Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Mamaw

Today my Mamaw would have been celebrating her 78th birthday. I think about her and miss her every single day. Of course there's the old cliche that you don't know what you've got until it's gone, but in that case I don't think it's true. I knew what I had, and I loved my Mamaw like crazy. Of course, there were times when she drove me crazy, too. All good relationships are like that. But what I didn't realize until she was gone was just how much she had influenced my life and the person I have become. I wish that I could tell her thank you for that. Mamaw passed away when I was 21. Andrew and I had just gotten engaged a couple of weeks before. She didn't get to be there for my wedding, and she'll never get to meet my kids. But I'll have so many stories to tell them about her. And it's because of her that I'm the person I am. Every once and a while little things will dawn on me, and I'll see her influence in my life. As you can tell from reading my blog, two of my favorite things are cooking and reading. Mamaw was such an amazing cook and always encouraged me to help her in the kitchen. We would spend weekends together picking out recipes and cooking away. My earliest memory of reading are of the cassette tapes Mamaw used to record of her reading me stories so I could listen to them when she wasn't there. I'd give anything in the world to have just one of those now.

For my cousins and I, Mamaw was a constant in our lives. She was there for us at times when our parents couldn't be. For me, she was there through my parents' divorce. I was only 2 years old when my parents divorced, but I know it would have been a much more difficult time in my life without Mamaw there to shield me from it. Mamaw lived through some difficult times in her own life, but I remember the big smile she would have on her face any time she was around her family. Thinking about her tonight, I have a smile like that now.

Adele - Rolling In The Deep (Live on Letterman)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Books #13-17 of 2011

In addition to trying to read 100 books in 2011, I also hope to eventually read all of the Caldecott medal and honor winners. The Caldecott Medal is given every year to the most distinguished American picture book of the year, based solely on the illustrations. Lucky for me, the education library on campus has an awesome selection of school media materials (including children's and young adult books) and even has all the Caldecott winners separated into their own section. So the other day on my lunch break I went and sat down with a few of them.

Arrow to the Sun, illustrated by Gerald McDermott is based on a Pueblo Indian tale and was the winner of the medal in 1975. It is about a young boy who came into being when an arrow was sent to earth from the sun. When he gets older, he returns to the sun in search of his father. The illustrations are created out of geometric shapes in bright colors and are really beautiful. 4 stars

Prayer for a Child was written by Rachel Field and illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones and won the Caldecott medal in 1945. It is an illustrated bedtime prayer, with sweet traditional illustrations. For me the best part of this book was seeing an example of an early children's book and thinking about the all the children who have read it over the years. 4 stars

The big surprise out of this group was the winner of the 1978 medal, Noah's Ark, illustrated by Peter Spier. At first glance it's simply the story of Noah's Ark told entirely in illustrations. But once I started to really look at the illustrations, I fell in love. The illustrations are extremely detailed and funny and just generally gave me the warm fuzzies. I feel like you could find something new in the illustrations every time you read the book. I especially liked the scenes showing how Noah took care of all the different animals. I never thought too much about it before, but that would be a big job! 5 stars

The very first Caldecott medal was awarded in 1938 to Animals of the Bible, illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop accompanied by text from the New King James Version of the Bible. Not exactly the text we would give a book geared towards children today! It was definitely interesting to see the first medal winner, and the black and white illustrations were beautiful, but this wasn't my favorite book ever. 2 stars

Finally, I read the 1997 medal winner, Golem by David Wisnieski. It is kind of a Jewish folk tale set during the persecution of Jews in 15th century Prague. This is one of those Caldecott winners that is not really appropriate for young children, as many of the themes and images could be frightening. The story was interesting, but it was obvious to me that the illustrations, made out of layers of cut paper, were the real star here. 3 stars

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book #12 of 2011

Book #12 was The River Wife by Jonis Agee. It's a novel about several generations of one family, all connected by the family patriarch, Jacques, and all living in the same house over the years. Jacques was a river pirate along the Mississippi, and the book features the stories of his first wife Annie Lark, a freed slave named Omah who assisted him with his pirating, his second wife Laura, his daughter Maddie, and his grandson's wife Hedie, who finds the books containing the stories of all these women years after the fact. I don't really have anything exciting to say about this book one way or another. It was one of those books that was just kind of there. It wasn't great, it wasn't awful. None of the characters were particularly likable, and at times the writing was rough. I wouldn't particularly recommend it. 3 stars

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cheese Grits

Tonight I'm cooking cheese grits and this one of my favorite recipes, not only because it's so yummy but because it's also super easy. Cheese grits are a great side for pretty much anything if you ask me. Sometimes we have them with shrimp and sometimes with chicken sausage and diced tomatoes, which doesn't sound all that special but is actually really delicious. Tonight we're having them with jerk pork chops (grilled by Andrew the grill-master).

Here's the recipe. It's from the February 2008 issue of Southern Living. I didn't take many pictures because it's so easy and quick there's hardly any steps to take pictures of!

1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking or instant grits (I use instant)
3/4 cup Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Hot sauce

Bring first 3 ingredients and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat (Note: Once it starts boiling, the milk will cause it to boil over fast, so watch out); gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened (the time this will take will differ depending on what kind of grits you are using, the instant ones usually take less than 5 minutes). Stir in cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Season with hot sauce.

See? So easy. You can see from my picture that I use fat-free and reduced-fat milk and cheeses and they taste just as good I promise. So that's a good way to cut a few calories. Hope you like 'em!

Cameo Candies

These cameo chocolates make me smile! I kind of want to buy the molds and make some myself and then throw an old-fashioned tea party. Actually, I think they give me the warm-fuzzies because they remind me of my grandmother. I can remember her wearing a cameo necklace (it was pink, on a long gold chain) and I also remember her making mints similar to these for receptions and parties at church. I found these in this month's Country Living.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day to My Love

Generally, I'm not one for big proclamations of love. I love my husband A LOT and I think anyone who knows me knows that. And he absolutely knows that because I tell him everyday. But since it's Valentine's Day and he bugged me last night because I haven't written a new blog post in a week, here's a post especially for my husband Andrew, the love of my life.

Remember when we first started dating and we wanted to be together every second of every day? I still feel that way. You're the funniest, sweetest, most entertaining person I know.

Remember when we got married on went on our amazing honeymoon that was so much fun we still talk about it all the time even though it was almost 6 years ago? I can't wait for all the other trips to new places and new adventures that await us in our lifetime. I love that you dream big and want us to see the world together.

Remember when we moved North Carolina and didn't know another soul except each other? We learned so much about ourselves and grew closer as husband and wife. We learned to appreciate nature and small-town life and discovered the values we want for our family. I'm incredibly grateful to share my life with someone with principles and convictions.

You know how I always cry over little things like when a Disney World commercial comes on TV and I think about how much fun it will be to take our kids there one day? Thanks for not laughing at me but always just kissing me on the forehead and calling me your tender-hearted girl. And thank you for being so careful with my tender heart.

Remember how I used to hate baseball because I thought it was super-boring but now I love it and want to watch it every night, all summer long? Thanks for encouraging me to keep an open mind and try new things.

You know how you can always make me smile when I'm sad? I love that.

And you know how you tell me I'm beautiful when I'm wearing a ball cap and no make up? That's pretty much the best thing ever.

So, basically, what I'm saying is, you're awesome. I look forward to many many more years together until we are old and dress like this un-ironically and embarrass our children.

And I want to kiss you like this every day and embarrass our children some more. And keep kissing like this every day until we move past the years where it embarrasses our children and we become the adorable elderly couple that still kisses each other like this and have for the last 60 years.

Happy Valentine's Day Drew. I love you lots.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Secret Sisters

I just discovered this group this weekend. They are sisters from Muscle Shoals and I LOVE their voices and musical style! And how could I not like a song called "Tennessee Me"?

I thought that was great, and then I found them covering my favorite Patsy Cline song, "Walkin' After Midnight" which was also really good! It made me smile on this rainy Monday. I can't embed it, but here's the link. You should watch it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Books #10 and #11 of 2011

Well, I haven't been doing much cooking or much of anything else interesting this week (besides being on the hunt for some of these cupcakes) but I did take a trip to the library and have been doing some reading!

Book #10 was Maus by Art Spiegelman. Wow. Amazing book. It's a graphic novel telling the story of the author's father, who lived as a Jewish man in Poland during World War 2 and spent time in Auschwitz. The characters are portrayed as animals rather than people, with each ethnicity and/or nationality as a different animal. For instance, Jews are mice and Germans or other non-Jews are for the most part portrayed as pigs. The book flashes back an forth between the 1970s, when Spiegelman is recording his father's story, and the father's story itself. The book shows the way the father's experiences would impact the way he lived the rest of his life. This book was eye-opening and doesn't hold back. Parts were difficult to read but I feel it's important to be educated about these events. I highly recommend this book, which is the recipient of a well-deserved Pulitzer prize. Being a graphic novel, it is a fairly quick read. I wasn't able to put it down and read it in 2 days. 5 stars

I was slightly less thrilled with book #11, Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez. This was a book I had marked as wanting to read from the Young Adult Literature class I took 2 years ago. It's about Anita, a 12-year-old who lives in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. Her parents are involved in a plot to kill the dictator and liberate the country. The book was fairly interesting, but personally, I don't care much for books written towards the tween set. The writing was simplistic for my taste, but it was a good story about a topic that doesn't get a lot of attention. 3 stars