Category Archives: grandkids

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

Montana – Day 11

Most excellent massage time. Warm! Tent flap open to the gorgeous view. The fan running inside the tent sounds like ocean surf, and my massage therapist has good, strong hands.

Back home, loose and relaxed to hang out, work a little—on the porch.

Then Jason figures out how to hook his computer and his HBO Max to the TV. We laze around and watch the terrific In The Heights. Manuel is, very simply, a genius.

Griffin dances through the opening sequence. In my head, too relaxed for otherwise, I join him. We love it—such a talented cast, such an important message delivered in the most entertaining of ways.

Warm family photo. Photo by BW

Then we scurry to change for our Big Sky Bash by the pond. Marigolds sit in little planters on the picnic tables. A sweet and pretty centerpiece. Ours, however, are gasping their last breath in the heat, the strong sun—and with no cushioning dirt to speak of.

Water me! Photo by Nora

I immediately commandeer Kayla’s bottle of water and dump it in. Almost instant, if partial, revival!

Lots of food to choose from, and our vegetarian gets a tofu tortilla. I take the pulled pork, thanks all the same!

Griffin is much more interested in the pond—and the little dock—than dinner. (Still a solid rejection of a pony ride.) But he can stretch out there and touch the water.

So hot (the marigolds agree). Photo by Kat
But this will help. Photo by Kat
Ahhhh. Photo by Kat

There’s some clouds gathering in what I think is the south—not remotely sure of my direction here (or mostly anywhere) but for now they cool things off just enough.

More water for the marigolds, and they look very grateful.

Maybe, possibly, potentially a storm coming, and since we’re done, we head home again. But we take those mostly revived marigolds with us. I’m going to find a way and place to plant them, and give them a chance to live on.

Ready for the ground. Photo by Nora

One of thee baby birds greets us on arrival with a popped-up head and wide open mouth.

Then The Daddy Dance never fails to entertain.

I sit on he back porch steps because the evening’s so pleasant, and the sky’s amazing. The breeze surfs through he trees, smells wonderful, feels even better.

I have to get my iPad for the camera as those clouds are rolling over the mountains in the southwest, falling over them like a layered gray and purple curtain. I see a lightning bolt, and the wall of rain. Farther west as the sun sets, it’s gold, then all those clouds are under-lit into a God Sky.

Storm’s a coming. Photo by Nora.

Jason’s out with me, and I fetch Kayla.

Photo by Nora.

Huge sky, so dramatic, sweeping with clouds—and different in every direction you look. The sun burns a fire between peaks as it slides behind them so we have a long, slow, changeable end of day. And the rain wall moves steady west and away.

Photo by j a-b
Photo by j a-b

Workout done on a bright—if WINDY—morning. Some laundry done and drying in that frisky air. Breakfast crew’s back. A hike on The Grizzly Man Trail’s on our slate for after nap time. When it warms up a bit more toward the forecasted mid-80s, I’ll get the marigolds settled. They look damn perky this morning.

Then it’s dinner at home with hot plate Spanish beans and rice—and—hint-hint—Kat’s toaster oven biscuits.

Nora

Montana – Day 10

Pretty day that promises even prettier as we head out to Garnet Ghost Town. Gabriella, our driver and guide, is as easy-breezy as the day. It’s just cool enough when we get there for—most of us—to want our jackets or hoodies, but oh so pleasant. I love the feel of this place, the piney air, the rising hills and dirt roads, the cabins and buildings that testify to this once thriving mining town.

Garnet. Photo by BW

It’s Kayla’s first trip here, so Gabriella fills her in—and I hit the little pop-up outside the gift shop cabin for some tumbling stones for the boys at home.

Kayla and Nora. Photo by BW

Griffin’s already taking off—the boy sees a road, he wants to travel it.

We can’t go into the wonderful and haunted old hotel or the general store—COVID’s slowed down some repairs and maintenance—but we can wander and climb and explore.

It doesn’t take long to ditch the jackets—and it’s really glorious just to be out in the warm and the sun. I spot some wild strawberries—just like the ones I’m constantly ripping out of my garden beds at home.

Wild berry. Photo by Nora

We meet up with Griffin and his parents, who—thinking they followed the right track—ended up at a private cabin’s drive. Fortunately the guy made allowances. Imagine living way, way up there, miles from anyone or anything but nature.

Griffin discovers the old jail, and apparently has an affinity for it. He loops through this cabin—out one door, around, in the other to stomp on little light balls from the sun through cracks in the roof. Around and around and around.

C’mon Granda! Photo by Kat

Climb the hills to view other cabins. I always imagine how families had to really learn to get along, and cooperate in this small spaces where a bedroom is tucked beside the tiny living/kitchen area and kids climb a later to share beds in a loft.

It’s clear Garnet is, for our outdoor loving explorer as delightful as Disneyland. I think he’d have stayed all day. And wasn’t pleased when it was time to go.

Family photo.

On the ride back, we see a doe and two tiny, tiny fawns. Mom and one streak up the steep and rocky hillside, but the other lays down and plays possum. We stop as at first we worried he’s hurt—but no—just scared, and he soon races up to join his mother and sibling.

Back home I decide to fit in a short cardio deal, and set up outside.

This is wonderful! The views, the air, the sun and shade. I smell the grass as I stretch down. Ahh.

Now I want some flowers. I plan to take scissors out and go around—out our drive, walk down to the narrow, high-grass area where the flowering bushes grow. I figure to get some of the honeysuckle looking bush, walk around it for chance at the white lilacs and some more purple.

However, when I get to the honeysuckle bush—which turn out to be tatarian honeysuckle—I see the bees—very, very busy bees, lots and lots of busy bees basically making it their own. I have a conversation with my bee friends: Okay, look, it’s a really big bush. I only one this one sprig. Just one. Do. Not. Sting. Me.

The foraging place.

Fortunately, they’re reasonable about it. But to get to the white lilacs, I’d have to test their generosity as the bush spreads clear to the other fence. I decide against.

Treasure allowed by the bees.

But I get some purple lilacs—briefly consider climbing the fence for the white—quickly reject the idea. Who knows what lurks in that high grass? But I find a couple other blooming things and make my little arrangement.

Finished! Photo by Nora.

Griffin’s napping, Kat and Jason have a couple’s massage—and I have the baby monitor. I sit on the back porch to work. Ahhh. Get a solid amount done really at my leisure before Griffin wakes.

He’s standing beside his bed, crying when I go in. Since COVID and isolation, he’s not as happy with me as he once was—but we’re getting there. He doesn’t freak that I’m not Mom or Dad but cries—just sleepy tears—on his way downstairs. Looks around.

And sees the cookie I hold out.

All is well.

We sit with the iPad and watch Sesame Street’s There’s A Fly In My Soup segment about fifty times. He finds it hysterical, and often calls out Waiter!

I give him black olives—the kid eats them like candy—some cheese, and he shares his happy with me. This is a good thing.

I think he’ll want to go outside, but when he’s done the post-nap snack, he decides all he wants in this world is the electric cord for the lamp. It’s one of the few things in this world his nana and his cousin won’t allow him to have.

The battle begins. He wedges himself behind the table with the lamp, and Kayla’s prying his fingers off the cord. As soon as she does, he grabs with his other hand—I should add there are many angry sound effects. The boy is strong. Seriously strong, and very determined to yank the crap out of the cord.

It takes both of us to detach him. I’m not saying fire shot out of his eyes during this battle, but if he could’ve done it, he would have.

We try to lure him outside. Outside is his favorite place. But he KNOWS we want him outside, so has no interest whatsoever. The cord, after all, is inside.

I try the little bubble machine, his beloved tubs of water and rocks. No dice.

Kayla says, try a cookie. Smart girl.

He wants the cookie, but seems to know it’s bait. Hard to resist bait. We get him to the back door, and I just grab him and set him on the porch.

Insult! Horror!

Meanwhile bubbles are bubbling, Kayla is all but doing handsprings to show him the joy of outside. He won’t move away from the door. Inside is all.

So I sit down on the platform of our hot tub and start playing with the rocks and water. He yearns. I can see it. We take the bucket and cup to the top step of the porch.

He caves.

Now he’s jabbering and conducting his experiments. Slowly, I move the bucket down to the ground, and Kayla and I won another battle.

He’s thoroughly happy now, playing with his water, playing in the grass, wandering around the big yard. And when his parental unit returns, there’s no desperate rush to them. It’s just like, hey, as he continues to play.

A very good thing for a toddler who’s spent the best part of 18 months with just that parental unit.

Ready for dinner. Photo by Nora.

Off to dinner—such a gorgeous night. Barbecue time with the barefoot keyboardist and his band. The sky’s just stunning, and it’s so nice to sit out without needing a jacket. At the end of the first set, the band gets kids to come up on stage and floss—or just dance around. Griffin’s been interested in the band, but he’s not ready to perform.

Sky drama. Photo by BW
Storm. Photo by j a-b

The sky goes dramatic—storm coming in. We can see the rain wall in the south east and serious clouds. It’s a sight—compelling, powerful. The wind kicks—the staff scurries to grab food off the barbecue area, and the band hurries to break down as that rain pours. People rush to the cover of the porch or inside, but the way the storm’s blowing we’re pretty sheltered in our pod. We opt to wait it out.

What a ride! Kayla and BW head for the hills (or the bar where there’s seating and some music), but the rest of us stay put. It rolls and blows, and the temp drops easily 20 degrees. But it’s just amazing. That big, big sky is one boiling mass, then it’s done.

Storm. photo by j a-b

Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Home again, and into warm sweats.

Daddy Dance—and it never get old.

Kayla, BW and I try some 500 Rummy, and Kayla once again takes the lead. Asses are laughed off, even after—maybe because—we learn we’ve screwed up the rules. Much too long since I’ve played this, but I do know: No, Kayla, you can’t play a two of Hearts on The Ace of Hearts after it’s played on The King of Hearts.

It does not, as she tries to negotiate, make a complete circle. But good try.

I nearly catch her—mere points away—but she prevails. She’s the Card Champ of this trip.

Bedtime. It’s been a long, active, pretty damn fabulous day.

Beautiful this morning—so nice to wake to 50s instead of 30s. Lots of sun.

Workout’s done, and a massage is in my near future.

Nora

#randomkatness

Montana – Day 9

An early start today a we’re leaving to visit the Garrett ghost town at nine. That means Sunday huckleberry pancakes for breakfast at the ranch before we head out.

Warmer weather and blue skies set the tone for our Saturday. Kayla and Jason have a good, solid riding lesson—time to practice working with a horse, getting to know a mount. Kayla’s equine partner is a bit stubborn, but she convinces him she’s the boss. Jason draws a sweetheart, a people pleasure who enjoys a good petting.

Girl in lavender boots meets her mount. Photo by j a-b

Kayla hasn’t been up on a horse for a long time, and the last time we were here, Jason had a fall, so this sets them up for our trail ride this week.

Ready to ride. photo by j a-b

Kat sets up Darts on the Switch, and Griffin laughs as if it’s the funniest thing ever invented.

I’m happy to get a little work in, then wander outside. There’s a big bush blooming with what looks like pink honeysuckle. Gotta get a picture, so next time I’ll take my phone out with me—and some scissors to snag some blooms.

Kat makes scratch biscuits in the toaster oven! Absolutely delish! She’s now honor-bound to do so again.

#randomkatness in the kitchen. Photo by Nora

Kayla and Kat have a date with the canopy tour so it’s off to get them geared up. And the horses are in the paddock! Oh, so pretty. One wanders over as I go to the fence, but it turns out he doesn’t want me to pet him. He wants to nibble on my jacket.

I decline.

I don’t think so!!! Photo by BW

A big bay’s more accommodating and gives me the sweet eye as I rub between his ears. Still my favorites are the gorgeous buckskins, both lounging on the ground. Several of the horses stretch out for Saturday afternoon naps.

Off to the ropes course, and into the harnesses.

I will always decline this activity, but the girls are more than game. There’s a little guy—maybe 10–with another group who also heads to the challenge course. His mom calls him out, points to the intermediate, so it’s just K&K for the challenge.

It’s up there, really up there. Swinging blocks of wood to balance on, wires to balance on like tightrope walkers, navigating from one rope to the next, a chance to play Spider-Man on a rope net. Kayla nearly loses it on one of the wires, but regains and continues. The stirrup section—seriously, hanging stirrups—nearly does Kat in, but she beats it.

Kat’s turn. Photo by Nora

Initially, Griffin’s concerned—or making concerned noises—when he watches his mom dangle and navigate way up there. But he’d like to try it, too. Daddy finds a way to make this happen—safely ground level.

Mom? Really? photo by j a-b
On the ropes with Dad. Photo by Kat.

Kayla wants to do the long drop finale. Climb up a tall, tall pole to the highest platform where the spotter hooks your harness to the drop line. Sit on the edge of the platform, then . . . Take the leap of faith. A quick drop, then a steady descent to the padded platform below.

Whew!

Both adventurers report burning legs and core. I bet!

Back home to clean up for dinner.

We note mama bird’s off the nest, so BW goes out to grab a picture—and yes, two babies—one who mistook BW for Mom and eagerly opens up for food. One egg left to hatch.

Feed me. Photo by BW.

A pretty damn perfect evening for outdoor dining, and three of our party go for the amazing smoked Gouda grilled sandwich with smoked tomato bisque. Mmmm. Before we eat Griffin takes his mom off for a walk/run. Of course, the water-loving boy finds a puddle to splash through.

And with the colorful gravel, Kat makes a Pride flag to commemorate the month. She’ll attempt the newer, more inclusive flag next time.

Only Kat would have the patience to create this. Comment by Laura, photo by Kat

We eat under gorgeous and sunny skies before Griffin takes me and Kayla off for a walk.

He thinks he has patsies. There’s an open gate to the next field, and jabbering, prancing casually, he aims for it. Kayla, says: Dude! and beats him to it. Undeterred, he jabbers and strolls on. He wasn’t going for the gate! Just wanted to stroll that way, bang on a pole, jump on the grass. Before he veers toward the gate again. Again, Kayla beats him.

Fine, fine, I really just wanted to hang on the fence, balance on my tummy, jump some more. One more casual wander toward the gate. Denied. So the fence will have to do. I’ll just jabber and balance, and hang. Then, slowly, stealthily try to swing my leg over the lowest rung.

Nana swings the leg back, twice, before he tries to wiggle UNDER the rung. Now he’s insulted as Nana hauls him back. The field’s right THERE. It’s everything I want and can’t have.

What’s Nana talking about? I just want to sit down! Photo by j a-b

The battle is brief before Daddy comes and hauls him back to the table.

Huckleberry ice cream! I can’t do it justice tonight, but still a couple tastes are heaven.

Home to hang out, to do the Daddy Dance, BW and Kayla start to watch a movie, but the girl’s worn out. Bedtime comes early.

I’m up early to a pink sunrise and the low wall of mist. Into the 80s today, and I say: YAY!!

May squeeze in a short work out—or not—before morning adventures.

Nora

Bonus Griffin content.