Montana! Day 5

Spectacular day. Sunny and clear with true blue skies. I skip my morning workout in the anticipation of some urban hiking.

It’s Patrick who drives us into the airport. He’s Missoula born and bred, and knows so much about the area. It’s striking to realize how thick the smoke had been on our arrival, as in the clear the scenery is just spectacular. Sharp rises of land covered with Ponderosa pine, the rise and roll of ridges into the distance, the bright glint of the river winding. The flat run of abandoned railroad tracks above the river and through a mill town.

A gorgeous fertile valley with its pretty farms, its grazing cattle and horses spreads wide, circled by the mountains. We saw none of this on the trip in. Patrick points out the remains of the first homestead of a family who continues to live on and work the land, now in–I think–its fourth generation.

On the way to Missoula by NR
On the way to Missoula by NR

It’s a really lovely and pleasant drive in, and a quick and easy process for the car rental. We backtrack into town in no time, and take Patrick’s advice and find a parking garage.

Now we shop!

Missoula has a beautiful and vibrant downtown, easy walking, pretty, pretty shops and restaurants, friendly shopkeepers. One of the first we swing into is all local arts and crafts, much like we have with Gifts Inn Boonsboro. I happily buy my first Christmas gifts.

The next has a wonderful bonus. Little Louise, the clerk’s baby girl. Maybe three months old with a big, happy smile. More gifts, but the grand prize of being able to hold Louise. Oh, the incredible perfume of baby head!

So many of the shops stock lovely things created locally, and that just makes it all the more special. Handmade jewelry, handcrafted leather, woolen items, clothes, art–all made in Montana.

As we hike along, I noticed this guy. He’s wearing odd leggings, two pair of tall socks and boots. A kind of long coat, not quite a trench.  He’s fascinated with Jason’s camera, apparently, as it’s a real one. Falls into step with Jason–as many have before on our previous travels–and strikes up a conversation as odd as his attire, about cameras and eBay and whatever. Jason said afterward, he couldn’t decide if the guy was homeless or a hipster.

Kat finds a terrific sweater. I find a pretty and unusual little pendant of a face.

We loop around the downtown area, go into yet another shop. Everything’s so pretty and cleverly displayed. I’m hoping my girl pals are as pleased at Christmas as I am now–and I knock every female off my shopping list.

So when I see this amazing leather bag, I know it should be mine for being such a good friend! It’s big, with a long wide strap so I can wear it cross-body. Gorgeously handmade with textured purple leather (with two outside zippered pockets!) on one side, smooth black on the back. A great travel tote, or I need to carry a bunch of stuff today bag. I’m thrilled with it. I’ll think of our day in Missoula whenever I use it.

Every clerk is friendly, personable, helpful, every shop intriguing in its own way, and our men are patient even when we hand them more bags.

BW's take on Missoula.
BW’s take on Missoula.

BW’s settled on a bench for awhile, and took that time to look up the possibility of pizza for a late lunch. He finds Biga Pizza.  Just a couple blocks walk from where we are. It would’ve been worth a mile hike.

Jason and I split a house pie–the crust is sourdough based if I understood correctly, your tomato sauce, perfectly seasoned, mozzarella, and a drizzle of garlic oil. Oh my, my. Kat and BW are adventurous with a Vesuvius, with peppers and other toppings. I get a glass of white wine–light, crisp, lovely, and Kat tries the basil lemonade–which I may try replicating at home.

We can’t eat it all. We try, but we just can’t. We’d arrived about a half hour before their pre-dinner break, but our server doesn’t rush us along. In fact when BW tells her we own a pizzeria back in MD, she goes back for the owner. And he comes out, talks shop. Turns out he has a cousin with a llama farm in MD, calls his dad to find out where. Not far, actually, from Jason and Kat. Small, fun world.

We have them box up the leftovers, and walk off some of lunch before heading back to the car. There’s a cheerfully painted piano, obviously set up for anyone to play. A guy’s playing a tune as we walk by.

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Easy drive home under blue skies, and we all agree to skip our camp dinner. No room for more food! BW and I sit out back for awhile, and the insane squirrel is our floor show. He gallops over the porch, circles the hot tub cover, disappears under it, comes out, stands on the edge of the porch and chirps insistently. I can hear another squirrel answer, but he doesn’t quit. Montana squirrels are definitely more vocal than Maryland squirrels.

Evening entertainment by NR
Evening entertainment by NR

He races, chirping, up a pine, keeps going, running nimbly out on branches, back again, up, up, all the way, then madly runs down just to do the same thing on another tree, and yet a third. What is his mission? I guess only he knows.

There’s another stunning sunset to experience. It holds and holds, bleeding red into the sky, setting a trio of pines on fire, turning the pastures gold.

Tuesday sunset by NR
Tuesday sunset by NR

We make ourselves a light meal from leftovers and the stores in the kitchen–and the six seed crackers I picked up in town. I start to read, but am out like a light by ten.

A shopping marathon wears you out!

This morning, more gorgeous skies and a lovely sunrise I enjoy while the others sleep. I’m going to try to fit in a little cardio before BW and I head out for a yoga session.

Wednesday sunrise by NR
Wednesday sunrise by NR

It promises to be another wonderful day.

Nora

Montana! Day 4

Rain comes and washes away the smoke. Sunday morning’s sky shows breaks of bleached out blue, but it’s sky, it’s blue. And we can see the mountains, still hazy but clearer through the last of the smoke.

Sunday sunrise by BW
Sunday sunrise by BW

I hope this means the fire areas got rain as well.

Workout and walk for me. Much cooler, and with a real freshness to the air. The endlessly busy squirrels carry on while I walk. They’re like squirrels on crack, skittering, scampering, chirping, chasing each other. No wonder they’re leaner than squirrels from my home woods.

Squirrel!
Squirrel!

Some thunder rumbles when I get back to the cabin, and it spits some more rain. We have an empty day, opt to walk over to the wilderness center in the cool and the misty rain. Minutes after we start it clears. More sky! More mountains! This is what I’m talking about!

We’re surrounded by layers of those rough, magnificent ridges, and the sky opens up. Pale blue, like a faded robin’s egg, and there are fluffs of white clouds. Our walk takes us between wide fields of yellowed green toward paddocks of horses, a few riders, big barns. And I can see our shadows on the road as the sun comes back strong.

Inside the center I find myself a Stetson that fits. Yay! Small head here, apparently, so it’s a lucky find. The activities director is so helpful, so patient, and helps us switch around some of our bookings, gives us advice on renting a car. We want to drive into Missoula, do some shopping. And while Kat and Jason will book ATVs for a trip to the ghost town in a few days, BW and I will drive it. I think no five hours on an ATV for me!

New hat goes into immediate rotation. J A-B
New hat goes into immediate rotation. J A-B

I decide to book a riding lesson with the rest. It’s been years since I’ve ridden Western style or done more than trot along on a trail ride. That should be fun.

We walk from there to lunch, sitting outside as it warms up, continues to clear. I’m going for a big salad, but . . . They have a burger bar, and it’s irresistible. Maybe I can only eat half of the huge burger, but it was fabulous.

After lunch BW’s pulled to the horseshoe pit–and gets himself a ringer after a few throws. It’s nice to sit in the sun, by pretty tubs of flowers–big lush snapdragons, blanket flowers, yarrow–and look at the sky and the mountains.

BW at the horseshoe pit. Photo by J a-b.
BW at the horseshoe pit. Photo by J a-b.
Montana snapdragon. Photo by NR.
Montana snapdragon. Photo by NR.

Back we walk. I’d guess we put a couple of miles on our boots.

I sit on the back porch with my book. I think I need to go in, put on sunscreen. It’s hot and bright, and the birds are calling. The squirrels are dashing around like lunatics. Then the wind rises up, surfs through the pines. Long, long rolls of it, and the big trees sway. Minutes later, the temperature drops, the light changes. I come back in for a jacket instead of the sunscreen. But soon the light goes gloomy, and the wind brings a few drops of rain.

Inside with the book and what turns into an hour’s nap.

Before I know it, it’s time to clean up for dinner.

It’s a buffet tonight, and warm! They’ve lit a fire in the enormous fireplace. I really need to find that big salad and stick with it today, as they have a carving board and a beautiful hunk of roast beef. A nice soft Cab, and dinner with my favorite people. Can’t get much better. But it does.

First there’s the sunset. Words fail, so I’m glad we got pictures. That huge sky, full of red and gold and underlit clouds. Beyond magnificent, changing by the second with steaks of wild pink, burnished gold, hot red while the mountains rise up and spread under it. And the blue, stronger now, so much bolder comes in patches against the strength of the setting sun.

Sunday sunset by NR.
Sunday sunset by NR.
Sunday sunset by BW
Sunday sunset by BW

And there’s more.

The rain outside is quiet and thin, and in the bar we’re treated to a wonderfully intimate concert by Crystal Bowersox and Seth Glier. There can’t be more than 30 or 40 people there, spread out at tables or on the sofas. Our musicians are friends, and it shows in the music. She’s still hoarse, but it doesn’t stop her.

Their harmony and rhythm seem effortless–a testament to them, I think.

Kat wonders what she should drink, and Jason finds a site with a questionnaire on just that. So funny. But in the end she tries what someone posting suggested to me. A huckleberry margarita. I have a taste, and oh yeah, that is fine.

So for a couple of hours we sit and sip and are treated to terrific music in a small, friendly setting. Such talented people, obviously enjoying each other and what they do, and that provides a lovely cap to a really excellent day.

This morning, I see a sunrise over the mountains. And now the cloudy sky is washed with light.

It should be a beautiful drive into Missoula, and hopefully some most excellent shopping to follow.

Nora

Montana! Day 3

Slightly less hazy on Saturday, and either that campfire smell has lessened or I’m getting used to it.

Enjoyed my loft workout, then took another walk. Kept to the gravel road awhile, going uphill past other cabins–one has a classic Lincoln parked outside. I spot another marked trail, so why not, and end up going down toward one of the pastures where earlier i’d watched the wranglers round up the horses.
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I don’t see another soul, a car or bike. Nothing but pasture, hills, trees, and the quiet cabins. I do see a squirrel who stands on a stump and chirps at me. Our squirrels back home don’t chirp and chitter. They tend to be big and fat and fuel up on the bird food spilled out of the squirrel-proof feeder.

I do see more of the sky, and what are surely rain clouds overhead.
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By the time I get back, Jason’s up and Kat and BW come back from breakfast. And I settle in to work awhile.

We’re going into the village for lunch, BW and I have massages, and we’re booked for this farm-table dinner, followed by a concert. Crystal Bowersox.  I’ve bought a clue that the offerings at this dinner–where they bring in a guest chef who will take a group with her to the local farmer’s market in the morning–will be esoteric and fancy. So I want lunch as I have the palate of a twelve-year old.

Work goes well, and I leave Eve in a tough situation. Looking forward to getting back to her, watching her handle it.

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Photo by BW

BW and Kat report they drove around and spotted longhorns, and a go-kart track, so we circle around to drive that way. Yep, longhorns–pretty cool–and a go-kart track not currently in use. I see people driving ATVs with bandanas over their faces. The road dust is amazing.

We have lunch outside at the more casual place. I opt for what’s billed as the last best grilled cheese–add bacon. Fries and huckleberry lemonade. Very nice.

BW and I drive back, Jason walks and Kat walks her bike along with him as BW and I have our date at spa town.

I really can’t say enough about the massage—warm table, the breeze through the open tent, Natalia with her amazing hands, fragrant oil. Most of the tension I habitually carry in my neck and shoulders is stroked, pressed and pummeled away, and for an hour I’m in the Bliss Zone.

Honestly, I could have just dropped into bed after, but we have those dinner plans. We pause for a trail ride crossing our path, and the little girl looks so delighted on her horse. I bet she’s dreaming she’s a cowgirl. I desperately wanted to be a cowgirl at her age.

I have to wash the oil out of my hair, put on more clothes, pull it together, all while thinking: Really a nap would be so good.

The dinner starts in the bar, as all dinners should. Lots of people, lots of chatter. BW gets a huckleberry Manhattan. You really can’t have too many huckleberries. Then we’re directed into the dining room where we all sit at three long tables. I see the menu and am grateful for that last best grilled cheese. Five courses, with dishes that include pickled kohlrabi and shaved beets, squid ink spaghetti and cheesy kale grits.

Now I know there are adventurous foodies out there who’d be thrilled with this. Kat and BW are good with it, though Kat has a shellfish allergy, and squid qualifies (you learn something new). Jason likes beets, but is pretty much happy he also got that last best grilled cheese at lunch.

The guest chef comes out to talk to us, with a container of sorrel she brought with her from CA. Oh yeah, serious foodies. She’s worked sorrel into one of the dishes, and challenges us to tell her which one after the meal.

I have to say, when I think Montana, I think beef, fish, chicken, barbecue, hearty vegetables. And huckleberries. I don’t think squid ink and sorrel. Where the hell did they find that squid? Why add its ink to harmless pasta? But okay, it’s an experience. And the bread was lovely. We’re also told our headliner has a throat issue, and can’t perform. The artist performing with her will go on, but she can’t even talk for twenty-four hours.

The restaurant has what I see as the universal issue of pumping up the AC to meat locker levels. It’s actually cool out, really pleasant outside. But inside? Several people, including me, end up asking for blankets. Why not just cut back the air?

The food’s beautifully presented, really pretty–until we get to the squid spaghetti. I don’t find that dish attractive. And poor Kat actually has a reaction to the strong scent of it. She and I go outside for a bit.

BW reports he found his pasta delicious. Jason passed on it.

We opt to skip the abbreviated concert, head outside.

And the moon, oh, the moon is a fiery red ball in a starless indigo sky. It’s stunning, just compelling, absolute magic. Just that full red ball in that enormous blank sky.

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Photo by BW

This calls for pictures, and back at the cabin, the moon strikes me as even more gorgeous when viewed through the tall pines. It’s a fantasy in the night stillness, hanging there with the occasional cloud sailing over it to change the aspect. I love the moon, in all its forms, and have seen the red moon before. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen more beautiful than the red moon over Montana. It’s the most striking end to a full, mixed bag of a day

This morning I hear thunder, and see shadowy mountains through the haze. I hope for rain, here and in Washington State, wherever the wildfires rage.

A slower day today–after my lofty workout.

Nora

Montana! Day 2

A hazy start to a lazy day yesterday. Or somewhat lazy. I’ve taken the loft area in the cabin for my workout studio. It feels so good to break a sweat after a week of being mostly down.

And when my gang heads down to The Village for breakfast, I take a walk. Not too far as I don’t know my way around yet, but far enough to top a little hill, watch a trail ride snake through that yellow green grass. Then I backtrack, find a path through the pine forest. So quiet the sound of a falling pine cone is jarringly loud.

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I find myself hoping I might see a bear, then think: Are you crazy? I do want to see a bear, but from inside the car or inside the cabin.

After I come back, shower and dress, I hear Kat and BW laughing, then see them pull up on bikes. They beat Jason, who brought back the car.

The haze gives us all a reason to just hang out at the cabin, so I set up–and with a little help from my clever geeks, get my ancient WP going on my new Surface. Writing for a couple hours feels as good as that morning workout. I need my routines.

Then it’s time for BW and I to head off for our treatments. What a lovely set-up, pretty white tents, open in the back so the view and the breeze are part of the experience. I got a rose clay body mask, and I swear by the end my skin felt like butter. I expect without the smoke the view would have been astonishing, but even with it, it’s wonderful. Sort of surreal and spooky.

The back yard
The back yard

We see a couple of deer, a young buck with felt antlers and his lady on the way back.

Blissed out, we head back. Some wine, a little fruit and cheese plate from our stores, and my book on the back porch. For those who’ve asked I’m reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven thanks to the strong recommendation of TTP’s Janeen. Dystopian world and the traveling players who risk all to bring music and Shakespeare to the enclaves left after the collapse of society. Beautifully written. I’m gobbling it.

While I read, the squirrel who appears to live here scampers around the porch, seems fascinated by the hot tub, even jumps onto a chair near my seat for a moment. And when the wind blows through the pines, it sounds like the ocean. If I look up from my book now and again, I might see a hawk in flight. I hear them calling.

It’s dinner at one of the camp sites tonight–and that’s glamping–glamor camping. It’s a couple miles or so from the cabin, so off we go in our little Kia. Make the turn for Moonlight Camp, and drive, and drive.

Sagebrush fields where deer leap and bound, their white tails flashing. Mysterious pine forests, and a bumpy track of a road. A whole family of deer dash across the road, buck, doe, spotted fawn. They’re beyond gorgeous–especially since they’re not munching in my garden.

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The Glampers

We’ve missed our turn, double back, find it. Meals here are in a big tent, open to the views, served family style. Lovely food and wine, from apps to dessert, cheerful and personal service. And kids from the camp riding bikes, a couple who come to dinner with their two dogs–so cute and well-behaved. A little rain falls and we all hope for more, for the fire zones, for the haze.

We’re happy, tired people who all hit the sack early.

This morning I can see the shadows of mountains through a thinner curtain of smoke, and the sun’s stronger. The cowboys rounded up the horses from the pasture, so the day’s begun.

I wonder if I can talk anybody into working out. Otherwise, I’m solo in the loft. Then we’ll see what today brings.

Nora

Montana! Day 1

After nearly a week dealing with vertigo, which meant dealing with pretty much nothing else, a visit to the ENT, and a lot of frustration, I traveled with BW, Jason and Kat.

We decided to do something completely different this year, and chose to vacate in Montana. I’ve only been here once, on booktour, and that was to visit a Cosco in Billings. Not my vision of Montana!

But boy, this is.

Right now, the sky and scenery are hazed with smoke from wildfires about 100 miles away. The air smells like a camp fire. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who have these fires near their homes, their towns, and my heart goes out to them. My gratitude and admiration–and prayers for safety–go out to all the firefighters, the smoke jumpers, the hotshots, all the brave who risk their lives to fight fires.

We arrived yesterday afternoon, and were picked up by the resort shuttle for the ride in. My brain’s almost as hazed as the sky from the flight, and from coming down from these dizzy few days. But even through those dual hazes, I can see the big pines, the buttes and rises of rugged hills.

Along the highway are workers tarring in ruts and cracks. And Bob, our resort guy, explains what all the white stuff is along the road and shoulder. Toilet paper. They have crew with rolls on toilet paper on long poles, sort of like paint rollers, running tp over the tar. I’m not sure I’d have believed it, but I saw it with my own eyes. I’m not sure of the purpose either, but it made for interesting van conversation.

Our resort is 37,000 acres. 37 THOUSAND acres. We check in, are given a kind of orientation. We booked a big cabin, and they drive us there, past what they call Spa Town–pretty white tents where I’ll get a massage this afternoon. There are hiking trails galore, and if and when the haze clears, amazing views. Even with the haze it’s amazing. All sort of moody and spooky. And blissfully quiet.

We’re also given a little car to use on property, so there are all these lime green Kias parked outside cabins and lodges.

I love the cabin, the layout, the we are western damn it decor. Big windows that’ll bring in those mountains and pines and fields. The minute I unpacked I went out to sit in one of the rockers on the big front porch and watched a couple of hawks. I can and will set up my brand new Surface at the desk in front of a big window, and write.

 

We drove into what they call The Village for dinner–saw a deer napping along the way. Stopped into their general store–upscale type. I may have to buy a hat before we’re done here.

Pretty restaurant for dinner with a menu, we’re told, that changes a bit daily. Kangaroo was on the menu. I think not for me. But Kat had the Yak Meatballs. I went for a more pedestrian steak. Amazing.

This morning I heard the hawks, and watched the horses grazing in the field near the cabin. Moments later, two cowboys came to round ’em up and take them into the barn, I assume for trail rides and lessons. And the sun was a hot red smear fighting through the haze.

A fine way to start our first full day here.

Since I seem to have my equilibrium back, I’m going to attempt a light workout, maybe a walk–though I want to orient myself much more before I take any serious hikes. BW is in the hot tub on the big back porch, and Kat and Jason still sleeping.

I have a most excellent book, a rocking chair on the front porch. I think our something completely different is going to work out very well.

Nora

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Photo by BW

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Checking in

As Nora’s deep into packing for vacation,  I offered to write this Sunday’s blog.  So while you don’t have her weekend recap, we’re looking at two solid weeks of armchair travel (am I dating myself with that reference?) up ahead.  I won’t share where she’s going  — I think we’ll let the first report do that.  But I will say that she’ll be in a time zone behind the East Coast.

That last made me stop and think.  In the the time we’ve worked together, Nora’s never been in a time zone west of me.  I always play catch up to her.

This month marks a decade I’ve worked with Nora.  In 2005,  I lived in Arizona and ours was a virtual partnership of emails, a summer trip to Boonsboro and the RWA conference. When I moved to North Carolina in 2009 it remained virtual except that I drove up for all the Turn the Page signings.

I liked to tell people that contractually I had to live 5 hours by car or by plane away from Nora so that I wouldn’t be a bother.  And that was fairly true.  My trips up for signings provided time for face-to-face discussions and catch ups.  Since Nora and BW were kind enough to let me bunk in at their place (in what’s now know as Laura’s Room), we could talk as long as we needed.

As time passed, I became more and more immersed in Boonsboro which meant I drove north every 4-6 weeks. That’s a lot of time negotiating  I-85 and I-95, surrounded by trucks and cars and people anxious to thread their way through DC as fast as possible.

At one point in 2012 I had to be in Boonsboro every week in September so I asked Nora if I might stay during the work week.  She said that was fine, as long as I didn’t breathe the air above the ground level come Monday.

I’m reasonably sure she was serious.

So I  would work downstairs for a couple of hours every morning, then email Nora  (who was two floors above) that I was heading to town and worked the rest of the afternoon at Turn the Page.  It suited us both — I was able to breathe freely and chat with other people, Nora ran no risk of running into a live person in her house during the work day.

Last August, my husband and I moved to Frederick, MD.  We rented a flat in the historic downtown to give ourselves a year to decide where we wanted to settle. A half hour away from Boonsboro, a little more than that to Nora’s house, drivable distances to both kids — it made the sense.

But distance makes no difference in how Nora and I work — we’re still  a virtual partnership with a battery of emails flying between our offices daily.   I don’t call, I don’t pop in and we both get the work done.

I’m not certain when the travelogues will start — in view of the time difference it could be Thursday evening, but more likely on Friday.

Stay tuned!

Laura

 

Summer Things

It’s good to be home, back to routine, back to work. In my book world it’s frigid, bitter-wind January. I realized I’d dived deep into book world when I set a scene at the ice rink in Central Park, started to research for some details and the web site said: Closed For The Season.
 
Well, I thought, baffled and annoyed, why in the hell would they close the ice rink in January? It’s a freaking ICE rink! Then I glanced out my office window, had a moment of disorientation before I remembered. Oh yeah, it’s August.
 
I like August better, in the real world. Some of the poplar trees are showing some yellow leaves, and I’m not ready for that, not ready for summer to wind down.
 
I like spending a good part of my weekends outside, gardening, wandering around with the dogs, sitting out with BW for a drink–most usually on the back patio so we can watch the hummingbirds come to feed. So I better appreciate those summer things while it lasts.
 
Everything got hit with deer repellent, again, as the deer–like the one I yelled at just the other day–continue to think of my garden as theirs. But I weeded yesterday without seeing a snake–that’s always a plus. And cut a pretty bouquet.
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Late summer bouquet
 
BW decided to grill steaks–not a summer thing for us as BW, much to my delight, grills year-round. But we don’t eat a lot of red meat, so steaks are a treat. And I used the potatoes we’d grown and harvested, with herbs from the garden for some spicy roasted potatoes. Add a salad–with some nasturtium from the garden–and we had the perfect meal to enjoy on our front deck. That’s a fine summer thing.
 

Potato prep
Potatoes prepped with fresh herbs
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Roasted to perfection
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Salad with nasturtium
While it’s deep winter in book world, I’m going to hold on to summer as long as I can, enjoy the warm and the flowers and those evening drinks on the patio.
 
Do yourself a favor, take a walk in the warm, pick some flowers, look for a hummingbird, read a book in the sunshine. Those summer things only last so long.
Nora
 

Summer Happy

Today’s my last day of a very happy summer week, with friends and family, at the spa. BW and I calculated and realized we’ve been coming here for 14 years now. Obviously, we enjoy it here.
 
This week’s been highlighted by simply wonderful weather–we can make our own fun in less than wonderful, but it sure adds a glow to all.
 
I did bring work, but I like work, and I’m not doing all the other things that need doing when I’m home, PLUS massages are a nearly daily treat. No complaints.
 
And when you cap a day off with sunsets like this one? Yeah, that adds a glow.
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I am, however, a creature of habit. I need my little routines. Spa routine, in good weather, starts off with a three-mile, hilly, round-trip walk, with a stop halfway to see the lions, tigers, bears–and wolves–in their habitats. My first morning, I hear a noise, pull out my earbuds.
 

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Prince
The big white lion they call Prince–raised here from a cub–is not exactly roaring, not exactly chuffing as the tiger does. It’s like a deep, wild purr. I’m enchanted. But I’m stunned into bliss when as soon as the lion stops, the male wolf–I’m standing only feet away from him–throws back his head and howls. I’ve never heard a wolf howl live and in person, so this was a real moment for me.
 
After the walk I might take a class if it appeals. The Yoga Sculpt–yoga with light weights–does. I end up taking it twice as I liked it quite a bit. Then it’s what’s everybody else doing?
 
A couple hours of work–sometimes out on the terrace in the sunshine–maybe a stroll about before settling into a book, then getting that massage.
What Nora Read
What Nora Read
 
It’s a really good deal, made even better by the delightful boys who are part of this summer tradition, their equally delightful parents, and my own Jason and Kat. Maybe it’s room service, maybe it’s dinner out. And often some Wii competition. I can’t believe this seven-year-old kid trounced me in Wii Bowling. I’ll get him next time.
 
We also celebrated BW’s birthday here with a fun meal outdoors, music and cake.
 

The birthday boy
The birthday boy
Yesterday I took my traditional walk and saw Diego the wolf wasn’t pacing his front fence line as he often does. His mate was meandering, and he was taking a little lie-down in the sun. Then they meandered together, tails wagging. The lion–the neighboring habitat is meandering with his mate as well.
 
Diego stops as the back corner, and to my surprise and utter delight, does that down-dog invite to play, the down and shuffle. I’m more astonished when the big lion, on his side, does a quick feint and dance. I can only describe it as a lion romping. These two played with each other for several minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it.
 
Yesterday also held a big, fancy wedding–so many pretty people–and the ceremony on the rooftop. Later a big helicopter–I’m assuming holding some of the wedding party–buzzed around seconds before fireworks lit up the sky. That’s some wedding!
 
I’ve done my walk, may do some yoga on my own. I’ll work awhile, think about packing, read some and enjoy the last day of a really happy summer week.
Late summer pedi
Late summer pedi
 
We’ve already booked next year.
Nora

What Happened?

That’s what I thought this morning when I woke up and remembered it was Saturday. Where did my week go?
 
It’s easy enough to figure out. I traveled home from NY on Monday, unpacked a week’s worth of RWA clothes, shoes, bags and so on. Then collapsed in an exhausted heap.
 
Tuesday was catch up after RWA day while the brain slowly began to fire up again.
 
Wednesday, big catch up with the book, figuring out what the hell I was doing when I left off, continuing that, all while dealing with several interruptions.
 
Thursday was my granddaughter’s 13th birthday. I have a teenage granddaughter! What happened??? And how lucky am I she wanted to spend the day with me. She wanted a chocolate trifle rather than a cake, so we had some fun baking brownies, whipping cream and putting that together. She helped me tidy up. Bless her.
photo 1
The birthday girl.
photo 2
The trifle.
 
I always think I can be messy–everyone can. Except for my pal Ruth Langan, who simply can’t. Clutter is to Ruth as sunlight is to vampires. But after a week away from home, I’m reminded it really is BW who’s the messy one. So I cleared  the flat surfaces of junk piled on them in my absence, and put it where it actually goes. In many cases, the trash. 
 
That evening, we celebrated Kayla’s 13th, and her brother Colt’s 5–as his is only days later–with pizza and trifle and presents.
 
Friday, back to work, with many interruptions. Due to them, I worked late and skipped my workout. I’m cranky when I miss my workout, but I’d have been crankier if I didn’t finish the scene.
 
We leave on Monday for a week at the spa, where I wasn’t really planning to work. But the interruptions and birthdays and life in general this week will have me taking my laptop with me. And that’s okay. I miss the work. 
 
So today, I hit my gym first thing, then hit the garden. Weeds, weeds, oh boy, the weeds that sprouted while I was gone.

photo 3
Tub o’weeds.

This tub is just from my raised beds. But the flowers are so pretty. I love the red cardinal flowers backing the Susies. So do the hummingbirds. And the nasturtium is insane this year.

 

photo 5
Susies and cardinal flowers.
photo (10)
Nasturtiums gone wild.
We decided to go ahead and harvest our little crop of potatoes. This is always just fun. And also delicious.
 

photo 4
Potato harvest.
Now I have to pack for next week. Not nearly as complicated as that week in NY, as this will be mostly workout clothes, hangout clothes and pjs. Along with laptop, flash drive and my nearly illegible notes on the work-in-progress.
 
I’ll end today signing the four tubs of books waiting for me.
 
This is all so I can carve out time tomorrow to help catch up from a week away, and a week of scattered work, along with somewhat scattered next week.
 
And some wonder why I get so pissed off when someone comments–often as if they KNOW–that I have ghost writers or a writing team.
 
The writing team–who consists of me, myself and I–will work on Sunday instead of reading a book. And will put in time on vacation to work so I stay on target for my deadline. That’s how it’s done.
 
Anyway, the week is kind of a blur, and now it’s Saturday afternoon. NY was great, last week such fun with my birthday girl, and next? I may work, but I’ll be getting massages and someone else does the cooking. That’s a really good summer deal altogether.
Nora

RWA, the Nora recap

My brain’s still a little blurred from a busy and fun week, and I know Laura posted some of the early highlights and pictures.
 
So from my POV.
 
I love when RWA’s in NYC or DC–that means no flying! It’s already started off well for me. Even counting a pit stop, it’s under five hours from portal to portal.
 
While I have to admit I normally avoid Times Square–CROWDED–the hotel worked really well for a conference of this size. As we have for too many years to count, Ruth Langan (a/k/a R.C. Ryan) and I share a suite. It’s so good to see Ruth, to have this week together. And to have it with pals.
 
We do an easy room service dinner with our gang–Laura, Kat, Janeen, Ruth and the delightful Sarah Morgan and Jill Shalvis. And Laura’s daughter, the gorgeous Clare arrives for a visit–with cookies AND new hair.
 
More fun with our full day off Tuesday–heading out to shop, have lunch, walk in the very lovely weather. (After Laura and I workout) Then some of us head downtown to have dinner with my amazing agent. This turns out to be a subway jaunt as getting a taxi in Time’s Square just doesn’t happen.
 
Wednesday is work mode. Get in that workout, then foreign press interviews most of the afternoon. Wednesday night is the fantastic Literacy Signing. It’s high energy, crowded with authors and readers, happy and noisy! It’s one of my favorite things to be a part of. Thanks to everyone who came out to help raise money for such a worthy cause.
 
A short walk after the massive signing to one of Laura’s favorite Italian restaurants. Easy to see why. Lovely food, easy, personable service. I really shouldn’t have ordered the gelato, but it was delish. And I tell myself I’ve walked it off.
 

Post literacy signing dinner and champagne at Amarone.
Post literacy signing dinner and champagne at Amarone.
Thursday is my Chat With, something else I enjoy doing. I just open it for Q&A as it’s more fun for everyone, I think, then doing a talk or presentation. I hope everyone who came enjoyed it as much as I did.   
(Note from Laura:  during the Chat With Nora shared the news the option for the Naked in Death Movie has lapsed and it’s back to the drawing board.)
Off for lunch with my editor–pizza and champagne–yes, I believe I will!
 
I think I had another interview–German–when I got back. Days blur together.
 

Friday shoes.
Friday shoes.
Friday is packed. Berkley signing, then a tea with my editor, agent and my Brit editor. And it’s party night! This turns my bedroom and bath into a dorm, which is fun for me as someone who grew up with brothers. Hair, makeup, clothes!
 

Kat working on Janeen's hair.
Kat working on Janeen’s hair.
Lovely Berkley party at The Bryant Park Grill–especially lovely since I saw a table being vacated and snagged it seconds after coming in. Again simply glorious weather, and here a beautiful setting, nice nibbly food, and more champagne.
 

Ruth and Nora at the Berkley party.
Ruth and Nora at the Berkley party.
From there, it’s the Harlequin party which is, as always, a fun, wild time. DJ, dancing, pretty clothes, faces you might have missed seeing at the hotel. It’s kick off your shoes time and shake it.
 

party night janeen
Heading to the next party. Photo by Janeen.
Hotel, feet up, unwind, night-night.
 

Home from dancing
Home from dancing
Saturday is blissfully open, so a relaxed and lazy start to the day. Then I must have red meat–really didn’t have a meal on Fri and my system is craving meat. Our Kat finds a steakhouse nearby and off we go. Our waiter is very French, and a little snooty initially, which is fine, adds to it. But he appears to fall for our Janeen. If she asked for something, he was all over it. And I got a wonderful steak sandwich. My system said: Thank you.
 

Ruth and Nora on RITA night
Ruth and Nora on RITA night
I host a cocktail party every year, before the Rita/Golden Heart ceremony. So it’s dorm time again, with Kat doing everyone’s hair, with makeup everywhere. My bedroom and bath are a girl disaster area, but the party area is perfect, and the catering staff is great.
 
It’s fun seeing everyone dressed up–but honestly, Kat looked beyond amazing. And our Sarah had come up from MD for the day just for this, and looked fabulous, too.
 
JD Robb is up for a Rita, which is great, and I’m presenting the award for Best First Book, my favorite award. I know people often say they didn’t expect to win, but I truly didn’t.

Nora on stage after receiving her RITA
Nora on stage after receiving her RITA

It’s a wonderful honor, and all the sweeter that my agent (my first and only) was there as she doesn’t often attend RWA. I felt the ceremony itself was wonderfully produced this year, ran so smooth, and it’s lovely to see so many happy faces. I also loved cheering when pal Jill Shalvis won her category. And ended the event so pleased to pass an award to the winner for Best First Book.

 
Back up for pjs, leftovers, relaxing until falling into bed some time around one.
 
We stay through Sun, sorry for our friends who have early flights. Sleep in a little (for me, that’s 7) laze around, pull it slowly together for a trip down to the High Line as Ruth, Kat and Janeen have never been. That gorgeous weather, the views, the flowers, the people. A perfect way to spend a Sunday. And a little shopping, too, with the find of a charming little shop downtown.
 

high line janeen
On the High Line — photo by Janeen.
Nora, Ruth and Janeen on the High Line
Nora, Ruth and Janeen on the High Line
Packing must be faced, but packing to come home isn’t nearly the ordeal packing to go is. We end it with room service and easy clothes, and most of us go to bed by ten.
 
I say goodbye to my Ruth in the morning–missed her the minute the door closed behind her. Gather the troops, all the bags–four women, a week in NYC–we have a lot of bags!
 
Trip home’s as easy as the trip in. My dogs are happy to see me, and BW arrives almost like he cued it.
 
Slept like a rock in my own bed, with a whole bunch of happy memories stored away.
 
Next year? San Diego!
Nora

The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers