Thursday, June 21, 2012

Financial Freedom

The road to financial freedom can be a bumpy one. With children costing some $250,000 to raise according to some published reports (and that does not even include college, which can run another $250,000 at certain private schools) and the prospect of also having to take care of grandchildren (a not uncommon event these days), no wonder more and more people are choosing to defer retirement or even giving up the thought of retiring altogether.  We will try to give you some strategies which may help you through the thicket of information surrounding items such as mutual funds, Social Security, 401 (k)s, IRAs and other financial matters. Of course, you should always consult with a financial professional before manking any changes in your plans and there is no guarantee that you will make money.  We will try to be as factual as we can concerning these topics based upon our independent research, but keep in mind, no one strategy works for everyone.

In our next web we will discuss when you can receive Social Security and what other options you may have.  So, be on the lookout for it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Today's "New York Times" has two intriguing stories on fatigue.The first discusses whether ginseng can help relieve the fatigue suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Ginseng is an herb or root that can also be found in supplement form. Although the article refers to a study that concluded that taking 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of ginseng can provide some relief from the sometimes paralyzing fatigue, it also cautioned that the long term impact of using ginseng was still unclear.

The second article, entitled "Statin Drugs Cause Fatigue in Some People" reports on a study from the June 11 Archives of Internal Medicine.  Statin drugs are regularly prescribed to lower cholesterol. Although its positive effects in lowering cholesterol are well-documented, the new study seems to support the long-held suspicion that one of its side effects may cause fatigue in some people, particularly women. Some participants in the study took between 20 and 40 milligrams of either
simvastatin or pravastatin.  Others were given a placebo.  More fatigue was reported in those taking the statin drugs than those taking the placebo.

As the lead researcher, Dr, Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego, cautioned, patients taking the drugs need to discuss the matter with their physicians if they notice the side effects.

Monday, June 18, 2012


For those of you who enjoy a bit of Southern hospitality but don't have the chance to actually visit the South, Tara-A Country Inn is the place for you.

Located in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, about a 90 minute drive from Pittsburgh and about an hour from Cleveland, Ohio,it is a wonderful weekend getaway at a reasonable price. If you are a fan of "Gone With the Wind", this is the place for you. Named for the antebellum mansion in that book and movie, it offers some 27 luxurious guest rooms, all named for some aspects of the book, the Rhett Butler, Scarlett, etc. Built in 1854, it was opened as a country inn by the late Jim Winner and his wife Donna in 1986. Mr. Winner was noted as an entrepreneur (he was responsible for the popularity of the "Club" automobile safety device popular in the '70s and '80s) as well as his civic efforts on behalf of the Mercer County area, particularly Sharon, Pennsylvania.

When you arrive at the inn for a visit, you are greeted by the bellman, who offers you a glass of champagne as he takes you to your room.  In your room, you will find a bottle of champagne and several small snacks to tide you over until dinner. The rooms are quite spacious and include vintage furniture as well as in-room Jacuzzis and televisions and DVD players. (A large selection of DVDs is available. Just ask at the front desk)

Sprinkled throughout the Inn and the beautifully-manicured grounds (the smell of boxwood fills the air) are numerous large bronze statutes, most with a Western theme. Also, there are many Civil War artifacts and memorabilia from the movie. It is worth taking one of the tours to learn about those as well as the mansion itself.

One of the highlights of any visit is the food! Guests are invited to attend a tea on weekends at 4:00 p.m. that includes a large selection of teas (Plantation Mint is one of my favorites and particularly appropriate) as well as several pastries, including scones with clotted cream, cookies as well as chocolate-covered strawberries and egg salad sandwiches. At 6:00 p.m. a cocktail party is held in one of the parlors. A champagne punch is offered as well as cheese and crackers. Both are included as part of the "Gone With the Wind" package.

Also included in the package is dinner and breakfast at one of the fine restaurants, Ashley and Stonewall. We have eaten in Ashley's several times and it offers outstanding cuisine consisting of a seven course menu that begins with soup (last time we had asparagus consomme) and ends with a pastry with brie cheese and port wine or Christian Brothers brandy. In between are salads, appetizers such as beef carpaccio,  entrees such as beef medallions and desserts, including cherries jubilee (my favorite) and bananas Foster (a favorite of my wife). Both are flamed in the dining room before your eyes. A piano player, a large sparkling crystal chandelier and a large mural covering the walls showing plantation life create a truly romantic atmosphere. Many of the couples are celebrating wedding anniversaries and birthdays. A jacket and tie is required for men at dinner and reservations are a must for both dinner and breakfast. Breakfast is also wonderful, including fried french toast and buttermilk pancakes.

 Tara is a favorite place for wedding ceremonies and receptions.  The weddings take place in a large gazebo and the receptions in a large tent next to the outdoor pool. There is also an indoor heated pool.

For more information, contact Tara at 724-962-3535 or view the website at

We highly recommend Tara as a refreshing getaway.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stress: Who is Stressed and Who Isn't

In a recent study published in "The Journal of Applied Social Psychology", researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania reported on the results of three national surveys measuring the degree of stress in various groups of individuals.  The surveys, conducted in 1983, 2006 and 2009, showed some surprising results.  In all three surveys, it was found that stress levels were higher in women than men and stress decreased with age. Apparently that is one of the benefits of being older.

Not surprisingly, the surveys also showed that the unemployed showed higher levels of stress than the retired.  The young were particularly hard hit by the economic downturn beginning in 2008 as they found it difficult to find jobs.

One way to relieve stress, whatever your age, sex or employment status is meditation.  So, click on one of the recommended cites listed on this blog.  It could well help.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Meditation and Tai Chi

I begin each morning by doing a meditation exercise.  Usually while still laying in bed, I will just concentrate on my breathing. With my eyes closed, I will do this for as long as I feel comforable.  Sometimes it is just a minute, sometimes it is half an hour. No matter. Even a short period of meditation seems to make a difference in my attitude, sense of well-being and mental acuity.

I usually follow up with a session of tai chi.  If you are not familiar with tai chi it is a form of martial art without the martial.  It is very nature oriented in its movements and is said to follow  the path of least resistance.  Yet it is great for stretching and improving balance.  A great resource is the exercise dvds of an instructor, Scott Cole. He has videos of all types and for all age groups focused primarily on tai chi but with additional types of exercise such as yoga. Check it out.

For more information on meditation, click on the relevant links on this post.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

National Park Service Senior Pass

If you are 62 years old or older, you are eligible to purchase a lifetime pass for seniors from the National Park Service.  For only $10, you can have access to all of the national parks run by the National Park Service. Since that number is close to 400, that is quite a bargain.  But, as they say in those infomercials on television, it gets even better.  Not only you have that access, you can take along 3 other persons with you on your visit---at no charge.

We were recently in St. Augustine, Florida and visited the Castillo de San Marcos. It was there that one of the park rangers told us of this real steal. By the way, the Castillo is an absolute must-see if you get a chance to visit that part of the country. It is in excellent condition, despite dating back to 1672. Built by the Spanish to protect their empire in America, it was built to last. Some of the walls are said to be between 14 and 19 feet thick. It was also surrounded by a 40 foot moat. Large cannons still line the gun deck. At 2:30 p.m. during our visit last Sunday, there was a demonstration of the firing of one of those cannons.  It was an excellent show that had everyone cheering.

Two suggestions: If you are interested in visiting the national parks, by all means secure a senior pass. And if you are in the vicinity, you must stop and see the Castillo de San Marcos.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tamarack Revisited

In my last post, Country Roads, Part Two, June 2, 2012, I discussed the wonderful facility known as Tamarack, located outside of Beckley, West Virginia.  In the May, 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine,, Beckley is listed as one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America. If you get a chance, take a look at the entire article. There are some real surprises on the list, including Butler, Pennsylvania. All of them are well worth looking into for a visit.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Country Roads--Part Two

Last time I wrote about two well-known resorts in West Virginia, the Greenbrier and Oglebay Park,  Today, I'd like to tell you about another West Virginia spot you will undoubtedly enjoy visiting. It is called Tamarack and is located near Beckley, West Virginia, just off Exit 45 of Interstate 77.
Opened in 1995, Tamarack is not a resort as such, it is an arts and crafts center, run as an economic development project of the West Virginia Parkways Authority. It consists of a large circular building with multiple shops for the sale of locally produced glass, pottery, jewelry, fine art, wood and textiles. Most are reasonably priced. The area is particularly well-known for glass ware.

In addition to the shops themselves, there are resident artisan studios where you can watch as their art objects are being produced. Many weekends during the summer, there are also craft demonstrations. There is also a small theater that offers musical theater and dancing. Finally, for those foodies (like me), the food court offers food from the Greenbrier resort.  The broiled trout is one of the specialities. And for dessert, you must try the Greenbrier's signature peaches or the cherry cobbler. Both are outstanding. In addition, a small shop offers Greenbrier merchandise. 

That's it for our short tour of places to visit in West Virginia. For more information, please go to or  phone 304-256-6843.

 Next up is Lisbon, Portugal.