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Inspirational: the collection of H.S. Southam

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Whatever school system emerges in Northern Ireland, it must have a key role for shared and socially inclusive education, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster claimed today. On the third day of the Winter Graduation ceremonies in Jordanstown,

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Helen Keller (LOC)Helen Keller (LOC)

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Contemporary worship music
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Pick Up a Copy Of My Book

Chicago's Navy Pier



Chicago‘s Navy Pier was once a Lake Michigan dock and warehouse, but since 1995 it has become one of the city’s most popular fun destinations for adults and children.

If you’re a parent with kids and you have one chance to visit the Pier, you need to make choices to enjoy the experience. As a parent, you’ll have your preferences. And the kids will whine unless they get theirs. What do you do? There’s help at Navy Pier’s website  – but here’s a hint at what you should expect.


Boat Rides

Parents: A Lake and River Architectural Tour, 75 minutes of gentle sailing on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Kids: Extreme Thrill Ride, 30 minutes of high speeds, 360-degree turns and inevitable splashes.


Parents: Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. A permanent exhibition of stained glass designed by masters of the art including Louis Tiffany, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, much of it salvaged from demolished homes and churches. Near the Pier’s east end. Free.

Kids: The Chicago Sports Museum. Relics of famous athletes and artifacts, including 2 from the Cubs’ 2003 season: a shattered corked bat used illegally by Sammy Sosa, and a mangled baseball that arguably had been snatched from the grasp of a Cub defender in a playoff game — at great cost to the home team — and was later ceremonially mangled, by explosives. Inside Harry Caray’s Tavern. Free.

Local Delicacies

Parents: Chicago-style Vienna hot dog with everything (yellow mustard, bright green pickle relish, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, tiny sport peppers and a dill pickle spear on a steamed poppy seed bun, topped with celery salt) at LandShark Beer Garden.
Kids: Corn dog (a delicacy invented in downstate Springfield, IL), with or without mustard, at LandShark Beer Garden.

Live Shows

Parents: Chicago Shakespeare Theater productions. Some are kid-friendly; many are literally Shakespearian.

Kids: Productions on the Skyline Stage, under a big white tent. Rock shows, sometimes. In summer, Cirque Shanghai’s acrobats, contortionists and roaring motorcycle stunt-drivers are in residence.

Snow Cones

Parents: Smirnoff vodka snow cone, choice of flavors, including blue raspberry. Häagen-Dazs Cafe.

Kids: Alcohol-free snow cone, choice of flavors, including blue raspberry. Häagen-Dazs Cafe.


Parents: Double-cheeseburger, Billy Goat Tavern & Grill.

Kids: Cheeseburger Happy Meal, McDonald’s.

Thrill Ride

Parents: Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, 150 feet high, a slow, sweet rotation providing one of the best of all possible views of the Chicago lakefront and skyline.

Kids: Transporter FX, a dynamic high-speed simulator not recommended for pregnant women, people prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia — or moms.

Backup Ride if Those Lines Are Crazy Long

Parents: Musical Carousel – just what it sounds like.

Kids: Wave Swinger – kind of like Disney’s Flying Dumbo ride with the nausea but without the elephants.


Parents: Chicago Musical Water Globe featuring the Ferris wheel. Plays “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is),” Oh Yes! Chicago store.

Kids (expensive version): Rotating Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, roughly 6 feet in diameter, Navy Pier Signature Store. Kids (less expensive version): Al Capone bobblehead, Oh Yes! Chicago store.

Dinner Entree

Parents: Ahi tuna filet, baby bok choy, king oyster mushrooms, Thai demi-glace. Riva Restaurant.

Kids: Shrimp po’ boy, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.


Parents: Fried dough, topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, Massa.

Kids: Dough a la mode: Fried dough topped with gelato, hot caramel, apple topping, whipped cream and nuts, Massa.

Indoor Diversion

Parents: Chicago Children’s Museum, a wholesome collection of interactive exhibits geared toward increasing young people’s understanding of the world and the way things work.

Kids: Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze, a collection of tunnels, drops, lights, noises and tight squeezes of incidental educational value.

Farewell Beverage

Parents: ”Goose Me” (Grey Goose vodka, cranberry juice and fresh lime), Riva Cafe.

Kids: Goose Island Root Beer, Riva Cafe.




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Teens and Travel


Family Trips Even a Teenager Will Love


Anyone who has ever traveled with a 15-year-old in tow knows a teen can make or break the vacation for the entire family. Or, as travel agent Lynda Maxwell says, “If the teens are happy, everybody is happy. And a great big, fat vice versa.”

Teens are often the most enthusiastic of travelers, but their interests — and schedules — often aren’t aligned with their younger peers or parents. That means that while you might be happiest striking out at the crack of dawn to explore an archeological site, your teen would likely rather sleep in, load up on a huge breakfast and then mosey out around noon.

Those realities make travel with teens a tricky — but not impossible — challenge. The key to success, say the experts, lies in what you do long before you set foot on an airplane.

For many families, the hardest part may be finding a vacation time that works for everyone. Working around school and after-school activities can be a chore. Be sure to sit down with everyone before settling on a date.

Beyond setting the date, you’ll want to make youngsters a part of the planning process from the start.

“Sit down and say ‘what is the best time that we ever had as a family? What was it that we did?’” suggests Maxwell, a national director for the American Society of Travel Agents. “Then ask them if they could go anywhere in the world, where would they choose to go?”

You might find they’d like nothing more than to sit on the local beach for a week. And even if that’s not what you had in mind, you’re bound to get some ideas you can use in some way. “Maybe there’s a compromise in there,” says Maxwell.

Once you decide where to go, hand over some of the what-to-do decision-making to your teenager, says Brad Anderson, co-president of America’s Vacation Center/American Express. “Most teens are online now, and they’re going to start lining up ideas of what to see and do,” he says. “I find teens are fabulous at bringing in great suggestions.”

A peek at grown-up life
They’ll soon be off on their own in the world, so why not give teens a mini introduction now? Take them to a Broadway show, dine at a white-tablecloth restaurant, check out art galleries and broaden their horizons with other decidedly adult outings. Of course, you might want to throw in some typical teen pursuits as well, just to keep them sane.

Cruises are a big hit with parents, thanks to their pre-paid nature and the multitude of supervised activities offered for kids. Many cruise lines now cater to families with children, including teens, presenting them with a host of things to do, from athletic activities to teen-only lounges and dances. The biggest bonus, especially for anyone with always-hungry teenage boys, is all-hours, unlimited access to food. “They can eat all day long, and you don’t come home to a credit card bill that’s out of control,” says Maxwell.

All-inclusive resorts
Although family-focused resorts tend to be limited to the Caribbean and Mexico, they do hold some of the same appeal as cruises — namely, a price tag you settle on upfront, supervised activities and time with other teens. “I like to send people with teenagers to Mexico to the Riviera Maya area,” says Maxwell. “Not only are there great water sports, but there are also Mayan ruins. It’s a good way to get them interested in history.

Active vacations
One way to keep boredom at bay is to ensure your teens have a fun way to burn off excess energy. Consider building a vacation around activities they love: skiing, snowboarding or surfing, for example. Or try an adventure-travel vacation centered on an activity they’ve never experienced before. Whether it’s a family bicycling tour through France or a week of rock-climbing, chances are you can find options that involve every member of the family.

Theme vacations
Find a vacation package that caters to your teen’s interests — and lets you learn more, too. “My 2 daughters and wife just went to Italy to a cooking school near Rome,” says Anderson. “They had an amazing time.” Other themes might include horseback riding, spelunking, or photography. If there’s no package tour, use your imagination and create your own themed vacation.

Amusement parks
“It’s sort of a rite of passage to go to Disney World,” says Anderson. “It continues to be the number 1 family destination literally in the world.” And it’s easy to understand why: Disney and other theme parks typically offer delights for kids young and old. The biggest drawback is the cost, say the experts, who advise tapping the expertise of a travel professional to get the best deals on lodging, meal plans and more. “There are big savings to be had, if you know how to find them,” says Maxwell.

Big-ticket trips
Your child’s teenage years may be the perfect time to head to a once-in-a-lifetime destination. “Take them to see the big things in the world that they won’t get to do once it’s on their own money,” says Janet Turner, president of Turner Travels.

Maybe it’s a trip to Rome, Paris or London. To cut costs, Turner suggests planning your trip during the school year (although she admits your child’s teachers might not welcome the plan, and some schools will flat-out forbid it). “Let them see these things and spend time with you and then write a report on it.”




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After a summer full of Hot 100 dominance, countless parody videos, and a planned90210 cameo, it’s hard to believe Carly Rae Jepsen hasn’t put out a new album in four years. That all changes next month, however, when Jepsen will release her sophomore effort, Kiss, on Sept. 18.

If you’re worried about the Owl City collaborator all of a sudden going through an arty, conceptual phase on Kiss, worry not. “The record is pop,” Jepsen said in a statement, adding: ”It’s inspired by Robyn, the Cars, Madonna, and believe it or not, James Taylor.”

As we highlighted in our oral history of “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen worked with Marianas Trench’s Josh Ramsay to produce that hit, as well as songs from her last album, 2008′s Tug of War. After Ramsay, she’ll be joined by labelmate Matthew Koma, as well as other noteworthy producers and songwriters like Max Martin, Dallas Austin, LMFAO’s Redfoo, and Toby Gad.

Are you guys looking forward to a very Carly Rae fall? Or do you think her hot summer sizzle will have fizzled by then?




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Carly Rae Jepsen and Rick Ross muscle out the competition, Ellie Goulding surges, and Phillip Phillips makes a gigantic chart leap with his Idol coronation song “Home.” Here’s your guide to who’s burning up (and flaming out) on the music charts:

winners.jpg rick-ross-rev

Rick Ross: The large and in charge rapper’s fifth albumGod Forgives, I Don’t became his fourth number one album, selling 219,000 copies in its first week. The sales total was the largest rap debut since Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded bowed with 253,000 copies earlier this year.

Carly Rae Jepsen: “Call Me Maybe,” which this week passed the 5 million mark in sales, logged a ninth week atop Billboard’s Hot 100. The track, the first off her just-announced Kiss (due Sept. 18), is now the longest-running number one single in 2012 over Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which held the peak position for eight weeks and is still sitting pretty at No. 6.

Those two songs, along with fun.’s “We Are Young” — all of which are debut singles by new artists — have now held the number one spot for 23 consecutive weeks, and if Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” can tick up one more placement next week, the new artist streak may extend even longer. More on that in a minute…


Phillip-PhillipsImage Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

Phillip Phillips: The 11th American Idol winner’s coronation single “Home” leaped from No. 84 to No. 9 followingmultiple features in NBC’s Olympic coverage. “Home” sold 228,000 digital copies this week (a 472 percent increase), enough to top the Hot Digital Songs chart and push its total to 844,000. If the momentum continues — ten days after its first Olympic feature, it’s still the top-selling song on iTunes— radio programmers will likely get on board with the track, which would give it a whole additional boost.

Ellie Goulding: Skrillex’s British ladyfriend is thisclose to hitting number one on the Hot 100. Her unstoppable single “Lights” jumped from number five to number two in its 33rd week on the chart. The track’s endurance is all the more interesting given its under-performance in the U.K., where it peaked at number 49. Goulding could become a chart-topper next week, if a certain Floridian rapper doesn’t get in the way.

flo-rida-publicityImage Credit: Alex Kirzhner

Flo Rida: Indeed, the single-selling kingpin has another hit on his hands with “Whistle.” Sure, Phillip Phillips’ “Home” may have slightly outsold “Whistle,” which moved another 220,000 downloads in its 12th week, but Flo’s formidable fanbase and massive radio-power pushed the naughty single from fourth place to third on the Hot 100. With about 1.2 million singles already sold, “Whistle” could reach first place next week. Stay tuned to find out if it does.

Jana Kramer: The One Tree Hill alumnus has her first legitimate hit on the country chart. Winsome single “Why You Wanna” has been quietly climbing the chart for 33 weeks, and now it’s finally broken into the Top 10 at number nine. The feat is extra impressive as country radio is a notoriously difficult format for solo female singers not named Taylor, Carrie, or Miranda.

losers.jpg the-wantedImage Credit: Jo Hale/Getty Images

The Wanted: Everyone loved the British fivesome’s “Glad You Came,” but follow-up “Chasing The Sun” (and its uber cheesy video) just isn’t happening. After nine weeks, it still hasn’t cracked the Top 50. Why the boy band didn’t go with“Gold Forever” as their second single is a mystery to me.

Usher“Scream” dropped from number nine (its peak) to number 12 in its 15th week on the chart. The R&B/pop crooner’s lead single from his latest set Looking 4 Myselfjust didn’t’ have the juice of former album launchers like “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” or “Yeah.” Consequently,Looking has suffered, selling a lackluster 316,000 copies after two months on the chart. His previous album, 2011′s Raymond v. Raymond, moved 329,000 copies in its debut week alone.

winnerslosers.jpg Cupcake_PrincessImage Credit: Will Cotton

Katy Perry: The wide-eyed pop diva’s melancholy offering“Wide Awake” has been waiting patiently at number two for “Call Me Maybe” to give up its throne, but it fell down to number four this week, which has many thinking it could be another “One That Got Away.”

Still, the song is a bona fide success — it reached a new peak on Radio Songs this week, jumping from number three to number two, scoring 116.6 million audience impressions. It still could turn around, but that might be difficult as a slew of fresh singles – “Some Nights” by fun.,“Good Time” by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen, and “Want U Back” by Cher Lloyd — will likely be cluttering the Top 10 very soon.




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