A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Well, hello October good things! I'm pretty sure the good things lists these past few months are needed, right?
It's a good thing (see how I did that there?) to focus on a few positive things in the midst of what seems like chaos.
There's a delicate balance between putting your head in the sand and living in fear and anger - and keeping a positive outlook and focusing on what I can actually do is the way for me to try and keep that balance.
While we're speaking of good things, I want to give a huge thank you to all of you who contacted me when you heard Oregon was literally going up in smoke from forest fires the beginning of September. Your words, thoughts, and prayers touched our family so much.
We were very lucky to not be in the path of any flames, but many people we know were on some level of evacuation and the area just a few miles to the east of us burn more than 170,000 acres.
The smoke, of course, was horrendous for more than a week, but we thankfully got a change in weather that cleared it out and brought some rain that helped the firefighters. Sadly, not so for California - my prayers go up for the devastated areas and families there.
Seeing people helping, giving, praying, and generally being good humans to each other during this time? Really good thing right there.
Favorite Costal Town
We took a trip to our favorite town on the Oregon Coast, Pacific City, to celebrate Brian's birthday with a surfing weekend at the end of September. We did this last year, too, and had such a wonderful time we decided to make it an annual tradition.
Brian and our daughter started surfing a few years ago (yes, you can surf in Oregon's frigid waters WITH a wet suit!) and they like to take any opportunity they can to improve their skills. There are a couple places along the Oregon coast that are good for surfing and Pacific City is one of them.
But we like it for a number of different reasons, too, because not all of us are surfers (I'm not even interested, ha!):
- The town includes Cape Kiwanda with its 240 foot dune that is great for climbing - the views from the top are terrific. Plus when our kids were younger, they had a blast going up so they could run back down again - which usually included a tumble or two.
- It's home to The Dory Fleet - fishing boats with a flat bottom type of boat that can take off and returns right from the sandy shore - that you can see most mornings coming and going. It's pretty cool.
- It has the one of the few beach areas that allow cars to drive right on the sand. This makes for an almost California-like atmosphere on sunny days with people hanging out around their cars.
- There are very few restaurants right on the beach in Oregon and the Pelican Brewing Co. pub at Pacific City Beach just south of Cape Kiwanda is one of them. Good fish and chips, chowder, and burgers.
- South of Cape Kiwanda is Bob Straub State Park with where you can walk miles of beach free of houses, which is rare.
- The little town surrounds the Nestucca River which is good for water sports and fishing.
- It has one of two of Oregon's iconic Haystack Rocks that makes for pretty pictures (the other is in Cannon Beach).
It's also off of Highway 101 by about 3 miles, so seems quiet and isolated. There used to be a lot less people when we started going there years ago, but the word is getting out and on summer weekends it's usually packed.
Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't be telling you about this fun place, lol!
Vintage Arched Cabinet & Matching New Cabinet
My brother salvaged this adorable vintage cabinet with arched doors from a house remodel in his neighborhood. (Just imagine it painted white and not UO Duck colors...)
It's hung out in our barn for a few years until I had the idea to build it in to a wall of our new farmhouse kitchen for needed storage AND to provide an old architectural feature in this house that didn't have any.
I wanted to maximize the storage, though, and asked my talented carpenter stepdad if he could make a matching rectangle to act as the bottom cabinet. Lucky me, he said yes and it turned out fantastic!!
Isn't it great? He matched the inset doors, hinges, and molding exactly. More amazing is he milled some of the wood himself from maples that had fallen on his property!
There will be a two to three inch flat board between the sections, and it will all be painted white with old fashioned latches for the doors.
I'm SO excited to see this in place, so stay tuned for updates as we continue to work on the farmhouse fixer!
Fresh Strawberries in October
I've been picking handfuls of strawberries about every other day since the beginning of June.
It never gets old and was even more amazing to me when I picked this handful on October 4!
Want to know the secret to harvesting strawberries all summer and into the fall?
Plant everbearing varieties!
There are two types of strawberries, June bearing that produce one large crop in May and June, and then everbearing that produce smaller harvests all season long.
I remember everbearing strawberries being smaller than June bearing, but they've obviously improved the varieties recently - the variety I planted last year have been huge all season long.
The berries I planted, pictured above, are called 'Seascape.' I didn't allow any to produce in the first few months after planting last year so that they could get firmly established (simply remove any blossoms you find).
We only had a few last year because of that, so I've been very impressed with the harvest, size, and flavor this year. Plus, they don't produce an obnoxious amount of runners. Highly recommended.
Can you plant strawberries in the fall?
Yes! In fact, if you want to harvest the first summer instead of pinching off flowers like I did, definitely plant strawberries in the fall!
They'll have time to establish their roots and you can enjoy strawberries their first summer. The link to the Seascape plants on Etsy are available now, I believe.
Cool Preserving/Storage Labels
Last spring I was contacted by the owner of Mess, a family owned, made in USA maker of dissolvable labels (among other things).
He sent me some labels to try and I've been using them this season for both canning and freezing. I wanted to make sure they actually did dissolve before sharing them with you - I really don't like the labels that leave a residue, even when they say they are dissolvable.
Well, I'm happy to report that they stick well AND dissolve in water in just seconds, leaving NO stickiness behind! And I'm not the only one - I saw that they have a 76% 5-star rating on Amazon.
As you can see in the photo above, the labels I was sent have areas for you to write other information like a use-by date, time, etc. - and I don't use all that. I simply write the name and date over the top (I can see that if you're using these for fridge or pantry food storage and need to be reminded of a use-by date, that may be helpful).
However, I did see that the company offers a blank version as well, so if you're like me and don't need that information, that might be the way to go.
I've also found it's a lot faster than peeling and tearing off a piece of masking tape - my go-to label method, lol.
I listened to and read 10 books in September! I listened while harvesting in the garden, preserving the produce, and also while tiling and painting in the farmhouse, so there was plenty of good "reading" time!
Here are the reviews of eight:
The Most Fun We Ever Had, Claire Lombardo. I almost bailed on this bestseller I waited for months for at the library because the f-bombs were so disconcerting and the story at the beginning was kind of off-putting. But the characters and the way the story jumped from past to present intrigued me so I kept with it to see what happened.
The things I liked:
- The long lasting love and marriage of the matriarch and patriarch of the family. That's not shown enough in literature and movies, I think.
- The way the story was told hopping back and forth in time kept me wanting to find out what happened.
- The welcoming way most of the family welcomed a boy used to moving from foster home to foster home was lovely.
Things I didn't like:
- The f-bombs.
- The shallowness of the characters (and bed-hopping).
- The main premise of the story seemed to be that the loving, youthful, long lived relationship of the parents caused the four daughter's problems and angst. I'm sorry - what??
Throne of Grace, Cecily K. Wolfe. This was actually given to me to read by the author who is An Oregon Cottage reader - how fun is that?
It's a sweet historical fiction story of a maid and the wealthy son of a prominent family in Newport, Rhode Island in the later 1800's. How they met, fell in love, and navigated that time and era when maids and the wealthy didn't interact. It is told from a Christian point of view with both the hero and heroine seeking God's will for their lives. So, thankfully no f-bombs!
Inheritance, Dani Shapiro. This has been all over book websites I visit and seemed so timely - what if you took one of those easy to get DNA tests and found out your father wasn't your father?
That's what happened to Dani Shapiro who grew up in a tight-knit Jewish family as a light-skinned, blond haired girl who always felt she didn't belong. It was interesting to see how she uncovered the truth, even while I got tired of hearing how she felt about everything...over and over. I think the book could've been a lot shorter - but maybe that's just me.
Killing Jesus, Bill O'Rilley & Martin Dugard. I enjoyed the purely historical account of the previous "killing" books of these authors I read, so when I found this book looking at just the historical timeline of the weeks leading up to the death of Jesus, I grabbed it.
This was a great way to look at a familiar story from another angle. I appreciated the depth of research that's easy to see they went to and the new things I learned about that time and the politics surrounding the events we all know so well.
Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson. Gosh, the premise of this book totally got me: kids who spontaneously catch on fire when they feel threatened or just anxious? Sign me up - I've got to see what this is about!
Here's what I liked about it: The kids catching fire without getting hurt was a different plot point that made it interesting; the friendship between the two main characters; the relationship between the main character and the kids who both felt so abandoned.
What I didn't like: Ugh, what is it about the f-bombs? They are everywhere in books now and not just here and there. I'm so sad to think people actually talk like this today - think of all the clever vocabulary that's being lost because only one word is being used! Also, the other characters in the book were pretty shallow and one-dimensional.
Agnes Grey, Anne Bronte. I've read all the other Bronte sister's books, but never this one, so I picked it up at a local thrift store to read when I needed a physical book to read (mainly outside when there is glare on my iPad...).
The story is thought to be semi-autobiographical, based on Anne's time as a governess. A poor, but gently raised woman takes on governess jobs to help her family financially, but she's treated pretty badly and the parents let the children run roughshod over her. Thankfully, it ends well when Agnes finds a nice man and gets married - which is not the autobiographical part, since Anne never married, but makes a happy ending, which I am totally on board for, ha! Note: The mid-1800s language is harder to read for us modern people, but the edition I had offered helpful footnotes explaining things.
Simon The Fiddler, Paulette Jiles. Brian and I listened to this while traveling this month since we LOVED her last book, News of the World. And while the story wasn't quite as on-the-edge-of-your-seat as that book, this one was just as interesting and just as well written.
Let me say that again - Ms. Jiles is SUCH a great writer! Both Brian and I were constantly amazed at her metaphors (a memorable one is describing an out-of-tune piano as having "discouraged keys"), phrasing, and how she builds a scene from another place in time so vividly.
The story is sweet (and at times bittersweet), about an orphaned young man who's a wonderful fiddler. The story finds him trying to avoid conscription in the Confederate army in Texas in the last days of the civil war, getting conscripted, joining others he meets there to form a band and then how they manage after the war ends. He sets his sights on marrying an Irish girl he sees at one of his gigs and most of the story then revolves around that.
I wish, wish, the ending hadn't felt so abrupt and continued for at least another chapter so we'd see them firmly on their way to their new life, but that's the only thing I would change in this beautiful story.
The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennet. Well, I must be hard to please, since being disappointed with books on the NYT Best Seller list is a regular thing with me.
I loved the premise of this book, so waited months for it from the library. Twin sisters grow up together super close in the 1950s and leave home together for the big city. They happen to be light-skinned black women, and one day one of the twins just disappears. She chooses to "pass" as white, leaving the other sister to find her own way.
So here's where I felt duped by the jacket blurb on the book - I thought from the description, the book was about the twins, and their separate lives they chose and the story there. But no, so much of the book is really about the daughters in the 1970s and 80s- and I didn't really care about their stories. We meet the sister who left in one part and learn about her life living in a white suburb, and then she does go home for a bit before leaving again in the middle of the night back to her life.
I have to be honest and say I really skimmed the second half of the book. I'm not sure why so many others love this and I just couldn't get into it. I guess that's what makes reading interesting, right?
Spare Parts. This is a sweet 2015 movie based on a true story. It's about a southern California high school in a poor community that puts together an underwater robotic team that eventually goes up agains the best in the nation, including MIT. One of those nice, inspirational movies.
Midnight Special. This is a star-packed movie with a poor title that's a known song AND doesn't say a thing about the movie. It's about a boy with glowing eyes that inspires a cult following and his parents who try to help him. We were underwhelmed with it and thought the ending was off and a bit anticlimactic.
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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