Regular readers know I love sharing a monthly round-up of what I’ve been learning lately, ranging from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.
This spring and summer I’ve been hard at work on my next book, so I’ve passed on the monthly updates. But I can’t go all summer without sharing what I’ve learned, so I’m sneaking in this update right before Labor Day.
1. It’s worth enduring the bumpiest dirt roads.
Doesn’t this sound like the chorus of a country music song? My family visited Colorado early this summer; we were there to see family but got to spend some time exploring, too. On our very first day there we set out to take a hike that Will had read about on the internet—and it quickly became apparent that the “short” ten-mile drive to the trailhead was on ten miles of deeply rutted gravel roads. We have a family of six, and three of us get carsick. YIKES. It was slow and dusty and stomach-churning.
We came THIS CLOSE to bailing and taking an easier trail closer to civilization, but for some reason—I have no idea why—we kept going. And we were all so glad we did. It was a tough climb up, but the views were incredible; it was my favorite thing we did on our trip.
If I haven’t scared you too much, that hike was to the Devils Head Fire Tower Lookout.
2. There’s a poetry-only bookstore in Seattle.
This summer we aired our second mother-daughter episode of What Should I Read Next, featuring recent college graduate Xoe and her attorney mother of the Seattle area. They mentioned a special poetry-only bookstore called Open Books: A Poetry Emporium that they like to visit, in the Wallingford neighborhood, that’s home to more than 10,000 new, used, and out of print titles.
I’ve been to many niche bookshops, and hope to visit many more, but never have I encountered one devoted to only poetry. Till now.
(Listen to episode 192, “Wherever you read, I will follow,” wherever you get your podcasts or right here on the site.)
3. Cut the top off that fiddle leaf fig.
Regular readers know that over the past several years I have jumped down the houseplant rabbit hole, firmly securing my Plant Lady status. My first major purchase was a large fiddle leaf fig, but since then I bought two more smaller ones, mostly because when Kroger ran them on sale for $17, I couldn’t resist.
One of these inexpensive fiddles lives in my daughter’s room (except for the summer months, when we move them all outside), and it’s grown much taller under our care. My daughter came across a passage in a houseplant book (we’ve got lots) about pruning your fiddle to grow into a tree shape, and—thinking we had very little to lose—we tried it. We cut the top right off.
Six weeks later, the plant did indeed branch at the point where we made our cut, and now EIGHT healthy new leaves are growing at the split. We’re both excited to see what happens next.
If you’re interested in trying this yourself, the videos from Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Resource bolstered my confidence.
Bonus fact: I know I’m not the only plant-obsessed reader because this post featuring 15 books for budding botanists has a zillion pageviews so far.
4. Book people are the best people.
Back in July, I accidentally emailed our MMD Book Club survey to everyone who signed up to get our MMD newsletters. That means I sent it to about 100x more people than I should have. Cue mortification.
I instantly realized what I’d done, and sent out a real quick apology to everyone with some bonus reading tips. And the emails I got back from hundreds of readers were so, so kind. I didn’t need to make a silly mistake to be reminded of how great this community is, but I did make a silly mistake—and your all’s response made me love you even more. Thanks for hanging out here with me in this little corner of the interwebs. You make it a better place, and a better world.
5. Make the Smitten Kitchen desserts.
I love Deb Perelman’s blog Smitten Kitchen, and her cookbooks, but I don’t believe I’ve made a single dessert from her recipes. We don’t eat a ton of desserts around here, but when we do indulge, I want to make it count. Yet it just never occurred to me to give those dessert recipes a try.
But that changed this summer when we visited family and were served several kinds of birthday cake from The Party Cake Builder recipes in Smitten Kitchen Everyday—a cookbook I’ve owned for nearly two years! The fudgy chocolate cake was SO GOOD. It’s not complicated or deluxe or fancy, it’s just a good, simple chocolate cake, and now that I know what I’ve been missing, I am totally making it next time I need that kind of dessert.
6. You can read more Amor Towles, right now.
Earlier this summer I shared 20 greatest hits from 8 years of the Summer Reading Guide. Narrowing 8 years’ worth of guide titles down to just 20 was tough, but I did it—and one of the books I shared was Amor Towles’s ebook short Eve in Hollywood. I felt a little bad sharing this one, because it hasn’t been available for years—or so I thought.
If you’re one of the readers itching for more Amor Towles in your life, good news: you can order a copy of Eve online from Shakespeare & Company right here. And furthermore, you can read Towles’s new short story The Line right here. Happy reading!
7. You can buy plants on Etsy.
I’ve bought all manner of interesting things on Etsy in the past, but … houseplants? Yes! I couldn’t find Audrey ficus and purple oxalis locally, so I ordered them on Etsy, and they arrived days later carefully packed in cardboard boxes. Who knew?
8. You can grind your coffee in the blender.
Our coffee grinder broke this summer, wreaking havoc in our early morning routine. The internet suggested I try a mortar and pestle, but that got me absolutely nowhere. I finally decided to give the blender a try, and while it is LOUD, it is effective. Thank goodness.
What did you learn this summer?