Ways to Use Brick and Stone to Enhance Your Home
Choosing the right materials is an essential step in planning a home remodel or renovation. Options like brick and stone can add style, comfort and beauty to homes.
With a diverse array of colors, textures and sizes to choose from, there are options to suit practically any design aesthetic, whether it’s traditional, contemporary or somewhere in between. Because brick and stone materials provide strength, permanence, sustainability and
beauty, it’s possible to balance function with appearance.
Before choosing your brick or stone material, it’s a good idea to explore the vast color options, varying textures and sizes. You might even consider combining different materials to create accents that add interest and support the design of your home.
If you like the idea of incorporating brick or stone into your design but are not sure where it fits, consider these popular choices:
Accent Walls: If you’re concerned about overpowering a room, an accent wall is a simple way to add the appealing look of brick or stone in moderation. The wall can add character and dimension that either stands out or blends into the overall design, depending on the colors and textures you choose.
Kitchens: From flooring to island accents, backsplashes and beyond, the options are plentiful for introducing brick or stone into kitchen design. Whether you’re going for a modern look or something more traditional, quality is a top priority in high-use areas like the kitchen. Choose materials from a reliable source like Glen-Gery, which offers more than 600 brick and stone products in a vast variety of sizes, textures and colors.
Bar Surrounds: This feature tends to be a focal point in its own right but adding brick or stone can make your bar area a real showstopper while capturing the color tones of the rest of the room.
Archways: Defining the transition from one space to the next adds an architectural design element that can either carry your design theme from one room of the house to the next or signal a transition toward a new motif, depending on the material you choose.
Find more ideas for a home upgrade using brick or stone at glengery.com.
Unbeatable Benefits of Brick
Resilience: Brick is incredibly resilient. It’s weather and storm proof. As a result, it’s better able to withstand the diverse weather conditions across North America from natural disasters to extreme heat in fire prone regions. Brick is also termite resistant.
Low Maintenance: Brick does not require any painting, coating or varnishing in order to maintain its aesthetic and durability.
Fireproof: Brick is non-combustible and doesn’t assist the spread of fire, making it ideal for building in wildfire-prone areas. Clay bricks normally don’t suffer any structural damage after a fire and can be re-used, even as load bearing walls.
Design Flexibility: Brick comes in styles to suit any building project and is a popular material choice among architects and designers because of its design flexibility, strong structural capabilities and intricate detailing.
Noise Cancelling: Whether between rooms within a home or from outside noise, brick provides sound insulation.
Durable: Brick is long-lasting. Unlike other man-made materials, brick doesn’t get tired, so your brick home remains weather- and age-proof over time.
Energy Efficient: Brick is a high-density material, meaning it can effectively absorb and store heat energy to help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Its ability to average temperature extremes can make a noticeable difference in comfort while also reducing energy bills.
Natural: Brick is manufactured from naturally occurring materials and does not emit volatile organic compounds as many lightweight products do. With virtually no emissions and high thermal mass, brick is also a good choice for health-conscious homeowners with acute allergies or sensitivities to weather.
Navigating a Dynamic Work Environment with Children
(Family Features) Before the pandemic, the choice for most families looking for child care was relatively simple: they either found a center close to work or close to home. As employers share their return-to-work plans, many parents are re-evaluating their child care arrangements and trying to find solutions that support their family’s unique needs. Some are returning to the office full time while others have the flexibility of hybrid work schedules, splitting time between the office and remote work.
“Our Parent Confidence Report found 62% of working parents have or are considering taking a job that pays less but has more flexibility so they can be more available for their children,” said Tom Wyatt, CEO of KinderCare Education. “That’s why we’re increasing our part-time care offerings. We know how vital flexible schedules are to parents and how important consistency is to young children. By staying with the same provider, even if their time is split between two locations, children can still benefit from a consistent classroom routine and curriculum, which leaves them free to focus on learning and growing.”
Consider these tips to help choose a flexible child care solution for your family:
Know the research and advocate for yourself. According to Accenture and Forbes, more than 63% of high-growth companies already use a “work from anywhere” model and more than 83% of workers in the United States said they prefer the flexibility to work both from home and the office, which means “hybrid work” is here to stay. Even if your job requires being onsite, it is still a good idea to explore your options to find out what level of support your employers can provide. As you advocate for yourself and your family, look at what similar businesses offer their employees in terms of flexible schedules and paid leave for child care needs.
Determine what kind of child care arrangement works for your family. As many families learned amid the pandemic, caring for children at home while also trying to work can be challenging. Even enrolling your children in part-time care could alleviate some stress and give them opportunities to spend time with their peers. If you’ll be working a hybrid schedule, splitting your time between two centers – one close to home and one close to work – could also be a solution that fits your family’s needs and schedule.
“The silver lining to the pandemic is it gave many working parents opportunities to spend more time with their children,” Wyatt said. “According to our research, 65% of working parents say they’re able to be more involved in their children’s lives because their work schedules are more flexible. Parents don’t want to return to their previous schedules and commutes and give up all that precious time with their families, so they’ll be looking for innovative ways to balance family time with work time.”
To explore part-time child care options that support hybrid work schedules, visit kindercare.com.
5 Simple, Natural Ways to Boost Immunity
Your body’s immune system protects against illness and infection, fighting off threats before you even know there’s a problem. Even though your immune system usually does its job automatically, you can give it a boost with habits that promote wellness and support immunity.
Eat healthy fruits and vegetables. Although you may not be aware they contain flavonoids, these phytochemicals found in some fruits and veggies are a vital part of maintaining health. Flavonoids are found in colorful fruits and vegetables like cranberries and elderberries. When it comes to power foods, elderberries’ exceptional flavanol levels make them an immune system powerhouse. Especially important during cold and flu season, elderberries can also be enjoyed in a cup of warm tea for instant comfort.
Reduce stress with outdoor activity. Keeping physically fit provides numerous health benefits such as reducing stress by being one with nature through taking a walk outside. The sun’s UV rays help your body produce vitamin D, which is important for your bones, blood cells and immune system, as well as helping absorb and use certain nutrients. Yoga and massage can also be used to help stimulate the immune system and promote well-being.
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Sleep gives you an opportunity to recharge. This is when cellular regeneration and other healing is most efficient. Keeping a regular routine helps signal to your system that it’s time to rest so you can fall asleep easier and reap the whole-body benefits of a healthy sleep cycle.
Wash hands frequently. Especially during the school year, when germs are rampant and easily carried from school to home, you can give your immune system a hand, literally, by frequently scrubbing away germs before they have the chance to attack.
Rely on natural remedies. Modern, stressful lifestyles and exposure to environmental pollutants can put immune systems under pressure. However, some of your existing soothing rituals can actually support better health, too. One example is relaxing with a hot cup of tea. The natural and organic ingredients found in Buddha Teas provide numerous health benefits. Options like Mushroom Wellness, Divine Immunity, Elderberry Tea and Reiki Mushroom blends all contain immunity-boosting ingredients.
While they’re not an obvious ingredient, mushrooms have been incorporated into healing practices for thousands of years for their immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich properties. There are several powerful medicinal mushrooms but one stand-out is the reishi mushroom, known as the “mushroom of immortality” and “divine plant of longevity.” This anti-inflammatory powerhouse is known to promote healthy cell growth and healthy blood pressure, along with improving immune function.
Learn more about boosting your immunity naturally at buddhateas.com.
A Golden Way to Get Better Sleep
While golden milk has become a trendy beverage of choice, this comforting, herb-filled blend is actually ancient. For thousands of years, golden milk has been an Ayurvedic ritual, with Indian families enjoying a warm nightly cupful before bed.
In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric, the main component in golden milk, is thought to impart the energy of the sun to the body, hence its radiant, golden color. Turmeric’s documented healing properties impart substance to this traditional “elixir,” and have given golden milk a reputation as a healing cup of comfort.
In addition to improving physical and mental well-being, regularly drinking golden milk has the potential to lessen your chance of becoming ill in the first place. It’s also an anti-inflammatory that supports healthy digestion and promotes calm.
This turmeric-dominant blend includes ginger root and black pepper to aid digestion; ashwagandha to tonify, energize and calm; and cardamom, nutmeg and vanilla bean, all meant to encourage rejuvenation and peace. Consider an option like Buddha Teas’ CBD Organic Golden Milk, which includes a THC-free CBD isolate for added wellness benefits.
Prepared by mixing with a warm cup of your favorite milk, the smooth, slightly sweet, pungent brew offers a soothing treat just before bed. Many people also enjoy golden milk prepared cold.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Modern Kitchen and Bath Upgrades
(Family Features) Upgrades happen for all kinds of reasons, but one of the most common purposes of a home renovation is to make essential spaces like kitchens and bathrooms more modern.
Modernizing your spaces isn’t just about the aesthetic, although that is a major advantage, especially when it comes to resale value. Updating your kitchen and bath is also an opportunity to introduce new technology and enhancements that improve the function of these high-traffic rooms.
Modern styles simplify everyday living and can make contemporary entertaining more enjoyable. The sleek lines of modern design lend themselves to a clean look, which is supported by hidden features that make organization easier.
Although the idea of a connected home isn’t new, technology is steadily improving. This means smart features are now often more affordable, easily integrated into the rest of your home and available to help manage a wider range of household items.
In the kitchen, you can add smart technology in numerous ways, from appliances and climate control to lighting and window treatments. For example, touch-to-open and push-to-open doors and drawers create a sleek, modern design while opening and closing with either a push or touch of a button for convenience.
Similar diversity is available in the bathroom, where you can incorporate connected health and fitness monitors, touchless toilets, mirrors that double as information centers, towel warmers and even showers that automatically adjust to your preferred temperature.
Changing the colors in a space is one of the most effective ways to transform the decor, but the walls aren’t the only place where paint can make a big impact, especially in rooms like the kitchen or bathroom, where the cabinetry can make a bold statement.
Black is a hallmark of modern design and installing cabinetry with a black finish can instantly upgrade a room. To create visual interest, consider incorporating accent cabinets in a coordinating finish. For example, you could pair Wellborn Cabinet’s Midtown wall cabinets finished in Matte Ebony with upper center cabinets finished in Putty Oak. An island in Bel-Air can incorporate both dark and light tones for a cohesive look.
Decorative Range Hoods
An exposed range hood is a trendy look that can add sophistication to your kitchen. Treating this functional element as a statement piece gives you another place to showcase your style and create a sleek and modern look. If your hood is covered, consider making the cabinet door a focal point with a material such as back-painted glass.
While your sink has some obvious functions, you can upgrade the space for even more practical use. Some of the latest sink design innovations include built-in features such as cutting boards, colanders, bowls, drying racks and compost areas. In addition, motion activated wastebaskets with separate compost or recycling containers provide hands-free access to reduce unwanted messes.
Public restrooms aren’t the only places you can benefit from a touchless faucet. At home, the feature may come in handy when your hands are full or filthy. An automatic water flow is convenient and can help keep germs and grime under control. For the most on-trend, modern look, coordinate your faucets with other bathroom elements finished in gold hues, such as a laminate veneer vanity in a high-gloss gold finish.
Collectively, cabinets are the biggest component of most kitchens. Since kitchens tend to be the hub of the home, it’s important to maintain a homey feel while adding the luxury of modern features. Using warm colors, gold-toned hardware and sleek door styles can deliver a glamorous yet welcoming design.
For example, Wellborn Cabinet’s Aspire Full Access Frameless line features flat moulding and flush lines to create a thoughtfully integrated flow throughout the kitchen. A Morristown door in the Smokey Walnut finish and Serenity metal doors in Sand Gloss Glass marry heirloom quality and contemporary finishes for a beautiful and functional space.
A luxurious soaking tub is a top demand for many homeowners, and trends are moving toward free-standing options that create a focal point in an oasis-like bathroom. You may be envisioning an old-fashioned claw-foot style, but there are numerous modern takes on the traditional version that can fit seamlessly into your modern design scheme.
Natural wood floors were once the gold standard, but thanks to improvements in the quality and appearance of laminate and vinyl products, you can find alternative flooring in even high-end homes. Laminate and vinyl planks give the same look as wood (or stone, if you prefer) to complement a modern aesthetic, usually at a lower price point and with greater durability over time.
Find more ideas to modernize your living space at wellborn.com.
5 Tips for Traveling Amid COVID-19
The spread of new COVID-19 variants and lower vaccination rates in developing countries continue to impact the ability to move freely throughout the world.
For travelers eager to venture out, Expedia Group recommends these traveling guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so the world can truly open again:
1. Mask up while traveling. Masks remain one of the most simple and effective ways to limit the transmission of the virus, aside from the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveling requires being in close quarters, like planes, trains, rideshares and more, so it’s important to mask up to reduce the spread.
2. Travel for the greater good. To support UNICEF’s global COVID-19 response, Expedia Group announced an initiative to donate $10 million to vaccine efforts. To get involved, travelers can download any app from one of the travel giant’s brands, such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity and Vrbo, to plan and purchase a trip through the platform. In turn, travelers can help get a vaccine to someone in the world who needs it.
3. Enjoy the great outdoors. Nature destinations have provided solitude for travelers over the last year due to the ability to easily socially distance and, essentially, disconnect. This trend is here to stay, with beaches, mountains, lakes and national parks remaining popular areas to visit.
4. Don’t get left behind. More and more businesses, attractions and destinations are requiring people to show proof of vaccination. If you haven’t felt motivated to get your shot(s), know you might not have access to dining, entertainment or other activities during your next vacation.
5. Be a savvy traveler. Travelers are eager to get out again, but with travel guidelines changing frequently, it’s important to stay up to date with restrictions and policies around your travel bookings. Double-check your accommodations’ cancellation policies, keep local advisories like curfews or closures in mind and be prepared to submit documentations like COVID-19 test results or vaccine cards.
Find more information at expedia.com/return-to-travel.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
5 Tips for Remodeling in Today’s Market
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown, labor shortages and access to certain products affects numerous industries, including remodeling. Even so, after extra time at home and delays caused by the pandemic, there is high demand for home renovation projects.
If you’re planning a home remodel or construction project, consider these tips from professional remodelers to avoid frustration and ensure your vision comes to life.
Do Research and Plan Ahead
Mapping out your project early and thoroughly can help you avoid delays. This is especially important when it comes to materials, said John Brown of Bliffert Lumber and Hardware.
“The quicker a homeowner can make selections, the sooner we can get it on order and get it in,” Bliffert said.
Some contractors are adjusting the way they approach planning to offset delays. For example, selecting materials and finishes at the outset, instead of as you progress through the project like you normally would, may mean the materials are available when you need them.
“The design process has really changed,” said Robi Kirsic of TimeLine Renovation and Design. “We’re still designing based on homeowners’ wishes and dreams, but we’re also modifying by providing options based on what’s available.”
Know Where You’re Willing to Compromise
Whether you’re able or willing to compromise often comes down to why you’re doing the renovation in the first place.
“Some homeowners are specific about what they want,” Kirsic said. “They’ve been waiting for a long time to do this project and they’re not doing it to compromise. Others have a time constraint for one reason or another; they don’t have the luxury of waiting.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by others, who caution that you may be able to get an item you have your heart set on, but you may need to be willing to wait.
“If you have your heart set on a certain bathtub, it might be a 6- or 8-month wait, but another one might be available sooner,” said Jason Hensler of Marvin Windows and Doors.
Avoid Making Changes
Once your plans are set and your materials have been ordered, avoid unnecessary delays by changing your project scope or material selection. In this environment, project timelines are extremely tight and even minor changes can create significant disruptions, especially if there’s a delay in obtaining different materials or your new ideas require a different crew that wasn’t already scheduled for your job.
Choose a Trustworthy Partner
While these are unusual times, having a reliable contractor can make the project run more smoothly and help you feel more comfortable as the project progresses.
“Use someone you trust, someone who is part of a reputable group like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry,” Brown said.
That way, if you encounter unexpected bumps along the way, you can be confident they will be handled professionally and appropriately. Brown encourages his teams to communicate early and often, which helps homeowners understand and trust they’re doing everything possible to keep the job on track.
Above all, understanding these are unusual times can go a long way toward a more successful project.
“Patience will help it go a lot smoother,” Hensler said. “That may mean accepting longer wait times than you anticipated and a later completion date than you hoped.”
The sooner you get your project started, the sooner your contractor can start mapping out a project timeline. Find contractors in your area at RemodelingDoneRight.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Diploma in Hand
Post-high school guidance from online school graduates
Before a global pandemic reshaped education across America, many students followed the “expected” path: complete primary education, earn a high school diploma and transition into a career or further learning.
Now, after an unexpected year (or more) of online learning, many students are embracing more nontraditional routes for their education and considering new options for life after high school graduation.
A valuable first step for high schoolers is envisioning the future they want.
“Looking at different avenues and taking an interest inventory really help with the exploration process,” said Morgan Champion, head of counseling for Pearson Virtual Schools. “I recommend completing a career cluster interest survey, which are widely available online for free, to give guidance on which types of careers align to your interests and skills, such as a service-related or scientific field.”
Next, consider these choices and tips for preparing for life after high school from alums of fully online K-12 schools Connections Academy and Reach Cyber Charter School.
Keep Options Open for Different Paths
Beyond the traditional four-year college degree, there are many ways students can progress toward a long-term goal or successful career. Community or two-year college is an option for some because it’s often closer to home and tuition can be more affordable. Others enroll in a trade school or secure suitable jobs and step directly into the workforce. Some graduates enlist for military service while others take some time off to figure out their next step before making a move.
Keeping an open mind about all options is something graduate Angel Bennett supports fully. The flexibility of online learning allowed her to get a jump on her college education. She earned an associate of arts degree and associate of science degree through her local community college before graduating high school, giving her an edge in admission to her top choice four-year college. She now attends a private liberal arts college and is well on her way to a career fueled by a passion for clothing and inclusive fashion design.
The ambitious pace served as inspiration to Bennett’s younger sister, as well; Amber completed her own associate of arts and associate of science degrees as a 14-year-old high schooler and will start attending a private four-year university at 15 as she simultaneously completes her diploma.
Students should ask their high school about these types of dual-enrollment options.
Don’t Be Afraid to Act on Your Dreams
For some high school students, one of the most intimidating decisions to make is which colleges to apply to. However, law graduate Strider Kachelein, top of his undergrad class and top 4% in his law class at a prestigious institution, said to take that chance and apply to your dream school, even if you think you can’t afford the tuition.
Kachelein, who started online school in sixth grade, knows paying for college can be challenging for many high school students and their families. He recommends researching financial aid policies first and carefully.
“So many people believe they can’t get in and are shocked when they do,” Kachelein said. “Money can also be a big issue, but there are so many resources available, like the college match I applied to in high school. A key stat I also looked at while researching colleges was the school’s ‘percent of financial need met.’ There are a number of schools that will meet 100% of your determined financial need, which can make a world of difference. For example, at these schools, if your family is deemed unable to pay tuition, room or board then 100% of these expenses are covered by the school.”
High schoolers can reach out to their school’s college counselors to help navigate the application process.
Know It’s OK to Take a Break
Pausing in the middle of one’s education is a practice that’s more common in other parts of the world, but is growing in the U.S. According to data from Pearson, nearly 17% of U.S. high schoolers were considering a gap year, which enables the graduate more time to evaluate options and priorities, save money and plan for the future.
COVID-19 heavily influenced 2020 graduate Stormy Kaiser’s decision to take a gap year between high school and college. Choosing to accelerate her online curriculum allowed Kaiser to complete high school graduation requirements a year early, so even after taking the year off to realign plans the pandemic disrupted, she’s on schedule to enroll in a four-year college with her peers.
Take Advantage of Career-Related Coursework in High School
Nontraditional school models often offer nontraditional curriculum options, like career and technical education courses, that students can put to work right away. For example, Amya Meekins, who also graduated high school a full year early, took business classes at her online school that helped her learn about contracts, finance and other elements to successfully start and run her own business.
She now runs a boutique in addition to being a performer and motivational speaker. She’s also nearing completion of her second book, all as a 19-year-old undergrad pursuing her first college degree.
Consider Job Shadowing or Internships
Flexible scheduling is one of the most commonly cited advantages of online school among enrolled students. The extra free time can have big implications for students planning their futures, especially if they use the time to explore career choices.
That’s exactly what Becky Bressen did, shadowing a music therapist at the urging of her brother, who is a physical therapist. After initially feeling the career wasn’t for her and attending college with plans to become a music engineer and producer, a music therapy class made it into her course list, and it clicked for her. Right after college, she built a successful music therapy program from scratch at a hospice facility and finds her current role highly rewarding.
For more information about full-time online public schools, and tips for making post-graduation decisions, visit ConnectionsAcademy.com.
The Benefits of a Gap Year
When COVID-19 upended college plans for students across America, Stormy Kaiser knew she wasn’t alone. Even so, she never anticipated how using an unplanned year to regroup could benefit her future.
Initially, Kaiser planned to start her pre-med journey at New York University, but after seeing the effects of the pandemic in urban areas, she shifted focus. A year of recharging and self-exploration, writing short stories and volunteering took her in a new direction. She now plans to attend Baylor University, where she’ll double major in chemistry and mathematics as a pre-med student.
Due to her time management skills, personal diligence and involvement in volunteer opportunities, she was offered scholarships at many colleges and universities – a whopping $600,000 overall. She is now on her way toward becoming a neurosurgeon.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Lessons from Expert Educators
Tips from experienced teachers for new and aspiring educators
Each school year offers exciting opportunities for little learners to discover and explore new topics, make friends and master new skills. While much of the focus is on families during the back-to-school season, it’s also an important time for educators, especially those who are working with young children or are just starting their careers.
These tips from award-winning and long-term educators at KinderCare can help new and aspiring teachers prepare for a successful start to the school year and their careers.
Communication is Key
Making time to connect with families gives teachers opportunities to build bonds, which is essential for success. Communicating and understanding their unique needs shows you have their children’s best interests at heart. By regularly sharing stories and observations about each child’s progress, teachers can also provide families with a sense of reassurance their children are being recognized and cared for as the unique people they are.
Never Give Up on a Child
Each child faces unique hurdles as he or she climbs the educational ladder, with some facing more challenges than others. While at times it can be frustrating to tailor lesson plans to meet each child’s individual needs, Joan Coberg, a teacher of 40 years, recommends one important trait: patience.
“The best advice I would give is to never give up on a child,” Coberg said. “Have lots of patience. Always lead with love and kindness; be respectful. When I first started my career at KinderCare 40 years ago, I was learning, too. As teachers, we also learn from the children.”
Set Boundaries for Success
Similar to open lines of communication with families, getting to know your students individually can help build relationships necessary for a successful school year. Jami Vandegrift, a prekindergarten teacher and 2018 KinderCare Teacher of the Year, said this helps build mutual respect between teacher and student.
“As you build relationships, you will start to establish boundaries and routines,” Vandegrift said. “Once you feel comfortable with the kids and the room, you can start bringing in the curriculum. Starting as a new teacher, I always thought I had to do it all at once. I’ve learned over time to start small and build each week on something new.”
Be Willing to Change
Consistency and structure within the classroom setting are important for establishing routines, but it’s also helpful to have an open mind and to stop an activity when children lose interest. Be observant, flexible and willing to rethink schedules, classroom arrangements, transitions and more. Stopping to observe and ensure students are engaged can help promote success as many children learn best when fueled by personal interests.
Let Children Choose Their Paths and Recognize Accomplishments
School days often include activity time when students can explore interests like art, music, physical activity and more. When it’s time for activities, try letting children choose what they’d like to do first. This can help foster independence while easing transitions, according to Hattie Mae Covington, a toddler teacher of 45 years. It also opens the door for teachers to cheer on their students for succeeding in activities of their choosing.
“Kids, especially young children, love to be recognized and rewarded for doing good work,” Covington said. “High fives and smiley face stickers go a long way toward encouraging them and helping them be successful. Celebrating students for their accomplishments can be a meaningful way to create bonds that support their ongoing interest in learning.”
Find more experts’ advice to set new teachers up for success at kindercare.com.
Plan a Memorable Family Reunion
Family reunions this summer are sure to take on special meaning as families reunite after months apart. Organizing such a momentous event may feel like a lot of work, but thinking of it in smaller pieces can make it easier to manage.
Finding a date that works for everyone may be the biggest hurdle. Once that essential detail is set, start planning your family get-together with these tips from the travel experts at Vrbo:
Decide on a celebration style. Family reunions come in all shapes and sizes. You might plan a gathering for a single day with a big meal and plenty of time for chatting with relatives, or it may be a multi-day affair filled with activities that get all ages involved.
Pick the place. The location of your reunion depends on many factors. In some cases, families plan for a location that’s easily accessible for the majority, like a midway point or a city where a large branch of the family tree is rooted. Other families build reunions around the head of the family and plan the location around where the eldest members of the family reside. Still other reunions are destination getaways with multiple households in one vacation location.
Choose where you’ll stay. Figuring out what kind of lodging best suits your reunion depends on a variety of considerations, but the larger the group, the more challenging it can be. A vacation rental home may be an option when you’re bringing multiple families together under one roof or plan to stay for several days. Many vacation rentals even offer amenities like pools or hot tubs that can be enjoyed privately rather than shared with the rest of the resort or hotel guests. A tool like Vrbo’s Trip Board of reunion-friendly homes can help you find inspiration for a perfect place.
Plan activities. Depending on your family’s style, planning how everyone will pass the time may be a scheduled itinerary or a loose list of potential things to do. Either way, leave time for casual conversation and simply enjoying a few moments together, as well as lots of entertainment to keep kids occupied while the adults catch up.
Create a menu. From potluck to catering and everything in between, there are numerous options when it comes to feeding a reunion crowd. You might have everyone bring their own food, ask each family take turns serving meals or plan easy bar-style meals like tacos or walking nachos. It’s a good idea to coordinate your menu plans so you don’t waste food or have duplicate ingredients in the refrigerator. Remember to plan for extra snacks and desserts, too. Many homes available through Vrbo include access to refrigerators and fully equipped kitchens, making it easy to store extra food for the gathering.
Incorporate your heritage. What sets a family reunion apart from other types of gatherings is the focus on family. Make your reunion special by incorporating special aspects of your heritage, whether it’s a monogrammed centerpiece for the dining table or photos of multiple generations you scatter around the venue. Another idea for a multi-generational family reunion is a slideshow of photo memories set to music that plays as the precursor to a family movie night under the stars.
Find more inspiration and ideas for organizing your family reunion this summer at vrbo.com/reunion.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
How to Navigate Family Feelings About Returning to School
Whether it’s your child’s first day of kindergarten or the start of middle school, back-to-school season can bring a range of feelings – from worry to excitement – for the entire family. This year may be more emotional as many families spent the better part of the past two school years at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important to remember that even in the best of times, it’s normal for children to express feelings of sadness, isolation or stress,” said Tyreca Elliott, from KinderCare Learning Centers’ inclusion services team. “Learning how to address those feelings helps us build self-confidence, resilience and independence. What’s important is the way adults respond to children’s stress. Offering comfort, reassurance and assisting with problem solving will help children learn and grow from stress in a positive way.”
As an added bonus, Elliott said many of the most effective ways to help children learn to navigate their feelings work just as well with adults. Consider these three tips to help your children (and yourself) manage emotions during the transition back to school.
Plan ahead: The fear of the unknown can be stressful. Children who aren’t able to clearly articulate their feelings likely won’t be able to make the connection between new, uncertain situations – like going to school and being around other people – and their feelings. Instead they may become overwhelmed by emotions, which might look like more meltdowns, clinginess or a variety of other behaviors. Talk with your children about how they feel about going back to school ahead of the first day of class. Ask questions to help them determine why they feel particular feelings when they think about school then work together to solve potential issues. That could mean finding a way to meet your children’s teachers ahead of time, whether virtually or in-person, or practicing introducing themselves to classmates.
Build a consistent routine: Routines can give children (and adults) a sense of security and structure, which in turn make it easier to cope with big emotions like stress and anxiety. Try to stay consistent, and if you need to make adjustments, talk them through with your children. Be sure to mention key milestones instead of times, particularly if they can’t tell time yet. Make sure your children have opportunities to ask questions about any changes to routines. They may need reassurance before they’re ready to face something new.
Create special family moments: As important as routine is, it’s just as important to prioritize quality time together. That could mean a vacation or something as simple as Saturday bike rides or Sunday morning pancakes. Plan a family outing or special time together to celebrate completing the first week of school. Family rituals and celebrations can give children and adults something to look forward to. Quality time together also helps families build resiliency.
For more tips to navigate back-to-school season, visit kindercare.com.
Keep the Fun Afloat
5 tips to make watersport adventures safe this summer
For those who enjoy outdoor and active summer lifestyles, water entertainment may be the way to go. Racing the waves with the wind flowing through your hair can be a fun and exhilarating way to enjoy fresh air; a dip in a cool lake can also help keep the heat at bay on hot summer days.
Despite world events over the past year, the watersports lifestyle is thriving – potentially due to the nature of personal watercraft riding and ability to practice social distancing. In fact, powerboat sales reached record highs, and while that momentum has slowed some in 2021, personal watercraft sales are still surging – up 77% over 2020, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. This growth means there are lots of new riders on the water, and that can affect the safety of riders both experienced and new.
Respecting riding etiquette, wearing protective gear and being conscious of the environment can help ensure riders have fun and continue to enjoy access to watersports. The team at Sea-Doo, a global leader in personal watercrafts, shares this advice to help keep everyone safe while having fun on the water:
Know the rules. Rules can vary from one state or location to the next, so be sure you know what the expectations are before you head out on the water. You can find more about licensing requirements and other regulations in your area through the Boat U.S. Foundation.
Dress for success. Ensure you have a life jacket or personal flotation device that fits snugly but comfortably. Remember to connect the tether cord from the ignition of your watercraft to your life jacket to cut power to the engine should you end up in the water. Additionally, neoprene shorts can help prevent injuries and give you a comfortable layer between your body and the saddle. Gloves and boots provide protection and improve your grip, and sunglasses can help protect your eyes from the wind and water. It’s also a good idea to keep a windbreaker in a storage compartment in case weather blows in unexpectedly.
Gear up. Once you’re dressed for the occasion, you won’t need much other gear, but there are a few items that can help protect you. Always keep an anchor on board, along with a radio to call for help if you have trouble. A water bottle can help ensure you stay well hydrated on the water, where you typically sweat a lot due to the wind and sun.
Play nice. On gorgeous, sunny days, you can expect your local lake to be busy. Being respectful of others on the water helps ensure everyone can enjoy their water adventures safely. If you haven’t already, take a watercraft or boat safety course and brush up on the basics. Beyond that, pay attention to signs, especially ones that note restricted areas and no-wake zones, and keep a safe 200-foot distance between yourself and other watercrafts.
Be earth aware. Part of being responsible on the water is respecting the environment. You can do your part by committing to green habits like refueling on land and doing maintenance work well away from the shoreline. When you’re riding, getting too close to the shore can tear up your watercraft, but it can also be harmful to the fish and birds that feed on the sediment in the shallows, as well as the vegetation. Be aware noise and movement of boats may disturb bird populations. Stay clear of posted bird nesting areas. Nesting birds may fly from their nests, exposing unprotected eggs and hatchlings to the sun’s heat or predators. Keeping to channels and deeper water also helps protect the wildlife and prevent shoreline erosion.
Find more tips to maximize your fun in the sun and stay safe on your personal watercraft Sea-Doo.com.
Plan a Coastal Road Trip Excursion
(Family Features) If you’ve never traveled along the Pacific Coast, or maybe you’d just like to experience it from a new perspective, there are few things quite like a road trip to take in the sights and experiences that make the journey one to remember.
A road trip lets you set your own pace and enjoy the companionship of friends or family. When you’re ready to explore, outdoor adventures, historical experiences and 99 miles of coastline await in Monterey County, California, which is known as a scenic, beautiful expanse along the Pacific Coast. From wide-open beaches, verdant vineyards and fields to the peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountains, there’s plenty of room to roam.
Some of the top scenic drives in the world are along California’s coast, where you’ll find a wide range of local topography. One example is Highway 1, where starting toward the north, you’ll see the state’s second largest wetlands, artichoke fields and rolling sand dunes, as well as cypress forests and the craggy coastline. Further south, you’ll encounter towering cliffs, redwoods and awe-inspiring bridges.
Other notable sights include fishing ports; beaches; wildlife including seals, sea lions and sea otters; the famed Lone Cypress; mansions; and several championship golf courses.
When you’re ready for some action, there’s plenty to find along the coast. From a captivating 18-mile long recreation trail with coastline views to kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, whale-watching excursions and more, there are numerous ways to whet an appetite for adventure near the ocean. Inland, you’ll find options like hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, cave exploring and horseback riding.
Along the California coast, you can find tens of thousands of acres of vineyards producing more than 53 different varietals of wine. In Monterey County alone, you can take your pick among 65 tasting rooms set against picturesque backdrops. How you choose to experience wine country is as diverse as the varietals you’ll discover. For example, you might head to the beach with a newly purchased bottle of your favorite wine, jump aboard a wine trolley to let someone else do the driving for a while or schedule a tour that takes you behind the scenes with a winemaker.
No visit to the coast is complete without a visit to the beach, but not all beaches are the same. From white sandy beaches to rocky cliffs, you could plan an entire road trip around the different kinds of beaches waiting for you to discover their beauty. Enjoy bird spotting, rock collecting, surfing, tide pooling and more.
Some of the area’s greatest treasures are the lesser-known beaches, including one that sits in the middle of Cannery Row. The sheltered cove of McAbee Beach was used by Portuguese whalers in the 1850s and Chinese fishermen in the early 1900s. Today, this secret beach is a perfect spot to let kids burn off energy before or after a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Visitors can spot seals and otters playing offshore, and it’s a popular launching point for scuba divers exploring the kelp forests.
Wellness for Body and Mind
When you’ve taken in the sights and explored to your heart’s content, be sure to leave time for rejuvenation. From spas and meditation retreats to spending time in nature, it’s easy to make wellness a priority when visiting the California coast. You can even enjoy food that’s as good for you as it is delicious with a growing focus on sustainability by visiting daily farmers’ markets and fish markets, which provide a bounty of locally sourced produce, fresh meat, seafood and hand-made treasures for a truly enriching cultural experience.
Start planning your Pacific Coast road trip adventure at SeeMonterey.com.
Family-Friendly Ideas for Summer Fun
Warm, sunny days are the perfect setting for making family memories, but they’re also ideal opportunities to encourage kids to get creative and let their imaginations soar.
These ideas for summertime activities encourage family interaction, and the more kids get to help plan and organize the details, the more engaged you can expect them to be.
Visit Your Local Park
Pack all the kids’ favorite snacks and beverages to keep cool and hydrated. Choose your spot under a big shady tree and spread out for an impromptu picnic. Be sure to bring along outdoor toys for a game of catch or lighten the load and create a nature scavenger hunt with different types of leaves, rocks and flowers for kids to discover. If they come across an unfamiliar plant or animal, snap a picture with your phone so you can do some research on it when you get home. Encourage the kids to draw or design a piece of art reflecting the things they saw.
Create Watercolor Paintings
Away from the school setting, kids sometimes have fewer opportunities to practice expressing their ideas and getting creative. Fun tools can make an artistic session more exciting, so look for unique methods like blending Zebra Pen Mildliner Brush Pens with water and a paint brush to create fun, pastel watercolor paintings with minimal mess. The pens are conveniently double-ended with a paint brush-like tip on one end and fine marker tip on the other so you can precisely draw a design then create softer swirls of color using water and a brush.
Water Sponge Challenge
Cool off with a fun and refreshing water fight with a few creative twists. First grab sponges, or water sponge balls, and a full bucket of water. The sponges are reusable so you can use them all summer long. Make it extra fun by organizing teams with kids against adults or everyone fending for themselves. Encourage kids to devise their own blockades and targets or adapt a classic game like baseball or dodgeball using water sponges in place of the usual balls. You could also do a sponge scavenger hunt to load up everyone’s buckets before the dousing begins.
Find the Animals
Visit your local Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoo or aquarium and have your kids find as many animals as they can from the AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction species list. It’s a good opportunity to talk about the concept of extinction and why these animals are on the list. Follow up the visit with an activity that reinforces how everyone has a role in conservation and look for ways to help protect each family member’s favorite animal.
Make Oven S’mores
On a rainy night (or any night) make a s’more by putting it in the oven. They turn out just as melty and gooey as the campfire version but with easier prep and cleanup. This is a tasty way to get those creative juices flowing. Experiment with different candies, such as peanut butter cups in place of chocolate bars. Or add different ingredients and have other family members guess the flavors.
Find more ideas for creative inspiration this summer at zebrapen.com/art-studio/creative-tips.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock