Monday, August 04, 2014

Fire & Smoke: A Pitmaster's Secrets by Chris Lilly - Book Review

When an opportunity came to review a book on BBQ recipes, you know I jumped at it!  Below are my thoughts on Fire & Smoke:  A Pitmaster's Secrets by Chris Lilly - available on if you'd like a copy.

Synopsis from the publisher:
Grill like a pro with the expert recipes and tips in Fire and Smoke.
 World champion pitmaster Chris Lilly combines the speed of grilling with the smoky flavors of low-and-slow barbecue for great meals any night of the week, no fancy equipment required. Cook trout in a cast-iron skillet nestled right in smoldering coals for a crispy yet tender and flaky finish. Roast chicken halves in a pan on a hot grill, charring the skin while capturing every bit of delicious juice. Infuse delicious smoke flavors into fruits and vegetables, even cocktails and desserts. Fire and Smoke gives you 100 great reasons to fire up your grill or smoker tonight.

I got this book at the beginning of the summer and have been slowly paging through it collecting ideas, drooling over the exceptional photos from the hunger they inspire!  I'm not a big cookbook guy, generally wanting a recipe so I can get to work, no fluff needed kind of guy.  But this book is magnificent!  The images are so great that I find myself wanting to eat things I know I'd never eat!!  Really great work done there.

Then in the area that really matters, the food itself, this book is spot on.  Chris Lilly is vice president, executive chef, and partner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, and he brings the good stuff.  If he is holding back anything I'd be amazed (no "secret sauce" recipes, though he does give rub and sauce recipes).  In the world of BBQ, Lilly has the pedigree needed to be immediately accepted as an expert in the field.  Then reading through the book, it quickly becomes apparent that he knows his stuff in a way that makes it fun to cook and eat.  Some of the recipes are quite involved, but many are things that a true novice in the kitchen and behind the grill could readily reproduce.

How great is this book?  So great that I gave a copy to my buddy Brenton Balvin who regularly fills in preaching for me when I need a week off.  I love this book so much that I was excited to bless him with a copy of it as well.

I've read a handful of BBQ books over the years, and I would readily say that this one doesn't cover a whole lot of new territory when it comes to foods to cook, or even ways to prepare that food.  It's all been said and done somewhere else by someone else.  But that in no way disqualifies this book.  You find in its pages excellent recipes for beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetables - just about anything you can put over fire there is something in that category.  There are also cocktail recipes, how to cook a pizza on a grill details, and much, much more.  In a fairly small book it covers a lot of ground giving you something that you could use to wow friends and families off your grill for years to come.

Will this book replace Steven Raichlen's The Barbecue Bible?  No, it isn't as comprehensive as Raichlen.  But it doesn't have to either.  This book offers a little something from nearly every category imaginable for grilling, and doesn't get bogged down being what it isn't.  There is room on your shelf for both, and both will serve you well.  It has a very readable introduction to the tools of the trade, and then gets right down to business with what to make and how to make it, with exceptional photographs of it all throughout.  This book makes me want to grill.  This book makes me want to eat.  That is the measure, for me at least, of whether it is worth owning.  It is.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  I was under no obligation to leave a positive review, but was happy to do so for this great book!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Raising Boys by Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs to Thrive

I am the father of a young son, so was particularly interested (hopeful) when I first saw this book. The book has some solid information and ideas that are useful. But there was never a point that it grabbed me or compelled me or made me really want to go out there and be this incredible dad - a bit short on the inspiration side of things. Yes, I want to be a great dad, or I wouldn't be reading books such as this. And no, I don't necessarily need external motivation for this, but in the day-to-day life of parenting it is nice to get a boost here and there. And this wasn't it.

More than anything, the book was largely a reminder of things I already knew at some level. Sometimes those reminders are helpful and timely, and that makes the book worth reading. One place the book was spot on is where it talks about the need for churches to find ways to better connect to men. There is a lot of room for improvement in many churches in this category. The segment on rites of passage was also one of its stronger points.

I was not paid for this review, but did receive a free review copy with no obligation to leave a positive review.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

12 ways to improve yourself from successful people

Great article from Mind, Body, Green on how successful people improve themselves.

Whether you're trying to better your health, career, or yourself—there are some recurring secrets and habits that successful people use, and I thought it would be helpful to list them here.

1. They use small habits to get big results.
I love this quote by Seth Godin: "Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We're proud of you for having them. But it's possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that's really frightening you—the shift in daily habits that would mean a re-invention of how you see yourself."

The "shift in daily habits" is the hard part. But it's also key in creating a better version of yourself.

Before Jerry Seinfeld got so famous, he used a daily ritual of writing a little bit of material every day to refine his material. When completed that, he would write a big "X" on his calendar. He continued to do it everyday because he didn't want to break the chain.

2. They hold themselves accountable.
Writing down the reason you want to make a change in your life creates accountability. Next write down when, where, and how you will complete it.

3. They don't rely solely on willpower.
A well-established body of research tells us that willpower is a finite resource. In the face of multiple stressful stimuli, our willpower wears out. Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, says, "Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs, or illicit sex."

So when it comes to changing your dietary habits, for example, rely less on willpower—instead change your path so you're not tempted by sugary treats multiple times a day.

4. They take it slow.
Once the habit is ingrained, you can try to tackle new habits, but wait at least three weeks before you even consider that. New studies show for a habit to be automatic it may actually take much longer than 30 days. A study led by Phillippa Lally, PhD, a psychologist at University College London, found that it actually took people 66 days (9.5 weeks) for a behavior to become automatic.

5. They use cues.
In Charles Duhigg’s best–selling book, The Power of Habit, he refers to the three steps of the “Habit Loop” as: cue, routine, reward. An example of a cue: placing your clothes on the floor so when you wake up in the morning you're easily "cued" to start your habit of exercise.

6. They practice introspection.
This can be in the form of meditation or any form of self-examination. For example, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, says that his meditation practice helped develop the core values of his brand. Also, many people credit Apple's sleek design to Steve Jobs' zen philosophy and meditation practice.

7. They share their habits with like-minded people.
Napoleon Hill coined this relationship “a mastermind.” It's a meeting with people who share similars goals. Some successful people like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie credit mastermind groups as a key factor in their success.

8. They visualize how they will overcome small hurdles.
You will have naysayers. You will have challenges. How will you solve them? Visualize the problem and mentally rehearse how you will solve it.

9. They reward themselves.
Don't just reward yourself for completing a "30-day challenge" (or something similar), because after the challenge is over, you will inevitably fail. The whole premise of this is life transformation is that there is no end goal. Instead celebrate the small wins.

10. They know that failing is not final.
Expect to fail along the way. If you never fail, the habit was too easy. Just get back to it and don't self-loathe. For motivation, remember the words of Winston Churchill, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

11. They enjoy the process.
We can get so stuck on an end goal that we make ourselves miserable getting there. That's a set up for failure. Enjoy the process of improving yourself. As Warren Buffet once said, "We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds."

12. They express gratitude.
Express gratitude with even just one sentence a day. Define why you are grateful, what you have accomplished, and the hard work you've put in.

The key to changing yourself is not to create someone new or become a "super person" but to actually become a better version of yourself.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Page CXVI - Lent to Maundy Thursday - sweet music!

One of my favorite bands has a new release out - details below!

Dear Friends,

We are thrilled to announce Lent to Maundy Thursday releases today! Thank you again to all of our IndieGoGo supporters for partnering with us to make this project possible! You can buy the physical and digital album here:

Or purchase it on iTunes and other digital stores like Amazon! 
Also, we want to take a moment to thank David Wilton, our engineer, co-producer, and mixer on this record. He has been with us for five years and we are deeply grateful for his gifts, talents, and time! Check him out here: as well as his worship project Loud Harp 

As well as our dear friends Aaron Strumpel for his trumpet and charisma (stayed tuned his upcoming project produced by our own Latifah Phillips!) 

And Cameron Schenk (violin) and Keith Thomas (cello) for their beautiful string parts!
We look forward to the last installment of our Calendar Project coming out April 15th, GoodFriday to Easter! Until then may you all be blessed.