Category Archives: grandkids

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.

December? Seriously?

November blurred by, and now December’s decided to blow in with wicked winds, chilly rain and gloom. I’m hoping that improves.

For all its speed, November was pretty packed around here–which may be why it seemed to whiz.

BW and I had our November week at the spa–joined for a couple days this year by Jason, Kat and the ultra-adorableness of Griffin. Kat was invited to participate in Nemocolin’s Nov-Feb art show! She brought up the paintings she chose for it–it’s an animal theme–and they’ll hang until February.

Kat’s menagerie.

We’re so proud of her! And her talent gave us more Griffin time.

This is always a working trip for me so that’s early workout, then butt in the chair until mid afternoon. A reward of a lovely treatment, then a meal someone else cooked.

Always a good deal.

Home again, and a lovely Sunday at a sweet baby shower for me.

And boom, it’s Girls’ Night Out in Boonsboro. Always a fun time–and a little extra special as Kayla joined us. Serious fun to hit some of the Main Street shops with my girl.

Blink, and it’s time to prep for Thanksgiving.

Pies! Pretzel rolls! All baked on Wednesday. Apple sauce, cranberry sauce–also on Wednesday’s list.

Baking done!

And Thursday’s the cooking extravaganza. A little different this year as my girl’s now a vegetarian. So in addition to my traditional sausage stuffing I did an apple and raisin stuffing (dressing) with veggie broth in a casserole. And a lot of roasted veggies I hadn’t tried before.

Kayla wasn’t coming around until Friday, for leftover and pie (especially pie) but I wanted her to have plenty of choices. And Kat and Jason made a vat of mac and cheese as it’s one of her favorites.

I made roasted beets! And am very glad I looked up how to peel those suckers so learned to use gloves and a plastic cutting board. It’s CSI time with beets. But Jason–very fond of them–gave the finished product a thumb’s up.

Thanksgiving buffet

We had so much food we set it up buffet style rather than on the table.

Griffin’s private buffet.

Griffin and the dogs continue their love affair. In fact when he woke up in the middle of the night on Thursday, they raced up to make sure his parents weren’t torturing him. And that, at 1:30 a.m. was that. I come out when I hear the whole gang troop down the stairs.

Atticus and his boy, a love story.

The dogs in heaven with some middle of the night play. Griffin–toddling now–drunkenly walking across the room to them. Daddy keeping the dogs relatively calm, Mama patiently reading the boy his Baby Shark book until he finally gives it up.

I make sure to shut the dogs in our bedroom.

Twice before the little family gets up on Friday morning I have to stop Atticus from heading up. I literally hear him sigh when I catch him and say: Nope.

More Griffin time for me on Friday. Jason and BW haul all the Christmas stuff up from the storage shed. It’s early decorating for me as this is my only free weekend.

And here’s Kayla for those leftovers. More thumb’s up (not the beets, but everything else.)

When Jason and his fam pack up to head home, Kayla stays awhile and helps me decorate. She’s off to NY for a cross-country run. (Brr!)

I finish it up, and enjoy having my house look so festive.

Yesterday a four-hour wrapping marathon with wonderfully silly Christmas movies.

Today, workout done, I’m sneaking in time to write this. If Kayla has any energy left after her whirlwind trip to The Bronx and her run, she’ll come up and wrap for me. Otherwise, I’m back at it.

Then I pack for our annual girl holiday trip. Two days of shopping, champagne and girl pals. A lovely way to kick off the season.

December’s packed, too. Our Holiday Signing’s next Saturday, an annual party next Sunday. I have my tooth implant replacement on Monday–ugh. This is the dark spot in a bright month, but it’ll be–hopefully–over and done as there are two more events that week.

I expect Christmas to come rushing at me, but I’m ready for it.

Nora

This, That, Plus a Whole Lot More

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Mavis-style shoe from the shopping trip.

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

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

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

Colt is dazzled.

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

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

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

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

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

That makes a most excellent girl day.

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

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

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

Got it!

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

One year later.

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

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

Captain Griffin
Dread Pirate Roberts deals with the unruly crew.

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

Meg Tilly, Jason, Dread Pirate Roberts

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

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

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

The A Team

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

Nora

Catching Up, Buckling Down

At least that’s what I’ve tried to do since getting home from a really lovely, fun, relaxing and adventurous holiday.

Because our summer schedule was packed, we found the only weekend we could manage our annual summer party was the weekend right after we got home.

Yikes!

But we pulled it off with Jason and BW doing the manly outdoor set up and Kat, Kayla and I doing our girl thing in the kitchen. As always Kayla made a pretty–and delicious trifle–and stuck with her nana all day. What can I say about Kat? She’d left her carving tools at home–mom brain will do that–and managed to create a fabulous butterfly (Kayla’s request) fruit salad bowl out of this year’s watermelon with whatever she could find.

Trifle by Kayla
Healthy food too!

A good day with perfect weather, lots of food, lots of friends and family. A really nice way to ease toward the end of summer.

We followed that up–bam-bam–with our September signing at Turn The Page. Scheduling conflicts had my pal JoAnne playing Jason, our wonderful Sarah standing in (and standing is required!) for Laura.

JoAnne, Nora, Sarah

Griffin assisted his mom at the register.

Just up from a nap.

BW left after the signing for his guy week at the beach. Me, I hit my late-summer-shabby garden for some much needed work. I lost count of the number of tubs I filled with weeds and bloomed off flowers.

Then I buckled down for a week of solitude and serious work.

My reward? Finishing the 51st In Death–and no, you don’t get the title yet!

Secondary reward–gobbling up King’s new book, The Institute.

And now, it’s flow back into routine, with Laura back from her adventure in the UK–what a wonderful and fascinating trip she and her dh had.

A new book to start for me while I watch the leaves start to turn and fall outside. I’m going to harvest at least some of my herbs today. That’s a process I find rewarding and sad. Rewarding that I grew those suckers and will now have cubes of them to pop into soups, stews and sauces all winter. Sad because it signals the end–or nearly–of my garden.

For now, we still pick tomatoes and peppers off the vine and bush, and I snip a few blooms to bring indoors. But it’s nearly over, nearly time to put the gardens to bed.

And soon I get to spend a week with Griffin and Company in New York. Our boy’s on the edge of walking, and remains the world’s happiest baby.

But now, it’s time to work out, then harvest those herbs.

Nora


Note from Laura: Our adventure was my husband’s dream trip with some wish list items of my own thrown in. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that the hash tag probably shouldn’t have been #lauraandmarksbigadventure but #canthatsmilegetbigger

I did write out a trip long recap but mainly sent back daily photos as we traveled from Edinburgh — where we stayed at the other end of a much-less-crowded-than-Festival-month Royal Mile.

Then on to a town named Reeth (a familiar name) in the Yorkshire Dales.

Down to Windsor for a delightful visit with the lovely Sarah Morgan and her husband.

On to London.

Then we sailed home to New York.

And now it’s back to regular programming!

Mayo, Day Eighteen

Our last day in Ireland is a full and fun one. Glowering skies, bits of blue coming and going as Kat drives us to Killursa Church. 

We go our windy way as the boy sings his traveling song. Happily, it stays dry, and we find the pretty church and cemetery. 

The direction of the drive. Photo by Kat

They’re actually digging a grave when we arrive, using pick and shovel in the rocky ground. 

Photo by Kat

I love visiting Irish cemeteries as they often make gardens in the plots to remember their loved ones. Spreading purple lobelia, bold red begonias, even hydrangeas covering graves where people leave momentos—poems, photos, and in one case a little thatched roof cottage.

There’s a sweetness to that.

I see a couple of Sweeneys, and wonder if they were distant cousins.

Photo by Nora

The ruin of the church is beautiful, and it feels like the right kind of day to pay this sort of visit. Not quite gloomy here, not quite bright. And the dead have views of the green hills, the grazing cows and sheep across the road.

Griffin laughs heartily at something (one) no one else sees, and seems to make a friend.

BW is unable to resist and asks the gravediggers if he can take a photo. They’re more than happy to pose.

A pause for the Yank. Photo by BW

We head on to Ross Errilly  Friary, a massive, fabulous place we’ve visited before. We have this marvelously spooky place to ourselves.

Just inside the entrance is a newish grave with markers, flowers over the mound. We wander through with everything echoing with the spirits of those long-dead monks.

I always love the little road down to it, with the pretty houses and glorious gardens.

You could walk for hours here, inside and out.

Ruins. Photo by j a-b
The resting place. Photo by j a-b
A view from above. Photo by j a-b

Griffin wants the gravel, of course, and Kat and I take a break, sit on a low wall while he tosses stones or pushes them over a little stone threshold. At one point, he decides we’re not paying attention and tries to sample one.

Pay no attention to the gravel by my hand. Photo by Kat

We both give that ‘eeh!’ 

At the same time, and apparently loud enough to give him a serious jolt. His whole body jerks in reaction, and he wings the stone in his hand. If there’d been a runner rounding third and heading for home, Griffin’s pitch would have gotten him out.

Then he bursts into tears. Real ones, big, fat drops rolling. He’s: You scared the CRAP out of me! 

We have to laugh even as Mama picks him up to comfort him.

Wandering more, up stone steps, into openings, down again.

Peeking through. Photo by BW

BW, Jason and I are together when we hear Griffin wail.

Off we go. It seems he was determined to get another taste of gravel. We’re not sure if the wail was reaction—doesn’t taste so good after all—or insult that his mom reached in and took it out of his mouth.

But he gets over it.

We go out for the view, watch a big brown cow circle the castle to a feeder. And Griffin can play in the grass on the green rise.

Family. Photo by BW

One more stop on our day, and we’re off to Kinlough Castle.

It’s signposted, so we follow down a tiny lane that gets only tinier. Jason’s nav says to turn on what looks like a cowpath, but intrepid Kat makes the turn, and goes over a steep hump of a bridge to a gate.

She maneuvers her way off the road that isn’t a road, and stays with napping Griffin while we hike across the field of rough grass and sheep droppings.

This place, an old keep, looks as forbidding as they come. Glowering gray in the glowering sky. It’s fenced off, obviously unsafe, so we stay back and just study it.

The facade alone says Keep Out. Photo by j a-b
A bottom to top pano. Photo by j a-b

I wonder if it was more welcoming once, or if it always had this dour look to it. It’s fascinating, must surely be haunted. I’m surprised if the sheep wander very close.

Back we go for Kat to prove her masterful skills. The only way to get out is for her to back up over that hump of a bridge.

Jason goes out to help guide her. The you’re too close to something signal shrieks the whole time as there’s about room enough for another coat of paint on either side of the stone walls of the bridge.

The warning red lights surround the view on the screen—Griffin sleeps on—and Kat just slides between the walls and over the bridge.

Back we head for a snack, for packing. Griffin wakes to visit and play.

We have dinner at Cullen’s where Griffin decides our waitress is the best ever. Every time he sees her he laughs, squeals, grins. She play the game back at him.

I walk him out once to take the air, and he’s thrilled to see her again.

Then he conks on the bench for a bit.

After a fine meal, I give the boy a mash-up session while Kat packs and Daddy takes turns entertaining the boy before bedtime.

A quiet night’s sleep, a short workout on a rainy morning.

We’re packed and about ready to head to the airport.

It’s been a long, lovely time. 

Last family selfie.
A final look. Photo by Kat

Nora

Mayo, Day Seventeen

The rain’s steady but gauzy thin when we set out. Our boy laughs, delighted with the way the wind blows the wet into his face.

It’s all cool and fresh as daisies.

Rain is fun! Photo by Kat

BW’s done some research, and there’s a ruin nearby we’ve never been to. Kat handles the ribbon of road as if she’d been born to it.

The world’s misty and wind’s kicking up. And that’s as lovely in its way as sunshine. We change from our ribbon of a road to a thread of one, passing cattle and sheep, then a gaggle of geese we pause to let cross the road.

We come to a gate with a sign reminding us to close it behind us, and now the thread becomes a cow path, winding and climbing with the hedgerows close enough to brush.

Muddy trek. Photo by Nora

Inishmaine Abbey sits on a rise above Lough Mask, a beautiful situation in the green fields where black-faced sheep watch us warily as we walk.

The lake’s gorgeous and wide, steely-colored under the layered sky. With the tide low, you see rich brown silt at the edge.

In we go to wander about, to wonder at the stone niches, the carvings. The boy prefers to sit and play in the gravel.

What gravel, Grandda? Photo by BW

And the flock of sheep all turn to face us as if posing.

First line of defense, though Murray (on far left) is distracted. Photo by j a-b

Kat says this is the Ireland she remembers, all misty rain, spreading wet green, gray stone ruins.

I see the geese gliding over the water,  a little boat doing the same, and hills rising into the troubled sky. It’s all a painting come to life.

Lough Mask still life. Photo by BW

Across the field to the next building, and—carefully—up the curving stone steps. The view is breathless, and even with the gloom, you can see for what seems miles and miles.

Sheep in the meadow. (When they aren’t defending.) Photo by Kat.
Thin view. Photo by j a-b
Pano time! Photo by j a-b
Grownups! I wasn’t ready! Photo by kat

We enjoy every minute before we walk back to the car.

On the way out, there’s a herd of cows right by that cow path, reclining. Kat wants a picture, and as BW obliges her, the big cow close to the car gets to her feet.

Kat says: Close enough! And drives on.

Second line of defense. Whatchu lookin’ at? Photo by BW

Into Ballinrobe for lunch at Flannery’s. It’s just right, warm and dry and welcoming. I’m going to share the barbecued beef bap with the boy as I know I can’t eat it all, and want a taste. We couldn’t finish it between us, but both enjoyed what we could manage. [Ed. Note: in the first edition of the post I had nap from Nora’s copy and it was too early to figure out what that meant. Mystery solved! Spell check struck again. A bap is a lbread roll sandwich. Thanks all! ~Laura]

Lunch place. Photo by Kat

We take a wander around town, end up at Divine Bakery. And it is, no question, divine. The scents alone are swoon-worthy. We get a couple of pastries to divide up later.

And we note Divine is right next door to the town dentist.

It seems apt.

It’s a friendly town with locals smiling and saying hello as we pass.

We’re heading next to Glebe Stone Circle, and the boy drifts off to sleep.

It’s sign posted, but you can’t drive to it. Kat finds a safe spot to pull off the road, and opts to sit in the car with Griffin as he naps while the rest of us walk—carefully again—up the surprisingly busy little road to where you cross into the field.

More carefully as a lot of sheep and cattle have been here. Watch your step!

The little dance is on the highest point of the field—and fenced off, I think to keep the livestock out. A huge limb has come down from a big tree, and has fallen right between two stones, then against the fence and out. It still has leaves and prickly little fruit on its upper branches.

Force of nature. Photo by j a-b

As with the abbey it seems this is the kind of day to see these sites, the the air damp and misty, the gray and the green soft and velvety.

I admire the stone fences dividing the fields—my people who came from Ireland and Scotland were farmers, and stone masons. As a boy my own father worked with his building stone walls in D.C. that still stand. So it’s sentiment along with admiration for me.

Son and mom. Photo by BW

Back to the car where the boy still sleeps, and home again.

He wakes a short time later, and Kat, hoping to finish her painting, asks if I can watch him for a bit.

Can I!

As it happens I’d been about to go for a walk, and now I’ll have Griffin for company. 

The rain’s stopped, though the air’s still rich and damp.

I walk with him through one of the stone arches and into the magical woods. It’s deep and green and quiet. But after a bit, all the boy wants is to sit on the damp dirt path, play with the dirt and the leaves on the ground—and admire his filthy hands.

Since he makes no move to eat any this time, we can play this game awhile.

I take him back to the grass, and this is another happy time for him. Back we walk to cap our adventure with a round of mash-ups.

We had a fine little time. And Kat finished her painting.

Stunning.

Time to clean up. The castle’s offered to drop us off at Lydon’s in Cong where we’ll have dinner. Our driver tells us to order the chocolate brownie promising we won’t be disappointed.

The place is busy and bustling for a reason. Good food, good wine, happy service. Kat walks Griffin around outside, down to the river, out in the quiet sunlight that’s broken through the day while we wait for our meal.

The boy’s sharing my sea bass, and likes the mushroom and artichoke risotto. A lot.

I’m not a fan myself, so didn’t taste it first. He’s eating mushrooms like candy.

And all at once, without a sound or complaint he begins to expel streams of risotto. I’m quick enough to catch most in my hand—which occurs to me later is such a mom reflex. Here, let me catch your puke, baby, so it doesn’t get all over you.

He’s not the least bit upset, but Mom and Dad take him off to wash up and change. My hand didn’t catch it all.

BW samples the risotto, which he deems delish—but very rich. Too rich for our boy, apparently.

He comes back, cheerful as ever, and has a little chicken and some chips which work far better.

And we order the chocolate brownie, which is, seriously, an orgasm on a spoon. No chocolate for the boy tonight, but a taste of vanilla ice cream.

We walk home, walk off the meal, and take the path along the river, into the woods in all that gorgeous softening light. We pass a fisherman with his evening catch, and see more still casting their line in the River Cong.

It’s more beautiful than ever now, hints of gold flickering on the water, the sky moving to twilight, the woods deepening toward night—full of secrets, no doubt—and the path soft from the day’s rain.

And ahead, the castle’s lit, amber glows in windows, its silhouette regal against the night sky, the lake glimmering, just a bit.

Welcome back. Photo by BW

A lovely day in Ireland, just as it should be.

The wind’s fiercely vocal when I workout, and I see the sky’s layered again. But where it thins, blue peeks out, and bits of sun push through. Before I’m done, the light’s brightening at the horizon, and begins to bleed its way up.

I see three people standing and talking, and wonder did they travel together, or have they just met and share conversation on a pretty morning.

The boy comes to visit before his morning nap and gets a thrill as I’m actually doing a mash-up. Kat warns he might now expect me to get up and dance whenever I play them for him.

We’re going to head out again—sun’s out some—when he wakes so we can pack more into our last day in Ireland.

Nora


in today’s #RandomKatness:

Finished.

Mayo, Day Sixteen

The world’s full of drama outside the windows. Wild wicked wind that howls as it whips the trees and sends the fountain water spewing sideways. 

It whistles, sings, with thunder occasionally rumbling to add some fierce. BW spots a woman walking one of the paths who holds her umbrella horizontally toward the water.

I think, however she aims it, it’ll not do much good out there.

From inside,  cozy, dry and warm, it’s a terrific show.

The dry view. Photo by BW

Our plan for the day is to burrow inside. 

I pay a visit to JK&G’s room to see the progress on Kat’s painting. She’s adding falcons!

I don’t know if my snap of the progress shows the beginnings of them—in white on the sky—but her greenery’s taking shape.

This serves as today’s #randomkatness. Photo by Nora

This is going to be fabulous when finished, as it already is.

Kat, Griffin and I go up to the boutique. Stairs! Joy for the boy.

Inside the lovely little shop, he makes friends with some ladies. And I spot a scarf boasting one of those gorgeous falcons. How can I walk away from that?

I don’t.

Why not have a nice, leisurely lunch while the rain lashes at the windows?

We have a table right by those windows, so have our show while we eat.

Rain! Photo by Kat

Griffin and I share an enormous toasted ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette. He is a serious fan, sits on my lap and chows down on the bites I break off for him. Even with his help—and he gave me plenty—I couldn’t finish it.

Nap time for the boy after a bit of a walk around. BW has his book, and I decide to take a couple of these stormy hours to write. I hit the point I wanted to hit, start to pack it up, and here comes Griffin, fresh from his nap. And with him, the sun.

We won’t waste it.

The outdoors! Yay! Photo by Kat

We gear up, and all head out to the walled garden. Griffin meets young Rory and Shane on the way, makes more pals. The air’s daisy fresh now, the wind quiet. The storm blew in some warm, so it’s a lovely walk to a lovely spot.

Kat and Jason scout around—the boy wants some gravel and dirt—and they set up our traditional pano.

Soo..maybe not THIS much gravel, Mom? Photo by Kat
Yes! Flowers! Photo by Kat

It works, first take! Great fun for us.

Pano – Walled garden edition. Photo by j a-b

We take the long way home in the warm and fresh, the quiet light. See Cullen as we go by the falconry school. They’re about to fly one of their ladies so she can hunt for her supper.

Fortunately we don’t have to hunt for our own. When our walk’s done, we head down for dinner. The fish I choose is as fresh as the evening.

BW and cap off the evening streaming The Quiet Man. 

Soft and quiet to start the morning. Misty and calm, all grays and greens. With my workout done, the boy having his post-breakfast nap—after a quick visit to climb our stairs—the wind kicks up again.

We plan to go out, see more of the area, but we’ll wait for Griffin to rouse, and hopefully, the day to settle down a bit.

Nora