Category Archives: cooking

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

Making a List

I’m a list maker. I like to see my tasks and goals in writing–and even more I like the satisfaction of checking those tasks and goals off when complete. In fact, if another tasks pops up and gets done that wasn’t listed, I’ll just add it to the list with its check.

Instant gratification.

My lists are plentiful this time of years. Gifts to buy, gifts bought, seasonal clothes to switch out, the standard weekend domestic chores. Holiday baking, present wrapping, organizing wrapping station again post-wrapping session, holiday decorating, Christmas card writing and so on.

Without lists, I’d be lost–and miss that satisfying checkmark.

This past week my list included one full day of writing–thank God!–then a trip to the dentist, who may start charging me rent, for a filling replacement. And then, preparation for the Thanksgiving feast.

Pies first. Wednesday BW sits at the kitchen counter peeling pounds of apples while I make pie crust. I bake two apple, two pumpkin, so that’s a lot of pie crusts. Apples peeled, he helps me add the leaves to the table. Then he’s off to the gym and the bookstore while I stir and fill and bake. I add buying those silicone crust shields to my list because I am DONE fiddling with making them out of aluminum foil.

While the apple pies bake, I make the pumpkin, then make the dough for sour dough pretzel rolls and set it aside to rise. Still have apples left, so quarter some up to simmer for apple sauce–my mother’s crowd favorite, so when I cook then down, mill them, add the sugar and cinnamon, that scent brings here right there into the kitchen with me.

I make cranberry sauce, letting the berries simmer while I roll those pretzel balls, set them aside to rise. Make the deviled eggs Logan specifically requested.

Then it’s the fun part of the pretzel rolls, boiling them in baking soda water, watching them plump up. Score, bake, add some sea salt and poppy seeds. Done!

I clean off the work counter countless times, watch the woodpeckers at my suet feeder, accept this is all taking more time than I’d budgeted so I’ll have to skip my workout. Still I get a decent amount of steps in as a lot of my few-times-a-year kitchen tools are stored on shelves in the laundry room, and some of the serving dishes I want are stored on shelves upstairs in The One More Room.

Why not go ahead and set the table–cross that off the list?

A long day in the kitchen–some seven hours–deserves the reward of a glass of wine. Or two.

Thursday is Turkey Day, so it’s me and the bird in the morning. My family enjoys the sausage stuffing I’ve been making for years, so it’s cook, stir, season, stuff. Slather that bird with butter, give him a nice massage, drizzle on spices, cover and into the oven he goes. Plenty of time for me to tidy up, the house and myself, before it’s back to the kitchen.

BW is once more on peeling duty–carrots for roasting, potatoes for mashing. Our rhythm is, as always, me cleaning up the potatoes for spots he’s missed.

Things are well underway before–oh boy, oh boy, here come Jason, Kat and Griffin! At last I get that baby back. He’s so ridiculously handsome, so warm and snuggly. And that enchanting baby scent. He’s one month old on Thanksgiving.

“Her” baby is here!

And now Nana’s got the boy. I do share him with Grandda briefly, but he wants a change, and he’s hungry. The dogs are fascinated, delighted–new human! They sniff, wag, and love shines from their eyes.

As Kat’s pumped, I get to sit with him, give him a bottle. He’s wonderfully alert and aware, just looking at everything. Like: Huh, new place, new colors. Interesting.

While the rocking chair where I rocked my own babies is no more, I get to rock him to sleep in the same chair where I rocked Kayla to sleep sixteen years before. There is nothing more relaxing than rocking a baby.

Ready for anything.

He naps in his bouncer while it’s back to the matter of cooking. Potatoes to rice, turkey to baste, more sides to make. Jason–our roving IT guy–and BW deal with some WiFi issue, and when Griffin wakes, Kat handles the vegetables and I get the baby. Very good deal for me.

Turkey out, time to make the gravy, put it all together.

We feast.

Clean up and baby time–as Griffin wakes from his mama’s milk coma–are group efforts. Which means it’s time to make some fresh whipped cream for pie.

At the end of the day, Mama and Griffin go up to bed, Jason and BW go down for the football game, and I unwind, and conk.

I’m up early, as is habit, fiddle around. Before long I hear the baby. When Kat brings him down, I get my morning Griffin fix–and so do the dogs. Sniff, sniff, wag, wag–a quick lick if they can manage it. And they take to guarding him whenever someone sits down with him.

While my youngest is getting many diaper changes–as soon as he’s wet, he kicks his feet like get this thing off me–my oldest is preparing to travel to New York for her first cross-country Nationals. A great opportunity for her. She and her mom come here first to meet Griffin, then they’re off with Kayla driving (!) the first leg of the trip. Some pumpkin pie (Kayla’s favorite) to take with them.

Oldest grandson, youngest grandson, their adults and a Parker on baby duty.

Logan’s coming here for Thanksgiving Redux, so I have my oldest and youngest grandsons together for the first time.

Deviled eggs for Logan to ward off starvation, more baby-rocking time for me–and I get baby smiles to bank in the memory book.

Love.

Heat it all up, dish it all out, and we have our second feast. (And a text from Kayla to let us know they arrived safe.)

Clean up–pie!–tub up leftovers for the young family to take with them. Baby snuggles and smiles, a hug from Logan who has to bend over to hug me now. More hugs all around, and then my house is quiet.

I’m so grateful for the noise and movement that was.

Saturday, finally a workout. Then a wrapping marathon with cheesy Christmas movies for company. Organize that mess again, finish up other chores while keeping an ear out for a text from my running girl.

She’s finished her race–had a great experience–and will text again when they get home. It’s raining now, and Nana worries. Hopefully, if she’s not worn out, she’ll be up today to wrap. Saves me hours, gives her some spending money. Logan comes up twice a month to do chores. It’s great having teenage grandkids close by who want spending money!

Also great is having a brand new light in my life, who’ll shine for me in just a couple weeks over signing weekend.

Meanwhile I have my annual holiday trip with great girl pals coming up at the end of the week. I’ll come home, hit my list and do the tree trimming, the holiday decorating. Cookie baking’s on that list, hopefully with grandkids if their schedule allows.

Today it’s workout and making potato and ham soup as we’re tired of turkey.

There’s a lot on the list for December. It’s work, but it’s happy. Here’s hoping whatever’s on your list is just as happy–and gives you satisfaction as you check things off.

Nora

And a wink and a smile before you go.

Marching On

It’s nearly the end of my winter hibernation. Though the weather itself wasn’t very pleasing–really cold, ice, rain, freezing rain, sleet, and not much snow to lift the gloom–I spent most of the long stretch inside looking out. And things got done. Pages written, house purged, soups and stews cooked, breads baked.

I don’t ask much more of winter.

The other day BW asked me when I’d last been out of the house (feeding dogs, filling bird feeders don’t count). I dunno. Six or eight weeks. What’s your point?

I’ll end my winter hunker in and down next Sunday for some out-of-the-house fun when I head into town for a photo exhibit at Inn Boonsboro. On March 18th from 1-3, Lush Emerald Fields And Ancient Stones will feature photographic art of Ireland by Fran Byne, Suzanne Hill Thackston–and our own brilliant photographers Bruce Wilder and Laura Reeth. 

If I’m going to venture out after a couple of months, it should be for fun, friends–and beautiful art. Stop by if you’re in the area. See some art, raise a glass.

The exhibit follows a ceili at the inn on Thursday–talk about fun! Food, drink, art and Irish music. Slainte!

For a portion of his winter, BW’s been down in his studio installing his dark room. While he’s embraced digital photography, he still loves film–and now he’s got a good, creative space to work on that part of his art.

BW’s darkroom domain. Photo by BW
For me, I kicked off the last hibernation weekend making family dinner. Well, not all, as BW made his famous flank steak–always a crowd pleaser. I did all the sides, including a last minute addition of spiced shrimp. I think Logan ate a solid pound of it.

Flank steak a la BW. Photo by NR

Logan’s portion of spicy shrimp? Photo by NR

The bread of the garlic. Photo by NR

Roasted herb potatoes. Photo by NR

Carrots a la Nora. Photo by NR

Before you ask: I really don’t post recipes. I’m a how does this look, taste, smell sort of cook, tossing in things as I go. However, the shrimp–and a few other of my dishes–are featured in the really fabulous Inn Boonsboro Cookbook, available exclusively from Turn The Page Bookstore.

This labor of love was produced and edited and created by our amazing Kat. She cooked every dish in her own kitchen–aided by Jason who served as supply chief, and photographed by her brother Adam. There are some fantastic recipes in there (including MY brother’s to-die-for peppermint patties), from friends, relatives, from the inn itself, and our other Boonsboro businesses.

In case that doesn’t tempt you, all the profits from sales of the cookbook go to local food banks. So truly a labor of love serving the community.

Now, since spring forward’s completely messed up my body clock, I’m going to go work out. And maybe make a nice red sauce for my last hibernation Sunday.

Nora

Note from Laura: As I HAVE been out and about the last six to eight weeks (Nora’s completely serious about that btw) I stopped at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro last week to drop off my photos and had to snap this gorgeous corner by the front window.  Manager Natoma Vargason and her creative crew always create displays that capture the season perfectly.

Gifts in BoonsBoro ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo by LMR

Rainy Days and Sundays

I know, it could be snow. If what’s been coming down the last few days happened to be snow, we’d be buried in it. Still, I actually think, since it’s February, I’d prefer a good, solid snow over days of gray and rain. Wet dogs, muddy paws. At least, from inside, snow’s pretty.

So on this soggy weekend I made ham and potato soup, wiped muddy paws, (mopped the kitchen floor due to muddy paws) got workouts in early. Since the sun refuses to come out and play, I culled out faded flowers, rearranged, and made some new brights spots.

Soup’s on. Photo by NR

Pop of counter color. Photo by NR

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Flowers here and there help, but, boy, on weekends like this, I miss my garden.

Even the dogs, after habitual bouts of insanity, are lazy.

Dogs. Tired. Photo by NR

The week focused on work, just the way I like it. And when that’s the case, I often don’t think about what’s outside my window, but what’s outside the windows of the story. Except when it’s, again, time to wipe those muddy paws.

This afternoon, since we have bread and soup for the rainy evening, I think I’ll park myself in front of the fire in the library, and read. Nothing quite like a fire, a book and a few hours where nothing has to be done.

If you’re looking for a book to hunker down with when March blows in, you might try The Coincidence Makers. Yoav Blum’s an Israeli author, and my editor bought his book–and gave me an early chance to read it. It’s fun, thought-provoking, fanciful, and out March 6 from St. Martin’s Press.

Today, I’m settling in with a Jesse Stone novel. I hope Jesse’s weather’s better than mine, but either way, I’ll have some fun. 

Nora

Note from Laura:

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Coincidence Makers.  I found it a fascinating, fun book which prompted me to consider all those small moments that make up a life from a different perspective.

In the category of  coincidences (but was it really?) I bought these for myself on Friday — not knowing what Nora had in her house.

Pop of color. Photo by LMR

February. Why?

I don’t know why this month’s always so difficult. Okay winter, but it’s short. It should be easy.

But we have ice on the lane, ice on the patio, dogs who don’t want to be outside more than five minutes. Who can blame them?  We have cold. We have gloom. Then how about some more gloom? With some ice and sleet and whatever else February wants to toss down.

Then we have Thursday. Suddenly it’s sixty degrees. I hear birds celebrating. I don’t get outside myself for long, but when I do, it’s ahhhh. Between the rain and the sudden warm, the ice is just a bad memory.

Then Saturday happens. Gloom is back, and cold. And let’s just throw in some snow. It wouldn’t be such a thing, except psychotic February gave us Thursday. Why?

Winter as far as the eye can see. Photo by NR

So due to snow, and the fact my guy’s coming home, I spent most of snowy Saturday in the kitchen. Pasta e fagioli sounds good, and the traveler’s very fond of my sour dough pretzel rolls.

Soup on simmer. Photo by NR

Pretzel bread at the ready. Photo by NR

It’s a nice way for me to spend a February day, and it’ll be good to see my guy again. Even though . . . this is my kitchen counter without a man in the house, even after making soup and bread.

Then, Photo by NR

And this is my kitchen counter after BW.

Now. Photo by NR

It soothes my double Libra soul to have the tidy. Clutter and chaos just bring on a underlying stress I mostly ignore because, well, life and I do share that life and the house with a male.

I’ve always shared life and houses with males. A father and four brothers. A husband and two sons. I happen to know not all men are messy, but mostly the ones who aren’t don’t live in my little world.

The offset here, other than I actually love my man, is someone else will go outside on the frigid mornings to feed the dogs, take out the trash and recycling. That same someone will plow the snow off the lane. That someone will do the dishes after I cook, even if he appears to be genetically incapable of cleaning off the counters or stovetop.

Note to BW: (A few swipes with a questionable dishcloth is not cleaning off.)

Still, February’s more than half over. I don’t wish time away–ever–but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about spring while I’m looking out at my snowy woods. It’ll be harder to take when they’re forecasting close to 70s later in the week.

Psychotic February. You just have to take it as it comes.

Nora

 Cranky Publicist note (or…And Now something different):

As the winter yang to Nora’s winter yin — in the summer we reverse — I must speak up for those of us who go outdoors in the cold months.  While I’m grateful on the truly miserable days to work in a home office, I need to put on layers and get outside at least once a week to breathe and reset.

The rewards abound: I found gorgeous blue skies and ice sculptures in Frederick.  Roses under sulky gray skies in NYC.  Reds and golds and dragons in NYC’s Chinatown to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Dog.

Summer will be here way too quickly (the mid-week forecast is closer to 80 in my elevation — yikes!) for my thick blood, while Nora will embrace the warmth with thanks and celebration.  (And WHY does the summer contain TWO months with 31 days?  The winter haters get February.  I want a February.)

And yet, the seasons will turn and we’ll each have our moments in the sun.

Blue skies, white spires, red brick. Photo by LMR

Dragon-y ice. Photo by LMR

NYC roses in winter. Photo by LMR

Dragon on parade. Photo by LMR

Lanterns. Photo by LMR

Weekend Hustle

Mine started Friday, away from the keyboard. Due to what the weekend held, I hit the gym hard Friday morning. With that mission accomplished, I pull it together to make a vat of tortilla soup. The most helpful Laura and Sarah plan to come over in the late afternoon to help me organize my mountains of purged clothes/shoes/boots/bags.

They deserve to be fed. And as Logan’s requested his grandda and I come to his Sunday basketball game, I wouldn’t have much time to make the family dinner already on the books for Sunday evening. A vat of soup covers both. 

Soup, dressed with tortilla chips and cheese.

I decide I want one more chicken breast as I’m making a vat rather than a pot. Start to defrost same in the microwave. And discover, to my shock and delight, my mike is now speaking French. It’s bi-lingual! I have no clue how or when this happened, but it’s fun–and I don’t try to fix it. I just defrost the poulet. And, curious, discover how to say popcorn (a microwave staple in my world) in French. 

Popcorn in French.

By the time the vat’s simmering and I’m reasonably cleaned up, my girls arrive. I have BW’s rolling rack from his studio in the living room for the hanging items. We dive in. Hanging, folding, arranging into sensible piles, clearing off tables to make more sensible piles.

It’s a job–less arduous with champagne, but a job–and when done I have to wonder how all that fit into my closet in the first place. 

Our motto.

Now my closet breathes easier, and the pals who’ll come over post-signing on Saturday can have at it.

Time to feed the dogs, and when BW arrives, to feed everyone else.

Some hang out time, more wine! And since Laura needs to be here for the signing, she takes the guest room.

A bright if breezy Saturday morning, and time to gear up for the signing at Turn The Page. The temps decide they’ll hang in the 50s, which is a gift in January.

We have lots of newbies, sweet stories about guys surprising their ladies with the trip to the signing, mom surprising daughters and visa versa. Then there are The Nine. Nine women who traveled to Boonsboro to celebrate one of their tribe’s birthday. They all have hoodies with a Roarke Industries emblem, and a book quote on the back. As if that’s not cool enough, the connection, the affection, the happiness of The Nine tops even that. 

The Nine — and Nora.

On the back of each sweatshirt was a different — favorite — quote.

Lots of positive energy from the readers who come in, from the authors who sign, to the staff who handles it all. A very good day.

TTPs Beth photobombs the post-signing author photo..

And a surprise guest appearance in the backroom during a break when the kids show up. Grandkid hugs! Kayla kicked some running butt at her Friday meet, Logan’s fresh from victory in his Saturday game. Congrats! I ask Colt what he’s done this week, and the answer: He read a lot of books–and is hoping for another. He has a specific title, knows the author. I send him off with Bookstore Janeen.

It’s pretty gratifying to have a kid–at seven–so in love with reading.

Time to head home, and that timing works really well. A couple of pals are already there, and more come in as I ditch the signing clothes for comfort. We have pizza–delivered by Vesta–two buckets of chicken (thanks, Pat) cheese and crackers courtesy of JoAnne, an amazing salad presented by Nicole, and Elaine’s homemade brownies.

Food, drink, girls!

Dogs so insanely happy to have girl company, I finally have to put them outside.

We all fuel up, then hit the rack, the piles.

It’s fun for me to see pieces I loved and wore and wore–or pieces I bought then realized, for me, equaled mistake–appeal to pals. Girls stripping down to their underwear (no men in the house this evening!), discussing what works, what doesn’t. Or the: This would look better on you. That looks great!

It’s also sort of amazing that with a group of varying sizes and shapes, all the stuff ends up working on someone. Tops, sweaters, hoodies, vests, dresses, jackets, shoes, bags, workout gear. By the time we’re done, I’m left with a tiny handful, which I’ll pass to someone else or donate.

A little hang-out time, then it’s goodbye until April and the Drunken Girls Spa Week. (Best week ever!) *

Dog tired. Atticus and Parker.

Today, I’m going to try to drag myself out to the gym before the basketball game–we’ll see about that. I need to tidy up a little before family dinner. But all I have to do there is heat up the soup, the bread. Good deal.

Monday, early routine dentist appointment, then I’m digging in, and going into my winter hibernation. Staying home, staying in, and writing. Possibly in my pajamas for the entire month of February.

Nora

* Laura begs to differ — courteously! — on this opinion.

Winter Routine

I’m finally into it!

I’m no Scrooge, so I love the holidays. I even–mostly–love all the work and prep that goes with them. The other night, I watched Bad Mom’s Christmas (laughing like a loon)–and it’s true, Christmas is the Super Bowl for moms–and nanas. But with that very merrily done, our annual New Year’s Open House happily done, we took our traditional January break at the spa.

This one turned into a work/spa deal for me, but that was all good. A morning workout, a few hours of work, a lovely massage, then family and friends to spend the evening with. A good kick off to a year for me.

But now, ahhh, winter routine.

After a solid writing week–another ahhh–I spent my Saturday as I like to spend January Saturdays. Even better, Bruce and Jason (after a considerable effort and tech know-how) set me up with a mirroring tablet in the gym. Now I can mirror, stream, whatever it is a boatload of workouts onto the big screen. So my day starts with some new to me routines–a good way to fool the mind and body that they’re having fun.

I’m a fan of the Beach Body gang, even though some of the trainers are sadists. Sometimes it takes a good sadist to whip you through a workout.

Prepped and ready to simmer. Photo by Nora

With that done–whew–it’s kitchen time. I promised BW a pot roast–makes him happy. Mine simmers for hours in a full bottle of red wine. Who wouldn’t be happy? With the potatoes and carrots pealed, onions and celery sliced, that big hunk ‘o meat simmers drunkenly while I shove up my sleeves and head up to the third floor.

It’s purge and organize time, another winter routine.

I hit the One More Room first because eek! This is where a lot of the holiday magic happens–the storing, the wrapping, the bagging and tagging. It’s also where we store bowls and platters and so on used primarily when entertaining.

OMG! Photo by Nora.

It needs help.

A couple hours later, voila! Magic. It looks like an actual adult lives here. 

Ta-Da! Photo by Nora

Move onto my closet. More purging. Be tough, Nora! You can do this. Maybe once or twice I pulled something out, waffled and put it back, but for the most part, I AM tough. And since post-signing next Saturday pals are coming over to go through all I purged here, they’ll be glad I was tough.

My closet now looks like a fairly sensible woman lives here. A woman who really, really, REALLY loves shoes and boots, but is reasonable.

Shooooes. Photo by Nora.

My office next, and there I’m very pleased that due to several years of very strict purges, it doesn’t take very long.

Adult work station. Sort of. Photo by Nora.

A top floor sweep in one day. Happy dance!

It gives my time to cull through my scarves–another big love–while the pot roast finishes off. Boy it smells good in here.

Yum. Photo by Nora.

Some well earned bubbly, which should, imo, be part of any routine, then pot roast.

Day’s done–but oops, four tubs of books waiting to be signed. Okay, this calls for more bubbly. And now, the day’s done. A very satisfying winter Saturday.

Today, more of the same, that’s routine, after all. It’s about time for that workout, then I’ll pick the next room, maybe rooms, to tackle. Plenty of leftovers, so no dinner to cook.

And tomorrow, it’s back to the book and the hope for another solid week of writing.

For somebody who doesn’t like the cold, can do without the bitter winds and snowy drives anywhere, indoor routines keep winter happy.

Nora

Cranky Publicist addition:  Nora wrote a post called The Road to Discovery in Feb 2016 in which she said, I cook pretty much as I write, which is why I not only don’t but can’t answer the calls for recipes after I post a blog on cooking. Please, please, don’t ask me!”

May I suggest the joys of Google for recipes?  BTW, I just found one for crock pot beef stew cooked in coffee .  Must go make!

Writers Are People Too

[Note: the italics and bold words are my doing. ~Laura]

In my normal routine, weekends are for domestic stuff, family, taking a breath. There were many times back in the day that I put in time writing on weekends. There are still occasions I work weekends, or go back to work in the evening–but mostly I try not to.

I need to enjoy my home, my family–and tend to both, just like most people.

This weekend, after a fun gathering here on Friday evening, I got in an early workout before hitting the domestic and family. Fun for me that when I started wrapping the last of the Christmas presents, a pretty snow began to fall. Light, fluffy, and the perfect backdrop for my tradition of watching (as Kayla calls them) cornball Christmas movies while I wrap.

Snow through the kitchen window.

 

Done with that, I headed down, put on more cornball as the snow fell and I kneaded bread. And while the bread rose, started making soup. It’s another routine in the life during the fall and winter. Making soup and bread on the weekends.  

Bread

Soup

 

My house smelled glorious. As a reward, during the second rising, and while the soup simmered, I got the book I haven’t had time to pick up for two weeks, poured myself some bubbly and sat in the library. A fire, a snowfall, an adult beverage and a most excellent book. Nice. 

A little space to read

Today, we had a window before Logan’s basketball game to do some cookie baking. Another tradition–one that now had Kayla mostly in the lead. The girl’s a good cook. A double batch of chocolate chip, some peanut butter blossoms, and after they had to head out, I finished up with candy cane kiss cookies.

Worker bees

The finished product, part 1

The finished product, part 2

Yum to all. My kids took a break in there, took advantage of Nana’s soup. Next weekend we’ll add Colt in and do our famous painted sugar cookies. Fun, chaotic, messy, adorable and delish.

If I didn’t take this time for family, for homey chores I very much enjoy, my life would have no balance. All work will, no question, eventually lead to burn out. That’s not beneficial to anyone.

I get readers fall in love with a book or author and want more. And more, and faster, quicker–and often NOW. The book I finished in my library was John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel. I am a HUGE fan. And now I wait a year to see where Virgil goes next. I’d love to have the next instantly, but that’s simply impossible, and so very unfair to Sandford. I assume he also enjoys having an actual life.

None of us who write can write as fast as readers (myself included) read. We can’t. And we shouldn’t try–because the work will suffer. Readers can and do gobble up a book in hours. Writing that book takes months, and in some cases years.

I’m thrilled many readers enjoyed Year One, are supportive of this new direction I followed. I’m flattered readers are looking forward to the second book.

Where this breaks off is where some readers feel entitled to demand, or are outraged by a wait for a book, or jump to conclusions about the publisher or marketing or whatever. I don’t include in this those who say: Oh, I can’t wait!! Or how will I wait!! Or I wish I had it now. I wish I had the next Sandford in my hot little hands. I’m a reader, too. (And the last line in that book had me going: Hot Damn! But now I wait.)

I’m talking about those who complain the books should be published one after another, or closer together. I can’t write them to suit those readers because these books are longer than my previous trilogies and so very much more complicated to write. And I just insist on having a life in there, too.

I haven’t written the three books in a trilogy one after another for years. I used to be able to do so. I haven’t so longer than I can remember. Same with the Robbs, which I could, at one time, do nearly always, three in a row. Life, creativity and scheduling have made that impossible.

I have not, as some have claimed, written all three already (so my publisher can hold them back). These books are brutal and fascinating and scary to write, and it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. And so much figuring out, my brain hurts at the end of the day when I’m into one. I want to produce the best books I can, and I can’t do it like a machine that pumps them out on demand.

I think part of the problem is that I write fairly quickly, and readers have gotten used to more and more. I still write four major books a year. Four. It’s all I can do well. Frankly, I think the other part of the problem is that some readers are used to how quickly the self-pubbed produce–and don’t look at the fact those stories are generally a LOT shorter, don’t go through a serious editing process, a cover art process, the scheduling process, the marking issues, and so on.

All those processes take time.

When my editor and agent came here for dinner (and the holiday signing) a bit ago, we sat in my kitchen going over the schedule for 2019. St. Martin’s, like all publishers, have other authors, and consider placement carefully because YES, publishing is a business. If the publisher doesn’t make some sort of profit, the publisher can’t stay in the business of publishing. They can’t pay writers, editors, sales reps, marketing and publicity staff and on and on.

SMP would, absolutely, be thrilled if I could write a book every month. They’d find a way to publish all of them. I can’t. Physically, creatively, realistically, I can’t just pump them out like gum drops. If I did, the quality would suffer, and every single reader would, rightfully, complain.

Year One is a departure, and won’t appeal to all readers. The In Death series doesn’t appeal to all readers. The stand-alone I write every year doesn’t appeal to all readers. I like the diversity, and I need it to stay creatively fresh. But I can’t write faster, I can’t give more than I do. If I tried, I’d burn out within a year–and spend my time gardening, making soup and bread.

I prefer the balance. I hope readers who enjoyed Year One will anticipate Of Blood And Bone next year the way I anticipate the follow-up to Sandford’s Deep Freeze. And in the meantime, read and enjoy the multitude of wonderful books out there.

Me, I’m going to dive into King’s Sleep Beauty first chance I get.

Nora

Being Home

Summer–my favorite season–is winding down. We’re approaching Mabon, the Autumn Equinox. With that fleeting balance of day and night, most harvesting’s done. My tomatoes sure are. My garden’s got the late summer shabbies though there are some pretty fabulous spots and corners of color and bloom still. Before much longer, I’ll be thinking about making soups, pulling on sweaters and boots.

A little fall color.

Brilliant pots.

Happy flowers.

Thriving nasturtium

So, I for one, am holding tight to these last wonderfully warm days.

We had a busy summer around here. Lots of work, lots of travel. And we capped it off with our annual summer party.

That meant the weekend after we returned from France, we had party prep to deal with (and that’s after unpacking, putting awaying, nose to the grindstoning on the book).

While Jason and BW spent hours on a rainy Saturday setting up outside–awnings, tables, chairs, food stations–Kat and I spent hours inside (with some assist from our Sarah) cooking, baking, chopping, stirring. I think, in one day, we made up for our couple of weeks on holiday with no cooking involved.

Kat brought France back by making the amazing dessert we call pie-cream-pie. Labor intensive, creative and absolutely delicious.

Pie-cream-pie a la Kat.

Fruit salad in Kat’s carved watermelon.

Fortunately, the rainy Saturday turned into a pretty Sunday for the party. Lots of people, lots of food and drink. And that’s a wrap for another summer.

With that wrap, the kids head back to school. Kayla’s back in cross-country training. Run, Kayla! And Logan grew TWO inches while we were in France. We’re now eye-to-eye.

And at last, one completely at-home weekend follows. Nowhere we need to go. BW and I both spent it doing chores around here. It felt wonderful to put the house and yard back in order. But that short spurt of–for me–domestic bliss–led up to this past weekend’s signing at Turn The Page.

I knew going in this would be a long one. We were lucky to host three writers (and personal friends) who rarely come to our area. Our stellar line-up included–in alpha order: Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Susan Wiggs. A nice bonus for me to be able to catch up with all of them. And since some 360 readers–give or take–came through the doors, I wasn’t wrong about the long one. Five and a half hours rates as long–for the writers and the readers.

Pre-signing pano

Nora has readers of every age.

Bottom row: Alisha Rai, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora.
Middle row: Laura Treacey Bentley, Susan Wiggs, Kimberly Kincaid
Top: John Bede

Thanks to all who came to sign, to buy books, to be there, for their patience and fortitude.

Today, it’s warm and sunny–but I see one of the poplar trees out my window going yellow with September. I’ve tidied my house, done my workout (not easy to drag my butt out to my gym today!), and after I write this, I’m going to do exactly nothing for the rest of the day.

I want to add to anyone who’s had their lives and homes disrupted by Harvey or Irma, you’re all in my thoughts. I’ve been lighting candles for you, and will light one today before my nothing begins.

Nora

Note from Laura:  I came back from the beach to get to the signing. One last sunrise to hold me over until next year:

And in this week’s #randomkatness:

“May I help you?”

At Home

It’s my first full weekend home in about a month, and I’m very happy to be here.

Yesterday, in the middle of May, I turned the fireplace on and made soup–such was the chilly, rainy Saturday. But I like making soup (potato and ham at Kat’s request), and the fire added cheer.

I also had to address the matter of dealing with an incredible amount of stuff that needed putting away. This is a usual weekend task, but due to losing weekends, going here and there, coming back with more than I left with, the amount of stuff grew, grew, grew.

Plus I had a photo shoot on Thursday, which means a day of hair and makeup, a prep day of figuring out wardrobe. We had fun with it. Laura tried a little Facebook live, and that added more fun.

It takes a team…

and a lot of physical labor.

But then, all THAT stuff had to be put away, too.

On the other hand as BW, Laura and our helpful Kat, were in Boonsboro at Green Fest helping out, I had many solitary hours to accomplish it all. Plus, Thor and then The Avengers happened to be on TV, and if you’ve got to haul, carry, toss, organize, it might as be with superheroes for company.

The sun came out for about twenty seconds so I had a walk around with the dogs in there.

Adding all this domesticity to my Saturday morning workout meant ending the day with more than 20,000 steps.

Whew. (But I’m catching up with Jason who’s currently kicking my butt in Fitbit standings.)

Before the end of the day, BW and Kat arrive, tired but happy. A long day for all of us, but we have the little salad I made, the soup, and a nice round of fresh sour dough bread. And I get to hang out with my girl awhile.

Sunday’s a whole different ballgame. Once the workout’s in the bag, I can head out to the garden. I need a light jacket, but it’s sunny, at last, at last. I weed. I yell at the dogs when I discover they’ve been up and digging in a part of my beds. Parker and Atticus slink away, as they damn well should.

BW and I stake the tomatoes, and he yells at the dogs when he finds they’ve dug up a drainage pipe.

We recently had one of the guestrooms repainted, which meant everything had to come off the shelves and off the walls. I dealt with the shelf stuff during Saturday chores, so attack the walls. I know not everything that was up’s going back. Some I’m taking outside. I like outdoor art. It’s fun–if a lot more steps–to take a piece around, find where it can go, choose another, do the same.

Picking the spot’s my job. Making it so’s going to be BW’s.

I’m ridiculously happy to have all the damn boxes out of my living room.

And happy to wander, sans jacket now, around the gardens taking pictures. My peonies have started to open, like a Mother’s Day gift. I got my kids an RC car from here.

My mother loved peonies (I pronounce it like she did–Pee-O-Nees), so I think of her when I take a deep sniff.

My faerie garden’s exactly right, roses and yellow flags are starting a show out by the water feature. I have dianthus madly blooming, and much, much more. My poor basil is sad after so much wet, cool weather, but I’m hoping it perks up as the rest of the herbs are doing just fine.

Faerie garden

Water Feature

BW gave me the cute yoga frogs, and the lovely reading girl for Mother’s Day. They look happy where they’re now planted.

Yoga Frogs

Reading girl

My pots (yell at dogs again when I discover they’ve dug out a plant from one) are full and colorful. My clematis is pure glory.

Now, I’m about to go out and point so BW can hang things where I want them, then I believe I’m going to sit around with a book or a movie.

It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I qualify!

To all moms out there, I hope you have a lovely day, as lovely as a peony opening in the sun.

Nora