Fully Satisfying Summer Days: Learn Something New

    

One of the best ways to brighten up our days is to set a new goal—get inspired to try something new and do it. It’s important to set measurable goals, so we’re not going to say, “I’m going to learn to knit someday.” Instead we’re going to say, “I’m going to learn to knit and I’m going to start tomorrow. I’ll buy my supplies, find some teaching videos or order a how-to book online. Then when I have everything ready, I’m going to practice beginning knitting stitches for half an hour a day. My long-term goal is to complete a simple scarf by the end of summer.”

When we have clear and measurable goals, we’re much more likely to be successful in learning something new and that feels very satisfying. So, what do you want to accomplish this summer? While we may be able to return to a more normal lifestyle in the summer months, many of us will be limited in leaving hearth and home. If that’s the case, a summer goal to learn a new skill may be just the ticket to enjoying each day more fully. 

Here are some broad categories to help you select a new skill or hobby. Within the categories are several suggestions, but if those aren’t exactly what you want, go ahead and research something more appealing to you. A brand new endeavor can create excitement and help us focus our attention and abilities in a way that is healthy in this challenging time. 

Exercise/Fitness

Most of us had a satisfactory exercise program in place before the quarantine kept us at home. We walked, played tennis, took classes at the local gym, or swam at the club. But now many of us are forced to find something to keep us fit without leaving our homes. That’s a challenge. If we can walk in our neighborhoods, that is a plus. But if not, here are some exercise ideas to keep our bodies healthy while at home.

Yoga is great for low-impact body toning. It’s also relaxing when done properly. Try several yoga routines and select the one just right for you:  free yoga classes, or www.yogawithadriene.com.  

Exercise Routines

Are you missing your exercise classes? If so, get online and find an exercise routine that fits your needs. You’ll find everything from ten minute to hour-long workouts requiring a minimum of equipment. Start slow and build. Try Eldergym or Seniors Exercise.

Tai Chi 

Tai Chi is another low impact exercise that is also calming and beautiful. Try everyday tai chi  or free tai chi for seniors. 

Pilates 

Those who do Pilates swear by this workout for toning and overall healthy bodies. Try this Beginner’s Pilates workout.

Musical Skill

Music is one of the richest sources of enjoyment in this life, whether we listen and enjoy or learn to make some music ourselves. Create new playlists, break out the old vinyl records, unearth the old CD’s or watch and listen to the quarantine concerts people are creating for others out of their generous hearts. 

Music Appreciation is usually offered as a high school or college class. It teaches you the basics of music vocabulary and the major artists throughout each period in the history of music. Do you know your Baroque from your Romantic composers? Do you gravitate toward a certain time period and want to learn more about the composers of that era? Try this music appreciation class for a minimal fee.

Learn to Play a Recorder Recorders are simple starter wind instruments. They are often used with children to give them a basic understanding of reading music and playing simple, but lovely songs. Try this beginning recorder class or this free lesson for beginners.

Strum a Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin/Ukelele Playing songs on a stringed instrument is extremely satisfying and you can learn a few basic chords in a single day. There has been a resurgence in the popularity of the basic ukulele. Learn to play one and have some fun.

Cooking/Baking

There are lots of jokes flying around about gaining weight in this time of staying home. We’re forced to cook most of our meals and people have been defaulting to comfort foods. But cooking and baking really are arts in themselves and this is a great time to expand your cooking repertoire. 

Cook Using a Pressure Cooker Maybe you’d like to know how tomake meals in minutes when youcook using a pressure cooker.   

Learn to make French Pastries You’ll wow your family when you try these ten new and tempting recipes for making French pastries.   

Homemade Granola Everyone loves this sweet, delicious and healthy breakfast cereal. If you’ve always wanted to learn to make homemade granola, now is the time.And you can alter the recipe as long as you keep the ratio of dry to wet ingredients at eight to one.                                                                                                       

Reading/Writing

Read in a New Genre

If you’re like me, you have a favorite type of reading material. While I enjoy some thrillers (not too scary) and I enjoy many short stories, my go-to reading is the mystery novel. I always say I love a dead body, but really, it’s the character development over a series of books that I love. What do you love? What if in this extended time of shut-down, you tried something new

Write in a Journal

Go ahead and buy a pretty new empty journal. There are all those blank pages just waiting to be filled. Write your thoughts. Make lists. Jot down the things that make you angry or drive you crazy. Empty your thoughts and emotions onto the pages. You’ll be amazed. Writing our ideas is a way of organizing them, realizing the truth of them, and a way to calm our ragged nerves. I guarantee you’ll benefit from writing in a journal regularly.

Write Your Family History

You may never win a prize for your novel or short story, but you may take a great deal of satisfaction from chronicling your family’s history. Go back as far in your family tree as you can and write out the stories you know. Where did your grandparents live and what was their life like? Who has a story of success and who was the black sheep of the family? Where are your roots? Add pictures if you have them and write out the funny stories you remember from your own growing-up years. Your kids and grandkids will absolutely love to read your family history.

Be Brave: Try Writing a Poem

Forget everything that scares you about writing poetry. It doesn’t have to rhyme and it doesn’t have to be about earth-shaking topics. But it does have to have a certain rhythm to it and it has to be honest. It’s a little like writing a journal entry, but with fewer, “just-right” words. Why not try?

We’ve only scratched the surface of skills and hobbies you might want to learn about this summer. You may have interests in drawing, sketching or painting. You may want to create simple crafts for your walls or garden. You may have a desire to try sculpting or collage. 

You may really enjoy playing board games or card games. There are hundreds of them. Or how about playing a trivia game with friends over a period of time? You can play games via online programs such as Teams or Zoom and it’s almost like being in the same room with them.

Maybe you’d like to brush up your French, German or Spanish. Or maybe you’d like to tackle that math course that eluded you back in high school. No matter what you decide to learn, be sure to make that measurable goal including timelines and you’re on your way to a focused, enjoyable summer.

The Uplifting Power of Poetry

Many of us feel lacking in expertise when it comes to poetry. We may think of Shakespeare’s sonnets or William Blake and his elusive imageries. We may have foggy memories of studying Evangeline in the long-ago world of classrooms. Poetry seems like hard work.

But take another look. There are wide horizons when it comes to verse. Yes, some of it comes in proscribed numbers of syllables and rhyming lines, but much of it is more like a stream of consciousness in which questions, emotions and vivid experiences tumble out across the page in truly delightful ways.

As in any form of writing, there are as many purposes as there are poets. But, not surprisingly, many poets have tried to bring life and hope to readers as they interact with universal themes: life, death, meaning, joy, sorrow.  Let’s look at some uplifting poetry and poets in this time when we all can use a bit of hope.

Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, writer and civil rights activist. She was most famous for her seven autobiographies, but also wrote powerful poems in which she asserted her strength as a woman. Read Phenomenal Woman or Still, I Rise.

Mary Oliver was an American poet best known for her observance of the natural world. She explored themes such as solitude and was famous for her inner monologues in which she examined the ups and down of life. She won many awards in her long career. For a taste of Mary Oliver’s work, read Poppies. Two of Oliver’s volumes of poetry are entitled Dog Songs and A Thousand Mornings.

Emily Dickinson, the American poet often linked with heavy and morbid themes, wrote a delightful little poem on hope entitled Hope is the Thing with Feathers.

Edgar Guest was another American poet, known as The People’s Poet for his clear, optimistic verse. He is best known for encouraging words for tough times. Take a look at several of his poems, Don’t Quit and Things Work Out.

Rudyard Kipling was a British journalist and poet, born in India. Much of his writing relates to his experiences living in British-ruled India and the relationships between British servicemen and the native people. His most famous poem, If, is a study of fortitude in adversity.

Garrison Keillor is an American author, storyteller and humorist. He hosted a weekly radio program on Minnesota’s public radio called The Prairie Home Companion from 1974 through 2016. He is widely known for his fictional town of Lake Wobegon and all the characters living there. His book, Good Poems for Hard Times, is a compilation of poetry by a wide variety of poets, chosen for their clarity and humanity. “Good Poems,” says Keillor, “is for everyone who loves poetry whether they know it or not.”

Wendy Cope is a brilliant contemporary British poet who knows how to make her readers laugh. She loves to write parodies of famous poems. Read her poem, The Orange , in which she examines the joy in the small details of life and why she’s “glad she exists.”

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and American mother. She has lived in Ramallah, Jerusalem and currently in San Antonio, Texas. She is a poet, songwriter and novelist. She has written for both children and adult audiences. Read her poem, So Much Happiness.

Walt Whitman, beloved American poet, was a prolific writer. His most famous collection of verse is Leaves of Grass. In his preface to the collection of poems he writes about an encouraging way to live daily life entitled This is What You Shall Do. Several quotes from inside the covers of Leaves of Grass are: “Ask as to me, I know nothing else but miracles,” and “Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, wife of Robert Browning was an English poet. She was the eldest of twelve children and her father, a wealthy businessman refused to allow her to marry. She and Robert eloped to live in Florence, Italy after corresponding for years. Their love letters have been read and appreciated over the years. Elizabeth is best known for her romantic sonnets. Her Sonnet 43 is perhaps the most loved.

Poetry Websites

It’s obvious that poetry is a powerful medium. There are thousands of poets and hundreds of thousand verses written. Here are a few websites which may guide you to the topics and the artists you’ll enjoy most.

www.poetryfoundation.org

www.famouspoetsandpoems.com  

www.poemhunter.com 

Research Your Family Tree: Get Started in Genealogy

Many of us wish we knew more about our family history, but few take the time to dig in and find the information. Maybe you have an elderly family member who knows all about previous generations. Now would be the time to gather the rich body of knowledge that only our senior family members know. Get their stories and map the family tree.

But you may have to begin your family history search entirely on your own. In that case, our modern technology enables us to do the entire search online. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to tracing family histories.

Here are some websites to start with. With many you’ll need to create an account and pay a monthly subscription fee. Some allow you to pay for a trial subscription. Other sites are entirely free. Genealogists recommend beginners start with general sites and then when they have a good outline of family lines, search out individuals on more specialized sites.

Most sites are gigantic databases which include records of births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, electoral rolls, military records and access to newspapers and periodicals of days past. Many have chat rooms and forums where you can swap tips with other researchers.

Check out these sites as you begin your family history research:

www.ancestry.com

www.myheritage.com

www.familysearch.org (free)

www.rootsweb.ancestry.com (free)

www.findmypast.com

https://www.dnaweekly.com/blog/myheritage-vs-andme-vs-ancestrydna

www.gouldgenealogy.com (Australia)

www.genesreunited.co.uk

www.ancestry.co.uk

www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

Specialist Sites for Advanced Searches

www.nationalarchives.gov.uk (military records)

www.originsnetwork.com  (wills, military, apprenticeships)

www.genuki.org.uk  (reference site for the UK and Ireland)

www.cyndislist.com   (genealogical gateway to hundreds of other sites)

Plenty of Time to Read? How About a Memoir?

A list of 10 memoirs you will enjoy reading whilst staying at home.

Most of us are living with restrictions on travel and have plenty of time to read a good book. Go through this list of memoirs and see which name jumps out at you. Then order online and take your time enjoying the stories of the lives of some amazing people.

Michael J. Fox: Lucky Man: A Memoir

Most of us think of Michael J. Fox as Alex Keaton in Family Ties or Marty McFly in the Back to the Future series. His Memoir takes us deeper into his persona revealing his life as a celebrity, but also highlighting his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. 

John Bolton: The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir

John Bolton, is a former national security advisor to President Trump. His long-awaited memoir is available for pre-order on Amazon and now due to be released on May 12th.  Bolton’s service to the country goes back to the Reagan and both Bush administrations, but his frank evaluations of the current administration caused the release of the book to be delayed.  

Katherine Hepburn: Me

Katherine Hepburn’s sixty year career has always been of interest to her fans. This book was published back in 1991, but gives an insight into the private life of this amazingly talented star. 

Woody Allen: Apropos of Nothing

Always controversial, Woody Allen has published a memoir of his long career as an actor, writer director and comedian. He began as a writer for Sid Caesar’s television show, Your Show of Shows, where he worked alongside Carl Reiner and Neil Simon. His career has spanned sixty years and he earned many awards over the years. His recent memoir, originally to be published by Hachette, is now being published by Arcade Publishing and is available as an e-book now. The hardcopy will be available in April.

Martha MacCallum: Unknown Valor: A Story of Family, Courage and Sacrifice from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima 

Martha MacCallum is a well-known news anchor for Fox News. She’s written a story of small-town America during World War II. It’s part family memoir and part personal history. This well-written book chronicles a story of love in the midst of battle.

Chief Two White Feathers: Chief Two White Feathers: Portrait of a Spiritual Practitioner as told to Donald Panther-Yates

This is Book 2 in the Cherokee Chapbook Series. It tells the life story of this remarkable healer, storyteller, dancer and singer, painter and ceremonial chief.

Cheryl Strayed: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

This is the story of a journey to self-discovery. It follows Strayed’s 1100 mile solo hike from the Mojave Desert to The Bridge of the Gods in Washington State. It was selected as the first book to be read by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. 

Michelle Obama: Becoming

Michelle Obama, the first African American to hold the position of First Lady shares her personal journey. Growing up in the tough and gritty south side of Chicago to earning her way to a B.A. from Princeton and a PhD from Harvard, she later became a top-level executive, always balancing her roles as wife, mother and working woman.

Jane Fonda: Jane Fonda in Five Acts

In this DVD interview memoir Jane tells her story of growing up in a celebrity family, learning to act herself, becoming a celebrity in her own right and then her series of marriages. Jane’s activism and causes are also highlighted as she examines her life in the limelight.

Anne Glenconner: A Lady in Waiting: My extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

Lady Anne Coke, born in 1932 was the eldest daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester and grew up on their estate, Holkham Hall in Norfolk. She tells the story of her life in the shadow of the Royal family. She and Lord Glenconner had five children and spent much of their time transforming the island of Mustique into a place for the rich and famous. She was a Lady in Waiting for Princess Margaret.

I also mention that Anne Glenconner is my 1st cousin, (our grandfather was the 4th Earl of Leicester) and I stayed with her last summer during the time she was writing her story. We never imagined it would be such a huge success in the UK and 4th best seller in the US. Brilliant!

While many of us enjoy a good novel, there is something fantastic about reading the real-life, true stories of those we admire or who have become famous for one reason or another. 

How to Procure Food during the Pandemic

Most of us are either under quarantine or are making the effort to distance ourselves during this corona virus threat. We’re realizing that shopping in crowded grocery stores is not a good idea even if we try to social distance. There are several good ways to order online and receive our food during these difficult times. 

It’s important that we take good care of ourselves during this crisis. We need to keep lines of communication open with friends and family. We need adequate sleep and as much exercise as we can find. We also need to eat well and that takes some planning.

Making sure we have a good supply of staples on hand will enable us to keep preparing hearty meals even when we can’t get out to shop. This may be a time to turn back the clock and do some “from scratch” cooking. Hearty homemade soups, tasty homemade breads and the like are not only enjoyable to eat, they’re also satisfying to make. And when we need to supplement the food in our pantries, there are several ways to bring in a fresh supply of goods.

Safety First: It’s essential that we think through the process of receiving the food once it’s ordered for the safety of both the delivery person and ourselves.

  1. While the Center for Disease Control assures us that food itself does not carry the virus, the packaging materials may. 
  2. As much as possible have a contactless delivery. Direct the delivery person to leave the food on a porch or front stairway.
  3. When receiving deliveries of meals from restaurants, immediately remove the food from its packaging, reheat it to minimize contamination and place it on clean dishes. Discard the packaging. Use wipes or bleach water to cleanse hard surfaces such as plastic. After handling any packaging, wash hands thoroughly.
  4. When receiving groceries either at a pick-up point (where the delivery is loaded into your car with no direct contact) or your front door, move the items to a “safety zone” where you can leave non-perishable items for at least 24 hours. Some directives say to leave groceries in your car for three days. Again, cleanse hard surfaces and leave cardboard and other materials that may be contaminated for at least 24 hours before storing.
  5. Wash perishable items before storing.

Online grocery store shopping with either pick-up sites or home delivery

Understandably, these delivery services are terribly overloaded in this circumstance. Many websites have had trouble handling the crush of orders and keeping items in supply. The delivery services that may usually offer same day delivery may now take up to four or five days. Best to plan ahead and not “panic buy.”

In the US

In the U.S. all major grocery stores are offering online shopping with either free pick-up or delivery with a small fee. That would include Fred Meyer, Kroger, Safeway, Albertson’s, and Walmart to name a few.

Instacart offers delivery from a number of grocery stores in the larger U.S. cities.

Peapod fills your online order and shops for you, then delivers to your door.

USGrocer.com is another grocery and household product online shopping site.

There are many specialty delivery services for example Farm Box Direct which delivers fresh organic fruits and vegetables on a regular delivery basis.

In the UK

Ocado is the premier grocery shopping site in the U.K. As with all online shopping at present, they have a backlog of orders.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Iceland all offer online grocery shopping and delivery. As with Ocado, the stores do their best to offer discounts and sales prices when available.

Wedeliverlocal.co.uk offers produce and other food items selected from local farms, markets and smaller shops. 

Online food delivery services (usually from local restaurants)

When you’ve been cooped up for a while, it may sound tempting to find the website of a local restaurant and see what is on offer. Many restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open during the closures and ordering a delivery meal or buying a giftcard to use later, will be a way to support your local restaurants.

Services delivering restaurant meals to your door include:

In the U.S.

Grubhub

Door Dash

Postmates   

In the U.K.

Just Eat (they purchased Hungry House, another meal delivery service)

Food Hub 

Deliveroo

Online purchase of meal kits 

Meal kits tend to be the most expensive way to order food into your home, but they have certain advantages. First you select something you know your family enjoys and the kit provides absolutely everything you’ll need to make the meal, including condiments and spices. You’ll prepare the meal at home and enjoy a traditional family meal together. 

Here are some of the top meal kit providers

In the U.S.

Hello Fresh

Blue Apron

Freshly

Purple Carrot

In the U.K.

HelloFreshUK

Mindful Chef

Simply Cook

Abel and Cole

Be well during this difficult time and enjoy healthy meals.

Gifts for Grandparents: Time and Effort Sweeten the Deal

Gift giving is fun. And receiving gifts never gets old—it’s one of the ways we humans show love and caring for one another. But our taste in gifts may change over time. We seniors often care more about the relationship with the giver than the gift itself. And one way the younger generation can please us is to give gifts that require the giver’s time and effort. So we will love gifts that have taken a bit of energy or creativity and also those that require our loved ones spend some time in our presence.

Next time your children or grandchildren ask, “What do you want, Grandma?” or “What can I get for you, Grandpa?” you’ll want to answer, “Something that you’ve made or something we can do together.”

Here are some great gifts for grandparents that require some love and a bit of extra thought:

Collections of Family Photos

There are lots of companies that produce great ways to assemble family photos. Some show several generations, some come with fancy or unique frames, some look like family trees. All of them honor the love and legacy of a family. Want to remember a family vacation or a landmark anniversary or birthday? A collection of family photos created just for the grandparents is a great way to go.

Craft Supplies or Kits

Lots of seniors enjoy knitting, crocheting, doing cross-stitch or otherwise using their hands to create. Others are crafty and enjoy scrapbooking, doing decoupage, working with wood or a myriad of other crafty projects. The supplies for these endeavors are often beyond a senior’s budget. A gift of supplies or a kit to create a project makes a wonderful present.

A New Game

Card games and board games are wonderful family fun. They require the skill to participate in the game but also serve to gather family members around a table for several hours of togetherness and laughter. There are literally hundreds of games to choose from and the challenge of learning a new game and spending time with family is, in itself, worth its weight in gold. Here are some of the Best Family Board Games of 2019.

Something that Makes Us Laugh

If games don’t create the laughter, perhaps a funny gift will do the trick. Buy those socks with the silly words across the soles, find the perfect joke book or select the perfect funny mug or poster for your grandparent. Laughter does a heart good. Try Off the Wagon for some unique funny gift items.

Household Helps

Sometimes a practical gift shows a great deal of caring. A homemade throw blanket or warm slippers might be needed. A touch lamp or a foot massage unit might make life easier for a shut-in grandparent. A gadget to unscrew tight lids or to reach items from a high shelf may make daily life simpler for your loved one. Go to Hobbr to find lots of helpful items.

Gifts that Pamper

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of pampering once in a while? Choose from an array of essential oils, or delicious shower steamers. Buy that calming neck pillow or squishy therapy dough. Choose a beauty sleep tea bag eye mask or a lovely scented candle. Knowing the grandparent’s favorite scent or product and then finding it for them is like sending them a great big hug. Go to Uncommon Goods for a nice selection of pampering products.

It’s not hard to find great gifts for grandparents. All it takes is a bit of time and some heartfelt effort.