It was a beautiful, 80-degree, perfect weather day last Sunday and I woke up with some very serious determination to have the BEST summer day. I swear that toddlers have a sixth sense for this kind of mental planning and they just love to throw a wrench in those plans. We had a tough morning of grumpiness with a certain unnamed toddler, we never made it to the beach like I planned, and I was so deflated by the time she went down for a nap. Summer is fleeting in New England, and I put so much pressure on those short weeks to make the most of it. After Jane woke up from her nap I knew we both needed to reset the day and I asked her what she wanted to do. She answered without hesitation: ICE CREAM!So she and I went to the ice cream shop and spent an hour walking up and down the wharf, with sticky, melting ice cream dripping down our cones, looking at all of the boats. She stopped and made conversation with several of the fisherman. “Whatchyougot there?!” is her new favorite phrase and they were happy to show her their gear and catch of the day. It wasn’t the jam-packed day I had planned, but it was a pretty good attempt at a perfect summer day I was hoping for.

I had started writing this giant, ambitious summer bucket list post before our ice cream date, and came home to completely start over with some simpler, low-expectation ideas for making the most of those short New England summer weekends. This is my low-key summer bucket list:More beach days. We live about a half a mile from the beach and it still surprises me that we can just pop over to the beach for a quick walk or an hour of digging in the sand or a quick kite-flying session. I’m committing to more beach days, even if it’s just for a short visit. (We just found these great eco-friendly beach toys for Jane that I highly recommend!).  

Eat dinner outside. We ate dinner outside for the first time this summer last week and it was so nice to sit and chat with my husband on the lawn while Jane ran around with a beach ball. It takes like 5 extra minutes to bring everything outside to the yard for meals, but it’s so nice once we’re out there. I’m determined to do it more this summer. (We had a mini-clambake dinner last week using the recipe from my cookbook New England Invite and it’s the ultimate al fresco meal!)

Garden goals. I am, shockingly, keeping a garden alive for the first time in my life this summer. We built a small raised bed that Jane and I planted a bunch of herbs and veggies in, and it’s been a really fun project for the two of to do together (she loves digging with her kid-sized garden tools and hunting for the toy bugs we hide in between plants). My summer bucket list goal is to make as many recipes as I can out of what we’re growing in the garden; and keeping those plants alive!

Perfect my margarita recipe. Last summer we got on a big margarita-kick while on vacation with our friends. I’m making it my summer mission to experiment with our hand-squeezed lime recipe and add in some new varieties for our annual Cape Cod trip this year!

Tackle summer reading. I shared a big post with all of my summer reading list picks recently, and I’m already starting to tackle it. Beach reading, porch reading, road-trip reading – I’m on it!

Berry picking. We took Jane berry picking last year and she loved it; it’s a must for my summer bucket list this year too! We’ll also try to make a few of the recipes from the summer berry chapter in my cookbook and share them on Instagram!

Outdoor movie night. This has been on my summer bucket list forever, but I felt like buying a big movie projector was an extravagant purchase for something I’d probably only use a handful of times. I just found out though that our local library has projectors that you can borrow for this very purpose – all I have to do is pop the popcorn and pick the perfect summer family movie!

Make s’mores. Jane has never had s’mores! This terrible injustice must be fixed this summer! I have a feeling her insatiable sweet tooth will be highly on board with an ooey-gooey melty chocolate and marshmallow cookie sandwich.

Picnic lunch. This falls in the al fresco-dining bucket; I need to pack up my picnic basket on the weekends and get my crew outside for a pretty lunch by the water. There’s a cute spot by my house with picnic tables that overlook an estuary and I think it will be perfect!

New England Road Trip.  I am determined to keep our traveling to a minimum this summer because we have a jam-packed fall with weddings almost every weekend. I was brainstorming a short getaway weekend though somewhere local, and thought it would be fun to take a ride down to Mystic, CT for an overnight trip – seafood, aquarium, and shopping: yes please! (Check out this book for other local New England road trip ideas!).