Thursday, February 28, 2013

1 Year Blogiversary Giveaway!

It's been one year since I first started this blog, and it seems like the time has just flown by!

I have written 181 posts, gained thousands of followers, and enjoyed some great conversations and friendships with the people here. So to say thank you for all your love and support, I'm giving away a great prize package for one lucky reader to win and enjoy!

So what's in this prize package?

Well, a little bit of everything! I wanted to include some of my favorite products in this giveaway, and I think I've managed to get a good array of items.

There's some fashion, some fun, some beauty, and even a few snacks as well! It's a great prize package, with something for everyone. So please enter below, cross your fingers, and remember to come back each day for more chances to win!

This giveaway will run from now, until 11:59 PM on the 15th, so get in your entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Most Badass Women of WWII: The Night Witches

I just found out something today that blew my mind, and I wanted to share. If you didn't know who the Night Witches were before, you’ll know now!

The Night Witches were an incredible group of Soviet women who flew bombing missions during World War II.

The year was 1941 and Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union. By November the German army was just 19 miles from Moscow. Leningrad was under siege and 3 million Russians had been taken prisoner. The Soviet air force was grounded.

In the summer of that same year, Marina Raskova, a record-breaking aviatrix, was called upon to organize a regiment of women pilots to fly night combat missions of harassment bombing. From mechanics to navigators, pilots and officers, the 588th regiment was composed entirely of women. The 588th was so successful and deadly that the Germans came to fear them, calling them Nachthexen, or ‘night witches’.

The women, most of them barely 20 years old, started training in Engels, a small town north of Stalingrad. The women of the 588th flew their first bombing mission on June 8, 1942. It consisted of three planes; their target was the headquarters of a German division. The raid was successful but one plane was lost.

The 588th flew thousands of combat bombing missions. They fought non-stop for months, sometimes flying 15 to 18 missions on the same night. But here is the real kicker, they flew obsolete Polikarpov Po-2’s. Wooden biplanes that were otherwise used as trainers. They could only carry two bombs that weighed less than a ton altogether. Most of the women who survived the war had, by the end, flown almost a thousand missions each.

Nadya Popova recalls those missions and comments that it was a miracle the Witches didn't suffer more losses. Their planes were the slowest ones in the air force and often came back riddled with bullets, but they kept flying. In August of 1942 Nadya and her navigator crashed in the Caucasus. They were found alive a few days later.

Years after the war, Nadya commented that she used to sometimes look up into the dark night sky, remembering when she was a young girl crouched at the controls of her bomber, and she would say to herself, "Nadya, how did you do it?"

There was a great deal of resistance to the idea of women combat pilots from their male counterparts. The women had to fight both enemy aircraft as well as the resentment of their male colleagues. In spite of the never-ending fatigue , the loss of friends, and sexual harassment from their suspicious male counterparts, the women kept on flying. Eventually the Soviets formed three regiments of women combat pilots -- the 586th, the 587th and the 588th.

The 586th also trained at Engels, first in the two-seat Yak-7 trainers and later on in the Yak-1 fighters. The women proved themselves to be as good as the men. The most outstanding pilots were Raisa Belyaeva and Valeria Khomyakova. The later was allowed to fly solo in the Yak-1 after just 52 minutes of dual instruction. She earned the grade of "excellent" during one trial flight but on a subsequent flight crash-landed on the frozen Volga River when she switched to an empty fuel tank. All of the women had their hands full, learning so much information in such a short amount of time.

The female mechanics also had their hands full with the demanding task of keeping the planes flying. The winter of 1942 was brutally cold, with temperatures plunging as low as -54F and countless snow storms. One night in March of that year the women were called upon to save the aircraft from being blown over by gale-force winds. Several women would literally lie on the wings and horizontal stabilizers of each plane, using the weight of their bodies to keep the planes from blowing away. When the wind subsided, the women looked like snowmen, but the planes were intact. Their respite was brief however. By noon the storm had resumed, and again the women rushed to the airfield to save the planes. The storm finally blew itself out around midnight, and the exhausted women, soaked to the skin and half frozen, could finally rest.

The Night Witches practiced what is known as harassment bombing. Their targets were encampments, supply depots, rear base areas, etc. Their constant raids made rest for the troops difficult and left them feeling very insecure.

The top speed of the Po-2 biplane was 94 mph ((82 knots). This is slower than even most World War I fighters and left them very vulnerable to enemy night fighters. But the Night Witches learned their craft well. The Po-2 was very slow, but it was also extremely maneuverable. When a German Me-109 tried to intercept it, the Night Witches would throw their Po-2 biplanes into a tight turn at an airspeed that was below the stalling speed of the Me-109. This forced the German pilot to make a wider circle and come back for another try, only to be met by the same tactic, time after time. Many of the Witches flew so low to the ground that they were hidden by hedgerows!

Completely frustrated, the German pilots would finally simply give up and leave the Po-2 biplanes alone. German pilots were promised an Iron Cross for shooting down a Po-2!
The stall speed of an Me-109 E,F and G models was about 120 mph ((104 knots). This made the top speed of the Po-2 biplanes slower than the stalling speed of the German fighters. The Focke-Wulf, also used in the Eastern front, had a high stalling speed as well, so it suffered the same fate.

The Witches developed the technique of flying close to their intended targets, then cutting their engines. Silently they would glide to their targets and release their bombs. Then they would restart their engines and fly away. The first warning the Germans had of an impending raid was the sound of the wind whistling against the wing bracing wires of the Po-2s, and by then it was too late.

The Po-2 would often pass undetected by the radar of the German fighters due to the unreflective nature of the canvas surfaces and also because they flew so low to the ground. Planes equipped with infrared heat seekers fared no better at detecting them due to the small heat emission from their puny little 110-hp engines.

Searchlights, however presented a big problem. The Germans at Stalingrad developed what the Russians called a "flak circus". They would arrange flak guns and searchlights (hidden during the day) in concentric circles around probable targets. Planes flying in pairs in a straight-line flight path across the perimeter were often ripped to shreds by the flak guns. So the Night Witches of the 588th developed their own technique to deal with the problem. They flew in groups of three.

Two would go in and deliberately attract the attention of the Germans. When all the searchlights were pointed at them, the two pilots would suddenly separate, flying in opposite directions and maneuvering wildly to shake off the searchlight operators who were trying to follow them. In the meantime the third pilot would fly in through the dark path cleared by her two teammates and hit the target virtually unopposed. She would then get out, rejoin the other two, and they would switch places until all three had delivered their payloads. As Nadya Popova noted, it took nerves of steel to be a decoy and willingly attract enemy fire, but it worked very well.

Now, how is that for some awesome history?

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Leaving the Nest: My Start With Origami Owl

Well, I took the plunge...I finally went out on a limb, took a chance, and decided to give a go to self owned business. I finally decided to become an Origami Owl designer!

Do you remember my review post from a couple of weeks ago? Well, I was so impressed by the lockets, that I decided to sell them as well! As of last night, I am officially a self business owner, and a Designer. I could not be more excited! I have never felt this good about such a big decision, and I am beyond thrilled to begin this new chapter of my life.

As a Designer, I get to help woman like you put together a piece of jewelry that tells your life story. I can image a thousand reasons for making a locket, from a gift, a graduation, a memorial locket for someone in your life who has passed, a mother's locket, and even a locket to show all that you have overcome.

I want to help you create something beautiful, that can also show everyone who you are.

Please feel free to visit my Shop and begin designing.

While you're there, why not join my team, and start an amazing career of your own! Please use Mentor Code #18886 when signing up, so I know who to lend a helping hand to! I'm always looking for creative individuals who  have a passion for creating beautiful things.

Also, if you like my Facebook Page, you'll be able to get amazing deals and offers from Origami Owl. I like to run special promotions when I can, so you don't want to miss out!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can really succeed in this endeavor, but I need some love and support from my readers! If nothing else, please like my Facebook Page (and get pretty pictures in your dash!).

If you could put together a locket, what would you want to have in it?

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Larger than Life Animals of the Past

Since the last post I did about extinct animals when over so well, I thought I would try it again! Below are a few of my favorites.

Doedicurus (Glyptodon)
Imagine a bony plated armadillo 12 feet in length weighing as much as a Volkswagen Beetle with a club of spikes on its tail and that's what Doedicurus (Glyptodon) was like.

Doedicurus fossils have been discovered in North and South America where it flourished during the Pleistocene, becoming extinct at the end of the Pleistocene Glaciation roughly 10,000 years ago. Doedicurus is one of the more well known Pleistocene megafauna and it is possible that early native human populations hunted them and utilized the animal as a source of food, as well as using the shells of dead animals as shelters in inclement weather.

Doedicurus shell was covered by more than 1,000 2.5 cm-thick bony plates, called osteoderms. Each species of glyptodont had its own unique osteoderm shell type and pattern. With this protection they were armored like turtles. But unlike most turtles, glyptodons could not withdraw their heads, but instead had a bony cap on the top of their skull. Even the tail of Glyptodon had a ring of bones for protection. Such a massive shell needed considerable support, which it had in features such as fused vertebrae, short but massive limbs, and a broad shoulder girdle.

The nasal passage was reduced with heavy muscle attachments for some unknown purpose. Some have speculated that the muscle attachments were for a proboscis, or trunk, much like that of a tapir or elephant. Most animals with a trunk, however, have nasal bones receding back on the skull, and glyptodonts do not have this feature. The lower jaws were very deep and helped support massive chewing muscles to help chew the coarse fibrous grasses and plants that can be found along river and lake banks.

Indricotherium transsouralicum
The Indricotherium, also know as Baluchitherium and Paracaratherium, was a gigantic long-necked, hornless rhinoceros that lived in Asia during the Oligocene and early Miocene eras (from about 37 million to 25 million years ago). It looked like a cross between an elephant and a horse.

Most paleontologists agree that the Indricotherium was the largest land mammal to have ever walked on earth. Its skull alone measures from 15 to 33 tons standing 18 feet at the shoulder. This is about 4 or 5 times larger than a modern elephant. Their immense size would have made them virtually inaccessible to predators.

Like the rhinocerous, this extinct mammal had 3 toes on each foot and probably had a prehensile upper lip. Along with this and its four tusk-like teeth, two on bottom and two on top, the Indricotherium's mouth would have been perfectly adapted to stripping leaves from their branches. They probably lived in herds which roamed through an open woodland environment, their long necks making them well suited for browsing and foraging the tops of trees for food. They would have filled a niche in the ecosystem similar to that of today's giraffes.

Giant Ground Sloth (Eremotherium laurillardi)
There are four species of extinct ground sloths, the most spectacular of which is Giant Ground Sloth (Eremotherium laurillardi). This animal was huge and weighed as much as a mammoth, could rear up as high as a giraffe and had claws the size of a man's forearm. It lived around 130,000 years ago.

Giant ground sloths were some of the strangest mammals ever to have lived and resembled no other animal. Although related to modern tree sloths, they lived on the ground and rivalled the mammoths in size. Their remarkable claws were up to 50cm long. Massive hind quarters gave way to much slimmer shoulders and a tiny head.

They were herbivores and ate through all parts of plants and trees, fruits, leaves and twigs. It used its giant tail to brace it upright, while feeding on large amounts of twigs and leaves. The oddly balanced anatomy and massive claws of the giant ground sloths gave them a strange walk. From footprints in South America we know that at least some of the time they walked on just their hind legs.

Carcharodon (or Carcharocles) Megalodon
Carcharodon megalodon was a GIANT shark that lived in prehistoric times 25 to 1.6 million years ago, during the Miocene and Pliocene. It was the top predator of its time and is the largest carnivorous fish kown to have ever existed.

Scientists estimate Carcharodon megalodon was 40 - 100 feet long and could have weighed as much as 50 tons. This is at least two or three times as long as the great white shark of today. Giant teeth from this shark have been found that are the size of a person's hand. Since sharks skeletons are formed from cartilage rather than bone, no fossilized parts other than it's teeth have been found, so its overall appearance and size are based on inferences from examining shark teeth, dermal scales, and calcified vertebrae to draw their conclusions about this very successful group of vertebrates. Since Megalodon's teeth are very similar to the teeth of the Great White Shark (but bigger and thicker), it is thought that Megalodon may have looked like a huge, streamlined version of the Great White Shark.

Megalodon's diet probably consisted mostly of whales. It may have hunted using the same stealthy technique that today's Great White Sharks have been known to employ to capture pinnipeds, stalking their prey from deeper waters and then swimming up at full speed to deliver a massive bite.

Why did the Giant "Mega-Tooth" Shark become extinct? Perhaps the reduction in ocean temperatures in the mid-Pliocene affected this species, which preferred warm waters. Another possibility is that their favored prey species, such as the baleen whales, had begun to migrate to colder waters where the giant sharks could not thrive.

Aepyornis Maximus
A bird taller than a basketball hoop!

Aepyornis maximus, also known as the elphant bird, was the world's largest bird, believed to have been over 10 feet tall (3 metres) and weighing close to half a ton (400 kilograms (880 lb). It's eggs are the world's largest eggs at 88 cms.

Like the cassowary, ostrich, rhea, emu and kiwi, the Aepyornis could not fly. Birds that have lost the ability to fly belong to a group of birds called ratite.

It is often believed that the extinction of the Aepyornis was an effect of human activity. Studies have found remains of eggshells among the remains of human fires. Animals arriving with the human colonists, such as rats and dogs, may also have preyed upon the eggs of the ratite population and reduced their viability. Humans may also have hunted adult birds into extinction.

Want to see more fun prehistoric creatures? Then leave me a comment below!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Have i mentioned lately how much I LOVE my baby brother? The most amazing gift from him came the other day: a Kindle Fire HD!

Needless to say, I went on a book downloading spree. The entire Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit, all the Kate Daniels Books by Illona Andrews, and more! But then it hit me....I haven't really had anything "new" in a few years...and I have no idea what books, apps, or movies to get next.

So I'm coming to you readers! What books or apps do you like best?

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Amazing Sea Creatures

It's been a really rough week here.

The hubby's mom was in a car accident on Sunday night, and has been in the hospital ever since. Due to that, the blog has a taken a backseat. But, I'm free for today, and I want to start blogging again!

I often talk about animals on this blog, but they're usually animals who live on the land in some way. The deep sea offers it's own array of distinct and weird creatures...and I think it's time to meet some of my favorites.

 The Dumbo Octopus

The Dumbo octopus, named for its pair of prominent fins, is much smaller than its elephant namesake—it's only about 8 inches (20 centimeters) long—and dwells near the ocean floor at depths of up to 1,310 feet (400 meters). Like other octopuses, it has eight arms, but they are webbed and serve as swimming aids, supplementing the flapping of the giant fins.

The Japanese Spider Crab

This is the largest known arthropod; fully grown it can reach a leg span of almost 4 m (13 ft), a body size of up to 37 cm (15 inches) and a weight of up to 20 kg (44 lb). The crab’s natural habitat is on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean (some 300 to 400 m deep) around Japan, where it feeds on dead animals and shellfish. It is believed to have a life expectancy of up to 100 years

The Tripod Fish

The tripod fish gets its name from the three extra-long fins extending from its body. It uses these like stilts to stand on the bottom, keeping its body just above the surface of seafloor. Then it sits and waits to ambush any passing prey. When the prey comes within range, the tripod fish pounces on it.

The Gulper Eel

The gulper eel has huge, pouch-like jaws. These can open wide enough, and its stomach stretch far enough, for it to swallow fish much bigger than itself. The gulper eel can unhinge its jaws, opening its cavernous mouth even wider. This fish grows to a length of 2 ft (60 cm). It is found at depths below 6,500 ft (1,998 m).

Want to see more? Let me know in the comments!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Sunday, February 10, 2013

10 Extinct Animals in the Last 150 years

Mankind has the honor of quite possibly being the most destructive force to ever hit mother nature. This list looks at some of the more recent, probably lesser known extinctions that humans have lent a helping hand to. Whether by over hunting or over population, driving a species to extinction is nothing to be proud of and it’s certainly not slowing down. This is a heartbreaking reminder that one day, your children might not know what a Panda, Sea Turtle, or Siberian Tiger look like. We have to protect the species we have so endangered.

10.) Thylacine

Commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger, the Thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. Virtually wiped out in the wild due to constant hunting (they were thought to be a threat to sheep and other small farm animals) and the encroachment of humans on their already limited habitat the Thylacine was finally recognized as being in danger of becoming extinct in 1936, too little, too late as that same year the last Thylacine, named Benjamin, died on 7 September as the result of neglect - locked out of its sheltered sleeping quarters and exposed to freezing temperatures at night in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania. 60 years later there are still claims of sightings, but all are yet to be confirmed.

9.) Quagga

The Quagga was a southern subspecies of the Plains Zebra. It differed from other zebras mainly in having stripes on the head, neck, and front portion of its body only, and having brownish, rather than white, on its upper parts. The last free Quaggas may have been caught in 1870. The last captive Quagga, a mare, died on 12 August 1883 in Amsterdam Zoo, where she had lived since 9 May 1867. It was not realized that this Quagga mare was the very last of her kind. Because of the confusion caused by the indiscriminate use of the term “Quagga” for any zebra, the true Quagga was hunted to extinction without this being realized until many years later. The Quagga became extinct because it was ruthlessly hunted down for meat and leather by South African farmers, also they were seen by the settlers as competitors, like other wild grass eating animals, for their livestock, mainly sheep and goats.

8.) Passenger Pigeon

The story of the Passenger Pigeon is one of the most tragic extinction stories in modern times. As recently as around 200 years ago they weren’t anywhere near extinction. In fact, they were actually the most common bird in North America, and some reports counted single flocks numbering in the billions. When a flock would pass overhead, sometimes the sky was dark for over an hour as they passed.However, Pigeon meat was commercialized and recognized as cheap food, especially for slaves and the poor, which led to a hunting campaign on a massive scale. Furthermore, due to the large size of their flocks, the birds were seen as a threat to farmers. The last Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died alone at the Cincinnati Zoo at about 1:00 pm on September 1, 1914.

7.) Golden Toad

The first record of the Golden Toad was by herpetologist Jay Savage in 1966. The toad, recognized by its brilliant golden orange color, was native to the tropical cloud forests which surround Monteverde, Costa Rica. None have been seen since 1989. It last bred in normal numbers in 1987, and its breeding sites were well known. In 1987, due to erratic weather, the pools dried up before the larva had matured. Out of potential 30,000 toads, only 29 had survived. In 1988, only eight males and two females could be located. In 1989, a single male was found, this was the last record of the species. Extensive searches since this time have failed to produce any more records of the golden toad.

6.) Caribbean Monk Seal

The Caribbean Monk Seal was the only known seal which was native to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the only species of seal to go extinct directly due to human causes. The Caribbean monk seal was the first New World mammal to be discovered by Columbus and his company on the coast of Santo Domingo in 1494. It appears in the account of Columbus’ second voyage to America. Columbus promptly ordered his crew to kill eight of the animals, which he called “sea-wolves”, for food, paving the way for exploitation of the species by European immigrants who came in his wake. Since then, the once abundant seals have been hunted for their oil and slaughtered by fishermen, who regarded the animals as competitors. It was officially declared extinct just a few years ago, on June 6th, 2008, although the last recorded account of the species was made at Serranilla Bank between Honduras and Jamaica in 1952. Like other true seals, the Caribbean Monk Seal was sluggish on land. This, along with its lack of fear for man, unaggressive and curious behavior, as well as human hunting, and early habitat exclusion by humans throughout their range may have dramatically speed up their decline and likely contributed to its demise.

5.) Pyrenean Ibex

The Pyrenean Ibex has one of the more interesting stories among extinct animals, since it was the first species to ever be brought back into existence via cloning, only to go extinct again just seven minutes after being born due to lung failure. The Pyrenean Ibex was native to the Pyrenees, a mountain range in Andorra, France and Spain. The Pyrenean ibex was still abundant in the fourteenth century. The Pyrenean ibex’s population declined due to a “slow but continuous persecution” and disappeared from the French Pyrenees and the eastern Cantabrian mountain range by the mid-nineteenth century. Its situation has been critical since the beginning of the 20th century, when it was estimated that the Pyrenean population in Spain numbered only about 100 individuals. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the population never rose above 40 individuals. In 1981, the population was reported to be 30. At the end of the 1980’s the population size was estimated at 6-14 individuals. The last naturally born Pyrenean Ibex, named Celia, died on January 6th, 2000, after being found dead under a fallen tree at the age of 13. That animal’s only companion had died just a year earlier due to old age.

4.) Bubal Hartebeest

Although it once roamed throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East, the deep-rooted mythology (once domesticated by the ancient Egyptians as a food source and for sacrificial purposes) which surrounded the animal was not enough to save it from European hunters who began hunting them for recreation and meat. People who resided in Morocco shot these animals for fun, and for hunting, which wiped large herds of them out. Many Hartebeests were captured and were kept alive (e.g. in the London Zoo from 1883 to 1907), but they eventually died out. The last Bubal Hartebeest was probably a female which died in the Paris Zoo in 1923.

3.) Javan Tiger

Javan Tigers were a subspecies of tigers which were limited to the Indonesian island of Java. In the early 19th century Javan tigers were so common, that in some areas they were considered nothing more than pests. As the human population increased, large parts of the island were cultivated, leading to a severe reduction of their natural habitat. Wherever man moved in, the Javan tigers were ruthlessly hunted down or poisoned. Natives carried much of the hunting out, a surprising thing since they considered the tiger a reincarnation of their dead relatives. The last specimen to have been seen was sighted in 1972, although there is evidence from track counts that the animal had lingered into the 1980’s. The last track counts to yield evidence of the tigers was held in 1979, when just three tigers were identified. The leading cause of their extinction was agricultural encroachment and habitat loss, which continues to be a serious concern in Java.

2.) Tecopa Pupfish

The Tecopa Pupfish was native in the Mojave Desert, in Inyo County, California, United States of America. This fish subspecies was originally found only in the outflows of North and South Tecopa Hot Springs. It was first described by Robert Rush Miller in 1948. Its decline began in the early 1940's when the northern and the southern spring which were about 10 yards apart were made into canals and bathhouses were build. The popularity of Tecopa Hot Springs in the 1950's and 1960's led to the building of hotels and trailer parks in that area. By 1981 the Tecopa Pupfish was officially de-listed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and it became the first animal which was officially declared extinct according to the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

1.) Baiji River Dolphin

The Baiji population declined drastically in recent decades as China industrialized and made heavy use of the river for fishing, transportation, and hydroelectricity. As China developed economically, pressure on the river dolphin grew significantly. Industrial and residential waste flowed into the Yangtze. The riverbed was dredged and reinforced with concrete in many locations. Ship traffic multiplied, boats grew in size, and fishermen employed wider and more lethal nets. Noise pollution caused the nearly blind animal to collide with propellers. In the 1970's and 1980's, an estimated half of Baiji deaths were attributed to entanglement in fishing gear. Only a few hundred were left by 1970. Then the number dropped down to 400 by the 1980's and then to 13 in 1997 when a full-fledged search was conducted. The dolphin was declared functionally extinct after an expedition late in 2006 failed to record a single individual after an extensive search of the animal’s entire range.

So please remember, that our ecosystems and our animal species are delicate, and they will more often need our help to survive. Humans drove these amazing creatures to extinction through pollution, over-hunting, and habitat loss...we have to start making things right again.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Healthy Soda: Zevia

I love trying new food...but usually those foods aren't exactly healthy for me. In fact, they're usually packed with fat, calories, and all those artificial things that really shouldn't belong in food. So I was delighted when I found Zevia

Zevia is an all natural soda, with no sugar, and zero calories. Not to mention, a GREAT flavor!

The Zevia website has this to say about their sodas:
"In our opinion, natural means nothing fake, phony or artificial. No artificial sweeteners, colors, junk. Only the good soda stuff. None of the bad. We use only the best ingredients to make our beverages. So you can drink this diet soda knowing it’s been made with love and care."
You can find Zevia on FacebookZevia Blog,  Twitter, Their Website, as well as a store near you!  I managed to find them in the Hy-Vee near us, and stocked up! Here's a run down of the flavors I received, and my thoughts on them.

Lime Cola - I enjoyed the taste! I thought it would be like Sprite, but it was something completely new to me. Not only was it a dark soda (and not clear like I thought it would be), but it had a unique flavor all its own. It was still light and bubbly, but with a tang.

Black Cherry - This has to be my favorite of the flavors! It was so yummy and smooth, and not harsh at all like some Black Cherry flavors can be.

Dr. Zevia - I normally HATE the taste of anything that resembles Dr. Pepper, but this soda was so much tastier! It had a bold flavor, but not too bold. It was a perfect mixture!

Grapefruit Citrus - This has to be my second favorite, behind the Black Cherry. Normally I find Grapefruit anything totally disgusting, but this was really just a light and refreshing drink. Not too much grapefruit.

Ginger Root Beer - Wow...despite my everlasting HATE of Root Beer, this was my third favorite! It was a dark, flavorful drink, and it tasted just as good in the can, as it did in a glass of ice.

Cream Soda - The hubby loved this one! Cream Soda somehow makes my Crohn's act up, so I let my boyfriend  drink this one. He drank the entire can, and even went to see if there were more of this flavor in the fridge. He  usually only drinks half a can, and calls it quits, so he must have found something in this one that made it better than the rest!

If you're looking for a soda that is both ood for you, and doesn't taste like cardboard, this is the soda to try!

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Creating the Story of Your Life with Origami Owl

When was the last time you walked into a store and saw a piece of jewelry that just called to you? Something that looked and felt like it had been made just for you? A piece that when you wore it, helped tell the story of your life? If you're lucky, you may have found that amazing trinket. For many of us however, that day has yet to come. I myself have been looking for over 10 years, and nothing was just right for me. 

Until I found Origami Owl

With Origami Owl, I was able to finally achieve personal jewelry. A locket that told my story, held my dreams, and could remind me every time I wore it what I have overcome in my short 24 years.

Origami Owl was started by a 14 year old girl in 2010, as a way to earn money toward a used truck for her 16th birthday. Over the last two years, her company has blossomed into something amazing, with the help of those who sell the unique and beautiful Living Lockets offered. Thanks to Connie and her daughter, I was able to review one of these gems! She had this to say:
"My name is Connie and I joined Origami Owl in February of 2012 along with my teenage daughter Courtney!  Once we saw our first living locket, it was love at first sight and we knew we wanted to become designers!   
Origami Owl Custom Jewelry is a fun and fashionable direct sales company with a unique twist.  As Independent Designers we hold interactive events where we help women of all ages create living lockets that hold charms that represent what is important in their lives." 

Connie helped me design a locket that would be uniquely my own, and she was a dream to work with! It was so simple! I just had to go through 3 easy steps, and it was on its way to me!

Even better? I can change out the charms at any time! If I want to make this locket represent something else, it's super simple. I just open the locket, change out the charms, plates, and dangles, and I'm done! I have seen lockets for mothers, cancer survivors, sports teams, clubs, and everything in between! Here are a few of my favorites.

With Valentines Day coming up, these would be perfect for that special person in your life as well! I'm thinking of getting one for my mother, with an Air Force theme. That way she can have it to remind herself of my brother, since he's so far away. The possibilities really are endless!

I loved the packaging that the locket came in, and the attention to detail as well. The take-out box was adorable, and the little pouch inside of that housed my locket. I hadn't seen the finished locket yet, so I was still curious as to what it would look like..and I was not disappointed! Not only was it beautiful, but I had that moment where I knew this was for me.

Each charm in and around this locket holds a special meaning to me, and what fun is it to keep those memories to myself? After all, the entire reason for these lockets is to tell your story. So here's mine.

Starting with the charms hanging on the chain:

The Bow: All through High School, and even now, I wore bows in my hair. For a shy girl with a severe anxiety disorder, it was the easiest way to express myself. I would wear a different bow everyday, in crazy and fun colors. Eventually, I began dressing to match my bows...and my own personal style finally came out. It was weird, with numerous layers, and odd combinations...but it was mine, and I loved it. I started making good friends, and coming out of my shell more and more. I eventually blossomed into the woman I am today...thanks to a tiny bow.

The Angel Wing: Like any woman, I had a tumultuous relationship with my parents growing up. And by tumultuous, I mean I actually hated them at times. Those High School years were difficult for me, and I really just didn't need my parents butting in trying to mold me...when I didn't know what I wanted to be molded into. I was a sad little lump of clay, with no idea what it wanted to become. Well, during those years, I made some bad choices, and found myself in a very abusive relationship. He abused me in every way you can: physically, emotionally, mentally, and more. My parents stepped in once they learned about it, and sent me off to live with my aunt in Kansas. I hated them at that moment...but being blinded by abuse...I was a bit messed up back then. Thanks to the love and protection of my mother and father, I was able to realize the situation I had been in...and I was able to overcome it. I stayed in Kansas, instead of moving back home, to help me move on. I met my current love, and have been happily living the last 5 years with him. I have overcome such abuse and mental issues, all thanks to my parents. That's why they will forever be my guardian angels. They have loved me since before I was born, and have always wanted is best for me.

The Rose: I'm a pagan, so nature is my religion. I have always felt a strong connection with the "unseen" world, and most often I feel that pull when around roses. I have them planted around my house to help bring in the "little folk", and to constantly feel that connection.

Now to the charms in the locket itself:

The Silver Rose: I fancy myself quite the artist. I write, I sing, I used to draw, I sew, I can take (what I consider good) photography, and I can work Photoshop like a pro. I have always been an avid artist in any medium, and the look of this rose screamed "charcoal on paper"...which is why I used it to represent my artistic side.

The Cameo: My love for history knows almost no bounds. I have often been told I am an "old soul", and I could not agree more! I have moments where I am sure I was born in the wrong era, or I am having a flashback on a past life. Those moments led me to Civil War Reenacting, where I happily take up my corset and petticoats, and relive an age long passed.

The Aqua Stone: The water has always been a draw for me, be it a lake, a pond, a creek, or even just the rain. In any form, I find a beauty within water that can't be found anywhere else. The water is so versatile, and able to conform to any situation...and that is something I desire to be able to do.

The Gear: Well, this has more than one meaning. For one, I am a super nerd. I can take apart and rebuild computers, code, and game like a pro. One of my favorite gaming companies is Valve, and the gear kind of looks like their yay! But also, I am an avid Steampunk enthusiast. Neo-Victorian with a scientific twist? Sign me up! (For those who don't know, gears and cogs are big in the Steampunk community).

The Pearl: My Great Grandmother gave me a string of pearls when i was younger, and since that day, I have always had pearls on most of my jewelry and hair accessories. Something about the way they're made fascinates me; a tiny ugly grain of sand, that starts out as an irritation, slowly becomes a beautiful and valuable gem. Maybe there is symbolism in that...or maybe I'm just a nature nerd.

The Diamond Heart: I had to put something in here about my love, didn't I? He saved me from a spiral of self-destruction I was on after moving to Kansas, and showed me that I wasn't all those horrible things that my abusive ex had said. He saved my life, in more ways than one...and I love him dearly for it.

The Champagne Stone: Partly a pretty accent, partly an homage to my little brother. His birthday is in November, and he's now very far away from our family... enlisted in the Air Force. We had a difficult childhood...him and I. We didn't get along very well. But today, I know I can go to him with anything that's troubling me. He's grown up to be an amazing young man, and I love him. <3

The Crystal Paw: I have always loved animals, even before I could walk. I was always dragging home strays, and begging my parents to let me keep them...much to their chagrin. I have taken on men twice my size in defense of those tiny creatures who cannot defend themselves, and I am one of the most outspoken animal advocates you will ever meet. I feel closer to animals than to most humans, and I'm not ashamed to say it. Yes, I am that girl cries over dead butterflies, and my pets are some of my best friends. My rabbits and dogs are my children, and I am currently going to school to get my degree in Animal Science.

The Believe Plate: This particular charm makes me tear up to tell its story. I was very close to my Great Grandmother, and considered her my other mother. She was always there for me, and knew just what to say or do to fix any crisis I thought I was having. She was my rock for 15 years...and then her health and her mind started to go. Less than a year later, she was gone to the Summerland. Her mind was the worst in those last few months, when she didn't know who anyone was, or where she was. To see my other mother, confused and unable to care for herself, was heartbreaking. Many times, she had no idea who I was..and often confused me for a cousin, or a niece. The day before she passed, I came to see her. She was sitting up, bright and alert, and seemed to be her old self again. We relived some of our favorite memories, and she told me my favorite stories, while she brushed my hair... like she did when I was little. After a couple of hours, I had to leave...and she had me set down on her bed. She looked me in the eyes, cupped my face in her hands, and tole me to always believe. "Believe in the beauty of everything around you. Believe in love, and friendship, and family, and all those things that make you the special woman you are." Those last lucid words to me, have stick with me since.

So if you're looking for that perfect gift for your mom, freind, or even yourself...check out Origami Owl.

Love and Lightning Bugs,

Monday, February 4, 2013

Google Can Eat A Dick

Traffic on my Blog has been very consistent over the last several months.  Suddenly, in the last 3 days, traffic has plummeted by 30%.  Looking at incoming traffic to my website, the reason is obvious…traffic from Google’s “Image Search” is dramatically down.  People searching for photographs on Google, through Google’s “Image Search”, are no longer actually reaching my website!

This is what happens now when a web searcher uses Google's Image Search. This is MY photograph, in full-resolution, displayed in all it's glory, not on MY website, but on Google's Image Search. Google searchers can now actually DOWNLOAD and save photographs and images, WITHOUT ever actually visiting the website where the images are hosted. NOT COOL GOOGLE.

The reason?  This week, Google changed their Image Search pages.  At first, the Image Search looks the same.   You type in a search term and a long gallery of thumbnail images appears. However, now, when you click on a thumbnail image, it no longer takes you to the webpage where that photo is found.  Instead, it now actually BRINGS UP THE FULL-RESOLUTION PHOTO for people to look at.  You can now actually DOWNLOAD an image directly from Google’s Image Search, WITHOUT EVER VISITING THE WEBSITE ITSELF!!!

For example, let’s say someone is looking for a photo of a Steampunk corset.  They type in "Steampunk corset", and one of my images appears right in the top row of the Google Image Search page, as one of the thumbnail images.  However, now, when a user clicks on the thumbnail of my photo, Google’s Image Search actually brings up the original photograph, WITHOUT taking the user to my blog!! There’s a VERY tiny message at the bottom, barely noticeable, that says “the image may be subject to copyright”, but a user can simply right-click and save the picture directly to their hard drive, without visiting my blog.

Traffic from Google is now down 75% and just keeps dropping. No reason for people to continue to the actual SOURCE website where a photo comes from, when Google TAKES your image and displays it on their own pages.

You are crossing a line, Google.  You’re providing a search service, pure and simple.  In NO WAY should you be allowed to actually DISTRIBUTE THE CONTENTS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S WEBSITES!!! Webmasters around the world are complaining of dramatic drops in traffic to their websites, especially websites devoted to imagery and photography.  With Google now DIRECTLY displaying and allowing download of full-resolution imagery, web searchers are simply looking at full-resolution images on Google itself, without visiting the source websites.

NOT COOL, GOOGLE. I have no doubt there will be a legal challenge here, as I simply can’t understand the legality of Google itself effectively distributing CONTENT from other people’s websites.

If you want to protect yourself as much as possible WATERMARK! Put a good sized watermark on you images, and never upload the full resolution image to your blog. Save the image with a lower dpi, and if you need help, ask me directly, and I will be more than happy to do what I can to help you along! This is NOT COOL GOOGLE.

Love and Lightning Bugs,