This year I’ve enjoyed regularly posting what I learned—from the serious to the silly—every month. Today I’m sharing a few of my favorites, especially those things that I’m still using, telling friends about, and hearing about from you (two words: Liane Moriarty) on a regular basis!
1. I can (still) pick good books for my daughter that she actually wants to read.
Earlier this year Sarah (age 11) said, and I quote, “Mom, what should I read next?” She knows how the podcast works, so she told me three books she loves, one book she hates, and her current read, and I went digging for titles for her.
She’s a little old to want book suggestions from her mom these days, but she did ask, and I found her some great stuff she really enjoyed this year: The Penderwicks, The One and Only Ivan, Tuesdays at the Castle, Harriet the Spy, Loot, and a few others. She’s been reading up a storm.
2. Changing a lightbulb or three can make your whole room look much, much better.
We finally found a chandelier we love for the new kitchen/dining room space (actually it’s the second chandelier we tried—the first one went back to the store). I loved the actual chandelier but it put out no light. In the daytime, you literally couldn’t tell if the lights were on or off.
Then one day my contractor came back from a Home Depot run and said he got me a present: it was a three-pack of lightbulbs that he thought would work much better than the ones I’d bought. He was right.
The chandelier and the room look so much better—and we can actually see. All it took was $8 in lightbulbs (and the knowledge to choose the right ones).
3. Manhattanhenge is a thing.
File under: things that make me happy. I was late to the party but my inner urban planning geek could not get over the photos from Manhattanhenge, also known as the Manhattan Solstice, which happened this year on May 30. When the sun aligns perfectly with the city’s grid the sunsets are incredible, a la Stonehenge.
This phenomenon happens in other cities that have a tidy street grid and an unobstructed horizon, like Chicago, Toronto, Baltimore, and Montreal. Chicagohenge, Torontohenge, Baltimorehenge, and Montrealhenge are also real things.
4. Hummingbird feeders actually work.
I didn’t even know we had hummingbirds in our area until we moved into our current house a few years ago. We saw them regularly in the backyard the first year, but hardly saw any the next.
I mentioned this to my sister-in-law when she was visiting, and she told me they’d had good luck with an inexpensive hummingbird feeder. So I found one (on Amazon, for $10!) and sure enough, it worked.
I know it’s a little thing, but being able to look outside almost every single morning when the weather was warm and see those hummingbirds flitting around the backyard? It was awesome.
5. Some hotels work better for our family than others.
When we travel as a family, we usually look for a workable combination of convenience, price, and quality (plus an indoor pool). We have a large family, and while we’ve found some places to work better than others, we’ve never been particularly loyal to any one hotel chain.
That might be changing. In August we spent two different nights in two different Marriott establishments, one a Fairfield Inn and Suites, the other a Springhill Suites. Our hotel rooms in both places were huge, and each had two queens plus a full-size pull-out sofa bed. These rooms worked really well for our family—enough so that for our remaining fall trips we looked for those places on purpose, every time.
6. Pack your running shoes.
More Savannah. I almost didn’t pack my running shoes for my trip, because my schedule was packed and I needed to save room in my suitcase for books on the return trip!
But my husband talked me into it, and I’m so glad he did. I’m a slow runner, but even so, my early morning runs were a chance to explore the city on foot, and to see more of it than I could have if I’d just been walking.
There was so much to see there, and I didn’t come close to seeing it all, which made me extra thankful for the bonus sights I could take in during my runs.
7. How to watch Youtube videos at 1.5x speed.
Have you ever watched a video online and wished you could speed it up, the same way you can speed up audiobooks and podcasts? It turns out you can if you use my new favorite Chrome extension, Video Speed Controller. With it you can speed or slow down playback of any video.
8. I’ve been pronouncing Liane Moriarty’s name wrong for years.
We did the keynote at Read Savannah together and the first thing I learned was … it’s Lee-ON. Short “o.” Luckily, I found this out the day before I met her, not the day after.
9. 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.
Also learned: how to type emojis. Control-command + the space bar generates a full menu. It takes forever to load on my computer, but it works.
10. You can add any web page to your phone as an app icon.
Listen up, because this is so useful—and so easy! Here’s what to do: open the website you want in your Safari browser, tap the share button (the middle button at the bottom that’s a box with an arrow coming out) and select “add to home screen.” That’s it!
You can do the same thing on android. In Chrome: tap the 3 vertical dots next to the address bar to open options for the website. Scroll down to “add to home screen” and it adds a direct link to your screen.
Now the MMD Book Club sits on my home screen, making it even easier to access, and it’s pretty, too.
11. If you want a good conversation starter, share a ridiculous dress code.
Will and I attended an event earlier this month where the invitation specified dress was “outdoor chic.” What?
It was a fancy tented event, in a big field, in the rolling Kentucky hills, and this last-minute dress code news threw me. So I asked on twitter, and got more interaction than I think I’ve ever gotten on twitter about anything, ever. None of it was particularly helpful, but it all made me laugh.
@AnneBogel It means taking wardrobe agony and indecision to a whole new level 🙂 Maybe just wear a blanket and pretend it’s a wool poncho?
— Stephanie S. Smith (@heystephsmith) October 13, 2016
— Spooky Fancy Bear (@Daniel_bearman) October 14, 2016
(The answer? The same navy (or maybe black? I can never tell) dress I always wear, plus boots. Clunky brown boots. It worked.)
12. The Momentum Chrome extension keeps me a little more on task.
It works like this: every day, you answer the question “what is your main task for today?” And then, every time you open a new tab in your browser, the first thing you see—in the second before it loads your page—is a beautiful photo plus a reminder of your big task for the day. It’s basically a very tactful, inspirational way to say “should you really be doing that right now?”
(Also valuable: some mornings I realize I have no idea how to answer the “main task” question, which forces me to clarify it before I get any further in my day.)