13 things I learned in October.

13 things I learned in October.

1. While discussing serious matters at family dinner, the important topic of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream came up. To answer a burning question, we made an exception to the no-phones-at-the-table rule to google its origin story.

Here’s the version I like best: way back in 1984, an anonymous fan pinned his suggestion to the bulletin board at one of Ben & Jerry’s original Scoop Shops. The Burlington store churned out the flavor for several years, and it caught on. In 1991 Ben & Jerry’s finally made pints available to the larger public.

My kids wanted to know who to thank.

2. Also found while googling: that is real cookie dough in chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and you can bake it into real chocolate chip cookies. Not the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever had, but real chocolate chip cookies all the same.


James Spader and Jennifer Ehle in The Blacklist

3. I may not recognize Elizabeth Bennet when I see her out of context. Will and I are racing through season 2 of The Blacklist. As the opening credits played for episode 14, I was thrilled to see Jennifer Ehle (of P&P 1995 fame) was guest starring in that episode. Immediately, I knew which character she must be playing—because she’d already played her once, a season before.

I can’t believe I didn’t recognize her the first time, but I’m so happy her career is doing well (a Blacklist guest turn is a pretty sweet gig these days), and that I got to see her again.

4. Speaking of thrillers, I was delighted to discover this week that Chris Pavone has a new novel coming out next spring: The Travelers, with a publication date of March 8. His third novel focuses on more of the same (and I mean that in an entirely good way): spies, secrets, conspiracy theories, and mad dashes across Europe. Put it on your TBR list, and read The Expats and The Accident in the meantime.

5. Creative people have really messy minds. If you feel like your brain is untidy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: it means you’re good at blurring the lines between discrete mental tasks, which is a strong predictor for creativity and success across the board. Phew!

post it notes office

6. When I’m working on a big project, my own creative process looks remarkably like the storyboard shown in The September Issue, or the cover to this great organizing book. (Just don’t look at my desk. It’s a mess.)

7. Speaking of messes: this month I learned how incredibly messy stainless steel appliances are. Or rather, how messy my kids are, because they smudged up our shiny new appliances more than I possibly could have imagined. (We’re replacing our 1960s original appliances as part of our in-progress kitchen remodel.)

For better or worse, the first batch of appliances delivered to my house was apparently assembled by hungover teenagers on a Monday morning, and we had the opportunity to exchange them for a fresh batch. When we did, we changed finishes.

Four Seasons in Rome insta

8. Reading about place is a powerful trigger for me (and not in a bad way); the reverse is also true.

I read Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome this month and am dreaming about when I can see all the places he talked about in person. I was in Morningside Heights a few weeks ago and now I desperately want to re-read the Morningside Heights trilogy by Cheryl Mendelson (of Home Comforts fame). I just finished Water for Elephants and now I want to join the circus. (Okay, just kidding on that last one.)

9. My kids can walk farther than I ever dreamt was possible. When we took the kids to New York earlier this month, Will and I logged 22,000 to 28,000 steps every day. We estimate we walked 5,000 steps more than the kids every day doing things like fetching coffee or running errands while they rested. But—except for a few piggyback rides for Silas and Lucy—they walked the rest of the way. (And we only had ONE meltdown. I can barely believe it.)

Australian blue butterfly

10. A butterfly’s life span is only a few weeks. This differs by species, but most don’t come close to surviving through a whole summer. Sarah and I discovered this when we visited the butterflies at the American Museum of Natural History. Our favorite butterfly was the beautiful blue butterfly shown above, which is native to Australia.

11. Several NYC museums are pay-what-you-wish, including the Met, the Museum of Natural History, and (on Friday nights) the Whitney. Others are free to kids under 18, like the Museum of Modern Art. I’m sure there are more, but these are ones we visited (or thought of visiting) on our latest trip. If you have four kids (ahem), this takes the pressure off feeling like you need to death march your children through the museum so you can get your $168 worth.

12. Now that I know what bullet journaling is, I’m seeing it everywhere. The guys on the train, the woman at the coffeeshop, the man sitting next to me at a conference. I still haven’t taken the plunge, but I want to—and at least now I can recognize one when I see it.

13. I’ve been pronouncing “banal” wrong my whole life. Apparently it was one of those words I only read, and never needed to say. Now I know.

What did you learn in October? 


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  1. Marie says:

    I finally “learned” (or finished learning) the piano piece I’ve been working on since early summer. Learning piano as an adult is excruciatingly slow, but I try to keep “better late than never” in mind.

    Re your TV character comment: Every time I see an actor and think, “That person looks familiar,” it usually turns out to be someone from my old favorite show “thirtysomething.” It’s almost a parlor game at this point, except no one else in my house is old enough to play it (the one downside to a younger husband).

  2. Kimber-Leigh says:

    I had that same reaction about Jennifer Ehle when watching Possession for the first time…it took me a few scenes to place her. And last night, while watching the Canadian show Heartland…an actress appeared in a guest role that I just knew was someone I loved all grown up–yep. Dear old Megan Follows of Anne-fame. 🙂

  3. Victoria says:

    I get rather spoiled in the UK and London in particular that arts funding makes so many museums free. It means I can pop in for 15mins to see a favourite painting if I have time to kill.
    It’s always funny learning proper pronunciation when you’ve only learnt by reading. Facade and obligatory had me going until I was in my 20s.
    ps discreet in section 5 should be discrete. Not meaning to be picky, thought you’d want to know.

    • Anne says:

      Jealous! But that will be nice when we get to be tourists over there. 🙂

      Dying to know how you pronounced facade and obligatory. (I like to tell myself we all have words like that.)

      • Victoria says:

        Fa-kaid instead of fa-sard (I’m not doing this the dictionary way!)
        And ob-bli-gate-ory spelling out each syllable instead of o-blig-a-tree

        Banal pronounced like anal instead of ba-nahl used to get me too. And don’t get me started on Her-me-own instead of Her-my-o-knee. I was reading Jilly Cooper to myself when young (rather than Harry Potter), but didn’t want to tell anyone as they’re rather racy. I have to say I learned a lot more than bad pronunciation from those!

        • Anne says:

          Hermione! That definitely belongs on my list. I was so grateful when they released the audiobooks. (Same goes for Briony in Atonement. I didn’t know how to pronounce it and it drove me crazy!)

  4. Kirsten says:

    It took me till the end of the credits of “The King’s Speech” to realize that Jennifer Ehle played the wife of the King’s speech therapist. Darcy and Elizabeth reunited again!
    Re #8, I love Alexander McCall Smith and am particularly a fan of his 44 Scotland Street series. The last time my husband and I were in Edinburgh, I made him trudge through all the snow and we took pictures of many of the places he mentions in the books. Valvonna & Crolla was my favorite.
    My 4 yr old daughter informed me last week that a diamond is a rhombus one day after I picked her up from Pre-K.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve been meaning to read more Alexander McCall Smith for YEARS. Nevertheless, I can obviously relate to dragging everyone around town to look at literary sites. 🙂 So fun you got to do that!

      I loved seeing Firth and Ehle together in The King’s Speech, but I did think it was rather unfair that he played a man in his prime and she was made up to look OLD!

      • Kirsten says:

        Agreed, but she was still beautiful. My Bestie and I always wondered why Jane was so plain in that adaptation and Elizabeth was so beautiful, when in the book its opposite. I feel the need for a P&P marathon coming on.
        I’m a big fan of serialized novels, as I love character development, and MCS has several to choose from. He has such a great command of the English language and his characters are fantastic. I attended a book signing when he was in my city a few years ago, and he was absolutely delightful.

  5. Kristin says:

    I am famous in my family for mispronouncing words due to reading them. My Dad’s favorite is when I called someone an invalid and my Dad wanted to know if they had been cancelled by the bank. I also develop mental pronunciation for a lot of unfamiliar character names (like Hermione) and it is always a shock when they appear in a movie pronounced differently. Like someone renamed them!

  6. Anne says:

    Does it matter which Pavone book you start first?

    And congratulations on a vacation going so well, especially in such an intense city. Tell us your ways, Obi-Wan.

    • Anne says:

      The plots aren’t related, but characters from #1 do pop up in #2.

      Re: NYC: it helped a lot that we waited till our youngest was 5 1/2. We also stayed on the Upper West Side, not Times Square. And we spent approximately 1% of our times in museums. Those might have been our top 3. 🙂

      • Megan C. says:

        What books to you recommend for fans of Pavone? I’ve read both of his books, but I haven’t been able to find anything similar in terms of plot, suspense, etc.

        • Anne says:

          Now that is a good question. This might be a good post (I love crime/spy/caper novels, but I can’t think of many off the top of my head that aren’t airport fiction). I did read I Am Pilgrim last year because I was considering it as summer reading guide material. It was a pageturner, but it was very long and pretty gruesome in places. It did require the reader to unravel a mystery, which is what I enjoyed about it.

          There was a short crimes and capers category in the 2013 Summer Reading Guide, but those are all nonfiction: https://modernmrsdarcy.com/2013-ultimate-beach-reading-crimes-capers/

          • Heather says:

            It doesn’t involve spies at all, but DESCENT by Tim Johnston is very much a true literary thriller – both suspenseful and beautiful written. I loved it. Not quite an answer to this question though. I’d be curious too b/c I would enjoy reading more like Pavone’s books. (Like you said, so many seem “fun” but not especially well-written.)

  7. Sheri Dacon says:

    I actually have a photo somewhere of footprints on my stainless steel fridge. So, um, yeah. . . not the most kid-friendly finish, ha! It’s gotten better as the kids have gotten older though! And I’m totally with you on the word “banal.” I always thought it rhymed with “anal” until listening to audiobooks. Just glad I never said it out loud that way. 😉

  8. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    Re: #8, I felt slightly that way about the architecture and layout of the cities in Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” because I wished I could see in person where everything happened.

  9. Ooh, I may have to pick up Four Seasons in Rome! After reading All the Light We Cannot See (SO tragically beautiful!), I wanted to read more from Anthony Doerr, but I haven’t been ready to dive in yet.
    Oh, and thanks for the heads up about “banal.” I had to trot on over to dictionary.com to find out how it is actually pronounced-who knew? It reminds me of the word “colonel” which tripped me up for years! It doesn’t look at all like it’s pronounced!

  10. Grace says:

    So what is bullet journaling? Will you be writing a post on it after trying it out? Also, I am now concerned that I too am pronouncing banal wrong, haha. I’ll have to Google it.

  11. One meltdown for an entire trip?!?! That’s a huge success! I love when you share more about your personal life. Thanks for sharing, as always, eloquently. 🙂

    I’m now off to do two things: 1. look up what bullet journaling is. 2. Figure out how to say banal, because I’m sure I’m saying it wrong too!

    I love this blog post, and I think I may bounce off a few ideas from your inspiration. Thank you!!

  12. Now I want to read Four Seasons in Rome. I have always loved Irish fiction, so before our first trip there, I binge-read these books and when we arrived, I walked around smiling all the time, recognising names and places, and the clock at Eason’s 🙂 It was fabulous!

  13. M.E. Bond says:

    I know what you mean about reading about place. A Room with a View has been one of my favourite books for a long time, so I packed it when I went to Europe with my brother (when I was 19). It was neat to reread it in Florence, where the first half is set. If only we’d gotten to take a carriage ride to Fiesole!

  14. Heather says:

    I am so glad to see that you read Four Seasons in Rome!!! I didn’t know that when I recommended it on your memoir post the other day. Just gorgeous writing, isn’t it? Doerr has such a gift.
    This month, I’ve started learning German, how to draw (in a class), and Adobe Illustrator. It’s like I’m learning three new languages…!

  15. Heather says:

    I didn’t know Pavone (speaking of words/names I don’t know how to pronounce…) had a new novel coming out. Yay! I can’t wait! I loved The Ex-Pats and liked The Accident. (I read somewhere that he actually wrote The Accident first, and then re-worked it somewhat when it became apparent it would be published second – don’t know if that’s true or not)

  16. amanda june says:

    Haha, did you realize your mispronunciation of banal through the Blacklist? I took note when he said it, too. I’ve definitely heard people say it both ways! My husband and I have been watching it (usually one episode a night, but with a few binge-watching sessions) too.

    Oh, bullet journaling. I’m actually indebted to it, because while it didn’t last for me (I’m way too P for that), in a way it led me into the kind of DIY journaling/planner-ing I do now, which works so well for me and which I think I never would have stumbled onto without trying bullet journaling first.

  17. Take the plunge into bullet journaling! Once I did, I started using the index method on everything. It’s so worth learning a few of the methods even if you don’t use a bullet journal for your daily agenda. Also, I set up bullet journals for my kids and we use them as our homeschool agenda/records – it has been like a miracle.

    Anyway. I’m obviously a fan of it. 😉 Carry on.

  18. Nicki Hawes says:

    Hello! I’m stopping by from Emily’s linkup, and your blog is so fun. I really appreciate your overall quest to find what the “modern Mrs. Darcy” is. The cookie dough ice cream story is beyond cool- it’s amazing how something so big could start with something so small. I’ll have to put your book suggestions on my ever-growing list. I’ve been SO out of the habit of reading, but would love to get back into it! And yes, I need to make it back to NYC with the kids someday. Those museum prices (non-prices?) totally justify a trip ;). See you around blog world!

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