And we have video! Oddly, muscle memory goes to crap when you turn from the front of the room to the side to get the video, but I think the class pulled it off. I’m absolutely sure Fit’s members are going to love this addition.
And we have video! Oddly, muscle memory goes to crap when you turn from the front of the room to the side to get the video, but I think the class pulled it off. I’m absolutely sure Fit’s members are going to love this addition.
We’re going to do a little meet and greet over wine and cheese, then a Q&A, then some photos. An easy, fun evening–despite the crap weather. It’s warm and cozy at the inn, so who cares about the ugly, chilly rain spitting outside?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This weekend all the wrapping, planning, prepping, baking come together for the big crescendo.
I started my holiday weekend yesterday by knocking off at noon to get that workout in (likely the last of the weekend!) and baking a couple of sour dough rounds for Christmas dinner with Love, Actually on the kitchen TV.
Now that’s a happy day.
Today I’ll bake Italian bread and lasagna for Christmas Eve with the kids. We’re going to set up a sundae bar for dessert. I suspect they’ll care little–even Kayla at fourteen–about what’s on the plate. It’s all about what’s under the tree, what’s in those bulging stockings.
Santa Bruce buys scratch-off cards for the stockings every year. Hope springs.
I’m looking forward to the untying of ribbons, the ripping of wrapping, the happy faces.
A part of me might miss those late Christmas Eve sessions dealing with the Some-Assembly-Required for little guy Santa gifts, but those are memories in the bank. And Nanas get more sleep!
Tomorrow, it’s my Pop’s pancakes–a long-standing tradition– bacon, sausage, eggs, a pretty bowl of berries and mimosas for Christmas brunch. Then the adults get to empty stockings, untie and rip wrapping.
Then it’s hang-out time, hauling out the trash, doing whatever strikes until dinner. (Gotta marinate that pork loin tonight!)
Lots of food, lots of family, lots of happy.
Before the day begins I’d like to wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, Happy Kwanzaa or whatever celebration you use to mark the season. May your day be all you wish for, and just a little more.
So light the candles, pour some wine (or the libation of your choice) embrace the magic with the wonder of the child in all of us. And grab some moments to bank those memories.
A quick PS from Laura: Thank you to everyone who stops by, comments, commiserates and celebrates with Nora (and me) on a regular basis. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and the happiest, healthiest of New Years.
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.
We ended the evening hosting a dinner for all at Vesta. And boy, did Vesta show off its own.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
It’s been a fast, colorful month so far–and it’s nearly over!
Every October, we spend a week in New York, and this year the city gifted us with perfect weather start to finish. In tune with the fast pace, we tend to cram a lot into that week. Shopping hits top of my list. And yes, I’m now all but finished my holiday shopping.
Country mouse goes city mouse to spend urban time with friends and family–heading up with BW and Jason, meeting up with Laura, rounding it out when our pal Sarah arrives to spend a couple days and our adventurous Kat flies in from a hiking trip with some of her adventurous family in Hawaii.
The gorgeous weather also provided a pretty amazing backdrop for the party with my new publisher. The rooftop and its amazing views ticked the box of most popular spot for the evening. Fun food, lots of wine, engaging company and a sunset worthy of Spielburg added up to a really lovely evening.
A day with the girls–including my editor and agent–(shoes! boots!) rounded out with a happy early dinner and the energetic, marvelous, ridiculously entertaining School Of Rock on Broadway.
Lots of urban hiking, uptown, downtown, midtown, scoring those holiday gifts (plus shoes! boots!), spending time with some of my favorite people. Yeah, a most excellent week.
Back home to the current chaos of a first draft which meant ignoring the chaos of my house. Boxes and bags, deliveries of more. Middle school math–and thank God Logan understands it as I don’t and never will.
The end of the marking period means a day off school. Kayla scared the life out of me by poking into the gym while my entire focus centered on sweating through cardio. I don’t see my girl as much as she’s running Cross-Country, so this is a treat. Once I finish the sweating.
She promises to come back Sunday to help me clear out the chaos.
Because Saturday is a most special day. My long-time friend’s wedding.
It’s a blustery day full of fall color. Inside the venue the warmth, the love, the happy glow just as much as the bride. She’s beautiful, and the handsome groom nearly as radiant. Those attending reflect the happy. The bride’s niece tells me while she did the bride’s hair and makeup that morning, the groom wandered around the house singing–and peeked in from time to time to tell his lady how beautiful she is.
The big day feels like the couple it celebrates–the warm and loving and the sweet. We have time to mingle and bask before heading out to a patio for the ceremony. The prettiest of pretty flower girls, a lovely, simple arbor where the obviously (really obviously!) adoring groom waits, the lovely happy bride walks to him.
A sweet, simple, heartfelt ceremony where the bride drips happy tears. And the groom brushes them from her cheeks with his fingers. More aww. The groom slips the ring (given to her mother by her late father) on the bride’s finger. And the kiss.
Some people are meant to find each other as just the right times in their lives.
That’s the feeling that carries through the day of as simply perfect a wedding I’ve been privileged to attend.
The best of best wishes to Elaine and Enrique.
That leaves me Sunday–and this time Kayla scares the life out of me as she slips in after my workout and the start of chaos clearing. She needs a snack! The kid’s running those calories off with training and meets. While she eats, I harvest the rest of my basil. Bumper crop!
Then she helps me haul, hang, organize. And for the first time in a week, the house looks like a house instead of a storage bin stocked by a crazy woman.
Since fall’s definitely arrived it’s a good day to make soup, and I love my favorite teenager wants to just hang out with Nana. Soup needs bread in my world. No time for anything but a quick one, so I get a can of beer and whip up some beer bread.
It’s still warm when Kayla, hungry again, has a slice with a bowl of soup. She approves both.
Now there are four tubs of books to sign–it’s nice to have her company while I get that done.
Nobody gives better hugs than my girl, and I’m treated to one before she heads out the door.
Now I’m late getting started on my Monday. It’s rare for a book to keep me up at night, but this one’s done that a few times. So a late start while I try to finish this damn first draft so I can see what the hell’s in this story.
I can’t cross my fingers or I can’t type, but I might just light a candle for a solid, productive work day. And hey, leftover soup means no cooking tonight!
As that wheel turns we’ve already passed the Autumn Equinox, that day of balance, the line before (here in the Northern Hemisphere) dark begins to outweigh light. Maban’s also a time of harvest, so what thrived in the warmth can be gathered and stored for the coming cold.
I started some of my gathering last weekend with oregano from my herb bed. It thrived pretty well for me this year, but I only clipped enough to fill three ice cube trays for now. I wanted to test chopping herbs in the single serve attachment to my Ninja blender. I have a small electric herb grinder, but it’s still sort of a PITA to use. But this! It works, and fast, and so much less mess. No green fingertips for me!
I put the chopped herbs in the trays, fill with water, top off with a little more water once it’s hardened, then break the frozen cubes out, store in a big bag. I’ll easily get at least one more big bag for use in soups and stews all fall and winter.
But today, I think I’ll gather in some of my basil.
I’m seeing leaves start to turn and fall, and woke to some lovely and mysterious morning fog several days last week. I hate saying goodbye to summer, but find something so appealing in the gilding of light in fall, those morning mists, the change as all that gorgeous green takes on a symphony of color.
Still, my quieting garden holds beauty.
It was also Logan Week around here, afternoons of scary (more to me than him) math homework, political discussions–the kid has definite views, ideas, and lots of questions. Conversations and current events. He’s the one who told me Jolie and Pitt broke up, as he was bored on the school bus and checked his news feed.
His news feed.
This week we also discussed the book he’s reading, The Flash, The Avengers (I liked Civil War more than he did), the Kennedy assassination. He wanted to know if I was alive when Kennedy was shot. Sweet, sweet boy! And as he had Social Studies homework, he quizzed me on states and capitals while he finished it. I didn’t do too bad there.
I had some outdoor chores and asked him to come out and give me a hand. One was poop scooping as BW and Jason and another guy pal took a week at the beach. I told Logan I wouldn’t ask him to scoop poop off the pavers, and had another chore in mind. How could I forget he’s 12? And to a 12-year-old boy, poop scooping is a fun time. I happily passed the shovel and watered the pots instead. We filled bird feeders, and he fed the dogs. Then he wanted to cut flowers for the little vase as I’d intended.
He wasn’t very impressed with the handful we brought in–until I put them in the vase. A nice lesson–you can make something really pretty out of very little.
The gang came up for dinner Friday for what’s now the traditional pasta for carb-loading, cross-country-running Kayla. But Logan tells me he’s tired of spaghetti every Friday night. Nana solves this by asking my TTP pal to bring a pizza along with the tubs of books for me to sign. So I have a happy Logan and Colt, and a happy Kayla–who has both pasta and pizza so should be fully loaded for Saturday’s meet. Go, Kayla, go!
So I listen to Logan and his politics, his varied interests, and Kayla with talk of the meet, of her friends, watch Colt play intensely on my iPad while I boil pasta. (And as he does, without even looking up, he says: I love you, Nana, so my heart softens just like the spaghetti.) I watch and listen and see yeah, the wheel turns.
My garden is ready to be harvested after the growing season. The mists roll in, the air cools, and the leaves change. Children grow and add fascinating layers.
The wheel turns whether we’re ready for it or not, and I can lose track when I’m huddled at my keyboard and saturated in a story. I’m going to take some time today to harvest and gather and embrace the change.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
A 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.
Sunday morning means more setting up and setting out, finishing up. By early afternoon, we’re packed with people inside and out–so no, making ten pounds of potato salad wasn’t overkill.
It’s a fine tradition my parents started decades ago, so I think of them a lot while I cook and stir, while I chat with Kat and Laura as they chop and peel, when I glance out the window and see my boy up on the garden wall with a blue tarp and bungie cords.