We had a rough evening last week. Nothing seemed to go right. We got home, got the kids to bed, and Katie and I sat down at our breakfast table to unwind for a few minutes. It’s strange: Unwind used to mean sit and talk, find a reason to laugh, remind each other that everything will be ok. But lately, unwind means look at our phones and scroll through TikTok like it’s some sort of entertainment Tinder for those of us seeking an escape from the real world.
About five minutes into sifting through the endless dross, I put my phone down and said, “We need to lay off our phones and go outside more.” I was tired and emotional, but somehow I also felt a keen sense of clarity. The problem isn’t that we have no time; the problem is how we spend what little time we do have. Case in point, it feels like fifteen minutes ago I was writing the Fall Survival Guide. Where did that time go?
For the past week, we’ve been making the effort to put our phones down and take the kids outside. We look for birds, try to spot the family of chipmunks that lives in our backyard (you’re supposed to feed them, right?), and sit on the front porch while the kids blow through gallons of bubble solution. We’re still busy, but I find that we’re all happier when our time is more intentional.
Here are some ways to bring some intentionality to your summer.
Reconnect With An Interest From Childhood
When I was eight, I had my first campfire at my dad’s house. I carved a handful of sticks for roasting marshmallows and dusted off every five-gallon bucket we had for makeshift seats. When all of my buddies showed up, my dad brought out seven brand new harmonicas. We each got one, and we spent the night making perhaps the worst music the neighborhood has ever known.
Seven years later I went off to college, and while digging through my desk, I came across that harmonica. Over the next few years, I got decent at pursing, blocking, and all that jazz. But then I got married, had kids, and the harmonica went back in the drawer. This summer, it’s coming back out, and let me preemptively apologize to my neighbors for the unhoned noise coming from my back porch. I’ll get it back.
They say when you hit your thirties, you either get really into brewing your own beer, or you become a Civil War history buff. Honestly, neither of those interest me, and I’m not in the position to go pick up a new convertible or buy a lake house.
Sometimes the best way to enter a new season with intentionality is to revisit a childhood hobby or passion. I’m picking up the harmonica. What were you into as a kid? Maybe it’s time to crack open those old comic books, start kicking the soccer ball around, or go buy yourself a new Lego set, seriously. This summer, reignite something fun and cheap from your past solely for your own pleasure.
Throw On Some Fresh Kicks
Koio’s bread and butter has always been Italian-made sneakers (and they’re damn sharp), but this season, they’ve gone to the artisans in Spain to craft old-school espadrilles with a collapsible heel for easy sliding (don’t worry, the suede is still Italian). What I especially like about these is the barely-visible rubber sole under the jute (that’s the fibrous rope-looking stuff). The rubber will keep the shoes from wearing down too quickly or getting ruined if you walk on a wet road.
Pro tip: Pick up a bottle of 303 Fabric Guard to treat all of your suede and canvas shoes, and use it on your convertible top if you have one. Water? We don’t fear water.
Looking for a washable/vegan option to keep yourself G’d up from the feet up this summer? Check out Rothy’s. These sneaks are woven entirely from plastic bottles (even the laces). The heel and ankle padding is filled with excess yarn, and the rubber sole is actually made of corn. Sustainability aside, these low tops have a vintage court aesthetic that begs to be worn with your favorite pair of chino shorts (above the knee of course) or slim-fit denim rolled at the bottom with no-show socks.
Bonus: Rothy’s are completely machine washable.
Boldly Branch Out
We’re big fans of solids and stripes but there are a host of other handsome patterns and prints that create just as refined of an appearance. Look to pair some of your favorite solid go-tos with some more intricate designs to give your summer style visual texture.
Stay Toasty In The Evening
If you’re a true prep, you know that J.Press is home-sweet-home. Founded by a Latvian immigrant who opened his own tailoring shop, the brand is the embodiment of the American dream. This classic-fit sweater is made in USA from thick cotton yarn. Perfect for those chilly evenings or early-morning golf games.
If you want something a little lighter weight (and a little lighter on your wallet), this summer-weight sweater from J.Crew comes in twelve different colors and patterns.
Fall Into a Book
Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke, M.D.
Admittedly, this is the book that has been challenging my screen-consumption mindset lately. Lembke is a psychiatrist who discusses her different clients and how their brains have become wired for addiction to dopamine (which in turn means addiction to pills, sex, heroin, etc.). Then she turns the tables onto technology, social media, searching for those coveted “likes.” It’s harrowing and humbling for sure, a total page-turner.
Sailing Alone Around The Room by Billy Collins
Here’s what I love about Billy Collins’s poetry: If you know about poetry from a technical standpoint, you appreciate his meter, rhythm, and euphony. And if you’re new to poetry, then none of that matters because his poems are just really good. Collins is easy to read, and his poetry is perfect for summer night by the firepit, beverage in hand.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris is one of the only writers who can literally make me laugh aloud while I read. Unlike most writers who pen a memoir or autobiography linearly, Sedaris’s writing is more episodic, bouncing around from his childhood to his days as a one-man performer in New York City. His self-deprecating wit is somehow keen, hilarious, but also compassionate.
Savor the Sunset
If you hear “margarita” and immediately think of sugary, syrupy neon drinks, I hate to break the news to you: You’ve been lied to. As Primer’s Christopher Buechler describes in his guide to the margarita –
- 1 oz. Blanco tequila Hornitos
- 1 oz. Reposado tequila Cruz
- 1 oz. Curacao Patron Citronge
- .75 oz. Fresh lemon juice
- Dash aromatic bitters Angostura
– there isn’t a drop of cloying sugary mix in sight. Shake up a few to share with good company and relax as the summer sun goes down.
Capture Some Memories
There’s nothing wrong with shooting for Instagram and Facebook, but neither of them involve physical pictures hanging on your fridge for you to see when you grab your OJ in the morning. There’s something about a picture on the fridge, your dresser mirror, or your work desk that allows your mind to slow down for a minute and think back to a fond memory. Let’s call it nostalgia.
I know I’m biased because I’m a photographer, but you need a camera. And if you don’t want to go all in for a body and lenses and all that jazz, then think about picking up the new Instax Evo Mini from Fujifilm. This instant camera is a hybrid between a polaroid and a digital, with the ability to store images (which you can view on the rear screen), and print directly from the camera. It can also connect to and print images from your phone. So it’s a film camera, a digital camera, and a photo printer all in one. And let’s be honest, the thing just looks damn cool.
Get Some Green
It’s time for some plants. Want to keep it simple? Get a few snake plants, then let your partner pick out some cool pots at Home Depot. Snake plants release an immense amount of oxygen and purify the ambient air, making your home healthier than relying on that dusty furnace filter alone. They’re also hardy: Put it by a window and water it once a week, that’s it. Fun fact: NASA says that if you were trapped in an airtight room with a few snake plants, they’d give off enough oxygen to keep you alive.
If space is especially tight (I mean, you can at least fit one plant, right?) get yourself a microgreens kit. Grow them on the windowsill or the countertop, and then throw them into a salad for an added kick of iron, potassium, zinc, and a myriad of other minerals and vitamins.
If you have the yard, go all out and plant a garden. It’s a little late in the season, but if you plant in the next two weeks, you could still get some tomatoes or strawberries before halloween.
The point is to get some vegetation in your life. Studies show that proximity to plants increases serotonin, and on an aesthetic level, plants make your living space warm and inviting.
It’s time to put down our phones and live this summer on purpose. The sun is out, birds are singing, and fall will be here any minute. Grab a light sweater, a new book, and settle in.