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.
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.
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.
Then, my hope is to continue to basic and boring right up to the girl spa in April.
I don’t make new year’s resolutions because never going to keep them, but I like the idea of starting fresh. And that I can try to do.
It might be why I do a full-house purge every January. You gotta out with the old before you in with anything. Plus I find it incredibly satisfying. Boxes and bags of things someone else might use–and clean, tidy closets and shelves and drawers for me. [Please see Editor Note below]
But first, we had to end the old year.
We do that around here with a full day in the kitchen prepping for our annual New Year’s Day Open House. The fun part of the prep is having the kitchen full of girls.
Kayla shows up first, willing and able. I’ve already started the red beans–culling out a portion before I add the ham hock so my veggie girl and Kat can have some. And I’ve mixed up and rolled 108 meatballs now simmering in red sauce.
Yes, I said 108.
Laura comes bearing her InstantPot to boil the eggs for deviling. This, she tells me–and it bears out–cuts the time down, doesn’t require my magic solution to make the eggs come easily from the shells.
And here’s Sarah.
Sarah and Laura, InstantPot experts–deal with the eggs. I don’t like to think about pressure cooking as I have vivid memories of my mother’s old cooker exploding.
But this doesn’t happen.
Kayla’s making brownies for her trifle, I’m making whatever comes next–and Kat arrives with Griffin. He’s the most delicious thing in the kitchen.
We stir, chop, cook, mix. I’m doing a couple more veggie dishes this year, experimenting to see what goes over with the crowd.
We drink champagne while everyone pitches in.
It’s a long, busy, productive day, and how better to spend the last day of the decade than with people you love?
Kayla’s building her trifle, Kat’s creating a huge casserole of tortellini and cheese, Sarah and Laura are shelling three dozen eggs. I’ve got two big-ass hams in the oven, and my pal Ruth’s recipe for Party Potatoes to finish up. And a whole lot more.
Jason–who had a show rehearsal–arrives.
…24 hours earlier
I’d emailed him in a panic the day before.
The saga is thus:
At the end of my work day, I go to back up on my flash drive before my workout. I get: MALFUNCTION!!! And something else that my shock has forgotten.
Okay, well, just reboot, it’ll be fine.
Okay, breathe. Try a new flash drive. And the screen goes black.
There is no breath as I hastily reboot, check if my work is still there (I’m talking 29 and a half chapters of a 30 chapter book.)
It’s still there, so okay.
Now let’s get out the Surface I use when traveling. Plug in the flash drive. And the keyboard won’t work.
I try everything (and send the panic email). I go to the desktop and Google, follow the instructions for what to do. Keyboard works.
For a minute. But even in that minute won’t read the drive. Not MALFUNCTION but INVALID.
I obsessively check, and my work remains intact. So I put all my faith in Jason and go workout.
An email from him when I check assures me all will be well. I’m already backed up on some other location. (I knew he did this, but I don’t understand it.) And he’ll figure things out when he gets here.
Back to prep day
So he’s here, and he figures things out. Apparently–though he’d never experienced it–the little drive itself malfunctioned and screwed up everything.
He fixes, puts in (has to program I think as I use the ancient WP) another flash drive.
So I don’t have to end the year weeping and gnashing my teeth while cursing the cruel and capricious gods of technology.
Ah, sweet relief provided by the prince of all sons.
Meanwhile, my girls have to go. Much gratitude for the help and the company. Post-nap Griffin eats hearty, and as I added noodles and sauce to his meatballs, gets a sink bath.
BW is the only one with enough gas left to make it till midnight.
Happy New Year means Kat puts together her adorable veg crudite–this year with a little something extra for Colt and his pal CJ.
We have set up, we have making whatever needed to be made in the morning. We have Griffin to entertain–and be entertained by. We have dogs to chase out of the kitchen.
Then we have guests. Lots of guests. Lots of happy, lots of people, lots of noise, lots of food. An all-day deal with friends and family to ring it all in.
And happily, enough party leftovers that Kat and Jason can take enough home, and I have enough here none of us need cook this weekend.
And Monday, it’s the start of a well-earned week and the spa for all of us. With this year’s extra-special treat of Kat’s participation in Nemocolin’s art show.
We’re so proud of her! She’s already sold SIX paintings. She has a website. Shoot, what is her website? Laura, do you have it? I have book brain as I worked today in anticipation of a week not, or barely, working.
[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.
Editor note: I’ve posted Nora’s pieces about the whole-house purge for nearly 8 years. While it’s not my personal style, I admire her ruthless clear out of drawers, closets and cabinets in every room, on every floor. I see how that clean slate sets her up for the year.
But, I’m here to tell you that even the Mistress of the Purge misses some spots. After the December signing, Sarah decided she wanted some tea, something herbal. Nora doesn’t drink it, but she’s gifted tea all the time so she keeps it in one of the lower cabinets for guests who do. I was sitting in front of that cabinet on that December evening so I reached down and ran through the inventory to find a taste Sarah wanted.
Idly, I turned a package over and there it was: Expires 8/16. I picked up another, expiration date 2013. Another, 2017 (that was the freshest). Sarah was already steeping her tea as I started flinging tea out of the basket, announcing dates.
“Tea expires?” Nora asked. “Who knew?”
Me, for one. Sarah opted to live in ignorance, but since she didn’t expire herself, I can now reveal that she chose the oldest tea there — expiration 2006.
I tossed three boxes then and there, proclaiming that the 2020 purge was now underway. Nora’s sworn all tea will be gone the second week of January. I will bring a fresh (truly) assortment for the Golden in Death signing.
A couple of weeks ago, we have our traditional girl trip–two days with pals at Tyson’s in VA shopping, hanging out, exchanging gifts and just being pals.
Jason and Griffin join us the second day for the stupendous lunch the team at Saks puts on for us. The boy is quite the star! And my beloved Azita–whom I’ve worked with for . . . God, it must be a decade now–never fails to put together clothes that suit me so well. (This means a mini closet purge when I got home, but I have no regrets!)
Last weekend Turn The Page joined Holiday In Boonsboro with a massive, happy signing. Lots of readers, lots of books, lots of holiday spirit in a town all decked out. We have a great group of authors and fabulous, patient readers who stay cheerful through a five hour event.
On Sunday we hold another event focused on kids, and there’s nothing, just nothing as heart-stirring as watching a child light up when Santa ho-ho-hos into the room.
I store up that joy and spirit to get me through Monday and dental implant, take two. Okay, that isn’t a wonderful time, and the weather agrees by turning raw and rainy. Just a little bonus.
But that’s done.
I have to skip my workouts for a week–sore, swollen jaw and my own worry about raising my bp too high in the early healing stage. But that’s done, too, as I–finally–got a good one in this morning.
Still, not breaking to hit the gym means a longer writing day Tues, and that’s nice.
Wednesday, a shorter one as BW and I host our employees at our annual Progressive Shopping Night–with dinner on us at Vesta to cap it off. It’s not only fun, but it gives everyone a chance to see what the other businesses have to offer, and the opportunity to mix and mingle.
Then my pal and business manager JoAnne and Laura and I stay overnight at the inn. Pour the champagne; we’re not driving! And after a fun night, an amazing breakfast, I head home to work.
A full day of that on Thursday–yay–then another shortened work day as I’m hosting my annual Managers’ Holiday Party here at home. With the exception of our fabulous Robert at Vesta, all our managers are women. Maybe, feeling outnumbered, Robert skips this event, so it’s a few hours with girls.
Saturday is cooking baking marathon. Kayla’s definitely head baker here now. Just her and Colt to bake this year, and she’s all over it!
I make the sugar cookie dough early so it chills while she–with her able assistant, Colt–deal with the rest. While she’s making chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, candy cane kiss cookies, I make a pot of chickpea vegetable soup for the vegetarian. And potato and ham for BW and me.
First time with this veg soup, which I blend from a couple recipes and Kayla’s choices. She tries a bowl for lunch. Has seconds, so it definitely worked! She has another bowl at dinnertime, and took the rest with her.
Onto painted sugar cookies, and BW joins in. A friend gave me dinosaur cookie cutters, and Colt is all about them. So we have Christmas dinos along with the Santas and bells and stars.
I should add we all taste test along the way–every type. My girl’s become an exceptional baker. And I’m going to need those workouts even though I sent the kids home with a major supply.
Today, at last, a workout so I feel more like myself. Kayla’s come up to wrap for me for a couple hours–bless her heart! Since we ran out of steam before snickerdoodles (and they’re one of her faves) I’ll bake those shortly.
With the help she’s given me on wrapping this year, I should only have one short session remaining.
My house needs a good shoveling out as it’s been a really busy week, but once that’s done, it’s done.
We have leftover soup, plenty of cookies, and a house that’s ready for Christmas.
I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season as much as we are!
Note from Laura:
Took this when I headed home from Nora’s Saturday morning. Nothing like muted colors and a dreamy scene.
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.
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.
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.
We had so much food we set it up buffet style rather than on the table.
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.
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.
I haven’t had a good space of time to sit down and write a blog since we got back from New York.
Griffin’s first trip to The Big Apple turned out to be nothing but fun and adventure. As soon as we drove into the city, he started making his oooh happy, excited, interested noises.
For myself, it proved an excellent time to expand on the Christmas shopping I started overseas, and having the boy along just added tons of fun.
We had a trip to the Central Park Zoo, which brought out more happy, excited and interested noises–until exhausted from it all–he fell asleep.
For an adult evening we had an amazing time with my agent and editor and their husbands for dinner and a show. We saw Tootsie, and if you ever get the chance, don’t miss it. It’s absolutely fabulous, on ever level.
Our weather proved nearly as wonderful–one day of rain, then wonderfully clear until the day we left. No complaints!
Back home for some serious catching up, and buckling down to work.
One of the very best parts of coming home was delivering to Colt–my voracious reader–a signed copy of the new Dogman book. Happily, Dav Pilkey and I have the same agent, and she made the arrangements. As you can see, the kid was beyond thrilled. I swear every inch of him lit up–and he must’ve looked at the signed page a hundred times. I seriously can’t thank Amy and Dav enough for giving our Colt the thrill of his life.
I did have a weekend–a nice fall Saturday–to make soup and focaccia bread. So, mmmmm.
I had to devote the next weekend to organizing. All those gifts and packages from New York had to be dealt with. Fortunately for me, Kayla came up to help–and I really needed it!
My One More Room is now holding big-ass boxes with each person’s gifts inside so I can keep track. I’m not going to think about the wrapping marathons yet.
While I was at it, I did a solid purge of my closet as I had a girl day planned for the following Tuesday. My closet got reasonably purged and organized–and my girl pals hauled off bags. Salad, champagne, pizza, cookies–and trying on new-to-you clothes and shoes?
That makes a most excellent girl day.
Back to the buckle down to work part until Friday, and (drum roll!) Griffin’s First Birthday! Since we had a signing on Saturday, we celebrated here, and I can testify our birthday boy had a fine time.
Like Colt, he just lit up when everyone sang happy birthday. He may not understand what that all means, but it was just delighted everyone sang to him.
Then came the smash cake. I hope Laura can get the video up. He was initially intrigued. Oh, it’s soft, and I can play with it a little. Interesting. Then Nana gave him a little taste–and he got the idea, big time.
After a few fists-full, his parents wisely removed the thoroughly smashed cake before Birthday Boy got sick.
I can also testify, he remains the sweetest, happiest baby in the history of babies.
Saturday, it’s gear it up for TTP’s Halloween signing. We had a pirate theme this year, and we sure pulled it off. I have a fondness for Jason costume. He wore a post-in note he’d made with the Pi symbol and a drawing of a rat. Get it? Made me laugh. We had Captain Griffin, The Scourge Of The Seven Seas, First Mate Kayla working under Captain Kat, Seaman Wilder and–naturally–The Dread Pirate Roberts to round out the family on board.
Our visiting authors got into the costume spirit, as did a number of readers. We had a wild, crowded, LONG and happy event. And a separate thrill for me to meet Meg Tilly ( adorably costumed as a cat). The award-winning actress has written a number of well-received books, and is writing a Romantic Suspense series. I have Solace Island–the first of the series–on my bedside table.
She, and all the visiting authors, did a wonderful job connecting with the readers, with each other, and graciously handling a four and a half hour signing.
Kudos as well the the readers for their enthusiasm and their patience.
And huge ones to the ever-efficient, patient and hard-working staff of TTP–as well as our stalwart signing day additions who pitch in above and beyond.
Today, with workout done, this blog up (and plenty of leftovers for dinner!) I think I’m going to shovel out around here, get my house in order. Then fall asleep in front of the TV.
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.
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.
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.
Griffin assisted his mom at the register.
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.
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.
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.
They’re actually digging a grave when we arrive, using pick and shovel in the rocky ground.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the flock of sheep all turn to face us as if posing.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
It works, first take! Great fun for us.
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.
Since the weather’s changeable my walk-abouts are short-lived. The misty rain breaks now and then, comes back harder, fades off to some sunshine.
With all those changes in light, in mood, you can see a thousand shades of green, muted shifts in the blue/gray tone of the water. How vivid the splashes of color from the flowers.
Kat texts that the fabric shop she drove out to hit the spot.
Time for lunch for the rest of us, and we get a generous booth in the handsome bar. I watch the bartender mixing chocolate martinis—not my sort of drink, but fun to watch, and so pretty.
Griffin arrives with Daddy, and he’s had a solid nap, is ready to see what’s what. He likes watching the bartender, too, but wants a bit of a walk. And there’s a table nearby with kids, so he needs to say hello.
We order him a little dish of avocado, always a favorite, and a small bowl of chicken soup, which he very much likes. I get a salad and share some of my goat cheese which also meets his approval.
It’s a cozy lunch, a fire in the hearth, a cheerful, hungry boy.
Kat should be back any time as we girls have a special treat lined up.
Aisling, who follows the blog, and runs a Paint Club here, saw that we often book these paint nights and have fun with them. She generously offered to gift us a session. Kat and I jumped right on that!
On Sunday, at the event, she and Kat chose a scene, worked out some details. I see the scene we’re to paint with admiration, and personal amusement. This beauty of this piece of Ashford—the stone tower, the walls, the sky, the river, the trees—is absolutely lovely—and I’m completely positive is so far out of my less than meager skills the gap can’t be measured.
Aisling, however, assures me I’ll do fine, and she’s good at what she does.
I’ve no doubt she is, but I also know I can’t draw a straight line.
But I’m game. Kat, I know, will create something beautiful—and I’ll have fun.
The castle’s provided us a room as the weather’s on and off rain. Aisling’s already worked up a painting for us to follow—beautiful! And will do another along with us, taking us step by step.
We start with sky. Okay, I can do sky (don’t know about clouds that won’t look like Griffin painted them). We have colors on our palettes, brushes, wipes, and she demonstrates how and what to mix.
She shows me a technique with a sponge for the clouds, and they come out pretty good. Not Kat level, but well above-average Nora.
Then there’s the river, and how to form it so the colors blend, so there are highlights, the illusion of ripples.
The tower—the grays and browns, touches of yellow mixed. And Aisling concedes I can’t draw a straight line and helps me there. Highlights again, it’s fascinating.
Kat’s slower as she’s doing some fine details. I honestly didn’t believe I could paint a stone tower that didn’t look like a blob, but Aisling IS good at what she does, and guides me through.
There’s the wall, the road, and how form them so they don’t look like those blobs. Trees, bushes, touches of color, more dimension.
Kat doesn’t get to the greenery as she’s perfecting the rest. She has her own supplies at home, and will finish it there—or here with the supplies she brought with her.
I look at what she’s done, and am just blown away.
But I’m pretty impressed with my own bad self!
I won’t be quitting my day job, but I may approach our next paint night with a little more ambition.
We are very happy girls, all three of us. It must be rewarding to coach someone through creativity this way. And let me say, it’s just lots of fun.
No matter how pitiful your skills, you’ll not only enjoy the experience, but very likely surprise yourself. Because I did both, I’m giving Aisling a plug here in the blog. Go to www.paintclub.ie and book yourself a treat. Better yet get some pals and make it a party.
Thank you, Aisling! Every time I look at my Ashford painting, I’ll think of you and a really enjoyable afternoon.
I can’t wait to see Kat’s when it’s finished because it’s going to be amazing.
From there, it’s straight to The Dungeon for dinner. BW and Jason are suitably wowed by our paintings.
We walk back to our wing a different way after dinner. Letting Griffin climbs stairs (a current favorite thing). He laughs and laughs as he climbs, comes to play in Nana’s room for a bit then off to bed.
Sometime during the night I woke to what I thought was singing, something high and sweet in the distance. I drifted off again to it, woke again later to the same sound.
And realized it was the wind singing at the windows.
It’s a blustery, rainy day—and still the gray of it is so soft, almost tender out the windows while I workout. The big tree I see is shivering and swaying, and little splotches of brightness over the river tease—will I, or won’t I?
Now the wind’s whistling rather than singing that sweet song.
Griffin’s come for his morning visit. He’s got another tooth coming in, and had a rough night. But he’s happy this morning. Then seriously pissed off because neither his daddy nor I will let him have the fire in the hearth.
He settles for a climb up the short stairs leading to our bedroom, and his mood goes bright again.
He’s off to nap—and I expect his tired parents will do the same. BW’s settled in with a book. I may set up to work an hour or two, or grab a book to read myself.
With the whistling wind and the rain, it looks like a day at home.