Book Review: After series by Anna Todd

I was listening to a Rachel Hollis podcast a few months back. She was talking to Anna Todd, an author I had not heard of before. One of Anna’s books was being transformed into a movie. I figured it was a book I had to look into. Little did I know I would devour 5 of her books in little time. The After series has 5 books within it. After, After We Collided, After We fell, After Ever Happy and Before. I can’t help compare these to a young adult version of Fifty Shades of Grey. One would not be able to deny that the story lines were similar- innocent girl meets a bad boy and falls in love- the books even include some racy content- ok, a lot of it.

What drew me into Anna’s writing was her attention to detail. All of the books were lengthy, but this gave each character details that a lot of authors miss. Often times when I read a story I long for more. Deeper words to describe the characters, more to the story line and then what happens “after” *pun intended*. Anna hit these three things on the head. With this being a young adult series, I wonder how the movie will be portrayed and laid out on the big screen.

I thoroughly enjoy a good soundtrack, as many of my close friends know. I was intrigued to see a playlist at the beginning of the 5th book, Before. I wish I would have had the playlist from the beginning so I thought I would lay it out here for you. Tessa’s favorite band in the book is The Fray, I highly suggest listening to their full album as you read the series as well.

Equality & the Minority

There has been so much banter about equal rights lately. Well, for as long as I can remember, really. It’s amazing how it changes over the years, and it’s even more astonishing to me as I grow older. In the words of Rodney King “can’t we all just get along”? It’s true. It seems so simple. Why? Why can we not get along? God made us different but I have a hard time believing he wanted us to live in a world where there is so much hatred, negativity and disbelief. I don’t know the Bible well, but I know there are words in there that showcase God’s wishes for love, positivity and trust.

I listened to a talk this last week. It was between two men, both caucasian, that said they are at a point where they feel they are the minority and don’t dare say anything in fear of offending someone. Why should it be that way for them? As long as they are being kind to the people around them, what does it matter? With that being said though, why has it been that way for women in the past? Or African-Americans? Or any race or minority for that fact? Are we all not a minority at some point; depending on our location? Yes, it appears that Caucasian men have had it “easy” in years past, where their words mattered most. That their words were the way of the world. Thank goodness that is changing. I know the concept of “we are all created equal” could be up for debate. Some people are born with certain talents, some are born into certain family structures that cause life to be easier in some ways, some people work harder to move up in the world. So it easy to understand that maybe “we are not born equal”. I have to believe that God wants us all to be loved, respected and supported equally in a positive light.

I grew up with a family that supported me, I surround myself with strong women who work hard to make a positive difference in our world, I get to mold my children to be strong thinkers who help lift their friends up and showcase their passions.

I pray that we continue to move to equality. I pray that we love one another for our differences. I pray that we support each other’s talents. I pray that we acknowledge other’s weaknesses and encourage change for the better.

Monday Meals: Meal Planning

Meal Planning, I swear, is an art. An art I feel like I enjoy at times, and one that I despise at other times. I decided to go through the history of Coffee Pines & Designs thus far to see what Monday Meals recipes were posted. I hoped this would give me a good idea what to make in the few weeks ahead. I listed out the recipes for my own reference and thought it might be helpful for you, as a reader, to have them listed out as well. Grab a recipe or two and add it to this week’s plan for your family to enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

Meatloaf Meatballs

Chicken Curry

Cheese Tortellini Bake

Taco Salad

Caribbean Burgers

Curry Chicken Salad

Cheesy Veggie Quiche

BLT or BLATE

Tortellini Minestrone

Italian Chopped Salad

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

Kale Strawberry and Poppyseed Dressing Salad

Cheez It Pork Chops

Couscous Salad

Thai Style Burgers

Cheesy Stuffed Burgers

Cheeseburger Joes

Chicken Tikka Masala

Cheeseburger Pot Pie

French Toast

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Mango Avocado Salad

Chinese Hotdish

Upside Down Pizza Casserole

Black Bean Soup

Asian Buffalo Sauce

Coconut Shrimp

Slow Cooker Thai Stew

Shepherds Pie

Sweet Maui Taco

Friday Favorites: Stretched Too Thin

I have posted on Instagram and this blog many times already that I love this book, Stretched Too Thin. After listening to the audio version (link) once I had to read the paper copy. Thank you again, Jessica Turner, for allowing me to test drive this book for you. Here are my top 10 favorite quotes from the book. Now, there were plenty more, but these one caught me. My pen and highlighter got a workout!

1). “I love my family. I do great work. I’m thriving”. Page 13

2). “This ‘mental load’ that a person carries is defined by work-life balance coach Marie Levey-Pabst as the ‘largely invisible work of remembering and noticing.’ Because this load is carried inside our heads and isn’t visible in the same way going to an office is, we often don’t recognize it as real work. We lump it in as ‘what moms do,’ mentally reducing its significance and burden.” Page 21

3). “Women process life more like a plate of pasta. If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice that there are lots of individual noodles that all touch one another. If you attempt to follow one noodle around the plate, you would intersect a lot of other noodles, and you might even seamlessly switch to another noodle.” Page 47

4). “Do not let your emotions undermine your self-worth and calling.” Page 50

5). “Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real thing, particularly thanks to social media.” Page 57

6). “Don’t ‘Should’ all over yourself.” Page 60

7). “A lie many working moms tell themselves is that self-care is selfish.” Page 68

8). “Counseling is far beyond fixing people’s problems; it’s opening up people’s opportunities.” Page 74

9). “Resentment is anger that’s turned inward.” Page 131

10). “Brene teaches that saying yes inspires trust with our kids.” Page 156

Now, if you are a mom, feeling too exhausted to chase your passions and dreams (small or big) put down what you are doing and get this book. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Friday Favorites: Stretched Too Thin

I have posted on Instagram and this blog many times already that I love this book, Stretched Too Thin. After listening to the audio version (link) once I had to read the paper copy. Thank you again, Jessica Turner, for allowing me to test drive this book for you. Here are my top 10 favorite quotes from the book. Now, there were plenty more, but these one caught me. My pen and highlighter got a workout!

1). “I love my family. I do great work. I’m thriving”. Page 13

2). “This ‘mental load’ that a person carries is defined by work-life balance coach Marie Levey-Pabst as the ‘largely invisible work of remembering and noticing.’ Because this load is carried inside our heads and isn’t visible in the same way going to an office is, we often don’t recognize it as real work. We lump it in as ‘what moms do,’ mentally reducing its significance and burden.” Page 21

3). “Women process life more like a plate of pasta. If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice that there are lots of individual noodles that all touch one another. If you attempt to follow one noodle around the plate, you would intersect a lot of other noodles, and you might even seamlessly switch to another noodle.” Page 47

4). “Do not let your emotions undermine your self-worth and calling.” Page 50

5). “Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real thing, particularly thanks to social media.” Page 57

6). “Don’t ‘Should’ all over yourself.” Page 60

7). “A lie many working moms tell themselves is that self-care is selfish.” Page 68

8). “Counseling is far beyond fixing people’s problems; it’s opening up people’s opportunities.” Page 74

9). “Resentment is anger that’s turned inward.” Page 131

10). “Brene teaches that saying yes inspires trust with our kids.” Page 156

Now, if you are a mom, feeling too exhausted to chase your passions and dreams (small or big) put down what you are doing and get this book. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Monday Meals: End of Summer Produce

We didn’t have a a large variety in our garden this year but let me tell you, we had a large amount of cucumbers! T did his share of refrigerator pickles, we did the creamy cucumbers thing and the cucumbers and ranch thing. We are a bit spent on cucumbers. Last night I dug out my recipe books and tried a new recipe. This one was from Hemsley Hemsley: The Art of Eating Well. Sesame Chicken Salad with Cucumber Noodles . Mine looked a little different from theirs due to the type of cabbage I used, the way I cut up my cucumbers and I ended up using toasted almonds rather than sesame seeds. It was a light meal that I can’t wait to use for lunches this week.

We had a single zucchini in our garden. Last week I made Kristin Cavallari’s French Toast recipe for the girls. She uses her Zucchini Bread recipe for the bread. It is an extremely rich yet tasty take on the typical recipe. For this we used a small portion of the very large zucchini. We also tested out her Zucchini Chips with Dill Sour Cream and Onion Recipe which was amazing and her Oatmeal Zucchini Muffin Cups which were good, but definitely healthier than the French Toast. In other words, it wasn’t as flavorful as the French Toast.

Friday Favorites: Podcasts

I am not certain why it took me so long to realize what a podcast is, but I am so thankful I finally did. It is weird how things come into our lives at the right time. I listen to one which references another, I listen to that one and it references another. So on and so on. There are brilliant women out there, and men I am sure *wink* The podcasts I have been drawn to are women lifting up women, moms talking about how normal all of these abnormal things are. I am not alone. These women are inspirational. They lift me up. They lift others up. They are artists, they are creators, they are authors and speakers. They leave me feeling like I want to do more. Not that I need to do more, but really encourage me to live life with passion and reach for fulfillment. I have women in my life, a mother, a sister, aunts, cousins, friends, these women are real, they are my physical soulmates, they are right here with me, but Rachel Hollis, Elyse Snipes, Jessica Honegger, Meg Tietz and Jen Hatmaker– they are there during the morning when I am getting ready for the day, they are with me in the car on my way to work and as I wind down for the night. I feed off of their dreams, their goals, their advice and make me yearn for more. Maybe they can do the same for you.

Rise Pocast with Rachel Hollis

Trailer Cast with Elyse Snipes

Going Scared with Jessica Honegger

Sorta Awesome with Meg Tietz

Rise Together with Rachel and Dave Hollis

For the Love Podcast with Jen Hatmaker

Morning Goals

I have always been a morning person. For the longest time I woke up at 5:30 to work out. Once I had Stella I woke up at 5:30 so I would be prepared for the day before she woke up. Emery was born and she was my 5:30 alarm! Heck, she was my 5:00 alarm for the longest time. Just within the last few months has she slept past 5:30 on a consistent basis. I thought to myself, maybe I should try working out again at 5:30. When I further evaluated my mornings I knew this was not possible without waking up someone in the house. I decided I needed to wake up at 5:00 to accomplish things I always wanted to do, but had yet tried to do.

For the last month I have woken up at 5:00 and have done the following 4 things consistently before leaving for work:

#1- Deep Breaths

I start by taking 30 deep breaths. My mind easily moves towards the list of things ahead of me for the day, I try to rope those anxious thoughts back to my deep breaths. This step is the hardest for me. I have tried off and on for years to meditate. I probably won’t master this task ever, but I would like to get better.

#2- Tibetan Rites

I move to my yoga mat in my dimly lit workout room. I complete the 5 Tibetan Rites. I first learned of these movements from the yoga instructor I had in Fargo, Andrea Paradise. Like meditation, I have done these “exercises” off and on. They seem to give my body an oomph of energy to get the day started. Supposedly, these 5 exercises are going to keep me young. *wink* I would like to find a good book to explain this theory more. I figure, if I don’t get exercise into my daily schedule, I at least moved my body for 10 minutes. With these movements I also complete a few yoga moves to stretch my body out of its tired and tight feeling- sun salutations, cat and cow and child’s pose.

#3- Prayer & Journal

This next step is the one I am most proud of. I grab my journal and I write prayers to God for 5-10 minutes. I tell him things I am thankful for from the previous day. I ask him to guide the people that surround me, to love them, to be with them during times of hardship. I take a minute to read a page out of one of my devotionals. This forces me to take God into my day in a way other than what I believe I need help with. He gives me something to focus on in his own way.

#4- H2O

I drink 4- 8 ounce cups of water before I leave the house. This is half of what my goal is each day to drink. I find once I get to work it is difficult to drink water.

I have completed these things each week day for the past 4 weeks. The weekends throw me off, but I do find myself yearning for them and come Sunday evening I look forward to waking up Monday morning to head to my space. I use my Bedtime alarm on my iPhone to alert me to go to bed so I get 8 hours of sleep and be awake by 5:00. I love the feeling of accomplishing goals. I hope this is a routine I can keep up with. Dark winter mornings are hard on me mentally, I hope this brings some light to my routine.

Monday Meals: Chicken Pot Pie & Meatloaf Meatballs

Pick up Rachel Hollis’ cookbook, Real Life Dinners for the chicken pot pie recipe we tried out last week. If you can’t get the book, The Daily Meal has a similar recipe to the one we cooked up. We used a pre-made Pillsbury pie crust for the bottom and top rather than a package of biscuit dough. My oldest loved the meal, as did I. Currently, you can’t trust our youngest’s opinion *wink*

In the winter we cook meat loaf a handful of times. It is so easy to make ahead of time and serve as left overs. We usually use the Better Homes and Gardens recipe. I took a new approach to it this time. Rachel Hollis makes meat balls rather than cook it in a pan. My kids did prefer it this way. She also uses a food processor to disguise the carrots and zucchini her recipe calls for.

I mixed the two recipes together to create the one below.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup rolled oats

1 cup onion

1 cup diced carrots

1.5 cup peeled and chopped zucchini

1.5 lbs ground beef

2 eggs

1/4 bbq sauce

1 t salt

1 t pepper

1/4 cup bread crumbs to thicken up mixture if needed

1/4 cup ketchup

2 T Brown sugar

1 t Ground mustard

Directions:

Spray baking sheets

Oven at 400 degrees

Process (or blend) rolled oats, onion, carrots and zucchini until veggies are small pieces

Mix veggie mixture with beef, beaten eggs, bbq sauce, salt and pepper

Add bread crumbs if needed to thicken (my veggies ended up fairly blended, rather than chunky- hence the need for the bread crumbs)

Roll into 2 “ meat balls

Top each meatball with a bit of the following mixture:

1/4 cup

2 T brown sugar

1 t ground mustard

Bake 15 minutes or until cooked in the center

We served these with corn on the cob and cream cheese mashed potatoes!

Friday Favorites: Aqua-holic

In a past Friday Favorites post I talked about how turquoise is my favorite color. Aqua is a soft, yet vibrant, shade of turquoise that I equally am drawn to. I have this sweet friend who sent this cup to me a couple of weeks ago. Aqua-holic!?!? You mean to tell me that there are more of me? I just giggled with delight when I opened up the mail. I sat down to drink some coffee and realized, I am a true aqua-holic! This cup. This journal. This planner. It’s me! It probably stems from my love of the ocean and the colors that flow in the sea. Find what you love and douse yourself in it!