10 Life Hacks For Summer At Home

Summer at Home

How are you spending your summer holidays?

As a result of travel bans and unexpected border closures, I know many of us have had to holiday close to home.

And although we’ve already spent a lot of time at home, I’m finding there are still a lot of new things to learn and fun ways to create new connections and lasting memories.

Here are ten ideas or life hacks I’m exploring, which might also inspire your weekends and holiday time this summer.

1. Preserve Summer Fruits

Summer berries, peaches, cherries, apricots and mangoes are the taste of summer. I’m not usually one to pickle and preserve but with time on my hands, I’ve been visiting farm gates and collecting fruit to create jams, sauces and chutneys to enjoy over the year.

In the case we have to lockdown again in 2021, it will be reassuring to know I have a cupboard of delicious preserves to get us through.

To make my jams and chutneys, I’ve been referring to trusted sources like Stephanie Alexander and Donna Hay for my inspiration but you can find many diverse options online and probably at home in your cookbooks or magazines from CWA Country Classics to Ottolenghi.

2. Native Gardening

When I’ve had time to walk about the streets and suburbs of the Yarra Valley and Melbourne, I’ve been so impressed with the presentation of everyone’s gardens. The time we’ve had at home has clearly paid off in the garden. The roses and jasmine, magnolias and daisies are all on show and presenting such beautiful colour. I love summer flowers, but my focus this year will be on native gardening.

I’ve been planting local natives and restoring a creek bed on some property we own, which has been really rewarding. With the new trees and shrubs we plant, we hope to bring more native species of birds and provide more habitat for marsupials.

The process has included a lot of research to find out what are the best plants for both repairing erosion and providing ample food and shelter for native species. You can do this on a farm or acreage, or in your own suburban home or apartment garden

I’ve used a few different sources to find the best plants for our purpose. If you’ve got a bit of property you want to improve you might reference The Australian Plant Society (Victoria), Greenfleet, or Sustainable Gardening Australia.

For smaller home gardens, try the ever reliable Gardening Australia site and enter the search term ‘Natives’. You’ll find natives you can grow in pots, to create cottage gardens or natives for indoors.

3. Monitor Local Species

Something which can be fun for you and your kids to do is to monitor local species in your garden or local area. An easy one is to monitor birds in your garden. You can do this annually in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count in October 2021 or you can register with BirdLife and enter any birds you count at any time.

One of the counts very relevant to the Yarra Valley is the number of platypus in our waterways. The Platypus Network is asking for volunteers to help monitor and count platypus from Queensland to Tasmania. If you think this is something you or your family could do you can register here.

You could also contribute to the Atlas of Living Australia and research what to find in your specific area using their interactive maps and datasets. This is a great way to re-connect with the natural environment where you live.

4. Join a New Club or Sport

The onset of Coronavirus dismantled many of our social networks. Work, sport, book clubs, walking groups, study buddies – the ways we used to socialise completely changed. With restrictions easing in 2021, I’ve been thinking about what ways we can begin to make new networks?

I’ve heard of a friend who has joined their local Croquet Club. Although she is at least 20 years younger than most members, it’s a fun outdoor sport which can be social or competitive and her intention is to bring other friends along for the ride. Another friend on the Mornington Peninsula is a member of Nature Walks which she says helps her keep active in her local area.

In Healesville, the Tennis Club provides a good social competition during the week and others I know who maintained a wine and book group during lockdown online, are now expanding their circle and sharing their love of words and vino in person at the pub or local cafés.

With our inability to travel overseas, language classes could also be a good investment to prepare for that next big trip post-COVID19.

For me, the idea and anticipation of travel is often part of the excitement of any journey so learning a new language might provide you with a lot of travel inspiration.

5. Get Crafty

I’m not overly crafty but it always feels like a nice idea to be able to make something you can later enjoy or give to someone as a gift. One of the simple things to do is create a calendar of your favourite photos. You can do this through Vistaprint or KMart online.

Work-Shop has a range of really interesting opportunities in the maker and creator space. Explore your talents for jewellery making, pottery or even boozy finger painting.

Locally we have a great little craft shop specialising in knitting, sewing and crochet. Crumbz Craft now offers online classes and I’m aware many towns like Healesville have similar craft classes and groups you can join.

6. Create A Potted Water Feature

An activity for a hot summer’s day in the garden is creating a potted water feature. This could be your first step to creating a water fountain or pond in your courtyard or garden.

Check out the video and fact sheet on Gardening Australia on how easy this is to do at home.

7. Learn to Play Chess

Are you someone who fell in love with The Queen’s Gambit in late 2020 on Netflix? It seems to have re-ignited people’s love for chess or interest in getting to know how to play.

The renaissance in chess saw vintage furniture stores sell out of chess sets and magazines like Elle feature chess boards as the latest home fashion trend.

Learning to play can be a little intimidating but find some people you trust won’t make a fool out of you or explore one of the many online chess forums for tips and tricks on how to master this intense game of strategy.

8. Picnic Somewhere New

When was the last time you took a blanket and a basket and enjoyed some sandwiches, scones, a thermos of coffee and lemonade in a beautiful park? What’s old is new again and what better way to enjoy your local surrounds than spending a few hours under the shade of some beautiful old trees. Take a board game, a pétanque set or Finska and make an afternoon of it.

Parks Victoria has some great locations for you to explore if you’d like to find a new picnic location.

9. Host A Progressive Dinner in your Neighbourhood

One of the best fun you can create in your neighbourhood is to plan, host and participate in a progressive dinner. Make sure all your dinner locations are within walking distance so you don’t have to drive and you do it in a COVID safe way. This is easy to do if you live in a small town like mine.

However, if your friends and family all live a little too far away, maybe invite your friends to your neighbourhood to create a progressive dinner between the local bars and restaurants in your suburb. This is a great way to show your support for local venues who have done it tough in 2020.

The point of a progressive dinner is to have each course at a different location. You could have sparkling and a canapè at your first location, a chardonnay and entrée at the next location, so on and so forth until you get to a digestif or coffee to finish the night at your final destination.

An idea would be to hold this event annually and you could mix up the locations where you start and stop with each course.

10. Hike to a Waterfall

How familiar are you with waterfalls in your local area? I saw an article in Time Out Melbourne recently and realised there are quite a few I’ve never heard of, let alone visited.

A day out hiking with a swim under a waterfall sounds rather idyllic and something rather good for the soul. Visit Victoria has more waterfall ideas for Victorians to discover and I’m sure Tourism agencies and National Park websites in other Australian states would offer similar tips and ideas.

Hopefully you’ll find yourself under a waterfall or trying out some of these other life hacks during your summer holidays at home.