Commonplace Book

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.

Note: OK, y’all, I’ve been letting this one roll for about two months, as you’ll see in my cattle call of cakes. Bear with me as I get caught up!

What I’m fixing:

  • Oven “Fried” Parmesan Baked Chicken Tenders: Parmesan is my condiment of choice but Pip couldn’t detect it in these, so it’s a win for our family.
  • Slow Cooker Steak Ale Cheese Soup: a little rich for me, maybe, but J adored it.
  • Roo’s birthday cake last month was this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, since she dearly loves peanut butter. She was the most satisfying cake smasher of my three, too.
  • J’s birthday cake was this carrot cake, three times, because it was that good, and also because a.) Pip insisted on throwing him a surprise birthday three weeks early (surprise!) and b.) we burnt the first cake we made him on his real birthday.
  • For Epiphany Scout and I made our first Buche de Noel, or Yule Log. It was a real learning experience. Using a stoneware pan for the first time was the first hurdle, and easiest; rolling a cake was substantially harder. I made too little mint icing for the inside roll, but I liked using the mint for a little zingy, Christmas-y surprise. I made too much icing for the outside of the roll (J would say that’s impossible), but I really needed it to hold the crumbling rolled cake together. Anyway, I think we will do it again, but I’ll be tinkering with my technique for awhile.

What I’m reading:

  • I’ve been meaning to link to this piece, “We Are All Burdens” since I first read it over a month ago. It says, much more movingly, what I was trying to get at when I wrote “When Your Life is Actual Poop” a while back.
  • I have an almost limitless capacity for nostalgia (duh, says the long time reader), so I loved Christie Purifoy’s “A Complicated Ache.”
  • I (not so) recently finished When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, and I didn’t love it. It’s possible I’m getting too old and crotchety for YA, although, having married my high school sweetheart, I’ll always root for young love. But with this one, the alternating perspectives left me just rooting for fuddy-duddy traditionalist Rishi and mostly annoyed at Dimple. And I’ve always been fascinated by arranged marriage, so I enjoyed spending a little time in Rishi’s head.

“This wasn’t just an arranged marriage to Rishi; this was the rich fabric of history, stretched through time and space.”

  • [evidence this post has been in drafts since November] Elsewhere, Katie gives us a salient reminder that Christmas decor isn’t about expressing our excellent taste, writing:

“I need to keep in mind that Christmas decorating does not exist to express my personal taste to the world. It’s to celebrate a birthday, and it’s not mine.”

Sometimes I get exasperated that basically none of our holiday stuff reflects our preferences, aside from the tree skirts I painstakingly selected several years back. Almost all of it is sentimental hand-me-downs or gifts from family or weird stuff the kids made, but that’s kind of the point, right?

  • I read The Scent of Watermy first Elizabeth Goudge, and I note that because I’m certain it won’t be my last. I’ve marked up dozens of passages, but here’s just one, which, while not as lovely and meditative as the others, validates my distrust of open floor plans:

“Finding her way around the half walls from one area to another always made her feel as though she was wandering around a maze, but with no hope of finding any core of privacy when she got to the end.”

OK, just kidding, I’m sneaking in a more representative bit, too:

“…that she should think that anything she could do would ameliorate even the fringe of the devastation touched him even more. It was like a child trying to empty the ocean with a toy bucket. Yet the same criticism could be leveled at every individual attempt to ameliorate or withstand the titanic evils of the world, and the puny efforts had to be made because it was all one could do. And if there were enough children with enough buckets…”

I’ve heard Goudge’s stuff is pretty hit or miss. What other books by her would you recommend?

3 thoughts on “Commonplace Book

  1. A friend of mine loves Elizabeth Goudge. She suggested starting with The Bird in the Tree, The Rosemary Tree, or if you’re prepared for a difficult read, Green Dolphin Street. I’m currently trying to scoop up all of them!


    • I feel like you have to have a tolerably high tolerance for floral descriptions and sentimentality—I got some LM Montgomery vibes, but I’m a fan girl for life so no hardship there. Goudge is a much more orthodox thinker, though!

      My carrot cakes are always Katherine-and-carrot cakes. They require a blood sacrifice via grating!!


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