All posts by Lady

3 unique holiday gift ideas 2018

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Just thought we’d mention a few items we’ve sampled recently that you might find interesting as a gift idea this year. From a little toy that takes a ton of skill to work, to some luxury products loaded with CBD (cannabinoid oil) and a collection of beautiful fragrance packets, these are possibilities for almost anyone (except people like us hopelessly unskilled manual dexterity folks) this holiday. Check ’em out.

Spinnobi is a fascinating new little toy that will excite the manual-dexterity-masters, both kid and adult, on your list. For $10 you get this neat little spinny-wheel, bouncy gadget that you can do a lot of tricks with – but it takes some serious practice to master. I could see some kids competing to see who can keep it spinning the longest during each maneuver. It’s really satisfying to see the toy pop neatly up, still spinning, when you drop it on the table or floor. There’s a big collection of video snippets showing different ways to challenge yourself with the Spinnobi. Check out the kid who can make it pop off one knee onto the other and back. Each snippet is labeled according to how difficult it is to master. For us non-manual-dexterous types, anything but getting the wheel spinning could be challenge enough. I was completely unable to do any tricks but did enjoy just getting it to spin smoothly for a long time.

Gron CBD products include chocolates, sauces, balms and masks, and more, all laced with polite American society’s latest discovery: cannabinoid oil. The substance is said to offer health benefits that include easing the pain of arthritis without drugs. And the products come in a raft of different forms – chewable, drinkable, and even rubbable on your skin. Imagine: chocolate that actually makes you feel even better than the just the pure emotional joy of eating chocolate! Caramel sauce that sweetens your dessert and helps dull the pain in your knees or hands. A cream that lessens the discomfort of peripheral neuropathy. Hard to say how much of the relief might be mental because you believe in it. Happily, the edible stuff tastes pretty good, so you get the joy of eating and the benefit of the CBD. Keep in mind, it is a mild effect. You’re not going to be getting high or anything. Just feeling perhaps a little calmer – I’m guessing you shouldn’t try these after consuming a bunch of caffeine as the two could be canceling each other out. Gron does a truly gorgeous job of packaging, so these items can make excellent gifts for the adults in your life who are perhaps at times sleep-deprived or stressed out. I mean, who couldn’t use a little help with that once in a while? The products are not cheap at starting prices around $30 for caramel sauce. Read tips on using CBD and how to figure out how much CBD to take here.

Love beautiful fragrances? Floral Simplicity Scents sachet packets can set your heart and mind aswirl in dozens of different ways. Everything from baked goods like Vanilla Cake and Almond Biscotti or treats like Caramel Pumpkin Truffle and Apple Cinnamon, to flowers like Peony and Lily, or outdoorsy scents like Open Road or Seaside, you’ll find yourself transported with these true-to-life aromas at your fingertips. What a way to help you imagine your way to a relaxing vacation or trip through a greenhouse or a forest grove. These envelopes come wrapped in plastic so they retain maximum scent until you open them and place them where you like – in a dish on your hall table or beside your bed, or in your underwear drawer or wherever you’d like to evoke memories or conjure up an environment that soothes the spirit. The company, which also sells scented candles, donated 20% of its profits in 2017 to help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, support mothers and children in need. Floral Simplicity 3-packs start at $8.50.

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myCharge keeps phone tech interesting

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Isn’t it fun to see what creative minds can do to help us use technology more efficiently? We already love our computers and our smart phones and tablets and so on. But products like external batteries, cases for e-readers, fun and useful attachments for phones – like the I-now-can’t-live-without-it CardNinja that holds your credit card, bus card, cash or whatever securely on the back of your phone – and so on are what keep the joy of the Internet and of smart phones constantly re-energizing itself.

A tech gadget company called myCharge has recently introduced a couple of fun and fabulous devices: the myCharge Unplugged Wireless Charging Bank and their handy little myFlipShade-cum-Phone Stand. Here’s what we think about them.

myCharge Unplugged 5K charging bank does it wirelessly, too

The myCharge Unplugged 5K Wireless Phone Bank has a beautiful, soft finish on the casing. It’s an elegant design that’s pleasingly smooth to the touch and has a classy-looking range of tiny lights to tell you how much charge is left. We’ve found it can hold its charge for quite a long period while it’s stored unused (a couple of weeks even). When you use it, the bank can charge up to 3 devices at a time – one wirelessly by setting it on top of the bank (as long as that device is equipped for wireless charging) and the other two devices via the two included USB ports. Plus there’s an Android connection, too, so you can charge Android devices (phones, Kindles, etc.) and also use it with a micro/USB cord to recharge the wireless bank. Very cool.

The myCharge is much nicer to look at and considerably lighter than many other external battery options – always a happy thing when you’re already weighed down carrying around so much tech paraphernalia that your shoulder’s threatening to go out of whack. It’s 2.75 inches wide and 5 inches high. We are very pleased with the usefulness of this product and happy with how handsome it is. Well worth the $50 price tag.

myCharge FlipShade in Black Dot

The myCharge myFlipShade is a cute, very lightweight device you attach to the back of your later-model smart phone – it’s too wide for older, smaller phone sizes. The attachment leaf has a spacious opening to accommodate camera lenses on most Android or iPhone models (not the 5 series and earlier). It’s about 2.5 inches wide, so check your phone width before you decide to buy.

The device is made of very thin plastic – a good thing for keeping the weight down, but it does make the device feel a little delicate. It has a set of “wings” that open up to protect your phone screen from sun, light rain, and/or prying eyes. On one of the samples we worked with, one of the wings snapped off before we’d even tried to attach it to a phone. We were able to re-attach it, but it never snapped quite all the way shut after that. So you need to handle those wings with care. The device comes in a couple of finishes, including white marble, the snazzy Black Dot and one in white that’s dotted with pineapples! Besides protecting your phone screen, the device can serve as a phone stand – works either horizontally or vertically, so if you’re into reading, making videos or watching long-a*s movies on your phone, this could come in handy. $9.99 on their website.

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Luxuriate in Historic Hotels of America – here and there

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Historic Hotels of America came to Chicago recently to bring attention to a few of Chicago’s own homegrown historic gems as well as several others. Seated in the majestic King Arthur Court room at the Intercontinental Hotel, 505 N. Michigan Ave., industry observers met representatives from several of these giants and heard them talk about the features and amenities of their gracious historic hotels.

The Intercontinental itself is a gorgeous historical hotel that was once an exclusive men’s club. The furnishings are rich and comfortable, the decor impeccably stylish, all of it kept in excellent condition with regular upkeep and periodic refurbishing and modernization over the years.  A treasure to indulge your guests in for catered meetings and conferences, or yourself and family for holidays and vacations.

Palmer House, a Hilton HotelOne of Chicago’s great historic gem hotels is the beautiful and iconic Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe St. With a lobby to die for in terms of stateliness and decor, this is one of the prime Chicago spots to come to experience a historic hotel at its finest.

Palmer House History is Hott tour
Palmer House History is Hott tour

One of the many interesting ways to experience this location is the “History is Hott!!” luncheon and tour, held Tuesday through Saturday depending on ballroom availability. The hotel’s resident historian, Ken Price, a tall, dynamic speaker, continually surprises and delights guests with nuggets from his seemingly inexhaustible wealth of information about Chicago, the hotel and the history of both. Reserve a place on the tour by calling 312.917.3404.

The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, is part of Chicago’s history and part of its current cultural milieu. The public is regularly invited to participate in multiple different events each year. Everything from a Youth Breadmaking Workshop featuring star baking chefs from around the world, to a summer camp this year for kids 7-17 with cancer in which some of the hotel’s rooms were transformed into bunk cabins and meeting spaces became the site of campfires, cookouts and talent shows, while kids were taken on adventures like rock climbing, Lake Michigan cruises, swimming at the beach, and more.

In 1893 the Palmer House pastry chef invented, at the behest of Mrs. Palmer, the first brownie for the Columbian Exposition World’s fair in Chicago. Their version of this iconic dessert, which is now legendary and ubiquitous, is still melting sweetly on peoples taste buds today. Made with real chocolate, fudgy yet light-as-air compared to some, it’s rich, apricot-glazed and deeply chocolate – definitely a close-your-eyes food. And when you buy one, you even get the recipe. Start with “14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, a pound of butter…” Then, enjoy working it off at the hotel’s modern fitness center.

Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection Hotels, 200 E. Third St. in Davenport, Iowa, owned by Marriott, is another treasure listed with Historic Hotels of America. First opened in 1914, this beautiful hotel has a fascinating history, detailed in a beautiful hard-bound book full of memories and historical photos. Since 2010, after a $46 million renovation, it has become the landmark destination in the Quad Cities. Their favorite adjective is “Hipstoric.” Their mantra is “Stay. Host. Play.” And they have some gorgeous spaces in which you can do all those things. Intimate private dining rooms, comfortable boardrooms and elegant, gilded ballrooms, in combination with their sleek contemporary decor throughout the public spaces and in all the rooms and suites – complete with luxury bedding, make great spaces for conferences, meetings, special occasions or just laying back. And at affordable rates.

Amenities include a fitness center, complimentary WiFi and a heated indoor pool and hot tub. And as for playing, enjoy The Spa at Hotel Blackhawk or unwind with cocktails while you bowl a few frames at their own indoor Blackhawk Bowl. Consider the world-class cuisine at Bix Bistro or take a quick break for coffee or latte at Beignet Done That Cafe. TripAdvisor awarded Hotel Blackhawk their Certificate of Excellence and AAA awards Four Diamonds. Stay here, host here, and play right in the hotel – or use it as your home base while you drink in the pleasures of the entire Quad Cities region.

The Wigwam Welcome Arch

The Wigwam, a 440-acre resort oasis in Phoenix’s West Valley, is celebrating the centennial anniversary of its Organization House, the first building on the site. Once housing Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s executives, today it’s the foundation of The Wigwam’s authenticity and historic charm. Travelers are invited to enjoy a special “Centennial Thank You Package,” along with a line-up of epicurean events, wellness journeys, and special promotions. Valid for stays through December 23, 2018, package prices start at $209 and include a two-night stay in an Adobe Traditional Room plus a $100 resort credit towards enriching activities, dining, and wellness experiences at the historic resort. A huge 26,000-square-foot LeMonds – Aveda Salon and Spa, An amazing 54 holes of championship golf (two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trend Jones, Sr.). Delectable cuisine at five dining outlets. Plus entertainment and active lifestyle amenities for guests of all ages.

The Wigwam aerial view

Meander through the resort’s meticulously manicured landscape of palm trees, rose gardens, citrus trees, and lush greenery – highly unexpected in a desert setting. Guestrooms and suites, most housed in adobe style casitas, feature updated comfortable, contemporary interiors accented by authentic Southwestern décor. Set up meetings in updated spaces. Enjoy shopping onsite. Relax and play in the three expansive swimming pools, bocce ball and tennis courts, along with the spa and the golf club. For more information on The Wigwam, the “Centennial Thank You Package,” or the 100th Anniversary of the Organization House, call (623) 935-3811 or visit www.wigwamarizona.com.

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Passionate truth-telling by women of color

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Unless you are friends with someone who’s told you in detail about the indignities of discrimination – and you really let it sink in – or you know someone and are deeply offended when this person regularly utters racial slurs, or you yourself are a person of color, you may not know the extent of the damage the world’s racist societies can do to the human spirit.

It’s worse than you think. Listen to this powerful and emotional TED Talk from Anjelica Dass,  a now-famous artist of color whose work is a passionate appeal for people the world over to stop dividing ourselves into black, white, red, yellow and brown, but rather acknowledge we come in all colors. Think strawberry yogurt, coffee-with-cream, walnut, dark wood that’s gotten wet…

Passionate truth-telling stories

And now comes a powerful book, compiled and edited by Deborah Santana, that gives voice to twenty women-of-color essayists: All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World – Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom. Each writer in this book describes with deep feeling some small measure of what she has experienced because of racism and of how she is coming or has come to terms with the inequality, the injustice and the lack of freedom that being of-color can mean.

The offspring of my Jewish-Christian, Russian-Irish mixed marriage were raised in Shaker Heights. I chose to live there because it was considered by many at that time to be the most successfully integrated community in the world. Living there helped attune us to many of the nuances of discrimination. And because someone very close to us is the offspring of a mixed-race relationship, all of us are always seeking to better understand how to combat prejudice and racism in this society. No matter whether you know, or want to know more, about the experiences of persons of color, Santana’s book is a powerful aid to understanding.

I read all these stories through, my heart squeezing and my chest heaving as I felt the suffering and confusion so many of the writers experienced growing up race-stigmatized. And of course, their suffering doesn’t stop in the adult world.

Although good readers of any age can easily understand the language, the content in some – detailing memories of profoundly abusive experiences – might be too discouraging for younger readers. All the stories are worth reading. Below is a selected list to consider:

  • Home Going. Novelist Natalie Baszille writes of her experiences of “home” as the daughter of a black man born and raised in Southern Louisiana who moved far away to escape the pain and indignities of the persecution commonly handed out to black people in that part of the country.
  • Indian Territory. Growing up Indian in a white world, author Eliana Ramage tells of rude questioning, experiencing the feel of history rewritten when her school visits the home of Andrew Jackson, who so ruthlessly persecuted her ancestors and is honored as a great hero.
  • From Negro to Black. A woman who lived through the Civil Rights movement, La Rhonda Crosby-Johnson writes of finding herself and family shifting identities first as Colored, then briefly Negro, then Black, then African American, and of her struggle to learn how to shed such labels and become herself.
  • A Letter to My Granddaughter. A highly successful journalist, the first Black woman to be recognized for her achievements in the field, writes a letter to her granddaughter explaining that the only way to overcome prejudice and racism is to speak your truth fearlessly.
  • Asian American Punk. Want Chyi, then a tiny girl of Taiwanese-Chinese heritage, often stared-at in her mostly white high school in the U.S., writes of how falling in love with punk music freed her to feel like she belonged somewhere at last.
  • The Girl from the Ghetto. Deborah L. Plummer writes in vivid detail about her life as a kid in a Black neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. At age 11 she was done with the kids’ book section of the library and moved on to subjects that matched the seriousness of her life experiences.
  • African in America. High schooler Ugochi Egonu writes in poetic stanzas of her frustration and anger at the ignorance and presumption about Africa that many white people display. While she is growing up in California, her grandmother lives in Nigeria and speaks only Igbo. Egonu mourns that she herself cannot speak more than a few words. But she vows that she will grow to womanhood and be the one to tell her story.

In case you have a granddaughter or grandson that you want to help understand the damage that racism does, this book is a treasure full of important truths.

*To see the names of all women who contributed, click on the “19 more” link under the title on the Amazon page for the book.

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St. Louis grand opening of Gateway Arch Park July 3, 2018

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Ever been to St. Louis? If you’re like me, you’ve longed to visit. Once I met a couple of beautiful ladies who were from St. Louis and who come to bask in the glories of Chicago every once in a while.  Now, with the grand opening of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Park, St. Louis is making itself even more attractive as a destination.

The opening this year will be followed by the massive July 4 celebration of Fair Saint Louis. Hosted by the Gateway Arch Park Foundation and its partners, this party will include the grand opening of the Museum at the Gateway Arch, a newly expanded and renovated cultural hotspot that’s changing the narrative about westward expansion. Throughout history, the realities of the Lewis & Clark expeditions have been largely glorified – virtually ignorning the negative impact they had on people who already lived there, like Native Americans and Mexicans. The new museum will now tell the full story from several different perspectives. Some of the designers of the museum expansion include NYC-based Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates, along with Seele, who manufactured the glass for the Visitor Center entrance (and also manufactures the glass for Apple stores).

The museum’s opening will mark the completion of a nearly 10-year $380 million public-private redevelopment project, used to reinvigorate St. Louis’ downtown and connect the St. Louis community back to the river that helped establish the city. A total of $250 million was raised from private donations for this project, which came almost entirely from the St. Louis community – the largest private investment ever made in a US National Park. To date, the park revitalization has had a nearly $2 billion economic impact, with major hotels, largescale real estate and trendy restaurants and bars moving into the surrounding area as a direct result of the project.

So if you’ve ever thought about visiting St. Louis, right now is a super time to do it. You can also try TripAdvisor’s 15 Best Things to Do in St. Louis. Though it doesn’t include this new stuff, it’ll give you some other ideas.

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Reading reviews – 1 medical memoir, 1 kid book and some cool kids’ magazines

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We have been out for medical stuff for several months and are just beginning to catch up with a few things – like book reviews. We select books to review on how they have relevance to the lives of our families and friends, so they’re often in completely different arenas. Below are 3 completely unrelated ones to get started with.

Triumph over Tragedy book by cardiologist

Triumph Over Tragedy: The Odyssey of an Academic Physician, by William H. Frishman, MD, MACP. This is a memoir about a young boy who grew up so poor that the glass of water by his bedside would freeze over on many a cold morning. Growing up in the South Bronx, Frishman had to run to school to avoid being attacked by gangs. And then when he was a junior in high school, his father died of an early heart attack. It made Frishman even more determined to realize his dream of becoming a doctor. And he spent his career as a cardiologist during what some call “The Golden Age of Cardiology,” during which scientists developed almost every drug that’s currently used to treat heart conditions. Frishman writes with a storyteller’s touch about his time in the military where he learned leadership and integrity, and about his journey through the field of medicine, ending up as a medical educator and Director of Medicine at Westchester Medical Center and several other relevant prestigious appointments. He acknowledges the inestimable value of having good mentors all through life. And he also suggests where to find them and why it’s important to “repay the favor.” Http://williamfrishman.com/

Jason’s Imagination: The Rain King by Jason Edwards. A book for your grandchild – the hero is a boy but there’s no reason your little granddaughter couldn’t relate – about a kid who uses his imagination to save himself and his mom from a monster. Complete with magic sword and armor, Jason first fears the ferocity of a thunderstorm and then decides – at mom’s urging – to use his imagination to overcome his fear. It appears in the book that his mom is a single mom – no mention of dad appears anywhere in the book. Certainly appropriate for today’s demographics of increasing numbers of single-mom-headed families. My very grown-up 10-year-old granddaughter said she thought her 8-year-old boy pal would enjoy the book – the best recommendation you can ask for. And I’d say it would be appropriate for even much younger kids.

Cricket Media publications consistently win awards – and kids love ’em

Cricket Magazine is a marvelous literary-quality publication aimed at 9 to 14-year-olds, but Cricket Media publishes several different varieties, each aimed at a particular age group. I passed age-appropriate copies out to a group of kids – ages 4, 7 and 9 – and each one of them settled down with their copy and remained engrossed throughout the magazine. Talk about high recommendations. Babybug, Ladybug and Click are for the youngest group (0-6 years), Ask and Spider are next (6-9 years), and then for older kids Cricket and several others for kids 9 to 14. Each one has a Letterbox full of readers’ letters and several other regular features that the reading audiences love. The Realm of Imagination is a collection of favorite stories from multiple previous issues.

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Interfaith group giving holiday kits to homeless

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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.

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Review of 3 books by-for-about boomers

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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.

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

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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.
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PERSONAL CARE IN TIME FOR WINTER
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 http://www.gadgitgirlz.com. Coming soon to Walmart.

WINE IDEAS
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.
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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.

1 BOOZE COOKBOOK, 2 FUN CHICAGO BOOKS, a FOOD HISTORY BOOK, NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY PICS and TIPS
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.
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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.

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Book review – Aging with Care

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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