7 things I learned in April.

7 things I learned in April.

Linking up with Emily Freeman to share what I learned this month, from the serious to the silly.

1. There’s an award for excellence in young adult literature. 

The Michael L. Printz Award is given annually to the best book written for teens, based on literary merit alone. The committee also names up to four honor books each year. I can’t believe I didn’t know this, but am supremely grateful to my local library and the big poster showcasing Printz Award winners some kind soul posted behind the circulation desk.

The award has been given since the year 2000. Last year’s winner was I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson; the full list of winners and honors books is right here.

2. To write “Brontë” on a Mac …

Hold down option-U to get your umlaut, and then the “e.” I was a German minor in college (seriously), so this probably shouldn’t have been on my list of things I already knew. I suppose I haven’t been typing that particular special character much since graduation, but the current Brontë resurgence drove me to rediscover my old tricks.

3. The toasted coconut flavor of Bark Thins taste just like the Girl Scouts’ Samoas.

This is a delicious and dangerous discovery.

4. Mallory Ortberg of The Toast is John Ortberg’s daughter.

Ortberg writes hilarious pieces laced with f-bombs that frequently satirize religion or art history for the site, which isn’t one I’d necessarily recommend to my mother. Recent favorites include Two medieval monks invent art and Women trying to say “no” politely in Western art history. She’s also the author of Texts from Jane Eyre.

Ortberg spoke recently at a conference I attended, but my plane took off before her session. When I commented to a friend how sorry I was to miss her, she made the connection for me that Ortberg is the daughter of influential pastor John Ortberg. I’m sorry to say I was at 30,000 feet when she took the stage but when the conference recordings come out hers is the first session I’ll be listening to.

5. Your dishwasher works better if you follow the directions. 

Will and I have had either very old or halfway broken dishwashers for years, ones with broken dispensers and no special rinse aid compartment. So even though we finally replaced our ancient dishwasher last fall, we continued our old habit of tossing the little detergent tablet into the bottom of the machine. And I hadn’t bought rinse aid in ten years.

But then I read that if you don’t put your detergent in that little dispenser, it all gets dissolved in the pre-wash cycle. And that rinse aid doesn’t just make the glasses look prettier—it also prevents water from clinging to them, and drying my clean dishes before putting them away is among my least-favorite morning tasks.

I bought rinse aid, and started using the little dispenser, and it makes a huge difference. I thought my owner’s manual was being unnecessarily bossy, but following the directions actually works.

6. Prince was from Minneapolis…

… which seems so staid and midwestern for the artist we knew. His real name was Prince. He wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U,” not Sinead. He was 5’2″. There was so much I didn’t know. (Linking to this old piece for his birthday instead of more recent news.)

7. My kid has no idea what dental floss is. 

Silas (age 6) had a checkup at the dentist last week. The hygienist always asks the kids (not the parents) if they’re brushing and flossing. Silas told the hygienist that he used to floss, but then we ran out of flossers (these things), and since then I’d been cleaning his teeth with some kind of weird new stuff.

The hygienist looked at me and said Do you know what he’s talking about?  And I realized he was describing dental floss. I felt so old.

What did you learn in April? 

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  1. Laura says:

    Oh, man. If you’re just learning about the Printz, you have so many more wonderful surprises in store. Did you know there’s an American Library Association award for audiobooks? First time YA novelists? Adult books that teens will enjoy? That you can watch a live webcast of those awards plus the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz winner announcements for free on awards day in January? So much fun.
    Happy reading!

  2. A note on dishwashers — we should probably read the instructions on the detergent too! It turns out a number of modern detergents are formulated in such a way that the enzymes need to attach on to food particles in order to work. I really love this idea on so many levels — all the people who pre-rinse their dishes thinking that makes them get cleaner are actually making them get less clean.

    • Sarah says:

      The downside to that, though, is that leaving food on your dishes can damage your dishwasher. I just paid almost $300 to have my leaking (and fairly new) dishwasher repaired. The repairman told me that he always urges his clients to rinse off their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher because food particles can get trapped in the grinder, and once they harden (picture dried corn), they can bend the blade and eventually cause cracks and leaks. (I had to call my mom and apologize as soon as he left since I’ve picked at her for years about practically washing her dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, lol!) Since my dishwasher has a high heat setting to kill germs, I’d rather rinse them well and not have to pay to have my machine repaired again.

      • There’s a difference between scraping food off and scrubbing the dishes before putting them in. Yes, most dishwashers do work best if you scrape off the big pieces of food before hand. But washing the dishes before putting them in consumes a lot of time and water.

    • Gail says:

      I was going to make this same comment. You do have rinse your dishes for modern dishwashers. Just scrape the big scraps off.

  3. Beth says:

    I get what you’re saying about Prince but as a life long Midwesterner comments like that tend to rub me the wrong way. Minneapolis isn’t Lake Woebegone. The twin cities is a much more cosmopolitan area than people think. Just because it’s not on a coast doesn’t mean it’s bland and boring.

    I hope this doesn’t sound too cranky. 🙂 I’m in the arts myself and I’m very sensitive to my geographical origins being used as an indictment of my ability and skill level.

    • Kristie says:

      I had a similar thought. Prince wasn’t just from Minneapolis, he stayed in Minnesota and built Paisley Park here. One of the things I always appreciated about Prince was that he helped show the world that you don’t need to be based in LA or New York to make things happen. Minnesota is a pretty awesome and creative place to live and work.

    • Anne says:

      Ack, sorry–I love Minneapolis! Maybe what I should have said is I was surprised to find out Prince was from anywhere with an actual postal code. He always seemed a bit otherworldly to me (and I mean that in the best possible way).

  4. Sarah says:

    Oh, and another thing I’ve learned this month, Anne, is how much I LOVE your podcast! I’ve been following you on Facebook for a while now and had a friend tell me how good your podcast is, but I’ve only recently started listening to it. Now you’re my companion while I’m working in my kitchen. 😉 The neat thing is that I’ve noticed that even if you’re interviewing someone whose tastes are completely different from mine, I’m able to add at least one more book to my TBR list. It’s gotten quite long lately. 😉

  5. Rebecca says:

    And here I thought the whole “rinse aid”thing was a marketing scam… In April I learned my favorite Sanisafe knife set is also the choice of coroners–how awful is that!!!!!

  6. Sarah Jane says:

    I laughed out loud when I read about your Prince learnings. Minnesota is so proud to call him our own!
    In April I’ve learned that I love Heart Rate Training. I’ve been running for 25 years and it’s nice to have a change of pace- quite literally.

  7. Wendy says:

    This was a delightfully light-hearted list! I’d never heard of either Ortberg, but I LOVED the links you shared! I’m not a fan of coconut cookies, but otherwise I actually already knew many of those things. I usually do NOT know the things you mention, so now I feel smart. Sort of. 🙂

    This month I learned that the Dewey 24 Hour Read-a-thon exists, and is a wonderful thing. And I learned just now that I might want to consciously start looking for things I learn, because it worries me that I can’t come up with anything else.

  8. Great list. That Bronte thing is a game-changer. 🙂

    Re Mallory Ortberg: then you probably also know that writer Laura Turner (@lkoturner) is her sister. That’s quite a team!

    That dishwasher point has sure sparked a lot of comments. Based on recent experience with a leaky dishwasher, and on the repairman’s advice, it may be preferable to use a dishwasher tablet that INCLUDES rinse-aid (e.g. with a little red “button” in the tablet) rather than liquid rinse aid — and yes, put the tablet in the detergent dispenser, not in the bottom of the machine. The liquid rinse aid can actually foam up excessively and cause leakage. I suppose it may depend on your machine, though, so it’s always best to read the recommendations on the manual.

  9. Casey says:

    Another dishwasher tip: You don’t have to use fancy rinse aids. You can just use plain white vinegar in the rinse aid compartment. Works just as good, and it’s much cheaper to buy in bulk at Costco or Sam’s. Also I could always taste a residue from the rinse aid, and the vinegar seems to actually… rinse off.

    • Yes! I was going to post this. I love vinegar as a rinse aid.

      By the way, if anyone is looking for a more eco-friendly dishwasher detergent, we really like Biokleen powder. It works very well and comes in a nice canister that keeps it from clumping and, when empty, can be used to store markers or other non-food stuff.

  10. There’s also an ALA award for the best YA debut. It’s called the Morris. If you’re looking for something spectacular with an ending I can only describe as musical (think of a building musical theme that comes to an amazing completion at the end), try John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back, which won the Printz and Morris in 2012.

    • Kaitlyn says:

      Was just going to say, all up to date Macs will bring up a “menu” of accented characters if you press and hold the letter. You then just type the corresponding number to get the accented character you want. So if I long press on “e,” I can choose è, é, ê, ë, etc.

  11. Prince’s music was practically the soundtrack of my preteen years. I still get chills when I hear anything from Purple Rain. The memories! Another factoid about him: he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses several years ago. So for me, he was Brother Nelson. 🙂

  12. Kari.M says:

    I don’t know if anyone needs this, but for a PC to type Brontë, you just hold down the Alt key and type 0235. I learned this because my daughter’s name is Zoë.

  13. Sherry says:

    Oh my goodness. Why did no one ever tell me about the è é ë ę thing? As you can see, I’m enjoying just playing with this lovely feature on my Mac.

  14. Loretta Shekleton says:

    Anne I love these posts. I stated doing my own “What I Learned ” entries in my personal journal this year and yours always prompt me to pull 30 mins together for myself to review the past month. Thanks!

  15. Angela says:

    “I thought my owner’s manual was being unnecessarily bossy, but following the directions actually works.” <– That's me and every owner's manual I've ever come across, haha!

  16. Tilly says:

    I’m a fan, but I was a bit thrown by the dishwasher one… I guess I never knew anyone didn’t put the rinse agent in nor put the detergent into the container flap. Are you too young to remember liquid dishwasher detergent? Ugh… I’m a millineal and on the upper part of the age bracket… Please tell me that knowing of liquid dish detergent doesn’t age me!!

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