A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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June was quite a month here - we went from starting the month with almost 2 inches of rain (after a dry spring) to ending with record breaking (shattering?) temps of 109-11 from the PNW once-every-1000 years "heat dome."
Our typical weather for the area gets cooler the more north you go, but the heat dome was the opposite - we were "cooler" in the Eugene area of the Willamette Valley than Portland and Seattle by a couple of degrees. And we cooled down about a day earlier. I couldn't believe the temps I heard some areas of Canada reached!
It was just the oddest thing, really. And ironically we had planned a couple nights in Oregon's wine country around McMinnville to visit the Evergreen Air Museum right on the hottest days (in fact they did shut down the museum on the hottest day and we had to go a different day).
We would've been cooler to stay home instead of going north, lol. But we had a great time anyway - it was nice to get away even if we were hot.
Onto the other good things from last month, plus reviews of the books I read and some shows and movies we watched!
The Garden & Extreme Heat
The good thing is that thankfully the heat damage to the things in the fenced garden wasn't too bad - and the new sunken garden not at all!
One of the hydrangeas I grow in the fenced garden (for deer protection - they are the cat-nip of the deer world...) suffered some leaf burn, above, but it's a young bush and it will come back from that with no problem.
The newly planted blueberry above probably won't make it, though. It gets plenty of water, but was already looking heat damaged just from the few weeks of warm-ish weather before the heat dome.
Here's what I'm wondering - do you think planting the blueberry in a metal container will keep the roots warmer when it gets hot? I wondered about that when planting...
The only other plant I'm worried about is a newly planted peach tree that's also looking very sad with browning leaves. I'll keep watering it well and see - with trees you only really know the following year, so my fingers are crossed!
Weekly Family Happy Hour (and the joys of living near family)
When we moved into the farmhouse in April, my brother and his wife moved into the manufactured home we had been living in while renovating. They had a Friday "happy hour" tradition that they invited us to join them for.
It was totally new to us, and while we usually had wine in the house, we almost never had liquor unless it was given to us (or I wanted to bake with it, lol).
Cut to now to our 'happy hour cabinet' that's near our coffee bar (sounds much better than 'liquor cabinet' don't you think?) which is stocked with various liquors, sodas, and other things you need for cocktails.
Because we LOVE it!! Here's the thing - the drinks are just the excuse (I usually have a virgin one, anyway - it's just never been my thing). We get a fun, relaxing hour a week connecting with family and it's the BEST.
It's super laid back and now we alternate hosting duties between our houses. We put out the drink stuff and someone puts the drinks together and then we sit around a table with a few snacks (nuts, chips, dried fruit, etc.) talking, laughing, and catching up.
We start at 5 and then end at 6 when we all go off to eat dinner. No big deal and no pressure.
I HIGHLY recommend it with anyone near you!
Of course you don't have to have cocktails, it can be juice, soda, kefir - whatever you like. But taking an hour a week regularly to connect with people and relax is SO good.
Order from Nuts.com
I had ordered from Nuts.com awhile ago - I think at the start of the pandemic? To be honest, I kind of forgot about them. But then Brian ran out of the dark chocolate malted milk balls he loves (and believe me, you can't just go to a store and get them - they're all milk chocolate), which made me remember Nuts.com.
Not only do they have LOTS of dark chocolate-covered things (think every kind of nut, as well as some candies - way more than you'll find in stores), they have some great snacks, too.
Most are real food (you do have to read the labels) and the prices are comparable to stores (um, except for nuts, which is odd since that's their name - I've found Costco and Amazon to have better prices usually).
So my favorite is what they call "Veggie Sticks" (pictured in the round container above). They are like crispy fried vegetable chips and while I've found green beans and a few others in the stores, they often have added sugar or fructose.
The Nuts.com version are ONLY the vegetables, oil and salt and they are SO good. It's sweet potatoes (three kinds), carrots (my fav), green beans, squash, and taro.
I did look to see if I could get them on Amazon, but there are only chips with not great reviews and the sugar added. Nuts.com is like the only place I've found them online so far. They aren't the cheapest, so it's only a sometimes treat for me (apparently like once a year, ha!).
Anyway, it's a fun site to look through and we've liked everything we've gotten (oh, the cajun sesame sticks are really good, too - and a good price!).
There is usually free shipping with a $59 purchase, but if you sign up for the email and wait for the welcome, you can use the link to get free shipping on $29 (inside tip right there, ha!). Click here to check it out.
New Woven Soaker Hoses
You probably know I'm a big proponent of soaker hoses - watering deeply at the root builds strong roots and keeps water off the plant leaves which hinders diseases like mildew. You can also water larger areas faster than standing over plants with a hose.
I needed new soakers for the sunken garden area I've been working on and by the time I was ready for them, most were sold out in the stores around us (remember I said it was a dry spring here?).
I went online and saw that the woven, flat soakers were getting pretty good reviews - both for ease of use and lasting more than a season. I hadn't really tried them before as I thought they wouldn't be as good as what I had used for years.
So I got some for the garden beds and I can tell you one thing right off:
They are SO MUCH EASIER to lay out. Like SO MUCH. I love them for that right there.
You can snake the hose right were you need it to go and not worry about a stiff hose knocking other plants down along the way.
The water coverage seems to be as good or better than round soakers - in the photo above, I had just turned it on to grab a photo showing you how they soak. I usually leave them on for an hour and the watered area will completely cover all the planted areas you can see.
The test is still to see how they last - but since they are so easy to move around and pick up, I'll be able to bring them in for the winter, so they may last longer.
As of right now I LOVE them and don't see myself going back to the round variety.
I found mine at Lowes, but right now only the 25 ft. hoses are in stock. The longer hoses are in stock on Amazon here.
Have you tried this type of soaker hose? Did it last for you?
Compost Bucket Cute Enough for the Counter
While we were in transition from moving and remodeling, we fell out of the compost habit. After getting settled in the farmhouse we decided to start composting again, but our old, under counter bucket wasn't going to work here - there's less space in the main kitchen area.
I searched for a cute, smaller bucket for the counter that we could empty daily into a larger bucket on our back porch. I was really thinking of the silver kind we had before, just smaller.
Imagine how thrilled I was to find the adorable Typhoon Compost Bucket pictured on our counters above. Isn't it perfect?
Not only does it look like old farmhousey enamelware, it's got the cute silver logo, a charchol insert (this thing really doesn't smell at all!), and a smaller bucket inside so we can just lift it out to take it to the bigger bucket outside.
The main complaint on the reviews was that it's small, but that's what I was looking for, so that's not a drawback for me.
I've seen them other places, but I got ours from World Market online here.
Captains & The Kings, Taylor Caldwell. This is an older book that always looked interesting to me so when I saw it available through the library I checked it out. I only made it halfway through the book before just reading the end and abandoning it. It's a pretty bleak picture of human character and the main protagonist is one of the worst so it was hard to feel for him. We see him from about age 12ish (I can't remember exactly) as he and his Irish family make the harsh trip across the ocean to America at the height of the potato famine to meet his father that made the trip earlier. His mother dies on the trip, leaving just he and his younger siblings and when they disembark, they find that their father has died, too.
Thus starts the story of how they survived, which is bleak in itself (I did learn that the Irish were so hated that some would say they were Scottish just to be able to get a job...). But the part I just couldn't keep reading was the inner thinking of the main character - he was almost a sociopath, really looking down on his family or anyone who showed kindness. I was so glad I didn't bother with the second half after reading the ending - let's just say there were no happy endings here.
Secrets of a Charmed Life, Susan Meissner. I enjoyed this book on audio and thought the storyline was engaging if somewhat farfetched. But the point of the book is that it's never a good idea to keep secrets as a way of dealing with trauma since they can come back to hurt you. My constant refrain throughout the books was, "just communicate already!"
Thankfully, it had a satisfying ending with a twist and the descriptions of the area and time (WWII in England) were good.
The Downstairs Girl, Stacy Lee. Set at the turn of the last century in Atlanta, this is a story about a Chinese girl who's gifted at hat making, but can't keep a job because of her race. She lives underground, out of sight to avoid trouble with an older relative and takes a job as a maid for a cruel rich girl. The place they live is under the offices of a newspaper and she can listen to their conversations which causes her to start leaving anonymous advice column articles that become very popular even though they address the inequalities of the city along with fashion advice.
This was an interesting look at a time and place I knew nothing about - or the fact that the Chinese were treated like this after being brought in to work in the city. The heroine, Jo, is a delightful voice and you immediately want to know more about her and root for her to find her way. It has some darkness related to the treatment of the Chinese and other minorities, but a lovely storyline as she searches for her unknown parents and a happy ending.
American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld. Hmmm, how to write about this book? From the title and the description (and the reviews hinting that it was modeled on a presidential family you'd know, which I thought would be the Kennedys, but was the Bushes) I assumed it would be a sort of behind-the-scenes look at a first lady. But we didn't even get to the presidential part until almost 3/4 of the way through the book (and it's LONG) - it was all about the heroine's childhood, a traumatic incident in high school that haunts her (and a completely blown out of proportion moment with a guy in high school she thinks meant love...) and so on.
It was way more explicit than I prefer, causing a lot of skipping, and I just kept waiting to get to the presidential part. When we finally did, it felt rushed and became more about her dealing with her past than it was about being a first lady. Needless to say, I was disappointed (I remember being really disappointed in this author's updated version of a Jane Austen book, so I think I'll steer clear of her in the future - yes, it's a female Curtis).
Unveiled, Francine Rivers. I was looking for a new audiobook when I stumbled on this older series of five books (the Lineage of Grace Series) looking at the lives of Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth/Naomi.
Unveiled is the story of Tamar from the book of Genesis in the Bible, who had to trick her father in law in order to produce the child she deserved after marrying the oldest son, and then the second son, who both died. She becomes one of the descendants of Jesus and her story shows how God doesn't forget the forgotten of the world. I enjoyed how the brief mention of Tamar in the Bible was fleshed out into a fuller picture (though I did listen to it and have to warn that the narrator is WAAAY to dramatic).
Singing in The Dark, Ginny Owens. This is a new book by the Christian singer that is part memoir and part Bible study using her experiences as a blind woman finding her way in the world and then the world of music. Her debut album is still one of my favorites, and I listened to this on audio where she narrated and ended each section with a song. It's a wonderful, hope-filled book that encourages you to take action steps to increase your hope and faith as well.
Sweet Tooth, Netflix. This is a surprisingly sweet show - we've only watched a couple of episodes, but the boy playing the main character is really endearing. I guess this is based on a Marvel comic, but I wouldn't have known it. It seems more sci-fi, dystopian, though I don't know where it will end up going.
Cruella DeVil, Theaters & Disney+. Brian and I saw this in a theater (the first in over a year!! #pandemic) and were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. Emma Stone did a fantastic job in the lead, you see a bit more of why Cruella is harsh and feel for her a little (though it doesn't excuse her - so we're wondering where this can go since she is a villain in 101 Damations...).
Tenent, HBO Max. A confusing mess with a ridiculous storyline that you could only find out by reading reviews after watching. Ugh.
Secret Garden (2020), Amazon. So looking forward to seeing Colin Firth in one of my favorite stories... Why oh why do they continue to ruin classics with weird dark storylines, magic CGI, and changing it? Obviously, disappointed.
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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