Bubbles and Breaks

It’s been a long year. When I think of last summer, I think of time spent with friends and family, our wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland, prepping and hosting our annual summer party.

Seems like another world.

Still, we have a lot to be grateful for around here. It’s been a good spring and summer for the garden, and that gives me a lot of pleasure. I’m seeing hummingbirds–a favorite of mine–almost daily. Work’s going pretty well, and that’s important to me.

Most of all, we’re healthy and safe.

Recently, we expanded our bubble and with much preparation and precautions, took our girl trip (including Griffin) for a week to The Greenbrier. We book a house there, with a private patio–so the six of us (with Griffin as 7) made a bigger bubble.

Having a week away, with girls and the boy (and the ghosts) was just incredible. We didn’t, as we have in the past, go out to dinner, haunt the shops. We just hung out, played cards, sat on the patio, entertained our young male companion. We went for walks–with our masks.

Speaking of bubbles, I got our boy a little bubble maker. A huge hit, and a break-through for a toddler who’s spent about 1/4 of his life now in his own bubble with his parents, in his own home and yard.

Who are all these people???

I brought bubbles and bowling pins, and they really did the trick.

Boy and his bubbles.

The house spirits took to him, big time. In fact, one day when his mom was elsewhere, he had a toddler meltdown, raced down the big hallway on our main level, face-planted.

Life, as he knew it, was over for the moment. As he stayed face-down wailing–not hurt, pissed–I heard a woman’s voice–very calm and soft speak to him from farther down the hall. I thought it was my pal JoAnne, as only she and Sarah–whom I could see right there on the chaise were around. Then I saw Jo come in from the patio.

So, some motherly ghost offered him a little comfort.

They also enjoyed Kayla who joined us for her first adult girl trip. One night she fell asleep watching something on her laptop, earbuds in. When she woke, earbuds still in, her laptop was closed and set safely aside.

She thought I’d done it.

Nope.

Jo and I worked out every morning, then joined the rest of the gang. Hot days at first, but Griffin entertained himself and us with his tub of water, measuring cups and pitchers. The boy loves water, and has most excellent hand/eye coordination.

Busy boy
Popping bubbles

Our highlight was taking two private–just our group–classes. The first on glass-blowing. I’ve always been fascinated with the art, and while eager to try, had low expectations of what I (or really any of us) could do.

Except maybe Kat, because Kat. And possibly Laura who is a crafty girl. But we had the fabulous, skilled and adorable Max as our instructor. No one could have been more delightful, safe and more articulate as a teacher.

Meet Max

Kayla went first, and wanted to make a glass ornament–a globe. I think of them as witch balls. She chose her colors, and Max walked her through the process first, then worked with her on the creation.Stunning really to watch him gather the glass, watch him help her roll it through the colored fragments, watch her blow through the pipe so that globe became.

Kayla rolling glass through color

She did beautifully. And ended up making two.

Sarah wanted to make a paperweight, a different process. She wanted to make on filled with fire. For this, after the gathering and rolling, she sits in the chair, uses tools to pull the hot glass, then fold it back. Max heats it again, she repeats, repeats. It’s amazing. Then with other tools, she shapes it, smooths it, creates a solid ball filled with color.

Sarah pulling glass with the tweezers

In the end, like with Kayla’s, Max holds the pipe over fireproof padding. She taps the pipe (this is after she files the globe from the pipe–or makes that initial cut) and the ball falls into the padding.

It’s put away until it cools.

Laura–ambitious–wants to make a flower. Lots of tools used here, pulling, drawing out the glass, reheating, using big tweezers to shape and shape. Again, and again and you could see it start to become.

Honestly, I had the time of my life just watching.

And her result was just stunning.

My turn. I tell Max I collect paperweights, so I want to make one. And I want to make a garden in it. He helps me choose the colors, walks me through. It’s even more amazing rolling the pipe, gathering the colors, sitting it the chair with those tools. Feeling the glass pull out, fold in. Watching yourself shape that globe.

Nora’s paperweight
Nora finally blowing glass after researching the technique in the 1990’s

We all make two. Oddly, Laura, Sarah and I all have an idea–independently–to create a night sky. They do paperweights, and I want a chance to make a witch ball.

What an experience. Thanks to Max we have the most amazing memories.

The group exhibit
Laura’s flower and paperweight

We also have a private class for glass fusion. Last year we all made windchimes. This time we’re going to choose between making clocks, plates. Kayla wants a plate, and is going for a kind of tie-dye deal. Laura, Sarah and I decide on clocks.

So much fun! Such a variety of styles and visions.

We book another glass blowing class, but this time Kat and Jo will join, and Nana will stay back with Griffin. You probably know this is not a sacrifice for Nana.

Laura and Sarah make vases. Vases!!! Jo finds the idea of that molten glass too scary, so Sarah makes her paperweight. And Kat designs a bowl (free-form and so Kat)–Max is happy to help her with the design, and the result is gorgeous and unique.

Kat’s turn!
Laura’s vase

I have to try the vase deal next year–as those results were also gorgeous–and involve SWINGING the pipe. I have to do that.*

We’re all pretty damn proud of ourselves and our accomplishments.

Best of all, we had a week together. And I had a week with good friends, my treasured daughter-in-law, and my oldest and youngest grandchildren.

Home again, rebooted, refreshed, and re-energized to get back to work, back to the garden, back to the kitchen, back to routine.

And feeling blessed to have found a safe way in these difficult times to gather with my girls and my boy.

Stay safe, stay well.
Nora


*Note from Laura: we only picked up the vases and the fused glass just before departure so I don’t have a shot of Kat’s bowl or Sarah’s vase.

I also spent a lot of time taking photos and here are a couple of my faves.

I told him to hold this pose while I took some photos. He obliged. And didn’t cry, just posed.
Open door from the patio
Gorgeous blooms
Morning

The In Between

That’s where I am today as I finished a book yesterday and will start another in a couple days. So today is In Between, and I’ll use it to do a few little chores, give more thought to that next book and . . . something. I’m sure I’ll find the something. [Note from Laura — title to come later.]

I have nothing special or really interesting to report, so I’m sending Laura a crap-ton of photos. She can choose which are blog-worthy and how many to post.

Initializing crap-ton of photos in 3..2..1

We battle the deer. We’ve done it all, but they persist. Looks like the got most of my lilies again this year, and even nibbled on a couple deer-resistant plants. I hope Bambi got a belly ache.

Pot collection
Tomato/potato alley

When side-dressing with compost this past weekend–and as always when gardening, scanning the area well first–I spotted the last few inches of a slithering copperhead. Fortunately, BW was just around the side of the house, and rushed to the rescue as I managed my
distress call.

Snake! Snake! Copperhead! SHIT!!!!

He dispatched said invader while I waited in the house. He said it was a 30″-er. (We’re going to need a bigger shovel!) I thereafter assigned BW to compost duty. I can handle spiders, I hope to find worms when I dig, I tell the bees just to back off as what I’m doing is good for them, too, but I have a visceral fear of snakes.

Parker continues to nose and poke into my pots–even with a variety of dog-away tricks I’ve put in with the flowers. He is the guilty party. Atticus has proven himself innocent. I had to completely redo a bed he destroyed early in the spring, but I like to think it looks like I meant it to look just the way it does now.

Parker the Perpetrator
Atticus the Innocent

We cleaned the sunroom area of our pool house awhile back, repotted plants desperate for it. And my should also be re-potted bromiliad threw out three gorgeous blooms.

The Blooms! The Blooms!

A bird decided the potting bench BW made me for mother’s day would be a fine place for her nest. She gets very cranky if we get too close, so I guess I won’t be using it any time soon.

Weekends continue to focus on serious house cleaning, cooking and gardening. I’m learning different vegetarian dishes to make for Kayla. This past weekend, Spanish beans and rice–which BW also enjoyed.

The writing, the domestic work, the flowers, help keep me relatively sane during this long period of global In Between. Even for a hermit like me, this wears. And I know just how lucky I am to have this place where I can work outside, or just walk outside, where we’re safe. And I know my family is staying safe.

I hope all of you are staying relatively sane, and very safe. I hope you’re finding ways to connect with family and friends during this long In Between.

Eventually we’ll come out the other side. So mask up, wash your hands, and find something in your In Between that brings you joy.

Nora


Came back in to add a photo since there have been a couple of comments on the dragon. I take shots in Nora’s garden most years — just not 2020. Took the dragon photo last July after the summer signing.

Pondering

So It’s Summer

If things were usual, we’d be heading out tomorrow for two weeks in Italy—Kayla’s big graduation trip. Bright side of this disappointment, is we’re re-booked to go next year. Something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, our girl has graduated, with honors, and they were able to hold a safe and lovely outdoor ceremony. I’m so glad she got that moment in cap and gown. Though her prom was canceled, she dressed herself up in her gorgeous dress for pictures.

Congratulations!
Elegant in aubergine.

Since we’ve all been staying home, we decided we could merge our bubbles with Jason, Kat and Griffin last weekend. It was beyond wonderful to see them all again, have some time together. A full fifth of Griffin’s life has been spent at home, with just Mom and Dad. A long, long time.

I could see memories click, bit by bit, and though it took him time to start warming up to Nana again, by Monday morning before they headed out, we got there.

The boy loves water in all forms. Nana bribed him with the hose. Nana is no fool!

If you press here….

This happens!

And he loved just walking around outside—took his Dad on several adventures. Sunday night the three of us walked out so he could see the solar lights glowing. Jason took one of my all-time favorite pictures of Griffin staring up at the magic ball I got last year at Greenbrier.

Wonder

Otherwise, it’s routine, routine, and more routine around here. Cooking, working out, cleaning, writing, gardening. And the annual Deer Wars. I was just out weeding and saw they’ve come right up the drive at the back of my house, mowing down Black-Eyed Susans and Purple Cone Flowers.

My dogs are useless here apparently.

Worse, they’re still (or Parker is) nosing in my pots. Despite hot sauce, red pepper flakes, vinegar soaked coffee filters.

Another battle in another war.

Still, the gardens look lovely—especially if I squint when I pass the damage. And my hydrangeas are absolutely awesome this year.

We continue to stay home, rarely venturing out. We did participate in the very peaceful—100% masked—protest in Boonsboro. I’ve lived here for decades, and believe this is a first. About a hundred people gathered for it, and that‘ s huge for a small rural town.

So that makes three times I’ve left the property since March 8–the others being dentist appointments. And all good there for now!!

Today with the weekend cleaning and cooking and baking and gardening done, I’m either sitting down to proof galleys or to give myself a break and read someone else’s book.

Stay safe, stay well, enjoy the flowers and the long, bright days of summer.

Nora

Hideaway Discussion Thread

Hideaway is here! And this is the place to discuss everything about the story.

A quick look at the cover copy:

A family ranch in Big Sur country and a legacy of Hollywood royalty set the stage for Nora Roberts’ emotional new suspense novel, Hideaway.

Caitlyn Sullivan comes from a long line of Hollywood royalty, stretching back to her Irish immigrant great-grandfather. At nine, she was already a star—yet still an innocent child who loved to play hide and seek with her cousins at the family home in Big Sur. It was during one of those games that she disappeared.

Her image may have been a pampered princess, but Cate was in fact a smart, scrappy fighter, and she managed to escape her abductors. Dillon Cooper was shocked to find the bloodied, exhausted girl huddled in his house—but when the teenager and his family heard her story they provided refuge, reuniting her with her loved ones.

Cate’s ordeal, though, was far from over. First came the discovery of a shocking betrayal. Then there were years spent away in western Ireland, peaceful and protected but with restlessness growing in her soul.

Finally, she would return to Los Angeles, gathering the courage to act again and get past the trauma that had derailed her life. What she didn’t yet know was that two seeds had been planted that long-ago night—one of a great love, and one of a terrible vengeance…

We’ll discuss Hideaway in the comments. So be ware that spoilers may show up here.

Laura

Staying Home

For those of us who aren’t essential workers, we’ve been doing a lot of at home this spring. Normally, that’s my favorite thing, but even for me this has become pretty surreal.

I know a lot of areas and businesses are opening. I hope everyone who does venture out is staying smart, staying safe, and doing everything possible to protect themselves, their families, and everyone else.

We really are all in this together.

I have my work, and am so lucky to be able to do work I love safely in my own house. I have lots of outdoor space–a huge boon–and the gardening.

Though I’m incredibly tired of all the rain!

But even with those blessings, I need distractions, activities, occupations outside the keyboard.

So I cook, and I bake, and BW and I clean like maniacs every Saturday. Having the house clean and ordered helps keep my stress level low.

I do some more serious cooking on weekends, too.

Soups–the latest, tortilla soup for me and BW, a veggie bean and pasta for Kayla. I made my pal Ruth’s Party Potatoes as Kayla and BW both especially love. So half went down the lane.

I made my mother’s pound cake, made cream puffs, because sweet and fun is a good antidote to worry.

Cream puffs

I tried my hand at tomato/basil risotto for Kayla. It worked! Yesterday, it was lasagna.

Risotto

I’ve baked bread, and learned Jason has taken up bread baking. BWscanned him my recipe for Italian bread–another for his new repertoire. I may do a focaccia later today.

The gardens give me incredible pleasure. However, a few days ago, I’m at my keyboard, BW is working outside. I hear him yelling. I assume one of the dogs has–despite our deterrents (soak coffee filters in vinegar or ammonia, let dry thoroughly, cut into strips, lay in the pots) dug in one of the planters.

He yells again, and a third time, which makes me think: Is he calling for help? Jeez! So out I go, hoping I don’t have to call 911.

BW’s fine, but furious. Parker hadn’t dug in a planter, he’d jumped up in one of the raised beds and gone mad. Just wild and crazy digging. Not just the plants, but dug so far down so fast he broke the underground sprinkler pipe, ripped out wires for the wall lights, and made a horrible mess of things.

So . . . He’s lucky we didn’t find a brick to bash him with!

Sprinkler guy was able to fix the pipe, BW was able to fix the light and is currently fixing the wires. We’ve piled in more dirt, and may save some of the plants. I’ll do what I can to transfer others.

And have googled home made dog repellent spray, and will make that up.

We can call Parker’s digging a very big distraction!

And no, it wasn’t moles. He wasn’t after some critter. He just decided to go for it. Such is the life of a gardener with dogs.

Other than that spot, everything looks amazing. It’s soothing and satisfying to walk around after a day of work. And we’ll fix what our canine ditch digger wrought.

Then there’s books to read, movies to watch, shows to binge. Good distractions all.

I’ve now colored my hair myself a second time. It’s ratty and shaggy and long enough to pull back in a tail. Coloring’s one thing–attempting to snip at it, a bit other thing. A line I won’t cross. *

I very much miss Harold!

I watch the videos or smile at the photos Jason and Kat send me of Griffin. I can’t find the words to express how I miss my kids, my grandchildren.

But I know they’re all safe and well, and that means everything right now.

I hope you’re all finding distractions, pleasures, maybe exploring a new interest or hobby as we go through this together/apart. I hope all of you, and all of yours, are safe and well and find blessings to count.

On behalf of me and mine, we send all our thanks on this Memorial Day to those who served, who have served, to their families for all they do, all they sacrifice so we’re safe at home.

Nora


*Laura will cross it.

Cut it all off.

A Mother’s Day Treat

Normally Nora spends the first weekend in May at The Kentucky Derby. This year, she added up 42,000 steps planting her garden. She’s spent THIS weekend on the edge of worry for the plants since Mother Nature decided to revisit winter temps and wind chills.

I’m happy to report the potted plants are safely inside and so far the outdoor plants are holding on.

Before all the cold worries set in, Nora took a video of everything in its place. I’ve edited a little and added some pretty music to accompany the walk Nora takes most spring and summer evenings. Consider this a Mother’s Day gift of sorts.

To everyone who celebrates today, to everyone who has experienced highs, lows, joys and sorrows of helping a young person grow, to mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, beloved friends — we wish you nothing but the best in health and happiness. Stay well!

Nora (and Laura)

The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers