Category Archives: Nora at home

All Kinds Of Bunches

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.

The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?

Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.

Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.

Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.

I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018  graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.

I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.

The principals — elementary, middle and high school — who oversaw the MBHS Class of 2018. Photo by LMR
Nora at the podium. Photo by LMR
On the big screen. Photo by LMR

I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.

I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.

Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.

Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.

Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.

And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.

On the rise. Photo by Nora
Down the front hill Photo by Nora
Thriving pots. Photo by Nora
A spot of color. Photo by Nora.
Front patio pots. Photo by Nora.

Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.

A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.

I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.

We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.

This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!

I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!

I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.

That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.

Nora

Note from Laura:  It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures .  Keep it between us, ok?

A peek through the branches. Photo by LMR
One of many happy toad houses. Photo by LMR
That face. Photo by LMR

Happy (Early) Birthday, Mama-To-Be

Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.

And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!

The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.

Festive! Photo by LMR
Surprise! Nora and Kat with Dawn. Photo by LMR
Nora, the Saks team and the guest of honor. Photo by LMR
Laura, Nora, Kat, Mary and Sarah.

A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.

Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.

And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.

Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.

Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.

Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR

A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!

After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!

Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.

For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.

More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!

Time for a workout!

A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.

Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR

Peony closeup. Photo by LMR
And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.
Water feature, in bloom. Photo by LMR

A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.

Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.

And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature.  I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed.  Enjoy!

Strange Days

I don’t mind rain–good for the flowers–and I enjoy a good, wicked storm. But.

We had about ten days of solid rain here, along with most of the East Coast. Drenching, drowning, flooding rain day after day. With seriously wicked storms at night. Bombs of thunder. Parker, never bothered by storms, took to sleeping on the floor by BW instead of on his doggie bed.

Roads flooded–and one just a couple miles from me, buckled under the endless attack.

Buckled road. Photo by SAB

As a bonus, BW brought home a souvenir bug from Derby. The second generation thereof (passed to me) kicked my ass. Thursday after Derby while working out–huh, a little tickle in my throat. An hour later? Throat on fire! Ears slammed shut, vicious headache, low grade fever, dry, hacking cough. And the rain, rain, rain (low barometric pressure) added to the fun.

While I was able to work Friday, I knocked off early, crawled into bed. Saturday, we hit the nursery (fever broken) for the few flats of annuals I needed to finish my pots. Finished pots, crawled into bed, and pretty much stayed there until Monday. Hey, it’s raining anyway.

Last week a bit better, and able to do a workout on Tuesday–then slept about ten hours. Jeez, some souvenir. Finally down to the hacking and blowing portion of our program, and able to deal with all the crap around here that piled up while I was down.

The house smells of must and wet dogs. Light many fragrant candles.

Saturday? How about some rain? I actually made soup because rain and because Friday night, hmmm, little toothache. Saturday, bigger toothache. Why do these things happen on weekends????

Sunday, at last, at last, Here Comes The Sun! BW and I spent all day working outside–me, thanks to Motrin keeping the stupid tooth tolerable. Gardens are gorgeous, sun and warmth is a balm for the soul. Weeding is Zen. Pots and planters are filling in beautifully. I see little yellow blossoms on our tomato plants, and peonies waiting to open and scent the air. 

Filling in.
Happy pots.
Just outside the kitchen window.
Nasturtiums starting to pop.
Just outside back door.
Tomatoes.
Sunny spot.
Color down the driveway.
Herby goodness.

And my first stupid snake of the season. I’m not pleased by this sighting, tell BW. He, as always, asks what kind of snake. I get it’s important because we get copperheads and they’re poisonous, but snake is enough for me altogether. I tell him–black snake, yellow stripe. Oh, that’s nothing. Show him where I saw it–just the end of it slithering (shudder) under the spirea at the corner of the garden wall, outside the kitchen–where I often walk on the path, or weed.

Oh, says the MAN, yeah, they live there. They what? Why has this information never been passed to me before? They’re harmless, blah blah blah.

They are snakes. He may not understand my phobia, but it’s real.

Anyway, any weeding that needs doing in that area is now his job.

Despite the snake sighting, it’s amazing what a day of sunshine, gardening, just being outside can do for the body, mind, spirit. And seeing the results of the work we’ve put in over the years is so, so satisfying.

Monday (still hacking and blowing), I switch my regular dentist appointment–set for next week–to Wednesday with time worked in for my guy to take a look at this problem tooth. Dentist is out sick Monday or I’d have gone in. I betcha it’s the same deal I had.

Wednesday works as the tooth’s better, now just weird but not really painful. And after Monday’s work, after workout, I get to take my habitual walk around the gardens with wine and dogs. Ahhh.

Now, as I write this, it’s raining. I’m trying not to be annoyed, and won’t be as long as it’s just today.

Hear that rain gods? I have a lingering cold and a bad tooth. You don’t want to piss me off. Do not mess with my wine, walk and dogs.

Do not.

Nora

Enough Already!

I’m now officially obsessed with the weather. I’ve not yet stepped outside to shake my fist at the sky, but it could be coming. Sure, I should be grateful we didn’t get the snow this weekend as threatened–though there may be some Monday morning, so I’ll just save any gratitude.

Besides, here’s what my refrigerator told me this morning.
 This is not right. Usually by this time of year I’m starting to walk around, checking out perennials starting to push up. I’m thinking about how soon I can risk getting a truckload of plants so I can play in the dirt and have all that pretty color popping. But no, Spring’s decided to sleep in.
My tulip magnolia’s so anxious to bloom, and it keeps inching out more pink. So far, the temps aren’t welcoming, and it, too, is sort of sleeping in. I told it this morning–I can see it though the windows of my little gym–just wait until the middle of the week. I think it’ll be safe after that.

Here’s hoping.

I do have daffs trumpeting spring, such as spring is, but they don’t mind the cold.

 Obviously, I do!
Even the dogs want in more than they want out.

I’m telling myself spring will be glorious when it finally wakes up, and I’ll appreciate it more than every before.

Meanwhile I have a daily visitor in this enormous pileated woodpecker who digs on the suet cakes I hang. We’ve got a pretty redheaded one, too, and lots of little guys. They hang back when the big boy’s around.

So I can look out the window at the daffs and the birds, and that’s something.

Someone asked if I had a close-up of the shaving cream eggs the kids did for Easter. A goodly chunk went for egg salad and just a hard-boiled snack, but I had a few left which I deviled for my happy man. We have before and after.

Now, since it’s cold again and my man’s away for a couple of days, I think I’m going to clean myself up from my workout, pick up a bit around the house. Then maybe watch my Thor: Ragnarok DVD (again).

It feels like a good day to do pretty much nothing.

 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

Stuff and Nonsense

Some of you may be aware we had a bit of a tangle on the Dark In Death Discussion thread last week. A reader had strong (very) objections to the word skank as used to describe women Eve and Peabody warned about possible danger.

I don’t want to get more specific on the plot itself as some of you may not have read the book.

However, I will say, in this case, one of the women the reader sees in interview is wearing cock and ball earrings. The other has Sexy Bitch tattooed over her well-displayed chest. They are, basically, party girl groupies looking for the next score–sex, drugs, action. Whatever.

Peabody uses the term.

The reader had many objections–terrible to denigrate women (such terms are NEVER used to describe men)–cops would never use such terms (she included skirt and sidepiece in this claim) as they would be ‘raked over the coals’ for doing so. And it was her opinion as I wrote the book, I am therefore sexist and should correct this in the future.

Well, bullshit on all counts.

First, as I pointed out–pretty politely at first–I am not my characters nor are they me. And cop talk is cop talk. I also reminded her that a recurring sub-character is nicknamed Dickhead.

Not good enough–even when a couple of other posters who have some experience working or being around cops explained that yeah, cops talk to other cops in often harsh shorthand.

The reader escalated, got very personal and rude–not only to me at the end, but to other posters–until Laura had to step in, tell her she’d crossed all kinds of lines, and banned her.

First, I’ll say Laura doesn’t take banning a reader lightly. It has to be extreme, and this was.

It occurred to me during this incident, that the particular reader obviously didn’t get one of the main points of the book–from the perspective of the character whose books are being used to plot. murders.

This is fiction. This is a story. We who write try very hard to craft entertaining stories with compelling, interesting characters. We’re not writing about ourselves when we write fiction, and the actions, dialog, internalization, motivations of those characters must fit those characters. Not those of the person writing the story.

Just to take Eve Dallas as an example:

I love to shop; she hates it. She drinks gallons of coffee; I don’t drink it at all. She has a cat; I have dogs. Shoes for her are something you walk in. For me, shoes are . . . pretty much everything. I’ve never been in a physical fight–and hope that continues.

I could go on and on.

Part of the fun of writing is creating people, and the writer may have little in common with those people. Their worldviews may or may not mesh. Their backgrounds are very unlikely to.

Some readers may project the writer into the character, but that doesn’t make it true.

Moreover, it’s always struck me as very strange that certain readers will ask, insist even demand that I write what they want, or stop writing what they don’t.

You must stop using the word fuck! People don’t talk that way.

First do you live in the actual world? Second I’ll use whatever word I like as you’re not the boss of me. And more to the point, if my characters use this very versatile word, it’s because THEY’RE using it.

Your books have too much sex. Your books need more sex.

My books have the amount of sex that I, as the writer, feels suits the story and the characters having sex.

You need to go back to writing nice, sweet romance.

No. I need to write what I’m driven to write.

I’m sending you this religious pamphlet because you use the name of the Lord in vain, and I’m worried about your immortal soul.

Thank you for the thought, and maybe you shouldn’t read my books.

You write about witchcraft so I believe you’ve embraced Satan.

(Yes, all the above are true stories.)

Does a reader honestly believe I’m going to read one of these posts, emails, letters and say: OH! Sue in Tulsa doesn’t want any swearing in my books. No more swearing for my characters!

Or I won’t write about fictional witches because I’m suddenly afraid I’ve invited Satan into my life?

These readers don’t know me, and yet feel perfectly righteous about telling me I’m immoral or sexist or an animal hater (killed a fictional cat in a book once) or whatever their personal values dictate.

Laura gets most of this–and recently got an all-caps rant on my language, which included a slam at Diana Gabledon for using fuck in her books. Which the raging reader claimed hadn’t been invented by the time of Outlander (which she called Highlander in the screed). Well, as Laura said, she supposed the reader had never read Chaucer whose work well precedes the Jacobite Rebellion.

Readers don’t get to dictate. They don’t get a vote. They have tremendous power–to buy or not, to read or not. The reader who provided the springboard for this blog claimed that since she’d read the book, she had the right to critique it, and obviously all I wanted was constant praise.

Well, I’d rather get praised than slammed. Human here. Yet over three decades I’ve somehow managed to shoulder mixed or poor reviews, or handle readers’ individual complaints.

However, reading the book doesn’t give anyone the right to hurl personal insults at the writer of the book. That’s not a critique on the work.

Let me add that the fall back–you just want constant praise–is the often-used blast that usually comes when the person’s losing an argument.

It should be a clue when a reader is alone in an opinion in a group of other readers, when reasonable responses have been given. Instead of buying the clue, this type of person then hurls those insults at everyone.

And honestly, when one claims I’m sexist and need to knock it off because a cop character in a story uses the term to describe women whom I deliberately crafted to earn the designation, I tend to believe that particular reader is a little scary.

I know perfectly well some will read this and be insulted–claim I’m disrespectful to readers. But I don’t push readers into one lump. You are not the Borg. And some individuals who happen to read need to learn to separate reality from fiction. And need to understand my world–personally and professionally–doesn’t revolve around their demands.

To end this on a happier note, I spent yesterday in the kitchen (catch Eve doing that!). I made a couple of rounds of sour dough bread, which I’ll freeze as I made a pretty amazing beef stew with dumplings.

Sourdough with poppy and sesame seeds. Photo by NR
Beef stew with dumplings. Photo by NR

Leftovers tonight! So my afternoon will include reading someone else’s book.

Nora

Note from Laura:  As Department Head of Answering Letters,  I see a lot of fascinating messages.  There are the ones that move — loving stories about readers and the people in their live, for example the widower who reads the In Deaths because Eve reminds him of his wife, or the people who share how reading brought them closer to family members, or how just reading one of Nora/JD’s titled helped a reader out of a morass of depression because she saw a woman of strength in that book.

As the Department Head of Reading Complaints, I see all the examples Nora listed above.  With a few extra thrown in like “I’ll show you!  I’ll borrow your books from the library!!!” As a daughter of a librarian, sales to libraries are golden for an author so I just smile and wish them well.  Recently, a woman complained on behalf of herself, her mother, her sister, their hairdresser and other assorted people  (many of these come in from the group spokesperson) about Year One and how they just didn’t like it and all agree Nora should write happier books.  When I replied that maybe they’ve just outgrown Nora and should stop reading her for a while she came back with “You’re telling me NOT to buy Nora’s books???”  Well, yes. Borrow them, give yourself a break.  How does it serve anyone’s purpose for you to set yourself up to be miserable?

I’ve taken to charting when the standard complaints come in.  Around a full moons I see a rise in language complaints.  There are two full moons this month, so I’m extra braced.

Recently there’s been an uptick in emails like this one:  “Please stop showing so much of your boobs on morning television.  My 12 year old son is in the room and he doesn’t need to see it.”

She meant to write to Norah O’Donnell of CBS The Morning.  But I had a good laugh thinking of our Nora flashing the nation on morning TV.  And then I sent a correction.

Laura

 

Rainy Days and Sundays

I know, it could be snow. If what’s been coming down the last few days happened to be snow, we’d be buried in it. Still, I actually think, since it’s February, I’d prefer a good, solid snow over days of gray and rain. Wet dogs, muddy paws. At least, from inside, snow’s pretty.

So on this soggy weekend I made ham and potato soup, wiped muddy paws, (mopped the kitchen floor due to muddy paws) got workouts in early. Since the sun refuses to come out and play, I culled out faded flowers, rearranged, and made some new brights spots.

Soup’s on. Photo by NR
Pop of counter color. Photo by NR

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Flowers here and there help, but, boy, on weekends like this, I miss my garden.

Even the dogs, after habitual bouts of insanity, are lazy.

Dogs. Tired. Photo by NR

The week focused on work, just the way I like it. And when that’s the case, I often don’t think about what’s outside my window, but what’s outside the windows of the story. Except when it’s, again, time to wipe those muddy paws.

This afternoon, since we have bread and soup for the rainy evening, I think I’ll park myself in front of the fire in the library, and read. Nothing quite like a fire, a book and a few hours where nothing has to be done.

If you’re looking for a book to hunker down with when March blows in, you might try The Coincidence Makers. Yoav Blum’s an Israeli author, and my editor bought his book–and gave me an early chance to read it. It’s fun, thought-provoking, fanciful, and out March 6 from St. Martin’s Press.

Today, I’m settling in with a Jesse Stone novel. I hope Jesse’s weather’s better than mine, but either way, I’ll have some fun. 

Nora

Note from Laura:

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Coincidence Makers.  I found it a fascinating, fun book which prompted me to consider all those small moments that make up a life from a different perspective.

In the category of  coincidences (but was it really?) I bought these for myself on Friday — not knowing what Nora had in her house.

Pop of color. Photo by LMR

February. Why?

I don’t know why this month’s always so difficult. Okay winter, but it’s short. It should be easy.

But we have ice on the lane, ice on the patio, dogs who don’t want to be outside more than five minutes. Who can blame them?  We have cold. We have gloom. Then how about some more gloom? With some ice and sleet and whatever else February wants to toss down.

Then we have Thursday. Suddenly it’s sixty degrees. I hear birds celebrating. I don’t get outside myself for long, but when I do, it’s ahhhh. Between the rain and the sudden warm, the ice is just a bad memory.

Then Saturday happens. Gloom is back, and cold. And let’s just throw in some snow. It wouldn’t be such a thing, except psychotic February gave us Thursday. Why?

Winter as far as the eye can see. Photo by NR
So due to snow, and the fact my guy’s coming home, I spent most of snowy Saturday in the kitchen. Pasta e fagioli sounds good, and the traveler’s very fond of my sour dough pretzel rolls.
Soup on simmer. Photo by NR
Pretzel bread at the ready. Photo by NR
It’s a nice way for me to spend a February day, and it’ll be good to see my guy again. Even though . . . this is my kitchen counter without a man in the house, even after making soup and bread.
Then, Photo by NR
And this is my kitchen counter after BW.
Now. Photo by NR

It soothes my double Libra soul to have the tidy. Clutter and chaos just bring on a underlying stress I mostly ignore because, well, life and I do share that life and the house with a male.

I’ve always shared life and houses with males. A father and four brothers. A husband and two sons. I happen to know not all men are messy, but mostly the ones who aren’t don’t live in my little world.

The offset here, other than I actually love my man, is someone else will go outside on the frigid mornings to feed the dogs, take out the trash and recycling. That same someone will plow the snow off the lane. That someone will do the dishes after I cook, even if he appears to be genetically incapable of cleaning off the counters or stovetop.

Note to BW: (A few swipes with a questionable dishcloth is not cleaning off.)

Still, February’s more than half over. I don’t wish time away–ever–but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about spring while I’m looking out at my snowy woods. It’ll be harder to take when they’re forecasting close to 70s later in the week.

Psychotic February. You just have to take it as it comes.

Nora

 Cranky Publicist note (or…And Now something different):

As the winter yang to Nora’s winter yin — in the summer we reverse — I must speak up for those of us who go outdoors in the cold months.  While I’m grateful on the truly miserable days to work in a home office, I need to put on layers and get outside at least once a week to breathe and reset.

The rewards abound: I found gorgeous blue skies and ice sculptures in Frederick.  Roses under sulky gray skies in NYC.  Reds and golds and dragons in NYC’s Chinatown to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Dog.

Summer will be here way too quickly (the mid-week forecast is closer to 80 in my elevation — yikes!) for my thick blood, while Nora will embrace the warmth with thanks and celebration.  (And WHY does the summer contain TWO months with 31 days?  The winter haters get February.  I want a February.)

And yet, the seasons will turn and we’ll each have our moments in the sun.

Blue skies, white spires, red brick. Photo by LMR
Dragon-y ice. Photo by LMR
NYC roses in winter. Photo by LMR
Dragon on parade. Photo by LMR
Lanterns. 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