The Short List: August

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Smashing pennies

Smashing pennies on the railroad tracks is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do with the kids since I first came across it in 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). My friend, Lisa, did it with her boys for The Risky Kids. We have railroad tracks near our house, but it’s only active once a year when the State Fair Train makes several trips back and forth from our town to the Fairgrounds. Our neighbors have a tradition of smashing pennies every year on the very last day of the fair, and this year they invited us to join them. Eli was amazed at what the power of a train can do to a penny. What a simple childhood pleasure!

While soaking up the last days of summer, here are a few other things that I’ve enjoyed:


Hard Knocks is back! It really is one of my favorite shows of all time, and sadly it’s here and gone before I know it. This season the spotlight is on the Houston Texans. If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s this: we could all use a little more J.J. Watt in our lives. Unless we’re playing against him, of course.

Our other favorite program to watch is Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Every week, without fail, I learn something I never knew about world affairs, while simultaneously busting a gut laughing. The language makes it inappropriate for kids, but every once in a while we’ll come across a segment that is so eye-opening or entertaining that we’ll save it for Elena to watch (the segments on school testing and U.S. territories are two recent ones that we watched with her).


Despite the controversy, I plan on reading Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman when I can get my hands on a copy. In the meantime, I just finished Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door. For months, Mills lived next door to Harper Lee and her sister, Alice. During that time, the fiercely private Lees opened up to Mills, allowing insight into their lives that has never been documented before. It helped me to understand why Lee retreated from the spotlight after the success of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a fascinating read.

I need a new non-fiction read. It will be hard to follow up on my last non-fiction selection, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. It’s a fascinating look at a part of our culture that didn’t exist 10 years ago. I highly recommend it to anyone who spends any part of their life on social media.

As of now, I’m listening to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I just started it the other day, so I can’t really tell what I think of it yet. The other books taking up space on my nightstand right now are Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (available September 1)  and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Eli and I are still making our way through Wildwood.


We had our neighborhood block party a couple of weekends ago, and some evil person brought a bag of pickle-flavored popcorn from Trader Joe’s. Evil, I tell you! I would probably eat pickled shoe leather, so maybe I’m not the best judge, but I loved it so much and I made a special trip to TJ’s to buy my own bag.


I’m awful at getting pictures framed … almost as awful as I am about giving good gifts. Pictli is a godsend for people like me. Pictli takes pictures from your Facebook, Instagram or hard drive, places it in a frame of your choosing, and then mails it beautifully wrapped to your recipient. You can do it from your computer or your phone, and the price is fantastic – no more than you’d spend driving around, printing out photos, picking out frames, and shipping them from the post office. I had this lovely photo framed for Mike for Father’s Day. Pictli is offering Just Like The Number readers a discount code to give them a try. Just use code AS1507 for 20% off now through September 30, 2015!

Pictli gift wrap


Sarah Bessey’s essay, Somewheres, caught me off-guard with how much it spoke to me. Is there a space between sharing every little detail of your life and keeping other things completely off limits? I’m blessed to have a handful of Somewheres in my life. I hope you do, too.

Is Marie Kondo’s book coming up in countless conversations in your life, too? I swear, she’s everywhere! I Kon-Mari’d my closet last spring, and while I wouldn’t call it life-changing, it was freeing. I’m bookmarking this post on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up for Kids from Modern Mrs. Darcy for when I tackle the kids’ closets this fall.

Does just the thought of poison ivy set you off in a panic? When I get it, I get it bad, and I’m absolutely miserable. I’m going to use Design Mom’s trick to stop poison oak and poison ivy the next time I’m raking leaves or doing yard work.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?

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  1. Sacha (@zigged) says:

    I would like to suggest ‘The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food’ as your next nonfiction choice. I read it earlier this year and really enjoyed it. If you’d like to get a small taste of it, listen to and/or watch ‘The Search for General Tso’ on Netflix; both are interesting but neither captured my interest like the book did.