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Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, eve! Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a flight to get my travel on for the holiday break, and just perhaps, I’ll get my dose of freezing cold weather for a few days.

I don’t want to get too cheesy here, but the approaching Thanksgiving holiday definitely makes me think about what I’m thankful for, and this year, my list is a mile long.

I am so thankful for my mom, my friends, everyone I dance with, my kitty Blanche, and well, everyone who has a part in creating “The Daily Show” (this year just wouldn’t have been possible without that).

I am also just generally thankful for my health, my health insurance, and doctors, everywhere. I’m really thankful for my job, for all of my freelance clients, for all of the students who’ve taken my blog class, and for everyone who’s shopped in my Etsy shop – all of these jobs and projects have allowed me to clean up my financial mess, pay off a credit card, invest in hobbies I love, and even do some traveling.

It’s not quite the time to reflect on the entire year (we still have another month to go!), but this year, I’ve lost a lot of people. Some literally, some figuratively, some have cut me out, some I’ve cut out – but I know it’s all part of a bigger plan for each of us. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want you to be, and I’m really appreciative of you.

Of course, thank you for reading my blog. I have been in a weird space with blogging these past few months, partially because of time, and partially because I feel like sometimes this blog does more harm to myself than good.

I have started journaling as a way to get my thoughts out in an unbiased, totally unedited way, and it’s helping me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know if those words will ever see the light of day, maybe so, or maybe not. I just know that right now, there’s people watching my every word, and I’m not willing to provide food for their fights.

Regardless, this blog is here to stay. And hey, I am, too.

In the past, I’ve put so much energy into maintaining traditions when it comes to holidays, but I’m finally feeling like I’m coming into my own. I don’t have to do the same thing every year for the holidays – in fact, I can do whatever I want!

I’m not chained to locations, menus, houseguests, or expectant family members. I do what I want – it’s not the life I dreamed of, but perhaps that’s just because I didn’t know the option existed.

So yeah, tomorrow I’m bundling up (with the new John Green book in-tow), and I’m heading out for a few days to indulge, and upon my return to Texas, I’m SO happy to have some time off of work to decorate my apartment for the holidays, catch up on some TV, and work on my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving – I’ll be posting this week’s Book Club read tomorrow, and I’ve got a special surprise for Black Friday.

Cheers!

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BBC: ‘The Nest’.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am up early this morning, as I’m about to prep my turkey, and really, I just couldn’t wait to get this day started. Is it just me or is there something glorious about still waking up early when you don’t have to work or tend to other, serious obligations?

My only goals for the day are: 1. get the turkey and pie cooked and baked, respectively, and 2. don’t miss the parade (thanks, DVR). And that’s it!

I’m definitely going to be doing a lot of reading on this long, chilly weekend, so I’m excited to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Nest” by Cynthia Sweeney. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

…So, yeah. I put this book on my reserve list after it was suggested to me from Amazon. It sounded interesting. I’ll say this is a thick book, but it’s very descriptive in a good way – I could really picture all of the scenes, which I enjoyed.

Also, I feel like this is a subject that’s not visited much – at least the “inheritance” part, and how it would affect a family and their relationships with each other. This was Sweeney’s debut novel, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for her next release.

I know we’re also not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, we all do it, and this book is gorgeous! It’s got an embossed cover, and the paper its printed on is really thick and textured. It felt regal just reading it.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “99:Stories of the Game” by Wayne Gretsky. Whoop! I’ve been waiting for this one. Read it with us by commenting on the blog, or finding me on social media @OrangeJulius7.

Speaking of which, I’m sure I’ll be cooking a ton on my SnapChat today, so maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Thanksgiving!

My Thanksgiving menu.

A perfect Thanksgiving spread from Saveur.

A perfect Thanksgiving spread from Saveur.

Thanksgiving is one week away! I know everyone is saying it – but it’s come up so fast, and before you know it, Christmas will be here! But, let’s not skip Thanksgiving, as it’s pretty much the most important meal of the year, and it’s truly a holiday to be savored.

I really do love Thanksgiving. Think about it, it’s a meal that embraces the flavors of fall, and we get two days off of work to celebrate it! Then there’s the Macy’s parade (complete with terrible lip syncing), the drinking… really, nothing beats it. 1014001_hm_holiday_hosting_associate_300x250

Today at work, we’re having our potluck Thanksgiving lunch. I’m not a fan of potlucks, but it is the company tradition that the CEO provides the turkey, so you can at least count on that. Last year, for my first Thanksgiving in Texas, I discovered that even on Turkey Day, Texans eat BBQ-style – the turkey was sliced and served with thick, white toast, BBQ sauce, and crinkle-cut pickles. Because why not?

I am hosting a low-key Thanksgiving meal this year, and wanted to share my menu with you, in hopes that you’ll find some new ideas for your table, even if it’s not for this meal in particular. Out of all the great recipes I’ve got in my stash for Turkey Day, it was really hard to choose a few for my menu, but here’s what I’m cooking up:

Starters: New Orleans Baked Brie

Baked Brie from The Mediterranean Dish.

Baked Brie from The Mediterranean Dish.

On Thanksgiving Day, I’m a really huge fan of having the large meal later in the afternoon, and serving up yummy, filling snacks and appetizers until then.

I am obsessive over homemade meat and cheese trays, serving various textures and ages of cheese with meats, mustard, olives, fruit, jam, and chocolate. It’s a perfect excuse to sip on wine while watching the parade and checking on the turkey.

If you want step-by-step help with building the perfect cheese tray, hop on over to What’s Gaby Cooking – she is always whipping up complex snack platters.

One thing I wanted to make this year was baked brie – it’s easy, delicious, and it’s really impressive.

I’m making a “New Orleans” baked brie, named because of my topping choice of pecans and Worcestershire sauce for a lil kick. Should be delicious.

For the baked brie, you’ll need a wheel of brie (any size will do), 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of mustard, and 1 cup of chopped pecans. If you want to wrap your brie in pastry, you will need to add a frozen sheet of puff pastry to your list, along with one egg, and a little bit of all-purpose flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, wrap brie in foil, top with the mixed toppings, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese gets soft (you don’t want it to melt).

If you’re baking it inside the pastry, you need to thaw the pastry, then wrap the brie with it, sealing the edges with the single beaten egg and brushing the top for browning. Bake in a 425 degree oven until golden brown.

Serve warm with sliced pears and apples, along with crackers, and pepper jelly if you really want to stick to that Southern theme.

Entree: Turkey & Cranberry Sandwich

Can't be a Thanksgiving sammy.

Can’t be a Thanksgiving sammy.

I found the recipe for this sandwich in the latest issue of Better Homes & Garden, which listed it as a way to spruce up your Thanksgiving Day leftovers. However, it seemed like the perfect entree for my low-key Turkey Day, as I was trying to find something that wouldn’t require me to bake a huge turkey and a ton of side dishes.

This sandwich captures nearly all the flavors of Thanksgiving – stuffing, cranberry, and turkey, all in one bite. I say, serve it up with some sweet potato fries and you’re good to go!

For the sandwich, you’ll need 1 cup of halved and sliced red onion, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 cup of cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, 3 cups shredded cooked turkey, pretzel buns or other sturdy bread, bibb lettuce, sliced mozzarella cheese, and sliced jalapenos, if desired (YES),

Cook and stir the onion in the oil over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the cranberry sauce, bbq sauce, and the chipotle. Add turkey, toss to coat, and heat throughout.

Add lettuce to the bottom half of the buns, and top with the turkey-cranberry mixture along with the sliced cheese. Add bun tops and serve with additional cranberry sauce and jalapenos. Yum!

Sides: Chopped Green Bean Salad

Green bean salad.

Green bean salad.

I love a green bean casserole, and this “salad” from Better Homes & Garden is a great twist on a classic that I’m really excited to try.

For this green bean salad, you will need 1 1/4 pounds of green beans cut into 1-inch pieces, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup minced shallots, pinch of salt and pepper, 4 ounces of shredded manchego or parmesan, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 cups of cooked farro, 3/4 cups toasted almonds, 3/4 cup golden raisins, and 2 ounces of chopped manchego or parmesan.

Cook the beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 4 minutes before transferring to ice water. In a blender, combine the vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper, along with the 4 ounces of cheese and olive oil. Blend until smooth and then add to the beans (after you’ve taken them out of the ice bath).

Finally, add the farro, almonds, golden raisins, and 2 ounces of cheese. Finished!

Dessert: Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie from the New York Times.

Sweet Potato Pie from the New York Times.

I am a sucker for pumpkin pie. Seriously, I love the stuff. But, I heard that a sweet potato pie is actually sweeter and more flavorful than pumpkin, so I want to give it a try. It better be good, or else I’l be running to the nearest open store Thanksgiving night to get my fix of pie!

Remember last year when everyone lost their shit over Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie at Wal-Mart? Truthfully, no one cared much about the desserts until a YouTube-r made a video of himself tasting the orange pie and broke out into song because it was so delish. See the video here – it’s worth it.

The video got more than 5 million views and Wal-Mart was selling out of Patti’s pies left and right, and Ms. LaBelle even expanded her dessert business to include other options, including apple cobbler and pecan cake.

So, I’m making my own sweet ‘tater pie and I hope it’s as good as Patti’s (even though I’ve never tried hers, or anyone’s). For this pie, you will need a piecrust, 1 1/4 pound of sweet potatoes, 1 cup of whipping cream, 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup of whole milk, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Prepare the piecrust as directed (I will probably get a frozen one) – although don’t let it get brown. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Wrap each tinfoil, and roast for about 70 minutes or until tender. Reduce oven heat to 375.

Let sweet potatoes cool before peeling and placing in a bowl and mashing with a potato masher. Combine the mashed potatoes with the cream, brown sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. You can use a food processor or a blender if necessary.

Pour the filling into the pie crust. Cover the crust edges with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes until evenly puffed. Let cool before serving.

And there’s my menu (aside from the wine, wine, and wine). What are you guys cooking for the big day?

Volunteering on Thanksgiving sucked.

Thanksgiving volunteer efforts.

Thanksgiving volunteer efforts.

Remember last week? Last week, when I was so excited to join Operation Turkey (the North Austin branch) and hundreds of volunteers to serve thousands of homeless people?

Well, the actual experience completely blew. Here’s what happened…

After I signed my friend and I up for the volunteer job (for which I signed us up to serve cranberry sauce), I got emails instructing us to arrive by 8am on Thanksgiving morning.

Despite being at the bars on dirty 6th until almost 2 am, we were there before 8am ready to serve until noon.

Around 8, a woman, who I’m going to assume was running the operation, came outside equipped with a megaphone. And despite the fact that there were nearly 1,000 volunteers present, half of whom couldn’t hear her, she proceeded to yap her head off via the megaphone, until 9:15, when we were asked to form a single file line that nearly rounded the block.

Around 9:30, the line slowly started to move into the P.F. Chang’s building where the meals were being packed. But very soon after, we started seeing volunteers coming out of the other side of the building, carrying one boxed meal each.

We soon figured out that we were merely going to carry the styrofoam box through the line, while it was packaged, and then go to the end of the line, and wait until we could get another box to fill.

Whatever.

But once we actually got inside the building to receive our boxes, it was a yelling match like I’ve never seen.

Once we got inside, we were walking through a Thanksgiving disco line, with volunteers on either side of us. And they were all yelling, equipped with spoons and vats of yams and corn.

“DO NOT STOP AT THE FOOD, KEEP IT MOVING. WE WILL PUT THE FOOD IN YOUR BOX!!!”

I think I heard that about five times before I started firing back to “STOP. FUCKING. YELLING. AT. ME!”

I don’t know who instructed these volunteers to yell at us, or what audacity was coursing through their veins on that rainy morning, but the absolute LAST thing this hungover singleton is putting up with is being yelled at when I came to do something good.

If I wanted to be yelled at, I’d have gone home for Thanksgiving (#ThanksgivingClapBack).

So, after walking through the line, getting yelled at, and having food thrown into my container, we went home. I was pissed.

Why did we sign up for that? Operation Turkey boasts itself on the fact that they don’t turn away volunteers, but there were clearly WAY too many volunteers there. And that’s a great problem to have! It was really heartwarming to see that many people give up their holiday morning to donate their time, but don’t fool us into thinking we are helping if there’s nothing we can do.

If the food was covered, give us something else to do. Can we help sort clothing or pack drinks or deliver maps to the drivers? No? Then by all means send us home, or direct us to other food shelters that are struggling for volunteers.

Don’t worry, I let Operation Turkey Austin know how I felt via Twitter, and I’ll say it again that I will never be donating my time or money to them again. A volunteer experience should be met with positivity and encouragement — not yelling orders in my face.

I guarantee that on every other day of the year, shelters and other volunteer efforts aren’t lucky enough to have the problem of too many volunteers. And, according to other posts on Twitter, other branches of Operation Turkey looked like positive experiences. Volunteers were high-fiving each other, and everyone looked like they were having fun.

So, I do apologize for offering Operation Turkey to you as a good option to help. This was my first year with them (and my last), so I didn’t have anything to go off of. But, I’ll be in search of other opportunities to help — maybe not on a holiday.

The Turkey Stands Alone.

Turkey for one!

Turkey for one!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the fall weather, a few days off from work, and of course, the food.

I love to cook (especially for a guy), I really like to eat, and the fact that pigging out is perfectly acceptable for this holiday is just the whipped topping on my pumpkin pie.

Almost every year, I’ve traveled to spend Turkey Day with my best friend and her family. My family is split, and frankly, I just don’t do all of the drama.

Last Thanksgiving, I’d just lost my job and had no business traveling. Thankfully, a friend in-town invited me to spend the day with her and her son.

Although it was just the three of us, we had a fantastic feast, capped off with lots of wine. It was a great, great day.

The truth is, I think of Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season, and while that’s exciting, it’s also the most difficult time of year to be single.

It’s chilly outside, there’s couples snuggled up all over Instagram, and it’s just… depressing.

I have always wished that my Thanksgiving Day would be filled with turkey, and a little love from a sig-other.

I came close one year. I was head-over-heels for this guy and I invited him to come home to Indiana with me. He would fit right in — hunting gear and all. I even offered to cover his flight.

But the sad truth was, I was more of a booty call to him than anything significant. I don’t even think he’d told his family about me, while I was gushing to everyone how great he was, like a fool.

After we parted ways the following year, I read an article that outlined all the benefits of being single on Thanksgiving. No Stress! No worrying about overstuffing yourself! No introducing-the-guy-to-the-family drama!

True, but no matter how much I kid myself, that sting of being single cuts a little deeper this time of year.

So, what is one to do to combat holiday blues? I’m stuffing my Thanksgiving weekend with everything that makes me happy.

My best friend is coming in town, and we’re spending Thanksgiving Eve at the bar. There’s almost nothing a tumbler of spiked cider can’t cure!

On Thanksgiving morning, we’re doing something I have always wanted to do: we are volunteering to serve approximately 8,000 people in need. We will be plopping cranberry sauce into containers for delivery.

After that? It’s kitchen time — cocktails and Turkey Day food, and of course, watching the Macy’s Day parade while recovering from a food coma.

I really cannot wait.

I know the holidays aren’t just for the coupled, and there really are advantages to flying solo this time of year.

At the very least, I’m happy that I’ve got the freedom to do whatever I want this year, and I don’t have to worry about a schedule or what to wear. I’ll be wearing sweatpants and I’ll be drunk before 3pm.

If you’ve found love, that’s definitely something to be thankful for this year. But if you’re single, I say go ahead and be thankful that you’re not with the wrong person. And while you’re at it, have another piece of pie — treat yourself!

Pic of the Week.

YES! Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow! I went shopping for my feast last night and I’m SO excited about all the delicious food I’ll be chowing down on Thursday. Below is the menu… and don’t let me fool you, I pretty much bought everything already prepared.

  • Turkey breast & drumsticks
  • Cornbread stuffing
  • Green beans (with shallots & bacon)
  • Corn
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Cranberry-orange sauce
  • Twice-baked potatoes
  • Pumpkin pie

And wine, wine, wine!

Now, in my family, growing up, we always had Thanksgiving at dinner time, so we would snack during the day, and THAT is probably what I love most about this holiday. So, I decided to build a fantastic cheese board to snack on. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Pepperdews & goat cheese
  • Various Greek Olives
  • Summer sausage
  • Prociutto
  • Smoked, aged gouda
  • Various soft cheeses
  • Cranberry preserves
  • Grapes
  • Raspberries
  • Hot mustard
  • Water crackers
  • Nuts & dark chocolate

YAASSSSS!!!

I would love to hear what’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year, what your favorite traditions are, or what your plans are this year.

Also, I got lots of great messages yesterday regarding my post on giving back during the holiday season. I wanted to share part of one of the messages with you to fill you in on an effort driven by social media:

Last year, over 30,000 corporations partnered with 92nd Street Y and #GivingTuesday to give back during the holiday season.  Held annually on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, #GivingTuesday is fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This year, in its fourth consecutive giving season, 92Y has set out to work with partners to expand the impact of this global movement. .  

Major, national corporations and non-profit organizations have committed to participating in this year’s efforts, including Salvation Army, Honest Tea, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Squarespace, Smile Train, Cole Haan and more. Possible Health, for example, a global health organization that delivers healthcare in rural Nepal, has committed to rebuilding the healthcare system in Nepal since the devastating earthquakes this spring. On #GivingTuesday, they’ll be launching a special way to get involved not only once, but for the entire year, in order to support a long-term healthcare system that can be resilient against future natural disasters.


Since its inception in 2012, there has been an estimated 470% increase in online donations on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and 40+ civic campaigns around the U.S.
However, financial donations aren’t the only way to give back to the community. Through this annual tradition, #GivingTuesday hopes to inspire and encourage acts of kindness – big or small – just as a local Baltimore resident demonstrated last year by donating her piano to a local school for their music program.  

Alright, y’all! So, let’s hear it… what are you going to be eating this Thanksgiving?

 

Giving back during the holidays.

I heart giving back.

I heart giving back.

We are just a few days away from Thanksgiving and I’m so, so excited! Thanksgiving means the official start of the holiday season, and of course lots of food and drink, but I’m also looking forward to donating my time Thanksgiving morning.

On Thursday morning, my best friend Sheena is joining me to help Operation Turkey, which is an organization that will be delivering turkey diners to approximately 8,000 homeless people on Thursday. You can see if Operation Turkey is in your city; if not, you can still make a donation that will help those in need!

Sheena and I will be helping to pack the hot meals that will be delivered — we are on cranberry sauce duty. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have my friend by my side while we do even a small part to help those who need it most.

Our upcoming volunteer opportunity got me thinking about other, simple ways to give back during the holiday season. I know you probably have charities you already give to — which is awesome — but there’s so many opportunities to give out there, and some of them are easier than you think!

One thing that’s been on my mind is the military. I feel for the families who have loved ones still overseas, and I also think of soldiers who possibly don’t have family back home to show their support. The AARP website has created a great list of ways to help the troops and veterans all year long.

One really easy way to give? Shop! Many companies have the one-to-one model, where if you purchase an item, a second item is donated to someone who needs it. How easy, and AWESOME! A company I stumbled across last week is donating beanies to the homeless. All you have to do is buy a beanie, then you get a new hat and so does a homeless person — visit the website to check out their selection of beanies.

Also, shop using Etsy. Many Etsy store owners give a percentage of their sales to charities, so look for certain shops that donate to charities you love. You’ll be able to check Christmas gifts off your lists while giving back at the same time.

Keep your eyes out for “UberSleigh” this holiday season. In Christmas’ past, Uber has held events asking participants to bring todays to donate. Uber and its drivers then donate the toys to children all over various cities. Very cool!

At the very least, perhaps donate to your local food bank, or adopt-a-family. A little bit can go a long way, and it feels so good to help someone, even if it’s something small. I’d love to know how you’re helping this holiday season — leave a comment and spread the word!

 

Fresh Friday: Not A Perfume.

Pretty bottle!

Pretty bottle!

Y’all… it’s FRIDAY!! The exciting thing about THIS Friday is that for most of us, next week is a short week, then we get a looooong weekend. I cannot really explain how happy this makes me.

I’ve felt so stressed this week; stressed over things that are out of my control (isn’t that the worst), and I finally just gave up, pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind as best I could… and bought a pumpkin pie and ate half of it for dinner. No, seriously. Because why not?

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving SO much, but I’ve got lots to accomplish before Turkey Day arrives — I know many of you are in the same boat.

Today, I’ve got another new perfume for you, but it’s called “Not A Perfume” and it’s made by Juliet Has A Gun. Unique name, huh? It came in my November Birchbox, and at first, I was a little confused by the name.

But, I’ve been wearing it these last few days. According it its description, it’s made out of a single element called Cetalox, which is usually a scent that’s featured in the background of perfumes. It’s completely allergen free and has no other ingredients.

So, what’s Cetalox? To be honest, I couldn’t find a lot of information on WHAT cetalox is, but it’s said to have an amber scent, kind of woody. Which… I love!

I’ll be traveling to see my CASA boys this weekend (and sneaking in a hair appointment from my favorite stylist), so I’ll find some fun things to post on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7).

Next week, I’ll be posting a few things about Thanksgiving and the holiday season, but I’m taking Thursday and Friday off from blogging. I’ll be entertaining my guest, and I doubt many of you will be on the computer.

Meanwhile, I am still working hard on creating my blog class! It’s taking a little longer than I expected, but only because I’m packing so many learning materials in one class. So far, there are 10 lectures, presentations, video lectures, and quizzes. I promise I’ll keep you posted (and keep your eyes peeled for an exclusive coupon)!

Alright y’all, I’m off to work — have a great weekend!

Giving thanks.

Pretty for the turkey!

Pretty for the turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Last year, I was pretty fresh off a breakup, and although it was a breakup for the best, the holidays always have a way of highlighting the doom and gloom (blame it on the lights and glitter).

I know that around this time of year, everyone is thinking about what they’re thankful for. Many times, my list of things to be grateful for is long, and very obvious.

But this year, I really had to think hard about what’s in my life.

I’m still unable to discuss some major moves in my life right now, but I promise I can explain soon! Just know that these last three weeks have been some of the toughest I’ve had to endure, ever.

What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for bravery. Because keeping your head up is not easy, and I’ve managed to keep my breakdowns to a minimum of two.

I’m thankful for my education, because it has given me more feet in the door than I sometimes deserve.

I’m thankful for my kitty, Blanche, because even though I set my alarm and coffee pot every day for 6 am, she is there to help wake me up and keep going when the mornings are bleary.

For the first time in 8 years, I didn’t get to travel home for Thanksgiving. And it’s been hard, knowing that I’m missing out on some of my favorite traditions.

But that is the thing about life. Things happen that we don’t expect, and sometimes they aren’t fun. On the other hand, good things can happen in a split-second. And in the mix of it all, we’re all just trying to find some sort of rhythm.

I haven’t had Thanksgiving with my family in 10 years; I have always relied on my friends.

Today, I’ll be spending my time with a friend who would’ve also been alone. Together, we plan on cooking up a feast big enough for a football team, and drinking as much wine as possible (no one to judge us)!

And for that, I am thankful.

So, to you, my dear readers, thank you — I appreciate you, every single day. Thank you for reading my words, even in the tough times.

I truly hope your day is fabulous, delicious, and full of love in any form.

May we always have old wines, good friends, and fleeting cares. 

Pic of the Week.

Gifts for Barthenia.

Gifts for Barthenia.

It’s Thanksgiving week, and one of my favorite parts about kicking off the holiday season is purchasing gifts for someone in need.

Several years ago, the company my mom works for started buying gifts for residents at an Indianapolis nursing home. The nursing home would provide the office with a list of names of residents that had no one to buy them Christmas gifts. It would have their size, for clothing items, and any items they wanted.

The items on the list are often simple things we take for granted, such as soap and lotion, hats and scarves, sweaters and slippers.

My mom and her coworkers had so much fun shopping for the residents on the list, I really wanted to be a part of it. So, two years ago, I picked a name — a woman named Barthenia.

I know nothing about her, other than her clothing size. That year, I purchased a velour tracksuit for her (matching pants and a jacket), leopard slippers, a hat, scarf, and glove set, toiletries, and a book.

When the gifts were delivered, Barthenia opened the slippers first. She told my mom’s coworker they were the most beautiful things she’d ever seen. We were kindred spirits.

The following year, her name was on the list again. I chose her, and bought similar items for her (including a sparkly thermal henley from Old Navy).

This year, I hoped to see her name again. And there it was — only this time, the nursing home said Barthenia often wore the same outfit, and that she was “always cold.”

Holly to the rescue! Over the weekend, I purchased several gifts for Ms. Barthenia, including:

I am also making one of the infinity scarves for Barthenia (that’s my project this week) to keep warm.

Seriously, giving to my CASA boys and Barthenia is what makes the holidays special for me. I’m truly thankful that I’m in a position to help others, even if that means less shopping and splurging on myself.

If you live in the Baton Rouge area, and want to give this year, consider giving to my favorite two charities: The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank (A one-time donation of $100 will provide food for a local senior citizen for one ENTIRE year!) and CASA (donations help recruit, train and screen volunteers to help abused children in our area).

Here’s to hoping Barthenia — and all of those in need — gets a little joy this year!

 

 

Single girl survival guide: Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is one of my FAVORITE holidays, and a true HAPPY THANKSGIVING is in order! Don’t worry, the #tb series will be back tomorrow—I just couldn’t let today pass by without saying a few words.

Every year, I travel to my friend Angela’s home. Her and her husband have welcomed me into their home over the years, once in San Diego and several times in Indiana, where we grew up.

On Thanksgiving Day, Angela and I start the cooking pretty early—we make almost everything from scratch. Her parents and brother join us for dinner, and sometimes other guests come over. It is always a fun day, with delicious food.

I am really lucky to be surrounded by people who love and support me on this holiday, and I usually don’t ever have to grit my teeth and answer any questions about my relationship status, which is usually single.

However, there have been years that I’ve had a boyfriend, but he couldn’t come with me, or years where I’m fresh off a breakup and I was crying into my turkey. Any holiday, no matter the situation, can be hard to endure as a single person.

But fear not! I’m here with my trusty guide; we will band together, unite as one single-woman front and have a JOYOUS day, being single and proud.

Here goes:

  • Do give thanks. If you’re single, and don’t want to be, it’s easy to get down in the dumps. But chances are, there’s a TON you’ve got to be thankful for—so focus on that! Me? I’m so thankful that I have such a fun tradition with my friends and extended family each year. I am thankful for my job which affords me things I need, and the things I wish for, and I’m thankful that I’m in good health and good spirits.
  • Think about your freedoms. I’m not talking about ‘Merica—I’m talking about your freedoms as a single person. You don’t have to deal with in-laws, you don’t have to fret over impressing people, and frankly, you can do whatever you damn-well please!
  • Eat, drink, & be merry! Some holiday survival guides say not to binge, because you’ll regret it later. Tsk. Tsk, they say, Mr. Right isn’t in the bottom of the pie pan! Well, if you’re anything like me, you spend 95% of your year counting calories and busting ass at the gym in order to look hot, so today, I’m eating that cranberry sauce and I’m not going to give a damn!
  • Take it with a grain of salt, a slice of lime, and a shot of tequila. Depending on the gathering you’re at, people are probably going to ask about your dating situation, and if you’re REALLY lucky, they’ll offer their advice (since they are experts, and all). Let them say what they will, and then forget it. Literally. Don’t dwell on it. If needed, make a drinking game of it, and take a shot anytime you being “single” becomes a talking point. Drink!
  • Try new things. Whether you’re whipping up a new pie to bring to the gathering, or you’ve got a new lipstick you’ve been dying to try, give it a go! Trying new things, big or small, boost confidence and who doesn’t want that?
  • Mend your wounds. If none of this works, and a case of the lonelies strikes you down, do what you have to do—grab an extra mug of spiked cider, make a list of all the Black Friday sales you want to hit, and sneak away to watch reruns of Very Mary Kate. Trust me, it’ll at least make you laugh.

And so, wherever you are today, enjoy the food, have a drink, and happy, happy Thanksgiving!