By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Aug 31, 2014 at 7:16 PM

Labor Day is one of the saddest holidays of the year since in this neighborhood it means the end of summer. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do.

Sure, the fun and frolic of summer is gone, but there are plenty of opportunities after the celebrating has ended. Here are the top 11 things you can do after Labor Day.

1. Go to a school, walk into the principal’s office and tell them you are here to volunteer.

It could be anything from supervising a playground to tutoring a kid who is having trouble reading or doing math. This is one that will make you feel proud, make you feel good and also do a lot of good.

2. If you have plants, a lawn or or anything that grows beside your kids, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to do as the weather grows colder.

You can get a bunch of advice online, but if you want the real pros, call the UW-Extension office in Milwaukee County. The number is 256-4600. Just tell them you want to talk to an expert about your plants, and they’ll fix you up. Plus, unlike garden centers, they won’t try to sell you anything.

3. Take your snowblower to National Hardware’s shop on 4th and McKinley Downtown.

They’ve got the best and most reasonable tune-up shop I’ve found. Nice guys who will make sure that when the snow builds up on your walk, you won’t be left standing there with a snowblower that won’t start. Plus, it won’t cost you and arm and a leg. No matter how old your machine is, they can get it ready for winter.

4. Find a class to take.

You are going to have more time on your hands now that the beer gardens in the parks are closing. Learn to cook, dance, speak a foreign language or even how to make your own beer. You can find tons of classes online, but for cooking, I’ve always loved the Milwaukee Public Market classes.

5. Plan your fall color trip now.

Don’t wait until you wake up some Saturday morning and say, "Hey, let’s go look at some trees." The most beautiful part of the state is on the western edge, and if you plan now, you could take off for La Crosse on a Friday night. You can get a room somewhere and eat at the world famous Piggy’s Barbecue and Blues place. You can sit outside if you the weather is passable and gaze at the mighty Mississippi as it rolls past. Not much is prettier in Wisconsin.

6. Look at your windows.

Nothing makes an apartment, condo or house colder than a draft coming in around your windows. Hold up a match and if the flame flickers, then you’ve got to do something before the wolf starts to howl. Those rolls of stick-on insulation work, but if you’ve got big gapes, a can of a foam insulation called Great Stuff works like a charm.

7. If you’ve got a fireplace, get the wood now.

Lots of ads all over the place with wood to burn. Also, buy a box of those fake logs from the grocery store. But don’t use an entire log (they’re expensive) to start a fire. Cut each log into fourths and use one to start the fire. You want the real wood to burn, not some chemically created log. And don’t forget kindling. You can get waste pieces from almost any lumber yard and they work great.

8. Think.

In summer, it’s hard to just devote your mind to thought. You’re running all over the place, having fun, doing chores, dancing, etc. Summer is a party. But things slow down after Labor Day, and I can’t recommend spending some time thinking more. You’ll be surprised what your mind can dredge up. Sometimes it’s good stuff, and sometimes it may be a problem. But either way, thinking is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.

9. Get involved.

We have an election coming up in November. I don’t care what political stripe you are: Call a campaign and ask what you can do to help. Make phone calls, stuff envelopes, host fund raisers, go door to door. It all helps, and it makes you feel a part of the process. You don’t have to be a fanatic to do this, but it is an exercise in good citizenship, which we could all use a little more of.

10. Sign up to help at a homeless shelter.

As the weather turns colder, the demand for shelter for people on the street grows. You can donate money, but it’s a wonderful feeling to show up and serve meals, cook for them or just sit and listen to someone who hasn’t had anyone to talk to for a long time. They may suffer, but you can help relieve it. You can find a list of shelters in Milwaukee County here.

11. Finally, plan a party.

You could celebrate anything: a birthday, a raise at work or a new dish you can cook. But one of the worst things after Labor Day is that you are going to spend more time alone. Planning a party down to the last detail can help relieve boredom and loneliness. Decide on the what, where, who, when and how, and you can find yourself wrapped up in something other than how crappy the weather is about to become.


Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.