Interfaith group giving holiday kits to homeless


It’s hard to realize that all year around there are hungry and homeless Chicagoans in the city.  In the colder months, people build temporary structures across the city in an attempt to stay warm and safe in the harsh wintery conditions. These, our not-so-fortunate neighbors, are more at-risk and in danger in these cold months and need additional warm clothes and blankets to survive.   

Sunday, December 24 at 10am, Forward Humanity will pack and distribute 100 sleeping bags, hats, gloves, socks, scarfs, a hygiene kit, and a thermal blanket to gift to their neighbors across the city.  It’s never too late to donate to this commendable effort.

Volunteers will gather at the Downtown Islamic Center (231 S State St.) to make 100 healthy lunches and pack holiday gift bags full of warm winter items and hygiene kits which have been donated through a social media and an online campaign.

Distribution will take place throughout the city at known underpasses, viaducts, and other noticeable temporary housing areas.

Forward Humanity is an Illinois not-for-profit organization that began as an outlet to show Muslims as present, active, and positive members of their community.  Forward Humanity is now a collective comprised of over 200 volunteers of all faiths who initiate and organize activities, events and projects in support of organizations and social causes. They aim to provide a platform where people can come together, whether for short-term or long-term initiatives, to serve their community.


Review of 3 books by-for-about boomers

Books about getting old come in a lot of varieties. Here are some thoughts on 3 completely different types of books aimed at baby boomers or people who study boomers. One is a brilliantly written memoir by a successful public speaker. The second is a wonderfully human, trying-to-be-funny-and-succeeding-against-all-odds book about the difficult subject of caring for close senior relatives with  dementia/Alzheimers. And the third is actually a textbook on research about grandparent roles in many countries of the world.
Aging Disgracefully by author Cahill

Aging Disgracefully: A Memoir, by Danny CahillWe all talk about page-turners, usually in connection with mystery novels, but this memoir is just as compelling. It’s written by a guy who was tremendously successful his whole life – from his first job out of college as a recruiter, and all the way to  buying that company. His success, though, is chronicled only incidentally as he bares his soul about his love life and his marriage and his relationships. The guy pulls no punches – though you may wonder how it’s possible anyone could be “the good guy” so much of the time.

He includes some embarrassingly frank descriptions of the sexual antics of younger persons who learned about sex from porn on the Internet. But I was particularly amazed by his statement late in the book: “I never understood why Sydney, and later Kelsey to a far greater degree wouldn’t stop something they knew to be harming them.” Who has never heard about the madness of addiction? Dysfunction? Danny Cahill is a public speaker, a successful entrepreneur, a playwright, and one hell of a storyteller. I couldn’t put this book down, and probably your giftee won’t be able to either. $18 hardcover on Amazon, $8 for Kindle version.
Operation Caregivers by author Allred

Operation caregivers: #LifeWithDementia by Alexandra Allred. This is truly a compelling account of what Allred’s family went through when both her parents were afflicted with dementia/Alzheimer’s. She and her sister spent incredible amounts of energy helping their parents adapt slowly to their medical conditions – denial is common among those who are becoming memory-impaired – and then moving them into memory care facilities and watching over them. Whether your life is touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s or not, this book is engaging and extremely readable. Despite many other pressing to-dos, we couldn’t stop reading it. It truly opens a window onto the realities of caring for loved ones who are no longer in their right minds much of the time.

The stories of poor care from lackadaisical, uncommitted workers are full of details, often related with vivid dialog, and are frightening to contemplate. The sisters’ love is clear as Allred narrates the many struggles they go through – to visit, to correct poor conditions, to communicate with their parents, to pay the overwhelming financial cost, and to keep seeking a better facility. The book is also full of helpful, hard-learned tips about ways to communicate with someone overtaken by serious memory issues as well as practical advice for every step of preparing yourself or a loved one so that chaos does not ensue when family must begin hiring caregivers and seeking memory care. Good book. Hard-hitting but funny – Allred worked hard to find humor in such difficult circumstances. Printed with double-spaced and lots of white space so it’s easy to read. $20 for paperback on Amazon.
Grandparents in Cultural Context

Grandparents in Cultural Context, edited by David W. Shwalb and Ziarat Hossain. This book is a textbook written in academic style – a little dry, lots of statistics, a sprinkling of illustrations – but it contains some interesting facts about what it’s like to be a grandparent in countries all over the world. Compare, for example, the growing cultural diversity in the United States and Germany, brought on by immigration and fostered by increased acceptance of intercultural relationships, to the dwindling number of grandparents in Japan and China brought on by rising levels of childlessness among younger generations. If you’re a boomer and thinking of emigrating to another country, this book might give valuable insight into that nation’s expectations of you in your role as a grandparent. Full of information and educated speculations; interesting, but not what you’d call a page-turner. ~$59 paperback, $47 eTextbook on Amazon.


Holiday gift guide 2017 – 3 personal items, 2 wine accessories and 5 books

So hard to buy gifts for some people. And many of us don’t have the imagination or that special gift-choosing gene that makes a person especially talented at finding gifts that are just right for others. So if you’re among the gift-buying-impaired, you probably like to look through gift guides. Never know when you’ll hit on something you wouldn’t have thought of but that seems just right for your dad, your adult offspring, best friend, grandkid or whoever.
Spoonful of Comfort soup

If you have a sick friend – or just one who loves homemade soup – consider Spoonful of Comfort. They deliver handcrafted soups in four classic versions: chicken noodle, butternut squash, tomato basil, and vegetable. Plus, the 64-ounce jar of soup comes complete with rolls and a cute ladle that’s good for serving and also as a keepsake. The promo material seems to indicate you can send just soup, but we weren’t able to get the website to accept an order that did not also include cookies. The company, featured on Shark Tank, also has gluten free soups. Unique gift for someone you care about and is perfect for the man/woman who has everything. Prices for soup and cookie packages start at $69.99.

Extra emollient, moisture-repairing lip balm epiCeram-L

Winter = dry, cracked lips for many of us. When invited to test a product that promises to heal – rather than mask – that condition, we were enthusiastic. EpiCeram-L Lip Care, which says it is different, does indeed feel different from our usual Chapstick routine. This lip balm actually made our lips feel noticeably better after only 30 minutes. This lip-care product’s claim to therapeutic ability is based on its being lipid-based (meaning it contains three of the body’s natural fats – ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol). These lipids are said to literally replenish lost moisture to rejuvenate and repair cracked lips. Happily, the product is steroid-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, petrolatum-free, fragrance-free, color-free, and lanolin-free. The promo says to expect significant results within one week of use. At $44.95 for a 3-pack, this is not a cheap product. But if you tend to have serious issues with keeping your lips moist, it is definitely worth a try. And could make a truly appreciated gift to a loved one – especially one you like to kiss. We’ll keep testing as winter progresses and update you.

Itzy expandable bag

Itzy. Imagine a shopping bag so tiny it fits in the palm of your hand – but that easily expands to many square inches to hold almost anything you need to carry. Keep a few in your pocket or in your big bag so when you go to the grocery or wherever, here in Chicago you don’t have to pay the 7-cents-per-bag tax for store-provided bags. And you’ll be truly helping the environment. Use it for shopping, laundry, shoes, the beach, toys, and more. And happily, when the carrying task is done, the Itzy shrinks back to its Itzy size. . . over. . . and over again. A win-win all around. A set of three for $20 – black, purple or white. Fun gift for your busy friends, too. Get ’em here. Also available for purchase on Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, The Grommet, Catalog companies, and online at Coming soon to Walmart.

Fun holiday or hostess gift – design your own wine label

Wine is almost always a welcome gift for the holiday season and how about this idea: custom bottle labels from OnlineLabels. They come in standard white matte material as well as some waterproof options that don’t smear (one specifically for inkjet printers, another for laser printers). The waterproof labels work even for white wines that may be chilled in the fridge or placed in an ice bucket.

Check out the pre-designed templates to use with the labels. The company says more will be added soon. Below are a few creative ways blank wine bottle labels can be used to add a personal touch to any holiday party or family gathering.
  • Print-and-go wine bottle labels – these are perfect for wrapping up and taking with you to parties as host/hostess gifts.
  • Better-than-holiday-card wine bottle labels – instead of handing printed holiday cards to everyone, give them the same message on a bottle of their favorite wine!
  • Office party favor wine bottle labels- impress your employees and their guests with branded wine bottles as the office holiday party favor.
Choose from a variety of sizes for the most popular wine bottles on the market. So pick a wine, choose a template, and design a cool gift.
Coravin Wine Preservation Opener

Coravin Wine Systems. Do you love good wines but like to savor them one glass at a time or even one sip at a time? Consider Coravin’s unique Wine Preservation Opener for tapping any bottle of wine – even screwtops – for just a sip or a glass at a time while perfectly preserving the remainder of the bottle. Read our review of Coravin Wine Preservation Opener here. $200 and up for systems with varying accessories.

Cooking with Booze – cool ideas for using up leftover liquor

Cooking with Booze by George Harvey Bone. For your spirit-loving chef-wannabe friends, this book is affordable and charming, A great way to make a dent in those bottles of tequila or rum or other spirit you bought to make one cocktail recipe and haven’t touched since. Imagine: Watercress Salad with Tequila Tangerine Dressing (p. 120). Or Mushrooms a le Carré (butter-sautéed with onion, garlic, lemon double cream and brandy p. 111 – yum!). Wild Turkey Wild Turkey (turkey breast strips marinated in honey, Worcestershire, Dijon and Wild Turkey bourbon, fried and broiled with cheese p. 78). Fun cookbook by a Britisher with both British and American measurements. Get it on Amazon for under 2 bucks.

111 places in Chicago

111 Places in Chicago that You Must Not Miss, by Amy Bizzarri with photos by Susie Inverso. Bizzarri has done her research with duly creative diligence. Her book spotlights unusual or little-known locations all over the city and gives a little history about each as well as all pertinent information like website, hours, and interesting tidbits. A few notable spots we hadn’t heard of: Optimo Hats, 51 W. Jackson Blvd., historic home of classic and custom made hats.  Magic, Inc., 1838 W. Lawrence Ave., supplier to magicians and mentalists. Kusanya Cafe & Roastery, 825 W. 69th St., offers a cup of Joe with a side of community – a far cry from Starbucks. MSRP for the book ~$20 but available at Target for $13.53.

Start to Finish Chicago!

Start to Finish Chicago! – Meticulously handmade line drawings of iconic Chicago buildings, statues and more that include complex maze paths throughout each picture. Fun for kids or grownups who love Chicago and want to know more about famous landmarks. Unique gift for young and old giftees who love the challenge of navigating the pathways.

Food on Foot: A History of Eating on Trails and In the Wild, by Demet Güzey, PhD, who writes about food and culture and, for fun, climbs mountains. Part of the Food on the Go series, this is definitely a history book and has an academic feel to it, so it’s not for everyone. But if you’re into culinary history, this is a perfect book to peruse on, say, a dark, chilly winter day when you have nothing else pressing. Light a candle and imagine yourself in the shoes of the pilgrims, pioneers, soldiers and explorers she writes about – making their way in every kind of environment, from desert to polar.  How did they store food? What tools did they use for preparing? What kinds of food did they manage to acquire and preserve while traveling? Based on historical facts – like how German soldiers drugged with meth were able to fight longer, and how Marco Polo crossed the Gobi Desert at age 21. Extensive bibliography suggests lots of further reading. MSRP $38.
Expressive Nature Photography

Expressive Nature Photography: Design, Composition, and Color in Outdoor Imagery, by Brenda Tharp, naturalist, teacher and photographer. The book is full of expert tips for mid-level photographers on topics like shooting at night, using filters to create long exposure, creating natural effects using light painting, controlling visual flow, successfully breaking rules of composition, and finding story in a landscape. Written in clear, informative style, the author offers insights on learning to see, woring with color, and other techniques to help even seasoned nature photographers hone their artistic skill. And even if you’re just a wannabe photographer, you can enjoy the beautiful pictures and learning about how they were selected, positioned and framed by the artist/author. Tharp’s excitement and creativity shine forth from the book’s images and its prose. MSRP ~$30 but available on Amazon for ~$18 and in Kindle for $11.


Book review – Aging with Care

Clear professional advice on managing caregivers

Aging with care: Your guide to hiring and managing caregivers at home, by Amanda Lambert and Lesley Eckford. It’s depressing to think you might have to be on the receiving end of this kind of care in the near or distant future. But if you’re an early-stage baby boomer. you’re already in the vicinity of 70 and might even have some health issues. But if you’re faced with taking care of your aging parent(s), this book offers solid, reliable information on a multitude of questions.

Critical areas of concern range from how to find, screen and hire caregivers to completing a full inventory of possessions in the elder’s home, and include the challenge of determining the truth when elders complain about caregivers as well as concerns about suspected criminal behavior or abuse. Financial exploitation is not uncommon and can be difficult to verify, especially if the elder feels obligated to the caregiver for giving such intimate service. Confidentiality is important in regard to salaries, taxes and so on. The book abounds with real life stories that demonstrate problems, pitfalls and possible solutions.
Both authors are professionals in the field of aging: Lambert, an aging lifecare professional and certified care manager; Eckford, a licensed clinical social worker and registered nurse whose main focus is geriatric mental health.
Cautionary note. Don’t just hand this book to your overworked adult child whose life is so stressed already. The idea that you might need care and oversight at some point could just send them into a tailspin. But if they’re ready or are facing a need for this kind of information, the book is an excellent guide. And a help for you to set guidelines for a time when you might be the one in need of care.