3 green gift ideas 2017

As more and more people become aware of the impact our disposable society is making on our mother Earth, the more it makes sense to give gifts that can be re-used. And while a reusable fabric grocery bag will always be a good idea, it’s not inspiring as a gift item. So we’ve tested a few things that do fall into the green category and yet should please the recipient while making you feel good, too. Here are a few choices.
1.  Who doesn’t love the vibrant, saturated colors of good markers? No need to press really hard to get them, either. Kids love them compared to crayons. Now there’s a product, WIPENOTE Dry/wet erasable notebook, that you and your grandkids can have fun and get creative with using the intense lines of markers – and then erase and start all over again. I remember how jealous I was of those dry erase boards our teachers used to have when we late-boomers were little – how much I wished I could have one at home.
WipeNote drawing of cover for my cookbook/memoir

Today that type of board is available everywhere. But  WIPENOTE Dry/wet Erasable Notebook, one of several of products by Beyouneeq.com, is portable and protectable. You get 50 pages of pristine whiteboard-type surfaces to produce your work – from pretty scribbles and beautiful drawings to mind maps that help organize your thinking. Any time you love what you draw/design/create, take a picture with your phone to save it forever, and wipe the page for a fresh start next time. There’s something freeing about knowing that you can easily erase and start over – in the sense that you don’t need to be afraid about doing something flawlessly. Even just erase a line or a section and re-do it to your satisfaction. Check out the hand-drawn cover (above left) that I imagined for my cookbook/memoir, complete with raggedy sketch of vegetables.

Tools to use for drawing//writing/designing:
  • For dry erase – all kinds  of dry erase markers will work. Pick your colors and go for it.
  • For wet erase they recommend  Vis-a-Vis wet erase markers by EXPO. For all other needs – Lumocolor correctable dry erase pen Nr.305 F-9 (Made in Germany by Staedler and included with the notebook).
  • Any correctable marker should work. Correctable markers can remain erasable for a long time, up to 6-12 months. But if it doesn’t come off easily with a pen tip or damp cloth, removal is easy with the EXPO’s non toxic whiteboard spray remover.
Both sides of the cool tool called Bump It Off

2.  Or how about the unique BUMP IT OFF tool made by The Goddess of Gadgets? This is a multi-functional cleaning aid that’s made of bright-colored silicone that looks like it will last forever. The company’s materials suggest the Bump It Off has many cleaning uses around the home. We tried a few and found it was especially good at getting pet hair out of fabric. No more need to take off your dress pants to sit on the couch!

You may find some uses work better for you than others, so check this list and see which ones work best:
  • Use either the big bumpy side or the fine bristle side, depending on how delicate your fabric is – to loosen and lift stubborn stains from clothes and upholstery.
  • Keep your rugs and floors cleaner longer by using the fine bristle side to wipe your shoes clean when you come in the house. Works on all types of shoe materials, from suedes to woven fabrics, and even to clean the soles of your shoes
  • Clean fruits and vegetables—use the fine bristle side to gently but thoroughly brush away dirt on strawberries, mushrooms and more.
  • Use the side that fits the size of your pet to groom your dog, cat, bunny or whatever. Many pets will enjoy the massage, and you’ll be amazed at the loose hairs/fur you’ll get out.
  • Self-massage is a powerful relaxing method, and this handy tool makes it more fun. Use the big bump side in the shower to exfoliate, massage and refresh your skin.
  • Amazing to see how much dirt and grime – and probably bacteria, too! – come rolling out when you soap up your makeup brushes rub them against the fine bristle side The little silicone bristles get deeper into the fibers of your brushes than if you just wash them by hand.
Bendiware at the beach

3.  And then there are the new BPA-free “Bendiware” wineglasses that you can scrunch up and take anywhere without worrying about broken plastic or glass. Drink your lemonade or wine or whatever out of super-flexible silicone cups that come in sets of 2 ($16.95) or 4 ($24.95), all in rich colors or in white that are both freezer and dishwasher safe. Mush these glasses up to fit in your bag or even your pocket and, when you take them out, voila! they revert to perfect stemless wineglass shapes. Perfect for dining outside in your backyard, for camping, by the swimming pool, or just hitting one of Chicago’s many summertime outdoor events. Beats a paper cup any day, and you can re-use these indefinitely.

And by the way, it doesn’t have to be summer in Chicago to have a picnic in lush green surroundings. The beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory, operated by the Chicago Park District, has patio areas where you can bring your own food and enjoy it in the oxygen-rich atmosphere of this extraordinarily lush collection of multiple rooms of artfully arranged plants and pools and fountains. No charge. Bring your sandwiches or salads, silverware – even a tablecloth if you’re so minded – and pour your beverages into your Bendiware glasses. Your grandkids will love the children’s area, too.

Foot comfort for boomers – out of the box or out of the oven


Feet hurt? Got plantar fascitis? What do you do about it? Custom-made orthotics cost a bundle – $200 to $800 is typical. But many ask whether such expensive insole options are over-prescribed, according to an article in the New York Times. Some helpful ready-made inserts we’ve had good results with include SuperFeet and SofSoles.

And here’s another idea. The name is MommySteps Maternity Insoles, but don’t let that fool you. They actually work really well for anyone – especially us baby boomers who may have fluctuating weight or other balance issues and need insoles that fit well but don’t cost a fortune. Upon receiving review samples of these ready-made, we found they felt really good right out of the box. And they also have the capability of molding to your feet with a custom fit. Designed for the changing needs of a pregnant woman’s feet, anyone can put them in the oven or toaster oven, and they’ll re-mold to the current shape of your foot. It’s a neat way to customize your inserts without spending too much.

MommySteps Casual/Flats insoles

We tried both the Casual/Flats and Active/Athletic styles and found them to be very comfortable and supportive right out of the box. I replaced my ¾-length SofSoles inserts in my cross-trainer shoes with the full-length MommySteps Athletic edition and found it even more comfortable on the very first wearing to step class. I particularly felt a positive difference in the ball of the foot area.

I also tried the Casual/Flats edition in a pair of Trotters Mary Jane flats that I’d been successfully using as semi-dressy walking shoes with only their own factory-supplied insoles. The MommySteps insoles brought the comfort level up a notch or two, enough to consider significant. And then I decided to put that thinner Casual version into my non-cross-trainer walking-around tennis shoes – ones that could not accommodate the thicker Athletic version. This, too, was a winner in terms of comfort.

Finally, I was ready to try the oven thing. Although I was nervous about putting the insoles into the oven, the directions were clear and simple. You put the thicker Athletic version in the oven for exactly two and a half minutes, then put them in the shoes and right away put your stockinged feet into the shoes and tie any laces. Then you stand straight, relaxed and balanced on both feet for two and a half minutes. And that’s it – custom fit orthotics that you can re-mold up to 5 times. My out-of-the-box insoles already fit well, but I believe after the oven treatment I noticed an improvement in the fit of the area between the toes and the ball of the foot. The fact that you can customize them and use them in multiple shoes makes the cost of $39.95 seem like a pretty sweet deal.


Chicago Rooftop dining news


Rooftop dining in Chicago is a lively and friendly competition to see whose venue can provide the most sweeping or unique views of this dynamic city, along with enticing dining, drinking and even dancing options. Lots of contenders invite your attention – many of which are situated atop elegant hotels.  Perfect for us baby boomers to get out and enjoy the outdoor views, the food and the ambiance as the weather warms up. Tip: Go early to miss the younger crowds! Here are a few to put on your must-try list this spring:

  • Raised, An Urban Rooftop Bar, 1 W. Wacker Dr., 3rd floor of Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel. One of the most popular and buzzed-about rooftop destination, Raised will host the 2017 Tin on Tin Cocktail Classic Mixology Competition on March 27, 2017 from 4pm-9pm. Six Chicago bartenders will go head to head before judges Liz Pearce (Winner of Chicago Speed Rack), Brian Jaymont (Marriott Global Beverage Manager), Matt Schnieder (Certified Sommelier) and two elite judges. The winner will receive a trip to the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

    Raised, An Urban Rooftop Bar
  • AIRE, 100 W Monroe St. Kicking off just its second year in Chicago, AIRE, located at on the 24th floor of Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago, has quickly become Chicago’s hottest new happy hour destination and weekend escape. This spring, AIRE will debut a new, carefully crafted menu featuring signature city-themed cocktails as well as an extensive offering of local beers and wines and seasonal small plates.

    Aire rooftop at Hyatt Centric
  • ROOF on theWit, 201 N State Street, a glamorous indoor/outdoor escape set 27 stories above the city with sweeping views of Chicago, private event spaces and entertainment programming. Watch for their dynamic party events several times each year.

    Roof ontheWIT plays party music
  • LH, LondonHouse Luxury Hotel‘s tri-level rooftop venue at 85 E. Wacker Dr. lets you dine indoors or out on re-imagined American cuisine and cocktails. The modern, firelighted spaces draw in both visitors and locals and inspire those at the top of their game to engage, sip, converse, taste, connect and exchange ideas.
  • Geja’s Café, 340 West Armitage Ave. Not exactly on the roof, but a beautiful patio for sure. As part of their ever-evolving worldly wine festivals, Geja’s Café is celebrating International Women’s Wine Festival March-April. Each of those months the wine menu will devote an entire page to wines made by notable women of enology from around the world. Geja’s Café will donate $1.00 for every bottle ordered to Deborah’s Place, Chicago’s largest provider of supportive housing exclusively for women.

Healthcare for Gen Z – your grandchildren

Pro and anti healthcare protesters vie for spa...
Pro and anti healthcare protesters vie for space in front of televison camera. Demonstration for health care in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building, Poydras Street, New Orleans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the impending crippling of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, do you ever wonder how access to healthcare might change for your grandkids, or your friends’ grandkids – the kids who are constantly telling you, “Just Google it, Grandma”? Below is an interesting article written from the perspective of a healthcare professional.

Gen Z: The ‘just Google-it’ generation
by Kim Bassett, President
Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts

Imagine growing up in a world where Google has always existed. Where Facebook is as much of a staple as Nickelodeon or the Johnny Carson Show. A world where terrorists are real, and 9/11 is taught as a history lesson, just as D-Day and Hiroshima were explained to earlier generations.

Generation Z-ers, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, make up 25% of the U.S. population – larger than both the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, respectively. Those born at the start of this generation are entering the workforce, bringing with them a combination of their Millennial parents’ ideals and their own, shaped by living in a technology driven world at a time of national insecurity with war on-going and terrorist attacks being sensationalized in the media.

This generation is uniquely positioned to change healthcare from both the provider and consumer sides.

1) Technology. Generation Z is the first generation born after the advent of Internet and social media. They are true digital natives, growing up with smart phones, tablets and other devices connected to the entire world. It’s akin to a child growing up in a home with two languages. They not only learn both languages much earlier, but also how to leverage the knowledge seamlessly into their everyday life.

○ Consumers – Because of this, we can safely assume that as consumers they will demand healthcare digitally, enhanced care options available online versus the traditional care model of in-person visits.

○ Providers – On the healthcare side, we will see new software programs created to meet their own demands.

2) Entrepreneurship. Millennials created this trend, making great strides toward changing workplace culture, creating a more flexible work environment, community service, work-life balance. Generation Z will take it to the next level, evolving it further, not letting their predecessors efforts go by the wayside.

○ Consumers – Gen Z, as a consumer, will demand access to healthcare, even though they don’t work in a traditional employer-providing healthcare environment. And because they are seamlessly connected through social media, you can be assured the entire world will hear their thoughts on this issue.

○ Providers – Not one to pass up a business idea, Generation Z will create new business opportunities to not only fulfill their own healthcare needs, but also form businesses and product lines that will help their older family members in the Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. Generation Z carries over their Millennial predecessors trait in their need to make the world a better place.

3) Diversity. Generation Z is the first generation to be gender non-specific. They are growing up a world where it’s commonplace for people to change gender and marry people of the same-sex. This acceptance of all types of lifestyles will change – and already has – the healthcare landscape.

○ Consumers – Gen Z will expect healthcare providers to provide equal access for non-specific gender roles and relationships just as they are asked to do with traditional male-female roles. Gen Z will continue to push for acceptance in all aspects of healthcare for every consumer, regardless of gender identification.

○ Providers – In healthcare facilities and other workplaces, gender roles will continue to evolve as HR departments and employers struggle to wrap their arms around these new realities in our culture. Acceptance will become paramount to the happiness of Generation Z in the workplace, much like the issues of flexibility and work-life balance are to the Millennials.

As the largest generation to exist, Generation Z is becoming equipped to move our culture forward in all aspects – economically, socially, and technologically. So before dismissing or scoffing at their seemingly radical ideas, remember that they hold your future in their hands and perhaps – with a little guidance and encouragement from their predecessors – that future will be the best yet.