A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
Well hello summer, I'm so glad you're here! While there are wonderful things about every month (fall's colors, spring's new growth, winter's...well that one's harder for me, ha! Maybe our forced quietness?) summer is my favorite month.
I'm pretty sure it's because I've lived my whole adult life in Oregon and summer is the only time we can be sure of stretches of decent weather to be able to camp, swim, hike, and kayak without getting rained on. Well, more sure than the other months - there've been plenty of Julys that have rained, and Augusts with clouds. But for the most part, it's a time I'm finally warm and I love it.
Now, if I lived in the south or humid east, maybe it would be a different story? Do you think favorite months are influenced by where you live?
Some things I'm looking forward to in June as spring turns fully to summer include a vacation with my guy, our son's graduation from graduate school, working more on the vegetable garden, kayaking, and walking up our lane in the warm afternoons.
But we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves - let's see what good things May brought (like 10 books read!!).
Mother's Day Kayaking
Brian suggested heading to a nearby lake for a quick kayak trip on Mother's Day and I jumped at the chance to try out our new kayaks we gave each other for Christmas. And I'm thinking this may just be a new Mother's Day tradition! It was so fun to just get away, even if it was just a couple hours (including drive time).
And knowing that my kids were prepping for a Mother's Day tea for me and my mom at the same time gave me even more sweetness to look forward to. All in all, a fun day - and if you kayak, I highly recommend taking a Mother's Day trip!
Keeping a Book Notes Journal
I can't remember exactly where I saw this tip, but I know it was in an article on how to become a better reader:
To better remember things from books, start keeping a Book Notes Journal with quotes, ideas, and thoughts you get from your readings.
This just jumped out at me because there's no underlining in digital books - and while you can use the little highlight function, I literally never return to highlighted sections, so what's the point. And while most of the audiobooks I listen to are fiction, my morning book is usually a Christian nonfiction which often has something I want to remember.
Good old pen and paper to the rescue. I grabbed an old composition notebook that we had and started the next day. On the title page I wrote "Book Notes Journal" (original, I know) with the date started, March 2019 - and I'll fill in the end date when I'm there.
Title the second page the title of the book you're reading/listening to and the date. Then keep a pen handy for anytime you want to write something you want to remember. Start a new page for every new book.
It's that simple, but I'm already loving how I can easily refer to it and look back. The article that gave me this idea mentioned that they'd been doing it long enough that they had several notebooks full and how they'd refer to them all the time. I do think I'll upgrade to this classic ruled faux leather notebook for my next journal, though, then I can keep them on a shelf and they'd look a bit nicer.
I think this is a pretty brilliant idea and thought I'd pass it along to you!
Traveling with Small Packing Cubes
If you listened to the latest podcast, you know that we're on a vacation that includes flying and we only fly with carry-on bags. The pros totally outweigh the cons for us, though I'll be honest and say it isn't easy to fit everything I want to bring on a two week vacation in a 20-inch carry-on bag. Sometimes I like a good challenge, though!
When we traveled to Greece a few years ago, I was able to pack quite a bit of clothing for cooler spring weather using these tips. For this trip I decided to try packing cubes because literally all the travel sites rave about them and my daughter loved them on a trip she took overseas last year. Last summer I bought a basic set of bags that came in three sizes - small, medium, and large. And quickly found that the medium and large bags are too big for carry-ons - they took up too much room.
So this time I'm using this set of small packing cubes. I love that they fit three across in my carry-on, making a tidy final layer. I stuffed them full, too, and the zippers worked well. I used one for my underthings and PJs, one for my swim stuff (2 suits, one sarong, rashguard), and the last for all my tanks and tops. That left my bottoms, dresses, shoes, and a few odds and ends to layer under them (stay tuned for more on this later when I'll show exactly how I packed, including toiletries which many packing how-tos leave out).
Also when I arrived at the Airbnb I simply opened the cubes and set them in the dresser where they keep it all tidy! So far, I'm a new fan. Do you use them?
Clear Carry-on Toiletry Bag and Silicone Bottles
The other thing that needed to be fixed was my liquids bag. I've always used a ziplock quart bag for the TSA's "3-1-1" carry-on rule (3 ounces, one quart bag, one bag per ticket), but even the slightly bigger slide zipper top bags were bursting at the seams. On our last flight, I saw a lady in front of me put a much bigger bag (seemingly) through security that went through fine. What was this amazing bag?
Apparently, it was a bag like this. A clear, fully TSA compliant "quart-size" bag that holds WAY more than my ziplock bag ever could. I put it to the test and it's like a lot more. I think it's the box-design, because it does still work for getting through security.
Then I added silicone travel bottles to it, another thing at the recommendation of my daughter. She said they held more than the little travel bottles you buy, are leakproof, and are much easier to squeeze and use. And she was right.
They hold 3 ounces which is plenty to last two weeks and I've got them full of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and sunscreen. It might be the little things, but I'm loving the silicone bottles!
Active (and Modest) Swimwear
The other thing I needed was a rashguard to wear when snorkeling, since your back has the potential to be exposed to the sun for an hour or more. I read a lot about them and decided to pay a few dollars more to get a zip-up rashguard since it is easier to get on and off and can be used as a light coat if needed with regular clothes (2-for-1 is my goal in travel things!).
I love this thing! I think it's kind of flattering for a rashguard with the slimming black panels (I wear a two-piece suit bra top under it).
To wear with it, I decided on these swim shorts to play up the active part since I couldn't picture my swim skirt with it. Brian thinks I look like a triathlete in this outfit, which completely cracks me up because it's probably one of the last things I'd ever want to do.
No matter, my thighs are my least favorite body part, so these do the trick - and they keep the backs from getting sunburned while snorkeling, too. And I do feel pretty good in them, which I'm happy about. Oh, and I've worn them already and they work great and are pretty quick drying (though nothing like this will ever dry as quick as smaller suits).
I actually read/listened to 10 books this last month! You can probably guess this meant I was spending a lot of time in the yard and garden - and you'd be right. Brian and I busted our you-know-whats to get an automatic watering system installed in the raised bed vegetable garden before we left for our vacation, so there was lots of listening time. (Oh, and that system turned out SO great - I can't wait to share it with you since it was pretty easy and inexpensive compared to "official" irrigation systems!)
Here are the books that stood out and I thought you might enjoy, too:
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth E. Wein. (This was also a Cool Thing on episode 58 of the podcast.) Brian and I listened to this together and we both really enjoyed it. The narrators were great and the WWII setting in Britain hooks you in from the beginning. It's told as if someone's recounting their history to someone else, and we learn pretty early on that it's part of an interrogation of a woman caught by the Nazi's in occupied France. We really liked how we had to sort of figure out the story as we listened. While set during the war, the heart of the story is the friendship between the woman caught and her friend who was one of the rare women pilots at the time. It's not too graphic for a war novel with themes of love, friendship, and sacrifice. I was a little disappointed in the end (which you'll know if you listened to the podcast!), but still highly recommend.
The Man in the Window, Jon Cohen. This was a really sweet story that's been in my TBR list for awhile. The story of a recluse due to a childhood accident and a nurse who's sensible but odd looking and how they find each other. I loved the descriptions of what they felt like, especially the man who spent his days looking out his widow, as they finally were touched by others. In his case, literally - he describes the feeling of another's thigh against his in a car of neighbors who are taking him to the hospital (where he meets the nurse, of course) and how good human contact feels that he doesn't want to end. You really have empathy for him and the course his life took. I loved how scared they both were to open to each other, yet they overcome it in the end because they see the need in themselves and each other. The family and secondary characters were colorful and you felt they grew through the book, too. Just a really lovely story. I'm looking forward to reading more of this author now (I've heard Harry's Tree's is good - anyone read that?).
The Tatooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris. So, this book was on the NYT bestseller list for a long time and I had read many people recommending it. I put it off, though, because even though it sounded eventually hopeful, I knew it would be a hard read, obviously. And of course there are parts where your heart hurts and your mind reels at the thought of what happened in Auschwitz and how cruel and depraved mankind can be. But the story of Lale and Gita really is hopeful, as is how they lived their life determined to get out and find joy wherever they could. I didn't realize until the end that while billed as historical fiction, it's based on a true story as told to the author over a number of years at the end of Lale's life. I learned this through the author's note at the end and the epilogue of sorts written by their son. Amazing, sad, and lovely all at the same time. I'm glad I finally made myself listen to the audiobook - it made me view my world in a different way and truly be grateful and not sweat the little things as much.
God Breathed, Josh McDowell. I think the last Josh McDowell book I read was Evidence that Demands a Verdict while in college! That was faith-building (and maybe life-changing at that time in my life) but I didn't know about this book written only a few years ago. It essentially is going over a lot of the same ground - all the ways that the Bible is true, historically and pitted against other ancient books we don't even question - but updated with new finds that prove even more that you can trust the Bible. We learn what the Bible is, how we got it, and why we can trust it. Faith affirming, especially when answering all the big objections to the Bible (translations, "lost" books, inconsistencies, etc.).
Love Lucy, Lucille Ball. (Also a Cool Thing on episode 59 of the podcast.) This was a fun surprise of a book that I chose as one of the monthly free books on Audible (There are 6 to choose from each month, in addition to your monthly credit - I'm now on an every-other-month subscription since I really like how Audible works, the daily deal books, and the free books they've added - sign up for a free 30-day trial here with 2 audiobooks + 2 Audible Originals -yours to keep even if you don't continue.). In fact, there was so much I wanted to share with Brian that I stopped halfway through and finished while we listened together! This is an "as told to" autobiography that Lucille Ball recorded in the early 1960's, put away and then didn't tell anyone about. It was only found after her death in 1989 and her children couldn't believe it. The audiobook is narrated by her daughter, Lucy Arnez, and she has a forward explaining this. It tells the story of Lucy's childhood, how she came to Hollywood, became a contract player, met Dezi, and how they eventually came to do the I Love Lucy show. Super interesting and I appreciated how she was never catty, even when dealing with the issues in her marriage to Dezi. So many things I learned, not only about her but about the movie system in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. Fun stuff.
The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken. Brian had read this a few years ago and it really impacted him so he suggested it for our home group this year. We've been slowly reading it for a few months, taking a couple chapters at a time and discussing them. It's the story of a family called by God to follow the Great Commission to go into the world - and what a world they found. They started in Africa and one of their areas included Somalia at the height of all the suffering and war there in the 1990's (the Black Hawk Down movie was set in this time...). Wow, I had no idea the literal hell on earth it was then (is it still now? I don't know...). The book shares stories of how God met them - and how He didn't - and the impact this had on their faith. Nik especially questioned his faith and he then starts on a mission to record interviews with people who had suffered under persecuting governments - Russia and China - and what we can learn from them. Moving and faith-building.
I Can Only Imagine. I have been wanting to watch this for awhile and I'm so glad we finally did! This is such a well-done story that really gives the background to the famous song of the title. I learned, too, that the song is one of the best-selling Christian songs of all time and that it was played on non-Christian stations, too. It really hit a nerve for people in the post 9-11 era.
Avengers Infinity War. (You also can rent this on Amazon or YouTube.) We watched this to have some background when we go see Endgame - because everyone is seeing it and we thought we should, too, right? It was actually pretty good and I always say, you know what you're getting in these movies and sometimes that's what you want to see.
Les Miserables. A non-musical series based on the novel, it follows the story of Jean Valjean most of us know. Pretty well done, but it's often a downer of a story - people not getting what they deserve and others getting what they don't deserve, which I think was they author's point. It's a long story and there are 6 episodes which flesh out the story well.
Malcom in The Middle.We watched and enjoyed this show in the 2000s when it ran, but are watching it again with our daughter. The one thing I always liked best about it was the loving relationship between the parents - things were tough and life was hard, but they always had each other and they let it show. Loved that. Plus, we usually laugh out loud. Also, this was why I never even wanted to give Breaking Bad a try - Bryan Cranston will always be Malcom's lovable, funny, flawed dad to me. I didn't want to see him bad - but I was okay seeing him in The Upside, because he was nice, lol.
Shazam - Silly, but funny and you know exactly what you're going to get with movies like this: good, clean fun. It did have a theme of family and foster families and being wanted that was really sweet.
That's it for another addition of the Good Things List! If you'd like to see more of what I'm enjoying, you can check out all the Good Things Lists here. I'd love to know what you think - if you've tried any of these or what you'd recommend. Leave a comment below with your thoughts!
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