A Resolution Worth Keeping

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It may seem a bit odd to post about New Year’s resolutions (NYR from henceforth) in early April, but if you think about it, it’s actually a good check point to see how you are doing. For me, NYR have always been a bust. (It’s only taken me about 20 years to realize that this isn’t an effective avenue to “lose weight.”)  So this year it seemed to me that the more comfortable choice was to approach my self-betterment from a different direction: Reading!

My NYR this year was to read one book a month, and while that may not sound too daunting to some, I felt like it represented a nice balance between self-improvement and enrichment. I love to read; making time to do so is always the problem, and since we live in an era of “self-care,” I set my mind on success for this resolution. Being a working and fully-scheduled mom of two young and energetic kiddos, fitting in time to read is hard! But I’m passionate about this goal and I want to achieve it.

As luck would have it, I was discussing my NYR with another ballet parent and she graciously invited me to join her book club. PERFECT! Not only do I get to digest a great read, but I get to discuss it with a group of intelligent and interesting women, and there is wine involved. Win-win!

So far, I’m ahead of my pace of one/month. I want to try to keep this post alive throughout the year as a collection and a quasi-review of the books I have read. Here’s a start:

  • House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner: Strong writing and a good book – the author really paints a beautiful and sometimes magical picture of this island that kept me entranced and interested. One drawback: It is VERY long. This is a beautifully written tale about a boy/man who ends up living his life on a little island off the coast of Italy, beginning in the early 1900’s. The interesting part of this talehouse edge was the perspective from a remote island as the world developed and experienced wars and revolutions. Living in WV, I can certainly relate to technology and “stuff” in general getting here later than everywhere else; we always seem to be a step or two behind. So I could certainly empathize with this little remote island that was always a little behind the times.

 

 

  • The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin: This was my first Book Club read, and right off the bat it showed me how fun and enriching a book club can be as I never would have chosen this book for me, but I’m so glad that the book club did. Much like House at the Edge of Night, there is a historical aspect to it as it is about the Lindbergh family and their journey through life told from the perspective of Anne
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    Morrow Lindbergh, Charles’ wife. It really brought forth some raw emotions during the chapters about the infamous Lindberg Baby told from a mother’s perspective. Once I got into this book, I couldn’t put it down. They were an interesting and dysfunctional family to read about. This book is classified as “historical fiction” and the author did a good job of outlining the parts that were factual and those that were simply for storyline.

 

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Book Club read #2. Holy cow. Couldn’t put it down! Quick and firesdevourable (is that a word?) read about some kids coming of age in the 90’s, which made it even more fun as these “kids” are technically my age based on their ages in the 90’s setting. There are a few intertwined storylines that really had me wondering how this was all going to play out. It touched on a few hot topics, such as adoption and abortion and parenting rights, and you could feel the very-relatable teen angst, as well as the struggle their parents faced. This would be a great spring/summer break or beach read! It’s fast and easy to read, and I really could not put it down. The characters were amazingly written, and the author’s attention to detail was amazing. And, oh, the drama of being a teen in the 90’s (without social media)!

 

 

  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty: I love books where I learn something interesting about a topic that I had never really contemplated before, such as hypnotism. This was another one I had trouble pulling myself away from as it had a hyplovelittle streak of “creepy” to it (in the form of a crazy-ex-girlfriend/stalker! Yikes!) It takes place Down Under, which added a bit of interest to the story line as I have always wanted to go to Australia, save the ridiculously long flight(s). Definitely put this one on your summer reading list!

 

 

  • Sometimes I Lie by Alice Fenney: I’m on a streak right now because my last two reads were SO good, and then this one comes along and WOW! I love a good liepsychological thriller, especially ones that involve a little bit of the medical field. Without spoiling too much, this main character is telling the story from a comatose state. There were twists and turns I did not see coming at all. This was my Book Club read for the month of April, and I cannot wait to discuss. I finished it in the first week. It’s one of those books with shorter chapters, and as a busy working mom, to me that is appealing so that I don’t have to stop in the middle of a chapter and can catch a quick snippet of the book easier. (I hate to stop in the middle of a chapter; I usually end up starting it over because I lose the whole train of thought.)

 

  • The Other End of the Stethoscope by Marcus Engel: This book was sent to me by stethMarcus himself as he is a motivational speaker I was researching for work. My job requires knowing and teaching a lot about empathy in healthcare, and Mr. Engel put together what is almost a manifesto of his healthcare experience after a devastating trauma. So, yes, it is technically a book for work, but he does such a great job illustrating what it felt like to go from a healthy teen to a completely helpless, blinded, and (literally) broken patient lying in a hospital bed, completely dependent upon his team of healthcare workers and unable to see a thing. If you’re in healthcare and want to know more about empathy and a patient’s perspective, go to his website and check him out! https://marcusengel.com/

 

  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty:  What a sweet little read this was! I really enjoyed this perspective from a woman who forgot the past 10 years of her life. I couldn’t help but put myself in that position and wonder what it woulwagd be like to forget my last 10 years. It’s a scary but introspective dialogue to have in your head! On one hand, forgetting my kids and marriage ever happened?!? No way! But then again, what if you forgot every “bad” thing… What if you forgot your arguments with your spouse? Would you fall in love all over again? It was a fun and quick read that made me think, but not too hard 🙂

 

  • The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni:  This book was written in the fivestyle of a fable a la’ “Ghosts of Christmas’ Past” where a young leader is met throughout his commute home by a few characters that walk him through some common mistakes that leaders make. It is a short book and easy to read and digest. If you are looking for a quick book on basic leadership, check this one out!

 

 

 

  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Shumer: This was a Book Club tatooselection for the month of April and it was very entertaining and a nice shifting of gears to something a bit lighter. It is an autobiography of the hilariously inappropriate comedienne, and after reading this book I have a newfound appreciation for her as an artist. I think it is easy to snap judge her just because she puts herself out there and can seem to be an easy target, but at the same time, there’s a level of vulnerability and hard work to get to where she is that this book helped me appreciate more. Warning: This is a raunchy read, but oh it is funny! There are also some serious parts to it, too, that bring to mine this meme. After all, what kind of interesting personality comes from a boring and uneventful upbringing? Zero.

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  • Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander. I cannot emphasize enough that this swpl.PNGbook is purely satire. And it’s funny as hell. Yes, it pokes some fun at white culture, but in a tongue and cheek way. I skip through the chapters from time to time for a good laugh. I think my favorite ones thus far are the chapters on Brunch and Recycling, as those are the ones I can most easily relate to. LOL!

 

 

  • The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy:  It took me all of four days to devour this book. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next! And I would have never guessed how it turned up. Very clever writer, this Miss Molloy! This one is another great tpmbeach/vacation read, and as a mother of young kids, it is easy to relate to as it touches on the need for mothers to have balance in their lives and how hard it is when you have a newborn and the whole fiasco that is parental leave in the US…. Don’t get me started on that topic. But, I digress. Grab this one for your next getaway! Or better yet, have your girls read it so you can discuss as a group as it will strike a nerve with anyone who hasn’t completely blocked out the newborn days.

 

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara:  I’m a Podcast fiend, and a friend recommended one to me about the Golden State Killer entitled “The Killer Unmasked.” My husband and I listened to it on a recent road trip about a serial rapist and killer in California in the 70’s that was still at large present day! This ill-be-gone-in-the-darkpodcast was so interesting and kept mentioning a book and Michelle McNamara, so I downloaded the sample and was immediately hooked. Michelle, married to actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, met an untimely and unexpected death a couple years ago while she was writing the book, so there are other contributors who carried on and finished this legacy she started to hunt this man who ravaged and ruined so many lives. Yes, it is about a awful and disgusting crime spree, but it isn’t too graphic or too high on my “Nightmare Scale” (totally just made that up just now. TM). The book is more about the chase, and as folks living in current day with DNA and forensics, we have to look at this through the lens of the late 1970’s when all of this technology and these advancements weren’t available.  Michelle is an amazing author. She writes in a way that makes you want to know more, and I think that is because she was on the hunt of her life that turned into an obsession.

 

  • When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger: This is the same amazing luluauthor who gave us The Devil Wears Prada, so I kind of knew what to expect from a plot standpoint, and she delivered. This book gives us more from Emily, the catty assistant in TDWP infamous for “helping” Andy Sachs as Miranda’s assistant. We also get a glimpse of Miranda Priestly in this book, too! It’s a great story and a fun and quick read. Some scandalous and salacious activities wrapped up in the charming and affluent atmosphere of the NYC suburb, Greenwich, CT.

 

De-stress tip: Un”wine”d from time to time

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First of all, if you don’t like/care about/want to hear about wine, this one isn’t for you.

I, however, love wine and love to take trips with my girls where we relax, catch up, sample some good wine, and eat some good food. After all, it’s nice now and then to not have to sneak-eat the last cupcake to avoid sharing it with a kid or shove an entire Uncrustable in your mouth as someone clings to your leg. Amiright?!

One of my absolute favorite “Mommy Juice” trips is a quick haul down I-77 through Virginia and right into North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. This area is chock full of wineries and vineyards, and in my opinion is one of the best kept little secrets in our area. In this area, you’ll find a lot of sweet wine options, but there are plenty for us dry-wine lovers too. There is also the occasional craft beer selection, which often balances out the wine in between tastings.

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Accommodations: You simply must stay in the Hampton Inn in Dobson. Not only is it wine-themed with its own little wine bar, it is newer, clean, and has a shuttle to the Shelton Vineyards about a mile down the road. (ALWAYS have a designated driver once the sampling begins!) This hotel is also in a great location for access to many wineries in the area. Location, location, location!

More on transportation because, I cannot say it enough: designate a driver! We have img_7169actually enlisted the services of a shuttle/van to take us around touring the area. The Hampton Inn shuttle only goes back and forth to Shelton, so that’s a good place to start/end your daily tour for that convenience, as well as their amazing on-site restaurant. The shuttle service we used was Grape Escape Tours, and it was perfect. You can tell them your wine preferences (dry, sweet, etc) and they will recommend a tour. They had a basket of snacks in the van, too, which was a nice touch. Our driver was a very nice and patient lady who took pictures of our group at the various stops. As you can imagine, as the day of “tasting” went on, dealing with us gals on the loose probably got interesting. I know from the pics that our smiles kept getting bigger and bigger. (Gosh, I wish I could remember her name…. she was just so patient. So very, very patient. Bless her.)

Here is a list of the places I’ve been in the area that I would highly recommend:

Shelton Vineyards: This is a Napa-style winery and vineyard. Take the tour and do the VIP tasting! It is worth the extra money for this awesome experience. While you’re there, eat at Harvest Grill. The food is amazing and the entire property is just breathtaking. Wine recommendation: Family Reserve Claret (or really anything from the Reserve collection).

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Grassy Creek Vineyard: This is an old stable converted into a winery! The cool factor is definitely “up there” and it just has a very chill vibe. The two men who run the joint are great to chat with and they also have events from time to time on the property. They also have a fun little gift shop selection. Wine recommendation: Red Barn Blend. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Elkin Creek Vineyard: This place is quaint and cozy and just plain old special! The girls and I had a blast sampling here, and next time I am definitely going to try one of their brick oven pizzas. Wine recommendation: Adequate Red (trust me when I tell you it is MUCH better than “adequate”)

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Round Peak Vineyard: This is a great “first stop” as it is north of the hotel exit (but again, remember to designate a driver!). They have wine and craft beer, but no matter what, do not miss the view from the back patio! Take your beverage out back and sit and enjoy the immediate relaxation that comes with knowing you are on holiday. This place is definitely a “must see.” (featured picture at top of post is a glimpse of the view from the patio)

222 Public House (now Angry Troll Brewing @ 222): This wasn’t quite a brewery last time I was there, but they had an awesome vibe and great food and cold beer. What more could you ask for? Definitely try the nachos!!

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Whew! This one is making me nostalgic for some girl time!! Hopefully my girls will read this and agree… it is time to getaway!

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