Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

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How to Survive Winter: a Guide from a Southerner Trapped in the North


If there’s one thing (most) Southerners are terrified of, it’s winter. Three months of cold temperatures, bitter winds and questionable weather forecasts is no one’s idea of a good time.  Gray and brown take over, as most flowers, plants and other vegetation have died or gone into their “hibernation.” Sometimes the sun doesn’t come out for a week; when it comes back, we’ve forgotten what it was.

And Heaven forbid it snows. What is snow, anyway?

After living in the Great White North, I’ve learned how to deal with winter and how to get through those long, gray days without losing my sanity. I’m no expert, but nine years (ugh) of experience in blizzards, subzero wind chills, icy roads and shoveling driveways has provided me with plenty of insights to share.

Here is my best advice on how to survive winter, straight from a misplaced Southerner.

Invest in a snow blower. My parents never had one for six of our years in Pennsylvania; our neighbors have one, and they graciously clear our driveway when snow strikes. But a few years ago, Mom broke down and bought one of our own. And you know what? We haven’t had a rough winter since. Omen? I’d like to think so.

Don’t buy cheap shovels. They break too easily. No one wants to hear that snap! in the middle of shoveling the driveway. It’s the worst. Shelling out for a sturdier shovel will be worth it later. Buy them early, too. The early bird gets the good shovel.

Don’t leave the house unless you absolutely have to. “I drive good in the snow,” said no Southerner ever. Cabin fever will eventually set in, and you’ll have to make a choice. For me, that choice is easy. As long as it’s cold and/or there’s snow on the ground, I’m staying inside.

Pull out all the thick, soft blankets and keep them within reach. Snow is much nicer when seen from inside, wrapped in a blanket, sipping on hot chocolate (or a Hot Toddy).

Stock up on the essentials well in advance (if possible). Sometimes icky winter weather strikes with little to no warning, and you may not have time to refill your supplies. If you do, though, bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, soup and non-food items like batteries run out fast. May Publix be ever in your favor.

Check your flashlights and charge your electronics. Put fresh batteries in your flashlights and lanterns, and make sure your cell phones, tablets, etc. are fully charged. Power outages can happen, and they aren’t always resolved quickly. Be prepared.

And most importantly, be careful. I joke about snow and driving and cabin fever, but winter weather makes for treacherous driving and travel conditions. If you feel uneasy about being on the roads, by all means, stay in.

Remember, winter is short. Come March, the grass will be much greener on the other side…literally.

* This might be more applicable to our friends in Maryland and Virginia, where snow is a little more common. 

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, a Virginia Tech alumna, and a current graduate student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s working toward her MA in Interactive Media, and afterwards hopes to further her career as a kick-ass writer.

Originally from Atlanta, Kate enjoys exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, especially its wide offerings of wineries. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


Split Allegiances

 I am the only Hokie in a family of Tar Heels. I was born and raised wearing that beautiful hue of Carolina blue, and in college traded most of it for the unique but equally beautiful palette of Chicago maroon and burnt orange. Explaining my allegiances to the Hokies and the Tar Heels always garners some confused facial expressions the inevitable question, “So what do you do when they play each other?”


My “TarHokie” Family

The question wasn’t always met without hesitation, especially in my younger Hokie days. I essentially had to learn how to cheer for another team. But now, I don’t even think twice, especially regarding football.

For the last several years, my family has attended the VT-UNC football games, in both Chapel Hill and Blacksburg. Games in Chapel Hill are like homecomings for my parents, and memories of my childhood in Carolina blue become suddenly vibrant. I see kids dressed in full UNC gear; the little girls in UNC cheerleader outfits remind me of myself at that age. I look at them and think, “I remember when I had an outfit like that.”

Then I see a Hokie family with their kids rocking the maroon and orange, Hokie Bird hats and Hokie cheerleader outfits, and I think, “That will be my kids one day.”

A few weekends ago, we went to the UNC-VT football game in Chapel Hill; my cousin Alexis, also a UNC alumna, joined us. I was outnumbered three to one, but I like to think my Hokie spirit made up for the numbers. When we got to our seats in Kenan Memorial Stadium, I added a dash of maroon and orange amidst the sea of Carolina Blue. A few other Hokies were seated nearby, so I waved to them and flashed my best VT hand signal. We high-fived after touchdowns and made sure we sang “Tech Triumph” extra loudly when appropriate.

One time, I might have yelled, “Get him!” a little too loudly on a Hokie defensive play, and an older lady a couple rows down turned around and gave me a stink eye. Naturally, I yelled even louder on the next play. Even my parents and Alexis laughed.


Hark the sound of Hokie victory

The game ended in the Hokies’ favor with a 34-17 victory. As is tradition, the UNC band and spirit squads led the remaining Tar Heel fans with the singing of “Hark the Sound” and “I’m a Tar Heel Born.” I hummed along to the tune I’d heard since birth; even as a Hokie, I couldn’t resist the melody. For a small moment, it felt like I was turning on my Hokie allegiance. But that feeling faded quickly. Yelling, “Go to hell, Duke!” feels good no matter what colors I wear. Everyone hates Duke.

Mom always says that, when it comes to these games, “Our family can’t lose,” and she’s right. Since I became a Hokie in 2010, my allegiance spread to them, and they cheer for the Hokies almost as much as their alma mater. Our allegiances aren’t really split. They’re just varied. Besides, maroon, orange, and Carolina blue don’t look so bad all together.

And maybe next time, I can introduce Alexis to football weekends in Blacksburg.

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, a Virginia Tech alumna, and a current graduate student at Elon University in North Carolina. She’s working toward her MA in Interactive Media, and afterwards hopes to further her career as a kick-ass writer.

Originally from Atlanta, Kate enjoys exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, especially its wide offerings of wineries. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson and check out her blog, A Thought and a Half.


Southern Girl, Northern Shore

I grew up going to Holden Beach on the southern North Carolina coast. My grandpa had a house there for a long time; that’s where my dad always went as a kid. We vacationed at Holden until 2002, when my grandpa sold his house. Since then, we’ve been back to Holden once, and we’ve stayed at Hilton Head, North Myrtle Beach and St. Simon’s Island. My family loves our Southern beaches.

My boyfriend Kevin, who I met at Virginia Tech, grew up in northwest New Jersey. His family’s favorite beach spot is Cape May, on the southern-most tip of the state. When he invited me to spend a weekend with him at Cape May, my mind raced with rumors and stories I heard about New Jersey beaches from kids at my high school. In my eight years (ugh) living above the Mason-Dixon Line, I had never ventured to any of the popular shore spots (they call it “the shore” up here), like Cape May, Wildwood, Ocean City or Stone Harbor. Delaware and Maryland beaches didn’t catch my attention, either. I told Kevin I’d never been to a beach farther north than North Carolina.   (more…)

Oakland Cemetery – Summer 2014

Pretty Southern is privileged to be part of the Historic Oakland Cemetery Ambassadors program. We recently toured this Atlanta landmark visiting graves of thousands of Southerners including two of our favorites: Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell Marsh. You can scroll down below for photos, but first we wanted to let y’all know about a cool event happening this Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12.


Oakland Cemetery is now offering a guided walking tour – Malts & Vaults of Oakland: Where Beer Meets History. The tour adds to Oakland’s existing repertoire of 14 specialty tours and the additional “Sights, Symbols and Stories” tour. Authors Ron Smith and Mary O. Boyle of “Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Hub of the South” will be onsite during the tours. Be sure to purchase a copy in our museum shop then have then sign it for you! At the end – your tour receipt is redeemable for $5 off at Six Feet Under in Grant Park. No beer will be served during the tour, but that receipt will get you a brew or appetizer. Get your tickets at It’s $10 for adults, and $5 for students & seniors. Ya hear that college kids? For those of y’all above 21, that’s a free tour of Oakland Cemetery and a beer!

Now here are a few of our favorite photos of Atlanta’s Historic Oakland Cemetery

Historic Oakland Cemetery tour

The beginning of our tour at Oakland Cemetery

Margaret Mitchell Grave Historic Oakland Cemetery

Margaret Mitchell Marsh’s Grave in Historic Oakland Cemetery

Bobby Jones Grave

The Grave of Bobby Jones – legendary golfer. Leave a golf ball for a blessing.

Jewish Oakland Cemetery

The Jewish family graves in Oakland Cemetery.

Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison - a true lady

Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison – a true lady

Of all the magnificent headstones and mausoleums we saw that day, there was a simple one that left me in awe. The prayer on the grave of Ollivette Eugenia Smith Allison. She was called the “Great Mother” for her work at the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home – and she loved elephants. Her grave is a mother elephant, with her trunk draped across a young elephant.

The prayer from Miss Ollivette is one that might be the ultimate prayer of thankfulness and gratitude…even from beyond the grave.

O God, I thank Thee for food, clothing, shelter, love, and understanding. For friends who are necessary for me to grow, to be a strong and respectable person. Grant me self-control, self-respect, and peace within. Amen.

“The two most important things that anyone can give a child are time and love. I’m never too busy to talk with a child. If I see a child who’s stressed, someone who’s having a bad day, I’ll go and spend time with them right away. If a child comes into my office while I am on the phone, I’ll hold her hand until I am finished talking and then I’ll give her a hug and ask her how she is.”

Amen indeed. For the living, keep up with Oakland on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Dear Virginia Tech and Your Friend Blacksburg

grad1Soon, I will be leaving and heading onward to my next adventure. It’s bittersweet, as I’m sure you understand. But I would be remiss if I did not properly thank you for the experiences we shared over the last four years, the lessons you taught me about school, work and life itself. Believe me, there’s a lot. Don’t let me get too misty-eyed.

It was here where I discovered what I want to do with my life. Well, I knew what field I wanted to pursue, but I wasn’t positive about exactly what I wanted to do. It didn’t take long for me to change my focus from journalism to public relations, and to add my second major in creative writing. Send your press release and public relations campaign assignments my way; I’ve got you covered.