A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Welcome to the "dog days of August" - whatever that means! For those of us on the west coast, August is always a just continuation of summer - school doesn't start here until after Labor Day. We're looking forward to a few family events, some outings, and of course continuing to work on the farmhouse. This includes hopefully finishing the deer fence for the garden, continuing to remove the old vinyl siding, and working on the permits for our 8-foot bump-out.
I hope you have a few fun things planned - even if one of them is back-to-school!
For this month's Good Things, I'm bringing you a great place to kayak (or swim, camp, fish or hang out), how I've made my granola even healthier, and the kitchen tools I've bought, among other things. You'll find a few reviews of the books I finished in July as well as a few of the things we watched that you might enjoy, too.
As always, let me know your "good things" too - I love getting recommendations!
If you are interested in kayaking, the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is full of wonderful lakes that are perfect for any type of small boat activity. There are some lakes for motor boats, but the best are the smaller lakes where motors aren't allowed, or only very small ones.
The lake we were kayaking in a few weeks ago pictured above is Little Lava Lake and those mountains are the South Sister, Broken Top (barely visible) and Mt. Bachelor. It's really as peaceful and calm as it seems. Even on a Saturday. Little Lava is a natural lake formed after lava flows (hence the name...) and if you can believe it, this quiet lake is the head of the mighty Deschutes River.
If you live nearby like we do (we're about 1.5 hours away) you're lucky and if you're planning a camping getaway, I'd look into the Cascade Lakes region if I were you, no matter where you live. You will definitely make memories and be awed by nature.
I joined the spiralizing bandwagon this month! When we visited my family in LaPine (where we went kayaking above), I was finally introduced to zoodles I could handle. They were lightly warmed (I hesitate to say cooked, because they were still crisp - I do not like soft, mushy squash...) in a pan with garlic olive oil, salt, pepper, and served with a dusting of parmesan cheese. We all loved it (even my zucchini-hating daughter).
So I needed a spiralizer, right? I initially looked at the hand-held versions for around $10, but they only really did soft vegetables like zucchini and I wanted the ability to spiralize carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes. Looking at the reviews, I settled on this Brieftons QuickFold 5-Blade Spiralizer for only a few dollars more. It's a brand that's been around awhile (well, for the spiralizing world, that is) and seems like it has the most versatility.
Do you spiralize and if so, what tool do you use?
If you have a Keurig or any other type of machine that uses "K-cups" you will want to check out San Francisco Bay k-cups because they are almost fully compostable - way more than normal cups. This makes me feel much better about using them along with our reusable baskets that we fill with coffee.
I love the coffee, too - we'd been getting their whole beans at Costco for years because they were such good quality for the price. And now that I only drink decaf (for bone health), it's much harder to find dark roast decaf, so I was thrilled to find their French roast for around .40 a cup. Plus it's great to have this option for company.
Sadly, my trusty Cuisinart Classic food processor broke a few weeks ago. Of course the motor was still going strong, but the plastic broke off of the lid so it couldn't fully latch which meant the working motor wouldn't turn on. I l.o.v.e.d. that machine - it was so simple and powerful, seeing me through fine bread crumbs to baguette bread dough.
So I purchased another Cuisinart Classic which came last week. I did the research and at 600 watts, this motor is much stronger than other machines in it's price range. However, I am not happy with the "upgrades" on this newer model. Specifically the feeding shoot. It has really flimsy plastic pieces that you have to push in to lock into place for the machine to work. They feel like they'd last a year if I were lucky.
Then the odd pusher doesn't come out completely, so to use the full sized feed tube the food has to fit just inside the tube so that you can still lock it in and the machine can run.
Do you know how many times I put full sized carrots or long zucchini pieces in there and pushed with my hand until they were the size of the tube? Now I have to cut them to the exact size of the tube (which isn't easy to eyeball actually...). I just don't thing this is going to work for me.
If I do return it - what do I get instead? Why, oh, why did they mess with a simple, easy design?
I started using quick cooking steel cut oats in my quick and easy granola recipe and the difference is not really noticeable in the finished product, but the healthiness of my morning cereal increased. Steel cut oats have almost double the fiber of rolled oats with a lower glycemic index because of some of the fiber being insoluble.
Don't you love it when an easy substitute makes something you love more healthy?
I read another seven books this month - do you think this is my new normal? When you start finding any time you can to read or listen to books, the books just get read. Here are the four that stood out:
Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns. I actually mentioned this as one of my Cool Things in our podcast as a fun and lighthearted look at small town life. And while it is that, as I finished the book after the recording, I realized that it turned a lot more sad than I thought it would be. I still enjoyed it, though - it was just a bit darker than the first part of the book lead me to believe. I also read Leaving Cold Sassy, Ms. Burns unfinished follow up to Cold Sassy Tree. I just wanted to visit the characters again, but it was a bit depressing and didn't have the humor and spirit of the first book.
Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank. This was the book that Brian and I listened to together this month and it was fascinating. It was written in the late 1950s at the height of the cold war and the premise is that Russia sends nuclear warheads to the US, destroying much of the country. Through a small Florida town spared we see the build-up, during, and what it's like for the town in the year after. Imagine all the bigger cities gone, the government in disarray, and no water, power, or food after your stores run out. What happens? What do people do? Become? How do they adapt? Or not? This was a really good listen and had both Brian and I talking about it after.
The Four Loves, CS Lewis. I'm continuing listening to CS Lewis's books as I'm getting ready in the morning and this month I finished two. The Four Loves was very interesting with it's deep insight into the different types of loves we experience in our lives. I really appreciated his in-depth look at friendship and how important it is for us:
Christ, who said to the disciples "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends "You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.
Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
The Problem of Pain, CS Lewis. This book is so eye-opening. I do think I need to read it again in print so I can take it slower and absorb the words. Here are a few thoughts I wrote down:
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
If God is wiser than we, His judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in his eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.
We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hoped he’ll never have to use it.
The Good Doctor - Amazon, Hulu. We just started on the first season this last week after hearing good things about it since it's debut last fall. It's been very good, though it has sad parts and is a bit dark in flashbacks to his upbringing. The lead actor, Freddie Highmore, truly is amazing as an autistic doctor, though sometimes it's excruciating to watch him be so out of it socially, especially dealing with patients and their families. We're looking forward to finishing the season. (As an aside - why do these shows think we want close-ups of skin being cut and the insides of our bodies? Ugh - so many times we just have to look away!)
The Night Manager - Amazon. This is a one-season series from a few years ago based on this book that we watched mainly because we like the two leads, Hugh Laurie (as a really good bad guy), and Tom Hiddleston. It was very well done, super suspenseful, and mysterious. It also was violent, a bit scary, and had a few nude/sex scenes, though they were brief and not graphic.
Endeavor, Season 5 - Amazon. Brian and I have watched all the seasons of the PBS/BBC's production of Endeavor. It's a police drama/mystery set in Oxford in the 1960's and like many of these shows keeps us guessing the whole time. Apparently it's the early story of a popular police BBC drama from the 1970s called Inspector Morse (there both part of the main character's name, Endeavor Morse). We tried watching it after discovering Endeavor, but it's not very good and the character is not very nice. Kind of sad to know we're seeing him turn into that...
Seinfeld, Hulu. Our daughter gave us a gift card to Hulu for Christmas and we finally started using it this last month (she had us start with the free trial first to extend the time - smart!). She wanted to watch this old series from the 1990's that we loved at the time, so we're rewatching them with her. It's still as funny as ever (and sometimes cringe-worthy) and it's nice to have something quick and lighthearted to watch occasionally.
Incredibles 2. We waited to see this with our daughter - The Incredibles is probably our favorite Pixar movie ever. It was fun, though not as full of heart and humor as the first movie. Did you see it? What did you think?
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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