Category Archives: cooking

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.

December? Seriously?

November blurred by, and now December’s decided to blow in with wicked winds, chilly rain and gloom. I’m hoping that improves.

For all its speed, November was pretty packed around here–which may be why it seemed to whiz.

BW and I had our November week at the spa–joined for a couple days this year by Jason, Kat and the ultra-adorableness of Griffin. Kat was invited to participate in Nemocolin’s Nov-Feb art show! She brought up the paintings she chose for it–it’s an animal theme–and they’ll hang until February.

Kat’s menagerie.

We’re so proud of her! And her talent gave us more Griffin time.

This is always a working trip for me so that’s early workout, then butt in the chair until mid afternoon. A reward of a lovely treatment, then a meal someone else cooked.

Always a good deal.

Home again, and a lovely Sunday at a sweet baby shower for me.

And boom, it’s Girls’ Night Out in Boonsboro. Always a fun time–and a little extra special as Kayla joined us. Serious fun to hit some of the Main Street shops with my girl.

Blink, and it’s time to prep for Thanksgiving.

Pies! Pretzel rolls! All baked on Wednesday. Apple sauce, cranberry sauce–also on Wednesday’s list.

Baking done!

And Thursday’s the cooking extravaganza. A little different this year as my girl’s now a vegetarian. So in addition to my traditional sausage stuffing I did an apple and raisin stuffing (dressing) with veggie broth in a casserole. And a lot of roasted veggies I hadn’t tried before.

Kayla wasn’t coming around until Friday, for leftover and pie (especially pie) but I wanted her to have plenty of choices. And Kat and Jason made a vat of mac and cheese as it’s one of her favorites.

I made roasted beets! And am very glad I looked up how to peel those suckers so learned to use gloves and a plastic cutting board. It’s CSI time with beets. But Jason–very fond of them–gave the finished product a thumb’s up.

Thanksgiving buffet

We had so much food we set it up buffet style rather than on the table.

Griffin’s private buffet.

Griffin and the dogs continue their love affair. In fact when he woke up in the middle of the night on Thursday, they raced up to make sure his parents weren’t torturing him. And that, at 1:30 a.m. was that. I come out when I hear the whole gang troop down the stairs.

Atticus and his boy, a love story.

The dogs in heaven with some middle of the night play. Griffin–toddling now–drunkenly walking across the room to them. Daddy keeping the dogs relatively calm, Mama patiently reading the boy his Baby Shark book until he finally gives it up.

I make sure to shut the dogs in our bedroom.

Twice before the little family gets up on Friday morning I have to stop Atticus from heading up. I literally hear him sigh when I catch him and say: Nope.

More Griffin time for me on Friday. Jason and BW haul all the Christmas stuff up from the storage shed. It’s early decorating for me as this is my only free weekend.

And here’s Kayla for those leftovers. More thumb’s up (not the beets, but everything else.)

When Jason and his fam pack up to head home, Kayla stays awhile and helps me decorate. She’s off to NY for a cross-country run. (Brr!)

I finish it up, and enjoy having my house look so festive.

Yesterday a four-hour wrapping marathon with wonderfully silly Christmas movies.

Today, workout done, I’m sneaking in time to write this. If Kayla has any energy left after her whirlwind trip to The Bronx and her run, she’ll come up and wrap for me. Otherwise, I’m back at it.

Then I pack for our annual girl holiday trip. Two days of shopping, champagne and girl pals. A lovely way to kick off the season.

December’s packed, too. Our Holiday Signing’s next Saturday, an annual party next Sunday. I have my tooth implant replacement on Monday–ugh. This is the dark spot in a bright month, but it’ll be–hopefully–over and done as there are two more events that week.

I expect Christmas to come rushing at me, but I’m ready for it.

Nora

Catching Up, Buckling Down

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

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

Yikes!

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

Trifle by Kayla
Healthy food too!

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

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

JoAnne, Nora, Sarah

Griffin assisted his mom at the register.

Just up from a nap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora


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

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

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

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

On to London.

Then we sailed home to New York.

And now it’s back to regular programming!

Kerry, Day Eight

With the weather undecided, I take an at-home day. Some play time for Griffin where he shows his brainy skills stacking cups. His mom and I are duly impressed—with applause—when he discovers he can also insert them into each other.

Smart boy!

Of course earlier he manages to find a tiny piece of gravel just inside the door and gets a good taste of it before he’s caught.

He goes into town with Mom and Dad to get some supplies, check on my goddess (all good!) and have a car nap.

Though some tempting blue sky peeks through, I set up my little office and write. Housekeeping’s here, BW’s settles down with a book. I get in a good three hours, just as I hoped, hit the point I want to hit.

As I reward myself with a glass of champagne, housekeeping finishes up, BW emerges and the little family returns.

Perfect timing.

We plan a spaghetti dinner.

Griffin spies my tablet and insists on a mash-up session. 

Then he plays with Daddy while Kat does some laundry, and I get the red sauce on.

The red sauce. Photo by Nora.

The stove requires a group effort to fully figure. I show BW a bush of rosemary out the kitchen window, send him out to get some.

Red sauce simmering. Kat goes off to finish a painting she’s working on.

Griffin must walk, walk up and down, in and out, check on the laundry. Busy, busy boy.

I plan to make some garlic/butter paste for the lovely round of bread Kat and Jason brought back. Jason takes on that duty, and we toss a salad together.

Prep. Photo by j a-b

Smells good in here!

A break from walking for some under-table time (and spaghetti). Photo by j a-b

Kat’s back, painting finished. It’s wonderful—of course!

Baby’s hungry, and lets us know it.

So we eat—and yum. The perfect cozy, comforting meal for an at-home day. There’s dessert for those who want it—I just can’t—but the pastries K&J picked up in Kenmare are well appreciated.

My toy matches my food! Photo by Griffin’s Nana

Kat handles the dishes, Griffin works off the meal with his running walks and Daddy swings. He seems tired so we try a bottle. But no, he clearly lets us know we’re very mistaken, he’s not a bit tired. He catches his second (or it might be twelfth) wind, has a laugh fest, lots of running.

It’s suddenly the best game to run down the second floor hallway gripping Daddy’s fingers, into Nana’s room so she can jump out and tickle his belly. Squeals echo as he drags Jason back and forth, in and out.

Daddy definitely runs out of steam first.

I’m hoping the evening activity tires him out so his parents get some sleep.

During my morning workout I watch the sky and water change again and again. Everything flat and gray so the water’s as still and flat as a plate under a thin mist.

The mist rises, spreads up like smoke, and the sun sneaks in adding glinting light. The water goes blue as bits of sky clear, and it ripples in the wind.

Back to gray again, quiet and pale as the wind dies.

It’s a show that keeps me entertained as I work out.

I top that off with some yoga. And ahhhh.

Haven’t yet heard a peep from JK&G, so I think all that running, laughing, squealing knocked them out.

We’ll venture out later if everyone’s up for that. If not, I’ll take myself a long walk. Left-overs for lunch or dinner depending. 

I have the bedroom door—the outside one—open as I write this. It’s currently dry, with a light, fresh breeze. BW’s must be making some breakfast because I smell bacon!

Nora


In today’s Not-so #randomkatness, the finished painting.


Production notes: All videos in the post courtesy of Kat. I didn’t like the way the captions looked. ~L

In The Groove

That’s what June feels like so far, and that’s the best in my world.

A solid work week for me is a treat, so the weekend really is the carrot at the end of another carrot. Right now, I’m back in Eve and Roarke world, and that’s always fun. So I spent the week catching up with old pals and murdering people.

Sweet deal.

For Saturday, I have an agenda, and it works! Get my workout in. Check that off. BW and I apparently had a mind meld as on Friday I thought: Wouldn’t it be nice to have bbq ribs over the weekend–and he comes home with a pack of ribs thinking same.

So I wrap those babies in foil on Saturday, stick them in the oven awhile. During the awhile I plug a few plants into the pots where Parker–before we added red pepper flakes to the soil–decided to dig them out.

Check ribs, have time to weed and deadhead the beds. This is kind of a zen activity for me. It’s quiet, relaxing, pleasant.

Ribs out, make up sauce/marinade, cover the ribs with it, and into the fridge.

Back outside to see about using this old trellis on a big–BIG–rose bush. One of BW’s cousins gave us the bush for a wedding present, so it’s 34 years old, taller than me, and blooms like crazy.

Turns out this isn’t a one-person job, so BW gets his sledge, makes holes for the trellis, and we get it up. It’ll do better next year when it’s not so full, and I can more easily thread it through–but those long arching branches are now off the ground.

He’s put this wonderful old gate–tall and really heavy–in our shady hosta area. I love it so much I ordered a smaller Tree Of Life Gate to go in another deep shade area where I can get nothing to thrive.

BW’s gate

We haul the new gate–to be used as decor–down the lane to the stubborn spot. I hold, he and his sledge do the work, and there we have it. Nice.

Tree of Life gate

I decide, when I’m done outside and back in the house, I’ll look for some lawn art on line. We can make that space prettier.

Since I’m out, I throw the ball for the dogs. The dogs watch me throw the ball, obviously think: YOU fetch. It makes me realize that in the last year or two of Pancho’s life we stopped throwing balls. He loved chasing and fetching more than anything in the world, so we had to stop when he really couldn’t run.

I’m going to work on this with these guys as the vet tells us Parker’s gained 9 pounds. Dog needs to work out!

Meanwhile, the pavers are coming along. It’s not going to be quick, but it’ll be worth it.

Today, after the workout, a few inside chores–maybe some ball-throwing–I get to pack for our girl overnight/Kat birthday spree. The best kind of interrupted work week!

Then BW will throw those ribs on the grill, and we’ll feast.

Another pretty sweet deal.

Nora

Freedom!

I haven’t posted a blog in weeks as I’ve been hip deep in a book. The result? Brain drain at the end of the work day, and a zillion tasks to deal with on weekends.

Yesterday, finally, I sent the manuscript off to my agent and editor. And today I unlock and throw open the cage door for a couple of days.

After I finish this blog, I may sit in the corner and stare at the wall for several hours.

Things have happened besides the book in these first chilly weeks of the new year.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House was–as they say in Regency novels–a crush. Lots of people, lots of food. Laura and Kayla and Kat helped me make and bake and stir and chop on New Year’s Eve.

For the crudite, Kat created a little Christmas tree out of broccoli, with bits of red peppers for ornaments and a star carved from a radish. Who else but Kat would think of that?

#randomkatness

So I got to ring out the old, ring in the new with friends, family. And got plenty of Griffin time.

We had our annual January trip to the spa–which meant I had the glorious Griffin with me for a week. (Oh, and his parents, too.) One of the butlers brought in his personal rocking chair for our use–what a guy.

The Magickal Griffin

Griffin and I seriously appreciated it.

Then, despite the ugly and annoying head cold that struck me on my first day home, it was a return to work–with no afternoon massage.

And the start of my annual purge. Due to ugly cold this got a slow start, but progress was made. By the second weekend of purging, I hit my office.

For a zillion years I’ve kept a ton of research books–ones I really haven’t cracked open in about a half a zillion. This year, I determined to cull them down brutally, and give my office shelves some breathing room.

Clear space on office shelves

And poor BW had to haul the heavy boxes (box after box) downstairs. They’ll go into storage, then the next library sale. And my office is reborn!

I haven’t hit the lower level yet–always a big chore–but the third floor is purged, and I only have the library and guest room left on the main.

At BW’s request I cleaned out my candle cupboard. Apparently I actually have a candle cupboard. And okay, I didn’t purge there, because candles, but I organized it.

And as Parker suddenly developed–we’ll be delicate and call it heroic flatulence–my scented candles came in really handy. So does yogurt mixed with his dog food (thanks Google) as we seem to have solved the issue.

Thank all the gods as if was far too cold to banish the boy outside.

As January slid into February with those shockingly cold temperatures, I stayed snuggly and smugly at my workstation, and in the book. It was so cold, the house couldn’t keep up, so I worked with a blanket over my lap. We got some snow, which from inside, looked very pretty.

Atticus, brave snowdog

Writing can drain the brain, but you don’t have to shovel out your car and go out into the world.

The really good thing about February is it’s short–and spring training starts. This one’s been busy and eventful in my world. My running girl and her teammates took first in Regionals in indoor track (four years running!) In a couple weeks, she’ll compete in States. And she got her driver’s license.

The newest driver in the family

How strange and lovely it is to have my first girl old enough to drive and my latest boy laughing and cooing.

We snuck in a signing at Turn The Page last Saturday that turned into a door buster. The cold finally broke, lifting the temps into the 40s–with sun! Actual sun. Maybe it was the break from frigid and sunlight, but we had the happiest group of readers and authors for our mid-winter event.

And I got more Griffin time. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see happy recognition in his eyes when he sees me. He knows his Nana!

Happy, happy boy.

Mid-month we’re celebrating Inn BoonsBoro’s tenth anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Especially when our truly incredibly staff keeps it looking as fresh as it did the day it opened.

I’ll end the shortest month with pals coming up to whip through the bags and bags (I’ll hang and organize) of clothes I purged from my closet. Girl time! (With Griffin attending as the token male.)

That’s a fine way to move into March, and start pining for spring.

But for today, before and after work out time, I’m going to play sloth as I expect to slam the cage door again on Monday.

Nora

Happy and Merry

Christmas is coming, and I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a goose getting fat. Around here, we’re ready for it.

It felt good to get a solid work week in, and now that’s in the rear view. Next week won’t find me at my desk very much, and that’s fine. It’s time to celebrate and enjoy the rewards of all the preparations.

Our tree’s trimmed with presents at its feet. All that wrapping and ribbon and bows will soon be pulled and ripped in the rush to find the wishes inside.

The stockings are hung, and happily stuffed as the kids won’t be around until it’s time to dig in. I love finding stocking stuffers, from the useful to the goofy. In our family tradition all the adults do the same, so those stockings will overflow and provide a lot of fun before the rush for the ribbons and bows.

This year I enjoyed creating a candlescape on my dining room table. Of course, I’ll have to dismantle it for the feasting, but in the evenings leading up, it’s given me a lot of pretty light.

I haven’t quite OD’d on schmaltzy Christmas movies yet. I’m fascinated by how many ways they can turn a misunderstanding or complete lack of communication into a conflict magically resolved into a happy ending by Christmas.

I’m a sucker for them.

We have lots and lots of cookies, thanks in very large part to Kayla. And for Christmas dessert, in addition to cookies, I do a sundae bar, so that’s easy and delicious.

Yesterday I made some mighty fine tortilla soup to get me and BW through the weekend. Today I’m going to bake bread, but other than my workout and this blog, that’s pretty much it for the day.

It’ll be nice to have the bulk of a Sunday afternoon without chores.

So as the hours count down, Laura and I wish you and yours all the magic of Christmas, warm times with family and friends, good cheer, happy faces, and a joy in those moments that last you through the coming year.

Since we do, I’ll end this with a picture of the sweetest of Griffin smiles.

Nora

Holiday Hustle

We’ve been in the thick of it.

We had our annual Progressive Shopping night with any employees who want to participate. That’s Turn The Page, Fit, Gifts, the inn, Vesta. It’s fun to go as a group from business to business, enjoy the company, do a little shopping. It’s also a great chance to socialize and get to know each other as your own work, your own business can create a kind of bubble.

The Inn, dressed for Christmas

We all end at Vesta for dinner. So much food! But before the feast we announce our winners in the year’s fitness competition.

And the Inn BoonsBoro staff defend their title, and keep the (wonderfully tacky) trophy for another year. The team’s led by Head Innkeeper Karen, this year’s individual winner, who I’m told seriously cracks the whip.

IBB Wonder Women

And those girls at IBB prove to be clever pranksters. Part of the inn’s holiday decor is a full-size Nutcracker. He’s huge! And heavy. It didn’t stop them from hauling him across the parking lot, putting him in the doorway of a side room. And scaring the pants off Heidi, Fit’s manager, when she opened for the day.

Nice one, ladies!

Boonsboro’s decked out, and that makes a festive canvas for Turn The Page’s holiday booksigning. A busy day, and lots of fun–along with Griffin’s first booksigning. (He slept through most of it.) When he was awake, he enjoyed being snuggled by various TTP staff. I think the staff enjoyed the snuggles even more.

I get my boy through the weekend as we have another holiday event on Sunday, which includes our very special guest. Santa! (Griffin also slept through most of it, despite all the noise.)

Then there’s a work week, with some bits and pieces of holiday prep worked in. The week ends with a holiday party here for the managers. Some fun food, a lot of champagne and all the good cheer you can hold.

Back row L-R: Renee, Michelle, Natoma, Heidi, Janeen, Laura Front: JoAnne, Holly, Karen (the whipmaster), Nora

Oh and those inn girls left me a little nutcracker on my workstation. I see what you did there, ladies! Gave me a laugh–and Mr. Nutcracker will enjoy being part of my holiday gang.

For the weekend. Cookies! Lots and lots and LOTS of cookies. Logan skips this year, and Kayla serves as head baker with some assistance from me and from Colt. The girl’s on a roll. We dive in with cheesy Christmas movies on the kitchen TV–which Kayla and I agree are just silly fun. (I don’t believe Colt paid any attention either way.)

We end up with a double batch of chocolate chip (a crowd favorite) snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Candy Cane Kisses, with the grand finale of painted sugar cookies. We include a lunch break so real food goes in tummies as well.

Kayla and her sous chef, Grandda

With Colt serving as taste tester, we deem all cookies delicious.

It’s always fun to hold a marathon cookie bake, but seeing Kayla take over so willingly, and so skillfully is the best part. One day she’ll bake in her own kitchen, and I hope look back on the years she baked in mine.

Logan has no problem eating the cookies when we have the gang for dinner. And a big bag of them go with the kids after dinner.

Today, after my morning workout I have a few little gifts to bag or wrap. I need to check the bread situation to see if I need to bake. And, at some point, sign four tubs of books. But compared to a solid eight hours in the kitchen yesterday, this is a day off!

All the traditions that weave their way into the fabric of our friends and family make a warm and colorful cloth. I love watching the cloth unfold every year.

I hope you all have your own warm and colorful cloth to cuddle with.

Nora

Note from Laura: the 2018 finale to #random Katness:

First family holiday photo