Illinois Holocaust Museum draws you into history

Update: This article just won an award for Midwest Destinations Travel Writing by the Midwest Travel Journalists Association. 

If a building can have a personality, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is pensive.


Housed in a curious industrial building off the highway in Skokie, the 6-year-old museum stands in contrast to the surrounding area. It is the third-largest Holocaust museum in the world, and is owned by a nonprofit started by Skokie-resident Jewish Holocaust survivors.

There’s a quiet heaviness as you walk through the entrance, and the busyness of life outside the doors seems somehow paltry.

“The mystery of this place is in the details,” said Jerry Lidsky, museum docent. “If you tune into this place, it begins to speak to you.”

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5 sights in Phnom Penh

The most beautiful time of day in the hot, chaotic capital of Cambodia is just after 7 a.m. Phnom Penh rewards the early riser with the last smoky remnants of incense, placed in spirit altars by mothers just before sunrise. It wafts along side streets in half-stride, as restaurant owners sweep away the night’s dust and trash and tuk-tuk drivers lounge in their vehicles.

The best way to see it is by bicycle, weaving in and out of the tumultuous traffic. It’s a head rush.


By 9 a.m., the city is in full motion: See orange-robed monks sitting side-saddle on motos, tuk-tuks swerving around women pushing rattling coffee carts, children pedaling bikes in school uniforms and mothers supporting toddlers between their knees as they moto to the markets.


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Locavore Farm in rural Grant Park lead the way for trendy ‘agritourism’ industry

The crisp cool evening was marred only by the smell of a large, lazy pig, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

You could find them hanging over the bars of his pen staring at all his muddy glory, or on the other side of the farm peering through the fence to watch a rooster strut inside his coop.


Their parents watched them from the bonfire, eating grass-fed beef hamburgers, homemade potato chips and drinking apple cider sangrias. An indie rock band played on a grassy hill, and others threw bags and wandered the 4,000-square-foot garden.

Oktoberfest at Locavore Farm felt more like a well put together family reunion than a 500-person festival — and that’s kind of the point.

“We were drawn to the lost art of sitting around the table with family and with friends,” owner Rachael Jones said. “People step into wide open spaces and they’re around people they know and strangers, around food and music and drink. They begin to detach from the manufactured life, the hamster wheel.”

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5 reasons to rethink Detroit


It’s a city that has been a little off the nation’s radar for years — except for possibly negative headlines. It’d certainly be off the average vacationer’s radar.


But Detroit has a lot more to offer than just Motown and a car museum (although those are must-sees as well!).

It’s obvious from the second you reach the city that change and positive energy are at work. Its city neighborhoods of Greektown and Midtown are bursting with fun bookstores, unique brewery-meets-dairy-meets-restaurants, throwback record stores and a late-night bakery.

An easy five-hour drive away, it’s time to rethink Detroit as your next travel destination for its arts, history, vibrancy and spirit.

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Autism in reel life

In just more than a week, ABC is premiering “The Good Doctor,” a show which follows a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome joining a prestigious hospital’s surgical unit.


The show is a latest in a pattern that’s been emerging in the last few years, a stark shift in how people with autism and other disabilities are portrayed in the media, compared to old favorites such as “Forest Gump,” “I am Sam” and “Rain Man.” While those are critically acclaimed, Academy-Award winning films, it’s impossible to divorce these characters from the disability that defines them.

It’s important for [people with autism] to see characters in media that have autism, to see how it’s portrayed … to see that it’s just one of their personality traits.

But there’s a new model for writing characters with autism spectrum disorder — characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts — seen most recently in Netflix’s “Atypical” (released earlier this month) and the newest “Power Rangers” film (released in March). (If you’re wondering, the Blue Ranger mentions briefly in one scene he has autism.)

Autism is just one aspect of these well-rounded characters. They also fall in love, succeed or struggle with their school work, have friendships and, occasionally, even fight crime.

“It’s important for [people with autism] to see characters in media that have autism, to see how it’s portrayed,” said Jenna Varley, a 24-year-old from Kankakee who has lived with the label of autism her whole life. “To see that it’s just one of their personality traits.”

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Yoga boarding and the Bard

It was a hot, breezy afternoon that I found myself right on Lake Michigan at a Standup Paddleboard Yoga (SUPYoga) class. SUPYoga is sweeping the country as one of the newest fitness crazes, which involves practicing yoga on a 10- to 12-foot-long board on the water: the ocean, a lake or even a slow-moving river.

For those not familiar with paddleboarding, it’s a water sport that started in 1940s Hawaii, although navigating through water standing with a paddle can be traced back as long as man.


It was a warm, windy day when I arrived at Montrose Beach for the class. It’s a popular beach fenced by skyscrapers. The class started with a short tutorial on the sand with instructor Mary Lou Cerami. Only one in our class (not me) had ever paddleboarded before, so she demonstrated the correct way to paddle, turn, get on our boards and stand.

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Discover the tastes of traveling

Growing up in the South American capital of Quito, Ecuador, some of my favorite foods were discovered in the little restaurants next to my high school, along city parks or next to the beach.

Inexpensive, hot, delicious — South American food is a reflection of the culture that makes it. And that’s one of the best parts about traveling to new locations with unfamiliar cuisines. You can discover so much about the people of a place by their use of pepper, paprika or paneer masala.


Ecuadorian food is cooked slow, with love, and best eaten with family or friends. (Which is why these recipes make a lot — expect leftovers.) It may take all day, but the end result is well worth it.

Influenced by the large indigenous population of the country, Ecuadorian food is a lot of rice, beans, potatoes and yucca (a root similar to a potato) — plus fresh fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes and onions are incorporated into almost every meal, and it’s not dinner unless there’s a soup course first.

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