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Forget the kids: try summer camp for moms with Vela Adventures Camp!

Do you have kids heading to camp this summer?
Well, why should they have all the fun? When I heard about Camp Via, Colorado’s all-inclusive, five-star summer day camp just for women, I was hooked!

With exciting and fun outings like Standup Paddleboard & Yoga, Whitewater Rafting & Wine Tasting, Horseback Riding & Spa Party, you can love your summer again. 

Camp Vela Denver runs from Tues., June 17 to Fri., June 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Camp Vela Boulder runs from Tues., July 15 to Fri., July 18. You can select to join the entire four-day week or join them for just one day.

Don’t let this summer be just about the kids. Enjoy some time for yourself, embrace your inner child and make this a summer to remember.

For more information go to Camp Vela.

History Colorado’s new exhibit is all about food

The History Colorado Center is pulling back the tablecloth this summer on a topic close to most everyone’s heart.

And stomach.

“You can’t talk about human history without talking about food,” said environmental educator Liz Cook.

” Food: Our Global Kitchen” opens May 31 and runs through Sept. 1, coming to Colorado from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The exhibit, the Denver museum’s first major traveling show, is a full-sensory experience, tracing food’s journey from seed to market, kitchen to table, from early man to even Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

And, yes, that means you get to eat in a museum, courtesy of daily food samplings from Whole Foods Market, the exhibit’s local presenting sponsor.

Not having food was not an option. “It’s like if you went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and didn’t hear music,” said Sharon Wilkinson, community relations team leader for Whole Foods Market in Cherry Creek. “Food is such a cultural experience and such a sensory experience.”

Jelly Belly taste experiment

Jelly Belly taste experiment

In the Taste Kitchen, the beating heart of the exhibit, Colorado brands and products will take center stage in a rotating schedule of themed samplings — crackers and spreads, pickles, spices, sauces, sweets, jams and jellies, juice and milk will all get their turn.

Budding chefs will also be able to use their noses at “smell boxes” throughout the exhibit to sniff out ingredients common to world cuisines, as well as explore the tables of historic figures such as Kublai Khan, Jane Austen and Mahatma Gandhi; and “make” African groundnut stew and other dishes at an interactive cooking table.

To celebrate the exhibit opening, the museum on May 31 is offering free admission to children 12 and under, cooking demonstrations and crafts.

Food-related special events are planned throughout the exhibit’s run, including garden tours, a local food marketplace and a June 3 lecture by Adrian Miller, winner of the James Beard Award this year for his book “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.”

-Emilie Rusch


foodhistoryFood: Our Global Kitchen

When: May 31-Sept. 1 (Museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 12-5 p.m. Sunday)

Where: History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway

Cost: $5 with purchase of general museum admission ($12 adults, $10 students, seniors; $8 children ages 6-12); $2 off with receipt from any Whole Foods Market in Colorado

Area sites serving free lunch to Colorado kids throughout summer months

Summer should be a fun and enriching time for all Colorado kids, but for many it represents a time when children are at the greatest risk of experiencing hunger, losing access to school meals. Hunger Free Colorado and many partners will address child hunger through a statewide summer food program. During the summer months, more than 450 sites across the state will provide meals to children between the ages of one and 18 years olds at no cost.

The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers “food that’s in when school is out.” The program was established to fill the nutritional gap throughout the summer months and serve as a safeguard for children eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the school year, particularly those in households who may not know when or where they will get their next meal.

Free, nutritious meals are provided to children and teenagers at designated sites across Colorado. Sites include schools, churches, recreation centers and other safe community-based locations, and many provide activities for children as well. There are no income or registration requirements for participation.

The statewide program is supported by the USDA, Hunger Free Colorado, the Colorado No Kid Hungry Campaign, the Colorado Department of Education, and those providing the meals—the sites and sponsors.

Families can find other nearby summer food sites and learn more about the program by calling Hunger Free Colorado’s statewide hotline at (855) 855-4626, texting “FOOD” to (720) 432-3285 or visiting

-Michelle Ray

How can I navigate summer break boredom vs. overscheduling?

Dear Mama Drama:

My kids are getting out for the summer and I’m dreading the constant running them here and there and that I’m never able to get anything done. If I don’t schlep them to play dates or other activities they complain that they’re bored. I feel exhausted after these crazy days and then end up staying up late to get the things I need done completed.

(photo credit)

I’d like a different summer experience this year. Any help you can offer would be great!

~Dreading Mama

Dear Dreading:

A change of pace sounds like it is definitely in order for your family this summer. Finding a balance between activities and down time is critical to create an enjoyable experience for all – including you!

Are you doing too much? Start by looking at the activities you have the kids signed up for. Is it a reasonable amount or is there something you/they can let go of? Organize a carpool to sports practices or other daily/weekly activities so you and the other moms aren’t all driving around town to the same places.

Create Mom time. Develop play date schedules that builds in time for you. Arrange for all the kids to be with friends at the same time once a week. Even if it is just a couple of hours, you can relax or run a few of those errands that are quick on your own and take forever when you’ve got a carload of kids. Offer to provide the same opportunity for other moms, so everyone gets a little time off.

Institute F.O.B. When I went to camp as a kid F.O.B. time stood for Flat On Back. This meant we were all in our bunks reading, writing letters, or taking a snooze. We always thought the adults were treating us like babies by making us rest. We didn’t understand it was for them to have some quiet time so they could continue to be patient with us the rest of the day!

Another alternative is D.E.A.R. time. Many schools use Drop Everything And Read as a time to help kids settle down and have the opportunity to read. Your kids’ teachers will love this as it helps keep their literacy skills sharp.

You can also be creative and come up with another version of down time that fits your family. If you do, share it with us!

Let them get bored. Boredom is a great opportunity to be creative and silly.  Here are a few ideas for tackling the boredom beast that I’ve gathered over the years.  Pull out the recycling bin, tape, and glue and let them create building, boats, or anything else they can think of. They can float or race them in the kiddie pool, too, if you’d like. (A similar idea is to pull out the art supplies and see what develops). Gather all of the sports and outdoor play equipment and have them create an obstacle course. And a favorite from an OT we worked with is to have a safari. The kids pull out all of their stuffed animals and then go into one room while you hide the animals all over the house. While they hunt, you get to sit and drink a cup of tea or read the paper. It’s lovely and they’ll want to do it over an over. Last but not least, if they don’t like any of your ideas, offer the opportunity to do chores. This has an amazing effect on their creativity and they are suddenly able to think of something extremely interesting to do… and if not, your floors are swept and the dishes are washed.

Finally, if you are all going stir crazy and really do need to get out of the house, JoAnn and Amber compiled a phenomenal list of 100+ things to do around Denver. Whatever the weather and the interests of your kids, you are sure to find something here.

Remember that you don’t have to entertain your kids. Summer is an opportunity for less structure and more creativity. Let them use their imaginations and invent their own fun – within reason of course. 🙂

Please share your ideas for navigating the summer break blues.

-Lisa Vratny-Smith

Butterfly pavilion now a part of the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield

With all of its plant life, the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield is a natural attraction for butterflies, but the facility is taking it one step further this summer.

A new butterfly pavilion is now open at the gardens and will house 100-150 butterflies at a time. All butterflies will be native to Colorado as will plant life.

“Colorado is a hotspot for diversity of butterflies because of different habitats from the plains to the foothills to the mountains. It’s a great addition to all our other offerings here,” Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield director Larry Vickerman said.

The Botanic Gardens partnered with the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster to make this new locale happen. It’s the Butterfly Pavilion’s first-ever venture outside of Westminster.

The strictly native focus of the Chatfield location is also a first.

“We wanted to create something new and something different for the metro area,” Butterfly Pavilion vice president of science and conservation Mary Ann Hamilton said. “We’ve been in Westminster for 19 years and we’ve never had a native house in the metro area or the state.”

The pavilion is right next to the main parking lot for the gardens. Depending on weather, it will be open throughout the summer and into the early fall. Hamilton said organizers hope to have it open until early October. Since the pavilion will not be temperature controlled, it will have to close when the plants freeze and the butterflies have nothing left to eat.

The 1,600-square-foot structure was built by the Butterfly Pavilion while Denver Botanic Gardens planted the garden with about 50 different species of plants. Hamilton said Chatfield was an ideal location.

“Chatfield has a tremendous amount of space and farther reach south than we’ve had,” she said.

Butterfly Pavilion will keep the site stocked with different species of butterflies in all phases of development. In the spring, patrons can expect to see the monarchs and painted ladies. As the summer progresses, the pavilion will add two-tailed swallowtail, southern dogface, silver spotted, mourning cloak, red admiral, variegated fritillary, common sulfur and cabbage white butterflies.

“It’s going to bring a really nice day-to-day attraction to Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield,” Vickerman said.

The pavilion will be staffed by workers from both Denver Botanic Gardens and Butterfly Pavilion, with some volunteers helping out. Vickerman said the pavilion will also add a nice educational aspect for young people.

“We’re known for butterflies out in our garden,” he said. “It will be nice when people see them in the garden and then come in here and identify them.”

Joe Vaccarelli, Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post

Butterfly pavilion

Location: Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, 8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Road

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, last entry at 4 p.m.

Cost: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children age 3-12

Jeffco Schools board OKs hiring of Daniel McMinimee by 3-2 vote

A badly divided Jefferson County Schools board on Tuesday night hired Daniel McMinimee as the next superintendent of the state’s second-largest school district, as audience members howled in protest and hurled catcalls toward the dais.

The 3-2 vote to hire McMinimee, who serves as an assistant superintendent with the Douglas County School District, was preceded by loud interruptions from a crowd of several hundred. At one point, a large portion of the room stood up and began chanting “stand up for kids” and a woman was led out of the room by security workers after she spoke out of turn.

Final terms of McMinimee’s contract — including how many years it will last, his annual pay and performance goals — need to be hammered out during the next few weeks.

Things got off to a bumpy start Tuesday evening, with board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper pleading with the majority — the three conservative members elected as a slate in November — to allow more than 45 minutes for public comment.

“We need to hear from our community before we vote,” Fellman said to loud applause.

But a motion to lengthen the public comment period failed on a 3-2 vote.

In a clear sign of which way sympathies lay with much of the crowd, CLICK TO KEEP READING


Movie Review: Jolie’s a fun hero-villain in ‘Maleficent’

Maybe it’s too soon to say the tide has shifted definitively. But it’s certainly been a unique time for fairy-tale villains.

After hundreds of years of moral clarity, suddenly we’re getting a new look at these evil creatures, who are actually turning out to be complex beings, and not that bad at all. Really, they’ve just been misunderstood. (And, by the way, those charming princes? Highly overrated.)

The most obvious recent example is “Frozen,” the animated Disney blockbuster that showed us how the Snow Queen, long portrayed as an icy-hearted villain, was actually a tragic victim of circumstance, with a pure and loving heart. And now we have “Maleficent,” which tells us that one of the most evil characters in all of pop culture is equally vulnerable and misunderstood.

Plus, she’s gorgeous. Duh. She’s Angelina Jolie.

All this is a rather seismic development in fairytale-dom. There are numerous versions of “Sleeping Beauty,” stemming back even before Charles Perrault’s from 1697, but the fairy who casts an angry spell on the baby princess, dooming her to prick her finger, has always been, well, just nasty.

But now, 55 years after Disney introduced the character named Maleficent in its 1959 classic film— and colored her skin an eerie green — the studio is back with a live-action (not to mention 3D) Maleficent who’s more superheroine than evil fairy. Think Maleficent by way of Lara Croft.

And though Maleficent is no longer green-skinned, it’s hard not to think of another green-skinned villainess who’s also been rehabilitated, by means of the durable Broadway hit “Wicked”: the witch Elphaba from “The Wizard of Oz,” who, it turns out, we just didn’t know enough about.

And so it is in “Maleficent,” in which director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton take us back to the fairy’s youth to better understand her. She’s a plucky young thing with lovely wings and bright pink lipstick, which will turn blood-red when she becomes an adult (the fairy world clearly isn’t lacking for cosmetics.)

One day she meets a young man from that other, darker world, where humans live. The two form a strong bond. But the ugliest human emotions — jealousy and ambition — will intervene. Young Stefan will grow into the power-hungry older Stefan (the wild-eyed South African actor Sharlto Copley.) And his stunning betrayal of Maleficent will instantly harden her, turning her into the villainess we recognize.

Alas, the story’s still all about a guy, in the end. But we digress.

“Maleficent” is surely targeted to the same audience — young and female — which has so lovingly embraced “Frozen” and its appealing message of female solidarity and empowerment. But “Frozen” felt clever, charming, and fresh. “Maleficent,” less so.

Part of this is due, paradoxically, to Jolie’s star wattage. Don’t get us wrong: she’s the best thing about the movie, and always worth watching. But it blunts the effectiveness of the narrative if we can never quite believe Maleficent is bad. That’s because we know she’s essentially good, and she seems to know that we know it; You can see it in the upturned wrinkle of her mouth.

And frankly, the other characters are simply not that interesting — Stefan, but also Elle Fanning’s Aurora, or “Sleeping Beauty.” The best scenes Aurora has, in fact, are when she’s a gurgling baby and then, adorably, a toddler, played by none other than 5-year-old Vivienne Jolie-Pitt. (In the movie’s one laugh-out-loud moment, Maleficent tells Aurora: “I don’t like children.”)

But Fanning as Aurora is too boringly sweet — especially compared to the fabulous-in-every-way Maleficent, with her blazing lips, fashionable black headgear and exaggerated cheekbones, not to mention her way around a quip.

In the end, “Maleficent” is fun for its appealing visuals — especially in the forest — and for watching Jolie. But that’s not enough to make the whole film interesting. As the minutes tick by, you might even start feeling a bit like Sleeping Beauty herself comes to feel: Drowsy.

“Maleficent,” a Walt Disney Studios release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America “for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.” Running time: 97 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

 MPAA rating definition for PG: Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Jocelyn Noveck AP National Writer

Every Little Bit Counts: Raising Little Heroes Teaches Kids to Give Back

For most of my adult life, I have been searching for ways to contribute to society in a meaningful way.  I have this wish for my children: that they will grow into compassionate adults who know everything and everyone is connected and we should all be doing our best to take care of each other and the world in which we live.  As my children were growing before my eyes, I was all too aware of the fact I wasn’t doing anything tangible to help make this wish come true. I was waiting to have more time, more money and more energy. 

Then one day I realized I didn’t want to be teaching my kids that being generous is something you do when it’s convenient.  What if we never felt financially secure?  I decided to stop waiting and asked some friends if they felt the same way.

We started as a handful of families, coming together once a month in the summer of 2012 to take on simple projects. Since then we have grown into an organization called Raising Little Heroes with more than 100 local families on our mailing list and an East Coast chapter gearing up for their first project. Whether it’s an 8 year old helping pull weeds at our adopted park or a 2 year old drawing a cheerful picture for a family affected by a natural disaster; an infant inspiring her parents to get out there and do something to help make this world a better place or a parent holding a new mother’s baby so that mother can take 10  minutes to sort food donations; or, a pregnant, first time mother making a blanket for a baby in the NICU while chatting with other parents about the new journey she’s about to embark on.  There is something for all of us, a way to contribute regardless of how much.

raisinglittleheroes If you also feel an urge to get your kids involved, know you don’t have to start an organization like we did (although if you are interested in starting a Raising Little Heroes chapter, by all means drop us a line). Every little bit counts, so gather your family together and brainstorm. Maybe you have a neighbor who is sick and could use a hand with yardwork or a local food bank that would be happy to give you a tour and let you lend a hand sorting goods for an hour or two. 

 If you need help getting the ball rolling though, here are some ideas:

  •  Bake some brownies and have the kids make thank you cards for a local firehouse or police station and then hand deliver them

 For more ideas including larger scale efforts you can check out our website:

 Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Sarah Stith lives in Boulder with her husband and 2 children (3 and 6).  Before moving to Colorado, the family lived in Brooklyn, NY where Sarah worked as a dresser at The Lion King on Broadway.  She now works from home and manages to find time between breaking up arguments to build her organization, “Raising Little Heroes” (, a group devoted to finding volunteer opportunities for families with young children. She also writes about her life on her blog, “A Day in the Life of My Little Brood” (

Deals: Summer reading program, library’s used book sale and more

Reading rewards

Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading Program rewards kids with a free book, after they’ve taken eight literary adventures. With help from their parents, kids keep track of the books they’ve read in an “Imagination’s Destination Reading Journal.” Once the list is completed, readers in grade one through six can take it to any participating location and pick out their well-deserved reward from a limited selection of children’s books through Sept. 2.

Drink up art

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (1485 Delgany St., 303-298-7554) hopes to entice more visitors with its just-launched “Museum-Quality Drinking,” a mix of discounted admission, premium cocktails and live music in the rooftop garden. Throughout the summer, the museum will stay open until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday with admission just $5 after 5 p.m. Every Wednesday, visitors can sample tasty cocktails and foods from local businesses, and on Friday nights live music will fill the air.

Senior special

Age has its privileges. On May 31, the 25th annual “Salute to Seniors” fills the Colorado Convention Center’s Mile High Ballroom from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day starts with morning exercises and continues all day with a 1960s vintage car show, live music, bingo, a photo booth, variety shows, a health and fitness center, food samples and resource fair. This year, for the first time, admission is free. Reservations are suggested by calling 855-880-4777, but everyone is welcome. And how’s this for service? Free parking is available at the Pepsi Center, along with free shuttles to the Convention Center’s front door.

Laura Daily and Bryan K. Chavez


Whale call

Friends of the Jefferson County Public Library present its annual “Spring Whale of a Used Book Sale” offering more than 100,000 books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks and videos May 30 through June 1. Most items are priced 50 cents to $2.50. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 30-31 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 1. June 1 is Bag Day, bring your own grocery-size bag and fill it for $6. Book sale proceeds fund various literacy programs. A Friends Preview Sale is 6 to 8:30 p.m. May 29. Members get in free, and new members are invited to join online (details on the website) or at the door starting at 5 p.m. Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 15200 W. Sixth Ave., Golden, 303-403-5075, e-mail [email protected],

Creature comforts

Every Creature Counts has reduced its cat adoption fees through June 8. Cats 6 years and older are $25, $50 for ages 1 to 5 years and $75 for cats under 1 year. All cats have been spayed or neutered, have vaccines, testing and a microchip. ECC’s animals are offered through a partnership with PetSmart, Chuck & Don’s and Petco. A list of locations and animals available is on the website.

H2o is the way to go

The Colorado Water Garden Society is gearing up for its Annual Plant Sale June 1 offering various water lilies, bog plants, floating plants and tropical and hardy marginals along with potting materials, supplies and “pond critters.” Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. CWGS staff members will be on hand to offer advice and answer questions. Members get in the door at 9 a.m. Hudson Gardens, 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 303-423-9216,

Free days

June 2: Denver Museum of Nature & Science,

-Vicki Heath




Denver Day of Rock throws annual free, kid-friendly shows downtown

When 100,000 people swarm downtown during this weekend’s free Denver Day of Rock, they’ll see 25 national and local acts playing rock, pop, R&B, folk, indie and country music across five stages.

But they won’t see Pitbull.

“My friend who’s an agent says you can get anybody to do anything for you as long as you pay them,” said Christie Isenberg, president and co-founder of Concerts for Kids, the nonprofit that puts on Denver Day of Rock.

“But unless you have a personal relationship with them, they’re not going to cut you a break. And we’re very strict about keeping within our budget for entertainment.”

That’s why Isenberg’s fifth annual multistage festival, which kicks off with a concert from the Congress and the Wallflowers on May 23 and continues across the 16th Street Mall on May 24, didn’t reach out to the popular Miami rapper — even though Isenberg wanted to. Pitbull’s reported asking price of $500,000 was too high for a nonprofit event that prides itself on turning a modest budget of $180,000 from corporate sponsorships into hundreds of thousands more in charity money.

“We have a lot of agents that are actually contacting us saying, ‘Hey, we have these great bands. Want to work with us?’ ” Isenberg said. “And they’re offering up all these names for us to book, so it’s really great to think we’re becoming more well-known. But we don’t get a discount (when booking them).”

Denver Day of Rock is the biggest annual fundraiser for Concerts for Kids, which has handed out $3.9 million to dozens of children’s health and education organizations since it was founded 10 years ago.

This year’s main event features acclaimed indie rockers the Hold Steady, Black Joe Lewis, Plain White T’s, the Whigs, Monophonics, Trampled Underfoot, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and locals like Calder’s Revolvers, Katey Laurel and Wendy Woo — along with the usual beer gardens, food trucks and vendors.

Isenberg is proud that her Day of Rock, which was born as a one-off event with a tiny budget, has broadened its appeal over the years while maintaining an impressive momentum.

She was hoping for 10,000 people to show up during the first year. The Day of Rock counted 10 times that — and has every year since. Isenberg credits the free, family-friendly nature of the shows and the variety of acts.

“In some ways free things like this are the best types,” said Craig Finn, singer and guitarist for Brooklyn-based group the Hold Steady. “You might play for people who wouldn’t know you or don’t have a take a big risk to come see you.”

As for the kid-friendly nature of these mostly daytime shows, Finn welcomes the change from his band’s usual late-night gigs at theaters and clubs.

“Rock and roll is 60 years old, and it’s not just a young person’s game anymore, so it’s really cool seeing fathers and sons and mothers and daughters out there together.”

The concert is the most visible thing Concerts for Kids does all year. But Isenberg fears people don’t understand that the nonprofit keeps humming even after the music stops.

“We’re in the middle of rebranding ourselves and changing the name, which is important because I think people have been really confused by it,” she said. “We started as this once-a-year event, but we’re year-round. Now we do a community day with 1,000 volunteers and 50 nonprofits, and last Christmas we wrapped 25,000 gifts for 2,100 kids. Denver Day of Rock helps support that, but it’s not all we do.”

John Wenzel

FIFTH ANNUAL DENVER DAY OF ROCK. Family-friendly music from Concerts for Kids featuring the Hold Steady, Black Joe Lewis, the Wallflowers, Plain White T’s, John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Rachel and the Kings and more. 2:30-9:30 p.m. on May 24, various locations. Free. 303-605-2885 or