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

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?

2018: Year in Review

2018… you’ve been completely exhilarating. And completely exhausting.

While my 2018 reading stats are none too impressive, I accomplished all of my 18 for 2018 goals.

And I’m feeling good about that, especially since we accomplished so many other big things that weren’t on the list.

We did some big vacation-y things with our sisters in the first half of the year.

Then there was some mildly unpleasant medical stuff (not part of the plan), which resolved itself well — but still, not fun.

And then we threw ourselves into the search for a home.

And preparing two houses for sale.

And the selling of two houses.

And the setting up of a household together.

And ten zillion little things, like replacing the food processor after both of ours broke at the same time. (For real.)

When I look at the to-do lists we conquered, I’m stunned that we’re still standing. It’s exhausting just to contemplate.

What I learned re-learned: one step at a time. Just focus on the next small act. It’s all we can handle, and it eventually gets the job done. So simple, so comforting, so true.

And now… here we are, and we have a harmonious household and a house we’d choose again & again & again. It’s a good place to sit and contemplate all we’ve managed to accomplish in the past six months. (Though it’s best not to contemplate it too much, cuz we both end up with stunned looks on our faces merely recalling all the work that went into it.)

And now we’ve decorated our new house for the holidays, and it’s so lovely I can hardly stand it. This place is some serious cozy. And we get to live in here. It’s good, my friends.

I wish you all a very happy New Year!

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?

What I’ve Done with 10 Extra Hours Per Week

My life these days reminds me of a ComEd commercial from the ‘90s. It showed an older couple slow-dancing while listening to the radio, and the tag line was, “What do you do with your power?” I tried to track it down, but found this one about monsters instead.

The idea of “What do you do with your power?” is resonating with me these days.

With 10 fewer hours of driving each week, I suddenly have so much margin I hardly know what to do with myself. Except I know exactly what to do with myself. I’ve known for years.

Here’s how I’m spending my newfound power…

 

Cooking

Apple crisp (America’s Test Kitchen)

While I haven’t exactly achieved domestic goddess status, I’ve been actually chopping vegetables, mixing them with other food items, adding spices, and applying heat. People, I’ve been cooking! And except for a couple of notable failures that first week (they were magnificent, if I do say so myself), the results have been pretty darn good.

My go-to cookbooks:

Pretty Simple Cooking by Alex and Sonja Overhiser

Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor

Also: Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines — for the ricotta pancake recipe, which I’ve already made twice

And occasionally the interwebs, for things like the skillet apple crisp recipe

 

Reading

My reading life is different! I’ve returned to mostly reading printed books. And while I’ll always love audiobooks, I truly adore the comfort of sitting down with a book. And the speed! I read so much faster with my eyes than with my ears. But mostly it’s just a return to my natural state… book in hand.

 

Sleeping more

Waking up to these windows!

I much more consistently meet my sleep target these days, and my Fitbit and I are happy. That later wake-up time is life-changing.

 

Organizing shelves and drawers

Open this…

…and find this! (drawer dividers… I might like them too much)

I dearly adore organizing, so this is one of the pleasures of settling in — especially when I slow down to let myself just enjoy the process.

 

Preparing a house for sale

Selling a house is so much work, I can hardly believe I got it done. But with the help of our crackerjack team, I did, and it sold, and thank goodness.

 

Buying flowers

In my new domestically blissful state, putting flowers in a vase and then letting my eyes be drawn to them every time I’m in the kitchen… this is some good stuff.

 

Hanging out with this guy

The best part: I love the ease of spending unscheduled time with my favorite human. Not only is he the best person I’ve ever met, but he also makes me laugh.

 

So tell me… have you ever gained some extra time in your weekly schedule, and if so… what did you do with it?