Currently: quarantined and coping

So things have gotten a little bit weird in this world of ours. It’s scary and strange, and I hope dearly that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy in mind, body, and spirit. 

These days, COVID-19 concerns have us sheltering in place, and it’s all got an eerie dystopian feeling about it.

But our family is blessed with good health for our loved ones and ourselves, and I’m so grateful for that. And we’re fortunate to be able to work from home. And yet, there are worries and concerns, because this thing ain’t over yet. 

What are you doing that’s helping you through this?

For me, it’s…

  • Sheltering with the Dear Man and our goofy cat
  • Long conversations with my inner circle
  • Being able to work & having plenty of work to do
  • Running
  • Seeing so many people being their best selves — it does the heart good
  • Essential oils (the soothing blend and the allergy blend and sometimes the Christmas season blend)
  • The light therapy lamp
  • Evening walks through our neighborhood (greeting the neighbors as we skirt one another at a wide distance)
  • Reading comfort books before sleep (The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King — because really, how stressed out can a person be when reading about Mister Rogers? And also reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, which is so riveting that I understand why it showed up on so many people’s Best of 2019 lists)
  • Frequent planking (you can just throw yourself down on the floor and plank anytime you want to, when you’re working from home and wearing athleisure — and I gotta say, it helps with stress)

  • Sparkle lights
  • Daily counting of blessings

How are you coping with this new situation? And please let me know: are you and your family safe and well?

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?

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!

Currently: early summer

Summer’s finally happened, and it’s sometimes even sunny. So I’ve been running outdoors and admiring the Dear Man’s fine caretaking of our lawn and landscaping. It’s good, my friends.

Here’s what else is going on around here…

Reading | Lately the book I’ve been reading past my bedtime is The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. I don’t want to put it down. Yes: mildly obsessed with the ideas in this book — how to be a better host and how to hold more meaningful gatherings. We’ll see how I do in real life. Stay tuned.

Listening | Around the house, I’ve been listening to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Thought-provoking stuff. And in the car: Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts. Inspiring and uplifting. And she reads it herself.

Watching | We checked out the Ken Burns Lewis & Clark documentary from the library because we ain’t got no cable. And, in related news, we just canceled our Netflix subscription due to lack of use. We’re a readerly household, y’all. Anyway… Lewis & Clark: fascinating. I admit I didn’t know Sacajawea was a teenager or that she carried her baby with her on the entire journey. Also: there was a Newfoundland with them. That these are my favorite aspects makes me feel a little bit human-interest-y, but there it is.

Learning | After our recent trip to Pennsylvania and Ohio during that cold spell, I vowed never to be cold when traveling again.


So we’re putting together an all-season travel kit that’ll stay in the car — filled with extra layers, long underwear, stocking caps, mittens, hand warmers, raincoats, sun hats, sunscreen, umbrellas, and other stuff so we’re never caught unprepared again. Sometimes you just need to be ready to hike to see waterfalls, and that’s no fun if your hands are freezing.

Working on | Styling the kitchen shelves. I haven’t been pleased with the look of them yet, and now they’re getting my serious attention. Stay tuned.

Loving | The new ladder. We’ve been on a quest for the perfect barrel and the perfect ladder. And now only our barrel quest remains. Thank you, flea market!

Anticipating | Looking forward to our next canoe trip…

What’re you excited about this spring-into-summer season?

Currently: faked out by spring

It’s an erratic springtime in the Midwest — what a shocker! Last week I ran outdoors in a jacket, thermal leggings, stocking cap, and mittens one day–and a short-sleeved shirt and capris four days later. Now it’s back to mitten weather, and my mood is foul. (Actually, my mood is fine. I’m snuggled indoors, wearing long underwear and having hygge thoughts.)

Reading | I’m working my way through Middlemarch and enjoying it more the further I read. I also found a mystery I’m liking — the first in a while. S.C Perkins’ Murder Once Removed has a genealogy-based premise, and I’m always a sucker for that. And yesterday my hold for Robert Caro’s Working came in, and I was shivering with delight while reading the first few pages. Then I had to read a sentence out loud to the Dear Man cuz it just was that good.

Listening | Our good Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm mentioned Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch as a good companion to reading George Eliot, so I checked out the audiobook and am feeling very cultured and calm as I listen.

Watching | A wonderful colleague, who knows of my space obsession, alerted me to the documentary Apollo 11. So the Dear Man and I got tickets and saw the IMAX version and it was beyond remarkable. Here’s some stuff about it…

NYT opinion piece about Neil Armstrong

The trailer…

Learning  | We’ve been delving into our schoolhouse’s history, and I’m deep into the local scene in 1906, when the school was being built. Picture me at the microfilm reader… Picture me there for many cumulative hours…

Loving | The white mocha and almond latte at our local coffee house

Anticipating | Spice containers and electrical outlets are on the horizon, and I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. I’ll be able to use the treadmill in the basement, where I’ll have a very fine view out the windows. And our TV will become operational. And the spice containers… I’ll be talking about those later, I believe. There’s gonna be some miraculous before and after action.

Celebrating | We’ve been in our new home for just over 6 months, and it keeps getting better. (See: spice containers and electrical outlets, above)

What’s going on in your world during this wild ride of a springtime (or whatever this is)?

Currently: polar vortex & all that snow

Reading | I just finished reading Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and I can’t get over it. I’m sad I finished it, I’m sad I’ll never get to read it again for the first time, and I’m sad that she’s no longer living. Her love for life springs off the pages and infects the reader, and I was overjoyed by her words and then so sad there won’t be more of them.

Reading online | When I saw this post by Carson Tate, I immediately rearranged my weekend. By which I mean, I cancelled half the things on my to-do list and gave myself some margin and some time to just be. While she says “Balance does not exist,” she also offers alternative ways to view the situation, and I really like that.

Listening | In my car, The World’s Greatest Love Story by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman has been keeping me entertained during my brief spurts of driving. The audiobook version is fabulous — two actors reading their own material is gold. And it’s more like listening to a really great podcast, cuz often it’s like they’re having a conversation.

Watching | We’ve been watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and finding it delightful. Although the Dear Man isn’t a KonMari devotee like I am (though he is a declutterer by nature), we find plenty to discuss during and after each episode. Who knew decluttering could be so entertaining?  

Learning | We’re delving deep into the history of our schoolhouse and are so grateful to our local historical museum for the great research assistance they provided. Is it true that I burst into applause when we saw a photo of first graders in the 1910s standing alongside our schoolhouse with their teacher? Yes, that is true.

Loving | The kitchen rug: it’s new, it’s pretty, and the cat even likes it. (She popped up and out of frame after lounging there near the heat vent.)

Cooking | During the polar vortex, we made soup in the Instant Pot and I baked these cookies. When it hits -25, soup and cookies: pretty much mandatory.

Pizza eating | Here are our recent discoveries… Aliano’s Express Chicago style pizza and Aurelio’s thin crust. So good.

Celebrating | During the recent snowstorms, we conquered the snowblower and liked it.

So, are you too experiencing deep winter? How’re you making it bearable?

Currently: holiday cozy

We’re approaching year-end, and things are busy and pretty darn good. Here’s what’s been happening at the Unruly household…

Reading | The last few months, the reading’s been splendid. I whizzed through The Library Book by Susan Orlean and kept reading passages aloud to the Dear Man because Orlean so perfectly captured aspects of library life and the dedication of librarians to their work.

And I’ve been devouring books about food and cooking. Current obsession: My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl.

Listening | On my 3-minute commute and occasional trip to the grocery store, I inched my way through the audiobook Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willick and Leif Babin (which they read themselves, and dude, they sound scary.) And just started listening to Transcription by Kate Atkinson, which is making me happy to be driving.

Watching | The Dear Man and I are completely hooked on Samuel and Audrey’s travel and food YouTube videos. YSam’s even a Cubs fan, and if we ever encounter them on a sidewalk in Prague, they’re gonna be freaked out because we’ll be acting like we know them.

Learning | We’re doing seasonal decorating here at the new old house, and it seriously takes two to do this kind of thing. I’ve got no decorating game whatsoever, so my tactic is to look up stuff on Instagram and Pinterest, then show pictures of stuff I like to the Dear Man, who has an artist’s/designer’s eye and can make suggestions about our space. Then we wander through the flea market and boutiques and craft stores and we figure out which pieces will work. It’s all a little bit bumbling, but it’s fun to work on it together and learn what we can do.

Island Christmas

Organizing |  After several false starts, we finished organizing the closet, which is such a relief and delight. We had to buy shelves, which had to be custom cut, and then right in the middle of the project, the store discontinued the shelves we were using. But: we got it done!

Yes. It is a thing of beauty, this closet. 

Eating | It’s the holiday season, and we’re surrounded by treats!

Definition of a happy holiday: My friend made this bowl. 
My man filled it with treats for us.

Loving | Our new house. I love our new house.

Anticipating | We’ll be spending time with both sides of the family this holiday season, and that means laughing. Can’t wait!

This one says, “Happy holidays.”

What’re you looking forward to this season?

Currently: New House Edition

Hello, house!

We’re getting settled in our new home, and every day there’s so much progress and so much stuff added to the to-do list. But it’s all good stuff, and we’re getting through it swimmingly. The Dear Man makes everything better, even the endless rounds of garage door opener programming.

And today I’m sitting at the kitchen island with coffee in the special mug he gave me, and everything feels just right.


Here’s what else is cookin’ at the new Unruly Residence…


Reading | My reading life is disrupted all to heck because of the move. And I’m not complaining. Despite the flurry of activity, I finished re-reading Larry Watson’s masterpiece, Montana 1948, for a book discussion, and it was even more powerful than I’d remembered. And I finished Nomadland by Jessica Bruder for another book discussion just before the move. It was an unsettling thing to read while in transition, because it’s all about people who are displaced and migrant due to economic forces. Heck, it’d be unsettling anytime.


Listening | Since my commute has been reduced 95% (from 45 minutes to 2 [this is the part where I’m too excited even to flap; all I can do is get bug-eyed with wonder]), my audiobook listening boom time has come to a close. I’ll still always have an audiobook in the car, but it’ll be much slower going. And that’s a minuscule price to pay for those free hours I’m gaining as a non-commuter. During the move, I listened to Matthew Quick’s The Reason You’re Alive, which is magnificent on audio. If you like curmudgeonly narrators, give it a whirl.


Watching | Yeah, so the TV isn’t set up yet, so we’ve been watching exactly nothing. Except the occasional new homeowner YouTube how-to video on how to set up the garage door opener and thrilling new things like that.


Learning | I watched two YouTube videos about flower arranging, went to Trader Joe’s (right in the midst of our move), bought some hydrangeas, and I arranged those puppies! 


Loving | Our cat. She made the move and transitioned from Outdoor/Indoor to Indoor Only — all without a peep. We already knew she was the best in the world, but she’s seriously outdone herself. She’s one cool, calm, and collected cat.



Anticipating | One fine day, our house will be box-free and we will begin normal life. Until then, we’ll be unpacking and unpacking and unpacking… Seriously, people: Before the move, I KonMari’d twice.  I have no idea where all this stuff came from.

Celebrating | Every morning, waking up in the new place and looking through these huge windows… it’s one of life’s happiest miracles.


My fellow readers… what’s rocking your world this September?

Currently: summer’s heating up

It’s mid-summer, and things are busy in the very best way.

Reading (books) | It’s summer, and of course that means reading about cannibalism. My book club’s chosen The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown as our next book, so it’s getting fascinating and darn grim. Not perfect for before-bedtime reading.

Listening | The excellent Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm sent me the audiobook of Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard, and I’m completely engrossed.

Watching | I’m re-watching 30 Rock, which I first watched what feels like a lifetime ago.

Learning | After beginning to read Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam, I watched her TED Talk about time management, and it opened up my brain in a new way.

Loving | I’ve been deep-purging my house, and it feels amazing to see space opening up. The question is: Can I sustain the openness, or will I fall back into gathering mode? Stay tuned…

Indulging | Oh, my land. During a recent trip to Toledo, we ate Hungarian style hot dogs. Life-changing.


They even cater to vegetarians!


Celebrating | After some recent dietary restrictions, I’m easing back into normal food. And in our world, that means pizza.

The Dear Man and Pizza #112


Anticipating | We’re planning our next long weekend, and it’s gonna be super geeky and amazing cuz that’s our superpower.


What’s your summer looking like?