Category Archives: shopping

Provence, France Day 9

Worked out some kinks. My ants were delayed, but eventually snuck in.

Jason took himself off for a walk, Kat and BW for breakfast. Just before midday, we’re cleaned up and strolling up to the hotel for our car. Driving–rather being driven–in Europe will always be an adventure for this country girl Yank. And driving into villages–even good-sized ones like Fayence, more so. Parking proves easy this time, so score! And there’s a shop offering ice cream close by our spot. Something to look forward to after our climb back.

We walk down the steep street–no trotting!–to the tourist office. Closed for lunch. Okay then, we’ll have lunch, too. A busy outdoor cafe under a big red awning’s right there. A wine local to Fayence seems right–and proves just right. Hey, I haven’t had pizza in days–time to fix that. Kat and Jason get enormous, beautiful salads, BW some pasta with mushroom sauce. (Only Kat will have a sample thereof.)

Passageway. Photo by j a-b
Street view. Photo by j a-b
Lunch. Photo by j a-b

People stream by as the waitstaff hustles in and out of the cafe–and the adjoining cafe that appears to make the desserts. We’re saving ourselves for that ice cream stand, so we begin our walk.

Little shops in those old stone buildings selling souvenirs–have a garden wall cicada that sings when you walk by? Ah, no. And lovely bottles of olive oil, herbs, wine. I will absolutely get some of all of those before we head by across the Atlantic.

Gorgeous bottles of perfumes with flowers floating inside, summer clothes, beach clothes. But we want views first, and climb up, up, up to the Panorama. My legs remind me I experienced a horse the day before. But up we go, and it’s lovely. A big shady area with benches–those fabulous trees (called plane trees here, and as BW and Carolyn, a helpful FB reader, identified as sycamores). But there’s even a better view from the watch tower, so up stone steps we go.

Stunning, really just stunning. You see the red tiled roofs just below, jutting and joining, then out and out to the entire valley. Another painting, perfectly pastoral. Green forests, rich brown fields, rows of crops lined up from this distance like soldiers. A patchwork of natural colors flowing toward the hills with the hills rising up to mountains.

The view. Photo by j a-b
Intrepid travelers with a view. Photo by kat’s phone
Pano with helpful wall detail for the view. Photo by j a-b
BW’s take on the view. Photo by BW

There had to be roads, but I barely noticed them. And it all seemed so still and peaceful, like a world caught in glass.

We go down, and down some more, making Kat our navigator (she has the map from the tourist office) once again as we walk. The heat builds, I find. Heat rarely bothers me, but I think the stone buildings, the narrow street act like an oven.


Little shops again, all so cute. Kat and I wander into one as we’ve seen a colorful shirt–literally as its pattern is paint swatches–that we both agree says JASON. And in wandering in, I see these adorable woven shoes. Colorful, fun. I have to at least try a pair on. My usual size feels a little big, but they have a size down. They’re ridiculously comfortable. I must have them, and the shirt, too. Kat assures me if it doesn’t fit Jason, she’ll have it for her own.

Who cares about the heat when you have fun new shoes?

Woven shoes. Photo by NR

Okay, now I’m dripping. I don’t sweat like that unless I’m working out and hard, but it’s HOT, and humid with it in this particular spot. I sit on the curb awhile while Jason and Kat poke into more shops. They’ve found the most adorable little dog (or cat in their case) feeder.  An iron dog with little bowls for food and water. It has some weight. I watch the heavy bag–and the parade of people. I see some sandals I wish were mine on someone else’s feet. Lots of dogs. A miniature poodle on a leash stops to say hello.

Artful bottle display. Photo by j a-b
Choices, choices. Photo by BW
BW called this “Manikin Fail.” Photo by BW

I see a young man with an impressive tanned torso–he shows it off by folding up his oversized tee-shirt. It must be cleverly pinned on the inside. It’s an odd look, but there is that torso.

Shopped out, we walk up and up, up some more, and find a church. A large and lovely one. And it’s cool inside. Stations of the Cross, holy water basins, flickering candles, statues of saints, and as always the BVM.

Church as seen by j a-b

Up some more, and oh yeah, ice cream. Just sparkling water for BW (though he has a couple samples of my cone) as he’s having a tooth deal. Something broken off on a back tooth–likely a filling–that’s rubbing sharply. We put, by text, the intrepid Alain and the efficient Elania at the hotel on the case. He may have a stint in a dentist’s chair in the morning.

Back home we go for a well-deserved rest.

BW takes a swim, and it inspires me to do the same. Just the perfect thing after a sweaty adventure. As is the belini I make after the swim. After a rest, Jason and Kat (younger and more resilient) decide on another walk to the market. They’ll go the long route, and their ETA back here is 8.

Bellini. Photo by NR

BW finds whatever tooth deal he had has resolved. Most excellent news. I lose track of time until it’s coming on 8, remind BW he has to decide what he wants to order for dinner as none of us want to clean up sufficiently for dinner in public.

Jason and Kat return right on time, with more bottles of champagne, sodas and whatever else hit the list.

Dinner on the terrace–just that lovely, smooth soup for me, and okay, a few fries.

Another pretty, relaxing meal–a little entertainment, then bed time.

Since the dentist’s been averted, I’ll do my workout, and work (new charger arrived as promised!!!), then BW and I have both booked massages for this afternoon. Kat and Jason will motor off for yarn.

We have yet to decide how we’ll play the evening.

Neither my mourning dove nor the cat as visited me this morning. I’m about to snatch BW’s laptop and work out, so we’ll see about the ants.  


BW joins today’s #randomkatness:

Mantis by BW.
Mantis by Kat.


Provence, France Day 10

Tickle Tickle! Photo by NR
Eggs Benedict. Photo by BW
BW’s caption: BE apres Cizing It Up. (Laura has her doubts on this — I READ the blog posts.) Photo by NR

Only two insistent ant fitness buffs for the morning. I was a little lonely.

On this gorgeous day Jason and Kat take off in a quest for yarn. I had a lovely, lovely swim, a round in the hot tub in reward for the workout.

Then, thanks to my promptly arriving charger, settled down to work for a couple hours. How about some cheese and bread with that? Don’t mind if I do.

For a couple of hours, my body sits in the woodsy shade of Provence and my brain goes to New York in 2061. It’s a very fine deal for me.

Stretch it out, have a bellini. Seems fair.

Then BW and I stroll (climb) stroll to Le Spa. This is BW’s second trip, my first. It’s gorgeous.

Airy and fragrant and wonderfully calm. Up a few stairs a glass window presents the beautiful indoor pool and its lounging area. We sit in reception a few minutes before we’re led to our respective locker rooms. More quiet, more pretty, more fragrant. I’m into the plush robe and slippers, then go into the relaxation room.


Several lounges–adjustable for your comfort. Glossy magazines. I test my very poor French reading and admire the photographs. My masseuse fetches me, guides me into my pretty massage room. In minutes I’m down, she’s back and it begins.


My choice of oil scented with lemongrass. Hot stones seeping into bones and muscles tested by climbs, workouts and horses. Good. competent, soothing hands. I drift in and out–my favorite state during a good massage. Not out so you wake up, think: What? Not fully awake so the brain doesn’t rest. The floating stage, and it’s perfect.

I tell her so when it’s finished.

Still in the dreamy state, I meet BW back at reception, and back home we go.

I decide to continue to relax there, which requires another bellini.

Jason and Kat return just about five o’clock. An adventure!

The yarn store Kat earmarked was closed for August–the traditional holiday month. Not to be discouraged, she found another in Nice, so on they drove. But that one, closed as well. She figures they figure who wants to buy yarn in August any way. Since they’re in Nice, they go to the beach, have lunch. And Kat gets to dip her feet in the Med. Jason regrets ordering a salad, which proved to be huge–after he sees someone served a hot fudge sundae. An enormous sundae.

Nice street scene. Photo by kat
Sweet selfie. Photo by kat
Classic farmland scene. Photo by j a-b
Giant Jason. Photo by kat

Kat drives to Nice, Jason drives back. I remain the only holdout. But really, think of the humanity.

We talk our day on the terrace, talk about where to have dinner as we’ve decided to explore off-campus. In their efficient way, they’ve taken photos of menus of a couple of our choices.

We choose one, casual, and clean ourselves up.

Beautiful, balmy evening after another hot day. We run into–I believe it’s Phillipe, head concierge and chat while I car’s brought around. He doesn’t know the restaurant we’ve chosen, but we promise to report back. (Jason tells me I misspelled Eladia’s name in a previous blog.)

Jason’s taken himself off on foot as it’s just a bit over a mile and he wants to hit his step goal for the day (I have sufficiently crushed all comers in our Work Week Hustle). Kat, faithful navigator, directs us. Wind and wind and wind, and . . . there.

It’s in or really by a kind of shopping center, and some flats. Wide, open air, lots of tables. A cheerful waitress with a little English. I choose some wine, and that goes smooth and easy. Vin rouge always works.

Le group. Photo by kat

She brings out a little chalkboard with the daily specials on it–and BW spots paella. That’s a favorite. It has a further description in French Jason and I puzzle over then decide is at any time over the weekend.

They have spaghetti arrabiata, which is a favorite of mine. Salade verte. Perfect.

BW inquires about what’s in the paella, as this often depends. The waitress only has French here, explains–and uses mime–it’s adorable. We got the shrimp, the mussles, the chicken (we’ve got that much French), but we’re all stuck on another ingredient until she draws a picture. An octopus (or squid). All five us are pleased with each other, and since all the ingredients suit BW, we order.

There’s a cafe across the way closing for the night. One of the residents of the flats is standing on her tiny balcony brushing her teeth. People begin wandering in to take tables. I have a view of the hills throughout.

The food’s really, really good. The service fun and bright. This is obviously a neighborhood place, and we hear only French. We all agree we’d certainly come back, and that’s before dessert.

Hey, hot fudge sundaes–and oh God profiteroles. Jason and Kat will split the sundae, BW and I the profiteroles. Meanwhile, a family with a young boy–three or four–and a very new baby are dining. The boy is entertaining himself creatively with action figures. Another big table is full of women so we figure a girls night out. Families and groups all around us, and the little boy’s in his own heroic battlefield. He’s really cute. We hear music from a nearby restaurant, and after a bit realize it’s karaoke!

Dessert comes, and oh my. I may not be able to fully finish my share, but I make a strong attempt. The long, lazy and satisfying meal has taken us deep into the evening. But we feel obliged to walk over and check out the karaoke.

Dessert!!! Photo by ja-b

It’s a pizzeria with a generous outdoor area. Lots of tables of people eating while others take the mike. We watch two girls bravely attempt a song. Not one I’m familiar with, and in French, but vastly entertaining.

Back home we go, and to bed as we hope to leave earlier this morning for the Saturday market in Fayence. No time to workout! Jason, Kat and I will start head-to-head on our Weekend Warrior Challenge.

I think I’ll try out my fun new shoes.


Today’s #randomkatness:

Bread IS art. Photo by kat

Note from Laura:  Here in the real world, I’m at a family wedding this weekend.  Sunday’s post could be a little later due to long party tonight and somewhat cranky wifi.  Will do what I can!

Fun and Freezing in Kentucky

Our three days of Derby are always a whirlwind of fun. Sometimes the weather cooperates, sometimes there’s some rain, or chill. This time around May decided to revisit March.

This demanded a change of wardrobe here and there. The easy-breezy summer dress and sandals for our traditional girl day while the boys are at the Oaks? Nope. Rethink that with a warmer dress, jacket, hose (I hate cold legs!) and booties. The hose and booties to be put on an hour or so post-pedicure in the ladies room of the restaurant where we have lunch.

Anyway, it’s all too much fun to whine (much).

This year we took our pals Bill and Nicole for their first Derby experience. It’s just more fun to see the whole amazing and marathon party through new eyes.

Flight’s pretty quick and easy, and we’re met by the fabulous Kathy and the fantastic Brian, whisked off to lunch and libation–in the rain. Then it’s off to the hotel to hang out, unpack, have another libation because, hey, it’s Derby. And Kathy brought bourbon–hey, it’s Kentucky–for the gentlemen.

Time to change it up for Club Night. My party shoes stayed home in lieu of booties. This year’s venue is a museum, just blocks from the hotel and it’s awesome. Before we head up to the party, our group tours the Hunger Games exhibit. The costumes! Holy Mockingjay! Just amazing and spectacular. BW has a crush on Jennifer Lawrence. Since I do, too, I can’t blame him.

Ready for Club Night!

The exhibit is really excellent, so those of you in and around Louisville shouldn’t miss it.

Then it’s party time. It’s always great to see our Derby family, those people we share this experience with year after year. We can nibble and drink and chat and catch up. Then we can dance!

We do it all, head back to the hotel–in the rain.

BW and Bill, Oaks bound

On the chilly, rain-soaked Friday morning our men dude it up for Oaks, and look hot and handsome. While they bet, bet, bet, Kathy, Nicole and I head off to City Nails for mani/pedis. I’m still hoping to wear my cute Derby shoes so get my toes painted to match my Derby dress. My nail tech performed a miracle on my fingers and toes–both in sad shape from bare feet and gardening.

Off to lunch–shivering–change from flip-flops to booties. Let’s have some champagne!

Lunch is lovely. The weather is windy and rainy. More shivering in the dash to the car, then it’s off to Rodes for some shopping.

Kathy happened to drop by Rodes a few days before, and consulted with my usual sales person, Beth. They put aside a suede-y, trench-coat-y topper they both thought I’d like.

I loved. And more than that it’s just the right warmth and weight for March in May. Thanks, Beth!

More shopping, and as is tradition my rep in the men’s department has shoes in for BW’s Father’s Day gift. (His size 14 feet are a challenge.) She shows me her favorite, and she’s nailed it. My fave, too. Father’s Day is in the bag.

More shopping for me, and for Nicole, and I find a hat I like so much better than the one I brought with me. New hat for Derby!

Back to the hotel through the wind and rain.

Time for hair, courtesy of Sarah. Makeup, glam outfits. More girl time on a fine girl day.

Men come back. I should add it poured–seriously poured rain all day. Bill apparently had little luck. BW had some. And then as we’re all doing the glam it up, the Oaks race comes on TV. BW hit the winner. So he’ll start his Derby Day ahead of the game.

Finish getting fancy. Aren’t we pretty!

BW, Nora, Bill, Nicole, Kathy glammed up and ready for the Gala

Brian escorts us down to the gala, and I’m grateful we don’t have to go outside.

I’m not so much a gala person in my actual life, but I love this event. It has that energy and excitement that’s Derby, it’s for a wonderful cause in Blessings In A Backpack. And everyone looks so pretty and happy. BW and I do the Red Carpet, then I head straight for one of my favorite parts of the night. The Silent Auction display. Oh yeah, I see some stuff to bid on–don’t forget that most excellent cause. I have the app on my phone, and I know how to use it.

On the Red Carpet

As always the York Sisters who handle the myriad of details involved in these handful of days have done a fabulous job. The ballroom is gorgeous. We have a fun table with our pals–from home and Kentucky. We have the stupendous John Elefante (Kansas) performing (and he and his lovely wife will be at our table for Derby). We have the also stupendous Wally Palmar (Romantics) performing (and also at our Derby table with his lovely wife!)

I’m busy pushing up the bidding on my chosen items (good cause).

There’s the photo booth–pick your props and mug. Which reminds me I have to go on line and order a few of my favorites.


Fun and more fun–and I make a nice haul (for a good cause) from the auction.

Time for bed.

I get up early on Derby Day, and learn–according to the news–it’s the coldest Derby morning since 1984. So much for the cute Derby shoes. It’s back to booties–and thank God for that new topper.

Cold or no cold, rain or no rain, we all look Derby polished.

We go early–BW and I like to BE there. Brian drives us through the rain, the traffic, and drops us off at the Red Carpet entrance. It’s not ready for celebs yet, but we can use that route–cut off some of the rain walk.

Then we’re up to Millionaire’s Row, and I do what I always do. Head straight out on the terrace. Even on a rain-spattered day, the Downs is glorious. But we’re in time to bet the next race!

Nicole and Nora
BW, Nicole, Bill, Nora
The lovely couple

Bet, lose a little. Hey the sun’s sort of out, so that’s a win. Outside to absorb, to look at hats and horses. Take advantage of the beautiful buffet, and the champagne our pals and Derby waitresses deliver to the table.

More people coming in, more hugs and Happy Derbys. More betting, more hats and horses. I pick a horse–I go by a name that strikes me, or a gray, or some other unscientific method. I do an across the board bet, and he comes in for me. Fairly long odds, so it’s a very fine return. Flap that cash!

Our table mates are here, and it’s so much fun to see them, to meet Wally and his wife.

The day goes by so fast–but the sun did indeed come out. It’s wonderful to stand outside (still cool!) in sunshine. And before you know it, it’s time to place those Derby bets.

I have a list that includes kids and grandkids and my own picks. I didn’t know at that time one of our Derby pals had asked BW if he wanted to kick a hundred dollars into their superfecta pool. 12 years running without a win, but you gotta bet.

Excitement’s building. So much noise, color, movement. I feel so lucky to be here, to be part of it.

A tradition, even in the rain

People crowd out on the terrace, and it’s that My Old Kentucky Home moment. It just grabs my heart every single time.

Those beautiful horses on the track, the colorful silks, the red of the roses, an infield full of people. Nothing like it.

Into the gate, excitement building. And they’re off.

I see quickly my big (relatively) bet isn’t going to pay off as my horse pulls up. Turns out it was a saddle or girth issue. But really, who cares. It’s stunning. That wall of sound, the incredible athleticism of horse and rider. For two minutes that’s the whole world. Coming down the back stretch, number five (Always Dreaming) has the lead. I don’t have a penny on him, but I’m cheering him home anyway.

And for our thirteenth time, we see the winner cross the finish line below. None of my list showed, but that’s Derby.

The Winner!

Moments later, there’s an absolute explosion of cheers and shouts from behind me. I see people I know jumping up and down, swinging each other around, high-fiving. Basically going nuts.

The pool hit the superfecta.

It’s a whole big pile of money to be split, but honestly, it’s the win. It’s that moment of holy shit, we did it. And I find out BW’s in on it.

Right then and there, one of our happy group goes down on one knee and proposes to his lady. Wow!

Good thing she said yes!

It’s so adorable, so sweet, and since he doesn’t have a ring, the clever Nicole takes little bits from her fascinator and makes one for the bride-to-be.

Foil from champagne bottle, bling from hat.

That’s our Derby family.

Tickets cashed in, taxes sliced off, and the net divided up into individual envelopes. We have a little ceremony as they’re handed out. It’s a most excellent return on $100, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But it really is the camaraderie, that moment of whee!!

We all say our goodbyes flushed with that moment. We give the newly engaged couple a ride back to the hotel, and that extends the fun just a little longer.

Back to the four of us, we get some room service, and since even party-animal BW is too tired for the after events, fall into bed.

Sunday’s sunny, of course, and a little warmer. Brian and Kathy haul us–and the considerable we picked up along the way–back to the airport. We’ll just finish this spectacular weekend with some mimosas on the short flight home.

Weather be damned. There’s nothing like Derby.


Catching up on everything

It’s been a busy few weeks with birthdays, painting sessions and time in New York.  Nora will get back to her regular weekend blog posts next weekend but I thought I’d share some visuals and some cool info for everyone.  I think I’ll take it in chronological order.

Sunday, October 9
A group of us met at Inn BoonsBoro for their fourth Brushes & Bubbly session.  Nora, Kayla, her mom Stacie, Mary Kay McComas and her sister, our friend Sarah and I joined nine other people in the dining room of the Inn to paint a mermaid, in honor of The Guardians Trilogy.  Local artist Ronald Layman patiently led us through the layers needed to create depth and shadow and texture.  We all had a great time.

The finished masterpieces.
Kelsi, Kristen, Nora, Marcella, Bayley and Karen (the IBB team).

Monday, October 10 (Birthday!)
In honor of the birthday girl, St.  Martin’s Press revealed the cover of the 2017 hardcover, Come Sundown:

Pre-order links are up now.  Turn the Page Bookstore will have their link up soon so you can order a signed copy.
Amazon HC

Tuesday, October 11/Wednesday, October 12
The beginning of the annual fall trip. Nora, BW and Jason rode up to NYC and I met them at the hotel.    I took this photo because I love those spires.20161012_144239

Thursday, October 13
After some very satisfying shopping and lunch — Kat (who joined us on Wednesday after flying in from a hiking trip with her cousins) scooped up these beauties —

Shoe as art. Photo by LMR.
Shoe as art. Photo by LMR.

we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the party St. Martin’s Press hosted to welcome Nora to the fold.  Rain sprinkled in the afternoon, but the sun came out just as the party started.  We all toasted Nora under the light of the setting sun on the rooftop patio.

Friday, October 15
Litographs went live with a Naked in Death infinity scarf in addition to t-shirts, totes, and posters! These super soft infinity scarves are available in your choice of 12 colors and 4 fonts. Shop today and Save $5 on your scarf with code NAKSCARF (valid through tomorrow, 10/18)

And to celebrate, we’re giving away one autographed scarf. Enter here to win 1 scarf signed by JD herself→

The weekend was all about holiday shopping for Nora and spending time with my daughter for me.  I headed back to Maryland early because I’m heading back to NJ next weekend.  I’m sure Nora will fill us all in with what happened next when she gets back to her desk.

Any questions?


The final day: Sorrento

We have a fine day for our last, and natch, we start it off with a workout. BW surprises me by wanting to repeat his Cize experience, so we are three. But only two–down to me and Kat for the 8 Minute abs. Ugh! We top that off with a long, challenging yoga session with Jennifer Kries.

Feels good!

A little lunch, going through our leftovers, adding some cheese and bread and salami. And hey, last day of vacation, so let’s have a drink with that. And oh yeah, we still have gelato!

We have silly family fun setting up panoramas. Our first is in the villa’s bathrobes which Kat dubbed Obi-Wan-Bathrobie due the hood. So we pose here, change there, ham it up as Jedis in our OWBs. Then do another set as just us.

Obi-Wan Bathrobis. Photo by j a-b.
This family has too much time on their hands. Photo by j a-b.
Their civilian personas. Photo by j a-b.

This family tradition takes some staging, some plotting out, and is always fun with results that make us happy.

A little lounging time, a little Olympics, a little more walk-arounds and basks. Then I have to face it. I should start packing.

We’re all actually pretty organized by the time we head down to dinner. Not many in the restaurant tonight–the one we’ve used for take-out up until now. Wine and pasta, as it should be for our last meal in Italy.

Pizza. It's what's for dinner. Photo by Kat.
Pizza. It’s what’s for dinner. Photo by Kat.


It’s busier down on the street with people in reflective pants directing actual traffic. Lots of cars, scooters, pedestrians. There’s a festival just on the other side of the village. We can see the lights–big, glittery flowers– hear announcements over a loud speaker.

Men in reflective wear. And flowers. Photo by Kat.
Men in reflective wear. And flowers. Photo by Kat.

I wander down to the street for a few minutes. I see one of our waiters, still in his work apron, cross the street. (Side note: It’s clear all local pedestrians simply assume cars will stop for them.) He goes to a scooter, opens the back and takes out a helmet–he’s already carrying one. He puts this helmet into the scooter, dons the other, and zips out and away. I wonder where he’s going in his work apron with two helmets.

Across the street two couples are playing cards at the dining room table. Lots of open windows and lights. A restaurant delivery guy comes out with a couple pizzas, gets into his car–(Second side note: Locals also assume cars and scooters will evade the car door casually opened onto the street side.)

Lots of people walking, and we join them. It’s a pretty night, and those big flowers are festive. But boy, this annual town festival was more than I imagined.

The walk to the park. Photo by Kat.
The walk to the park. Photo by Kat.

Music’s pumping as we walk up a hill flanked with decorations. Flowers, plants, lemon trees, displays of vegetables, all colorful and artistic. And this large park–how did we miss this–is full of people, stalls with colorful candies, jars of honey, crafts and food, food, food. The music’s coming from a stage where girls dance. Ballet, modern dance, duets, groups, a lot of operatic music–much of it dark and dramatic as, hey, Italian. And really well-done. Some sit in chairs to watch, some stand, all applaud. I see a couple of little girls in white tutus who must have been part of an earlier, lighter performance.

There are fluffy little chicks in a cage, and bunnies. Stalls with clever displays of really impressive vegetables and fruit. Things that smell glorious are smoking in stalls. No wonder the restaurant wasn’t crowded. If we hadn’t already eaten (and very well) we would have done just fine with festival food. I buy some candy, because.

Rabbits and chicks. Photo by Kat.
Rabbits and chicks. Photo by Kat.
Vegetables as art. Photo by Kat.
Vegetables as art. Photo by Kat.
Festival cheese. Photo by BW.
Festival cheese. Photo by BW.

We walk back, more mindful I think of the traffic than the locals. The moon’s just started to wane, but remains gorgeous for our last walk home from the village.

La Luna. Photo by j a-b.
La Luna. Photo by j a-b.

A little more packing, organizing, then bed.

One last view. Photo by Kat.
One last view. Photo by Kat.
As requested, a look down from the pool. Photo by the accommodating Kat.
As requested, a look down from the pool. Photo by the accommodating Kat.

We’re set to leave soon for the drive into the airport, then the long flight home. It’s been a picture perfect interlude for us, full of fun and beauty and flavors and adventures. Lots of memories in the book.

Packed up and ready to head home. Photo by Kat.
Packed up and ready to head home. Photo by Kat.
The family and Bruno. Photo by Kat.
The family and Bruno. Photo by Kat.

Ciao, Italia.


Day Eleven: A trip to Positano

We plan, such as we plan, a busier day. Since we Cized It Up big time with Shaun T the day before, Kat and I do a mellower hour with Petra Kobler. Still break a sweat, but we’re Liquid Grooving to start off the day.

Clean up, get dressed, grab the guides in case–set the navi system in the car, and we’re off to Positano–with the GPS locked into a parking garage.

It’s hard to describe a drive along the Almafi Coast without running out of superlatives. It’s simply breathtaking at every turn. There are a lot of turns. Still most of the road is just a little wider than the skinny snakes we’ve dealt with.

Towering cliffs on one side, rough and sheer, often with wire fences rising up them to hold back what would surely be rock slides. Still shrubs cling to them in that sun-baked green, and here, a stunning wall of deep, drenched blue morning glories wind up the fencing. On the other side, the cliffs streak down, down, down to the sea, one nearly as blue as the morning glories. The boats plying the water, the distant horizon.

As we get closer to Positano there are vendor carts–lemon drinks a specialty–nudged in on curves on the seaside, and houses, high up, built into the cliffs, all soft colors. The mountains rise high in fascinating shapes. What kind of road takes those who live so high up home?

The road narrows again, the curves increase, along the narrow roads and hairpin turns cars are parked nose to butt. We figure as BW negotiates the thin, crowded, winding ribbon of road, people park way up here, walk down, down, down to the beach. Wow.

The steps down to the beach. Photo by BW.
The steps down to the beach. Photo by BW.

This little fact makes driving those last kilometers an adventure as cars are also leaving Positano, and we all have to fit.

Some shops now, some restaurants, some houses, more traffic. We come to a stop, at a sort of intersection with many roads. A man in a yellow vest, holding a stop sign chugs from a water bottle as we all wait, and wait–expect for scooters which are allowed through. Cars come up the long hill and turn, and still we wait. And see why when a bus–a really big bus lumbers up the hill. More waiting–at least the view is beautiful–and another huge bus rumbles up, makes that wicked turn.

We’re released to inch our way down between parked cars and moving ones, winding round and round. Shops, their pretty wares displayed outside, skinny sidewalks, gorgeous old buildings layered on the rise and fall of the land. Lots of people walking, shopping.

Around and around, going down and down so the hills and the buildings stacked on them rise around us.

Another view of the hill. Photo by j a-b.
Another view of the hill. Photo by j a-b.

The GPS doesn’t let us down, and we work our way to the parking garage, a small madhouse of its own.

Down is our goal as BW wants to see the beach. Steep little sidewalks lined with shops, restaurants, everything full of color. It’s less urban than Sorrento, and though crowded seems less so. There’s a holiday vibe here. We walk to a kind of plaza in front of an old church, take in the view. All that sea below, spreading out, all the boats–so many boats closer to shore–more buildings rising up. In a window I see a woman hanging out snow white sheets, and they billow beautifully in the air against the sun-faded building.

Down by the water in Positano. Photo by Kat.
Down by the water in Positano. Photo by Kat.

We go into the church, but as Kat and I have on sleeveless tops, are quickly and politely turned out again. LOL. I’d forgotten some Italian churches are very strict on dress code.

Where's Nora? Photo by Kat.
Where’s Nora? Photo by Kat.

We go down and down, and while we glance at shops, nothing shouts my name. Until. I see a linen dress–sort of a deep orange sherbet. It looks so pretty, so cool, so comfortable. I have a weakness for easy summer dresses. In we go. The one that drew me doesn’t come in my size, but here’s another style in raspberry sherbet, and it has pockets! Everything should, in my world, have pockets. The clerk is helpful, attentive, shows me others, but it’s this one. She helps Kat, but the dress that caught Kat’s eye isn’t available in her size. But this adorable camp shirt–white with that Capri-blue lined under the color and on the short cuffs–does.

A very happy stop.

On we go, down and down, and oh, look at this scarf. I shouldn’t buy another scarf, but . . . They’re so reasonably priced, and hey, it could be a gift–so could this one, and well, yeah, maybe this one, too. Kat finds a pretty, breezy tunic–and we walk out with all for less, honestly, than I’d have paid for one scarf.

Umbrellas, water, boats. Photo by BW.
Umbrellas, water, boats. Photo by BW.
Bruce's take on the beach with all the color. Photo by BW.
Bruce’s take on the beach with all the color. Photo by BW.
More Positano colors on a beautful August day. Photo by BW.
More Positano colors on a beautful August day. Photo by BW.

The beach is crowded, the dark taupe-colored sand lined with pretty umbrellas. Boats zip or putter by, most full of people. The breeze is beautiful, as is everywhere you can look. A wide walkway separates the beach and its sun-worshippers from the line of shops and restaurants. We decide to sit, have lunch, enjoy the view.

This family loves their panos. Lunch in Positano. Photo by Kat.
This family loves their panos. Lunch in Positano. Photo by Kat.

A table facing the beach side is perfect–and so is the bellini I order. It feels like a Cary Grant movie–the look and feel of it all. I could see Audrey Hepburn strolling along the walkway in a big, stylish straw hat with some swingy little dress, huge sunglasses.

People do stroll while we sit, enjoy, all manner of people. Some with skin so pale I hope it’s slathered with sunscreen. Couples–one young woman wears a little white lace dress Audrey would have admired–and I think they’re surely on their honeymoon. A couple of guys in Speedos who shouldn’t have been, a man carrying a blue seersucker jacket, his white hair topped by a straw fedora, a huge camera hung around his neck. Babies in strollers and back carriers, kids trooping by in bathing suits, a skateboarder, a multi-tattooed woman and her friend rinsing a naked baby in one of the beach showers. People crowded in our restaurant, others stripping down to bikinis and tanks on the beach, more walking by.

And here’s a woman–middle-aged with magenta hair and a two piece bathing suit with the top flopping precariously down over generous breasts. Lots of generosity exposed.

Overlooking the beach. Photo by Kat (though I'm not sure how).
Overlooking the beach. Photo by Kat (though I’m not sure how).
Along the water. Photo by Kat.
Along the water. Photo by Kat.

It’s a constant flood of color and movement, shapes and sizes and styles. And everyone seems really, really happy.

We’re happy, too.

We eat, we drink, relax, then walk again. To more views, then back again. I’ve seen these big, pretty bags–thin like scarves–and decided they make good gifts or Fabulous Prizes for the girl spa. They really shouldn’t be ignored. So I buy two–they’re weightless and lovely.

We start up, up, up. We’d planned to buy bananas on the way back at a market we’ve seen, but it’s closed for the afternoon siesta. Lots of the shops are beginning to close now. We pass art galleries–we’d stop in these on the way down. Some fascinating art, and lots of it. Big modern figures made out of what look like chain saw or bike chains. Pictures, blurry ones, of ballet dancers that move as you walk by, a couple of gorgeous bronze figures, so fluid.

We climb, and climb, work our way back to the little madhouse of a garage. It’s amazing to me they can find our car. Amazing again, BW can sneak his way out again onto the road. The car’s alarm beeps regularly as we skim so close to buildings, to other cars. At one point a bus inches by us close enough my traveling companions and our sturdy driver make gasping noises. All–I decided to just look the other way–confirm we crept passed each other with under an inch between.

Down by the water in Positano. Photo by Kat.
Down by the water in Positano. Photo by Kat.
La famiglia a Positano. Foto di Kat.
La famiglia a Positano. Foto di Kat.

Then we’re up and out, winding over the water, beneath the cliffs. Scooters pass us at crazed speeds, their drivers leaning hard into turns. We watch a couple of cars beep and zoom around curves, passing two or three cars at a time, nipping back into their lane a breath or two in front of on-coming traffic.

We think to stop for those bananas at our local market, and we three passengers get out while BW drives off to turn around. Too late we discover it’s also closed for the heat of the afternoon. Kat and I opt to walk home from there–enough winding driving for us!

A wall of coins. Photo by Kat.
A wall of coins. Photo by Kat.
Wall detail. Photo by Kat.
Wall detail. Photo by Kat.

A dog, pale caramel color, sweet face, walks over, so I check out that face, go ahead and pet him. He’s delighted, and starts walking with us. Oh-oh! He stops, sniffs, smiles up at me and walks with us again. Fortunately he found a canine friend before we got to the gate, so we didn’t have to disappoint him.

Nora and a friend. Photo by Kat.
Nora and a friend. Photo by Kat.

A little hangout time, then we have our wine tasting.

The owner of a renowned local vineyard, his wife and daughter, bring us several bottles to taste, along with the treat of salami, cheese, bread, their own olive oil. They have a large coffee table book with amazing pictures of their vineyard where the vines look more like trees. They’re very old and survived a blight that wiped out many vineyards around Italy. Because, we’re told, of the ash from Vesuvius. The parasite couldn’t live in the ash, but the vine could and did.

Our host, who was a vet, decided to make something of his family vineyards and so with his brother and two friends began Tenuta San Francesco–St. Francis is, in addition to being the protector of animals, also the protector of wine. Interesting.

We taste–first the sparkling–and though I’m not generally a fan of the sweeter Italian sparkling, this is lovely. Fresh and not over-sweet. And the white wine’s gorgeous. The red’s are soft and supple. I’ll add Jason drank his Fanta–he has no wine pallet, he admits. It all tastes like grape juice that needs sugar.

We enjoy our hour, and I–having come from one and having made my own–appreciate and admire family businesses. We’ll enjoy, too, the wine they left for us–and what we ordered to be shipped home.

After the wine tasting. Photo by j a-b
After the wine tasting. Photo by j a-b

Olympics time, and we can just heat up some leftovers tonight.

It’s been a lovely, happy, busy day, one that ends with that striking half moon and scattered stars.

This morning the gardener’s come early to cut the grass, tidy the shrubs and patio. I think the noise is why the cat hasn’t visited.

About time now to pick the morning workout. A day at home–with a trip to the market (coffee for BW is a must), some writing, some reading for me. Sounds just excellent.  


Day Seven: Sorrento

Kat and I move to the shady patio for our morning workout, and since my girl feels energetic, we do a second round.

I think the woman who came to clean got a kick out of us dancing, squatting and lunging.

The internet continues weird, and only early mornings seem to work right now. Good thing I’m an early riser.

Workout and daily travelogue done, it’s hit the showers and dress for our trip into Sorrento to change money and poke around.

We’ve been given instructions on how to find the parking garage as otherwise, parking is next to impossible.

The drive down isn’t as bad for this motion-sickness prone system as I feared. And so pretty–vineyards, olive groves, sea views–even as the bone-thin road snakes and winds.

Little villages, lots of scooters tearing up the road. I just look away as a car approaches and BW squeezes by time after time.

We come to the main road, and think we do as instructed. But the parking garage ‘we can’t miss’? Hah.

We circle, and circle again in the thick traffic–and there my system fails. But we think we’ve found it! Manage to find the entrance, drive in, manage to maneuver into the skinny slot–and after awhile, manage to find our way out to the sidewalk.

And have no real clue how to get where we’re going. We walk, and walk, come to the busy road leading in and walk more. Along a very narrow sidewalk on a busy two-lane road. Squeezing by others walking the other way.

And walk.

We’re way, way past the point of no return when we realize–oh, THERE’S the garage. We didn’t actually park in Sorrento, but its outskirts.

So we walk–easily a mile or more, and my abused system has no chance to level.

When we actually get more or less where we wanted to be–and believe me the climb to Mt. Jovis on Capri was more entertaining–we hunt for a bank. Find one.

We have to put everything but the money and passports in a security locker before we’re allowed in. And we wait. Wait. Wait. Only one teller, and he’s obviously the champion of I Can Work Slower!

The man he’s helping has a lot of business, and they have a lot of conversation. After about fifteen minutes, we just give up.

And finally luck turns when we find an exchange, are immediately helped by a charming, entertaining man who jokes all the way through the multi-transactions.

Mission accomplished.

As all this has taken so much time, our next step is a seat, some food, some wine for me. A little outdoor restaurant, a seat in the shade. A lovely salad, that glass of red–and fries! Revival time.

And they have a BW fave. Meatloaf. He deems it very good. I can’t remember what Kat had, but Jason’s is some dish with fresh tomato slices topped with chunks of fried mozzerella. [Note from Laura: I know, I know!  Description in the caption.]

BW's Neapolitan meatloaf.  Photo by Kat
BW’s Neapolitan meatloaf. Photo by Kat
Kat's green gnocchi with tomatoes, olives and caper sauce. Photo by Kat
Kat’s green gnocchi with tomatoes, olives and caper sauce. Photo by Kat
Jason's tomatos topped with fried cheese. photo by Kat
Jason’s tomatos topped with fried cheese. photo by Kat

As we’re recovering from our all-too-urban hike, the staff begins to bubble with excitement. A man–American accent–comes in, and is greeted with big hugs, big grins. He talks of his wife and his girls–unpacking as they’ve just landed. The hostess, the waitstaff all chatter with him, and another man comes in–Roberto! (It sounds like the Italian version of Norm! from Cheers) and he and the American embrace, move to a table while the staff huddle around them in joy.

Friends or family, I couldn’t say–and often one is the same as the other–but it’s lovely to see that kind of genuine affection and happiness.

Add some live music from strolling players–one had a cello as tall as he was–and it’s a nice balance to the hard walk to get there.

Now shopping.

There’s a narrow pedestrian street lined with shops, just what the doctor ordered. We stroll, we poke, admire the fresh fruit stalls–and BW buys some bananas. I find another gift, consult with Kat, wander.

So much color, so many scents. Peaches and lemons and herbs. I resist–and it was a hard battle–buying another purse. So many, so pretty. Same with leather jackets. I do consider some sandals–my God, only ten Euro!! but they don’t fit.

Linen shirts–and that one in the luscious sea blue? I tell BW we’ll see if they have your size, and it can be a birthday gift from Sorrento.

We find his fit–and I find a lovely white linen jacket for me. Kat finds a oh so pretty red linen dress for her–and as often happens, I’d just pulled out the same from a rack thinking it looked like her.

A happy stop!

Bags and bags of pasta in every shape and size, in rainbow colors. Kat buys colorful little sombreo-shaped pasta. What a dish that’ll make!

We wander, and I think it’s good we listened to the advice not to go on the big cruise ship days as it’s crowded enough as it is.

We debate walking back as we’ve found a shorter route or cabbing back to our far-flung parking garage. We think we’ll walk–but first gelato.

I get a small cup of milk gelato with dark chocolate scattered over it–like your most heavenly, God-kissed Good Humor bar.

And as our feet are tired, Kat’s shoulder is feeling it as her bag’s taken on weight, we decide on the cab.

Backtrack, eating gelato, stand a while, eating gelato while cars swerve by. Hit the cab stand.

And as the ride back proves longer–much–than I imagined, I’m glad we decided to take the wheels.

I have more than 13k steps on my Fitbit! That’s enough!

We retrieve the car, wind our way home–the sea, the high cliffs, the vineyards climbing, the olive groves spreading.

Home again. I decide to use one of our peaches, puree it and make some bellinis. Beyond delicious. BW takes a swim, and I sit on the pool deck with my lovely drink and watch the boats on the water.

There’s enough puree for a second, so why not? How about a third–hey, I’m on vacation.

I read, I nap, I sit and look–that’s a fine wrap up to the afternoon.

We decide on take out for dinner, with Kat and Jason walking down to pick up our choices and a few things at the market.

And we eat–pasta, pizza, red wine–on our patio until the stars come out.

More Olympics–men’s gymnastics. The rings–I can barely watch the rings as I always think arms aren’t supposed to revolve that way?Why don’t they just snap off?

A little more reading for me, then lights out.

Today, the calico cat is sitting just outside the open kitchen door as I write this. She obviously knows she’s not allowed in–and any attempt to go out and make friends has her stalking away. So we’ll just sit a few feet apart and enjoy the quiet morning.

Our plans are for lazy today. I’ll write and I’ll read, I’ll sit and bask. We have plenty of leftovers to enjoy for lunch, plenty of wine–and more peaches if a bellini calls me.

I hear dogs barking, roosters crowing. The air, and the wide water are both very still. I may take a walk about before my gang gets up to start the day.

And we’ll see which workout Kat and I choose. I need some upper body in the mix today.

Fingers crossed this goes through, and the pictures uploaded through the restaurant’s WIFI show some of the lovely bits and pieces.  


Note from Laura:  Nora’s narrative comes through easily,  but the photos are slower.  I have the food from yesterday, but none of the trip to Sorrento.  So I’ll share another pano from Jason over the weekend.

Can you ever tire of the view?  photo by j a-b
Can you ever tire of the view? photo by j a-b

Day Two: Capri

There’s nothing like a long, sunny, breezy day to mark the first full day of vacation.

But the first day had a focused purpose–at least for me and Kat.


There’s surely no lack of opportunity for that mission here, and the August sales are in swing–so all the better. Plus for me, it’s my golden opportunity to scoop up gifts and cross off that Christmas list in high summer.

Still, my first purchase is for me alone.

We wandered into a shop, such pretty colors, pretty shells. And what do I spy but a gorgeous compass. It spoke to me even before I equated it with the Guardian trilogy, Sawyer and Capri. I could see it on a shelf in my library or my office, so treated myself.

Photo by NR
Photo by NR

As much as a treat was the handsome shopkeeper who flirts outrageously, singing straight into my eyes. That’s a trait I’ve noted in Italian men particularly. How they look right into your eyes–it works!

We wander more, and come upon the striking pottery in a kind of open air shop where I’ve purchased before. I recognize the owner, tell him I used a platter I bought from him only a few days before. He’s gracious, talkative, obviously proud of his wares. I don’t need another platter or bowl, I really, really don’t. But . . . The one with lemons is so cheerful! And the little matching bowl and serving set. And I love this spaghetti bowl, and this one.

Plus he takes my hand, kisses it. What can I do?

He’ll, he assures me, pack all my pieces up very, very well and ship.

The men have deserted us, so we hit a few more shops, and now I’m back on mission. No more for me, it’s Christmas in Capri. And yes, I remember this shop where I found several gifts last time. And do so again, now with Kat’s help.

What Jason found on his own exploration. Photo by j a-b
Photo by j a-b

A few more shops, meet up with the men, separate again because we’re not done!

Well, maybe I can have one more thing because that scarf is absolutely delicious.

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

More than anything, it’s the cheer and delight of the shopkeepers, the saturation of colors, the clever displays that draw you in. It’s just happy.

We walk and walk. Settle on a pretty restaurant where we can sit outside, enjoy some wine and pasta. And more gifts from the shop right across the narrow street. There the shopkeeper–with beautiful gray eyes–flirts and chats. He has his worktable right there, so customers can watch him make his jewelry, and even, he tells me, give him suggestions. He’ll make a pair of earrings for me while I have lunch!


And lunch is lovely. There is no pasta as fresh, no wine as soft as in Italy. I don’t even have room for my daily gelato after.

More walking, more shopping bags, and a return to the hotel where the men take naps. And I take out my little book, make my gift notes. Nearly done there! It’ll be an Italian Christmas for my pals this year.

Kat and I are made of sterner stuff. We need a few supplies from a market, so head out to find one. And find a purse I don’t need but just want, a few gifts to be crossed off her list. The crowds have thinned by this time, so it’s a little treat to see locals walking home from work, or marketing.

We do our own marketing, and wind our way back. A few words with the gray-eyed craftsman as he stands outside his shop–it was a good day, he tells me. He hopes I had the same.

And a return to the potter where Kat’s debating over some tiles. She’ll make a little table or a pot holder for her kitchen. He shows her several designs of four tiles, how they can be turned to make different pretty patterns. She buys two sets of four, and I can’t wait to see what my clever girl does with them.

Then it’s back home again, a glass of champagne on the terrace with BW, the making of loose plans for the next day. And for me, a swim with Paltrow. The water’s warm and soft, and two gulls perch on our roof, chatting with each other.

We’re all so happy and relaxed we decide to have dinner right here, on the terrace. Another drink, and we enjoy a gorgeous sunset. All pink and gold as the sun turns into a red ball that sinks, sinks, shrinks, shrinks, then slides away into soft, soft light.

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

A lovely meal, a flickering candle and four contented travelers.

I’m out before eleven, up at my usual six to another lovely day.

We’ve got a serious hike planned for later, but I want a workout first to tune me up.


More Fun with Girls and Gardens

Before I get to that. There’s more chatter cropping up, as it does, on Eve finding blood relatives. I’ve blogged about this before, and won’t go into a bunch of detail on why this isn’t going to happen. I’m just going to say it’s Not Going To Happen. I am not going to change my mind as if often suggested, or ‘listen to the readers’ as is often pressed.
I can only try to again make it clear. She won’t seek, ask Roarke to seek, find or accidentally stumble onto any other blood relations. That’s the way the series has been, is, and ever will be for all the reasons I’ve already outlined in detail.
Moving on!
Last week was a short work week as our Kat had a birthday. Our tradition is to celebrate this with an all-girl shopping spree which added on an overnight last year.
And I think this may have been the best yet!
We met up Friday morning, me, Laura, our pal Sarah and the birthday girl. Clothes, shoes, bags, champagne! (Not so much on the champagne for Kat who is endearingly an alcohol lightweight.) I work with an amazing personal shopper and team at Saks–I do this intense shopping twice a year–and they’ve selected some terrific choices for Kat–and for me. Plenty for Sarah and Laura to play with, too.
Kat and I are very interested in pretty conference clothes as RWA is around the corner–and Kat also attends conferences for our foundation. Girls wanna look good! And girls understand the fun of trying on clothes, putting outfits together and showing them off to other girls for opinions.
Girls are gonna look good!
We also have signings, vacation and just life to deal with, so try on and consider clothes (shoes!!) that will work there, too.


Beach theme for lunch
We’re at this for hours, with a lovely lunch break courtesy of the team, and head off to our hotel room well satisfied on all counts for an easy, relaxing evening–rather than driving a couple hours in ugly traffic.
More champagne!
Lots of girl hugs before our leisurely departure in the morning.
Then I get to work. No, not at the keyboard. In the closet. If I’m bringing all these pretties in, some things have to go. It’s my personal rule. So I purge, and pretty ruthlessly. I bought shoes and booties and sandals. So some of the same that have served me well must now make room–and will serve someone else just as well. I bought dresses, so others have to make room. Shirts, jackets, all of it. I was strict enough I culled out at least double what I’m bringing in. And so I can put all the new away with a clear conscious.
I have pals who will be delighted with my closet rule.
With the fun, the purging, the putting away done, I can devote a good chunk of my Sunday to the gardens.
A good workout to get the blood moving, and out I go for my weekly weeding and deadheading. My nasturtiums are huge and starting to bloom! The purple coneflowers along with them. Lots of new flowers to enjoy. And the misery of finding a big section of Black-Eyed Susans consumed by deer–not in a far-flung bed, but right along my drive. The repellent’s working, but right after the last dose we had a major storm. When I discovered this deer damage earlier in the week, it was about ten minutes after the damn storm. They must have raced to the banquet.
 IMG_1563 IMG_1565
Come on, girls, let’s eat!
I have to accept what’s lost and enjoy what I have. I have my first tiny little tomato on the vine and lots more Susies about to burst into bloom. And I manage to garden without once seeing a snake. That’s a very good deal. The basil that faded so in all the May rains has perked up beautifully in their pots.
 IMG_1562 IMG_1566 (1)
When I make dinner Sunday night, I use herbs from my gardens, and that’s as satisfying as a closet purge.
I very fine three-day weekend for me–with the capper of Game of Thrones awesome season finale.
Now it’s a very short work week as we leave in the middle of the week for our family/friend week at the spa.
I’d better get to work and make the most of the keyboard time I have.