Kat, Griffin and I have an indoor morning while the rest of the gang is out riding a UTV. Griffin and I play the Bowling Game. I set up the colorful rubbery foam pins, counting them off. Finish with a dramatic TEN, often like The Count: Ten Bowling Pins! Ten! Ha-ha-ha!
Then he gleefully runs over to knock them all down, I feign shock and despair. He retreats to wait for me to do it all again. This amuses us.
The gang returns, covered with dust. Had much fun, though BW claims Jason hit many mud puddles purposefully.
Jason does not actually deny this.
Lunch, showers, laundry.
Some work time for me, nap for my bowling partner.
Our aviary on the front porch is busy. I think the two babies—that third egg never hatched—are growing fast and constantly hungry. Many feeding times with little heads popping up.
Kat, Kayla and I have a jewelry-making class and head out. There are about a dozen of us in the group—from New York, California and our MD team. We’re given our choices of many rough gemstones and wire to wrap for rings.
Kayla chooses a pretty blue celestite. I’m tempted by the same, such a sweet color, but go with a pale yellow citrine. Kat picks a couple—starts with an amethyst—and asks our instructor if it’s okay to do something other than a ring.
Of course, we’re only being instructed in the steps of making a ring, but this is Kat.
I go with copper wire for my citrine, and Kat and Kayla for silver. Two thin wires, one thicker—I think. I’m easily confused on the process apparently. Wrap, wrap, wrap the thins around the thicker. Small and tight. Kat has to stop her own project to get me started on this, then the light bulb in my head ignites.
I manage this fine, as does Kayla. I see Kat is making a circular pendant.
Others in the group are making progress or asking for help. Everyone appears to be having fun. The instructor comes around to help most set the stone. You have to flatten the four ends of the thin wires out like spider legs then wrap them around to secure the stone in the center of the wrapped band. Harder than it sounds! The instructor sees Kat’s nearly completed pendant.
It gets the expected Wow!
We have clippers and needle-nose pliers to snip wires, to tuck the pointy ends into the wrap. I’m amazed to make this work.
Meanwhile Kat completes a SECOND pendant—a square one. Both have the pretty center stone set in a way they move freely. It’s Kat genius.
We all leave pretty pleased.
Time for The Chuck Wagon.
Lovely evening, good food, great views. Kat takes Griffin—or he takes her—down to the river where he picks up rocks, hands them to her to throw into the water. Over and over and over. He may have a plan to clean the entire river bank of rocks.
Jason goes down at shift change, and same deal. The boy spends the best part of an hour on his project, perfectly content. The rest of us eat and enjoy the evening sun. BW and Kat try their hand at axe throwing. No one does well at this but the axe-throwing instructor, but Kat managed to stick one in the target.
Griffin comes back, grabs some offered salmon. Kayla accuses him of wadding it—which is true. A whole chunk goes in. But he’s not much interested in more, Kayla’s had her s’more, so it’s homeward bound.
Now Griffin’s into food and eats past bedtime, ignores the Daddy Dance playlist. Until The Monster Song proves too much for his will power. Scramble down and run to Daddy. Many happy dances.
I love how he sings along.
We’re up early this morning. In house breakfast as all but Kat and Griffin are going for a morning trail ride. Workout will wait. I hear Griffin up, morning cheerful. He greets the day with: Yay!
The mid-50s may call for my new Montana sweatshirt for the ride. Gotta go get up and get ready for the trail.
We have our class near Spa Town with those incredible views through glass walls.
We start off making little lotion bars—custom as we choose our own scents or blend of scents.
Measure, mix, melt. Sniff, sniff to decide how we want them to smell. I’m in love with the Huckleberry so easy choice for me. Kayla goes for a lavender peach combo, and Kat huckleberry lemon.
Oh, the way everything smells!
We can add bits of rose, lavender or chamomile. Who can resist?
When we’re all done, we pour into little molds. Kayla and I both choose stars, and Kat a star and a couple seashells. So cute!!!!
While those are in the fridge to harden we tackle lip balm. For this, it’s lavender peach for mine because it smells so yummy. A similar process of measuring and mixing, and into the little tubes.
Polish it off with bath scrub. I’m all about the huckleberry and lemon—with some dried rose crushed up in it. We get blue jars, mix it all up. It’s so creamy and fragrant.
Back home on a warmer and happily sunny day.
BW’s been out with his drone taking aerial shots. Jason has tried and failed to get Griffin down for a nap.
Pretty day to walk around outside—then the puzzle calls me for a session.
It’s coming along!
We have dinner—The Big Sky Bash—at the equestrian center. Kayla gets her cowgirl on with her hat—and a jacket and boots from Nana’s closet. It’s just gorgeous when we leave, but I also wear a jacket because I know how it goes here!
We shuttle off to the bash, and it’s gorgeous there, too. There’s a pretty pond, and people out in canoes. That wide, wide spread of sky, the mountains and hills rising and rolling under it, cattle in the fields, lots of picnic table set and another live band.
Fun stuff. Along with a pony ride for kids.
Griffin makes a bee-line for the lake. That kid loves water. He has some running around time, and his Mom suggests a pony ride. But when she takes him over, sets him in the saddle, the answer is: Absolutely not!
A shame (though pretty funny) as Cookie the pony is pretty and sweet and patient. Kayla makes friends with her.
Lots of food—and the roasted corn on the cob’s a big hit. Also fresh tortillas—mmmm.
Then the sun disappears behind clouds, the wind kicks up. Cold!!!! I hold out hope the sun will find its way back, but no. Just no. Still we had a fun time, good eats, and sunny and pleasant for most of our adventure.
Back home for us. A Daddy Bedtime Dance. Not even halfway through that ritual, Griffin’s asleep on Jason’s shoulder. And still, mouth slack, eyes closed, he sings blearily: Wobba Wobba.
Up to bed for our sleepy boy.
More puzzle time! Hang and puzzle with Kat and Kayla for awhile after Griffin’s settled (and Daddy with him). By ten we’re all tired, so an early night in the west.
I get eight straight, always a happy. Work out—good morning, Griffin. This is Daddy’s shift, their routine, and it goes along well. Some warmer, so parts of that routine means Griffin goes to the door. Time to go outside!
Finish my workout shortly before the shift change and BW, Kayla and Jason head out for breakfast.
I need to rewrite the bulk of a chapter. I’ve worked out in my head the how and the why but because it’s more intense work than editing, I take myself up to the quiet of the bedroom.
It takes a couple hours—and will need at least a couple more to make it all smooth. But it’s done. I think, while I’m up there how some idiot posted on the internet just yesterday or today—forget—how I don’t write all my own books because. There’s always a because in this type’s mind. And I think bite me, asshole, as I finally shut down after a couple of sweaty hours during my damn vacation!
Because I do write all my own books.
Come down to learn Griffin’s not feeling altogether well. When a toddler wants a nap and doesn’t want a cookie, he’s feeling off. But he has The Daddy Shoulder Of Comfort—doesn’t want Mom who is—unquestionably—his most favorite person of all people.
Seems a little better now, and is outside with Mom while Daddy’s getting a well-earned massage at spa town.
BW’s just back from taking pictures of our neighbors just up the road. Buffalo!
I’m going to get some outside time myself.
We have—hope it’s not too cold—The Chuck Wagon Dinner tonight. Always a good, fun time.
Note from Travelogue Central Editorial Desk:
Because one download staring at me wasn’t enough, Kat decided to get a fuller photo of the eyes, thus earning the first #RandomKatness since 2019. To top that off, she took a snap of Griffin communing with the eyes. ~Laura
Laura’s done a roundup of our Spa Girls Week, but I’ll fill in a few details before I continue the adventures of our last night.
First, the house was all Laura said, and so perfect for our needs this year—though we SORELY missed our butlers. The weather struck me as more March than May the first few days, but the indoor space provided all we could ask for. (And a little more than we wanted!)
Kayla had her first spa girls experience, and that was a bonus for all.
The best was just seeing each other face-to-face again after a very long year-plus. HUGS!!! Lots of laughs, lots of catching up, and of course, the annual tournament.
Griffin’s also had a long year-plus unable to socialize, but he got used to a house full of women pretty quickly.
I had bags and more bags of clothes purged from my closet—no chance to see each other since 2019, so a lot of bags.
How Kat managed to load luggage for five women, one toddler, two cases of champagne, two enormous bags of games and prizes, snack food and more as we’d be in a house instead of the hotel, a case of toys, etc into two vehicles remains one of the greatest achievements known to womankind.
So the tournament began. Fierce competition, as always, and Elaine, our oft-reigning queen seemed a bit off her game. Youth nipped experience in Just Dance time after time with Kayla taking the lead and holding it. Laura and Nicole proved Bowling For Giggles experts. Nothing made the boy laugh harder than watching the ball roll down the alley, strike or gutter ball.
And, again Nicole and Laura proved dark horses in Scrabble. Kat unmercifully crushed all comers in her first round, but a steady feed of vowels in her second defeated even her mad skills. In the semis, Nicole looked poised to send Elaine, our other Scrabble Queen, packing, but at the very end, Elaine slipped past her by one point.
One soul-shattering point.
As Laura reported, she faced off with Elaine in the Scrabble finals. Though she went down in defeat, I feel her complaints about the score board now ring hollow. The Cranky Publicist bagged an array of Fabulous prizes this year.
I will say it’s interesting for a nana to play Cards Against Humanity with her granddaughter. Interesting, yet hysterical.
And Reverse Charades is, always, just brilliant. Fave of this year: Sarah bending over, pointing at her butt. And Kat guessing—pretty instantly—Full Moon. It was a moment.
Sarah also shared bacon with Griffin at breakfast each morning. So when we gathered at the dining room table one evening, Griffin reached over took the end of bacon peeking out of Sarah’s bacon cheeseburger, and slowly, carefully, pulled it out.
He enjoyed the bacon almost as much as we enjoyed THAT moment.
So you have the girls, and you have the games. Now we’ll discuss the (unwanted) guests.
The first morning while Jo and I are doing our workout in the communal living area, Sarah comes out. She’s laughing, but her eyes are very large. As they have just seen the dead mouse in her bathtub.
This, we agree, is A Problem.
We also agree we’re not going to deal with A Problem ourselves. We call for disposal.
A Problem is solved. Maybe not as quickly as a group of women on a spa vacation might like, but it is solved.
Until, a couple days later, the unfortunate mouse’s sibling—alive and well—makes an appearance in the kitchen.
Ten women, a toddler, and a mouse is A Problem.
All of us but Laura are country girls. And all of us have seen a mouse in our lifetimes. But we do not want its company. We call for a solution to A Problem.
I have to say the solution didn’t arrive as quickly as any of us liked, and wasn’t solved in a way I’d have chosen. Setting snap traps under the stove isn’t ideal in a house with ten women and a toddler.
The problem solver promised to return to check said traps. But he did not follow through until more calls for solutions. However, the second mouse joined its sibling in the Great Mouse Hereafter.
We had a amazingly fun time at our group paint session. Everyone’s painting was fun and pretty. Kat’s isn’t yet finished as Griffin woke from his nap. But I can already see it’ll be amazing.
Nicole taught Elaine how to make other art with dried flowers. Gorgeous!
For our last night we were a smaller group as Pat, Elaine and Mary had to leave. Hated saying goodbye, but so grateful we had our time together.
Laura and Kayla had shared the loft bedroom, but that evening, Kayla informed Laura she’d moved her things, and herself down to Mary’s room due to the Big Spoder on the skylight.
I didn’t see said spider, but am assured by those who did, it was BIG. And what’s left of it after Nicole smashed it as it was too high and too BIG to catch and release—remained on the skylight.
Laura also moved down to Mary’s room.
For our last evening, we decide (poor Laura!) to play Hearts.
We’ve enjoyed our dinner. Kat’s on the lower level putting Griffin to bed. We’re enjoying our champagne. While chatting with Nicole, JoAnne knocks over his glass. Broken glass on the carpet. A (new) Problem.
Jo claims there must be a vacuum, but we pay no attention and call Housekeeping. We watch the sunset, and have the array of tiki torches lit. Lovely!!
Housekeeping arrives with a broom and dust pan. No, we said vacuum cleaner because carpet. Come back with a vacuum cleaner please.
Meanwhile Jo finds we DO have a vacuum cleaner in some random closet. We’re stunned, but clean up the glass in case Housekeeping doesn’t return. And in case they do, we leave the chairs pulled out, in innocence.
Nicole discovers we’re out of tequila, and she wants some. Since the intrepid butlers said we could call for any reason, she tries them to ask how we might acquire a bottle of Patron. She leaves a message.
Housekeeping does return, and as Kayla supervises the clean-up, she spots A Problem. Apparently the mice have yet another sibling and this one dashes across the kitchen floor.
Nicole and Sarah begin devising a cunning plan to capture this one as the mouse problem solvers have proved neither efficient nor timely. And the housekeeping guy looks stunned speechless when we suggest he deal with it.
We let him off the hook as Nicole and Sarah are determined they will capture the mouse, removed it and take it out to the woods and release.
Jo turns off the kitchen lights as she thinks this will bring our quarry out of hiding. I think, the lights haven’t stopped him yet, but we try that while Sarah and Nicole finalize The Plan.
There’s also discussion about how the poor mouse will starve after we go as no one will drop crumbs on the floor.
I am long past caring about the mouse’s welfare. But that’s just me.
Brendon the Butler calls back. As Nicole’s asking him the best way to acquire the Patron, Jo—obviously forgetting about the mouse—strolls into the kitchen.
The mouse makes its dash at her feet.
The scream should’ve broken another glass. And her leap was Olympic level.
The scream brings on a chorus of screams, curses, shouts, hysteria, all of which Brendon hears. The screams of six women would alarm even an intrepid Butler who’d just asked Nicole if a half bottle of Patron would do.
Nicole responds: It’s the mouse. Gotta go! And hangs up on him.
And so the hunt begins.
Nicole snaps out orders: Shut the door, move that towel, guard that door.
The rest of us shout:
It’s under the chair. It ran over there! Now it’s under that chair! Under the fridge!
Laura is The Flusher, following Nicole’s or Sarah’s orders to Herd It This Way! Which she does by stomping. There’s chaos, confusion, more screaming as the mouse skitters under one of the small refrigerators.
Sarah is battlefield calm as rear guard, bowl at the ready as Nicole hunts with her bowl and Laura drives.
It’s making for the hallway to the bedroom! Cut it off! No escape!
Laura prepares to pick up the fridge, Sarah and Nicole pursue doggedly with two stainless steel mixing bowls.
I think, I admit it, this will never work.
Laura stomps, they pursue, the mouse streaks across the floor desperate for cover. Nicole tosses the bowl! A miss.
Another toss—missed it by THAT much!
Sarah follows up, tossing hers. It wobbles, wobbles, wobbles over the surely exhausted and traumatized mouse. Then settles.
The mouse is Under The Dome.
Cheers, screams of triumph, wild laughter.
Nicole and Sarah celebrate with a double high five. Unfortunately, Nicole missed with one hand and smacked Sarah in the eye. Sarah deemed it worth it.
Then the thought: Now what?
Nicole asks for tape. We must tape the bowl to the floor in case Griffin comes up in the morning and picks up the bowl.
I say: It’ll be gone in the morning, and mean it.
I helpfully offer the bottle of Dawn dish detergent (A big one!) to weigh the bowl down. This offer is rejected.
We must remove the mouse from our house. We’ll slide something under the bowl, trap it, carry it out of the house and release it into the woods. We are not murderers!!
A paper plate? But we discover the plates have lips, so won’t do.
The cutting board? The question: What do we do with the board after, is met with: Toss it out.
Fortunately cooler heads prevail, plus the board’s too thick for the job.
Nicole takes the big glass turntable out of the microwave. I think, but….
Laura actually asks: But how will we clean it after?
It’s suggested (Sarah!) we put it back after and turn the microwave on to kill the germs.
Again, cooler heads—and it also won’t work.
Sarah says: Someone’s coming down the drive, and they’re coming in hot!
Brendon arrives—and as we’re a serious distance from the Chateau, he must’ve flown. He says: I heard you screaming. I heard all of you screaming! Every one of you! And he brought Patron!
He volunteers to help dispose of the mouse (impressed by the capture). Maybe we have a box. A box will not do. He agrees the paper plate is also a bust.
While we’re discussing solutions, Jorge—who has been our stand-up guy throughout—arrives. He also came in hot.
The poor guy looks so upset that we’ve had yet another A Problem. He has something rolled under his arm which makes Nicole ask: You brought a tube?
No, he and the guy with him have a piece of FLAT cardboard (rolled up)—exactly what’s needed.
The mouse, cardboard, bowl and all are removed. We see Jorge stop the car at the woods, and so the mouse lives to scamper in the woods—until he meets an owl or hawk. But that’s not A Problem for me.
Tequila shots, relief, ridiculous laughter.
Then Kat, who’s been trying to settle Griffin for the night comes up, with a narrow look in her eye. When the Asian Goddess give you The Eye, you feel it shiver in your bones.
Ringing phones, screaming, stomping, more screaming. But when she hears the story, we are forgiven. She also said that it was a relatively short amount of time. Felt like hours, but there you go.
Kat who rarely has more than a sip of wine, makes herself a tequila shot.
Then we played Hearts.
Thus ends the 2021 Spa Girl Recap — Wait! It’s not official until we have a photo of the winner of the tournament. This year, the crown went to Nicole!
And in another step toward life without restrictions, Nora and family will travel back to Paw’s Up in early June — so stay tuned for the return of travelogues!
It’s been a long year. When I think of last summer, I think of time spent with friends and family, our wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland, prepping and hosting our annual summer party.
Seems like another world.
Still, we have a lot to be grateful for around here. It’s been a good spring and summer for the garden, and that gives me a lot of pleasure. I’m seeing hummingbirds–a favorite of mine–almost daily. Work’s going pretty well, and that’s important to me.
Most of all, we’re healthy and safe.
Recently, we expanded our bubble and with much preparation and precautions, took our girl trip (including Griffin) for a week to The Greenbrier. We book a house there, with a private patio–so the six of us (with Griffin as 7) made a bigger bubble.
Having a week away, with girls and the boy (and the ghosts) was just incredible. We didn’t, as we have in the past, go out to dinner, haunt the shops. We just hung out, played cards, sat on the patio, entertained our young male companion. We went for walks–with our masks.
Speaking of bubbles, I got our boy a little bubble maker. A huge hit, and a break-through for a toddler who’s spent about 1/4 of his life now in his own bubble with his parents, in his own home and yard.
Who are all these people???
I brought bubbles and bowling pins, and they really did the trick.
The house spirits took to him, big time. In fact, one day when his mom was elsewhere, he had a toddler meltdown, raced down the big hallway on our main level, face-planted.
Life, as he knew it, was over for the moment. As he stayed face-down wailing–not hurt, pissed–I heard a woman’s voice–very calm and soft speak to him from farther down the hall. I thought it was my pal JoAnne, as only she and Sarah–whom I could see right there on the chaise were around. Then I saw Jo come in from the patio.
So, some motherly ghost offered him a little comfort.
They also enjoyed Kayla who joined us for her first adult girl trip. One night she fell asleep watching something on her laptop, earbuds in. When she woke, earbuds still in, her laptop was closed and set safely aside.
She thought I’d done it.
Jo and I worked out every morning, then joined the rest of the gang. Hot days at first, but Griffin entertained himself and us with his tub of water, measuring cups and pitchers. The boy loves water, and has most excellent hand/eye coordination.
Our highlight was taking two private–just our group–classes. The first on glass-blowing. I’ve always been fascinated with the art, and while eager to try, had low expectations of what I (or really any of us) could do.
Except maybe Kat, because Kat. And possibly Laura who is a crafty girl. But we had the fabulous, skilled and adorable Max as our instructor. No one could have been more delightful, safe and more articulate as a teacher.
Kayla went first, and wanted to make a glass ornament–a globe. I think of them as witch balls. She chose her colors, and Max walked her through the process first, then worked with her on the creation.Stunning really to watch him gather the glass, watch him help her roll it through the colored fragments, watch her blow through the pipe so that globe became.
She did beautifully. And ended up making two.
Sarah wanted to make a paperweight, a different process. She wanted to make on filled with fire. For this, after the gathering and rolling, she sits in the chair, uses tools to pull the hot glass, then fold it back. Max heats it again, she repeats, repeats. It’s amazing. Then with other tools, she shapes it, smooths it, creates a solid ball filled with color.
In the end, like with Kayla’s, Max holds the pipe over fireproof padding. She taps the pipe (this is after she files the globe from the pipe–or makes that initial cut) and the ball falls into the padding.
It’s put away until it cools.
Laura–ambitious–wants to make a flower. Lots of tools used here, pulling, drawing out the glass, reheating, using big tweezers to shape and shape. Again, and again and you could see it start to become.
Honestly, I had the time of my life just watching.
And her result was just stunning.
My turn. I tell Max I collect paperweights, so I want to make one. And I want to make a garden in it. He helps me choose the colors, walks me through. It’s even more amazing rolling the pipe, gathering the colors, sitting it the chair with those tools. Feeling the glass pull out, fold in. Watching yourself shape that globe.
We all make two. Oddly, Laura, Sarah and I all have an idea–independently–to create a night sky. They do paperweights, and I want a chance to make a witch ball.
What an experience. Thanks to Max we have the most amazing memories.
We also have a private class for glass fusion. Last year we all made windchimes. This time we’re going to choose between making clocks, plates. Kayla wants a plate, and is going for a kind of tie-dye deal. Laura, Sarah and I decide on clocks.
So much fun! Such a variety of styles and visions.
We book another glass blowing class, but this time Kat and Jo will join, and Nana will stay back with Griffin. You probably know this is not a sacrifice for Nana.
Laura and Sarah make vases. Vases!!! Jo finds the idea of that molten glass too scary, so Sarah makes her paperweight. And Kat designs a bowl (free-form and so Kat)–Max is happy to help her with the design, and the result is gorgeous and unique.
I have to try the vase deal next year–as those results were also gorgeous–and involve SWINGING the pipe. I have to do that.*
We’re all pretty damn proud of ourselves and our accomplishments.
Best of all, we had a week together. And I had a week with good friends, my treasured daughter-in-law, and my oldest and youngest grandchildren.
Home again, rebooted, refreshed, and re-energized to get back to work, back to the garden, back to the kitchen, back to routine.
And feeling blessed to have found a safe way in these difficult times to gather with my girls and my boy.
Stay safe, stay well. Nora
*Note from Laura: we only picked up the vases and the fused glass just before departure so I don’t have a shot of Kat’s bowl or Sarah’s vase.
I also spent a lot of time taking photos and here are a couple of my faves.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Note from Laura:
Took this when I headed home from Nora’s Saturday morning. Nothing like muted colors and a dreamy scene.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
After a few fists-full, his parents wisely removed the thoroughly smashed cake before Birthday Boy got sick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.