My 19 for 2019 list: mid-year update

19 goals for 2019 — it doesn’t seem so very ambitious. But almost half the year’s zoomed by, and guess what? So much still to do! But there’s been some progress…

Here’s my goal status tally at the midpoint of the year:

Completed: 7

In progress: 6

Not yet: 6

So it could be worse.

In March, I’d made some progress, and today we’ve got an update on what’s happened since then.

Newly completed

Perfect my Caesar salad

If you don’t expect homemade Caesar dressing (and I don’t), I’ve got this one nailed.

Here’s my formula:

  • Organic romaine
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Marie’s Caesar Dressing (based on this review)
  • Croutons: the crouton part of this recipe from Bon Apetit; I like to use Lucky 7 Grain & Seed Batard from Trader Joe’s

via GIPHY

Style our kitchen island seasonally

We’ve now been in our new house for all four seasons, and we’ve styled the island for each of them. Here’s our summer look…

Figure out the layout of the den

We have a sweet little den in our house, and it’s my upstairs lair. It looks like this except for when I swap out the typewriter for the laptop…

Get the TVs set up

OK, so we got one TV set up. And the other one went into storage, since we don’t need a TV upstairs. (Seriously: we hardly even watch the one in the living room.) We hired an electrician, he added an outlet in the floor (it’s all hidden!) and now we’re all set. (And the most exciting part about hiring the electrician was actually that now I can run on the treadmill in the basement. I love that.)

Research the history of our (school)house

While this will be ongoing (probably for years), at this point I’ve tracked down some of the major information and have seen historic photos of our place. As a yearly goal, I think we can say it’s been achieved.

In progress

  • Learn Instagram Stories with the Dear Man
  • Spend some serious quality time with our sisters
  • Learn & use 12 new techniques on the blog  
  • Go on at least 3 history geek trips with the Dear Man
  • Have dinner twice monthly with a good friend
  • Maximize the use of our new Instant Pot

What I haven’t even started yet

  • Find out if my vintage typewriter actually works… and if so, use it
  • Write a series of blog posts
  • Actually go through all those boxes in the basement
  • Do at least 3 of the activities in This Is Where You Belong
  • Fix formatting on all blog posts
  • Go on a field trip with a good friend

As mid-year approaches, how’s your year looking? Any re-tooling of your goals for the year? (I love this stuff.)

Organizing the spice drawer

I meant to write about spring goals and new growth. Instead I’m writing about organizing our spices. Because that’s where I am right now, and it sure feels like growth.

When I read Carson Tate’s post about balancing your life like the four seasons, I was immediately captivated by the idea. And also relieved, because this framework allows us to tackle only one aspect at a time. And that’s such an easing of a burden.

I tend to overload myself with ambitious projects, and then I just get tired. So one season at a time? I got this…

For springtime, she suggests:

  • New ideas
  • New beginnings
  • Decluttering
  • Letting go of the past

As I see it, there are two phases here, which kind of line up with Marie Kondo’s thinking: let go of the past to open up possibilities for the future.

One of my “19 for 2019” goals is to go through all the boxes in the basement, which contain I’ve-forgotten-what. So that project is saying “spring” to me. (But will I get to it before winter? I have my doubts.)

Meanwhile, what I have done is to tidy up the spice rack. It’s actually the spice drawer, and it was pretty horrid. We both got frustrated trying to find the oregano. And really, people shouldn’t have to live like that.

So, inspired by The Home Edit, I bought:

…and we had ourselves some results.

Before:

During:

After:

It’s a small step, growth-wise, but it sure makes cooking more pleasant. Plus, every time I open the doors of the pantry, I get a little ping of joy.

So, along with walking along the river to see the spring flowers, that’s part of my springtime celebration.

What’re you doing to celebrate spring?

Favorite home organization books

It’s springtime, and that’s supposed to mean spring cleaning. But I’ve always been better at organizing than cleaning, so today we’re talking spring organizing.

Here are my favorite books about organizing the home.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

3 words: rigorous, inspiring, neat

Remember how I KonMari’d my librarian cardigans?

Here in the new house, they’re once again in that happy state,and I’m still on the KonMari bandwagon.


I loved Tidying Up when I first read it, and also when I second-read it. And it continues to spark joy.

Give this book a whirl if you like… decluttering, minimalism, simplicity, structure

Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin

3 words: practical, positive, approachable

I’m an every-episode listener to the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, so many of the recommendations in this book (but not all — there were some surprises here) were familiar. And still, I found myself marking pages. Here are some of the ideas I captured:

  • Watch your language. “Instead of telling yourself, ‘I need to go through my photos and discard the bad ones,’ you could tell yourself, ‘I’m going to curate my photo collection.’” (p. 182)
  • Include a fragment of nature (p. 193)
  • Every room should hold a bit of surprise or whimsy (p. 197)

And the Dear Man installed my pretty hooks for clothes I’ve only barely worn. (Find a place for items that are neither dirty nor clean, p. 82)

Give this book a whirl if you like… quick, browseable books; decluttering; a wide range of tips; bite-size ideas

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

3 words: cheerful, beautiful, concrete

Oh my goodness. This is the book that inspired me to purchase spice containers and cute labels. Because these ladies label everything and it looks fabulous. This book made me woozy with delight. We’re talking famous people’s closets and pantries and craft rooms, and real-life, actually do-able steps to achieve something beautiful in one’s own home.

Give this book a whirl if you like… organizing in a beautiful way, labeling absolutely everything, a conversational and encouraging tone, celebrity closets and pantries

Beautifully Organized: A Guide to Function and Style in Your Home by Nikki Boyd

3 words: enthusiastic, elegant, lovely

I’ll admit it: I binge-read this book one evening when I could’ve been cooking dinner. But I think this book will deliver long-term dividends, because it seriously inspired me to tend to some untidy areas of our home that are usually hidden from view… but we know they’re there. Not for long! I gathered some lovely ideas for our pantry and drawers.

Give this book a whirl if you like… beautiful books about home organization, adding a touch of style to orderliness, practical and inspiring tips for organizing your home

The Organized Home: Simple, Stylish Storage Ideas for All Over the House by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick

3 words: pictorial, scannable, simple

My takeaways from this book are clean lines, environmentally-friendly cleaning processes, and a really cute way to store a toilet plunger (in a clay pot: genius).

Give this book a whirl if you like… inspiration for household organizing, simple living, green products, pretty books

The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley

3 words: browseable, beautifully illustrated, clean

This book is on my bedside table for pre-sleep perusal at the moment, and it’s a treat to open its pages because it’s just plain pretty. Bright color photos of tidy, perfectly organized spaces… with a lovely plant to add another pop of color to the scene. Beautiful book. Also: a little bit challenging, because there are cleaning recommendations here that seem a little bit beyond what I’m ever gonna do. (Cleaning the kitchen sink daily? I don’t think so.) But I’ve marked several pages that offer solutions for organizing the pantry. And I’m finding pleasure in simply looking through this book for decorating ideas. It’s lovely.

Give this book a whirl if you like… a wide array of organizing ideas for all areas of the home, cleaning recommendations, easy storage solutions

Simple Organizing Wisdom: 500+ Quick & Easy Clutter Cures edited by Laurie Jennings

3 words: neat, pretty, practical

When this book showed up in my mailbox, I silently squealed with joy and immediately sought out someone who shares my organizing obsession so I could tell her about it. People, this book is pretty.

Give this book a whirl if you like… bite-sized, scannable, practical tips, pretty storage solutions

Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith

3 words: chatty, encouraging, practical

I really liked Myquillyn Smith’s first book, The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful. My most important takeaway from that book: don’t apologize for your home’s flaws or shortcomings; instead, focus on making your guest comfortable. And if someone compliments your home, accept the compliment gracefully.

In Cozy Minimalist Home, she suggests using larger statement pieces as decor, and removing the extras. It’s an approach I really like. I also like her idea of “quieting” a room seasonally by removing all decor and then adding pieces only where needed.

Give this book a whirl if you like… creating a comfortable home, decluttering without losing coziness, not worrying about having a “style,” focusing on people and their comfort

I know I’m not the only one who reads this stuff for fun… What are your favorite home organization books?

19 for 2019: the first update

We’re 1/4 of the way through the year, and I’m feeling a little bit concerned about my (lack of) progress on those wonderful 19 for 2019 goals I set.

The only thing that’s been definitively completed is this one:

Decide whether to catalog our home library

Given my slow progress on all those other goals, the decision on that one is: Ain’t gonna do it.
And that’s OK.

Meanwhile, there’s been headway on several of the goals that are ongoing in nature. They’re a-going…

Here’s what’s been happening…

Learn & use 12 new techniques on the blog

I’ve done 4 new things, including creating a content calendar and expanding the use of menus. This one’s right on course, and I’m excited about the next steps.

Set a twice-a-month grocery shopping rotation and stick with it

This goal’s firmly in place, and I’d say it’s a set habit, to the point that I’m calling it Completed. Every two weeks, I plan menus for the next two weeks, write the grocery list, and shop. Then the Dear Man picks up perishables during week 2. It’s pretty fabulous. Here’s something we cooked…

Have dinner twice monthly with a good friend

One of my happiest traditions!

Maximize the use of our new Instant Pot

This is also underway, and I’m making this amazing red lentil soup later this week. No photos available, because mainly we’ve been making non-photogenic but wonderful soups. And also a couple of things We’re Never Making Again (including that one thing I threw directly down the garbage disposal).

Style our kitchen island seasonally

Our kitchen island styling started out in fall and then the Christmas season, which were relatively easy. As the Dear Man says, Christmas always looks good. After Epiphany, we removed the Christmas-y touches and just went with a simplified evergreen and white motif. And then we faced springtime. We went Easter-y because it just turned out that way.

Dear Man and the Krazy Glue to the rescue, because I managed to drop the rabbit on my way into the house. But he glued on the broken ear so smoothly I can barely see the crack. And now I love that rabbit even more, because less than a minute after the break, the Dear Man was hard at work on the remedy.

Here we’ve also got an heirloom pitcher from my Dad’s Swedish-American ancestors and one of my favorite lidded containers made by my favorite potter. And the Dear Man’s dear mom’s vintage cookbook on the scale. All of these things make me wicked happy.

Research the history of our (school)house

I love research (librarian!!) so I’m undaunted by the obstacles we’ve been facing, including The Mystery of the Missing Schoolhouse Dedication. I’ve searched microfilm of two local newspapers, have been granted access to historical records from multiple local agencies, and still the search continues. There are more newspapers to explore, so onward…

But (big news) we discovered the name of our school’s architect, and we found a book he wrote about schoolhouses, which contains our floorplan, and I ordered a copy via Abebooks. I’m only a little bit impatient for its arrival.

So that’s the situation here.

I still have a Caesar salad to perfect, nearly a thousand blog posts to reformat, some history geek traveling to plan (woohoo!), and a vintage typewriter to decode. Plus KonMari-ing the basement boxes.

How’re your 2019 goals progressing?

At home with books: refreshing the blog

in the den, with the laptop

When I sat down two weekends ago in our sunny little den, I didn’t expect that when I left the room a couple of hours later, I would have changed the focus of the blog.

That was not at all the plan.

It looked all innocent: coffee in one of my favorite mugs… the laptop and iPhone and a legal pad on the library table. Me, all comfy in leggings and a big sweater and my favorite plaid scarf.

this scarf

The scene was set for cozy, not for transformation.  

I’d been seduced by Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast episode about creating a content calendar cuz I adore structure.

And I was settling in to listen and take notes. (It was extra delighting me that I was being a student here in our schoolhouse.)

And then it happened.  

I listened to the episode, took 7 pages of notes, and created that content calendar.  

And in the process, I realized I’d like to expand the scope of the blog.

So I’m gonna.

Here’s what to expect in the months ahead…

A continuation of…

  • Bookish commentary
  • Posts about self-improvement

More…

  • Notes on home life: the domestic pleasures and blunders
  • Notes on travel: the delights and mishaps
  • Lists of my favorite stuff
  • A focus on living a good life
  • Main menu expansion: Books & Reading, The Good Life, Favorite Stuff

So join me here for talk of books. And living the best possible life. And coffee. And pizza. And the floundering ongoing search for the perfect vintage home decor items*…

So, my fellow bloggers… How have you changed your blog over the years? What changes made you and your readers the happiest?

*current quest: a wooden ladder to lean against the wall**, and the perfect barrel — we’ll know it when we see it

**update from summer 2019: got that ladder!


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?

Our historic (school)house: when truth is stranger than fiction

When talking about mystery novels with The Dear Man a few years ago, I commented that one of the tropes is that detectives in books often live in really cool, unconventional houses.

Think Kinsey Millhone in that rockin’ garage apartment that feels like the inside of a boat.

Or Travis McGee, who actually lives on a houseboat.

Or Magnum, P.I. (OK, that’s 80s TV, but stay with me), who lives in the guest house of that grand estate in Hawaii.

Or my favorite literary abode: Scot Harvath’s home in an 18th century stone (former) church and rectory owned by the U.S. Navy. Who wouldn’t want to live there?

Detectives even get amazing office spaces: Walt Longmire has an office in an old Carnegie library, and Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro run their business from an old church belfry.*

It was one of those things that I thought only happened in books.

Until it happened to us.

We bought an old schoolhouse.

Actually, we bought half of it. There’s an 18-inch-thick brick wall that runs right down the center of the place, and we’ve bought the side we loved best.

The school was built in 1906—and while it’s been remodeled, it still has serious old-building character—and we get to live in it!

I love love love old houses. All my life (except during college, library school, and the first year after) I’ve lived in old houses, and I love their charm and their quirks and their history. Ever since childhood, I’ve adored sitting in my old house and thinking about the former residents reading the newspaper and finding out about the sinking of the Titanic. Or women winning the right to vote. Or the end of a war.

It makes me feel connected.

With this place, it’s an even twistier path to the past, because we’re envisioning students and teachers and the principal, living out their school days here. The other night, we were talking about “duck and cover” during the Cold War and I said, “Oh my gosh. They did that right here.”

So when it comes to listing my favorite things about this house, I get stuck. There’s the history, there’s the delight of living in a school, and there’re those brick walls, and the floating staircase, and the 8-foot tall windows, and the original doors and transoms…

We’re flat-out in love with this place. Sometimes we just sit and gaze at it. Often we don’t want to leave.

What’ll actually launch us out of the house: We’ve made an appointment at the local historical museum, where we’re gonna dig into our schoolhouse’s history. We’re hoping to find photos.

In the meantime, we’ve got a little chalkboard that says Comfort and here we are… reading and cooking and watching the cat and decoding the secrets of our schoolhouse and talking about all the things…

It’s no mystery where you’ll find us.

So tell me…. Has there ever been a point in your life when you’ve said, “I thought this only happened in books…”

*authors:

Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone series)

John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee series)

Brad Thor (Scot Harvath series)

Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire series)

Dennis Lehane (Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro series)

Theme for 2019: Comfort

Serendipity is the one word that describes the path to my choosing a one-word theme for 2019.

I was listening to the Happier podcast while doing strength training, and the episode was about choosing a one-word theme for the new year.

And without really giving it much thought, my endorphins delivered unto me a word:

Comfort

And I knew instantly that it was right.

What do I want more of? Comfort

What do I want to give more of? Comfort

It’s a word that inspired me, that same evening after my workout, to sit down and read a book. Even though there was filing and tidying to do.

Happy cat, cozy slippers, snuggly throw, hot tea, good book, happy home

So now I’m thinking of ways to make our home more comfortable and our lives more relaxed. There’s gonna be comfort food and comfy clothes and cozy evenings. I’m looking forward to it.

Anyone else have a one-word theme for 2019?

Domestic goodness

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

3 words: intimate, multifaceted, soothing

Twitter is not my natural home, but this book, along with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s delightful Gmorning, Gnight!, kinda made me wish it were. Both books are filled with some of the best tweets I can imagine. My Kitchen Year is one of those magnificent books that does all kinds of things at once, and it does them all well.

It’s a memoir of Reichl’s difficult first year after losing her job when Gourmet magazine abruptly folded. And that’s a scary thought: job loss. And Reichl doesn’t sugarcoat it, but she also gets on with life. And for her, recovery begins in the kitchen. It’s very soothing to spend time with her as she begins to rebuild after the loss. For a couple of weeks, this was my bedtime reading, and it was perfect — beautiful and creative and calming and bite-sized (each section consists of a short description of the day, followed by a recipe).

It’s a cookbook filled with dreamy food writing. Sometimes I’d just savor the way she described the way to mix ingredients. Reichl knows what she’s doing with food, and she’s creative in the way she writes about it, and we benefit from all of it. (Although I said to the Dear Man: “Clearly I’m over-ambitious about my cooking abilities when I read recipes before bed.” When I looked through the recipes I’d marked, at least half of them seemed 20% more complicated than this lackadaisical cook can handle.)

It’s almost a book of poetry because the tweets that begin each section capture the essence of a day with just a few words. Each tweet reminded me of haiku in its ability to convey a mood and a scene with precious few syllables. It made me want to tweet like that. (As if that’s gonna happen. But a girl can dream.)

It’s a coffee table book that’s more than a coffee table book. The thing is bursting with luscious photos of food and nature. It made me almost want to buy a copy so I could flip through each season as it happens each year. In the Acknowledgments, Reichl writes some glowing words about the photographer who spent months capturing her cooking and some other quiet moments of her life. Lovely.

It’s a book I waited too long to read. This book’s been on my radar ever since Michael Kindness raved about it on the dearly departed Books on the Nightstand podcast a few years ago. And I wonder why I waited, and then I think, Maybe I read it when I was ready for it. Here I am, jubilantly over-reaching in the kitchen and making a happy new home. This book is a celebration of home and cooking and the simple comforts.

Give this book a whirl if you like… reading about cooking, memoir blended with recipes, beautiful books, reading about recovery from a job loss, rebirth, poetic tweets, gorgeous food and nature photography

So, my fellow bibliophiles… Anyone else a reader of cookbooks?

19 for 2019

Last year I was inspired by the Happier podcast to create a list of 18 goals for 2018. And I got ’em done!

Now I’m excited about 2019… cuz I dearly adore the setting and pursuit of goals.

Here’s what I’ve got in mind for the year ahead…

Yes, it’s lovely… but does it type??
  • Learn Instagram Stories with the Dear Man
  • Spend some serious quality time with our sisters
  • Learn & use 12 new techniques on the blog
  • Decide whether to catalog our home library
  • Perfect my Caesar salad
  • Set a twice-a-month grocery shopping rotation and stick with it
  • Style our kitchen island seasonally
  • Find out if my vintage typewriter actually works… and if so, use it
  • Write a series of blog posts
  • Go on at least 3 history geek trips with the Dear Man
  • Actually go through all those boxes in the basement
  • Have dinner twice monthly with a good friend
  • Do at least 3 of the activities in This Is Where You Belong
  • Fix formatting on all blog posts (cuz that Blogger import was not perfect)
  • Maximize the use of our new Instant Pot
  • Go on a field trip with a good friend
  • Figure out the layout of the den
  • Get the TVs set up
  • Research the history of our (school)house
Home sweet schoolhouse

And yes, it occurs to me that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew… but that’s nothing new.

So I’m launching into the new year with big goals and too many of them… and I’m ready to have at it!

And I mean it when I say I adore goals, and I’m love to hear yours. What are your plans for the new year?