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57 Recommendations from 2021: Ready for Rain

57 Recommendations from 2021: Ready for Rain

In most issues of my newsletter, Ready for Rain, I include recommendations for shows, movies, books, podcasts, etc. Below you’ll find everything I recommended to readers in 2021.

I’d love to have you as a subscriber. Find all issues from 2021.


Letterkenny (Hulu) This show makes me laugh a lot. I think of it as a cross between Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Workaholics. It takes place in small town Canada with a host of problems that must be solved. Absurd, hilarious and strangely educational.

Fargo (Hulu) It’s been a while since I’ve been more into binging a show. Much like the Coen Brothers movie that inspired it, it takes place in the rural northern reaches of the US and tells a dark story each season. We’ve finished season one and queuing up number two.

DEVS (Hulu) – I have a soft spot for stories about evil corporations and the people who run them. On that front and many others, DEVS delivers. It’s a futuristic limited series starring Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno that involved high tech, murder, and intrigue.

Ben Folds Interview (Broken Record Podcast) I’ve always been a fan of Ben and appreciated his connection to North Carolina (he grew up in Chapel Hill). Part music, part personal stories, part regret, it’s an interesting listen.

Sonos Move (Gadget) – We recently adopted a new smart speaker and I’m a big fan. The Move is wireless and sits on a base that keeps it charged. When it’s time to go outside, you can just grab it and the battery lasts 10 hours. It’s weather-resistant, works on both wifi and Bluetooth, and sounds great.

Smartless Interview with Conan O’Brien (Podcast Episode ) Imagine Conan, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes just hanging out. That’s what this is and it’s such fun entertainment.

Hotel Mumbai (Hulu) – A gripping and action-packed film that recounts the true story of terrorists who took over the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai for three days in 2008. Stars Dev Patel.

James May: Our Man in Japan (Amazon) – A charming look at Japan from the eyes of James May, who is known for being the co-host of Top Gear. Easy and fun.

Jungle (Amazon) – Harry Potter gets lost… wait. Daniel Radcliffe plays a young adventurer who follows a supposed guide into the Bolivian jungle with two friends. Based on the memoir of Yossi Ghinsberg. It’s a little bit like Deliverance, without the hillbillies.

Me Mail (Apple iOS App) – I collect information that I need to remember in my inbox. I send myself emails that include things like blog posts ideas, things to get at the store, etc. Me Mail is an app that makes sending an email to yourself as simple as possible – just open the app, write a message and tap a button. It lives on my home screen.

Lost in Translation (Amazon) – A top ten movie for me. Scarlett Johansson (who was 17 at the time) and Bill Murray connect in Tokyo. Director Sofia Coppola beautifully captures the strange experience of being a famous American in a strange land.

Swingers (HBO Max) – Classic 90s L.A. comedy with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. I can’t see Favreau today without thinking he’s a grown-up version of Mikey.

Intolerable Cruelty (Amazon) – A lesser-known and lesser-loved Coen Brother movie that we both have seen many times. Such great writing and hilarious characters. Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney star.

Derry Girls (Netflix) – A comedy about Catholic school teenagers in Northern Ireland during the peak of the IRA in the 80s. It’s an odd mix of history, family drama, and hilariously off-color dialogue.

Pen15 (Hulu) – Forgive me, but I’m recommending another comedy about school girls. This time it’s the story of two best friends in 7th grade, played by adults Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. It’s cringy and hilarious. It gets extra points in our house because Maya is half-Japanese, like Sachi, and it’s a large part of the story.

Chameleon (10 episode podcast) – I love stories about con artists and this one is fascinating and easily binge-able. It follows the story of someone preying on Hollywood strivers in odd and mysterious ways.

The Confidence Game (Book) Speaking of con artists, I enjoyed this book by Maria Konnikova which dissects all the ways con artists take advantage of others.

Alone (Hulu) – We’ve watched six seasons of this show and look forward to more. It’s a reality show where ten survivalists are dropped off in a remote, and often cold location with a selection of supplies and camera gear. Then, they do their best to survive the longest while constantly creating videos of their lives.

The Chef Show (Netflix) – My first impression was “oh boy, another celebrity cooking show, no thanks” but a friend suggested giving it a try and we’ve enjoyed it. Jon Favreau, Chef Roy Choi and special guests cook a wide variety of dishes while Jon plays the inquisitive beginner. It’s not often about fancy food, but everyday food, done well. I also love the stop-motion sequences.

Chef (Amazon) This movie, starring Jon Favreau as a chef, inspired the TV show above. Roy Choi consulted on the movie and the story is inspired by Roy quitting a high profile job to start a food truck. Worth a watch. Food is love.

Nomadland (Hulu) This movie just won a Golden Globe for best picture (drama) and I can see why. What I love is the immersive style of production. It feels like you’re seeing life through the eyes and ears of Fern, the main character, played by Francis McDormand, as she becomes a member of a community of nomads who live out of vehicles. It’s directed by Chloé Zhao and has amazing performances by actual community members who were found as the film was being made. Zhao also won Best Director, a first for a woman of color. We’ll be hearing more about her, I’m sure.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix Limited Series) First, let me say that I love the limited series format because it usually has a satisfying ending. This is the case with Behind Her Eyes. It’s a psychological drama that you have to watch it to the end. Also, the two female leads, Simona Brown and Eve Hewson, are amazing and distractingly attractive. Hewson is Bono’s daughter, FWIW.

Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories (Netflix Series, subtitled) If you have any affinity for Japan, this is fun to watch. Most of the stories happen in a tiny Tokyo diner that is open from midnight to 7 am. Entertaining characters come and go, but the show is also about Japanese food. Each episode ends with a quick lesson on how to cook the dish that was served in that episode. Sachi watches it before bed because it’s so soothing. Charming, funny, and VERY Japanese.

The Biggest Little Farm (Hulu) A charming film about a couple who builds a farm that’s designed to work with nature and create a self-sustaining system. Along with a good story full of ups and downs, the nature photography is beautiful. John Chester, the co-creator of the film, is a professional videographer.

Triggered (Hulu) – Triggered is not a good movie in terms of minor things like acting. However, the premise is great: a group of campers awake from a night of partying with time bombs strapped to their chests that soon start counting down. Soon, they learn that each time someone dies, that person’s remaining time is transferred to another member of the group. This creates a Hunger Games scenario with all sorts of dark motivations. The director, Alastair Orr, was inspired by the SAW series.

Extraction (Netflix) Chris Hemsworth plays a mercenary who is hired by a drug lord to extract his son from kidnappers. Action-packed, lots of shooting and fighting. What I enjoyed most were the high production values and camera work. There are a few really impressive continuous shots.

Boss Level (Hulu) This movie is packed with action and stars Frank Grillo, who lives the same day over and over, complete with multiple attempts on his life. As Sachi pointed out, it’s a video game in movie form and the audience gets to see the character learn to play it. Hence, the name.

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix) – This film won a well-deserved Oscar. It’s the story of a filmmaker who befriends an octopus over a year. But it’s so much more. The filmmaker, Craig Foster, free-dives in frigid water off the coast of South Africa and captures the world and drama of octopus life in beautiful form.

Octomom (Radiolab Podcast) – A team of researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium discover, via a robotic submersible, a deep-water octopus who is protecting 160 eggs a mile beneath the surface. They visit her each month for four years and document her unbelievable process of hatching the eggs over time.

The Soul of an Octopus (Book by Sy Montgomery) – Sy is a nature writer who became fascinated with octopuses. This book is her story of learning about and getting to know a handful of giant pacific octopuses behind-the-scenes at aquariums and in the wild. It’s a little woo-woo in spots and I wish it had more science, but was a fun read, if you don’t mind the idea of animals in captivity.

Stowaway (Netflix) A team of three is on a mission to Mars and discovers that someone else is on the ship. I enjoyed this movie because it’s well-made, futuristic, and centers on ethical dilemmas more than action. I didn’t expect Anna Kendrick as an astronaut, but it works.

Sound of Metal (Amazon Prime) A heavy metal drummer in a band with his girlfriend loses his hearing and quickly transitions to a new life. This is a great film that’s raw, human, and well-acted. I came away with a new perspective on deafness. Riz Ahmed was great in The Night Of (HBO) and he delivered in this film as well. Paul Raci was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting performance.​

Booksmart (Hulu) Booksmart made me LOL. Two high school seniors realize they’ve wasted time being focused on grades and decide to start partying before college. This, of course, leads them on myriad adventures. Fun and easy; a modern Superbad with female leads and a female director, Olivia Wilde. The soundtrack makes it even better.

Derek DelGaudio’s In and Of Itself (HULU) – I went into this show with low expectations. A one-man show isn’t something that naturally appeals to me. And who is this guy anyway? Now that I’ve watched it a couple of times and understand it better, I’m entranced by it. He performed the show on a stage in New York every day for 552 days. The TV special is made from excerpts from multiple performances that feature live audience members. In it, he mixes storytelling, visuals, sleight of hand tricks, philosophy, and a number of things I can’t explain.

Sun Protection: If you’re serious about blocking the sun, look for clothes that have a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating that works like SPF. 20 UPF is good. 50 UPF is great. This article from REI has good info and a handy chart.

Sun Protection: I’ve found that Columbia Sportswear’s Omni-Shade line has a wide variety of high UPF clothes that are affordable and high quality. This shirt is similar to two I have that are great for hot days when sun protection is essential.

Billions (Amazon) – A hedge fund billionaire (played by Damian Lewis) locks horns with a US Attorney in New York City (played by Paul Giamatti). We binged three seasons and enjoyed the strategy on both sides.​

The Windsors (Netflix) – A hilarious and absurd send-up of the royal family based on tabloid rumors and innuendo. From Wills and Kate to Camilla and Pippa, no one is spared.

Meat Thermometer: I use meat thermometers near the end of the cooking process and place the probe into the meat and leave it there until it reaches temperature. I don’t need an app, or settings for different meats. All I want is an accurate reading and a simple alarm for when the meat reaches the temperature I set. The best thermometer I’ve found for this use is the ThermoWorks Dot.

Infrared Thermometer: I’ve also started to use a ThermoPro Infrared Thermometer, which you can point to any surface and get a temperature reading. It’s perfect for getting a pan the perfect temperature for eggs.

Gardener’s World (Amazon Prime) – You can’t talk about British gardening without mentioning Monty Don and Gardener’s World. It’s a British institution that’s been going for 165 episodes. We also enjoyed Monty in Big Dreams, Small Spaces.​

Clarkson’s Farm (Amazon Prime) Like Monty Don, Jeremy Clarkson is a British legend, mostly due to his long-running and much-loved show, Top Gear. This one-season show is about him buying a huge farm and learning to make it productive with the help of local farmers in the Cotswolds. His ornery sense of humor along with the colorful locals make this show very entertaining. I now know much more about the challenges of “real” farming.

Grow, Cook, Eat (Amazon Prime) This isn’t British, but Irish, and features a master vegetable gardener and charming sidekick who sticks up for the amateur gardener. The couple focuses on one vegetable per episode and the viewer gets to see it grow from seed to harvest to being cooked by a chef. Very practical and easy to watch, especially if your climate is like theirs.

Fredrick Law Olmstead: Designing America (Amazon Prime) – This documentary is about Mr. Olmstead, but also the evolution of Central Park in New York. Our neighborhood parks in Seattle, including the boulevard in front of our house, were designed by his son and nephew and I always wanted to know more about the family and their approach to landscape architecture.

Do this:

  • Sit up straight
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Unclench your jaw
  • Close your eyes
  • Takes a few deep breathes

Cold Brew Coffee Recipe: Cold-brewed coffee is a staple for us in hot weather. Because it’s brewed without heat, it has lower acid and a smoother feel. Here’s how we make cold-brewed coffee:

  • Add 2 cups of ground coffee to large pitcher
  • Add 2 liters of water
  • Stir a few times and cover
  • Let sit for 12-24 hours at room temperature
  • Pour coffee through a cheesecloth or coffee filter into another pitcher. Don’t try to pour out the grounds at the bottom.
  • Leave in the fridge until ready to drink

Gadget: The days of fumbling with phone cords in the dark are over. Most smartphones (including iPhones) can now be charged wirelessly and all you need is a charging pad that uses the “Qi” (pronounced CHEE) standard. Simply place the phone on the pad and it will start charging immediately. We have this model ($12.99 on Amazon) all over the house and on bedside tables. I’ll never go back to cords.

Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) – Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez play tenants in the same NY building who are fascinated with true crime. Then, a neighbor suspiciously dies and they see an opportunity to create a podcast. Funny and easy. I had no idea Selena Gomez was so good as an actress.

Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu) – Nicole Kidman stars as the leader/guru of a self-help retreat that’s not what the guests expect. The cast is great and it’s entertaining to watch.

Kate (Netflix) Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays an assassin in Tokyo who is poisoned and goes on a rampage to get revenge. Not super original, but stylish and fun to watch, if you like the John Wick movies.

Squid Game (Netflix) – This Korean series is about a game of survival, not unlike The Hunger Games. A group of desperate people compete for a $40m prize by playing children’s games where the losers are killed. It’s a dystopian and original look at how people react in dire situations.

House Shoes: For many years, I’ve had “house shoes” which I only wear inside. They keep my feet warm and supported. I’ve tried 3-4 different kinds and recently, over the past couple of years, I found a winner: The Moloā Hulu slipper by OluKai. They aren’t cheap but are high quality.

Podcast: I’d like to share one of my all-time favorite podcast episodes. It’s by Radiolab and called “Parasites“, originally published in 2009. In particular, I think you’d enjoy the segment called “Sculptors of Monumental Narrative” but don’t let that turn you away. 🙂

Album: My friend Justin Cox is a talented musician that performs under the name Routine Layup. He lives on Orcas and wrote a song that might just get stuck in your head: Not Everyone Has to be a Permaculture Gardener.

Maid (Netflix) – There are a few reasons I’m recommending this series:

  1. Setting – The series is written by Stephanie Land, who lived nearby, and the series feels like home. It was filmed just across the border in BC, but is set in our corner of the Salish Sea. If you’re curious about the scenery and lifestyle that surrounds us, it will paint a vivid picture.
  2. Story – This isn’t the kind of series I’d pick off a shelf, but it’s a good one that follows the life of a poor young mom facing one struggle after another, including an abusive relationship. It’s a bleak story that feels real and serves as a reminder of how hard life can be for people in her situation.
  3. Acting – Nearly everyone in the cast should get an award, but especially the real-world mother and daughter team of Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley. The 3-year old daughter was played by Rylea Neveah Whittet and was the best child performance I’ve seen in a while.

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix) – This is a ten-part series that came out in 2018 by director Mike Flanagan, who recently directed Midnight Mass. It’s full of jump scares and ominous music, but the story is also scary and well-acted.

Follow: This recommendation involves shameless self-promotion. Here’s the deal… My goal is to help people learn about custom home construction. Starting now, I’ll be sharing a daily tip, idea, or story about custom home construction on social media. These tips will be shared via a new Instagram account. I highly recommend that you follow along and tell all your friends. 🙂

Follow Build Livable on Instagram.

I Can Recommend: Triggered (the Movie) ?

I Can Recommend: Triggered (the Movie) ?

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #97 – SMASHBURGER!

Triggered (Hulu) – Triggered is not a good movie in terms of minor things like acting. It’s clearly low budget and many elements seem overdone, from the make-up, to the petty relationship issues.

However, the premise is great: a group of campers awake from a night of partying with time bombs strapped to their chests that soon start counting down. They eventually discover that each time someone dies, that person’s remaining time is transferred to another member of the group. This creates a Hunger Games scenario with all sorts of dark motivations. The director, Alastair Orr, was inspired by the SAW series.

The film is also self-aware and works solidly within the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” genre, complete with tongue-in-cheek comedy and clever dialog. There’s an argument to be made that it is a comedy at heart. I LOL’d multiple times.

Go to all Recommendations

I Can Recommend: Behind Her Eyes, Midnight Diner

I Can Recommend: Behind Her Eyes, Midnight Diner

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #96 – The Sticky Notes

Charleston, SC

My friend Dave, a Ready for Rain subscriber, recently asked how we can watch so many shows with day jobs and all that is going on with building the house. I told him that living in the guesthouse, in the winter, and during COVID, means we don’t have many other options when the work is done. We both love transitioning from a busy day into TV mode. My recommendations, like the ones below, reflect what we’re doing now. I may not be recommending so much TV in the summer, but I’ll still be commenting on whatever I find interesting or useful. For now, that’s TV.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix Limited Series) First, let me say that I love the limited series format because it usually has a satisfying ending. This is the case with Behind Her Eyes. It’s a psychological drama that you have to watch it to the end. Also, the two female leads, Simona Brown and Eve Hewson, are amazing and distractingly attractive. Hewson is Bono’s daughter, FWIW.

Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories (Netflix Series, subtitled) If you have any affinity for Japan, this is fun to watch. Most of the stories happen in a tiny Tokyo diner that is open from midnight to 7 am. Entertaining characters come and go, but the show is also about Japanese food. Each episode ends with a quick lessons on how to cook the dish that was served in that episode. Sachi watches it before bed because it’s so soothing. Charming, funny, and VERY Japanese.

The Biggest Little Farm (Hulu) A charming film about a couple who builds a farm that’s designed to work with nature and create a self-sustaining system. Along with a good story full of ups and downs, the nature photography is beautiful. John Chester, the co-creator of the film, is a professional videographer.

Go to all Recommendations

I Can Recommend: Alone on TV ✅

I Can Recommend: Alone on TV ✅

tracks in snow

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #93 – This is About the Ham.

Alone (Hulu) – We’ve watched six seasons of this show and look forward to more. It’s a reality show where ten survivalists are dropped off in a remote, and often cold location with a selection of supplies and camera gear. Then, they do their best to survive the longest while constantly creating videos of their lives.

It’s a simple premise that feels authentic because there are no games or petty dramas. Most contestants battle hunger, wildlife, and weather, but the real enemy is mental. Loneliness drives people crazy. The longest stay so far is 87 days. Home is one satellite phone call away.

We first learned about the show because a person on neighboring Lopez Island, Nathan Donnelly, was a contestant on season 6. Two summers ago we went camping with a group and he was there. The show had been filmed, but was not yet published. He, of course, was tight lipped about the outcome. We later learned that he was the second person from Lopez to compete. The other one was Callie North. Island people are tough. 🙂

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend: 2-8-21 ✅

I Can Recommend: 2-8-21 ✅

sea lions and mount baker

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #92 – Hibernating in the PNW

The theme for this week’s recommendations: school girl comedies and con artists.

  • Derry Girls (Netflix) – A comedy about Catholic school teenagers in Northern Ireland during the peak of the IRA in the 80s. It’s an odd mix of history, family drama, and hilariously off-color dialogue.

  • Pen15 (Hulu) – Forgive me, but I’m recommending another comedy about school girls. This time it’s the story of two best friends in 7th grade, played by adults Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. It’s cringy and hilarious. It gets extra points in our house because Maya is half-Japanese, like Sachi, and it’s a large part of the story.

  • Chameleon (10 episode podcast) – I love stories about con artists and this one is fascinating and easily bingeable. It follows the story of someone preying on Hollywood strivers in odd and mysterious ways.

  • The Confidence Game (Book) Speaking of con artists, I enjoyed this book by Maria Konnikova which dissects all the ways con artists take advantage of others.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend: 2-2-21 ✅

I Can Recommend: 2-2-21 ✅

sea lions and mount baker

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #91 – Because It’s Cool

We’ve been re-watching movies from the not-so-distant past, so that’s my focus this week.

  • Lost in Translation (Amazon) – A top ten movie for me. Scarlett Johansson (who was 17 at the time) and Bill Murray connect in Tokyo. Director Sofia Coppola beautifully captures the strange experience of being a famous American in a strange land.

  • Swingers (HBO Max) – Classic 90s L.A. comedy with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. I can’t see Favreau today without thinking he’s a grown up version of Mikey.

  • Intolerable Cruelty (Amazon) – A lesser-known and lesser-loved Coen Brother movie that we both have seen many times. Such great writing and hilarious characters. Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney star.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend: 1-26-21 ✅

I Can Recommend: 1-26-21 ✅

Sand Sculpture

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #90 – What Does It Want To Be?

  • Hotel Mumbai (Hulu) – A gripping and action-packed film that recounts the true story of terrorists who took over the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai for three days in 2008. Stars Dev Patel.

  • James May: Our Man in Japan (Amazon) – A charming look at Japan from the eyes of James May, who is known for being the co-host of Top Gear. Easy and fun.

  • Jungle (Amazon) – Harry Potter gets lost… wait. Daniel Radcliffe plays a young adventurer who follows a supposed guide into the Bolivian jungle with two friends. Based on the memoir of Yossi Ghinsberg. It’s a little bit like Deliverance, without the hillbillies.

  • Me Mail Apple iOS App – I collect information that I need to remember in my inbox. I send myself emails that include things like blog posts ideas, things to get at the store, etc. Me Mail is an app that makes sending an email to yourself as simple as possible – just open the app, write a message and tap a button. It lives on my home screen.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

I Can Recommend – January 19, 2021

I Can Recommend – January 19, 2021

In my weekly newsletter, Ready for Rain, I usually share recommendations for media, products, and ideas that I find interesting or useful. Today I’m sharing the my recommendations in separate blog posts for easy consumption.

The recommendations below were included in issue #89 – The Blackout

  • DEVS(Hulu) – I have a soft spot for stories about evil corporations and the people who run them. On that front and many others, DEVS delivers. It’s is a futuristic limited series starring Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno that involved high tech, murder, and intrigue.

  • Ben Folds Interview (Broken Record Podcast) I’ve always been a fan of Ben and appreciated his connection to North Carolina (he grew up in Chapel Hill). Part music, part personal stories, part regret, it’s an interesting listen.

  • Sonos Move (Gadget) – We recently adopted a new smart speaker and I’m a big fan. The Move comes with a base that serves as a charger for a big battery. When you want to go outside, you can just grab it and the battery lasts 10 hours. It’s weather resistant and sounds great.

  • Smartless Podcast Interview with Conan O’Brien. Image Conan, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes just hanging out. That’s what this is and it’s such great entertainment.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below: