Smart Solutions: Making the most of a strange summer

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

As someone said to me, when it comes to COVID-19, we’re all trying to walk the line between safety and sanity.

At our house, we grapple with both for our daughter, who has been allowed to see friends this summer on occasion. Though I often feel like we’re playing Russian roulette, having dodged a bullet every time we hit the two-week mark after any outside contact, you can hunker down at home for the most part and still have no guarantees.

After quarantining with her parents for months, the first break for our daughter came from a picnic lunch with a friend following a stop for food at a local restaurant that has a drive-thru. They sat in the back of her friend’s pickup truck parked in a scenic spot where they could enjoy some freedom and some fresh air.

Michigan’s Iron Belle hiking and biking trails let you connect with nature.

She and her friends have also been visiting different cities and counties in their quest for adventure. During this time, my daughter has been able to engage in activities that made her summer bucket list, a popular plan for kids.

During a picnic at a local park, the outdoor setting offered more safety than an indoor venue and everyone brought their own food and blankets. After some much-needed physical activity playing Frisbee and volleyball, they got to watch the sunset, which was one of her goals.

Outdoor birthday celebrations included one at a park in downtown Plymouth where they ate pizza and made their own paintings. On that particularly hot day, a stop at Kilwins for ice cream was a real treat.

This gathering even produced a new piece of art for my daughter’s room that features a colorful cartoon figure. Not only does it have value because it was a DIY project, but it holds a special memory too.

Her desire to go for a hike was fulfilled when it happened to be one of the activities at another small birthday party in a local park.

Other excursions had a handful of friends heading to the Custard Hut in Dearborn Heights and Ray’s Ice Cream in Royal Oak. A day at Island Lake in Brighton also added to her happiness.

Without access to traditional movie theaters, drive-ins have become a common option that made the list for my daughter, who got to watch Ghostbusters outside the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, where she also had the opportunity to do some stargazing.

She was thrilled to go thrift shopping at Salvation Army in Walled Lake and Goodwill in Commerce where she scored some amazing finds like floral lululemon shorts for $4. 

Last month, she also got to see fireworks even if it was from the comfort of our own home where we can watch the displays from nearby neighborhoods.

A trip to Ann Arbor yielded some colorful pics from Graffiti Alley during a fun outing, while a visit to Shain Park in Birmingham provided a change of scenery for a few friends to play some games and listen to music.

While our daughter still remains at home more often than not while we continue to proceed with caution, being able to salvage some sense of summer feels like a bright spot during these uncertain times.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at