A monthly list of good things to see, do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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While the last few years have been difficult for all of us (is that the understatement of the year already?), I have learned through life that focusing on the hard things doesn't help anything.
I've chosen to limit my news intake, have a Bible/devotion time first thing in the morning to help set the tone for the day, follow people on Instagram that bring joy by continuing to live life well, and try to focus on the good things that can be found throughout our days.
I mention this at the start of a new year, and a new year of Good Things Lists, because I want you to know I'm not sticking my head in the sand and ignoring everything.
I know you have plenty of other outlets to find all things "important" and I want to give you what I'd like - how to keep living a simple homemade and grateful life in all circumstances.
Yes, there have been times of frustrations, fear, and even tears, like I'm sure many of you have also experienced. But planning these lists of good things has helped me focus on other things that frankly impact my daily life a lot more than some of the things I hear in the news (hello warm wool socks).
It's my hope and desire that these simple lists of fun things to see, do, buy, read, and watch do the same for you.
Here's to a good new year!
Good Things List
A White Christmas
The new year was ushered in with a Christmas day covered in a 10-12" blanket of snow that thankfully didn't take our power out during the next week of on-and-off snow.
Where we live those are both Christmas miracles.
It was really fun to enjoy the lights and decorations with the wintery outdoor scenery.
And it was a complete blast to watch our little dog, Jynx, have so much fun running, jumping, and biting the snow.
It was her first snow and I didn't know how she'd react - she basically whimpered to be out there all the time.
Problem was, her hair collected the dry snow like snowballs that would grow and grow until her legs looked like the Micheline Man. And they wouldn't come off without a warm bath in the sink.
Every. Single. Time.
Thankfully our daughter was still with us, so there were three of us to cycle through who would give her the sink bath, lol.
Reviewing and Setting Goals/Dreams
I typically take the week between Christmas and New Years Day to review the previous year and set some goals/plans/dreams for the new year. (I've already published my review and goals for 2022 here that you can read.)
I'm wondering if "goals" has a more negative undertones these days so I'm not sure what to call them. Mine are really a combo of goals, plans, and dreams that are great if they happen that year, the next, or sometimes not at all.
For instance, Brian and I have set what I call "Five Year Goals" in The Flexible Planner. They are more general goals and dreams we have like saving more for retirement and traveling.
These over-arching goals help shape what I'd like to focus on each year and it's in the yearly goals that I get more specific setting S.M.A.R.T goals that are more specific and measurable.
Then I break these down into goal action steps for each quarter so we can really make progress towards meeting some of these.
Having a specific amount of money in retirement funds by the end of the year is a fairly standard goal - you wouldn't want that to be a dream or it won't get done.
However, our desire to travel hovers between plans and dreams - we can dream about places we'd like to go, and even make plans based on the goal action steps like looking for places to stay or tickets.
But, sometimes it's out of our control - we may get sick, not be able to find an affordable way to go, or have a worldwide pandemic. Ahem.
There are times our planning just doesn't work.
Should you just chuck making goals, then?
You probably know what I'm going to say, right? Of course not!
I did that for many years and didn't make any headway on the bigger plans and dreams I had. I only did the many little things that call us daily, but don't always move us forward.
When some of the things I wanted to see happen in a year don't, I don't look at it as a failure, only as something that may take longer to accomplish (or if it's not even something I want anymore).
Guess how many times "fully fund our emergency fund" appeared on my goals, lol?
But that feeling of accomplishment when it finally was fully funded? Priceless.
So set those goals/plans/dreams, or whatever you call them, even if it's just one or two things - you will love that feeling of accomplishment, too.
Wool Sock Review
So it's only been a few months of comparing Bombas wool socks to a well-reviewed set I got on Amazon, so while I can't speak to how they wear yet, I wanted to do a quick update just to let you know what I thought after a few months wearing them.
Mainly because there is one big difference I've noticed that has me reaching for the Bombas socks over the Amazon socks:
The Bombas socks are the perfect stretch around the ankle and the cheaper socks are pretty tight.
I can't stand socks with tight ankles, so this is a deal-breaker for me.
And when I say that the Bombas socks are "perfect stretch" (both quarter ankle and calf socks) I mean that they don't feel tight AND don't fall down.
Of course, I tried only one brand of socks on Amazon, so there of course may be wool socks with perfect stretch somewhere else out there, too.
Although I can add that I gave Bombas socks to Brian and our kids for Christmas and they've all loved them. Brian likes the cushion of the wool-running sock I got him and how they keep his feet warm even when they get wet.
The other thing I could mention is that the wool Bombas are a nice thickness and feel cushiony without being too bulky to wear with slippers and shoes. (Yes, I need to wear slippers with wool socks - have I mentioned I'm cold?)
So, yes, I'm leaning towards the Bombas fan club.
If you would like to try Bombas out, too, here's a 25% off purchase link for you - just click here to access it!
(Note- I have only tried the wool socks and am okay spending more for them, but I think the other normal cotton socks are too expensive, lol.)
The Best Layer for Cold Weather
I mentioned wearing silk underlayers during the winter and thought I'd share the 100% silk undershirt that Brian got me for Christmas (well, after I told him about it, lol).
I was blown away at how much a thin silk shirt could help keep me warm when I first tried them a couple years ago.
It's like you're not wearing anything, it's so light, but then it really does keep the chills away under sweaters and looser tops.
I had previously bought a polyester underlayer shirt that does work, but often left me feeling a bit sweaty.
Plus, after reading that microplastics found in all our waterways and fish mainly come from washing microfiber and polyester clothes, I'm on a mission to only buy real fibers (and it's not easy to do, but that's a subject for another time...).
Silk undershirts are more expensive, but they last and last and they WORK better while leaving no trace in the water.
I've got two different brands and I like them both:
- This Terramar shirt from Amazon (shown above) is super lightweight and comes in black and gray as well.
- This Land's End silk undershirt is a bit thicker with a higher crew neck.
I'm hoping to add a black one to my collection soon.
Hanging Planter (in the shower!)
When we tiled our shower in the farmhouse bathroom I wanted it to go all the way to the ceiling for a clean, cohesive look.
The ceiling is 9 feet tall, so that's a lot of tile. I always thought it would be fun to fill the upper corner with a hanging plant.
I started rooting cuttings from my daughter's pothos plant and looking for a hanging planter that would work. (It's fun that the pothos were rooted from the original plant I had for years and years before we moved our things into storage and lived with family while we searched for a new house - plus it's about the one plant I can kill inside, ha.)
Who knew that finding a hanging pot would be so hard to find?
They were too small, too expensive, too big, made from plastic. Or the hanging part was thick macrame (not good in a shower), or came with a round metal ring or other type of decorative stuff I didn't want.
Months would pass before I'd try to look again. My daughter was living with us through most of this - so guess what she found me for a Christmas present?
A simple set of creamy white ceramic hanging planters with thick ropes to hold its own in a shower.
The poor pothos had been living in water rooting this whole time, so you know it was happy to finally be in soil again.
And I love how it finally looks!
Plus I get to find a spot for the smaller planter - I'm thinking the laundry room would be nice.
First, did you see my 13 best books of 2021 yet? You'll want to check that out, as one of these below made the list!
Also, I should mention this is an odd list that reflects the holiday month - I didn't have time to physically read as much, but did have a lot of time for audiobooks while baking, wrapping, and traveling. Since I'm working through the Inspector Gamache series, I just would start the next one from the library when I finished the previous, which is why there are three on the list (I think that's a first for me).
God and The Pandemic, N.T. Wright. This is a short book (I think it was originally an essay published somewhere?) that I didn't know about until it popped up in the library app after finishing a previous book of this author. Obviously very timely.
It's a straightforward look at the pandemic told in Wright's easy-to-understand way by always going back to the Bible, back to Jesus, and back to our responsibilities as image-bearers of God. He asks the question, “What is the church doing to help out their fellow man during this time?”
Throughout he commends Christians to be prayerful, thoughtful, and loving in the midst of the pandemic. Perfect for those like me who wondered what our "feet on the ground" response should be.
Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs book 3), Jacqueline Winspear. This wasn't my favorite of the three books I've read of this series so far. I was really but off by Maisie's ghost/spiritualist/connection-with-the-dead aspect of this one. There was more emphasis on her sort of communing with objects, rooms, and dead people to get answers to the mystery.
I still enjoy the long term characters and how Maisie has grown as well as the historical setting and what people must've gone through in the aftermath of WWI. So I'll continue with the next in the series, but probably not until I finish the Louise Penny books since they are a similar genre.
The Brutal Telling (Inspector Gamache 5), Louise Penny. A main character in the town of Three Pines is involved in the death of a recluse. You find out a lot about a character you thought you knew - but then again, the whole town finds out right along with you.
Really interesting mystery in this one that had me guessing the whole way through, with a twist at the end that I didn't see.
Bury Your Dead (Inspector Gamache 6), Louise Penny. This book is my favorite book of the series BY FAR. There is so much going on and so much emotion - and the way things are revealed just heighten the grip the book has on you.
The brilliance starts with an incident that happened before the book begins with Inspector Gamache and his team. We don't know what it is, but we see the fallout unfold slowly which includes injuries both physical and mental. There is also a continuation of the case from the previous book that we thought had been solved, and a new mystery in the brutally cold city of Quebec where Gamache has gone to recover. The history of old and new Quebec was fascinating (discrimination happens everywhere) and the snow and cold was almost another character itself.
A Trick of the Light (Inspector Gamache 7), Louise Penny. A character we've come to admire and root for in the previous books, Clara Morrow, finally has her first successful art show. But a body is found in her garden during the after party - and it was someone she knew growing up.
The mystery surrounding the old friend is good, though the outcome is a bit anti-climactic. I was sad to see Clara and Peter's marriage wobble - I'm hopeful that this will make them stronger in future books and not dissolve completely.
Troy, Stephen Fry. Wow, I had read a few things about Stephen Fry's adaptations of old myths, heros and stories, so when they were offered on a 2-for-1 Audible sale (narrated by Fry) I added them to my library. Brian and I were able to listen to Troy (it's the third one he released but was the one we wanted to listen to first) while traveling and it's a very good and thorough adaptation.
He adds a lot of humor, explains things well, and brings in other myths that might be background for the tale. It's super violent - I can only imagine what this must've been like to hear around a fire centuries ago. Yikes. And I don't want to read anything more about Achilles - he was awful (well, as myths go...).
The Chosen, free on the app (also on Peacock and Amazon). Truth: we watched the first episode of this a long time ago didn't pick it up again. We heard about the Christmas special in theaters (through Fathom Events), went to see it and started watching the show again on the app.
Once we gave it a try again (the first episodes are a bit slow - give it time and you'll get hooked!), we loved how real they are making the life of Jesus and the disciples and how they are filling in all the edges with things that actually could be possible (example: Peter's wife wants him to go and follow Jesus because she sees how he is with Him).
We also love how they are funding it through crowdfunding sources with a "paying it forward" idea. No "upper management" is telling them how to tell the story.
Girls 5eva, Peacock. How weird to have this on the same list with The Chosen because it's a little crude, but very funny (with Tina Fey as a producer). I only knew Sara Bareillis as a singer, but she does a great job acting (though Renée Elise Goldsberry from Hamilton on Broadway steals most scenes).
Free Guy, (we rented from Amazon, now on Disney+). We loved this fresh concept movie! It was fun, funny, sweet, and clean. Plus a couple of life lessons.
Miracle on 34th Street, Amazon, Disney+, YouTube. This was our classic Christmas movie pick - it had been quite a few years since we had seen it. Maybe that's why we were shocked that a young girl would spend so much time with a male neighbor the mom didn't even know. And she often couldn't find the girl who would be at the neighbors. Hmmm. Wouldn't fly in today's world, would it?
But Natalie Wood was such a good actress even at that age - so real!
Animated Grinch 2018 (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), Amazon. What to say about this - the dog was cute? All three of us didn't care for this adaptation with a too-nice Grinch (so the rest of the story doesn't work), a snarky Cindy-Lou Who, and a major storyline that goes nowhere (what happened to the mom's job Cindy-Lou wanted?).
But we know people who say it's their favorite, so each to their own!
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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