I love to cook and bake, and I'm really thankful that I live in an apartment with a nice kitchen where I can experiment with new recipes.  Pinterest has revolutionized the way I find these recipes, and as a busy college student, it's so nice to find quick and easy recipes that I can whip up in a short amount of time.  Yesterday, I found a recipe for a variation on Paula Deen's banana pudding.  The pin sent me to a blog named Pearls, Handcuffs, & Happy Hour.  I just had to go to Kroger to pick up the ingredients as soon as I got out of class today.  It was relatively inexpensive to make, because I bought mostly Kroger brand items, but of course, you can choose whichever brand you like best.  I also buy any low fat or fat free versions available.  My roommates and I have already indulged in the banana pudding, and we all love it.  I usually think of banana pudding as a summery dessert that you usually see at barbecues and pool parties, so I'm definitely going to keep this recipe in mind for the summer.

Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding

4 bananas, sliced

3 cups milk

1 box Nilla wafers

2 (3.5 oz.) boxes instant French vanilla pudding

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk 

1 (12 oz.) container Cool Whip

Line the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan with Nilla wafers.

Slice the bananas and layer evenly on top of the Nilla wafers.

Combine the milk and pudding mix.

In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth.  Gradually fold in Cool Whip.

Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mix mixture and stir well until blended.

Pour the mix evenly over the bananas.

Layer Nilla wafers on the top.

Mine doesn't look perfect, because I had some broken wafers left over and decided to still add them.  Hey, you can't complain about some extra Nilla wafers!  Plus, I never try to waste anything. :)

Such an easy comfort food dessert to make!  If you try it out, let me know what you think!  Happy puddin' makin'! :)

1. For Yourself
I did not join a sorority until my sophomore year and cannot believe the difference it has made in the woman that I am.  It was easy for me to feel like just a number at my huge university, and I felt really lost that first year.  I grew up being busy 24/7, and I found a lot of purpose and self-worth through all of those activities.  It was a hard adjustment for me to have so much downtime when I came to college, and I went through a pretty tough time with feeling lonely.  That all changed from the day I received my bid to Phi Mu.  It was my top choice, and to know that those women wanted me to be their sister just as much as I wanted to be their sister was such a welcoming feeling.  For me, being in a sorority has only made me want to better myself.  I realize that I'm representing not only my sisters at my school, but Phi Mus all over the country.  I want our chapter to maintain its good reputation, and nothing keeps you accountable like 170 girls who are always concerned with what's in your best interest.  Through being involved in my sorority, I have learned so much about myself and the traits I possess.  I've become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses.  This year, I'm serving on executive committee as philanthropy chairman, and even though it's only been about a month, I know it's one of the best decisions I could choose to make during my Phi Mu experience.  I've found such joy through planning events in order to raise money for East Tennessee Children's Hospital and organizing hospital parties where sisters visit the kids in the hematology and oncology ward.  Being a leader is such a rewarding experience, and I've gotten the chance to lead alongside girls I hadn't had the chance to get to know before.  I recently had somebody say to me, "Being in a sorority doesn't matter once you graduate."  That could not be further from the truth.  I hope to be active in the alumni chapter of wherever I live, but most importantly I will live my creed and keep in mind the lessons I have learned for the rest of my life, which will only make me a better woman.

2. For the Friends
All the girls in my sorority obviously have something in common if we all ended up in the same sorority, but the girls are all really different as well.  We have all different kinds of personalities, and everybody has their own interests.  This has made it so convenient to find a buddy for whatever you may need.  I have been extremely blessed to find my roommates through my sorority.  One of them is in my pledge class and we became friends on bid day.  Her best friend since elementary school is in the pledge class above us, and it all worked out that we were able to become roommates this year.  I'm so excited to say we will be staying in our same cozy apartment through June 2014!  We have become so close and made so many memories, and I can't wait to make many more in the next year and a half.  We also have our other friends that always join us for football games, sorority events, our beloved game nights and so much more.  These girls have been there for me through the thick and thin, and I know I can count on them for anything.  I know that I have made lifelong friends, and we will always share something special because of our fraternal bond.

3. For the Connections
Being in a sorority can open so many doors for you that you never even imagined.  My sisters are involved in a variety of organizations, and they're always willing to help one another become involved as well.  I have been so proud to see my sisters obtain internships and jobs, and they're always willing to put in a good word for other sisters who are interested in working alongside them.  Our Phi Mu alumnae even keep us posted on job openings they hear about.  I've also found that adults who were members of Greek organizations understand the high standard to which I'm held, and they've respected that.  They know the hard work I have to put in and how I have to manage my time efficiently.  Being Greek also allows you to connect with Greeks in other chapters.  I'm often attending events with members of other chapters, and it has allowed me to meet so many people I never would have had the chance to otherwise.

With my roommates, Rachel and Lauren, before Carnation Ball

Our typical football group - Caitlin, me, Kaeli, Rachel, Lauren

My pledge class performing at Lip Sync - Crowd Favorite

All Sing 2012 "Pocahontas" - 2nd Place

Philanthropy: Visiting kids at East Tennessee Children's Hospital

Bid Day 2012 at World's Fair Park

My family - Caroline (grandbig), Alexis (big), me, Anna (little)