Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.
1. George Vanderbilt read 80 books a year.
In November I learned a ton, in no small part because I got to visit Asheville for the first time. (I was there because of the fabulous Malaprop’s Bookstore—we’re sharing live audio from our Reading People event in next week’s What Should I Read Next episode!) I could talk about the food, or the forests, or when peak leaf weekend actually is (November, not October, usually), or how much Asheville residents love their dogs.
We toured Biltmore while we were there, and you know I was swooning over its multi-story library, pictured above. One of the most surprising things I learned was that the house’s owner read a whopping eighty books a year, and tracked all his reading in a compact navy reading journal, which the room’s host graciously opened for me. So cool, right?
2. Spend out for the main attraction.
Speaking of Biltmore: we took multiple deep breaths before ponying up for tickets, because they are pricey. (And I was sick, and all six of us were there and we weren’t sure if the kids would like it…) But Will read something recently that put our vague feelings about travel and experiences into words: big area attractions are often expensive—annoyingly so. But often, in hindsight, it’s worth it, and to keep that in mind when sticker shock hits.
That helped us click “buy” on our tour tickets—and we’re so glad we went. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, and wish we’d had more time. (Everyone who said you need a full day there wasn’t kidding. I’m glad we went, but we need to go back one day.)
After more deep breaths, we paid an extra $11 a person for the audio tour, which helped us get so much more out of the experience. (Thanks so much to those of you at Malaprop’s Saturday night who encouraged us to first of all go, and to definitely take the audio tour when we did.)
3. Plug in the Christmas tree lights on November 15.
And use those phone and calendar reminders wisely! In recent years, we’ve decorated our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. This year we pulled out our artificial tree at 9 a.m., and soon discovered—just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that—that the lights didn’t work.
My kids love decorating the tree, but stringing the lights doesn’t count in their eyes. It took two trips to Target and one to Home Depot (on Black Friday—and we hate to shop!) to cobble together all the plain white lights we needed, and we didn’t get the lights strung until late afternoon, a record of the negative variety.
True confession: we do this every year. So we’ve already marked the calendar and set reminders to plug everything in before Thanksgiving so we can skip the frustration next year. For once.
4. Why that knife has holes in it.
That’s a cheese knife, and the purpose of those little holes is to let you cut semi-soft cheeses (think: fontina, gouda, chilled brie) without the cheese sticking to the knife.
My mother-in-law clued me in, and gave me her freshly-sharpened cheese knife to use to put together my Thanksgiving appetizer platter. It worked great. I’m a convert. And then I accidentally knocked it off the counter and it landed on my flats-wearing foot and then I had to learn …
5. How stitches work.
Like, the kind you get after you cut yourself pretty badly. Also that sometimes you can get them at urgent care, instead of the ER, with a shorter wait and much less horrifying co-pay. I’ll spare you the photos, but they seem to be healing nicely.
6. How to apply foundation.
New knowledge of the decidedly prosaic variety: after meaning to do so for literally years, I took myself to Sephora and got the first foundation of my life, specifically asking for a low-coverage, room-for-user-error product. (Until not that long ago, my only products were mascara and lip gloss, just so you know where I fall on the makeup-savvy spectrum.)
7. They make my favorite tea in decaf!
Remember when I told you I was newly hooked on Harney & Sons hot cinnamon spice? They don’t make a strictly decaf version, but thanks so much for your comments, because now I know there’s an herbal version. (Also available here: regular and herbal.) This is making me ridiculously happy this week.
What have YOU been learning lately?