Sunday, June 30, 2013

That's a wrap! 30 days straight!

That's 30 straight posts, baby! Yep, I somehow pulled it off again to post everyday during Word Count's 2013 blogathon.

It never fails. Something always comes up each year that thwarts my efforts, but I seem to somehow prevail. 

This year I dealt with my step-dad having emergency open heart surgery, my mother being hospitalized with chest pains and a nine day planned vacation during the month long blogathon writing frenzy so next year when you are on the fence about not participating in the 2014 blogathon because your schedule is um, too busy, well, I don't want to hear it. (I'm writing this last post on my iPhone while sitting in a hospital waiting room) The old saying, "If there's a will, there's a way" is so true!

I continue to find time for the blogathon every year because:

  • It pushes me to try new technology- this year I learned more about using blogging apps and my iPad and iPhone to make posts
  • I meet wonderful people- blogathoners are super nice, supportive and helpful
  • It forces me to write short posts which is outside my wheelhouse 
  • The daily commitment makes me realize I DO have some free time in my days and I  need to continue to utilize this time every day by committing to a class online or some other enrichment program.
  • And finally, just the sense of accomplishment afterwards that I committed to it and finished it is gratifying.
So...see you blogathoners online...until next year when we do it all again!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lessons learned traveling on Amtrak

We just returned from a whirlwind vacation visiting Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston - via Amtrak.  Having lived in the Midwest for most of our lives, traveling by automobile has always been our vacation mode of transportation preference.  But the thought of trying to navigate any of our vacation destinations by auto, quickly had us booking tickets on Amtrak.

We started our journey in Chicago actually where we boarded a plane and landed in D.C.  From there we took Amtrak to our next three destinations.  I learned quite a bit about Amtrak from the experience.  Here's my tips!
  1. Pack Light - Each passenger can have two bags each under 50 pounds, but I recommend packing those bags light because the majority of storage is above your seat (like an airplane) and you'll have to heave-ho that luggage above your head.  Plus, you'll need to quickly (and I mean QUICKLY which I'll explain next) in most cases transport that luggage up a few steps and/or from the platform onto the train that is easily a 2-5 inch gap to maneuver your luggage over.
  2. Be Aware and Be Prepared to MOVE FAST! - Boarding an Amtrak train reminds me somewhat of the beginning of an Amazing Race episode. It's nearly a sprint to the train.  Once the train's track is announced in the station's holding area, be prepared to "B-Line it" to track's gate.  Why all the rush?  Well, your ticket guarantees you a seat, but you can count on families already being on board from previous stops and their kids will be sprawled across two seats each as well as other single travelers who plop down in one seat and try to stake out both seats by placing their purse, briefcase or laptop case on seat #2.  You'll understand this completely if you've ever had a "C" boarding pass on Southwest Airlines.  Finding two seats together or two empty seats (to spread out in if traveling alone) is nearly impossible if you don't happen to be the train's originating station or get on FAST!
  3. Food is Available but Maybe Pack a Healthy Snack - Every train has a cafe car where "airplane-like" snacks are available as well as "what you'd expect" pre-packaged sandwiches. It works if you're starving, but it's not ideal.
  4. Port-A-Potties - Ok, so it's not REALLY a port-a-potty that is on-board, but it's a typical "airplane-ish" restroom that reminds me of a port-a-potty. Not the best facilities.  My best recommendation regarding this is to remember that this is a train that jostles around on the tracks.  It is NOT always a smooth ride so if inclined to use the facilities while on-board, go when the train is at a stop. You'll thank me for that tidbit of info!
A few other tidbits to note:
D.C. Amtrak Station
  • The train stations are mostly quite nice that offer fast food options and other sundry-type items.
  • I always felt 100% safe.
  • Each seat has access to an electrical outlet and there's free wi-fi that worked quite well for us.  I've heard though of other riders who experienced intermittent signal and problems streaming videos or music.
  • The views from the trains can vary from incredible and picturesque to graffiti-laden.

 Overall, Amtrak is a good experience and great transportation between cities where automobile traffic is already horrible to navigate.  However, if traffic isn't an issue, I, personally, prefer taking a car on vacation.  I guess I'm just a little spoiled having lived in the Midwest where traffic is rarely a problem.

View from train going to Boston
View entering Philly

Platform approaching Boston
View leaving New York City

Thursday, June 27, 2013

9/11 Memorial Video

Now that I'm home from vacation and have access to my You Tube account password, I wanted to share this video I took at the 9/11 Memorial. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but video is worth a few billion!

This video was taken while standing at the south pool looking toward the new tower being erected.  The names you see engraved in the stone that surrounds the pool railing are just a few of the nearly 3,000 names listed in total on the pools' outer railings. 

When the camera pans up...that's the new tower you're looking at. 

The other pool, identical except for the addition of other names in the stone, is located just to the left of the new tower.

It's really a powerful place to visit.  If you're ever in New York City, I encourage you to stop by, but make sure you purchase your ticket online rather than the day of on site.  There's a $2 service charge per ticket to purchase, the otherwise free tickets, online.  Your other option is to stand in line to get a "free" ticket, but plan on standing in line for possibly hours and then coming back at a designated time to enter.  Save yourself the grief and purchase a ticket online.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Five tips to posting on the road

Blogathon while on vacation?  My first thought was, "No way!"  But I had to give it a try, and I'm glad I did because it wasn't too much of an imposition having prepared well.  Plus, it forced me to learn a bit about blogging on the road.

Here's five tips to make life a little easier when blogging dailt while traveling:

1.  Let technology work for you - I downloaded the Blogger app for both my iPad and iPhone before I left for vacation, and I used them both.  While the app has many more limitations (ie. little text formatting, no picture size options or placement, no spell check, no bullets or numbered lists) than the internet version, it allowed me to post at times when I couldn't get on a laptop or desktop.  The other advantage of the app is that it makes it very easy to post photos taken from either device.  I understand that WordPress has an app as well.

2.  Recharge, recharge, recharge - Plug in every chance you get because there's nothing worse than finding 20 minutes to blog, but you are about to run out of battery.  Electrical outlets are everywhere. If the airport recharging station is full, roam around the airport.  Watch for open outlets on walls and pillars in airports, walls in restaurants or hotel lobbies.  I even saw a person recharging their phone inside a restroom within the Old Post Office in Washington D.C.

3.  Photos are your savior - Not only does a picture say a thousand words, but it also makes your blog more interesting, adds that all important visual connection to your words and let's face it, helps to fill your blog post when time is short. Take photos of anything you find interesting.  You'd be surprised by the blog post ideas you'll come up with by just looking through your photos.

4.  Keep your eyes open - Unless your blog is very specific in nature, actually when you're traveling, potential posts topics are all around you.  As you travel around keep your eyes open and blogging in the back of your mind.  

5.  Pick-up brochures and literature - Having marketing material about a place you visited saves time when you're blogging on the road.  They provide a wealth of background information that you otherwise may need to research online.  

Daily blogging on the road does take some extra effort, but it is totally doable and won't interfere with your vacation if you just prepare ahead a little and keep a few things in mind. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The art of....well, art!

Because I do not have much artistic talent, I'm always impressed by those who seem to come by it so naturally.

Whether it is a watercolor painting, a metal sculpture or even graffiti on a building, I'm amazed how some people have this God-given gift which was why this fellow caught my attention on Times Square. 
At first glance, it appears he is just spraying a blank canvas wildly with different colors of spray paint. But then he takes a straight edge and begins scraping lines into the paint revealing the canvas below.  
This action combined with adding layers of more spray paint result in a piece of art that is quite incredible.
To add to my amazement, he completed this painting in under 15 minutes! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Haiku New York City

People everywhere
Morning, noon or late at night
Like another world

Sadness all around
For the senseless loss of life
We never forget

Sunday, June 23, 2013


It's been nearly a dozen years since terrorists attacked our country on September 11, 2001 and killed nearly 3,000 people.

The National September 11 Memorial commemorates the lives lost, recognizes those who survived and allows a place for visitors to come together in the spirit of unity. 

Opened on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the 9/11 Memorial consists of two pools set in the footprints of the original twin towers. Thirty foot waterfalls cascade from the four walls of each pool into the pools' centers. The names of the victims are inscribed in bronze along the parameter of the pools.

Construction continues to this day on the redeveloped 1 World Trade Center which is located just beyond the north pool. This building will be the tallest in the U.S. standing 1,776 feet. Its top spiral was installed last month. 

Just east of the south pool, 4 World Trade Center will rise 72 floors and stand 977 feet tall.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another gem

It's really odd how sometimes it seems like you were just meant to stumble upon something meaningful.  So was the case when we visited a Macy's department store in Philadelphia and happened upon a woman explaining an organ that was in the store.  Yes, an organ, but not just any ole organ - The Wanamaker Grand Organ to be exact.

The organ itself is a beauty but the irony in stumbling upon it is that this organ was built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for no other than the 1904 ST LOUIS World's Fair.  As a resident of the metro St. Louis area, I thought this was quite a coincidence.

With more than 10,000 pipes, its construction was on such a lavish scale that it cost $105,000.  That's a lot of dough for the early 1900's.  It's cost actually forced the builder into bankruptcy, but in 1909,Philadelphia  merchant John Wanamker bought it for his new Philadelphia emporium.

It took 13 freight cars to ship the organ from St. Louis, and its installation took two years.

On June 22, 1911, at the exact moment when England's King George V was crowned at Westminster Abbey, the Grand Organ was first heard in the Philly store's seven-story atrium.

Although it is massive in size, the tone was judged inadequate to fill the room so Wanamaker hired 40 full time employees and Supervisor William Boone Flemng to enlarge the instrument.  It was made with superb craftsmanship - its largest pipe being made of flawless Oregon sugar-pine three inchesthink and   more than 32 feet long.  

More than 8,000 pipes were added between 1911 and 1917, and between 1924 and 1930 an additional 10,000 pipes were added, bringing it to a total of 28,482 pipes today.

A console with six ivory keyboards controls it with 42 foot controls.  This console weighs 2.5 tons and the entire instrument weighs 287 tons.

Over the years, great organists have been invited to play the organ.  If you're ever in Philly, check with the Macy's staff to find out if someone is planning to play the organ while you are in town.

It is now a National Historic Landmark and is valued in excess of $71 million.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A vacation gem

Occasionally while on vacation you run across something unexpected.  When we wandered into the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's exhibit of the Windland Smith Rice International Awards, I knew we stumbled onto a vacation gem!.

I had never heard of this competition, but apparently it's an annual photography competition that was launched in 1996.  The top winners in each photographic category as well as a few of the Highly Honored images are showcased in an exhbit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural Science's Special Exhibit Hall located in Washington, D.C.

These images are enlarged and printed to a size from 2 x 3 foot to nearly 4 x 6 foot.  The images themselves are outstanding, but when viewed in this large format, they are simply incredible.

The Winland Smith International Awards exhibit will be displayed until March 2014. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is  located on the National Mall, 1000 Madison Drive, NW, Washington, DC.  It is open every day of the year (except December 25) and is FREE to the public!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A lesson in adaptability

I hadn't realized how predictable and routine my daily life has become until we ventured out to the east coast for vacation.

A typical day at home would result in me working out, eating breakfast and jumping into my writing.  An hour or two later,  I may take a shower, eat some lunch, but the rest of the day is usually spent writing. Since I work out of my house, I rarely leave my house during the day. Occasionally I may drive, anywhere from 2-10 miles away (that takes literally 2 to 10 minutes) to take some photos or interview subjects for articles.  

Then in the late afternoon II walk the dog and head out in my car again to run some errands around town. The furthest I drive is about five miles where I park my car in a giant parking lot and walk less than 100 yards into a grocery store or big box store.  Then I drive my car a maximum of five miles back home, pull in the garage and I'm usually home for the evening.

At night I may walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise, but that's about the extent of my daily walking.

In comparison, the folks who live in the Washington D.C. area have a a much different daily lifestyle.  

People walk everywhere...24/7.  There's plenty of cars on the streets, but a huge amount of people use their feet as their primary mode of transportation.  If they aren't walking, they are taking the metro rail or bus to locations throughout the city.  You can imagine how much of "a fish out of water" I felt when we arrived in D.C.

But as they say...while in I took my first metro rail ride.
I must admit that just the entrance to the subway was intimidating.  It was easily a three story descent via an escalator into the subway station.  As I stood precariously on my step, I couldn't help but think about how easily it would be to accidentally tumble forward and down into the subway abyss.  But I managed to keep my balance along with the 50 or so other people descending with me.

At the metro ticket machines, we spent about 10 minutes dissecting every detail of the directions.  Eventually after absorbing it all, we entered our money and printed out our tickets.

We descended down another escalator to the platform for our train as we stood next to a few dozen others listening to iPods or reading a book as they waited. (Of course I couldn't resist striking up a conversation with some random woman waiting to board)

The train arrived and quickly everyone boarded.  That's one thing I picked up on - you better get on fast because the train doesn't wait long before the doors shut and it's on its way.

The train stopped twice before we reached our final stop.  We exited the train and rode up another steep escalator as we emerged onto the street front where we joined a mass of people walking along the street.

As with most new experiences, it was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience because we had never done this before.  Every step of the way was something new to learn.

The whole experience made me realize how routine my own life at home has become, and actually, how very glad I was to be thrown out of my comfort zone.  Although it made me feel somewhat uncomfortable at the time not knowing if I was boarding the right train, paying the correct amount for a ticket or getting off at the right stop, I think it's good to experience that uncertainty and anxiety.

Life is never going to have a perfect roadmap to follow, and you can rest assured that there will be detours to consider and potholes to maneuver around along the way.  Getting too comfortable and set in your ways and being afraid of change is no way to live life.  Change occurs every day and you better be prepared to adapt.  

I don't ever want to be one of those people who is so fearful to try a new experience or learn something new that they pass up  a new opportunity or let life pass them by as they sit in their safe and predictable world.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A must see if you visit St. Louis

I don't drive into downtown St. Louis daily, but I do get down there about once a week or so, but I never tire of this view.   The St. Louis Gateway Arch is an amazing piece of art and architecture.  

If you've never visited this amazing feat of construction, here's some interesting facts about it.

Did you know?
The arch is 63 stories tall
Its foundation is about 60 feet deep
It weighs 17,246 tons
It's made out of steel and concrete
There are 142 steel sections
The top is 17 feet wide
There are 16 windows at the top of the arch.  Each one is only 7 inches by 27 inches because over 500 pounds of pressure was required to jack the north and south legs apart to place the last four foot section into the peak of the arch.  Larger windows couldn't have withstood the pressure.
The project began in 1963
The last piece of the arch structure was put into place Oct. 28, 1965
The North leg was comleted first and opened in July 1967, the south leg opened in May 1968
Under the arch is a visitor's center where guests can pay to ride to the top of the arch

Operation Shower - An organization you've probably never heard about!

Operation Shower was born a little over six years ago when its CEO, LeAnn Morrissey wanted to give back in some way to those serving our country when someone asked her to send a card to four women who were all pregnant yet their spourses were deployed.

Instead of sending a simple card, LeAnn set out, with the help of friends and family members, to send each mom-to-be a "shower in a box."

A local middle school volleyball team collected donations!
She received so much help support putting the boxes together and such overwhelming messages of thanks from the moms that she knew she had to do this for other military spouse moms-to-be.

 As of May 2013, the Operation Shower team has, through the generous donations of individuals and corporations and through volunteer-power, hosted showers for over 1300 women and families.  They have hosted 34 unit-wide showers on military bases and other locations across the country for families in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard.

And these aren't little cake and punch get togethers.  Operation Shower goes "all out!" Check out their Facebook page to see the gorgeous themed baby showers they throw for the moms-to-be.

Think you'd like to help with the cause? There are numerous ways you can help Operation Shower.
  • Spread the Word - just doing as I am and blogging about it or sharing an Operation Shower Facebook post
  • Attend one of the upcoming showers - they are hosted all over the country.  If one is going to be in your town, volunteer to help.  Volunteers can help with decorations, set-up or clean-up
  • Help secure party rentals for local showers 
  • The team challenged their teachers to a game for the Operation Shower Fundraiser Finale
  • Start a campaign at your child's school, your church or any other group
Visit for more details and be sure to "like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Pinterest!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A little drive along the Oahu coast

I thought you might enjoy a very short drive along the coast of Oahu.  We visited Oahu last year for our 25th anniversary.  This place is stunningly beautiful as you can see!  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Travel Planning Has Never Been Easier

We've been planning for our next vacation for the past two or three months now.  For the past 26 years our vacations have centered around the beach, a theme-park or an exotic locale.  But this time, since I haven't been on the east coast much, we thought we'd take a whirl-wind east coast vacation.

The plan is to fly into Washington, D.C. and spend two-and-a-half days there, jump on the Amtrak and jump off at Philly for just the afternoon and night.  The next morning we get up bright and early and get back on Amtrak and go to New York City.  We'll spend three days sightseeing in NYC before we jump back on Amtrak to Boston for two days.  The trip ends when we fly back home from Boston.

Whew!  Sounds exhausting doesn't it?  A normal person would probably turn our 9 day whirlwind trip into four separate trips spending four or five days at each city...mulling around museums and taking tours at each place, but that's just not in our DNA.

My husband doesn't really enjoy historical tours or vacations and he's really doing this for me. So, I've been trying my best to plan our itineraries via the internet so that we monopolize every minute we are gone.

What I've found is that there's a wealth of websites to help you plan your vacation.  There's the websites that you probably are quite familiar with like Fodders and Frommers that provide one, two and three day itineraries that suggest sites you won't want to miss.

Then there's TripAdvisor and Yelp that provides reviews from people who have already experienced a hotel, museum or attraction.

You can also find a wealth of information by just "googling" the place you plan to visit.  People have written about their experiences on blogs or you will find other independent websites.

Finding good restaurants to eat at while on your trip is a snap with Urban Spoon or even Yelp.  And there's a plethora of cell phone apps available that offer tour information in cities.

But here's an idea that you may not have thought about.  Try pulling up Google Maps and entering the hotel in the city you plan to visit.  Now click on directions and type in a restaurant or an attraction you plan to visit.  Keep adding destinations (restaurants, museums, whatever...) and click "get directions." Your trip is now mapped out.  You'll probably, at that point, find that you want to re-route certain destinations, which is as simple as clicking and holding a letter and moving it up or down the route and clicking on "get directions" again.  Print it out and you have a mapped itinerary.  You can even select the car, walking, public transportation or bus route.

Or you can do like I do and map out each day which includes restaurant options along the way.  Or do one map for each day and maybe have a separate map of restaurants you'd like to consider along the way or one just for museums, one for parks.  The options are really endless.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Supporting the cause

Every June thousands of people show their support of the fight against breast cancer by participating in the St. Louis Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure.

The national Susan G. Komem organization formed in 1982. The St. Louis race began in 1999 and set a record that year with a first-year attendance of 10,000.  In 2010, more than 70,000 people participated making it the largest race in the world!
That's a lot of people and there were more!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fabulous Friday Finds!

I thought that by searching through, finding and highlighting five blogs I found interesting that were written by the 2013 bloathoners each week would make for an easy Friday post.  But boy was I dead wrong.  What I've found is that I can lose an hour or two of time just reading all the interesting blogs. 

But I managed to get my nose out of my computer screen and found the time to highlight five of my faves from this week.

Up first is Lois Middleton's Playing a New Game.  It's a delightful blog about...well life. The post that caught my eye was about food that we'd be surprised to learn is Vegan.  And boy was I surprised!  I have new reasons to buy my next bag of Double Stuffed Oreos! Check out Lois' blog.  She also has a heart-warming post written by her dog! 

Avid readers won't want to miss Andria Tieman's Thursday post on her blog, Find Me Frugal(er) that offers short reviews of 10 books she recommends for summer reading.  Her blog isn't normally about books though.  She blogs, as her blog name states, about living for less, enjoying what you have and she offers some thoughts on not taking life so seriously. 

If you take a lot of digital photos and you're concerned about how to preserve them, you won't want to miss Phillip Griffith's blog posting "Preserving Your Digital photos for the Future."  Every day this past week, he's piqued my curiosity with "10 Tips for Summer Vacation Photos," "Saving Kid's Artwork," and "Telling Your Story."  Anyone who enjoys taking photos will enjoy his blog.

Another blog post that caught my eye this week was Michelle Nahom's blog post about decorating your house with photos - on removable wallpaper.  I have to admit that after spending HOURS removing "real" wallpaper from countless walls over the years, the term "removable" in front of "wallpaper" makes me still cringe and begs to this an oxymoron?  And not that I will likely do this, but it's an interesting idea. Check out Michelle's "A Dish of Daily Life"

And this week's humor award has to go to Tara Phillips "Two Hands and A Road Map."  Whether she's blogging about losing the battle to carbs, the beloved squirrel in her back yard or when she hands her keyboard over to her husband, I always chuckle several times reading her posts, and I think you will too!

That's it for this week!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A hungry visitor

I was wondering why the new petunias I planted in pots on my front porch had disappeared.   Thought maybe the storm had blown them away, but then I caught this little culprit red-handed.  

 While mowing the grass yesterday I stumbled upon their rabbit hole/den.  It was out in the open in our back yard and what looked like some dead grass was actually their home.  They scattered as I came close.

I'm sure there's plenty of people who would rather not have a bunch of rabbits living in their yard.  Heck, my husband isn't thrilled about them either, but they are so darn cute.

Just one more critter to add to our menagerie!  He and his little siblings can hang out with the baby robin that's learning to fly in the back yard, the chipmunk that lives in the mulch out front and the squirrel that joined our menagerie last fall.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Soda addiction? Four reasons to cut back or cut it out of your diet!

Four years ago I went cold turkey.  I decided that drinking three or four Diet Cokes a day was not a very healthy thing to be doing.  Do you realize what sodas are doing to your body?

Whether you call it a soft drink, soda, pop, soda pop or simply a coke, here are just four reasons to consider removing sodas from your diet or at the very least- cut back.

Tooth Enamel Damage - Aside from the obvious reasons why regular, sugary sodas damage the enamel on your teeth, consider that sodas are very acidic.  That acid wears down tooth enamel which is so very important in protecting our teeth from plaque and cavities.

Bone Loss
Sodas in general have no calcium nor any healthful nutrients.  By substituting milk with just one serving of your daily liquid intake, it can increase your calcium intake which protects your bones.  And if you're a regular soda drinker, they create even more concern for healthy bones because regular sodas contain high levels of phosphate.  At first blush, it would seem that lots of phosphates would be good for our bones since healthy bone growth requires both calcium and phosphate, but in reality too much phosphate and little calcium is detrimental to bone growth.

Kidney Damage
A 2009 study on the effects of diet cola on kidneys in women reported that  the consumption of two or more daily servings of artificially sweetened soda increases a woman's odds two-fold for a decline in kidney function. 

Weight Gain/Weight Loss 
I throw these two in together because we likely know that regular soda is sugary, empty calories that can cause weight gain, but drinking Diet sodas doesn't help you lose weight either.  Many scientists believe that diet sodas not only don't help with weight loss but, quite possibly, have the opposite effect.  While your body is expecting that sugar content from the sugary diet soda taste, it actually gets none and a liquid with little to no nutritional value which leaves you still hungry or thirsty.  Many scientists also have reported that those who drink Diet sodas tend to over-eat because they feel like they've "saved" calories by drinking a diet soda and can, therefore, splurge - eating more calories during meals or snacks.

Other factors to consider and explore are: What is all that carbonation doing to your body?  Have you looked at the label on that soda?  What ingredients does it contain?  Are they all chemical in nature?  What impact do those ingredients have on your body?  And how many empty soda calories are you consuming a day?

I think we all are well aware that water is the BEST option.  If you work at home, fellow blogger Jan Udlock's post, can give you an idea to ensure you're drinking water all day while you're working as well as some key reminders about the importance role water plays in our body.

I realize that by suggesting you ditch the soda, that I'm quite possibly proposing a complete lifestyle change.  But even if you're like me and you "kick the soda habit" but fall off the wagon a  few times a year, you're at least making a significant impact on making your body a little healthier. And it's all about baby steps!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The honey bee demise?

You've likely heard about how the U.S. honey bee population is plunging.  Reports say bees are dying at the rate of a billion a year.  It's estimated that 10 million bee hives have been lost in the last six years alone, and the problem isn't getting better either.

Aside from honey bees being the producers of honey, honey bees also are responsible for pollinating many U.S. food crops such as soybean, apple, peach, brocolli, squash, zuchini and all citrus fruits. Their role is crucial!

Sadly, a condition called CCD (colony collapse disorder) is causing the vast majority of bee deaths, but  researchers have yet to determine CCD's cause. 

A new Department of Agriculture report noted that the absolute cause of CCD wasn't found, but that they eliminated that there was one single cause.  Instead, they determined that several factors such as drought conditions, poor nutrition and parasites were just a few of the causes. 

Others have suggested that crop dusting, pesticide dusted seeds or simply the over-use of pesticides by the general population are causes of the honey bee demise.

When a friend in the horticulture industry told me a few years ago about how the honey bee population was being depleted, he pointed out that if I looked around, I'd notice that there are far less honey bees around. 

I did notice and have been more aware of honey bee sightings which is why as I was walking through my neighborhood last night, I was totally taken aback as I rounded the corner and heard a loud "buzzzzzzzzzzz."  There, buzzing around my neighbor's two trees in their front yard, had to be hundreds of bees, primarily honey bees.  I haven't seen that many honey bees in years.

Searching online I couldn't figure out exactly what type of trees these were, but every summer they bloom with white, odd-looking flowers.  The trees also always have a very pungent sweet smell.  It's quite strong.  Although, the strong aroma may be coming from the sheer size of these two trees with their thousands of flowers.  The trees easily must be at least 25 feet tall.

I stood there in awe for quite awhile taking photos of the bees, watching them traverse from flower to flower as I wondered if all of these bees would be in bee heaven next year?

I certainly hope that researchers can solve the mystery of what is killing honey bees because not only are they instrumental in pollinating our nation's food supply, they truly are one of the small wonders of the world.

I'm planning to stop by the local university's garden this afternoon to see if the director can identify this tree, but if you recognize it, please leave a comment.