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Summer officially ends tomorrow. Unofficially, summer ended when I had my first pumpkin latte the weekend before Labor Day. And again when I bought pumpkins for our yard this past weekend. And again when JB started school today. So let’s look at a few things that brought me joy these last few weeks of summer, in an increasingly bizarre year.

Our backyard garden: This spring, my husband created a small garden in the corner of the fenced-in area of our backyard. We helped JB plant sunflowers (pictured above!) with his Sesame Street gardening set. We added wildflowers, succulents, and even some plants I picked out on a whim at the neighborhood farmstand. As summer progressed, we added colorful planters on our deck, filled with basil, mint, and other herbs we either purchased ourselves or received from family members.

Since then, those little patches of growing space have become a welcome distraction from the stifling chaos of quarantine. Some afternoons I bring JB outside and we explore the flowers and plants for sensory time, or use them in art projects. I still don’t know much about gardening; I keep Pinterest open on my phone the whole time, so I can look up how to plant or water or prune something. But, hey, it’s a start.

Matt Nathanson: When I was leaving for college, my friend Molly burned me some CDs (look it up, kids) from a singer/songwriter named Matt Nathanson. Since then, I’ve been hooked, and Matt continues to be my favorite artist.

I was truly spoiled this summer when Matt Nathanson released his new 61-track live album, and performed a full-length virtual concert. My husband and I treated it like a date night – watching the show on our TV and singing along to our favorite songs. I even treated myself to a concert poster and T-shirt to commemorate the show.

Causebox: You know those ubiquitous social media ads with “unboxing” videos of people opening their latest subscription box like FabFitFun or Birchbox? I swear, I’m as excited as those people in the videos whenever I open a Causebox, only I’m not on camera. Causebox is a quarterly subscription box filled with sustainably sourced products that help support women and the environment. As many of you know, I write professionally about sustainable business, and seriously, the companies and products in Causebox are the real deal. I’ve gotten everything from purses to skincare to home décor items in Causebox deliveries so far. The products are worth way more than the subscription – sometimes even a single product’s retail value is more than the price of the entire box. (Save $10 off your first Causebox when you order with this link!)

American Royals series: A few years ago I binged the first two seasons of the CW series Reign, a show about Mary Queen of Scots, told with modern music and fashion. It was a trashy guilty pleasure disguised as a history lesson. I recently discovered the American Royals book series by Katharine McGee. It’s far less trashy, but just as bingeworthy.

American Royals and its sequel, Majesty, are based on the alternate history premise of “What if George Washington decided to be a king, not a president?” The books take place today, but if there were a Washington royal family. Several reviews I’ve seen compare these books to “Crazy Rich Asians meets The Crown”, and honestly I think if you add a touch of The Princess Diaries, you’d be completely right. They are delightful!

What brought you joy these last few weeks of summer? I’d love to hear from you.

Also, stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about this fall’s Joyful, Book & Awesome Book Club pick.

(Please note: There are affiliate links in the above post. If you purchase from an affiliate link, I may be compensated. Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

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