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In the summer, sunny days boost serotonin levels, which can make you feel sunnier, too. But be sure to make it a point to plan activities and commit to them. Otherwise, you risk getting caught up in your usual routine, instead of appreciating what makes the season special.

"When you look at the months stretching before you, it seems like there's more than enough time to do everything," said Bernadette Noll, author of Slow Family Living.

To ensure that not a single summer day is wasted — and that money isn't wasted, either — it's important to make a summer wish list and pin it someplace prominent in your home. Come autumn, when friends ask, "How was your summer?" instead of wondering where the time went, you can say, "Where should I start?"

Here are some ideas to make the best use of your, and your pocketbook:

Summer parties • Some evenings call for unplanned celebrations. Turn a tall drink of lemonade into a fancy party sipper by dipping the (moistened) rim of the glass in rainbow nonpareils. Or, investing a packet of paper parasols can add fun to at-home "happier hour."

When planning a lobster fest for 10 people, or even two, avoid getting burned by submerging the crustaceans in a pot of boiling water headfirst. If lobsters are put in tail-first, they try to escape, and they'll splash scalding water all over the place.

Mood boosters • Aside from spicing things up with hearty food and specialty drinks, reflect on which daily tasks should be given up. Maybe this is the year not to worry about trimming the hedges, or stepping on the scale, and possibly it's time to even break up with the trusty Swiffer.

June, July and August are the perfect months to sketch out on an oversized desk calendar places to go and people to see. Researchers in the Netherlands found that planning getaways can boost one's mood for up to eight weeks.

Spend time with loved ones • If summer still feels like it's slipping by, freeze time with a mental snapshot of the moment. "Look at your beautiful family, and fully appreciate each person exactly as he or she is right now," said Noll.

Create a Fourth of July game by identifying "chrysanthemum," "bees" and "willow" in a fireworks display. Scan's "University" section for its glossary of names of other crowd-pleasers.

Spend some time with family and friends looking up into the sky. The best time to view the Perseids meteor shower is on Aug. 12, when the moon is a crescent.

Simple pleasures • Treat your significant other to a quickie date, such as a drinks-and-dessert outing. Like the other kind of quickie, it feels spontaneous — and even a little daring.

Finally, forget washing silverware — whip up meals that can be eaten on sticks instead. Spear veggies with shrimp or steak, then grill. Finish with a dessert such as fruit kebabs or cake pops.

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