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.


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.

*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

54 thoughts on “Bubbles and Breaks”

  1. What an amazing time everyone had! That beautiful boy is getting so big so fast.

  2. Omg those are just stunning! I have read Born in Fire – and the rest of the trilogy- so many times. It’s one of my favorites.

  3. I love your blogs about Italy, Ireland and Scotland. And Montana on the ranch. But this was nice that you got to do this with family and good friends. We all need to find a new normal in our world and find the joy. I have about 10 of those glass balls.

  4. This looks like such an amazing time! Glass blowing is indeed an amazing thing to watch happen. Doing it sounds even more incredible

  5. Thank you for sharing those experiences. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to do the glass blowing thing, but I loved the results. The photo of the open door to the patio is awesome.

  6. I have done some glass blowing as well as stained glass work. It can be tedious work but yet mind blowing with stunning results. I never thought I had a creative bent but everything turned out just right.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing parts of your respite. It was enjoyable to read. You inspire in your daily life, not to mention your talent of writing. I’m an avid fan. THANK YOU!

    1. Loved the bubble picture with Griffin standing! Glass blowing is amazing. I always watched the glass blower at the fall fairs. It must have been an amazing experience to actually do it yourself. Thanks for sharing the photos and experience.

  8. Just stunning! The little fella in the bubbles and the glass blowing are both amazing. Glad you all found a way to get away and be together. The Greenbrier is definitely on my list of places to visit! But this week, I’m excited to head to the Boonsboro Inn, for my birthday- sans ANYBODY. That’s right, this mom of 4 is gonna hang out in Jane and Rochester and read- wait for it- Nora Roberts books:). I have been reading your work nonstop since lockdown began, and cannot thank you enough for the comfort it has provided me. So THANKS! Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  9. Wow! So glad you were able to have your get away. That is fantastic. Kayla has become such a pretty and accomplished young woman. I know you are so proud. The glass blowing! What an adventure. I love all of the beautiful creations. That last picture of Griffin- priceless. Getting so big. Oh, and I call them Witch’s Balls too. Thank You Nora! Keep staying safe. xo

  10. Loved this! I’m in the middle of Born in Fire and could imagine Maggie doing the same thing. I watched a glassblower on our Viking cruise and loved it. Brought back a bluebird in memory of my mother and beautiful gray and pink swirl paperweight for me! So glad you had a great, relaxing week with the girls.

  11. Nora, it sounds like a great girl’s trip ! Greenbrier looks like a lovely place to visit and as long as the spirits seem very helpful. I love all the blown glass, it’s as pretty as anything I’ve seen for sale. Your garden paperweight is especially pretty. Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Take good care and please post more garden pictures, please!

  12. What a nice get-away with family and friends! Thanks for sharing your photos and glass blowing experience with us. The finished pieces are beautiful. Stay safe and hopefully these crazy times will be over soon.

  13. It’s a treat to get this post from you. I remember looking forward to your daily posts from your trip last year. Who would have dreamed then, what we are going thru now? Life can indeed be stranger than fiction.
    I’m so glad that you got away- and i’m happy for Kayla too. It may not be catching falcons, but just time away, and glassblowing to boot, is so special. Any time spent w/family is precious. Now everytime you see your glass treasures, they will bring back lovely memories.
    I’m looking forward to the new ID book. Stay safe.

  14. Beautiful glass work! Everyone’s works were so pretty and you really DID sweat over it! I’ve had a fusion class, but would love to do a glass blowing too – hot, but fun-looking. Griffin really studies everything and such a cutie. Glad you all were so careful. Stay well.

  15. Oh wow, those pieces are absolutely amazing. What a fun-filled trip and that Griffin is a doll. He’s growing so fast, but they all do. My youngest great nephew on my side is starting pre-K this month. His sister will be 12 in October and my oldest great niece is heading to Kansas for college in about a week. They grow so fast. I know you were thrilled to spend time with the oldest and youngest grandchild.

  16. Thanks so much for sharing your memories and experiences. Time spent with friends and family is so precious…grab it with both hands while you can! Griffin is such a handsome little guy and is becoming so big! 😉 The glass blowing was especially lovely!💖

  17. What a wonderful trip. Love that your able to spend lots of time with your grandkids! They mean the world to me also. Love all of your books both Jd Robb and as Nora. Love that you take time to be in contact with us all. Thank you for all your talent spent entertaining us!!!!!!

  18. All of it is gorgeous and looked like so much fun. My husband had a paper weight from Ireland that is 40 shades of green, which I still have.

  19. OMG this munchkin is adorable and the glass beautiful. We are keeping our fingers crossed we get to take our trip to Asheville next month. Time off is scheduled and reservations made.

  20. It looks like you all had fun channeling your inner Maggie. Kat’s vase is gorgeous. It was a blessing that you all had the opportunity to get away and recharge your batteries. Thanks for sharing.

  21. It was so lovely to read about others’ escape from lock down. Thank you for sharing your experiences and wonderful photos with us.

  22. Glass blowing is something I would love to try so thanks for the photos. I’m glad you had such a great time but if I had an experience with the ghost I would have run screaming never to return.

  23. Beautiful glass projects. They turned out great. So glad you were able to have a girls week with the added blessing of having Kayla too. Griffin is getting so big. I miss coming out to the signings and then going to spend time with my mom. I always have a good time in Boonsboro. Take care, stay safe and hope to see you in 2021.

  24. What a gorgeous trip! Glass blowing is something I’ve always wanted to do! Never had anyone who wanted to do with me. I’ve promised my only grandchild a shopping trip later this month (we’re also going.to sneak & birthday shop for her mother’s birthday at the end of the month). Unfortunately, I’m going to have to use my wheel chair. My back doesn’t allow me to walk thru a mall or large department store. We’ll manage! Post the rest of the glass pictures when you can.

  25. And, here in Western NYS, we are back to swelter in place with temps in the 90’s! Made reading about The Greenbrier a great diversion!!! All that PLUS bubbles! They have that magical appeal!!

    Your granddaughter is growing into such a beautiful young woman!!! She will be able to share this magical time when recounting her story a out living though this strange time!

    Wishing all of you great health!

  26. Nora and Griffin remind me of my parents and my nephews when they were his age. It was so hard to be around them. NOT! I’m glad you got to have fun.

  27. Gorgeous glass and handsome grandson! What more could you ask? But did Griffin think the glass pieces were just fancy bubbles? Looked as if you had a wonderful time. Glass blowing fascinates me so I enjoyed hearing about your adventure. And you have all the beautiful souvenirs to remind you of your time together.

  28. I have so missed your adventures this year. Thank you for sharing. You know we live vicariously through you and the family. We miss the book signings and traveling. Let’s get over this pandemic and start our new normal. It won’t be the same but at least we can start living again. I guess that is the bestest part, I don’t feel as we are living just existing. Thank goodness we can live life through your books. Keep writing and we will keep reading. Stay safe stay healthy.

  29. You all are so creative. Glad you had a great time and visit in these stay safe times. Loved all the photos.

  30. I’m flabbergasted! Reading Born in Fire, I knew you’d researched glasswork, but figured while researching you’d handled pipe, etc. I think I understood from this that you had not, yet reading it, I felt the weight of the pipe, the heat of the glass, etc! Dang, gal, I knew you had great imagination, but wow! You did those feelings from research? And yes, a lot of your titles are top favorites with me, but the Born in series is in the top tier!

    Gorgeous work. I love watching a glass worker, but so often I don’t like the colors–usually very muddy & I don’t have the urge to buy. But looking at the pictures, wonderful colors! The flower is beautiful (I had a similar one in pinks but dropped it last year–they don’t bounce well!) and I like your concept of a garden, the fire paperweight, etc.

    As others have already said, but it bears repeating: thank you so much for sharing your trips with us, esp. this year! No glass blower for me this year; just got word that the Renaissance Festival is cancelled. Ah well, next year!

  31. Thanks so much for sharing your time and photos with us. It must have be fantastic to get away with ‘the girls’ and ‘Griffin’ of course. The glass blowing looks great and I love the things you all made. Also loved the photos especially of Griffin and also of the early morning mist. It must have been lovely to extend your ‘bubble’ and been in a different place for a while.
    Hope everybody is staying safe.

  32. As usual, the photos are superb! Griffin surrounded by bubbles is fabulous. All your glass creations are so beautiful and creative – kudos! Kayla is looking so good. The oldest and youngest are, what, 16 years apart? Made me think of the span of years between my oldest and youngest first cousins – 42 years (my Dad’s oldest sister’s first child is 2 years younger than my Dad). A bit weird when I think of it. Love families and their stories – each one unique. So happy you were able to get away and enjoy a girls + Griffin getaway.

  33. Your glass blown pieces look gorgeous. Since I have just reread the Born In series, the pictures you shared just brought out Maggie’s story all over again.

  34. I haven’t been here in a while …. old age is creeping up, aside from this new life I am leading, a huge adjustment! I loved this post , I just finished a sweet book that had a Kate , who was a glass blower, with a shop , & gave live demonstrations.. fascinating!! Thanks for a lovely adventure with your girls & Griffin( who has grown tremendously since I have been here!!! Awesome boy!!very intelligent ! Until next time , your oldest fan …..

  35. Yes, as others have said, thank you for sharing that experience with those of us huddled in our safe places. It gave me a lift to see what you shared with family and friends in a safe bubble.

  36. As everyone has said, We love reading your adventures..Each entry in ” Fall into the Story ” is like reading a bit from one of our favorite books…whichever it may be ! Glassblowing- who doesnt want to try that?! Or watch – its breathtaking! Love seeing how fast Griffin is growing, and hes so darn handsome. Thank you, as always, for letting us peek into your “Girls ” trip..Stay well & aware!

  37. Oh my gosh what beautiful work you all did and the colors just pop. Griffin is growing so fast….enjoyed the picture of him in the middle of all the bubbles….so glad you all had this wonderful, blessed and ghostly time together❤️❤️

  38. Nora, I have been fascinated with glass blowing ever since I read Born in Fire all those years ago. I am so thankful you and your group got to go away and do such fun activities. And, as the gramma of 11 and Gigi of 1, I especially know it was not a sacrifice to stay home with Griffin the second day of glass blowing! I remember when Kayla was born and how happy and proud you were to tell us about it. Thank God you are all staying safe and healthy. Please stay that way.

  39. I love your glass blown projects. They are so beautiful. I loved reading about “ glass blowing” when I read BORN IN FIRE.
    Thanks for sharing your family and friends , especially Griffin. I’m so glad everyone is safe and well.
    The picture are lovely, Laura. Be well.

  40. Great picture of Griffin and the bubbles; he’s so focused on them, that he looks a little like a mini orchestra conductor.
    The glass creations were amazing and made me wonder if our nearby Corning Museum of Glass might offer something similar. Looked like fun and Born in Fire is one of my favorites (I have so many) .
    Thanks for the peek into your fun, well planned trip and for planting an idea in my head.
    Stay well.

  41. All the glasswork is gorgeous! But…. I’m dying to know who did the fish?

  42. Dear Nora and Laura, as always I appreciate all your stories of real life. Living in Canada we have been so lucky that our government has taken great care regarding Covid. Yes, we have been staying at home,masking, handwashing, etc. But it only means less death, better safety, and…..more time to read! Love all your pictures of Kayla and Griffin, all your artistic creations, and gardening. Also, I must put in my two cents regarding the Eve and Roarke argument: absolutely NO to kids and other additions!

  43. Somehow I am not getting my notifications about your blog, so I’m just reading this now. I love watching glass blowing and have always wanted to try it. What beautiful objects you all made! And Griffin is growing so fast.

  44. What a wonderful week for you all. Such a great way to unwind and reconnect… and such beautiful glass art created in the process! They’re all so pretty. 👏 👏 Can’t wait to see Kat and Sarah’s creations.

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