A Day at the Lake

A long weekend like Memorial Day is a great chance for some time on the water, but not everyone is close to a beach. However, nearly every city or town does have a lake of some sort (either natural or manmade) nearby.  These lakes provide the perfect chance to escape while being close and accessible.  They are just right for a great day trip for hiking or a weekend camping trip.  But perhaps best of all, many have little beaches that are tailor made for spending a relaxing afternoon.

I like to visit our state parks and natural areas (most of which are just half an hour away) for a few hours of relaxing with my toes in the sand or floating in the cool water.  These little lake escapes are just right for a mini-vacation without all the work a big trip involves.

Find a lake near you using Lakepedia.  Once you’ve picked the perfect spot, here’s the gear you’ll need for a snack-sized local getaway that will help you make the most of your weekend:

Be sure to read Butc(h)er’s affiliate information before using our links.

Scala Raffia Lifeguard Straw Hat ($27).  A day in the sun requires more protection from the sun than a baseball cap can offer.  This straw hat is cheap and offers maximum coverage for your head, neck, and shoulders.  You’ll look better than you think, too.

Chums Neoprene Eyewear Retainer ($6).  Chums help keep those sweet sunglasses from ending up on the bottom of the lake if you should get tipped over by a stray wave from a powerboat or mischievous date.

UE Roll 2 Bluetooth Speaker($67).  A relaxing afternoon is a perfect time for your favorite playlist.  This speaker is waterproof which also makes it sandproof.  That’s perfect for your long day on that tiny beach.  Just try and keep the volume reasonable so you’re not that jackass everyone else on the beach hates.

AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler($60).  This soft cooler is just big enough to pack some cold drinks and a picnic lunch.  The shoulder strap makes it easier to lug out to your oasis and The Wirecutter has ranked it their best pick for soft coolers.

LUENX Polarized Aviator Sunglasses ($18).  I think cheap sunglasses are the best choice for any situation, but most especially for those times where they stand a chance of getting lost or broken.  The classic shape of these aviators looks great on just about every face and the polarized lenses make it easier to people watch without getting caught.

Tommy Bahama Backpack Cooler Chair ($50-ish).  A comfortable chair is the foundation for a good, long day relaxing.  These Tommy chairs sit low and have several positions for the backrest and a built-in headrest so you can go from reading to napping without moving your ass.  They come in a bunch of colors so pick something festive and spend your day switching back and forth from the water to your new favorite chair.

JVC HAFX32R Marshmallow Earbuds ($11).  Sometimes the best way to get some peace and quiet is to fill your ears up with sounds of your own choosing.  If you aren’t the reading type, or you want something to occupy your monkey mind while you lounge, grab these little earbuds.  They do a fair job of blocking some noise while allowing you remain slightly aware of your surroundings.  Put on your favorite podcast or try an <a href="http://audiobook” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>audiobook.  You might be surprised how much you like listening to your entertainment.

The Lady in the Lake – Raymond Chandler ($12).  A long day begs for a good mystery and nothing suits better than a hard-boiled crime novel.  Raymond Chandler is one of the big names of the genre for good reason and, at 272 pages, you might just finish this before the sun sets.

Banana Boat Kids Tear Free SPF 50 Sunscreen ($9).  We’ve all ruined memories of a perfectly good day with a sunburn that lasts for a week.  The idea of tanned limbs is great, but don’t skimp on the SPF.  There’s nothing sexy about increased risk of cancer and a sunburn.  But why “kids” sunscreen?  Because the active ingredients are mineral based instead of chemical based, it creates a physical barrier on your skin, and it will not stain your swimsuit or t-shirt.  Use more than you think and more often than you think – no one ever says “Man, I wish I had used less sunscreen and gotten a sunburn.”

L.L. Bean Beach Towel ($30).  This towel is so big that you could skip the beach blanket (but don’t).  This beach towel would be good for lying out on, but its also thick and absorbent and perfect for drying off from head to toe after a refreshing dip.

L.L. Bean Large Boat and Tote ($35).  You need a way to tote all this stuff down to the water and carrying several small bags is a quick way to start and end your day with curses.  This bag is big enough to carry all of your gear easily and look good doing it.

Swimways Pool Lounger($15).  Nothing is quite as relaxing as setting yourself adrift in the cool nearly waveless water.  This float is perfect for all day long lounging.

Coalatree Kachula Adventure Blanket 2.0 ($70).  A good blanket is a key to a successful day of relaxing for a few reasons: (1) it lets you stake out a minimum territory around your chair and gear, (2) it gives you somewhere soft to take a nap, and (3) it serves as the perfect place to spread out your picnic fixings.

A great day at the lake starts with good gear.  Being able to tune out the people next to you or get lost in a good book while avoiding sunburn may all seems like obvious things. But it’s easy to overlook the little things that make the day go smoothly. Double check your gear bag to make sure you have all the things you need to make the day enjoyable.

After you’ve checked your gear, take a few minutes to think about what you want from the day.  What memories do you want to make?  Do you want to spend the day in quiet repose or do you want to connect with your friends or family?  At the end of the day, what stories do you want to be able to tell?  Setting your intentions can start the whole day off in the right direction and, by the time the sun sets, you will have made a pretty good day into a day you’ll never forget.

Pa Knows Best: Get Outside

A sad fact of “modern” life is that most of us don’t spend much time outside.  Some days, the extent of our exposure to the elements is the walk to and from our car on the way to work and back.

Yet, talk of the weather is that great common ground for elevator rides, and idle chit-chat in the break room at work where people express sadness when its rainy or joy when the sun is shining.  We check the weather before we dress, have apps dedicated to it, have an entire network channel devoted to it, and local weather updates every ten minutes on the network morning shows.  What an irony that our culture is nearly obsessed with the weather when we barely even experience it.

Pa paid attention to the weather for different reasons, foremost amongst them being that he actually spent time outside.  There’s a good chance that Pa was outside for part of every day no matter what his job may have been.  My 91-year-old pa still bundles up and goes outside for something every day,  sometimes its to split or stack some wood or pick up debris in the yard, and sometimes its just to get the paper.

There are lots of studies about the benefits of being outdoors.  Whether it was a short time on a weeknight after work, or for longer projects on the weekends, Pa got outside practically every day and you should too.  Finding the time to get outside is easier than you think.

Here are some easy ways to spend a little more time outside each day.

Morning walk.  This is a great way to wake up and get your blood moving so you can meet the day more energized.  If you are an early riser, spend half an hour walking around your neighborhood and enjoying the sites and sounds of the world waking up.

Morning coffee or tea.  If you don’t have an extra half an hour in your morning routine, try spending five or ten minutes just sitting quietly on your porch with your coffee or tea.  Leave your phone inside and use this time to listen to the birds, or watch your neighbors walk their dogs, or enjoy the changing colors of the morning sky.

Brunch or coffee.  The weekends are a great time to head to the coffee shop or cafe for brunch.  Instead of crowding into the dining room, ask to sit outside.  It’s great for people watching or enjoying conversation while getting a little sky on your skin.

Lunch break.  How easy it is to spend your lunch break huddled over your phone or gulping down something from the drive-thru.  But alas, the time spent with your window down to order food and exchange money for a sack of lunch doesn’t really cut it as “outdoor” time.  Instead, see if there is a park near your office and spend half an hour sitting on a bench enjoying the breeze.  Or take a 15-minute walk along the path to stretch out those muscles that have been sitting all day.  If a park isn’t close, head out to the parking lot for a couple of laps.  Even a few minutes soaking up some vitamin D and loosening your muscles can make the whole afternoon at your desk seem easier.

Wind down after work.  Take a few minutes right after work to sit on your porch with a glass of beer or wine or water and just let the work day fade away. Chat with your girl about the day or make plans for the weekend.

Same ole, same ole.  On our busy weekdays, we tend to think the best way to relax is to plop on the couch and play online or watch TV.  Consider spending even 10-15 minutes outside instead.  You can even take your computer outside with you!  Look at that.  You can do the same activities you always do while getting a bit of fresh air.

Chores.  Pa probably spent time outside gardening or tending to the lawn.  Even in the suburbs many of us have a little patch of grass to call our own.  Take some time to plant flowers by the sidewalk, or rake your leaves instead of blowing them into the street, or sweep your porch and sidewalk.  The quiet repetitious nature of manual chores can be almost meditative and some of our best thinking can be done while our hands are busy but our minds are free.

Walk.  Take an evening stroll around the neighborhood or on a nearby greenway or through the pasture.  An after-dinner walk is an especially good way to wind the evening down in the warmer months.

Workout.  So many people run straight from their climate-controlled office to their climate controlled gym in order to work up a sweat.  But you can skip the gym and do a bodyweight workout or play a pickup game of basketball or go on a strenuous hike or bike ride and get all the benefits of working your muscles with the added bonus of being outside.

Sports.  This time I mean the kind you watch.  Summer is the perfect time to head to your local minor legal ballpark and spend the evening cheering on your team.  You may not even realize that you are outside since you are busy watching the game.

Play.  Once we reach adulthood, many of us give up on the idea of playing.  But a half an hour shooting hoops or playing catch can be a real highlight of an evening and make you feel the same joy as it did when you were a kid.  Or take advantage of your neighborhood pool for a half an hour of the joyous relaxation of floating around without a care in the world.

Cook.  In the summer months, cooking outside is a double bonus of being fun and keeping the house from getting too warm.  Fire up the grill and spend a pleasant hour on the deck cooking dinner and relaxing.  If you have a firepit, don’t just save it for weekends.  Take an evening off from streaming Netflix and sit around the fire making S’mores instead.

Sleep.  We tend to make a big deal about sleeping outside, reserving it only for planned camping trips.  But if you have a backyard, a night out under the stars is literally as easy as walking out your back door.  You can set up a tent or just make a little nest for yourself and your honey with blankets and pillows.

Sit.  My grandparents would spend time every evening sitting on their patio.  No radio, no books.  They would sit and talk quietly or sit in silence.  The entertainment was provided by the cows shuffling down the lane for their evening drink and hummingbirds zooming between the 3-4 feeders.  We once counted 23 hummingbirds at one time.  This quiet time was a gentle transition from the hard work of the day into the restfulness of the evening.

It is so easy in today’s world to spend all of our time inside. We go to work, eat in restaurants, work out in gyms, and relax by watching TV.  But we are missing a crucial element in our lives by not spending any time outside.  Pa’s daily life included time outside each day, whether he was doing chores or working in the yard.  Today, there are a ton of easy options for getting outside each day, if only for a few minutes.  You might be surprised at how spending just a little time under the sky each day can make your life feel better.  Take a page from Pa’s book and get outside each day.

Better Dressed Butch: Versatile Casual Winter/Spring Wardrobe – Part 1

One of the hardest parts of starting to dress better is putting outfits together.  Most people think of clothes in terms of outfits, so when they go shopping for new clothes, they usually buy a couple of new outfits without thinking about their overall wardrobe.  This approach doesn’t work.  You’re left with the same old wardrobe, plus two new outfits.  So you now have two days that you feel awesome in your new outfits, and all of the other days you are stuck with your same old broken wardrobe.   This approach is not going to get you to the place where you are well-dressed every day.  Even if you bought enough new outfits for several days, you are going to end up bored with wearing the same several outfits over and over again.

There’s a better way to build your wardrobe.  If you approach your wardrobe as a whole, you can buy individual pieces that all work together.  And if you have assembled a wardrobe where the pieces can be worn in multiple outfits, you will be a better dressed butch much more quickly.  Let’s look at how to build an affordable, stylish and versatile wardrobe that will give you a ton of options with a minimal amount of items.   Continue reading “Better Dressed Butch: Versatile Casual Winter/Spring Wardrobe – Part 1”

Better Dressed Butch

I’ve been butch since birth. Sure, my mom bought me a blue dress with white polka dots to match her and my sister on Easter when I was about 7. That outfit even included a white, wide-brim hat and lacy white socks. My private school upbringing also meant wearing a skirt five days a week for the first 18 years of my life. Oh, plus Sunday for church. So that left my weeknights and weekend to express my (ahem) “personal style.” Let’s just say it was lacking. Actually, it stayed lacking until I was about 28 years old. My uniform consisted of ill-fitting graphic t-shirts (that I convinced myself were clever), jeans, and Adidas sneakers. Plus hooded sweatshirts in the winter. I know. Sigh.

Let me begin my embarrassingly weak defense by stating that I was a sheltered child. And I am not sure you know what it is like to grow up lower-middle class in a rural area. Oh and gay. I’m not throwing that out there as some special “look-at-me” card. I’m just saying that my struggle to find a way to express myself was deepened by the fact that I wasn’t even sure how to articulate my identity with words, much less with my clothing. Plop that down in a locale that is dominated by camo (and not the Nick Wooster kind either), flannel, polyester and Walmart specials, and you will begin to understand what I had to work to overcome.

The Achilles heel, though, is that I was fat. Not like, kinda chubby or a little chunky. More like, belly hanging over belt fat.  Also, really short. I’m 5’2″. Let’s all agree that short and fat is not the best foundation for winning the “best-dressed” award. Continue reading “Better Dressed Butch”

The Little Things

Butch Style

When I began to identify as “butch,” I started deliberately changing my appearance.  I had always been the tomboy, the sporty one.  I grew up wearing a lot of androgynous clothes, mainly jeans and t-shirts.  In college, I grew a little more confident and occasionally wore men’s button up shirts and started buying men’s jeans.  It took me long into my twenties to really begin to claim my identity.  I went through a cargo shorts phase and then discovered men’s fashion blogs and started slowly changing my style.  There were a lot of obvious outward changes  to my look during those years.  But some of the things that most helped me to claim my identity were the little things that no one would ever know about.  Looking back, I often wish I had been confident enough to make these little changes sooner as they really helped me to own my butch identity.  Here are some of the little things that meant the most in my journey from tomboy to full blown butch.   Continue reading “The Little Things”