A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more - plus the 12 best things discovered from 2020 and the 13 best things watched!
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Welcome to 2021!! A year never felt as good to say goodbye to in awhile, that's for sure.
But even amidst all the turmoil of the year, there were still a lot of good things. And since it doesn't help our mental state to dwell on all the yucky stuff, let's focus on better things - specifically the Good Things List that I continued to publish monthly, no matter what was going on.
Why? Because it helps me to focus on the little things that make our lives better and I hope it does the same thing for you, too!
Plus, when I find something I like, I just can't wait to share it with you all, ha!
First, I'm introducing a new Good Things header image for the new year - designed by my daughter, of course. I love it!
Second, the list for January is a bit shorter - two things, 6 books, and a few movies - because I'm squeezing in a Best of Good Things Lists for 2020!
If you're curious to see what made the best list of the 12 things bought (or made) in 2020 and the 13 things I'm so glad we watched, be sure to scroll down so you don't miss it.
My hope is that you'll be reminded of these things and that they might bring you some joy, too.
Oh, and one more thing before the list - if you're wondering about where the best books of 2020 are, that's coming soon!! Hopefully this week.
The Farmhouse Living/Dining Room Ceilings
So, first things first - the room is a mess of construction, the ceiling fan is half installed, and it's hard to take photos of ceilings.
But I am in love with how our simple, minimal "coffered ceiling" pattern turned out!
The original wood ceilings had been covered in wallboard with a super modern texture on it that didn't go in an old farmhouse at all. We needed to run electrical (the ceiling fixtures only worked with remote switches - yikes if you lost one or were out of batteries!!), so weren't able to just remove the wallboard to reveal the ceilings.
Plus, we've learned it's a crapshoot with this house - you just never know if you'll find wonderful shiplap or just pieces of random wood and plywood.
So we applied thin plywood sheets we cut to 6-inches wide to the wallboard and then hid the seams with simple 1x2s.
For a house that was a blank slate as far as original features, this ceiling (and the walls) now just say "farmhouse," don't you think?
A New Cookbook & Challenge
I can't remember the last time I saw a cookbook that I wanted to make almost all of the recipes.
I got Ina Garten's Modern Comfort Food for Christmas (yes, I asked for it after seeing so many on social media talking about it!) and spent the day looking through it. I stopped marking the recipes to try when I realized it was at least 95% of them!
If you've seen this article, you know that led me to want to cook through it for 2021 - and create a challenge that anyone can do along with me!
I'm super excited to cook through this and discover some new favorite recipes and techniques! If this sounds like something you'd like, head to this page to get all the details.
I read and listened to six books this last month - the audiobooks usually happened while working on the farmhouse (the month was full of caulking and painting...). Here are my short reviews of them:
Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow. I'm not sure what I was expecting of this book - I had heard it recommended on a number of sites I follow as interesting, inventive, and clever. It follows a girl named January and tells the story of her life - and her parents - alternately through her first person writings and then a book called The 10,000 Doors.
I didn't really know at first what was going on, but I'm glad I persevered, because I really ended up liking the characters and wanting them to succeed in their quest (can't give too much away...). It really was fun and inventive with a timeline that was fluid as well as a bit sci-fi? A bit because it takes you through doors into other worlds, but there are no spaceships or anything.
Doing Life with Your Adult Children, Jim Burns. The introduction to this book talked about all the books you can read about when your kids are babies, toddlers, tweens, and teens, but how there is almost nothing about how to be a parent when your kids are grown. I have found this to be so true, and is one of the reasons I grabbed this book when I saw it on Hoopla.
This is written from a spiritual perspective and gives solid advice on lots of situations parents of adults find themselves in: when the kids won't leave home, when they reject your values; when they are having problems of their own and how much to help, etc. I found it very valuable and encouraging.
Longitude, Dava Sobel. This was the book Brian and I listened to this last month - it's the true story of the importance of longitude in ship travel and how it was so much harder to determine than latitude. I had no idea so many ships were lost or delayed (and thereby losing men to scurvy) by longitude issues! So much so that there was a huge award to be given to the person who could provide a way to determine it while at sea.
While a fascinating part of history, I did find a lot of this very technical and I would find myself daydreaming a bit. But then Brian would go, "Oh, right!!" and I'd realize he was into all the technical stuff more than me. 🙂
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab. If you follow books at all, you've probably heard of this book. It sounded so good to me - part historical, part good vs. evil, part time-travel, part romance (yes, that's a lot, but it all works!) - that I paid for it on audible (with a credit). Then I read a review that made me regret my purchase and put off reading it. But I kept hearing about it and decided to give it a chance - I could easily bail on it if it wasn't for me.
I'm glad I finally listened to it (the narrator is fantastic, by the way). It is a really good story about a young woman in 17th century France who on the eve of a wedding she desperately doesn't want, makes a deal with...darkness? The Devil? We don't really know, but he grants her wish to live a lifetime as she wants - but what she doesn't know right away is that no one will remember her. Ever.
It's definitely a case of "be careful what you ask for."
This sets up some interesting situations as she makes her way in the world, living through 400 years of historical events and trying to leave her mark on a world that forgets her as soon as they turn from her.
There were a couple of things I could've done without: she becomes quite the bed-hopper, setting up weird mornings since she's basically a stranger again once the bed partner wakes, and there are pages (and pages) where she repeats a version of the same refrain - "I just wanted to live my own life as I wanted," as well as going on and on about her curse. Sigh, I was like, I get it already, ha!
Beach Read, Emily Henry. The cover of this book looks like one of those chick-lit, light summer reads, but I'm glad I read a warning before I started it - it's not a light read. And I also found out they don't really spend that much time on the beach, lol. Though the two main characters are next door neighbors with houses on the edge of a lake where they can walk to the beach.
This is really more a book on writing and writer's block, which is interesting actually. It's also a story of loss - losing loved ones, your place in the world, and how to find it again. And also a love story - with a good, happy ending, so you know I'm all about that. 🙂
Hamnet, Maggie O'Farrell. This was one of the last books I read for 2020 and you'll see it on my best of the year list - it's well written, well researched, and a storyline that will leave you reeling with feelings of motherhood -the joys and the losses.
I really appreciated the world Ms. O'Farrell built of what it was like to live day-to-day in 16th century England. You see cooking, cleaning, imagine the houses and gardens. There are wicked stepmothers, bossy in-laws, and lovely children. It's just a beautiful, if heart-rending, story told exquisitely.
The fact that this is a fictionalized idea of what might have happened to William Shakespeare's son who died shortly before he wrote Hamlet (names which the author says were used interchangeably then) is only a minor plot point, though an interesting background to be sure.
Roadkill, PBS. This was a fascinating look at behind the scenes politics in Britain. Starring Huge Laurie as a likable, mostly good man who does what he has to to advance politically (in other words, lie...), this was a show both Brian and I liked.
Dash & Lily, Netflix. My daughter and I watched this over the holidays and it's cute. It was a fun, lighthearted show to go along with our lights and tree.
Jingle Jangle, A Christmas Journey, Netflix. Speaking of lighthearted, fun holiday fare, this movie had all that plus colorful costumes and sets, plus big musical numbers. A bit corny in places, but really fun.
The Man Who Invented Christmas, Amazon. This is the story of Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol - how he went about it, how he needed a new book the people would like, and how his publishers weren't keen on it.
Klaus, Netflix. We watched this cute animated movie last year and again this year with our daughter who hadn't seen it. There are funny moments, touching moments, and an overall theme of learning to love others. As good for adults as it is for kids.
Die Hard, Amazon. I know! Our daughter hadn't ever seen it so we watched it Christmas Eve (since we had no where to go, a-hem). We had forgotten what a fun movie it was - and it really did have a lot of Christmas in it!
Best of The Good Things Lists of 2020
I'm just going to list the things that made my "best of" list and link to the Good Things List where I mentioned them, so if you're interested you can click on to learn more.
Best Things We Got, Discovered, or Made in 2020:
- Our New Dog, Jynx - our sweet little Maltese mix puppy who has given us such joy and laughter over the last year.
- Levis Signature Jeans for curvy figures - continue to be my favorites.
- No Jet Lag - the amazing thing I discovered last year on our trip to and from Australia that REALLY works.
- Crochet dish cloths (aka, "unpaper towels) - I liked making and using these so much I created a gift idea with them that I gave to our family.
- USA loaf pans, sized 8.5x4.5 - sturdy with ridges that help the loaves not stick and a great size for rising bread loaves.
- Garden Gate Arbor - Brian made this for our vegetable garden and I love seeing it everyday from our windows!
- Heavy Duty Garden Tote - simply the b.e.s.t.
- Broken Concrete Patio - so many beautiful summer afternoons relaxing on this patio with a view of the veggies and hills. Sigh.
- Enamel First Aid Box - I love this so much, I don't even know why! It's going to look SO good on our green cabinet in our white and black farmhouse bathroom.
- Goji Berries - I'm loving these chewy little fruits in my morning granola - and the fact that the eye doctor recommended them for eye health!
- Brass vintage style bin pulls - I love this style and look so much and can't wait until I have the cabinets to apply them to, lol.
- Pretty Ceramic Electric Kettle - like the prettiest I've ever seen. Makes me happy every time I walk by.
Best Things We Watched in 2020:
- Messiah - I'm still thinking about this...
- Knives Out - a fun throwback to Agatha Christie type who-done-its.
- Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill - we always laugh with Jerry.
- District 9 - and older movie we had missed - and we shouldn't have. Sort of sci-fi, but telling a truly human story.
- Angela Johnson: Not Fancy - another comedian who makes us laugh (and she's clean!).
- Just Mercy - Michael B. Jordan as real life lawyer Brian Stevenson who moves to the south to start a non profit that helps people on death row get fair trials. True and riveting.
- Radioactive - the true story of Marie Curie and her husband working together, discovering and living with radium.
- Spare Parts - we loved this feel-good true story of a down-and-out high school robotics team that makes it big.
- Fear City - a documentary of the mob in New York in the 1970s and the police who brought them down. Amazing.
- Ted Lasso - corny and lovable, I enjoyed the humanity and positivity that Ted brought to the table - it made it fun to watch.
- Enola Holmes - my daughter and I loved this adaptation of the Sherlock story - IF he had a younger sister.
- The Queen's Gambit - beautiful to look at, with a story that could even make chess interesting to non-chess players, this show is worthy of all the hype.
- Trial of the Chicago 7 - another true story we knew nothing about presenting in a truly interesting way - and that's saying a lot for a courtroom drama!
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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