Category Archives: Nora at home

At Home

It’s my first full weekend home in about a month, and I’m very happy to be here.

Yesterday, in the middle of May, I turned the fireplace on and made soup–such was the chilly, rainy Saturday. But I like making soup (potato and ham at Kat’s request), and the fire added cheer.

I also had to address the matter of dealing with an incredible amount of stuff that needed putting away. This is a usual weekend task, but due to losing weekends, going here and there, coming back with more than I left with, the amount of stuff grew, grew, grew.

Plus I had a photo shoot on Thursday, which means a day of hair and makeup, a prep day of figuring out wardrobe. We had fun with it. Laura tried a little Facebook live, and that added more fun.

It takes a team…
and a lot of physical labor.

But then, all THAT stuff had to be put away, too.

On the other hand as BW, Laura and our helpful Kat, were in Boonsboro at Green Fest helping out, I had many solitary hours to accomplish it all. Plus, Thor and then The Avengers happened to be on TV, and if you’ve got to haul, carry, toss, organize, it might as be with superheroes for company.

The sun came out for about twenty seconds so I had a walk around with the dogs in there.

Adding all this domesticity to my Saturday morning workout meant ending the day with more than 20,000 steps.

Whew. (But I’m catching up with Jason who’s currently kicking my butt in Fitbit standings.)

Before the end of the day, BW and Kat arrive, tired but happy. A long day for all of us, but we have the little salad I made, the soup, and a nice round of fresh sour dough bread. And I get to hang out with my girl awhile.

Sunday’s a whole different ballgame. Once the workout’s in the bag, I can head out to the garden. I need a light jacket, but it’s sunny, at last, at last. I weed. I yell at the dogs when I discover they’ve been up and digging in a part of my beds. Parker and Atticus slink away, as they damn well should.

BW and I stake the tomatoes, and he yells at the dogs when he finds they’ve dug up a drainage pipe.

We recently had one of the guestrooms repainted, which meant everything had to come off the shelves and off the walls. I dealt with the shelf stuff during Saturday chores, so attack the walls. I know not everything that was up’s going back. Some I’m taking outside. I like outdoor art. It’s fun–if a lot more steps–to take a piece around, find where it can go, choose another, do the same.

Picking the spot’s my job. Making it so’s going to be BW’s.

I’m ridiculously happy to have all the damn boxes out of my living room.

And happy to wander, sans jacket now, around the gardens taking pictures. My peonies have started to open, like a Mother’s Day gift.

My mother loved peonies (I pronounce it like she did–Pee-O-Nees), so I think of her when I take a deep sniff.

My faerie garden’s exactly right, roses and yellow flags are starting a show out by the water feature. I have dianthus madly blooming, and much, much more. My poor basil is sad after so much wet, cool weather, but I’m hoping it perks up as the rest of the herbs are doing just fine.

Faerie garden
Water Feature

BW gave me the cute yoga frogs, and the lovely reading girl for Mother’s Day. They look happy where they’re now planted.

Yoga Frogs
Reading girl

My pots (yell at dogs again when I discover they’ve dug out a plant from one) are full and colorful. My clematis is pure glory.

Now, I’m about to go out and point so BW can hang things where I want them, then I believe I’m going to sit around with a book or a movie.

It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I qualify!

To all moms out there, I hope you have a lovely day, as lovely as a peony opening in the sun.

Nora

 

Long Weekend

I finished a book last week, a brain-frying, complicated book, and decided I deserved a little break. The universe cooperated with excellent weather.

So I took Thursday and Friday away from my office and keyboard, and hit the nursery. With excellent timing added in, BW was able to meet me there allowing me to wander, drink in, and basically gobble up enough plants to fill the bed of his truck. And add even MORE to the cargo space of my SUV.

A truck load.

Oh, the smells, the colors, the textures, the possibilities! And what tremendous fun to haul flats out, start placing pots. Stand back, consider, adjust, add more, move some until, okay, that’s going to work for me.

BW was also able to stand in as my under gardener for most of the day–a sunny, breezy day that decided it wouldn’t be too hot or too cool. It decided it could be perfect.

Five full hours of hauling, placing, considering, digging, planting, more considering, more hauling, and the beds looked so, so happy.

Top that off with a nice, tall glass of champagne and a long walk-about to admire the job.

Friday, it’s time for pots, and I won’t have my under-gardener. But he does have time to haul some of those pots out for me before he’s off to work–and I start the process.

Huh. I have a LOT of pots–but I have a lot of plants earmarked for them. Doesn’t that look sweet! How about hot colors for that one? Won’t that look great when it fills out!

The dogs enjoy having me out for two days running, and I love every second. I skip the gym–again–to get all this done, but like Thursday, I get a serious workout with nearly six hours between pots, and finding little spots for the few things left over. If you happen to miss the gym frequently then you should consider getting an hourglass waist trainer that way you will take care of your body while your doing your daily duties.

And BW comes home with another flat of impatiens, the five more foxglove–and a favorite I hadn’t found–a flat of heliotrope I asked for. Those will wait for Saturday as it’s time for another nice, tall glass of champagne and a walk-about.

We’re having Kat and Jason up for Easter dinner (and a foundation meeting) so Saturday’s also for baking. Let’s have some fresh bread and my mother’s sour cream pound cake. With dough rising, I head outside. BW’s planting the foxglove, so I take the impatiens.

Plant more flowers, play with dogs, go wash up, punch down dough. In and out, out and in. Eggs on the boil for deviling (a crowd favorite).

I still have some gardening left by the time the cake’s in the oven, so I figure out how to set the alarm on my phone–not a complete snap for me as I don’t use alarms–and go back out. I have sunflower seeds to plant, and want to move some of the madly spreading Black-eyed Susans to some bare spots.

When the alarm goes off I’m momentarily puzzled–What is that noise, and why is it coming from my pocket? Oh yeah.

Cake’s done, and my mother would be proud as it looks and smells pretty damn good.

Now it’s definitely time for that nice, tall glass of champagne.

Sunday there are those eggs to devil, a ham to bake, a couple more spots of spring cleaning that got sidetracked with gardening. And here are my kids! Who’ve volunteered to go down the lane to our storage buildings and haul up all the outdoor furniture. Nothing like having strong, willing kids–they deserve some deviled eggs.

Atticus is, of course, instantly in love–and it’s mutual.

Potatoes and carrots to herb and roast, a ham to glaze, meeting time. Our boardroom might be the dining room table, and I might be checking the oven or stirring the glaze from time to time, but we get things done, and do good work.

Saute some fresh asparagus, set the table, carve the ham, and let’s eat.

A good day with family, good food, good work–topped off with pound cake, fresh whipped cream and berries.

Kat shows me a picture of the stone double walk-way she’s built on the side of their house. Yes, I said she built. A double stone walk-way. It’s gorgeous. They plan to plant an ornamental cherry in the center–and that will be spectacular.

I’ve got some stone work on my agenda–I said I should just hire her!

She takes the bags of purged shoes and clothes to haul up to the spa (this Saturday!!!) for me as I have a car load of spa girls. Hugs good-bye to end the long, lovely weekend.

Monday, it was back to the office and the keyboard. But the break did me a lot of good in that area, too, as it cleared the tired brain enough for me to work out how to start the next book. I got a decent enough roll on that yesterday, and I’m ready to go back and see what happens next.

But after work, after work-out, I’m going to continue the weekend tradition, pour myself that nice, tall glass and have a walk around the gardens with my dogs.

That’s a good deal.

Nora


Quick notes from the Cranky Publicist:  You’ll learn more about the just-finished book in a while as you won’t see it until the second half of 2018. Patience grasshoppers.

In case you didn’t notice the sneaky mention of Spa Girls, yes, it’s nearly that time of year.  I’d like you all to practice the Stupid Scoreboard mantra on my behalf.  ~Laura

 

It Must Be Spring

Finally, after the cold, the wet, the gloom, gloom, gloom of the last few months, things are popping and budding and greening. And the air feels different. Not just warmer, but it holds that hopeful lightness that signals spring’s coming.

It must be because I found myself compelled to spend most of my Saturday cleaning–some serious deep cleaning. And it reminded me of my mother diving into her traditional spring cleaning every April.

Like many of her generation she had spring/summer curtains and fall/winter curtains. I have almost no curtains–just window treatments on blinds on bedrooms and the main level bath. But I live in the woods, not suburbia.

I also have no love affair toward Venetian blinds as my mother did. I have a clear picture of her washing those sharp slats in the bathtub. Many, many of them as she had the blinds, the sheers, then the drapes or curtains. Three layers on most of the windows through our pretty big house. While they were down, we’d–whoever she could draft into the task–wash windows. Newspaper and ammonia–maybe Windex. And winter was washed and polished away, the spring/summer curtains–freshly washed and aired–hung.

While I’ve spared myself the chore of kneeling at the side of the tub washing, rinsing, washing, long slats of metal blinds that leave knicks on the knuckles, I did my share of washing, scrubbing, polishing yesterday. And understand completely her great satisfaction of seeing winter dealt with, with rags and buckets and lemon-scented cleaners.

With April, like my mother–and my father–my head and heart turn happily to gardening. Plans for it, imagining it, scouting out what’s popped out bravely as the air and ground warm.

The dogs and I took happy walks around after the scrubbing and polishing, and that provided an even deeper satisfaction for me.

My baby’s breath is a lovely white cloud. The Solomon Seal’s up and spreading. I have lungwort showing happy pink buds, found a little Johnny-Jump-Up volunteering. I hope more join him.  

Atticus and I–along with his pals above–checked out the progress of the peonies. Looking good!!

I can’t remember what this bush is, but I love it’s coming out in that candy pink Easter hue.

And for Easter–early as the kids won’t be around–we dyed and decorated eggs. We had some wacky ones.

I like seeing the young willow we planted last year greening, and my old cherry trees getting ready to explode with blossoms. Since today’s even lovelier than yesterday, I’m going to take advantage, head out into the sunshine with some Milk Bones for the boys.

We’ll see what we can see.  

Nora

Ah, weekends

Sometimes they’re pretty perfect. Or, for me, absolutely close enough when they come after a week of nose-to-the-grindstone writing, then decide to offer in March a day like the bonny month of May. One day only as today is much cooler and just gloomy–but let’s not get greedy.

Atticus and I both wake early as a rule, and this is working out well housebreaking-wise. He does, however, tend to wake with a spate of happy barking, which is a jolt. But still. Up and out, boys, up and out, and let me get some H2O and some caffeine into my system.

Then it’s time for good dogs to have some breakfast while I workout.

The only real item on my Saturday list is baking bread, and since it’s gorgeous out, we leave the back door open. Dogs can come in and out while I mix and knead. Why do they almost always want to be in, and asleep? It’s too pretty for that, so while dough rises, I go out–and so do they.

First rising, I throw some sticks and hunt up brave little blooms. periwinkle spreading under fallen leaves, baby’s breath almost ready to riot. Peonies pushing out of the ground so they can bloom when it really is the bonny month.

Go in, punch down dough, reform. Head back out.

Sit is a non-negotiable command for dogs in my world. Atticus has learned this quickly. He’s a bright as well as a happy dog. Parker is, truly, the love of his life. I’m a close second. They sit nicely for a photo while Pancho–back in the Donut yet again–photobombs.

Pancho’s fine with the new guy, but the only time Pancho moves at anything but a meander is when you throw a ball. A thrown ball, and he’s–donut included–lightning. But he doesn’t play manically with Atticus as Parker does. I dig up three balls, throw them. If Pancho could’ve gotten all three in his mouth at once, he would have. He did manage two a few times.

I introduced the rope last weekend and watched Parker and Atticus go wild. I know this picture is blurry, but they were moving so fast, and I was laughing too hard. The puppy clamped onto the other end of the rope, and like Roller Derby partners, Parker took Atticus on a Crack-the-Whip from one end of the house to the other. Parker’s about 85-90 pounds of pure muscle, and when he races through the house, eyes wild, it’s like a horse free from the paddock. Atticus may be small, but he is pure game. Pancho, ball firmly clamped in his mouth, just watched.

Back in. Since I’m making Italian bread this takes one more short rising after I form the dough into footballs. So back out again. BW helps me haul a new pot and dirt as my lemon tree needs it. And I can leave it out in the sun for a few hours.

Baking time, and hey, it’s Saturday, so it can be glass of wine time, too. And since we seem to have broken winter’s back, we decide to start up our water feature. BW blows out the leaves, does whatever manly thing he does with the pump. As the water starts to trickle, then to fall, then to stream, I’m very happy. So are the dogs. It’s old hat, and a favorite spot for the older guys, and a brand new adventure for the little guy.

Flowers starting to bud, sun shining, ball-chasing dogs, fresh bread, my pretty water feature singing, a second glass of wine.

A pretty perfect weekend.

After my workout I should probably pick up around here as that didn’t get done yesterday. And since it’s cool and gray, maybe light the fire, sit down with a book for a couple hours. Seems like a pretty good endcap to an excellent weekend.

Nora

Serendipity

I had a solid work week, the routine I like best. Get up, fiddle around, get to work, knock off, work out, have a glass of wine, think about dinner.
 
We had some ridiculously spring-time temps, then winter roared back. I believe my beloved tulip magnolia–my favorite early spring bloomer–is fried. The cold won’t hurt the daffodils popping up, and the forsythia will probably make it though–even if we get this winter storm and 10 inches of snow they’re warning us about.
 
But it’s still damn cold.
 
My lemon tree gave me a slice of summer. Only two lemons–one big, one small, but I just love having them. The tree needs a bigger pot, fresh soil–and may give me more fruit next time around. I need to get to that soon.
 
But at the moment, I’m busy with another gift.
 
12 years ago my pal Pat Gaffney let me know about a woman who bred Lab/Retriever mixes. She’d gone to check it out, and came home with Jolene. I went to check it out, and came home with Homer. Best dog ever.
 
A week or so ago, Pat struck up a conversation with a woman at her book club lunch. Pat’s been sad as she lost Joleen and her sweet Finney within three months of each other this winter. Pat said she and her husband were ready for another dog.
 
The woman told Pat about her daughter who with her husband has a farm in the area. Every year, with her family, Mary spends a month on St. Lucia, taking a good winter break. And for the past several years when down there, Mary’s worked with an organization that helps rescue, treat, neuter and place many of the strays on the island–so many poor little puppies. Every year, Mary brings back three or four of the puppies–now treated by a vet, fed, cared for. She fosters them while they adjust, then works to place them in forever homes.
 
That’s an amazing thing.
 
Pat contacted Mary, and the short version is she now has the perfectly adorable Louie. At the same time, she fell pretty hard for one of the other puppies, but they’d decided–and were firm–it was time for a smaller dog, and the other puppy wouldn’t qualify.
 
She emailed me, sent a picture. And that was that.
 
I contacted Mary. A little more magic came into play as it turned out Mary had to be about ten minutes from me yesterday. She could and would bring the pup, let him get acquainted with us and the big guys, and when she finished her business, she’d swing back by.
 
Not only was it pretty much love at first sight for me, but Parker and Pancho went into full body wags. Parker, especially, was insanely happy. The pup let it be known, straight off, he could handle himself, barking them back until he felt comfortable. He got comfortable pretty quick.
 

Atticus
He has sweet, soulful eyes, a cheerful nature, great curiosity and is really well-mannered. I named him Atticus. It just suits him.
 
He now follows Parker pretty much everywhere.
 

Getting to know Parker.
It’s been 12 years since I had a puppy–both Parker and Pancho came into our lives at age 3 and 2 respectively. It’s work. Countless trips out to Poop City a day–and in the dark. And thanks to this stupid turn in the weather, the cold. It was 17 degrees when I took Atticus out this morning at 5:30 by the clock–4:30 by my body clock. Thanks, Daylight Savings Time.
 
We’ve had more misses than hits with our first full day of housebreaking, but he’ll catch on. He’s a bright boy. You have to watch them, learn their tells–and make sure you provide lots of chew treats and toys. And try to keep the older dogs from stealing from the little guy.
 
Atticus will, no question, interrupt my work often for awhile–and I have to say, the book was rolling.
 
But it’s so worth it.
 
I wish I’d had a camera in my hand when Logan dropped by yesterday afternoon. His face just lit up–and Atticus bounded straight for him. Puppy, the boy thought. Boy, thought the dog. With equal delight.
 
We brought Homer’s dog bed up for Atticus. It’s a three dog night here now.
 

Three dog night.
We also rolled up the brand new rugs I just put down to set off the new upholstery. Better safe than sorry, and I’m confident Atticus will learn how things roll.
 
Clearly, he was meant to be ours, we were meant to be his.
 
It’s really lovely when a gift falls into your hands.
 
Atticus was being raised in a storm drain with his littermates, by a mama who was doing the best she could. Now he, and pups like Pat’s Louie, are healthy, safe and loved.
 

Louie and Atticus
We’re so grateful to Mary, who–also clearly–has a heart of gold, and the volunteers of St. Lucia Animal Protection Society. They care for the sick, the lost, the helpless, the neglected for the sake of caring. Bright blessings on them, and all who do this kind and important work.
 
It’s about time to take Atticus out to Poop City again. Hopefully we’ll hit. Either way, he’s home. His humans and his brothers couldn’t be happier.
Nora 

A Lot of Bits And Some Pieces

Just not much going on around here because it’s hibernation time.

Delighted to report that Logan–who’s grown another inch according to the Nana Hug-O-Meter and verified by measuring tape–scored a three-pointer to help his team win his basketball game. And Kayla–running the 3200 and the 4×800 relay–helped the Boonsboro Girls Indoor Track Team win the State Championship.

Kayla (left) in relay. Photo from HeraldMailMedia.com

Pretty sweet all around.

Meanwhile after work and workouts, I played (a little obsessively) with a Christmas gift from Jason and Kat. When we vacation together, we do fun panorama photos, with staging and considerable choreography. So for Christmas, they got me a jigsaw puzzle comprised of four of those panos. Fun, challenging and unique. And accomplished! Even if a piece appears to have gone missing from Sorento.

The perfect gift

I’m also thrilled my newly reupholstered living room furniture is now in place. And relieved it received potentially future interior designer Kayla’s approval. I like the cheerful, bright and warm look of it, and that I successfully played off the bird pillows I’m so fond of, and the gorgeous throw my agent brought me back from a trip to India.

Otherwise I’m deep into the book, socked in and happy to be so.

Since I’m here, I’m going to (once again) address a few points, as apparently there’s been a revival of chatter, misinformation and odd assertions on the internet.

Roarke is Roarke. Period. No, no, a thousand times no, he was not named Patrick after his despicable father. He is not, has never been a junior. He is very simply, now and forever–before and after and always–Roarke.

Readers dissatisfied with that are just going to have to accept it.

And just because Roarke rhymes with stork doesn’t equal baby. There will be no baby, biological, adopted, fostered, in dreams or conceived by Eve and Roarke in an alternate universe. (Also no to pregnancy scares which is just silly.) This is simply not going to happen for reasons I’ve explained many times. And no, Eve and Roarke will not babysit for Bella. Why in God’s name–seriously–would they? I really think Mavis and Leonardo can handle finding their own child care when necessary.

Eve will not find long-lost relations. This will not happen. Period. Done. Please??? And her father is DEAD. Really most sincerely dead. Doornail dead. Dead as Moses.

Supporting characters will not take the spotlight as Eve and/or Roarke are sidelined by injury, kidnapping, amnesia or alien abduction. They are, and will remain supporting characters.

I’m never, ever going to ask for reader input into storylines. I do not, as some believe, take reader suggestions and work them into a story, or adjust future stories, character traits, dialog or actions due to reader chatter (be it positive or negative). I write in my own little bubble, and that’s never going to change. If a reader feels ‘it’s time’ I shake things up, freshen things up, it may be that reader needs a break from my work. Nothing at all wrong with that.

In very practical terms, in logistical terms, by the time the chatter starts on a new book, the next is already written and with my publisher–and often the next two as the books are published every six months, and my personal process is to work about a year ahead of publication.

So the chatter doesn’t apply for me from a practical or a creative standpoint. Especially from the creative side.

As a writer, as a creator of a long-running series with recurring characters, I have to think both of the long view and each individual book. It all has to make sense within the world created, for the characters drawn, for the interpersonal relationships of those characters.

Trust me, I know the world and the characters.

Now, I’m going to drop myself into a different work with different characters. I like it in my bubble.

Nora

Nothing Much

 Which is what’s going on around here. I’m in hibernation mode–mostly–so it’s just work, work out, dinner, sleep. Repeat.
 
It’s what I call the best.
 
I do break hibernation a bit here and there. The kids are allowed into the cave. With Kayla off to run in States–go, team!– to end her track season, and Logan’s basketball season winding up, I may see a little more of them. That’s always a bright spot in this relentlessly gloomy winter.
 
As a sign they’re pretty grown up, what was once a toy room/guest room is now, after my purge, just a guest room. Nobody plays with the toys any more, so it’s time to pass them on. A little sad, but then I remember a couple weeks ago after a sleep-over, Kayla and I putting our makeup on together in the bathroom mirror. Every stage has its little pleasures.
 
Plus, I picked out new paint and bedding for the room. I’ll enjoy seeing it freshened up. And our Sarah who often bunks there after a book signing will, too.
 
And thanks to Sarah’s gift of an amaryllis kit, I have a gorgeous February bloom.
 
While I ‘appeared’ in New York to celebrate my first release with St. Martin’s Press, I didn’t have to leave home to do it. My amazing publisher projected the cover of Echoes In Death, front and back on the Flatiron Building. This is just too cool. It’s also pretty sweet having a publishing team who thinks of the just too cool–so I can stay home and write while they do innovating marketing, create fun contests and design fabulous covers.
 
I can’t count the ways I love my home with them, and the people in it.
[Note from Laura:  Because I DO leave my house in the winter, I drove to NYC to see this in person and “reported” on the display. https://www.facebook.com/jdrobbauthor/videos/10154891568726132/]
Last weekend I serious broke hibernation when BW and I went into Fit In Boonsboro to take their first Cize Alive class. I’m a big fan of Cize and of Shaun T, and use his DVDs regularly in my workouts at home. Knowing this, our manager Heidi gave me a little nudge to attend. And since my pal JoAnne planned to go, and added a second nudge, in I went. And BW decided to give it a go with me.
 
Fun stuff–fun, sweaty stuff–with a happy class and seriously energetic instructors in Heidi and Teri.
 

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.

The last break–and it will very likely be the very, very last until spring–hits today. If you’re a fan of NPR, you’ll have listened to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. If you haven’t, you’re missing something. I’m delighted they invited me to be their guest on the Not My Job segment. I recorded it live Thursday night–by phone–and it airs today and tomorrow on NPR. You’ll want to check your local listings if you’re interested.  (And the segment is now online.) 
 
Now with the annual house purging done and nothing on my schedule for WEEKS that takes me out of the house, I’m hunkering down. I’m working on the second book of the new trilogy, and can say without hesitation, it’s sucking my brain dry by the end of every day. It’s hard, complicated writing, and I couldn’t be happier doing it.
 
So nobody better poke the bear until April!
Nora

 

Bright Spots

We’ve had a gray and gloomy couple of weeks. The sun took a winter holiday and left us in dim and dank for far too long. Cranky rain, a little ice storm, and late night a dusting of snow.
 
I’d rather have the snow. At least it’s white and bright.
 
I may not notice the gloom so much when I’m into the workday, but before and after–gloom, gloom, gloom.
 
Gotta find those bright spots elsewhere.
 
A friend gave me some narcissus she’d started forcing–so sweet. And now they’re tall and lovely and give me one of those little bright spots. Another gave me an amaryllis I’ve just started. Can’t wait to see it grow and bloom.
 
I’ve been purging every weekend–and leaving myself brighter spots as I go. I really have to stop buying scarves–I won’t, but I really should. And jackets. I try not to leave the house, so why do I need so many scarves and jackets?
 
And yet.
 
A big bright spot was dinner with the kids. Not much brighter than happy, chatty kids–and all with excellent report cards. As Nana pays for As, they’re currently rich, happy, chatty kids.
 
Kayla came to hang with me on Saturday–more bright–and I had bread dough rising, a pot roast with the trimmings on the simmer. Since I had the girl, why not purge the bathroom–and my makeup drawers? Much more fun with a girl pal, and one who loves samples (I had a ton) and makeup as much as I do. She left with a bag that made her happy, and I’m left with more organized drawers and baskets, making me happy.
Sourdough with sesame and poppy seeds.
Pot roast for BW.
And BW’s happy with a pot roast for dinner. Good deal all around.
 
More purging Sunday–one more weekend should do it–then . . . is that the sun? I believe it might be. For a minute or two anyway.
 
Logan asked me to come to his basketball game–and how could a Nana say no to that? BW had a photo commitment. He’d entered some photos in the annual contest the Washington County Museum holds. He’d meet us if he could.
 
Lots of games scheduled in the Boonsboro High School gym. I get there as one’s nearly over. Nice for Logan his mom’s parents came, too. And his sister and little brother. We can hang out on the bleachers until it’s his game time and form a solid rooting section. And just before, here come’s Grandda–feeling pretty bright himself as one of his photos took best in Washington County.
 
Logan’s not a big guy, but with his recent growth spurt–he’s just past the five foot mark now–I note Number Two is no longer the shortest on the court. He’s little, but he’s fast and feisty!

 

Nana’s action shot from the bleachers.
Ready for the rebound.
The kids are good, and I like that the bleachers clap or respond to good plays by both teams. Good sportsmanship starts with coaches and parents. These are good sports.
 
Logan’s team won, both teams played hard and well. More bright spots in him getting many rebounds–and scoring two baskets. Biggest bright spot of the day, his flushed and happy face when we hug goodbye.
 
Now the weekend’s behind me, and the workweek begins. In the gray, apparently. No sun out there today. So my bright spot will be the book that’s going pretty well, no need to put on a scarf or a jacket and–at least on this Monday morning–a reasonably well ordered house.
 
That’ll do. I hope if you’re caught under these gray skies you find the bright here and there.
Nora

Some Days Just Suck

When a day planned for the keyboard and the book ends up being spent in the car and in two dentist’s chairs–with the bonus of a root canal–it definitely sucks.
 
But I now know I can get from my pajamas into street clothes, slap on enough makeup as to not frighten small children in approximately five minutes. When the goal is to make an emergency dentist appointment at an office forty minutes away (if no slow pokes hog the road in front of me), with fifty minutes to make it with a banging tooth, it can be done.
 
I’m grateful my guy squeezed me in so fast, and when the issue required the specialist, they booked me an appointment the same day. Enough time to get to the pharmacy in Boonsboro to fill the Rx for antibiotics–and pop the first of those suckers in the parking lot. Enough time to consider running back home to get the phone I left, in my rush, on the kitchen counter, then scrap that and live dangerously.
 
So a couple hours poking around at Turn The Page before driving back to Hagerstown, and into another dentist chair. But got the four tubs of books signed while I was there.
 
I don’t like needles–who does?–but I’m thinking: Jab that thing in there and numb this bitch. And ahhh, numbness=relief of pain. And the endless drilling will mean fix. This is not my first root canal, and I try to find my Zen. Not an easy task, but you gotta try.
 
Six and a half hours after my mad dash out of the house, I’m home again. Yay.
 
I find it almost inevitable that a crazy tooth thing will explode on me over a weekend. Is this a test of character? I’d like to skip it next time.
 
However, on Saturday it was just sore and annoying, with my plan to call for help on Monday morning. It wasn’t bad enough I skipped my workout. In fact the workout was a nice distraction. Domestic stuff also distracted. Time to shovel out the rest of the holiday stuff, start putting the house back together.
 
I’m having my living room furniture reupholstered–Kayla is pleased with me here–so my empty living room echoes.
 
With my house back in shape, and my man preparing to have an evening with football, I get myself ready for A Night With Nora at the inn.
 

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?

A rapt audience.
Nancy and Nora.
Group shot — though Nancy had gone upstairs.
I think we all had fun. Enough I’ll definitely consider doing this again. We had husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, girl pals–such a nice, happy mix of people. And the ice held off, so driving home wasn’t bad at all.
 
However, waking up before dawn with a tooth banging like a hammer? Not fun. Working out distracted, a little, and I started my annual purge. Gotta keep the mind off the banging! I hit my One More Room, which is always satisfying. Then my shoe closet. I think my friends who wear size seven will be pleased.
 
I decide to make soup because I know I’m going to need it.
 
Kayla has her State champion cross-country team here for a little celebration–and the surprise of State Champ jackets Nana and Grandda bought. In rural area schools, especially, football gets all the bucks. These girls ran hard, and deserve their rewards.
 
I can hear them chattering and laughing down in the family room–this is after a scavenger hunt outside, and a trip from here down to the mailbox at the start of our lane. A quarter mile. The coaches come up to thank me while I’m cooking–and happily say they expect Kayla to use that quarter mile for training over the summer.
 
The team gets to swim, eat pizza and snacks, enjoy each other. These are, seriously, delightful girls.
 
I pop Motrin–and actually consider taking one of BW’s pain meds. Sanity comes back when I calculate he’s got fourteen inches and about ninety pounds on me. I’ll stick with Motrin and add some wine to that.
 
Can’t pop the Motrin for another four hours, but you can always pour another glass of wine. I do.
 
Colt comes up to hang with me. He’s had enough of girls. Nana doesn’t count! So he eats his pizza at the counter while I cook, and distracts me from the banging.
 
The girls come up to give me a framed picture of the champs. I’d just told BW I wanted to get a picture, and boom–wish granted. And they’ve all signed the mat inside the frame. I love this, a lot.
 
I’ll say again, absolutely delightful girls with caring, devoted coaches. Kayla chose well–and we’re told qualified to run in the County meet (she’s doing indoor track over the winter) this Friday.
 
Run, Kayla, run!
 
When the soup’s simmering and the house is quiet again, I decide to get into my pjs and watch bedroom tv. Actually fall asleep for about twenty minutes. Pain is lessened. I know–from experience–this means the abscess is leaking, relieving the pressure. I don’t really care as the pain’s gone from ringing the bell at ten to about a five. I’ll take it. And the soup BW brings me on a tray.
 
So a crappy, annoying weekend can still have it’s high points and bright spots. And now it’s in my rearview mirror. Bye-bye!
 
My jaw is sore and tender this morning, but that’ll pass. And there’s always wine at the end of the day! It’s gloomy out–the world outside my office window is gray and brown. I don’t have to go out into it. Instead, I’m going inside a story–the best distraction ever. And may just write in my pjs all day.
 
Best job in the world!
Nora

2017

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

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

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

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

Kay;a on bread pudding duty.

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

The new sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Kat’s brilliant mind and hands.

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

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

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

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

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

The family holiday photo.

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

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

Nora