Commonplace Book, 42

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:

  • Still coasting on the kindness of others.
  • Suet, with the kids. Gross, I️ guess. But it uses up pantry odds and ends and seemed an appropriate activity for St Nicholas Day because, you know, generosity. We used:
    • melted bacon grease, beef fat, coconut oil
    • the last bits of: golden raisins, grits, oatmeal, sunflower seeds and chopped peanuts.
    • I read you could add cayenne to scare off other critters and since a friend recently found an opossum in our trashcan, we added some.

We poured the satisfyingly creepy brew into the silicone snowflake mold I thought would be awesome for compound butter (no) and set it on the porch to cool. Then we froze them, popped the pucks out and put one in the mesh bag you get with oranges or onions. Please don’t tell me if one of these ingredients will decimate the local avian population. The kids are so proud.

Classing up the neighborhood

What I’m reading:

  • 11 Ways to Prepare Your Boy to Be a Great Priest or Dad — found and shared by a friend. #4 and #5 made me laugh out loud.
  • How Chickens and Goats Are Helping to Stop Child Marriage
  • The Bear and the NightingaleI’ve been reading this Roo’s whole life (ha!) and can’t decide if it’s worth it or not. Anyone have an opinion one way or another?
  • A Christmas Carolwhich J is reading aloud to me and the kids after the dinner. I think Pippin is getting maybe 10-20% and Scout none at all, but we are communicating something we love, and it’s time we might otherwise allot to TV or more chores. Instead, we sit around the Advent wreath and then the fireplace and kids snuggle with us and we slow down just a bit, and if that’s all they take away from the reading this year, that still seems like a wonderful start.

 

In other news, occasionally Roo deigns to open her eyes now
This time last year:

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    Commonplace Book, 41

    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.

    I’m soaking up “maternity leave,” which for a homemaker means having my husband home nearly full time and having meals brought almost every evening. We are still schooling and nursing and laundering and all the rest, but the pace is significantly relaxed.

    I am also counting down to Advent and trying to resist getting a tree till Sunday. It’s not easy, especially since Pip remembered about the feast of St Nicholas and started asking daily when he’ll get candy in his shoes.

    What I’m fixing:

    • Basically nothing. People are bringing us meals, which continues to be just the best. For Thanksgiving I️ fixed slow cooker green bean casserole (double the onions, of course), my mom’s chocolate chip pecan pie, and my mother-in-law’s cranberry sauce, and it was such a joy to cook again, no longer heavy-footed and heartburn-ridden, but I’m grateful that my holiday cooking was just a novelty in this season — it’s such a gift to have dinners taken care of instead of frantically attempting to cook with a clingy baby too small to fit in the Ergo.
    Even cuter than the pie maker in Pushing Daisies

    What I’m reading:

    • The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz. I️ don’t know if I️ loved it, but it was certainly awfully interesting:

    “Life is a song, composed and sung by God. We are but characters in His song. […] If we could hear our own songs, if we could see God’s creation the way God does, we would know it’s the most beautiful song there is.”

    • Five Little Peppers and How They Grew: aloud to the kiddos. So far I’m meh, but I was looking for something in the spirit of Little Women and Little Men, which Pip loved as audiobooks, and then I found this at a Little Free Library. At least they’re loving siblings, which can sometimes be hard to find, and it’s very anti-materialist (a la Little Women), just as the Christmas greed sets in.
    • How to Pray As a Busy Family: A Beginner’s Guide — mostly stuff I’d intuited but handily collected in one spot.

    This time last year:

    • Anosmia is a thing you probably didn’t know existed. Now you do.

    Commonplace Book, 40 (Before and After)

    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.

    (If things feel scattered in this post, it’s because they are. I started it before Roo’s arrival, and am finishing it now, a few days later. I’ve got a lot to share, but it’s all over the map.)

    What I’m fixing:

    What I’m reading:

    • HP1. The audiobook and the hope of triggering labor were the only things keeping me waddling through chores.
    • The Joy of the Memorized Poem: The night before labor, we attended a Poems, Pints & Pies party, and this got me thinking in all kinds of ways. (I also think much of it applies to memorizing prayers and Scripture, too.) At the party, I realized I knew more poetry by heart than I had thought: “The Owl and the Pussycat“; most of “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent“; a soliloquy from Macbeth.
    • In the hospital, I read The Awakening of Miss Prim (finally!), and this passage reverberated with me after the fun of the poetry party:

    “We know lots of parts of poems and stories by heart—it’s the first thing we do with all books,” said Teseris in her gentle voice. “He says it’s how you learn to love books; it’s got a lot to do with memory. He says that when men fall in love with women they learn their faces by heart so they can remember them later. They notice the color of their eyes, the color of their hair; whether they like music, prefer chocolate or biscuits, what their brothers and sisters are called, whether they write a diary, or have a cat . . . ” Miss Prim’s expression softened a little. There it was again, the strange, dark, concentrated delicacy, the infuriating male ego combined with unexpected streaks of grace. “It’s the same thing with books,” continued Teseris. “In lessons we learn bits by heart and recite them. Then we read the books and discuss them and then we read them again.”

    #homeschoolgoals

    Another passage I highlighted in Miss Prim was about domestic life, and worth sharing here, I think:

    The range suggested an idyllic childhood. A childhood rich with the scent of freshly baked bread, of sweet sugary fritters, chocolate cake, biscuits, and doughnuts. The kind of childhood she herself had not had but which, in this somewhat chaotic house, she had to admit was a daily reality.

    My takeaway here is that it’s a-OK for me to bake the kids all kinds of indulgent things, and also that a somewhat chaotic house has a certain charm. Phew.

    This time last year:

    Commonplace Book, 39 (Week 36)

    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:

    • I forgot to mention last week I FINALLY BRAVED THE INSTANT POT. And by “I,” I mean, a friend sent me a recipe for which I had all the ingredients, then I waited for J to get home from work and made him do all the seal stuff. The result was Indian butter chicken so good J proclaimed it better than anything I’ve ever made in the slow cooker (should I be offended, y/n) but also almost ended with us giving Scout steam burns. So. I’ll probably use it again but keep making J operate the pressure cooker bit.
    • BEEF WEEK. J bought us a quarter of a cow and brought home the goods Sunday, so we’ve been eating all beef all the time to celebrate. (And, you know, build my iron for childbirth? Can we justify it that way?) So far, I’ve made:
      • Taco salad: My MIL makes this for us. I used her recommendations of kidney beans and Catalina dressing, skipped tomatoes and sour cream, and used a slaw we had because I knew we’d have leftovers, and I don’t love wilted romaine.
      • Beef daube provencal: another recipe from the Indian butter chicken friend! Mine was the lazy third trimester version: no searing (does that even make a difference?! The jury seems to be out), slow cooker, dried spices. Also, I did not use the recommended wine because it cost $45. So much for a “princely dinner.” I’ll settle for a ducal dish with wine my sister homebrewed us last winter.
      • Best ever meatloaf with balsamic vinegar glaze: Because vinegar makes everything fancy. It’s basically BBQ sauce in the end, but SO GOOD.

    What I’m reading:

    • I finished Gilead and as usual was left not knowing what to share. It’s all so perfect, right? I could copy out about 80% of it, the rest being bits I still don’t understand. Abbey wrote me out passages of encouragement for labor and the newborn days, and that’s even better, because it saves my waffling.
    • Ina May’s Guide to ChildbirthI still haven’t reread my Bradley book, but this one is helping me get in the zone just the same — some of the mantras from Spiritual Midwifery really helped me in Pippin’s labor. It’s ridiculous, and then I’m sure I’ll go into labor every night when I go to bed, but I’m hoping it’ll stick with me, even if I have another lightning fast labor.
    • O Pioneers! This is my third Willa Cather, and I’m really loving diving back into her peaceful world — it may be the gentlest transition from Gilead possible.

    This time last year:

    • Rethinking Running: which you will perhaps be unsurprised to learn I have not rethought it in, you know, 36 weeks.
    Getting a lot of mileage these days from park leaves

    Commonplace Book, 38 (Week 35)

    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:

    Almost Certainly Inauthentic St. Michael’s Bannock

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour flour
    • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 c rye flour
    • 2 Tbsp sugar
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp butter
    • 1 scant c cream + 1 Tbsp plain white vinegar (to make buttermilk substitute)
    • handful of raisins — I used a mix.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in cold butter as you would biscuits – with a pastry knife, two forks, or your fingers. Add buttermilk mixture. Mix until mostly combined. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, then pat into an 8 inch round loaf, and bake on a greased cookie sheet for 40 minutes.

    • You can put french fries in the bottom of your frittata and it’s pretty good. This has been a third trimester PSA.
    • You can put olive tapenade on frozen cheese pizza and it’s also pretty good. This has been a third trimester PSA.
    • Things are rapidly degenerating here on the culinary front, obviously.

    What I’m reading:

    • Baby’s cells can manipulate mom’s body for decades. Even with the potentially creepy sibling ramifications at the bottom of this piece, I just find the idea so comforting: that however briefly you get to know your child earthside, she stays a part of you. That even when your child is totally exasperating you and you feel such distance, you still carry evidence of him in your body. It’s beautiful, and worth remembering this month, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
    • Vindication! Study says parents aren’t to blame for picky eaters.
    • The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, which was given to us as a gift from Scout’s godparents last fall, and which we started to read aloud to each other, but then I got pregnant and sleepy (story of my life). Now I’m listening to it on Audible, and while there isn’t a lot that is revolutionary for me, Inklings nerd that I am, the passages on Oxford are dreamy and it’s nice to use my brain, at least moderately, in this sleepy chapter of life when I’m often reaching for the remote or just going straight to bed.
    This is what happens when you take a nap and neglect the ciabatta dough.

    Commonplace Book, 37 (Week 34)

    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:

    • Ciabatta Pizza. I make good ciabatta. Everyone likes pizza. Which my family should have loved, but one kid wouldn’t try it and one didn’t like it. But you know what? That meant we grownups had enough leftovers that I didn’t have to cook the next day (and I could doctor it with kid-unapproved soppressata), so I’m going to count that as a win. Sort of. Picky eaters, phew.
    • Chicken pot pie. I thought this would be a good idea because it’s delicious and I needed to double a recipe for a friend with a newborn, but also I got v nervous halfway through since I went into labor with Scout on a day I was on my feet for hours making chicken pot pie. That time, the chicken pot pie was the first thing I was making to freeze for a postpartum stash, and it was undersalted with undercooked vegetables, and it seemed like we ate it for weeks after Scout’s arrival. Ugh. Ridiculous, I know, but I could breathe a little easier this time when it was all done, and it was good, after all. I use this recipe as a sort of basis, but change up a lot: I roast vegetables that look good (this time potatoes, carrots and mushrooms), often use rotisserie chicken, sub homemade stock if I’ve got it, etc.

    What I’m reading:

    • I FINISHED MIDDLEMARCH. And it was good! I enjoyed it infinitely more than my endless reread of Brothers Karamazov. I don’t know that I will ever seek out George Eliot as fun, comfort reading as I do Jane Austen (not that she doesn’t have very wise and severe things to say herself, just that the huge scope and cast of Mm felt more demanding), but I also don’t think I’ll easily forget it, especially some of the truths mentioned here. (h/t Dominika, maybe? My brain is cheerios.)
    • The Catholic Table. I might write more about it later, especially as book club discusses it and those ladies bring their sage insights, but I’ve already done a little reflecting on it.
    • An Everlasting Meal. I’m not sure I’m an unpicky enough eater for this one (don’t talk to me about tongue, pls), but I enjoy many passages, which are almost Annie Dillard-y. But we disagree on food safety:

    “No bacterial treachery lurks in vegetables once they have spent some time other than in the refrigerator or oven. Nor does it necessarily in anything that is a few days old, or spends the night on your counter. … I am fairly sure he wasn’t right, and I am completely confident he was spiritually wrong.”

    I can’t help my indoctrination on food safety.

    • Gileadmy third go round. If I copied out all the passages I loved and savored, this would be a Gilead appreciation blog. But seriously. So good. It’s making me a better mother while my children appear to go through simultaneous pregnancy-related (?) regressions.

    Last year I was thinking about:

    • Determining one’s trademark food — what one is known for serving or gifting.
    Absolutely a standard uniform for him these days

    Commonplace Book, 36 (Week 31)

    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:

    • Refried Black Bean Soup: Note: it looks sinister in prep. It looks a little better when you’re done, but mostly like sludge. Delicious, delicious sludge.

     

     

    Yum. Right?

     

     

    • Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole: I made some rookie mistakes that made it salty: I used too many pre-seasoned hash browns and subbed breakfast sausage for plain bulk sausage, which I couldn’t find. But it was still a small miracle: a food-safe, hot, hearty breakfast ready for a breakfast potluck right when I woke up. Highly recommend, just follow the recipe more carefully than I did!
    • Elephant ears. We are baking something most weeks for Police Preschool to fit with the letter of the week (last week was dog biscuits) and WHY CAN’T I MAKE ELEPHANT EARS? They are puff pastry, sugar and cinnamon, rolled out and baked. I’d say I’m an intermediate baker and these are categorized as easy and we ended up with kids wildly gobbling sugar and the dough not slicing as thinly as I wanted and not a single convincingly elephantine ear. But hey. Sugar and cinnamon and puff pastry still tastes good, no matter the travesties committed against it.

    What I’m reading:

    • Always and Forever Lara Jean. Fluff, but just the kind of teenager I kind of was, and wish I knew, in high school. And set in Charlottesville just up the road!
    • “Our favorite audiobooks” at LMLD: Pippin has been listening to hours of audiobooks each day. Is this normal?! Is this OK?! Mostly he’s been working through Karen Savage’s Librivox ouvre, so E. Nesbit and the What Katy Did series, and I’ve been trying to encourage him not to meditatively chew on the old iPhone while he listens.

    Last year I was thinking about:

    • I was making pizza, apparently, and not sleeping nearly as much. We are pretty solidly in a frozen pizza season much of the time now, especially when we were sans kitchen sink.

    Police Preschool in a nutshell: a worksheet from Children’s Church with PRAY FOR POLICE scrawled in.