Carter Mountain Orchard

While I continue to ponder yesterday’s conundrum, I thought I’d go ahead and start posting about what we’re up to in the meantime, otherwise it’ll all pass by and I’ll forget or get wrapped up in something else (like my new obsession with revamping old furniture… watch this space).

Last weekend, N and I ventured up into the foothills of Appalachia, just outside Charlottesville, to a beautiful orchard called Carter Mountain.  It was our first real exploration of the area, since we’d only finally gotten a car the day before, so we were pretty excited to begin with.  But when we drove up the (long, somewhat scary, steep) drive to Carter Mountain Orchard, we got even more excited.  Stepping out of the car, we were greeted by the most amazing view of the surrounding area and the mountains further away.




Does it get much prettier than that?  So far it hasn’t!

We’re in the midst of prime apple harvest season, and Carter Mountain Orchard didn’t disappoint on variety.


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We wound up with a bag of two different types of apples (all from their orchard, natch), all of them so juicy and delicious.  Honestly, I like apples, but these were out of this world.  Completely different to supermarket apples.  We picked up Albemarle Pippins and Wine Sap apples, purely as we’d never heard of them.  The Wine Sap apples are gone, and we’re still working on the Pippins.

We also picked up some fresh (non alcoholic) apple cider to bring home.  They’ve got a massive store that sells all types of local jams, honey, wine and more than you can shake a stick at.  I could seriously blow my savings there.



We then ventured to the Bold Rock Hard Cider Cellar to grab a couple of cold pints of local hard cider.  They were so good, we wound up having to bring a mixed six pack home!

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Great stuff.

Before leaving, we decided we just had to try Carter Mountain’s famous Apple Cider Doughnuts.  Stay with me here.  The line was long.  Super long.  Like, Black Friday at Walmart long… and it moved just as fast (or not).  We stood in line for over an hour for fresh, hot, amazing doughnuts.  They’re so good and so sought after, that everyone in line was good natured about the wait and in high spirits.  That’s how we knew they were worth it.  We bought a dozen, mauled two each as we took in the view for the final time, and brought them home and froze them for later use… as recommended by one of the Carter Mountain employees!


All in all, a great afternoon.  We’ll definitely be back in the summer for the peaches, and for their Thursday Evening Sunset Series when it starts back up next year.

And let me just say that right this very second, as I’m typing this, I’m sitting on the top step of my back porch in the growing dusk, sipping on hot cider (spiked with Apple Jim Beam, of course) and thinking about how I’m already thinking of this place as home.  It’s weird how I’ve just fallen into the vibe and the slow pace so quickly, particularly after coming here from London.  I’m already wearing plaid flannel shirts, for cryin’ out loud!

Steph x

Decision time

I’ve come to a point where I’m into a routine enough to start blogging regularly again, which is great stuff.   I’m having lots of adventures right now and have so many things going on that I want to share!

Except, well… I’m not in London anymore. And there’s my problem.  Do I create a new blog?  Do I change the name/logo/etc of this one?  Or do I just keep writing under The London Diaries?

What do you guys think?

Steph x

(Nearly) Two Weeks Later…

It finally feels like we’re starting to get settled down here in Virginia, thanks mostly in part to the kindness of strangers.

After nearly a week of no furniture (bar an air mattress), a lovely guy from where I work spent his entire Saturday driving us around to get our cell phones and also hauled some furniture back to the house for us.  Another guy from work helped us score an amazing deal (and a super fast install) with Comcast so we could have internet.  People here are so friendly, so welcoming and just so warm that it continually amazes me.  People at work are constantly telling me to let them know if I need anything, need a ride, if I want them to pick up lunch for me.  It’s things like that that really make me feel at home here.

And the house?  The house is lovely–apart from the mutant crickets which seem to love nothing more than to ambush me and scare the living bejeezus out of me.  It’s so big… everything here is big.  From the mountains to the skies, even down to food portions (oops), everything here is extra large.

I promise pictures of the house soon… it’s still very much a work in progress and I want a few things like some rugs and such to give it an even cosier feel–but I suppose that’ll come with time.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a snapshot of a super pretty glass bourbon decanter I found in a thrift shop today for a measly four dollars.  Really must get my booze station going…


“Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle” Like this bad boy isn’t going to get filled up with bourbon at the earliest opportunity.

Six Years Later…

I’ve lived in London over six years now and tomorrow scares me.  The uncertainty of moving to a town I’ve never been to in a state I’ve never set foot in terrifies me.  Moving into a house with no furniture terrifies me.  Moving on to a new job terrifies me.  Life is just one big terrifying ball of crazy right now.

Regardless of the terror and the crazy, this time tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to DC.

The last few weeks have brought many ‘lasts’… last fish and chips, last trip to Colchester and so on.  The past few days have brought on even more… last commute to work, last trip over Battersea Bridge, last night out with work people, last day at work, last curry, last trip to Meza, last shopping day/lunch/dinner with H, last trip to the pub, last night in our flat.

It’s painful seeing all of these ‘lasts’ come and go, seeing the flat empty out, handing back the keys and seeing the last six years of our lives reduced to a few boxes and suitcases.

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next.


September 2015 Book Wrap Up

September Books

Books Read:  5

Currently Reading:


August 2015 Book Wrap Up

I’m on holiday… so excuse the brief nature of this post!

August Books

Books Read:  7

Let me just admit, before anyone says anything, yes, I’m totally venturing into sexy-world with two of these books.  Do I care?  Not a whoop.  Cara McKenna is one of the smartest romance/erotica writers I’ve had the pleasure (ha ha) to come across.  Highly recommend her stuff.  Unless of course you’re my grandmother, in which case, Memom, NO.  Not for you!


Book Review: Carrying Albert Home – Homer Hickam

9780062325914Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Release Date:  
13 October 2015
5/5  (or a billion out of five)

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1,000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.

Every now and again a book comes my way that I just want to shove at everyone and scream “READ THIS!  READ IT NOW!”  Carrying Albert Home is one of those books.  It arrived on my doorstep (how it fit through the mail slot on my door is beyond me!) and I popped it on my shelf to look at later.  Promptly forgot it for a week (hey, I’ve got a lot on) and picked it up at random one sunny day and got sucked in immediately.  I even put aside all of my podcasts to read this one, and that says a lot!

By far, the star of this book for me was Albert, the alligator.  To be able to build such a strong character that can’t talk or do or be anything outside his own animal-ness is an amazing feat which Hickam has done very well.  I loved Albert’s little yeah-yeah-yeah sounds whenever he got excited–honestly, I giggled out loud every time just picturing it.  I cared for all of the characters, even Elsie, but I was seriously invested in Albert.  A wedding gift from Elsie’s first love, Buddy Ebsen, Albert is a point of contention between Elsie and her husband, Homer.

Elsie and Homer are likable in their own ways.  While selfish and brash, Elsie has pluck and she’s adventurous which I greatly admired and enjoyed.  She knows what she wants and she does it–plain and simple.  Homer, on the other hand, is just as strong of a character but in a much softer, kinder way.  His aim is simple–keep Elsie happy and continue be a coal miner (sans Albert).

All of the minor characters are great too–some famous, some otherwise–and they’re all brilliantly done.  I didn’t feel like the famous characters, Buddy Ebsen, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck (to name a few) were overdone or were at all cheesy… a hard balance to achieve.

And then there’s the rooster… there for no apparent reason other than he wants to be.

The plot of Carrying Albert Home should be simple–Homer and Elsie travel from a small coal mining town in West Virginia to Florida to release Albert back into the wild.  With several scrapes, mini-adventures and distractions that present themselves, what starts off as a two week trip turns into an odyssey not too unlike Homer’s Odyssey.  There are gangsters, bank robberies, baseball teams, ship wrecks and kidnappings to contend with before the touching and heartbreaking end.  I won’t lie, I found myself sobbing when I finished this book.  It ended way too soon.

Carrying Albert Home… I don’t think there are more words that I can say about this one–it really is a book everyone should read, if for no other reason than for a good laugh.  There are many of those for sure.