Book suggestions for Earth Day!

Earth Day is almost here and this is an important day for me! I have been involved in beach clean up for many years with my son and keeping the oceans clean is very important! THE POUT-POUT FISH CLEANS UP THE OCEAN by Deborah Diesen; illustrated by Dan Hanna: Mr. Fish and his friends learn to take care of the environment in this new jacketed hardcover addition to the New York Times–bestselling Pout-Pout Fish series. I am also a fan of the Pout-Pout Fish and highly recommend this book for children ages 2-5.

WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS by Carole Lindstrom; Illustrated by Michaela Goade: Winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal and a New York Times Bestseller, this is a powerful picture book that weaves an urgent call to action with a timely story about protecting nature’s most sacred resource from harm and corruption. This one is another picture book that I recommend for ages 3-7.

SUNRISE SUMMER by Matthew Swanson; illustrated by Robbi Behr: With its lush depiction of the Alaskan wilderness and fascinating information on commercial salmon fishing woven into the artwork. I really enjoyed reading this story and loved the illustrations. I recommend this one for ages 4-7.

Happy Earth Day!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Cover images were also provided.

pediped National Walking Day Contest

pediped is doing a National Walking Day contest. They are encouraging people to get out for a walk and to take fun pics/videos while they are out and about and then post and hashtag #WalkingWithPediped for the chance to win a FREE pair of shoes of their choice!

Deadline to enter is April 23rd and the winner will be announced on the 26th.

Find out more here.

Credit: pediped.

RALPHS, FOOD 4 LESS DONATE MORE THAN 28 MILLION MEALS IN 2020 TO HUNGER RELIEF

Ralphs Grocery and Food 4 Less, divisions of The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), today share its latest milestones and results for Zero Hunger | Zero Waste, the company’s bold vision to end hunger in our communities and eliminate waste across the company by 2025.

Throughout their 2020 fiscal year, Ralphs and Food 4 Less donated nearly five million dollars and rescued 9.8 million pounds of food for hunger relief organizations in California. This translates to providing 28.2 million meals back to the communities in which they serve. 

“Zero Hunger | Zero Waste is shaping the local discussion around how to end hunger and eliminate waste across the country,” said John Votava, director, corporate affairs, Ralphs. “Here in California, we’re proud of the work we’ve been about to do through our stores, customers, and associates to use our scale for good.”

Through leadership, engagement, and commitment, Ralphs and Food 4 Less continue to make progress in Kroger’s journey to achieve Zero Hunger | Zero Waste by 2025. Notable 2020 milestones include:

Zero Hunger

•       Ralphs and Food for Less donated 28.2 million meals to communities throughout Southern California and the Central Coast in 2020. These meals came from the food rescue program and financial and product donations to hunger relief organizations throughout the year.

•       Ralphs and Food 4 Less rescued 9.8 million pounds of safe nutritious food that could no longer be sold in its retail stores or shipped from its distribution centers and manufacturing plants, for Feeding America® food banks. This translates to 8.2 million meals that made their way back to the community.

Zero Waste

•       Ralphs and Food 4 Less diverted more than 85% of its total waste from landfills across Southern California and the Central Coast.

•       Each year, Ralphs and Food 4 Less are in the top five Kroger Divisions for achieving total waste diversion.

“We are driven by our ‘food first’ mission that no matter who you are, where you’re from, how you shop or what you like to eat, everyone deserves to have fresh, affordable, and easy-to-enjoy food, said Vanessa Rosales, director, corporate affairs, Food 4 Less. “We are dedicated to giving back to the communities we serve, and grateful for the progress we’ve made towards our 2025 goal.”

Kroger announced Zero Hunger | Zero Waste in September 2017. Since then, the grocery retailer has worked relentlessly to drive change and conversations inside and outside the company. Earlier this year, the company celebrated the donation of 1 billion meals donated in just three years.

Credit: Ralphs and Food 4 Less. Images were also provided.

Faith and Sammy, April 8th Pets of the Week !

Faith

Faith and Sammy are bonded siblings who came in as owner surrenders. Faith is very loving to both people and dogs, and so is Sammy does—he’s even learned to play fetch from one of them. The cats are protective and needy of each other. They’ve been bounced around from place to place and are adjusting to shelter life. We feel bad for the former owner because there was obviously love going on, but we feel even worse for Faith and Sammy because they’re used to a loving home. Do you have one for them? Because the shelter is closed to the public, adoption appointments are conducted through email, so contact PetAdopt@longbeach.gov to meet Faith and Sammy. Ask for ID#A537301 for Faith and ID#A540906 for Sammy.

Sammy

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)

Celebrate Earth Day with The Aquarium of the Pacific

Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific

Looking for ways to celebrate Earth Day and take action? The Aquarium of the Pacific is launching an Earth Day poetry contest, a virtual festival, and offers other ways to get involved in supporting ocean conservation from volunteering to Aquarium memberships. “Everyone can help protect this ocean planet that we all depend on and call home. We hope people will learn simple things they can do to make Earth Day every day,” said Emily Yam, senior manager of education at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

You can learn what you can do to help protect our planet at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s twenty-first annual Earth Day Celebration, which will be held as a virtual event. Experience animal meet and greets from your home. Explore our ocean planet through poetry. Learn everyday tips to protect our environment. Hear about the work that the Aquarium is doing to help protect animals and the environment. Everyone is invited to tune into this free virtual celebration. You can follow the Aquarium on Facebook @AquariumofthePacific and enable notifications so you don’t miss this free virtual celebration.

As part of its Virtual Earth Day Celebration, the Aquarium is hosting a poetry contest with the theme ‘celebrating our ocean planet’. People of all ages are invited to review contest guidelines and submit their poems on the Aquarium’s Earth Day Poetry Contest page by April 9, 2021. The top three finalists will be featured during the virtual festival on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

Those looking to support the Aquarium’s ocean conservation efforts can do so by becoming an Aquarium member, making reservations to visit, donating, or volunteering. Starting on Earth Day, the Aquarium is inviting the public to participate in an ongoing cleanup initiative through its newest community science program called T.R.A.S.H. The Aquarium also invites the public to take part in its local sea turtle monitoring project to help this threatened population of green sea turtles.

WHEN:  Virtual Earth Day Festival: Saturday, April 24, 2021, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Pacific Day Time

WHERE: aquariumofpacific.org/events/info/earth_day_celebration/ and the Aquarium’s Facebook page @AquariumofthePacific

How to view the virtual festival:

On Saturday, April 24, the public can visit the Virtual Earth Day Festival webpage to watch the live streaming event. The schedule will be posted on the webpage, along with links to social media outlets that will also stream the event live.

COST: Free, virtual event 

RSVP: No RSVPs are required for this virtual festival

INFO: (562) 590-3100 or visit aquariumofpacific.org/events/info/earth_day_celebration/

AQUARIUM: The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing our planet are explored by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders in search of sustainable solutions. The Aquarium is dedicated to conserving and building nature and nature’s services by building the interactions between and among peoples. Home to more than 12,000 animals, Aquarium exhibits include Shark Lagoon, the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, Lorikeet Forest, and the Molina Animal Care Center. Beyond its animal exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages, including lectures by leading scientists, through its Online Academy. The Aquarium offers memberships with unlimited FREE admission for 12 months and other special benefitsTo make a donation to help support the Aquarium during the pandemic, please visit Pacific.to/donate.

Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific.

26th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Virtual Event

Kristin Hannah, Meena Harris, Don Lemon, Guy Raz, Douglas Stuart, Richard Thompson, Ibi Zoboi and More Set to Appear at L.A. Times Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times today released the schedule for the 2021 Festival of Books. Beginning on April 17, and taking place over the course of seven days, the online festival will feature more than 30 individual events. The line-up features a variety of writers, poets, artists and storytellers discussing a myriad of topics, including race, identity, immigrant experiences, historical romances and – following a year that’s tested its vulnerabilities and resilience – the human body.   

Traditionally the nation’s largest in-person literary event, this year’s festival will bring together a community in L.A. and beyond with authors from across the globe. And while the pandemic has limited travel and experiences, books have taken readers on adventures and provided insights into other people’s lives.

“During an unprecedented year that tested humanity’s adaptability, it shouldn’t be surprising that, as sales numbers show, people turned to books more than ever to make sense of the world,” said Book Editor Boris Kachka. “The Festival of Books, too, has adapted to serve that need. With a year of experience behind us, the Times team has worked to create an event as rich, varied and communal as a virtual festival can be. I hope our readers agree.” 

Festival highlights:

  • Hosts of the No. 1 kids podcast “Wow in the World,” Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz chat with award-winning actress Zooey Deschanel about their new book “Wow in the World: The How and Wow of the Human Body.” 
  • A young adult fiction panel about race and identity with Dean AttaMorgan ParkerIbi Zoboi and Dr. Yusef Salaam moderated by Hannah Gómez.
  • James Patterson discusses his new Audible Original Drama, “The Coldest Case.”
  • Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, discusses and reads her children’s book “Ambitious Girl” with Times Columnist Mary McNamara.
  •  Jesse Tyler Ferguson talks modern California food and his debut cookbook “Food Between Friends.”
  • S.A. CosbyDanielle EvansNikky FinneyRobert Jones, Jr. and moderator Marcus Anthony Hunter on writing about the Black experience across different genres. 
  • Historical fiction with Kristin Hannah and C Pam Zhang in conversation with Times Columnist Patt Morrison.
  • Novelists Chang-rae LeeImbolo MbueSanjena Santhian and Meng Jin talk about writing internationally focused fiction with Times Book Editor Boris Kachka.
  • Iconic singer-songwriter Richard Thompson will discuss his new memoir with music journalist RJ Smith and perform two songs.
  • Don Lemon, CNN journalist, host and author of “This Is the Fire,” discusses America’s history of racism and how the country can begin to fix the problem with Times TV Reporter Greg Braxton.
  • Authors David Weiden and Brandon Hobson discuss writing about the Native American experience, and honor the legacy of Robert Kirsch Award honoree Leslie Marmon Silko.
  • A discussion about America’s broken criminal justice system with Brittany K. BarnettEmily BazelonChristine Montross and moderated by Times Columnist Sandy Banks.
  • A conversation about films that defined the last decades of the 20th century with Mark HarrisGlenn FrankelMelissa Maerz and moderated by film critic and host of “The Treatment,” Elvis Mitchell.
  • An exploration of the natural world and looking for answers about life with Jonathan MeiburgJonathan SlaghtLulu Miller and Patrik Svensson.
  • Authors Eloisa JamesVanessa RileyErica Ridley and Amalie Howard talk historical romance with moderator Elle Jackson.

The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is presented in association with USC. Most sessions are free to attend and require advanced registration. Participating local booksellers will be selling books for every panel and, in most cases, will offer signed bookplates with purchase. The schedule can be found on the festival’s websiteFacebookTwitter and Instagram feed (#bookfest).

Credit: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Universal Studios Hollywood to Reopen on Friday, April 16, Kicking Off with Special Annual and Season Pass Member Bonus Days Beginning on Thursday, April 15

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD — Pictured: Universal Studios Hollywood Main Entrance — (Photo by: Universal Studios Hollywood)

At long last, Universal Studios Hollywood rolls out the red carpet to resume operations and welcome guests back to the theme park beginning on Friday, April 16. The momentous occasion will commence with a special park preview for Annual and Season Pass Members starting on Thursday, April 15.

While most rides will be operational, some rides and attractions will reopen at a later date as the theme park complies with government restrictions. Universal Studios Hollywood continues to work in partnership with health and government officials to implement new health and safety procedures that include controlled capacity to enforce physical distancing and required face coverings.  In accordance with government guidelines, only California residents may visit the theme park at this time

Tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood will be available to California residents only and can be purchased online beginning on Thursday, April 8. The theme park will also celebrate Annual and Season Pass Members—who will be among the first to visit—with a series of complimentary Bonus Days on select days from Thursday, April 15 through Sunday, May 16; these Bonus Days can be reserved by Annual and Season Pass Members online starting on Monday, April 5.  Annual and Season Pass Members will be able to resume regular use of their passes starting on Monday, May 17.

Due to capacity limits, until further notice, guests with unredeemed tickets purchased prior to April 8, 2021 will need to make an advance reservation at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com for their visit dates.

For more information about Annual and Season Passes, including Pass Members Bonus Days and re-activation of Passes, reservations for previously purchased tickets or to purchase theme park tickets, visit www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.

After more than a year of closure, Universal Studios Hollywood is ready for its close-up and set to call “action on the all-new “The Secret Life of Pets:  Off the Leash!” and “Jurassic World—The Ride,” which features the spectacularly realistic new dinosaur, Indominus rex.

Here’s what guests can expect:

A stroll along the cleverly themed Pets Place will bring guests to the front of Katie’s NYC apartment building where the innovative “The Secret Life of Pets:  Off the Leash!” ride resides.

This all-new tech-savvy adventure inspired by Illumination’s blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets films, answers the question, “What are your pets really doing when you’re not at home?”

This impressive new ride combines 64 technologically-advanced animated figures with hyper-realistic media and projection mapping designed to take guests on a journey to meet some of their favorite Illumination characters from the movies, including Max, Snowball, Gidget, Chloe and Duke, along with a host of other animal friends, who have all been transformed and transported into the live-action world. From blinking eyes to eyebrow movements, from head tilts to head nods, from moving mouths to smiles, from ear curls to lip curls, from full torso twists to physically walking, the depth of mobility and function programmed within each of these loveable characters creates an experience unlike any other theme park ride. 

The grand reopening of Universal Studios Hollywood also brings guests face-to-face with “Jurassic World—The Ride’s” all-new, extraordinarily realistic dinosaur, the Indominus rex, who stakes her claim at the ride’s finale in a forceful battle with her arch-rival, the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Breaking new ground with highly complex innovations, this fully-articulated lifelike Indominus injects intense new thrills, excitement and intrigue to the already dynamic ride.  Spanning nearly 55 feet horizontally from head to tail and over 22 feet vertically, the Indominus’ imposing presence will be amplified by the fluidity of her motions and synchronized movements that deliver an unprecedented level of authenticity.  From the subtle blinking of her eyes, the flexing of her arms and claws and clenching of her jaw as she bears her razor-sharp teeth, the colossal Indominus rex will lunge from her hillside setting, stalking guests just before they descend the giant waterfall drop to escape her grasp.

Of course, these new experiences are among the many welcoming attractions and themed environments that await guests upon their return to Universal Studios Hollywood, including “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™” which features a bustling Hogsmeade village and the critically-acclaimed rides, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™” and “Flight of the Hippogriff™”, “Transformers™:  The Ride-3D,” “Revenge of the Mummy:  The Ride,” Despicable Me’s “Super Silly Fun Land,” and “Springfield, U.S.A.,” home of America’s favorite animated family, “The Simpsons.” The theme park’s signature attraction and world-renowned Studio Tour, which takes guests behind-the-scenes of an authentic production movie and television studio and where they can experience such thrill rides as “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” and “King Kong 360 3D,” will also open.

Because the safety and well-being of guests and team members is a top priority for Universal Studios Hollywood, the following guidelines outline the theme park’s new health and safety protocols, also highlighted in this video and detailed on the Universal Studios Hollywood website.

·     Temperature checks for all Guests upon arrival. If temperatures exceed 100.4° Fahrenheit / 38° Celsius or greater, Guests will not be permitted to enter.

·     Face coverings required for all Guests throughout their visit. Face coverings also will be available for purchase.

·     Controlled capacity within the theme park, and limited occupancy at all CityWalk venues to help enforce physical distancing. Some areas and programs may remain temporarily closed.

·     Rigorous cleaning and disinfecting at all food locations, restrooms, and all other high touch points.

·     Physical distancing practices at all locations throughout the park and at rides and attractions.

·     Eating and drinking permitted only in designated dining areas.

·     Contactless payment options wherever possible.

More information about Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk is available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com. Regular updates can be found on Universal Studios Hollywood’s Twitter @UniStudios, Facebook-Universal Studios Hollywood and Instagram @UniStudios.

Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk Health and Safety Guidelines
All Universal guests are urged to follow CDC guidelines and conduct temperature checks prior to their arrival.  Guests should evaluate their own risk before they visit, and it is not recommended that older adults or individuals at high-risk with serious underlying medical conditions visit.  People who are asymptomatic can still spread COVID-19 if they are infected.  Any interaction with the general public poses an elevated risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and Universal cannot guarantee guests will not be exposed during their visit. For information on CDC guidelines, click here. Due to the evolving nature of this situation, details are subject to change without notice.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood.

Hosting a Safe Picnic to Bring in the Spring and Sweep Winter Away in 2021

The weather is warming up, and vaccinations on the rise! The best way to come out of hibernation and fight off the pandemic blues is with a delicious outdoor meal prepared at home and enjoyed outside.

There is no reason why family and friends need to remain locked away on your phone or stuck in your computer screen as long as the proper precautions are in place. This article will provide meal ideas along with packaging and serving tips that will allow you to enjoy delicious food and much-needed company outdoors this Spring!

Outdoor Guidelines

Before we dig into the food ideas, let’s quickly refresh the CDC’s suggested outdoor social distancing regulations. If you are inviting people who do not live with you, you should still maintain a six-foot distance. When sitting and eating, a mask is unnecessary, but a mask is still recommended when moving about.

Choosing the Right Spot

Try to avoid crowded outdoor spaces. Large parks should have ample room, but it might be best to choose a location off the beaten path to avoid unsafe conditions. National and state parks are a good choice because they are often quite large and have designated picnic areas and more secluded areas.

Try for wide, open areas like a beach or lakeshore. This will give you and the guests who aren’t from your home bubble ample room to spread out, set up, and relax! 

Picnic Blanket Alternatives

The classic image of the picnic brings to mind friends and family sharing a relatively small blanket. If you are picnicking with people from your household, the traditional style still works. However, we have to get creative for Spring 2021 when different house bubbles mingle.

If you are picnicking with people from outside of your living space, try using individual beach towels spaced at least 6 feet apart. If getting down on the ground and back up again is difficult for you or a member of your group, try bringing folding chairs and TV dinner trays, so each person has their own picnic table.

You can arrange the spots in a large circle and have a “buffet blanket” set up in the middle, where all the food, drink, and additional PPE are kept. Guests can take turns going up to the “buffet blanket” as needed.

Make it BYOF, B, and PPE

If you do not have the time to organize the party supplies, food, and protective gear, a straightforward workaround is to tell guests that the picnic is BYO. Therefore, each guest is responsible for their own food, drink, and PPE. But you should still bring extra PPE.

Bringing Ample PPE

You want to come prepared. Make sure there is enough hand sanitizer or antiseptic wipes to accommodate all guests. It is also a good idea to bring extra disposable masks in case some get soiled by food or the outdoors.

Introducing Napkin Packs

Think about bringing napkin packs – napkins tucked away in a Ziploc bag that also contain those little antibacterial hand wipe pouches. You can also store disposable forks and spoons in these napkin packs to reduce the spread of germs.

You can also make a jar or large Tupperware container of warm soapy water to wash your hands before and after eating. This works well for storing any used plastic, glass, or ceramic dishes when everyone is done eating.

Meals Preprepared in Tupperware  

Now we get to the fun stuff – the food! There are many ways to prepackage entire meals so that only the person who makes it and eats it ever touches it.

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats can be made both savory and sweet to taste and require minimal preparation. You simply need a fridge, a sealable container, and some time overnight to prepare them.

You want to mix all your wet and dry ingredients into the containers, making sure the meals are well mixed. Then you refrigerate overnight. The dishes can remain sealed until they are ready to be eaten.

This meal idea involves the slightest bit of preparation but also requires the longest time to set fully.

Individual Meals in Tupperware

If you like to cook, you can prepare whole meals and portion them out into individual containers for guests to enjoy. Like the overnight oats, only the person who prepares the food and the person who will eat it come in contact with it. Just be sure to pack some extra containers for guests who want seconds!

Meal ideas for this can include some type of protein and a whole grain garnished with a vegetable of some sort. The possibilities are endless, but the idea is to provide container-sized meals that people can enjoy without risking the contamination that the traditional buffet-basket picnic might harbor.

Individual meals packed up in Tupperware stack easily in coolers or hot food bags, ensuring that the meals keep and that the container space is used efficiently.

Soup in Mason Jars

Another delicious way to make safe and individually packaged meals for your COVID-proof picnic is to cook soup at home and package the soup fresh and hot into mason jars. It’s best to prepare the soup the same day as the picnic and package the jars into a hot food bag right away to preserve the warmth.

Usher in the Spring With a COVID-proof Picnic

By following the suggestions in this article, you can safely and confidently hold an outdoor picnic with friends and family. Remember to bring ample PPE and make sure the meals are individually packaged. Now shake off the winter blues and get outdoors!

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant working and living in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with and writes on behalf of Lee A. Schwartz, a busy family law attorney in Philadelphia.