Remember when we were all whining about the cold? When the thought of the temperature climbing into the 80s sent us running outdoors, frolicking in shorts and busting out the Slip 'N Slide? Yeah. So over that. With a hint of fall weather floating in the morning breeze, we're looking forward to all those things the brutal Florida summer prevented us from enjoying. So come, all ye sweaty ones. Get out there and make the most of it.
Pedal to the metal
Pull your bicycle out of storage and take a ride through your neighborhood. Get a little exercise. Watch kids playing tag in their front yards and wave to dog walkers. Be careful to stay on bike paths and keep your eye on drivers. Tampa Bay isn't exactly known as bike-friendly, but if you're aware of your surroundings, you'll have a pleasant jaunt.
Let your home, wallet breathe
It's time to turn off the air-conditioning and open all the windows. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the fewer digits in your electric bill. To save even more, hang your clothes to dry in the fresh air rather than using the dryer. For more tips, check www.tampaelectric.com/residential/ saveenergy/savingstips.
Fire up the grill
Throw some burgers and corn on the grill, crank up the radio and get the family outside for a midweek celebration. Be prepared for neighbors who may stop by after getting a whiff. Or pack a picnic of exotic cheeses and fruit and spread out a blanket in a nearby park. Let table manners go to the wayside as you feast in the grass.
The chill in the air means Halloween is right around the corner. Those 18 and older can get into the spirit at Busch Gardens' annual Howl-O-Scream, which began Sept. 30 and runs through Oct. 31. Buy a four-pack of tickets on any Thursday night for $19.95 a person. Regular single tickets Thursday through Saturday are between $40 and $50.
Sleep under the stars
Imagine zipping yourself into a sleeping bag a couple of months ago. Yikes. But now, it's time to whip out those tents and hit the woods. Check out Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, the Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa or the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey. Don't forget the s'mores!
Play in the dirt
In the summer, the mere thought of mowing the lawn leaves you overheated — and forget about trying to plant anything. But the cool morning air is calling you back to the dirt. It's a good time to try growing vegetables or herbs that would've been scorched in the sun a few months ago. Good fall crops include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, peas and spinach. Check floridagardener.com for tips.
Turn a page
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day stuff, drop into a local park, sit under a tree and read that book you've been meaning to finish. We know it's sitting there on your nightstand, begging for some attention. Or trade one of your old books for a new one at www.paperbackswap.com, and enjoy it outside.
Maybe you've seen signs along medians advertising adult kickball or softball and you scoffed as you cranked up your air conditioner. But now, what better way to make new friends and stay in shape than by joining a team? There are adult sports leagues all over the bay area organized by the city of Tampa, Tampa Bay Club Sport, city of St. Petersburg and the Kickball Society of Tampa Bay, to name a few. Or get some friends together and start a jogging club.
Celebrate the 'hood
Get your neighbors together for a block party. Prepare ahead of time by asking everyone to sign up for a dish. Hang some string lights from the trees, turn on some music, play games or just chat. Do it on a Sunday night to stave off the Monday blues.
Cheer for the home team
College and professional football seasons are now under way. If you're lucky enough to score a ticket, it's about to get cool enough to sit through a whole game without losing your shirt. But don't fret if you can't snag a seat. Park your car outside the stadium, turn the radio on and tailgate in the fresh air.
Have a fresh start
Set your alarm a little earlier than usual and have a leisurely cup of coffee on your porch before getting ready for work. Read the paper or listen to music or soak in the silence. Notice how different you feel after starting the day in the cool breeze.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.