6 thoughtful Christmas gifts for your empty-nesting mom

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 9:33 AM

Consider these six thoughtful Christmas gifts for an empty nest mom Improve her taste in wine Sponsor lots of nights at the movies Take a Tiny Home vacation Display her memories while you stay in touch Bring a book club within reach Open the doors to museums across the nation with one membership

When mom becomes an empty nester, a thoughtful child will adjust Christmas gift-giving strategies accordingly.

After all, she probably doesn't want any more clutter and her taste in outings will have altered from the days of all-family-friendly-all-the-time. 

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You can still thrill her, though, if you consider these six thoughtful Christmas gifts for an empty nest mom:

Italic is hosting a wine tasting that will allow you to try four wines from a nearly 200-year-old Italian winery with vineyards in Sicily. Contributed(American-Statesman Staff)

Improve her taste in wine

Now that the kids are out of the house, help mom find a truly enjoyable hobby by gifting her tuition for a wine appreciation class like the American Wine School's Wine Tasting 101 classes. This is a better option than a wine-of-the-month club for an empty nester because it's sociable and it won't leave behind unliked bottles to clutter her cupboard. To find a class at a restaurant, school, winery or elsewhere in her area, try LocalWineEvents.com. And be sure to scan the Wall Street Journal's guide to getting the most from a wine class so mom can make the most of the experience.

MoviePass customers are able to use their subscriptions for Chakeres Theaters in the Springfield area. File photo(Staff Writer)

Sponsor lots of nights at the movies

No matter what generation your mom is part of, chances are she thinks seeing movies in the theater is a luxury. Treat her to several with a gift card to a local theater you know she enjoys. Add enough to the total for concessions and make sure she's a member of any applicable rewards clubs so you both get top value for the gift.

Or, give MoviePass a whirl. This newfangled movie subscription service reduced its prices substantially in August 2017 and is accepted at more than 4,000 theaters. In just a few steps (an iPhone or an Android phone is required), mom can see a new movie every day for a monthly fee of around $10. Check in often to make sure the deal hasn't changed, though. MoviePass doesn't require any contracts, but some consumers have waited weeks for their card and industry experts question whether the enterprise can stay afloat charging such low prices.

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Take a tiny home vacation

Any vacation is a great gift idea, but a tiny home rental is particularly appropriate if mom is considering downsizing. Tiny ranch and beach rentals are always a possibility, but rentals in suburbia or even your own home town (for a sort of "staycation") are also great options. Check out Tiny House Listings to start.

Display her memories while you stay in touch

If your empty nester mom is also the queen of social media, or wants you to stay in better touch, or adores nostalgia, consider a digital photo frame. One top-rated Amazon choice is the Nixplay Original 12-Inch WiFi Cloud Digital Photo Frame. It allows you to place the frame in mom's home and email or send photos using the Nixplay Mobile App for iPhone & Android. Presto! Photos from past and present are playing at her breakfast table.

Bring a book club within reach

Perhaps mom envisioned her empty nest years as the time when she would catch up on her reading? Put that pleasure within reach by helping her find a local book club and then purchasing the first season's worth of reading material for her. Want to be her favorite child? Consider joining yourself.

President Obama speaks at the opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. The opening ceremonies of the 400,000-square-foot museum attracted thousands.

Open the doors to museums across the nation with one membership

If mom has more free time now, a museum or botanical garden membership is always a great gift. Make it even more thoughtful by choosing a membership to an institution that is part of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association. That way, mom gets free admission to her museum and 944 other member institutions, including botanical gardens, children's museums, science and technology centers and more.

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What is Earth Day? 5 things to know

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 4:24 AM

WATCH: Origin of Earth Day

Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events.

But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know:

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1. When did Earth Day start?

The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 22 million people across the country came out in support of environmental reform.

"That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America," Gaylord Nelson wrote in the April 1980 edition of the EPA Journal. "It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the nation.

"It showed political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the environmental decade with a bang."

Since then, celebrations have only grown. This year, organizers estimate more than one billion people in 192 countries will participate in events the world over. The day is celebrated each year on April 22.

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2. Is there a theme for Earth Day 2018?

This year, organizers are focusing on curbing plastic pollution.

"Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics," the Earth Day Network, which partners with tens of thousands of organizations in 192 countries to organize Earth Day events, said on its website.

The organization also said it "will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems."

Read more here.

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3. How are people celebrating?

In Tokyo, thousands of people will attend beach cleanups, concerts, art exhibits, classes and other events coordinated by the Green Room Festival, according to the Earth Day Network. In India's Karnataka state, a "no plastic" event will feature workshops led by "organizations that are champions of environmental sustainability in fields including electric vehicles, solar power and zero-waste living," the network said. Cleanups also were scheduled in Palm Beach, Florida; New York; New Jersey and other locations across the United States and worldwide.

Read more here.

4. What are businesses doing?

Google marked Earth Day with a "video doodle" featuring primatologist Jane Goodall. 

>> Click here to watch

“It is so important in the world today that we feel hopeful and do our part to protect life on Earth," Goodall said. "I am hopeful that this Earth Day Google Doodle will live as a reminder for people across the globe that there is still so much in the world worth fighting for. So much that is beautiful, so many wonderful people working to reverse the harm, to help protect species and their environments. And there are so, so many young people, like those in JGI’s Roots & Shoots program, dedicated to making this a better world. With all of us working together, I am hopeful that it is not too late to turn things around, if we all do our part for this beautiful planet.”

Read more about the doodle here.

Apple also joined in on the celebrations, announcing on April 19 that "for every device received at Apple stores and apple.com through the Apple GiveBack program from now through April 30, the company will make a donation to the nonprofit Conservation International."

In addition, Apple "debuted Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhone to recover valuable materials," according to a company press release.

“At Apple, we’re constantly working toward smart solutions to address climate change and conserve our planet’s precious resources,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives, said in a statement. “In recognition of Earth Day, we are making it as simple as possible for our customers to recycle devices and do something good for the planet through Apple GiveBack. We’re also thrilled to introduce Daisy to the world, as she represents what’s possible when innovation and conservation meet.”

Read more here.

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5. How can I get involved?

There are multiple ways to get into the Earth Day spirit, from participating in a local event to changing your bills from paper to paperless. Here are some suggestions from the Earth Day Network:
  • Urge your local elected officials or businesses to make a substantial tree planting commitment by starting a letter-writing campaign or online petition.

  • Lead a recycling drive to collect as much plastic, metal, and glass as possible.

  • Pick up trash at a local park or beach.

  • Set up a screening of an environmentally themed movie. Consider supplementing the screening with a speaker who can lead a Q&A following the film.

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April Fools' Day 2018: See this year's top pranks

Published: Saturday, March 31, 2018 @ 12:25 PM

Fun Facts about April Fools' Day

This year, April Fools’ Day is sharing the spotlight with Easter, but there are still plenty of pranks to be found.

>> Read more trending news 

Along with Easter greetings, companies have been hard at work creating their April Fools’ Day pranks. 

Here is a roundup of the best of them. 

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Why is it called Good Friday and what’s so good about it?

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 10:50 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 @ 10:50 PM

Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.
Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images
Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.(Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images)

Christians believe Jesus was mocked publicly and crucified on a solemn Friday more than two thousand years ago. Today, the calamitous day is celebrated as Good Friday.

But what’s so good about that?

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One answer is that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, “good” may have referred to “holy” in Old English, a linguistic theory supported by many language experts.

According to Slate, the Oxford English Dictionary notes the Wednesday before Easter was once called “Good Wednesday.” Today, it’s more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

And Anatoly Liberman, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the origins of English words, told Slate if we consider the alternative names for Good Friday, such as “Sacred Friday” (romance languages) or “Passion Friday” (Russian), this theory makes a lot of sense.

Another possible reason for its moniker — a theory supported by both linguists and historical evidence — refers to the holiday’s ties to Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

Because Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected without dying, the day of his death is, in a sense, “good.”

“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post reported.

A third answer, some believe, is that the “good” in Good Friday was derived from "God” or “God’s Friday” — the way the term “goodbye” comes from a contraction of the phrase “God Be With You.”

Fun Facts About Easter

Still, not everyone refers to this day as Good Friday. For example, 

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday." In German, it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday."

And as aforementioned, “Sacred Friday” and “Passion Friday” are also used.

In addition, because the holiday is also commemorated with a long fast, Good Friday was also referred to as “Long Friday” by the Anglo-Saxons.

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'Beware the Ides of March' -- What does that mean?

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 @ 12:40 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 @ 12:40 PM

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Today marks the Ides of March, which may vaguely remind you of a high school English class. Here are some things to know about the 15th day of the month.

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Day marks the assassination of Julius Caesar

Most famously on this date, some 2,060 years ago, Roman dictator Julius Caesar died in an assassination by senators at the Curia of Pompey.

Tensions had been simmering between senators and Caesar before his death, fueled by Caesar's continued consolidation of power. However, Caesar considered the senators his allies. Just a few years before his death, Caesar was named “dictator in perpetuity,” a move that further strained relations.

According to historians, sixty senators planned and participated in the conspiracy to kill Caesar in 44 B.C.

Death marked a turning point in Roman history

Caesar was popular with the lower class people of Rome, who saw his death as an unwelcome decision made by the aristocratic class. With Caesar no longer leading, potential leaders waged war to fill the power vacuum.

The civil wars eventually culminated in the end of the Roman Republic and beginning of the Roman Empire.

'Beware the Ides of March' made famous by Shakespeare

In case you really did forget your high school English class, it's worth noting the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his tragic masterpiece “Julius Caesar.”

In the play, a soothsayer warns Caesar to be careful on March 15, although the ruler ignores the mystic with tragic consequences.

Famous line based on historical events

It may come as a surprise to know the well-known phrase was actually inspired by real events.

According to Greek historian Plutarch, a seer really did warn Caesar that he would be at the very least injured by the Ides of March.

Caesar did not heed the warning.

On the day of his death, he saw the oracle and joked that he had made it to the Ides of March, to which the seer responded the day had not yet ended.

So why is it called the "Ides of March?"

The Romans kept track of days on its calendar by dividing each month up into three separate points marking the beginning, middle and end of the month. You may have guessed it but the Ides fall in the middle of the month, on the 15th of March, May, July and October and the 13th for the rest of the year.

The Ides were sacred and marked a monthly sacrifice to the Roman god Jupiter. Various other religious observances also took place on the Ides of March.

Other famous events on this day

Today isn't the anniversary of Caesar's death. Here are a few other famous events that have happened today in history:
  • 1972: Forty-four years ago (yes, that number is right) Francis Ford Coppola's three-hour crime epic "The Godfather" first played in theaters. Before "Jaws" came along in 1976, the film was the highest-grossing film ever made. It went on to win three Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture.

  • 1917: Czar Nicholas II was forced by the revolting Russian people to abdicate the throne after ruling the country for more than 20 years. The February Revolution -- so named because Russia used the Julian calendar at the time -- broke out just four days before the czar abdicated his throne.

  • 1767: Our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, was born on this day somewhere between the Carolinas near the end of the colonial era. His exact place of birth is disputed.

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