Montana – Day 3

Another pretty day with no real plans makes a nice vacation.

Jason’s doing code on his computer, Kat and I are puzzling, and BW is trying out the new drone I got him for his birthday. Fun for all.

Time for lunch so a walk for me and Jason. It’s warm enough I wear sturdy sandals—but do so without thinking of the dusty road or tiny little stones. Still, you kick the stones out and all’s well again.

Hoofprints on the trail. Photo by j a-b.

There’s a huge buffet at lunch—so many choices. A lot for somebody like me who usually dines on Cheez-Its* for lunch at the keyboard. Some salad, a big hunk of fried chicken, some fries. I can manage the salad and about half the rest. It’s so nice to eat outside, with the view, the breeze—and a little sparkle to top it off.

It’s an easy, lazy meal—with Jason walking back toward his 12k goal for the day. (I’ve already passed that :))

More puzzling, BW at the living room desk reviewing the tutorials on his new drone. I decide to sit outside for awhile, with more sparkle and email.

I smell gas. I’d smelled it the day before, but we couldn’t find the source, and it went away. But catching that smell two days running? Time to call and report it.

A couple of guys are here in minutes, and I leave them to Jason. I can hear them outside, checking this, checking that. Then I hear male groans and laughter.

The gas smell turns out to be a dead mouse under the cushion of one of the porch chairs. Very glad Jason was in charge! Dead mouse and cushion are taken away.

The mystery is: Did the mouse crawl under there to die, or did some predator tuck it there, thinking to come back for it later?

Either way? Eeww!

I have to say the staff here is everything you could want. Friendly, efficient, informative. Kat needed a folding table for a webinar she’s doing for the foundation—and they brought one (BIG) lickety split. I had trouble with the DVD player, and they’re here dealing with it quick and easy.

At meals, the waitstaff is just lovely, and everyone looks happy. It really adds to the vacation mood.

Kat and I puzzle some more—we’re close to done on this very challenging and really pretty project. But it’s time for dinner.

Puzzlers. Photo by BW

Kat decides she’ll attempt the walk with Jason—and since at 30 weeks, she moves slow, they leave well before us.

Third trimester belly watch — the point when your body resembles the landscape.**
Photo by Kat.

We’re at one of the cabanas tonight in The Yard, with that magnificent view. There’s a little boy, probably 18-20 months, and his big sister—maybe five. He’s trailing her, and she’d stop, look back and make him bust out with that fabulous toddler gut laugh.

Corn hole as far as the eye can see. Photo by j a-b.

Over and over again.

Kat and Jason make it shortly after we arrive.

J & K 4 evah!
Photo by NR

I don’t want a big meal—had that at lunch. Not after red meat. I get the kids’ menu, and it’s perfect. Pizza!*** A little green salad to be a good girl.

It’s good pizza, and really filling. They need to box up half to take home. Hey, breakfast!

The first (of MANY) artistic, selfie pano.
Photo by j a-b’s phone.

It’s already dusk—and really cool by the time we finished. Cool enough I go out for the hoodie Jason left in the car—known on this trip as The Car Hoodie.

It’s too late for the walk back, so we all drive—and the sky is glorious. Red and pink spread over the mountains with that dusky blue above. And all the fields charmed by that softening light.

Time to finish our puzzle, so satisfying. And as this one came with a quiz/hidden object deal we’re into that. Jason helps out here. You’re looking for the name of an artist—we’ve determined Raphael by the clues. And once you answer the questions you’re looking for things like keys, an eight, a cardinal, a turtle and so on.

We find some fairly easily, but are defeated by others.

Bedtime—but a few minutes for me outside. We’re not in Texas, but the stars at night are big and bright.

Up for my morning routine. Check in with the world, up to the loft for a workout—which I capped off today with a really lovely yoga session.

BW and Kat head over for breakfast while I’m in the loft, return just about yoga time. When yoga’s done, Kat calls up she’s found the other objects in the puzzle.

And she has, though God knows how she found that damn turtle!

BW’s drone practicing. I think Jason might still be asleep. I’m going to clean up, have some cold caffeine and think about what I’ll do with the rest of the morning.

Nora

#foodarama

In today’s #randomkatness:

The highest form of #randomkatness. A western still life with materials at hand by Kat.

__________________________________

* This is true.  I’ve seen the evidence. 
** A close runner up for today’s #randomkatness

*** Nailed it! I get the photos before the copy and called this as Nora’s dinner.
Laura

Montana – Day 2

A doing pretty much nothing day—perfect for the first full day of vacation.

Gorgeous weather—cool mornings and evenings, HOT afternoons, clear skies and a whole lot of quiet.

Montana Sky (c’mon, you know I had to do it)
Caption by Laura/photo by j a-b

Jason and I walked over to meet Kat and BW for lunch—a good, long walk down a dusty path where horses had obviously been. You can see for what seems miles, fields of that western green, clumps of dusty green sage, then we hit the center where they keep the horses. So many pretty, pretty horses, cropping the fields, or hanging out in paddocks.

Horses/photo by j a-b

And onto the restaurant where both Kat and I get the grilled cheese. It needs a much less humble name. Thick slices of garlic toasted sourdough bread with (my choice) of melty sharp cheddar. I can manage half of mine—it’s huge!—BW has part of the second half. And since it’s vacation, I’ll have a huckleberry sparkle with that.

Stuffed, Jason and I walk to the shops where BW and Kat have driven as BW wants a bike. They have poker playing raccoons, good for a smile (Not actual raccoons), and I need a belt. Spot a Jason shirt—it just says Jason, so get the shirt, a nice belt. BW rides his bike back, Kat and I drive, Jason walks.

I think at night they come alive.  We need follow up photos of the cards.
Caption by Laura/photo by j a-b

Then it’s a fine time to sit out and read awhile, have a bat nap to go with it.

We’re going to the Tuesday barbecue, so take our time getting cleaned up. I think about walking, but hey, I already have 20k steps for the day. I leaving the walking to Jason.

In what they call The Yard, the have tables set up, a pavilion holding tons of food. Lots of salads, lots of sides, herb roasted chicken, pulled pork, beef, taco makings. Nobody’s going to go hungry.

We tuck in very well, and enjoy the live music—and the side yard full of kids getting pony rides, playing soccer, tether ball, playing corn hole, getting a lesson on roping from a cowboy who’s so delightful with the kids. So dinner and a show.

It’s a seriously beautiful evening—warm, but not oppressing, a lovely breeze, a soft blue sky.

There’s a family at a table near us, and the youngest is a little girl of about three—blonde, a ribbon in her hair. She’s having the best time.

And as it’s BW’s birthday, the waitress brings over a couple scoops of huckleberry (what else?) ice cream with a little candle.

Birthday boy!  Photo by j a-b

Mostly our family has a deal—no happy birthday stuff in public, but we break the rule—keep it low key. But apparently Happy Birthday is the little girl’s favorite song. She’s delighted.

At one point I started to walk down some steps leading to the side yard, and they fired a starter pistol. The kid races behind me: Fireworks! She’s sure that’s what the little crack meant. I say, Fireworks? And she grabs my hand, pulls me down the steps, eager to share her joy. She points to the sky, instructs me to watch, and when no fireworks appear, she’s not the least concerned. Time to run back and have fun with something else.

I found her utterly charming.

Jason opts to walk back—good for him—and we drive along, watching the sun—a hot red ball—sink over the western peaks. Cattle, horses, buffalo—a white-tail deer. I decide to enjoy the romp of the deer as she’s not the one who ate my hostas.

Allowable deer. Photo by NR

And there are longhorns—gorgeous, big, in shades that make me think of Appolusas. We want a picture of the big guy, so BW gets out and obliges—and catches one of the grazing buffalo in the background.

Bull with bison, a still life. 
Photo by BW.

We’re told the sky will be loaded with stars tonight, and Mars will be visible. It’s just dusk when we settle in, so Kat and I decide to start a puzzle. BW puts on some music, and we hang very well until dark.

It takes awhile for those stars to light up, and our view is too obscured by trees to show us Mars. But once that sky lights, it’s damn impressive.

We get a good start on the puzzle before bedtime.

I hit vacation routine in the morning, catch up on the world, then head up to the loft for my workout. The DVD player gives me a little trouble, but that finally resolves. A solid workout gives me 10k steps and a good upper body session with my traveling resistance bands. A stretch, and done.

A long, hot shower, and I’m ready to face whatever the day brings. It’s cool enough this morning for a hoodie as I write this on the back porch. I may go in, do some puzzle, grab my book, take a walk.

I think I’ll write a little tomorrow because it’s starting to tug, but another day of doing pretty much nothing sounds good first.

Nora

I’m adding a new section this year: Food-a-rama to showcase different parts of meals.  Unless Nora specifically describes something (like the huckleberry sparkle) I’ll keep the photos here.  You know, we could have a drinking game: when you spot a huckleberry, take a shot! Laura

And now, what you’ve all waited for: today’s #randomkatness:

Before she was pregnant and switched to a smaller size, Kat could have built this with the contents of her cross body bag.  Truth!
Photo by Kat.

Montana – Day 1 (with short recap)

Note from Laura:  She’s back — ok technically, she’s away — and you’ll hear from Nora for most of the rest of August.  But first a recap in her words:

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to take a nice chunk of time to write a blog. The summer’s been crammed. Actually starting in the spring with my post-Derby cold from hell, then the stupid tooth deal. And travel (fun stuff) from Kat’s birthday spree, Kayla’s NYC trip, two signings, the reader brunch, then onto The Greenbrier.

Oh, and I squeezed our big annual summer party in there—with lots of help from BW and Jason doing the manly set up, to Kat and Laura and Kayla working with me in the kitchen.

All that life and travel and so on equals a lot of fractured writing time. My goal—to finish next year’s summer hardcover before our summer vacation meant focusing in at every available opportunity, and that left no time for blogging.

The Greenbrier worked its magic, and in addition to a full day’s shoot for St. Martin’s, I carved out writing time, and finished that sucker.

So up until now, summer has been a series of interruptions, work, fun with family—oh yeah, we had our family week at the spa in there, too. Gardening.

Let me add one thing about gardening. The deer are now my sworn enemy. No matter how often BW sprayed, the monsoon rains of July countered the repellent. I’ve never had so much eaten away in all my pretties.

They won this year’s battle, but we will retrench and fight the good fight again next year.

And now I can report on our first day of vacation where I’ll only write when the spirit moves, where I intend to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, the time to simply vacate, and appreciate watching Jason and Kat slide through this couple weeks of her third trimester.

We left early yesterday morning, had a long but uneventful flight. The 40 minutes or so from the airport breezed by with Papa John (not the pizza guy) at the wheel. Clear skies as opposed to the haze from wildfires we experienced last time. Those stunning mountains, the wide fields, the curl of the river.

Since we arrived early, we had a drink, a snack, breathed out. Kat and I walked down to the new, bigger shop. We will surely go back, but even on this brief foray, I found a gorgeous bag (I’m so weak! But it was on sale!) And Kat this amazing sort of Hamilton-esque waist coat that she can wear open now with her beautiful bump, and closed post beautiful baby.

The weather’s hot—really hot and really dry, which is just fine by me.

Time to head to our cabin, unpack, settle in, have a nice drink while sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, just looking at sky and trees and mountains. Birds singing, squirrels chittering.

BW on the cabin porch/photo by NR

I hope to do some hiking while we’re here, and a lot more porch sitting, maybe get a massage, do some outdoor yoga. And it’s nice, really nice, to be able to just take each day as it comes. No I Have To Dos on this break.

Before we know it it’s dinner time, so we clean ourselves up, head over to the restaurant. It’s lovely to eat outside, and the evening’s cooled off to very, very pleasant. Since it’s my first day in Montana I order a steak—and mmm-boy, yum. I also order what the waitress and I decide to call a Huckleberry Sparkle. A glass of champagne with pretty huckleberries. There’s never a lack of huckleberries around here.

It’s all just lovely, and a very nice end to a long travel day. We get home just about the time the sun’s going down and setting those peaks to the west on fire.

This morning, I’m up early, check in on what’s happening in the world, then head up to the loft for my workout. Later, my focus might be a book somebody else sweated over, or doing a jigsaw puzzle with Kat, maybe taking that walk.

We’ll just see how it goes.

Nora

More from Laura:  if you’re new to the travelogues, here’s the key to the initials in the photo credits:
NR — Nora (obvs)
BW — Nora’s husband Bruce Wilder
JAB — Nora’s son Jason
KP — The blooming Kat
For those who sent good wishes, my left eye is done — surgeon is pleased and I can see! Will spend the rest of the week as the Dread Pirate Laura because I have to wear a patch over the right eye until it’s fixed next week. Aaaaargh.

The quiet is nearly over

Hello from The Greenbrier!  This is your friendly Cranky Publicist checking in to assure you all that Nora is alive and well — just finishing a book.

Here she is! Photo by LMR

Last summer I noticed moving the “big” book (i.e., Come Sundown, Shelter in Place) from spring to summer meant instead of finishing before summer travel, Nora’s fitting in the finish while traveling. (Remember, she likes to be a year ahead of a release date.)

So what’s new?  Well it was my birthday last week.  And I’m having cataract surgery next month…

What’s that? You want to know about Nora?

Fine.

The theme of Nora’s summer is Stop then Go.

After the Kayla’s trip to NYC,  Nora had about a week of work before heading off on the annual family trip to the spa.  One highlight was group painting night.  Fascinating to see how everyone interpreted the picture, isn’t it?

Post-spa, Nora had four days of work before her and BW’s annual summer barbeque.  I drove up the day before to serve as line cook and pot washer.    I shelled 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, while Kayla made the trifle.

Nora?  Oh she was there too.

A girl and her trifle. Photo by LMR
Trifle closeup. Photo by LMR

Last week, Nora put in another solid four days on the book before she had to break to pack for our week at Greenbrier.  Normally it’s an easy pack but she spent one day of the week shooting video for St. Martin’s Press, so she had to come up with wardrobe for Nora and for JD.  She sacrificed a work day because the weekend was devoted to the Turn the Page Anniversary signing.

In another nod to classic writing at the TTP anniversary signing,  Barbara Delinskey and Linda Howard visited the store and many happy readers.

Classic and classy: Linda Howard, Nora, Barbara Delinskey

You’ll see my reaction to Linda here: 

We met sisters and cousins and moms thrilled to be together.  Groups of sisters of the heart traveled to Maryland, including this Drink Therapy group from Chicago.

Someone forgot her shirt, but remembered the wine!

Despite rain setting in halfway through, the energy remained upbeat and excited for the entire 4 hours.

The next day was the Fall Into the Story brunch at Vesta.  Nora picked five readers to sit at her table from the bag of raffle tickets then everyone else filled in spaces. I stopped at all the tables to chat, then came back with Nora for more chat and photos.

Nora and Nora.

The brunch culminates in a raffle of baskets from Nora, Turn the Page, Gifts Inn BoonsBoro and Inn BoonsBoro. This year, the raffle raised over $1300 for Set The Stage – a non profit chosen by the Nora Roberts Foundation.

And then we came to The Greenbrier.

Evening sky over The Greenbrier. Photo by LMR

Yesterday’s shoot went very smoothly.  I can’t show much but these are  snaps I put on Instagram.

Nora prep. Photo by LMR
Post JD Robb prep. Photo by LMR

After Nora finished, we did a quick Facebook Live, then meandered out to watch the Houston Texans arrive for training camp.  Nora could not care less about football, but she came along for the walk.  Then we paused for a selfie in front of the cameras set up for a press conference with the Texans GM, and the NFL Networks James Palmer joined the snap.

James Palmer, JoAnn, Nora, Laura and Sarah

The rest of the week, Nora will go through the final draft of the July 2019 book in the mornings, I’ll catch up with my own work and then we’re off to hang out with our friends.

Once back and after Kayla’s Sweet 16 party, Nora has a solid week of work before she, Bruce, Jason and Kat set off for Montana.  Travelogues will again be the order of the day for a couple of weeks next month.  Though as I mentioned above and on Facebook Live, I’m having cataract surgery on both eyes, a week apart in August.  There may be a delay or two because of recovery, but I plan to keep things moving smoothly while Nora’s in Montana.

And that’s all the Nora updates fit to print.

One last order of business:  Five lucky readers will win an advance reader copy of Leverage in Death at the end of St. Martin’s Press new sweepstakes. All the details here:  Leverage in Death ARC sweepstakes.

The abbreviated rules of the contest: No purchase necessary. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. who are age 18 or older and of the legal age of majority. Entry period begins at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on July 16, 2018 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 29, 2018. Void where prohibited. For full Official Rules, visit https://read.macmillan.com/promo/leverageindeatharcsweeps18. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Laura

Notes from the Cranky Publicist desk

Time to share some social media updates!  We’ve had two cover reveal videos on Facebook  recently. (The first is also on the  St. Martin’s Press You Tube channel.)

The first for Of Blood & Bone, book 2 in the Chronicles of The One, out December 4.

 

 

You can pre-order Of Blood & Bone at your favorite retailer now:

Turn the Page: http://bit.ly/2FmYnoZ

 

Then, in early 2019, there’s Connections in Death — #48 in the series —  out February 5.

 

Again, you can pre-order everywhere now.

Turn the Page: http://bit.ly/2xcrzjq
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IICyCB
Kindle: https://amzn.to/2xb4Owf
BN: http://bit.ly/2IMTzvA
Nook: http://bit.ly/2×93078
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/2IMbaUg
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2xjlu55
iBooks: https://apple.co/2x9S6Ov
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2xa3rOl

Nora and JD are on Instagram! OK, we’ll be completely transparent here:  I’m posting on the Instagram pages.  Some people prefer to bypass Facebook but like IG for the photos.  Not all the content will repeat on all social media but I think it could be fun to follow. Search for Nora Roberts  (@norarobertsauthor) and JD Robb (@jdrobbauthor).

Finally, some #randomkatness (and a repeat photo).  Nora mentioned Kat’s design for the baby blanket in the Girls in the City post, right?  Well not only is she designing it to honor the family that came before the baby, but it’s REVERSIBLE like this one she made for her niece.    My mind is completely blown.

Hope you all have a good weekend.
Laura

Girls in the City

Kayla was eleven the first time I took her on a girl trip to NYC–and this mother of sons spent a LOT of time in the American Girl Doll store.

First trip. Photo by LMR
Second trip. Photo by LMR

My own American Girl is now on the cusp of 16, and we spent considerable time in Sephora.  And the new and amazing makeup cathedral on the second floor of Saks. And the eighth floor (shoe sale!!)–plus Lululemon (two locations) and various other venues where girls just wanna have fun.

And fun we certainly had.

Laura and Kat drove up separately–Laura to visit some family first, and Kat as the limo trip brings on car sickness. So Kayla and I had the big-ass limo to ourselves, chatting away a good part of the trip.

Just finished sophomore year. Photo by NR

Selfie as they set out. Photo by NR

We arrive at the hotel on a pretty afternoon with Laura already in and Kat only minutes behind us.

Made it to NY! Photo by LMRTime to unpack, hang a bit, then take a nice walk around to stretch out the legs, do some quick shopping, form our plan of attack for the next day. A trip over to B&N for cards and jigsaw puzzles. Plenty of time left for hanging out on the roof terrace, a spin in the hot tub. And at Kayla’s request–and no argument after a travel day–room service. Some work on a 1000 piece puzzle–one that looked simpler from the cover than in reality.

But Kat has a genius eye for shapes and tiny variations in color. Much progress before we turn in for the night.

Finished first puzzle.

In the morning, Kayla and Laura head to the gym, and I do my workout in the suite. Time for breakfast, pulling it together. Kayla and I walk over to a Lens Crafters–my girl recently got glasses, and as she also has her learner’s permit (!), I decree she needs prescription sunglasses as an early birthday present. We discover we’ll need the doctor’s prescription, which we’ll get faxed, so back we walk to meet Laura and Kat at one of Kayla’s nirvanas–Sephora.

I appreciate her love of makeup, and more her excellent–and age-appropriate hand–with it. I’ve a good hand with makeup myself, but I learn things from the girl. Onto Free People then Anthropology. Good hauls, and pregnant Kat finds some fun stuff, too. Nobody walks out empty handed as we take a nice lunch break.

Yes, we’ll have champagne–or Laura and I will.

Lunch on Wednesday. Photo by NRTime for a little lie-me-down for mama-to-be, and the rest of us hit more shops. Since Kayla’s a runner and I work out daily, Lululemon works just fine for us. Kayla’s issue is a mile of leg on a size 0, maybe a 2. But she does pretty well. I do, I believe, some better.

We walked miles, literally, before calling it for the day.

More puzzle time, more hang out time. Laura has a dinner out with her daughter Clare and some of Clare’s friends. The rest of us, again, opt happily for room service. And I’m drawn into a new card game for me. Nertz. I win–which Kayla insists is beginner’s luck.

Maybe, but hey. I win!

Kayla has given Laura a curfew <g>, and fortunately Laura makes it back with a couple minutes to spare. 

Made it by curfew. Photo by LMR

In the morning, Kayla has her first Shaun T experience with me–and does quite well. Then she and Laura need to get ready for the day while I do the rest of my workout. They head to one of Kayla’s goals, the top of the Empire State Building. * I’m grateful Laura took this on as I have no need to subject myself to that height again, and Kat isn’t up for it either. But Kat is up for fancy braiding Kayla’s hair on their return, a skill I don’t possess as a mother of sons.

Hair by Kat. Photo by NR
My fabulous editor joins us for some hanging out and a terrific and oh-so-pretty lunch at Rockefeller Center’s summer cafe on the ice rink. My poor Leslie broke a bone in her foot a few week ago, so she’s in a boot, and Kat’s carrying my sweet baby. But we stroll into a couple of shops before Leslie heads out, and Kat heads back to put her feet up.
Lunch spot. photo by LMR

More shopping for the rest of us. Kayla knows how to shop, knows what she likes, what suits her. The shoe floor of Saks suits her, and me for her as SALE. I’m an indulgent Nana, no doubt, but a 16-year-old only gets Pradas at 50% off. And she does, and they’re adorable. As she’s most always in running shoes, I enjoy seeing her try on stacked heels, pretty flats. And I find the red shoes I was after.

Success!

I’ll add the girl hauls all the bags without complaint. She is designated Sherpa. I also notice how her confidence in the city grows every day. At first she sticks to me or Laura or Kat basically hip-to-hip. But as time goes on, and I explain every day the grid that’s midtown, she eases up, remembers which direction to go.

I also notice, proudly, how polite and engaging she is with hotel staff, with store clerks, waitstaff. Never fails to thank them, to make eye contact, to smile. To make a little conversation.

Good girl.

It’s room service again, and that’s fine. We’ve walked our feet off. And as the puzzle’s complete, Kat decides we need another, and takes herself off to get one–and finds more happy mama clothes on the way.

I love the way pregnant Kat looks, how she dresses that gorgeous bump!

Time to eat–do a little puzzle, and Kayla wants to play Hearts. Kat is a novice, so we walk her through it. I win, again. Ha ha. Then we drag ourselves off to bed.

Second puzzle under way. Photo by LMR

Kayla opts to sleep in on Friday while Laura and I do our workouts. Then, after breakfast (the size 0 can eat!) Kayla and I head over to pick out sunglasses. I approve her pick, and really didn’t intend to get another pair for myself. But fun and cute, and since I pop on sunglasses every time I step outside, justified.

She’s made an appointment for a facial at Saks, so we head over there to meet up with Laura. Lots of scent on the second floor, and since it doesn’t hit pregnant Kat well she takes a day of rest.

Did you know Lancome does customized foundation? Neither did I. I’d decided it was time to switch up my makeup and skincare–it gets tired after a few years. So the Lancome ladies hit me at a good time. Laura, the makeup queen, gets her own custom foundation. It’s so cool to watch the science of it and the little machine that mixes it.

Kayla loves the facial, gets her makeup done. We now, between the two of us, own enough new makeup for a dance troupe.

The girl wants a wallet, and I promised Colt an Ugg blanket like his siblings have. So it’s uptown for the two of us where Kayla–who admired my Ugg sneakers (they weigh nothing and are super comfortable) finds then in light pink. I find some great sandals, also really comfortable, she gets some short boots, some slippers. No wallet, but there’s a Coach right there.

Sale!!! 1/2 price sale! She finds a pretty and practical wallet, a couple of the little cross-body purses (all she’ll use) and I end up buying a pink purse. I don’t have a pink purse, so now I do.

Haul it all back.

Clare’s going with us to the theater, staying the night with us. We’ve decided on an early dinner–pizza delivery–as we have an eight o’clock curtain for Mean Girls. Really good pizza, and after Kayla gives Kat some makeup advice as Kat plays with some of her new girl toys. Kat pays her back with another adorable braid.

We leave in plenty of time to walk across town to the theater and settle into our seats.

Nearly showtime. Photo by LMR

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many shows on Broadway, and happy enough to have taken my girl to several. Mean Girls ranks really, really high. It’s such fun, it’s so bright, so pretty. The voices are amazing, the choreography just freaking fabulous.

Tiny Fey is a genius, a comedy-writing genius. She’s translated her terrific screenplay (just love the movie) into an equally terrific book for the stage.

We’re all completely happy during and after. Just a great show if you have the opportunity to see it.

After, Kat heads back, and Laura, Clare and I fulfill our promise to face Times Square on a Friday night so Kayla can hit her very favorite store in the universe of stores: American Eagle.

She simply won’t consider non-AE jeans. And they do fit her perfectly. So I’m shopping in Times Square at eleven at night–a new experience for me. AE has three, count them three, floors. We do them all, and she hauls back the bags. It’s an absolutely gorgeous night in the city, and the walk–once through the madness of Times Square–just a delight.

Spires of St. Pats on Friday night. Photo by LMR

Kat’s still up, so we hang and talk until nearly one in the morning.

A little later start, understandably, on Saturday. I squeeze in a workout, clean up, find a few puzzle pieces.  Since we’re heading downtown, and separating, Kat draws Kayla and me a little map. I’m not as familiar with the downtown streets and stores. We cab down, Kayla and I get out to hit the downtown Lululemon first, and Kat and Laura cab on to the yarn store.

We strike gold for the tiny size in the downtown store, and she stocks up on running shorts, sports bras, leggings. I cave and get some leggings and capris myself.

Saturday, downtown. Photo by NR

Using Kat’s clever map, we find Alex and Ani–another wish. The girl loves to stack little bracelets, and we find one with a K charm. Text our yarn-seeking companions to let them know we’re heading toward Lombardi’s, our lunch destination.

Pizza, fun girls, a glass of wine. Ah.

Uber back, organize a little, and Kat heads off to buy a sketch book. She’s designing the baby blanket she’s going to make out of the pretty pale blue, dark blue yarn she scored. Did you catch that? She’s designing the blanket.

Clare’s coming back for dinner, which is room service again.

We hang out, Kat sketches, we play puzzle and finish number two. Eat, talk poor Clare into learning Hearts. Kayla won this time (beat me by two points!)

Then everybody but mama-to-be, who isn’t allowed, heads up to the hot tub. Gorgeous night, fun, relaxing interlude. Time to hug Clare goodbye.

I take a look at Kat’s sketch, and OMG! She’s done a dragon with Celtic knots around it, and it’s gorgeous. At the corners she has circles and is going to pick animals that represent the grandparents. Her mom, her dad, BW and me. So clever, so unique. It’s going to be an heirloom.

Tumble into bed.

Up to pack, squeeze in a workout, shower, dress, pack more, organize and condense shopping bags. Start a Mom check on the suite. Say goodbye to Laura–drive safe! Another Mom check, bag count–remind Kayla to look under her bed, just in case. A final Mom check (I’m obsessive here).

Call for bellmen (plural!) say goodbye to Kat as she’ll be heading to the garage. Check out. Brent and his limo arrive exactly on time, so it’s load it up, and time to say goodbye to New York. The city treated us very, very well.

And it’s been wonderful, all that female energy for a few days with girls you love.

Kayla talks running on the way home. Training, meets, coaches, meets, her teammates, meets, her goals. It’s so rewarding to see her passion and her determination for something she’s so good at, something she loves.

Then I have to say goodbye to my best girl, and hope she’s as loaded with fun and happy memories as shopping bags. I know I am.

She really makes me proud.

Nora

Note from Laura

* Our Empire State Building trip was perfect.  We walked 16 blocks at a face pace around 9 am. took the elevator to the 86th floor, then another elevator to the 102 floor.

View from Empire State building. Photo by LMR

After souvenirs for her mom and brothers, Kayla and I decided to set the stopwatch and see how fast it took to get back.  We did agree with a pause in the stopwatch to take a photo in front of the NY Public Library.

A girl and a lion. Photo by LMR
We made it back to the hotel in 16:24 for Kayla, 16:30 for me.  Nora and Kat were highly impressed by how short and efficient our trip went.

All Kinds Of Bunches

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.

The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?

Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.

Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.

Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.

I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018  graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.

I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.

The principals — elementary, middle and high school — who oversaw the MBHS Class of 2018. Photo by LMR
Nora at the podium. Photo by LMR
On the big screen. Photo by LMR

I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.

I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.

Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.

Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.

Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.

And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.

On the rise. Photo by Nora
Down the front hill Photo by Nora
Thriving pots. Photo by Nora
A spot of color. Photo by Nora.
Front patio pots. Photo by Nora.

Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.

A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.

I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.

We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.

This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!

I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!

I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.

That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.

Nora

Note from Laura:  It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures .  Keep it between us, ok?

A peek through the branches. Photo by LMR
One of many happy toad houses. Photo by LMR
That face. Photo by LMR

Shelter in Place discussion thread

Shelter in Place is on sale today (May 29, 2018).  And this is the place to discuss so spoilers are very much ahead.

A quick reminder of the book description:

It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.
The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.
But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.
I read Shelter a couple of months ago and loved it.  Some readers will focus on the opening chapters (I know this from some email already in my box).  Yes, the initial chapter is taut and scary and emotional. The rest of the book gives us a picture of people both strong and weak, some who run toward the past, some run away, some build better lives and some just sink.
Please share your thoughts in the comments, and remember to keep replies kind and polite.
Laura

Happy (Early) Birthday, Mama-To-Be

Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.

And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!

The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.

Festive! Photo by LMR
Surprise! Nora and Kat with Dawn. Photo by LMR
Nora, the Saks team and the guest of honor. Photo by LMR
Laura, Nora, Kat, Mary and Sarah.

A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.

Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.

And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.

Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.

Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.

Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR

A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!

After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!

Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.

For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.

More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!

Time for a workout!

A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.

Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR

Peony closeup. Photo by LMR
And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.
Water feature, in bloom. Photo by LMR

A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.

Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.

And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature.  I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed.  Enjoy!

Strange Days

I don’t mind rain–good for the flowers–and I enjoy a good, wicked storm. But.

We had about ten days of solid rain here, along with most of the East Coast. Drenching, drowning, flooding rain day after day. With seriously wicked storms at night. Bombs of thunder. Parker, never bothered by storms, took to sleeping on the floor by BW instead of on his doggie bed.

Roads flooded–and one just a couple miles from me, buckled under the endless attack.

Buckled road. Photo by SAB

As a bonus, BW brought home a souvenir bug from Derby. The second generation thereof (passed to me) kicked my ass. Thursday after Derby while working out–huh, a little tickle in my throat. An hour later? Throat on fire! Ears slammed shut, vicious headache, low grade fever, dry, hacking cough. And the rain, rain, rain (low barometric pressure) added to the fun.

While I was able to work Friday, I knocked off early, crawled into bed. Saturday, we hit the nursery (fever broken) for the few flats of annuals I needed to finish my pots. Finished pots, crawled into bed, and pretty much stayed there until Monday. Hey, it’s raining anyway.

Last week a bit better, and able to do a workout on Tuesday–then slept about ten hours. Jeez, some souvenir. Finally down to the hacking and blowing portion of our program, and able to deal with all the crap around here that piled up while I was down.

The house smells of must and wet dogs. Light many fragrant candles.

Saturday? How about some rain? I actually made soup because rain and because Friday night, hmmm, little toothache. Saturday, bigger toothache. Why do these things happen on weekends????

Sunday, at last, at last, Here Comes The Sun! BW and I spent all day working outside–me, thanks to Motrin keeping the stupid tooth tolerable. Gardens are gorgeous, sun and warmth is a balm for the soul. Weeding is Zen. Pots and planters are filling in beautifully. I see little yellow blossoms on our tomato plants, and peonies waiting to open and scent the air. 

Filling in.
Happy pots.
Just outside the kitchen window.
Nasturtiums starting to pop.
Just outside back door.
Tomatoes.
Sunny spot.
Color down the driveway.
Herby goodness.

And my first stupid snake of the season. I’m not pleased by this sighting, tell BW. He, as always, asks what kind of snake. I get it’s important because we get copperheads and they’re poisonous, but snake is enough for me altogether. I tell him–black snake, yellow stripe. Oh, that’s nothing. Show him where I saw it–just the end of it slithering (shudder) under the spirea at the corner of the garden wall, outside the kitchen–where I often walk on the path, or weed.

Oh, says the MAN, yeah, they live there. They what? Why has this information never been passed to me before? They’re harmless, blah blah blah.

They are snakes. He may not understand my phobia, but it’s real.

Anyway, any weeding that needs doing in that area is now his job.

Despite the snake sighting, it’s amazing what a day of sunshine, gardening, just being outside can do for the body, mind, spirit. And seeing the results of the work we’ve put in over the years is so, so satisfying.

Monday (still hacking and blowing), I switch my regular dentist appointment–set for next week–to Wednesday with time worked in for my guy to take a look at this problem tooth. Dentist is out sick Monday or I’d have gone in. I betcha it’s the same deal I had.

Wednesday works as the tooth’s better, now just weird but not really painful. And after Monday’s work, after workout, I get to take my habitual walk around the gardens with wine and dogs. Ahhh.

Now, as I write this, it’s raining. I’m trying not to be annoyed, and won’t be as long as it’s just today.

Hear that rain gods? I have a lingering cold and a bad tooth. You don’t want to piss me off. Do not mess with my wine, walk and dogs.

Do not.

Nora

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