Category Archives: grandkids

New Year, New Page

A quiet, family New Year’s around here, and again no big open house with friends and family. Hopefully next year things will be safe enough for a gathering.

We did go away for a week—rented a house again to be safe—and stayed in. It’s lovely to spend that kind of time with family, and just hang.

The view from the house.

Lots of play with the boy time, jigsaw puzzles, a little work, room service—and a Nana makes spaghetti night. Griffin’s a fan of my pasta!

Busy boy.

BW gave me a weird, fascinating, unstructured jigsaw of a moose for Christmas. This would never, ever, never have been done without Kat, the Queen of Chaos. I helped, but she did the heavy work.

The moose

Griffin really enjoys the vacation space. One morning, BW got up and went downstairs before I set up to work out. I went down to get my caffeine and water, and the lower level is quiet but for Griffin, sitting at the dining room table watching Sesame Street on his iPad. Normally Jason gets up with him in the morning as Kat is on any night duty. (The boy occasionally likes to party at 3 am!)

I had heard what I thought was the boy and his dad tromp up the stairs at about six, and thought nothing of it.

I say hi, get my stuff, wonder where Jason is. Hunt BW up who tells me the boy was playing with his trucks on the couch when he came down. Huh.

I realize he got up, didn’t wake his parents, just came up from the lower level where they all sleep, and entertained himself until someone joined him.

So I made him breakfast, then left him under BW’s watch and went up to work out.

Once home, it’s back to work, and the start of my annual full-house purge.

Making progress! All the Christmas stuff is put away, and that’s an accomplishment. Weekdays are for writing, and progress made there, too. Yay.

I found a jar of applesauce of the counter Fri. BW hunts and gathers, and I cook. If I’m around I help him put groceries away, but he got home with them Fri while I was working out. He left out the applesauce which I decoded as a hint. Applesauce Cake?

So Saturday, after workout, after the purge of the One More Room (and organizing Christmas stuff), my office, I made the cake. The purging’s moving right along since I did a serious job of it the last couple years. And the cake’s a nice reward for both of us.

Applesauce cake!

Today, after workout, it’s bake Italian bread to replenish the supply, and get a tortilla soup simmering. Purge dining room and library while soup is simmering and dough’s rising.

Italian bread stocked up.

Snow—expected—starting falling about the time I took the bread out of the oven. Since we’re going nowhere, it’s very pretty. Falling faster and harder now, but still going nowhere, Sunday chores are done, and the house smells of simmering soup and fresh baked bread.

Tortilla soup!

Please stay safe. If you’re not vaxxed and boosted, get vaxxed and boosted. Our Laura’s had her hip surgery postponed twice since hospitals in our area are overrun with Covid patients—over 90% of them unvaxxed.

Take care of yourselves and everyone else, and let’s make 2022 a lot better than 2021.

Oh, and if you want to watch something to pass the time, check out Brazen on Netflix, based on my Brazen Virtue from way back in 1988! They did some serious updating!

Nora’s view of opening credits.

Good deal!

Nora


I’ll share some Brazen content tomorrow. For now, here’s an off camera pic of the stars.~Laura

The Busy Season

It sure has been around here. But happy busy with shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking. We do the works!

Pies, Turkey, All The Fixings and Family. I broke my own tradition this year, and decorated before T-Day. It seemed to me we can use all the cheer we can manage. So up goes the tree, out come the candles and strings of lights. Put out the Santa collection, the Snow People. And it’s time to admit I also collect Christmas trees.

Thanksgiving pies

And yeah, there’s a lot of cheer.

Thanksgiving gobbled right by. And that’s my signal to get up to my One More Room and start dealing with my personal department store of presents accompanied by gooey (it’s the season!) Christmas movies.

A quick and careful shopping trip with Laura to visit our friends at Saks (with Sarah for a day). Room service and evening hotel writing. Quiet, productive, and a lovely little break.

Weekends loaded with wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, gift tags until Hey! I can once again see the floor.

Nose to that grindstone during the week because I really, really want to finish this book and take a long deep breath before Christmas. And it pays off! Manuscript done and outta here two days before I have a little gathering for a handful of my (vaxxed and boosted) girl pals.

Mary Kay, JoAnne, Nora, Elaine

So nice to see everyone face-to-face, to just spend a day catching up. And since I have a day not chained to the keyboard, I can haul down the two Hefty bags of clothes purged from my closet, set them up on BW’s clothes rack.

And gone. More room in the One More Room. And that’s a nice side benefit.

The long deep breath includes a weekend with Jason and family as Kat leads this year’s Foundation Christmas party for a few local families. Deliveries again this year instead of in person, but Covid doesn’t dampen the cheer.

And I get Griffin time! The time includes a new favorite story.

He’s not happy when his mom leaves and it’s just me. Not a tantrum, but sadness that takes him to the door he’s thankfully unable to open to follow her. He sits on the floor in front of the door. I sit on the floor and sympathize. Then lie down, play peek-a-boo. He tries hard not to smile.

Then I see him look out of the corner of his eye at my little Limoges cabinet. He’s always fascinated by all those little pretty things. And is always denied access. Clinging to his boon companion, a little stuffed dog called Howl, he starts a butt scoot to the cabinet and the shiny little things.

Nana says: Uh-uh, Griffin, that’s a no.

So he shifts Howl in his hand so Howl puts his paws on the knob of the glass cabinet. Hey, I’m not doing it! Howl is!

Howl is also denied access, but Nana gets a good laugh, and gives the boy full credit for creativity.

Then I get out the bowling pins and we play, wild and happy, for a solid half hour before we head into Chase Me All Over The House–another favorite game.

The Santa gang brings back pizza.

Monday, dentist for me–and coincidentally Jason. Permanent crown now installed. Extraction (oh joy!) in February. Home to play another favorite game with Griffin, Bury Me In Pillows, before he and Kat head home.

Halfway through sophomore year!

And yesterday Baking Day with Kayla. Our girl is home from college (Dean’s List once again!) with a rotten cold. Tested for Covid, Flu, Strep, all negative. Just a vicious cold. But she’s on the mend, so baking it is.

Sugar cookie dough first and in the fridge. Chocolate chip, Peppermint Kisses, Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Blossoms. The house smells like a bakery (yum) as I play baker’s assistant. She does the work. I’m no longer guiding her little hands to help her crack an egg or measure flour. Those early lessons bore fruit, and she’s a wonderful baker.

At work

While she bakes, I make her some veggie bean and pasta soup.

We’ve got soup simmering, cookies in the oven, and Christmas movies on the kitchen TV. It’s pretty damn perfect.

Artistes.

And she and BW sit down to paint the sugar cookies as I roll out the dough, cut out the shapes. After a long, productive day, she goes home with soup and cookies. And I have more sweet memories in the bank.

The goods

I’ll start a new book today, satisfied that I’m ready for the Christmas that is just around the corner. And look forward to having the family gathered together to tear into that wrapping paper and those gift bags.

As we close out the year, and look to longer days with the Solstice behind us, I wish you all peace, health, joy. And hope you find all of those with friends and family.

Stay safe.

Nora

October Busy

It feels a little odd to be busy with activities besides work and domestic tasks these days, but October opened up for it with a long-delayed trip to NYC.

We were able to schedule it around Kayla’s fall break from college, so I had my oldest and my youngest grandchild on the trip.

We limo’d up, and Griffin made it clear he was born for limo rides. We didn’t make it down the lane before the grins broke out. Such fun to see his pleasure with the height of his car seat and the window so he could see out, and his delight with the colored lights on the roof.

The half bag of chips he ate didn’t hurt either.

We had the amazing Kevin at the wheel, and a good thing. Minutes after our half-way there pit stop, he noted a radiator issue. Not only did he figure out where to stop where he could find a part, but he got it, and fixed the problem himself.

Kudos to Kevin.

We arrive.

Griffin’s play room for the week.

Griffin clearly loves hotels as much as limos as he had to race around everywhere, happy to explore. We unpack, settle in, and since we wouldn’t be eating out on this trip, hit up room service. Laura’s with us, so a happy family meal, plenty of hang out time before an early to bed on travel day.

Up bright and early for a workout, clean up and dress for our first shopping day.

Kayla gets reacquainted with the view to the south.
…and to the north.

Kayla hasn’t been to NYC in some time, (she’s just a little excited!) and needs business casual attire. She’s in several clubs at college—including the Honor Society—and they have dress codes. My girl has mostly sportswear and sweats—and some fancier duds, but nothing really that hits that middle ground.

Fun for Nana! And it’ll check off a certain college student’s Christmas gifts.

We approach this as shopping clusters and earmark a group for the first day. A rousing success. Not always easy as our girl has a hard time finding pants to fit her Double Zero frame. And she absolutely, no question, knows what she likes and what she doesn’t.

I respect that! Plus, I can’t fault the girl’s taste. On the other hand, it’s like dressing this tall, leggy doll—and everything looks good on her.

Later, Laura and I head to Stewart Wiseman as she needs shoes—and the 8th floor of Saks, usually a Nirvana, didn’t reach the march. She finds shoes, and I end up with two pair of boots I really needed need but seriously had to have! And I’m taking Kayla back as I’ve found the perfect black booties that’ll work with those tiny skirts.

Shopping for shoes.

A fun day, despite a bit of rain. Then a take-away meal that suits all.

And cake! Amazing birthday cake. And just beautiful flowers from my sweet family.

Not one…(this from Magnolia Bakery)…
but two cakes. This one from Milk Bar — and proclaimed the best cake ever by the birthday girl.

Another day, another cluster. I’m also bagging a few other gifts as we go, checking off that list! Plus it’s really, really good to be back in the energy of the city. It’s definitely not as crowded on the streets or in the stores, and it’s good to see most wearing masks. I’m also pleased a pair of my new boots prove incredibly comfortable throughout the urban hiking.

Laura, Kayla and I head up to our roof terrace with snacks and champagne. It’s a pretty day, but wow! Turns out the wind is wild up there that afternoon. We end up inside with the doors open.

There’s time to play trucks—Griffin’s newest love. And another successful take-out meal after another successful day of shopping.

[Note from Laura: Griffin’s other fun game with his parents.]

I like working out in the mornings with the city view. A big change from my usual, and after, I can head downstairs and see whoever’s up and about. My editor, Leslie, is coming by—I haven’t seen my pal for two years. It’s so good to see her again, to hang out awhile, to have to hike along on our next cluster.

Also fun to have yet another girl weigh in on fashion choices.

From left: Nora’s editor Leslie Gelbman, Nora and SMP Assoc. Director of Publicity John Karle

A long successful day, and Kat’s put out a pretty fruit and cheese platter to welcome us back. Goes well with wine!

My agent’s coming to join Leslie and the whole gang for a pizza dinner. Again, just so great to see her again, and to sit and talk with my NY connection. We’ve all been friends as well as partners for a very long time.

Sunset over Manhattan

An Uber trip (not ready to use the subway yet) downtown the next day so Kayla can visit PacSun. It’s not only a favorite store, but she just interviewed for and got a job working there. Another cluster, with that in the lead, then back to midtown to walk awhile.

Throughout the week, we shop, sit and talk, play, and sample many cuisines. Mexican, Mediterranean, Italian. Kayla, our vegetarian, doesn’t go hungry. A quick stop at the toy store to find a little something for my boy, and we three girls enjoy an outdoor lunch—until it chills down with a stiff breeze.

Who can resist an alicorn? Not Kayla!

Time to pack up, say goodbye, then it’s the long ride home.

Back in routine after a fun week. Making soup, harvesting more herbs. And writing, of course, which rolled, really rolled. I think the week off seriously recharged some batteries.

Have to say goodbye to my Kayla who has to head back to college.

And before we know it’s it’s Griffin’s third birthday.

Immersed in play.
Portrait of a three year old.

Toys! Cake! A very happy little boy. He took two of the little monster trucks Kayla’s mom bought him to bed with him along with his beloved stuffed dog Howl.

He’s just as happy this morning, and has yet to put them down.

I’ll be making a pot roast later, likely harvesting the last of the basil.

Tomorrow I have to see a specialist who’ll determine if this tooth—next to the last, upper left, can be saved. Not looking forward to that, either way. My teeth continue to work against me no matter how nice I am to them!

Anyway, after that stupid busy work, it’ll be back to routine.

As we ease toward Samhain, I’m pretty thrilled so much of my garden is blooming—or as Kayla would say—vibing and thriving. I know it won’t be long until that first hard frost, so I enjoy those blooms every day.

As I close this blog, I’m listening to my son play with his son in the other room.

It’s a really lovely sound on a Sunday morning.

Nora

A Cranky Publicist Summer Recap

Dear FITS family,

Well, it’s been a long while since Nora or I posted here — as a worried Sue King mentioned in an email yesterday. While life has handed out a few surprises in August, we’re both fine. I think the slow, hot and humid days have made time blur even more than it did in the winter. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.

We were able to take our annual trip to The Greenbrier in the middle of July. Our little group drove down on a Sunday with two cars packed high — though admittedly with far less stuff than our May trip to the spa.

Ahhhh.

The Windsor Club concierge team greeted us at the lobby door, then walked us over to The Presidential Suite. One step in and I swear everyone (including the ghosts) took a deep breath and just let go of any tension.  I’d emailed in our dinner order so first night was a matter of unpacking, then sitting on the patio sipping champagne.

A tradition.

[It’s important to mention here that the first half of this post is very Laura-centric because on our first full day at The Greenbrier, I turned 60.]

Bright and early Monday morning, I headed to the concierge to go over a quick list of things before I stopped work for 24 hours (I gave everyone three hours, then would be off until Tuesday).   I finished my list and then she said, “Are you the person I spoke to about the special order…”

I held up my hand and said, “I’m the birthday girl, you want to talk to someone else.”  I felt a little guilty about it later, but in the moment I was very clear.

I was the only one with a treatment that day (because: birthday) so I headed to the spa area around 11:15. As I limped over (first milestone of 60 looks to be a hip replacement in early 2022) I decided to add a soak in a sulphur bath to help relieve the pain. Texted Sarah (who was playing Laura that day) to say I’d be back for sandals between treatments.

After the 90 minute session, I was relaxed and ready to soak. As I headed up the lawn to the suite’s patio entrance, I idly wondered what everyone was up to.

Opened the door and there were Nora, Kat, Sarah, Kayla and Joanne waiting for me in a wonderland of balloons and Happy Birthday signs, a glass of champagne at the ready.  (There are no photos of the moment, but these will do.)

That arch and my name in silver.

The Dining Room


Once I recovered from the surprise, I heard about all the strategies to make this happen. Apparently they were on tenterhooks until I left, but didn’t let down their guard until they knew I was truly gone.  Nora and Sarah watched me from the dining room until I disappeared into the main doors.

On Sunday, they’d smuggled the supplies into the spare bedroom and monitored my every movement closely so I wouldn’t inadvertently walk in that room. Which meant when I kept heading down that hall to make sure the hotel tech fixed the lock on JoAnne’s bedroom door, I ratcheted up their tension a thousand-fold.

On Monday, once I was gone, they sprang into action: Kat built the balloon arch, JoAnne created paper flowers, then herded Griffin away from the balloons. Nora, Kayla and Sarah blew up more balloons, hung up more signs. A frenzied 90 minutes for them. A calm one for me. <g>


I sipped champagne in the equally festive dining room and opened my gifts — my gorgeous crown came first.  Accepted the love, thanked them all, congratulated them on the fabulous strategies and results. Sarah and Kat said the decorations weren’t what the concierge meant earlier.  That was coming. 

I decreed we had to dress up that evening, then went back for a soak followed by a nap, before the birthday dinner.  The big surprise was a cake made with a recipe from my favorite childhood bakery in Brooklyn, NY (the now defunct Ebinger’s) — yellow cake with a mocha frosting.  And it was perfect.  Our superstar concierge, Lane, made that one happen when the kitchen initially balked.

After dinner, we drank – a lot. Finally I turned on a Spotify playlist and we danced for over an hour (which helped with Hangover Tuesday).  And so I turned 60.

From left: JoAnne, Kayla, Laura, Griffin, Kat, Sarah, Nora

Hangover Tuesday was quiet, but we did start the card games. When my daughter Clare called on Monday, I put her on speaker so everyone could catch up. Just as the called closed, she said “You know, my mom keeps it a secret, but she LOVES games.”

I’ve disowned her. Stupid games.

Sigh,

We traditionally have one day of work at Greenbrier, usually the Wednesday. On the line up this year was an interview with the German podcast Eat, Read, Sleep, filming a video Q&A for Little Brown UK, a photo shoot for new social media pictures and our traditional Facebook Live.  I was director and cameraman, the rest of the Smart Girls helped with hair and makeup, and we completed the tasks before our one dinner out in a restaurant. (The rest were on our patio.)

The remainder of the week fell into the tried and true pattern: workouts for Nora and JoAnne, some pool time for Kat and Griffin, reading and puzzles, champagne and conversation for all.

A kiss from Griffin.

The non-birthday highlight came at the end of the week: glassblowing with the amazing Max Clair at the Virtu studio. We divided into two session with Kayla and Nora going on Saturday; Kat, Sara and I went on Sunday. Kayla wanted to make a paperweight this year. Since she made a paperweight last year, Nora wanted to try blowing a small vase. Kat and Sarah wanted to do some more complex vases this year and I opted for a small pitcher.

Nora blowing hard while Max keeps a close eye on the glass.
Kat rolling through all the colors.

You know how things flow when you have a good teacher? I’d say each of us found that flow as Max gave us confidence to build on what we’d done last year. Glassblowing remains a group favorite and stays at the top of our must-do Greenbrier activities going forward.

From left: Laura’s pitcher, Sarah’s b&w vase, Kayla’s paperweight, Nora’s vase, Kat’s rainbow vase.

We finished the week on a different birthday note: ice cream cake for Kayla who would turn 19 after we returned home. Next year, she turns 20 when we’re at Greenbrier. We’ll see what strategies and planning bring for her surprise.

Then it was time for the party to end and head north.

Balloons down.

We tend to keep things positive here, but in recapping the summer I have to talk about the good and the bad.

Reality resumed on the way home from Greenbrier. JoAnne is Nora’s lifelong friend and business manager. While driving back they came to the decision for Nora and BW to announce a vaccine mandate for all their Boonsboro businesses. While some employees quickly got their shots this spring, others were hesitant. Watching the numbers increase over the summer, Nora and JoAnne felt a mandate was the best course of action.*

When the announcement came, some employees felt differently. Several abruptly resigned and left in the middle of a shift. Which meant the first week of August was a scramble to find replacements and new hires with JoAnne in the lead on the interview and schedule front.

That Greenbrier Ahhhhh? A thing of the past.

Things seemed to be steady when Nora and BW left for the family week at Nemacolin at the start of the second full week of August. Within 24 hours they received word of a two-alarm fire at Vesta. While the restaurant was closed on a Monday, a crew was in for cleaning in the morning. The fire broke out around 3:30 pm. Two of the residents in the apartments upstairs were home, but got out safely.

The fire has been deemed suspicious and remains under investigation at this point in time. Nora and Bruce have offered a $5,000 reward for anyone giving information that leads to the identity and apprehension of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

While the scene is cleared for repairs, there is no reopen date.

And there you have it FITS family: a rather fun and celebratory July. A nose-to-the-grindstone August.

What’s up going forward here on the blog? We shake off the late summer doldrums next week with teasers for Forgotten in Death followed by the excerpt from The Becoming over Labor Day weekend.

So stay tuned.

We’ll talk soon,
Laura

*Please note: Comments are not open to debate about vaccine. Nora and I have clearly shown support for them all along. Any arguments against will be deleted.

Summer Daze

I love summer. I like the heat, the sun, the sudden wild storms, the bursting gardens. I love looking out my window and spotting a hummingbird at the feeder, or hovering over my flowers.

Just yesterday while I was deadheading roses, one of these little flying jewels hovered a foot away from me, watching—like: What’re you doing there? Then zipped over to the roses, fed on two or three before zipping up to a tree branch to rest a minute. Before doing it all again.

That’s a summer bright spot in so many ways to me.

I love being able to work all day, get my workout in, then pour myself a glass of wine and wander all around the gardens.

Too often on these happy journeys I rescue a plant Parker has inexplicably pulled out of a pot. And yes, I’ve tried everything. Hot sauce, cayenne, chili powder, dog repellent, etc, etc. He will not be deterred from this strange habit.

BW is building me benches so we can put the pots up higher on the back patio. I’ve already either done this, or tried to block off pots on the lower.

The deer got through all our efforts and munched on a good chunk of Black-Eyed Susans, but I can take it as I have multitudes—so many I plan to dig up twice as many next year as the massive amount I dug up and passed on or transferred this spring.

We’re also going to dig up a whole hell of a bunch of my yellow flags which have gone insane in the last couple of years. They’re crowding out one of my spirea, and blocking the water feature. I’ve got another place in mind for some, and am passing the rest to Jason and Kat who also have a place.

These babies like their feet wet, and since when I planted (a few!) of them a zillion years ago where we have an underground spring, they’ve grown to like it too much.

I’m also enjoying my new patio fountain. Several years ago we were given this great big white stone urn. It’s lovely, but we had no clue what to do with it. We’re just not great big white stone urn people. Then I discovered these solar powered disk things you can put in bird baths or other vessels.

So we did just that. Jason and BW hauled the big-ass (heavy!) urn out of the pool house and onto the lower patio. Filled it with water—and after we’d charged the solar thing, put it in.

A fountain!

We had our little gang up Friday night for pizza, and swimming after. It’s so great to be able to get together like this again, just spend an evening with family, watch the kids have fun.

Griffin also likes the gardens, and wandering (usually at warp speed) around. This weekend he discovered the bench under the huge Black Walnut tree, and spend a lot of time rolling the walnuts Kat would hand him off the bench. Then bouncing them off the end of the bench.

He makes his own fun.

I love spending time on Saturdays weeding my beds, talking to the flowers, deadheading faded blooms to encourage more. It’s not a chore for me, but a total Zen activity.

And I’m rewarded on those walks with wine most every evening.

I hope on this holiday weekend you’re able to—safely—gather with family and friends. And have something that offers you the easy joy my garden offers me.

I’m going to close with the ultimate in Random Katness. Those who followed the travelogue know BW found some buffalo fur in our yard (then Kat found more). Kat, in her Kat way devised a make-shift spinning wheel. (She actually has a real one at home.) She washed and dried the fur, spun it into yarn.

And she made this.

It now resides in our library, and will make me smile every time I see it.

Nora

Montana – Day 16

Business day. We have a foundation meeting every quarter, and this one actually makes our spring session. Kat and Jason do the vast—I’m mean vast—bulk of the work. BW, Kayla and I vote on asks and discuss. Kayla also works on projects or finding them.

Griffin gives it up for a nap, and we get started. He’s up by the time we finish—these things take time—but we get it done. Now Jason and Kat will do the rest of the work.

Some packing and organizing. Two weeks is a long time for five adults and a toddler to spread out. There will be multiple Mom Checks of the entire house before we close the door.

But now it’s time to clean up for our last dinner.

Dinner with a view. Photo by j a-b

We snag our usual pod, and Alaska John takes care of us. Horses graze in the field under sunny skies, and—for the moment—a warm breeze blows. Griffin takes off on an adventure with his parents switching off. He’s not much interested in dinner. Me either after some foundation meeting pizza. But it’s just lovely to sit out in the air, watch the boy, the horses, be with family.

#randomkatness saving snacks division. Photo by Kat
Playing with letters.

It starts to cool, and we’ve still got gathering up and packing to do.

Back home, several of us are in or around the kitchen doing just that, and I happen to glance over as Griffin pulls open what was the cookie drawer. And pulls out—triumphantly, like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone—the 10-inch kitchen knife Kat sharpened. Housekeeping must have put it there during clean up.

I dive, grab the handle, surely shouted. Kat sees, dives, grabs. This boy is strong, and does his best to yank the knife back. I have an instant of terrible visions of blood and tragedy before we pry his fingers off—he’s even grabbed the blade.

Griffin keeps his fingers—no damage, no blood—and we put the knife way out of reach. It takes awhile for my heart to reach a level beat.

The last Montana Daddy Dance helps.

Cool this morning, and rain coming in. I expect we’ll take off in it—not my favorite thing. All packed up, and about time for those Mom Checks.

One last look. Photo by Kat

It’s been a great two weeks in a beautiful part of a beautiful state.  A fun and happy time with family—and that’s so precious. We’ve packed up memories as well as our things, and can pull them out again any time at all.

Nora


#randomkatness to the nth degree: foraged fur Photo by Kat
Using what’s hand to spin.

And a kiss from Griffin to close the travelogue. ~Laura

Montana – Day 15

Just a gorgeous day for a ride. We head out—sans Kat and Griffin—right after breakfast. I think it’s been about three years since I’ve been on a horse, and I’m looking forward to some time in the saddle.

Jenna and Indy. Photo by BW

Jenna’s our guide, and the woman who gave Kayla and Jason their fundamentals instruction picks our mounts. BW—the tall guy—gets Rio—a big, handsome blond. Kayla’s gets Indy, a chestnut, the same horse she did her lesson with. Jason draws a sweet-looking black called Oops.

BW and Rio. Photo by Nora
Kayla and Indy. Photo by j a-b
Jason and oops. Photo by j a-b

A stallion got into the mare pen one night. Result: Oops.

I have another pretty black called Rowdy.

Up we go, one at a time so Jenna can adjust cinches and stirrups. And we start off on a day sunny and bright, pure blue sky, and neither too warm or too cool.

Ready to head out.

Ahhh.

Our guide has the lead, followed by Rio, Indy, Rowdy, then Oops. Rio’s ready to go, sets a nice pace. Indy, however, just isn’t much into it, and Kayla has to work to get him to keep going. Rowdy makes it clear there’s an invisible horse between him and Indy.

Give that invisible horse some room!

Oops, however, is very into it and tailgates Rowdy—nose firmly planted to butt. After awhile of this, since Jenna told me Rowdy doesn’t much like being passed on the trail, and Jason’s having no luck convincing Oops to back off, I pull over, pause, let Oops go by.

Rowdy’s content to more or less plod—no problem for me, but at one point I urge him into a little trot to catch up.

Oops now has his nose in Indy’s butt, so Kayla lets him go by. He did consider passing Rio, but the big guy just gave him a look like: Seriously, bro? And he fell into his place and kept a respectful distance.

It’s just beautiful, and there’s nothing like seeing the forest and mountains on the back of a good horse. All the trees, the spread of lupine, the hills and peaks and green fields, all under that blue sky.

It’s just a lovely hour, and I secretly rename Rowdy as Zen because that’s how our ride together felt. He turns when I ask, stops, starts, backs up, very cooperative, and never once tries to sneak in a snack. He doesn’t hurry even when he spots the paddock.

We send some time thanking our horses and Jenna—and BW spots the adorable pony, Cookie. She actually turns her head and poses for the camera.

BW and Cookie. Photo by j a-b

Kat sends Jason a picture, showing Griffin discovering the cookie drawer. LOL. Cookies are now up out of reach on the counter.

Treasure found. Photo by Kat.
Cookie coma. Photo by Kat.

Back home for a little work, a little hang out, and producing our annual family panorama. Griffin gets busy tidying the lawn.

Annual pano .

Since I skipped a workout, I take a walk under that big blue bowl of sky before changing for dinner.

A happy meal in our pod—Alaskan halibut—yes, I believe I will.

And ice cream.

Halibut. Photo by j a-b

Back in Scotland I gave Griffin his first real taste of ice cream—and he pretty much pulled the whole cone to his mouth. I haven’t had any luck tempting him with a spoonful this trip, but try again.

Okay, fine, but gimme the spoon. Oooh, yeah, good. And he comes back for more. At one point he’s having trouble digging in and keeping it on the spoon, so I take my spare, try to help. Great! I’ll take both spoons! Then the fork I substituted as my own spoon.

I’ve got it Nana. Photo by Kat.

Oops, some fell on the floor. Well, waste not, want not.

Germ-opposed Kayla is completely against this. The rest of us laugh like loons.

Happy fam returns home, and Griffin is full of joy—and maybe a little high on ice cream. But he finally succumbs to the magic of the Daddy Dance.

Early to bed for most of us after a long, happy day.

Happy as a boy in mud and rocks. Photo by j a-b.

Today’s our last in Montana. We’ll do a foundation meeting during nap time. I’ll do some packing so I’m not rushed in the morning. Workout done, Griffin and his dad are playing outside. I’ll have to go check out the day before we get into meeting mode.

Tomorrow’s—final—blog will likely be late in the evening as I’ll probably write it on the plane and send it off after we land.

Nora

PS!

The intrepid Kat is making yarn out of buffalo fur by washing it, drying it, then winding it on a Sharpie!

I am absolutely joined to her hip when the alien zombies attack.

Total #randomkatness. Photo by Kat. (According to my Google lens it’s a Plectopera or a stonefly – Laura)

Montana – Day 14

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.

Adventurers assemble. Photo by j a-b
photo by j a-b
Kayla and Jason. Photo by BW

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.

Well, sure.

Of course, we’re only being instructed in the steps of making a ring, but this is Kat.

Nora and Kayla. Photo by Nora

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.

Kat in her zone. Photo by Nora

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.

From l: Kayla, kat, Nora

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.

Rocks are his business. Photo by BW

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.

BW action shot. Photo by Kat.

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.

Bed time.

Curious boy. Photo by Kat.

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.

Nora

#randomkatness perfection

Montana – Day 13

Shortly after breakfast, Jason and Griffin discover a buffalo pie in the side yard. Huh. BW finds, by the fence, a hunk of shedded buffalo fur. Apparently somebody got out of a pasture and came visiting during the night.

I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t happen to glance out the window and spot him—or her.

We head out to Missoula on as perfect a day as we can ask for. And such a lovely drive—hills and mountains, the fields—a whole field of white daisies! The river, the ranches.

And when we arrive, we hit the ground running. Kat and Jason walk Griffin—in his stroller—to the park. Kat will catch up with us. BW lasts through the first store—where I bag five Christmas presents, and part way through the second.

A boy around town. Photo by Kat

He heads to the park, Kat joins Kayla and me. Souvenirs! Bandannas are on our list, but we don’t see what we like, and move on with loaded bags. Kat’s spotted a rock shop so we aim there. But pause to browse as we’re girls with no men to sigh or check watches.

Hit a most excellent shop and just what I’m hoping for to find Christmas gifts for the rest of my circle of women. Mother lode! This is very lucky and exactly right. And I have two girls to consult on my selections. Does this look like you know who? How about this for so-and-so?

As I’m fortunate to have a pretty wide circle, I believe I made the shopkeeper’s day. But she and her store made mine. I love everything I bought, and think we chose very well.

It’s lovely to walk in the sun in a city with such good vibes. But nothing compares to the vibes in the rock shop. Oh boy, oh boy. I see an amethyst tower that calls to me, then a fluorite. It’s magic, and obviously waited just for me.

Photo by Kat

Everything feels good in here. Kayla picks out a couple rocks to take with her to college, and I can’t resist a couple more.

Left very satisfied.

A little more hunting for bandannas with no luck. A stop in another store. Wooden spoons. I’m weak for wooden spoons, so I’ll take one home from Montana—as well as a birthday gift for a pal.

Pun spotting by Kat

We start backtracking, and Kat texts Jason that we’re on our way to Biga’s for pizza.

The pizza’s so good here, and the staff is so friendly. Don’t miss Biga’s if you’re ever in Missoula! Just as we’re settling into our booth, stowing our bags, Jason and Griffin arrive—and so does a bee that stings Kat on the hand. Ouch!

Photo by BW.

While she pulls out tweezers—because of course she has tweezers—to pull out the stinger, I go to the counter and ask for a little baking soda. Make a poultice for the wounded.

BW arrives—he’d wandered to another section of the park for live music—and SURFING in the river. He has a video, and we’re all amazed and impressed.

Photo by BW

Surfing on a river!

Kayla has her first Italian soda—bet it won’t be her last. One of the counter guys brings out a little dish of berries and mandarin orange slices in case Griffin wants some. So sweet! And he goes right for an orange slice.

Pizza time!

Waiting on the ‘za. Photo by Nora.

We’re all hungry after our various pursuits, and eat well. Still some leftovers to take home, so good for us!

In short order the big van from Paw’s Up comes to get us.

Climb in, load up.

I haven’t had any trouble with motion or car sickness in the vans or the car so far. But for whatever reason, this ride back is really bumpy. Even on the highway, the van vibrates—feels like a train in constant motion and never smooths out.

Jason ends up queasy. I end up VERY queasy. No bueno!

Finally back home, and I’m pretty damn car sick. The ground under me and the air don’t help, so give it up, lie down.

I—thank you, Jesus—go out for a solid hour.

Better, not all the way, but better. Have a stroll out to where Jason, Kat and Griffin are enjoying the back yard. Hang a bit, then walk around the house. And I report back that besides the pile of buffalo poop Jason spotted that morning, there are seven more.

I decide to track the journey of our bovine visitor. I see where BW found the large hunk of fur—we figured it itched, and he rubbed against the fence. Then I spot a smaller clump of fur. And follow the trail of pies around the yard to the last—the first one Jason saw.

I don’t know how much buffalos poop, but feel he spent some time grazing in the front yard. Hopefully, he’s back with his pals in the pasture.

We’re all wiped from the day and opt for room service. I’m not up to actual food though much, much better. I try a trick from childhood and eat half a lemon (Kayla is amazed). It still works!

But the lemon and a few salty chips are all I want to risk.

Kayla wants a Hearts rematch, so after an abbreviated Daddy Dance—it’s way after bedtime—we get down to it.

The match goes twelve hands—a short one. This may be because I took the Queen eight times in twelve rounds. Eight. Except the final hand where I had a stunning running hand, but just couldn’t finesse her.

And Kayla regains her crown.

This morning BW, Jason and Kayla are off early for a 3 1/2 hour ATV ride. A good day for it, and they have left-over pizza with them for a snack when they stop back at Garnet.

Workout done, some writing coming up. Then this afternoon, the ladies are doing a jewelry making class. Fun!

Oh, and just to add to Kat’s skills? I’m doing my core segment on my mat and spot a wasp on the ceiling. Mention this.

After I’m done, she pulls over a chair—as wasp is now on the ceiling fan. Armed with a big water bottle and a piece of paper, she climbs up, captures the wasp—in like a second—climbs down and takes the bottled wasp outside to release.

When the Walking Dead come, we’re in good hands with Kat.

Nora

Shining a light on you. Photo by Kat
Video of the day
#randomkatness with cheat notes. Photo by Kat

Montana – Day 12

Time for a little gardening on a bright summer day. First thing, find the spot. I have to figure if I plant these revived marigolds anywhere but in with the foundation shrubs, they’ll just get mowed down. Doesn’t seem right to bring them back to life for such a short, violent end.

Still, they need a little room and a sunny spot. I find a spot I like right in the front of the house, and Kat agrees it’s the right place.

When you have to wing it with the tools at hand. Photo by Nora.

Must gather my gardening tools, which consists of a long kitchen knife. The knife was so dull it wouldn’t cut through a lemon but Kat (this is Kat after all) sharpened it—with a rock. I’m about to undo her good work for the trio of marigolds, but she’s good with that.

She helps prep the spot, yanking weeds.

Meanwhile the swallows—also nesting, and with five eggs in the top corner of the front porch—are very displeased to have us working down there. We are roundly scolded.

Another nest. Photo by BW
The contents. Photo by BW.

Kat goes off in search of a good sharpening rock while I hack at the dirt with my kitchen knife. They use rocks for mulch here, so I remove those, pull out any below the soil, and in a reasonably short amount of time have the happy trio planted. Kat, sharpening rock in hand, dumps water on them from the coffee pot.

Making space. Photo by Kat

They look sweet, and should do fine as I also discover a pipe, so there’s an irrigation system.

Kat the intrepid. Photo by Nora.
Happy spot. Photo by Nora.
Close up. Photo by Nora

Kat sharpens the knife. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I want to be with Kat.

The ultimate in #randomkatness . Photo by Kat

I work awhile—back porch time. After, while waiting for Griffin to wake from his nap, I head out for a front porch sit with BW. It’s a show out front. A constant stream of birds—and we spot an eagle soaring!—plus our nesting families.

Posing. Photo by BW

The swallows take turns in the nest. One flies to the window frame near the nest, announces the arrival. The other flies off, and the newly arrived swoops into the nest. There’s often no more than minutes between the shift change. Mr. Robin seems to be in charge of the other nest today. Maybe Mom’s out shopping.

He and Mr. Swallow get into it briefly—Bird Fight! After the short mid-air dispute they go back to their corners and ignore each other.

The start. Photo by BW

Time for our hike. Griffin’s still a little logy from his nap and wants to be carried. Since the first part of the trail is STEEP, I don’t envy Jason this task. I keep in shape, but whew! It’s a quad burner and a lung tester.

Heading up. Photo by BW

Kayla—cross-country champ—all but dances up it. But then—haha—I am old enough to be her grandmother.

Up we go, and up and up. I have a great excuse to pause and catch my breath on this challenging climb. Wild lupine! It spears and spreads under the trees, takes over sunny spaces, dashes purple into the brown and green of the woods. Seeing all the wildflowers overcomes weeping quads.

Lupine on the hill. Photo by Nora

There used to be a kind of obstacle course along the loop, but we see they’ve taken the stations out. Maybe somebody got hurt. We see a few other people on the trek, and let one large group pass us. Happily, as remembered, the track levels off. Now it’s a kind of stroll through the summer forest, with the tender green of new growth on little conifers, more lupine, what looks like wild primrose to me, sun and shadow and wonderfully pine-scented air.

Google lens calls it a Woods Rose. Comment by Laura, Photo by Nora

We find they’ve left one obstacle—oddly what we’d deem the most dangerous—the tall ladder build into a tall tree and the thick ropes for swinging.

Action pose. Photo by Nora.

Now it’s down—and steeply. Mind your step! And down we go and across the road, over the little bridge that spans a stream all but buried in the tall grass.

Back home again to make dinner.

Kat uses her knife sharpened rock to whap the garlic for peeling, then minces it—SO much better than using a steak knife! She decides to leave her handy tool for the next occupants and uses a Sharpie to label its many uses.

She’s my girl when the zombies attack.

Spanish beans and rice obviously requires rice. When my girl first started coming around she was—sincerely—amazed we cooked rice in a pan. Where’s the rice cooker? She had no idea rice could be prepared outside a rice cooker—and I had no idea such an appliance existed. And here we are, the Asian Rice Goddess and the Irish Potato Queen making a rice dish on a hot plate. In this dish, you sauté the rice in oil with the garlic for awhile—stir, stir, stir, then add lots of broth—veggie in this case. The rice cooks in the broth, absorbs it, and voila.

I’ve made this dish plenty at home, no issue. But the rice doesn’t want to fully cooperate on hot-plate cookery. Adjust temp, add more broth—let’s give it a shot of this red wine. Progress is slow, but it’s progress. Add beans, add salsa add herbs and spices. Wait for the rice to give it up.

I’ll add I don’t eat rice. Ever. At all. And as this dish is spicy, Griffin and I will share a pizza—which as it’s done (toaster oven) and the beans and rice are finally done—Kat suggests I cut with the scissors.

This is brilliant, works like a charm. When the aliens invade, she remains my girl.

We have our meal, and it’s proclaimed very tasty.

Play time segues into Daddy Dance. Upstairs for the boy for nightly Story Time before bed. Apparently Griffin declared more play time after stories, and while Mom deals with that, Daddy comes back down.

Time for Hearts! I warn Kayla she’s going DOWN tonight, and her journey stats with a hard slam on the first hand. But Jason gets hit with the queen the very next hand, shocked to take her with a measly four of diamonds.

The battle’s on. BW takes the lead, Kayla inches back. Jason holds his own. For me, other than one bad hand, it holds pretty steady. Round and round it goes, until Kayla takes the queen with a five of clubs—a reprise of Jason’s early pain.

Down she goes, and I take my solid victory. There is no sentiment in cards!

Bedtime.

Pretty day today, and a trip to Missoula for shopping this morning. Going to squeeze a workout in—or try. Looking forward for the hunt for Christmas presents.

Nora

How does a boy get a purple face? All explained in the video below. Photo by Kat

Programming note from the Travelogue Editorial Desk: I close up the beach office and head back to Maryland tomorrow morning so Thursday’s post will be a bit later, closer to evening.

Will miss this view. Photo by Laura