Artventures – a great way to see France

Classic art and fabulous champagne with Artventures
Classic art and fabulous wines with Artventures tours

My daughter and son-in-law have been in France for the last few weeks. Which reminds me of this excellent tour guide service I learned about a few months ago at a France tourism event.

Artventures Paris is a transportation and incoming services company based in the Paris region, founded in 1998 by Didier Jordan, a French professional licensed guide for over 20 years. He and his staff are dedicated to providing the discerning traveler with the best possible travel experience in France . You can see the great and the not-so-well-known sights, and you’ll hang out with French people who love having tourists visit (which not everyone does!).

Castles, fourmet food and wine
Castles, fourmet food and wine

The company specializes in private tours – sightseeing, museums and a multitude of creative excursions from Paris – and custom-tailored tours around France with a focus on art and wine. Wish we were planning one now! Stay in a castle and eat gourmet dinners with one of their luxury tours to these regions: Paris Ile-de-France, Normandy, Loire Valley, Brittany, Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, French Riviera and Provence.

Feel safe and be fully informed with licensed, experienced guides, and enjoy the comfortable leather seats while you ride. Whether you’re on a romantic trip with your beloved or you and a group of friends (up to 30) want to tour together, whether you speak fluent French or none, Monsieur Jordan will personally introduce you to real people in France and, together, they will all take good care of you.



How do you want to die?

A public demonstration of aerobic exercises
A public demonstration of aerobic exercises (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Remember step? My gym stsill has classes!

I always tell people – well, when the subject comes up – I could die (assuming, of course, it’d be quick and painless) happy while engaged in any of these three activities:

  • doing aerobics (especially while also singing to great music)
  • having sex with my beloved (no comment needed)
  • sleeping (with advance notice if possible, Lord)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose how and when we would die? Yeah, who wants to die, right? Medical developments are making it look more and more like we may be able to live to a hundred or more – and not that far into the future. Read this long but well-researched article from The Atlantic magazine called “What happens when we all live to 100?” And stay tuned for future posts on that topic.

Meanwhile, would you rather die at home than in a sterile, unfeeling hospital? Most of us would. Would you rather have your personal dignity intact than be stuffed full of hoses and pipes and drips and needles? Most of us would. This September 29, there’s a webinar you might want to listen in on: “The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America.” Read more about it here.


Luxury in the Florida Keys at Hawks Cay Resort


Imagine a vacation place where you can feel at home in the Florida Keys. Just heard about Hawks Cay Resort Hotel and compound, a Triple-A four-diamond resort located in the Keys. If you like luxurious surroundings. If your group or family wants tons of activities for every age. If you like the idea of five totally different types of pools. If you crave top-notch hotel food, services and amenities, it sounds like you couldn’t do much better.

Whether you are a couple looking for a total relaxation experience or a family of 4 generations looking for a place where each member of every generation can have his/her own idea of fun any time they want and then come back together as a family again for chosen times and activities, this place has it all. Along with stunning vistas, private lagoons, a pirate-ship swimming pool among other features in Coral Cay kids’ place, and a full-service spa and diving shop.
Oh, and they’ve got snuba diving – which means you and your kids (as young as 8) can experience the excitement and joy of deeper-level diving in a sea loaded with coral reefs and astoundingly diverse sea creatures without carrying the traditional heavy air tan on your backs (the tanks float above you on a raft) and without having to pass the sometimes-challenging certification process required for regular scuba diving.
Hawks Cay draws visitors from all over the world (their biggest international clientele comes from Canada). The resort works with the local Turtle Rescue to help sea turtles who’ve been wounded (sometimes by man-made things like boat propellers) rehabilitate themselves and get back out to sea where they belong. Visit the Turtle Rescue while you’re here and see one up close.

Hawks Cay underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2008, and now with new owners, has just completed another extensive upgrade with plans for more. The place is gorgeous, with matchless views of the ocean on all sides. It sits at mile marker 61 in Duck Key on that long road from mainland Florida out to all the Keys.

At Hawks Cay there’s no need to be athletic – relaxation is the biggest goal of many guests of all ages. Make yourself at home in one of 177 guestrooms in the main section, or one of 2f50 two-, three- and four-bedroom  suites, all within walking distance of Coral Cay (the kids’ place). Or get moving with volleyball, camp morning/afternoon, all-day sessions for kids in the Pirate Ship swimming pool area, all included in the $39/day resort fee.
Family accommodations are readily available as well as lots of adult suites. Sixteen four-bedroom units to group families together.
Because there are very few natural beaches in the Keys, Hawks Cay has sculpted the area and shipped in fine sand. Blue is the fishing boat service. Lagoon for kids to experience snorkeling, paddle boarding, and kayaking.
Hawks Cay’s 5 pools include the main, the Tranquility pool, the family pool, the Sunset Village (spectacular sunset views!), and the Pirate Ship pool.
Flying from Chicgo to either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale (easier to get in and out of), it takes your jet airplane about an hour and a half. Or if you’re up for true luxury, you can get private flights into Key West or Marathon and then you’re only 15 minutes from Hawks Cay. If you’re up for luxury, you won’t be disappointed.

Getting older tends to improve mental health


Yes, despite dealing with increased (some more, some less) physical issues, people tend as they age to feel better about themselves and their lives. Like good wine and cheese that get better with time,  human beings can improve with aging.

More than 1000 senior adults, chosen randomly and across ethnic variations (not volunteers who might have self-selected as people doing well) reported themselves “happier and more content with their lives than those in their 20s and 30s, despite their physical ailments,” according to a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Older, wiser, good-looking and highly content couple
Older, wiser, good-looking and highly content couple

Most seniors have accumulated some level of wisdom, don’t feel they have to prove much of anything any more, and don’t often face as many life-changing decisions as younger adults. Remember how exhausting it was trying to figure out how to handle various situations – at work, in your family life, in your marriage/romantic relationship? Of course, the results of these questions might be different for seniors who are yet struggling to pay the bills in their later years. But for many, simply not having to keep up with a job or career – or keeping up with a much-loved career but feeling more secure in it – can feel liberating and relaxing.

Always nice to hear about the benefits of getting older. Read more in the article on Medscape.



Uber rides this week for $3.12


Thank you, Timeout Chicago, for sharing this important information about such a deal on Uber travel good for rides generally in the 312 area code.  If you want to travel in Chicago in a square bounded by south of Irving Park, north of 71st Street and east of Western Avenue, you’ll automatically get the $3.12 fares through Friday at 10pm.

If you’ve been hesitant to try Uber, it’s time to jump in and give ’em a try. Around here, we use Uber regularly and have had mainly very positive experiences – on the whole better than some taxi rides.  With this kind of deal in this heat. why resist?

P.S. Tried it today, Thursday August 18. Worked fine. $3.12 for the ride but it was only available for UberPool at 6 pm. Turned out fine  because another person was going in the same direction at the same time, so there was no wait.


Cool off with luscious low-cal summer eats


Summers in Chicago can be brutal. When temps reach 90-ish and humidity gets over 60%, we’re talking grim. Seniors and anybody with heart or lung conditions has to either stay inside or get door-to-air-conditioned-door service.

So how about making something delicious and light and COLD to eat? Order from Peapod if you can’t make it out to the grocery store, and try out a few recipe ideas created by Chef Anthony Stewart from Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa. They sound so good and look so beautiful! His chilled tomato, watermelon and basil soup, citrus fennel mango salad, and creamy banana ricotta ice cream all sound unique and refreshing and don’t require any weird ingredients. Check ’em out:


Chilled Tomato, Watermelon, and Basil Soup 

  • 1 cup canned low-sodium plum tomatoes
  • ¼ cup low-sodium tomato puree
  • 1 cup chopped watermelon (seedless)
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest *
  • 1 tablespoon basil, chiffonade (cut into thin strips)
  • Garnish:  Four sprigs of fresh basil
  1. Using a grater or microplane, shave off the peel of an orange to make ½ teaspoon of shavings
  2. The shavings are your zest, which add strong, wonderfully citrus flavor to foods
  3. Use only the colored part of the peel, not the bitter white pith beneath

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend well.
Chill.  Before serving, garnish each bowl with a sprig of fresh basil.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 35 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1g protein, 2g fiber, 15mg sodium.


Citrus Fennel Mango Salad 

  • 2 Bulbs fennel julienne
  • 1 Grapefruit (supreme)
  • 2 Oranges (Supreme)
  • 3 Mangoes (peeled & julienne)
  • ¼ Bu Cilantro chopped
  • 1 t chopped garlic
  • 1 Red onion julienne
  • 1 Red pepper julienne
  • 1 Green pepper julienne
  • 1 carrot julienne
  • 1 # Lettuce (chopped)


  • 1 T Low sodium stone ground mustard
  • ¼ C Rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T Apple juice concentrate
  1. Combine all Vegetables in a bowl
  2. In a separate bowl combine all ingredients for dressing and mix well
  3. Add dressing to vegetables and let stand for 15 minutes
  4. Serve on a bed of chopped lettuce

Banana Ricotta Ice Cream 

  • 1 pound very ripe bananas (peeled, vacuum sealed, and frozen)
  • 1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Remove bananas from freezer and let sit for 5 minutes (until they begin to defrost around the edges).
  2. Place ricotta cheese in a food processor and pulse.
  3. Chop the bananas and add to the food processor along with all remaining ingredients.
  4. Puree until smooth and creamy.
  5. Scoop mixture into a plastic bowl and cover with food-grade plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap touches the top of the mixture. Place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Bon appetit!


Disney’s Pete’s Dragon filmed in New Zealand


Speaking of New Zealand, as we were in the last post, here’s some cool news about Disney’s classic family film Pete’s Dragon. They’ve re-filmed it with spectacular, real-life locations in New Zealand serving as a backdrop. The film was shot over both of New Zealand’s main islands, the North and the South, showcasing the country’s diverse landscapes. 

Inline image 1
Hanging out on Rotorua’s Redwood Forest Treewalk (Photo Credit: Tourism Meda) and taking in a dragon’s eye view of Queenstown (Photo Credit: Destination Queenstown)

Disney’s Pete’s Dragon fans who want to transport themselves into the film by visiting the real movie locations can explore New Zealand and take off on their own adventure:
  • The Rotorua Redwood Forest (North Island): Home of Elliot the Dragon and where Pete comes across his mysterious new friend, the 110-year-old trees of the Rotorua Redwood Forest tower above the forest floor and the numerous tracks and trails are popular with walkers and bikers. For a dragon’s-eye view of the forest floor below, the new Redwood Forest Treewalk takes you high above ground to stroll among giants. A grove of 22 majestic specimens are linked together 40-feet in the air without a single nail or screw connecting the structure to the trees;
  • Wellington (North Island): Just 30 minutes out of Wellington is Battle Hill Farm Park, where Pete makes the leap off a cliff only to land on Elliot’s back. The Battle Hill Farm Park is home to cycle trails and mountain bike tracks. The park is a popular spot for walkers and there are designated camping areas so you can stay overnight right in the heart of the film location. Wellington is also home to Weta Workshops, which played an important role in bringing Disney’s Pete’s Dragon to life. Weta Workshop tours have been named one of the top 10 studio tours in the world. Film fans can meet members of the creative team and see first-hand how they create jaw-dropping special effects;
  • Queenstown & Paradise (South Island): Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown’s beautiful lakes and snowy alps are picture-perfect for a flight on the back of a dragon. Take your own leap off the edge, much like Pete in the film, with AJ Hackett Bungy, home of the world’s first commercial bungy operation. Not far from Queenstown, on the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu, sits Glenorchy and the gateway to Paradise. Paradise is true to its namesake and the picturesque location has to be seen to be believed. Travel along one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives, then zoom through the shallow river aboard a Dart River Jet Boat on your way to Paradise. You won’t believe your eyes;
  • Tapanui (South Island): This small town with a population of 900 was transformed into the Millhaven, a small logging town in America’s Pacific Northwest, for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. Tapanui is renowned for its incredible fishing in rivers brimming with brown trout and salmon. The Pomahaka River offers world class fishing with some of the biggest brown trout to be found anywhere in the world. If fishing isn’t your thing, grab a bike and jump on the Clutha Gold Trail, one of the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Great Rides. The trail is 45 miles long and follows one of the country’s longest rivers through a landscape rich with goldminers’ tales of bust and boom.
Discover how you can create your own Disney’s Pete’s Dragon itinerary through New Zealand by visiting
The story about an orphaned boy and his best friend Elliot the dragon is directed by David Lowery and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, New Zealand’s own Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford. And if you want to take a dragon’s eye view of the gorgeous scenery, here’s a cool video:


United adds direct flights to New Zealand


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.
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.
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 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!

Shedd Aquarium on the move

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.

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.
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:

Hate bending over to shave your legs?

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 for $29.99.

Travel, fun and curiosities for Chicago women over 50