Finally, after the cold, the wet, the gloom, gloom, gloom of the last few months, things are popping and budding and greening. And the air feels different. Not just warmer, but it holds that hopeful lightness that signals spring’s coming.
It must be because I found myself compelled to spend most of my Saturday cleaning–some serious deep cleaning. And it reminded me of my mother diving into her traditional spring cleaning every April.
Like many of her generation she had spring/summer curtains and fall/winter curtains. I have almost no curtains–just window treatments on blinds on bedrooms and the main level bath. But I live in the woods, not suburbia.
I also have no love affair toward Venetian blinds as my mother did. I have a clear picture of her washing those sharp slats in the bathtub. Many, many of them as she had the blinds, the sheers, then the drapes or curtains. Three layers on most of the windows through our pretty big house. While they were down, we’d–whoever she could draft into the task–wash windows. Newspaper and ammonia–maybe Windex. And winter was washed and polished away, the spring/summer curtains–freshly washed and aired–hung.
While I’ve spared myself the chore of kneeling at the side of the tub washing, rinsing, washing, long slats of metal blinds that leave knicks on the knuckles, I did my share of washing, scrubbing, polishing yesterday. And understand completely her great satisfaction of seeing winter dealt with, with rags and buckets and lemon-scented cleaners.
With April, like my mother–and my father–my head and heart turn happily to gardening. Plans for it, imagining it, scouting out what’s popped out bravely as the air and ground warm.
The dogs and I took happy walks around after the scrubbing and polishing, and that provided an even deeper satisfaction for me.
My baby’s breath is a lovely white cloud. The Solomon Seal’s up and spreading. I have lungwort showing happy pink buds, found a little Johnny-Jump-Up volunteering. I hope more join him.
Atticus and I–along with his pals above–checked out the progress of the peonies. Looking good!!
I can’t remember what this bush is, but I love it’s coming out in that candy pink Easter hue.
And for Easter–early as the kids won’t be around–we dyed and decorated eggs. We had some wacky ones.
I like seeing the young willow we planted last year greening, and my old cherry trees getting ready to explode with blossoms. Since today’s even lovelier than yesterday, I’m going to take advantage, head out into the sunshine with some Milk Bones for the boys.
We’ll see what we can see.
Just not much going on around here because it’s hibernation time.
Delighted to report that Logan–who’s grown another inch according to the Nana Hug-O-Meter and verified by measuring tape–scored a three-pointer to help his team win his basketball game. And Kayla–running the 3200 and the 4×800 relay–helped the Boonsboro Girls Indoor Track Team win the State Championship.
Pretty sweet all around.
Meanwhile after work and workouts, I played (a little obsessively) with a Christmas gift from Jason and Kat. When we vacation together, we do fun panorama photos, with staging and considerable choreography. So for Christmas, they got me a jigsaw puzzle comprised of four of those panos. Fun, challenging and unique. And accomplished! Even if a piece appears to have gone missing from Sorento.
I’m also thrilled my newly reupholstered living room furniture is now in place. And relieved it received potentially future interior designer Kayla’s approval. I like the cheerful, bright and warm look of it, and that I successfully played off the bird pillows I’m so fond of, and the gorgeous throw my agent brought me back from a trip to India.
Otherwise I’m deep into the book, socked in and happy to be so.
Since I’m here, I’m going to (once again) address a few points, as apparently there’s been a revival of chatter, misinformation and odd assertions on the internet.
Roarke is Roarke. Period. No, no, a thousand times no, he was not named Patrick after his despicable father. He is not, has never been a junior. He is very simply, now and forever–before and after and always–Roarke.
Readers dissatisfied with that are just going to have to accept it.
And just because Roarke rhymes with stork doesn’t equal baby. There will be no baby, biological, adopted, fostered, in dreams or conceived by Eve and Roarke in an alternate universe. (Also no to pregnancy scares which is just silly.) This is simply not going to happen for reasons I’ve explained many times. And no, Eve and Roarke will not babysit for Bella. Why in God’s name–seriously–would they? I really think Mavis and Leonardo can handle finding their own child care when necessary.
Eve will not find long-lost relations. This will not happen. Period. Done. Please??? And her father is DEAD. Really most sincerely dead. Doornail dead. Dead as Moses.
Supporting characters will not take the spotlight as Eve and/or Roarke are sidelined by injury, kidnapping, amnesia or alien abduction. They are, and will remain supporting characters.
I’m never, ever going to ask for reader input into storylines. I do not, as some believe, take reader suggestions and work them into a story, or adjust future stories, character traits, dialog or actions due to reader chatter (be it positive or negative). I write in my own little bubble, and that’s never going to change. If a reader feels ‘it’s time’ I shake things up, freshen things up, it may be that reader needs a break from my work. Nothing at all wrong with that.
In very practical terms, in logistical terms, by the time the chatter starts on a new book, the next is already written and with my publisher–and often the next two as the books are published every six months, and my personal process is to work about a year ahead of publication.
So the chatter doesn’t apply for me from a practical or a creative standpoint. Especially from the creative side.
As a writer, as a creator of a long-running series with recurring characters, I have to think both of the long view and each individual book. It all has to make sense within the world created, for the characters drawn, for the interpersonal relationships of those characters.
Trust me, I know the world and the characters.
Now, I’m going to drop myself into a different work with different characters. I like it in my bubble.
And we have video! Oddly, muscle memory goes to crap when you turn from the front of the room to the side to get the video, but I think the class pulled it off. I’m absolutely sure Fit’s members are going to love this addition.
We’re going to do a little meet and greet over wine and cheese, then a Q&A, then some photos. An easy, fun evening–despite the crap weather. It’s warm and cozy at the inn, so who cares about the ugly, chilly rain spitting outside?
It’s here. All new, 365 blank pages waiting to be written–and won’t that be fun?
Around here we ended the book of 2016 with friends and family, cooking and chopping and stirring for our annual New Year’s Day open house feast. For me New Year’s Eve starts early. Time to get those red beans I soaked overnight on the simmer with a ham hock, spices peppers and onions, and let’s add some wine to that water. Eggs to boil for later deviling. Can’t forget that old standard green bean casserole, but lets add some grated cheddar this year. Keep those herbs and spices out for a whole buncha ground round for meatballs.
Laura arrives in time to help roll 151 meatballs–I counted this year–and Sarah and Kayla are close behind. With a kitchen full of helping hands and girl power three dozen eggs are peeled, veggies peeled, chopped, sliced for roasting. Kayla makes brownies for the trifle, and my pop’s bread pudding.
Kay;a on bread pudding duty.
And here are Kat and Jason with more supplies and more helping hands. My men head down to hang the gorgeous new sign by our bridge before they run out to get ice for all the coolers we’ll stock in the morning with soft drinks, beer, wine.
They have manly work to do, and I’m more than happy to be in the kitchen with my girls. There are two big-ass hams to bake, a million more veggies to chop for the crudite–and Kat’s got a design in mind for that. She is Kat, after all.
Champagne for the big girls and ginger ale for Kayla as we work through the afternoon. Chop, chop, chop fruit for a Waldorf salad. Girl pals are the best of the best.
Please keep those dogs out of my kitchen! Especially after we discover Parker has snatched what was left of the now discarded hamhock (that hadn’t quite made it out of the kitchen trash to the outside trash) and is gnawing on it on the living room rug.
After Laura and Sarah–thanks ladies–leave for their own New Year’s Eve celebrations they rest of us finish up. Let’s boil up some pasta and test out those meatballs. Mmmmm!
Hams glazed and done, food stuffed in fridges, with spillover outside–with dogs locked off the deck. And since Kayla’s staying over it’s time for games. A little Wii bowling–I am champ–a lot of Pictionary–BW and I are soundly defeated.
And the ball drops–three, two, one. Happy New Year.
2017 starts early for me, too. Get those hot dishes in the oven to warm, tidy what didn’t get tidy the night before, and soon my girls and boys are pitching in. Dogs banished from the kitchen. Up the stairs for this bowl or platter, down the stairs for this or that. Haul up the little bar, fill those coolers, light the candles.
Kat’s crudite is, naturally, a piece of cheerful art.
Food everywhere–on the table, on the counter, the buffet the little server. And before long we have a houseful to enjoy all that labor in a big, noisy, happy celebration. Kids in the pool or game room, football fans in front of the big screen, friends here, there, everywhere. It’s time to spice some shrimp. Always time to open another bottle of champagne.
Lots of hugs, lots of laughs, LOTS of wine and food–a fine, fine way to write that first page on the book of 2017.
By ten the house is quiet. By about ten-fifteen I’m out for the count.
Up early again, but today I pack for a week at the spa. And let me say ahhh. The 31 pages of December, 2016 were written with the busy and the bright, with the happy and the occasional panic, were written with friends, family and a couple of tons of cooking time. I love ending the year with girls in the kitchen, beginning it with a houseful of friends.
And love knowing I’m going to have a week–again with family and friends–where I won’t so much as boil a pot of water and at some point on any given day somebody will rub every kink and knot out of my body. I may write. I will definitely read what someone else sweated over. I expect to come back recharged, ready to hunker down and hibernate and write my way through the rest of the winter. Stories, on the literal page and the symbolic one, are waiting to be written.
I hope you all write happy and well through the year.
This weekend all the wrapping, planning, prepping, baking come together for the big crescendo.
I started my holiday weekend yesterday by knocking off at noon to get that workout in (likely the last of the weekend!) and baking a couple of sour dough rounds for Christmas dinner with Love, Actually on the kitchen TV.
Now that’s a happy day.
Today I’ll bake Italian bread and lasagna for Christmas Eve with the kids. We’re going to set up a sundae bar for dessert. I suspect they’ll care little–even Kayla at fourteen–about what’s on the plate. It’s all about what’s under the tree, what’s in those bulging stockings.
Santa Bruce buys scratch-off cards for the stockings every year. Hope springs.
I’m looking forward to the untying of ribbons, the ripping of wrapping, the happy faces.
A part of me might miss those late Christmas Eve sessions dealing with the Some-Assembly-Required for little guy Santa gifts, but those are memories in the bank. And Nanas get more sleep!
Tomorrow, it’s my Pop’s pancakes–a long-standing tradition– bacon, sausage, eggs, a pretty bowl of berries and mimosas for Christmas brunch. Then the adults get to empty stockings, untie and rip wrapping.
Then it’s hang-out time, hauling out the trash, doing whatever strikes until dinner. (Gotta marinate that pork loin tonight!)
Lots of food, lots of family, lots of happy.
Before the day begins I’d like to wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, Happy Kwanzaa or whatever celebration you use to mark the season. May your day be all you wish for, and just a little more.
So light the candles, pour some wine (or the libation of your choice) embrace the magic with the wonder of the child in all of us. And grab some moments to bank those memories.
A quick PS from Laura: Thank you to everyone who stops by, comments, commiserates and celebrates with Nora (and me) on a regular basis. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and the happiest, healthiest of New Years.
It’s hard to be otherwise around here, despite breath-taking cold with some ice tossed in. In the middle of a busy, scattered week, we took a little time off for fun, and a new tradition.
BW and I invited the employees of our Boonsboro businesses to a little progressive holiday shopping. It’s a good, happy way to gather other busy people together, make connections, and let everyone see what the other businesses have to offer.
Just add wine and camaraderie.
We ended the evening hosting a dinner for all at Vesta. And boy, did Vesta show off its own.
Good times, good people, and an excellent new tradition.
Saturday was for long-standing traditions. Cookie baking at Christmas has been part of our holiday festivities since my boys were just little guys. I have memories of them at every stage from pre-schoolers to teenagers.
We continued on with grandchildren. A big part of my enjoyment this time around was watching Kayla and Logan instruct Colt as I had instructed them. How to measure and stir, how to break an egg. (Nana picks out shells when necessary.)
It’s a full, fun-filled, messy day with happy, calorie-loaded results. Chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, mint blossoms, peanut-butter blossoms, and the traditional finale of painted sugar cookies.
With, naturally, much tasting included.
I see how cooking with Kayla has paid off as she competently puts the snickerdoodle dough together while I clean up behind–and deal with the ovens that have chosen today to go wonky. Just won’t hold the temperature.
Appliance repair, stat! I have a lot of cooking to do the following week.
We cap this tradition off with another–the early Christmas present. One gift, chosen pretty much at random for each kid to help them hold off for the endless week before the big day. Colt gets Legos, Logan a Risk game, Kayla some sweatpants.
And with that along with a big bag of cookies to take home.
And just about that time BW gets a call. Water is pouring out of the door of his studio in town. Uh-oh. Off he goes, so I push up my sleeves and deal with the mess, which is usually his job. Obviously he’s dealing with another mess which could be a lot more trouble than washing dishes and cleaning off counters spotted with cookie paint and sprinkles.
Plus I have time to catch my breath and have a glass of wine before he gets back. Sprinkler system busted, rained down. Water now shut off, mess dealt with and yet another repair coming.
Breath caught, it’s time to clean myself up, do a little prep for another tradition. My girl managers holiday party. A cheerful gathering of smart women’s a fine way to spend an evening. Some wine, some pretty food–and lots of home-made cookies along with easy conversation and plenty of laughs.
Today, after I write this, it’s time to workout. Maybe add a little extra cardio considering cookies. Then BW is off to a football game with Jason and pals.
I intend to do a whole bunch of absolutely nothing. A nothing-filled alone day to recharge the batteries for the rush and spirit of this last week before Christmas.
I wouldn’t mind making that another tradition.
It’s been a fast, colorful month so far–and it’s nearly over!
Every October, we spend a week in New York, and this year the city gifted us with perfect weather start to finish. In tune with the fast pace, we tend to cram a lot into that week. Shopping hits top of my list. And yes, I’m now all but finished my holiday shopping.
Country mouse goes city mouse to spend urban time with friends and family–heading up with BW and Jason, meeting up with Laura, rounding it out when our pal Sarah arrives to spend a couple days and our adventurous Kat flies in from a hiking trip with some of her adventurous family in Hawaii.
The gorgeous weather also provided a pretty amazing backdrop for the party with my new publisher. The rooftop and its amazing views ticked the box of most popular spot for the evening. Fun food, lots of wine, engaging company and a sunset worthy of Spielburg added up to a really lovely evening.
A day with the girls–including my editor and agent–(shoes! boots!) rounded out with a happy early dinner and the energetic, marvelous, ridiculously entertaining School Of Rock on Broadway.
Lots of urban hiking, uptown, downtown, midtown, scoring those holiday gifts (plus shoes! boots!), spending time with some of my favorite people. Yeah, a most excellent week.
Back home to the current chaos of a first draft which meant ignoring the chaos of my house. Boxes and bags, deliveries of more. Middle school math–and thank God Logan understands it as I don’t and never will.
The end of the marking period means a day off school. Kayla scared the life out of me by poking into the gym while my entire focus centered on sweating through cardio. I don’t see my girl as much as she’s running Cross-Country, so this is a treat. Once I finish the sweating.
She promises to come back Sunday to help me clear out the chaos.
Because Saturday is a most special day. My long-time friend’s wedding.
It’s a blustery day full of fall color. Inside the venue the warmth, the love, the happy glow just as much as the bride. She’s beautiful, and the handsome groom nearly as radiant. Those attending reflect the happy. The bride’s niece tells me while she did the bride’s hair and makeup that morning, the groom wandered around the house singing–and peeked in from time to time to tell his lady how beautiful she is.
The big day feels like the couple it celebrates–the warm and loving and the sweet. We have time to mingle and bask before heading out to a patio for the ceremony. The prettiest of pretty flower girls, a lovely, simple arbor where the obviously (really obviously!) adoring groom waits, the lovely happy bride walks to him.
A sweet, simple, heartfelt ceremony where the bride drips happy tears. And the groom brushes them from her cheeks with his fingers. More aww. The groom slips the ring (given to her mother by her late father) on the bride’s finger. And the kiss.
Some people are meant to find each other as just the right times in their lives.
That’s the feeling that carries through the day of as simply perfect a wedding I’ve been privileged to attend.
The best of best wishes to Elaine and Enrique.
That leaves me Sunday–and this time Kayla scares the life out of me as she slips in after my workout and the start of chaos clearing. She needs a snack! The kid’s running those calories off with training and meets. While she eats, I harvest the rest of my basil. Bumper crop!
Then she helps me haul, hang, organize. And for the first time in a week, the house looks like a house instead of a storage bin stocked by a crazy woman.
Since fall’s definitely arrived it’s a good day to make soup, and I love my favorite teenager wants to just hang out with Nana. Soup needs bread in my world. No time for anything but a quick one, so I get a can of beer and whip up some beer bread.
It’s still warm when Kayla, hungry again, has a slice with a bowl of soup. She approves both.
Now there are four tubs of books to sign–it’s nice to have her company while I get that done.
Nobody gives better hugs than my girl, and I’m treated to one before she heads out the door.
Now I’m late getting started on my Monday. It’s rare for a book to keep me up at night, but this one’s done that a few times. So a late start while I try to finish this damn first draft so I can see what the hell’s in this story.
I can’t cross my fingers or I can’t type, but I might just light a candle for a solid, productive work day. And hey, leftover soup means no cooking tonight!