Since the weather’s changeable my walk-abouts are short-lived. The misty rain breaks now and then, comes back harder, fades off to some sunshine.
With all those changes in light, in mood, you can see a thousand shades of green, muted shifts in the blue/gray tone of the water. How vivid the splashes of color from the flowers.
Kat texts that the fabric shop she drove out to hit the spot.
Time for lunch for the rest of us, and we get a generous booth in the handsome bar. I watch the bartender mixing chocolate martinis—not my sort of drink, but fun to watch, and so pretty.
Griffin arrives with Daddy, and he’s had a solid nap, is ready to see what’s what. He likes watching the bartender, too, but wants a bit of a walk. And there’s a table nearby with kids, so he needs to say hello.
We order him a little dish of avocado, always a favorite, and a small bowl of chicken soup, which he very much likes. I get a salad and share some of my goat cheese which also meets his approval.
It’s a cozy lunch, a fire in the hearth, a cheerful, hungry boy.
Kat should be back any time as we girls have a special treat lined up.
Aisling, who follows the blog, and runs a Paint Club here, saw that we often book these paint nights and have fun with them. She generously offered to gift us a session. Kat and I jumped right on that!
On Sunday, at the event, she and Kat chose a scene, worked out some details. I see the scene we’re to paint with admiration, and personal amusement. This beauty of this piece of Ashford—the stone tower, the walls, the sky, the river, the trees—is absolutely lovely—and I’m completely positive is so far out of my less than meager skills the gap can’t be measured.
Aisling, however, assures me I’ll do fine, and she’s good at what she does.
I’ve no doubt she is, but I also know I can’t draw a straight line.
But I’m game. Kat, I know, will create something beautiful—and I’ll have fun.
The castle’s provided us a room as the weather’s on and off rain. Aisling’s already worked up a painting for us to follow—beautiful! And will do another along with us, taking us step by step.
We start with sky. Okay, I can do sky (don’t know about clouds that won’t look like Griffin painted them). We have colors on our palettes, brushes, wipes, and she demonstrates how and what to mix.
She shows me a technique with a sponge for the clouds, and they come out pretty good. Not Kat level, but well above-average Nora.
Then there’s the river, and how to form it so the colors blend, so there are highlights, the illusion of ripples.
The tower—the grays and browns, touches of yellow mixed. And Aisling concedes I can’t draw a straight line and helps me there. Highlights again, it’s fascinating.
Kat’s slower as she’s doing some fine details. I honestly didn’t believe I could paint a stone tower that didn’t look like a blob, but Aisling IS good at what she does, and guides me through.
There’s the wall, the road, and how form them so they don’t look like those blobs. Trees, bushes, touches of color, more dimension.
Kat doesn’t get to the greenery as she’s perfecting the rest. She has her own supplies at home, and will finish it there—or here with the supplies she brought with her.
I look at what she’s done, and am just blown away.
But I’m pretty impressed with my own bad self!
I won’t be quitting my day job, but I may approach our next paint night with a little more ambition.
We are very happy girls, all three of us. It must be rewarding to coach someone through creativity this way. And let me say, it’s just lots of fun.
No matter how pitiful your skills, you’ll not only enjoy the experience, but very likely surprise yourself. Because I did both, I’m giving Aisling a plug here in the blog. Go to www.paintclub.ie and book yourself a treat. Better yet get some pals and make it a party.
Thank you, Aisling! Every time I look at my Ashford painting, I’ll think of you and a really enjoyable afternoon.
I can’t wait to see Kat’s when it’s finished because it’s going to be amazing.
From there, it’s straight to The Dungeon for dinner. BW and Jason are suitably wowed by our paintings.
We walk back to our wing a different way after dinner. Letting Griffin climbs stairs (a current favorite thing). He laughs and laughs as he climbs, comes to play in Nana’s room for a bit then off to bed.
Sometime during the night I woke to what I thought was singing, something high and sweet in the distance. I drifted off again to it, woke again later to the same sound.
And realized it was the wind singing at the windows.
It’s a blustery, rainy day—and still the gray of it is so soft, almost tender out the windows while I workout. The big tree I see is shivering and swaying, and little splotches of brightness over the river tease—will I, or won’t I?
Now the wind’s whistling rather than singing that sweet song.
Griffin’s come for his morning visit. He’s got another tooth coming in, and had a rough night. But he’s happy this morning. Then seriously pissed off because neither his daddy nor I will let him have the fire in the hearth.
He settles for a climb up the short stairs leading to our bedroom, and his mood goes bright again.
He’s off to nap—and I expect his tired parents will do the same. BW’s settled in with a book. I may set up to work an hour or two, or grab a book to read myself.
With the whistling wind and the rain, it looks like a day at home.
If you don’t have time, you need to make time for fun now and again. This was my week for making fun time.
What could be more fun that a day with girls–sisters and daughters–and the happiest baby in the world?
It’s our tradition to do a shopping spree at Saks in Tyson’s every year for Kat’s birthday. The team we work with there aren’t just the best, but have become family over the years. We start off in an area they’ve closed off for us and transformed into a garden–with a harpist!
Oh, the peonies! So fragrant, and fat as soccer balls.
Griffin likes the music, and also the selection of handsome baby clothes to pick from. Nana shows his some options. Yeah, that’s okay, hmm not bad. But when she holds up a little man suit, this is met with enthusiasm. Obviously, every handsome boy must have a little man suit.
We have delicious shortbread cookies–butterflies, dragon flies, blue birds–and an incredible cookie birdhouse made by Lily from the Graff department. She’s an baking artist. Some of these I have to take home for Kayla as my girl is extremely fond of Lily’s creations.
Then it’s time to get serious about wardrobe for girls.
Griffin hangs with us, hangs out with the team, has a walk-about and even takes a nap. When we break for lunch the teams presents us with an amazing gift. They will have a dogwood tree (which happens to have been Kat’s mother’s favorite) planted wherever Kat wants, and have included a really lovely plaque. It’s so touching, so thoughtful.
Kat and Jason will find a spot in their lovely yard where they’ll be able to watch it grow and bloom.
We have a simply wonderful day, and are now outfitted for all our summer adventures.
Because fun days should be expanded whenever possible, we learned years ago to stay overnight. After a post-shopping room service dinner, we have to say bye to Mary and Sarah–both have obligations in the morning. But Laura, Kat, Griffin and I get comfortable.
Griffin isn’t interested in sleep because this is too much fun. Laura can make noises by rubbing her fingers over the sofa, and there’s nothing funnier than that. Still, eventually it’s night-night for all.
I wake as usual about five-fifteen. But I wake to the sound of a baby laughing. About the best wake-up call ever. I join Kat and Griffin and a glorious sunrise for amusement with hands and sofa noises.
Mama’s tired, and Nana’s up, so Kat can catch more sleep while I get more play time. The boy doesn’t last long before he starts the eye-rubbing, head scratching that says: I need a nap. While he naps, I get my workout in–a good deal for all.
All good things must end, so we pack up–it’s quite a load–and head out. Happy Almost Birthday, Kat!
Back to work for me, but a slightly shorter day of it Friday as my older babies are coming to dinner. A good time to catch up on what’s what at the end of the school year. The two oldest will be joining the work force this summer around vacations–a very nice balance, imo.
We’ll be having fun with Logan shortly as it’s his turn for a summer trip, and it’s coming right up. Details to come.
Saturday, it’s work out, get in some quick gardening because we’re spending the afternoon in Baltimore at an O’s game. Kayla’s going with us. Logan declined as he considers baseball boring.
I love the boy, but this is heresy!
It’s a perfect day–low 80s, low humidity, sunny, and there’s nothing prettier than a baseball field. And no field is prettier than Camdon Yards.
We’re a happy group, guests of my broker and his team. Kayla and I settle in to watch them finish prepping the infield as the stands fill up.
And here comes Griffin for his first ballgame. Unlike Logan, he doesn’t seem to find it boring. He also samples his first crab cake, and like a good Maryland boy, enjoys it.
A pretty little blonde girl flirts with Griffin who flirts right back.
We have a fine time despite watching the O’s lose. They just fell apart after the fifth. But I’ve had time with my oldest and youngest grandbabies, hang out with Jason–who loves baseball–and Kat–who simply doesn’t understand it–on a perfect June day.
Today, I get my workout in, and focus on finishing some gardening. Then it’s deal with my seriously disordered house.
Because tomorrow, solid work time starts again. And that’s fun, too.
I’ve had the good, the best and the ugly recently.
The ugly I spent knocked out with a really nasty bout of vertigo. As anyone who’s dealt with it knows, vertigo sucks hard.
But that’s done now.
The next, the best, I had a weekend of baking, gardening, family dinner, and Griffin! Our boy is full of fun, which probably comes from being–honestly–the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. Life’s a perpetual picnic for Griffin. He plays peek-a-boo, but likes being the one doing the peek-a-booing by holding a napkin up to his face then dramatically yanking it away.
It’s great having time with all the grands. There’s Kayla who was prepping for races–and took First in the 3200 in Regionals–and Third in States! You go, Legs!
And Logan who’s now the second tallest man around here. He has to bend over to hug me! Next month I get him for five days when we take him to Montana. Really can’t wait to see how he likes his first trip west.
And Colt who can have a conversation about pretty much anything because, as he says, he read it in a book. He’s like Sam from Game of Thrones. The kid’s in third grade and can talk about the universe.
I had a girl day here between weekends, just a lovely day with girl pals. Salad, pizza and champagne. And a special guest appearance by Griffin. The boy’s happy to go to any lady who wants a baby fix. And now he’s got his first tooth, so we have to watch how much he gnaws on pizza.
Girl pals are the best pals. You need to take time to embrace and enjoy them.
This weekend–so far–the rain’s waited to pour until evening, giving me nice weather to weed and fluff and enjoy the garden. Things are popping, and blooming and spreading. I’ve got lots of pots, and a bunch of them waiting until the lower patio and wall project’s finished.
We had the–ugly to me–fence taken down at the end of the parking area, and are replacing it with a stone wall to match our other garden walls. It’s going to be great! But meanwhile, it’s a mess. But we’ve reached the point where I can actually see how good it’ll look when it’s finally done.
Today, after my workout I’ve got some indoor chores to deal with. Then I may do some side dressing with compost in the garden.
Tomorrow it’s back to work, and I’m hoping for a good, solid week of that before June pops out at me.
The summer, as it always seems to be, is packed. So a nice, quiet, solid work week, a good, gardening weekend is just the perfect prelude to the busy summer to come.
Enjoy your holiday weekend doing what makes you happy.
Laura and I send our gratitude to all who served, for all who fell so that we can live free.
Note from Laura: I didn’t share the Girl Time fun, as I opted to work at the beach for three weeks. I mean, I seriously love my girl pals, but I really adore my view at the beach.
My life right now seems to be a series of them without much of that steady middle ground.
I really like steady middle ground.
Updated total: 41 authors and 93 of their books infringed by Serruya. She’s a blood leech sucking on the body of the writing profession.
Arranging for a truckload of salt to dispense with her has been taking up a lot of my time, energies, sanity. Hopefully, once that’s in place the frustrating and infuriating distraction of her will fade, at least a bit.
Meanwhile I had a very happy week at our annual Drunken Girls Spa–with Special Guest Star Griffin. Nora had a week with girl pals, massages, games, champagne, and food she didn’t cook. Nana had a week of baby laughs and snuggles–though she did share those with girl pals.
And Laura’s not allowed to whine about the games as she dominated in the new addition of Cards Against Humanity.
Note from Laura: this is because I’m the Queen of Empathy and Persipacity. Not the queen of building stupid words.
Though Kat ultimately thwarted Elaine in Scrabble, she couldn’t –nor could any–topple Elaine who we crowned Queen of the DGS on our last night.
Our previous Queen JoAnne had a hard fall and shared the loser earrings with Pat.
A great week for all, with beautiful days, rainy days, stormy nights–including one that blew open the (unlatched) balcony doors. Flying curtains, toppling lamps, rain blowing in, women scrambling, Auntie Em summoning.
Shortly before I left for the week my tooth implant felt weird, and my bite shifted. Now I’m chewing the hell out of my cheek. But it’s an implant, I think, what’s the deal? No time to find out as I’m leaving.
Call the dentist the morning of my first day back. The day, I’ll add, I’m supposed to haul BW to the nursery in his truck, get all my pretty plants and start digging in the dirt. And have my NEW CAR delivered.
A happy day after a happy week.
Things didn’t go as planned.
Dentist says come right in, so I get dressed and do that. Figures he can fix, takes a look. Needs an X-Ray. Uh-oh.
Don’t you hate that?
Bad news, maybe worst case scenario news. It looks like the bone graft failed, implant shifted (I wasn’t wrong there, but being right never felt so bad). I need to go to implant guy. The Hammer Of Doom: It will be like starting over.
I like to think I’m pretty tough, but I just looked up and said: Oh, Jesus.
My dentist calls implant dentist himself. Again, I’m told to come right in. These are very good guys, really good doctors. But now I have to text BW, can’t be back by noon, off to second dentist.
Arrive, am seated immediately. Implant guy is so kind, apologizing for the failure, looks at X-Ray. He doesn’t think it’s a graft failure, but a fracture of same. Somehow–and this baffles him–I’ve managed to crack the bone.
He had to numb me up, always a good time!, take off the crown, take out the implant. Yes, indeed, I cracked it.
While he’s cleaning it out (even more fun than needles plunged into the soft tissue of your mouth!) I think: Fucking Serruya. I’ve caught myself stress clenching over the past weeks. Make myself stop, but still.
I blame her for my current situation. It actually helps, a little.
So he does what he does, sews me back up. DA gives me pain med, I get Rxs and make next appointment. The process takes several months of appointments. Oh well.
Off to CVS to fill Rxs. Drop off, go outside to call BW. Notice I failed to charge phone after spa and it’s down to like 16%. BW doesn’t answer. Not the house phone, not his cell–though I try both twice.
I am not feeling tough.
He finally calls me back. I cut off his explanation as phone will die. Just meet me at the nursery at 1:30. I’m getting my plants, damn it!
Get Rxs, drive to nursery.
Ahhhh. A happy, happy hour. A true up in a down day. The scents, the colors, the textures. Mine, all mine! The hell with everything else, this is my little paradise. I fill four huge carts. We fill the bed of the truck.
Sadly, I don’t have it in me to dig in the dirt. Just don’t have that next gear. But I can lay all those flats and pots out on my garden walls.
And take more meds.
Car guy’s running late, which is just as well. We put the delivery off until the next day.
My plan for Friday: Work in the morning, plant in the afternoon. I knew it was supposed to rain, but still.
Pours. So work the day.
However, many, many Serruya interruptions. No wonder I cracked a bone graft. Still, a decent chunk of work, and it’s good to be back into the story.
And here comes my fabulous new G-Wagon. I’m so glad to have this model again (and loaded this time!!) They reconfigured the interior so it’s comfortable for my Tall Guy. The old model just didn’t have the leg room.
It looks like a big, deep, dark green tank. But an elegant one. I am a General behind the wheel of this baby. And it’ll do what I tell it. I just have to say: Put on left seat warmer, and it will warm my butt. I don’t have to push a button for that now. I can tell it who to call, what temperature I want, what music I want.
It takes Barry The Car Guy an hour to go over all its beautiful tricks with me. So many wonderful tricks! I am in love with my new car. A very happy up.
Of course by the time all that’s done, my swollen jaw is throbbing. A sad down. Hit those meds, get the ice bag.
We’re celebrating Easter and Logan’s 15th (!!) birthday today. He requested pulled pork. So after ice bag, I make the rub, rub the pork.
Definitely time to lie down.
Today, I put the pork on, boil a couple dozen eggs for kids to Cool Whip dye, make the sides, make the bbq sauce and pull that pork. BW will pick up Logan’s fave chocolate chip cookie cake.
I hope to dig just a bit. Even one bed, one pot would be enough until tomorrow.
Because a big up will be having four grandkids–including Griffin for his first–here for Easter.
I’ve got an achy swollen jaw, more frustrations and interruptions ahead with our serial plagiarist, but….
I have a beautiful family I’ll enjoy the hell out of today. I have plants waiting for me to find just the right spot for them to fill.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Note from Laura: the 2018 finale to #random Katness:
We’re starting the Baby Clock around here with three weeks to go until due date. And we started it off with a happy weekend.
I called dibs on giving Kat’s shower pretty much thirty seconds after she announced baby on board. I love giving showers because what could be happier than sharing the anticipation of a life together (wedding) or a new life (baby) with female friends and family? For me, it’s one of the sweetest of rituals.
And for me, the weekend starts off with a short work day on Friday to make room for a workout before the kids come up for dinner. Since Kayla has a meet on Saturday, that means pasta for the runner. I happen to have red sauce I made from Jo’s garden tomatoes bagged in the freezer–so that’s easy.
It’s nice to have the kids around at the end of the week, to catch up on what they’re doing, and how they’re doing. I can report Logan’s gained another inch. It’s so cute how he kind of leans over to hug me now.
As the shower’s on Sunday, I have all day Saturday to prep. And I have two young men to help out in Logan and Colt. I admit I wasn’t sure if Colt would really pitch in, but boy, did he. And Logan’s a solid workhorse when motivated.
Pavers and walkways swept, deck chairs cleaned, trash out, this hauled up, that hauled down, kitchen floor scrubbed, and chairs, chairs and more chairs carted into the living room for an expected party of about 40.
I have (personally stuffed) a boatload of party favor bags waiting in the backroom, along with some of the gifts sent here, the game supplies and prizes organized, and many, many bottles of champagne chilling.
And the cake arrives. Oh just wow!!! Kat wanted a dinosaur theme, and Lacy the amazing baker has created a truly delightful masterpiece. I have to do a driveway happy dance when I see it.
Then hold the dogs who are just as delighted with her and the scent of her dogs on her shoes while Logan runs up to open the door so she can carry the cake inside. She takes it down to the laundry room where I’ll close the door to keep the dogs from sampling it.
Wake to rain on Sunday, the all-day kind. But that’s not going to dampen the party. Natoma (Gifts Inn Boonsboro manager and excellent caterer) arrives with her daughter Hannah to set up. At Kat’s request the dino theme continues with some cute touches like dino-shaped chicken bites, dessert ‘Dirt’, dino gummies, blue punch (it’s a boy, after all) and a terrific array of food.
No one’s going to leave this party hungry!
Laura arrives with the flowers I asked her to pick up–and pick out. So, so pretty, all those rich fall colors. Just perfect. Sarah comes early, too, to lend a hand.
Dogs, sad for them, now locked on the front deck so they won’t enthusiastically jump on arrivals.
The house starts to fill, time to pour champagne, wine, sparkling blue punch. Time for girl energy and hugs and greetings. When the guest of honor arrives, she’s glowing. A sweet ritual, yes, but also an important one, one that celebrates women, their power, their bonds, their strengths.
And more special here, Kat has such a lovely and diverse circle of women in her life. From our Kayla at sixteen, to women in their 70s, from college friends, work friends, aunts, cousins, a woman she met Panera and bonded with over knitting.
And so my house is filled with joy and love, with laughter and female voices.
Game time!* A little baby word scramble to start–and we actually have one contestant who got every one. Some brain in there. For the next game–listing songs with Baby in the title, we have a tie between spa girls (obviously veteran game players!) Nicole and Kat. I have to run up to the One More Room for another prize. The final game has all those women holding a card to their foreheads and trying to draw a baby without looking. Mama-To-Be will judge the winner.
Most turn out like you’d expect. But two somehow managed to draw actual babies. This is quite the skill and requires another trip to the One More Room for yet another prize as it’s another tie.
Time for more food!
I let the dog off the deck, and–as I should’ve known–they sneak into the house. The ladies are just as pleased to see dogs as dogs are pleased to be seen so I let them stay for a bit.
Then banish them outside.
It’s time to open all those wonderful gifts.
Such fun, and all those adorable baby things. Jo had suggested we request a favorite book in lieu of a card to start the baby’s library. While there were a few duplicates, it’s amazing to me how much variety. So many beloved children’s books piling up. My choice, Where The Wild Things Are, as I read that one over and over to both my boys. Now my boy can read it to his.
Cake! Countless pictures have been taken of that cake, and more than one bemoans cutting into that work of art. However, what’s inside is just as fabulous. Kat’s favorite strawberry shortcake. Mmmm.
As guests leave, more hugs. Pals load all those baby gifts into cars–and Kat’s still glowing. I get one more rub of that beautiful baby bump as the next time I see Kat will be at the birthing center.
Hello from The Greenbrier! This is your friendly Cranky Publicist checking in to assure you all that Nora is alive and well — just finishing a book.
Last summer I noticed moving the “big” book (i.e., Come Sundown, Shelter in Place) from spring to summer meant instead of finishing before summer travel, Nora’s fitting in the finish while traveling. (Remember, she likes to be a year ahead of a release date.)
So what’s new? Well it was my birthday last week. And I’m having cataract surgery next month…
What’s that? You want to know about Nora?
The theme of Nora’s summer is Stop then Go.
After the Kayla’s trip to NYC, Nora had about a week of work before heading off on the annual family trip to the spa. One highlight was group painting night. Fascinating to see how everyone interpreted the picture, isn’t it?
Post-spa, Nora had four days of work before her and BW’s annual summer barbeque. I drove up the day before to serve as line cook and pot washer. I shelled 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, while Kayla made the trifle.
Nora? Oh she was there too.
Last week, Nora put in another solid four days on the book before she had to break to pack for our week at Greenbrier. Normally it’s an easy pack but she spent one day of the week shooting video for St. Martin’s Press, so she had to come up with wardrobe for Nora and for JD. She sacrificed a work day because the weekend was devoted to the Turn the Page Anniversary signing.
In another nod to classic writing at the TTP anniversary signing, Barbara Delinskey and Linda Howard visited the store and many happy readers.
You’ll see my reaction to Linda here:
We met sisters and cousins and moms thrilled to be together. Groups of sisters of the heart traveled to Maryland, including this Drink Therapy group from Chicago.
Despite rain setting in halfway through, the energy remained upbeat and excited for the entire 4 hours.
The next day was the Fall Into the Story brunch at Vesta. Nora picked five readers to sit at her table from the bag of raffle tickets then everyone else filled in spaces. I stopped at all the tables to chat, then came back with Nora for more chat and photos.
The brunch culminates in a raffle of baskets from Nora, Turn the Page, Gifts Inn BoonsBoro and Inn BoonsBoro. This year, the raffle raised over $1300 for Set The Stage – a non profit chosen by the Nora Roberts Foundation.
And then we came to The Greenbrier.
Yesterday’s shoot went very smoothly. I can’t show much but these are snaps I put on Instagram.
After Nora finished, we did a quick Facebook Live, then meandered out to watch the Houston Texans arrive for training camp. Nora could not care less about football, but she came along for the walk. Then we paused for a selfie in front of the cameras set up for a press conference with the Texans GM, and the NFL Networks James Palmer joined the snap.
The rest of the week, Nora will go through the final draft of the July 2019 book in the mornings, I’ll catch up with my own work and then we’re off to hang out with our friends.
Once back and after Kayla’s Sweet 16 party, Nora has a solid week of work before she, Bruce, Jason and Kat set off for Montana. Travelogues will again be the order of the day for a couple of weeks next month. Though as I mentioned above and on Facebook Live, I’m having cataract surgery on both eyes, a week apart in August. There may be a delay or two because of recovery, but I plan to keep things moving smoothly while Nora’s in Montana.
And that’s all the Nora updates fit to print.
One last order of business: Five lucky readers will win an advance reader copy of Leverage in Death at the end of St. Martin’s Press new sweepstakes. All the details here: Leverage in Death ARC sweepstakes.
The abbreviated rules of the contest: No purchase necessary. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. who are age 18 or older and of the legal age of majority. Entry period begins at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on July 16, 2018 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 29, 2018. Void where prohibited. For full Official Rules, visit https://read.macmillan.com/promo/leverageindeatharcsweeps18. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Kayla was eleven the first time I took her on a girl trip to NYC–and this mother of sons spent a LOT of time in the American Girl Doll store.
My own American Girl is now on the cusp of 16, and we spent considerable time in Sephora. And the new and amazing makeup cathedral on the second floor of Saks. And the eighth floor (shoe sale!!)–plus Lululemon (two locations) and various other venues where girls just wanna have fun.
And fun we certainly had.
Laura and Kat drove up separately–Laura to visit some family first, and Kat as the limo trip brings on car sickness. So Kayla and I had the big-ass limo to ourselves, chatting away a good part of the trip.
Selfie as they set out. Photo by NR
We arrive at the hotel on a pretty afternoon with Laura already in and Kat only minutes behind us.
Made it to NY! Photo by LMRTime to unpack, hang a bit, then take a nice walk around to stretch out the legs, do some quick shopping, form our plan of attack for the next day. A trip over to B&N for cards and jigsaw puzzles. Plenty of time left for hanging out on the roof terrace, a spin in the hot tub. And at Kayla’s request–and no argument after a travel day–room service. Some work on a 1000 piece puzzle–one that looked simpler from the cover than in reality.
But Kat has a genius eye for shapes and tiny variations in color. Much progress before we turn in for the night.
In the morning, Kayla and Laura head to the gym, and I do my workout in the suite. Time for breakfast, pulling it together. Kayla and I walk over to a Lens Crafters–my girl recently got glasses, and as she also has her learner’s permit (!), I decree she needs prescription sunglasses as an early birthday present. We discover we’ll need the doctor’s prescription, which we’ll get faxed, so back we walk to meet Laura and Kat at one of Kayla’s nirvanas–Sephora.
I appreciate her love of makeup, and more her excellent–and age-appropriate hand–with it. I’ve a good hand with makeup myself, but I learn things from the girl. Onto Free People then Anthropology. Good hauls, and pregnant Kat finds some fun stuff, too. Nobody walks out empty handed as we take a nice lunch break.
Yes, we’ll have champagne–or Laura and I will.
Lunch on Wednesday. Photo by NRTime for a little lie-me-down for mama-to-be, and the rest of us hit more shops. Since Kayla’s a runner and I work out daily, Lululemon works just fine for us. Kayla’s issue is a mile of leg on a size 0, maybe a 2. But she does pretty well. I do, I believe, some better.
We walked miles, literally, before calling it for the day.
More puzzle time, more hang out time. Laura has a dinner out with her daughter Clare and some of Clare’s friends. The rest of us, again, opt happily for room service. And I’m drawn into a new card game for me. Nertz. I win–which Kayla insists is beginner’s luck.
Maybe, but hey. I win!
Kayla has given Laura a curfew <g>, and fortunately Laura makes it back with a couple minutes to spare.
In the morning, Kayla has her first Shaun T experience with me–and does quite well. Then she and Laura need to get ready for the day while I do the rest of my workout. They head to one of Kayla’s goals, the top of the Empire State Building. * I’m grateful Laura took this on as I have no need to subject myself to that height again, and Kat isn’t up for it either. But Kat is up for fancy braiding Kayla’s hair on their return, a skill I don’t possess as a mother of sons.
My fabulous editor joins us for some hanging out and a terrific and oh-so-pretty lunch at Rockefeller Center’s summer cafe on the ice rink. My poor Leslie broke a bone in her foot a few week ago, so she’s in a boot, and Kat’s carrying my sweet baby. But we stroll into a couple of shops before Leslie heads out, and Kat heads back to put her feet up.
More shopping for the rest of us. Kayla knows how to shop, knows what she likes, what suits her. The shoe floor of Saks suits her, and me for her as SALE. I’m an indulgent Nana, no doubt, but a 16-year-old only gets Pradas at 50% off. And she does, and they’re adorable. As she’s most always in running shoes, I enjoy seeing her try on stacked heels, pretty flats. And I find the red shoes I was after.
I’ll add the girl hauls all the bags without complaint. She is designated Sherpa. I also notice how her confidence in the city grows every day. At first she sticks to me or Laura or Kat basically hip-to-hip. But as time goes on, and I explain every day the grid that’s midtown, she eases up, remembers which direction to go.
I also notice, proudly, how polite and engaging she is with hotel staff, with store clerks, waitstaff. Never fails to thank them, to make eye contact, to smile. To make a little conversation.
It’s room service again, and that’s fine. We’ve walked our feet off. And as the puzzle’s complete, Kat decides we need another, and takes herself off to get one–and finds more happy mama clothes on the way.
I love the way pregnant Kat looks, how she dresses that gorgeous bump!
Time to eat–do a little puzzle, and Kayla wants to play Hearts. Kat is a novice, so we walk her through it. I win, again. Ha ha. Then we drag ourselves off to bed.
Kayla opts to sleep in on Friday while Laura and I do our workouts. Then, after breakfast (the size 0 can eat!) Kayla and I head over to pick out sunglasses. I approve her pick, and really didn’t intend to get another pair for myself. But fun and cute, and since I pop on sunglasses every time I step outside, justified.
She’s made an appointment for a facial at Saks, so we head over there to meet up with Laura. Lots of scent on the second floor, and since it doesn’t hit pregnant Kat well she takes a day of rest.
Did you know Lancome does customized foundation? Neither did I. I’d decided it was time to switch up my makeup and skincare–it gets tired after a few years. So the Lancome ladies hit me at a good time. Laura, the makeup queen, gets her own custom foundation. It’s so cool to watch the science of it and the little machine that mixes it.
Kayla loves the facial, gets her makeup done. We now, between the two of us, own enough new makeup for a dance troupe.
The girl wants a wallet, and I promised Colt an Ugg blanket like his siblings have. So it’s uptown for the two of us where Kayla–who admired my Ugg sneakers (they weigh nothing and are super comfortable) finds then in light pink. I find some great sandals, also really comfortable, she gets some short boots, some slippers. No wallet, but there’s a Coach right there.
Sale!!! 1/2 price sale! She finds a pretty and practical wallet, a couple of the little cross-body purses (all she’ll use) and I end up buying a pink purse. I don’t have a pink purse, so now I do.
Haul it all back.
Clare’s going with us to the theater, staying the night with us. We’ve decided on an early dinner–pizza delivery–as we have an eight o’clock curtain for Mean Girls. Really good pizza, and after Kayla gives Kat some makeup advice as Kat plays with some of her new girl toys. Kat pays her back with another adorable braid.
We leave in plenty of time to walk across town to the theater and settle into our seats.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many shows on Broadway, and happy enough to have taken my girl to several. Mean Girls ranks really, really high. It’s such fun, it’s so bright, so pretty. The voices are amazing, the choreography just freaking fabulous.
Tiny Fey is a genius, a comedy-writing genius. She’s translated her terrific screenplay (just love the movie) into an equally terrific book for the stage.
We’re all completely happy during and after. Just a great show if you have the opportunity to see it.
After, Kat heads back, and Laura, Clare and I fulfill our promise to face Times Square on a Friday night so Kayla can hit her very favorite store in the universe of stores: American Eagle.
She simply won’t consider non-AE jeans. And they do fit her perfectly. So I’m shopping in Times Square at eleven at night–a new experience for me. AE has three, count them three, floors. We do them all, and she hauls back the bags. It’s an absolutely gorgeous night in the city, and the walk–once through the madness of Times Square–just a delight.
Kat’s still up, so we hang and talk until nearly one in the morning.
A little later start, understandably, on Saturday. I squeeze in a workout, clean up, find a few puzzle pieces.Since we’re heading downtown, and separating, Kat draws Kayla and me a little map. I’m not as familiar with the downtown streets and stores. We cab down, Kayla and I get out to hit the downtown Lululemon first, and Kat and Laura cab on to the yarn store.
We strike gold for the tiny size in the downtown store, and she stocks up on running shorts, sports bras, leggings. I cave and get some leggings and capris myself.
Using Kat’s clever map, we find Alex and Ani–another wish. The girl loves to stack little bracelets, and we find one with a K charm. Text our yarn-seeking companions to let them know we’re heading toward Lombardi’s, our lunch destination.
Pizza, fun girls, a glass of wine. Ah.
Uber back, organize a little, and Kat heads off to buy a sketch book. She’s designing the baby blanket she’s going to make out of the pretty pale blue, dark blue yarn she scored. Did you catch that? She’s designing the blanket.
Clare’s coming back for dinner, which is room service again.
We hang out, Kat sketches, we play puzzle and finish number two. Eat, talk poor Clare into learning Hearts. Kayla won this time (beat me by two points!)
Then everybody but mama-to-be, who isn’t allowed, heads up to the hot tub. Gorgeous night, fun, relaxing interlude. Time to hug Clare goodbye.
I take a look at Kat’s sketch, and OMG! She’s done a dragon with Celtic knots around it, and it’s gorgeous. At the corners she has circles and is going to pick animals that represent the grandparents. Her mom, her dad, BW and me. So clever, so unique. It’s going to be an heirloom.
Tumble into bed.
Up to pack, squeeze in a workout, shower, dress, pack more, organize and condense shopping bags. Start a Mom check on the suite. Say goodbye to Laura–drive safe! Another Mom check, bag count–remind Kayla to look under her bed, just in case. A final Mom check (I’m obsessive here).
Call for bellmen (plural!) say goodbye to Kat as she’ll be heading to the garage. Check out. Brent and his limo arrive exactly on time, so it’s load it up, and time to say goodbye to New York. The city treated us very, very well.
And it’s been wonderful, all that female energy for a few days with girls you love.
Kayla talks running on the way home. Training, meets, coaches, meets, her teammates, meets, her goals. It’s so rewarding to see her passion and her determination for something she’s so good at, something she loves.
Then I have to say goodbye to my best girl, and hope she’s as loaded with fun and happy memories as shopping bags. I know I am.
She really makes me proud.
Note from Laura
* Our Empire State Building trip was perfect. We walked 16 blocks at a face pace around 9 am. took the elevator to the 86th floor, then another elevator to the 102 floor.
After souvenirs for her mom and brothers, Kayla and I decided to set the stopwatch and see how fast it took to get back. We did agree with a pause in the stopwatch to take a photo in front of the NY Public Library.
We made it back to the hotel in 16:24 for Kayla, 16:30 for me. Nora and Kat were highly impressed by how short and efficient our trip went.
Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.
And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!
The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.
A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.
Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.
And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.
Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.
Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.
Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR
A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!
After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!
Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.
For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.
More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!
Time for a workout!
A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.
Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR
And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.
A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.
Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.
And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.
Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.
Note from Laura: Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature. I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed. Enjoy!
There’s nothing like Derby, and we’re so fortunate to go every year. The experience continues to be amazing, entertaining, special and just plain fun.
Kat and Jason joined us this year (baby’s first Derby!) as we flew out Thursday morning. For an added treat, two long-time pals planned to attend this year, and though the generosity of our fabulous hosts and spectacular coordinators, the York sisters, were included in some of our fun.
We touched down after some showers to a pretty day, happily met by our Derby pals, Kathy our usual host and Brian our cop. Family reunion! Time to transfer luggage and people into the cars and head off for lunch. Kathy, Kat and I catch up along the drive. We’re not going to have our Kathy all weekend this time as her son’s being promoted to Captain (US Army) and his pinning ceremony’s on Friday. We have to fit a lot of Kathy into a short amount of time.
Good food, good company, and it’s off to the hotel to visit with Kathy a little more, to unpack. Then Kathy’s off for her eight-hour drive–good mom–and our Kat (mom-to-be) takes a little nap.
It’s Club Night, and time dude it up a little. And here come Isabel and Stephen! Our schedules haven’t meshed in way too long, so this is really special treat. Isabel was my fantabulous editor for most of my run at Silhouette. It’s so good to see them, and as they’re Derby virgins, to introduce them to the whole experience.
They’ve had a few days in the area already, done bourbon tours, visited the backside at the Downs, soaked up plenty of barbecue, so they’re primed.
Club Night brings us all together with our Derby family. It’s great to see familiar faces, do more catching up. And in a venue like the Frazier Museum, it’s a terrific kick-off. We’ve got food, drink, music, poker–and best of all friends.
And a totally cool exhibit. The museum’s showcasing Mona Bismark. Who’s that? you say. So did I. She was a famous local socialite, fashion queen and much photographed beauty (with pals like Salvador Dali) who reigned for decades. We get to see samples of her wardrobe from the 40s to 70s, and it’s amazing. The photographs, the handwritten letters to and from her, the collection of shoes! All of it. Gorgeous gowns, sleek suits, all showing the fascinating changes in fashion.
My favorite, hand down? Cocktail pajamas! This is a fashion statement I can get behind all the way. Mona, with this one concept, you are my hero.
We eat, drink, mix, mingle, enjoy. And it’s a lovely night, walk the four or five blocks back to our hotel. Which gave us a chance to admire the biggest Louisville Slugger in the world.
Fall into bed. Friday’s going to be a long one.
And it’s a gorgeous day. The guys, in Brian’s care, are headed to the Oaks and sporting pink. We girls, with Ann as our host, are off for nails at the best nail salon anywhere, imo, City Nails. As you can see, our pedis are magnificent!
After getting ourselves buffed and polished, it’s time for lunch. Ann makes it easy, hauling us around Louisville. Isabel and I split a grilled cheese sandwich. It should have a loftier name as it’s warm, melty brie inside toasted sour dough. I will never looked at a grilled cheese the same again. Match that with a bowl of thick, herby tomato soup, add a mimosa? Oh boy.
Our adorable waiter brought up a little sample of the Lily signature drink (Fillies for the Lilies today). When we told him Kat was pregnant (and I’d take her sample!) he went back and made her a non-alcoholic version.
Then it’s off to Rode’s to meet up with Beth and the team for some shopping. Always so much fun! And they’ve hunted up some very cool shoes for BW’s size 14 feet. It’s tradition for Father’s Day. BW gets a pair of very cool shoes, and our gal at Rode’s really came through.
I buy two scarves because they’re gorgeous, a really snappy hoodie, an excellent linen sheath dress and well, more.
Now it’s back to the hotel to meet up with Sarah who’ll make our hair look fabulous for the gala. And boy, does she.
The guys come back from their day at The Oaks. I think my pick for the big race, My Miss Lily (a gray) came in dead last. Oh well.
Now it’s seriously dude it up time for the Unbridled Eve gala.
I believe we pulled this off very well.
Down to check in, hit the red carpet. Spot another Derby pal, and as we chat she points out she’s bringing a little something extra this year. She’s got a very sweet baby bump. I tell her Kat’s expecting, too, ask when she’s due. October. So’s Kat. I call Kat over, ask what day in October. 15th. Kat’s due the 17th! A sweet moment of serendipity.
This is Unbridled’s big night, full of music, color, stunning tablescapes. They have a couple of live auctions through the evening, and a silent one that runs all through. The proceeds benefit excellent causes, Blessings In A Backpack and The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation. It’s all about the kids, so bid generously!
I do! I have my handy phone app for the night, scout out the offerings–so much generously donated!–pick my targets.
Move through the crowd and into the ballroom. I buy a table every year (excellent causes) so we have our six, our Ann, and the fabulous Mike Mills (R.E.M) who we know from Derbys past. The music’s already rocking with The Crashers, a hot local band who performs every year at the event.
The entertainment’s seriously loaded this year–and one of the highlights is a set headed by Dennis Quaid. The man who played Jerry Lee Lewis can really rock it out. And the man who uttered one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies (The Big Easy–Your luck’s about to change, cher.) really gets the crowd moving.
Another highlight is John Rzeznik–Goo Goo Dolls lead singer, and his set. Wowzer! Then he auctions off the guitar he played. Nice.
Yet another highlight in an evening full of them is the big live auction. It includes a catered dinner by Paul Sorvino and his wife–known for the culinary skills–10 tickets to next year’s Oaks, 10 for the Derby–in the Jockey Suite at the Downs. This is big stuff.
The bidding’s pretty lively, and begins to top off at about 30k. You’re to hold up the lighted number of your table to bid. Toward the end, Stephen asks Jason to pass it to him. Honestly, I thought he just wanted to see it. But no, up it goes. And Stephen wins the bid! Obviously we’ve done an excellent job introducing them to Derby. And we’ll see them here next year!
I do my own (much smaller) part with the silent auction, and bag my Baubles, Beatles and Baccarat. Perfect. Lovely diamond hoops, a framed, backed on wood, picture of the Abbey Road cover (a fave), and six gorgeous Baccarat champagne flutes.
We have to hit the photo booth for fun, drag Mike and Ann along with us. Can’t wait to see how our shots turn out.
We’re done–and tomorrow’s Derby. My only regret of the weekend is hearing Quaid came back late and hit the dance floor with the crowd. Really sorry I missed that.
Derby Day. Rain. The weather guy insists the worst will miss us and it’s going to clear by midday. Glad I didn’t bet on him! It will be the wettest Derby in Derby history before it’s done, but we don’t let that dampen our experience.
And, again, we look fabulous!
Another red carpet, and up we go to Millionaire’s Row. We get there before the third race–we want as much of the day as we can pack in. And I walk straight out to the terrace to take it in. It may be gray and gloomy, but the track is just stunning, as always. The richness of the dirt, the brilliance of the grass, the beauty of the twin spires, none of it ever loses its magic for me.
Back in to greet our traditional server. When Amy sees Kat’s pregnant, she vows to take extra special care of her. And she does.
Pick a horse, bet, win. Yay.
Our little group huddles with our programs, picking horses by our own methods. Names, colors, jockey or trainers–whatever works. And as Jason points out: They’re horses, so who knows?
I actually do reasonably well through the day–hit a couple good ones.
It’s even more fun when pals join us. Here’s Anita and Cate–and don’t they look great? Here’s Robert Williamson. There’s James–in his tie of real rosebuds, and his ridiculously beautiful wife, Lisa.
And on and on.
But now it’s coming up to time for the big one. I’ve gone with Mendelssohn — he’s got an Irish trainer and being hyped. Not the favorite, that’s Justify, but I think a good pick. Figure out a few more to put some money on, figure out how to box the favorite with a couple, pick out horses I’ll bet for the grandkids.
Now the excitement’s building and building. The track is beyond muddy–it’s going to be a sloppy ride.
Bets placed, terrace packed as they play My Old Kentucky Home. It always tugs at the heart. They’re in the gate, and the noise is amazing. But as they leap out of the gate, that amazing noise rises more, a wall of cheers for those stunning horses and their riders.
It seems my colt got bumped right out of the gate–and I can see he’s not likely to make up the ground. Doesn’t matter, because wow, they’re so beyond beautiful, so strong, so fast. Justify has this, you can see it even by the first turn. He’s just magnificent. I do catch that the horses I picked for two of the kids are really moving. (And I boxed one of them for me with Justified, made yet another bet for myself on one of them.
Then I lose all of that as they come around the final turn. The mud’s flying so horses and riders are coated with it. But those horses, they fly, too. Down the backstretch, and that thunder joins the cheers.
Two minutes, two astounding minutes.
Justify takes it. Kayla’s horse comes in second, Colt’s third. (Sorry, Logan.)
We stay for the last two races. Say goodbye to our Derby family, Head out in the insistent rain to have a late (for us country folk) room service dinner.
Then it’s goodbye to Isabel and Stephen–knowing our schedules will mesh for at least this first Saturday in May next year.
Up in the morning to pack, organize–we leave with much more than we came with–head down to Kathy and Brian. Gorgeous day, of course. Hugs by the plane, a last picture.
Our pilot warns us we could hit some weather in Hagerstown. It’s the same damn system that hit Louisville the day before. I’m a poor flyer anyway, but I tell myself to suck it up. We’re only in the air for an hour.
Our luck holds–and a lot of that luck is due to Jac and Joe in the cockpit. How they skimmed us through the two systems and kept us clear and smooth, I’ll never know. But we land in rainy Hagerstown without me having to use the power of my mind to keep us safe.
Now it’s bye to my babies. (All three!) And home to happy dogs and a garden that’s already popping.
Another wonderful three days in Louisville with its color, its warm hospitality, its really good food and the best two minutes in sports.