The Cherry on Top: Old Hill Cidery

This week’s prompt for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “Cherry on Top”.  As an explanation, Michelle offers:

The cherry on top. The icing on the cake. Or, as the straightforward folks at Oxford Dictionaries explain it, “a desirable feature perceived as the finishing touch to something that is already very good.”

My most recent “cherry on top” experience happened on the return leg of a road trip through Virginia Jay and I took for our anniversary a few weeks ago.  From the beginning the vacation was exactly what we hoped it would be: relaxing at a gorgeous resort (Primland) between hikes in the Blue Ridge mountains with a very few touristy destinations (like Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and Chateau Morrisette Winery) thrown in the mix.

The last stop on our journey home required a short detour off Interstate 81 to the town of Timberville, VA.  Our destination? Old Hill Cidery, which we found nestled among rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley.  The grounds were adorable, the cider tasting was educational and fun, and because we were the only customers in the shop at the time, we enjoyed a friendly conversation with the young woman who ran the shop.  She then directed us behind the shop, where we found a unique “Virginia is for Lovers” sign with a quintessential rural Virginia view.  It was the perfect ending to our anniversary trip, an unexpected and delightful “cherry on top”!

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{ View from the parking area of Old Hill Cidery }

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{ Cider Tasting }

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{ View of the Shenandoah Valley }

Check out other “cherry on top” offerings at The Daily Post.

 

Book Consumption: June 2016 (and a Popsugar Reading Challenge Update)

June was a mixed bag of reading filled with books I loved and books I didn’t.  (I even abandoned a book, which I haven’t done in a long time).  If nothing else, it was a productive month.  I read or listened to nine books but I’m struggling to write reviews for all of them.  Instead of wrestling with the task, I thought I’d provide short summaries along with my Goodreads ratings and then list an up-to-date account of my progress with the Popsugar Reading Challenge.  I hope you are enjoying your summer reading experiences as much as I am…

June Books

As You Wish by Carey Elwes with Joe Layden. (Audiobook).  A wonderful book narrated by Carey Elwes who shares many funny and touching anecdotes related to the making of the modern movie classic The Princess Bride.  (A book written by a celebrity – Popsugar Reading Challenge)   4 stars

Jane, the fox & me by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.  A story, told in graphic novel form, about Hèléne, her stuggles with a group of mean girls who used to be her friends, and her love of Jane Eyre.  A lovely experience with thoughtful illustrations packing as much punch as the words.  It’s not really a graphic novel but I’m counting it as one. (A graphic novel – Popsugar Reading Challenge)   4 stars

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.  A dark retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale that draws heavily on Greek mythology.  I was not a fan of the characters (except for Ignifex, the “Beast”) and the writing annoyed me more than once.   3 stars 

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.   This gem offers a fictional account of the troubling events that started Constance Kopp on the road to becoming America’s first female deputy  sheriff.  Eccentric characters and an interesting plot made for a very enjoyable read.   4 stars

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.  What a fun book!  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this story of a man who falls in love with a woman by secretly reading her security-flagged e-mail interactions with a co-worker.  It’s a well-executed and satisfying piece of fluff.   4 stars

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.  In West Hall, Vermont, a legendary mystery/ghost story impacts the lives of several present day people.  This is a twisty story that wasn’t quite as scary, thrilling, or suspenseful as I expected it to be.   3 stars

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. (Audiobook).  A sweeping novel of France during WWII that focuses on the decisions, sacrifices and bravery of two sisters and their estranged father.  Listening to this on audio brought the characters to life and allowed me to really savor the story.   4.5 stars

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.  The first book in the Grisha trilogy which begins the tale of Alina Starkov, an orphan who discovers she has an unusual and powerful gift that changes her destiny but also places her in grave danger.  I read this book in a day, staying up well past my bedtime and then dreaming about it all night.   4 stars

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  World War I, societal constraints on women of the early 1900’s and falling in love are some of themes woven throughout this book.  I loved the setting (a small English village ), the time period (beginning of WWI), the characters and the writing.  Very, very good!   (A book published in 2016 – Popsugar Reading Challenge)   4.5 stars

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Did Not Finish:

  • Dune by Frank Herbert.  Lifeless and boring.  Even though it’s a classic and on most must-read book lists, I just. couldn’t. do. it.

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What I’m currently reading:

  • Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst.  Some nuggets of inspiration by I’m struggling…
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (audiobook).  Huck can tell some whoppers but he’s got a good heart.
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.  It’s hard to put this book down and go to bed!

2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge Update

  • A book based on a fairy tale:  The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly (4 stars)
  •  A National Book Award winner:  Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (4.5 stars)
  • A YA bestseller:  Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (3 stars)
  • A book you haven’t read since high school:  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (4 stars)
  • A book set in your home state:  Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (4.5 stars)
  • A book translated to English:  Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (3 stars)
  • A romance set in the future:  Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (3 stars)
  • A book set in Europe:  I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (4 stars)
  • A book that’s under 150 pages:  The Pearl by John Steinbeck (3.5 stars)
  • A New York Times bestseller:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey – audiobook (4.5 stars)
  • A book that’s becoming a movie this year:  Lady Susan by Jane Austin – audiobook (3.5 stars)
  • A book recommended by someone you just met:
  • A self-improvement book:  Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resh (5 stars)
  • A book you can finish in a day:  Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (5 stars)
  • A book written by a celebrity:  As You Wish by Carey Elwes  – audiobook (4 stars)
  • A political memoir:
  • A book at least 100 years older than you:  Persuasion by Jane Austen (5 stars)
  • A book that’s more than 600 pages:  The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (4 stars)
  • A book from Oprah’s Book Club:
  • A science fiction novel:
  • A book recommended by a family member:
  • A graphic novel:  Jane, the fox & me by Fanny Britt (4 stars)
  • A book that is published in 2016:  The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (4.5 stars)
  • A book with a protagonist who has your occupation:  The Professor by Charlotte Brontë – audiobook (3.5 stars)
  • A book that takes place during the summer:  Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger (5 stars)
  • A book and its prequel:  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – audiobook (5 stars);
  • A murder mystery:  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – audiobook (4 stars)
  • A book written by a comedian:  Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari – audiobook (3.5 stars)
  • A dystopian novel:  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (4 stars)
  • A book with a blue cover:  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – audiobook (4.5 stars)
  • A book of poetry:
  • The first book you see in a bookstore:  Joyland by Stephen King (4 stars)
  • A classic from the 20th century:
  • A book from the library:  Arabella by Georgette Heyer (4 stars)
  • An autobiography:
  • A book about a road trip:  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (3.5 stars)
  • A book about a culture you are unfamiliar with:  Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (3 stars)
  • A satirical book:  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – audiobook (4.5 stars)
  • A book that takes place on an island:
  • A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy:  The Lake House by Kate Morton (4 stars)

It’s been a satisfying year of reading so far for me.  What good stuff have you been reading lately?

 

 

 

Book Consumption: May 2016

I am a little late with my May reading round-up for two reasons: 1) I read a bunch of books which I’ve been struggling to review and 2) I’ve been traveling with limited access to the Internet so writing has been a bit touch and go.  Looking back,the month was filled with a nice combination of very good entertainment and thought-provoking reflections.

May Books

Killer angels

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  The battle of Gettysburg  is recreated through the perspectives and experiences of the generals who orchestrated it and the men that served closely with them.  Through meticulous research of journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, the author creates a deeply personal and utterly believable account of the battle that turned the tide of the Civil War in America.  This book is the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction.

My thoughts:  I chose this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge because Gettysburg is about an hour and a half from my home.  I’ve driven, hiked, and biked the battlegrounds numerous times, often at the same time of year the battle took place (hot and humid July).  I don’t normally choose war fiction and thought I would be enduring a dry read just to check a category off the Challenge.  Boy, was I wrong!  This story was not so much about the particulars of the battle as it was about the personal philosophies, strengths, weaknesses, and struggles of the men who fought and died in it.  The portrayals of Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Chamberlain were particularly moving to me.  This was a haunting read and I thought about it for weeks afterward.

(A book set in your home state – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

A Wind in the Door

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle.  The second installment of the A Wrinkle in Time quintet finds Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe, along with some very unusual friends, trying to save the universe by saving Charles Wallace’s life.  They do this by traveling to the microscopic world of Charles Wallace’s mitochondria and interacting with farandolae which live there and give it life.  L’Engle’s wonderful ability to mix science, myth, magic and faith shines in this book.

My thoughts: After enjoying A Wrinkle in Time in April, I decided to revisit the second and third books of the series in the name of nostalgia. Of the first three books in the quintet, I enjoyed this one the most when I was younger.  I still do.  Meg is a little less irritating, the scientific aspects of the story are interesting, and the concept of worlds within worlds within worlds is a thought provoking exercise.  A Wind in the Door was a pleasure to reread.

 

Gift of the Sea

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh, reflects on many aspects of womanhood in this slim book she wrote on a visit to Captiva Island in the early 1950’s.  Each chapter takes the beach or a particular shell and relates it to a certain aspect of life such as solitude, contentment, marriage, and aging.

My thoughts:  Even though the book is well over 50 years old, it felt like the author was peeking into my own life experiences and describing them in detail.  Mrs. Lindbergh is wise and hopeful in her meditations and I came away from the book feeling more insightful and refreshed for having read it.  I saved this book to read on a short trip to the beach which greatly enhanced my experience of the book (and the beach).  I can see myself returning to this book often as an exercise to reflect on my own life.

(A book you can finish in a day – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle.  To grasp the setting of the third installment of the A Wrinkle in Time quintet, fast-forward several years.  Meg is married to Calvin O’Keefe and expecting her first child and Charles Wallace is now seventeen.  The destruction of the world by South American dictator Madog Branzillo is inevitable unless Charles Wallace can change key events in history.  He does this by traveling through time on a unicorn named Gaudior and spending time inside the minds of several key people in the unfolding drama.  Meg is able to travel with Charles through “kything” – communicating through thoughts – and is his mental companion on this adventure.

My thoughts: Of the three books I’ve read in this series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet has the darkest and most complicated plot.  I enjoyed it, particularly the historical aspect of the story and the way early actions impacted later situations in the story.  Once again, L’Engle combines myth, magic and parapsychology to create an engrossing tale.  I loved rereading all these books this spring!  I think I’ll finish out the quintet now that I’m aware of the final two books.

 

Georgette Heyer's Regency world

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.  Georgette Heyer wrote several light but well-written tales, mostly romances, set during the Regency period in England (think Jane Austen’s era). This book takes an in-depth look at the culture (particularly upper class) of that time.  Gender roles, fashion, food, entertainment, etc. are broken down into specific chapters and discussed in detail.

My thoughts:  I love Jane Austen’s writing and I recently stumbled upon Georgette Heyer’s delightful books.  I found Georgette Heyer’s Regency World to be a great source of background information on the Regency era which enhanced my enjoyment of both authors.  If the Regency era interests you, this book is an informative and easy-reading resource.

 

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  This is an epic fantasy tale about a brilliant young boy named Kvothe who is orphaned by supernatural spirits, survives on his own as a street urchin, and is ultimately accepted at University where his education occurs at the crossroads of science and magic.  He’s also schooled  in the talents of making friends and creating enemies.  Adventure and mayhem abound.  This is the first book in a trilogy but only the first two books have been published (in 2007 and 2011).

My thoughts:  I’m not sure how to review this book.  It receives ridiculously high ratings on Goodreads and yet I almost gave up on the book because I didn’t care for any of the characters in the beginning of the tale.  (The story is told as a reflection – an adult Kvothe is relaying his life story to a scribe.)  Then, towards the end of the book, I started wishing it would just be over.  These are not markers of a good book, in my opinion.  However, once the actual story of Kvothe’s life got started, I began to enjoy it.  The writing is very well done and the story is engaging, reminding me of Harry Potter but with an older protagonist in a different setting.   I haven’t decided if I will invest time in the second book – 1000 pages is a lot of precious minutes of my life.

(A book that’s more than 600 pages – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

Lady Susan

Lady Susan by Jane Austen.  This lesser known work of Jane Austen is the story of a manipulative widow who is having an affair with a married man while attempting to arrange a lucrative marriage for her daughter (and one for herself if she can manage it). The book is written in an epistolary format which  I believe is unique for Miss Austen.  It was also written when she was only nineteen.

My thoughts:  As a lover of Jane Austen, I can’t believe I never read this story before!  Having now acknowledged my failing, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Lady Susan is my least favorite Jane Austen protagonist of all time because of her selfishness and manipulations.  Loyal Books offers a multi-narrator audiobook version of Lady Susan which I listened to in one evening.  It was a very quick, enjoyable experience and it was FREE.  The movie adaptation called Love and Friendship starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny came out earlier this summerI didn’t get the chance to see it in the theater so I’m looking forward to its video release.

(A book that’s becoming a movie this year – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

 

The 7 Habits

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey.  Personal and professional effectiveness is addressed through seven detailed fundamental principles.  Three principles are related to the individual, three are related to interpersonal interaction and one is an overarching principle that affects the other six.  All seven principles are undergirded with a strong faith-based foundation.

My thoughts: I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Stephen Covey over the course of several weeks.  I found that listening to the book was not ideal.  The book is dense, covering many topics requiring mediation and consideration.  Many times I wanted to go back and review or reference something so I purchased a copy of the book.  There is so much valuable information in this book that can be life changing but requires real effort on the part of the reader.  I’ve already been working on empathic listening, especially with my teenage children, and the results have been very positive.

(A New York Times bestseller – Popsugar Reading Challenge)

What I’m currently reading:

  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (audiobook) – All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have to parent Tom…:)
  • Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst – I’m feeling meh about this one.  We’ll see.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – Just starting this today and am really looking forward to it.

What have you been reading lately?  I’d love to hear about the good and the bad…

Small Pleasures: June Edition

I love recognizing and indulging in small pleasures on a regular basis.  They add a sense of happiness and contentment to my life.  Summertime offers an inordinate amount of these delights (ice cream cones from Pine View Dairy, lightning bugs, eating al fresco at every opportunity, etc.) and I’ve been enjoying as many of them as I can.

My favorites of the summer so far:

  1. Strawberry spinach salad.  June is strawberry season around here and I am all about those strawberries.  My favorite way to eat them this year is in this beautiful spinach salad.  I just can’t get enough of the sweet and tangy deliciousness.
  2. Baseball season.  Youth baseball, that is.  This is the last year my youngest son, Aaron, will play in the local youth league so I am trying to soak up as much of the experience as I can.  The weather has been especially accommodating for evening baseball games and Aaron’s team is having a winning year.  It’s an irresistible combination as a spectator/mom.
  3. Listening to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve recently gotten into audiobooks as an enticement to walk regularly or complete nasty chores. For most of June, I’ve listened to The Nightingale, A WWII story that focuses on the experiences of two very different sisters in Nazi occupied France.  The narrator, Polly Stone, does a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life and I’m transported to another, often sad and dark but ultimately hopeful, world.
  4. Summer reading lists.  I love reading articles and blog posts about books and the summer reading lists are jam-packed with great suggestions.  Considering my massive TBR pile, perusing lists of tempting books is rather counter-productive but I can’t seem to help myself.  If you are wondering what book you should take with you to the pool, beach, or your next vacation these sites are good places to start: Modern Mrs. Darcy, The Bookbub Blog, and Popsugar.
  5. The front porch.  My front porch is shaded for most of the day and secluded from the street by burning bush and holly.  It is private and comfy and I have already whiled away many pleasant hours reading a good book, watching a thunderstorm roll in, or relaxing with my husband in the late evening after a long, busy day.

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I hope you are taking time to enjoy the small pleasures of summer and of life.  Please tell me about them in the comments!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve

The Italian Chapel, Orkney, Scotland
The Italian Chapel, Orkney, Scotland

The Italian Chapel, which was lovingly constructed by Italian POWs, is an interesting little piece of World War II history tucked away beside a cow pasture on the main island of Orkney in the North Sea.

Today’s post is inspired by the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.