Saturday, April 21, 2018

May the 4th Be With You - Inn at Death Valley

When the 1977 movie Star Wars was filmed at The Oasis at Death Valley, it started inevitable tales of when the movie’s director came to this true American oasis in 3.3 million square miles of desert, oasis and mountainous national park to film and transport people to another galaxy.

Past generations of employees have shared stories with newer generations and certainly know where the movie locations are. These include the breathtakingly and picturesque locations throughout Death Valley National Park, including, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Artisan Pallet and Twenty Mule Team Canyon – all just a quick 20- to 40-minute drive from the resort.

While Death Valley may seem like another universe to vacationers, those in the know have also found an “oasis-like planet” that is the luxurious, AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and the family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley.

Now, for the entire month of May, those that want to pay homage to the real movie locations and sets can do just that at the historic Ranch at Death Valley with the exclusive May The 4th Be With You Package which includes: 

• Two nights accommodations for two in any room at the Ranch
• A $50 food credit to be utilized at any of the restaurants at either The Ranch or The Inn (alcoholic purchases excepted)
• A three-hour Death Valley Star Wars sites tour provided by Farabee’s Jeeps*

This offer is available exclusively when booking with The Oasis at Death Valley directly. For reservations, please visit and use promotional code STARS or dial 800-236-7916.**

*Upon booking, each guest is responsible for reserving the tour directly with Farabee’s Jeeps at 760-786-9872 and must mention the May the 4th Be With You package. Tours begin at 9:00 am and 1:00 pm respectively. 

**Valid May 1-31, 2018, for up to 2 people only. A 2-night stay is required and early check-outs are not permitted. Additional guests are permitted in room (based upon room limits, additional adult fees apply); additional guests must purchase tour at The Ranch’s front desk (no food credit). Blackout dates may apply. Food credit must be used at one meal, not valid for alcohol and no refunds of unused credit.

Note: The Oasis at Death Valley is not associated with the Star Wars franchise, Lucasfilms, Disney or any of their associated companies, representatives, or employees.

Movie Minute: Boxcar Children - Surprise Island

Boxcar Children - Surprise Island,” based on the second book from the series byGertrude Chandler, will premiere in more than 650 U.S. cinemas for a one-day-only event on Tuesday, May 8 at 4:00 p.m. local time. This full-length feature includes a stellar voice cast of Martin SheenJ.K. SimmonsGriffin GluckJoey King and Dane DeHaan. In addition to the feature content, audiences will be treated to an exclusive introduction from actor Griffin Gluck, and following the feature, producer/director Dan Chuba will explain the process of adapting the book to film and the animation methods. You can check out the NEW trailer here:

Tickets for Boxcar Children - Surprise Island can be purchased at or participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).
“What I like best about the ‘Boxcar Children’ books and Surprise Island in particular, is how the kids seem to effortlessly appreciate life as it happens,” Director Dan Chuba said. “The vegetables they eat taste better because they tended the garden themselves. They make daily chores more fun by doing them together. They wonder at and explore the nature that surrounds them on the little island, experiencing and sharing their world in a series of small, beautiful moments.”

Boxcar Children - Surprise Island” is based on the second book from the series by Gertrude Chandler and tells the story of the Alden children. The Alden children
spend an entire summer living on their Grandfather’s small, nearly uninhabited island. There they meet Joe, who is friendly and helpful, and inexplicably living on their island. Does their new friend have a secret?

“The adventures of ‘The Boxcar Children’ have been enjoyed and read by many generations,” said Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt. “This special event will bring families and fans together as they experience this beloved story coming to life on the big screen.”

“The Boxcar Children hold a special place in millions of hearts. We’re thrilled that families across the country will have a chance to enjoy them in this warmhearted film as they jump from book pages to the big screen,” Shout! Factory’s Sr. VP of Kids & Family Entertainment Melissa Boag said.

About Fathom Events
Fathom Events is the leading event cinema distributor with participating theaters in all 100 of the top Designated Market Areas®, and ranks as one of the largest overall distributors of content to movie theaters. Owned by AMC Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: AMC), Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CNK) and Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) (known collectively as AC JV, LLC), Fathom Events offers a variety of one-of-a-kind entertainment events in theaters such as live performances of the Metropolitan Opera, top stage productions including Newsies! The Broadway Musical and George Takei’s Allegiance, major sporting events such as Mayweather vs. McGregor, epic concerts with artists like Lady Antebellum and Sammy Hagar, the yearlong TCM Big Screen Classics series, inspirational events such as Is Genesis History? and IN OUR HANDS: The Battle for Jerusalem, and beloved anime titles like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Fathom Events takes audiences behind the scenes for unique extras including audience Q&As, backstage footage and interviews with cast and crew, creating the ultimate VIP experience. Fathom Events’ live digital broadcast network (“DBN”) is the largest cinema broadcast network in North America, bringing live and pre-recorded events to 912 locations and 1,427 screens in 181 DMAs. For more information,
About Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory, LLC is a diversified multi-platform media company devoted to producing, uncovering, preserving and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos have spent their entire careers sharing their music, television and film favorites with discerning consumers the world over. Shout! Factory’s entertainment offerings serve up feature films, classic and contemporary TV series, animation, live music and comedy specials. In addition, Shout! Factory maintains a vast entertainment distribution network which delivers culturally relevant programming, movie and audio content to all the leading digital service providers in North America and across multiple platforms. Shout! Factory owns and operates Shout! Studios, Scream Factory, Shout! Factory Kids, Shout! Factory Films, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory TV. These riches are the result of a creative acquisition mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention. Shout! Factory is based in Los Angeles, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit

Website Spotlight: Virtual Cruise Advisor™

When it comes to planning a cruise, the choices are many.
Cruise ships: 400
Cruise ports: 2,397 in 172 countries
Itineraries to choose from: 10,531
Making a decision: Intimidating
"The explosive growth of the industry has resulted in a stunning array of cruise options to meet the vacation dreams of millions of different people," says Bob Levinstein, CEO of "But having all of those options can make it a challenge to choose the right cruise. 
In response, CruiseCompete has developed its Virtual Cruise AdvisorTM, a quick and easy way to narrow cruise searches down to a handful of recommendations. Travelers can simply check a few boxes about when and where they want to cruise and the type of vacation experience they’re looking for, and the Virtual Cruise Advisor delivers custom recommendations that match their desires.
Each cruise recommendation includes:
  • Ship information, including a written description, deck plans, and reviews from past passengers; 
  • Cruise line information, including atmosphere and onboard experience, type of clientele, and policies about children onboard;
  • A detailed sailing itinerary, plus the shore excursions available in each port;
  • Special deals offered on that sailing.
Once the Virtual Cruise Advisor has delivered a cruise selection, it's very easy to create a quote request in the CruiseCompete system and have multiple, independent travel agents respond with their best offers for that sailing.
"CruiseCompete was created in 2003 because we realized that people needed a way to reduce the long process of shopping around on multiple websites for the best deal on cruise, and get it down to a single step," says Levinstein. "This new tool is designed to do the same for choosing which cruise to shop for." CruiseCompete's new intelligent tool is available at
CruiseCompete member-agents are the most well-educated, forward-thinking and trusted cruise specialists in the industry. If you’d like more information or assistance planning a future cruise, please visit Find CruiseCompete’s “Sea Tales 2018 Family Cruise Travel Planner” at To see consumer feedback click here.
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About CruiseCompete
CruiseCompete has been the premier online cruise marketplace since 2003 (see media praises).
Consumers come to CruiseCompete to research and book cruise vacations. More than 1.5 million users have generated close to 4 million requests from consumers, and agents have delivered almost 16 million quotes since 2003. They can compare offers from trusted travel agents, see consumer reviews of agents and agencies responding, then contact travel agents directly for more information and to book cruises. CruiseCompete is a member of the Family Travel Association, the leading authority and resource for family travel information and is home to the Sea Tales 2018 Family Cruise Travel Planner at Travel Resources.
CruiseCompete CruiseTrends™ offers monthly stats for an inside look at consumer trends and what consumers want in cruise vacations.
CruiseCompete takes top honors in Travel + Leisure's “Top 60 Best Apps and Websites for Travelers” with an honorable mention. The Wall Street Journal praised CruiseCompete as “Best Cruise Travel Site,” The New York Times says, “… independent travel agents compete to offer you the best deal," and follows similar praise from Travel + Leisure, Kiplinger and The Washington Post. The Street says, “Score luxury cruises at bargain prices.”

For more information, please visit or
CruiseCompete is an Iowa limited liability company, is not a travel agency or owned by a travel agency.

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World Wisdom: Seed Your Future

Plants and the “green collar” industry that thrives on them are powering our lives in ways we never thought possible, creating new jobs that not only help our economy, but also make our world, and our lives, better! There have never been more opportunities to change the world through plants than there are today, but awareness of the industry that sustains them, known as “horticulture” is at an all-time low. The more we know about plants, the more we can make a difference today. By empowering today’s youth – the next generation of game changers and dreamers – to unlock the potential of their natural world, BLOOM! is opening their eyes to opportunities they never knew possible and, in the process, seeding their future and ours.
Susan E. Yoder, IOM is the Executive Director of Seed Your Future – a national movement to promote horticulture and encourage more young people to pursue careers working with plants. Here she gives more insight into:
·      The nearly 58,000 new jobs in the “green-collar” industry, as horticulture is often called, expected to become available each year for the next five years,
·      How horticulturists are using their plant knowledge to solve some of our biggest challenges, like feeding a growing world, climate change and clean water.
·      Why the average American can recognize over 1,000 brands and logos, but fewer than 10 plants in their local areas.
·      How horticulture plays a role in fashion and beauty, science and even art and design
With more than 100 different careers in the industry, horticulture – the art, science, technology and business of plants – has something to offer for everyone. Jobs include drone specialists, plant scientists, landscape architects and urban farmers, just to name a few. Learn how parents and partners can access a host of resources designed to make it as easy as possible to talk to young people about the world of plants and spread the word about BLOOM!
About Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director of Seed Your Future
Susan joined Seed Your Future in September 2016 and brings with her more than twenty-five years of experience working with nonprofit organizations. For most of her career, she has worked with organizations that focus on youth development and providing children, youth and families with opportunities to grow and thrive.  She is passionate about the outdoors and the positive impact it can have on physical and emotional health. She is dedicated to finding more opportunities to move the traditional classroom outside, thus providing youth with the opportunity to learn about — and in — the natural world. An avid outdoorswoman and gardener, her personal motto is “Think Outside – No Box Required.”
This media tour is sponsored by Seed Your Future

Contest: Doctor Lip Bang

Doctor Lip Bang has a new Instagram contest. Five winners will be selected to receive Doctor Lip Bang’s new Buzzing Lip Oil (exclusively made for ULTA) before it hits the store this summer
To enter, participants are invited to visit their local ULTA location, and snap a shot of their favorite lip freak product in front of the ULTA storefront. Be sure to tag @doctorlipbangs in the post! 
The contest kicked off April 1st and runs through April 20. Winners will be announced 4/23.

Enriching Education: 5 Ways to Learn Fast and Retain More

The sooner you realize that learning never ends, the more willing you’ll be to expand, elevate in your profession, thrive in your life and even generate more income. Learning and studying can be difficult once we are long past our college years.  For all the old dogs who might be reluctant to learning new tricks, we tapped the expertise of Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York based Neuropsychologist and Teaching Faculty at Columbia University to share 5 ways to learn fast and retain more so we can quickly grasp new concepts, technologies, business strategies and up-level our willingness to learn. 

Independent learning is the hot new brain trend. Thanks to digital media, we see a new renaissance when it comes to learning. On the professional side, nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers have taken a course or sought additional training to advance their careers, according to a March 2016 study by Pew Research Center.  On the personal development side, a simple Google search can lead anyone to a plethora of courses on everything from mastering personal finances, parenting, our relationships, nutrition, cooking, designing clothes, home organization and design.

“The key to longevity is the learning and application of new things. When we stop learning, we stop growing and that is a slow death to our brains and bodies. Luckily today there are online seminars and other ways to learn that speak to our interests. It’s also incredibly convenient to learn,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

What are the best ways to learn new things quickly? Dr. Sanam Hafeez offers the following 5 ways to learn fast and retain more.

1. Learn in quick sprints. There’s a sweet spot for learning in the 30-50 minute timeframe. Dedicate that amount of time to learning and then take a 10 to 15-minute break to end a learning segment before starting a new task. “You’re more likely to retain more when you focus for a shorter amount of time at once,” explains Dr. Hafeez who helps people with ADHD to enhance their ability to focus and learn. “Using tools like notecards with quick points helps the brain absorb concepts even more,” she adds. Which leads to…

2. Take written notes and use color! Ditch the laptop and go old school with a pen and paper. Outline important points with a different color pen or highlighter and if you can draw a concept out in the margin, go for it. Writing fuels comprehension and enhances listening skills. Studies out of UCLA and Princeton found students who took notes on laptops didn’t perform as well as students who wrote by hand. “When we handwrite notes we listen then process the information before writing. When we type on a laptop, we transcribe what we hear without any self-interpretation which is where the actual learning comes into play,” offers Dr. Hafeez.

3. Give your brain time to rest and recharge with sleep. People brag that they work so much and sleep so little. Arianna Huffington’s book, “The Sleep Revolution,” and choice to add nap rooms at her Huffington Post offices turned the light onto sleep as a performance enhancer. “People who get a full 8 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep retain what they learn and have bandwidth to grasp more information quicker. We often feel tired after a course or following instructions. This is because focusing requires energy. Naturally, when we rest we get to reboot the brain,” says Dr. Hafeez.

4. Read out loud, record, replay. Research has shown that reading out loud engages both senses of sight and sound which heightens retention. “Recording yourself reading and elaborating with your own idea of how the concept resonates then replaying the recording a day or two later, is a great technique that fires up the part of the brain that processes concepts like a computer filing information for later use," explains Dr. Hafeez. 

5. Break things down and relate it to what you already know. We all heard of the math teacher who used the example of rock concert ticket sales to get kids to grasp algebra. According to Dr. Hafeez, “when we take a concept and link it to something we already know about or have genuine interest in, we retain that concept. Anytime we can internalize a concept is has resonance. It sticks.”   

About the Doctor:
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. 

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz.
Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or www 

Caring Causes: Unstoppable - A Song for Autism

One in 68 kids in the United States is autistic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.

To recognize World Autism month, Tommy Byrne and his seven-year-old goddaughter, Isabella Guerriero, wrote the song Unstoppable - A Song for Autism together after Byrne introduced the idea to Isabella during his weekly visit with her older brother Anthony, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 and a half, and is now 10 years old. 

The inspiration for the song is based on Anthony’s ability to inspire everyone in his family. In less than a half hour, Tommy and Isabella had a song, which Byrne posted on his Facebook account. The song has been viewed over one million times on social media and shared by Autism Speaks, the National Autism Association, the Autism Society of AmericaAutism Hope AllianceSurfers Healing and a number of powerful Facebook groups with millions of followers.

The song was produced and engineered by Grammy-nominated producer Arty Skye in New York City and mastered by the legendary Herb Powers Jr. The two combined have worked with icons in the business, including Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and more.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to various autism charities, including but not limited, to Surfers HealingAutism Speaks, and those listed above.

I had a chance to interview Tommy to learn more.

Why did you decide to write this song?
I decided to write this song because I wanted to write a song for a family member who I love very much. Anthony has been in all of our lives for 10 years and we all have been with him through the ups and downs. I never wanted to write a song for him unless it came to me. One night on my ride home from work, the opening lyrics came into my head and the rest, as they say was history. I wanted to finish it with his sister, Isabella, because she is wise beyond her years and just recently started singing and playing the guitar. I wanted to incorporate a kids perspective to the song and see what she would come up with as well. She’s seen all his ups and downs as well and I knew she would connect instantly with it once I suggested to her what we really wanted to write about. How Anthony and his friends on the spectrum inspire us every day. A lot of people have written really great songs about autism, but I never heard one that says “We understand you, we hear you, we will be there for you no matter what.”
Did you expect the response?
Following our original video back in January and the response that received, I never expected that. I was worried that people would be expecting the same thing though with the produced one. But the song was so close to me and hit so close to home, I wanted to make it even more special and have a lot of music and power behind it. Our original video from January was shared all around, but not internationally. The Irish Post, which is the longest running newspaper in Ireland, shared this one. The response from overseas for two kids from Jersey has been overwhelming. This was something that Bella and I do regularly. I would usually just pick up a guitar and make up a song on the fly just to get some laughs with her. But we never tackled such a serious song like this one. We never ever expected this amount of love though.
How can extended family members support families raising children with autism?
Extended family members can support families raising children with autism very simply. Just accept them like you would with any other child in the family. All of Anthony’s little cousins even get him involved and he receives the same respect and love from them through the oldest in the family. We never exclude or think that Anthony cannot do an activity or take part in a family vacation because of sensory difficulties. We know his limitations and don’t push him if he isn’t comfortable with anything. 

Healthy Habits: Compounds found in grapes, dark chocolate, coffee, and blueberries can be used to treat depression

Two compounds found in red wine, dark chocolate, coffee,  grapes, and blueberries can be used to treat depression, according to a study published by a researcher with the School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech.
The finding does not mean that people who suffer from depression should eat a bar of dark chocolate or drink a bottle of red wine as self-treatment. The amounts of the compounds — dihydrocaffeic acid (commonly referred to as DHCA) and malvidin-3’-O-glucoside (common name, Mal-gluc) — are too small in the foods and drink, making the effects nil through any acceptable human diet.
Rather, the Nature Communications-published study focuses on the compounds themselves, combined and administered in lab experiments with mice via drinking water, said co-author Georgia Hodes, an assistant professor of neuroscience in the Virginia Tech College of Science. The findings have not been tested on people yet and would need to be tested for safety and efficacy in humans before clinical trial.
“Our hope is that we can develop a new treatment for depression that directly modifies physiological targets we know are altered in depressive patients and by animal models,” Hodes said. “All current treatments for depression were discovered by chance. They were testing them for other purposes and found out that they made people feel better. Here we are creating a new treatment that is based on what we know goes wrong in humans and animal models in both the brain and the body.”
“This is a new way of thinking about treating depression,” Hodes said. “The compound we developed works by targeting inflammation in the body and plasticity in the brain. We took this approach because these are factors that we know are altered by depression in humans. This is one of the first compounds that was developed to directly alter identified molecular mechanisms of depression.”
She added, “One of the things I think is really important about this study was that we used two different animal models of depression, one in males and one in females, and the compound was equally effective in both sexes. Most studies still do not include females even though there is a higher incidence of depression in women than men.”
Hodes said her team was able to block the effects of stress on behavior and could take models that showed stress susceptibility, treat them for two weeks with the compound, retest them, and found they no longer expressed the depression-associated behavior. She called the treatment both “prophylactic and therapeutic.”
Hodes contributed to the work while she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Friedman Brain Institute. It was published within the same week that Hodes published a review paper with Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience post-doctorate researcher Jennifer R. Rainville and translational biology, medicine, and health program graduate student Mariya Tsyglakova. The Frontiers in Neuroendcrinology-published paper identifies how the immune system contributes to depression differently in males and females.
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Thrifty Thinking: Long-Term Investing During Times of Uncertainty

Investors with longer investment horizons are often told to “stay the course,” but this can be difficult because any long-term period is made up of several short-term periods. At present, stock prices are high and fixed income yields are climbing, putting downward pressure on bond prices. With fresh uncertainty around Fed leadership and the potential for a trade war, volatility has reappeared in what recently had been a historically docile market. Is the best course of action to attempt to avoid large downturns (losses), even if it means giving up some upside (gains) along the way?
In Ronald Blue Trust’s latest Economic Review & Outlook ( , the company offers steps on how to approach investing for the long term, particularly during times of heightened fear or uncertainty; interviews are available:
  • Step One: Determine when you will need to use the money. Understanding when you need to be able to use your money is the most important factor in determining how to invest. In fact, the primary determinant of whether stocks are appropriate given today’s valuations and volatility is time horizon, not speculation or prediction.
  • Step Two: Invest accordingly and integrate valuation and growth. Certain timeless principles guide how the economy works. A country’s or region’s productivity leads to better stock market returns and higher economic growth in those areas. At the same time, paying less for a given level of future growth is preferable.
  • Step Three: Don’t let fear or greed drive you away from the process. Our emotions can wreak havoc on an investment portfolio if decisions are made based on them. The final step is to ensure that a disciplined process is truly followed.

Ronald Blue Trust ( is a division of Thrivent Trust Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial ( Ronald Blue Trust serves individuals and families across generations with complex financial needs and helps them to enjoy a healthier relationship with money and be inspired to live more generously. With 13 offices, the company serves clients across the wealth spectrum in all 50 states. The company has four divisions (Private Wealth, Family Office, Professional Athlete, Everyday Steward) and over $7 billion in assets under management. 

Book Nook: Daditude

I recently had the chance to review the book Daditude by Chris Erskine. Chris Erskine is a columnist for the LA Times and I'm sure he's fairly enjoyable to read on a regular basis for their subscribers.

This book is fairly entertaining. The book is out of chronological order, even within sections. That might bother people that don't see any rhyme or reason for the order of the essays, or for people who want to read the essays as a sequence and tare thrown off by the varying ages of the kids as it jumps back and forth. That bothered me a little bit if I tried to think of it as a book, but didn't bother me if I just wanted to read it as essays.

Chris Erskine has a sort of dry sense of humor. I rarely laughed out loud in the book, but I did smile and empathize as a parent (even though I'm not a dad). His descriptions of events struck me as someone who was rather bemused by the whole parenting concept, and echoes the experiences I think many dads have when they don't quite get everything that's going on but they want to be an involved parent and good provider.

This book would make a good Father's Day gift for dads who like to read or who like to share stories about their own parenting experiences.