A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
Some links in this article are affiliate links and if you click on them I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Oh my goodness, friends. Well, lets start with the good: happy spring! Now that it's April, hopefully most of us have turned a corner on winter and there will be more blue skies and sunshine ahead for us.
And I think we'll need it, right?
Who knew when I wrote last month's Good Things List how different the world would be this month? The global pandemic has thrown all of us in situations we couldn't have imagined (though it does seem something like a movie or book, doesn't it?), and I'm not sure what I can add to the story other than tell you what I'm doing (and trying to do) to deal with this new world.
To cope I am:
- Limiting news reading to morning and evening - and sometimes just once a day if needed. It helps no one for me to know more than that, and only makes me more anxious.
- Not reading news first thing - I start the morning like I always do with the She Reads Truth reading, prayer, and maybe journaling. Only then do I check the news.
- Praying and listening to worship music or instrumental music during the day.
- Cooking. I'm testing sourdough recipes (hoping not to run out of flour!) and planning menus that use our pantry ingredients. Here's a full dinner menu for April, and here's AOC's menu planning page with tips to help you plan and save money.
- Gardening. I've planted onion sets, lettuce, spinach, and pea seeds in the garden, and I'm taking care of my indoor seedlings (tomatoes, peppers, flowers). Here's how to garden the easy way. and here's a vegetable gardening 101 series.
- Crafting. I'm working on a large cable knitted sweater project, but I also found this pattern for crochet dishcloths I am using my yarn stash for. I'm hoping they will be able to take the place of the European dish cloths I've been buying in place of paper towels, since they wear out after a few months and aren't cheap (although I recently bought this 10-pack which is a good deal).
I'm hearing from so many of you that you are putting the forced slow down to good use to make and learn new things and also to reconnect with your families, homes, and yards. AOC's sourdough recipes and gardening articles are surging in views, so that tells me we're all on similar paths.
I will be here, continuing to help you with inspiration, encouragement, and ideas for how to live a simple homemade life no matter our circumstances!
Whew. If you are a newsletter subscriber you've already heard our crazy international travel story, but let me start off with this: it was a very good thing even with all the crazy.
We left on March 10, just two days before our state of Oregon started restricting things. We had checked out all the travel warnings and Australia was very low on the list (they still have pretty low counts), so we went ahead with our trip to see our daughter who's been living there since last August.
For the first week we were there, all seemed normal besides some small counts in the news and the government banning groups of 500 or more. We saw downtown Sydney and the Opera House, flew to Melbourne to visit friends and the southern coast (where we saw a koala just hanging out!), and spent time with our daughter in the area she lives in Sydney.
We were able to stay in our lovely Sydney Airbnb close to the Newtown area for only a couple days, though, before we learned that the airline we had tickets to fly out with on the 31st stopped flights on the 17th.
(See the listing for the Airbnb here, a refurbished Victorian with some cool walls they found under wallpaper - it was SO beautiful, in a nice area, and the host was great, too. I wished we'd had more time there!)
My parents helped us stateside to get a new flight to Melbourne on the 19th and then home on the 20th, cutting our trip short by a week and a half. As we were going to the airport for the first leg, our Uber driver told us Australia had just announced no international flights would be allowed in (so no airplanes to take people out...) by 9 pm on the 20th, so we felt blessed to have gotten the tickets when we did!
Seeing our daughter was worth it for us, but we also connected with friends, saw some new things, and saw God's hand at work. We're at the tail end of the 14 day self-quarantine for international travelers, and we've again been blessed by family who've made us food, bought our groceries, and check in on us.
And those are all very good things.
I'd been reading for months about how versatile white sneakers are, both for traveling and for at home. Lots of women are wearing them with pants, jeans, and leggings as well as casual dresses and skirts.
Most of the time they are name brand Adidas (Stan Smiths), Keds, Pumas, or Nikes, but you can also find knock-offs for cheaper. Since I wasn't sure I'd like them, I decided on an inexpensive fake leather pair from Amazon that had good ratings for comfort. The label inside the shoe simply says "fashion," lol.
I was surprised how comfortable they actually were, though. I didn't need to put any insole in them, they were comfortable right out of the box. So much so that I wore them on the trip over to Australia and most of the time we were walking around.
Highly recommended if you're looking to try a simple white sneaker, too. (I did get them in the "PU Leather" vs. canvas so they'd be easier to clean. I read that a magic eraser is the key to keeping them white, which I plan to try.)
How to Minimize Jet Lag
Oh my gosh, I sure wish there was more traveling happening now so that you could try these homeopathic No Jet Lag pills!
I read about them in a Facebook traveling group, saw the many good reviews on Amazon (though some say they didn't work), and decided to give them a try since it wasn't a huge investment. They're advertised as a "Homeopathic Remedy + Fatigue Reducer for Airplane Travel Across Time Zones."
I'm so glad I did! We had NO jet lag to speak of on the trip over - an 18 hour flight crossing the date line and many time zones. Our daughter said she had felt jet lagged for a week or more when she had come over.
It was a red-eye flight (which seemed to coordinate with our time schedules and bodies better) and going east is supposed to be harder on our bodies, so I wasn't sure about the flight home, especially because our new flights were mid-morning.
But we had MINIMAL jet lag for only 1-2 days after getting home! Seriously. I was sleepy the next afternoon about 1pm and just went out to garden and it passed. I was able to keep our regular hours of sleeping and waking on the first day. Brian did say he woke up early for a couple days, but nothing like the stories we've heard about jet lag.
They are simple to take - you chew one on take off and landing and then every 2 hours of the flight that you can (obviously if you're sleeping it will be longer). I was able to stick pretty close to the 2 hours, occasionally going 4, since I don't really sleep on planes. Wondering if that is why some people don't feel a difference from it, if they sleep for 5-6 hours?
Anyway, I can't say enough about this product, it made such a difference for us! Bookmark this page, or buy some and have it ready for your next fight (when they're going again...).
I've been wanting to try a shampoo bar for awhile, but since I didn't know how they would work with my hair I was reluctant to spend the $15-20 they seemed to be.
Many people are using the solid bars at home as a way to reduce plastic purchases of shampoo and conditioner bottles, but I really wanted to try one for travel to have one less liquid to deal with through security.
When I found this Love Beauty And Planet Volume and Bounty 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner Bar on Amazon and saw how inexpensive it was comparatively, I bought it. I tried it at home and also took it with us to Australia.
Here are the pros & cons:
- It is a bit drying, as mentioned in the reviews. I think it's because it's for volume, which is what my hair needs, so it works out good for me. I think the brand has another type that isn't a volume shampoo you can try if that would be an issue.
- Since it is drying, it's not really a shampoo and conditioner as advertised. I used it along with a conditioner on the bottom of my hair and that worked well together.
- It lathers well, but does best when rubbed in your hair vs. your hands. I just wet my hair and rub the bar all over until I feel a lot of suds and then put the bar back and rub the suds through my hair as I do with regular shampoo.
- The bar is BIG. Which is good value, but it's way too big to travel with. I took a sharp knife to it and cut it into two pieces. And I actually think the flat side made it easier to rub onto my hair.
- There isn't a container to place it in. I found a small plastic container we had with a lid to keep it in for traveling.
- It smells good, but sometimes almost too much, which is why you need a lidded container for it, even in your own shower!
So if you've been wanting to try a bar shampoo, this may be a good place to start! (Though I see they are sold out on Amazon now, which isn't surprising.)
I actually thought I would read more books with all the travel, but found that sleeping was a better option when I could, ha. And when we were there we were always with our daughter, which is why we went after all.
So here are the six books I read and listened to, which are pretty diverse I see as I list them out. One has a terrible ending - the kind that lingers and makes you sad you spent time there, one is an apocalyptic coming of age story, another is a short story told in letters, and there is a biography and two lighter reads.
So, there's hopefully something you will like that will take your mind off of all that's going on for awhile!
The Rosie Result, Graeme Simsion. This is book 3 in the Don Tillman trilogy that began with The Rosie Project. It's a fun, quick read that follows the family of Don Tillman 10 years after the happenings in the first book.
If you haven't read these books, they tell the story of Don who is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum but doesn't know or acknowledge it, and how he finds friends and a wife. They are all fun books to read with likable characters with an interesting premise. They are relatively clean other than a few swear words.
That said, this was my least favorite of the books. It seemed to be heavy on the politicization of autism and what it is and isn't, so much that I felt that I was being preached to at times. I did enjoy the journey of their son and it was fun to revisit some characters.
The Evidence of the Affair, Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is a short story by the same author of Daisy Jones and The Six that I liked so much, so when Audible offered it as one of their monthly free listens, I grabbed it (TIP: you can get a free book + 2 originals with an Audible Trial).
It is a story told only in letters (similar to the Daisy Jones book), about a woman who finds evidence that her husband is having an affair and then writes to the woman's husband to ask if he knows about it. They then bond over their heartache and things progress through the letters over a year.
It was interesting, but I didn't really connect to the characters and the ending hit a sour note for me. I didn't understand why they each did different things and since we only have letters, we're not privy to their thoughts.
A Boy and His Dog at The End of the World, C.A. Fletcher. This is a story told in a future world, after "the end of the world" when there aren't many people living in the world and no modern conveniences. It's an everyone-out-for-themselves world kind of world.
The story is about a boy who's dog is stolen and then embarks on a trip across a sea to get the dog back. It's told as a journal written to a boy and his dog in an old photo the writer finds, so it's a first person account.
This was just okay for me, though I didn't see the couple of twists that came in the last quarter of the book. The world created was interesting to think about, but the characters sort of fell flat for me, maybe because of the way it's written? I don't know. But at least it was a good ending!
An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew, by Annejet van der Zijl - translated by Michele Hutchison. This is the "book in translation" I chose for the Modern Mrs Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge (I'm halfway through the challenge now with this book). Which is interesting since it's a biography about an American - it surprised me that it was written by a Dutch writer.
This tells the story of Allene Tew who I had never heard of, but who was born in poverty and became exceedingly wealthy through marriages during the later part of the 19th century and early 20th when there were all the new millionaires being made through railroads, manufacturing, and no/low taxes.
I love history and much of this was new to me, so I found that fascinating, including how often they traveled then even though it was all ocean crossings that took a month or more. The amount of money this relatively small group of New Yorkers held and how they spent it is a bit staggering. Really made me think about how we're sort of back to that have and have-not era with the wealth gap now.
The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock, Jane Riley. This was a free read through Amazon Prime and I was looking for something light and fun. It was light, had some fun parts, and was clean, but it was also a little boring. I found myself really skimming the last part of the book. I also really found myself wondering if a man would every talk/think like this - it did seem like a woman trying to think like a man. Which is never good in a book - to be thinking about that means you're not really believing it.
I also wished the ending were a little more clear. I am a happy ending lover, so that could be my bias, but with a fun book, you almost think there should be a good ending, right?
Tidelands, Philippa Gregory. Oh my gosh, looking back over these reviews, it seems like endings are not so good with this batch, but they all pale in comparison to this TERRIBLE ending. Really one of the worst ever. I waited for months for this audiobook from the library from a well-known author I've read before and liked (The Other Boleyn Girl) and with a lackluster story and confusing, sad ending I definitely shouldn't have.
Seeing how people lived in the middle ages was interesting - and frustrating to see the superstition and grinding poverty that guided people's lives (those with money worked to keep those without down). But oh this story - I didn't really buy much of it and I seriously couldn't believe she would end it like that. I only now see that it is book one of a two book series, but as I read the synopsis of the second book that takes place years later I had NO desire at all to learn more about any of these people.
It's rare that I dislike a book so much - especially a historical fiction because there's usually something to keep me entertained, but this is a 1-star if there ever was one. If you've read this and liked it, please tell me why - maybe I'll change my mind!
One Child Nation Documentary, Amazon Prime. Super interesting look at China's one child policy during the late 70s and 1980s from a woman who grew up at that time and goes back to interview her family and those involved in policing the policy.
Tiger King Documentary, Netflix. Yes, we couldn't help it after reading so much about this crazy documentary. And it is crazy. It's like a car wreck you can't tear your eyes away from. There is lots of swearing and disturbing scenes, but it's all from real footage and you can't quite believe it.
Schitt's Creek, Netflix & Hulu. This is the fun stuff we're watching when we need a break - we've always like Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy from movies they've been in. It took us a couple tries to get into this story about a wealthy family that loses all except for a small town the dad didn't know he owned. It's a fish-out-of-water premise that usually works well in comedies, but this also has heart. And lots of innuendoes (warning, f-bombs).
Annihilation, Amazon Prime. Brian really wanted to see this movie since seeing trailers for it last year in the theaters. It was...interesting. It's the story of a team of women who go into an alien type cloud that's taking over land to try and disarm it, or find out more and it focuses on one woman in particular. Other teams have failed except the one woman's husband came back from one team as the only survivor.
It's part sci-fi, part horror as things happen to them in the bubble, but mostly a psychological thriller because you don't really know what's happening with the lead woman, her husband, or the others.
Harry Potter and Deathly Hollows Part 1, and Part 2, Amazon. I finally finished watching the Harry Potter movies after listening to all the books! These were okay and it's always fun to see the HP world come to life. But...the movies are just no way as good as the books. SO much is missing, not just characters, but motivations and underlying thoughts and actions.
So if you've only seen the movies and wondered what all the fuss was about, read the books. 🙂
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!
Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read my full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.