Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Giraffe lashes are the best

The best Halloween costumes are those with false lashes, but this girl doesn't need any.

Who needs false lashes when you are born with these?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween has come full circle in our house

Reminiscing of Halloweens gone by ... from cute and cuddly to the dark side. Wow, have things changed. When he was little his world revolved around animals and all he wanted to be for Halloween was something cute and furry. The giraffe was my all time favorite.

Then he started to grow up and wanted to carry a weapon of some sort. I really disliked this phase because I was the one who ended up carrying the weapon while he collected the candy. Next it was the Star Wars phase ... ah yes, I remember it well.

This year he is going back to his first love and has decided to be a San Diego Zoo zookeeper. No longer does he want to be the animal, now he wants to take care of the animals. I may not be able to turn back time, but at least I have the pictures to make me smile.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Amur Leopard

Photo by Penny Hyde
Most people associate leopards with Africa or the snow leopard with Asia, but there is another leopard that deserves some attention – the Amur leopard.

The Amur leopard does not live in Africa. This rare subspecies lives in the Russian Far East. They are one of the most stunning cats I have ever seen. Sadly, the Amur leopard is critically endangered with only around 30 left in the wild. 

While habitat destruction is partially to blame, it is not the main reason for the decline in the species. The bigger problem is poaching and over hunting of the Amur leopards prey. As with other animals that have beautiful fur, the Amur leopard is hunted for its spotted fur and there is an insufficient amount of prey to sustain a large population in the wild.

Once an animal reaches critically endangered status, strong measures need to be taken to ensure the survival of the species. In this case, an international conservation program was established. Although some people have mixed feelings on keeping wild animals in captivity, the conservation efforts made by several well-known zoos in the United States have helped increase the captive population to hundreds. In my opinion, this is conservation at its finest. Job well done.

Photo by Deric Wagner
In April 2012, the San Diego Zoo was fortunate to have three Amur leopards join their family. Koshka, Primoyre, and Zeya are siblings who arrived as part of the international conservation program designed to help save the Amur leopard. When they arrived they were playful 11 month old babies - running and jumping all over the place. I have been lucky enough to see these siblings on several occasions and they are so much fun to watch. However, when I watch them play I have mixed emotions. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to see such an amazing animal, yet I can’t help but feel sad knowing how critically endangered they are in the wild.

Yes, there are other species of leopards ... but there is only one Amur leopard. 

Photo by Penny Hyde

Special thanks to my friends Deric and Penny for allowing me to share your beautiful pictures of the Amur leopards from the San Diego Zoo. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Looking Back

This week I decided to reflect on the beauty that was captured through the lens of my camera over the past 4 months of sunset pictures. One of the items on our family bucket list is to take a picture of the sunset every month for 1 year. So far, we are one-third of the way there.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Taking time to be myself and loving it

Lately I have been taking some time to look within myself. Looking at the path I have chosen to follow and at those that have allowed me to lead them down the same path.

I have people that I admire and look to for guidance. They have taught me how to be a leader myself and to inspire others.

Some may not agree with the path I have chosen, but that doesn't mean I should pretend to be something I am not.

I see enough fake people in this world to know that this is not something I want to be. Call me an environmentalist, call me a tree hugger, call me crazy if you like. It really doesn't bother me anymore.

Why? Because I believe in what I am doing. I believe that I am making a difference and inspiring others. Unlike some people I know, I actually practice the very things I write about and talk about. There was a time when I cared more about what other people thought and believed than what I myself believed. I was afraid to let people see the real me. However, when I quit hiding behind the facade I learned that more people respected me. Those that continued to pretend to be someone else, the followers of this world, started to stand out like a sore thumb to me. They would say one thing and live their life in the complete opposite.

I don't understand this way of thinking. If you believe strongly in something than you should live your life following that path. In other words, don't preach about something if you don't practice it yourself.

Why can't people just follow the path they choose and be proud of it?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recognition from the White House for helping the tigers

There are many times that I have been proud of my son. What parent hasn't been proud of their child? Getting a good grade on a test, learning to ride a bike, receiving an award from school, the list can go on forever with the many accomplishments we witness as parents. However, there is a certain kind of feeling you get as a parent, one that is filled with pride and happiness, when you watch your child beam with pride as his peers applaud him. These are the rare moments that bring tears to the eyes of mothers.

Last week my son received The President's Volunteer Service Award. He did not know that he was getting it and when he was called up during a Cub Scout pack meeting I was suddenly overcome with pride.

As you may remember, Dylan had a special birthday wish in July. A wish not for presents or a party, but a wish for the tigers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. His wish was to raise $1,000 and help build them a new home. He surpassed his goal and raised over $1,300.

In doing so, he volunteered much of his time - 50 hours to be exact. Unbeknownst to me, a child of his age that completes 50 hours of community service is eligible to receive a special award from the President of the United States. A good friend of the family completed all the paperwork, sent me the awards last month, and asked that Dylan be honored at a Cub Scout meeting.

Along with the President's Volunteer Service Award, Dylan received a letter from the White House, a letter from Nograf Network, and a lapel pin of the Presidential Seal.

I am still in awe of this. I have never known anyone who received an award from the White House, let alone a family member - and as excited as he is now, I can only imagine the stories he will tell his children and grandchildren one day.

Knowing how much Dylan loves saving animals, I thought it was only right to dedicate an area of our home for him to display his efforts and accomplishments. So after a little reorganizing, this is now known as Dylan's shelf of conservation. Each animal represents one that he has adopted from San Diego Zoo Global and I will be framing pictures of them as well to hang along with his letters.

Sometimes the best rewards are those that you don't expect to get.

Dylan may have inspired many people, some total strangers, with his birthday wish for the tigers, but the 30 young boys who applauded him at his Cub Scout meeting are the ones who he inspired to make a difference of their own. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Komodo Dragon

Did you know that dragons really do exist? Don't believe me? Well, one of our best friends at the San Diego Zoo is a dragon. His name is Sonny and he is a Komodo dragon.

Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizard and grow to be up to 10 feet long. That's one ginormous lizard or should I say dragon? Komodo dragons move very slowly, but their keen sense of smell (they can smell prey up to a mile away) allows these animals to hunt with precise skill. Unlike most lizards, the Komodo dragon is a carnivore. The bigger the better - feasting on prey like wild pigs, water buffalo and deer. You might wonder how this is possible for a lizard. Well, the Komodo dragon has a secret weapon - besides razor sharp claws and teeth, theses guys carry over 50 strains of bacteria in their saliva. All they need is one bite. Once bitten, the prey will usually die within 24 hours of blood poisoning. So even if the prey happens to get away, the Komodo dragon will follow at a leisurely pace and wait for the animal to die.

Sonny is 12 years old and came from the Honolulu Zoo when he was only 6 years old. Some people may think he lives a lonely life, but Komodo dragons are solitary animals, so he is quite happy to have that big exhibit all to himself. Ever since Dylan was a toddler, Sonny has been a favorite. We actually consider him to be part of the family. Strange I know, but some things just can't be explained. Sonny is always one of the first friends we say hello to at the zoo - and yes, we talk to him.

Even though the Komodo dragon appears to be unstoppable, they are listed as an endangered species. Komodo dragons are only found on four islands in Indonesia: Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, and Flores. The species is fairly stable with a wild population of about 3,000, but several factors are hurting the Komodo's survival rate. There are very few female dragons laying eggs, human poaching, habitat loss, and humans hunting their prey are leaving a scarce amount of food for the Komodo dragon to eat.

In their natural habitat, Komodo dragons are top predator. They have no natural enemies - except for humans. With a lifespan of about 50 years, these dragons deserve to remain on this planet holding the title of most feared lizard.

Sonny and Dylan - friends for life. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Changing views

One of my favorite places to watch the sunset growing up was from the balcony of my parents house. I stood up there many nights as a teenager and couldn't believe the beauty I was seeing. Unfortunately, over the years the trees have grown taller, houses have been built, and many new office buildings now block what was once a magnificent view of Catalina.

With a new storm rolling in, what looks like it might be Catalina is actually a layer of fog covering the ocean. It still made for a beautiful sunset though.

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sharing a love of photography through pictures

One of my favorite things about photography is sharing my pictures with others. If something is beautiful enough for me to pull over, stop my car, and take a photo, then I believe someone else will enjoy it too. I enjoy looking at photographs others have taken.

Sometimes for inspiration - other times for pure enjoyment of the image. And yes, there are those times when I think I wish I had taken that.

It has been almost a year now since I started taking photography more seriously. Not just clicking away at random, but looking at my backgrounds, my subjects, and the lighting with an end result in mind. I have recently joined a group of fellow photographers and although we all have different equipment and varying levels of experience, we have a camaraderie when we get together. I love all the knowledge we share and the group support as a whole is amazing. 

However, I have noticed one thing that we do differ on - How we choose to share our photographs with others. 

A small percentage of those in the group place a watermark on their photos. I have never watermarked my pictures, but have always gone back and forth with this concept. I understand the purpose of using a watermark, but sometimes feel that it distracts from the actual photograph. Also, if someone is going to "steal" an image, then they will just crop it regardless of a watermark. What it all boils down to is ethics and morals.

So this brings me back to why I love sharing photographs. If a friend of mine shares a photo on social media platform and I like it, then I want to be able to share it with others - giving proper credit of course. If they took the time to post it, then I would think they are proud of the work and want others to see it. However, I have discovered that not everyone wants their pictures shared in this manner; claiming that it is stealing and promoting copyright infringement. This is something that I don't understand.

Why bother taking beautiful photographs and posting them if you don't want to share them for fear that someone will steal your work? Personally, I am flattered if someone wants to re-post, re-tweet, or share any of my photographs. Giving me credit for taking the photo of course. 

What are your feelings on sharing your photographs with others?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where do you find inspiration?

After what seems likes weeks of doing some serious soul searching, today I found my inspiration at a very familiar place. The place where I feel the closest to nature.

What inspires you?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Educating children will change the world

As much as I don't want to believe this, educating adults is much more difficult than educating children. I guess its like the old saying goes - you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Or can you? As adults, we are sometimes stuck in our way of thinking and are challenged to think otherwise. Explaining the importance of an endangered animal to an adult means changing the way something has been thought about for years - sometimes decades.

However, explaining the same thing to a child is liking flipping a light switch on. Suddenly a new way of thinking is introduced and a child will run with it - soak up the information like a sponge - and then release that information to anyone who will listen. A child craves learning new things and is eager to share what he or she has learned. Today's children are the future of this planet. What my child does 20 years from now will either further the existence of current endangered species or continue to clean up the mess that we have made of this world.

One of the best ways to educate a child is to give hands-on experiences. While libraries and computers are amazing and can teach vast amounts about why animals are endangered or have become extinct, there is nothing quite like seeing it first hand.

Touching a rhino horn or ocelot pelt, holding a boot that was made from snake skin, these are the types of educational experiences that will become embedded in a child's mind.

Children are emotional thinkers. They see an animal being harmed and can relate this to a pet they may have at home or a charcater in an animated movie. Some, like my son, will go beyond the average persons level of involvement and ask questions that most adults don't even think about.

A great way to get your child the hands-on experiences about endangered animals is to visit your local zoo or aquarium. Many of these places have tables set up with pictures, artifacts, and games that make learning fun. You will be surprised at how much a child will retain and quickly repeat to others. So if you want to help save the endangered species, start by educating your child. Our children are the future leaders of this world and what they learn now will make a difference for many years to come.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Stormy Skies

Beautiful sunsets aren't just found at the end of a summer day ...

Even stormy skies, like the ones we had last week, can give way to a beautiful sunset. The clouds may hide the sun from the horizon, but the reflection of light is still there. It's all in the way you look at it.

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Spooktacular Fun at Scarium of the Pacific - Giveaway

For those of you who live in Southern California, you know how wonderful the Aquarium of the Pacific is - Filled with tropical fish, sharks, otters, penguins, and my personal favorite jellyfish. As members of the Aquarium we visit often and always learn something new with the many hands-on discovery labs and interactive exhibits.

This Halloween the Aquarium is transformed into Scarium of the Pacific for two days. During this special event your family can explore the creepy creatures of the deep along with magic shows, face painting, and of course a costume contest for the kiddos.

There will be spooky storytelling and underwater pumpkin carving - this I have to see! Throughout the aquarium there will be Halloween activities and treats for the little ones. You can print out this coupon and receive FREE admission if your child is in costume during Scarium of the Pacific.

Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific

Aside from or regular visits to Aquarium of the Pacific, the special events are a must for my family. We have attended lectures, special member only late nights, whale watching trips, and had the opportunity to preview new exhibits. So when I was asked to give away 8 tickets to this special Halloween event I couldn't resist the chance to share my families love of the ocean with others. There will be three winners for this giveaway.

I am giving away one family 4-pack and two sets of 2 tickets each to attend Scarium of the Pacific on Saturday,October 20 or Sunday, October 21, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Enter to win using the Rafflecopter entry form below. Winners will be selected on Tuesday, October 16 at 10:00 p.m. PST

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Scarium of the Pacific is sure to be a day filled with more fun than fright for the whole family.

Scarium of the Pacific is included with paid admission - $25.95 adults (12+), $22.95 seniors (62+), $14.95 children (3-11), and free for children under age 3 and Aquarium members.
For more information about this special event call (562) 590-3100

Winners will be selected using Rafflecopter. Due to the time sensitive nature of this giveaway, I reserve the right to draw another winner if I am unable to get a mailing address in a timely manner. Giveaway is only open to residents of the contiguous US. Please make sure I can contact you to notify you if you have won (leaving a valid email address in your comment is a great way). Winners will first be announced on Life with Dylan's Facebook page, so if you're not a fan of us on Facebook, you may not know if you win.

Stop the presses! Rain fell in Southern California

After what seems like forever, Southern California finally had its first big rainfall of the season.

I can only think of one thing that gets us Southern Californians talking more than a storm and that is earthquakes.

You see, we don't have a very visible change of seasons. We pretty much have blue skies and sunshine year round.

I'm not complaining about the weather, but you can understand why we get so excited when the rain comes.

I was in awe of the clouds today and the past few days leading up to the rain. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram you might think that I am a tad bit obsessed with clouds.

Storm clouds are coming.

It rained - stormy sunrise

That's one big rain cloud!

We didn't get tons of rain - but enough to wet the roads, clean the car, and get people talking. Oh, and there was thunder and lightening too! I love the sound of the rain - it totally relaxes me. I'm looking forward to more rain and the bright green hills that the rain leaves behind.

Beautiful skies over the ocean. The worst was yet to come. 

Do you like the rain?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Seasons Change

I believe that Fall has finally arrived in Southern California. 

When I was younger, Summer was my favorite season of the year. Spending days at the beach playing in the sand was the best. Now that I am older, Fall has become my favorite time of the year. Cool breezes and colorful leaves are something I will never get tired of. Not to mention my Pumpkin Spice Lattes. 

What is your favorite season?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - 5 ways you can help save them

There was a time not to long ago when I asked myself "What can I do to help? How can one person help to save the endangered species?"

The answer wasn't difficult to find once I stopped looking at it as something that was impossible and started looking at it as something that could be accomplished.

So rather than feature another endangered species this week, I decided to share some ways that you can help save endangered species. Little things you can do that will make a difference - things that will make an impact bigger than you ever imagined.

  1. Protect habitats. You can do this by following the rule of Leave No Trace when you go places. When you go for a walk, go to the beach, visit parks and nature preserves, heck any time you leave your home you should leave nothing but footprints. 
  2. Make room for urban wildlife. You can do this by building or buying a birdhouse for your yard or putting out a bird bath for the neighborhood birds. Plant a tree that will become shelter for an animal. 
  3. See the animals first hand. Visit zoos, parks, wildlife refuges, aquariums - anywhere you can see these animals and learn more about them. Learning about the animals and seeing what an important role each one plays is the first step to protecting them. 
  4. Get involved. Whether you join an organization and donate money or simply sign up to receive monthly newsletters and stay informed, getting involved with larger non-profit organizations will help and allow you to choose your level of involvement. 
  5. Talk about it. Yes, talk. Talk to your friends, family, coworkers - anyone who will listen to you. Tell them about the threatened or endangered species. Not just the sad stuff like the amount of rhinos and elephants being poached, but the good stuff too, like the success story of the California Condor. 
What do you do to help protect and save endangered species?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunset Sunday - The unexpected beauty

The great thing about sunsets is that you can see them wherever you are. Sometimes they are off in the distance and sometimes they are right in front of you. Then there are those times when you aren't even looking for the sunset. You walk outside - you look up - and this is what you see.

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Either I'm growing up or I'm growing old

Lately I have found myself being a little more introverted than usual. I have been enjoying quiet evenings reading blogs or curled up on the couch with a book.

I would rather spend time learning something new than going to happy hour. Makeup, fashion, and other materialistic things just are not as important as they once were.

I began thinking ... is something wrong with me?

Of course not, I'm just taking a new path. Crossing a new bridge that I haven't been on before.

Then I remembered the story of Peter Pan. The boy who wouldn't grow up even though he continued to age. It dawned on me - have I grown up?

I've been slowly changing over the past year or two. Slowing down a bit. Turning my focus in life to other things. Acting more like a mom, acting my age. Yes, we all grow old or older, but do we all grow up?

I came to the conclusion that I have grown up. No more late nights, no more spending money on frivolous things that I don't need, and no more tolerating things that I don't like. If I don't like something, I don't have to be a part of it. I think more rationally now - I think about the future - about the things I want to do and places I want to go. My life is taking a new path and if this means spending more time at home or more time with my son than so be it.

I'm still not to sure about the growing old part, but I sure do like how it feels to grow up.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Aniballs App teaches kids about physics and endangered animals

Imagine if you could make learning about physics fun for your children. Now add some colorful puzzles, animals, and a game that can be played anywhere you are. Sounds almost too go to be true right? Well, let me introduce you to a new app called Aniballs.

I first heard about Aniballs on twitter and then found their Facebook page. After a few clicks I had downloaded the game for a mere 99 cents and was in a heated competition with my son to rescue the endangered Aniballs.

What exactly is an Aniball? Well, an Aniball is an animal with the physics of ball.
What will happen when the ball drops?

Traveling through the lush Rain Forest, the open Savannah, and the frozen Arctic you have one mission - to rescue the Aniballs and relocate them to a protected reserve. However, it is not as simple as it sounds. The puzzles require you to think. Aniballs is not a game of speed, it is a game of skill. With over 60 puzzles that include rotating platforms and various obstacles to overcome, you must choose the best Aniball for the puzzle. Will the game of physics require your Aniball to be fast, heavy, or have a little bounce? Choose carefully or your Aniball will die.

Besides learning about physics and having fun, your children will also learn some fun "Feral Facts" about endangered species.  Aniballs has over 200 "Feral Facts" about real endangered species that you can read between levels. This game teaches you new things and you don't even realize it because you are having so much fun!

Aside from the physics and the "Feral Facts", what drew me to Aniballs was that the app was created by a family with many of the decisions (including the design and artwork) made by the children. You can read about how Aniballs came to be and meet the creators here.

Aniballs is available for iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store, Amazon App Store, and Google Play marketplace. Aniballs also announced this week that they are awaiting publication on the Barnes & Noble Nook.

Warning: Aniballs is a highly addictive game. According to Todd Cowden, the game was designed to encourage self-motivation and minimize failure. Progressing through the levels is not difficult, but mastering them to get a perfect score takes both skill and patience.

I have listened to my son talk aloud while he plays and I am thrilled with what I am hearing. No violent words, just good old-fashioned thinking. I hear things like if I use the heavy one then the platform will spin faster, but I need the bouncy one to get up to the other platform. Genius. My son is learning and he doesn't think twice about it because he is playing a game - not to mention the game has him rescuing endangered animals.

You can follow Aniballs on twitter and like their page on Facebook to find out about what is coming next. All updates are free once you download the app. I personally am looking forward to the new environment that is scheduled to be released by the end of the year ... the Wetlands.
Now, if only they would make an Outback environment, that would be awesome.

Download Aniballs for just 99 cents and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Pangolin

I will go out a limb here and guess that most of you reading this have never heard of a pangolin, let alone seen a pangolin. They are not the most common animal, but that doesn't mean that their endangered status is any less important. As I have said before, I believe education and awareness are the cornerstones of conservation - so let me tell you about a little friend named Baba that I recently met at the San Diego Zoo.

Baba is tree pangolin from Central Africa. Pangolins are mammals with strong muscles in their limbs and a prehensile tail that live along the edges of the rain forest.  There are eight species - four in Africa and four in Asia. Pangolins have sharp claws to help them dig, which you can see in this photo as Baba so gently digs into the keepers arm. They have a very good sense of smell to help them find ants, termites, and beetle larvae - the pangolins main diet.

Since they do not eat anything that requires teeth, pangolins have no teeth. Instead, they have a long tongue that can be up to 10" long - that's one big tongue capable of lapping up lots of ants and termites. I was told that the zoo makes a sort of soup for Baba with the necessary nutrients needed to keep him healthy.

Pangolins are covered in hard scales that remind me of a pine cone. These scales are used for protection. When the pangolin feels threatened, they will roll up into a ball (similar to an armadillo) and the scales act as armor.

Sounds great right? Well, the drawback is these scales are made of keratin and like the rhino's horn, the pangolin is hunted by poachers for this and other things. The pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam and Chinese Traditional Medicine believes that the keratin has medicinal powers when it is ground into a fine powder. Pangolin skin is used for making boots, much like a snake skin boot and some still believe that the scales will ward off evil spirits.

Although this particular species of pangolin is not endangered, it is classified as near threatened. Two other species are listed as endangered. Of the eight pangolin species, only three are considered stable in the wild. For more information on the endangered status of the pangolin go here.

Pangolins may look like an armadillo or appear to be related to the anteater, but I learned that the pangolin is its own family. The order Pholidota contains only the family Manidae, which has only one genus, Manis.

Did you know that the pangolin is called the doctor in Tanzania because every part of its body is thought to have healing properties?