7 things I learned in August

7 things I learned in August

7 things I learned in August, from the significant to the not-so-much.

1. How not to pack light.

I veer towards minimalist in my packing, because I’d rather err on the side of under-prepared than over-laden.

But when we went to the beach for ten days earlier this month for summer vacation I only packed two swimsuits—without realizing the elastic was almost shot on one.

I believe in packing light. And two suits could have been fine for a week at the beach. I could have made it with one! But of all the things to leave at home, my perfectly good swimsuits that weigh very little and only take up a teeny amount of suitcase space were not the ones to choose.

2. Some hotels work better for our family than others.

When we travel as a family, we usually look for a workable combination of convenience, price, and quality (plus an indoor pool). We have a large family, and while we’ve found some places to work better than others, we’ve never been particularly loyal to any one hotel chain.

That might be changing. In August we spent two different nights in two different Marriott establishments, one a Fairfield Inn and Suites, the other a Springhill Suites. Our hotel rooms in both places were huge, and each had two queens plus a full-size pull-out sofa bed. These rooms worked really well for our family—enough so that next time we travel I think we’ll be looking for one of these places on purpose.

3. How to watch Youtube videos at 1.5x speed.

Have you ever watched a video online and wished you could speed it up, the same way you can speed up audiobooks and podcasts? It turns out you can if you use my new favorite Chrome extension, Video Speed Controller. With it you can speed or slow down playback of any video.

iced coffee

4. Like box wine, but for coffee.

You know what box wine is, right? Instead of coming in bottles, it comes in an airtight plastic bag packed inside a box for easy storage, with a little spigot you can use to pour a glass.

This month I discovered Grady’s Cold Brew, and my brew bags just happened to come with a “pour and store” pouch. You steep the coffee overnight inside the pouch, remove the bags in the morning, squeeze any excess air out, and stick the bag back in the fridge.

Then when you’re ready for coffee, you use the spigot to dispense it, add an equal amount of water, and you’re done. It stays fresh for two weeks in the fridge. It’s not the cheapest iced coffee option but it was easy and tasty, and the bag didn’t leak a drop.

5. Take a walk. 

I’m adjusting to a new fall routine and haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet. It still feels busy, and not in a good way. I’ve felt too busy to stop and take a walk.

But this week I was determined to actually hit my daily step count goal, so I did it anyway. And it seemed like every time I stepped out the door—with no headphones and no agenda—I’d get a rush of good ideas.

cons or tieks

6. Apparently I’m a Cons girl. 

I didn’t think I was a cons-and-no-socks kind of girl but these have been my go-tos lately. They’re actually my husband’s. (We wear the same shoe size, because his feet are normal-ish and mine are huge.) They’re flat and comfortable and go with pretty much everything. 

When it’s not these Cons, it’s these gold Tieks. I used to think these were polar opposite shoe choices but now they seem oddly similar: they’re both easy, practical, go with everything, and don’t kill your feet.

7. My reading stuff may deserve its own bullet journal.

I’m a relative newcomer to the whole bullet journal craze and I really, really like it. (I wrote about my initial experience here, and a few of my favorite tips and tricks here.)

I love the bullet journal because it holds all my ideas, to-dos, and important lists in one place. But because I’m jamming all this stuff into one place, my journal is filling up a little more quickly than I’d like to.

I already have a fair amount of bookish info in my bullet journal (books I’ve read, books I want to read, books I want to blog about, etc.) But recently, it’s been filling up with my literary matchmaking notes for my podcast What Should I Read Next. I use a full page of my bullet journal to record what every guest loves, hates, and is reading now, so I can take it all in, draw connections, and make recommendations.

I love having this information in my bullet journal, but I’m starting to think I’d be better off with a separate journal for literary matchmaking. It sounds like a good idea to me, but new systems kind of freak me out. Wish me luck?

What did YOU learn in August? 

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36 comments

  1. Sarah Jane says:

    I hear you have the switch in schedule. The voice in may head keeps saying, “Grace, grace, grace.” It’ll come with time. In August I learned, I love reading real, hardcover books in the summer when I have time to read in big chunks, but the fall means switching back to kindle/audible with whispersync. I’m able to move through books at a quicker pace than I would otherwise. Wishing you a restful long weekend!

  2. Katia says:

    Great list! I love my Converse ballet-style flats. They are super comfortable for walks around the neighbourhood. However, I also realized I am no longer able to enjoy such walks on most days. Over the summer, I replaced my usual cardio workout with 5k walks, but given that I have to get up early to get my workout before leaving the house to go to work, and since the sun rises later these days and I don’t feel comfortable walking alone in the dark, I will have to bring my workouts back inside the house. I will miss those walks, but will try to squeeze them into the weekend, whenever possible.

  3. Kris says:

    I am hugely loyal to Marriott hotels as they are consistently clean, roomy, and well-staffed. The Residence Inn in Sioux Falls, SD, sealed the deal last fall when my son was in the NICU at a local hospital. I had planned to room in with him but could not sleep with the monitors beeping all night. I showed up at the hotel at 10 am and ask for a reservation for that night. The staff booked the room and allowed me to check in right then (5 hours before check in time!) just so I could take a nap. No extra charge! Now I always stay at that hotel when I’m in the area and book other Marriott hotels when I travel elsewhere. The Sioux Falls staff continue to ask about my son a whole year after he was released from the hospital. What’s even better – if you make your reservation on their website, you can make specific room and amenities requests – I always ask for an upper floor room and extra feather pillows.

  4. Tanya says:

    I agree on the hotel! We only have 4 in our family, but still enjoy spreading out a little in our hotel room. The ones that we like are: Hyatt House and Embassy Suites by Hilton. Both of these have plenty of room, a kitchen, and usually free breakfast!

  5. Susan says:

    We also need a larger room for our family and have stayed in those hotels and have been pleased. Our favorite place to stay though is Embassy Suites. There pool is usually a little nicer, you never show up to find that the big room you thought you had has been booked out from underneath you, and they cooked to order free breakfast beats the usual free offerings which helps when you are feeding teenagers!

  6. Meghan says:

    I have been bullet journaling all year, too. I’ve discovered the best thing that works for me are Midori-style notebooks where you have a cover with four elastic bands. You slip a different notebook into each elastic band — it sort of marries separate notebooks with one notebook. My personal favorite one is from Foxy Fix (okay, I have four from there — if you can jump on one of their clearance mystery sales, it’s a great bargain), but there are loads out there (including the original Midori Traveler’s Notebooks). I have one insert for just the usual detritus of bullet journaling (monthly/weekly agendas, meal planning, short-term project notes), one for daily to-do lists, and a big fat one for long-term collections. It’s great for keeping everything separate and together at the same time.

  7. Libby says:

    So… boxed cold brew? I’m definitely looking into that.
    I didn’t know that I had a hotel preference either but I started traveling a bit for my last job and I found myself only staying at Marriot hotels, too. They’re great!

    I’ve always loved the bullet journal idea but never tried it because I felt like I needed more structure. So I dropped a ton of money on a Day Designer–which is beautiful and awesome! But I keep forgetting it because it’s so big and I still wish I had a bullet journal. So I think I might just have to bite the… bullet. Hahaha!

  8. If you’ve decided that you love Marriott hotels, you should definitely sign up for their rewards program if you haven’t already. Also, it might be worthwhile for your family to get the Marriott credit card so you can earn hotel points for every purchase (and extra points when you stay at a Marriott). It’s all worth it when you can use those points to stay for free!

  9. Sophia says:

    About 2 months into bullet Journaling I started a separate reading journal that I set up using what I learned from bullet Journaling. I rely heavily on the index, have various collections and lists and each notable book I read gets a new “daily”-type entry. It is working great for me too keep that stuff out of my regular bujo. I love that I have finally found a system that works and I know it does because it’s been working for a year.

  10. Grace says:

    You don’t need a Chrome extension to speed up or slow down online videos. In YouTube in particular you just click on the settings gear, then speed, and then choose which speed you would like. As an impatient listener, I do this constantly, and I don’t think I’ve come across a video I couldn’t adjust yet.
    PS – Love the Converse!

  11. Charlene says:

    I did not learn this much! I love hotels but I hadn’t considered how my tastes had changed since becoming a mum. I used to be all about a gym and designer toiletries and now I’m all – HIGH CHAIR, COT, BATH

  12. I hear you on the packing light thing. I went to World Youth Day in Poland with a group from the university where I work, and our travel company sent us a suggested packing list that emphasized PACK LIGHT PACK LIGHT and also a packing video where the guy brought two weeks’ worth of stuff in a backpack. He said, “No one ever comes home from a pilgrimage saying, ‘I wish I’d brought more stuff!'” The irony was that the packing list had a HUGE list of optional/suggested items. I tried to balance it out by bringing some suggested things but trying to pare it down to only what I needed, thinking, “There are stores. I will be fine.” By the first day there, I could think of a ton of things I wished I’d brought: bug spray, hand sanitizer, more sunscreen, more tissues, a portable radio (for the English translations)… We didn’t have enough downtime for me to make it to a store (while they were still open) for about four days. If I ever did it again, I would 100% bring more stuff.

  13. Mary Hunt says:

    In August I learned that you can teach an old dog new tricks. where I work we have just gone live with a new data base, which I have been terrified of for the last year. However, I am putting in my stats and they are working…so I’m thinking that I will be able to master this new system. “Fingers-crossed”
    I also learned that I would like to read more books that take place in a different culture than my own. I read Goodbye-Vietnam this summer with a young friend of mine and truly enjoyed it.

  14. This is more “learned over the summer” rather than just in August, but I learned about NetGalley. As though I don’t have enough to read with books that have already been published, now I’m requesting books that haven’t even been released yet!

  15. Liza says:

    I learned that converse are too narrow for my feet. I bought a pair after deliberating for MONTHS. The first day I wore them, I got a blister within 30 minutes – and that was while sitting in the car, not even walking. The odd part was they were amazingly comfy in the store; I walked in them for 10-15 minutes to be sure they were ok.

    I learned that I won’t keep up with a bullet journal, but a sort-of bullet journal in my regular planner works well for me.

    I learned that I don’t miss playing my French horn. I played in a community band, which was not a great place to play but was the only place for me to play. I quit last spring due to family needs and I haven’t missed it at all. I’m definitely not going back this fall and I’m wondering if I’ll ever play again.

  16. Dana says:

    Love your Cons. Funny, I just bought a pair yesterday. I owned a black pair in college that I loved but have not owned any since. ( that was a long time ago!) So yesterday I went to shop for new black flats but when I didn’t find any I liked, I decided to get a pair of Cons instead. I bought a greenish-khaki color. Love ’em!

    I just started walking 2 miles every morning. I love being up early and getting to hear the cicadas, crickets and birds. This is in addition to walking the dog because her walks involve too many stops for sniffing and such. I walk by myself at a brisk pace and then come back and get her for a slower walk.

    I have discovered Thred-up, the clothing consignment site. I have gotten quite a number of great t-shirts and tops on there for terrific prices, several that were brand-new. It is such a nice alternative to going to the mall which I am not that fond of anymore. If I could only find a place for petite length pants and jeans I would be all set!

    I am enjoying reading books about WWll era. So far in August I have read Lisette’s List ( fiction about art and France during the resistance), Monuments Men ( non-fiction about the men who went in to find and save the art that Hitler had taken) and Journey to Munich ( the latest from Jaqueline Windspear about Germany just after Hitler invades Austria). Next up: All the Light You Cannot See, The Nightingale and Everyone Brave is Forgiven.

    If anyone can suggest a book that gives an overview of WWll, I would love it. There are many WWll books out there, but they are usually in depth about a certain aspect. I am wanting a “survey course” type of book.

  17. sara says:

    love my cons and am saving up for tieks!!

    i learned that i can have a lot of social engagements and plans and handle them, enjoy them, and not freak out – which is a big learning for an introvert. 🙂

  18. Kim says:

    I just added that coffee yesterday to my “subscribe and save” order on Amazon prime. I can’t wait for it to arrive…probably not til Sept 9th.

    I’ve heard Tieks are wonderful but I just can’t get past the price. I’ve spent over $100 on shoes likes Clark’s, etc. I guess I’m going to have to win a pair of Tieks.

  19. Karen says:

    Bullet Journals… Two weeks in and ALL of my “brain dumps” we’re to do with Language Learning. (I coach people headed overseas how to use the Growing Participator Approach, so it’s my “job”.) I looked and that and the light bulb went off! I started a separate journal for Language stuff. Keeping the Index concept (meaning I didn’t have to “save pages in case I made more notes on a subject”) is what makes it work so beautifully! And since we’re in the process of developing an online training course, there are LOTS of notes! Having a separate notebook keeps those notes out of my BuJo.
    Plus, I put my Index in the back to work forward. When the Brain Dumps/Notes and Index meet, I’ll start a new journal.
    For your needs, the Travelers Notebooks mentioned above may work best. It depends on how much space you need.

    • Karen says:

      PS I just started my 2nd journal. I started in April and am using composition notebooks because I’ve used them for years and I like the size.
      And with my ADD, starting a new notebook every 4 months is good to keep me focused!

  20. I learned with the bullet journaling, i needed to experiment different sizes and different styles. Base on my age and my interests, many of the styles just did not work.

    I also learned again. You cannot expect people to be or act the way you want them to. It is your problem, not theirs.

  21. kate Donnelly says:

    I have been journaling for a long time, so this idea really appealed to me. I learned that all sizes and styles do not fit everyone. I have experimented with quite a few and still do not have the exact right style. But I do love the idea.

    Once again I learned. You can not expect people to be or act the way you want them to. It is your problem not theirs.

  22. Theresa says:

    Yes, the old elastic going bad swimsuit trick. I once went on a vacation, just my husband and I, at a romantic place with a hot tub. Pulled out my swimsuit I hadn’t worn for a year or two and put it on and there was not one bit of elastic that was holding anything in. My leg openings each could have fit a leg and a half or more and the only reason my swimsuit was covering my front was because I had tied it as tight as possible around my neck. Ugh. Surprise. I never knew elastic wore out until that moment when my suit looked to be made for someone other than me.

  23. Sarah R says:

    Re: Hotels – We also like the suite-layout form for hotels. We just have 2 kids, but our youngest goes to bed around 7:30 so we like having another room where we can hang out while she’s in bed. We are Hilton Honors Members and love their program. We’ve had excellent luck at Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites, which are part of Hilton. At Embassy Suites, there is a 2 hour happy hour every night with free drinks (including beer and wine) plus light snacks, and then there is free breakfast every morning. The Homewood Suites also have free breakfast plus free dinner Monday-Thursday.

  24. We just stayed in a Fairfield with the 6 of us, and while technically the room fit all of us with the 2 queens and 1 sofa (plus crib) the lack of a 2 (or 3!) room option was brutal. I’ve done Embassy Suites in the past precisely for that reason. The door!

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