what to do this summer

Photo: Joyce Lee

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33. Make Sorbet in a Bag

No freezer? No problem! This four-step DIY trick, from The Useful Book: 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop, is totally chill.

34. Reap What You Sow

Plant cherry tomatoes, summer squash, and beets in June, and they'll be ready to harvest by August. No room for a garden? Lisa Hilgenberg, a horticulturist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, suggests using a deep terracotta planter on your patio. "With a garden outside your door, you'll harvest more often, and you're much more likely to spot weeds early."

35. Hack Your Summer Must-Dos

The season brings social obligations—but if you can't beat them, enjoy them.

Must-Do: Family reunion

Hack: Make this the year you finally get your parents' stories on tape. Does it feel awkward or, frankly, a little morbid to ask for their life history? Ease into it. Start with romance ("Remind me how you met Mom..."), or have them sing the lullaby they sang to you as a baby, or talk through the menu of a special Sunday supper they made when they were still dating and had no money. And get stories about them from relatives, too. Who knows what you'll learn!

Must-Do: Neighborhood block party

Hack: Turn it into a free yard sale. If you've been meaning to declutter, this is your chance. Set up a take-it-or-leave-it station at the party, and invite everyone to swap books, clothes, and gadgets that still have a little life left. That way you can avoid the awkward haggling (who really cares whether your daughter's beat-up scooter is worth $5 or $10?). Then, ask a few neighbors to help you drop the leftovers at your local Salvation Army.

Must-Do: A week at the beach...with your irksome in-laws

Hack: Find your moment of serenity by asking yourself, What do I need to do so that when we're together, I'm in a wonderful mood? The answer usually involves spending time apart, says family relationship expert Jane Isay. Lose yourself in a book, get a manicure, take a long walk on the beach. "Sure, your mother-in-law might think you're a better person if you invite her for the walk," she says. "But you'll actually be a better person—someone more patient, welcoming, and open—if you go alone."

36 Reclaim the Camp Spirit

"I tap into the kid I once was by singing camp songs. I'll never forget sitting around the fire belting 'Sippin' Cider' and 'Sarasponda.' I can still recapture that magic by humming one of those tunes. So whatever it might be for you—a song, a goofy game—find the thing that sparks pure joy." —MARY ROGERS, executive director of Sherwood Forest, a camp in Missouri

37. Get a Slip'N Slide...For Yourself

Leave the kiddie model to the kids and rent an adult version equipped with water jets—all the better to slick up the long side-by-side chutes, so you can go nuts like you did on those slippery straightaways of yore.

38. Make Your Staycation a Vacation

"Focus on the three Rs: relaxation, recreation, and no routine," says travel blogger Evelyn Hannon, of Journeywoman.com. "Re-create the sense of wonder you have when traveling by snapping photos and chatting up strangers. Buy yourself a souvenir, and in no time you'll feel like you're away from it all—you just get to sleep in your own bed."

39. Bring the Ocean to You

If you can't spend all season at the shore, at least these companies can deliver a taste of it to your door.

Copps Island Oysters: The Bloom family has been harvesting Long Island Sound oysters since the 1940s. ($25 for 12; coppsislandoysters.com)

Louisiana Crawfish Company: A backyard boil couldn't get easier than this: live or fresh-boiled crawfish delivered with seasoning, bibs, and Mardi Gras beads. ($65 for five pounds; lacrawfish.com)

Bayshore Chowders & Bisques: Hot, rich, creamy soup in the middle of summer? Yes, please, if it's New England clam chowder made with fresh, hand-shucked Atlantic clams. ($30 for a half gallon; bayshorechowders.com)

40. Bottle Up Summer

Make the taste of summer last a little longer with a jar of preserved fruit. Get the recipe for pickled watermelon rinds here.