Commonplace Book 35 (Week 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:

  • Cheesy Lentil Mushroom and Rice Bake: something strictly vegetarian J likes, and coming just after an indulgent vacation, it makes me feel a little more wholesome. I would probably be wholesomer if I didn’t eat it twice a day, though, starting, usually, at about 9:30.
  • Sheet Pan Mustard Maple Salmon is not actually a very good recipe, as it gets the cook times all wrong, but makes good food. Another one going into our meatless Friday night rotation. (See the comments at the bottom of the recipe for revised cook times, or, you know, use common sense about how long it takes to cook potatoes.)

What I’m not fixing:

  • Jackfruit the Vegan Miracle Food. I saw this as a vegan barbecue option on a menu in Jackson City recently and thought maybe they meant some other jackfruit but NO. To be fair, I’ve only had ripe jackfruit, which is a big deal in Uganda, but it’s weird and almost foamy and decidedly not good. Maybe underripe, as they suggest here as a substitute for pulled pork, is better, but I’m not taking any chances.

What I’m reading:

  • It’s been awhile since we’ve talked children’s books, and J and I got an excellent laugh/cry out of the illustration below one recent evening. Way to sear the Lord’s Prayer into a kid’s memory, right? I usually really like Tasha Tudor but find this terrifying:

Whoa, wait, do I spot a mushroom cloud? Is that a corgi corpse in the second picture, or some kind of mutant hell hound? These are questions that will haunt us all.

Commonplace Book, 34 (Week 24)

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:

  • So, I’ve been on a quest to feed us more healthy fish this pregnancy, and every few years I get the wild hair to try canned salmon, nutritious and inexpensive. (The last madness was salmon mac and cheese that had a horrifying number of bones. Do not recommend.) This recipe finally made me and J believers, though: Salmon patties with creamy garlic sauce. Also: I bought bone-free salmon this time, because I’m a fraidy cat American.
  • 30 Minute Chocolate Cake for Two: Maybe I’m just running out of tummy capacity 24 weeks into this pregnancy, but this fed four easily. The key here, mentioned only in the comments, is to use 4-inch diameter mugs or ramekins. (My first layer was tin can-shaped as a result of not following these directions, but the other two layers, made in small Pyrex, were lovely.) It was just enough to split with a third trimester friend, her husband and J.
  • I don’t think we’ve ever talked about lenticchie con ditalini, which sounds fancy but most emphatically is not. Years ago, I started with this recipe as a base, and bastardized it shamelessly, so that I generally sub chives for scallions, tomato paste for fresh tomatoes, and bacon for prosciutto. And J likes it better with shredded cheddar than mascarpone, which I adore but don’t usually have kicking around the house. But the original is great, too!

What I’m reading:

  • Middlemarch, forever — I think I have 27 hours left on the audiobook. Still good, though, at least.
  • I didn’t love Children of God as much as The Sparrow — it felt like it got a little theologically shaky and equivocal toward the end — but I still loved it a lot.

“‘God made the world and He saw that it was good,’ Sofia’s father had always told her when complained of some injustice during her brief childhood. ‘Not fair. Not happy. Not perfect, Sofia. Good.'”

and

“‘A God with quirky, unfathomable rules, a God who gets fed up with us and pissed off! But quick to forgive, Sofia, and generous,’ D.W. said, his voice softening, eyes full of light, ‘always, always in love with humanity. Always there, waiting for us — generation after generation — to return His passion. Ah, Sofia, darlin’! On my best days, I believe in Him with all my heart.'”

and

“Maybe when you’re frightened, you can hear God better because you’re listening harder.”

Reading instead of cleaning our clearly filthy sunroom

 

 

Commonplace Book, 33 (Week 23)

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:

  • My granny visited! And it was her birthday! And Pippin is obsessed with baking birthday cakes he refuses to eat! And Scout is obsessed with eating “party cake” she refuses to make! So we made a molasses spice cake with buttercream icing and it was pretty delicious, if unusual for a July birthday. It makes just one 9″ round — I just love small cakes, instead of leftovers lingering for days to reproach me (or be consumed in a fit of heartburn). Also, question for readers: do you think I could sub butter for shortening next time?
  • Almost not a recipe at all but in case you’re craving what I’m craving in large quantities with minimal work: pesto mozzarella chicken in the slow cooker.

Granny humors me and smiles with her (Pippin-decorated) cake

 What I’m reading:

When I come to town with my kids, the table is extended to its maximum size and my dad makes a quintuple batch of crepes before sitting down to drink a few cups of strong coffee with  splashes of cream. When he brings the mug to his mouth, he overlooks a table full of two generations of his making.

We only have a few pieces of really grownup furniture, but one of them is the dining room table J’s grandma bought us when the original homeowners were selling it along with the house, and we already have so many happy memories gathered around it.

  • Children of Godthe sequel to The Sparrowwhich is making me excited and full of dread at the same time because I’m so invested. Also, let’s talk about The Sparrow — this piece is a good starting point.
  • Middlemarch as an audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson and I’m actually enjoying it this time! Like, excited for dishes-washing and tooth-brushing, when normally I’m just counting down till I can flop over.
  • A Severe Mercy for a book club. I’ve read it before and enjoyed it back in college, but to look legit I should probably stop calling it A Separate Peace.

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.

What I’m fixing:

  • So, I’ve made this Zucchini-Potato Frittata before, and it’s delicious, but it really struck home this time just how much work it is. It takes forever. Help me make it better:
    • Do you think I could use a bag of frozen hashbrowns in lieu of cutting all those potatoes and onions? The potatoes are the most hateful part — you have to mandoline them, then cook them forever and then they stick to the skillet. Enraging.
    • Or tell me your cheesy, meaty summer squash recipes? I need it not to taste like squash.
  • Because we had someone dairy free for dinner, Copycat Carrabba’s Herb Oil for Dipping Bread. Good, but then, so was the cilantro garlic compound butter I cobbled together for naan the other night.

What I’m reading:

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” –Haldir of Lothlorien

  • The Sparrowa.k.a. JESUITS IN SPACE. Lots of imaginative ideas, deep characters, and juicy theological questions:

“What sticks in my throat is that God gets the credit but never the blame. I just can’t swallow that kind of theological candy. Either God’s in charge or He’s not.”

Helping with beer bread

Commonplace Book, 31 (Week 18)

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:

  • She lives! The usual brownies and this Indian stew and my go-to cobbler with my trusty cobbler sous-chef, and this cornbread which will henceforth be considered my standard cornbread recipe. (Not for those who like a nice, sweet cornbread. Also, can we agree that corn kernels in cornbread are repugnant?)

What I’m reading:

  • The Fellowship of the RingI missed the Well-Read Moms book group meeting that discussed it because we’ve had a quick progression of houseguests and all my reading time has gone to visiting — a welcome change from the slow slog of first trimester. This is, I think, my third pass, and I love it more each time. Can I confess, as a woman with a child named Pippin, that I didn’t enjoy it much the first time, reading it in high school to impress J? My love for the brave melancholy that imbues it has grown with age, though. As someone says (Aragorn?) — my notes are pretty bad — “It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.” Also, how is this for #homemaking goals?

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all’. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”

She’s two tomorrow and they’re becoming friends and it makes my heart so glad

Commonplace Book, 30

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:

  • So rude of you to even ask.

What I’m reading:

  • Blood Red, Snow WhiteI don’t know if I’ve talked about our family’s ardent affection for Swallows and Amazonsa book that kicks of a series in which kids float around on a little sailboat in the Lake District and, charmingly, almost nothing happens. But did you know THE AUTHOR WAS A RUSSIAN SPY? And someone wrote a lovely, lyrical, fairy-tale-y account of Arthur Ransome’s time in Russia, and you can read it, and agree with me that although it’s basically the opposite of Swallows and Amazons, it’s really very good.
  • Till We Have FacesCurrently reading. Was supposed to finish for WRM, but since I was too sick to go, I have the luxury of reading it slowly in epsom salt baths that are not curing my morning sickness but still qualify as one of the more fun possible remedies.
  • Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of PregnancyI’ve been gushing about this one over on Instagram. I thought I had found the best of faith-oriented books on the sanctifying suckiness of pregnancy (if not a genre, it should be), but au contraire! I’ve been underlining a lot. So glad it’s in the world.

“Pregnant women learn through pregnancy to trust others for their basic needs. They learn their own limits. They learn to ask for and receive help. They learn to surround themselves with communities of support…They learn to trust that God will meet their needs through the people around them. In short, pregnant women learn to live by faith.”

Currently book people even more than normal. (Also TV people…)

Commonplace Book, 29

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’ve been fixing:

  • Nada. My most masterful culinary accomplishment in weeks is buying potatoes for John to microwave and serve with chili I had made with my mom back at 5.5 weeks. Also, sometimes I make toast and sit on the grimy kitchen floor as it toasts.

What I’ve been reading:

Well, that’s a horse of a different color, or something. Here goes:

  • The Screwtape Letters: reread for Well Read Mom. I love that with each new pass, new things convict me — this time discussions of who time really belongs to and a striking critique of delicacy, which definitely comes into play when you’re trying to evaluate how much of your morning sick life is legitimate survival and how much is fretful selfishness.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: I know the title is supposed to be cutesy, but it drives me nuts. Otherwise, loved this one about life in the Occupied and postwar Channel Islands. Told in sly epistles for bonus points!
  • The Light Between Oceans: In the early 20th century, an Australian lighthouse keeper and his wife discover a baby and a dead man washed ashore their isolated island. They keep the baby. Hypnotically depressing but with an unexpectedly hopeful ending. (See below.)
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: Not as good as I was hoping — kind of weirdly veering in places — but still fun. Major Pettigrew has lived his life in genteel English society in a way to uphold the family honor, but when his adult son’s behavior becomes increasingly crass and the Major himself strikes up a friendship with the village shopkeeper, he must decide how important the status quo really is.
  • Blythewood: See, here is where I got really wretchedly sick at nine weeks and dropped all literary pretensions. Young adult; girls at a mysterious boarding school in the early 20th century learn to fight the mysterious denizens of Faerie. But are all the creatures as evil as the girls have been taught? Fine. I don’t know. Probably not worth reading.
  • Red Rising: Life on Mars mining below its surface is hard to the point of slavery, but one miner discovers the truth: other castes rule this and other planets, living in unimaginable luxury. A little like Hunger Games, a little like Ender’s Game, way too violent for me. Also YA.
  • Edgewater: the YA parade continues as I demand plot and escapism. This was more nuanced than I was expecting. A girl raised by her eccentric aunt in their crumbling beachside manor is suddenly reduced to poverty just as she meets the tabloid boy of her dreams. See? It sounds ridiculous.
  • The Shade of the Moon: this is the fourth in a series I read so long ago I had forgotten some key plot points. In short: four years ago a meteor hit the moon out of orbit and towards the earth, causing mondo natural disasters and destroying society as we know it etc. Now our man Jon is a lucky resident of an enclave, a sort of fortress that exploits workers who live in comparative poverty. He’s a spoiled teenager till a new girl in the enclave opens his eyes to social justice. Then he does a bunch of bad things but eventually mends his was. This series is mysterious in its pull for me because parts are really, really grim for YA (rape, brutality) and yet some plot and dialog ring almost middle grade in their triteness. Luckily the series is finally over now so I can’t be lured back in.
  • Everything I Never Told You: in 1970s small town Ohio, the golden child of the biracial Lee family is found drowned in the neighborhood pond. As above, hypnotically depressing, but with an unexpectedly redemptive ending. And look! Twelve weeks and back to adult books, for the moment at least.