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 😀

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. 😀

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. 🙂

Promoting Tennessee beef — it’s in the family!

By now, my love of Ole Miss football is well documented. In fact, I even had the opportunity to attend my first game since the 2008 season last weekend — but more on that later.

But I haven’t always been a Rebel girl. In fact, I grew up bleeding orange.

Tennessee orange.

You’ll never see another 21 year-old get so excited about meeting a mascot

Don’t get me wrong — I still love the Vols, and I happily cheer them on to victory… just as long as they aren’t playing the Rebels. Sorry, Tennessee friends, but then my heart beats for Dixie.

ANYWAY. Let’s move on to an entirely unrelated subject (that I promise will return full circle).

As has also been proven, I’m a passion agvocate. I grew up on a farm, and I love to help promote animal agriculture in every way that I can. But did you know that I come by this passion naturally?

Bet you can’t guess which one I’m related to… and no, it’s not Governor Haslam.

My mom, Jennifer Houston, is currently the chairwoman of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council. She’s been active in agriculture leadership since before I was born — and honestly, they don’t call her The General for nothing (sorry Mom, couldn’t resist). In addition to serving in leadership capacities with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, she’s a very active promoter of Tennessee beef on the state and local levels.

How does this go full circle to Tennessee football?

Well, y’all didn’t think the embarrassment of a family member was limited to little brothers, did you?

Tomorrow is Beef Day at the University of Tennessee football game! The Tennessee Beef Industry Council will be at the game, providing free samples and promoting beef — which is awesome! And, just like last year, Mom will join Bob Kesling and company on the Kickoff Call-In Show!

Last year’s Beef Day

If you’re going to the game, you can see the action at Gate 21 of Neyland Stadium — she’ll be on at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you’re listening via radio or Internet, you can find her on the Vol Radio Network.

Awesome, isn’t it?

She had her nose in a book…

…And her head in the clouds.

For my last birthday, my wonderful family gifted me with a NOOK Color. After an initial period of resistance to the e-reader trend (I just love the heft of a book in my hands), I’d finally admitted that yes, I wanted the shiny.

And really, as much as I love books, I don’t have the room in my current home to store them. Books need room to breathe and stretch their arms, to be admired — I live in a shoebox (but a very nice shoebox at that).

Within two weeks of receiving my NOOK, I had read almost nine books — what can I say? I needed to catch up on The Hollows! And I can definitely see why my parents said “No NOOK until you finish grad school.”

Truth

While I’ve slowly been slogging along through A Song of Ice and Fire this summer (better known as the Game of Thrones books), I’ve had to pause my journey through Westeros to read a few books from my local library.

The conundrum for me: I have the first four George RR Martin books. They’re mine. But library books are mine for a finite amount of time — I have to read them right then and there! And yet, later I wonder why it’s taking me four months to get through A Clash of Kings.

Most of you who know me know that I have very… eclectic tastes. I’ve documented my love for fantasy and science fiction novels, but honestly? I’ll read most anything. Here are a few of my current reading/have read/to read selections:

Have read: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling, better known as Kelly Kapoor from The Office, is hilarious. Her writing is self-deprecating, witty, and after finishing her book, I just want to be her best friend. It’s a super easy read that you’ll devour in less than a day. AND, she’s got her own show this fall on FOX called The Mindy Project — you can check out the trailer here.

Needless to say, I’ll definitely be tuning in!

Currently reading: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Okay, confession time. When I say “currently reading,” I mean that it’s loaded on my NOOK and I need to read it before I have to give it back to the library. But I’m starting it tonight, so progress! The Paris Wife tells the story of Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife, Hadley, and their life together in Paris during the Roaring Twenties.

Paris? The Lost Generation? Did I mention Paris? Yes, please.

To read: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Oh come on, y’all knew I had to have a fantasy book somewhere on this list (Game of Thrones notwithstanding). The Night Circus is the September book for the DC Theta alumni chapter Book Club — which I am going to make a concerted effort to go to next month!

In all honesty, I don’t know much about this book. But the blurb on the Barnes and Noble website makes it sound interesting, so I’ll give it a go.

And then, I might finally finish A Clash of Kings. >.>

Sound off! What are some of your favorite books and/or series? (And please remember, this is a 50 Shades of Grey-free blog — mention it not!)