A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Around the third week of August here in the PNW I always start to notice the sun feeling a bit different - it's at a lower angle, I guess, and there's a more orange cast to it.
It always makes me think that summer has turned the corner into fall, even though the calendar still says we have a month left of summer.
And no matter how I try to tell myself it's still summer, I feel a little sad at it slipping away.
I'm firmly on the side of summer as my favorite season, even though fall has its beauty and coziness I enjoy and spring all the budding new growth (does anyone have winter as their favorite season?).
I love the warmth of summer (okay, not the 111 degree days we had...), the evenings outside without needing a coat, the mornings in flip flops watering the flower pots, the cool air in the mornings through the open windows. Ahhh.
Hopefully we'll still have a few more of those days before fall comes to stay. In the meantime, onto the good things list for September!
Crescent Lake Resort
About the middle of the month, Brian and I took a few days to get away to a cabin in the Willamette Forest a little over an hour from us.
It's a cute little resort on one end of Crescent Lake and we had beautiful weather and a lovely time on the lake. Thankfully the smoke from the summer's fires stayed away most of the day, blowing in each evening so we could still enjoy kayaking each day.
The meal we had one night at the resort's restaurant was actually wonderful food, too - even better with the view of the lake on the outdoor patio.
The cabin we rented was built in the 1930s and it was SO charming with all it's old-growth wood craftsmanship. The kitchen had original wood counters with integral drain boards - still going strong - and a huge 10-inch fir wood board as a backsplash.
In other parts of the original cabin, all the walls were wood, the paned wood windows had channels cut into the sills to be able to open, and the fir paneled doors had lovely old brass knobs. Such great craftsmanship.
It was a nice getaway. One where we were forced to actually relax as there wasn't reliable wifi, lol - I read two books while we were there!
If you're in the area and would like a relaxing step back in time, check out the Crescent Lake Resort.
Outdoor Family Time
We celebrated my dad's "pandemic 80th" birthday at the end of August with an outdoor family gathering at our place.
He actually turned 81 this year, but we had to postpone the party from last summer because of lockdowns.
It was just a sweet time celebrating him and getting to see family members - and singing some favorite songs.
I guess I just want to say it's worth it to take time to gather with family and friends when the world is crazy and hard - it helps with perspective to see and feel love for each other. And meeting outside while the weather allows helps everyone feel okay about it (especially with the amount of wind we tend to have here at the farmhouse!).
West Coast Note: Thankfully we only had a bit of smoke from forest fires - which you can see over the hills in the distance - though my brother who has asthma was wearing a mask because even that amount hurt his lungs.
Over the last few days I've been able to can two double batches of my favorite thick canned salsa which makes me SO happy to have on our shelves.
Especially because we ran out in June and I've had to buy salsa and it's just not the same. It really makes me miss my salsa when I run out.
So I'm using this preserving notebook to see what I made last year and how much more I need for this year to make sure that doesn't happen again!
Are you doing any canning or freezing right now?
Freezing Produce The Easy Way
Speaking of freezing produce - I just finished writing a whole ebook on how to do it easily and quickly!
It's one of the fastest ways to put up food no matter if you get it from your garden or find a deal at the store. And once I got over my thoughts of freezing not being "real" preserving, it helped SO much with the stress of all the best produce being ready at once.
Freezing is also the easiest way to preserve small batches of things you have that may go to waste otherwise.
I share my best tips and techniques (including which produce works best with my favored no-blanching technique) as well as recipes, freezer inventory and record sheets - and what things you shouldn't freeze.
Go here to read more about it and see if it might help your preserving life, too!
One Ingredient Dog Treats
We used to give our last dog, Samson, treats from Trader Joe's that we thought were pretty good for him compared to other treats, but even those had a lot of ingredients.
When we started our little Jynx on a homemade raw food diet about a year ago, I didn't want to give her treats with a bunch of ingredients (and she still need treats to come when we call...sigh).
They are freeze-dried and are easy to break up into smaller pieces (some of the salmon pieces have skin that needs to be cut with scissors for small dogs if I want to give her a smaller treat).
And here's the thing: she LOVES them. Like really loves them and will do pretty much whatever we want to get them.
And she's not alone, if you look at the reviews - almost all dogs just seem to like these natural, one ingredient treats.
Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid. I guess I'm an official TJR fan now because I've really enjoyed the last few books of hers I've read. Malibu Rising didn't sound like it would be something that would hold my attention - four rich siblings in Malibu have a party one night where things happen - but goodness, she's a good story teller. It's really the story of a family and she flips back and forth through all their backstories which all lead them to the night of the party. I was hooked from about chapter 2 and then it was about squeezing time here and there to read it!
There's drugs, sex, and infidelity (it's set in the 1980s), but none of it is graphic (it's what is referred to as "closed door" - it's mentioned, but not in detail) but the main part of the story is the family and how they all come to terms with themselves and the famous father they have who was never really there for them. Even though the ending kind of felt like dropping off a cliff it was so rushed, I do think this will end up on my best of year list, just like this author's last book, Daisy Jones & The Sixth did last year.
Life at the Dakota, Stephen Birmingham. I've had this book in my Kindle Library for ages - it was free with Prime and I finally got to it while we stayed at the cabin. I love history and this book starts back in the mid 1900s, giving a lot of history of New York and it's inhabitants. I think if I knew New York City better, the streets and areas would've made more sense to me, but the apartment building, it's design, and the people who lived there were really fascinating.
One thing to note, is that this book was written in the 1970s, the year before John Lennon was killed practically in the doorway of the building (he and Yoko Ono lived there), so the author talks about both the Lennons alive and well in the building. I looked up stories about the building in the 40 years since then and it's just gotten more sought-after with apartments going for millions of dollars.
The Chanel Sisters, Judithe Little. This is historical fiction about Coco Chanel and her sisters, written from one of the sister's view. It's more fiction than history, though, as I read that there isn't much known about the sister who's our narrator and the author had to invent most things. Also, Coco Chanel lied about her upbringing, so many don't really know what's true or not about her.
This was a good book, though, with a story set around the turn of the century and two women who literally had nothing and how they ended up wealthy, famous, and living rather bohemian lives, especially for the times.
Redshirts, John Scalzi. If you've ever watched Star Trek, you know that there will be a couple of people you've never seen before with the main characters on an away team. And they will be the only ones wearing red uniforms and they usually die. Your time was limited on the show if you were a "redshirt."
John Scalzi cleverly reimagines the scenario as if what was happening on a TV show in the 1960s in the US was actually causing people to die 200 years in the future (okay, I'm not sure about the years, but way in the future...) on an actual starship. Some of the people figure out something's not right and try to make it right with time travel, cloned identities, and other sci-fi things that actually make the story fun.
That said, this author needed major editing - the "he said," "she said," after every single piece of dialog could drive me batty at times, ha!
Summer of '69, Elin Hilderbrand. I've seen this author's books around for years, but this the first book I've read of hers. It's about a family and what's happening to all of them and their traditions around summering on Nantucket as they are now older - including the son who has been drafted into the Vietnam war. It's definitely a family story with all the moving pieces that entails, but there is a sort of story arch, too, with a nice closing at the end. I'll be looking for more of her books that look interesting to me, now, I'm sure.
Passing, Nella Larson. Written in 1929 (!), Passing is a small well written novella about a light-skinned Black woman who lives in Harlem in the 1920s with her Black doctor husband. One day while visiting Chicago near where she grew up she meets a playmate of hers who had disappeared and she realizes she's been passing for white, married to a wealthy white man. The book sort of takes a mini noir turn, as our heroine doesn't really want anything to do with her, but her old friend will not leave her alone.
Things progress and I had no idea where it was going until the twist at the end. It was such a shocking thing that I had to go back to listen again - did I really hear what I think I heard? It obviously left me thinking, which is a sign of a good book!
Heaven (2018), Joni Erikson Tada. This is an updated and expanded edition of Joni's book of the same name written in 1995 and she's added all her years of experiences in this wonderful book. She writes with a depth of knowledge about heaven, using lots of Biblical references, but it's knowing where she's coming from - 50 years in a wheelchair - that really makes this book hit home.
One thing that has stood out to me is her view that while she'd never wish to have paralysis and all the pain and agony that she's gone through, she realizes that she is a completely different person inside than she would've been if not paralyzed. And that person knows God on a deeper level and has been able to do things she never would have if she hadn't dove into that lake at 17. She contemplates that while she's looking forward to saying goodbye to the wheelchair in heaven, she thinks she will be the same Joni who she is now after all these years. Interesting to think about with regards to those we've known with other aliments like Down's Syndrome, etc. Or even just the hardships we've had to endure. We will still be recognizable to those who knew us - didn't the things that happened to us make us who we are? So much to think about in this book!
The Bromance Book Club, Alyssa Kay Adams.
I didn't care for this book at all, despite the fun description of a group of men who read romance novels to help them understand their wives better. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority (based on reviews I read) but it was too graphic for my tastes (both language and sex) and I found the characters a bit shallow and trite. Like the two main characters have been married for years but the husband only now decides he wants to really try in their relationship? Why?
I didn't believe the supposed hang-ups between them or their 'awakening' and there are two super annoying (toxic?) characters that grated on my nerves. Skimmed the second half just to get to the conclusion, which if they had just communicated with each other would've happened a lot sooner, lol.
The Tomorrow War, Amazon Prime. Our family enjoys Chris Pratt, so we enjoyed him in this movie even though the premise was a bit far-fetched. It was interesting, though, with some human moments that actually worked really well. It was a fun way to spend our Saturday pizza night.
Coming 2 America, Amazon Prime. I have to admit I was very curious about this Eddie Murphy movie since it's been more than 30 years since the original movie came out. Everyone looks very good and it was fun revisiting them as well as seeing how the next generation deals with each other. Another fun movie night.
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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