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The Measure of Success

A review of The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley

One of the hard parts about being a woman is knowing how to balance working, ambition, dreams, goals and being a wife and mother. Carolyn McCulley’s book tackles this issue from a Biblical perspective. The book didn’t try to win the fight over whether it’s ok for women to be in the workplace, but explains how women can use their ambition no matter what stage of life they are in.

I really enjoyed this book because she gives a historical look at the journey of women into the workplace. Before McCulley became a Christian, she went to school for feminist women’s studies. When I picked it up I had no idea it would be so historically educational! Hearing the backstory of how women came to the workplace really gave me perspective on how the expectations of women have changed over the years and how we ended up with the expectations of today.

One of my favorite parts is when she explains what was going on historically with different passages in the Bible. I don’t have to convince you how different the world is now from the days in the Bible. So you can see how it really makes a difference in how you interpret passages once you know what was going on in that time. That part was really meaningful to me because I find it fascinating to hear about the traditions, laws and rules going on during that time. To be able to understand God’s word better because of it’s historical context is really neat.

McCulley also gives advice for working with integrity, finding our identity and resting. Towards the end of the books she walks through different phases of life and how we can be productive in those times.

This book is for those who work in the workforce and also women who work as “stay at home.” But what’s really cool is she doesn’t ever call it being a “stay at home mom.” McCulley is lumping all work together and calls it “productivity.” So this book addresses all of our work no matter what kind of “productivity” we are involved in.

In a world that sends mixed signals about a woman’s role, this book tackles a lot of those expectations from a Biblical and historical perspective.

I felt encouraged, inspired, affirmed, challenged, and relieved when reading this book. I think it’s a great read for women no matter what stage of life they are in.

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Field of Dreams Confusion

“If you build it, they will come.”

I had the movie Field of Dreams all wrong…just like that quote up there. For those of you who’ve seen the movie…here’s my thoughts on it. If you haven’t seen the movie you’re going to be terribly confused.

Part of my new adventure in being an Iowan is to see this movie. The place they filmed is close to Cedar Rapids and Tony and I are going to go visit it soon!

I thought this movie was about a town that had no baseball field. So Kevin Costner decides he’s going to build it. For some reason everyone in the town opposes him. He has a really hard time building this place for the kids to play baseball. But he keeps thinking to himself, “if you build it, they will come.” In the end he finally gets the baseball field built and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened for the town. The end.

oh boy was I wrong.

First off the quote is “If you build it, HE will come.” The first time that creepy whisper filled Costner’s mind I thought, “What! It’s a horror movie?” I was just so confused. Then the field gets built in the first part of the movie and I’m like “what the heck is this movie about? Where is this going?”

It was a cute but cheesy movie and I totally get the point of fulfilling dreams and helping others fulfill their dreams…but I tend to over analyze things… so here you go.

Why did they even waste my time in that cheesy PTA meeting scene? Just so Uncle Buck’s girlfriend can punch walk down the hallway hyped up that she got to re-live the sixties again?

Then Costner goes all the way to kidnap Terrance Mann, the author of some book they used to like. He forces the guy to go to a baseball game at Fenway Park and they didn’t even stay for the whole thing! Baseball game tickets are expensive let alone at Fenway Park! and Costner is going bankrupt! But he has gas money to drive from Iowa to Boston and enough to buy two tickets to a Red Sox game and then not even stay for the whole game?

and if the whole time the creepy whisper guy was actually just Shoeless Joe…why did he make Costner go all the way to Boston so he could flash Moonlight Graham’s name on the scoreboard? Couldn’t Joe just have whispered the name instead? and that whole Moonlight Graham part is pointless anyway because really the main goal was to reunite Costner with his dad. Graham ends up not getting to play anymore anyway because he magically turns old!

I’d also like to know why Shoeless Joe didn’t just have Costner build the field and then bring his dad out there and surprise him. “Hey! look who I found out there in the corn!”

To top it all off, when Costner introduces his dad to his family, he catches himself before he says “this is my dad” like that would have just been too weird or confusing for his daughter to understand. There’s already a baseball field full of ghosts playing baseball, that only a select amount of people can see, you’re going bankrupt but decided to plow down your crop to build a baseball field and you’re hearing creepy whisper voices…but it’s too weird to say “this is my dad?”

Then, did Terrance Mann symbolically die or something? Or did the ghost players lure him like a siren does a sailor? He just wants to go into the corn to “see what’s out there” and chuckles while he disappears into it. Did he just die? Is he coming back? Did he become a ghost writer? (see what I did there?)

I have an idea for Field of Dreams the sequel. The people who were protecting Terrence Mann in Boston realize he’s been missing for a while. They remember Costner was there looking for him. They track Costner back to the farm and arrest him for the murder of Mann because he hasn’t come back out of the corn heaven and he’s still missing.

 

 

Thank you, Southwest Georgia!

Tony, Kelly and Charlie

Our First Christmas card in Albany.

For over 3 years now Albany, GA has been my home. With a heart full of memories and gratitude, I’m excited about the new adventures that await my family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! Southwest GA, I want you to know how much you mean to me. Thank you for turning Good Day on every morning and letting me wake you up! It has been my joy and privilege to help get your day moving and get you fully dressed with a smile as your best accessory. My hope was to brighten your every day. But I hope you know how much you all have brightened mine. I have loved working with you, talking with you, getting your notes and phone calls. Thank you for the many encouraging words you have spoken into my heart.

“Ten years from now, you’ll be the same person you are today, except for the people you meet, the books you read, the places you go, and the things you memorize.”

-Jay Strack

Meeting all of you and living in Albany has helped me grow in many ways. I know the memories made here will stay with me forever. I look forward to keeping in touch with you through social media. I’m excited to watch Albany continue to grow and develop through the years.

Our first visit to Americus and Plains...we drove past Jimmy Carter's house 5 times trying to see if we could spot him.

Our first visit to Americus and Plains…we drove past Jimmy Carter’s house 5 times trying to see if we could spot him.

Our second Christmas card. We thought we were so original with the cotton field idea...come to find out pretty much everyone who lives here does this. It's basically a right of passage to GA living.

Our second Christmas card. We thought we were so original with the cotton field idea…come to find out pretty much everyone who lives here does this. It’s basically a right of passage to GA living.

After we finished our first Sprint Triathlon at Lake Blackshear.

After we finished our first Sprint Triathlon at Lake Blackshear.

Taking everyone who visits us to see Ray Charles Plaza. This is my mom and my niece, Tenley.

Taking everyone who visits us to see Ray Charles Plaza. This is my mom and my niece, Tenley.

The first time I talked with the students from Sowega Arts. From then on they welcomed me to come sing and perform with them at their concerts! Thank you for letting me be part of the productions!

The first time I talked with the students from Sowega Arts. From then on they welcomed me to come sing and perform with them at their concerts! Thank you for letting me be part of the productions!

One of the many times Sowega Arts let me sing with them.

One of the many times Sowega Arts let me sing with them.

One memory I can't get rid of...Lucy the Carolina Dog. Thank you Best Friends Humane Society of Worth County!

One memory I can’t get rid of…Lucy the Carolina Dog. Thank you Best Friends Humane Society of Worth County!

Leaving Time

A review of the book Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Really quick synopsis: A little girl named Jenna has been raised by her grandmother. Her mom and dad owned an elephant sanctuary. Jenna’s mom disappeared when she was 3. Her whole life she has tried to solve the mystery of what happened to her mom. She finally decides to go all in on solving the mystery and enlists the help of the detective who originally worked the case and a psychic.

Right away this book pulled me in and I read it pretty quickly. Each chapter is the point of view of a different character. The woman who is missing is named Alice. She spent many years researching elephants. I really like that Picoult used research from real cases of elephants who had been rescued and research from those who study elephants. I don’t really know much about elephants but I really enjoyed learning more about them!

This would be a great book to read if you’re on vacation because it’s light and moves so quickly. It’s a fun mystery and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out what happened! There is a lot of backstory and character development so I really came to care about the characters.

The ending is a big twist. But it disappointed me! Once I finished the book I wanted to go back and re-read parts that eluded to how it would end. I don’t want to spoil the end for you because if I tell you why I didn’t like the way it ended, it would ruin everything and the book wouldn’t be as fun to read. I give it 4 elephants because it wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read and the ending made me annoyed, but it was a fun, suspenseful read.

***spoilers ahead***

Please only keep reading if you have read this book! It will ruin the whole thing for you if you keep reading! 

Have you read this book or are you trying to cheat? Please turn back if you haven’t read it yet. Seriously.

Ok…for those of you still here, I’m hoping it’s because you’ve already read it.

The reason why the ending annoyed me was because it’s been done before. You know the whole joke of “Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time!” From the movie the Sixth Sense. She totally stole the ending from that movie! I liked it because it worked well with the story and it was fun because I didn’t see it coming. But I mean come on…be more original! I just felt like she copied someone else’s ending.

The Day I Became a Super Hero

Everyone on earth has a super power, but not everyone uses it. Today I became a super hero to someone, somewhere, someday. I gave blood for the first time today. Blood is life. Someday my blood is going to be put into someone else who really needs it. Isn’t that a weird and crazy thought?

I’ve always been one of the ones to not use my super power. Not because I hadn’t thought about it. I was just terrified. 

My husband always gives blood. He always tells me I should too. I finally agreed to go this time even though I was still terrified.  

I thought about it all during my day. When it finally came time to go there, I could feel myself getting nervous. I tried to calm myself on the way there by reasoning out what was wrong with me. Why was I afraid to give blood? 

1. I think it will hurt

2. It totally wigs me out to think the blood is coming out of my body and I have to sit there and see blood coming out of my body!

3. there is no number three…

Ok, so that’s easy.

1. I’ve had blood taken before (which scared me to death too) and I remember it didn’t hurt.  

2. Get over it, crazy. Think about the person who is in desperate need of blood and your blood will help them heal or even save their life! You can do this! 

Here’s what happened

They took me into a private little room and looked at my ID. Then they took my blood pressure, pulse and pricked my finger. They left me there to answer a bunch of crazy questions about wild living, health, medications and travel. This is the part where you get to count your blessings…because you’ve never experienced the things they’re describing…I think they do that to calm your nerves right?  

After that it was time to suit up. You sit in what feels like a lawn chair recliner and they get all your stuff ready for take off. I just looked away and repeated my logical thoughts about why I should not be nervous and reminded myself about the person who would one day get my blood. I have to tell you my heart started beating really fast. So I tried to breathe really deep and slow. I was still really nervous. 

What it feels like

When it came time for the big moment. I kept my eyes away from the construction zone and just tried to talk to the nurse about meaningless things. Guess what…It doesn’t hurt. It really doesn’t. It feels like someone pushes on your arm with their finger tip. I kept my eyes in the other direction and focused on counting to 10 and squeezing this foam thing she put in my hand. If you are from Georgia you know how annoying the gnats are right? You know how you keep swatting them and they won’t go away? Thats what giving blood feels like. You can feel something on your arm that annoys you but you can’t get rid of it. It’s like a little annoying feeling. 

I wanted to tell you exactly what happened because I want you to know what to expect and what you will feel. I think we all should be using our super power and giving blood. It is one thing everyone can do to help someone in need. 

If you feel so nervous that you need some support, take a friend with you! I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t have done it without my husband there! Next time I’ll be ok. But getting past that first time, the toughest thing to overcome is your own mind.

I want you to know this won’t be the last time I give. If I can get past my fear…you can too!

After I gave blood...with my fruit.

After I gave blood…with my fruit.

The Likeness

A review of the book “The Likeness” by Tana French

This is the second book in the Dublin Murder squad series. I didn’t read the first one. I don’t feel like it hampered my understanding of this book.

The premise of the story is really interesting and can be summed up really quick…a detective goes undercover to find the killer of a dead woman…who looks just like her! It reminded me of the TV show Orphan Black. But the book was way less exciting than Orphan Black. (side note: if you’ve never watched Orphan Black…it’s addicting…go check it out!)

I enjoyed reading this book, but it went back and forth between moving slow and fast. It kept me going because I couldn’t wait to figure out who the murdered woman was and the other mysteries about her that come up as you read. It was funny at times because the story is set in Ireland and some of the language used is very European. Overall it’s a good, fun read, a great mystery I couldn’t wait to know the answer to. I give it 3 mirrors.

One thing I didn’t like about the book I want to tell you, but if you’ve not read it…I don’t want to ruin for you. So spoiler alert! Please don’t read if you don’t want me to ruin it all for you.

*Spoilers ahead*

 

I was really hoping there would be some awesome reason why the murdered woman and the undercover detective look alike. I wanted them to be sisters or cousins or clones or something. But there was no explanation as to why they look alike. It was just a coincidence. Proving the theory that everyone in the world has someone who looks like them somewhere. I hate that and appreciate that. I like it because it might be too outlandish to bring in the fact that they were separated at birth and twins. But I also hate it because I find it hard to believe that these two just looked identical but weren’t related.

 

Sopapilla Cheesecake

Sopapilla Cheesecake  from the blog: Chocolate Therapy

I pinned this because the picture looked so beautiful and it was different from anything I’ve ever made before. For dessert I usually go for anything chocolate, but not usually pastries or anything cream cheese. I thought it would be a fun alternative. I made this for my dad for his birthday! So I was able to get opinions on the dessert from my parents and my husband.

{Ingredients}

2 cans pillsbury butter crescent rolls (seamless if you can find them)…I couldn’t find them.

2 8oz pkgs of cream cheese (softened)

1 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cupt butter (melted)

cinnamon and sugar (about 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbs cinnamon)

{Instructions}

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you are using a glass pan, adjust the temperature to 325 degrees. Unroll and spread one can of crescent rolls on bottom of ungreased 9×13 inch pan.  If you aren’t using the seamless crescents, be sure to smooth out the seams before adding the filling. Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Spread mixture over crescent rolls. Unroll and spread remaining crescent rolls over mixture, being sure to press together any seams. Spread melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

First layer with cream cheese on top

{What really happened}

I used a glass dish so I put the oven on 325.

I had a hard time mixing the cheese & sugar with a wooden spoon and bowl. I decided to put it in my kitchen-aid mixer. It blended so much better that way. Everything else went as planned.

At 25 minutes I pulled it out of the oven and the pastry still wasn’t baked. At 30 minutes it was still not crisp enough. I put it in for 2 min. more and then finally took it out of the oven to sit.

The whole pastry looked squishy and  the cinnamon and sugar on top looked wet and melted. In Chocolate Therapy’s blog it looked dry and fresh. I let it sit for a bit more. But I had promised these people dessert, man…it was that time…I couldn’t wait any more! So I went back and put candles in it (for the birthday boy…disaster!!) The candles ended up melting down into the pastry.

We ate it while picking out the colorful wax.  It was really delicious! I would give it a 4 out of 5 because it’s not my favorite style of dessert and it didn’t look like the picture…crispy with a dry dusting of cinnamon and sugar on top.

Before it went in the oven

Before it went in the oven

{My families opinion}

Husband: 3 stars. It would be better if it were crisp. It was too sweet.

Dad: 5 stars. Blending of ingredients was good.

Mom: 5 stars. Serve in small portions, very rich. Can serve at any party. It’s different. Could eat this for breakfast.

Honestly, I was so excited about putting candles in it...I forgot to take a picture of it straight out of the oven. This is after its been cut. You can see how squishy it is.

Honestly, I was so excited about putting candles in it…I forgot to take a picture of it straight out of the oven. This is after its been cut. You can see how squishy it is.

{The redeeming factor}

I put this dish in the fridge and the next night it was perfect! It cut and laid in perfect rectangles. I served it cold. It was crisper and yummier!

My advice is to make it just like the directions say but let it sit in the fridge and get cold. It was a whole lot better this way.

Sarah from “Chocolate Therapy” never mentioned putting the dessert in the fridge. I re-read her post several times to see if I missed it somewhere and I didn’t…she never mentions it. But I did notice she said her recipe was from a blog called “Yellow Umbrella.” I clicked on it and got sucked into a worm hole of Sopapilla Cheesecake recipes.

Yellow Umbrella posted a blog with the recipe on it from “Real Mom Kitchen.” I did see that Alina from “My Yellow Umbrella” posted an update to this recipe with some answers to questions. One of those does mention to cool and refrigerate the treat. So thank you, Alina. I feel vindicated now.

Happy baking!

Here is one of the slices. You can see the edge is crispy but the middle is squishy.

Here is one of the slices. You can see the edge is crispy but the middle is squishy.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I liked this book so much I couldn’t just write about it. I had to talk it out with you. Play my video below to hear how lovely this book is.

2015 Reading list

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, reminded people there are things called books, when he publicly asked the world to join him in reading a new book every two weeks. Where in the world does that guy get time to read?

I wasn’t inspired by Mark Zuckerburg. I am already an active reader and all the books I’ve seen on his list I have no desire to even open. I’ve never set a reading goal for myself because I feel like it would take the joy out of it. Last year I read 12 books without trying. So I thought just for fun, I’d try to actually set a number goal this year at 15 books. There’s a ton of books I’d like to read this year and I’m adding to that list all the time. Here’s 15 books I’m going to read this year.

1. The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine

2. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

3. The Expats by Chris Pavone

4. Audition by Barbara Walters

5. The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin

6. Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

8. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

9. Faithful Place by Tana French

10. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

11. Six Years by Harlan Coben

12. Divergent by Veronica Roth

13. The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

14. Defending Jacob by William Landay

15. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

If you love to read and you haven’t joined Good Reads yet, you really should!! I adore this site and it really helps me keep my reading list in order. This year they sent me an email with all my stats for reading this past year. It was a really neat surprise. Here’s my blog post where I gush about Good Reads. Maybe one day they’ll hire me to be their spokesperson!

Get Fit Now

If you are hoping for a healthier lifestyle in 2015 you are not alone. Half of the universe is making that resolution too. It sometimes seems overwhelming but as my friend Bob once advised me…take baby steps. (reference to the movie “What About Bob.” If you haven’t seen it you are missing out on life.)

 

 

I wrote a blog post for “Mom’s Morning Coffee” on some of the small things I do daily to live a healthier life. Here’s an excerpt:

“…I bought a jug I affectionately call “Bubba” (that’s actually the brand name). It’s from Walmart and it’s 64 ounces. My goal is to drink that once every day. Don’t drink your calories. Drinking water is a great way to cut sugar too. I do treat myself that one day on the weekends I can drink sweet tea at dinner. Gosh, I love sweet tea. But even then I sometimes choose not to, just so I can cut back on sugar. I even stopped drinking apple and cranberry juice for the simple fact that water has zero sugar.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

*Cheers to a healthier year!

Most Read Posts

Two of my posts on marriage made the list of top ten most read blog posts on Mom’s Morning Coffee! 

I am so excited to have struck a chord in readers but I also think this shows how much people are craving to make their marriage the best it can be. I’m so excited to see couples fighting for their marriage.

Here’s an excerpt of the two posts:

 

“Why You Should Study Your Husband” 

“…Marriage takes work. I know you know that. But if we aren’t even trying, its going to fall apart and we will be miserable along the way. Try! Try! Don’t give up! Even if your spouse isn’t responding, don’t give up! Whether they admit it or not, they will notice the difference and see the little changes you’ve been making. You’ve got nothing to lose if you try…but you’ve got everything to lose if you don’t…”

 

and from “My Husband My Friend”

“…Well, how do you make friends? Usually by doing activities together and sharing in conversation. My husband and I have a lot of similar interests, but many of those interests weren’t actually discovered until after we were married! We discovered them together! If you feel you don’t have common interests with your spouse, then find something! There are so many activities in the world, there has to be something you could do together….”

Nine Coaches Waiting

A review of the book Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

If you are a book lover and you’re not on Good Reads you should be! Check out my rave on the website here.

Nine Coaches Waiting was suggested to me by Good Reads based on other books I had read and liked. It was the very last book I was going to pick up… when I went to the library and found all my other top ten were checked out (or not even in the library system) I was left with this option.

I thought “why not go out on a limb? Try this book I’ve never heard of and go in on a blind read. Might be fun!” When I found the book…I thought twice.

Let me be frank…I judge books by their cover. All the time.

This book was withered, yellow and looked like it fell out of an attic in 1927.

But I thought…”no! I’m gonna do it!”

I almost felt embarrassed taking it to the checkout… is that weird? I’m not really sure why…I guess because it looked like an old granny novel or something. I was totally book prejudice! The book was originally published in 1958! I wouldn’t be surprised if the copy from the library was one of the first off the printing line.

The book is a gothic feeling love story. Kinda like Jane Eyre meets Wuthering Heights meets Turn of the Screw. This young woman moves to Paris to be a Governess to a young rich boy. The family is mysterious and she realizes something fishy is going on.

The exciting parts don’t really start to happen until the book is almost over! I kept reading because I knew something was coming. Stewart really takes her time building the backstory. Even though it wasn’t that suspenseful, I still enjoyed reading the semi-slow parts. It was easy to read and I liked seeing the relationships grow between all the characters. I had trouble figuring out what time period it was supposed to be. It feels like an old gothic novel…so I kept imagining a “Jane Eyre” type era. But then once I found out the publishing year, I started trying to picture everything in the 50’s. That threw me off a little, but it doesn’t really make a difference to the story.

Overall it was a fun read and I’m glad I read it. Thanks Good Reads! I give Nine Coaches Waiting 3 out of five coaches. It’s really not a book I’d be excited to tell a friend about. But it was still entertaining.

 

*Fun Facts: The title comes from a poem. The Governess father used to teach her all types of poetry. She often recalls pieces of poems that go along with whatever is happening in her life at the moment. Now day’s I’d compare it to how something happens in life and you pull out a quote from a movie or TV show. Instead of being divided up into chapters, the book is divided up into “nine coaches.”

Oh, think upon the pleasure of the palace:
Secured ease and state, the stirring meats,
Ready to move out of the dishes,
That e’en now quicken when they’re eaten,
Banquets abroad by torch-light, musics, sports,
Bare-headed vassals that had ne’er the fortune
To keep on their own hats but let horns [wear] ’em,
Nine coaches waiting. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

Wild

My thoughts on the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed has guts. I don’t mean because she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone…but for writing a book this honest. She is very open with readers about her poor decisions and intimate thoughts. I mean, she really puts it all out there. That takes some serious courage. I think it’s really great that she was so real about that time of her life. Obviously, being a novelist…she’s going to write about it and it made a great book! That being said, at one point Strayed was an advice columnist. There is no way I’d ever want her advice. We are all guilty of making bad decisions. But the choices she made I couldn’t even fathom the logic behind them.

Regardless if I agreed with her views or decisions, I really enjoyed reading Wild. I’m not a big fan of non-fiction books, but I really did like this one! I don’t know if it’s because I kept hoping for some sort of redemptive moment at the end or because I was so aghast at the bad decisions she made or if I wanted to hear more about the technique behind a hike like this…maybe it was all three?

I had never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail but I am well aware of the Appalachian Trail here on the East Coast. I always wondered what it was like to quit your job and just set out to hike the whole thing, as many do. I was curious about how it logistically worked and Cheryl really explains it well. The logistics of hiking for months really fascinates me. I really do think that’s one of the reasons I kept reading. I liked hearing how she operated. How many miles did she hike each day? Did she just walk all day? How did she go to the bathroom? Did she shower? What if she got hurt? How many shirts did she have? Did she need money? Where did she get food?

There is a lot of symbolism between the weight she carries in her heart and the heavy pack she wears while hiking. The scars her heart bares and her hiking boots that tear her feet to pieces. My heart broke for her and the pain she carried by the loss of her mom. It was really sad that her method of grieving was wrecking her own life. I think her story is really relatable because we’ve all experienced heartache and loss. I think a lot of people don’t know what to do with all the pain or confusion they have inside them. Her book made me want to go on a hiking journey, it made me cry, made me think, shocked me and made me smile.

It also made me really sad that there was no redemptive moment at the end. From what she describes, up until the end of her journey she is still making decisions I would say are not smart. I thought she would have an epiphany on the trail or something, but I felt like there never really was one. I guess really the only good thing was that she finally came to grips with the death of her mom and was able to move forward.

Overall, It was a really great book. I give it 4 and a half hiking boots…because Strayed lost one while she was hiking.

Favorite Workout Songs

 

When I workout I have to have music. There are two things I look for in exercise music:

1.  The song has to be upbeat. Super upbeat…to match the pace of my stride.

2. It has to have a message of empowerment. Something that motivates me to go faster or to keep moving.

 

So here’s a look at my favorite workout songs for this month:

 

1. Work-Britney Spears

2. Shake it Off-Taylor Swift

3. Lost Yourself-Eminem

4. Something Bad-Carrie Underwood & Miranda Lambert

5. Little Red Wagon-Miranda Lambert

6. Eye of the Tiger-Survivor (yep, not joking)

7. Neon Lights- Demi Lovato

8. Brave- Sara Bareilles

9. Unwritten-Natasha Bedingfield

10. Harlem-New Politics

11. Applause-Lady Gaga

12. Hello-Karmin

 

 

 

 

A Wife of Discretion

Go checkout my guest blog post on www.momsmorningcoffee.com! 

Here’s a sneak peek of what I wrote:

“Discretion is defined as the quality of behaving or speaking in a way that avoids causing offense or revealing private information.

My husband and I tell each other secrets all the time and I love it. It’s so much fun to be able to joke together, vent together and share intimate thoughts with one another. We’re able to do this because of the trust that’s in our relationship. We can share with each other the secret parts of our heart and know it stays between the two of us. I never have to worry that he’s going to go to work and share some piece of gossip with his co-workers….”

 

Unbroken

My thoughts on the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I have never been recommended to read any book more than Unbroken. Everyone I’ve talked to who has read this book has raved about it. Each person has said if it’s not their favorite book ever, it’s in their top five. It took me longer than normal to finish this book… I’ve never really enjoyed reading non-fiction. Literally everyone I’ve talked to said this book had them glued…there were only a few chapters that made me feel like I couldn’t look away.

I do feel this is one of those books everyone should read. The story is remarkable. I stand in great admiration and awe of the men in this book. It is a story that you will remember and think about. It really brings home the reality of those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. The story of Louis Zamperini, his friends, comrades, family and the Japanese on the other side of the war, will really touch your soul and remind you of what’s really important in life. I don’t know if there are words to describe what Zamperini and his fellow soldiers went through. I am challenged by their strength, courage and outlook on life while they were in the most horrid of situations.

*Spoilers ahead*

If you haven’t read the book please don’t read any further. I really don’t want to spoil it for you. 

 

My heart was broken for Zamperini and his friends as they came back to America.  Trying to move on and reclaim their lives, only to be shaken to the core by the memory of what they encountered in war. Many of them suffering with PTSD. But how my heart soared when the turning point came in Zamperini’s life. Hearing a message from Billy Graham and coming to know Jesus as his savior. I was amazed at the power of God to heal a mind and heart. The book says Zamperini was healed from his past and was finally able to move forward. Not only that, but creating a profession for himself where he could impact the lives of other people. His marriage was even restored and joyful. This was my favorite part of the book because I didn’t now Zamperini’s story. I was bracing myself for the worst possible ending. I was thrilled that he ended his life victoriously. His story has really challenged me to be strong and hold my head up. To show courage and stand up for myself. To never give up hope.

Get Out of my Dream House!

ba

(Totally Hair Barbie. One of my Fav. Christmas memories as a kid was getting this doll!)

This week a moment I’ve been waiting for my entire life was announced.

A real life Barbie movie is in the works.

I am so excited to see my favorite childhood doll come to life. I can just see it now in all it’s pink sparkly glory! You can count on me to be there opening weekend too.

The announcement of the new Barbie movie has brought on a whole fresh wave of Barbie haters though.

The articles are spewing out with questions of how they’ll find the right actress who has the unrealistic Barbie proportions and how it’s giving young girls a bad self esteem and unrealistic expectations.

As they’d say in Happy Days….take your Barbie hate….go out in a field….and sit on it!

Good grief!

I adored Barbie, I had a whole tub full of different Barbies, I had a dream house, furniture, 3 cars and tons of clothes…I mean, the Barbie operation at my house was legit.

I would spend hours playing on my floor and have the best memories of my mom joining me to play!

I would add in my “Littlest Pet Shop” toys and Barbie’s job (along with her friends) was to work at the pet shop! She was the owner! Ken would stop by and ask her on a date. At the end of the day, she’d get in her Ferrari, dress up in a sparkly outfit and go to dinner with Ken. Then of course a few hours later they’d get married!

Never once in my entire childhood did I ever think about Barbie’s proportions! Never once did I ponder why or how it was possible that Barbie had so many jobs. Never once did I ask myself why Barbie had a Ferrari even though the only thing she did for a living was own a pet shop….but now come to think of it…maybe Barbie had so many jobs so she could pay for the Ferrari.

Because it’s a dream! It’s not real! It’s make believe!

Why is everyone so set on making Barbie the enemy? Whatever happened to letting kids be kids and letting them have an imagination…why does everything have to be like real life?

The first time I ever thought about Barbie’s proportions was when I was in college and adults started writing articles about it. The issue here isn’t Barbie, who let’s girls use their imagination. The issue is that girls need more positive role models in their lives. Girls need parents who will help them develop a good self esteem. Let’s step out of the dream house and take a look at our real life society.

Barbie doesn’t have time for haters…she’s got too much to do.

Who do you think would be the best actress to Play Barbie? My top picks for real life Barbie…in no order of importance:

Margot Robbie

January Jones

Kristen Bell

Katherine Heigl

Amy Adams

Rosamund Pike

Elizabeth Banks

Maggie Grace

Kristin Chenoweth

 

The Ban on Bossy

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”

~John Maxwell

When I was in high school instead of going to camp during the summer, I went to a week long conference called “Student Leadership University,” or “SLU.”

I did this for two summers. The reason why I went is because I had a desire to be a leader and I wanted to learn how to rise above mediocrity and learn disciplines that would help me all throughout life. 

To this day, the things I learned in those two summers impact me.

We learned things like: organization, integrity, ambition, responsibility, giving your all, developing a vision for your life, preparing for the future, learning how to deal with difficult people, and learning a responsibility to shape society. 

One of my favorite quotes is from the founder of SLU, Dr. Jay Strack:

“Ten years from now, you’ll be the same person you are today, except the places you go, the people you meet, the books you read, and the things you memorize.”

My parents also played a big part in helping me learn to become a leader. They taught me through example, discipline, and by talking with me about personal responsibility.

Recently I was really perplexed because Sheryl Sandburg the CEO of Facebook came up with this new campaign called “Ban Bossy.” The whole premise is that she wants to stop people using the word “Bossy” to describe girls because she feels it hinders them from becoming a leader. 

I was able to write my thoughts about it on the Moms Morning Coffee Blog. 

Click HERE to read it.

My Harry Potter Journey

Right now I’m at a stage of life I’d like to call “Post-Potter Depression.”

Post-Potter Depression: finishing the Harry Potter series and feeling bamboozled as to how you will ever read another book again that will compare. Seeing people with red hair and automatically calling them a “Weasley” in your head. Flipping a light switch while thinking “lumos.” You can’t look at a broom the same way. When you have a really good day, you think someone might have slipped some Felix Felicis in your drink.

(For anyone reading this who hasn’t read Harry Potter, I will not give any spoilers unless I warn you in a big way first. So feel free to read on until you see my big warning.)

How it began:

I hopped on the Harry Potter train way later than most of the world. I fought every step of the way not to have the ending spoiled for me…or each book for that matter! Do you know how hard that is in this world with such a popular series? I plugged my ears and averted my eyes many times along the way.

I decided to read the books because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I felt really silly though every time I walked into the library and walked directly (with purpose) to the little kids section…it’s been humbling. I felt like I wanted to announce “I promise I can read big words!”

Movies vs. Books:

I didn’t know anything about the Harry Potter world! I just never took an interest in it when it was popular…I never even saw the movies! I’m a big believer in reading the books first. I like letting my imagination work and then watching the movie after to compare what I pictured to what they actually made. So I decided to read a book then watch the movie that went with the book. I did that with the first two books and then I got mad.

I got mad at my own mind! I pictured an entirely different world in my mind than what the movies looked like, but once I started watching the movies and then moved on to the next book, I found myself picturing scenes from the movie version, instead of the Kelly version. I hated that! So I decided I would stop watching the movies and not see any more of them until I was completely done. (I still have yet to finish the movies!)

I started reading the first book in October 2013 and just finished in March of 2014. I was going to try to read the series slowly and take breaks in between each book to read something else…but it pulls you in! Every time I tried to start reading another book I kept thinking, “I’d rather be reading about Harry…. I wonder whats going to happen to him?” I devoured each book like it was my job.

Themes:

Now that I’m able to freely search the internet to see what people have said about the books, some have said the theme is death, going against authority or getting through adolescents. But I got something totally different. To me, the books are about loyalty, the power of friends,  and doing the right thing even when everyone goes against you.

One thing I really loved is the relationship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Whenever something would happen to Harry, he would almost immediately confide in his two best friends. Their bond was so strong, they were willing to follow each other into the most harrowing circumstances and stand bravely because they believed in Harry.

Loyalty is also a big theme throughout the series. Characters are loyal to either Dumbledore and Harry or Voldemort. The loyalty was so strong, they were willing to die because they wouldn’t turn their back on the leader.

Characters in the book were also faced with moments where they could have taken the easy road or used a circumstance for personal gain, but instead, they chose to do what was right, even if it meant they were standing alone.

My Favorites:

I really enjoyed these books because it was fun to watch the characters develop. The stories were fun and it made you want to just sit for hours and read because you just had to know what happened next.

My favorite books in the series are The Half Blood Prince, The Deathly Hallows and Goblet of Fire. These three had the best story lines and were the ones  I couldn’t put down.

Favorite character: Dumbledore. I loved his relationship with Harry and the way he always knew how to fix everything, there were no secrets that could be kept from him and he always had an answer. He reminded me a lot of my dad, so I felt like I actually knew Dumbledore.

SPOILER ALERT….ALERT! ALERT! I was really surprised to find out about his weaknesses at the end of the series. He wasn’t as perfect as he seemed. Even though I hated this realization…I loved it because it shows that we’ve all got weaknesses and nobody is perfect.

Whatever I read next has big shoes to fill. What will I ever read again that I’ll be this excited about? Getting the next book in the Harry Potter series was an exciting part of my week and now it’s over!

If you have any suggestions for some good books or a good series…let me know!

Ok, for those who haven’t read these books…now is the time to stop reading. I’m about to say some things about the ending.

The End:

*Spoilers ahead!*

*Turn back pre-potter readers!*

*Don’t look!*

*Close your eyes!*

…are they gone?

The only thing I didn’t like about the ending: I wanted to know what everyone ended up doing for a living!

I’ve read interviews with Rowling where she says she thinks Harry became an Auror….but I really didn’t think he would.

In the last sentence of the “present day” part…Harry gets rid of all the hallows because he doesn’t want them to fall in the wrong hands and he doesn’t think anyone should have that much power. He says he’s had enough trouble for a lifetime. To me…that means he is done dealing with the dark arts and doesn’t want anything to do with fighting them anymore.

Rowling also came out recently and said she thinks Harry and Hermione should have ended up together. No way! She would have had to write the books totally different! From early on, she eluded to the fact that Ron and Hermione had a thing for each other. I think it would have been awful if she all of a sudden made Harry and Hermione end up together. When throughout the book, you are rooting for Ron to get the girl (at least I was) I’m also really glad Harry ended up with Ginny…he deserves happiness and to have the family he never had.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the series! Did you like the ending? What themes stood out to you?

Enchiladas

Enchiladas

These chicken enchilada’s are great for a weeknight and so delicious!

{Ingredients}

2 Chicken breast

Chicken broth

Flour Tortillas

Cheddar Cheese

Salsa

1 can of medium red enchilada sauce

1 can of green chile sauce

1 Jalapeño

1 small can of sliced black olives

{Directions}

We can do this the hard way…or we can do this the easy way…let’s start first with the easy way.

Put 2 chicken breasts in a crock pot along with 1/2 cup of chicken broth, season with a little salt and pepper.

Leave this on while you are out and about for the day. When you are ready to make dinner, put the cooked chicken in a bowl and shred it. Add salsa to the shredded chicken, to your taste.

Rewind! …time for the hard way…put 2 chicken breasts in a big sauce pot and cover with a mixture of water and chicken broth, season lightly with salt and pepper and you could even throw in some jalapeños if you want! Boil the chicken then place the cooked chicken in a bowl and shred it. Add some salsa to the shredded chicken to your taste.

Grab a flour tortillas it’s time to stuff those babies!

Place a tortilla on a plate and place the chicken mixture in a line down the center, put a medium amount…don’t overdo it or it won’t fold! (I’ve been to that rodeo…still can’t quite master the art of the filling)

Sprinkle some cheddar cheese over the chicken, to your taste.

Fold up all the sides, so the chicken mix can’t escape!

Place in a glass baking dish.

Continue making them until you run out of chicken mix.

Mix the two enchilada sauces together in a bowl.

Pour the sauce so it covers all of the tortillas, sprinkle with cheese, sliced jalapeño and black olives.

Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted.

There are so many ways you can dress this up or down…play around with it!

My husband, my friend

I wrote a guest post for Mom’s Morning Coffee about being friends with your spouse.

Here’s a teeny sneak peek:

In the first month of being at Liberty University, we met in the school cafeteria, affectionately known as “the rot…”

…My husband is hilarious and I enjoyed spending time with him because we have a similar sense of humor. He is also easy going and just stinking pleasant to be around. We really were just great friends and would spend time together watching movies, jogging, and hiking. Those activities helped us bond, which eventually led to me thinking that I liked being around him so much, I never wanted to leave! He felt the same way too and put a ring on it. (jackpot!)…

…If you never got the chance to be your spouses friend before you fell in love with them, how do you work backwards like that?…”

To read the entire post and see flawsome pics of my husband and me, click here

Just friends! Freshmen year of college at a Halloween get together. My husband (on the end) was trying to pull off a “Saturday Night Fever” look. I went with the traditional farmer, who… you know, always ties their flannel shirt up to their waist like that.

Teasing the Tresses

I like big hair and I can not lie…

A reader asked me to explain how to tease hair. Your wish is my command! 

Please let me know if you have any more requests or questions! I’d love to help you have a great hair day! 

Potato Nachos

I wrote a guest post on Mom’s Morning Coffee Blog sharing my recipe for “Potato Nachos” 

 

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Don’t they look yummy? They are super easy too! Click here to check it out. 

Fashionable & Thrifty

I recently went to a craft fair and found the cutest charms! They were little square maps enclosed in glass and the vendor was charging around $50.00 a piece just for the charm…it didn’t even include a chain! I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much! I thought the idea was so perfect though, because how fun would it be to wear your town around your neck?

I wanted one so bad and I also wanted to give them as Christmas gifts! I remembered that I had seen necklace making items at Hobby Lobby and decided I would go there and see if I could make those necklaces myself.

Guess what…I found everything I needed for around twelve dollars…not including the maps. I was elated!

For the maps, I went online to each states visitor’s page and ordered a physical map to be mailed to my home (they were free!) Then I had to wait and wait and wait and wait for them to come in the mail and I started to get worried I wouldn’t receive them before Christmas. So I ended up getting a U.S. road maps book at Walmart for around seven dollars and my Florida map ended up arriving in time (way to go Sunshine State!) I’m actually still waiting to receive Virginia and Tennessee. (What’s the hold up here?)

I took the glass piece and laid it on the map in the area I wanted to showcase, outlined it with a pencil, cut it out, stuck it in the glass and voila! The charm was made! I actually picked two places for each necklace because the necklace is two sided, so I stuck the maps back to back before I enclosed them.

Side one

The chain, on the other hand, was a bit of a booger. Luckily I have a very sweet husband who sat with me, cut the chains and helped me connect them with little metal rings. It was a pain and I got one connected correctly…one! I’m such a wimp! My husband connected the other 5. (he’s a keeper).

I am so proud of the end product and I love how personal each necklace is. Each person I gave them to has a special place in their heart for the locations featured on their necklaces. It’s just so unique! I kind of want to make one for everyone I know!

Let me know if you try this and how it goes!

Side Two

Speak No Evil: Marriage

I had the opportunity to write a guest post on marriage for the blog “Mom’s Morning Coffee”

Here’s a teeny snippet:

“…Respecting our husbands is something we should do whether he is around or not. Protecting his honor and name is just one of the ways we can do that….Long after you have forgotten about those things that bothered you, the words remain in the minds of those who’ve heard them – or read them. Didn’t we learn in middle school what it was like to be gossiped about? I almost got beat up on the soccer field one day because of something I said about a girl behind her back! True story!” 

Get on over there and check it out! 

Click the below link to read it:

Speak No Evil: Marriage

The “W” Word

Many of you have been in a secret struggle for years with the “W” word.

I want you to know…you are not alone. 

 

 

 

The Best Shrimp Ever

 

 

 

 

Best Shrimp Ever

Around my house we literally call this recipe the best shrimp ever. That’s all that needs to be said and my husband knows exactly what it is.

…and it really is the best shrimp ever.

This recipe is so simple, quick, and scrumptious! Honey, butter, and Worcestershire sauce combine to make the most sensational flavor!

~Ingredients~

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/4 tablespoon pepper

1/3 cup worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons white wine (I’ve made it without this and it’s been just as good!)

2 tablespoons italian dressing

1 pound of shrimp

1/4 cup honey

1/4 butter, melted

2 tablespoons worcestershire

Spaghetti Noodles

~Directions~

Boil the spaghetti noodles, like you normally would.  Let that cook while you are making the sauces and shrimp.

In a large bowl, mix garlic powder, pepper, 1/3 cup worcestershire, wine, dressing. Add shrimp and toss it around to coat all the shrimp. You can let it marinate for a while or if you are in a hurry, like I usually am, you can just go ahead and toss it in the skillet and begin to cook the shrimp.

For the other sauce, in a small bowl stir together melted butter, honey, and 2 tablespoons of worcestershire.

Once the noodles and shrimp are cooked you will divide them out into individual servings. Pour the honey mix sauce over the individual dishes evenly. Then pour some of the sauce from the skillet on top of the dish too. Stir each dish a bit to get everything coated in the two delicious sauces.

You have just made the best shrimp ever…and this won’t be the last time.

Best BBQ Sauce

 

BBQ Chicken and I have a history.

Before I embarked on my great food adventure of discovering an enjoyment in cooking, I was a one trick pony. No, it wasn’t that I only knew how to make BBQ chicken…I didn’t even know how to make chicken go from pink to white!

Whenever I ate out, no matter where I was (unless it was an italian place), I would always order BBQ chicken (if it was an italian place, i’d always order ravioli). You could have bet money on it and made a million. It was safe, I knew I would like it and I was not adventurous with food.

I’ve tasted a lot of BBQ sauce in my life. This recipe is by far my favorite! I wish I could say I made it up, but it comes from the lady who led me on my great cooking adventure, The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.

This BBQ sauce is a little spicy- if you breathe in a whiff of it in the right way it makes you cough. It’s also got a sweet side. It’s perfect, I tell you!

My other favorite part is the recipe makes enough that I can freeze the extra sauce and pull it out when I need to make a quick meal.

There are many ways you can use this sauce. The Pioneer Woman makes the sauce and then bakes it on chicken legs. I just use it as a dipping sauce, or I’ll pour it over chicken breast and bake it, like I did in the pictures posted.

Best BBQ Chicken

(From The Pioneer Woman)

1 Tblespoon Olive Oil

1 half onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

4 Tblespoons white vinegar

1 Tblespoon worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup molasses

4 tblespoons chipotle adobo sauce (just the sauce, not the peppers)

a little bit of salt

~Directions~

heat up skillet on medium and place olive oil, garlic, and onions, let them heat up a bit, then reduce the heat to low and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

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Mary-Kate & Ashley Waves

My sister and I used to bond together by watching Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies…when we were in high school/college. Before you go haten’ on us, we have many great sister inside jokes because of it.

Even though we might have secretly really liked the movies, the main reason we enjoyed watching was because of their hair and clothes.  I always wanted to look at their hair and try to figure out how to make mine look like theirs.

(and if you’re wondering which one of their movies is my favorite, ok fine, it’s Holiday In the Sun. Their hair and clothes are my favorite in this one. But I also like their one and only (finally!) big screen movie, New York Minute. I miigghhht actually own this on dvd. Hair and clothes are my double favorite in this one.)

My favorite look (and color) of all time on the twins is from around the years 2000-2003.

During this time they always did this beachy wave thing with their hair and I would watch in envy wondering how they did it…until one day…I figured it out!

Here’s my version of the Mary-Kate & Ashley hairstyle circa ’00-’03.

If you do your hair like this…you also have to learn how to smile like them too.

Directions for a MK&A smile: Purse your lips together and try to act slightly amused.

The Road

A Review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

(This review contains spoilers, but before the spoilers are given, I will warn you to stop reading.)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

-John Donne-

Man is not meant to walk the road of life alone. Man is a social being and can look to his neighbor for help in time of need and blessing. But what if we lived in a world where every man was for himself? Where any man’s death didn’t diminish you, but just truly didn’t matter to you. You maybe even found relief in another man’s death because it meant life for you? The world as we know it has fallen, destitute, fragmented and hopeless. This is the world of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The world has been burnt to a crisp, ash fills the air, the sea and the lungs. Only shapes of what has been surround a single pathway, the road. Many travel on this road…or do they? Is there anyone else? Where are they going and where have they been? The reader knows of two, the boy and his father, carrying the torch of hope on the road. They are the “good guys,” the boy makes sure of that. They speak to each other in short sentences and brief words. Their journey on the road is to purely survive, stay hidden, and keep away from the “bad guys.” The Road is the tale of their odyssey to find life.

I began this book by listening to it on CD during a road trip. Hearing the book read aloud really helped me to see how beautifully it was written. The descriptive words and flow of the language all came to life when read out loud. I kept thinking to myself, “wow, this is beautiful.” I’ve never thought such an ugly world could sound so pretty. I picked up the physical book and read the rest at about halfway through and the beauty of the writing was still evident.

I give The Road 3 maps out of 5 because it wasn’t a page turner, but it was well written and made me feel emotion.

I actually found out after I read it that it had been turned into a movie! Once I watch the movie, I’ll give you my thoughts on that as well.

If you haven’t read the book and don’t want it spoiled stop reading now! 

This tale is so simple, just a boy and man surviving on a road. Imagining living in the world of The Road is overwhelming and scary. The thought of man no longer valuing life and just trying to stay alive is hopeless. There is a scene where the man and boy are hiding and see some of the “bad guys” walk by, among them is a pregnant woman. It is later revealed the group birthed the baby and then used it as food. That part made me exclaim out loud for the sheer sickness of the thought.

The further the book went on and I began to realize the father was getting sick, I felt sick too and almost didn’t want to finish because I was afraid for the boy. I put myself in his shoes, alone, scared, innocent, trusting, not knowing where to find food, how to build a fire, where to go next and being completely alone in a world with no hope. I was brought to tears when the father passed away and was so nervous about how it would end. I was so very relieved in the end that the boy was able to join a family. He finally had a nurturing motherly figure in his life, playmates, and there was hope of building a better world. In the end, the boy was not an island, he was part of the main and involved in mankind.

Good Reads

Think about how many books there are. It’s almost like trying to count the stars isn’t it? It’s hard sometimes to know how to find good books, but I’ve found a resource that has been a huge help to me!

It’s called Good Reads! 

It’s a website that allows users to create lists of books they’ve read, want to read, and are currently reading.

My favorite part is where users can rate the books they’ve read, once you create that list of “have read” books…Good Reads then makes suggestions for you on books you might like! LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

I’ve been able to find many books on this website that I never would have been able to find on my own.

This site also allows users to be friends with others and you can check out their book lists and see what they are reading or how they’ve rated books.

There are many other elements available on this site for book lovers and their mobile app is really useful! I use it every time I go to the library to see which book I want to read next from my “want to read” list!

I can’t get enough of the help this site provides to those searching for new books.

It was a lot of fun to think back to the books I’ve read and put them into a list. I know I’ve probably read more than what I’ve listed, but after a while it got hard to remember all of them!

If you are on Good Reads, friend me! I’d love to see what books you’ve read!

http://www.goodreads.com

Happy Reading!

 

All Book Reviews

A reference to all the book reviews on Kelly’s Blog.

Gone Girl

The Firm

The Road

Harry Potter

Unbroken

Wild

Nine Coaches Waiting

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

The Likeness

The Firm

My Thoughts on the John Grisham Novel The Firm

Short Synopsis: The Firm is about recent Harvard Law graduate, Mitchell McDeere. He takes the perfect job at a law firm called Bendini, Lambert and Locke. They offer him a huge salary and everything his heart desires: a new home, a BMW, paid off student loans, exotic vacations and much more. He and his wife Abby think they’ve landed in heaven and are on their way. But then Mitch starts to notice strange things happening at work and is approached by an FBI agent, wanting information about the firm! Mitch is then forced to make decisions that will change his families lives forever.

This was my first John Grisham novel and based off of this book, I plan on reading more of his work.

I enjoy his writing style, it feels natural and unforced and the characters seemed authentic and real.

This book was first published in 1991 and has been greatly praised. It’s no secret that the law firm is involved with “the mob,” it’s even in the description on the back cover. But I think that killed some of the fun for me. I wish I wouldn’t have known because leading up to that point, I felt the book wasn’t that interesting. I just wanted to hurry and get to the part when they reveal to the reader that some shady things are going on. It doesn’t take too long to get into the secret room to hear them talk about their illegal dealings. From that point on I really enjoyed reading The Firm. 

I don’t know much about how law firms work so whenever the lawyer lingo happened I got a little lost. I finally got the hang of it though and it didn’t affect my understanding of the story.

Even though the big shock of finding out he was working for a law firm that conducted illegal business was not there for me. The journey of Mitch and Abby is what kept me going. Wondering how they would get out of the no win situation.

If you are looking for an easy read, that keeps you turning pages, I give The Firm 4 briefcases.

My thoughts on the movie:

This book was made into a movie in 1993 starring Tom Cruise. Before I read the book, I didn’t know it was Tom who played Mitch in the movie. I purposefully didn’t look so that I could let my own imagination create the characters.

Let me tell you, when I pulled up IMDB and saw Tom Cruise as the star…I was unsatisfied! I didn’t picture anyone like Tom Cruise at all! Then when I watched the movie, I was even more unsatisfied. I’m not a Tom Cruise hater or anything, he just wasn’t who my mind saw fit to be there. I was thinking someone a little more like Armie Hammer. 

Isn’t it neat and interesting how our imaginations work and develop characters on their own as we read along in a book? I don’t know why my mind pictures characters certain ways, they just appear in my mind that way! It’s amazing!

My husband and I did get a kick out of the movie because apparently they must have not spent too much money getting a good composer…they use this weird piano music all throughout the movie! It almost gets distracting and comical at points! I really wasn’t impressed with the movie version. The book is a lot better.

Have you read the firm or any of John Grisham’s work? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Meatloaf Cupcakes

Meatloaf Cupcakes

Is there any food more American than meatloaf and mashed potatoes? Nestled in there with cheeseburgers, hotdogs and apple pie is the good ole’ original meatloaf.

It’s like a right of passage to becoming June Cleaver! Wifely status achieved the moment you figure out how to make perfect meatloaf.

Well, ladies we are taking the meatloaf and giving it a makeover.

Not only will it become cuter, these little things are easy for a weeknight meal, they have a hidden veggie inside, there are plenty of leftovers and…they are healthier!

Can I get an A-MEN?

I’d also like to point out that my sister hates meatloaf. She thinks any food combining the words “meat” and “loaf” are disgusting. I honestly am not a huge fan of the traditional “meatloaf” taste (please don’t tell June!)

These cute little mini loafs are so good, I betcha even my sister would like them.

~Ingredients~

A little over a pound of Ground Turkey

1 cup grated zucchini (which equals a half of a big zucchini, or one small zucchini)

2-3 tablespoons of minced onion

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup ketchup

1 egg

1 tsp salt

~Instructions~

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Use a cheese grater to grate the zucchini over a paper towel, then cover the grated pieces with another paper towel and press some of the water out.

2. Mix together all the ingredients.

3. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin (or use muffin liners) and place the meat mixture into all the cups.

4. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the meat is cooked.

For the mashed potato recipe, click HERE.

Ready for the money shot?

It’s business time.

{recipe inspired by Jess }

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

 

 

 

 

You say poe-tate-oh I say poe-tah-toe.

Let’s call the whole thing off… and mash um up!

Making mashed potatoes is a lot easier than I ever imagined. Once I realized how it worked, I wondered why I had never done it before!

Depending on how many people you are serving, you can easily make this in bulk, or just make enough for two!

When making mashed potatoes for just two people (with leftovers) here’s what I do:

 

~Ingredients~

4 potatoes

about a half a stick of butter

milk or heavy cream

garlic

salt & pepper

1. take 4 potatoes and wash them.  You can choose to peel them or leave the skins on. If they are red potatoes, I’d leave the skins on, if they are white, I’d peel them. But that’s just my preference.

2. cut the potatoes into quarters or smaller, the smaller they are, the quicker they boil.

3. bring water to boil in a large pot and throw those taters in!

4. let the potatoes boil long enough so they are soft and you can easily stick a fork in them.

5. drain the water then put the potatoes in a mixing bowl

6. This is where you’re “i’ve been cooking my whole life and don’t need measurements, trust me” skills come in! You will be adding ingredients “to taste” and not very specifically.

7. Add in butter…at least 4 tablespoons

8. Add salt and pepper

9. add garlic

10. add about a 1/2 cup of milk or heavy cream

11. depending on whether you want them chunky or smooth determines the tool you use. For chunky mix with a fork. For smooth use an electric mixer.

12. then taste test and add in what else you think it needs.

 

 

Pesto Parm Quesadilla

Pesto Parm Quesadillas

During my first adventures in the kitchen, this is one of the meals I would make all the time! These Quesadilla’s are so easy, quick, and tasty!

{Ingredients}

Package of flour tortillas

chicken

pesto

parmesan cheese

mozzarella (optional)

salt & pepper

Here’s the easy steps:

1. Cut chicken into cubes, toss it in a skillet, season with salt and pepper. Cook all the way through.

2. Take a tortilla and spread pesto all over one side, you can put more or less depending on your preference.

3. Put some of the cooked chicken on top of the pesto

4. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese ( and mozzarella if you wish)

5. Place the quesadilla in a skillet, a flat skillet works the best, but just make sure the quesadilla is flat and there is room for you to flip it, because oh yes, you are totally flipping this thing.

6. Top the quesadilla with another flour tortilla.

7. Let it get warm on medium heat. Get the cheese to melt a bit, but make sure to check on the bottom, that you aren’t burning it.

look at those freckles! 

8. Then comes the best part, which I still have yet to master. You are going to flip this thing over to brown the other side and melt it through.

Don’t be scared friend.

Unless you are a magician, you will have chicken fly out, cheese will escape and melt instantly on the hot skillet, your heart will pound and you’ll try your best to make the exchange of sides as quickly as possible, but those little cooked chickens will be quicker than you.

Don’t feel defeated, just stuff those little cluckers back into the tortilla and if the cheese isn’t already melted to the skillet, stuff that back inside too.

I’ve seen huge pancake spatulas…this might work really great for flipping…I don’t have one, so here is the adorable way I do it.

I take two spatulas. put one underneath on the left side and one on top on the right side (or vice versa, depending on which way you flip) then I count to three, hold my breath, and flip it over as quick as a wink. * and the chicken and cheese makes a grand escape…

9. Once you feel the cheese has melted and both sides are browned. You can cut it into 4 triangles (I use a pizza cutter) and you are ready to eat!!

This recipe is fun because you can add things and switch it up too, I think it would be fun to put spinach inside or even green peppers. There are so many ways to dress this up.

Take a bow, you cheesy, pesto of goodness.

All Hair Tutorials

A reference to all the hair tutorials on Kelly’s Blog

Casual Updo

Mary-Kate & Ashley Waves

How to: Tease your hair

Casual Updo Tutorial

Casual Updo Tutorial

In a world full of root lifter, hair dryers, curling irons, and teasing hair as high as glory, this hair style will be a vacation for your hair.

Come with me ladies and let your hair breathe in the fresh air.

This style is minimal effort, no product, no teasing, no blow-drying!

side2casupdo

You can also do this style when your hair is dry, but if you do, you would need to put some product in there to get it to hold.

Let me know what you think! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

All Recipes

A reference of all the recipes posted on Kelly’s blog

Dinner:

Taco Pockets

Pesto Parm Quesadilla

Chicken Enchiladas

Meatloaf Cupcakes

Best Shrimp Ever

Potato Nachos

Accessories:

Mashed potatoes

Best BBQ Sauce

Dessert:

Sopapilla Cheesecake

Taco Pockets

Chicken Taco Pockets

{adapted from the cook book The Picky Palate by Jenny Flake}

 

 

This recipe is delicious and fun to eat! Other than the outstanding flavor, my favorite part is the texture, a combination of flaky, warm, doughy, and crusty.

I usually end up with 9 taco pockets in all which means *leftovers* so I don’t have to make lunches for the next day! (major score)

{Ingredients}

1/2 cup finely chopped white onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 breasts of shredded chicken

1 10 ounce can of diced tomatos

1 small can of green chilies

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

To make this recipe easier for a weeknight, leave two chicken breast in a crockpot to cook while you’re at work or play. Pour a little chicken broth in the crockpot to help keep moisture in and season the chicken with your favorite taco seasonings! Here are mine: a little salt and pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and smoked tabasco sauce.

Makes: 9 Taco Pockets

{Instructions}

1. Set out the puff pastry so it gets to room temp.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

3. Add olive oil to a skillet and add onion and garlic, letting it cook for a couple minutes.

4. Add in shredded chicken, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt, cumin, and pepper. Stir and let it get nice and warm.

5. Unfold each sheet of puff pastry onto a cutting board or counter top. (You might want to sprinkle a bit of flour to lay them on so they don’t stick to the counter)

6. Cut the pastry into even squares

7. Place a spoonful (or two) of the chicken mixture onto one of the squares and top with cheese. (If you put too much chicken mixture inside, they are hard to close)

8. Grab another pastry square and place on top of the mixture. Press the sides together with your fingers and make sure its sealed (and pretty) by gently pressing the ends of a fork onto the sides.

9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Ready for the glamor shot?

Work it baby.

upclosetacopocket