Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Got Noise?

I was reading the Costco Connection today. That's the magazine Costco sends out to its members every month. It usually has some pretty good articles, in addition to ads for products they're pushing to sell. Today I read an article called The Sound of Silence by Penny Musco. The subtitle is: Noise pollution has lasting health effects. It's really interesting. If you'd like to read it, they have it online. It's on page 57.

It's starts off by saying the word noise comes from Latin, which originally means nausea. That, alone, is interesting. It goes on to explain how noise is actually making us sick in ways such as hearing loss, sleep deprivation, impaired task performance, cardiovascular disease, etc. I mean ... just think about it. Stop right now and listen. What do you hear? How many different sounds or noises can you pick up?

When I lived in California, one of my biggest complaints was the noise from my neighborhood. I lived on a very busy road, and even though our house wasn't right on the street, the noise was unbearable. Traffic zoomed by constantly. The usual commute hours were horrible. I knew it was bad, but I didn't realize how bad until I went back in 2009 to visit. Sure enough, right between 7am and 9am, it was a constant, "ZOOM! ZOOM! ZOOM!" of cars rushing by. I don't know how I lived with that for so long.

We also had an unusual amount of crows that loved the pine trees in our back yard. Now normally, the sound of birds doesn't bother me too much, although I have been known to moan and complain about them. Those crows were relentless. It sounded like there were 1000 of them up in that tree, all squawking and carrying on. We also had a lot of Western Scrub Jays, and like all jays, those were very noisy birds. Even so, the birds were nothing compared to the zooming of the traffic on my road.

I have to admit, the noise at my Montana house is a lot less. I live at the end of a dead-end road, so the only traffic coming around are my neighbors or the occasional airplane overhead. We have a lot of birds and they can be incredibly noisy, especially the robins who insist on waking the whole world up at 4am. However, if you were to sit on my deck and close your eyes, most of the time all you'd hear is a mixture of birds -- robins, chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, ravens, and occasionally an eagle, hawk, or gaggle of geese flying by. The squirrels tend to be rather noisy, but they entertain me more than annoy me. And many times I've been snuffed at by deer or bears. The forest is a noisy place -- a good noise.

I'm not one of those people who can write while listening to music. Often I see my writer friends talking about their playlists and what songs they listen to when they're writing. I can't do that. I have to have absolute silence when I write, even if it's for a picture book. I've never been one to leave the TV on for background noise, although I know many people who do that, including my mother-in-law. My mom often played music in the house when I was growing up. It didn't bother me then, but it's not something I do today.

For those of you who know how much I love music, you might be surprised to hear that I don't have it blasting away all the time. When I do listen to it, I'm usually walking on my TreadClimber, peddling on the recumbent bike, or driving in the car. Occasionally, I'll lie on my bed and listen to my iPod, but it's not a regular thing. Also, I very RARELY have music playing aloud -- I listen to it almost exclusively through my headphones. The only exception to that is when I'm in the car. And because of the headphones, I tend to play my music at the highest level, causing probably way more damage than I'd like to think about.

Music aside -- I'm a quiet person. I love quiet. I need quiet. Excessive noise makes me want to grind my teeth and smash things. If you want to watch me go all psycho, play a couple of Cher songs while I'm at the grocery store. It's not pretty. The picture above is how I like to spend my days. It's a bit deceiving though because it wasn't as quiet as it looked -- between my boys squealing in the water and motorboats zooming by. I was so much happier when we headed out onto a quiet river with absolutely no one around us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Camping, I will go.

Of course, our camping trip wouldn't be complete without Yoda. Nathan got this creepy, latex thing at Disney World in May. It's the strangest looking thing. To make matters worse, Nathan can talk just like him. So, of course, Yoda had to come camping with us.

Yoda and Nathan sat around the campsite a bit.

"A moss toupee, I have."

And of course, it just wouldn't be camping without S'mores. As you can see, Yoda likes his marshmallows burned to a crisp. At least he and I have that in common.

The picture below cracks me up because right after I took this one, Nathan pulled the S'more away and Yoda had gooey marshmallow stuck to his hand. "Sticky, it is."

"Lots of fun camping, I had!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Alva Lake Fauna

It's funny that I see so many large mammals on a daily basis, and yet, we saw very few when we went camping this weekend at Alva Lake. I mentioned in my last post that Rick saw a mountain lion for a brief second as we were driving. It was eating from a carcass near the road, but ran off as soon as it heard our van. I was looking back a bit because I thought I had seen a moose, so I missed seeing it. Major bummer.

We did see some osprey, white-tailed deer, and a very large crane or heron. I didn't get any pictures of those, unfortunately, but I did get some of the little critter creatures. The first picture here is what I think is a banded damselfly. I always get damselflies confused with dragonflies, so please correct me if I'm wrong. They were all over the place, and at one point, I had two on my kayak paddle. One of them flew off and landed on my arm, where it stayed long enough for me to take a couple of pictures.

The second picture is what I think is an alpine peaclam. They were all over the lake, so the boys had fun finding those. Some were empty, but others had creatures living in them. There was also some sort of fresh water snail, but I didn't get any pictures of those shells. That will teach me for forgetting my water camera. The picture above is of a bumblebee that landed on our kayak.

Believe it or not, but the picture above is not just some grass growing out of the water. That picture has a turtle in it, although it's very hard to see. It was swimming in and out of the grass and I couldn't get a clear shot of it. I don't know what type it is, to be honest. It could be a pond turtle, snapping turtle, painted turtle, red-eared slider, or something else. I was scaring it enough as it is, so I decided to back off and didn't get the best picture. When I first saw it, all I saw was a swoop motion of something brown. We were standing next to a beaver dam, so that's what I thought it was at first. Nope ... just a turtle.

The picture above is some sort of wasp or yellow jacket. I'm not sure which one. I started to take pictures of it, but then Rick called me over to photograph the bumblebee. This was when we were on the little island in the middle of Alva Lake. There were tons of insects on that place. I thought the mosquitoes would be really bad this time of year, but we didn't see too many of them. There were some nasty flies though. They were the type of flies that bite and draw blood. I got some painful bites from those stupid things.

The last picture is of a crayfish, or crawdad, whichever term you prefer. These are all over the lakes, ponds, and streams here. The boys love catching them. This particular one had an attitude though and kept walking up to Rick to try to get his feet. Crazy little things.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alva Lake Flora

We just got home from a two-day camping trip. We had planned on going to Holland Lake Campground, which is about an hour from where we live. We've hiked there before, but had never camped, so we thought we'd check it out. Turned out, the campground was filled, so we were unable to stay there. 

Instead, we drove down the road a bit further to Alva Lake Campground. By this point, it was noon on a Friday afternoon and the campground was filling up fast. We came across one spot and grabbed it. Within minutes, the campground was completely full for the weekend. We totally lucked out. Not only that, but we got a really cool spot with literally no one around us.

I took about 180 pictures. Like an idiot, I forgot my water camera, so I lugged my Canon around as carefully as I could. I normally bring both, but take the little Olympus water-proof camera out in the kayaks. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to separate the pictures into some sort of theme, so this particular blog post will feature some of the flora pictures I took.

If you click on the images, they show up bigger. The first picture at top is pretty interesting because it was taken on a very small island in the middle of Alva Lake. We kayaked out there and had the whole place to ourselves. I didn't realize it at the time, but if you look at that top picture, those yellow flowers were covered in ants. The island is really small, so the only animals there were insects, birds, and some crawdads and fish near the shore.

The picture below here is a serviceberry. In other parts of the country they're called juneberries or Saskatoons. I have serviceberries in my yard and pick them every summer. They're not as good as huckleberries, but they go good in smoothies. These aren't ripe yet. They'll be dark purple soon.

We actually liked Alva Lake Campground better than Holland. The weather was fantastic, so everyone and their mother was out in it. Yesterday was crazy on the lake. It was one boat after another on the loading dock. We had found a really cool spot on one end of the lake that no one else went to. It was super shallow so unless you were in a kayak or swimming, it was too shallow to get to by boat. It was like a little beach area, except the shore was under water. We hung out there a lot -- just sitting in the water, swimming, etc.

Eventually, we decided to break away from the lake and took our kayaks up one of the rivers. That was amazing! The river bent all around in the middle of a forest. It was so peaceful and the water wasn't moving very fast at all. We saw lots of beaver dams, birds, and insects.

I'll blog about some of the animals we saw. We didn't see anything major -- no bears anyway -- but that was okay. It's not like we don't see those on a daily basis as it is. Rick did see a mountain lion on the side of the road as we drove out, but I missed it. I had thought I saw a moose, so I was looking in the wrong direction. Rick said the cat was eating from a carcass near the road, but ran off as soon as he saw us. 

Anyway, these are just some of the flowers and plants we saw, not including all the pine forests and such. I hope you enjoy seeing the pictures and that you're having a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I feel horrible ...

As I was putting the dishes into the dishwasher yesterday, I accidentally dropped Nichelle's favorite coffee mug. It's the one pictured above. My hands were wet and it just slipped into our ceramic sink. The poor thing didn't have a chance. I feel so bad because not only was it her favorite, but it was one of the only souvenirs she bought for herself when she went to either Disneyland or Disney World one year.

To make things worse, I cannot find it online anywhere. I've found a few places where it shows up, but they all say it's out of stock. It's a Walt Disney Resort exclusive item too, so it's not going to be easy to replace. She told me not to worry about it, but I'm still going to try. It was such a cool mug and probably one of the neatest ones we have right now. I have one place set to notify me if they get any others and another message to a seller to see if he still has one available. I'd really like to replace it for her. I feel so bad.

If you're following me on Twitter (@RenaJJones) then you might have noticed I've been posting something called the Mug of the Day. Every morning I've been taking pictures of my coffee mugs and putting them up there. We have so many that I thought it might be something fun to do. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty does something similar where he posts a song of the day. That's where I got the idea from. I just feel so bad because I wish I could have dropped one of our old, lame coffee mugs instead of Nichelle's cool one.

If you happen to see this mug anywhere -- please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lipstick Junkie

No real meaning behind this post -- I was just taking pictures of lipstick the other day. Every time I pull out one of my lipsticks, I think of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song called The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie. It starts out by saying, "Lipstick junkie ..." I'm sure the lyrics are a lot more twisted than a simple lipstick reference. They are, after all, written by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and most of their songs are about sex. Good chance it's more of a lip-stick thing than a tube of lipstick, if you know what I mean. I still like the song though. It's a great one to exercise to.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More boots!

I had to run up to town with the boys today and on our way back home we decided to stop at the Salvation Army thrift store. Neil is always wanting to go there to dig in the Barbie bins searching for GI Joes. He didn't find any today, but found a really cool talking Spiderman figurine. We also found some great Little Golden Books, including a 1963 edition of Pebbles Flinstone.

My big find for the day were these boots. They're by Nine West. I tried looking them up online to find how much they were regular retail, but they're out of stock everywhere. Other Nine West boots go anywhere from $70 to $200, at least from what I can tell. I couldn't believe they were my size when I looked at them. The price tag said $8.50. I almost put them back on the rack, but then had a change of mind and stuck them in my basket. They were 50% off so they cost me only $4.25! Can you believe it?

I need to clean up the heels a bit and maybe buff them up a little, but for the most part, they're in perfect condition. I don't wear heels very often these days, but these were just too cool to pass up. It's funny because they're the same exact size as the boots I got the other day, and blogged about below. I wonder if they came from the same person who donated them. Weird. Anyway, I also got a cool black blazer and a houndstooth tweed mini-skirt. Both will go great with the boots. Now all I need is a place to wear them!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New boots!

Well, okay ... they're not really new, but they're new to me. I don't normally buy shoes when I go to the Salvation Army thrift store. For some reason, that has always creeped me out a little. However, these boots were just too good to pass up. I couldn't find a size on them anywhere. All the inside said was Zodiac USA. So, very reluctantly, I stuck my foot in to see if they'd fit. I mean -- really -- what was the chance they'd actually fit. You know what I mean? It turned out they were exactly my size. Dang.

I'm a big lover of cowboy boots and have quite a few pairs already. They're not cheap, by any means. I don't go for the super expensive ones, even though I post pictures of those on Facebook all the time. Most of mine cost less than $200, which is still A LOT to me. So, when I saw these boots for TEN DOLLARS and realized they actually FIT, I snagged them. For me to buy something at a thirft store for ten dollars says a lot. I usually come home with a huge bag filled with stuff for that much. The soles are practically untouched, so I'm guessing they weren't worn much, if at all.

I've looked online all over the place trying to find information about Zodiac USA boots. Not much is out there. Most of the boots that come up are listed as vintage. I did find a Facebook page that said the company began in the 1960s out of Venice, California and that the boots were often worn by celebrities, rock stars, and so forth. They sell newer footwear, apparently, but I can't find any links that show this particular boot. I left a message on their Facebook page, so maybe they can tell me when they came out or how much they cost new. For all I know, they could be a cheap, newer boot and not worth much. That's okay. I needed this shade of brown anyway.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Da da da da da ... BATMAN!

Rick was just outside opening up our ratty, old table umbrella when he noticed a little, brown bat inside. I ran off to grab my camera, but before I could, the thing flew out and was dodging circles around Rick on the deck. I forgot about my camera in the hysteria. I thought I was going to wet my pants laughing. It landed on the side of our deck railing -- pictured above. The picture below shows his little fangs. "Kaaaa! I keel you!"

Then it flew back to the umbrella again. The lighting was bad and he wouldn't hold still for very long, so the pictures aren't that great. I had no idea they could crawl around so fast. I should have taken a video. Of course, the silly thing flew out a few times, making me dodge around and look like an idiot. But in my typical fashion, I denied it and blamed it on the deck being hot and burning my feet.

He crawled around so quick and it was amazing to see how he stretched and twisted in so many ways. Rick said, "I think we need to buy a bat house." A second later, the bat flew up and landed on the eaves of our roof and slipped inside a tiny, thin opening. Buy a bat house? I think we already have one.

I don't know much about bats, so I don't know what species this is. We have several in Montana. Some of them are listed here. It wasn't very big and was probably smaller than my fist, clenched. We've seen one in our umbrella before, and ironically, it flew out and landed on the same exact spot. I think I posted a picture of it a few years back. It was probably a different bat, but still funny how it did the same thing.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Who's your inspiration?

I absolutely love Laura Ingalls Wilder. If I had to pick one writer, I'd probably choose her. I grew up not just reading her books, but cherishing them almost to a point of envy. Her stories were so adventurous and descriptive that I often wished I were in her shoes -- even during the hardest times. Between Laura and Jean Craighead George, they've both inspired me to become a better writer.

I grew up watching the television show of Little House on the Prairie. That show was a big deal to me and I would rarely miss an episode. Remember the olden days where you had to be home at a certain time or you'd miss your favorite show? Of course, it's not like that now. You can find anything on You Tube these days. However, for me to miss Little House was tragic. I felt a special connection to Melissa Gilbert because we looked so much alike -- right down to our freckles and long, brown braids.

We still have Laura's books, but I haven't read them in awhile. I've been wanting to read them again. My girls read them several times, but the boys haven't. Maybe I'll read a few for school in the fall. At first, I thought they might be too girly for the boys, but I've changed my mind about that. With all the bears, storms, Indians and such, I think the boys would enjoy them just as much as girls do.

It's kind of ironic because Laura Ingalls was born on February 7th. I was born on Feburary 8th. She died on February 10th, which is the same day Neil was born. There has always been controversy over who actually wrote the Little House books, whether it was Laura herself, or a combined effort between her daughter Rose and others. Regardless of that, her first book was published in 1931 when she was sixty-four. If that isn't encouraging to any wanna-be writer, then I don't know what is. One of my dreams has always been to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Missouri. I hope I can check that out sometime.

Finally, I switched to the new Blogger last night, so you might notice a few changes. I thought it would take me a few minutes to switch it over, but I screwed it up so much that I ended up working on it for two and a half hours. Argh! I think I have everything working and in the right order now. As much as I loved my mountain goat header, I decided to change it. I see the mountain goat picture everyday because I have it printed on one of those huge blankets. It's hanging on the wall in my hallway. This bighorn sheep standing among the bear grass flowers was photographed in Glacier National Park a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

I hope everyone has a safe holiday. We've just spent the day at home. Rick did some yard work and I sat in the sun swatting flies. Fun times. We're not seeing any of the local fireworks shows tonight. We saw so many great fireworks at Disney World recently, so I think we got our fill for the year.

Have a great holiday and be safe!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cruising in the Jeep ...

Rick and I went for a drive in the Jeep yesterday. It was a beautiful day so we took the top off. We decided to check out some local forest service roads. I got a few pictures during our trip. The one above is not too far from our house, heading towards Swan Lake. We kayak there every now and then.

The picture above is one of the roads we went on. It got much narrower as we went deeper in the forest. The photo below is the Swan River. We've stopped at this spot to put-in before. The water levels are pretty high right now with all of the rain, so we probably won't kayak here until later in the summer or early fall. Last time we were there, we saw two black bear cubs eating berries in a bush. I'm sure mama wasn't far, but we didn't see her.

The Indian Paintbrush flowers are starting to bloom. They look really neat when you photograph them in a big cluster, but I only got this single one taken. The bugs were horrible. We had to keep driving or we'd be eaten alive.

The picture below shows what we came up against. Yeah, that's the road. We were about halfway on our route. A few days ago we had a really nasty storm and lots of trees came down all over the place. Rick walked past the first one to see how many more there were. It was just one tree after another. Apparently, we had driven as far as some residences, so they probably cut the ones we drove past to get in their homes. This was as far as we could go on this road, so we had to turn around and go on some other roads.

The picture below is a forest service look-out tower. Rick's been talking about staying here for years. First, we thought we'd have to hike in for miles to get there. Not true. You can drive right up to the base of the tower. Second, I thought it was a tiny, little platform that you camped on. As you can see, it's pretty big. I've read it sleeps four, has a table and chairs, and even cooking items. And third, when Rick told me about some crazy tower in the forest, I assumed there'd be no bathroom. All I pictured was climbing down a ladder to go to the bathroom in the woods -- at night -- with grizzlies. Imagine my surprise when I saw stairs (no ladder!) and a pit toilet right next to the tower. Well now ... that changes everything!

So, of course, I started ragging on Rick for not telling me all the stuff this place had. He honestly had no idea himself. As soon as we got home, we looked it up online to see if there were any available dates. Again, this place sells out all summer and sometimes a year in advance. The first available night that came up for us was September 11th, so we booked it. I can't wait! I just hope we have good weather, no fires, no snow, etc.

The photo above is some sort of flower, but I can't remember what it's called. My Montana wildflower book is downstairs and I'm too lazy to go get it. Below this is a sign at the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge. This is a cool place to stop to see wildlife, although I have to admit, all we've ever seen there are a variety of birds and some muscats. It's home to a lot of animals, so maybe we'll see more next time we go. If you ever go to Disney's Animal Kingdom, there's a place called Rafiki's Planet Watch. I believe the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge is listed there. Funny seeing that in Florida!

Below is some grass. Not too exciting, but I thought it was pretty with the mountains in the background. And then there's a lame picture of me, looking all wind-blown from riding around in the Jeep.

Below is my little, black Wrangler. We bought it in 2003 or 2004 sometime. All my life I've wanted one. We keep a hard-top on it in the winter and then put the soft-top on in summer. It's great to take the top off, especially on the Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Below this is some sort of water flower. I need to look this up because I've never seen this flower before. It was also taken at the wildlife refuge.

And finally, here is another lame self-portrait of me. I know it looks a lot like the other one, but the reason I'm posting it is because it shows where the look-out tower is. If you look to the right of me, right on the darkest section of mountains, that's where the tower is. It's right at the peak of that section.

I took a lot more photos, but I hope you enjoy seeing these for now. All of this stuff is less than 30 minutes from where I live, so you can see why I love it here so much. If you click on the pictures, you should be able to see them a little bigger. I hope you're having a great Sunday!