I love it. Bring on the heat! And we’ve had plenty of it the last week or two as July smolders its way to August.
These hot summer days and evenings have been busy around here. Less than a week after I unpacked from RWA, we had our annual summer party. That means a full day of food prep, assisted by my Kat and Laura with BW and Jason out in the swelter setting up canopies, tables, hauling out the big coolers.
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.
Sunday night and Monday are clean it up and break it down, and another summer highlight has come and gone. Time moves.
Then it’s back to work–current book all day, proofing galleys in the evening. I have a goal to reach on the wip before we leave for vacation (yay!) in less than a week. Friday, I hit the mark–just in time as I’ve ignored pretty much everything else.(Except my workouts.) And I hit it in time to hang a little while with Kayla who’s pretty excited as she’ll turn 14 the next day.
I picked my first tomato, which brought me ridiculous pleasure. I don’t even eat tomatoes, but do a little happy dance as I hold it in my hand, smell it. More are ripening on the vine, and there are lots of pretty little peppers growing beside them. I hope our housesitters make good use of them while we’re gone.
On Saturday, Kayla’s having her party here–a swim party with girlfriends–so she’s pumped. Pumped enough she walks up the hill a couple hours before the party just as I–just showered from a workout–head out to weed. (Something that’s been neglected.) Happy birthday, my baby girl. I still remember when we put her a car seat that I got from https://hifivebaby.com/best-convertible-car-seat-for-small-cars/ for the first time. She was so little. She points out my little vase of flowers have faded, and I need to pick more.
So I do.
She looks so pretty, and I swear she gets taller if I glance away for two minutes. I hear her helping her Grandda with something while I start down the garden, filling my big tub with weeds. I get one tub filled when the skies open up.
She’s annoyed with the storm–and the forecast of more–but it doesn’t dampen her anticipation–cake, presents, girlfriends! When her mom gets here it’s decorations, all following Kayla’s choice of beach theme, and very cool cakes. One for Kayla, and one for her little brother Colt and Grandda who both have birthdays that hit while we’re away. Colt will be six in about a week. Grandda will be older than that!
We all pitch in, and when the sun comes back out, I go back to weeding. Girls come, and one of Logan’s pals invited to keep him company in the midst of all that female. As I weed, filling a second tub–I can hear that distinctly girl sound–chatter and laughter, all so high and bright–echoing in the pool house. It’s such happy sound, young, uninhibited. After the gardens been put back to rights, I reward myself with a glass of wine and go out to sit by the water feature. It’s steamy out, after the rain, but there’s a little breeze there, and the water’s making its pretty music, the woods are so, so green. My Rose of Sharon are blooming beautifully. And the sound of happy girls makes more music.
Parker comes out to lie at my feet, and just sitting there after this intensely busy week, I’m almost stupidly content.
Even as I feel another storm coming, it’s all good. I won’t have to water my pots today, and the girls have had a good couple of hours of swim time. They need to eat, have cake.
And finally, especially for an almost six-year-old boy, presents. Colt’s happy, Logan and his pal are happy watching the big screen, and Kayla and her girls make their circle. I love how they hug after every gift is opened, and I hope, so much hope, they’ll all remember this unity, this affection, that it carries through as they grow up into women. How lovely it is to watch this ritual, to see its potential as the rain falls and thunder grumbles outside.
I’ve just spent a week with girlfriends, so I know that potential realized. I want that for my baby girl and her sweet friends. In contrast, Logan and his pal Spencer hang out, glued to some game on the TV, pretty much ignoring–stoically–the female action. I know that bond as well–I grew up with four brothers, had two sons, after all. That’s special, too, that can last and form circles.
We all need our circle.
Now, today, the house holds quiet. I’ve got a workout to do, tubs of books to sign. Then it’s packing. No high heels or fancy duds needed. It’s vacation time!
I’ll be blogging journals, as always, starting next week. [Note from Laura: you’ll have to stop by on Tuesday to see where Nora’s gone. ]
Enjoy these hot and steamy days (or the chilly ones for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere). Time moves fast, so appreciate the moments, and those who share them with you.
This year Kayla turns 14 and starts high school. So we’re celebrating in New York, just us girls.
Friday morning Laura, Kayla and I piled in a limo for the drive up, while Kat would follow later in the day. Much excitement, many plans. First on Kayla’s list? Sephora. Two years ago, the first on her list? The American Girl Doll Store. A couple years makes a difference in a girl’s life.
After a pretty drive on a pretty day, we arrive–a few hours from country quiet to urban bustle. I’ve stayed in this hotel for years, find a comfort in that continuity, being able to exchange greetings and how are yous with the desk staff, the housekeepers, the bellmen. And I appreciate so much they’ve taken extra and personal steps to make this special for the girl of the week. In our suite the dining table holds a display of fruits, cheeses, breads AND two cakes, the gorgeous chocolate one with birthday greetings for Kayla.
After we unpack, we hit the streets–and hit Sephora hard. We are girls, after all, and makeup equates to girl toys. One of the staff comes over, assumes with Kayla’s hair bun and long, long legs, she’s a dancer. He becomes our valued consultant, suggesting products, brands, gathering them up. I think the kid talked me into three eyeshadow palettes. I had a list myself, and checked that off.
Clothes, clothes, clothes are next, and we have some suggestions on venues from my editor’s daughter. Off we go. Tops appear to be Kayla’s target.
But we have to get back to the hotel, get a little dinner and get ready for Broadway.
And here’s Kat! Shortly after, here’s Clare (Laura’s lovely daughter who lives and works in NY). Since the weather’s so pretty, we opt to walk to the theater. We’re seeing Matilda, and I bought the tickets last winter after Kayla made her choice and our dates were set. We’re front row, and in this case, that means all but on stage. We could literally touch the stage (though discouraged from doing so).
I expected to enjoy the play–there’s nothing like live theater, and there’s really nothing like Broadway. I hadn’t expected to be blown away, and we were. It’s marvelous on every level, and the girl in the lead roll is simply amazing. We’re a very happy group walking home after a fabulous performance in balmy weather.
Saturday’s shop till you drop day, so we start it off with a good breakfast, and are out of the door by around ten. The next recommended shop is a hit for all five of us. Shopping with girls is its own entertainment. What do you think of this? Does this color work? You NEED that! I explain to Kayla I’m happy to be her bank, but won’t be her sherpa, so she’s going to schlep her own bags. And by the time we leave, we’re all so loaded down, Kat and Clare volunteer to walk everything back to the hotel and meet us at the next stop. We need to eat! Must have fuel. And it’s a perfect day to eat outside, right across from the skating rink in Rock Center. Also a fine day for the adults to have some bubbly with lunch.
More shopping–that’s what we’re here for–and more success for all. Shoes! How can we resist shoes?
Saks for makeovers and makeup–and wow, my girl looks so beautiful and grown up.
Finally, we’ve pillaged midtown enough, back to the hotel, time to play with all our goodies, think about dinner–my girl wants room service and I’m with her. We’re fortunate to have a terrific rooftop terrace here, and after dinner, head up, hang out, and under the moon indulge in the hot tub. It feels like a movie, sitting in a hot top on a rooftop in NY looking out on the city lights.
I sleep like a rock.
Sunday is for downtown, a walk along the High Line. Subway rides, lots of walking. A worn-out girl is ready to come home, have a lie down. Once she’s settled, with Kat here, Laura and I head up Madison for a couple of things on my list. Back for food–and Laura’s sister Margaret joins us–bringing snacks for our little Tony party.
Not only is it wonderful fun to watch the Tonys with girls in NY, but it had to be one of the best shows, the most uplifting and fun. We did lose the TV for about ten minutes early on (a wind thing) which caused panic, but got it back. I’ve had a crush on James Cordon for awhile, but now I think it’s true love.
Monday, and another fine day it is, starts with another trip downtown and a visit to my new publisher for a tour of the Flatiron Building. This has been one of my favorite buildings for a very long time, and now we get to go in, go through, and are treated to stories by the clever and knowledgeable Sunny. He’s worked there for 28 years, met his wife when he replaced a ceiling tile in her office–and admits he took about five hours for a ten minute job. Sweet.
My long-time and awesome editor has also moved to St, Martin’s. We get to see her new office, hang out, then are taken up to the roof. Oh my, the views of the city! I’m so pleased to see how much Kayla enjoys this, how engaged she is. We see the unique and incredible offices in the front point of the building–I don’t know if I’d get any work done as I’d be too busy basking in my space and the views.
I love when Kayla says, as we walk through the halls, that it smells like Nana’s house. It smells like books.
Leslie joins us as Kat leaves us—-she has to drive home for a meeting that evening. Big hugs on the street, and text when you get home.
We hit Lombardi’s for pizza. Ummm, yumm.
More walking, a bit more shopping as Kayla new makeup obsession (I think she now has enough to last her through college) includes a stop at Makeup Forever. We’re the only ones in the store, and it just adds to the fun.
A couple more stops, a few more purchases—and finally a bathing suit for the girl, something she seriously needs considering she’s now taller than I am, so about two inches taller since the last bathing suit. I’m also pleased to say she’s got not only a sense of her own style, but of appropriate for her age. No string bikinis–too much skin showing she says. Nana agrees.
Once more back to the hotel, with Leslie joining us. Hang out, have a drink. My agent and my new publisher come to visit. Up to the roof! A lovely time, and just one more bright sign for me that I’ve found exactly the right home for me and for my work.
Clare comes from work as the others leave—and Kayla’s starving. Dinner time, and bed time not long after.
Today is what we’re calling Fill In Shopping day. The kid could use another bathing suit if we can find one. We all want a trip back to Uniqlo, and may wander more uptown on our last day.
I’m so lucky to be able to have this time out of time with Kayla, to experience her experiencing the city as a teenager, to observe her learning the things girls learn–how to have fun with girls, how special that is, how to blend eye shadow and pick the right lip color, how to have conversations with adults and strangers–and NOT roll eyes when adults comment on how much she’s grown. I love how she’ll reach out to hold my hand when we’re walking, or put her arm around my waist, and love how she always has something to say.
We’ll make the most of our last day in the city, bank much for the memory book, and head home to country quiet tomorrow.
A good work week can set the stage for a happy weekend, and I’m on a roll as sunny June takes over from rainy May.
Kayla’s brothers went to the Ninja Turtle movie on Saturday–and she had absolutely no interest so we had our Saturday cooking day.
Since she hadn’t given me a direction earlier in the week–so specific ingredients could be at hand–we punted.
She liked the idea of pasta, and I have an easy and pretty quick one, one she’ll be able to make on her own at home. But first, she wanted to bake a cake.
Cake is, by far, Kayla’s favorite food, and always has been. So what kind of cake? I found some fun and fancy ones, but didn’t have everything we needed. So we fell back on an old standard–a golden butter cake. She’s learned so much over the past few months, all I do, mostly, is read off the recipe as she goes. We decide to make it a sheet cake–that’s plenty easy–and before long, that’s in the oven.
We take a short break, a nice walk. I see I’ll be weeding and deadheading on Sunday.
She’s decided she’s hungry, so we should start the pasta.
On goes the big pot of water, as we’ll make a full pound so she can take plenty home. Out comes the cake, and it smells just yum.
I peel the garlic–have to teach her to do that–and she chops it up with my little tool. This sautes in olive oil she measures and pours into my biggest skillet. Add a dash of crushed red pepper.
Spaghetti into the salted, boiling water–I show her how to break the long noodles in half, use the pasta fork to stir them up. When they’re close to done, I take a couple of cups of the pasta water, add it to the olive oil and garlic. She likes the smell. I show her how to pinch a noodle to see if it’s done. Not quite.
I go out, harvest some herbs–parsley, basil (and my little potted ones are coming back nicely) rosemary, oregano, thyme. Show her how I chop them up.
Drain the pasta, pour it into the skillet, toss in the herbs, some black pepper, a little onion salt. She stirs it, turns it, stirs it until the pasta’s absorbed all the liquid.
She must have some immediately! Judges it delicious. And it must be, because before she left for home she ate three helpings. Good thing I went for the whole pound.
Now it’s time to frost the cake, with an old, reliable buttercream frosting. She wants to color it–and why not? Goes with green, and mixes and stirs–and I take over as she says her arm’s really tired! Mix and stir until we have a pretty minty green and creamy frosting she spreads over the cake. Then decides to add some red sugar. Again, why not?
Then must have a piece–and this is also proclaimed delicious. She eats two before the end of her day–and Grandda has some himself.
Through the cooking, the baking, the couple of nice walks, she’s full of talk about our upcoming girl trip to New York. I’m pretty juiced about it myself.
I send her home after the most pleasant of days with most of the cake and a tub of pasta.
Today, as yesterday, I got the workout in early. I gathered my tub, my pruners, my gloves and headed out to do that weeding and deadheading. My roses are so happy! And the deer repellent’s working as my first lilies are cheerfully blooming. Now I’m happy as the roses.
I also see the first little tomato blossom on the vine–and where some insects have nibbled on the leaves. Go in, make up some soapy water–with a dash of tobasco–in a spray bottle. If it doesn’t work, I’ll buy something at the garden center.
Must do my weekend shoveling out of the house, which won’t take long. Then find myself a pretty spot and read. I believe it’s a fine day to make myself a couple of bellinis. They’d go well with Cake by Kayla.
But before that I spent all day Friday doing a photo shoot. Sounds glam, right?
It so isn’t.
Now it’s certainly cool to get your hair and makeup done by professionals, especially pros you know and trust. You provide naked face and undone hair, and they transform you so you look glam. And they have such nifty toys.
It’s really nice to have a photographer you know and trust–in this case my husband. And it’s comfortable to do the shoot in his studio, so there’s all that.
And Laura’s there to help, and to weigh in on the couple of choices I brought for accessories. Three different set ups, three different outfits, three different hairstyles and three different makeup looks.
And you spend your day smiling/not smiling/smiling less or more. Turning this way or that way, hands/arms here or there. The first time I did a shoot I gained considerable respect for those who do so for a living. Having all these pros I know and trust–and really like on a personal level–makes a big difference for a woman who makes her living at the keyboard, mostly in pjs, with no makeup and bed hair.
Plus, it was a gorgeous day. Sunny, warm, wonderful.
Saturday, not so much.
But I’d already planned to spend much of it in the kitchen, especially after I got my 18 10 stainless steel flatware. Kayla’s schedule and mine haven’t meshed in the last few weeks, but we earmarked Saturday for cooking together. When I asked her about menu choices earlier in the week, Logan vigorously suggested deviled eggs. She wanted to do my mother’s pound cake again–and since nobody had an idea for a main, I suggested lasagna. Menu set.
She arrives early afternoon on raw, rainy Saturday, and we get down to it. Red sauce first–and she’s done this once, so only needs a little prompting. And only a bit on the cake batter. It’s fun to get back to this weekend duet with her, to watch her handle the measuring and stirring. I’d say she learned a lot of the basics over the winter.
Cake’s in the oven, red sauce is simmering. A little break, then it’s time to boil a dozen eggs. Tip found by BW for easy peeling:
For eight eggs (so math is involved for more) six cups of water, one tablespoon salt, a quarter cup of white vinegar. Bring to a boil, then carefully add eggs one at a time. Lower the heat a bit so it doesn’t boil too fast, boil for fourteen minutes. Immediately put eggs in an ice bath until cool. It really works.
Kayla comments, as she and her Grandda get to peeling, that it’s not so bad–as she’s used to the three or four dozen required to peel for our parties. I show her how you slice them lengthwise, take out the yolk. She puts the yolks through the mill, adds the mayo, the mustard, the herbs–she has a good hand with this.
Taste test. A little more mustard, a little more oregano–I trust her and BW on this as I don’t like deviled eggs. Fill the whites, sprinkle with paprika. She and BW test one each, and thumbs up.
Now we need to make the cheese mixtures for the lasagna. I use cottage cheese rather than ricotta. I prefer its texture. And I add a lot of shredded mozzarella, some basil, some pepper.
Kayla adamantly dislikes the look and smell of cottage cheese. While I remind her I make a lot of things I don’t even eat, she backs away from mixing the cheeses. You do it, Nana. So Nana does. Into the fridge with it until we’re ready to put the lasagna together.
Cake comes out, and oh boy, it looks and smells terrific.
About that time Logan arrives with two friends, his little brother and his mom. They’re spending this rainy evening in the pool. Kayla’s earned a swim herself, and I believe I’ve earned a little sit down. I tell her 45 minutes, then we need to finish up.
I’m impressed she’s back in 40.
Noodles go on the boil. Cake comes out of the pan and onto the pretty cake plate a pal gave me recently. And she has the first slice. It’s deemed delish.
Preakness pre-race coverage is on the kitchen TV. I’ve stuck with my Derby pick here, and had a friend who’s going to the track place an across the board bet for me. My girl’s now invested in the race, so we talk horses and racing while I show her how to drain and cool the noodles. Have her put a little scoop of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish so they won’t stick. And she layers the noodles, layers on sauce. I layer the cheese due to teenage ick. She layers, layers, I layer.
The horses are in the gate. We stop everything to watch. Nyquist has the early lead, and as in the Derby, Exaggerator is back in the field. Then I watch his rider weave him through, cut him to the rail. He’s moving up, moving up. And oh boy, when they hit the stretch, he’s gone. Just flying over that wet, muddy track. He takes it running away.
Happy dance, hoots. And back to layering. Kayla tops the casserole with slices of mozzarella, and we pop it in the oven.
Damp boys come up for drops in their water-clogged ears–and are reminded to hang up their wet towels. We have experience here.
Young Colt–whose picture I took on the pretty Friday evening with a promise I’d post it here–commandeers my iPad for games, and asks if he can have a piece of chocolate for later. His mom and I share a laugh when later turns out to be ten seconds.
Lasagna comes out to rest. Divvy up deviled eggs and cake to go home with the cook and the boys–they’re getting pizza delivered.
Hug my kitchen pal–who is now a solid smidge taller than I am.
If the sun comes out at all today, she’ll come be my gardening pal–and have some of her own lasagna. Her grandda and I sampled it last night. Yum!
I hope our schedules mesh again soon. I like to cook–especially on the weekends. But cooking with Kayla is pure pleasure.
It sure felt like a whirl as I’m sitting here and it’s already Monday.
But during the whirl I had some sunshine and some gardening. I hit the nursery early Saturday for a carload. Truckload already planted, and this was mostly for pots. And what a lovely start to the day. All those lovely plants to choose from on a cool May morning.
Cool enough (come on, May!) I kept a jacket on while I played with design and execution, only ditching it as it warmed–finally–in the afternoon. Oh, I had pots to fill, and fun doing it. But miscounted, it seems. But there are always a spot in the beds, here and there for a little more.
And more fun and satisfaction as I see nasturtium and sunflower seeds starting to sprout. The basil looks a little sad–just too much rain–but I’m counting on a come back.
I’m leaving two barrels and some bits in the faerie garden for Kayla, otherwise, flowers are done.
So it’s onto vegetables. These we grow in bags on the lower patio–more sun. I cut eyes and sprouts for two bags of potatoes, while BW mixes peat in with soil. We have three varieties of tomatoes, and in they go with so Epsom salts for a good start. And peppers, too.
Next weekend–barring more stupid rain–I hope to divide and transfer some perennials to spots that need a little boost.
This long day of work needs to be celebrated with an adult beverage and a stroll around to admire the fruits of all that labor. Ah. Smell that dianthus, the heliotrope. The star flowers are just starting to bloom.
Then my girl arrives. Kayla is going to her Eighth Grade Formal. She looks so pretty, so grown-up. She’s taller than I am–how did that happen? Nana does her makeup, Grandda gets some pictures, and off she goes. Rite of Passage. High school is around the corner.
The day ends with proofing galleys. I sleep like a rock.
Sunday’s downright cold for May. I have inside work.
I have a photo shoot on Friday, so must now gather wardrobe for the three different shots, three different looks. This is, I don’t lie, a PITA for me. Many more things I’d rather do than spend a couple of hours in my closet figuring out what to wear. Enjoying my clothes doesn’t preclude PITA. I think I’ve got it, but we’ll see.
Remember that a fourth deal’s been added, to be dealt with at Girl’s Night Out on Thursday. Need to select yet one more outfit.
And since May decided to be March, it’s kitchen time. Much more enjoyable for me to bake bread, make soup. Not as enjoyable as being outside, but I’ll take it.
Now, since I didn’t get to them on Saturday, there are tubs of books to sign. Then those galleys won’t proof themselves.
Still, the weekend that just flew by with little break in the action ends with Game of Thrones–the Mother of Dragons is BACK!–and Penny Dreadful, so gloriously spooky.
Now it’s Monday. The sun’s shining, and may it continue. I’m ready to work, and since today schedule includes grandkids after school, adjust my day to get the workout in before 4:15.
I want to hear what Logan’s been up to, but–I’m a girl, after all–I really want to hear about the dance.
Hopefully, we’ll all take a walk in the sunshine, and take some time to admire the gardens.