Tag Archives: summer

10 cheap things you can do with your kids this summer

The Taz and me at his 6th grade promotion
The Taz and me at his 6th grade promotion

In the last few weeks of the school year, our whole family catches summer fever, eager for the day when the last school bell rings and we can enjoy the lazy days of June, July and August. That last day of school is cause for celebration, and we revel in it the whole weekend long.

And then Monday morning hits, and so does reality — because now there’s nothing to do.

Sure, there are camps and vacations to take in between the last day of one grade and the first day of the next. But camps and vacations cost money, and sometimes it’s not possible to load the kids up with paid-for activities to ward off the “I’m bored” blues. So to keep you from going crazy or broke this summer, I’ve put together a list of cheap activities your family can enjoy until school gets back in session.

Go on a backyard camping trip. Spend the day putting together all the things you’d need to go on a camping trip, then set up the tent in the backyard. Bring out the lanterns and sleeping bags, and don’t forget the s’mores! Then spend the evening telling stories underneath a starry sky before turning in for the night.

Pack a picnic. Fill a basket with numerous small bites, from crackers and cheese to grapes and apple cider. Let the kids help choose which kinds of foods would be best to pack up. Then take them on a hike in the hills, to a grassy knoll at the park, or to the beach to enjoy a delicious afternoon of play.

Our new garden of succulents!

Plant a garden. Get the kids interested in spending time outdoors by giving them a small piece of the yard that’s just for them. Help them to plant seeds or seedlings, decorate it with colorful stones and small markers, and encourage them to tend to it daily by watering and keeping it free from weeds.

Stage your own play. Keep the brains of your vacationing kids working by having them think up and then perform a play for family and friends. Dive into the costume box or the back of your closet for imaginative disguises to help them get into character. Encourage them to create programs with the names of the actors and titles of each scene. Then serve popcorn and juice boxes for the neighborhood as they enjoy the performance.

Hunt for buried treasure. Go to the Dollar Store to find small trinkets to serve as pirate’s booty. Have the kids stay in the house and hide their eyes while you bury the booty in the backyard. Then let them loose to discover where X marks the spot on the map you’ve carefully drawn. Not keen on the kids digging up your backyard? No problem. Take them to the beach and let them hunt for their treasure in the sand.

Go thrifting. Speaking of buried treasure … This is a fun way to search out eclectic items you just won’t find in a regular retail store. If your kids are the kind who love combing stores for various trinkets (my son is NOT), then they’ll love digging through other people’s tossed aside items to find their diamond in the rough.

Make a puzzle. If you’re anything like me, you have boxes of photos you despair of ever getting organized. Don’t let them go to waste! Get some Mod Podge and help the kids glue the photos to a piece of cardboard. Then carefully cut the mounted photos into puzzle-piece shapes for them so the kids can put them back together. These would also make cute gifts the kids can make for Grandma and Grandpa.

Throw a spontaneous dance party. Put on your favorite dance jams, turn the music way up, and then spend the afternoon bouncing around the living room with the kids. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a terrible dancer. In our house, we actually have contests to see who can dance the worst. I think I win every time.

My stepson’s first several cranes

Learn origami. My teenage stepson has challenged himself to fold 1,000 paper cranes by the end of 2013. The result is a room filled with cranes of various colors and sizes. Teach your child the art of paper folding, and watch as they spend the afternoon creating all sorts of tiny masterpieces.

Teach them to bake. Forget the diet for one afternoon and spend it making cupcakes! Or dig into the recipe books and bake bread from scratch. There’s an art to baking that should be passed down to our kids, and what better time to teach them than the dog days of summer? Of course, it’s best to bake in the morning before the day heats up too much.

What do you like to do in the summertime with your kids?

Summertime Dinner Menu

Grilled Mediterranean Vegetable Panini (Photo: Alex Farnum/Sunset Magazine)

This week I’m feeling like I need to be on vacation, or at least pretend like I am.  The weather is in the 90s, the kids are at their dad’s house all week long, and I plan on wearing dresses and flowers in my hair every day I can.

This week, I am celebrating summertime!

Of course, hot summer nights means the oven needs to be used as minimally as possible.  So I have planned items I can cook ahead of time during cooler hours, or that require the BBQ or stove top.  This week I am adamant about not being heated out of my house by cooking.  And I also don’t want to be stuck at the stove for a really long time.  This week’s menu takes all of that in account, and just radiates all I love about summertime.

Inspired by Sunset Magazine’s Quick & Easy Summer Dinner Recipes (though not all menu recipes come from Sunset).

SUNDAY

– BBQ Chicken
– Baked Potato
– Bush’s Baked Beans
– BBQ Corn

MONDAY

– Cod Tostadas: fried tortillas with a thin layer of refried beans, top it with cod, avocado, Trader Joe’s mango salsa, thinly sliced cabbage, minced radish, cilantro, and sour cream.  Whether it all stays on top is another story….
– Trader Joe’s Corn Salsa (so good, it should be a side dish)
– Spanish Rice

TUESDAY

– Falafels: Halved pita pocket, Trader Joe’s Tahini Sauce, feta, lettuce, tomato, baked falafels
Tabouli Salad

WEDNESDAY

– Veggie Panini: grilled eggplant slice, grilled portabello mushroom, mozzarella cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula salad, ciabatta bread brushed with balsamic vinegar and lightly grilled before assembling.
– Polenta

THURSDAY

– Turkey burger and sweet potato fries for me.
– Manly beef burger with regular fries for the Mr.
I’m trying out kimchi (pickled cabbage) on my burger to give it a little low-calorie zing.  Mr. W won’t touch it.

FRIDAY

Chinese Chicken Salad
– Baguette & Brie
Who says you can’t mix up your cultures in one meal?

SATURDAY

– Mahi Mahi with Trader Joes Thai Green Curry
– White Rice
– Grilled Peppers & Onions

It's official, summer vacation is here

Summer vacation has started. As if entertaining my kids while I am trying to keep up on work and the household weren’t clue enough, their friends are sure to drive the message home. Starting at 8 am, the doorbell begins to ring with friends wondering if my kids can play. If you don’t mind me sounding like an old fogey, back in my day we were taught that we do not ring anyone’s doorbell before 10 am. And this is a quality I am instilling in my own kids (note: by loudly complaining about being woken up by the dang doorbell).

Just this morning, the neighbor kid came back every 20 minutes to see if the Taz could come out, true to his 8 o’clock fashion. My son insisted that he couldn’t leave the house until 9:30 am, but this kid apparently has a hearing problem. So my son remedied this by posting a sign out our door.

5 minutes later (time now is 8:30 am) our doorbell rang again.

“Doesn’t he know how to read?!?” I asked the Taz.

“I think the sign blew off the door,” he explained. He fastened it again and came back inside. “What can I do now?” he asked me. I was knee deep in work, trying to form at least one more sentence before the doorbell rang again. Our TV is on the fritz, and I was on the only computer. My technology slaved son was left without anything to do, since I was also hindering his use of music for at least some semblance of quiet.

“I don’t know, read,” I instructed him.

“But I’ve been reading a whole bunch lately!” he complained.

“No you haven’t, you haven’t read a book all summer long,” I told him, knowing full well that we hadn’t even completed our first week of summer vacation.

“But I read two of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books,” he argued.

“Just pick something that you haven’t read before.”

“Can I read 30 pages and be done?” he asked me.

“Read until you can go outside,” I said, exasperated.

He pulled out one of the books that had been gathering dust on the bookshelf and got caught up in the world of a vampire bunny that was sucking the life out of all the carrots in the garden. And when the clock struck 9:30 am, we heard the familiar skateboard of his friend coming down the sidewalk, and the Taz was out the door.

I am considering getting my parenting advice from this website so I can learn ways to scare my kids’ friends away – at least until a decent hour in the morning. Answering the door in my bathrobe with unbrushed teeth and hair (pre-coffee) just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Swimsuit Hell

The other day I had an hour to kill, so I thought I’d try on swimsuits for fun. I headed out to Macy’s and perused the aisles of little tiny pieces of cloth meant to cover just the barest essentials. And then I locked myself in the dressing room and stripped to my skivvies. One by one I tried them on.

Now, I only tried on 3 suits. But trying on 3 suits can take a long time as you twist and turn, seeing parts of your body that you normally aren’t that aware of. Not to mention the conversations that result…

Mirror: Ok, how about this one? It’s a pretty red, your favorite!

Me: Um, I better not. It makes me look like I haven’t seen the sun in, um, never.

Mirror: Come on, you’re not that white.

Me: Seriously, I think I might injure someone if I wore this one. I can’t be held responsible for that. Let’s try another.

Mirror: Ok, then try the blue one. That color is usually kind on pasty skin.

Me: What are you saying? Are you calling me pale?

Mirror: But you said… You know what, nevermind. Just try the blue one on.

Me: Uh, how does this one go on? Does this strap tie around my back? Or do I tie it around my neck?

Mirror: I think it’s supposed to connect to the bottoms to hold them up. You’re going to have to groom really, really well if you wear those ones.

Me: I think I better pass on this one. I have to wear it around my children.

Mirror: Good idea.

Me: Thanks a lot.

Mirror: Anytime. Last one’s the black one. You can’t go wrong with black. Black is sexy and sleek, not to mention slimming.

Me: I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. Um… Are the girls supposed to be hanging out the sides like that?

Mirror: I can’t tell. I’m too distracted by how much of your ass is showing. Are you sure that’s not a thong?

Me: Let me check… No, it says it has full coverage.

Mirror: Perhaps you should get a larger size.

Me: But this was the largest size they had! Come on, it’s not that bad.

Mirror: Trust me. It is. I didn’t even know that your ass was that big. Perhaps you should try on a wetsuit.

Try on swimsuits for fun? Honestly, it really sounded like a good idea at the time. I’m in need of a new swimsuit, and the stores have been displaying some really cute ones on the front racks of all their clothes. But was I really that delusional that this was something that would be fun? I placed all the swimsuits back on the rack and swore to lose another 5 pounds before re-attempting this kind of punishment. Maybe, by then, the mirror and I will be on speaking terms again.

Anyone else brave enough to already be trying on swimsuits?  How’d it go?