By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Celebrate summer: Before our sweltering nights are over, enjoy it the old-fashioned way
0801summer2
Ella Wilson, 6, and brother Miller, 4, play with rocks in the creek at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

0801SUMMER2AUD

Listen to the sounds of a hot summer night.

Smoothie pops

1 1/2 cups of fresh (or frozen) strawberries

1 1/2 cups of fresh (or pasteurized) orange juice

1 large mildly aged banana

1/4 cup of confectioners sugar

Cut whole strawberry into medium size pieces and add to blender. Cut banana into small pieces and add to blender. Pour orange juice into blender and add confectioners sugar to mixture and blend until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Note: you may use 1/2 orange juice and half pineapple juice or pineapple

juice in place of orange juice. Fill 3 1/2 ounce disposable cups leaving a 1/2 inch or more to compensate for swelling due to freezing. Cover with tin foil that has a slit cut in the middle. Insert the stick in the center of the cup through the slit in the tin foil. Freeze for at least two hours.

Tim Broxton, Easybkitchen.com

Yogurt Smoothie Pops

2 cups vanilla (or plain) yogurt

2 cups of your favorite yogurt topping from blueberries or peaches to praline pecans or peanut butter cups 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Empty yogurt into blender. Chop topping into pieces, unless using berries. Add topping to blender and add confectioners sugar to mixture in blender and blend until all ingredients fully incorporated. Fill 3 1/2 ounce disposable cups leaving a 1/2 inch or more to compensate for swelling due to freezing. Cover with tin-foil that has a slit cut in the middle. Insert the popsicle stick in the center of the cup through the slit in the tin foil. Freeze for at least two hours.
                                                                                                       Tim Broxton, Easybkitchen.com

Catching lightning bugs in Mason jars and dipping your toes in the creek are rites of passage in the summer.

Years ago, the long August days seemed to drag by. But today, school starts in early August — just a week away — which means now is the time to pack in all the summer fun you can.

Ella Wilson, 6, and brother Miller Wilson, 4, have spent most evenings this summer catching lightning bugs. Miller seems to be quite the firefly wrangler, too — he’s quick, said his mother, Anslee Wilson.

Whether it’s catching bugs, playing in the creek or looking at the summer sky at night, these tried-and-true summer activities make lasting memories for you and your family.

So, enjoy this last week of summer with a couple of ideas that will be fun for the whole family.

Catch lightning bugs

It doesn’t take too much know-how to catch summertime bugs — whether they are flying insects or on the ground.

But patience is key.

Cannon said lightning bugs, or fireflies as she calls them, are easy critters to catch and look at in jars.

"They are real easy to catch and they don’t fly very fast," she said. "You just cup them in your hands and a lot of times we would put them in jars for a little while and watch them at night, and then let them go."

As summer wanes, so does the lightning bug population, she said. "They are usually around in June to mid-July."

Is that locusts or crickets I hear?

Those noises drifting through the windows and doors at night come from an array of little creatures, like crickets and frogs. The loudest of them all are the cicada, according to Hall County Extension agent Wanda Cannon.

"They are up in the trees," she said. "It’s like a cricket and makes the same kind of noise as crickets do — they are taking their little back legs and they make a noise."

Cannon said she can’t really tell the difference in the sounds of the cricket or cicada but she knows they are around right now.

"Usually, when you get into late summer, the loud, loud noise is cicadas in the trees."

Star gaze at the summer sky

Of course, each season the sky has a spectacular view for star gazing. But the summer offers warm temperatures to enjoy the view.

"The first thing that attracts people is Venus; that’s real bright in the West right after sunset" said Robert Webb, astronomer at Elachee Nature Science Center. "The Scorpion and Sagittarius, which looks likes a little teapot, those are in the south. Coming up in the east is the summer triangle Vega, Deneb and Altair."

If you can find that triangle of stars, he said, you can identify a few other cool things. Deneb means tail in Arabic, and that constellation forms the tail of Cygnus the Swan.

Webb said star gazing in the summer requires patience, since the sun goes down later. But the wait is worth the effort. "Try to stay up to see the Scorpion, because that is the oldest constellation that we have on record and it looks just like a big, huge scorpion."

Make a frozen treat

Take your choice of three homemade frozen pops that just scream summer.

Tim Broxton, a local chef and food blogger on easyb kitchen.com, said he has three recipes for homemade pops.

"I’ve got the old standby with Kool Aid, then frozen yogurt and smoothie Popsicles," he said. "For the frozen yogurt, take vanilla yogurt — or you can use plain; I prefer to use vanilla though — and add blueberries or any fruit you would like to put in it, including strawberries. And then you mix that with confectioners (sugar) in a blender."

Pour the mixture into small paper cups and you have the perfect pint-sized treat.

Broxton said he uses sticks from the craft section of the grocery store as handles.

"I just poured the mixture from the blender into these little cups and topped them with tin foil, and I already have a little hole in the tin foil before I attempt to put in the Popsicle stick so it doesn’t deform the cup," Broxton said. "Then the smoothie contains strawberries, bananas, orange juice and confectioners sugar."

According to Broxton, confectioners sugar is important because the sugar is 10 times finer than powdered sugar and it blends in well.

Once it’s frozen, it’s an easy treat on a hot day.

Dip those toes in the water

Of course there is Lake Lanier to take a dip, but if you are looking for cooler water temperatures, take a dip in a creek. Depending on how far off the beaten trail you want to trek, there are untold numbers of creeks in the area, dribbling toward the Chattahoochee. In Gainesville, a short car ride can get you over to Wilshire Trails Park to play in the creek that runs its length. On any given day you can see kids playing in the cool water and checking out the smooth river rocks.

David Reems, who works with the Chattahoochee National Forest, said it’s a summer must to enjoy the cool mountain water. "Water temperature, getting out of the heat and a good place to go," he said. "And it’s not as crowded as other developed areas a little closer to Gainesville."

If you want to head to the mountains, swimming holes like the Chestatee River in Dahlonega, the Chattahoochee River in Helen or Wildcat Creek in Batesville are perfect spots to cool down.

Regional events