A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Welcome to April and spriiiing! It seemed a long time coming, but shortly after our record snow that took weeks to melt, the weather changed. The days became warmer (that first day in the 60s was heaven!) with a couple days even reaching to the 70s. Even the rain seemed warmer.
It was weird, though – March came in like a lion with all the snow and then within just a few weeks we hit a couple 70 degree days. And the snow was still in piles in lots of areas. Talk about a swing – and I know we’re not the only ones who experienced big swings like this. Just another sign it’s spring I guess, with it’s often unpredictable weather.
If you are like me, you are ready for spring and looking forward to outdoor activities – even if you have to wait a little longer for your snow to melt! Hopefully this list will inspire you wherever you are in life, maybe to look forward to gardening, give you some new things to try, or books to read to while away time in between!
Grab a cup of your favorite drink and settle in – it’s a good long list this month!
Spring flower Bed Clean Up
Let’s start with the garden, since it’s been months since I’ve been able to dig in the dirt. I shared the vegetable garden plan and planting guide for this year here and today I thought I’d share the little flower bed that’s between our farmhouse and the manufactured home. It’s what most people see when they come to our home, so I like to keep it looking nice. But of course it has to be deer resistant, too!
The picture above is the bed before cleaning it out, after a winter of rain, freezing, and snow. This area was completely covered in weeds when we bought the farmhouse last year and I cleaned it up, gave it a rock edging, and planted a few things I randomly found at the home store. Surprisingly, they worked well – and were mostly deer resistant, which I didn’t know when I planted how important that was going to be.
Let’s talk weeds for a minute.
I want to point out that while there are weeds in the bed, there aren’t many and they were super easy to pull since they were only in the mulch that I layered over newspaper. I think it took me about an hour total to clean up, and that included adding a few new plants and cutting back old growth.
I’ll add another layer of newspaper and mulch this year and there will be even less weeds next year. It’s just a great way to have many months of weed-free beds!
Okay, let’s see the after:
Nice and tidy, right? Here’s what I have planted in this bed:
- 3 lavender plants – French and Goodwin Creek Grey (I find these bloom longer, look better, and last longer than English lavender)
- 1 pink creeping phlox
- 1 coreopsis
- 3 pink-toned penstemon plants
- 1 unknown peony that was on the property but transplanted from the grass we had to remove next to the farmhouse
- 1 pink peony (just planted)
- blooming grape hyacinth bulbs (just planted, and just found out the deer love…sigh).
- 5 white alyssum (sometimes these come back or reseed, so I left them for another month after cutting back to see if they will)
I’ll need to add another layer of paper and mulch and plant a few annuals, but other than that, this area is pretty much done.
This view above is the view I like to photograph, especially when the flowers are blooming like this.
But to be truly honest with you, and let you know that there’s a LOT of work still to do on the property, here’s the other side of this area that I don’t like to show:
Ugh. This area is a constant frustration to me – of course it’s because we see it everyday as we walk into the manufactured home. Dealing with other people’s odd additions are one of the worst things when buying a new-old home.
Random brick wall? Check. Gigantic pile of SAND covered with a thin layer of wood chips? Check. Huge old stump barely covered by wood chips growing weeds? Check.
Did I mention sand? A huge pile? What were they thinking? (And yes, weeds love to grow in sand…)
You wouldn’t know it from the picture, but I spent a lot of time on this area last summer. Weeding, removing wood chips, and removing loads of sand, one wheelbarrow at a time.
Here’s what I learned: Sand is heavy and takes forever to remove with a wheelbarrow. I didn’t even get half of it moved!
Anyway, the plan is to somehow get that sand removed, knock down the brick wall, and level everything as much as possible. The flower bed will continue around the large boulder and then I hope to continue the grass on the (hopefully) gentle slope. I’ll keep you updated, for sure.
The Farmhouse Metal Bed
Remember when I was choosing between three antique-looking metal beds? Brian and our daughter voted on the cleanest looking bed, which also happened to be the cheapest!
It’s called the Home Meridian Westford Standard Queen (there are other sizes) and had good reviews so I ordered it, hoping it wasn’t going to be a “you get what you pay for” situation.
And we LOVE it!
It was pretty easy to put together – it took Brian and me about 45 minutes – and it is really sturdy. I was worried about squeaking with a metal bed, but there are no squeaks at all getting in and out. Also, you have three choices for height, so if you have really tall mattress, you can adjust it so you can still see the headboard.
The one thing is that base that the box spring and mattress sits on doesn’t have any lip to keep it in place and it’s a bit bigger than the standard queen size we have. I thought maybe it would slide around, but it actually hasn’t, thankfully.
All in all we’re really pleased with it and would recommend it. If you’re looking for a bed like this, you can go here to read more (it’s under $160!).
New Swim Suit
Ugh, let me just start with the fact that buying a swim suit is almost the last thing I’d want to spend time shopping for (maybe underwear beats it?). But Brian and I have been planning a 30th anniversary trip to the Caribbean for almost three years now – and it’s happening in a few months! (We’re hitting the end of the busy season for better prices, but before the hurricane season.)
With an aging pear-shaped body, and preferring to be more modest, I don’t do bottoms that show all you-know-what, so I look for swim shorts or skirts. Which are hard to find in stores and usually expensive online.
Which is why I was pretty happy to find SwimOutlet.com – they have everything for all kinds of swim and swim sports. They carry all the big name brands (at those prices), but they have quite a few sales and carry brands that are cheaper.
I bought the top (love the color!) and skirt pictured above and am really happy with the quality and fit. They are from the Sporti line, which is lower priced. Specifically, the top is the Sporti Active Racerback Solid Tankini Top and the skirt is the Sporti Active Swim Skort Bottom.
If you are looking to upgrade your swim suit and want LOTS of options (I’m looking at a pair of fitted swim shorts for snorkeling…), you can use this link to get $10 off a purchase of $39 or more for new customers.
This Adorable Green Glass Spoon Holder
I just had to share this sweet spoon holder that came in the mail this week from Target. I hadn’t seen these at our local store, so I’m glad it’s easy to order online.
It’s called the Green Hearth & Hand Spoon Holder and coordinates with the appetizer plates from the same line I bought last fall, as well as the jadeite colored bowls, cake stand, and salt and pepper shakers I already have.
It was less than $5, proving that sometimes it really is the little things that make you happy, right? Plus, no more setting my stirring spoon down on the counter and getting it all dirty!
I read eight books total in March – more than I had in either of the previous two months. The extra two books are 100% attributable to audiobooks + working outside + blog cooking day. I could’ve just listened to music, but once I got into the habit of listening to books instead, it’s what I gravitate to now.
Here are the six I’m sharing about – most I liked, but one popular book I really didn’t:
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, Lysa TerKeurst. This was the book the 6-week Bible study I mentioned last month was based on. It was a good study with a lot of great support and resources, but my favorite thing was this book. I think next to The Best Yes, this is my favorite Lysa TerKeurst book. It’s just so real and honest. You are literally walking with her as she’s discovering things, going through trials, turning to God, learning more about Him and what truly leaning on Him looks like. In real life.
I don’t know if you know her recent story, but her husband of 20+ years had an affair and it looked like they were headed to a divorce. She talks what this looks and feels like as both a woman and as head of a major online ministry. Then she has not just one, but two major medical issues. I listened to the audiobook which Lysa narrates, so it was like she was talking to me. And all I kept thinking was, “if she can come out stronger after all this, I certainly can, too.”
The even more wonderful ending comes when you realize she and her husband renewed their vows just a few months before the online study started. What a testimony!
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser. Ugh, so many feelings about this book. My daughter gave this to me for Christmas and it took me 2-1/2 months to finish it, because honestly sometimes I just had to set it down for awhile. This book won a Pulitzer Prize and was listed in the 10 Best Books of 2017 by the New York Times, so it’s kind of a big deal. I thought it was a biography of Laura and her times and dove into it right away because I’m a big fan (which my sweet girl knew, bless her).
The first part of the book was just that and I really enjoyed it. I knew the truth of Laura’s life wasn’t all the wine-colored roses of her children’s books, so I wasn’t surprised and found it really interesting. I also love the background the author gave on everything from politics, to weather patterns (including the amazing locust plagues), to what was happening with the Native Americans.
But, oh, the second half and all the details about Laura and Almanzo’s daughter, Rose. I just didn’t care. I understand how I needed to know about their relationship and how Rose’s writing career was the reason Laura started writing, but I didn’t need to know about all the details in Rose’s life! I wanted to know more about how Laura lived in Mansfield, about her and Almanzo – not about Rose’s trips to Europe or friends she made or discarded. Sigh.
I skimmed the last half – until I got to the part about Roger McBride finagling his way into Rose’s life and then becoming heir and thwarting the wishes of Laura about her legacy and royalties. What a travesty.
I was sad to learn that it was this book that caused Laura’s name to be removed from a children’s literature award (and an elementary school) – all because we are viewing her 19th century memories through our 21st century eyes. In my opinion, it’s a book for children told through a child’s eyes and should be taken for what it is – and the era it’s set in – and use it as a way to open conversation like all good books should do.
Behold The Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue. I listened to this book while cooking and I really enjoyed it. The reader did a fantastic job with both the African and American accents. Set in the 2000’s before the economic crash, it tells the story of one Cameroon man who came to America and would like to stay now that his wife and child have arrived. He gets a job as a chauffeur for an executive with the Lehman Brothers in the months before they go belly up and we learn about their family as well as his.
It really helped to illustrate the plight of immigrants getting to American and trying to stay, as well as that specific time in history where everything was unknown for awhile, economically. The ending was not what I was expecting, but it wasn’t bad. There is some language, but otherwise just a good, engrossing story.
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Phillip Yancy. I loved the title of this book, since it’s often something I, and many others I know, wonder. I like this author because he’s not afraid to tackle questions we all have that we feel we shouldn’t have. I got so many good nuggets from this book that I wrote down, including:
As with exercise, the benefit of prayer comes with consistency.
Some days we’d be hard-pressed to find a benefit from a prayer time. Keep showing up, though, with the hope to 1) know God better and 2) hear from God in the quiet
Morning prayer orients us for the day with God as a focus.
Written prayers can help us during dry spells – use the Bibles prayers (Psalms, The Lord’s Prayer) as well as others like most Christians throughout the centuries have matured in prayer.
There will be times when God seems silent. See: Psalms, Jesus on the cross, Paul’s thorn. Do not be surprised and use written prayers to keep at it.
The biggest thing that stuck with me is that the author asks, what if God really did answer every prayer like we ask? What would that look like? When you think how Christan’s would be seen as magicians, how no bad things would happen (and none of the growth that comes from that) – or how that thing we were asking for really was a bad thing – you start to realize why God didn’t create the world that way and it makes more sense.
I’m pretty sure this will make it into my top books for 2019!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid. This one? I know it will be no where near the top. I was so excited to have a fun read that was set in the ‘golden age’ of Hollywood, one I had read a number of good reviews about.
This was not my cup of tea, that’s for sure. I found it shallow, repetitive, and not very inventive. I would’ve given up, but there was a twist set up in the beginning I wanted to know about, so I kept at it. And while it was a good twist, I didn’t believe it for a minute. The coincidences were just too great.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Norsat. This was a short read that I found super interesting. Samin gives some of her background as she worked her way up from the bottom at the famous Chez Panisse restaurant and what she learned about the importance of salt, fat, acid, and heat to creating good food. The second half of the book are recipes that serve as guidelines for creating your own recipes.
I then tuned into the first episode of the Netflix show of the same name, which I really enjoyed after reading the book. I love how you learn more about the real foods we love to eat, like all the different ages of Parmesan. Have you watched this yet?
I guess it was a documentary month for us! From Netflix:
Long Shot Documentary. This is a shorter, one episode documentary and was completely fascinating. It’s about a man accused of a murder he didn’t commit and said he wasn’t even there for – he was at a Dodger’s game. Problem is, how do you prove you were someplace? Plus a good Hollywood twist.
Juanita. A Netflix original movie starring Alfre Woodard that we stumbled upon and it looked sweet and uplifting. And it was, though there were a few sad scenes and one my daughter and I fast-forwarded through. 🙂
Sam Cooke Documentary. Wow, what a life – and what a sad ending to it.
Innocent Man Documentary. This was completely mesmerizing – it’s based on the one non-fiction book John Grisham has written (and a few others written about the same town and murders). There are some murders in a small town a couple years apart and men are convicted based on confessions and little else. The whole idea of coerced confessions is explored, especially when two of the men are exonerated from DNA evidence years later. Fascinating stuff.
Paddington 2. Our whole family was surprised how much we all enjoyed the first Paddington movie, so were really looking forward to the second one, especially after seeing it’s high Rotten Tomatoes numbers. And it was still cute, but the plot didn’t really do it for us this time. It seemed to go the route so many sequels do – lots of chase scenes, lots of things breaking and general mayhem.
Have you seen 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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