A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Hello and welcome to another monthly list of good things! I hope your summer is going well – I’m loving it (warmth and sunshine are my thing…), especially now that we’ve started to get our ground squirrel problem under control (16 caught so far!) and are able to harvest some vegetables (see more on that below).
I know we had a great summery vacation in June, but since then it just feels like we’re doing all the normal stuff and summer is moving along without us taking advantage of it enough. Ever feel like that?
So this last week Brian and I made a pact: every Sunday afternoon we’re home we’re going to either hike or kayak some where close by (meaning, not waste time in the car driving). Just take three hours or so to get out in nature and enjoy this time before the cold and wet return. It’s on the calendar, so that means it’s happening!
What about you – how are you taking advantage of summer? Of course depending on where you live, that may be staying inside out of the extreme heat and waiting to “take advantage” of fall, lol.
Oh, and there are some really good books I read last month, so be sure to scroll down to the reviews!
Good Things List:
Eugene River Walk & Rose Garden
Each summer Brian and I take a date night to stroll the path along the Willamette River in Eugene that includes the Owen Rose Garden. It’s really pretty and peaceful and always fun to see others enjoying the space along with us.
Sometimes we take a picnic, but this time we ate at Mod Pizza first (One of our favorites – have you gone? We split a Mod pizza and a salad and it’s SO much food!) and then just enjoyed the walk.
August isn’t the best time for roses (that would be June here), but they were still blooming of course. If you grow roses in western Oregon you’ll have blackspot, and official rose gardens aren’t spared either as you can see in the photos – which makes me feel a lot better about the roses I’ve grown!
The pretty bi-color rose on the left above is named ‘Summer Festival’ which was perfect for this time of year! I didn’t get the name of the old-fashioned rose on the right, but it’s the kind I like best. It reminds me of a David Austin rose.
If you are local – or just visiting – I highly recommend a visit to the riverfront park and rose garden.
New Kitchen Faucet (for Cheap)
Our faucet in the manufactured home we’re staying in while remodeling the farmhouse broke a few weeks ago. We do not want to spend our remodeling dollars on this place, so I searched for a no-name brand on Amazon that had good ratings (I had a good experience with the off-brand bridge faucet I bought for our cottage’s kitchen makeover – including great customer service after the spray trigger broke after a couple years of use – they completely replaced it!).
I ended up with this gooseneck faucet because of the clean lines, price and the pretty uniform great reviews, which included how easy it was to install. You guys, this seems to be a case of NOT getting what you paid for because it’s really well-made, heavy duty feeling, and Brian can attest that it really did take only about 30 minutes to install!
It works wonderfully – the pull-down sprayer has a weight attached so it goes back up with hardly any help, it’s easy to work, and it’s easy to keep clean. I’m loving it!! Of course we’ve only had it installed about 3 weeks, so I’ll let you know if there’s a problem in the future, but so far this seems like a great solution.
If you’re in need of an inexpensive faucet, give this one a look (I think it would be great for a laundry room, too, because of the height and great sprayer). Note: it’s got a 5% coupon available right now, making it even cheaper!
$20 Bathroom Makeover – before
Speaking of the manufactured home…I sort of realized at the beginning of the summer that we’ve been in it for a year and a half with more months on the horizon for sure. And I couldn’t live with the master bathroom walls anymore at.all.
As if the wall color weren’t bad enough (is it green? yellow? baby vomit color?), the previous owners had replaced light fixtures and a mirror and just left the original 1980’s floral wallpaper showing in those areas. (I had already removed the mirrors before I remembered the before picture above – just imagine them hung up but still showing all that lovely wallpaper.)
Honestly, I can’t believe I lived with it for this long. Guests don’t often see this, but I see it every single day and you’ve heard me talk about how taking a bit of time and resources to make your everyday spaces something you love goes a long way to living a beautiful, inspired life.
Time to walk the talk, right?
I went to the store and pulled a ready-to-paint gallon of white off the shelf for less that $20 and spent about 5 hours one Saturday prepping and painting (it’s how I finished one of the audiobooks below, too!).
SO much better, isn’t it? I painted the walls and also the mirror frames since the dark wood didn’t really coordinate with anything. I had a can of silver in the garage, so that’s the color they became.
I painted all the walls in the main sink and shower area (they had only painted the yellow/green color up to the shower and so the stall had floral wallpaper above the shower walls, too) and another benefit is it’s a lot more bright and light, which is better for putting on makeup and doing your hair.
Salvaged Wood Towel Rack
The existing towel rack was an oak and brass thing from the 80’s and since it had to come down, I was definitely not putting it back up. But I didn’t want to buy anything, so Brian found this piece of wood that’s been weathering from the farmhouse remodel and I had the hooks in a bin of extras that we screwed in.
Ta-da! A no cost (well right now – I did buy those hooks at some point years ago…) towel rack that I love looking at. I totally should’ve done this mini makeover months ago!
Paint Brush Test #1
Remember the paint brush test I said I was going to do back in February? Well, the bathroom was actually the first thing I’ve painted since then! So I broke out the brushes to start the test and made some notes as I was using them. I want to use them on cabinets before I do a final write up about them, but can you guess which brush is winning so far?
I looked at three areas:
- How it feels to hold and use.
- If it gave clean lines when cutting in to corners.
- Coverage after 1 and 2 coats.
And was completely surprised that the no-name brush was the most consistent in all three areas! Wall painting is a bit different than wood, so it will be interesting to see if it comes out on top overall when I have some wood to paint. Stay tuned!
Early August Vegetable Harvest
I had to share my first-week of August harvest from the vegetable garden. After losing all our lettuce, most of our carrots, and then all of our kale and broccoli to the ground squirrels, it feels like a huge victory to be able to harvest anything!
Beans, tomatoes (those are our first two Cherokee Purple tomatoes – yum!), everbearing strawberries, and onions are pictured above. We’ve also been harvesting zucchini and basil as well as some sunflowers and sweet peas for vases.
I’ve adjusted the watering system to water every 4 days in the heat and everything is looking good with minimal work – yay!!
Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman. This is a book that Brian and I listened to together, totally based on the fact that it was written and read by Gaiman (remember how we loved his reading of Neverwhere?), the reviews on Audible, and because Brian really enjoys mythology.
The author didn’t disappoint in his reading – he’s really good – and I was surprised how much I enjoyed listening to the stories. He gives a pretty lengthy introduction as to how he came up with his translations/interpretations of the ancient myths and then launches into stories of Thor, Loki, and many other names we did and didn’t know from the tales. It was super interesting to know the changes Marvel has made in their version of the characters (Loki is Oden’s brother, not Thor’s, for example), and to see how the stories evolved and worked together. Warning: there are some gruesome scenes described, though totally in keeping with the material.
The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women, Elizabeth Norton.
Spanning from infancy to old age and with examples from rich to poor, this was a fascinating look at how women lived in the Tudor era. There were a lot of things I wasn’t aware of, including the number of infanticides and women who’d get pregnant to get out of jail. There wasn’t a lot under women’s control then, except for their bodies and children. Many didn’t have much choice, especially with the prevalence of witchcraft accusations going around at the time. If you enjoy history, you might find this as interesting as I did.
Prayer, Richard J. Foster. I filled six pages in my Book Notes Journal with quotes and thoughts from this book, so I can tell you this is good – and has been good for my prayer life. Two main points that resonated with me are:
- We have to make time for prayer, not assuming it will magically appear in our schedules. And the idea that we can just live life prayerfully without making time? Foster quotes John Dalrymple: “The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time, everywhere AFTER we have resolutely set about praying some of the time, somewhere.”
- We cannot sustain a life of prayer outside of Christian community – either we give it up as futile without the support of others OR we make it a thing of our own, a “face-saving, self-justifying monologue.”
Ouch. Yes, lots to ponder in this book. I also liked some of the specifics of how to pray – sometimes that’s helpful to me to visualize what it looks like, what different types of prayer are (it’s not just petition, sometimes it’s reciting scripture or singing…) and how to incorporate that into my own life.
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, JK Rowling. Believe it or not, this is my first time reading Harry Potter. My kids and Brian all read the series as it was published, but it just wasn’t my thing. I watched a couple of the movies with them, I think, but that’s about it. I’ve felt, though, that I’ve missed a cultural moment sometimes, and so when I saw an audiobook come up on my library app, I downloaded and listened while working in the garden. Of course it’s really quite good, super easy to listen to, and now I finally know what all those things my kids were talking about meant (Quidditch, the golden Snitch, etc.). I’m looking forward to listening to the others. What about you – have you read or listened to these books?
Unhonemooners, Christina Lauren. The premise of this book – two people who don’t like each other take the honeymoon trip their siblings can’t go on because they got sick – sounds fun, the kind of light reading, romance thing I like sometimes. And it was fun and light. I enjoyed it, though like many of these modern ‘chick lit’ books, it has its share of language and making out. I’d call it a “closed door” romance, though, since it doesn’t go into detail and the language isn’t excessive. Some scenes are pretty funny though I could tell from the beginning that their ‘dislike’ of each other was based on misunderstandings.
Fun fact: Christina Lauren is the pen name of two friends who write with each other, one named Christina and the other Lauren. Wouldn’t that be so interesting to write a novel with a friend?
The Secret Wife, Gill Paul. I found this as an audiobook from the library and the historical fiction angle got me. It was super interesting! It’s about one of the daughters of the last czar in Russia, the famous Romanovs that were all killed in the revolution – or were they? Did some manage to escape? History is rife with theories on this and this book takes some true things from one of the Romanov daughter’s journal – the name of a guard she talked about – and builds a fictional story about their romance and how he tries to help her escape.
I don’t want to say much more or it will give away some major plot points, but it was very good. If you like historical fiction, I recommend this. I’ll be reading some of this author’s other historical fiction now, for sure.
Parks and Recreation. Our daughter started watching this old show, one that we never really watched when it was airing, so we’ve watched it together. We’ve laughed out loud at many parts and realize that it’s really a good show (well, after the first two seasons when it really hit its stride). Sometimes a bit over the top, but with pretty likable characters, it’s just fun tv.
Dead to Me. Okay, we tried to watch this and got about halfway through the season before giving up. I know it’s gotten a lot of good reviews, but it just didn’t really interest us anymore and we just didn’t care. Anyone else?
While not as good as the first three, our family still agreed that we loved Toy Story 4. What can I say? It’s like comfort food – sweet, and with all the characters we’ve known and loved!
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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