7 Summer lessons (& homemade "Magic Shell")

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer will still be with us for another few weeks but fall seems to arrive in spirit a little earlier than in date. My kids are back in school and I'm doing my best to stay organized and remember who needs to be where and when. It is still 95 degrees outside but I can see that the leaves are already turning yellow. When I run early in the morning, I can hear that the morning breeze sounds different too. More rustley and whooshy than quiet.

I did a lot of control freaky pre-planning for summer this year. I had schedules and charts and lists. The kinds of things that I usually stash away and forget about shortly after creating them. You know what, though? It made a HUGE difference! We were able to do more and experience more of what makes summer so awesome. I learned a lot this summer, too, and I thought I'd share a few of those lessons with you before I launch into pumpkins and such for fall.

In no particular order, here is what I now know to be true.

Summer's Lessons

1. I hate the gym. I'm sorry to say it, but I do. I've had gym memberships my entire adult life. Since I was 16, actually. Lately, though, I've found myself dreading going inside. I sit in my car in the parking lot and stall by reading email on my phone or listening to my iPod. It isn't the working out that I hate. It is the whole gym experience- cardio machines, the ridiculous line for spin class, people standing around talking loudly over me, texting, and otherwise annoying every cell in my body. For me, a morning run outside in nature or a workout with my bootcamp/tri training friends is so, so, SO much better.

2. Running and yoga go great together and not just for the one-makes-things-tight-and-one-stretches-them-out reason. When I'm running my brain is working. Ideas pop in and problems are crunched. This is good stuff in moderation but, just like swimming in the ocean, getting stuck in the churn can be overwhelming. Yoga shuts all that spinning down. It makes things quiet and gives my brain (and the rest of me) a chill pill. It is the flat water beyond the surf. Love.

3. At the right time of day our summer landscape is absolutely stunning. I used to think that everything was brown and dead in the heat of summer. Outside around here was not the lush green of late winter but a setting to be approached with forbearance and lots of sunscreen and ice water. This summer I discovered that there is an old almond orchard along the bike trail near my house. In the magic light at sunrise it is take-my-breath-away beautiful. Running or cycling to that special spot has become almost like a morning meditation or prayer of gratitude for me.

4. Homemade no-kneed bread with cinnamon and raisins is easy to make and delicious. We go through a lot of cinnamon raisin bread in our house. I've been wanting to find a good recipe so that we can have a fresh version of the store-bought one that we've been eating. I finally pulled out my copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (that I've had for a few years) and tried a few recipes. My favorite is the oatmeal bread with a cup of raisins and a sprinkling of cinnamon rolled in before baking. The book says that the no-kneed method creates a "custard crumb" in the bread and I understood what that meant after trying the recipes. Breakfast awesomeness.

5. Picnics are even better when they are at unexpected times of the day. We have a lot of picnics and, since they are sometimes spur-of-the-moment, I keep a picnic blanket in my car at all times. My favorite picnic of the summer was at dinner time. We packed up our food and headed out to the lake to eat, play, and watch the sun set. Best picnic ever. Thank you to Melissa of Adventure Tykes for inspiring this idea and for leading my discovery of these containers (also available in orange, pink, and blue)!

6. Homemade "Magic Shell" is really easy to make and tastes like summer perfection on top of banana soft serve. To make "Magic Shell" (makes 2 generous, chocolate-lover servings): put 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (a little scant) into a microwavable container and microwave 10-30 seconds at a time, stirring often, until the chocolate is melted.

7. Embracing the best things about each season makes me (and my family) happy. This is where my control-freaky planning comes in. I spent some time in the spring thinking about what I wanted to do this summer. I created a summer manifesto and brainstormed a big list of outings, projects, and goals for the season. It was more like a menu than a to-do list and these things made it easier for us to get out of the house and enjoy the best parts of summer. Camping, swimming, bowling, berry picking, beach days, picnics- we did a lot of fun things!

How was your summer?

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