Tag Archives: Mamaw

Letter Q #AtoZChallenge

Only one thing really stands out for the Letter Q.

Quilts

One thing that made Mamaw Mamaw was that she was a quilter. She had an entire room devoted to sewing, and it was full to the brim with spools of thread and scraps of fabric. When she wasn’t gardening or cooking, she was quilting.

I remember her hand sewing scraps of fabric into intricate and beautiful designs. I would watch as her hands nimbly attached the scraps to one another. She tried to teach me when I was younger, and I sewed a few quilts and pillows for my baby dolls, but I didn’t have the patience for it at the time. I wish I could go back in time and sit with her again while she taught me her craft. I’d listen this time.

Mamaw had everyday quilts that adorned the beds and special occasion quilts that she put on display. She gave quilts as gifts and donated them each year for her church’s Chili Day auction. Everyone fought to outbid one another and get one of her quilts. One of her specialties was a double wedding ring quilt that she’d make her loved ones when they married. My mom has always treasured hers. When Mamaw passed away, she left certain quilts to each of us in her will. They were the ones we’d coveted when she was alive, begging her for them. I can remember her saying, “You’ll have to wait until I die to get that quilt. I know you won’t take care of it and I just can’t see that.” When I assured her I would take care of them, she didn’t believe me. She said she knew I’d put it in the washing machine and dryer and she simply couldn’t handle that.

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Letter M #AtoZChallenge

Half-way through with the A to Z Challenge…memoir encyclopedia entries for Letter M on the menu for today.

Mamaw

Mamaw and Gradaddy

My first best friend and the best secret-keeper around,
she loved me more than anyone ever could.
Her contagious laugh and loving smile
caused everyone to turn their heads
whenever she entered a room.
Raised in the country, she knew just how to
sew and quilt, cook from scratch, tend to a garden,
milk a cow, drive a tractor, and build a fort.
I can remember attending the annual Chili Day with her
eating chili and crackers, sweet tea, and chocolate sheet cake,
bidding on the auction items with her by my side,
caught up in the excitement of the auctioneer’s fast-paced voice.
Mamaw was the best cook in the whole wide world–
everyone said so.
She could make a ‘nanner puddin’
better than anything you ever tasted!
Andrew and I, the official taste testers,
eagerly awaited that first bite,
warm from the oven.
It was always just right.
With a listening ear and a heart of gold,
Mamaw made everything ok.

Meme

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Meme, my grandma on my dad’s side, used to live two houses down from us, in the house my dad grew up. She and Papa would see us all the time, and I remember spending a lot of time in their wood-paneled living room. Sometime when I was in elementary school, Meme moved to Dallas to open up a shop called Socko. Papa still lived in Bryan, where he ran a lab that did blood work, and they would visit one another on weekends.

I remember going to visit Meme in Dallas and staying in her apartment. I loved going to Socko, a huge big box store with loads of random stuff, because she always let me pick out a toy to take home. Meme, like me, loved Dr. Pepper, and her fridge was always stocked with ice-cold cans. I think she had Big Red, too, or maybe that was Papa that loved Big Red? Anyhow, Meme was not your typical grandma in the sense that she didn’t spend all day cooking and tending to the house. She was more metropolitan and worked really hard. I appreciated that about her.

When Meme got older and especially after she got sick, she took up painting. She was really talented, and created some beautiful pieces during that time. Many of her paintings are hanging in my parents’ house, a constant reminder of her. I was 21 when she died, and I remember being so shocked and sad. I still miss her, but I’m glad she is no longer suffering and that she’s with Papa.

Mel B

You may have read Mel B and thought I was talking about the former Spice Girl turned AGT judge, but I’m not. The Mel B I’m referring to is much cooler! Melissa, or Mel B, and I met in Shanghai. She began working at RBIS a year or so after I began, and while we didn’t become friends right away, somehow it happened. Isn’t it weird that I can’t remember exactly when our friendship turned from a mere acquaintance into a bonafide friendship? I guess it just evolved.

Anyway, I love lots of things about her. For one, she and I are similar in many ways. Some might describe us as bossy (I prefer leaders), we are both really good cooks, and we love to travel. Mel B and I have taken some pretty epic trips together.

Our first trip was to Egypt was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. My favorite pictures were the one in front of the pyramids and the one where the camel photo-bombed us.

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My first time in Myanmar was with Mel, and boy, what an adventure that was! First off, we didn’t realize we needed to apply for visas ahead of time and then didn’t think we’d get them in time. As luck would have it, they arrived 24 hours before we left. Due to the visa fiasco, that trip was unplanned, and we flew by the seat of our pants. This was really fun in many ways, and stressful in others. Mel got super sick on the 12-hour bus ride from Inle Lake to Bagan, and despised me for being a “princess” and sleeping on the bus while she was having to stop the bus to throw up several times, while also having a Burmese man sleep on her shoulder (the whole hilarious story is here). Then, I made a pretty big mistake and misremembered the time of our flight back to China, making us miss our bus back to Yangon and have to buy a last-minute plane ticket. She was super excited about that one.

Would you believe, she still traveled with me again! We ended up taking a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand during our last year in China. She’s since moved to Senegal, and I’ve even visited her there. Mel B is one cool chick, a fantastic momma, and a true friend. Love you, Mel!

Michelle

Michelle and I met in Shanghai in 2010, on a hot, sticky day in August, when we both moved there to teach at RBIS. I remember thinking, This girl and I are going to be good friends. There was just something about her that made me know she and I were meant to be friends. It took her a lot longer to figure it out than me, but she finally came around and we became incredibly close. Going through some serious struggles together will do that to people.

We’ve laughed, cried, traveled, ranted, collaborated, created, and supported each other over the past several years, and I can’t imagine not having one another as friends. Michelle’s no-nonsense and will tell it like it is. While I usually love this about her, it has led to some miscommunication and fights between us. I have played my fair share in the arguments, too, as my tendency to be passive-aggressive drives her crazy. But, we love one another and no matter what, we apologize and move forward. I appreciate her straight-forwardness, thoughtfulness, and sense of adventure. She’s one of those people in my tribe that’s always gonna be there. Love you, Shelly! (She hates when I call her that. 😉 )

Middle School

Middle school was a mostly a series of awkward experiences where I doubted myself nearly all the time, struggled with my changing body and emotions, and suffered through a shitload of teasing from classmates. It wasn’t all bad, mainly because I had Nicole, but I can say I definitely don’t look back fondly on those years. I guess it’s a necessary right of passage into teenage years though, right? All I can say is, I’m glad it’s over.

Mom

My mom is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I can always count on her when I need her. She’s a great host, and I know I get my entertaining chops from her. My mom’s a hard worker, and I can’t believe all that she can do! I recently wrote a Slice of Life about her here and how I am going to miss her when she’s gone. I plan on cherishing the time I get to spend with her, and I’m already looking forward to this summer! Love you, mom!

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How cute is my mom!?! Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, my birthday cake says “#1 Pin Up” on it…haha 🙂

Moving

Being that I’m now an expat, I’m no stranger to moving, which is in stark contrast to my childhood, where I lived in the same house from birth until I graduated from college. Since finishing college and moving out of the house for the first time, I have moved a total of 11 times. Most of the time I’ve lived in apartments (Check out Letter A for more details on all of the apartments I’ve lived in), however I’ve also lived with Uncle Mike and Aunt Kathy for a semester, in a house in Sydney with a family I nannied for, and in my own home for a few years in Houston.

I both love and hate moving. I love the excitement of setting up a new space and making it my own, but I loathe packing and actually moving all my stuff. Every time I move, I end up purging and getting rid of extra stuff, but somehow, I end up accumulating more and have to do it all over again when I pick up and move again. Sometimes it’s just easier to get new stuff rather than schlep everything across the world. For my next move in a couple of months, I’m planning on shipping a small container and bringing a few suitcases. Hopefully this will be a good idea and help me not have to re-buy everything. Only time will tell.

Music

I love listening to music. It helps calm and center me when I need it and gives me energy and makes me happy. I love finding new songs I love and sharing them with others. My musical tastes range from indy chill-out music to popular pop and hip hop to classical to a bit of country. I’m also a huge fan of 90’s music, which is either hit or miss at my parties. Lip syncing is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in a silly mood, but karaoke isn’t my jam. I used to be in choir when I was younger, and I had a great singing voice. I’m not sure what happened though because I’m not a good singer anymore. Maybe puberty changed my voice…who knows. Regardless of the fact that I’m no longer able to carry a tune, I still sing along with the radio every time I’m home and driving around. For a selection of some of my favorite songs, click here.

Myanmar

Have you been to Myanmar? No? Do you know where Myanmar is? Formerly called Burma, Myanmar is located in Asia and borders Thailand, China, India, Bangladesh, and Laos. It’s one of those places that isn’t on many people’s radars, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem, although that’s changing rapidly as more and more people hear about this incredible country. I have been twice and am already dreaming about going back. I highly recommend adding it to your list and going sooner rather than later.

I’ve posted a few times about Myanmar (here and here and here), so I won’t go into a ton of depth in this post, but there is just something magical about that place. The people, natural beauty, history, food, and charm make it an ideal place to explore. I’ve only visited four cities in the country, so I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. In my opinion, Inle Lake and Bagan are the best places to visit. Mandalay is nice, too, but if I were you I wouldn’t bother with Yangon (formerly Rangoon). Yangon, to me, was just a big, dirty Asian city and it doesn’t hold the same charm as the other places I’ve visited.

Inle Lake is one of my top two places in the entire world, the other being Sydney. I can’t really explain why I love it so much, but when I’m there, my heart is happy. Inle Lake is a beautiful lake surrounded by five small towns with a total of about 70,000 inhabitants. There’s a daily market that rotates between each of the five towns, most of which can only be reached by long boat. I’m happiest when riding a bike down the dirt roads through and around the main town or out on the lake in a long boat at sunset. Watching the fishermen balance on the edge of the boat while they row with the other leg is something you really have to see in person. And the sunsets on the lake are some of the best in the world, but don’t take my word for it.

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They’re beautiful, aren’t they? I told ya! Are you looking into ticket prices yet?!?

Bagan, my other favorite place in Myanmar, is an ancient city with over 2,000 temples. Seriously…temples as far as the eye can see. In the couple of times I’ve been there, I’ve only seen a small number of them. Wandering around the temples, climbing up to the top to watch a sunrise, and watching (or riding) the hot air balloons is truly awe-inspiring. I can’t wait to go back!

There’s one last thing I must tell you. As a foodie, you know I’m not gonna steer you wrong with food. You must try the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad when you go. I was hesitant at first, but once I tried a bite, I had to have at least one per day! It’s a salad of fermented tea leaves, cabbage, tomatoes, dried beans, peanuts, sesame seeds, chilis, garlic, lime, and a yummy dressing. Sounds weird, I know…but trust me on this one! (It’s the one on the white plate below.)

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A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Letter F #AtoZChallenge

Letter F memoir encyclopedia entries on deck…

Family

Family is important to me. And I don’t just mean my immediate family, but my extended family and friends who become your family, too. I love our family reunions every year, where all the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandmas, and grandpas come together to catch up on life, share some good food (I have some really amazing cooks in my family), and spend a weekend playing and laughing together. They’re something I look forward to each and every summer.

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Farm

Nowadays I’m a city girl, but growing up, I was a country girl at heart. My grandparents’ farm, where I spent countless days, was one of my favorite places. Their huge garden yielded enough corn, peas, watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, dewberries, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more to last the year. We would help Granddaddy and Mamaw harvest the crops, and although we probably just got in their way, they humored us and let us be their helpers. One of my strongest memories on the farm was sitting on the front porch swing at dusk, swapping stories while we shelled peas and watched the sunset. We would work at it for hours and only make a dent in the pile.

My mamaw would can vegetables and fruit, make pickles and jam, and freeze corn so that they could have food year-round. I can still remember the Ball jelly jars lined up all along the kitchen counters, waiting for the hot, fresh-made jelly to be poured in. My favorite jam that she made was dewberry, but I loved strawberry, too.

One of mine and Andrew’s jobs was to fetch the eggs in the chicken coop out back. We loved to gather the eggs, counting them to see if there were more today than yesterday. The smells in the chicken coop bothered me much more than they bothered him.

Grandaddy had cows, too, and they wandered around the 300-acre property in search of grass and hay to munch. I don’t really remember feeding them with him (maybe that was Andrew’s domain), but I do remember piling into that old beat up blue Ford pick-up to go search the back half for a lost calf or cow who hadn’t come back in a while. We’d bump along the uneven dirt track, stopping only to run out and open and shut the gates. We’d wind past the fishing pond, the trash hole (a huge gaping hole in the earth where Grandaddy would throw out any trash that couldn’t be composted or burned), and the camp house. I knew every twist and turn in that road back then. Now, I’m sad to say, it’s a bit foggy.

Fishing

My dad was a fishing kinda guy and would frequently enter (and even win) bass fishing tournaments across the state. I never went with him on his tournaments, but he would take us out in his bass boat to fish on Lake Somerville or Gibbon’s Creek. Fishing was something we really enjoyed as a family.

I remember all the things we’d have to do to get ready. We’d pack a cooler full of food…turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips and dip, Nutter Butter peanut patties, cold drinks, and fresh fruit. The boat was always washed and sparkly before we went out, something I never understood because it’s just gonna get wet. We’d load up the tackle boxes, get the rods and reels ready with fresh taut line, and make sure the life vests and towels were packed.

Once we were out on the lake, my favorite thing wasn’t the fishing (I usually got bored after an hour of sitting and waiting on a fish to bite my line). The thing I loved the most was when my dad would cruise around the lake in his lightning-fast boat, going so fast the nose would shoot up in the air, the skin on our faces would flap, and we would fear for our lives. When he knew he’d scared us properly, typically when my mom would yell, “Shit!” (and she didn’t curse), he’d slow down and crack up as my mom told her how he shouldn’t drive that fast and my brother and I begged him to do it again.

As we got older, our family fishing trips petered out, but every so often, I can persuade my dad to dust off the boat and take me out again. I always love packing our snacks for the trip, and I never, ever forget the Nutter Butter peanut patties. That would just be sacrilegious.

Foodie

I identify as a foodie. This wasn’t always the case though. Growing up in small town America, I wasn’t exposed to many different types of cuisine. Other than Tex-Mex, Italian, and Chinese, I had only really ever had American food until I moved abroad. At first, I was timid about trying anything that didn’t resemble something I had seen or tasted before, but as time went on and I became more adventurous, I found the fun and excitement in trying new foods. Now some of my favorite foods were things I never thought I’d even try.

I like experimenting with new flavors when I’m cooking, and I relish in introducing my friends to new flavor combinations. With a more sophisticated pallet, I can sometimes decipher various flavors in the food I’m eating. A drawback of a more sophisticated pallet means I’m no longer satisfied with mediocre food. I want every meal to be deliciously pleasing. As a foodie, I’ve become that girl who photographs her food and puts it on Instagram. I know, I know, you’re rolling your eyes, but I’m not ashamed. Beautiful, delicious food should be shared.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

In fourth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Decell, read aloud what would become one of my favorite books of all time, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s the tale of Claudia and Jamie, siblings from Connecticut who, due to the injustices of their world, run away to NYC and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Throughout the story, you find out how the survived (and where they slept, ate, and showered) without getting caught. Along the way, they work to solve a mystery that takes them on an epic adventure.

I remember wishing I was Claudia, on this grand adventure. I didn’t want to run away, but the idea of living in a museum sounded like a lot of fun! I also enjoyed their resourcefulness; without much money, they managed to figure out how to stretch it to the fullest.

I read this book aloud each year to my classes (grades 3 and 4), and shared the magic with them. Some of my students loved it as much as I did, others didn’t, but they could see how special this book is to me. When my mom and I took a trip to NYC in 2014, I took her to the Met, and I was transported back to that fourth grade class and the excitement of that first reading as I took my mom to all of the places Claudia and Jamie visited, slept, ate, and showered in the book. It was perfect.

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Letter B #AtoZChallenge

Continuing my memoir encyclopedia theme, here are my Letter B entries.

Babysitting

I’ve always loved kids, so it made sense that some of my first jobs were babysitting for family friends and neighbors. I began babysitting at age eleven, which I now find absurd. What does an 11-year-old know about babysitting? How can you leave someone that young alone with your kids? I guess the early 90’s were different times, but still. I wouldn’t trust an 11-year-old to babysit.

I babysat for many years, off and on, sometimes on a random night, and sometimes on the regular. I think I gained a lot of responsibility by looking after other kids. Most of the time I loved it, but there was that one time I caught two of the five siblings I was babysitting smoking up in the tree in their backyard. They were 10 and 12 years old. I quit that day.

Banana Pudding

My Mamaw was the best cook that ever lived. Because she grew up very poor during the Great Depression, she made everything from scratch. I spent a lot of time out in the country at her house, and much of that time was spent in the kitchen. My brother, Andrew, and I loved her banana pudding. Mamaw’s banana pudding was served hot, fresh from the oven. First, she’d make the pudding from scratch on the stovetop. As her official taste testers, she gave us each a spoon and waited for our approval, which we always gave because, like I said earlier, she was the best cook ever.

Andrew and I were always Mamaw’s special helpers, and she’d pull tall stools up to the counter top where we’d assist her. Our job was to cut the bananas into slices and help her layer the pudding. A layer of Nilla Wafers lined the bottom of the 13×9 glass baking dish, followed by a layer of bananas, and then a layer of pudding, which Mamaw poured because it was too hot for us. More Nilla Wafers, bananas, and pudding. The final piece was meringue, which she’d whip up in her mixer, stiff white peaks indicating it was ready. She always did that part. Then it went into the oven for what seemed like an eternity. Fresh out of the oven, she’d dish out four helpings, one each for Andrew and me and one each for her and Grandaddy. Each time we had it was better than the last. The taste of warm banana pudding will always bring me back to that kitchen and my Mamaw.

Bean Burrito

Kids are funny, and their idea of insults is even funnier. My first year as a camp director at iD Tech camps, we had an 11-year-old camper named Mitchell who came a few weeks in a row. He was a spitfire with a temper much bigger than him. His go-to insult whenever he was upset at a fellow camper or an instructor was, “Gawd! You’re a bean burrito!” Hurling that insult was always met with laughter or a smile, which only fueled his anger. But, how can you not smile when someone calls you a bean burrito? Is that supposed to hurt? 😉

Bees

I’m not afraid of a lot of things, but I’m deathly afraid of bees. Like, I completely freak out whenever one is flying anywhere near me. I have no idea how other people aren’t bothered by them. They have stingers, and it hurts like hell when they sting you! When I see a bee, I completely come out of my skin, running away, screaming, and sometimes crying.

I think my fear stems back to two major incidents from my childhood. Once, when I was about four or five, I was playing at my cousin Katy’s house. We were in her front yard, and for some reason, we were playing under a bush. That’s when it happened. We had inadvertently messed with a wasp’s or hornet’s nest, and they were angry! I ended up getting stung four times in the head. I remember crying like crazy, and my parents running out to get me. Another time, I was around eight years old, and I was playing in my playhouse that my Grandaddy built for me. I was rearranging the furniture, as you do, and when I moved my pretend Kenmore refrigerator, I unknowingly disturbed the bee hive that had formed on the back of it, causing an angry crowd of bees to attack. The fact that I was in a confined space of about 12 square feet, with the door and windows closed, did not work to my advantage. I managed to escape and run around to the back of the house, where my parents’ room was, but not before I’d been stung a bunch of times, mainly in my knee. Ever since then, bees terrify the crap outta me!

About 6 months ago, a couple of friends and I took a trip to Morocco, and we were on a road trip from Chefchaoen to Casablanca, me riding shotgun. The weather was sunny and slightly cool, so I cracked the window, turned up the tunes, and settled in for a relaxing ride. Suddenly, I felt a leaf fly through the window and land in my hair, along my hairline. Reaching up to get it out, I felt a red hot pain shoot through my finger. Bringing my hand down to inspect it, I see a bee attached, which falls down beneath the seat. I begin screaming bloody murder, a combination of the pain and the fear of the bee, Celeste and Jen unaware of what is wrong with me. Celeste wants to help me, but she’s driving about 100km/hr down the highway. Jen, in the backseat, offers assistance. I shove my finger back to her, crying and shaking, begging her to remove the stinger. Miraculously, she has a pair of tweezers in her bag, and she’s able to remove it; I manage to calm down. I am so glad I wasn’t driving, or we would have certainly crashed. Also, what kind of luck is that where a bee is able to fly through a cracked window of no more than 2 inches wide, while we drive at a high speed down the highway, and land in my hair? Freaky things like this happen to me a lot.

Bikes

I’m a bike rider, although I don’t consider myself a cyclist. I’m more of a casual bike rider. In elementary school, my main thing was riding around the neighborhood on my yellow Huffy with white tires, speeding through the streets like I owned the place. When I needed a break, I’d throw it against the front porch steps, run in and get some water, only to get right back out there. I’m not certain when I stopped riding, but by high school, I was more concerned with driving than riding my bike.

I didn’t own a bike again until I moved to Shanghai, and faced with not having a car and not wanting to rely on taxis all the time, I braved the hectic, busy streets and got a bike. That first bike was sahweeet! It was a red and white Giant with a basket on the front. I loved that bike. About 8 months after I bought it, I stupidly left it overnight at the Metro station, and the next day it was gone. Sadness.

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My next bike was so nice…vintage colors that made me smile. I had that bike a total of 6 days before it was stolen from inside my apartment building, locked up to the stairwell in the middle of the day, on my birthday no less! Lots of tears were shed for that one.

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After another few bikes were bought and stolen, I decided to get a custom-made fixie. I got to choose the colors and being the neon lover I am, it was bright! I only stored it in my apartment, and I’m happy to say, I still have it. When I left China, I broke it down, packed it in pieces in a box, and brought it as checked luggage. It’s currently sitting in my parents’ garage.

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Bonfire

Aggie (see entry for Aggies under Letter A) bonfires were an annual tradition for as long as I can remember. Our biggest football rivalry was the University of Texas Longhorns, and they were always the last game of the regular season, right around Thanksgiving. In Aggie tradition, a huge bonfire made of whole tree trunks was constructed by a host of volunteers over a number of weeks leading up to the big game. The night before the big game, thousands upon thousands of people would gather as the bonfire went up in flames, whoops and gig’ems galore. As a kid growing up in Aggieland, I attended many bonfires, and looked forward to the days of attending them as an actual Aggie. But that never happened.

In 1999, during my freshman year in college, the bonfire fell in the early morning hours of November 18, killing twelve people. I remember being woken up for class by my radio alarm around 7:00 am and hearing news reports of the collapse. I thought, This can’t be happening. This isn’t real. But it was real. Much of the A&M campus was shut down that day and the town was in chaos. I heard the call for blood donations for the wounded, and I dutifully waited hours to donate blood at the local blood bank. A couple days later, my family and I flew to England for a week-long vacation to visit my aunt and uncle. I remember watching news footage of the Aggie bonfire collapse in London, surprised that it had made international headlines. There hasn’t been another official Aggie bonfire since.

Books

I love books, like, really love them. I have amassed huge collections of books over the years. My favorite books to collect are children’s picture books, young adult novels, and professional development and self-help/psychology books. At present, I probably own upwards of 800 books, but I’ve had so many more. I’ve ended up donated many books when I’ve moved around the world, thus leaving a trail of books in my wake. Leaving books behind is very hard for me, as I become quite attached to them and have come to love the fact that I can pull out just the right book that someone may need, but books are heavy and lugging them around gets very expensive. I wish I was super rich and could take my books with me everywhere I went, and I wish that I could buy even more!

My most favorite books, in no particular order, are 1984, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Dot, The Great Gatsby, Angela’s Ashes, Fishing Sunday, Brown Girl Dreaming, Wonder, Out of My Mind, 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know, The Book Whisperer, The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1964, The Fault in Our Stars, Walk Two Moons, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Giving Tree, Bridge to Terabithia, Start with Why, and Okay for Now.

Bows

Growing up in the land of big hair when you have fine, wispy hair means you need to create your own height. Enter hair bows. And I’m not talking little barrettes with dainty little bows made of thin ribbon. I’m talking gravity-defying bows that stick off the top of your head at least 3-4 inches. I went through a phase in late elementary school where I made bows. I would buy wide ribbon with wire built in to help it stand up, wire for wrapping, and plain silver barrettes. I’d use the wire to make bows with 4-6 big humps (imagine ‘mmm’) on top of the barrettes. I’d wear my hair in a half ponytail with the bow at the top of my head. I’d like to say I was fashionable, but that would be a lie. (See Exhibit A below.)

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Brother

Andrew, my younger, but certainly not little, brother and I had a typical brother/sister relationship growing up. We were thick as thieves one day and at each others’ throats the next. He’s nearly four years younger than me, which means that we weren’t really in the same place in our lives very often, if at all. The only time we went to the same school was in elementary, when he was in first grade and I was in fifth. He was entering middle school when I was in high school, and he was a freshman in high school when I was a freshman in college. I think that the four-year age gap is an awkward length, and we struggled to relate to one another’s experiences.

But growing up, there were definitely times when we banded together for the common good. One of my favorite memories of us working together was one Halloween when we were in elementary school. For some reason, our family didn’t go trick-or-treating, which really stank, especially since Andrew and I loved free candy! As the older sibling and brains of the operation, I hatched a plan. I had Andrew dress up in his tee-ball uniform, the closest thing either of us had to a costume, and I snagged a plastic grocery sack from under the sink, and we “went out to play.” As we were on our way out the door, my mom reminding us to be home for dinner, she asked, “Why are you wearing that, Andrew?” We pretended we didn’t hear her, as the door slammed behind us.

Running to the backyard, we schemed. I taught Andrew the basics in trick-or-treating etiquette, and instructed him to go to the neighbor’s house across the street, ring the doorbell, hold out his bag, and say “Trick or Treat!” when they opened the door. Then, when he had the candy, he was to bring it back to me. We would split the candy 50/50. The fact that it was 4:30 pm and still light out didn’t deter our mission. Hiding out in the backyard, watching him as he ran up to the door, my heart was beating a mile a minute. I didn’t want to get caught and have to explain what we were doing to my parents. After sending him to a few houses close to home, we dug into our candy, gladly ruining our dinner.

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Nana Puddin’- SOL

Yesterday I introduced China to my Mamaw’s Nana Puddin’ (AKA banana pudding). In my after school cooking class, we made cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches and Nana Puddin’, and while they loved both of the dishes, the pudding was by far their favorite! “Ms. Jennifer, this pudding is THIS GOOD!” they’d shout while giving me a two thumbs up. “Ms. Jennifer, you’re the best cooker in the world,” they’d say while looking up at me with those cute little faces. I love them! 🙂 While we were making the pudding, I shared this story about when my Mamaw and I would make Nana Puddin’ together…

Going to Mamaw’s house was my favorite thing to do growing up. Between the rides out to woods in the beat up old Dodge pick-up, picking dewberries from the vines that grew around the barbed wire fence, evenings spent listening to her tell us stories from her childhood, and shelling peas on the front porch swing, we always cooked. I remember so many meals we cooked together, but the one that stands out the most is Nana Puddin’.

Before I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counters, Mamaw would hoist me up on the black leather barstool that swiveled with even the slightest movement. I’d sit on my knees while Mamaw taught me how to make homemade vanilla pudding. One thing you need to know about my Mamaw is that she was the best cook in the whole wide world! She made everything from scratch– no box mixes for her. My job, according to Mamaw, was “official taste tester.” Once she had made the pudding just right, she’d spoon a little bit into my mouth, and anxiously await my verdict. “Well, how is it? Does it taste right?” she’d ask. “Hmmm…I think I need another taste to be sure, but I think it’s right,” I’d say grinning. Even though she was onto my tricks, she’d give me another taste. “Yep, just right!” I’d say.

Next came the part where I did most of the work. I’d slice the bananas at just the right thickness, usually all by myself. Next, I’d place a layer of Nilla Wafers in the bottom of the 9×13 glass pan, followed by a layer of sliced bananas. With Mamaw’s help, I’d pour half of the warm pudding on top of the bananas, and repeat the process– Nilla Wafers, bananas, and pudding. The last step, my personal favorite, was making the meringue. She and I would whip the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla until the perfect peaks began to form. After adding the meringue to the top of the pudding, we’d pop it into the oven, where I’d sit and watch until the top was a golden brown. “It’s ready, Mamaw!” I’d call, and she’d pull it out of the oven, placing it on the stovetop to cool. After a few minutes, my brother and Grandaddy, after smelling the pudding cooling on the stove, would gather in the kitchen and we’d all share in the first tastes of the warm, gooey Nana Puddin’…it was pure bliss!

I’m thankful for these memories, and I can’t wait to share them with my kids one day. I have and will always love you, Mamaw! I miss you!