Category Archives: good days

Free Reading Friday: Caraval

CaravalIf I could pick one book I want made into a movie this very second, it would be this book. I simply LOVED it!

Stephanie Garber does a spectacular job of bringing the darkly magical world of Caraval to life. Part mystery, part magic, part love story, this book has something for everyone. Despite the fact that the book is set in a different world during what appears to be the equivalent of our 1800’s, Scarlet is a heroine any modern girl can relate to. The otherwordly setting is just real enough to be believable to anyone who like historical fiction, but just magical enough to appeal to those who love fantasy. I think this is the perfect book to introduce reluctant readers to the fantasy genre because of all the other elements from the genres of mystery, romance and historical fiction that it also incorporates.

Scarlet and her sister Donatella need to escape their abusive father who has spent the last 10 years making their lives hellish. They are both obsessed with Caraval, the magical game that takes place once a year, by magical invite only. Although Scarlet writes to the mysterious Legend, the master of Caraval for years, it is not until the eve of her engagement to a man she’s never met that she finally gets a response. And not just any response…three tickets to Caraval.

As much as Scarlet wants to go, she cannot let childish curiosity for the game outweigh her desire to save herself, and more importantly her daring, but younger sister from their father’s grasp. She believes her impending nuptials are the only escape. However, when Scarlet is kidnapped and taken to Legend’s private island where Caraval is being held, she toys with the idea of staying. It is not until her beloved sister is also kidnapped and held as the game’s prize that she consents to truly play.

From there the book is a glorious mix of mystery, magic and romance that readers are sure to fall in love with. Garber does a wonderful job of setting up the sequel in a way that has left me clamoring for more. This is my pick for Goodreads YA fantasy book of 2017.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, books, cool links, entertainment, good days, products, ramblings, reading, the arts, what makes me me

Throwback Thursday: Black Friday shopping

When I was 14, my aunt took me Black Friday shopping for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited. Back then, the deals were impressive and most of the stores opened early, but early was 7 am.

I stayed the night at my aunt’s house and we got up at 6 am so that we could be in front of our first store, which was Zayres. My cousin, who was 7 really wanted a Teddy Ruxpin doll for Christmas and Zayres had the best deal on it. Our aunt was bound and determined to get one. We stood outside the store, in the pitch black with about a hundred other people just waiting for the doors to open. Since I was smaller and quicker than a lot of the adults, my aunt told me where the toy aisles were and told me to sprint for one and that she’d catch up.

As we waited for the store to officially, open, I slowly started making my way closer to the front doors.

By the time they opened, I was one of the first people in the store and as soon as I was actually in the doors, I made a mad dash to the right and headed straight for the toys. I was one of the first people to lay my hands on a Teddy Ruxpin, and after I had it, I quickly moved out of the way, using a side aisle to avoid the chaos. My aunt, who took several minutes to find me, had a cart with her, so I deposited good ol’ Teddy and we went on our merry way, her pointing out items she wanted and me swooping in to get them.

When we finished at Zayres, we headed over to the mall. Our first stop there was L.S. Ayres, where they were giving out boxes of Cracker Jack with special shopping surprises. My aunt got a 25% discount on her entire order in her box. I got a $25 gift card in mine. Seeing as how I had limited funds, that gift card allowed me to buy two different Christmas presents: a stuffed sheep dog for one of my aunt’s (it looked just like the gianormous sheepdog named Muffin she’d had when I was a child) and toy for my cousin.

We spent a few hours at the mall scooping up deals at the big department stores, then we headed over to Burger King to have breakfast. It was about 10:30 am and we were done for the day.

Over the next decade and a half, my aunt and I made Black Friday shopping a tradition. We braved earlier start times, larger crowds, crazier deals and bitter, bitter cold, all for a few hours of togetherness and some pretty sweet deals. I never really bought that much as for the majority of our shopping trips I was either in high school, college, or just starting out as a teacher with a very, very small salary. But it wasn’t really about the shopping. It was about spending time with my aunt and sometimes my cousin or my step-mom. But mostly just me and my aunt.

The year I moved to Florida was the first time in 15 years I did not go Black Friday shopping with my aunt. Since the move only lasted for 6 months, I was right back at it the next year, but it felt like something had changed. The stores were opening on Thanksgiving day. The crowds were more hostile and the stuff on sale was either way too grandiose for me, or absolutely nothing I needed.

The following year I was pregnant with my son and there was no way I was getting up that early, getting jostled by crowds or standing in the cold while 6 months pregnant. I haven’t set foot in a store on Black Friday in 11 years.

I haven’t stopped Black Friday shopping though. I’ve just joined the thousands of people all across this country who have decided that o’dark thirty in 30 degree weather amidst angry hordes is not worth it. Instead, I jumped on my computer at 7 am and started ordering away. I still had a good portion of my shopping done by 10 am, but I got to do it in the comfort of my den while sipping my tea in my jammies.

Since it was never really about the shopping for me, I don’t really miss it. But I do get nostalgic for the talks my aunt and I used to have while standing in check out lines that stretched to the back of the store, during quick car rides between stores and over sausage croissants at Burger King.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, cool links, cool places, entertainment, good days, life as a teacher, my childhood, my crazy family, nostalgia, problems with society, products, ramblings, what makes me me

Chocolate Monday: Dream Dinners Scones

Dream dinners sconesDream Dinners has become an obsession of mine. For those who have not heard of this amazing place, it’s one of those meal prep places. You place an order for at least 12 meals and then schedule a time to come in and prepare all of the meals at once. They have everything chopped and all the measuring tools conveniently placed at each recipe station. Over the course of an hour or two, you follow the very simple step by step instructions, measuring everything into baggies, placing all those baggies into a bigger baggie, pop some cooking directions in and voila…easy to cook weekday meals that taste like you spent hours on them.

Although I was a bit skeptical about how much time going to Dream Dinners would actually save me and about the quality of the recipes, I am a complete convert. My least favorite part of cooking is all the slicing and dicing needed for meal prep, so the fact that this is all done for me is brilliant. I have no food waste and can spend extra time with my family each evening. It’s a complete win and worth the $5 or so a portion.

In addition to being a great time saver, a food waste reducer and a social outlet for me (I go each month with one of my best friends), Dream Dinners also has levels I can unlock, which makes it into a bit of a game for me. The more meals I prepare and review, the more points I earn. The more points I earn, the more freebies and fun stuff I get. As part of their November promo, not only did the meals I ordered earn me double prep points, but I also got a free package of their scones. Of course, in order to get the scones I had to purchase one extra meal,  but I as soon as I saw there were white chocolate raspberry scones, I was sold.

When I went to do my November meal prep, the scones were already in the package waiting for me. There were a dozen triangular pastries just waiting to be baked. I didn’t even have to thaw these bad boys, just preheat the oven, break them apart, put them on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

The smelled heavenly.

I am a HUGE fan of scones. I have not only made my own super tasty strawberry scones from scratch, but also tried several different mixes for drop scones that I have really liked. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the Dream Dinner scones were better than the mix scones and almost as good as my homemade ones. According to my husband, they were even better.

GRRRRR.

Seriously though, these little pastries are fantastic. The raspberry is the perfect blend of sweet and tart and quite clearly a mix of both raspberry jam and real raspberries. There are white chocolate chips throughout to help balance out the tart and add the perfect amount of creaminess. I love how mixing white chocolate with raspberries gives the perfect berries and cream taste. The scones are light and perfectly blended so they do not taste too doughy or too floury, which can be a real problem with scones. Texture wise they remind me of scones I’ve had at tea time in several small English tea shops on visits to London.

Everyone in my family adored them. I know that I will have to buy more of these and I may even branch out and try some of the other flavors. Although this one is so tasty it’ll be hard to convince myself to get a different one.

Overall:

Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 10/10–but only b/c they were free. I actually don’t know how much they are (and can’t find a price on the website), so the jury is still out on this one.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, food, good days, products, ramblings, what makes me me

Free Reading Friday: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon and the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by  Becky Albertalli is yet another book on the this year’s Rosie list, so I had to read it. Before I picked it up, I had no idea what the book was about. The title was intriguing though and even though I’ve read comments that the cover is keep no of boring, I like the faceless body and the title as a quote bubble.

It only took me about 20 pages to get into Simon’s story. My favorite chapters were definitely the emails between Simon and Blue. I love how cute and genuine their emails feel. I love how vulnerable they are with each other. And even though there was a part of me who wanted Blue to cave and reveal who he was to Simon much sooner, I understand why Albertalli had him wait. Blue’s reluctance to truly reveal himself to Simon (and the world) reflects just how scary first relationships can be. They are terrifying when you are straight and conform to all the expectations of society, so I can only imagine how immensely more terrifying they are for LGBT+ teens. Especially in Georgia…or any area that is intensely conservative.

Since my best friend lives in Athens, Georgia, it was doubly fun for me to read this book which is set outside of Atlanta. It was especially great to see Albertalli mention the Junkman’s Daughter since I’ve been to the original store in Athens. I love when I find places I’ve visited in real life in books as well.

Even though I was not thrilled with the idea of going back to school after the break, I was excited about sharing this book with my students. My school has a growing LGBT+ population and I knew I would have a bunch of students who really wanted to read it. I think it is super important for them to find books which portray romantic relationships they can relate to and see themselves reflected in. Sure enough, the second I book talked it, multiple hands reached out for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, books, cool links, cool places, education, entertainment, good days, life as a teacher, products, ramblings, reading, teaching, the arts, travel, what makes me me

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving

Seasons 52 dessertLast week my family celebrated Thanksgiving in a way that was a bit of a shock for everyone. Well, everyone except me: we went out to a restaurant to have Thanksgiving dinner.

This was not my idea. I have been dutifully cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family as well as 8 of my in-laws for the past decade–ever since my son was born. Every year we have pulled out my grandmother’s ancient, but still very useful, portable electric roaster to cook our turkey in. Every year I have pulled out my recipe book, filled with my husband’s family Thanksgiving recipes for stuffing, sweet potato casserole, orange cranberry sauce and hollandaise sauce. Every year I have stood with my mother-in-law as she gives me tips and suggests about how to cook her Thanksgiving feast (while she helps, of course).

And every year when I talk about making the stuffing, my mother-in-law and I have the exact same conversation about it.

Me: I’m going to start on the stuffing
MiL: Oh honey, you’re not going to stuff it in the bird are you?
Me: No MiL, I’m not. It’s your recipe and I’m going to cook it exactly like you do. I just call it stuffing because my family has always called it stuffing.
MiL: Oh good! Here’s the cornbread you’ll need to make that dressing (heavy emphasis on the word dressing). 

And every year, after having this conversation, I bite back my tongue and keep myself from screaming: Good GOD woman! You know what I mean! I will never call it dressing so let’s just move on with life!

But as usual, I digress.

Back in August, my father-in-law suggested that instead of having me spend hours in the kitchen and have everyone try to squeeze into our not very big living room and dining room, that we go out to eat, their treat. Since it was going to be the same group of about 11 of us, I immediately said YES! My husband was far more reluctant. He emailed his dad back about his disappointment over breaking tradition and how important it was to me and the kids. He CC’d me on the email of course, so I could immediately write him back and say, “As the person who is going to spend hours and hours in the kitchen cooking with your mother, I fully endorse this restaurant idea…now you email your dad back and fix this mess you’ve made!”

After an actual discussion between us, my husband completely saw it from my POV and agreed that a meal out might be fun. For him it was a big step out of his comfort zone, which is not something he’s used to. For me, not only did it mean NOT having to cook for a cast of way too many and still having leftovers for days and days, but it was actually a throw back to my childhood.

Even though my mom is a perfectly good cook, she has never actually enjoyed cooking. Whenever we could eat out, we did. And since I grew up in California, thousands of miles away from any family members who did not live in my actual house, my mom thought it was a waste of her time to make a huge Thanksgiving meal for four people. Especially when two of those people were kids who didn’t eat much. Plus, we lived in apartments with fairly small kitchens most of my life, so it’s not like it was easy to have tons of dishes going at the same time.

So every year my mom and step-dad found someplace that was not our own dining room for us to eat. I have very vivid memories of Thanksgiving dinners eaten at Sizzler, which up until I wrote this post, I thought was defunct since all the ones in Indiana had shut down. Turns out they still exist! Just on the West coast. This made me blissfully happy as my dream to once again eat their Malibu chicken, which was the stuff my childhood dreams were made of, is still a reality! Thank the Lord for mediocre steak houses and our love of them!

I also remember having Thanksgiving at church sponsored events where each family would contribute something to the meal. My mom would pick stuffing, but several boxes of Stove Top stuffing, make it quickly before we left the house and then we’d get to sit down to a full Thanksgiving meal at a huge table in some sort of cafetorium and eat with people we sort of knew from church. Those meals were a bit dicier as aside from my favorite, the stuffing, you never knew what strange ingredients people would add to their version of mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce.

One year we went to some super fancy place near Disneyland that was rather darkly lit and had some sort of ocean theme to it. I swear it was called something like Pirate’s Cove or something oddly similar…probably without the word pirate since I do remember it being nice. I was like 8 though, so really anything that wasn’t Bob’s Big Boy or Del Taco was pretty nice to me.

I do have to say that despite years of eating Thanksgiving dinner in restaurants, today’s trip to Season’s 52 for our family celebration was probably the nicest, tastiest one I’ve had at a restaurant. I do have to admit that the one we had aboard the family cruise we took two years ago comes a close second, but that was more for the whole being on a cruise bit than anything else.

To me where we ate wasn’t nearly as important as family being together. Although the fact that I spent no time in the kitchen and currently only have one bowl in my sink (from last night’s popcorn and movie watching), is the real holiday blessing!

Leave a comment

Filed under cool links, cool places, entertainment, food, good days, married life, my childhood, my crazy family, nostalgia, products, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

Chocolate Monday: DeBrand’s Classic Collection

Debrand classicI know it seems like I cannot sing the praises of DeBrand’s Chocolate enough in my blog. The truth is that I cannot. I have fallen madly, hopelessly in love with it. It is some of the best chocolate I have ever had and I am beyond thrilled that they have opened up a store less than 15 minutes from my house. My wallet and my waistline may not be so happy down the line, but for now, I am giddy with excitement.

Although I’ve only been to the store once so far, while I was there not only did I pick up some of their amazing pecan caramels and a chocolate shortbread cookie, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, but I also put together my very own box of their classic collection. Although I have favorites among both their truffle and connoisseur collections, my heart truly belongs to their classic collection. The best part about having a store so near me is that I can go in and hand pick all of my favorites to ensure that there is never a chocolate I like but do not love–I’m looking at you mocha cream.

Looking at my box of goodies, it’s pretty clear that most of my picks are milk chocolate. That should not surprise anyone who reads my blog with any sort of regularity. I’m a milk chocolate girl. Still, I do have some absolute favorites in their dark chocolate collection as well, so I had to throw those in.

The first piece in my collection of 8 is their gourmet PB&J. This is a bit of an odd choice for me. As much as I love any combination of peanut butter and chocolate, the idea of throwing the jelly into the mix generally grosses me out. When I was younger, I had a few oddities I thought were quirky enough that they earned me bragging rights. One was that I did not eat pizza. The second was that I never threw up after drinking too much. The third, was that I’d never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The pizza thing died as soon as I went off to college. It’s not that I’d never had pizza or anything. My father just loved it so much that we ate it constantly and only sausage and green pepper pizza…two toppings I despise to this day. I got sick of pizza, so whenever they’d order pizza, I’d just eat breadsticks. However, my freshmen year of college several of my friends would buy cheap pizza from this place that delivered until 3 am and we’d sit in the study lounge, eat pizza and talk until the sun started to rise again.

I caved to the puking after drinking only once in my entire life and that was a bad, bad, bad night that I have almost no memory of. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that when I mentioned getting a tad sick (and it was just a tiny, tiny bit), all of my friends realized I’d crossed some sort of line. It’s never happened since, which I still consider a sort of badge of honor.

As for the PB& J thing, I don’t really have a good reason for it. My mom never made them for me and I never asked for one. I’d never tasted one until I was 19. I had missed dinner in the dining hall due to a late class one night and the guy I was dating made me a sandwich. Since we were in the dorms, there wasn’t much on hand. He thought it was nuts I’d never had a PB&J so he made me one. I ate half of it out of politeness, but did not see the appeal and have never eaten one since.

However, somehow when it you take away the bread and cover it in chocolate instead, I find it appealing. It doesn’t hurt that this PB&J uses a very tart raspberry jam. Raspberry and chocolate is my weakness and this piece is an amazing blend of salty and sweet.

My second chocolatey delight was the caramel coconut. Despite being a dark chocolate piece, I find this one exciting because it is three tastes I love all rolled in to one. The caramel is speckled with little chunks of coconut which give it a perfect texture. The caramel is the ooey-gooey liquidy kind I love. While I do think it would be even better in milk chocolate–I’ve always been an Almond Joy gal, it’s still a solid offering. I like the little bits of coconut that stick in my teeth at the end, leaving me a bit longer to enjoy the piece.

debrand vanillaNext up was a version of one of my absolute favorites in life: vanilla buttercream. This one is pretty good. Not quite as thick as I usually like my vanilla creams, but still full of delicious vanilla flavor. I liked it, but it’s not my favorite in the collection.

Since I love caramels so much it’s really no shock that half of my custom box was full of caramels. Nor is it a surprise that I decided to try the Debrand caramel. Unlike their other caramels, this is not a liquid version. This is a straight up, super chewy block of caramel covered in creamy milk chocolate. The caramel is soft, creamy and perfectly sticky. I loved letting it slowly melt in my mouth. It’s not as good as their pecan caramels, but still really darn good. I love that it is more caramel than chocolate.

debrand rose caramelI immediately tried another caramel because really, is there such a thing as too much caramel? No, no there isn’t. This one is the rose carmella. I love the rose design on the top of this piece. The description says it is a liquid caramel with a hint of rose water. I’ll admit that I’ve never really had much rose water (or any flower flavored water), so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick up those hints. After all, I’m terrible when it comes to picking up fruity hints in beers and wines–I’m better with wines since they are already a bit fruity, but when a beer says it has hints of apricot or strawberry, all I ever taste is, well, bitter beeriness. Blech. This piece is definitely a liquidy caramel, which makes it an A+ in my book. Since it is also covered in sweet milk chocolate, I think the flowery hints do get a bit lost in the big picture. However, when I tried a taste of just the caramel, there was definitely a slightly perfumy taste to it, which I found interesting and kind of cool.

Peanut butter and chocolate is another personal favorite combination of mine. The only reason not to simply adore peanut butter and chocolate is if you are allergic to it. Otherwise, I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t love the marriage of two of the most delicious flavors on earth. This piece is a salted peanut butter, which I think sounds even more intriguing. The peanut butter inside is super creamy and definitely just a little bit salty, which is fabulous. It’s so interesting because from a texture standpoint it reminds me of creamy peanut butter, but the extra saltiness to it makes me think of the far superior crunchy peanut butter. It also makes this piece a bit more savory than sweet, which I really like.

My second to last piece was a dark piece, but since it was a strawberry rhubarb caramel, I saved it for last. I was about 10 years old when I had my first piece of strawberry rhubarb pie. I was at the county fair with my aunt and we stopped in the Grange building to visit another aunt and uncle who happened to be volunteering. The Grange building was basically a big restaurant, so we decided to eat with my aunt and uncle. I couldn’t tell you what my main course was, but I grabbed a piece of strawberry pie and was super excited. It didn’t taste like the strawberry pie I was used to and when I mentioned it to my aunt, she told me about the addition of rhubarb. Even though I like the straight sweet of strawberry, the tart that goes with rhubarb became a new love for me. This caramel piece has that same, hit you in the back of the mouth, puckering effect of that first piece of fair pie. Once the initial wallop of the tart rhubarb subsides, there is a lovely undertone of sweet, sun-ripened strawberries. The caramel really just lends it a slight creamy texture. Honestly it is more rhubarb than anything else and that is 100% ok with me.

debrand raspberryMy final piece is my “best for last” piece: a milk covered raspberry. This piece is also available in dark, and in the last classic assortment I got from DeBrand, I got the dark chocolate version, which I really liked. So I was super excited to try their milk version. Even though tart raspberry is the way I enjoy dark chocolate best, I will always be a milk chocolate girl, so I had to try it. Oh my goodness! This is sheer, unadulterated goodness. It’s a raspberry cream, so while it has a bit of the velvetiness of a standard cream filling, it is also drenched in totally tart liquidy raspberry filling. It is a raspberry cordial filling to make Anne of Green Gables proud. I cannot heap enough praise on this piece and will go back again and again and again for it. I could easily buy a box with nothing other than this piece in it and be thrilled. Of course I would miss my other favorites too much, so I guess I’ll just have to keep saving this chocolate for last!

Overall:

Value: 10/10 (at $18 a box, each piece is $2)
Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10

 

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, food, good days, products, ramblings, what makes me me

Throwback Thursday: Pour over butter popcorn

My first job (aside from babysitting) was at a movie theater. The summer after I turned 16, I was stuck in a tedious babysitting gig that paid $15 a day for two kids. Considering those days were about 9 hours, I was making $1.66 an hour. Sure, there were no taxes coming out of my check, I could watch whatever I wanted on TV and since one of the kids was in summer school for the first 4 hours of the day, there wasn’t a lot of “work.” But when the oldest boy decided to shut himself in his room and choke himself because I told him his mom said he was not allowed to play video games, I realized that I was working way above my pay grade.

So, I told the mom I was done and papered every business in town with job applications. The first, and oddly only, business to call was General Cinema. Thankfully, it was the job I most wanted to get. I interviewed with the manager and was hired on the spot. It seemed like a dream come true! Not only would I be paid nearly 4 times my previous salary, but I got unlimited free movies for me and two friends. Wanna know what makes you decently popular in high school? Free movies.

Despite having to wear a polyester uniform that made my butt look horrendous and smelling like rancid oil at the end of every shift, I LOVED my job. My co-workers, none of whom went to my school, were fantastic. Since my theater only had 6 screens, there was lots of down time in between movies, so we goofed off almost more than we worked. Plus, there was one unwritten benefit of my new job: all the popcorn I could eat.

I say unwritten because we weren’t supposed to eat any of that popcorn. We got free movies, but no discount at the concession stand. If we wanted a popcorn, we were supposed to buy it. However, like every other teenage employee in any sort of food industry, we found ways around the rule. Our theater gave out courtesy cups for people who wanted water (or to split up larger bags/buckets of popcorn or, as ushers quickly found out, to spit tobacco in and leave in the theater). When the managers were in the office, we’d just fill up courtesy cups, douse them with butter and snack, snack snack.

Plus any time the popcorn was being popped upstairs (this happened several times a week, but not every day), we could go in and fill up ticket bags full of as much as we wanted. I cannot count the meals I made of movie theater popcorn.

Ever since those wonderful days at the County Seat Cinema, I have adored all things movie popcorn. However, since I have two young kids, we don’t get out to the theater that often. My cravings for popcorn have not abated though. Instead, I’ve found my favorite substitute: Orville Redenbacher’s Pour Over Butter Movie Popcorn.

Good ol’ Orville first started making popcorn in my hometown, which every year has a Popcorn Festival in his honor. For the entirety of my teenage years, both Orville and his grandson Gary officiated at the yearly parade, so I may be a little biased in my love for his particular brand of popcorn.

While I definitely prefer all varieties of his microwave popcorn to any others I’ve tried, the pour over butter variety comes so close to that strange, not quite butter concoction we had at the movie theater, that it immediately sends me back in time. I even have fine popcorn salt just in case I need to make it even better…I mean worse…no, definitely better.

Tonight as I ran to the store to pick up a few essentials we needed at home, I saw the Redbox container and Baby Driver, which I’ve been wanting to see. So I grabbed it and made sure to pick up not one, but two boxes of my pour over buttery favorite. It won’t be quite the same as a true theater experience, but with our projector TV in the basement, my fake butter popcorn and surround sound, it’ll be pretty darn close!

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, cool links, cool places, entertainment, food, good days, movie references, my childhood, nostalgia, products, ramblings, the arts, what makes me me