United adds direct flights to New Zealand

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Ever dream of traveling halfway around the world to see what’s on the other side? Australia is over there, and that’s a great place to visit. But it’s nearby neighbor, New Zealand, is its own uniquely inspirational destination. For women-over-50 traveling alone, it’s a really cool place to visit.

What’s the big draw in New Zealand? Well, there’s tons of majestic nature to enjoy – everything from snow-capped mountains to rocky river canyons and white sand beaches. Kayak with dolphins, or watch whales.  But the biggest draw, according to visitors in the know, is the friendliness of the people. New Zealanders are among the most welcoming people you’ll run across in the world. They tend to invite you to their homes right after they meet you. They feed you, introduce you to their families, and gave you the lowdown on what to see and what to do from a native’s perspective.
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You may think of New Zealand as a million miles away, but United Airlines recently introduced a direct flight from San Francisco that cuts travel time down to an eminently manageable overnight flight. If you fly business class, that’s a walk in the park. But even coach passage is comfortable with United’s Economy Plus option.  The direct flight to Auckland will be offered 3 times a week from now til October, when it will become available daily.
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And think of the food and drink you can encounter in NZ. Bound to please are regional specialties like hangi, a traditional Māori meal slow-cooked over hot stones. NZ chefs are known for applying creative gusto to unique offerings from the sea, including juicy Bluff oysters. And don’t forget, the Kiwis (New Zealanders) are experts at creating delicious sauvignon blanc wines.
New Zealand for everyone Photo credit: New Zealand Tourism
New Zealand for everyone Photo credit: New Zealand Tourism

Check out the United site for direct flight times. Connect with the New Zealand tourism folks at http://www.newzealand.com/us/. Natives suggest you plan on spending a minimum of 10 days if you go; you’ll need at least that much time to get a feel for the country and the people. If you’re going to do NZ  and Australia at the same time – and why not since you’re already on that side of the world? – you should schedule yourself for a minimum of 3 weeks. That way you can be sure to enjoy the high points of both countries.

Kia Ora!
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Shedd Aquarium on the move

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Shedd rescue penguins at play
Shedd rescue penguins at play

Did you know that Chicago’s own Shedd Aquarium rescues wounded, abandoned or otherwise trouble animals from the wild? One of their favorite rescue animals is the penguin. Shedd staffers work with local scientists to rescue them and rehabilitate them. Shedd even maintains a mini-habitat of penguins at Lurie Children’s Hospital so the kids can enjoy watching wildlife close up.

Nickel heading down
Nickel heading down

One of the many wonders at Shedd is a huge look-up-and-be-amazed round aquarium tank that sits in the middle of a two-floor exhibit. There you’ll see a once-seriously wounded but now seemingly very happy sea turtle whose back legs don’t work because of an encounter with propeller blades. Yet she propels herself just fine around the environment, even working up extra enthusiasm to push herself deep under the water using only her front legs. Her name is Nickel because, when she was rescued, she had a nickel stuck in her throat. And she’s a testament to the resilience of life in all its forms.

Don’t miss the shark exhibit. There’s nothing to compare to watching these creatures from ancient times as they glide noiselessly around their huge tank. The Shedd shark expert has 31 years in the industy, so she can tell you a lot about them. She explains that they are studying microbiome of water with a view to understanding more about the  11 species of shark they keep here. Regular feedings by keepers – the sharks respond instantly when shown a specific shape and given an audio cue – keep them from attacking their fishy tankmates for meal fodder.

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The atmosphere is warm and slightly humid on some of the floors. Everywhere you can gaze at your leisure at the sea creatures in all sizes hanging out in habitats that closely approximate their homes in the wild. Watch a shark embryo moving and growing inside its protective cocoon. Marvel at the colors and the shapes of dozens of other varieties of fish and mollusks. The watery exhibits are in many cases breathtakingly lovely and the gently bubbling or moving water is soothing to the spirit.
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Baby dolphin Makoa swims close to mom
Baby dolphin Makoa swims close to mom

Shedd recently facilitated the birth of a baby dolphin in captivity and invited the public to participate in a naming contest this past July. Thirty-four hundred people participated and voted for Makoa, which means fearless.

Back-legless iguana uses 3-D prosthetic
Back-legless iguana uses 3-D prosthetic

Shedd experts also have a 3-D printer that actually creates artificial limb replacements out of rubberized material; we saw one for their back-left-legless iguana. Fascinating to see the half dozen iterations they had to go through before they got the size and the flexibility just right. And now the iguana struts around his area like he owns the place.

Shedd offers multiple levels of membership. Give as much or as little as fits your budget and get free entrance and dozens of other perks. It’s a really special place in Chicago that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve had a relaxed visit there.
And be aware that the CTA will take you right to and from their door. No need to pay big bucks for parking. It’s called the Museum Campus bus and you can plan out your route via the RTA Trip Planner.
P.S. For your viewing pleasure, a few more photos:

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Hate bending over to shave your legs?

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As we all know, personal maintenance for past-50 women is just as important (well, almost) as it is to twenty-somethings. The Giraffe Razor Extension sent a sample to review and, for sure, it gives older women who still need or want to shave their legs a way to get a close shave without the hassle of bending over and maneuvering into contortions. Works, incidentally, very well for pregnant women, too, in case you have a daughter or other relation undergoing that experience.

How it works: You fit your razor (disposable or otherwise) into the end of the Giraffe Razor Extension Handle that fits it best. You have two different sizes of grip to hold a razor firmly in place. After you snap it in, you customize the length and angle to your most comfortable fit. I was a little worried about being able to control it – who wants to live with bleeding nicks in all the wrong places? – but the hold was firm enough that I was able to perform the operation without slicing anything. Here’s what it’s got:
  • Two universal razor attachments (small and large)
  • Snaps onto the handle of any common disposable and reusable razor
  • Quick connect and release buttons
  • Telescoping handle 
  • Extends 15-20 inches
  • Pivoting handle rotates to 30°, 45° or 90° angle
  •  No slip grip
  • Wrist lanyard for easy retrieval
  • Rubberized finish for optimal control
No bending over is always a nice thing for us Boomer ladies. This would also make a great gift to a pregnant lady or to someone who’s recovering from surgery, or anyone struggling with their sense of balance. Could be a boon to people with arthritis and back pain, and it really works nicely for anyone (like me) who has to  shave in a shower stall or other confined space. The quality and fit of the materials seems good, so I’d expect this product to give years of service. Available on Amazon.com for $29.99.
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Chicago historic hotels by Hilton

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Update 3/2017: The Drake Hotel is still a wonderful place to go. Just be aware that one of their restaurants, the Cape Code Room, is no longer open.
Chicago’s own Drake Hotel is one of a growing number of hotels in America that have recently been formally recognized as offering both ambiance and history that go beyond what most hotels can offer. What a great way to enjoy time out with your fellow boomer/senior friends.
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And Hilton Hotels, owners of The Drake and others, are determined to keep the magic alive in these grand-dame hotels. In addition to The Drake, another of their historic properties in Chicago is the Palmer House Hilton. Plus they own The Peabody (the one with ducks living inside!) in Memphis.
Drake Hotel in Chicago where Forbes took a $5,...
Drake Hotel in Chicago where Forbes took a $5,000 bribe. Postcard 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the case of the Drake, situated since 1933 at 140 E. Walton at Michigan Ave., you have three unique venues that have hosted untold numbers of famous celebrities, politicians, and gangsters. Everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to JFK and Winston Churchill and to Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey has found a warm and friendly place to relax and be themselves at The Drake Hotel’s various venues.

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Between the Cape Cod room and the Coq d’Or (both situated at street level but with the feeling of private cellars), The Drake offers a quiet escape from the crush of the crowd. In the Cape Cod Room, guests are often invited to carve their initials into the nearly-hundred-year-old bar, and many famous folks have done just that, without worrying about autograph hounds or ogling eyes. Many came often enough that they had their own designated tables because, here, they are just people. Oprah, Michael, Frank Sinatra Joe DiMaggio, and hundreds of other well-known people have sought refuge and comfort food here.

Today you’ll enjoy the same decor in the Cape Cod Room as those who came in 1933, though the room added lights during the 40s when electricity became common. And you’ll enjoy the same sense of being in an elegant and private space.

Feast on classic Lobster Thermidor with butter and shallots, served with crisp green beans and mushrooms. And/or slurp the world-famous Bookbinder’s Snapper Soup (changed from the original turtle and served elegantly topped with basil/arugula foam), or enjoy classics like fish and chips with greens (grown, for your enjoyment, on the hotel’s rooftop garden and served fresh daily) or Shepherd’s pie. And trust the Cape Cod sommelier to recommend wines that pair perfectly with each dish.

If you’re in the mood for something showier and more plush, visit the gorgeous Palm Court room upstairs for drinks or lunch. This is where The Drake, one of the few historic hotels to offer high tea, invites families, elders and up-and-comers alike to partake of delicious and attractive tidbits, both savory and sweet, along with elegant teas (Tropical Garden herbal is just one surprising and delightful flavor). And of course you may also enjoy champagne and/or other wines or cocktails.

For dessert, enjoy the kitchen’s creations, some of them designed to be topped with a drizzle of The Drake’s own aged maple syrup. And don’t fail to try the legendary brownie, the classic dessert that was actually invented by the then-chef for the Chicago world’s fair of 1933. The powers-that-be wanted a dessert that was portable, delicious and non-spilling. Voila, the chef created the first-ever brownie, and today you can get one here that’s made with the same recipe – and loaded with nuts.

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If you hunger for the atmosphere of old-time classy cocktail bars, look no further than the Coq d’Or, down the stairs from the Palm Court and through the hallway.  Enjoy classic whiskey and other cocktails served with calm and measured aplomb by the long-seasoned staff members who know how to respect your privacy yet be available for conversation as needed. Bartenders here give careful attention to detail in both ingredients and service. Order a meal, a snack or choose from their extensive and carefully curated selection of cheeses. You cannot go wrong here. The dark wood and subtle lighting make for a supremely comfortable place in which to enjoy food and drink in Chicago.
Coq d'Or's own Few spirits-infused cocktails
Coq d’Or’s own Few spirits-infused cocktails
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The Coq d’Or (French for Golden Cockerel or “young rooster”) has been voted one of Chicago’s Best Restaurants & Lounges for its historical significance.  The legendary bar opened to a line of thirsty patrons after the repeal of Prohibition, on December 6, 1933 being the second outlet to obtain a liquor license and remains a fixture in Chicago today. Their extensive whiskey list including a new addition, a Rye Whiskey locally blended and distilled in Evanston, Illinois, by FEW Spirits in conjunction with The Drake Hotel.  Meet up here with local neighbors and international travelers and visiting business executives. Get some work done together, or just socialize in a warm and classy environment. Come for lunch, dinner, or late night with live week-end entertainment at the piano bar.

Gourmet cheese selections at Coq d'Or
Gourmet cheese selections at Coq d’Or

The Coq d’Or Whiskey Club
Enjoy a good Old Fashioned? Join the Whiskey Club. All you do is register online. You’ll get a membership card in the mail that shows you’ll be invited to private whiskey club quarterly events and get special discounts in the Coq d’Or. No application fees or dues (must be 21 years old to participate).

In case you haven’t heard enough, why not just schedule yourself for dinner or lunch or high tea or cocktails at one of The Drake’s fabulous venues? Then sink back into the elegance. Enjoy the food and drink while you feel the history.
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Laughter keeps us young

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Laugh, friends!
Laugh with friends!

Got this in an email the other day. Would love to give the author credit, but there was no way to identify who made these up. If it was you, please let us know (email form is below). Some of these are LOL, for sure. My biggest laugh came on #2…

Ramblings of a 70+-Year-Old

  1. Goal for 2016 is to eat healthy foods.
    Ate salad for dinner! Mostly croutons & tomatoes.
    Well, really just one big, round crouton covered with tomato sauce. And cheese…
    FINE! Ok, so it was a pizza.

    A pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, tomatos, fi...
    A pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, tomatos, field mushrooms, onion etc. Português: Uma pizza de queijo feita em casa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  2. How to prepare Tofu:
    1 – Throw it in the trash.
    2 – Grill some Meat.
  3. “I just did a week’s worth of cardio walking through a spider web.”
  4. “I don’t mean to brag but…I finished my 14-day diet in 3 hours and 20 minutes.”
  5. A recent study has found that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.
  6. Kids today don’t know how easy they have it.
    “When I was young, I had to walk 12 feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.”
  7. “Senility has been a smooth transition for me.”
  8. “Remember back when we were kids and every time it was below zero out they closed school? Me neither.”
  9. “I may not be that funny or athletic or good looking or smart or talented…uh, I forgot where I was going with this.”
  10. It’s great being over 70. Learn something new every day…and forget 5 other things.

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Take the grandkids to Adler’s “What Is a Planet?”

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Most of the exhibits at Adler Planetarium in Chicago may be a bit beyond smaller kids, but if your grandchildren are older, they will likely find a lot to enjoy in the star shows and in a new exhibit called What Is a Planet? The show talks about what happened to Pluto-the-former-planet, but its main purpose is to highlight some of the museum’s prized historical icons relating to the evolving state of knowledge in astronomy.

When you visit What Is a Planet? you might even run into one of the Adler resident astronomers while you’re there. They love talking about astronomy and will tell you quite frankly that many astronomers disagree about a lot of things – another indicator of how our fund of knowledge about space is always growing and changing.

FYI: The new definition of planet, voted on by members of the international astronomers union (many of whom disagreed!), is that it must a) have enough gravity to be round, b) rotate around the sun, and c) clear everything else out of its orbit, meaning asteroids and other such extraneous stuff cluttering up space.

Interested younger kids will like the exhibit also because, right across the hall from the 600-year-old book of calculations by Kepler and other fascinating artifacts from the Adler’s archives, is a Community Design Lab where kids can draw spaceships, imagine visits to planets, and create – to their hearts’ content – models of machines and dioramas of sci-fi scenarios. All drawing and construction materials supplied free of charge. The room is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

P.S. No need to drive your car and pay a hefty parking fee. The #146 CTA bus drives directly into Museum Campus and pulls right up to the Planetarium. Catch it on Michigan Ave.

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Pre- and peri-menopausal ladies – consider the cup

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Although first-wave baby boomer women are far into the post-menopausal stage, plenty of later boomers are just approaching this momentous time in life. That fun time when our bodies begin to play sometimes-dismaying tricks with our menstrual cycles: one day heavy, another week light, another month not at all. And if that wasn’t enough, many baby boomers start to feel some discomfort when inserting and removing tampons as aging thins out the vaginal walls.

English: Silicone menstrual cups can be boiled...
English: Silicone menstrual cups can be boiled. This picture shows a menstrual cup being cleaned by boiling it. Svenska: Menskoppar av silikon kan kokas. På bilden syns en menskopp som steriliseras genom kokning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, now might be a good time to investigate a method many modern young women have found to handle Mother Nature’s antics: the menstrual cup. The menstrual cup is made of soft, flexible rubber and fits right up inside you against the opening of the cervix and collects the blood. You then reach inside, pull it out, empty it, rinse and repeat.

Diva and Lunette menstrual cups are the two main brands on the market (video comparing the two). Lunette was kind enough to send us a sample for review, so here’s an opinion from a 30-something woman who converted a few years ago to a menstrual cup instead of tampons. She used both brands but writes here about the Lunette brand smaller-size cup:

“I used it on light days, and it was great. It didn’t bother me at all, and if I had to choose (I’d need the larger size for heavier days). I would just go with whatever brand is cheaper.

In general, I love the cups over tampons. They do last much longer, and not having a string is awesome. And, my garbage isn’t disgusting from being full of bloody tampons. And I love that I don’t have to buy tampons all the time! I do still use a backup pad on heavy days and pantyliners on light days.

Maybe TMI, but it works great for me because I can reach the sink from my toilet. If I had to carry it [across the room to empty and rinse it], I think that would be a big/messy problem.

Lunette's menstrual cup comes in two size
Lunette’s menstrual cup comes in two size

Lunette’s marketing department says its product:

“…is shorter than competitors making it less obtrusive – yet holds the same amount. It’s also made of softer silicone and the rim is smoother, which makes for a much more comfy fit… The air-holes are bigger, which makes it easy to clean [and theoretically to remove]. The stem is solid yet thin, soft and flexible.” Lunette also apparently comes in crazy colors (see photo) if that appeals to you.

Assuming you’re not someone who is freaked out about touching your menstrual flow, it’s definitely worth checking out this modern invention as you move toward saying farewell to the monthly ritual of menstruation. Read more on Lunette’s website.

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