All posts by Laura

Laura is Nora Roberts' personal publicist. She can be found on the Nora Roberts and JD Robb Official Fan Pages on Facebook, by Nora's side at book signings, and on the road from her home in Raleigh to Boonsboro every few weeks.

At Home

It’s my first full weekend home in about a month, and I’m very happy to be here.

Yesterday, in the middle of May, I turned the fireplace on and made soup–such was the chilly, rainy Saturday. But I like making soup (potato and ham at Kat’s request), and the fire added cheer.

I also had to address the matter of dealing with an incredible amount of stuff that needed putting away. This is a usual weekend task, but due to losing weekends, going here and there, coming back with more than I left with, the amount of stuff grew, grew, grew.

Plus I had a photo shoot on Thursday, which means a day of hair and makeup, a prep day of figuring out wardrobe. We had fun with it. Laura tried a little Facebook live, and that added more fun.

It takes a team…
and a lot of physical labor.

But then, all THAT stuff had to be put away, too.

On the other hand as BW, Laura and our helpful Kat, were in Boonsboro at Green Fest helping out, I had many solitary hours to accomplish it all. Plus, Thor and then The Avengers happened to be on TV, and if you’ve got to haul, carry, toss, organize, it might as be with superheroes for company.

The sun came out for about twenty seconds so I had a walk around with the dogs in there.

Adding all this domesticity to my Saturday morning workout meant ending the day with more than 20,000 steps.

Whew. (But I’m catching up with Jason who’s currently kicking my butt in Fitbit standings.)

Before the end of the day, BW and Kat arrive, tired but happy. A long day for all of us, but we have the little salad I made, the soup, and a nice round of fresh sour dough bread. And I get to hang out with my girl awhile.

Sunday’s a whole different ballgame. Once the workout’s in the bag, I can head out to the garden. I need a light jacket, but it’s sunny, at last, at last. I weed. I yell at the dogs when I discover they’ve been up and digging in a part of my beds. Parker and Atticus slink away, as they damn well should.

BW and I stake the tomatoes, and he yells at the dogs when he finds they’ve dug up a drainage pipe.

We recently had one of the guestrooms repainted, which meant everything had to come off the shelves and off the walls. I dealt with the shelf stuff during Saturday chores, so attack the walls. I know not everything that was up’s going back. Some I’m taking outside. I like outdoor art. It’s fun–if a lot more steps–to take a piece around, find where it can go, choose another, do the same.

Picking the spot’s my job. Making it so’s going to be BW’s.

I’m ridiculously happy to have all the damn boxes out of my living room.

And happy to wander, sans jacket now, around the gardens taking pictures. My peonies have started to open, like a Mother’s Day gift.

My mother loved peonies (I pronounce it like she did–Pee-O-Nees), so I think of her when I take a deep sniff.

My faerie garden’s exactly right, roses and yellow flags are starting a show out by the water feature. I have dianthus madly blooming, and much, much more. My poor basil is sad after so much wet, cool weather, but I’m hoping it perks up as the rest of the herbs are doing just fine.

Faerie garden
Water Feature

BW gave me the cute yoga frogs, and the lovely reading girl for Mother’s Day. They look happy where they’re now planted.

Yoga Frogs
Reading girl

My pots (yell at dogs again when I discover they’ve dug out a plant from one) are full and colorful. My clematis is pure glory.

Now, I’m about to go out and point so BW can hang things where I want them, then I believe I’m going to sit around with a book or a movie.

It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I qualify!

To all moms out there, I hope you have a lovely day, as lovely as a peony opening in the sun.

Nora

 

Fun and Freezing in Kentucky

Our three days of Derby are always a whirlwind of fun. Sometimes the weather cooperates, sometimes there’s some rain, or chill. This time around May decided to revisit March.

This demanded a change of wardrobe here and there. The easy-breezy summer dress and sandals for our traditional girl day while the boys are at the Oaks? Nope. Rethink that with a warmer dress, jacket, hose (I hate cold legs!) and booties. The hose and booties to be put on an hour or so post-pedicure in the ladies room of the restaurant where we have lunch.

Anyway, it’s all too much fun to whine (much).

This year we took our pals Bill and Nicole for their first Derby experience. It’s just more fun to see the whole amazing and marathon party through new eyes.

Flight’s pretty quick and easy, and we’re met by the fabulous Kathy and the fantastic Brian, whisked off to lunch and libation–in the rain. Then it’s off to the hotel to hang out, unpack, have another libation because, hey, it’s Derby. And Kathy brought bourbon–hey, it’s Kentucky–for the gentlemen.

Time to change it up for Club Night. My party shoes stayed home in lieu of booties. This year’s venue is a museum, just blocks from the hotel and it’s awesome. Before we head up to the party, our group tours the Hunger Games exhibit. The costumes! Holy Mockingjay! Just amazing and spectacular. BW has a crush on Jennifer Lawrence. Since I do, too, I can’t blame him.

Ready for Club Night!

The exhibit is really excellent, so those of you in and around Louisville shouldn’t miss it.

Then it’s party time. It’s always great to see our Derby family, those people we share this experience with year after year. We can nibble and drink and chat and catch up. Then we can dance!

We do it all, head back to the hotel–in the rain.

BW and Bill, Oaks bound

On the chilly, rain-soaked Friday morning our men dude it up for Oaks, and look hot and handsome. While they bet, bet, bet, Kathy, Nicole and I head off to City Nails for mani/pedis. I’m still hoping to wear my cute Derby shoes so get my toes painted to match my Derby dress. My nail tech performed a miracle on my fingers and toes–both in sad shape from bare feet and gardening.

Off to lunch–shivering–change from flip-flops to booties. Let’s have some champagne!

Lunch is lovely. The weather is windy and rainy. More shivering in the dash to the car, then it’s off to Rodes for some shopping.

Kathy happened to drop by Rodes a few days before, and consulted with my usual sales person, Beth. They put aside a suede-y, trench-coat-y topper they both thought I’d like.

I loved. And more than that it’s just the right warmth and weight for March in May. Thanks, Beth!

More shopping, and as is tradition my rep in the men’s department has shoes in for BW’s Father’s Day gift. (His size 14 feet are a challenge.) She shows me her favorite, and she’s nailed it. My fave, too. Father’s Day is in the bag.

More shopping for me, and for Nicole, and I find a hat I like so much better than the one I brought with me. New hat for Derby!

Back to the hotel through the wind and rain.

Time for hair, courtesy of Sarah. Makeup, glam outfits. More girl time on a fine girl day.

Men come back. I should add it poured–seriously poured rain all day. Bill apparently had little luck. BW had some. And then as we’re all doing the glam it up, the Oaks race comes on TV. BW hit the winner. So he’ll start his Derby Day ahead of the game.

Finish getting fancy. Aren’t we pretty!

BW, Nora, Bill, Nicole, Kathy glammed up and ready for the Gala

Brian escorts us down to the gala, and I’m grateful we don’t have to go outside.

I’m not so much a gala person in my actual life, but I love this event. It has that energy and excitement that’s Derby, it’s for a wonderful cause in Blessings In A Backpack. And everyone looks so pretty and happy. BW and I do the Red Carpet, then I head straight for one of my favorite parts of the night. The Silent Auction display. Oh yeah, I see some stuff to bid on–don’t forget that most excellent cause. I have the app on my phone, and I know how to use it.

On the Red Carpet

As always the York Sisters who handle the myriad of details involved in these handful of days have done a fabulous job. The ballroom is gorgeous. We have a fun table with our pals–from home and Kentucky. We have the stupendous John Elefante (Kansas) performing (and he and his lovely wife will be at our table for Derby). We have the also stupendous Wally Palmar (Romantics) performing (and also at our Derby table with his lovely wife!)

I’m busy pushing up the bidding on my chosen items (good cause).

There’s the photo booth–pick your props and mug. Which reminds me I have to go on line and order a few of my favorites.

 

Fun and more fun–and I make a nice haul (for a good cause) from the auction.

Time for bed.

I get up early on Derby Day, and learn–according to the news–it’s the coldest Derby morning since 1984. So much for the cute Derby shoes. It’s back to booties–and thank God for that new topper.

Cold or no cold, rain or no rain, we all look Derby polished.

We go early–BW and I like to BE there. Brian drives us through the rain, the traffic, and drops us off at the Red Carpet entrance. It’s not ready for celebs yet, but we can use that route–cut off some of the rain walk.

Then we’re up to Millionaire’s Row, and I do what I always do. Head straight out on the terrace. Even on a rain-spattered day, the Downs is glorious. But we’re in time to bet the next race!

Nicole and Nora
BW, Nicole, Bill, Nora
The lovely couple

Bet, lose a little. Hey the sun’s sort of out, so that’s a win. Outside to absorb, to look at hats and horses. Take advantage of the beautiful buffet, and the champagne our pals and Derby waitresses deliver to the table.

More people coming in, more hugs and Happy Derbys. More betting, more hats and horses. I pick a horse–I go by a name that strikes me, or a gray, or some other unscientific method. I do an across the board bet, and he comes in for me. Fairly long odds, so it’s a very fine return. Flap that cash!

Our table mates are here, and it’s so much fun to see them, to meet Wally and his wife.

The day goes by so fast–but the sun did indeed come out. It’s wonderful to stand outside (still cool!) in sunshine. And before you know it, it’s time to place those Derby bets.

I have a list that includes kids and grandkids and my own picks. I didn’t know at that time one of our Derby pals had asked BW if he wanted to kick a hundred dollars into their superfecta pool. 12 years running without a win, but you gotta bet.

Excitement’s building. So much noise, color, movement. I feel so lucky to be here, to be part of it.

A tradition, even in the rain

People crowd out on the terrace, and it’s that My Old Kentucky Home moment. It just grabs my heart every single time.

Those beautiful horses on the track, the colorful silks, the red of the roses, an infield full of people. Nothing like it.

Into the gate, excitement building. And they’re off.

I see quickly my big (relatively) bet isn’t going to pay off as my horse pulls up. Turns out it was a saddle or girth issue. But really, who cares. It’s stunning. That wall of sound, the incredible athleticism of horse and rider. For two minutes that’s the whole world. Coming down the back stretch, number five (Always Dreaming) has the lead. I don’t have a penny on him, but I’m cheering him home anyway.

And for our thirteenth time, we see the winner cross the finish line below. None of my list showed, but that’s Derby.

The Winner!

Moments later, there’s an absolute explosion of cheers and shouts from behind me. I see people I know jumping up and down, swinging each other around, high-fiving. Basically going nuts.

The pool hit the superfecta.

It’s a whole big pile of money to be split, but honestly, it’s the win. It’s that moment of holy shit, we did it. And I find out BW’s in on it.

Right then and there, one of our happy group goes down on one knee and proposes to his lady. Wow!

Good thing she said yes!

It’s so adorable, so sweet, and since he doesn’t have a ring, the clever Nicole takes little bits from her fascinator and makes one for the bride-to-be.

Foil from champagne bottle, bling from hat.

That’s our Derby family.

Tickets cashed in, taxes sliced off, and the net divided up into individual envelopes. We have a little ceremony as they’re handed out. It’s a most excellent return on $100, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But it really is the camaraderie, that moment of whee!!

We all say our goodbyes flushed with that moment. We give the newly engaged couple a ride back to the hotel, and that extends the fun just a little longer.

Back to the four of us, we get some room service, and since even party-animal BW is too tired for the after events, fall into bed.

Sunday’s sunny, of course, and a little warmer. Brian and Kathy haul us–and the considerable we picked up along the way–back to the airport. We’ll just finish this spectacular weekend with some mimosas on the short flight home.

Weather be damned. There’s nothing like Derby.

Nora

A True and Accurate Report

Throughout the magnificence of girl spa week, I read Laura’s diary with amusement, and not a little pity. Our resident Cranky Publicist and game-hater tolerates much enforced fun. I found myself pleased (as her ‘friend’) she embraced the release and comfort of a diary to express her emotional distress.

Without that release and comfort I fear I may have found her one quiet morning clutching the Wii remote, gibbering at the scoreboard while she chewed on the remains of scattered Scrabble tiles.

There’s always next year.

Meanwhile, our beleaguered Laura had a couple close calls on yet more enforced fun by barely missing qualifying for second rounds in Scrabble and Bowling. Still, a miss is as good as a mile, isn’t it?

I must add something here. I also played Scrabble–though I don’t qualify for prizes as the host. My bed of pain must also be documented. I played the ENTIRE game with two–count them–two vowels. Both Es. One in the first draw, and just one more somewhere in the middle of the game. Two. Vowels. Unless the rules open up to the official language of Pluto, a player with two vowels is screwed.

(Still I didn’t place last altogether. I will refrain from naming those who played their rounds with a reasonable number of vowels whose scores ranked below mine.)

Nicole, with her ear infection and URI and antibiotics nipped Laura by two tiny points in the first Scrabble round. And Pat skimmed by her in Bowling.

Let me take this time to add our Pat is no fan of Scrabble. It was with great compassion I approached Pat one morning, slipped my arm around her tender shoulders. I have some terrible news, I said. I’m so sorry to have to tell you. You’re in the second round of Scrabble.

She wept a little, but I was there for her.

Pat is even less of a fan of Just Dance. Once again, I had to deliver hard, distressing news. Yes, she qualified for Round Two. As the news sank in, she attacked a butler. 

However, I find it odd that someone who expresses such distaste for certain games plays well enough to move to the next round. I suspect a hustle.

We must all bow to Mary Kay Of The Golden Ball for her consistent bowling skills. We must because she reminds us regularly, and likes to point out the shine of that Golden Ball.

It is pretty.

Jeannette’s turn.
JoAnne’s turn
Mary’s turn
Laura counting all the pins, in vain
The Woman with the Golden Ball. All Hail Mary Kay!

Kat dominated Scrabble. Others may strive, may sweat and may struggle, but it’s a rare game when our Kat doesn’t lay down a full seven letter word sometime during the game, usually involving a Q on a double letter box and on a triple word score. She destroys all comers, and smiles her Kat smile.

Not Scrabble but that Kat smile.

It’s also Kat and Sarah who dominate trivia as much due to their snake-like reflexes as their knowledge of useless facts. And math. (Why are there any questions involving math?) At the end of that particular game Sarah crushed the competition with more than 17,000 points. But then Elaine comes out of nowhere in her round and nips by Kat’s impressive score.

The perfect shot by Patricia Gaffney

Going into the final rounds, we had Elaine (yes, Fearsome but also a sneakily quiet competitor) and Sarah neck-in-neck with the surprise of Nicole as a dark horse. Who would be crowned Queen?

Sarah destroys Elaine in Trivia! Will Nicole triumph in Scrabble??? Please, she had to play Kat. But perhaps she’ll reach Golden Ball status in Bowling against Elaine. Nope. The dark horse falls.

Down to the dance, Sarah and Elaine, all for the crown. Their focus is intense, their moves poetry. As the music ends, Elaine has eked out the narrowest win in Spa Girl history!

All hail The Queen!

Still, we must finish with Reverse Charades. Mostly because it’s the funniest game ever. Even there, perhaps flush from her previous victories and already insured crown, Elaine dominates. But then, I ask you, how does one (or a group as it’s Reverse Charades) act out the word Cactus?

There is truth that as Elaine (not-so-humbly) accepts the coveted plastic tiara and Bedazzled scepter, Laura must clip on (after a quick repair) the pitiful pink earrings of the Loser. In an attempt to be Solomon, I suggested she and Mary each wear one, as their sad, sad scores all but matched. But the crowd called for Laura.

Popular demand counts.

It’s not, however, all games during spa week. Jo and I–and most days Kat–started our day with workouts, and as the mornings warmed after the middle of the week, followed those with long walks with flowers blooming and the sun shining.

I’d see Laura briefly–coffee for Laura, then a round at the gym, usually with Nicole. Maybe a little breakfast in the Lounge, maybe some of us poking through the shops. Lots of: What treatment are you having today? And some contented meeting up in the Relaxation Room prior, or the locker room after where we’d compare our bliss.

Quiet reading corners, or drinks on the sunny patio, room service, naps. Ice cream night!! (Thanks, Mary Kay.) Lots of laughs, lots of hugs, lots of adult beverages.

Girl vibes–and they’re as rejuvenating as a hot stone massage. My parents didn’t give me any sisters, so I found them. Fate didn’t give me daughters, so I found them, too.

Best week ever with all my girls.

Nora

Dear Diary: a conclusion to the Cranky Publicist adventures

Dearest Diary,

I regret to inform you that I ended the week in possession of the gaudy Biggest Loser earrings.  All my “friends” turned on me in my hour of need.  The Mighty and Fearsome Elaine is the Grand Poobah Champion of Spa World with wins in Dance (poor, poor Sarah), Bowling and by getting the most answers in Reverse Charades.

When Nora added up the lowest scores, it  came down to the slimmest margin between Mary and me.  Nicole, sweet Nicole, turned to me and asked, “Wait, when did you start winning games?  You didn’t win when I was here.”  I told her I DIDN’T win, that was the point.  She nodded and said, “Ohhhhh.”

An ear infection and URI can make anyone a little loopy.

Nora said it was too close to call.  Mary said, “Oh just give it to Laura — it will fit her narrative.”  And the rest of them agreed with applause.  I guess accurate and unbiased reporting on the goings on during spa week begets frenemies willing to bring you low.

Sigh.  I need to accept applications for new friends.  The flurry of photos for Elaine’s THIRD coronation in six years ended up looking like this.  I think it accurately shows my feelings on the subject.

But let’s backtrack a bit, shall we Diary Dear?

Thursday evening was a flurry of activity.  The Mighty and Fearsome Elaine took on the Beautiful and Brilliant Sarah in a serious final round of Trivia.  I captured this moment near the end of the round:

That begat the final result:

Elaine took the finals in Just Dance by a hair’s breadth, but my video won’t upload so I can’t prove it.  Does that mean it REALLY happened?

And then she bowled.  A game like no other with seven consecutive strikes.

See what I deal with Diary?

A busy evening for the future champion who moved to the dining table for second round Scrabble  Nicole, Pat and Kat.  Nicole, still obviously somewhat alert despite her symptoms came in second and would play Kat in the finals.

Nora, the soul of tact and discretion, said at least 473 times, “Nicole is in the final!  Let me repeat, Nicole and Kat are in the final!!!!” Perhaps her shock makes her Nicole’s “friend” as well.

Elaine chose her various prizes and then said, “I’m tired of winning. I have to go now.”  Diary, I believe I hissed a little.

[From the Fearsome one’s private journal:  “Yes!  All is in place for my re-coronation!  I shall sleep well  tonight.”]

In the meantime, side bowling games abounded.  Mary Kay had set the multipin scoring record of 560 the night before, so she sat and watched us try in vain to catch her.

[Excerpted from Mary Kay’s annals of fabulousness: “I’m still the bowling queen — I have a golden ball!”]

At one point JoAnne said Mary Kay should take a turn.  Mary Kay replied, “I don’t want to keep demoralizing you.”

Diary, our egos are very healthy during spa week.

We saved Paint and Sip for the final night (though sadly, Pat had to miss it).  For some misguided reason, Diary, I decided to let all the participants have a choice in what we painted so we could send the final pick to the teacher beforehand.  Oh the opinions on color and flower and scene!  But finally I herded my squirrels to one picture with the promise everyone could personalize the colors.

We had as much fun in the 2017 session as we did last year.

And we all remembered our listening skills.

Amanda, the instructor, took this photo of everyone at the end.

And here’s a closer look at what we painted:

We ended the night with Scrabble (Kat won, Nicole placed admirably), Reverse Scrabble Charades (I’m actually not sharing THOSE photos) and the coronation.

And then, Diary, our week was over.  Another wonderful seven days with girls, wine, games (ugh) and laughter.

In all seriousness Diary, it’s a wonderful gift Nora shares with us every spring.  We all started out in different parts of Nora’s life and now all those parts blend like the paint above — we enhance, we embrace and we encourage. Some of us get together regularly, some we don’t see until spa week arrives, but the time doesn’t matter, the relationships do.

And so, I bid you farewell Diary.  Word is my “friend” Nora may try to give her own version of the week.  I would take it all with a grain of salt.

Laura

Dear Diary: A Cranky Publicist in Spa La Land

Dear Diary,

Spa time melts from one experience to another.  It’s the only way to explain how it’s suddenly Thursday.  No, wait, I have a better way — simple conversation.

Jeannette (JoAnne’s daughter and member of the Spa Tribe) finally arrived yesterday morning.  Diary, dare I mention she opened the WRONG bottle of champagne in an effort to help others?  I’m all for good deeds, but I spend 15 minutes every afternoon moving the coldest bottles to one fridge, and the warm bottles into the auxiliary fridge to chill.  Jeannette chose one from the auxiliary fridge!  Horrors.  However, I’ll allow for genetics since her mother did the same exact thing on Monday.

But I digress, Diary — stop distracting me with thoughts of champagne!  Jeannette innocently asked “When do you post the blog?

I reply, “Every other day.”

Sarah of the Brilliant Mind and latent PITA tendencies pipes up, “Wait, you posted Sunday and Today.  Today is Wednesda — that is not every other day.”

Sarah is now a “friend.”

See? Time is a loose and fluid commodity here.

Where did I leave off?  Oh! My pity dance win.  Well, last night I won the Extra Pity Party Bowling Round (aka Bowling Wildcard).  Fun, right?  No.  I won using the Nora avatar.  My other “friend” haunts me.

I’m only smiling because it’s polite.

And since I know you worry, Diary, my final score in Trivia (You Don’t Know Jack for the Wii) was -17,000. If you have to lose, do it with style.  I think I’ll tattoo that on my forearm.

More successful trivia players

Nora finally played a couple of games, even though she can’t win.  She danced and Scrabbled (the latter was an uproarious game with words I can’t share here.)

The Mighty and Fearsome Elaine continues her demolition of all competition.  No! Wait! There was a moment last night when Sarah fought the dark force in the second round of Just Dance.  And the Brilliant Beautiful Mind crushed all comers with 10,971 points.

During the round Elaine said: “My remote isn’t working.”

I said, “I say that every year.”

Elaine called back. “Now it’s true.”

Diary — with friends like these, I’ll never get a big ego.

Instead I’ll share a .

gif from the dancing.

Round 2 — Elaine’s remote appears to work, Sarah is out for points

Yesterday was simply gorgeous.  Blue skies, warm temperatures and slight breezes.  We took a group walk in the morning (my favorite photo is below) then settled into the little courtyard off the suite for the late afternoon.

From Laura’s Instagram
Intrepid walkers
Happy loungers

And then it was back to games.  A very tiring week.

Tonight we head into final rounds of games since Pat departs tomorrow.  Then we paint tomorrow night.

Since time melts here, I know we’ll be on the road home in a second and a half.

Will share more tomorrow (ish), Diary.  In the meantime, here’s another dance .gif to soothe the soul.

Laura

Dear Diary: The Continuing spa adventures of a Cranky Publicist

Dear Diary,

Our first full day dawned sunny and cool. I was up early to get a workout in first thing.  Our mutual “friend” was already in the suite’s living room and we engaged in a brief recap of the evening before — along with requisite surprise at my mid-level success.  Then I went off to lift heavy weights, while Nora waited for Kat and JoAnne to come in for a Shaun T workout session.

The gym was very quiet and I pushed/pulled/stretched without any interruptions.  A satisfying way to start the day especially since it was Ice Cream Night Part 1 after dinner.  Walked back to change into dry clothes and the ladies were shaking their groove things in time with Shaun.

Had breakfast then decided to go for a walk for fresh air and photos. 

This one ended up my favorite.

The best part of Spa Week, Dear Diary, is everyone goes their individual ways during the day before spending the evening together.  I decided to embrace my Zen in all areas of my life and generously forgave my “friend” for her cavalier dismissal of my Scrabble talents. All was peaceful again as we wandered through the shops on the way to spa treatments.

More of our tribe arrived late in the afternoon. Pat and Mary learned that they had arduous game tasks to undertake.  Those of us with first rounds of bowling, dance and Scrabble under our belts/on the Stupid –er, Zen centered — Scoreboard were able to relax or play as extras in a round.

The second official round of Scrabble commenced. Diary, can you find the word on that night’s board that made us all laugh?

A seed of happiness bloomed in my heart, Dear Diary.  I was freed from the expectation of performing well.  Strangely though, the pressure seeped through in other areas.  My spa-mates asked if I’d posted on the blog yet. Well, no, not yet.  “Working on it!”I chirped airily.

Then, my dear friend, the most prolific writer in the entire universe, the one who writes 6 pages to my one paragraph, the one who THINKS a word and it is so, asked if I was finished.  Now there, Diary Dear, is pressure.

I finished, posted, then turned my attention to the games where tension brewed.  As I dealt with my feelings, Sarah — the former Grandest Champion with a brilliant business mind — ran into the wall known as the Fearsome and Mighty Elaine on the field of dance. As you remember, Sarah crushed me by 1000 points.  The Fearsome and Mighty Elaine turned the tables.

[From Sarah’s Spa Notes:  Dear Diary, A great start to the tournament! Back in top form for Just Dance.  THEN the Fearsome and Mighty Elaine picked up the remote and WON my fabulous First Round prize.]

[From Elaine’s Spalicious Journal: Having a Great Time! Winning EVERYTHING!”]

The Fearsome and Mighty

The next rounds of Scrabble are delayed until the last two members of the tribe arrive so we added in some extra bowling and dance.  Mary Kay won another bowling session [MK: Hey Diary, that’s 2 bowling games!  That makes me the Bowling Queen.]

And then, a miracle happened, Dear Diary. I beat Sarah in the Pity Round of Extra Dance!!!!  Thousands cheered (in my head) and I retired happy.

This is what winning looks like (on the right)

I shall leave this entry with some visuals of the evening.

Laura

 

Dear Diary: a Cranky Publicist’s private record of spa week 2017

Dear Diary,

It’s lowering to admit that my spirits fell in the approach to spa week. The company is wonderful, the setting lovely, the services superb — and yet.

The specter of the Stupid Scoreboard loomed with all the inherent horrors of last year’s Biggest Loser status.

I bravely persevered in the face of such agonizing memories, packed up the soft clothes, the books, the magazines, said goodbye to the dh and headed to the Fortress of Silence (aka Nora’s house). The drippy Saturday weather narrowed the day’s goals to cozying in nest to a roaring fire in a lovely suite.

First though, I had to run the gamut of happy dogs.  I haven’t been up to the Fortress since February so my arrival was my first interaction with Atticus.  His human woman proudly reports he’s house broken but they’re still working on not jumping. Apparently I was that perfect storm of new human AND wearing a white sweater.  He jumped. Lesson learned.

Nora and BW had already loaded the car with her clothes, champagne, workout gear, the Wii (blech :0) and Fabulous Prizes.  JoAnne, Mary Kay and I arrived at the same time so we completed the loading in and got on the road.

I felt a prickling on the back of my neck and when I looked over my shoulder there was the Scrabble box, staring down at me.  The memory of the Stupid Scoreboard mocked me, but I resolutely ignored it for the drive.

Nora navigated through increasingly bad rain over the mountains and gaps from Maryland to Pennsylvania and got us to our home for a week before 12:30 (her personal goal). We piled out of the car, happy to let the hotel staff deal with unloading the intricate puzzle of bags and stuff.

While we waited for the keys to the suite, Nora began the dread discussion: “what games should we play tonight?” Then my “friend” looked directly at me and said “Laura, you should play Scrabble tonight so you can get it over with.”  JoAnne and Mary Kay laughed.

I sulked, Dear Diary, I sulked.

We toasted the week of friendship (Diary, I had reservations about who my true friends were at that point), unpacked, snacked and then those who had treatments went on their way.  I’ll admit, Diary, that I stewed about the Scoreboard, games and the perfidy of “friends” during my treatment, but then a revelation struck:  what if I embraced the Stupid Scoreboard and became One with it?  (What can I say, when you’re floating on the clouds of a treatment, the brain opens up to all possibilities.)

Kat arrived with her 2017 edition of The (Non) Stupid Scoreboard, drawn free-hand.  And this time she created a rebus for the title:

Drug + Inns + paw + grills + turnip + mint = Drunken spa girls tournament

I contemplated this new idea of accepting the scoreboard through dinner, then accepted the inevitable when I was part of the first Scrabble group which included the fearsome and mighty Elaine (past Grand Winner and killer Scrabble player — the last time I played with her, Elaine scored 47 on the first word.  I suggested we stop playing right then, but my “friend” said we had to play.  Elaine won by 47 points.  Who was right Diary?) But I digress.

With my newfound Zen attitude: One with The Scoreboard, I concentrated on words, ignored the score.  At one point, Nora — who was organizing the Just Dance portion of the tournament — wandered over, checked the score and was amazed I was competitive.  I didn’t actually know the score so I just kept going.  The highlight of my round was Peaky, which I tied into dog to make Doge.  And came up with a boatload of points

My “friend” Nora, took a photo to commemorate.  I had to contort myself to fit in the frame but it was done: 

Diary, I completed the round first!  As Elaine tallied up the score, she commented, “Laura, you’re just three points behind ME.”   She swears she didn’t mean it the way it came out.  But I wonder if I have another person to put in the “friend” category.

So I came in second, three points behind the mighty and fearsome Elaine.  Not a win, not a loss.  Very Zen.

Nora, Kat and JoAnne worked out the Just Dance song for the week. They practiced with Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), then chose Don’t Wanna Know as the song we all have to perform.  JoAnne stunned us with a win in her round.

[From JoAnne’s Spa Notes:
Dear Diary — who was that holding my Wii remote tonight??]

Sarah and I danced — me against yet another Grand Winner — and I handled it respectably.  Meaning I came within 1,000 points of Sarah.

The final act of the night was bowling.  Nora decided to capture all the moments in the round:

JoAnne didn’t like the shot.
Sarah, strike. Of course.
Me, dancing during bowling.
Mary Kay, the winner of this round.

[Excerpt from Mary Kay’s Girls Spa Week 2017 diary:
I won my round in bowling!!!]

And that was the end of Day 1, Dear Diary.   Much more to come.

Laura

Long Weekend

I finished a book last week, a brain-frying, complicated book, and decided I deserved a little break. The universe cooperated with excellent weather.

So I took Thursday and Friday away from my office and keyboard, and hit the nursery. With excellent timing added in, BW was able to meet me there allowing me to wander, drink in, and basically gobble up enough plants to fill the bed of his truck. And add even MORE to the cargo space of my SUV.

A truck load.

Oh, the smells, the colors, the textures, the possibilities! And what tremendous fun to haul flats out, start placing pots. Stand back, consider, adjust, add more, move some until, okay, that’s going to work for me.

BW was also able to stand in as my under gardener for most of the day–a sunny, breezy day that decided it wouldn’t be too hot or too cool. It decided it could be perfect.

Five full hours of hauling, placing, considering, digging, planting, more considering, more hauling, and the beds looked so, so happy.

Top that off with a nice, tall glass of champagne and a long walk-about to admire the job.

Friday, it’s time for pots, and I won’t have my under-gardener. But he does have time to haul some of those pots out for me before he’s off to work–and I start the process.

Huh. I have a LOT of pots–but I have a lot of plants earmarked for them. Doesn’t that look sweet! How about hot colors for that one? Won’t that look great when it fills out!

The dogs enjoy having me out for two days running, and I love every second. I skip the gym–again–to get all this done, but like Thursday, I get a serious workout with nearly six hours between pots, and finding little spots for the few things left over. If you happen to miss the gym frequently then you should consider getting an hourglass waist trainer that way you will take care of your body while your doing your daily duties.

And BW comes home with another flat of impatiens, the five more foxglove–and a favorite I hadn’t found–a flat of heliotrope I asked for. Those will wait for Saturday as it’s time for another nice, tall glass of champagne and a walk-about.

We’re having Kat and Jason up for Easter dinner (and a foundation meeting) so Saturday’s also for baking. Let’s have some fresh bread and my mother’s sour cream pound cake. With dough rising, I head outside. BW’s planting the foxglove, so I take the impatiens.

Plant more flowers, play with dogs, go wash up, punch down dough. In and out, out and in. Eggs on the boil for deviling (a crowd favorite).

I still have some gardening left by the time the cake’s in the oven, so I figure out how to set the alarm on my phone–not a complete snap for me as I don’t use alarms–and go back out. I have sunflower seeds to plant, and want to move some of the madly spreading Black-eyed Susans to some bare spots.

When the alarm goes off I’m momentarily puzzled–What is that noise, and why is it coming from my pocket? Oh yeah.

Cake’s done, and my mother would be proud as it looks and smells pretty damn good.

Now it’s definitely time for that nice, tall glass of champagne.

Sunday there are those eggs to devil, a ham to bake, a couple more spots of spring cleaning that got sidetracked with gardening. And here are my kids! Who’ve volunteered to go down the lane to our storage buildings and haul up all the outdoor furniture. Nothing like having strong, willing kids–they deserve some deviled eggs.

Atticus is, of course, instantly in love–and it’s mutual.

Potatoes and carrots to herb and roast, a ham to glaze, meeting time. Our boardroom might be the dining room table, and I might be checking the oven or stirring the glaze from time to time, but we get things done, and do good work.

Saute some fresh asparagus, set the table, carve the ham, and let’s eat.

A good day with family, good food, good work–topped off with pound cake, fresh whipped cream and berries.

Kat shows me a picture of the stone double walk-way she’s built on the side of their house. Yes, I said she built. A double stone walk-way. It’s gorgeous. They plan to plant an ornamental cherry in the center–and that will be spectacular.

I’ve got some stone work on my agenda–I said I should just hire her!

She takes the bags of purged shoes and clothes to haul up to the spa (this Saturday!!!) for me as I have a car load of spa girls. Hugs good-bye to end the long, lovely weekend.

Monday, it was back to the office and the keyboard. But the break did me a lot of good in that area, too, as it cleared the tired brain enough for me to work out how to start the next book. I got a decent enough roll on that yesterday, and I’m ready to go back and see what happens next.

But after work, after work-out, I’m going to continue the weekend tradition, pour myself that nice, tall glass and have a walk around the gardens with my dogs.

That’s a good deal.

Nora


Quick notes from the Cranky Publicist:  You’ll learn more about the just-finished book in a while as you won’t see it until the second half of 2018. Patience grasshoppers.

In case you didn’t notice the sneaky mention of Spa Girls, yes, it’s nearly that time of year.  I’d like you all to practice the Stupid Scoreboard mantra on my behalf.  ~Laura

 

It Must Be Spring

Finally, after the cold, the wet, the gloom, gloom, gloom of the last few months, things are popping and budding and greening. And the air feels different. Not just warmer, but it holds that hopeful lightness that signals spring’s coming.

It must be because I found myself compelled to spend most of my Saturday cleaning–some serious deep cleaning. And it reminded me of my mother diving into her traditional spring cleaning every April.

Like many of her generation she had spring/summer curtains and fall/winter curtains. I have almost no curtains–just window treatments on blinds on bedrooms and the main level bath. But I live in the woods, not suburbia.

I also have no love affair toward Venetian blinds as my mother did. I have a clear picture of her washing those sharp slats in the bathtub. Many, many of them as she had the blinds, the sheers, then the drapes or curtains. Three layers on most of the windows through our pretty big house. While they were down, we’d–whoever she could draft into the task–wash windows. Newspaper and ammonia–maybe Windex. And winter was washed and polished away, the spring/summer curtains–freshly washed and aired–hung.

While I’ve spared myself the chore of kneeling at the side of the tub washing, rinsing, washing, long slats of metal blinds that leave knicks on the knuckles, I did my share of washing, scrubbing, polishing yesterday. And understand completely her great satisfaction of seeing winter dealt with, with rags and buckets and lemon-scented cleaners.

With April, like my mother–and my father–my head and heart turn happily to gardening. Plans for it, imagining it, scouting out what’s popped out bravely as the air and ground warm.

The dogs and I took happy walks around after the scrubbing and polishing, and that provided an even deeper satisfaction for me.

My baby’s breath is a lovely white cloud. The Solomon Seal’s up and spreading. I have lungwort showing happy pink buds, found a little Johnny-Jump-Up volunteering. I hope more join him.  

Atticus and I–along with his pals above–checked out the progress of the peonies. Looking good!!

I can’t remember what this bush is, but I love it’s coming out in that candy pink Easter hue.

And for Easter–early as the kids won’t be around–we dyed and decorated eggs. We had some wacky ones.

I like seeing the young willow we planted last year greening, and my old cherry trees getting ready to explode with blossoms. Since today’s even lovelier than yesterday, I’m going to take advantage, head out into the sunshine with some Milk Bones for the boys.

We’ll see what we can see.  

Nora

Ah, weekends

Sometimes they’re pretty perfect. Or, for me, absolutely close enough when they come after a week of nose-to-the-grindstone writing, then decide to offer in March a day like the bonny month of May. One day only as today is much cooler and just gloomy–but let’s not get greedy.

Atticus and I both wake early as a rule, and this is working out well housebreaking-wise. He does, however, tend to wake with a spate of happy barking, which is a jolt. But still. Up and out, boys, up and out, and let me get some H2O and some caffeine into my system.

Then it’s time for good dogs to have some breakfast while I workout.

The only real item on my Saturday list is baking bread, and since it’s gorgeous out, we leave the back door open. Dogs can come in and out while I mix and knead. Why do they almost always want to be in, and asleep? It’s too pretty for that, so while dough rises, I go out–and so do they.

First rising, I throw some sticks and hunt up brave little blooms. periwinkle spreading under fallen leaves, baby’s breath almost ready to riot. Peonies pushing out of the ground so they can bloom when it really is the bonny month.

Go in, punch down dough, reform. Head back out.

Sit is a non-negotiable command for dogs in my world. Atticus has learned this quickly. He’s a bright as well as a happy dog. Parker is, truly, the love of his life. I’m a close second. They sit nicely for a photo while Pancho–back in the Donut yet again–photobombs.

Pancho’s fine with the new guy, but the only time Pancho moves at anything but a meander is when you throw a ball. A thrown ball, and he’s–donut included–lightning. But he doesn’t play manically with Atticus as Parker does. I dig up three balls, throw them. If Pancho could’ve gotten all three in his mouth at once, he would have. He did manage two a few times.

I introduced the rope last weekend and watched Parker and Atticus go wild. I know this picture is blurry, but they were moving so fast, and I was laughing too hard. The puppy clamped onto the other end of the rope, and like Roller Derby partners, Parker took Atticus on a Crack-the-Whip from one end of the house to the other. Parker’s about 85-90 pounds of pure muscle, and when he races through the house, eyes wild, it’s like a horse free from the paddock. Atticus may be small, but he is pure game. Pancho, ball firmly clamped in his mouth, just watched.

Back in. Since I’m making Italian bread this takes one more short rising after I form the dough into footballs. So back out again. BW helps me haul a new pot and dirt as my lemon tree needs it. And I can leave it out in the sun for a few hours.

Baking time, and hey, it’s Saturday, so it can be glass of wine time, too. And since we seem to have broken winter’s back, we decide to start up our water feature. BW blows out the leaves, does whatever manly thing he does with the pump. As the water starts to trickle, then to fall, then to stream, I’m very happy. So are the dogs. It’s old hat, and a favorite spot for the older guys, and a brand new adventure for the little guy.

Flowers starting to bud, sun shining, ball-chasing dogs, fresh bread, my pretty water feature singing, a second glass of wine.

A pretty perfect weekend.

After my workout I should probably pick up around here as that didn’t get done yesterday. And since it’s cool and gray, maybe light the fire, sit down with a book for a couple hours. Seems like a pretty good endcap to an excellent weekend.

Nora