Healthy Active Living with St. Joseph Healthcare

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Take the Family on a Real Treasure Hunt!

Ever heard of geocaching? It’s a modern day treasure hunt using GPS – either handheld units or your smartphone. Treasures of all shapes and sizes are hidden all over the world – and hundreds are hidden right here in the greater Bangor area! Some are in locations you pass every day; others take you off the beaten path. Using specific coordinates, geocachers hike to various locations to find the “caches” – watertight containers that include a log book and a variety of small “treasures.” The idea is to take a treasure and leave another behind for the next adventurer – usually small trinkets like a key chain or jewelry.

How to Geocache in Maine:

  1. There are lots of geocaching sites and apps out there. We found easy to use. Simply register for free and the site will provide coordinates to hundreds of caches in your area. There are more than 250 listed in the Bangor area alone!
  2. If you’re using your smart phone, download a geocaching app. We found “C:Geo” – a free app that coordinated well with the site. Using your phone’s GPS, the app will provide a list of nearby caches.
  3. If you’re using a different GPS device, simply enter the coordinates of the geocache.
  4. Choose a cache and off you go! It’s a great way to learn how coordinates work, teach kids to use a compass (the app has one built in) and enjoy some time exploring outdoors!
  5. Once you find the treasure, be sure to sign the logbook and exchange caches (take one, leave one), then return the geocache to its original location.
  6. Share your geocaching stories and photos online!

The geocache app provides details like nearby restrooms, if dogs are allowed in the area and if it’s a good spot for picnicking. Geocaching is a great way to get the family outside and doing something fun together. You can even make it a learning experience for your kids, teach them about the plant life and geography surrounding the geocache!

Have your own geocaching tips? Share with us via the comments section!

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Is Your Dad the Man?

Is your Dad always there when you need him – equally ready to provide a simple hug or a crash course in electrical engineering? Maybe it’s because he provides the best advice, or maybe it’s because he’s the only one willing to ride the rollercoaster with you – we want to hear how he earned his World’s Greatest Dad mug.

Celebrate Super Dad by telling us why your father is the best (in 200 words or less) and we’ll enter him into a drawing for the ultimate BBQ accessory giveaway – just in time for Father’s Day!

Simply fill out the form below to enter before June 3. We’ll keep your contact info private – but we might share a few of our favorite stories with our readers!

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Fun Summer Snack Ideas

Summer is just around the corner and soon the summer adventures will begin. Bring along a fun and healthy snack that your kids will love.  Let them help you make it – this will allow them to choose their favorites and you know they’ll eat it. Make it fun and tasty – use the fruits and veggies they like most and use them to design a fun snack!waffle fruit cone

  • Fruit Cones – Let the kids fill waffle cones with the fruit they like inside, cover with saran wrap and pack in a cooler. This gives your little ones a fun snack that they’ll love!  Or add a little light whip cream to the top and you’ve got yourself a healthy dessert option for the whole family!
  • Mini Gold Fish Pizzas – Take a slice of bread and use a cookie cutter to cut the bread into a fish shape (or the shape of the cookie cutter) and make your own pizza! Bake at 350 for 10 minutes! This is a great opportunity to add some carrot red or orange peppers to make Nemo!      
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Apple Rings – Slice your favorite apple and cut out the core leaving you with an apple ring. Here’s the best part – spread with Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread (or any spread your family enjoys) and top with granola.  These go great with school lunches and are great summer snacks!

Have an idea to share? Leave your favorite snack recipe in our comments section!


Take a Hike! Great Local Spots for the Whole Family

Ready to get outside but not sure what to do? Take a hike! Bangor and our surrounding communities are full of amazing spots to explore. And there’s something for everyone – from a leisurely walk to full-on climbing adventures, here’s a great list to get you headed in the right direction…

Bangor Trails

The city maintains multiple trails all over town. Here’s a quick summary (you can view the full list with maps by clicking here).

  • Brown Woods – Located between Finson and Davis Roads, with parking off Ohio Street. The 28 acre area includes a picnic spot and dog walking is permitted.
  • Downtown/Waterfront – The Kenduskeag Stream Parkway weaves through downtown Bangor to the Waterfront which runs along the Penobscot River, perfect for walking (dog walking is permitted). Picnic areas are available along the Waterfront.
  • Essex Woods – With parking off Watchmaker Street, Essex Woods includes 70 acres of land and a popular sledding hill. Trails run through wetlands and reforested areas, great for hiking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.
  • Prentiss Woods – Adjacent to Bangor High School, Prentiss Woods is a forest preserve with trails covering 25.5 acres.

Bangor City Forest & Orono Bog Walk

Also maintained by the city, the City Forest is a 680 acre network of trails off Stillwater Avenue. Wooded trails, wetlands and more provide the perfect spot for dog walking, hiking, running, mountain biking, and in the winter – cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Walden-Parke Preserve, owned by the Bangor Land Trust, encompasses more than 300 acres adjacent to the City Forest. It features more than three miles of hiking, biking, skiing and snoeshoeing trails.

About a quarter of a mile from the beginning of East Trail, the 4,200-foot long Orono Bog Boardwalk enables visitors to City Forest to see a bog up close and personal without getting their feet wet. The boardwalk is a joint venture by the city of Bangor, the University of Maine and the Orono Land Trust, and is accessible to wheelchairs, as is East Trail. Bicyclists can park their bikes at the bike rack. Dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk.

For more about the Bangor City Forest and Orono Bog Walk, click here.

Stillwater River Trail

This popular trail follows an old railroad bed and hugs the west bank of its namesake river. The trail passes through a densely forested corridor and offers scenic views of the river. The trail follows the route of a long-since-disappeared railroad that once was used to haul timber from the area. The faint patterns of old railroad ties and occasional spikes can be seen on parts of the trail. Look for beaver dens along the river’s edges. Avoid the abundant poison ivy in this area. Best parking and trail access are available at the base of Noyes Drive at Brownie’s Park. For more info, click here.

University of Maine Bike Path –

A great trail connecting the campus with Old Town. Much of the trail passes through a scenic wooded corridor, following the path of a long-disused railway. The trail offers access to the university’s system of cross-country ski trails, which are popular with joggers and walkers in summer.

Acadia National Park –

Acadia National Park offers more than 120 miles of historic hiking trails, including miles of easy to strenuous trails for hiking and 45 miles of winding carriage roads for walking or biking. Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States. During certain times of the year, it is the first place in the U.S. to see sunrise. Now that’s worth a hike! Click here for Acadia Park hiking details.

Happy hiking! Have more great suggestions to share with our readers? Leave a comment!

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Show Mom Some Love

Jewelry, flowers and breakfast in bed are all great ways to say “I love you” to Mom this Mother’s Day. And if you’re looking for some other ideas to mix it up this year, here are a few suggestions:

  • Is your Mom a great cook? Flattery will get you everywhere – ask Mom to share all her tips and tricks for the perfect lasagna while bonding in the kitchen. Handing down old family recipes is a special way to share the day. Creating a recipe book of family favorites is a great way to step this idea up a notch!
  • Mother’s Day is all about family – so how about a game night or movie night featuring Mom’s favorite film and snacks? Surprise Mom with a slideshow of family photos before the feature presentation!
  • Create a photo album or scrapbook – this is a great project for kids of any age. Download all those family photos and put them in a special book to present to Mom. Better yet – surprise Mom with a family photo shoot to capture some new memories!
  • Build an iPod playlist for Mom with all her favorite tunes.
  • Mother’s Day weekend is the perfect time to get planting. Take Mom out to pick out her favorite plants and give her a hand in the garden.

Have a great idea to share? Add a comment about how you’re celebrating Mom!

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And the Mother’s Day Contest Winner Is…

Your “Tell Us Why Your Mom’s the Best” entries had us in tears – thank you for sharing your amazing stories! It wasn’t easy – but after much voting and deliberation we have come up with a winner. Thank you to Amber Sloat for your Mother’s Day contest entry – your mother will be receiving our Alex and Ani and dinner on the town gift package!

  • Here’s a short excerpt from Amber’s entry: “My mother is not only the best mother but she has also been the best father to myself and my siblings.  My father passed away when I was very young and my mother became both the mother and father to all of us.  People always asked me if it was hard to grow up without a father and my answer was always no, I had an amazing mother to make up for it.”

And we just have to share a quick sample of some of the amazing entries we received… and wish you all a very Happy Mother’s Day!

  • “My mother-in-law gave  birth 60 years ago to the most wonderful boy. He grew up to be the most wondrous man. She is a woman who truly “is the best” as she gave me the gift of having a perfect love, children and family. You went home to be with the Lord last week but I am sure you will get the message.”
  • “How often do you hear someone rave that their mother-in-law is amazing and wonderful? She consistently gives so much of her time and energy to improving the lives of those around her.”
  • “It is not easy to describe one of the most influential individuals in my life, but my mother is the reason I am who I am today.”
  • “My favorite ‘little’ thing about my mom is that she will always be the first person to tell me how proud she is, and the first person to make me laugh when I’m upset.”
  • “I remember, Mom, the many times I cried, but you have always told me to hold my head up high. And ‘Don’t give up!’ you would always say, ‘because God has blessed me with another day!’”
  • “My Mom was a promise from God.  She made me laugh, made me cry, wiped my tears, saw me fail, saw me succeed, hugged me tight and kept me going strong for the person I am today.  She was a friend forever and now she is in heaven watching over me.”
  • “She’s the kindest, most loving person I have ever met and I don’t know what I would do without her.”
  • “My Mom used her nursing skills to care for my Dad when he was dying, she refused to take him out of our home.  I hope to someday repay her the same way. I have her to thank for my beliefs, hard working attitude and my education.  Her encouragement and strong love has made me the person I am today!”

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9 Ways to Sneak Veggies into Your Kids Meals

Picky eater on your hands? We understand! Sometimes we need to choose our battles and just slip some extra nutrition into our kids (or spouses!) meals on the sly. Here are 9 simple ways to sneak some fruits and veggies – and even a little fun – into your meals…

  • Very smooth! Use a blender or food processor to whip carrots, spinach, zucchini and more into an unrecognizable form and mix it into pasta sauce, pizza sauce or soup. Canned pumpkin puree is another good alternative to add to sauces. Peanut butter is another easy one to slip some pureed goodness into without anyone noticing! Matching your colors and flavors is important if you don’t want to be found out – try pureeing white beans to add thickness and nutrients to creamy soups and sauces; slip mashed cauliflower into your potatoes; and pureed butternut squash blends nicely into mac and cheese! 
  • Freeze it. It’s a known fact that kids can’t resist popsicles. Blending yogurt and fruit creates a delicious smoothie – and if you stick it in the freezer (a popsicle stick in an ice cube tray or small paper cup works well), voila – smoothie popsicles! Get daring and add some finely chopped spinach in there – dark berries like blueberries will help mask the green!
  • Play with your food. Use cookie cutters to make fruits and veggies into fun shapes or create silly faces or cool shapes and designs with cut veggies to mix it up and get kids to try new things.
  • Sweeten the deal. While your child might snub a pile of zucchini on their dinner plate, zucchini bread is a different story. Cut down on the fat and sneak in more good stuff by replacing half of the oil with apple sauce! Great trick for muffins too!
  • Dip in! Peanut or soy nut butter, yogurt, low-fat cheese and more all make tasty and healthy dips for fruits and veggies.
  • Get involved! Invite your kids to help in the kitchen and in the garden. You might just peek their interest enough to get them to try a new food!
  • Shred it. Meatballs, hamburgers and other ground meat provide the perfect hiding spot for shredded carrots, finely chopped broccoli, mushrooms and more. Works great in sloppy joes and meatloaf too!
  • Pull a switcheroo. So they might notice this one, but it’s worth a shot – try swapping spaghetti squash for your regular noodles. Preparing spaghetti squash is easier than you think – pierce the skin and microwave it for 5-10 minutes until soft (or bake it in the oven at 350 for 30-45 minutes). Let it cool for a few minutes then cut it length-wise into 2 and remove the seeds. Separate strands by running a fork through them. Saute the “noodles” with your favorite seasonings in a skillet with non-stick spray and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly until squash is tender and moisture cooks out of the noodles. Then simply top with your favorite pasta sauce!
  • Hidden layer. A layer of chopped spinach in your lasagna might just go unnoticed. Shredded zucchini, squash or chopped broccoli or mushrooms hide well in casseroles, tucked inside stuffed shells and more! Grilled cheese sandwiches are also excellent for hiding thin layers of finely chopped veggies!

We wish you luck in the epic battle of kids versus dinnertime. Have some ideas of your own to share? Leave a comment!