(Family Features) With near-endless sunshine, world-class theme parks and abundant outdoor experiences, California is an ideal destination to embark on an unforgettable adventure.
To make it easy for travelers to plan their trips, the 2023 California Road Trips guide includes 13 action-packed itineraries that begin and end at one of the state’s 27 commercial airports, highlighting how easy it is to fly into any region of the Golden State and hit the road.
“California’s natural beauty, diverse topography and culturally rich communities are the perfect backdrop for an epic road trip experience,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, a nonprofit organization that partners with the state’s travel industry to develop and maintain marketing programs that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. “This year’s guide showcases how the state’s vast network of international and regional airports provide travelers with convenient access to every corner of the California Road Trip Republic.”
The guide’s cover star, Dwyane Wade, a three-time NBA champion, dad and owner of Napa Valley winery Wade Cellars, moved to Los Angeles after his retirement in 2019. Wade said California granted him a soulful landscape and much-needed quiet time.
“I like to find moments where no one can expect anything of me and California allows me to have those moments,” Wade said. “I’ll drive to the beach and walk next to the water. I’ll drive all over to find those moments to connect with myself… I get my energy from that.”
While California’s world-renowned coastline provides a dramatic backdrop, adventures can be found in every region of the Golden State. Featured drives take travelers to both cities and classic small towns, family attractions and far-reaching, otherworldly landscapes. A few sample road trip itineraries include:
- “Animals, Desert and Offbeat Art” combines kid-friendly experiences like LEGOLAND California and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park with the rich arts culture and stargazing opportunities in Borrego Springs.
- “Cactus and Cocktails” explore both the cosmopolitan pleasures of Palm Springs and the rugged sceneries of Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.
- “National Park Adventures” is a 412-mile adventure that begins at Fresno Yosemite Airport and explores the wonders of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
- “Road to Gold” is a four-day trek that begins in Sacramento, explores Lake Tahoe and meanders back through Gold Country with photo opportunities at every turn.
- “Innovation and Agricultural Bounty” features a San Jose-based itinerary that showcases cutting-edge arts, charming seaside villages and bountiful farmlands on a 238-mile journey.
To order a guide, go to VisitCalifornia.com/Travel-Guides.
Photo courtesy of Visit California/Places We Swim
Get Creative with Easter Sweets
Kid-friendly crafts that bring loved ones together
(Family Features) Holiday hams and deviled eggs may take center stage at Easter gatherings, but edible crafts offer a reminder of the magic of the season that’s found in moments spent together. Simple recipes that call for a dose of creativity are perfect ways to bring the kids to the kitchen, made even easier when all that work leads to sweet treats.
While plastic eggs may have led to a decline in good, old-fashioned egg-dyeing, there are still fun ways to bring crafts back to Easter celebrations. Consider these Kids Krafty Easter Cake Pops, which call for little ones to help dip seasonal shapes in chocolate, use cake molds and more.
Children of virtually any age can relish in the joys of using cookie cutters and decorating Easter Sugar Cookies, all with a little supervision and short list of instructions. This version shows how to make the cookies and homemade icing so you can create any color you desire for maximum creativity.
Remember, these delicious crafts don’t have to be perfect – having fun and making memories that last a lifetime are what make Easter truly special.
Visit Culinary.net to find more Easter inspiration and recipes from “Cookin’ Savvy.”
Kids Krafty Easter Cake Pops
Recipe courtesy of “Cookin’ Savvy”
- 1 box cake mix
- 1 can frosting
- 1 bunny chocolate mold
- 1 cakesicle mold
- ice pop sticks
- 1 bag white chocolate chips or melting chips
- cake pop sticks
- 1 bag orange melting chips
- 2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil, divided
- 1 bag green melting chips
- pastel sprinkles
- 1 piece hard foam (optional)
- edible markers
- Bake cake according to package instructions and let cool completely.
- Crumble cake and mix with 1/2 can frosting until dough forms. Add more frosting, if needed. Using small cookie scoop, form dough into balls and set aside. Place dough in bunny molds then pop out and set aside with balls. Place dough in cakesicle mold, insert ice pop stick in each slot and freeze 5-10 minutes.
- Melt handful of white melting chips. Stick tip of each cake pop stick in chocolate then insert into every cake ball and bunny until each has one stick. Set aside to dry.
- Remove cakesicles from freezer and pop out of molds. In bowl, melt orange melts then mix in 1 tablespoon oil and transfer to cup. Dip cakesicles and scrape off excess using rim of cup. Place on parchment paper to dry.
- In bowl, melt green melts then place in zip-top or piping bag. Cut tip off bag, pipe carrot leaves onto piece of parchment paper and let dry.
- Melt remaining white melts and mix in remaining oil. Transfer to cup and dip ball-shaped cake pops and bunnies then tap stick on edge of cup to remove excess.
- Over separate bowl, sprinkle ball-shaped pops with pastel sprinkles. To keep ball shape, let dry by sticking in piece of hard foam. Bunnies can dry face side up on parchment paper. After bunnies are dry, use edible markers to make face and color in ears.
- When carrots and leaves are dry, remelt orange melts and place in piping or zip-top bag. Cut off tip and drizzle orange over carrots. Add small line of orange on each ice pop stick and place leaves on each stick. Let dry.
Easter Sugar Cookies
Recipe courtesy of “Cookin’ Savvy”
- 1/3 cup meringue powder
- 1/2 cup warm water, plus additional for thinning (optional), divided
- 3 tablespoons vanilla
- 1 bag (2 pounds) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- assorted food coloring
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 dash salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- To make icing: Mix meringue powder, 1/2 cup warm water, vanilla, powdered sugar and corn syrup. Separate into bowls and add food coloring; mix with water, as needed, to thin for piping.
- To make cookies: Heat oven to 350 F.
- Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Mix in flour 1 cup at a time to form dough. Roll dough out to 1/4-1/2-inch thickness.
- Cut into shapes, place on baking sheet and freeze 10 minutes. Bake 8-12 minutes. Cool completely before icing.
- Place icing in zip-top or piping bags and cut off tips. Put cookies on parchment paper. Trace outline first then fill in middle. Use toothpicks to smooth out.
- Let dry 6 hours and finish decorating with different icing colors or edible markers.
The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Fortune in Hong Kong
Unlock a perfect Year of the Dragon in 2024 with exclusive tips shared by feng shui master Mak Ling Ling
TORONTO /CNW/ – 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. A legendary creature with the fantastic ability to roam the sky and sea, the dragon is regarded as the most prestigious entity of the 12-animal Chinese zodiac; its corresponding year holds a significant place in Chinese culture. As the Year of the Dragon signifies a positive outlook and dynamic, it is the best time to broaden your horizons through traveling. With this “Ultimate Guide to a Prosperous Year of the Dragon” curated by feng shui master Mak Ling Ling, you can effortlessly unlock a perfect new year while immersed in the festive bliss around Hong Kong!
To pray for success in career and education
No Chinese New Year trip to Hong Kong is complete without a visit to the temple! The city has many historic temples, including the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan. Widely regarded as a sanctum to pray for success in career and education, this declared monument remains one of the most popular attractions despite its relatively compact interior. Undoubtedly, its convenient location in the bustling tourist hotspot of Central and Sheung Wan has also contributed to its unwavering popularity. Man Mo Temple is dedicated primarily to the Civil God (god of literature) and the Martial God (god of martial arts): office workers who wish for career advancement can pray to the Civil God and touch the “Man Cheong Writing Brush” for good luck. At the same time, business owners can pay homage to the Martial God and touch his sword on the statue to pray for success. Students can bring their stationery and pencil case to the altar for academic achievement and let the deity bless the items to achieve better results.
2. To pray for prosperity
Honouring Kwun Yum (the Goddess of Mercy) is the right way to pray for prosperity and happiness for the entire family. Among the numerous temples in Hong Kong dedicated to Kwun Yum, the one in Hung Hum is the largest and most famous in Kowloon. The 26th day of the first lunar month this year, March 6, is known as the “Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival” (the day that is believed when Kwun Yum opens her treasury and lends money to people). On this particular occasion, you will find worshippers flocking to this Grade 1 historic building and eagerly queueing up in front of the temple starting at midnight, all hoping for wealth that is symbolized by the “money” (an imaginary loaned amount written on a red paper note) they can borrow from the Goddess. Even on days other than the “Treasury Opening Festival,” tourists can still visit this historical temple to pray for the Kwun Yum’s blessing on fertility, love life and health.
3. To pray for health and smooth sailing
With nearly 300 years of history, Hau Wong Temple in Kowloon City is favoured by worshippers who wish for good health. The temple is especially packed during the Hau Wong Festival, which falls on the 16th day of the sixth lunar month. Apart from the main deity of Hau Wong, the temple also houses Tai Sui, the 60 deities in charge of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs combined with the five elements of Chinese astrology. Every year, Chinese zodiac signs are considered “fan Tai Sui” (clash with that year’s ruling deity), and people with those signs are at risk of bad luck. For the Year of the Dragon, the “unlucky” signs include Dragon, Dog, Rabbit and Ox. If you were born in one of these years, you may appease the ruling deity by performing a “sip Tai Sui” ritual, which involves writing your name and date of birth on a “Tai Sui yi” (joss paper), followed by offering incense sticks to the Tai Sui deities, praying to be protected against adversity in the year ahead.
4. To pray for perfection and fruitfulness
Renowned for its supposed ability to make worshippers’ requests come true, Wong Tai Sin Temple is the ideal place to pray for a perfect Year of the Dragon. During Chinese New Year, the festively adorned temple is home to one of the city’s most significant traditions – the first incense offering. Locals believe those who enter the temple first and burn the inaugural incense sticks will receive the biggest blessings. Thus, crowds of worshippers gather at the temple around midnight on Chinese New Year’s Day to participate in a sacred running race. While the first place may be quite challenging, you can still burn incense sticks at Wong Tai Sin Temple any day during Chinese New Year to pray for a propitious Year of the Dragon.
Wong Tai Sin Temple also houses the statue of Yuelao, the deity in charge of love and marriage. Believers who long for a breakthrough in their love life can make a wish by offering flowers and fruits to the Statues of Yuelao, flanked by the statues of Couples named mythical lovers “Golden Boy” and “Jade Maiden.” Legend has it that Yuelao will tie a red thread on the feet of couples destined for marriage, so after making your wish to Yuelao, don’t forget to conclude the ritual by touching the feet of either “Golden Boy” or “Jade Maiden”!
5. Good fortune galore
If you want to boost your luck during the Chinese New Year trip in Hong Kong, make a beeline for Che Kung Temple! On the third day of the Chinese New Year, droves of worshippers crowd the iconic temple, whose signature feature is the copper fan-bladed wheel of fortune. Even though Che Kung Festival falls on the second day of the Chinese New Year, many locals prefer to visit the temple on the third day instead as it is believed to be a day when people are prone to quarrel, so they opt to visit the temple to avoid meeting friends or family on this conflict-prone day.
There are specific rituals to pray for good luck at Che Kung Temple. Upon entering the temple, beat the drum three times before spinning the fan-bladed wheel of fortune. If you had an excellent previous year, spin the wheel clockwise to keep the upward trend; otherwise, spin the wheel counterclockwise to “spin away” the misfortune. Before you go, take a pinwheel home and place it at this year’s auspicious position on the southwest or northeast for an extra boost of luck!
In the art of feng shui, it is believed that the prosperity of a place is connected with its mountain and water, so a stroll in nature during the first lunar month is considered a promising way to kick off the new year. To embrace the beauty of Hong Kong’s majestic mountain and water landscape, hop on the Peak Tram at Central for a bird’s eye view of the Victoria Harbour, or visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, followed by a charming stroll in the “Venice of Hong Kong” – Tai O fishing village, which is just a 30-minute ride away.
Another fascinating place where you can tap into nature’s spiritual energy is Tai Tam Reservoirs. This declared monument is renowned for its magnificent dams and hundred-year-old masonry bridges, which can be admired along an easy hiking trail sprinkled with picture-perfect spots.
Hong Kong has many attractions waiting to be explored this Chinese New Year. Take action now for planning your trip to Hong Kong. Don’t miss out on the festivities and temple-hopping itineraries to usher in good fortune for the Year of the Dragon!
SOURCE Hong Kong Tourism Board
Exploring the Healthiest Communities in the United States: California Counties Shine Bright
Discover how California’s Marin County leads the healthiest U.S. communities, boasting high life expectancy and low obesity rates in a recent study.
A recent study by MarketWatch has unveiled a list of the healthiest communities in the United States, with California counties claiming top spots. Marin County, nestled across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, emerged as the healthiest county, boasting a remarkable life expectancy of 85, a lower-than-average adult obesity rate, and a mere 5 percent of residents without health insurance.
The study evaluated 576 U.S. counties using 14 key metrics, including food insecurity, healthcare access, life expectancy, health insurance coverage, and environmental factors like water and air quality. Western states dominated the top 10 list, with Colorado, Hawaii, and Montana also showcasing exemplary county health profiles.
The findings emphasized a correlation between community health and wealth, with affluent areas exhibiting lower rates of food insecurity and higher levels of health insurance coverage. The presence of nature parks in many of the healthiest counties underscored the positive impact of green spaces on well-being, aligning with scientific research on the subject.
However, the study also shed light on disparities, highlighting that residents in the unhealthiest counties face challenges such as limited access to grocery stores, higher rates of food insecurity, and inadequate primary care services. Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, was identified as the least healthy county due to high uninsured rates and poor environmental quality.
In California, 37 out of 58 counties were ranked, with Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties clinching top positions. The data revealed a stark contrast in median incomes between the healthiest and unhealthiest counties, with Marin County boasting a median income well above the national average.
This comprehensive analysis serves as a valuable resource for policymakers and healthcare professionals striving to address disparities and promote well-being across communities. It underscores the importance of factors such as access to healthcare, environmental quality, and socioeconomic status in shaping overall community health outcomes.
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