Monday, July 30, 2012

Shipshewana: A Unique Visit for the Boomer

If you, like me, are a boomer looking for an other-worldly place to visit, I have just the place for you.  It is Shipshewana, Indiana in Northern Indiana.  You probably never heard of it. Neither did we until we stumbled upon it one Friday afternoon as we were on our way to South Bend, Indiana for a Notre Dame football game. We have visited Shipshewana on several occasions since our first visit some 7 or 8 years ago. Each time we find something new that interests and enchants us. Shipshewana, which is named for a Potawatami native American chief, was listed in Patricia Schultz's "1,000 Places to See Before You Die."

Located off of the Indiana Toll Road, Interstates 80/ 90, at Exits 107 and 121, it is an Amish community that is quite unexpected in the middle of the cornfields which surround it. By the way, after leaving the Toll Road, you will pass the Howe School. If you have the time be sure to stop and see the school's chapel. The chapel was built in 1903 and is listed on the Register of Historic Places.  You will note the hand-carved pews and the collegiate style seating.

Amish, which is an offshoot of the Mennonite religion, is not just a religion but a way of life. The Amish reject many of today's modern conveniences, including automobiles. They prefer horse-drawn buggies, which march alongside the road.  Their life is simple, emphasizing the family and community. The Amish are friendly but ask that you respect their traditions and privacy. For example, they request that you not take their photograph.

Shipshewana is home to numerous shops where you can buy antiques, furniture, baked goods and quilts. There are also several dining options available. In addition, Shipshewana is host to the Midwest's largest flea market,  It is held every Tuesday and Wednesday from May 1 through the end of October. It is said to be a Hoosier tradition not to be missed.

If you are interested in furniture that will last a lifetime and beyond, we recommend you stop by the Riegsecker Marketplace Shops located at 105 E. Middlebury St.  We bought our kitchen table and chairs there and they are as solid as any you will find anywhere.

For dining,we recommend the Blue Gate Restaurant. The food consists of typical Amish fare and is available either from the menu or family style.  The homemade pies are delicious. Each meal is served with bread and homemade peanut butter.  Wonderful! The restaurant is located directly in front of the Riegsecker shops.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to Make Flying Easier: Tips for Baby Boomers

Are you a baby boomer who does not fly very often?  If so,  every experience at the airport and on the airplane can seem  like the first time. Here are some tips that might help ease your way. Most of them are just common sense but it pays to be reminded of them.

One of the first recommendations I have is that you put all your travel papers in a folder that you take with you to the airport. For just a few dollars, you can buy a cardboard folder at Office Max or Office Depot.  If you prefer, you can also get one in leather or vinyl depending upon your style and budget. I prefer the ones that are self-closing.

As you are getting ready for your trip, put all of the papers you will need for the trip in the folder.  This will include your boarding pass, itinerary, hotel and rental car confirmations and if you are leaving the country, your passport and any othere papers you may need during your trip.  By the way, you need to remember that you now need a passport to enter into Canada. Having all these papers in one place will save a lot of aggravation and time at the airport and on your trip.

The day of your trip, you may also want to add to the folder your driver's license or other picture ID that you will need to go through security at the airport. One important point about the travel folder: keep the folder with you at all times.  It does you no good if it is in your checked baggage or in your carry on bag if you have to surrender it at the door of the plane if it is too large or there is no room in the overhead bins.

I also recommend you take as little additional clothing on the plane with you.  Overcoats, hats, scarves, etc, either become lost or crushed by someone's luggage in the overhead bin.  I always try to put those items either in my checked bag or carry-on. Speaking of carryons I happen to think the Delsey carryons are the most useful.  They fit a lot of clothing, but are lightweight and easy to put in the overhead.

I find it useful to wear slip-on shoes when traveling by plane. Not only is it easy to take them off on the plane, which is particularly important on long flights where you want to get comfortable, you will spend less time at the security gate since you will not have to unlace and lace up tie shoes.When you are seated, I recommend doing some basic stretches, particularly on long flights.  Just raising your arms in the air or leaning forward in your seat and touching the floor with your hands can do wonders for your circulation.  Compression stockings also may make sense on long flights. These cost about $10 and you can get them at Dick's Sporting Goods stores.

As the title of this post states, these little tips can make your flight just a little easier.

For information on some cool destinations, please take a look at my earlier posts and those yet to come.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pittsburgh on $100 a Day

Hey Pittsburgh, you have just been named one of the "10 Best Places to Live on $100 A Day"  by AARP Magazine.  That works out to $36,500 a year.  The survey was based on the purchase price for a median priced home, the climate, the availability of cultural opportunities and, not surprisingly, access to topnotch medical facilities and services. Another factor that was considered was the local economy.  Pittsburgh, while hit by the recession like everywhere else, has not seen the foreclosure rate seen elsewhere.

Interestingly enough, Morgantown, West Virginia, which is located about 90 miles South of Pittsburgh also made the list.

If you are thinking about a move in retirement, consider Pittsburgh!

Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Myron Cope  was the well-known, high-pitched radio commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Known for creating the "Terrible Towel," the black and gold towel seen being waved at every Steeler game, whether home or away, Cope was also one of the foundesr of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. Estatblished in 1983 as a fund raiser for the Allegheny Valley School and later the Autism Society of Pittsburgh, it is now one of the most popular races of its kind. Nearby are two great universities, Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.Pictured above is the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.

Each year, generally during the third weekend of July, drivers of vintage race cars and fans of sports cars gather in the Oakland section of Pittsurgh in Scheleny Park to watch the only vintage car race run on city streets.. The course is 2.33 miles  long and has over 20 turns. About 250,000 people attend the time trials, the international car shows and the races.

Each year, one car is selected as the marque for the car show.  This year it was the MG and the spotlight car was the Lotus. In addition, German cars were highlighted. Porches, Audis, BMWs and Volkswagens filled the Bob O'Connor golf course where the car shows were held on this past Saturday. I even saw a Beetle that resembled my old 1970 Bug. Because of the German theme, there was even a Biergarten, where your favorite German brew was available under a large tent.

While the car shows are going on, so too are the qualifying races. The Crown Royal Featured Races took place on Sunday. The racers include classics such as Bugatti, Aston-Martin and Alfa-Romeo.

Be sure to mark your calendar for next year's event.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alternatives to Immediate Annuities:in Retirement 101

As we come closer to retirement, we all start thinking about how we can supplement our social security and other sources of income such as pensions or IRAs.  One of the investment vehicles being touted today is the immediate single premium annuity The immediate annuity works like this in its simplest form:. You take a lump sum of money, say $100,000, and give it to the insurance company when you reach age 65. Except in very limited circumstances, you no longer have access to the principal. In return, you will receive a monthly payment until you die. If you are lucky enough to have a long life, you will undoubtedly receive back your investment and more. On the other hand, if you were to die shortly after purchasing the annuity, your estate will lose the entire amount.  There is some variation of the immediate annuity that allows your spouse to continue receiving a reduced payment until his or her death. The question is: are there other investments that may produce  income without risking losing the entire amount and without those restrictions on access to your money?

Although none of these investments are guaranteed or without risk, I think that there are several alternatives which together may provide a reliable source of income.  As always, the key is to maintain diversity, i.e., spreading your investment money around several different classes of assets..  In that regard mutual funds are probably the better choices for most people rather than individual stocks and bonds. One type of fund to consider is the municipal bond fund. These generate tax-free income and if they contain municipal bonds from your state, the income(or some portion of it) may be free of state as well as Federal income tax.  A second type of fund to consider is the dividend growth fund.. These generally invest in high quality stocks that have paid dividends for many years and are regularly increasing the amount.The third leg of the stool is an investment grade corporate bond fund. These are designed to generate the highest levels of income consistent with the preservation of principal..  Of course ,unlike the immediate annuity, none of these mutual funds produce a guaranteed income and you could also lose your principal.  However, with any of these  alternatives, you do have access to your money and it may still be there for your heirs.

All of the major mutual fund companies offer these types of investments, Vanguard (, Fidelity (, T. Rowe Price (, etc. So which you choose is really a matter of personal preference.

DISCLOSURE:  The author has investments with each of the mutual fund families referred to in this post. The opinions expressed in this post are informational only and are not intended to provide investment advice.  You should consult with a professional advisor before investing your money.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Atlantis Found on Paradise Island

In mythology, Atlantis is the "Lost Continent" somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In reality, it is a fabulous resort in the Caribbean.

Paradise Island is located near Nassau in the Bahamas It is connected by two bridges over Nassau Harbor to the Bahamian island of New Providence, where Nassau is located . Originally developed by the A&P supermarket heir, Huntington Hartford, the island was formerly called Hog Island. Little wonder why he changed the name

The island has been the location of a number of motion pictures including the 2006 remake of  the James Bond flick, Casino Royale. Although there are several resorts and hotels on the island, the most well-known and most popular is the Atlantis Resort and Spa.

In the 1980s, Donald Trump acquired the Atlantis. Subsequently, it was bought by the late singer and television host., Merv Griffin, who was also known for squiring the Hungarian beauty, Eva Gabor, of the famous Gabor sisters,  Ms Gabor was perhaps best known as the society matron turned farmer in the television series, "Green Acres." The Atlantis is currently owned by South African, Sol Kerzner, who has significantly expanded the resort beyond its two original towers joined by a bridge.Michael Jackson is said to have once stayed in the bridge.

The Atlantis has over 2000 luxuriously appointed rooms.  We stayed in the Coral Tower and were very pleased with our room.  As part of our package, we also received breakfast in the Sea Grapes restaurant just off the magnificent lobby. The breakfast was buffet style and those lucky enough to have a table near the window could see sea turtles playing in the shallow pools outside the window. One of the hallmarks of the Atlantis is the water bodies which seem to be everywhere. There are 11 swimming pools scattered throughout the grounds.  The grounds themselves are immaculately kept. One of the highlights of the swimming experience is the Mayan Temple water slide (if you dare!) There is also a dolphin cove where children and I suppose adults can play with the dolphins.  Those less adventurous can watch from across  the cay.

The water theme is carried inside as well as there is a large aquarium that is below ground and contains numerous fish and other sea animals.

The Atlantis has a number of fine restaurants in addition to casual dining spots outside.  Our favorite is Bobbby Flay's Mesa Grill.  It serves the same menu as his New York restaurant and is definitely worth the splurge.

The casino in the Atlantis is the largest in the Caribbean.  On the ceiling are these fabulous glass sculptures by the artist Dale Chihuly. They are not to be missed even if you do not gamble. For those who do gamble, you won't be disappointed as all your favorite table games and slot machines are available. Good luck!

The Atlantis can be pricey but it frequently offers extra days for free and even free airfare.  Check their website if you are interested in going.

For another take on Atlantis, see our post, The Boomer's Guide to Travel Sites in Santorini Greece.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What's Going on In Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Located about 20 miles South of Pittsburgh is the small borough of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Despite its relatively small size, it is the home of several important singers. One of the most prominent of these is the late crooner, Perry Como. Originally a barber in Canonsburg, he went on to become one of the most popular singers of the 1950s and early 1960s, known for his smooth and easy style. He was a major television star with the Kraft Music Hall where his theme song was "Dream Along with Me," one of Como's best known songs. Como was also noted for a soul-inspiring version of the "Ave Maria." Not surprisingly, Canonsburg has honored this native son, who died in 2001, with a statute in the middle of town. On the base of the statute is one of his favorite phrases, "To This Place God Has Brought Me."

Bobby Vinton, one of the best-selling singers of the 1960s and 1970s also grew up in Canonsburg. Best known for his songs, "Blue Velvet" and "Lonely," Crooner Bobby Vinton was a top male vocalist from 1962 to 1972, with more number one songs in that period than Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. His hit songs were mellow; most were romantic. It was only the Beatles who displaced him from that high perch Canonsburg has also honored this native son, who now lives in Florida, with two streets, Bobby Vinton Blvd and Bobby Vinton Drive.

One place that is a "must see" in Canonsburg is the Sarris Chocolate Factory & Ice Cream Parlour. Located on a side street near the exit to Interstate 79, it is a mecca for those who love chocolate. There is plentiful parking across the stree from the brightly decorated building. The only time that is not the case is for the holidays, particularly Valentine's Day and Easter. Then it is every man and woman for themselves both inside and outside the store. (Actually at those times, there is usually a police officer outside the store to avoid parking confrontations!). Sarris also provides corporate gift and fund-raising opportunities.

Sarris has every kind of candy imaginable.  One of their specialities is their chocolate-covered pretzels, which are available in both milk and dark chocolate. Many of the candies are made onsite. Each year at Easter, large five foot bunnies dominate the store.  And throughout the year, at least one large chocolate exhibit is displayed.
Believe it or not, the entire castle is made of chocolate!

In addition to the candy store, the building also houses an old-fashioned ice cream parlour, with a player piano that for a dollar plays some old-time songs. But it is the ice cream that you will go there for. And as with the chocolate and other candies, you will not be disappointed. From cones to sundaes and old-fashioned ice cream sodas (my favorite is the cherry--yum, yum), it is an ice cream-lover's delight.

Sarris located at 511 Adams Avenue, Canonsburg, PA  15317.  The phone number is 1-800-Sarris-1.  They can also be reached through their website,

So, if you are in the area of Canonsburg to pay homage to Perry Como or Bobby Vinton, make sure you stop in at Sarris.  You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What to See in Lisbon

Recently, reporter, Frank Bruni, of The New York Times, wrote a column about his trip to Lisbon, Portugal. He lamented that, after an all night flight from New York to Lisbon, his hotel room was not ready and the only option available was to sleep in the lobby.  Instead he opted to wander around the city, exploring new places. This all struck a chord with me as my wife and I had a similar experience on our honeymoon. We flew into Lisbon after our first honeymoon stop----where else----Niagara Falls.

One of the highlights of our trip to Lisbon was the Gulbenkian Museum. The museum houses the eclectic collections of art and other antiquities assembled by Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian.Gulbenkian, an Armenian businessman and philanthropist was largely responsible for making Middle Eastern oil available to the Western Hemisphere. Gulbenkian, had once lived in Constantinople (now Istanbul) but traveled the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in search of antiquities from ancient Egypt, Greece and Babylonia.  Over 6000 pieces he found are now in the collection.The permanent collection at the museum displays many of those items. Alxo on display are many of the paintings he collected.  These include paintings by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, Monet and Gainsborough. We lingered most of a day at the Gulbenkian.  It is well worth the visit if you are in Lisbon.Avenida de Berna 45A 1067-001 Lisbon, Portugal
217 823 000
Located in the Belem District of Lisbon is an impressive statute of Columbus.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Boost The Brain's Power Through Tai Chi

We all have heard those horror stories about losing the brain's cells at an early age and how that can effect our memory and cognitive skills. . Now there is something you can do about it.  And it does not involve buying expensive equipment or spending lots of money on supplements.  The answer?  Why, tai chi, of course.

In the June 19, 2012 edition of the  Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, a team of researchers from China's Shanghai Fudan University and the University of South Florida, reported on an eight month study they conducted of Chinese seniors who practiced the art of tai chi at least three times a week. They found that comparing those individuals with those who did not practice tai chi, those who did practice it had increased brain volume.  In turn, that resulted in improvements in both memory and cognitive function.

So, if you are having trouble remembering where you put the car keys, try tai chi.  Who knows, you might even find the keys. Let me know if it seems to work for you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

City of Parks: Great Minneapolis Parks

Minneapolis is known for the Vikings, the Twins and the Metrodome as well as the skywalks between downtown buildings that provide shelter to workers on cold winter days. What a lot of people are unaware of is that it is also a city full of parks.  Yes, parks.The land of 10,000 lakes is host to 182 parks, many of them on or near one of those lakes. On a recent visit to the Twin Cities, we visited several of those parks and were pleasantly surprised at their variety and the extensive use made of those parks.

Minnehaha falls is a wonderful place for a picnic or even a wedding, both of which we saw while visiting there. Located south of downtown Minneapolis, it has a wonderful waterfall, which drains into the Mississippi river.  No, it is not as high as Niagara Falls, but it is impressive.

There is a small concession stand where soft drinks and beer are available for drinking inside or alfresco. Bicycles, including one that can accommodate four people, are also available for use on the many trails throughout the park.  Parking in the designated lots is at a premium so be prepared to park your car on the street and walk to the falls.

Two other parks also merit mention.  These are Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, which are located about five minutes apart near the Uptown section of the city.  Both have walking and biking trails around the lake, each of which is around 3 miles long. They have small beaches where limited swimming is permitted. One of the benefits of walking around Calhoun is the presence of a small restaurant called the Tin Fish.  It offers mainly fish dishes (no surprise there) including fish tacos and walleye sandwiches. On the weekends, the lines can be quite long, so be prepared to wait. It is definitely worth the wait.

For more information on these and other parks in the Minneapolis area, visit