Category Archives: girl time

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

October 31

I’ve always had a fondness for the last day of October. I remember the pumpkins my mother carved every year and set out on the porch. The big bowl of candy for Trick or Treaters, getting to dress up and go around our neighborhood begging for candy (and wondering what was up with the house that always gave apples!)
 
When I had kids, as neighbors are few and far between in the country, I held a Halloween party–decorated our lower level with cobwebs, fake blood, fashioned a haunted house maze. As my parents were in the theatrical rental business, we even had a smoke machine.
 
Scare the kids–good times! Good enough I’ve had those grown kids share their spooked memories of those parties.
 
October 31 has other connections for me. It’s the birthday of my late, adored mother-in-law, a woman with the best laugh ever. Big, bawdy, infectious. You couldn’t spend ten minutes in her company and not laugh with her. She loved her family, old movies and coffee, could talk about anything. But when I think of her, I think of that wonderful laugh first.
 
It’s also my parents’ anniversary. They were married 63 years when my father died. Together they built a home–some of that literally as I still remember the day my father took a sledge hammer to a wall when they’d decided to build a sprawling addition to the house–raised five kids, welcomed over twenty grandkids and a scatter of great-grandkids. They built a business together, lived, loved and worked together for more than six decades.
 
So today, on Samhain, the day the veil thins, the day we celebrate the end of harvest, I light candles and think of three people I’m  blessed to have had in my life.
 
Happy Birthday, Sally.
 
Happy Anniversary, Bernie and Sis.
 
The last week of October equaled work week for me–including today–but a week also includes a weekend. Saturday Turn The Page held a signing, and as it was close enough to Halloween, some of us dressed for the occasion. I decided to go as Black Widow–mostly because, hey, easy. All I had to do was buy a Black Widow wig, then pick the appropriate clothes and footware from my own closet. Laura’s costume? A Cranky Publicist pin Kat made her last year. Talk about easy. [I go with my strengths, Laura]20160209_143924-2
 
BW dressed as a mechanic he called Vern. Also easy as he had the coveralls, the gimme cap, the shop rag, and fireplace ash to smear up his face.
 
The winner here, and it should be no surprise: Our Kat as Wonder Woman. No wig needed–she already had the super hero hair–and the costume? Awesome. When she left here early Saturday morning for TTP–wearing just that awesome and scanty costume, the temperature was still nippy. I might have been dressed as Black Widow, but under it, still a mom.
 
You need a jacket, I say.
 
But . . . I’m Wonder Woman. And out she went, hopefully into her heated invisible jet.20161029_105340
 
A fun, happy signing.
 
Sunday I finished up some on-line shopping, and now have just bits and pieces, stocking stuffers and the like to deal with. And since Kayla’s already on board to help with wrapping, I’m feeling pretty smug about the holidays.
 
img_1750Got a solid workout in as the only thing I exercised on Saturday was my signing hand–wandered outside in the spectacular gift of the summer in October day to cut flowers still happily blooming. BW harvested our little crop of potatoes. Sweet! We planted them late this year, so yes, little crop, but for me, adorable and satisfying.img_1746
 
So I made potato and ham soup–not using our crop, as I’ll save them for this new pumpkin dinner I have for the kids. With all the weekend chores complete, I sat down with a set of galleys.
 img_1747
I whined a little about having yet another set of galleys to proof over post-signing champagne and pizza. Cranky Publicist pointed out I had no business whining. I wrote the damn books, didn’t I? 
 
Cranky Publicist is annoying when she has a point.  [Note to self: mark the day in ther record book and hunt up smug emoji. ~L]
 
Tonight Boonsboro has it’s Trick Or Treat night. Businesses stay open late, hand out candy to the swarms of spooks and faeries and all the rest. This year Kayla won’t be part of the swarm but part of the handing out at the bookstore.
 
Time flies.
 
It might be fun to become Black Widow again, go into town, see that swarm, but I’ve got a full workday ahead–and galleys to proof, books to sign in the evening. I have a feeling I’ll be home in my pjs.
 
Maybe somebody’ll bring me some candy.
Nora

October Blur

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.img_1735
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.

Awww!

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.20161022_124758

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.

20161022_144651
Nora, Mary Kay, Elaine, Mary and Pat

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!img_1736

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.

Bread on a Sunday. Photo by Kayla.
Bread on a Sunday. Photo by Kayla.

img_1744

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.

Fall flowers from the garden. Photo by Kayla.
Fall flowers from the garden. Photo by Kayla.

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!

Nora

Girl Rites and Rituals

This weekend a friend of mine married the woman she loves. The wedding, held in their hometown of Philadelphia, culminated the wonderful weeks and months of planning, of excitement, of hope–and began a marriage. For various reasons, BW and I couldn’t make the trip, but were able to enjoy the day in posted photos thanks to the brides and several mutual friends.

I love weddings, the romance of them, the symbolism, the traditions. Flowers and music, rings and vows–the personal, intimate rite shared with friends and family. I hated to miss this one, but got my share of awww moments through those pictures. My favorite shows the brides, one in her lovely white gown, the other resplendent in her police uniform, standing face-to-face, hands holding each other’s arms. And the look in their eyes–love, happiness, promise. Finding Happiness can be easily done you just have to do the right thing.

It’s those moments–those snapshots–that push tears into my throat. Every single time.

Marriage is a leap of faith, and there’s something truly beautiful in that. Of course a rocking reception after the sweetness and sweep of the ceremony doesn’t hurt a thing. The newlyweds had one (I saw videos!).

And did a little happy dance of my own.

I spent my friend’s wedding day prepping for another ritual, for another friend.

My friend (and fellow spa girl) will be married at the end of the month. It’s delightful to me that one pal begins the transitional month of October as a bride, and another will end October as one. Sweet and sentimental bookends, two leaps of faith, two fun and festive rounds of tradition.

Another tradition I’m big on is The Bridal Shower. I’ve thrown several in my time, and enjoy it a great deal. Girls of all ages gathered together to celebrate a friend’s, a daughter’s, a sister’s moment. It’s so much about the bride–and it should be.20161002_121510

Champagne, pretty food, flowers, cake, games, gifts! What could be better on a Sunday afternoon? I’m fortunate in my friends, and especially lucky that my friends are friends with each other. We make a pretty happy group of girls.

And on this occasion we fete the bride-to-be by starting off with that champagne, the happy buzz of female voices. Food, more conversation. I had someone take a picture of the spa girls to mark the moment. We’re missing three–Nicole and Jeanette had mom obligations, and Kat’s hiking in Hawaii with her cousin. But they’re here in spirit.

Spa girl reunion
Spa girl reunion

We move onto games. Laura, who hates games, skates out of playing by being time-keeper. [Note from Laura: I’ll bet this comes as a surprise to all.]  No chance of a fabulous prize for her, but there’s always more champagne.

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Elaine, the bride.

Then the gifts. It’s fun watching the guest of honor open her haul, seeing the reactions as the gifts range–as they should for a wedding shower–from the gorgeous to the pretty and practical to the snickering risque. Everyone in the room loves the bride–she’s the center, the hand that joins all of us, friends and family, in this female ritual. It’s memories made–memories brought back as others think of their own ritual, their own leap of faith, or wonder when their time might come.

The bride and her family.
The bride and her family.

It’s a girl thing.

And it isn’t complete without cake. Beautiful, creative, delicious cake. I feel cake, especially one made by Lacy the amazing baker, is an excellent tradition, anywhere, any time.20161002_121520-220161002_151451

Why not have more champagne with that?

A lovely day of rite and ritual, previewing the rites and rituals to come. The flowers and music, the rings and the vows, the promises made to each other witnessed by friends and family. A leap of faith made in the case of my two pals, in a white dress.

Marriage is a series of promises, compromises, joy, annoyance with plenty of thick and thin layered on. It’s snuggles and spats, mutual goals and hopes, and the work that goes into them.

But it starts with a wedding and its rituals. It starts on a day, however the couple has designed it, filled with memories that can and should be lifted out and laughed and sighed over for, well, ever.

And because it starts with that leap of faith, I wish Suz and Jen, Elaine and Enrique, a happy, happy landing.  

Nora

Weekend Fun

The fun followed a pretty solid and satisfying work week. I love when that happens. After the writing and the working out, Logan comes up (after school) for homework and conversation. Kayla is on the cross-country team, and training after school so I don’t get to see as much of my girl. But Logan makes up for it.

On Monday, he sat down to dizzying math, and tells me he currently has a 98% in that (for me) terrifying subject. Then rattles off a series of As across the board. Nana says: Who are you, and what have to done with my Logan? And makes him laugh. Then I ask what inspired him to do so well this year? He says: Last year.

Excellent answer, I tell him. It shows he learns from his mistakes as his grades last year took a dip toward the end.

Then he makes me laugh as he says: I want to be the first of my bloodline to get straight As.

But more than school and math and grades he can be quite the conversationalist, and entertains and impresses me as he brings up subjects from NASA and the space program (He’s taking Aerospace as an elective. Aerospace!) to politics to 9/11 to the Kennedy assassination. The boy’s growing up in front of me, and really fast.

I do get to see Kayla on Friday night when the gang comes up for dinner. Spaghetti’s requested as Kayla’s carb-loading for her first meet on Saturday. That’s fine with all. Young Colt can be a picky eater, but pasta works for him. (As does the chocolate bar when he cleans his plate.)

Our running girl’s nervous about this first meet, afraid she’ll come in last. To which Logan says, in that classic brother tone: Nice positive attitude. When they leave and I hug Kayla goodbye, I tell her to do her best, and just as important, to have fun.

I know she runs at ten Saturday morning, and I’m already in the gym sweating it out. I note the time, send her some good (positive!) vibes. When I come in, panting a little, sweating a lot, BW calls out from his office for me to come see.

Kayla’s mom’s already posted a couple pictures of Kayla at the meet. I send out more vibes, head upstairs. I need caffeine! Minutes later, BW hurries up into the kitchen. Race is done, and Kayla came in 7th out of 80 girls! She places in the top ten in her first meet, gets a ribbon, and oh boy, a big confidence booster.

I’m so happy for her I do a dance–despite the 90-minute workout–as I bring up Facebook on my iPad. And there she is! Running on the last leg–the track–with really good form. And those long, long legs.kayla-running-2 kayla-running

I hit the shower, start my Saturday task of bread baking–we’re out after spaghetti night. As the dough’s rising and I’m fiddling around with little chores, Kayla comes in. Lots of congrats for the very happy girl. And more spaghetti as she’s a hungry girl, too. She hangs awhile, gives me some details of the race. When she’s about to go, I tell her I’m having some of the girls over on Sunday for a clothes swap–and ask if she wants to come. She knows the girls, and does.img_1706

I finish my bread–mmm, smells so good! Go back to fiddling around with basic weekend chores.

My favorite girl over 14 comes up early evening. Kat’s going to be BW’s date at a gala for Doey’s House, a hospice being built in our area, and an organization the foundation supports. Kat runs up to put on her dress. I’m annoyed with myself now for not thinking of taking a picture as BW and Kat look just fabulous–BW in his dark suit and smart shoes (he’ll be a guest bartender) and Kat in her gorgeous, elegantly sexy midnight blue gown.

And I settle down to watch the first disk of the recently arrived full season of The Walking Dead. I don’t watch through the season, but binge on the full with the set of DVDs. Wow! It’s intense and bloody and marvelously written and realized.

It’s an early evening, so there’s time to hang out with Kat when the gala attendees return.

And in the morning, Kat and I hit the gym–and I introduce her to some new (really old) Shaun T workout DVDs. So we sweat and laugh through about an hour–and Kayla shows up, obviously excited to have a girl day. But she leaves us sweating to go up and have breakfast with Grandda.

Later, I think less in a daze from the race and her placement in it, Kayla gives me more details, more feelings. I love how she tells me at the first mile (they ran 3.1) one of her coaches did a kind of double take when he saw her–apparently she doesn’t push too hard in training. And shouted out her time, where she was–15th at that point. And to go, go, go, Kayla. How that pumped her up. How nice everybody was, even if they were with the other teams, offering encouragement on the route. How she felt when she hit that last leg and the track. Tired, she tells me, really tired, and some of the girls took a break to walk. But she said she told herself to keep going, her coaches called out her pace–and one told her only five minutes more.

She said she told herself she could do five minutes more, and added her kick when the coach told her. And with it nearly caught the 6th place girl. She surprised everyone–her coaches, her teammates and herself.

That’s the lesson, I think. You can always do five minutes more if you keep your eyes on the finish line.

Now I have two willing and creative helpers to get set up for the get-together. BW brings up his rolling rack from his studio, and my girls haul down the bags of clothes, then start organizing them while I get my shower. When I come up they’ve already got the bulk done–and I should have known the two of them would come up with a solid system. By the time I help them finish up, the living room looks like a little department store. Kat even stuffs tissue paper in the handbags I’m passing on, arranges her shoes–with Kayla’s suggestions–in a separate area from mine (different sizes).

I’m providing the champagne and wine, the others are bringing food.

Kat, being Kat, decides some of the tops especially need ironing as they’re wrinkled from being shoved in bags. And it’s a good way to teach Kayla how to iron. So we hunt up the iron and board, and I leave them to it. Kat and Kayla have always had such a sweet connection–earlier they’d discussed knitting as Kat was knitting a pair of socks. I think one day Kayla will look back and remember the afternoon Kat taught her to iron.

In they come–all the spa girls but Jeanette whose youngest had a her first (I think first) softball game of the season. Girls bring clothes, too, so they’re sorted out–and I break my vow to take nothing when I see Nicole’s adorable black and white rain jacket. It fits me, and it’s cute. So I allow myself this one little thing.

Here’s the fun, a bunch of girl friends trying on clothes, giving each other the nod–looks great on you–or the thumb’s down–too tight in the shoulders–catching up as some haven’t seen each other since spring. Making piles to take away, heading into the bedroom to strip down–or just doing so in the living room (BW absented himself for the afternoon) and checking out the look in the mirror. Half naked ladies chatting and drinking champagne (except for Kayla!–though she does have a small pile of her own).

The rack’s thinning, as are the displays of shoes and boots and bags. Sarah is rocking my dark blue Weitzman knee boots Kat culled out for her during set-up (as she’d called dibs on them years ago), JoAnne wandering into the kitchen to ask if the bright green pullover looks okay on her. Looks great! Eating pate and KFC and homemade caprese salad. Seeing how Kayla blends right in–and finishes up the spaghetti.

One of our group’s getting married next month, and as traditional, I offer to have her pick her something borrowed out of what’s been termed Nora’s Treasure Box. We have a picture of her dress, so we all have opinions on which earrings and bracelet. I believe, as a group, we chose well.

Nicole has to leave to catch her oldest’s football game, and Kayla takes off to go have dinner with her other grandparents.  Laura will lug whatever’s leftover home for Nicole, bless her, to donate to a local woman’s group. By the time the remaining handful of us gather at the kitchen counter for more wine, the rack’s empty, the artful piles of casual tops, pjs, whatever, gone. No shoes line the hearth or mantle.img_1711

More catching up, more wine–with Laura and Pat mugging with the bottle. Some of Laura’s no-churn homemade ice cream to cap it off. [Note from Laura:  Kayla, my best friend in the under-20 division, made fudgy brownies that went perfectly with the ice cream.]

 

img_1708A fun end to an eventful weekend and an excellent work week.

I capped it off yet again with another couple of Walking Dead episodes.

Now I’ve got a new week to start, and the book to tackle. I’m going to think of Kayla when I feel myself getting tired–with the writing, with my afternoon workout.

I can do five more minutes.  

Nora