6 things I learned in April

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

1. Madewell is owned by J. Crew. Did everyone know this but me? I stumbled upon this tidbit in a piece covering the economics of the two businesses. J Crew is stumbling lately; Madewell is killing it, largely because of their strong denim sales. The only Madewell piece I’ve ever worn is a necklace, but I’m intrigued by their denim—like these jeans that inspired one reviewer to write, “These are the best jeans available to humanity. You can stop looking now.”

2. Puffin + Pantone. This collaboration is happening, and it looks fab. The people at Puffin (who already create some of my most favorite series, like Puffin in Bloom and these colorful clothbound classics) are pairing ten beloved middle grade classics with their “perfect Pantone color match.” Yes please.

More info on the Penguin site; titles start dropping June 6.

3. Neutrals are my happy place. As I’m putting together a spring/summer uniform, I’m continually learning that I do not want to wear bright colors these days. I still love me some coral (lifetime fave) or ocean blue (runner up), but not as a top or sweater or jeans. Maybe as a necklace or scarf. Definitely as a pretty book color (see above!).

I’m not sure if this is strange or a natural style evolution that lots of women experience, but I’m loading up on white tees all the same.

4. Ground bees are harmless but terrifying. We had a guest over very early one morning, and he commented that we had more ant hills in our front yard than any yard he’d ever seen. I hadn’t noticed myself, but sure enough, there were tiny piles of dirt everywhere. Like, there was collectively more dirt than grass.

Then the sun started coming up, and we all realized they weren’t ant hills—they were bee’s nests. (We don’t use our front door much, can you tell?) And then I started freaking out.

But our curious guest did some research and discovered they weren’t just any bees, they were ground bees—pretty much harmless to humans, extremely good for the planet, and only around for a few weeks in the spring.

This explained so much—I can remember in years’ past when my regular beautiful walking paths would weirdly be overrun with bees all of a sudden. I thought it was a sign of a nasty infestation, but nope—it’s a sign of spring.

5. Peonies are everywhere! More signs of spring: not long after we moved into our new-to-us old house these weird jungly vines started popping up all over the yard. I was wondering what kind of weird weed was crawling everywhere, but it turns out—they’re peonies! We have them everywhere, in pink and white, and I absolutely cannot wait to have more blooms than I know what to do with. (Last summer I was buying these at the farmers’ market for $2 a stem—and I didn’t even get to enjoy looking at the bushes before they were cut.)

6. People love to talk about books they hate. This month I stumbled upon this old post by Daniel Lavery for The Toast (may it rest in peace) called Let’s talk about the books you hate. It cracked me up that there were more than 1600 comments on this one—he really tapped into something with his discussion prompt! I said as much and shared it to the MMD facebook page, where readers immediately started piling on the books they hated!

I’m not sure why readers enjoy talking about their hated reads so much (although I do have some theories), but wow, do they ever.

I’d love to hear what YOU learned in April in comments. 


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  1. I’ve always loved talking about books I hate, but I think that’s because I hate more than most people. (I’m looking at you, Jane Eyre.) I know, I know, you can start throwing the rotten tomatoes at me anytime. 🙂

  2. Michelle says:

    I am not a fashionista, but oddly I did know about the JCrew/Madewell connection. I detest clothes shopping, but the little I do I do online (and thrift, I love me some thrift!). I was a huge fan of the old-school JCrew matchstick jeans (straight leg) before they messed with the denim content, the design, etc. My DIL-2-B is a Madewell fan so I tried their jeans. I can’t do high waisted, but I love their boy-jeans, and I have a pair of their Cruisers I love as well. I also lucked into a pair of Rivet & Thread button front on clearance that are baby-soft. I haven’t worn skinny jeans in years but those gingham ones have been calling my name! Their ‘insiders’ program is a free sign up that gets you free shipping a lot of the time (Denim is always free ship both ways), and notice of sales. The one gripe I have is the majority of styles that are not skinny jeans are distressed. I am not a formal person, but I want the most of my jeans without holes when I buy them (I’m old ?).

    • Ruth says:

      To my knowledge, peonies are not vines. Ever. 🙂 Shrubby perennials, or tree types, but not scrambling running jungly vines. Super curious, I’m going to my garden groups on Facebook to ask about this.

      • Jan says:

        If you find out anything please let me know. I am a Master Gardener, have grown peonies for over 45 years and never heard of or run across a peonie vine. I would love to know what is REALLY growing in Anne’s yard! ?

        • Ruth says:

          So, the best guess so far (from a plantsperson extraordinaire) is a large double flowered clematis. I looked up a few Clematis ‘Josephine’ looks like a good example. Lots of pictures on Dave’s Garden site. 🙂

          • Jan says:

            My guess is ranunculus. They are smaller, but have a similar flower and they do or can “pop up” everywhere. This is a fun mystery!

  3. I am so glad to hear that your reaction wasn’t to kill the bees.
    I learned that the “difficult stain” setting on the washing machine actually works. And that Margaret Atwood is a genius (late, I know).

  4. Tamara Gandt says:

    Well my head must be under a pillow because one I had no idea what was Madewell and J. Crew. At first I thought its a band and a singer/rapper but then its about clothes so I will have to check out the jeans of Madewell! Second I think its easier for most to talk about the things they hate in general because at least for me my mind dwells on it too much. It’s real easy to go there. So what did I learn in April? One I just recently joined this bookclub and its fantastic to read so many points of view, so many book ideas….Second I went to a Creative Writing class yesterday and learned my writing can move people to tears in a good way and I find it hard to listen to specifics when someone else reads their own piece. I tend to listen for the whole idea, thought, etc…but not specifics so I thought that was interesting and something to get better at. Lastly I really liked my first STITCHFIX
    Have you heard of this? Well the box craze is on starting with meals and now I see it everywhere on Facebook. I really liked my first “fix” but after that it has slowly gone down hill. The stylist just doesn’t get that big boobs don’t like emphasizing designs around them to make them even huger! And short people don’t need jeans that make them look even shorter! I have about given up on communicating this to stylist!

    • Michelle says:

      I have not used stitchfix but I know Anne has and likes it. (You can search the blog for posts). I believe you can request a swap in stylist if you aren’t connecting after some attempts to communicate your needs.

        • Beth says:

          If it makes you feel any better, I had absolutely no luck with Stitch Fix. It wasn’t a matter of finding my groove with them either, it was things like getting an entire box of sleeveless tops after specifically requesting no sleeveless and clothes that repeatedly didn’t fit. I finally gave up after not finding a single piece of clothing that worked for me.

          • Tamara Gandt says:

            Yes I think if this last one doesn’t work out I will discontinue. Some of their clothes especially jeans are very overpriced as well. Its just fun getting a box and opening it for nice surprises! But if they are not going to “hear” you than why bother.

          • Vanessa says:

            I have to agree. The premise doesn’t work at all (that they can somehow sort out what you will like through variable selection) BUT, it was lovely to get a nice box of clothes in the mail once a month. I did eventually stop, because it was expensive.

  5. Erin in CA says:

    I”m in my mid-40s and mostly wear dark jeans and fitted, colored tees. I don’t think I own even ONE white t-shirt. Coral, aqua, teal — colors make me happy and brighten up my (pale) skin tone! So while it may be a natural evolution for you to go neutral, it’s not something I’ve experienced or see among my friends. (Granted, I am in Southern California, so it could be a regional thing to wear colors here!)

    • Tamara Gandt says:

      Me too except the age factor as I’m a little older! I have found I like white t-shirts but I go through them quite fast because I tend to stain them up very quickly! My favorite colors are light pink, purple, maroon, black, navy, light blue, grey and light yellow.

  6. Byrd says:

    So… I loved most of the books in the Toast “hate” post. So much so that I added Jacob Have I Loved to my TBR!! Haha. We’ll see if that works.

  7. Rebecca says:

    I have never heard of madewell … but then I despise shopping so I settled on brands that suited me and stopped there (I make a trip to Buckle every couple years and same for Victoria’s Secret … I get the rest of my stuff at the thrift store???). And I’ve found the opposite re:neutrals … I’ve worn white/grey/black most of my life but recently I’ve begun gravitating towards reds and turquoise … who knows haha.

  8. Jennifer N. says:

    This month, after receiving an email from a headhunter, I learned that I have desirable skills for a new job to really get my career moving (which has somewhat stagnated after 12 years at my current job.) I also learned that a new job almost certainly means moving… perhaps to a different part of the country. After a discussion with my husband I learned that he’s fine with moving, almost wants to, even. So now I’m job searching. I also learned that the idea of leaving my current job is both terrifying and exciting for lots of reasons, and it’s the terrifying part that has probably kept me at my current job for too long.

  9. Diana says:

    How awesome on the peonies! I love them and keep meaning to plant some but then seem to forget every time we’re at Lowes! I’d love for some to just pop up in my yard although not really if it involves moving right now…

  10. Susan says:

    Loved reading the hated books! Even if I disagreed, it was funny to read why they hated it so much. I truly like (as in would whole-heartedly recommend it to a friend) less than half of the books I read, but it takes a special book to bring about pure hatred!

  11. Sara says:

    Madewell jeans fit SO well! My sister, who is 4 inches taller than me, got me hooked on them (she wears the “tall” ones and I wear “regular”). BUT we have each gone through 2-3 pairs (5+ total between the two of us) that have ripped in the crotch area from normal wear… which is disappointing since they aren’t cheap and they’re called Madewell! But they fit so well and neither of us can find other jeans we like so we keep buying them anyway. 🙂

  12. Kelly says:

    My kids and I just got into a good discussion about all the movies based on books we hate! So many are a disappointment. Just recently, My Side of the Mountain. Not even close. Of course, the teacher in me LOVES that they hate the movie and think the book is so much better!

  13. Jacelyn says:

    Anne, Do you have some white tees you love and can recommend? I used to wear white tees all the time as they were good for layering. However, now I struggle to find a good white tee. I find they are often too sheer or unforgiving to my midsection. I don’t know if it is the decline in quality of my former favorite brands or the three lovely children I had that I no longer feel comfortable in a classic white tee.

    Somehow, I did know about the Madewell/J. Crew connection. Also, I just saw an add that Nordstroms is carrying select J. Crew. What!?

    I’m glad to see that other people love to talk about their hated books. I always feel like such a horrible, unkind person when you and a WSIRN guest talk about how you just don’t want to admit to hating a book. Now I feel a bit better, just a bit, but I am trying to understand or appreciate more my hated books.

    • Anne says:

      I saw that about Nordstrom and J Crew too and I’m so curious about what they’re trying to do—I just don’t understand!

      I’ve been trying tees from the Tapered Collection the past couple of weeks and am really liking them. Previously my best success has been with Banana Republic and Everlane but Everlane especially is a bit sheer for me. It’s too hot here to NEED a camisole in summer all the time!

  14. Diana says:

    Sometimes, the things we dislike can really bring us together! I love to talk about the books I didn’t like, especially when a friend has read it! I also love neutrals and don’t think you could ever go wrong with them regardless of the season. This was a wonderful read!


  15. Lindsey Aylward says:

    We must have different ground bees because ours DEFINITELY sting. A neighbor fell into a nest and they attacked his foot last summer. It was terrible.

  16. Pam says:

    I love peonies. They are such a happy flower. It doesn’t get cold enough where we now live for them to grow. If you brung them into the house, be sure to shake them first. Ants crawl all over them to help open the petals and I’ve brought them inside. Oops.

    What I learned in April – I really don’t like travelling the day after a holiday. Wish I could remember it from one year to the next. I also learned that I can play for 5 different church services in 4 days and not fall apart too badly. Yeah!

  17. Maryalene says:

    Whoowee! The people on that Toast thread don’t just hate books….they HATE books! I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bad reaction to a book but it’s interesting to see what causes others so much pain!

  18. Jamie says:

    My parent’s house had a small plot (like, one edge of the playhouse in the backyard) of peonies and the smell…OH!…the smell…it’s like springtime and love and happiness and perfection all bottled into one voluptuous flower. So happy for the fragrant surprise!
    And those book covers? Oh my…swoon!

  19. Beth says:

    I hear you on the neutrals! My spring wardrobe pallet is black, white, and beige. This wasn’t necessarily intentional, I tried finding a few pastel pieces, but I simply couldn’t find what I was looking for. As I get older it’s becoming more and more difficult to find items that fit well and are a quality worth buying.

    I found it interesting to watch the latest Season of Grace and Frankie. Jane Fonda is almost always dressed in navy, white, or beige. I’m fine imitating that look! Although I find navy troublesome, as much as I’d like to move away from black.

  20. Aimee says:

    This month I learned my new favorite definition of success from John Wooden, I (finally) dove in and figured out my enneagram type, and I learned that sometimes spring cleaning leads you to rearrange your entire house, and you should just go with it!

  21. Liz says:

    Love Madewell! Best white jeans ever and the quality of all the clothes seems to be so much better than JCrew. Sounds corny but the clothes really are “made-well” Also, if you bring in an old pair of jeans Madewell will donate them to a company that recycles old denim to be used in insulation, and they’ll give you 15% off your purchase. So cool!

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