Summer’s here! OK not officially, but we’re well into tank top weather, nursery school is out for the summer, and I have 8 mosquito bites, so I’m calling it. I have so many fun things I want to do this summer that I’m making a list so I don’t forget about any of them! I sort of hate the term bucket list (do we really have to invoke the idea of our inevitable death in making our summer plans?) so I’m calling mine a wish list. I liked what Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser had to say about her summer list in the Northampton-area Valley Advocate: “However dreamy these ideas sound, be assured I won’t actually get to some impressive chunk of them. However, it’s nice to wish and it’s nice to remember summer holds so many incredible possibilities.”
That said, I’M GOING TO DO EVERY DADBLAMMED THING ON THIS LIST IF IT KILLS ME. KILLS ME WITH JOY AND SPLENDOR.
1. Swim, swim, swim. I’m hoping that this will be the year at least one of my kids learns to swim. This year my daughter will finally be old enough to take swimming lessons at the local pool, along with her big brother, and I’m so excited at the prospect of just hanging out by myself at the pool during their lessons, rather than managing a toddler in the kiddie pool. I even have a book all picked out to read on my lounge chair on the grass, like I’ve enviously watched the swim team moms doing in years past.
Despite the fact that my paragraph about swimming devolved into my aspirations to sit poolside and read novels, I actually prefer visiting swimming holes, lakes, and beaches, over the pool. We have got some favorite spots to revisit and a list of new ones to check out too.
2. Go Waterfall Hunting. One of our favorite swimming spots round these parts is by the Timber Crib Dam, so it has this spectacular waterfall-type thing. And it’s next to a covered bridge. I mean, come on, how much more idyllic can you get? The answer is, even more idyllic. There are actually a bunch of natural waterfalls in this area and this year it’s my mission to explore some of them. First on the docket: East Putney Falls. Doesn’t this look stunning??
3. Enjoy some June flowers. There is a gorgeous place in Hartland, VT, called the Eshqua Bog – it’s a wetland with tons of showy ladyslippers and other bog orchids. A beautiful, easy hike with little footbridges to cross over the more mushy places. We visited it last year and were totally charmed, so that definitely merits a revisit.
This year I also want to check out the lupines in Franconia Notch, NH. They have so many that grow there that they have a Lupine Festival every June. Very Miss Rumphius.
photo by Rebecca Metschke
4. Pick every kind of summer berry available. We always go blueberry and strawberry picking a few times each summer, and this year I want to get in some raspberry and blackberry picking too. We actually have 25 strawberry plants in our garden this year, and our two long-neglected blueberry bushes are actually staging somewhat of a resurrection, not to mention our very hardy crop of black raspberry canes. But I have a feeling that all the yard’s berries will be consumed in afternoon grazing, so we’ll need to venture further afield if I want to accomplish my next ambition…
5. Make pies. Make jam. Make pickles. Gonna get my Suzy Homesteader on this summer. We have a pretty good vegetable garden and a CSA subscription, as well as a weekly egg agreement with a local chicken-owner, and I always mean to make some stuff with all the great produce we collect but usually pies is about as far as I get. It’s funny cause I used to be afraid to make pies. Then in a fit of newlywed energy, I started a cooking blog, Kitchen Adventures, where I chronicled my efforts at tackling new skills and recipes. That poor old blog was basically left for dead when I got pregnant and lost all my appetite and energy, with only the occasional “hey, remember me, I made some new cookies!” post in the post-kids era. But I still do love to cook and try new things, so this year I hope to make some new kinds of preserves. I made a peach jam once that was so scrumptious, but it was a rescue effort at a sugar-free jam that wouldn’t set (so I threw a bunch of sugar in it) and I have no idea how I did it. Hoping I can recreate that magic somehow this summer…
6. Go to a drive-in movie
image via Northfield Drive-In
All my life I’ve wanted to go to a drive-in. They actually had one in central Illinois, where I grew up, but it closed when I was six, and during my lifetime, according to Cinema Treasures, “a typical double-feature consisted of titles like Satan’s Playthings and Centerfold Spread” So I guess I can see why my parents deprived me of the experience. Drive-in movies seemed to me like a relic from the past, until last summer when I found out about the Northfield Drive-In, right across the river from us in Hinsdale, NH! I found out about it just as they were closing for the season, so I’m super amped to go have the full drive-in experience there this summer! (Well, I guess not quite the full experience, unless we decide to ditch the kids and go park in the back row…)
7. Go camping. This is our year. We practiced last year with a 2-day backyard campout and this year I think we’re ready for the real thing. I have been collecting tips on camping with young kids, now we just have to decide when and where. Suggestions within easy driving distance from southeast Vermont welcome!
8. Go on a rainy day hike. Since having it rain during your camping trip is pretty much the worst thing that can happen, short of a wild animal attack, I’ll just go ahead and stick this one on here, and that way it will feel serendipitous when that inevitably happens to us. Last year we went hiking in the rain with some friends and it was actually really enjoyable. It’s all in the state of mind, I guess. The only problem is, what if the sun comes out during our rain hike??
9. Go to a baseball game. We don’t have any major or minor league teams less than an hour and a half away, but my husband recently alerted me to the existence of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, with our most local team being the excellently named Keene Swamp Bats. Though not a stellar team, currently at 1 and 6 for the season, they are located only 25 minutes away in nearby Keene, NH, and they serve Walpole Creamery ice cream at the snack bar. Sold. I also like that you can hire a swamp bat to do your yard work. This kind of thing reminds me of the summer after high school I spent “working” for the Champaign County Colts. My boyfriend played the organ and I sang the national anthem and operated the score board. Let’s just say I was much better suited to the first part of that job. At one point the umpire turned around and yelled at me for not updating the count of balls and strikes. What can I say, I was having a really interesting conversation. My skills in the area of collegiate league baseball are tailor-made for the role of mildly interested spectator who really enjoys the ballpark ambience. Oh, and did I mention, you can also have their mascot, Ribby the Swamp Bat, come to your child’s school and read to the class. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to hear a story from this guy?
image via WMUR
10. Make popsicles.
Making popsicles is pretty much the easiest food ever. Mix some sweet stuff together and stick it in some popsicle molds. I love experimenting with flavor combos – this one is a Mexican chocolate-vanilla ginger swirl pudding pop that puts Bill Cosby to shame. Some of my other favorite combos are mango-cardamom, balsamic-strawberry, and cherry-lime. Yum!!
11. Go to an outdoor concert. There are so many chances to hear awesome music outside in the summertime, often for free, that I feel like pretty much of a summertime Scrooge if we don’t go and take in at least one al fresco concert. There’s a free concert every Tuesday in July at the Brattleboro Common, and free kids’ music and entertainment Friday mornings at 10:30 mid-July through mid-August at Memorial Park. And even our friendly neighborhood nursing home is hosting a free concert/block party this month! Many of the outdoor concerts are in the evening, so I may just bring the kids in their PJs. What’s summer without a little public pajama dancing?
12. Take the kids to see some art. Jon and I were lucky enough to have an overnight date (thanks for babysitting, Gram!) to attend the opening of the Wassaic Project’s summer exhibition, a mere 2.5 hour schlep away in Duchess County, NY.
I cannot say enough positive things about this amazing show. You have to go and see it for yourself. And I’m not just saying that because my husband’s awesome art is in it. (Go see my husband’s awesome art!) The rest of the show is also just terrific.
Art in underpants!
Duct tape tiger rug!
Murder by ruffles!
This piece had a motor that made the organism seem to breathe in and out. So very Victorianly creepy. If you like creepy Victorianish things, how about this?
One of my favorite pieces was this one where the artists watched every John Wayne movie, and every time he spoke, they repeated his lines into a plastic bag. When the bag was filled with breath, they tied it off, and then gathered all the plastic bag-breath-balloons into this jellyfish-like installation in the stairwell.
And my photos don’t even do justice to the fantastic weather-themed installation on the top floor.
Did I mention the whole exhibition space is in an old mill? Extra exciting for my kiddos because they are currently obsessed with the Brambly Hedge stories, two of which take place in a mill, with the characters kvetching about how many steps they have to climb to get up to the top. We are going back with the kids for the Arts Festival in early August, which will feature not only this cool art, but also music and dance performances and a film festival. Oh, and they have this great space for kid art-making, including a stick exchange. Bring a stick, label it with the stick’s origin, and trade it for one of the other sticks there. Sticks, a mill, and weird art, three of my kids favorite things – this is sure to be a winner!
13. Have a weenie roast. After exploiting my womanly prowess at digging and moving rocks to create a fire pit in our back yard, having a weenie roast is pretty much a must-do. With toasted marshmallows too, of course!
14. Visit the ocean. After spending the first thirty-(cough cough) years of my life in landlocked Illinois, it still feels like an amazing privilege to be able to drive to the ocean in only two and a half hours.
I’m looking soooo forward to a little getaway we have planned with some friends on Cape Ann. Not only will there be sea air sniffing, ocean swimming, sand castle making (and smashing), shell collecting, and lobster eating galore, but also patio cocktail hours and post-kid-bedtime laughs with our buddies from the Chicago days. Our friend’s house is on the inside of the cape, so you can actually watch the sun set over the ocean, which is not a common sight on the east coast. And if you run upstairs really quickly, you can watch it again! And after all that, you get to fall asleep to the sound of waves splashing on the rocks. Heaven.
OK, I’ve got my recipe for a great summer; now to execute it. There are 72 days until the first day of school… Ready, set, go!