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One of my bestest writing friends, Melissa James, who hails from Australia but is now living in Switzerland, came to visit me and attend the Washington (DC) Romance Writers Spring Reteat. Melissa writes for Harlequin Romance and can pack emotion in her writing better than anyone I know. We’ve been great online friends and, once in a while, I’m lucky enough to see Melissa in person.

She arrived a couple of days before the Retreat, so we took advantage of beautiful weather and went to tour the Hillwood Museum. The museum is actually the house that Majorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune, built in DC as a place she could display her huge collection of art.

I’ve visited Hillwood several times and it always reminds me of an English country house, especially one built in the 1700s. In truth, it was built in modern times and inside there is art from all time periods, but, to me, it feels like a country house.

Here is the dining room:

And the drawing room.

Post’s bedroom is a replica of a Robert Adam room, but they didn’t have a postcard showing it (my inside photos are photos of postcards I purchased, because they didn’t allow photography inside the house).

Marjorie Merriweather Post had marvelous collections of porcelain, among so many things, like pre-communist Russian religious vestments and icons.

And 18th century art, like this painting, L’Enfant Cheri by Marguerite Gerard.

Outside the house are beautifully kept gardens, in glorious bloom on this lovely spring day.

I never tire of visiting this place.

What about you? Do you have a favorite historic house or museum you could visit over and over again?

Wednesday on Diane’s Blog, I’ll tell you about Melissa’s and my experiences at the WRW Retreat. My prize for that day will be a signed copy of The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor, which, of course, has Amanda’s and Deb Marlowe’s RITA finalist novellas…and my novella, too.
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Last week I mentioned that I was going to Hillwood House, the home of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post. Post designed the house to be a living museum and it is beautiful. She was a collector of decorative arts, especially from 18th century France and pre-Communist Russia, like the Fabergé egg shown here (not from her collection).

There were some Regency era paintings. One I correctly guessed as a Thomas Lawrence (I was so proud of myself). Another one I asked about, but our tour guide was obviously a Russian scholar and nothing else quite registered with her. So she didn’t know…
The Lawrence, was the Portrait of Mrs. Michel nee Anne Fane.

It was a lovely day spent with writing friends!

Today won’t be so much fun.

First is my trip to the accountant for the taxes. I used to do our taxes myself, but as they got more complex, I’d have an anxiety attack every time. It is so much better to hand them to the accountant. She likes reading Romance, so I always bring her a book.

It got me thinking about taxes during the Regency, when there were taxes on everything. From What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (which, by the way, is on sale for $5.99 on Amazon), there were taxes on “land, income, the practice of law, newspaper advertisements, glass, candles, beer,malt, carriages, menservants, coats of arms, newspapers, paper, bricks, stone, coal, windows, corn, soap, horses, dogs, salt, sugar, raisins, tea, coffee, tobacco, playing cards, timber, silk, and…headgear.”

I don’t feel so bad now…..

Except, I have to go to the dentist afterward. My dentist is a great guy and an enthusiastic supporter of my writing (he once phoned me on a Sunday to tell me about a History Channel show about dueling, which he knew I was researching). He’s a bit advanced from the Regency dentist, though. This is from the Jane Austen Society of Australia, about Jane’s visit to the dentist with three of her nieces:

‘The poor girls & their teeth!’ a Visit to the Dentist by Joanna Penglase
“Mr Spence remonstrates strongly over Lizzy’s teeth, cleaning and filing them and filling the ‘very sad hole’ between two of the front ones. But it is Marianne who suffers most: she is obliged to have two teeth extracted to make room for others to grow. ‘When her doom was fixed’ says Jane Austen, ‘Fanny Lizzy and I walked into the next room, where we heard each of the two sharp hasty Screams’. Fanny came off lightest, but even her ‘pretty teeth’ Mr Spence found fault with, ‘putting in gold and talking gravely’, moving Jane Austen to grave doubts about his motives. ‘He must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischief to parade about Fanny’s’, she declares.”

It is some comfort that my dentist is not Mr. Spence!

I hope you have more wonderful things to do today! Things without pain. Tell me about them!

(I am watching Sense and Sensibility at this moment….Edward Ferrars……((((THUD))))

Oh, this is the last day for my contest. Enter before midnight!

Oh Oh, I almost forgot to invite you to the Wet Noodle Posse blog. We’re doing a whole year on writing and April is Conflict month. We have lots of guest bloggers in April, including Jo Beverley! And we’re giving away a signed copy of one of her books to one lucky commenter.

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So many people wake up in the morning wondering, “What is Diane up to?” I thought I would do a Diane Update.

Writing Life: This has been a good month for Riskies, writing-wise. I’m very happy to announce that Harlequin/Mills & Boon have given me another book contract, 4 books and 1 novella (the one with Amanda and Deb Marlowe). (Yippee!) I’m leaving the world of people that began with The Mysterious Miss M and writing what I call my Three Soldiers Trilogy, still in the Regency. Three soldiers experience the same traumatic event in Spain that affects the rest of their lives.

Health and Beauty: I am still trying to lose the weight I’ve put on since 2003 (I won’t say how much but I don’t weigh as much as that scale shows!) My latest attempt is with the South Beach Diet. I’m not following the meal plans, because I am so-not-a-cook, but I am following the food guidelines. Basically South Beach means giving up bread, pasta, potatoes and candy (Sniff!) but it has been surpisingly easy—for the first week. As Keira knows, I also go to Curves. My goal is to go at least three times a week. Burning question–Can I lose the weight by the RWA Conference this summer?

I also caved in to the Leeza Gibbons infomercial for Sheer Cover Make-up. I like it! But I also like Bare Minerals, which I first purchased from an infomercial a few years ago. Here’s a nice discussion of both.

Entertainment: Amanda’s convinced me I should see Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Not hard to do, because I recently saw Enchanted and have become an Amy Adams fan. I LOVED Enchanted! How nice to see a happy movie for a change. Enchanted, by the way, is on sale at Target this week at $14.99! (I have also watched the Kate Beckinsale Emma on Masterpiece and can’t wait for Cara to discuss it!)

Wednesday I am going to see Merriweather Post’s Hillwood House here in Washington, DC. Marjorie Merriweather Post was a great collector of 18th and 19th century European and Russian art. The house features a room with an Adams ceiling, if I am remembering correctly.

That’s it! Breathe a collective sigh of relief that you are now up-to-date on Diane, something I also attempt on my website. By the way this is the last week for my website contest, with a Kathryn Caskie book as one of the prizes.

So….what is your news in Writing, Health and Beauty, and Entertainment? I wake up every morning wondering….

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