Category Archives: The Garden

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.
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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.
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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

Rainy Days and Sundays

Wrath of God rain whooshed and beat down all of Saturday. From my desk, early morning, I watched the trees whip around in a frenzy and thought, surely that can’t last for long.
 
Wrong.
 
But the deluge meant I had no excuse not to do a mini-purge of my closet and organize all my pretty new things from last weekend’s shopping trip. Or procrastinate tidying the One More Room and gathering the items to go into my Fall Into The Story Brunch raffle basket.
 
Or come up with reasons not to shovel out my poor, neglected house that collected clutter in the last week as I pushed down the path of finishing a book.
 
None of those things are nearly as much fun as being outside in the sunshine gardening on a Saturday in June.
 
BW spent the crazy rain day inside the redone shed, putting in the shelves, organizing it. When I finally get out there to look, I did a happy dance. And enjoyed the really pretty whiskey barrel of impatiens Kayla planted in April.
photo 1 (4) photo 2 (6)
 
The dogs spent part of the day in the mobile groomer’s truck. It was Parker’s first time, and he did very well. Grooming was timely as all three dogs decided to sprawl outside my little gym while I worked out–instead of in the many places outside that have cover. I had to stop and put them inside before they drowned.
 
The dogs smell nice–that won’t last–and my house looks like adults live here. That probably won’t last either.
 
Today there’s no the natives-have-snorted-a-whole-buncha-cocaine jungle drumbeat of rain, but it’s coolish and overcast. Still, I got the workout in early so I could get outside and weed. And pick up sticks, haul branches–BW had a photo shoot today, so this is solo–pull those sticks, branches and many leaves out of my beds. The sun came out for about forty seconds, and that was nice.photo 4 (4)
 
In my circuit, I checked the vegetable bags–why Parker dug at a pepper plant inside a bag is a mystery, but I saved it, and the little pepper on the plant. I find lots of little tomatoes, including the very cool purple cherry tomatoes we’re trying this year.
 
And I find lots of deer damage. BW told me yesterday when he was in his office–front left corner of the house, lower level–he looked straight out at a deer munching away. Not a foot from the house, with dead nettle hanging out of its mouth. In all the years I’ve lived here I’ve never known the deer to eat dead nettle.
 
Fortunately I found blood meal that had been buried in the garden shed, now sitting tidily on the new shelves.
 
I see the mimosa trees blooming. BW and I started these beauties from seen years ago. I love the delicacy of those feathery pink blossoms.
 
The storm brought down a small branch from one of the mimosas, so I brought it in, cut some other flowers, made a little arrangement. Gotta look for that silver lining.
 photo 5 (1)
Now I’ve got a weeded garden and clean-enough house, and a free afternoon. I think it’s time to read a book somebody else sweated over.
Nora

Fun with Girls

Now that school’s out my granddaughter likes to hang out up here. She’ll be thirteen next month, and entertains herself very well while I’m working. We have little conversations when she wants lunch or a snack–for a kid who’s a size 00, she can eat. Since she’s an HGTV addict, she usually ends her afternoon watching that while I end mine with a workout. Then I watch with her until it’s time for her to go home.
 
It’s sweet and rewarding that an almost teenager likes hanging at Nana’s house. She does some chores, too, saving me that time. And a couple times a week, she goes into TTP with BW and works there.
 
On Friday, she was bookstore girl while Laura and I headed down the road to meet more girls for Kat’s birthday spree. This year we decided to make it a shopping/slumber party. We spend the day trying on clothes–total girl stuff. I must now do another closet purge, but I’m totally outfitted for upcoming events, including RWA in NY.
AND our annual Fall Into The Story Brunch–still have to put my raffle basket together for that. More fun with girls in July! I hope to see some of you there. While TTP’s anniversary signings are fun in their busy and bustling way, the brunch is relaxed, casual, with plenty of time to just hang out together.
 
Plus raffle baskets–and a chance to win a night at Inn BoonsBoro!
 
But back to shopping. I had to tell my beloved Kat it’s irritating everything looks good on her. (Laura’s note: it is!) Everything. At one point she put on what she considered a terrible outfit, and sorry, even the terrible looked good on her. (Laura’s note: it did!!) But I had to forgive her, as she was the birthday girl. (Laura’s note:  ok, fine.) And we’re both also well outfitted for our vacation late this summer in Montana. (Laura’s note:  I’m well outfitted for moving in late summer.)
 
After a full day of clothes and shoes . . . oooh, the shoes . . .

Many shoes.
Many shoes.

we could walk back to our hotel room instead of fighting traffic. A new tradition is born. So much more pleasant to have a slumber party, followed by a lazy morning and a drive home–where no one left empty-handed.

 
And when I got home, BW had my wonderful new birdbath fountain placed and running. I love it!photo 3 (4)
 
I also discovered the deer had an all-you-can-eat buffet while I was gone. Mowing down so many Black-Eyed-Susies–in one area they had to balance on a steep slope and lean over a wall to chomp them. And nearly all my lilies, which seriously breaks my heart. BW believes the deer repellent hype about three months. This will now be done weekly.
 
Yesterday I went out to weed, deadhead, got about three-quarters of the way down when I see the snake sunning itself on my garden wall. And that was the end of that. I tell BW, who says what kind of snake? It doesn’t matter!!!! But no, not a copperhead. When I see a copperhead I lead with COPPERHEAD rather than snake. But by the time he gets there, it’s gone.
 
I haul the bucket of weeds to the composter, hear a rustling–and my close encounter with the snake has my heart bumping. But I look up and see two deer moseying their way down out of the woods. They see me, too, and decide to bound away. I actually shout: Yeah, that’s right, bitches, run! And get the deer repellent. This took about one minute, and when I turn I see Parker is staring up in the woods, head cocked. I look. The deer are moseying right back. He barks at people when they drive up, but just gives the deer an interested look? (the other dogs don’t even bother with looking) So, in my way, I bark at them, and they run away again. And I spend the next half hour spraying stinky deer repellent on everything.
 
Gphoto 4 (3)ive an extra spray to the pretty purple coneflowers,just blooming, that I know deer so enjoy. The butterfly doesn’t seem bothered by it.
 
Due to snakes and deer, the gardening wasn’t nearly as much fun as shoes, shopping and girls, but I ended the day whipping up a batch of belinis. So it could be worse.  photo 2 (5)
Nora

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

I’m going to start with the bad and ugly, get it out of the way.
 
My guy’s away for a week–nearly over now. I opted not to go as our regular dog and house sitters are out of town, and you just can’t leave three dogs, much less a new one. And this is fine. I also had a lot of work and a deadline, so a week home alone is all good.
 
However.
 
Our Pancho (someone asked last time, and this is the name he came with when we rescued him at age two) decided about two years ago it was just too much trouble to go into the brush or the woods to poop, and chose to start pooping on the pavers. Nothing we’ve tried has discouraged this. Bad enough, but a couple of piles a day, which BW shoveled up routinely. It seems Parker decided: Oh, that’s how it’s done here. So now two dogs are using the pavers, and Parker’s taken it a step beyond. It’s like he thinks: I’ll go a little here, a little there, and gee, that looks like a fun spot, then there’s that one. So many, many little piles.
 
This week, I’ve been starting and ending my day shoveling poop. This does not make me happy. And also hosing down the pavers. Today, after shoveling NINE piles (and that’s just since yesterday evening) it occurred to me I should take the poop to a poop friendly area, lure the culprits and see if they latch on.
 
Next time.
 
Meanwhile, about half way through my week, I went out in the morning–pre-caffeine– to feed and water said dogs. And nearly stepped on what I took for a really big dead mouse–which explains why Homer wanted to sleep outside the door the night before. I hoped, very much, he’d take it off somewhere, but alas, by the next day, there it was. I had no choice, but shoveled, what I think was actually a mole, (so good boy on that) along with poop.
 
And this morning, I went down to see what the hell Parker was barking at like a maniac, and see the baby black snake right beside my back steps. I cannot handle snakes, seriously phobic there. I don’t care how little it is. I keep the door firmly shut, go workout–opposite side of the house. It’s still there when I get back, and I realize it’s a dead baby snake. This is somewhat better, but I’m still not touching it. I have a line.
 
This is my glamorous life.
 
And that’s the bad and the ugly.
 
The good is very good. If you read my previous Trouble Spots blog, you’ll have seen my worn old garden shed. In case not, and because it’s fun, I’m asking Laura to post the before and after pictures. I’m couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. And next weekend, BW and I will tackle organizing the interior.
 

Before
Before
After
After
My birdbath fountain came Thursday, and that was an adventure. The delivery guys are only authorized to drop it at the door, but as it’s over 300 pounds, and was packed in an enormous box with wood framing, they couldn’t get it off the truck without unboxing it. Lucky for me. Even that was a job and a half for them, but they helpfully hand-trucked it to where I want it. Laid it down there as BW and I will have to level the spot, settle it in. But it’s so what I wanted, and I can’t wait to see it in use.
 
I have a huge box full of packing straw, and wood on the side of my driveway. BW will have to deal with it.
 
I did my weekend gardening. And the lavender is just beautiful this year. Played with dogs. And in a little while I’m going back to relax beside the completed Project.
 
When I first moved here, I needed to have a well dug.  Everyone recommended I hire this guy with a divining rod to tell us where to dig it. Okay. So he comes with the well diggers, looks around, and walks over to this spot–not using the rod. Right here, he tells me.
 
Okay, why?
 
Because there’s an underground spring–that’s where we had the still.
 
Still makes me laugh. And he was right. They hit it fast, and we actually set the record for gallons per minute in the county. While my neighbors were deciding whether to do a load of laundry or take a shower, I could do laundry, run the dishwasher, the washing machine AND shower.
 
The downside was the spring formed a little pool which was basically a mud pool. And I have dogs. Over the years I’ve planted the area around the well–yellow flags as they like their feet wet, hostas as there’s a lot of shade, some trees, some spirea and so on. This is where the jewelweed thrives, especially.
Before
Before
 
But behind it was a crappy little area I never knew what to do with. Until I saw my heart’s desire at the nursery. A water feature, stone, long and curving and with pretty little waterfalls. I contacted our landscape guy, the amazing Brian who tackles the big jobs around here–like the gorgeous stone terraces and walls he built for us.
 
It took some time–he’s exacting–and it was a whole bunch of work–laying pipe, electric–which meant digging trenches–and all that before starting to set the stone.
 
The day I walked back, heard the water, saw it, I did a happy dance. And also realized we didn’t want to put grass back in close to the waterfall. I needed plantings and mulch. Hey, Brian.
 
I told him I want a Rose of Sharon, have always wanted one and right there is a perfect spot. I want a dwarf weeper–a bloomer, and some flowering shrubs here and here, and something over there. I gave him basic choices, but as we’ve worked together for years, left a lot up to him. He knows my tastes.
After
After
 
When he was done (still have to deal with the ground behind the mulch, seed it) it was more fabulous than I imagined–and I image very well. I’ve ordered a stone bench as the wood one I had seems not quite right. And I found a little light for accent.
 
I feel like I have this new, pretty little world to enjoy.
 
My lovely new space almost makes up for poop on the pavers. But I’m about to hand over the shovel to BW, and retire from that field.
 
And the dead snake will be waiting for him.
 
I’m going to pour myself a glass of champagne, go out and enjoy my very, very good.
Nora

Blooms, Boys and Ballgames

Those are three of my favorite things, and the weekend offered all. It seems a fair reward for a week focused on writing. 

While May (after a glitch or two) proved itself bonny indeed, exceptional flowers generally come with exceptional weeds. Roses are especially lush around here this spring, and so is our pesky jewel weed. It’s an easy pull, but when you’re dealing with millions–or so it seems when you’re dealing–it’s just annoying. photo 2 (3) photo 3 (3)

We have another area, mostly shady, and it thrives there. We’re nearly finished with The Project–pictures to come on completion–and this area needed serious dealing as it borders The Project. BW hit it hard Saturday morning during my workout, so since I was sweaty anyway, I waded in. I admit this is an area I often assign to him. Jewel weed can get thick and high and the wading through gives me snake willies. They like the thick and high, and I don’t like snakes. 

He’d already pulled a full wheelbarrow of the stuff, so in I went, picking through the yellow flags, lifting up spirea, yanking as I went. Easily another wheelbarrow–and four hostas uncovered. Just fyi, while jewel weed is a PITA, it’s also handy if you encounter poison ivy. Break the stem, run the liquid inside over the skin, and that usually handles that. But still. 

That kind of sweaty, monotonous, ache-in-the-back weeding isn’t the pleasure of tending beds, but it’s done. 

Our reward for what I think of as monkey work? A trip to Camden Yards for a ball game. While I have fond memories of watching games in Memorial Stadium, The Yard is a glorious place. A long haul for us, but as it happens we pull into our assigned lot right behind Jason and Kat. Excellent timing. We and several others are guests of our broker–an annual tradition. We even hit on a give-away. Score! I now have an Oriole orange Rock The Yard tee-shirt. Woo! 

photo (2)

We head up to our box, and there it is–that perfect baseball brown, green, white. And stands filling up with people and plenty of orange. The perfect lines of the infield, the green, green expanse of the outfield–and all the possibilities of the game played on it. Baseball is poetry to me. 

The O’s are having a good year, and beat Tampa Bay Friday, so we’ll soon see. While many of our group come more to socialize, the game’s the thing for me, and I get to share it with two of my favorite people. 

There’s little more fun than a ball game, a hot dog, and a couple of interesting, enthusiastic (and handsome!) boys. photo (3)I claim a seat next to our host’s sons (their mom is one of our Drunken Spa girls), and we talk baseball. Including the younger one’s Little League team, and how it compares to the O’s. The thrilling crack of the bat on a homer (unfortunately not ours), the balletic choreography of a perfectly executed double play (very fortunately ours), and conversation with boys. Doesn’t get better. 

The O’s didn’t do it for us Saturday–it seemed after the second inning they just couldn’t hit a ball out of the infield–but we had a great time. 

I figured Sunday for an easy day, but it doesn’t turn out that way. BW is doing his part on The Project–the man just has to have his hand in. But he’s, as requested, gotten me a big bucket of compost out of the compostor. That’s good, rich, heavy stuff–heavy enough I have to drag the tub rather than carry it while I side-dress about a quarter of the beds. As he’s still fiddling, I decide to wait for another bucket–shoveling it out would kill my wrist at this point. But I can weed the trouble spots I’m working on bringing back. 

Happily, everything I transplanted is holding–and I’m hoping for the promised rain so I don’t have to drag the hose. It’s been a hot week, and one good soak from the sprinklers aren’t enough for these newly relocated guys. 

My man’s still fiddling. I switch to inside, do a couple of loads of hauling up fall and winter sweatshirts and sweaters, bringing down spring and summer tanks and tees. He’s moved onto the next task on his list, which isn’t my compost, but okay. I, too, have other chores. 

photo 4 (2)My last of the day (gardening day, anyway) is pleasure. I cut and arrange a little vase of flowers. And BW and I have ourselves a drink on the patio before dinner–and before the welcome rain. 

I’m hoping The Project, and the shed refacing will be done this week. That would be a really nice way to welcome June. 

Now a question. Does anyone know the name of this perennial? photo (1)I planted it years and years ago–have divided, transplanted, given away countless clumps. It spreads beautifully, grows pretty much where I plug it, and blooms in pretty yellow every June. But I can’t remember what it is–and have failed in my searches through books and on the internet. I hate not knowing the name of what blooms in my gardens. 

Note from Laura at 12:36 pm on Monday: Sheryl provided the answer in the comments — Yellow Loosestrife.  Thank you for all the suggestions!  I always knew Nora’s readers are the most interesting, well-rounded people and you all just proved that.

And lastly, as requested, here’s Homer. photo 2 (4)

Nora