Spring will officially begin on March 20. With the return of warmer weather, I have shoved my winter coat to the back of the closet, pulled out my sandals and chosen to focus on sunnier topics. This week, I would like to share some of my favorite things about the approaching spring and summer months.
* Camping: There are not a lot of things that compare to the tranquility of sitting next to a crackling campfire on a cool spring evening. I also love cooking over an open fire and snuggling into a warm sleeping bag to fall asleep listening to the sounds of tree frogs and crickets.
* Locally grown produce: I enjoy shopping at the local farmer's market and stopping at roadside stands to pick up home-grown tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon and bell peppers. It is also fun to drive the short distance to my parents' home south of Exeter and raid their garden, which always has an abundance of fresh vegetables.
* Flowers: Last year, I experienced my first successful year as a patio gardener. I was able to care for several different variations of plants just outside my backdoor. I credit much of my success to the discovery of a special type of pot that allows gardeners with not-so-green thumbs to water plants from the bottom of the container.
* Baseball: One of my favorite warm weather activities is watching my young brother-in-law take part in the Cassville Little League. Although Jordan professes that football is his favorite sport, he has a competitive nature that helps him excel in every activity. It is fun to watch him attempt to hit a grand slam, catch a pop-up in center field and socialize with friends in the dugout.
* Fishing: Most people who know me know that one of my favorite pastimes is fishing at Roaring River State Park. I love standing on the stream banks early in the morning and anticipating the opening siren. Feeling the smallest tug on the end of the line and pulling a beautiful Rainbow trout from the cool water is not half bad either.
* Lawn mowing: No, it is not the mowing itself that I enjoy. It is the smell of the newly cut grass. There is something about that clean, fresh smell that takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of lounging in the yard to look up at puffy white clouds or searching the sea of green in hopes of finding the perfect four-leaf clover.
* Barbecues: Grilling can be enjoyed year round if the cook is brave enough to stand outside in the biting cold to cook a hamburger or two, but flame-broiled foods seem to taste better in the spring and summer. I love socializing with family and friends over a spread of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, deviled eggs, fresh vegetables and pork and beans.
* Vacations: It doesn't matter where vacations take you, they are always good for the soul. A weekend getaway to Eureka Springs, Ark., or Branson can help me reset my mind and let go of a stressful work week. Longer vacations that allow me to destress for seven days or more while taking in the sites of a distant city or state are even better.
* Watching the rain: I don't want rain every day, but after battling through months of winter weather advisories, cool spring and warm summer rains are a blessing that should be enjoyed. Plus, the fish are usually biting when it rains.
No matter what your favorite warm weather activities might be, it is exciting to know that spring is just around the corner. Over the next few months, I hope all Barry Countians take advantage of the sunshine, head outdoors and enjoy quality time with those they love.