Category Archives: The Garden

Catching Up, Buckling Down

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

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

Yikes!

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

Trifle by Kayla
Healthy food too!

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

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

JoAnne, Nora, Sarah

Griffin assisted his mom at the register.

Just up from a nap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora


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

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

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

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

On to London.

Then we sailed home to New York.

And now it’s back to regular programming!

Mayo, Day Fourteen

Sometimes the universe offers a perfect day just to see what you do with it. I think we did pretty well.

For myself, those blue skies call me out. Kat intends to take Griffin for a stroller walk, but the boy goes down for a long, hard nap. I think being a social, active, cheerful baby, he needed recovery time from all the socializing, activity and happy.

Napping is hard. Photo by Kat

While his batteries recharge, I head out to the walled garden. It’s a favorite spot among many favorites for me here. It’s a lovely walk even before I get there with a kicky little breeze, happy skies.

Magic tunnel. Photo by Nora

I go through the stone tunnel that open up to magic. Another tunnel, this of vines, and lovely, lush gardens spreading, climbing, dancing a bit in the breeze. It’s quiet as a church but for birdsong with all those colors, textures, thick blooms. White benches sit here and there, an invitation I accept so I can just bask in company of the flowers and butterflies with the clouds above sailing along the blue, silent as ghosts.

In full bloom. Photo by Nora

For most of my visit, it’s mine alone. Others wander in now and again, to stroll along and snap pictures as I do. But for most of the interlude, it’s just me, birdsong, butterflies and busy bees.

Herb and veg garden with a rabbit guard. Photo by Nora

There are vegetables and herbs, too. I see dill taller than BW. Cabbage and kale and leek along with the  Black-Eyed Susan (a reminder of my own garden at home), astilbe, coneflowers, the fuzzy spread of lamb’s ear.

I know the work that goes on here to make this enchantment—I dig in the dirt, sweat and weed plenty. But it looks as if it just grows wild and wonderfully on its own.

There’s nothing like a garden for brightening the heart, body and spirit.

I want to take Griffin next time.

More strolling until a light drizzle falls (light and brief). Back out, as the boy (and now his dad) sleeps still. I walk over to Mrs. Tea’s gift shop to scout. I’m after two more gifts, and think I see them. But I want Kat’s opinion.

So back I walk in this gift of a day to find BW. After some discussion, we decide to have lunch back at Cullen’s and eat outside to take full advantage of this special day.

A man in search of lunch. Photo by Nora

It’s warm, actually warm and sunny and blue. Kat joins us—so do some bees, and one gets a little too intimate with Kat, stings her hand.

Contemplative Griffin. Photo by Kat

Some vinegar for that.

She helps me decide on my gifts—a very satisfying purchase—and our boys finally surface to have some lunch with us on Cullen’s pretty patio.

We take our time with it all before going back to suit up for our much-anticipated Hawk Walk.

For this I want a jacket as we’ll walk through shady woods, and it’ll chill no doubt as the sun lowers.

Kat straps Griffin in the backpack—though I guess it’s a front pack. The birds, we’ve been warned, are terrified of strollers. We wouldn’t try maneuvering one through the woods, but just in case.

Griffin’s well rested, well fed and ready for an adventure.

Cullen at the Falconry School prepares to give us one. 

I always love this part of our Ashford’s visit. Everyone at the school is so knowledgeable about the raptors, and their deep (and mutual) affection shows. BW generally stands as photographer on the walks, but this time Kat and Jason take that job so BW can have a chance to experience. He has Wilde, and I Mia.

Heading out with Cullen

Griffin is delighted with the birds, but behaves himself very well, studying them, watching them as we walk. I fall for Mia very quickly, and thrill to have a hawk on my arm again. Off they soar, just magnificent, to perch on branches and wait until our gloves are baited and raised.

And the sensation, the sight of having that gorgeous creature fly back to you, land so perfectly on your arm is indescribable.

We learn quickly that Wilde is clever. If BW inadvertently raises his glove arm a bit between flights, back he comes—and Cullen has to feed him as that’s how it works. Cullen explains Wilde is training BW.

He’s also not one to let a bit of dropped chicken go to waste. He’ll jump down to get it, gobble it right up.

Coming in…
for a smooth landing

Into the magical woods we go, and those amazing birds wing through the trees, find their perch, wait to be called. Sometimes we leave them behind a bit, so Cullen’s whistle and the raised arms call them to longer, lovely, acrobatic flights.

Along the path, through the woods toward the lake as Cullen’s tells us of the birds’ personalities—ours and the others. He know them well, and they obviously know him, too. A few times Wilde chooses my arm, beating Mia, and once they nearly land together before she hops to BW’s glove.

At one point it seems they spot some sort of prey in the bushes and brambles, so in Cullen goes with a big stick to try to flush it for them. No luck, but the birds seemed entertained.

Then we cross to the pier by the beautiful lake, with the birds on the opposite shore. We’re to keep our arms down, the bait hidden in our fists, then call them so we can watch their flight over the water.

It’s breathtaking.

They fly back, perch, soar across the water again. That wingspan! The grace, and agility as they skim over the water.

It’s truly a soul-stirring sight.

A boat comes by, someone Cullen knows. We wave, then move on.

Through the woods again, enjoying every moment and back to the main path where Wilde and Mia are rewarded with bigger pieces of chicken for a job well done.

The birds decide Cullen’s taking too long to produce their reward and make impatient noises, almost growls. Hurry up, man!

But oh-oh! As we approach the school a family—with a baby in a stroller round the corner.

Both birds freak—they weren’t kidding about the fear. Luckily, Cullen had tied the jesseys before the sighting, so the birds flap, flap, try to fly away, but have to stay put.

I can actual see the alarm in their eyes.

To complicate things, the family is French, with little to no English. They’re understandably baffled about why Cullen seems to want them to go back. I can’t pull out the French for stroller (could maybe have used pram) or bird, but Kat uses pantomime very effectively flapping her arms like wings, making a scared face, pointing to the stroller.

Crisis averted.

BW, Wilde, Cullen, Nora and Mia

Cullen tells us if the birds had been able to fly off, they probably wouldn’t have gotten them back until the next day. The fear’s real.

We’re given an extra treat when we get back to the school. A chance to fly Dingle—the gorgeous owl we met on our first trip here—maybe a dozen years ago.

Nora and Dingle

He is so beautiful, so regal. About 20 now, he strikes me as the king of his castle.

Here Griffin is stunned into love. He really likes owls and to see one, a real one, so close brings out happy noises. Dingle gives a wary eye to this creature—who would appear to have two heads and four arms as the boy’s strapped to Kat.

Dingle has an indoor flight area, so we try it.

I can hardly believe I have this amazing creature on my arm, that I’m looking right into those stunning amber eyes.

He takes his flight—oh what a beauty—but decides: Hey, this beam looks good, and perches there. He’s not hungry, Cullen explains, so isn’t much interested in flying back to me for a snack. Still we try once more, same result, but it’s a thrill to have that spectacular bird on my arm, to watch his flight.

And Griffin gets a chance for closer look as Kat dons the glove—and Dingle consents to pose on her arm for a photo. (Laura’s note: This says owl, but I have no photographic evidence of such.)

Hmmm, Mom likes this, I’m not so sure.

Ashford sends us ice cream! Still one more treat we enjoy as we talk about the birds. There’s a kestrel, just a little guy—who the school took in after a farmer saved it from crows trying to have some lunch.

Hello

So sweet, and what a good home it has before it’s released into the wild again.

It’s been perfect, start to finish. Thank you, Cullen, again and again. 

Wee head into Cong for dinner. Before it comes, Griffin, passes out, so naps on the bench between Nana and Mama.

He wakes to eat a bit, and we take the rest of his meal with us.

Revived, he finishes it at home, has some play time.

Then it’s time for bed after a wonderful day at and around the castle.

Soft and gray this morning, mists over the water, lacy and thin, quiet light, and some drips of rain while I work out.

Griffin came to visit while I did cardio, and I promised him a Shaun T session later. Off to breakfast, and now napping. Kat’s driving somewhere in Galway for the wool she covets. 

I’m going to clean up, then hope the weather allows me to steal the boy from his daddy—or share him for a walk down to the walled garden.

Nora

Nothing Much

Not a lot going on this past week, which is just how I like it!
Just work straight through to the weekend, all pretty calm and satisfying.

A full Saturday for certain with a lot of gardening chores–also how I like it. With packing squeezed in there for the family trip to the spa. BW’s going to meet us there mid-week as he’s off to a music workshop to work on his Cajun accordion playing. Kayla and I head out Monday morning, and the rest of our gang will dribble in through the day.

Spent the evenings signing books and finishing up galleys as I really don’t want to take work with me.

We get our first little harvest of tomatoes–a very pretty Roma and some cherries. Setting them and the peppers in this new spot made all the difference. While I weed the front of the beds, BW braves what I like of as Snake Haven and does the back. (No snakes spotted.)

And as our wild berries are ripening, he has himself a handful, then gets another handful for me. Yum. We don’t often beat the birds to the berries that climb all over the slope behind the raised beds.

Last week, he discovered a nest of ground hornets under the furled loosestrife when he started to install some low fencing support as they’ve gotten so big. The hornets were not pleased, nor was BW when he got stung–fortunately only twice.

We just can’t have hornets buzzing around right outside the house,  but whatever he sprayed didn’t bother them a bit. Time for the exterminator.

The plants and pots look good!

We have an incident last week with a raccoon and the dogs. The dogs behave like dogs, so the raccoon is no more. In the battle, they break my favorite pot–my face pot–in two. Handy BW glues it back together, but I’m letting it rest for the remainder of the season–and happily save the plants.

A couple of problematic shady spots we’ve worked on are coming together. In one area, after many failures due to deer, I tried astilbes–deer-resistant, and they’ll take shade. Not my prettiest spot yet, but since the ones planted last year survive, we add more this spring. Eventually, when the little guys catch up, I hope for a nice flow of color and texture the deer ignore.

I chase one away from another area just the other day after work. They’re pretty, but relentless. 

I’m having serious good luck this year with hummingbirds and butterflies. We have a couple of hummingbird feeders, and I like watching them. One enjoys the boomerang lilacs outside my gym, and often comes to feed and visit when I work out. Sweet.

Happy boomerang lilacs

My herbs are thriving (harvest a lot for dinner last night). I’m letting one patch of oregano bloom because the butterflies like it, and I like them.

My favorite of the weekend is the stone lantern BW gave me for our anniversary, and installs yesterday. So pretty during the day, and what a lovely glow it gives at night. I think it’ll be my favorite thing for a long time. Across from that, my Rose of Sharons are about to burst into bloom.

Stone lantern
Rose of Sharon on the bring of bloom

Purple coneflowers and Susies bright in my beds, cardinal flowers ready to pop. Spilling nasturtium, bold begonias, cheery garden phlox. Hydrangeas lush and lovely–and so plentiful I cut some to enjoy inside.

Coneflowers, Susies, nasturtium
Hydrangea display

It so satisfies me to see the rewards for the years of work, to see each area we tend develop its own personality.
It’s even more satisfying to see it all on an evening walk after a good day’s writing.

I’ll miss that this week, but I’m pretty sure the family time–and a couple of good massages–will more than make up for it.

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.

All Kinds Of Bunches

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.

The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?

Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.

Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.

Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.

I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018  graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.

I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.

The principals — elementary, middle and high school — who oversaw the MBHS Class of 2018. Photo by LMR

Nora at the podium. Photo by LMR

On the big screen. Photo by LMR

I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.

I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.

Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.

Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.

Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.

And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.

On the rise. Photo by Nora

Down the front hill Photo by Nora

Thriving pots. Photo by Nora

A spot of color. Photo by Nora.

Front patio pots. Photo by Nora.

Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.

A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.

I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.

We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.

This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!

I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!

I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.

That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.

Nora

Note from Laura:  It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures .  Keep it between us, ok?

A peek through the branches. Photo by LMR

One of many happy toad houses. Photo by LMR

That face. Photo by LMR

Happy (Early) Birthday, Mama-To-Be

Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.

And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!

The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.

Festive! Photo by LMR

Surprise! Nora and Kat with Dawn. Photo by LMR

Nora, the Saks team and the guest of honor. Photo by LMR

Laura, Nora, Kat, Mary and Sarah.

A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.

Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.

And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.

Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.

Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.

Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR

A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!

After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!

Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.

For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.

More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!

Time for a workout!

A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.

Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR

Peony closeup. Photo by LMR

And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.

Water feature, in bloom. Photo by LMR

A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.

Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.

And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature.  I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed.  Enjoy!

Strange Days

I don’t mind rain–good for the flowers–and I enjoy a good, wicked storm. But.

We had about ten days of solid rain here, along with most of the East Coast. Drenching, drowning, flooding rain day after day. With seriously wicked storms at night. Bombs of thunder. Parker, never bothered by storms, took to sleeping on the floor by BW instead of on his doggie bed.

Roads flooded–and one just a couple miles from me, buckled under the endless attack.

Buckled road. Photo by SAB

As a bonus, BW brought home a souvenir bug from Derby. The second generation thereof (passed to me) kicked my ass. Thursday after Derby while working out–huh, a little tickle in my throat. An hour later? Throat on fire! Ears slammed shut, vicious headache, low grade fever, dry, hacking cough. And the rain, rain, rain (low barometric pressure) added to the fun.

While I was able to work Friday, I knocked off early, crawled into bed. Saturday, we hit the nursery (fever broken) for the few flats of annuals I needed to finish my pots. Finished pots, crawled into bed, and pretty much stayed there until Monday. Hey, it’s raining anyway.

Last week a bit better, and able to do a workout on Tuesday–then slept about ten hours. Jeez, some souvenir. Finally down to the hacking and blowing portion of our program, and able to deal with all the crap around here that piled up while I was down.

The house smells of must and wet dogs. Light many fragrant candles.

Saturday? How about some rain? I actually made soup because rain and because Friday night, hmmm, little toothache. Saturday, bigger toothache. Why do these things happen on weekends????

Sunday, at last, at last, Here Comes The Sun! BW and I spent all day working outside–me, thanks to Motrin keeping the stupid tooth tolerable. Gardens are gorgeous, sun and warmth is a balm for the soul. Weeding is Zen. Pots and planters are filling in beautifully. I see little yellow blossoms on our tomato plants, and peonies waiting to open and scent the air. 

Filling in.

Happy pots.

Just outside the kitchen window.

Nasturtiums starting to pop.

Just outside back door.

Tomatoes.

Sunny spot.

Color down the driveway.

Herby goodness.

And my first stupid snake of the season. I’m not pleased by this sighting, tell BW. He, as always, asks what kind of snake. I get it’s important because we get copperheads and they’re poisonous, but snake is enough for me altogether. I tell him–black snake, yellow stripe. Oh, that’s nothing. Show him where I saw it–just the end of it slithering (shudder) under the spirea at the corner of the garden wall, outside the kitchen–where I often walk on the path, or weed.

Oh, says the MAN, yeah, they live there. They what? Why has this information never been passed to me before? They’re harmless, blah blah blah.

They are snakes. He may not understand my phobia, but it’s real.

Anyway, any weeding that needs doing in that area is now his job.

Despite the snake sighting, it’s amazing what a day of sunshine, gardening, just being outside can do for the body, mind, spirit. And seeing the results of the work we’ve put in over the years is so, so satisfying.

Monday (still hacking and blowing), I switch my regular dentist appointment–set for next week–to Wednesday with time worked in for my guy to take a look at this problem tooth. Dentist is out sick Monday or I’d have gone in. I betcha it’s the same deal I had.

Wednesday works as the tooth’s better, now just weird but not really painful. And after Monday’s work, after workout, I get to take my habitual walk around the gardens with wine and dogs. Ahhh.

Now, as I write this, it’s raining. I’m trying not to be annoyed, and won’t be as long as it’s just today.

Hear that rain gods? I have a lingering cold and a bad tooth. You don’t want to piss me off. Do not mess with my wine, walk and dogs.

Do not.

Nora

YAY!

I had my wonderful week at the spa with my girls, crowned my pal of a half century (Jesus, Jo, how did we get this old???) Queen of the Drunken Spa Girls Tournament. Driving south toward home, I saw redbuds blooming, trees greening. At last.
 
I’m getting myself a brand new grandboy this fall. And our Kat looks wonderful. To celebrate the It’s a Boy part (just learned at the spa) I found a set of Marvel Super Hero onesies. About as cute as it gets!
 
Derby’s coming right up–first Saturday in May. More fun times, and since Kat and Jason are coming with us this year, I get to see that sweet baby bump again.
 
AND……I finally, finally, finally, got my hand in the dirt. There they stayed, all day.
 
BW and I hit the garden center first thing Saturday morning. Oh, all that color, the scents, the shapes, the textures. It’s such a happy place. We, as usual, filled the bed of the truck.

Ready, set, go! Photo by Nora

Back home with all that potential to the setting out, stepping back, studying, shifting. I had scores of Black-Eyed Susans to dig up and transplant. It may be our state flower, may be cheerful, easy to grow, and great for cutting, but it misbehaves. It likes to volunteer–great–and plant itself in the front of the beds–not so great. So I spent some time giving lots of volunteers new spots.
 
We had a perfect day–sunny, then cloudy, then sunny–not too hot, not too cool–to spend outdoors with flowers. And we spent every minute of it.
 
Now the beds look happy–and those nasturtium seeds Laura gave me and I got in before the spa are just starting to poke through. 
 
I changed a few things this year, moved my herb bed a bit. Those Susie’s had started to take over there. Rather than move all of them, I decided to let them have that space, moved the herbs to an open spot. My French lavender didn’t come back this year, so okay, let’s try something else. Fun, fun to see what works, how it looks, to see the progress of reliable perennials planted in previous years, and what might compliment them best.

Herbs in their new home. Photo by Nora,

 

Cleaned, cleared and planted. Photo by Nora

Got some pots done, too. It’s always fun to sit, figure what should go with what in a mixed pot.

 

Pots! Photo by Nora

Coleus of all colors. Photo by Nora

After a full day, we had a handful of mixed annuals left–and several pots yet to fill. So I’ll make another trip–such a hardship!–hit the nursery after Derby and get enough to finish up. Or if I get everything on my plate done today, I might see if I can squeeze it in.

Nearly done. Photo by Nora

Pretty full plate, though, as I didn’t spend a single minute on the inside of the house, or the four tubs of books waiting to be signed, or organizing outfits for Derby time.
 
So, we’ll see. Either way, after workout, tidying up, organizing, I’m going to wander around and admire all our hard work.

Peaceful sitting area. Photo by Nora

 
It’s spring. At last.
 
Nora