If your best friend called you to tell you that they were going to be spending the next week away on a retreat, this may conjure up images of a room full of hippy-esque folk with unkempt hair, sat cross-legged amongst glowing crystals and freshly lit sandalwood scented incense sticks in a meditative trance.
You may insist that she doesn’t put down the phone and keep talking to you as you race around to her place to try and shake some sense into her.
A scene like this would be fitting as a satirical comedy sketch, but it bears little resemblance of what retreats have to offer people into today’s fast paced world of technology, social media, and advertising.
Retreats, as their very name suggests, are places where anybody can go to escape and retreat from life for a little bit, whether this is a weekend, a week or a month.
There is no induced vow of silence, speaking in tongues, passing of a talking stick around a campfire or a week long diet of wheatgrass and seaweed. Retreats are places to meet like minded people who are eager to get back to basics and reconnect with themselves and the natural world around them. These people aren’t hippies or new age converts. They are teachers, business people, professionals and busy moms.
There are many different types of retreat, but all have a common purpose, and that is to dedicate time to self-reflection, calmness and re-energizing oneself.
Some retreats will focus more on the mind and others on physical well-being whereas some may consider a more religious pathway to a sense of inner peace. A church retreat venue would be apt for those who are looking for a deeper spiritual journey on their retreat to develop their relationship with God.
Whatever the reasons for you venturing to a retreat, you will be supported on your journey by those individuals who dedicate their time to running the retreat. They will prompt your thinking and pose questions to encourage your inner reflection.
Retreat often sounds like a solitary jaunt.
However, the communal aspect of retreat, with shared dining experiences, socializing and sleeping means you may be more vocal during your weekend, week or month away than you ever are in your day to day life.
Healthy eating, detoxing and cleansing are aspects of rejuvenation that all retreats share.
You may spend your days chatting with fellow retreaters or taking time out for yourself going on long walks, resting and contemplating. There will be instructor led sessions on relaxation techniques, yoga or mindfulness. These are skills that you can then apply to your life outside of the retreat to enhance your well-being.
Retreats are no longer seen as niche and are becoming more and more mainstream as our lives become ever more demanding.
The stresses of work life, the worries of family life and the pressures of keeping up appearances have made going on a retreat an excellent option for many people who want to focus on their health and well-being, returning to their lives renewed and refreshed.
It’s that time of year again when our grandbabies are finishing up class. In fact, they are wrapping up for summer by doing exams and getting reports. And it can leave us feeling proud as punch when we see how well they have done during the last school year.
In fact, it makes us want to surprise them with something to show how proud we are of their hard work. And thankfully, there are some things you can get them. In fact, here are some ideas of how you can show your grandchildren you are proud of their school success.
Bake them a well done cake
There’s nothing better than grandparents cooking. In fact, if you think back to when you were little, you loved having some baked goods when you went to see your grandma and grandad. Therefore, if you want to show them how proud you are, it’s time to bake them a delicious celebratory cake.
You can look on http://www.marthastewart.com/274319/easy-cake-recipes to find their favorite flavor. For instance, opt for chocolate if they have a sweet tooth, or you could go for a traditional sponge and jam if this will take their fancy.
You can then decorate it with icing which says ‘well done’ to show your little one how proud you are of them. They will be delighted when they see the cake. And you can then let them take it home to share with their friends!
Get them a special keepsake
You can also celebrate your little one’s success at school by getting them something to keep. After all, they can look back at it over the years to remind them of their journey in education.
It might be that you go for a special pen or pencil. After all, you can get it personalized with the date, so they always remember why they got their special gift.
Or you might even want to get them a scroll which highlights their achievement in the last year. And a t-shirt would also be a nice idea which you can get personalized from sites like www.ZoeysPersonalizedGifts.com. You can then get something along the lines of completing preschool or kindergarten on the top.
And they can even wear it for a couple of months to show off to their friends, before putting it away for safe keeping!
Take them for a day out
If you have several grandchildren, it can be difficult to spend any time with them on a one to one basis. After all, you are likely to have their siblings at the same time.
But if you want to show them how proud you are of their school success, you should take them for a day out just the three of you. You might take her out to the park for the day. Or you could even go to a theme park or beach so they can have some fun.
It’s a great way to reward them for their hard work during the school year! And it can be lovely to get some special time with your grandchild; you can even end the day with a sleepover!
And if you need to keep your grandchild busy during summer, check out my blog for ideas such as putting on a teddy bears’ picnic!
'Where flowers bloom so does hope.' - Ladybird Johnson
I remember, as a child, being sent out into the garden to find a flower or two for our kitchen table. We had a large garden and there was usually an hibiscus, perhaps some frangipani or, even better, a rose. The flowers generally needed replacing every couple of days since neither frangipani nor hibiscus are long-living. But I loved to search for a bright blossoms.
It added such a cheerful accent to the kitchen table. The whole day seemed brighter.
Brighten your home and create a positive mood at the same time
One of the easiest ways to brighten up your home is by decorating with flowers. If you have a garden, then you might consider planting flowers that you can cut and bring indoors. By planting flowers that bloom all season long you can easily decorate with them until the cold hits in autumn.
Not only do flowers look bright and cheerful, they have been found to have a positive effect on people's moods. One study (Rutgers, University of New Jersey) found that flowers produce both an immediate and long term uplift in mood- happiness, less depression, higher sense of life satisfaction.
Further studies found that those who dined at restaurants where fresh flowers decorated the tables seemed in better moods. An increase in cognitive performance has been observed in offices with flowers and plants. The bright blooms seem to chase away anxieties and the blues.
Another behavioral research study conducted by Nancy Etcoff, found that... 'the morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon'. The study also found that those who began their day with positive moods – happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example – continued to be cheerful and positive through most of the day. Etcoff adds, “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”
What better way, then, to introduce a quality, cheerful tone and ambiance to your homelife than with a simple bouquet of flowers. Here's how.....
Flower arrangement tips and ideas for beginners
*Before you begin, trim on the diagonal the stems of your flowers before arranging them. It will allow the flowers to drink up plenty of water. (If your roses are a bit limp, trim the stems and plunge into a deep bucket of water up to their heads and even over. Some flowers, like roses, will absorb water through their petals.)
*Remove any leaves that will be below the water line. This will prevent the leaves rotting.
*If you're using flowers with long stems in a tall vase, ensure that the container has a heavy base. (You don't want it toppling over.) The finished height of the arrangement should be roughly 1 1/2 times the height of the container.
*As a rule of thumb, use an odd number of main flowers in your arrangement.. it's not so important for smaller, filler flowers. This will result in an arrangement that looks balanced, more appealing to the eye.
*And your flower arrangements don't have to be huge. A lovely bowl of flowers can be just as pleasing as a large vase arrangement.
*Don't cut your stems of flowers and foliage too long. Consider the height of your arrangement.
*Yes, foliage is important. But you can use what you find in your garden. Begin with small leaved greenery until you become more confident. Simple asparagus fern, spinning gum or callistemon work well and even herbs like rosemary would be fine.
*Use the containers you already own.. you can create some truly beautiful arrangements in a teacup.
Small bowls work well as do teapots, jugs, small watering cans or even large shells.
If you're using a container with not much height, it will probably be best to use some florist foam (Oasis.) Just cut off a piece to fit your container, soak for about 15 minutes. Then push it firmly into your container. Arrange your flowers by pushing them firmly into the florist foam. You will find that you can cut the stems of your flowers and foliage a little shorter when using the foam since you push the stems roughly halfway into the foam to secure in place.
Use flowers from your garden
Decorating with flowers doesn’t have to be expensive. Try looking around your garden and use what you see growing. You don't need a lot of flowers to make a beautiful home accent. For example, do you grow agapanthus? Pick one stem and add it to a container so that the bloom forms a dome at the top of your container. Now, pop some foliage stems and a couple of other flowers between the agapanthus flowerlets and you're done.. easy.
Begin now and plant some flowers that you can use later in your home arrangements. Download the FREE guide to easy to grow and easy to use flowers for arrangements.
why not try to involve your kids and encourage them to help out in your flower garden? They'll love to water the growing plants and pick the flowers as they bloom. You can even grow flowers that kids can eat. Make smoothies for your kids and they can sprinkle the top with nuts, seeds, muesli and ..... petals. (Violas, nasturtium, calendula and rose petals to name just a few..)
Don't forget to add some foliage
To add some flare to your floral arrangements don’t forget to use some of the leaves that grow with your flowers.
Hosta leaves help add a wonderful touch of green to indoor flower arrangements too. You probably have a variety of grasses growing in your garden and these can be used to make your dinner settings stand out. Simply use a grass such as maiden grass of about 20cm long and tie around your cutlery and fasten with a knot. To add color to your setting pick a small handful of pansies or daises and tie them into a bouquet as well.
Maiden grass dries extremely well and will keep for up to one year so you can easily reuse them over and over again. If you find the grass is getting a little brittle then spray very lightly with a little hair gel. Works wonderfully!
Creating Bouquet Arrangements
Top floral designers are experimenting with creating tiered bouquets for the home and you can easily accomplish this, too.
All you need for your tiered bouquet are two glass bowls which can be stacked on top of each other.
Then simply fill with a mixture of small and large seasonal flowers. For example, in the spring you can mix pansies and nemesia or forget-me-nots and use larger flowers such as columbine and violas. In the sample one above, I used button chrysanthemums and baby's breath.
First start by stacking your pedestal bowl on top of the larger one and then add water to both bowls. Use smaller blossoms for the base of the bowls and press the stems into the water. Then take your larger blossoms and cut the stems so they fit inside the bowl, simply insert these blossoms throughout your flower bouquet.
If you don’t have a pedestal-type bowl you can use small individual glass bowls and place them around your home. If you are having dinner guests, you could place small flower arrangements at their place setting.
Other simple ideas
Peonies, hibiscus or frangipani look wonderful floating in a small bowl of water. To keep the peony above the water, place a small ball of bubble wrap underneath it for support. Use grasses or leaves to add a touch of green to the bowl.
Check out some of the other simple floral arrangement ideas below.
'Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers.
Download this FREE guide to find easy-to-grow flowers for your own garden and easy-to-arrange flowers and start creating a cheerful, warm home atmosphere.
Trying to find unique and interesting gifts can often be a very big challenge. A lot of people want to give presents which have great meaning. But, they also want it to be something personal and thoughtful.
With all of the options out there, this gets even harder. It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
Instead of focusing on finding the best gifts, you could focus on making them. This sort of aim will take some time to achieve. But, with the help of this post, you should have the building blocks to get started with it.
It’s just a matter of time until you can start to give gifts which you’ve made yourself.
You probably already have a couple of skills or interests which will fall quite nicely into this sort of work. If you don’t, there’s no need to worry; you can still start to learn something new.
Like any hobby, there will be some gear you have to buy. This will depend on the activity you’ve chosen, as well as they things you’d like to make. For example, if you have an interest in making clothing, a sewing machine would make your work a lot of faster.
But, you’d want to use websites like http://sewingmachinejudge.com/ to help you find the very best options. When you make a big purchase like this, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the best value for money. Otherwise, you may end up having to spend more money in the future.
Of course, you won’t have a great time using the tools you buy if you have no idea of how to use them, though. Learning the skills you will need to make gifts for your friends and family is the most time-consuming part of this effort.
It might take several months of working before you can consider yourself good enough to give away your creations. But, you can always get some help to make this stage faster. In most places, you’ll be able to find classes to help you with the most common hobbies and interests.
If you’re interests are less common, though, you might have to use sites like www.youtube.com to help you out. Sites like this are filled with informative videos which can help you to master a new skill very quickly. And, they’re posted by other users, so you have the chance to ask questions.
Now, with the skills and tools you need under your belt, you’re ready to start working on some gifts. A lot of people will struggle at this stage.
But, you can use some simple rules to help you. For example, you should already know your recipients' color preferences. This gives you the chance to capture the hues and shades which they love, without having to do loads of research about them.
Along with this, you can also think about the items they already love to use. Taking the qualities they like from items like clothing and ornaments is a great way to come up with inspiration.
Hopefully, this will give you the inspiration you need to stop spending money on your gifts. Most people really appreciate a handmade gift much more than something bought in a store.
This sort of effort shows that you care about someone. By putting the time in, you will be working a lot harder than simply buying them something.
As a grandma, you’re always on the lookout for fun new ways to spend time with the grandkids, well have I got a fun-filled activity for you – a teddy bear’s picnic! It’s such a simple idea for the summer, but it’s one that young children just love and, best of all, it’s pretty easy to organize too.
To throw a good teddy bear’s picnic, all you need is some nice food, a few activities, some beloved stuffed animals and a huge picnic blanket. Sound good? Here are some tips to help you throw the best teddy bear’s picnic there’s ever been and blow the grandkids away:
Find the Perfect Spot for a Picnic
First of all, you’re going to want to scout out the perfect spot for your teddy bear’s picnic. This could be your garden or the den if you’re looking for convenience, but if you’re looking to really wow the kids, finding a nice clean, quiet area in the local park, or even better, the woods would be great.
Send the Invites
Sure, you could just call the grandkids and invite them to the picnic, but where’s the fun in that? If you want to make this activity special, then you need to send out cute invitations like the ones at Zazzle.com.
Send them out at least a few days in advance to increase the kids’ anticipation and DO NOT FORGET to invite their favorite stuffed animal pals too! If you want to, you could invite some of the children’s human friends and their plushies too, but to be honest, when it’s just grandma and the kids, it’s a whole lot more special.
If you want to make it even more exciting for the kids, you could add a dress code to the invitations. This could be something simple like wearing bear brown or something a bit more exciting like dressing in their best clothes or dressing like their favorite doll or stuffed animal, but it will add a little bit more of excitement to the proceedings.
Prepare the Food
It’s a teddy bear’s picnic, and that means that you need to have lots of lovely food to enjoy at leisure. If you’re keeping it simple, enough sandwiches and juice boxes for you all will be fine, but if you want to make it really special, cooking up cookies and cupcakes, or buying them with a little help from the store - Costco has some amazing cake styles and prices - will be even better.
As will baking a few mini quiches, pizza slices, pasta salad and, of course, your grandchildren’s’ favorite foods. Pack all of the food in a nice picnic basket and bring along some teddy bear paper plates, napkins and cutlery to complete the theme and ensure that there are no accidents while you’re enjoying the day.
Organize Some Activities
You might think that simply sitting on a blanket in the park enjoying some delicious foods is enough to pass the afternoon pleasantly, but the grandkids probably have other ideas, which is why, if you want to keep them happy and make the picnic one of the most memorable moments of their childhood, you need to think of a few activities.
If they’re the creative type, then bringing along a few crafting supplies like paper and crayons, origami books for kids or sticker books might be enough to keep them happy. If, however, they’re a bit more active, organizing a small treasure hunt or having a game of hide and seek could be a lot of fun.
What Teddy Bear’s picnic could be complete without a few sing-songs? Most kids love singing, and it’s a great way to have fun without spending a lot of money. Top of the agenda should be Teddy Bear’s Picnic, but other bear themed songs like Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear and Five Little Bears are also good choices.
If you’re holding your teddy bear’s picnic at home, or if you own a pocket projector, a good way to wind down the activity and calm the kids down after all the excitement is to watch a great movie. Bear-themed movies aren’t as easy to find as you might think, but The Jungle Book, Nature’s Bear and Toy Story are all good options for such an occasion. Of course, you could just let the kids choose a favorite movie that they would like to watch instead.
Can you think of any other teddy bear-related activities or ideas that would work well at a teddy bear’s picnic? Let me know in the comments.
Originally posted June 2014 and updated July 2017
Sunshine, warmth, blue skies... beautiful weather for fun in the outdoors. Enjoying the outdoors with kids doesn't have to be a daunting all-day activity. But sometimes it's difficult to encourage the kids outside and away from the screens. Or maybe you're looking for inspiration for handling those "I'm bored!" complaints.
What you need is something that will turn outdoor activities into an adventure.
Encourage even the most reticent nature walker outdoors with the thrill of a nature scavenger hunt.
It won't take much preparation time for you but will definitely provide loads of fun for your grandkids.
Start with a scavenger hunt list. You can always create your own but why reinvent the wheel when there are great ideas already done for you?
Make a list
Take this list from Chrissy Taylor, for example. Print the list, laminate it for durability and so that you can reuse it. If you have small children, your list might have to be in picture-form.
Ideas for pre-readers
If you do have pre-readers, there are plenty of options and ideas readily available. It's a wonderful way to explore the senses and encourage them to locate things that feel or smell. Check out this scavenger hunt for little ones- it includes a simple printable list to download and use.
Teams or individuals
Decide whether to run your scavenger hunt as a team contest or individuals. This will probably be determined by the number of kids you have and whether they've included their friends.
Don't forget the prizes
These don't need to be difficult or costly but, since most kids are fiercely competitive, it will add another level of excitement if they're striving for the prize at the end of the hunt. Don't forget consolation prizes for those who miss out.. especially with little ones.
It's also a good finish to any scavenger hunt if you conclude with a special snack or treat. Something as simple as an ice-cream for everyone to conclude the scavenger hunt can turn a fun adventure into a memory-making event, a simple moment that matters.
Leaf shape scavenger hunt
A simple option for younger ones, is something like a leaf shape hunt. Give each child a list of leaf shapes to look for and a bag to collect the leaves in once they find them. Design your own checklist of leaf shapes or download a ready-made one.
Try a photo scavenger hunt
If your kids are older and complain, "Oh, we've done this," be ready for them. Hand out a photo adventure scavenger hunt. Not only do they have to find the item on the list but take a photo. It's amazing how the addition of a camera or smartphone can change the interest level from ho-hum to extreme.
Alphabet Photo Scavenger Hunt
How about an Alphabet Photo Scavenger hunt? It's nice and easy. The kids will need to find and photograph items for all the letters of the alphabet, or as many as they can find.
Backyard, beach or bush
Your scavenger hunt can be held in your own backyard, at the beach, at a park or, if you're very adventurous, you could take them all for a bushwalk.
Hand each child: a bag to collect the found items, the laminated list, a whiteboard marker (use on the laminated list) and a rations pack. (They're always hungry and a trail mix should keep them happy. Don't forget some water.)
The fun needn't end once you're home again. Create a beautiful nature light with the kids as a colourful reminder of your day out in the great outdoors.
Create a nature light
* glass jar or container
* small battery operated tea light
* items collected from your scavenger hunt and walk
* small stickers
1. Carefully arrange all the items from your adventures outdoors in the glass jar.
2. Nestle the tea light amongst the items in the jar.
3. Add some small stickers or decorative tape to the outside of the glass container... and you're done.
The nature light jar looks equally attractive whether it's filled with leaves, pebbles, sticks and flowers or with items from the beach- shells, sand, seaweed and driftwood.
Use the day's activities to generate some discussion and to talk about God's creation, made for us to enjoy.
And, every time you or the kids look at the nature light, they'll remember the fun adventure you all had together as a family.
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Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.