7 things I learned in February

Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.

1. There’s a mailbox in North Carolina called the Kindred Spirit.

On Sunset Beach there’s a mailbox in the sand filled with journals, with a bench nearby where visitors can sit and write their hopes, dreams, and fears inside. If you like the sound of this, I’ve got a book for you.

Could there ever be a better name for a mailbox?

2. Mahonia is a real plant. 

My favorite plant store in Louisville is called Mahonia, and I always thought it was just a pretty name—until I stumbled upon a photo and description in a gardening book! Turns out it’s an evergreen shrub with spiky yellow flowers.

3. Start bacon in a cold oven. 

When we want to delight our children, Will and I make bacon on weekend mornings. Thanks to my friend Bri, I tried a different method this month: instead of preheating like I usually do, I started the bacon in a cold oven. When Bri said this method would make the bacon flat and crispy, I was skeptical—but I’m shocked at what a big difference it makes!

She explains more in this recipe. I haven’t tried the sweet potato toasts yet but I’m intrigued.

4. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is a Queen song. 

Last weekend I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, the new film about Queen and Freddie Mercury. I wasn’t terribly interested, but watched it with friends right before the Oscars. WOW. Have you ever read a book and thought, I had no idea that topic would be interesting but I’m so glad I read this? That’s how I felt about Bohemian Rhapsody.

The movie portrays Queen’s formation and rise to fame, and features more than twenty Queen songs. I knew the songs but had no idea they were Queen songs, including one of my longtime favorites, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, written by Freddie Mercury. Did everyone know this but me?

It’s been covered hundreds of times over the years, by performers like Robert Plant, Diana Ross, Michael Bublé, and symphony orchestras aplenty. My first introduction to the song, and still-favorite version, is by country singer Dwight Yoakam, and a million years ago there was a fantastic Gap commercial with it. (Doesn’t that dance look fun? I want to learn how.)

5. Publishing infrastructure has changed a lot in the last 5-10 years. 

My book I’d Rather Be Reading was briefly out of stock just after its September 4 release, and at the time I didn’t realize that this inconvenience was related to broader industry happenings. The actual story is more complicated, and more interesting.

It turns out that the book industry has significantly changed over the last decade, and one of the big factors impacting today’s new print books is paper. Actual, physical paper. It’s in short supply, and getting more expensive—and this affects your favorite books and magazines. Shortages late in 2018 led to all kinds of problems for fall releases, and the market is expected to be tight for the foreseeable future.

Read more about what that means for publishers here, and what it might mean for readers here.

6. More U.S. doctors’ offices are switching to the metric system. 

At least when it comes to the scales. When I had my annual physical this month, I stepped on the scale and was surprised to see my weight displayed in kilograms instead of the usual pounds.

I asked the nurse about it, and she told me they made the switch last year and she loves it. Scale anxiety among patients is all too common, but since most of their patients aren’t fluent in metric, the new practice puts a welcome beat between seeing the number and understanding what it means. When they see their weight displayed in kilograms, it feels like a measurement, not a score. They convert it on their phones once they get to the exam room, or wait and ask their doctor.

Some medical organizations support weighing all patients in kilograms for reasons like consistency in medication dosage, and the nurse didn’t say this distance was why they made the switch. But she did say that this little change helped the staff have better conversations with their patients about their health.

7. The Royal We is getting a sequel. 

I included The Royal We in the Summer Reading Guide way back in 2015. It’s fast, fun, and now it’s getting a sequel. It’s tentatively titled The Heir Affair, and it’s coming your way in the spring of 2020.

What did you learn in February?

P.S. This morning I enjoyed taking a look back at what I learned in February 2018. Click here to take a peek, if you’d like.


Leave A Comment
  1. Jackie A says:

    I am with you on “Bohemian Rhapsody”. My husband and I saw it over Christmas break. I had agreed to go thinking I wouldn’t like it but wanted to do something he would like. Oh my, I loved it. He was so, so. But both of us enjoyed learning more about the music Queen produced. We were surprised through out. He would have preferred a more raw version of the story why I LOVED what I refer to as the Disney version. It was a heavy subject covered in a light way, and I loved every minute of it.

  2. Molly M says:

    I thought your book link in number 1 was going to link to Nickie Sparks’s newer book, Every Breath. Interesting that Kindred Spirits is a major location for multiple books. Thanks for sharing. I am also excited to read more about the paper/publishing industry.

  3. Michele says:

    I am so excited for the sequel to The Royal We! That’s a total comfort book for me – I’m not a big re-reader, but I go back to that one whenever I need a comfy blanket of a book. And on a more personal note, I’m thrilled for Jessica and Heather, who work tirelessly and have created another (rare) happy little haven on the Internet in Go Fug Yourself.

  4. Nancy Kvorka says:

    I am so happy to see The Royal We will have a sequel. I just read it in the last month. I finally bought it when I saw it was on special through Kindle. I saw that through you. Thanks for this update.

  5. Wow! I’ve never known that about cooking bacon. I will have to try it out. I am a Queen fan, but I’m always amazed at the different songs that can be traced back to them and Freddie Mercury. I still haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody. Maybe this weekend!

  6. Suzy says:

    I treated myself to Bohemian Rhapsody last Saturday at home so I would have seen two Oscar films, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was raising children during that time and missed most of that music and drama – had no idea about all those songs. Or Freddy Mercury. Loved the Gap commercial! Also loved The Royal We, and think of it often with all the publicity of the recent wedding.

  7. Jackie says:

    I finally learned how to do the Brioche Stitch in knitting after taking a class. I’ve never had to rip out and start over so many times in my life, but I think I’ve got it!

  8. Kimbelry says:

    I learned I’m really glad I found your blog …. bacon in a cold oven/already pinned, the Gap commercial “can they please bring that back”, and my boss’s book will be out in May and the article on paper shortage was beyond interesting. Also loved the suggestion of The Royal We, love books with sequels and it is in my queue …. this is a fun space to start my day! Thanks

  9. MFPeterson says:

    Be careful in trusting the story presented in Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie was entirely controlled by the Queen trust, which is really just the 2 remaining members of the band who had a lot of bitterness toward Freddie and his homosexuality. There have been a couple articles put out that note all the very misleading representations in the movie including completely changing timelines and Freddie’s character.

    As for Crazy Little Thing Called Love – I always thought most people knew it was Queen, but I’ve run into a lot of people who downloaded it from Napster in their brief run and the song was assigned to many different bands on there. So even when it’s the actual original Queen version, it was being noted as being by other groups.

  10. Meagan says:

    That tidbit about paper is terrifying… but also, I hope that maybe it will start the shift away from paper to digital. I am 100% a handheld book kind of person over an ereader person and I know some will think it’s blasphemy, but if it helps the environment, I am absolutely on board. Things like this make the impacts and implications of human consumption all the more real.

  11. Kendyle Mc Daniel Smith says:

    I have very mixed feelings about doctors offices weighing people in kilograms. It definitely makes the math easier and eliminates one possible step where a mistake can be made in calculations for dosing ( changing pounds to kg). Most medications are doses as mg/kg. But as a “fluffy” person, it gives me a way to deny my ever increasing weight (wow, I’m only 81kg!!!).

    • Jess says:

      This was my type of thinking too. It seems like the anxiety leaves because it is a lower number and people don’t know what it is in pounds. Overall, I wouldn’t say that reason makes it a good choice, even if it relieves peoples feelings. Just because my weight in kg seems lower, I am still the wait I am, healthy or unhealthy. It’s like vanity sizing in stores, “hey this size 2 fits me so I feel better about myself but I am still a size 8.” That said, I think the move to metric makes sense because most of the world runs on it.

      • Diane says:

        I learned that leftover pickle juice makes a great marinade for chicken!
        And I have a much longer to-read list because I found you.

    • Daniel Jackson says:

      You can actually use that 81 kg to directly calculate your BMI. BMI is your mass in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared. If you are for instance 1.75 m tall, then 81/1.75^2 = 26.45 BMI has the units of kilograms per square metre (kg/m^2).

  12. Steph says:

    That’s funny about “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” I had never heard of any of those covers you mentioned, save the Robert Plant version 🙂

  13. Ruth says:

    Mahonia is informally called Oregon Grape , and is the Oregon state flower. The yellow flowers bloom in late winter and are much loved by our year-round Anna’s hummingbirds. Mahonia is native to the Pacific coast, so it’s interesting that a nursery out your way has taken the name. I wonder if there’s a story there. 🙂

    • We use it all the way down here in San Diego – it is part of the California Floristic Province and I have several in my garden. They are slow growers down here but I love them for a forest-y look.

      • Ruth says:

        You may be warmer, but you’re on the Pacific coast…still a loooong way from Louisville.
        There are so many varieties! I’m near Seattle and I have one in the more naturalized part of my garden that is at least 10 feet tall. 🙂

  14. Ann says:

    Just a tidbit: Oregon’s state flower is the Mahonia (Mahonia aquifolium). It’s commonly referred to as the Oregon Grape. The flowers are nice but the foliage changes from green to red in the winter for year around interest.

  15. Barbara says:

    I always believed Queen was covering the Elvis version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love!” Mind blown! I even Googled to see if you were right and found that Freddie Mercury wrote it as a tribute to Elvis two years after the King died. I’ve heard two radio versions forever–one by Elvis (apparently not, but not Dwight Yoakam either) and one by Queen. Wow!

    • Akaylah says:

      I, too, always believed that Queen was covering Elvis! I could have sworn that was Elvis singing “Crazy Little Thing” all these years on the radio. Apparently just a really convincing impersonation.

  16. Holly says:

    Literally every single time I hear the song Crazy Little Thing Called Love (no matter who is singing it) I think of that GAP Commercial! (And then I think, man that was great advertising because it’s been 20 years!!) Anyway…despite all that I too was surprised to find out it was a Queen song, so you’re not alone. 🙂

  17. Nancy Poling says:

    I wish I’d read about the scarcity of paper two days ago. I just priced my next novel, While Earth Still Speaks, at $14.95. My readers are “mature” women who prefer paper over a screen. I hope printers don’t raise the price.

  18. susie says:

    Nope, sorry, sweet potato cannot replace toast!! But I will try the cold oven for bacon idea…
    Didn’t see Bohemian Rhapsody, but did see Green Book last night, and highly recommend it!! There is controversy over that one, too, but for entertainment that is well done, it was excellent (Best Picture/Oscars).
    The Royal We was fast and fun? My goodness, that book was so tedious, I couldn’t begin to read a sequel.
    Finally, about paper, I live in Maine where for many, many years people made their living at the Paper Mills, and the forests are showing no signs of running out, but the paper mills have shut down, putting all those people out of work, and making ghost towns. It would seem that there is no demand for paper anymore, but apparently that’s not true! Why then are the mills shut down?? Makes no sense. Put Mainers back to work!

  19. Oh my goodness, I so want to visit that mailbox! I wonder if it’s in the Outer Banks? Off to google more about it, but first…
    I recently blogged about a few things I’ve been learning about self-care this winter, including yoga with dogs, family date nights, KonMari folding, the joy of planning trips and why we’re reading the audio & paper version of Percy Jackson at the same time: https://www.lauragaskill.com/blog/late-winter-self-care

  20. Anna B says:

    Thanks for sharing – what a delightful idea to recap each month on things you’ve learned!

    I learned so much about my reading life in February thanks to your #BookSchool. Bullet journaling also helped me realise that writing down things I wish to do each day / week / month helps me to focus on the most meaningful things. When I don’t do that, I feel adrift and lacking purpose.

  21. Laura says:

    I love having weight in kg- even if it’s done for BMI calculation purposes instead of reducing scale anxiety. It does both. It’s good to change the way we look at ourselves and for a lot of people lbs is a marker of shame. I especially appreciated it last summer when pregnant! Maybe the UK should do weight in lbs for their patients.

  22. Jessica says:

    I’m excited to hear about the sequel to The Royal We. I enjoyed that book immensely. I’ve also heard rumors that it’s being turned into a movie?

  23. Ruth says:

    Crazy Little Thing Called Love is my favourite Queen song (Are you ready, Freddie?) I bought it on 7″ vinyl when it came out and it cost me all of 99 pence.
    We loved the film Bohemian Rhapsody and we’ve introduced our son to it – lots of topics to discuss with an autistic 12-year-old. We then showed him the original Queen set from Live Aid.

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