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INSPIRE TO MOVE - Stargazing
NOURISHING YOU - Healthy Red White and Blue Blueberry Crumb Bars
HEALTHY HARMONY - Nature is Good for You
GOOD DECISIONS - Sunscreen Safety
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Dr. Kim Shinew Discusses How Best to Utilize our State and National Parks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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INSPIRE TO MOVE - Stargazing
Milky Way with Nearby Constellations by Matt Dieterich 

By Lydia Schillinger
Saturday, June 20 was the first official day of summer.  Due to social distancing,  it may not be as easy to venture out of your home to do your usual, fun summertime activities.  Some outdoor activities are limited, but simply looking at the stars in the night sky is a nice way to get out of the house to spend a relaxing evening.  My family enjoys bonfires and stargazing in our own backyard.  On a clear night, we grab lawn chairs, hotdogs and the makings for s’mores and wait until it gets dark to enjoy spotting our favorite constellations.  Just give your eyes about 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness and a clear night sky will come alive.  If you live in the city, throw a few lawn chairs in the trunk, and drive to a location where city lights are minimal.  Look up and enjoy our beautiful universe!  If you have a telescope, even better, but you do not need the Hubble Space Telescope to enjoy stargazing.  You can see stars, planets, satellites, the International Space Station and even catch a glimpse of a shooting star, all with the naked eye. When observing the night sky, be sure to dress accordingly or bring a blanket because even summer nights can get a bit chilly.

Stargazing is always enjoyable for my family. Have you ever looked up and saw a bright star and wondered what that was?  Have you ever searched for the big dipper or the planet Venus, but were not sure if you spotted them?  Maybe you saw something bright moving quickly across the sky.  Before you call NASA to report a UFO, your questions may be answered, and your experience may now be amplified, by using the latest star app technologies.  I enjoy using the free versions of the Skyview Lite app and the Star Tracker Lite app found on Android and Apple devices.  They both allow you to view constellations wherever you point your phone.  It does not have to be nighttime for these apps to work.  I can view the sky from my makeshift office in my dining room any time of the day. 

Depending on where you are located on the globe, you will be able to view different constellations. The largest northern constellations that should be visible from Illinois are Ursa Major, Hercules, Pegasus, Draco, Leo, Boötes and Pisces.  The smallest constellations in the northern sky are Equuleus, Sagitta, Triangulum, Corona Borealis, and Canis Minor.  Watch the Perseids Meteor shower from July 17-Aug 24, with peak dates on Aug 11 and 12.  If you have not witnessed it, you really should check it out!

To learn more about these constellations, meteor showers and 30 years of discovery, check out the Hubble Space Telescope  or visit NASA.  Two of our very own Universities have great astronomy programs for you to learn more about the universe!  Check out the UIS Astronomy-Physics department  to learn more about the Observatory that keeps tabs on massive stars that may become supernova in the nearby M33 galaxy.  You may also join a star partyUIUC Astronomy researchers contribute to paradigm-shifting observations of the gargantuan black hole at the heart of distant galaxy Messier 87.

Get out of the house tonight and look up; you may just see something amazing!

 Healthy Red White and Blue Blueberry Crumb Bars

Recipe by Leana Coffey
Vegan; Gluten Free; Whole Grain; Soy Free; Dairy Free; Easy
Yields one 9x5’ loaf, serves 8

If you’re a sucker for a yummy crumble bar like I am, you’re going to love this one!  When you take the first bite of this heavenly deliciousness, you won’t miss all the butter, sugar, and all-purpose flour in a traditional crumble bar. Healthy ingredients coupled with sweet strawberries and tart blueberries make the perfect combination for a tasty, gluten-free treat that anyone can enjoy.


Berry Filling:

  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sweetener of choice
    (I used Stevia Extract Baking Blend)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ tsp lemon juice

Oat Bars

  • 1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup natural almond butter
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt


  • 1/3 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 9”x5” loaf pan with aluminum foil, keeping some above the rim to use as handles to lift out the bars.
  2. For the berry filling, in a medium sized bowl, add the strawberries, sweetener, cornstarch, chia seeds, and lemon juice. Toss the berries around until the cornstarch is no longer visible and the berries start to release some juice. Set aside.
  3. For the oat bars, in a large bowl, add the oats, almond butter, coconut, maple syrup, and salt. Stir until well combined and the mixture sticks together if you press some between your hands.
  4. Reserve ¾ cup of the oat bar mixture.
  5. With the remaining amount of the oat bar mixture, firmly press it into the prepared loaf pan using your hands or the bottom of a flat cup.
  6. Evenly spread the berry mixture on top of the oat bar mixture (including the liquid that gets released).
  7. Crumble the reserved ¾ cup of oat bar mixture on top of the berry filling.
  8. Add the blueberries on top. Lightly press the top of the bars down so that everything sticks together.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 22 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch.
  10. Allow the bars to cool almost completely in the pan (about 30 min). Then remove from the pan using the aluminum foil as handles. Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting (you can put them in the fridge to speed this step up, if you’d like).
  11. Slice them into squares and enjoy!

Nutrition Information: Calories 241 | Fat 14g | Carbs 27g | Protein 6g

Waterfall picture take by Jacqueline Billhymer 

By Jackie Billhymer
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
~ Frank Lloyd Wright

When we talk about wellness, eating right, exercising and finding ways to reduce stress (yoga, for example) are all common ways to be a happy, healthier you. We are advised to get enough nutrients such as vitamins D, C, A, B-12, magnesium, iron, calcium…the list goes on. While it is important to meet your recommended daily allowance, you should also get a daily dose of nature.

Countless studies support the health and mental benefits of the great outdoors. The National Park Service’s Healthy Park Healthy People cites evidence that parks have a direct correlation to improved health and wellbeing. Spending time in nature is shown to improve concentration, memory, heart health, reduce attention fatigue (hello, Zoom meetings!), and so much more. As little as five minutes walking in nature can improve your mood and reduce stress.

A perfect summertime activity to get out and enjoy nature is camping. Whether you are camping with a tent in your backyard or with all the amenities of home in a campground on the lake, camping in Illinois is easy. Illinois has numerous parks where camping is available. My family and I took our hybrid camper to Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County last October [see picture above]. I was surprised that it is only a little over an hour straight north of Bloomington. There are plenty of trails and the scenery is magnificent.

We took this weekend adventure in the middle of the busiest six-week period of work that I have ever had. At first, I was reluctant to go away for the weekend. How could I? I had so much to do! My husband was insistent that it was what our family needed. Waking up to birds chirping and stepping outside to fresh morning air was the perfect start to each day we were there. We had the best time, and he was right (but please don’t tell him I said that).

Camping is just one example of something fun to try this summer. We are lucky to have many nature parks right here in our area – Lake of the Woods in Mahomet, Homer Lake, Kickapoo State Recreation Area in Oakwood and one of my favorites, Allerton Park in Monticello. Or, go a little further! Make sure to check out the national and state park resources in this month’s interview. The websites provide great information about planning a visit to one of our extraordinary parks.

Whatever you do this summer, try to incorporate activities in nature and let us know if you experience an improvement in your health and wellbeing!

Cartoon of two people putting on their sunscreen before they go out in the sun

By Christina A. Worthington
Too often, protecting your skin from the harsh summer sun is an afterthought. Once you’re in the safety of shade and you’ve suffered a sunburn, the damage to your skin has been done. Getting in a habit of providing sun protection for your skin, will not only prevent sunburns but also improve your long-term skin health. Even if you’re already an avid skin protector, you may have some misconceptions about skin safety when it comes to the sun.

Here are a few common misconceptions regarding UV safety:

Sunscreen application. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. This allows the skin to absorb the product, giving you the maximum benefit. Sunscreen should also be applied from head to toe with enough product to fill a shot glass (approx. 1 ounce).

Storing sunscreen. Never leave your container of sunscreen on your pool chair, towel, or anywhere else it can be exposed to the sun. If you’ve got access to a cooler, try storing your sunscreen inside for a cooling effect and maximum protection from UV rays.

Water resistant. No sunscreen is waterproof! All sunscreen comes off with water or sweat. Sunscreens labeled "water resistant" are required to be tested according to the required SPF test procedure. The labels are required to state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating, and all sunscreens must provide directions on when to reapply.

Sunscreen lingo. Understanding the terminology used on sunscreen labels is important. Here are a few common ones:

  • Broad Spectrum: Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two types of UV radiation that you need to protect yourself from – UVA and UVB. Broad spectrum provides protection against both by providing a chemical barrier that absorbs or reflects UV radiation before it can damage the skin.
  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF): The SPF value indicates the level of sunburn protection provided by the sunscreen product. Higher SPF values will provide greater sunburn protection. However, SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure (SPF 15 does not equal 15 hours of sun protection) but to amount of solar exposure.

Expiration dates. Just like all other products, sunscreen products have expiration dates. It’s important to check these dates to ensure that your sunscreen products are providing the benefits you expect them to. If there is no expiration date on your sunscreen, the product should remain stable for around three years. The product should be discarded if you’re unsure of the time of purchase as its effectiveness can’t be guaranteed.

Think you’re well versed in sunscreen safety? Test your knowledge by taking the FDA’s Sunscreen Quiz! For more information on sunscreen safety, you can visit the US Food and Drug Administration’s website where the content for this article was obtained from. As always, you should consult with a trusted medical professional for specific guidance on sun safety.

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Dr. Kim Shinew Discusses How Best to Utilize our State and National Parks During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Photo of Dr. Kim Shinew 

By Seth Yoder
This month Seth Yoder had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Kim Shinew and discuss how best to utilize our State and National Parks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Shinew is a professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism and has been at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign since 1993. The majority of her work is in the area of Equity and Access for underserved populations specifically providing access to parks and green spaces to these populations.

Q. As more people begin to emerge from the quarantine they will want to take advantage of outdoor activities particularly at our State and National Parks. Are there things we should be aware of before we start planning our trips?

A. While outdoor public spaces are safer than indoor spaces we should remember to continue to practice social distancing, wear masks when safe distancing cannot be maintained, and carry some type of hand sanitizer to keep hands clean.

Q. While at a State or National Park there are going to be a number of activities we could do and sites we could see. Are there any activities you would recommend, and if so what can we do to best prepare ourselves?

A. The great thing about activities at State and National Parks is they can often be done with limited contact with others. Activities like hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking are great examples of activities that can be done with little to no contact with other visitors. A couple of things to remember when preparing to visit a State or National Park is to make sure the activity you are interested in is open to the public (for example, canoe rentals). I would also recommend visiting a park that has a variety of activities in case your first option isn’t available you can always resort to plan B.

Q. There are so many great State Parks around Illinois. Will all of the State Parks be open this summer and is there a way we can find out more information about which parks will be open and what services will be available?

A. All Illinois State Parks are currently open, but it is important to keep in mind that not all facilities and services may be open within each park. It will be important to continue to check the park website or call the visitor center for the most up-to-date information as you prepare for your visit.

Q. Do you have any final thoughts or advice you would like to share?

A. State and National Parks are great places to visit and often have the most sought after attractions. However, that also means they draw the largest crowds. If you’re looking for an escape to the great outdoors without all the people – forest preserves and national forest service lands may be just what you’re looking for. Illinois has great forest preserves scattered all over the state and many of them provide the same or similar activities you will find at a state park.

For more information on state and national parks and forest preserves please check out the links below:

National Parks

Illinois State Parks

Illinois Forest Preserves