A monthly list of good things to do, buy, read, watch, and more.
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Hello! Welcome to the first Good Things List for 2020 (FYI, the January List was a "best of" for 2019). I think we could all agree that this time of year is best described as the "doldrums" of winter, so some good things are definitely in order.
Side note: in case you're wondering about that odd word, doldrums, it's defined as "a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression." Pretty apt description for mid-winter in my book.
On that lovely note, let's just get right to the list!
Our New Dog
First on the list has to be this sweetie, our new puppy, Jynx! If you're a newsletter subscriber, you already know this (Want to be in the know? Subscribe!), but we've adopted our son's dog who's a female Maltese mix.
She stole our heart when we dog-sat her the week after we lost Samson. She was all kinds of different from him so even though I said Samson had spoiled us for other dogs, I wasn't counting on a lover like her. She's happy to be held and snuggle on your lap - totally a new thing for us.
She's 11 months, which is still a puppy in many ways, so we are learning new routines and how to get her going potty outside all the time. Luckily, she seems to be catching on quickly.
Inexpensive PVC Light Stand
So this isn't a pretty, staged photo (obviously, ha!), but I wanted to share with you the DIY PVC light stand we made for growing seeds indoors in time for you if you're looking for a way to start seeds indoors, too.
If you've read AOC's seed starting guide, you'll have seen two different light stations we've had in the past - one on a counter in the corner of the kitchen and one under a shelf in the laundry room. Both of these used a light attached under a cabinet or shelf.
Since we moved to the farmhouse and there wasn't any place to attach a light, I've tried growing seeds under lights out in a finished garage, but two things about that didn't work:
- Even though the garage was finished and I used a seedling heat mat, it still was too cold to germinated seeds fast and grow them strong, especially warm lovers like peppers and tomatoes.
- The garage was too far from the house and I'd forget to check on them.
So this year I'm starting my seeds inside in an unused room and we needed an inexpensive stand that would hold a standard two-light shop light. I found this easy tutorial from the University of Maryland Extension, we purchased the PVC pipe based on the tutorial, and Brian put it together for me in less than an hour.
DIY PVC Light Stand Supplies List
Here's a list of what you'll need to purchase to make a 4-foot long shop light stand, along with tips we learned (copy and paste into a computer file you can print out to take shopping with you):
- 1 52-inch long 1-inch PVC piece
- 2 30-inch long 1-inch PVC pieces
- 4 8-inch long 1-inch PVC pieces
- 2 1-inch Slip Tees
- 2 1-inch 90-degree elbows
- 4 1-inch end caps
You'll also need:
- PVC Pipe Cutter (which you can then use to make your own PVC automatic watering system!)
- PVC primer & glue/cement
- The tutorial calls for 1.5-inch pipe and we could only find 1.25-inch which we bought. BUT we think it's even too big (I can't imagine what this would look like with 1.5-inch!). If we were to do it again, we'd go with just 1-inch pipe, so that's what we're recommending.
- I'm linking a few of the fittings and tools on Amazon mainly to show you what they look like, but most will be cheaper at your local home or hardware store and you can get just the few pieces you need.
- You can buy more expensive "grow lights" but I've found that a basic $20 shop light works fine. I use one cool bulb and one warm bulb and the plants have grown and loved it. If you don't have 4 feet of space for a light, choose a smaller fixture and adjust the size of the longest piece above (the others will stay the same).
One of my goals for this year - or I should say habits I want to cultivate - is to write down at least one thing I'm grateful for each day. While I've been doing this in the space provided in The Flexible Planner, I really wanted them all to be in one place where I could read back through them sometimes.
I decided on a Traveler's style notebook - they are basically a cover (usually leather), with elastic bands inside where you can add or remove small booklets. Many styles can hold multiple booklets making it usable for other things in the future, too. You can choose lined booklets, grid or dot pages, or even blank pages for sketching and doodling.
There are a lot of sizes and prices on Amazon and it actually took awhile for me to decide on one (whew!), but in the end I decided to go with one slightly smaller than my A5 planner, but with a gorgeous real leather cover and simple lined booklet for under $15. It's just about perfect and it was the first thing I was grateful for. 🙂
I have used and loved a cream and green enameled stove top kettle for years and had no intention of getting yet another appliance that does something I already can do. Plus I had used electric kettles and didn't like that I couldn't really tell how much water was in them or when they were done.
Then we stayed at an AirBnB in Austin that had a glass electric kettle which was easy to see right when it boiled (the perfect time to grab the water for tea) and how much water was in there. It also shut off automatically and came to boil quite a bit faster.
Shoot, I think someone somewhere is laughing manically, because, yes, I then wanted another appliance. Brian loved it, too, for making his French press coffee in the afternoon, so I looked for one during Black Friday and found a deal on the Hamilton Beach Glass Electric Kettle.
We've been using it since then and it's worked great - it's glass and stainless where the water touches, but the handle is plastic so stays cool. The auto shut-off has already worked great for us a couple times that we got caught up in something after starting the water. And it's actually pretty fun to watch the water boiling with the LED blue lights.
Okay, so every adult woman deals with facial hair, right - I'm not alone in this? Well, at least I know my sisters and I do! Anyway, I pluck but have a lot of "peach fuzz" plucking doesn't work on. I had heard of women shaving and how good it is for the skin, but couldn't imagine shaving my face like Brian does.
So I read on a blog (I wish I could remember which one, shoot) about this shaver for women that is gentle with no sharp razor edges and doesn't need shaving cream, etc. - and that it actually worked.
I checked and the reviews on Amazon are really good, so I bought one and have used it a couple times. Here are my pros and cons:
- It really is easy to use and gentle.
- It does remove the small hairs at the jawline, around the lips and nose.
- Even though I've read to the contrary, I feel stubble the couple of days after using and it's weird.
- It doesn't work on those larger "whisker" kind of hairs, if you know what I mean. Don't put away your tweezers.
Will I use it? Yes, but only about once a month or less, just because of that stubble feeling. I do like that I can get rid of all that light hair, so will continue to use it for that - it does do that really well!
I read and listened to a total of nine books in January, three of which were finishing up the Harry Potter series I was listening to since I was able to get them quickly from the library (wow, the narrator, Jim Dale, is SO good) .
Of the other books, one will probably be on my best of 2020 list (already!) and another was an amazing part of our country's history I didn't know anything about. Maybe you'll find something to add to your list!
The Case for Hope: Looking Ahead With Confidence and Courage, Lee Strobel. This is such a great book to help give clarity about Christian faith in God. The author lists the Biblical reasons we have to hold to a future hope and then gives ways we can tap into God's power and to fight the doubt that steals hope. He encourages through inspiring stories. Here's a quote I wrote in my book notes journal:
"When we have the confidence that God will do what He says, we live our lives differently and view death differently - we can face death without fear."
Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship, Ruth Chou Simmons. I think that this is supposed to be a coffee table kind of book, and since I listened to it on audio through the library is something I totally missed. I did go online and saw the beautiful watercolors the author created throughout the book and they probably add to the meaning as you're reading a physical copy.
That said, as an audiobook, this really didn't impact me one way or another. All the things she talked about were things I've heard many times before.
Last 3 Harry Potter Books: The Order of the Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince, and The Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling. After waiting three months for Order of the Phoenix, the library came through for me and I was able to check out the last two audiobooks soon after, finishing them all in January. Rowling's writing got better and better and the ending is good and satisfying. I do have to say that when people say the last books are dark, they are spot on. And not just what I expected with a villain like Voldemort, but sort of twisted in how he uses people and pursues Harry. I wouldn't recommend a child younger than middle school (and even then, know your kid) read these last three.
I'm now moving on to the movies - I kept wondering how they'd picture many of the scenes, so that will be a fun thing to see.
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (James A. Garfield), Candice Millard. This was such an interesting book and look at a part of our country's history that I knew nothing about, other than the assassination of President Garfield. Brian and I listened to this through Audible on our car trips - and finished it while doing a puzzle after New Years (kind of like our mid-winter getaway last year without the getaway part, lol).
The man who shot Garfield was mad and the medicine at the time is really what killed him - he lingered for more than a month in tons of pain as the infection caused by so many well-meaning doctors who probed his wound without washing their hands raged through him. Learning about the politics of the era and more about the amazing man Garfield was made both of us think again and again - what difference would he have made to our country if he had lived? He was a caring, forward thinking man who embraced all men regardless of color and who had the presidency thrust on him unwillingly. The book was a bit slow in the beginning, but hang on and you'll find yourself riveted.
The Dearly Beloved, Cara Wall. This is already starred as a book that will probably make it onto my best of the year list. I didn't really know what to think when going in (I ordered this from the library based on a Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation, and she usually doesn't let me down), other than it was a story of four friends tied together through a New York City church.
It starts much earlier than that, before any of the four main characters knew each other so you get to see all the family backgrounds that make them who they are when they eventually meet - first as the two couples date and get married and then the couples as they meet in order to co-pastor a church. What did I like so much about it?
First, the writing was such that I quickly became invested in the characters and couldn't wait to see what was going to unfold next. Then I thought the deep themes of family, death, love, discouragement, and all the things we humans deal with were treated in such thoughtful, meaningful ways. I especially found the spiritual aspect thought-provoking to see how God can use each one of our gifts and foibles to help each other (though this isn't a Christian book).
Lab Girl, Hope Jahren. This was another book from a MMD recommendation, and while it was okay, it wasn't nearly as good as I had hoped. It's a memoir of Dr. Hope Jahren who's a lauded scientist in the area of plants and botany. She also is candid about her struggles with bipolar disorder. Like quite a few memoirs I've read, this could've used a bit more editing - I found myself trying to figure out where she was in time and place many times.
Also, things weren't really explained well. The beginning shared her upbringing and a dad who introduced her to a science lab. Though her family (and the community) didn't communicate well, they seemed to care about her - but we never heard about them again. We heard about her lab partner's dad's death, but never about her family.
I found myself skimming through the science stuff about plants (sorry...) and cringing at many of the scenes and definitely some of the language. In all, her life lived almost 24-7 in a lab just seemed sad to me.
Messiah - Netflix. Oh my gosh, I have so many thoughts about this although most of it is, "I don't know what to think about this!" It started out SO good, like really made you think - is this supposed to be Jesus returning? How would we react if it was? And Brian and I thought the production was top-notch.
But, it did bog down in the middle - I think it could've told the story in less episodes for sure. And so much of it we couldn't figure out - what did that mean? Where was this going? And the language was pretty course and there is one sex scene that showed more than was needed (which is always my opinion, ha!).
It ended with a BIG question mark after you sort of figured he was a con man...or was he? Did you watch it? Thoughts?
Howard's End 2019 - PBS. I loved the Emma Thompson-Anthony Hopkins movie from the 1990s, so was really interested in this newest adaptation. It didn't disappoint - I really liked the performances and the production.
Sandition - PBS. Hmmm, what to say about this other than this isn't a Jane Austen book/movie, that's for sure. I had hoped Andrew Davies would at least attempt to stay true to how Jane wrote when finishing the story she had started shortly before dying. Apparently eleven chapters isn't enough and Mr. Davies takes the characters where Jane never would. Sigh.
Vienna Blood - PBS. We've only watched the first couple of episodes of this which is sort of like Sherlock Holmes on a much lower level. Here it's the doctor "partner" who is solving things based on how he reads people because of psychology (Brian doesn't believe he could read all that in people, so there's that). The case we watched wasn't all that interesting and some of the things are quite unbelievable, but the production is good and the history is interesting. We're giving it a few more episodes before we decide if we'll continue. (Though the title is scary sounding, it's a police procedural type show and the only blood is what you see on a victim from far away and when the autopsy is performed.)
Final episodes of The Good Place - NBC & Hulu. We both absolutely loved, along with our daughter, the first three seasons of this show - the first season being the best. We're not really in love with how it ended, it seemed really trite actually. Thoughts? I'd still recommend the first seasons, they were both funny and thoughtful!
Little Women 2019. This was a great production of the beloved story and it kept to the books for the most part. There was some switching back and forth in the timeline, which confused me some (thank goodness Jo's hair was shorter in some or I would've been completely lost).
And I really didn't care for the ending when the director took liberties with Louisa May Alcott's true story to make it seem like the publisher of her book was trying to cheat her out of things. The actual story I read is that he looked out for her, making her take her copyright - and it was his idea to write the story, she didn't want to, and in fact said disparaging things about the books in her later years. Life is complicated, no?
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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