Category Archives: cooking

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

Keeping on and keeping up

I imagine that’s what we’re all trying to do as we move into COVID fall.

Around here, we’ve got a routine going, and routines always keep me steadier. I’m writing away, and that always keeps me sane and steady. I recently finished next fall’s In Death—and no! We’re not telling you anything about it yet.

Now I’m working on Book Two of The Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy. Fantasy’s a fun place to go when reality is particularly hard.

Weekends are for cleaning, cooking, baking. Not much gardening recently as herds—and I mean herds—of deer gobbled up at last half my gardens. Nothing stopped them this year—not repellant, not dogs, not whirligigs, not nothing, not no how. Twice I went out and chased about ten away. And we have a good-sized fawn—still spotted—who has come right up to my kitchen window—three times—still chewing on one of my shrubs.

Despite them, I have some bright spots out there.

I’ve harvested, chopped and frozen in ice cube trays my oregano and my basil. I now have a couple of big freezer bags of both for all those soups, sauces and stews I’ll make through fall and winter. Rosemary yet to deal with.

Laura’s branch vase

Snipped a few flowers for the pretty vase Laura made me. The ones with the tiny orange flowers attract hummingbirds so I plant a good flow of them every spring. We have a couple of feeders which they frequent, but I watched one spend at least five full minutes going from one of these tiny flowers to the next the other day. He actually had to fly up to a tree branch to rest for a minute, then came back and did it all again.

They’ll migrate soon, and I’ll miss them over the winter.

We brought in my lemon tree—we’ve had a couple of very cool nights—and I picked the last three lemons of this crop. Sweet!

Lemon harvest


I also had some coleus volunteer in the river rock beside the pot where I plant it every spring. These volunteers must have popped up from seeds blown out from last year. I managed to dig them up and pot them. Am happy to report after a week in the pool house, they’re doing well. Nice houseplants, and a nice reminder of spring and summer.

Coleus ready to winter


And every couple weeks, Jason and Kat and Griffin visit. That’s the real bright spot. He’s such a little boy now, and full of energy and toddler babbling. One of his favorite games is to set up some barrier—a box, a laundry basket, whatever, then chase of be chased around it by one or both of his parents until he just flops down exhausted.

This little man is nearly 2!


Kayla is staying safe in college, and it’s clear from our Face Times (at least once a week) and texting, college agrees with her.

BW stays busy, and this week finished a project I so much wanted. He added lights to the built-ins he built years and years ago. It’s exactly what I wanted, and makes me ridiculously happy.

Cabinets aglow. (And yes that’s a portrait of Nora and BW as Rick and Ilsa.)

Today, heavy sigh, it’s back to the dentist (other than the magical week at The Greenbrier, the only place I’ve gone since March) for two more crowns. My teeth are the nemesis in my mouth. I’ll stop on the way home for a flu shot, then expect to hunker in, once again, likely until spring.

We’ll vote by mail. And here’s your PSA for the day. Vote. Vote safely in person or by mail, vote early if you can, but VOTE. It’s both your right and your responsibility.

That’s really about it from my home front. I’m going to relax in my clean house for awhile!

As always, stay safe.

Nora


Just a little fall from Laura’s neck of the woods.

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

Stay Home, Stay Safe

I know it’s hard. We miss our families, our friends, our freedom to go to the movies, a restaurant, go shopping, have a drink in a bar, work out in our gym, go to the beach or the park–and so many ordinary things we all took for granted.

But.

There are so many people–and some are friends, some are family–who have to go out, every day, to tend the sick, to deliver the mail, to drive the trucks that bring food, to work in grocery stores, to prepare the take-out, to clean, to provide us with safety, care and essentials.

For them, we stay home.

For our kids we stay home. For our parents, for our neighbors.

I know I’m fortunate to be able to work at home, to have land around me so I can go outside without putting myself or anyone at risk. I know there are many, many who aren’t as fortunate.

And still, even for the fortunate, it all wears down, stresses out, this constant repeat of days.

For me, staying busy really helps. It took me awhile to find my writing rhythm again. The minute I’d open my mind, it will fill with worry. But I sat at the keyboard every day, as usual, and kept trying. And I had a pretty decent writing week this week, so that eases the stress.

Doesn’t matter if most of what I wrote is probably crap. It’s words on the page, and the pushing back into the habit. I’ll eventually fix the crap.

Weekends around here have a new kind of routine. Maniacal cleaning. Scrubbing, sanitizing, polishing. (I’m sure I don’t have to add disinfectant is for cleaning, not injecting or ingesting–but I’ll say it anyway.)

BW and I have worked out a loose division of chores–which change as needs demand. It’s working just fine.

I’m holding on strongly to the belief that a clean house is a healthy one. If this is true, we’re very healthy here!

Then there’s cooking. At BW’s request I made spaghetti and meatballs yesterday. And while I was at it, I put together a kitchen sink vegetable soup for Kayla–enough to share with her family if anyone else is interested.

Red sauce with meatballs
Kayla’s soup

Busy and yummy work.

So Saturday was…

Strip the bed and get the laundry started. Get the workout in early because the day’s packed. Scrub down two bathrooms–BW took the third. Keep at the laundry–a shared chore. Make meatballs, make red sauce, make soup, get it all simmering. Scrub down the kitchen. Dust and polish furniture–we’ve got a LOT of wood in this house, and that’s another shared chore.

By the time I’m done, BW’s already working outside. And when I finish, I can go out, too, and get my hands in the dirt. Start putting in more flowers–wonderfully delivered by my beautiful local nursery.

Post delivery, flowers at the ready

This is joy–hard work, but just joy. It’s therapeutic, and satisfying, and you can’t think hard, worrying thoughts when you’re planting a faerie garden.

Coleus in solar pot — it lights up at night!

I can only give it about four hours due to the inside work, but it’s a lovely start. Today’s cool and rainy–the flowers will like that, but no gardening today.

And as I’m boiling pasta, Kat FaceTimes so I get to see her and Jason and Griffin. That boy is definitely living his best life right now, everything is happy, is parents are at his beck. And he waves and blows kisses at the end.

I can also see him whenever I like due to the pictures and videos Kat and Jason post daily. Not the same, of course, but a tremendous lift to the spirit. My favorite, so far, is his uncontrollable giggles over a Sesame Street segment where every time Elmo sneezes, the seasons change. He tries to pretend to sneeze like Elmo and laughs and laughs.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it.

My oldest grandson, Logan, turned 16 on Thursday. Hard, hard, hard not to see him, celebrate with him. We’ll make up for it when the world’s sane again.

Today, I’m making my mother’s pound cake–a family favorite. I’ll send half of it down the hill for Logan and family.

My workout’s done, and when I finish this blog, I’ll bake that cake. And since it’s raining, since my house is clean, I’m going to settle in with a book.

I hope all of you are safe and well, those of you at home, those of you on the front lines. And I hope you find the things–so many of them simple and ordinary–that bring you peace and some joy.

Nora

Really nothing much

Winter queen Nora as fashioned by the fabulous Turn the Page Staff. The real Nora is staying home.

I haven’t blogged in awhile mostly because I’ve had my nose to the grindstone both professionally and domestically. So it’s pretty much boring, as in:

Get up, go to work. Check the news on the world maybe. Realize the news in the world sucks a lot. Go back to work. Finish work, go work out. Sweat is good!

Talk to BW. Perhaps have a drink with BW because I’ve had a righteous day. Eat. Sign books or do galleys if necessary. Watch something on TV as brain is very tired. So is body. Go to bed.

Get up, repeat.

On weekends, continue the full house purge–no excuses!–until it’s finally, finally, FINALLY complete. Bake bread, make soup or whatever. Shovel out the rest of the house.

Oh, a couple of dentist appointments in there. My teeth are my bane.
A couple of family dinners–with at least some on the menu geared toward our vegetarian.

Oh, a nice visit from same over a weekend when she stayed with us. Movies, on-line shopping for (gulp!) a graduation dress. And it’s so pretty on her, too! Help with purging is always welcome. Much happy conversation about college. When Kayla leaves the end of August, I’ll miss that girl like a limb.

Kayla visited her college a couple of weeks ago. She’ll be able to visit Nana in the library!

A delightful family Sunday including the constantly happy Griffin. He definitely likes Nana’s spaghetti. I don’t know if Laura can grab the shot of him off FB–I have no clue how to–but it’s classic.

Guess what? Laura knew how. Classic.

Work, more work–my favorite routine is sticking well over this period. I love getting solid, uninterrupted writing days, then sweating it off, getting my house in order and spending time in the kitchen on weekends. It’s my perfect balance.

Tomorrow I plan to go out into the world (or at least Boonsboro) for the first time–excluding the dentist–since . . . jeez, I think the February signing. I believe that’s correct.

The inn’s having an art show with one of my very favorite artists, Claire Hardy. Since I’ve just redone our bedroom I believe I have a spot for a new painting.

Flowers by Claire Hardy.

Then, my hope is to continue to basic and boring right up to the girl spa in April.

Then spring happens. I’ll be ready for it!

Nora

Tabula Rasa

Who doesn’t like a blank slate?

I don’t make new year’s resolutions because never going to keep them, but I like the idea of starting fresh. And that I can try to do.

It might be why I do a full-house purge every January. You gotta out with the old before you in with anything. Plus I find it incredibly satisfying. Boxes and bags of things someone else might use–and clean, tidy closets and shelves and drawers for me. [Please see Editor Note below]

But first, we had to end the old year.

We do that around here with a full day in the kitchen prepping for our annual New Year’s Day Open House. The fun part of the prep is having the kitchen full of girls.

Kayla shows up first, willing and able. I’ve already started the red beans–culling out a portion before I add the ham hock so my veggie girl and Kat can have some. And I’ve mixed up and rolled 108 meatballs now simmering in red sauce.

Yes, I said 108.

Laura comes bearing her InstantPot to boil the eggs for deviling. This, she tells me–and it bears out–cuts the time down, doesn’t require my magic solution to make the eggs come easily from the shells.

And here’s Sarah.

Sarah and Laura, InstantPot experts–deal with the eggs. I don’t like to think about pressure cooking as I have vivid memories of my mother’s old cooker exploding.

But this doesn’t happen.

Kayla’s making brownies for her trifle, I’m making whatever comes next–and Kat arrives with Griffin. He’s the most delicious thing in the kitchen.

Cousins

We stir, chop, cook, mix. I’m doing a couple more veggie dishes this year, experimenting to see what goes over with the crowd.

We drink champagne while everyone pitches in.

It’s a long, busy, productive day, and how better to spend the last day of the decade than with people you love?

Concentration

Kayla’s building her trifle, Kat’s creating a huge casserole of tortellini and cheese, Sarah and Laura are shelling three dozen eggs. I’ve got two big-ass hams in the oven, and my pal Ruth’s recipe for Party Potatoes to finish up. And a whole lot more.

Naked eggs — de-shelled perfectly.

Jason–who had a show rehearsal–arrives.


…24 hours earlier

I’d emailed him in a panic the day before.

The saga is thus:

At the end of my work day, I go to back up on my flash drive before my workout. I get: MALFUNCTION!!! And something else that my shock has forgotten.

Okay, well, just reboot, it’ll be fine.

MALFUNCTION!!

Okay, breathe. Try a new flash drive. And the screen goes black.

There is no breath as I hastily reboot, check if my work is still there (I’m talking 29 and a half chapters of a 30 chapter book.)

It’s still there, so okay.

Now let’s get out the Surface I use when traveling. Plug in the flash drive. And the keyboard won’t work.

Now WTAF!!!!!!!

I try everything (and send the panic email). I go to the desktop and Google, follow the instructions for what to do. Keyboard works.

For a minute. But even in that minute won’t read the drive. Not MALFUNCTION but INVALID.

I obsessively check, and my work remains intact. So I put all my faith in Jason and go workout.

An email from him when I check assures me all will be well. I’m already backed up on some other location. (I knew he did this, but I don’t understand it.) And he’ll figure things out when he gets here.


Back to prep day

So he’s here, and he figures things out. Apparently–though he’d never experienced it–the little drive itself malfunctioned and screwed up everything.

He fixes, puts in (has to program I think as I use the ancient WP) another flash drive.

So I don’t have to end the year weeping and gnashing my teeth while cursing the cruel and capricious gods of technology.

Ah, sweet relief provided by the prince of all sons.

Meanwhile, my girls have to go. Much gratitude for the help and the company. Post-nap Griffin eats hearty, and as I added noodles and sauce to his meatballs, gets a sink bath.

Clean boy.

BW is the only one with enough gas left to make it till midnight.

Happy New Year means Kat puts together her adorable veg crudite–this year with a little something extra for Colt and his pal CJ.

Crudite names

We have set up, we have making whatever needed to be made in the morning. We have Griffin to entertain–and be entertained by. We have dogs to chase out of the kitchen.

Then we have guests. Lots of guests. Lots of happy, lots of people, lots of noise, lots of food. An all-day deal with friends and family to ring it all in.

Buffet
No longer naked eggs
Healthy start to 2020

And happily, enough party leftovers that Kat and Jason can take enough home, and I have enough here none of us need cook this weekend.

Yay!

And Monday, it’s the start of a well-earned week and the spa for all of us. With this year’s extra-special treat of Kat’s participation in Nemocolin’s art show.

We’re so proud of her! She’s already sold SIX paintings. She has a website. Shoot, what is her website? Laura, do you have it? I have book brain as I worked today in anticipation of a week not, or barely, working.

[Laura Knows All: www.katpong.com]

My house is de-holidayed–clean slate. The house purge will begin when I’m home from the spa. And I’m going to thoroughly enjoy a week of relaxing and cuddling Griffin.

My first, miserable draft (first drafts are always miserable for me) is done.

A nice start to the New Year. A nice page or two written on that blank slate.

I hope however you ended the decade made you happy. And whatever you write on the start of the new one brings you joy.

Nora


Editor note: I’ve posted Nora’s pieces about the whole-house purge for nearly 8 years. While it’s not my personal style, I admire her ruthless clear out of drawers, closets and cabinets in every room, on every floor. I see how that clean slate sets her up for the year.

But, I’m here to tell you that even the Mistress of the Purge misses some spots. After the December signing, Sarah decided she wanted some tea, something herbal. Nora doesn’t drink it, but she’s gifted tea all the time so she keeps it in one of the lower cabinets for guests who do. I was sitting in front of that cabinet on that December evening so I reached down and ran through the inventory to find a taste Sarah wanted.

Idly, I turned a package over and there it was: Expires 8/16. I picked up another, expiration date 2013. Another, 2017 (that was the freshest). Sarah was already steeping her tea as I started flinging tea out of the basket, announcing dates.

“Tea expires?” Nora asked. “Who knew?”

Me, for one. Sarah opted to live in ignorance, but since she didn’t expire herself, I can now reveal that she chose the oldest tea there — expiration 2006.

I tossed three boxes then and there, proclaiming that the 2020 purge was now underway. Nora’s sworn all tea will be gone the second week of January. I will bring a fresh (truly) assortment for the Golden in Death signing.

It’s nice to know she’s human. <g>

Laura

The Most Wonderful Time

And it has been–almost all the way.

A couple of weeks ago, we have our traditional girl trip–two days with pals at Tyson’s in VA shopping, hanging out, exchanging gifts and just being pals.

The gang’s all here! From left: Nora, Laura, Pat, Mary Kay, Elaine and Mary

Jason and Griffin join us the second day for the stupendous lunch the team at Saks puts on for us. The boy is quite the star! And my beloved Azita–whom I’ve worked with for . . . God, it must be a decade now–never fails to put together clothes that suit me so well. (This means a mini closet purge when I got home, but I have no regrets!)

Griffin photos and holiday decorations that are actually amazing gingerbread cookies.
Azita and Nora

Last weekend Turn The Page joined Holiday In Boonsboro with a massive, happy signing. Lots of readers, lots of books, lots of holiday spirit in a town all decked out. We have a great group of authors and fabulous, patient readers who stay cheerful through a five hour event.

Creative event parenting: Kat constructed a pen for Griffin made entirely of unopened boxes of Golden in Death. He still did his best to escape. Some readers offered to take a few books to help.

On Sunday we hold another event focused on kids, and there’s nothing, just nothing as heart-stirring as watching a child light up when Santa ho-ho-hos into the room.

I store up that joy and spirit to get me through Monday and dental implant, take two. Okay, that isn’t a wonderful time, and the weather agrees by turning raw and rainy. Just a little bonus.

But that’s done.

I have to skip my workouts for a week–sore, swollen jaw and my own worry about raising my bp too high in the early healing stage. But that’s done, too, as I–finally–got a good one in this morning.

Still, not breaking to hit the gym means a longer writing day Tues, and that’s nice.

Wednesday, a shorter one as BW and I host our employees at our annual Progressive Shopping Night–with dinner on us at Vesta to cap it off. It’s not only fun, but it gives everyone a chance to see what the other businesses have to offer, and the opportunity to mix and mingle.

Holiday windows at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro.
The fabulous TTP team with Nora and BW.
The Inn in her holiday finest.

Then my pal and business manager JoAnne and Laura and I stay overnight at the inn. Pour the champagne; we’re not driving! And after a fun night, an amazing breakfast, I head home to work.

…and we stayed up late enough to see the 12/12 full moon at 12:12 am. ~Laura

A full day of that on Thursday–yay–then another shortened work day as I’m hosting my annual Managers’ Holiday Party here at home. With the exception of our fabulous Robert at Vesta, all our managers are women. Maybe, feeling outnumbered, Robert skips this event, so it’s a few hours with girls.

Saturday is cooking baking marathon. Kayla’s definitely head baker here now. Just her and Colt to bake this year, and she’s all over it!

I make the sugar cookie dough early so it chills while she–with her able assistant, Colt–deal with the rest. While she’s making chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, candy cane kiss cookies, I make a pot of chickpea vegetable soup for the vegetarian. And potato and ham for BW and me.

Kayla and Colt with egg.

First time with this veg soup, which I blend from a couple recipes and Kayla’s choices. She tries a bowl for lunch. Has seconds, so it definitely worked! She has another bowl at dinnertime, and took the rest with her.

Onto painted sugar cookies, and BW joins in. A friend gave me dinosaur cookie cutters, and Colt is all about them. So we have Christmas dinos along with the Santas and bells and stars.

A mandatory photo break.

I should add we all taste test along the way–every type. My girl’s become an exceptional baker. And I’m going to need those workouts even though I sent the kids home with a major supply.

Today, at last, a workout so I feel more like myself. Kayla’s come up to wrap for me for a couple hours–bless her heart! Since we ran out of steam before snickerdoodles (and they’re one of her faves) I’ll bake those shortly.

With the help she’s given me on wrapping this year, I should only have one short session remaining.

My house needs a good shoveling out as it’s been a really busy week, but once that’s done, it’s done.

We have leftover soup, plenty of cookies, and a house that’s ready for Christmas.

I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season as much as we are!

Nora


Note from Laura:

Took this when I headed home from Nora’s Saturday morning. Nothing like muted colors and a dreamy scene.