much to see in the two rooms and two hallways that house the exhibit; more than 100 works total!

In fact, I got stuck right at the start. Mary Cassat and John Singer Sargent are just inside the doorway, and these were the first Cassat works I’d ever seen in person! I had to stop and digest. Even though they were etchings, rather than the paintings of hers I’m more familiar with, I was still really excited to see them. And the Sargent painting – a portrait of his manservant – was one of my favorites of the exhibit.

Overall, there is an amazing variety of subjects and styles. Allow yourself plenty of time, though, there’s a lot to see!

If you’re interested in viewing either of these exhibits, the American Impressionists will be on display through October 25, and the curiosities will be out for the next year. Definitely some fun stuff to see.

From the dining room table, still wondering about that eight-legged hamster,

Mrs. Smythe


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The Snakeskin

Posted by mrssmythe on August 25, 2015 in Critters |

We don’t often see snakes in our yard. When we do see them, though, they’re usually on the south side of the house either sunning themselves near the hose or hanging out in the pachysandra. I’ve trained myself to look for them when I go to turn on the water – then I’m not so surprised when I see them – but they’re better concealed in the pachysandra. When I see them there, it’s usually just a glimpse of something reptilian darting swiftly and silently across my path. Very unnerving.

This very thing happened Sunday, just as I was about to step into the pachysandra to do some weeding. I caught sight of a snake shooting past one of the lilacs, and that was it. I realized the weeds weren’t as bad as I thought, and that I could easily forego tidying that spot for another – oh, say, summer.

Later, Pepper came and told us she had found a snakeskin. It was in the very spot I’d seen the snake earlier.


While I was content to admire the snakeskin from afar, CPT America wanted to examine it up close.



He gave that thing much more scrutiny than I would have. But, then, he’s CPT America.

“Come look at its face, girls,” he urged. (He was actually excited). “You can see its features really clearly!”


Yes, yes you could.

As sheds go, it was a very clean, neat one – all in one piece, head to tail. This, I suppose, attests to the overall good health of the snake.


And, if we are to have snakes around the yard (and CPT America assures me it is a good thing that we do) at least they’re happy, healthy ones.

But I’m still not going to weed that pachysandra bed anytime soon.

From the dining room table, with that darn snakeskin still sitting on the porch where it gives me a start every time I see it,

Mrs. Smythe



The New Babies

Posted by mrssmythe on August 24, 2015 in Critters |

Eight weeks ago, we brought home two goldfish for our backyard pond; one orange and one black. Over the course of the summer those two fish grew. They grew a lot. Then, last week, CPT America noticed that their number had increased. Suddenly there was an entire school of fish darting about – all varying shades of orange and black.


Being concerned about the ability of the pond to support so much life, CPT America was, of course, dismayed. What was he to do with these new additions? It reminded him of the summer he brought home four minnows for mosquito control and wound up with about four hundred.

Ginger and Pepper, though, were excited. More fish! And free ones at that.

They immediately dismissed CPT America’s suggestion that they capture the fish and return them to the pet store. No, the girls wanted to keep the fish. And, when CPT America reminded them that there wasn’t enough space in the pond for all of the fish, the girls began hatching plans for housing the new additions. Pepper’s latest idea is to establish indoor aquariums – a plan to which I am very much opposed, “No more pets!” being my battle cry.

I did, however, allow Pepper to capture one of the fish for observation.


It currently resides upstairs, on her dresser, in a mini habitat all its own.


It was darn hard to photograph! It’s a suspicious little bugger.


I keep reminding Pepper that this is the fish’s temporary home. A summer cottage, if you will. Next week, it goes right back into the pond.

And then?

Well, then, I’m in complete agreement with CPT America. Off to the pet store they go.

Unless somebody out there reading this would like a fish? Or six? or eight? Just let me know.

From the dining room table, thinking there’s a lot more going on in that pond than meets the eye,

Mrs. Smythe

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