Category Archives: Nora at home

In the Spirit

It’s hard to be otherwise around here, despite breath-taking cold with some ice tossed in. In the middle of a busy, scattered week, we took a little time off for fun, and a new tradition.

BW and I invited the employees of our Boonsboro businesses to a little progressive holiday shopping. It’s a good, happy way to gather other busy people together, make connections, and let everyone see what the other businesses have to offer.

Just add wine and camaraderie.

The crowd at Turn the Page.

From Turn The Page to Gifts Inn Boonsboro, from Gifts to Fit In Boonsboro, and from Fit to the inn. It’s a nice way to give managers and staff a chance to show off their own and socialize.

The Gifts Inn BoonsBoro display.
The Fit In Boonsboro staff.

We ended the evening hosting a dinner for all at Vesta. And boy, did Vesta show off its own.

The Inn, dressed for the season.
The Courtyard at Inn BoonsBoro.

Good times, good people, and an excellent new tradition.

Saturday was for long-standing traditions. Cookie baking at Christmas has been part of our holiday festivities since my boys were just little guys. I have memories of them at every stage from pre-schoolers to teenagers.

Measuring.

We continued on with grandchildren. A big part of my enjoyment this time around was watching Kayla and Logan instruct Colt as I had instructed them. How to measure and stir, how to break an egg. (Nana picks out shells when necessary.)

Cutting.

It’s a full, fun-filled, messy day with happy, calorie-loaded results. Chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, mint blossoms, peanut-butter blossoms, and the traditional finale of painted sugar cookies.

With, naturally, much tasting included.

I see how cooking with Kayla has paid off as she competently puts the snickerdoodle dough together while I clean up behind–and deal with the ovens that have chosen today to go wonky. Just won’t hold the temperature.

Everyone paints the cookies.

Appliance repair, stat! I have a lot of cooking to do the following week.

We cap this tradition off with another–the early Christmas present. One gift, chosen pretty much at random for each kid to help them hold off for the endless week before the big day. Colt gets Legos, Logan a Risk game, Kayla some sweatpants.

And with that along with a big bag of cookies to take home.

And just about that time BW gets a call. Water is pouring out of the door of his studio in town. Uh-oh. Off he goes, so I push up my sleeves and deal with the mess, which is usually his job. Obviously he’s dealing with another mess which could be a lot more trouble than washing dishes and cleaning off counters spotted with cookie paint and sprinkles.

Plus I have time to catch my breath and have a glass of wine before he gets back. Sprinkler system busted, rained down. Water now shut off, mess dealt with and yet another repair coming.

Breath caught, it’s time to clean myself up, do a little prep for another tradition. My girl managers holiday party. A cheerful gathering of smart women’s a fine way to spend an evening. Some wine, some pretty food–and lots of home-made cookies along with easy conversation and plenty of laughs.

Today, after I write this, it’s time to workout. Maybe add a little extra cardio considering cookies. Then BW is off to a football game with Jason and pals.

I intend to do a whole bunch of absolutely nothing. A nothing-filled alone day to recharge the batteries for the rush and spirit of this last week before Christmas.

I wouldn’t mind making that another tradition.

Nora

Weekend Countdown

While I always get an early jump on the holidays, I invariably end up squeezing bunches into the last couple weekends before Christmas.

I don’t mind so much. I have an agenda, and it usually works.

It even works, usually, when life–as is will–tosses out extra stuff. Right now, we’re in the process of redoing the backroom of Vesta, transforming it into more of a loungey, cozy feel with sofas and chairs, board games, new lights. New paint, new art. This means those sofas, chairs, tables, lights, paint colors and so on have to be found, chosen, ordered.

I am a goddess of on-line shopping, and after BW grew frustrated in his search, I took over. About thirty minutes later, in my pjs, I’d outfitted what will be Vesta’s new space. You gotta love when it works. With the furniture ordered, I could get out the paint fan and find the tones and colors to compliment it.

And done.

In addition we found a fun and fabulous surprise when the crew tore off the drywall and plaster so we could expose the old brick. A fireplace! A little dance of joy! We’ll install electric logs–no open flames–scrape and paint one of the old mantels that came out of the building during one of its renovations, and have a terrific focal point.

Under-the-drywall surprise.
Under-the-drywall surprise.

It’s a busy time of year to deal with this, but it’s coming right along. I especially like that my part of it is complete.

Then there are parties and events–a booksigning, a Girls Night Out, a traditional shopping get-away with girl pals, prep and plans to entertain friends and family at home.

Girls shopping trip.
Girls shopping trip — Elaine, Pat, Mary, Nora, Mary Kay and Laura

Decorating. I want the festive around me, and was pleased to be able to schedule this year’s tree trimming when the kids were around.

Then there’s the wrapping. The wrapping. The wrapping. The most excellent Kayla did a big chunk of this for me–and she actually wants to! But I still have what I think of as wrapping marathons on weekends. Today, I hope to have my last of the season. I wrap in The One More Room with schmaltzy Christmas movies on the little TV. I also appreciate the schmaltzy this time of year.

This marathon was on yesterday’s agenda, but one must be flexible. I worked out, baked bread (on the agenda). BW requested pretzel bread, and that takes a bit more time with those extra steps. And he requested tortilla soup, which is fine as it can be put together while the dough rises. BUT, he also found a rack of ribs he’d somehow stuck in TTP’s freezer, and decided they really needed to be cooked. The way I make them requires they marinate overnight in the barbecue sauce I make, so add those to the late afternoon list, and reschedule the wrapping marathon for Sunday.

Pretzel bread.
Pretzel bread — candle and bubbles.

Being flexible means I’ll make herby roasted potatoes to go with the ribs BW will grill tonight–but the upside is between the soup (which was most excellent) and the ribs, I shouldn’t have to cook this week–especially as we have an outside event mid-week that involves pizza.

Maybe I spent six full hours in the kitchen (with schmaltzy Christmas movies on the TV–the pool for them is not shallow)–and I expect to do a schmaltz double feature before the wrapping’s done. But, I see a little window for Absolute Me time today, and I want it.

The work week’s coming right up, and next weekend is cookie baking with the kids–a long, fun, interesting day, and some at-home entertaining.

Then boom, it’s The Solstice, then it’s Christmas, and before you catch your breath, New Year’s.img_1771

So I don’t mind the busy weekends, the long hours in the kitchen or at the wrapping table, writing Christmas cards (done and dusted), the on-line shopping or poking through crowded stores. Because time moves fast, and appreciating, embracing, enjoying the special times–no matter the work–are what make it last, make the memories, bring the joy.img_1770

I hope you find and take those moments with all the rush and work and carve out time to embrace and enjoy the holiday season.

Around here, we got a light dusting of snow overnight–the first of the season. It’s a little icing on the holiday cake.

Nora

The Register – 11/4/16

For the rest of the year, I plan to compile a weekly round up of social media goings on, photos that appeal to me and tidbits of  info that just don’t fit into other posts.  So, not a Cranky Publicist post (like the one I’ve drafted in my head about how can you be an In Death fan if you misspell Roarke???)  but a neater way to keep you all filled in on what’s new and what’s not.

First up:  the Inn BoonsBoro package featuring an Evening with Nora sold out within hours.  I’m pretty sure if it goes smoothly, there will be another one in the future.  Stay tuned.

Next, St. Martin’s continues to be super excited about their first book with Nora/JD — Echoes in Death.  They will release small bits — one liners really — over the weeks to come to whet appetites even more.  Here’s the first one. echoes-whim-1

(BTW, Heroes & Heartbreakers has some excellent features about and by authors, reviews, reveals and other fun reader-y things. This morning starts with a discussion about Nora Roberts or Nora Ephron — have to love a good Nora, right?)

Continuing on the St. Martin’s Press theme (they are more excited than anyone about working with Nora!):  they have an ongoing sweepstakes tied into Echoes in Death.  The last two prizes are up for grabs soon — the last one is an Eve style leather coat!  Details and rules* are here.

They also created an amazing pop-art poster for Echoes in Death and will giveaway to readers in the US and Canada (ex. Quebec)** who upload their pre-order receipts before midnight, Feb. 6, 2017. All details are listed here.

And, because excitement this big can’t be contained, they’ve revealed the cover for September 2017’s Secrets in Death.9781250123152_fc

I’ll have more information about it next week. Pre-order links are coming on line, but it’s still a little too early for some.  Will list all the pre-order links next week.  Promise!

Third:  Love Between the Covers is now available on Netflix and will be out on dvd on December 6 — same date as Island of Glass.  I posted about the documentary here.

Finally, at Saturday’s signing two readers (names escape me right now) told me all about one of their phones that took photos by saying  “Cheese!” “Shoot” or “Capture!”  It was a Samsung 7 and I have a 6.  Nora will attest that I pouted about not having that amazing capability — which just made us laugh.

Back at the Fortress of Solitude that night, I googled voice triggered photos and found out that I could make my Samsung 6 do it.  And it did!  Here’s the evidence.

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Nora, Sarah and Kat enjoying my thrill of snapping a photo by saying “Cheese!”

Then we set BW’s Samsung up as well.  So happy faces all around, except for Nora’s pout that her iPhone didn’t take photos by talking to it.

Still she smiled for the photo.

OK, that’s week one of The Register.

Comments, questions, things you’ve found on your own?  Share in the comments.

Laura

* While we love our worldwide readers and hate they have to miss out on the fun, there are varying rules and regulations regarding contests and sweepstakes in countries outside the US and Canada making it problematic and extremely difficult to create global contests.

**  Canadians in Quebec can’t enter due to their own tight rules on sweepstakes.  All other Canadians must answer a math question to make it a test of skill rather than chance.

October 31

I’ve always had a fondness for the last day of October. I remember the pumpkins my mother carved every year and set out on the porch. The big bowl of candy for Trick or Treaters, getting to dress up and go around our neighborhood begging for candy (and wondering what was up with the house that always gave apples!)
 
When I had kids, as neighbors are few and far between in the country, I held a Halloween party–decorated our lower level with cobwebs, fake blood, fashioned a haunted house maze. As my parents were in the theatrical rental business, we even had a smoke machine.
 
Scare the kids–good times! Good enough I’ve had those grown kids share their spooked memories of those parties.
 
October 31 has other connections for me. It’s the birthday of my late, adored mother-in-law, a woman with the best laugh ever. Big, bawdy, infectious. You couldn’t spend ten minutes in her company and not laugh with her. She loved her family, old movies and coffee, could talk about anything. But when I think of her, I think of that wonderful laugh first.
 
It’s also my parents’ anniversary. They were married 63 years when my father died. Together they built a home–some of that literally as I still remember the day my father took a sledge hammer to a wall when they’d decided to build a sprawling addition to the house–raised five kids, welcomed over twenty grandkids and a scatter of great-grandkids. They built a business together, lived, loved and worked together for more than six decades.
 
So today, on Samhain, the day the veil thins, the day we celebrate the end of harvest, I light candles and think of three people I’m  blessed to have had in my life.
 
Happy Birthday, Sally.
 
Happy Anniversary, Bernie and Sis.
 
The last week of October equaled work week for me–including today–but a week also includes a weekend. Saturday Turn The Page held a signing, and as it was close enough to Halloween, some of us dressed for the occasion. I decided to go as Black Widow–mostly because, hey, easy. All I had to do was buy a Black Widow wig, then pick the appropriate clothes and footware from my own closet. Laura’s costume? A Cranky Publicist pin Kat made her last year. Talk about easy. [I go with my strengths, Laura]20160209_143924-2
 
BW dressed as a mechanic he called Vern. Also easy as he had the coveralls, the gimme cap, the shop rag, and fireplace ash to smear up his face.
 
The winner here, and it should be no surprise: Our Kat as Wonder Woman. No wig needed–she already had the super hero hair–and the costume? Awesome. When she left here early Saturday morning for TTP–wearing just that awesome and scanty costume, the temperature was still nippy. I might have been dressed as Black Widow, but under it, still a mom.
 
You need a jacket, I say.
 
But . . . I’m Wonder Woman. And out she went, hopefully into her heated invisible jet.20161029_105340
 
A fun, happy signing.
 
Sunday I finished up some on-line shopping, and now have just bits and pieces, stocking stuffers and the like to deal with. And since Kayla’s already on board to help with wrapping, I’m feeling pretty smug about the holidays.
 
img_1750Got a solid workout in as the only thing I exercised on Saturday was my signing hand–wandered outside in the spectacular gift of the summer in October day to cut flowers still happily blooming. BW harvested our little crop of potatoes. Sweet! We planted them late this year, so yes, little crop, but for me, adorable and satisfying.img_1746
 
So I made potato and ham soup–not using our crop, as I’ll save them for Friday dinner with the kids. With all the weekend chores complete, I sat down with a set of galleys.
 img_1747
I whined a little about having yet another set of galleys to proof over post-signing champagne and pizza. Cranky Publicist pointed out I had no business whining. I wrote the damn books, didn’t I? 
 
Cranky Publicist is annoying when she has a point.  [Note to self: mark the day in ther record book and hunt up smug emoji. ~L]
 
Tonight Boonsboro has it’s Trick Or Treat night. Businesses stay open late, hand out candy to the swarms of spooks and faeries and all the rest. This year Kayla won’t be part of the swarm but part of the handing out at the bookstore.
 
Time flies.
 
It might be fun to become Black Widow again, go into town, see that swarm, but I’ve got a full workday ahead–and galleys to proof, books to sign in the evening. I have a feeling I’ll be home in my pjs.
 
Maybe somebody’ll bring me some candy.
Nora

October Blur

It’s been a fast, colorful month so far–and it’s nearly over!

Every October, we spend a week in New York, and this year the city gifted us with perfect weather start to finish. In tune with the fast pace, we tend to cram a lot into that week. Shopping hits top of my list. And yes, I’m now all but finished my holiday shopping.img_1735
Country mouse goes city mouse to spend urban time with friends and family–heading up with BW and Jason, meeting up with Laura, rounding it out when our pal Sarah arrives to spend a couple days and our adventurous Kat flies in from a hiking trip with some of her adventurous family in Hawaii.

The gorgeous weather also provided a pretty amazing backdrop for the party with my new publisher. The rooftop and its amazing views ticked the box of most popular spot for the evening. Fun food, lots of wine, engaging company and a sunset worthy of Spielburg added up to a really lovely evening.

A day with the girls–including my editor and agent–(shoes! boots!) rounded out with a happy early dinner and the energetic, marvelous, ridiculously entertaining School Of Rock on Broadway.

Lots of urban hiking, uptown, downtown, midtown, scoring those holiday gifts (plus shoes! boots!), spending time with some of my favorite people. Yeah, a most excellent week.

Back home to the current chaos of a first draft which meant ignoring the chaos of my house. Boxes and bags, deliveries of more. Middle school math–and thank God Logan understands it as I don’t and never will.

The end of the marking period means a day off school. Kayla scared the life out of me by poking into the gym while my entire focus centered on sweating through cardio. I don’t see my girl as much as she’s running Cross-Country, so this is a treat. Once I finish the sweating.

She promises to come back Sunday to help me clear out the chaos.

Because Saturday is a most special day. My long-time friend’s wedding.

It’s a blustery day full of fall color. Inside the venue the warmth, the love, the happy glow just as much as the bride. She’s beautiful, and the handsome groom nearly as radiant. Those attending reflect the happy. The bride’s niece tells me while she did the bride’s hair and makeup that morning, the groom wandered around the house singing–and peeked in from time to time to tell his lady how beautiful she is.

Awww!

The big day feels like the couple it celebrates–the warm and loving and the sweet. We have time to mingle and bask before heading out to a patio for the ceremony. The prettiest of pretty flower girls, a lovely, simple arbor where the obviously (really obviously!) adoring groom waits, the lovely happy bride walks to him.20161022_124758

A sweet, simple, heartfelt ceremony where the bride drips happy tears. And the groom brushes them from her cheeks with his fingers. More aww. The groom slips the ring (given to her mother by her late father) on the bride’s finger. And the kiss.

Some people are meant to find each other as just the right times in their lives.

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Nora, Mary Kay, Elaine, Mary and Pat

That’s the feeling that carries through the day of as simply perfect a wedding I’ve been privileged to attend.

The best of best wishes to Elaine and Enrique.

That leaves me Sunday–and this time Kayla scares the life out of me as she slips in after my workout and the start of chaos clearing. She needs a snack! The kid’s running those calories off with training and meets. While she eats, I harvest the rest of my basil. Bumper crop!img_1736

Then she helps me haul, hang, organize. And for the first time in a week, the house looks like a house instead of a storage bin stocked by a crazy woman.

Since fall’s definitely arrived it’s a good day to make soup, and I love my favorite teenager wants to just hang out with Nana. Soup needs bread in my world. No time for anything but a quick one, so I get a can of beer and whip up some beer bread.

Bread on a Sunday. Photo by Kayla.
Bread on a Sunday. Photo by Kayla.

img_1744

It’s still warm when Kayla, hungry again, has a slice with a bowl of soup. She approves both.

Now there are four tubs of books to sign–it’s nice to have her company while I get that done.

Fall flowers from the garden. Photo by Kayla.
Fall flowers from the garden. Photo by Kayla.

Nobody gives better hugs than my girl, and I’m treated to one before she heads out the door.

Now I’m late getting started on my Monday. It’s rare for a book to keep me up at night, but this one’s done that a few times. So a late start while I try to finish this damn first draft so I can see what the hell’s in this story.

I can’t cross my fingers or I can’t type, but I might just light a candle for a solid, productive work day. And hey, leftover soup means no cooking tonight!

Nora

Girl Rites and Rituals

This weekend a friend of mine married the woman she loves. The wedding, held in their hometown of Philadelphia, culminated the wonderful weeks and months of planning, of excitement, of hope–and began a marriage. For various reasons, BW and I couldn’t make the trip, but were able to enjoy the day in posted photos thanks to the brides and several mutual friends.

I love weddings, the romance of them, the symbolism, the traditions. Flowers and music, rings and vows–the personal, intimate rite shared with friends and family. I hated to miss this one, but got my share of awww moments through those pictures. My favorite shows the brides, one in her lovely white gown, the other resplendent in her police uniform, standing face-to-face, hands holding each other’s arms. And the look in their eyes–love, happiness, promise.

It’s those moments–those snapshots–that push tears into my throat. Every single time.

Marriage is a leap of faith, and there’s something truly beautiful in that. Of course a rocking reception after the sweetness and sweep of the ceremony doesn’t hurt a thing. The newlyweds had one (I saw videos!).

And did a little happy dance of my own.

I spent my friend’s wedding day prepping for another ritual, for another friend.

My friend (and fellow spa girl) will be married at the end of the month. It’s delightful to me that one pal begins the transitional month of October as a bride, and another will end October as one. Sweet and sentimental bookends, two leaps of faith, two fun and festive rounds of tradition.

Another tradition I’m big on is The Bridal Shower. I’ve thrown several in my time, and enjoy it a great deal. Girls of all ages gathered together to celebrate a friend’s, a daughter’s, a sister’s moment. It’s so much about the bride–and it should be.20161002_121510

Champagne, pretty food, flowers, cake, games, gifts! What could be better on a Sunday afternoon? I’m fortunate in my friends, and especially lucky that my friends are friends with each other. We make a pretty happy group of girls.

And on this occasion we fete the bride-to-be by starting off with that champagne, the happy buzz of female voices. Food, more conversation. I had someone take a picture of the spa girls to mark the moment. We’re missing three–Nicole and Jeanette had mom obligations, and Kat’s hiking in Hawaii with her cousin. But they’re here in spirit.

Spa girl reunion
Spa girl reunion

We move onto games. Laura, who hates games, skates out of playing by being time-keeper. [Note from Laura: I’ll bet this comes as a surprise to all.]  No chance of a fabulous prize for her, but there’s always more champagne.

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Elaine, the bride.

Then the gifts. It’s fun watching the guest of honor open her haul, seeing the reactions as the gifts range–as they should for a wedding shower–from the gorgeous to the pretty and practical to the snickering risque. Everyone in the room loves the bride–she’s the center, the hand that joins all of us, friends and family, in this female ritual. It’s memories made–memories brought back as others think of their own ritual, their own leap of faith, or wonder when their time might come.

The bride and her family.
The bride and her family.

It’s a girl thing.

And it isn’t complete without cake. Beautiful, creative, delicious cake. I feel cake, especially one made by Lacy the amazing baker, is an excellent tradition, anywhere, any time.20161002_121520-220161002_151451

Why not have more champagne with that?

A lovely day of rite and ritual, previewing the rites and rituals to come. The flowers and music, the rings and the vows, the promises made to each other witnessed by friends and family. A leap of faith made in the case of my two pals, in a white dress.

Marriage is a series of promises, compromises, joy, annoyance with plenty of thick and thin layered on. It’s snuggles and spats, mutual goals and hopes, and the work that goes into them.

But it starts with a wedding and its rituals. It starts on a day, however the couple has designed it, filled with memories that can and should be lifted out and laughed and sighed over for, well, ever.

And because it starts with that leap of faith, I wish Suz and Jen, Elaine and Enrique, a happy, happy landing.  

Nora

The Wheel of Change

As that wheel turns we’ve already passed the Autumn Equinox, that day of balance, the line before (here in the Northern Hemisphere) dark begins to outweigh light. Maban’s also a time of harvest, so what thrived in the warmth can be gathered and stored for the coming cold.

I started some of my gathering last weekend with oregano from my herb bed. It thrived pretty well for me this year, but I only clipped enough to fill three ice cube trays for now. I wanted to test chopping herbs in the single serve attachment to my Ninja blender. I have a small electric herb grinder, but it’s still sort of a PITA to use. But this! It works, and fast, and so much less mess. No green fingertips for me!

I put the chopped herbs in the trays, fill with water, top off with a little more water once it’s hardened, then break the frozen cubes out, store in a big bag. I’ll easily get at least one more big bag for use in soups and stews all fall and winter.img_1712 img_1713 img_1719

But today, I think I’ll gather in some of my basil.img_1717

I’m seeing leaves start to turn and fall, and woke to some lovely and mysterious morning fog several days last week. I hate saying goodbye to summer, but find something so appealing in the gilding of light in fall, those morning mists, the change as all that gorgeous green takes on a symphony of color.img_1714

Still, my quieting garden holds beauty.

It was also Logan Week around here, afternoons of scary (more to me than him) math homework, political discussions–the kid has definite views, ideas, and lots of questions. Conversations and current events. He’s the one who told me Jolie and Pitt broke up, as he was bored on the school bus and checked his news feed.

His news feed.

This week we also discussed the book he’s reading, The Flash, The Avengers (I liked Civil War more than he did), the Kennedy assassination. He wanted to know if I was alive when Kennedy was shot. Sweet, sweet boy! And as he had Social Studies homework, he quizzed me on states and capitals while he finished it. I didn’t do too bad there.

I had some outdoor chores and asked him to come out and give me a hand. One was poop scooping as BW and Jason and another guy pal took a week at the beach. I told Logan I wouldn’t ask him to scoop poop off the pavers, and had another chore in mind. How could I forget he’s 12? And to a 12-year-old boy, poop scooping is a fun time. I happily passed the shovel and watered the pots instead. We filled bird feeders, and he fed the dogs. Then he wanted to cut flowers for the little vase as I’d intended.

He wasn’t very impressed with the handful we brought in–until I put them in the vase. A nice lesson–you can make something really pretty out of very little.img_1715

The gang came up for dinner Friday for what’s now the traditional pasta for carb-loading, cross-country-running Kayla. But Logan tells me he’s tired of spaghetti every Friday night. Nana solves this by asking my TTP pal to bring a pizza along with the tubs of books for me to sign. So I have a happy Logan and Colt, and a happy Kayla–who has both pasta and pizza so should be fully loaded for Saturday’s meet. Go, Kayla, go!

So I listen to Logan and his politics, his varied interests, and Kayla with talk of the meet, of her friends, watch Colt play intensely on my iPad while I boil pasta. (And as he does, without even looking up, he says: I love you, Nana, so my heart softens just like the spaghetti.) I watch and listen and see yeah, the wheel turns.

My garden is ready to be harvested after the growing season. The mists roll in, the air cools, and the leaves change. Children grow and add fascinating layers.

The wheel turns whether we’re ready for it or not, and I can lose track when I’m huddled at my keyboard and saturated in a story. I’m going to take some time today to harvest and gather and embrace the change.

Nora

Weekend Fun

The fun followed a pretty solid and satisfying work week. I love when that happens. After the writing and the working out, Logan comes up (after school) for homework and conversation. Kayla is on the cross-country team, and training after school so I don’t get to see as much of my girl. But Logan makes up for it.

On Monday, he sat down to dizzying math, and tells me he currently has a 98% in that (for me) terrifying subject. Then rattles off a series of As across the board. Nana says: Who are you, and what have to done with my Logan? And makes him laugh. Then I ask what inspired him to do so well this year? He says: Last year.

Excellent answer, I tell him. It shows he learns from his mistakes as his grades last year took a dip toward the end.

Then he makes me laugh as he says: I want to be the first of my bloodline to get straight As.

But more than school and math and grades he can be quite the conversationalist, and entertains and impresses me as he brings up subjects from NASA and the space program (He’s taking Aerospace as an elective. Aerospace!) to politics to 9/11 to the Kennedy assassination. The boy’s growing up in front of me, and really fast.

I do get to see Kayla on Friday night when the gang comes up for dinner. Spaghetti’s requested as Kayla’s carb-loading for her first meet on Saturday. That’s fine with all. Young Colt can be a picky eater, but pasta works for him. (As does the chocolate bar when he cleans his plate.)

Our running girl’s nervous about this first meet, afraid she’ll come in last. To which Logan says, in that classic brother tone: Nice positive attitude. When they leave and I hug Kayla goodbye, I tell her to do her best, and just as important, to have fun.

I know she runs at ten Saturday morning, and I’m already in the gym sweating it out. I note the time, send her some good (positive!) vibes. When I come in, panting a little, sweating a lot, BW calls out from his office for me to come see.

Kayla’s mom’s already posted a couple pictures of Kayla at the meet. I send out more vibes, head upstairs. I need caffeine! Minutes later, BW hurries up into the kitchen. Race is done, and Kayla came in 7th out of 80 girls! She places in the top ten in her first meet, gets a ribbon, and oh boy, a big confidence booster.

I’m so happy for her I do a dance–despite the 90-minute workout–as I bring up Facebook on my iPad. And there she is! Running on the last leg–the track–with really good form. And those long, long legs.kayla-running-2 kayla-running

I hit the shower, start my Saturday task of bread baking–we’re out after spaghetti night. As the dough’s rising and I’m fiddling around with little chores, Kayla comes in. Lots of congrats for the very happy girl. And more spaghetti as she’s a hungry girl, too. She hangs awhile, gives me some details of the race. When she’s about to go, I tell her I’m having some of the girls over on Sunday for a clothes swap–and ask if she wants to come. She knows the girls, and does.img_1706

I finish my bread–mmm, smells so good! Go back to fiddling around with basic weekend chores.

My favorite girl over 14 comes up early evening. Kat’s going to be BW’s date at a gala for Doey’s House, a hospice being built in our area, and an organization the foundation supports. Kat runs up to put on her dress. I’m annoyed with myself now for not thinking of taking a picture as BW and Kat look just fabulous–BW in his dark suit and smart shoes (he’ll be a guest bartender) and Kat in her gorgeous, elegantly sexy midnight blue gown.

And I settle down to watch the first disk of the recently arrived full season of The Walking Dead. I don’t watch through the season, but binge on the full with the set of DVDs. Wow! It’s intense and bloody and marvelously written and realized.

It’s an early evening, so there’s time to hang out with Kat when the gala attendees return.

And in the morning, Kat and I hit the gym–and I introduce her to some new (really old) Shaun T workout DVDs. So we sweat and laugh through about an hour–and Kayla shows up, obviously excited to have a girl day. But she leaves us sweating to go up and have breakfast with Grandda.

Later, I think less in a daze from the race and her placement in it, Kayla gives me more details, more feelings. I love how she tells me at the first mile (they ran 3.1) one of her coaches did a kind of double take when he saw her–apparently she doesn’t push too hard in training. And shouted out her time, where she was–15th at that point. And to go, go, go, Kayla. How that pumped her up. How nice everybody was, even if they were with the other teams, offering encouragement on the route. How she felt when she hit that last leg and the track. Tired, she tells me, really tired, and some of the girls took a break to walk. But she said she told herself to keep going, her coaches called out her pace–and one told her only five minutes more.

She said she told herself she could do five minutes more, and added her kick when the coach told her. And with it nearly caught the 6th place girl. She surprised everyone–her coaches, her teammates and herself.

That’s the lesson, I think. You can always do five minutes more if you keep your eyes on the finish line.

Now I have two willing and creative helpers to get set up for the get-together. BW brings up his rolling rack from his studio, and my girls haul down the bags of clothes, then start organizing them while I get my shower. When I come up they’ve already got the bulk done–and I should have known the two of them would come up with a solid system. By the time I help them finish up, the living room looks like a little department store. Kat even stuffs tissue paper in the handbags I’m passing on, arranges her shoes–with Kayla’s suggestions–in a separate area from mine (different sizes).

I’m providing the champagne and wine, the others are bringing food.

Kat, being Kat, decides some of the tops especially need ironing as they’re wrinkled from being shoved in bags. And it’s a good way to teach Kayla how to iron. So we hunt up the iron and board, and I leave them to it. Kat and Kayla have always had such a sweet connection–earlier they’d discussed knitting as Kat was knitting a pair of socks. I think one day Kayla will look back and remember the afternoon Kat taught her to iron.

In they come–all the spa girls but Jeanette whose youngest had a her first (I think first) softball game of the season. Girls bring clothes, too, so they’re sorted out–and I break my vow to take nothing when I see Nicole’s adorable black and white rain jacket. It fits me, and it’s cute. So I allow myself this one little thing.

Here’s the fun, a bunch of girl friends trying on clothes, giving each other the nod–looks great on you–or the thumb’s down–too tight in the shoulders–catching up as some haven’t seen each other since spring. Making piles to take away, heading into the bedroom to strip down–or just doing so in the living room (BW absented himself for the afternoon) and checking out the look in the mirror. Half naked ladies chatting and drinking champagne (except for Kayla!–though she does have a small pile of her own).

The rack’s thinning, as are the displays of shoes and boots and bags. Sarah is rocking my dark blue Weitzman knee boots Kat culled out for her during set-up (as she’d called dibs on them years ago), JoAnne wandering into the kitchen to ask if the bright green pullover looks okay on her. Looks great! Eating pate and KFC and homemade caprese salad. Seeing how Kayla blends right in–and finishes up the spaghetti.

One of our group’s getting married next month, and as traditional, I offer to have her pick her something borrowed out of what’s been termed Nora’s Treasure Box. We have a picture of her dress, so we all have opinions on which earrings and bracelet. I believe, as a group, we chose well.

Nicole has to leave to catch her oldest’s football game, and Kayla takes off to go have dinner with her other grandparents.  Laura will lug whatever’s leftover home for Nicole, bless her, to donate to a local woman’s group. By the time the remaining handful of us gather at the kitchen counter for more wine, the rack’s empty, the artful piles of casual tops, pjs, whatever, gone. No shoes line the hearth or mantle.img_1711

More catching up, more wine–with Laura and Pat mugging with the bottle. Some of Laura’s no-churn homemade ice cream to cap it off. [Note from Laura:  Kayla, my best friend in the under-20 division, made fudgy brownies that went perfectly with the ice cream.]

 

img_1708A fun end to an eventful weekend and an excellent work week.

I capped it off yet again with another couple of Walking Dead episodes.

Now I’ve got a new week to start, and the book to tackle. I’m going to think of Kayla when I feel myself getting tired–with the writing, with my afternoon workout.

I can do five more minutes.  

Nora

 

Inside and Out

Eventually the weekends won’t be my catch-up and/or get-it-done time. Eventually. But for right now?

Saturday morning I think to get my workout done early and clear the rest of the day. But I’ve forgotten the window washers are here to finish up this annual deal. We’ve got a lot of windows in this place.

It’s just a little weird to be dancing around the gym, doing down dogs and sweating through biceps curls when a bunch of guys are washing the windows thereof.

Change of plans.IMG_1692

I have a big bunch ‘o beautiful tomatoes courtesy of my pal Jo, so we’ll start off the day making red sauce. A large pot of it this time around, and I can freeze it in dinner size portions–and won’t that be handy down the road? This ties me to the kitchen long enough for the window washers to get close to finishing.IMG_1695

Why not let them do that while I weed my sadly neglected garden? Three large tubs of weeds illustrate that neglect–and remind me that’s something that kept getting backlogged in the catching-up area of my weekends. I like weeding–it’s therapeutic. The dogs like me weeding since it means I’m hanging out with them. God knows the gardens like me weeding, and it gives me time–though many of my beauties are fading as summer winds down–to plan where I’ll divide things up, transfer, try to fill in some areas next spring.

IMG_1698 IMG_1700 IMG_1702Windows clean, garden tended, red sauce simmering low. NOW we can hit the gym. I’m rewarded there–not only by the benefits of regular exercise, but by the hummingbird that flies up to the–very clean–window while I’m sweating it out.

Pretty!

Then you know what? I’ve earned a bellini, and make myself one to enjoy while signing the four tubs of books waiting for me.IMG_1696

A second bellini seems the appropriate celebration for completing Saturday’s chores.

But Sunday has an agenda. My One More Room is a disgrace. Some of that’s due to bags of purged clothes on hold in there. Next Sunday I’m having some pals over for a late summer clothes swap, so that’ll not only be fun, but help clear out the OMR. And I need to store the Christmas presents from Italy rather than just dumping them on the counter.

But the big one I’ve put off for gardening, then vacation, for too long. Our down-the-lane neighbor decided to downsize and relocate, and we bought the house. BW’s using the house as his photography studio–a great space and convenient location for him. But I claimed an outbuilding for my own. I think of it as The Big Closet. Storage!! Storage, for me, is nearly as marvelous and exciting as new shoes. My plan has been to empty my over-taxed OMR of seasonal decorations and such. All the Christmas decorations, the bits and pieces I put out at Halloween, at Easter. Tubbed and boxed and out of here.

Today’s the day. It’s challenging and time-consuming, and immensely satisfying. BW comes up during the process–I believe his eyes wheeled at the chaos. But the process demands chaos before order. I tub, I bubble wrap, I box. And I have enough room to semi-organize the shelves in the storage closets. Even purge a little as I find things BW might be able to use in his new space.

I find things of my mother’s I’ve saved in there. It’s time now to let go of the paperwork of handling her estate. But I find other things. The last purse she used, a pair of glasses, the little wallet holding her driver’s license and a picture of my Pop. These, like the letters I saved (so, so sweet) that my father wrote to her I keep. It reminds me of the letter I found he sent her when they were dating–he wrote on the streetcar on the way home from seeing her, and ended it with: Sending you all the love I can with a two-penny stamp.

It’s that single line that sticks with me most when I think of them, young and in love, and through 63 years of marriage, five kids, and a devotion that never wavered.

It’s a wonderful benefit to clearing out and cleaning up, finding and remembering these small and vital treasures. So I tuck my treasures away.

BW shows his devotion by hauling everything I’ve tubbed and boxed away. And there it is! The floor of the OMR! And room on the shelves. A tidy-ish box of gifts waiting to be wrapped in just a couple months. And okay, maybe my obsession with saving tissue paper (my recycling gene) means I stuff a bag of it in the designated Christmas wrap closet, but it’s off the floor.

Now I can do a little organizing of my own closet. It may be half-assed, but I’m about done with weekend chores. And I want my workout.

And once everything’s done, the dogs and I enjoy a walk around the freshly-weeded gardens where, yes, some blooms have faded, but plenty continue to thrive and bring color to a breezy late afternoon that hints of fall.IMG_1703 IMG_1705

Another weekend gone, another work week beginning. But that’s good for me. Through all the boxing and tubbing and weeding and milling tomatoes, I’ve played with what happens next in the book.

I’m ready to see if I can make it so.  

Nora

Back Home Weekend

It takes a few days for the bliss–and the jet lag–following a truly fabulous vacation to ease back into the normal. And when the week following that fabulous vacation involves actual work and duties, it’s like a one-step-at-a-time through an alternate reality.

But the weekend comes around again.

On this one I decided on at-home tribute to our Italian experience. My pal Jo’s gardens are producing pounds of tomatoes. Our couple of patio pots are chugging along, too, but my pal and her guy have a serious tomato garden, and she brought me bunches.

Tomatoes from Nora and Jo's gardens.
Tomatoes from Nora and Jo’s gardens.

Years ago, in another life before writing, I made my own red sauce, canned it every August for use all winter. Those days are done, but I still know how to make sauce, so why not? Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking pretty, fresh garden tomatoes down, getting out my food mill, adding my own fresh garden herbs to the sauce.

Fresh herbs.
Fresh herbs.

Since I’m doing that, why not try my hand at baking Italian bread? Never tried it, so again, why not. I found it easier, and more fun–I do love baking bread–than I’d imagined. No question this is now going into bread baking rotation.

And the results? Mmmm, tasty. Really nothing like sauce from fresh tomatoes and bread fresh baked. And since we’ve still got plenty of tomatoes why not slice some up, get more basil from the garden, add some olive oil.

Red sauce simmering.
Red sauce simmering.
Italian bread, fresh from the oven.
Italian bread, fresh from the oven.

It’s good–for me anyway–to have a homey kitchen day after a blurry transition week.

Sunday we had a foundation meeting here, which included our next generation volunteer, Kayla. She came up early enough to hang–and eat bread and pasta and declare both excellent. I mention to her she seems a little taller. Earlier in the week when I’d given Logan the first hug since I’d seen him nearly a month ago, I told him he’d grown. He said: Nah. Nana says: Uh-huh. I know where my boy’s head hits me in a hug.

We went down to our measuring station–the door jamb of the laundry room where Dan and Jason were measured as well–and I prove Nana knows best. He’d shot up a full inch.

This pleased him.

So I do the same with Kayla. She’s now a hair under 5’5″. I expect that bare eighth of an inch will be history before the leaves change this fall.

Jason and Kat arrive for the meeting, and it’s a good, productive one. It’s rewarding when our teenage volunteer proves she’s taking her position seriously. She has a proposal, and as we’d encouraged her to explore foundation opportunities through her school and interests, she’s found one in her first two weeks of high school. My girl’s in high school!

She pitches it well, and it’s just the sort of thing we look for. The vote’s unanimous yes–with a request for a few more details so we can make it so.

It’s a good, good feeling to watch a grandchild embrace giving, to begin to understand how certain advantages can be used to help others, even to change lives. I like seeing she’s even made her own binder, keeps foundation paperwork in it.

She may know she can tap an indulgent nana for new Nikes, but she also understands she’s part of a mechanism dedicated to supporting organizations that make sure kids without her advantages have shoes, and warm coats or the chance to go to a summer camp. It swells my heart to see so clearly she’s genuinely involved in continuing that legacy.

But then, meeting over, and there’s dinner. We have some of BW’s amazing flank steak left over from our fun, noisy, chaotic kids for dinner on Friday night, and grill some chicken to stretch it. Then there some remaining penne and red sauce, another loaf of Italian bread, some green peppers Kayla and I picked off the vine that afternoon. And how about some fresh local corn on the cob?

We eat like farm kings on the deck on a warm summer evening.

A lot of catching up this week, a lot of meetings, some toes dipped into a new book, lots of hugs from kids missed in August, fresh harvest cooking, a chance to see our most excellent traveling companions for an evening. Add in happy dogs, a couple walks around the garden, pretty flowers cut for a little vase.

Flowers from the garden.
Flowers from the garden.

Not a bad post-vacation week.

Now that the blur’s lifted, I think it’s time to get down to some serious writing.

Nora