A monthly list of good things to see, do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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I love May - it may be one of my favorite months. Watching all the flowers bloom, vegetables grow, and trees leaf out brings all the joy, doesn't it?
It also happens to be the month of my birthday, so I've always associated May with good things!
There are other good things I want to share, though, including the new shelf and the stenciling in my office makeover and two things I've gotten lately that have been very good.
And of course there are some things to watch and read - with one book that will be making an appearance on my best of the year list I'm sure.
Good Things List
Salvaged Wood DIY Bookcase
I have been enjoying working in my revamped office. It makes me smile every time I walk into the bright and organized space, which is the total opposite of the before.
It's gotten even better since Brian and I finished the bookcase we were making to house the vintage locker baskets I've had for years. You can see the shelf above and how it perfectly fits behind the desk and between the shelves.
Here's another closer view:
To me, it's just about perfect in its imperfection.
Brian created the box and shelf with scrap plywood and leftover trim molding from the farmhouse renovation. He then cut and sanded down old tongue-and-groove siding we pulled off the house when we added the foundation for the top.
After that I took over with wood-fill and caulk, then I sanded and painted the box and shelf - wood fill and caulk is key to using salvaged wood that's not in great shape.
The wood top had already been sanded well, so I brushed on three coats of a satin polyurethane, gently sanding between the first and second coats. This process results in a smooth surface that's easy to clean versus the rough original wood.
I still have to organize the locker bins - the current labels are from this fabric organization project.
I don't have the fabric stash I used to, so now I plan to use the bins for office supplies, camera equipment, and other things that would be nice to access from the desk.
Office Nook Stencil
A few people have asked about the stencil that I used in the closet-turned-office-nook.
I searched and searched for a simple, small patterned stencil that would produce an overall effect without being too busy.
Surprisingly it's not easy to find. There are lots of all-over florals, vining patterns, and things that are a bit dated, in my opinion.
But I wanted the easy application and cheaper option of a stencil versus wallpaper, so I kept looking.
I eventually found the stencil similar to what I had in mind at Designer Stencils - specifically this one.
I chose a green acrylic craft paint I already had, taped the stencil to the wall with painters tape, and used a mostly dry stencil brush (I tapped it dry on a paper-towel-lined paper plate) to apply the paint through the stencil design.
I started in one corner and just worked my way around, using the last row of the stencil to level and center the next.
It did take a couple hours, but went fast - especially since I was listening to an audio book (of course!).
I love it and the little pop of color it gives to the room.
Have you stenciled walls? If so, where have you found the stencils?
The Electric Skillet I'm Using All The Time
When we downsized and the kids moved out, I got rid of our big electric griddle because I didn't use it enough anymore for the space it took up.
Instead I tried an inexpensive electric skillet which could still cook about 4 small pancakes at a time - a much better amount for a smaller household - to see how it would work for us.
Guess what? I used it all the time! Not only for pancakes, rice cakes, and zucchini fritters, but also for things like my fried chicken attempts and Brian's latest idea: homemade donuts.
It's been so much more versatile than the big griddle, even if it takes a bit longer to cook up the whole batch of fritter-pancake type things.
The problem was, I used it so much, it lost it's non-stick ability, with that tell-tale brown/burned area over the circle element.
In searching for a new skillet I was willing to pay more since it gets so much use, but in the end, I found one that wasn't too expensive yet had great reviews - including from a few that had been using it awhile and said it didn't get that burned area over the element.
This is the skillet I bought and I LOVE it so far! We've used it for donuts, fritters, and hash browns and nothing sticks.
It heats well, though I have found when frying that a few areas cook at a lower temperature than others (I'm not sure there is a skillet that wouldn't do this, though - I even get this on the stove).
Are you team electric griddle or team electric skillet?
Check out the Elite Gourmet 7.5Qt scratch resistant non-stick skillet here.
Fun Summer Kids Gift Idea
If you need a different gift idea for kids aged 4-8 that encourages outdoor activity and would go great with any planned camping or road trips, I highly suggest the Adventure Kidz outdoor exploration kit.
It includes realistic children’s binoculars, flashlight, compass, whistle, magnifying glass, and backpack all packaged in small boxes (that they will love opening and discovering!).
I can't take credit for discovering this as the kit was on a list of gift ideas for my twin great nephews from their mom.
It was fun watching them open the boxes and I was pretty impressed with the items and how excited they were about it.
So just passing the idea on!
Check out the Adventure Kidz outdoor exploration kit here.
An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs 5), Jacqueline Winspear. You'll see this was a month of Maise Dobbs! I found through the Hoopla app that I could listen to most of the series without waiting, so I'd finish one and start another if I didn't have anything else in the wings.
In this fifth book of the series, Maisie goes to the English countryside and we see and learn about something that Londoners did each summer for years to get out of the city and make extra money - hop picking. She solves a mystery (of course), we learn a bit more of her background, and one part of her story up to this point finally concludes.
It was an okay book for me. The plot was a little slower than the previous books and I'm increasingly finding Maisie a bit cold and wonder how she's able to draw people to her so much - maybe it's because she listens? The setting, characters, and history keeps me coming back, though.
All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot. There's a new audio version of this classic tale of a new vet in the early 1920s in Yorkshire, England and it's narrated by the actor who portrays him in the 2020 BBC-Masterpiece series, complete with his Scottish accent. It's been years since we read this to our kids, and it was great to listen again to the stories as I was watching the second season of the PBS series. I was able to see things from the show and also how they changed things up.
When Life Gives You Pears, Jeannie Gaffigan. This is the book that you will probably see on my best of the year list - it was SO good. Brian and I listened to this together and have nothing by admiration for how Jeannie and her husband, Jim, dealt with the tumor that was found in her brain and successfully operated on - albeit with a few hiccups along the way. It's family affirming, funny (really...), and will give you goosebumps to see how God orchestrated things to get her the help she needed.
Among The Mad (Maisie Dobbs 6), Jacqueline Winspear. In this episode of the series, Maisie is drawn into leftover intrigue from the war and begins working for Special Branch, which was like England's CIA (I'm assuming). I enjoyed the fast pace of this plot as Maisie and crew work to find a man before he uses a bomb on innocent people. All the books have looked at how the war affected people, but this one delves more deeply into PTSD, it's lasting effects and how the government at the time pretty much ignored it (and well, for the rest of most of the century actually).
We also continue to learn about Billy's family story (who I really like - I hope he doesn't actually move to Canada!) as well as the other characters we've come to like.
The Mapping of Love and Death, Maisie Dobbs 7), Jacqueline Winspear. The mysteries aren't usually the main part of these books to me, but I really enjoyed the intricacies of this one - learning how mapping was used in the war and the personal family dynamics of the central case to be solved. That the family is American throws another interesting dimension into the story.
There's also the ending that changes Maisie's life in a couple of ways, including her finding love (maybe?). That storyline seemed to be thrown in at the end and rushed along, but I still enjoyed seeing her open up to a life outside her work and become a bit more "human."
They Turned the World Upside Down, Charles Martin. This book wasn't really what I was expecting, which was a look at the book of Acts and how the disciples built the church after Jesus left. Instead, it's a "storyteller's journey" and I couldn't tell what it was trying to be - at times, scriptural and Biblical, other times he's projecting his thoughts in the minds of the disciples (the 'storytelling' part?). There were then long exhortations/devotions/prayers thrown in. I liked parts of it, but it was hard to get into because I found it a bit confusing.
The Afterparty, Apple+. We weren't sure what to expect from this comedy-police procedural, but it is laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and definitely captures the real-life high school reunion vibe (okay, though maybe a bit over-the-top, ha!). We've watched 3 episodes and are looking forward to the rest (each episode is told from another of the characters point of view).
Jim Gaffigan- Comedy Monster, Netflix. We pretty much watch anything Jim Gaffigan comes out with - he's clean, clever, and funny.
The Grand Seduction, Amazon. I can't remember where I heard about this sweet little movie, but it made it on our "to watch" list and I'm glad it did. It's the story of a small fishing (fictional) village Newfoundland, Canada, that is trying to bring work back to the town by luring a manufacturing plant to locate there. They need a doctor to make it work and how they bring a city doctor to the village and try to make it so idyllic that he'll stay is both hilarious and the heartwarming.
The Lost City (theater). We saw this on our last date night and it was cute if predictable (which is sometimes okay with me) with "Romancing the Stone" vibes. I enjoyed seeing Sandra Bullock back in her PG-13 rom-com realm after quite a few years in rated R fare and horror/thrillers.
The Tinder Swindler, Netflix. This was recommended to us as a fascinating documentary, which it was. It was also sad to see how people live and disappointing to see that there's not much in the way of consequences for people perpetrating scams like this.
Belfast, Amazon. There are so many sweet moments in this film by Kenneth Branagh (I've read it's semi-autobiographical) - as well as heartbreaking moments. I understand the era and politics of Northern Ireland a bit more now, though to see division between neighbors and friends like that is hard (and prescient to the era we're living in...).
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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