Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Things I Learned in June and July

I learned all kinds of interesting things this summer--today I'm linking up with Chatting at the Sky to share my random tidbits :)

1. Pink lemons actually exist. 
I always assumed that "pink lemonade" was colored either by berries (berry lemonade has been a love of mine ever since the late 1990s...Snapple broke my heart when they discontinued the flavor) or by good old Red 40. But it turns out, lemons come in pink varieties! As usual, it was Smitten Kitchen who opened my eyes to this surprising delight.

2. Alcoholics Anonymous isn't evidence-based treatment.
Until I read this eye-opening article in The Atlantic, I took for granted the common teaching about addiction: the only way to be free is to quit cold-turkey and never, ever have a sip of alcohol again. As it turns out, more than a few mental health experts are questioning the prevailing wisdom. Studies don't really support the dogmatic assertions of AA, and many care providers have found other methods to be more effective for helping alcoholics turn their lives around. 

3. An "array" can refer to an orderly arrangement in rows and columns. 
It isn't often that my husband schools me on vocabulary words :) This one came up at dinner one night when discussing the boys' latest memory verse. We've spent the summer learning Revelation 19:11-16 and 21:1-6, and have worked out a system that seems helpful for our family: I practice the memory work with the boys at breakfast, and then at dinner, they tell Daddy what they worked on, and he helps them understand what it means. One night we were discussing Revelation 19:14: "And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses." I had assumed it was referring to the armies' being "dressed" in fine linen, with "arrayed" used as a synonym for "dressed." But Steve saw the word "arrayed" near the word "armies" and immediately thought of the term "array" as "an arrangement in rows and columns." In context, I think it's probably the former definition, but I learned something new, since I had no idea the word "array" indicated such a specific arrangement.

4. Alfredo is the Italian equivalent of buttered toast or saltine crackers.
Alfredo sauce won't be found on a menu in Italy, except at restaurants that cater to naive tourists.
According to this article I stumbled across, you won't find "fettuccine alfredo" on a menu in Italy any more than you'd find "saltine crackers and ginger ale" or "buttered toast" on a menu in the U.S. Because that's essentially what pasta alfredo is to the Italians: an incredibly basic food that your mother might make when you have an upset stomach, but not something you'd ever order in a restaurant. The Italian version, called "pasta al burro" (pasta with butter) or "pasta in bianco" (white pasta), is plain pasta with some butter and Parmesan to dress it up just a little. It has since been Americanized, with copious amounts of heavy cream, but it is not an authentic Italian dish. Neither, for that matter, is spaghetti and meatballs (Italians eat both, but not in the same course, much less mixed together in the same dish).

5. Duolingo is a fun, addictive (and free!) app for learning a new language. 
Speaking of Italy...! I admit this method of language-learning is way outside my ordered, linear-thinking box (I keep wanting a list of verb conjugations, or wanting to ask WHY you use this word and not the other), but I suspect in some ways it's more effective. At any rate, I'm having fun trying to learn enough Italian to get by! And it's not even one of those "free" apps that tries at every turn to get you to purchase extras. Just fun and game-like. I've actually thought about getting Elijah started with Spanish, since it's supposedly so much easier for kids to learn new languages. FYI, there's also a web-based version, so you don't have to have a smartphone to try it out.

6. A horrifying number of Africans were enslaved and brought to the Americas during the 16th-19th centuries, though most did not end up in the United States.
During the slave trade from the 1500s-1800s, more than 10 million Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere, but fewer than 4 percent came to North America. Most went to the Caribbean and Brazil. This animated map provides a stunning picture of the way Africa was plundered.

7. Growing peaches is a fascinating combination of science and art. 
We've been buying big half-bushel boxes from The Peach Truck every summer for the last few years. I also follow their gorgeous Instagram account (and the story of how they got started is charming). Earlier this summer they shared an interview with the owner of Pearson Farm, where the peaches come from, and it was full of interesting information about how the fruit is grown. The farm is in Fort Valley, Georgia, where about 95% of Georgia peaches are produced. They prune the trees "to look like a hand, palm up, holding a softball." And after the trees blossom and begin producing 2500-3000 peaches each, pruners return in April to thin the fruit to about 500 peaches per tree. For the record, their results speak for themselves. We eat our weight in Pearson peaches during the few weeks they are available!

8. The peregrine falcon is the world's fastest animal. 
It's not the cheetah, as you might expect. Peregrine falcons are far faster, achieving dive speeds over 200MPH. Though, to be fair, they're going that fast in a freefall, not by flapping their wings or sprinting. But then again, as Steve pointed out, if you can freefall that quickly and yet be in control and not kill yourself, it's still pretty impressive. The boys and I learned about peregrine falcons and several other birds at this year's animal show at the library.

9. Rit color remover can save a ruined white sweater. 
A couple of months ago, my white cardigan somehow ended up with large, bright green ink spots on it. I tried all the usual remedies (hairspray, straight rubbing alcohol, OxiClean) all to no avail--the ink faded to a light blue, but the sweater was still ruined. I was about to try bleach as a last resort, or if that failed, just dye the sweater black. But then I found Rit color remover at JoAnn. And (for less than $2!) it worked! My beloved sweater was rescued and looks good as new.

What have you learned this summer?

1 comment:

Linda said...

Fascinating post, thank you so much for sharing!