Category Archives: girl time

Counting Down

We’re starting the Baby Clock around here with three weeks to go until due date. And we started it off with a happy weekend.

I called dibs on giving Kat’s shower pretty much thirty seconds after she announced baby on board. I love giving showers because what could be happier than sharing the anticipation of a life together (wedding) or a new life (baby) with female friends and family? For me, it’s one of the sweetest of rituals.

And for me, the weekend starts off with a short work day on Friday to make room for a workout before the kids come up for dinner. Since Kayla has a meet on Saturday, that means pasta for the runner. I happen to have red sauce I made from Jo’s garden tomatoes bagged in the freezer–so that’s easy.

It’s nice to have the kids around at the end of the week, to catch up on what they’re doing, and how they’re doing. I can report Logan’s gained another inch. It’s so cute how he kind of leans over to hug me now.

As the shower’s on Sunday, I have all day Saturday to prep. And I have two young men to help out in Logan and Colt. I admit I wasn’t sure if Colt would really pitch in, but boy, did he. And Logan’s a solid workhorse when motivated.

Pavers and walkways swept, deck chairs cleaned, trash out, this hauled up, that hauled down, kitchen floor scrubbed, and chairs, chairs and more chairs carted into the living room for an expected party of about 40.

Thanks, guys!

I have (personally stuffed) a boatload of party favor bags waiting in the backroom, along with some of the gifts sent here, the game supplies and prizes organized, and many, many bottles of champagne chilling.

And the cake arrives. Oh just wow!!! Kat wanted a dinosaur theme, and Lacy the amazing baker has created a truly delightful masterpiece. I have to do a driveway happy dance when I see it.

Dinolicious!

Then hold the dogs who are just as delighted with her and the scent of her dogs on her shoes while Logan runs up to open the door so she can carry the cake inside. She takes it down to the laundry room where I’ll close the door to keep the dogs from sampling it.

Wake to rain on Sunday, the all-day kind. But that’s not going to dampen the party. Natoma (Gifts Inn Boonsboro manager and excellent caterer) arrives with her daughter Hannah to set up. At Kat’s request the dino theme continues with some cute touches like dino-shaped chicken bites, dessert ‘Dirt’, dino gummies, blue punch (it’s a boy, after all) and a terrific array of food.

No one’s going to leave this party hungry!

Laura arrives with the flowers I asked her to pick up–and pick out. So, so pretty, all those rich fall colors. Just perfect. Sarah comes early, too, to lend a hand.

Dogs, sad for them, now locked on the front deck so they won’t enthusiastically jump on arrivals.

The house starts to fill, time to pour champagne, wine, sparkling blue punch. Time for girl energy and hugs and greetings. When the guest of honor arrives, she’s glowing. A sweet ritual, yes, but also an important one, one that celebrates women, their power, their bonds, their strengths.

And more special here, Kat has such a lovely and diverse circle of women in her life. From our Kayla at sixteen, to women in their 70s, from college friends, work friends, aunts, cousins, a woman she met Panera and bonded with over knitting.

And so my house is filled with joy and love, with laughter and female voices.

Game time!* A little baby word scramble to start–and we actually have one contestant who got every one. Some brain in there. For the next game–listing songs with Baby in the title, we have a tie between spa girls (obviously veteran game players!) Nicole and Kat. I have to run up to the One More Room for another prize. The final game has all those women holding a card to their foreheads and trying to draw a baby without looking. Mama-To-Be will judge the winner.

Most turn out like you’d expect. But two somehow managed to draw actual babies. This is quite the skill and requires another trip to the One More Room for yet another prize as it’s another tie.

Game winners!

Time for more food!

I let the dog off the deck, and–as I should’ve known–they sneak into the house. The ladies are just as pleased to see dogs as dogs are pleased to be seen so I let them stay for a bit.

Then banish them outside.

It’s time to open all those wonderful gifts.

Such fun, and all those adorable baby things. Jo had suggested we request a favorite book in lieu of a card to start the baby’s library. While there were a few duplicates, it’s amazing to me how much variety. So many beloved children’s books piling up. My choice, Where The Wild Things Are, as I read that one over and over to both my boys. Now my boy can read it to his.

Cake! Countless pictures have been taken of that cake, and more than one bemoans cutting into that work of art. However, what’s inside is just as fabulous. Kat’s favorite strawberry shortcake. Mmmm.

As guests leave, more hugs. Pals load all those baby gifts into cars–and Kat’s still glowing. I get one more rub of that beautiful baby bump as the next time I see Kat will be at the birthing center.

Nora


*I played no games.  But took photos. ~Laura

Did I miss the games?

The quiet is nearly over

Hello from The Greenbrier!  This is your friendly Cranky Publicist checking in to assure you all that Nora is alive and well — just finishing a book.

Here she is! Photo by LMR

Last summer I noticed moving the “big” book (i.e., Come Sundown, Shelter in Place) from spring to summer meant instead of finishing before summer travel, Nora’s fitting in the finish while traveling. (Remember, she likes to be a year ahead of a release date.)

So what’s new?  Well it was my birthday last week.  And I’m having cataract surgery next month…

What’s that? You want to know about Nora?

Fine.

The theme of Nora’s summer is Stop then Go.

After the Kayla’s trip to NYC,  Nora had about a week of work before heading off on the annual family trip to the spa.  One highlight was group painting night.  Fascinating to see how everyone interpreted the picture, isn’t it?

Post-spa, Nora had four days of work before her and BW’s annual summer barbeque.  I drove up the day before to serve as line cook and pot washer.    I shelled 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, while Kayla made the trifle.

Nora?  Oh she was there too.

A girl and her trifle. Photo by LMR
Trifle closeup. Photo by LMR

Last week, Nora put in another solid four days on the book before she had to break to pack for our week at Greenbrier.  Normally it’s an easy pack but she spent one day of the week shooting video for St. Martin’s Press, so she had to come up with wardrobe for Nora and for JD.  She sacrificed a work day because the weekend was devoted to the Turn the Page Anniversary signing.

In another nod to classic writing at the TTP anniversary signing,  Barbara Delinskey and Linda Howard visited the store and many happy readers.

Classic and classy: Linda Howard, Nora, Barbara Delinskey

You’ll see my reaction to Linda here: 

We met sisters and cousins and moms thrilled to be together.  Groups of sisters of the heart traveled to Maryland, including this Drink Therapy group from Chicago.

Someone forgot her shirt, but remembered the wine!

Despite rain setting in halfway through, the energy remained upbeat and excited for the entire 4 hours.

The next day was the Fall Into the Story brunch at Vesta.  Nora picked five readers to sit at her table from the bag of raffle tickets then everyone else filled in spaces. I stopped at all the tables to chat, then came back with Nora for more chat and photos.

Nora and Nora.

The brunch culminates in a raffle of baskets from Nora, Turn the Page, Gifts Inn BoonsBoro and Inn BoonsBoro. This year, the raffle raised over $1300 for Set The Stage – a non profit chosen by the Nora Roberts Foundation.

And then we came to The Greenbrier.

Evening sky over The Greenbrier. Photo by LMR

Yesterday’s shoot went very smoothly.  I can’t show much but these are  snaps I put on Instagram.

Nora prep. Photo by LMR
Post JD Robb prep. Photo by LMR

After Nora finished, we did a quick Facebook Live, then meandered out to watch the Houston Texans arrive for training camp.  Nora could not care less about football, but she came along for the walk.  Then we paused for a selfie in front of the cameras set up for a press conference with the Texans GM, and the NFL Networks James Palmer joined the snap.

James Palmer, JoAnn, Nora, Laura and Sarah

The rest of the week, Nora will go through the final draft of the July 2019 book in the mornings, I’ll catch up with my own work and then we’re off to hang out with our friends.

Once back and after Kayla’s Sweet 16 party, Nora has a solid week of work before she, Bruce, Jason and Kat set off for Montana.  Travelogues will again be the order of the day for a couple of weeks next month.  Though as I mentioned above and on Facebook Live, I’m having cataract surgery on both eyes, a week apart in August.  There may be a delay or two because of recovery, but I plan to keep things moving smoothly while Nora’s in Montana.

And that’s all the Nora updates fit to print.

One last order of business:  Five lucky readers will win an advance reader copy of Leverage in Death at the end of St. Martin’s Press new sweepstakes. All the details here:  Leverage in Death ARC sweepstakes.

The abbreviated rules of the contest: No purchase necessary. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. who are age 18 or older and of the legal age of majority. Entry period begins at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on July 16, 2018 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 29, 2018. Void where prohibited. For full Official Rules, visit https://read.macmillan.com/promo/leverageindeatharcsweeps18. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Laura

Girls in the City

Kayla was eleven the first time I took her on a girl trip to NYC–and this mother of sons spent a LOT of time in the American Girl Doll store.

First trip. Photo by LMR
Second trip. Photo by LMR

My own American Girl is now on the cusp of 16, and we spent considerable time in Sephora.  And the new and amazing makeup cathedral on the second floor of Saks. And the eighth floor (shoe sale!!)–plus Lululemon (two locations) and various other venues where girls just wanna have fun.

And fun we certainly had.

Laura and Kat drove up separately–Laura to visit some family first, and Kat as the limo trip brings on car sickness. So Kayla and I had the big-ass limo to ourselves, chatting away a good part of the trip.

Just finished sophomore year. Photo by NR

Selfie as they set out. Photo by NR

We arrive at the hotel on a pretty afternoon with Laura already in and Kat only minutes behind us.

Made it to NY! Photo by LMRTime to unpack, hang a bit, then take a nice walk around to stretch out the legs, do some quick shopping, form our plan of attack for the next day. A trip over to B&N for cards and jigsaw puzzles. Plenty of time left for hanging out on the roof terrace, a spin in the hot tub. And at Kayla’s request–and no argument after a travel day–room service. Some work on a 1000 piece puzzle–one that looked simpler from the cover than in reality.

But Kat has a genius eye for shapes and tiny variations in color. Much progress before we turn in for the night.

Finished first puzzle.

In the morning, Kayla and Laura head to the gym, and I do my workout in the suite. Time for breakfast, pulling it together. Kayla and I walk over to a Lens Crafters–my girl recently got glasses, and as she also has her learner’s permit (!), I decree she needs prescription sunglasses as an early birthday present. We discover we’ll need the doctor’s prescription, which we’ll get faxed, so back we walk to meet Laura and Kat at one of Kayla’s nirvanas–Sephora.

I appreciate her love of makeup, and more her excellent–and age-appropriate hand–with it. I’ve a good hand with makeup myself, but I learn things from the girl. Onto Free People then Anthropology. Good hauls, and pregnant Kat finds some fun stuff, too. Nobody walks out empty handed as we take a nice lunch break.

Yes, we’ll have champagne–or Laura and I will.

Lunch on Wednesday. Photo by NRTime for a little lie-me-down for mama-to-be, and the rest of us hit more shops. Since Kayla’s a runner and I work out daily, Lululemon works just fine for us. Kayla’s issue is a mile of leg on a size 0, maybe a 2. But she does pretty well. I do, I believe, some better.

We walked miles, literally, before calling it for the day.

More puzzle time, more hang out time. Laura has a dinner out with her daughter Clare and some of Clare’s friends. The rest of us, again, opt happily for room service. And I’m drawn into a new card game for me. Nertz. I win–which Kayla insists is beginner’s luck.

Maybe, but hey. I win!

Kayla has given Laura a curfew <g>, and fortunately Laura makes it back with a couple minutes to spare. 

Made it by curfew. Photo by LMR

In the morning, Kayla has her first Shaun T experience with me–and does quite well. Then she and Laura need to get ready for the day while I do the rest of my workout. They head to one of Kayla’s goals, the top of the Empire State Building. * I’m grateful Laura took this on as I have no need to subject myself to that height again, and Kat isn’t up for it either. But Kat is up for fancy braiding Kayla’s hair on their return, a skill I don’t possess as a mother of sons.

Hair by Kat. Photo by NR
My fabulous editor joins us for some hanging out and a terrific and oh-so-pretty lunch at Rockefeller Center’s summer cafe on the ice rink. My poor Leslie broke a bone in her foot a few week ago, so she’s in a boot, and Kat’s carrying my sweet baby. But we stroll into a couple of shops before Leslie heads out, and Kat heads back to put her feet up.
Lunch spot. photo by LMR

More shopping for the rest of us. Kayla knows how to shop, knows what she likes, what suits her. The shoe floor of Saks suits her, and me for her as SALE. I’m an indulgent Nana, no doubt, but a 16-year-old only gets Pradas at 50% off. And she does, and they’re adorable. As she’s most always in running shoes, I enjoy seeing her try on stacked heels, pretty flats. And I find the red shoes I was after.

Success!

I’ll add the girl hauls all the bags without complaint. She is designated Sherpa. I also notice how her confidence in the city grows every day. At first she sticks to me or Laura or Kat basically hip-to-hip. But as time goes on, and I explain every day the grid that’s midtown, she eases up, remembers which direction to go.

I also notice, proudly, how polite and engaging she is with hotel staff, with store clerks, waitstaff. Never fails to thank them, to make eye contact, to smile. To make a little conversation.

Good girl.

It’s room service again, and that’s fine. We’ve walked our feet off. And as the puzzle’s complete, Kat decides we need another, and takes herself off to get one–and finds more happy mama clothes on the way.

I love the way pregnant Kat looks, how she dresses that gorgeous bump!

Time to eat–do a little puzzle, and Kayla wants to play Hearts. Kat is a novice, so we walk her through it. I win, again. Ha ha. Then we drag ourselves off to bed.

Second puzzle under way. Photo by LMR

Kayla opts to sleep in on Friday while Laura and I do our workouts. Then, after breakfast (the size 0 can eat!) Kayla and I head over to pick out sunglasses. I approve her pick, and really didn’t intend to get another pair for myself. But fun and cute, and since I pop on sunglasses every time I step outside, justified.

She’s made an appointment for a facial at Saks, so we head over there to meet up with Laura. Lots of scent on the second floor, and since it doesn’t hit pregnant Kat well she takes a day of rest.

Did you know Lancome does customized foundation? Neither did I. I’d decided it was time to switch up my makeup and skincare–it gets tired after a few years. So the Lancome ladies hit me at a good time. Laura, the makeup queen, gets her own custom foundation. It’s so cool to watch the science of it and the little machine that mixes it.

Kayla loves the facial, gets her makeup done. We now, between the two of us, own enough new makeup for a dance troupe.

The girl wants a wallet, and I promised Colt an Ugg blanket like his siblings have. So it’s uptown for the two of us where Kayla–who admired my Ugg sneakers (they weigh nothing and are super comfortable) finds then in light pink. I find some great sandals, also really comfortable, she gets some short boots, some slippers. No wallet, but there’s a Coach right there.

Sale!!! 1/2 price sale! She finds a pretty and practical wallet, a couple of the little cross-body purses (all she’ll use) and I end up buying a pink purse. I don’t have a pink purse, so now I do.

Haul it all back.

Clare’s going with us to the theater, staying the night with us. We’ve decided on an early dinner–pizza delivery–as we have an eight o’clock curtain for Mean Girls. Really good pizza, and after Kayla gives Kat some makeup advice as Kat plays with some of her new girl toys. Kat pays her back with another adorable braid.

We leave in plenty of time to walk across town to the theater and settle into our seats.

Nearly showtime. Photo by LMR

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many shows on Broadway, and happy enough to have taken my girl to several. Mean Girls ranks really, really high. It’s such fun, it’s so bright, so pretty. The voices are amazing, the choreography just freaking fabulous.

Tiny Fey is a genius, a comedy-writing genius. She’s translated her terrific screenplay (just love the movie) into an equally terrific book for the stage.

We’re all completely happy during and after. Just a great show if you have the opportunity to see it.

After, Kat heads back, and Laura, Clare and I fulfill our promise to face Times Square on a Friday night so Kayla can hit her very favorite store in the universe of stores: American Eagle.

She simply won’t consider non-AE jeans. And they do fit her perfectly. So I’m shopping in Times Square at eleven at night–a new experience for me. AE has three, count them three, floors. We do them all, and she hauls back the bags. It’s an absolutely gorgeous night in the city, and the walk–once through the madness of Times Square–just a delight.

Spires of St. Pats on Friday night. Photo by LMR

Kat’s still up, so we hang and talk until nearly one in the morning.

A little later start, understandably, on Saturday. I squeeze in a workout, clean up, find a few puzzle pieces.  Since we’re heading downtown, and separating, Kat draws Kayla and me a little map. I’m not as familiar with the downtown streets and stores. We cab down, Kayla and I get out to hit the downtown Lululemon first, and Kat and Laura cab on to the yarn store.

We strike gold for the tiny size in the downtown store, and she stocks up on running shorts, sports bras, leggings. I cave and get some leggings and capris myself.

Saturday, downtown. Photo by NR

Using Kat’s clever map, we find Alex and Ani–another wish. The girl loves to stack little bracelets, and we find one with a K charm. Text our yarn-seeking companions to let them know we’re heading toward Lombardi’s, our lunch destination.

Pizza, fun girls, a glass of wine. Ah.

Uber back, organize a little, and Kat heads off to buy a sketch book. She’s designing the baby blanket she’s going to make out of the pretty pale blue, dark blue yarn she scored. Did you catch that? She’s designing the blanket.

Clare’s coming back for dinner, which is room service again.

We hang out, Kat sketches, we play puzzle and finish number two. Eat, talk poor Clare into learning Hearts. Kayla won this time (beat me by two points!)

Then everybody but mama-to-be, who isn’t allowed, heads up to the hot tub. Gorgeous night, fun, relaxing interlude. Time to hug Clare goodbye.

I take a look at Kat’s sketch, and OMG! She’s done a dragon with Celtic knots around it, and it’s gorgeous. At the corners she has circles and is going to pick animals that represent the grandparents. Her mom, her dad, BW and me. So clever, so unique. It’s going to be an heirloom.

Tumble into bed.

Up to pack, squeeze in a workout, shower, dress, pack more, organize and condense shopping bags. Start a Mom check on the suite. Say goodbye to Laura–drive safe! Another Mom check, bag count–remind Kayla to look under her bed, just in case. A final Mom check (I’m obsessive here).

Call for bellmen (plural!) say goodbye to Kat as she’ll be heading to the garage. Check out. Brent and his limo arrive exactly on time, so it’s load it up, and time to say goodbye to New York. The city treated us very, very well.

And it’s been wonderful, all that female energy for a few days with girls you love.

Kayla talks running on the way home. Training, meets, coaches, meets, her teammates, meets, her goals. It’s so rewarding to see her passion and her determination for something she’s so good at, something she loves.

Then I have to say goodbye to my best girl, and hope she’s as loaded with fun and happy memories as shopping bags. I know I am.

She really makes me proud.

Nora

Note from Laura

* Our Empire State Building trip was perfect.  We walked 16 blocks at a face pace around 9 am. took the elevator to the 86th floor, then another elevator to the 102 floor.

View from Empire State building. Photo by LMR

After souvenirs for her mom and brothers, Kayla and I decided to set the stopwatch and see how fast it took to get back.  We did agree with a pause in the stopwatch to take a photo in front of the NY Public Library.

A girl and a lion. Photo by LMR
We made it back to the hotel in 16:24 for Kayla, 16:30 for me.  Nora and Kat were highly impressed by how short and efficient our trip went.

Happy (Early) Birthday, Mama-To-Be

Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.

And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!

The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.

Festive! Photo by LMR
Surprise! Nora and Kat with Dawn. Photo by LMR
Nora, the Saks team and the guest of honor. Photo by LMR
Laura, Nora, Kat, Mary and Sarah.

A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.

Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.

And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.

Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.

Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.

Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR

A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!

After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!

Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.

For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.

More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!

Time for a workout!

A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.

Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR

Peony closeup. Photo by LMR
And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.
Water feature, in bloom. Photo by LMR

A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.

Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.

And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature.  I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed.  Enjoy!

The First Saturday in May

There’s nothing like Derby, and we’re so fortunate to go every year. The experience continues to be amazing, entertaining, special and just plain fun.

Kat and Jason joined us this year (baby’s first Derby!) as we flew out Thursday morning. For an added treat, two long-time pals planned to attend this year, and though the generosity of our fabulous hosts and spectacular coordinators, the York sisters, were included in some of our fun.

We touched down after some showers to a pretty day, happily met by our Derby pals, Kathy our usual host and Brian our cop. Family reunion! Time to transfer luggage and people into the cars and head off for lunch. Kathy, Kat and I catch up along the drive. We’re not going to have our Kathy all weekend this time as her son’s being promoted to Captain (US Army) and his pinning ceremony’s on Friday. We have to fit a lot of Kathy into a short amount of time.

Good food, good company, and it’s off to the hotel to visit with Kathy a little more, to unpack. Then Kathy’s off for her eight-hour drive–good mom–and our Kat (mom-to-be) takes a little nap.

It’s Club Night, and time dude it up a little. And here come Isabel and Stephen! Our schedules haven’t meshed in way too long, so this is really special treat. Isabel was my fantabulous editor for most of my run at Silhouette. It’s so good to see them, and as they’re Derby virgins, to introduce them to the whole experience.

They’ve had a few days in the area already, done bourbon tours, visited the backside at the Downs, soaked up plenty of barbecue, so they’re primed.

Club Night brings us all together with our Derby family. It’s great to see familiar faces, do more catching up. And in a venue like the Frazier Museum, it’s a terrific kick-off. We’ve got food, drink, music, poker–and best of all friends.

And a totally cool exhibit. The museum’s showcasing Mona Bismark. Who’s that? you say. So did I. She was a famous local socialite, fashion queen and much photographed beauty (with pals like Salvador Dali) who reigned for decades. We get to see samples of her wardrobe from the 40s to 70s, and it’s amazing. The photographs, the handwritten letters to and from her, the collection of shoes! All of it. Gorgeous gowns, sleek suits, all showing the fascinating changes in fashion.

My favorite, hand down? Cocktail pajamas! This is a fashion statement I can get behind all the way. Mona, with this one concept, you are my hero.

Cocktail pajamas. Photo by Isabel
Description of pjs Photo by Isabel.

We eat, drink, mix, mingle, enjoy. And it’s a lovely night, walk the four or five blocks back to our hotel. Which gave us a chance to admire the biggest Louisville Slugger in the world.

#randomkatness Louisville style. Photo by kat

Fall into bed. Friday’s going to be a long one.

And it’s a gorgeous day. The guys, in Brian’s care, are headed to the Oaks and sporting pink. We girls, with Ann as our host, are off for nails at the best nail salon anywhere, imo, City Nails. As you can see, our pedis are magnificent!

Stephen, BW and Jason sport pink accents for Oaks Day. Photo by BW
Pedi-ready for the Gala. Photo by NR

After getting ourselves buffed and polished, it’s time for lunch. Ann makes it easy, hauling us around Louisville. Isabel and I split a grilled cheese sandwich. It should have a loftier name as it’s warm, melty brie inside toasted sour dough. I will never looked at a grilled cheese the same again. Match that with a bowl of thick, herby tomato soup, add a mimosa? Oh boy.

Our adorable waiter brought up a little sample of the Lily signature drink (Fillies for the Lilies today). When we told him Kat was pregnant (and I’d take her sample!) he went back and made her a non-alcoholic version.

Then it’s off to Rode’s to meet up with Beth and the team for some shopping. Always so much fun! And they’ve hunted up some very cool shoes for BW’s size 14 feet. It’s tradition for Father’s Day. BW gets a pair of very cool shoes, and our gal at Rode’s really came through.

I buy two scarves because they’re gorgeous, a really snappy hoodie, an excellent linen sheath dress and well, more.

Now it’s back to the hotel to meet up with Sarah who’ll make our hair look fabulous for the gala. And boy, does she.

The guys come back from their day at The Oaks. I think my pick for the big race, My Miss Lily (a gray) came in dead last. Oh well.

Now it’s seriously dude it up time for the Unbridled Eve gala.

I believe we pulled this off very well.

UnBridled Eve Gala ready (l-r) Stephen, Isabel, BW, Nora, Jason & Kat. Photo by BW’s camera.
Nora and BW on the red carpet. Photo by j a-b

Down to check in, hit the red carpet. Spot another Derby pal, and as we chat she points out she’s bringing a little something extra this year. She’s got a very sweet baby bump. I tell her Kat’s expecting, too, ask when she’s due. October. So’s Kat. I call Kat over, ask what day in October. 15th. Kat’s due the 17th! A sweet moment of serendipity.

This is Unbridled’s big night, full of music, color, stunning tablescapes. They have a couple of live auctions through the evening, and a silent one that runs all through. The proceeds benefit excellent causes, Blessings In A Backpack and The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation. It’s all about the kids, so bid generously!

I do! I have my handy phone app for the night, scout out the offerings–so much generously donated!–pick my targets.

Move through the crowd and into the ballroom. I buy a table every year (excellent causes) so we have our six, our Ann, and the fabulous Mike Mills (R.E.M) who we know from Derbys past. The music’s already rocking with The Crashers, a hot local band who performs every year at the event.

The gorgeous table decorations. Photo by j a-b

The entertainment’s seriously loaded this year–and one of the highlights is a set headed by Dennis Quaid. The man who played Jerry Lee Lewis can really rock it out. And the man who uttered one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies (The Big Easy–Your luck’s about to change, cher.) really gets the crowd moving.

Dennis Quaid, rocker. Photo by BW

Another highlight is John Rzeznik–Goo Goo Dolls lead singer, and his set. Wowzer! Then he auctions off the guitar he played. Nice.

Yet another highlight in an evening full of them is the big live auction. It includes a catered dinner by Paul Sorvino and his wife–known for the culinary skills–10 tickets to next year’s Oaks, 10 for the Derby–in the Jockey Suite at the Downs. This is big stuff.

The bidding’s pretty lively, and begins to top off at about 30k. You’re to hold up the lighted number of your table to bid. Toward the end, Stephen asks Jason to pass it to him. Honestly, I thought he just wanted to see it. But no, up it goes. And Stephen wins the bid! Obviously we’ve done an excellent job introducing them to Derby. And we’ll see them here next year!

I do my own (much smaller) part with the silent auction, and bag my Baubles, Beatles and Baccarat. Perfect. Lovely diamond hoops, a framed, backed on wood, picture of the Abbey Road cover (a fave), and six gorgeous Baccarat champagne flutes.

We have to hit the photo booth for fun, drag Mike and Ann along with us. Can’t wait to see how our shots turn out.

We’re done–and tomorrow’s Derby. My only regret of the weekend is hearing Quaid came back late and hit the dance floor with the crowd. Really sorry I missed that.

Derby Day. Rain. The weather guy insists the worst will miss us and it’s going to clear by midday. Glad I didn’t bet on him! It will be the wettest Derby in Derby history before it’s done, but we don’t let that dampen our experience.

Set for the Derby. Photo by BW
Baby’s first Derby day. Photo by BW
Ready for Derby! Photo by BW

And, again, we look fabulous!

Another red carpet, and up we go to Millionaire’s Row. We get there before the third race–we want as much of the day as we can pack in. And I walk straight out to the terrace to take it in. It may be gray and gloomy, but the track is just stunning, as always. The richness of the dirt, the brilliance of the grass, the beauty of the twin spires, none of it ever loses its magic for me.

photo by j a-b

Back in to greet our traditional server. When Amy sees Kat’s pregnant, she vows to take extra special care of her. And she does.

Pick a horse, bet, win. Yay.

Our little group huddles with our programs, picking horses by our own methods. Names, colors, jockey or trainers–whatever works. And as Jason points out: They’re horses, so who knows?

Kat’s hat at the Derby. Photo by NR
Family shot at the Derby. Photo by BW
Tonya York Dees and Nora. Photo by BW.

I actually do reasonably well through the day–hit a couple good ones.

It’s even more fun when pals join us. Here’s Anita and Cate–and don’t they look great? Here’s Robert Williamson. There’s James–in his tie of real rosebuds, and his ridiculously beautiful wife, Lisa.

And on and on.

But now it’s coming up to time for the big one. I’ve gone with Mendelssohn — he’s got an Irish trainer and being hyped. Not the favorite, that’s Justify, but I think a good pick. Figure out a few more to put some money on, figure out how to box the favorite with a couple, pick out horses I’ll bet for the grandkids.

Now the excitement’s building and building. The track is beyond muddy–it’s going to be a sloppy ride.

Bets placed, terrace packed as they play My Old Kentucky Home. It always tugs at the heart. They’re in the gate, and the noise is amazing. But as they leap out of the gate, that amazing noise rises more, a wall of cheers for those stunning horses and their riders.

It seems my colt got bumped right out of the gate–and I can see he’s not likely to make up the ground. Doesn’t matter, because wow, they’re so beyond beautiful, so strong, so fast. Justify has this, you can see it even by the first turn. He’s just magnificent. I do catch that the horses I picked for two of the kids are really moving. (And I boxed one of them for me with Justified, made yet another bet for myself on one of them.

Then I lose all of that as they come around the final turn. The mud’s flying so horses and riders are coated with it. But those horses, they fly, too. Down the backstretch, and that thunder joins the cheers.

Two minutes, two astounding minutes.

Justify takes it. Kayla’s horse comes in second, Colt’s third. (Sorry, Logan.) 

Justify, the cleanest horse in the race, wins the Derby. Photo by BW

We stay for the last two races. Say goodbye to our Derby family, Head out in the insistent rain to have a late (for us country folk) room service dinner.

Then it’s goodbye to Isabel and Stephen–knowing our schedules will mesh for at least this first Saturday in May next year.

Up in the morning to pack, organize–we leave with much more than we came with–head down to Kathy and Brian. Gorgeous day, of course. Hugs by the plane, a last picture.

Farewell shot with Derby family — Kathy (center) and Brian, next to BW.

Our pilot warns us we could hit some weather in Hagerstown. It’s the same damn system that hit Louisville the day before. I’m a poor flyer anyway, but I tell myself to suck it up. We’re only in the air for an hour.

Our luck holds–and a lot of that luck is due to Jac and Joe in the cockpit. How they skimmed us through the two systems and kept us clear and smooth, I’ll never know. But we land in rainy Hagerstown
without me having to use the power of my mind to keep us safe.

Now it’s bye to my babies. (All three!) And home to happy dogs and a garden that’s already popping.

Another wonderful three days in Louisville with its color, its warm hospitality, its really good food and the best two minutes in sports.

See you next May!

Nora

YAY!

I had my wonderful week at the spa with my girls, crowned my pal of a half century (Jesus, Jo, how did we get this old???) Queen of the Drunken Spa Girls Tournament. Driving south toward home, I saw redbuds blooming, trees greening. At last.
 
I’m getting myself a brand new grandboy this fall. And our Kat looks wonderful. To celebrate the It’s a Boy part (just learned at the spa) I found a set of Marvel Super Hero onesies. About as cute as it gets!
 
Derby’s coming right up–first Saturday in May. More fun times, and since Kat and Jason are coming with us this year, I get to see that sweet baby bump again.
 
AND……I finally, finally, finally, got my hand in the dirt. There they stayed, all day.
 
BW and I hit the garden center first thing Saturday morning. Oh, all that color, the scents, the shapes, the textures. It’s such a happy place. We, as usual, filled the bed of the truck.
Ready, set, go! Photo by Nora
Back home with all that potential to the setting out, stepping back, studying, shifting. I had scores of Black-Eyed Susans to dig up and transplant. It may be our state flower, may be cheerful, easy to grow, and great for cutting, but it misbehaves. It likes to volunteer–great–and plant itself in the front of the beds–not so great. So I spent some time giving lots of volunteers new spots.
 
We had a perfect day–sunny, then cloudy, then sunny–not too hot, not too cool–to spend outdoors with flowers. And we spent every minute of it.
 
Now the beds look happy–and those nasturtium seeds Laura gave me and I got in before the spa are just starting to poke through. 
 
I changed a few things this year, moved my herb bed a bit. Those Susie’s had started to take over there. Rather than move all of them, I decided to let them have that space, moved the herbs to an open spot. My French lavender didn’t come back this year, so okay, let’s try something else. Fun, fun to see what works, how it looks, to see the progress of reliable perennials planted in previous years, and what might compliment them best.

Herbs in their new home. Photo by Nora,

 
Cleaned, cleared and planted. Photo by Nora

Got some pots done, too. It’s always fun to sit, figure what should go with what in a mixed pot.

 

Pots! Photo by Nora

Coleus of all colors. Photo by Nora
After a full day, we had a handful of mixed annuals left–and several pots yet to fill. So I’ll make another trip–such a hardship!–hit the nursery after Derby and get enough to finish up. Or if I get everything on my plate done today, I might see if I can squeeze it in.
Nearly done. Photo by Nora
Pretty full plate, though, as I didn’t spend a single minute on the inside of the house, or the four tubs of books waiting to be signed, or organizing outfits for Derby time.
 
So, we’ll see. Either way, after workout, tidying up, organizing, I’m going to wander around and admire all our hard work.
Peaceful sitting area. Photo by Nora

 
It’s spring. At last.
 
Nora

Spaaa-tica: A new Queen ascends

and her name is not Laura (though I appreciate everyone’s belief in me).

When last we met, I’d won a round of Just Dance.  I added my sticker to the board (an homage to the nascent dark side) and otherwise turned my back on the Stupid(ish) Scoreboard.

Ignoring the grid turned out to be pretty easy since we had so many wonderful, non-competition distractions.  As mentioned in the past, we all pretty much go our separate ways during the days. Saturday morning, JoAnne, Jeannette and Mary planned to lunch at the casino on the property.   Just before 2 pm, JoAnne texted that Jeannette won big on the $5 slots. Much happy dancing from Nora — along with the strict instructions to come back NOW!

They stayed and won a bit more but the news and excitement spread among us quickly.

Then Kat arrived with her magic fascinator and her thrilling news. (We knew she was pregnant, but waited until the first trimester was cleared to share.)  If all goes according to schedule, Nana will share a birth month with the baby.   As for names, everyone in the room had opinions. For some reason my suggestions of Cornelius or Aloysius were not welcomed with open arms.

Kat and Jason have plenty of time to decide, and in all probability we’ll only share the name when the Young Master arrives.

After painting on Sunday night, we had to get a couple more rounds of games on the record to help Kat and me catch up and to accommodate Pat’s early departure.  Later, we realized that departure was not because of another trip but to flee the scoreboard results (they don’t lie).

Scrabble is either the apex or the nadir of the competition — depending on where you sit by Kat or Elaine or your particular talent in pulling all consonants or all vowels.  I placed a respectable third in my first round and happily retired from the field.

In the end, it came down to Elaine and Kat  (did anyone doubt this?).  They played a Monday night death match semifinal  with Nicole and JoAnne that lasted forever (ok maybe 2 hours).  Since Kat left Tuesday they decided to rest their brains overnight and play the final match on Tuesday morning.

To summarize: Kat played well ahead until — and we can blame pregnancy brain — she left herself wide open for Elaine to put EQUIP on a triple word with triple letter for Q.  While she played valiantly, Kat couldn’t overcome that and Elaine took the Scrabble prize.

The final board. Photo by Mary B.

Tuesday night, Elaine — defending champion btw — faced Sarah in Just Dance and JoAnne in bowling.

Their faces say everything about the dancing — plus Nora just danced for the heck of it.

In the best of three, Elaine barely squeaked by.

Nicole and JoAnne follow the dance. Photo by LMR

After dinner, Elaine and Jo started the final round of bowling.  Remember, friends, that Jo and I have shared Biggest Loser through the years.  This year, she won the wild card round (through bowling) and made the finals in bowling.

Sorry gang, this was my only action shot. Phot by LMR

Elaine was ahead through nine frames and it looked like we’d have an early coronation, but JoAnne bowled four strikes in a row to take that prize!

What to do?  Elaine and JoAnne each had two wins, but there’s only one crown (and necklace that was the ultimate prize).  I reminded Nora that tiebreakers in the past were the mega bowling on Wii — there are more pins to strike every frame.  All agreed that was the way to name the winner.

Long story very short, JoAnne was on fire and won.  And all was right with the world turned upside down.

Pat, btw, was biggest loser in absentia, but I fixed that with some tape and a tablet.

The Queen and the Biggest Loser. Photo by LMR

After that, we celebrated with Reverse Charades — because how else would one end a week of spa and games?

Thus ends another Spa Girl week.  What did we learn this year?  That the scoreboard is stupid if I let it be.  Ignoring is a smart move on my part (ok, and so is a lot of sarcasm).

Everyone is a winner.  Except Pat this year.

And from Ireland to Pennsylvania, sheep are the theme of my spring.

Sheep! PA version. Photo by LMR
Sheep! Connemara version. Photo by LMR

Laura

Spa-La-La

It’s hard to wait 51 weeks for the best week of the year, but it’s worth it.

It’s strange to hit the end of April, and see a snow fall, but we managed.

Because we’re girls!!

We came in a little scattered this year due to this and that. A group on Wednesday, another couple rolling in on Thursday, then Friday, then Saturday.

And we’ve had nothing but fun.

COLD outside initially, so we missed those morning walks. But Jo and I worked out in our room every morning. She wanted that 10k a day, and got it. In fact yesterday because finally the sun shined and the temps hit mid-60s, we walked. And she hit 20k!! A record.

The score board’s filling up with stickers. The fabulous prizes are thinning out. We’ve had some dark horses* push their way into the next heats, and the usuals hold their own.

I call this “Redhead by Scoreboard.” Photo by LMR

Lots of laughs, lots of wine, lots of chatter. Some shopping, lovely treatments, food none of us had to cook. And just that simple and marvelous community of pals. Pretty perfect.

Last night was our Paint Night, and I have to say I think it was the best yet. Not only for the fun, the everyone’s work became a masterpiece. And they’re all so different. Wonderful, individual visions realized (with more wine).

Empty canvases. Photo by LMR
Finished! Photo by LMR
The Spa Girl gallery. Photo by LMR
Close up. Photo by LMR

We followed that with pizza and salads, and more wine! Then Dancing, Bowling, Trivia, Scrabble!

We have a couple of finals coming up tonight, and what I know will be a vicious second heat of Drunken Scrabble. I suck at Scrabble. Words aren’t a problem, but I have no strategy. I’m always impressed with those who do.

Since we have another warmish, sunny day, I’m going to walk outside again, soak in the moments before the rain returns.

I have a book** to read, pals to hang with, and a deep tissue massage on my afternoon schedule. A really good deal.

There’s nothing, just nothing like girl friends, and this week, with just girls is a treasure.

Though we have allowed a male into our glorious female group this year. And while we’re not entirely sure of his name, he’s been welcomed by all.

For those who asked for a Random Katness, here’s a couple photos Laura took last night.

The best kind of #randomkatness. Photo by LMR
No caption needed. Photo by LMR

It’s a boy!

Obviously, I’m beyond thrilled, already besotted, and as you can see, Kat looks amazing.

Best week ever!

Nora

Yay! Cake! Photo by LMR

* This means Laura.
** Twisted Prey by John Sandford. 

Spaaa-tica

Dear FITS family,

Did you even doubt I’d miss the FUN (!?!) of spa week?  I ended up trading my view of this:

View on Wednesday’s walk. Photo by LMR

and choice of activities like this:

Meet my new friend Sonora. Photo by LMR

For this:

About 24 hours after getting home, I walked into tea time at the spa and stories of the first 48 hours without me.

Nora bestowed a welcome-to-the-spa boon: a competition free first night.  I know the real reason: Kat (the most beloved person in her world) wouldn’t arrive until Saturday so we would do the first round together.   But I’ll take the stay of competition.

Spa flowers. Photo by LMR

(Random flowers to celebrate.)

Saturday dawned busy with a workout, conversation, whiskey in my oatmeal (a thing I saw at Ashford), conversation and treatments.  Kat arrived, bearing with her the hat she made to wear for the Derby in two weeks.

Yes, she made it.  We knew she’s clever, but this hat outdid every expectation.  So much so, I made everyone try it on.

Formal yoga wear. Photo by LMR
Elaine, in a hat. Photo by LMR
Top: Kat, Nicole, Jeannette
Middle: Pat, Mary, Kat in a hat
Bottom: Sarah, Laura, JoAnne

And then. And then.

I WON a round of Just Dance.  And a prize.  The magic of Ireland may carry me through.

Then a round of Scrabble brought me right back to Earth.

Once I conquer the jet lag, I’ll fill you in a bit more. But a good start, don’t you think?

Laura

 

 

A Cranky Publicist note.

Dear FITS family,

I’m sure you all wonder about the truest harbinger of Spring in these parts: Girls Spa Week.  When does it take place? When will all that girl energy flood the posts?

When will Laura have to play games??? (It’s ok to admit that’s what you really want to know.)

The timing is a bit different this year and the fun (is It? Really?) starts this Wednesday. From all reports Nora spent the weekend in the garden and packing.  But what of our lovable 2-time Biggest Loser?

Well, I’ve run away. I put an ocean between us and have been in Ireland since just after Easter.  I’m scheduled to get home Thursday, do a ton of laundry and then join in the fun (definition – noun: enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure. Really????) on Friday. Do you realize how far behind I’ll be?

I went to Donegal for a photo workshop. I visited family in Sligo and Galway. I lifted pints of Smithwicks – more than one. And did the same with Jameson.  Now why would I ever want to leave?

Farnham estates
Donegal sunset
Enniscrone cows

Since I trust you al to keep a secret, I’ll just say that Ashford Castle will be the testing ground . It’s our last stop and considering the FUN (definition – adj:  amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable) activities that await, I may never leave.

Unless I do. Just don’t tell Nora. Ok?

Laura

An Port, Donegal
Donegal sheep
Kylemore Abbey