Trouble Spots

I woke up this morning wincing. Stiff shoulders, aching triceps, sore hamstrings. While I work out pretty much every day and consider myself in reasonably good shape, I earned the stiff, sore and aching. 

I had an agenda for the weekend, and most of it required hard, sweaty work. I have a few trouble spots around the yard, spaces that have defeated my attempts over the years to pretty them up. One is a steepish slope, shady, on the far side of the house. I’ve tried a rock garden, failed. Tried ground cover, not so pretty. I’ve tried saying the hell with it, let the damn wild strawberries have it. But that just doesn’t work for me. 

Another is a flat space, sun and shade. It’s behind a wall of forsythia, beyond the cherry trees. A spot no one really sees–except I do. Most of my attempts there have failed, too. 

Another is the space between the bird feeder and my side kitchen window. I’ve thought of it as The Bermuda Triangle for plants. The last attempt was a butterfly bush. You can’t kill a butterfly bush with napalm–and this one lasted one season, is now dead as Moses. 

And finally there’s our garden shed. BW build it decades ago. It served, and is now not only too small, but hasn’t aged well. 

The shed, I figure, is an easy fix. Tear it down, buy a new one, I say last weekend. BW is very sad–which I get–but can’t argue it’s ugly and inadequate. But then he has a brain storm. We tear out the front wall, come out three more feet, put in the double doors I want, reconfigure the interior with better shelving, and do new cedar siding on the exterior. 

Excellent solution, and our construction guy can make this so, put us on his schedule. I consider this checked off the list. 

I put my mind on the solution for the Bermuda Triangle–wonder why I haven’t thought of it before. Don’t plant anything. Find a cool birdbath fountain to fill that spot. Can’t do solar, which is a shame, as it’s north-facing. Just not enough sun. But after a search on the internet, I find just what I want. So in about three weeks, that trouble spot will become a spot that gives me and the birds a lot of pleasure. 

Check it off! 

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The shed, underway.

Saturday, after my workout, I go out to garden. I’ve already dug up some dead nettle (much nicer than its name) and have a couple places to transfer it. While I’m starting this, I see BW with lumber and tools. The carpenter’s still in him, and he insists he HAS to frame up the shed addition. Our John can do the rest, but he has to have a piece of it. My first thought is why, then I think: Why am I out here hauling a bucket of dirt and dead nettle when I could hire somebody to do it? Because it’s my garden–and it makes me happy. 

So BW and I make ourselves happy. While he demos, I do some of the basic chores I’ve set out for the day. Then I look down at that damn slope. A few years back I put in what I think is goat’s weed. A pretty ground cover, at least in theory. What it is, is the Mafia. It takes over the neighborhood, bullies everything else. I haven’t been able to push myself into ripping it out before this–a lot of hard, sweaty work there–and there’s no way to get it all. I’ll be yanking it for the rest of my life. 


I start yanking and digging. I yank, dig, curse, sweat. But I cleaned it out, uncovered the pretty winter creeper it tried to smother. Plug in more dead nettle, which spreads like mad, too, but is easily dealt with. I think how I have a million-zillion Black-Eyed Susans. They seed everywhere. They’ll probably take hold here, even with the shade. So I go dig some up, plug some in. It already looks better–far from pretty as yet–but now I see potential. 

Cleared of goatweed.  Solomon's Seal in the lower right.

Cleared of goatweed. Solomon’s Seal in the lower right.

Sunday, I think, will be less labor intensive. I do a pretty strenuous workout thinking that. However, BW is banging away with the nail gun. It looks like rain so I figure to tackle some of the inside the house chores. Then the sun comes out–and so do I. Basic gardening chores, and I remember how I’ve got some Black-Eyed Susans volunteering in that flat, dull area. Hmmm. Since they like it, why not dig up more, put more in, see how that goes? 

There’s a lot of digging, walking with buckets of dirt and divided flowers–opposite sides of the house, down slopes, up slopes. But again, I can see potential. We’ll just see if this works, if everything likes where they’re planted, then we can add more. 

Go check on BW, find he’s unearthed an old bird feeder–broken off ground spike–in the bowels of the shed. I’ve got a spot for that. It can now be a little feature. Haul it over, down, and dig the base into what I’m hoping will be Susie World. Cute! 

Bird feeder in Susie World

Bird feeder in Susie World

I think I’m done, but also think to help my man clear out some of the shed. Not only because I’m a good wife, but because I know I’ll pitch out a lot more than he would. He asks me to help him with these iron trellises we use for the tomatoes. He wants to take three, wire them together into a kind of tomato cage. Can do. But that leave the fourth trellis. Surely there’s a use. 

BW's tomato cage.

BW’s tomato cage.


I think of the morning glories, and how so many have seeded in spots we don’t really want them. Find a spot for the trellis–one that requires a lot of sweaty weeding. Take bucket, go around, down the slope, dig up morning glories, haul them back, plug them around the trellis. It could work–a potential of pretty. 

Trellis for Morning Glories

Trellis for Morning Glories


We’re done. Toasted. Both of us hobble back to the house, have a drink on the patio, admire the garden, the hummingbird that comes to feed. 

I know some of the work I did may fail–but it may not. And I’m going to focus on these trouble spots this season, bend them to my will one way or the other. I see more digging, dividing and hauling next weekend, but if so it means what I did has a chance to work. 

And when it works, and I walk by or look out and see pretty instead of ugly and bare, it’ll be worth the stiff, sore and aching.


Perfect Weekend

Yesterday I attended the wedding of my longest of long-time friend’s granddaughter. I was there when Kara was born–in fact, served as co-labor coach with tkarajoeyhe new daddy. I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful, loving and kind young woman. And yesterday on a beautiful May evening, I watched her marry the man she loves–and who absolutely adores every inch of her. 

Gorgeous flowers, a stunning bride, a love-struck groom, friends and family ready to celebrate what the bride had dubbed The Best Day Ever. And it was. 

I brought home a nasty head cold from Derby, and haven’t had the best week–and that’s putting it mildly. Yesterday I figured to just look at my garden in process–didn’t think I had the energy to do any planting before getting ready for the wedding. Well, maybe just these couple of things. (Note from Laura:  Just a couple…HA!)

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Two hours later, I had lots more done, and felt so much better. Gardening, for me, is as good as yoga for feeding the body, mind and spirit. There’s more to do–BW is assigned to pick up the special begonias now ready for me at the nursery (and a few other things) on Monday. I’ve got spots to fill yet, and I’ll enjoy doing just that. But what’s done gives me so much pleasure. Now I can sit back, enjoy–and weed and water and maintain–but a lot of pure enjoyment. How will things grow–how will they look filled in together, what will bloom next? 

A wedding is a celebration of love–and a garden is the same for me. A marriage is the work, the joy, the changes, the growth–like a garden you get what you put in, and if you maintain, if you love, you get back even more for years and years to come. 

So I wish my sweet Kara and her adorable Joey even more for years and years to come.


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Stars of Fortune — cover and synopsis

Stars of Fortune coverIt’s never too early to plan, is it?  So mark your calendar for November 3, 2015 (in the US and Canada) for the start of The Guardians Trilogy.  I’ve only been able to bug bits and pieces of the whole out of the creator, but it sounds like we’re going to have a fabulous time meeting the Guardians.

Synopsis below.




To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…

Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner.

All on a quest.

All with secrets.

Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.
But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars……

Pre-order a signed copy from Turn the Page Bookstore today.


For me and BW, this marked our 11th year of attending the Kentucky Derby. Time and horses fly. It’s a packed weekend–lots of socializing for this hermit–but I figure if you don’t have fun at Derby, you don’t have fun anywhere. 

This year we took my longest of long-time friends JoAnne and her husband Larry. It’s pretty marvelous to experience Derby with good friends who’ve never been, to see it all through fresh and happy eyes. 

And the weather, ah, the weather. Such a bonus to have sun and warm. 

Wheels up at eleven on Thursday for the (thankfully) short flight to Louisville. Just long enough for a couple of mimosas! And there the wonderful Kathy and our most excellent cop Brian meet us. Load us up, whisk us off. Stop for lunch–pulled pork sandwich for me–yum. 

Off to the hotel to unpack, decompress. Then gear up for Club Night. Music, people, poker. I skip the poker, enjoy the 80’s style music. And most of all reuniting with what’s become our Derby Family. It’s fun to see familiar faces, catch up. And like everything connected to Derby, the event’s full of energy and color. 


Derby shoes and accent toe.

Friday is Oaks for the men, a day at the track–and Jo and I give our guys our bets for the filly race as for us, Friday is girl day. Kathy picks us up at ten, and is off to the salon for nails. I have fun with mine, go blue with a dark pink accent toe (as I’m calling it). Classic French for the fingers. 

Then it’s lunch! Champagne, of course. And all three of us are starving so go for burgers. Maybe I can only eat half of mine, but it’s terrific. We always lunch at this beautiful plantation house style restaurant, and the day is so gorgeous, the gardens so lovely. We’re three elegant girls for lunch. IMG_0773

Then it’s shopping time! The ladies at Rodes know me now, and are prepped for our annual sortie. Every year I look for a pair of cool shoes for BW for father’s day–and found my guy some pretty sweet blue suede shoes, with tiny pin holes so the fun socks I got with them will show through just enough. No surprise I found some shoes for myself, too, and a cream colored leather shirt I’ll wear open as a jacket. And more. 

Fun times, but we have to get back to the hotel, where Sarah’s waiting to do up our hair for tonight’s Unbridled Eve gala. 

Let’s have some champagne with that–it’s Derby, after all. 

In the middle of hair and makeup, our men return. BW says he covered his bets, which in my estimation is a win. My filly didn’t win the lilies–in fact, didn’t come close. But there’s always tomorrow. 


Bruce, Nora, JoAnne and Larry

We get on our fancy and head to the Red Carpet and the gala. It’s a charity ball, benefiting Blessings In A Backpack, a program I’m very high on. There are auctions–silent and live–and lots and lots of glam. We scope things out, put in some bids, find our table. 


The Nora Roberts Foundation table at the gala.

The amazing York Sisters (Tonya and Tammy) organize all of this–I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into it. They’ve asked if I’d donate a name the character deal. I don’t do this often, but it’s for a terrific cause. I’d hoped they’d pull in a few bucks for it during the live auction, and am genuinely and seriously thrilled when it bags $8,500. Once the winner gives me the name, I’m going to have to craft an interesting character out of it! 

We make it a fairly early evening by Derby standards (midnight), becausetomorrow’s the big day. When we get on the elevator I see Paget Brewster (Agent Emily Prentiss for non-Criminal Minds fans). I’m a huge fan, and tell her so. Let me add she’s absolutely gorgeous. 

Fall into bed, and boom, it’s morning. 

TV goes on so we can follow the early Derby coverage while we get dressed. We’re heading right to the track–making a full day of it. I have my incredible Hat By Penny, and JoAnne’s bright and sassy in her purple hat (and matching shoes). Our guys don hats, too. Brian picks us up, and off we go. 

He passes us to our escort Twila, who scoots us right up to Millionaire’s Row. And I tell Jo: This is the first thing we have to do. IMG_0818

I take her out through glass doors to the terrace. It’s her first time, my eleventh, but I’m just as awed and thrilled as she is. There’s nothing like that view, the spires, the infield already filling with people and color, and that rich brown oval–and all this for us today under beautiful blue skies. People starting to fill the stands–all those wonderful hats! IMG_0810

And we have just enough time to bet on the second race of the day. Then go back out to watch the horses run. I’ve got no luck on that one, but it turns out to be one of my few misses of the day. 

We bet, we chat, we mingle–energy’s building, the stands and infield are filling up fast. I box the favorite and a long-shot (it’s taken me about all eleven years to figure out how to box horses), and it hits. Pretty big win for me, and since BW copied my bet, a pretty big win for us. I hit a couple more–not as big, but solid–later in the day. 


Nora and Paget Brewster

I’m absolutely delighted when Paget comes down to our table so we can chat a little, take a picture. And later we stood outside and talked some more. She’s also having the time of her life–her first Derby. 

We’re sitting with our excellent friends Robert and Cate Williamson, so there’s no end to the fun times. I have a list of bets to make for other people on the big race. And I have to figure my own. I’ve chosen Frosted, the gray, as my main horse. But scatter a few more (boxing the favorite with another strong contender). 


Then, well, I just forget all about bets as it’s time, as everyone piles out on the terrace for My Old Kentucky Home. This touches my heart every time. It’s the pageantry, and the color. It’s the hats. But it’s so much the tradition. And this moment sums that up. Louisville and the Downs shine. 

And the second the song ends, the roar of more than 160,000 rolls out. It’s awesome. 

Now it’s about what Derby is, it’s about its heart. It’s all about the horses. They are beyond beautiful coming onto the track, their riders in their colorful silks on their backs. Excitement vibrates in the air. This is their moment. In just a few minutes, there will be a winner, but they’ll all have done what they were born and bred to do, what they’ve been trained for, what they’ve worked for. 

Human voices make a flood of sound as the horses are loaded into the gate. I imagine a lot of hearts stop beating for just an instant until the call comes: And they’re off. 

I’ve described it before, and somehow it’s always the same. Just a blur of speed and incredible beauty, that wall of sound, that thunder of hooves. Flying dirt, streaming silks. I don’t know where my horse is–I never really know–there’s too much wonder in that scant two minutes. But I can soon see they weren’t wrong about American Pharaoh. He’s got it. He flies into history under those perfect blue skies, over that rich brown dirt to the finish line. 

My pretty gray came in fourth. And my box partner with American Pharaoh third–I needed him to come in second (and it was soooo close) to be in the money. But the little bet I made for my oldest grandson–across the board–means he’ll get a little treat. 

We stay for the last two races–it’s fun and it gives the Downs time to empty out a little. It seems to me I hit another–but it’s a blur. 

Back to the hotel, a bite to eat. BW and Larry hit an after party–big boxing match is the draw. JoAnne does some packing. I fall face down on the bed and instantly to sleep. 

We leave Kentucky Sunday morning the way we came–with Kathy and Brian getting us to our plane, and flying off into lovely blue skies. 

A whole bunch of a lot packed into a few days. Special, special fun with good, good friends. And another First Saturday In May memory in the bank. That’s the best.


The Cruelest Month

T.S. Elliot hit the nail on that one. April teases us with warm breezes, climbing temperatures, pretty pink and yellow blossoms, tenderly greening trees–then slaps us silly with frosts and sudden plunges into winter.

Not sure what it says about me that I still love April. It holds out its sweet green hand, then yanks it away and blows cold white. You can just hear the snicker.

And still, it’s the promise, the knowing May’s coming. It’s looking out my dining room window–even though I have a fire going–and seeing my cherry trees brilliantly blooming.

pink tree

On Monday afternoon, I walked around with my two oldest grandchildren, all of us in tee-shirts, checking out the blooms and buds. Today I put on boots, a sweatshirt, my warmest hoodie, a scarf, and was still cold as BW and I went to the nursery. It’s yet to hit 50 today.


While I loaded up carts with plants that will make me incredibly happy, I chatted with a couple who told me they drove through snow to get there. They’re only a half hour north, and had snow. That’s pretty damn cruel.

truck of flowers

I can’t plant yet–who wants to garden when it’s 48 degrees anyway? It kills me, I admit, it kills me not to get out there and play. But I have a truckload of gorgeous plants that will, eventually, fill my beds, my pots with color and scent. I’ll enjoy every minute of digging in the dirt–when it doesn’t freeze my fingers off.

Since it’s my oldest grandson’s birthday (yesterday officially) he’s having a swim party here this afternoon (indoor pool, best thing I ever did), so the house will be full of happy–and a big-ass Call Of Duty cake, at his request.

As I can’t garden today, I think I’ll bake bread. I might as well make soup while I’m at it. They’re calling for a drop to 32 degrees tonight. But maybe tomorrow, if April decides to be kind, it’ll be warm enough to dig.

If not, well, May’s coming. And spring better be ready to bust out all over.


…and then we went home

Nora 20150418_214806chose Wii Tennis as the tie-break competition on Saturday evening.  After an entertaining match and unrestrained viewer commentary, Nora crowned Sarah the winner of the Drunken Spa Girl tournament.  She won the Dance and Trivia categories while Kat won Scrabble and Wii Bowling.

Family commitments called Sarah and Nicole home on Sunday, while the remaining eight used Sunday for final treatments, walks or quiet reading time.  A rousing game of charades on a rainy Sunday evening was the perfect way to end the week.  Turns out that Nora is an excellent charade-er unafraid of critiquing and trash talking the other team.  (I was on that other team.)

The rain let up early Monday morning (I took this photo from the lounge on our floor as the clouds began to lift) and everyone was on the road home by 11.



The ride home through a spring green landscape was easy.  The conversation a little quieter since most major topics were covered, then re-covered during the week.  Nora delighted in all the growth near home in less than a week and discussed her planting plans for this weekend. When we reached the end of her driveway, a gift awaited:  the tulip magnolia is still covered in blooms.

tulip magnolia

A most fitting end to a fabulous week.




I have many things to be grateful for in my life, many joys and blessings. One of the brightest blessings is my girl pals. One of the biggest joys is the chance to spend a week a year with a group of them.

Every spring we come here to the spa for a week of fun, pampering, conversation, laughs and competition.

We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather this year, and today is about as perfect as days get. Sunny and 70s. Even in morning chills my pal Jo and I gear up and do a long walk to start the day, come back find our pals in the center lounge here and reconnect before everyone heads off for whatever’s on their slate for the day. Jo and I, and sometimes one of the others do some yoga, etc in the big suite. Then that’s it for work. Absolutely done.

Laura’s knee’s better, but better yet with some acupuncture here. Mary Kay got a fabulous make-up lesson–with several of us as spectators. We have been rubbed, scrubbed, polished–including toes. Which are all adorable.DSCN0403 (2)

We don’t go out to dinner. That would mean real clothes, maybe make up. We do room service, (and Mary Kay arranges for ice cream sundaes THREE evenings during the week. Yay!) which is a kind of theater, then get down to the tournament.

The competition is fierce and fun and foolish. It’s pretty perfect, too. At this point in the week we’re down to the two leaders–my Kat and my Sarah–great, good friends and roomies here. We have to have the tie breaker tonight. It’s going to be a fight to the finish to see who’s crowned (and we have one) this year’s Drunken Spa Girls Queen.

Right now, everyone’s off doing something. Kat and Nicole took a walk (they biked earlier in the week) Mary and Mary Kay are having some lunch, Laura’s heading to a treatment. I think Sarah’s about finished with one. Jo’s going to take a nap before hers. Jeanette–her daughter–had to leave us today as HER daughter’s wedding is just a couple weeks away. Pat and Elaine? I think they went to the gym.

By four or five, we’ll all gather up again, for wine and the rundown of our day–and the final contest for the crown.

Activities are great, and they’re fun. Treatments are just glorious. But what ties it all together in a big, shiny bow is the friendships.

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Top: Mary Kay, Elaine, Nicole, Sarah, Pat/ Middle: Mary, Kat, Jeannette, JoAnne/Front: Laura, Nora

Save those bows, treasure them. They’ll always shine.


Note from Laura:  Obviously, the remote incident is forgotten. Will report on the winners soon!


Report from the spa trenches – Laura’s version

Spring was all over the place as we drove up to the spa on Monday.  Rather, Nora drove and I was a passenger since for the first time, my trip to the spa did not mean an 8 hour drive to and from Raleigh.  I just packed up, drove over to Nora’s and let her handle the driving duties.  Our friend Mary Kay McComas was along as well.  Conversation ranging from gorgeous weather to dig-down discussions of various television shows we all favor made for a fast trip.

When we were 20 miles away from the final destination, Nora started singing and doing a wriggly sort of dance in the driver’s seat.  I held on to the armrest in the back row.

Once on here we headed for the suite that serves as a de-facto HQ for the week.  Nora threw open the door to the sunlit patio , I opened the champagne and we toasted to the arrival, friendship and sunshine.

Everyone else (there are 11 in all) arrived over course of the afternoon into the evening, the stragglers as we ordered dinner.

We eat in the suite all week long — 11 women sprawled on couches and chairs or sitting around the big dining table.  Hair spiky from treatments, faces scrubbed of makeup, in various states of sweats or pjs — it’s a grown up slumber party in some ways.  But mainly it’s a week long conversation among friends — some of whom don’t see each other during the months between the spa week.

However, all is not light and frivolity — not under Nora’s watch.  The minute the sun goes down, friendships are flung aside in the face of the evening activity: The Drunken Spa Girl imageTournament.  You think the tournament in Happy Ever After is fiction?  I’m here to tell you it’s based on the real life throwdown created by one Nora Roberts — scoreboard included. The categories are Wii bowling, Scrabble, Just Dance and You Don’t Know Jack trivia.  There are first rounds, then semifinals, then finals.  There are winners in each category and one person is crowned Champion.

As I see it, our field of 11 has sharks and the shruggers. The sharks scent blood in the water in the first heat then steam their way through the shruggers to the prizes — which are fabulous and include a plastic tiara and a sceptre (courtesey of the butlers on the floor).

Nora plays along but since she brings the fabulous prizes she doesn’t win.  She just likes to watch us all suffer — that is, compete.

Now I’m not a game player by nature.  I’m competitive but honestly I’m not a shark.  So Monday night I played the first round of Scrabble, then the first round of Wii bowling with the same three women (including Elaine, the reigning Drunken Spa Girl Tournament champion).  Elaine is a Scrabble killer, but for some reason when I said why didn’t we just call the game before we started and give it to her I was shot down.  Forty-seven minutes later, she won with a score of 201.  At one point my tiles read I A A I A I G.  I scored a 66.

Now I’ll admit I was grumpy when we started to bowl.  The grumpy escalated as Elaine bowled the night of her life.  Insults flew, the volume of laughter rose, the inevitable conclusion drew inevitably nearer when it came to my turn in the 9th frame.  I stepped into the throw of my virtual ball (with some force) and the remote slipped out of my hand and off my wrist and hit the tv stand like a bullet, just missing Nora’s head.

An accident!  I swear!  I had the strap around my wrist!  But the women convulsed in laughter to the point of tears didn’t believe me.

BTW, I had a spare that frame.

Elaine scored another 201 and won that round as well.   So I was off the hook for more competition, right?

Noooooo.  I made it into the second round of bowling despite the near decapitation of our fearless leader (An Accident!! I swear!!).  And then I learned I was in the brand new wild card round for Scrabble with the other losers.  Darn.

I’ll report more later in the week.



Good Things Come

Though the wait can seem endless, good things do come around. Tomorrow I head out for a week with the best of girl pals for fun and serious relaxation at the spa.

Packing’s a lot, but pretty easy as it’s work-out gear, sweats and pjs. For seven lovely days, we don’t cook, we don’t clean, do laundry, work, and the biggest stressors tend to be what color to have our nails done and who’s moving onto the next round of Drunken Scrabble or Wii Bowling. We have a tournament. With prizes.

Yesterday was  a mega, major signing at Turn The Page. Today is recover from that, pack, do a weather check to help with that packing, get in a workout, and since it’s gorgeous out, take a walk around outside.

After what hphoto 3onestly feels like the longest winter on record, spring’s starting to pop. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or annoyed my tulip magnolia’s on the edge of bursting.I’m going to miss most of it, and it’s my favorite April treat. But the forsythia’s bright and sunny yellow on one of my hills, and I see some of my perennials in the beds, like delphiniums and dianthus and columbine, pushing their way up.

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So I’ll leave my daffs and hyacinths for a week. Then come home to serious work, and some serious gardening. I’ll be ready.

But starting tomorrow, it’s all girls all the time, and it’s a week worth waiting for.


Note from Laura:  I’m going along for all the fun.  Nora and I will take turns giving some updates.   And on Tuesday morning I’ll open a thread to discuss The Liar. Stay tuned!