Take the grandkids to Adler’s “What Is a Planet?”

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Most of the exhibits at Adler Planetarium in Chicago may be a bit beyond smaller kids, but if your grandchildren are older, they will likely find a lot to enjoy in the star shows and in a new exhibit called What Is a Planet? The show talks about what happened to Pluto-the-former-planet, but its main purpose is to highlight some of the museum’s prized historical icons relating to the evolving state of knowledge in astronomy.

When you visit What Is a Planet? you might even run into one of the Adler resident astronomers while you’re there. They love talking about astronomy and will tell you quite frankly that many astronomers disagree about a lot of things – another indicator of how our fund of knowledge about space is always growing and changing.

FYI: The new definition of planet, voted on by members of the international astronomers union (many of whom disagreed!), is that it must a) have enough gravity to be round, b) rotate around the sun, and c) clear everything else out of its orbit, meaning asteroids and other such extraneous stuff cluttering up space.

Interested younger kids will like the exhibit also because, right across the hall from the 600-year-old book of calculations by Kepler and other fascinating artifacts from the Adler’s archives, is a Community Design Lab where kids can draw spaceships, imagine visits to planets, and create – to their hearts’ content – models of machines and dioramas of sci-fi scenarios. All drawing and construction materials supplied free of charge. The room is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

P.S. No need to drive your car and pay a hefty parking fee. The #146 CTA bus drives directly into Museum Campus and pulls right up to the Planetarium. Catch it on Michigan Ave.

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Pre- and peri-menopausal ladies – consider the cup

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Although first-wave baby boomer women are far into the post-menopausal stage, plenty of later boomers are just approaching this momentous time in life. That fun time when our bodies begin to play sometimes-dismaying tricks with our menstrual cycles: one day heavy, another week light, another month not at all. And if that wasn’t enough, many baby boomers start to feel some discomfort when inserting and removing tampons as aging thins out the vaginal walls.

English: Silicone menstrual cups can be boiled...
English: Silicone menstrual cups can be boiled. This picture shows a menstrual cup being cleaned by boiling it. Svenska: Menskoppar av silikon kan kokas. På bilden syns en menskopp som steriliseras genom kokning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, now might be a good time to investigate a method many modern young women have found to handle Mother Nature’s antics: the menstrual cup. The menstrual cup is made of soft, flexible rubber and fits right up inside you against the opening of the cervix and collects the blood. You then reach inside, pull it out, empty it, rinse and repeat.

Diva and Lunette menstrual cups are the two main brands on the market (video comparing the two). Lunette was kind enough to send us a sample for review, so here’s an opinion from a 30-something woman who converted a few years ago to a menstrual cup instead of tampons. She used both brands but writes here about the Lunette brand smaller-size cup:

“I used it on light days, and it was great. It didn’t bother me at all, and if I had to choose (I’d need the larger size for heavier days). I would just go with whatever brand is cheaper.

In general, I love the cups over tampons. They do last much longer, and not having a string is awesome. And, my garbage isn’t disgusting from being full of bloody tampons. And I love that I don’t have to buy tampons all the time! I do still use a backup pad on heavy days and pantyliners on light days.

Maybe TMI, but it works great for me because I can reach the sink from my toilet. If I had to carry it [across the room to empty and rinse it], I think that would be a big/messy problem.

Lunette's menstrual cup comes in two size
Lunette’s menstrual cup comes in two size

Lunette’s marketing department says its product:

“…is shorter than competitors making it less obtrusive – yet holds the same amount. It’s also made of softer silicone and the rim is smoother, which makes for a much more comfy fit… The air-holes are bigger, which makes it easy to clean [and theoretically to remove]. The stem is solid yet thin, soft and flexible.” Lunette also apparently comes in crazy colors (see photo) if that appeals to you.

Assuming you’re not someone who is freaked out about touching your menstrual flow, it’s definitely worth checking out this modern invention as you move toward saying farewell to the monthly ritual of menstruation. Read more on Lunette’s website.

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Review – National Geographic guides to 100 years of national parks

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Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National Park
Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America’s 59 national parks are celebrating their 100th birthday this year. Even if you don’ think you’ll be able to visit one or more of these national treasures any time soon, you can have a virtual visit easily by looking at the official National Geographic Guide to National Parks 8th Edition just published recently. Gorgeous photos and clear directions for navigating your way through the parks make this book a must-have – even if you’re only visiting in your imagination. An enriching and relaxing way to while away an hour or two any time.

And if you’ve got grandkids, check out the National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA: Centennial Edition. They’ll see cool maps and amazing photos of wildlife; they’ll learn fun facts about forests and about conserving our natural resources. What a fun way to help kids open their eyes to how we can all preserve and protect our precious home planet. If the kids love outdoors, or if you’ll be taking them to a national park soon, they will love this book.

Imagine yourself there:

  • In the East, parks like Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah are among the most popular in the nation. They and six other parks showcase the subtle beauties of eastern scenery.
  • Midwest, we Chicagoans can experience national parks close to home or far out in the Dakotas. Environments both suburban and rugged/otherworldly await visitors to this, America’s heartland, where water plays a huge part in building and changing the landscape.
  • South Central hosts four parks – Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, Big Bend and Hot Springs – with scenery ranging from historical and underground to high and rugged.
  • The Southwest’s 11 parks contain rivers and historical remains of America’s Wild West. The Grand Canyon is an emblem of American heritage and a natural wonder of the world. Mesa Verde preserves natural wonders and the history of a people.
  • The Alaska national parks protect and preserve more than 41 million acres of natural treasures like active volcanoes, glaciers, rugged mountains, giant brown bears, sea lions, whales and wild salmon.
  • The four Rocky Mountain parks feature craggy peaks capped by glimmering glaciers, fields bathed in wildflowers, and lakes as smooth and blue as a summer sky. These also include Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes.
  • The Pacific Southwest parks stretch from American Samoa and the Hawaiian Islands to the snow-clad peaks of California. Visitors can discover everything from coral reefs to volcanic landscapes, and from deserts to monoliths and domes of granite.
  • In the Pacific Northwest parks you can hike the cathedral-like glades of Douglas fir, western red cedar and other conifers of Mount Rainier, and the Olympic and North Cascades mountain ranges in Washington state. Redwood National Park is home to 2,000-year-old trees – and some of the tallest on Earth!. In Olympic, enjoy the beauty of temperate rain forests that soar to the sky near some of the nation’s wildest coastline. Here and at Mount Rainier are the only places you can find such forests in the United States.

Thanks to National Geographic for keeping us all entertained, delighted and informed about the wonders of our country and the ways we can respect our natural world. Visit their website for more fascinating guides to our country’s national natural treasures. And very happy one-century birthday to our national parks!

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Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner has a new home!

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Welcome to the new Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner, the online magazine for Chicago women over 50. It’s great to be alive at this time in history – the Internet, the dynamic technology, the advances in medicine – and we’ve got the wisdom and the experience to make the most of it all.

Chicago skyline

Eventually we’ll have all  earlier material from the former Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner website posted, but meanwhile we’re all about helping you get out and enjoy our great city in any way that works for you. Share your ideas on what you’d like to read about – use the form below to connect with us.

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Megabus keeps growing – 10 years now!

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Happy anniversary, guys! Low fares, good service
Happy anniversary, guys! Low fares, good service

Megabus is having a big anniversary – ten years serving the Midwest and the east coast with low-cost inter-city express bus service. Frankly, I love Megabus. When I heard about the $1 fare ten years ago, I couldn’t wait to try it out. Hard to believe they could afford to do that, but yes, for $1 I became one of the first riders back then. I happily gave up flying and driving between Cleveland and Chicago, a trip I made with regularity. At first, I was one of four or five people on the buses. But the service was excellent, the drivers professional and courteous, and I soon began looking forward to relaxing into the refurbished seats inside the bright blue buses adorned with the figure of the little round guy in a yellow cap.

After I moved to Chicago, I kept riding the Megabus back to Cleveland. One of the nicest aspects of riding the Megabus is the fact that I arrive at my destination feeling rested and relaxed instead of stressed out from flying or exhausted from driving. I bring my lunch and drink; they have one half-hour rest stop when you can purchase food and drink and one brief stop to pick up and drop off in Toledo.
I’ve watched the service grow in popularity, add electric outlets and wi-fi access, and introduce a small number of higher-priced reserved seats. Now they’re standing out for their contribution to the well-being of our planet. This earth month megabus.com, a subsidiary of Coach USA, in celebration of its ten years of sustainable travel in the United States, has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 10,000 trees along megabus.com routes and on college campuses throughout the country over the next year.
“Bus travel is one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel and it also takes numerous single occupancy trips off the road,” said Sean Hughes, director of corporate affairs for CoachUSA/megabus.com. “In fact, a recent study of megabus.com customers found that traveling alone is the number one way people travel with us.”
The brand kicked off the celebration in New York City with award-winning actor, Skylar Astin who shared the news about this eco-friendly travel option. He helped christen their 10th anniversary bus, featuring the brand’s beloved mascot, Chuck, at one of their Manhattan stops.
As part of its effort to reduce environmental impact, double decker busses are outfitted with a Green Roads system that gives drivers real time information and feedback to drive safer, it also assists with reducing fuel consumption and carbon.

 With megabus.com and fares from $1 (plus a reservation fee), the cost of travel is no longer an issue. To purchase your ticket or learn more about available routes visit megabus.com. For more information and the latest news and travel deals, follow megabus.com on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Megabus did not provide any free rides. Opinions are still strictly those of the writer. ” )

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1More triple-driver technology gets really good sound in a tiny set of earbuds

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1More triple-driver in-ear buds
1More triple-driver in-ear buds

Earbuds are all the rage these days, some with built-in microphones and remote control for your device. Apple hands them out with some iPods and iPhones, or you can buy the Apple earbud-remote-mic combo online for $29 (maybe cheaper on Amazon). But their design just doesn’t stand up to the sound quality of a set of 1More brand triple-driver in-ear headphones that was recently sent for review purposes.

What does it mean that it says “triple-driver”? A whole lot, say the experts. The more drivers in your headphones/earbuds, the better quality sound you’ll get and, according to Gizmodo, a well-known online tech blog, it’s hard to get technology into headphones. Even making a single driver (like the ones in your big speakers) so small that it fits in a tiny earbud is tough. To fit in more than one is a true technological achievement. These buds have three of them inside, and they’re all about producing fine sound you can really appreciate.

Experimenting with the 1More headphones (~$99) gives a new appreciation for what good-quality buds can do for you. In a little personal comparison test, these 1More triple-drivers came out way ahead of the Apple product and light years ahead of the crummy disposable phones they hand out on airplanes. You can really tell they have been tuned to their final state by a professional sound engineer/producer/mixer. Good bass and crisp sounding brushes on drums and cymbals and nice piano in a jazz piece. Rich bass and fully twanging strings for a duet by blues giants Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Beautiful violin clarity in your classical favorites (you listen to Nutcracker all year long, too, don’t you?).

Once you find the correct eartips for the 1More – you get three sets to work with – these stay pretty well in your ears. The earpiece is set at an offset angle to the technical part and that helps make them feel more secure as well. Running with them might be a challenge, but with ordinary use and walking around, these minimize or eliminate the falling-out-of-your-ears frustration common with some. Truly handy, too, if you’re on a long call and don’t want to have to hold your phone up or put it on speaker.

Nice extra touches. The cord is strengthened with Kevlar and covered in a braided coating that makes it non-knot-forming (don’t you just love that?). The earbuds come in a classy pleather-covered black magnetic-closure case and also with a shirt clip and and a dual-prong airline adapter. Really nice for traveling, and they also work great with an audio extension cord** to listen to a movie streaming on your computer or your TV or other audio device when you want to listen yourself without bothering anyone else. Or in case your old McIntosh receiver is malfunctioning…

**Get the audio extension cord with three rings on the prong, not two, if you want to also use it on your phone. The third ring is what makes it connect with the remote (volume and call answering) and the mic functions.

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3 fun travel ideas for boomers

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We all love to get away sometimes, even if it’s to a park or a beach or even just a visit out to the suburbs. And some boomers who saved up over the years can now count on a nice nest egg to travel anyplace on their bucket list. So here are a few ideas for making your travels more convenient, or fun and fashionable or exotic:
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Droplet bag and Matador blnket packages
Droplet bag and Matador blnket packages

Handy beach/picnic/gym stuff. On vacation – or at home – you don’t want to lug along a clunky bag to put your wet suit or sweaty gym clothes in. You sure don’t want to worry your cell phone is gonna get wet on a beach or picnic. Matador offered a test sample of a couple of their practical little easy-carry items tohelp with travel/vacation situations. Their Matador Droplet Wet Bag ($14.99) comes in a 1.5-inch teardrop-shaped pouch and unfolds to a generous size (see photos). Although you probably can’t fit your gym shoes in here, you can certainly cram some shorts, a top and some socks in and know they won’t smell up your bag or dampen your other items. If you’ve got tiny grandkids and you’re out somewhere when they spill all over their clothes, this is a great place to stash the wet stuff. Or maybe you’re carrying around a bottle of red wine on your outing and don’t want it to stain anything in your bag…

The surface of the bag is waterproof, but overall the bag is not at the closure point. So don’t be thinking you can drop it in the white water rapids and be sure your phone will be dry. But for simpler challenges, it’s handy on your keychain and will keep water out or watery stuff in. And believe it or not, it’s not too tough to get in back into that little pouch.
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Also, say you’re out walking or climbing or whatever-energy-level activities you prefer. At some point you decide you want to sit down, but there’s no bench or the nearby rocks are wet. Or there’s only dusty, damp or muddy ground. Never fear. Whip out your Matador Pocket Blanket ($24.99) and lay it out for you and a friend to relax comfortably on. At 63″ x 44″ it’s almost the size of a throw, and more than two could sit if needed. It’s water and puncture resistant and folds up into a neat little package that fits easily in a pocket or purse. You could even use it as a cover in a sudden rain.
Crystal and black pack of 1More dual-driver earbuds
Crystal and black pack of 1More dual-driver earbuds
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High-tech in-ear sound with fashionista design. Big sound. Small package. Cool look. In a nutshell, that’s Crystal 1More Dual-Driver In-Ear headphones. We all want to look chic when we’re using our phones or tablets or whatever, and you can’t go wrong with these. Not only are these buds tuned by a Grammy-award-winning sound engineer, but they look good, too. 1More sent a pair of these to evaluate.

Sitting outside and integrated into the in-ear bud is a faceted Swarovski crystal – either sexy black or pretty pink; you get both colors in a single package for $79.99. Together with the matching-color, coated wires, these buds have a classy, fashionable look. They also come with a neat little storage case and several sizes of silicone eartips so you can get a better fit in your ear. If the plugs don’t stay in your ears, try the larger, triple-flanged tip. The earbuds themselves are fine-tuned by produce great sound – once you get them tightly seated in your ear. You may have to tug on your earlobe or pull on the back of your ear to open the canal wide enough to get them properly situated. Once they’re in you’ll hear the full and satisfying range of bass/treble tones in your music or movie or game.
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The cord is covered with a special Kevlar coating that protects the internal wires and makes the cord tangle-resistant – a much-appreciated feature for those of us boomers who are cord-challenged. The inline-microphone is very handy with its 3-button switch for answering/canceling calls and turning the volume up or down. Nice note: the phones automatically turn the music down on your phone when a call comes in. And it’s so nice not to have to hold the phone up on a long call.
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Use these while you’re on the plane or in the car/bus/train to listen to your music on Pandora, Spotify or whatever. Or if you want to rest or sleep – or just escape the guy-next-to-you-who-wants-to-talk – use them to listen to a white noise app like the simple Bed Time Fan or the adaptable Relax Melodies. The latter is an amazing app that lets you choose between nature sounds, guided meditations and multiple other relaxing sounds. You can even overlay sounds, like play ocean waves and rain at the same time. Cool. <Grin>
 
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Cruise and safari in Africa 2017! Yep. If you’re looking for exotic, this is it – the land of elephants and lions and giraffes and wildebeests awaits. CroisiEurope hosts a bunch of different cruises through Africa, but next year they’re introducing a new trip sailing up the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers with their new luxurious 16-passenger river cruise ship. Select a 6-day, 5-night cruise through Southern Africa in one of eight exterior-facing deluxe suites with balconies, a panoramic restaurant, lounge bar and rooftop patio with pool and chaise lounges. After that, enjoy a 4-day, 3-night stay in CroisiEurope’s own 5-star lodges, complete with safaris and a day at Victoria Falls. For a complete list of their cruise itineraries, visit their cruise website.
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Wherever you choose to go, relax, expand your horizons and open your mind. Travel well!
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Discover new delights in France

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Whether you’re a leading-edge baby boomer or on the back end, maybe you’ve got some disposable income and would love to explore the charms and attractions of France. While Paris and Versailles are undeniably magical and magnificent, alone, they do not a country make.

In case you’d like a few more reasons to start booking your trip from Chicago on Air France ($1100+ depending on dates) and then riding RailEurope within France to your destination, ask yourself a few questions: a) Crazy about watching elegant horses in majestic surroundings? b) Wish you could visit the scene of the D-Day landings in WWII? c) Love to see where they invented and still produce one of France’s most famous soft, runny, white-rind cheeses? d) Like to make a pilgrimage to a world-famous holy spot in France?

Open your guide book and check out Normandy on the northwest coast of France. Following are the landmarks relating to the questions above:

In case you’d like a few more reasons to start booking your trip from Chicago on Air France ($1100+ depending on dates) and then riding RailEurope within France to your destination, ask yourself a few questions: a) Crazy about watching elegant horses in majestic surroundings? b) Wish you could visit the scene of the D-Day landings in WWII? c) Love to see where they invented and still produce one of France’s most famous soft, runny, white-rind cheeses? d) Like to make a pilgrimage to a world-famous holy spot in France?

Open your guide book and check out Normandy on the northwest coast of France. Following are the landmarks relating to the questions above:

a) Le Haras du Pin is known as the “Versailles of Horses” and is the oldest and most prestigious national stud in France.

b) The beaches on the Channel Coast of Normandy is where the Allied troops broke through Nazi defenses to change the course of World War II.

c) The enchanting Norman village of Camembert has timber-frame farms built on lush green slopes typical of Norman countryside.

d) The basilica at Lisieux, dedicated to St. Therese, is the second most-visited pilgrimage site in France after Lourdes and the largest church built in France during the 20th century.

Another section of France known as Midi-Pyrénées was recently imagined into existence in accord with the trend toward regionalization in that country—a trend designed perhaps to help potential tourists more readily perceive the many and varied far-flung attractions of each area as a unified destination. Like the Pays de la Loire region further north, Midi-Pyrénées is now an area surrounding and affiliated with a regional metropolis, in this case the city of Toulouse. Just a few of the high points of the area:

a) Lourdes (now part of the Hautes-Pyrénées) offers a universal message of spirituality, peace and friendship that permeates the tiny village at the foot of the Pyrénées mountains—and welcomes the six million pilgrims who visit each year.

b) Marciac (part of the new Gers) is the scene of a giant party for jazz lovers from the around the world each August. The rest of the year visitors find quiet peace in this 13th century fortified town known as part of D’Artagnan and the musketeers’ Gascony.

c) Rocamadour (in Lot) is a sacred city suspended on a cliff that glows in the light of the setting sun. This extraordinary village transports you to a time when people from far and wide to worship the Black Virgin.

d) The capital city of the new region Midi-Pyrénées is Toulouse (in an area now known as Haute-Garonne). The fourth largest city in France (pop. 716,000), Toulouse is young, modern and dynamic and vibrates with a Latin heat that inspires both its temperament and its architecture.

Now, in case you’d like to feel like you’re in France but actually prefer the weather in the Caribbean, consider Martinique. This French-speaking island is part of France and yet is truly a tropical island paradise with events and festivals all year long. Dine year-round on sophisticated cuisine amid safe, lush green surroundings near crystal clear waters and enjoy the island’s rich history and architectural masterpieces. Stay in budget or luxury hotels or rent a villa. Top Martinique attractions range from a slave memorial to a fabulously ornate library—originally built for the 1889 Paris exhibition, then transported and rebuilt on the island—and include beaches, mountains, parks and gardens. It might cost you ~$800 to fly there from Chicago in February, but you’d sure be in a different—French and tropical—part of the world for a while.

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5 holiday gift ideas for boomers 2015

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Anti-fatigue mat. Feet hurt when you’re standing by the sink or the stove? Love to go barefoot when you cook, but it makes your legs ache? Recently received a sample of a super-cushiony anti-fatigue mat from Wellness Mats. It was a pleasant surprise to feel such firm-softness underfoot by the kitchen sink. The mats have beveled edges, come in multiple sizes, and are guaranteed for seven years not to curl—important to prevent falls—or deform or lose their cushiony-ness. Plus, they’re made 100% in the USA.

These mats ought to make a big difference in comfort for a bunch of scenarios. For example, if you:

  • Don’t have a dishwasher—or just like washing dishes by hand
  • Love to cook…
  • Stand and fold laundry…
  • Have a bad back or simply for better health want to use a standing desk
  • Want to cushion a hard seat at sports or entertainment events…
  • Work at a tool bench on a concrete basement or garage floor…
  • Kneel when you garden…
  • Have to stand a lot when you travel…
  • and so on.

You can buy cheaper mats, but most are more industrial-looking. These will go with almost any décor. Prices range from ~$70 for a small companion/travel size, ~$130 for a 2’x3’ professional-grade for medical, industrial apps, to $260 for a 6’x2’ mat from one of the designer collections. The designer collections are beautiful and look classy on your floor, almost like a sculpted rug. (Update 2/23/17: Be careful not to trip on this – even though it’s beveled at the edges, it’s thick and can definitely trip you up if you’re not paying attention. Also, take care not to fall off the edge when you’re side-stepping! See post here about using the mat for in-home exercise.)

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Book—Act III: Your Anti-Retirement Playbook. Received a review copy of this book and found it clearly written, easy to read, and full of positive ideas and practical tips for getting more out of life after retirement, along with a bit of history about the concept of retirement. Did you know the idea of retiring was introduced in most countries only in the late 19th century? Before that, people didn’t live all that long, and so mostly they just worked until they died. Lucky for many of us, we get to think creatively as we age about how we want to nurture our interests and even expand our relevance.

If you haven’t yet discovered the paths you want to take in this last part of life, this book uses mind mapping and questionnaires to help you discover your passions and set goals in the areas of technology, relevancy, relationships, health and finance. Sounds overwhelming, but don’t let this intimidate you. A quote from the book, “Find the smallest possible thing you can do to make an improvement and start with that.”

And even if you’ve already settled into a nice routine, the book may help you discover something new about yourself and what you care about. It takes a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to finding and pursuing your purpose in life—I think it would be good for anyone—even younger—who has free time and for whom the bills are mostly taken care of. Written by Cecilia Williams, PhD and Paula White, CPA, MBA. Price ~$15 ($9.99 for Kindle).

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Book—How Memory Works—and How to Make It Work for You. Are you lost without your smartphone? Can’t call your friends without speed dial? Never remember names? A review copy of this book reveals that its title is succinct and accurate—it contains a lot of scientific research about memory, explains a number of common tricks (acronyms, acrostics, rhymes) to sharpen mental skills, and gives practical tips to strengthen your memory as well as exercises to test yourself.

The author, Robert Madigan, PhD, says learning about memory is akin to walking rather than driving in the sense that “walking offers opportunities for self-reliance, healthy exercise, and personal satisfaction.” He details the following ideas for remembering something, saying you must:

  1. 1intend to remember it and have a plan for doing so (hmm, pay attention!);
  2. 2attach a deeper meaning to the item;
  3. 3add it to some existing memory;
  4. 4attach a visual image;
  5. 5associate it with another easier-to-recall memory;
  6. 6practice remembering it; and
  7. 7organize it, if possible, into categories (which automatically reinforces meanings you’ve attached per #2).

The chapter on “Remembering Life” may particularly appeal to anyone thinking of writing a memoir. Did you know that people over 50 tend to most vividly recall, except for very recent events, their memories from ages 15 to 30?

Though clearly written, this is a complex book. Not designed for a quick read but very good if you’re seriously into the topic. ~$12 paperback or e-book. $9.99 for Kindle.

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Book – The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing: Change Your Life without Changing Your Routine, by Margery Leveen Sher, gives readers a light-hearted guide to paying attention to the ordinary people, places, things and events that make up a typical American life. Her premise is that we are overly scheduled and too much on our screens, that our anxiety is increasing, and that there’s a realistic solution. Her book relates anecdotes about her life and offers tips on how to enjoy and appreciate life more by truly noticing the things and people around us. She says “Noticers” seem to have less anxiety, experience more joy and make deeper connections.

Even though the author is a professional life-work-balance consultant, she writes in a cheerful, easygoing voice. The conversation-starter ideas in each sub-chapter consist of questions you ask and answer with grandparents, kids, friends or co-workers. Resulting discussions might be like little mini-workshops you conduct together. The ideas encourage talking to each other about simple things that are worth noticing—some cute, some tough (like how to act when we make a mistake), and some that are just there (like the stuff that accumulates in closets and junk drawers). She uses quotes from great authors and often suggests conversations based on content from books.

This one’s an easy read. Something you could keep on a shelf by the coffeepot to leaf through each morning and pick something to notice that day. Price ~$12 paperback, $6.99 Kindle.

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Book – Cookies & Beer: Bake, Pair, Enjoy by Jonathan Bender. Yes, you read it right: Cookies and beer. While this may seem like heresy, the more you read about it, the more sense it makes. Both things have important ingredients in common: grains, spices and fruits. The book points out how the perfect beer can bring out unexpected flavors in a cookie, and how the right cookie can awaken flavors hardly noticed before in a beer.

The cookie recipes are fascinating—some of them even include beer as an ingredient as in, for example, Rye IPA Apricot Crumble Bars, which are made up of an apricot-beer-lemon-maple-sugar compote, a rye-flour-sugar-butter shortbread, and a caraway-black walnut crumble. Isn’t your mouth watering just thinking about that? The chef’s notes say: “Rye beers (IPA or otherwise) will amplify the rye and caraway seeds in the bar cookie and tease out a bit of sweetness from the apricot filling.”

How about a beer milk shake? Made with vanilla ice cream, milk, chocolate syrup and beer syrup (made out of dark beer and raw sugar—the result of which can also be drizzled by itself over ice cream) sounds like a dessert that would love the company of almost any cookie. You’ve heard of pumpkin ale, right? Check out his recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies served with Russian Imperial stout. The chef says: “When you add the stout to the cookie, it’s like you’ve just invented creamy pumpkin pie without the pie. The cookie pops up to lend lushness to this big, dark beer.”

You can tell this guy’s a food writer. This book is fun to read and dream about—even if you never make any of the recipes. Price ~$15, $9.99 for Kindle.

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5 holiday gift ideas for baby boomers

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Even though most of us don’t need more “stuff,” it’s still fun to give a gift someone can really use. Here are a few ideas (one product and four books) for those over 50 who still love giving and getting useable—books are also recyclable—gifts.

I love this mat for exercising while watching movies
I love this mat for exercising while watching movies
Anti-fatigue mat. Feet hurt when you’re standing by the sink or the stove? Love to go barefoot when you cook, but it makes your legs ache? Recently received a sample of a super-cushiony anti-fatigue mat from Wellness Mats. It was a pleasant surprise to feel such firm-softness underfoot by the kitchen sink. The mats have beveled edges, come in multiple sizes, and are guaranteed for seven years not to curl—important to prevent falls—or deform or lose their cushiony-ness. Plus, they’re made 100% in the USA. These mats ought to make a big difference in comfort for a bunch of scenarios. For example, if you:
  • Don’t have a dishwasher—or just like washing dishes by hand
  • Love to cook…
  • Stand and fold laundry…
  • Have a bad back or simply for better health want to use a standing desk
  • Want to cushion a hard seat at sports or entertainment events…
  • Work at a tool bench on a concrete basement or garage floor…
  • Kneel when you garden…
  • Have to stand a lot when you travel…
  • Like to exercise while you’re watching television, and so on.

You can buy cheaper mats, but many are more industrial-looking. These will go with almost any décor. Prices range from ~$70 for a small companion/travel size, ~$130 for a 2’x3’ professional-grade for medical, industrial apps, to $260 for a 6’x2’ mat from one of the designer collections. The designer collections are beautiful and look classy on your floor, almost like a sculpted rug.

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Good stuff in here for anyone thinking about life
Good stuff in here for anyone thinking about life

Book—Act III: Your Anti-Retirement Playbook. Received a review copy of this book and found it clearly written, easy to read, and full of positive ideas and practical tips for getting more out of life after retirement, along with a bit of history about the concept of retirement. Did you know the idea of retiring was introduced in most countries only in the late 19th century? Before that, people didn’t live all that long, and so mostly they just worked until they died. Lucky for many of us, we get to think creatively as we age about how we want to nurture our interests and even expand our relevance.

If you haven’t yet discovered the paths you want to take in this last part of life, this book uses mind mapping and questionnaires to help you discover your passions and set goals in the areas of technology, relevancy, relationships, health and finance. Sounds overwhelming, but don’t let this intimidate you. A quote from the book, “Find the smallest possible thing you can do to make an improvement and start with that.”

And even if you’ve already settled into a nice routine, the book may help you discover something new about yourself and what you care about. It takes a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to finding and pursuing your purpose in life—I think it would be good for anyone—even younger—who has free time and for whom the bills are mostly taken care of. Written by Cecilia Williams, PhD and Paula White, CPA, MBA. Price ~$15 ($9.99 for Kindle).

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Book—How Memory Works—and How to Make It Work for You. Are you lost without your smartphone? Can’t call your friends without speed dial? Never remember names? A review copy of this book reveals that its title is succinct and accurate—it contains a lot of scientific research about memory, explains a number of common tricks (acronyms, acrostics, rhymes) to sharpen mental skills, and gives practical tips to strengthen your memory as well as exercises to test yourself.

The author, Robert Madigan, PhD, says learning about memory is akin to walking rather than driving in the sense that “walking offers opportunities for self-reliance, healthy exercise, and personal satisfaction.” He details the following ideas for remembering something, saying you must:

  1. 1intend to remember it and have a plan for doing so (hmm, pay attention!);
  2. 2attach a deeper meaning to the item;
  3. 3add it to some existing memory;
  4. 4attach a visual image;
  5. 5associate it with another easier-to-recall memory;
  6. 6practice remembering it; and
  7. 7organize it, if possible, into categories (which automatically reinforces meanings you’ve attached per #2).

The chapter on “Remembering Life” may particularly appeal to anyone thinking of writing a memoir. Did you know that people over 50 tend to most vividly recall, except for very recent events, their memories from ages 15 to 30?

Though clearly written, this is a complex book. Not designed for a quick read but very good if you’re seriously into the topic. ~$12 paperback or e-book. $9.99 for Kindle.

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Book – The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing: Change Your Life without Changing Your Routine, by Margery Leveen Sher, gives readers a light-hearted guide to paying attention to the ordinary people, places, things and events that make up a typical American life. Her premise is that we are overly scheduled and too much on our screens, that our anxiety is increasing, and that there’s a realistic solution. Her book relates anecdotes about her life and offers tips on how to enjoy and appreciate life more by truly noticing the things and people around us. She says “Noticers” seem to have less anxiety, experience more joy and make deeper connections.

Even though the author is a professional life-work-balance consultant, she writes in a cheerful, easygoing voice. The conversation-starter ideas in each sub-chapter consist of questions you ask and answer with grandparents, kids, friends or co-workers. Resulting discussions might be like little mini-workshops you conduct together. The ideas encourage talking to each other about simple things that are worth noticing—some cute, some tough (like how to act when we make a mistake), and some that are just there (like the stuff that accumulates in closets and junk drawers). She uses quotes from great authors and often suggests conversations based on content from books.

This one’s an easy read. Something you could keep on a shelf by the coffeepot to leaf through each morning and pick something to notice that day. Price ~$12 paperback, $6.99 Kindle.

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Book – Cookies & Beer: Bake, Pair, Enjoy by Jonathan Bender. Yes, you read it right: Cookies and beer. While this may seem like heresy, the more you read about it, the more sense it makes. Both things have important ingredients in common: grains, spices and fruits. The book points out how the perfect beer can bring out unexpected flavors in a cookie, and how the right cookie can awaken flavors hardly noticed before in a beer.

The cookie recipes are fascinating—some of them even include beer as an ingredient as in, for example, Rye IPA Apricot Crumble Bars, which are made up of an apricot-beer-lemon-maple-sugar compote, a rye-flour-sugar-butter shortbread, and a caraway-black walnut crumble. Isn’t your mouth watering just thinking about that? The chef’s notes say: “Rye beers (IPA or otherwise) will amplify the rye and caraway seeds in the bar cookie and tease out a bit of sweetness from the apricot filling.”

How about a beer milk shake? Made with vanilla ice cream, milk, chocolate syrup and beer syrup (made out of dark beer and raw sugar—the result of which can also be drizzled by itself over ice cream) sounds like a dessert that would love the company of almost any cookie. You’ve heard of pumpkin ale, right? Check out his recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies served with Russian Imperial stout. The chef says: “When you add the stout to the cookie, it’s like you’ve just invented creamy pumpkin pie without the pie. The cookie pops up to lend lushness to this big, dark beer.”

You can tell this guy’s a food writer. This book is fun to read and dream about—even if you never make any of the recipes. Price ~$15, $9.99 for Kindle.

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Travel, fun and curiosities for Chicago women over 50