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“Shelfies” and “Shellebrations” bring attention to plight of world’s oldest creatures and their disappearing habitats American Tortoise Rescue, a nonprofit organizatio…

Source: World Turtle Day approaches, slowly

“Shelfies” and “Shellebrations” bring attention to plight of world’s oldest creatures and their disappearing habitats

where-have-all-the-turtles-gone-2-728American Tortoise Rescue, a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is celebrating its 17th annual World Turtle Day® on May 23rd. The day was created by ATR to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Now celebrated around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers are taking “shellfies” and holding “shellebrations” in the US, Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.

ATR launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.  (See slide show here.)

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Biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises within the next 50 years. Adults and children can do a few small things that can help save turtles and tortoises for future generations.

  • Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
  • If a tortoise is crossing a busy highway, pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again.
  • Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles and to prevent off shore drilling that can lead to endangered sea turtle deaths.
  • Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild.
  • Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter.
  • Report the use of tiny turtles as prizes at carnivals and other events.  It’s illegal.
  • Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches.  It is illegal to buy and sell them throughout the U.S.where-have-all-the-turtles-gone-4-728

ATR’s ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world. The first priority here in the U.S. is to ask pet stores and reptile shows to stop the sale of hatchling tortoises and turtles without proper information for the buyer. For example, many people buy sulcata tortoises as an impulse buy because they are so adorable when they are tiny. The breeders and pet stores frequently do not tell the buyers that this tortoise can grow to 100 pounds or more and needs constant heat throughout the year since they do not hibernate.

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ATR also educates people and schools about the real risk of contracting salmonella from water turtles. Wash hands thoroughly every time you touch a turtle or its water, and do not bring turtles into schools or homes where children are under the age of 12.

img_4591“I don’t want a huge stack of pancakes,”  said no kid ever. And IHop listened. For kids of all ages, IHOP is holding its much-anticipated annual promotion of all-you-can-eat pancakes, through February 12.

 

Our family headed out to our neighborhood IHOP to indulge. The promotion features one price for a stack of five of IHOP’s famous original buttermilk pancakes, and then you can order more pancakes to your heart’s content.

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Another option is to order a combo with favorite breakfast sides like sausage, bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns, which come with a two-stack of pancakes, which can be replenished on demand.

The only thing kids love more than a great stack of pancakes in front of them is pouring on flavored syrups, like good old-fashioned maple flavored syrup or more exotic varieties, like blueberry,  strawberry, or butter pecan.

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IHOP has been a family favorite of ours since I was a little kid, and in fact they’ve been doing this for nearly 60 years, so they pretty much have gotten this down pat.

Here’s a fun fact: The IHOP original buttermilk pancakes, which happened to be one of the most popular menu items, selling more than 700 million each year at the chain’s more than 1,700 restaurants across the world.

Here’s an even  more meaningful statistic: since 2005 IHOP as raise more than $24 million for cherries that focus on the well-being of families and children and address critical issues like health and hunger.

So take your family, take your appetite, and hurry to get all you can eat pancakes before the promotion runs out; but  even if you can’t get there before the promotion ends, no worries, IHOP will never run out of pancakes.

img_3676The only thing not great about O+O Sicilian Kitchen and Bar in Santa Monica was finding the place. Waze announced my dining companion and I had arrived, but we still couldn’t find it after 10 minutes of walking up and down Ocean Blvd.  We started to leave when we ran into a group of people who were also looking for it.  They had friends on the phone who were at the restaurant who swore it really existed and we were just a half black away.  I’m glad we did not give up the hunt.

Even on a dark, cold and rainy night, somehow a restaurant full of people had found O+O.  The place was packed.  After having a needed glass of Tuscany wine to unwind from our trek, we relaxed into the warm and friendly neighborhood atmosphere of the Italian family style eatery, where large groups had pushed together tables, and many families with children were dining together.

The menu featured modern Sicilian cuisine with a California flair, with dishes such as fennel and blood orange salad, fried olives, squid ink linguine and vegetarianna artichoke and eggplant pizza.  As a charcuterie aficionado, I was happy to see a selection of cold cuts, and for my starter I had the persimmon and prosciutto salad. The meat was satisfyingly salty, and the burrata perfectly creamy soft.

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It’s a good thing I didn’t eat lunch that day, because after the generously portioned salad, I was already feeling full, and I was wondering if we should have ordered the second course, the restaurant’s popular classic meatballs, but we were glad we did.

The meatballs lived up to their promise, of being classic. They tasted just like my mom’s meatballs from my childhood, the ones she would make for the progressive dinner parties, that percolated all day in the crockpot in their rich tomato sauce with basil, and pecorino.

For the main course, I ordered the breaded swordfish, which was previously a special, but because but it became so popular they put it on the menu. It was light and tasty, served with romaine, arugula, fennel, and cherry tomatoes.  A delicious and perfectly cooked dish.

To finish off our meal, we enjoyed the trio selection of ricotta, pistachio and chocolate cannoli, which were fresh and just the right size to not be overly filling after a three-course meal.

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The food made this place worth finding, but clearly by the size of the crowd, the restaurant was not as hidden as we thought. In fact, the crowd was a bit much, as the place was rather noisy, probably owing to the acoustics of the mostly glass walls. It seemed like everyone was yelling to be heard, so on one hand there was an enjoyable frenetic New York-y energy, but on the other hand, I would’ve liked a more tranquil environment to savior my food.

While they are not terrific for audibility, those panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows offer an incredible view of the outdoors, which on a sunny day would be the place I would choose to dine. The patio overlooks a lovely courtyard of the Pacific Terrace building complex in which the restaurants resides — and which should be part of the street address instead of Ocean Avenue, if they want to make the place less impossible to find; but maybe its best we keep that a secret.

img_3980A beach, a city, and a harbor for ships and visitors

Living 17 years in LA, I visited Long Beach about half a dozen times. It served as a halfway meeting point for me and friends who lived in Orange County. We had brunch and dinner there on occasion, and I visited the aquarium with my son and went whale watching once, but I never really considered Long Beach a destination. That was before I had the opportunity to spend an entire weekend there, and I truly got to know what this 55-square-mile city offers unique from its neighbors.

Long Beach has 11.5 miles of beach, which is how the city gets its name, but what sets this  Southern California seaside town apart is its urban environment by the waterside. Think Seattle or Miami, but with constant sunshine, and relaxed attitude of Southern California, along with a desirable geographic position 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

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Whereas across the Southern California coast, denizens can brag that they can snow ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon, Long Beach one-ups that boast with the promise that residents can go sailing or deep sea fishing, or even visit the island of Catalina for lunch, then go skiing, and be back by dinner time to dine at a world-class metropolitan restaurant and hit the nightlife in the city, until the wee morning hours if they wish.

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It is a vast city, with a plethora of diverse offerings in the area of culture, cuisine and arts.  The latter category of arts happens to be one of most thriving for the city in the last decade, in which the city has dedicated 1% of its revenue to developing arts programs. Long Beach is the home of the Museum of Latin American art, along with the long beach museum of art, which combines contemporary collections and classical architecture with an oceanfront view. The city is also known for its street art, including the gigantic outdoor murals of the Pow! Wow! international art collective.

The local art scene inspires much of the culture of the town, from the awesome award-winning architecture of the Long Beach airport, named one of the 10 most architecturally beautiful airports in the world, to Retro Row, a 1950s-inspired walk back in time into a mid-century throwback of restaurants and coffee shops, barbershops, and furniture and decor shops that seem like a scene out of  Mad Men, for which in fact the set designers of said show often visited for props, wardrobe and inspiration.

One cannot talk about Long Beach without mentioning the RMS Queen Mary. The behemoth transatlantic ocean liner, built in 1936, that is three times larger than the Titanic, is permanently docked on the Long Beach shoreline, where at now serves as a tourist attraction and hotel where visitors can stay in one of the refurbished first class state rooms.

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In speaking to locals of Long Beach, it seems everyone has a connection to the Queen Mary. Many have worked there, or their friends or family members have, and many have their own personal stories about the lore of the old ship, purported to be haunted by ghosts.
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The boat has been floating at its current resting place since 1967, and it rises twice a day, up and down with the tide, hosting hundreds and even thousands of tourists daily for tours and special events. Visitors and ghost chasers revel in the stories told by the Captain and Commodore and the many knowledgeable docents who share a passion for the ship as strong as any Brit’s fealty to their royal figurehead.

Aside from the Queen Mary, there is much more to the shoreline and the bounty of the sea that is an essential draw to the city. The Long Beach aquarium is also world renowned, housing more than 11,000 animals and nearly 500 different species and featuring exhibits that allow visitors to get an up-close perspective and even touch the animals displayed there, in addition to sponsoring many learning programs for visitors of all ages.

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In addition to these two major attractions there is also a wharf area with seafood restaurants, like the renowned Parker’s Lighthouse, offering tourists and locals spectacular views along with the region’s best and freshest seafood. The culinary scene, like the city itself, has great variety, such as renowned authentic Mexican food at Lolos Mexican Cuisine; The Attic on Broadway, a southern comfort food eatery; the trendy Sip Bar & Lounge at the Marriott Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, featuring the “ocean to fork” culinary creations of award-winning Top Chef contestant Executive Chef Janine Falvo; and L’Opera, a sophisticated fine dining restaurant featuring Northern Italian fare.

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Lest we forget to mention the shopping, Long Beach is home to one of the area’s newest outlet malls, called the Pike Outlets, which not only has a number of premium discount stores, such as Restoration Hardware and Columbia sportswear, but it also features a Ferris wheel that has become an attraction in itself.

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While a day trip is an easy excursion from Los Angeles, for out-of-towners and those who want to stay overnight, the city offers a growing number of hotels, from the downtown Hyatt Regency, which offers spectacular vistas of the city to the quaint feeling Hotel Maya, a Hilton Doubletree hotel, which though is a sizable property of 200 rooms, has the charm of a boutique hotel, with views overlooking the bay and it’s own marina, which maritime guests can slip into and then stay overnight on their boats or in hotel rooms.

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The hotel also features Fuego restaurant, famous for its handcrafted margaritas made from its expansive selection of premium tequilas. Its best-kept secret its small private beach, Playa Maya, for which the hotel developers brought in thousands of pounds of sand to create an inviting alcove with lounge seating around fire pit which are the scene of s’more making and merry making in the evenings.

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The hotel offers bike rentals which I took advantage to take a quick, three-minute ride to the Queen Mary, then I doubled back and headed into the city, which was easily accessible by bike designated bike paths. I rode to the Pike and took a break by the Rainbow Lagoon Park and a spin by the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, which was dark on the weekend I visited.

On a sleepy Sunday afternoon, the city was quiet, almost deserted, which is part of the diverse character of the city that is a lure to visitors. It is a bustling city during the weekdays, and a laid-back beach city on the weekends – a city that embodies work and play. While tourists may find its appeal as a central outpost for visiting Los Angeles and many of Southern California’s other major attractions, such as Disneyland, California Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood Long Beach in itself has the draw of a tourist destination, with its features as a metropolitan city, with the added appeal of a sunny beach comprising its boundaries.

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As a port city, where cargo ships dock from around the world, and to which trucks haul goods back and forth, Long Beach can experience a fair amount of traffic, and the tangled maze of roads to the harbor, with the abundance of signage directing visitors to the various attractions, can make it a navigation feat to find one’s way around at first. Once I got the hang of the roadways, with the help of Waze, I was able to steer myself around like a native, and in fact I found a few short cuts. While I got a good sense of Long Beach by staying there for a weekend, I learned there was a great deal I have yet to explore in this sprawling beach, I mean, city.

 

Smoothies are easy-to-make, quick energy food — and even a quick-fix meal for kids, who think they are getting a milkshake that tastes great, and they don’t even have to know how healthy it is for them. For parents who need a pick-me-up or kids who want a delicious treat that isn’t grilled cheese or chicken nuggets try these great ingredients for keeping it fresh, delicious, healthy and energy-packed.

Bring on the protein

When you want to add in some protein to your smoothie, but you don’t want a load of sugar, cholesterol and artificial ingredients like those found in a lot of protein supplements, scoop in in heaping helping of Protein Plus Energy Powder. Made from protein in peanuts, this plant-based protein is great tasting, contains 17 grams of protein per serving, is high in fiber, low in sodium, and cholesterol free. It contains no GMOs or artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Protein Energy Power comes in four flavors including original, chocolate, honey and banana, and is available online and at select retail locations including Publix stores and at http://www.proteinplusflour.com. $28.99 for 20 ounces. (including shipping).

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Feeling Juicy

High pressure processing is the best way to preserve the nutrients and flavor of fruits and vegetables when juicing, making cold pressed juices excellent bases for smoothies. Pressed Juicery makes approximately 30 varieties in the categories of greens, roots, citrus, fruits, coffee, refreshers and classics, and with their subscription service you can have fresh bottles delivered to your doorstep, so you can be stocked up anytime you want to blend up a nourishing smoothie chock full of antioxidants, phenolic compounds and loaded with health benefits. Bottles around $6.50 each.  Delivery subscriptions being as low as $160 for 12 juices a month, with free shipping.

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Smoothie in a box

Keep your smoothie recipies and ingredients fresh with a subscription to Green Blender, a Southern California based home delivery service that delivers a box of just-picked fruits, veggies and other ingredients to your door along with recipies.  Each week, you’ll get five new smoothie recipes and all the pre-portioned ingredients you’ll need to make 10 smoothies.  The hand-crafted recipes are designed to provide a balanced menu, packed with flavor and nutrients; and all the produce and superfoods in the kits are sourced from organic and local farms. Subscriptions begin at $3.90 per smoothie, with free shipping.

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Daily dairy

Yogurt gives smoothies their creamy consistency and bulk, but not all yogurts are created equal.  Clover Yogurt uses premium organic fruit and lots of it.  Their yogurt was the first to be American Humane Certified, and contains no synthetic growth hormone rSBT and is USDA Organic Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified. Their Clover Organic Greek Yogurt gives just the right tartness to smoothies and comes in a six flavors – blueberry, strawberry, peach, black cherry, vanilla, and plain, available in a 32-ounce family size ($8.29) great to stock up with to blend up daily smoothies.  Sold in local independent grocers, Whole Foods Market,  and Safeway Inc.

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A dollop of peanut butter is the gold standard ingredient for a protein-packed smoothie, but for extra deliciousness, try a cocoa or hazelnut spread instead. Escape the ordinary with Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread, made with healthy and environmentally responsible cold-pressed sunflower oil. Nocciolata dairy-free, organic hazelnut and cocoa spread does not contain palm oil contained in other popular hazelnut spreads, which is potentially carcinogenic when heated above 200 degrees Celsius. This low-sugar, vegan spread is completely free of GMO’s, preservatives, artificial colors, additives, or artificial sweeteners – just hazelnut, cocoa and cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract, raw sugarcane, and skimmed milk.  Available at grocery stores nationwide, or on Amazon, $6.49 for 9.52.-ounce jar.

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Sometimes you feel like a coconut

Coconut water has become the elixir du jour for health aficionados, and now ZICO brand has done coconut water one better, with the infusion of juices, perfect for mixing in smoothies. For a lighter smoothie, blend in ZICO Chilled Orange Juice Blend, Chilled Pineapple Mango Orange Juice Blend, and ZICO Natural Chilled Coconut Water Zico.  These juice blends have nearly half the calories of regular fruit drinks and all the hydration benefits of coconut water, including five naturally occurring electrolytes and is much potassium as a banana. Available in the refrigerator aisle at major grocery stores in select cities. 1.5L carton, $7.99.

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Yes Brainer

Talk about adding a boost, BrainGear memory drink will not just punch up the flavor of your smoothie, but it is formulated to enhance brain performance. The pineapple Mango drink is naturally flavored and contains no GMOs, artificial colors or preservatives and contains only 2 grams of sugar. Add it into your smoothies daily to support memory, mood stability, restful sleep and brain health.  Available at select grocery stores in limited cities, or online at braingear.com, $9.99 for three 4.5 fluid ounce bottles.

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mychargehubplus

If you are out and about, running errands, picking up the kids, taking them to activities, getting the family shopping done, commuting to work, and trying to keep up with your social life, chances are your phone is not lasting as long as you are in a day.  Nothing is worse than seeing that sliver of red is all that’s left of your battery life, and you are only half way through your day, and you don’t have time to plug in and wait to recharge.

With the dismal battery life of iPhones these days, and fear sparked into the hearts of smartphone owners everywhere by the Samsung 7 battery explosions debacle, portable battery chargers have been the answer, at least temporarily, to stave off dead phone woes.

But not all phone chargers are alike, and before you buy one you should check out some important features that might make a difference in your charger being a lifesaver or a dud.

The myCharge HubPlus portable charger ($79.99) is one of the better chargers I have used, for many reasons. One feature that is rare in portable chargers is that it features a USB port, in addition to a built-in lightning and micro USB cables. The built-in USB and lightning cables can be sleekly tucked away on the side of the hub, so that they don’t tangle up with other items in your bag.

Of course, with the size and power needed to accommodate a USB port, the myChare HubPlus is a bit larger and heavier than many chargers; it would have to be, until the technology improves, to provide the juice needed to power up larger devices.

This means it’s a little less portable, and a little more weight and bulk in your pocket or bag. The flipside is that this device will keep your smaller devices running longer, lasting up to four times your device’s battery.

This extra power can come in handy on the subway, on a camping trip, or other places where you can’t plug-in for hours. Also an added feature of the HubPlus is it has a built-in wall prong for plugging directly into an electrical outlet. This is convenient because you don’t have to carry along a charger cord and charging block to re-charge your portable charger.

The bummer is that in this day and age, most household electrical outlets are spoken for, so often you will have to unplug something in order to accommodate it.

The charger features four lights on the side which show when the battery is charged up and ready to go. It also features a safe cell technology to limit the charge to give you the highest level of charge without overdoing it. It also has smart sense technology which ensures device compatibility.

Overall this is an excellent power bank for emergencies and peace of mind, if you don’t mind toying around a little extra heft.

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