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?

18 for 2018 Update

While I was all busy with moving plans these past few months, I neglected my 18 for 2018 list like nobody’s business. And now it’s time to get back on track. Today we’re taking a look at the rather paltry Q3 progress…

During the past few months, I’ve accomplished four of the things on the list:

Call old friends on a regular basis

Because sometimes I’ll do things I want to do only if those things are scheduled (this frustrates me about myself), I set up a reminder in Google Calendar to prompt me when it’s time to call a faraway friend. Then I actually call. And it’s making my life a better, richer thing.

Burn a candle when writing

I’m literally doing this one as I type this post. I lit a candle in the middle of the kitchen island, where I sit with the laptop, and it’s a pretty dreamy scene.

Buy fresh flowers & watch a YouTube video to figure out how to arrange them

I watched this video, bought some flowers, and arranged them. I was feeling all satisfied with my work after two successful attempts. And then I attempted to blend two bunches of flowers I bought at Trader Joe’s, and I couldn’t get them right. We’re going back to the basics, my friends…

Do a deep decluttering of my house

The home library still looks like this…

So did I mention that we moved?

It’s only completely dominated my free moments the past few months. And for all those months, I was decluttering like a wild thing. And then, at the last moment, right before the moving van arrived, I pitched a whole bunch more stuff. And post-move, we went through a week of making daily Goodwill deliveries. Now we’re down to twice-a-week Goodwill drop-offs. And we’ve got miles to go…

So here’s the updated list, with the items I’ve accomplished in italics. All those things in normal font? I gotta get at it!

      • Call old friends on a regular basis
      • Buy typewriter key jewelry
      • Go on southern vacation with the Dear Man and Younger Sister
      • Go on northern vacation with the Dear Man and Older Sister
      • Roast vegetables once a month
      • Burn a candle when writing
      • Buy fresh flowers & watch a YouTube video to figure out how to arrange them
      • Invite friends for dinner
      • Begin meditating
      • Memorize 5 quotes
      • Visit 3 history geek places
      • Replace long wool coat
      • Bake 2 family recipes
      • Buy warm winter coat & boots
      • Remind myself to slow down once per day
      • Complete 2 of the 3: Book Bingo, Read Harder, and Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges
      • Zipline
      • Do a deep decluttering of my house

Will I make it? Stay tuned…

Anyone have any advice for me on how to knock any of those remaining items off the list? I’ll gladly hear anything you got!

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?

Unruly Is Moving… and Moving Is Unruly

The Dear Man and I recently moved into our first home together, and he’s very much my favorite human ever, so the happiness level is unprecedented.

And our house is so beautiful, I can hardly stand it. I just keep flapping and bursting into spontaneous applause.

So: happy house. And: house beautiful. Also: house chaotic.

The place is so full of unpacked boxes, I can hardly sit still long enough to type these words.

The library currently looks like this…

 

…and it’ll probably be that way for a while. And I’m weirdly OK with that.

Because: the spices are alphabetized, the kitchen drawer dividers are in place, I whipped up a frittata for dinner, and there are flowers in a vase.

 

But in the moments when my mind wanders free, I ponder the Unruly Library and I dream big dreams.

In the short term, it’ll be a weird mish-mosh of bookcases (and not enough of them), but eventually…

One day, it’ll be a dream come true.

In the meantime, the big dream has become realized, and we’re living in this gorgeous, dreamy space that I can hardly believe is ours.

And in these moments, I know I am truly blessed.

So please tell me… What’s your best advice for people who’ve recently moved to a new place?

And so we say goodbye

My little house and I, we’ve been together for 21 1/2 years.

That’s a long stinkin’ time.

And now I’m spending one of the final evenings here in my little house, and the sad feeling is on me. Because this little house and I… we’ve been partners.

It’s sheltered me for those 21 years, and when it needed a new roof, I researched roofing companies and hired the very best one, and they took care of my little house’s little roof. And then that roof took care of me. There’s no place more snug than this little house in a thunderstorm or a blizzard.

That front door, I’ve varnished it every year. Some years, twice. And it’s welcomed me home every single day.

So now, as I face leaving my beautiful glamour wall library, I also face leaving the place where, as a solo homeowner, I’ve experienced some of my life’s most memorable moments of unadulterated joy.

And I’m grateful to this little house.

The leaving is a happy occasion—it’s downright jubilant!—but tonight I’m pausing to give thanks for this good place.

Little evening of American hygge

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

3 words: cozy, happy, intimate

Biologically speaking, I’m ⅛ Danish. But when we talk about hygge*, I’m pretty sure I’m 100%.

Hygge: it’s the domestic trend of 2017, and I’m totally into it.

Hygge: it’s a word to represent the Danish concept of coziness

I was born for coziness.

(Probably most of us were, but I’m thinking I’ve got some serious natural gifts in this department. I’ll challenge anyone to the building of the world’s coziest little blanket-and-pillow nest.)

Denmark frequently ranks near the top of the list of happiest countries, and this book’s author (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute) says hygge is an important part of the picture.

And this charming little book is a handbook to creating your own experiences of hygge.

The book itself is pretty darn hyggeligt (cozy), cuz it’s small and includes pleasant drawings in soft blue tones that represent the key elements of hygge. We’re talking: candlelight, comfort, togetherness, a cozy nook, a fireplace, books, ceramics, blankets and cushions, vintage touches, and pleasures like warm beverages, chocolate, and cake.

Dear heaven, people. I want that life.

So the Dear Man and I set out to build it.

On a recent February evening, we did all the cozy things… we did some meandering tourist-style grocery shopping at a completely fascinating international market where we bought Danish cheese and butter because: hygge: it is Danish.

We also bought lots of other delightful things (including chocolate), because hygge demanded it.

Then we cooked Bookbinder Soup (I know!!!) and dined by candlelight and it was cozy as all heck.

And there was even the requisite book-as-coziness-object because, while the soup simmered, Book Nerd here kept reading aloud to highlight all the ways we were having the most hyggeligt evening ever in all the world.

(Did I mention I was wearing my fuzzy new slippers? I was.)

Give this book a whirl if you like… nesting, learning about other cultures, slowing it down a little to savor the coziness of winter, and books about the quiet pleasures of domestic life.

So, my friends… What are your hygge superpowers?

*pronounced: hoo-gah