Category Archives: book reviews

Bullets, books and bottles – Mom, Dad & Grad gift ideas 2017

Green n Blacks dark chocolate

Forget the candy – unless maybe it’s an anti-oxidant-rich, organically produced and sinfully delicious dark chocolate from Green & Black’s (our favorite is the 70% – mmm, granddaughter says it tastes like raspberries). It’s always fun to think of unique gift ideas for upcoming Mother’s or Father’s Days or anytime someone-who-has-everything needs a birthday, graduation or celebration gift. So here are a few for 2017: 1 bullet-shield bag,  2 books,  wines.

MTS laptop bag. If your giftee is highly concerned about personal safety in any situation, consider the MTS laptop bag that becomes a bullet and/or attack shield in an emergency. For the many folks who believe in guns and worry about the need to protect themselves, this item could be just right. It’s kinda heavy (8 lbs.) so most women wouldn’t want to carry it around on a regular basis, but we could see it if you were going to, say, a demonstration, or a big political rally where craziness can happen. But families, schools, law enforcement, first responders, hospitals, businesses and private security personnel who are concerned about protection during a physical attack could use the MTS™ to protect one or more people. Plus, it includes an expandable utility pouch with covert accesss where you could store a handgun or Taser or a laptop or tablet. Read more here.
Book #1
From C-Student to the C-Suite, by Tami Holzman. If your giftee is a grad who’s really nervous about going out into the real world, here’s a book that might give them some peace of mind. A study by The World Economic Forum confirms by 2020 having high Emotional Intelligence is a top trait people will need to succeed. This book talks about how to develop Emotional Intelligence and how to turn insecurities into assets. The author believes you can be successful by being yourself – and still have fun. It’s a tough world out there, and it’s encouraging to hear that building relationships is what matters most.
Aging Disgracefully, by Danny Cahill. We all talk about page-turners, usually in connection with mystery novels, but this one is a just-released memoir. Written by a guy who was tremendously successful from his first job out of college as a recruiter, and then went on to buy the company. His success is chronicled somewhat incidentally as he bares his soul about his love life and his marriage and his relationships. Cahill includes some embarrassingly frank descriptions of the sexual predilections of younger-persons-who-learned-about-sex-from-Internet-porn. Other topics he hits on: adultery, divorce, depression, aging, dating in mid-life. Danny Cahill is one hell of a storyteller. I literally couldn’t put this book down – didn’t get a lick o’ work done over the two days it took to read it – and chances are your Mom, Dad or Grad giftee won’t be able to either.
Haut-Logat Haut Medoc

The wines. If your Mom, Dad or Grad giftee enjoys wine, here are three unique reds suitable for anyone who likes dry reds with roasted meats or cheeses. The first two are super- and ultra-premium from Colangelo & Partners and the third, a luxury Cabernet from Delicato. Visit here for more information about wine price categories. So know your giftee, check your budget, and be assured if they love dry red wines, they will love these. And even more fun, we’ve included links to two recipe to pair with the wine. Invite your giftee to dinner – or bring it to his/her house!

Wine #1
Les Dauphins Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Puyméras Rouge 2014. A deep red color, ripe red fruit fragrance and hint of spice, this wine is complex and soft with a rich finish. Produced from vineyard sources with an average age of 30 years in Southern Rhône’s classified winegrowing commune of Puymeras, it is a blend of Grenache (70%), Syrah (20%) and Carignan (10%). Pair with: Pot-Au-Feu – Classic French beef stew slowly cooked with vegetables. Recipe: Pot-Au-Feu. Read an excellent full review here. SRP ~$18.
Wine #2
Haut-Logat Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2012. A grilled meat dish pairs perfectly with this vintage that’s well-structured with a touch of unmistakable elegance. The château’s vineyard overlooks the village of Cissac-Médoc, between Saint-Estèphe and Pauilac and has been classifined as Cru Bourgeois in 2012, a level below Cru Classé but satisfying some strict quality criteria each year. Haut-Logat is a blend of Merlot (45%), Cabernet Sauvignon (45%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). Pair with: Steak in red wine with shallots and French fries. Recipe: Entrecote Bordelaise. SRP ~$25.
Wine #3
Black Stallion Transcendent 2013

Black Stallion Transcendent 2013. Surprise your wine enthusiast giftee with a luxury red wine to lay down for the future! Wine Enthusiast says: “A full-bodied, dense and powerful wine with notes of tar, chocolate, leather and tobacco leaf. Black pepper-laced tannins fill the palate alongside a generosity of bold, brambly black cherry and blackberry, begging for more time in the bottle. Enjoy best from 2023 through 2025.” From Delicato Family wines, this wine will pair beautifully with grilled or stewed meats. Mark your calendar to celebrate together when you open the wine in 5, 6 or 7 years. Here are tips from Wine Spectator on how to store wine without a cellar. SRP ~$150.


5 books from 2016 – reviews for Boomers

Who doesn’t love books that speak to us where we are in life? Whether you’re feeling old or caring for aging parents, or you’re just curious or wanting to read a good memoir/story, here are a few – in a wide range of topics – from the year 2016 that some of us Boomers might enjoy.
  1. Wondering why he’s still around at 93

    I’m 93. Why am I still alive? True stories from a long and eventful life, by Alan Mayer. Ever ask yourself this question – even if you’re still a long way off from 93? Mayer is a NY native who butchered, boxed and entrepreneured for many years. Then he and his high-school-sweet-heart-turned-spouse moved to Chicago where he was a banker for 30 years. This short new book – written in large print, with very small margins and lots of white space between lines – is full of stories from his life and many of his own personal observations on life. He’s survived near-miss accidents, several serious illnesses, life-threatening disgruntled employees, and other incidents that left him wondering how he came out okay. Check it out (paperback $14.95) at

  2. Cats Are Capable of Mind Control, and 1000 UberFacts you never knew you needed to know, by Kris Sanchez. Fun. Weird. Interesting, occasionally perhaps questionable “facts” about a myriad of things such as:
    – “Coca-Cola and Pepsi are used as pesticides by farmers in India, since they’re cheaper and get the job done.”
    – “The [five-sided] Pentagon was constructed so that no point in the building is more than a 10-minute walk from any other point in the building.”
    – “Vultures have stomach acid so corrosive they can digest anthrax.”
    Light reading that may appeal to several different levels of curiosity. My reaction to a few of the statements was to go and check another source before believing it, so keep your truth detector in gear and tell kids to double-check with you if they question something. Suitable for adults and kids maybe 7 and up. My 9-year-old granddaughter found it intriguing in small doses. Available on Amazon in hard cover and Kindle editions, both ~$12.
  3. Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, by Fred Minnick. The author is famous for writing about spirits in a well-researched and entertaining fashion. This book is no different – amusing anecdotes, interesting history of the spirit as unique to its original home in the South, fascinating stories of competition between distillers, and even a story of how James Bond, who ordered a martini “shaken, not stirred” instigated the rise of white spirits to compete with bourbon. Sample chapter headings include: “Government: Friend and Foe,” “Whiskey Is the Devil’s Own Brew,” “Distillers vs. Nazis and US Government,” “To Beat Jack Daniel’s” and more. The books’ bibliography reveals how the author conducted his research: interviews with important industry figures, government publications, books, corporate literature and so on. Quarto Publishing Group 2016. ~$12 Kindle edition, ~$15 hard cover on Amazon.
  4. Move to France at 78?

    The Blue Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78!, by Karin Crilly. It’s a memoir, not a novel. The author’s husband of many years dies after a long illness, and she decides to move to Aix-en-Provence to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in France, despite the fact she doesn’t speak the language. Simply written, the story is a chronicle of her experiences there in search of joy, learning and, yes, romance at age 78. She re-connects with a guy she met 25 years earlier and, after months of increasingly intimate phone conversations, agrees to meet him in Amsterdam – and buys a blue satin nightgown in anticipation. You have to read the book to know what happens. This is an easy read, a charmingly simple story of a huge adventure undertaken by a long-past Boomer-age woman of comfortable means. And it’s even more enjoyable because she ends each chapter with a recipe for something wonderfully French to eat. $6 Kindle.

    Elegantly poetic memoir of wounded childhood and adult fears

  5. The Future Tense of Joy: A memoir, by Jessica Teich. This book is the beautifully written chronicle of a brilliant 30-something woman’s battle with childhood demons and a seemingly ineradicable fear about life’s danger. Educated at Yale and then at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, she has two young girls and a loving husband, but she can’t get control of her fear. One day she hears about another brilliant young woman, also a Rhodes scholar, who at age 27, had a hugely promising life ahead of her – but chose instead to commit suicide. Author Teich decides she will investigate this woman’s life story and see if, in deciphering that woman’s suffering and life choices, she can find help for her own struggles. The story is full of tension and drama and even some of the really tough parts read almost like a novel in gentle poetic prose. $14.99 Kindle on Amazon.

Blueberries as medicine?

A single blueberry.
A single blueberry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News about blueberries. A small study—48 post-menopausal women who were pre- or stage 1 hypertensive—showed that participants who took 22 grams (that’s .77 of an ounce for those of us who are gram-challenged) of freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to about 1 cup of the fresh fruit) every day for a month lowered their blood pressure and limbered up their arteries compared to those who took a placebo. And they lost 10 pounds!

No, sorry. Just kidding on that last one.

But they did lower their systolic (top number) blood pressure by 5% and their diastolic (bottom number) BP by 6%, raised their nitric oxide (NO) levels by a whopping 68.5% and decreased arterial stiffness by 6.5%, as reported in a paper by Sarah A. Johnson and several other exercise and nutrition professors. Johnson has an impressively lengthy title: assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University.

Previous studies had shown impressive benefits for blueberries, but most involved consuming huge quantities (13 cups per day in one study).

Considering the cost of both freeze-dried blueberry powder (sample online price ~$2.50/oz) and fresh blueberries (a sample Peapod grocery delivery price as of this out-of-season writing ~$.50/oz, 5.2 oz = 1 cup), you’d need to spend between $1.95 and $2.60 per day to consume the appropriate amount of blueberry material. That would be between $58.50 and $78 a month—and not covered by Medicare or other health insurance.

The cost of blood pressure medication (angiotensin receptor blocker ARB) varies wildly, depending on the type prescribed and the place you buy it. One site gives ARB prices ranging from a discounted $9 to a top price of $183 for a 30-day supply.

One caveat: The study was paid for by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The Council is industry-funded and is in the business of marketing blueberries. But at least the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service monitors their operations.

Another study done at University of California Davis states that consuming freeze-dried blueberry powder in smoothies every day can increase insulin sensitivity – and is thus very good for anyone at risk of developing type II diabetes, a risk that grows for us Baby Boomers as we age. Too bad the participants had to cut back 500 calories on other foods to accommodate the calories in the two smoothies they drank each day.

Here’s what I conclude:

  1. Freeze-dried blueberry powder looks like a nutritionally equivalent substitute for the fresh fruit at a similar price—plus it keeps longer and is easier to store.
  2. Don’t substitute blueberries for your ARB medicine. Talk to your doctor before you invest in months’ worth of blueberry powder.
  3. I might have to break my rule against getting nutrition in liquid form and start making the occasional smoothie with some o’ that blueberry powder.

Update 2/23/17. I’m now the owner of a “high-powered’ blender to make fruit-veggie blends and – yes – smoothies. Read more about these potential powerhouses of nutrition in the review of the Sneaky Blends cookbook here.