Monthly Archives: December 2016

Samantha Brown’s Summer Travel Tips

Traveling in the summer – especially with kids – can be hot, busy and stressful. Here are a few tips to help you keep your cool on your next family vacation.
1. Know thy airport.
Take a look at the airport’s website and terminal map to get an idea ahead of time of things such as your eating options, the locations of family restrooms, and the availability of kids’ play areas for children to work off some energy.

2. Anticipate flight delays.
Summer thunderstorms can delay flights as much as snow. Bring lots of good, healthy snacks, so if you’re delayed in the terminal — or worse, on the tarmac — you and your family will be fine.

3. Check out the library.
The local library in your vacation destination probably has visitor passes so you can check out real books instead of using your expensive e-reader that doesn’t do well in sun and sand. If there’s a rainy day, this could be a nice hangout for the family, as libraries usually have great tween and kids’ sections. There’s also access to computers to print out boarding passes.

4. Take a break.
Every day, make sure you build in a break around 3 or 4 p.m., when everyone’s energy and fuses run short. Take a nap, read, write in a journal and let teens have time on their phones. That way, everyone will be rested and recharged for dinner.

5. Create some house rules.
If you’re renting a house this summer, print out a house rules page with a list of daily chores that need to be done, such as washing dishes, restocking toilet paper and taking out the trash. If you don’t, you’ll be the one who is cleaning up after everyone, and that’s no vacation.

6. Picnic in the park.
Locate the best public park for an afternoon picnic. Young kids can play on the equipment, older kids can kick a ball or throw a Frisbee, and adults can sit down and relax.

7. Game Changer: Travel Apps
Travel apps have seriously changed my life and made my travels easier. I love FlightAware, as it allows me to track my inbound flight. AroundMe tells me what’s near me, including ATMs, restaurants and emergency rooms. I also like iExit while I’m on the road to see what exit is best for gas and food.

8. Underappreciated Resource: Twitter

Twitter is an amazing travel tool. Sign up for an account, choose a handle and follow all the places and businesses you’ll be traveling to or with: airlines, hotels, tourism boards. Now, you have direct access to them should something go wrong or you simply have a question. This resource is usually quicker than getting on the phone.

DC Weekend Getaways

Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, the Voodoo Experience — the Big Easy’s parade of festivals lasts all year long, so there’s no need to pack your party beads away. If you are still standing after a full day of shaking your boudin and eating po’boys with fellow festivalgoers, there is the rest of New Orleans for you to dive into. For those of you who prefer to steer clear of the Bourbon Street brouhaha and get a taste of what the locals love, here are some fresh recommendations for where to eat, drink and be merry after the fest.

Martinis and Music in the Garden District

While there may be nothing more scrumptious than a Jazz Fest po’boy gobbled as brass bands march by, one might tire of eating while standing in full sun and muddy shoes. The best antidote? A true white-tablecloth experience in the Garden District. With multiple James Beard Awards and a history as lush as the leafy streets and cemetery that surround it, Commander’s Palace is this city’s grand dame of fine dining, and the locals love it. With chef Tory McPhail concocting new creations such as seared foie gras over spiced ginger carrot cake, Commander’s knows how to find that sweet spot where tradition and innovation meet. Try the famed 25-cent lunchtime martinis (three is the limit!), and then stroll amid the flourishing gardens and mansions that surround this sprawling, turquoise-striped palace. For a cozier locale, try La Petite Grocery on buzzing Magazine Street. Housed in a late-19th-century grocery store, this neighborhood restaurant serves regionally sourced dishes that have quickly made it a local favorite, such as blue crab beignets and gulf shrimp and grits. And when you have lingered long enough over such a luscious meal, make a boogie stop nearby at beloved music venuesthe Maple Leaf and Le Bon Temps, where you can catch New Orleans legends such as the Rebirth Brass Band or the Soul Rebels.

Cocktails in the Quarter

If you happen to find yourself on Bourbon Street and prefer not to be, don’t despair! Delicious alternatives are just around the corner. SoBou, one of the city’s best contemporary restaurants, is presided over by the talented duo of chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez and “bar chef” Laura Bellucci, two pros who know how to make food and cocktails come together. Her “Purslane” rye whiskey cocktail paired with his boudin stuffed fried quail equals paradise. SoBou (short for South of Bourbon) is the latest project of NOLA food ambassadors Ti Martin and Lally Brennan, owners of Commander’s Palace, whose lifelong love for New Orleans’ cocktails and conviviality shine through in SoBou’s playful menu.

If you want to get a taste of cocktail history, step over to the fabled Carousel Bar in theHotel Monteleone. Within its storied walls, the Vieux Carré, a classic New Orleans libation of rye, cognac and bitters, was first created by bartender Walter Bergeron in 1938. But if you leave your coveted seat at the bar for a moment, it will have moved when you return — the bar at the Carousel actually revolves. And if it’s this city’s famed cocktail, a Sazerac, that you crave, get thee to Sylvain, which is also a stone’s throw from Bourbon Street. This recently revamped carriage house is rumored to be home to a ghost named Aunt Rose Arnold, a madam who lived here almost a century ago. If you don’t have a reservation for dinner inside, you can still stop for a drink outside on its foliage-covered stone patio; Aunt Rose may be hanging around, too.

Music on Frenchmen

On the far northeast edge of the Quarter, just past Esplanade Avenue and its grand homes dripping in magnolias, you will find Frenchmen Street, the musical heart of a buzzing little district known as the Marigny. An easy walk from the French Quarter, this is ground zero for post-fest festing. Here you will find D.B.A., a friendly hole-in-the-wall and Brooklyn, N.Y., offshoot that opened in 2000. It was the first real craft-beer and high-end-whiskey joint in New Orleans, back before it was cool to curate a fancy beer menu here. You can savor a NOLA pale ale while tapping your toes to the sounds of local musicians including Alex McMurray, whose smoky vocals evoke Tom Waits, and the rollicking Treme Brass Band. Just down the street, the popular Spotted Cat may be bare-bones and tiny, but that makes the music magic onstage all the more intimate, as if the band were playing in your living room with a whole lot of friends squished in. Hear New Orleans jazz singers such as Antoine Diel croon the song Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? while sipping beer from plastic cups. Since there is no cover and no credit cards, bring plenty of cash and tip the band amply. And if you want to go for the traditional gem of the Marigny music scene, book a table at Snug Harbor. Although it may be popular with tourists, that’s not a drawback at this jazz institution, where New Orleans musical royalty, including the Marsalis and Neville families, play regularly.

A tool for assessing the weather dependency of outdoor recreation activities

This paper describes the creation of a Weather Dependency Framework (WDF) and its potential usefulness for managers and researchers. The WDF is a mechanism for understanding the multi-dimensional variables that influence the weather dependency of outdoor recreation activities.

The need for this work was evident because of the growing number of studies probing the general influence of weather on outdoor recreation without an organizing framework for making sense of those influences. A modified Internet-based Delphi process employing a panel of 27 experts in the areas of weather, climate, outdoor recreation, and natural resource management was facilitated in the summer of 2015 to develop the WDF.

Additionally, the panel of experts tested the WDF’s potential usefulness by applying it to three outdoor recreation activities that represent a likely spectrum of weather dependency. The paper concludes by considering other possible applications as well as recommendations for the WDF’s future development.

Management implications

The article suggests a new tool for managers and researchers interested in interpreting and understanding the weather dependency of outdoor recreation activities in a multitude of settings. The application of the WDF could enhance management and contribute to assessing the weather related needs and behaviors of recreationists by activity type to aid in effective protected area planning; predict recreation participation under specific weather conditions and for specific activities; inform natural resource and outdoor recreation managers about potential risks under certain weather conditions and for specific activities; plan site infrastructure improvements and adaptation; and conduct site assessments to aid festival and event planning in respective site selection. Overall, managers’ resulting use of the WDF may lead to reconsidering programs and policies, recreation impact mitigation, inspire weather-based planning initiatives, and predict land access trends.

Outdoor Activities Can Improve Your Mental Health

For many, summer vacation is associated with getting out of a rut and enjoying the great American outdoors. New research among veterans now suggests outdoor group recreation can improve the mental health of our soldiers.

University of Michigan researchers believe participation in extended outdoor activities improves long-term psychological well-being.

Veterans were surveyed before and after a multi-day wilderness recreation experience, which involved camping and hiking in groups of between six and 12 participants.

More than half of participants reported that they frequently experienced physical or mental health problems in everyday life.

One week after the experience, veterans reported a greater than 10 percent improvement in several measures of psychological well-being, a 9 percent increase in social functioning, and a nearly 8 percent gain in positive life outlook.

In some cases, the results persisted over the next month.

“The findings suggest that extended group-based nature recreation can have significant positive impacts on veterans struggling with serious health problems,” said Jason Duvall, Ph.D., one of the study’s lead authors.

“Although more research is needed and many questions remain, the use of extended group-based outdoor recreation programs to ease veterans’ transition back into civilian life seems to be a promising approach.”

The Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, operates the Military Family and Veterans Initiative, which focuses on providing military service members and their families with access to outdoor experiences.

For the study, the Sierra Club wanted to know whether these efforts were making a difference in the lives of veterans. While both anecdotal and experimental data suggest exposure to green environments is beneficial, few studies have examined the impacts of these programs on veterans specifically.

“The Sierra Club knows anecdotally the mental, emotional and physical benefits that come from spending time in nature, particularly for returning service members for whom the outdoors can be integral to their reintegration,” said Stacy Bare, Sierra Club mission outdoors director.

“The results of the University of Michigan’s study reinforce these beliefs and support our efforts to make these types of experiences available to more people.”

Comments by veterans supported the survey conclusions.

“This trip helped me to reevaluate what’s important in life,” said Tim, a 52-year-old Navy veteran. “It was nice to live a week without being ‘plugged in’ and take in the great outdoors.”

“It helped me to remember who I was and enjoy something I haven’t in a long time,” added Dan, a 39-year-old Army veteran.

Discovering a natural method to help veterans (and familes) cope with issues is an important objective. In response, a number of outdoor recreation groups developed group-based nature recreation programs targeting veterans.

Veterans may identify more strongly with activities outdoors that involve physical challenge, camaraderie and achievement of an objective – experiences that are shared with their military service.

As a result, the approach used by these programs may be more appealing than conventional clinical treatments when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.

“The excursions are a supportive environment because in many ways, they recreate many positive aspects of the military experience,” Duvall said. “They are outside, in a group, sharing similar mental models and, in a sense, on a mission. In that scenario, the impact of the natural environment might be heightened.”

The Sierra Club chose four partner organizations as part of the study group: Higher Ground (Sun Valley, Idaho), Wasatch Adaptive Sports (Snowbird, Utah), Wilderness Inquiry (Minneapolis, Minn.), and Women’s Wilderness Institute (Boulder, Colo.).

Combined, the groups offered 12 programs lasting four to seven days. The excursions generally did not include formal, structured psychological counseling ortherapy. Instead, the emphasis was on the outdoor programs, from fly-fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting to backpacking and paddling.

The study sample was 98 veterans. They were surveyed one week before, one week after, and about one month after participating. In addition to assessing demographic and background information, the survey itself measured changes in psychological well-being, social functioning, life outlook, and activity engagement over time.

Participation in the outdoor activities appears to have extended benefits including a new openness or creativity as veterans were more likely to take part in activities that involved exploration (such as learning new things or testing abilities) and helping others.

The changes in well-being were also particularly strong for veterans who had initially reported more severe ongoing health issues, with the magnitude of improvements often 1.5 times that of those with less serious health problems.