Category Archives: Nora at home

Time for fun

If you don’t have time, you need to make time for fun now and again. This was my week for making fun time.

What could be more fun that a day with girls–sisters and daughters–and the happiest baby in the world?

It’s our tradition to do a shopping spree at Saks in Tyson’s every year for Kat’s birthday. The team we work with there aren’t just the best, but have become family over the years. We start off in an area they’ve closed off for us and transformed into a garden–with a harpist!

Oh, the peonies! So fragrant, and fat as soccer balls.

Griffin likes the music, and also the selection of handsome baby clothes to pick from. Nana shows his some options. Yeah, that’s okay, hmm not bad. But when she holds up a little man suit, this is met with enthusiasm. Obviously, every handsome boy must have a little man suit.

We have delicious shortbread cookies–butterflies, dragon flies, blue birds–and an incredible cookie birdhouse made by Lily from the Graff department. She’s an baking artist. Some of these I have to take home for Kayla as my girl is extremely fond of Lily’s creations.

Delish!

Then it’s time to get serious about wardrobe for girls.

Griffin hangs with us, hangs out with the team, has a walk-about and even takes a nap. When we break for lunch the teams presents us with an amazing gift. They will have a dogwood tree (which happens to have been Kat’s mother’s favorite) planted wherever Kat wants, and have included a really lovely plaque. It’s so touching, so thoughtful.

Kat and Jason will find a spot in their lovely yard where they’ll be able to watch it grow and bloom.

We have a simply wonderful day, and are now outfitted for all our summer adventures.

Because fun days should be expanded whenever possible, we learned years ago to stay overnight. After a post-shopping room service dinner, we have to say bye to Mary and Sarah–both have obligations in the morning. But Laura, Kat, Griffin and I get comfortable.

Griffin isn’t interested in sleep because this is too much fun. Laura can make noises by rubbing her fingers over the sofa, and there’s nothing funnier than that. Still, eventually it’s night-night for all.

I wake as usual about five-fifteen. But I wake to the sound of a baby laughing. About the best wake-up call ever. I join Kat and Griffin and a glorious sunrise for amusement with hands and sofa noises.

Mama’s tired, and Nana’s up, so Kat can catch more sleep while I get more play time. The boy doesn’t last long before he starts the eye-rubbing, head scratching that says: I need a nap. While he naps, I get my workout in–a good deal for all.

After-nap munchies

All good things must end, so we pack up–it’s quite a load–and head out. Happy Almost Birthday, Kat!

Back to work for me, but a slightly shorter day of it Friday as my older babies are coming to dinner. A good time to catch up on what’s what at the end of the school year. The two oldest will be joining the work force this summer around vacations–a very nice balance, imo.

We’ll be having fun with Logan shortly as it’s his turn for a summer trip, and it’s coming right up. Details to come.

Saturday, it’s work out, get in some quick gardening because we’re spending the afternoon in Baltimore at an O’s game. Kayla’s going with us. Logan declined as he considers baseball boring.

I love the boy, but this is heresy!

It’s a perfect day–low 80s, low humidity, sunny, and there’s nothing prettier than a baseball field. And no field is prettier than Camdon Yards.

We’re a happy group, guests of my broker and his team. Kayla and I settle in to watch them finish prepping the infield as the stands fill up.

And here comes Griffin for his first ballgame. Unlike Logan, he doesn’t seem to find it boring. He also samples his first crab cake, and like a good Maryland boy, enjoys it.

A pretty little blonde girl flirts with Griffin who flirts right back.

We have a fine time despite watching the O’s lose. They just fell apart after the fifth. But I’ve had time with my oldest and youngest grandbabies, hang out with Jason–who loves baseball–and Kat–who simply doesn’t understand it–on a perfect June day.

Thanks, Bill!

Today, I get my workout in, and focus on finishing some gardening. Then it’s deal with my seriously disordered house.

Because tomorrow, solid work time starts again. And that’s fun, too.

Nora

In The Groove

That’s what June feels like so far, and that’s the best in my world.

A solid work week for me is a treat, so the weekend really is the carrot at the end of another carrot. Right now, I’m back in Eve and Roarke world, and that’s always fun. So I spent the week catching up with old pals and murdering people.

Sweet deal.

For Saturday, I have an agenda, and it works! Get my workout in. Check that off. BW and I apparently had a mind meld as on Friday I thought: Wouldn’t it be nice to have bbq ribs over the weekend–and he comes home with a pack of ribs thinking same.

So I wrap those babies in foil on Saturday, stick them in the oven awhile. During the awhile I plug a few plants into the pots where Parker–before we added red pepper flakes to the soil–decided to dig them out.

Check ribs, have time to weed and deadhead the beds. This is kind of a zen activity for me. It’s quiet, relaxing, pleasant.

Ribs out, make up sauce/marinade, cover the ribs with it, and into the fridge.

Back outside to see about using this old trellis on a big–BIG–rose bush. One of BW’s cousins gave us the bush for a wedding present, so it’s 34 years old, taller than me, and blooms like crazy.

Turns out this isn’t a one-person job, so BW gets his sledge, makes holes for the trellis, and we get it up. It’ll do better next year when it’s not so full, and I can more easily thread it through–but those long arching branches are now off the ground.

He’s put this wonderful old gate–tall and really heavy–in our shady hosta area. I love it so much I ordered a smaller Tree Of Life Gate to go in another deep shade area where I can get nothing to thrive.

BW’s gate

We haul the new gate–to be used as decor–down the lane to the stubborn spot. I hold, he and his sledge do the work, and there we have it. Nice.

Tree of Life gate

I decide, when I’m done outside and back in the house, I’ll look for some lawn art on line. We can make that space prettier.

Since I’m out, I throw the ball for the dogs. The dogs watch me throw the ball, obviously think: YOU fetch. It makes me realize that in the last year or two of Pancho’s life we stopped throwing balls. He loved chasing and fetching more than anything in the world, so we had to stop when he really couldn’t run.

I’m going to work on this with these guys as the vet tells us Parker’s gained 9 pounds. Dog needs to work out!

Meanwhile, the pavers are coming along. It’s not going to be quick, but it’ll be worth it.

Today, after the workout, a few inside chores–maybe some ball-throwing–I get to pack for our girl overnight/Kat birthday spree. The best kind of interrupted work week!

Then BW will throw those ribs on the grill, and we’ll feast.

Another pretty sweet deal.

Nora

The Good Life

For me, that’s a solid, uninterrupted writing week followed by a pretty weekend in the garden. All my stars aligned, and it feels like it’s been awhile since they have. That makes it all the sweeter.

Since it somehow decided to be June, and June’s pretty busy, I’ll take the pretty perfect last week of May for that solid work week.

It’s a pleasure–mine anyway–to work steadily along, then shut down for a workout. Through this week, I work out with the sound of stone saws outside my little gym. Progress there, too! Every day I saw more of our wall going up–so pretty! It’s satisfying to take a walk around, see that progress, see new blooms–after a full day.

The wall project near completion

Then to start June off in the garden? It doesn’t get better.

In my continuing war against deer, I bought a couple of big garden spinners. Fun, colorful. I was perhaps overly proud to put one together solo. Mechanics isn’t my strength. I did need BW assistance with the second–one with a solar light–mostly because it had more parts and needed three hands to manage it easily.

Whether these will spin and chase off deer is debatable. But I like them anyway. So far spraying repellent’s doing the job (knock on every available piece of wood). And I do plant a lot of deer resistance varieties.

I have a whole flow of astilbes in a shady spot at a distance convenient for deer to sneak up. I saw one nibbled on yesterday, and imagine some deer taking a bite, then going PTUI! Serves her right.

BW spent most of his first day of June on his little Cat cleaning up the area behind his shop. This is an area I mostly avoid in order to keep BW alive. I will say he made some serious inroads.

We found a better spot for our tomatoes and peppers–already have tomatoes on the vine!–and he had the idea of using an old wagon as a stand. Cute.

I weeded, dead-headed, swept, pruned, rearranged and had a very fine time.

Mermaid lounging spot.

Today, post-workout, I’ll see what else I can play with before we have a family dinner. No Jason, Kat, Griffin this time as they’re out of town for a wedding. Griffin had his first plane ride–and seemed to enjoy it.

Right now, I’m looking forward to a summer filled with work, fun, flowers. It’s time to hit the gym so I can get started on that.

Nora

Weekends

I’ve had the good, the best and the ugly recently.

The ugly I spent knocked out with a really nasty bout of vertigo. As anyone who’s dealt with it knows, vertigo sucks hard.

But that’s done now.

The next, the best, I had a weekend of baking, gardening, family dinner, and Griffin! Our boy is full of fun, which probably comes from being–honestly–the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. Life’s a perpetual picnic for Griffin. He plays peek-a-boo, but likes being the one doing the peek-a-booing by holding a napkin up to his face then dramatically yanking it away.

Hello!

It’s great having time with all the grands. There’s Kayla who was prepping for races–and took First in the 3200 in Regionals–and Third in States! You go, Legs!

Way to go Kayla!

And Logan who’s now the second tallest man around here. He has to bend over to hug me! Next month I get him for five days when we take him to Montana. Really can’t wait to see how he likes his first trip west.

And Colt who can have a conversation about pretty much anything because, as he says, he read it in a book. He’s like Sam from Game of Thrones. The kid’s in third grade and can talk about the universe.

I had a girl day here between weekends, just a lovely day with girl pals. Salad, pizza and champagne. And a special guest appearance by Griffin. The boy’s happy to go to any lady who wants a baby fix. And now he’s got his first tooth, so we have to watch how much he gnaws on pizza.

Food! Glorious food!

Girl pals are the best pals. You need to take time to embrace and enjoy them.

This weekend–so far–the rain’s waited to pour until evening, giving me nice weather to weed and fluff and enjoy the garden. Things are popping, and blooming and spreading. I’ve got lots of pots, and a bunch of them waiting until the lower patio and wall project’s finished.

We had the–ugly to me–fence taken down at the end of the parking area, and are replacing it with a stone wall to match our other garden walls. It’s going to be great! But meanwhile, it’s a mess. But we’ve reached the point where I can actually see how good it’ll look when it’s finally done.

Today, after my workout I’ve got some indoor chores to deal with. Then I may do some side dressing with compost in the garden.
Tomorrow it’s back to work, and I’m hoping for a good, solid week of that before June pops out at me.

The summer, as it always seems to be, is packed. So a nice, quiet, solid work week, a good, gardening weekend is just the perfect prelude to the busy summer to come.

Enjoy your holiday weekend doing what makes you happy.

Laura and I send our gratitude to all who served, for all who fell so that we can live free.

Nora


Note from Laura: I didn’t share the Girl Time fun, as I opted to work at the beach for three weeks. I mean, I seriously love my girl pals, but I really adore my view at the beach.

Here’s How I work

Before I start, the latest count from the plagiarism mess is 85 books and 36 authors.

So, some of the fallout from this clusterfuck seems to have generated a lot of questions, speculations, idiotic statements (as if fact) and–to me–strange arguments about my writing process, my output, and my honesty.

In all cases by people who don’t know me, at all.

In a, probably doomed, hope to set the record straight, I hereby take the time before I get back to that process, to outline it.

I write every day

I write every day. It’s just my job, and I’m very fortunate to love my job. Not everyone is half as lucky to be able to make their living doing something they love.

Every day is, at this point in my life and career, mostly a regular work week. I will, if necessary or I just feel the need, put in a few hours on the weekend.

I am disciplined–that’s my wiring. I have a fast writing pace–also just wiring. I was educated (nine year of Catholic school) by the nuns. Nobody lays a foundation of discipline like the Sisters. Trust me on this.

I was raised by parents who instilled, and demonstrated by example, the responsibility of doing your work, doing it well, meeting your responsibilities.

I don’t miss deadlines.

In the normal course of events, I work six to eight hours a day. Some of that is staring into space–writing requires this, or mine does. Some of it’s spent looking stuff up because how do I know until I know? I don’t use researchers because they’d annoy me, want to talk to me, expect me to be able to tell them what I was looking for. And again, how do I know until I know?

I don’t have ‘staff’, which just sound so pretentious to me. I don’t knock anyone for having staff, but I don’t want staff. They would annoy me, want to talk to me at some point. They’d be in my space which includes my entire house. And the land around it. The air.

What the hell would I do with staff? They could open the door for the dogs, I guess, or bring me another glass of water or Diet Pepsi. The trade off would be too great. In My Space. That’s a deal-breaker.

I have a weekly housekeeper who’s worked for me for decades. So in the normal course of events, I’m not doing the vacuuming and so on. And this is great. (She’s only in my space one day a week, and I’ve trained myself to block that out.)

I do not, never have, never will use ghostwriters. I’ve stated my opinion, many times, on the use of ghosts in fiction. My work is my work, start to finish. If my name is on the book, I wrote it. A reader, another writer, a stranger on the internet is entitled not to like my books, or any particular book. They’re not entitled to call me a liar.

I love and treasure alone

I don’t use ghosts, co-authors, I don’t have collaborators. Why is that so hard for some to accept? I don’t brainstorm with other writers, with my editor or my agent on storylines. It’s not my wiring. I love my agent, my editor, and respect them just as much as I love them.

If either or both of them insisted we brainstorm, I will be forced to kill them until they were dead.

I’m a solitary woman. I love and treasure alone. I also love my family, and am thrilled to be part of my grandkids’ lives, to see them, watch them grow. I adore my daughter-in-law beyond the telling of it. Ditto my sons, my husband.

But every day, when BW finally calls upstairs that he’s leaving for work, I have a little internal celebration.

My space.

I’m an early riser (wish I wasn’t, but wiring). I fiddle around with email and whatever for awhile in the morning–mostly hoping BW might leave a little sooner. (Sorry, BW.) But I’m usually in work mode by 8. Sometimes before, sometimes later, that’s just usual.

I work. Stare into space, wonder WTF should happen next, look stuff up, and somehow by around 3 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) I’ve actually written a decent chunk.

Yay.

Then it’s time to go workout. 90 minutes, daily. That’s my routine, and I’m a solitary woman who thrives on routine.

Then it’s actually speak to BW, maybe have an alcoholic beverage. In good weather, get outside, walk the gardens with the dogs. Whatever.

Three nights a week I sign tubs of book orders from our bookstore. Some nights–like tonight–I’ll proof galleys for an upcoming book.

I work on a three-draft method. This works for me. It’s not the right way/wrong way. There is no right or wrong for a process that works for any individual writer. Anyone who claims there is only one way, or that’s the wrong way, is a stupid, arrogant bullshitter. That’s my considered opinion.

The first draft, the discovery draft, the POS (guess what that stands for) draft is the hardest for me. Figuring it all out, creating people I’m going to care about enough to sit here with hours every day in order to tell their story. Finding out information about the setting, the careers involved, and so much more.

I don’t outline. I have a kind of loose mental outline, then I sit down, get started and hope it all works one more time.

I don’t use visual aids, don’t have color-coded note cards. I scribble notes, then irritate the crap out of myself because half the time I can’t find the one thing I scribbled down I want now, right this minute.

Outlining, visual aids, note cards–not wrong. In fact excellent if any and all work for that writer.

I don’t know how long it takes me for that first draft. I don’t care. Am I getting the story out, are these people interesting, layered, human, am I putting myself, and therefore the reader, into the setting?

Setting, pacing, character development and evolution, connections, relationships, transitions, conflicts, beats, hills and valleys, dialogue, description.

I can’t analyse how they come out of my head and onto the page. I’m not an analytical person. I just know it’s work, often frustrating often fun. But work.

I don’t go back in the writing of that first draft, fiddle and fix, I just plow on, get the story, the people, onto the page, taking it on faith (and through a lot of experience) that I can fix what’s wrong, shine up what’s right later.

Get it out, get it down, put the words on the page. Every day. Hours a day.

And when the first crappy draft is done, I go back to page one. Now, second draft, fix it, expand it, get rid of it, work more thoughtfully on the language. Is it all holding up? Does it make sense? Is it a good, solid story? I can do a chunk of a second draft every day. This is for me, the easier part of the process. It’s fun to fix things up, to play with the words, to add more layers.

It still takes time, but it’s the happy middle of the work. Look what I did there, that’s not bad. I’d forgotten about that. Aren’t I so damn clever? Or–oops, that sucks. Must fix.

Again, I don’t know how long it takes me. I don’t care.

When I finish the second draft, it’s time for the third, the last, the polish. Not as big those daily chunks now. This is what I’ll send to that agent and editor I love and respect. I need to make it the best I can. I might find spots that sag, so I try to shore them up. I might find I’ve taken a quick angle that works–maybe add to that–or doesn’t, change it until it works.

I don’t know how long this takes. I still don’t care.

This is also where I spell check. My spelling is miserable, so I’m grateful for the technology. Except when it doesn’t work. What do you mean Word Not Found? It’s a damn word!

When I feel this is the best I can do, I send it off, make a wish, then definitely have an alcoholic beverage.

I’ll add I do all this work with my very, very old Word Perfect program–that’s DOS. Many of you will have to look that up as you’ll never have heard of such a thing. It’s like a strange tool from an ancient era. I like the blue screen–easy on the eyes. I like it doesn’t have bells and whistle that would get in my way (like staff).

I do all of the above myself, alone, solitary, ass in the chair, mind in the book, fingers on the keyboard. Someone asked me once, in a Q&A what three pieces of advice I had for other writers. Here they are:

Stop making excuses and write.
Stop whining and write.
Stop fucking around and write.

I take my own advice.

I don’t, as claimed in some article long ago and has become the stuff of myth and legend, write a book every 45 days. When I started selling I had several mss, rejected, in the drawer I could then take out, fix, polish, submit. So those first couple of years, I sold a lot of 55k word Romances to Silhouette. I had that jump start.

At this time it’s being winged around I write five books a year. It’s actually four. Two Robbs, one stand-alone Roberts, one portion of a trilogy. That’s a lot, but the pace and process suit my current life.

If I did write five books a year, they would still be all written by me. Just me.

Back to process. My editor–that’s Leslie Gelbman, St. Martin’s Press–works fast, too. I’ll hear back from her on the new ms in a very timely fashion, which I’m very grateful for because even with that quick turnaround, I’ll have started the next book.


Routine is my god.

It’s what I do. A day or two off to recharge, to maybe start fiddling with research, to play with that mental outline, then it’s close the cage door and go again.

I may have to stop the current work if Leslie wants any changes. Since she’s going to be right about those changes ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I don’t argue. The one time I KNOW she’s not right, she doesn’t argue.

Respect.

I’m able to produce a lot of books because I work every day. Because I don’t go out to lunch or dinner, or to events, go shopping, have hobbies or socialize all that much. I don’t want to.

I like home. I like my space. I have plenty of people living in my head for company.

I don’t spend a lot of time, sometimes none at all, on social media. It’s a time suck. My time’s valuable to me.

And routine is my god.

Get up, fiddle, write, write, write, workout, engage with my husband, make dinner, maybe have the kids over for dinner a couple times a month and enjoy grandkids.

I garden in the spring and summer, bake bread, but that’s weekends.

I make soups and breads in the fall and winter, again, that’s weekends.

When on vacation I’ll write here and there. Because I miss it if I don’t. I don’t slave while on a break, but I’ll write now and then.

And I think about the book all the time. In the shower, in the workout, in the garden, in the kitchen. I can work out plot points while kneading bread dough, so good for me.

There’s no secret, no formula, no magic spell.

It’s called writing, regularly, consistently, daily. It’s discipline and drive and desire. The three Ds I also tout when asked. Talent’s great, but without the three Ds, it’s hard to produce.

Fortunately for me I have them, and I use them.

I love my work, even on a bad day, I love my work. Being a writer is a gift I’m grateful for, even when it’s a bad day.

I value and respect the reader. Lying, to me, equals devaluing and disrespect.

So to the readers–whether or not you enjoy my books, have read any of my books, read my books occasionally or all the time–I write every one, myself, alone, in my space.

Whatever you think of the finished product, it came from me.

Nora

Freedom!

I haven’t posted a blog in weeks as I’ve been hip deep in a book. The result? Brain drain at the end of the work day, and a zillion tasks to deal with on weekends.

Yesterday, finally, I sent the manuscript off to my agent and editor. And today I unlock and throw open the cage door for a couple of days.

After I finish this blog, I may sit in the corner and stare at the wall for several hours.

Things have happened besides the book in these first chilly weeks of the new year.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House was–as they say in Regency novels–a crush. Lots of people, lots of food. Laura and Kayla and Kat helped me make and bake and stir and chop on New Year’s Eve.

For the crudite, Kat created a little Christmas tree out of broccoli, with bits of red peppers for ornaments and a star carved from a radish. Who else but Kat would think of that?

#randomkatness

So I got to ring out the old, ring in the new with friends, family. And got plenty of Griffin time.

We had our annual January trip to the spa–which meant I had the glorious Griffin with me for a week. (Oh, and his parents, too.) One of the butlers brought in his personal rocking chair for our use–what a guy.

The Magickal Griffin

Griffin and I seriously appreciated it.

Then, despite the ugly and annoying head cold that struck me on my first day home, it was a return to work–with no afternoon massage.

And the start of my annual purge. Due to ugly cold this got a slow start, but progress was made. By the second weekend of purging, I hit my office.

For a zillion years I’ve kept a ton of research books–ones I really haven’t cracked open in about a half a zillion. This year, I determined to cull them down brutally, and give my office shelves some breathing room.

Clear space on office shelves

And poor BW had to haul the heavy boxes (box after box) downstairs. They’ll go into storage, then the next library sale. And my office is reborn!

I haven’t hit the lower level yet–always a big chore–but the third floor is purged, and I only have the library and guest room left on the main.

At BW’s request I cleaned out my candle cupboard. Apparently I actually have a candle cupboard. And okay, I didn’t purge there, because candles, but I organized it.

And as Parker suddenly developed–we’ll be delicate and call it heroic flatulence–my scented candles came in really handy. So does yogurt mixed with his dog food (thanks Google) as we seem to have solved the issue.

Thank all the gods as if was far too cold to banish the boy outside.

As January slid into February with those shockingly cold temperatures, I stayed snuggly and smugly at my workstation, and in the book. It was so cold, the house couldn’t keep up, so I worked with a blanket over my lap. We got some snow, which from inside, looked very pretty.

Atticus, brave snowdog

Writing can drain the brain, but you don’t have to shovel out your car and go out into the world.

The really good thing about February is it’s short–and spring training starts. This one’s been busy and eventful in my world. My running girl and her teammates took first in Regionals in indoor track (four years running!) In a couple weeks, she’ll compete in States. And she got her driver’s license.

The newest driver in the family

How strange and lovely it is to have my first girl old enough to drive and my latest boy laughing and cooing.

We snuck in a signing at Turn The Page last Saturday that turned into a door buster. The cold finally broke, lifting the temps into the 40s–with sun! Actual sun. Maybe it was the break from frigid and sunlight, but we had the happiest group of readers and authors for our mid-winter event.

And I got more Griffin time. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see happy recognition in his eyes when he sees me. He knows his Nana!

Happy, happy boy.

Mid-month we’re celebrating Inn BoonsBoro’s tenth anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Especially when our truly incredibly staff keeps it looking as fresh as it did the day it opened.

I’ll end the shortest month with pals coming up to whip through the bags and bags (I’ll hang and organize) of clothes I purged from my closet. Girl time! (With Griffin attending as the token male.)

That’s a fine way to move into March, and start pining for spring.

But for today, before and after work out time, I’m going to play sloth as I expect to slam the cage door again on Monday.

Nora

Happy and Merry

Christmas is coming, and I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a goose getting fat. Around here, we’re ready for it.

It felt good to get a solid work week in, and now that’s in the rear view. Next week won’t find me at my desk very much, and that’s fine. It’s time to celebrate and enjoy the rewards of all the preparations.

Our tree’s trimmed with presents at its feet. All that wrapping and ribbon and bows will soon be pulled and ripped in the rush to find the wishes inside.

The stockings are hung, and happily stuffed as the kids won’t be around until it’s time to dig in. I love finding stocking stuffers, from the useful to the goofy. In our family tradition all the adults do the same, so those stockings will overflow and provide a lot of fun before the rush for the ribbons and bows.

This year I enjoyed creating a candlescape on my dining room table. Of course, I’ll have to dismantle it for the feasting, but in the evenings leading up, it’s given me a lot of pretty light.

I haven’t quite OD’d on schmaltzy Christmas movies yet. I’m fascinated by how many ways they can turn a misunderstanding or complete lack of communication into a conflict magically resolved into a happy ending by Christmas.

I’m a sucker for them.

We have lots and lots of cookies, thanks in very large part to Kayla. And for Christmas dessert, in addition to cookies, I do a sundae bar, so that’s easy and delicious.

Yesterday I made some mighty fine tortilla soup to get me and BW through the weekend. Today I’m going to bake bread, but other than my workout and this blog, that’s pretty much it for the day.

It’ll be nice to have the bulk of a Sunday afternoon without chores.

So as the hours count down, Laura and I wish you and yours all the magic of Christmas, warm times with family and friends, good cheer, happy faces, and a joy in those moments that last you through the coming year.

Since we do, I’ll end this with a picture of the sweetest of Griffin smiles.

Nora

Holiday Hustle

We’ve been in the thick of it.

We had our annual Progressive Shopping night with any employees who want to participate. That’s Turn The Page, Fit, Gifts, the inn, Vesta. It’s fun to go as a group from business to business, enjoy the company, do a little shopping. It’s also a great chance to socialize and get to know each other as your own work, your own business can create a kind of bubble.

The Inn, dressed for Christmas

We all end at Vesta for dinner. So much food! But before the feast we announce our winners in the year’s fitness competition.

And the Inn BoonsBoro staff defend their title, and keep the (wonderfully tacky) trophy for another year. The team’s led by Head Innkeeper Karen, this year’s individual winner, who I’m told seriously cracks the whip.

IBB Wonder Women

And those girls at IBB prove to be clever pranksters. Part of the inn’s holiday decor is a full-size Nutcracker. He’s huge! And heavy. It didn’t stop them from hauling him across the parking lot, putting him in the doorway of a side room. And scaring the pants off Heidi, Fit’s manager, when she opened for the day.

Nice one, ladies!

Boonsboro’s decked out, and that makes a festive canvas for Turn The Page’s holiday booksigning. A busy day, and lots of fun–along with Griffin’s first booksigning. (He slept through most of it.) When he was awake, he enjoyed being snuggled by various TTP staff. I think the staff enjoyed the snuggles even more.

I get my boy through the weekend as we have another holiday event on Sunday, which includes our very special guest. Santa! (Griffin also slept through most of it, despite all the noise.)

Then there’s a work week, with some bits and pieces of holiday prep worked in. The week ends with a holiday party here for the managers. Some fun food, a lot of champagne and all the good cheer you can hold.

Back row L-R: Renee, Michelle, Natoma, Heidi, Janeen, Laura Front: JoAnne, Holly, Karen (the whipmaster), Nora

Oh and those inn girls left me a little nutcracker on my workstation. I see what you did there, ladies! Gave me a laugh–and Mr. Nutcracker will enjoy being part of my holiday gang.

For the weekend. Cookies! Lots and lots and LOTS of cookies. Logan skips this year, and Kayla serves as head baker with some assistance from me and from Colt. The girl’s on a roll. We dive in with cheesy Christmas movies on the kitchen TV–which Kayla and I agree are just silly fun. (I don’t believe Colt paid any attention either way.)

We end up with a double batch of chocolate chip (a crowd favorite) snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Candy Cane Kisses, with the grand finale of painted sugar cookies. We include a lunch break so real food goes in tummies as well.

Kayla and her sous chef, Grandda

With Colt serving as taste tester, we deem all cookies delicious.

It’s always fun to hold a marathon cookie bake, but seeing Kayla take over so willingly, and so skillfully is the best part. One day she’ll bake in her own kitchen, and I hope look back on the years she baked in mine.

Logan has no problem eating the cookies when we have the gang for dinner. And a big bag of them go with the kids after dinner.

Today, after my morning workout I have a few little gifts to bag or wrap. I need to check the bread situation to see if I need to bake. And, at some point, sign four tubs of books. But compared to a solid eight hours in the kitchen yesterday, this is a day off!

All the traditions that weave their way into the fabric of our friends and family make a warm and colorful cloth. I love watching the cloth unfold every year.

I hope you all have your own warm and colorful cloth to cuddle with.

Nora

Note from Laura: the 2018 finale to #random Katness:

First family holiday photo

Making a List

I’m a list maker. I like to see my tasks and goals in writing–and even more I like the satisfaction of checking those tasks and goals off when complete. In fact, if another tasks pops up and gets done that wasn’t listed, I’ll just add it to the list with its check.

Instant gratification.

My lists are plentiful this time of years. Gifts to buy, gifts bought, seasonal clothes to switch out, the standard weekend domestic chores. Holiday baking, present wrapping, organizing wrapping station again post-wrapping session, holiday decorating, Christmas card writing and so on.

Without lists, I’d be lost–and miss that satisfying checkmark.

This past week my list included one full day of writing–thank God!–then a trip to the dentist, who may start charging me rent, for a filling replacement. And then, preparation for the Thanksgiving feast.

Pies first. Wednesday BW sits at the kitchen counter peeling pounds of apples while I make pie crust. I bake two apple, two pumpkin, so that’s a lot of pie crusts. Apples peeled, he helps me add the leaves to the table. Then he’s off to the gym and the bookstore while I stir and fill and bake. I add buying those silicone crust shields to my list because I am DONE fiddling with making them out of aluminum foil.

While the apple pies bake, I make the pumpkin, then make the dough for sour dough pretzel rolls and set it aside to rise. Still have apples left, so quarter some up to simmer for apple sauce–my mother’s crowd favorite, so when I cook then down, mill them, add the sugar and cinnamon, that scent brings here right there into the kitchen with me.

I make cranberry sauce, letting the berries simmer while I roll those pretzel balls, set them aside to rise. Make the deviled eggs Logan specifically requested.

Then it’s the fun part of the pretzel rolls, boiling them in baking soda water, watching them plump up. Score, bake, add some sea salt and poppy seeds. Done!

I clean off the work counter countless times, watch the woodpeckers at my suet feeder, accept this is all taking more time than I’d budgeted so I’ll have to skip my workout. Still I get a decent amount of steps in as a lot of my few-times-a-year kitchen tools are stored on shelves in the laundry room, and some of the serving dishes I want are stored on shelves upstairs in The One More Room.

Why not go ahead and set the table–cross that off the list?

A long day in the kitchen–some seven hours–deserves the reward of a glass of wine. Or two.

Thursday is Turkey Day, so it’s me and the bird in the morning. My family enjoys the sausage stuffing I’ve been making for years, so it’s cook, stir, season, stuff. Slather that bird with butter, give him a nice massage, drizzle on spices, cover and into the oven he goes. Plenty of time for me to tidy up, the house and myself, before it’s back to the kitchen.

BW is once more on peeling duty–carrots for roasting, potatoes for mashing. Our rhythm is, as always, me cleaning up the potatoes for spots he’s missed.

Things are well underway before–oh boy, oh boy, here come Jason, Kat and Griffin! At last I get that baby back. He’s so ridiculously handsome, so warm and snuggly. And that enchanting baby scent. He’s one month old on Thanksgiving.

“Her” baby is here!

And now Nana’s got the boy. I do share him with Grandda briefly, but he wants a change, and he’s hungry. The dogs are fascinated, delighted–new human! They sniff, wag, and love shines from their eyes.

As Kat’s pumped, I get to sit with him, give him a bottle. He’s wonderfully alert and aware, just looking at everything. Like: Huh, new place, new colors. Interesting.

While the rocking chair where I rocked my own babies is no more, I get to rock him to sleep in the same chair where I rocked Kayla to sleep sixteen years before. There is nothing more relaxing than rocking a baby.

Ready for anything.

He naps in his bouncer while it’s back to the matter of cooking. Potatoes to rice, turkey to baste, more sides to make. Jason–our roving IT guy–and BW deal with some WiFi issue, and when Griffin wakes, Kat handles the vegetables and I get the baby. Very good deal for me.

Turkey out, time to make the gravy, put it all together.

We feast.

Clean up and baby time–as Griffin wakes from his mama’s milk coma–are group efforts. Which means it’s time to make some fresh whipped cream for pie.

At the end of the day, Mama and Griffin go up to bed, Jason and BW go down for the football game, and I unwind, and conk.

I’m up early, as is habit, fiddle around. Before long I hear the baby. When Kat brings him down, I get my morning Griffin fix–and so do the dogs. Sniff, sniff, wag, wag–a quick lick if they can manage it. And they take to guarding him whenever someone sits down with him.

While my youngest is getting many diaper changes–as soon as he’s wet, he kicks his feet like get this thing off me–my oldest is preparing to travel to New York for her first cross-country Nationals. A great opportunity for her. She and her mom come here first to meet Griffin, then they’re off with Kayla driving (!) the first leg of the trip. Some pumpkin pie (Kayla’s favorite) to take with them.

Oldest grandson, youngest grandson, their adults and a Parker on baby duty.

Logan’s coming here for Thanksgiving Redux, so I have my oldest and youngest grandsons together for the first time.

Deviled eggs for Logan to ward off starvation, more baby-rocking time for me–and I get baby smiles to bank in the memory book.

Love.

Heat it all up, dish it all out, and we have our second feast. (And a text from Kayla to let us know they arrived safe.)

Clean up–pie!–tub up leftovers for the young family to take with them. Baby snuggles and smiles, a hug from Logan who has to bend over to hug me now. More hugs all around, and then my house is quiet.

I’m so grateful for the noise and movement that was.

Saturday, finally a workout. Then a wrapping marathon with cheesy Christmas movies for company. Organize that mess again, finish up other chores while keeping an ear out for a text from my running girl.

She’s finished her race–had a great experience–and will text again when they get home. It’s raining now, and Nana worries. Hopefully, if she’s not worn out, she’ll be up today to wrap. Saves me hours, gives her some spending money. Logan comes up twice a month to do chores. It’s great having teenage grandkids close by who want spending money!

Also great is having a brand new light in my life, who’ll shine for me in just a couple weeks over signing weekend.

Meanwhile I have my annual holiday trip with great girl pals coming up at the end of the week. I’ll come home, hit my list and do the tree trimming, the holiday decorating. Cookie baking’s on that list, hopefully with grandkids if their schedule allows.

Today it’s workout and making potato and ham soup as we’re tired of turkey.

There’s a lot on the list for December. It’s work, but it’s happy. Here’s hoping whatever’s on your list is just as happy–and gives you satisfaction as you check things off.

Nora

And a wink and a smile before you go.

Counting Down

We’re starting the Baby Clock around here with three weeks to go until due date. And we started it off with a happy weekend.

I called dibs on giving Kat’s shower pretty much thirty seconds after she announced baby on board. I love giving showers because what could be happier than sharing the anticipation of a life together (wedding) or a new life (baby) with female friends and family? For me, it’s one of the sweetest of rituals.

And for me, the weekend starts off with a short work day on Friday to make room for a workout before the kids come up for dinner. Since Kayla has a meet on Saturday, that means pasta for the runner. I happen to have red sauce I made from Jo’s garden tomatoes bagged in the freezer–so that’s easy.

It’s nice to have the kids around at the end of the week, to catch up on what they’re doing, and how they’re doing. I can report Logan’s gained another inch. It’s so cute how he kind of leans over to hug me now.

As the shower’s on Sunday, I have all day Saturday to prep. And I have two young men to help out in Logan and Colt. I admit I wasn’t sure if Colt would really pitch in, but boy, did he. And Logan’s a solid workhorse when motivated.

Pavers and walkways swept, deck chairs cleaned, trash out, this hauled up, that hauled down, kitchen floor scrubbed, and chairs, chairs and more chairs carted into the living room for an expected party of about 40.

Thanks, guys!

I have (personally stuffed) a boatload of party favor bags waiting in the backroom, along with some of the gifts sent here, the game supplies and prizes organized, and many, many bottles of champagne chilling.

And the cake arrives. Oh just wow!!! Kat wanted a dinosaur theme, and Lacy the amazing baker has created a truly delightful masterpiece. I have to do a driveway happy dance when I see it.

Dinolicious!

Then hold the dogs who are just as delighted with her and the scent of her dogs on her shoes while Logan runs up to open the door so she can carry the cake inside. She takes it down to the laundry room where I’ll close the door to keep the dogs from sampling it.

Wake to rain on Sunday, the all-day kind. But that’s not going to dampen the party. Natoma (Gifts Inn Boonsboro manager and excellent caterer) arrives with her daughter Hannah to set up. At Kat’s request the dino theme continues with some cute touches like dino-shaped chicken bites, dessert ‘Dirt’, dino gummies, blue punch (it’s a boy, after all) and a terrific array of food.

No one’s going to leave this party hungry!

Laura arrives with the flowers I asked her to pick up–and pick out. So, so pretty, all those rich fall colors. Just perfect. Sarah comes early, too, to lend a hand.

Dogs, sad for them, now locked on the front deck so they won’t enthusiastically jump on arrivals.

The house starts to fill, time to pour champagne, wine, sparkling blue punch. Time for girl energy and hugs and greetings. When the guest of honor arrives, she’s glowing. A sweet ritual, yes, but also an important one, one that celebrates women, their power, their bonds, their strengths.

And more special here, Kat has such a lovely and diverse circle of women in her life. From our Kayla at sixteen, to women in their 70s, from college friends, work friends, aunts, cousins, a woman she met Panera and bonded with over knitting.

And so my house is filled with joy and love, with laughter and female voices.

Game time!* A little baby word scramble to start–and we actually have one contestant who got every one. Some brain in there. For the next game–listing songs with Baby in the title, we have a tie between spa girls (obviously veteran game players!) Nicole and Kat. I have to run up to the One More Room for another prize. The final game has all those women holding a card to their foreheads and trying to draw a baby without looking. Mama-To-Be will judge the winner.

Most turn out like you’d expect. But two somehow managed to draw actual babies. This is quite the skill and requires another trip to the One More Room for yet another prize as it’s another tie.

Game winners!

Time for more food!

I let the dog off the deck, and–as I should’ve known–they sneak into the house. The ladies are just as pleased to see dogs as dogs are pleased to be seen so I let them stay for a bit.

Then banish them outside.

It’s time to open all those wonderful gifts.

Such fun, and all those adorable baby things. Jo had suggested we request a favorite book in lieu of a card to start the baby’s library. While there were a few duplicates, it’s amazing to me how much variety. So many beloved children’s books piling up. My choice, Where The Wild Things Are, as I read that one over and over to both my boys. Now my boy can read it to his.

Cake! Countless pictures have been taken of that cake, and more than one bemoans cutting into that work of art. However, what’s inside is just as fabulous. Kat’s favorite strawberry shortcake. Mmmm.

As guests leave, more hugs. Pals load all those baby gifts into cars–and Kat’s still glowing. I get one more rub of that beautiful baby bump as the next time I see Kat will be at the birthing center.

Nora


*I played no games.  But took photos. ~Laura

Did I miss the games?