Currently in the thick of things

People, things are busy! I know this is no surprise to any of us, because who doesn’t feel that way? But some months just take it to the next level.

That said, I’m not complaining.

Here’s a bit of the good stuff happening here, much of which is distracting me away from reading and blogging…

Meeting | …our new nephew pup! Last weekend was devoted to family and dogs, and we’re besotted with the new little guy and his big brother.

Listening | …to the spectacular podcast The Happiness Lab. I keep talking about it. All the time.

Reading | Citizen Reader’s fantastic new book Bingeworthy British Television. I keep picking it up, intending to read about only one or two TV shows. And then I’ve spent 20 minutes downing bunches of them. Warning: addictive properties.

Waiting | …for our cat to warm up to her fancy new bed. It’s the cutest thing ever, and she’s just not into it. Literally.

I’ve been attempting to entice her, using her favorite toy (Christmas gift from her auntie), and she’s approached only to rescue unicorn from the perils of the cozy bed.

So, good people… anyone else engaged in a gentle battle of wills with a feline? What’s cooking in your life this October?

Books I can’t wait to read: fall 2019

Excited about the weeks and months ahead, because look at this hold list… So many great books I’m anticipating…


  • Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
  • The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Feret-Fleury
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
  • Indistractable by Nir Eyal
  • Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg


What books are on your library holds list this fall?

Love Where You Live: Next Level

When I first read This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick, I tested out some of the recommendations in the book and found that they boosted my happiness with my home.


Now, in our first year in our new home, we’ve taken it to the next level. I re-read the book and marked so many pages, and we took some serious action. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far…


We’ve walked to the farmers market several times and bought fresh produce (corn grown 20 miles from our home!) and flowers



We walked to a great restaurant downtown (1 mile away) and ate on their patio on a beautiful late summer evening

We’re exploring all the local pizza places



We’ve attended lectures with friends at a large local venue



I greet everyone I see on the running path (and sometimes we recognize each other)


We’ve taken family and friends for walks along the riverwalk in our town


We researched the history of our house


We bought vintage and handcrafted home goods from a wonderful local boutique

  • I’ve walked to work 
  • We’ve gone to several local craft markets
  • We stroll our historic neighborhood
  • We’ve explored the cemetery nearest to our house and found the names of old local families
  • We’ve visited the local history museum 
  • We stop and chat with neighbors 
  • We strolled around downtown during Second Fridays — when local businesses are open late 
  • We bought locally roasted coffee
  • We bought and are reading books about our city’s history

All of these things have deepened our connection to our new town. It’s truly a boost to happiness, to the point that sometimes I just hum with joy.

As the Dear Man often says, with such warm fondness, “You love this town.” And I respond, “I love this town.” And then we smile. It’s like a civic commercial without an audience.


I’m grateful to Melody Warnick for providing such a fine road map to “love where you live” happiness.

What activities make you love the place you live?

Currently… falling into fall

It’s fall, and it’s lovely (even when it’s thunderstorming), and this has been a season of great happiness. Prepare for multiple mentions of my becoming verklempt… 


Reading  |  I’ve been in the midst of an extremely satisfying fiction spree lately: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Such wonderful stories to sink into…

Listening   |  A friend alerted me to the 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast, and I fell for it hard. It focuses on the 13 minutes before the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the host interviews astronauts and flight controllers who were part of the radio loop when it happened. By the final three episodes, when they play back the 13 minutes of radio chatter and you know the behind-the-scenes stories: so very verklempt.

Watching   |  My Dear SIL and I are Downton Abbey superfans, so we went to see the recently-released movie, Downton Abbey. Just like the TV show, the movie was gorgeous and dramatic and super soap-y, and we loved it. 

Working on  |   This year we upped our game in the fall decor arena.  Here’s the kitchen island…

Loving  |   I’m wild about molasses cookies, and I’ve embarked on a quest to find The Best Molasses Cookie Recipe in the World. Two recipes down, with a clear frontrunner. If you have a stellar recipe, I’m gonna need for you to send it to me. (Please.) 

Anticipating  |   My sister’s family added a baby St. Bernard to their menagerie, and we get to meet him soon! I keep shivering with joy. Also: walking around the house laugh-crying as the first photos arrived, showing him with my niece and nephew. My heart can barely take it.  



Celebrating  |  One year in our new house!

What’s going on in your world this fall?

Favorite coffee | National Coffee Day


Today’s National Coffee Day, and I don’t know about you, but I’m celebrating. 


Here are some of my coffee favorites…

Favorite national chain: Dunkin'

That time someone Random Acted me & paid for my coffee in the drive-thru


For perfect coffee every single time, I love Dunkin’. Their prices are decent, they have a great app, and you can earn points for free coffee. So much to love.

Favorite coffee beans (grocery store)

I’m all about brewing my own coffee at home because frugal.

Here are my favorite go-to brands:

  • Trader Joe’s — Columbia Supremo
  • Cameron’s — Organic Woods & Water

Favorite coffee beans (local source)

We live in an area of coffee greatness. Some local area favorites:

  • Gun Barrel Coffee — Hooah
  • PapaNicholas — Restaurant Blend

My fellow coffee drinkers… tell me your favorites!

What I’ve been reading: September 2019


Woohoo, it’s fall! We’ve pulled out the fall jackets, there are pumpkins adorning the house, and it’s getting pretty cozy around here.


This month’s reading stood out in some interesting ways: 

  • Personal finance reading (because I love it)
  • Rediscovering why some books get on my nerves (Malcolm Gladwell, I’m looking at you; and WWII historical fiction, I think we need a break)
  • A fantastic debut novel that I didn’t want to put down (The Most Fun We Ever Had is one of the best books I’ve read this year)


Here’s what my September reading life looked like…

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

3 words: creative, riveting, classic

Give this book a whirl if you like… old-fashioned mysteries with a modern twist, first-person narratives from the Watson perspective, British mysteries, outsider’s perspective on crime-solving, layered stories, author as a characters in a novel

Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way by Tanja Hester

3 words: inspiring, practical, honest

Give this book a whirl if you like… Your Money or Your Life, planning for the freedom of financial independence, a roadmap to having the option to work less or retire early

Keeping House: Creating Spaces for Sanctuary and Celebration by Emma Bloomfield

3 words: pretty, browseable, useful

Give this book a whirl if you like… decorating books you can dip into, helpful tips for making a home more comfortable

The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You by Robert L. Leahy

3 words: practical, encouraging, thoughtful

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning how to manage anxiety, practical steps to reduce worry

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

3 words: absorbing, suspenseful, twisty

Give this book a whirl if you like… WWII espionage, women spies, researching a mystery from the past, betrayal 

(Confession: I read it primarily because I absolutely love the cover art)

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick

3 words: personal, informative, domestic

Give this book a whirl if you like… practical tips for loving where you live, memoir/self-improvement books, author as a participant in the book’s activities

Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nauth

3 words: stark, dystopian, disturbing

Give this book a whirl if you like… dystopian novels, feminist fiction, graphic novel versions of novels

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

3 words: engaging, provocative, smooth

Give this book a whirl if you like… curious anecdotes, societal commentary, bite-sized pieces of information, readable writing

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

3 words: absorbing, character-focused, warm

Give this book a whirl if you like… big-hearted stories of family dysfunction, Chicagoland novels, sisterhood, parenting, stories of long and happy marriages


Anyone else read — or want to read — any of these? What were your favorites of September?

Banned Books Week: September 22-28


In honor of Banned Books Week this year, I’m reading a book that’s often been challenged — The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.


Actually, I’m reading the graphic novel version illustrated by Renee Nault (I’ve read the original novel twice already), in preparation for reading Atwood’s recently released sequel, The Testaments. (Did anyone else flip out with excitement when its pending publication announced?)


And I have to say, reading a book set in a dystopian society where women are prohibited from reading is:

a) Chilling as all heck

b) An ideal way to celebrate our freedom to read


To join me in celebrating our reading freedoms — and recognizing the perils that freedom faces — here are some Banned Books Week resources:


Which banned or challenged books are you reading this year? 

19 for 2019: 3rd quarter update on life goals

We’re barreling into the 3rd quarter of the year, my friends, and some of us have some serious work yet to do on our goals. At least, that’s the case here. But! There’s also been some decent progress. Here’s what’s happened since the previous 19 for 2019 update.

Accomplished since the previous update

Learn Instagram Stories

I watched some online instructional videos and then tested a few different Instagram Stories techniques. I’m still figuring it out, but so far I’ve posted some polls, a before & after sequence, and a quiz.

Spend some serious quality time with our sisters

My sister's pup
Newfoundland with our family

We spent a wonderful weekend hanging out with my sister and her family (and laughed so much), and we traveled with the Dear Man’s sister and her husband to Newfoundland. Quality time with quality humans, all of it.

Style our kitchen island seasonally

We upped our autumn game this year, so I can say with confidence: we’ve got all four seasons well in hand.

Write a series of blog posts

While I have a couple of other series in mind, I’ve already got one series well underway: Favorites (favorite books, favorite pizzas, favorite bookish shirts…)

Go on at least 3 history geek trips with the Dear Man

We’ve visited St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Mackinac Island — and dug into the history of each place.

Have dinner twice monthly with a good friend

Except for September (which was so weird, schedule-wise, for both of us), my friend and I have met for dinner twice monthly like clockwork. It’s one of my deepest sources of happiness.

Do at least 3 of the activities in This Is Where You Belong

OK, I gotta say: I’m rockin’ this one. Here are a mere 3 of the many activities I’ve done:

  • Walked to work & walked to a local restaurant
  • Walked to the farmers market and bought local produce (corn!)
  • Attended a lecture at a local venue

Maximize the use of our Instant Pot

We’re heading back into Instant Pot season, because soon it’ll be all about soup at our house. We’re both a couple of soup fiends, and throughout the chilly months, we’ll resume our soup-making ways.

The items that remain to be completed

  • Learn & use 12 new techniques on the blog
      • I’ve done 8 new things so far, so I’m on track… 
  • Find out if my vintage typewriter actually works… and if so, use it 
      • I’m weirdly blocked on this one, even though a friend helped me identify some sources of information. Gotta get a move on.
  • Actually go through all those boxes in the basement
      • There are maybe 8 of them; I’ve gone through 2. I’m promising myself this’ll be a cold weather project. I could crank through it in a weekend… but will I? 
  • Fix formatting on all blog posts
      • I’ve done this only piecemeal — when I’m linking to a previous post, I reformat it on the fly. I’m thinking this would require more time than I’m willing to give it. Stay tuned. 
  • Go on a field trip with a good friend 
      • We’ve put a date on the calendar, and we’ll be discussing what we’ll do that day.

So, anyone else as far behind as I am? Do you have goals for 2019 that you’ve met — or still wish to accomplish?

Newfoundland itinerary: 10 days in Newfoundland


Newfoundland completely blew us away with its natural beauty and the friendliness of the people.

We spent 10 days in Newfoundland in August, which was:

a) The longest vacation of my life

b) A short enough time that we had to make some tough choices


But our crackerjack team (the Dear Man, his Dear Sister, and her Dear Husband, and I)… we were  up to the challenge.



We prioritized:

  • Natural beauty, especially coastline

  • Whales

  • Puffins

  • Lighthouses

  • Hiking

  • History

Special shout-out to my Dear SIL for her expert scouting of B&Bs and restaurants. Stellar work there!

Here’s our 10-day Newfoundland itinerary… where every place listed is a place we’d highly recommend.

Day 1: Arrival in St. John’s

Signal Hill

Day 2: Day trip from St. John’s

Day 3: Day trip from St. John's

Day 4: Drive from St. John's to Bonavista

Day 5: Drive from Bonavista to Twillingate

Day 6: Drive from Twillingate to Rocky Harbour / Gros Morne National Park

Day 7: Gros Morne National Park

Day 8: Gros Morne National Park

Day 9: Drive from Rocky Harbour to L’anse Aux Meadows

Day 10: Drive from L’anse Aux Meadows to Gander

Day 11: Flight home

  • Returned rental car to Gander airport 
  • Flew home from Gander, with a layover in Toronto

Newfoundland is a stunningly beautiful, consistently friendly place — and we feel fortunate to have visited before it becomes the next It Destination (which seems inevitable, given its charms). 

Highly recommend.

If you’re considering a trip to Newfoundland and have any questions about our itinerary, I’d be glad to answer! Please just post your questions in the Comments.

Happy travels, all!