Visiting a cruise line’s private island? Don’t make these 11 mistakes

Visiting a cruise line’s private island? Don’t make these 11 mistakes

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Canada says don’t travel to Ukraine over Russian aggression

The Canadian government is urging its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Ukraine, in a new advisory citing “Russian aggression.”

Moscow has stationed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, and the United States said on Friday it feared Russia was preparing a pretext to invade if diplomacy failed to meet its objectives.

“We have changed the risk level for Ukraine to avoid non-essential travel due to ongoing Russian aggression and military buildup in and around the country,” the Canadian government said in a travel advisory issued late Saturday.

Separately, the government recommends that no non-essential travel outside Canada take place due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a hard line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly is to visit Kyiv next week to reaffirm Canada’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty and reinforce efforts to deter “aggressive actions” by Russia, Ottawa said earlier.

Joly will meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal and travel to the west of the country to speak to a 200-strong Canadian training mission that has been there since 2015.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marta Morgan and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke on Friday and pledged continued close coordination to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and called for Russian de-escalation, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Saturday.

Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine, but says it could take unspecified military action unless its demands – including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Kyiv – are met.

After talks between the United States, its European allies and Russia ended last week, U.S. officials warned that the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained high.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday and “emphasized that any military incursion into Ukraine would have serious consequences, including co-ordinated sanctions.”

Canada has imposed punitive measures on more than 440 individuals and entities over the annexation of Crimea.

With a file from staff

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Don’t travel this weekend if you don’t have to

The Illinois Department of Transportation is urging drivers to postpone any unnecessary travel due to snow, rain and bitter cold temperatures expected this weekend.

A strong storm system with a wide range of weather is expected starting New Year’s Day. 

Rain and several inches of snow are expected across Illinois as well, IDOT said. 

A wintry mix with minor ice accumulations is also possible. This will be most prevalent between Interstate 80 and I-70 on Saturday.

“IDOT crews will be out on the roads, but conditions could still be extremely hazardous, so we encourage motorists to ask themselves if they really need to make the trip,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “If you do have to travel, remember that the bitter cold and wind reduces the effectiveness of the materials we use to treat snow and ice. There will be lengthy travel times so make sure to prepare your vehicle in the event you are stranded.”

On Saturday afternoon, gusty north winds will create blowing and drifting snow on east-west roads. The system could also trigger severe storms south of I-64 starting Friday evening and into Saturday.


Damaging winds and a few tornadoes are possible.

Heavy rainfall on Friday could produce minor flooding of roads in low-lying and poor drainage areas, IDOT said.

Wind chills on Sunday could fall between zero and -20 degrees west of the I-55 corridor.

IDOT is encouraging drivers to slow down and remain patient this weekend. 

For regular updates on statewide road conditions, visit

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Travel tip: Don’t bring wrapped holiday gifts onto a flight

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

SPOKANE, Wash.– The wrong person might be opening any holiday gifts you bring on a flight with you.

Before you get upset at TSA agents for ripping through your beautifully wrapped presents, know the agency gave you a heads-up it could happen. Their solution? Use gift bags.

Even if your gift is okay to fly, it could still trigger an alarm at the checkpoint. When that happens, a TSA officer could unwrap your belongings to see what set off the alarm.

So, leave it to Santa to fly with the wrapped gifts.

If you plan on bringing a liquid gift, like perfume or cologne, it can’t be brought on your carry-on if its more than 3.4 ounces.

If you’re not sure and don’t want to risk losing something, you can contact the AskTSA team on Twitter and Facebook. Help is available there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET on weekends and holidays.

RELATED: Here’s how to check road conditions before you travel

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British expats in Ireland warn fellow Britons: ‘Don’t be a stuck up arrogant Brit’ | Travel News | Travel

Jeff Smith answered a question on Quora about the way Irish people see Britons in Ireland.

He said: “There are approximately 300,000 Brits living in Ireland including me, English born. I don’t know the breakdown between English, Scottish or Welsh. I have heard Scottish accents, but not any Welsh.”

Jeff shared he had not “bothered renewing my UK passport” and was quite content where he was.

Eamon O’Kelly, who grew up in Ireland, said Britons were welcomed.

READ MORE: Safest city in the world for British expats

Jeff Smith answered a question on Quora about the way Irish people see Britons in Ireland.

He said: “There are approximately 300,000 Brits living in Ireland including me, English born. I don’t know the breakdown between English, Scottish or Welsh. I have heard Scottish accents, but not any Welsh.”

Jeff shared he had not “bothered renewing my UK passport” and was quite content where he was.

Eamon O’Kelly, who grew up in Ireland, said Britons were welcomed.

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Here’s What Happens When You Don’t File Taxes

  • Filing a federal tax return by the deadline — typically April 15 — is an annual tradition for most Americans.
  • But failing to file a tax return can result in additional costs in the form of penalties, and interest.
  • While not everyone needs to file, you should determine your status to avoid penalties.
  • This article was reviewed for accuracy and clarity by Luis Rosa, an expert on Personal Finance Insider’s tax review board.
  • See Personal Finance Insider’s picks for the best tax software »

Filing a tax return can be an arduous process. That’s one of the reasons that Americans spend so much time and money filing their tax returns. And with so many changes — some proposed — to tax rules and regulations over the past few years, it’s understandable.

But how do you even know if you need to file a tax return? Given that avoiding filing taxes altogether could potentially save you some time, money, and stress, forgoing the annual tradition can be an attractive option. However, there are consequences for failing to file a tax return that you should be aware of.

First, determine whether you need to file taxes

First things first: Do you even need to file a tax return? It’s worth it to take the time to find out. For reference, many Americans do not pay income tax — in 2020, more than 60% of households did not, an increase from roughly 44% in 2019, in part due to pandemic-related issues. In short, not everyone needs to file a federal tax return.

It mostly comes down to your filing status, and how much money income you earned over the course of the year, and it’s on you to figure it all out.

“The tax system is one of self-appraisal,” says David Beck, a Dix Hills, NY-based CPA. “The government relies on you to tell the truth, to pay your taxes, and file a return.” And those taxes need to be paid, and a return filed, by the tax deadline — which is April 15, during most years. 

So, how do you know if you need to file a tax return? There are a lot of things to take into consideration, so it may be best to consult a professional before you decide to stand pat. Here are some general guidelines to help you make the determination:

  • If your gross income for the year is less than the standard deduction of $12,400 ($12,550 for 2021) for a single filer, $18,800 for Head of Household, or $24,800 ($25,100 for 2021) for married (filing jointly) filers, you do not need to file a tax return. You are required to file a tax return if you have $400 or more in net self-employment income. Your standard deduction is limited if you are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
  • If you are 65 or older, the minimum income threshold for single filers is slightly more: $14,050 ($14,250 for 2021). For people who are married and filing jointly, it’s $27,400 ($27,800 if both 65 or older for 2021).
  • You can do a basic determination by comparing your gross income to the standard deduction. “If your income is less than the standard deduction, there’s no filing requirement,” says Beck.

What happens if I don’t file taxes? 

While not everyone needs to file a tax return every year, many, if not most people will. But what happens if you don’t file a tax return when you are required to? Several things will happen, although it may take some time. Here’s what you can expect if you don’t file taxes:

1. You’ll receive a summons from the IRS

If you forget, or otherwise neglect to file a tax return, you can expect to receive a summons from the IRS — sort of a not-so-friendly reminder. Just because you didn’t tell the IRS you earned money in the past year doesn’t mean that your employer didn’t!

If you do receive a summons, it’ll be a part of the IRS collection process — that means that the IRS believes you do, in fact, owe taxes. The IRS will send you a summons via snail mail, and it will legally compel you to meet with the IRS to try and determine your tax liability. 

But Beck says it’s possible that you won’t hear anything. However, if the IRS finds that there’s been “willful neglect to file a return” on your part, the IRS can then look at your entire tax history in search of fraud — whereas typically, the IRS would only look at the past three years. So, that’s something to be aware of.

2. You’ll be charged failure to file penalties 

The IRS will also hit you where it hurts: Your wallet. Again, you’ll receive notice that you’re being hit with a penalty by mail, and there are a number of reasons that you could potentially incur a penalty

But generally, for failing to file a tax return, penalties are calculated as such:

  • A Failure to File Penalty of 5% of the unpaid tax obligation for each month your return is late (won’t exceed 25% of total unpaid taxes.
  • A Failure to Pay Penalty may also be applied (and potentially reduce the Failure to File Penalty if affecting the same months).
  • The Failure to File Penalty will max out after five months.
  • After 60 days, you’ll owe a minimum Failure to File Penalty of $435, or “100% of the tax required to be shown on the return, whichever is less,” according to the IRS.

3. You’ll pay interest 

Interest is in the mix, too, for those who fail to file a tax return. You’ll accrue interest starting on the due date of the amount you owe, or when your tax return was due. So, you may end up paying interest on your unpaid tax, and then have to pay a penalty, plus interest on that penalty. 

The IRS uses the federal short-term rate (which fluctuates), plus 3%, to determine how much interest you’ll owe on your unpaid taxes. Failure to Pay Penalty interest is equal to 0.5% for each month. 

4. You’ll lose your state tax refund

It’s also possible that the IRS may levy (i.e., seize your funds) your state tax refund through the State Income Tax Levy Program (SITLP). The levy is meant to offset the federal taxes you may owe. In this case, the state should send you a notification of the levy, and the IRS will, too, after it takes the funds, giving you the chance to appeal.

5. Your federal payments might be affected

There’s also the chance that further levies could be enacted—through the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP). This program allows the IRS to enact a continuous levy on specific federal payments in order to collect overdue taxes. 

These are the payments that could possibly be levied under the program:

  • Federal employee retirement annuities: If you were a federal employee, certain annuities may be subject to levies. 
  • Federal payments made to you: If you were or are a federal contractor or vendor doing business with the government, these payments may be levied. Also, if you’re a federal employee, your salary may be levied.
  • Travel advances or reimbursements: If you’re a federal employee, reimbursements for travel costs may be withheld.
  • Social Security benefits: Certain benefits can be levied.
  • Others: Among the other funds that can be levied, per the IRS, are Medicare provider and supplier payments, benefits paid out by the Railroad Retirement Board, and by the Military Retirement Fund.

If you need more time to file 

If you are aware that you need to file a return, and simply need more time to do it, you can always file for an extension. It’s pretty straightforward: You will need to submit Form 4868 to the IRS, either online, or by mail by the filing deadline.

But remember that if you think that you’ll end up owing the government money, you’ll need to send the IRS a payment by the tax deadline regardless of whether you file an extension. You’ll need to make an estimation of your liability when you submit your extension. If you don’t think you can pay the full amount due, don’t let that stop you from filing your return on time. You can file your return even if you cannot pay the full amount due and request an installment agreement. If you think you’re getting a refund, though, there’s no need to pay, just fill out and submit the extension form.  

The financial takeaway

Filing a tax return can be stressful. But it’s often a lot scarier than it sounds — for most people, anyway. If you remember to make a reasonable effort to determine whether you even need to file, and then carve out an afternoon to fill out the correct paperwork, it may not even cost you a penny to file. In fact, it may net you a refund.

Just remember: Neglecting to file a return could end up costing you more down the road than if you just bite the bullet, take the time, and file by the tax deadline. “Everyone hates it, but you gotta do it,” says Beck.

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US coronavirus: You don’t have to change holiday plans due to Omicron if you’re vaccinated, Fauci says. But don’t wait to get a booster

With the Delta variant still spreading — and travel expected to increase this month — vaccinations are key to safely enjoying end-of-the-year festivities.
“Just as I said and I’ll say it again, if you have a vaccinated situation, enjoy the holidays with your family in a family setting,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a CNN Global Town Hall on Wednesday.
But it’s clear that vaccinations have been effective against other coronavirus variants, including the Delta variant that is still raging in hotspots across the US. And Fauci said their success against Delta may also be seen with Omicron.

“That’s where we’re hoping we’ll see with the Omicron variant, that if you get your levels high enough it’ll spill over and get cross-protection against that variant,” Fauci said, adding that it is still not clear whether people will need yearly or more frequent Covid-19 booster shots.

Some Americans may be asking if they should wait to get a Covid-19 booster depending on what scientists learn about the Omicron variant, but Fauci said to not wait.

“Get that extra boost now,” Fauci said. “The level of antibodies that rise and go up following a boost is much, much higher than the peak level that you get after your second dose of a two-dose vaccine.”

As officials prep for Omicron, US hospitals are still battling severe Delta variant infections
The first confirmed case in the US of the Omicron variant was identified in California on Wednesday. Fauci said the person was fully vaccinated and is experiencing “mild symptoms, which are improving at this point.”

A second case has been found in a Minnesota resident who had traveled to New York City. The person — an adult male — was vaccinated, had mild symptoms on November 22 and was tested on November 24. He has since recovered, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

New York officials are asking individuals who attended a conference at the Javits Center between November 18-22 to get tested following revelations that the Minnesota resident also attended the conference. Proof of vaccination was required to attend the convention, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday.

Health officials expect to find more Omicron cases as genetic sequencing continues around the country.

The Delta variant is still at the forefront of health officials’ minds as it accounts for practically all new infections. Nearly 58,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data from US Health and Human Services.

Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday that he hopes so-called “Covid-19 fatigue” will not prevent people from getting vaccinated.

“Even if the Omicron strain doesn’t turn out to be any worse, we are losing close to a thousand people every day from the Delta variant, and that in and of itself is a reason for people to get boosted,” Besser said.

A person is tested for Covid-19 inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on December 01, 2021

Travel concerns remain

With Omicron detected in at least 25 countries and territories, officials are working to find those infected and are cautioning those at higher risk of severe symptoms to avoid travel.
In the US, the Biden administration announced restrictions last week against travelers, with the exception of US citizens and legal permanent residents, from entering the US from eight southern African nations. The Omicron variant was first identified by South African scientists.
Biden to extend transportation mask mandate through March
Following an earlier CDC order that airlines must collect contact information from passengers before their arrival to notify of possible Covid-19 exposures, the agency plans to provide the names of those on flights from southern Africa to state and local public health departments, a health official confirms. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines told CNN they are complying with the directive.

Fauci told a White House news briefing Wednesday that the travel bans are meant to be “temporary” and were needed to slow the variant’s arrival, rather than the highly unlikely task of stopping it completely.

“No one feels — I certainly don’t — that a travel ban is going to prevent people who are infected from coming to the United States,” Fauci said. “But we needed to buy some time to be able to prepare, understand what’s going on.”

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said those who are not fully vaccinated or do not have proof of prior infection, as well as those over 60 years of age or have comorbidities such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes should “postpone travel to areas with community transmission” due to the Omicron variant.

Prolonged pandemic effects discovered

With more than 785,000 Americans dead from Covid-19 and hospitals still stretched to capacity in some parts of the country, two recent studies further demonstrate how damaging the virus has been as well for those who survived.
People who lived through a severe case of Covid-19 — those requiring hospitalization — were about 2.5 times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis than those who did not have Covid-19, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, and were nearly two times more likely to die than those who had a mild or moderate case.

The study from researchers at the University of Florida found no significant difference in mortality risk between patients with mild or moderate Covid-19 and those who did not have Covid-19, suggesting that preventing severe Covid-19 infections is the most effective ways to avoid deaths.

Only about 20% of “downstream deaths” among Covid-19 patients were from respiratory or cardiovascular causes, the study determined.

“Since these deaths were not for a direct Covid-19 cause of death among these patients who have recovered from the initial episode of Covid-19, this data suggests that the biological insult from Covid-19 and physiological stress from Covid-19 is significant,” the researchers wrote. The de-identified medical records of nearly 14,000 patients in 2020 were used in their study.

Another analysis, from the United Network for Organ Sharing, found that one in every 10 lung transplants in the US in 2021 has gone to a patient with lung damage related to Covid-19.

In the last five months of 2020, only about 2% — one in every 50 — lung transplants went to Covid-19 patients, data showed.

CNN’s Jen Christensen, Maggie Fox, Deidre McPhillips, Jaime Gumbrecht, Jacqueline Howard, Taylor Romine, Virginia Langmaid, Kaitlan Collins, Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.

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Don’t Go Here  — Eat This Not That

Earlier this fall, COVID-19 numbers were ticking down nationwide, and it looked like the pandemic was finally tapering out. But to the dismay of virus experts, that trend didn’t hold. The numbers are rising again—driven, experts say, by unvaccinated people and those who  “I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few weeks. But I have a feeling it’s not going to be pretty,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, head of the center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Nov. 12.

So what does that mean for you, these winter months? Where is it safe to go, and what is best avoided? There are few absolutely clear answers; where you go depends on your personal level of risk tolerance. Earlier this month, STAT News asked 28 virus experts about where they would and wouldn’t go in public these days. These are five places a preponderance of the experts said they wouldn’t go. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.

Alan Jackson

In the biggest overall “no” of the survey, 23 of the 28 experts said they would not attend an indoor concert or event where masking was not required of attendees. Four said they would go if masked themselves. “With a good-fitting N95, the risk is low,” said Sarah Cobey, an associate professor of viral ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. “But this sounds like a situation with shouting or singing at close quarters. Unless others were recently tested and ventilation were excellent, my enthusiasm would be dampened enough to tip the cost/benefit ratio.”

movie theater snacks

Asked about whether they’d go see a movie in person, twelve of the experts said they would not go to a movie theater. “I am still heartbroken at not being able to see Dune because it just doesn’t feel right to go to a theater while our ICUs are so full,” said coronavirus virologist Angela Rasmussen of the University of Saskatchewan. Three experts said they would; thirteen said they would while wearing a mask. 

A young woman wearing face mask is traveling on airplane , New normal travel after covid-19 pandemic

Twenty-six of the 28 experts said they would only board public transportation while wearing a mask. Some said they planned to avoid specific modes of travel—like buses and trains—this holiday season because of concerns about spacing and ventilation. Only one expert said they felt comfortable traveling without a mask. 

RELATED: 7 Signs Someone is Getting Alzheimer’s, According to Experts

grandmother carrying turkey for family on thanksgiving dinner

The expert panel was somewhat split here: Twelve said they wouldn’t attend a Thanksgiving meal where everyone wasn’t vaccinated, 14 said they would and one said they would while masked as much as possible. Several suggested using rapid tests before a gathering to reduce risk to the vulnerable and elderly. “If people can get a Covid test done before the gathering, and if the vulnerable people are boosted, I would feel comfortable,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a virologist and immunologist at Yale University.

RELATED: Virus Experts Warn Don’t Go Here Even if It’s Open

Fitness girl lifting dumbbell in the morning.

Fifteen of the experts said they would not work out in a gym right now. Thirteen said they would—seven only while masked, while six felt comfortable without a mask. One expert said he would continue to exercise outdoors instead, while Rasmussen said she would forgo the gym for her Peloton bike at home: “Doing cardio while masked sucks,” she said. 

RELATED: 7 Ways You’re Ruining Your Body After 60, Say Experts

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.


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You don’t have to look far for Christmas travel destinations | News, Sports, Jobs

COLUMBUS — There wasn’t enough time. That’s what I discovered when my wife, Terry, and I spent two nights in Columbus. We hadn’t allocated enough time to thoroughly explore the few sites we opted to visit.

Trying to hit all the marks on our itinerary, we dashed into the National Veterans Memorial and Museum 45 minutes before closing on Veterans Day. We were staggered by the comprehensive history lesson told through the eyes of those who fought on the front lines.

Even though the museum seems compact, I practically speed-walked in a failed attempt to see it all, pausing at times to snap photos of placards so that I could read them later.

Our tour was arranged by Experience Columbus, an arm of the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, which wants to promote Christmas in Columbus as a one-tank destination trip. We only had time to breeze through a handful of the possibilities. Here’s the schedule that wore us out as we tried to keep up:

• After a 2 1/2-hour Thursday afternoon drive, we arrived at Addella’s on Oak bar and grill for coffee for Terry and ice water for me. I drooled over menu items such as the garlic bread meatball sub, bourbon barbecue pulled pork biscuit and double crunch tacos, but we quickly were off to the…

l Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is decked out for the holidays with huge, colorful displays of Chihuly glass artwork as well as Christmas lights.

“I had no idea that there were so many varieties of plants,” Terry said. “Amazing. Very informative. Beautiful.”

My favorite was the desert area with the varieties of cacti — until we got to the trains. The Paul Busse Garden Railway in the Grand Mallway features 51 botanical structures ranging from the Wild West to European cities to fairy tales. G-scale model trains chug along 1,122 feet of tracks on wooded bridges that passed over our heads and through tree stump tunnels at our feet.

All this was laced with dozens of plants that I couldn’t identify, nor did I care to know what they were, because, you know, trains!

• If we could only return to visit one place in Columbus, it would be to the aforementioned National Veterans Memorial and Museum, which opened in 2018. Terry and I only made it through the first of three floors, and only then by skimming entire sections.

The displays — including artifacts, sketches, photos and video — are laid out in a timeline that follows U.S. military history beginning in 1775 with the American Revolutionary War. The museum focuses on the personal stories of U.S. veterans, helping visitors to feel what they felt. You can even heft some of the equipment they used for a better idea of what it was like.

The lower level includes a recording booth for visiting veterans to share their own experiences. When I return, I want to go downstairs to listen to some of those accounts.

It was a fascinating and humbling visit made all the more meaningful by the fact that we were there on Veterans Day.

• A wonderfully helpful Army veteran named Codie was our server at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing in the Short North section of Columbus.

Terry enjoyed her larger-than-expected order of fish and chips, and I barely made it through my eight-ounce patty WRB burger and garlic fries. But we couldn’t pass up the peanut butter and caramelized banana with lightly flavored bourbon ice cream, chocolate sauce and pecan crumbles.

The wait wasn’t long but if it is, you can watch the goings-on in the brewery below through viewing windows in the corridor between the dining room and the tap room.

Codie sent us back to our room with one of Wolf Ridge’s “at-home experiences,” a package of five oatmeal and cherry cookies (baked fresh daily), paired with a craft winter lager titled “Impish or Admirable?” I don’t drink, so I’ll have to report later on the qualities of the lager after someone more qualified than I am judges it.

• We finally retreated to the spacious and comfortable bed of our seventh-floor room at Canopy by Hilton in the Short North district.

I needed front desk host Mimi to show me how to work the high-tech elevators: hold your card key to the reader until the display beeps; tap your floor number; the display will point to which of the four elevators will take you up; get into your car and don’t punch any buttons, because there are no floor buttons to punch inside the car. If you squeeze into a car someone else has called, you’re stuck going to their floor, not yours.

Pro tip: If you present Mimi with a bouquet of flowers, you’ve made a friend for life.

Furniture in our room included a divan and a bed table. If you want to know what to get me for Christmas, I’ll take the divan and table for my home office. It’s a great place to lounge with one’s laptop.

• Technology stumped me again at The Skillet in German Village. There were no menus.

“This is the wave of the future,” our server said. He pointed at my cellphone. “Just aim your camera over the QR code and the menu will come up on your screen.”

It didn’t. Our sever at this “trendy daytime spot for farm-to-table takes on American fare with a modest yet hip ambiance” directed me to a somewhat complicated process of finding the menu online.

I didn’t get his name — I probably had to scan his badge with my phone or something.

By this time, I was ready to go. I’m glad we persevered instead. Terry said her cheese blintz was “like heaven on a fork.” My chorizo gravy over biscuits and scrambled eggs was fantastic. Don’t bother with the QR code thingy, just order the chorizo gravy over biscuits. It’s worth the navigation.

• Being old people full of breakfast, we got a late start for our Friday morning exploration of German Village, a highlight of any trip to Columbus. Brick buildings and old-style architecture make it a visual treat before you start any shopping.

We made a way-too-brief trip inside The Book Loft, a delicious labyrinth of 32 rooms — yes, 32 — jammed with books. For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. If you can’t find the title you want at The Book Loft, you must not be looking hard enough — which is why it bummed me out that I couldn’t find any of the children’s novels that I wrote on the shelves. Next trip.

• At Schmidt’s Sausage Haus in German Village (we’re eating again already?), server Jordan told us that German Village is the place to be over the holiday season. “Everybody down here decorates for Christmas,” she said. And offers sales and entertainment.

Marc, the manager, said he was the new kid. The rest of the staff had been there 10 years or longer. He claims, “I came to eat and they couldn’t get rid of me, so they gave me a job.”

By the time I polished off a great sausage Reuben sandwich with German potato salad, I had to surrender and had my excellent German chocolate cake packed in a to-go box.

• There’s no “Starry Night” or the famous self-portraits, but the Columbus Museum of Art’s new Van Gogh exhibit displays an impressive education on Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and the contemporaries who influenced him.

“Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources” pulls more than 15 oils, sketches and prints spanning the Post-Impressionist’s career, interspersed with more than 100 works from influences such as Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet. Each work is accompanied by explanations that put things in context, often with quotes from Van Gogh himself on what it meant to him.

Once again, the exhibition closed for the day before we could thoroughly study every work and placard. We need to budget more time for our next trip to Columbus.

• We finished our second day with another reminder that we are too old to be hip or to make the scene.

The Del Mar SoCal Kitchen is a trendy Cameron Mitchell Restaurant in the Short North section of town. We threaded our way through scores of young, stylish enthusiasts into a spacious but packed cruise ship-themed restaurant thumping with club music. I nearly detected the melody line underneath the bass notes.

I relaxed when I heard the bass line for a Fleetwood Mac song from my youth, and when we saw another gray-haired couple be seated. It was our opportunity to savor a $100 meal, something I’ve never done, and I wasn’t about to miss it. The tacos served at the table next to us stoked my appetite with a marvelous grill smell.

My grilled scallops erased thoughts of the tacos. Wow. “They have a good handle on taste and textures,” Terry said.

Welcome to the hip and happening world, oldsters.

• Saturday morning, we set off for La Chatelaine French Bakery and Bistro in the Columbus suburb of Dublin. Any eatery with a fireplace, bookshelves and antique furniture sounds wonderful to me, but La Chatelaine added to the inviting atmosphere with the best French onion soup my wife said she’s ever had. She also ordered a Caesar salad and a prosciutto and cheese sandwich.

I couldn’t pronounce my order — ouefs Benedict — but it was the best-tasting language lesson ever.

• A good deal of the animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium had retreated to their indoor quarters. It was a rainy, windy, chilly afternoon and we also retreated to the warm indoor exhibits.

We stood in a glass tunnel while seals and sea lions darted below, above and around us; I petted sting rays, which begged for food with more intensity than my dogs ever did; we hung out with the two gorilla troops; and relaxed in front of enormous tanks of sea life.

As the sun began to set, the millions (about 3 million, to be exact) of Christmas lights lit up the pathways in a sparkling array of colors. They’ll be even more striking when the snow falls. Bundle up.

We capped our zoo visit warming up with the 1914 Grand Carousel with 52 wooden carved horses. According to the Ohio Historical Marker outside the carousel building, the carousel was first installed at Olentangy Park, moved in 1938 to the Scioto Ranch Park (Wyandot Lake), and became the zoo carousel in 2000. Less than 200 of the original 5,000 Grand Carousels manufactured remain.

Christmas lights, hundreds of animals and pieces of history — I love zoos.

• We wrapped up our Columbus stay still in the Bridge Park area in Dublin, where we had hoped to eat at the comfy looking Cap City Fine Diner, but the waiting list was too long. Foiled by time issues once again.

We walked around Bridge Park into a surprising visit to Rebol — surprising because I’m a Wendy’s kind of guy (Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s in Columbus in 1969), and Rebol is a cafe featuring “organic, non-GMO vegan, paleo-friendly and gluten-free options.” The two places aren’t part of the same dining hemisphere.

But my Naan Bol with a naan bread base, rice, grass-fed steak, black bean corn elotes, grilled vegetables, goat cheese, pistachio chimichurri sauce, crispy garlic and sesame seeds is something I want to order again — even if I don’t understand what half the ingredients are. It filled me up without making me feel blah or bloated. Great stuff.

Sitting in padded chairs and watching The Ohio State Buckeyes finish walloping Purdue on a big-screen TV mounted over a fireplace seemed pretty sweet, too.

All too soon, weary, sore but with smiles on our faces, it was time to drive the 160 miles home. To paraphrase Schwarzenegger, whose statue flexes outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center, we’ll be back.

Light shows

The night skies in Columbus will be bright with Christmas lights beginning this week, including:

• Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium start Friday and run through Jan. 2. At 5 p.m. nightly, the 580-plus-acre Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland covered in more than 3 million LED lights.

• Conservatory Aglow at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens starts Saturday and runs through Jan. 9. From 5 to 9 p.m., stunning outdoor and indoor displays are lit with thousands of holiday lights. Visitor favorites such as the musical light show and life-size Gingerbread House accompany new light displays, while entertainers and musicians perform.

• More than 400,000 lights will bedazzle the Columbus Commons 5 to 10 p.m. nightly from Saturday through Jan. 3. Light displays along the riverfront at the Scioto Mile are a five-minute walk away. The Scioto Mile holiday lights will be on Nov. 25 to Jan. 3.

• The Grand Illumination and tree lighting ceremony at Easton Town Center is 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. Easton will also offer their horse-drawn carriage rides again this year through the illuminated town center Saturday through Dec. 19.

• Historic German Village will be bright with displays throughout the shops, restaurants and historic homes. Village Lights, a community celebration is set for Dec. 5.

• Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights, a holiday drive-thru light show, runs from Friday through Jan. 2.

Source: Experience Columbus

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Bring this, don’t bring that for holiday travel, TSA says

The Transportation Security Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say there are things you can, can’t, and should bring with you when you travel by air this Thanksgiving holiday season which begins Nov. 19 and ends Nov. 28. 

When it comes to foods, items like solids like pies, fried onions, spices and chocolates should be placed in carry-on bags.

Liquids like canned gravy, maple syrup, and wine, all have to be checked. 

If you can spill it, spray it pump it or pour it, place it in your checked bag.

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The TSA also says you should bring hand sanitizer. You are required to wear a mask.

The number of people traveling this year is expected to be close to pre-pandemic levels.   Passengers should anticipate crowds at LaGuardia, Newark-Liberty International and JFK International airports. The agency is urging flyers to arrive two hours before their departure time.

“@TSA expects to screen about 20 million passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday,” wrote TSA Director David P. Pekoske. “With overall vaccination rates improving nationwide and greater confidence in healthy travel, there will be more people traveling so plan ahead, remain vigilant and practice kindness.”

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