Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Downtown: Saturday, September 10, 2016 from 7 AM to 6:30 PM
Celebrating its 38th year and named the “Best Festival of the Region” by The Times readers, the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival continues to offer family-fun activities for all ages.
Over 250 arts & crafts booths, 30 food booths, kids’ games, five-mile Popcorn Panic, two live music stages and the nation’s first Popcorn Parade are only the beginning of the excitement of this incredible festival. 219-759-4274 SONGBIRDPRAIRIE.COM

The Cedar Waxwing, which feeds on mostly berries with the occasional insect, is one of many seed, nut and berry-eating birds which will be most threatened by higher temperatures. Photo: Yuri Timofeyev

From the melodies of songbirds to the drumming of woodpeckers, birds have long been associated with the sound of spring. Unfortunately,  recent research suggests that climate change is driving changes in the calendar period we currently call spring—and that these changes are harming herbivorous and mostly-herbivorous birds.
Specifically, the research observed how different “springtime events” associated with the reproduction of various species has changed with climate in the United Kingdom. The study found that temperature, rather than precipitation, had the largest influence on the timing of breeding in birds and flowering in plants. Although these dates shifted for most animals, the most harmful consequences were found in primary consumers. Primary consumers are essentially the middle of the food chain, or animals that eat plants but are prey to other animals.
While primary consumers include insects, it also means seed-eating birds such as Larks, Cardinals, Finches and Sparrows. Environmental toxins and hunting have often threatened our higher-in-the-food-chain predators such as the California Condor and the Brown Pelican . Unfortunately, climate change is beginning to threaten the smaller birds too—the ones we may sometimes take for granted as an inherent part of our springtime surroundings.

Posted by Ada Throckmorton 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

        12 Secrets of Massage Therapists


Getting a good massage can be a blissful experience. Whether you get a deep tissue, shiatsu, reflexology, or Swedish massage, you'll hopefully feel serene and pampered afterward. But massage therapists do much more than simply knead your muscles and decrease your stress. We spoke to a few to learn their secrets of their relaxing trade.

“I think that all massage therapists cringe at the term masseuse,” Stevie Duren, a certified massage therapist at Blissful Bodywork in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, tells mental floss. Although some people use the terms masseuse and massage therapist interchangeably, Duren says that masseuse has a sexual innuendo and implies a lack of education. Regulations vary by state, but most massage therapists undergo hundreds of hours of training, learn multiple bodywork modalities, and pass an exam to become certified or licensed. And they must complete continuing education credits to stay up to date with the latest research and techniques.

The word masseuse, however, doesn’t bother licensed massage therapist Nicki Dekunchak, who owns Philadelphia’s Hands at Home. “Most people don’t know the proper term is massage therapist,” Dekunchak says.


Because massage therapists get up close and personal with your body, the way you smell doesn’t go unnoticed. Although you may be planning to shower after the massage, be considerate and practice good hygiene before your massage as well. But don’t worry if you haven’t shaved your legs—massage therapists aren’t looking at your stubble, and it doesn’t affect their treatment plan.

If you shower before your massage, allow enough time for your hair to dry. According to licensed massage therapist Michelle Doetsch, wet hair can cause moisture to seep through the sheet on the massage table into the padding underneath. If the padding gets wet, Doetsch has to change it before her next client’s appointment and do an extra load of laundry. 


Massage can be both a complementary healthcare practice (accepted by some medical insurance plans) for people with chronic pain and injuries and a relaxing, spiritually nourishing activity.

According to licensed Illinois massage therapist Rick Smith, no field is quite as rewarding as massage therapy. “When someone comes to me for help, I'm truly honored. In only a few sessions massage therapy can relieve, to one degree or another, physical stress and discomfort, muscular pain, emotional stress and tension, limited range of motion, and that overall feeling of malaise. And all without drugs or invasive procedures,” he says.


Although getting a massage can be the ideal time to unplug, relax, and forget about emails, some people text, work, or tweet on their phones while they get a massage. In her office, Duren doesn’t allow clients to have their phones turned on (except for extenuating circumstances), but if she’s working elsewhere, she lets the client choose.

“I would rather have a client make time to receive bodywork and feel that they can still do what they have to do, rather than using the excuse that they don't have the time to get bodywork,” she says. Dekunchak echoes that sentiment, explaining to mental floss that she has a handful of clients who need to work during their massage. “My motto is it’s your time. Do what you want with it!”


Because they see parts of your body that you might not be able to easily see—think the back of your hips or behind your knees—massage therapists can spot irregular or suspect moles. If you get regular massages with the same massage therapist, it’s even more likely that he or she will notice any changes in your skin and suggest you go to a dermatologist.

Although you remove your clothes (and underwear, if you wish), lie on a massage table, and receive physical pleasure, don’t mistake your massage therapist for a sex worker. The American Massage Therapy Association’s Code of Ethics states that massage therapists shall “uphold the highest standards of professionalism” and “refrain from engaging in any sexual conduct or sexual activities involving their clients in the course of a massage therapy session.” Therapists are also required to properly drape their clients, only undraping an area while they’re massaging it. 


Because massage therapists are usually paid for their time, don’t be late to your appointment. You’ll either miss out on the full time of your massage, or you’ll make your massage therapist’s day more stressful.

Besides massaging clients, therapists might need to change the linens, sanitize the table, return oils and other tools to their proper places, and respond to emails and phone calls. Showing up late means that your massage therapist might not have enough time to complete all their responsibilities and eat lunch.

Most massage therapists don’t make a ton of money ($43,000 was the mean annual wage in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and because the work hours are irregular, some of them also work a second job to pay the bills. Unless they own their own business, they only earn a percentage of the price you pay.

So whether they work as an independent contractor in a spa or for an hourly wage in a medical clinic, most massage therapists rely on tips to make ends meet. If you’re satisfied with the quality of your massage, tip your therapist 18 to 20 percent.


Your body gives clues about its state of health or disease, and massage therapists can read these clues—a hard stomach, tight lower back muscles, or knotted hamstrings—with their hands. “A therapist can often tell if a client is constipated by working the intestinal area. I usually only do this kind of work if specifically requested,” says Duren.


If you’re a nervous talker during a massage, don’t worry about filling the silence. Some clients enjoy talking on the table, but others prefer silence to savor the moment and fully relax. Whatever you choose, your massage therapist will probably be fine either way, as long as your time on the table is calming, soothing, and therapeutic.  


Three to five years after graduation, the burnout rate for massage therapists has been estimated at between 50 and 88 percent. Because they work on their feet, using their hands, arms, and elbows to massage, therapists can get carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and trigger finger. Even if massage therapists take breaks between massages, repetitive stress injuries can make their jobs painful, contributing to a large number of therapists who leave the field each year.


Judith Levinrad Norman, who teaches massage therapy at New York City’s Swedish Institute,tells Oprah Magazine that good massage requires really tuning in. Comparing massage to meditation, she explains that she clears her mind, focuses on being present, and connects to her client’s body. No matter what area of the body she works on, Norman tries to encourage her clients to let go and loosen up. “After you've worked on a lot of bodies, you see with your hands. You don't see with your eyes anymore. I don't need to look—my hands know,” she says. 



Because their work is physical, massage therapists definitely get massages, too. Massage therapist Julie Azzopardi admits that she trades massages with her colleagues at the spa where she works and tries to get a massage once a week or once every other week. Duren says she gets massages because she has to. “The work that I do is intense and strenuous and I have to keep myself in good repair to offer the kind of work I do to my clients,” she says. Dekunchak admits that she gets regular massages, even at 9 months pregnant.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hi!  my question is……why do the Chickadees in my garden go to a stone wall with a ledge, land and then spread their wings toward the sun??  This seems to be a group activity.  Thank you for your help!

Right now a group of baby birds with new plumage and in late summer adult birds that are growing new outer feathers, often sun themselves. Like ironing our clothes, the heat of the sun might help make it easier for birds to shape their new feathers. And along with easing discomfort associated with molting, the sun may also help dislodge parasites so the bird can preen them off more easily.

Some ways birds maintain feather quality is through water, dust, and sun bathing. Instinct to sunbathe is not always to warm the body. Like humans they probably enjoy a few rays but their main reasons for sunning is probably to keep their feathers in top shape.

Most birds have a preen gland or uropygial gland at the base of the tail. With their beak, birds realign the barbs correctly, remove any dirt or parasites and apply preen oil. If the bird sunbathes the oil is exposed to the ultraviolet light from the sun. Then the uropygial gland secretions convert to an active form of vitamin D which is ingested with the next preening. This may explain in part why some birds sunbathe.

Monday, July 4, 2016

                            Dunes Sand Sculpture 2016

                        is Bicentennial Legacy Project!

The 19th Annual Indiana Dunes Sand Sculpture Contest is approaching fast. Join us for this year’s theme of “Indiana” and carve out your own creation in the sand on Saturday, July 9. The registration table opens at 9 a.m., but teams may begin working as early as 7 a.m.
Sculptures that follow the theme will earn extra points from the judges. Prizes will be awarded in two categories, one for teams of children 15 and younger and another for individuals and families numbering less than eight. Watchers can also vote for their favorite in the "Viewer's Choice Award" between noon and 1 p.m.Come on out and enjoy the fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Enjoy Unlimited Wine Tastings, Fabulous Food Pairings, Culinary Demonstrations, Live Entertainment and MORE! Get your Valparaiso Food & Wine Festival tickets while they last!

Epicurean's looking for a one-of-a-kind summer evening in the park need to look no further! The Valparaiso Food & Wine Festival, which sells out every year, has been upgraded to a true VIP experience for 2016. "Taste & Sip" Tickets are $75 each and include unlimited wine tastings, food pairings from local upscale eateries, live entertainment by the Jeff Brown Trio, culinary demonstrations and artistic aerial performances! Gather your friends, celebrate a birthday or plan that perfect date night.  This great event is slated for Saturday, July 16 from 5 to 8pm.

Get your tickets (click here) and then sit back and raise your glass to giving back to the community! Valparaiso Events is proud to be a non-profit organization that hosts over 80 days of events in the community each year. The majority of our events are family friendly and free. So your tickets to the Valparaiso Food and Wine Festival not only get you a VIP experience and a fun evening in the park, but you are supporting the year round efforts of an organization that works to create a vibrant and thriving community! Cheers!

For more information on the Valparaiso Food & Wine Festival,  click here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

  • If you are not an experienced birdwatcher, it can be tricky to glimpse a Brown Thrasher in a tangled mass of shrubbery, here at Songbird Prairie and once you do you may wonder how such a boldly patterned, gangly bird could stay so hidden. Brown Thrashers wear a somewhat severe expression thanks to their heavy, slightly down curved bill and staring yellow eyes. Brown Thrashers are exuberant singers, with one of the largest repertoires of any North American songbird.
    Brown Thrashers are fairly large, slender songbirds with long proportions—the legs are long and sturdy, and the bill is long and slightly down curved. The tail is long, too, and often cocked upward in the manner of wrens.
    Brown Thrashers are foxy brown birds with heavy, dark streaking on their whitish under parts. The face is gray-brown and the wings show two black-and-white wing bars. They have bright-yellow eyes
    Brown Thrashers skulk in shrubby tangles or forage on the ground below dense cover here on the certified natural habitat of Songbird Prairie. They’re most obvious when they sing their loud songs from shrubs and treetops. The song is a complex string of many musical phrases (many copied from other birds’ songs, with each phrase typically sung twice before moving on). They also make a distinctive, harsh tsuck note
    Scrubby fields, dense regenerating woods, and forest edges are the primary habitats of Brown Thrashers. They rarely venture far from thick undergrowth into which they can easily retreat. Come to scout out this amazing bird here at Songbird Prairie.