A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Here we are in December and almost the end of 2019. How are you doing? Ready for the holidays? Looking forward to a new year?
I am in the middle of decorating - we'll get our tree in a few days - and it's a little sad for me this year because my daughter who's always helped me is in the middle of a working year abroad. I've missed her a lot, but it's especially strong this time of year, remembering the things we'd do together around the holidays.
I know I'm not alone in this, so my heart goes out to those of you whose family and loved ones can't be around. Maybe make new traditions or simplify or just focus on the reason for the season and not all the hype? I'm thinking a peppermint mocha, Christmas music, and a good book will go along way with me!
In the meantime, let's talk about some good things! If I had to choose from this list, I'd say I'm most excited about the first one, though the vinegar tip is sure solving a yucky problem I'd been having.
The Raised Bed Garden Watering System Finished
I feel like I need an exclamation after that, so I'll put it here - the watering system is finished!! (Let's just go for two, lol.)
You may remember the tutorial for our super simple and inexpensive automatic watering system here - well that was just the first leg for our raised bed vegetable garden. We couldn't finish the second leg until I had all the beds decided and built, which, uh, took a long time.
When I finally did, and we had a free Saturday (and break in the weather), Brian finished it! You can see above that it goes to all the beds along the fence line. It also goes under the fence to the two long beds that are outside the fenced garden. And to a couple more beds not pictured, for a total of nine beds.
As soon as he finished, I could continue laying the cardboard and wood chips over the super weedy gravel. I haven't quite finished, but that's easy to do here and there as I have time now that I'm not waiting on Brian.
You can see a sneak peek of the coffee patio above that we made out of broken concrete. It's not quite finished, but as soon as it is I'll share a tutorial because if you have access to broken concrete (or need to get rid of it like we do), this is easy and really inexpensive.
The Vinegar Tip That's Working
Okay, if everyone already knows this and just didn't share it with me, I'll feel pretty silly. So, this is about washing machines smelling. I thought it was just an issue with front loaders like our previous machine, but we got a top loader a couple years ago and it's really been smelling bad for the last six months. I would leave the top open between washes, but it's in a small mudroom and we actually need the surface when it's closed.
Then about a month ago my sister mentioned that her washing machine was smelling between washes. And that she had started adding a vinegar rinse and that it was helping. What?
So I started adding vinegar to the softener section of my machine at the same time I add the soap. Adding it here makes it dispense after the soap and bleach I believe.
Well, guess what? It's another vinegar miracle because the machine doesn't smell anymore! Like at all.
Brian doesn't add it when he washes, so the vinegar's not even being added every time. I'm wondering if I could go to once a week and still get the same results (right now it's about 2x/week).
What about you - have you tried this?
Leopard Print Slip On Sneaker
I've been a fan of leopard print for many years, so I was glad to see it come back in popularity because that means I can find more things with the print. Like these fun Dr. Scholls leopard print slip on sneakers I got a few months ago.
They are really comfortable and needed no break-in time, plus they didn't have the heel rub that I sometimes get with shoes like this. I like that I can wear them with both black and brown and of course they look great with jeans.
HP Printer + I-Can't-Believe-It Ink Program
For years and years we have had various color inkjet printers and they've never seemed to work well when you'd need them. The timing of the ink cartridges was always to run out in the middle of an important project (Christmas letters, of course) and it was major sticker shock every time we had to buy new ink.
So we mainly use our laser printer for our black and white printing, which meant that we hardly ever used the color printer. And maybe the ink dried out? Because we just never seemed to get the number of prints out of those expensive cartridges we were supposed to.
But when you need color printing, you need it (like for the cover for my Flexible Planner!), so a few months ago I bought an HP color printer that came with their new ink program, HP Instant Ink. This is how they describe it:
Spend less on ink and never run out – With optional HP Instant Ink, you get ink automatically ordered by your wireless printer and delivered to your door for as low as $2.99 per month (subscription required)
So just the fact that I didn't have to run to town to find ink in the middle of a project sounded good. But here's the thing - with the level I chose, I get 15 prints a month FREE. And if I go over that amount, I will be charged $1.00 for then next 10 prints. $1! I'm not sure what the $2.99 subscription means, but I signed up for Instant Ink on the 15 pages/month free and I don't have any monthly fee.
Let me say that again - I pay NOTHING for ink for 15 pages a month. They also monitor the cartridges and send new ones when needed. No more expensive cartridges that I have to go find which then dry out or run out. I thought it was a scam at first - how are they able to do this?
Since we really only do 15-20 pages every few months because we use the laser printer, this is a screaming deal for us and I wished I had done it earlier (it's been around for a few years now).
If you only print a few things a month, this might be a great thing for you, too. But even if you do need this to be your main printer for both black and white and color, it still seems like it would be a better deal than buying your own cartridges - and they're delivered. #win-win
The Good Neighbor, Maxwell King. I love Mr. Rogers and have been wanting to see the documentary for awhile, but haven't found a way to watch it online yet. So I grabbed this audiobook from the library and really wanted to like it. But it's SO long and SO detailed that it's actually kind of boring, especially because the author repeats certain phrases that describe Mr. Rodgers. Like a lot. I feel sort of guilty saying this, ha! I know this is a NYT bestseller and I'm probably not in the majority, but there it is.
Also, I listened to this as an audiobook and thought that Levar Burton would be a good narrator and he just wasn't. Actually kind of distracting, so maybe that had something to do with my reaction to the book as a whole.
That said, there's no getting around the fact that Fred Rogers life is inspiring and his dedication to not only children, but also having compassion for everyone is worth knowing about. I'm still looking for a way to watch the TV documentary and am looking forward to seeing the new Tom Hanks moving about him.
I Will Always Write Back, Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Gandhi. I found this book to be so sweet! I think it's probably a YA book, as it's written from the viewpoint of the two main characters who start writing to each other as pen pals in later elementary school and continue through graduation from high school. It is a true story of their friendship and so the authors are the main characters. We learn about Martin's living situation in Zimbabwe, which is so poor, and how Caitlin's life in a nice suburb in the states contrasts. She's so into herself at that age that it takes awhile for her to understand just how differently his family lives from her's.
I don't know about you, but this is one of the reasons I love to read, to experience life as others live and have my worldview expanded. It not only makes me thankful, it makes me more compassionate and search for ways that I can help.
The best part of the book for me was when Caitlin's whole family worked together to find ways to send money to Martin so he could stay in school - and then how her mother worked so hard to find a university in the US that would give him a scholarship. It just brings tears to your eyes. They are like family now and he calls Caitlin's parents mom and dad, too. Loved this!
Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human, John Mark Comer. This was such an eye-opening book for me and really different than anything I've read in awhile. The idea that the view most Christian's have of heaven is wrong - it's not someplace "out there" where we will just sit and do nothing. God made us to work and rest and we are most fulfilled when it's perfect work, which is what it will be in the new heaven and new earth. And it will be this earth, just perfected.
The work we do matters now, too:
Do any work as a worship to God and expression of love and service to humanity.
One of the best ways to love and serve people and God is to show up to work every day, giving your best.
Tools of the Titans, Tim Ferriss. So, if you know about Tim Ferriss (The Four Hour Work Week), you will probably have heard of this book. It's been on my Kindle for awhile and it's a book that you sort of skim through (that's his instructions, to find sections you're interested in and skip those you're not), so that's what I did. And I just have to say, Tim is a little crazy. Like it just seems he's up for anything (major areas I skipped: how doing hallucinogenic drugs can help you, transcendental meditation, extreme body building).
But the premise of the book is that he's listing all the things that guests he's interviewed on his podcasts have mentioned through the years as helping them get where they are. And there are a lot of really successful people featured, from actors, to politicians, to start-up and biz leaders. Most interesting to me were morning routines, books they recommend, and interesting ways they've lived.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman. Brian and I have been hooked on Neil Gaiman since listening to Neverwhere - especially as audio books where we can listen to him read his stories. He's such a good narrator!! I almost wish he'd narrate some other stories just so we could hear more of him, lol.
This is another of his twisty tales that keep you wondering and guessing the whole time. A man goes back to the neighborhood of his youth for a funeral which causes him to remember some bizarre happenings when he was a boy. The genre is magical and fantasy, but not horror as I've seen it described. Horror to me always centers around real life (which is why I avoid it), but floating evil beings and women who've maybe been around since the dawn of time? Pure fantasy. And in the hands of Neil Gaiman's creative mind and way with words, it's pretty much unputdownable - or in the case of an audiobook, unpauseable?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling. I finally got to listen to the next HP installment after waiting for eight weeks for the Goblet of Fire from the library. Eight weeks for a 15 year old book! Sheesh. I guess it shows how the books have held up and continue to be popular. And it's another reason why I'm going through the series for the first time even though Brian and the kids read the books as they were published. They really are a cultural phenomenon.
In The Goblet of Fire, Rowling expands her Harry universe even more and we meet the dreaded Voldemort for the first time. Yikes, what a villain. JK Rowling really is a good writer. I remember hearing how the books get darker, and this book is darker for sure, especially with the last scenes of Harry in the clutches of "him who will not be named." It was pretty tense, that's for sure. Now I'm on the to next!
Jack Ryan, Season 2 - Amazon Prime.
We really enjoyed season one and we're looking forward to season two. It was good, though both Brian and I think the first season was better because it was more layered and mysterious. This show is very well done and interesting, though it is quite violent.
Ford vs. Ferrari. This was a fun movie with an interesting storyline based on something that really happened (though of course it's been "Hollywood-ized"). There was a LOT of racing scenes, lol, but surprisingly, I think I liked it better than Brian. It's underdog story pulled me in and I enjoyed the family life of the driver, Ken Miles, especially his relationship with his son. And with just a PG-13 rating, there wasn't the violence, language or sex that are in so many movies now.
Also Brittney Runs a Marathon - Amazon Prime. This was a movie released in theaters last summer I believe, but is now on Amazon. I originally thought it was a documentary before watching, because it, too, is based on a real woman, but we quickly realized it was a movie. While the story was inspiring (a down-and-out young woman decides to get her body and life in shape by running) and there were some funny spots, there was a lot of swearing and some plot points that weren't really believable (wondering if these were the dramatized parts for Hollywood...).
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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