Catching Up, Buckling Down

At least that’s what I’ve tried to do since getting home from a really lovely, fun, relaxing and adventurous holiday.

Because our summer schedule was packed, we found the only weekend we could manage our annual summer party was the weekend right after we got home.

Yikes!

But we pulled it off with Jason and BW doing the manly outdoor set up and Kat, Kayla and I doing our girl thing in the kitchen. As always Kayla made a pretty–and delicious trifle–and stuck with her nana all day. What can I say about Kat? She’d left her carving tools at home–mom brain will do that–and managed to create a fabulous butterfly (Kayla’s request) fruit salad bowl out of this year’s watermelon with whatever she could find.

Trifle by Kayla
Healthy food too!

A good day with perfect weather, lots of food, lots of friends and family. A really nice way to ease toward the end of summer.

We followed that up–bam-bam–with our September signing at Turn The Page. Scheduling conflicts had my pal JoAnne playing Jason, our wonderful Sarah standing in (and standing is required!) for Laura.

JoAnne, Nora, Sarah

Griffin assisted his mom at the register.

Just up from a nap.

BW left after the signing for his guy week at the beach. Me, I hit my late-summer-shabby garden for some much needed work. I lost count of the number of tubs I filled with weeds and bloomed off flowers.

Then I buckled down for a week of solitude and serious work.

My reward? Finishing the 51st In Death–and no, you don’t get the title yet!

Secondary reward–gobbling up King’s new book, The Institute.

And now, it’s flow back into routine, with Laura back from her adventure in the UK–what a wonderful and fascinating trip she and her dh had.

A new book to start for me while I watch the leaves start to turn and fall outside. I’m going to harvest at least some of my herbs today. That’s a process I find rewarding and sad. Rewarding that I grew those suckers and will now have cubes of them to pop into soups, stews and sauces all winter. Sad because it signals the end–or nearly–of my garden.

For now, we still pick tomatoes and peppers off the vine and bush, and I snip a few blooms to bring indoors. But it’s nearly over, nearly time to put the gardens to bed.

And soon I get to spend a week with Griffin and Company in New York. Our boy’s on the edge of walking, and remains the world’s happiest baby.

But now, it’s time to work out, then harvest those herbs.

Nora


Note from Laura: Our adventure was my husband’s dream trip with some wish list items of my own thrown in. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that the hash tag probably shouldn’t have been #lauraandmarksbigadventure but #canthatsmilegetbigger

I did write out a trip long recap but mainly sent back daily photos as we traveled from Edinburgh — where we stayed at the other end of a much-less-crowded-than-Festival-month Royal Mile.

Then on to a town named Reeth (a familiar name) in the Yorkshire Dales.

Down to Windsor for a delightful visit with the lovely Sarah Morgan and her husband.

On to London.

Then we sailed home to New York.

And now it’s back to regular programming!

Vendetta in Death teasers

We’re a week away from the Vendetta in Death release (see? it wasn’t that long). In a FITS tradition, I’ll share some teasers about the book over the next few days.

As always, these will not spoil the plot, they are just some Easter Eggs (as they say in the film business) to look out for when you read.

A quick reminder of the plot:

Eve’s up against a self-proclaimed Lady Justice. Once she chooses a man as her target, she turns herself into a tall blonde or a curvaceous redhead to tempt him into her grasp. Once there, he’s powerless.

The first victim is wealthy businessman Nigel McEnroy. His company’s HR department has paid out settlements to a couple of his young victims—but they don’t know his crimes go far beyond workplace harassment. Lady Justice does. And in one shocking night of brutality, she makes him pay a much steeper price.

Eve and Roarke comb through the evidence of McEnroy’s secret life. His compulsive need to record his misdeeds provides them with a wide range of suspects, but the secret to Lady Justice remains elusive. Her criminal crusade escalates rapidly, and if Eve can’t stop this vigilante, there’s no telling how much blood may be spilled.

Tuesday, August 27:

That damn Icove movie gets in the way of everything.
Peabody shares some DLE experience.
Capt. Feeney, hero.

Wednesday, August 28:

Eve outlines a career goal for Peabody.
Eve presents her clear outline of justice.
Eve shares just a hint of Roarke’s fate if he ever cheated with Peabody.

Thursday, August 29

Peabody connects with a legend (who’s a fan – damn Icove Agenda!).
Peabody + Eve’s driving = mixed bag of reaction
AAC – Asses All Covered

Friday, August 30

Last one is three-in-one:
Every individual has specific definitions
For Eve — what is whimsy
For Bella — what is a toy
For Roarke — what is trauma
Find the answers to all of these things on Tuesday!

Laura

The Rise of Magicks Excerpt

In yet another way to ease us all back to reality, how about the excerpt from The Rise of Magicks? By my count, as I write this, we’re 92 days from release on November 26 so it makes sense to have a little taste of what’s to come.

Here’s what the cover copy says:

An epic of hope and horror, chaos and magic, and a journey that will unite a desperate group of people to fight the battle of their lives.

After the sickness known as the Doom destroyed civilization, magick has become commonplace and Fallon Swift has spent her young years learning its ways. Fallon cannot live in peace until she frees those who have been preyed upon by the government or the fanatical Purity Warriors, endlessly hunted or locked up in laboratories, brutalized for years on end. She is determined to save even those who have been complicit with this evil out of fear or weakness if, indeed, they can be saved.

Strengthened by the bond she shares with her fellow warrior, Duncan, Fallon has already succeeded in rescuing countless shifters and elves and ordinary humans. Now she must help them heal and rediscover the light and faith within themselves. For although from the time of her birth, she has been The One, she is still only one. And as she faces down an old nemesis, sets her sights on the enemy’s stronghold, and pursues her destiny to finally restore the mystical shield that once protected them all she will need an army behind her.

Here’s the link to the Prologue + Chapter One.

Enjoy!
Laura

Easing into reality

Greetings from the Travelogue Editorial Desk.

The trip home was smooth and Nora sent her “We’re home Mom” text to me by late yesterday afternoon. (Seriously, that’s written into our unwritten rules of working together — tell me when you get there safely. It goes both ways.)

Where’s my sock? Who cares? Nana, we’ve got pizza! Photo by Kat

I thought I’d ease you into life empty of daily travelogues with some extra photos and links to places Nora and family visited while they were away.

How does this travelogue thing work, you may wonder. Well, I’m part of a shared Google album to which Nora, Bruce, Jason and Kat upload photos daily. Nora sends me her copy in the morning, then I pick and choose the photos that best fit the narrative. Captions are all mine. Maybe I need to copyright them.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh was basically a three-day layover. The comments that followed the posts on Facebook offered a ton of recommendations for places outside of the city, but there was only so much time and Jason was on chaperone duty until the second day. We’ll have to see what calls to Nora when next she feels drawn back to this particular part of the world. I’ll bet it won’t be Fringe Festival time, though. For a person who works in a Fortress of Solitude, the LZW horde used up a lot of her precious I’m around other people energy protection.

OK, so maybe the photos will all be of Griffin. Photo by Kat
From J and B’s Excellent adventure. Photo by j a-b
Jason’s take on the Scott Monument. photo by j a-b
I think we all need crests on our homes, don’t you? Photo by BW
Looking up. Photo by Kat
Edinburgh blooms. Photo by Kat

Balmoral Hotel
Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Thistle Do Nicely

Co. Kerry, Ireland

The second stop was Sheen Falls in Co. Kerry, Ireland. I find themes emerge during the course of the travelogues. Some years it’s food shots, some years it’s vista shots. This year, obviously, was the pint-sized traveler. Nora and Kat sent some really great flower photos that just didn’t work for most recaps, so I’ll share a few here.

More green patchwork from the descent to Ireland. Photo by Kat
Mother, I want to go there. Please convey me. Photo by Kat
Outdoors inside. Photo by Kat
Color on a rainy day. Photo by Kat
From one of Nora’s walkabouts at Sheen Falls. Photo by Nora
Pub night. Photo by Kat.
I can sleep anywhere agree Father and Son. Photo by Nora
Flowers at Carriganass Castle. Photo by Nora
Excuse me, Grandda, but if you don’t look at me, I’ll have to hold your shirt. Photo by Kat

Sheen Falls
Kenmare
Carriganass Castle
Killarney
Rob’s Ranch House, Killarney
Killarney National Park
Torc Waterfall
Flappers in Tulla (No website, but you can see reviews on Trip Advisor)

Co. Mayo, Ireland

The last time Nora and the Gang stayed at Ashford Castle (in 2015), the estate was in the middle of renovation. I think they got a peek at some of the new rooms while they were there. When I came home last spring with photos and delight in everything Ashford, Nora declared it was past time they went back. And as she wrote in the travelogue about their transition from Kerry to Mayo, something settled deep inside when they arrived at Ashford Castle.

Because even when I’m not there, I’m always there, I chatted with Kate Kerrigan a few days before the Tea. She lunches on the regular with my cousin Annie May Reape, a Mayo Co Councillor. I know Kate’s books because Annie May opened a book signing for her and I saw the footage on FB. When the LB UK team asked me about the right sort of gift for Nora, I told them find something special and local. They approached Kate for Co. Mayo suggestions and one of them was a shawl by Lou Brennan (seen in warm action below). But she only found out the scarf was a go when Kate ran into Lou in town and she mentioned she was making a bespoke scarf for an American writer. It’s the smallest of worlds sometimes.

Part of the editing is fact-checking if a photo doesn’t match a description. Nora wrote that the bakery in Ballinrobe was Divine but I couldn’t find a bakery with that name. Since the gang was already out and about on the next day’s adventure and it went with the copy, I let it ride. It’s actually called Devour. Also appropriate. Link below.

Kat’s men changing the tone of the photo. Photo by Nora with Kat’s phone.
Alive alive oh! Alive alive oh! C’mon — Molly Malone popped into your head immediately, right? Photo by Nora/Earworm for the rest of the day from Laura
I used this on the JD Robb instagram account. Moody birds. Photo by Kat
Wilde and Mia — the stars of the show. Photo by j a-b
This? Just my newest accessory. Oh you meant the bird, not the scarf. Photo by j a-b
From Kat’s Galway adventure.
Flowers along the Cong River. Photo by Kat
Tiny friary heading into Cong. Photo by j a-b

Ashford Castle (Click through the site to find information about dining at the Dungeon or Cullens — or the fabulous George V – as well as the Hawk Walk and other estate activities.)
The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Lou Brennan – scarf
Paint Nite:
Inishmaine Abbey
Flannery’s
Devour Bakery
Glebe Stone Circle
Lydon’s Lodge
Killursa Church
Ross Friary
Kinlough Castle

To end this little recap, here are a variety of Griffin photos to tide you over until the next time.

Mom! You’re ruining my contemplative pose. Photo by Kat
Rain. Gravel. Some greenery. Best vacation EVER! Photo by Kat
Exhausted by the fun. Photo by Kat

And finally, here’s Griffin proving he knows who’s in charge of these travelogues.

Laura

Mayo, Day Eighteen

Our last day in Ireland is a full and fun one. Glowering skies, bits of blue coming and going as Kat drives us to Killursa Church. 

We go our windy way as the boy sings his traveling song. Happily, it stays dry, and we find the pretty church and cemetery. 

The direction of the drive. Photo by Kat

They’re actually digging a grave when we arrive, using pick and shovel in the rocky ground. 

Photo by Kat

I love visiting Irish cemeteries as they often make gardens in the plots to remember their loved ones. Spreading purple lobelia, bold red begonias, even hydrangeas covering graves where people leave momentos—poems, photos, and in one case a little thatched roof cottage.

There’s a sweetness to that.

I see a couple of Sweeneys, and wonder if they were distant cousins.

Photo by Nora

The ruin of the church is beautiful, and it feels like the right kind of day to pay this sort of visit. Not quite gloomy here, not quite bright. And the dead have views of the green hills, the grazing cows and sheep across the road.

Griffin laughs heartily at something (one) no one else sees, and seems to make a friend.

BW is unable to resist and asks the gravediggers if he can take a photo. They’re more than happy to pose.

A pause for the Yank. Photo by BW

We head on to Ross Errilly  Friary, a massive, fabulous place we’ve visited before. We have this marvelously spooky place to ourselves.

Just inside the entrance is a newish grave with markers, flowers over the mound. We wander through with everything echoing with the spirits of those long-dead monks.

I always love the little road down to it, with the pretty houses and glorious gardens.

You could walk for hours here, inside and out.

Ruins. Photo by j a-b
The resting place. Photo by j a-b
A view from above. Photo by j a-b

Griffin wants the gravel, of course, and Kat and I take a break, sit on a low wall while he tosses stones or pushes them over a little stone threshold. At one point, he decides we’re not paying attention and tries to sample one.

Pay no attention to the gravel by my hand. Photo by Kat

We both give that ‘eeh!’ 

At the same time, and apparently loud enough to give him a serious jolt. His whole body jerks in reaction, and he wings the stone in his hand. If there’d been a runner rounding third and heading for home, Griffin’s pitch would have gotten him out.

Then he bursts into tears. Real ones, big, fat drops rolling. He’s: You scared the CRAP out of me! 

We have to laugh even as Mama picks him up to comfort him.

Wandering more, up stone steps, into openings, down again.

Peeking through. Photo by BW

BW, Jason and I are together when we hear Griffin wail.

Off we go. It seems he was determined to get another taste of gravel. We’re not sure if the wail was reaction—doesn’t taste so good after all—or insult that his mom reached in and took it out of his mouth.

But he gets over it.

We go out for the view, watch a big brown cow circle the castle to a feeder. And Griffin can play in the grass on the green rise.

Family. Photo by BW

One more stop on our day, and we’re off to Kinlough Castle.

It’s signposted, so we follow down a tiny lane that gets only tinier. Jason’s nav says to turn on what looks like a cowpath, but intrepid Kat makes the turn, and goes over a steep hump of a bridge to a gate.

She maneuvers her way off the road that isn’t a road, and stays with napping Griffin while we hike across the field of rough grass and sheep droppings.

This place, an old keep, looks as forbidding as they come. Glowering gray in the glowering sky. It’s fenced off, obviously unsafe, so we stay back and just study it.

The facade alone says Keep Out. Photo by j a-b
A bottom to top pano. Photo by j a-b

I wonder if it was more welcoming once, or if it always had this dour look to it. It’s fascinating, must surely be haunted. I’m surprised if the sheep wander very close.

Back we go for Kat to prove her masterful skills. The only way to get out is for her to back up over that hump of a bridge.

Jason goes out to help guide her. The you’re too close to something signal shrieks the whole time as there’s about room enough for another coat of paint on either side of the stone walls of the bridge.

The warning red lights surround the view on the screen—Griffin sleeps on—and Kat just slides between the walls and over the bridge.

Back we head for a snack, for packing. Griffin wakes to visit and play.

We have dinner at Cullen’s where Griffin decides our waitress is the best ever. Every time he sees her he laughs, squeals, grins. She play the game back at him.

I walk him out once to take the air, and he’s thrilled to see her again.

Then he conks on the bench for a bit.

After a fine meal, I give the boy a mash-up session while Kat packs and Daddy takes turns entertaining the boy before bedtime.

A quiet night’s sleep, a short workout on a rainy morning.

We’re packed and about ready to head to the airport.

It’s been a long, lovely time. 

Last family selfie.
A final look. Photo by Kat

Nora

Mayo, Day Seventeen

The rain’s steady but gauzy thin when we set out. Our boy laughs, delighted with the way the wind blows the wet into his face.

It’s all cool and fresh as daisies.

Rain is fun! Photo by Kat

BW’s done some research, and there’s a ruin nearby we’ve never been to. Kat handles the ribbon of road as if she’d been born to it.

The world’s misty and wind’s kicking up. And that’s as lovely in its way as sunshine. We change from our ribbon of a road to a thread of one, passing cattle and sheep, then a gaggle of geese we pause to let cross the road.

We come to a gate with a sign reminding us to close it behind us, and now the thread becomes a cow path, winding and climbing with the hedgerows close enough to brush.

Muddy trek. Photo by Nora

Inishmaine Abbey sits on a rise above Lough Mask, a beautiful situation in the green fields where black-faced sheep watch us warily as we walk.

The lake’s gorgeous and wide, steely-colored under the layered sky. With the tide low, you see rich brown silt at the edge.

In we go to wander about, to wonder at the stone niches, the carvings. The boy prefers to sit and play in the gravel.

What gravel, Grandda? Photo by BW

And the flock of sheep all turn to face us as if posing.

First line of defense, though Murray (on far left) is distracted. Photo by j a-b

Kat says this is the Ireland she remembers, all misty rain, spreading wet green, gray stone ruins.

I see the geese gliding over the water,  a little boat doing the same, and hills rising into the troubled sky. It’s all a painting come to life.

Lough Mask still life. Photo by BW

Across the field to the next building, and—carefully—up the curving stone steps. The view is breathless, and even with the gloom, you can see for what seems miles and miles.

Sheep in the meadow. (When they aren’t defending.) Photo by Kat.
Thin view. Photo by j a-b
Pano time! Photo by j a-b
Grownups! I wasn’t ready! Photo by kat

We enjoy every minute before we walk back to the car.

On the way out, there’s a herd of cows right by that cow path, reclining. Kat wants a picture, and as BW obliges her, the big cow close to the car gets to her feet.

Kat says: Close enough! And drives on.

Second line of defense. Whatchu lookin’ at? Photo by BW

Into Ballinrobe for lunch at Flannery’s. It’s just right, warm and dry and welcoming. I’m going to share the barbecued beef bap with the boy as I know I can’t eat it all, and want a taste. We couldn’t finish it between us, but both enjoyed what we could manage. [Ed. Note: in the first edition of the post I had nap from Nora’s copy and it was too early to figure out what that meant. Mystery solved! Spell check struck again. A bap is a lbread roll sandwich. Thanks all! ~Laura]

Lunch place. Photo by Kat

We take a wander around town, end up at Divine Bakery. And it is, no question, divine. The scents alone are swoon-worthy. We get a couple of pastries to divide up later.

And we note Divine is right next door to the town dentist.

It seems apt.

It’s a friendly town with locals smiling and saying hello as we pass.

We’re heading next to Glebe Stone Circle, and the boy drifts off to sleep.

It’s sign posted, but you can’t drive to it. Kat finds a safe spot to pull off the road, and opts to sit in the car with Griffin as he naps while the rest of us walk—carefully again—up the surprisingly busy little road to where you cross into the field.

More carefully as a lot of sheep and cattle have been here. Watch your step!

The little dance is on the highest point of the field—and fenced off, I think to keep the livestock out. A huge limb has come down from a big tree, and has fallen right between two stones, then against the fence and out. It still has leaves and prickly little fruit on its upper branches.

Force of nature. Photo by j a-b

As with the abbey it seems this is the kind of day to see these sites, the the air damp and misty, the gray and the green soft and velvety.

I admire the stone fences dividing the fields—my people who came from Ireland and Scotland were farmers, and stone masons. As a boy my own father worked with his building stone walls in D.C. that still stand. So it’s sentiment along with admiration for me.

Son and mom. Photo by BW

Back to the car where the boy still sleeps, and home again.

He wakes a short time later, and Kat, hoping to finish her painting, asks if I can watch him for a bit.

Can I!

As it happens I’d been about to go for a walk, and now I’ll have Griffin for company. 

The rain’s stopped, though the air’s still rich and damp.

I walk with him through one of the stone arches and into the magical woods. It’s deep and green and quiet. But after a bit, all the boy wants is to sit on the damp dirt path, play with the dirt and the leaves on the ground—and admire his filthy hands.

Since he makes no move to eat any this time, we can play this game awhile.

I take him back to the grass, and this is another happy time for him. Back we walk to cap our adventure with a round of mash-ups.

We had a fine little time. And Kat finished her painting.

Stunning.

Time to clean up. The castle’s offered to drop us off at Lydon’s in Cong where we’ll have dinner. Our driver tells us to order the chocolate brownie promising we won’t be disappointed.

The place is busy and bustling for a reason. Good food, good wine, happy service. Kat walks Griffin around outside, down to the river, out in the quiet sunlight that’s broken through the day while we wait for our meal.

The boy’s sharing my sea bass, and likes the mushroom and artichoke risotto. A lot.

I’m not a fan myself, so didn’t taste it first. He’s eating mushrooms like candy.

And all at once, without a sound or complaint he begins to expel streams of risotto. I’m quick enough to catch most in my hand—which occurs to me later is such a mom reflex. Here, let me catch your puke, baby, so it doesn’t get all over you.

He’s not the least bit upset, but Mom and Dad take him off to wash up and change. My hand didn’t catch it all.

BW samples the risotto, which he deems delish—but very rich. Too rich for our boy, apparently.

He comes back, cheerful as ever, and has a little chicken and some chips which work far better.

And we order the chocolate brownie, which is, seriously, an orgasm on a spoon. No chocolate for the boy tonight, but a taste of vanilla ice cream.

We walk home, walk off the meal, and take the path along the river, into the woods in all that gorgeous softening light. We pass a fisherman with his evening catch, and see more still casting their line in the River Cong.

It’s more beautiful than ever now, hints of gold flickering on the water, the sky moving to twilight, the woods deepening toward night—full of secrets, no doubt—and the path soft from the day’s rain.

And ahead, the castle’s lit, amber glows in windows, its silhouette regal against the night sky, the lake glimmering, just a bit.

Welcome back. Photo by BW

A lovely day in Ireland, just as it should be.

The wind’s fiercely vocal when I workout, and I see the sky’s layered again. But where it thins, blue peeks out, and bits of sun push through. Before I’m done, the light’s brightening at the horizon, and begins to bleed its way up.

I see three people standing and talking, and wonder did they travel together, or have they just met and share conversation on a pretty morning.

The boy comes to visit before his morning nap and gets a thrill as I’m actually doing a mash-up. Kat warns he might now expect me to get up and dance whenever I play them for him.

We’re going to head out again—sun’s out some—when he wakes so we can pack more into our last day in Ireland.

Nora


in today’s #RandomKatness:

Finished.

Mayo, Day Sixteen

The world’s full of drama outside the windows. Wild wicked wind that howls as it whips the trees and sends the fountain water spewing sideways. 

It whistles, sings, with thunder occasionally rumbling to add some fierce. BW spots a woman walking one of the paths who holds her umbrella horizontally toward the water.

I think, however she aims it, it’ll not do much good out there.

From inside,  cozy, dry and warm, it’s a terrific show.

The dry view. Photo by BW

Our plan for the day is to burrow inside. 

I pay a visit to JK&G’s room to see the progress on Kat’s painting. She’s adding falcons!

I don’t know if my snap of the progress shows the beginnings of them—in white on the sky—but her greenery’s taking shape.

This serves as today’s #randomkatness. Photo by Nora

This is going to be fabulous when finished, as it already is.

Kat, Griffin and I go up to the boutique. Stairs! Joy for the boy.

Inside the lovely little shop, he makes friends with some ladies. And I spot a scarf boasting one of those gorgeous falcons. How can I walk away from that?

I don’t.

Why not have a nice, leisurely lunch while the rain lashes at the windows?

We have a table right by those windows, so have our show while we eat.

Rain! Photo by Kat

Griffin and I share an enormous toasted ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette. He is a serious fan, sits on my lap and chows down on the bites I break off for him. Even with his help—and he gave me plenty—I couldn’t finish it.

Nap time for the boy after a bit of a walk around. BW has his book, and I decide to take a couple of these stormy hours to write. I hit the point I wanted to hit, start to pack it up, and here comes Griffin, fresh from his nap. And with him, the sun.

We won’t waste it.

The outdoors! Yay! Photo by Kat

We gear up, and all head out to the walled garden. Griffin meets young Rory and Shane on the way, makes more pals. The air’s daisy fresh now, the wind quiet. The storm blew in some warm, so it’s a lovely walk to a lovely spot.

Kat and Jason scout around—the boy wants some gravel and dirt—and they set up our traditional pano.

Soo..maybe not THIS much gravel, Mom? Photo by Kat
Yes! Flowers! Photo by Kat

It works, first take! Great fun for us.

Pano – Walled garden edition. Photo by j a-b

We take the long way home in the warm and fresh, the quiet light. See Cullen as we go by the falconry school. They’re about to fly one of their ladies so she can hunt for her supper.

Fortunately we don’t have to hunt for our own. When our walk’s done, we head down for dinner. The fish I choose is as fresh as the evening.

BW and cap off the evening streaming The Quiet Man. 

Soft and quiet to start the morning. Misty and calm, all grays and greens. With my workout done, the boy having his post-breakfast nap—after a quick visit to climb our stairs—the wind kicks up again.

We plan to go out, see more of the area, but we’ll wait for Griffin to rouse, and hopefully, the day to settle down a bit.

Nora

Mayo, Day Fifteen

Since the weather’s changeable my walk-abouts are short-lived. The misty rain breaks now and then, comes back harder, fades off to some sunshine.

From Kat’s Castle walkabout. Photo by Kat

With all those changes in light, in mood, you can see a thousand shades of green, muted shifts in the blue/gray tone of the water. How vivid the splashes of color from the flowers.

Kat texts that the fabric shop she drove out to hit the spot. 

In Galway. Photo by Kat

Time for lunch for the rest of us, and we get a generous booth in the handsome bar. I watch the bartender mixing chocolate martinis—not my sort of drink, but fun to watch, and so pretty.

Griffin arrives with Daddy, and he’s had a solid nap, is ready to see what’s what. He likes watching the bartender, too, but wants a bit of a walk. And there’s a table nearby with kids, so he needs to say hello.

Daily dose of Griffin. Photo by his Nana

We order him a little dish of avocado, always a favorite, and a small bowl of chicken soup, which he very much likes. I get a salad and share some of my goat cheese which also meets his approval.

It’s a cozy lunch, a fire in the hearth, a cheerful, hungry boy.

Kat should be back any time as we girls have a special treat lined up.

Aisling, who follows the blog, and runs a Paint Club here, saw that we often book these paint nights and have fun with them. She generously offered to gift us a session. Kat and I jumped right on that!

On Sunday, at the event, she and Kat chose a scene, worked out some details. I see the scene we’re to paint with admiration, and personal amusement. This beauty of this piece of Ashford—the stone tower, the walls, the sky, the river, the trees—is absolutely lovely—and I’m completely positive is so far out of my less than meager skills the gap can’t be measured.

Aisling, however, assures me I’ll do fine, and she’s good at what she does.

I’ve no doubt she is, but I also know I can’t draw a straight line.

But I’m game. Kat, I know, will create something beautiful—and I’ll have fun.

The castle’s provided us a room as the weather’s on and off rain. Aisling’s already worked up a painting for us to follow—beautiful! And will do another along with us, taking us step by step.

We start with sky. Okay, I can do sky (don’t know about clouds that won’t look like Griffin painted them). We have colors on our palettes, brushes, wipes, and she demonstrates how and what to mix.

She shows me a technique with a sponge for the clouds, and they come out pretty good. Not Kat level, but well above-average Nora.

Then there’s the river, and how to form it so the colors blend, so there are highlights, the illusion of ripples.

The tower—the grays and browns, touches of yellow mixed. And Aisling concedes I can’t draw a straight line and helps me there. Highlights again, it’s fascinating.

Kat’s slower as she’s doing some fine details. I honestly didn’t believe I could paint a stone tower that didn’t look like a blob, but Aisling IS good at what she does, and guides me through.

Artist’s hands.

There’s the wall, the road, and how form them so they don’t look like those blobs. Trees, bushes, touches of color, more dimension.

Kat doesn’t get to the greenery as she’s perfecting the rest. She has her own supplies at home, and will finish it there—or here with the supplies she brought with her.

Kat’s WIP reveal.

I look at what she’s done, and am just blown away. 

But I’m pretty impressed with my own bad self! 

Nora’s finish work reveal.

I won’t be quitting my day job, but I may approach our next paint night with a little more ambition.

We are very happy girls, all three of us. It must be rewarding to coach someone through creativity this way. And let me say, it’s just lots of fun. 

No matter how pitiful your skills, you’ll not only enjoy the experience, but very likely surprise yourself. Because I did both, I’m giving Aisling a plug here in the blog. Go to www.paintclub.ie and book yourself a treat. Better yet get some pals and make it a party.

Thank you, Aisling! Every time I look at my Ashford painting, I’ll think of you and a really enjoyable afternoon.

I can’t wait to see Kat’s when it’s finished because it’s going to be amazing.

Look familiar? From Kat’s walkabout.

From there, it’s straight to The Dungeon for dinner. BW and Jason are suitably wowed by our paintings.

We walk back to our wing a different way after dinner. Letting Griffin climbs stairs (a current favorite thing). He laughs and laughs as he climbs, comes to play in Nana’s room for a bit then off to bed.

Small boy, big staircase. Photo by Nora

Sometime during the night I woke to what I thought was singing, something high and sweet in the distance. I drifted off again to it, woke again later to the same sound.

And realized it was the wind singing at the windows.

It’s a blustery, rainy day—and still the gray of it is so soft, almost tender out the windows while I workout. The big tree I see is shivering and swaying, and little splotches of brightness over the river tease—will I, or won’t I?

Now the wind’s whistling rather than singing that sweet song. 

Griffin’s come for his morning visit. He’s got another tooth coming in, and had a rough night. But he’s happy this morning. Then seriously pissed off because neither his daddy nor I will let him have the fire in the hearth.

He settles for a climb up the short stairs leading to our bedroom, and his mood goes bright again.

He’s off to nap—and I expect his tired parents will do the same. BW’s settled in with a book. I may set up to work an hour or two, or grab a book to read myself.

With the whistling wind and the rain, it looks like a day at home.

Nora



A #randomkatness two-fer

Tiny tree of life.
Wonder why she took this one?

Mayo, Day Fourteen

Sometimes the universe offers a perfect day just to see what you do with it. I think we did pretty well.

For myself, those blue skies call me out. Kat intends to take Griffin for a stroller walk, but the boy goes down for a long, hard nap. I think being a social, active, cheerful baby, he needed recovery time from all the socializing, activity and happy.

Napping is hard. Photo by Kat

While his batteries recharge, I head out to the walled garden. It’s a favorite spot among many favorites for me here. It’s a lovely walk even before I get there with a kicky little breeze, happy skies.

Magic tunnel. Photo by Nora

I go through the stone tunnel that open up to magic. Another tunnel, this of vines, and lovely, lush gardens spreading, climbing, dancing a bit in the breeze. It’s quiet as a church but for birdsong with all those colors, textures, thick blooms. White benches sit here and there, an invitation I accept so I can just bask in company of the flowers and butterflies with the clouds above sailing along the blue, silent as ghosts.

In full bloom. Photo by Nora

For most of my visit, it’s mine alone. Others wander in now and again, to stroll along and snap pictures as I do. But for most of the interlude, it’s just me, birdsong, butterflies and busy bees.

Herb and veg garden with a rabbit guard. Photo by Nora

There are vegetables and herbs, too. I see dill taller than BW. Cabbage and kale and leek along with the  Black-Eyed Susan (a reminder of my own garden at home), astilbe, coneflowers, the fuzzy spread of lamb’s ear.

I know the work that goes on here to make this enchantment—I dig in the dirt, sweat and weed plenty. But it looks as if it just grows wild and wonderfully on its own.

There’s nothing like a garden for brightening the heart, body and spirit.

I want to take Griffin next time.

More strolling until a light drizzle falls (light and brief). Back out, as the boy (and now his dad) sleeps still. I walk over to Mrs. Tea’s gift shop to scout. I’m after two more gifts, and think I see them. But I want Kat’s opinion.

So back I walk in this gift of a day to find BW. After some discussion, we decide to have lunch back at Cullen’s and eat outside to take full advantage of this special day.

A man in search of lunch. Photo by Nora

It’s warm, actually warm and sunny and blue. Kat joins us—so do some bees, and one gets a little too intimate with Kat, stings her hand.

Contemplative Griffin. Photo by Kat

Some vinegar for that.

She helps me decide on my gifts—a very satisfying purchase—and our boys finally surface to have some lunch with us on Cullen’s pretty patio.

We take our time with it all before going back to suit up for our much-anticipated Hawk Walk.

For this I want a jacket as we’ll walk through shady woods, and it’ll chill no doubt as the sun lowers.

Kat straps Griffin in the backpack—though I guess it’s a front pack. The birds, we’ve been warned, are terrified of strollers. We wouldn’t try maneuvering one through the woods, but just in case.

Griffin’s well rested, well fed and ready for an adventure.

Cullen at the Falconry School prepares to give us one. 

I always love this part of our Ashford’s visit. Everyone at the school is so knowledgeable about the raptors, and their deep (and mutual) affection shows. BW generally stands as photographer on the walks, but this time Kat and Jason take that job so BW can have a chance to experience. He has Wilde, and I Mia.

Heading out with Cullen

Griffin is delighted with the birds, but behaves himself very well, studying them, watching them as we walk. I fall for Mia very quickly, and thrill to have a hawk on my arm again. Off they soar, just magnificent, to perch on branches and wait until our gloves are baited and raised.

And the sensation, the sight of having that gorgeous creature fly back to you, land so perfectly on your arm is indescribable.

We learn quickly that Wilde is clever. If BW inadvertently raises his glove arm a bit between flights, back he comes—and Cullen has to feed him as that’s how it works. Cullen explains Wilde is training BW.

He’s also not one to let a bit of dropped chicken go to waste. He’ll jump down to get it, gobble it right up.

Coming in…
for a smooth landing

Into the magical woods we go, and those amazing birds wing through the trees, find their perch, wait to be called. Sometimes we leave them behind a bit, so Cullen’s whistle and the raised arms call them to longer, lovely, acrobatic flights.

Along the path, through the woods toward the lake as Cullen’s tells us of the birds’ personalities—ours and the others. He know them well, and they obviously know him, too. A few times Wilde chooses my arm, beating Mia, and once they nearly land together before she hops to BW’s glove.

At one point it seems they spot some sort of prey in the bushes and brambles, so in Cullen goes with a big stick to try to flush it for them. No luck, but the birds seemed entertained.

Then we cross to the pier by the beautiful lake, with the birds on the opposite shore. We’re to keep our arms down, the bait hidden in our fists, then call them so we can watch their flight over the water.

It’s breathtaking.

They fly back, perch, soar across the water again. That wingspan! The grace, and agility as they skim over the water.

It’s truly a soul-stirring sight.

A boat comes by, someone Cullen knows. We wave, then move on.

Through the woods again, enjoying every moment and back to the main path where Wilde and Mia are rewarded with bigger pieces of chicken for a job well done.

The birds decide Cullen’s taking too long to produce their reward and make impatient noises, almost growls. Hurry up, man!

But oh-oh! As we approach the school a family—with a baby in a stroller round the corner.

Both birds freak—they weren’t kidding about the fear. Luckily, Cullen had tied the jesseys before the sighting, so the birds flap, flap, try to fly away, but have to stay put.

I can actual see the alarm in their eyes.

To complicate things, the family is French, with little to no English. They’re understandably baffled about why Cullen seems to want them to go back. I can’t pull out the French for stroller (could maybe have used pram) or bird, but Kat uses pantomime very effectively flapping her arms like wings, making a scared face, pointing to the stroller.

Crisis averted.

BW, Wilde, Cullen, Nora and Mia

Cullen tells us if the birds had been able to fly off, they probably wouldn’t have gotten them back until the next day. The fear’s real.

We’re given an extra treat when we get back to the school. A chance to fly Dingle—the gorgeous owl we met on our first trip here—maybe a dozen years ago.

Nora and Dingle

He is so beautiful, so regal. About 20 now, he strikes me as the king of his castle.

Here Griffin is stunned into love. He really likes owls and to see one, a real one, so close brings out happy noises. Dingle gives a wary eye to this creature—who would appear to have two heads and four arms as the boy’s strapped to Kat.

Dingle has an indoor flight area, so we try it.

I can hardly believe I have this amazing creature on my arm, that I’m looking right into those stunning amber eyes.

He takes his flight—oh what a beauty—but decides: Hey, this beam looks good, and perches there. He’s not hungry, Cullen explains, so isn’t much interested in flying back to me for a snack. Still we try once more, same result, but it’s a thrill to have that spectacular bird on my arm, to watch his flight.

And Griffin gets a chance for closer look as Kat dons the glove—and Dingle consents to pose on her arm for a photo. (Laura’s note: This says owl, but I have no photographic evidence of such.)

Hmmm, Mom likes this, I’m not so sure.

Ashford sends us ice cream! Still one more treat we enjoy as we talk about the birds. There’s a kestrel, just a little guy—who the school took in after a farmer saved it from crows trying to have some lunch.

Hello

So sweet, and what a good home it has before it’s released into the wild again.

It’s been perfect, start to finish. Thank you, Cullen, again and again. 

Wee head into Cong for dinner. Before it comes, Griffin, passes out, so naps on the bench between Nana and Mama.

He wakes to eat a bit, and we take the rest of his meal with us.

Revived, he finishes it at home, has some play time.

Then it’s time for bed after a wonderful day at and around the castle.

Soft and gray this morning, mists over the water, lacy and thin, quiet light, and some drips of rain while I work out.

Griffin came to visit while I did cardio, and I promised him a Shaun T session later. Off to breakfast, and now napping. Kat’s driving somewhere in Galway for the wool she covets. 

I’m going to clean up, then hope the weather allows me to steal the boy from his daddy—or share him for a walk down to the walled garden.

Nora

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