Commonplace Book, 19

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:

  • Roasted garlic ciabatta. I linked to my basic ciabatta recipe here but if you add roasted garlic after the initial mixing, you get little chunks and ribbons throughout the whole loaf, and it is so good that I made it twice this week and used up all the roasted garlic in the house. (Hint: you can make a ton of roasted garlic at once with a bag of garlic bulbs from Costco and your trusty slow cooker.)
  • Beefy butternut squash chili. Still more or less like this, but this time with carrots and celery instead of zucchini, diced fine in the hopes J wouldn’t notice it was in there. (He did, but he didn’t mind.)

What I’m reading:

  • Instagram, Social Media, and Keepin’ It Real — It is fashionable to trash social media, and while Instagram is probably responsible for my relentless pursuit of good light and tidy surfaces (one succeeding more than the other), I always think back to a photo album I made a couple springs ago. The pictures were all taken during the fall and winter I was pregnant with Scout, an era that felt long and dull and monotonous, when Pip watched a lot of tv, I ate a lot of cheese (and threw up some of it), and we waited for snow to melt and life to move forward. But the album of that time is beautiful, chronicling the day I strapped on my lower back support and took Pippin to the arboretum’s bulb show with friends; the slow mornings we spent reading and wandering around the apartment; my proud and hopeful face over a blooming belly in the photos I shot in our little dated bathroom. That’s the power of photography: to wrest the good moments from the chaotic and messy and hard.
  • All the Light We Cannot SeeI read it while I was pregnant with Scout, and liked it very much, but I probably wouldn’t be re-reading it if not for Well-Read Moms. So thanks, WRM, because I’m enjoying it all over again:

Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever, and then a piano comes on, playing a lonely song that sounds to Werner like a golden boat traveling a dark river, a profession of harmonies that transfigures Zollverein: the houses turned to mist, the mines filled in, the smokestacks fallen, an ancient sea spilling through the streets, and the air streaming with possibility.

  • Queen of Shadows, now that I’m done with The Raven King, which had beautiful passages but kind of a flat, tone-deaf ending, I thought: more like the strained optimism and normalcy of HP7 than the haunting LOTR-esque melancholy I would have expected. I don’t know.
  • Present Over Perfect. My least favorite of Shauna Niequist’s stuff, which is not to say I didn’t like it, because she’s wonderful. But I was discussing it with the friend who first introduced the author to me, and we agreed that the shift from primarily narrative to primarily addressed to “you” felt a little self-help-y and less rich than some of her other books.

I now leave you with a picture of Scout and fall leaves, lest you worry that I only photograph my firstborn with autumnal foliage.

Commonplace Book, 17

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:

  • These “cookies.” I think you’ll like them more if you rename them “bites” or “mounds.” (I will forgive the author, as she has the awesome site name, Connoisseurus Veg.) Scout is a little anemic and I’ve dutifully been giving her that disgusting liquid iron vitamin but it makes us both wretched, so I’m trying to find real food supplements and thought I’d start with blackstrap molasses since she (and I!) adore molasses. These are best the first day, but still pretty good, just crumbly, later on.
  • Split pea soup. Do recipes really matter here? I just search for something I can make in the slow cooker that uses ham or bacon or sausage, depending on what I have on hand. It always tastes the same, which is to say, good.

What I’m reading:

  • The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski: A gift from Scout’s godparents, we are attempting to read it aloud to each other — something we did often before kids, but which we struggle to fit in now. But we both love the Inklings, so it’s worth a try, right?
  • BROTHERS KARAMAZOV FOREVER WHY WHY WHY MAKING PROGRESS BUT STILL.
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater: I remember being electrified when I was reading the previous book in this series, morning sick in bed, and realized — hey, she is talking about where I’ll be moving. Henrietta, Virginia, is in the Shenandoah Valley, just like we are, just like the author is, and it’s pretty fun to really resonate with the landscape now.
  • Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson. I’m going to be real with you: I got this book because everyone recommended it and because it was on sale as an ebook and because I’ve pretty much got laundry and meals down, which, according to Like Mother, Like Daughter means it’s time to expand my efforts (which for me, means I really need to start thinking about my floors), but IT IS STRESSING ME OUT. She is so casual about all the things I should be doing and I cannot. Is there an equivalent book for people who don’t know what they’re doing and have small children coming up behind them, messing everything up? I’m trying to stick it out, though, because I love her general premises, as when she argues:

“Home life as a whole has contracted. Less happens at home; less time is spent there.”

Yes, Mendelson, yes! That’s some serious Wendell Berry shiz right there —  and that very observation has been shaping the aspirations J and I hold for our home for the last few years. So, if I can stop being so defensive about never EVER dusting, I hope I can make it through this book, because I just know she has good things to say.