Category Archives: girl time

Tabula Rasa

Who doesn’t like a blank slate?

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

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

But first, we had to end the old year.

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

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

Yes, I said 108.

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

And here’s Sarah.

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

But this doesn’t happen.

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

Cousins

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

We drink champagne while everyone pitches in.

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

Concentration

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

Naked eggs — de-shelled perfectly.

Jason–who had a show rehearsal–arrives.


…24 hours earlier

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

The saga is thus:

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

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

MALFUNCTION!!

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

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

It’s still there, so okay.

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

Now WTAF!!!!!!!

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

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

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

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


Back to prep day

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

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

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

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

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

Clean boy.

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

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

Crudite names

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

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

Buffet
No longer naked eggs
Healthy start to 2020

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

Yay!

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

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

[Laura Knows All: www.katpong.com]

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

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

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

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

Nora


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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s nice to know she’s human. <g>

Laura

The Most Wonderful Time

And it has been–almost all the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla and Colt with egg.

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

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

A mandatory photo break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora


Note from Laura:

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

This, That, Plus a Whole Lot More

I haven’t had a good space of time to sit down and write a blog since we got back from New York.

Griffin’s first trip to The Big Apple turned out to be nothing but fun and adventure. As soon as we drove into the city, he started making his oooh happy, excited, interested noises.

Not sure about Nana’s toy.
Successful pen. For parents and babies.
Less happy about the bucking bronco than in Ireland.

For myself, it proved an excellent time to expand on the Christmas shopping I started overseas, and having the boy along just added tons of fun.

We had a trip to the Central Park Zoo, which brought out more happy, excited and interested noises–until exhausted from it all–he fell asleep.

For an adult evening we had an amazing time with my agent and editor and their husbands for dinner and a show. We saw Tootsie, and if you ever get the chance, don’t miss it. It’s absolutely fabulous, on ever level.

A Mavis-style shoe from the shopping trip.

Our weather proved nearly as wonderful–one day of rain, then wonderfully clear until the day we left. No complaints!

Back home for some serious catching up, and buckling down to work.

One of the very best parts of coming home was delivering to Colt–my voracious reader–a signed copy of the new Dogman book. Happily, Dav Pilkey and I have the same agent, and she made the arrangements. As you can see, the kid was beyond thrilled. I swear every inch of him lit up–and he must’ve looked at the signed page a hundred times. I seriously can’t thank Amy and Dav enough for giving our Colt the thrill of his life.

Colt is dazzled.

I did have a weekend–a nice fall Saturday–to make soup and focaccia bread. So, mmmmm.

I had to devote the next weekend to organizing. All those gifts and packages from New York had to be dealt with. Fortunately for me, Kayla came up to help–and I really needed it!

My One More Room is now holding big-ass boxes with each person’s gifts inside so I can keep track. I’m not going to think about the wrapping marathons yet.

While I was at it, I did a solid purge of my closet as I had a girl day planned for the following Tuesday. My closet got reasonably purged and organized–and my girl pals hauled off bags. Salad, champagne, pizza, cookies–and trying on new-to-you clothes and shoes?

The lone male at the girls afternoon.
Belated cake personalized for Nora.

That makes a most excellent girl day.

Back to the buckle down to work part until Friday, and (drum roll!) Griffin’s First Birthday! Since we had a signing on Saturday, we celebrated here, and I can testify our birthday boy had a fine time.

Like Colt, he just lit up when everyone sang happy birthday. He may not understand what that all means, but it was just delighted everyone sang to him.

Then came the smash cake. I hope Laura can get the video up. He was initially intrigued. Oh, it’s soft, and I can play with it a little. Interesting. Then Nana gave him a little taste–and he got the idea, big time.

Got it!

After a few fists-full, his parents wisely removed the thoroughly smashed cake before Birthday Boy got sick.

One year later.

I can also testify, he remains the sweetest, happiest baby in the history of babies.

Saturday, it’s gear it up for TTP’s Halloween signing. We had a pirate theme this year, and we sure pulled it off. I have a fondness for Jason costume. He wore a post-in note he’d made with the Pi symbol and a drawing of a rat. Get it? Made me laugh. We had Captain Griffin, The Scourge Of The Seven Seas, First Mate Kayla working under Captain Kat, Seaman Wilder and–naturally–The Dread Pirate Roberts to round out the family on board.

Captain Griffin
Dread Pirate Roberts deals with the unruly crew.

Our visiting authors got into the costume spirit, as did a number of readers. We had a wild, crowded, LONG and happy event. And a separate thrill for me to meet Meg Tilly ( adorably costumed as a cat). The award-winning actress has written a number of well-received books, and is writing a Romantic Suspense series. I have Solace Island–the first of the series–on my bedside table.

Meg Tilly, Jason, Dread Pirate Roberts

She, and all the visiting authors, did a wonderful job connecting with the readers, with each other, and graciously handling a four and a half hour signing.

Kudos as well the the readers for their enthusiasm and their patience.

And huge ones to the ever-efficient, patient and hard-working staff of TTP–as well as our stalwart signing day additions who pitch in above and beyond.

The A Team

Today, with workout done, this blog up (and plenty of leftovers for dinner!) I think I’m going to shovel out around here, get my house in order. Then fall asleep in front of the TV.

Nora

Mayo, Day Fifteen

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.

From Kat’s Castle walkabout. Photo by Kat

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. 

In Galway. Photo by Kat

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.

Daily dose of Griffin. Photo by his Nana

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.

Artist’s hands.

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.

Kat’s WIP reveal.

I look at what she’s done, and am just blown away. 

But I’m pretty impressed with my own bad self! 

Nora’s finish work reveal.

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.

Look familiar? From Kat’s walkabout.

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.

Small boy, big staircase. Photo by Nora

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.

Nora



A #randomkatness two-fer

Tiny tree of life.
Wonder why she took this one?

Time for fun

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.

Delish!

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.

After-nap munchies

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.

Thanks, Bill!

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.

Nora

Weekends

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.

Hello!

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!

Way to go Kayla!

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.

Food! Glorious food!

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.

Nora


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.

Ups and Downs

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.

Laura will continue to complain when the universe sends her messages: Buy a clue? Wear a clue as a feathered scarf? You decide.

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.

The annual paint & sip evening. Bright colors abound.

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.

And a new car!

Nora

Holiday Hustle

We’ve been in the thick of it.

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

The Inn, dressed for Christmas

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

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

IBB Wonder Women

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

Nice one, ladies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla and her sous chef, Grandda

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora

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

First family holiday photo

Counting Down

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.

Thanks, guys!

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.

Dinolicious!

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.

Game winners!

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.

Nora


*I played no games.  But took photos. ~Laura

Did I miss the games?

The quiet is nearly over

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.

Here she is! Photo by LMR

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?

Fine.

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.

A girl and her trifle. Photo by LMR

Trifle closeup. Photo by LMR

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.

Classic and classy: Linda Howard, Nora, Barbara Delinskey

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.

Someone forgot her shirt, but remembered the wine!

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.

Nora and Nora.

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.

Evening sky over The Greenbrier. Photo by LMR

Yesterday’s shoot went very smoothly.  I can’t show much but these are  snaps I put on Instagram.

Nora prep. Photo by LMR

Post JD Robb prep. Photo by LMR

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.

James Palmer, JoAnn, Nora, Laura and Sarah

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.

Laura