Commonplace Book, 43

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:

  • Are you sick of cookies? I nearly am, except these double chocolate crinkle cookies, which I’m looking for an excuse to make again.
  • A couple days before Christmas I embarked on the horror show that is cut out cookies. Why are they just the worst? I love baking with my kids, but the whole process was painful — the rolling out, P’s inability to cut near the edge, the dough getting warm and sticky and tearing. I had such fond memories of baking cut out cookies with my mom, and when I mentioned it and how much I hated it, Mom responded vaguely, “Oh. I think we only did those once. They were so stressful!” So there you have it, folks: cut out cookies, delighting children and enraging adults since at least the 1980s. If you’re more ambitious than I am, these soft gingerbread cookies taste good, at least.
  • Nothing says Christmastime like cookies and cheese. If you’re looking to use up your spare bits of cheese, you might try this template for fromage fort. I made it for a NYE party, but I kind of want to make another batch to serve over pasta. Except I’d make it with blue stilton and then my marriage would be over.

What I’m reading:

Church bells rule the day: so much so that during the relatively freewheeling 2016-17 academic year […] he wasn’t always sure how to spend his time. “It was actually hard for me, because there wasn’t a dang bell saying, ‘You do it now, then you’re done,'” he says. “I really need more external framework.”

From Here to Timbuktu: A globe-trotting monk with the Benedictine “survival gene” seeks out treasured manuscripts. The piece is interesting, and that bit has me thinking again about how I might revise my mother’s rule of life for life with three kiddos.

  • The Essex Serpent. I wanted to love this — readers I respect loved it — and I made it all the way through and hated it. Every character disappointed me, and I struggled to understand how I was supposed to interpret each action until the author told me. The atmosphere was pleasantly mysterious, but that’s all that it had going for it. I’m an inveterate book abandoner and I wish I’d abandoned this one.
  • Anne’s House of Dreams. Ring in the new year with a good start. And Goodreads told me it’s been five years since I read this one. It’s a strange book, certainly — why are we supposed to believe Leslie’s life is so much more tragic than Anne’s was before Green Gables? Why is Gilbert so damn boring? But there are so many good bits — Captain Jim forever.

“Building community, investing in the lives right in front of us, requires us to take the long view. Eugene Peterson refers to this type of relationship as ‘a long obedience in the same direction.'”

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Commonplace Book 28 (ish)

So, my last Commonplace Book posted, but was backdated, and when I tried to fix it, I deleted it. It was all very livejournal circa 2004. So, picking up where we left off:

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:

  • Sausage barley spinach soup. (Slow cooker, obviously, or are you new here?) You can add the onions and garlic and sausage in raw, but I’ll warn you that the ground sausage will fuse into a strange puck you’ll have to chop haphazardly with a wooden spoon later on, so consider wisely…
  • Scallion pancakes. These are kind of a major pain, but not really hard: just labor-intensive. But the payoff! Almost exactly like the cheap Chinese dive version I love, but with a certain something reminiscent of the hot “chapat” we used to get at the hospital canteen for breakfast in Uganda, warm and wrapped in grease-spotted notebook paper. Is this not helping to sell them? Seriously. Delicious.

What I’m reading:

  • Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and MeThis one is doubly personal for me, because a.) I am an Anne devotee and b.) I married into a family that also includes an adopted mother and adopted Korean little sister. I had expected to love the reflections on Anne but often I find them prone to dull summary, which may just be loyalty or jealousy  — I can nearly quote the original. But parts of the personal storytelling ring like Shauna Niequist’s essays, which is never a bad thing: sensory details and bustling families and warm, intimate friendships.
  • Dumplin‘: I had read a recommendation for this from, I think, Annie of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia (who I knew casually in high school, and who is now a real-like Kathleen Kelly), and audiobook is definitely the way to go on this. J doesn’t like the profanity emanating from my iPhone as I wash dishes in the evening, but the narrator, a prickly, overweight teenager from rural Texas named Willowdean Dixon reminds me of some of my favorite Southerner college friends.
  • Someone tell me if it’s worth reading all of The Well-Trained Mind right now all at once. I’ve made it to middle school and I’m losing steam because my oldest child is, in fact, four. But I’d like the big picture! Please advise.

Marilla of Green Gables

So, my mom made me promise I’d wait until I was home for Christmas to watch the Gilmore Girls reboot with her, so instead I’ve been watching PBS’s new L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I am the only Anne girl of my generation who’s neutral at best on the Megan Follows Anne but I know the book almost by heart, and I love West Wing-era Martin Sheen devotedly so I had high hopes.

And I thought this version was…ok. I didn’t love the casting of the girl playing Anne and I thought the whole production was a little rushed and saccharine. I’d show it to Pippin, I guess, but found myself bristling at cheesy additions like pig-chasing and thin ice drama.

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But I think that’s because the original novel works simply because of Marilla. Anne is wonderful, but she can be a little hard to swallow. (Could many actors deliver those lovely lines in a way that isn’t completely sickly sweet?) A careful reading of the novel, though, reveals that much of the humor comes from Marilla’s perspective.

The new movie gets some of this right, shuffling plot lines with wild abandon to make Marilla’s realization of her love for Anne the central conflict, but I don’t think we get enough of early Marilla, prickly but prone to unholy laughter, to make the victory truly sweet. It’s like a romantic comedy where you want the delightful heroine to get her 2D hero just because that’s what she wants.

I love that the new movie includes a noncanonical reference to Marilla being short for “Amaryllis” — an allusion perhaps to hidden depths of feeling and beauty in practical Marilla Cuthbert that only Anne can draw out. But it feels like a wasted opportunity. While I never loved the old Canadian Anne movies (and stuanchly refuse to watch the weird WWI installment), that version got the casting for Marilla right: exasperated, amused despite herself, completely unaware she is falling in love with this strange little girl.

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I propose that it is the story of Marilla, transformed by (untraditional) motherhood that makes Anne of Green Gables so much stronger than its sequels, when Anne leaves the safety of Green Gables and Marilla’s wry and watchful eye and heads out into the world. Anne Shirley (or later Anne Blythe), undiluted by the contrast of Marilla’s pragmatism, is all fancies and rainbows and ultimately too light, and bright, and sparkling. It’s a difficult feat in a film to capture Marilla’s perspective, but ultimately in the new L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, no amount of breathtaking island vistas and homey fiddle score can make up for its absence.

Learning to Love Housekeeping (Snippets), 4

 

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Pippin the Worm Tracker. Spring has sprung! Rejoice to the fullest while you start to tackle the muddy fingers and tracked-in sand.

Things I’ve been fixing lately:

  • Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake (I love me a cake you can make in a loaf pan; it just seems more manageable and everydayish; you can make this in that size by halfing it and following the directions at the bottom of the page.)
  • Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes (for the days when you need your stovetop free and your taters ready to serve)
  • Pot pie. I made my first two ever in the last two weeks. I’ve had to cook up chicken both times, but just used whatever roast vegetables I had on hand. This time, my mom made the crust for me because she’s wonderful and pie crust is my Waterloo. I use this recipe as a template, although I deviate pretty widely on fillings.

Things I’ve been thinking about lately:

  • As I start to think about packing to move (ugh), this guide to implementing Konmari with kids is inspiring. (Right after reading it I snuck the books of Pippin’s I hate most into the charity shop bag, so win!)
  • Look! There are other people as obsessed with thank you notes as I am!
  • From Rainbow Valley, which I’m rereading at the moment:

“On the right the lights of Ingleside gleamed through the maple grove with the genial lure and invitation which seems always to glow in the beacons of a home where we know there is love and good-cheer and a welcome for all kin whether of flesh or spirit.”

(#housegoals)