1. Watch the Perseids meteor shower. Everyone’s excited about the solar eclipse, but don’t forget the Perseids! They’ll peak around August 12th. I’m so grateful that this meteor shower comes right when we’re feeling a little blue about the end of summer. It’s a nice reminder that, while some good things are fading away, there’s a whole vast universe out there with so many wonders still to come.
Lay out some blankets in the yard (or on the roof, or on the trampoline, or on the hood of the car), turn off all the house lights, forsake all screens, and just relax. They’re all over the sky, and if it’s not butty, you’ll see tons. We’re passing through a butt of debris from a comet! Don’t miss it!
2. Visit something local and neglected — that thing you always pass by on your way to something else awesome and amazing in the next town or next state. It’s pretty easy to think, “Oh, we’ll have to get to that sometime.” It’s right down the road, so why not go today? At least you won’t be far from home if it turns out to be lame.
Last year, we finally took a hike in a modestly-labelled gorge not far from our house, and it’s now one of our favorite spots — something I’d gladly drive much further to visit.
3. Go bat baiting. Apparently you can toss marshmallows or ping pong balls up in the air and bats will dart after them, which seems hilarious to me. I do like bats, but I don’t mind teasing them a little. They can take it (as long as you’re careful to throw the bait in front of them, not at them).
4. Cook an earth oven meal. Do a bit of prep work, bury your food underground, and let the earth do the cooking for you. I’m summarizing these instructions from this website: Dig a hole about a foot deep and two feet long and wide, or wider. Save the dirt; don’t scatter it. Line the sides and bottom of the hole with flat rocks (dry ones, not ones from a stream). Make a wood fire inside the hole to heat the rocks, and keep it burning for 45 minutes. Shove the glowing coals to one side, and put in your food. You can wrap it in foil, or wrap it in edible leaves like dandelion or mint. Sprinkle with water, cover with something heavy, and put the dirt you displaced back on. Then wait four hours or so, dig it up, and have a nice little feast. There are a few recipes here, or you can Google “earth oven recipes” to find more, from simple to spectacular.
5. Camp in your back yard. Why torture yourself? Camping is fun, and fun, and fun, and fun . . . and then horrible, either because you discover you forgot something vital, or else you suddenly reach a point in the middle of the night where you feel like you’re going to go out of your mind if you can’t get out of this stinky tent with these squirmy people. When you’re in your own yard, you can do the enjoyable parts, and then just bail out when it gets too hard.
6. Give the whole day to the beach (or whatever it is that you usually only do for a short time). We go to the beach a lot, but we usually only have an hour or so before we have to pack up and get other stuff done. Toward the end of the summer, I like to clear the schedule for one day, pack a lunch full of treats (including one of those bags of mixed candy meant to go in a pinata), and just chill. We love getting there before everyone else and staying long after the crowds have left.
7. Give the kids five bucks each and set them loose in the Salvation Army — and let them know you won’t tease or criticize them for their choices. You might be surprised what they come up with. (Not recommended for kids who have crippling decision anxiety!)
8. Mow a weed maze. If the thrill of mowing has passed away and the yard is a little out of hand, go ahead a mow a twisty, turny maze in the tall grass for the kids to race around in. Yeah, it’s stupid, but it’s fun. You can do relay races or time trials, or just let them go. Dogs, too, find this amazing.
9. Have a sushi-making party. We’ve been planning this for years; maybe we’ll actually do it this time! Invite a bunch of friends and ask everyone to bring one ingredient, or else it gets expensive fast. They can bring avocados, cucumbers, pickled ginger, daikon, salmon or smelt roe, salmon, tuna, or other raw fish (sushi grade!), crab or imitation crab, shrimp, asparagus, and so on. You supply good rice, rolling mats, nori, wasabi, and soy sauce. Everyone gets to make some sushi, and you enjoy it while watching Yojimbo, or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Kung Fu Hustle. Here some step-by-step, illustrated instructions from Pioneer Woman.
10. Plant bulbs for the spring. or at least buy them, plan where to put them, and prep the ground, if it’s too soon to actually plant them. Right now, it feels like there will be green forever, more green than we can handle; but right around April, a little shoot or sprig poking up through the frozen mud will look like paradise.
A version of this post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2016.