Category Archives: Nora at home

Winter Weekend

Nora sends a weekend post card from her favorite place — Home.  ~Laura

This was a busy one around here. We’re repurposing two areas–shifting them, and since one is my sub-office where we’ve stored all my books, and the other is my closet, this entails much tubbing, boxing, purging, hauling. Both areas are up a set of stairs, so it involves a lot of climbing.

We’d earmarked this weekend for the major work here, but we took a pause on that Saturday as my oldest grandson had a basketball game.

Watching a bunch of 10 and 11-year old boys race around a court, dribbling, passing, shooting is enormous fun–and when one is yours, exhausting. And really exhilarating when your boy scores a basket and makes a key steal. Our guys won, which is great, but the very best was the big, beaming grin on Logan’s face when we saw him after the game.

At least we came home cheerful to face a solid three hours of work. I believe my Fitbit registered 50 sets of stairs by the end of it. Though my new closet space still needs some tweaking–ordered more shoe and boot boxes–it’s in pretty good shape. And the new storage area won’t be my problem!

Purging the closet will net my pals plenty. I’ve already sent out an SOS for us to get together soon and tear through the small mountain of bags we hauled out.

I did a little of that tweaking on Sunday, and will do more yet, but had set that cold winter day aside mostly for the kitchen. I finally got the Thanksgiving turkey carcass out of the freezer to make turkey noodle soup. BW’s particularly fond of pretzel bread, so I added that to the menu. When he came in from manly outdoor chores, I got another big, beaming grin when he saw the rolls cooling on the rack. Good deal all around.

turkey noodle soup pretzel rolls

Somewhere between chopping vegetables for the soup and punching down dough, my granddaughter popped in. She’s still afraid to change her own earrings (we’ll work on this) and has decided I’m the only one who can do it. So we did that–and I bought a load of Girl Scout cookies from her. That netted me one more happy face for my weekend.

The closet shift has delayed my full-house purge, but I hit the utility closet while I was chained to the kitchen, so can now check my kitchen off the purge and organize list.

With BW mired in football, I had myself a nice bowl of soup, some quiet and a book to end the weekend.

Today, after all that hauling and climbing, I’m looking forward to sitting on my butt and writing. I hope you all had a weekend with some happy faces, and can do what makes you smile through the week.

Nora

In With The New

I moved from North Carolina to Maryland in 2014 and for the first time in a decade was able to make the New Year’s festivities at Nora’s house. Thanks to the affordable long distance movers I was able to save money and join the festivities. Since I could, I pitched in a little too.

A quick note about the food. Nora and I cook exactly the same way:  you check a basic recipe for a guideline, then tuck it away and play with the ingredients.  So there won’t be any sharing of recipes but if something strikes your fancy we encourage you to use The Google and find something that you can make yours for years to come.  Happy New Year!  ~Laura

In our house we actually welcome the new with the old. Traditions, friends, family. We’ve been hosting an open house on New Year’s Day for at least 20 years. When you pack your house with people, you’d better pack it with plenty of food and drink.

So New Year’s Eve is a day spent in the kitchen. But luckily for me, I spend that with friends and family, too.

bread pudding
Bred Pudding
brownie trifle
Chocolate Trifle

 

This year my oldest granddaughter, Kayla, expanded her role. I’ve passed on the family bread pudding recipe and duties to her for years now, and added the wonder of chocolate trifle this time around.

 

 

One of my favorite moments was the wonder and delight of a 12-year-old girl that whipped cream could be made from a little container that looks like milk! And this almost teenager wasn’t too old or dignified to turn down licking the whisk afterward.

Deviled eggs
Deviled eggs

One of my staples is deviled eggs, and their popularity means I make three dozen. It’s not so bad making three dozen when someone else peels them! Thanks Laura and Sarah.

new year ham

 

I bake two big-ass whole hams with pineapple glaze BW slices for sandwiches. I make huge amounts of sides like red beans and rice, pasta salad, a winter fruit salad, spiced shrimp, meatballs. I double the recipe for what I think of as the icky green bean casserole, and there’s never any left.

When the wondrous Kat arrived I put her in charge of chopping and slicing veggies for the crudite. And being Kat, she fashioned a few decorative veggies for accents. So clever, my best girl.

crudite platter

Lots and lots of food cooked, stirred, baked, whipped. But the best part is that lovely little female circle, and the genuine delight of my Kayla in being part of it. She got ginger ale as a beverage for all the hard work. The adults got champagne, well earned.

The next morning there’s more to do–with my boy Jason and BW doing a lot of manly hauling and cooler filling and bringing up dishes already prepped from the downstairs fridge. And Kayla, Kat and I (then Laura who came early to help) making what needs to be made on the day of, reheating what’s done, setting things up and out.

We open from one to whenever. By two the house is full of people, and it’s amazing how often trays and bowls need refreshing. Something in the air this year, a happy something, as there’s such good, strong energy (and good, strong appetites) through every room in the house–and packs of people in every room. Kids in the pool, or playing Wii with great noise in the family room, people snuggled into the library or crowded in the kitchen, sprawled around the living room.

I’ll add not a spoonful of Kayla’s trifle or bread pudding remained.

My oldest brother and his lovely wife are serious bakers. He’s brought my mother’s pound cake, tubs of biscotti and his truly amazing peppermint patties. (I’m seriously tempted to stuff the peppermint patties away for myself, but I resist. Happy New Year all who benefited.

Cute moment to share. My boy Logan comes up with one of his pals. Pal has water in his ear from swimming. Logan often has this issue, so I have drops that deal with it. Fix pal’s ear, and off they go. About two hours later, Logan’s back with all four of the pals who came with him. Water in ears. So I have a line of ten-year-old boys in the bathroom waiting for their turn for drops. Boy steps up, tips head, drops go in, wait for it, hand boy a paper guest towel. Next?

A fun, busy, noisy first day of the year–and considering how much food was involved an astonishing lack of left-overs. Lots of laughter, lots of hugs, lots of memories. (And today despite Jason and Kat pitching in after the party, lots of clean up.)

Good friends, family and good food. It’s a fine way to welcome a new year. I hope all of you were able to ring out and ring in with as much pleasure.

Nora

 

Out With The Old

There still some celebrating left to do, but Nora’s getting a jump on 2015.  Is this something you do as well?  ~Laura 

Holidays bring the bright and shiny, whether it’s tangible things or spirit. Hopefully, some of both. We had plenty around here this past week. Happy faces, friends and family, excited kids–and shiny gifts. We all have our traditions, and in our house this involves food, pajamas, a couple hours of chaos, a family picture in front of the tree, and a massive cleanup — eventually.

one more room
Top to Bottom, drawer by drawer.

I have my own tradition following the big day, and that’s the start of my full-house purge. I think of it as Reclaiming My House. Starting Christmas week — with a break for the preparations for our annual New Year’s Day open house — I start a room-by-room purge. Every closet, every drawer, every space where we’ve stuffed things through the year gets the treatment. I mean top to bottom — no space is safe from me once I get going. Which tends to make my husband a little nervous. He’s a Keeper. I’m a Get It Out Of Here-er.

There’s a lot of “how did that end up there?”, or “why am I keeping that??” I try to shovel out my office after finishing a book to clear the way for the next–mentally and physically. This is shoveling on a bigger scale to clear the way for a new year.

I’m always amazed by the amount of absolute trash that ends up pushed into a drawer. Out it goes. Some things no longer belong here, but will suit someone else — out go those things, too, to be offered to someone.

first cut
First round

Before long I’ll have bags and bags, boxes and boxes. How did it all FIT in here in the first place? A question I ask myself every year.

I’ve already started on my closet, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (And I have many friends who’ll be happy my closet got The Treatment as what was in there will now be in THEIR closets!) The Big Purge is a weekend task for me, so it’ll run through January. But when it’s done, ahhhh–my house can breathe again, and the pretty shiny things that came into it over the holidays will have their time in the sun.

As the new year approaches, I try to do the same thing with myself. Clean out the trash, Nora, in your head, in your heart. Make room for the new and shiny. It’s not as easy as tossing expired Banana Republic coupons in a Hefty bag, or letting girlfriends go through a bag of clothes, but it’s worth the effort to clear a clean path for the new year.

Nora

 

Cookies, kids and joy

I’m re-posting this since Word Press decided comments were not allowed the first go round.  

Nora saved her favorite part of holiday prep for last which made for a joyful and noisy Saturday. Enjoy!  ~Laura 

Yesterday was cookie-baking day, and we had ourselves a marathon.

Grandkids and friends of grandkids piled in the kitchen or scattered around the house make lots of joyful noise. I should add my dogs were in heaven all day long, not only did they have all the playmates they could handle but they got a new automatic pet feeder which they absolutely love!

We made a double batch of chocolate chip as they always prove to be the crowd favorite–and this year was no exception. Snickerdoodles because not ab004 - Copyonly yum but who doesn’t like to roll dough into little balls then roll the ball around in cinnamon-sugar? And our traditional painted sugar cookies.

I have plenty of holiday cookie cutters, so we have snowmen, trees, stockings, angels, stars and so on, plus ninjas (another fave). A chaotic kitchen, which is just as it should be, while a small herd of kids paint the cut-outs and sprinkle colored sugar. Before you ask, the paint is evaporated milk and food coloring. I use the little plastic tubs that comes with Easter egg dying kits, and skinny paintbrushes.

Who says a snowman can’t be purple?cookies 2 (2)

It’s a mess. But it’s fun.

The herd goes down to swim, and BW and I finish up the painting. Swimming enhances the appetite, so the small herd fell on the cookies like young wolves and made a surprising dent before–thinking of their moms–I cut them off. Sent everyone home with a little plastic tin of cookies, and undoubtedly a sugar high.cookies!

A big, busy, fun day I hope the kids will remember as happily as I do. And this Nana crashed by nine o’clock.

Wishing you all the joyful noise of happy kids, and the fun of purple snowmen this holiday season. I can promise the combination will make your days merry and bright. Your kids are most likely into electric cars so have a kids electric car list from top9rated to pick one perfect for an x-mass gift

Nora

 

Pies on a snowy day

Nora unchained herself from the kitchen to send a holiday note.  ~Laura

For the next few days, writing takes a backseat to cooking, fussing, eating, drinking, family and friends. Traditions matter, and one of mine is making pies–two apple, two pumpkin, the day before Thanksgiving. The bird will leave no room for pie bakingtomorrow. Plus, whoever said easy as pie should never be allowed to eat a single slice. Pies–when you do them from scratch–are a lot of work, and a lot of time.

But the satisfaction of making them, smelling them cook, is worth it. Plus, eating them. I make damn good pie.

Apple and pumpkin pies
Apple and pumpkin pies

I baked mine today while the first snow of the season fell outside the windows. The first is always the prettiest, and somehow the sweetest. And since they’re now calling for about six inches rather than the threatened twelve, I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

Right now, the extra apples are quartered and simmering on the stove so I can make my mother’s signature applesauce. This I’ll do from memory and taste, as I can’t find my scribbled recipe. And making it will bring her back for a little while, and that’s a lovely thing.

photo (3)
Fall gives way to winter.

Tomorrow it’s the big-ass turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes and all the sides–and my kitchen will be my chaotic hub. But this afternoon, with my pies cooling and scenting the house, the snow falling outside to blanket my woods, it’s nice to have the quiet, and the anticipation of friends and family.

I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings, lovely food, sparkling wine, the warmth of friends and family gathering. And, if you’re like me, a little quiet time to count your blessings.

Nora