How I blog: then and now

Ten years of blogging went by in a flash, though when I think about all that’s happened in those years, it hits me how long that really is.

While real life has changed more than my blogging life, over the decade I’ve also made some changes to the way I blog. I’ve changed blog platform, and I’ve changed the tools I use for blogging.

I love reading about other people’s workflow and tools, so today we’re going behind the scenes to look at the Unruly blogging process.

The Platform

Then: Blogger
Now: WordPress
Why the change: One word: plugins
I kept hearing about WordPress plugins, and I wanted them. I wanted plugins that would play nice with social media and plugins that would let me use forms and all the other plugins for all the other reasons.

Also, another website I manage is a WordPress site, so I was gonna be doing Gale Courses to learn about WordPress, so the stars aligned.

The transfer to WordPress was not as smooth as they said it would be (all those encouraging things I found online that said it would be seamless… yeah, not so much).

But: no regrets. I like this new home of mine, and I like the WordPress app, and I like tinkering with the whole thing when I have time.

The Software

Then: Microsoft Word
Now: Google Drive
Why the change: Google Drive: it’s available everywhere

Back in the day, I drafted blog posts in Microsoft Word. As I read, I added notes on the piece of paper I use as a bookmark, and then I transferred those notes to Word and expanded on them. It worked.

But once I started using Google Drive… oh, my land. Life-changing.

Now I draft posts in Google Docs, and I can add thoughts and ideas from anywhere. No need to wait until I get home, and no need to boot up the laptop. Instead, I carry it around in my purse. I can add thoughts when I’m in the grocery store line, or when I’m waiting for my oatmeal to cook, or when I’m reading wherever I’m reading. I can add notes about books when I’m sitting with my feet up, in front of the fireplace, reading a book.

I cannot tell you how much I love this.

And the other piece of the puzzle: Google Sheets, where I track my reading. I also track my reading (all the books since 1996!) on Goodreads, but Google Sheets is where I add all the data: the 3 words that best capture the book’s essence, the appeal characteristics, the reason I read each book.

And I love that I can add notes about each book to Sheets from anywhere, too. Sometimes the perfect adjective hits me, and I open Sheets and toss it in there.

The Hardware

Then: laptop
Now: laptop and iPhone
Why the change: portability!

These days I’m running around all over the place all the time, and I love being able to post from my iPhone. I don’t do it often, but in a pinch, I’ve done the entire blogging operation on my phone. Pretty amazing. (Thank you, WordPress, for your nice little app.)

A couple of months ago, I got a wireless keyboard, and that’s made things even easier. I can type on a keyboard so much faster than I can type on my phone, and I’m actually writing this very post using my wireless keyboard at Caribou. (Very happy right now)

My usual process is to add stuff to Google Drive as I’m reading a book, and then I write most blog posts using my laptop and pre-post them. But if I’m out and about, or if I’m traveling, the iPhone + wireless keyboard is the thing.

So the upshot is: it’s all gotten more mobile, and I’m a happy blogger because of it.

So, my fellow bloggers… what are your favorite blogging tools? And how has your blogging changed over the years?

Quiet Books

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

I’ve been pondering books that are reserved in tone* and it makes me realize I’m a total sucker for books that are quiet and understated.

This preference wouldn’t surprise too many people who’ve heard my librarian voice (I’m told it’s quiet. I’m told to Speak Up). And I come from stoic people, so understated… it’s comfortable.

If you like this stuff, or if you’ve never gone there but are wondering what all the hush is about, here are some books notable for their quiet tone…

 

There’s fiction…

 

And nonfiction…

 

And the most obvious choice of them all…

 

And I adore them all.

 

So, good readers, what titles would you add to the list?

 

 

*for the Reserved square of Book Bingo

 

18 for 2018

One of my weekly treats is listening to the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

In episode 149, Gretchen and her co-host (and sister) Elizabeth Craft introduced the concept of 18 for 2018 — a list of things to accomplish this year.

The list can contain whatever a person wants — big things or little, easy or difficult, simple or multi-phased.

I love goal-setting, I love lists, I love this concept.

So I wrote me a list.

Completed items: they’re in italics. And yes, as of the date of this posting, I’ve already ziplined.

Here are my 18 for 2018…

 

  1. Call each old friend on a regular basis
  2. Buy typewriter key jewelry
  3. Go on southern vacation with the Dear Man and Younger Sister
  4. Go on northern vacation with the Dear Man and Older Sister
  5. Roast vegetables once a month
  6. Burn a candle when writing
  7. Buy fresh flowers & watch a YouTube video to figure out how to arrange them
  8. Invite friends for dinner
  9. Begin meditating
  10. Memorize 5 quotes
  11. Visit 3 history geek places
  12. Bake 2 family recipes
  13. Replace long wool coat
  14. Buy warm winter coat & boots
  15. Remind myself to slow down once per day
  16. Complete 2 of the 3: Book Bingo, Read Harder, and Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges
  17. Zipline
  18. Paddle board a second time

 

So, how about you? Any lists of goals for the year?

 

Top 20 Pizzas

Welcome back to the PizzaQuest Chronicles.

Pizza duo at Pizzeria Due

 

Last week I listed our Top 10 Pizzas.

This week, we’ve got pizzas ranked 11 through 20.

The truth of the matter is this: When the Dear Man and I made a first pass through our pizza spreadsheet to pull out the pizzas that might be in contention for our Top 10, we listed 18 pizzas. So these are all serious winners.

 

Let’s have a look at them… again, in alphabetical order, because otherwise it’s just too hard.

 

 

Coalfire

Chicago

Thin crust

Why it’s great: Specialty pizzas like Honey & Salami and Vegan Pesto

Coalfire

 

D’Agostino’s

Glenview, IL

Thin crust

Why it’s great: Crispy thin crust and sauce full of flavor

D’Agostino’s

 

 

DeSano Pizza Bakery

Nashville, TN

Neapolitan

Why it’s great: Sauce with zing, and lovely crust

DeSano

 

 

Georgio’s Chicago Pizzeria & Pub

South Barrington, IL

Deep dish

Why it’s great: Wonderful crust and great blend of flavors

Georgio’s

 

Il Forno

Highland Park, IL

Thin crust

Why it’s great: Crispy thin crust and a nice zing in the sauce

Il Forno

 

 

Deerfield Italian Kitchen  

Deerfield, IL

Thin crust

Why it’s great: That sauce: zingy

Italian Kitchen

 

Jet’s 

Skokie, IL

Detroit style

Why it’s great: The only national chain to reach our top 20, this deep dish pizza with all edge pieces is stunningly good.

 

 

Pizza Italia  

Libertyville, IL

Deep dish

Why it’s great: Absolutely amazing crust. I mean, look at it.

Pizza Italia

 

 

Pizzeria Due  

Chicago

Deep dish

Why it’s great: Wonderful crust and nicely balanced ingredients

Pizzeria Due

 

Roots  

Chicago

Quad City style

Why it’s great: That sweet crust!

Roots

 

 

And that rounds out our Top 20 Pizzas.

 

What’s your favorite pizza place, anywhere on Earth? We’ve got a list, and we are adding to it…

 

Top 10 Pizzas

Your friendly neighborhood eaters of all the pizzas

We never set out to become pizza experts. But once we’d eaten at 50 different pizzerias, we found that we were developing some serious Pizza Discernment.

Then we ate 50 more pizzas and got even savvier. Here’s the best of what we’ve learned.

 

Our methodology:

  • Order a pizza with onions and green peppers (except if it’s a specialty pizza place that discourages deviations from their concoctions).
  • Choose the style for which the pizza place is famous: deep dish, thin crust, Neapolitan, Quad Cities style, Detroit style, New York style…

Our pizza truths:

  • There is no bad pizza.
  • Sometimes the best pizza comes from a hole-in-the-wall place.

Our pizza revelations:

  • Our favorite pizzas have zingy sauce, salty cheese, crust that tastes good all on its own, and a nice balance of ingredients.
  • If the sauce isn’t zingy, the pizza might be good but will never be great.
  • If the pizza’s not great, adding more cheese will make it worse, not better.
  • It’s easier for a pizza to stand out if it’s deep dish or very thin crust.
  • We have a weakness for deep dish.

 

And now…

Our top 10 pizzas…

First, our undisputed top 2:

 

Pequod’s Pizza

Morton Grove, IL

Deep dish

Why it’s great: That caramelized crust!

Pequod’s

 

La Rosa

Skokie, IL

Thin crust

Why it’s great: The best thin crust on the planet. Razor-thin toppings, zingy sauce, crispy crust

La Rosa

 

And the other 8, in alphabetical order:

 

de Carlucci’s Pizzeria & Mexican Grill

Morton Grove, IL

Thin crust

Why it’s great: Zingy sauce, crispy crust

de Carlucci’s

 

Gino’s East  

Chicago

Deep dish

Why it’s great: That cornmeal crust…

(We forgot to take a photo!)

 

 

Gullivers Pizza & Pub

Chicago

Deep dish

Why it’s great: All those flavors and that perfect crust

Gullivers

 

 

Harris Pizza

Rock Island, IL

Quad Cities style

Why it’s great: The sweetness of the malty crust, and the zing of the sauce

Harris Pizza

 

Impellizzeri’s Pizza   

Louisville, KY

Deep dish

Why it’s great: Zingy sauce and nicely balanced

Impellizzeri’s

 

Labriola    

Chicago

Deep dish

Why it’s great: Full-featured deep dish that impressed us even after we’d tested more than 75 pizzas

Labriola

 

Lou Malnati’s

Lincolnwood, IL

Deep dish

Why it’s great: Zingy tomatoes on the top, and the crust is always a treat

(We’ve eaten Lou’s so often, we never thought to photograph it. We’re kind of appalled at this discovery.)

 

 

Pi Pizzeria   

St. Louis, MO

Deep dish

Why it’s great: A zingy, perfectly balanced deep dish pizza with delectable crust

Pi

 

Up next week: pizzas ranked 11-20. Because there really are that many great pizzas.

 

Our fellow pizza lovers… where would you send us next?

10 year blogiversary

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Unruly Reader Turns 10 by Unruly Reader

3 words: books, community, playground

 

When I started this blog 10 years ago, I had no idea what that decade would bring. Some of it was terrible (my mom died that year, and say what you will about the stages of grief, it still sometimes hits me like category 5 hurricane) and some of it is wonderful (finding my Person — so worth the wait — it sometimes hits me like the loveliest breeze on a perfect sunny day, and I just whisper thank you).

And through it all: I kept blogging, even when it felt like nobody was looking.

And even though some weeks, I didn’t have it.

But, as the StrengthsFinder experience confirmed, I have Discipline. So posting: it happened.

And then: delightful things happened.

I met bloggers, either virtually or in person, and they’re now part of the fabric of my life. And that’s what I call a blessing.

And blogging has become a form of play… but it’s the kind of play that pays dividends. I read more thoughtfully now, and I take better notes. And I keep learning new things in my day job that make me a better blogger, and I keep learning new things as a blogger that make me a better librarian.

And while we’re talking dividends, I’ll just say this: I’ve received way more from blogging than I’ve put into it. It’s a darn good investment.

Good people of the bookish Interwebs, I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for 10 great years.

And now… onward! There’re books to read, and posts to write.

2018 reading goals

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As an Upholder, I seriously love New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I love goal setting at any time of the year. And I mean: I freakin’ love it.

So this time of year — so fresh, so new, so full of resolutions — has me all hopping around like a happy little thing*.

Needless to say, I’ve got some reading goals for the year ahead.

Here they are:

 

First: Read diverse books. Goal: 20% of my reading will be books by diverse authors. I met the 20% goal last year, and it made my reading life the richer.

 

Second: Complete Book Bingo Blackout 2018, our very own reading challenge. Anyone wanna join me? Grab the bingo card here!

 

 

Third: Complete the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

 

 

Fourth: Complete the 2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge

 

 

Within each reading challenge, each book will count for only one category. But I’ll allow myself to use the same essay collection for both Read Harder and Modern Mrs. Darcy. If I’m especially clever, it’s possible I’ll find some books that will qualify for all three challenges. Three birds, one book!

And now I’m off to do some anticipatory quivering of delight…

 

My fellow readers… What are your reading goals this year?

 

*full disclosure: I’m a tall, gawky, awkward thing (but still happy. and hopping)

My 2017 Reading Year: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

2017: you were a lovely reading year!

I’m delighted with most of the books I read this year (largely because very few of them were assigned, so I could bail on anything that didn’t strike my fancy).

I’ve written about my favorite books of the year — the new releases and the backlist.

Today we’re looking at the big picture.

The good people at Goodreads provide a snapshot of one’s reading year, and it’s all visually appealing and everything.

I read 83 books this year (81 titles, cuz 2 were re-reads within the year) and hit my goal of reading 75 books. (OK, so I revised that down from 100 cuz I couldn’t handle Goodreads taunting me with my failure to keep pace. But never mind that.)

Of those, a whopping 36 were audiobooks. My ears are practically worn out, you guys.

So we have The Good…

My proudest achievement this year is reaching my goal that 20% of the books I read would be written by diverse authors. (22%!) It was a richly rewarding experience.

And here’s The Bad & The Ugly…

So we already know I failed to reach my original goal of 100 books for the year, but I also failed to complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I read books for 17 of the 24 categories, but I didn’t manage to read a collection of poetry in translation or an all-ages comic (or 5 other things). But: I’m trying again next year. 2018, I’m feeling robust!

Let’s go back to The Good, cuz we’re gonna leave this year on an up note…

My favorite things about this year of reading are:

  • The fact that I loved so many of the books I read
  • Reading more diverse authors

 

Readers… what were your favorite reading achievements this year?

Best Books of 2017: New to Me

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

 

Last week I posted my top 10 favorite books published in 2017.

 

This week we’re celebrating the backlist.

 

Here are the favorite books I read this year that were published before 2017…

 

Best Fiction

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Give this book a whirl if you like… skilled storytelling, literary novels with a modern tone and sense of humor, complex family stories, a wry tone, narratives that interweave the past and the present, 1960s counterculture, and stories of the past coming back to bite you

 

Best Feel-Good Fiction

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Give this book a whirl if you like… heartwarming and quirky stories, charming characters, the Guinness Book of Records, children on the autism spectrum, intergenerational friendships, seniors with lively personalities, and stories of one person’s small actions having a big impact on others

 

Best Nonfiction

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This one’s a re-read, because we went to there!

Give this book a whirl if you like… the behind the scenes story (literally!), stories of collaboration, the creative process, exuberance, music, history, and beautiful books

 

Best YA Fiction

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz

Give this book a whirl if you like… smart and thoughtful novels, emotional coming of age stories, teen angst, family secrets, LGBTQ stories, and stories about friendship

 

Best Children’s Book

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Give this book a whirl if you like…  warm and honest stories of childhood, lyrical books in verse, and books you can read in small snippets

 

 

Best Memoir

Find a Way by Diana Nyad

Give this book a whirl if you like… forthright and candid memoirs, extreme sports, strong women, stories of vigor, senior power, swimming, stories of abuse survivors, and living a bold life

 

 

Best Self-Improvement Book

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Give this book a whirl if you like… game-changing productivity books, thoughtful and practical advice, diving deep, focus, and taking back control in a world filled with distractions

 

 

Best Speculative Fiction

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Give this book a whirl if you like… time travel, wide-ranging and absorbing stories, reading about the JFK assassination, a wry first-person narrative, and books that have it all: a ripping plot, realistic characters, and creative use of language

 

Best Graphic Novel

United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

Give this book a whirl if you like… the Schoolhouse Rock approach to learning, government, lively and educational nonfiction graphic novels, and the “why” behind the American system of government

 

 

Best Historical Fiction

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Give this book a whirl if you like… thoughtful and touching novels about intergenerational friendships, well-chosen words, 19th-century America, an intersection of cultures, journalism, and widowers

 

Best Short Stories

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

Give this book a whirl if you like… the clever use of words, sharp and modern short stories, a fair amount of snark, creative stories, the occasional dark twist, variety in tone among stories, and a quick and rewarding read

 

 

So, readers… What are your favorite books you read this year?

 

Best Books of 2017… it’s #libfaves17

(Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash)

 

My friends, it’s time for #libfaves17.

This is the annual torture event that challenges us to not only choose our top 10 new books of the year, but also to rank them.

I love list-making, but this is a tough one.

 

 

Here goes:

    1. Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson: sprightly, romantic, domestic
    2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: melancholy, gentle, eccentric
    3. The Leavers by Lisa Ko: sympathetic, character study, emotional
    4. On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman: witty, light, romantic
    5. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: character-driven, absorbing, metafiction
    6. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown: narrative, thoughtful, engaging
    7. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: quietly suspenseful, suburban drama, discussible
    8. My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King: inspiring, dignified, impassioned
    9. Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel: conversational, personal, thoughtful
    10. The Western Star by Craig Johnson: gripping, complex, masculine

 

So… what were your favorite newly published books in 2017?