Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Sailing Away

Last week I had the pleasure of watching the most beautiful sunset from the beach. The sky became one big palette of orange and as the sun went behind the clouds they blended together to create a swirl of  fire. It was like I was watching an artist paint a canvas.

The sailboat in the distance and the birds flying over the water in the foreground make me wish I was sailing off into the sunset.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Learning to love those slithery reptiles called snakes

I will admit that snakes have not always been at the top of my list. Heck, they weren't even in the middle - they were tied for dead last with the spiders for many years. When we would visit the reptile house at the San Diego Zoo, my son would be right up against the glass and I would be back against the wall following along at a somewhat safe distance. Yes, I know there is a think piece of glass between us but being a girly girl these slithery reptiles scared the heck out of me.

Slowly I learned to get closer to the glass. To watch the snakes and learn about them.

Zookeeper Rick taught me that there is no such thing as a poisonous snake - only venomous snakes.

Rakesh is a beautiful Indian Python that I had the opportunity to get very close to at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park during a keeper talk. There was no glass - just me and the snake. And you know what?

I was OK. I didn't die.

In fact, I wanted to touch Rakesh - but that wasn't allowed.

Through photography I learned that snakes made excellent subjects. Then when I uploaded the photos I saw how beautifully detailed they were. OK, maybe they aren't so bad.

I never thought in a million years I would be saying this, but I am actually excited to visit the San Diego Zoo this weekend for Reptilemania.

Snakes, lizards, Galapagos tortoises, and so much more ... bring on the reptiles!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Treasures in the sand

You never know what you will find when you walk along the beach. Sometimes all you see is sand and maybe some kelp that has washed ashore. Then there are those rare times when you find something special - something unique. I like to call these findings treasures in the sand.

To some this is just a small shell and some pieces of colored glass. To me it is much more. This was once a home to a small ocean creature - a sea urchin - and the glass has been washed in the tide so many times that it is now smooth. The contrast of colors and textures speaks to me. The shell tells a story - the story became a photograph - and this photograph is now my treasure.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Giant Panda

The giant panda is probably the most universally known symbol for conservation.

Once widespread through southern and eastern China, the giant pandas current range is a limited area of northwestern China. Poaching for skin and body parts, along with the loss of the giant pandas habitat (bamboo harvesting and human development) are the two main factors that are keeping the Giant Panda on the endangered species list. Despite the many efforts made by China and successful panda breeding centers like the San Diego Zoo, the future of giant pandas is uncertain. While the numbers are thought to be increasing, there is still work to be done to save these beautiful animals.

For more information about the giant pandas, what is being done to save them, and what you can do to help visit the WWF website

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunset Sunday - The waters edge

Hands down, my favorite sunsets are at the beach. Watching the sun go down behind what seems to be an endless ocean still fascinates me. I know the world is round, but it is still fun to think the sun is sinking into the deep blue sea.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy World Rhino Day!

Touch a rhino. Look into a rhinos eyes. Talk to a rhino and have them respond to you.

Do this and I promise you will fight for them too.

Today is the 3rd Annual World Rhino Day - create some awareness and remember - Rhino horn is NOT medicine, it's keratin just like your fingernails.

Some rhino population stats for you:

  • Javan rhino - fewer than 50
  • Vietnamese Javan rhino (extinct 2010)
  • Sumatran rhino - fewer than 200
  • Borneo rhino - perhaps 30
  • Greater one-horned rhino - 2,949
  • Black rhino - 4,860
  • Southern White rhino - 20,600
  • Northern White rhino - 7 (these will be extinct within the next 20 years)

For more inforamtion on what is being done to stop the killing of rhinos visit and 

*Statistics taken from

Friday, September 21, 2012

Paper, plastic, or I have my own bag?

For the longest time when you went to the grocery store your food was put in a brown paper bag. There was no other option. Then suddenly plastic bags became the hot new thing. They were lighter than paper and had handles that allowed you to carry four bags in each hand. Paper or plastic became the most asked question at many stores.

I remember having some pretty heavy debates with friends and coworkers about the pros and cons of each. Paper killed trees, but was more easily biodegradable. Plastic stays around a lot longer and harms sea life, but doesn't use as much fuel to produce as paper. (When looking at this scenario, you must also look at the emissions from the logging trucks and the size of the carbon footprint) Both have good points and bad points, but there is a better answer to the age-old question Paper or Plastic? Simply reply, "No thank you - I have my own bag."

This is what the inside of my trunk looks like. My motto is have bag will shop. 

I have reusable bags of all sizes and if for some reason I forget to grab one out of the trunk I go without a bag. Smallest carbon footprint I can make when it comes to shopping.

I recently asked the question paper, plastic or I have my own bag on twitter and Facebook and was quite surprised by the replies. More people than I thought answered that they bring their own bags, which I think is fabulous! However, the others almost all chose plastic. This disturbed me so asked them why. 

I got answers like "I use them for gardening" or "We use them to take out the cat litter" ... OK, reasonable answers. So then I asked have you ever thought of buying ecofriendly, biodegradable plastic bags for this instead? The answer opened up a whole new conversation. 

Why would I buy plastic bags when the bags from the grocery store are already made from recycled plastic? 

Well, being made from recycled plastic and being biodegradable are two different things. Just because something is made from recycled plastic does not necessarily mean that it will be recycled again. Remember the post about how the city recycles for you and you can just throw everything in the trash can? Believe me, it was an eye opener for me too when I read what was on my city's website. 

Bottom line is educate yourself and do what you can to reduce the pollution left behind from paper and plastic bags. You may not go completely green with your shopping bags like I have, but hopefully this post will get you thinking a little more about what you will say the next time you are asked paper or plastic? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why we love urban wildlife

It's one thing to love wild animals like tigers, rhinos, and orangutans - it's another to love urban wildlife. My son and I happen to love both and as you may know from reading previous posts, we have a local favorite. His name is Nutty.

We love Nutty. He's funny - he amuses us and he never runs away when we watch him from our window. The other day we noticed that Nutty has a friend who has started visiting the tree with him. (To clarify, we have no idea if Nutty is a male or female, we just refer to him as a him because that's what my son decided)

Nutty's friend is a little smaller and much funnier. Nutty seems to just sit and eat - maybe that's why he is so big. His friend, who we have named Nutette had us laughing so hard the other day. (Again, no idea if Nutette is a female, we just refer to her as one)

Nutette first assumed the position of down low and hold on to the tree branch for dear life. She spotted the pine cone she wanted and quickly ran to it. Then with pine cone in mouth proceeded cautiously across the branch and down the tree trunk. Once safely on the ground, Nutette took off running down the street - pine cone still in mouth.

Somehow I think that Nutette may be "stealing" pine cones from Nutty's tree ... hence the tactical moves and quick escape.

Either way, these squirrels keep us entertained, teach us new things, and most of all remind us that all wildlife - even urban wildlife - has a place in this world.

What urban wildlife have you seen by your home?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Anything is possible when you think like a child

When nothing seems to be going right and your day seems like it can't get any worse ... remember what it was like to have the mind of a child. The word impossible was not in your vocabulary.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - What is the IUCN?

Since starting the weekly posts Endangered Species Monday, I have had some people ask me what the IUCN is and exactly what they do? So today, rather than feature another endangered species, I am going to give you a little background on the IUCN and how endangered species are classified.

IUCN stands for International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is the world's oldest and largest global environmental organization.

Many people have heard of the IUCN Red List, but not all know the depth of it - including myself. What I do know is being that being high up on the Red List is not a good thing.

Under the Endangered Species Act, an animal classified as endangered receives more protection than one classified as threatened. The IUCN breaks the classifications down into 7 categories and rates the level of threat based on certain criteria.

  • Extinct
  • Extinct in the wild (only captive individuals survive)
  • Critically endangered (almost certain risk of extinction in the immediate future)
  • Endangered (faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future)
  • Vulnerable (faces a high risk of extinction in the future)
  • Near threatened (could be considered threatened in the near future)
  • Least concern (no immediate threat to the survival of the species)

Plants and animals are listed by the IUCN and what many people don't understand is that every living creature, both plant and animal, have a very specific place in the ecosystem. If a plant becomes extinct and it is the main food source for an animal, then that animal will most likely become extinct too. 

Once a species is classified as endangered, certain laws and restrictions can be put into place to help save them and hopefully remove them from the endangered status. Unfortunately, for some species this puts a higher price on the animal for hunters and they quickly move up to critically endangered. When this happens, I am thankful for organizations who work together to help bring species back from the brink of extinction.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Tropical Paradise

Nothing says sunset better than a Maui sunset.

Something about tropical island sunsets with palm tree silhouettes makes me want to hop on a plane and go back to Maui.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A tree is just a tree ... Or is it?

Lately I have been fascinated with trees. All kinds of trees, but mostly tall ones with intertwining branches. Something about looking up at a tree and seeing the light come through the branches - it makes me wonder. Is it just a tree?

I probably photographed over 30 trees last weekend while visiting a local park. I couldn't help myself. Each tree was different and the sunlight was casting shadows through the branches in such a beautiful way.

As I was photographing the trees, my son and I had a wonderful conversation about the trees. We didn't talk about what kind of trees they were, but rather what they trees would say if they could talk.

How old is the tree? How long has it been here?

I wonder if there are initials carved someplace in the tree, or if it is a climbing tree for an adventurous child? How many branches has the tree lost in heavy winds or rain storms?

Do the old bending branches hurt the tree? Is the tree sad when nobody stops to sit underneath it?

Do trees live in families like these that we found all grouped together?

These may seem like silly questions to you, but for my son and I these are questions that will keep a conversation going for hours. Why? Simple - we love animals and what would the animal kingdom be without a tree to call home?

This is a picture of "Nutty" - he's the resident squirrel that lives in the big pine tree outside our home. He has breakfast with us almost every morning. So you see, a tree isn't just a tree - it's a home, a source of food for some, and a place to eat your food too.

Have you ever wondered if a tree is just a tree?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Endangered Species Monday: Black Rhinoceros

Sticking with the theme of rhinos this month, today's featured endangered species is the Black Rhinoceros. As one of the five remaining rhino species, the black rhino is one of three classified as critically endangered by the IUCN.

According to the International Rhino Foundation, the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) has suffered from the most drastic decline in total numbers of all rhino species. The poaching epidemic ran rampant from 1970 to 1992 and the species decreased by 96% - from 65,000 down to 2,300 in the wild - that is a huge amount of rhinos killed.

Illegal hunting and poaching of the black rhino for its horn have devastated the population over the last three decades. Its range has been reduced to scattered pockets in remote areas and reserves that are patrolled. In areas where poaching is common and not easily controlled, game wardens with the help of organizations like WWF will tranquilize the animals before moving them to sanctuaries. Dehorning the rhinos in some regions has helped to protect them from poachers, but there are mixed feelings about this form of conservation.

Did you know?

  • The black rhino can't see objects in detail beyond a range of about 100 feet.
  • The rhino's horn is used in Asia as a medicinal ingredient and ounce for ounce costs more than gold.
  • The black rhinos prehensile upper lip helps it to grasp and eat vegetation
  • Black rhinos live 30-35 years in the wild, but 45 years or more in captivity. 
  • In 2011 the Western Black Rhino subspecies was declared extinct. 
  • The Black Rhino has two horns made of compressed keratin - basically hair and fingernail material. (Not medicine)

To date there are approximately 4,800 black rhinos left in the world. Thanks to conservation efforts the species is slowly coming back from the brink of extinction, but the black rhino is not out of the woods yet. Stand up for rhinos on September 22 - World Rhino Day - and spread the word that rhino horn is not medicine.

Find out what you can do to help save the black rhino by visiting these websites.

International Rhino Foundation
Saving Rhinos

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Glorious Rays

I try to never leave home without my camera, but on those rare occasions that I do I am thankful for my iPhone.

Racing home from the opposite side of town I didn't have time to get my camera. I arrived at Upper Newport Bay just in time to snap this picture with my phone. The cirrus clouds started forming around 4 p.m. and I knew the sunset would be amazing. I love how the sun is illuminating the clouds just as it sets. 

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take the time to watch the sunsets.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The benefits of slowing down and making some lifestyle changes

Sometimes you need to take a step back - take a step outside yourself and look within yourself. When you do this it is easier to see what changes need to be made. Sometimes the change can be small and other times the change can be quite drastic.

Just as the clouds change and draw our attention to the sky, lifestyle changes can bring our attention back to the important things. Back to the basics. 

Change allows us to see things from a different perspective. What is causing so much stress? What can I do to relax more? Do I really need that in my life? Sometimes we are forced to make changes due to financial situations, but the changes that we make because we want to change something - those are the best kind of changes.

Over the past week I have made some drastic lifestyle changes. I have made a conscious effort to remove stress and all drama from my life. I've decided to slow down a bit and spend more time reflecting on the important things. Now while these things may not be important to you, they are important to me. It does not matter how many times people tell you to change something, the change will not matter, nor will the change become a permanent lifestyle change unless you make the decision to change yourself.

First things first, I had to remove what was causing me the most stress and taking away from the peace I so badly wanted in my life. Getting rid of the drama and "fake" friends was top on my list.
Removing the drama was actually very easy. Just the click of a mouse - delete, unfriend, unfollow. While this may sound harsh, it was necessary and needed. Taking time for me - well, that was a simple as getting up a little earlier to enjoy the sunrise. Eating better has also made a significant difference in how my son and I feel. Diet and exercise, even if it is just walking to watch the sunset have brought a sense of peace to my days.

Slowing down meant taking time to read and spending less time on the internet. Less time watching television. Canceling cable took care of wasted time and saved me over $100 a month. A co-worker gave me a great book to read, Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey, and I have never felt better about spending or saving money.

Most importantly, I learned that I had to make the changes for myself. I am 42 years old and shouldn't have to answer to anyone but myself. Therefore, I am slowing down and enjoying the lifestyle changes I chose.

Whatever the case may be, change is always good.

What changes can you make in your life to be happier?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Quiet mornings and beautiful sunrises

Something I will be doing more of is getting up 30 minutes before my son. The precious time where nothing matters but me - yes, I said it - Me Time. Even if all I get to do is go to the bathroom, make my coffee, and watch the sunrise in peace and quiet then that will be good enough for me.

This was my morning view from my bedroom window.  Beautiful, quite, peaceful.

What do you do to get some me time away from the kids?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Northern White Rhino

For some September means back-to-school and the hopes of a new fall wardrobe. For me, September means something a little different. It means a month filled with creating awareness and celebrating the beautiful rhino on World Rhino Day, September 22.

This year marks the Third Annual World Rhino Day. In 2010 the WWF-South Africa announced World Rhino Day and the following year it became an international success with the joint effort of Lisa Jane Campbell of Chishawke Ranch in Zimbabwe and Rhishja Cota-Larson of Saving Rhinos is the United States. Encompassing both African and Asian rhino species, World Rhino Day both celebrates the beautiful rhino and educates people about the myths of rhino horn. Rhino horn is not medicine.

Each Monday I will  be featuring a different endangered species and what better way to start this new weekly post series than with the rhino. Sadly, the Northern White Rhino is all but gone.

Nola resting at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park - May 2012

With only seven left in the world, two (Nola and Angilfu) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, one (Nabire) at the Dvůr Králové Zoo, and four (Sudan, Suni, Najin, and Fatu) living at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where they are protected from poachers, this subspecies is tragically coming to an end.

Javan Rhino - Sumatran Rhino - Greater One-Horned Rhino - Black Rhino - White Rhino

5 Rhino Species Forever

For more information about World Rhino Day events in your area visit and to get the latest news, information, and educational content about rhinos visit

Photo credit: World Rhino Day poster image is courtesy of Saving Rhinos LLC

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Cotton Candy Pink

I love sunsets - who doesn't? I mean really, sunsets are not only beautiful to look at, but watching the sunset is such a wonderful way to let all of the stress from the day just float away. I like to think that just as the sun is setting and disappearing behind the horizon, so are all my problems and stress from the day.

Starting today, every Sunday I will be posting a picture of my favorite sunset from the week as a way to share the beauty of Mother Nature - hence the name Sunset Sunday.

Rather than focusing on the sun, I took this picture that focuses on the clouds. The setting sun reflecting on the clouds reminds me of pink cotton candy.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take the time to watch the sunsets.