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Summertime Fun

You don't have to go far to get away—you can find romance in your own back yard.

In the classic film, The Wizard of Oz, the lead character, Dorothy, experienced a lesson we can all learn. After wanting to run away, she discovered that there was "no place like home." True happiness was in her own back yard.

One of the allures of going on a summer vacation is taking a break from the daily grind and getting refreshed. You can enjoy the beauty God has created, take in wonderful fragrances of the outdoors, eat delicious foods, relax, and unwind. But by the time you pack and prepare to leave town, you're exhausted. And when you return, you're broke! So this summer, before you and your family run out of town to find replenishment elsewhere, why not consider hanging out at home and enjoying your own back yard? By simply appealing to your five, God-given senses, your back yard can be transformed into an oasis of fun!

Set the stage

When my husband, Bill, and I bought our first home, some friends gave us money as a housewarming gift. So we purchased an outdoor table and chairs so we could enjoy our back yard.

Whether you have a porch off your apartment or condo, or a patio or deck behind your house, you can set the stage for your "break." We're naturally drawn to beauty, so treat yourself to an attractive, comfortable outdoor table and chairs. Consider a pretty umbrella to top things off and cool things down. Or get a pair of lounge chairs to kick back in. Strive to create a comfortable setting that will draw you to enjoy the outdoors.

Fill flower pots with fragrance

The well-known saying, "Take time to smell the roses," suggests we slow down to enjoy the goodness of life—those things that often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle. Bringing fragrance to your back yard will greatly enhance your enjoyment there. Fill a large outdoor pot with beautiful red, pink, or white geraniums and add some trailing English ivy. The color will add beauty to your special spot and the flowers will lend fragrance. Also, gardenia and jasmine are two plants that are aromatic, as well as beautiful.

Light up the night

Add some twinkle to the stars—with candlelight. For simple sparkle, I line the railing of our deck with votive candles in mason jars tied with raffia. For a festive feel, light a few inexpensive tiki torches. Put them out and enjoy them all summer long. And you can keep bugs away in warm weather by placing a highly scented citronella candle nearby.

Eat outdoors

My family's favorite at-home spot to eat is outdoors. Surrounded by the magnificent sights, sounds, and smells of nature, we feel closer to the Creator of the food we are enjoying. As the lazy, hazy days of summer creep by, enjoy a simple, leisurely weekend breakfast of fresh fruit and bagels at your back yard bistro. On a sunny afternoon, have a picnic basket lunch on a blanket on the grass. On a beautiful evening, dine by candlelight.

Feast on finger foods

Enjoy the casual pleasure of eating foods that invite you to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Serve corn on the cob, barbecue chicken, and juicy chunks of watermelon. The more senses we use, the more memories we retain—and the outdoors is ideal for a memorable, fun finger feast.

Grill for goodness

If you have a grill, use it often for tasty, quick meals and an easy, no pots or pans clean-up. Gas-grill smoking chips bring the smoky flavor of hickory and mesquite to outdoor barbecuing. Add butter, salt, and pepper to corn on the cob, potatoes, whole onions, or squash, cover them in heavy foil, and toss them on the grill while your meat cooks.

Simple, delicious marinades add flavor to meats. Before grilling, marinate salmon or tuna in soy sauce, honey, and minced garlic. For a break from barbecue sauce, marinate chicken in Dijon mustard and cracked pepper, then grill.

Or you can skewer your supper. A great summertime meal is shishkebabs. They're easy to make ahead of time, look beautiful to serve, and are healthy to eat. On a metal skewer, simply alternate colorful combinations of food such as chicken or beef cubes with mushrooms, onions, cherry tomatoes, and green peppers. Grill and serve with brown rice.

Garnish with fresh herbs

One of the little luxuries at a nice resort is the attractive way the staff serve food and beverages. To get that same treatment at your "resort," pot a few fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, and mint to enhance your summertime meals. Top fresh sliced tomatoes with basil, toss a sprig of mint into iced tea and lemonade, or garnish potato salad or coleslaw with fresh parsley.

Cherish chirping

Enjoy the sweet chirping of birds by placing a bird feeder or birdhouse in your back yard. Fill your feeder with sunflower seeds—a favorite of birds. Birds also love bushes with berries and nectar-filled flowers, especially those that are red, yellow, and orange. As the birds discover your friendly favor, your home will become a favorite place for them and their singing will make your back yard a sanctuary.

Hang charming chimes

Find a wind chime beautiful to your eyes and pleasant-sounding to your ears, then hang it in a breezy spot on your porch, patio, or deck. It will make music with the whispering of the wind and add to your relaxation.

Turn on some tunes

Certain moments call for simply staring at the stars and listening to crickets chirping on a crystal-clear night. But if you want to feel as if you're in the Bahamas, try basking in the sun listening to Jimmy Buffet music, throwing the Frisbee to Beach Boys, or dining to Kenny G. You can go as simple as using a boom box, or as fancy as hanging outdoor speakers. Last year, we installed speakers on our deck, and the music draws us outside to enjoy God's creation.

Trickle in tranquillity

Enjoy the gentle sound of trickling water from a small, flowing fountain as it turns your garden or patio into a soothing oasis. Many attractive fountains are relatively inexpensive and contain pumps that recirculate the water, so no plumbing is needed.

Swing a little

Swinging or rocking in the breeze makes life seem carefree. For an afternoon siesta, cozy up with your honey in a hammock in a shady spot of your back yard. Hang a swinging bench on your porch. Or treat yourself to a rocker for two. Rock and talk the night away.

If you really want to enjoy this summer with your family, true replenishment awaits you in your own back yard. After implementing a few of these summertime tips, you'll agree with Dorothy that, indeed, there's no place like home.

Terry Willits, interior designer and author of Creating a SenseSational Home and Simply SenseSational Decorating (both Zondervan), can be found this summer sipping fresh lemonade in her back yard, with her sweetheart of 16 years, Bill, and their daughter, Bailey.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Fun; Marriage; Romance
Today's Christian Woman, Summer, 2002
Posted September 30, 2008

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