The Beauty Box: Crystal Cattle Beauty Swap

So, that was only… seven months between blog posts. Go me!

I’m breaking my silence to post about a fun swap I took part in a few months ago! I’d seen links about the Crystal Cattle Beauty Swap through some fellow aggie ladies before, but I’d never joined in the fun. When I saw she was hosting another one around Easter, I had to sign up (especially since I cancelled my Birchbox)!

I was lucky enough to be paired with the sweet Hallie, who I really enjoyed getting to know through e-mails! She sent me some really great goodies. :D

My beauty box goodies!

My beauty box goodies!

Hallie sent me an awesome collection of fun products to try:

♥ B&BW Sensual Amber body spray and lotion
♥ Smashbox’s bestseller kit — with primer, mascara, and eyeliner
♥ Revlon lip crayon in red (I’d been wanting to try a red lip!)
♥ NAIL POLISH! A pretty pink Essie shade, plus Seche Vite’s rapid-dry top coat
♥ Some pretty extras: a coin purse, earrings, and fragrance samples
♥ Reese’s PB cubs (not pictured) and a pretty SPRING sign. :D

It was so much fun participating in the swap and getting to know Hallie! I’ve enjoyed playing with my new goodies, and I can’t wait until the next swap!

(P.S. New post coming soon, documenting what I’ve been up to the past seven months… including my beautiful best friend’s wedding!)

Real talk: On the banning of books

I love to read.

Obvious statement is obvious, of course, but it’s one that I believe bears repeating. Since I learned to read many, many, many years ago, I’ve read pretty much every book I could get my hands on. My fourth and fifth grade teachers still talk about how they had to make me put up my book during our weekly spelling tests.

There were two articles I read last week; both, coincidentally, involved author Neil Gaiman. Now, I feel like someone is going to revoke my nerd status for this next remark, but I have to clear the air her: Gaiman’s bestseller book, American Gods, is one of the few books I have never been able to finish. The story just did not captivate me the way I hoped it would.

There. I said it. Shun away, y’all.

(Also, if you’re not a reader but wondering why American Gods sounds familiar, it’s because it’s currently in development as a series for HBO).

However, an article popped up on my Twitter feed linking to a Guardian article about a lecture Gaiman gave recently in London. You can read the article in its entirety here, and I strongly recommend you do so — and yes, for those of you who are Facebook friends with me, I did post this on my wall last week.

There was one key point that ties into the next article, and it’s really such an amazing point that I want to highlight it here.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

Well-meaning adults… it’s those people I want to discuss now.

The other article I saw on Twitter last week referenced one of Gaiman’s other popular works, Neverwhere. The BBC recently produced an amazing podcast of the story featuring a veritable Who’s Who of British stars including James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, and Benedict Cumberbatch (available on iTunes, I believe).

A mother in Alamogordo, New Mexico, successfully petitioned the local school board to remove Neverwhere from a supplemental reading list at Alamogordo High School, where the book has been offered in the curriculum since 2004.

Why?

A single passage on page 86 which makes reference to two background characters engaging in public sex.

And just for the record, I would like to high five the English teacher at AHS who wrote this letter in response to the controversy. Rock on, Ms. Wallis!

Now, let me clear this up: I do not have kids. I don’t even have a dog. However, I don’t think it’s possible for me to state how strongly I am opposed to this sort of knee-jerk reaction from “well-meaning adults” when it comes to removing books from library shelves.

Story time! When I was in the eighth grade, a mother of one of my classmates petitioned the school board to remove several books from our junior high library shelf. While I’ve forgotten what the third book was, the other books were Detour for Emmy and The Color Purple — the former because it included a sexual scene, the latter because the book opens with a rape.

My thirteen year-old self was very outspoken against the campaign. I supported our school librarian, talked to my classmates and teachers about why the banning of books was wrong, and even wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper (my parents still have several copies in their office).

I didn’t believe — and I still don’t believe — that a few parents have the right to dictate what I can and cannot read. Nor do I feel that this mother in New Mexico has the right to deprive 100+ high schoolers of the opportunity to read Neverwhere. I was blessed with two amazing parents who pretty much let me read whatever I wanted to, but they were always there to talk about my literature choices with me.

My best friend’s parents wouldn’t allow her to read Harry Potter. We all know how much I adore those books. They weren’t my parents’ cup of tea, but they never tried to stop me from enjoying them. We had open discussions about witchcraft, magic, and faith — but not once did they take my books away from me.

Long story short: banning books is wrong. And in our society, it is baffling to me that this sort of thing is still going on. Take a stand, and read a banned book. Or you know, read a non-banned book.

The point is: read.

City Life: Busy, busy busy!

Man, I am glad that I don’t get graded on keeping a blog. I’d definitely be failing if that were in the case.

BUT. In my very weak defense, I’ve been busy! Let’s us embark on a brief picture memo of my past few months.

April started off with my work legislative conference. Needless to say, that week was a blur. Long nights, early mornings, and a lot of running around. But at the end of the week, it was nice to enjoy a bit of fun with my Southern brethren at Taste of the South.

This year's theme was "Roaring Southern Nights"

This year’s theme was “Roaring Southern Nights”

Taste of the South is a black tie charity event founded over twenty years ago by some other displaced Southerners. It’s always a fun evening, and this sorority girl definitely appreciates the philanthropic aspect of the events!

It was a fun time with Meghan, Molly, and Peter — plus some random run-ins with other old friends!

The end of the night. I just love fresh flowers!

The end of the night. I just love fresh flowers!

Two days after TOTS, my Mom came to town to visit! Her own fly-in was that week, but she stayed after to spend time with her favorite child.

Love

Love

April was also spent rehabilitating my leg. I’m playing soccer again, and I strained my quad in early April. I’ve loved getting back on the field, but man — injuries suck.

The beginning of May brought another one of my favorite rites of spring: Virginia Gold Cup.

My attempt at artsy photography. Also, tasty margarita!

My attempt at artsy photography. Also, tasty margarita!

It was a cool day for Gold Cup, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the fun at University Row. Ladies wore their Derby best, and the gents were dapper in their seersucker (Calgon, take me away!).

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Two groups of friends met for the first time (Meghan and Molly from work, Sara and Meredith from my sorority), and fun was had by all!

Go Glen Coco, go!

Go Glen Coco, go!

And to wrap out the month, my grandmother and brother came to visit!

Brothers who brunch

Brothers who brunch

Despite his dislike for DC, Ross had fun — I think shopping at Vineyard Vines in Georgetown might have had a serious affect on him. It was great seeing family, and I can’t wait until I see them again over the 4th of July.

Last night was a bachelorette party for my dear friend, Katt! While I was sad I didn’t get to spend the entire evening in Adams Morgan with them (seriously, being a responsible soccer player is not fun sometimes), it was great having dinner with these Theta girls. Congratulations to Katt and Robin!

Kiting the bride-to-be. TLAM!

Kiting the bride-to-be. TLAM!

And now it’s June! Where has 2013 gone? I can’t wait to see what other sorts of fun this year has in store for me. Summer 2013 is going to be epic!

Real Talk: A fear of failure

What scares you?

I don’t mean the deep fears, the ones rooted in some dark psychological place that is far too serious for my blog. I mean the little, trivial ones. Scary things like clowns, horror movies, or spiders.

No, these aren’t personal… why do you ask?

Amen, Ron.

I like to think that not much scares me on a superficial level. I know my friends will argue — they’ve seen my face when someone suggests we watch the latest Saw movie. HOWEVER. It is completely logical to dislike scary movies. I mean, why would I want to be scared for the fun of it? Scary =/= fun.

Sorry, tangent. That’s not the point. The point is, I’m going to share with you something that scares me.

Failure.

I know, that’s a cop-out fear. After all, doesn’t everyone fear failure? Who walks around and thinks, “You know, I’d like to fail today.” Not I, said Virginia. I was born with a healthy spirit of competition and a need to win at everything. I’m sure that doesn’t stem from growing up in a competitive family or anything.

A year or so ago, my cousin directed me to the TED Talks website. It’s a collection of inspirational and thought-provoking talks given by various celebrities, writers, artists, and other innovators. If you have time, head on over and take a look — but I’m going to embed my favorite below.

In 2008, JK Rowling (she of the Harry Potter genius) gave the commencement address at Harvard University. Obviously, I didn’t go to Harvard — but a generous soul filmed her speech, and it’s available as a TED Talk. The topic of her address?

The Importance of Imagination and the Fringe Benefits of Failure.

It’s a very entertaining speech, and if you’ve got some time, I would encourage you to listen to all of it. I could dissect the entire thing, but that would take more time than we have today.

But what does all this have to do with me?

Well, I’m starting a new project — a project that strikes fear in my heart. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s something that’s going to open me up to outside criticism, likely rejection, and possible failure.

I’m writing a book.

It’s taken a while, but I have an idea. I have a main character who’s taken grasp in my head as well as several supporting ones (I promise I’m not schizophrenic). I’m working on supporting documents, character maps, and I have a playlist (because obviously, there must be music).

It gives you WINGS.

I hope to use this space as a sort of look into my writing process — which I’ll go ahead and tell you, won’t be very interesting. Random internet browsing, doing research on the most peculiar things (after a rousing game of Six Degrees of Wikipedia), and lots of caffeine ingestion. But I have a goal, and by year’s end, I’m going to accomplish it.

It’s going to be a wild ride! But I’m glad to have y’all there with me.

Road trip: Back to reality

So pretty

So pretty

So, I was browsing my Google Reader today when it hit me: hey, I totally have a blog I’ve neglected since Christmas. We’re going to just go ahead and blame that on the Post-Holidays Funk. Do y’all go through that? I had a really bad case of it this year — it’s that funk you get into when you get back to the real world after spending a week or so in the warm, caring embrace of family.

Of course, the fact that the sun is REFUSING to shine here in D.C. probably has something to do with that.

But no matter. I’m sorry for neglecting y’all. Did you have a nice holiday? Mine was excellent — so excellent, in fact, that it was hard to get on the plane to come back.

If you had to leave these two goofballs, though, would you?

I can just hear Mom: "Y'all are going to break that chair in a minute."

I can just hear Mom: “Y’all are going to break that chair in a minute.”

My Christmas was fantastic. My big surprise this year was a KitchenAid stand mixer (cue my squeals of joy, y’all) in a beautiful tangerine shade. I’m not sure how it’s going to get up to my house in D.C., but it will. Oh, it will.

And then I will bake ALL OF THE THINGS.

Mwahahaha.

As part of “quality family time at home,” I went out with my parents to feed the cattle on Sunday. There, I was reunited with my show heifer from sixth grade, Mary. She’s one of the few cows that will still let you touch her.

In the background, Daddy's yelling, "She's not going to pose!  Take the dang picture!"

In the background, Daddy’s yelling, “She’s not going to pose! Take the dang picture!”

It was great to get back home for a while. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to get back to east Tennessee, and that saddens me. (This is one of the major drawbacks of not keeping a car in the city). I’m already searching Etsy prints to bring Tennessee to me.

For now, though, it’s back to real life in D.C. The Inauguration is on Monday, which means I’m going home tomorrow night and won’t be leaving my neighborhood for any reason until Tuesday morning. You couldn’t pay me to try and fight the crowds on Monday morning.

That’s definitely my Daddy’s influence coming out in me.

But on one final note, I met a Ralph Lauren model over Christmas. And I took a picture. Want to see it?

Okay, so maybe he's just a model in his own mind.

Okay, so maybe he’s just a model in his own mind.

Hope everyone is able to kick the January blues! If you have any tips, send ‘em my way!

Holiday Happiness: ‘Tis the season!

I don’t know about y’all, but as soon as the days prior to Thanksgiving arrive, the holiday rush just takes off for me. I’m catching flights, enjoying that brief time with my family, catching up with cousins I haven’t seen in forever.

Oh yeah, and stuffing my face with turkey and my Mom’s dressing (trust me, monuments should be built to this stuff — it’s that good).

This week is going to be an absolute blur between work, holiday parties, and getting everything done that needs to be done before I fly home for Christmas. It’s important to take time and reflect on the true meaning of the season. My current church (Wisconsin Avenue Baptist) is helping with that. Every morning, I receive a daily Advent devotional in my inbox. The theme is “Waiting for the Light,” and finding a quiet time every day to reflect and read the word of God helps keep me centered in this time of stress.

And there’s also my family. I love seeing them when I can. Living in DC without a car, I don’t get home as often as I would like, and so getting back to Tennessee is a really big deal for me. I took these photos when I was home for Thanksgiving, so you can enjoy my holiday through Instagram. :)

Always a welcome sight!

Always a welcome sight!

The animals were waiting to greet me when I got home!

Such sweet faces

Such sweet faces

I think Dad's done a pretty good job with this crop of calves :)

I think Dad’s done a pretty good job with this crop of calves :)

Every Thanksgiving, we spend the holiday at my great-grandmother’s home in North Carolina. Even though she is no longer with us, it’s still great to get together at her little mountain home and enjoy the fellowship of family.

Dory Jane -- a champion sugar cookie decorator in the making

Dory Jane — a champion sugar cookie decorator in the making

On Friday, the men head to the golf course or the fishing hole while the women head to Burnsville for a little bit of shopping/wandering around town.

Women of the Houston-Buchanan-Georges family

Women of the Houston-Buchanan-Georges family

Mama and her babies

Mama and her babies

When we got back home to Tennessee, we make a point to put our Christmas trees up that Saturday night. For me, it’s because the odds are that I won’t be back to see them before Christmas — we spend the holiday with my Mom’s side of the family in west Tennessee, and I usually fly straight to Memphis. For my parents, they a) like having the help, and b) know that if they don’t get it done right then, it might never get done!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

The family Christmas tree

The family Christmas tree

And the formal Christmas tree

And the formal Christmas tree

Decorating for the holidays is one of my favorite traditions! (Yes, Mom, it is. I only complained growing up because fluffing that fake garland we used to use was murder on my hands).

Also, egg nog. Egg nog is delicious.

Daddy and I toasting with our Christmas Vacation moose mugs

Daddy and I toasting with our Christmas Vacation moose mugs

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Road Trip: Pork producers pay it forward

As everyone knows (as has been mentioned here), Hurricane Sandy was devastating for the East Coast. Here in DC, we escaped the brunt of the damage — a few trees and power poles fell, but we were fine. Our neighbors to the north in New Jersey and New York, however, weren’t so lucky.

This past weekend, I, along with a few coworkers and pork producers from across the country joined the National Pork Board‘s Pork Trailer in Brick, New Jersey.

Through donations from Smithfield, Hatfield, and Johnsonville, we cooked and served approximately 5,000 servings of pork loins and pork sandwiches to those people affected by the storm on the Jersey Shore.

Meghan (@CityGirl4Ag) and I, ready to go!

It was a really fantastic experience. We had producers come from South Dakota, Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania to cook and serve!

James and Sam seasoning pork loins

Meghan working that grill like a pro :D

Friday, I helped prepare bratwurst sandwiches (which were delicious, by the way, and I’m not usually a fan!) inside the trailer. But on Saturday and Sunday, I honed my knife skills and spent the day slicing piping-hot pork loins.

Fresh from the grill. My fingers were only slightly burnt at the end…

Not my most attractive angle, but check out that knife!

The outpouring of love from the community was overwhelming. Hearing the stories of loss really emphasized just how blessed I am. My worries are trivial compared to those who have lost everything. I didn’t get out to the shore to see the brunt of the devastation, but the Brick Patch has some before and after photos. You can find them here.

Another great picture — these pork sandwiches went out to the National Guard and first responders.

We met some awesome people as part of Operation Barbecue Relief!

It was great meeting so many people from Brick. Before this trip, my only experience with New Jersey was the Newark Airport (enough said). But the people were so friendly and welcoming, and I hope I can get back someday!

Angels with coffee.

And of COURSE, how could I forget our great helpers? Throughout the weekend, it was awesome having some of the local kids help out at the Pork Trailer. Anthony, Christian, and Kyle, you three were so great! I had a fantastic time, and I’m happy to have met you. Wear your pork swag with pride! ;)

With Christian and Kyle — these guys were great!

If you want to get involved, there are a ton of places looking for different things. You can donate blood, donate money, send food and/or clothing — or you can even head up there and volunteer your time.

FEMA has a great list of ways you can get involved. Remember to check the legitimacy of each organization before donating — it’s sad, but shady organizations use natural disasters like this to scam people from their money. :(

I hope you’ll get involved! After this weekend, I’m going to make a concerted effort to donate more of my time to help those less fortunate than myself. It was a great reminder of how thankful I am for my life — and right before Thanksgiving to boot!

City Life: Batten down the hatches

So, this is what I get to deal with this weekend:

Accurate. Photo courtesy of FamousDC

Okay, not really — that storm forecast was from the 2011 Snowmaggedon — but things are looking to be pretty hairy towards the end of this weekend/early next week.

No, seriously, doesn’t this look like fun?

Apparently, there’s a new chick coming to town who wants to dance with the Mid Atlantic. I guess Sandy didn’t get enough attention from Danny Zuko when she dumped him at the drive-in. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned — or like a Snor’eastercane. (People love them some portmanteaus, I tell ya).

Other than the all-important weekend plans of procuring a witch’s hat and turnips to carve,
I think I’ll be staying in. A fort made of pillows and blankets + catching up “Nashville” and “Scandal” + four shiny new library books = a Perfect Storm (*rim crash*) weekend.

Stay safe, y’all!

Holiday Happiness: This is Halloween

Spooky

Did y’all know that my favorite month of the year is October? Probably not. I mean, I love the summertime — I’m an August baby, and I will take being hot over being cold any day of the year (it’s my thin Southern blood). But October — there’s just something about it. The leaves are turning beautiful colors, there’s a slight nip in the air that just begs you to pull out your long sleeves, scarves, and boots.

And of course, there’s Halloween.

Listen. I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. But Halloween has a special place in my heart. I love, love, love dressing up in costume, carving pumpkins (or turnips? Definitely trying this as well!), and handing out candy to trick or treaters. And yes, I will be wearing my costume to work on Halloween; I don’t care if I’m the only person in the office who does so (and that’s a distinct possibility). I also love Halloween music.

What? Halloween songs? Pffft.

No, really. While Christmas has some awesome songs (and we’ll cover those closer to time), I just can’t resist a good playlist of Halloween tunes. So, for my dear readers (all ten of you), I’ve made up a delicious Halloween playlist on Spotify for your enjoyment. It’s a mixture of classic and classical; a bit eclectic, but it’s all seasonally appropriate. :D

And if you’d like the link, you can find it here: Virginia’s Halloween playist. It’s a work in progress, and please feel free to let me know of any songs you think deserve to be on there — I’ll add them in!

On the playlist is “The Hearse Song.” Does anyone remember that from elementary school? I remember reading it in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Fun fact: I HATE horror movies — but I’ll read horror/scary stories. Go figure.

Anyhoo. To jog your memory — or to introduce you if you lived under a rock from ages eight to fourteen — it goes like this:

“Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next one to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle in your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out our eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You’ll spread it on a slice of bread,
And this is what you eat when you are dead.”

Creepy, isn’t it? Or at least it was to a ten year old.

Can’t wait to carve my jack o’lanterns!

What are some of your favorite Halloween memories? Favorite memories, costumes? Do you love horror movies, or are you anti-Saw like me?

Single in the City: Meet-cute edition

This morning, I met a cute guy on the bus. This is a rarity, y’all. Even on the 37 Express bus, I never meet cute men. Of course, this being DC, you don’t really “meet” anyone on public transit – everyone’s too plugged in to their iPod, Kindle, or BlackBerry to make eye contact with their fellow passengers. Anyway, I digress.

I stepped on his toe. He said, “That’s alright,” when I apologized profusely. We had a lovely chat until he got off the bus about five minutes later.

At least, that’s what happened in my head.

Sadly, my life is not a romantic comedy.

I really did step on his toe, and I really did apologize. But that entire lovely conversation definitely took place in my head.

(As an aside: if you’re not watching The Mindy Project, what is wrong with you??? I’m in love.)

“Your life is not a romantic comedy. Right now, it seems more like a sad documentary about a criminally insane spinster.” ~ The Mindy Project

Dating is hard, people. It takes serious effort to not be a hermit. After a long day at work, I usually just want to go home, put on yoga pants, and sit on the couch and mainline six episodes of Game of Thrones in a row. Sadly, this does not lend itself to meeting other humans.

I read an article on Thought Catalog, and it seemed to pretty perfectly summarize this morning’s episode: Dear Beautiful Guys I Pass On the Street: I Love You.

It’s just this strange thing I do where I allow myself to briefly fall in love with another human being that I see on a train, or the sidewalk, or in a warm café. It has nothing to do with you as a person (and while I’m sure you’re nice, you could very well be an asshole), it’s just something my mind likes to do when I’m going through a regular, boring day. We often forget that every single person we pass is a complete human being, and not just set pieces to our personal story. That is, of course, until we pass an absolutely gorgeous person — and then it is all we can do not to imagine every single thing about them and consider them deeply as their life briefly interacts with ours. It’s kind of fun to let your mind wander, and take in how small you are when compared to the tapestry of lives and people that exists all around you. Thank you for making me existential, hot guy.

 

Sound off, ladies. Do romantic comedies give us unrealistic expectations about romance? (Short answer: YES). And does anyone else see their life happening as a movie?

And finally to the attractive guy whose toe I stepped on this morning: if you ever read this, email me. :)