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Trees: Solutions to the World’s Big Challenges

Arbor Day Foundation Plant Trees

Trees Equal Big Value

An Interview with Pete Smith, Arbor Day Foundation program manager, urban forestry

Evoking Childhood Memories

There’s no question that trees offer solutions to the world’s big environmental challenges but they are also tied to many of our memories. Try this exercise Pete Smith recommends.

how to incorporate trees into your landscape

Close your eyes and picture a tree and its leaves. What does that tree mean to you?

“There are plenty of folks who can see that tree,” Pete Smith, Arbor Day Foundation urban forestry program manager, said during an interview on Feb. 14, 2023.

Chances are there’s a tree or two in your past that evokes fond childhood memories. 

For Smith, it was the native Sugar maples and other trees on his street and in his backyard as a child growing up in Philadelphia that led Smith to explore forestry. 

“I would challenge anyone to go through that exercise and experience it (that tree) personally,” he said.  

As a result, a lot of his work in forestry for the Arbor Day Foundation focuses on sustainable management whether it’s working with private landowners or corporate interests.

“I think they (the trees) certainly inspired me as a young person to look to nature and I never really lost that zeal for urban trees,” Smith said. “Going to Penn State and choosing forestry seemed to be a logical progression.

Many cities throughout the U.S. have earned the title, "Tree City USA," for their efforts to plant and preserve trees.
Tree City USA, Lincoln, NE

Inspiring Environmental Advocacy

When you think of the Arbor Day Foundation, there’s no doubt planting trees comes to mind, but in addition, Smith and his team also inspire environmental change by helping to get people around the globe more engaged in understanding the role of trees and why they are an important natural resource. Tree City USA, a long-running Arbor Day Foundation program, for example, provides a four-step framework to maintain and grow tree cover. 

According to, communities can receive annual Tree City USA recognition by meeting four standards: Maintaining a tree board or department; having a community tree ordinance; spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry; and celebrating Arbor Day, a tree-planting holiday. 

Smith’s work comes with its share of challenges as many cities and communities are experiencing significant growth and are trying to balance the growing need for housing without killing or tearing down trees. 

Act Responsibly

Is there a way to do construction that doesn’t require developers to remove trees?   

Smith said, yes. “You can actually build around trees…,” and while he believes we still value existing big healthy trees, he utilizes his expertise in urban community forestry to further educate individuals and municipalities about the best practices for preserving trees during construction.  

“But how do we act responsibly?” Smith asked.

Despite the cost factor that’s associated with preserving trees, there are communities around the country that are trying their best to deal with the incredible growth of housing and the need for it while keeping some of the trees onsite. 

This is where significant growth meets national standards and ordinances that require developers to replant an equivalent number of trees on site. 

However, he cautioned, “That’s not always popular among those in development. So many local governments that are experiencing significant growth create a tree ordinance and they will make requirements,” he said. “Developers are often required to replant and calculate how many trees are coming down so they can plant an equivalent number of trees.” 

In addition to their aesthetic value, trees manage runoff and reduce erosion caused by falling rain.

Canopies That Work For You 

So why are trees vital to our landscape and environment? 

Certainly, according to Smith, while stormwater runoff also depends on other factors like soil, for example, there’s no replacing the value that a large tree canopy provides in managing runoff and reducing erosion caused by falling rain. 

Tree Fact: Rainwater lands on the leaves and evaporates and tree roots take up water and help create conditions in the soil that promote infiltration, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

“Those big trees with lots and lots of leaves can hang on to lots and lots of water and slow that water as it moves into the watershed,” he said. Without trees, storm runoff happens almost instantaneously, so we get runoff that is now full of sediment that’s clogging up our storm drains and creeks.”

Additionally, trees offer energy savings by cooling properties; provide carbon sequestration, a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere; promote oxygen production; and remove pollutants from the air. 

“Those trees are right there where you live, delivering benefits close to home – not some distant location. They remove pollutants from the air that’s closest to our lungs,” Smith said. 

Trees also add real value to real estate, and houses that have trees on the property sell faster and at a higher price than other properties without them, Smith noted. 

Before you cut down a healthy tree to make way for your next building project, first determine your tree’s worth in terms of the work it does for your property and the environment. Urban foresters have used valuation software for decades as a tool to calculate the benefits trees provide. i-Tree is one of those programs that estimate the carbon dioxide and air pollution a tree removes plus it offers values for stormwater interception. ( courtesy of the USDA Forest Service). 

Arbor Day Foundation Logo

Find YOUR Nature-Based Solution

Equally as important as knowing your tree’s value is determining the role you will play in your community’s growth and development. 

“You have choices and so does every city and township,” Smith said. “How as a community are we going to grow and develop? And that’s a choice citizens and their elected officials are going to have to make.” 

As Arbor Day approaches on Fri., April 28, 2023, Smith encourages you to show up and plant a tree but that’s only one of the roles you can play in protecting our urban forests. 

Smith said showing up on Arbor Day is kind of easy and the Arbor Day Foundation certainly wants people to plant trees but the rubber meets the road when you make some personal choices that will preserve existing trees and positively affect the environment. 

“You can go out and plant 10 small trees but don’t assume they will have the same surface area or environmental benefits as a large Oak tree,” according to Smith. 

He encourages citizens to take a close look at themselves first and then take action as they look toward more nature-based solutions to the problems in our communities. 

“Ask yourself, have you reduced your energy consumption? Can you remove a little bit of your lawn and plant a tree there? We’re big on rights but what is our responsibility?” he said. “Maybe you don’t really understand that responsibility until you own a piece of land and you are responsible for tending it…Maybe that’s where having a small garden will help.” 

Have Tree-Care Questions? 

Smith recommends the International Society of Arboriculture and its homeowner website: Trees Are Good.

5 Things You Can Do To Make a Difference by Preserving or Planting a Tree

  • 1. Add a layer of mulch beneath the trees in your yard. Link the mulch beds together and add perennial shrubs and flowers to increase the beauty and resiliency of your yard.
  • 2. Hire a Certified Arborist to care for the trees in your yard. The International Society of Arboriculture is the standard-bearer for quality tree care around the world and there’s a professional near you that can keep your trees healthy.
  • 3. Water a newly planted street tree near your home. Often, city forestry departments struggle to keep up with watering during the hottest time of the year, so any extra water you can offer could make a difference in tree survival!
  • 4. Attend a tree board meeting in your community and tell them how you feel about your city’s trees. These volunteer boards often need new energy and input to make them effective, so ask to join if you have the time! In addition to a citizen board or commission, many cities have nonprofit tree-planting groups, which you can find here.
  • 5. Celebrate Arbor Day! Attend your community’s annual celebration of trees and the people who care for them…. No scheduled event in your town? Why not start one?
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How to be Italian

How to be Italian book cover

Maria Pasquale: Immersed in Life

Learn Language, Culture, and Etiquette Tips

How to be Italian book cover
Maria Pasquale’s Italian guide to the culture, food, mindset, and language is the ultimate how-to book for wannabes.

“How to be Italian” by Author Maria Pasquale is the ultimate travel and culture guide. Through Pasquale’s lens, you’ll walk away with the essential tools and knowledge you’ll need to know about Italy should you want to reinvent yourself as an Italian. She presents detailed information about the country’s food, language, traditions, and culture in ways that only someone of a deeply rooted Italian heritage can offer.

Planning a trip to Italy?

Learn why Italians live the way they do and the rewards that come from a more carefree and passionately unhurried lifestyle.

Pasquale is an award-winning food and travel writer, and journalist who regularly contributes to USA Today, CNN, Condé Nast, and The Telegraph. She was raised in Melbourne but lives in Rome where she reaps the rewards of living in one of the world’s most exciting cities.

Pasquale wrote, “With a country that loves love and believes in il destino, how could it not have become the greatest romance of my life?”

Why family is so important to Italian culture
Italian life revolves around family and taking time to enjoy life.

More to come from Pasquale in an upcoming interview. Visit her website for additional information.

In the meantime, you can purchase her book through using my affiliate link at no additional charge to you.

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African Animals African Tours Lifestyle

My Kids Met the Tallest Land Mammal

Giraffes of East Africa Seen While on a Safari

The Adventure of a Lifetime

And Why it’s Dangerous for Giraffes to Pee During the Dry Seasons

A Travel Feature by Lori Appling-Allen, Focused Escapes

Gather your kids around to read this guest post, “My Kids Met the Tallest Land Mammal,” by Lori Appling-Allen, Focused Escapes founder.

For Thanksgiving 2021, we traded turkey and mashed potatoes for elephant sightings and homemade baobab juice in Tanzania. With five families in tow, we set out on the adventure of a lifetime for both us adults and our kids. 

We spent three days exploring Serengeti National Park then transferred to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. After a couple of days at the crater, we ended our day at the Tarangire National Park, sleeping inside the park and waking up just steps away from friendly monkey families starting their day just like us.  A pride of lions with tiny baby cubs passed by our tent while we watched safely from the window.

We spent our days bouncing in 4x4s, meeting elephants, giraffes, zebra, and wildebeests.  We saw large herds of hippo and Cape buffalo…a half dozen cheetahs, leopard – you name it, we saw it!

One of our favorite days was when we learned that giraffe pee drips and sticks like honey. 

In dry seasons, it’s dangerous for a giraffe to drink. Watering holes are where the predators hang out because they know their prey need to drink eventually. So, a giraffe will typically drink once and then hold her pee all day.   

By the time she relieves herself, her body has absorbed all the water it can. What comes out is thick and sticky like honey. Not watery like other animals who don’t need to bend down so far and put themselves in such a compromised position to drink.

Tanzania, you might know, is home to the one and only Masai giraffe – one of the tallest land mammals on the planet, second only to the Rothchild in Kenya (though Kenya requires a yellow-fever shot to enter and Tanzania doesn’t – one of the many reasons we chose to bring the kids to Tanzania over Kenya).

Standing on my seat and taking her picture through the roof, this girl towers above me… 

My Kids Met the Tallest Land Mammal

Her legs are almost as big as our vehicle… 

A Trip to Africa is not a glorified zoo experience.

People who have never been to Africa think this trip is a glorified zoo experience but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

While writing this, I asked my family to recall what made our trip to Tanzania so special. Aside from the overall giddy feeling you get while experiencing something truly fantastic — we concluded that it has to be the fact that a single country has such a supreme combination of so many things – wildlife, culture, food, accommodations, scenery, hospitality, language and wonder. 

The kids are still talking about it.  It marked them in a way a trip to a zoo never does.

They marvel at how close the animals got to our cars… the creatures big and small that they’d never even heard of (like the kori bustard)…  the amazing guides who taught them how to make baobab juice and medicine from herbs.  They smiled nonstop as the 4x4s ran through mud puddles and over wild bushes.  They called out new words to each other in Swahili and made little insider jokes about how to remember a phrase so they could repeat it to our guides later.  

I designed this trip for my family and our friends, but it was such an amazing success I now take other families who are willing to adventure to the other side of the globe with their kids or grandkids.

It’s fun when multiple families get together and the kids make new friends with other kids on the trip. It allows the adults to have an adult conversation by the fire while the kids behave like kids on the deck.

If you see your family exploring Tanzania with our group, claim the spot on my website right here. 

Publisher’s Note:

Lori Appling-Allen, Focused Escapes founder, crafts unforgettable trips for 10-12 travelers to destinations that open your eyes to this beautiful planet, teach you new skills, and leave you craving to see more of our magnificent world.

Want to read more family trip stories? Read a fly-fishing story here.

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Expo 2020 Dubai Lifestyle Music and Technology

Keiichiro Shibuya

Expo 2020 Dubai Jubilee Stage at EXPO 2022 Dubai

Exploring the Border Between Humans and Technology

On the Road Home from EXPO2020 Dubai

Japanese Musician and Composer Shares His Music with the World

Keiichiro Shibuya Image Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai
“Android is a mirror.
Music is a mirror.
It is a reflection of yourselves.” Photos courtesy of EXPO 2020 Dubai.

Keiichiro Shibuya creates music that can be shared with anyone internationally.

Shibuya, an acclaimed Japanese composer, and musician brought his global vision to EXPO2020 Dubai, a World Expo, hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates that ran from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. Shining a bright light on Japan’s musical and technological accomplishments was one of his goals throughout the six-month event.

“I would be happy if people knew that this kind of thing came from a Japanese person,” Shibuya said.

Keiichiro Shibuya

Shibuya performed the Android Opera “MIRROR,” an international and cross-cultural collaboration between the Humanoid Robot, Buddhist chants in Japan, and NSO Symphony Orchestra (UAE) at the expo on March 2, 2022.

If you missed Shibuya’s Expo debut; at center stage, the android, Alter3, improvises and sings a text created by AI (artificial intelligence) surrounded by four monks singing Buddhist chants that back 1,200 years. Surrounded by a local UAE (United Arab Emirates) orchestra, the musical piece evokes the unification of piano, computer, and voice. Watch his performance here.

Combining Music and Theatre

Keiichiro Shibuya creates his music to explore the border between human beings and technology with a broad range of works such as piano solos, electronic music, and opera.

Keiichiro Shibuya Alter3
Shibuya conducted the Alter 3 orchestra, a humanoid robot, created by Osaka University roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro and Mixi Corporation. The robot is embedded with an artificial neural network developed by artificial life researchers at the University of Tokyo.

Technology and Tradition = Diversity and Tolerance

You might ask how the diverse audience received the fusion of tradition, modern, and the future all on one stage.

“I believe that Dubai has such diversity and tolerance to accept these strong contrasts,” Shibuya said via an email interview. “By the way, Dubai Expo was my first experience of Expo – which was amazing.”

Android Opera
Shibuya’s Android Opera

And performing at the EXPO offered Shibuya many opportunities to experience a multitude of cultures. What contrast stands out?

He explained,

“…Dubai is much more international. Everyone speaks English and many nationalities there. Japan has to learn so many things from Dubai. I was surprised that my friends in Dubai know about the Japanese culture and architects very well…”

When he wasn’t performing, Shibuya spent his free time sightseeing and taking in Dubai, a Persian Gulf hub known for its luxury lifestyle, lively nightlife, and state-of-the-art architecture.

“I visited my local Emirati twins’ friends and stayed at their fireplace. I went to Women’s Day by Cartier at (the) expo (the 15th Anniversary of the Cartier Women’s Initiative) and the Dubai art fair (Art Dubai) for my endeavor of inspiration,” he said. “Of course, I also went to Dubai mall for shopping like Balenciaga and Celine. Also visited The Museum of the Future and had a meeting with them so I’m wishing to make concerts there.”

Expo 2020 Dubai Jubilee Stage at EXPO 2022 Dubai
The opera house

EXPO2020 Dubai Takeaway

As he looks to expand his touring schedule internationally, Shibuya said he is especially interested in exploring new opportunities in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, and invites promoters to reach out to him.

“So if you have any requests for performances, please contact us. This production is not for a one-time Expo. I want to perform it again in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States,” Shibuya said. “I will keep upgrading it, just as I have done with other productions. We are especially looking to expand like touring in the Middle East.”

An Eye on the Future

What’s in store for the future? Shibuya noted that as his research and collaboration with AI & Android continues as his key focus, in April 2022, his Android and music laboratory will be established at a Japanese university, and he plans to unveil his new Android Opera at the 2025 Osaka Expo.

He added,

“We would like to do a tour of this MIRROR by then. There will always be an android in the lab, and from there we will travel around the world…”


But his accomplishments don’t end there. In August 2021, Shibuya released a new opera, “Super Angels” with Conductor, Kazushi Ono, and Writer, Masahiko Shimada, at the New National Theater, Japan. In the last 15 years, Shibuya has collaborated and developed stereophonic sound with various artists and scientists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto at the Palais de Tokyo in France, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a robotic researcher, Jérémie Bélingard, Etoile of Opéra de Paris, and Takashi Ikegami.

Shibuya also established ATAK, a music label featuring cutting-edge electro-acoustic music compositions by various artists from around the world, and he also recently composed the music for the September 2020 film, “Midnight Swan,” starring Tsuyoshi Kusanagi. His music score earned him awards at the 75th Mainichi Film Awards and the 30th Japan Movie Critics Award.

September 2019 brought the Buddhist Chant: Shomyo + Electronic sounds, “Heavy Requiem” through collaboration with Japanese traditional monk, Eizen Fujiwara, at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, and in 2018, he released the Android Opera ”Scary Beauty,” a humanoid android in which AI conducts a human orchestra and sings with them. Shibuya released the Vocaloid Opera, “THE END,” in 2012, starring Hatsune Miku, without any human beings.

Publisher’s Note

EXPO 2020 Dubai offered artists like Keiichiro Shibuya the stage to entertain and enlighten and revisit the past and experience the future from October 2021 to March 31, 2022. If you weren’t able to attend the expo but would like to learn more, visit

Who designed the EXPO 2020 Dubai Japan Pavilion? Learn more about the Japanese architect behind this magnificent welcome center.

Add EXPO2025 Osaka to your calendar. Visit the official website to learn more about the event.

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The Best Bird Field Guide

The Best Bird Field Guide

All About Birds: Northeast US and Canada

Birdwatching 101: Learn with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Best Bird Field Guide – All About Birds covers 198 species with updated information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website,

You’re out for a walk in the woods and a friend points to a bird perched on a tree limb. If you’re lucky enough to have a copy of the best bird field guide I’ve seen, “All About Birds, Northeast US and Canada,” you’d have access to in-depth information about 198 species.

Thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, “,” and Princeton Press, the publisher, the guide covers many of the Northeast’s most beautiful birding and wildlife habitats from coastal regions to your own backyard.

Buy a copy of the book at no additional cost to you using my affiliate link.

Photo Courtesy of

Why do you need this field guide?

With more than 800 species of birds in the U.S. and Canada, chances are a beginning bird watcher can only identify a small percentage of the birds we spot. All About Birds allows you to expand your horizons to include not only the Robin, Bluejay, Cardinal, Finch, and Woodpecker families, but also lesser-known birds like the Northern Harrier and the American Coot.

So the next time you’re spending an afternoon outdoors and someone asks “Hey, do you see that bird on the top branch? What type of bird is that?” you’ll pull out this outstanding reference guide and rattle off the “Size & Shape,” “Color Pattern,” “Behavior,” and Habitat.” The guide offers four ID photos per bird, updated range maps of bird locations, a full-color visual index, and free access to the companion Merlin Bird ID app available through the Cornell Lab.

Ready to venture outdoors?

Before you go, take this Bird Quiz.
Where can you find Barred Owls?

What does the Common Tern nest?

How does the Peregrine Falcon catch its prey?

The answers to these and other questions are available in the guide.

Get the birdwatching gear you need. Buy high-definition binoculars on

Read a companion story.

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A Passion for Nature

Canyoning and a passion for outdoor activities

Canyoning: Why the Outdoors is Good for Your Soul

The Benefits of an Active Life

By Itziar Miranda, Tenerife, The Canary Islands (Spain)

What is a passion for nature? For me, that question has a simple answer. Passion is that feeling that moves you and makes you try new ways to do the things you enjoy.

Passion is the activity, sport, food, book, or whatever it is that makes you feel like the world has stopped. It is the moment when you can look around and see and hear new things that bring on the flow of adrenaline from the inside out. It’s that “something” that makes you feel like you are soaring above the clouds. As a result, you feel big and strong, motivated, and at the same time, relaxed and comfortable with yourself.

Canyoning and a passion for outdoor activities
Canyoning and other outdoor activities can help you find your passion.

For me, that passion is called canyoning, a new way of living in nature. Canyoning is more than a sport or even a hobby. By definition, canyoning means exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping but I see it as a new way of living in the natural world.

Canyoning forced me to stop for a moment and it taught me to feel calm, to be a part of what was going on around me. It makes me become aware of new sounds and views, even though they have always been there.

Nature is a part of you. It makes you feel happy and, at the same time, relaxed, meditative, and more creative.

Have you found your passion? You need to find yours because passion moves you and makes you want to be more proactive, to try a new thing, to feel a new feeling, to experiment, and to let your mind and body go beyond the normal and everyday things.

And it is so wonderful when you have it so close to you. Because, yes! Passion is all around you. You will feel it at one specific moment of your life and you will know that it is the one for you.

For this reason, when you find your passion, do not let it go, and do not give up. Follow it, practice it, be constant, because the benefits are so big… Nothing can compare to it, so you just have to keep moving forward, dedicate your free time and enjoy it.

Most of all, you deserve to be happy and experience all those feelings that will help you stay full of life.


Throughout my studies and my working life, I have learned to manage, plan, deal with different people, work in a team, cope with problems and incidents and make each employer feel like an integral part of every project which I have worked on. I pride myself on having three skills that define me – listening to my clients’ needs, empathy, and teamwork.

I always want to learn, listen to others, and get the most out of any situation that may help me grow both on a personal and professional level. I am keen on punctuality and on a well-done job, and on reaching and going beyond the goals and objectives.

I am passionate about taking on challenges and conquering them, without any hesitation, using my entire arsenal of knowledge and tools that I have acquired. I have an untiring desire to work and to help others achieve growth as well. I am motivated and I have the attitude, aptitude, and willingness to deal with new projects with a vision for the future.

One of my goals is to create a community of people who enjoy travel, outdoor sports activities, with a focus on eco-tourism and sustainability.

The community I am referring to is one where like-minded individuals have a place to talk and share experiences about all that nature has given us. Above all, achieving optimum health is more than staying in shape. Reach out to me with your thoughts and suggestions about how we can work together to make the world healthier and happier through nature.

What is canyoning? Here’s one example of canyoning.

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Beauty Lifestyle

The Future of Beauty and Skin Care

The Future of Beauty and Skincare

What Recent Recalls Mean to You

Special Beauty and Skincare Update By Dr. Liia Ramachandra 

In December 2021, Procter & Gamble (P&G), the company that has brought us many of our favorite beauty, skincare, and personal care items, announced voluntary recalls of 30 aerosol spray products. The announcement came with some disturbing news: the products had possible traces of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.

The recalled items included aerosol beauty products like dry shampoo and dry conditioner with the decision to recall the products done under an abundance of caution. Daily exposure to benzene in the amounts found in the affected products is not known to cause any adverse effects; however, companies as large as P&G need to proceed with caution to protect their customers and their companies. To date, there have not been any reports of adverse effects from benzene in P&G products, but the unlikely occurrence that a consumer could be affected is enough for the company to take bold precautions.

Dry shampoo and dry conditioners are among the recent product recalls.

Expect More Recalls in the Future

The recall announcement has made its mark on the beauty and skincare industry. What is often not reported but needs to be understood is that the benzene found in the P&G aerosol products was most likely not placed there on purpose. On the contrary, benzene probably found its way to the products through contamination from solvents or machinery. The chemical benzene is found almost everywhere in manufacturing, and it is nearly impossible to avoid altogether.

The recalls of products in November and December of this year tell us that this may not be a one-time situation and that more product recalls may be on the way. After all, the P&G recalls were not the first to make headlines. In July of 2021, Johnson & Johnson issued recalls of aerosol products due to the benzene issue, in a move that P&G mirrored soon after. The industry and consumers can likely and unfortunately stay tuned for more recalls coming down the road. As consumers become more aware of benzene’s presence in products they use every day, they will pressure companies to solve the issue preemptively. 

What Can Consumers Do to Protect Themselves?

Benzene is a highly flammable chemical that has a sweet odor. It evaporates in the air quickly but dissolves only slightly in water. It’s found in natural places, like volcanoes and forest fires, and is also found in crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. People can get exposure to benzene from various sources, including glues, detergents, and furniture polish. Gas stations are a huge source of benzene exposure for people.

Because many people are unaware of benzene and how prevalent it is, companies will face a battle in convincing consumers that their products are safe. Benzene can be found almost anywhere, and it’s difficult to avoid the chemical altogether. To address the presence of benzene in products, rigorous testing has been implemented by not only Procter and Gamble but also other companies. The issue of consumer safety is not being overlooked but outright addressed in marketing campaigns to put consumers’ minds at ease.

Because of the testing and voluntary nature of the recalls from P&G and other companies, consumers should be proactive with their response but not overreact to the recall announcements. Throwing away any items in their cabinets that show up on the recall lists is suggested.  

The Post-Recall Future of Beauty & Skin Care Products

As a healthcare and beauty professional, I understand the importance of knowing what’s in our products. Consumer advocacy groups and watchdog groups are pressing companies to test for traces of cancer-causing chemicals before packaging items and placing them on the shelves. P&G and other companies also offer reimbursement to consumers who purchased the recalled items. Going forward, companies need to be explicit about what is in their products and diligent about looking out for harmful chemicals making their way into products. When issues arise, companies need to continue to be forthcoming with information for consumers and, if necessary, issue further recalls.

Do you know what’s in your products?

Choosing Medically Clean and Hypoallergenic Products

Consumers can be careful when purchasing products, seeking out items that are certified to be hypoallergenic and medically clean. While there’s no way to completely avoid benzene exposure, focusing on medically clean products can ensure you’re using the best possible products for your health and well-being. Stories about cancerous chemicals and recalls can be alarming, but with diligent research and careful shopping, consumers need not be scared to buy beauty and skin products. 

Simplify your makeup routine with Woosh Beauty. Learn more here.

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Lifestyle top

Japan Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai

Japan Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai Yuko Nagayama Associates

Understanding NATURE & HARMONY in Japanese Architecture

Interview with Yuko Nagayama

Yuko Nagayama’s EXPO 2020 Dubai design reflects a fusion of Japanese and Middle Eastern cultures with an emphasis on global materials.

A meticulously wrapped building in the Al Forsan Park EXPO 2020 Dubai Opportunity District beckons visitors to come inside. The Japan pavilion not only references the meeting between the traditional Middle Eastern “arabesque” pattern and the traditional Japanese “Asanoha (hemp leaf)” pattern but Japan’s fascination with gift wrapping, Origata, and paper folding, Origami.

Inside the building, as guests meander through the exhibits, the latest technology has allowed designers to convey Japanese history, art, and culture, in a futuristic way few would have imagined.

The water features that reflect the image of the Japan Pavilion add ornamentation to the scenery in the form of reflection pools and at the same time, borrow from the traditional methods of Japan and the Middle East. Sustainable architecture is realized through capturing the wind cooled by the heat vaporization of the water.

Taking “Connect” from the EXPO 2020 Dubai theme, architect Yuko Nagayama, Yuko Nagayama Associates principal and EXPO Japan Pavilion chief designer, integrated culture, technology, and sustainability into her design. The pavilion’s façade, with its delicate and slender architectural structure, combines both cultures and embodies Japan’s ability to respond flexibly while integrating with global culture.

“The design represents the fusion of Japanese and Middle Eastern cultures, to represent the long-standing relationship between the two nations,” Nagayama said.

Yuko Nagayama, Yuko Nagayama Associates

Japan shares the stage with 191 nations and organizations participating in the world EXPO, a 170-year tradition held every five years. The event provides a platform for countries to showcase the greatest innovations and latest technology that continue to shape the world we live in today.

Throughout the project, Nagayama and the on-site teams worked together to overcome the differences in the production environment and the regulations of each country. The result is a high-quality pavilion.

“This was due to the fact that everyone shared the same concept that I had initially proposed and we were able to push forward toward that goal together,” Nagayama said.

Nagayama’s design emphasized the overall Expo 2020 Dubai theme but as she explains, instead of using special materials to express Japan, she said, we thought to express Japan using global materials.

The design features parametrically designed smaller membranes, rather than a large membrane commonly used in most membrane architecture, with the position of the shadows determined by the movement of the sun, and according to the use of the space.

Similarly, in keeping with traditional Japanese art and design principles that focus on maintaining harmony with nature, Yuko said “While the lattice is systematic, the position of the membranes is randomly determined by the surrounding environment and other conditions. After the work was completed, various shadows fell on the surrounding area like sunshine through the trees.”

The use of Japanese water technology widely used in the Middle East is equally as important to the overall design and is expressed in the water basin outside of the pavilion. Sustainability is captured through the semi-exterior space by utilizing a small membrane on the façade of the building to block the sunlight. By placing the water basin in an appropriate position, when the wind blows, the building is cooled by the water basin and slips through the small membrane to enter the room. This method uses the power of nature to regulate the indoor environment. The system is sustainable as it can be reused, according to Nagayama.

EXPO 2020 Dubai will continue through March 31, 2022, with events scheduled around the ongoing COVID pandemic. Visit for ticket and travel information, and current COVID protocol.


Yuko Nagayama Expo 2020 Dubai Japan Pavilion designer

Born in 1975 in Tokyo, Yuko graduated from Showa Women’s University in 1998 with a degree in life and environmental sciences. From 1998 to 2002, she worked at the architecture studio of Jun Aoki. In 2002, she established her own studio, YUKO NAGAYAMA & ASSOCIATES. Her major work includes the Kyoto Daimaru Louis Vuitton store, A Hill on a House, ANTEPRIMA, Kayaba Coffee, Sisii, Kiya Ryokan, Teshima Yokoo House, the fifth floor of Shibuya Seibu AB, and Goddess of the Forest Central Garden (a hall complex in Kobuchisawa, Yamanashi). Her many accolades include the L’Oreal Encouragement Prize; JCD Design Award Encouragement Prize in 2005; AR Emerging Architecture Awards 2006 in the UK for A Hill on a House; Architectural Record Award, Design Vanguard in 2012; JIA Best Newcomer in 2014 for the Teshima Yokoo House; Yamanashi Architecture Culture Prize; JCD Design Award Silver Prize in 2017; and Tokyo Architecture Prize Excellence Award in 2018 for Goddess of the Forest Central Garden. She is currently designing a new skyscraper for the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku, planned for completion in 2022 and TOKYO TORCH in Tokiwabashi.

Looking for a companion story? Read my initial article published in 2020.

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Book Review Lifestyle

Dating Tales from the Bark Side

Dating Tales from the Bark Side I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog by Susan Hartzler

Author Susan Hartzler, “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog,”

Hartzler’s Ups and Downs On the Road to Finding Unconditional Love

Dating Tales from the Bark Side I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog by Susan Hartzler
Susan Hartzler’s memoirs shed light on why there’s nothing wrong with staying single.

Susan Hartzler’s life revolved around finding the perfect companion, but after living through a string of disastrous relationships, she learned to accept and even love her single life. Susan’s memoir, “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side,” explores the disappointments, fear, and humor in her life as she pursued the bad boys women often find so appealing.

For many people, men and women included, not having a significant other to celebrate holidays, like Valentine’s Day, for example, evokes a myriad of feelings from despair to intense loneliness. Sometimes, we write off our incompatible choices hoping we can alleviate our symptoms and mold another person into the perfect companion or the ideal husband. But as Susan explains,

“I thought that perhaps there were many of us out there with bad pickers and I wanted to let others know there’s nothing wrong with staying single. I think I was trying to convince myself too!

Susan Hartzler

Dating Tales from the Bark Side shows us there is indeed hope for finding unquestioning love elsewhere. On a trip to the pound, Susan not only came home with a pet to care for – she found the missing link in her complicated life that would make her situations more tolerable. She discovered living with dogs is much more fulfilling and interesting.

What would Susan say to someone who would argue a dog can never take the place of a human partner?

“I feel sorry for them because they have never experienced the unconditional love of a dog. Dogs don’t take the place of humans. They are much better than humans!”

While she doesn’t blame herself for the kind of men she finds attractive, Susan learned the hard way that the men she found exciting, unpredictable, and irrepressibly masculine, were not healthy for her in the long run.

Susan Hartzler's book focuses on why you don't need to be married to enjoy a fulfilling life.
Susan Hartzler with her dogs, Blondie and El-Vez, shown with the Mexican Elvis. Photo submitted.

“I don’t blame myself for the kind of men I find attractive. I mean, who wouldn’t like to be around a bad boy?”

That is, as she describes in her book, until the relationships become toxic, abusive, and emotionally damaging to the person on the receiving end.

Breaking Free from a Damaging Relationship

Which of our needs do the bad boys satisfy?

Susan sheds light on what she believes was missing in her own life.

“I think it has to do with my narcissistic mother. I am attracted to men who are a lot like her,” she said.

For Susan, the possibility of entering into another unhealthy relationship keeps her off the emotional rollercoaster and out of the dating pool completely. At 60, she has chosen to train her own dogs, who are actors and models, and she is an award-winning writer, blogger, and public relations professional. She and her dogs also volunteer for Therapy Dogs International, a New Jersey-based volunteer organization that trains, tests, and registers therapy dogs. The handlers and their dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, schools, or anywhere they can provide love, comfort, and support to individuals in need.

Susan’s Tips for an Emotionally Healthier You in 2022

How to Steer Clear of the Bad Boys

  • Watch for the red flags;
  • Follow your gut and get out of the relationship if something doesn’t feel right;
  • Start by accepting it (your need for the bad boys);
  • Work on loving yourself;
  • Don’t allow your needs to define who you are;
  • Celebrate your bonds with your dog(s) and friends and continue to nurture those relationships; and
  • Consider saving a dog and rescuing yourself from unhealthy relationships.

Self-Love A Key to Happiness

Keep in mind…

“There’s nothing more attractive than a person who loves themselves. And as soon as you love yourself, you might decide you don’t need a plus 1 to be happy.”

Susan Hartzler,

Treat yourself to a copy of “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side” by Susan Hartzler.

You can buy Susan’s book by using my Amazaon affiliate link at no additional cost to you.

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Best U.S. Christmas Towns

Snow-covered, twinkling lights, and the sounds of Christmas music playing in the background are reminders Christmas is coming soon.

Celebrate the Holidays in These American Cities

Best U.S. Christmas Towns
U.S. Christmas village abound. Find one on the map to visit in a town near you.

Are you brimming with the holiday spirit? Or maybe you have time to visit one more Christmas village. Use this map as a reference to locate the Best U.S. Christmas Towns.

Best U.S. Christmas Towns

Best 25 Cities in America to Visit at Christmas Time [New Study]
Provided Courtesy of Amy Pritchett

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and to celebrate the season, the dating reviews website has ranked the Best U.S. Christmas towns.

If you’re in the mood for cozy, wintry towns to get into the Christmas spirit, here are some of the best Christmas towns across the country to visit for some serious holiday cheer.

To determine the best Christmas towns in America, MyDatingAdviser compared 152 well-known Christmas towns across the country on 21 key metrics. They looked into festive activities, weather, dining, hotels, transport, among other indicators of a joyful Christmas break. Using the data points, each town has been given a ‘Christmas Town Index Score’. This represents the quality of the Christmas break you could have there.

Top 25 Christmas Towns in the USA:

Helen, Georgia
Index Score: 85
Blue Ridge, Georgia
Index Score: 82
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Index Score: 77
Leavenworth, Washington
Index Score: 76
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 76
Pine Mountain, Georgia
Index Score: 74
Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 74
Jacksonville, Oregon
Index Score: 73
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Index Score: 71
 McAdenville, North Carolina
Index Score: 71
 Dahlonega, Georgia
Index Score: 71
Bernville, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 71
Valley Junction, Iowa
Index Score: 70
Breckenridge, Colorado
Index Score: 70
Williamsburg, Virginia
Index Score: 69
Ogunquit, Maine
Index Score: 68
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Index Score: 67
Hershey, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 67
 Galena, Illinois
Index Score: 67
Solvang, California
Index Score: 65
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Index Score: 64
Virginia City, Nevada
Index Score: 64
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Index: Score: 64
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Index Score: 64
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Index Score: 64
Here are 10 tips for surviving Christmas this year:
Plan ahead. Many of us spend weeks worrying about Christmas shopping. Instead of worrying, start stocking up on supplies as soon as possible. 
Don’t embarrass yourself at the work Christmas party. This is of course a time to let your hair down but not at any cost! Many people go too far and then regret it. 
Don’t over-inflate your expectations. You can’t expect to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas as it will likely fall short of your expectations. Remember, the most important thing is for you and your family to have fun. But this doesn’t mean being in debt for the next year. 
Don’t try to do everything. If you have the responsibility of hosting Christmas Day this year, don’t take it all upon yourself. You can ask other family members to bring parts of the meal such as salads, snacks, and desserts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Everything in moderation. Christmas is a time of excess and indulgence. However, there is nothing enjoyable about feeling the size of a padded Santa suit or as stuffed as the festive turkey! 
Rehydrate. If you’ve had too many festive drinks, it’s a good idea to have some non-alcoholic drinks in between. Drink plenty of water to help your liver recover!
Get active in the morning after. Get some exercise like a brisk walk, jog or swim to help work off those extra roast potatoes and all those second helpings you may have had. 
Sleep. Sleeping will help you recover from the excesses of life. Drinking and eating a lot can severely affect your sleep patterns. Also, over the festive period, late nights can become a regular occurrence. 
Take some time off. If you can, plan your holidays so you don’t have to go to work. Many burn the candle at both ends with parties and work and end up totally exhausted. Time off will help prevent you from being overworked and overstressed.
Have fun. Christmas should be a fun time of year. If previous years have not been enjoyable, you can try something different this year. One idea is to get away from it all (maybe visit a new Christmas town) and remove the majority of the hassle from the whole festive experience. 
According to Amy Pritchett, Managing Editor at MyDatingAdviser, “If you’re planning a holiday getaway and looking for the best Christmas town to visit in the U.S., these Christmas villages are guaranteed to make you feel like you’re stepping inside your favorite holiday movie.”

She added, “I personally enjoy visiting Christmas villages in November and December with carolers, hot chocolate, and holiday decorations. Celebrating Christmas is an art form and small towns across America have perfected it.”

These small towns take celebrations to the next level with parades, unique trees, miles of ornate light displays, sleigh rides, and enough hot cocoa and chestnuts to send Santa’s helpers into hibernation. Just be sure to check for the latest updates on 2021 events, as some may still have coronavirus precautions in place, like requiring proof of vaccination.”

To view the top Christmas towns in the USA view:

For more information, please contact Amy Pritchett ([email protected]). is a US dating website, committed to offering singles advice and reviews. Amy Pritchett started her website in March 2019 and has a passion for offering people love and relationship advice.

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