The 2020 Summer Fun List

Every year, I make a summer fun list (see last year’s here). Little adventures make life memorable. I do not want to get to September and wonder where the summer has gone. So I create a list of activities that will help me make memories, and will make summer feel like summer to me.

This summer is obviously…different. I’m frustrated about what’s going on in the broader world. Among other things, this country is about to have a summer childcare crisis. We’re donating to summer kid meal programs, and I welcome other ideas for places helping children and families.

But in the meantime, I’m aiming to make my own family’s summer as good as possible. I want my kids to remember this as a fun time. Neither my husband nor I are traveling for work, and probably won’t for much of the summer, so that is something the kids are enjoying. My husband is almost at the end of book 6 in Harry Potter with the 8-year-old! I suspect she is going to remember this as “the summer when Daddy read to me for an hour every night.” And that would be a good thing.

Here’s what else (other than them finishing the series!) is on the list:

Take the kids on hikes. We started doing 30-45 minute hikes on weekends early in quarantine. I have started taking the kids on afternoon hikes on local trails during the week too. They whine about it at the beginning. But they aren’t whining at the end. I want to find at least one new-to-us trail. Even here in our suburb, the May trees are magnificent; the thick green of brambles and bushes seem to be overflowing with birds. We stop to watch and listen!

Try a few flavors of Rita’s Gelati. We plan to make this a weekly family thing. My current favorite is blood orange with vanilla custard but I am open to persuasion.

Develop a signature cocktail. My husband and I don’t drink much but I think it would be fun to have a go-to special summery drink. Refreshing, not too sweet. I welcome ideas. I normally just open a bottle of white wine.

Swim. I am so grateful this summer to have a backyard pool. We will go in just about daily while we’re home. I’d like to do a solo swim sometimes too — when I am not responsible for anyone but myself! This is actually a relatively relaxed summer for that, though. The big kids can swim and the baby can’t move on his own. The next two summers will be less so.

Build the dollhouse with my daughter. We have the kit. I ordered the card table to build it on. This is going to happen.

Build Lego Yoda with my 10-year-old. Another massive project. We’ve started, and are on step 50, and there appears to be a phone book’s worth of instructions to go. Never mind — the length is not a deterrent when it is something that can reliably keep him off video games for a little while. (Not that I really mind video games — group Minecraft for the four big kids can occupy them for hours!)

Be my 13-year-old’s novel writing accountability partner. I’m doing a little bit of free writing each day, which will eventually turn into a novella. He’s writing a vampire book called Midnight and he’s many thousands of words in, and learning about the hero’s journey format and all kinds of great stuff. We will both nudge each other onward.

Launch The New Corner Office. Meanwhile…I have a short book coming out on July 21. The New Corner Office (yep, same name as the podcast — please also check that out!) is about how to productively and ambitiously work from home. I also want to de-clutter my own corner office because it’s getting a little bit ridiculous.

Spend lots of time at the beach. We’d planned to go for a week in late June/early July and a week in August. Now, every time a camp cancels, I start looking at more dates. I will definitely enjoy my chocolate peanut butter ice cream cones at Day’s, which I really hope survived all this (Rita’s is growing on me, but water ice lends itself more to citrus type flavors…).

Eat well. We have a system of summer meals right now. Monday is “choice” but usually some sort of Costco pre-made meal that my husband picks up on his shopping trips. Tuesday and Wednesday the kids help me cook something from Sunbasket. Yep, they’re a Best of Both Worlds podcast advertiser — I decided to become a paying customer. This week we had pork tacos and Penang curry. Thursday we order in. Friday is pizza night. Saturday is something elaborate; my husband has been cooking surf and turf type meals. Sunday we usually do hamburgers and hot dogs. We’re growing tomatoes, which will be great for summer eating. I’m not sure we’ll get to do strawberry picking this year (though I am hoping!) but I do plan to make strawberry shortcake. And peach cobbler since things should be open by that season.

Take my coffee outside. There’s a trade off here. I get a lot of work done in the early mornings. But it’s also a nice peaceful time I can sit outside and listen to the birds. Maybe I’ll just start taking my laptop outside at 6 a.m.

Go outside after dinner. Last night I went out with the 5-year-old, in part to limit the YouTube viewing to fewer hours, but we had a lot of fun running laps around the backyard. It was actual, real speed work. We can do walks, porch chats, etc. I want to take advantage of the late light and no one in this house ever goes to bed at a reasonable hour.

Run long. I’m up to 7.5 miles, but if the marathon is happening in late fall, this needs to start rising. Bike on occasion too. Maybe I’ll try to run, bike, and swim on the same day at some point. Of course that might require me to…

Teach the baby to take a bottle, or a cup, or eat solid food. In other words, some calories that do not come straight from my breasts. I’m trying to savor and enjoy my time with this last baby in his chunky cute (non-mobile!) phase, but it’s a little harder to savor this at 2 a.m.

What’s on your summer fun list?

37 thoughts on “The 2020 Summer Fun List

  1. I’ve been having this same dilemma about the morning hours. I, too, love sitting on my deck with my tea listening to the birds. However, I’ve been using that early morning slot for a workout followed by my personal time, namely blogging right now. If I lose that window to write, it never appears later in the day. But then I also miss that lovely quiet outside time! What to do. 🙂 I’ve also thought about maybe trying to take my laptop outside, as the weather warms up.

    1. @Grateful Kae – yep, quite the dilemma! Maybe I’ll go outside on the days I don’t have as much to get done…or weekends…

      1. I’ve been facing this dilemma since the start of the pandemic. I used to use my early morning to work out five days mornings a week, but with the kids home, I needed to dip into it for writing time (my husband and I switch off during the days and that is when I prioritize paid work). My solution has been to work out three mornings a week and then use the other two, plus a weekend morning for writing. At least a little bit of everything is getting done, even if it’s all moving a little slower than I’d like. Good luck!

  2. Summer cocktail: I love an Aperol spritz. The Prosecco feels a little celebratory and the orange is refreshing, but it’s not too sweet.

    1. @SHU – I am hoping some fun places will be open by the end of summer, and our projects will serve some of that role. But I am not promising it to the kids in case it doesn’t. Also, until the bottle thing gets worked out I can’t leave the baby for more than about 3 hours…

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I am having a very hard time dealing with disappointment about my summer plans. We have tickets from Norway to the usa but Norway has announced a travel ban that will make our trip impossible. I am very sad and also a bit worried about getting my money back. We are planning a house swap with friends in a different part of the country and we bought a new boat, so those things will be fun. Somewhat. Will probably try some more local amusement parks etc as well.

  4. You aren’t kidding when you talk about a childcare crisis. I am not sure why this isn’t being discussed more. All of our kids camps have been canceled except for one that will be virtual–so NOT providing any childcare. Then we found out today our next au pair’s arrival will be delayed at least two months, leaving us with a big gap in coverage. I am a physician, I do understand the risks of COVID-19, but how am I going to do my job and take care of patients with no childcare!

    1. Is your town not offering special options for medical personnel? The local government and hospital systems here set up a daycare system for healthcare workers, as have a number of towns. Many people are also running small in-home daycares.

      1. I NY where I live you only qualify for government sponsored child care if BOTH parents are first responders. My husband is a lawyer so we would no qualify. Additional only children 5-12 qualify which leaves us without care for our 4 yo and 13 yo. They also don’t supervise school work at these locations. Generally they are not ideal. Our current au pair is amazing and has been spearheading our 4 kids homeschooling. Likely we will hire a college student home from school or similar to help out. However, our gig which is usually caring for 4 kids before and after school is now caring for 4 kids all day everyday with no where to go. Not so attractive. As time goes on my husband and I are hardly going to be the only people in a tough spot without camps and schools. This is going to become a HUGE systemic problem.

        1. @Gillian – Well, at a certain hourly rate, any job becomes more attractive…I’m pretty sure that’s what it will wind up coming down to!

    2. @Gillian – it isn’t being discussed for the same reason it never is. People who make policy don’t need it.

      When safe/structured environments aren’t available (or affordable) kids will wind up in unsafe situations. This is the trade off. We should be aware and acknowledge that this is the decision society is making.

  5. Well, I semi-retired from the practice of law 3/1 and had curated a long list of things that I wanted to do when I had more time………….. We’ve had multiple trips canceled, etc., but so many people are suffering so much that I refuse to dwell on that. We are 100% remote work now, and I lurch between having very busy days and quiet ones-which works out well given the semi-retirement.
    Summer fun list:
    1. Visit each of our local county parks for a walk/hike. I live in Burlington County, NJ, and with prior long workdays and full weekends, I never realized how many lovely parks we had within a 15 or 20 minute drive. I may also venture further afield-I’ve heard that Estell Manor park in Atlantic County is great, and there is also a wildlife refuge (Forsythe) in that area.
    2. Go to the beach during the week. I’ve had an annual tradition of taking a by myself beach journey to Long Beach Island one weekday in June,. The beach was lovely and empty even pre-pandemic on weekdays because school was still in session. Since I am semi-retired, I may try to put up an out of office message and do a beach day weekly (with my husband and on my own) depending on crowd levels.
    3. Plow through the piles of books on my bookshelf and groaning nightstand. I belong to a service called Paperback Swap which involves trading books by mail with people around the U.S. I also tend to buy an armload whenever I am let loose in a bookstore. The pandemic has allowed me to get through lots of books, but the nightstand is still groaning because there has been an uptick in the number of Paperback Swap books that I have received. People are reading a lot. I note that almost half of a shelf of my multi-level bookshelf is occupied by your books, which I plan to reread 🙂
    4. Visit my sister’s Outer Bank beach house over 4th of July weekend. I am a little nervous about this even though it will just be our family and sister/family, since we have not been together since this all unfolded. My sister is a nurse and is very cautious, so I trust her instincts. The house is large enough so that we will all have our own bathrooms/bedrooms.
    5. Grab ice cream at our 2 favorite local places that are only open in the summer (Evergreen Dairy on Route 70 and Maple Shade Custard). I also hope to visit our much-beloved Springer’s in Stone Harbor, NJ if we can get there during the week and the customary lines are not out the door.
    6. Visit the outdoor Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ if they open. We had plans to head there with friends in April which we had to cancel due to the pandemic. I would also love to see if there are other places like that in the area-maybe a botanical garden or the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia if they have outdoor sculptures like the one in Paris.
    7. Continue trying out new recipes. This has been a fun pandemic activity-I never had time to cook on weekdays due to my work hours (thank you good cook husband and Friday date night). We belong to a CSA and also have our own veggies planted in Earth boxes on our deck, so I’ll be on the hunt for creative salad and vegetable options. I need to switch things up a bit, since yesterday’s cooling exploration involved the baking of banana bread and a chocolate marshmallow cake-both delicious, but not good for the thighs…
    8. Continue daily exercise. This is something new to me since semi-retiring and being housebound. While I belonged to a gym and loved my indoor cycling classes, I never could get there more than 2-3 times a week. Now I spend 45 minutes each morning reading blogs while walking on the treadmill. I am also making use of the 90 day free Peleton app trial, and do their indoor cycling classes (modified for my 20 year old stationery bike) 3 to 4 day a week. I have also used the meditation programs on their app a few times, which I have enjoyed.
    9. Continue supporting our local restaurants with takeout, and maybe journey into Philadelphia once in a while to do the same. My husband and I journeyed across the bridge last Friday and did takeout from 2 Philadelphia restaurants (Noord and Pizzaria Vetri), which provided several meals (we have to pay tolls, so a multi-purpose trip is best). We also have patronized several local restaurants-one allowed us to order a loaf of rustic bread which was one of the best bread experiences we’ve ever had.
    10. Mull over whether or not I want to start a blog. I have thought about it for years, but I never thought that I would have enough time. I love to write, and have been keeping a pandemic journal now that I have more time to do writing that is not work-related. Would love to hear a BOBW episode about blogging and how much time it takes each week-or maybe a blog post by either you or SHU on the subject.

    1. I second the idea of a blog post or even better, a podcast episode(!) about blogging. I started my first ever blog in the beginning of April and while it has been SO fun, I just feel like I have a lot of questions about certain things. It would be AWESOME to hear some tips and tricks from experienced bloggers (i.e you and Sarah)! The info is kind of hard to come by online. There are lots and lots of articles about tips for blogs that are more business/ informational style, but not many (that I can find anyway!) about creating and sustaining a more narrative style blog.

  6. This all sounds like a lot of summer fun. I don’t have little kids but I need to make my own list too.

    A refreshing suggestion for your signature cocktail: St. Germain Cocktail. In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 oz. St. Germain (elderflower) liqueur, 1.5 oz vodka (or gin if you prefer), juice of one lemon; shake with ice vigorously. Pour into a tall glass, straining out the ice. Add about 3 oz prosecco (or dry white wine if you prefer). You don’t have to use the absolutely best wine or prosecco as you are mixing it with the other stuff.

  7. For folks with elementary kids – there is a book series that was written in the 40s and 50s. Freddy the Pig Book series: I found most of them at the library. The books are great fun to read, completely clean, and enjoyable to read out loud. I read them to my son for years after he was able to read himself – but he loved having them read to him because he said that way he could better picture the events of the book. Highly recommend them for a summer goal.

    1. +1 For Freddie the Pig! We just stumbled on Freddy the Detective in the library, and they are delightful!

  8. My main “fun” goal this summer is to finish hiking at all of my state’s state parks with my dog. We have 25 state parks, and we’ve hiked at 14 so far, so I think it will be manageable to go to at least most of the remaining 11 this summer! I also plan to finish my 100 book reading challenge for 2020 over the summer, so I’ll be setting a new goal for myself, but can’t decide if I want to aim for 200 or push myself to try to read 250 this year.

  9. Hi Laura! Regarding the trade-off of taking your coffee outside…I’ve been pondering mornings ever since your post last week about working early. I did this for the first couple of weeks of the pandemic and then just didn’t feel up to it since once of my kids (and me) have been sick on and off and either not sleeping well or waking up early. Things have settled back down and I wanted to get back in the routine…but I kept resisting, thinking how I have such little time for myself and do I really want to spend it working? But nor do I want to spend it scrolling on my phone (which I am more likely to do). So, this may seem obvious, but I realized I could work SOME days and have “me time’ the other days. I am aiming for this schedule: M/F: do something towards my personal goals; T/Th: work tasks, and W: do something relaxing and not task-oriented in anyway. The weekend mornings I will try to spend some time with my spouse of if he is busy/unavailable I will do another relaxation time. I am an obliger so I’m not sure if I can keep it up but so far just writing the plan down in my planner has held me accountable.

  10. I am quite verbose today! I also wanted to say I recently listened to the New Corner office episode about “What if my co-workers are working more hours?” I would love it if you could write up some of these points in a blog post so I could send it along to ALL the working parents I know. I know I could send them the podcast but I think people would like to be able to read it too.

  11. Things are still quite uncertain here with when nursery will reopen – think 11 August at the earliest and maybe only part time. But I’m trying to think about how to make summer fun here, with myself, my husband, and my nearly-three year old. Right now, it appears to be spending money though…but all for active, fun things we enjoy and honestly, we’re not spending on anything else. I’m hoping we could get away to a cabin for a bit – even an hour away would be a welcome change.

    We’ve invested in a set up to let us pop our bikes on the car so we are ready when outdoors-y stuff opens up again. Plus a balance bike and a kid seat for my son so we can get out about.

    We’ve also made a big investment in our tiny garden – we all enjoy pottering around so much and our veggies and wildflower meadow are looking promising. I’d like to get some chairs as well.

    And I’ve been supporting my local indie bookshops. We’ve designated a fun money allowance for each of us, I spend mine on books, my husband is trying all of Scotland’s local distilleries.

  12. Thank you for sharing this list! I always enjoy seeing your lists and getting inspired to make my own. I had been feeling a little down about how this summer was just not going to be the same, but surprisingly there was only 1 item from last year’s summer list that I think will be impossible this year (taking in a show at a summer “tent theater” at our local university). Everything else is still do-able – catching fireflies, making s’mores, going floating, etc.

    1. @Sarah K – that’s great! And who knows, there may be some outdoor shows available over the summer. I’m sure if you’re on the look out you’ll be able to find something, if not in a tent.

  13. Always love your inspiring lists, Laura!
    For a signature drink, my new go-to is a like a “spicy, skinny margarita”:
    > Tequila
    > Lime juice, big squeeze of lime
    > Trader Joes jalapeno limeade
    > soda water or seltzer
    Light, refreshing, easy to drink, not too sugary. LMK what you think. Obviously requires a Trader Joes nearby.

  14. I like Jamie’s suggestion of an Aperol Spritz, but I have an amendment to suggest. I live in a hot tropical climate year-round and have found, by trial and error, a good workaround to the classic cocktail. Skip the Prosecco altogether – it adds a modicum of sweetness (and extra expense) to the drink and if you skip it, you don’t end up with a flat bottle of bubbles when you only want a glass here and there. Where I live, local oranges are super sweet and a good squeeze can simulate the Prosecco effects, but even without the oranges, a 1/4 Aperol and 3/4 soda water drink served over ice is a fabulous barely-sweet summer beverage. (Bonus – it looks like Orange Crush and tastes amazing with Kinder milk chocolate!)

  15. I came back to this blog after a long, covid-busy hiatus because I wanted to see the summer fun list 🙂 I was thinking about mine and having trouble coming up with anything. now I’m kind of realizing I had a pretty good list all along! We are doing a lake house with the inlaws; almost daily popsicles on the front porch swing, which we just hung up at our new house; just did our first “pool day” in the backyard wading pool; have a nice veggie garden going which I had originally deprioritized for this year before covid; neighborhood bike rides alternately with the trailer or the training wheels. Also I want to talk to the fam about a hiking goal, maybe make a list and try to hit all the county trails this summer, if they are up for it. No good coming up with that kind of goal myself. But hubs and I met hiking and it would be nice to get back to it now that the little legs are long enough to do 2-3 miles.

    1. Oh! And I think hubs would add: fishing and canoeing at our almost-next-door lake as a family. We didn’t do this at all last year, and it’s another activity that our daughter is just now old enough for.

      And I want to revisit my local used bookstore at least once now it’s back open with a cup of coffee from favorite coffee shop across the street. This is one of my favorite solo treats and considering I haven’t been anywhere since early March, nor alone at all except for running, that would feel totally luxurious and daring at this point.

      Sorry for the double post, didn’t realize this got me on a roll. Thanks for the pick-me-up!

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