When I think about summer, the ocean is the first thing that comes to my mind. I am all about the water. I love to swim, float, go fishing with my husband (as long as he does all the dirty work) and spend time on the boat. So when I was planning what to include in my list of 7 new activities to try this summer I, of course, started with something you can do in the water. Each of these activities can be done with social distance.
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Pedal boats seem to be everywhere these days and are frequently occupied by women. I’ve seen them in rivers and lakes. I don’t advise pedal boating in open ocean but I’ve even seen them there. They are a fun way to get outside, try a new activity, and enjoy the fresh air while keeping social distance. It’s also a fantastic workout and a way to see nature from a different perspective.
Pedal boats come in a variety of materials from blow up plastics tubes to metal frames although most are made from a heavy duty plastic. There are models made for a single person and those made for a group of 3 to 5 people with variety of pedal options.
You can accessories a pedal boat with a sun or Bimini top, fishing rod holders, cup holders, coolers, and storage. Some are even designed to add a small motor. Be sure to check out different models to find the one that meets your boating needs. If you want to save some money, look for a used one on Craigslist or other online sites.
For more information, read reviews of the most popular models for 2020.
Grill a Steak on an Outdoor Grill
For some of you, grilling a steak may not be on your list on new things to try. It might sound like a no brainer. But you’d surprised to learn that many people do not know how to cook on an outdoor grill. I was a part of that group until this year and I love to cook. My husband always ran the grill. He still does, for the most part. But there are some things that I wanted to learn to cook for myself.
I didn’t want to start small, my goal was to cook a steak on the grill. It turns out that it’s easier than I expected. There are a few steps to grilling the perfect steak.
Select the best cuts of meat for grilling
The scariest part of grilling a great steak is the price of the meat. When trying a new activity, you don’t want to throw away money! The best cuts for grilling are also the most expensive cuts. Try your hand at a flat iron steak, rib eye, T-bone, filet mignon, porterhouse, or a New York strip. These are all pricey cuts but don’t let that scare you away. These delicious selections have just the right amount of fat and a perfect texture to create a ideal grilled steak.
Prepare the steak for the grill
Take the steak out of the fridge about 20 minutes prior to cooking. This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Tossing a cold steak on the grill will result in a charred outside and a raw inside. A wasted steak.
After it sits for 20 minutes, brush both sides with olive oil, add a good sprinkling of salt and pepper and that’s it. Ready to grill!
Cooking the steak
The particulars of cooking the steak will depend on the cut but in general, it requires the grill to be set on high and the use of a good meat thermometer.
When selecting a meat thermometer, consider one that has a probe that can be placed inside the oven or grill. I’ve found that some thermometers contain a safety scale that I think destroys food. For example, I recently threw away a cheap thermometer that showed 165 degrees as the correct internal temperature for cooked steak. Sure, you’d have no bacteria at that temperature but the meat would be like chewing shoe leather.
Place the probe of your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the steak and place the steak in the grill with the cover closed for 4 – 5 minutes until it is nicely charred. Try not to disturb it during this time with the exception a twist half way through for that beautiful criss-cross grill mark pattern. Flip it over and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes until the steak reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees for medium rare, 140 degrees for medium, or 150 degrees for medium.
Over time, you’ll learn the feel of a perfectly cooked steak. There’s a method that a chef friend taught me to determine if a steak is cooked by using the feel of the palm of your hand in different spots. If you graduate to a feel test for checking your steak, I still recommend the use of a meat thermometer. It is the best, and only way to be sure of your dinner’s internal temperature.
Don’t slice it immediately when it comes off the grill. Let it rest on a platter or cutting board for 5 to 10 minutes loosely tented with foil. Try a cutting board with a well to collect juices.
Slice it and enjoy! Trying new things can be delicious!
For an easy grilled steak recipe, check out Bobby Flay’s Perfectly Grilled Steak Recipe.
“You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” –Nate Berkus
Host a Wine Tasting
Hosting a wine tasting is a way to try a new activity that combines three of my favorite things, food, friends, and wine! Honestly, you can’t go wrong. Since this is a summer list, consider a selection of rosé.
Rosé is my summer go to wine. My favorites this year are 2019 Peyrassol Cuvée De La Commandderie (never met a french wine I didn’t love) and the 2019 Wölffer Estate Rosé which is produced on the North Fork in New York. In the interest of full disclosure, I am NOT a wine expert. I just like what I like.
Select your wines
The number you sample is up to you. You don’t want so many that your friends are rushing to drink them all but you need enough to compare. Four to six wines works well. These four rosés account for many of the best bottles out there. Be sure to serve cold.
Grenache: Hailing from Spain, Grenache is a bit sweet with a slightly acidic finish. It’s a fruity wine that pairs well with tomatoes, eggplants, and other nightshades and is a solid choice to serve with Indian food. It’s often used in blends.
Sangiovese: An Italian staple grape for rosé and deep, rich, reds. It tastes of red berries and spice. It pairs well with heavy dishes, rich dishes, and pretty much anything Italian.
Syrah: The Syrah is earthy and pungent, the meatiest of the four. It’s not a fruity wine. It goes well with chicken, salmon, soft cheese and grilled veggies.
Tempranillo Rosé: This is fruity and meaty. It’s from the Rioja region of Spain and is often found in blends. Pair it with beef salad, grilled meats or even tacos!
Add food and enjoy!
Begin a Book Club
A book club is a way to try something new and build a social group at the same time. It only takes a few steps to get up and running. Decide what you want to read about, identify your theme, chose who you want to invite and pick a location. Then the fun begins.
Your first meeting will be dedicated to laying the foundation for future meetings. You’ll select books, identify a moderator, choose food and beverage options, and decide on a social media channel.
If you want more detail about how to start a book club, read my simple step by step guide to starting a book club here.
If you already have a book club, check out these unique and fun book club themes.
Books are an ideal way to connect with friends and family. My mother and I bonded over books. It gave us a shared hobby, exciting things to talk about, and a never ending sense of connection through characters.
Learn to Preserve Fruits & Vegetables
Summer is a time of bounty for fruits and vegetables. Why not use this an opportunity to stock up for winter? Besides being a fun activity, preserving could also be a useful skill. It may help you and your family through these uncertain times. We’ve seen food shortages and delays due to factory and shipping shutdowns. Learn to preserve fruits and vegetables to help insure you have what you need in the event we see future shortages.
Some new activities seem hard until you learn more about them. Preserving falls in that category for some of us. It used to sound scary to me. The term “preserve” doesn’t have to be intimidating. There are simple and enjoyable ways to preserve fruits and vegetables. The two most common ways are canning and freezing. For me, freezing is the easiest and most effective. You can’t freeze everything but, with the help of a steaming basket and a vacuum sealer, you can freeze pretty much all fruits and vegetables. The downside is the need for a large amount of freezer space.
Canning is also not difficult but it is best done in large batches. If I pick a small bowl of beans, it’s simple enough to blanch them and freeze them but it’s a pain in the neck to pull out the canner and all the supplies. If, however, I pick a bucket-load of tomatoes, canning in a great alternative. There’s a learning curve with canning so be sure to invest in some quality tools and reading materials before beginning.
What kinds of fruits and veggies should I preserve?
That’s an easy one, anything you like. Go to your local famer’s market or join a CSA. Check out Misfits Market for some great deals on wonderful produce. Many farmer’s markets have moved online or at least added an online option but I recommend you attend so you can see the varieties that are available locally. Consider it an adventure and force yourself to try something new. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn. Seasonally produced local food is often the healthiest alternative and the lowest priced option. You’ll find that your shopping dollar goes a lot further in these venues than it likely does in a chain supermarket. But, even the big chain stores tend to load up on reasonably priced produce in the summer so stock up and save for later.
Plant an Herb Garden
You can grow herbs all year long but summer is a great time to get them started outdoors and established. When selecting herbs to plant, consider sunlight, watering needs, drainage, and which plants like to be together. Some herbs, such as dill and chives, keep harmful garden pests away and attract beneficial insects. The most important consideration when you plant an herb garden is what you like to use in your kitchen.
Herbs do well planted in combinations. You can create a combination based on the culinary use grouping, colors & textures, and even scent. I find those grouped by use are the most versatile.
Italian Blend: If you want fresh herbs for Italian cooking, plant basil, oregano, and parsley. Include a few different oregano and basil varieties to spice it up.
Mexican Mix: Plant oregano, cilantro, parsley and thyme for a versatile blend for Mexican (and many other) dishes. Add some dill to this mix to keep away harmful insects and add a touch of pizzazz to the pot.
Mediterranean Palette: Create a blend with some general use herbs that cross palettes. Try combining basil, cilantro, chives and parsley. You’ll find these four staples can season many dishes.
Caring for the herb garden
Most herbs are easy to grow. They need good sunlight and regular watering. Consider containers for herbs, or add them to your vegetable garden to enhance the flavor of tomatoes and peppers. When fall comes along, transfer them to mason jars and grown on a sunny window sill until the following spring.
Take a class
I love to learn new things whether it’s formal education, training, or a new hobby. It’s often been my go to response when I needed a change in life. Go back to school, take some classes, learn something new.
Education is readily accessible these days, especially if you have basic computer skills and access to the internet. Community colleges and local school districts run adult education programs. Local councils on aging (or equivalent) have group lessons and training. Universities across the globe offer online programs for everything from one day craft classes to Masters and PhD programs. You can find pretty much anything you’re interested in online.
Want to learn how to do magic from Penn & Teller or author a novel from James Patterson? Or how about learn to play the guitar from Carlos Santana? Welcome Masterclass, the company that brings living legends to your living room to teach you what they do best. I took a Masterclass with James Patterson a few years back. The course was full of information, tips, suggestions, and resources from Patterson himself. But even better, it reignited a long smoldering desire in me to write. This led me to the Writer’s Program at UCLA Extension and eventually here to this blog. It’s affordable and offers thousands of options for a single subscription which allows you to try a host of different activities and lessons.
You never know where education will take you.
I hope something here inspired you to try something new. Each of these can be done while practicing social distancing and enjoyed with friends and family when we’re all free to get together again. In the meantime, make the most of your days and expand your horizons.
Drop me an email, comment below, or see me on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. I can’t wait to hear about what new things you try!
Looking for more activities that can be done with social distance, read here.
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