Boost your bucket list: Volunteer to be a lighthouse keeper, not just lighthouse visitor

Lighthouse lore and lure is hard to resist, which is why many baby boomers have a lighthouse tour or two on their beloved bucket list. Few folks know, though, that you can not only tour lighthouses, but that can keep lighthouses, too.

Meaning, you can take a turn as a lighthouse keeper. Stay overnight at the historic sites. Take your own personal tours up, down, and throughout majestic towers that once guided and cautioned captains and crews as they traversed smooth or stormy waters.

As long as you do a few things in exchange for the exciting experience.

Many of the numerous lighthouses dotting the shorelines of the Great Lakes have volunteer light keeper programs. Some of the programs require a fee while others may be free. The light keeper program of the Tawas Point Lighthouse—located in Lake Huron's Tawas Bay along Michigan's sunrise coast—is one of those that's free. And it's a perfect, picturesque example of how many lighthouse keeper programs work, on the Great Lakes as well as other historic lighthouse locations along our country's coasts.

tawas point lighthouse

Tawas Point Lighthouse has been in operation since 1876 and is located 2.5 miles southeast of Tawas City, MI. The historic 70-foot lighthouse—85 wrought iron steps up...

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Kids and cameras: 9 tips for beginner photogs, from National Geographic Kids

kids and cameras

As long as my grandsons have known me, I've had a camera in my hand more often than not. I may not be a pro, but taking photos is one of my favorite activities.

I like to think it's my penchant for taking pictures that encouraged my grandsons to enjoy using various cameras—from their kid camera to smartphones to my DSLR—for shooting shots around their place now and then. 

I'm pretty good about explaining to my grandsons the basics of using a camera, but as a true and untrained amateur photographer myself, I'm not the greatest at sharing with them sure-shot techniques for composition and more, in easy-to-understand snippets they'll understand and remember.

Enter National Geographic Kids book Guide To Photography by Nancy Honovich and National Geographic Photographer Annie Griffiths (which I...

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How to make a pillow chaise for children

Every once in a great while, I surprise myself and do something that exceeds my expectations. Most recently, it was the making of the pillow chaise lounging thingees I gave my grandsons for Christmas. They turned out far better than I expected, and were received with far more appreciation than I thought might be the case, especially considering they weren't toys—which, as I learned here, are far preferable to practical presents.

What? You missed my post about giving Bubby and Mac their pillow chaises? Well take a look at their joy and ability to play slug in front of the television, thanks to a soft and comfy gift from Gramma.

At the time I posted that, many readers wondered about how to make them. So here I offer a gift to you: Directions on how to make the super simple pillow chaises.

I first saw this on Pinterest, but in all honesty I never looked at the directions and now I can't find the original pin. So what follows is my made-up method of providing rest and relaxation for little ones (or big ones, if you're so motivated).

The chaises are nothing more than four or more pillows sewn together. You can sew the ends closed, but I chose to use Velcro at the openings to allow pillows to be removed and covering laundered.

What you need (for one chaise):

• Four or more pillow cases — As my grandsons are only a few feet tall, four were enough; use an additional pillow case for each foot of your intended recipient's height over three feet.

• Four or more pillows — Same rule as above regarding the number to use.

• Velcro — Plan on 16 inches per pillow, enough to provide a closure for each pillow case.

What you do:

1. Using two of the four or more pillow cases, sew one to another along the long sides, with right side out and the openings on the same end. Create a half-inch seam allowance and use a tight stitch for strength. The seam will be showing on the outside; do not turn the pillow cases inside out. (Depending on your sewing ability and frustration level, you can pin the cases together before sewing.)

2. Using a third pillow case, sew it to one of the two that are already connected, ensuring openings are on the same end and seam will show on the same side as the first seam.

3. Do the same with the fourth and all additional pillow cases, always ensuring openings are on same end and seems will show on the same side.

4. Cut Velcro—both the hook and the fuzzy side—to fit inside the opening of each pillow case. Sew the hook side to one edge of the inside opening of each case, about half an inch from case edge. Then sew the fuzzy sides to the opposite side of each case opening, ensuring they match up with hooked Velcro beforehand. Again, you can pin first, if desired.

5. Insert a pillow in each case, then Velcro shut.

6. That's it! A simple pillow chaise for a child!

A couple notes:

• There's no need to use expensive pillows; I purchased the ones that are $2.50 each at Walmart. Using the $5 twin packs of pillow cases from Walmart, this made for a $20 price tag for each chaise of four pillows (not counting Velcro).

• The chaises can be used in a couple different positions, depending on how you prop the end pillow(s). One reader asked what kind of frame supports the pillows and the answer is that there is no frame—nothing but pillows, laying flat or propped up in various ways.

• As a child grows, you can easily add additional pillow cases and pillows to allow for the child's increased length.

• If you plan to mail the chaise to a faraway grandchild, your best bet is to mail the empty (but sewn together) pillow cases along with a gift card for purchasing the pillows. Otherwise, it's a rather expensive gift since even though the chaises are light, they're bulky and cost a crazy amount to ship. Trust me, for I learned this the hard (and expensive) way.

Of course, the chaises are soft and comfy and perfect for watching television, reading, or napping. That's not all, though. My genius grandsons quickly figured out they make great fort walls, as well.

Today's question:

What is your favorite position for watching television—sitting up, reclining, or a full-out sprawl on the floor?