Category Archives: Nora at home

Good Things Come

Though the wait can seem endless, good things do come around. Tomorrow I head out for a week with the best of girl pals for fun and serious relaxation at the spa.

Packing’s a lot, but pretty easy as it’s work-out gear, sweats and pjs. For seven lovely days, we don’t cook, we don’t clean, do laundry, work, and the biggest stressors tend to be what color to have our nails done and who’s moving onto the next round of Drunken Scrabble or Wii Bowling. We have a tournament. With prizes.

Yesterday was  a mega, major signing at Turn The Page. Today is recover from that, pack, do a weather check to help with that packing, get in a workout, and since it’s gorgeous out, take a walk around outside.

After what hphoto 3onestly feels like the longest winter on record, spring’s starting to pop. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or annoyed my tulip magnolia’s on the edge of bursting.I’m going to miss most of it, and it’s my favorite April treat. But the forsythia’s bright and sunny yellow on one of my hills, and I see some of my perennials in the beds, like delphiniums and dianthus and columbine, pushing their way up.

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So I’ll leave my daffs and hyacinths for a week. Then come home to serious work, and some serious gardening. I’ll be ready.

But starting tomorrow, it’s all girls all the time, and it’s a week worth waiting for.

Nora

Note from Laura:  I’m going along for all the fun.  Nora and I will take turns giving some updates.   And on Tuesday morning I’ll open a thread to discuss The Liar. Stay tuned!

 

 

A query letter by Nora

Dear Winter: How can we miss you if you don’t go away?

Yesterday I hosted my annual gathering/clothes swap for people in my local writing group. I used to do this mid-winter, but it proved so problematic with weather and travel, I’ve shifted it to early spring in the last several years.

When I sent out the invites a few weeks ago, I thought: This’ll be nice–end of March. Cool, but pleasant enough people could wander outside if they want.

Wrong.

A 28 degree high isn’t cool, it’s fricking cold. And morning snow flurries are not burgeoning daffodils.

Still, a fine time was had by all. It’s a total girl day with food and drink and talk, and the madness of a mountain of clothes–every style, shape and size–brought by dozens of women.

I’m ending the weekend making farmhouse bread, and a vast pot of chicken noodle soup as I had the chicken, and could take advantage of the leftover veggies from the party. And it had better be the last vat of soup I make this spring specifically because it’s so damn cold out.tulips on counter soup in pot

At least papansies in planternsies–who don’t mind the chill–give me some hope of spring, even if it’s cold enough to keep a fire burning instead of doing some early prep-work in the garden.fire in grate

I’ve got four tubs of books to sign, and when that’s done I believe I’m going to flop down horizontally and find some movie that won’t tax my tired brain cells.

It better be warm enough next weekend for me to at least plant my potatoes, or Mother Nature and I are going to have a serious conversation.  

Nora

Spring forward

This morning when I went outside to feed the dogs, I didn’t see my breath, and I heard birdsong. Maybe I had to pick my way over some snow and ice, but I didn’t have to haul on a coat and shiver while doing this basic ritual. I consider this a triumph. Maybe I can’t yet see the ground, and the view out my office window still looks like a black and white painting, but I’m going to believe winter’s finally heading out the door.

icicles deck snow

When spring finally gets here, I’m going to get my hands in the dirt. On those days when I’m busy, and those garden chores are just one more thing to do, I’m going to remember what I looked at for three long months–and be grateful for the work.

Every fall we haul in some of the deck and patio pots to winter over in the pool house. Like me, this little begonia wants to sit outside in the sun. It won’t be long. begonias

I’m not one to wish the time away–that’s something you can’t get back–but I’m ready for the change of seasons. Happily I live in a spot that offers four of them, distinctly. Each has their appeal–winter just loses that appeal for me quicker than the other three.

Today, I’m springing forward–though the time change will screw up my body clock for days–and assuring myself this is the shift, this is the day we start to drift out of the white and into the green.

Nora

Hibernation

As you read this, keep in mind I’m posting this for Nora while staying in a hotel in Long Island where the winds are up and the temps are down. I like her anyway. ~Laura
One of the biggest perks of being a writer is working at home. Even bigger is working at home when the thermometer reads one frigid, bitter, ridiculous degree. While I always do a February signing, I try not to venture out otherwise during this short, nasty little month.
 
I love hibernating. I’m an unsocial, solitary creature by nature, and winter gives me the perfect excuse to say: No thanks, not going anywhere. Mostly, I can always come up with an excuse, but winter builds one in for me.
 
There was a time I worked every day–a little less on weekends, but every day. Now it’s mostly a five-day week, but depending on where I am in a book there may still be some writing on weekends.
 
So that’s not an excuse, but a reason not to venture out. Hey, working here! I pull that reason out of my hat regularly. People who know me don’t ask me to meet them for lunch or go out to dinner or attend an event. People who don’t know me get the reason or the excuse.
 
A lot of them are sincerely baffled. My husband gets it, but there was a time. Several winters ago he said: You haven’t been out of the house is like six weeks. My response was: And your point is?
 
I understand perfectly that many people enjoy socializing regularly. My husband’s one of them. He went out in this deep-freeze yesterday to visit some pals. I stayed home, did some basic domestic stuff, baked bread and made an excellent pot roast–and got a solid workout in.photo 2
We were both happy.
 
Today the wind’s howling and I’m not going to even look at the temperature. I won’t be writing, because after all the shifting of books and files and clothes and shoes, our One More Room is a pure disaster. It’s the last on my purge list, and it’s getting the Big Treatment today.photo 3
 
After that’s done, I’ll get my workout in, then it’s time to pick a book off my TBR pile, pour a glass of wine, cozy up in front of the fire and go into someone else’s world for a couple hours. I hope it’s warm there.
 
Wherever you are–in the frozen tundra or some sunny spot, try to do one thing this weekend that makes you happy.
Nora

Fun and Fabulous February

Mostly I tolerate February. It comes after January, which is something, and it’s short. You have to get through it to hit March, and once you get to March, spring’s coming right up. Plus spring training starts so baseball isn’t far off. 

This particular weekend in February was more than tolerable. It was indeed fun and fabulous starting for me on Friday evening when my son delivered my bestie Ruth Langan to the door. IMG_122620150207_112412 galaxy 387

Everything is fun and fabulous when Ruth’s around. 

I took most of Friday off to make lasagna, and a coffee cake for the mornings, one I know Ruth especially enjoys. Bubbly and hangout time for me and Ruth after dinner before we all tucked into bed to rest up for Saturday’s signing. 

On Saturday morning Laura arrives just after BW, Jason and Kat leave for TTP. A little girl consult over which jacket I want over my signing dress, and we’re off. 

It’s cold — one of the reasons I mostly tolerate February — but clear. And we’ve got a stellar signing line up. Ruth and I, with Laura’s and TTP Janeen’s help, hit the pre-sells and the virtual signing books. 

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Nora and Sarah Addison Allen

And I’m especially thrilled to meet Sarah Addison Allen, whose books I simply adore. 

Due to good weather and that stellar line up we have a four and a half hour signing — over 300 people came through the line! But I can honestly say I can’t remember ever having a happier group of authors, or a happier group of readers. The bookstore rang with voices and laughter all day –and the strong, cheerful energy sang everywhere. 

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Our Laura is only days into recovery from knee surgery, but she trooped through, taking photos, chatting with readers. And, as always TTP treats its authors right, she wanted to get breast implants afterwards so she contacted breast augmentation in utah which are the best. to Pizza in the backroom, and at the second quick break a bottle of champagne to share to keep that happy energy going. 

I sincerely want to thank all our authors for the happy, and all the readers who waited, stood in line, and remained cheerful. It was a really, really good day, on every level. 

It didn’t end there for me or Laura, for Ruth and our Kat. Home again where some pals waited — with food and drink. We topped that off with an amazing cake for Ruth. 

She’s hit 100. Publications, that is. Yes, that’s 100 books, and that kind of milestone deserves an amazing cake shared with pals who love you. Congratulations, my darling Ruthie! 

Afterward, we had a fun and fabulous time tearing through all those bags I’d purged from my closet. Nothing much more fun and fabulous than a group of good girlfriends stripping down, trying on clothes and shoes, finding things new to them that fit and look great. 

Nobody left empty-handed. 

This morning we had to say goodbye to Ruth–and Kat who took her to the airport on her own way home. And to Laura who headed the much shorter distance home. Ice that knee, Laura! 

Lots of good memories to keep (and far too much cake to tempt me). 

If you’re tolerating February, I hope you can do something fun and fabulous to make the cold days pass with some happy. I promise it’ll make spring come quicker.

Nora

Note from Laura: Thanks for all the well wishes yesterday.  I’ve been diligent about the icing since yesterday evening.  It was hard, but I did my best to let everyone else fetch and carry once the signing was over.  

SOUP-er Bowl Sunday

Note from Laura: even the strongest of friendships benefit from opposing points of view.  This is NOT how I will spend Super Bowl Sunday — but I know plenty of people whose plans concur with Nora’s.

I don’t watch football–not even the Big Game. A couple days ago my granddaughter quizzed me on basic rules and scoring, certain because I don’t watch it I wouldn’t know. It surprised her I did.

I know how the game works (mostly), but it’s not my game. I like baseball. I like baseball a whole bunch. And oddly enough, I like sports movies, and the sport doesn’t matter.

In any case, my husband watches football, and he’s been gearing up for today. Part of that was getting some heavy lifting done yesterday–for both of us. Moving a zillion books from one space to another is a major undertaking. I’ve had my copies in this area for decades–and I’ve written a bunch ‘o books. But the newly selected area will serve better–once we get it done.

shoes glorious shoesMy shoes now live on the shelves that used to hold my hardcovers–those that weren’t still in boxes (the books, that is). And this I deem good.

We worked until we both decided, jeez, that’s enough for the day. Then, most excellent timing wise, enjoyed a visit with our oldest grandson who didn’t want to go with the rest of his family on an outing. Fun for us.

But today is another day.

No hauling, so I got a workout in, then rolled up my sleeves. I promised my football guy ham and potato soup–which I’ll enjoy as well. We won’t enjoy it together. soup er bowlHe’ll be down in the family room shouting at the TV, and I expect to be reading–and maybe giving myself a facial. He will come up and excitedly tell me plays or the score–he’s got his annual bet going with his pal. I’ll make mouth noises, then go back to my book–or by that time it might be a movie.

Maybe I’ll pull out my DVD of The Natural–hey, spring training’s right around the corner.

But I’m starting my holiday Sunday early, with my book in the library. I expect to finish it, then hit my TBR pile. And that equals Super Day for me.

NFR tbr cozy read

For those of you–like Laura–who love football, enjoy the big game–and the commercials! For those–like me–who don’t, have fun with whatever you’re doing instead.

I’ve got a book calling my name.

Nora

 

 

Mondays Happen

I’ve decided not to feel guilty that my own purging hasn’t been as thorough and systematic as Nora’s.  In fact, I assuaged my guilt by deciding to read The Liar (out in April) and telling my husband I was working all weekend.  ~Laura

Sometimes I wonder how. But here we are, back at the start of the week. And it’s snowing again. It’s pretty from my office window–and I’ll dive back into the book shortly and won’t notice it anyway.monday snow monday snow 2

I’m hoping the week will be as productive as the weekend before it.

Purging moving right along. We tackled the Laundry Room–or as it has become: The Dumping Ground.

I made him watch a “how to” video about tidying up, I recalled this video after wseeing an ad for those domestic cleaners Bournemouth & Poole on TV. Just to get him on the right track.
I really hate that, but at least there’s satisfaction after spending a couple hours getting rid of stuff that has no business in there. Had to enlist BW on this one as most of the stuff that had no business in there ended up there by his hands. Why, I had to ask him, is this ancient computer monitor in here, under the shelves were I keep kitchen tools and such that are needed but used rarely?

He couldn’t say, but out it went, along with two old DVD players and other assorted electronics that had passed their prime. All will now be given away or recycled. And best, they’re out of my space.

Fortunately, once we started, he was as happy as I was to move things out, put the room back in order. And best of all, it’s done.

I tackled my office alone, and had to ask myself a variation of what I asked BW. What is this doing in here? More satisfaction as my office hasn’t been this clean in a year. So I’ll start this work week in a good space.

soup on sundayI made us both happy on Sunday and put together a big pot of tortilla soup. Nice, as we’ll have leftovers on this snowy Monday, and I can stay at my desk a bit longer without worrying about what’s for dinner.

Wherever you are, and whatever’s outside your window, I hope you had a satisfying weekend. And are ready for the start of a new week. I’m thinking of this Monday as a fresh page. Now let’s see what gets written on it.

Nora

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