Summer Checklist 2018

summer checklist

Super great news – my first year at my doctorate program is over! While we only had about one month off last summer, we were blessed with 10 days off between the spring semester and the summer session, and we’ll get TWO WHOLE MONTHS off this coming summer.

With wedding planning in full swing and a bunch of projects on my list, the timing couldn’t be better. If you remember, I made a summer checklist last year and managed to finish most of it – but not all. Here’s what I hope to accomplish with my time off this summer:

1. Wedding Lawn Games DIY
This is a biggie. Our wedding is in October, in a huge field behind a gorgeous barn, and the entire setup was designed to accommodate lawn games galore for our guests to enjoy until twilight hits. On the list? Mr. & Mrs. Cornhole, Ring Toss for the kids, Giant Jenga. Stay tuned.

2. Finish our Farmer’s Porch
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Last year, I started painting our farmer’s porch with a haight-style blue on the ceiling, and my grand plans were going just fine until Mike proposed (not a bad distraction!) With a half-painted ceiling and a still-chipping floor, it’s fair to say that NO progress has been made in the last 6 months on this project, especially with summer weather hitting so late here in RI.

Goal for this project – July 4th.

3. Start and Maintain a Perennial Garden
I have always wanted to keep a flower garden, and this was never possible in NYC with my minimal apartment space and non-existent yard. I dug out a small garden last year and planted some hosta and hydrangea, just to test and see if the soil would keep for flowers this year.

IT DID!

This year, I planted a ton of different perennials, and I can’t wait until they bloom – IF they bloom! I’m so excited to share the progress I’ve made with my lillies, roses, and other plants this summer.

4. Refurbish a Found Park Bench
At the start of the summer, our neighborhood associated voted to replace the benches along our walking path. However, the bench at the end of our street, though rusted and a bit worn, was in perfectly good working condition. Mike, our neighbors, and I have taken this bench under our care and have decided to refurbish it to enjoy in our own yard.

It’s going to be beautiful – black metal supports with an early American oak style for the wood slats. We’d love to have this one done by the 4th as well to accommodate our guests for the fireworks.

5. Read 2-3 Books for Pleasure
During the school year, I resent reading a bit. Articles upon articles loaded with statistics and scientific writing have made me lose a bit of my luster for a good book. This summer, there are a few books I’d love to read – in particular, the new Gillian Flynn book that they’re making into the HBO Show, Sharp Objects. Beach reads a-go-go!

6. Master the At-Home Workout Routine
Now that I’m teaching spin classes 4 times a week at a local studio, I barely have time to enjoy the other workouts I love during the school year, like running and TRX. With the wedding coming up I’m feeling the heat when it comes to “bride body,” and I’m hoping this free summer will give me the opportunity to enjoy more of the workouts I love. We also just purchased a new paddleboard, which I’m excited to learn how to use and get some of that core strength I’ve always been lacking!

7. Eat More Protein
Along those same lines, Mike has been totally revamping his diet and has seen a ton of success losing weight and recomposing his figure. I hope to do the same in the coming months before the wedding, and beyond – especially since I’ve just found out I have Celiac Disease (more on that later). Protein has always been a struggle for me, but we’ve found a few ways to inject more protein into every meal that I’m excited to share.

8. Get Organized!
The forever task. There’s SO MUCH STUFF in our house, and the collection keeps on growing. A MAJOR task that we started this winter that I’m hoping to finish is our basement. When I say that it’s literally a pile of tools, surfboards, boat accessories and garden supplies, I’m not exaggerating. Things keep piling up, and there’s a lot of potential with the space. A big goal for Mike this summer is to make that space functional for us to take on more DIY projects – like the homemade bar cart he’s hoping to construct in the fall.

9. Find 3 New Go-To Recipes
A goal I always like to set myself each season is to find go-to recipes that are easy to put together for either me or Mike that we both actually like, that’s healthy and clean, and now that I’ve got this new dietary condition, that’s gluten free. I’ve always eaten gluten free because the diet makes me feel better – even my mood! – but now that it’s more medically necessary, I’m looking at this change as an opportunity to really refine my skills in the kitchen.

10. Redecorate our Bedroom
Last but not least – the bedroom. We recently built our own platform bed from scratch and it really upgraded the look of the room. Between that and the dresser I repurposed to be more “nautical” last year, the room is coming together. It’s a weirdly shaped space, and a lot of it is empty now that we’ve also removed a set of twin bunk beds that used to live there. My mission – make our room a cozy hangout spot for us and Reese Witherspoon the dog to rest in.

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Bridesmaid Proposal Pinatas

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Anyone who knows me knows that, for a while there, I fell deep into the recent unicorn craze. That’s why, when I asked my 8 bridesmaids to be in my wedding, I chose these precious unicorn pinatas! (Purchased, as always, on Etsy.)

Each pinata had inside it starburst candies, pink and white tissue paper confetti, glitter gold diamond ring confetti, and homemade wedding confetti I drew up. (Super easy – word doc, scroll font, wedding buzzwords like the town you’ll be married in, “Maid of Honor,” “Bridesmaid,” and your wedding date – cut out and accordion folded.)

Alongside the candy and confetti I included a personal note to each girl, written on these beautiful mini letterpress cards from Missive.

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These mini pinatas were such a hit, and a great way to send a little celebration along with the sentiment of asking my closest friends to share my special day.cropped-profile_picture_symbol

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Traveling Arizona: Phoenix, Prescott, & Sedona By Land and By Air

Recently, Mike’s job took him to Arizona for a meeting of the minds and, since I was on Spring Break during that week, I tagged along to get some sun while Rhode Island got hit by its FOURTH Nor’Easter in a row. If you’ve never been to Arizona, I highly recommend this state for domestic travel. This was my 4th or 5th time there, and it’s still one of my favorite states to visit. The weather is always beautiful, the people are so nice, and the landscapes CANNOT be beat.

This trip, I had this pleasure of going to three cities, with some surprises in each! Mike’s meeting was in Prescott, but due to weather, he flew out early and stayed in Phoenix, where the weather was the complete opposite (80’s and sunny). Prescott is 2 hours north, and the weather was still in the 30’s, so I decided to stay in Phoenix an extra day before meeting Mike at night after his meetings the next day. Our original plan was to head to the Grand Canyon, but we decided to head back to Phoenix after the conference, since northern Arizona had forecasted snow, the sole reason I had left Rhode Island in the first place!  Here’s a look at some of the great experiences we had in the West.

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Stonington Vineyards – Surprise Party on a Budget

Wine and cheese plates are sort of my family’s “thing.” In a time when other families packed tuna sandwiches and PBJ’s, my parents were packing entire charcuterie boards in the picnic cooler, with multiple types of cheese, crackers, grapes and meats.

That’s why this year, when my mom turned 60 (sorry mom!), we decided to throw her a surprise bash at Stonington Vineyards, a local winery that receives nothing but rave reviews.

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Picture from Stonington Vineyards site

It was a perfect day – 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, the quintessential Rhode Island Indian Summer. Mom had no idea, either…. she thought that just our immediate family was going out to eat somewhere outdoors, and wasn’t expecting a party of 10 waiting for her around the corner!

The winery was so accommodating. We had initially booked a tasting, thinking the event would take place outside — all of the wineries I have been to (on Long Island) did outdoor tastings, so I didn’t think about it when I booked the reservation! When we found out the event would be indoors, we decided to skip at the last minute in favor of sitting with our huge wine and “nosh” spread on the porch. Cancelling so last minute wasn’t a problem at all, and we went ahead and got a big sampling of their full range of wines.

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It was a rose kind of day, but by far the favorite was the Seaport White, a reasonably priced white blend that even the non-wine-drinkers enjoyed.

I didn’t get the chance to snap a photo, but here’s what I included in my spread… a massive, high quality charcuterie spread for 11 people that cost me less than $100!

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A Day on Block Island

Like I mentioned in my post about the day trip we recently took to Newport, August was absolutely amazing in Rhode Island this year. We couldn’t have asked for better weather! So when a close friend from high school planned a visit back to her home state (all the way from Washington State!), we knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity to bring her husband to one of our favorite places – Block Island.

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If you’ve never heard of Block Island, I wouldn’t be surprised. Surrounded by more famed summer sites – Newport, Montauk, and Fisher’s Island – the Block is an undervalued beach vacation site in the Sound. In fact, the Nature Conservancy placed Block Island on its list of “The Last Great Places,” alongside only 11 other beautiful spots in the Western Hemisphere.

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Upper deck seats on the Block Island Ferry

The usual (and cheapest) way to get to Block Island is by ferry.  The ride takes off in Point Judith, with a traditional ferry ride taking an hour and a high-speed ride cutting that time in half. Having done it so many times in my life, I often take for granted the sights around me. I usually spend my time perched up on the top deck, taking in the morning sun while we cross the Sound.

Most people who arrive by ferry instead of personal boat stay in Old Harbor – a quaint area of this 9 square mile island with shops, lighthouses, and a massive beach bar called Ballard’s (otherwise known as Vegas on the Block). My friend had wanted to rent mopeds to see the rest of the island, but when we got the chance to rent this convertible PT Cruiser instead, we had to take it. To our surprise, it was more wallet-friendly than the mopeds and we got to chat along the ride.

We did, however, learn the hard way that the Block Island Police don’t love the idea of young women snapping selfies on the back of a moving convertible. Woops!

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Once we showed our friends the historic Southeast Light and hiked down the Mohegan Bluffs to see the ocean, we launched our “Mudslide Tour” of New Harbor, the opposite side of the island. We started out at Champlin’s Marina, one of the largest marinas in the entire Northeast, and a great spot to people watch and hear some 1980’s party music.

Once we checked Champlin’s off the list, we scooted over to The Oar, Mike’s and my favorite place on the Island. They have the best mudslies around, and their sushi is hard to beat and handrolled right inside the restaurant. There’s not a blank space on the walls inside the building – instead they’re covered in painted oars given to the restaurant over the past 50 years. It’s got so much character, and the huge piece of land allows for sightseeing over the Great Salt Pond or lawn games, which they provide for you.

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Our final stop brought us back to Ballard’s, where we all caught some sun for the last 2 hours of the day – except Mike, who spent his time hiding under this baby tent my mom gave him for protection. Relaxing on the beach and watching the parties going on around us was a great way to end a long day of island touring.

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Since we were gone the whole day, Mike and I had left Reese Witherspoon the Dog at my parent’s house, in Westerly. Logistically, it would have been a pain to ferry an hour back to Point Judith, drive 30 minutes south to pick her up, and then back 50 minutes north to our house to meet other friends for a cookout.

We took this as our opportunity to check something off both of our bucket lists – flying Block Island Airlines, which actually only flies between Westerly and Block Island. The flight was so fun! I’d never been in a plane that small before, and everyone was so friendly.

All in all, this was the perfect trip and a great time to reunite with one of my closest friends. Have you ever been to the Block? What are your favorite sights?

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