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!

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 😀

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!