Category Archives: Travelogues

Montana – Day 7

We end our first week with a cold rainy day, but we expected it. We girls have our glorious massages booked and head over to Spa Town in that steady rain.

And into our warm individual tents. The table’s heated—ahhh. And that steady rain’s a calming kind of music now. My tech has good, strong hands, and knows what to do with them. Kinks and knots begin to melt. I drift in that perfect plane between sleep and wake, just float there for ninety glorious minutes.

Could’ve stayed right there for the rest of the day.

But home we head, three relaxed girls.

Griffin’s thrilled to see his mom, even when after some play time she convinces him to take a late—for him—nap. He’d slept in a bit this morning as he decided the span between 3 and 5 a.m. made the perfect time to be awake.

Kayla takes a lie-down herself, and I decide to squeeze a little work time in.

We’re cooking tonight, and I expect it to present a challenging experience. I’ve never cooked on a hot plate before in my life. We’re doing a Mediterranean dish with pasta, broccoli and pasta. Jason—as everyone’s off having quiet time—acts as sous chef.

The cooking space. Photo by j a-b

He cleans off a space on the little counter for the hot plate, and shows me how to turn the thing on—a two burner job. While I boil water—takes a while!—I have the new experiences of mincing the garlic Jason’s helped me peel with a steak knife. It’s what we’ve got. It works—but again takes awhile.

Kayla’s up by now and receiving instructions.

Water’s finally boiling—put the pasta on.

Heat oil in the big pot for the garlic (no onions as Kayla dislikes) then some of the spices—this dish has a kick so we’ll save out some of the pasta and broccoli for Griffin.

Jason mics the broccoli we forgot to defrost, opens and rinses the beans.

Broccili and beans. Photo by j a-b

Starting to smell good in here!

Add the broccoli to the pot—this will take a bit of awhile, too, before it’s time to add the beans. I’m now—with the steak knife—trying to chop the fresh parsley that froze in the fridge drawer. Interesting work.

Nearly done. Photo by Nora

Add the pasta, some of the pasta water reserved from that pot, the parsley, some grated Parm—more spices. It smells damn good in here! And others come out of their quiet spots to say so.

Griffin has his butter noodles and broccoli, and the rest bowls of spicy.

Finished! Photo by Nora

Success! A tasty hot plate meal.

I have now cooked a meal on a two-burner hot plate.

Clean up—not by the chefs!—and time for a bath for Griffin.

Excuse me? Photo by Kat

Kayla and I hit the puzzle while BW settles down to work on photos. We stick with it—we’re pretty close—but I didn’t choose an easy one. Bath time must be over as the giggles have stopped. The house gets quiet—just music from BW’s Bluetooth speaker, and our more than occasional mutters re puzzle.

The spread. Photo by BW
One of many views. Photo by BW

That should go there! Why doesn’t that go there? Where is this stupid piece? Where does this equally stupid piece fit?

Closer and closer—and Kayla insists this one piece she’s hunted and hunted for is missing. Piece by piece, we crawl to the finish line.

Hard work. Photo by BW

And indeed that one piece isn’t on the table. Don’t panic! Look on the floor.

And there, with a sound of triumph, Kayla finds the last piece.

And DONE.

Now I want candy. Comment by Laura, photo by BW

Flushed with our accomplishment, we head to bed.

Woke to a cold 32 degrees, and a lovely mist rolling over the far field. The day promises to warm considerably—thank GOD!  By the time I work out, and Jason and Griffin have their morning routine, it’s about 50. That right there’s warmer than it got yesterday.

The Breakfast Crew is off, and Kat and Griffin are watching one of Griffin’s shows/segments on the IPad. He is VERY involved. I hear a resounding YAY!! So something worked out well.

He gets a trip to the Apothecary today for a kiddie session—they make slime. What could be more fun?

Sunny and bright now, and supposed to stay that way.

It’ll be nice to grab some outdoor time today after a cozy indoor day.

Nora


Meanwhile, from the Travelogue Editorial Desk: Kat captures Griffin verbalizing all Laura’s feelings when dealing with repetitive questions and silly comments. Punctuated by the nose to sleeve.

And, since turnabout is fair play. It’s not always sunny at the beach office.

Curtains of rain. Photo by Laura

Montana – Day 6

So pretty for about half the day, then clouds and cool mostly. So we set up to paint inside. Ashley, our instructor and guide has painted a couple of choices, and we go with lovely Montana landscape.

Let the fun begin.

Canvases, paints, brushes. Jason takes Griffin duty first—early nap so the boy’s up—and gets a late start, but he gets to join in.

Resting up for art class. Photo by Kat

I avoid looking at Kat’s because . . . Kat.

Lots of color to play with as we start—as instructed—with the sky and work our way down. I love that everyone’s interpretation’s different.

Artists at work. Photo by BW
A different view. Photo by BW

Ashley goes around the table, complementing and/or answering questions, then I hear her Oh Wow! She’s steps behind Kat.

I decide, what the hell, and round the table, too. It’s such fun to see what everyone does with the same scene. And yes, Kat’s an Oh Wow.

She’s added Buffalo (still to be detailed when Griffin is napping) and made it a winter scene.

Then Ashley brings out another canvas and gives Griffin paints and brushes.

He goes for it!

Maman c’est comme ça que tu peins! (I imagined him thinking in French – Laura).

A fun, artistic afternoon on a breezy day. And we all have our personal souvenirs of Montana.

The gallery. Top row: Kayla, Bruce; middle row: Jason, Nora; bottom: Kat, Griffin. Photo by Nora.

It gets cloudier, and rain’s off and on. Still good enough for some playtime in the tent.

In a theater family, it’s never too early to learn cues and trust falls. Video by Kat

All but BW decide to stay in, order room service and forgo tonight’s barbecue. We also have frozen pizza, and the toaster oven’s just big enough.

Sadly, we discover one of the baby birds—didn’t know they’d hatched—has been kicked out of or fallen out of the nest. And we discover it far too late to attempt a return. I hope the rest fare better.

We eat happily at home in our Montana ranch.

After dinner I play a little gin rummy with Kayla while Griffin begins his night time/bedtime ritual.  Jason finally comes down with the baby monitor as Kat tries to convince the boy to sleep.

Now we have four, and play Hearts.

This turns into a marathon, roller coaster of a game. Kayla way in the lead, BW losing steadily, Jason and I neck-in-neck between. Kayla slips, Jason sneaks by her, I sneak by Jason, back and forth.

Kayla runs them! Back in the lead.

Then BW cagily does math, plays it right and hits 100 on the nose. Hit 100 by our house rules, go back to zero.

The game turns around! BW way in the lead the other’s battling for second. Up, down. I should add Kat comes down during all this battling, and that besides card sharking we have a ridiculous amount of laughs.

We’re hitting BW hard, though he still holds a commanding lead.

And then, out of the dark, Jason—apparently inadvertently—hits 100.

Back to zero, and I fall over the edge.

Game over. Jason is The King Of Hearts for the evening.

Then we all fall into bed.

Workout done on this cold, cloudy day. This is forecast to be the coolest, wettest day of our stay, so we  plan to cook a big vegetarian meal for dinner. (And there’s frozen pizza!)

We’ll start on that after Kat, Kayla and I have our massages at Spa Town.

Sounds like a very fine way to spend a day where they’re calling for a high of around 48.

That ain’t June to this East Coast Girl!

Nora


The essence of #RandomKatness

Update from The Travelogue Editorial Desk: Today’s #randomkatness is a puzzle. A five leaf clover? Did Kat get a maniture? Do the palettes match the greens? There’s no explanation so I leave it up to you.

And just between us – since we’re friends and all? I’m working at the beach office and the weather is just fine.

Laura

Montana – Day 5

We’re gifted with a perfectly beautiful day. Bold blue skies, light breeze, low 70s. There’s another bush between the lilacs, and I think—maybe—white lilac. Not sure, and the blooms are too high and on the other side of the fence so I can’t do the sniff test.

But pretty.

High white blooms. Photo by Nora.

Lots of play time outside for the boy, in the tent, out of the tent with bubbles and his love of pouring water and dropping rocks into the tub. Pour more water from tub to tub, pick out rocks to drop in new tub. He can work this experiment for a very long time.

I can sit on the porch steps on a pretty day and watch him for a long time.

The mad scientist magics up a nice day. Photo by his Nana.

When it clouds up, as predicted, and you can all but feel the rain coming, there’s some intense puzzle time. Kayla’s deeply into this and makes serious progress.

Some wavering by me about heading to the Chuck Wagon Dinner event. If it’s raining and chilly, I can toss a frozen pizza in the toaster oven and all good.

But, delightfully, skies clear, temp creeps up again.

Time to put the cowboy on.

In the shuttle Griffin does his car riding thing. He calls out K!!!!! We like to think that’s his name for Kayla and not just the letter. Then COWS! He has a steady interest in the cattle—from a distance. We all join in.

This event is by the river and a stunning spot. You travel there through woods and hills all sparkling and shadowy at once in the sunlight. The river’s running fast, the smokers are smoking—smells good—-and the bar’s set up.

Supply wagon. Photo by BW
J by the river. Photo by BW
The set up. Photo by BW.

We grab a picnic table under a pergola—in case the rain comes back, and while Griffin takes off with his parents giving chase, the rest of us settle in.

Perfect spot. Photo by Nora.

Live music, a beautiful spot on a beautiful evening.

Apparently our boy wanted to run in the road—and the fact he was denied this activity ruined his life for about ten minutes.

The feast’s on. I’m really grateful the resort has so many veggie options, and Kayla doesn’t go hungry here. She, of course, passes on the Tomahawk steak. I do not, and it’s delicious.

Meat on the grill. Photo by BW

We all pass on the invitation to take part in a hatchet throw.

Kayla makes herself a s‘more, then it’s time for the ride home.

It’s past a certain someone’s bedtime, but he strongly objects. Mama won’t be denied, and—as mama’s do—wins the battle. But it’s fiercely fought.

Kayla and I are at the puzzle, and Kat comes to join in. But after the battle decides she’s earned a mimosa. Kat is a rare drinker, and a serious lightweight. Kayla decides she’d like to try one. When she samples, she says, it just tastes like oj. Kat is amazed! But it tastes so strong to me. (Lightweight! LOL.)

I suspect Kat put maybe a scant teaspoon of champagne in the nearly 8 oz of oj. I add a little more to Kayla’s. Okay, she says, it tastes like sparkling oj.

There you go.

So I have my first adult drink (no oj in mine, thanks) with my granddaughter.

Nora’s solo bubbles. Photo by Nora.

We puzzle on until bedtime.

Another gorgeous day, and a morning warmer than the last few. Workout done, a load of laundry in. I’ll work a little in a little.

We hope to have our Paint Day. Rain coming late afternoon, but sunny and low 70s before. It should be a great day to play artists outside.

Nora


Note from the Travelogue Editorial Desk: I wake up to a trove of photos. Some I know will fit copy. Some are there for the memory. And for some, I create stories of my own. These didn’t fit copy, but I thought you’d like a glimpse of the power of the Griffin.

King me. Photo by Kat.
Cross me and you shall bear the same fate as the flower. Photo by Kat
The flower. Video by Kat
#RandomKatness (clean rocks by Griffin). Photo by Kat

Montana – Day 4

Apothecarying’s fun!

We have our class near Spa Town with those incredible views through glass walls.

We start off making little lotion bars—custom as we choose our own scents or blend of scents.

Measure, mix, melt. Sniff, sniff to decide how we want them to smell. I’m in love with the Huckleberry so easy choice for me. Kayla goes for a lavender peach combo, and Kat huckleberry lemon.

Oh, the way everything smells!

We can add bits of rose, lavender or chamomile. Who can resist?

When we’re all done, we pour into little molds. Kayla and I both choose stars, and Kat a star and a couple seashells. So cute!!!!

From l: creations by Kat, Nora, Kayla’s . Photo by Nora

While those are in the fridge to harden we tackle lip balm. For this, it’s lavender peach for mine because it smells so yummy. A similar process of measuring and mixing, and into the little tubes.

Polish it off with bath scrub. I’m all about the huckleberry and lemon—with some dried rose crushed up in it. We get blue jars, mix it all up. It’s so creamy and fragrant.

Happy Kat and Kayla. Photo by Nora.

Back home on a warmer and happily sunny day.

BW’s been out with his drone taking aerial shots. Jason has tried and failed to get Griffin down for a nap.

The view from above. Photo by BW.

Pretty day to walk around outside—then the puzzle calls me for a session.

It’s coming along!

We have dinner—The Big Sky Bash—at the equestrian center. Kayla gets her cowgirl on with her hat—and a jacket and boots from Nana’s closet. It’s just gorgeous when we leave, but I also wear a jacket because I know how it goes here!

Kayla and her Nana. Photo by BW
Kayla and her Grandda. Photo by Nora.

We shuttle off to the bash, and it’s gorgeous there, too. There’s a pretty pond, and people out in canoes. That wide, wide spread of sky, the mountains and hills rising and rolling under it, cattle in the fields, lots of picnic table set and another live band.

Fun stuff. Along with a pony ride for kids.

Griffin makes a bee-line for the lake. That kid loves water. He has some running around time, and his Mom suggests a pony ride. But when she takes him over, sets him in the saddle, the answer is: Absolutely not!

A shame (though pretty funny) as Cookie the pony is pretty and sweet and patient. Kayla makes friends with her.

Kayla and her new friend. Photo by Nora.

Lots of food—and the roasted corn on the cob’s a big hit. Also fresh tortillas—mmmm.

Then the sun disappears behind clouds, the wind kicks up. Cold!!!! I hold out hope the sun will find its way back, but no. Just no. Still we had a fun time, good eats, and sunny and pleasant for most of our adventure.

Before the sun disappeared. Photo by Nora.

Back home for us. A Daddy Bedtime Dance. Not even halfway through that ritual, Griffin’s asleep on Jason’s shoulder. And still, mouth slack, eyes closed, he sings blearily: Wobba Wobba.

The videographer dances too!

Up to bed for our sleepy boy.

Day is done. Photo by Kat.

More puzzle time! Hang and puzzle with Kat and Kayla for awhile after Griffin’s settled (and Daddy with him). By ten we’re all tired, so an early night in the west.

I get eight straight, always a happy. Work out—good morning, Griffin. This is Daddy’s shift, their routine, and it goes along well. Some warmer, so parts of that routine means Griffin goes to the door. Time to go outside!

Finish my workout shortly before the shift change and BW, Kayla and Jason head out for breakfast.

I need to rewrite the bulk of a chapter. I’ve worked out in my head the how and the why but because it’s more intense work than editing, I take myself up to the quiet of the bedroom.

It takes a couple hours—and will need at least a couple more to make it all smooth. But it’s done. I think, while I’m up there how some idiot posted on the internet just yesterday or today—forget—how I don’t write all my own books because. There’s always a because in this type’s mind. And I think bite me, asshole, as I finally shut down after a couple of sweaty hours during my damn vacation!

Because I do write all my own books.

Come down to learn Griffin’s not feeling altogether well. When a toddler wants a nap and doesn’t want a cookie, he’s feeling off. But he has The Daddy Shoulder Of Comfort—doesn’t want Mom who is—unquestionably—his most favorite person of all people.

From yesterday when the mad scientist felt better and kept busy. Photo by Kat.

Seems a little better now, and is outside with Mom while Daddy’s getting a well-earned massage at spa town.

BW’s just back from taking pictures of our neighbors just up the road. Buffalo!

BW and his new pals. Photo by BW.
A closer look. Photo by BW.

I’m going to get some outside time myself.

We have—hope it’s not too cold—The Chuck Wagon Dinner tonight. Always a good, fun time.


Note from Travelogue Central Editorial Desk:

Because one download staring at me wasn’t enough, Kat decided to get a fuller photo of the eyes, thus earning the first #RandomKatness since 2019. To top that off, she took a snap of Griffin communing with the eyes. ~Laura

Montana Day 3

Switching it up this morning to do the blog before I see about squeezing a little work in as Kat, Kayla and I have a one o’clock.

Paint time’s rescheduled. The artist had an emergency. Since it stayed fairly chilly, and we hope to do it outside, that’s all fine.

A son and his mom. Photo by Kat

Instead, we spent the bulk of the day indoors. Indoors for Griffin and Kat meant a lot of tent time. It’s like a big playhouse—with beds! I walked outside a bit, and couldn’t resist taking a lilac sprig from one of the several blooming bushes. At home mine have long since bloomed off, so it’s nice to have this revival of spring with that lovely scent.

The Purloined Lilac. Photo by Nora.

We have a bird nesting in the outside corner of the front door. I see her often, and she objects when we go in and out. Can’t blame her as she has four pretty eggs to protect. Ms. Robin’s doing a fine job—and I wonder if they’ll hatch while we’re here.

The Robin’s Nest. Photo by BW.
Treasure. Photo by BW

We decide to break out one of the jigsaw puzzles we brought with us, and get a start on that. Our puzzle board was left inadvertently in the car, but the intrepid Kat called and asked for a flat piece of cardboard. We can move it easily from the dining room table to the kitchen counter when we need the table.

Jigsaws puzzles, screen time, happy boy. Photo by Nora

It’s barbecue night at the ranch. Layer up, everybody, because it’s cool—and downright cold when the wind blows. It’s nice when we get there as the sun comes out from where it’s hidden most of the day. We choose our pod—like a big cabana—and Jason does the chase after Griffin deal. This is fine until the boy decides he wants any pod but ours, or perhaps testing out the fire pit would be fun, then there’s that big field on the other side of the fence.

A boy and a cover. Photo by Kat

Many distractions are offered. Many are rejected, firmly.

He finally settles in after a protracted battle of wills, and we use some extra chairs to block his escape from the pod.

There’s a live band, and they’re really good. The lead singer and keyboard player is barefoot. It may be 50-52 out, with a stiff breeze that comes and goes, but the band’s from Missoula so I guess that’s summertime!

The music’s eclectic and more than fine with songs ranging from Hendrix to a number from The Jungle Book.

The food hits the right notes, too, with plenty of options for our vegetarian. Griffin decides the trout is exceptional (I agree) and eats what seems like an entire fish.

We stay for dessert.

Home again for the bedtime dance with Daddy, and after Griffin’s settled in (Daddy, too, as the dinner-time chase was long) Kayla practices her Tarot card reading skills. I gave her a deck a couple months ago, and she’s proven to have good instincts. She did a solid reading for Kat, did mine and nailed that, too.

I walked out between to grab the sunset.

Sunset. Photo by Nora

Then the three girls enjoy a gabfest until midnight.

I’m up early, naturally—and a little annoyed I can’t seem to sleep past 5:30, but what can you do?

I think Griffin and his parents had a rough night, but they’ve slept in so I hope that makes up for it.

Got my workout done. Kayla’s waiting for Grandda and whoever else wants breakfast—BW’s doing a workout of his own. I’m going to go up and change, see about squeezing that work in.

The girls are heading to the Apothecary this afternoon to make lotions and whatever else we can do. Kat and I did this last time we were here and really had fun.

It’ll be warmer today—hitting 70 (YAY!) and the sun’s out.

I’m ready for it.

Nora


In our daily Griffin video, he practices his sleight of hand, ending with a splash. ~Laura

Montana — Day 2

A little time before dinner—and that wild wind—leaves time for a little three-handed Hearts inside. Kayla, Jason and me.

Griffin playing in the tent amid the wild wind. Video by Kat

Jason has incredibly bad luck. Barely missed running them—one card light. I tell him he played it well, so he lost correctly. * He’s well behind when we have to pause the game to change for dinner.

A cool, brisk evening means eating inside instead of out—but sunny means some walks around, especially for a certain little boy. One who really, really, REALLY wants to climb through the fence and explore the next field.

Can’t sit still. Photo by Nana

But that’s a hard no.

Kayla gets her cowgirl on and it sure looks cute on her.

Cowgirl chic. Photo by Kayla’s Nana.

It’s a fine meal, and our waitress Dart is terrific. Griffin enjoys his Mac and cheese, then decides he’s had enough. His dad drives him and his mom home, and comes back for us in time for dessert.

The first, definitely not the last, creative pano. Photo by Kat’s phone

I have a scoop of vanilla gelato with a scoop of huckleberry. Just as wonderful as I remember. But too much for me. Jason reaps that reward.

We see cattle on the way back, and a field loaded with moms and babies. So cute!

Cattle still life. Photo by BW

Back home, and the temp keeps dropping so I want sweats on.

It’s time for Griffin’s nightly pre-bedtime dance with Daddy. It’s an adorable ritual with a specific play list on Jason’s phone, and usually ends with the favorite. The Elmo Slide. By then, Griffin’s head is almost always heavy on Jason’s shoulder.

Mom and Dad put their boy to bed with BW drafted to finish for Jason at Hearts.

His luck is no better. Kayla triumphs. She’s become, over the last couple years, a very canny—and often ruthless—card player. Makes a nana proud, even when she screws me over on a pass.

Jason conks with Griffin, so it’s now four-handed with Kat, BW, Kayla and me. Lots of fun, lots of laughs.

My luck is fairly crappy, but BW’s is even crappier. Kat gives her a run for it, but once again, Kayla crushes all comers.

I warn her next time we play, she’s going down!

I’m up early again, and just decide to roll with it. Pretty chilly this morning. Get my workout in, while Jason fixes Griffin’s breakfast. It’s fun listening to him babble with Sesame Street or Mickey and Donald while I work up a sweat.

I sit down to work while the Breakfast Club heads out. Cool or not, eventually the boy wants outside, so Kat and Griffin go on a short adventure.

I finish up my goal for the day shortly after the gang comes back—with bacon!!! Mmmm, bacon.

Kat’s putting Griffin down for an early nap as he hit the wall, and I might take a walk myself.

In a couple of hours we have a paint activity here at the house. Fun! And it’s barbecue night at the resort. All sounds good to me, but I admit I’m looking forward to feeling the temperatures climb back up to summer.

Nora

Notes from Laura:
* Sometimes Nora says this to me. OK, she never says it to me. Stupid games.

To follow up the first day post, here’s Griffin and Nana “bowling.” And a glimpse at the big furniture.

So…who’d volunteer to sleep in the tent? I think I would.
Laura

Montana Day 1 (and part of 2)

Good weather makes for a smooth flight—and makes me very happy. While our youngest passenger traveled extensively in his first year or so, Griffin hasn’t been on a plane since 2019. He loves it! The minute the plane startdd to taxi, he breaks out in a huge grin. Likes looking out the window—doesn’t take after his Nana on this one.

Happy traveler. Photo by j a-b

We arrive in hot and sunny Montana—glorious summer day—for the drive from Missoula to Paws Up. We didn’t get a cabin this time—booked too late as we held out hope for our trip to Italy—but instead scored a very private ranch house with gorgeous views, front and back porches. Even a BIG tent with two twin beds if anyone wants to sleep outside.

No takers so far.

Kayla gets her first real look at Western mountains from the plane. So big, so rugged, so young compared to our more sedate Eastern ranges. A different world here with those soft sagey greens, snow-capped peaks, the sea of sky, the endless fields of grass.

The view from above. Photo by BW

Since the house isn’t ready for us, we have a bite to eat, some drinks on the deck of the restaurant. Have a chance to unwind, give Griffin a chance to run around.

Home away from home. Photo by NR
The tent. Photo by j a-b

I’d say we were all a little lagged by the time we finally got into the house. They sure like BIG furniture in Montana! By the time we unpack, take a breath, it’s time for our dinner reservations. Kat, Griffin and I pass on that, and it feels so good to just stay put.

More time to explore our Montana domain, let Griffin run and pick dandelion fluff. Sit on the porch, or walk around and admire the pretty stream behind the white picket fence of our backyard. I find my stress level going down to zero.

Peaceful. Photo by NR

I play the bowling game with our boy while his mom fixes him dinner. I set up the soft pins, he gleefully knocks them down. I pretend shock.

Rinse, repeat.

We have plenty of food stocked—but discover our kitchen lacks a stove. This is a major surprise. But we’ll figure out how to use the hot plate and toaster oven.

The rest come back from dinner, and we wait on sunset. Kayla pines for a purple sky. The sun’s glorious and gold as it sinks, sinks, sinks toward those peaks. But it’s not until after she’s gone in that light bounces up and spreads purple. I go in to call her out for her first purple/gold/mauve Montana Sky.

Sunset by BW.

Griffin manages to make it to what would be his bedtime hour on Mountain time—or two hours past his usual. He’s pretty much adjusted already.

It’s so wonderfully quiet—with none of the horror movie back noise of the constant song of cicadas we’re dealing with back home. Just quiet, with a breeze sighing through the trees now and again.

I slept like a rock.

Popped awake at—ugh! 4:45. Try to ward off wakefulness for about a half hour, then give up. Griffin and his daddy aren’t far behind. While Jason makes Griffin cheesy, buttery grits (the boy doesn’t take after his nana there, either) I gear up for my morning workout.

Too cool to take it outside, so I make room among the giant furniture. About 3/4s done when Kayla wanders out. She, BW and Jason will go to breakfast, bring back bacon—very important—and something more for Kat. But no rush on that.

I do a solid workout, then start putting things together to work on the book for a couple hours as we have no activities planned. The Breakfast Club is about ready, and Kat comes down. Griffin greets her with hi, hi, hi! And madly waving hands. A thing for the family. He glances my way to make sure I’m in the swim of this.

Gang’s back, put away work, and head upstairs to change. The girls are going shopping once Griffin’s down for his nap. It’s wicked windy and much cooler today. The baking heat of yesterday’s just a memory. Soft blue skies, cool air and constant wind blowing over the tall grass.

Griffin’s down, the girls escape. Kat drives us to the shopping here in the resort as if we were here last week. Impressed!

I’ve convinced Kayla she needs a cowboy hat. We score the perfect one in minutes. A black Stetson, soft, slightly more structured than mine—and a perfect fit that looks adorable on her. I find a nice shirt, and I can probably use another long-sleeved shirt in this changeable weather. Find a hoodie that yells JASON, and two hats—one for Colt and one for his boon companion C.J.

Bag two Christmas gifts for girl pals—and a necklace that knew it was mine the minute we spotted each other.

It’s both satisfying and relaxing to shop a bit with just girls.

Back now, and I can hear Griffin, so he’s up from his nap. I’m about to finish writing this on the back porch while the wind whips and whips through the trees and over the fields. I see a few snowy peaks, occasionally hear the low of cattle and lots of birdsong.

I believe it’s time to go in and pour myself a vacation libation.

Nora


Note from Travelogue Central: We’re just getting up to speed here as our intrepid travelers adjust to big furniture/wide open spaces/and my demands for photos in the shared Google account so I can illustrate Nora’s words. For instance, where’s the Stetson I ask you???

This one just struck me and it’s from Nora, not our Random Kat.

#randomly

I swear it blinked at me when I downloaded.

Laura

Bubbles and Breaks

It’s been a long year. When I think of last summer, I think of time spent with friends and family, our wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland, prepping and hosting our annual summer party.

Seems like another world.

Still, we have a lot to be grateful for around here. It’s been a good spring and summer for the garden, and that gives me a lot of pleasure. I’m seeing hummingbirds–a favorite of mine–almost daily. Work’s going pretty well, and that’s important to me.

Most of all, we’re healthy and safe.

Recently, we expanded our bubble and with much preparation and precautions, took our girl trip (including Griffin) for a week to The Greenbrier. We book a house there, with a private patio–so the six of us (with Griffin as 7) made a bigger bubble.

Having a week away, with girls and the boy (and the ghosts) was just incredible. We didn’t, as we have in the past, go out to dinner, haunt the shops. We just hung out, played cards, sat on the patio, entertained our young male companion. We went for walks–with our masks.

Speaking of bubbles, I got our boy a little bubble maker. A huge hit, and a break-through for a toddler who’s spent about 1/4 of his life now in his own bubble with his parents, in his own home and yard.

Who are all these people???

I brought bubbles and bowling pins, and they really did the trick.

Boy and his bubbles.

The house spirits took to him, big time. In fact, one day when his mom was elsewhere, he had a toddler meltdown, raced down the big hallway on our main level, face-planted.

Life, as he knew it, was over for the moment. As he stayed face-down wailing–not hurt, pissed–I heard a woman’s voice–very calm and soft speak to him from farther down the hall. I thought it was my pal JoAnne, as only she and Sarah–whom I could see right there on the chaise were around. Then I saw Jo come in from the patio.

So, some motherly ghost offered him a little comfort.

They also enjoyed Kayla who joined us for her first adult girl trip. One night she fell asleep watching something on her laptop, earbuds in. When she woke, earbuds still in, her laptop was closed and set safely aside.

She thought I’d done it.

Nope.

Jo and I worked out every morning, then joined the rest of the gang. Hot days at first, but Griffin entertained himself and us with his tub of water, measuring cups and pitchers. The boy loves water, and has most excellent hand/eye coordination.

Busy boy
Popping bubbles

Our highlight was taking two private–just our group–classes. The first on glass-blowing. I’ve always been fascinated with the art, and while eager to try, had low expectations of what I (or really any of us) could do.

Except maybe Kat, because Kat. And possibly Laura who is a crafty girl. But we had the fabulous, skilled and adorable Max as our instructor. No one could have been more delightful, safe and more articulate as a teacher.

Meet Max

Kayla went first, and wanted to make a glass ornament–a globe. I think of them as witch balls. She chose her colors, and Max walked her through the process first, then worked with her on the creation.Stunning really to watch him gather the glass, watch him help her roll it through the colored fragments, watch her blow through the pipe so that globe became.

Kayla rolling glass through color

She did beautifully. And ended up making two.

Sarah wanted to make a paperweight, a different process. She wanted to make on filled with fire. For this, after the gathering and rolling, she sits in the chair, uses tools to pull the hot glass, then fold it back. Max heats it again, she repeats, repeats. It’s amazing. Then with other tools, she shapes it, smooths it, creates a solid ball filled with color.

Sarah pulling glass with the tweezers

In the end, like with Kayla’s, Max holds the pipe over fireproof padding. She taps the pipe (this is after she files the globe from the pipe–or makes that initial cut) and the ball falls into the padding.

It’s put away until it cools.

Laura–ambitious–wants to make a flower. Lots of tools used here, pulling, drawing out the glass, reheating, using big tweezers to shape and shape. Again, and again and you could see it start to become.

Honestly, I had the time of my life just watching.

And her result was just stunning.

My turn. I tell Max I collect paperweights, so I want to make one. And I want to make a garden in it. He helps me choose the colors, walks me through. It’s even more amazing rolling the pipe, gathering the colors, sitting it the chair with those tools. Feeling the glass pull out, fold in. Watching yourself shape that globe.

Nora’s paperweight
Nora finally blowing glass after researching the technique in the 1990’s

We all make two. Oddly, Laura, Sarah and I all have an idea–independently–to create a night sky. They do paperweights, and I want a chance to make a witch ball.

What an experience. Thanks to Max we have the most amazing memories.

The group exhibit
Laura’s flower and paperweight

We also have a private class for glass fusion. Last year we all made windchimes. This time we’re going to choose between making clocks, plates. Kayla wants a plate, and is going for a kind of tie-dye deal. Laura, Sarah and I decide on clocks.

So much fun! Such a variety of styles and visions.

We book another glass blowing class, but this time Kat and Jo will join, and Nana will stay back with Griffin. You probably know this is not a sacrifice for Nana.

Laura and Sarah make vases. Vases!!! Jo finds the idea of that molten glass too scary, so Sarah makes her paperweight. And Kat designs a bowl (free-form and so Kat)–Max is happy to help her with the design, and the result is gorgeous and unique.

Kat’s turn!
Laura’s vase

I have to try the vase deal next year–as those results were also gorgeous–and involve SWINGING the pipe. I have to do that.*

We’re all pretty damn proud of ourselves and our accomplishments.

Best of all, we had a week together. And I had a week with good friends, my treasured daughter-in-law, and my oldest and youngest grandchildren.

Home again, rebooted, refreshed, and re-energized to get back to work, back to the garden, back to the kitchen, back to routine.

And feeling blessed to have found a safe way in these difficult times to gather with my girls and my boy.

Stay safe, stay well.
Nora


*Note from Laura: we only picked up the vases and the fused glass just before departure so I don’t have a shot of Kat’s bowl or Sarah’s vase.

I also spent a lot of time taking photos and here are a couple of my faves.

I told him to hold this pose while I took some photos. He obliged. And didn’t cry, just posed.
Open door from the patio
Gorgeous blooms
Morning

This, That, Plus a Whole Lot More

I haven’t had a good space of time to sit down and write a blog since we got back from New York.

Griffin’s first trip to The Big Apple turned out to be nothing but fun and adventure. As soon as we drove into the city, he started making his oooh happy, excited, interested noises.

Not sure about Nana’s toy.
Successful pen. For parents and babies.
Less happy about the bucking bronco than in Ireland.

For myself, it proved an excellent time to expand on the Christmas shopping I started overseas, and having the boy along just added tons of fun.

We had a trip to the Central Park Zoo, which brought out more happy, excited and interested noises–until exhausted from it all–he fell asleep.

For an adult evening we had an amazing time with my agent and editor and their husbands for dinner and a show. We saw Tootsie, and if you ever get the chance, don’t miss it. It’s absolutely fabulous, on ever level.

A Mavis-style shoe from the shopping trip.

Our weather proved nearly as wonderful–one day of rain, then wonderfully clear until the day we left. No complaints!

Back home for some serious catching up, and buckling down to work.

One of the very best parts of coming home was delivering to Colt–my voracious reader–a signed copy of the new Dogman book. Happily, Dav Pilkey and I have the same agent, and she made the arrangements. As you can see, the kid was beyond thrilled. I swear every inch of him lit up–and he must’ve looked at the signed page a hundred times. I seriously can’t thank Amy and Dav enough for giving our Colt the thrill of his life.

Colt is dazzled.

I did have a weekend–a nice fall Saturday–to make soup and focaccia bread. So, mmmmm.

I had to devote the next weekend to organizing. All those gifts and packages from New York had to be dealt with. Fortunately for me, Kayla came up to help–and I really needed it!

My One More Room is now holding big-ass boxes with each person’s gifts inside so I can keep track. I’m not going to think about the wrapping marathons yet.

While I was at it, I did a solid purge of my closet as I had a girl day planned for the following Tuesday. My closet got reasonably purged and organized–and my girl pals hauled off bags. Salad, champagne, pizza, cookies–and trying on new-to-you clothes and shoes?

The lone male at the girls afternoon.
Belated cake personalized for Nora.

That makes a most excellent girl day.

Back to the buckle down to work part until Friday, and (drum roll!) Griffin’s First Birthday! Since we had a signing on Saturday, we celebrated here, and I can testify our birthday boy had a fine time.

Like Colt, he just lit up when everyone sang happy birthday. He may not understand what that all means, but it was just delighted everyone sang to him.

Then came the smash cake. I hope Laura can get the video up. He was initially intrigued. Oh, it’s soft, and I can play with it a little. Interesting. Then Nana gave him a little taste–and he got the idea, big time.

Got it!

After a few fists-full, his parents wisely removed the thoroughly smashed cake before Birthday Boy got sick.

One year later.

I can also testify, he remains the sweetest, happiest baby in the history of babies.

Saturday, it’s gear it up for TTP’s Halloween signing. We had a pirate theme this year, and we sure pulled it off. I have a fondness for Jason costume. He wore a post-in note he’d made with the Pi symbol and a drawing of a rat. Get it? Made me laugh. We had Captain Griffin, The Scourge Of The Seven Seas, First Mate Kayla working under Captain Kat, Seaman Wilder and–naturally–The Dread Pirate Roberts to round out the family on board.

Captain Griffin
Dread Pirate Roberts deals with the unruly crew.

Our visiting authors got into the costume spirit, as did a number of readers. We had a wild, crowded, LONG and happy event. And a separate thrill for me to meet Meg Tilly ( adorably costumed as a cat). The award-winning actress has written a number of well-received books, and is writing a Romantic Suspense series. I have Solace Island–the first of the series–on my bedside table.

Meg Tilly, Jason, Dread Pirate Roberts

She, and all the visiting authors, did a wonderful job connecting with the readers, with each other, and graciously handling a four and a half hour signing.

Kudos as well the the readers for their enthusiasm and their patience.

And huge ones to the ever-efficient, patient and hard-working staff of TTP–as well as our stalwart signing day additions who pitch in above and beyond.

The A Team

Today, with workout done, this blog up (and plenty of leftovers for dinner!) I think I’m going to shovel out around here, get my house in order. Then fall asleep in front of the TV.

Nora

Easing into reality

Greetings from the Travelogue Editorial Desk.

The trip home was smooth and Nora sent her “We’re home Mom” text to me by late yesterday afternoon. (Seriously, that’s written into our unwritten rules of working together — tell me when you get there safely. It goes both ways.)

Where’s my sock? Who cares? Nana, we’ve got pizza! Photo by Kat

I thought I’d ease you into life empty of daily travelogues with some extra photos and links to places Nora and family visited while they were away.

How does this travelogue thing work, you may wonder. Well, I’m part of a shared Google album to which Nora, Bruce, Jason and Kat upload photos daily. Nora sends me her copy in the morning, then I pick and choose the photos that best fit the narrative. Captions are all mine. Maybe I need to copyright them.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh was basically a three-day layover. The comments that followed the posts on Facebook offered a ton of recommendations for places outside of the city, but there was only so much time and Jason was on chaperone duty until the second day. We’ll have to see what calls to Nora when next she feels drawn back to this particular part of the world. I’ll bet it won’t be Fringe Festival time, though. For a person who works in a Fortress of Solitude, the LZW horde used up a lot of her precious I’m around other people energy protection.

OK, so maybe the photos will all be of Griffin. Photo by Kat
From J and B’s Excellent adventure. Photo by j a-b
Jason’s take on the Scott Monument. photo by j a-b
I think we all need crests on our homes, don’t you? Photo by BW
Looking up. Photo by Kat
Edinburgh blooms. Photo by Kat

Balmoral Hotel
Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Thistle Do Nicely

Co. Kerry, Ireland

The second stop was Sheen Falls in Co. Kerry, Ireland. I find themes emerge during the course of the travelogues. Some years it’s food shots, some years it’s vista shots. This year, obviously, was the pint-sized traveler. Nora and Kat sent some really great flower photos that just didn’t work for most recaps, so I’ll share a few here.

More green patchwork from the descent to Ireland. Photo by Kat
Mother, I want to go there. Please convey me. Photo by Kat
Outdoors inside. Photo by Kat
Color on a rainy day. Photo by Kat
From one of Nora’s walkabouts at Sheen Falls. Photo by Nora
Pub night. Photo by Kat.
I can sleep anywhere agree Father and Son. Photo by Nora
Flowers at Carriganass Castle. Photo by Nora
Excuse me, Grandda, but if you don’t look at me, I’ll have to hold your shirt. Photo by Kat

Sheen Falls
Kenmare
Carriganass Castle
Killarney
Rob’s Ranch House, Killarney
Killarney National Park
Torc Waterfall
Flappers in Tulla (No website, but you can see reviews on Trip Advisor)

Co. Mayo, Ireland

The last time Nora and the Gang stayed at Ashford Castle (in 2015), the estate was in the middle of renovation. I think they got a peek at some of the new rooms while they were there. When I came home last spring with photos and delight in everything Ashford, Nora declared it was past time they went back. And as she wrote in the travelogue about their transition from Kerry to Mayo, something settled deep inside when they arrived at Ashford Castle.

Because even when I’m not there, I’m always there, I chatted with Kate Kerrigan a few days before the Tea. She lunches on the regular with my cousin Annie May Reape, a Mayo Co Councillor. I know Kate’s books because Annie May opened a book signing for her and I saw the footage on FB. When the LB UK team asked me about the right sort of gift for Nora, I told them find something special and local. They approached Kate for Co. Mayo suggestions and one of them was a shawl by Lou Brennan (seen in warm action below). But she only found out the scarf was a go when Kate ran into Lou in town and she mentioned she was making a bespoke scarf for an American writer. It’s the smallest of worlds sometimes.

Part of the editing is fact-checking if a photo doesn’t match a description. Nora wrote that the bakery in Ballinrobe was Divine but I couldn’t find a bakery with that name. Since the gang was already out and about on the next day’s adventure and it went with the copy, I let it ride. It’s actually called Devour. Also appropriate. Link below.

Kat’s men changing the tone of the photo. Photo by Nora with Kat’s phone.
Alive alive oh! Alive alive oh! C’mon — Molly Malone popped into your head immediately, right? Photo by Nora/Earworm for the rest of the day from Laura
I used this on the JD Robb instagram account. Moody birds. Photo by Kat
Wilde and Mia — the stars of the show. Photo by j a-b
This? Just my newest accessory. Oh you meant the bird, not the scarf. Photo by j a-b
From Kat’s Galway adventure.
Flowers along the Cong River. Photo by Kat
Tiny friary heading into Cong. Photo by j a-b

Ashford Castle (Click through the site to find information about dining at the Dungeon or Cullens — or the fabulous George V – as well as the Hawk Walk and other estate activities.)
The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Lou Brennan – scarf
Paint Nite:
Inishmaine Abbey
Flannery’s
Devour Bakery
Glebe Stone Circle
Lydon’s Lodge
Killursa Church
Ross Friary
Kinlough Castle

To end this little recap, here are a variety of Griffin photos to tide you over until the next time.

Mom! You’re ruining my contemplative pose. Photo by Kat
Rain. Gravel. Some greenery. Best vacation EVER! Photo by Kat
Exhausted by the fun. Photo by Kat

And finally, here’s Griffin proving he knows who’s in charge of these travelogues.

Laura