Time off can be relaxing, productive

We are firm believers that when life gives us lemons, we make a nice lemon chiffon cake or a lemon tart — we’re so much better than just lemonade.

When many of us were told by our employers that we needed to take a few days off without pay to help cut expenses, the immediate reaction may have been panic and despair.

But once you get past the loss of money, which we admit is a huge chasm to breach, we’re finding that furloughs aren’t all bad.

If you look at them like unexpected vacations, albeit ones that are foist upon us, they can be both relaxing and productive. So from our furloughs to yours, here are 30 ideas for things to do.

1. Get in touch with your inner self. Meditate or get out those Yoga DVDs.

2. Paint your bathroom. It will give you a sense of accomplishment, and you’ll learn a lot of lessons for other DIY projects, including how to get paint out of your hair.

3. Visit a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, or have a nice, long indulgent phone conversation.

4. Take a road trip. Plug in the GPS and pack the snacks, then hit the pavement.

5. Bite the bullet and figure out your retirement funds.

6. Read that novel that’s been gathering dust on the bedside table. Or read an old favorite or a book that you think you’ve read, but haven’t.

7. Unleash your inner chef. Prepare meals for the entire week and stuff them in the freezer.

8. Cook for someone else.

9. Take a hike in one of many state and regional parks.10. Visit the farmers markets.

11. Start your Christmas shopping.

12. Indulge that hobby you never have time for or learn a new one.

13. Search for cheap airfare and take an unexpected trip to some place you’ve always wanted to go if you had a couple of days off.

14. Spring into spring cleaning.

15. Wash your sheets and hang them on the line to dry, weather permitting.

16. Get rid of the clutter. Donate to those who can use it or make up for the lost wages by having a garage sale.

17. Explore your gym and try some of the equipment that’s always being used when you drop by after work.

18. Take in an afternoon movie.

19. Volunteer your time to that cause you’re passionate about.

20. Take long leisurely lunches.

21. Clean out your TiVo or DVR by watching all those programs that you recorded and have never gotten around to watching.

22. Indulge yourself by buying something just for you. Make it an economical purchase and you’ll feel twice as good.

23. Plan that dream vacation, even if it will have to wait for the economic rebound. It will give you something to look forward to.

24. Read the newspaper all the way through — you’ve got plenty of time to linger over the crosswords now.25. Sleep late every day.

26. Go to a museum that you’ve never visited or haven’t been to in a long time.

27. Break out the crayons and coloring books. They’re good for the soul.

28. Organize your nest, from the bookshelves to the kitchen cabinets.

29. Update your iPod lists.

30. Spend some time really getting to know that favorite new electronic gizmo. What? You can turn on the blender with your iPhone? Who knew!