Making a blog book

I am a colossal scrapbooking failure.  Whatever energy and creativity I do have is so far tapped out by the end of each day that making lovely photo albums isn’t something I can do at this point in my life.  But I so want to capture memories and not forgot what this season felt like.  I bucked against blogging for a long time.  My husband started this blog and I wouldn’t write on it for a long time.  But that year huge things changed in our life.  Namely, he didn’t pastor at our church anymore.  If I were really honest, I’d say that my main reason for not blogging was knowing that the ‘life in a fishbowl’ that we knew meant that people from church would read my words and they might not always like what I said.  So I held back, for fear of judgement or criticism from church people.  How mixed up is that?  I know, really it is.  While some had showered our little family with blessing and love which we were grateful for, it wasn’t always the case.

Blogging was and is much quicker and easier for me than scrapbooking.  I type way faster than I can write.  So it was my quest for a long time to print the blog out into a book.  But for various reasons I couldn’t get it to work for a long time.  Until I found Blog2Print.  At the end of each year I have printed out our blog into a lovely, very professional looking hardback book.  I could not be more pleased with their customer service and the quality of the books.  Just in case any of you are itching for the same but haven’t found it, I wanted to pass along my experience so you can check it out.

Perfectionism’s downfall

Being a responsible first born and growing up in a family where success and ‘making a contribution’ were at the top of the importance list (which isn’t necessarily bad!), it’s no surprise to me that I’ve struggled all my life living under enormous pressure to be perfect.  Much of it I’ve heaped upon myself, all by myself.

Perfectionism is innately prideful, in my opinion, and says “I should be able to do all, and do ‘all’ well, all by myself”.  When I type it out it sounds utterly ridiculous.  But as it plays out and creeps up time and again in my life, it somehow holds tremendous weight.  I want to be independent, self-sufficient and capable enough to do the job right, whatever it may be.

Being a mother is ripping the grip of the facade of ‘perfect’ away, one painful piece at a time.  While I may have thought before I was rearing children that my life was fairly ideal and I had a pretty good grip on things, I certainly realize now that it isn’t and I don’t.

For me the great trap is believing that if I can’t do it perfect, I shouldn’t do it at all.

If I can’t work out 6 days a week at 6 AM then I shouldn’t even try.

Turns out doing a quick video workout at home is still better than nothing and my body thanks me for it.

If I can’t have a devoted and lengthy time of prayer and study then I should just forget the whole thing.

Well, to be honest I still feel like this sometimes but I’m coming to see that it’s actually a big cop-out.

If I can’t start the day with order and a somewhat clean home, then I should just forget cleaning entirely.

Despite the dread I feel waking up to a house disaster, I still am better off trying to get ahead throughout the day.

If I can’t eat foods that are more nourishing for me then I should just give up and eat cookies all day.

Turns out this mentality has kept me looking 5 months pregnant while my ‘baby’ is two years old, talk about flawed thought!

As a wise writer and speaker said so simply in January, “Work harder”.  No one else is going to exercise for me, make healthy food choices, hug my children for me, give honor to my husband or make more time for school/chores/cleaning/cooking.

Regardless of how great the mound of life is that is set before me, it is my life to live.  It is my responsibility, dare I say my privilege to live it out.  I may not feel like it today, or this month.  I may be in a bit of a funk.  I may be filled with doubt about things that I’ve always held to be true.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life it’s this:

Life isn’t all about me.

I can do everything in my power to make my children do something and sometimes they still won’t do it.  They are after all their own little persons.

I can try to impart the truths and values that are important to me and then listen as my son answers the question ‘What is Easter all about?’ tonight with these few words ‘I have no idea.’  I could have died I was so embarrassed.

Despite multiple lessons in modesty, somehow my almost 4 year old still welcomes the UPS man at the front door while wearing absolutely no clothes.

One would think with the daily dose of humility I am offered in this life with little ones that I would maybe arrive at some great place of ‘letting go’.  While I truly have let go of much, there is still so much I hold onto…and for what?  I don’t really know.

Random thoughts I know, but since I’ve been blog-quiet for so long, that’s all I have to share tonight…

Dutch Oven Yum!

Last year, after wanting one for quite a while, my friend Kim gave me her extra dutch oven.  I was thrilled to not have to wait for Christmas to get one and at the same time intimidated by it’s heavy, difficult-to-care-for nature.   The picture is of the one I have, a 6 quart dutch oven that weighs a whopping 15 pounds!

I started my cast iron cooking adventure by using it to make soups.  To this day, I swear the soups I make in that piece of cookware taste better than any soups I’ve ever made.  Maybe my cooking skills have evolved or maybe there’s just something about the general, subtle flavor the cast iron imparts.  I’m inclined to say it’s the latter.

I have no soup recipes to share, just the basic process.  In a bit of oil in my already oiled, well seasoned dutch oven I throw in chopped vegetables of every kind.  Whatever is in my fridge…carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, garlic (ALWAYS-5 or 8 cloves!), mushrooms, squash maybe even.  I saute for a few minutes, then add a few cups of chicken broth, fresh herbs if I have any, a scoop of brown rice, Israeli couscous or barley.  If I have some leftover chopped chicken, I toss that in.  I also, almost always throw in a cup or two of frozen, pureed squash of some kind.  It thickens the soup, gives a bit of flavor and is the only way any of my children eat squash.

This mixture simmers then, with the lid on, for an hour or so depending on what I’m doing and if I’m paying attention.  I usually make double so I can freeze half for a rainy day.

The recipe that I simply must share however is this (it’s cooking in my oven this very minute!).  It’s written in my cooking language, so pardon me if it seems a bit relaxed…

Dutch Oven Pot Roast with glazed vegetables

One 2 1/2 – 3 pound inexpensive cut of beef (trim any fat if possible)
Red wine
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
7-8 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
Fresh herbs, whatever is handy, rosemary is my favorite

Preheat oven to 300°.  In large skillet, brown the meat (whole) in some oil on both sides.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and perhaps some fresh rosemary.  Place into dutch oven.

(This is the best part) While the skillet is still hot with oil, pour some red wine in and scrape the pan.  Let it cook down a bit.  Drink some wine.  Throw all the veggies into the pan.  Add some broth or wine or oil as needed while the veggies get delightfully glazed with the fat/wine mixture.  Don’t cook the veggies, just brown them, med-high heat, not too long.

Toss the veggies in on top of the meat.  Pour in a bit more wine, the cup of broth along with the can of tomatoes.

Cover, place in oven for 3 hours or until meat is fork tender.

Here now you have two choices:  You may eat the veggies with the roast per normal roast eating.  Or you may remove the veggies, put them in the blender and make an unbelievable gravy to pour over your roast (and some potatoes should you choose to cook some up).  I prefer the second option and then I use the extra gravy to make beef barley soup with the leftover beef.

Maybe it sounds long, but it is truly very labor light.  And the house smells so good while the meat cooks slowly.