Commonplace Book, 26

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:

  • It’s possible I’ve shared this before: pesto bread machine bread. I’ve found if you add something like pesto or pureed pumpkin to your dough, it often tastes less “bread machine-y” than a more basic recipe. Do you have any favorites?
  • Everyday chocolate cake from Smitten Kitchen. But I forgot to sift the flour, and it mattered.
  • Add to the vaguely ethnic slow cooker recipes: vaguely French slow cooker cassoulet.
  • Quick tip obvious to everyone but me: if you do a whole chicken in the slow cooker, if you stick it in the oven for a few minutes at 400 degrees before serving it, you will make the chicken-skin eaters in your crowd really happy, because the oven will crisp the skin, while the slow cooker leaves the white meat tender and lovely.

What I’m reading:

  • Minimalism gets it wrong: This is something I’ve been thinking about a bit since reading some of the Little House books with Pippin at the end of last year. It’s not that we should have fewer things because the material world and everything bodily is bad; it’s that we should have fewer things because we only acquire those that are good and useful and beautiful — not to pass the time, or keep up with trends, or any of the other reasons we accumulate junk. The Ingalls family values their meager possessions, from the beautiful impractical ones, like Ma’s china doll, to the direly essential ones, like the horses that transport their wagon. An orange, or scattered Indian beads, are noteworthy treasures for Laura, and as our Christmas approached, this struck me all the more. A truly lovely Catholic church, like my college church, manifests this truth: it is in no way minimalist, but there is nothing trendy or junky or extraneous, either. I guess Marie Kondo hints at this, talking about things that bring you joy, but that’s not quite the same, is it?
  • A Tree Grows In Brooklynthis is the first time I’ve read this, and it’s beautiful and lyrical but so sad that I’m not enjoying it as much as I expected. I wanted something like Shadows on the Rock or Little Women, with lots of light amidst its lyricism, and this is much grittier than I’d expected —

    “The sad thing was in the knowing that all their nerve would get them nowhere in the world and that they were lost as all the people in Brooklyn seem lost when they day is nearly over and even though the sun is still bright, it is thin and doesn’t give you warmth when it shines on you.”

  • Housekeeping (audiobook) because I think it’s the only Marilynne Robinson novel I haven’t read yet. I don’t love it as much as Gilead but that’s not to say I don’t love it, if you see what I mean.
  • Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating because, you know.

Library Link Up

I’ve been meaning to jump in with my library haul over at A Gentle Mother all month, and today I finally got it in gear.

(Caveat: This is not the entire contents of our library bag, as there are always 1000 mindless truck books and usually an Octonauts DVD for good measure.)

1. An Illustrated Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. I got this so my students at co op could comb through and find themselves a fairy tale to illustrate for our triptych project, but Pippin and I have been enjoying it as well. The stories hew very closely to Andersen’s originals, so things get pretty dark, but the illustrations are just dreamy, and it seems like so far Pip can take it.

2. This Is Not My HatA friend of mine from library school got Pippin I Want My Hat Back when he was a baby, and so far I don’t think he really understands it, but he does smile mischievously, because he suspects Something Is Up.

3. Last Stop on Market StreetBecause I’m always on the lookout for Truck Books that Aren’t Just Truck Books. I like this more than Pippin does, but maybe that’s because he knows I’m trying to indoctrinate him to greater generosity. (The birthday greed is serious over here, folks.)


4. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend as a digital audiobook. Light and sweet and allusive so far, with a lovely small town at its center.

We also have out a ton of Molly Jan Brett for that triptych assignment, but who doesn’t already know about Molly (Jan) Brett?! [Edit: An attentive reader from Sweeping Up Joy totally caught me out on my mistake: JAN. Apparently there is a Molly Brett and she’s written stuff, but that’s not who I was thinking of!]

Mama-Scout Dates


Scout the big kid, ruling the playground

So, a couple of things have conspired recently. Pippin’s in preschool without me three mornings a week, and Scout has kicked the morning nap habit. Suddenly, the world has opened back up: I have just a toddler again, awake and eager.


For awhile now, I’ve been taking Pippin on Mama-Pippin dates, usually just a walk to the local Starbucks to split a plain croissant and buy him milk in a box, which is apparently the height of luxuries. But I haven’t gone a lot of places with Scout simply for her enjoyment, unless, of course, she enjoys ambling through Goodwill as much as I do.

The other day, we dropped Pippin off at school and I went to return a giant stack of library books Pippin and I had accrued between the two of us. I was just going to run them to the drop box while Scout hung out in the car and then I realized I could take her in.

The thought, honestly, felt a little traitorous. Pippin loves the library! I should wait till he can come, too!

But I went anyway, and figured it was fine if we went back later this week, even later that day. I got to grab a few books I needed for my homeschool class without hauling around Pippin’s dragon-hoarde, too, and Scout clambered happily among the toys, and recklessly pulled things off shelves, and invaded the personal space of other families. It was pretty great.

Crossing the street from the library, Scout hooted and pointed at a truck. The truck driver softly honked his horn in greeting and she peered over my shoulder, wide eyed.

It’s the kind of moment I’ve had a thousand times with Pippin, but it’s all new with Scout. My big girl. My not-baby.


(Well, not too big.)