Currently… all that learning

As this winter promises to draw to a close one fine day, here’s what’s going on around here…

Reading | When packing for a weekend trip, I realized all of the books I’m reading as actual books (rather than audiobooks) are self-improvement nonfiction (or Alexander Hamilton by Chernow, a book that is my year-long companion). So… that was weird. I hopped up and grabbed a novel from my TBR pile, and I’m gonna give it a go. (The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick… will you be the book I seek?)

But really… my heart belongs to the self-improvement books:

  • Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life by David Allen
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  • Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay
  • AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen


Listening: Audiobooks| I just finished listening to LaRose by Louise Erdrich, which she beautifully narrates herself. And Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Ditto on the splendid author narration.


Listening: Podcasts | I’m newly hooked on the EntreLeadership podcast, because guess what? Self-improvement all over the place!


Watching | I’m fully hooked on The Crown, thanks to a well-placed recommendation by the Dear Man’s Dear Sister, who knows me well.


Learning | Oh, WordPress, you evil wonder! Our love/hate relationship rages on… The good news is I’m learning lots of things the hard way, which makes the lessons more memorable. (Remember that night I decided to repost some old blog posts and delete the previous versions because their formatting was messed up? And how I consequently lost all of the comments associated with those posts? That was the best!)

On the up side… I just finished my second Gale Courses class, Intermediate WordPress Websites, which has helped immeasurably. CSS… I’m coming for you! (Actually: CSS… occasionally I’ll inch close enough to do something tentative, while closing my eyes and crossing my fingers. But, hey: it’s something.)


Loving | My house is all clean and neat because Book Bloggers Reunion here at the Unruly Cottage. We’re laying bets on how long it lasts. The most optimistic view: 2 weeks. (I’m pretty sure that’s dead on. I’m already scattering books all over the place.)


Anticipating | We got tickets to see Hamilton! I was so excited I kept flapping.

The Bachelor GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And I keep thinking: in spite of all the trouble in the world… how lucky we are to be alive right now.


Celebrating | Our 60th pizza place! We hit Coalfire, currently ranked #1 by Chicago Magazine. And yes… it was life-changing. You’re looking at a Honey & Salami and a Spinach pizza (with pistachio pesto whipped ricotta). We’re standing firmly in the “specialty pizza” zone here.


So guys… what’s worth celebrating in your life these days?

Currently… winter

Winter! It’s for reals. So: cozying in. Here’s what’s been happening…


Reading | My most recent can’t-put-it-down book is On Writing by Stephen King. Even though I seriously don’t ever want to write a novel, this book provides fascinating advice and insight into the writing process.


Listening (iPhone) | I’ve been catching up on podcasts like you wouldn’t believe. HerMoney, What Should I Read Next, Presidential, TEDTalks, Q&A (from C-SPAN)…  All so good. And I’ve denied my instinct to download a new eAudiobook until I catch up on some of the podcast backlog, because it was weighing on me. Feels good, like I’m starting the new year with a clean slate of podcasts.

Listening (CD) | When I’m not spinning the Hamilton soundtrack (another wonderful Christmas gift), I’m listening to Lila by Marilynne Robinson and feeling all the feels.

Watching | I’ve gone off TV since all HGTV content has vanished from Netflix. (This discovery put me into a mild 24-hour funk. Then I got over it. But still… TV: dead to me.)

Learning  | My intermediate WordPress class just started, and my friends… I have miles to go before I sleep. I keep doing dumb things like failing to resize images, and then the Dear Man listens when I complain about my woes and suggests just the fix I need. So: this is all good.

Loving | We’ve become Culver’s converts. People: the frozen custard!!!


Anticipating | We have upcoming plans with good friends, and I can’t wait.

Celebrating | My ongoing ability to get rid of the objects that don’t bring joy. Things I’ve kept for years, thinking they mattered? Gone. Regrets? None. The KonMari technique works for me.

(Inspired by my own words, I just jumped up out of my chair and put into the Goodwill pile a sugar bowl I’ve never used. Not once. Ever.)


How are you celebrating the winter season?

Unruly Reader: Year in Review

Hello, 2017!

We’re gonna start the new year with a glance back at 2016…


The Excitement | The biggest reading news of 2016: This is the year the Dear Man became a reader for reals. I asked if I could take partial credit, and he said yes. But I gotta say: this was all him. He’s been reading up a storm and buying books and suggesting visits to the bookstore (be still, my heart!) and expanding his home library. Meanwhile, I try to refrain from quivering with joy. (Just did some serious quivering)



The Social | At BEA and the book bloggers convention, I met actual book bloggers in person! And even cooler, we’ve stayed in touch. I’m pretty sure I offered to host our next gathering, so: stay tuned for posts about intensive house-cleaning efforts.



The Post | Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm set me up with extra special book mail… twice. (Have I mentioned lately that I’m super lucky to know such good people?)




The Numbers | I finished 97 books this year. Not my all-time record, but an increase compared with recent years. The reader is back.


The Platform | Hello, WordPress!


The Travel | Iceland! We went to there!


The Foods | Back on the homefront, the Dear Man and I visited our 52nd pizza place. And it was all festive.


The Miraculous | The Cubs won the World Series (!!!!) and it’s still sinking in.

(photo credit: the Dear Man’s dear sister)


I’m curious: What were the highlights of your year?

Currently… WordPress conversion

We’re right in the middle of the holiday season (Happy holidays, everyone!) …so what better time to convert a blog from Blogger to WordPress, right?

It’s not like there’s anything else going on.

It actually wasn’t supposed to be like this. But I just finished a WordPress class, and part 2 begins in mid-January, and I wanted a WordPress site up and running so I could tinker with it. I learn better that way.

And then one day I thought, “I’ll set up web hosting this evening and then move my blog over at a convenient time.” [nods head with satisfaction]

But various things led to my transferring it that very night, and man did it ever look ugly.

(If you stopped by last week, you know what I’m talking about. [If you’re here right now, you know what I’m talking about.])

So: my free time (when not wrapping gifts and making holiday preparations) has been gobbled up by the WordPress Learning Curve.

Thank goodness I took that class, or I’d be completely lost.

But still, guys? I’m still pretty lost.


So… here’s my Big Ask:

Bloggers using WordPress… What tips can you offer me?

What plugins are essential for my happiness and well-being?

If you see weird things on my blog that are ridiculously easy fixes, please tell me about it.

If you’ve got WordPress hacks, I am all ears.


Thank you, my friends.

Currently… reading the current

The beautiful and busy fall season continues, with these wonders:
Reading | Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. This is gonna take a while.

I’ve also been reading the river, though I gotta say: the Dear Man is a way better river reader than I am (though he’s kind enough not to display this skill unless I ask his advice on choosing our line; then he diplomatically gives his informed opinion, which invariably is the best course; then he gives me credit). Canoeing with this man is one of my favorite things in the world.
Listening | Lin-Manuel Miranda, you’ve infiltrated my poor brain with so many earworms, I hardly know what to do with myself. The Hamilton quoting may become a problem. (It’s become a problem.)
Learning | I’m listening to Getting Things Done by David Allen as a 6-month refresher and I keep hearing things I missed the first time through. And oh my goodness, people. The refining of the processes — it’s seriously happy-making.

Loving | These photos…

Anticipating | This month’s book club pick is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The thing is ominous and full of menace, and it’s perfect for October. And I can’t wait to discuss it with the ladies.

Celebrating | How ’bout them Cubs?! 


Currently… Fall!

Reading | The new Craig Johnson book (An Obvious Fact) has been unleashed, and I gobbled it up right away. Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear do tough, manly things while delivering stoic one-liners, and they do theses things in Sturgis at the biker rally. It’s flat out fantastic. All other reading halts when Walt makes an appearance.

Listening | I stumbled upon the podcast HerMoney with Jean Chatzky, and I’ve been binge-listening. Dang, I love a good personal finance podcast.

Watching | I’d like to say I’ve been watching educational programs like the Great Courses, but truth is: Fixer Upper. Chip and JoJo, slip the bonds of Texas & come north & design me a lifestyle!

Celebrating | …my discovery of Iceland-made skyr, right here on this continent! The Dear Man and I have been conducting a quest, and… success.

Learning | …that goodreads will show us our reading data! After reading this great Bookriot article, I delved into my stats and it was super fun, cuz man I love the data.   
Loving| …the Google Trips app, which I’ve been playing with while planning some future travel


Anticipating | …the BEA bloggers reunion that Julie of JulzReads is hosting! Can’t wait to see these ladies again! (Hi, Marisa and Julie and Katie!)

Currently… Midnight car to Georgia

Traveling | We dashed down to Georgia to see some amazing sites, then darted home to see more marvels

Reading | I recently finished reading My Life in France by Julia Child, which I loved. And I’m compulsively listening to Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen, which is basically the perfect summertime book about the perfect LBD. 

Listening | Like Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, I’m listening to the More Perfect podcast and finding out all kinds of fascinating details about the Supreme Court.  

Watching | The Property Brothers. They sometimes keep me company while I stretch. Ever since they were the guests on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! that time we were there for the show, I’ve been hangin’ with the Brothers via Netflix. 

Learning | …that there are still discernible earthworks at the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield near Atlanta. Illinois soldiers from right near where I live fought there, and it was sobering to walk that ground and consider what they experienced.
Loving | Shrimp and grits! Holy Toledo, people. Why did no one tell us about this earlier? We stopped by Aretha Frankensteins in Chattanooga, which looks like this…

And we both ordered this…
And yes, it was life-changing.
Anticipating | Looking over all of our photos of the tall ships that docked in Chicago last weekend, including the one where we discovered that tall ships from the War of 1812 have living quarters that are not very tall

Celebrating |The opportunity to stand in Presidents’ footprints. Here we got LBJ…

And Jimmy Carter…

Guys, what’re you doing with your summer?

Currently: seriously summer

Loving | This fortune cookie pin from Duck Duck Goat, because I am ALL ABOUT THE JELLO
Reading | I’ve been positively binge-reading This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick, which I’ll write about soon. I’ve started to read and take notes on Start with Why by Simon Sinek. And on my iPhone: the ARC of the compulsively readable memoir The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy. (Thanks, NetGalley!) I feel awash in wonderful books.

Listening (the books) | My third time reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, and this time I listened to it. And I gotta say… this book works better for me on the page. I prefer my interpretation of Eli’s tone — way funnier and sadder. My iPhone listening: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, which I’m liking as much as Julz said I would (and that’s a lot). 

Listening (the non-books) | The Presidential podcast entered my consciousness over the past couple of weeks, and I’m completely wild about it. Each President gets his own episode, hosted by Washington Post reporter Lillian Cunningham, who often interviews people like David McCullough and Bob Woodward. (Did I squeal? Yes, I did.)

Learning | Speaking of Presidents… While visiting the Museum of Broadcast Communications, we saw the exact camera that was used to film the Kennedy-Nixon debate. (I nearly passed out.)

Watching | Olympic swimming trials… Anthony Ervin, whose book I fully adored,
qualified for the Olympics. AGAIN! And it was only mostly awkward when
the post-race interviewer asked him 3 times (!) about the fact that he
qualified for the Olympics at the remarkably advanced age of 35.

Celebrating | On some recent glamorous vacation days, I KonMari’d my household cleaning products, hardware, and linens. I know: way too much of a good time. But dang, things are lookin’ good.

Anticipating | On deck: Cubs game!  

Currently: Inaugural Edition

Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness and Julie of JulzReads have inspired me. (Thanks, ladies!)

Here’s my first Currently post…

Reading | I’m meandering my way through Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss, and tearing through This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick. And I’ve been reading Erich Wurster’s The Coaster in fits and bursts. (Thanks, Poisoned Pen Press, for that ARC in the mail!)
Listening (the books) | In the car, I’m spinning Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration: Lessons from the Second City by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton is accompanying me on my iPhone. (Horrible shame: I realized it’s an abridged version. Don’t tell anyone!)

Listening (the non-books) | During a run last week, I nearly came to a dead halt when I heard that the Books on the Nightstand podcast will soon cease production. Ann and Michael, you’ve been with me ever since my first iPod! Stunned and scrambling to fill my podcast subscriptions with more bookish fodder, and feeling slightly bereft.

Watching | Parks and Recreation. Yeah, this slacker’s still on season 6. But by design: I’m pacing myself.

Pawnee City Hall? We visited it.
Learning | The Dear Man and I are both reading Black Hawk: An Autobiography, and his supplementary research is making it even more fascinating. So, yeah: we’re getting super smart about the Black Hawk War.

Loving | Cherries are in season, and I’ve eaten an unseemly amount because they’re stinkin’ amazing. Also: this pizza, which is our reigning thin crust champion. 

Anticipating | Excited about some upcoming weekend adventures in our beautiful second city

Celebrating | I realized that I recently blew past my 20th anniversary as a public librarian. Still loving the life, but dang… 20 years?! I’m pretty sure I’m not old enough for that to be true.  

First day on the job

So, my fellow readers… What’ve you got currently going on?