Category Archives: grandkids

Oregon Mt. Hood Territory – vacation in gorgeous natural geography

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We recently wrote about the Jackson Family’s lovely wineries and Pinot Noir wines of Willamette Valley, Oregon. After meeting recently with the tourism rep for Oregon Mt. Hood Territory, we learned even more about Oregon wines. We learned that the area isn’t just rich with grape vineyards. It’s also veined with “farm loops” that harbor berry fields, nurseries, nut groves and farmers’ markets.  Sustainable farming and all-star chefs – delivering the best of the Pacific Northwest, no matter what season you decide to visit.
Mount Hood, with Trillium Lake in the foreground.
Mount Hood, with Trillium Lake in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And there are a hundred other reasons to take your next vacation to Mt. Hood Territory – whether solo, with your significant other, or with the grandkids. It’s a long way from Chicago but offers a plethora of outdoorsy enticements that are not so readily accessible in the Midwest.

The Territory is home to a variety of one-of-a-kind lodging options – from 2000 different campsites and RV camps, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast, or a WPA-era lodge to luxury resorts and hotels so you can rough it or live it up. And one of the coolest things is that, when you’re visiting, the Mt. Hood tourism folks will help you plan ways to enjoy the sights to the max while also minimizing any negative impact on area resources or on the environment. Sustainable tourism – an innovative concept, born out of respect for their position as stewards of the Earth and all its Oregon glories.
What to do? White water raft on Sandy River Water Trail leading up to Willamette Falls. Kayak on the Willamette River. Multiple lakes let you standup paddle boat, camp, fish, paddle and watch the wildlife. Cycle through river valleys or along ridge-top panoramas. No car required – public transit service gets you up there.
Ride horses, run trails, or hike through 6000 acres of pristine forest, towering basaltic cliffs and spectacular vistas in the Cascade Mountains. Observe the wildlife along the 4-mile Mt. Talbert Nature Park trail network. Ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or cross country all winter.
The history of Mt. Hood Territory could be really fun for kids to explore. The Willamette Falls Heritage Trail, for example, is home to Philip Foster Farm, where you can experience scrubbing your laundry on a washboard, building a log cabin, or grinding your own corn – the way life was in Oregon in the 1800s. Or take a ferry across the Willamette River.
If you’re going to the west coast, don’t miss a chance to see this beautiful area – blessed with bountiful natural wonders and working hard to preserve them all. For all the details on that and more, check out the Mt. Hood Territory detailed travel planner here.
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5 books for boomers: Laugh, cry, exercise, cook and – what the hell – drink

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Reading is something a lot of baby boomers are thrilled to have more time for than they used to. Maybe you’ve longed to read all the classics and are into the thick of that project. And perhaps you look for something lighter now and then. Here are 5 books for your consideration:

  1. Laugh. Die Laughing: Killer jokes for Newly Old Folks, selected and annotated by William Novak, author of The Big Book of Jewish Humor. Some good laughs about aging and forgetfulness in some of the stories and especially the quotes from comedians. Some are just funny in general without being specific about aging. If you’re an older married person, you may or may not appreciate the many jokes in here that are built on the idea of how miserable a man is with his wife and a few, vice versa. If you’re an avid emailer who receives frequent jokes from friends, you may recognize quite a few of the stories in here. In any case, you’re bound to find some that are new and entertaining.
    Laugh, cry, exercise
    Laugh, cry, exercise
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  2. Cry. My New Friend, Grief: Reflections on loss and life, by Anna Hodges Oginsky. Processing a loss is never easy. The social worker author reflects on how her father’s sudden death awakened memories of previous traumas she’d experienced. She writes about how she got help in processing her many painful, negative memories, how she began to be able to see her grief as a positive force and how she came out feeling stronger and more peaceful afterwards. Because the book is about getting perspective, it may not be good for those newly in the throes of grief, but could be good to keep on hand for when they are ready.
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  3. Exercise. Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise: A low-impact program for building strength, increasing bone density and improving posture, by Dr. Karl Knopf, a physician who was also a personal trainer and has worked with older adults and disabled persons for four decades. Growing older doesn’t have to mean extreme muscle loss and broken bones. The secret, says the author, is doing specific exercises and stretches that address the core protection against fractures – strong muscles, solid bones and the best possible posture. He points out that building these things begins in childhood, and that it’s never too early to begin. “Eighty-five to 90% of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys.” So the recommendations in this book are good for both you and your grandchildren – fun, healthy things to do together.
    Cook and - what the hell - drink
    Cook and – what the hell – drink
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  4. Cook. Whole Cooking and Nutrition: An everyday superfoods approach to planning, cooking and eating with diabetes, by Katie Cavuto, nutritionist and wellness expert. It’s not often we turn down so many pages in a cookbook on our first trip through it, but that’s what happened with this book. We love that every dish uses creative combinations of ingredients and encourages the reader to discover all kinds of new healthy-eating options. For example, ever heard of tempeh? Well, it’s a fermented soy product from Indonesia that’s firmer and more distinctive tasting – nuttier – than tofu. Check out the recipe that combines this with white balsamic vinegar, citrus juice and don’t-you-just-love-it? orange zest – ginger, soy sauce, garlic and more seasonings with greens. It sounds so delicious we don’t even care that we’ve never liked tofu. How about roasted cabbage steaks with vinaigrette? You don’t have to be diabetic to find pleasure in these recipes, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get all the benefits of the super nutrition in them.
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  5. Drink. Bourbon: The Rise and Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, by Fred Minnick. If you like bourbon and you love history, this might be the right book for you. The author scores American whiskey for Whisky Advocate and has written a number of books about bourbon whiskey, including Bourbon Curious: A simple tasting guide for the savvy drinker (review here). This book focuses on the role of bourbon in American culture and traces its resurgence as a favored spirit in current cocktail culture. Minnick details the rise and fall of various distilleries, bootleggers, marketers and more. Ideally, you should be really into history to appreciate the level of detail here, but it might be fun for any bourbon devotee.
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Jell-o® takes the all-natural trend mainstream

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You remember – most of us grew up with them – Jell-o flavored gelatins and Jell-o puddings. Maybe you still buy them for the grandkids, or even for yourself. Vanilla pudding was my all time favorite. Now Jell-o is joining the parade of huge companies that are responding seriously to the public’s concerns about artificial colors, sweeteners and other ingredients. Thus is born Jell-o Simply Good: 4 flavors of gelatin mix made with juices and 4 flavors of pudding mix, all made with real cane sugar – no HF corn syrup or aspartame – and colored with vegetable and spice extracts.
New Jell-o Simply Good mixes
New Jell-o Simply Good mixes
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You can still buy the original and diet versions (a mainstay for many), but it’s good to know the kids can have great taste without fake stuff to make it so. It’s interesting they recommend making the new puddings with 2% milk and don’t suggest skim milk as an alternate.  Don’t remember what the original banana pudding mix tasted like, but this new version tastes very, very good. Feels like I can tell there’s nothing artificial in it – like a dessert in a good restaurant.
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The campaign to present the new product line was inspired by having a bunch of kids answer questions honestly about what they know/think about artificial ingredients. And the company obviously chose carefully the flavors to start with: orange-tangerine, strawberry, pineapple-orange, and mixed berry gelatin mixes; vanilla-bean, banana, chocolate caramel, and chocolate pudding mixes flavored with good stuff like real cocoa, vanilla bean and banana.
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If you make it for your kids, you’re invited to share their feedback using hashtag #DelightfullyHonest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Jell-o is pretty sure your kids are gonna have good things to say about these new mixes.
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In the campaign videos the kids don’t actually talk about their reactions to the product, but they’re cute anyway. Hey, they’re kids.
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What can you do about porn on kid movie sites

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English: Caricature on "The great epidemi...
English: Caricature on “The great epidemic of pornography”. From 19th-century French illustration (in Courrier Français?). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s utterly confounding to realize that you may be able to find a site that offers the kids’ movie you want for free – but the screen is likely to be surrounded by suggestive drawings or photos that link to pornographic content.

How do you say “outrage”? For most of us baby boomers who were told next to nothing about sex – and probably had a tough time explaining it to our kids – this is an almost unimaginable challenge to the belief that it’s important to protect children’s innocence.

In a 2012  New York Times article, “When children see Internet pornography,” a young boy is quoted as asking his parent, “Mom, why do women like to be choked?” The article also contains a few links to programs for trying to manage this dire trend – though most experts say it is impossible to completely shield your kids from it.

In a 2015 article, “Parenting in the age of online porn,” experts say statistics are not so far indicating a younger generation that’s out of control sexually – teen pregnancy is down, sex among ninth graders is down. Gulp – ninth graders. When one mother discovered a previous search phrase on her computer for “child porn,” her older son told her he’d been looking for porn made for children because he wanted to know what his body was supposed to look like at his age. There’s that beautiful innocence.

Some therapists feel this epidemic of easily accessible pornography is extremely damaging to children and young teens. Yet the jury is apparently still out among other therapists on just how bad the long-term effects will be.  But there’s no question pornography can cause confusion, worry and/or fear even when children are able to process what they see with responsible, caring adults.

If we could legally stop advertising to children on Saturday morning cartoons, surely we can stop porn vendors from “advertising” on children’s content websites. Come on, legislators. Get with it.

Well, grandmothers, be deeply aware of the dangers when you search the Internet for free movies for your grandchildren. And do your due diligence on intelligent ways to handle it if it comes up with one of them.

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Shedd Aquarium on the move

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Shedd rescue penguins at play
Shedd rescue penguins at play

Did you know that Chicago’s own Shedd Aquarium rescues wounded, abandoned or otherwise trouble animals from the wild? One of their favorite rescue animals is the penguin. Shedd staffers work with local scientists to rescue them and rehabilitate them. Shedd even maintains a mini-habitat of penguins at Lurie Children’s Hospital so the kids can enjoy watching wildlife close up.

Nickel heading down
Nickel heading down

One of the many wonders at Shedd is a huge look-up-and-be-amazed round aquarium tank that sits in the middle of a two-floor exhibit. There you’ll see a once-seriously wounded but now seemingly very happy sea turtle whose back legs don’t work because of an encounter with propeller blades. Yet she propels herself just fine around the environment, even working up extra enthusiasm to push herself deep under the water using only her front legs. Her name is Nickel because, when she was rescued, she had a nickel stuck in her throat. And she’s a testament to the resilience of life in all its forms.

Don’t miss the shark exhibit. There’s nothing to compare to watching these creatures from ancient times as they glide noiselessly around their huge tank. The Shedd shark expert has 31 years in the industy, so she can tell you a lot about them. She explains that they are studying microbiome of water with a view to understanding more about the  11 species of shark they keep here. Regular feedings by keepers – the sharks respond instantly when shown a specific shape and given an audio cue – keep them from attacking their fishy tankmates for meal fodder.

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The atmosphere is warm and slightly humid on some of the floors. Everywhere you can gaze at your leisure at the sea creatures in all sizes hanging out in habitats that closely approximate their homes in the wild. Watch a shark embryo moving and growing inside its protective cocoon. Marvel at the colors and the shapes of dozens of other varieties of fish and mollusks. The watery exhibits are in many cases breathtakingly lovely and the gently bubbling or moving water is soothing to the spirit.
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Baby dolphin Makoa swims close to mom
Baby dolphin Makoa swims close to mom

Shedd recently facilitated the birth of a baby dolphin in captivity and invited the public to participate in a naming contest this past July. Thirty-four hundred people participated and voted for Makoa, which means fearless.

Back-legless iguana uses 3-D prosthetic
Back-legless iguana uses 3-D prosthetic

Shedd experts also have a 3-D printer that actually creates artificial limb replacements out of rubberized material; we saw one for their back-left-legless iguana. Fascinating to see the half dozen iterations they had to go through before they got the size and the flexibility just right. And now the iguana struts around his area like he owns the place.

Shedd offers multiple levels of membership. Give as much or as little as fits your budget and get free entrance and dozens of other perks. It’s a really special place in Chicago that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve had a relaxed visit there.
And be aware that the CTA will take you right to and from their door. No need to pay big bucks for parking. It’s called the Museum Campus bus and you can plan out your route via the RTA Trip Planner.
P.S. For your viewing pleasure, a few more photos:

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Take the grandkids to Adler’s “What Is a Planet?”

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Most of the exhibits at Adler Planetarium in Chicago may be a bit beyond smaller kids, but if your grandchildren are older, they will likely find a lot to enjoy in the star shows and in a new exhibit called What Is a Planet? The show talks about what happened to Pluto-the-former-planet, but its main purpose is to highlight some of the museum’s prized historical icons relating to the evolving state of knowledge in astronomy.

When you visit What Is a Planet? you might even run into one of the Adler resident astronomers while you’re there. They love talking about astronomy and will tell you quite frankly that many astronomers disagree about a lot of things – another indicator of how our fund of knowledge about space is always growing and changing.

FYI: The new definition of planet, voted on by members of the international astronomers union (many of whom disagreed!), is that it must a) have enough gravity to be round, b) rotate around the sun, and c) clear everything else out of its orbit, meaning asteroids and other such extraneous stuff cluttering up space.

Interested younger kids will like the exhibit also because, right across the hall from the 600-year-old book of calculations by Kepler and other fascinating artifacts from the Adler’s archives, is a Community Design Lab where kids can draw spaceships, imagine visits to planets, and create – to their hearts’ content – models of machines and dioramas of sci-fi scenarios. All drawing and construction materials supplied free of charge. The room is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

P.S. No need to drive your car and pay a hefty parking fee. The #146 CTA bus drives directly into Museum Campus and pulls right up to the Planetarium. Catch it on Michigan Ave.

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Review – National Geographic guides to 100 years of national parks

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Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National Park
Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America’s 59 national parks are celebrating their 100th birthday this year. Even if you don’ think you’ll be able to visit one or more of these national treasures any time soon, you can have a virtual visit easily by looking at the official National Geographic Guide to National Parks 8th Edition just published recently. Gorgeous photos and clear directions for navigating your way through the parks make this book a must-have – even if you’re only visiting in your imagination. An enriching and relaxing way to while away an hour or two any time.

And if you’ve got grandkids, check out the National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA: Centennial Edition. They’ll see cool maps and amazing photos of wildlife; they’ll learn fun facts about forests and about conserving our natural resources. What a fun way to help kids open their eyes to how we can all preserve and protect our precious home planet. If the kids love outdoors, or if you’ll be taking them to a national park soon, they will love this book.

Imagine yourself there:

  • In the East, parks like Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah are among the most popular in the nation. They and six other parks showcase the subtle beauties of eastern scenery.
  • Midwest, we Chicagoans can experience national parks close to home or far out in the Dakotas. Environments both suburban and rugged/otherworldly await visitors to this, America’s heartland, where water plays a huge part in building and changing the landscape.
  • South Central hosts four parks – Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, Big Bend and Hot Springs – with scenery ranging from historical and underground to high and rugged.
  • The Southwest’s 11 parks contain rivers and historical remains of America’s Wild West. The Grand Canyon is an emblem of American heritage and a natural wonder of the world. Mesa Verde preserves natural wonders and the history of a people.
  • The Alaska national parks protect and preserve more than 41 million acres of natural treasures like active volcanoes, glaciers, rugged mountains, giant brown bears, sea lions, whales and wild salmon.
  • The four Rocky Mountain parks feature craggy peaks capped by glimmering glaciers, fields bathed in wildflowers, and lakes as smooth and blue as a summer sky. These also include Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes.
  • The Pacific Southwest parks stretch from American Samoa and the Hawaiian Islands to the snow-clad peaks of California. Visitors can discover everything from coral reefs to volcanic landscapes, and from deserts to monoliths and domes of granite.
  • In the Pacific Northwest parks you can hike the cathedral-like glades of Douglas fir, western red cedar and other conifers of Mount Rainier, and the Olympic and North Cascades mountain ranges in Washington state. Redwood National Park is home to 2,000-year-old trees – and some of the tallest on Earth!. In Olympic, enjoy the beauty of temperate rain forests that soar to the sky near some of the nation’s wildest coastline. Here and at Mount Rainier are the only places you can find such forests in the United States.

Thanks to National Geographic for keeping us all entertained, delighted and informed about the wonders of our country and the ways we can respect our natural world. Visit their website for more fascinating guides to our country’s national natural treasures. And very happy one-century birthday to our national parks!

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