Category Archives: General

Recovery, rest and a REALLY annoying puzzle

I thought it was time to change things up and post an update from the CP, instead of Nora.

I’m nearly six weeks out from hip replacement and will honestly say the hip is doing great. (My right knee — the first site of arthritis — doesn’t like things right now, but PT and massage and ice/heat help in that respect.) The surgeon’s office said I could leave the cane at home 10 days ago (and honestly, I was carrying it most of the time). There are a few restrictions and I try to be careful about weather and walking outside.

Back in the fall, Nora proposed a smaller girls’ trip to the spa for a respite from winter and life. Once I ascertained games would play NO part in the spa week, I was in. So last Sunday, Nora, JoAnne and I set out west to Nemacolin.

It was a pretty simple plan: some treatments, room service meals and time to chill. Plus, maybe construct a puzzle or two.

Those first three things fell into place nicely. That last one? Nearly broke our will to live.

On Sunday night, Nora asked us to choose which puzzle to do first.

Choices

JoAnne and I opted for the cheerful, colorful, spring-like cupcakes. We soon learned that was a front for the depths of hell.

Monday evening before dinner we poured out the pieces then commenced the search for the edges, dividing the rest among colors. Since there are four yellow cupcakes, five red/pink ones, two greens dividing into color was the first exercise in frustration.

At one point, one of us noticed there were letters on the back of the pieces, but we thought using them would be “cheating.”

Poor, deluded puzzlers.

Four hours in, JoAnne looked at the instructions: divide into letters. 🤦‍♀️

Honestly, it still didn’t help.

I decided to gather the purple pieces – there was only one purple cupcake. Which should have helped, but really didn’t.

The pieces were either horizontal or vertical IDENTICAL SHAPES so a piece could fit in one of many places.

And let’s add that the clear photo on the box did not translate into the magnification to make the puzzle.

The fates were stacked against us. Nora, as you’ve learned from other puzzle sagas, is not one to leave a puzzle undone so we were all bound to finish.

The puzzle mat, the extra working pads took over the dining room table. We’ve eaten off the catering table every night. The housekeepers, the butlers, the room service people all got caught up in the excitement of watching the puzzle grow.

“Look how far you’ve gotten!”

“The colors are so pretty!”

They cheered us on every step of the way. We met their enthusiasm with jaundiced expressions.

It took two days to get the purple cupcake finished.

Fortunately we had those services to get us out of the room. Nora worked every morning and got a nice chunk of vacation pages done. JoAnne and I got some reading done. I snapped some photos.

On Thursday afternoon we had a paint class. I just wanted to play with colors that would bow to my expectations. Nora and Jo found a pretty tropical scene they loved. We all walked out of the studio happy.

See? Colors CAN make you happy!

And yet, we kept heading back to the dining room table, determined to beat that puzzle into submission. On Thursday morning – day FOUR – I finally realized the letters had to go from top to bottom. That key helped for about 5 minutes because the pieces STILL fit in more than one place.

You know it’s bad when Nora threatened to take a scissor to pieces just to get them to fit. She took to calling it The Puzzle of Satan.

I referred to it as that F-ing Puzzle. I’d have a massage and the therapist would ask what I had planned for the rest of the day and all relaxation would flee as I explained the puzzle and it’s hold on us. I kept saying “at least I didn’t buy this one.” And I believe at one point I said it was worse than playing games. All true.

We persevered. Until we reached our limit and just left pieces where they fit, picture be damned.

Seriously, DO NOT mention that some pieces seem out of place.

We finished on Friday afternoon and left the puzzle in place so our cheerleaders could see the finished product. Tonight we may take it apart and safely burn it. Or not.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the last few hours of relaxation (or is it really the ONLY few?) before it’s time to head home.

On a different note, I must offer a correction: Nora challenged me to a dance-off at the May Girls Spa Week when she shared that my surgery went well. In her excitement that it was finally done, she forgot that I will not attend Girls Spa this year as I’ll be playing the role of Mother of the Groom that week. So I’ll dance, but not for any scoreboard. 💃

That’s all for now! I have to cram in that last bit of relaxation.

Laura

Forgotten in Death excerpt

A little surprise on this Tuesday morning — the Forgotten in Death excerpt!

The body was left in a dumpster like so much trash, the victim a woman of no fixed address, known for offering paper flowers in return for spare change–and for keeping the cops informed of any infractions she witnessed on the street. But the notebook where she scribbled her intel is nowhere to be found.

Then Eve is summoned away to a nearby building site to view more remains–in this case decades old, adorned with gold jewelry and fine clothing–unearthed by recent construction work. She isn’t happy when she realizes that the scene of the crime belongs to her husband, Roarke–not that it should surprise her, since the Irish billionaire owns a good chunk of New York. Now Eve must enter a complex world of real estate development, family history, shady deals, and shocking secrets to find justice for two women whose lives were thrown away…

Forgotten in Death is out September 7. You’ll find the excerpt here: Chapter One.

EDITED TO ADD on August 31: As a little surprise, here’s a small peek at Chapter Two.

Laura

The adventures of a cranky publicist

Well dear readers, I won’t bury the lede:

Elaine played a triple word score on the third play and never looked back.

The final score was 323-235.

Oh look! I just played bilker and tripled my score!

My luck with letters vanished. The last four pulls from the bag gave me seven vowels. Elaine pretended sympathy, but I sensed her delight in finding her ground on the Scrabble board. Fortunately I still like Elaine. And I was relieved of the stresses of winning.

Before a certain NYT best-selling author gives you her side of the story, I’d like to share a few pertinent details.

We stayed in a private house (called Arden Estate) on the Nemacolin property instead of the fifth floor of the Chateau. While everyone in the house had been vaccinated, we opted to keep the house reservation as a cautious way to return to travel.

It’s a huge house with decks running on two levels on the back, providing gorgeous views of the Laurel Highlands. With six bedrooms, a huge dining area, an even huge-r deck with picnic table, a game room, a pool table, fireplaces, two hot tubs, Arden offered enough to do, enough space to sit and read or talk, that you didn’t even need to leave for spa treatments. (Though everyone did at least one.)

Just a portion of the lower deck.
The view from the dining area.

BTW, in the fall of 2020, the most recent season of The Bachelor was filmed entirely at Nemacolin. The resort was closed to guests for two months, all employees of the resort who worked during that time as well as the entire cast and crew were sequestered on the property and subject to two Covid tests per week.

Arden was used for group dates and one-on-one interviews in front of the fireplace. I’m not a fan of the show, but it was a conversation starter with everyone I met. And it seems to be a lure for visitors to the resort now that spring has arrived.

Oh, the one thing I DID know was our friend Claire Hardy created the vivid, engaging rose paintings that were visible on the show. Nora owns several of Claire’s pieces and she had a show at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro in March 2020.

While I mentally (and maybe somewhat vocally) bemoaned the Stupid Scoreboard, I firmly put my foot down about playing Hearts with Kayla. “That,” I said grandly, “is a Greenbrier activity.”

Shows me what I know. My plan was to bed by 10:30 on the first night, but as I was about to say goodnight, Kat had to go downstairs to Griffin and I was dragooned into sitting in her place in a game of — you guessed it — Hearts. I proceeded to tank on purpose, but still didn’t get to bed until 11:30. Sigh.

On the positive side of the Stupid Scoreboard tally, we bowled with the Ninendo Switch instead of the Wii. Turns out I have mad skills bowling with the left Switch remote in the right hand.

The time Laura entertained Griffin by bowling with both hands. Please note the strikes.

Eventually I helped the group learn that six strikes in a row are called a six-pack. Unfortunately, my talents only showed up for exhibitions to delight Griffin who chortled whenever anyone bowled a strike.

Overall, the days were lovely. Forecasted cold weather and rain never materialized. We had enough room on the decks to take in the magnificent sunsets (instead of crowding at a hotel window).

Sunset

Even though it’s not everyone’s idea of a vacation, I really wanted to get my hands on the grill on one deck and make dinner for everyone. (I enjoy cooking for larger groups and it’s been a long, long time.) The group was all in so Kayla and I went out to buy chicken and vegetables and the ingredients for Nora’s Roasted Potatoes.

Since everyone will ask: Nora took the boatload of Yukon gold potatoes I bought her, washed them, quartered them, coated them with olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped garlic and rosemary. Put them in a 375 oven for 30 minutes, then took out of the oven and stirred them so nothing stuck to the pan. Then she rechecked/stirred them every 15 minutes until they were done.
When I’ve made them, I use Yukon Gold baby potatoes, do the same oil/spice thing, then start the stirring at 15 minutes instead of 30, since they cook faster.

I needed a tenderizer to get the chicken breasts around the same thickness. In the perfect example of #RandomKatness, she went out and found a rock for my approval. Then she washed it and covered with foil. And it was perfect fit for my hand, weight for the job.

Actually everything was pretty perfect. I grilled asparagus with lemon, broccoli, cauliflower while Nicole prepped portobello mushrooms stuffed with zuchini, squash and mozzerella.

Dinner time

Praise all around for our family meal. And we had leftovers for days.

As for the rest of our time away?

We painted.

Down the road a piece.

Went for walks.

Fireworks at sunset

Watched a surprise fireworks display.

Pat and Nora in the sunshine.

And took the time to catch up in person, rather than a monthly Zoom call.

Nora captures the magic of friendship and girl power far better than I do, so I’ll let her give you a fuller picture in her own post.

All I can say is it was a wonderful, restorative week away…

Until JoAnne screamed.

But that’s a story for next time.

Laura

Breaking News (Or Has Hell Frozen)?

In an unexpected turn of events, the Cranky Publicist is a Scrabble finalist in the 2021 Spa Girls World Games, hosted (aka forced upon her) by Nora.

“What can I say?” Shrugged the vivacious Cranky after scoring 168 in her semi-final match. “I was able to use a Y and J on triple word scores. The letter gods were with me.”

When she realized her opponent in the finals was past Grand Champion and Scrabble connessieur, she paled a little. Then composed herself and immediately claimed Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down) as her intro song when she enters the Scrabble arena (which doubles as a dining room).

“What can I say? Other than I’m not gonna waste my shot!” said this year’s surprise sticker winner and late round price picker.

Stay tuned for late breaking news!

And now, for something different

Every year the Nora Roberts Foundation awards a scholarship to a Boonsboro High School graduating senior whose higher education focus includes study of Journalism, Creative Writing, Communication, English, Education or related fields.

Applicants write a short story or essay–any topic, any genre, anything at all. We all read the entries, discuss them, consider them, debate them. It’s a big scholarship, and these college-bound young people deserve our serious attention.

Over the years, entries have ranged from the heart-rending to the delightful humorous, from the mysterious to the charming and everything you can imagine.  

It’s hard–really, really hard–to know you can only award one. Every senior who applies does their best, tries hard, takes the time, has that hope. It’s my hope that though only one can win, the others take their best, their efforts, time, hope forward.

I’m pleased to say we’ve had those awarded the scholarship go on to careers in Journalism, those who’ve become teachers, free-lance writers. I have a signed copy of a travel/hiking book on my office shelf from a previous winner. Others have gone into other fields as college is, and should be, an exploration.

In this long, long year of COVID, we can all use some strong, bright light. I got some of that from this year’s scholarship winner and her gorgeous love-letter to Boonsboro. I’d like to share Rebekah’s light and talent with you.

Congratulations, Rebekah, and wishes for all good things on your journey. You’re the future.

Nora


Click Kairosclerosis to read Rebekah’s winning essay.

A Statement from Nora

To set the scene for this post: Early this evening, I shared the news on Facebook that Nora’s Brazen Virtue will be adapted for a Netflix movie and provided a link to The Hollywood Reporter which broke the story.

Within seconds the reaction came — and completely shocked me. So much outright hatred for the actress. Nearly 1,000 comments in an hour with a large majority making rude, inflammatory comments about Alyssa Milano and how they would never watch the film. Ever.

I gave Nora a heads up about the comments and what she saw and read stunned her. So much so, she wrote a statement for Facebook and asked me to post it here as well. ~Laura

I’ve read many of the comments on Laura’s announcement of the Brazen Virtue adaption for Netflix, starring Alyssa Milano. And I’m simply and sincerely appalled.

The vitriol, the hatred, the anger, the bitterness and the demands are astounding to me.

By and large I keep politics off my pages. That’s my choice. Now many readers have dragged their own onto this page, so I’m going to state, for the record: I’m a liberal Democrat. Always have been, always will be. And as one, I’ve always believed everyone has a right to their political beliefs, and has a right to express their opinions. But I don’t have to tolerate insults and ugliness on my page.

For those who want to claim Freedom of Speech—look it up. This FB page isn’t the government. Some have comments on here using ‘liberal’ as a slur, an insult, equating it with communism. Others have used outright slurs against an actress, while claiming she should keep her opinions to herself. (No doubt those same people would be quick to assert their own First Amendment rights.)

Some will never read me again because Milano will headline this adaption. One reader stated she intended to BURN all my books in her collection for this choice of actress.

Think about that. Burning books. Get a visual? I sure do.

Another claims she can only support ‘like-minded’ artists. Really? I only imagine the books, songs, movies I’d have missed if I felt this way and refused to read, watch, listen to those who contributed to or performed them who hold different political viewpoints from my own.

Over this past long, hard year, we’ve lost over 400,000 friends, loved ones, neighbors to COVID. We’ve been isolated from each other, and I for one yearn for the company of my pals again. I wonder, truly, why this grief, this hardship hasn’t taught so many of us we need each other. Instead, as illustrated by that comment section, it’s hardened far too many into an us and them mentality.


The viciousness I read in too many comments below hurts my heart. And realizing because I’m a liberal Democrat, many of those comments are directed at me for that reason alone is a real eye-opener.

Watch the movie when it comes out, or don’t. But lobbing nastiness at an actress or threatening me doesn’t do anything but illustrate your own limitations.

Nora