It’s been a fast, colorful month so far–and it’s nearly over!
Every October, we spend a week in New York, and this year the city gifted us with perfect weather start to finish. In tune with the fast pace, we tend to cram a lot into that week. Shopping hits top of my list. And yes, I’m now all but finished my holiday shopping.
Country mouse goes city mouse to spend urban time with friends and family–heading up with BW and Jason, meeting up with Laura, rounding it out when our pal Sarah arrives to spend a couple days and our adventurous Kat flies in from a hiking trip with some of her adventurous family in Hawaii.
The gorgeous weather also provided a pretty amazing backdrop for the party with my new publisher. The rooftop and its amazing views ticked the box of most popular spot for the evening. Fun food, lots of wine, engaging company and a sunset worthy of Spielburg added up to a really lovely evening.
A day with the girls–including my editor and agent–(shoes! boots!) rounded out with a happy early dinner and the energetic, marvelous, ridiculously entertaining School Of Rock on Broadway.
Lots of urban hiking, uptown, downtown, midtown, scoring those holiday gifts (plus shoes! boots!), spending time with some of my favorite people. Yeah, a most excellent week.
Back home to the current chaos of a first draft which meant ignoring the chaos of my house. Boxes and bags, deliveries of more. Middle school math–and thank God Logan understands it as I don’t and never will.
The end of the marking period means a day off school. Kayla scared the life out of me by poking into the gym while my entire focus centered on sweating through cardio. I don’t see my girl as much as she’s running Cross-Country, so this is a treat. Once I finish the sweating.
She promises to come back Sunday to help me clear out the chaos.
Because Saturday is a most special day. My long-time friend’s wedding.
It’s a blustery day full of fall color. Inside the venue the warmth, the love, the happy glow just as much as the bride. She’s beautiful, and the handsome groom nearly as radiant. Those attending reflect the happy. The bride’s niece tells me while she did the bride’s hair and makeup that morning, the groom wandered around the house singing–and peeked in from time to time to tell his lady how beautiful she is.
The big day feels like the couple it celebrates–the warm and loving and the sweet. We have time to mingle and bask before heading out to a patio for the ceremony. The prettiest of pretty flower girls, a lovely, simple arbor where the obviously (really obviously!) adoring groom waits, the lovely happy bride walks to him.
A sweet, simple, heartfelt ceremony where the bride drips happy tears. And the groom brushes them from her cheeks with his fingers. More aww. The groom slips the ring (given to her mother by her late father) on the bride’s finger. And the kiss.
Some people are meant to find each other as just the right times in their lives.
That’s the feeling that carries through the day of as simply perfect a wedding I’ve been privileged to attend.
The best of best wishes to Elaine and Enrique.
That leaves me Sunday–and this time Kayla scares the life out of me as she slips in after my workout and the start of chaos clearing. She needs a snack! The kid’s running those calories off with training and meets. While she eats, I harvest the rest of my basil. Bumper crop!
Then she helps me haul, hang, organize. And for the first time in a week, the house looks like a house instead of a storage bin stocked by a crazy woman.
Since fall’s definitely arrived it’s a good day to make soup, and I love my favorite teenager wants to just hang out with Nana. Soup needs bread in my world. No time for anything but a quick one, so I get a can of beer and whip up some beer bread.
It’s still warm when Kayla, hungry again, has a slice with a bowl of soup. She approves both.
Now there are four tubs of books to sign–it’s nice to have her company while I get that done.
Nobody gives better hugs than my girl, and I’m treated to one before she heads out the door.
Now I’m late getting started on my Monday. It’s rare for a book to keep me up at night, but this one’s done that a few times. So a late start while I try to finish this damn first draft so I can see what the hell’s in this story.
I can’t cross my fingers or I can’t type, but I might just light a candle for a solid, productive work day. And hey, leftover soup means no cooking tonight!
Eventually the weekends won’t be my catch-up and/or get-it-done time. Eventually. But for right now?
Saturday morning I think to get my workout done early and clear the rest of the day. But I’ve forgotten the window washers are here to finish up this annual deal. We’ve got a lot of windows in this place.
It’s just a little weird to be dancing around the gym, doing down dogs and sweating through biceps curls when a bunch of guys are washing the windows thereof.
Change of plans.
I have a big bunch ‘o beautiful tomatoes courtesy of my pal Jo, so we’ll start off the day making red sauce. A large pot of it this time around, and I can freeze it in dinner size portions–and won’t that be handy down the road? This ties me to the kitchen long enough for the window washers to get close to finishing.
Why not let them do that while I weed my sadly neglected garden? Three large tubs of weeds illustrate that neglect–and remind me that’s something that kept getting backlogged in the catching-up area of my weekends. I like weeding–it’s therapeutic. The dogs like me weeding since it means I’m hanging out with them. God knows the gardens like me weeding, and it gives me time–though many of my beauties are fading as summer winds down–to plan where I’ll divide things up, transfer, try to fill in some areas next spring.
Windows clean, garden tended, red sauce simmering low. NOW we can hit the gym. I’m rewarded there–not only by the benefits of regular exercise, but by the hummingbird that flies up to the–very clean–window while I’m sweating it out.
Then you know what? I’ve earned a bellini, and make myself one to enjoy while signing the four tubs of books waiting for me.
A second bellini seems the appropriate celebration for completing Saturday’s chores.
But Sunday has an agenda. My One More Room is a disgrace. Some of that’s due to bags of purged clothes on hold in there. Next Sunday I’m having some pals over for a late summer clothes swap, so that’ll not only be fun, but help clear out the OMR. And I need to store the Christmas presents from Italy rather than just dumping them on the counter.
But the big one I’ve put off for gardening, then vacation, for too long. Our down-the-lane neighbor decided to downsize and relocate, and we bought the house. BW’s using the house as his photography studio–a great space and convenient location for him. But I claimed an outbuilding for my own. I think of it as The Big Closet. Storage!! Storage, for me, is nearly as marvelous and exciting as new shoes. My plan has been to empty my over-taxed OMR of seasonal decorations and such. All the Christmas decorations, the bits and pieces I put out at Halloween, at Easter. Tubbed and boxed and out of here.
Today’s the day. It’s challenging and time-consuming, and immensely satisfying. BW comes up during the process–I believe his eyes wheeled at the chaos. But the process demands chaos before order. I tub, I bubble wrap, I box. And I have enough room to semi-organize the shelves in the storage closets. Even purge a little as I find things BW might be able to use in his new space.
I find things of my mother’s I’ve saved in there. It’s time now to let go of the paperwork of handling her estate. But I find other things. The last purse she used, a pair of glasses, the little wallet holding her driver’s license and a picture of my Pop. These, like the letters I saved (so, so sweet) that my father wrote to her I keep, he definetly used some tricks from to get to her. It reminds me of the letter I found he sent her when they were dating–he wrote on the streetcar on the way home from seeing her, and ended it with: Sending you all the love I can with a two-penny stamp.
It’s that single line that sticks with me most when I think of them, young and in love, and through 63 years of marriage, five kids, and a devotion that never wavered.
It’s a wonderful benefit to clearing out and cleaning up, finding and remembering these small and vital treasures. So I tuck my treasures away.
BW shows his devotion by hauling everything I’ve tubbed and boxed away. And there it is! The floor of the OMR! And room on the shelves. A tidy-ish box of gifts waiting to be wrapped in just a couple months. And okay, maybe my obsession with saving tissue paper (my recycling gene) means I stuff a bag of it in the designated Christmas wrap closet, but it’s off the floor.
Now I can do a little organizing of my own closet. It may be half-assed, but I’m about done with weekend chores. And I want my workout.
And once everything’s done, the dogs and I enjoy a walk around the freshly-weeded gardens where, yes, some blooms have faded, but plenty continue to thrive and bring color to a breezy late afternoon that hints of fall.
Another weekend gone, another work week beginning. But that’s good for me. Through all the boxing and tubbing and weeding and milling tomatoes, I’ve played with what happens next in the book.
I’m ready to see if I can make it so.
It takes a few days for the bliss–and the jet lag–following a truly fabulous vacation to ease back into the normal. And when the week following that fabulous vacation involves actual work and duties, it’s like a one-step-at-a-time through an alternate reality.
But the weekend comes around again.
On this one I decided on at-home tribute to our Italian experience. My pal Jo’s gardens are producing pounds of tomatoes. Our couple of patio pots are chugging along, too, but my pal and her guy have a serious tomato garden, and she brought me bunches.
Years ago, in another life before writing, I made my own red sauce, canned it every August for use all winter. Those days are done, but I still know how to make sauce, so why not? Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking pretty, fresh garden tomatoes down, getting out my food mill, adding my own fresh garden herbs to the sauce.
Since I’m doing that, why not try my hand at baking Italian bread? Never tried it, so again, why not. I found it easier, and more fun–I do love baking bread–than I’d imagined. No question this is now going into bread baking rotation.
And the results? Mmmm, tasty. Really nothing like sauce from fresh tomatoes and bread fresh baked. And since we’ve still got plenty of tomatoes why not slice some up, get more basil from the garden, add some olive oil.
It’s good–for me anyway–to have a homey kitchen day after a blurry transition week.
Sunday we had a foundation meeting here, which included our next generation volunteer, Kayla. She came up early enough to hang–and eat bread and pasta and declare both excellent. I mention to her she seems a little taller. Earlier in the week when I’d given Logan the first hug since I’d seen him nearly a month ago, I told him he’d grown. He said: Nah. Nana says: Uh-huh. I know where my boy’s head hits me in a hug.
We went down to our measuring station–the door jamb of the laundry room where Dan and Jason were measured as well–and I prove Nana knows best. He’d shot up a full inch.
This pleased him.
So I do the same with Kayla. She’s now a hair under 5’5″. I expect that bare eighth of an inch will be history before the leaves change this fall.
Jason and Kat arrive for the meeting, and it’s a good, productive one. It’s rewarding when our teenage volunteer proves she’s taking her position seriously. She has a proposal, and as we’d encouraged her to explore foundation opportunities through her school and interests, she’s found one in her first two weeks of high school. My girl’s in high school!
She pitches it well, and it’s just the sort of thing we look for. The vote’s unanimous yes–with a request for a few more details so we can make it so.
It’s a good, good feeling to watch a grandchild embrace giving, to begin to understand how certain advantages can be used to help others, even to change lives. I like seeing she’s even made her own binder, keeps foundation paperwork in it.
She may know she can tap an indulgent nana for new Nikes, but she also understands she’s part of a mechanism dedicated to supporting organizations that make sure kids without her advantages have shoes, and warm coats or the chance to go to a summer camp. It swells my heart to see so clearly she’s genuinely involved in continuing that legacy.
But then, meeting over, and there’s dinner. We have some of BW’s amazing flank steak left over from our fun, noisy, chaotic kids for dinner on Friday night, and grill some chicken to stretch it. Then there some remaining penne and red sauce, another loaf of Italian bread, some green peppers Kayla and I picked off the vine that afternoon. And how about some fresh local corn on the cob?
We eat like farm kings on the deck on a warm summer evening.
A lot of catching up this week, a lot of meetings, some toes dipped into a new book, lots of hugs from kids missed in August, fresh harvest cooking, a chance to see our most excellent traveling companions for an evening. Add in happy dogs, a couple walks around the garden, pretty flowers cut for a little vase.
Not a bad post-vacation week.
Now that the blur’s lifted, I think it’s time to get down to some serious writing.
It’s repetitious, but the day’s beautiful. The view is blues–deep sea, bold sky, the softer hues of the mountains across the water, etched clear. I love the long white wakes cutting through the blue behind the white boats. From this height, those wakes look impossibly straight, as if drawn with a ruler.
I woke to pink and blue skies. We plan to sneak in an early workout, then gear up for our day trip to Pompeii. BW and I had an abbreviated visit there–called by rain–years ago, and Jason and Kat a longer one on their honeymoon. It’ll be nice to all go back together, see what we see.
A day spent at home with sun and sea and sky. Not a bad deal.
BW decides on a hot breakfast, so with some kibitzing from me–and some help from Kat–puts together what I think of as a poor man’s omelette–some prosciutto, some tomatoes, some cheese (and some herbs I added) with scrambled eggs. It’s pretty! And apparently tasty as BW and Kat cleaned their plates.
It’s workout time. Some Shaun T today–cardio and his challenging 8-minute abs. How can it be so vicious when it’s only 8 minutes! We add 50 minutes more, with bands, hitting more abs (ow!), upper and lower body, the works.
Job well done. And it’s not so tough, really, to workout with sun and sea and sky. Especially when it’s finished!
A visit from the manager to deal with the internet–yay. It seems to be back on track. May it continue.
I work on the patio. Lovely, just lovely, and the gang catches up on news and what’s what at home. After a good session, I reward myself with a fresh peach bellini. Another pretty good deal.
Kat and I have discussed making lemonade. We have a beautiful supply of lemons, so why not do it the old-fashioned way? My girl makes the simple syrup, squeezes lemons. I start a red sauce with fresh herbs, and make a side of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella–the mozzarella comes in pretty little balls in a bag filled with water. Find a dish, layer them, add fresh basil and pepper, some olive oil, a dash or so of balsamic, and into the fridge for dinner.
It’s sweet and cozy working together in our Italian kitchen.
Domestic day continues with laundry. When I go downstairs I see BW and Kat have set up a little drying rack on the terrace, and pinned laundered clothes up. It’s so cute!
The calico cat comes to visit, and responds immediately to Jason–the Cat Whisperer. She preens for him, tries to sneak in by him, lets him pet and scratch, and I swear looks at him with adoring eyes. She lets Kat give her a little attention, too, and eventually settles down right on the kitchen threshold. Kat’s dubbed her Benito, due to her odd little black moustache. Though it should, technically, be Benita, we have a Benita in our lives, and she doesn’t have a moustache!
Stirring the pot, and Kat asks if I like candied lemon peel. I don’t know, but I bet I would. She starts lemon peels simmering before she and Jason walk down to the village for a few fresh supplies. And I can pour another drink, watch the pots and read my book–for those who asked, it’s Stephen King’s End Of Watch.
We’re all back–fresh salad makings from the village market, and Jason chunking up more tomatoes. Kat makes a garlic paste, and we–with some head-scratching–figure out how to work the broiler on the oven for garlic bread. Pasta on the boil, sauce simmering, Kat coating lemon peels with sugar–and yes, I definitely like candied lemon peel. We joke about dressing for dinner. Nah.
We enjoy our home-made feast on the patio, add some candles, but the breeze keeps blowing them out. Finish it up with some gelato. Mmmm. A good meal while the sun lowers.
When it lowers, it increases the gorgeous blur of the horizon, the deeper blue of the water, the paler sky with a soft blush of pink between. The blush shimmers on higher clouds, outlining them in that pretty pink, a quiet underlight. The view here changes with the light, and is never less than magnifico.
A little more laundry, a little more reading, then it’s bedtime for me.
Very breezy this morning, and some chance of storms later. I think it would be fantastic to watch a thunderstorm over the water here. We think we’ll wait for tomorrow for the trip to Positano, and until Monday–early morning trip–to Pompeii–and just continue to vacate here today. It’s pretty easy to relax when you’re saturated in beauty.
Sunday morning means more setting up and setting out, finishing up. By early afternoon, we’re packed with people inside and out–so no, making ten pounds of potato salad wasn’t overkill.
It’s a fine tradition my parents started decades ago, so I think of them a lot while I cook and stir, while I chat with Kat and Laura as they chop and peel, when I glance out the window and see my boy up on the garden wall with a blue tarp and bungie cords.