Tag Archives: Into the Wild Outdoors

missjunebug’s Pumpkins in a Pot

A Bumper Crop! Two, count 'em Two Pumpkins!!! Photo by mjb2014
A Bumper Crop! Two, count ’em Two Pumpkins!!! Photo by mjb2014

missjunebug has been thinking about growing pumpkins for a long time. A few years ago she tried a little plot down by her barn and had some healthy vines with beautiful yellow-gold blossoms thriving for the briefest while: gophers took out the roots and dashed all mjb’s hopes for homegrown pumpkins. Sigh.

This year she tried again with a clever internet idea (Thanks, Google! The question: Can I grow pumpkins in a pot?). The answer, yes! But despite the promising prodigious growth of leaves and vines and blossoms from her Home Depot 2″ pot pumpkin plant, missjunebug’s less-than-bumper crop was tiny x 2.

Mr.JB thinks most of the blossoms didn’t get fertilized. missjunebug thinks most of the blossoms weren’t ever open long enough to get fertilized due to the sometimes shady spot she placed the pot.

No matter. She will enjoy the two she grew this year and try again next year in a raised bed that’s gopher proof. Happy Fall! Happy Halloween!

Is Bend Beer Really Better?

Is BBB? Photo by mjb2014
Is BBB? Photo by mjb2014

Recently missjunebug and her trusty Mr.JB did some retirement reconnaissance in beautiful Bend, Oregon. Each of them had (separately) heard some wonderful waxing eloquents (new word!) from friends who were also considering Bend as the place to be. So the junebugs decided to check it out for themselves.

Their base of operations was awesome: The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend. missjunebug cannot say enough about how great this boutique hotel is! Fab view, comfy bedding,  luxurious bath, superb location, fine food at 10Below, and super nice staff. And did missjunebug mention the in-room eco friendly French Press coffee? Delightful way to start a day dedicated to hitting the Bend Ale Trail.

Which brings missjunebug to the burning question: Is Bend Beer Better as the bumper sticker purports? Hell to the yes, it is better! Even though missjunebug is a Stella girl, it was fun to try all those mini glasses of Bend beer taking flight at Deschutes Brewery, McMenamins Old St. Francis, Three Creeks Brewery (Sisters) RatHole Brewing, Crux Fermentation Project, Brew Works, and the Bend Brewing Company. Even more fun was keeping track of the flavors on the Bend Ale Trail Passport mjb and her trusty Mr.JB picked up at the awesome visitor center in downtown (just follow the bright blue and white INFO signs to get there).

This happy little brew-filled vacay has given missjunebug and Mr.JB a lot to think about as they plan their future retirement. Believe missjunebug when she says, Bend is a contender!

mjbTip: Fly into Redmond Municipal airport to get to Bend and avoid the North Bend airport mistake many first time travelers make. Unless you want to drive four and half hours from coastal North Bend to get to the intended Bend! And yes, missjunebug and Mr.JB took the long way through piney woods, along rivers, and across the Cascades. missjunebug’s bad!!! After a good laugh, they made the best of it! According to the Hertz rental car lady, this mistake happens all the time. And sometimes people are not quite so happy about it!

Getting the Passport Stamped is Half the Fun! Photo by mjb2014
Getting the Passport Stamped is Half the Fun! Photo by mjb2014
Riverbend Brewing Company Offerings! Photo by mjb2014
Riverbend Brewing Company Offerings! Photo by mjb2014
Nice quilt, Three Creeks! Photo by mjb2014
Nice quilt, Three Creeks! Photo by mjb2014
Tastes better than the name implies! Photo by mjb2014
Tastes better than the name implies! Photo by mjb2014

Anticipating Travel Yields Happiness

A male polar bear
A male polar bear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

missjunebug recently read about a study headed by Jeroen Nawijn, tourism research lecturer at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands that made a lot of sense to her. Returning from a relaxing vacation is no guarantee of a lasting happiness boost.

According to his research group in the Netherlands that took a look at the vacationing Dutch, after a return to typical life as they knew it, happiness leveled off in a couple of weeks.

While that’s not particularly good news, there was a bright side to this study: Happiness grew in anticipating and planning the trip. For up to eight weeks!

missjunebug and her Trusty Mr.JB agree that there’s nothing quite like having a trip to look forward to! Online research! Fares to compare! What to do, see, eat, wear when you get there! And thanks to the internet–maybe the best invention of the 20th century for knowledge access–trip planning is an art form all its own that can be as minutely nuanced or broad-stroked as you like.

Currently, missjunebug is tracking down books on polar bears, Churchill, Manitoba, and the Aurora Borealis for a fall trip to the Arctic hinterlands of Canada. The most interesting thing she’s found out so far is that troublesome polar bears who are under the mistaken impression that they are townies are put in Polar Bear Jail to break that bad habit! Confined for a time with only water, then moved back out to wilderness in a tranquilized state disabuses them of the notion that a roam through town is a fine idea.  All she’s found out so far about the AB is that it’s green. More research needed! Believe missjunebug when she says that reading about these Arctic features may be a lot more fun than freezing while she actually views them.

Which brings missjunebug back to the initial premise: Anticipating and planning travel is a no-fail path to happiness for a good amount of time. How to improve on that? Plan a couple of trips a year for twice the anticipatory fun.  Or think about multiple long-weekend trips that you can experience throughout the year! Once-a-month Fun x 12! Did missjunebug hear someone say, “Road Trip!”? Yes, another fun vacay to plan, anticipate, and then hit the road knowing it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

Happiness maybe be elusive and vacations may be tricky , but missjunebug still likes the reward of looking forward to travel while enjoying the present moment planning !

The Quantified missjunebug

Uh oh. missjunebug better step on it! Only 654 Steps for today. Photo by mjb2014
Uh oh. missjunebug better step on it! Only 654 Steps for today. Photo by mjb2014

missjunebug is sporting a chic new bracelet lately: Her Fitbit Force!

She’s having some serious fun with this sleek little gizmo that measures the time of day (Sorry trusty and venerable Swiss Army Victorinox now languishing in missjunebug’s jewelry drawer!), number of steps taken, number of miles walked, number of calories burned, number of floors taken, and number of active minutes suffered exercised! Whew! missjunebug gets tired just listing all these fab features.

Now all of that information is well and good, inspirational and aspirational! But the part missjunebug thinks is too cool for school is the surprise vibe that hugs her wrist when she hits the magic 10,000 steps. Woo to the hoo X 10!

That makes for a very good day for missjunebug who is trying to get her exercise game back on after six months of chemotherapy infusions and other medical insults to her little bug body! Along with the little vibration comes a flashing “10,000!” on her Fitbit Force miniscreen. It feels like a solid albeit silent round of applause for her efforts.

But perhaps missjunebug should mention that in the two months she’s used her fab Fitbit, she’s only seen that flashing number three times. (wah wah) missjunebug must try harder! move more! get up earlier! stay up later!

Or she could do what a couple Mr.JB knows does before they go to bed at night: walk around their bedroom until they hit the magic 10,000! Ha! Clever people. Why didn’t missjunebug think of that?

If you are interested in tracking things and quantifying your little self, take a look at the Fitbit Force and its iphone App that helps you effortlessly track calories, sleep patterns, and water consumption as well. That’s some Big Data from a little black band.

mjbTip: The Quantified Self rocks! Get a fitbit for some number fun!

Who needs a watch? Just use the Fitbit! Photo by mjb2014
Who needs a watch? Just use the Fitbit! Photo by mjb2014
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Fogo Island? One Fine Cape Verde Locale

Wow! missjunebug has been away from her post for a while! Cruising! Chemo infusions! Recovering from chemo infusions! But now her bags are unpacked, her laundry is done, and her energy has returned in time for her to share a highlight from one last trip she and Mr.JB took to wrap up 2013: a transatlantic crossing from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Western Sahara with a day on Fogo Island and a whole lot of days at sea. What did they see? Not the total solar eclipse they hoped to see (deep sigh). The clouds gathered around their Barbados-bound vessel the Sea Dream One made sure of that.

Can you spot the tiny total solar eclipse? missjunebug can't either! Photo by mjb2013
See the tiny total solar eclipse? missjunebug can’t either! Photo by mjb2013

But the day on Fogo Island did not disappoint!

First things first: the people of Fogo make all their own wine which they consume themselves! What a smart local population! No exporting required here! Of course, tourists are encouraged to enjoy a wine tasting and take a bottle back to their ship which Mr.JB thought was a fine idea! The locals probably really need that wine to cope with the fact that they live on an island that is an active volcano too, last erupting in 1995. No wonder the Portuguese named this island Fogo or Fire Island!

The volcano takes the form of a 9-km wide caldera which has walls 1 km high. That is one deep “cooking pot”! But the coolest part is the large peak that rises in the center forming the highest point of the island, 100 meters higher than the caldera’s walls. missjunebug’s reaction? Stunning! And believe her when she says she’s seen some volcanos, but none as beautiful as this one! Take a look:

Volcano Beauty!
Volcano Beauty! Photo by mjb2013

The solidified ropey lava that  surrounds the outlying areas of the volcano is a a thing of beauty in itself but tricky to walk on. missjunebug and her trusty Mr.JB did their shoe shot to highlight its tricky texture:

Lava flows: Crunchy Underfoot! Photo by mjb2013
Lava flows: Crunchy Underfoot! Photo by mjb2013
At the base of the cone, more beauty. Photo by mjb2013
At the base of the cone, more beauty. Photo by mjb2013

With all this volcanic activity, the island’s soil can support some serious plant growth. missjunebug delighted in the poinsettia plants that grow with abandon! Their beauty provides missjunebug with the perfect transition to her next blog post, yes, you guessed it: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Maybe. Maybe not.

Pretty in Pink Poinsettias
Pretty in Pink Poinsettias. Photo by mjb2013

 

Worth a close-up! Photo by mjb2013
Worth a close-up! Photo by mjb2013
mjbTip: Need an exotic travel destination? Consider Fogo Island for some fiery fun!
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Black-Eyed Peas = Good Eating and Good Luck!

 

Check out these Black-Eyed Peas in the Pod!!! Photo by mjb2013
Check out these Black-Eyed Peas in the Pod!!! Photo by mjb2013

missjunebug had a fine time recently at Underwood Family Farm in Moorpark playing Farmer-for-the-Day! It’s black-eyed pea pickin’ season and the good people at Underwood have rows and rows of bushy black-eyed pea plants just waiting for pick-your-own peeps to drop by and fill up their bags with these beautiful peas famous in the South. They even have a restaurant named after them! Yes! The Black-Eyed Pea! A pretty decent place to eat all your southern faves when you’re in the South: cornbread, okra, collard greens, black-eyed peas (natch!), fried chicken, and, well you get the idea.

missjunebug donned her straw hat, hiking boots, old jeans, hiking shirt, and super bright orange garden gloves in preparation for taking on row after row of pea plants. She garnered four bags full o’ peas ripe for the shelling. Picking is really the easy part. Once she got home, she had to start the labor intensive task of shelling each individual black-eyed pea pod and popping out those beautiful peas. Fun times!

She’s still got a few (hundred!) to go, but she’s managed to Zip-loc lots of peas for the deep freeze. missjunebug will have plenty to eat on New Year’s Day 2014, making sure she covers her year with good luck by eating black-eyed peas that day, one for every day of good luck! Okay, not really. A bowlful will do.  She might explode if she actually ate 365 peas in one sitting.

Fresh, Young Black-Eyed Peas! Get busy shelling! Photo by mjb2013
Fresh, Young Black-Eyed Peas! Get busy shelling! Photo by mjb2013

Here’s a simple recipe from missjunebug’s Aunt Mary that pleases the pea palate!

Black-Eyed Peas that Please

Ingredients

1 1/2-2 cups of shelled fresh black-eyed peas

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 slices uncooked bacon for flavor

1-3 shakes Tabasco

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Place peas in a saucepan. Cover with water. Add chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, sliced bacon, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Stir. Heat on medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat for a continuous simmer for about 20 minutes or until peas are slightly firm, not mushy. Adjust seasonings. Enjoy.

Eat with cornbread, over rice, or just on their own with the delicious soupy juice they are cooked in! You might have to have some serious Southern roots to enjoy these beauties, but keep an open mind and give them a try. They are delicious, nutritious, and lucky!

mjbTip: It’s fun to be a Farmer-for-the Day!

Don't forget your Underwood Family Farms Frequent Farmer Card! Photo by mjb2013
Don’t forget your Underwood Family Farms Frequent Farmer Card! Photo by mjb2013

 

Helpful Info If You Want To Be a Farmer-for-the-Day! Photo by mjb2013
Helpful Info If You Want To Be a Farmer-for-the-Day! Photo by mjb2013
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Matthew McConaughey: Your Name is Mud

English: Lonely boat on the mud
English: Lonely boat on the mud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

missjunebug and her trusty Mr.JB had some fun Memorial Day weekend checking out the film Mud at their local indie film house. It was a serendipitous find as they were on their way to dinner at their fave pizzeria D’Amore’s (Best slice NYC/NJ style crust in SoCali!) when they saw that the marquee showtime for Mud aligned perfectly for a postprandial visual treat!

And what a treat it was! Mud is a Southern-rooted coming-of-age adventure story, but missjunebug thinks it’s one of the best love stories she’s ever seen. Romantic love, unrequited love, the love of a father and a mother for a son, the love of a son for his sad and maritally troubled parents, the love of a sharp shooter surrogate parent for his wayward “son,” the love of a young man for a captivating fugitive, the love of that same young man for a fickle high school heartbreaker, this film has more forms of love than the island’s creeks have cottonmouths. And, yes, there are plenty of snakes in this story, and not just the river dwelling kind.

The cast is, well, perfectly cast! Matthew McConaughey lives up to his name Mud in the most obvious way: he’s sorely in need of a bath, but hiding out on an island in a boat up a tree will do that to you. As he says himself, looking at said boat: “It’s a helluva thing.” The tree-shelved boat proves invaluable to him in the course of the film as he makes a plan to reunite with the love of his life Juniper played spot on by Reese Witherspoon, the quintessential Southern Siren.

Ellis proves invaluable as well. In a plot worthy of Mark Twain, Ellis and his friend Neckbone (coolest handle of the film) make sure Mud has the food and supplies he needs during his forced island staycation. Mud has done a bad, bad thing and Triple 6 bounty hunters abound, but the boys remain undaunted. The fourteen-year old Ellis played without one false note by Tye Sheridan captivates from beginning to end. He is the heart and soul of the film and possesses a moral compass that puts the adults to shame. Heroics and heartbreak help define this bittersweet tale, but it never lapses into sentimentality. Ellis definitely comes of age, but he also recognizes the power of love in all its forms.

mjbTip: See this film a.s.a.p.!

 

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Tiny Things: Fall Collection

missjunebug was walking her Spoonbug the other day and found these two cool tiny things: Tiny Piney Cones (science-y name) and Nature’s Own Tic-Tacs (very science-y name). Check them out! She threw the leaves in for some local autumn color. And, yes, missjunebug wants to emphatically assure you SoCali has all the fall colors, just in tiny amounts! Enjoy these final days of fall before Winter Solstice (or the end of the world) arrives!

All for fall still life! Photo by mjb2012

 

missjunebug asks: "Now don't those look like Tic Tacs??" Photo by mjb2012
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Halloween Photo Fun!

Simple pumpkins not so simple any more: Red, orange greenish, white and warty! Photo by mjb2011

missjunebug had some fun this weekend taking a few Halloween pictures that capture the spooky vibe of the season. Try not to get too scared. She’ll provide you with the Cornish benediction to cure all scariness that manifests this time of year:

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties,

and things that go bump in the night,

good Lord, deliver us!

Happy Halloween!

Fine seasonal signage! Hey, Pumpkin Head Man! Photo by mjb2011

 

Smiley pumpkin with a spooky pitchfork! Creepy plus!! Photo by mjb2011

 

What's scarier? The Hairy Skeleton or the Steroidal Strawberry? Photo by mjb2011

 

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missjunebug Reflects on the Big 6-0

Most Beautiful Flowers Ever! Thanks, Margaret!!!! Photo by mjb2011

What was the first thing missjunebug did on her BIG 6-0 B-Day? Checked her Facebook page, natch. As much as she complains about the invasive nature of media, technology, i-this, and i-that devices (of which she owns all the them–thanks to Secular Prophet S.J. (may you R.I.P.), she couldn’t wait to see who offered up to her Birthday Greetings from around the country. She loved reading every last one of them! From elementary school friends she hasn’t seen in decades to church friends to close friends, to dear family flung far and wide, it was a thoroughly delightful way to start her 6-0 B-day. Whatever did she do before Facebook? Thanks, Zuck Dawg for this amazing, invasive, confounding, delightful tool of communication without which missjunebug’s life would be socially impoverished fo sho. And thanks to all my fbfriends for fond birthday greetings. And, hey, missjunebug even got some email greetings, text-mail, phone calls, and cards IN THE MAIL!!! with sweet wishes, too. Special thanks to those who took the time to write in cursive (dying art!) their greetings. Life is good. Life is good, indeed.

As for sixty? It sucks.

missjunebug kids.

As one of her dear fb/church friends said: “This year 6 wins, 0 losses.” missjunebug loves this idea so much so that she’s figured out what those future wins should be:

missjunebugWin#1: Continued Good Health with the C-word a distant memory.

missjunebugWin#2: Living in the Now, just like Eckhart said. No past. No future. Now. Now. Now.

missjunebugWin#3: Loving neighbor/other as self, just like J.C. said. He is missjunebug’s homeboy.

missjunebug’s Win#4: Cherish family and friends forever, just like Facebook says: Stay connected, but missjunebug suggests,”Do it in person!”

missjunebug’s Win#5: Cash in those airline miles and resort points and travel often and open-minded. missjunebug’s dear Mr.JB and she head for Central Asia and Australia in 2012. STANS, here they come for the Transit of Venus! And Aussies, fire up the barbie and the Total Solar Eclipse! Fun times to come in the big 6-0!

missjunebug’s Win #6: Continue to write her little bug heart out on missjunebug.com for fun, for learning, for legacy! She hopes you’ll continue to check in with her from time to time!

 

 

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Davis-Schrimpf Seep Field Stuns!

A moonscape? Planet X? No! It's the Schrimpf-Davis Seep Field near the Salton Sea. Photo by mjb2011

missjunebug has a secret obsession with the Salton Sea. And that was even before she saw the Val Kilmer film of the same name! She toured this salty, below sea-level inland sea with Mr.JB, ElderJB, and TinyJB many years ago and recently returned to do a solo drive around its entirety. She’ll save that experience for another post another day.

What she did find about half way around was really stunning: the Davis-Schrimpf Seep Field.

The Davis-Schrimpf seep field is located off Highway 111 near Calipatria, California off Davis Road, a glorified dirt road that cuts through local farm fields. As with all things Salton Sea, the Davis-Schrimpf seep field is well below sea level and super surreal. What missjunebug found was lots of mudpots bubbling up carbon dioxide gas from deep down below the surface of the earth. On the surface what you’ll see if you visit this cool seep is nifty nodules rising up. These gryphons as they’re called by geo students in the know are variously textured with mudflows and salty remains of the magma cook-off going on about a kilometer below. The smell reminds missjunebug of her family’s experience in Lassen National Volcanic Park many years ago. But the bubbling at Davis-Schrimpf isn’t hot like Bumpass Hell, just gurgly and blurpy, salty and muddy. And very, very cool if you enjoy all things geologic.

Walk carefully around the gryphons and watch your step. There are lots of pockets that are soft and several deep gurgling pits that are not feet friendly. Treat the area with respect and take plenty of pics. This is a rare geologic treat!

Next time you are within striking distance of the Salton Sea, set your GPS for the Davis Schrimpf seep field and prepare to be amazed. And if you don’t plan a road trip anytime soon, at least check out the Kilmer film Salton Sea. It’s equally surreal!

 

Otherworldly Seep Field! Photo by mjb2011

 

A Salty Jigsaw Puzzle! Photo by mjb2011
Mud Flow Gray and Gooey! Photo by mjb2011

 

A Last Look at the Seep Field. Photo by mjb2011

 

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Lazy Daze of Summer

missjunebug's fav chaise and her fav companion, Spoonbug! Photo by mjb2011
missjunebug's fav chaise and her fav companion, Spoonbug! Photo by mjb2011

As you can probably tell, missjunebug has not been keeping up with her little blog posts lately. Sometimes she can’t think of anything to write about; sometimes she has other more pressing things to take care of (TinyJB’s laundry during his month home between university gigs–Yes!, playing with Spoonbug in the backyard, baking cookies post liquid diet deprivation!), and sometimes she’s just overcome by the lazy daze of summer, that morning to evening feeling of utter and complete inertia brought on by higher temperatures, warm breezes, and lots of sunshine.

missjunebug can hear her chaise lounge calling now.

She hopes you are enjoying your summer just as much as she is.

Feeling Follows Action

“…action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling…”
— William James

missjunebug came across this erudite observation in her email today from the Happiness Project’s Happiness Moment–thanks, Ms. Rubin! These are words to live by no doubt.

On those days when missjunebug has trouble getting going on her endless list of projects because she doesn’t feel like it, she can count on Mr. James’ wise words to nudge her into action. Because it is in taking action that good feelings follow.

Take exercise for example. missjunebug rarely feels like exercising. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A comatose body tends to stay comatose. (jk) That whole inertia thingy. But if she can just take that first step out the door and a few more down the stairs, she’s on her way to an invigorating walk that is guaranteed to make her feel good and each step keeps her moving forward up, up, up the hills on her street to the water tower that marks her turnaround. She smiles all the way home on the downhill return!

missjunebug has learned that feelings and moods are unreliable indicators of what she should be doing. The trick in life as Mr. James reminds us is to make the decision to take the action and watch the feelings follow. And if you’ve chosen your action well–good exercise, good works, good eating, good___you fill in the blank!–you’ll feel great!




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missjunebug’s Very Own Money Pit

Old Ties
Image by Voxphoto via Flickr

So after the palm trees, comes the retaining wall. missjunebug has a sneaking suspicion she lives in a money pit, albeit a really nice money pit. The outlay for getting 12 Mexican palms trimmed looks like chump change compared to the cost of shoring up a falling down slope that supports the junebugs driveway. Alas, it must be done. The separation between wall and driveway grew from an inch or so the last few years to a good half foot and the cement and wooden structure put in place by the previous owners to keep the wall and the land where they are supposed to be now has air beneath only. The soil has been quietly slip, slip, slipping away for a few thousand days, so remedy was required.

But there is something particularly painful about paying for posts and railroad ties and rocky dirt that the junebugs can’t even see! Well, actually, missjunebug in looking over that last sentence realizes she doesn’t want to see that stuff, but she wants even less to pay for it. Cha Ching X a kagillion. Or at least it feels that way.

But missjunebug doesn’t want to sound too complainy. She knows how good she’s got it. And the call from The Ashram didn’t come a minute too soon. She’s outta here on Sunday for some renovation of her own on her poor beleaguered body and spirit. She’ll leave the wrap up of the Driveway Debacle to her Mr.JB.

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Palm Trees: Love to Hate ‘Em

missjunebug's palm tree man ROCKS!  Photo by mjb2010
missjunebug's palm tree man ROCKS! Photo by mjb2010

missjunebug lives in a house that likes to think of itself as a Spanish Hacienda. In fact, the junebugs call their home The Hacienda just for fun. It’s not really a hacienda but more like a pretend hacienda. The history of the house is a weird but interesting one, the weirdest thing being that the house used to be located in a whole other town, was cut up into little pieces, and re-assembled on a little hilltop that is currently trying to fall down (but that’s another story for another day).

One of the truly authentic features of The Hacienda is that it is surrounded by palm trees of all kinds. And when missjunebug says surrounded, she means surrounded. At last count there were close to ninety. REE Diculous.

Yes, missjunebug loves the way they swish in the wind, creating a resort-like atmosphere around the courtyards and the gazebo and along the driveway. But that’s not all they create! Detritus X a kagillion: Branches, pods, husks, golden berries, feathery fronds, you name it! For goodness sake, it never ends!! There is always something falling off the tree or shooting out from the tree or swaying from the tree. Always.

Enter the palm tree guy. For mucho dinero, our palm tree guy will make everything right. Believe me when missjunebug says this agile man earns every dollar he charges. Mr.JB’s days of shinning up the skinny trunks of their trees are well over (missjunebug breathes a big sigh of relief). Just ask TinyJB why. He was at home from college one holiday when Mr.JB strapped himself to a tree to trim it and then managed to end up twirling around it about 20 feet in the air. Yikes! Thank goodness TinyJB and missjunebug were able to wrestle Mr.JB back down to the ground. They made Mr.JB turn in his ropes and ladder on. the. spot.

Yes, missjunebug will always enjoy sitting in the shade of a lovely palm tree murmuring in the breeze. But she will never enjoy all that stuff they shed!

Just a small part of the palm tree detritus! The rest is on the other side of the wall! Photo by mjb2010
Just a small part of the palm tree detritus! The rest is on the other side of the wall! Photo by mjb2010
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A Million Degrees of Separation

Kayaking in a double on Lake Union in Seattle,...
Image via Wikipedia

Today missjunebug escaped the heat with a dear friend by venturing out to Ventura Harbor to do some sublime kayaking. She left the sweltering heat on the mainland and paddled her friend’s companion Hobie kayak (super portable and inflatable!) up and down the inlets and outlets of the harbor through the watery neighborhoods of lovely waterside homes and round about the slipped boats bobbing quietly close by.

The cool thing about this little beauty of a kayak is the magic pedals that propel the craft forward. The paddles? Fugetaboutit. missjunebug found no need for them. Yes, she tried them out for a while for a little upper body workout, but believe her when she says leg power is definitely the way to go and go p.d.q!!

The weather on the water was a cool 75 degrees and the water was smooth and calm. missjunebug had some fun chatting with her friend and waving at the other big boats moving in and out of the harbor.  She even spied a few doggies hanging out on their owners’ boats, just livin’ the dream waterside.

After they were finished with their water fun, it was easy-peasy to deflate the kayaks, roll ’em up, and go! missjunebug can think of no better way to beat the million degree heat and enjoy the beauty the Ventura Harbor..well…harbors!  Lucky bug to have such a friend! Thanks, M!

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Tahiti and a Total Solar Eclipse Make a Sweet Combination

Geometry of a Total Solar Eclipse
Image via Wikipedia

missjunebug and her Mr.JB have recently returned from their little trip to French Polynesia. Fun times! Papeete provided great food in town and at the Sofitel, fun shopping at the awesome Marketplace and some nifty museums sprinkled around Tahiti as well. Moorea, just a half-hour ferry ride from Tahiti, was Snorkel Central for the junebugs. mjb squealed with delight watching her Mr.JB hand feed some very friendly stingrays. She even managed to pat a few on the their sleek and curious flappy bodies and was reminded of a gray cashmere sweater she wears in the fall and winter. Yes, seriously, that’s what they felt like! Who knew??? A few sharks cut through nearby waters, but missjunebug and her Mr.JB maintained a reasonable distance. A highlight of the trip for sure, only to be topped by the Total Solar Eclipse viewed by the junebugs on the Hao Atoll, a slim strip of land in the middle of Ocean Central! Lucky bugs to not get clouded out. Three minutes and change felt like 8 seconds (as all eclipse chasers know!) but they savored every single second of darkness, shimmering corona, and yelps of the Hao locals and the e-chasers livin’ the dream! Next? Queensland Australia 2012, birthplace of the Spoonbug. Too bad she can’t come along to eclipse chase, too.

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Not Monet’s Haystacks

Haystacks in the late summer
Image via Wikipedia

missjunebug recently mentioned the sad red tag affixed to their gate by the local fire department. Bummer x 10.  The junebugs failed their weed abatement test, but they are getting closer to the all clear. missjunebug had an epiphany while rolling a gianormous weed bale down a hill. Take pictures of the results! Why? To remember in detail why she does not want to do this next year. Yes, it was good exercise. Yes, it saved some money. Yes, the weather was great, not too hot, not too cold, just right while she and Mr.JB continued the endless whacking and stacking.

But do it again next year? Not a chance. She can appreciate first hand how hard the life of manual labor is and she gives all kudos to those who do this kind of work five days a week, week after week. Truly admirable. But once a year is enough and she would prefer nonce.

She did learn one more thing while she was taking pictures for this little Weed Abatement Photo Essay: She loves everything about where she and Mr.JB live, yes, even the weeds. Really? Really? you say. Okay, maybe not the weeds. But the weeds whacked and stacked. That she loves.

Not Quite Monet: Stacks of Pampas Grass Detritus. Photo by mjb2010
Not Quite Monet: Stacks of Pampas Grass Detritus. Photo by mjb2010
Hey What's That Coming in for a Landing? Weedy UFO? Photo by mjb2010
Hey What's That Coming in for a Landing? Weedy UFO? Photo by mjb2010
Creepy Close-Up of Weed Stack! Do you see a face? Photo by mjb2010
Creepy Close-Up of Weed Stack! Do you see a face? Photo by mjb2010
Why the junebugs Live Here: the View! Photo by mjb2010
Why the junebugs Live Here: the View! Photo by mjb2010
Holy Relic from Holey Barn? Photo by mjb2010
Holy Relic from Holey Barn? Photo by mjb2010
missjunebug's Arty Shot of the Day. Can You Spot the Moon? Photo by mjb2010
missjunebug's Arty Shot of the Day. Can You Spot the Moon? Photo by mjb2010
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Tiny Tomato Happiness!

Tiny Tomato Turns on a Dime! Photo by mjb2010
Tiny Tomato Turns on a Dime! Photo by mjb2010

Last year around this time missjunebug was eulogizing her Tomato Sadness. Only half of her homegrown tomato looked good enough to eat. The underbelly was ulcerated and grim and looked like something she might find on the kitchen counter of TinyJB’s former abode (recently cited as a nuclear waste hazard).

But this year is different!

missjunebug has found Tiny Tomato Happiness growing cherry tomatoes! (Thanks for the tip, lovely r.h.!) The one pictured above is the runt of the litter, but it’s a perfectly round and healthy runt! mjb is looking forward to a full harvest of cherry tomatoes that are just the right size.

In the meantime, missjunebug plans to add this tiny tomato to her Collection of Tiny Things! That is, until she adds a little s&p and pops it into her mouth!

Happy gardening!

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Abby Sunderland…What if? Wonders missjunebug

Sailboat in San Francisco Bay
Image via Wikipedia

As the devoted mother of ElderjB and TinyJB, missjunebug can’t help but wonder What if? when she thinks of Abby Sunderland, the intrepid 16-year old round-the-world-or-bust sailor. What if Abby hadn’t been rescued? What if she had died in that interminable stretch of ocean between Africa and Australia? What would her parents be saying to the media if such a tragedy had occurred? Call missjunebug a worrywart after the fact, but she can’t help but wonder.

Of course, missjunebug is as delighted as all the fans who support Team Abby must be that she was picked up without incident by the French fishing vessel (Viva La France!). Still. Was it worth the risk?

Without a moment’s hesitation, her father says they would do it all again if given the chance. Hmmm. missjunebug looks askance at that glib response. This coming from a man who by his own admission is “broke” and recently inked a television deal for Adventures in Sunderland (catchy name, Mr. S!) that will encourage kids to try new adventures. Really? Really? Now missjunebug thinks there’s adventure and then there’s foolhardiness. She’ll let you figure out which category she thinks Abby’s quest fits in.

missjunebug wishes Abby and the Sunderlands well with the multimedia blitz that will no doubt follow them where ever they go: Interviews! Televisions Shows! Book Deals!  This may be 15 minutes of fame x millions! Just in time, Sunderlands, with that baby on the way and that bank account so low!

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Plethora of Poppies at Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve!

Poppies Galore! Photo by mjb2010
Poppies Galore! Photo by mjb2010

missjunebug and Mr.JB took a little field trip out to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve in Lancaster, California this weekend. It was time for some serious natural decompression what with taxes being due and Icelandic volcanic ash clouds wreaking havoc with ElderJB’s travel-back-to-Africa plans! What a week!

Those glorious little bursts of orange x 10 kamillion did the trick! mjb and Mr.JB arrived early enough to score a good parking space and she recommends you do the same if you don’t want to wait in the long line of cars that begins to form somewhere around 10 am. Trust her when she says, “Arrive early!”

missjunebug and Mr.JB grabbed their jackets and their cameras and wandered the little trails taking picture after picture. So many poppies! So little time!  They enjoyed looking at the skittering lizards, listening to the melodic birdies flying around and even talking to some of the other onlookers.

mjb took a chance and said “Ni Hao” to a trio of friendly Chinese tourists enjoying their visit to the Poppy Preserve. missjunebug had a fun time telling them how much she and Mr.JB had enjoyed their country in two recent trips to China and they were pleased to hear it. missjunebug is a big believer in promoting understanding between cultures and it’s fun, too!

Further up the trail Mr.JB concentrated on taking some of the best nature photos he’d ever taken! missjunebug can say this now because she’s seen them herself and they put her little point n’ shoots to shame, but she’s happy to share her p-n-s’s here anyway. Enjoy! And get out to see those poppies before they disappear!

Mr.JB Heads Up the Trail to Track Poppies! Photo by mjb2010
Mr.JB Heads Up the Trail to Track Poppies! Photo by mjb2010
More Glorious Orange! Photo by mjb2010
More Glorious Orange! Photo by mjb2010
Upclose and Personal with Poppies! Photo by mjb2010
Upclose and Personal with Poppies! Photo by mjb2010
Little Lupine Loll with the Poppies! Photo by mjb2010
Little Lupine Loll with the Poppies! Photo by mjb2010
A Little Lizard Leaps into the Scene! Photo by mjb2010
A Little Lizard Leaps into the Scene! Photo by mjb2010
Poppies Mostly! Photo by mjb2010
Poppies Mostly! Photo by mjb2010
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African Animals Amaze missjunebug

Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010

missjunebug has been looking through her fab iPhoto collections recently and decided to put together a little photo essay of her Amazing Animal Finds in Africa! Mr.JB and missjunebug had the good fortune to travel to Uganda and Rwanda (with a day trip to to the lava flows of  the Democratic Republic of Congo) and view the zoo animals of their childhood on the animals’ home turf. What an experience!

Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
Photo by mjb2010
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A Walk on the Mild Side

California quarter
Image via Wikipedia

John Muir wrote in a journal in 1913: “I went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, I was really going in.”

missjunebug thinks she knows just what Mr. Muir means. She finds herself feeling just so when she walks Spoon her spunky Labradoodle who is always up for a walk. They head out just before sundown, just before the coyotes go on the move through the arroyo below their home.

She takes a hilly route when she’s feeling as spunky as Spoon. It takes some serious aerobic concentration to make it up some pretty steep hills. She always reminds herself of that old runner’s adage, “Uphill train, downhill, maim,” so she’s just as careful heading down.

But the walk is about more than the moving one foot in front of the other. Muir had it right when he said it’s not just a going out, but a going in. missjunebug does some of her most helpful meditations when she’s walking. The rhythmic movement of one foot in front of the other, the cool almost-evening air, and the little jingle of her dog’s collar tags propel her through thought after thought, the day’s chores revisited, the to-do list mentally checked off, the plans for the evening and into the next day, then, thankfully thinking ceases and there is only the rhythm, the breeze, the sweet jangle, and she arrives at a still place, a going-in place that is clean and serene. Maybe she is really praying and doesn’t even realize it. Maybe she hears that still, small voice of the Old Testament. And maybe, just maybe she transcends for a brief moment the cares of this world.

After all, mjb knows what Dog spelled backwards is.

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Wilderness Just a Stone’s Throw Away

mjb's Best Shot of the Day! Photo by mjb2009
mjb's Best Shot of the Day! Photo by mjb2009

Sunday afternoon missjunebug and her Mr.JB  headed into the wild outdoors of Wheeler Gorge. To get there they followed Highway 33, 20 miles past Ojai. What a find! Actually a re-find because five or so years ago she remembers driving TinyJB to a Wheeler Gorge campsite for some serious Boy Scout badge work.

She loved returning to the stark landscape of bristly chaparall, spindley pine trees, exuberant cottonwood trees and checking out the secluded picnic areas and campsites. She and Mr.JB had a philosophical discussion about whether or not they could manage a weekend camping out in such a remote place: no water, crude toilets, and lots of dust and dirt. Had they grown too soft to tough it out in the wild outdoors?

If they decided to do the deal they would have three campgrounds to choose from: Rose Valley, Middle Lion, or Pine Mountain/Reyes Peak. They got a close-up view of Rose Valley and Middle Lion but left Pine Mountain/Reyes Peak for another day. Middle Lion had a nice little creek flowing beside it, but Rose Valley could boast some terrific waterfalls when the time was right.

missjunebug and Mr.JB thought about how cool it would be to sleep beneath a big bowl of stars in the great outdoors, no city lights, no traffic, no noise. They could wake to brew some coffee, grab a granola bar or two and walk the trails and photograph the natural wonders all around them.

missjunebug is hoping that imagining camping compares well to actually camping. She will keep her readers posted on the plan to venture into the wild outdoors.

Beary Campy!  Photo by mjb2009
Beary Campy! Photo by mjb2009
Prime Picnicking!  Photo by mjb2009
Prime Picnicking! Photo by mjb2009
Creekside at Middle Lion Campground!  Photo by mjb2009
Creekside at Middle Lion Campground! Photo by mjb2009
Wheeler Gorge Vistor Center Rocks!  Photo by mjb2009
Wheeler Gorge Vistor Center Rocks! Photo by mjb2009

Some Don’t Like It Hot Redux

Where there's smoke... Photo by mjb2009
Where there's smoke... Photo by mjb2009

Now it’s the Fillmore Brush Fire that has missjunebug worried on this first day of fall. Some fall. It’s 95° in the shade in Santa Rosa Valley and it’s a literal inferno in parts of Ventura County today. Not good. And did missjunebug mention the unpredictable Santa Ana winds whipping around? Double not good.

missjunebug hopes the brave fire fighters on the ground and in the air do all they can to keep this fire away from people, animals, houses, and, yes, junebugs. What the SoCal area really needs is some of that sweet Georgia rain. They’ve had way too much! Send some this way!

Smokey x 10!  Photo by mjb2009
Smokey x 10! Photo by mjb2009

Some Don’t Like It Hot

Where There's Smoke... Photo by mjb2009
Where There's Smoke... Photo by mjb2009

How hot was it today? Hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk? Maybe. missjunebug didn’t go outside long enough to find out. Where was her cool ocean breeze? The rustle in the frothy palm trees? The gentle sway of the bougainvillea? Not anywhere near where missjunebug was.

The air was still. The heat was palpable. The eastern horizon was filled with Pompeiian clouds of smoke and ash from the Station Fire (35,000 acres consumed so far).  Her little bug heart goes out to all the SoCal families in the line of fire and the brave men and women on the fire lines.

She hopes the tropical weather activity moving up along the coast of Mexico and into Baja gets here quickly. What SoCal needs is some serious marine layer and a big break in the some-don’t-like-it-hot temperatures!

Seeing double!  Photo by mjb2009
Double Trouble! Photo by mjb2009

Close Encounters of the Rattlesnake Kind

Fearless Animal Control Official in Action!   Photo by mjb2009
Fearless Animal Control Official in Action! Photo by mjb2009
Is that a smile? missjunebug doesn't think so!
Is that a smile? missjunebug doesn't think so! Photo by mjb2009
That's right, a Snake Bucket!   Photo by mjb2009
That's right, a Snake Bucket! Photo by mjb2009
missjunebug's Hero!  Photo by mjb2009
missjunebug's Hero! Photo by mjb2009

So missjunebug is minding her bug business, checking out Facebook, answering some email when she hears this high-pitched whirring sound equivalent to about 1000 cicadas on cottonwood trees in a midsummer Texas heat. But missjunebug doesn’t live in Texas so she was curious about what exactly was going on. She flitted outside to her covered walkway and saw her slightly deranged kitty Lefty (only one good eye and a wack kitty brain–early pre-adoption kittyhood trauma) and her exuberant Labradoodle Spoon in a stand-off with a rattlesnake whose rattle was set to extreme vibrate-like-your-life-depended-on-it setting. Yikes!

missjunebug went into an adrenalized state of panic followed by furious shooing of the dog back into the house and tearing back out another door to entice Lefty into the house another way because she was not leaving her “prey.”  Okay, missjunebug already said she’s little brain-damaged. Fortunately, despite the brain damage, Lefty knows her name and she cut short her snake watch and strolled back into the house like she did this every day of the week.

Whew! Animals safe! What’s the next step?

Call her dear neighbor M. down the street who is better connected than Gov. Arnold and has a rolodex to match. She gave missjunebug the number for animal control in their county and in no time at all missjunebug had some expert help to grab up that pesky snake and take it way the heck away from missjunebug’s premises! This is what she pays her taxes for!! And it’s worth every penny, believe it!

missjunebug wants to give a BIG shout out to the terrific animal control official who solved her problem in a nanosecond! He was nice enough to let missjunebug document his efficacy and bravery!!

You rock Terrific Animal Control Official!

Yikes! Get that thing outta here!
Yikes! Get that thing outta here!

Tomato Sadness

Wow! What a Good-Looking Tomato! Way to go missjunebug!  Photo by mjb2009
Wow! What a Good-Looking Tomato! Way to go missjunebug! Photo by mjb2009
Same tomato! Backside! Yikes!  Photo by mjb2009
Same tomato! Backside! Yikes! Photo by mjb2009
Same Tomato! Poor Thing!  Photo by mjb2009
Same Tomato! Poor Thing! Photo by mjb2009

missjunebug has had some successes in her life, but growing good tomatoes is not one of them. Every year she buys an unsuspecting tomato plant from Target or her local nursery, and every year she fails to harvest the bumper crop of tomatoes promised by the little tag gripping the plant stem. She has brilliant friends who possess not just green thumbs but green hands. Their tomatoes are robust, round, red, and really, really delicious.

Still missjunebug perseveres mostly because she loves the smell of the plant itself. There’s nothing quite like the fragrance of the green leaves and furry stems of the tomato plant. They’re  just so tomato-y!

At first missjunebug thought she had a winner as she followed the progress (okay, erratically followed the progress) of her first tomato progeny. When she remembered to water the poor thing, it looked pretty perky and green. Then she took a closer look at the fruit (yes, technically a tomato is a fruit). What she saw wasn’t pretty and most definitely wasn’t appetizing.

She couldn’t begin to quantify all the things she did wrong, but one notable mistake was leaving the plant in a location that was on the radar of all bunnies living within a five-mile radius of missjunebug’s home. They managed to chew down the leaves to little stubs, but with a little care (and some serious relocation to a more protected area), those fragrant leaves recovered and begat little yellow flowers, one of which sprouted the tomato progeny in question. Perhaps fertilizer would have helped spare mjb’s tomato its disability, but who knows. Certainly not missjunebug.

She put the singular tomato out of its misery yesterday and pulled it from its furry green stem. It now sits on her counter in the kitchen looking a little forlorn, no doubt wondering what fresh hell it’s going to be subjected to now. It did have to suffer through a photo session so that missjunebug could fully document its tomato sadness.

But what’s that missjunebug sees? Two more tiny green tomatoes peeking out from under the fragrant green leaves? Maybe there’s still hope for that bumper crop!

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In the Tall Weeds Now

mjb's Dog and Friends:Bevo and BradPittBull    Photo by mjb2009
mjb's Dog and Friends:Bevo and BradPittBull Photo by mjb2009

Sometimes mjb spends her Sundays worshipping at God’s second altar: Nature (Sorry, Pastor Frank). That was the case this Sunday when the weather was perfect–cool and slightly breezy–the sky was clear, and the weeds bordering the front driveway were whispering, “Bring it, missjunebug. You will not prevail.”  missjunebug accepted the challenge, grabbed her plastic step-up stool for comfort, her gardening gloves for protection, her dog for company, and her awesome SIGG of Switzerland aluminum water bottle (ixnay lasticpay) for hydration. Armed to the teeth, mjb went at it for about 7 hours, okay maybe it was more like 3 hours, but it felt like 7 to her.

Individually, the weeds didn’t put up much of a fight. The soil gave easily and the roots were intact as mjb did some serious double fisted pulling and piling. She noticed a couple of things in the process. Each of the spindly grass-like strands had a seed packet at the top that promised millions more to come if she didn’t get them out of there, and fast, and into the green trash bin for permanent capture.

What was God thinking when He came up with this heinous design? mjb just didn’t get it. Where she lives weeds that seem innocuous in the wet spring turn into a serious fire threat in the dry seasons that follow. She was doing her little part of a major weed clearance required by the Fire Department by June 1. She remembered last year getting red tagged even after the pros had come in to do the clearing–100 feet from all structures.

How demoralizing seeing that big red tag hanging from the front driveway gate. mjb’s heart sank big time. This year would be different, she had vowed. And here she was doing her bit to get that passing grade. Her contribution would be postage-sized, but still.

The second and more valuable thing she noticed was how meditative the process of weed pulling was. She developed a comfortable rhythm, reaching, pulling, tossing as she watched the piles grow and grow and grow. Her mind was free to roam, reminisce, plan, or just pay attention to what lay before her beneath the weeds,  the sandy soil, orangey ladybugs, the occasional fellow beetle or tiny brown spiders. In a few extended moments of no-time she suspended thought all together and lived in the now. Now. Now.

Before missjunebug goes too Eckart Tolle on you, she remembers one other valuable thing: connecting with her neighbors. Her dog had a great bark-off with the new dog across the way, a scrappy Jack Russell with a sharp bark and a feisty manner. mjb also had a lovely chat with a dear neighbor friend who was out for an afternoon walk. mjb did some catching up with family news and set a date for a couples dinner out the next weekend. Who knew weeding could lead to an enhanced social life? And mjb gets to pick the restaurant! God does work in serendipitous ways!

So maybe weed pulling wasn’t so bad after all. Okay, there are still about a kagillion weeds to go, but as you can see progress is being made.

One of mjb's compadres    Photo by mjb2009
One of mjb's compadres Photo by mjb2009
Before mjb Brings It    Photo by mbj2009
Before mjb Brings It Photo by mbj2009
After mjb Brings It    Photo by mjb2009
After mjb Brings It Photo by mjb2009