50 Free Things We Enjoyed This Summer

Lago di Como Bellano


summer fun
The summer I learned to swim!

A biting wind blows outside as we all sleep in. The lake level has risen from last night’s thunderstorm. Before breakfast, we look outside to find that brand new snow has settled on distant Alpine caps.

“Snow!” the children cry, “Hurrah! It’s winter, it’s winter!”

“Not quite yet,” I tell them. “We haven’t had autumn yet.”

How has time slipped away so fast?

If being a parent has taught me anything, it’s the swiftness of that time. And that childhood is the shortest season.

Sometimes you want your kids to grow up instantly. Other days, you look back and see how much they’ve changed and grown. And then you wish to slow time down.

Blink, and you’ll miss their childhood. Rush, and you run past life.

Barefoot over the rocks and boulders in Val Masino

This week, I’m trying to hold on to that summer magic a little longer.

I wished I’d been more present, listened to my kids more clearly, held them tighter, taught them more. Yelled a lot less.

When their dad had days off from work, he made the most of it with the kids.  I’m so glad they have him for adventures!

Lago di Como Bellano
Walk through the woods in Bellano

Today, I’m counting with the kids, all the things we did together as a family this summer. Our list went way beyond 50, but these are the ones that were free.

Because it’s really true, those kind are the best.


Val Masino
Dad shows us how it’s done


  1. Watched firework shows from our balcony
  2. Went hiking and boulder climbing in Val Masino
  3. Trekked up Monte San Bernardo
  4. Baked our own bread every other day

    Bellano Lago di Como
    Exploring old pathways
  5. Learned to swim without floaties
  6. Learned to speak Italian
  7. Fed ducks and swans
  8. Watched the Giro d’ Italia bike race from our house porch
  9. Had double rainbows
  10. Made Lego Man Fossils
  11. Baked cookies, lemon squares and brownies
  12. Had barbecues with friends
  13. Went to birthday parties
  14. Explored centuries-old churches
  15. Played Memory and board games
  16. Watched Masha & Orso, and lots of Peppa Pig
  17. Did potato stamp paintings
  18. Grew a giant sunflower
  19. Did gardening—planted mint, basil and lemon
  20. Learned to read more words
  21. Learned about famous inventors and explorers
  22. Made natural “paint” from red rocks
  23. Drank mountain-spring water at 1,000 meters high
  24. Went to street fairs and flea markets
  25. Played football
  26. Made and drank summer Mocktails
  27. Built a stone house
  28. Watched many full moons

    castello vecchio
    Castello Vecchio
  29. Made sand pies and sand castles
  30. Went fishing
  31. Went hiking with sheep
  32. Went biking along the lake path
  33. Played Legos
  34. Played Vero Construct, a vintage toy dad had since he was our age!
  35. Created cool stuff with Arduino and made electrical lights and sounds
  36. Played card games
  37. Bounced on the trampoline
  38. Ran through sprinklers in the lawn
  39. Watched lots of spectacular sun sets
  40. Did plenty of stargazing
  41. Rode dad’s boat on the lake
  42. Swam in swimming pools
  43. Drank hailstorm ice in our drinks

    Public transport across the lake
  44. Aperitivi with mom and dad (free food with their drinks!)
  45. Made and flew paper airplanes
  46. Had lots of bedtime stories
  47. Skyped with Opa and Oma
  48. Sang songs and danced
  49. Flew on an airplane to Brussels for five days (sponsored)
  50. Made a cutout Travel journal book about our adventures


Watching the Kitesurfing in Lago di Como
brussels street
In Belgium!
milano flowers
A day in Milan


nyx martinez travel
Hiking the San Bernardo trail

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”–Neil Gaiman

Great Rainy-Day Read from National Geographic 


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