Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Unusual Items in My Suitcase

I'm one sleep away from flying down to Orlando, FL for the RWA National Conference. Many people have written and blogged about how to prepare to for this conference. I've read elaborate packing lists, workshop planning spreadsheets and etiquette pointers. All of these tidbits were very useful.

Packing is, for me, like grilling a steak. I've done it so many times, I can do it in my sleep. There is a list, one I modify depending on destination and purpose of the trip, but unless I am going to a country without any known shopping malls, I feel like I can buy whatever I forget. My greatest fear is loss of luggage, particularly when the destination is work related. I've got 4 new dresses packed, so I'll be nervous about the luggage till it is back in my hands. But even if the unforeseen should happen, I can always take a cab to a mall and shop for clothes in a pinch.

I'm organized about the events I want to attend. I've been to two conferences for writing and know what I want to get out of this one. My pitch is ready, as ready as it can be, and I am pumped to go. I've got etiquette under control, though I might have an occasional Attention Deficit moment or a serious fan girl moment. At least I know what side of the main dinner my bread plate and my drink glasses are located. Whew.

But what I'm not prepared for is the two items I will have to wear starting tomorrow. Item number one is a watch. Those who know me will laugh because I am a Time Queen who is ultra aware of time of the day, ticking watches and more. It's like I am a human sundial. I don't need to wear a watch. I KNOW what time it is internally. It is a curse that goes along with the early rising syndrome.

One thing I have learned as I've grown older is that I don't like is to be reminded of the time curse. The watch is a piece of jewelry I happily hide unless I am working out. Not only do I hate seeing the little second hand ticking away or the digital readout blinking at me, I just don't like wearing a watch. It impedes my ability to type quickly into the keyboard and I don't like anything touching my skin around my wrist.

But for this conference, and every other conference, I will wear my bangle watch because I have to be at certain places by certain times. And one thing I hate is being late for an event I am looking forward to attending. Ask my family. One reason why I no longer wear a watch on a daily basis is to spare them the ordeal of my time domino meltdown should we be running late.

Not kidding here.

Item number two on the list is SPANKS. Ugh. My voluptuous curves might need a bit of "control." So I finally broke down and went to the local store to spend almost seventy dollars on UNDERWEAR! Bad enough I feel a tad bit chubby, but now I am spending an inordinate amount of money on foundation garments that are designed to constrict one's body in an uncomfortable manner. Not only that, but they aren't exactly sexy. One can be assured that my darling hubby will NOT want to see me in these oversized, scary looking girdle like contraptions.

And the name. Think about it: SPANKS. Really. It is like a slap up this writer's head in more ways than one. First slap: I'm getting older. I used to buy sexy underwear for the same amount of moola. Now I'm bowing to the downward slide of the 40s. It's not as easy to stay slim and have a flat tummy when you are approaching the dreaded middle years. Second slap? I'm not taking as good of care of myself as I should. When I return, it'll be time to diet and exercise again regardless of the fact that I workout harder now to achieve less results.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Well, I have the dreaded foundation garments packed. But I have a confession: I may just let my tummy bulge and wear  Crackbusting thongs instead. Who cares if I am slim? I'm going to a Romance Writer's Conference, not a Hollywood premiere.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Conference Appetizers & Desserts

The RWA National Conference is days away and I am very excited that I am attending. One of my CPs is a Golden Heart Finalist, I've got a full out to Modern Heat which I'll be able to share with the agent I'm pitching to, and I have a fantastic roommate who is also my go-to girl for critiquing. My pitch is ready. I'm practicing it on a regular basis. And finally my wardrobe is pulled together.

There are a lot of fabulous workshops to attend that cover everything from CRAFT to CAREER. This year I am focusing on the CAREER aspects of writing as I'm also making it a point to absorb all the bits of wisdom I can from my favorite authors who are presenting workshops about all aspects of writing: Suzanne Brockman, Nora Roberts, Eloisa James to name a few. I wish I could attend ALL the workshops and chats, but that would require cloning and/or super sonic speed walking.

But I can vicariously attend them before or after the conference. This week I printed out a bunch of handouts for workshops I'm interested in whether I can attend them or not. I'm giving myself a little appetizer before the huge main course. To be honest, I just can't wrap my brain around any real writing because of the swirling preparations and constant distractions. But I can read about writing and make notes for my revision. These handouts are a fabulous way to prepare my brain for information and they also are generating ideas for my current WIP that I'll implement when I return from Orlando.

Another appetizer I am enjoying is researching all my editors and agents. Sure, I'm only slotted to pitch to one editor and one agent, but I am going to several workshops and the PRO Retreat where I'll meet and hear other agents/editors speak. I want to know more about them before I walk through the doors. One never knows when an opportunity to share something about my work will come up. I want to be prepared for those opportunities. I feel that if I open myself up to any and all possibilities, the universe will reward my confidence.

Post conference, I will have an opportunity to download and listen to any chats that I missed due to schedule conflicts. Last year I bought the JR Ward Chat. It was awesome. And I still replay it on my iPhone whenever I need inspiration to keep forging ahead. You can bet I'll even download the chats I was able to attend while at the conference. I really want to take all I can into my head, but I also want some serious downtime to let my brain unwind a bit, too.

Right now I feel like I am doing a "warm up" session for my mind. I'm taking in new information, slow and steady, so I can be on top of my game when I go to the main course. The conference will be amazing and I want to make the most of this experience. I may not be able to attend another national conference until 2013 (it's in Atlanta--close to home). This conference is the 30th Anniversary. A lot of great authors, people who have stood the test of time and who I've read with total abandon and enjoyment are going to attend this conference. This is my year to learn what I can from them and bring it back to my writing corner where I can incorporate their wisdom.

When I return from the conference, I even have a big dessert planned for my future writing career. I have a new mind set already in place about how I am going to approach my writing, my process, my marketing and my attempts to get through the publishing door. I'm excited! I can't wait to start, but I'm also starting it with the mantra: everything is flexible and be open to sudden opportunities.

What is your preparation like for the conference? If you aren't able to go, what are your plans for revving up your writing now? Are your writing chapters putting on any special events? And if you're a reader, not a writer, which author would you want to listen to if you were at the conference?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Now Where Did I Put My Sparkle?

There have been a lot of posts about how to pack for the RWA National Conference, what to bring to the conference and how to prepare for the conference's many offerings. You can read all about the various ways my fellow bloggers are getting ready for conference on some of these blogs:

Lynn Raye Harris
Okay,  Listen Here
Writing Playground

I won't add much to their words of wisdom other to say that along with all the clothes, shoes, makeup and hair products I plan to bring, I also pack a corkscrew. Now you know where my priorities are. Also, once at the conference hotel and situated in my room located in the beautiful Walt Disney Swan Resort, I will also trek down to a spot I know sells wine by the bottle and snacks (the Beaches Disney Vacation Hotel along the lagoon). This will help offset some of my costs while I am at the conference. Again, gotta have priorities.

I've got my main stuff ready: pitch, general packing list (always stored on the computer, then tweaked for the different events), a dress (actually 2!) for the Golden Heart/Rita Ceremony. Now I have some last minute preparations which have little to do with selling my work and more to do with finally beautifying myself for presenting my work and having fun with a group of women who are highly charged on romance and estrogen. And let me tell you, romance writers who usually sit around in jammies or work out clothes to write with their tied up in ponytails and who wear no make up on their faces transform into princesses for this RWA Annual Conference.

We Writing Caterpillars love to put on our sparkle for the the main ceremony: the Golden Heart/Rita Awards Ceremony for writers. The Golden Heart is the Oscars for Unpublished Writers. The Rita is the Golden Globes for Published Writers. And we love to celebrate all of these fantastic writers as they bask in the Golden Aura of their successes. So we trade in our slippers for fancy shoes, and we put on our Cinderella dresses. We toss our hair into coifs fit for royalty, and we powder sparkle on our skin. And voila! We become Writing Butterflies!

But oh, the transformation is not as easy as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother's wave of a wand and a "bippity boppity boo." Nope. At least not for moi, the voluptuous 40 plus "gee I feel like a watermelon with toothpicks for legs" writer. The transformation happens in stages. In no particular order, they are:

*buy a dress
*buy shoes
*buy bling for the hair
*buy bling for the neck, ears and wrist
*get hair done
*treat writing hands to a very necessary manicure
*treat feet, especially summer heels, to a super necessary pedicure
*use wrinkle erasing products around eyes and on forehead
*find elusive Miss Oops deodorant line smudge eraser
*buy anti puffy eye cream
*pray for a fairy to come erase 10 pounds and some cellulite (or buy spanks)
*find sparkle
*trade slippers and jammies for sparkle clothes and shoes

Somehow, I have to transform from this:

 And become fabulously sparkled enough to wear all this!

Let the sparkling begin!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Label Maker

There are many labels in my life. There are the clothing labels I have to read when I do the laundry. There are tags on new clothes with sizes (larger ones for me unfortunately) and prices. There are ingredient labels on food products and there are mailing labels. Labels are a part of life.

Labels help us identify the things we are looking at and make decisions about them. To buy or not to buy? To try on or not to try on? To eat or not to eat? And to know or not to know?

To know or not to know? That is my question as a consumer and as a writer. I label people. A lot. I label situations. A lot. I use labels as place markers when I write. I use them to remember situations I've encountered. And I'm not the only one. Most commercial writers use labels. We have to use them to create character templates, log lines and more. We use them to sell our story ideas to potential agents and editors. Labels are a big part of our lives.

Writers aren't the only label makers. Imagine going to the movie theater without reading a blurb about the movie? That blurb is a high concept sentence or two, usually around 25 words, that labels the movie. It gives the potential viewer information about the movie so the viewer can make a decision about whether or not to go to the movie. Newsmakers use labels all the time. Though I can't speak for other countries in the world, I know that the USA newscasters use labels to describe all the major events occurring in our world. Labels like STORM OF THE CENTURY to describe weather events and more. I've watched non-writers in my country, can't speak for other countries, who called the snowfall in Virginia and NYC Winterpaloosa.

So is labeling a result of one's nationality or is it a result of wanting to narrow down one's world into easy, descriptive elements so understanding comes quickly? Who knows? I don't have the answer.

But I do confess this: I am a Labeling Junkie. I think I always have viewed the world in sound bites and quickly labeled events and people in order to file them in my creative brain for future use. Now that I am a writer I use labels to create quick descriptors for my stories, characters and settings. First I figure out my character archetypes. THE COMPLETE WRITER'S GUIDE TO HEROES AND HEROINES: SIXTEEN MASTER ARCHETYPES by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders is my reference for this process. Yes, there are more than 16 ways to look at people, but as a writer it is easier to formulate my story and unravel my people if I stick to the basic types because they resonate with all people. Successful screenwriters and writers knowand use this fact every day.

Remember Gilligan's Island? The Professor, Mary Ann, Gilligan and the Skipper, too? They were basic archetypes: professor, chief, spunky kids. Ginger? A seductress. I can rattle off dozens of examples: Angel, Seinfeld, Friends to name a few. The characters had specific roles to fill and the writers knew what qualities each character had to have to fulfill each roll. A Professor archetype is going to respond to problem differently than a Chief. They might both lead, but each will bring their specific way of looking at the world into their decision making process.

Cool right?

So yes, I confess. I am a people labeler. It comes naturally to me. I may even offend some with labels, but creating place markers is as ingrained in me as doing a high kick is to a Rockette. After all, I'm a writer. I think people who don't understand the real necessity we have as writers to create labels might be afraid that we're judgmental. But that's not true. At least not for me. How a person chooses to live, where, or why isn't my issue. It's not my place to make that kind of judgment. Lord, I don't do or live the way other people do, so why impose my decisions and conclusions on others?

I don't. I am just constantly observing the world and looking for interesting story ideas and fascinating characters to incorporate into my stories. Nothing is sacred. I might see a child tugging away from her mother and a story will come to mind. Is the mother a harried working mom pulled in too many directions, or a lonely stay at home mom who just moved and is looking for a new friend? What about that older man sitting at the mall watching the people stroll by him while he drinks his takeout coffee? Why is he alone? Is he a retired, bitter man with no family because he drove them away with nothing better to do, or is he a grandfather who's actively involved with his family who is taking a break on the bench while his wife of fifty years shops for new clothes?

Oh the possibilities! This is when my writing brain kicks into gear. My mind is always whirling and trying to figure out angles about people. My labeling habit spills into my day to day life as I talk to non-writing friends. I find a label, I use it as a place marker and, like a dog with a bone, I bury it in my mind knowing I might dig it up and use it one day in a story.

I also have to use labels to pitch my own work to agents and editors. I'll be doing that in about 10 days. I have a short blurb ready, a Goal Motivation Conflict pitch prepared, and a log line printed out onto labels which are pressed to the back of my business cards. I have a title--a new one--that labels my book for the editor in way to reflect the publishing line.  And I have a label for my writing style should anyone ask me.

I also have a personal label for myself: I am a fierce, motivated writer. What about you? How do you define yourself?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pitch, Pile, Pack

All right--frittering time away is definitely a no-no from this point onward. Why? Because I am getting ready for the RWA National Conference which begins July 28, 2010. There's a lot for me to do prior to going, and my time is limited due to travels out of the area.

Last year I was very ready for Nationals. I had a roomie via the RWA matching service. I was so glad to make a new friend and share the room costs, I had a pitch for my story(s) written and practiced on anyone, including my hairdresser, who would listen. I'd researched my editor and agent online long before my pitches were due.  I had my elevator pitch, my new skinny body, my hair done, my nails and toes done, my new dress (bought in the spring!), and my days mapped out.

The 2009 conference went so well. I met a wonderful new person and made a new friend with my roomie, I made tons of new connections and I actually survived pitching with the end result of both agent/editor requesting my little book. That was a wonderful result for my first time to any conference.

Now 2010 is here and the RWA National Conference is only 11 days away and I AM NOT READY. Nope. I am no longer sporting my new skinny body. Apparently, the Gods have decided I should be buxom and curvy and every time I lose the weight, I always put the same pounds back on. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not super chunky or obese, but oh, being a size 8 was so nice compared to the size 10-12 I am today. And to be honest, a lot of my cool conference clothes that I bought for last year's conference to fit the said skinny body no longer fit my regained voluptiousness. And we're going to ORLANDO which means there might be bathing suit (haha as if!) time.

So much for wearing pants to the conference and you can forget about catching me in shorts. They should be abolished for anyone over 40. Just saying--they aren't the most flattering piece of clothing for a woman in her forties with curves.

Thankfully, most of my wardrobe problems are solved by my love for summer dresses. They tend to stay with me regardless of my weight's ups and downs. And I do have marvelous shoes to go with them as well as a comfy pair of silver, fun aerosole flip flops that look great with all colors and on my feet (and one thing I have--say I with a vain grin--is adorable toes and feet).

But what I don't have to bring is a fabulous dress for the Golden Heart/Rita Ceremony. Now I have to look awesome for that ceremony. My friend and CP is a finalist and I refuse to go cheer her on in an old, black standby cocktail dress. But the dress I wore last year for the GH/Rita Ceremony has been worn again to the Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta. I refuse to trot that bad boy out again. Oh the nightmare. Not only do I feel chubby, I have SHOP for a new dress while I feel chubby. AACK.

Talk about not being ready. I am ready for only one thing: PANIC.

Okay, so have I shopped? Nope. I  have not. I keep hoping for a miraculous weight loss between now and Nationals. So far, the Miracle Fairy  has not shown up at my door. This has forced me to use the utmost method of creative avoidance. I have *gasp* sat down and formulated my new title for my 4th book (it had to sound like a spicy category), a log line, an elevator pitch, a long pitch, a short pitch and I've begun practicing. I'll do anything but shop say I.

I will shop, I promise.

But first I have to research my editor/agent and other agents (just in case I get lucky and stand next to one in an elevator who asks about my writing haha). Then I must do laundry, iron, make a packing list, create my business cards (oh, did that--darn), pull together my briefcase, mildly panic about how to get to the airport, check schedules and workshops (shoot did that, too).

Sigh. I've created my pitch, I've got my pile of business and travel documents ready, and now all that's left to do is paint my toes/nails and do my hair. Sigh. I guess I will have to face the dressing room mirror and go buy that gorgeous dress for my not so perfect body. But wait, there's a silver lining! I get to buy NEW SHOES, too! And if there's something I've learned in life, SHOES ALWAYS FIT AND LOOK FABULOUS regardless of how chubby one feels.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Frittering Time Away

I'm back! I've been home for 5 days, but I haven't blogged other than on Romance Magicians because I've been regrouping. First I had to get my life in order, somewhat, and then I worked on my manuscript to give it a final polish before sending it to the editor who has requested it.

Yesterday I mailed the manuscript to England. Now my baby, once again, is out of my hands. After I shipped the package, I felt a little adrift. I always do after I send off requested materials. So I wandered around aimlessly, shopped a bit and bought trinkets for myself and household items. I called a few friends, my CP in DC and I chatted for a long time about the upcoming conference, and then I visited with another friend here in Alabama.

I frittered time away. I don't often do that, but maybe that's my new unspoken, unplanned reward for finishing a task and sending my baby to a stranger. Now to some people frittering time away might not seem like a reward, but for myself it is a big deal because I am very goal oriented and super focused. Time is something I manage, try to control, and use very wisely. So whenever I just float through a day, it feels downright decadent.

Today I will buckle down again. I have tons to do to before I head off to Orlando for the RWA National Conference. I want to work on my pitch for the editor/agent appointments, continue polishing my fourth manuscript, and shop for wardrobe pieces for the conference. Then there are the ordinary household things that I let slide, mostly paperwork and filing. So I'll be making my lists and checking them twice. I'll be back to managing time and being efficient, but yesterday was lovely. I'm glad I frittered.

What do you do after you finish a major project or send off a manuscript to an editor/agent?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Come Join Me over At Romance Magicians Today

I blogged over at Romance Magicians today. Come see how my Big Mouse in the House played while we kittens were away.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Road Trip Reminiscing

Ah, my travels are almost coming to an end. And, as much as I love to be on the road, this chick's quite ready to return to her home in Alabama where she'll reunite with DH, her DD's cat and the venerable Dowager Feline Clancy (who is driving DH crazy with her wet cat food demands). But oh, it's been an amazing 18 days on the road.


*Charlottesville, VA where we visited UVA, Monticello and my first VA winery: the Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson--what I'd give to sit down and chat with him while drinking some of his wine, which he had hoisted up to the dining room in Monticello on a unique dumb waiter invented to hold one bottle at a time. That's my kind of guy :-)
*food, glorious food! OMG, for this chick having gourmet and amazing meals throughout her trip was a treat. I'm allergic to shellfish, so the typical "steak and seafood" offerings in my Northern AL city con't excite me unless there's an ER involved at the end of the meal. French, continental, and Lebanese topped the list.
*wine, fabulous wine! I managed to go to 4 different wineries while I was in Northern VA. My inner lush is filled to the brim.
*friends! Oh, it was so wonderful to see my good friends again. Cooking with them, breaking bread, talking, laughing, enjoying, and squeezing lemonade every day out of each precious moment.
*DC! The blog barely touched up on how in love I am with this city. If you have never been to the Nation's Capitol, I encourage you to visit it one day!
*playing with my friend's two young children. The world doesn't seem as overwhelming or scary as it is depicted in the news when one is enjoying a pretend dinner and movie with a 6 year old or when one is looking for fairies with a 4 year old. Children are hope. Children are magical.
*Princeton! Wow, what an amazing campus and area. We enjoyed our tour and counting blonds while in the historic city's quaint Nassau Street region. There were not many blonds--we turned quite a few heads while we were there.
*NYC--yup, hopped a train in Jersey and rode into the city for a wild day and evening after our tour of Princeton. We caught an amazing Broadway Show, IN THE HEIGHTS, and were swept up in the sheer crazy busy streets of NYC afterward. What a pulse!!
*my gorgeous traveling companion, DD. Always fun to hit the road with her regardless of her age. She's a wonderful companion, friend and explorer. Once I traveled with stickers and pop beads and all sorts of toys to entertain a baby, a toddler, an elementary school child. Now I travel with a young lady who is poised on the brink of adulthood, ready to grab HER LIFE and soar into her future.

Some people never venture beyond the tried and true. I'm not one of those people. Sure, it's a bit nerve wracking figuring out new train systems or roads, but the final outcome is worth the risk. We had an adventure!

What's your latest adventure?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shhh... I'm Having a Love Affair

Yes, it's true. I am having a little love affair with one of my favorite cities, Washington D.C. I have been having a bit of a fling with my city while my Darling Daughter stayed with her BFF in Fairfax, VA. On Monday, my Darling Husband flew up to DC to work and he got a hotel near Tysons Corner. Oh, the bliss. I packed my fling bag and off I went to join him at the hotel.

And my, oh my, we had quite a fling indeed. We're working on 25 years of marriage together (this August we mark the quarter century of not shoving each other off the end of a plank) and one of the best parts of our marriage is our mutual desire to explore our world. We've been lucky with our travels. We've gone to Paris, camped in France, been to The Netherlands, Canada, all over the USA and more. We've lived in Knoxville, Houston, Fairfax and we currently reside in Alabama.

Confession: there is only one reason we are in Alabama--DH's job.

As is true with all changes, this move has brought us many wonderful and positive things. First of all, DH's career is solid. Second, I have met some of the BEST writing friends and my career has been in high gear due to the fabulous writing chapters I belong to here. Third, my Darling Daughter is super thriving in her new school with her fabulous new friends. Fourth, I have a beautiful new home with a dream kitchen. Can't complain.

Confession: as much as I love all the positives about my new digs, I truly miss the city.

I am a city girl at heart. I love the action, the variety, the museums, the pace, the unique shops, the energy I find in a big city. My northern AL small town is not filling my need for adventure. I've explored it to the max and pretty much covered it all in the two years I've lived there. So I've hauled to Birmingham, Atlanta and Nashville for a change of scene whenever I have an opportunity to hit the road. These jaunts feed my city girl soul.

But oh, I was spoiled in DC. I wasn't the kind of person who just hung out in my neighborhood when I lived here. Nope. DD and DH would often join me on my jaunts into the city. And DC is filled with the best of the best: culture, history, eclectic neighborhoods, ethnic cuisine is not limited to Italian and Mexican food, roof top terrace restaurants, political icons, monuments, gorgeous tree lined embassy rows, sidewalk cafes, secret service hang outs, and energy. Just plain energy. Outside of DC, a mere 30 minutes drive in some cases, there are wineries, rolling hills and interesting small pockets of history. Oh, how I used to love to go to the wineries with a picnic and just sit and relax.

This week we crammed it all into 5 glorious days of exploration and rejuvenation. I fed my city girl soul to the point of overflowing. On Monday we went to my favorite Lebanese restaurant, the Lebanese Taverna. Then we went to Merrifield where there is an ongoing effort to reclaim the area with unique restaurants and condos. We had drinks at the Sea Pearl and a wonderful lamb kebob appetizer. On Wednesday we drove into the city and parked the car for the day. Afterward we walked to the Smithsonian Mall where we quickly checked out the new American History Museum. Then we walked along the boulevard of grass and watched the crews get ready for the 4th of July extravaganza. Oh, the marble, the white stone gleaming against the brilliant blue skies never fails to take my breath away. The ornate carvings on the pillars, the majesty of the Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorials, the reflecting pond that is filled with beautiful cherry blossoms every spring, the sheer vibrance of it all gives me a lift.

After we walked the boulevard, we went to the W Hotel rooftop terrace. At the top of the terrace there is a restaurant called POINT OF VIEW. You can see the treasury, the White House (which did not have a lot of secret service people on it because the president was not in residence), the Pentagon, the monuments, the airplanes lifting off into the air from Reagan National, Rosslyn's expensive condos and apartments and the Arlington Cemetery where Robert E. Lee's house stands. Amazing!

From there we went to Dupont Circle via the Metro. We had an appie at La Tomate, a restaurant that is literally on the corner so is in the shape of a funky U. We sat outside and people watched for over an hour. So fun. Then we walked through all the embassy rows and took pictures of the flags and the houses. We went by Robert Kennedy's house and snapped a photo of that. Then we finished our jaunt with a sit down outside at a Greek Restaurant where we continued to watch people strolling by after their busy workdays while we sipped wine. Sigh. It was heaven. We capped off the day by going to Old Ebbitt's Grill where we had a traditional sandwich, Reuben for me, and reminisced about the secret service guys we knew who hang out there to smoke cigars and unwind after their shifts. This was a great day.

On Thursday, we drove to the hills outside of Fairfax and visited two old favorites, MIDDLEBURG and Chrysalis Winery. First we stopped at the historic Red Fox Inn for lunch. Oh, it was delicious. Then we drove over to the beautiful winery and sat outside (no humidity folks), people watched, and chilled out. Later that night, we joined some friends for dinner outside, el fresco. Fabulous day!

Yesterday, we finished our fling by going back into the city to check out Georgetown. This is a busy part of town, the traffic is always insane, and the sidewalks are always full of bustling students, tourists and business people. We went to our favorite, "first find" restaurant, BISTRO FRANCAIS, and had a delicious lunch. The windows were open to the outside and we enjoyed another round of people watching. I love that! Then we walked up and down the streets and finished up down on the Potomac River. Kayakers, boaters, and people picnicking on the lawn were out in full force to enjoy the fabulous weather and day.

We love this city. It is our city in that we know it but still discover new things about it whenever we are here. I know we will always return to see it because we don't just love the city, we love the friends we have who still live here. I know city life is not for everyone, but it is a big part of who I am.

So what are you? City or Country or a little of both?