1. Lake Erie. Sure, it's not the most beautiful water in the world and, in July, you get that really awesome dead fish smell with every slight breeze, but it was better than anything to a kid in the middle of summer. Oh, Memorial Day weekend. Nothing says "Bring it on, Summertime!" like the Walleye Festival. And whoever was the first to brave the waters was always looked upon with awe. I mean, seriously. Do you know how cold Lake Erie water is at the beginning of the summer? Really cold. We didn't care. It was summer. And summer meant fun. Watching storms come in off the lake with my grandma. Fishing with grandpa. Swimming with my family. Climbing the cliffs (and jumping off) with my friends. Bonfires. Water snakes. Inner tube rafts. Catching crayfish. I nearly drowned once. Hell, I even got engaged right there on the beach. To this day, nothing beats the first trip up to the lake, rolling down the windows over the Sandusky Bay bridge and smelling that wonderful Lake Erie smell. It is now, and forever will be, home.
2. Festivals. Dan and I love festivals and try to hit as many as we can as soon as the weather warms up. Mt. Gilead Sweet Corn Festival? Absolutely, never you mind that there's only about 5 booths and one hot dog vendor and nothing made of corn. Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival. Yep, we were there. Ohio State Fair? Check. Dublin Irish Fest? Always. We dig festing. If you're a small town within driving distance and have a festival for produce, fruit or music, we'll do our best to be there, map and sunblock in hand. This summer, I'd like to include Amish country and a bluegrass festival to the schedule. What can I say? I have a thing for apple butter and banjos.
3. BBQ and beer. I'm fairly certain that nothing beats a cold Heineken and fresh BBQ on our deck in the middle of summer. The hubsie is a meat magician and can turn anything into smoked or grilled little bites of heaven. Last summer, I once rode my bike home from the grocery with a backpack full of meat for him, that's how much I love his BBQ. It's glorious. Ask anybody. Maybe if you ask nicely, I'll even share some of his secrets with you.
4. Driving with the windows down. I'm always armed with a hair tie because, as soon as the sun is shining, those windows are coming down, the music gets cranked up and the driving gets a little quicker. Fresh air + good tunes + warm sunshine = happiness. Add in a fun destination (see #2) and I'm one, happy camper. (Which brings me to...
5. Camping. I'm camping. I camp. I'm a camper. (Bonus points if you guess the movie reference.) I've been a camper forever. I remember the days of digging out the huge canvas family tent, hosing it down and patching leaks with my dad (all I did, really, was roll around on the floor because I liked the crunch of the grass underneath. What can I say? I was five.) Camping evolved and so did the tent. One of the funniest stories in my arsenal involved Mom, Sissy and I, camping, a bottle of Skye vodka and lip-syncing to Garth Brooks. (You really had to be there. Not one of my finer moments, actually.) It was sis and I who took Bubs on his first camping trip. We didn't come close to "roughing it." It was a campground with electricity, for goodness sakes. He admitted to liking "tenting" -- that was about 10 years ago and we still tease him about it. I've even camped from Ohio to Montana, in South Dakota's Bandlands and Wyoming's Devils Tower*.
6. Riding bikes with Bubs. I like to ride my bicycle. Bubs found it on craigslist and I loved it from the minute we picked it up (we even stopped at a playground on the way home, just so I could give it a spin.) I have a bell that reads "I (heart) My Bike" and, thanks to my most-awesome husband, a detachable metal basket. It's glorious! Bike trips that end up at Jeni's Ice Cream are the best kind, but I love all of our trips together.
7. Flip flops. Oh, how I miss you flip flops! I generally dislike wearing shoes, despite my owning absurd amounts of them. If it's not bare feet, it's flip flops and perfectly-pedicured tootsies. If I lived in a more temperate climate, I would have to find a job that allowed me to wear flip flops because I'm not sure I'd ever want to wear regular shoes again. Unless their white lace-up Keds with no socks. Or TOMS. But that's it.
8. Sun-kissed skin. Winter washes out my complexion so much that no amount of sunless tanner can bring any life back into it. Of course, in the summer months, I take my mom's advice and wear sunblock, but my skin always turns to a lovely sun-kissed hue. It just perks me right up.
9. Color-. I absolutely love all the colors of summer. Bright blue skies, dark green lawns and all the bright colors of flower gardens make me so happy I can hardly stand it. Throw in fresh lemonade, sun-bleached sidewalks, candy-colored patio furniture and chubby tiny-bathing-suit-clad toddlers in baby pools and you have a pretty perfect picture of summertime happiness.
10. July 4th. We're lucky enough to live within walking viewing-distance of one of the midwest's largest Independence Day fireworks shows -- Red White and Boom. I'm one of those people with an inner-child who still 'Oohs' and 'Aahs' and claps at her "favorites". Life is too short not to clap at your favorites, people. Last year, ten of us also went in on a table at the City of Dublin's fireworks show. We totally saw The Four Tops AND Boyz II Men, ate a ton of food and had the BEST seat for the fireworks. I wonder who's performing this year...
11. The ice cream man. Any semblance to self-respect flies out the window when I hear the ice cream truck. Also, I have superhuman-type hearing and a Pavlovian response, complete with cocked head, slight pause to make sure I heard the happy jingle of Do Your Ears Hang Low. Upon certain confirmation, I start yelling, "ICE CREAM MAN" at the top of my lungs and tear like a bat out of hell through the door. This is usually followed by a more civilized adult, like my mom and/or husband, laughing at me, holding a $5 to pay the man. Because I ran so fast I didn't have time to grab money. I wish I were even remotely exaggerating. It's a sight to behold. Oh, p.s. I especially love the huge, original Bomb Pops and any sherbet-type pop that comes in the form of a cartoon character with gumball eyes. If the ice cream man offered Dole Whip, Bubs would be screaming right along with me, running at full sprint after the ice cream man. It's his favorite food obsession.
12. I nearly forgot to include my birthday! Perhaps it's a little self-serving, but I can't lie. I love my birthday. After all, I am a Leo. It's going to be a challenge to beat last year's party, that's for sure.
*Updated: List four: States I've never visited. Oops. Poor Wyoming.