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  • 79 cats in Gilbert hoarding situation now available for adoption

    The 79 cats that were confined in a Gilbert home will be available for adoption beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday morning.The cats were removed from a hoarding situation earlier this week and vary in age, size, color and hair length. The majority of the cats are orange tabby and brown/black tabby with short hair.The cats are available at the West Valley Animal Care Center, near Lower Buckeye Road and 27th Avenue, for a no-cost adoption. Each cat must be spayed or neutered prior to leaving the shelter which may result in the animal staying at the shelter a couple of extra days after adoption.The shelter is putting these cats up for adoption because many people have asked about them but they warn future adopters that the cats are not well-socialized.The shelter also warns people that three out of 14 cats tested positive for the Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. These viruses have no cure and can be transmitted to other cats but not to humans or other animals.The shelter cannot afford to test all of the animals so they urge adopters to pay $35 so the shelter can test them before they leave.

  • How safe are skylights? After recent burglary trend in Tempe, an expert weighs in

    Do skylights make your home more vulnerable to break-ins? After a string of recent Valley burglaries involving skylights, we talked to the experts to find out.Chip Marvin is the owner of Freelite , and has worked with skylights for nearly forty years. He was surprised by the recent trend.“I’ve heard of one ten or twenty years ago, but I haven’t heard of any since then,” he said.Marvin says there are a few ways to make your home safer if you have a skylight.Install metal bars to protect the plastic or acrylic coverUpgrade to double-paned glass (more energy efficient and more difficult to break)

  • Former Chandler Hamilton High teacher heading to medical school

    Sometimes, when something is your calling, you just know it. Such was the case for Hamilton High School chemistry teacher Kimberly Weidenbach.Weidenbach loves to teach but there is something that she loves even more, the ability to heal others.Ever since the age of 5, Weidenbach has wanted to be a doctor. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California–Berkeley with the hopes of becoming a physician.At 21 years old, Weidenbach spent a summer in England volunteering at hospitals, doing things the doctors didn’t want to do, and quickly learned that there are parts of being a doctor that were extremely difficult.“Usually when I say I did whatever the doctors didn’t want to do, people start thinking of dirty jobs, cleaning up after things, but actually the most difficult task is talking to families and giving bad news and updates in that area.” She said. “So they sort of put that off on the volunteers.”That experience quickly made Weidenbach realize she wasn’t ready to be a doctor, not yet.

  • School in Mesa may face lawsuit over textbooks

    Friday marks the deadline that an activist group has asked the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools to revoke the charter of a local charter school if it does not agree to stop its usage of two controversial textbooks.Heritage Academy in Mesa is under fire from a Washington, D.C.-based group for the use of two history and government textbooks, “The 5,000 Year Leap” and “The Making of America." Americans United for Separation of Church and State claims the books have content that teaches religion, which it said is not allowed at public schools at the federal and state levels, and is considering whether to file a lawsuit.“We received a complaint from a member of the school community about ‘The 5,000 Year Leap’ being a part of the curriculum in the senior history class, so we carefully investigated this matter,” said Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United. He added that, based on other reporting of the issue, it does not appear the board is going to take action on this request, and litigation may be the group’s next option. "We’re seriously considering that (litigation)," Luchenitser said. "We haven’t made a final decision. If we do take this to litigation, I think we have a very good chance of winning.”The organization sent a letter to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools asking the school revoke Heritage's charter. The state board has not commented on the issue as of July 24.

  • 13-year-old home alone when robbers hit Tempe house

    Two men robbed a Tempe home Tuesday while a 13-year-old boy was home alone."I was at home and i heard a noise," said Alexis Chavez. "Two guys broke in and told me to cover my face so i wouldn't see them."Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said the two men allegedly broke into the home through a skylight near University Drive and Price Road.After hiding under the sheets for some time, Alexis got up thinking the two men had left, but the suspects were still in the home and told him to go hide.The teenager's mother, Loren Holden, works at a hospital and returned home shortly after the suspects left, police said. Holden then contacted authorities."It was just horrible to see him crying," said Holden. "We just ran to the parking lot got, into the car and called police."

  • Town taking early steps toward building park in south Gilbert

    Gilbert officials are working to build a park in a part of town that currently lacks town-owned recreation options.The town’s Parks, Recreation, and Library Advisory Board approved unanimously a plan that would lead to the construction of a new park in the southern part of town. Parks and Recreation Director Rod Buchanan said the two locations include a plot of land at Chandler Heights Basin encompassing 309 acres and a second parcel covering 80 acres total near the intersection of Greenfield and Chandler Heights roads. The caveat with the Chandler Heights location stems from the fact the town owns only 47 acres of it, meaning it would have to reach an agreement with Maricopa County to acquire or use the rest of the land.The decision to build a new park is one of the 200 action items that are part of the town’s parks and recreation master plan, and its placement on that list is tied to the lack of options in the southern part of town. Discovery Park is the public park that sits farthest south in town, and Buchanan pointed out that park is almost 8 miles away from Gilbert’s southernmost point.“If you’re going to do a park, the logical place would be the south side of town,” he said.Mayor John Lewis added building a community park in that part of Gilbert is one of the Gilbert Town Council’s top priorities.The reason for the heavy emphasis is the anticipated growth for that section of Gilbert, which Lewis said is undergoing high growth along with the rest of town — the most recent U.S. Census figures have Gilbert ranked as the 12th-fastest-growing municipality in the country. Adding a park to the region might provide an uptick to that growth, as Lewis said his family moved to its current location due in part to a park near his neighborhood.

  • By the scoop: The best ice cream spots in town

    I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Since July is National Ice Cream month, here are the top places to get ice cream in the Valley.Sweet RepublicSweet Republic has been recognized for their unique artisan ice cream by Sunset Magazine, Bon Appétit, the Food Network and many others. You can try their yummy flavors like blue cheese with Medjool dates, salted caramel or Guinness at their original Scottsdale location, in central Phoenix (coming soon) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.ChurnThis adorable ice cream parlor (5223 N. Central Ave., Phoenix) is located next door to Windsor and serves up many delicious seasonal flavors like vanilla lemon and peanut butter. Our recommendation is to choose two cookies to go along with your favorite flavor of ice cream to make one delicious ice cream sandwich.Melt

  • Waves, slides make Big Surf a classic way to cool off

    Summer gets unbearably hot in the Arizona desert. Even swimming doesn’t beat the heat, but it sure makes it a little easier to take. I grew up hearing my mom’s stories about Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe and loved it when we got to visit the water park ourselves. Big Surf has changed a lot since my mom frequented it in the ’70s, but it still remains an Arizona treasure and a fantastic summer tradition.Big Surf’s main feature is its huge wave pool that unleashes a big wave every 3 minutes. The wave pool is one of the largest in the United States and is open to all, however, swimmers under 48 inches tall must wear a life jacket (Big Surf provides these free of charge). The wave pool was originally sand with a beach. I used to think that was so cool because it was like going to the beach without leaving Arizona. However, being barefoot in 110-degree sand is not exactly fun. Big Surf now has cool decking and a really neat system of paths with streams that keep your feet wet and cool.Big Surf has many slides to choose from, including some for the brave of heart, and an area of baby slides as well. My daughter spent quite a bit of time at the Tahitian Twisters slides. These slides are part of an area for smaller kiddos that is just north of the wave pool. The section even has a covered seating area in the pool facing the kiddie slides so parents can watch the kiddos slide from the comfort of a cool and shady spot.My son prefers a more adrenaline-inducing experience and his Big Surf favorites are the Hurricane Slides. I am not brave enough for this sort of thing, so I just met him at the bottom and snapped his picture. The middle slide is his favorite because it starts off as an almost straight drop down.Big Surf is not as big some other local water parks, but that is a huge plus for me. One thing I really love about Big Surf is that you can conquer the whole park in one day while still feeling relaxed and kicked back. Big Surf has a big and centralized seating area with grass and a great view of the wave pool. Other parks have sacrificed seating areas and open space in favor of cramming in yet another slide. Big Surf is good, old-fashioned family fun on a manageable scale, and it gets a big thumbs-up from my family.• Janice Stenglein shares about recipes, crafts and family activity ideas at Celebrating-Family.com. She also writes about life in the East Valley at EastValleyMomGuide.com.

  • Dierks Bentley performs

    Phoenix’s own Nashville star comes home for a stop on his Riser Tour 2014. Country artist Chris Young also plays.DETAILS >> 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26. Ak-Chin Pavilion, 2121 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix. $38.25-$68. LiveNation.com.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    >> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.A Most Wanted ManPresent-day Hamburg: a tortured and near-dead half-Chechen, half-Russian man on the run arrives in the city’s Islamic community desperate for help and looking to recover his late Russian father’s ill-gotten fortune. Nothing about him seems to add up; is he a victim, thief or, worse still, an extremist intent on destruction? Drawn into this web of intrigue is a British banker and a young female lawyer, determined to defend the defenseless. All the while, they are being watched by the brilliant, roguish chief of a covert German spy unit, who fights to put the pieces together as the clock ticks. Starring: Grigoriy Dobrygin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe. Not RatedAnd So It GoesThere are a million reasons not to like real estate agent Oren Little, and that’s just the way he likes it. Willfully obnoxious to anyone who might cross his path, he wants nothing more than to sell one last house and retire in peace and quiet — until his estranged son suddenly drops off a granddaughter he never knew existed and turns his life upside-down. Clueless about how to care for a sweet, abandoned 9-year-old, he pawns her off on his determined and lovable neighbor, Leah, and tries to resume his life uninterrupted. But little by little, Oren stubbornly learns to open his heart — to his family, to Leah, and to life itself. Starring: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Paloma Guzmán, Frances Sternhagen, Frankie Valli, David Aaron Baker, Austin Lysy, Barbara Vincent. PG-13Come Back to Me

  • Worth the Trip: 2 reasons to escape the heat this weekend

    Dragoon: Garlic FestivalAn Arizona destination you may recognize from TV’s “Hotel Impossible” plays host to this two-day celebration of the odorous bulb that banishes vampires and bolsters recipes.The Triangle T, a 160-acre ranch given a crash course in creating a good guest experience by Travel Channel personality Anthony Melchiorri, is the site of the festival. Nearby RichCrest Farms supplies a variety of freshly harvested, Arizona-grown garlic and will roast elephant garlic on the spot.Activities include a farmer’s market and craft fair, live music, a saloon, horseback riding, cooking demonstrations, a Wild West shootout, and kids’ attractions like face painting and balloon art.The Triangle T was the site of famous Apache leader Cochise’s winter camp and the place where Japan’s ambassador (and his entourage) were interred after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Numerous films and TV shows, from the original “3:10 to Yuma” to “High Chaparral” have been filmed there, and famous guests include Gen. John J. Pershing, President John F. Kennedy and Johnny Cash.Proceeds from the event benefit Wounded Warrior Project and Make-A-Wish of Arizona.

  • City Tribe blends indie rock, beach music

    If you dream of days spent on the beach, a grey cocoon of clouds blanketing the sun, the surf crashing on the shore, you might like the music of City Tribe — a San Francisco indie rock band known for a sound reminiscent of the Everly Brothers, or in more contemporary terms, Vampire Weekend. The group, which includes Jacob Jones on lead vocals, Eric Wallace on acoustic guitar, Duncan Nielsen on electric bass, and percussion from Cody Rhodes, performs tonight at Roosevelt Row’s hip art bar — Lost Leaf — in support of their debut album “Undertow.”Formed in 2010, City Tribe named their freshman LP after an evening they spent at Santa Barbara’s Butterfly Beach. “It was getting dark,” Jones says, “and there was this swell coming in — this powerful undertow. It was so strong, it was bouncing these big boulders along, and there was this tense feeling being in the water there. I related the physical experience to a mental state — uncertainty. Having rocky times, being unsure what’s going to happen, and feeling that same tension and pull in your life. But I’m not just talking about a depressed feeling — there was this hectic thing going on in the water, but at the same time, it was so beautiful on the beach.”“ ‘Undertow’ really reflects being pulled under by a force you can’t see or control,” explains Nielsen. “To me, it’s about being overtaken by something.”The album strikes a balance between two moods; a pensive, fog-shrouded turn for every blissful hit of sunshine pop. And through it all, the band submits willingly to the vibe, being carried by the current of the music spilling out of them.The album was recorded by Andy Freeman at Faultline Studios and historic San Francisco jazz studio Coast Recorders, as well as Freeman’s home studio. The band cut everything almost entirely live, standing in the same room together, and the album’s nine tracks showcase City Tribe’s penchant for spontaneity and their prowess as a live band.The result is pure Highway 1 music — a soundtrack for romantic California; which is only natural, considering every member of City Tribe was born and raised in the Golden State, save for Jones who — while originally from landlocked Phoenix — says he often spent childhood vacations at Southern California beaches and bolted for the coast as soon as he turned 18. He and Nielsen love to surf, and Wallace is a skimboarder.

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  • Are you eligible for a new Medicare Advantage Plan?

    If you have Medicare coverage, you are probably familiar with a time of year known as the Annual Enrollment Period. This is a timeframe, typically from mid-October to early December, when people who are eligible for Medicare can enroll in, disenroll from or change their Medicare Advantage plan for the upcoming year.Once you select a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have a window from January to mid-February to disenroll and return to original Medicare. You can then purchase a separate Part D Prescription Drug Plan from a private company if you would like to do so.After the enrollment and disenrollment periods end, you are locked into original Medicare or the Medicare Advantage Plan you selected for the remainder of the year. However, there are some situations that may let you make a change to your existing coverage anytime of the year if you qualify.A Special Enrollment Period allows you to make changes to your Medicare coverage as a result of a specific circumstance. You may be eligible if you:• Are clinically diagnosed with certain chronic conditions.• Are just turning 65 or gaining your eligibility for Medicare.

  • BidOnFusion hosting auction in Mesa

    BidOnFusion will have an auction in Mesa with more than 20 truckloads of goods valued at more than $2 million.Scheduled for July 26 at 10:30 a.m., the auction will include items sold to large-scale companies like Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot and others and will continue until all items are sold. A portion of the proceeds will got to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation.The event is 1720 W. Broadway Road Suite 104 and more information is available by visiting bidonfusion.com.

  • Wild Horse Pass in Chandler hires new sales account director

    Corey Margulis was appointed as the new sales account director at The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa in Chandler.Margulis will focus on securing meeting and event business in the western U.S. region as well as the insurance, financial and accounting vertical markets.

  • Sonoran Spine hosting open house for new location

    Sonoran Spine will host an event on Aug. 22 as part of the opening its fifth location in Tempe.The open house, which runs from 2 to 6 p.m., includes behind-the-scenes tours and a raffle for Arizona Cardinals tickets, Amazon and Massage Envy gift cards, and other items. Food and drink is also available.The new location is at 1255 W. Rio Salado Parkway Suite 107, and additional information about Sonoran Spine is available by visiting sonoranspine.com.

  • Arizona tourism back to pre-recession levels, still short of expectations

    Tourism in Arizona is now back to where it was before the recession — and SB 1070 — hit, but it's nowhere near where it should be, according to the state's top tourism official.Figures from a study done for the Arizona Office of Tourism show that 39.1 million people visited the state and spent at least one night here in 2013. That includes 24.2 million from other states and 5.3 million international travelers.The last time Arizona came close to that was in 2007 with 38.7 million visitors.All those visitors plunked down $19.8 billion last year for everything from $2.7 billion on hotel rooms and $3.7 billion in meals, to $2.5 billion in retail sales of everything from clothing to trinkets to take home to the family like Arizona-themed clothing items proclaiming “Grandma and grandpa visited Arizona and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”State Tourism Director Sherry Henry said the recovery has been a long time coming, but Henry said there is more to be done.“We're not up as much as we would otherwise like to be,” she said.

  • Grapes, oak lead to 2 new beers at SanTan brewing in Chandler

    One day, while talking with his brewers, SanTan Brewing Company founder and brewmaster Anthony Canecchia was struck with an idea — to mix beer and wine into a single brew.The result is two new beers debuting this weekend: the Oak-Aged Saison di Aleatico and the Cab Franc Barrel-Aged Saison.The two beers were created by blending Aleatico and Cabernet Franc wine grapes with a Saison, a highly carbonated style of brew with fruity and spiced flavors. The fresh version of Saison di Aleatico debuted last fall at SanTan’s brewpub, but the oak-aged edition has been sitting in oak barrels for the past 11 months while the Cab Franc Saison was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels that contained Cabernet Franc pommace. They were tapped for the first time Saturday at the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild’s inaugural Real, Wild and Woody Beer Festival in Tempe and the SanTan brewpub in downtown Chandler.The idea for the Saison di Aleatico and Cab Franc Saison stemmed from a conversation about fermentables, specifically fruits, and combining them with beer. The idea wasn’t a particularly new concept; SanTan Brewing Company already has a Mr. Pineapple beer that is brewed with pineapple juice, but soon the conversation turned to grapes.So, Canecchia grabbed a bottle of Dos Cabezas WineWorks’ El Norte wine and mixed it with an amber ale. He liked what he tasted.“We really enjoyed some of that acidic character that came out,” Canecchia said. “Mind you we were just kind of splashing some wine in some beer and not aging it, so then the conversation started.”

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  • Engineering for Kids Summer Camp

    Engineering for Kids offering STEM Based Summer Camps at Primavera in Chandler. Announces Summer Camp Open House on May 17thWhat is East Valley Engineering for Kids?Engineering for Kids is an enrichment program that teaches concepts on a variety of engineering fields in classes and camps for kids’ ages 4-14. We want to spark an interest in the kids for science, technology and engineering. The camps are all themes based and require the kids to work in teams to address engineering challenges and problems. All programs meet national education standards for STEM and align with Common Core for math and science. Engineering for Kids has operated since 2009, is in 26 states and 4 countries. When and what is the open house for?The open house on May 17th is an opportunity for parents to come and see the facility, meet the staff from Engineering for Kids, and get their questions answered. The summer camps will be offered at Primavera Blended Learning Center at 2451 N. Arizona Avenue in Chandler. The open house is from 11 am to 3 pm.  From 1-2 pm we’re having our popular robotics workshop where the kids will build, program, test and improve the robots. At the end of the workshop, the kids will compete against each other in a Sumo Bot tournament. An RSVP is highly recommended as seating is limited. Please email your RSVP to eastvalley@engineeringforkids.net. What is Primavera Blended Learning Center?

  • Keeping the Faith: Love shines… but not always succeeds

    Love others as much as you love yourself,” Jesus told his followers. These words are considerably more than a sugary Sunday-school story. For those who take these words to heart, “love others” has profound, life-altering implications, not all of which are warm and fuzzy. Consider the life of Bernard Lichtenberg, arrested seven decades ago. His crime: He loved. Lichtenberg was a Catholic priest serving in Berlin before the outbreak of World War 2. When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power, he recognized the coming terror better than most, and made it his ambition to help the Jewish people and other persecuted groups.Lichtenberg spoke and acted boldly in defense of the Jews, and his repeated protests quickly landed on the ears of government officials. Then, as he knew would be the case, these protests landed him in the crosshairs of a Gestapo investigation. After years of tension, Lichtenberg was finally imprisoned for his opposition. During his interrogation Lichtenberg was given the opportunity to recant his words and change his ways. He would not. Rather, he said: “I reject with my innermost the [deportation of the Jews] with all its side effects, because it is directed against the most important commandment of Christianity, ‘You shall love your neighbor as much as you love yourself’.“However, since I cannot prevent this governmental measure, I have made up my mind to accompany the deported Jews and Christian Jews into exile, in order to give them spiritual aid. I wish to ask the Gestapo to give me this opportunity.” Considered irredeemable by the Third Reich, Lichtenberg’s appeal was granted. He was condemned and consigned to the concentration camp at Dachau. Aged, frail, and in a weakened state, Bernard Lichtenberg died while waiting to be deported in November of 1943.It is hard to say that Father Lichtenberg, almost single-handedly opposing the Nazi war machine, was acting in a reasonable or sensible manner. How could he, as one man, ever hope to achieve “justice” for the oppressed? What could one pulpit minister do to dismantle or otherwise deter such a system of death? Not much, except to be persecuted, imprisoned, or executed. No, Bernard Lichtenberg was not being practical. He was being love. Such love can appear like madness, leading the follower of Jesus into all manner of impracticality. Loving our neighbors as ourselves means we turn the other cheek when we are assaulted, we abandon the selfishness and power-grubbing ways of this world, we refuse to repay evil with evil, and we forgive others rather than retaliate against them.The problem is obvious: Loving and living like this will put us in vulnerable, seemingly defenseless positions. To willingly behave this way, in the “real world,” will only get us abused, maligned, taken advantage of, or worse. These “opportunities,” as Lichtenberg called them, clearly aren’t very pragmatic. Yet, pragmatism doesn’t seem to be Christ’s principal concern. We are instructed to love, following Jesus’ own example, not because it is practical, reasonable, logical, or the safest way to live in the world. We actively participate in this way of Jesus because it gives witness to the good and loving God of heaven.Not for a minute should we think that unselfishly loving our neighbors will save the world from all hate and violence. It won’t make our membership rolls at the church grow, get more people into the pews on Sunday, or achieve justice for all society. None of these are the point. We love our neighbors as ourselves not because it always “works,” but because it witnesses. Love for others is a clear reflection of the love of God – and that is the point.

  • Are you eligible for a new Medicare Advantage Plan?

    If you have Medicare coverage, you are probably familiar with a time of year known as the Annual Enrollment Period. This is a timeframe, typically from mid-October to early December, when people who are eligible for Medicare can enroll in, disenroll from or change their Medicare Advantage plan for the upcoming year.Once you select a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have a window from January to mid-February to disenroll and return to original Medicare. You can then purchase a separate Part D Prescription Drug Plan from a private company if you would like to do so.After the enrollment and disenrollment periods end, you are locked into original Medicare or the Medicare Advantage Plan you selected for the remainder of the year. However, there are some situations that may let you make a change to your existing coverage anytime of the year if you qualify.A Special Enrollment Period allows you to make changes to your Medicare coverage as a result of a specific circumstance. You may be eligible if you:• Are clinically diagnosed with certain chronic conditions.• Are just turning 65 or gaining your eligibility for Medicare.

  • Keeping the Faith: Hitting the road

    Here we are, deep in the Here we are, deep in the dog days of another summer. School is out, vacation days are being cashed in, and picnic baskets are being packed. Barbecues are firing, pools are splashing, and ice cream trucks are rolling. Meanwhile, thousands, yea millions, are taking to the great American highway.Seventy percent of the U.S. population will hit the road this summer — off to visit grandma, the beach, the closest roller coaster, or a national park. We just love to feel the breeze on our faces and road beneath our wheels. We can’t stop ourselves from being a traveling people. We always have been.In prehistoric times we hoofed it, walking out of Africa scientists tell us, to every point on the globe. Then we built boats, domesticated horses, constructed wagons, engineered planes, trains, and automobiles – not to mention submersibles and space ships – so that no corner of creation has been untouched by the human foot, it seems. We keep moving, rolling, and running, so much so that the theme song of human history might well be Willie Nelson’s, “On the Road Again.”True to form, Christianity is a fluid faith for a pilgrim people. It is a spirituality of sojourn, of “goin’ places that we've never been; seein’ things that we may never see again.” Yet, we don’t always understand faith this way. Look at how we have structured it, however, and it is easy to see why we most often view Christianity as an incorrigible, fixated fortress rather than a living, dynamic movement.Our doctrines, constructed and accumulated over thousands of years, stack up like heavy stones. They are unassailable, infallible, and immovable. The buildings that contain our worship services are almost always built of rock, granite, or the hardest and heaviest material we can find — and there those buildings sit in the same place for centuries.Then, try being an idealistic reformer who seeks to change a church’s policy or its strategy to meet the world where it now is. If you’re not taken out behind the vestry and quietly crucified, you will find that change in the church usually moves with all the terrifying speed of a melting glacier.

  • In a jam? It's time to think outside the PB&J

    It was probably 15 years ago that I discovered the magic that is a nearly empty jar of jam.Until then, I'd always hated those sticky knuckle moments of scraping the slimy dregs of the jar, hoping I had enough to add that sweet balance so needed by the otherwise leaden smear of peanut butter on my bread.Then an Italian cook who was supposed to be teaching me pasta making got sidetracked. She wanted a salad to go with our orecchiette, and she wanted to make her own vinaigrette. That's when she reached for a nearly empty jar of strawberry jam from the refrigerator, dumped in some olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper. Then she put the cover back on the jar and shook like mad.Revolutionary? Hardly. But it was delicious. More importantly, it changed my relationship with jam. It wasn't just a sandwich spread. And it totally made sense. After all, a jar of grape jelly has long been the not-so-secret ingredient for many a potluck meatball. And since that day, I've used a dollop of one jam or another in nearly every vinaigrette I've made.And that's just the start. I regularly turn to jams and jellies for adding oomph to everything, including sweet-and-sour chicken (apricot jam), barbecue pork ribs (seedless raspberry), beef marinades (orange marmalade), ham glazes (blackberry or cherry), sweet-and-savory dips for vegetables and crackers (red pepper jelly), even sandwich spreads (anything goes!). It's a cheap and easy way to add tons of flavor. If nothing else, you really must try fig jam in a grilled cheese (use extra-sharp cheddar).Fruit spreads — as the retail category is collectively known — accounts for some $959 million in sales a year in the U.S., where some 1 billion pounds are produced, according to the International Jelly and Preserve Association. And the leading variety? Strawberry, followed by grape, then raspberry.

  • Go For the Food: Shawarma in Copenhagan

    COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Don't tell the folks over at avant-garde eateries Noma and Geranium, but for many visitors to Denmark's capital, the biggest culinary sensation isn't Nordic fusion.That honor goes to Shawarma Grill House, which for more than 30 years has been dishing out some truly spectacular Middle Eastern comfort food, including an outstanding shawarma sandwich. The city's high-end restaurants may get all the headlines, but millions of Danes and tourists can't be wrong!Shawarma Grill House lies at the start of Copenhagen's pedestrian-only shopping street, Stroget, nearest Radhus Platz. It has the appearance of a narrow fast-food joint, but ample seating is tucked into the back and upstairs. Usually there's a line of people waiting for a menu that includes standard Middle Eastern offerings, including falafel, kebabs, grilled chicken and kofta (and a hamburger for those with less appreciation for the real deal).But the main attraction is its shawarma sandwich. Massive spits of marinated meats greet diners as they enter, promising an unforgettable sandwich. Servers slice off pieces of the fragrant meat, a combination of beef and lamb, into a warm round of pita bread. They then quickly top it off with a salad of lettuce and tomato and a dash of a white sauce made from tahini and yogurt. And you are set.To those who doubt how those simple ingredients can be transformed into a magical experience in your mouth, embrace it. Leave behind all thoughts of the rubbery gyro meat you are familiar with stateside. The crisp lettuce is a delicious contrast to the tender, moist meat, while the fresh, soft pita ties it all together splendidly. If you are brave enough, add some of the red chili sauce, or harissa, metal bowls of which are at every table. Its sweet-sour-hot flavor is the best complement to the sandwich.For just $6.60 (DKK36) each, one sandwich is filling. Two is even better.

Video: Winter in July at the Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo held its annual Winter in July event on Saturday for the animals and an estima...


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