Sunday Dinners

Today around 3:30pm, I started daydreaming about Sunday dinner with my family. It’s not uncommon for me to daydream about food around this time on a Tuesday, especially because it’s in the middle of a three-hour writing workshop (I may have to petition for 10 minute breaks because five minutes is not enough time to get to the nearest bakery and back). Usually I dream about the tacos I just had, and today would’ve been the right day to mentally craft a menu for next week’s Thanksgiving dinner. But instead of turkey and pies, I was caught up in thoughts about my mom’s cooking on random Sundays for no other reason except the fact that I could make it home that weekend.

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Every so often in high school, I would make the three hour trip home with one or both of my parents for a weekend. Usually these trips served multiple purposes: sometimes I got my hair done, occasionally I went to dances with my friends, and on those special rare weekends when I wasn’t swamped with homework, I spent my days shopping with my mother and evenings watching Family Guy and Comedy Central with my dad. No matter what we did on Friday and Saturday, Sunday would eventually rear its ugly head. We went about our day slowly, trying to savor as much time as possible before it got too dark outside and my dad would have to drive me back to Birmingham. DSC_0713

After scrambling to pack everything I’d brought home, clean my room, and finish the homework I’d abandoned, my parents and I would sit down to one of my mom’s famous Sunday evening spreads. She almost always made fried chicken just for me, and the mac and cheese had a special flavor that I can only describe as a Jamaican mother’s love.

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Steamed vegetables and sweet potato went from plate to stomach as we joked at the table. Funny stories turned into life lessons, and serious incidents were interrupted by bouts of uncontrollable laughter. DSC_0046Time always went by too quickly during these dinners. While my dad loaded the car, I would help my mom rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher. If I lived at home, the dishes would’ve been my responsibility, but Sunday nights were reserved for wine and catching up on tennis matches my mom had missed during the week. No matter the season, I would look out at the setting sun in the kitchen window and think, “I never want to leave.”DSC_0045Things are busy for me in college, so even with the closer proximity to home I can hardly find the time to escape for the weekend. I look forward to the moments when I can surprise my mom one Friday night with a visit, and we can spend quality mother-daughter time in Shondaland with wine and popcorn. And even though next Thursday will be the day we devote to a big family dinner, I can guarantee we’ll cook up a storm on Sunday morning. For now, popcorn and mocktails will do. And do you want to know the best part? I don’t even have to rush back to school!

Hang in there, everyone. Thanksgiving break is just a week away!

-Ash

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The Original Pancake House

Fall Break is coming to a close, but I’m already readjusting to my school schedule. I’m trying to get back to sleeping normal, reasonable hours, and I’m catching up and getting ahead on my schoolwork. I’ve had an amazing break filled with fun, great memories, and most importantly, AMAZING food! And I just have to share a new breakfast place with you: The Original Pancake House.

Some might say I talk about breakfast too much, and that may be true. But trust me, this place is one of the best. I won’t bore you with pictures of decor because I know what you really want to get to, the food!

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I try to start my breakfasts with fresh fruit so I don’t feel as bad for stuffing my face with less-healthy foods later on. This fruit was perfectly fresh and the cream had just the right amount of sweetness to not be overwhelming. I had a hot chocolate with the same cream (not pictured, unfortunately) and it was the most delicious warm beverage I’ve ever had. Sorry Starbucks!

It can be hard to choose your order if you’re going for pancakes, not because the menu is difficult, but because there are 16 different varieties of pancakes (not to mention the waffles and crepes) and you’ll want to try ALL of them. Luckily for me, there was one recipe that I just couldn’t say no to: Bacon Pancakes.

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I’ve seen recipes for Bacon Pancakes everywhere, but I’ve never been able to make them myself. It’s something about the flip, I guess, or the timing…thankfully, I’ll never have to crave Bacon Pancakes for too long because the ones at TOPH are fantastic! Perfectly soft, fluffy pancakes with thick, crisp bacon. Simple and delicious, they are truly a meal on their own, especially if you order six like I did…but it’s so worth it. Let’s have another look, shall we?

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I couldn’t handle any more sides on top of a half dozen pancakes, but my date went for a delicious ham and egg scramble…

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And some delicious potatoes!

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His strawberry and banana pancakes (not on the menu, but they’ll happily let you customize your order) were as delicious as they were pretty, and came with that wonderful cream from earlier as well as a light, sweet strawberry syrup. I’m not much of a syrup fan, as you know, but this one tasted more like warm jelly. The perfect addition to those pancakes!

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We loved the food and the overall experience. The price can add up if you order as much as we did, but it’s certainly not unreasonable. Here’s the website. There are locations all around the country and even South Korea and Japan; try one out and let me know what you think! And if you happen to try the Apple Pancake, let me know how it tastes; it looks incredible!

Leave me a comment if there are any other great places I should try!

-Ash

Brunch and Blue Skies

I was missing home last weekend, so I snuck back for a night. Mom was so happy to see me, even though I spent half of my time doing homework. We went out to dinner in matching shirts (she refused to let me take a picture but I will get her one day *evil laugh*) on Friday. I sat in her bed pretending to write a paper later that night while she watched some of our favorite shows: Scandal, HTGAWM, and Born Again Virgin. I’d never seen that last one before, but now I’m hooked. Also, the lead actress is pushing 50 and doesn’t look a day over 25. Melanin, ladies and gentlemen.

Sometime while I was sleeping, my dad came back from work, and we all had a giant brunch the next morning.

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Pictured above: croissants, a veggie frittata, salmon with peppers, a giant fruit salad, baked sweet potatoes, and plantains. I wish I could say I helped with the prep, buuuuut not this time. This was all mom.

I tried to talk her into mimosas, to no avail. Pineapple and orange juice work pretty well together too, so I’m not complaining.

After a few hours of writers block, I went back to school and responsibilities. Work, rehearsals with my a cappella group, a 14-page labor of love paper, and enough reading to satisfy me for the next few weeks (but I get to do it again next week yaaaaay!).

And to top it off, it was raining. Almost all day, every single day, since last week. I thought it would never end. But today as I rushed to the shuttle for my 8:30 class, I saw the cotton candy colors and a big bright thing in the sky. The timing couldn’t be better; even though I have a Spanish exam tomorrow afternoon, rehearsal again tonight, and more work due before I can truly relax, at least the worst is over. I beat my Hell Week. And if this is the worst, then I’ll gladly take it.

-Ash

The Importance of Personal Time in College (Odyssey)

It’s so easy to get swept up in all of the things you do while you’re in college. If you’re anything like me, you want to get involved on campus. You see yourself, in an ideal world, as the student with good grades, a great circle of friends, a handful of extracurricular activities (more or less), and maybe a cool part time job. When you’re not busy balancing all that you’re doing on campus, you may want to find time to go outside of your college campus and explore the city you’re in. Maybe you’ll want to start dating, or you may want to make the most of the single life and just have fun going out a lot. On top of all of that, you may still want to maintain relationships with your loved ones at home, or with your best friends who went to other schools, or a long-distance boyfriend or girlfriend.

It’s a lot, and it’s all fine. It is totally normal to want to make the best out of your time in college. In fact, that’s what you’re supposed to do. So by all means, make time for your friends, significant other, homework, clubs, music groups, parties, and everything else that you think is cool and matters to you. I caution you, however, to always keep the most important person in mind: you.

Weird, I know, but hear me out. Even if you fill up your schedule solely with things that make you happy, classes that interest you, clubs that you find fun, and amazing friends, it can all get exhausting after a while. The last thing you want is to hit the middle of the semester, already burned out with the end feeling so far away, and wondering why you’re not as happy anymore when all you do are things that you enjoy. Somewhere along the way, you have to find a way to make time for yourself. Whether that means an hour a day or just ten minutes, you have to find a way to reconnect with yourself and gauge your energy levels and your moods. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the park, listening to music, meditating, or even eating your favorite snack. Personally I recommend journaling, because that’s a way to truly figure out exactly how you feel and it’s kind of fun to read your old entries later on.

Whatever it is that you do, make sure it’s something you love and that you reserve just for yourself. College is a wonderful, exciting place, and if you budget your time for everything important to you,including yourself, then that’s when you’ll truly make the most of your experience.

Egg Harbor Cafe

A widely known fact about me is that I love food. I can be picky about what foods I’ll eat, and I was an extremely picky eater growing up, but for the most part I’m easy to please. And as I’ve gotten older and developed more specific tastes (or pretended to), I’ve come to love breakfast food even more. Brunch is now my second favorite meal behind late night dinners (there’s something gloriously naughty about them), and according to my loved ones, it’s really funny to see how much joy I find in a good stack of pancakes with bacon.

So naturally, when it was my turn to plan a date last Saturday that started around noon-ish, I could only think of one place to go.

Credits to Scribbles and Tostitos for this first picture!

Credits to Scribbles and Tostitos for this first picture!

A wonderful friend of mine first told me about Egg Harbor Cafe in my sophomore year. I knew I had to experience it for myself after hearing her gush about the “melt-in-your-mouth” pancakes for a good 20 minutes or so. A few weeks after her recommendation, I took my mom. Months later, I brought my dad. Now the whole family is in love with the food at EHC, so I thought it was only right to bring my guy there this summer. He probably loves breakfast/brunch foods even more than I do, so I knew he’d appreciate it. And boy, was I right. His face lit up when I surprised him with breakfast this weekend at EHC, and we went straight for our favorites.

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I’m trying to get him to like tea. He won’t admit it, but it’s working 😉

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I wanted something a little spicy, so I got an egg scrambler with chorizo sausage, spinach, and tomatoes. A perfect blend of flavors, just enough spice, and great textures. This might be my new regular order.

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My date went for the Butcher Shop omelette: bacon, ham, and sausage topped with melted Jack cheese. A lot of cheese. Enough cheese to make us look at each other like “Wut?” He swears it was still delicious, though.

I feel bad for those poor English muffins, because they really couldn’t compare to these babies…

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Fun fact: angels sang when these were brought to our table. True story.

And it’s truly not their fault. I had a nibble of the muffins to be fair before I dove in on my stack of pancakes. As always, they were fluffy, airy, and they literally melted in my mouth. I could eat them every day for the rest of my life and be happy. AND they’re whole wheat, so I wouldn’t feel bad about doing it.

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Is it weird that I don’t eat syrup?

We left full and happy, like we always do!

I highly recommend Egg Harbor Cafe if you’re trying to get out of the Emory bubble (or for my out-of-towners, if you’re in the Atlanta area). It’s fairly cheap and delicious, and one of my favorite places in the city.

Where should I eat next? I’m always on the hunt for awesome food!

Xoxo,

Ash

What People Are Forgetting About Donald Trump (Odyssey)

The 2016 election will be the first time I’m allowed to vote, so naturally I want to make the best decision when I go to the polls. Therefore, I’ve been keeping up with the presidential candidates. I would be so far out of touch if I didn’t notice Donald Trump…*sigh*.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting a few chuckles out of his campaign. Not from his quotations and ideas specifically, but because I follow some hilarious people on Twitter and their commentary helps me smile, as opposed to getting bogged down and angry by his racist/sexist/elitist comments. And while it’s fine to laugh about the situation (because let’s be honest, the Republican Presidential debates seemed more like a circus with Donald Trump as the flamboyant, attention-craving ringleader), it’s important to keep one thing in mind.

Donald Trump might win.

This is not, I repeat, NOT, my way of supporting Donald Trump as President or even as the Republican candidate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’d move to Canada if he won, but I’d be rather upset. At the same time, I’m not counting him out of the race. As much as I would LOVE to be comforted in the belief that he won’t get the nomination and that we’ll all be able to look back on this situation and laugh, I can’t. Because he might win. And when I think about his policies and ideas for this country, I cringe. I shudder. A refrain of “Dear God, no.” plays through my head.

If Donald Trump wins, he can change policies. He can implement new ones. Thousands, perhaps millions of people could lose benefits and rights that others have fought for over the past few decades. He could appoint officials that will stay around for the next few decades (I’m looking at you, Supreme Court judges), which would affect laws and decisions for who knows how long. He might build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He may declare a war just to mess with other countries. And he could do so many other things that will affect us for years.

As much as we all like to laugh at Donald Trump and his ridiculous antics, I’m terrified at the thought of people being impressed by his business success and charisma and seriously considering him as a candidate. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great businessman, and the kind of power he holds might be enough to sway a significant amount of people. Plus, I’m sure there are plenty of people who agree with some of his ideas but don’t want to say it out loud for fear of not being politically correct. I won’t know how many people are of that mindset until we get to the Republican primary, but I’m sure the number will surprise me.

As we approach Election Day, I urge you not to sleep on Donald Trump. But more importantly, get up to speed on all of candidates, regardless of their party. Be a part of history, and make your voice count.

Go To Office Hours (Odyssey)

There seems to be this attitude among students of every age when it comes to office hours. Some people think they’re a waste of time, others are scared, and a whole lot of people think that they won’t gain anything by going to office hours. Personally, I think it’s time to get over the notion that professors are these scary, emotionless, uncaring people and that their office hours are a bad thing. In fact, they could be the very key to your academic and personal success.

I’ve been there. I’ve been that student who wants so badly to do well, but can’t muster up the courage to step into my professor’s office and at least introduce myself. Going to an elite institution makes it easy to feel intimidated and scared. And even though upperclassmen and professors kept saying, “Come to office hours,” it didn’t sink in for me until at least halfway through my first semester. By then, the midterms were over, and I rushed in, panting, and saying some long speech that could be summarized, “Please help me save my GPA.” Not the best situation to be in, trust me. And it’s a really hard habit to break.

My suggestion? Go early. Like, this week if you can. Walk in and introduce yourself and say you just want to get to know your professor. Talk about your background and what made you interested in the class. Tell them why you’re excited now that you’re in the class. Talk about any fears you might have as far as test prep or time management. Ask them if they know of any good resources that successful students have used in the past for their classes. Ask about their research. Get to know them as a person, not just as a professor.

And don’t go just once. Even if you are an active participant in class (which is easier for some classes than others), go to office hours throughout the semester just to ask little questions. If there’s a paper to write, stop by just to share your potential thesis and get their feedback before you even write it. Check in with them if you notice something’s up with your grades.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t be afraid to reach out and make yourself known to your professors. They are here to support you in any way they can, and they do want to see you succeed. Never forget that!

Surviving Songfest (Odyssey)

It’s almost that time again! In just a few days, Emory will be swarmed with bright-eyed, bushy-tailed…squirrels, just like every year. But there will also be a brand new class of freshmen! Depending on if you see them before or after Songfest practices and Creating Emory sessions, they may or may not be so bright-eyed, but they’ll probably be so excited to start their time at Emory and have an awesome year.

Speaking of SongFest… let me give you a little preview of what will actually happen.

If this tradition doesn’t scream “EMORY,” I don’t know what will. It is fun, intense and one of the best ways to bond with your hallmates.

The true test isn’t SongFest, though (well actually, it is because it’s judged, but just bear with me for a second). SongFest is so much more than just the big performance. It’s going through hours upon hours of running through songs that your RAs and SAs put half their summers into.

It is realizing that maybe half of your hall (or less) has a decent sense of rhythm. And the rest, well…they make it work.

And it is powering through all of it with a smile when you just want to go back to your room and crash.

You’ll get annoyed by the two or three people other than your ResLife staff who are SO EXCITED to rep your hall.

You’ll get frustrated because, on top of new classes, homework, stalking OPUS, worrying about auditions for that music or dance group you desperately want to join, or wanting to find a time to talk to that cutie in Turman (you know, a time when you’re NOT sweaty and out of breath from rehearsing on the LSM lawn for three hours), you have to go sing and dance while you’re craving dinner and sleep.

And if you’re in one of the unlucky dorms that has to practice outside in the middle of Hotlanta in August…

But don’t despair!! Once you get to the WoodPEC (the gym, in case you didn’t know…Emory is full of acronyms) and you hear the screaming and cheering of other dorms, and you see Lord Dooley hitting the nae-nae and giving you life, you’ll realize that THIS is your moment, and you’ll want nothing more than to run out on the court, scream at the top of your lungs and prove to your whole class that YOU RUN THIS.

Besides, your professors will understand when your voices are gone the next day.

So smile, young grasshoppers. It’ll all be worth it. And you’ll have plenty of upperclassmen cheering you on, myself included.

And if you’re in Longstreet-Means, which just so happens to be the reigning Songfest champion and my glorious first-year home…make me proud.

Confessions of a Part-Time Humanitarian (Odyssey)

I’ve made the drive in and out of downtown Atlanta hundreds of times. Every time, without fail, there’s always at least one person on the side of the highway holding a sign that says something along the lines of “Anything helps!” or “God bless you!” And even though I find it ironic that, between me and the person on the highway, I’m not the one that needs the blessing the most, and even though my heartstrings are tugged every time, something has always stopped me from putting my window down and giving even a little bit.

I know I’m not the only one who’s gone through this. A lot of people, especially my age, feel a desire to help but need the extra little push to do it. Others have this preconceived idea in their minds that everyone who begs on the street is lazy, jobless, and content with being where they are. (By the way, if you’re curious about some of these common ideas, here’s a great article that explains and debunks some of them). Personally, I got stuck in the “I’m just a college student, what could I possibly do?” mindset. My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with pictures of my friends on volunteer trips in faraway places that cost thousands of dollars that I don’t have. My own schedule is hectic, I don’t like giving money online unless I know it’s a place I can trust, and sometimes it’s hard to carve out a set time each week to volunteer in a particular place (although if you can, PLEASE do).

If you’re in the same boat as me, the key to helping someone out is to think closer to home and starting small. Don’t worry about going to some exotic place to donate your time when there are dozens, if not hundreds, of places near you that could use your skills. You don’t have to raise hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a meaningful impact. Two dollars in a donation jar might not seem like much, but giving that much on a regular basis can really add up. If your school has an organization that arranges community service opportunities (shoutout to Volunteer Emory!), then by all means, give them a try.

And if you can’t give a fortune or a lot of your time, something as simple as listening to someone’s story can make a huge difference and brighten their day. You might even be surprised at what you take away from these conversations. I’ve met business owners and college professors who have taught me some great life lessons and have given me the support to pursue my dreams in times when I really needed it.

As we go into the new school year, I hope you’ll find ways to give back to your own community, big or small. And I hope you’ll open yourself up to new opportunities to help others, and become a better person in the process.

Getaway

I just got back from vacation. My family and I, along with my best friend, got away to Destin for some much needed R&R. For those who don’t already know, I love going to the beach. Whether it’s in Maine or Montego Bay, I am so rejuvenated when I feel salty breezes running through my hair and waves crashing against my legs. It happens every time without fail. I dig my toes into the sun-warmed sand and close my eyes, and I forget about everything. I wade out until the water comes up to my neck and wraps around me like a warm blanket. image Leaning my head back, I let the water cover my ears so that I can only hear stillness. Tiny fish float between my fingers and I can just barely hear hermit crabs scuttling near my feet. The sun warms my face and I close my eyes, grateful for the peace and quiet…. …then my dad splashes me in the face, and I shoot up, coughing and sputtering. The moment may be gone, but my batteries are fully recharged and I’m incredibly happy. Plus, dad promises to buy me ice cream later. And how can I get mad with a frozen dairy treat in my future?

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I think going to the beach and being in the ocean is good for every aspect of my health. I always feel at peace afterwards and ready to take on whatever life throws at me next. My mind is clear, and I am so happy. Also, the extra color I get in my skin is always a plus. So thank you, Destin, for making me better. I’ll be back soon 🙂

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