Category Archives: The Garden

Summer

I’m always torn when the summer solstice arrives. Litha celebrates the brilliance of that longest day, that peak of power and light even as the days after are just a little shorter one by one. So I think we have to appreciate what the full-on summer and that light offer while we have them.

A lot of that, for me, comes from the garden. I spend some time every day I can in that light, with the flowers whether it’s working with them or just admiring.

This past week was–happily–butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. A brief detour to the dentist for the permanent crown to replace the one that cracked. I had an 8:20 am appointment, got there at 8:15, and was back in my car heading home at 8:35.

You don’t get better than that.

Every day last week after work and workout, I took a little walk around with the dogs. Sunshine and flowers–add a glass of wine on the walk, dogs trotting along and that’s a perfect end of the work day for me.

This week, if nothing gets in the way, looks to offer the same.

Ah, summertime.

Yesterday, no work but workout, then gardening gloves and pruners.

Here’s what I saw along the way.

Purple cone flowers starting to pop among the green, green, green.


Begonias flourishing–and what’s left of some nasturtium after cabbage loopers attacked making a gradual comeback.


Monarda, vivid and feathery.


Thriving pots–even most of the ones you see Parker (and it turns out it is primarily Parker) digs in.


Whiskey barrel of coleus and sweet potato plants.


Mystery perennial. Bookstore Janeen gave me a pot of ONE of these from her yard last summer, and didn’t know the name. These sunny pretties have spread like mad. Anybody know what they are?


Snapdragons, lobelia, nasturtiums, basil, lavender, with cardinal flowers and Black-Eyes Susans almost ready to bloom.


My happy little faerie garden, or most of it. Some Solomon Seal and a bleeding heart already bloomed off, ageratum, mini fuchsia, dragon wing begonia. The sweet alyssum in the front doesn’t seem to love it there. I’ll try something else next year.


But a very happy barrel of impatiens.


One of my gardening companions.


More thriving pots on the lower patio.


And tomatoes on the vine, with pepper plants coming right along.


I didn’t think to take a picture of the hydrangeas, but since I didn’t walk back in empty handed, we have a pretty little harvest in the very cool vase Laura gave me.

After my morning workout, I think I’ll grab some clippers and cut more flowers on my walk around with the dogs.

Flowers, inside and out, make summer for me as much as long, sunny days.

Enjoy the light.

Nora

In and Out

It rained a lot last week, and though the gray gets tiresome, I had a full week without leaving the house. Full work days without: Crap, I have to do this or go there.

That, for me, was pretty much heaven.

We did have a visitor one morning. BW found this stunned mourning dove–and afraid the dogs might go to town on it, brought it in to show me. Before he started back down, the dove pulled itself together, started to flap. So out it went, safe and sound.

And I broke a stupid crown, somehow or other.

Now, I’ll call the dentist office first thing in the morning, right before I leave for Kat’s birthday shopping trip and slumber party. We’ll see if the dentist can squeeze me in after that, and before we leave on Friday for Logan’s Excellent New York adventure.

Can’t believe my guy is thirteen.

So a crazy week coming after heaven, but much fun in there. Likely two more stints in the dentist chair, but what can you do?

After the week of work, workouts and rain, we had the sun shine for us on Saturday for the signing at Turn The Page. To my recollection, it’s the first time we’ve done a June signing, but Come Sundown’s hit the shelves, so we worked one in. We’ll still have our traditional anniversary signing in July, with the Fall Into The Story Brunch on the Sunday following the signing.

But for this past one, we had sunshine and nice temperatures–and an unexpected power outage in Boonsboro. That was interesting, and fortunately only lasted about an hour. The readers, authors and staff handled it all with patience and good humor.

Laura and I did a little Facebook Live chat–just a couple minutes, before everything got going. Maybe we’ll do another one when we’re in New York. Logan’s main wish is a trip to the Nike Store–the boy does love basketball shoes–but we also have tickets for a ballgame, plans to take him down to The Flatiron, maybe take a stroll on the Highline, eat pizza–and just give him a fun, Logan-centric time in the big city.

I need to pack for our Kat-centric overnight (Girl Fun!), but I treated myself to a walk around the gardens–without the work this weekend as I have too much else to see to–and clearly the flowers enjoyed all that rain.

Dianthus and lobelia
Impatiens in the barrel
First tomato!
Johnny-Jump-Ups pushing through one of the walkways

I expect I’ll be in the dentist chair one day this week, then it’s pack for Logan’s trip–with, I hope, at least a little writing time in there.

Nora

At Home

It’s my first full weekend home in about a month, and I’m very happy to be here.

Yesterday, in the middle of May, I turned the fireplace on and made soup–such was the chilly, rainy Saturday. But I like making soup (potato and ham at Kat’s request), and the fire added cheer.

I also had to address the matter of dealing with an incredible amount of stuff that needed putting away. This is a usual weekend task, but due to losing weekends, going here and there, coming back with more than I left with, the amount of stuff grew, grew, grew.

Plus I had a photo shoot on Thursday, which means a day of hair and makeup, a prep day of figuring out wardrobe. We had fun with it. Laura tried a little Facebook live, and that added more fun.

It takes a team…
and a lot of physical labor.

But then, all THAT stuff had to be put away, too.

On the other hand as BW, Laura and our helpful Kat, were in Boonsboro at Green Fest helping out, I had many solitary hours to accomplish it all. Plus, Thor and then The Avengers happened to be on TV, and if you’ve got to haul, carry, toss, organize, it might as be with superheroes for company.

The sun came out for about twenty seconds so I had a walk around with the dogs in there.

Adding all this domesticity to my Saturday morning workout meant ending the day with more than 20,000 steps.

Whew. (But I’m catching up with Jason who’s currently kicking my butt in Fitbit standings.)

Before the end of the day, BW and Kat arrive, tired but happy. A long day for all of us, but we have the little salad I made, the soup, and a nice round of fresh sour dough bread. And I get to hang out with my girl awhile.

Sunday’s a whole different ballgame. Once the workout’s in the bag, I can head out to the garden. I need a light jacket, but it’s sunny, at last, at last. I weed. I yell at the dogs when I discover they’ve been up and digging in a part of my beds. Parker and Atticus slink away, as they damn well should.

BW and I stake the tomatoes, and he yells at the dogs when he finds they’ve dug up a drainage pipe.

We recently had one of the guestrooms repainted, which meant everything had to come off the shelves and off the walls. I dealt with the shelf stuff during Saturday chores, so attack the walls. I know not everything that was up’s going back. Some I’m taking outside. I like outdoor art. It’s fun–if a lot more steps–to take a piece around, find where it can go, choose another, do the same.

Picking the spot’s my job. Making it so’s going to be BW’s.

I’m ridiculously happy to have all the damn boxes out of my living room.

And happy to wander, sans jacket now, around the gardens taking pictures. My peonies have started to open, like a Mother’s Day gift.

My mother loved peonies (I pronounce it like she did–Pee-O-Nees), so I think of her when I take a deep sniff.

My faerie garden’s exactly right, roses and yellow flags are starting a show out by the water feature. I have dianthus madly blooming, and much, much more. My poor basil is sad after so much wet, cool weather, but I’m hoping it perks up as the rest of the herbs are doing just fine.

Faerie garden
Water Feature

BW gave me the cute yoga frogs, and the lovely reading girl for Mother’s Day. They look happy where they’re now planted.

Yoga Frogs
Reading girl

My pots (yell at dogs again when I discover they’ve dug out a plant from one) are full and colorful. My clematis is pure glory.

Now, I’m about to go out and point so BW can hang things where I want them, then I believe I’m going to sit around with a book or a movie.

It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I qualify!

To all moms out there, I hope you have a lovely day, as lovely as a peony opening in the sun.

Nora

 

Long Weekend

I finished a book last week, a brain-frying, complicated book, and decided I deserved a little break. The universe cooperated with excellent weather.

So I took Thursday and Friday away from my office and keyboard, and hit the nursery. With excellent timing added in, BW was able to meet me there allowing me to wander, drink in, and basically gobble up enough plants to fill the bed of his truck. And add even MORE to the cargo space of my SUV.

A truck load.

Oh, the smells, the colors, the textures, the possibilities! And what tremendous fun to haul flats out, start placing pots. Stand back, consider, adjust, add more, move some until, okay, that’s going to work for me.

BW was also able to stand in as my under gardener for most of the day–a sunny, breezy day that decided it wouldn’t be too hot or too cool. It decided it could be perfect.

Five full hours of hauling, placing, considering, digging, planting, more considering, more hauling, and the beds looked so, so happy.

Top that off with a nice, tall glass of champagne and a long walk-about to admire the job.

Friday, it’s time for pots, and I won’t have my under-gardener. But he does have time to haul some of those pots out for me before he’s off to work–and I start the process.

Huh. I have a LOT of pots–but I have a lot of plants earmarked for them. Doesn’t that look sweet! How about hot colors for that one? Won’t that look great when it fills out!

The dogs enjoy having me out for two days running, and I love every second. I skip the gym–again–to get all this done, but like Thursday, I get a serious workout with nearly six hours between pots, and finding little spots for the few things left over, also complement it with a complete thyroid support that accelerate metabolism learn more here. If you happen to miss the gym frequently then you should consider getting an hourglass waist trainer that way you will take care of your body while your doing your daily duties.

And BW comes home with another flat of impatiens, the five more foxglove–and a favorite I hadn’t found–a flat of heliotrope I asked for. Those will wait for Saturday as it’s time for another nice, tall glass of champagne and a walk-about.

We’re having Kat and Jason up for Easter dinner (and a foundation meeting) so Saturday’s also for baking. Let’s have some fresh bread and my mother’s sour cream pound cake. With dough rising, I head outside. BW’s planting the foxglove, so I take the impatiens.

Plant more flowers, play with dogs, go wash up, punch down dough. In and out, out and in. Eggs on the boil for deviling (a crowd favorite).

I still have some gardening left by the time the cake’s in the oven, so I figure out how to set the alarm on my phone–not a complete snap for me as I don’t use alarms–and go back out. I have sunflower seeds to plant, and want to move some of the madly spreading Black-eyed Susans to some bare spots.

When the alarm goes off I’m momentarily puzzled–What is that noise, and why is it coming from my pocket? Oh yeah.

Cake’s done, and my mother would be proud as it looks and smells pretty damn good.

Now it’s definitely time for that nice, tall glass of champagne.

Sunday there are those eggs to devil, a ham to bake, a couple more spots of spring cleaning that got sidetracked with gardening. And here are my kids! Who’ve volunteered to go down the lane to our storage buildings and haul up all the outdoor furniture. Nothing like having strong, willing kids–they deserve some deviled eggs.

Atticus is, of course, instantly in love–and it’s mutual.

Potatoes and carrots to herb and roast, a ham to glaze, meeting time. Our boardroom might be the dining room table, and I might be checking the oven or stirring the glaze from time to time, but we get things done, and do good work.

Saute some fresh asparagus, set the table, carve the ham, and let’s eat.

A good day with family, good food, good work–topped off with pound cake, fresh whipped cream and berries.

Kat shows me a picture of the stone double walk-way she’s built on the side of their house. Yes, I said she built. A double stone walk-way. It’s gorgeous. They plan to plant an ornamental cherry in the center–and that will be spectacular.

I’ve got some stone work on my agenda–I said I should just hire her!

She takes the bags of purged shoes and clothes to haul up to the spa (this Saturday!!!) for me as I have a car load of spa girls. Hugs good-bye to end the long, lovely weekend.

Monday, it was back to the office and the keyboard. But the break did me a lot of good in that area, too, as it cleared the tired brain enough for me to work out how to start the next book. I got a decent enough roll on that yesterday, and I’m ready to go back and see what happens next.

But after work, after work-out, I’m going to continue the weekend tradition, pour myself that nice, tall glass and have a walk around the gardens with my dogs.

That’s a good deal.

Nora


Quick notes from the Cranky Publicist:  You’ll learn more about the just-finished book in a while as you won’t see it until the second half of 2018. Patience grasshoppers.

In case you didn’t notice the sneaky mention of Spa Girls, yes, it’s nearly that time of year.  I’d like you all to practice the Stupid Scoreboard mantra on my behalf.  ~Laura

It Must Be Spring

Finally, after the cold, the wet, the gloom, gloom, gloom of the last few months, things are popping and budding and greening. And the air feels different. Not just warmer, but it holds that hopeful lightness that signals spring’s coming.

It must be because I found myself compelled to spend most of my Saturday cleaning–some serious deep cleaning. And it reminded me of my mother diving into her traditional spring cleaning every April.

Like many of her generation she had spring/summer curtains and fall/winter curtains. I have almost no curtains–just window treatments on blinds on bedrooms and the main level bath. But I live in the woods, not suburbia.

I also have no love affair toward Venetian blinds as my mother did. I have a clear picture of her washing those sharp slats in the bathtub. Many, many of them as she had the blinds, the sheers, then the drapes or curtains. Three layers on most of the windows through our pretty big house. While they were down, we’d–whoever she could draft into the task–wash windows. Newspaper and ammonia–maybe Windex. And winter was washed and polished away, the spring/summer curtains–freshly washed and aired–hung.

While I’ve spared myself the chore of kneeling at the side of the tub washing, rinsing, washing, long slats of metal blinds that leave knicks on the knuckles, I did my share of washing, scrubbing, polishing yesterday. And understand completely her great satisfaction of seeing winter dealt with, with rags and buckets and lemon-scented cleaners.

With April, like my mother–and my father–my head and heart turn happily to gardening. Plans for it, imagining it, scouting out what’s popped out bravely as the air and ground warm.

The dogs and I took happy walks around after the scrubbing and polishing, and that provided an even deeper satisfaction for me.

My baby’s breath is a lovely white cloud. The Solomon Seal’s up and spreading. I have lungwort showing happy pink buds, found a little Johnny-Jump-Up volunteering. I hope more join him.  

Atticus and I–along with his pals above–checked out the progress of the peonies. Looking good!!

I can’t remember what this bush is, but I love it’s coming out in that candy pink Easter hue.

And for Easter–early as the kids won’t be around–we dyed and decorated eggs. We had some wacky ones.

I like seeing the young willow we planted last year greening, and my old cherry trees getting ready to explode with blossoms. Since today’s even lovelier than yesterday, I’m going to take advantage, head out into the sunshine with some Milk Bones for the boys.

We’ll see what we can see.  

Nora

Ah, weekends

Sometimes they’re pretty perfect. Or, for me, absolutely close enough when they come after a week of nose-to-the-grindstone writing, then decide to offer in March a day like the bonny month of May. One day only as today is much cooler and just gloomy–but let’s not get greedy.

Atticus and I both wake early as a rule, and this is working out well housebreaking-wise. He does, however, tend to wake with a spate of happy barking, which is a jolt. But still. Up and out, boys, up and out, and let me get some H2O and some caffeine into my system.

Then it’s time for good dogs to have some breakfast while I workout.

The only real item on my Saturday list is baking bread, and since it’s gorgeous out, we leave the back door open. Dogs can come in and out while I mix and knead. Why do they almost always want to be in, and asleep? It’s too pretty for that, so while dough rises, I go out–and so do they.

First rising, I throw some sticks and hunt up brave little blooms. periwinkle spreading under fallen leaves, baby’s breath almost ready to riot. Peonies pushing out of the ground so they can bloom when it really is the bonny month.

Go in, punch down dough, reform. Head back out.

Sit is a non-negotiable command for dogs in my world. Atticus has learned this quickly. He’s a bright as well as a happy dog. Parker is, truly, the love of his life. I’m a close second. They sit nicely for a photo while Pancho–back in the Donut yet again–photobombs.

Pancho’s fine with the new guy, but the only time Pancho moves at anything but a meander is when you throw a ball. A thrown ball, and he’s–donut included–lightning. But he doesn’t play manically with Atticus as Parker does. I dig up three balls, throw them. If Pancho could’ve gotten all three in his mouth at once, he would have. He did manage two a few times.

I introduced the rope last weekend and watched Parker and Atticus go wild. I know this picture is blurry, but they were moving so fast, and I was laughing too hard. The puppy clamped onto the other end of the rope, and like Roller Derby partners, Parker took Atticus on a Crack-the-Whip from one end of the house to the other. Parker’s about 85-90 pounds of pure muscle, and when he races through the house, eyes wild, it’s like a horse free from the paddock. Atticus may be small, but he is pure game. Pancho, ball firmly clamped in his mouth, just watched.

Back in. Since I’m making Italian bread this takes one more short rising after I form the dough into footballs. So back out again. BW helps me haul a new pot and dirt as my lemon tree needs it. And I can leave it out in the sun for a few hours.

Baking time, and hey, it’s Saturday, so it can be glass of wine time, too. And since we seem to have broken winter’s back, we decide to start up our water feature. BW blows out the leaves, does whatever manly thing he does with the pump. As the water starts to trickle, then to fall, then to stream, I’m very happy. So are the dogs. It’s old hat, and a favorite spot for the older guys, and a brand new adventure for the little guy.

Flowers starting to bud, sun shining, ball-chasing dogs, fresh bread, my pretty water feature singing, a second glass of wine. I suggest to check comparisons on this site about the best water filters, it is important because drinking filter water can save you tons of money.

A pretty perfect weekend.

After my workout I should probably pick up around here as that didn’t get done yesterday. And since it’s cool and gray, maybe light the fire, sit down with a book for a couple hours. Seems like a pretty good endcap to an excellent weekend.

Nora

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

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