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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Ellen Cook volunteers her time and talents to Flashes of Hope.
Ellen Cook volunteers her time and talents to Flashes of Hope.

Local photographer offers Flashes of Hope for kids with cancer

Photographers capture moments, preserve emotions and convey feelings through the images caught by the shutter of their lens.

For families dealing with childhood cancer, the moments captured by photographers like Whitefish Bay’s Ellen Cook through the organization Flashes of Hope at in-hospital photo shoots provide forever precious memories.

Flashes of Hope was founded in 2001 by the parents of a child with cancer. The completely volunteer organization now has chapters in 55 cities and photographs more than half of the children diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. Families are given reprints, enlargements and a disk at no charge.

Cook reflects, "For too many families, these might be the last images of their children." In fact, 25 percent of the children photographed do not survive.

Flashes of Hope deals solely with childhood cancer and since 2009 have been fund raising for childhood cancer research through the Kick-It Program. Childhood cancer research is a highly neglected area, which according to Flashes of Hope’s website, "receives only 4 percent of U.S federal funding for research R&D in (the) pharmaceutical industry (while) adult cancer research 60 percent ... children's cancer research (is) close to 0 percent." Additionally, most childhood cancers have no known cause and do not discriminate based on economic status, ethnic group or geographic area making all families vulnerable.

Cook, an in-demand professional photographer in Milwaukee and beyond known for her distinct ability to artistically document family events like weddings, pregnancy and infant to senior portraits has spent the last five years as one of many area photographers that donates time and talent to Flashes of Hope.

She sees her service as a way to use her creative passion and express her gratitude for her two healthy children while giving families with children diagnosed with cancer the gift of beautiful portraits and memories. She has done shoots at Children’s Hospita…

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A few extra calories at a holiday meal won't make you Santa-shaped. Promise.
A few extra calories at a holiday meal won't make you Santa-shaped. Promise.

Give yourself the gift of smart eating

Christmas decorations and retail holiday gift sets have been on display since the end of September, so it’s not surprising that nutritional propaganda about holiday eating started being jousted at consumers in conjunction with the early onslaught of sleigh bells and gift wrapping.

Mixed messages in the media abound with images of indulgent holiday classics like iced fruit cake juxtaposed with the latest diet fads and fitness trends in anticipation of Jan. 1.

Last month, I opened up my complimentary subscription to "Cooking Light" and saw an article touting how to save 555 calories at Thanksgiving. I could not stifle the guffaw as I examined the visual of two plates side by side, comparing 20 calories saved by choosing cranberry sauce over gravy or the 27-calorie deficit from putting 4 ounces of light and dark meat turkey on your plate versus 4 ounces of white meat with skin.

While these sensible swaps are great ideas to integrate into healthier daily eating habits, it seems really trivial, borderline shallow and unnecessarily obsessive to be worrying about a few hundred calories on one or two really special days of the year when you are hopefully surrounded by friends and family that will love you whether you are at your "happy" weight or a few pounds over.

It’s a given that this time of year includes an inevitable packing on of the pounds, but I am certain this is not just happening from a single meal at Thanksgiving or one Christmas dinner. It’s from a collective burning of fewer calories since most people engage in less activity due to colder temps and shorter days and repeated increased calorie consumption from more social eating and drinking with the boost in holiday get-togethers.

No one’s diet or training program was ever totally sabotaged from one indulgence. And certainly not from a few bites or even an entire satisfying holiday meal made special by Grandma or Auntie June. Healthy eating and living is a true lifestyle choice; it’s not a temporary…

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Lindsay learns lifeboarding lessons, including safety is not second.
Lindsay learns lifeboarding lessons, including safety is not second.

Zen and the art of longboarding

Always listen to your mother.

And to your husband. And friends. And especially to your "gut." Really, just listen to anyone who knows you well enough to know better - more on this in a bit.

After I learned to surf in Maui two years ago, I’ve been obsessed with the feeling I caught riding those waves. The athleticism. The freedom. The relaxation I felt combined with an endorphin releasing excitement that I have since to match. I have craved a piece of that lifestyle that merges sport with ocean.

But, I don’t live near any body of water that has waves worthy of more than a leisurely canoe outing. I do have Apple TV though. And while streaming ABC News I overheard the term "landsurfing." That was all it took.

I was instantly glued to a piece on KOTA Longboards, a Colorado-based company owned by a former US Navy Pilot that manufactures longboards right here in the USA.

KOTA stands for Knights of the Air, paying homage to military aviators and honoring the veteran hiring practices that are part of the company.

What exactly is a longboard? Well, it sure looks like a skateboard. But, it’s longer and wider with larger wheels. The sport originated in Hawaii and was called "sidewalk surfing," by the surfers who created it as a way for them to cross train in the off- season and on crappy wave days.

If a connection between Wisconsin and longboarding seems impossible, think again. Every KOTA longboard is born from Wisconsin wood. According to their website, "Only the best Hard Rock Maple becomes a KOTA longboard. We specify American Hard Rock Maple from Wisconsin for its strength, durability and beauty. Each veneer is individually inspected. If it makes the grade it becomes a KOTA deck."

As innovators of the longboard, KOTA’s boards have a distinct, hand-painted, vintage look. A very unique yet, functional aesthetic feature of KOTA longboards is the glossy finish on each deck. That’s their signature KOTAgrip – which they developed to provide grip to rubber-soled sh…

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So good ... and so bad.
So good ... and so bad.

"The Soberhead Challenge"

For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."

"You can’t just go back to doing what you used to after you finish The Soberhead Challenge," my know-it-all husband barked at me with a proverbial finger-wagging that made me feel about three years old.

"Excuse me?" I said with more attitude than a drag queen who just had her favorite wig snatched away – forever.

"You just can’t use it the same way, the same amount," he clarified.

My eyes narrowed with a glance that communicated the way my stomach had just dropped with this newfound insight, while my lips curled into a slightly satisfied smile.

"Say that again," I prodded.

My husband stopped any further words from flowing. I saw the gears in his mind click into place. Consciousness of the gravity of his words weighed on his expression.

"Oh my God. It sounds like you are an addict," he uttered, color dropping from his cheeks as he continued to realize the enormity of his statement.

"I told you," I shared with true pride, not in any way with narcissism, smugness or arrogance. "This challenge was the perfect parallel to understanding what drug and alcohol addiction are like for those affected with it."

The conversation above actually took place as I fantasized about this very moment. This very moment I am having as I sit at my computer and relay this story to you, the moment of having my first cup of coffee since Sept. 3, 2014.

That dialog was spurred as we drove by my favorite coffee shop (that serves java with atomic levels of caffeine) and I declared that I was going to put them out of business with my "off the wagon" consumption. Scary thought, especially considering the parallels to addiction and recovery I had been experiencin…

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