7 things I learned in July

1. Hummingbird feeders actually work.

I didn’t even know we had hummingbirds in our area until we moved into our current house two 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 $9!) and sure enough, it works!

I’ve spotted a hummingbird every other day or so since I hung it up … but I’d love to see more. Any tips?

2. Facebook isn’t so bad.

Will and I were in Chicago earlier this month, and we met up with old friends for dinner. One of these friends posted a photo of the four of us to her Facebook page, and tagged us as being in Chicago.

Later that night I got a text from another old friend who happened to be in Chicago for the weekend. She’d been the photo that placed Will and I in Chicago, and because of Facebook we got to meet up for coffee in a city neither of us lived in.

I hardly ever use Facebook for my personal stuff—I actually have a Chrome extension that prevents my wall from loading so I’m not tempted to spend too much time scrolling through my feed. But I was very grateful that it made a fun reunion possible.

tieks on the tracks

3. I consistently have good conversations with strangers because of my shoes.

Some of my friends with curly hair say that they connect with fellow curly girls everywhere, and friends who own niche athletic equipment say strangers everywhere approach them to talk about their shoes, or their bike.

As for me, I consistently have good conversations with strangers because of my shoes. I’ve never been the one to initiate the conversation before, but I was at a professional event this month and spotted a woman wearing what I thought were taupe Tieks, which is a color I’ve been thinking about ordering to replace a busted pair (long story, will share at some point) but I really wanted to see them in person, and not on the internet.

So I asked her … and fifteen minutes later she’d told me all about her three book clubs, and I’d gotten her email address so she could be a guest on What Should I Read Next. Score one for the shoes.

4. Sparkling water on tap is a thing.

When we were in Chicago we went to two restaurants that had sparkling water on tap. For free! I had no idea this was a thing but I love it.

The first was Rick Bayless’s XOCO. The second was Goddess and the Baker, a little café near on Wabash near the Art Institute that a friend had recommended. First we went for lunch, but the breakfast menu looked so good that we decided to come back the next morning.

When I thanked my friend for the recommendation later, I confessed that we had gone twice. I felt a little silly about it—we were in a big city with countless offerings, after all. But she told me that she went twice when she was there earlier in the summer!

The Modern Mrs Darcy minimalist summer reading guide (and Summer Reading Book Club!)

5. Chris Cleave is writing a sequel to Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.

I absolutely loved this book: it was one of my top 5 picks for the summer, and the title we just finished reading together for the Summer Reading Club.

We’ve been having live webinars to discuss each Summer Reading Club pick, and for this book, the author joined us to talk about it live. Chris Cleave was incredible. But he really made everyone’s day when he casually mentioned that he was currently working on a sequel. I wasn’t sure if he was joking at first (dry British humor and all that), but he was completely serious, and even though we’ll probably have to wait a few years—it took him 3 1/2 years to write Everyone Brave—it’s on the way.

6. Danielle Steel is the fourth bestselling author of all time.

In last week’s episode of What Should I Read Next, I interviewed Adam Verner, who literally reads for a living. He’s a professional audiobook narrator, and he gave us a fascinating peek behind the scenes of the industry.

During our conversation he mentioned that he was currently reading his first Danielle Steel novel, because he’d been cast to narrate her next new release, slated for the fall. I wasn’t sure how a man who spent his free time reading serious literary fiction would feel about reading a romance novel, but he said he was excited, specifically because she’s the fourth bestselling author of all time.

I had no idea, and later plunged down the rabbit hole of bestselling authors, series, and titles. (Because I know you’re wondering: the top three bestsellers are William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, and Barbara Cartland.)

7. It is a crazy small world. 

Adam and I talked a little off the record before I interviewed in for the podcast. Long story short: his wife and my husband were resident assistants at the same school, in the same dorm, fifteen years ago.


What did YOU learn in July?


Leave A Comment
  1. Krista says:

    I learned how to make cold brew coffee! My life is changed. I now have a pitcher of decaf and regular in my refrigerator at all times.

    I also learned that we need to have a smaller vegetable garden next year and that letting your chickens go broody and hatch eggs isn’t worth the hassle. Lots of cuteness involved, but so not worth the extra work!

  2. Annette says:

    If you have enough sun, plant zinnias. Hummingbirds (and butterflies) are crazy about my zinnias. And an added bonus is zinnias make colorful and long-lasting bouquets.

  3. Emily DeArdo says:

    Chris Cleave is amazingly nice. I met him a few years ago when he came to town on his Gold book tour, and I just adored him. I was so glad he was as nice in person as he seemed to be from his books!

  4. Katia says:

    We used to have a hummingbird feeder and while sitting in a shaded spot in my backyard on sultry summer afternoons, I would sometimes spot the gorgeous visitors. I’m actually wearing a silver and amber hummingbird necklace as I type this, as they are my favourite birds.

    Anne, I’m curious about that Chrome extension that blocks your Facebook wall from loading. Would you please share with us how to go about implementing this feature?

  5. Kendra says:

    I consistently have conversations with strangers about my Tieks and about my toddler’s Freshly Picked moccasins. I justify the price tag by considering the expense an investment in my future relationships!

  6. Laura says:

    Hubbs and I are hummingbird enthusiasts, have been for many years. We plant hummingbird-attracting flowering plants, and hang multiple feeders. Seems like between 3-5 feeders is about right for us. One year we had so many birds we could not begin to count them! Love this time of year when we begin to get them and can sit outside in the evenings and enjoy their little battles.

  7. Kristen says:

    This is old news to you (because I learned it from your blog), but I just learned about saving on Audible books by purchasing them when I purchase Kindle books on sale. (e.g. I got the Persuasion narration for $0.48!) I stocked my Audible library with enough books to last a couple of years. Thank you so much for your tips, and for the daily Kindle deals.

  8. Aya says:

    I read Everyone Brave Is Forgiven based on your recommendation and it just blew me away, made my summer! I’m so excited to hear there will be a sequel, thanks for sharing!

  9. Melinda says:

    I learned about your blog and podcast in July and am so thankful to know about both! And to get your daily Kindle deal emails! Without the Kindle email, I would never have read Sleeping Giants. I figured I couldn’t go wrong at the special price even if I didn’t like or finish the book. But, I absolutely loved it! My wish list for the books I want to read has mushroomed this month. Thanks, Anne! You and your podcast now go to walk with me on Wednesday mornings. They are a highlight of my walk!

  10. Heather says:

    Good to see that my family is on trend with having sparkling water on tap! My two young boys love it and because my husband home brews and has four taps set-up in the house he dedicates one to sparkling water (well, at least when he has an extra tap available 🙂 ). I also had no idea who Barbara Cartland is, so I Googled her and now I learned another new thing in July!

  11. Kari Ann says:

    I just fell down the rabbit hole myself to learn more about Barbara Cartland. I’d never heard of her. She wrote 753 books. WHAT?!?!?!? She holds the Guinness World Records for the most novels published in a single year in 1976.

  12. Erin in CA says:

    I had to laugh because I’ve had the opposite FB experience — someone else (like one of my brothers) tags me as being, say, in my hometown, and then I get messages from acquaintances saying, “how come you didn’t let me know you’d be here??” And then I’m left feeling guilty but still without enough time/energy to see more people. Glad that it worked out differently for you!

  13. Brenda says:

    We have a lot of hummingbirds in our California Central Valley yard. We do have a feeder (and neighbors have multiple feeders), and I have planted many (as in dozens) of plants that hummingbirds (and bees!) love. Hummingbirds are indigenous to North and South America, and they often do not like flowers that originated in Eurasia or Africa, so it’s good to go to a site or source that lists flowers that are known hummingbird attractants. Most of what I grow here in CA, won’t do well in Kentucky (I lived in Lexington for 6 years), so I don’t feel I can make specific recommendations of flowers for you. But good luck!

    What I learned in July is that even as an introvert, I with my husband (super extrovert) can host two dinner parties in one week and not only survive but have a good time. I can’t do that every week, but I learned I have a lot more social stamina than I thought (we also attended a barbecue at another’s house that week and met friends from out of town for dinner).

  14. Maria D. says:

    I second the zinnias and the butterfly bush for attracting hummingbirds. I re-learned just how badly I hate the super hot muggy summers of the city I live in (tried to do things outside but it was just no fun at all!).

  15. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    I love that Facebook led to an unexpected, but pleasant met-up! There is some benefit to the madness!
    Shoes as the beginning of conversations is great! Can’t wait to hear her on WSIRN.
    As usual, your post brightened my day!

  16. Margie says:

    Best part of the podcast with Adam was the “Tell me it’s a nice day” part. I think you should make that a standard part of each episode, regardless of if they are a professional actor or not. I hit the 15-second-back button about four times before continuing on.

  17. Has anyone read both Little Bee and Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave? I was not a fan of Little Bee, so I’m wary about Everyone Brave. I keep hearing rave reviews, but am worried I’ll be let down since I didn’t enjoy his other book…

    • Casey says:

      I HATED Little Bee so would also be interested in the similarities and differences before I decide whether I want to read Everyone Brave.

        • anne marie says:

          I read both. Little Bee was tough – such disturbing images. Everyone Brave is very different. I didn’t love it as others did, but I can say that they are not alike in content at all.

          • Casey says:

            I expected the difficult imagery and at least some of the violence. I think my biggest objection was that I thoroughly disliked the English characters. I didn’t want to inhabit their lives for even one more minute by the end. And I thought it was maybe a bit more preachy than I prefer. I get that Western presence in Third World economies can be problematic, but I heard criticism that his portrayal was over the top. Since I don’t have first hand knowledge to verify the truth, I kept wondering if I was being manipulated.

      • Anne says:

        I have heard that Little Bee is a tough read, which is why I haven’t read it yet. But after hearing him talk about his work, I’m ready to try it. I think.

  18. Corby says:

    I learned
    1. when it’s so hot, it’s so hard for me to read. Hopefully cooler temperatures soon so I can tackle that reading list.
    2. garage doors have logic boards that burn out. Waiting to get that fixed and getting my daily workout opening and closing the garage the old fashioned way.
    3. My dad and I can’t take a selfie very well but we do enjoy a steak dinner together. He’s 81 and still goes to the gym everyday

  19. Casey says:

    My husband got us a cheapie Amazon hummingbird feeder this month too! He hung a bunch of red things nearby to attract them – ribbons and an old T-shirt, plus he set our fake Christmas poinsettias outside too. We get several birds a day! He initially brought our fake bobblehead owl inside, but had to put it back out when a woodpecker showed up in our backyard. The hummingbird activity did slow for a couple of days, then picked back up. No woodpeckers have returned, so it seems hummingbirds are smarter than woodpeckers!

  20. Marci says:

    Not quite as good as “on tap”, but we use our soda stream only to make sparkling water. So much cheaper than buying cans or bottles!

  21. I haven’t read all the comments so I may be repeating some hummingbird tips. When I was buying flowers in the spring, I noticed on the little tag it mentioned if hummingbirds are attracted to it. They like trumpet shapes, for one. I see them in my lilies, zinnias and petunia. Please don’t use red food coloring in the water. They don’t need it and it’s not good for them. I make my own nectar with 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. I live in Ohio (moved here last year from AZ) and I noticed the mix looks cloudy after a few days. I think this might be from the humidity, so I’m not filling them full. Be sure to wash well between refilling. I just use hot hot water and every so often a little white vinegar. If you have the right mix of nectar, refill when necessary, have flowers if possible and have feeders each season, they will return, have their babies in your area and keep returning. Enjoy those amazing birds! Oh, and beware if you have a flowery blouse on or a brightly colored one. They will come right at you!

    • Mary Jane McNeill says:

      I agree with you, Barbara. No need to buy nectar. I’ve been making my own for 20 years. And I recommend multiple feeders around the yard. We have one on all four sides of our house and will see them fly OVER the house to get to the other feeder. So fun to see them fighting around the feeders!

  22. Denise says:

    Definitely heading to Goddess and the Baker! ( BTW, We looked it up and it’s actually on Wabash.) We appreciate the many times you’ve let us to know about great places, books, and other things!

  23. I agree with you Anne that it’s crazy how often a stranger will start a conversion with me over my Tieks… I love meeting new people so it’s a plus for me! When my son hears the phrase “patent leather” or “so comfortable” he knows that I will be stopping for a few minutes to talk! 🙂 I have sold so many pairs of Tieks that I just wish I made a commission!!!

  24. Deb Thom says:

    Tubular flowers, trumpet vine, morning glories, day lilies, columbine. They like color red, salvias for example.
    Enjoy your blog.

  25. karen says:

    I learned that dogsitting someone else’s dog is exhausting! 🙂
    Am I the only person who hated “Everyone Brave is Forgiven”? I couldn’t even finish it. I finally skipped to the end and felt that nothing was “redeemed” and put it down. It’s just very interesting how personal books are!

    I LOVE WSIRN and my TBR list has grown and stretched! THANKS!

  26. Jennifer N. says:

    I also learned how to make cold brew coffee and it has made these 90+ degree days so much more bearable. I found the recipe on your blog, so this is many thanks to you!

    I have also learned (figured out?) that one of my biggest goals for retirement is to actually be able to leave the library with all the books I want and finish them in a reasonable amount of time. I managed a trip to the library sans children, which never happens, so I actually got to browse for a bit. What a luxury and an exercise is self-control all in one!

  27. Sandra says:

    I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy and look forward to your blog posts. You are now my “go to” source to find books to read and I refer back to your posts on Stitch Fix from time to time for guidance. Thanks for all of the interesting information. I am currently reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and listening to The Heart Goes Last (a very bizarre story).

  28. Jacquie says:

    I actually just got my taupe tieks (random!) and I think you should go for it. I was needing a neutral and I am too fair for the chestnut color and the camel color seemed too yellow. The taupe looks great!

  29. Molly says:

    I downloaded a sample of Everyone Brave is Forgiven and read it this month. That book is now on my TBR list. This is one of those titles that keeps popping its head up in unexpected places like it is calling out to me. This month I learned that just because a book looks like fluff and sounds like fluff it may be a lot more substantive. I’m reading Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand.

  30. Pamela says:

    I learned that watching hummingbirds at the feeder right outside my bedroom window is a lot like watching tiny fairies sweep into my life, give a little wink, and put their drinking pipe into the little feeder hole provided and drink with abandon and gratefulness. I learned that these fairies know we’re watching, and they’ll hover close to the window and give a wave.

  31. Heidi says:

    1. I don’t need to use shampoo. Conditioner only works just fine. And it has nearly eliminated bad hair days!
    2. Swedish/Scandi lifestyle works for me. LAGOM (Not to little, not too much) by Niki Brantmark. I have been wearing a messy bun, shopping second-hand, riding my bike everywhere I can, and decorating my bedroom with a plant, candles… and decluttering! Next big project – a sauna in the backyard. Will have to convince my husband to go along with that first.
    3. I didn’t realize how much my husband Kyle did around the house. He broke his right (dominant hand) wrist just before father’s day. Piles of unfolded laundry, unwashed dishes grew to mountains.
    4. After years of being an agnostic, I might just be edging my way towards faith in something that I don’t fully understand. Re-reading the Tao of Pooh right now. I would love some recommendations for someone like me, raised a social Christian but for whom Christianity has never resonated or felt “true.” (please don’t hate me Christians! I don’t hate you, I’m just different than you. And no attempts at conversion please, nothing personal.)

    • Margie says:

      Have you read the Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama? I was surprised at how it wove faith, friendship and tolerance together. For transparency, I’m a practicing Lutheran, so I don’t subscribe to the particular faith of either of the authors, but still enjoyed the book.

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