Monday, September 24, 2012


There is no security in life, only opportunity.

SNARKY RESPONSE: Well, that'll shake up all the control freaks out there.

There is no security in life, only opportunity.

I love fall. It's my favorite season. Sleeping with the windows open, waking to a nip in the air, bright yellow days and cool purple evenings. This season is also filled with opportunities to enjoy yourself. Outdoor Festivals abound and, because the weather is so much more comfortable, everyone's out and about enjoying them all. So, this weekend we chucked the chores and took the opportunity to hit the road for an deliciously German-themed weekend.

First, St. Benedict's Oktoberfest -

The weinerschnitzel and wurst platters were yummy good!

Our sampler glasses and ^ The Stein Holding Contest
My friend and fellow author, Tina Glasneck, won the Friday night contest, Ladies Division!

A Sunday drive out Patterson Avenue revealed the Byrd Cellars Winery where we met the delightful owners and sampled their wines. Sadly, I didn't take any photos, but click on their name above to visit their website. Definitely going to be visiting them again soon! We brought back several lovely wines and gifts.

Then we continued on to Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery.

After sampling their fruit wines and meads, we headed west and discovered the Wild Wolf Brewing Company


Our two sample flights definitely took off!


A drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a visual delight. We just missed seeing a hang-glider launch, but sat and watched a lazy circling drifting flight to the valley floor way below. The trees are still green though a few sad trees seem to be launching themselves from green to brown in rapid order.


 The hang glider is the little dot in the middle of the left photo.

And finally dinner at our favorite German restaurant outside Staunton, Edelweiss Restaurant, off I-81.

Home now with wonderful memories. How was your weekend?

Monday, September 17, 2012


Never judge a work of art by its defects

SNARKY RESPONSE: Yeah, everyone's a critic and you know what they say about opinions.

Never judge a work of art by its defects.

This fortune cookie made me think about critique groups.

Are you in a critique group or have a critique partner? In my humble opinion, writers can benefit greatly from a well-chosen critique group. I've been blessed to have discovered two wonderful groups. They've taught me a lot about my writing, but also they've taught me a lot about doing a good critique.

Being part of a critique group means that you offer and receive constructive criticism of each other's work. It's neither easy to hear nor easy to offer. However, if you're in a group, it's important that you take part and that you understand the key word is "constructive." To simply say that something doesn't work for you is not enough. You need to be able to explain why and hopefully offer a suggestion or two of what you feel would make it better. This is not to say that you will dictate how another person writes, you can only share what you feel would help. You are not there to write their story for them, simply to let them know if you see anything that needs work.

That's where our fortune cookie comes into play. Do not "judge" their work by any "defects" or mistakes, help them improve it. Offer suggestions for changes, give examples, and pose questions if something is unclear to you. Finally, and something that often gets lost in the mix, remember to comment upon what you liked, what you enjoyed, what you felt was done particularly well.

I would suggest you use the "Oreo cookie" method. I don't know precisely where I heard this used first, but I think it was at work. I've always understood it to mean to place a hard criticism between two compliments. I suppose if you're going to take the cookie analogy literally, you might be squeezing one compliment between two hard criticisms, but I prefer the first method when possible.

So remember, when offering critiques, read with a positive eye and critique with a positive tone. You wouldn't want your writing judged purely on its defects, would you?

Monday, September 10, 2012


Many pleasurable and memorable adventures are in store for you.

SNARKY RESPONSE: Oh, sure! Which store? Do they offer discounts? Do I have to have a membership card?

Many pleasurable and memorable adventures are in store for you.

Well, I don't know about the future, but this past weekend was chock-a-block full of fun and adventures. Went out with friends, Alexa Day and Lucy Balch for drinks at a "new to me" wine bar, Secco Wine Bar, for drinks and nibbles before going to the local historical movie theater, The Byrd, to see Magic Mike. It was our first trip to Secco Wine Bar and we all highly recommend it. Knowledgeable bartender, excellent chef, delightful presentation and environment. The photo is of the Mighty Wirlitzer Organ which rises from below the stage and fills the theater with wonderful music before the two Saturday evening performances.

Enough has been said about Magic Mike on fb and elsewhere, but I can definitely say that the movie was exactly what I expected and also, not what I expected. The stripping and dancing scenes were all that I had hoped LOL.  The storyline was not what I expected. I guess I was thinking it would be all sex, drugs and rock n roll, but it was more (and less). I was glad I went to see it.

Then today, Joe and I drove to Baltimore for the Ukrainian Festival. We took the rural route to avoid the traffic nightmare that is DC. While the drive to Baltimore was much less stressful, it took much longer than anticipated. Saw a bunch of neat things, some old architecture, interesting eateries, and lovely countryside. When we arrived, finding a parking space was the final hurdle and then we were IN!

The festival is held in Patterson Park around a monument with vendors arranged around a circular area with a monument to Poland in the center. First stop was to get some authentic Ukrainian food, most offered by members of local Ukrainian churches. Perogies, stuffed cabbage, and potato pancakes all around.

Ukrainian beer and a shot of Medivka - Ukrainian Honey Liquor really got things off on the right foot.

Speaking of feet, there were Ukrainian dance groups performing as well. Dressed in colorful traditional costumes, they danced, leaped, spun and performed amazing steps. The crowd seated on chairs in front of the stage clapped and cheered. My knees ached just watching the young men leaping and squatting and kicking. Awesome!

A band at the opposite end of the park provided music for the beer garden and inspired at least one couple to trip the light fantastic!

There were also plenty of vendors offering lovely Ukrainian crafts to temp the pocketbook.

It was a lovely trip and a lovely day!

Monday, September 3, 2012


Find release from your cares; have a good time.

SNARKY RESPONSE: Yeah, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.

Find release from your cares; have a good time.

Seemed like good advice for a Labor Day Weekend and the beginning of Fall! Even though, in my neck of the woods, it doesn't feel like Fall, Labor Day Weekend is when most of us bid adieu to the carefree days of summer. At the very least, I've already noticed the days are getting shorter.

I love Fall! The temperature will start on that gradual downward slide and we'll revel in open windows, nights cool enough to require sweaters, and the scent of smoke from burning leaves or fireplaces.

Between now and New Year's Eve, my social calendar becomes filled chock-a-block with activities of all kinds. The James River Writers Conference, The Richmond Folk Festival, The Garlic Festival, various cultural festivals, and Oktoberfest are just a few of the delights on my crowded agenda. Of course, there are the Big Four—Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, though I admit the last two are actually within the realm of Winter.

Then there is the annual strip-tease performed by the region's deciduous trees that will hopefully entertain us for weeks. The coy things will bedazzle us with their annual transformation from their current dusty green to vibrant golds, reds, and oranges. Despite the fact that walks outside will often be accompanied by the gentle shushing of fallen leaves, we'll hardly notice the emergence of bare limbs until they're suddenly standing against a cloudless sky, limbs thrust outwards as if to say "ta da," their rainbow garb having been flung to the wind to settle down around their roots.

And the light! The sunlight shifts from the brilliant white yellow of summer to the golden glow of autumn. The disappearance of humidity will brighten the days and at night, the stars will take on a sharper twinkle.

Yes, there may be a built-in sense of freedom in the lazy, hazy days of summer with vacations, abbreviated clothing and footwear, but I'm ready to begin the cooler, cozy days of fall. What about you? Are you ready for Fall or are you in mourning for Summer?