How We Spent Our First Summer Weekend + Natural Sunscreen and Bug Repellent Reviews

Dear Friends,

We’re still a little more than three weeks from the official Summer Solstice, but the unofficial start of sweet summertime is here! If this past weekend is any indication of what’s to come this summer, then I am over the moon excited for the upcoming 10-12 weeks. I truly can’t remember a more fulfilling and invigorating Memorial Day Weekend than the one that is now behind me.

Our weekend was busy and nonstop on-the-go, but in all of the best ways. Michael and I both had to work on Friday, but we kicked off the weekend on Thursday night by getting three of the four kids (he didn’t have his son until Monday afternoon) together for the first time. I met his daughter on Wednesday, so Thursday all five of us got together at my house. Michael and Hunter piddled around on the guitars for a bit, then we all moved to the dining room table to play Trivial Pursuit. Hunter won that game, and Mia was begging for some ice cream – a love shared by both of my boys – so we made a spontaneous trip to Andy’s Frozen Custard. We got the kids some late evening ice cream, then went home so I could go to bed and get ready for the last workday of the week.

It was the first evening we all spent together, and I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. Michael and I had a seamless connection from the moment we met, but there’s no guarantee that the kids will all get along well with us and each other in these situations…especially when there are four kids between the two of us. But, every single one of the kids gets along great, my boys took to Michael immediately, and his kids both warmed up to me easily too. Mia especially has taken to me – female solidarity since we’re grossly outnumbered by testosterone – plus a shared love for crafts, singing and Gilmore Girls! It is difficult to express in words how it feels to have everything come together so effortlessly. It has been completely uncomplicated and definitely feels kismet.

Friday evening was originally going to be our date night, because Mia was going to spend the night with her grandma so they could go to the 100 mile yard sale early the next morning. But it turned out she wasn’t going to go until later, so we decided to take all of the kids with us for Tunes at Twilight, an outdoor music event downtown on Fridays in the summer. Sugar Chic Creamery is right around the corner from the courthouse and the gazebo where the band plays, so the three kids, who are stair-steps in age at 14, 13 and 12, walked down to get ice cream while Michael and I enjoyed some music under shade trees on the courthouse lawn (where a new natural bug repellent worked like magic – more on that at the bottom!).

I also took my camera along to get some pictures of our first outing with the big kids:

Mia ended up wanting to come with Michael to our house after Tunes at Twilight, so they both came over and stayed the night. The next morning he took her to his mom so they could go yard sale shopping, then he came back over for breakfast. I made us the omelets from this week’s Mediterranean Monday post, then he headed home so we could both get some house work done before our afternoon at the beach.

We live close to Trail of Tears State Park, which has a small lake with a beach, and the boys and I frequent that beach in the summer. We packed towels, chairs, our inflatable kayak, plus a cooler with watermelon, pineapple and strawberries, some mixed nuts, pistachios, and three kinds of cheeses. Then we joined Michael and Mia and the five of us spent the afternoon at the lake.

Of all the things we did last weekend, the beach day was our favorite. We inflated the kayak and the three kids took turns paddling around the lake on it. Michael and I lounged on the beach and soaked up the sun…or tried to, because my sunscreen honestly worked a little too well and I didn’t even get the start of a tan (more on that later)! The kids took frequent breaks to raid the cooler, and Michael went to splash around in the water with them a couple of times. The kids were eating that up, because I don’t spend much, if any, time in the water when we go. He had all three of them on him in a group effort to dunk each other. The kids definitely ganged up on him, and I watched from the shore, my heart as warm as the summer sun. It made me so happy to watch them all having fun together!

That night we spent the night at Michael’s house, ordered pizza and ate way too much ice cream, and watched some Jeff Dunham, which was Hunter’s pick for us. On Sunday morning, Michael made us all pancakes while Mia and I painted our nails. Then the boys and I went home to get things ready for their departure for the summer. They spend their school years with me and their summers with their dad, and we switch every other weekend in between. Sunday afternoon was their time to go for the summer.

Sunday evening I had an outing with a few friends at El Sol for fajitas and a couple of beers, while Michael and Mia had a daddy-daughter movie night. I got a good night’s sleep, and was up and ready to tackle projects on Monday. Michael and Mia came over and helped with the gutters and blowing out the carport, then I packed up my tanning stuff and went to their house for the afternoon.

The boys were gone to their dad’s, but Gabriel came back from camping with his mom and I hung out with Michael and both of his kids. Mia had some craft projects she was working on – painting and cleaning up some new frames and mirrors for her room – and I helped her with those. She was talking about painting her room, and painting is an area of expertise for me. Originally I suggested that we work on that the next time she comes to visit. But then I sat back and thought about it, and realized it was only 3:00 and we should be able to knock out the bulk of it that evening.

I asked her if she wanted to go ahead and redo her room right then and there, on a whim, and she jumped at it! We cleaned out her room, moved her bed to the spare room, put a few things she’d outgrown into storage, then made a run to Menards for some paint and roller pads. When we got back Michael had the outlet and light switch covers off, had vacuumed the floors and filled in some holes. So I ran the sandpaper over where he mudded, then Mia and I teamed up to get the painting done. I can do the edging without taping it off, so I tackled that with the angled brush while she did the rolling.

We got one coat done, then called it quits for the night and I made plans to come back over on Tuesday to get the last coat on, and then get her room back together. I went home to shower and take care of my dog, and Michael got some fresh salmon ready for the oven in a glass dish with lemon slices, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. I grabbed my bag of rice since he was out, then cut some cilantro from my back yard because Mia wanted cilantro lime rice, and then I went back to their house for dinner. We got the salmon in the oven and I made the rice, then we all sat down to a healthy and really delicious dinner, complete with a glass or two of chardonnay. It was the perfect ending to a full, exhausting and very well-spent weekend.

The weekend also gave me an opportunity to put some new products to the test. I shared with you the new, safer-for-your-skin, mineral sunscreens I picked up at Target in my summer skin care post, and also mentioned wanting to try a natural bug repellent. I’d tried out the mineral sunscreen while gardening in the back yard, but last weekend gave us the chance to put it to the test in the highest UV index of the day, and in the water.

I’m honestly not even sure why mineral sunscreens aren’t the standard, because I have to tell you that they work infinitely better than any metal-filled sunscreen I’ve ever used. I have both the Babyganics SPF 50 sunscreen lotion, and the Bare Republic Vanilla Coco SPF 50 spray. I put them on myself and the boys, then I laid on the beach to tan while they spent the entire time in the water. We were at the beach somewhere between two and three hours, I did not reapply one single time, and it blocked the sun so well that I didn’t even have a tan line! I thought by the time we left I’d have the start of a tan, but I walked away just as ghostly white as I was when I first touched the beach. The boys had the exact same result, even thought they spent their time in the water.

Friends, this stuff has made a believer out of me! A lot of times I’m just not a fan of natural products, no matter how much I’m dying to use them – like deodorant and conditioner, for example. Those are two things that, no matter how many brands I try, they never work well. This sunscreen, however…it’s made a believer out of me and I’m never looking back!

On Thursday, before our Friday night on the lawn at Tunes at Twilight, and my Sunday morning getting outside projects done, I stopped at Target to pick up some Babyganics bug repellent. This is something I was skeptical about, because the only thing that has ever seemed to work well for me is Off, or the equivalent, that is swimming with deet. I know it isn’t good for you, but neither are mosquito-born illnesses, and I can’t stand the itching. So I’ve continued to use Off in spite of knowing it’s harmful for the skin, because it was the only thing that provided relief from the blood-sucking little jerks. This natural stuff, in all honesty, I didn’t have high hopes for:


I figured sitting out in the grass on a summer evening, this was about the best place I would find to test out the effectiveness of the natural repellent. As soon as we got there, the first thing I did was spray down my arms and legs and rub it all in. It’s oily, and definitely smells of citronella…but even so, it’s a far more pleasant smell than the chemical shit-storm that is Off. We sat on the lawn for an hour, and I left with not one single bug bite! Honestly, I was shocked. I had already told myself that if I only had a couple of bites, I would consider it a success. But I was definitely not expecting to have zero!

On Sunday, I sprayed it on again before I went out to mow, clean out my shed, and clean gutters. I was outside from around 8:00 until 11:30, only applying it once when I first went outdoors, and I had only two mosquito bites by the time I went inside to shower. I did spray my back yard down with Cutter repellent for the grass to help with the mosquitoes this year, since we have a large concrete drainage ditch on the other side of my neighbor’s house that always has standing water in it. Mosquitoes are always bad in my yard. But between the Cutter spray and the Babyganics repellent for my skin, it seems I might have discovered how to peacefully use my back yard this summer, and I’m SO excited about it!

With that, I’m off to do some work in the garden. I will have another garden update coming soon. Sneak peek: my Spring garden still doesn’t get enough sun, so more changes are coming.

Happy Summer!




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