Sunday 28 October 2007

Oh how much more doth beauty beauteous seem

I've just come from a domestic little scene in the kitchen, having rustled up caramel shortbread and rock cakes. I love baking, but it doesn't tend to go entirely smoothly - often because I don't have the exact ingredients and utensils required, and tend to assume that it won't make too much of a difference. Today's caramel shortbread required a shallow baking tin... two candidates stepped forward; a casserole dish and a grill pan. Hmm. Not, as I mentioned, the exact utensils required. In the end I plumped for the correct depth - the grill pan - and realised that this would need rather more shortbread than the recipe stipulated. So far, so good. Made twice the amount, pressed it into an even layer across the greased grill pan (firmly cleaned beforehand, fear not)... and discovered that the grill pan's handle was non-detachable. I.e. the oven door wouldn't close. Quickly scooped up the mixture and put it in the, quite small, casserole dish. Which could only really fit the original recipe, not twice the amount, as I'd made. Ho-hum. Despite charitably eating quite a lot of raw mixture, the shortbread filled the dish when cooked, and had to have the top cut out. And somehow it's not very shortbready - more like a crunchy cake. Good enough. The caramel worked, which is the hardest bit, so I daresay it'll be edible enough.

ANYWAY, can't offer a
photo as my camera is still very blurry - as exemplified by the blurry pictures today. Karen, at Cornflower, wrote the other day about notebooks and diaires and the beauty to be found there. Completely agree - there is something indefinably gorgeous about a really lovely notebook, because it's not just beautiful in and of itself - it also speaks of possiblities, potential. My latest notebook, though, is not space for a novel or blueprints for a cathedral etc, but rather 2008's diary. I blogged about diarising aaages ago, and the past few years I've tried to find beautiful books in which to write, rather than the bog standard ones you can get from The Works. Have experimented with dated/undated; lined/blank; white/coloured pages, and have settled upon blank/undated/white as my favourite. My latest has lines, but wait til you see the outside...

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Mr. William Shakespeare's signature on the front. He missed out the first 'e', but we'll let it slide. The cover of this faux-leather notebook is Shakespeare's writing of the play 'Sir Thomas More' (ok, academics argue that he might not have written the bit commonly attributed to him, but it's the only way we're going to get a self-handwritten copy of any of his writing). Had to buy it, really. Stole that picture from Amazon, but will make up for it by letting you know that you can purchase the notebook from them here. From January, I shall be writing my daily ramblings in there, purging out the dull stuff and keeping the best and most bookish for you lot!

So, if you haven't already commented on Cornflower, and even if you have - do you have this notebook addiction? What is it that links the bookish with notebooks - do we just love books in whatever shape or size they come? And, if you keep a journal, what sort of diary/notebook do you find is best?


  1. The cover is a bit different over at - have put it in my "cart" though. It doesn't have that vertical signature block.

    The "notebooks" you and Karen have referred to are called "blank books" across the pond. I love them but do have a hard time deciding to write in them. I've not filled one yet.

    My plan for a new blank book is in the form of a letter to my grandson (now 15), a memory book of our experiences with him. I _should_ have kept a Baby Book for those first few years and continued from there - always intended to do this, just hope it all flows well (chronologically). I am a Very inhibited writer, believe it or not! :-)

  2. I too have that beautiful book with Shakespeare's signature on the cover. I bought it over a year ago and as it's so beautiful I can't bring myself to write in it. I'm thinking of starting a few pages in so that I don't spoil the first pages with my writing.

  3. Yes, I'm another hopeless notebook buyer and have lots of beautiful (mostly, like you Simon, white unlined) specimens strewn around the house, in my various rucksacks, in bedside cabinets for those middle of the night jottings which I'm never actually compos mentis enough to make. The problem with all this super-abundance of notebooks is that I have problems remembering what i wrote where and will spend hours tracking down that one key thought before realising that it wasn't all that brilliant in the first place!

  4. My notebooks are mostly of the white, unlined variety, but I'm commenting principally to say how impressed I am with your baking exploits!

  5. At least you didn't put lemonade in it this time! (the baking, that is)
    Beware of too much raw shortbread.... I'm sure it must be bad for you. Guess cake tins are now on the birthday list :)
    As for notebooks - I think I must be to blame for yet another gene. Hey-ho OVW

  6. First is there a pound shop in Oxford? They have baking dishes for a £1. What a lovely chap you are cooking.I love notebooks too blank pages and always write with special ink and fountain pen.I have just bought 3 books from Amazon or rather my son has. He put his card on for me but mustn't buy any more note books until mine to me at Xmas with my fuel money the gov. donates. No one i know can use it for

  7. The question is: Did the shortbread turn out well enough that you might try to duplicate your recent efforts?

    What have you put lemonade in? That sounds like my early cooking efforts when working without a recipe. I tended to toss in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink - just stand in front of the cabinet and think "how about this - and this..." Bill has never let me live down tossing little Tang into a meatloaf mixture.

  8. OK, so Dark Puss hold his paws up (as he did on Cornflower) and says that he doesn't have any "nice" notebooks just functional ones that contain exciting things such as LED characteristics, the mirror micrometer settings while aligining a ruby laser etc. I'm sure that in such bookish company this counts for about as much as the receipt from a supermarket, but I am intrigued as to why so many people seem to value the cover/paper/bindings/end-paper as much (more?) as the contents. I have read so many comments along the lines of "I dare not sully the virgin paper" that I'm now quite surprised (not critcical just surprised). I expect you will respond that it is just typical of a scientist - hey I read books too!

    Dark Puss

  9. PS actually I CAN spell too, but was too much in a hurry - apologies to all! DP

  10. Simon, I do so enjoy your blog but the thought of your baking adventures -- especially the re-sizing -- make me laugh whenever I think about them.

    Very best wishes for your continued studies at Oxford next year -- definitely a doctorate in the future, too.

  11. Ohhh, gorgeous notebook. I also love notebooks, though I don't have any as lovely as this. I am not a journal writer, more of a list writer. My datebooks are very important to me also, I put a lot of notes in them and have saved them over the years. It's fun to look back at what I was doing a few years ago.


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