A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Happy June! Growing up in Oregon, June was always summer somewhere else while we got rain, cool temps, and gray skies.
Not this year. The temperature here in the western half of Oregon is heating up faster than normal. We've had swings of 80 (and recent 90) degree weather, then back to 60s and 70s a day or two later.
Which I guess is typical spring. Not typical is the low amount of rain we've had - I've been watering for awhile and really having to keep up with the seeds after planting.
It's nice to be outside, though - and nice to be able to do more things without a mask. Things are feeling more normal than last year, that's for sure, and I for one am here for it.
On to more good things!
This past month has been all about gardening! Getting the vegetable garden fully planted (and harvesting rhubarb, broccoli, and kale!) and planting a new "sunken garden" next to the farmhouse.
In the veggie garden, it's up and down like always - the ground squirrels mowed off all the pea seedlings in April, and some lettuce seedlings the beginning of May.
But the tomatoes are taking off (see how I plant them so they thrive here), I've got some fun flowers for cutting that are sprouting, and the berries are in bloom. It's always encouraging to watch it come alive.
I'm going to try and do garden walk-throughs several mornings a week through the season on Instagram, so if you're there, be sure to check out my stories.
This is the second full year of planting the vegetable garden as it is, but it's really year four since the first couple of years we added just a couple beds with no deer fence (and so didn't really harvest anything!).
As for the new herb/flower garden - I'm super excited to see this place come to life!! It's been covered in black plastic since excavating the area after we had our farmhouse foundation installed and it obviously looks SO much better now.
Since there are a few steps to get into the garden from the walkway and drive, I'm calling it our sunken garden. The four quadrants are being filled with plants not usually favored by deer.
So far this includes:
- "Green Gem" Boxwood, not quite the dwarf variety I was looking for, but naturally smaller (2-3 ft) and oval shaped without trimming.
- Herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, catnip, lemon verbena, and lots of lavender.
- Perennials: coneflower, black-eyed susan, salvia, campanula, hardy geranium, coreopsis, and delphinium.
- Annuals: alyssum and zinna.
I'd like to add chives, iris, and snapdragon, too. It will be so interesting to see this area take shape and see what the deer leave alone!
A Woman's Garden Book
It was a happy day when my long awaited book from my gardening friend, Tanya Anderson arrived! It had been pandemic delayed, but when I opened it, I grabbed a cup of tea and thumbed through, knowing I would take more time later to really dive in.
Called A Woman's Garden: Grow Beautiful Plants and Make Useful Things, this book is full of large lovely photos, visits to inspirational (real-life) gardens, and tutorials to make things using garden produce.
Ahh, all the things I love.
There's a section on edible flowers and I was surprised at the number included - way more than the normal petals I think about. One of the "make" tutorials was for edible flower ice cubes - isn't that a great idea? They look so wonderful, even a glass of water look elegant with them.
I found a lot of inspiration in a garden in North Carolina (with raised beds and wood chip paths...) who uses herbs in lots of different ways, and I'm really wanting to try growing some medicinal herbs and making a few concoctions.
Not just a pretty book (though it is that), it's a useful book, too - I encourage you to see if it's available at the library or grab a copy of your own.
Perfect Light & Airy desk
In the farmhouse we have this area around the staircase that I thought would be a good place for a desk for me. It's in the kitchen and having a desk nearby when creating recipes is a very good thing.
But of course there were issues. I didn't want anything too heavy with lots of solid pieces that would block the stairs or seem like a really big piece of furniture.
Plus, there is a floor vent and an under-stair storage access door to work around, as well as still being able to open the coat closet door (just to the left in the photo above).
It took forever to find one. I looked online and in thrift stores with my dimensions with no luck.
Until I stumbled on the Ikea Ingatorp desk with drop leaf sides.
It's light and airy with simple legs that don't visually impact the stairs. And those pull-up sides make it SO useful - when I need more space, I just pull up the right side that I usually keep lowered.
Most of the time it lives like you see it above, with the left side open to hold the basket of very important things (aka, things I don't want to see cluttering up our pretty quartz island counter, ha!) and it's just about perfect in this spot.
There is a flimsy-ish drawer and a spot for the charging cord to come up through the table, but honestly, it's not that much different than coming up over the back (and that wouldn't make me want to try and cover it up like I do with the desk hole...).
But there wasn't anything in this size, this flexible, and this cute that I could find - I'm really happy with this desk.
Oh, and I should mention that the nearest Ikea is a 4+ hour round trip for us, so I had this delivered for about $21 extra - well worth it.
I never thought we'd get a robotic vacuum - and I'm still not sure about it, lol. But it's Brian's new favorite for taking care of the 1000+ square feet of wood floors we have on the main floor of the farmhouse.
We got one of the cheapest versions through Costco, the iRobot Roomba i4 (4150) Wi-Fi Connected Robot Vacuum (or this similar version at Target if you're not a Costco member).
We had a Costco card from buying the farmhouse's dishwasher last fall, so that brought the total down to about $150, which now that I think about it, isn't that different from new regular vacuums.
So here's a little pro and con the robot vacuum (I can only speak to this one, though):
- It easily transitions from floor to area rugs.
- It's nice to vacuum under couches and chairs.
- It really does pick up things including little rocks and our dog's hair tufts (she doesn't shed, but she does lose tufts of hair quite frequently).
- This version is pretty quiet.
- Probably the biggest pro of course is you don't have to push a vacuum around!
- The default setting is to sweep a room in unlimited sweeps over a long period of time. So annoying - you think it's done in a room and you're working there and back it comes. Easily fixed, though it's a little hard to find in the app where to adjust this.
- The dog pretty much fights with it the whole time, growling and biting at it. It's cute for about 2 minutes.
- It's NOT good for jute or wool rugs - it pulls up all the little ends AND fills up to overflowing so it leaves the overflow around the area. We close the door to the bedroom and do that by hand.
- If you have white or light-colored floor length curtains, you need to pull them out of the way when it runs - the sweeper left dirt marks on the bottom of our new curtains.
- You'll still have to vacuum all the places around tables and things that it can't get to where dust bunnies build up - and stairs if you have them, of course.
If you have a robot vacuum, I'd love to know what you think of yours!
Vintage Style Glass Drying Rack
You know how you see those metal bottle drying racks/mug holders all styled cute on a coffee bar or outdoor bar?
Yeah, mine's not like that.
But it is one of the hardest working things in our kitchen (I've had ours for years, but it's similar to this reproduction vintage style bottle drying rack). I use it to dry and hold the mason jars we use constantly to hold leftovers, make salad dressings, and for the dog's homemade dog food.
It's also indispensable for thoroughly drying the narrow-necked bottles I use for kefir - they take forever to dry and being upside down really helps.
When we moved into the farmhouse, I wanted to pare down what I kept on the counters and this was one of the four things I kept (the others are the tray of oils, vinegars, salt and pepper, the utensil holder, and the Kitchenaid).
Since I actually use it to dry bottles that still have a bit of water in them, I keep it on a vintage platter I've had for years. If you use it to just hold clean jars or glasses, you can keep it right on the counter.
Best part? It adds character and this version is inexpensive!
Make Life Beautiful, Shea & Syd McGee. This was such a fun book to listen to while I hemmed curtains - all about how Studio McGee started and how things didn't work and then did. There are some twists and turns that they went through and it all sounded familiar to me as an online business owner.
It's refreshing to hear about their dedication to each other and family even as they grew so big so fast.
Queens of the Conquest: England's Medieval Queens (book 1), Alison Weir. This was my first Alison Weir book - as a lover of all things history, why have I not read her before? Some of this was super interesting (how William the Conquerer got his wife Mathilda to marry him for one - he beat her silly when she refused him and then she chose to marry him!). Some of it was a bit of a slog, honestly (so many Mathildas...), but as a whole, it was great to hear about this part of English history from the women's perspective.
I'm definitely going to read book two and will look for Ms. Weir's other English history books. I really appreciated the details of the books and how she brought them to current times (which castles are still standing, which aren't, whose bones you can still see, etc.).
The Weight Of Ink, Rachel Kadish. I've had this book in my Audible library for years I think. I had read some good reviews and bought it on a 2-for-1 sale, then forgot about it. It's a story set in two time periods - modern day London and London 300 years earlier. An aging historian is called to recover old manuscripts found when renovating an old house and we learn the story of the transcriber - unusually a woman - who wrote for a blind rabbi.
I pulled it out to listen to while working on the sunken garden and while it was a bit slow to get into in the beginning, it really became interesting when we got more into the story of the writer of the old manuscripts. There are some interesting history woven into the mainly Jewish plot as well as a few twists and turns, both in the modern story and story from the past. Some of the letters when read are cryptic and overly scholarly, but the story itself is well thought out and written. I wish the ending were better, but then I usually do, lol.
The Lost Letter, Mimi Matthews. I was wanting to read something light and quick after the last two books, and this short, clean Victorian romance fit the bill. It's a story of two almost-betrothed people who were separated and each thought the other hadn't written to them so they went their own way. The story is how they find each other again and the one lost letter that's found to prove their assumptions were wrong. Oh, and I got my happily ever after ending with this one.
Long read in process:
Brian and I are about halfway through The Neil Gaiman Reader: Fiction. It's 52 short stories and excerpts from longer books - selected by fans - read in chronological order beginning in 1984 up through 2018 - and it runs for 27 hours(!). So that would be why I haven't had a title to talk about lately that the two of us listened to!
Shadow and Bone, Netflix. This is a series based on a YA book series that we watched as a family and found fun and interesting. There are themes of acceptance, love, family, and discrimination all bound up in a fantasy world that's reminiscent of turn of the 20th century. None of us were happy with the ending - it just fizzled and didn't seem to go along with what we'd been told through the last episodes, but we still enjoyed the series as a whole.
Stowaway, Netflix. Oh my goodness, this movie is filled with great actors (Toni Collette is wonderful!) and we had such high hopes. There were some great action sequences full of tension, but most of this was pretty slow moving. And the ending - ugh, just so bad.
The Mitchell's vs. The Machines (animated) Netflix. Our daughter read good things about this movie and while it was well done and had some themes adults and kids could enjoy, it was a bit flat for us. It's a PG option, though, so that's a big plus and it was still a fun Saturday night movie.
Synchronic, Netflix. This is a kind of time-travel movie that really none of us liked. The science fiction part didn't jive for us (especially the end) and it jumped around so much at the beginning we had a hard time figuring it out.
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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