Summer Checklist: Accomplished

by Lisa Lombardi in , ,

Oh, hi there. Been a while, I know, but I promise it's because I've been busy doing actual things and not because I've been re-watching every episode of Parks & Recreation (that part has only been just recently).

This summer coincided with some big changes, some terrifying revelations, and some venturing outside of my comfort zone (spoiler: I now own a maxi dress). In my attempt to cope with it all, I made it my mission to do as much as possible with my weekends so I could enjoy my summer to the fullest.

It may not have reached Summer of George-level epicness (Adrienne: it is very important to me that you learn this reference), but I think I did pretty good.

By Lisa Lombardi, age 28

1. Went to the Beach (a lot, actually). It seems like everyone in Boston and the New England area in general has their own opinion regarding which beach is the best — and there are plenty to choose from. North Shore, South Shore, Revere Beach. (Just kidding. No one thinks Revere Beach is the best.) Personally, I always head north to Manchester-by-the-Sea and camp out at Singing Beach. You can get there by car or via the Commuter Rail, it's a beautiful beach, and the town is pretty cute — perfect for walking around when you're done baking in the sun. Parking can be tough; your best bet is to shell out the $25 to park at the train station and walk to the beach. (Go with a group of friends to split the cost.) A daily beach pass is $5, but if you think you'll go multiple times during the summer, spring for a season pass. No, it's not free, but it's worth it. And coming from a cheapskate like me, that means something.

2. Saw an Outdoor Concert. Outside the Box is an annual six-day free festival that takes place on the Boston Common, and before this year, I'd never heard of it. Surprisingly, no one I talked to had heard of it, either — but everyone probably should, because it's a pretty sweet deal. In addition to showcasing local performers and putting on family-friendly shows with magicians and dancers, it draws some major acts. This year's big names included Kasey Musgraves, the Gin Blossoms (I KNOW), and, most importantly, Guster. Guster is a Boston-favorite because they started at Tufts, but they're a Lisa-favorite because they were essentially the soundtrack for drives to and from high school with my brother, Kevin. I've loved them ever since and they are AMAZING live. One word: bongos.

3. Got Dressed Up. In addition to seeing one of my good friends get married at the historic Whittemore-Robbins House in Arlington, I scored an impromptu invite to a July 4th wedding that took place at the Boston Tea Party Museum. The best part? I actually had some decent dresses already that were ready to wear. My fellow ladies will understand what a score this is. (Oh, also there was an amazing, patriotic drag queen performance. NBD.)

4. Spent Time with the Fam. Summer is the time when the whole clan on my mom's side gets together for a week in New Jersey at my grandparents' house. It typically involves up to six of us — myself, my brothers, and my cousins — camping out in one room on foam sleeping mats, and we spend the week eating, watching way too much pointless TV, and going to the Jersey Shore. Frank Bruni recently wrote a piece in the NY Times that sounded a lot like our annual trip and pretty perfectly summed up its worth.

5. Kayaked on the Charles. Despite its reputation for being pretty filthy and disgusting, I kind of love the Charles River. I've even swam in it. But up until recently, I'd never taken advantage of the rental services offered by Charles River Canoe & Kayak (they have SUPs now, too). The rate for a single kayak is $15 an hour, and you can explore a LOT of the river in that time. Afterward, maybe head to the Cambridge Brewing Company for a late brunch and rehydrate properly with delicious, delicious beer.

6. Had a little too much fun. Public Service Announcement: Deep Eddy's Lemon Vodka is dangerous. Also, trying a fish bowl for the first time in my life was probably enough to last me until my mid-life crisis. If anyone knows of good places to dance in Boston where the floor won't still be empty at 10 p.m., let me know, because I'm officially too old to get started any later than that. Remember, the best way to recover the day after is with plenty of water and the Parks & Recreation episode "The Fight."

7. Explored Massachusetts. My lack of car means that I don't really get out of the city much, and when I do, it's because I'm leaving the state. Thanks to Leela, I spent a weekend in the Berkshires region, which essentially boils down to the Massachusetts equivalent of a Michigander's Up North: it's where a bunch of people have vacation homes and a lot of the area is in the middle of nowhere with tons of forests and lakes around. It was beautiful; we ate some great food, explored local attractions, and I scored some choice finds at the local yard sales. Word on the street is that I need to go back in the fall for some quality leaf peeping, though I remain skeptical that New England autumns are really prettier than ours in the Midwest.

8. Returned to my roots. I typically head back to Michigan maaaaaybe twice a year, sometimes for Thanksgiving and always at Christmas — which is sad, because the best time to be in Michigan is definitely the summer. So, this year I made it a priority to get there, and it worked out that I got to see the whole family while I was there. The trip included a jaunt up north to see where my brother Kevin now lives and, because my dad flew us there in his tiny Cessna four-seater, four hours of me desperately trying to focus on my book and squeaking every time we hit some turbulence. Family time!

9. FINALLY went to Brimfield. For the less decor-obsessed than I, allow me to explain: the Brimfield Flea is a massive market of antiques that takes place three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts. It's like, the holy grail of flea markets — bloggers, professional interior designers, and editors from shelter mags all flock to it every year, and I've wanted to go since before I even lived in the state. And last Saturday, I DID. It was unbelievably overwhelming and more massive than I ever could have imagined, but it was also really, really fun. No major finds to share with you, because it's really not my scene for shopping (too many options, no time to really think over a decision, prices higher than I'm used to for impulse-buying), but it was so cool just to wander and see all the different things, including: one giant, furry rabbit costume (head only); way too many baby doll/robot hybrids; a full-size covered wagon. Yay, Brimfield!

Date Night Win: Picnic on the Charles

by Lisa Lombardi in

It's officially winter, and while other people are gearing up for holiday cheer and cozy fires and pretty snow, I'm filled with dread.

I've long suspected that I am, physiologically, just not built for the cold. I'm someone who gets a chill just from sitting. Inside. While wearing three layers of clothing. Every winter, I waddle around like an overstuffed sausage because the only way I can manage to leave the house is if I've armed myself with an especially thick pair of long johns under my (logically) skinny jeans.

As I type this, I'm rapidly losing feeling in my fingers and my nose is like a half-melted ice cube: cold and drippy. It was 55 and sunny today, people. This doesn't give me much hope for when the actual cold weather arrives.

All this meandering whining is to say: I'm feeling nostalgic for those blazing hot summer days.

Dock along the Charles River

Dock along the Charles River

One of the great things about living in Boston is getting the "Major City" vibe while still being in close proximity to the ocean. Like, hop-on-the-T close. Some days, however, a trip to the beach just isn't in the cards. For those days, I've found the Charles River to be a pretty solid stand-in.

This past summer, on one of the hottest, most humid days of the season, Tim and I packed a picnic and rode our bikes to the docks by the river. We spent the afternoon napping, reading, and watching the boats go by, and it was one of my favorite dates yet.

Fellow Bostonians, keep this in mind for next summer. Use it as your shining beacon of hope to help you get through this hellish period that some people are dumb enough to call "the most wonderful time of the year."

Here's what you do:


FIRST Grab your (1) bike and pack a (2) guilty pleasure book and (3) pair of shades. (I think I was actually reading something way more embarrassing at the time, probably with a pink cover and a picture of a sassy cartoon lady walking a dog.)

THEN Put a couple bottles of your preferred (4) ginger beer in your backpack (mine is the house-brewed Minuteman from Brookline Liquor Mart), along with a (5) lime, and a (6) piece of fresh ginger. If you're not the type to walk around with a knife in your pocket at all times (yes, even at weddings) like my boyfriend is, maybe grab that, too. Fill your dad's old army canteen with whatever (7) rum you have on hand (Kraken is good for this), and you are officially prepared to enjoy some riverside Dark and Stormys — the ideal beverage for watching boats as they both sail majestically and capsize hilariously.

A NOTE Alternatively, you could take the T to the Hynes Convention Center stop, get off, and walk to the Esplanade from there, but why would you want to? Riding your bike beats being crammed into small quarters with a dozen other sweaty people any day.

DON'T FORGET On the way, stop at the Super 88/Hong Kong Supermarket and purchase a couple (8) bahn mi sandwiches at the food court. The lady there is nice and says you're pretty, and the sandwiches are a steal for under $4. 

MY BOYFRIEND SAID IT WAS OKAY If you're feeling brave, cool off with intermittent jumps into the Charles. Yes, it sounds sketchy, but the river was officially cleared for swimming in 2013, when the first public community swim in more than fifty years was held. Technically, you should only swim in it on official, sanctioned days, but sometimes it's just too damn hot to follow the rules.