2018 Summer Mini-Bucket List

 
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I’ve always loved summer, especially when my kiddos were school-aged.  The Fun Fridays, endless pool days, library reading challenges, and impromptu meet-ups with cousins to tour potato chip factories or play in the park filled our days with fun and created wonderful memories.  Now that I’m a parent of two young adults and a teenager who is driving, the structure of the summer months has morphed into something entirely different and it still feels a little weird to me.

High school and college are finished for the year so the kids are technically enjoying a break, although it doesn’t feel like it.  Julia is studying abroad in Italy this month and we only speak to her a few nights a week for a few minutes.  When she returns, she’ll be working and probably spending a lot time with her boyfriend.  Mark is working full time for a landscaper friend of ours during the day and his evenings are dedicated to his girlfriend or to fishing with his brother. And Aaron, who would love to find a job, prefers fishing or watching Netflix with a certain girl with very long hair and glasses to hanging out with his mom.

I’m being left to my own devices this summer and it’s a bittersweet experience.  While I’m sad that the years of corralling and entertaining little people are over, I’m enjoying the experience of watching my children grow into their capable and independent adult selves.  I’m also really looking forward to some me time this summer, which brings me, finally, to the reason for this post.  It’s time for my annual Summer Mini-Bucket List.

This year I’m taking my inspiration from Tsh Oxenrider of The Simple Show, a podcast I occasionally listen to.  The theme for June is Grown-Upping the Summer and Tsh and her co-host Kendra Adachi talk about ways to have a personally enjoyable and productive summer without losing your mind.  In the first podcast of the series, Tsh outlines four categories that provide the framework for her low-key summer goals.  The categories are: 1) Something to learn, 2) Something to enjoy, 3) Something good for me, and 4) Something to finish.  These mesh well with my own summer goal philosophy so I’ve decide to build my mini-bucket list around her framework.  (Note: I have added one additional goal: Some way to serve).

After considering these categories and my own expectations and hopes for the summer, I came up with this list:

2018 Summer Mini-Bucket List

  1. Something to learn:  Learn how to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the piano.  I just bought the sheet music for this lovely arrangement and I’d like to take time to learn it well and maybe even memorize it.
  2. Something to enjoy:  Voracious reading for pleasure.  No surprises here, I know, but I have been doing so much hard reading lately for the Challies 2018 Reading Challenge and for work that I need a break.  I am only going to read what thrills me this summer.  Period.
  3. Something good for me.  Walk 10 miles a week.  The goal here is to get outside, indulge in the pleasure of moving my body and reap some health benefits.
  4. Something to finish.  Finish decorating the dining room.  Originally I was going to say “Hem the drapes in the dining room”, but that would only be a partial finish because we still need a carpet and wall sconces and a plant and a photograph framed and hung.  With this in mind, the actual goal includes putting all the finishing touches on the dining room.
  5. Some way to serve:  Prepare and deliver meals for people in need.  I am part of a group at my church that prepares meals and takes them to individuals who have recently had surgery or welcomed a new baby into their family.  Because of my work schedule most of the year, I can only infrequently sign up for a meal.  This summer, every time an opportunity arises, I am going to sign up and make it work with my schedule.

This is a short list, especially compared to some of my previous summer mini-bucket lists, but it feels just right for this time in my life.  It’s eminently doable, totally low stress, and just makes me happy.  It also provides plenty of breathing space for all the other serendipitous and wonderful things this summer might have to offer.  I think I’ll get started right away with a good book and a beverage on the front porch.

Do you make any goals or bucket lists for the summer?  Please share.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ooh, Shiny!

What is the thing that repeatedly catches my attention and has me grabbing my camera for yet another photo?  The equivalent to the squirrel that is forever distracting Dug in the movie Up?  The theme in over 20% of the photos on my cell phone?

The sky.

I have a fascination with what is happening in the wild blue yonder and regularly point my camera upward to capture the ephemeral drama.  I’ve chosen a sampling to illustrate my addiction.  (They are cell phone images so the quality may be a bit questionable.)

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WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:  Ooh, Shiny!

Small Pleasures: June 2017 Edition

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Once again, I’m taking a moment to linger over the little joys in life that have enhanced my recent everyday like frosting on a cupcake.   Or, like fresh flowers in a vintage vase…

June’s Small Pleasures

  1. Father Brown mysteries.  My daughter and I were suffering from Phryne Fisher withdrawal so we started trolling Netflix for some kind of substitute.  Enter Father Brown, a cozy mystery series based on the G.K. Chesterton character of the same name.  This series is based in a quaint English village in what looks like the early 1950’s and is filled with interesting characters and entertaining plotlines.  Father Brown, a priest and amateur sleuth played by Mark Williams of Arthur Weasley/Harry Potter fame, solves an inordinate amount of murders in his parish and surrounding environs with dogged determination and a pleasing amount of grace and compassion.  The show is light-hearted in general but offers a surprisingly hefty dose of legitimate, accurate Christian theology.  We’re currently on the 5th (and last season), so I’m open to any other suggestions for our next Netflix marathon.
  2. Berry season.  Strawberries, blueberries, and those elusive and delicate black raspberries.  These delicious gems have been the bright spot in my recent Whole 30 attempt.  I’ve eaten so many strawberries this past month, it’s a wonder I don’t look like one.
  3. Having Fridays off from work.  One of my most favorite perks of my job as a professor is a four day work week with Fridays off during the summer semester.  Three day weekends for 12 weeks straight!  What’s not to love about that, I ask?
  4. Greenglass House by Kate Milford and Far Far Away by Tom McNeal.  In my opinion, summer books should be fun reading.  Give me an interesting plot, quirky characters, a mystery or two and a pinch (or dollop) of the fantastical, and I’m all in.  With this in mind, let me recommend Greenglass House (a middle grade book I listened to) and Far Far Away (a YA book I read). Each provided me with hours of delightful bookish entertainment in June.  I’m not going to say anything about either of the books – you’ll get the most benefit if you go in blind.  Just trust me when I say, “Read them”.  You won’t be disappointed.
  5. When the Night Comes by Dan Auerbach.  The perfect summer-evening-on-the-porch song.  I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of listening to it.

Now it’s your turn.  Any small pleasures you are currently enjoying?  Please share in the comments.

 

 

Small Pleasures: April 2017 Edition

April ended up being a month of utter craziness at work.  To buffer the effects of all that stress, I indulged in a lot of escapist activities at home.  This translated mostly into reading (or listening to) lots of books, watching stuff on Netflix, and eating too much junk food.  Most of the small pleasures on my list this month are derived from these self-indulgent activities.  I can’t really say how helpful all the culture consumption was for my unruly stress levels but it sure was fun!

  1. Sing (2016).  Last weekend, my husband and sons went with my dad to his cabin in the mountains to do some trout fishing.  This left my daughter, Julia, and me to fend for ourselves as best we could.  This basically meant lying on the sectional in the basement bingeing on movies and mini-series.  (It was glorious.)  Sing was the first movie we watched.  The general gist: anthropomorphic animals participate in a singing contest that’s designed to save an old theater from being repossessed by the bank.  The animation is fabulous, the characters are comical and endearing, and the music is energetic and uplifting.  Sing is an adorable, entertaining piece of fluff and sometimes that’s just the thing when life gets too serious.
  2. North & South (2004).  I love a good period drama based on literature and the BBC cranks out the very best.  My all time favorite miniseries is Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  But, a very close second is North & South with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe which is based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskill.  This is one instance in which the movie outshines the book by a long shot. So much chemistry and repressed passion vibrate between Margaret Hale and John Thornton that I think I could watch the last scene over and over without ever tiring of it.  It pushes all my romantic buttons.  Julia watched this for the first time with me in April and she loved it, too.
  3. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  During the couch potato fest I mentioned above, Julia and I stumbled upon this Australian series on Netflix.  The series is based on the books by Kerry Greenwood and revolves around the exploits of lady private detective Phryne Fisher in 1920s Melbourne.  There is so much to love about this show: the sumptuous costumes (I’ll take every pair of Phryne’s shoes), the storylines, and the characters and their relationships to one another.  There are three seasons worth of viewing pleasure and we’ve been tearing through episodes.  Finding this gem is the happiest accident of the month and escapist indulgence at its best.
  4. News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  This book.  It has everything I need for the perfect reading experience: memorable characters who demonstrate growth, a strong sense of time and place, an interesting storyline with layered themes, beautiful writing.  It’s the best book I’ve read so far this year.  So. Very. Good.

The following small pleasures simply increase my general happiness quotient but aren’t specifically related to escaping stress …

  1. What Should I Read Next (WSIRN) podcast.  This weekly podcast is so much fun! Every Tuesday, Anne Bogel (a.k.a. Modern Mrs. Darcy) interviews one guest about three books they love, one book they hate and what they are currently reading.  Anne then offers the guest three suggestions for what to read next.  The conversations are always interesting and informative and now my TBR pile is completely out of control.  I also read the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog regularly for book suggestions.  The Summer Reading Guide is coming out in a few weeks and I can’t wait!  Both the podcast and the blog take me to my bookish happy place.
  2. Lamb Loves Fox and trois petits oiseaux Flickr feeds.  Other than photographing my travel adventures, I haven’t been spending much quality time with my camera.  That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and be inspired by other photographers’ work.  Visiting Lamb Loves Fox and trois petits oiseaux always makes me smile and fills me with just a little awe.  The photos are artful and whimsical and precious.  And often chuckle-inducing…

Now it’s your turn.  What small pleasures help you manage all the stress?

Summer Mini-Bucket List

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Ah, Summer!  I love your long days, relaxed pace, and the opportunities you provide to do most of my living outdoors.  With your arrival, my schedule loosens up, travel adventures commence, and I can reconnect with my family over campfires and hikes in the woods.  You are the long-awaited, extended vacation of my overly-ordered, hectic year.

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Each summer I make a list of fun goals I’d like to accomplish and activities I’d like to experience during the season.  Having a bit of a plan protects me from waking up one morning in September, realizing that summer has slipped away and I missed its unique opportunities because I was too caught up in the minutiae of living.  This summer, my bucket list touches on a few bigger, long term goals but is mostly light-hearted and fun.  I can’t wait to get started.

Summer 2016 Mini-Bucket List

  1. Visit a historical site I’ve never been to beforePoplar Forest (Thomas Jefferson’s vacation home) and Fort Ticonderoga are possibilities based on vacation plans.
  2. Spend a day with each of my children doing whatever their hearts desire.  I have a feeling there’s a lot of fishing in my future.
  3. Offer three different invites for dinner on the patio to friends we would like to get to know better.  I’ve been convicted of my stinginess with my time and this is a small way for me to practice generosity and hospitality.
  4. Try a new homemade ice cream recipe. Strawberry, maybe? Or peach? Or salted caramel?
  5. Go to a major league baseball game.  It’s been a few years and the Phillies are actually playing pretty well so far this season.
  6. Take a road trip.  Is it cheating to put this on my list when I already have the road trips planned?  My husband and I will be driving the Blue ridge Parkway at the end of June and in August the family will cruise to the Adirondacks.
  7. Enjoy some time in my kayak.  My husband bought me a kayak two years ago and I have yet to use it.  It’s about time I took the opportunity to enjoy a float down the Conestoga.
  8. Swim in a lake.  I haven’t done this in years and I think the Adirondacks will be the perfect place to jump in.
  9. Participate in a service project with my family.  I’m not sure what form this activity will take but it should be a great bonding experience for us that also benefits others.
  10. Read or listen to 12 books.  That’s about 4 books a month.  Piece of cake!  I want to keeping plugging away at the Popsugar Reading Challenge and also read some books just for the fun of it.  It is summer, after all, and summer reading should never be a chore.
  11. Walk 108 miles (3 miles, 3 times a week for 12 weeks).   My health and well-being are worth this little bit of time investment.  Besides, I often listen to books when I walk – more story time for me.
  12. Sit on the porch or patio late in the evening with Jay as many nights as possible, listening to nature’s music and talking over our little and big dreams. 

Welcome, Summer!  Stay as long as you like.

Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish this summer?