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What’s on your summer bucket list?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Since the weather has been amazing here on Long Island (and all I want to do is plant more flowers/drive with the windows down and music blaring/take long, sweaty walks on the beach/sip rose), I’m in the mood to talk about summer. Even though it hasn’t officially started, so far so good. Every year at this time, on the doorstep of three months of epic days and warm sunshine and universal good moods, I feel so inspired. I want to try new things, accomplish stuff, get creative with the kids. I want to do more and be more and, most importantly, have more fun. And to ensure I stick to that plan, I’ve listed a few of my specific summer to-dos to hold me accountable!


Have a clambake. It could be on the beach or in my backyard, but I want the clams, the lobsters, the corn, the kids running around catching lightning bugs. I have the perfect tools and dishes (I registered for them thinking surely I’d be the kind of person who had regular clambakes). Some of my best summer memories involve my dad standing over a huge pot of steaming water—and butter dripping down my arms as I slurped sweet meat from lobster legs. I want to start a tradition like that for my kids (and, OK, I’ve been craving lobster!)


Make homemade popsicles for the kids. We used to eat frozen orange juice on a stick when I was little, which is basic, I know, but I want to follow one of the kazillion adorable recipes I see in magazines for like chocolate eclairs (my fave!) or orange creamsicles or even rainbow pops. We’ll see about this one—we may wind up with frozen OJ.


Read a lot of books. Despite being in a book club, I have been on pleasure-reading hiatus for far too long. This month’s pick: Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants. I bought it yesterday and I can’t wait to get started. I’m borderline obsessed with 30 Rock so something tells me it will be a fun—and quick—read.


Hit the beach with the kids—regularly. (Last year I went to our local beach only once, which is a travesty.) We were out east this past weekend and I literally had to pull my kids from the 58-degree Atlantic Ocean (even Nora kept running in and falling in the surf, which was scary considering the rip tide—good thing I was a lifeguard!). Every time we pass the harbor she says, “Beach! Boat! Wata!” And then she cries when we leave. To say my kids are water rats is an understatement. And we are within two miles of several great little beaches so I have no excuse.


Teach Nora to swim. I know she’s not even 17 months yet but something tells me she’s a natural. Alex is a pro swimmer now and I think Nora will be ready to learn even sooner. Do I expect her to be breaststroking across the deep end by August? No. I’m just hoping to work on her bubble blowing and back floating and leg kicking. Bring on the green hair!


Get away for a night (maybe two) without the kids. I don’t think Nick and I have ever been away from the kids together just for a vacation. It’s either a work thing or a wedding thing or a family thing, and all those things are nice, but I’d love to have no agenda other than, well, nothing.


Jump off the boat and swim in the Long Island Sound. Nothing says “carefree summer” like a cannonball off the side of the Rusty Belles. I just have to remember that getting back onboard isn’t as easy to accomplish as it was when I was 10!


Try some new and exciting recipes. It’s only June and I’m already fatigued by some of our summer staples: Orzo salad, marinated skirt steak, grilled shrimp, mushroom salad, lemon chicken, polenta stacks with tomato/basil/mozzarella. Those dishes are all delish but I can make them in my sleep and I want to try something a little different. Preferably something my kids will love too (Alex will pretty much eat anything these days—he chose linguini with clams over spaghetti and meatballs the other night at a family party—so I want to capitalize!)


Work less. I hope none of my editors reads this post! But my friends know that every summer I say I’m going to slow down on the assignments (the beauty of being a freelance writer is that I can choose how much I want to work) but every summer…I don’t. And that list above ain’t gonna check itself off. But hey, someone’s gotta pay for all that lobster!


I’m proud to say I’ve already accomplished one major thing on my summer—and life—bucket list, which was to plant an organic vegetable garden and herb pots. A friend actually did it all for me (thanks, Elizabeth!) and taught me how to care for it since I am a major beginner. But I am so so so happy every time I look outside and see my arugula popping up and my mint going crazy. I can’t wait for Alex to help me pick the tomatoes and then pop them in his mouth while I’m not looking.


OK, what’s on your summer bucket list? My to-dos feel a little slim (and perhaps a tad too food-centric?!) so maybe I’m steal some of yours! And see some photos of our summer so far:

Alex roasting marshmallows with his buddies at a friend's BBQ. It's s'mores season, baby! And despite the fact that I have an almost non-existent sweet tooth, I love me some s'mores!

Fortunately my kids think planting flowers with me is about the coolest thing they can do.

We plan to have lots of awesome playdates this summer. The crazier the fun, the longer the naps :)


Alex helping our friends set up the garden. We should have tons of fresh veggies by the 4th of July!


My motley crew.



We're teaching Nora to kiss the flowers/plants/trees instead of ripping them off their stalks.

This playground is right on a beautiful harbor in the town next to ours. We will be here a lot this summer.

Alex gets a timeout. Shocker!

Frolicking in the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean. Amazing!

Alex and his pal (AKA Diego and Dora) getting ready to go for a scooter ride. Ah, childhood...