Last summer, being stuck in the house wasn't a choice for most of us. But even before COVID, the smoke-filled August and September skies in recent years forced many indoors for days or weeks at a time when they'd rather be out and about enjoying every ounce of summer.
After a year-plus of lockdown, some folks will be slow to embrace crowds this summer, and we all need to worry about those fires again, so we have some suggestions on how to keep yourself entertained when you're most comfortable right at home.
PAINT THE PARK, FROM HOMELocal artist Megan Perkins is well known for her colorful, vibrant watercolors of landscapes and landmarks around Spokane. She'll be giving a lecture July 17 at 11 am titled "Paintings of Manito and Other Spokane Scenes" in which the artist and teacher will explain her process of painting en plein air, the fancy French way to say "outside." Fear not, though, you can stay safely indoors. The lecture will take place over Zoom, so whether you're dodging smoky skies or crowds and coronavirus, you and your lungs can rest easy. Perkins will also give tips on how to paint your own garden or, when the skies and crowds clear, to paint Manito Park just like she does. Register for free at thefriendsofmanito.org.
CUISINE TO COOLTo many, the grill is the champion of summer cuisine, and the tomato is nothing more than a sliced up sidekick. This year it's time we elevate these fruits masquerading as vegetables to their proper place at the top of the summer food pantheon. Turn to the tomato on those days when it's too hot for the oven and too smoky to take your cooking outside. Peak tomato season overlaps almost perfectly with the worst days of wildfire season. From July through September, farmers markets all over the region will be overflowing with bright red beauties and those odd-looking but honorable heirlooms. At peak ripeness, tomatoes can shine as the centerpiece of meals that require more making than cooking. From salads to sandwiches there are countless recipes online in which tomatoes star in produce-forward meals that are surprisingly filling. Sure, you can eat tomatoes any time of year, but like the grill, they're just better in the summer.
PRETEND WITH A PUZZLEMaps of Washington from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show the vast majority of the state as ranging from "abnormally dry" to full-blown drought. Which is bad news when you think about the now-annual tradition of a late summer smoke season. It's almost assured that some morning over the coming months you'll look out the window and see a gray haze obscure your view of the sun and the trees and everything else that makes Spokane a natural wonderland. When that time comes and the view from your window goes from gorgeous to gross, be ready to trick your eyes with a puzzle. A 500-piece jigsaw with palm trees and sandy beaches? That'll kill an afternoon stuck indoors. A thousand pieces showing Spokane in full, smokeless glory? That can keep you busy inside for a few days. Uncle's Games, with locations in downtown Spokane and at the Spokane Valley Mall, has a massive selection of jigsaw puzzles.
CLEAN YOUR HOME FOR YOUR HEALTHJust because there's a thing called spring cleaning doesn't mean you can't do some summer cleaning. A thorough cleaning session inside your home has multiple benefits to help you make it through the cabin fever that comes with smoke season. First, and most obvious, when everything outside is acrid and disgusting, it's nice to have a clean and tidy living space to take refuge. Second, while it's not quite a workout, a full deep clean is a pretty solid way to get moving while stuck indoors. Brooms and vacuums help you get those steps in while scrubbing and dusting keep your arms active, especially if you use some elbow grease. No, you won't turn into a muscle-bound fitness model after a day of cleaning, but you sure won't feel like a couch potato either.
STAY INSIDE THE LINES, OR NOTWhen you're stuck inside alone it can be all too easy to veg out in front of the TV for hours on end, but that's a recipe for some serious brain fog. As is the case with the body, it's important to keep your brain active even when you're cooped up at home. Getting your creative juices flowing is a great way to do that, and coloring books make it easy. They're not just for kids anymore, either. Auntie's Bookstore at 402 W. Main has a great selection of coloring books for adults. There's the beautiful, floral-themed Botanicum from illustrator Maria Trolle or the soothing experience of The Bob Ross Coloring Book, among many others available in store, as well as the online-only, appropriately inappropriate F—- Off, Coronavirus, I'm Coloring: Self-Care for the Self-Quarantined, A Humorous Adult Swear Word Coloring Book During COVID-19 Pandemic. Each of those will land you around 100 pages to color while setting you back less than 20 bucks.
"GO" TO THE MOVIES "WITH" FRIENDSAfter a year spent living in varying levels of isolation, jumping back into the public world of crowds can be a daunting proposition. Why not dip your toes in first with some socialization from the comfort of your couch? Over the past year I've stayed in touch with a friend from Montreal by watching movies together, even though more than 2,000 miles and a closed international border lie between us. Netflix has a service that allows multiple users to sync up their viewing and talk to each other in a group chat. Other streaming services without those features can be jury-rigged by getting on the phone with your watch party and having everyone press play at the same time. Put on a mediocre rom-com and share some eye rolls and groans with your friends as you watch. Plus, since you're home alone, nobody will complain as you loudly complain about how unrealistic these movie meet-cutes are. Nobody falls in love like that in real life! ♦