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7 things we cannot wait for this spring

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Looking for a summer spot that has all the features of a perfect patio? Check this out! (Image provided by TJ Chumps)
Looking for a summer spot that has all the features of a perfect patio? Check this out! (Image provided by TJ Chumps)

Well, it’s officially spring. But unfortunately, we’re still waiting for consistent sunny days!

So for now, we will dream about these 7 things that signal springtime in Dayton!

Inside the Butterfly House at Cox Arboretum Metropark on Springboro Pike. CONTRIBUTED

1. A WALK IN THE PARK

There's no better way to welcome spring than with a beautiful hike through nature. The Dayton-area has an overabundance of scenic parks and trails, and they each offer something a little different. If you’re just interested in taking in some beautiful scenery, we recommend a walk through the paths at Cox Arboretum or a walk through the beautiful Charleston Falls. Looking for a more rigorous hike? Try the trails at John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs.

>> RELATED: Where to take a nature hike in Dayton

>> RELATED: Best undiscovered playgrounds near Dayton

A view from the fountains at The Greene in Beavercreek. CONTRIBUTED

2. A DAY SHOPPING OUTDOORS

Sure, shopping is a year-round activity. But there’s nothing like the feeling of spending an afternoon at The Greene enjoying a bit of the outdoors while watching the fountains, sipping a beverage on one of many fantastic restaurant patios or just breezing in and out of your favorite stores. If you want a more unique shopping/dining experience, head to Yellow Springs instead. The village is known for its unique shops and dining destinations, including Ha Ha Pizza, The Winds Café, The Sunrise Café, Peach’s Grill and the Yellow Springs Brewery.

>> RELATED: 5 things to do in Yellow Springs

>> RELATED: 8 beers to try at Yellow Springs Brewery

Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs offers more than 50 flavors of creamy, delicious homemade ice cream. Heaven! CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

3. ICE CREAM!!!

Sure, you can eat ice cream anytime you want. But ice cream can also be an experience. Especially if it’s at Young’s Dairy!! Spend the day at the dairy barn and see animals, impress your date by showing off your skills in the batting cages or take in a game of putt-putt golf. If you’re hungry, you can grab a casual lunch at The Dairy Store or some comfort food at the Golden Jersey Inn. End your day with a delicious ice cream treat with Young’s homemade ice cream. We recommend the Buckeye sundae. It’s a peanut butter and chocolate lover's dream.

>> RELATED: 7 great places to get frozen treats in Dayton

4. PATIO DRINKING AND DINING!!!

One of the best parts about spring is taking your dining and drinking experience outdoors. Dayton area bars and restaurants have some amazing patios to grab a quick drink or a full meal. Here are a few of our favorite patios: El Meson in West Carrollton, The Winds Café in Yellow Springs, The Trolley Stop and Lily’s Bistro in the Oregon District, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 in Dayton, Basil’s Dayton with a river view and The Dublin Pub in the Oregon District.

>> INTERACTIVE MAP: Best patio dining in Dayton

You know spring has arrived when Dragons baseball begins. Heater and Gem and the rest of the Dragons will play at home Sunday through Friday. (Source: Contributed)

5. A DAY AT THE BALLPARK

A true sign of spring and warm weather is Dayton Dragons baseball. A Dragons game should be on everyone’s Dayton bucket list. Even if you aren’t into baseball, Dragons games offer a fun experience for all ages. It’s the perfect setting for a family outing, to enjoy a beer and baseball with friends or even a date. The Dragons’ home opener is set for April 6th.

>> RELATED: How to make the most out of a Dragons game

Yellow Cab Food Truck Rallies

6. FOOD TRUCKS!!!!

Oh, sweet heavenly food trucks. A sure sign of spring is when you can get your paws on a Fat Cat Burger from McNasty’s, devour a bite-sized mac and cheese croquette from Hunger Paynes, or feast on a Pig Apple sandwich from PA’s Pork.

>> RELATED: Dayton food truck guide

Take a spin on one of the more than 300 miles of connected trails in the Miami Valley. CONTRIBUTED

7. A SCENIC BIKE RIDE

One of the best things about living in the Dayton area is a wonderful, interconnected system of bike paths that allow you the flexibility to take a short ride or basically bike across the entire Miami Valley. This is the perfect activity if you want some quiet reflection time while getting some great exercise, or something you can do alongside friends and family. Choose your own biking adventure with more than 300 miles of trails in the region.

>> RELATED: 10 things to know about Miami Valley bike trails

5 unique Christmas facts and traditions from around the world

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 4:09 AM

Christmas decorations in Beirut, Lebanon
Christmas decorations in Beirut, Lebanon

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With decorations popping up and cooler temperatures, the season is definitely upon us.

While you prepare for the holiday, with last minute shopping, finding the right tree and coordinating with family and friends, billions of others around the world will also be prepping for the season. Find out some interesting Christmas facts and how other nations around the world celebrate the season.

1. Lebanon

Home to 18 recognized religious groups, including several major Christian sects, Lebanon actually marks Christmas twice each year. Maronites, Protestants and Catholics celebrate the holiday on Dec. 25, as in the U.S. However, Lebanese Orthodox and much of the country's sizable Armenian population mark the day according to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the day is celebrated on Jan. 6. Both dates are official holidays in the country.

While the country also has a large Muslim population, the entire country lights up for the holiday. Beirut, the capital, annually features a prominent Christmas tree in the city center, next to a large mosque and cathedral, which stand side by side. Colorful lights illuminate neighborhoods throughout the country, and Christians and many Muslims mark the holiday by spending time with their families.

2. Venezuela

While it may be normal for Christians around the world to attend church on Christmas Day, residents of Caracas have decided to add a special twist. Each Christmas Eve, Venezuelans in the capital head to church ... on roller skates. Streets are shut down, just to make way for the mass of roller skaters making their way through the city.

Throughout the country, Venezuelans begin celebrating on Dec. 16, with special programs and church services happening each day until Christmas Day.

3. Philippines

The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) in San Fernando, Philippines(WikiMedia)

Each year, on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the city of San Fernando hosts The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu). The festival has led to the city being dubbed the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines." Visitors from throughout the country and around the world come to take part in the festivities. As it's also a fierce competition, 11 barangays (villages) work tirelessly to build the most elaborate lanterns, attempting to outdo their neighbors.

The tradition comes from simple paper Japanese lanterns, no bigger than half a meter in diameter. Now, due to the competition, the lanterns can be made from a variety of materials and are up to six meters in size. Instead of candles, electric bulbs are used, sparkling in colorful designs.

4. Ghana

In Ghana, where more than 30 languages are spoken, each group has its own unique traditions associated with Christmas. However, overall, the population celebrates from Dec. 20 through the first week of January. What kid wouldn't love two weeks of Christmas?

Although there are celebrations during the entire Christmas season, the biggest parties take place on Christmas Eve. Church services, which people attend wearing their colorful traditional clothing, feature drumming and dancing, as well as nativity plays and singing in languages understood by most people.

5. Sweden

The giant Yule Goat of Gävle, Sweden(WikiMedia)

Ever since 1966, the Swedish city of Gävle has erected a massive 40-foot-tall Yule Goat in Castle Square to prepare for Christmas. But the goat doesn't always survive until the holiday.

The bizarre tradition has led to a related one, where city residents attempt to burn the goat. These efforts have been successful 29 times, with the most recent success being last year. 

Will the goat survive the 2017 season? When it goes up on Dec. 1, there will be a live stream so you can keep tabs for yourself.

4 homemade Christmas gifts for your pet for less than $10

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 9:17 AM

Molly chews on the
Molly chews on the "Indestructible" dog toy from Instructables.com, homemade from hemp and sweet potatoes and perfect for a dog's Christmas stocking.

We do love our pets and there certainly are days when they feel like the only ones who should receive any part of our hard-earned Christmas gift budget. But do you really need expensive pet beds, $14-a-pound treats or $30 "indestructible" chew toys that aren't really?

Instead, you can spend an hour or so making your dog or cat a present he'll enjoy at a price that will make you smile: less than $10 each. These four homemade presents may never make the Christmas display in Macy's front window, but your dog or cat will think they're gorgeous.

"Indestructible" dog toy from hemp and sweet potatoes: Even this chewy will get chewed up eventually, but it is tough, cheap and if your dog eats it it's okay (and actually fairly nutritious.)

What you'll need: 

  • Sweet potatoes or yams (2 for a medium-sized dog toy) $2
  • Hemp or jute rope: Part of a larger spool: $1
  • Sheet pan, parchment or foil, sharp knife, round cookie cutter, vegetable peeler

Total cost: $3 or less

General idea: Cut thick slices of sweet potato, punch a whole in the middle for threading and bake around 3 hours. Let cool fully before threading onto strong, durable hemp or jute for a ready-made chew toy.

More detailed directions are available at Instructables.com.

Four stages of a comfy, decorative pet bed you can make from an old sweater.(Contributed by Wonderfuldiy.com/For the AJC)

Pet bed from an old sweater: This is a wonderful way to use up some old clothes (perhaps an Ugly Christmas Sweater?) and worn pillows while thrilling Fido or Cuddles. Consider buying a well-worn plaid shirt from the thrift store or choosing holiday patterns to make this a gift that can go under the tree for the season.

You'll need:

  • An old sweater or sweatshirt: Free or $3 from a thrift store
  • Polyester or cotton stuffing: Around $4 from Walmart
  • An old pillow
  • Scissors, sewing pins, needle and thread

Total cost: $7 or less

The basic idea: Pin the front and back of the inside-out sweater along the neckline and sew the neck opening closed. Lay the sweater out and spread the arms to the side, then sew across the sweater from one underarm to the other. Stuff the sleeves with the polyester or cotton, tuck the ends into each other and sew them together so it looks like the sweater is hugging someone. Slide the pillow into the main body of the sweater from the bottom and sew the bottom shut. Flip the bed over, pin the circular arms to the base of the pillow and sew them together along the edge. 

More explicit directions can be found on the DIYS.com website.

Make these super-simple peanut butter dog biscuits in holiday shapes for Christmas treats.(Contributed by DogTreatKitchen.com/For the AJC)

Peanut butter dog biscuits: These are super tasty, cute and cost a fraction of boutique dog treats for the holidays. Plus, they're a great chance to finally use those Christmas cookie cutters. (If you want to make even less effort, Fido won't care if you make the alternative cookies, which are just balls of dough pressed flat with a fork before baking.)

Adapted from Dog Treat Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour: about $1
  • 1 cup rolled oats: about 50 cents
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth: about 50 cents
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water

Total cost: about $2 per batch

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the dry ingredients together, mix in the peanut butter and hot water, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky. Knead the dough well and roll out to 1/4-inch thick before cutting into shapes. Brush with an egg whisked with a fork. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and cool overnight. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for three weeks or freezer up to six months.

This homemade window bird feeder from Teach Beside Me isn't fancy, but your cat will love watching songbirds feed from it. Merry Christmas, kitty!(Contributed by Teach Beside Me/For the AJC)

Home window view bird feeder. Give your cat the gift of watching birds up close for the cost of an empty milk carton, some duct tape and sunflower seeds. Just make sure to follow Humane Society tips on placing the feeders to draw the birds you want.

What you'll need: 

  • Empty half-gallon milk carton
  • Command hook: About $1
  • String, duct tape to decorate and bird seed: About $1

Total cost: $2 or less

Here's how you thread a string through a repurposed milk carton to hang the homemade window view bird feeder.(Contributed by Teach Beside Me/For the AJC)

The basic idea: Cut a large rectangle from two sides of an empty milk carton and decorate it with different colors or patterns of duct tape. Hang it right next to a window with a good viewing spot for your cat using a command hook and twine, and fill it with bird seed.

More detailed instructions can be found at Teach Beside Me.

Struggling to get abs? Maybe you need to change your diet

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 5:37 AM

Crunches aren't enough to achieve that perfect six pack
Crunches aren't enough to achieve that perfect six pack

So, you've been doing "8-Minute Abs" daily for months, but you're still struggling to see the six-pack you've always dreamed of.

If you're frustrated that your crunches and other exercises haven't managed to remove that persistent layer of flab, you definitely need to reconsider what you're eating. As California-based nutritionist and dietitian Kimberly Slater, MS, RD explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, neglecting your diet when trying to achieve results is the same as skipping leg day in your work-out routine.

"Here's the deal, have you ever seen someone walking down the street that obviously skipped leg day a few too many times? They have super buff arms, a thick neck, but scrawny legs. Neglecting any area results in lagging performance. If you are truly dedicated to developing a fit body, you wouldn't skip leg day, would you?" Slater said.

"Then why is it that in general we treat our diet differently? When you neglect your nutrition you neglect your workout.”

You can do all the crunches you want, but if you eat too many calories, the fat won't go anywhere.

"The best remedy is to eat healthier," she said.

How should your diet change?

Slater said nutritionally rich foods are ideal, as they also help you recover quickly following a workout.

"Eat an adequate amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds," she said.

You should replace your normal meal with "nutritionally dense foods that are lower in calories."

"A sample dinner might be having brown rice, black beans, a cabbage salad with salsa and avocado. That meal will give you fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy plant protein. Skip the fatty meat, cheese, and dessert," Slater said, suggesting that meats and other fatty foods should be limited to "treats a few times a week instead of daily staples."

Fiber is key

A high fiber diet is key(Pxhere)

When you work-out, you often hear that you should worry about how much protein you're consuming. But Slater says focusing on fiber is actually more important.

"Fiber is only found in plant foods like beans, lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa. All of these foods – except fruit – contain protein," she said.

"If you focus on eating more fiber, you will not only get enough fiber, vitamins and minerals (which help keep you energized through your workout) and antioxidants (which help fight inflammation post workout), but you'll also get enough protein without getting too many calories or too much fat."

Chiseled abs don't come from drinking additional protein shakes.

"The secret to abs is eating more fiber," Slater explained.

Are there other ways of working out?

In addition to diet, Slater explained that crunches alone are not usually enough.

"You want to change up your routine, try different exercises, target different muscles and start incorporating some high intensity interval training for fat burn," she said.

But again, she stressed that a combination of diet and different exercises are vital.

"When you eat too much, or don't regularly change up your routine, you won't see the results you desire," Slater said.

So, keep doing your ab work-outs, but if you want to finally see those chiseled ab lines poking through the flab, it's time to take a hard look at your diet.

It’s not all about the turkey: 9 things you probably didn't know about Thanksgiving

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 11:50 PM
Updated: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 11:50 PM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

Each year, Thanksgiving comes around with with the giddy anticipation of devoruing comfort food and spending some QT with loved ones, which reminds you just what what you are thankful for the most.

The rich, deep history of this centuries-old tradition is woven into the United States' cultural fabric, yet, there are still many aspects of the holiday that most Americans don’t know.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

To resolve that general lack of Thanksgiving knowledge, we’ve gathered nine interesting and unusual facts about Thanksgiving facts you might not have known.

When did Thanksgiving begin?

The holiday is believed to have begun in Massachusetts at the Plymouth Colony in 1621. The famous harvest feast was celebrated by the Pokanoket tribe and the colonists. The Plymouth Colony was composed of pilgrims, who were a part of the English Separatist Church. They traveled from England to the "New World" aboard a boat called the Mayflower in search of a place where they could practice their religion freely.

What foods were served?

Just as expected, turkey could have been served during the first Thanksgiving. Edward Winslow, the Pilgrim chronicler, wrote that before the dinner men went on a "fowling" mission to catch some bird meat. Fall produce that would have just been harvested was also on the menu, including grapes, plums and that Thanksgiving staple, cranberries. Unlike present-day Thanksgiving meals, seafood, such as lobster, bass and oysters, were also featured prominently during the early days of the holiday.

When did it become a national holiday?

It wasn't until nearly 200 years later that President Abraham Lincoln announced that every last Thursday of November would be a national day of thanksgiving. In 1941, the feast became an official national holiday by an act of Congress.

Guess which Thanksgiving-related fowl Benjamin Franklin wanted to represent the U.S.A.?

If you guessed the good ole turkey, then you are right. Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, had much love for the bird and deemed it "much more respectable" than our current national bird, the eagle.

Load your plate with protein and stay away from starchy vegetables. (I'm looking at you, mashed potatoes.) These are among the tips for avoiding that stuffed feeling on Thanksgiving. Photo: The Food Network(HANDOUT)

The turkey's name was born out of confusion.

When Christopher Columbus landed on America, he thought he was in India. So he named turkeys after the "tuka," which is an Indian word for the peacock. Maybe it was their similar feather pattern that contributed to the mix-up.

Not just Americans celebrate it.

Canadians observe Thanksgiving, too. It's called l'Action de grâce and has been celebrated since 1578. The holiday was founded on the same principles as the United States' Thanksgiving, which is the grateful breaking of bread with each other during harvest time. The weekend before the holiday, which is on the second Monday in October, is when citizens feast on staples, such as turkey, corn and mashed potatoes.

Other countries with holidays similar to Thanksgiving include Germany's Erntedankfest and Japan's Niinamesai. Grenada, Liberia, the Netherlands and Norfolk Island also recognize their own Thanksgivings.

Thank the holiday for TV dinners.

Due to a 26-ton surplus of Swanson turkeys back in 1953, the company decided to try and sell the extra birds. They sliced the frozen meat and repackaged it, which gave way to the modern-day TV dinner.

Turkey has inspired the names of several American cities.

Yes, there are towns named after the turkey. There's Turkey, North Carolina, Turkey Creek, Louisiana, and Turkey, Texas. As you can imagine, there are plenty of wild turkeys in Turkey, North Carolina that like to hang out in the wetlands.

Thanksgiving has become the unofficial favorite holiday for NFL games. 

The Detriot Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have a reputation for playing on the holiday. The Detroit Lions started the tradition in 1934 because the team's owner George A. Richards wanted to drum up excitement for the then-new team. The Dallas Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving since 1966, because their general manager, Tex Schramm, saw it as a way to get national attention.