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.
Whew. We made it through the month of April. I know it's not just me who felt that the month drug on and on.
Hopefully some new things will start happening in May that will give us hope - I know I could use a break from cabin fever. And I'm a homebody, so that's saying a lot, lol.
Anyway, this is about good things, isn't it? Oh, yeah, right! Well, there are always good things - if we look for them. And this list is a good reason for me to look back and find some to share with you all.
There's something for the crafty, the givers, the eaters, the readers and watchers. So yeah, everyone.
Easter Zoom Dinner with Friends
I know this isn't breaking news to anyone (hello Zoom everything), but with Easter being home alone this year, it just felt really off.
So we decided to have an Easter dinner together over Zoom with a couple of our friends. But not just our own dinner - we'd share and have the same thing. We made a menu and split up the dishes for each of us to make.
On the Saturday afternoon before Easter we drove over to their house and exchanged our parts of the meal (with social distance of course...).
It made all the difference to be eating the same thing - and to be able to have something someone else had made! Especially my friend's cheesecake - SO good (I think I lucked out!).
And now it's an Easter to remember.
Crochet Dishcloths to Reduce Paper Use
I'm turning into my grandma. Except my grandma never made these, so I'm turning into someone else's grandma, lol.
The thing is, I've never liked using crocheted dishcloths for dishes whenever they've been given to me. They were too big and too holey and flung water everywhere. I just didn't get it.
But when I saw this pattern for a tight-weave dishcloth on Miss Mustard Seed, I immediately thought of using them instead of the paper towels I used to use, and the disposable "Swedish" dishcloths I've been using the last few years.
While those reusable dishcloths are a great substitute for one-and-done paper towels, they do start to disintegrate after a month or two of using and washing. Having something that lasted for years was appealing to me - if it would work as well, meaning be absorbent and convenient.
So I made one using some cotton yarn I had from an old knitting project and tested it out (after washing it which gives it a slightly tighter weave). Both Brian and I agreed it worked well, so I made more and now keep them in an enamel bowl by the sink so we can grab whenever we need them.
That was key - to have enough for a week. We can use one a day and throw it into the laundry to be washed with the next load. I didn't want them getting grody, you know?
And if you're on Instagram, you may have seen this photo above in my stories with a caption that it worked! We're now using these dishcloths instead of the cellulose cloths, along with t-shirt rags for nasty spills (they can be washed or thrown out as needed), tea towels for drying, and walnut and cellulose scrubber sponges from Grove.
No one-use disposables needed! (Next on my list is to find alternatives that work for so many plastic bags...)
If you're wanting to make some, here are the supplies I use:
- wood crochet hooks (so nice to hold)
- Dishie cotton yarn (my preferred - seems to not split as much)
- Sugar 'N Cream cotton yarn
Brightbox Happy Mail
I discovered Brightbox this last month and immediately sent one to a friend (that's her box she sent me a photo of above). I love the site, the boxes, the price, and the company's story.
It seems like a perfect thing for anytime, but especially now when pretty much everyone could use some happy mail. There are options for curated boxes for $15, custom boxes for $10, and confetti cards for $5 - all prices include shipping (see? really great prices).
If you'd like to check Brightbox out, use my referral link here and get a free Add-On (up to $3) on your first box. I think you're going to like them as much as I do!
Heavy Duty Smaller Loaf Pans
I did a bit of research on loaf pan sizes and how they coordinate with the amount of flour in a bread recipe and realized that my popular soft whole wheat sandwich bread falls right on the line between the 8.5x4.5 and 9x5 pans.
Since I'd been having trouble after moving getting a good rise (New colder kitchen? Oven? Mixer? Flour? Who knows?) like I used to, I ordered the smaller size - and chose to get some nice heavy duty pans and not cheap out (although these aren't expensive).
I really love these pans. They are easy to use and the loaves are coming right out after baking with just a light greasing. These are still considered a standard loaf size so we didn't notice a huge difference in the bread size, but the dough did rise above the rims like it used to. Here's hoping that continues!
Looking back, April was a better reading month than March, but there still were a couple of clinkers in there. Sometimes a book just doesn't do it for you. There were some good ones, though, too - I hope you find something that resonates with you in the reviews below!
The Lonely Search For God, Henri Nouwen. This is an audio recording of Henri Nouwen that can be found on Audible and library apps like Hoopla. I've read other Christian bloggers mention Henri Nouwen, but I hadn't read anything of his myself. I knew a bit about him - a Catholic priest who taught for many years and then left to live and work with disabled people in Canada for the last years of his life.
In this book, Henri is pretty vulnerable, sharing his own feelings of loneliness and how he came to understand the difference between loneliness and solitude, which in this era of staying at home seems very timely. There were a number of quotes I recorded in my Book Notes Journal, including:
The spiritual life must change from one of loneliness to one of solitude. In solitude there is fruitful waiting, patience. In loneliness, grasping and seeking.
Henri also talked about keeping a "secret self" part of us that we don't share with anybody but God. This was especially thought provoking to me, as I've never thought about this idea before. He says when we don't protect this "inner mystery" we will never be able to form community:
Our inner mystery attracts us to each other and allows us to establish friendships and develop lasting relationships of love. Intimate relationships between people not only asks for mutual openness, but also for mutual respectful protection of each other's mystery. It's a false form of honesty that suggests nothing can remain hidden and everything should be said, expressed, or communicated.
For me, as an introvert, this is reaffirming that there's not something wrong with me because I don't need to share everything. It also explains why it's uncomfortable when someone overshares! Anyway, really good things to think about.
Profit First, Michael Michalowicz. This was a book that I've heard SO many online business people rave about, so I listened to it to see what it was about and if it would apply to my small online business. But no, it wasn't really for me. I sort of already do the method he outlines - basically instead of the traditional "sales - expenses = profit" his method has you take a profit first, leaving what's left for expenses. It's like the idea that you will fill whatever time you have - if you have less, you will get things done sooner. So in the profit first system, you don't overspend on expenses, you only buy what you have the money for.
Or something like that, ha. Because I'm small potatoes and don't really have sales and employees, I felt it would only complicate my simple accounting system. But it was good to see what it was all about.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson. As a history buff, this exploration of the black migration from the Jim Crow south to the north during the 20th century (up to the 1970s) was super interesting to me. The author goes into quite a bit of detail about why this was happening, why some left and others didn't.
She uses the stories of three people and their families who made the journey at different times to illustrate this and make it personal, which was really nice. One of the people is actually the authors mother, and is why she got interested in the subject.
Some things that will stick with me are the horrible stories of how the southern blacks were treated in Jim Crow era (humans can be so terrible sometimes...), the ridiculous laws of the time (as trains passed from a northern state to a southern Jim Crow state, the black passengers had to move to a different car or part of the car), and the author's findings that the southerners didn't cause the problems in black neighborhoods in northern cities as it has been suggested.
I'm really glad to know this about this part of our country's history as it builds empathy and understanding.
Break Shot: My First 21 Years, James Taylor. I'm not a huge JT fan - he was a little before my time - but I've enjoyed listening to his popular songs over the years. So I grabbed this free Audible offering because it's the history in autobiographies that draw me - learning about another time and place. And it's usually fascinating to hear about how famous people "made it." Often it is very random.
The most interesting thing in James Taylor's making it story is the fact that he got his first break through a friend of a friend who happened to be scouting talent for the Beatle's new record label, Apple, in the late 1960s. He was the first artist to come out with a record for them - his first - and while he was only with them a year, it was just what he needed.
Also, I had no idea he struggled with mental health issues, as well as his whole family. And hearing about the origins of some of his first popular songs will make me never hear them the same way again.
Cast Under an Alien Sun, Olan Thorensen. This was the most recent shared audiobook listen for Brian and me, and it took us awhile to get through because it was soooooo boring. Ugh. We just kept thinking it would get better, since it started off pretty good, but no. Just so many long meetings and lots of talking and introducing characters that never had anything to do with the story in this book (we learned afterwards that there are six books in the series!).
The story is about a man who is taking a regular flight to talk at a conference about his area of expertise - something techy, I can't remember - and the flight is hit by something and he thinks he's died. But he's been saved by aliens who heal him and put him on a planet with other humans because he can't go back to earth (again, can't remember why...). It just happens to be a culture at about the 1700s in our history timeline. So he's got to learn all that and try and figure out how to incorporate the 21st century stuff he knows without frightening everyone.
See, sounds like a good premise, right? But there's not much of a plot. It seems like the author just spent this first book world-building. The problem is, we have no interest in visiting anymore, so it would've been nice to have some sort of plot arch that may have concluded in the book (kind of like one of our favorites of all time, Red Rising, did).
Pont Neuf, Max Byrd. This is another Audible original that was free, which is a good thing because I didn't like this story, either. It's set in the last months of WWII and centers around a female war correspondent and two American soldiers. There were parts that were okay - usually the descriptions of the war, with the Battle of the Bulge being particularly good.
But the ending was awful with no closure - in fact, I didn't even really get what was happening in the epilogue because the last part of the book was so rushed and I didn't understand what had happened. And a bad ending can ruin a book for me.
Tennison, Prime Suspect 1973. Brian and I both loved this show and were sad to read that there is only one season and won't be any more. This is kind of like Endeavor, where they visit the lead character of a popular series when they are young and just starting out in their police careers.
World On Fire, PBS. This is a current Masterpiece series, like the one below, that we are watching. I'm liking it more than Brian. It follows a group of people in different parts of Europe during the prelude to WWII and is very well done, like all Masterpiece shows.
Baptiste, PBS. The other current series we're in the middle of - and Brian likes this better than I do, lol. It's a bit gory, but the lead character is so unlike any lead you'd find in American TV which is refreshing - he seems like a real person.
Lost in Space, Season 2, Netflix. This is just a fun show about family, friendships, crazy people and a robot. This season is a bit sappier with the robot and the kid than the first, but it's still a fun, clean watch.
Deadwater Fell, Acorn. We signed up for a free trial of Acorn to watch this David Tennant series about a doctor in a small village (English? Irish? I couldn't tell) who's family perishes in a fire. Who set the fire is the mystery. It's very well acted and each episode is told from another perspective and ends with a cliffhanger, which of course made us want to see the next.
What To Do When Someone Dies, Acorn. In looking for what else Acorn had to watch, we found this interestingly titled short series. (Side: Has anyone else noticed that these "premium" channels you pay for hardly have anything of their own that you can watch? Most of the offerings take you to other channels that you have to pay even more for...sheesh.)
I actually liked this better than the David Tennant show - it was much more psychological and we ended up really caring for the main character as she searches for the truth about her husbands death. Plus it deals gently with grieving and has a really satisfying ending.
We only watched two movies this last month, The Signal from 2014 and Event Horizon from 1997. Both had been listed in an article about good sci fi movies to watch, but after watching, Brian and I didn't like them, so they're not really making the Good List, ha!
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.