6 things I learned in January

6 things I learned in January

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

1. The ocean is full of gold.

Long story long: earlier this month I traveled to the Oregon coast for the first time (amazing), and my hosts took me to the amazing Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, right on the coast, and we dined at their Tables of Content restaurant. (If the idea of a literary B&B appeals to you, add it to your travel list right now.)

Dinner is family style: they seat you with strangers. I was a wee bit nervous about this at first, but I needn’t have been, because you know who shows up at a restaurant called Tables of Content? Book people, and I feel right at home with book people. We sat with a librarian, a chemical oceanographer, and their daughter. Of course we wanted to hear all about the library, but hearing about the chemical oceanographer’s job was equally fascinating (and completely foreign to this liberal arts major).

We talked about how there’s trillions of dollars worth of gold in the water, and why the Pacific Ocean can be warmer in the winter than the summer on the coast, and what it’s like to go out to sea on an enormous research ship.

I had no idea.

1b. A whole lot more MMD readers live in Oregon than I ever imagined, based on your instagram and blog comments. I’ll keep this in mind as I plan future book tour and podcast stops, I promise!

2. Tidepooling is a verb. 

A tide pool, I learned, is a shallow pool of water that forms along the rocky coast when the tide is in and is ready to explore when the tide goes out. When I was in Oregon, we went tidepooling—that is, hopped from rock to rock to peer at all the anemones and barnacles and starfish hanging out. If you ever get the opportunity to go, take it!

3. Exfoliation is really important.

Does everyone have a friend who you always go to when you have skin care and makeup questions? (Maybe some of you are that friend.) Recently it came up in conversation with my skincare-savvy friend that I was exfoliating so rarely that I didn’t even know where my product was, and she flipped. And probably rightly so, because once I dug it out of the back of the drawer and started using it a few times a week, my face felt better and probably looked a little bit better, too.

I feel like I’m too old to still be learning this stuff, but there it is.

(I’m using the Acure Organics brightening facial scrub, which I love, from Grove Collaborative, which I also love.)

4. Give your plants a shower.

This year I’ve developed a strange (for me) obsession with houseplants, which has me checking out all the library books and haunting all the local shops and asking all the questions, because my thumb has historically tended more brown than green.

I’m especially nervous because I’ve added a few plants that aren’t notoriously easy to care for, like the fiddle leaf above. My local plant expert told me that if my plant isn’t too big (and it’s not), to take the whole thing and put in the shower for a good rinse and soak. Not every plant thrives with this treatment, but she walked me through which of mine would benefit from it (most of them), and how often to do it (weekly-ish), and she also helped me identify the previously unknown plants I’ve had (and managed to keep alive) for years.

5. Water is more important than I realized.

And I already thought it was pretty darn essential—and not just for plants! I had my annual physical last week, and one of my top concerns is always mental health. I was surprised that one of the first things my doctor mentioned for brain health was staying hydrated. The brain is apparently a very thirsty organ, and a lack of hydration negatively impacts brain functioning.

I’m in a constant state of feeling like I ought to drink more water, but I’m rarely particularly motivated to actually do it. This is motivating.

6. New books are coming!

The wait isn’t exactly short, but I was so excited to learn that new titles are coming soon(ish) from personal favorites Kate Atkinson (Transcription, September 25), Emily St John Mandel (The Glass Hotel, 2019), Marilynne Robinson (What Are We Doing Here?: Essays), and Jojo Moyes (Still Me snuck up on me—it came out yesterday!)

What have YOU been learning lately?

P.S. My What I Learned history is right here.

24 comments | Comment


  1. Kate says:

    I put my houseplants outside in dappled shade for a ‘summer vacation’ once the temperatures are warm enough at night (in suburban Washington, that’s late May or June). I gently spray them with a hose and let them enjoy the fresh air and humidity of a Washington summer. When I bring them back in for early fall (always watering with insecticidal soap so I don’t bring in bugs, too), they are fuller and greener. Bonus – having the houseplants gone for a few months makes me really appreciate them when they are back inside!

  2. Susan Orr says:

    Great post. This month I have learned to employ some more self care tips into my routine. AND maybe not to be not afraid to comment on posts that really make me feel part of something bigger out there. THANKS!

  3. I highly recommend the Hidrate Spark smart water bottle. I just got mine on Saturday and I’m already obsessed. I’ve always been SO bad about drinking water, and I finally decided to change that. The Spark has certainly helped! It calculates how much water you should drink daily, based on your height and weight, age, the current weather conditions, and your activity level. Then it keeps track of how much water you drink throughout the day, and sends you motivational reminders to drink more.

    I actually left mine at home this morning and am currently wondering how I will function without it!

  4. Jill D says:

    When I was in my mid twenties I read an article in a magazine (it was probably Cosmo) that explained that men typically did not have wrinkled cheeks as they aged because 1. they shaved daily and thus exfoliated daily or 2. they sported a beard that protected their skin from the sun and other elements.
    Since reading the article I have used exfoliating facial and body scrubs on a multi times each week (as well as a daily dose of sunscreen). I am now in my early 50s and nary a wrinkle with the exception of the slight crinkle between my brows. I attribute that to law school and there was no amount of exfoliating that was going to prevent it from appearing :).
    My current favorite facial scrub is the Alba Botanica Even Advanced Sea Enzyme scrub.

    • Phaedra says:

      I think I saw this article or something similar and was like.. ah ha! I do the same.. exfoliation is a major thing in my self care

  5. Elizabeth Brink says:

    I grew up in Oregon and have made countless trips to the Oregon Coast. My mom and I have started going to Cannon Beach yearly for an HSP, reading-intensive vacation. We also spend lots of time on the beach, and I love tidepooling (though I didn’t know it was a verb!). Something about the beach always releases wonder and a sense of child-like discovery in me, which is hard to come by in the adult world. 🙂 Thanks for sharing all this, Anne!

  6. Meghan says:

    Oh, interesting about brain health and water! Yesterday, I learned *exactly* what my body composition is (and while the results weren’t a surprise, they also weren’t fun), so now my motivation to get moving again has real numbers behind it. Also, I am SO EXCITED about that list of coming books!! Those are some of my favorite authors.

  7. S says:

    I love water but it has to be cold. A couple years ago I started using a Yeti which keeps my water super cold and there is no funny taste some water bottles have. Highly recommend if you want to up your H2O intake.

  8. Traci says:

    I learned this month that even the smallest tweak can have a huge impact on your mood. I’ve been a bit depressed lately and I’ve been dressing pretty much mirroring my mood. (Baggy clothes, no makeup, etc.) This month I decided to dress really nice every day to try and pop out of my slump. So, even though my office is casual attire, I’ve been wearing really nice outfits, getting up early to do my hair and makeup. It’s really had an impact. I feel SO much more confident, and I’ve been handling life’s little curveballs way better.

  9. Whitney H says:

    This month I learned that the beach is therapeutic — in any weather.

    I took my boys (ages 7 and 6) to play on the sand dunes and run on the shores of Lake Michigan several times this month. Snow or no snow, ice or no ice — it really didn’t matter. We were bundled up in snow pants, coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots… everything you need to stay warm in Michigan in the winter. We all had a ball. Even when it was 15 degrees outside and windy. We rolled down the dunes in the snow, explored ice and sand formations on the shore, threw rocks out into the waves. It was wonderful. There’s just something about being around the water — in any season — that is healing. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Phaedra says:

    I’m one of the aforementioned Oregon readers. Our coastline is amazing, right? So many things to explore – the southern coast is a different feel from the northern tip heading into Washington. Naturally we take it for granted. oops. Glad you had such a great time visiting. Come back soon

  11. JmeLnne says:

    I learned that when one egg cracks, you don’t have to throw the whole dozen out… metaphorically speaking. This has been a game changer for me, giving me permission to start again when I make a mistake with my food goals or life goals or to-do list.

    We live in Washington State, on the Puget Sound, and I learn every day how beautiful this area is and how calming and life-giving the water can be. It’s so fun to see others discover and enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and its Coast. Here’s one more thing I learned when I moved here five years ago… there is no such thing as a “starfish” any longer, according to marine biologists. They are called “sea stars,” since they share very, very little in common with fish. I feel like this little tidbit of knowledge makes me a local. Come visit our beautiful corner of the world again soon, Anne.

  12. Jessa says:

    Yes! Come to Oregon! In Portland, stay at the Inn at Northrup station, your kids will love the quirky colors and retro decor. Plus, it’s just a short streetcar ride to Powell’s! Let me know if you need a guide 🙂

  13. Eva says:

    I use a mister on my plants – does that count as giving them a shower?! Haha! Also, I took an Underwater Archaeology class when I was in college (Yes, those courses exist, especially at Brown), and I couldn’t believe how many ships have been lost at sea full or gold, precious gems, and other cargo. For a little while I considered trying my hand at treasure hunting, but I get terrible sea sickness! Oh, well. Guess we’ll have to leave that gold where it is. 🙂 Would be much easier to just extract it from the water!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  14. Mary in TN says:

    We had two snow falls in Nashville this month. I threw lots of bird seed on the patio. The cats binged watched all of the birds that spent hours there each day. The male cardinals and blue jays were especially pretty against the snow. What I learned however is that all of that seed will get tracked in on the dog’s paws after everything melts!! I had to spend quite a while with the blower on the patio and the vacuum in the house.

  15. Margaret says:

    Each time I see another picture of your trip to the Oregon Coast I get all excited again. You were here! In my native state! Your airplane probably went over my house. Yes, please, come again. Have a book tour, record a podcast episode, or just hang out, quietly, on the coast or the mountains or in Eastern Oregon (which looks completely different, by the way.) There’s so much to offer here in Oregon!

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