Previously published on My Grandma's Place May 13, 2017
“Guess what, Nan? We’re coming to stay at your place..It’s so exciting !”
“I know, I know. I can hardly wait.”
Following hard on the heels of the pleasure and excitement I felt at my granddaughter’s words was the thought, ‘How am I going to make this visit special?’ ‘What can I do that will create lasting memories?’
(Yep… affiliate links are included which means that, at no additional cost to you, if you buy through me I get some coffee money …though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
If, like me, you’ve gone with the whole down-sizing your home you might not have too much space for full-on, energetic kids. Don’t panic! Regardless of the size of your home, or whether it sits on acres of land or has a postage-sized patio, you can still plan non-stop adventures and fun for your pint-sized visitors.
Choose any of the suggestions below to create a shared time with your grandkids that everyone will long remember. Simple activities shared together can become real ‘moments that matter’ in the memories of your grandkids.
When do your grandkids plan to arrive?
Are they going to stay for just one night or more?
Will they arrive morning or afternoon?
No matter how long they plan to stay, you'll find plenty of fun ideas to keep them busy and happy.
So, let's begin with some morning activities.
After dinner fun
The fun doesn’t have to stop just because it’s getting dark and almost time for bed. Check out these ideas:
Where are they going to sleep?
If you have a spare bedroom with sufficient beds, that’s great. If not, inflatable mattresses on the floor can be lots of fun. Add plenty of soft pillows and covers.
A small tent is another option and you can position it inside or on your patio or decking. I’ve found that most kids creep back inside after about an hour of outdoor camping so be prepared.
Don’t feel that you have to attempt everything on the list. Choose those suggestions that appeal to you or your grandkids.
Although these are simple ideas that don’t take too much preparation or planning, you’ll find that they are ‘moments that matter.’ Your grandkids will talk about this time with you often and with enjoyment. And I hope you’ll enjoy their visit, too.
Oh.. and don't forget to take photos!
A free checklist is available to download below…
Your checklist to preparing a wonderful sleepover. Just click on the image to download,.
DISCLOSURE: I may be an affiliate for products that I recommend or link to. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. In fact, ofttimes, I'm able to negotiate a lower rate (or bonuses) not available elsewhere.
Plus, when you order through my links, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff.
Thank you, in advance, for your support.
I was looking through our family photos recently... Sigh.. Where did the years go? How did our kids grow up so quickly? Those were fun times and I'm so glad we took time for family outings, adventures and moments that matter. We built unforgettable memories into our lives. But I noticed that, almost without fail, we finished our adventures with ice-cream.
(Yep... affiliate links are included which means, if you buy through me, I get some coffee money ... though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
Sure, it was messy.
I loved and laughed at the photos of our kids standing with ice-cream dripping to the elbow or the ones of the scoop of ice-cream spattered on the ground. Yes.. you're right. Not so much fun- and the dismay on the kids' faces was tragic.. but humorous, too.
We all love ice-cream but I've noticed that, with so many on restrictive diets or watching their weight, we haven't been enjoying ice-cream as we used to. The good news is that ice-cream has become healthy! Yes, truly!
And sure.. you may have noticed a growing number of healthy choice ice-creams in the supermarkets but it's even better to make your own. And it means that you can include your favourite flavours, and avoid anything that is a health issue for you and your family.
Take gluten for instance. I'd almost given up on ice-cream. It's included in so many commercially produced ice-cream and I can't handle gluten. But there are wonderful recipes available now that do not included gluten..or dairy. And the recipes are soooo easy.
So.... how do you begin to make your own healthy ice-creams?
Start with frozen fruit.
Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and banana make great frozen fruit choices when you’re making a healthy smooth ice-cream. Put them in your blender along with a little nut milk or coconut cream. Alternatively, use a bit of coconut yogurt and either enough ripe fruit to sweeten the smoothie or a little natural sweetener like agave, honey, or maple syrup. Blend it all up, going light on the nut milk and adding just enough to get the consistency you like.
Use a recipe book or create your own favourite natural ice-cream recipes
Frozen banana blended with milk and a little vanilla extract tastes and feels very much like vanilla ice cream. It’s a great base for any ice-cream or even a thick shake. Add some other frozen fruits like strawberry, peaches, and even pineapple for a delicious treat.
Of course you don’t have to stick to only fruit. Avocado is a surprisingly tasty and nutritious addition to any ice-cream. It works well with organic cacao powder and, with a bit of natural sweeter, will give you that creamy, smooth flavour and texture.
Don't stop there... add other dairy-free ingredients.
Adding peanut butter also gives a lot of body and a smooth texture to your ice-cream. If you like a good peanut butter chocolate ice-cream, use the suggestions above, but add a spoon of peanut butter to the mix before you blend it all up. Chopped nuts add texture and a lovely flavour or you might like to stir through gluten-free biscuits, ginger, vanilla or even chocolate chip, broken into small pieces. Margie Broadhead creates a gluten-free cookie dough and adds it to a healthy peanut butter ice-cream in her book, Nice Cream. Mmmm... delicious!
Ice is another great addition to any ice-cream that will thicken it up and give it that ice cream feel without any added calories. Play around with how much ice you add to your blender, and make sure you have a blender that can handle grinding down and blending in ice cubes. Go easy on the liquids and keep blending. For a thick, creamy ice-cream, you need a lot less liquid than you may think.
Pour it into your ice-cream tub and refreeze. Or you might like to pour the ice-cream into individual moulds for the kids. Above all, have fun, blend away, and create some yummy frozen treats.
Oh... and remember to take the ice-cream from the freezer about 20 minutes before you need it so that it's easy to scoop out and serve.
Now if you'd like a bit of added help, check out the videos below.
You'll find more ideas and step by step instructions in this Best Collection: Natural Ice-creams and How to Make Them.
I hope you enjoy them.... and try them yourself. You'll find that they are incredibly easy.. and incredibly delicious.
Disclosure: At Grandma's Place is committed to high standards of integrity and quality. I do not promote any brand I do not believe meets these standards, and I only promote brands I would purchase myself.
If I don't love it, and don't think you'll love it, it won't appear on my blog.
Apply these simple techniques to improve your wildlife photography for your family's next visit to the zoo, aquarium or wildlife sanctuary.
(Yep... affiliate links are included which means, if you buy through me, I get some coffee money ...
though not enough for the raisin toast as well. Full disclosure listed below.)
Now... had I forgotten anything?
I'd packed water flasks for everyone, sunscreen, insect repellent, extra set of clothes for the little ones, food (it seems they're hungry as soon as they leave the house), hats and sunglasses. (Yes, comfy walking shoes were, hopefully, still on their feet.)
I'd only planned for a half-day trip to the wildlife sanctuary but it looked as though we were going for a week!
There was still one important thing that I was determined not to forget... a camera.
Now, I do have a DSLR camera and I love it, though I'm still learning how best to use it.
But if you're out with a carload of grandkids, an iPhone can be just as good, probably better. At least, it's easy to slip in a pocket and whip out at an instant for the unexpected and amazing shot. I know... because I've missed some of those in the past: the deer that leaned over the fencing to take a mouthful of my daughter's hat or the surprised look on my son's face when he did, finally, catch a fish-- well, it was an eel, but that still counts, right?
So, with that in mind, I had my iPhone handy and ready to whip out for those memory-making moments. And I was hoping for many more of those at the wildlife sanctuary with my grandkids.
But I've recently discovered a few handy hints to improve my digital photography at zoos, aquariums, nature sanctuaries and other outdoor activities with kids that I thought I'd share with you. First up... though it's not precisely a photography technique, I've quickly learned that, as in any type of photography involving kids (and animals are similar), patience, persistence and creativity will pay off. Just something to keep in mind. :)
1. One of the first considerations is composition and the best advice is to vary your composition. Take some shots with the subject looking straight at you and some with the subject either facing left or right. To do this, you may have to reposition yourself. This is the part requiring the patience and persistence. Try not to move as you actually take the photo. I know that's not easy with excited kids and wonderful animals in plain sight. If you can, use a tripod or monopod to maximize your digital photo sharpness.
2. The other part of composition is subject placement. Use the rule of thirds. Visually breakdown the scene in your viewfinder into thirds both vertically and horizontally, like a tic-tac-toe board. Place your subject on one of the intersecting points in the grid.
3. A simple, but important point, especially when using a iPhone, is to ensure that your lens is clean. After all your phone, no doubt, has been bumping around in your pocket or bag. Then, likely, it has had grimy fingers happily playing with your iPhone game apps, so cleaning it is a good idea.
4. Plan your day. The best time to take photos of animals is just before feeding time. They're pretty alert and active while waiting for their next meal to arrive.
Another consideration to factor in is the time of day. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to shoot. From sunrise, to about 2 hours after, and again about 2 hours before sunset to sunset, produces digital photos softly illuminated with a golden, highly directional light, thereby bringing out the color in your subject. (There's an app that will help you with this, too.)
Two more reasons for shooting early or late in the day is because it is the least crowded, and the animals are most active early and late in the day. After all, in the wild, this is when they normally hunt and eat. During the middle of the day, they rest.
5. If you are trying to show the animals without bars, barriers and wires, you will minimize their presence by using a long lens and shooting at wide apertures to blur the foreground and if necessary the background. If you're using your iPhone, download a good app to help with this. (Check out some of the options.)
While shooting in this non-natural environment, shoot close-ups to minimize any of the environment. If you're using your iPhone zoom, hold it very still.
5. Take note of the habitat and background. In wildlife parks, where the environment is more like it would be in the animal's natural habitat, create an environmental portrait by including more of the animal's surroundings. Here, you want to use a smaller aperture to hold both the foreground and background in focus. The animal will stand out more if the background is pretty neutral. After all, an animal's best defence is to blend with its surroundings so be aware of a highly patterned, busy background.
6. Focus on the animal's eyes. Animals express their emotions through their eyes not their facial expressions. Tap your iPhone screen on the spot you want to focus on and it will also adjust your exposure
7. Take lots of photos. You can always delete the ones you don't like afterwards but you can't easily go back and take extras. Try to take photos from different heights, too.
8. Keep it steady. If you are in a wildlife park with a driving route, shoot from inside your vehicle. Use a window camera mount or a bean bag. Shut off your vehicle's engine to minimize vibration.
9. Keep an eye out for interesting shadows or reflections that you could incorporate into your photos.
10. Make sure the glass is clean. For glass barriers, try to find an area of clean glass and place the lens hood up against it to minimize reflections. It's a good idea to clean the glass first. Remember, many excited, and probably sticky little hands and fingers have been resting on the glass for a closer look at the animals or fish. If you have to use a flash, use it off camera and hold it at a 45 degree angle to the camera and up against the glass.
11. Whenever possible, do avoid using flash. The flash may startle the animal and ruin your shot. For the outside type shots, use a slow ISO such as 100. For aquarium shots, an ISO of 400 or 800 will perform better.
12. Although the animals are exciting, don't forget to include your kids in your photos. Without endangering their safety, look for opportunities to include their enjoyment of the animals and any interactions between your kids/grandkids and the animals.
13. Finally, keep it simple. There is no way that one photo is going to capture everything that you would like to remember and relive. Focus on one simple thing at a time.
Shooting at the wildlife sanctuary or zoo is exciting. Where else can you get in one location, a collection of animals from around the world? Take your time, plan your shots and enjoy the digital photography of animals and the fun of seeing them through the eyes of your grandkids.
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DISCLOSURE: I may be an affiliate for products that I recommend or link to. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. In fact, I ofttimes am able to negotiate a lower rate (or bonuses) not available elsewhere.
Plus, when you order though my links, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff.
Thank you, in advance, for your support.
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.