Thursday, January 29, 2015

If I'm Being Honest, I Feel Weary

I have been feeling incredibly weary lately. Physically, yes, I am exhausted and uncomfortable a lot of the day due to pregnancy. But my weariness extends beyond just that: I am weary because my mind is racing with all of the things that I'm not staying on top of or the things that I'm forgetting to do or the decisions I have to make but feel too tired to make. I'm essentially not living up to the standards I've set for myself, and it both frustrating and wearying. Sometimes I even feel guilty that I'm not doing the things that I want to do/think I'm supposed to do.

All of this has made me think about this book Good News for Weary Women. I read this back in September but have recently been flipping through it and re-reading the parts I had marked. The bottom line is that I have created all of these rules and standards for things that I think I should do or would like to have accomplished. I'm a perfectionist, so having high standards is in my nature. I want to have a really productive day at work, get in a good workout, make a healthy dinner, have a relaxing evening at home with my husband, have meaningful devotions, stay on top of all of the chores around the house, keep in touch with family and friends out of town, spend quality time with friends in town, be actively involved in ministry at church, go to Bible study, get to know our neighbors, blog, research new recipes and make lots of delicious food from scratch, finish decorating our house, and the list goes on and on. None of these things are bad (which is exactly why I strive and wish I could do all of them all of the time), but as the book says, "the trouble comes in when those things start to define us if we do them or guilt-trip us if we don't."

That's exactly how I've been feeling lately: like who is this girl that has clothes piled in the corner of the bedroom and forgets to send birthday cards? Who is this girl that gets exhausted from cooking all day in preparation for having people over? I can barely recognize myself because I feel so frazzled most of the time, and I feel guilty for not doing the things I think I should be doing. The physical exhaustion of this pregnancy has forced me to realize how much pressure I put on myself to do things that in all reality are not the end-all. I am allowing myself to get caught up in the here and now instead of focusing on things of eternal worth. Yes, I want to take care of my home and be a good wife and friend, etc., but at the cost of what? Feeling stressed when everything on my to-do list isn't crossed off? Feeling guilty because my house isn't spotless and we don't have fresh muffins and homemade granola for breakfast? My favorite line from this entire book is this:

"Our highest calling is to believe in and love the gospel and then to live our lives in the light of all Jesus has already done for us."

My highest calling isn't to take care of my home or do really well at work or be a great friend; it is to believe, rest, and rejoice in the work that Jesus did in His death on the cross, allowing that to transform every aspect of my life and motivate all that I do. He died in my place, taking on all of my sins and failures. I could never on my own live up to God's holy and perfect standard, but because Jesus took my place and I have placed my faith in Him, God now looks at me and all of my failures and is pleased - He is pleased! It's hard to believe since so often I am not even pleased with myself. But God in His grace sees me as His beloved child and fully accepts me through the blood of His Son. This truth of the Gospel is what I am reminding myself of daily as I feel frustrated when I don't feel like I'm doing enough. God's love for me is not dependent on how much I do or how well I think I'm doing at home or work, and that is the good news for those of us that feel weary.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

Having company for dinner is a good excuse for me to try new recipes. Caleb has never understood why I would want to try out a new recipe on dinner guests, but I think that's half the fun. I try to stick to just one or two new recipes per meal, since I'd like to think at least half the meal will turn out as expected. We had company for dinner this past weekend, and I made this chocolate cake for dessert. It was the cover recipe on this month's Southern Living, and as soon as I got my copy in the mail I knew I had to try it. For as many ingredients as it calls for, it was a relatively simple cake to make. I let the cake cool for most of the afternoon, and whipped up the glazes right before our company arrived. For chocolate lovers like myself, this cake is definitely a winner.

Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake
for the cake:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tsp instant espresso
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate morsels

for the chocolate glaze:
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

for the buttermilk glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, instant espresso, and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels. Pour batter into a well-greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.

Prepare chocolate glaze: combine semisweet chocolate morsels, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at medium (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Prepare buttermilk glaze: whisk together powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle glazes over cooled cake. Serves 10-12.

source: Southern Living, February 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On Pregnancy: The First Trimester

8 1/2 weeks

People have asked me if this space is going to turn into a "mommy blog", and the answer is no. I do not plan on exclusively writing about diapers, feeding, and my baby. I will, however, write about my baby and motherhood and any of the other things that this new stage of life ushers in, just as I write about many aspects of my life now. The baby posts will just be in addition to all of the other posts. With that said, this is the first post in my pregnancy series, beginning with my first trimester. This is mostly for my sake to look back on in the future, but click through if you're interested!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sausage & Tortellini Soup

I have a confession: I kind of hate January-March. Every year I try to rally and make the best of these three months that are stretching out ahead of us, but it's so hard for me. It gets dark so early, I miss the warm sunshine, there's not usually any holidays/time off from work, and I just long for spring and summer. Since there's nothing to be done about this wintery first quarter of the year, I try to focus on the (few) positives: cozy evenings at home, taking time to purge and organize every last closet of the house, and of course endless bowls of warm soup or chili. This soup is pretty easy to throw together, but it is quite hearty with the tortellini, sausage, and vegetables--perfect for a cold, January night.

Sausage & Tortellini Soup
1 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (6 oz) can tomato past
1 1/2 cans of water (use the empty tomato paste can)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup diced carrots
1 green pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
16 oz bag of frozen cheese-filled tortellini
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot brow the sausage, crumbling it with the backside of a spoon until cooked through (no longer pink). Remove sausage from pot and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Cook onion and garlic in same pot, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broth, tomato paste, water, seasonings, and carrots. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce head, add sausage back to the pot, and cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the peppers, zucchini, and tortellini, and cook for 10 more minutes, or until tortellini are tender. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

source: recipe from Life with Truth