Commonplace Book, 27

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • Samosa Pie. We loved this. I used ground beef instead of ground chicken because the use of poultry substitutes is grounds for abandonment in J’s mind. I also halved the jalapeño because I was also making a batch for a newly postpartum friend and her children. And then I stained our counter quite impressively with turmeric. But still. Worth trying.
  • Things with our friends’ Whole30 leftovers. (Don’t pity them. They’re in Hawaii now. Don’t grudge me my cashew milk chocolate pudding and carrot coconut milk soup.)

What I’m reading:

When we stop feeling like we need to make every moment of our kids’ lives picture perfect and enjoyable, it leaves us some room to breathe and (get this!) really, truly enjoy more of their childhood.   These year are precious, there’s no denying it; but more important than just enjoying them, we can actually be at peace in them (and not just in retrospect), knowing that we’re fully present and accepting of both the good and the hard.

  • The Boxcar Children series with Pippin. I remember reading these as a kid and delighting in them, in the kids’ independence and housekeeping, and P loves them, too. But reading them as an adult is so surreal, this weird double vision, a haunting awareness of how Gertrude Chandler Warner walks this tightrope around all the darkness in the children’s lives. As an adult, I think of the real bitterness of orphanhood when the Aldens mention casually their parents are dead; I think of the children I saw climbing in the dump in Uganda when the kids go hunting for treasures in the junkyard. And yet the passages where they forage blueberries and wash them down with a bottle of milk cooled in the stream are just as bewitching.
  • I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklynand despite my early reservations, I really loved it and had trouble putting it down by the end. I’ve never felt very at home in New York City, but I loved reading about Francie looking out over her Williamsburg neighborhood, thinking of the evening I spent on my sister’s roof almost 100 years later, when she spent a stint in Bushwick:

She looked out over Brooklyn. The starlight half revealed, half concealed. She looked out over the flat roofs, uneven in height, broken once in awhile by a slanting roof from a house left over from older times. The chimney pots on the roofs…and on some, the shadowing looming of pigeon cotes…sometimes, faintly heard, the sleepy cooing of pigeons…the twin spires of the Church, remotely brooding over the dark tenements…And at the end of their street, the great Bridge that threw itself like a sigh across the East River and was lost…lost…on the other shore. The dark East River beneath the Bridge, and far way, the misty-gray skyline of New York, looking like a city cut from cardboard.

Francie feels like the kind of character who becomes a watchword for discerning kindred spirits, like Anne, like Harry. You love Francie? Me, too! Katie I just adored and forgave all her limitations; Johnny I struggled with. When did you first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?

The high class A+ photography you come here for; Brooklyn roof life, 2013


8 thoughts on “Commonplace Book, 27

  1. I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in middle school and it instantly became my favorite book. I’ve read it many times since then and I find so much more to appreciate reading it at different stages in my life (the true test of a great book!). I think I’ll have to re-read it again soon!


  2. I just finished ATGIB for the first time last week. I thought it was lovely as well. It’s sparked a lot of discussion with my husband about poverty and how poverty has looked throughout history. The characters were all flawed, but ultimately good. Just like real people. That takes doing as an author.

    Now I need to check out Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith because I enjoyed her writing style so much. 🙂


    • This feels like one of those books where I’m almost afraid to sample other things by the author because what if they don’t live up the first one I read and loved? (This is why I still haven’t tried LMM’s Emily books, I think, or the extra HP materials. Pessimism!)


  3. I love the house meal link–it brought me back to all the rice and bean dinners we had growing up 🙂 I think grain+whatever veggies+poached egg bowls have become our house meal. It’s an effective fridge-cleaner meal.

    That samosa pie tho. Going on the to make list!

    I just finished up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and I loved it! I was forewarned that I might find it depressing but I found it hopeful and so beautifully written. And I felt like it was particularly poignant to read as a mother. I’m glad I didn’t read in school though because I feel like I have to undo a lot of my distaste for objectively good books analyzed through a banal and reductivist lens in English class.


  4. I think it was around the time that Francie switched schools and started to encounter some encouragement that I breathed a sigh of relief and started to enjoy her story in earnest. I stopped fearing so much that she would ultimately be squashed like a bug, or that Katie in her pride would let them starve. (I am a lot angrier at Francie’s parents than some of the other women in my group!)

    I remember complaining as a kid about how school “sucked the life” out of books. I didn’t feel that way in college, but it was certainly a slog in much of grade school!


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