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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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.

Making Dumplings

Life is a lot like making dumplings.

There aren’t exact measurements to get it right.

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Sometimes things get messy before they get better.

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Just keep at it.

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

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And it’s okay to be unconventional.

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That’s what makes you beautiful.

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Don’t stir the pot.

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Just let things rest sometimes.

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Add a little spice.

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