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.
Hello, friends! Here we are firmly into August - the dog days of summer - and I'm coming a little later with the Good Things List because of a summer road trip (more on that below).
I hope you all are doing well! I'm loving the warm weather we've been enjoying here in the Willamette Valley - summer is my favorite season!! Unless it's really hot (90s+) then I don't even want the air conditioning, I want to experience the lovely warmth.
Um, which kind of puts me at odds with Brian who starts complaining about the heat when it hits 80, lol. But we've learned to compromise! What about you - are you a heat-lover, too?
Okay, lets get to it - here are the good things from July and early August!
Yellowstone & Grand Teton Vacation
Our one big vacation this summer was a road trip to Yellowstone National Park that our family had been planning since last summer. Yep, pre-covid.
We had a house reserved and the trip planned. Then in May our place decided to forgo short term rentals because of the pandemic and there was a question if a road trip would be possible.
I found a new place on Airbnb and the host was wonderful and willing to work with us and refund us if the state's borders closed or something unforeseen like that.
Thankfully, we were able to go and the travel and accommodation went super smoothly! Yellowstone was amazing and beautiful and the Grand Tetons were jaw-dropping gorgeous.
But, wow, the crowds. I think everyone who cancelled their overseas trips and Disney vacations are going to national parks, lol. We're all so glad we did it, though!
Here are some links and tips that may help if you're planning a trip to these parks:
- Here is the link to the Airbnb where we stayed - probably one of the best places we've gotten yet, though it was a bit of a drive from the park. We just added the time into our planning.
- Buying an online pass to Yellowstone is a good idea and the way to get in the faster moving lines (even if they are longer at first glance, they move faster). I had a hard time finding the link at first - it's not super clear in the app. Here is the link to buy the pass.
- Contrary to what you see on both the Yellowstone and Grand Teton sites and apps, you won't be able to buy or show a pass to the Tetons if you arrive through the south Yellowstone entrance. We even stopped at the first store we found to see if there was a place to buy the pass and the lady said you don't need to. Only if you're entering through the southern most Teton park entrance, it seems. So, we didn't need to pay for a separate Tetons pass.
- Plan for crowds on all the popular trails, pools, and geysers. The valleys for animal watching is less crowded as are longer, back country trails. Most people were wearing masks and keeping distance.
- For summer 2020 and the pandemic, many of the activities, visitor centers, and lodges are closed. There are plenty of stores open, though, for souvenirs.
Enamel First Aid Box
I saw wonderful enameled first aid box on another bloggers website and fell in love with it! It was on sale for half price, too, so I ordered it right away, which is pretty unusual for me.
But I could just picture it in our future farmhouse bathroom - not the um, interesting, pea green color shown above that's in our manufactured home bath.
Have you seen the black and white bathroom tiles we're diy-ing? This will sit on a vintage cabinet that will be next to the shower which will look so good.
Most of the time these type of enamel pieces are red or blue, so I jumped on this and am SO pleased with it!
As I write this, it's out of stock (I'm not the only one who grabbed it!) and still on sale, though not as good a price as I got. If you want one, too, you can order and be emailed when it's available again.
King Arthur Baking: Bread Bags & Lemon Oil
They are SO much easier to use - and to gift to people! Also, they come in a pack of 100 and I will reuse them until they can't be used anymore so I won't need to buy more for a very long time.
Sometimes it's the small things, you know?
Another small find that's making me happy is the Boyajian Lemon Oil I found on the KA website (it's also available on Amazon). I'm always after the most lemon flavor I can put into lemon baked goods and this delivers pure lemon rind flavor with no other additives.
Shopping Online at Walgreens
How did I not know about shopping online at Walgreens? Last month I needed something I could only find at Walgreens, which is a store I rarely go to anymore - and not at all since the pandemic.
I went to the site and found you can buy everything online and get all the advertised deals that week, too. Even collect rewards if you're into that.
Since I'm not out shopping as much, I don't just pick things up as I see them so I've been running out of things like shampoo, baby oil (which I use after showering - makes a huge difference in my skin), and the like. So I'd have to make special trips.
Not anymore! Shipping is free with a $35 order, so I'll wait to get the things I need at one time and not worry about running out again. Yay!
I read and listened to eight books again in July and after a couple months of ho-hum books, I'm happy that this month brought a couple that I really enjoyed and one that will be on my year's best list for sure!
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Kim Michele Richardson. Well after that intro, it's a bit odd to start with the book that was my least favorite, but there it is. I had read about this on a couple of sites and it seemed right up my historical fiction alley - it's based on actual "blue people" who lived in the Kentucky area into the 20th century.
But it was a hard read to see the main character suffer so many bad things and it was slow with lots of internal thoughts. I'm not really sure why it didn't resonate with me, but I found myself skimming the last part of the book. The ending, at least, was good though.
A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro. This is a fun YA book that's the beginning of a series where teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet and end up working together to solve a mystery/crime. The book treats the characters as if they are real families and it's set in modern time, so also how they've dealt with the notoriety all these years.
Charlotte Holmes has some of the same issues as her famous relative - lack of sleep, able to see what others miss, and a penchant for drugs. The Watson family has kept the existence of Charlotte from Jamie Watson, the youngest descendant, so you see them discover each other in this first book as well as reluctantly start working together. A fun listen while I gardened.
Open Book, Jessica Simpson. I don't read a lot of celebrity memoirs, but I had heard so many good things about this that I put a hold on it from the library. I got the audiobook because memoirs read by the authors are so much better, I think.
It was interesting, as many of these types of books are, and hearing about how it was when she was a part of basically the first reality series was probably the most interesting for me. What was sad for me was hearing about her upbringing in the church, how she still holds those goals today to a degree, but how the Bible doesn't impact her life much now. And this means she has "grown" and "found herself." Sigh.
Nut Jobs: Cracking the Case, Marc Fennell. This story is one of those too-amazing-to-be-true-but-is tales that Brian and I love. It's an Audible original that Brian and I listened to together (one of the free monthly selections I get with my every-other-month subscription, which I love).
You guys, this is an incredible who-done-it set in the agricultural valley of central California. It's about how someone is stealing truckloads of nuts that are worth millions of dollars right from under the noses of the farmers. It's actually a series of podcasts, so it goes into details of the area, the police, and the other crazy things happening in this farming valley.
Here's something we learned that we had no idea of: the area is basically a desert without irrigation and over the century or so of growing trees and crops there, they've used most of the river water and now the underground water. So much so that the ground in areas of the Central Valley has sunk about 28 feet since the 1920s!
A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende. I hadn't read any of this author's books before, but I've seen a lot about her books and was looking forward to my first. This is an epic story spanning many years and tells the story of a family from the civil war in Spain, to their escape to Chile, and all that happens to them throughout their lives.
And that's it - the story of fictional people within actual historical happenings. Even though there wasn't a plot, per se, this was a super interesting book for me. Not only because of the lives lived told in an engrossing manner, but because I didn't really know much about the Spanish civil war or Chile in the 20th century. I learned a lot and it helped me understand some things I had read or heard about. That's my favorite thing about reading historical fiction!
Resistance Women, Jennifer Chiaverini. Here's another historical fiction book - and this one will probably make my best of list. I was much more engaged with the characters in this one and the heroism of the women portrayed is so inspiring. There are four main women portrayed - three are based on real women who fought (and some died) to resist the Nazis, and one is a fictional character who was developed to help us get the Jewish perspective (there is an author's note that describes her thinking).
This was all set in the years leading up to World War II, with only the last chapters during the war, so it's a slightly different take on other WWII books I've read. This is quite good and highly recommended, even though the (true) ending is hard.
Romans 1-7 For You, Timothy Keller. I'm a big fan of Timothy Keller, so when I found this in the Hoopla App from the library I downloaded it to listen during my morning routine. This is basically a verse-by-verse Bible study of Romans chapters 1-7, with thoughts on how they pertain to us now and what was happening then when Paul wrote them.
Harry's Trees, Jon Cohen. Since this author's other book, The Man in the Window, made my best of the year list last year, I knew I'd want to read more of his work. This book, too, had all the things I loved about the first - broken people who figure out how to live again, quirky characters, and an easy plot to move things along.
It's about a widower who can't move on with his life, and a widow and her daughter who is also having trouble moving on and how they all help each other with the help of a librarian and a magical book. While I enjoyed it, I'm not sure it will make my best of list this year. It didn't have quite the humanity and believable main characters of the first book for me.
The Pale Tourist, Jim Gaffigan, Amazon. We just laugh and laugh at his stuff and watch any new thing he puts out. The first one about Canada is better than the second.
New Unsolved Mysteries, Netflix. Brian loved the original and has really enjoyed this new rendition. The first few were simple cold cases and I think they've actually reopened one based on the show, which is good. There is a UFO small town sighting episode that was really interesting, too.
Beecham House, PBS/Amazon. I actually haven't finished this yet, but have enjoyed the two episodes I've watched so far.
New Psych Movie: Lassie Come Home, Peacock (we got a free trial to watch it). We've been big Psych fans ever since our daughter was in middle school and we watched it together. This is a movie for fans and we all enjoyed seeing the characters again. Really inspiring is the fact the actor who portrays John Lassiter actually had a stroke in real life and has come a long way through recovery.
Inside Man, 2006 film directed by Spike Lee. This was such an interesting bank heist movie that had us guessing all the way to the end. And we didn't figure out the twist. It did have some really big holes that weren't answered or explained, but that doesn't take away from the movie that kept us wondering what was going to happen. An all-star cast that included Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, and Willem Defoe.
That's it for another addition of the Good Things List!
If you'd like to see more of what I'm enjoying that you might, too, 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.