My Favourite Tool for Reading More Books (For Free)

How to Read More Books For Free

If you follow my blog, you probably know that I like to read, a lot. It’s easily my favourite activity, and definitely the one I’ve been doing the longest. Reading, for me, is the easiest way to learn more, challenge myself, become a more interesting person, grow, understand other people and the world better, and feel like my days are longer and richer. It’s also the simplest, cheapest way I know to do all those things.

That being said, books can be expensive, which is why I think our greatest achievement of human history has been the library. What else in our society do we offer people for free!? I find it nothing short of amazing that the institution of the library has stuck around this long, especially since we now charge money for absolutely everything else. I am so proud that we humans have recognized the power and beauty of books and decided to offer them to anyone, anywhere, for free.

I am also so excited that libraries have moved with us into the digital age. Sure, the idea of a “digital library” seems a bit silly at first, since I guess we could easily make thousands of digital copies and give one to anyone who wants one, but I think somehow that would be bad for the business of books and authors. I personally don’t mind the current digital format of having a few weeks to read a book before it has to go back to the “library”. It feels normal and it makes perfect sense to me: even though it’s a digital file, it’s still a library, and the books are only to borrow.

How to Read More Books For Free

So for anyone wondering how on earth I manage to read 75 books a year and still pay my bills every month, Overdrive + my library cards are the answer. Overdrive is an app available for iPad, Android, Kindle, and computers that allows you to access the digital collections of your library, for free.

I currently hold two library cards – one in Oakville where I’m from, and one in Montreal where I went to school. Each library has its own digital collection and they choose which new books to buy like at any library, so my two libraries are slightly different in their content. Often one has a book that the other doesn’t, so I’m grateful to still hold both cards at the moment.

Whenever I add a new book to my never-ending to-read list, I check and see if one of my two libraries has it. More often than not, they do, and I either borrow it right away or put it on hold. Getting emails saying I have a book on hold that is ready to be borrowed is like Christmas! I absolutely love it when I’m able to read a book I’d been hearing so much hype about for free. Also, the digital libraries are getting better and better all the time, and it’s exciting to see that they usually have hot new books available if you’re willing to wait a few days. If the library doesn’t have a book, I choose to read something different (there’s always something else to read!), buy it on Amazon, or look for it at a bookstore.

Digital libraries are perfect for me because I live in a foreign country right now and don’t have access to many English books. I usually read on my iPad mini, which I realize is a privilege I am lucky to have. However I will say that before I had my tablet, I used to read the occasional book on my computer (not the most convenient, but it gets the job done!), and I’ve started downloading audiobooks through the app to listen to from my phone when I’m running or otherwise on the go. So there are other ways to access this content if you’re interested but don’t have a device like an iPad or Kindle.

If you love to read as much as I do, Overdrive might change your life the way it changed mine. It’s completely free and very easy to use, and I absolutely love having so much amazing content right at my fingertips. If you’re interested but not sure how to get started, they have an awesome Help section with several informative videos.

By the way if you’re a reader, let’s become friends on Goodreads! I love seeing what other people are reading and what they think of books. Happy reading!

Instagram Tips: How To Add Line Breaks and Spaces to Your Captions and Bio

How to Add Line Breaks and Spaces to Your Instagram Captions and Bio

Note: This post is no longer being updated!

Thank you for your interest. Please see the comments below for up-to-date solutions & ideas. These days, I personally just use the “Return” key within the Instagram app to create line breaks, which has been working for me for the past year or so. The solution below also still works for me, but I no longer use it as frequently. 


This has been bugging me for a long time, but I’ve finally discovered a way to create line breaks on Instagram. In my captions, I often find myself wishing I could insert a line break between thoughts, or after a quote, but I’ve never been able to find a consistent way to do so until now.

A lot of the online tutorials I’ve seen instruct you to use the Notepad app to write your desired caption or bio blurb, and then copy & paste it onto Instagram. I find this works for me less than half the time. If it works for you, carry on! It’s definitely worth a try.

How to Add Line Breaks and Spaces to Your Instagram Captions and Bio

For me, the surprising fix has been to use the Facebook app. It’s incredibly simple, too: open up the Facebook app and click on “Update Status”. On the screen that appears, shown in the photo above, write your caption. Remember to use the “Return” key on your keyboard to make sure the app is recording your line breaks.

How to Add Line Breaks and Spaces to Your Instagram Captions and Bio

Copy the whole thing, and paste it into your Instagram caption or bio. The apps should preserve your line breaks and when you post the photo the caption should be just the way you want it to look.

How to Add Line Breaks and Spaces to Your Instagram Captions and Bio

You can do the same thing for your Instagram bio, but I have noticed that it doesn’t preserve the full space between lines like in photo captions. For bios, it usually just jumps down directly to the next line as shown above.

I’d also encourage you to play around with it a bit! As you might have noticed, for the caption of the photo above, I had written in two full line breaks – one after the quote, and the other before the hashtags – yet on Instagram it only preserved the first one, and just put the hashtags directly on the next line. It’s hard to say why it did this for one but not the other, because it’s all a bit mysterious. It doesn’t even matter if I enter two “returns” on the Facebook app, sometimes it just gives me one line break or even just pushes the content to the very next line. Experiment and see what works for you.

Let me know in the comments below if this fix worked for you, or if you have any other tips or questions about Instagram.

You can follow me on Instagram @stephpellett to see photos of my travels.

Q&A: How To Create a Self-Hosted Blog

How To Start a Self-Hosted Blog

What process did you go through to create your domain names “http://lifeinlimbo.org” and “http://stephaniepellett.com“? I’ve attempted creating my own blog so many times it hurts, but I’ve always gone through Blogger.     -Sarah

Just over 3 years ago, I changed over from WordPress.com to self-hosting my blog and it’s safe to say that I’ve never looked back. Hosting my own blog has given me tons of freedom, including the ability to also host my own personal website and the podcast website, with the option to add an unlimited number of more sites if I choose to. By self-hosting, I can also embed many more widgets and add advertising options to my blog. Not to mention I am able to design my websites to look exactly the way I want them to using CSS and HTML. Obviously, hosting costs more than using a stellar free service such as WordPress.com, but for me it offers enough advantages to be worth it. If you’re interested in making the switch too, here are the steps you’ll need to take.

1. Choose a host

This is definitely the most important decision you’ll make regarding your blog. The host you choose will store your website on its servers, while allowing you all the freedom you want in terms of design and content. A host works behind the scenes to ensure that everything on your blog is running smoothly.

My hosting service has always been (and probably always will be) Bluehost. They offer unlimited storage and unlimited registered domains (ie. as many websites as you choose to have). They also have 24/7 support, if you ever need help with your site. I’ve only ever had one serious issue with my site since I’ve been self-hosting – I accidentally left my blog in a state of permanent maintenance mode – and I was able to resolve it over the phone in only a few minutes with a very nice Texan man. He was friendly, smart, and most of all very efficient in solving my problem.

And the best part about Bluehost? It’s so well priced. If you sign up for 12 months, it’s only $7 a month, or $84 a year. If you sign up for longer, as I intend to do the next time I need to renew my service, it can be as low as $4.95 a month. You can learn more about their pricing options here.

I did a lot of research before initially choosing my web host, and I’ve always been very happy with my choice.

2. Register your domain

How To Start a Self-Hosted Blog

The next step is to register your desired domain name. “Domain name” is just a fancy way of saying the URL of your blog. Mine, for example is “lifeinlimbo.org”.

One of my favourite things about Bluehost is that I can register domains from inside my dashboard and don’t have to use a third-party service. It’s very easy, and if your desired domain name is taken, they show you other options and their prices right away. I love having all that information at my fingertips. It can be dangerous though – I’ve gotten carried away registering a few extra domains for future projects and endeavors!

Domains usually cost about $12, but can be much more expensive depending on how popular the name is. I also personally purchase domain name privacy protection for my sites. Legally, you must provide your name and address when you purchase any domain, and that information is searchable online. For $10 a year, Bluehost allows you to protect your private details by masking them with their own information. You can learn more about domain privacy services here.

3. Install WordPress

How to Start a Self-Hosted Blog

Once you have secured hosting and a domain name, all you really have is a blank webpage. To turn it into a blog, I recommend using WordPress. It is hands down the best website software available, and it’s totally free. Once installed, you can have a gorgeously designed blog up and running within a few minutes, literally.

Through Bluehost, you can very easily install any platform you choose, including WordPress, in only a few minutes. It’s very simple and straightforward, and you can access the installation page from your account’s homepage like in the screenshot above. If you are using a different host, you can download the WordPress software directly from their website and install it yourself.

Once installed, you’ll have a link to a WordPress login page, ex. “http://yourblog.com/wp-admin” where you can sign in and access your WordPress dashboard. Once you’re signed in, you’re in an easy-to-use backend of your blog where you can easily install plugins, see stats, choose a theme, add widgets, write posts and upload photos.

4. Choose a theme

How to Start a Self-Hosted Blog

Now for the fun stuff! WordPress offers thousands of free themes, most very customizable, available to browse on their website. You can also find them in the “Appearance” panel of your WordPress dashboard.

There are many other awesome themes on the market, and most are fairly inexpensive. I personally use a heavily customized version of the free Brunelleschi theme on this site.

Choosing a theme can take some trial-and-error, so play around with it and don’t be afraid to switch it up. I’ve changed my theme many times over the years, and I always love a good redesign! If you’re just starting out, I would recommend resisting the temptation to buy a theme, even if it is only $30. Some themes are really worth it (though they tend to be more like $100), but most aren’t much better than a good, customized free theme.

5. Install plugins

A plugin is a program that runs behind the scenes on your blog to add on features. There’s a (free) plugin for almost anything you can imagine! My favourite plugins are:

  • Jetpack: a package designed and updated by the WordPress team that offers everything from site stats to awesome widgets to custom CSS.
  • Disqus Comment System: a streamlined, functional system for commenting.
  • Akismet: protects my sites from spam comments.
  • jQuery Pin It Button: displays a “Pin It” button when someone hovers over a photo on my site.
  • LinkWithin: displays other related posts at the bottom of all my blog posts.
  • WP to Twitter: automatically tweets the title and link of published blog posts.

I do have others not listed here running in the background of my site for other tasks, but these ones would be my top picks for someone starting their website from scratch.

To install a plugin, go to the “Plugins” menu on your WordPress dashboard (right below “Appearance”, see the previous screenshot) and select “Add new”. You can then search for any plugin you wish. You can also browse plugins on the WordPress website.

6. Customize your theme and add widgets + buttons

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 11.02.38 PM

Most themes these days have tons of customizable options, including the number and position of sidebars, which can make a huge difference in a site’s overall design. Most blogs have one sidebar on the right, for example:

Others have two sidebars, one on either side of the content, for example:

I’d suggest taking some time to explore your favourite blogs and make notes on what you like and dislike about each of their site designs. It depends on your theme, but this option usually comes built into your “Theme Options” page.

After that, it’s all about the widgets! “Widget” is the WordPress term for a little box of code that lives on your sidebar or footer and displays content. On my blog, that’s everything you see in the right hand column, from my “Welcome” photo all the way down to my affiliate links and what I’m currently reading. Take some time to explore the widgets that come built into WordPress, such as ones displaying your most Popular Posts, site archives or categories.

Most of the widgets you see on my sidebar are pulled from other websites (ex. Mailchimp) or custom coded by yours truly in HTML. Knowing even a little bit of HTML is immensely helpful when installing or creating widgets, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post. If you don’t know any HTML, the w3schools website is a great resource. You may also want to check out their tutorials on CSS if you want to do anything like changing the fonts, site colours or link styles from the default theme options.

7. Get blogging!

Realistically, this is the most important step on the list. You could stop after getting hosting, WordPress and a theme, and just get to the point of the whole thing and start creating content. Over the years, my site has gone through a ton of designs and themes and they’ve all built slowly on top of each other as my knowledge has grown and my style has developed. But the one constant is the writing. One of my all time favourite blogs, The Trephine, has one of the most simple blog designs I’ve seen, but she’s gained a tremendously loyal, interested following because her writing is amazing and true. And really, that’s the whole point of blogging.

So ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’re on Blogger or WordPress.com or hosting your own content – the important thing is to write true things down, reach out to others and stay passionate. I absolutely love that John Irving quote: “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed,” and nowhere is that more true for me than when it comes to my blog. I’ve been blogging (aka spewing my thoughts) for a very long time. The earliest blog post I can find that’s still in existence (it’s on Livejournal and you’re never, ever finding out the name of it) was December 2006, and the post itself refers to two previous blogs that I, in the words of my 15 year old self, “grew out of”.

Safe to say, I’m obsessed and have been for a very long time. Like all things, my interest ebbs and flows, but if I’m ever away for too long I start to feel like I’m not myself anymore. Blogging doesn’t have to be that thing for you, but if it is, hold onto it and forget about what your theme looks like or what widgets you need to choose. You’ll get there over time. If you’re in it for the long haul, it doesn’t really matter how fast you figure it out.

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If you have any more questions about blogging and self-hosting, or widgets and themes and plugins, feel free to let me know in the comments below. Best of luck and have fun!

Please note that affiliate links are used in this post. If you purchase any products recommended, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are absolutely and always my own.

4 Easy Bedtime Yoga Poses

Bedtime Yoga

A couple weeks ago, I was approached by Casper Sleep to share my favourite bedtime yoga poses. If you aren’t familiar with Casper, it’s an awesome mattress company based in New York City. I personally hadn’t heard of Casper before, but I was hooked as soon as I visited their website. As a company, they’re doing a lot of things right, like offering a great-looking product, free shipping, and awesome branding. They also have a really funny and informative blog that dives into all kinds of different facets of sleep – think eye masks, lucid dreaming, and of course bedtime yoga!

To me, “bedtime yoga” means a few simple, relaxing poses I can do in bed, mostly because a lot of the time I probably forgot to stretch before getting into bed and am now too lazy to get back up. They have to be able to be done comfortably in my (currently) single bed, without any unnecessary equipment, because the equipment would probably be halfway across my apartment, not in the bed where I plan on staying until morning.

All of the following poses can be done while half asleep in your cozy bed, and require only a wall.

Reclining pigeon pose with a wall: Lie on your back with your feet toward the wall. Put your left leg up against the wall, forming a triangle with your leg, the bed and the wall. Place the right foot across your left thigh, with your knee pointing out to the right side. If this is enough of a stretch, stay here and breathe into it. If you’d like more of a stretch, start to slowly bend your left leg with your left foot against the wall. It should look something like this, but with a wall against the left foot. Keep your right foot flexed the whole time to prevent strain on your knee. After a few minutes, switch sides. This is an awesome hip opening pose! Tip: each day, alternate which leg you start with. I always find that after doing the first hip, I have much less patience for the second hip and so I spend less time on it, so alternating helps me stay balanced.

Happy Baby pose: Lie on your back. Grab the outsides of your feet with your hands and spread your knees wider than the width of your torso. Keep your lower back flat on the bed and start to gently pull your feet towards your armpits. Breathe, and hold the pose for a few minutes.

Legs-up-the-wall pose: Sit sideways alongside the wall on your bed, with one of your shoulders touching the wall and your hip as close to the wall as you can manage. Swivel to lie down on your back and stretch your legs up the wall. If you have tight hamstrings, you can start lying down and scoot inwards until you feel a nice stretch in the backs of your legs. Stretch your arms out to the sides or in cactus arms and relax. This pose is very restorative, slows your heart rate and calms your mind. I like to do this one while trying to meditate or practice gratitude. You can watch an awesome video of how to do this pose from yoga guru Kathryn Budig here.

Gentle spinal twist: Lie on your back with both legs stretched out. Bend your left knee into your body, then gently twist so that the left knee goes across your body to the right. Keeping both your shoulders on the mattress, hold your knee in place with your right hand, and turn your head to look over your left shoulder. After a few minutes, switch sides. This pose is very relaxing, and always makes me feel ready to sleep.

I don’t always remember to stretch before bed, or even when I’m in bed, but I love having these poses in my back pocket to stretch out that hip tightness and back pain from sitting all day, and calm and quiet my mind before I doze off.

Please note: this is not a sponsored post and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are, as always, my own. Also, as I’m not a yoga teacher yet all of the above is a distillation of all the yoga classes I’ve taken and what I’ve learned myself in books or online. Be gentle, and make sure to ask your own yoga teacher if you have any trouble or pain!