Category Archives: The Garden

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.
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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

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

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

High Summer

I love it. Bring on the heat! And we’ve had plenty of it the last week or two as July smolders its way to August.
 
These hot summer days and evenings have been busy around here. Less than a week after I unpacked from RWA, we had our annual summer party. That means a full day of food prep, assisted by my Kat and Laura with BW and Jason out in the swelter setting up canopies, tables, hauling out the big coolers.
 

Sunday morning means more setting up and setting out, finishing up. By early afternoon, we’re packed with people inside and out–so no, making ten pounds of potato salad wasn’t overkill.

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Scarily clean potatoes for the salad.
 

It’s a fine tradition my parents started decades ago, so I think of them a lot while I cook and stir, while I chat with Kat and Laura as they chop and peel, when I glance out the window and see my boy up on the garden wall with a blue tarp and bungie cords.

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The first tray of deviled eggs.
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Kat’s annual fruit basket creation.
 
Sunday night and Monday are clean it up and break it down, and another summer highlight has come and gone. Time moves.
 
Then it’s back to work–current book all day, proofing galleys in the evening. I have a goal to reach on the wip before we leave for vacation (yay!) in less than a week. Friday, I hit the mark–just in time as I’ve ignored pretty much everything else.(Except my workouts.) And I hit it in time to hang a little while with Kayla who’s pretty excited as she’ll turn 14 the next day.
 
I picked my first tomato, which brought me ridiculous pleasure. I don’t even eat tomatoes, but do a little happy dance as I hold it in my hand, smell it. More are ripening on the vine, and there are lots of pretty little peppers growing beside them. I hope our housesitters make good use of them while we’re gone.
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IMG_1576On Saturday, Kayla’s having her party here–a swim party with girlfriends–so she’s pumped. Pumped enough she walks up the hill a couple hours before the party just as I–just showered from a workout–head out to weed. (Something that’s been neglected.) Happy birthday, my baby girl. She points out my little vase of flowers have faded, and I need to pick more.
 
So I do.
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She looks so pretty, and I swear she gets taller if I glance away for two minutes. I hear her helping her Grandda with something while I start down the garden, filling my big tub with weeds. I get one tub filled when the skies open up.
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She’s annoyed with the storm–and the forecast of more–but it doesn’t dampen her anticipation–cake, presents, girlfriends! When her mom gets here it’s decorations, all following Kayla’s choice of beach theme, and very cool cakes. One for Kayla, and one for her little brother Colt and Grandda who both have birthdays that hit while we’re away. Colt will be six in about a week. Grandda will be older than that!
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We all pitch in, and when the sun comes back out, I go back to weeding. Girls come, and one of Logan’s pals invited to keep him company in the midst of all that female. As I weed, filling a second tub–I can hear that distinctly girl sound–chatter and laughter, all so high and bright–echoing in the pool house. It’s such happy sound, young, uninhibited. After the gardens been put back to rights, I reward myself with a glass of wine and go out to sit by the water feature. It’s steamy out, after the rain, but there’s a little breeze there, and the water’s making its pretty music, the woods are so, so green. My Rose of Sharon are blooming beautifully. And the sound of happy girls makes more music.
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Parker comes out to lie at my feet, and just sitting there after this intensely busy week, I’m almost stupidly content.
 
Even as I feel another storm coming, it’s all good. I won’t have to water my pots today, and the girls have had a good couple of hours of swim time. They need to eat, have cake.
 cake
And finally, especially for an almost six-year-old boy, presents. Colt’s happy, Logan and his pal are happy watching the big screen, and Kayla and her girls make their circle. I love how they hug after every gift is opened, and I hope, so much hope, they’ll all remember this unity, this affection, that it carries through as they grow up into women. How lovely it is to watch this ritual, to see its potential as the rain falls and thunder grumbles outside.
 
I’ve just spent a week with girlfriends, so I know that potential realized. I want that for my baby girl and her sweet friends. In contrast, Logan and his pal Spencer hang out, glued to some game on the TV, pretty much ignoring–stoically–the female action. I know that bond as well–I grew up with four brothers, had two sons, after all. That’s special, too, that can last and form circles.
 
We all need our circle.
 
Now, today, the house holds quiet. I’ve got a workout to do, tubs of books to sign. Then it’s packing. No high heels or fancy duds needed. It’s vacation time!
 
I’ll be blogging journals, as always, starting next week. [Note from Laura: you’ll have to stop by on Tuesday to see where Nora’s gone. ]
 
Enjoy these hot and steamy days (or the chilly ones for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere). Time moves fast, so appreciate the moments, and those who share them with you.
Nora

Birds, Bees, Blossoms

This has been a pretty perfect week for me.. When I get five days running of solid, productive, largely uninterrupted writing time–and that time has a story unfolding for me–I’m ridiculously happy.
 
It’s not always easy to sit inside at a keyboard when the sun’s shining (at last!), the breezes are warm and fragrant, but we do what we do. So when that effort’s rewarded by pages that seem not so bad even in a first draft, that’s celebration time around here.
 
My personal celebration includes getting that workout finished–a balance to sitting in front of the keyboard all day–then pouring myself an adult beverage and walking around my gardens with the dogs.
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Those are happy times in my world.
 
To have five consecutive days of that? Perfection.
 
Tag a bright, beautiful, HOT Saturday onto that? A single tear of unspeakable joy trails down my cheek.
 
I like the hot, I like Saturdays that follow a good, productive work week. I like spending that Saturday working in the garden.
 
Because it’s going to be a hot one, BW and I start early. We set out hostas in an area we had cleared and mulched last season. They’ll fill some of that landscape, add some interest. He gets to dig them in while I get my big tub and start weeding and deadheading.
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I like weeding. It’s mindless, again productive, and I get to see all my flowers up close and personal. Though once the temps start to rise and stick, snakes add a distress factor. I’m very snake aware (read paranoid) so the idea of coming across one while pulling weeds from a clump of dianthus adds an edge. (This has happened, more than once.)
 
My personal rule on seeing snakes? Make some embarrassing girlie sound, run away. If BW is around, become the classic damsel in distress and tell the man to deal with it. If he’s not around, go in the house and stay there until he is.
 
Fortunately my perfect week remained so as no snakes slithered into my garden.  
 
I end up with a productive tub of weeds for the composter, and get my trowel. The two weeks or so of rain, rain, rain has my basil looking sad and pitiful. So I have new plants to replace them. But I can’t just toss them. Maybe they’ll revive, and I feel they need a chance. Not their fault, after all, and I’d feel like a murderer if I tossed them in the composter with the weeds. So I dig them up, put them in individual pots, strip off the really damaged leaves. If they pull through, I’ll have a bumper crop of basil.
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The new plants look so green, so healthy–I hope they inspire the others to thrive.
 
BW and I discuss the right place to put the doors I got in Louisville. We think we’ve decided, but want to mull a bit more.
 
I move onto divide and conquer. I have tons and tons of Black-Eyed Susans, so dig some up from the clumps to try to fill in other areas around that need more.
 
The deer also enjoy the Susies, so we’ll spray them often. So far–and I’m knocking madly on wood–the repellant is working.
 
More weeding in these other areas, more digging, watering. Temps are rising, so I’m dirty, sweaty, and having such a good time.
 
I discover when I check and water my lower patio pots (potatoes are sprouting!) Parker, who appears to enjoy the scents, has nosed deeply into the dirt. Bad dog! We must now buy some dog repellant.
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BW heads off to a parade, but I prize my garden time and stay home. While I work, birds are singing, bees humming–and I go in for another round of sunscreen as I’ve surely sweated off the first.
 
My peonies are popping! I walk back for clippers, take a few for a vase. I think peonies are how heaven smells. Guzzling water I take a walk around with the dogs to see if I’ve neglected or forgotten anything. I want to side dress the beds with compost, but that’s for tomorrow.
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I decide, since I’m already sweaty, to do a workout–shorter than my usual routine, but let’s get that done.
 
Then it’s time to clean up, pour that adult beverage and sit by the water feature. To add to the delight, this lovely week, this lovely day includes time for reading–with my feet up.
 
Perfect.
 
Today the gardening tasks are light, and even the shoveling out of the house, neglected sorely during this perfect and productive week, won’t take much time and effort. I see more reading time, maybe outside in some dappled shade. Perhaps, since it’s a holiday weekend, we’ll add an adult beverage. Ahhhh!
 
I hope your weekend, however you spend it, includes some blossoms and birdsong.
 
And for us here in the States, let’s remember why we have this long, lovely holiday weekend. My deepest gratitude to our men and women in uniform, past, present, future, for their service and their sacrifice–and to their families and loved ones for theirs.
Nora

Weekend Whirl

It sure felt like a whirl as I’m sitting here and it’s already Monday.
 
But during the whirl I had some sunshine and some gardening. I hit the nursery early Saturday for a carload. Truckload already planted, and this was mostly for pots. And what a lovely start to the day. All those lovely plants to choose from on a cool May morning.
 
Cool enough (come on, May!) I kept a jacket on while I played with design and execution, only ditching it as it warmed–finally–in the afternoon. Oh, I had pots to fill, and fun doing it. But miscounted, it seems. But there are always a spot in the beds, here and there for a little more.
 IMG_1411 (1) IMG_1408 (1)
And more fun and satisfaction as I see nasturtium and sunflower seeds starting to sprout. The basil looks a little sad–just too much rain–but I’m counting on a come back.
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I’m leaving two barrels and some bits in the faerie garden for Kayla, otherwise, flowers are done.
 
So it’s onto vegetables. These we grow in bags on the lower patio–more sun. I cut eyes and sprouts for two bags of potatoes, while BW mixes peat in with soil. We have three varieties of tomatoes, and in they go with so Epsom salts for a good start. And peppers, too.
 
Next weekend–barring more stupid rain–I hope to divide and transfer some perennials to spots that need a little boost.
 
This long day of work needs to be celebrated with an adult beverage and a stroll around to admire the fruits of all that labor. Ah. Smell that dianthus, the heliotrope. The star flowers are just starting to bloom.
 
Then my girl arrives. Kayla is going to her Eighth Grade Formal. She looks so pretty, so grown-up. She’s taller than I am–how did that happen? Nana does her makeup, Grandda gets some pictures, and off she goes. Rite of Passage. High school is around the corner.
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The day ends with proofing galleys. I sleep like a rock.
 
Sunday’s downright cold for May. I have inside work.
 
I have a photo shoot on Friday, so must now gather wardrobe for the three different shots, three different looks. This is, I don’t lie, a PITA for me. Many more things I’d rather do than spend a couple of hours in my closet figuring out what to wear. Enjoying my clothes doesn’t preclude PITA. I think I’ve got it, but we’ll see.
 
Remember that a fourth deal’s been added, to be dealt with at Girl’s Night Out on Thursday. Need to select yet one more outfit.
 
And since May decided to be March, it’s kitchen time. Much more enjoyable for me to bake bread, make soup. Not as enjoyable as being outside, but I’ll take it.
 
Now, since I didn’t get to them on Saturday, there are tubs of books to sign. Then those galleys won’t proof themselves.
 
Still, the weekend that just flew by with little break in the action ends with Game of Thrones–the Mother of Dragons is BACK!–and Penny Dreadful, so gloriously spooky.
 
Now it’s Monday. The sun’s shining, and may it continue. I’m ready to work, and since today schedule includes grandkids after school, adjust my day to get the workout in before 4:15.
 
I want to hear what Logan’s been up to, but–I’m a girl, after all–I really want to hear about the dance.
 
Hopefully, we’ll all take a walk in the sunshine, and take some time to admire the gardens.
Nora

Rain, Rain, Enough Already!

Other than approximately six minutes yesterday afternoon, we haven’t seen the sun above my little world for six full days.

 
Six.
 
I don’t mind a rainy day, or two. But six running strikes me as overkill. The universe should take note. Overkill. Give it a rest!
 
Plus, I whine as during those six days I couldn’t just hunker down at the keyboard.
 
Early last week I had an afternoon meeting, so BW and I took advantage and hit my very favorite nursery for a truckload of plants. On this cool morning I now realize I was too enraptured (as always) by the glorious spread of flowers, and the delight of their possibilities to appreciate the sunshine. Plus I spent a lot of time in the greenhouses loading flats of bedding plants into carts–with BW warning me (as always) they had to fit in the truck.
 
Honestly, I’ve got a pretty good gauge of how much we can jam in there after all these years–though I do tend to push it some. But who would blame me? I’m delirious with the scents, the shapes, the colors, the textures. The annual spring trip to the nursery just lifts my spirit. My place is owned and operated by Mennonites. They also lift my spirit as they’re unfailingly helpful, soothingly pleasant and cheerful, and offer some of the loveliest flowers, trees, shrubs, vegetables in the area.
 
I could spend days there.
 
But we’ve got a meeting. It’s as I’m checking out–carts lined up, two delightful women counting my plants, BW rolling carts to the truck–the sun says bye-bye. The wind whips up, the clouds roll in.
 
By the time we finish jamming the plants in–and I don’t mind holding a flat of heliotrope on my lap–it’s gone from cool to chilly. Before we get home, the rain’s pattering.
 
I think, that’s okay, it’s good for the plants and I can’t play with them until the weekend anyway.
 
I think the same when I’m back at my keyboard the next day, and the rain’s falling.
 
But the next, I’m heading into Boonsboro–another afternoon meeting, this one with my new publisher, my agent and my editor. I’m delighted they’re making the trip, had hoped to offer them a pretty day. But it’s chilly and raining. We’ll make the best of it.
 
This day starts early for me as I’m trying out Talon Studio, a fairly new shop in town. Here we have fascinating artwork, cool jewelry, interesting bits and pieces. And tattoos. I’ve thought long and hard about my third tattoo–what, where, why. Initially I’d figured on waiting for it until we visit Ireland again, as I’d gotten my others there. But I’m all for supporting local businesses.
 
Laura meets me there for the fun and support, and the owner operator, Raya, has everything set up. She’s also wonderfully pleasant and easy. I pick my colors, she places the stencil–inside of my right forearm, just below the elbow. Exactly right.
 
Then I’m on the table, and we chat as we go. My first tat–the Trinity Knot on my ankle hurt stupendously. The ohm symbol on my shoulder blade, not at all. Ankles are bone, and shoulder blades have a lot more muscle. I’d say this one fell between, much closer to the ohm than the knot. And, as Laura timed it, we were done in 12 minutes. And it’s exactly right, exactly what I wanted. I love it.IMG_1404
 
Because you’ll ask–it’s the five fold symbol. There are various meanings, and my particular favorite has the four outer circles representing the four elements, with the center circle representing the magick that connects them. This suits me all around.
 
Getting inked isn’t for everybody, but for those who may be considering this sort of body adornment, I can attest Talons and Raya offer a comfortable, clean, efficient and happy experience.
 
Off we go back into the rain, do some shopping. Then New York comes to Boonsboro. I’m delighted to see my girls again, and to meet my new guy. Also delighted to offer them lunch at Vesta (Vesta has a terrific new menu), spend time with them. Fortunately by the time we finish, the rain takes a break. It’s cool and cloudy, but no need for the umbrellas so we can have a little tour of the town. And there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours on a damp cool spring day than drinking some wine in Inn Boonsboro, snuggled up in front of the fire in The Library.
 
BW and I topped off the day by attending Boonsboro High School’s spring musical production of Godspell. It’s so bright, so happy, so colorful–and the kids are so obviously having the time of their lives. I love seeing the house is packed–Boonsboro supports its arts as well as its sports. I love knowing Mr. Baer–who taught my Jason and sparked his interest in Theater–continues to do the same for this generation. So from tattoos to a visit from New York to high school musicals, a really good day. Even when the rain came back.
 
But it’s still raining on Friday. I’m at the keyboard again, telling myself the forecast for the weekend can’t be right. I’ve usually started gardening by this time, but my weekends have proven jammed with other things. This is my only shot! Next weekend is Derby. The universe will surely cut me a break.
 
Saturday morning. Rain, chilly, breezy. Damn it! By late morning, the rain’s taken another break–though not the chill or the breeze. But we head out, my man and I.
 
I love the process. Taking plants, placing them–still in their pots–where I think they should go. Adjusting, fiddling, deciding. Then digging in. My gardening gloves get soaked, the chilly and raw breeze isn’t welcomed. But . . . look how lovely, how happy. And how satisfying it all is. Possibility becomes reality with some good, steady work. All that color, those shapes, those textures begin to blend together in my gardens, along with the perennials, already growing lush in this strange, teasing spring.IMG_1393
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Planting the faerie garden I think of Kayla, leave some impatiens for her to plant if she wants–and leave the bulk of the little decorations for her to place. It’s pretty amazing to look back at the truck, see it’s nearly cleaned out–and to realize I’ll make another trip to the nursery after Derby weekend.
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Normally, after a full day of planting we’d have ourselves an adult beverage on the back patio and survey some of the fruits of our labors. Saturday evening, we have those adult beverages inside, and I turn on the fireplace.
 
That night it pours.
 
And is pouring when I go out to the gym to work out in the morning. I still have pots to plant, but I can do that under the cover of the back carport. In the chilly damp. With two dogs in my face half the time.
 
No question I need another trip for more, but I so enjoy playing with the pots, deciding what looks best with what, how they’ll look once they begin to fill in, trail out.
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The rain stops, and for about five minutes I see the sun–there is hope! Light and shadows, birds singing. I can go around to the front patio, start playing with those pots. Count the ones I’ll need to fill after that second trip. And the vegetables will have to wait as well. But it’s now warm enough (barely) and though it’s clouded over again, it’s not raining so I can pour an adult beverage and walk around to see all we’ve accomplished in one wet weekend.
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And when I take my walk on this first day of May, on Beltane, I’m grateful for spring, for the flowers that will make me smile for months, for all the walks and patio sitting and throwing balls for dogs yet to come.
 
We had a wicked thunderstorm last night, and the rain poured as I wrote this. But just now, the sun’s pushed through the clouds, and my woods are gorgeous and green. Maybe, after the work day, the work out, I’ll take a walk in the sun and smell the flowers.
Nora

Easter Blessings

Birds sing this morning, and the pink blossoms still fill the view out my bedroom window. When I let the dogs out–and yelled at the herd of deer all but standing on my back patio–I stepped out into cool air. But spring cool, not that bitter bite of winter.
 
I think we made it!
 
April snows happen, and I wouldn’t bet against another frost or two, but on this Easter Sunday, spring rules.
 
On Friday after work, post work-out, I poured myself a well-deserved glass of wine and took a walkabout with the dogs. That’s a definite sign of spring as I do not do walkabouts in winter. The dogs were ecstatic, and so was I when I found some candytuft blooming, then a lovely clump of lungwort in bud. Peonies sprouting up, forsythia a cheery yellow sweep on a hillside. A Bradford pear I planted from essentially a twig years ago blooming out.
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To celebrate these little treasures, I spent a good half an hour throwing sticks for deliriously happy dogs. Parker is about two and a half, all muscle, long-legged and fast as lightning. Pancho is about nine, tubbier than he was, and hampered by the doughnut around his neck.
 
Backstory. Years ago, Pancho had a little scrape on his hind leg, around the ankle area. Not a big deal, and we treated it. But he gnawed at it, made it worse. We took him to the vet–and he wore The Cone of Shame. Which he escaped with distressing regularity. BW designed The Super Cone of Shame–this involved extending it with a round from another CofS, duct tape, staples. It failed. We tried wraps, boots, none of which defeated him. Sprays, meds, lotions, vet visits. Nothing. In fact, he only made it worse.
 
Every time we managed to get it healed–which was no mean feat–BW would insist now, obviously, the dog would leave it be. I would object, but be overruled by BW’s pity for the dog. And the dog would quickly prove BW’s pity misplaced. And the whole process would start again.
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Now the doughnut–this has been successful, and is more comfortable for him, and prevents him from bruising the back of my legs with the sharp edges of the CofS. He looks ridiculous, but it works. He has an impressive scar, but the wound’s healed. My edict was–over soft-hearted BW–the doughnut stayed on for the rest of Pancho’s life. If BW took it off for a short period, fine, as long as he was right there to catch it if Pancho started licking and gnawing.
 
A few weeks ago, I walked out to the living room to see the doughnut-less Pancho enthusiastically gnawing, the wound opened again, and blood on my rug. Where was BW? Down in his office. Just for a minute!
 
Well, they both learned their lesson.
 
In any case, Pancho is older, fatter and wearing a stupid tire around his neck. But his fierce love of fetching trumps all. Not once did the younger, faster, unhampered Parker get to the stick first. Doughnut Dog is canny, so I had to start throwing two at once, in opposite directions.
 
I could probably have done that for hours if my arm held up as they never tire of running after a stick or a ball. ButFriday was egg dying and hunting evening.
 
With my kitchen counter covered by an old plastic cloth, eggs already hard boiled, dye kits ready–pizza delivered and wine for the grownups, the kids dived in.FullSizeRender (1) - Copy FullSizeRender (2) - Copy FullSizeRender (3) - Copy FullSizeRender (4) - Copy FullSizeRender (5) - Copy
 
It’s sweet to watch a girl quickly approaching fourteen, a boy on the edge of twelve decorate eggs as enthusiastically as their five-year-old brother. All those cups of color to play with, and glitter and gloss to add. I had plenty of dippers, but they all preferred their fingers. So we had colorful digits by the end as well. And really pretty Easter eggs.
 
I have plastic eggs as well–I think I’ve had this bag of plastic eggs since Kayla was a toddler. I used to fill them with a little candy, a little change. But the older kids (and the younger who takes his cues from his sibs) like the folding stuff. I had to hunt the house for dollar bills earlier in the day before I stashed eggs around the living room. Dogs and cooler weather keep the hunt indoors.
 
And there are Easter bags–or in Kayla’s case a box. The box we dub Kayla’s Kitchen as she asked for kitchen tools. Logan gets his Under Armour (really all he wears) and the Nike basketball shoes he designed. I swore they’d be too big when I opened the box, but no. The boy has big feet. Colt’s got his Under Armour, too, and Wii games his sibs selected for him.
 
The pizza may be cold by this time, but it’s delicious.
 
We box and bag up the haul, we hug and end what’s been a pretty perfect day for me. Good work, awakening gardens, happy dogs, and kids who really are the brightest blossoms in my life.FullSizeRender (6)
 
And today the birds sing, and the deer are–for the moment–dispatched. After my workout, I’m going to settle down in the quiet with a book, enjoy the quiet and the blissful lack of chores.
 
When I count my blessings on this day of hope and color and rebirth, they are legion. So I wish the same for all of you.
Nora

Marching In

It’s dull here on this first weekend in March. The trees are bare, and the sky’s unfinished drywall. With the snow melted away–not that I’m complaining–the world outside my windows is brown and gray.
 
Right now feels like a holding pattern before the hopes (so often dashed) of April.
 
But I don’t wish time away, unless I’m in the dentist’s chair. I need March as it provides a few more weeks of hibernation for me. In fact, the last time I was out of the house, I WAS in the dentist’s chair, and barring unforeseen events or needs, I have no plans to leave my perch until March is in the rear view.
 
Winter’s a trade-off for me. I find it cold, wet and inconvenient–when I have to venture out into it. But since I rarely venture out into it, it provides me with a long stretch of solid at-home and at-work time.
 
It’s a pretty good deal.
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However, seeing this pretty little sign of coming spring pleases me enormously. Bulbs are starting to poke their way up out of the ground. Undoubtedly snow will fall on them before it’s done with us, but I love that sweet little reminder of things to come, and weekends of planting, weeding, throwing balls for the dogs and just being out in the warm air.
 
But I’ll take March and my winter routines.
 
Yesterday, at BW’s request, I made tortilla soup. Not only yummy, but leftovers mean no cooking for me today.IMG_1354 My house is in reasonable order–also addressed yesterday–so no need for me to spend time on that. Nice. I plan to spend the bulk of the day lolling around reading, and that is very, very nice indeed.
 
But before the lolling, comes another part of my daily routine. My gym. I workout every day–rarely miss. I love my little gym, and have taught myself to love (mostly) the workout. Yesterday I tried out a new ab DVD, and am torn between annoyance and satisfaction that my abs ache some this morning. I do not, and never will, have a six pack. I have maybe a three pack, but am fully aware I’d have a zero pack if I didn’t keep at it.IMG_1358
 
Even with my winter purging, I still own about 100 workout DVDs. This is no more excessive for me than my shoe collection. I need the variety to stay engaged, to talk myself–every day–into going out there and doing it. If I didn’t mix it up, I’d bore myself within a week.
 
Not so different from writing for me, as I have a process or routine, but ray out for variety from the suspense, the long-running series and the more fantasy or paranormal-based trilogies. Probably not so different from my approach to cooking where it’s let’s try some of this, or how about adding some of that. Just to mix it up.
 
Maybe that’s why I can embrace and seriously value routine without feeling I’m bogged down in a rut.
 
And that routine I embrace keeps me sitting on my butt for hours daily. Without the routine of hitting the gym, that butt would be the size of Utah. Plus, I like carbs! I am not giving them up! I’d rather sweat for an hour than deny myself french fries. And I want to fit into my clothes, I heard that a flex belt is one of the best home exercise tool for people like me. I really like my clothes even though when happily in routine I’m mostly wearing pjs, sweats or workout gear. But the clothes are there when I need them, and they need me to keep my butt in line.
 
So I’ll be hitting the gym shortly, aching abs and all. Pick out a couple of DVDs so I can sweat my way toward my 10,000 steps, maintain my three pack, maybe soothe the spirit with some yoga, then reward myself with an afternoon of reading.
 
While I’m working out, Parker will likely be following his routine. See how handsome he is? Doesn’t he look dignified and calm?160305-parker-1000
 
Do not be fooled. He mostly has two speeds. Manic delight and excitement, and sleep. This is his routine most days when I’m in the gym. She’s in there, he thinks, I can see her! She won’t let me in there, and she’s jumping around or lying on the floor. She won’t let me jump around with her, or lie on the floor with her? I’ll show her!
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He’ll come to the glass door, stare, go to the corner of the gym, dig in the dirt and mulch like a mad thing, come back, stare. Go dig some more. Too bad, he’s still not coming in.
 
So Parker and I (and Pancho who glances hopefully in the door, then wanders off to wait) will embrace our Sunday routine. After the workout, the dogs (yet another routine) will come in with me and get a much-desired Milk Bone. I’ll get a book, and maybe some carbs.
 
Sounds good.  
Nora