A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Happy February! We made it though January - yay! Just a few more months of winter and then we're on the upswing (can you tell it's not my favorite season?).
That's just me - if you enjoy the snow and the things you can do at this time of year, go for it (my sisters are like this...). We mostly get rain here, and I don't care to do anything in the rain.
But I do like cuddling up with a blanket and a cup of tea with a good book, which is best in winter - so there's that! I appreciate the rest that winter provides from the go-go of warmer months, so I wouldn't want to be without it. But maybe it could just be a bit shorter?
Okay - on to the good things list! I've got some fun pictures for you today of the most current state of our farmhouse fixer. I think you're going to LOVE these - I'm in a state of near-constant giddiness over how it's looking.
Of course that's balanced by how tedious the research and buying of everything from refrigerators to door knobs and hooks is, lol.
PLUS - there are the details of our little dog's new diet, 7 book reviews and more - read on, friends!
Farmhouse Fixer Trim and Doors!
SO many great things are happening at the farmhouse, it's almost hard to keep you all up to date on them.
After a couple years of seemingly slow progress, though, it's a fun problem to have. 🙂
I shared the photo above on Instagram last week, if you missed it. It's the corner of our master bedroom bump-out with the finished walls, window trim, DIY aged ceiling beam, rustic oak flooring. LOVE.
Here are more trim and door updates:
The front door has its official 100 year old farmhouse DIY trim instead of the stock 'brick molding' that had come with the new door. Now it finally fits.
In this view from the kitchen into the living room, you can see more of the rustic oak flooring we installed, the finished trim, and also the ceiling trim in the living room.
I would've loved a pretty light fixture in the living room, but we actually use fans a lot in the warmer months, so I went with practicality. I did pick the most unobtrusive one I could find, though, hoping it would blend into the ceiling.
And our vintage doors were installed!! The guy who did the installation was wonderful and actually loved working with the vintage hardware (the opposite of most contractors, lol).
They are perfect and I love them. When we started I didn't really think we'd be able to salvage the heavily painted and used hardware from the doors, but between the lovely man in Portland who stripped the doors, hardware, AND fixed some of the mortise latches for us, and the installer, we have doors that look like they would've been in this house from the beginning.
I'll be sharing more, of course, but isn't it great to see everything coming together?
Trim Caulking Tip For Gaps & Joints
With all the installed trim comes lots of caulking and painting. I'm so glad my brother-in-law (and former contractor) told me about this product for filling large gaps that would take too much caulk or cause the caulk to sink.
It's called various things - Backer Rod and Caulk Saver are two I've used. It's basically a long rope of foamy stuff that you can squeeze into larger cracks and then just caulk over the top of.
It's been a lifesaver - in this old, unlevel house I've had to use it multiple times (I'm on my second package...).
So the tip is to buy and use the caulk saver - but I also have a few tips for using it:
- Buy the 1/2" size to cover larger gaps, but when you have narrower openings, simply cut the rope in half lengthwise to create a 1/4" size. Two for one.
- Use a small putting knife to squeeze the backer rod into tight places.
- After trying the darker gray option, I find the lighter gray is better with white caulking just in case it's close to the surface.
Raw Dog Food & Homemade Recipe
A few months ago our dog, Jynx, stopped eating her homemade cooked dog food regularly. We'd have to coax her into eating it with treats.
Then we dog sat for my sister's dog who is on a raw food diet and Jynx did everything she could to try and steal my sister's dog's food (which was pretty funny, actually.)
So I thought I'd try her on raw food, but to buy it from our vet is expensive ($60-80/ month for our 10 pounder...). I was already making her food, so not cooking it would just be one less step, right?
Well, yes. But getting the ratios right proved to be a researching headache. So.many.suggestions. And no real recipes, just percentages of what should be included, which was NOT helpful to me.
Then I found this recipe and video that was made by vets and is balanced enough that the dog wouldn't need any additional supplements - yay!
I combined that recipe with a couple of recommendations from my vet (yogurt for probiotics, herbs for health and variety of meat and veggies) and started Jynx on the new diet. Which she loved - she ate it up with no treats needed (we only use 100% liver treats, so they aren't bad for her, but we would like to keep them as treats...).
For the longest time, I rolled my eyes at raw dog food advocates. But our dog really likes it and I do think it has helped her coat feel smoother. Plus it takes just a few minutes to make and uses food we mostly have around.
Here's the recipe I'm using with my additions and a couple tips to make it pretty easy to make, store, and serve:
Balanced Raw Dog Food Recipe
(Created by Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib of Planet Paws - doesn't need any supplements. Original found on this website.)
14 ounces of LEAN ground meat - beef, lamb, venison, poultry, pork (Note- I use 1 pound, as that's the size the packages come in)
2 tsp hempseed oil (Note- I read it's important to use flaxseed oil with poultry, pork, so I have both)
1/2 tsp kelp
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 egg shell, saved from egg
1/2 can (2oz) sardines (in water, no salt added)
1 oz beef liver (can use gizzards with chicken or other offal)
1 oz broccoli (about 4 large florets)
1 oz red bell pepper (about 1/4 of medium pepper)
1 oz spinach (handful)
(I add 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt and some herbs, per the recommendation from our vet; veggies can be varied)
This recipe is balanced for an adult healthy dog (not a puppy).
- Add meat, oil, kelp, ginger, inside egg, and yogurt plus any other herbs if using to a large glass bowl.
- Add the 1/2 the eggshell to a food processor along with the sardines, liver, broccoli, pepper, and spinach to the bowl of a food processor. Whir until all chopped finely.
- Add vegetable mixture to beef mixture and stir with a stainless steel spoon until incorporated fully.
- Portion into servings for your dog and refrigerate for a day or freeze for longer.
Raw Food Dog Tips
- I use a glass bowl and stainless spoon to mix, throwing everything, food processor bowl and all, in the dishwasher right after I'm done.
- Our dog is 10 pounds, so she only needs about 1/3 cup each meal when fed twice a day. Research the amount your dog will need of RAW food - it's less than dried or cooked food, since it's more nutrient dense.
- Easy Storage: Use a stainless steel muffin scoop to portion out the food into lined muffin tins. Freeze for 12-24 hours. Remove food and liners, setting frozen food "pucks" into a large plastic container to freeze for a week or two. Use a dedicated container for this and you won't have to worry about contamination from the raw food.
- To Use from Frozen: The muffin size portions fit perfectly in wide mouth half pint mason jars. I have two for the dog with lids that have "DOG" written on them (so no one gets a surprise, thinking it is a jar of tomato chutney...). A frozen muffin goes into each of two jars for a days worth of food the night before - they should be thawed by morning (if not, 10-15 seconds in the microwave will do it).
My biggest tip to keep it easy is to use dedicated reusable silicone liners for the food:
You're not going through a ton of disposable liners each week, and if you use them only for the dog food, you can rinse them without worrying about getting all the raw food out of every nook and cranny. (Using liners saves my muffin tins for regular use and makes it easier to get the frozen dog food out.)
I simply use a sharpie to mark the outside bottom of each silicone baking cup with a "D." It does fade over time, so you'll need to redo the D occasionally.
The cups above are turned inside out to dry - they seem to do better that way - but the "D" really is on the outside.
Parchment Cupcake Liners
I did also buy some parchment cupcake liners for the times when I have a few overflow dog "muffins" and they are so great - they literally don't stick to anything!
This has been a nice discovery and I can't wait to use them with freezer zucchini cinnamon muffins, since sticking when warm is an issue with them.
I'd love to know if you're feeding a raw food diet to your dogs! And if you try this recipe, definitely let me know.
With all the DIY work on the farmhouse, I read/listened to 10 books in January, which is two more than the eight I've been averaging. I'm not in any race or even trying to reach a goal anymore, I just like reading and keeping up with the books I've read!
Olive Kitteridge & Olive, Again, Elizabeth Strout. I've heard about the first books for years and finally got it and the more recent follow up from the library to listen to as I worked on the house. I actually didn't realize they are compilations of stories the author wrote over a number of years and published in various places (there's a list at the end of each book telling where and the date for each story).
The thing that connects them all isn't Olive, as I thought it would be (but she's there the most) - it's the town of Crosby, on the coast of Maine. The first book, Olive Kitteridge, was written in 2008 and won the pulitzer prize. The stories are mostly chronological, but sometimes many years are skipped in between. The second book, Olive, Again, wasn't published until 2019, but nicely follows up with some of the characters (though the second book had more disturbing stories - triggers of spousal abuse and child abuse).
I really enjoyed these books, especially the first book. You don't know what to think of Olive at the beginning - she's not a very nice person, actually. But you get to see a glimpse into what it means to grow old (and gain a lot of sympathy) and you see over the course of both books, how Olive grows, becoming more aware of herself and how she impacts others.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman. This was a fun, quick read with a quirky lead character who may or may not be on the spectrum. It's never mentioned, but she's really into ritual and when things aren't the same, she spins into anxiety episodes. But of course things change and we get to go along as she discovers a whole new family she didn't know about, a man she connects with - and by the end that it's better to be a part of people's lives than to be alone.
No Greater Love: Experiencing the Heart of Jesus, A.W. Tozer. I've read The Pursuit of God by Tozer, but no other books of his - I'm not sure why. Maybe I thought the books wouldn't be approachable since he wrote in the first half or so of the 20th century (he died in 1963). So wrong. I just learned he was a self-taught theologian - maybe that's why his writings still have such impact all these years later.
No Greater Love is a look at how Jesus interacted with people throughout the book of John. I love when our examples come from Christ himself. Here's one of the gems I wrote in my Book Notes Journal:
I am a steward of God's love IN me, making sure it touches the lives of people AROUND me.A.W. Tozer
I also found this thought very insighful:
"We need to give God our silence. Prayer should not just be 'chatter, chatter, here's my list' and we go on our way. Be silent before the lord and allow Him to do His work."
The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman. I've been a fan of Emily's for years - her podcast is one I turn to when I need a calming influence. This book is based on some of the podcast episodes, but with more added.
While the book seemed to be written from a perspective of making a big decision - and I'm not - I still found it helpful as we all face little decisions all the time. I thought this question she encourages us to ask is a great way to approach any choice we need to make:
Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?Emily P. Freeman
Frontier Follies, Ree Drummond. Goodness, this is a fun look into Ree's life a bit more. This book is simply short vignettes of life on the Drummond ranch - some that I remembered from when she wrote more on her blog, and some newer additions (including more about the foster son who's been with them about a year). I'm not sure how "good" this book is, but if you're like me and have read The Pioneer Woman blog since the beginning and followed Ree for years, you will enjoy catching up with her.
The Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline. You probably won't be surprised that I loved this historical fiction novel based on real orphan trains. I just really enjoy when history is brought to life this way.
The trains ran in the late 1800s through early 1900s, carrying 200,000 children without families from the bigger cities on the east coast to the midwest. If they were babies or toddlers, they often were adopted and treated as children. If they were older (as many were), they were often little more than slave labor to farmers and anyone who needed workers.
The author says that every detail of this book is rooted in history, but that the story of the main character from the train is fiction. It flips back and forth from 2011 to the "train rider's" life from the late 1920s on. Personally, I enjoyed the story from the train most and found the story set in current time a bit distracting. Though I could see the connection and having the reflection of a life lived at the end was moving. This will no doubt be on my best of 2021 list!
All Creatures Great and Small 2021 Masterpiece, PBS. I'm just loving this retelling of James Herriot classic books - it's SO good. And such a relief to watch a show and not worry about what you may see or hear.
Mad About You, Amazon Prime. I had talked about this with my daughter a few years ago and couldn't find it anywhere to watch. We just found it on Amazon and have been watching a few episodes. I remember loving it in the 90s - my daughter is kind of ho-hum about it, lol.
Fun fact: I was told all the time in the 90s that I looked like Helen Hunt - mostly I'd get the "Has anyone ever told you..." and I'd say, "yes, they have." 🙂
My Teacher the Octopus, Netflix. This isn't the most compelling title for a movie, but my daughter's friend told us it was good and we were so glad to listen to her. This was such a great documentary - you get to watch a "relationship" develop between a man in South Africa and the octopus that lived for a year in the ocean in front of his home. He would free dive almost every day to check out the area and check in on her and we see her doing some amazing things. Just watching how she changes colors - and even shapes - is worth it!
Still Life, Amazon. I know this is a list of good things, but I am adding this movie as a warning. It seemed sweet and quirky, with lead actors we like, and from the trailer you think it's going to be a fun, lighthearted movie. It is - sometimes. And sometimes it's not. But mostly it has the worst ending - maybe even the worst one I've ever seen. Just really terrible and I wish I hadn't watched it.
You've been warned - now I can sleep at night, lol.
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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