Saturday, October 26, 2013

Leaf Bugs, and Spiders, and Bees, Oh My!

You know me, I LOVE zoo's and museums of any kind. Being a K-State student, I had walk and driven by the K-State Gardens ,on Denison Avenue, a thousand times. But I never took the time to stop and  have a look around the area. Thursday, I finally decided to take a couple of hours and have a little adventure.

I was beyond thrilled with what I found!

The view from the entrance. There were small fish and aquatic bugs near the base of the tree.
The K-State Gardens not only housed beautiful flowers and a butterfly area, but a small Insect Zoo as well! Walk-in visitors are charged $2 per person, seniors and military are $1.50. For $3, I could have had a guided tour by an entomologist, but since I didn't call ahead for that, it didn't happen. I paid my $4 (my boyfriend came with me), and started looking around. 

This little guy was my welcoming committee. He was very friendly! I believe he's a wolf spider.
Despite the small size of the zoo (it was housed in the old Dairy Barn), it was packed full of interesting insects and displays! There was a wall covered in pinned specimens, displaying all of the native species of Kansas. It had everything from scorpions to butterflies, pinned and protected by a glass barrier. There was a small "petting zoo" area, which I was far too scared to try. You could hold spiders, Praying Mantis, lady bugs, and more. There was a small kids area,where children could sit and watch informational movies about insects, and plush toys to play with as well.

This is a Walking Leaf,. They live from South Asia through Southeast Asia, to Australia. Leaf insects use camouflage to take on the appearance of a leaf. They do this so accurately that predators often aren't able to distinguish them from real leaves. In some species the edge of the leaf insect's body even has the appearance of bite marks. To further confuse predators, when the leaf insect walks, it rocks back and forth, to mimic a real leaf being blown by the wind. {1}
 Beyond the children's area, was a small kitchenette. It was one of the cooler things in the museum in my opinion, if not the one that freaked me out most. You could open the cabinets, drawers, fridge,etc. Inside of everything, were the little bugs that lived in your house! There were cockroaches in the sink, spiders in the drawers, fruit flies on the counter, and more. I didn't know that some of the bugs in the area were supposed to be loose, and had a massive panic attack when I saw a spider in a corner of the cabinet, munching on his lunch. Someone thought it was hilarious...I had to go look at ladybugs to catch my breath again.

This is a Dead Leaf Mantis. They mimic the look of a dead leaf, in order to blend into their surroundings and attack prey. All the mantis' were hanging from the tops of their enclosures, and seemed to enjoy being looked at. They made quite a show of spreading their limbs and wings.
There were also multiple tanks housing my least favorite insect of all time: cockroaches. There were giant hissing one's, tiny domestic ones, and the massive cave roaches I never new existed. It was nightmare inducing, haha. But once I got over the initial shock, it was really interesting to see the different types and sizes of the roaches. Once I left that area, there was a dark hallway, where cave creatures were housed. There were tunneling spiders, bird catching spiders, and even a mother scorpion and her babies that glowed blue under ultraviolet light!

Can you spot the  insect in this photograph? 
Here's a  close up of its face!  This is kind of Walking Stick Insect, which mimic the look of a branch or twig. Some look like new shoots, others look like knurled pieces of fallen limbs. They can be found in warmer climates, and even here in the US, in the Southwest States.
 Then we moved on to the aquatic and mimicry insects. This was where I had the most fun! I would spend a few minutes at each new tank, trying to find the insect hiding in its habitat. Some were easier than others, but it was a great challenge on a few! I had to ask the Entomologist on hand where to find a couple. There were Giant Katydids, bigger than my hands, as well as an assortment of mimic mantis' and a fish tank with crawdads and little aquatic insects that swam through the water almost beautifully.Not to mention the Plexiglas beehive!

The entire Zoo took 45 minutes at the most, but once we left there, it was time to walk through the massive gardens!

The Gardens were free to the public, and had wide paths all throughout. There were gardening sections, that showed off plants like cabbage, potatoes, corn, etc. There was a lovely butterfly garden, and a section for tropical and native plants as well. There was a massive fountain the center, which had benches and plenty of space to sit and enjoy the sights. Not only that, but bronze statues of wildlife dotted the entire area, allowing for a fun little game of "spot the statue".

I'm not 100% sure what this is, but it smelled divine.
Overall, I would say the Gardens and Insect Zoo at K-State were well worth the $4! If it had been a bit warmer, I could have spent hours just wandering through the Gardens and enjoying the scents. If you have kids, or just enjoy seeing something different, I couldn't recommend the Zoo more! 

You can find more information HERE, and Directions HERE

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Photography Tips: Natural Light

As bloggers, we're expected to write quality material for our readers, be it a review, a giveaway, or our own original content. But no matter how amazing our literary prowess might be, if we don't deliver a pretty or well composed image to go along with it, readers can get bored and find another blog to visit. 

Some people are natural photographers, and some people need a gentle nudge along the way, but everyone can take great photographs! I'll be posting small tutorials and tips from time to time, which will help you learn to take your photos from 'blah', to 'tada'!

Today's lesson: Natural Light!

Poor lighting is, without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to make your photos look amateur and awful. I don't want to come off as mean or bitchy...but seriously, it only takes a few extra minutes of planning to get great lighting on any photo, especially one for a product review! Many bloggers end up with images like this due to being in a hurry to get the photos taken, only taking their images at night, etc. Look at the images I posted above, and note just how orange the top one looks. That's because I have wood paneled walls in my home, and my light bulbs make my whole house have this awful yellow light. It makes all my photographs look like absolute crap. So what can you do about that? Use the flash on the camera!

WRONG. Whoever told you to use your flash, should be punched in the face. I have seen countless photos on blogs, with good composition, pretty staging, and the whole effect has been ruined because the intense light of the flash has drowned out everything. Anything that can reflect, will reflect. So not only is your image washed out with lifeless lighting, but you're simultaneously being blinded by the reflection given off by the wrapping, metal parts, etc. The flash on a camera should only be used in very specific circumstances. Think about your flash as a lethal weapon, which should be used with extreme caution and with a trained professional present.

So how can you take a good photo, quickly, without having to resort to complicated lighting systems?

Open the curtains.

Seriously, that's all I did to get the bottom photo. I opened my curtains, allowing in the natural light, and I didn't even have to move from my desk. You can take a photo inside the comfort of your own home, or outdoors. I generally take my outdoor photos between 7am-10am, and 2pm-5pm. I shoot my indoor photos when the sun is too high, between 11 am and 1pm. By doing this, your photo isn't too bright, but it isn't too dark either. Natural light creates depth within the photograph, which makes your overall product much more appealing.

Some people i have talked to think that it takes too much trouble to use natural light. Not really, it just takes a bit of planning. Even for busy mothers and women who work outside the home, you just have to think of a span of maybe 3 minutes where you can snap a few photos outdoors or inside. When the kids are napping, before work, after work, during lunchtime, etc.

I hope this has helped some of you with your own photography challenges, and please let me know if you would like to read more tips!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Join us in the Fight

October generally leads most people to think of fall; leaves changing color and crunching underfoot, cold mornings and warm fires, Halloween and all the fun things that go along with it, and more. October usually brings about great memories, but for some people, October means far more than the beginning of fall weather.

October is Breast Cancer awareness month, and the perfect time to show your support for all those whose lives have been touched by the disease.  From the 1st, through the 31st, I will be giving away a free Pink Ribbon charm with each Origami Owl order over $40. Just send me an e-mail with the code: PINK RIBBON to get your free charm.

With Origami Owl, you'll be able to finally achieve personal jewelry. A locket that tells your story, holds your dreams, and can remind you every time you wear it what you have overcome. If you're interested in supporting the Breast Cancer cause, please feel free to visit my shop, and build yourself the perfect locket.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Few of my Favorite Things (from Cafepress)!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Cafepress, and all the products they offer. With the holidays right around the corner, and my budget dwindling, I turned back to them recently in order to get some early Christmas gifts out the way. After picking out a gift or two for everyone on my list, I found that I still had enough money to get something for myself!

Needless to say, shopping got a LOT trickier then!

After looking for what seemed like forever, I finally decided to nerd out a bit and get some geeky things, that I could use pretty often. The first thing on my list was this awesome Tardis Keychain

I don't use a lot of keys, but I have a horrible habit of losing the ones I do. This was perfect! It's heavy enough to know when i do and don't have it, but it also come apart, and allows me to hide some spare cash in it too! This way, I'll always have spare gas money in a pinch.

The second item, a GlaDoS T-Shirt, had to be shown using images from the website. This is because I have been wearing this shirt so much, that it's in the laundry, yet again. This has become one of my go-to shirts, and I can't even tell you how many awesome Portal related conversations have been started because of this shirt. I may have social anxiety, but I can nerd out with my own people with no introductions needed!

Not only is this shirt super soft, but it fits great! It's not too baggy, it's not too tight, and it's the perfect amount of comfortable you need when gaming. This same shirt is one of the blanks used on the Cafepress site, so you can get it with literally any design you want! One you design, or something like this that was designed by a fellow Cafepress user.

If you're looking for awesome gifts, at reasonable prices, I ca't recommend Cafepress enough!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vintage Vixens

You know, today started out sucking pretty bad. I felt like something a dog had shit out, eaten, then shit out again. My stomach was acting up, I had a headache, plus I didn't sleep that I was already in a cranky mood. Then I forgot my Kindle for class, meaning I couldn't participate in the required Top Hat bullshittery that never works half the time...which means I missed out on the participation points, so I could have just stayed at home since I didn't get a grade for today. Then in class, the teacher rambled on about the same thing we talked about Wednesday, and we never got through more than 1/3rd of a page of new notes due to her little stories, instead of actual teaching.

Needless to say, by the time I got home, I was NOT miss joy and sunshine.

Then I checked the mail, and found a small padded envelope from Dr. Steamington. If you remember, I posted about a previous mystery package that I received, which then sent me into a panic induced anxiety attack because I thought a serial killer was following me and had targeted my house. While that proved to not be the case, I wasn't exactly expecting anything further from the amazing Steampunk artisan.

While an unaccounted for and unexpected package generally sends me into a tizzy of "WHY THE FUCK IS THIS THING HERE?!?!", today, it was just what I needed.

After unwrapping the pretty little box, and carefully parting the tissue paper, I was greeted by the smiling faces of three tiny foxes, set onto an aged bronze filigree. I was in love before I even put it on. Seriously...this woman knows me so well it's fucking stupid, and I've only talked to her long enough to thank her for making the first pendant I got for my birthday.

The generosity and kindness of some people, is truly amazing.

Love and Lightning Bugs,