Category Archives: grandkids

Girls in the City

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

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

And fun we certainly had.

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

Just finished sophomore year. Photo by NR

Selfie as they set out. Photo by NR

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

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

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

Finished first puzzle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe, but hey. I win!

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

Made it by curfew. Photo by LMR

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

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

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

Success!

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

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

Good girl.

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

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

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

Second puzzle under way. Photo by LMR

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Haul it all back.

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

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

 

Nearly showtime. Photo by LMR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, downtown. Photo by NR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tumble into bed.

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

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

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

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

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

She really makes me proud.

Nora

 

Note from Laura

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

View from Empire State building. Photo by LMR

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

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

The First Saturday in May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#randomkatness Louisville style. Photo by kat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe we pulled this off very well.

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

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

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

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

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

The gorgeous table decorations. Photo by j a-b

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

Dennis Quaid, rocker. Photo by BW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, again, we look fabulous!

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

photo by j a-b

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

Pick a horse, bet, win. Yay.

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

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

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

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

And on and on.

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

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

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

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

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

Two minutes, two astounding minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you next May!

Nora

YAY!

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

Herbs in their new home. Photo by Nora,

 
Cleaned, cleared and planted. Photo by Nora

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

 

Pots! Photo by Nora

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

 
It’s spring. At last.
 
Nora

Here Comes The Sun

At last!

The weather reports called for 60s–and heading toward 70 last week.

No.

It stayed stubbornly in the 50s (if it got there at all) except for one brief, fleeting afternoon, dipping down into the 30s at night. And it rained. It rained again. It rained some more.

But this morning, there’s actual sun instead of gloom. A chilly weekend–again–as we roll toward April, but the sun helps.

Meanwhile my tulip magnolia’s starting to get frisky, showing some pink. Wait! I tell it just wait or you’ll get fried again this year. I hope it listens.

Despite the rain, chill, gloom, we had a fine time last weekend dying eggs with the kids. We tried the shaving cream trick this year–next year Cool Whip because yum. This was a big hit with all–so easy, and messy in a totally fun way. If you haven’t seen this trick, there’s nothing to it. Using a glass baking dish, squirt about an inch of shaving cream (not shaving gel) or spoon Cool Whip into it. Smooth it out, drip food coloring–a couple shades–then using a toothpick and draw horizontal then vertical lines through it. You’re going to want plastic gloves, trust me!

 
Roll your hard boiled eggs through the cream, set them aside on some cardboard or whatever. Let them dry about ten minutes, and gently wipe with a paper towel.
 Voila!
We used a couple of dishes for more variety of color. Much pleasure in the results.
Colt, Logan & Kayla
 After egg fun–and kids playing (even teenagers) in the left-over goop–we had family dinner. Jason and Kat came up so a nice gang for our early Easter. My lasagna and garlic bread–I baked Italian bread the day before. A big salad.

Who needs dessert when you have marshmallow Peeps and chocolate?

The weekend before, I braved the outside world to attend the photo exhibit at the inn. A terrific afternoon, so many gorgeous photos of Ireland, and beautifully displayed. Add a little champagne, friendly faces, and it’s a pretty good way to break hibernation.

Congratulations to all the artists! (Especially, of course, BW and Laura.)

David Thackston, Suz Thackston, BW, Fran Byrne and Laura
from left: Laura, Nora, Michelle, JoAnne & Karen
 This weekend, as March slides into April–and happy Ostara, Easter, Passover–I’m going to burrow in yet again, make some soup since the 60s are still a lovely dream.

But first I’m going to work out, and tell my magnolia to hit the snooze button.

Nora

Marching On

It’s nearly the end of my winter hibernation. Though the weather itself wasn’t very pleasing–really cold, ice, rain, freezing rain, sleet, and not much snow to lift the gloom–I spent most of the long stretch inside looking out. And things got done. Pages written, house purged, soups and stews cooked, breads baked.

I don’t ask much more of winter.

The other day BW asked me when I’d last been out of the house (feeding dogs, filling bird feeders don’t count). I dunno. Six or eight weeks. What’s your point?

I’ll end my winter hunker in and down next Sunday for some out-of-the-house fun when I head into town for a photo exhibit at Inn Boonsboro. On March 18th from 1-3, Lush Emerald Fields And Ancient Stones will feature photographic art of Ireland by Fran Byne, Suzanne Hill Thackston–and our own brilliant photographers Bruce Wilder and Laura Reeth. 

If I’m going to venture out after a couple of months, it should be for fun, friends–and beautiful art. Stop by if you’re in the area. See some art, raise a glass.

The exhibit follows a ceili at the inn on Thursday–talk about fun! Food, drink, art and Irish music. Slainte!

For a portion of his winter, BW’s been down in his studio installing his dark room. While he’s embraced digital photography, he still loves film–and now he’s got a good, creative space to work on that part of his art.

BW’s darkroom domain. Photo by BW
For me, I kicked off the last hibernation weekend making family dinner. Well, not all, as BW made his famous flank steak–always a crowd pleaser. I did all the sides, including a last minute addition of spiced shrimp. I think Logan ate a solid pound of it.
Flank steak a la BW. Photo by NR
Logan’s portion of spicy shrimp? Photo by NR
The bread of the garlic. Photo by NR
Roasted herb potatoes. Photo by NR
Carrots a la Nora. Photo by NR

Before you ask: I really don’t post recipes. I’m a how does this look, taste, smell sort of cook, tossing in things as I go. However, the shrimp–and a few other of my dishes–are featured in the really fabulous Inn Boonsboro Cookbook, available exclusively from Turn The Page Bookstore.

This labor of love was produced and edited and created by our amazing Kat. She cooked every dish in her own kitchen–aided by Jason who served as supply chief, and photographed by her brother Adam. There are some fantastic recipes in there (including MY brother’s to-die-for peppermint patties), from friends, relatives, from the inn itself, and our other Boonsboro businesses.

In case that doesn’t tempt you, all the profits from sales of the cookbook go to local food banks. So truly a labor of love serving the community.

Now, since spring forward’s completely messed up my body clock, I’m going to go work out. And maybe make a nice red sauce for my last hibernation Sunday.

Nora

Note from Laura: As I HAVE been out and about the last six to eight weeks (Nora’s completely serious about that btw) I stopped at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro last week to drop off my photos and had to snap this gorgeous corner by the front window.  Manager Natoma Vargason and her creative crew always create displays that capture the season perfectly.
Gifts in BoonsBoro ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo by LMR

Home Alone Adventures

Which is exactly what I don’t want when BW goes on his winter break. What I want is a quiet house, little to no cooking, and hibernation routine.

The first disruption in this planned bliss happened when I had to go back to the dentist because they found a stupid cavity on my regular check up. Still quick and home, get to work and all’s well.

It worked that way for several days. Just me and the dogs. Get up, feed and water dogs. Go to work. Let dogs in because it’s freaking cold, but dogs behave so continue work. Put dogs out at workout time–except for a single digit day where I didn’t have the heart leave them outside for 90 minutes. But they embraced their good fortune and behaved.

Parker’s “I’ll be good!” pose. Photo by NR
Atticus with toys. Photo by NR

Sign books if it’s signing day, and have the wonderful Janeen bring me a salad from Vesta. Feed dogs. Feed self.

And since I have galleys, do galleys in the evening in the quiet.

Put dogs out, let dogs in. Rinse and repeat until bedtime.

This is great!!!

Great for me, and great for BW who’s enjoying the balmy breezes of Hawaii.

Then Tuesday happened. My lane is already an ice rink–which Logan reports on his after-school visit is pretty awful. And he’s pleased because all his teachers said there probably wouldn’t be any school Wednesday. I’m out of the loop–why not? Ice storm coming.

So I check, oh yes indeed. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, starting any minute, and through the morning. With forecasted accumulations of an inch on the ice.

That’s very bad.

I call my weekly housekeeper who comes Wednesday, tell her don’t even try it. It’s already bad, and it’ll be worse. Stay home.

I plan to call my amazing landscaper guy after the storm to have him spread salt or whatever works. No point doing that until after.

We get a little snow, but mostly it’s that freezing rain, and everything’s covered with ice in the morning. And it’s still spitting down. What do I care? I’m going to work right upstairs.

Ice! Photo by NR

Morning routine–with a little nervous in taking out recyclables, but I’m careful. Dogs in, dogs out, work, work. Stop work to call landscaper. Go work out. Cold, gloomy, icy, but I don’t care.

I’m a little amazed to hear my guy out there while I’m sweating in the gym. That was fast.

Fast enough Janeen’s able to bring up books. Sign books. Bye, bye.

Feed dogs, consider feeding self.

And the lights flicker, everything beeps, then goes out.

I’m not initially worried. I have a full-house generator. I wait for few seconds to hear that muffled roar. Instead, I hear a roolf–roolf sort of grinding, and no power.

This is not good.

As this has never happened before, I’m baffled. Am forced to call BW to ask who to call. It’s single digits, and we have no heat, no light, no water, no nothing.

Somehow he finds the number for the people who installed the generator years ago. They’ll send someone within the hour.

Meanwhile Logan and I are texting as their power’s out, too. Normally, I’d have them all come up here in the light and warm, but I have no light and warm.

I stick a mini flashlight in my pocket, get out full-sized ones, light candles, light the gas fireplace. 

Talk to generator guys. Service guy is finishing up another emergency call and will head out.

That grinding worries me a lot. I’m no mechanic but it sounds like something going to burn up or just can’t get going. What to do if we can’t get it fixed and the power doesn’t come back?

Possibly call the inn, see if there are rooms. But that would mean I leave my dogs out in single digits all night. And I’m not entirely sure now that it’s dark, temps dropping, I can get down the lane.

Pace, mull, worry. I can only use my cell, which I’m busy charging with a portable charger, and cell service is iffy here. But the service guy gets though, is on his way.

Maybe we’ll get lucky. I keep Logan and the gang updated. I could send them to the inn if necessary. Just not sure about leaving the dogs out all night so I may need to tough it out.

Meanwhile the smoke alarm and house alarm are beeping constantly as there’s no AC. I have a raging headache by the time the very nice Robert arrives.

The dogs are thrilled! Another human.

He goes down, gets to work. He works quite some time.

And nothing.

Comes back up after this some time, tells me they’re going to try to get me a portable generator as mine’s going to need more work. Apparently it hasn’t been serviced in a decade, was low on oil, etc, etc.

I feel my head explode. This is BW’s job. He has his jobs, I have mine. Why do we have no maintenance contract on an essential tool? I say to Robert, when my husband gets home from Maui, I’m going to beat him with a hammer.

Robert laughs. He doesn’t know I have a hammer and I know how to use it.

He goes out because it’s easier to get cell service outside. I hear him go down, work some again. Then he comes up. They haven’t been able to find a portable for me. He’d tried another fix, but no luck.

They’ll come back in the morning, he’s so sorry.

Not his fault, and he’s been out there in the cold and dark for over two hours.

As we’re talking, the lights come on, everything stops the stupid beeping. I’m afraid the universe is messing with me. I ask Robert. Is the power really back on?

He grins. Oh yeah, you got power.

Such is my state that I say out loud and with extreme joy: Oh, fucking A.

He laughs again.

Text Logan, and yes, they’re back in business. We exchange virtual high fives.

Somewhere around eight-thirty, I finally feed myself.

And when BW calls we have a very unhappy conversation. He’s genuinely and sincerely sorry — but sorry don’t cut it, pal. LOL.

I probably won’t beat him with a hammer–but I’ve already arranged for semi-annual maintenance. This will never happen again.

I have to say through those four stressful hours I thought about the people in Puerto Rico who’ve been without power for months. It makes me sick and sad. I could’ve camped out in here for a night–did it for longer than that before the generator (which is why we have one). I had places I could go if the outage lasted more than a few hours.

For me, this was an inconvenience–fairly serious as it’s cold and there are grandkids and animals to think of. But basically an inconvenience.

And an adventure I could’ve done without.

But things are back to normal. My lane got a second hit of salt–because it’s bad out there. I scrubbed a couple of floors because my housekeeper couldn’t make it here. I found a bucket of ash to throw over the worst of the ice on the way to the trash and the bird feeder–though it’s still pretty dicey.

I’m getting my work done, my workouts in, and my house is nice and quiet.

It’s another gray and gloomy day, but due to that second hit of salt, the flower delivery guy made it up the lane. And I have such pretty, cheerful flowers sent by my editor. Dark In Death hit number one! Yay! 

#1 on the NYT flowers. Photo by NR.
More flowers.

I also have my monthly flowers–when it’s gloomy, flowers bring the light.

I have the fireplace going, candles lit, happy dogs, and I believe I’ll pour myself a glass of wine when I finish this, maybe settle into the quiet with a book. 

Antidote for gloom. Photo by NR

And hope my only adventures are inside those pages.

Nora

Weekend Hustle

Mine started Friday, away from the keyboard. Due to what the weekend held, I hit the gym hard Friday morning. With that mission accomplished, I pull it together to make a vat of tortilla soup. The most helpful Laura and Sarah plan to come over in the late afternoon to help me organize my mountains of purged clothes/shoes/boots/bags.

They deserve to be fed. And as Logan’s requested his grandda and I come to his Sunday basketball game, I wouldn’t have much time to make the family dinner already on the books for Sunday evening. A vat of soup covers both. 

Soup, dressed with tortilla chips and cheese.

I decide I want one more chicken breast as I’m making a vat rather than a pot. Start to defrost same in the microwave. And discover, to my shock and delight, my mike is now speaking French. It’s bi-lingual! I have no clue how or when this happened, but it’s fun–and I don’t try to fix it. I just defrost the poulet. And, curious, discover how to say popcorn (a microwave staple in my world) in French. 

Popcorn in French.

By the time the vat’s simmering and I’m reasonably cleaned up, my girls arrive. I have BW’s rolling rack from his studio in the living room for the hanging items. We dive in. Hanging, folding, arranging into sensible piles, clearing off tables to make more sensible piles.

It’s a job–less arduous with champagne, but a job–and when done I have to wonder how all that fit into my closet in the first place. 

Our motto.

Now my closet breathes easier, and the pals who’ll come over post-signing on Saturday can have at it.

Time to feed the dogs, and when BW arrives, to feed everyone else.

Some hang out time, more wine! And since Laura needs to be here for the signing, she takes the guest room.

A bright if breezy Saturday morning, and time to gear up for the signing at Turn The Page. The temps decide they’ll hang in the 50s, which is a gift in January.

We have lots of newbies, sweet stories about guys surprising their ladies with the trip to the signing, mom surprising daughters and visa versa. Then there are The Nine. Nine women who traveled to Boonsboro to celebrate one of their tribe’s birthday. They all have hoodies with a Roarke Industries emblem, and a book quote on the back. As if that’s not cool enough, the connection, the affection, the happiness of The Nine tops even that. 

The Nine — and Nora.
On the back of each sweatshirt was a different — favorite — quote.

Lots of positive energy from the readers who come in, from the authors who sign, to the staff who handles it all. A very good day.

TTPs Beth photobombs the post-signing author photo..

And a surprise guest appearance in the backroom during a break when the kids show up. Grandkid hugs! Kayla kicked some running butt at her Friday meet, Logan’s fresh from victory in his Saturday game. Congrats! I ask Colt what he’s done this week, and the answer: He read a lot of books–and is hoping for another. He has a specific title, knows the author. I send him off with Bookstore Janeen.

It’s pretty gratifying to have a kid–at seven–so in love with reading.

Time to head home, and that timing works really well. A couple of pals are already there, and more come in as I ditch the signing clothes for comfort. We have pizza–delivered by Vesta–two buckets of chicken (thanks, Pat) cheese and crackers courtesy of JoAnne, an amazing salad presented by Nicole, and Elaine’s homemade brownies.

Food, drink, girls!

Dogs so insanely happy to have girl company, I finally have to put them outside.

We all fuel up, then hit the rack, the piles.

It’s fun for me to see pieces I loved and wore and wore–or pieces I bought then realized, for me, equaled mistake–appeal to pals. Girls stripping down to their underwear (no men in the house this evening!), discussing what works, what doesn’t. Or the: This would look better on you. That looks great!

It’s also sort of amazing that with a group of varying sizes and shapes, all the stuff ends up working on someone. Tops, sweaters, hoodies, vests, dresses, jackets, shoes, bags, workout gear. By the time we’re done, I’m left with a tiny handful, which I’ll pass to someone else or donate.

A little hang-out time, then it’s goodbye until April and the Drunken Girls Spa Week. (Best week ever!) *

Dog tired. Atticus and Parker.

Today, I’m going to try to drag myself out to the gym before the basketball game–we’ll see about that. I need to tidy up a little before family dinner. But all I have to do there is heat up the soup, the bread. Good deal.

Monday, early routine dentist appointment, then I’m digging in, and going into my winter hibernation. Staying home, staying in, and writing. Possibly in my pajamas for the entire month of February.

Nora

* Laura begs to differ — courteously! — on this opinion.

Writers Are People Too

[Note: the italics and bold words are my doing. ~Laura]

In my normal routine, weekends are for domestic stuff, family, taking a breath. There were many times back in the day that I put in time writing on weekends. There are still occasions I work weekends, or go back to work in the evening–but mostly I try not to.

I need to enjoy my home, my family–and tend to both, just like most people.

This weekend, after a fun gathering here on Friday evening, I got in an early workout before hitting the domestic and family. Fun for me that when I started wrapping the last of the Christmas presents, a pretty snow began to fall. Light, fluffy, and the perfect backdrop for my tradition of watching (as Kayla calls them) cornball Christmas movies while I wrap.

Snow through the kitchen window.

 

Done with that, I headed down, put on more cornball as the snow fell and I kneaded bread. And while the bread rose, started making soup. It’s another routine in the life during the fall and winter. Making soup and bread on the weekends.  

Bread
Soup

 

My house smelled glorious. As a reward, during the second rising, and while the soup simmered, I got the book I haven’t had time to pick up for two weeks, poured myself some bubbly and sat in the library. A fire, a snowfall, an adult beverage and a most excellent book. Nice. 

A little space to read

Today, we had a window before Logan’s basketball game to do some cookie baking. Another tradition–one that now had Kayla mostly in the lead. The girl’s a good cook. A double batch of chocolate chip, some peanut butter blossoms, and after they had to head out, I finished up with candy cane kiss cookies.

Worker bees
The finished product, part 1
The finished product, part 2

Yum to all. My kids took a break in there, took advantage of Nana’s soup. Next weekend we’ll add Colt in and do our famous painted sugar cookies. Fun, chaotic, messy, adorable and delish.

If I didn’t take this time for family, for homey chores I very much enjoy, my life would have no balance. All work will, no question, eventually lead to burn out. That’s not beneficial to anyone.

I get readers fall in love with a book or author and want more. And more, and faster, quicker–and often NOW. The book I finished in my library was John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel. I am a HUGE fan. And now I wait a year to see where Virgil goes next. I’d love to have the next instantly, but that’s simply impossible, and so very unfair to Sandford. I assume he also enjoys having an actual life.

None of us who write can write as fast as readers (myself included) read. We can’t. And we shouldn’t try–because the work will suffer. Readers can and do gobble up a book in hours. Writing that book takes months, and in some cases years.

I’m thrilled many readers enjoyed Year One, are supportive of this new direction I followed. I’m flattered readers are looking forward to the second book.

Where this breaks off is where some readers feel entitled to demand, or are outraged by a wait for a book, or jump to conclusions about the publisher or marketing or whatever. I don’t include in this those who say: Oh, I can’t wait!! Or how will I wait!! Or I wish I had it now. I wish I had the next Sandford in my hot little hands. I’m a reader, too. (And the last line in that book had me going: Hot Damn! But now I wait.)

I’m talking about those who complain the books should be published one after another, or closer together. I can’t write them to suit those readers because these books are longer than my previous trilogies and so very much more complicated to write. And I just insist on having a life in there, too.

I haven’t written the three books in a trilogy one after another for years. I used to be able to do so. I haven’t so longer than I can remember. Same with the Robbs, which I could, at one time, do nearly always, three in a row. Life, creativity and scheduling have made that impossible.

I have not, as some have claimed, written all three already (so my publisher can hold them back). These books are brutal and fascinating and scary to write, and it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. And so much figuring out, my brain hurts at the end of the day when I’m into one. I want to produce the best books I can, and I can’t do it like a machine that pumps them out on demand.

I think part of the problem is that I write fairly quickly, and readers have gotten used to more and more. I still write four major books a year. Four. It’s all I can do well. Frankly, I think the other part of the problem is that some readers are used to how quickly the self-pubbed produce–and don’t look at the fact those stories are generally a LOT shorter, don’t go through a serious editing process, a cover art process, the scheduling process, the marking issues, and so on.

All those processes take time.

When my editor and agent came here for dinner (and the holiday signing) a bit ago, we sat in my kitchen going over the schedule for 2019. St. Martin’s, like all publishers, have other authors, and consider placement carefully because YES, publishing is a business. If the publisher doesn’t make some sort of profit, the publisher can’t stay in the business of publishing. They can’t pay writers, editors, sales reps, marketing and publicity staff and on and on.

SMP would, absolutely, be thrilled if I could write a book every month. They’d find a way to publish all of them. I can’t. Physically, creatively, realistically, I can’t just pump them out like gum drops. If I did, the quality would suffer, and every single reader would, rightfully, complain.

Year One is a departure, and won’t appeal to all readers. The In Death series doesn’t appeal to all readers. The stand-alone I write every year doesn’t appeal to all readers. I like the diversity, and I need it to stay creatively fresh. But I can’t write faster, I can’t give more than I do. If I tried, I’d burn out within a year–and spend my time gardening, making soup and bread.

I prefer the balance. I hope readers who enjoyed Year One will anticipate Of Blood And Bone next year the way I anticipate the follow-up to Sandford’s Deep Freeze. And in the meantime, read and enjoy the multitude of wonderful books out there.

Me, I’m going to dive into King’s Sleep Beauty first chance I get.

Nora

Did Ya Miss Me?

It’s been weeks! I’ve been crazy busy with no time to do a blog. Squeezing some out now as the rest of the time until Christmas is even crazy busier. But that’s the holidays. While I thank God it’s just once a year, I wouldn’t change a thing.

BW and I took our November week at the spa–a working week for me–and I’m ready for another. It’s a nice break, and a different routine. Workout early, write for about four hours, then get a lovely spa treatment. Somebody else cooks dinner and cleans it up. A pretty good deal.

Straight to Boonsboro on our way back for Logan’s middle school production of Charlotte’s Web. Altogether adorable.

We had our November Girls Night Out in Boonsboro with lots of happy faces–along with champagne and yummy snacks. A fun evening for all, and a lovely way to celebrate being a girl!

Then boom! It’s Thanksgiving here with the gang. That means making pies–yes, from scratch–on Wednesday, and a full day of kitchen duty on Thursday. With round two with leftovers on Friday. I love the smells of Thanksgiving cooking, and the fussing–and the fact that our Kat can always be counted on to deal with the piles of dishes.

I got smacked with some mild vertigo last weekend, just enough to screw up my schedule. But that’s over, for which I was extremely grateful on Thanksgiving. Still, it meant the wrapping I had planned for last Saturday didn’t get done until this weekend. Done now, and whew.

Presents wrapped–except for the few stragglers coming in this week. I can’t count the number of schmaltzy Christmas movies I’ve watched while I wrapped boxes and bagged gifts. I’m not ashamed of loving them.

Since I leave in the morning for my most cherished annual holiday with girls, decorating came a little early around here. I’m having my agent and editor for dinner next Friday–along with grandkids–and our holiday signing Saturday, another holiday deal on Sunday, so this was it. BW hauled up the tubs of holiday decorations, and we hit it, and hit it hard. A couple more wrapping sessions carved in there, and we are so ready for Christmas.

The tree

There are several more marks on the calendar through December, but we can now take them as they come, and enjoy every minute of being with family and friends.

Stockings for all

I hope to squeeze out time for another blog before the first of the year, but just in case: Here’s wishing you and yours all the joys, chaos, bright lights and merriment of the season.

Santa collection

However crazy the next few weeks are for you, don’t forget to light a candle, eat a cookie, give a hug and celebrate the moments.

Nora

And in the holiday spirit, some Random Katness:

Not one caption that comes to mind is polite. so I’ll just say Yellow!~Laura

Bits/Pieces October 30

When last we met, Nora was home from work, ready to dive into a brand new book after a wonderful week in NYC.  I stayed for a couple more days — mainly to take photos like this one:

Reflections on the High Line. Photo by Laura

but in the end, we each settled into routine back home.   And routine is important, but not necessarily glamorous, so I’ll share some highlights:

Kayla finished 6th in the Washington County Cross Country meet last week.  The week before, she placed in the to 20 of a large cross county meet that featured small and large schools.  States are up next!

On October 17, we debuted the cover of the 2018 hardcover, Shelter in Place on Facebook:

I’ll create a separate thread for that book early in 2018.

This weekend was the Turn the Page Halloween signing and one of us went all out.  One of us wore her Cranky Publicist pin. <g> When I walked into the house to drive to the signing, I called out “Hello!” but didn’t receive an answer.  I turned into the kitchen, and there Nora was, in all her glory.  I just laughed and took the photo.

Downtown and Uptown Girls. Photo by Laura

The TTP staff gets into the spirit and in a moment of rare synchronicity, one of the Kims wore a costume in direct contrast to Nora’s.  I said they channeled the late 1970s since Nora was CBGB and Kim was Studio 54.

Then there was BW:

The rocker and her sheriff. Photo by Laura

And Kayla stopped by after practice with some of her teammates: 

Which brings us to today.  Nora’s back at the keyboard, I’m working on adding the recent FB posts here on the blog.

Much more to come as the weeks speed by until Year One is in your hands.

Laura

No, wait!  Here’s some extra special #randomkatness.  She just became an aunt and created this reversible baby blanket for her niece as a nod to their Hawaiian roots.  Isn’t it stunning?