Category Archives: grandkids

A november-ish update

November, how can that be? I mean, I know HOW it can be, but still am stunned there are 61 days left to this year.

Before 2020, Fall into the Story was full of bright, interesting travel, family and life updates from Nora along with lively book discussions. This year, while the book chats continue to bring up differing points of view and some charged opinions, the life section has simmered down to monthly updates with varying degrees of Groundhog’s Day (the Bill Murray movie, not the weird shadow day. Though I admit to preferring Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow for a movie about a day without end.)

I volunteered to take November. For those who love Nora’s own voice, I know she’ll be back with an update around the holidays. Today you’ve got the Cranky Publicist.

In Nora’s world, she and BW celebrated her birthday in the 2020 way — lots of virtual love and gifts by mail. Plus a visit from the ever entertaining Griffin and his parents.

C’mon Atticus, show me a downward dog!

Writing-wise, Nora’s immersed in the second book set in the world you’ll meet in The Awakening (out November 24). It’s hard sweaty work to build a world, but I sense it’s also daily respite from the stress of the world where it’s 2020.

Last weekend, Griffin turned 2! (Ok, if I can’t believe it’s November, I’m really having issues with Griffin and two.) He celebrated in fine style with his Nana and Grandda (and those necessary chauffeur parents). Word is he wanted everyone’s cake — especially Mom’s — instead of his own piece.

Yours looks more interesting. Mom!

Time for the first #randomkatness in a very long time! I know long-term readers have asked occasionally about the blanket Kat was knitting for Griffin. I have proof she finished it before the 2nd birthday:

One side…
the other.

In the Cranky Publicist world — outside of Nora responsibilities — my very first solo photo show opened at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro yesterday. When we planned it in January, the opening coincided with TTP’s Halloween signing. While events at TTP are canceled (the store remains open), the talented team at Gifts continues to forge ahead with in-person and virtual exhibits of interesting art from creatives all over the Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania area.

Including, it seems. Me.

As some of you know, I tend to take photos as I go on my daily walks. The pieces I chose for this show feature walks from 2018 until last month. I framed 12 pieces, then made cards and a calendar.

Framed, ready to go.
A selection of cards.
Outside the shop on delivery day.

And all will be on display/online until the end of November. You can see my pieces here.

I’ll close in the best way possible: a sweet little boy on a tree stump. I KNOW you don’t find that every day.

Perfect form.

As always, stay safe, stay well, and be kind.

Laura

Keeping on and keeping up

I imagine that’s what we’re all trying to do as we move into COVID fall.

Around here, we’ve got a routine going, and routines always keep me steadier. I’m writing away, and that always keeps me sane and steady. I recently finished next fall’s In Death—and no! We’re not telling you anything about it yet.

Now I’m working on Book Two of The Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy. Fantasy’s a fun place to go when reality is particularly hard.

Weekends are for cleaning, cooking, baking. Not much gardening recently as herds—and I mean herds—of deer gobbled up at last half my gardens. Nothing stopped them this year—not repellant, not dogs, not whirligigs, not nothing, not no how. Twice I went out and chased about ten away. And we have a good-sized fawn—still spotted—who has come right up to my kitchen window—three times—still chewing on one of my shrubs.

Despite them, I have some bright spots out there.

I’ve harvested, chopped and frozen in ice cube trays my oregano and my basil. I now have a couple of big freezer bags of both for all those soups, sauces and stews I’ll make through fall and winter. Rosemary yet to deal with.

Laura’s branch vase

Snipped a few flowers for the pretty vase Laura made me. The ones with the tiny orange flowers attract hummingbirds so I plant a good flow of them every spring. We have a couple of feeders which they frequent, but I watched one spend at least five full minutes going from one of these tiny flowers to the next the other day. He actually had to fly up to a tree branch to rest for a minute, then came back and did it all again.

They’ll migrate soon, and I’ll miss them over the winter.

We brought in my lemon tree—we’ve had a couple of very cool nights—and I picked the last three lemons of this crop. Sweet!

Lemon harvest


I also had some coleus volunteer in the river rock beside the pot where I plant it every spring. These volunteers must have popped up from seeds blown out from last year. I managed to dig them up and pot them. Am happy to report after a week in the pool house, they’re doing well. Nice houseplants, and a nice reminder of spring and summer.

Coleus ready to winter


And every couple weeks, Jason and Kat and Griffin visit. That’s the real bright spot. He’s such a little boy now, and full of energy and toddler babbling. One of his favorite games is to set up some barrier—a box, a laundry basket, whatever, then chase of be chased around it by one or both of his parents until he just flops down exhausted.

This little man is nearly 2!


Kayla is staying safe in college, and it’s clear from our Face Times (at least once a week) and texting, college agrees with her.

BW stays busy, and this week finished a project I so much wanted. He added lights to the built-ins he built years and years ago. It’s exactly what I wanted, and makes me ridiculously happy.

Cabinets aglow. (And yes that’s a portrait of Nora and BW as Rick and Ilsa.)

Today, heavy sigh, it’s back to the dentist (other than the magical week at The Greenbrier, the only place I’ve gone since March) for two more crowns. My teeth are the nemesis in my mouth. I’ll stop on the way home for a flu shot, then expect to hunker in, once again, likely until spring.

We’ll vote by mail. And here’s your PSA for the day. Vote. Vote safely in person or by mail, vote early if you can, but VOTE. It’s both your right and your responsibility.

That’s really about it from my home front. I’m going to relax in my clean house for awhile!

As always, stay safe.

Nora


Just a little fall from Laura’s neck of the woods.

Bubbles and Breaks

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.

Boy and his bubbles.

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.

Nope.

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.

Busy boy
Popping bubbles

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.

Meet Max

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.

Kayla rolling glass through color

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.

Sarah pulling glass with the tweezers

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.

Nora’s paperweight
Nora finally blowing glass after researching the technique in the 1990’s

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.

The group exhibit
Laura’s flower and paperweight

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.

Kat’s turn!
Laura’s vase

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 told him to hold this pose while I took some photos. He obliged. And didn’t cry, just posed.
Open door from the patio
Gorgeous blooms
Morning

So It’s Summer

If things were usual, we’d be heading out tomorrow for two weeks in Italy—Kayla’s big graduation trip. Bright side of this disappointment, is we’re re-booked to go next year. Something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, our girl has graduated, with honors, and they were able to hold a safe and lovely outdoor ceremony. I’m so glad she got that moment in cap and gown. Though her prom was canceled, she dressed herself up in her gorgeous dress for pictures.

Congratulations!
Elegant in aubergine.

Since we’ve all been staying home, we decided we could merge our bubbles with Jason, Kat and Griffin last weekend. It was beyond wonderful to see them all again, have some time together. A full fifth of Griffin’s life has been spent at home, with just Mom and Dad. A long, long time.

I could see memories click, bit by bit, and though it took him time to start warming up to Nana again, by Monday morning before they headed out, we got there.

The boy loves water in all forms. Nana bribed him with the hose. Nana is no fool!

If you press here….

This happens!

And he loved just walking around outside—took his Dad on several adventures. Sunday night the three of us walked out so he could see the solar lights glowing. Jason took one of my all-time favorite pictures of Griffin staring up at the magic ball I got last year at Greenbrier.

Wonder

Otherwise, it’s routine, routine, and more routine around here. Cooking, working out, cleaning, writing, gardening. And the annual Deer Wars. I was just out weeding and saw they’ve come right up the drive at the back of my house, mowing down Black-Eyed Susans and Purple Cone Flowers.

My dogs are useless here apparently.

Worse, they’re still (or Parker is) nosing in my pots. Despite hot sauce, red pepper flakes, vinegar soaked coffee filters.

Another battle in another war.

Still, the gardens look lovely—especially if I squint when I pass the damage. And my hydrangeas are absolutely awesome this year.

We continue to stay home, rarely venturing out. We did participate in the very peaceful—100% masked—protest in Boonsboro. I’ve lived here for decades, and believe this is a first. About a hundred people gathered for it, and that‘ s huge for a small rural town.

So that makes three times I’ve left the property since March 8–the others being dentist appointments. And all good there for now!!

Today with the weekend cleaning and cooking and baking and gardening done, I’m either sitting down to proof galleys or to give myself a break and read someone else’s book.

Stay safe, stay well, enjoy the flowers and the long, bright days of summer.

Nora

Staying Home

For those of us who aren’t essential workers, we’ve been doing a lot of at home this spring. Normally, that’s my favorite thing, but even for me this has become pretty surreal.

I know a lot of areas and businesses are opening. I hope everyone who does venture out is staying smart, staying safe, and doing everything possible to protect themselves, their families, and everyone else.

We really are all in this together.

I have my work, and am so lucky to be able to do work I love safely in my own house. I have lots of outdoor space–a huge boon–and the gardening.

Though I’m incredibly tired of all the rain!

But even with those blessings, I need distractions, activities, occupations outside the keyboard.

So I cook, and I bake, and BW and I clean like maniacs every Saturday. Having the house clean and ordered helps keep my stress level low.

I do some more serious cooking on weekends, too.

Soups–the latest, tortilla soup for me and BW, a veggie bean and pasta for Kayla. I made my pal Ruth’s Party Potatoes as Kayla and BW both especially love. So half went down the lane.

I made my mother’s pound cake, made cream puffs, because sweet and fun is a good antidote to worry.

Cream puffs

I tried my hand at tomato/basil risotto for Kayla. It worked! Yesterday, it was lasagna.

Risotto

I’ve baked bread, and learned Jason has taken up bread baking. BWscanned him my recipe for Italian bread–another for his new repertoire. I may do a focaccia later today.

The gardens give me incredible pleasure. However, a few days ago, I’m at my keyboard, BW is working outside. I hear him yelling. I assume one of the dogs has–despite our deterrents (soak coffee filters in vinegar or ammonia, let dry thoroughly, cut into strips, lay in the pots) dug in one of the planters.

He yells again, and a third time, which makes me think: Is he calling for help? Jeez! So out I go, hoping I don’t have to call 911.

BW’s fine, but furious. Parker hadn’t dug in a planter, he’d jumped up in one of the raised beds and gone mad. Just wild and crazy digging. Not just the plants, but dug so far down so fast he broke the underground sprinkler pipe, ripped out wires for the wall lights, and made a horrible mess of things.

So . . . He’s lucky we didn’t find a brick to bash him with!

Sprinkler guy was able to fix the pipe, BW was able to fix the light and is currently fixing the wires. We’ve piled in more dirt, and may save some of the plants. I’ll do what I can to transfer others.

And have googled home made dog repellent spray, and will make that up.

We can call Parker’s digging a very big distraction!

And no, it wasn’t moles. He wasn’t after some critter. He just decided to go for it. Such is the life of a gardener with dogs.

Other than that spot, everything looks amazing. It’s soothing and satisfying to walk around after a day of work. And we’ll fix what our canine ditch digger wrought.

Then there’s books to read, movies to watch, shows to binge. Good distractions all.

I’ve now colored my hair myself a second time. It’s ratty and shaggy and long enough to pull back in a tail. Coloring’s one thing–attempting to snip at it, a bit other thing. A line I won’t cross. *

I very much miss Harold!

I watch the videos or smile at the photos Jason and Kat send me of Griffin. I can’t find the words to express how I miss my kids, my grandchildren.

But I know they’re all safe and well, and that means everything right now.

I hope you’re all finding distractions, pleasures, maybe exploring a new interest or hobby as we go through this together/apart. I hope all of you, and all of yours, are safe and well and find blessings to count.

On behalf of me and mine, we send all our thanks on this Memorial Day to those who served, who have served, to their families for all they do, all they sacrifice so we’re safe at home.

Nora


*Laura will cross it.

Cut it all off.

Stay Home, Stay Safe

I know it’s hard. We miss our families, our friends, our freedom to go to the movies, a restaurant, go shopping, have a drink in a bar, work out in our gym, go to the beach or the park–and so many ordinary things we all took for granted.

But.

There are so many people–and some are friends, some are family–who have to go out, every day, to tend the sick, to deliver the mail, to drive the trucks that bring food, to work in grocery stores, to prepare the take-out, to clean, to provide us with safety, care and essentials.

For them, we stay home.

For our kids we stay home. For our parents, for our neighbors.

I know I’m fortunate to be able to work at home, to have land around me so I can go outside without putting myself or anyone at risk. I know there are many, many who aren’t as fortunate.

And still, even for the fortunate, it all wears down, stresses out, this constant repeat of days.

For me, staying busy really helps. It took me awhile to find my writing rhythm again. The minute I’d open my mind, it will fill with worry. But I sat at the keyboard every day, as usual, and kept trying. And I had a pretty decent writing week this week, so that eases the stress.

Doesn’t matter if most of what I wrote is probably crap. It’s words on the page, and the pushing back into the habit. I’ll eventually fix the crap.

Weekends around here have a new kind of routine. Maniacal cleaning. Scrubbing, sanitizing, polishing. (I’m sure I don’t have to add disinfectant is for cleaning, not injecting or ingesting–but I’ll say it anyway.)

BW and I have worked out a loose division of chores–which change as needs demand. It’s working just fine.

I’m holding on strongly to the belief that a clean house is a healthy one. If this is true, we’re very healthy here!

Then there’s cooking. At BW’s request I made spaghetti and meatballs yesterday. And while I was at it, I put together a kitchen sink vegetable soup for Kayla–enough to share with her family if anyone else is interested.

Red sauce with meatballs
Kayla’s soup

Busy and yummy work.

So Saturday was…

Strip the bed and get the laundry started. Get the workout in early because the day’s packed. Scrub down two bathrooms–BW took the third. Keep at the laundry–a shared chore. Make meatballs, make red sauce, make soup, get it all simmering. Scrub down the kitchen. Dust and polish furniture–we’ve got a LOT of wood in this house, and that’s another shared chore.

By the time I’m done, BW’s already working outside. And when I finish, I can go out, too, and get my hands in the dirt. Start putting in more flowers–wonderfully delivered by my beautiful local nursery.

Post delivery, flowers at the ready

This is joy–hard work, but just joy. It’s therapeutic, and satisfying, and you can’t think hard, worrying thoughts when you’re planting a faerie garden.

Coleus in solar pot — it lights up at night!

I can only give it about four hours due to the inside work, but it’s a lovely start. Today’s cool and rainy–the flowers will like that, but no gardening today.

And as I’m boiling pasta, Kat FaceTimes so I get to see her and Jason and Griffin. That boy is definitely living his best life right now, everything is happy, is parents are at his beck. And he waves and blows kisses at the end.

I can also see him whenever I like due to the pictures and videos Kat and Jason post daily. Not the same, of course, but a tremendous lift to the spirit. My favorite, so far, is his uncontrollable giggles over a Sesame Street segment where every time Elmo sneezes, the seasons change. He tries to pretend to sneeze like Elmo and laughs and laughs.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it.

My oldest grandson, Logan, turned 16 on Thursday. Hard, hard, hard not to see him, celebrate with him. We’ll make up for it when the world’s sane again.

Today, I’m making my mother’s pound cake–a family favorite. I’ll send half of it down the hill for Logan and family.

My workout’s done, and when I finish this blog, I’ll bake that cake. And since it’s raining, since my house is clean, I’m going to settle in with a book.

I hope all of you are safe and well, those of you at home, those of you on the front lines. And I hope you find the things–so many of them simple and ordinary–that bring you peace and some joy.

Nora

Be Strong, Stay Safe

This is a terrible and scary time. Most of us have to stay in our homes, losing the freedom of movement and society we’ve all taken for granted, well, forever. But we give up that basic freedom for the good of all. For our families and friends and neighbors. For strangers we’ll never meet.

Not all of us can stay home and safe, and we need to thank all those on the front lines. The doctors, nurses, interns, the lab techs, cleaning services, maintenance people, support staff in hospitals and clinics everywhere.

They’re heroes.

The cops, the firefighters, the truck drivers and delivery people, the mail carriers and all who leave the safety of home to help and protect us are heroes.

We have staff at Vesta and Turn The Page and Gifts going to work on limited hours to provide food for take-out, on line ordering for books and other things that make life for those of us at home easier and more bearable. At FIT, our Renee is streaming yoga videos from her home to keep that connection, to offer ways to relax. Our inn staff is doing videos of room tours, and posting on FB to, again, keep that connection, offer something to help people get out of their own heads for just a little while.

Heroes.

The teachers doing their best to send out lesson plans, to keep our children from losing progress, to keep their minds occupied, more heroes.

The child care providers tending children so those medical and essential people can do their jobs, just more heroes.

For myself, staying home is natural to me—but . . . I miss my grandchildren, I miss spending a fun week with my girl pals. And, like all of us, I worry.

Kayla’s missing the best part of her senior year—her last chance to run competitively, her prom, her moment of walking across the stage for her diploma. And the trip we planned for this summer, taking her to Italy.

And this sweet, smart, strong young woman is handling these deep disappointments without complaint. She’s sad, but knows how lucky she is—she told me so—to have a home, to have internet, to have books and movies, a family right there.

She’s one of my heroes, too.

I mourn for Italy, one of my favorites places in the world. I have dear, dear friends in New York, and am sick what this virus is doing to a city I love. I have friends with underlying conditions, with elderly parents, with young children.

I light candles—that’s my way of sending out light and hope and strength.

I have my home, my work—plenty of food and alcoholic beverages. I work out daily—it helps gets me out of my head. I have books, I stream movies—and when watching the news gets too much, I switch on HGTV, or turn to a book or movie.

A kitchen view

When the weather warms, BW and I can do yard work, something we both enjoy. I hope we can get annuals to fill out the beds, but if not (after my sad) I can divide and plug perennials into empty spaces.

I walked around outside—it’s brisk but sunny out there today—and took pictures of blooming things. It helps remind me that seasons change, hope springs, and we have to look for beauty to find it even in horrible times.

The Tulip Magnolia

Last fall I sliced a tomato, stuck it in a pot. And today, I picked the first perfect little ripe tomato. I’m going to send it down the lane with Kayla—she’s bringing me a few back-up groceries after her mom gets to the store.

Tomato.

Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies, so my treasures down the hill can have that little bit of love from me.

Later today we’re FaceTiming with Jason, Kat and Griffin. They send pictures and videos, and I gobble them up every day.

This virus is a bastard, and we all have to take it very seriously. We have to protect each other. I hope you, too, can find little things to do to help push away the worry for awhile. Spring cleaning, crafting, books, movies, keeping in touch with friends and family, playing games, baking, whatever works. Do something to ease your mind while you stay safe and strong.

I read a story about a young man who heard an elderly couple in the grocery store say there was no more bread. He told them to take the loaf he had in his cart. Heroism can be just that simple.

Social distancing doesn’t mean we stop caring. It shows we care enough to give up those freedoms, that movement, those activities to protect others.

This is long and rambling, but heartfelt. Stay safe, wash your hands (We’re going through soap and lotion like crazy here!), be loving enough to keep your distance so we can all hug again one day.

I’m lighting candles for all of you.

Nora


Note from Laura: With so many people away from their regular routines, I think this is the right week to start the FITS book discussions. I will start a post with the first graphic and add to it as the week passes (like I do with the teasers for the In Deaths). I’ll be using graphics some of you may have seen on Facebook because I have a backlog of them.

The first book we’ll discuss is Birthright. Look for a Monday morning post.

I’m saving my particular sanity with walks and photos every day. If you like to look at calming scenery, you’ll see them at https://www.instagram.com/lmreeth/

Frederick MD skyline.

Really nothing much

Winter queen Nora as fashioned by the fabulous Turn the Page Staff. The real Nora is staying home.

I haven’t blogged in awhile mostly because I’ve had my nose to the grindstone both professionally and domestically. So it’s pretty much boring, as in:

Get up, go to work. Check the news on the world maybe. Realize the news in the world sucks a lot. Go back to work. Finish work, go work out. Sweat is good!

Talk to BW. Perhaps have a drink with BW because I’ve had a righteous day. Eat. Sign books or do galleys if necessary. Watch something on TV as brain is very tired. So is body. Go to bed.

Get up, repeat.

On weekends, continue the full house purge–no excuses!–until it’s finally, finally, FINALLY complete. Bake bread, make soup or whatever. Shovel out the rest of the house.

Oh, a couple of dentist appointments in there. My teeth are my bane.
A couple of family dinners–with at least some on the menu geared toward our vegetarian.

Oh, a nice visit from same over a weekend when she stayed with us. Movies, on-line shopping for (gulp!) a graduation dress. And it’s so pretty on her, too! Help with purging is always welcome. Much happy conversation about college. When Kayla leaves the end of August, I’ll miss that girl like a limb.

Kayla visited her college a couple of weeks ago. She’ll be able to visit Nana in the library!

A delightful family Sunday including the constantly happy Griffin. He definitely likes Nana’s spaghetti. I don’t know if Laura can grab the shot of him off FB–I have no clue how to–but it’s classic.

Guess what? Laura knew how. Classic.

Work, more work–my favorite routine is sticking well over this period. I love getting solid, uninterrupted writing days, then sweating it off, getting my house in order and spending time in the kitchen on weekends. It’s my perfect balance.

Tomorrow I plan to go out into the world (or at least Boonsboro) for the first time–excluding the dentist–since . . . jeez, I think the February signing. I believe that’s correct.

The inn’s having an art show with one of my very favorite artists, Claire Hardy. Since I’ve just redone our bedroom I believe I have a spot for a new painting.

Flowers by Claire Hardy.

Then, my hope is to continue to basic and boring right up to the girl spa in April.

Then spring happens. I’ll be ready for it!

Nora

Tabula Rasa

Who doesn’t like a blank slate?

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

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

But first, we had to end the old year.

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

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

Yes, I said 108.

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

And here’s Sarah.

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

But this doesn’t happen.

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

Cousins

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

We drink champagne while everyone pitches in.

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

Concentration

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

Naked eggs — de-shelled perfectly.

Jason–who had a show rehearsal–arrives.


…24 hours earlier

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

The saga is thus:

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

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

MALFUNCTION!!

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

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

It’s still there, so okay.

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

Now WTAF!!!!!!!

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

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

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

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


Back to prep day

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

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

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

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

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

Clean boy.

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

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

Crudite names

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

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

Buffet
No longer naked eggs
Healthy start to 2020

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

Yay!

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

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

[Laura Knows All: www.katpong.com]

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

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

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

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

Nora


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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s nice to know she’s human. <g>

Laura

The Most Wonderful Time

And it has been–almost all the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla and Colt with egg.

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

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

A mandatory photo break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora


Note from Laura:

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