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Thursday, May 3, 2012

keep cool this summer :: 10 tips from the deep south

It is becoming hot and humid here and despite a sweet, late spring, cold snap (hello low 70's!) things are going to be unbearable soon. In the south, we (I) see summer much like people in the north must see winter; extreme weather that is challenging, sometimes keeps you inside and is a major deciding factor in your daily schedule.

When I see blog posts and magazine spreads about fireflies and evening picnics outside, I know those are not reflective of our season. The air is still like limp pudding at 10 pm. And where fireflies might be sweet, we have killer mosquitoes. And nothing less than toxic DEET works to bring relief.

 Here are 10 things that we do to stay cool and happy in the summer.

1. Eat popsicles for breakfast. No, really. First of all, it is really fun and seems so decadent. But in reality, all I do is keep the freezer stocked with frozen orange juice pops and pass them out each morning. My kids think they are living it up. *see the specks in the popcicle? They are chia seeds - full of omega-3's, protein and fiber!

2. Make friends with a pool owner. Well, this might sound obvious or like I am a jerk. But, you might have many friends who do not even know that you would love to swim in their pool. Offer to watch all the kids, while the other mom does her shopping or takes a nap, and bring watermelon and a fun game or toy and you are in!

3Move all cooking to the grill. In the summer, if the meal is to be hot, it is cooked outside. Kabobs, pizza, even pancakes and eggs can be cooked on the grill. We have our grill hooked up to the natural gas, so there is never a issue of being out of fuel. We just flip it on and cook on it several times a day. Inside, we make salads galore, gazpacho, veggies and dips, juices and smoothies.

4. Keep a master list of free and cheap summer activities. There are so many summer activities and camps around here that I can not keep track of them. So, I literally keep a list (or file folder) full of them. In the beginning of summer, I rarely need it because we are so jazzed about all that we have going on, but by the end we need some new ideas. I am part of a small home school co op that plans fun things for our kids to do, and we usually continue in the summer. I have schooled friends who do the same thing and even plan their own summer camps. A little bit of organization can make for a fun and action packed summer. Some of our favorites are free bowling, ice skating, free theatre movies, outdoor movies and concerts, flea markets and late afternoon beach trips for a bit of play and dinner before bed.

5. Stock up on sprinklers, water balloons, and kiddie pools. I budget a certain amount of hose time into each week. It is amazing how long my kids love to play outside in the hose. When they were very young, just the idea of being wet was thrilling enough, but now that they are older, their creative games fuel the fun. Kiddie pools become oceans for paper boat battles, dolls have swim parties, complex battles  are invented with water balloons and mama can sit on the deck and focus on number 6.

6. Invent your summer 2012 cocktail. I always need to have something I am working on, and a summer cocktail takes on a certain significance for me each summer. Something fun to sip on in the late afternoon before dinner when all is flowing as easily as the water from your hose. For several summers it was freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, Bombay gin, and a sprig of rosemary. Some summers are margarita summers; this might be the year I perfect my sangria. My kids also like fun drinks while they are playing outside. This is the season for curly straws, paper umbrellas, and homemade Orange Julius'.

7. Turn your bathtub into a pool. If you have worn out your welcome at your friends' pools (hopefully it did not have anything to do with number 6) you can always swim in your own bathtub. Bath tubs are great fun when the object of the bath is not to get clean. One of our favorite things to do is to tint the water with food coloring and scent it with essential oils. So, a blue bath with peppermint and big ice cubes becomes an arctic bath. And a green bath with a handful of herb sprigs from the yard is now a swamp bath. Do this at night, turn off the lights and throw glow sticks in the tub. Your kids will be amazed at how beautiful it is - and so will you.

8. Change your rhythm  Maybe most families already have a later bedtime in the summer, but you can adjust your rhythm even more. For instance, we tend to go wake up and go to sleep with the sun, which in the summer makes for much longer days. We usually do our outside playing or working in the early morning and late evening. Afternoons are reserved for some downtime, siesta style. So, laying around reading or watching a movie allows the kids to recharge for act two when the sun begins to set.

9. Host indoor movie nights with friends Most of our play dates tend to revolve around the outdoors. However, in the summer, if there is not water involved kids are hot, sweaty and cranky. An alternative idea is to host movie nights. We have done this a few times and it is always great. You can make it super easy and have everyone over after dinner. You, the host, can have popcorn and maybe something a little sweet (this is one of my kids favorite party treats). Kids can watch the movie and then play a bit and all go to bed happy. 

10. Freeze things. Turn your freezer into a laboratory. We freeze water into as many shapes as we can and then play with the ice, either outside or in the bathtub. Balloons, milk containers, yogurt containers, and  medical gloves make great ice shapes. For extra fun, float items inside. Try flowers, glitter, rocks, cars, plastic animals, ribbons, gold coins, fake jewels, Lego creations and even glow sticks (they are preserved in the freezer even if they have already been activated).


  1. Living in south florida I can soooo relate. Oh the price we pay for our mild and glorious winters....

    Thanks for the fresh ideas. We are going to incorporate late afternoon/evening trips to the beach this year. We always celebrate Christmas in July one week in that month. We make Christmas cookies, turn the AC down and play good music, make much inside fun with that one.

  2. I love all the ideas, especially about coming up with a summer cocktail! Here in Ohio I'm thinking this summer is going to be a doozy---it's going to be 87 degrees today, this is not normal for us,

    1. 87 sounds like heaven! it was 102 here today and we are looking at 105 and 106 tomorrow and saturday... ahhhh Texas, you temperamental beast!! these ideas are great!

    2. 87 sounds like Heaven!! we were 102 today 105 tomorrow and 106 saturday! ahhh the joys of Texas! these are fantastic ideas my kids love the sprinkler turned on under or next to the trampoline as well. Makes for some amazing pictures as a bonus. This year is looking to be a very hot one as we usually aren't this hot until late june early july.

  3. I love the ideas! We live in Las Vegas, and have weeks of temps over 110 and months of temps around or over 100. Searing heat. I think I'll go make popsicles... :)

  4. I agree with the grilling for cooking! It takes an act from congress to get me to turn on my oven during the summer, seriously! Its may 3rd here in south texas and we are expecting 90 degrees already. Thanks for the great tips.

  5. Wow! What a GREAT list! I'm in Tallahassee, and you have described what's going on here perfectly! That cold snap was awesome (pants and long sleeves in April? What?) but it's most definately not coming back for a while. I am SO going to try out some of your suggestions. My little one will love you for the inspiration. Robin, Christmas in July sounds like so much fun! What a neat tradition! I may have to try that too. Fun!

  6. Oh I love this list! Especially the 2012 cocktail! Great ideas, now if our heat would just arrive!

  7. Great tips! I can so relate. We are in TX, and become hermits in the summer. We try to only go out in the morning. It's still hot in the morning too, but we can hit the splash pads or gym then. I don't even like going to indoor places after the morning because getting in the car after it's been sitting in a parking lot is pure torture.

    LOL, at the mosquito comment. I don't get how people can enjoy a summer evening outdoors in the evening here in TX because I always end up covered in bites even with bug spray.

  8. These are great tips! I'm a southern gal and love our summers, but some days are just too hot.


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