A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Goodness, November crept up on me so quickly that I missed publishing this list the first week like I normally do. I guess it's just another little thing that goes in line with the rest of 2020, right?
I'm thinking it's better late than never since I've been collecting some things to share with you that I think you are going to like.
Especially the new place I've found to get really good spices for good prices (say that three times fast, ha!). AND I've got a coupon code for you to get them at even better prices, which I'm thrilled to be able to offer you.
So be sure to scroll through to check that out and any other good thing that interests you!
Growing Fall Lettuce
I've tried various ways to get cool-loving lettuce seed to sprout and grow in our hot, dry summer for a fall harvest.
Starting seeds directly covered with a wood board, shade cloth, or row cover. Starting the seeds indoors and then attempting to harden them off in the shade somewhere. Trying all the while to valiantly keep them watered.
This year I seem to have found the perfect combo for my climate:
- Start in a seed tray outside, but in a shady area.
- Keep watered from the bottom in the tray.
- Transplant on a cloudy day after seedlings reach about 2 inches.
- Water really, really, well and cover with a row cover (a shade cloth would've worked, but I didn't have one).
- Water every day or every other day right over the shade cloth.
We started harvesting lettuce from the bed above at the end of September and have continued through this month!
The one thing I forgot about because it was hot? Baiting for slugs. Ugh. My kale didn't look as good as the lettuce because of that. I did add some bait (I use Sluggo) a few weeks ago since the kale should overwinter.
Here are the lettuce varieties I planted for the fall harvest:
Making Cappuccinos at Home
Many of you may remember that Brian makes us cappuccinos every morning. He's perfected using inexpensive home espresso machines to get good foam and produces a really nice coffee (that he brings to me!).
After a few years in our new place with harder water than we've had before, he noticed that the machine wasn't working as well. I mentioned using vinegar to clean it out like I've had to do with my canner and he experimented with it.
It worked just like a charm - so much so that he created a how to clean your espresso machine video for anyone else who'd like to help their machine work like new again.
Quality Spices at Good Prices
Here's the thing I've come up against with cooking spices time and time again:
- You run out and have to buy those little bottles at the store that leave you shell-shocked over the price.
- You choose the dollar-store version because of said shell-shock, but the quality is noticeably lacking.
- You buy the large warehouse-size spices hoping to save money, but then take forever to use them - losing their potency as they sit on your shelf.
Which is why when I learned about Raw Spice Bar I had to check them out. Their organic spices are transparently sourced, have no additives, and all their blends are salt free.
Best of all, they come in sizes starting at an easy-to-use-up, but still generous 2-ounces - and most of them cost a flat $6.
I needed some basics like oregano (which has been surprisingly hard to find lately) and cayenne. Both smelled really fresh, which is always my test - the cheaper spices never really smell strong.
I'm also always searching for a good chili powder and I'm happy to say that this one is really good - the ingredients are just New Mexico chiles, Ancho chiles, Guajillo chiles, Arbol chiles, toasted cumin, oregano, toasted coriander, black peppercorns.
I had to try the taco seasoning, too, because it's a salt free, gluten free keto taco seasoning, freshly ground from 4 type of chiles, toasted cumin & coriander, black peppercorns and Mexican oregano. With no sugar or fillers, this is a great option over making your own - and it was delicious in our tacos!
My favorite, though, was the Ceylon cinnamon - this is hard to find inexpensively as it's considered a 'true' cinnamon. The smell of this is heavenly, and I use it liberally in my homemade granola since cinnamon is a great antioxidant (source).
There are all kinds of basic spices and mixes like za'tar, dry rubs, mulling spices, curries, pumpkin spice, and so many more.
I think this is such a great way to get quality spices at good prices, so when Raw Spice Bar offered me a coupon code for my readers, I jumped at it!
You can get 20% off a $10 minimum order when you use the code OREGONCOTTAGE so head on over to their site and start finding your next fun spice to cook with!
TIP: They also offer bundles and subscriptions which would make great gifts!!
Brass Vintage Style Bin Pulls
We're finally getting to the fun part of remodeling in our farmhouse - the finishing touches. We're reusing the vintage knobs and hinges that were on the old doors we rescued and they are brass with a wonderful patina.
New antique brass finishes that are darker coordinate nicely with them, so my search for light fixtures, cabinet pulls, and hooks are focusing on this finish.
I loved the silver bin pulls we used in our last house's kitchen remodel, which were more of a square-rectangle shape than the rounded shape of most bin pulls.
I found the squared-off pulls pictured above on Amazon (and I looked everywhere, but Amazon was the cheapest I found by far) which I LOVE.
They look very vintage to me and the shape is really different than most of the bin pulls you'll see come up in a search.
They come four in a set and are priced lower than many I saw. If you're looking for similar pulls, do check them out.
They look great on some of the projects uploaded in the reviews and I can't wait to share what they look like on our kitchen drawers!
I read and listened to 8 books this month - here are the best:
Killing England, Bill O'Rilley and Martin Dugard. As a fan of history, I'm really enjoying this series that started with Killing Lincoln (which I haven't read yet!) and as of now includes eight more books. I appreciate the details and the clear focus of the books and am looking forward to reading more.
This book covers the revolutionary war from the first unrest through to the last battles, highlighting the major players and the most important battles. The descriptions of what the men went through and how they had to fight was both horrific and eye-opening. And I finally understand what happened with Benedict Arnold. Good stuff, though I do wonder if the "killing" in every title is a stretch for some of them, lol.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain (read by Nick Offerman). Brian and I listened to this together and it was a treat read by Nick Offerman. I hadn't ever read this before and didn't realize it was a time travel book written like a lot of our current time travel books but in the late 1800s! I'm pretty sure this has influenced more books since then than we know. The details of medieval life from a more modern perspective still rings true - even though that modern perspective is 130 years old. Both fun and poignant as the hero tries to bring humanity to a pretty dark age.
Inside Out, Demi Moore. Celebrity memoirs are usually outside of my normal picks, unless they are someone I grew up with or I've heard good things about their book. This was both - Demi is about my age and her book has gotten good reviews. It was fascinating to read about her difficult childhood (celebrities often have these...), how fast she grew up, and the stories behind her movies and the men in her life. I usually feel sad for the people in books like these, as they never seem happy even with the "enlightenment" they claim to find by the end - and this one is no different.
The Dutch House, Ann Patchet. I read lots of great things about this Pulitzer finalist novel and waited quite awhile for it from the library. Like many of her stories, this is about a family and covers many years. I enjoyed the characters and the premise of grounding it around a large, spectacular house that some loved and some hated - and how it affected them all. The love and devotion between the brother and sister was especially sweet.
Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff. This should probably be called "the real story" or something, as the author spends a lot of time demystifying Cleopatra, humanizing her, and debunking a lot of myths we have about her. Again being thrown into another time and place that is so foreign to how we live is one of the reasons I enjoy history and books. I'm so glad to live now, and I'm so glad to know more of the history that has made our world better to live in.
All The Pretty Things, Edie Wadsworth. So this book wasn't what I was expecting. Produced by Christian Audio, I thought it was going to be a spiritual memoir, but instead it was a straight-up memoir of the author growing up in the poor, rural south. Not a bad thing, just not was I was expecting. This affected me like history books - I'm glad to be exposed to a way of life I don't know about and to learn not to judge based on assumptions. Many of her experiences were just terrible, but the love of her mother and those God brought into her life enabled her to rise above and become a doctor. Inspiring as well as bittersweet.
Fear City, Netflix. This is a documentary that everyone in my family thought was so good. It follows the FBI working to undo the crime families that controlled so much of New York City in the 1970s. It's a fascinating look at something we didn't even know about, and especially to the extent that the mob controlled. Major language warning from the tapes of the mobsters they share.
Ted Lasso, Apple TV+. I've had this streaming service for a year after buying a new iPad, but this is the first show I've watched on it. My daughter and I really liked the premise and positivity of the story. A small town midwest football coach gets called to London to coach soccer which he knows nothing about, but for various reasons takes anyway. He sees the good in almost everything and starts to win over people. The show is often sweet and heartfelt and we enjoyed it, even if it was a bit cliched. Sadly, like all shows on cable now, they have to swear all the time. (Sure wish someone would invent an auto-bleep machine for home use, ha!)
Flesh & Blood, Masterpiece PBS. We like PBS mysteries, and this delivered but with a twist. The series of four episodes was really more about the family and their relationships and problems than the mystery of who the body was that we saw in the first episode. Brian and I liked this different take on a mystery and it kept us watching to the end, even though the end wasn't really an ending (apparently they're hoping for a second season?). Oh, and fun thing: they bleeped all the swear words for us!
Enola Holmes, Netflix. My daughter and I really enjoyed this movie! It features the Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things as the much younger sister to Sherlock Holmes and his brother, Mycroft. It's fun with great sets and a moderately interesting storyline. We hope they do more and make it a series.
Addams Family Values, Amazon. This was the movie we watched on Halloween to have something more fun than scary. I vaguely remembered it from when it came out in the 1990s - but I always remembered how good Anjelica Houston was in this!
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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