Category Archives: cooking

Cozumel, Day 6

A day at home for me. Apparently I slept through a storm last night, and this morning clouds rolls in, roll out. A quick shower, sunshine, a sudden hard rain with the sun beaming. Then sunshine alone.

Inside, Griffin challenges Nana to a chase. But he’s changed the rules! Now as I chase, he can turn and shoot fire at me. I counter with a hose, but it’s no match for his inferno. He leads me to the kitchen where it seems I’m trapped.

Griffin explains the rules to his Nana. Photo by Kat

I escape.

Watching me, he circles the dining room chairs, then takes my hand and leads me inside the blockade. I appear to be in jail.

Jail break! Wild chase. I am recaptured. Multiple times. You can’t escape the long arm of The Griffin.

Logan’s still feeling yesterday’s boat ride, so taking it easy in his room. Nana makes him a sandwich.

A group heads to the store for supplies for tonight’s dinner, and I head upstairs to work awhile.

Work’s done. Groceries hauled in. We’re adding chicken to the menu as the fish won’t be quite enough.

The three oldest kids and I settle into a game of Hearts.

When it’s time for me to marinate the chicken, Kat takes over for me. When it’s time for her to peel carrots, Jason takes over for her. Despite the tag team, Kayla wins.

Jason’s turn to fill in. Photo by Nora.

Rosemary was not to be found at the store, so I make do with thyme and oregano. Carrots are in. Kat scrubs and halves the pretty potatoes, and in they go.

Kayla and Colt play some Mario Cart which always entertains Griffin.

I give the carrots and potatoes a good start before I pull out the chicken. Oil in the skillet, then Kat’s finely minced garlic, some herbs and spices. No white wine handy, but we’ll make do again.

Roasting. Photo by Nora.

The gang clears and sets the table, and while the chicken’s sautéing, I tackle the fish BW filleted and Kayla makes some Mac and cheese. BW slices a pretty baguette.

Finished fish. Photo by BW.
dinner’s ready. Photo by BW.

And there we are, a hearty, home meal. Fish eaters declare the fish good—which is a relief to the cook! And yes, as I sample, it’s pretty tasty.  Plenty of food for all, and no complaints.

Cooks are excused from clean up, as is the house rule wherever I happen to be the cook!

But the cook isn’t excused from Chase! Whew!

When the boy settles down, the rest of us—after a tutorial by Logan—play Texas Hold ‘em. Fun. And Jason who rarely has luck at cards wins the first two hands. Handily.

Wins and losses, near misses and sneaky bluffs. In the end, I come out five fake dollars ahead. I think BW and Kat are the big winners, wiping out Colt and Logan while Jason and Kayla came close to breaking even.

So a game-filled, food-filled day at home.

Cloudy this morning, but it seems to be lifting as a breeze comes up.

Kayla’s boyfriend, JR, is flying in this afternoon to spend the next week with us. Not sure what other plans are, but there was talk of doing the Italian restaurant for dinner, and BW said something about driving down to the lighthouse.

I’m at a place in the work where I’d like another couple hours before the weekend. But I’m flexible there if any plans solidify.

Nora

Enjoy the Moments

I love the holidays. Seriously love all of it.

Every minute, all the shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, prepping, figuring out.

Time and again, I think back to when my boys were little guys, so excited, so wrapped in those moments. Then, bang, it’s my grandkids. Holy crap! And they’re so excited, so wrapped in the moments. I’m right there with them.

Now I have grandkids ranging from 20 to 4.

How did that happen?

It’s still about the moments, about treasuring each step and stage and change and wonder.

My darling baby girl is now twenty, but she still bakes cookies with Nana. This year, in addition to her little brother, Colt (already 12!!!!) we include her adorable boyfriend J.R., in this long family tradition.

Kayla and JR with clean hands, ready to dive in.

They’re just great at it. Mixing, measuring, baking. I am now assistant baker instead of chief, and delighted to pass the torch.

On baking day we have Kayla and J.R., Colt, Grandda and Jason. Logan’s working—I have a grandson who has to work! And Kat’s herding Griffin.

Waiting for the mixer to finish.

We bake, and mix, and bake. Snickerdoodles (which turn out to be Griffin’s favorite), chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, peppermint blossoms, and painted sugar cookies.

BW and Cold prove decoratoring is serious business.

It’s a lot. It’s a marathon, but very precious. Plus delicious.

This is the weekend before Christmas, where Griffin gets a race track from his cousins. And played with it, and them, for HOURS.

Race tracks are everything.

Then there’s the countdown, and before we know it, it’s Christmas!

I do some snacks—deviled eggs, a crudite, we have some cocktail shrimp, I baked an Irish soda bread. Ripping wrapping paper and opening boxes requires energy.

Fun, chaos. Surprises, delights.

 Logan has a girlfriend who’s now part of that. But we still have a little guy, a four-year-old, and nothing makes Christmas like a little guy.

When we need food, we have a salad bar, home-made lasagna, garlic bread from the Italian bread I baked the week before. Then an ice cream bar.

Yum.

It’s a long, happy day, where the adults exchange a lot of delights. Kayla, and she’s an adult now, opens lots of clothes, Logan’s very pleased with his gamer steering wheel, Colt his computer. And Griffin’s clear favorite is the Mario Rainbow Road race track.

Heading down Rainbow Road.

Actually, I think everyone’s favorite is the Rainbow Road race track.

While the gifts are great—they really are—the true happy is the being. Being together, being in the moment, appreciating that being in the moment.

Our annual holiday photo demonstrates just that. Oh, look how they’ve grown! Look who they are right now. It’s marvelous. It was a minute ago when my oldest grandkids were shorter than me!

Family.

There’s some recovery time, then it’s New Year’s.

Griffin would play on the Rainbow Road forever, so ends and starts the change of years doing just that.

I’ve made a chicken en cocotte, and some pasta and red sauce as Kayla, as our vegetarian, is joining BW and me, Jason, Kat and Griffin for the Eve.

Chicken en cocotte a la Nora.
Nora’s famous pound cake.

We eat like royalty, then just hang out. Many races on the Rainbow. And Griffin’s favorite cousin (Kayla) plays endlessly with him. Our floor is lava! The safe places are the rugs. We can turn the lava to ice by magic, but then you slip and slide instead of burn.

Cousin time

I have no idea how many year-end steps I logged dealing with lava and ice.

Then the year ends, and somehow the four-year-old stays awake to ring it in. He insists: No bedtime! But goes off with Mom and Dad to bed without complaint at the dawn of 2023.

I’m so grateful for all of it. For the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the baking, the cooking, the cleaning up after. For the sharing the moments with the people my grandchildren brought into our lives.

All things change; nothing perishes.

And here we are, once again standing together, an expanding group, happy together in the chaos and joy of the holidays.

Here’s to 2023. May it bring us happy, healthy, and all the moments to treasure.

Nora

MERRY, HAPPY EVERYTHING!    

‘Tis the season.

My season actually starts in the summer (usually on vacation) when I start buying holiday gifts. I keep a list, check it twice–at least–then tuck everything away until after Thanksgiving.

This doesn’t get me off the shopping hook, but I actually love shopping for gifts. 

I actually don’t mind wrapping them–much. My routine is to take a weekend or two, put on Christmas movies in my One More Room, and have at it. By this method? I’m done! Done shopping–some time ago–and now, done wrapping. Woo! Bring it on!

When gifts take over the office.

I go overboard on gifts, and I don’t care! It’s fun, satisfying, and gets me all festive. On Christmas Day, the house will be full of happy faces, ripped paper, empty boxes, scads of ribbons and bows. More fun!

The decorating’s nearly done. I still have the library because BW and Jason are in the middle of changing out the bookshelves lights, and it’s a mess. But when they’re done, I’ll be done.

I haven’t hung the stockings yet as that means no fire until Christmas. Don’t want to risk burning the house down if stockings go flaming. Presents won’t go under the tree yet as Griffin’s coming this weekend. What self-respecting four-year-old could resist going after all those pretty, colorful boxes?

When Kayla’s home for her winter break, we’ll have a marathon cooking baking day. Joining us this year, her boyfriend, J. R. We’ll see how he handles painting sugar cookies.

And still more fun.

I confess, I love Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. I love their predictability and schmaltz. Why are they popular, year after year? Because I’m not alone in the love.

However, I’m going to highly recommend two non-Hallmark or Lifetime Christmas movies.

Spirited.
Ryan Reynolds is one of my movie boyfriends. I doubt he knows this. As I didn’t know he can sing, he can dance! And does both along with Will Ferrell in this totally delightful movie. 

If you catch it, be sure to say: Good Afternoon.

Love Hard.
There is nothing about this movie I didn’t love. It’s so wonderfully charming and funny and sweet. The chemistry between the two leads is just perfect, the acting’s solid, as is the writing.

Both of these movies made me ridiculously happy. I hope they do the same for you.

Now, as I finished a book on Wednesday, and finished my wrapping today, I’m going to do as little as possible for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, I’m wishing you the happiest of holidays, with lots of cookies, pretty lights and the warmth of friends and family.

Nora

Tuscany – Day 21

A stay home day is just fine. Chain Saw Man gets very busy through the morning, and this time two trucks are spotted in the general vicinity on what we’re now calling Chain Saw Ridge. And he’s at it again today. CSM is no slacker.

Neither am I as I appear to be Griffin’s Race, Jump, Pratfall partner. I hold up my end, but still have time for puzzling. Making progress, and Kat is making serious progress in that area. She and Jason head to the market, and Griffin’s satisfied to hang with the rest of us. Kayla lures him outside for a race, but he spots his trucks inside, so in we go. He has several Mario figures—his new hero, perhaps displacing Blaze and that gang. Down the sliding race track with Mario, time to sleep for Mario, time to wake up and slide for Mario. Mario is very busy for awhile.

Grandkids, toys and a view. Photo by Kat.

A little lunch when the shoppers return, Kat makes cookies and BW takes his drone on its longest journey yet.

Perfect cookies cooling. Photo by Kayla.
Cookie alignment. Photo by Kat.

We have discovered the Italian brand of Fruit Loops. Kayla decrees them okay, and undoubtedly healthier than the real thing. Griffin loves them—but often requests the purple ones. Kayla questions this preference as to her pallet they’re all the same. Later at dinner, Kat will do a blind taste test, and proves Griffin is correct—or at least she and Griffin share the same taste buds.

The breezeway lives up to its name. Photo by Kayla.

But before dinner, we all clean up and change. Kat and Griffin visit my room as Kat’s booking a little fun time for the girls. We’re going to make silver jewelry, instructed by a local silversmith. Griffin doesn’t know a bed that isn’t made for bouncing on or jumping off of. Kat and I take turns—as directed—helping him take the big jump from the chest at the foot of the bed to the floor.

Somehow he decides it’s now my turn to jump. Unexpected! But he doesn’t object when I sort of sit on the chest, and assists me in my version of a jump before he switches to Hide and Seek. He hides—in my closet, every time. Oddly, I never find him.

Then they’re off, and I hit the showers.

We’re booked for dinner at 7:30. Just before 7, Jason tells me Griffin’s fallen asleep—small wonder. He gets his brief nap before Kat carries his limp self out. We’re armed with Italian Fruit Loops in case of crankiness, but though zoned, he’s surprisingly non-cranky.

Filling the space with a late nap. Photo by Kat.

We arrive right on time at the restaurant the driver recommended for pizza. The cook/host/owner/part-owner (?) seems surprised we arrive on time, but gracious—any table we like as none of the outdoor seating’s yet occupied. We sit, order a bottle of water, and observe what’s essentially Main Street in a small town. A car parked across the narrow street scrapes the stone wall of the building on his way out. He appears unconcerned.

People sit and chat at the wine bar next to us, others walk by. Another guy walks past our table into the kitchen/bar, and it becomes clear our place is a two-man operation, and this may be the owner.

The menus have English names for the pizzas—like Body and Soul, Nice Pesto. Jason uses his phone to translate as the descriptions are in Italian. They also have a handful of appetizers, and Kat picks one—a kind of puff pastry turnover filled with tuna with caramelized onions on top. She’s hoping Griffin will go for the tuna.

Pizza with ricotta, fresh tomatoes, pesto. So going with Nice Pesto on this one. Photo by j a-b.
Pizza with ham and cheese. Photo by BW.
Margherita pizza — which can fill the Body & Soul. (I don’t know, this was a guess. ~L) Photo by j a-b.

I won’t call the service slow. I’m going with very, very laid back. Friendly with it when we eventually order. The tuna deal, pizzas, more water, a bottle of Chianti.

While we wait, another car slides in to park across the street, bumps into a pole. Apparently no big deal. I assume the cars parked or moving are locals as through traffic isn’t allowed after 8–and it’s already well after as another starts to slide next to the building, clearly texting while doing so. And somehow she avoids mishap.

Bells chime on the hour and the half from the bell tower across the street. At nine—I don’t know why—they chime like mad things.

Group selfie. Photo by Kayla.

Griffin absolutely goes for the tuna. The pizza’s delicious, and very sloppy. Kayla solves this by folding pieces in half. I go for the lift by a fork until I get it up method. Kat finally succumbs, with apologies, to knife and fork. However you get the job done, it’s pretty damn good. Griffin agrees, though when he takes the piece I offer, most of it slides off the crust. He likes the crust. And the purple Fruit Loops.

For a kid wakened from a nap, hauled into the car, packed in a stroller, parked at a restaurant for more than two hours, he’s remarkably chill. Maybe his sense memory of his first year and a half of life’s clicked in. Scotland, Ireland, California, Hawaii, Montana, New York—there may be more in there. In any case, he’s a most excellent traveler.

We miss the sunset, but catch the final dramatic red blush with the growing moon sailing overhead. And head home for cappuccino. Kat wants to try making it, and does a very fine job.

Last light. Photo by j a-b.
Evening show. Photo by Kayla.
Sunset paparrazzi. Photo by Nora.

From the looks of the sky this morning, I expect another pretty day. I’m going to work out, and consider it training for any upcoming races and jumps.

Nora


Bruce’s countryside video.

Tuscany – Day 14

The clouds roll in, roll out, then in again while I work out. The temperature’s dropped easily twenty degrees. Those clouds thicken so the sky’s layered with gray clouds. The rain comes.

After my workout, I find most of the gang in the kitchen. Kayla reports seeing a tree fall, so now we know Chain Saw Man’s direction. He was busy yesterday, and I hear clunking down there this morning.

Cloudy expanse. Photo by BW.

There’s some MindCraft with Griffin and his iPad, then some Mario Cart in what we’ve sort of made the game room. Kayla lets Griffin design her race car, so she ends up with an egg cart with rainbow wheels. As Griffin says: It’s so cute! And she’s victorious!

I do a little puzzling as the rain comes and goes.

It’s time for Kayla to make her boyfriend’s family’s Italian Eggs. I elect myself official photographer as she follows the instructions from the video step-by-step. It’s a fun breakfast/brunch/lunch dish. She does a fine job, and shares with BW and Kat.

[Please note, here in the Command Center, I guessed at the captions/steps. Any errors are on me.]

First, the bread. Photo by Nora.
Sous chefs at the ready. Photo by Nora.
Eggs in pan. Photo by Nora.
Add the latte. Photo by Nora.
Soaking up the egs. Photo by Nora.
The delicate flip. Photo by Nora.
Finita! Photo by Nora.
Grandda and Kayla approved. Photo by Nora.

And all approve.

Kat adds a tomato and basil to hers when she comes in after finding a four-leaf clover. Wherever we go, if there’s grass, Kat will find four-leaf clovers.

Kat’s additions. Photo by Nora.

During afternoon puzzle time, Kayla makes a lovely charcuterie.  Also delish.

Kayla’s creation. Photo by Kayla.

There’s puzzling, reading, gaming, lazing through an off and on rainy day—and one where Kayla and I put on hoodies. It’s really cool, Laura, I swear! [Ed note: Laura has her doubts, but will put them aside for now.]

I give Kayla her choice of vegetarian rice dishes I figure I can make here. She stops me at number one. Spanish beans and rice. Okay then.

It’s kind of fun hunting through the spice cabinet to see if I can translate or recognize. Then a list of what else I could use, if available at the local market.

The pool area. Photo by BW.

And back to puzzling. We’re making progress on a puzzle that’s harder than it looked. A little pool time for Kat and Griffin. I’m delighted he’s really enjoying the pool.

Thank goodness, not a cupcake in sight. Photo by Kayla.

Sun’s out, time for the market. Back at the ranch, I gather and begin to prep. Which means opening a bottle of red—for the pot and the cook.

And going out and cutting some flowers for our table. Pretty!

From the garden. Photo by Nora.

Today I try a cleaver I find in the drawer. Surely this will be sharp. But no. Once again, Kat becomes KatGiver and hunts up a sharpening stone from the wild. She will take care of this issue.

Jason serves as sous chef when needed—BW makes a pot of plain rice (here Kat is unschooled as she grew up with rice cookers, and was sincerely shocked years ago when she learned I didn’t have one.) The plain rice is to sustain the rice-eaters as we go.

I chop, mince, sauté. It’s interesting that the beans come in boxes, not cans. Easily biodegradable/recyclable boxes. Nice touch. And they found Tabasco at the market! Score.

A pot full. Photo by Nora.

I have BW taste—the rice in my dish is not yet cooked. My fault for following a new-to-me recipe (Mine’s at home and not in my memory bank) and putting the whole thing on the lowest setting after it’s all together. I figure the lowest setting on this range means it can keep a dish moderately warm for days.

I turn it up.

Table gets set, bread sliced, the pasta from last night in a bowl for me—the non-rice eater.

Beans & rice a la Nana. Photo by Nora.

And a fine meal is had.

No sunset to follow as the clouds are back.

Proof of clouds. Photo by Kayla.

The men are left to clean up as it’s racing time,  and Griffin discovers a new, LONGER route. We chase over the grass, over the terrace, through the open doors of the breezeway, onto grass, around the villa, down the steps. And back.

Many times to his great delight.

We have a jumping game, with turns. He’s getting good at the concept of turns. Kayla’s turn, Griffin’s, Mommy’s, Nana’s.

Somehow he and Kayla become a team, and she teaches him to crouch down by the corner of a wall, then they can jump out and scare me and Kat. Then Griffin yells RUN!! Many times. Hide and Seek, more racing. Many times. Then more times, until Kayla begs for a water break.

The men, who’ve done a fine job cleaning the kitchen, declare tomorrow is take-out day. Fine with me.

This morning is very breezy. Hoodie time on the terrace. I have no idea what Chain Saw Man is building, but no saw today. Just the sounds of clunks and clinks.

Lots of clouds over hill and valley, but some long blue stretches and the light and shadows are just lovely. It may rain so we’re likely to have another day at home—all good. If too breezy and rainy, I may set up and work a bit inside, find a good spot for that.

Right now it’s quiet—I may be the only one up. I have to decide where to get my workout on.

Nora.

New Year, New Page

A quiet, family New Year’s around here, and again no big open house with friends and family. Hopefully next year things will be safe enough for a gathering.

We did go away for a week—rented a house again to be safe—and stayed in. It’s lovely to spend that kind of time with family, and just hang.

The view from the house.

Lots of play with the boy time, jigsaw puzzles, a little work, room service—and a Nana makes spaghetti night. Griffin’s a fan of my pasta!

Busy boy.

BW gave me a weird, fascinating, unstructured jigsaw of a moose for Christmas. This would never, ever, never have been done without Kat, the Queen of Chaos. I helped, but she did the heavy work.

The moose

Griffin really enjoys the vacation space. One morning, BW got up and went downstairs before I set up to work out. I went down to get my caffeine and water, and the lower level is quiet but for Griffin, sitting at the dining room table watching Sesame Street on his iPad. Normally Jason gets up with him in the morning as Kat is on any night duty. (The boy occasionally likes to party at 3 am!)

I had heard what I thought was the boy and his dad tromp up the stairs at about six, and thought nothing of it.

I say hi, get my stuff, wonder where Jason is. Hunt BW up who tells me the boy was playing with his trucks on the couch when he came down. Huh.

I realize he got up, didn’t wake his parents, just came up from the lower level where they all sleep, and entertained himself until someone joined him.

So I made him breakfast, then left him under BW’s watch and went up to work out.

Once home, it’s back to work, and the start of my annual full-house purge.

Making progress! All the Christmas stuff is put away, and that’s an accomplishment. Weekdays are for writing, and progress made there, too. Yay.

I found a jar of applesauce of the counter Fri. BW hunts and gathers, and I cook. If I’m around I help him put groceries away, but he got home with them Fri while I was working out. He left out the applesauce which I decoded as a hint. Applesauce Cake?

So Saturday, after workout, after the purge of the One More Room (and organizing Christmas stuff), my office, I made the cake. The purging’s moving right along since I did a serious job of it the last couple years. And the cake’s a nice reward for both of us.

Applesauce cake!

Today, after workout, it’s bake Italian bread to replenish the supply, and get a tortilla soup simmering. Purge dining room and library while soup is simmering and dough’s rising.

Italian bread stocked up.

Snow—expected—starting falling about the time I took the bread out of the oven. Since we’re going nowhere, it’s very pretty. Falling faster and harder now, but still going nowhere, Sunday chores are done, and the house smells of simmering soup and fresh baked bread.

Tortilla soup!

Please stay safe. If you’re not vaxxed and boosted, get vaxxed and boosted. Our Laura’s had her hip surgery postponed twice since hospitals in our area are overrun with Covid patients—over 90% of them unvaxxed.

Take care of yourselves and everyone else, and let’s make 2022 a lot better than 2021.

Oh, and if you want to watch something to pass the time, check out Brazen on Netflix, based on my Brazen Virtue from way back in 1988! They did some serious updating!

Nora’s view of opening credits.

Good deal!

Nora


I’ll share some Brazen content tomorrow. For now, here’s an off camera pic of the stars.~Laura

Montana – Day 7

We end our first week with a cold rainy day, but we expected it. We girls have our glorious massages booked and head over to Spa Town in that steady rain.

And into our warm individual tents. The table’s heated—ahhh. And that steady rain’s a calming kind of music now. My tech has good, strong hands, and knows what to do with them. Kinks and knots begin to melt. I drift in that perfect plane between sleep and wake, just float there for ninety glorious minutes.

Could’ve stayed right there for the rest of the day.

But home we head, three relaxed girls.

Griffin’s thrilled to see his mom, even when after some play time she convinces him to take a late—for him—nap. He’d slept in a bit this morning as he decided the span between 3 and 5 a.m. made the perfect time to be awake.

Kayla takes a lie-down herself, and I decide to squeeze a little work time in.

We’re cooking tonight, and I expect it to present a challenging experience. I’ve never cooked on a hot plate before in my life. We’re doing a Mediterranean dish with pasta, broccoli and pasta. Jason—as everyone’s off having quiet time—acts as sous chef.

The cooking space. Photo by j a-b

He cleans off a space on the little counter for the hot plate, and shows me how to turn the thing on—a two burner job. While I boil water—takes a while!—I have the new experiences of mincing the garlic Jason’s helped me peel with a steak knife. It’s what we’ve got. It works—but again takes awhile.

Kayla’s up by now and receiving instructions.

Water’s finally boiling—put the pasta on.

Heat oil in the big pot for the garlic (no onions as Kayla dislikes) then some of the spices—this dish has a kick so we’ll save out some of the pasta and broccoli for Griffin.

Jason mics the broccoli we forgot to defrost, opens and rinses the beans.

Broccili and beans. Photo by j a-b

Starting to smell good in here!

Add the broccoli to the pot—this will take a bit of awhile, too, before it’s time to add the beans. I’m now—with the steak knife—trying to chop the fresh parsley that froze in the fridge drawer. Interesting work.

Nearly done. Photo by Nora

Add the pasta, some of the pasta water reserved from that pot, the parsley, some grated Parm—more spices. It smells damn good in here! And others come out of their quiet spots to say so.

Griffin has his butter noodles and broccoli, and the rest bowls of spicy.

Finished! Photo by Nora

Success! A tasty hot plate meal.

I have now cooked a meal on a two-burner hot plate.

Clean up—not by the chefs!—and time for a bath for Griffin.

Excuse me? Photo by Kat

Kayla and I hit the puzzle while BW settles down to work on photos. We stick with it—we’re pretty close—but I didn’t choose an easy one. Bath time must be over as the giggles have stopped. The house gets quiet—just music from BW’s Bluetooth speaker, and our more than occasional mutters re puzzle.

The spread. Photo by BW
One of many views. Photo by BW

That should go there! Why doesn’t that go there? Where is this stupid piece? Where does this equally stupid piece fit?

Closer and closer—and Kayla insists this one piece she’s hunted and hunted for is missing. Piece by piece, we crawl to the finish line.

Hard work. Photo by BW

And indeed that one piece isn’t on the table. Don’t panic! Look on the floor.

And there, with a sound of triumph, Kayla finds the last piece.

And DONE.

Now I want candy. Comment by Laura, photo by BW

Flushed with our accomplishment, we head to bed.

Woke to a cold 32 degrees, and a lovely mist rolling over the far field. The day promises to warm considerably—thank GOD!  By the time I work out, and Jason and Griffin have their morning routine, it’s about 50. That right there’s warmer than it got yesterday.

The Breakfast Crew is off, and Kat and Griffin are watching one of Griffin’s shows/segments on the IPad. He is VERY involved. I hear a resounding YAY!! So something worked out well.

He gets a trip to the Apothecary today for a kiddie session—they make slime. What could be more fun?

Sunny and bright now, and supposed to stay that way.

It’ll be nice to grab some outdoor time today after a cozy indoor day.

Nora


Meanwhile, from the Travelogue Editorial Desk: Kat captures Griffin verbalizing all Laura’s feelings when dealing with repetitive questions and silly comments. Punctuated by the nose to sleeve.

And, since turnabout is fair play. It’s not always sunny at the beach office.

Curtains of rain. Photo by Laura

Nothing Much Going On

Which is the reason I haven’t done many blogs over the last few months.

I write, workout, cook. On the weekends, I clean and do more involved cooking, and often some baking.

Foccaccia

That’s pretty much how it goes.

I was able to see Kayla over her spring break as she came home. And as she lives in a dorm and NC includes dorm living in their eligibility, she’s had her first vaccine shot, and will get her second this month.

We get to see Griffin every couple weeks. One of his favorite things is to prance his way all the way down (1/4 mile!) the lane, check out the creek.

A boy and his bubbles

Happily BW and I both have our shots. It’s a major relief, and I’m grateful to everyone who made them possible, and the scores of people giving countless hours getting those shots into arms.

So we we were able, at last, to have Logan and Colt up for dinner with their Mom.

Still, the numbers are going the wrong way here in MD, so we continue to be very cautious.

However, in a couple weeks, I’ll be hitting my favorite nursery for plants—and there I can’t wait! Meanwhile, we battle the deer. I don’t see herds of a dozen the way I did before we tried a new repellent—and bought an air horn! But some still come around and have to be chased off.

Pop of color.
Early blooms.

Parker tore an ankle tendon last November, so had surgery early December, and after many checkups, pampering and PT which he enjoyed entirely too much, is fully recovered.

My tulip magnolia got in a hurry and decided to bud up right before we had a serious cold snap. I’m waiting to see if we’ll get a show from it this year. But we do have other, hopeful signs off spring cropping up.

Today I’m making chicken en cocotte—took a pic before I put it in the oven. The house smells glorious—like a farmhouse in Provence!

A taste of Provence

And with that doing its thing, I’m going to curl up with a book for awhile.

Nora

I’m Ready!

The last little package arrived. I’ll gift bag that sucker and be done with the wrapping, ribboning, bowing and tagging.

Gifts to pals I won’t see this year, shipped weeks ago, and most landed where they’re meant to be.

Tree up, mantels dressed, candles lit.

Thanks to Kayla and a marathon baking day, we have tons of cookies. I stood as baker’s assistant while she did the real work–and a lot of work it was. Also delicious.

Getting Grandda into the act
Cookie Boss

 I’ll sneak in a Nana brag as our college girl got her grades. Straight As. 

We had a really fun, laborious day together. I miss seeing my grandboys, and having the gang baking in the kitchen. Next year–I hold onto next year.

I miss holiday celebrations and time with my friends. Next year.

Obviously, we won’t have our big bash of a New Year’s Day Open House this year. But next year.

And I admit, sometimes it gets me down. It’s hard not to hang out with friends and family, hard to cut out long-held traditions, hard to give up all those personal contacts, the hugs, the laughs, the simple, basic pleasure of being together. 

But next year.

I’ve got plenty of work to keep me busy. Writing, for me, has always been a blessing, but maybe never as much as in 2020. It gets me going in the morning, helps keep me from dwelling–too much–on everything else.

Then there’s the weekend cleaning/cooking/baking routine. It helps, too.

But boy, will I happily pass my toilet brush to someone else next year.I’ll buy them new ones! Gold-plated toilet brushes if they want. And shiny silver buckets, jewel-encrusted scrub brushes! Whatever it takes.

Meanwhile, it all keeps me busy, and somewhat sane.

Last week’s snowday view.

Also keeping us busy around here is Parker who had surgery last week for a torn ankle tendon. He’s recovering well, but JESUS! he now requires pretty much constant care. No opening the door so the dogs can stroll out and do what they do. Bag that cast, use a leash, walk him out, try to avoid having the Cone Of Shame bash you in the calves and shins. 

Parker and his new accessory.

He and Atticus both have the sads over the situation. But this, too, will pass. Next year.

Meanwhile meanwhile, the house is festive, and that perks me up.

Best, Jason, Kat and Griffin will come for Christmas as we’ve continued our careful bubble. I’m incredibly lucky there. We’ll have a late brunch once they get here, then tear into the presents. And won’t it be fun to watch a two-year old discover new toys under the tree?

Since Kat can’t eat mammals (reaction to a tick bite) we’ll have lasagna for dinner–with a salad bar to start, garlic bread from the Italian bread I baked last weekend, and an ice cream bar for dessert.

Then we’ll watch the new Wonder Woman. Yay!!

Not our usual Christmas, but we’ll make it happy. Then there’s next year. Next year, Kayla won’t have to haul all the gifts from here to her family because we’ll all be together. We’ll be together–family and friends–because we’re apart now keeping each other safe. And that’s the most loving thing we can do.

I’m wishing all our health care workers, our first responders, teachers, front line workers, delivery workers, USPS workers, grocery workers, and all those who’ve done so much, worked so hard to keep us all safe, to care for us, to keep it all going the best holiday possible. And a better, brighter new year.

I wish the same for all of you.

When I light my candles tonight, I’ll light them with that wish for all.

Next year will be better, and it will be brighter. But for now, we’ll make the now as solid and safe and shiny as we can.

Nora

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled

So that* happened.

And before it did, I’d planned to blog a bit about our holiday feast.

Your monthly dose of Griffin

In the time of Covid, we’re focused on staying safe. We have a bubble going with Jason, Kat and Griffin with all the adults working at home, not going out other than when necessary. Masks, sanitizer, hand washing, and all of it.

2021 has to be better, and we all want to get there.

Kayla’s also part of our bubble when she’s here. Before she drove home from college, she and her dorm mates got tested, then switched to all on-line classes to self-quarantine. They didn’t want to bring anything home but themselves.

Smart girls!

So we could have our little group for our big feast.

And I had a lot of help in the kitchen.

Pie baking—apple and pumpkin on Wednesday, and a pasta meal.

The most efficient diner in the house.

Griffin turned two the end of October, and he’s spent about ten months now at home, just his parents. We didn’t see them for the first three or four months of the pandemic, so the boy and I had to inch our way back. It’s a long time in a toddler’s life.

He’d play on the floor with me, walk outside, babble. But I was not allowed to pick him up or hold him. Uh-uh, Mom or Dad only! So no snuggles through spring, summer, into the fall.

We had a breakthrough—more to be grateful for. Last October I bought him this crazy little robot toy on the way to New York. It plays an incredibly repetitive nonsense song while it dances around and shoots out light.

At one, it terrified him. So away it went.

Now, he’s two, so let’s see what he thinks of it.

Interesting….let me stand way over here and observe it. Okay, now I must touch. And laugh. And dance. Nana dances, too. And for the first time since February, he wants me to pick him up. And we dance with the robot.

I lift weights three times a week, but the boy weighs 35 dense pounds. As my arms give out, I think we’ll sit on this kitchen stool and watch the robot.

No, we won’t! Dance, Nana, dance. And I get a hug for it.

Worth spaghetti arms.

A bonus for the feast.

We’ve got turkey, stuffing—and a meatless dressing for our veggie. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts, roasted cauliflower—much peeled and chopped by Jason, veggies roasted by Kat as I handled making the gravy and other dishes. Homemade cranberry sauce, succotash, deviled eggs, a pretty round of sour dough bread.

A thankful meal

Pie for days.

Nobody went hungry.

Before and after I’ve been at the keyboard through the week, working out after the writing day, then, with zombie book brain, signing tubs of books from TTP, and crashing.

On weekends, since we’re still stuck in COVID, it’s clean. No more weekly housekeeper—not since March. So I scrub toilets and floors and all the rest with my faithful sidekick BW. And I cook, and I bake.

Trying some new breads—and as Jason has become a pandemic bread baker, or as Kat calls him The Bread Wizard—we’ve exchanged recipes.

I made his Irish Soda bread—yum! Then tried my hand at Stottie bread. Also yum.

Irish soda bread.

 

Stottie bread
Italian bread

And since Christmas is coming, I shop on line.

Which is finished!!!!

Since it’s finished, there’s wrapping (Kayla’s helping!) gift bagging, and shortly shipping gifts to pals I can’t gather with this holiday. I miss them!

And there’s decorating. We all need some cheer, especially in 2020. I’ve got a start on that, and will likely finish this weekend.

Just the start of the display

It’ll be a quieter Christmas than usual, with no New Year’s Day Open House to follow. But we’ll stay safe, look out for each other, take the blessings we have and treasure them.

Wishing the same for all of you through the holiday season and beyond.

2021 can’t possible suck this much.

Nora


*What happened? Basically, comments in The Awakening discussion thread were picked up on Twitter and six days after Nora dealt with the issue, we had a blog breakdown from all the people rushing in to read the comments. No need to add anything, just filling you in. ~Laura