Category Archives: girl time

Work and Reward

I’ve been working pretty hard since our return from France. I like working hard, so that’s all good. But I like play time with pals, too. I had a great day/evening/night with good girl pals this week on our Try To Make It Annual Girls In Boonsboro trip.

I get into town early enough to take a new class at Fit In Boonsboro with my pal, JoAnne. Grabbed 45 on the elliptical first, then did 45 of boogying cardio after. Got my 90 in, and had fun doing it. That’s some work.

Reward came with lunch and champagne at Vesta with Jo, Laura, Pat, Mary Kay, Mary and Elaine. Good food, good pals, good wine.

Then it’s shopping–lots of opportunities for that in B’Boro. Josie’s On Main first stop geographically.

This mug caught Laura’s eye at Josie’s. Photo by Laura

I found myself a fun Witch Please tank that amused me–and has already been worn for a later workout. Among other things I picked up a few Christmas gifts, then we wandered down Main to Gifts In Boonsboro. Earrings! A gorgeous vase I’ve had my eye on–and a gift for my pal Ruth in Michigan. A just because as the black/white/gray soft as a cloud hand-made afghan said I Am Ruth’s. 

Among the amazing art on display at Gifts– a wedding cake of Savor the Moment pages. Photo by Laura

Onto TTP for more, and whee, they’ve put Stephen King’s new book written with his son Owen aside for me. Can’t wait to dig in.

Reward!

Then on this perfectly gorgeous October afternoon, it’s time to check into the inn, hang out in The Courtyard. More bubbly, yummy snacks, those good pals–and a couple of fun guests. 

The ingredients for a leisurely spell in The Courtyard. Photo by Laura
The very surprised Jane and Michelle. Photo by Laura

And presents for me as my birthday’s coming. Cake, too. That’s a good deal.

I nearly forgot the photo! Photo by Laura

Before the evening ends, the webmaster for our businesses stops by on his way home from a Boy Scout meeting. He has his amazingly adorable son–also Owen. Owen is one of the top popcorn salesmen for the Scouts–and it’s easy to see why when he starts his pitch. My fave is when his dad said he could get the key for the storage place, break in and get the forms. Dad, says Owen, how do you break in with a key?

I bought the 22 pack of microwave Movie Theater (extra butter!). It’s delicious.

A fun day, a quiet night, another morning workout, then mmmm breakfast. I’m not a breakfast eater but it’s hard to resist the offerings at the inn.

All in all a lovely reward.

Then back to work.

Thursday my perfection of a hairdresser comes to do my cut and color, give BW a trim, get Logan’s hair cut before he catches the bus for school. This time Logan has a picture of the cut he wants. Harold makes it so. The result is a seriously happy teenage boy. Handsome, too. 

Logan. Hair by Harold. Photo by Nana.

And back to work. Sticking hard with it to get it off to my agent and editor before I pack for a week in NYC. Another reward.

Flowers come–calla lilies. Every year I give myself the gift of flowers every month. It makes me happy, especially in the winter. 

The calla lilies in bloom. Photo by Nora.

Friday I make red sauce for pasta for Kayla our running girl. She has a meet on Saturday. Logan, however, is done with pasta every Friday and gets to pick the main meal. He wants Grandda’s flank steak, my roasted rosemary potatoes. 

Aforementioned potatoes. Photo by Nora

We make this so. And I get more cake!!

Saturday I pack, or mostly. Workout first, then figuring out what I need for a fall week in the city. And then–reward–I take the DVD of Wonder Woman BW gave me and gorge on it and Owen’s popcorn.

Today, Jason and Kat will be here for a foundation meeting and dinner. BW made extra flank steak with this in mind. I have to make more potatoes, and they went over pretty big on Friday night.

Tomorrow, finish packing–not much there–and start refreshing myself on the Chronicles Of The One trilogy before I start writing the final book.

Work and reward. It’s a nice balance. Reward yourself!

Nora

Postcards from the summer

Good morning all!

The blog laid dormant  for a few weeks as summer (and deadline) caught up with Nora and I took the time to start considering how else to use this space.  The quiet is about to change as  we’re less than a week from Nora’s 2017 travelogue, this time from Cote d’Azur and Provence.

Here’s a quick catch up:

After New York with Logan, Nora planned to finish writing the 2018 hardcover romantic suspense before leaving for the family trip to the spa.   She ended up working 12-14 hours a day for nearly two weeks in order to meet the goal, and she did.  Shelter in Place went off to her editor on a Sunday morning and she left for the spa less than 24 hours later.

(Did you catch the title?)

The entire group did a paint session and BW sent me the results:

Then it was home for a few days and a dip in the In Death waters for the second 2018 book before the TTP 22nd anniversary signing, the Fall into the Story brunch and our trip to The Greenbrier.

( NO TITLE on that In Death yet — it’s barely started.)

The signing was a lot of fun and the authors had a wonderful time.

Brunch, as always, was a delight.  It’s so much fun to have a little more time to chat and share stories than we do at the signings.

I took the annual panorama of the entire group at the end of the brunch.

The next day, we were off to The Greenbrier for a week of work and relaxation.  Oh, and games.*  Nora, Ruth and I arrived first and took a quick, silly selfie to send BW.

We settled in, welcomed Kat and our Sarah, unpacked, got to know our engaging ghosts (the suite was full of excited energy that wasn’t just ours), and then planted ourselves on the private patio. We only left for walks or workouts or food.

Laura, Ruth, Sarah, Nora and Kat
Our staircase
The mirror along the staircase

Ruth and me.

Thursday, Nora and I did a Facebook Live — 40 minutes of conversation, some laughter and a lot of great information.

The week was wonderful. We’ve already booked next year.

Laura

*Yes, you read that right, games.  BUT no scoreboard.  Ruth Langan taught us Euchre and then Nora taught Ruth and me Hearts.  I have no ability to strategize, but I did ok. So, cards are acceptable.  They won’t be part of the Girls Spa trip so there will still be a Stupid Scoreboard.

 

Fun, Family and Females

It turned into a busy week at and away from the keyboard. Away started Thursday when BW and I joined the crowd at Boonsboro High School for the Track and Field Regionals. Our Kayla ran in the 4×800 relay and the 3200.
 
We almost missed her first race as they started a little early AND had the meet going right before school let out. Boonsboro campus includes elementary, middle and high schools. Parking was a challenge with parents and busses waiting for kids, lots loaded with cars for the meet and so on.
 
But we got to the fence and saw our girl running her leg–for a personal best. And the win goes to Boonsboro! It was very exciting becasue the first place won a motorized scooters for children.
Post race
 A little break in the action during a downpour that interrupted my kind of day–hot and sunny. But the sun came back.
 
I love watching these kids, the focus and dedication, the teamwork, the fun along with the work and training. And it’s rewarding to hear the stands cheer and call out encouragement, no matter the team.
 
The 3200–two miles, and that’s eight times around the track–requires endurance, speed and strategy. Our girl has all three, places fourth and qualifies for States. You go, Kayla! The girl’s only a Freshman, finishing her first season as a runner, and she’ll represent her school and her team in States this week. Obviously, Nana is stupid proud.
 
I want to say a little something about the girl who placed first. She is a bullet. I’d seen her run another race and marveled. I don’t remember her name or the school she runs for, but kudos to her. She crossed the finish way, way ahead of the rest. Just sailed.
 
And Boonsboro, both the boys and the girls, win Regionals.
 
Another shortened work day for me on Thursday as it’s Girls Night Out in Boonsboro. It’s always a fun time, and the pretty weather makes it even better. At TTP there’s champagne and snacks, and cupcakes from the soon-to-open new bakery across the street. Mmmm.
 
It’s easy fun, hanging out with girls, doing a little shopping, showing off and signing copies of the Inn BoonsBoro Cookbook–and Kat’s there, too, so even better. This twice-a-year event has become a highlight. I love seeing the groups of women who come together, those who plan well in advance and book rooms at the inn to make it an overnight party. We even had a woman from Australia who’d come to stay at the inn with her husband on their American tour. She’d found out about the event from another guest, and extended her stay so she could come. What fun!
 
Friday’s back to work.
 
And Saturday’s for mostly indoor chores–they sure do accumulate during the work week. But I did carve out some outdoor time for a walk around the garden, to gather some flowers. The weather’s gone cool and cloudy. I have to turn on the heat in the gym to knock the chill off. Jeez.
 
 
Sunday’s a big treat. We drive to Jason’s and Kat’s for dinner. We haven’t been there since they finished their kitchen/great room addition. It’s just fabulous. I have some serious pantry envy. Jason’s made red sauce, and Kat’s made meatballs. Yum. While that’s simmering we walk around their big yard–and watch the deer come to play in the far back of it. We hang out in their gorgeous new kitchen, talk about ideas for how to turn what had been their dining room into a library.
 
And then we make pasta! Or Kat makes the pasta dough, and we take turns running it through the pasta machine. This is ridiculously entertaining.
 
Plus delicious. We have a wonderful meal in their happy, welcoming new space–and take home leftovers. Woo!
 
We can’t stay late as I have a dentist appointment first thing Monday morning, but have a really lovely day. It’s pretty rewarding for a mom to see her kids (they’re both MINE!) so happy as they make such a warm, welcoming home.
 
Monday? I get an A plus on oral hygiene. And still have two tiny cavities. Back in the chair on Wednesday, damn it. I’m not nearly as annoyed by the actual dental work as I am being pulled away from the keyboard in the middle of my work week.
 
Oh well. Better get to work and make up for it.
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

 

2017

It’s here. All new, 365 blank pages waiting to be written–and won’t that be fun?

Around here we ended the book of 2016 with friends and family, cooking and chopping and stirring for our annual New Year’s Day open house feast. For me New Year’s Eve starts early. Time to get those red beans I soaked overnight on the simmer with a ham hock, spices peppers and onions, and let’s add some wine to that water. Eggs to boil for later deviling. Can’t forget that old standard green bean casserole, but lets add some grated cheddar this year. Keep those herbs and spices out for a whole buncha ground round for meatballs.

Laura arrives in time to help roll 151 meatballs–I counted this year–and Sarah and Kayla are close behind. With a kitchen full of helping hands and girl power three dozen eggs are peeled, veggies peeled, chopped, sliced for roasting. Kayla makes brownies for the trifle, and my pop’s bread pudding.

Sarah and Laura at the Waldorf salad chopping portion of the day.

Kay;a on bread pudding duty.

And here are Kat and Jason with more supplies and more helping hands. My men head down to hang the gorgeous new sign by our bridge before they run out to get ice for all the coolers we’ll stock in the morning with soft drinks, beer, wine.

The new sign.

They have manly work to do, and I’m more than happy to be in the kitchen with my girls. There are two big-ass hams to bake, a million more veggies to chop for the crudite–and Kat’s got a design in mind for that. She is Kat, after all.

Champagne for the big girls and ginger ale for Kayla as we work through the afternoon. Chop, chop, chop fruit for a Waldorf salad. Girl pals are the best of the best.

Please keep those dogs out of my kitchen! Especially after we discover Parker has snatched what was left of the now discarded hamhock (that hadn’t quite made it out of the kitchen trash to the outside trash) and is gnawing on it on the living room rug.

After Laura and Sarah–thanks ladies–leave for their own New Year’s Eve celebrations they rest of us finish up. Let’s boil up some pasta and test out those meatballs. Mmmmm!

Hams glazed and done, food stuffed in fridges, with spillover outside–with dogs locked off the deck. And since Kayla’s staying over it’s time for games. A little Wii bowling–I am champ–a lot of Pictionary–BW and I are soundly defeated.

And the ball drops–three, two, one. Happy New Year.

2017 starts early for me, too. Get those hot dishes in the oven to warm, tidy what didn’t get tidy the night before, and soon my girls and boys are pitching in. Dogs banished from the kitchen. Up the stairs for this bowl or platter, down the stairs for this or that. Haul up the little bar, fill those coolers, light the candles.

From Kat’s brilliant mind and hands.

Kat’s crudite is, naturally, a piece of cheerful art.

Food everywhere–on the table, on the counter, the buffet the little server. And before long we have a houseful to enjoy all that labor in a big, noisy, happy celebration. Kids in the pool or game room, football fans in front of the big screen, friends here, there, everywhere. It’s time to spice some shrimp. Always time to open another bottle of champagne.

Lots of hugs, lots of laughs, LOTS of wine and food–a fine, fine way to write that first page on the book of 2017.

By ten the house is quiet. By about ten-fifteen I’m out for the count.

Up early again, but today I pack for a week at the spa. And let me say ahhh. The 31 pages of December, 2016 were written with the busy and the bright, with the happy and the occasional panic, were written with friends, family and a couple of tons of cooking time. I love ending the year with girls in the kitchen, beginning it with a houseful of friends.

The family holiday photo.

And love knowing I’m going to have a week–again with family and friends–where I won’t so much as boil a pot of water and at some point on any given day somebody will rub every kink and knot out of my body. I may write. I will definitely read what someone else sweated over. I expect to come back recharged, ready to hunker down and hibernate and write my way through the rest of the winter. Stories, on the literal page and the symbolic one, are waiting to be written.

I hope you all write happy and well through the year.

Nora

In the Spirit

It’s hard to be otherwise around here, despite breath-taking cold with some ice tossed in. In the middle of a busy, scattered week, we took a little time off for fun, and a new tradition.

BW and I invited the employees of our Boonsboro businesses to a little progressive holiday shopping. It’s a good, happy way to gather other busy people together, make connections, and let everyone see what the other businesses have to offer.

Just add wine and camaraderie.

The crowd at Turn the Page.

From Turn The Page to Gifts Inn Boonsboro, from Gifts to Fit In Boonsboro, and from Fit to the inn. It’s a nice way to give managers and staff a chance to show off their own and socialize.

The Gifts Inn BoonsBoro display.
The Fit In Boonsboro staff.

We ended the evening hosting a dinner for all at Vesta. And boy, did Vesta show off its own.

The Inn, dressed for the season.
The Courtyard at Inn BoonsBoro.

Good times, good people, and an excellent new tradition.

Saturday was for long-standing traditions. Cookie baking at Christmas has been part of our holiday festivities since my boys were just little guys. I have memories of them at every stage from pre-schoolers to teenagers.

Measuring.

We continued on with grandchildren. A big part of my enjoyment this time around was watching Kayla and Logan instruct Colt as I had instructed them. How to measure and stir, how to break an egg. (Nana picks out shells when necessary.)

Cutting.

It’s a full, fun-filled, messy day with happy, calorie-loaded results. Chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, mint blossoms, peanut-butter blossoms, and the traditional finale of painted sugar cookies.

With, naturally, much tasting included.

I see how cooking with Kayla has paid off as she competently puts the snickerdoodle dough together while I clean up behind–and deal with the ovens that have chosen today to go wonky. Just won’t hold the temperature.

Everyone paints the cookies.

Appliance repair, stat! I have a lot of cooking to do the following week.

We cap this tradition off with another–the early Christmas present. One gift, chosen pretty much at random for each kid to help them hold off for the endless week before the big day. Colt gets Legos, Logan a Risk game, Kayla some sweatpants.

And with that along with a big bag of cookies to take home.

And just about that time BW gets a call. Water is pouring out of the door of his studio in town. Uh-oh. Off he goes, so I push up my sleeves and deal with the mess, which is usually his job. Obviously he’s dealing with another mess which could be a lot more trouble than washing dishes and cleaning off counters spotted with cookie paint and sprinkles.

Plus I have time to catch my breath and have a glass of wine before he gets back. Sprinkler system busted, rained down. Water now shut off, mess dealt with and yet another repair coming.

Breath caught, it’s time to clean myself up, do a little prep for another tradition. My girl managers holiday party. A cheerful gathering of smart women’s a fine way to spend an evening. Some wine, some pretty food–and lots of home-made cookies along with easy conversation and plenty of laughs.

Today, after I write this, it’s time to workout. Maybe add a little extra cardio considering cookies. Then BW is off to a football game with Jason and pals.

I intend to do a whole bunch of absolutely nothing. A nothing-filled alone day to recharge the batteries for the rush and spirit of this last week before Christmas.

I wouldn’t mind making that another tradition.

Nora

Weekend Countdown

While I always get an early jump on the holidays, I invariably end up squeezing bunches into the last couple weekends before Christmas.

I don’t mind so much. I have an agenda, and it usually works.

It even works, usually, when life–as is will–tosses out extra stuff. Right now, we’re in the process of redoing the backroom of Vesta, transforming it into more of a loungey, cozy feel with sofas and chairs, board games, new lights. New paint, new art. This means those sofas, chairs, tables, lights, paint colors and so on have to be found, chosen, ordered.

I am a goddess of on-line shopping, and after BW grew frustrated in his search, I took over. About thirty minutes later, in my pjs, I’d outfitted what will be Vesta’s new space. You gotta love when it works. With the furniture ordered, I could get out the paint fan and find the tones and colors to compliment it.

And done.

In addition we found a fun and fabulous surprise when the crew tore off the drywall and plaster so we could expose the old brick. A fireplace! A little dance of joy! We’ll install electric logs–no open flames–scrape and paint one of the old mantels that came out of the building during one of its renovations, and have a terrific focal point.

Under-the-drywall surprise.
Under-the-drywall surprise.

It’s a busy time of year to deal with this, but it’s coming right along. I especially like that my part of it is complete.

Then there are parties and events–a booksigning, a Girls Night Out, a traditional shopping get-away with girl pals, prep and plans to entertain friends and family at home.

Girls shopping trip.
Girls shopping trip — Elaine, Pat, Mary, Nora, Mary Kay and Laura

Decorating. I want the festive around me, and was pleased to be able to schedule this year’s tree trimming when the kids were around.

Then there’s the wrapping. The wrapping. The wrapping. The most excellent Kayla did a big chunk of this for me–and she actually wants to! But I still have what I think of as wrapping marathons on weekends. Today, I hope to have my last of the season. I wrap in The One More Room with schmaltzy Christmas movies on the little TV. I also appreciate the schmaltzy this time of year.

This marathon was on yesterday’s agenda, but one must be flexible. I worked out, baked bread (on the agenda). BW requested pretzel bread, and that takes a bit more time with those extra steps. And he requested tortilla soup, which is fine as it can be put together while the dough rises. BUT, he also found a rack of ribs he’d somehow stuck in TTP’s freezer, and decided they really needed to be cooked. The way I make them requires they marinate overnight in the barbecue sauce I make, so add those to the late afternoon list, and reschedule the wrapping marathon for Sunday.

Pretzel bread.
Pretzel bread — candle and bubbles.

Being flexible means I’ll make herby roasted potatoes to go with the ribs BW will grill tonight–but the upside is between the soup (which was most excellent) and the ribs, I shouldn’t have to cook this week–especially as we have an outside event mid-week that involves pizza.

Maybe I spent six full hours in the kitchen (with schmaltzy Christmas movies on the TV–the pool for them is not shallow)–and I expect to do a schmaltz double feature before the wrapping’s done. But, I see a little window for Absolute Me time today, and I want it.

The work week’s coming right up, and next weekend is cookie baking with the kids–a long, fun, interesting day, and some at-home entertaining.

Then boom, it’s The Solstice, then it’s Christmas, and before you catch your breath, New Year’s.img_1771

So I don’t mind the busy weekends, the long hours in the kitchen or at the wrapping table, writing Christmas cards (done and dusted), the on-line shopping or poking through crowded stores. Because time moves fast, and appreciating, embracing, enjoying the special times–no matter the work–are what make it last, make the memories, bring the joy.img_1770

I hope you find and take those moments with all the rush and work and carve out time to embrace and enjoy the holiday season.

Around here, we got a light dusting of snow overnight–the first of the season. It’s a little icing on the holiday cake.

Nora