A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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And...here we are at the beginning of another month! I read somewhere that it's been said these coronavirus times are making the days feel like forever but the months pass quickly.
Hmmm, not sure if I agree - everything seems to have slowed down. When there are things to constantly look forward to - a trip, a family gathering, or even just a movie on date night - time seems to go faster. But then, maybe it's a good thing we're all being forced to live in the moment?
However time goes, it's been nice to have more places open. Our immediate family went to a restaurant on my birthday and everyone seemed to be good with masks and social distancing wherever we went. Hopefully all goes well and we can learn to do life with the virus.
And as if that weren't enough, our country is now embroiled in turmoil because of the police treatment of blacks. This isn't really a forum for discussing this, but just know that I'm appalled and will do what I can to educate myself and vote responsibly so that I'm not helping to perpetrate the problem.
Here are just a few good things for you, which it seems we could all use right about now.
Good Things List
Garden Gate Arbor
We've had the four posts for this arbor sticking up empty for the year and a half that the raised bed vegetable garden fence has been done. Every time I looked at those posts I would think how great it would look once it was finished.
Then I bought a grape to vine over it, which usually grows pretty quickly, and asked Brian if we could finish it. And ta-da...we finally have the arbor!
Like most things we do, I chose a simple design that would be easy to build with basic lumbar and tools. Plus it cost less than $100 and it's super sturdy, unlike the similar arbors you can buy.
And when you're growing something like grapes, the structure has to hold a lot of weight and not risk being blown over by wind. The posts are anchored into the ground with cement, so this isn't going anywhere.
Brian made a short how-to video if you'd like to do something similar:
(TIP: you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the notification bell to be alerted any time we have a new video - which we're committing to producing weekly now!).
Mother's Day Kayaking...with a dog.
Brian took me kayaking for Mother's Day for the second year in a row making it an official tradition now. We have a lake near us that has a quieter end where the boats don't go and we knew there wouldn't be a lot of people.
It was super fun just to get out on the water for the first time this season. But we did try something new, as you can see above - we took our puppy, Jynx to see if she'd like riding along.
Annnnd...nope, she didn't really. She just sort of clung to my lap. But what was worse was it was hard to paddle with her right there - I kept having to lean out in an uncomfortable way in order not to whack her. And a couple times I did, though gently.
So, next time we'll just have to leave her at home. (Don't you wish you could tell dogs the alternative - being at home - and that we'd keep them safe?)
New Sturdy Garden Tote
I had been wanting this Bucket Boss tool tote ever since I found it for the garden gift ideas list (aren't the best gifts the ones you'd want for yourself, lol). The wide flat shape was the best part to me because of what happened to my old garden tote that you can see above.
After using it only one season, it just started leaning to the side and there was nothing I could do about it (I tried). Also it was hard to find things in the main compartment and I thought the shallower, wider design would be better for the garden.
And I was right! It holds everything perfectly, with room to spare. It's so easy to pick up, carry, and set down and things are just right there for me to easily see.
At first I was sad there weren't pockets on both sides for tools like the other bag. But now that I've been using it, I'm glad there aren't, as it's easier to carry and not knock your legs with tools as you do. Plus there are plenty of loops in the main section for more tools.
While I think it's meant to be a regular tool tote, I think it's PERFECT as a garden tote and I can see it lasting for many years. (Want one, too? You can get it here.)
Slate Garden Tags
I guess it was a month of good garden things! The tote and the slate garden tags you see above where both purchased with birthday gift cards, and I've had my eye on them awhile (the slate tags were also in that garden gift guide list).
Do I need a tag to tell me these are strawberries? Obviously not, lol.
But do I need the tags to bring me joy whenever I walk in the garden?
You can bring beauty and joy to your garden with the same tags, too, by clicking here.
This last month I listened to and read seven books - most I enjoyed, one was just okay, and one I wish I had't read.
Through the Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot. I had read this book in college and one of the things I've been enjoying the past few years is listening to audiobooks of books I read awhile ago. Also listening to this as a mother and wife makes it different, too. This is the story of Jim Elliot and his team of missionaries and their desire to reach the then-named Auca indians in the Peruvian jungle with tragic consequences. It's full of journal entries and letters from the men and knowing their hearts and hopefulness in reaching the Aucas is kind of heartbreaking. It's a book that really sheds a light on our changing times, though - I wondered out loud to Brian if there are any young men writing such things in their journals now (I know Brian and I weren't when we were in college!). Very worthwhile.
Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth. I have been wanting to read these books for awhile since seeing a couple of the PBS series episodes and a few people telling me I'd like it. As a history buff some of the stories in here are incredible - it's like a picture out of the late 1800's or early 1900's instead of the 1950s. Wow, the living conditions and poverty. Also I didn't know there are some pretty graphic scenes included - and the ones around the prostitution story were pretty disturbing. But the overall story of the nuns and nurses called to minister to the poor was so good and listening to the authors faith-journey was refreshing.
Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouses, Jennifer Worth. I listened to these books in order, so didn't realize that this book isn't like #1 and #3 - there is no midwifery in this and few stories of the nurses and nuns. This is about the workhouses with history and stories surrounding them. It was interesting, but lacked the humanity and joy of the other two in my opinion.
Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End, Jennifer Worth. Back to the stories of the nuns and nurses and their jobs of helping bring babies into the world. By this time, I was pretty invested in the lives of those living in Nonnatus house and it was great to hear more of the author's time there including a love story that was so sweet and a birth on a ship that I'll never forget. The end where we got to hear what happened to some of the people we met was a nice conclusion, though some of what became of them was certainly surprising (but that is real life, isn't it?).
Made for the Journey, Elisabeth Elliot. This is Elisabeth's story of her first year as a missionary before she married Jim Elliot. In it she tells the story of starting to write down an unknown language in preparation for providing the Bible to the natives in the jungle of Peru. How she prayed for someone who knew both Spanish and the native language - how he was provided and then murdered just a short time later. And how all her language work - carried in a suitcase - was lost. A whole years worth of work. She writes how this challenged her faith and how it taught her that God is the one in control and not Elisabeth. This was a good reminder for me and inspiring story.
Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas. Let me just say this is a silly little book, but I've really enjoyed the TV series with my daughter and when I saw Modern Mrs. Darcy recommend this as a decent YA thriller, I got it from the library. It is exactly like the TV series and movies. It's set later, so there are adulting themes for Veronica, but the detective part is there, as are the characters from the shows. I pretty much skimmed through it.
City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert. Ah, so this is the book I alluded to in the intro - and to be honest, I debated whether to even share it at all. But this book gets so much love on book lists (one of the reasons I read it after waiting for months from the library) that I feel the need to be honest if you're at all like me in what you like to read. This is the story of a completely amoral woman who isn't actually very likable at all. There's really nothing redeeming in it - it's sort of, "I am what I am, though I'm maybe sorry for that one thing I did..." I never once believed that someone would write all the intimate details of their life to a stranger - never. And the reason I wish I hadn't read it is because there are a couple scenes - and one in particular - that I wish weren't in my head. The reasons for the love this book gets is the author (who also wrote Eat, Pray, Love - which I've never been interested in reading) and the whole "woman power" theme - this main character is a woman who doesn't feel the need to get married (how could she since she likes to have sex with different men all the time? Oh, and conveniently doesn't get any diseases...) and makes her way in the world successfully on her own. I beg to differ and wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
Upload, Amazon. This is a fun show that's pretty well done and set just enough into the future that it seems like some of it could be real (I know the driving cars are being tested now...). It has a lot of heart and answers age-old questions while keeping a who-done-it storyline going. (Heads up: It is rated TV-MA for swearing, murder, and sexual situations, but nothing is graphic.)
Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill, Netflix. Brian and I LOVED this stand up special, but then we pretty much love most things Jerry Seinfeld does, especially his stand up. (We actually saw him live once back in 90s in Portland and we laughed until we cried.) This is fun, classic Jerry and if you need a good, clean laugh (a few swear words, but he's known for being clean), this is for you.
District 9 (2009) Netflix. Our son told us we would like this and we're not sure how we've missed it all these years, because we really did. I also read that it's considered one of the best science fiction films of the 2000s. It's super gory, but the themes of love, humanity, and xenophobia/racism make you think about this movie long after. I read that it was depicting South Africa's handling of blacks during apartheid and it's very sobering in that light.
Mad Max Fury Road, Amazon. Again, this was another movie one of our children thought we would like, this time our daughter when she saw it in 2015, that we had never got around to watching. Then I read an article about how it was one of the best films ever - and the amazing way it was made - and we finally sat down to watch it. If you've seen the other Mad Max movies, you know what you're in for - a lot of violence, but also heart and kindness. Charlize Theron is amazing in this.
Emma 2020, Amazon. This was a really fun, lighthearted adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. The colors, sets, and music all lent the feel of a fun romp. It was the same story, thankfully, but updated with a more likable Emma and more realistic Mr. Knightly. I did think the actor who portrayed Mr. Knightly was too young, but I liked how we see more of his coming to terms with his feelings for Emma. And I really appreciated how we see Emma grow and mature from her selfish snobbery into the caring person she is at the end. Many people (including my daughter who is named Emma...) don't think Emma is very likable, but she's always been one of my favorite heroines of Jane's books because she is real, human, and we see her grow and change. Like most of us do. (Oh, and Bill Nighy as Emma's father steals just about every scene he's in!)
The Vast of Night, Amazon. This is an Amazon original movie set in the 1950s about a visit from a spaceship to a small town. It's very slow moving - like very. Minutes watching legs running along a road kind of slow. The sets and two lead actors were very good, though the ending was pretty unsatisfactory after all our time watching legs run and bike wheels turn...(Very clean with a few swear words.)
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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I appreciate your honest review of City of Girls, Jami. I had heard some things about it that made me think it wasn't for me, and your review just confirmed that. It can be hard to go against the crowd when a book and its author are so popular ... thanks for sharing your perspective despite that fact!
Thank you, Lauren, I really appreciate that since I debated about sharing at all. 🙂
I checked the Veronica Mars book out on my Kindle (from the library). I'm excited to read this! I had no idea there were books. Thanks for sharing.
Hope you enjoy the books - they are a lot like the series and you can just picture everyone in your mind. 🙂
Judy Zehring says
Thank you for the garden tote idea!! Just ordered one. I have so many garden tools and they are currently in an ugly bucket that is falling apart. This garden tote is exactly what I need. And the price is soooooo reasonable.
I'm so glad it will work for you, Judy! It really is WAY better than the other "official" tote I had. 🙂