Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer in a Bucket (List)

 JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's now two weeks after Memorial Day, and no one could say it's not truly summertime. The temperatures in the Northeast have risen into the 70s, college graduations are over and high schoolers will finish marching across the stage this week. Kids are squirming in their seats as the end of the school year nears. Seasonal attractions have reopened, women are pulling out their sandals and getting pedicures, and Farmers Markets are swinging into high gear. Summer!

The possibilities for trips, activities and things to do are endless, and, unfortunately, I often find by Labor Day that I've let a lot of those possibilities slip through my fingers. So this year, I've decide to make a summer bucket list (not that I expect to kick the bucket at the end. It's a sand bucket. On a beach.) I'm going to write down the things I want to do, and as events pop up in the newspaper or opportunities present themselves, I will act on them - buying tickets, making reservation, confirming with friends - and add the events to my calendar. There are always constraints of money, or time, or availability, but I'm not going to qualify any of the items on my list, because once you start to add "if I can afford it" or "when a slot opens" you're already halfway to forgetting about what you wanted to do in the first place. So here's my initial list:Attend a Sea Dogs game. The local AA team plays great baseball - several Sea Dogs alums have gone up to the majors - and is a fun, inexpensive day out.


See at least two Shakespeare plays. We have the fabulous Theater at Monmouth within an easy drive, as well as Fenix Theater performing in Deering Oaks Park in Portland and MaineStage Shakespeare in Kennebunk. The latter two are free! No reason not to catch Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, The Winter's Tale or A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Wiggle my toes in the sand at Old Orchard Beach. Stroll the Boardwalk. Give Youngest money to ride the rides while the rest of us gorge on sausages, fries, and fried dough.

Thrillerfest in New York City!


Float with friends down the Saco River. It's literally less than 200 yards from my house. In a related vein:

Invite folks over to barbeque. We've always struggled with a beautiful yard and garden area that had nowhere to host grilling parties. No more! Ross and The Boy have already broken ground on a slate patio large enough for a fire pit on one end and the grill and its acoutrements on the other. I can taste those burgers already.

I can think of more, but that's enough to be getting on with. How about you Reds? What;s on your list for summer?

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel.

Is that a little obsessive? OK, swim in ocean off Naranganset with the family, have a lobster roll at Aunt Carrie's, staycation in NYC (housesitting a Tribeca loft large enough to roller-skate in) and take Kiddo to see Les Miz for the first time. Watch fireflies in the courtyard at dusk! 

LUCY BURDETTE: Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel LOL! Also brainstorm new projects. Visit John's family in Maine. Visit friends at Long Pond, MA. Make choux puff pastry stuffed with coffee creme and covered with chocolate or caramel. Read more--yikes if you could only see my pile!! Play a little golf. Have a drink or two at the beach. In other words, find time to relax:).


HALLIE EPHRON: Wish we had fireflies... when I was in Ohio last summer they were everywhere and it was magical.

This is a good exercise, because the only summer list I’d made so far goes like this: 1) replace the washing machine 2) get new garage doors 3) paint the house 4) replace the heating system 5) replace the storm door …
In between I hope to have some fun, starting with food: - Steamers and a lobster roll and onion rings from Tony’s Clam Shop on Wollaston Beach
- Burnt caramel ice cream from Toscanini’s in Cambridge
- My mother’s barbecued spareribs made here at home
- Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, and corn, corn, corn when the local crops comes up
I’m won’t be at Thrillerfest but I will be at Book Passage’s Mystery Writing Conference in Corte Madera and Writer’s Digest’s annual conference in New York. 

The icing on this particular cake will be my high school reunion in Beverly Hills – probably a genuine bucket list item.


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel. I will be SO happy when I do!

We have a backyard pool, and one of the best things about summer is getting a blow-up raft, and a book, and some frozen lemonade. You clamber onto the raft, and read, floating around the pool, looking up through the tall leafy trees to the blue sky. It is so peaceful!
We are going out to Tanglewood in August, to hear the Boston symphony (including YoYo Ma playing Bach!) We're heading to the Cape for a weekend with friends, and will have a dinner in P'town.  And I have SO many book events! Love that. I'll be at Thrillerfest, but only on Friday. No time!

I cannot wait for the delicious tomatoes and corn--we love to grill them outside. And the kids are coming for the 4th of July-so we'll have  lobsters and champagne and proseco and  watch the fireworks from the Esplanade.

Oh, Hallie, I went to our 40th reunion like, ten years ago. I walked in, took one look and remember thinking: "Oh, I'm in the wrong place. These are all somebody's parents!"

But I really have to finish the book. And 2 short stories. I will be SO happy when I do!

JULIA: Hank, I'm coming down to your house to make sure you actually get into the pool this summer!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel.... LOL. Actually, it's not due until October 1st, but that doesn't mean that I don't have to write like it's due September 1st, as damned slow as I am. BUT, I am not traveling, I have a brand new gorgeous flagstone patio and new landscaping, and I mean to enjoy them!

In fact, Julia, I crossed several things off my summer bucket list this past weekend: 1)Visiting Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas. This new park is built OVER the freeway, and it's incredibly cool. My daughter took me for a birthday lunch at the restaurant in the park and it was amazing. I want to go back with at least one of the dogs and sample things from the many food trucks. 2) On Saturday we had a barbecue and sat on the deck and new patio. Julia, I hope you like yours as much!  3) On Sunday, I took a real day off. Did only minimal chores, read some of the NYT (which has been piling up for a couple of months), sat on the aforementioned patio in the cool morning shade with a cup of tea, watching the dogs play, AND best of all, I spent an hour in my hammock, just looking at the trees overhead. Absolute bliss.

So I want to do all of these things some more. And make homemade lemonade and root beer floats. I want to take a photo of the Sno Cone stand down the street just at dusk. I want to sit on the front porch and watch the fireflies, ditto a summer storm. I want to watch fireworks on the 4th (we totally missed it last year...) , and I want to go to the wonderful farmer's market here early on Saturday mornings.

Hank, I am so envious that you are getting to see YoYo Ma play Bach... 

JULIA: I, too, have to finish novel, finish novel, finish novel. Sadly, it's not a special summertime event - as I tell my students, being an author is like having a term paper due...forever. If anyone from my publishing house or my agency is reading this, rest assured that I'll only just slip in my summer bucket list items between relentless bouts of writing!

How about you, dear readers? What's on your list for summer?


  1. Ah, the joys of summer. For me, it’s mostly simple pleasures: reading, reading, reading . . . family barbeques and making blueberry pot pie . . . walking the boardwalk . . . Sunset Beach . . . fireworks . . . wandering through the local farmer’s market . . . a little stargazing.

  2. Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel! Corn and tomatoes. Pick blueberries. Take a late-day picnic dinner, a book, and a flask of white wine to the beach. Plus I have two great retreats planned with fellow authors - kicking it off with all the Wicked Cozy Authors and Ray Daniel at New England Mobile Book Fair this Thursday (you should all come!), then the Wickeds go to Old Orchard Beach for the weekend. In July Tiger Wiseman is opening her Vermont house to me, Sheila Connolly, and Julie Hennrikus for a weeklong writing reatreat. Can't wait.


  3. Julia, I did exactly what you you're talking about for the exact reasons.

    Summers are short here, and some years before we've done most of the things we've talked about wanting to do it's snowing again and it's too late.

    So, we've planned and made reservations for a few things right up through the end of October, starting today.

    Today I take my first flute lesson and will be doing this weekly through the summer and through the fall. And one of these days I'll be joining YoYo Ma on the stage at Tanglewood.

    Also on this list is a trip to Atlanta for a visit with dear friends, some over-nighters in Asheville, a week at Topsail Island with an overnight stop with friends Joe & Margaret on the way, and a long weekend in Beaufort, SC for the Pat Conroy 70th Birthday Celebration which is going to include events with some of my favorite southern writers.

    We're also going to make sure we spend some time doing things here at home that we sometimes don't embrace like we should. Boone and Blowing Rock have adorable downtown areas with wonderful galleries filled with amazing art by local folks. Unfortunately, many of them are only open "seasonally," so this year I'm determined to visit and enjoy before the season comes to an end and they're locked up again until next May. We have a delightful little farmer's market that's only open on Saturdays during the summer, there's Art in the Park which is one weekend a month through October, there's the Moses Cone Mansion which will close up the end of October - and we're going to do all these things, have already done some and intend to enjoy them until they all close down again for the winter.

    For work related things - I heard back over the weekend that I had a short piece accepted for publication in an anthology, another piece which is out that I should hear about this month, and a piece I just sent off yesterday with fingers crossed. And I'm working on two manuscripts.

  4. Sounds wonderful Joan! how is a blueberry pot pie different from a regular pie?

    Edith, those retreats sound terrific. are you doing mostly writing? or brainstorming?

  5. Writing, writing, writing. At Old Orchard we ignore each other all day, and then over dinner and wine we talk blog business, publishing business, and so on. One year on Sunday we did a little Scrivener workshop. The beach is only a few blocks away for long plotting walks, too.

  6. I hate summer. Hate hate hate. So I usually work work work and try not to go outside between 9:00 and 9:00. We live near the beaches but don't go between Memorial Day and Labor Day because of the crowds. So my summertime SOP is hole up and wait for it to be over.

    This year, however, my mother-in-law is coming for a week. She usually comes at Thanksgiving, but after 25+ years of having her with us on turkey day, she decided traveling up here that weekend from Tennessee was too hard. SO, we're having Thanksgiving in July. Turkey, dressing, turkey china and linens, the works. That can be our summertime thing now.

  7. Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel. I'm on the home stretch to get it to my betas by month's end, then will have another month to polish before due date. Keeping my head down right now.

    In between and after due date? Swim in the ocean as many times as possible. Hike some new and old favorite trails. Yes, Roberta, play some golf (last year I think I played one round all summer!) Eat dinner on the deck on weeknights. Stay on top of the garden. And eat lobster, lobster, lobster.

  8. Ramona,

    Is it just the crowds? Or something else that you dislike about the season? Maybe we should do another group chat - "Things I hate about summer." No. 1? Ticks!

  9. I ripped out the carpet in the back hall and down the basement stairs some months ago (the dog had decided to mark it). The floors don't lend themselves to sanding (too old, too warped), so I installed self-stick tiles on the back hall/landing over Memorial Day weekend. (This involved pulling out staples, scrubbing, de-scenting, sealing, painting the riser that abuts it, and then fitting the tiles to the odd corners. But it looks great.) I figure I can do one step each week all summer and have the stairs done by Labor Day. One step at a time.

    I went to a college reunion in New York last weekend and got stuck in the City for an extra two days due to weather and Southwest Airlines. Luckily I have friends in the city with whom I can stay, so the only real cost was the wasted round trip to LaGuardia on Sunday. And I got to see two old friends and a great museum exhibit and took the M-60 bus out to the airport (senior fare: $1.35).

    Now the summer is mine, at least until a wedding in Florida over Labor Day weekend! This year I intend to get the garden in as well as the stair flooring, and perhaps paint the back fence (where is Tom Sawyer when you need him?) And work out some plots while I do those things.

    And eat ice cream. A lot of ice cream. Yesterday was National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, a fitting kickoff!

  10. Finish my edits, for sure! And more baseball (AA, AAA, majors - doesn't matter) - we didn't see ANY games last year. So sad.

    Trying very hard to follow up on my promise to learn to garden (haven't gotten to the "enjoy gardening" part yet).

    I just started making a list of activities for a week with our 18-month-old grandson (the week after he goes home is for recuperating!).

    More grilling out, too. The grill didn't see much use last year.

    And Hallie, come back to Ohio! The fireflies are out already. ;-)

  11. Julia, crowds at Delaware beaches between the anchor holidays (Memorial Day and Labor Day) are horrific. We used to go for a week and day trips when the children were young. Now, we do May or September. September at the beach is fabulous. December at the beach is awesome. I try to get down for a winter weekend once or twice a year.

    I'm just not a summer person. I hate the heat. Again, when kids were young, we did the swim club and I spent lots of time at swim meets. They were fun, but I'm glad they are over!

  12. Having a term paper due forever! That's so perfect--and it's the good news, right??

    I saw a thing on TV about the synchronous fireflies in North Carolina. Amazing! Anyone ever seen them?

  13. I wish it was finish novel, but I'll be at the day job. And swim meets. My son is traveling three weeks (2 in June, 1 in July--including his birthday week) for Boy Scouts, so someone has to stay home and man the fort. And keep my soon-to-be-15 (gulp) year old out of trouble.

    I'm not that displeased. It means I get to spend time on my front porch, reading, and watching fireflies. Not a bad deal.

    Enjoy that new flagstone patio!

  14. I'm with Ramona on hating crowds and heat (and humidity and bugs) but I do love being able to sit out on the screen porch and read. My summer writing challenge is researching and starting to write two new books, one the first in a new, as yet unsold series. I'm doing more traveling than usual, including out to Denver in a couple of weeks to the Historical Novel Society conference, and more group things here in Maine with fellow writers. Love being at events and conferences. Hate the travel hassles. My bucket item comes at the very end of the summer. I'm driving back to my old home town for my 50th high school reunion . . . on my own. Doesn't sound like that big a deal, but trust me, it is.


  15. I've never seen synchronous fireflies here, Hank, (at least not that I know of - how would one know?) but Boone has the distinct honor of being known as "The Firefly Capital of the World."

  16. Lucy:
    Despite the name, Blueberry Pot Pie is not really pie at all; it's blueberries and sweet dumplings.

  17. OK, I'm glad there are other "finish novel" obsessive-compulsives reading! And other lovers of fireflies, as well.... Julia, it IS like a term paper that never ends, isn't it? But I've promised myself a week off when I hand it in to my editor....

  18. What wonderful summer plans everyone has. Mine are simple, start the third book in my series and DIVE, DIVE, DIVE -preferably in Marathon, FL. Oh, that's scuba diving, not board diving - which I have always been too chicken to do.

  19. Finish reading novels, finish reading novels, finish reading novels. Seriously, my TBR pile is just mushrooming. It's not even funny.

    I hope to hit my pool more often and keep up my longish running (5 or 6 miles) once a week while still playing lots of ultimate Frisbee. And I've got another couple mud runs set up. I'm hoping to hit the beach a couple of times, but those tend to be solo trips, so we'll see if it happens or not. These days, if friends aren't involved, I tend to stay on the couch.

    Oh, and I desperately need a new couch.

  20. Julia, I tried to add to this topic but my internet in Corfu is spotty to say the least I had my piece all written then hit SAVE and nothing happened. Tried a few times and had to abandon it. I hope to be better connected by the next conversation.

    But since I'm enjoying summer by a beach at this moment, this will be MY summer. When I get back I have to turn in one book and start on the next. But I do plan to go to the pool every day and get to the beach/nature at least once a week.

  21. Joan, gave you give us the blueberry pot pie recipe? Texas blueberries are coming into season!!!

  22. I'm fairly certain that this summer is going to fly by in a flash. With travel, working still going on in my house, and reading for Bouchercon, I'm already scrambling to find time when my granddaughters' busy summer schedule and mine will allow for some sleepovers for us. I am more at their mercy, as I'm willing to change most things for the grands.

    This week I'm going to my son's for his birthday, and after a couple of days with him, I will go on to visit my brother and sister and some friends in my hometown. Get back in time to get carpet laid in my bedroom next week, which, of course involves furniture moving (got my guys lined up). Then work on clearing out son's old room for painting and carpeting later. Go to Hawaii first of July for 10 days. Come back and have carpet laid in another bedroom. Try to take a short trip to hometown with my daughter and the granddaughters. Time for school to start, a granddaughter's birthday. Girls from hometown want to take a trip to Savannah, don't know if I can make that. Get work in house finished!!! Read, read, read for Bouchercon!

  23. Read, read, read. Lay low and hide. Too many family obligations right now. I am in a curl up and hope no one sees me mode today. I don't wish to be a buzzkill and lay it all on you. I do plan to go to the Fayette county fair in LaGrange (sister lives around there) beginning of September. Their big show this year is ZZ Top. Hooray! Last year it was Merle Haggard. My husband and I almost made it on vacation last month but his dad had a fall at home and we had to rush back. Still waiting for that damn vacation but it's going to be a while. Houston is miserably hot and humid in the summertime, so I am not a summer lover. Let's end this rant on a high note: I am going on a tour to India in October with a good friend of mine from Ohio. We wants our adventure!

  24. Finish novel, finish novel, finish novel by end of August. Have six of my nine grandchildren home at various times and also all three children. Oldest grandchild will be with me for a month....Yay. Good opportunity to read "Ann of Green Gables" with her since Hallie Ephron said it was her fav and I never read it as a child. Go to Lincoln Museum in Springfield, another thing I have missed. Read, read, read.

  25. Here's the [super-easy, super-yummy] Blueberry Pot Pie recipe:

    In a Dutch oven, combine:
    3 cups washed, sorted blueberries
    1/2 cup water
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon butter
    Over medium heat, stirring as needed to dissolve sugar, heat to boiling point

    While blueberries heat, prepare dumpling dough . . .
    Combine and mix to a soft dough:
    1-1/2 cups sifted flour
    2 level teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup sugar
    3/4 cup milk

    When berry mixture comes to a boil, lower heat to simmer
    Drop dumplings by spoonfuls over berries
    Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes
    Cover pot; cook 10 minutes longer without removing cover

    To serve:
    Place dumpling in bowl, cover with blueberries; serve warm.

  26. Thanks, Joan! I'm going to make this as soon as we start getting blueberries by the quart.

    I will do anything for hot cook fresh blueberries, by the way, just in case anyone ever wants to bribe me....

  27. I turned in my book to my editor last week so this week is all about READING and being a mama. Soon, I'll get my edit letter and then copyedits and do those. I love summer.

  28. Nothing wrong with a hot cook, Debs!

  29. One year, too long ago, I took Steve to see Yo-Yo Ma at the Boston Symphony for his birthday. He was great. Pure enjoyment.