What to do with all my idle hours?
July 25, 2008 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Please, please help me find a summer project...

I'm the sort of person who begins to go a little bit crazy if I don't have enough to do. This summer is turning out to be less full than I had anticipated, and the crazies are beginning to set in. Problem is, I can't seem to figure out something to occupy my empty hours.

Ideally, I'm looking for a project that I could stretch over the course of the whole summer, until late September. The less money I have to spend, the better, though I'm willing to spend a bit on books, supplies, etc. I've thought about learning a language or learning how to program, but I think I want to actually do something, rather than read about it. That's not to say learning is right out, but I'd like a finished product at the end of it as well. Bonus points for a project that might earn me a bit of pocket money.

My interests are varied -- I'm a biology major, but enjoy reading (mostly fiction, some fantasy, but only if it's good; I'm open to nonfiction), writing, knitting, editing, generally being OCD and correcting problems, putting things together (but not puzzles-- I hate puzzles), swimming, etc.

I live on the South Side of Chicago, for what it's worth, and while I'd love to explore other neighborhoods, I'm stuck here on weekdays.
posted by coppermoss to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Learn to juggle.

Low monetary cost. It's doing, not reading. It's a permanent skill you install in yourself. If you learn to juggle 3 really quickly, then move on to 4, then 5. It might go well with OCD. And the learning process is all about perceiving and correcting problems.
posted by coffeefilter at 9:50 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Fun question! Some ideas from my own list:

-Gather family photos and put together a book of them, self published on lulu.com or blurb.com. Give to family members for Christmas presents. Bonus if you can dig up some family history to go with old photographs.
-Try some projects on Crafster and sell them on Etsy.
-Get in practice of writing and be ready to participate in November's National Novel Writing Month.
posted by bristolcat at 9:51 AM on July 25, 2008

Learn jewelry making/beading. Knitting/crocheting come in handy for that. Sell your creations on Etsy. (That could become a "learn marketing" project of its own.)
posted by Airhen at 9:51 AM on July 25, 2008

Quilting. Listening to audiobooks while quilting is one of the most relaxing things in the world.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:52 AM on July 25, 2008

Learn how to build a bike!

You can get a decent used frame/fork/headset on Craiglist for well under $100, and build it up into a road bike with derailleurs or a simpler fixed gear or single speed bike.

When you're done, you have shiny new bike maintenance and building skills, and a bicycle for cheap, which you can either keep or re-sell. It can be very involved, depending on how intensely you get into your parts, etc., yet is easily completable in the rest of the summer. Plus, you'd probably really enjoy the problem-solving aspect to making sure everything works beautifully.

In Chicago, there's the Recyclery, a bike collective on the North Side, and possibly other bike co-ops. They have an open workshop with a suggested donation and run bike maintenance classes. Sheldon Brown is also a great treasure-trove of bicycle knowledge.

I, a non-handy person, am building up my first bike now, and having a blast.
posted by foodmapper at 10:17 AM on July 25, 2008

Build some shelves.
posted by amtho at 10:18 AM on July 25, 2008

Make an insect collection.
posted by neuron at 10:31 AM on July 25, 2008

Mornings : It's amazing how much you can do with a pair of weights (dumbbells for instance). Set up a regimen, build some muscle!

During the day :

1) Perhaps learn to play an instrument? You can't amass complete level of perfection of course in 2 months but you can get to a basic level of proficiency. This can be expensive though, however, a cheap electronic keyboard and book (many come with books) will probably cost you $50 or less at your local toy store.

2) Write a book, or even several short stories. When I really get into my writing, the hours scream by!

Evenings/Nights :

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned stargazing! One book can give you tremendous amounts of information about location, types of galaxies/stars, and even mythology. You don't have to have a telescope to enjoy a clear, brilliant night sky (though shelling out $1000 for a really top-of-the-line scope brings that night sky to a whole new level).

Whatever you decide, I hope you have fun fun fun!
posted by alcoth at 10:50 AM on July 25, 2008

I would say to learn bellydancing. It's challenging, but so awesome! Find a teacher, you get more feedback about what you're doing right and wrong. The at home videos can't really do that.
posted by Attackpanda at 11:23 AM on July 25, 2008

Just chiming in to say, if you take up alcoth's excellent suggestion about stargazing, there's terrific free software like Stellarium and Celestia to help you pinpoint exactly what you're looking at. And a pair of not-too-expensive binoculars can help a lot, too, if you don't opt for the $1000 telescope.
posted by kristi at 11:33 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you have a bike? Find a spot on a map, figure out a bike-friendly route, pack a lunch and a book, and go. Better if you need to train a little in order to make it all the way.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Good call on the Stellarium, kristi. I'd love to hear if you try and get into this, copper. I know how excited I get when a gazing night is nigh. Word of advice though... Make sure if you're bringing a dim light source to reference books while on site, you have bug repellent! Summer skeeters love little lightbulbs, especially just after dark =p
posted by alcoth at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2008

Can you start a vegetable garden? For most veggies you need 70 to 90 days from seed (the cheapest way to do this) so you've just about got time, especially if you do a container garden on a sunny porch, plus with a container garden if it starts getting too cold you can just bring some of the plants indoors.
posted by nax at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Dude, you GOT to start whittling. Some wood and a knife, man. You say you're a biology major; why not try whittling little models of unicellular life forms and other microscopic things? A tiny wooden DNA strand, a paramecium with the organelles stained a darker color than the cytoplasm... the possibilities are endless* when it comes to whittling!

posted by Greg Nog at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2008

Volunteer at a local nonprofit.
posted by All.star at 12:29 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would love to catch up on my photo albums. Also we have an uncle who has done extensive research on geneology, and it's so nice to have that kind of information.....I still would like to do it for DH's family.

I wish I knew how to sew.....if you knew how you could potentially sew some costumes for Halloween either for yourself or to sell on ebay. Oh what I would give for a giant Sock Monkey costume!

Is it too late to sign up for any continuing education classes at a local college?

Any repairs to be done around the house (refinishing cabinets, redecorating a room, landscaping)?
posted by texas_blissful at 12:37 PM on July 25, 2008

Gardening is physical, analytical, spiritual (if you're that sort of person), and makes yummy, healthy food. If you don't have space for your own, see where the local community gardens are. There are lots in Chicago. Even if they're full, there are often people looking for a hand and willing to teach you ... or looking for someone to take care of their plot while they're on vacation in exchange for veggies and flowers.
posted by Capri at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2008

Since you say you are into knitting, I'd suggest Cross-Stitching. I started with a kit from Subversive Cross-Stitch and got hooked. It's a pretty inexpensive hobby, and you can get very creative. It's fun to make gifts for friends and family. I also have funny cross-stitched items all around the house, including magnets and coasters.

You could also try learning crochet and then going on to amigurimi....you could learn to make little funny bugs and organisims (similar to the whittling comment above).
posted by radioamy at 11:40 AM on July 26, 2008

My summer project is baking pies. I bake a pie once every two weeks and find fruit at local farmer's markets. I had no baking skill prior to this and now I am very confident tackling almost any recipe. Also, they are great to bring to BBQs in the summer. Everyone loves you for them.
posted by rabbitsnake at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2008

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