A Virginia Writer Goes to the Land of Fire and Ice

IMGP4522

A view of the water on Highway 47 around Hvalfjörður.

Funny story: Graham and I went to Iceland in March, I blinked, and now it’s nearly September.

I really have struggled with what to say in this post.  There are blog posts and articles all over the Internet about what to do in Iceland, how to save money, what to bring, and what you should know before you go.  The market for advice is…well, just a little saturated.  Not unlike my hair, my clothes, and my hiking boots after walking behind Seljalandsfoss on a damp day.

IMGP4976

Seljalandsfoss in south Iceland.

Worth it? Oh, absolutely.

With the collapse of WOW air and the rising sentiment that Iceland has become too much of a magnet for Millennials seeking adventure in its windswept landscapes, several of my friends asked me, when Graham and I got back, if our trip was worth it.  Worth the cost, worth the time, worth fighting the hordes of other eager tourists looking to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and bathe in crystal blue waters.

Again – oh, absolutely.

So, instead of doling out advice that you can find elsewhere, I’m just going to tell you why, even now that you can’t score super-cheap WOW air tickets (spoiler: we flew Icelandiar and it was great) and even now that Greenland is the new hotness, you should absolutely, 1000%, without any hesitation book your trip to Iceland.

The tourist spots are actually worth a stop.

We’ve all been there – trapped in a cramped elevator on the Eiffel Tower, stuck behind some wailing kid while you’re trying to snap a picture of the Grand Canyon, desperately huffing it up the hill at Edinburgh Castle just barely managing to keep up with the tour guide.  In these moments, many of us – yes, even avid adventurers – can succumb to our lesser instincts and wonder, is this worth the hassle?  Well, yeah, of course it is, and Iceland is no different.

IMGP4505

Kirkjufell, on the Snæfellsnesnes peninsula in the west.

You should absolutely see the geysers, pet the shaggy ponies, scale the craters, and walk along the black sand beaches.

IMGP4234

Strokkur, on the Golden Circle.

IMGP4231

A thermal field along the Golden Circle, near Geysir.

IMGP4307

Kerið, a volcanic crater lake on the Golden Circle.

IMGP4302

A fluffy Icelandic horse I tried to make friends with on the Golden Circle.  He wasn’t interested.

IMGP5136

Reynisfjara Beach, facing Dyrhólaey, near Vík.

Go play in a glacier lagoon and spot diamonds on the shore.

IMGP4650

The Diamond Beach on Iceland’s south coast.

Will you have to deal with people?  Sure, but they’re just as excited to be there as you are.  Just give each other space and be patient.  It is worth the hassle.  I promise.

And if you go in the winter or early spring, there are ice caves.

And they’re really, really cool.

MVIMG_20190314_135650_1

An ice cave on Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier.

And they don’t all look the same.

IMGP4765

A black ice cave on Vatnajökull glacier.

A tour takes half a day.  You have time to do another cool thing in the morning, and then play in the ice all afternoon.  It’s kind of comforting to know that not all caves are dark and creepy.

IMGP4723

Layers of ice and ash.

My parents thought Graham and I were crazy to go to Iceland just when it was starting to warm up in Virginia, but if we’d gone in the summer, we would have totally missed this opportunity.

There’s plenty of culture and history to explore.

Iceland was first settled in 874 AD.  The country has a rich history.  Its people were and are a brave, hardy, and resourceful bunch.  You’ll spot history from the car driving to your next hotel.

IMGP5012

A traditional turf structure, on the road in south Iceland.

You’ll see it lauded in towns and cities.

IMGP4012

Lief Erikson, in Reykjavík.

And yes, there are museums, too.

IMGP4921

A ship on display in the Skógar Regional Museum.

IMGP4932

Traditional turf houses, which have been moved to the Skógar Regional Museum.

Don’t miss out on actually learning the history of this little island.  It will surprise you, and you’ll be better for knowing about it.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money on food and lodging. 

This was the view from our totally reasonably-priced Reykjavík hotel room:

IMG_0209

The view from our hotel room in Reykjavík.

And while we certainly splurged on a few meals, it’s not hard to find a quick bite.  Hot dogs are an Icelandic favorite, and they’re not expensive, and they’re pretty damn tasty.

Iceland is not the least expensive place Graham and I have ever visited, and if you fancy a beer or a cocktail, do be prepared to drop some coin.  But if you do your research and plan ahead, and if you aren’t visiting in the height of summer, your trip to Iceland won’t empty your bank account.

Icelanders have a sense of humor.

IMGP4077

The Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat, in Reykjavík.

They’re fun people, and they’ll appreciate your visit.

And they’re artistic, literary, and whimsical.

Did you know that Iceland is one of the most literate nations in the world?  Or that one in ten Icelanders will publish a book?  If you like reading or art, you’ll be happy in Iceland.

IMGP4052

Artwork on the side of a building in Reykjavík.

There’s also some stunning architecture.  This…

IMGP4024

Hallgrímskirkja, the cathedral in Reykjavík.

…was inspired by this:

IMG_20190316_171049_1

Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach.

You might even see a troll or two.

IMGP4353

A statue of Bárður Snæfellsás in Arnarstapi, a village on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

Iceland is really just heartbreakingly beautiful.

IMG_0236

A view we happened upon when we made a wrong turn onto a dirt road, near Hvalfjörður.

Just look at it.

IMGP4514

Another view of Hvalfjörður.

IMGP4095

Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

You can see waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers, and mountains all in one day.

IMGP4802

Skaftafell National Park, near Öræfi in southeast Iceland.

IMG_0262

A pretty little waterfall we spotted from the road.

You can walk along a tectonic divide.

IMGP4213

Þingvellir National Park.

If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the aurora (probably while you’re driving and your camera equipment is packed into the back of the car and you need to take pictures quickly with your cell phone or else you’ll miss it…do find a safe place to pull over).

IMG_20190316_233527

Blurry cell phone photo 1.

IMG_20190316_234139

Blurry cell phone photo 2, with extra blurry stars.

The landscape in Iceland is unlike any other place in the world. Go see it.

If I haven’t convinced you to buy a plane ticket by now, let me leave you with this.

IMGP4284

Gullfoss.

That mythical, dreamland Somewhere over the rainbow?  I found it.  It’s Iceland.

IMGP4575

I don’t remember where this is, but isn’t it gorgeous?

Have you booked your trip yet?

Hello again, world!

It’s good to be back!

I haven’t written on this blog in a long time.  What can I say?  Life gets busy.  Priorities change.  Blah, blah, blah….  But if you’re here reading now, I doubt you want to plod through a bunch of excuses.  So, I’ll just say, I’ve not written on this blog in a long time, and this year I’m going to start writing in it again.

If you’ve followed before, thank you!  And I hope you stick around, because things are going to change a little (which my mother tells me is healthy and not something to be afraid of).  If you’re new, welcome!  I’m glad you’ve stopped in and I hope you sit a spell and stay a while.  For everyone, as we start a new and exciting writing journey together, here are a few (ten – a nice, even number) things you should know about me, because I’ll be writing about them.

I’m a Virginia girl.  1,000%, born and raised and (probably) never leaving.  I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains near coal fields and cow fields and never too far away from a good plate of biscuits and gravy.  My grandfather was a coal miner, my dad plays bluegrass, my mom fries chicken, and I can flatfoot ‘til the cows in the fields come home.

21899981065_5aff042955_z (1)

My husband is pretty awesome.  We’ve been married for five years, and the theme of our Virginia-chic wedding was “Beach Boy Meets Mountain Girl.”  He takes good pictures and he drives dirt roads like a champ.  Our pets are also pretty cool.  We have a crazy dog and a 20-pound cat.  They’re not friends, but they seem to like us okay.  I ask Graham at least once a day when we can get a couple of goats.  And maybe a pony.  And a pot-bellied pig.

14044245897_0c49727cf6_k

We live in a 200-year-old house.  When I tell people this, they usually either gush about how cool that is or ask how much work that is.  It’s both cool and a lot of work.  We consider ourselves stewards, not residents, and we feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to give this house the care and attention it deserves.  Which is a lot.  #oldhouselife

IMG_20181115_080451

I read.  I don’t just like to read.  I consider it a really vital part of who I am.  I think words are their own special kind of magic – authors take a blank page and create something that didn’t exist before.  I usually read over 100 books in a year.  I’m particularly fond of Neil Gaiman, and if I could bring an author back from the dead, it would be Mark Twain.  Or Shakespeare.  Or maybe Chaucer.  Or Vonnegut.  Yeah, no, I can’t pick just one.

I write.  Duh.  You’re here, on my blog, reading a post that I’ve written.  I’m working on a couple of novels, I write for a local publication, and I’ve also been known to write an occasional poem or song.  Usually when I’ve had a little too much wine.

I also sing.  My whole family does music.  I’ve been told by several of my relatives that I was singing before I could talk.  I obviously can’t attest to the veracity of this claim, but I’m inclined to believe it.  I started out doing country, moved on to musicals and then to studying opera, and now I’m back to country (real country – Dolly Parton is my spirit animal), with some bluegrass, folk, and Americana in the mix, as well.  When my dad and I play together, we call ourselves “Rum and Wine.”

16887059875_f85a63091e_z

I’m a big advocate for historic preservation.  I live in a historic village that’s situated minutes from new neighborhood development in Loudon County.  Living in a part of the country that’s at risk for major over-development of monotonous monopoly houses and suburban sprawl, I firmly believe in preserving historic structures and natural areas.  I think they’re a valuable, essential part of any community and we’re all better off for appreciating them.

I’m a good cook.  My kitchen is tiny, and I think I’m proof that a big kitchen isn’t necessary to cook a good meal.

35726714745_1288f76f4d_k

My last big project was dumplings.  201 dumplings, more precisely.  Hand-mixed filling, hand-crimped wrappers, and fried in batches of eight.  It was…an experience.

Dumplings

I really love to incorporate local ingredients, especially local booze.  And speaking of booze…

I love wineries, breweries, and cideries.  And luckily, living where I do, I’ve got lots of choices.  On weekends, I’m always out exploring new places with my husband and our friends.  Virginia wine has come a really long way in a short amount of time, and I think that’s worth celebrating.

26930972924_0a1f158dc5_z

Adventure is everything.  Life is too short to sit at home, and the world is too big and too interesting to not see.  I like exploring, I like learning new things, I like meeting new people, and I believe that an adventure can be as big or as small as you want it to be.  For those of us with itchy feet and empty wallets, it’s important to keep perspective – there’s plenty to experience right outside the front door.

27925161606_eb48fc40db_o

On that note, our next big adventure starts in two days!  Iceland, 2019!  (Booked on points, because I make stories, not money.  If you’ve been, please send recommendations for what we should do!)  I will be posting about it, so if you’re interested, keep an eye out.  And, you know, generally, stay tuned for more.  You can also follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/myvirginiadiary/), Twitter (@VA_Writer), and Instagram (@virginia_writer).

Cheers, friends, new and old, to new stories and new adventures!

Newspaper Memories

When I graduated from college, I knew two things:

  • I had a degree!
  • I had no idea what to do with it…

I’d spent the last three years devoting myself to reading and writing, and I’d earned my bachelor’s degree in English a year early and with honors.  In college, I was “the wunderkind.”  My professors respected my work and encouraged my curiosity.  Out of college, I was a twenty-year-old kid with a lot of debt and no real job experience.

I wasn’t scared for my future. I had an abundance of confidence, but not cash.  So I did what any slightly lost, mostly broke kid would do:  I applied to every job for which I was even marginally qualified.  Thankfully, a couple of employers took a chance on me.  One of those employers was the local newspaper – a freelance gig, sure, but a chance to get my name out there and make money doing something I loved.

Growing up in the theater had cured me of shyness, and college had taught me to write well and concisely (and quickly, if I had to).  Writing for a newspaper – interviews, deadlines, etc. – was a natural fit and I loved it immediately.  Talking to people and writing about it didn’t feel like work.  Having the opportunity to meet people in my community and share their accomplishments was a privilege.

My first article was about a sweet elderly lady who made prayer bears and prayer flowers for grieving families and families whose loved ones were in the hospital.  In the fall of 2007, I sat with her for a couple of hours in her living room.  I’d prepared questions, but the conversation was so easy and so honest, I didn’t need them.  As I was packing to leave, she made me a set of my own prayer flowers, and prayed for my health and success.

From there, I met with a 97-year-old ham radio operator and we talked about the days when radio was new and exciting.  To her, it still was.  I interviewed two little boys who decided to grow out their hair and donate it.  They wanted to honor their grandmother, and they didn’t care at all that people said they looked like girls.  I walked around a hospital and spoke to volunteers who often came home utterly exhausted and still wondered if they could do more.  I spent an afternoon with a church youth group as they were preparing for a mission trip.  For many of them, it would be their first airplane ride, and not one of them was afraid.  They were just excited and eager to help.

I handled quick deadlines.  I worked late.  I wrote on my lunch break.  I skipped dinner.  I learned to take decent photographs for the first time in my life (much more difficult than I thought it would be…).  More than anything, I realized that people have good things to say, and it’s important to hear them.

In 2009, Graham and I moved from Abingdon for what we thought would be a temporary stay in Northern Virginia.  The prayer flowers from my very first story came with us.  All these years later, they still sit on a shelf in my study.

IMGP0052

I look at them often, and they remind me that the people we meet are never just a means to an end, and that kindness and compassion are real, tangible, and enduring.

Beowulf, Epics, and Why Curiosity Matters

I can’t remember what first sparked my interest in Beowulf.  I was in high school.  I was hungry for stories and itching to immerse myself in subjects that challenged me.  It could have been that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was going strong in theaters, stoking the collective imagination of a generation ready for magic and epic battles between good and evil (having been primed by Harry Potter and his many adventures).  It could have been a new phase in my lifelong interest in historical esoterica.  I’m not really sure, and it doesn’t really matter, because I’ve loved Beowulf ever since, and I’m not about to stop now.

My first encounter with Beowulf was shepherded by Seamus Heaney, and I’ve often called his work the “gateway translation.”  This is the iteration that gets you into the story.  Heaney’s meticulous attention to the cadence of the verse; his talent for turning arcane sensibilities into relatable one-liners; and his easy dedication to presenting Beowulf – the original man, myth, and legend – as not only an adventurous, brave soul in search of a noble calling higher than himself (and seeking a little glory along the way, because why not?), but a flawed human being just like all the rest of us, all serve to draw new readers into this old story.

I’ve read Heaney’s translation now more than any other, and I’m about to do it again.

Over breakfast last week, I read a magazine article called “Beowulf is Back” by James Parker.  The crux of the article – that this ancient epic just won’t go away – got me thinking, not only about Beowulf and why I love it, but about why people love epics.  Why do we obsess over heroes?  Why do we frame our world in terms of good and evil?  Why do we love a battle scene?  Why do we still look to a text older than our language to find answers about ourselves today?  And what does all of that say about us?

I don’t know.

Really, I’m not sure.  I could fill pages with my assumptions, but I don’t really want to do that, and I don’t think anyone really wants to read it.  Instead, I’m going to look at Beowulf with fresh eyes, and see what I learn.

Here’s the plan:

Over the next four weeks, I’m going to reread Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, and then I’m going to read, for the first time, three graphic novelizations of the story that James Parker mentioned in his article.

I’m looking at this challenge in two ways.  First, it’ll be fun – I love Beowulf, and I’ll have four weeks’ worth of Beowulf, and that is exciting.  Second, it’ll satisfy my curiosity.  What can these different interpretations of the same story tell me about why we just won’t let Beowulf fade into obscurity?

If I haven’t yet convinced you that Beowulf is worth your time, or if you’re not into old stuff, or if, for reasons I will never understand, you don’t like to read, I’m sure you’re asking yourself why I want to do this.  The simple answer is, because I am curious.  I want answers.  I want answers to lots of questions, actually, but I’ll settle for the Beowulf-related ones for now.  I believe that we should always be thinking, we should always be asking questions, and we should always, always, always be curious.  A curious mind is a powerful one.  People who ask questions make discoveries, and sometimes those discoveries change the world.  Sometimes, they just scratch the intellectual itch that people like me can never quite shake.  But, and at any rate, no one ever amounted to anything who didn’t first ask questions.

And so, off I go, into Heorot once more, to see what I can learn with thirty-year-old eyes and a brain that often forgets where I left my car keys.

And it all begins with “Hwæt…”

Beowulf Side by Side Smaller

New Year, New House, Same Me

I’ll be honest – I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution that I’ve kept.  I believe that we should always strive to be more kind, more honest, more engaged, more fulfilled, and just happy, but for me, setting goals because the calendar’s turning over feels a little, well, artificial.

It’s 2017 – twelve days in – and I’m sitting in my same chair, writing on my same laptop, using my same brain, in my new (old) house.

house-overhead

I know that this house will become a project not just for 2017 but for life.  And I mean that in a couple of ways.  Graham and I will spend this year (and the years to come) making this charming old farmhouse everything it was ever meant to be.

And that is my hope, not resolution, for now and for always, for all of us in 2017 and beyond.  That we appreciate ourselves for who we are.  That we set the path for who we will become without fear or doubt.

That we embrace our flaws and build beautiful things with them and make our lives everything we want them to be.

I wasn’t perfect in 2016, and I expect I’ll be the same ridiculous person in 2017.  And I’m pretty okay with that.

19210928458_e412c25f80_k

But as I look ahead, with my same eyes, I am excited and a little scared, and hopeful, always hopeful, that I will keep working and writing, that I will keep singing and dancing and having fun, that I will learn and try and fail and succeed, and that I will do my part to make this world everything I believe it can be.

Heaven is Music Everywhere: Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion

I grew up in music.  It’s how my family communicates, celebrates, mourns, loves, and just passes the time.

14254211623_709f651872_z

I spent my childhood in an area of the country famous for its country music history.  I’m as formed by music and mountains as I am by the cells that build my body.  Music is in my blood.  My soul was nurtured by the sounds of guitars and drum sets and fiddles and banjos.  What I’m getting at here is that the one thing that makes me who I am, more than anything else in my life, is music.  My roots run deep and firm and, well, musical, in the brushy, misty mountains of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

As they say, it’s Bristol, baby.  Or, more aptly for this post, it’s all about Bristol, baby.

You might have been to music festivals, but you’ve never been to a festival quite like Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion.  Bristol cemented its place in music history in 1927 with the Bristol Sessions, essentially the founding of modern country music.  Since then (and long before), Bristol and the surrounding area has been a gathering place for musicians and music lovers to come together, collaborate, and celebrate.  That’s what Rhythm and Roots is all about.

29218135413_420e61667d_z

Once a year, Bristol, a city that spans Virginia and Tennessee, closes State Street and its side streets for several blocks.  It sets up stages, brings in vendors for arts, crafts, and food, and invites musicians from all over the country to play for a three-day celebration of music and mountain culture.

There’s music everywhere.  There are stages and musicians tucked into every corner.  There’s a band in almost every bar and restaurant.  From Friday through Sunday, once a year, Bristol becomes a little piece of melodious, lyrical, pickin’ and strummin’ Heaven.  And it’s not just country music.  You’ll find Americana, folk, classic rock, rockabilly, alt rock, bluegrass, jazz and ragtime, and even some Celtic flare.  Music is a universal language, and Rhythm and Roots offers something for everyone.

29731343872_765d0d723b_z

Ed Young of Ed Young and Friends, a three-person band featuring guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, and Ed’s bluesy, deep baritone.

29808845316_518c5b9ed8_z

Randi Denton, lead singer of Indighost, a rock band with a sound reminiscent of 1960s psychedelia.

29793379252_7511e1ed95_z

Blair Crimmins, front man of Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, an energetic Dixieland, jazz, and ragtime band.

I love Rhythm and Roots because it captures the spark that makes music what it is.  Music is more than just sound waves.  Music is important.  Music is culture.  Music is identity.  Music is home, and as long as you never lose the music, you’ll always carry your home with you.

I’ve done cartwheels across State Street that carried me from Virginia to Tennessee, and I’ve stood many times in two places at once.  I’ve spent some of my most memorable days in the green room and on the stage of Bristol’s impeccably restored Paramount Theatre.

29551390350_32211a6c74_z

I’ve lived in Northern Virginia for seven years.  I’ve done my time in fast-paced, competitive jobs.  I’ve commuted three hours each day.  I think I fit in well enough here, now.  But it’s not home.

Home is where the heart is, and my heart’s tucked safely away in the mountains where I grew up.  I might have left them, but they’ve never left me.  Every time I go to Rhythm and Roots, I’m grateful all over again that I grew up in the land of biscuits and gravy, Johnny Wood and fishing, flatfooting, porch sitting, moonshine, and music.

29761729921_1687e67ac4_z

 

*Some links, for anyone who’d like to learn more about the festival or the bands I’ve mentioned here: Bristol Rhythm and Roots ReunionIndighostBlair Crimmins and the Hookers

A Little Something Different (or, Our Visit to Otium Cellars)

Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for something different.

Before I say more, I should note that I am a creature of habit, almost to a fault.  I eat the same salad every day for lunch.  I do the laundry on Mondays and Fridays.  I drink Irish Breakfast Tea at least once a day.  I read every night before I go to sleep.  When these things don’t happen, I get a little…anxious.  Graham would say hard to deal with, but I’m giving myself a break.

I’m not quite so particular about wine.  I like trying different varietals from different places, and I don’t really have a wine-drinking schedule (does anyone?).  But I do have a level of comfort with the grapes that are commonly used at Virginia vineyards and wineries.  I’m all about a peppery Virginia Cabernet Franc.  I love the way smoky Virginia soil brings out the minerality in a Viognier.

But sometimes, like I said, you’re just in the mood for something different.  Which is why Graham and I found ourselves at Otium Cellars last weekend.

28770372804_7c73e8237b_k

This place is picturesque.  Otium is a Latin word for leisure, peace, rest, and tranquility, and it fits the setting.  Rolling hills, silos, mature trees, and even horses, because, you know, Loudoun County.  It’s conveniently located right outside of the town of Purcellville, and for a fun side trip on the way, take a quick drive through the historic village of Lincoln, a little gem in the Loudoun County countryside.

We wanted to try Otium Cellars because of their reputation for German varietals, and particularly German reds.  Uncommon in Virginia, and executed very, very well at Otium.  Their tasting is well worth the cost, as it’s pretty extensive and the tasting room is a comfortable spot to relax on a weekend afternoon.  There wasn’t a single wine on the menu we wouldn’t have bought.  We ended up bringing home bottles of 2014 Blaufränkisch, 2014 Dornfelder (both reds), and 2015 Grüner Veltliner (a white).

We opened the Grüner Veltliner tonight.  We figured this would be one of the last 90 degrees days of the year (please, oh please!), and so a cold white wine seemed like the most logical choice.

29314984711_b72bfc7dea_k

I’d never tried this varietal before.  This grape is grown primarily in Austria, and the grapes for this particular bottle were grown in Washington State.  It’s robust for such a crisp wine – a light, bright nose of citrus, with hints of apples and stone fruits (and I think just a touch of honey), light acidity and a bit of spiciness on the palette, and a delicate finish of white pepper.  Lovely, and absolutely perfect for a hot day like today.

I’ll feature the two reds that we bought a little later in the year.  I’m excited to pair them with some classic fall flavors (sage, cinnamon, cloves…how long until Thanksgiving?).  For now, I’ll enjoy my cold white wine, dream of cooler days and changing leaves, and heartily recommend a visit to Otium Cellars.

Cheers!

 

*If you’d like to check out Otium Cellars, here’s their website:  Otium Cellars

Making Dumplings

Life is a lot like making dumplings.

There aren’t exact measurements to get it right.

20160820_121040

Sometimes things get messy before they get better.

20160820_121502(0).jpg

Just keep at it.

20160820_121605

Because it’s okay to be a little rough around the edges.

20160820_121714

And it’s okay to be unconventional.

20160820_122042

That’s what makes you beautiful.

20160820_122255

Don’t stir the pot.

20160820_122653

Just let things rest sometimes.

20160820_123435(0)

Add a little spice.

20160820_124039

And always savor every bite, because chicken and dumplings never last long.

Thirty < Sixty (Or, Why I’m Drinking Rum Tonight)

Happy birthday to this guy!

16700919899_3ccc0475b2_z

The best dad in the world, and my favorite partner in (musical) crime!

It didn’t sink in for me until I was in my mid-twenties that, when I was born, it meant he had a child and turned thirty within one week.  That’s adulthood punching you in the face, right there.  But he seems to have coped pretty well.  And in honor of his birthday tonight, we’re drinking his favorite: rum.

We bought a bottle of Amber Rum from Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery in Middleburg, VA about a year ago, and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to open it.  If my dad’s birthday isn’t the right opportunity, I don’t know what is.  Now, my dad’s favorite way to drink rum is to mix white rum with Coke over ice, but I decided to get a little creative tonight, and make my favorite cocktail with a rum twist.

28949816882_cc78a2ba7b_z

Yeah, so I made an Old Fashioned with rum.  Hopefully, I won’t be chased down by an angry mob of rye whiskey devotees, because I drink a lot of wine and I eat a lot of pasta and running isn’t really my thing.  I’m also not sorry, because this is a delicious cocktail, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate my dad’s birthday from across the state.

Usually, when my dad and I get together and have a drink or two, this is what happens:

16266939743_9476f93755_z

Since it’s just Graham and me tonight, we’ll have to settle for raising our glasses in a toast.

I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Dad, today and for many, many years to come!  Cheers to you!

 

Post Script – Regarding Mt. Defiance:  They make a wide variety of ciders and spirits, they’re located right on the main street in Middleburg, and their rum tastings are really fun (they make mini-cocktails!).  Here’s their website, if you’d like to learn more, or plan your visit:  Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery.

Beaching and Wining

I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s no better accompaniment for relaxation than a good glass of wine, and there’s no better place to relax than the beach.  So, basically, Beach + Wine = Paradise.  Add in some family, board games, and good food, and I think we’ve officially made it into Heaven territory.

We’ve opened several bottles of wine since we got here on Monday (what can I say…we’re a family of wine lovers), but I set aside a bottle of Breaux 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon for today.  I wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to taste a good Virginia red.

28309687250_771877d887_k

A little bit of history on this one – we’re going back in time today.  A couple of years ago, Graham and I were members at Breaux Vineyards.  Breaux is a large(r)-scale operation located just outside of Purcellville, VA.  Their tasting room is always busy, but they have a wide variety of wines to taste, and their sommeliers are knowledgeable and friendly.  The grounds are also lovely, and they have lots of outdoor seating to use on nice days (you know…if you can’t make it to the beach).  We dropped our membership in an effort to cut some costs before my big writing adventure, and also because we were members at over ten wineries and it was time to cut back a little.  We’re still working down our bottle backlog, so a Breaux wine was a natural choice for our beach week.

This particular Cabernet Sauvignon went over really well with everyone.  It’s got a robust nose of black cherry, black pepper, and hints of smoke and tobacco.  It’s smooth, though, with notes of smoke and plum on the palate.  As Virginia Cabernet Sauvignons go, this one is done much more in the Bordeaux style than others – smooth, structured, lightly tannic, and it’s aged very well.  It would pair nicely with red meat, or with pretty much anything grilled.  It would be great for a cookout on the beach.  Then, you could have both wine and smores, and wouldn’t that be awesome?

It’s just too bad that time flies when you’re having fun (read: drinking wine), because I don’t think I’m ready to head home yet.  Like, ever.

Cheers!