An Ode to my Grandmother

A twitter conversation got me thinking about the smartest or most influential people I know and what impact they had on my life. My parents came to mind first and then my grandmother.  Now that I am older I can really appreciate the mark she has left on me.  My grandmother mother to eight children, grandmother to seventeen, great grandmother and great great grandmother to more kids than I am willing to count, is probably one of the smartest people I know.  Life took her on a path that did not include much formal education after the age of fifteen but still she instilled in me things that my two degrees never could.

One of the first lessons I can remember was about being black. I learned this before I was old enough to fully understand it.  Her words when I was about twelve are forever imprinted in my mind.  When I asked her about our family ancestral history, if there were European ancestors, maybe even Native Americans she responded, “You are just black” She told me “Some members of our family may be lighter than others but that is because the slave master was raping his slaves, I don’t see that as anything to be proud of, so you are black, that’s it.”   Let’s just say I had not gotten that far in American History just yet but those are words have stuck with me to this day. Whenever I see the color divisiveness in the black community, I’m grateful that I had a grandmother who broke this down to me a young age, very bluntly might I add but I never forgot it.  Also it made me feel confident in saying I’m black and that in itself is something to be proud of.

During these same summers my grandmother spent hours telling me the crazy stories of her childhood and even her parent’s childhood. She imparted on me the mysteries of long lost family members as well. Mysteries that in adulthood I’ve sought to solve doing my own research with some success.  The oral telling of history is how African Americans passed on history for generations and generations. I’m grateful that I got to experience that as a kid.  In college I ended up majoring in History and spent a lot of time in African American history courses.  That summer spent with my grandmother definitely piqued my interest and I cannot imagine that I would have ended up on this path without it.

Then I think about little lessons.  Things such as being strong and independent.  She raised eight kids mostly on her own and worked hard to make sure they had more than she did.  Or having a little fight in you and standing up for yourself when you were  wronged.  Some of her funniest stories are explaining how as a young mother she had to stand up for herself when others tried to walk over her.  Also the value of education formal and informal I would say.  Playing dumb wasn’t considered cute around my grandmother and achievements in education were always praised.  That’s probably another reason why I was never ashamed of being the smart girl. When I look back at all of these lessons it makes me beyond grateful for my grandmother!

Making use of my KitchenAid Mixer: Ice Cream Recipe

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*** For an updated version of this recipe head to my new blog here ***

After my wedding I was able to talk my husband into getting a KitchenAid mixer with some of the giftcards we received.  To ensure I don’t have to hear about this being an unnecessary expensive purchase for the rest of my life, I make sure I use it for little random things all the time.  I’ve made more homemade cakes and homemade buttercream then my waistline can handle so I started branching out to new things and recipes.  One of my favorite things about the KitchenAid mixer is all of the attachments you can buy for it.  After having it for about 6 months I finally bought my first attachment, the ice cream maker.

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 Isn’t she adorable? 🙂 I got the decal from the House of Smith’s website.

Let me just say that making ice cream isn’t as simple as I thought it would be in terms of time.  First the freezer bowl, the necessary element to this whole process, has to be frozen for 15 hours. So don’t be like me and decide you want to buy an ice cream maker at 3pm for ice cream that evening.  You won’t get to enjoy your finished product for at least another day.

I modified and combined a few recipes I found online. The bulk of this recipe is adopted from a Frozen Custard recipe.  My final product didn’t have the consistency of my favorite frozen custard place, Andy’s but it was just my first batch.  Apparently the use of eggs or egg yolks makes frozen custard different from ice cream.  Overall this is a good basic recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream that you can add various mix ins to.

photo 1All of my ingredients plus my containers

**** I revamped this recipe on my new blog with better pictures and links.  Check it out here***

Ingredients

1 Cup of milk ( I used 2% but it’s better to use whole milk)

3 egg yolks

2/3 cups of sugar

1 Vanilla Bean

1 tsp of Vanilla

1 1/2 cups of cream ( I used heavy whipping cream)

Directions

  • Simmer milk in a saucepan with sugar.  Slice Vanilla Bean and scoop out the Vanilla. Add it to the mixture.  You can also throw in the whole Vanilla Bean for additional flavoring. Remove it before next step.
  • Crack egg yolks in separate bowl and whisk them for a bit.
  • Slowly whisk in hot milk and sugar mixture into the egg mixture.
  • Pour combined mixture back into your pan and whisk constantly on low heat.  Continue until mixture thickens.
  • Remove from heat.  I recommend straining the mixture at this point.
  • Add cream and Vanilla extract.
  • Refrigerate for about 8 hours or until ice cream mixture is chilled.

Now to create your ice cream you can use any ice cream machine but I used the KitchenAid mixer ice cream attachment.  As I said the before the bowl needs to be frozen for 15 hours before use.   I followed the directions that came with the packaging.  A few tips.

  • The ice cream is not going to come out like Blue Bell after you are done mixing.  It will look like soft serve. Throw it in the freezer for it to harden.
  • It only takes about 30 minutes of mixing on the stir setting.  Add in mix ins about 10 to 12 minutes into the process.  On this batch I added vanilla cake. This was not the best decision since I don’t care for frozen cake, so I wouldn’t recommend that.  The next batch will have Girl Scout thin mints.  Those may freeze better.

photo 5 Right after I poured the mixture in.

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After mixing and adding in the cake mix in. (Excuse the shadowy picture, I have the worst lighting in my kitchen!)

I was worried about storing my ice cream so I purchased this reusable Zak container from Sur La Table and some paper containers.  The Zak container is an airtight container and it pretty much freezes solid.  My only complaint is that the container is hard to open.  I almost broke my wrist trying to open the container.  A little hot water on top gets it open without melting your ice cream.

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The Zak container.

photo 2 The ice cream before freezing. I actually put a little too much in the container. The top digs in for an air tight fit.  I’ll kno better next time.

I am not a fan of melted ice cream, I prefer frozen solid so my Zak container took about a day to freeze all the way, told you this was a long process! I put a small amount of ice cream in the paper ice cream containers.  That was ready in a few hours.

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After a day of freezing! See the beautiful Vanilla specks?

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The Onion Apologizes to Quvenzhane

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The Onion did the right thing by apologizing.  What I think is interesting is the CEO essentially said what most critics said, this “joke” did not fit within the satire realm that the Onion operates in.  I am also glad that the CEO ended the statement by bringing it back to what is important here, Quvenzhane’s talent and this amazing moment.  I hope as time goes on that this statement does not become a part of her story for that night.

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Quvenzhane Wallis’ Biggest Night

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Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest nominee EVER in the history of the Academy Awards.  She filmed her movie Beasts of the Southern Wild while she was just five years old and now at nine she’s been bestowed with an honor that many adult actresses only dream of. What stands out most about her for me though is her spunk, personality and sassiness. In all the interviews leading up to the awards she seemed to take on the questions and the interviews like a person twice her age.

Obviously her name is not run of the mill and many reporters have had difficulty pronouncing it. Well during the red carpet a reporter told Quvenzhane that he was just going to call her Annie since it was announced this week that she will star as Annie in the remake of the movie.  Quvenzhane quickly corrected him and said no my name is Quvenzhane which she was right to do and God bless her for having enough gumption to politely correct an adult. Yes her name is a little much but she’s not the first person in Hollywood with a name we’ve never heard of. There probably are few Americans who cannot pronounce Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name.

Well the Onion, an online magazine which specializes in satirical fake stories often drawing on America’s messy political system decided to tweet about little Quvenzhane on what will probably be the biggest night of her life.  See the tweet below.

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013

— The Onion (@TheOnion) February 25, 2013

This is what a magazine posted about a nine year old little girl online! It makes my blood boil. Defenders of the magazine are claiming well they are a satirical magazine deal with their jokes.  I did pretty good in my high school English course, in fact I was in honors, and I do not remember that fitting within the definition of satire.  No this is a bad joke that uses a very adult word to describe a nine year old girl!  They could have called her a sassy little girl. Said she had spunk.  All age appropriate phrases that do not dig at a little girl who has been thrust into the spotlight at such a young age so quickly.  As of now, the Onion has taken down their tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis and the National media is starting to pick up the story.  I hope this does not overshadow what was a monumental night for young actresses as well as African American actresses. The Onion should stick to what they do best, satire and should apologize to Quvenzhane and her family for their tasteless joke.

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I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this book for awhile.  I read Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones several months ago and loved it! I joined several ladies I worked with for a book club and this was the first book that we discussed.  I think for the most part we all enjoyed the book.

 

Silver Sparrow is basically about several imperfect people.  You have James, who fathered two girls with two different women both of whom he has married.  His daughter Dana and her mother consider themselves the lucky ones in this situation since they know about the other family.  Their knowledge is powerful in some ways but they are still a secret to the rest of the world.

 

For me from the first line I was hooked.  I loved the story and how it develops through flashbacks and the current day.  The writing was just enough descriptive writing with great story telling.  I’ll try not to give up the storyline but believe me it’s hard!  In part one the author starts with Dana’s story and you cannot help to empathize with her.  Essentially every aspect of Dana’s life is defined by the fact that she is a secret.  From school choices to summer jobs and even simple moments with her father that she longs for. How can you feel for as the victim of circumstances that were not up to her? I know I did!

 

Half way through I was very into Dana’s story, then the author begins part two focusing on Chaurisse the OTHER daughter. Despite hearing her story from her point of view I did not feel for Chaurisse the way I felt for Dana and I think it was because I was so won over by Dana in the first half.  From part two you will also see that Chaurisse and her mother are also the victims of circumstances out of their control too but I just did not feel as sorry for them!  Each character has a past event or a tragedy that seems to weigh on them in some way and likely impacts their actions throughout the book. All imperfect in some way.

 

One of the best parts of this book is that you get to see both perspectives and how they deal with it.  Dana’s story is of course marked by being a secret while Chaurisse is living in oblivion.  That’s all I will say :).  The potential for readers to differ makes it a great read for a book club.  My version even had book club discussion questions in the back which my group and I used.  I highly recommend this book! 

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie- A Review

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I first heard of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie when Oprah raved about the book after announcing it as the new book for her book club.  This book is the author, Ayana Mathis’ first published novel and it was picked by Oprah before even hitting the shelves. In fact her publisher pushed up the release date because of it’s selection for the book club.  All of this background intrigued me enough to pre-order the book on Amazon. Oh the power of Oprah!

The book is unique in that each chapter focuses on a different child of Hattie’s hence the title Twelve Tribes of Hattie.  Through the stories of her children we weave together a story of Hattie.  From the beginning I felt as though the overall story was disjointed and at some point would come tie together beautifully.  Unfortunately for me that point never came.  This book was several short stories with the common thread of Hattie thinly woven throughout.

The problem with the different stories is that each story is so different and each could easily be expanded into their own book and own independent story.  A few of those stories did not appeal to me! I struggled through some chapters where I found the story boring or not relatable.  While other chapters were more intriguing and I quickly read through them.  In fact there was one chapter that I just could not fight through so I skipped the chapter entirely.  Moving on, I did not feel as though I was missing anything and that highlights how the stories failed to connect.  I’ve never been able to skip that much of a book and have no problem with the storyline after.

I apologize if this is a considered a spoiler, but the problems these characters face are somewhat depressing.  I would move on to the next chapter and think ok hopefully this child of Hattie will have made it out better.  Nope.  Yes everyone has problems in life but I think for the most part we tend to find the happy middle ground.  Not here, in my view no one wins! It seems we meet each “tribe” when they are at one of their low points in life.  I realize not every book has to end all happy and beautiful but I just wanted a little more positivity.

Another aspect of the book that initially appealed to me is the time period it focuses on. The story of Hattie begins in the 1920s and moves to the 80s. I love history but I liked that there was not an overwhelming amount of the “we were oppressed by the white man during this civil rights era” .  Mathis does not completely ignore that aspect of African American life though.  It would be irresponsible to do so but I think she goes beyond that by discussing problems this family faced that generally had little to do with their race in 1950s and 1960s America.  In my opinion this book found a great balance considering all to often racism is the focus of books set during this time.

Overall the book was not horrible. I liked the creativity in her story telling even though it did not quite connect in the end and I one day I hope to rise to Mathis’ level of descriptive writing. I think this is one of those books where opinions will differ greatly so it is probably worth picking up and reading for yourself.

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President Obama’s Inauguration!

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I was one of the 800,000 who attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration for his second term! After missing out on the historical experience in 2009 due to law school I was so excited for the opportunity to attend this year. We were some of the lucky ones with tickets to the event. Not the great seated tickets but the “close” standing room. We headed into the district via the train at about 6:30am from Maryland for an 11:30am event mind you and were herded like cattle to the back of our section to the far left. We were essentially late. If we gotten there a little earlier I think we would have gotten the prized area right smack dab in the middle were we would have had views of figures moving across the stage and perhaps figures that were in the zoomable range. Through the barren trees we were able to see the TV monitors. The cheers and jeers of the crowd also gave us a good indication of who was entering. Beyonce, Queen B as I like to call her, received the loudest cheers after the President of course. Representative Boehner and Representative Cantor were mercilessly booed as expected. Then there was the President’s speech. Despite not being able to make him out with my naked eye, I loved that I was there to hear all of it in real time. Then being surrounded by likeminded supporters of the President made it even better.

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-Side view of the Capitol as we made our way to our ticketed area.

After Beyonce blessed us with her beautiful recorded voice we left . Going to the parade sounded good in theory but really after standing on my feet for six hours all I could think was lunch and then back home to bed. Oh and let me just tell you, I’ve never felt more like cattle in my life! Capitol police would close off gates at a moments notice to push people in another direction and like cattle you wouldn’t know where you were going until you were stuck. In fact they almost tricked us into moving into an area further back, by herding you in the direction of the closer standing room area but then cutting that side off and pushing you back 100ft. Since we played it smart, we were able to move up closer. Still not close enough to really see but closer.

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– The best view we got. I assume that portion with the Presidential seal is where the speakers stood although I couldn’t make them out.

Would I do it again? Probably not. A hilarious guy next to us said this is that thing you do once to say you did and never do it again! If I ever made the trip back to DC for another inauguration I will only partake in the the parade and a nice inaugural ball where the President is expected to make an appearance. Still seeing the first African American President being sworn in for his second term was an AMAZING experience! Still very glad I made the trip!

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-Our view through the trees, LOL and someone’s hat!

Oh and in a moment of what could of been… On Tuesday after the inauguration my family and I went on a tour of the Capitol led by a staff member from my Congressmen’s office. If you have the choice, the staff led tours see more than the standard tour from the Capitol Visitors center. Well during our exclusive tour we made our way to the door that President Obama entered the Inauguration stage from. There was a line forming for visitors to step out onto the stage and take pictures and take in all of the Inaugural exclusivity! We were SO excited. As we waited in line we thought about what angles we would take our pictures from. Who we would send the pictures to, to make them jealous of course. We were literally next in line to head out onto the stage when Capitol police told us we are sorry, we just got word that only Congressional staff are allowed out on the stage from this point on. Talk about a let down!! But I was able to get this little view from inside :(.

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We were SO CLOSE!

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We Do Not Need More Guns!

Just a week ago our nation joined together in mourning the loss of twenty-six people to gun violence at an elementary school. Yes an elementary school one of the most innocent places in our society. Twenty of these victims were just six and seven years old, children lost to gun violence. Following this horrific tragedy our nation’s largest second amendment advocate, the National Rifle Association, remained silent. No press releases, no tweets nothing. They even went as far as deleting their Facebook account.  Then earlier this week they released a small statement saying they were committed to helping curb gun violence in America.  For a split second it seemed like NRA was going to have responsible and realistic contributions to the gun violence discussion in America. Oh were we wrong.  Today, in a mind boggling press conference the NRA laid out there plan to stop gun violence in America, essentially more guns.

The NRA is pushing forward with an idea to have armed volunteers in America’s schools.  They picked armed volunteers because they would not put any additional budget pressures on the federal government or local governments.  Armed volunteer.  That sounds a lot like George Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch captain who thought a young Travyon Martin was suspicious.  When all was said and done Travyon Martin was dead and an armed volunteer was to blame.  I do not trust armed volunteers. They often have not received the adequate training that is needed to carry a gun in a policing capacity.  An idea like this, without a doubt could lead to killing people who did not pose a threat to the school. I also find the idea of having armed volunteers policing schools ironic.  From the description it sounds an awful lot like a police state.  Is the NRA really advocating for a police state at our schools in order to defend the second amendment?  I just don’t think that is what our founding fathers had in mind.

In this same argument we have heard a push for more police in schools as well.  Although it is generally outside of the realm of gun violence, the school to prison pipeline raises other concerns. In short, there are students across America who are leaving school for the juvenile and adult justice systems. Often times their “crimes” are things that students for generations were disciplined for in the school through detention or suspension not jail. More police in schools could easily raise the number of students being funneled into the criminal justice systems.  Yes I realize the goals of the additional police are to ward off violent threats but lets be honest school shooting are rare. All these additional police are going to keep busy in the schools by policing students as well.  The current level of police in American schools has made the school to prison pipeline a national issue.  More police will only serve to aggravate this already troubling problem.

In so many words the NRA told Americans that they are okay with the homicidal maniac getting a gun as long as there is an armed teacher or volunteer there to stop him.  Sometimes I wonder if the NRA has a romanticized idea of “how the west was won”, the OK Corral or even when our founding fathers settled arguments with duels. More guns will not stop this problem in fact it likely could lead to more blood shed. When I think about this argument I think about Nancy Lanza an owner of several guns. I think about the armed police officers who patrolled Virginia Tech’s campus everyday. I think about the armed security guard that was present at Columbine High School on that fateful day. There have been more guns present in America and it has not stopped these mass shootings. I refuse to accept a bad guy getting a gun as long as a good guy is there to stop him. No, we need to stop this long before it gets to that point.

Our country lost little innocent children last week.  We cannot ignore this as we did with other tragedies. I will not lie, I would love to see the second amendment changed but I know that is not realistic in America today.  What I do believe can and should happen is another ban on military like assault rifles. At Sandy Hook elementary school, the good guys with guns, as the NRA calls them, arrived quickly after receiving reports of shots fired at the school.  In the short amount of time before the first responders closed in on him, the perpetrator was able to shoot and kill twenty-six people, shooting each victim multiple times. Some victims were shot as many as eleven times. No gun with these capabilities should be in the hands of an average citizen. In my mind they serve no legitimate purpose for everyday use.  I hope that Congress and the President really stand up this time and get this done!

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Soundtrack to my Election Night

 

A few of my favorite political, call to action, change the world kind of songs that I will have on repeat on election night.

1. Janelle Monae- Mr. President

2. Allen Stone- Unaware

3. Kanye West, Malik Yusef, and Adam Levine- Promise Land

4. John Legend- If You’re Out There

5. Stevie Wonder- Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours

6. Allen Stone- Last to Speak

7. Sam Cooke- A Change is Gonna Come

8. Emeli Sande- Hope

9. Beyonce- I Was Here

10. Oh and of course… Young Jezzy ft. Jay Z- My President is Black (LOL)

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Mitt Romney thinks he’s the President

My first hint that Former Governor was a little delusional about his current role in American Government came when he and his wife went to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.  The Romneys had a horse competing in the Olympics, because yes they are just that wealthy, but what was interesting was the Opening Ceremonies.  President Obama was not present at the Olympics but he sent his wife Michelle Obama in his place.  During the Opening Ceremonies  as the American athletes paraded in Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney stood up and waved and saluted the delegation of athletes as if they were receiving them.  I sat there and thought this man really thinks he is President in his mind!! It is not the role of the candidate to receive or welcome the American athletes.  In the President’s absence that was the role of First Lady Michelle Obama.  The Romney’s seemed completely oblivious to this protocol. Fast forward to now and Mitt Romney’s delusions are even more prevalent.

During the last debate, which focused on foreign policy, Romney continued to make statements related to the goings on in other countries, including enemies like Iran, as if he talked to insiders in these countries daily or received briefings from the CIA. Statements such as Iran’s true feelings about our government to which Obama rebuffed as an untrue statement.  I had to sit back and say once again this man believes he is the President and is taking the rumors his campaign drudged up as intelligence reports that he then presents to the American people as truth.  If Romney was a current senator on important homeland security committees than maybe I would give him a little leeway here but he is not.  At this point Mr. Romney is just an American citizen like you or I who happens to be running for President. He does not receive official security briefings and to pretend as if he does is flat out delusional.

As the East Coast prepared for Hurricane Sandy this weekend, his delusions became even more evident.  The President is in a unique position where he campaigns but still has a job that he cannot abandon for full time campaigning. With the election only a week away and the thought of President Bush’s fumbling of the Katrina response not such a distant memory, it was important that Obama make being the President his number one priority.  So as any good President would do, Obama postponed his campaign events and sent surrogates like Bill Clinton and Joe Biden instead in order to focus on preparing for the hurricane and the necessary relief efforts after the Hurricane.

Well Romney decided he needed to do the same, also postponing his campaign events during the hurricane. Keep in mind that Mitt Romney does not currently hold an office and has no role in the response effort.  So why would he postpone his events?! Because he thinks he is the President that is why.  To make matters worse, Romney called the Republican Governors in the path of the storm. This is what the President does! The current President of the United States calls the Governors to offer federal support and talk about a game plan. Candidates do not do this! I think Mitt Romney avoided calling the other Democratic Governors in the impacted area simply because that would look too much like being the President and frankly those Governors may have laughed and refused such a political call.  So on top of overstepping his bounds as a candidate Mitt Romney also appears extremely partisan while he has lambasted President Obama for the hyper partisan behavior that has troubled this administration. It was a truly unnecessary step to take.

Mitt Romney did not stop there though today appearing at an event in Ohio which his team has labeled a storm relief event where he accepted donations for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and also campaigned. I honestly do not knock Romney for continuing to campaign.  What else he supposed to do since he is not the President. What I do take issue with though is his attempt to label the event as something it was not. This was not a relief effort event, it was a campaign event, in a major swing state mind you, where you happened to be accepting money as well. Pretending to be President seems to be getting a little messy for the Romney team.  So to Mr. Romney I say in 2008 you lost to John McCain in the Republican Primaries who then lost to President Obama thus making him President and not you!  We are only a week away from the end of this of election and it cannot come soon enough but if we see Romney visiting the areas devastated by Sandy before election day next Tuesday I will have a conniption!

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