A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Hello friends – I hope June treated you well and you’re ready for July like I am! Summer is my favorite season (it’s all about being warm & sunshine for me) and July is usually reliably summer here in western Oregon (unlike June with it’s off and on warmth-and-rain mix). #BringItOn
We’ve now lived on our farmhouse property two and a half years and so it was our third year with the huge cherry tree near the vegetable garden. Sadly, the June rains came right at ripening time, which is just a short 2-week window anyway, and the ripe/almost ripe cherries all split the first week.
We were able to harvest only a couple of bowlfuls to eat before the birds found them by the end of the second week. Such a difference from the last two years when we picked enough to be able to make cherry chutney, cherry BBQ sauce, and to dry cherries.
This is where I the gardener’s mantra, “There’s always next year!” comes in handy, right?
A Vegetable Garden Patio
If you get AOC’s weekly newsletter, you got to see a couple views of the finished broken concrete (“urbanite”) patio in the vegetable garden.
If not, plug your name and email into the form at the top or bottom of the page to sign up – you’ll gain access to a ton of free printables as well as insider information in the newsletter!
The garden has a glorious view, so as I was planning it, I decided to add a seating area, because why not? Well, little did I know just how wonderful it would be!
We drug our old house’s gazebo furniture out of storage and bought a new umbrella (the old one finally succumbed, after painting it gave it many more years!) in time to celebrate Father’s Day here with our son.
I’ve taken tea and a book out here, too, and it’s been so wonderful to experience the garden from a different point of view than just work. Highly recommended if you have room in or near your “working” garden!
PS – We are planning a tutorial on how we used broken concrete to make a patio, so stay tuned. I’m also going to share how I’ve used it in other ways in the garden, too – it’s a great way to keep something out of the landfill, not to mention save a ton of money!
New Preserving Cookbook
Just in time for harvest and preserving season is this new book, The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables, by my friend Angi Schneider from Schneider Peeps.
I’m so thrilled to be able to share this with you, as it’s one of the best books I’ve seen on preserving, with so much information and organized wonderfully to be easy to read and find what you’re looking for. Plus, it’s just a beautiful book to hold and read.
The title tag line is, “canning, pickling, fermenting, dehydrating, and freezing your favorite fresh produce” and it really is that comprehensive for the vegetables featured.
The book is in two parts, the first showing general preservation methods how-tos, and the second part dedicated to preserving 19 popular vegetables, plus a section on herbs. Under each vegetable are recipes to preserve it in each of the methods as they are appropriate.
There are some wonderful and unique recipes to try, too, making this book great for beginners and experienced preservers alike. This is another thing I’m highly recommending! CLICK HERE to learn more.
Farmhouse Laundry Light Fixture
I thought I’d share with you the fun farmhouse metal flush mount barn light I bought for the laundry room. One, because it’s simple and sweet and two, because it was less than $30.
And when you’re buying all new lighting like we are for the farmhouse, that’s a very good thing.
I found this on a new site to me, Beautiful Halo, which has clothing as well. It is a Chinese site, so shipping takes longer but at less than half the price of other fixtures I was looking at, it’s okay with me.
Grove’s Plastic Neutral & Plastic-Free TP
Another thing I shared in the newsletter was the fact that Grove Collaboration announced a little while ago that they are now “plastic neutral,” which means for every plastic thing they sell, they are offsetting that by collecting and recycling the same amount of plastic pollution. They are the only company that is doing this now.
Which is cool, but they’ve also pledged to be 100% plastic free by 2025 – isn’t that amazing? Just think of all those bottles of Mrs. Meyers – I can’t wait to see what the solution to that is!
The plastic thing has been bugging me for awhile and at the beginning of the year, I started to plan ways to reduce plastic in our home. Getting produce from Imperfect Foods has been one way, as well as experimenting with linen produce bags and silicone ziplocks.
For some reason the needless plastic around toilet paper just really bugged me – I don’t know why I fixated on that, but it was even before the March clearing-of-the-shelves, lol. So when I saw that Grove’s Seedling TP switched from plastic to a cardboard box and I decided to try it.
The reviews are really quite all over the place (“it’s so soft” right along with “it’s scratchy,”) so here’s what I’d say truthfully are the pros and cons:
Con: It’s not soft like we’re used to at home, no matter that is say’s “ultra soft.” It reminds me of the TP you get at stores and airports.
Pro: BUT it’s not scratchy, it’s just not super soft. And it IS strong with no “breakage,” if you get my meaning. This is important, a-hem.
Pro: The paper is made from renewable bamboo as well, not just recycled paper like other TPs. I think this is why they are softer than typical recycled TP, which is scratchy.
Pro: The rolls are big and last a long time, which is a bonus.
Pro: And of course the cardboard packaging, which makes SO much sense to me! I hope other TP makers go to this, too, actually.
So, would I purchase again? Yep, for sure – I can handle a bit less softness for the tradeoff of less plastic and a renewable resource. CLICK HERE to check it out and get a free 5 piece gift set with a purchase.
I read and listened to a total of 11 books in June – again, audiobooks are a gardeners best friend!
Audiobook Tip: While I do get some audiobooks from the library, I also really like the Audible membership I’ve had for years. The books are always there after purchase, so there’s no return issues and of course there’s no wait. I save money a couple of ways on Audible:
- After signing up with the free trial and regular monthly membership for about a year, I downgraded to an every-other-month credit. So the $14.94 credit spreads out to $7.50 a month and still allows me access to the sales and free originals. (By the way, no matter if you end your membership, the books you purchased will always be in your library and available – you never lose them.) They don’t advertise this, but you can ask for it.
- I save my credits to use when there are 2-for-1 sales. They seem to run these every 3-4 months and while it’s a certain number of books (not their whole catalog), there’s usually something I find that I want.
- I get the Audible Daily Deal email. I must say that most of these are not books I’d want, but every once in awhile it’s a good one and they are priced between $2.95 to $5.95. I simply purchase these, since I don’t want to waste my credits on them.
- While not really a money-saver, the audible originals that are offered for free to members each month is a great bonus. Some months I don’t care for any, but most of the time there are 1-2 that I grab. In fact two of the books below are free originals and I really enjoyed both!
Plus, when people know you have an Audible membership, they can gift you some credits like my son did for my birthday this year!
If you’d like to try it, click this link to get a free 30-day trial with 2 audiobooks + 2 Audible Originals (that are yours to keep even if you decide not to keep the membership).
Here are reviews of the eight best books I read in June:
Suffering is Never For Nothing, Elizabeth Elliot. This book was put together from a series of talks Elizabeth Elliot gave and was published after her death. I have two pages of notes from this in my book notes journal, which means there are great nuggets and is super timely to the era we’re living in. Here are a couple of thoughts and quotes I recorded:
-Our lives and how we respond to circumstances should look different as Christians from those around us. There should be two main differences:
Acceptance & Gratitude
Of God’s gifts, not the specific suffering, which was key for me. This is how she put it with regards to her own suffering:
I don’t think I need to thank God for the cancer (that killed her second husband) or the murder (that killed her first), but I do need to thank God that in the midst of that very situation, the world was still in His hands.
There is, in fact, no redemptive work anywhere done without suffering.Elisabeth Elliot
I’ll probably need to re-read this in the future, the message was that important to me.
This Won’t End Well, Camille Pagan. I’ve been seeing this author’s books around a lot and they seem like fun fiction with a romance factor. And this book was that, with some funny characters and situations. It is light reading for sure.
I never really connected with the characters, though, and the ending seemed really rushed to me. I was continually frustrated by the main character’s choices as she “finds herself” but that could be just me. It’s a pretty clean book, which is a bonus with modern fiction, and was a quick read that would be good for a trip or lazing in a hammock.
Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith, Barnabas Piper. My daughter actually checked out this audiobook from the library and then I read it after she was done. It’s very down-to-earth and I so appreciated the theme that doubt and faith go hand-in-hand. You’re not faithless if you wonder and question. The Bible is full of examples of people who did just that and were faithful.
Here’s a quote that I want to remember:
‘I believe, help my unbelief’ should be the cry of every Christian everywhere, every day.
At no point in this life will we believe perfectly, so we will need this prayer until the day Jesus makes our souls whole, removes our sin, and gives us perfect belief upon his return.Barnabas Piper
The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner. This book combines historical fiction with Jane Austen, so yeah I was ready to like it, lol. It’s set in the days around WWII in the English village of Chawton, which is a real place and was where Jane Austen spent the last years of her life. And while there really is a Jane Austen Society and museum there, this is a totally fictionalized account of how these came to be.
We learn about the eight people who eventually come to make up the society in the years before the war, and how they discover each other over their mutual love for Austen. The people include the villagers as well as a Londoner and an American actress. I found it interesting with both fun and heavier parts – including a twist at the end. It was slow, but I don’t always need fast-paced plots. It’s more like life unfolding.
Ah, but the ending. Sigh, I just didn’t really like it. It seemed super rushed in that “we need a happy ending now” way. And I should mention that there is one scene set in Hollywood with the actress where she’s assaulted and it’s kind of graphic, so if that’s a trigger, you might want to steer clear of this. I don’t remember anything else objectionable and I wish the author hadn’t included it – it’s not necessary to the storyline much and we certainly didn’t need to “see” it to get what happened.
The Science of Sci-Fi, Erin MacDonald (Audible Original, from Great Courses). Brian and I listened to this in the car after I downloaded it from one of the free monthly choices. I thought it would be interesting to hear what they get right and what they get wrong in Sci-Fi TV, movies, and books.
And it was! There were some surprising things that Sci-Fi is actually spot-on with, and of course there are those things that will probably never be. This includes transporters that move a body from one place to another like on Star Trek. The professor went into some details on what would have to happen for this to become a reality and it’s, like, no, not going to happen!
If you are a Sci-Fi fan, this is a good one for sure.
Food, A Cultural Culinary History, Ken Albala (Audible Original, from Great Courses). You guys, I listened to 18+ hours on the history of food and believe it or not it was fascinating!! This is an actual course you get to listen to and the professor is lively and engaging – and really knows his stuff.
I knew I’d hear about what foods people ate in different eras and different places in the world, but the most interesting things were the hows and whys of some foods and spices. So there was history involved because wars and plagues and politics all influenced what food you could get and what it meant.
I actually listened to this while prepared food every day, so I was pretty involved, ha!
Weakness Is The Way, J.I. Packer. This is a short book which is basically a study of 2 Corinthians even though it’s core theme is “when I am weak, then I am strong” from 2 Cor. 2:10. These quotes illustrate how this applies to us:
The truth, however, is that in many respects, and certainly in spiritual matters, we are all weak and inadequate, and we need to face it.
Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road, [and] to practice that dependence as one of the constant habits of our heart…J.I. Packer
Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes. This is another book I’ve seen about a lot in the past few months, popular enough that I had to wait almost 2 months for this from the library. It’s another mostly lighthearted read. There are some issues the two main characters have to work through, but overall it’s an easy read.
But (ha, you thought I was done…), I was pretty disappointed in this book. While it’s “closed door” (i.e., doesn’t show anything in the bedroom), the big push is basically when the main characters are going to go to bed. Oh, and the ending was SO “meh.” Here’s the “big” moment we’re all supposed to love after they decide to live together:
I mean, I’ll marry you, probably.
What the heck? This came after a long monologue where the male protagonist lists all the ways he’s happy in NY and she’s happy in Maine. But, “let’s try anyway.”
Is this all people want now, halfhearted commitments like this? This was like a cold drink being spilled on me, yet we were supposed to be happy for them because they each “grew.”
Yeah, not going to make my best-of list, ha! But I’d love to hear your take on it if you’ve read it.
Anjela Johnson, Not Fancy (Netflix). Brian and I had never heard of this stand-up comedian before seeing her name in a list of “comedians you could watch with your kids.” (We jumped all over that, as we like to laugh without being cussed at or made to cringe.)
You guys, she is SO funny. We laughed a lot and then searched for other things we could find of her older stuff on YouTube. Her facial expressions alone will make you laugh. We all need a good laugh these days, so do check her out!
Lennox Hill Documentary (Netflix). We watched one episode of this 9 episode documentary and it is really good as showing what doctors and nurses deal with everyday. Problem is for us, it was just a little too real, although I think it’s just the time we are living in.
Just Mercy (Amazon). Michael B. Jordan stars as real life lawyer Brian Stevenson as he moves to the south to start a non profit that helps people on death row get fair trials. Some of them turned into overturned convictions as the racial profiling details came out, and this movie focuses on one of those cases. This is such a good movie and tells an important story. We also watched a talk Bryan gave at NY’s Redeemer Church a few years ago after writing the book the movie is based on. It was a great addition, confirming a lot of what was in the movie.
I Still Believe (Amazon). This is a movie based on the real-life experience of Christian musician, Jeremy Camp before he was famous. The title is also the title of his debut song (and became a huge hit) that was written after his young new wife passed away from cancer. I’ve always found the song inspiring and faith-building. The movie is good and shares the background of the story sharing the lows and highs.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix). This is just a silly movie starring Will Farrell and Rachel McAdams as two Icelandic singers who find their way to the big Eurovision song contest. This is a real contest that’s been held every year for decades, so there’s a lot of history there. I guess they’re known for out-there kind of acts. It wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, but it was Will Farrell, so it had its moments. 🙂
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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