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!


2018 Reading Year in Review

2018: a total mixed bag when it comes to my reading life. Here’s the year-end review…

The bad

So I didn’t meet my Goodreads goal of reading 75 books this year.

And am I feeling comfortable with that? No, I am not.

But… life goes on. And in other (more important ways), my reading year was quite fruitful.

The good

  • I met my goal that 20% of the books I read would be by diverse authors. Hooray! And great reading!
  • I read 19,089 pages. (I’m actually not sure whether this is impressive, but it’s the first year I’ve calculated the number, so I’m happy with it.)
  • In spite of a year filled with some unexpected challenges, I read 65 books.

The ugly

Good people, I created some charts in Google Sheets to visually represent my year of reading. These charts are not beautiful. Here they are…

So, if you had to predict what I read this year, you’d say, “Nonfiction book by a female author.” And actually, many of my favorites this year were exactly that.

The year ahead

Reading goals:

Other than that, I’m keeping it free and easy. No other goals… just some reading bliss.

What are your reading goals for 2019? Or do you just read & enjoy?

18 for 2018: done!

Early in the year, I set up 18 goals — some big, some small — for 2018.

And then I started pickin’ ’em off…  

And I kept at it, sort of.  

And then completing the list wasn’t looking likely during the Fall Update, but I pulled it off in the end. 

Here’s the account of the final 3 items on the list…

Buy typewriter key jewelry

Way earlier in the year, when I was trapped someplace with only my phone at hand, I scouted out some sources for typewriter key jewelry. And then I sat on it for months, because busy. So in mid-December, I re-did the search cuz the clock was ticking. And while I’d love to be able to wear a bracelet of typewriter keys, I just can’t do bracelets. (They get in my way!) So I went for the necklace. This one.


Memorize five quotes

Done! (I’d share them, but they’re for myself alone*)  

Invite friends for dinner

I’m a nervous chef who performs best without pressure.

And dinner guests = pressure.

Plus, lots of us are tricky to feed (special diets, specialized palate, restrictions, all that stuff).

So I’m calling this good: we invited the Dear Man’s Dear Sister and Dear Brother-in-Law (who definitely are our friends), and we ordered a pizza from a local place that makes deep dish pizzas that one cooks at home. So:

Friends    CHECK

Applying heat to dinner  CHECK

Serving said dinner to said friends CHECK

Stick a fork in it: it’s done!

Here’s the full (completed!) list of my 18 for 2018…

  • 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

And now it’s on to planning my 19 for 2019…

What’re your favorite accomplishments of the year?

*Not true: The Dear Man knows what they are

Best Books of 2018: my top 10 favorites

Narrowing down my books to my Top 10 of 2018… not too difficult.

But narrowing down my favorite memoir? Impossible. So I went with the 3-way tie that felt right to me.

And there’s a 2-way tie for literary fiction, too. Because I just can’t decide.

And I get to write the rules around here  : )  so here we go…  

Best Short Stories

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Give this book a whirl if you like… celebrity authors, well-evoked characters, short stories from a variety of viewpoints, typewriters

Best Self-Improvement

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Give this book a whirl if you like… exploring everyday life through new eyes, thinking about timing, considering factors that surprisingly affect outcomes, Freakonomics

Best Memoirs (3-way tie)

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Give this book a whirl if you like… memoirs of an unusual childhood, reading about life during and after apartheid, outsider narratives

Fifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Give this book a whirl if you like… memoirs of city dwellers moving to the country, middle-aged love stories, a light touch of humor, compulsively readable writing

Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

Give this book a whirl if you like… tiny snippets of story, memoir in bite-sized pieces, poetic and perfect writing, humor

Best Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Give this book a whirl if you like… a realistic teen viewpoint, reading fiction inspired by current events, contemplating Black Lives Matter, exploring complex issues in a nuanced way, powerfully emotional novels

Best Biography

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Give this book a whirl if you like… discovering the real person behind the stories, learning about a literary legend, learning about the author of children’s classics, American history through the life of one pioneer, overcoming hard times

Best Women’s Fiction

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

Give this book a whirl if you like… dual narratives, seaside settings, second chances, finding love, life after a breakup, heroic characters quietly saving lives

Best Literary Fiction (2-way tie)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Give this book a whirl if you like… lovely writing, creative use of language, Black Lives Matter, Fates and Furies, he said/she said narrative style, considering social issues through fiction

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Give this book a whirl if you like… big stories, books about complex families, stories about people’s lives falling apart, stories about houses, dual connected timelines, the life of a scientist, individual evolution and evolution of species

So, my fellow readers… what’re your favorites of the year?

Announcing Book Bingo 2019

Welcome to Book Bingo 2019!

It’s our fifth annual Book Bingo event, and we’re so glad you’re here.

Once again, my collaborators and I have pondered categories and themes for the annual bingo card, and we realized we have several categories relating to fire and rebirth… so we’ve got a fiery theme and a hidden Phoenix this year.

Big thanks to the two people who make this possible:

My dear friend, who conspires with me all year long to develop this list of categories. So much fun.

The Dear Man, who goes into his office and then says, “Do you have a minute?” and shows me the most gorgeous design that captures every aspect we wanted (and then a little bit more). I love this.

How to Play

  • Read a book that fits the category. Each book can qualify for only one category.
  • Complete just one row or column, or go for blackout by reading a book in every category.
  • All books must be finished in 2019. Books started in 2018 but finished in 2019 count.
  • We’ve provided some definitions, but you can free-style it if you like—as long as you can make a case that the book fits the category.
  • All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.

About the Categories

Edgar Award: First Novel – A mystery that was nominated for — or won — the Edgar Allan Poe Award for First Novel

Heroine –Strong female voice: author, character, or subject

Palate cleanser – A book that refreshes and balances out what you’ve read lately     

Genre-bending – A book that plays with genre — it might break the rules or be categorized in more than one genre

Gen X author – A book written by an author born between 1961 and 1981

Odd couple – A book about an unusual pairing

Classic I’ve never read –A book that’s stood the test of time

Pushing boundaries  –A book that challenges your worldview or awareness. Or a book whose pioneering character or author breaks new ground.

Explore  – A book that takes you or the character to a new place

Place Name – A book with a place name in its title (examples: Looking for Alaska. Or Alaska by Michener)

Life hack –A book with a shortcut that makes makes your life (or a character’s life) easier

Unbelievable – Nonfiction that’s stranger than fiction, or a novel whose premise you’re not buying

Green – A book with a green cover, or a book about nature, money, envy, or any other green thing

Fire –Literal fire, passion, or something burning within

Birth– The beginning or a fresh start

Romantic –Idealistic or passionate

Language –A book with a distinctive voice or a book in translation

LGBTQ –A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ

Novelty Book –A book structured in an unorthodox way

South Pacific – A book set in, or written by, an author from the South Pacific

Folktale –A story incorporating elements of a myth, legend, or fable

Map –A book about a journey, a guide to self-discovery, or simply a book with a map in it

Deep Dive – An investigative, immersive reading experience

Unruly Woman –A book about a woman who breaks out of the mold

Lost & Found – A story of rebirth or redefining a sense of self

To Sign Up…

Add your blog name & URL in the Comments. Easy as that.

Questions? Answers!

If you have any questions about any of the categories, ask your question in the Comments, and I promise to respond.


Printable bingo card

Book Bingo 2018: Completed!


It’s my 4th year hosting Book Bingo Blackout, and I continue to be surprised by the categories I find the most challenging to fulfill. They’re always the ones that seemed like low-hanging fruit.

This year my final category was Read the Movie, and I finally read a book that I knew was made into a movie only because I Googled every title on my immediate TBR to see if they’d been filmed.

As I look over the list, I’m disappointed in how few reviews I posted, but then I realized: it was an eventful year.

And I cut this girl some slack.


So… here’s the 2018 Book Bingo list of titles!


Reserved – Although you may reserve a book at the library and anticipate its arrival, a book can also be reserved in its tone and theme.
Educated by Tara Westover


#ownvoices – a book written by a member of a marginalized community that it depicts
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Epic – A generational saga or transformational journey
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid


Upgrade Your Life – Take things to the next level — mentally, physically, or spiritually
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink  


Been There, Read That – A book set in a place you’ve lived or visited
The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine F. Weiss



My People – You identify with the characters based on your roots or sense of identity
Portage: A Family, a Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life by Sue Leaf


Psychological – A book that messes with your mind or heals your mind
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile


Fashion(able) – A book about fashion, a book about trends, or a book that is trending
Superforecasting by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner


Read the Movie – There’s a movie based on this book
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken


Judge a Book By Its Cover – You love or hate the cover
Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks


The Help – A book about those who serve others. Or a self-help book.
Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson


Timeless Classic – A book that’s stood the test of time
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke


I Bought It – A book you bought, or a book whose premise you bought into
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt


Time Travel – A character travels forward or backward in time
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier


Cocktails – Alcohol is an ingredient in the book
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan


Glamour – A book that portrays a glamorous life
West with the Night by Beryl Markham


Wealth – A book about finance, money, or life’s riches
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan


Urban – A book set in a city, or a book about a city
Going into Town by Roz Chast


Lost Generation – A book by or about the generation that came of age during WWI (born 1883-1900; e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Harry Truman)
White Houses by Amy Bloom


Audie Award – Listen to or read an Audie Award winner or finalist
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union


True Crime – Nonfiction book about a crime
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann


South of the Equator – A book set south of the Equator, or written by an author from a country south of the Equator
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba


Rock – Earth, a gemstone, music — however you want to define it
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen


Outsider – The protagonist is alienated from her/his surroundings. Or, a stranger comes to town…
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah


No More Waiting – It’s been on your TBR, on your nightstand, on your mind. Read it already.
No More Words: A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh by Reeve Lindbergh


If you’re doing Book Bingo this year, how’s it going? Any categories proving tricky?

18 for 2018: fall update

We’re heading into the final 6 weeks of the year, and here’s one final 18 for 2018 update before the year-end reckoning…

Since the last update, here’s what’s happened around here…

Roast vegetables once a month

OK, so I outsourced this one. Or, as someone less charitable said, I cheated.  Here’s what happened… I’ve been running around trying to do my life for the past year, and grocery shopping only happened at the margins of life. And cooking? Ha! There was no cooking! Then the Dear Man and I moved into our new home, and he’s an expert vegetable roaster, and within the first two months, he roasted enough vegetables (which I ate) to count for the rest of the year. I asked him if I could borrow his labor to count for my goal, and he, being one of Earth’s best Earthlings, said, “Of course.” So we’re checking this one off the list. For those keeping score at home…

Vegetable roasting scoreboard

Unruly: 4

Dear Man: 8+


Complete 2 of the 3: Book Bingo, Read Harder, and Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges

I completed the Modern Mrs Darcy challenge months ago, and I was almost done with our own homegrown Book Bingo except for that pesty “Read the Movie” category. I don’t really like movies so very much, and I can get stubborn about reading something I know is being made into a movie. But: Done and Done!


So here’s the full list for the year, with accomplished items in italics…

  • 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

This leaves the tough ones to achieve in these final 6 weeks:

  • Memorize 5 quotes  [I’ve got this one well in hand]
  • Buy typewriter key jewelry  [I got distracted and bought an actual typewriter. But I think I can still handle this one]
  • Invite friends for dinner   [This one still scares me! Hosting a dinner party: terrifying]

If anyone has tips for hosting a very small dinner party, please post them in the comments. I need some help.

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…



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



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!