I’m no Scrooge, so I love the holidays. I even–mostly–love all the work and prep that goes with them. The other night, I watched Bad Mom’s Christmas (laughing like a loon)–and it’s true, Christmas is the Super Bowl for moms–and nanas. But with that very merrily done, our annual New Year’s Open House happily done, we took our traditional January break at the spa.
This one turned into a work/spa deal for me, but that was all good. A morning workout, a few hours of work, a lovely massage, then family and friends to spend the evening with. A good kick off to a year for me.
But now, ahhh, winter routine.
After a solid writing week–another ahhh–I spent my Saturday as I like to spend January Saturdays. Even better, Bruce and Jason (after a considerable effort and tech know-how) set me up with a mirroring tablet in the gym. Now I can mirror, stream, whatever it is a boatload of workouts onto the big screen. So my day starts with some new to me routines–a good way to fool the mind and body that they’re having fun.
I’m a fan of the Beach Body gang, even though some of the trainers are sadists. Sometimes it takes a good sadist to whip you through a workout.
With that done–whew–it’s kitchen time. I promised BW a pot roast–makes him happy. Mine simmers for hours in a full bottle of red wine. Who wouldn’t be happy? With the potatoes and carrots pealed, onions and celery sliced, that big hunk ‘o meat simmers drunkenly while I shove up my sleeves and head up to the third floor.
It’s purge and organize time, another winter routine.
I hit the One More Room first because eek! This is where a lot of the holiday magic happens–the storing, the wrapping, the bagging and tagging. It’s also where we store bowls and platters and so on used primarily when entertaining.
It needs help.
A couple hours later, voila! Magic. It looks like an actual adult lives here.
Move onto my closet. More purging. Be tough, Nora! You can do this. Maybe once or twice I pulled something out, waffled and put it back, but for the most part, I AM tough. And since post-signing next Saturday pals are coming over to go through all I purged here, they’ll be glad I was tough.
My closet now looks like a fairly sensible woman lives here. A woman who really, really, REALLY loves shoes and boots, but is reasonable.
My office next, and there I’m very pleased that due to several years of very strict purges, it doesn’t take very long.
A top floor sweep in one day. Happy dance!
It gives my time to cull through my scarves–another big love–while the pot roast finishes off. Boy it smells good in here.
Some well earned bubbly, which should, imo, be part of any routine, then pot roast.
Day’s done–but oops, four tubs of books waiting to be signed. Okay, this calls for more bubbly. And now, the day’s done. A very satisfying winter Saturday.
Today, more of the same, that’s routine, after all. It’s about time for that workout, then I’ll pick the next room, maybe rooms, to tackle. Plenty of leftovers, so no dinner to cook.
And tomorrow, it’s back to the book and the hope for another solid week of writing.
For somebody who doesn’t like the cold, can do without the bitter winds and snowy drives anywhere, indoor routines keep winter happy.
Cranky Publicist addition: Nora wrote a post called The Road to Discovery in Feb 2016 in which she said, “I cook pretty much as I write, which is why I not only don’t but can’t answer the calls for recipes after I post a blog on cooking. Please, please, don’t ask me!”
May I suggest the joys of Google for recipes? BTW, I just found one for crock pot beef stew cooked in coffee . Must go make!
We arrive on Tues, to summer in October weather. After unpacking, our initial group—me, BW, Jason, Laura—hit the streets and the shops. I have an agenda every October trip, and that’s to get as close as possible to finishing my Christmas shopping as I can.
Get a good start on that agenda before it’s time for drinks, and a room service night.
Up early Wednesday, get a good workout in. BW and Laura, too. We’re having an Employee Fitness Challenge through our Fit In BoonsBoro back home. Fun stuff! BW and Laura get points walking a mile together. More shopping, more checks on that Christmas list. Jason and I have our own little FitBit competition, and while he’s usually 20-30k steps ahead of me, when we travel, I catch up. And hah, am am now in the lead.
Wall sits with drinks - aka multi-tasking. Photo by j a-b.
Lunch at a favorite pub, more shopping, and back home here where BW and Laura do their daily workout challenges together. Hysterical wall-sits (with alcohol) push-ups (and Laura’s wearing a dress for this one) squats, lunges. I get to watch as I did all that much earlier in the day.
Dinner’s a pleasant walk, then pizza.
Laura’s husband’s coming up, so she moves out of our space and into her own. We have a girl shopping annual tradition with my agent and editor. Kat usually joins us, but she has stuff so won’t be up until late Thursday afternoon.
So good to see my NY pals—and my editor brings the finished cover for Year One. OMG!! It’s just fabulous.
More shopping, a fun, light lunch when the guys join us. Then a little more shopping. I am hitting my agenda, and hitting it hard!
Back to the hotel as we have an early dinner—and here’s Kat!! We’re eating early because we’re going to see Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly. The Divine Miss M. Bette. I’m thrilled at the idea of seeing one of my icons on stage.
We walk to the restaurant—just gorgeous weather—have a wonderful meal, then walk to the theater. I’m not surprised the performance is sold out. It’s Bette.
As much as I anticipated this, the reality exceeded. Aside from Bette (for the moment) the costumes, the lighting, the choreography, the chemistry, the voices, the whole works is just stupendous.
Now add Bette. And stupendous doesn’t cover it. When she first walks on stage, the house explodes. She’s tiny and glorious, and obviously having the time of her life. In turn she gives us the time of ours. Then there’s David Hyde Pierce, whom I adore. I’ve seen him on stage before, and he’s just as marvelous this time around.
The Hello Dolly number brings the house to its feet. The applause goes on and on for her solos. This is what’s meant by bringing down the house.
I’ve seen a lot of wonderful, memorable, fabulous shows on Broadway. Nothing beats this.
Friday—after workout—Kat, Laura and I head out. Girl time, and more good shopping.
Laura’s guy is off with some of his NY pals, BW’s having lunch with a couple of his, and Jason’s doing the same. Laura peels off so Kat and I walk downtown to meet our men for the new Blade Runner movie in IMAX.
Cool! Intense! Fun!
The long walk back, and room service. Laura and her guy have dinner and a show on their schedule.
Kat has to leave early Saturday morning so I say bye to my girl, get in my workout (still in the FitBit lead!). Jason has an errand, Laura and her guy have brunch with their daughter (Clare works in NY). BW’s arranged a photo shoot with a model in our triplex.
I have some specific type items on my agenda—and need to pick up the new glasses I got after my eye exam here on Wednesday. I promise to check my phone often so I can hook up with Jason and Laura.
On the street I see a gorgeous young woman wearing a man’s white dress shirt—mid-thigh—over-the-knee gray suede stiletto boots, a beret and big sunglasses. She looks amazing.
Jason’s errand’s done quick, so we text back and forth until we meet on the street. And he becomes my Sherpa. Head to hotel to dump bags, text Laura. Her guy’s meeting some of his old classmates, so she and Clare will hang with us while Jason and I have lunch.
Back to our favorite pub.
Clare heads off, and we head to The Gap—Laura and I both have specific wants here, and pretty much satisfy them. Then there’s the UGG store. I wasn’t looking for myself there—Kayla likes the classic tall UGGS—but found a pair of boots I couldn’t live without.
Oh, and sneakers in a deep orchid color—so light, so comfortable!
When we get back, BW’s about finished with his shoot, so we rest our busy feet and have a drink. We’re walking over to 9th for Italian for dinner. (Laura’s dh is having a fine time with his classmates.)
Long walk, but this weather! Good wine, great food, fun companions, and good service.
We meet up with Laura’s Mark after dinner, hang out in our suite awhile. I want to watch SNL, but conk.
Up early today, solid, cross-training workout. Then rest of our group is off to the Jets game (Laura and Mark are major Jets fans.) I bid them goodbye, clean myself up, and decide to walk uptown to Bloomie’s to hit that agenda again.
Do just fine, walk back, hit another shop. The housekeeper’s still dealing with our space when I get back. I see her once or twice a year, so we chat a little.
I show her a picture of Kayla on FB—who had her FIRST DATE last night. Homecoming. Oh, so beautiful, my girl. And she’s going with Handsome Henry. The housekeeper and I talk about how she’s just so grown up.
It’s lovely to come back to this same place year after year, because it adds such comfort to know the people who work here. I tell her I’ll see her in June when Kayla has her NY trip (just weeks before her SIXTEENTH!!!! Birthday).
Now on this Sunday in NY, I’ll finish this blog, which Laura will post after they get back. I hope the Jets are kicking it (not a football girl myself). I’m going to pour a drink, get my book and kick back instead of kicking it, for a bit.
We plan to head downtown tomorrow—have pizza, shop. Then we’ll see what we do for our last night in the city.
I love New York, I really do. The things you see, hear, the way it feels and moves. It’s so opposite where I make my home. So it’s nice to spend some time here, knowing my dogs, my quiet, my routine waits for me.
Notes from Laura: very sad to report that the Jets lost, but my photo of me and my husband was on the huge scoreboard, so that was fun.
We saw War Paint with Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole which was marvelous starting with this curtain in front of the stage. We’ll stay an extra day and see Donna Murphy play Dolly on Tuesday night.
After another eight straight of solid sleep–wowzer!–it’s workout time on a balmy morning. I figure to start with some cardio with my man Shaun T. We’re kicking it when I notice ants on the patio where I’ve set up. Don’t want to stop, so keep going, trying to avoid stomping ants.
Finally pause, move down the patio. Start it up, pumping up that heart rate. See the ants have followed me. Finish the Shaun T, go for more cardio and some upper body work, and move down the patio again.
Into it! And apparently so are the ants. It’s not a swarm by any means but about a dozen who systematically move where I move. I think they must be attracted by the music. BW says it’s my feet hitting the patio so they think: Fresh meat.
Conclude with a short yoga session–ahhh–and just ignore my tiny companions.
During my stint, Kat and BW head over to breakfast, and Jason’s up. Housekeeping comes in. I finish just as the tech guy comes to look at the hot tub, which stopped working–and a couple of the AC areas. We want the AC off and the doors and windows open. Temps climb into the mid-80s, but there’s always a breeze.* My French doesn’t include words like hot tub jets and AC, and our guy has less English than I have French, but the housekeeper translates.
I decide I’ll work at the pretty table surrounded by woods while techs and housekeeping do what they do. It’s lovely, really lovely to have an hour or two in the shade, in the fresh air, in the woodsy quiet to work.
Jason and Kat go for a walk, BW heads for his massage. It’s quiet, quiet. I work on and finish the scene I’d hoped to finish. And that’s enough.
Tech says au revoir, housekeeping’s done. Time for a hot shower and real clothes. It’s then I discover my charger cord isn’t in my case. It’s always in my case. I’m practically OCD about my writing tools. But it’s just not in the case where I carry my Surface for work. Huh. I worked on it at The Greenbrier, but can SEE myself unplugging to pack up. Maybe I got distracted and forgot to put it in the case. Maybe the ghosts slipped it out hoping I’d come back for it.
In any case, oops.
Kat checks on her phone on the walk to lunch, discovers she can order one and it should be here Wednesday. But first Jason will check my model, as I have no clue.
Lunch is perfect, and so is the belini. A trio of little French kids are running around, chanting something at each other that includes the word poopy (spoken with great glee). Obviously poopy is, like math, an international language.
I need to add that I’ve challenged my traveling companions to a day-long Fit Bit contest. Jason notes that I’m leading by considerable. And he takes himself off for a walk after lunch. But not before checking my Surface. Kat orders me the new charger. We’ll see if it gets here.
Before the second walk, we stop by the front desk to make some bookings. We’ll eat at the main restaurant tonight, as it was booked until 9:30 last night. Too late for our American stomachs. We get advice on what villages to visit, and have one earmarked for today, as well as a market trip. And we booked a two and a half hour horseback ride through the forest for Wednesday. They actually offer a full day ride that goes to the lake (where you can SWIM the horses) and includes a picnic. But we’ll start slower and see how our butts handle it.
Back for patio sitting, hanging out, reading. It’s a good day to veg with warm air, blue skies, and that quiet.
Jason has now passed me on the challenge! I come back, punt him, but he rallies. We’re neck-in-neck through the evening.
Dinner at our villa, and I have velvety tomato soup along with a salad. Then there’s creme brulee. I can’t finish it, but there’s always breakfast!
Tumble into bed shortly after. I think I might try out the hot tub, but ZZZZZ.
Discover this morning Jason’s nipped me by about a hundred steps! I’ll get him next time.
Writing this on the patio by the pool. A mourning dove swoops in to the edge of the water-she comes several times a day–takes a drink, flies off.
Time to work out, with or without ants. Then we’ll venture out and see what there is to see.
Notes from Laura:
*These “oh let’s open the windows, it’s 80 and there’s a breeze!” people consistently confound me.
**When there are few cues in the copy to help caption a photo, I kind of let myself go.
An answer from Kat about the necklace she wore in a photo on Day 2: It’s an anniversary gift Jason bought for her in Eze — and here’s an explanation of it (It’s so kat, imo):
A change of plans. We realize none of us actually feel like getting in the car to go anywhere. The nice thing about vacation is having no obligation, so we scratch the drive to Fayence for the day.
I change into workout gear. Kat and Jason gear up, too–for a serious hike. BW decides he’ll do a little Cizing It Up with me and Shaun T.(Correction on yesterday’s blog. Kat and Jason drove into Cannes not Nice.)
Picture of BW apres Cize can be found in yesterday’s blog. (Note to Laura: It’s real!)*
After BW sweated it out, I keep going, cap off my own sweatfest with yoga.
It seems like an excellent time for a swim. And it certainly was. Why not follow that up with a spin in the hot tub for a fine morning of work and reward.
Friday night, Kat did a little laundry in the tub. I elect to do a little myself on this fine Saturday, and hang the clothes on the rail in the bright sun while I settle down to read in the shade.
The wind comes up, a quick sweep of it–feels great, but . . . I get up, go over to pick up tank tops that blew off the rail, and see I now have underwear in the hot tub. Go in, get it, wring it, rehang. Pour a glass of wine, settle down with book.
Wind. Huh. Find a better way to secure laundry.
The bright Saturday passes with sun and warm breezes, wine and a book. That’s a very fine start to the weekend, though I suspect as Kat and Jason haven’t returned, my 13k steps (so far) on the challenge will be smashed to bits.
When they return, this is proven true.
They walked and walked and climbed and climbed all the way to a little village more than three miles away. Enjoyed the sights, found a church (two weddings scheduled for this pretty Saturday), found ice cream.
After some recovery time, Jason announces as he has 75 flights for the day (that’s climbing/stairs) on his FitBit, he’s going for another walk to get the 100, and a new badge. Just FYI, if anyone’s considering adding a device such as FitBit to their lives, our small, unscientific focus group attests they are highly motivating.
Jason earns his Skyscraper Badge. 100 floors=walking up The Empire State Building, I believe. Wowzer.
If anyone’s keeping score on our Weekend Warrior Challenge, Jason has the lead, followed closely by Kat. I’m trailing, but will see what I can make up today!
We laze, we discuss dinner. Since heading to the hotel means changing into not sloppy clothes, we eat in.
I can just see the sun setting through the trees, a hot glow of colors–reds and golds–while we eat. We hear some golfers–didn’t realize we had a hole this close. If they don’t finish up soon, they’ll be night golfing.
This morning, my dove returned for a drink, and a squirrel–probably the black one we see doing gymnastics through our forest–has a lot to say.
I think BW’s going down to the airfield to have a look, perhaps book glider flights for himself and Jason. Jason and Kat may walk down to the market for a few things before it closes for Sunday afternoon.
I think workout, swim, hot tub is my morning order of business. If we stay in, I may work a couple hours.
Did I mention it’s a beautiful morning?
*Note from Laura: in my defense, without any copy supporting a joint workout, I thought BW did his own thing then wilted dramatically for the camera. Now for some photos by Jason, not quite exactly sure where he and Kat were for these.
Before and after shots of BW’s Cize experience in yesterday’s blog. He worked it for 40 minutes! He joined me for that session after I did 50 minutes Bootcamp Boogieing with Petra Kolber. *
Back to normal for me and my system.
Jason and Kat head out, for their walk, a trip to the market and the bakery. On return we discuss vital matters such as: is pizza a kind of open-faced sandwich (as well as a pie) as it’s cheese on baked dough with toppings. Maybe.
This discussion launches from the fact Kat and Jason have picked up some lunch meat and what’s billed as sandwich bread. And I had a little conversation with the housekeeper regarding leftover pizza, wherein I remembered the word for lunch, in explaining why we’re keeping it rather than having her take it away.
Oui, bien. Pour le dejeuner!
I work in my shady spot, going back to NYC in my state of mind for a couple hours. And now and again surface enough to hear golfers through the trees.
Our men prepare to leave for their glider experience. And are back in ten minutes or so. Short flight?
Wrong day. LOL. Gliders booked for Friday.
So we settle down to our various pursuits. Some reading, some work, some conversation. Some planning for the last days of our holiday.
Jason’s discovered our foundation has its 17th anniversary on Friday–I think it’s Friday. We’ll have a little celebration, maybe here, maybe back at the open-air restaurant we call The Scrublands as the French name (which I can’t remember) translates to just that. Maybe there’ll be karaoke again!
We clean up, dress up for dinner here at the main restaurant. I leave a little plate of torn up lunch meat for the mama-to-be cat in case she comes by while we’re gone.
BW and I head up first for a drink at the bar. He orders some kind of fancy gin drink, and I go for what’s called a Sparkling Jasmine. Champagne, peach juice and jasmine syrup.
It’s fascinating to watch a good bartender build a drink–and this one is very good. My favorite part of BW’s build is the graceful swirling of a long thin slice of cucumber onto the top, then dashing just a bit of what the bartender explains is barbecue bitters (from Memphis!) and a carefully placed grind of black pepper.
BW is pleased with the results.
My drink is absolutely lovely. A blend of gorgeous flavors and so very smooth.
The tender shows us the various bitters they have to work with–and some home-made. Saffron bitters, vanilla bitters, I think caramel. What drink wonders embrace these?
Kat and Jason join us, so it’s out (past the sinful dessert display) to our table.
It’s a gorgeous night for eating outdoors, with a bottle of smooth, local red. I should take pictures of the wine bottles, but too late now.
A family group celebrating–we think–a birthday has a table nearby.
The service here is unilaterally friendly and as smooth as the wine. When you add fabulous food, it adds up to a very happy dining experience. Blue skies, warm air, good food, good wine, good company. It doesn’t get better.
Until you add that dessert.
They have what will always be pie-cream-pie for us. It’s very large, so Jason and I split it. Kat feels obliged to order the macaroon dessert (it’s France, after all). It’s pink and pretty–and delicious. BW got some creamy, glossy thing I can’t identify–but again, delicious.
I cannot express the fabulousness of the pie-cream-pie. Which is actually cake-cream-cake with pretty berries. Jason points out that when halved it looks like a crazy, toothy smiling face. When eaten, it brings a tear of joy and gratitude to the eye. Whoever baked this magnificence should rule the world. There would be no war, no sadness, no strife if every meal ended with pie-cream-pie.
We wander around after, find a little lounge area and start to take a selfie. The bartender cheerfully comes back, and takes a photo for us. Our night is commemorated.
We walk back–I might have rolled.
I check, and the little plate I left for the cat is licked clean. So she, too, had a nice little meal.
Hang out a bit, read a bit, then lights out.
To answer a question from yesterday, I don’t know how long it takes to write the blog every morning. Depends. Some days we’ve done more than other days. I just start, then end when it’s done. And that’s pretty much how I write everything!
Today we’ve all got appointments at the spa. Massages for the gang, and a facial for me. But those are hours away yet. Workout’s coming up. My mood after will determine whether I work on my book or read one. I think a swim should work itself into the day.
Right now it’s cool enough for a light hoodie on the terrace, but that will change as the sun gains strength.
*Note from Laura — there’s that time/space continuum thing again!
Our first full day dawned sunny and cool. I was up early to get a workout in first thing. Our mutual “friend” was already in the suite’s living room and we engaged in a brief recap of the evening before — along with requisite surprise at my mid-level success. Then I went off to lift heavy weights, while Nora waited for Kat and JoAnne to come in for a Shaun T workout session.
The gym was very quiet and I pushed/pulled/stretched without any interruptions. A satisfying way to start the day especially since it was Ice Cream Night Part 1 after dinner. Walked back to change into dry clothes and the ladies were shaking their groove things in time with Shaun.
Had breakfast then decided to go for a walk for fresh air and photos.
This one ended up my favorite.
The best part of Spa Week, Dear Diary, is everyone goes their individual ways during the day before spending the evening together. I decided to embrace my Zen in all areas of my life and generously forgave my “friend” for her cavalier dismissal of my Scrabble talents. All was peaceful again as we wandered through the shops on the way to spa treatments.
More of our tribe arrived late in the afternoon. Pat and Mary learned that they had arduous game tasks to undertake. Those of us with first rounds of bowling, dance and Scrabble under our belts/on the Stupid –er, Zen centered — Scoreboard were able to relax or play as extras in a round.
The second official round of Scrabble commenced. Diary, can you find the word on that night’s board that made us all laugh?
A seed of happiness bloomed in my heart, Dear Diary. I was freed from the expectation of performing well. Strangely though, the pressure seeped through in other areas. My spa-mates asked if I’d posted on the blog yet. Well, no, not yet. “Working on it!”I chirped airily.
Then, my dear friend, the most prolific writer in the entire universe, the one who writes 6 pages to my one paragraph, the one who THINKS a word and it is so, asked if I was finished. Now there, Diary Dear, is pressure.
I finished, posted, then turned my attention to the games where tension brewed. As I dealt with my feelings, Sarah — the former Grandest Champion with a brilliant business mind — ran into the wall known as the Fearsome and Mighty Elaine on the field of dance. As you remember, Sarah crushed me by 1000 points. The Fearsome and Mighty Elaine turned the tables.
[From Sarah’s Spa Notes: Dear Diary, A great start to the tournament! Back in top form for Just Dance. THEN the Fearsome and Mighty Elaine picked up the remote and WON my fabulous First Round prize.]
[From Elaine’s Spalicious Journal: Having a Great Time! Winning EVERYTHING!”]
The next rounds of Scrabble are delayed until the last two members of the tribe arrive so we added in some extra bowling and dance. Mary Kay won another bowling session [MK: Hey Diary, that’s 2 bowling games! That makes me the Bowling Queen.]
And then, a miracle happened, Dear Diary. I beat Sarah in the Pity Round of Extra Dance!!!! Thousands cheered (in my head) and I retired happy.
I shall leave this entry with some visuals of the evening.
Which is what’s going on around here. I’m in hibernation mode–mostly–so it’s just work, work out, dinner, sleep. Repeat.
It’s what I call the best.
I do break hibernation a bit here and there. The kids are allowed into the cave. With Kayla off to run in States–go, team!– to end her track season, and Logan’s basketball season winding up, I may see a little more of them. That’s always a bright spot in this relentlessly gloomy winter.
As a sign they’re pretty grown up, what was once a toy room/guest room is now, after my purge, just a guest room. Nobody plays with the toys any more, so it’s time to pass them on. A little sad, but then I remember a couple weeks ago after a sleep-over, Kayla and I putting our makeup on together in the bathroom mirror. Every stage has its little pleasures.
Plus, I picked out new paint and bedding for the room. I’ll enjoy seeing it freshened up. And our Sarah who often bunks there after a book signing will, too.
And thanks to Sarah’s gift of an amaryllis kit, I have a gorgeous February bloom.
While I ‘appeared’ in New York to celebrate my first release with St. Martin’s Press, I didn’t have to leave home to do it. My amazing publisher projected the cover of Echoes In Death, front and back on the Flatiron Building. This is just too cool. It’s also pretty sweet having a publishing team who thinks of the just too cool–so I can stay home and write while they do innovating marketing, create fun contests and design fabulous covers.
I can’t count the ways I love my home with them, and the people in it.
Last weekend I serious broke hibernation when BW and I went into Fit In Boonsboro to take their first Cize Alive class. I’m a big fan of Cize and of Shaun T, and use his DVDs regularly in my workouts at home. Knowing this, our manager Heidi gave me a little nudge to attend. And since my pal JoAnne planned to go, and added a second nudge, in I went. And BW decided to give it a go with me.
Fun stuff–fun, sweaty stuff–with a happy class and seriously energetic instructors in Heidi and Teri.
And we have video! Oddly, muscle memory goes to crap when you turn from the front of the room to the side to get the video, but I think the class pulled it off. I’m absolutely sure Fit’s members are going to love this addition.
The last break–and it will very likely be the very, very last until spring–hits today. If you’re a fan of NPR, you’ll have listened to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. If you haven’t, you’re missing something. I’m delighted they invited me to be their guest on the Not My Job segment. I recorded it live Thursday night–by phone–and it airs today and tomorrow on NPR. You’ll want to check your local listings if you’re interested. (And the segment is now online.)
Now with the annual house purging done and nothing on my schedule for WEEKS that takes me out of the house, I’m hunkering down. I’m working on the second book of the new trilogy, and can say without hesitation, it’s sucking my brain dry by the end of every day. It’s hard, complicated writing, and I couldn’t be happier doing it.
The fun followed a pretty solid and satisfying work week. I love when that happens. After the writing and the working out, Logan comes up (after school) for homework and conversation. Kayla is on the cross-country team, and training after school so I don’t get to see as much of my girl. But Logan makes up for it.
On Monday, he sat down to dizzying math, and tells me he currently has a 98% in that (for me) terrifying subject. Then rattles off a series of As across the board. Nana says: Who are you, and what have to done with my Logan? And makes him laugh. Then I ask what inspired him to do so well this year? He says: Last year.
Excellent answer, I tell him. It shows he learns from his mistakes as his grades last year took a dip toward the end.
Then he makes me laugh as he says: I want to be the first of my bloodline to get straight As.
But more than school and math and grades he can be quite the conversationalist, and entertains and impresses me as he brings up subjects from NASA and the space program (He’s taking Aerospace as an elective. Aerospace!) to politics to 9/11 to the Kennedy assassination. The boy’s growing up in front of me, and really fast.
I do get to see Kayla on Friday night when the gang comes up for dinner. Spaghetti’s requested as Kayla’s carb-loading for her first meet on Saturday. That’s fine with all. Young Colt can be a picky eater, but pasta works for him. (As does the chocolate bar when he cleans his plate.)
Our running girl’s nervous about this first meet, afraid she’ll come in last. To which Logan says, in that classic brother tone: Nice positive attitude. When they leave and I hug Kayla goodbye, I tell her to do her best, and just as important, to have fun.
I know she runs at ten Saturday morning, and I’m already in the gym sweating it out. I note the time, send her some good (positive!) vibes. When I come in, panting a little, sweating a lot, BW calls out from his office for me to come see.
Kayla’s mom’s already posted a couple pictures of Kayla at the meet. I send out more vibes, head upstairs. I need caffeine! Minutes later, BW hurries up into the kitchen. Race is done, and Kayla came in 7th out of 80 girls! She places in the top ten in her first meet, gets a ribbon, and oh boy, a big confidence booster.
I’m so happy for her I do a dance–despite the 90-minute workout–as I bring up Facebook on my iPad. And there she is! Running on the last leg–the track–with really good form. And those long, long legs.
I hit the shower, start my Saturday task of bread baking–we’re out after spaghetti night. As the dough’s rising and I’m fiddling around with little chores, Kayla comes in. Lots of congrats for the very happy girl. And more spaghetti as she’s a hungry girl, too. She hangs awhile, gives me some details of the race. When she’s about to go, I tell her I’m having some of the girls over on Sunday for a clothes swap–and ask if she wants to come. She knows the girls, and does.
I finish my bread–mmm, smells so good! Go back to fiddling around with basic weekend chores.
My favorite girl over 14 comes up early evening. Kat’s going to be BW’s date at a gala for Doey’s House, a hospice being built in our area, and an organization the foundation supports. Kat runs up to put on her dress. I’m annoyed with myself now for not thinking of taking a picture as BW and Kat look just fabulous–BW in his dark suit and smart shoes (he’ll be a guest bartender) and Kat in her gorgeous, elegantly sexy midnight blue gown.
And I settle down to watch the first disk of the recently arrived full season of The Walking Dead. I don’t watch through the season, but binge on the full with the set of DVDs. Wow! It’s intense and bloody and marvelously written and realized.
It’s an early evening, so there’s time to hang out with Kat when the gala attendees return.
And in the morning, Kat and I hit the gym–and I introduce her to some new (really old) Shaun T workout DVDs. So we sweat and laugh through about an hour–and Kayla shows up, obviously excited to have a girl day. But she leaves us sweating to go up and have breakfast with Grandda.
Later, I think less in a daze from the race and her placement in it, Kayla gives me more details, more feelings. I love how she tells me at the first mile (they ran 3.1) one of her coaches did a kind of double take when he saw her–apparently she doesn’t push too hard in training. And shouted out her time, where she was–15th at that point. And to go, go, go, Kayla. How that pumped her up. How nice everybody was, even if they were with the other teams, offering encouragement on the route. How she felt when she hit that last leg and the track. Tired, she tells me, really tired, and some of the girls took a break to walk. But she said she told herself to keep going, her coaches called out her pace–and one told her only five minutes more.
She said she told herself she could do five minutes more, and added her kick when the coach told her. And with it nearly caught the 6th place girl. She surprised everyone–her coaches, her teammates and herself.
That’s the lesson, I think. You can always do five minutes more if you keep your eyes on the finish line.
Now I have two willing and creative helpers to get set up for the get-together. BW brings up his rolling rack from his studio, and my girls haul down the bags of clothes, then start organizing them while I get my shower. When I come up they’ve already got the bulk done–and I should have known the two of them would come up with a solid system. By the time I help them finish up, the living room looks like a little department store. Kat even stuffs tissue paper in the handbags I’m passing on, arranges her shoes–with Kayla’s suggestions–in a separate area from mine (different sizes).
I’m providing the champagne and wine, the others are bringing food.
Kat, being Kat, decides some of the tops especially need ironing as they’re wrinkled from being shoved in bags. And it’s a good way to teach Kayla how to iron. So we hunt up the iron and board, and I leave them to it. Kat and Kayla have always had such a sweet connection–earlier they’d discussed knitting as Kat was knitting a pair of socks. I think one day Kayla will look back and remember the afternoon Kat taught her to iron.
In they come–all the spa girls but Jeanette whose youngest had a her first (I think first) softball game of the season. Girls bring clothes, too, so they’re sorted out–and I break my vow to take nothing when I see Nicole’s adorable black and white rain jacket. It fits me, and it’s cute. So I allow myself this one little thing.
Here’s the fun, a bunch of girl friends trying on clothes, giving each other the nod–looks great on you–or the thumb’s down–too tight in the shoulders–catching up as some haven’t seen each other since spring. Making piles to take away, heading into the bedroom to strip down–or just doing so in the living room (BW absented himself for the afternoon) and checking out the look in the mirror. Half naked ladies chatting and drinking champagne (except for Kayla!–though she does have a small pile of her own).
The rack’s thinning, as are the displays of shoes and boots and bags. Sarah is rocking my dark blue Weitzman knee boots Kat culled out for her during set-up (as she’d called dibs on them years ago), JoAnne wandering into the kitchen to ask if the bright green pullover looks okay on her. Looks great! Eating pate and KFC and homemade caprese salad. Seeing how Kayla blends right in–and finishes up the spaghetti.
One of our group’s getting married next month, and as traditional, I offer to have her pick her something borrowed out of what’s been termed Nora’s Treasure Box. We have a picture of her dress, so we all have opinions on which earrings and bracelet. I believe, as a group, we chose well.
Nicole has to leave to catch her oldest’s football game, and Kayla takes off to go have dinner with her other grandparents. Laura will lug whatever’s leftover home for Nicole, bless her, to donate to a local woman’s group. By the time the remaining handful of us gather at the kitchen counter for more wine, the rack’s empty, the artful piles of casual tops, pjs, whatever, gone. No shoes line the hearth or mantle.
More catching up, more wine–with Laura and Pat mugging with the bottle. Some of Laura’s no-churn homemade ice cream to cap it off. [Note from Laura: Kayla, my best friend in the under-20 division, made fudgy brownies that went perfectly with the ice cream.]
A fun end to an eventful weekend and an excellent work week.
I capped it off yet again with another couple of Walking Dead episodes.
Now I’ve got a new week to start, and the book to tackle. I’m going to think of Kayla when I feel myself getting tired–with the writing, with my afternoon workout.
Eventually the weekends won’t be my catch-up and/or get-it-done time. Eventually. But for right now?
Saturday morning I think to get my workout done early and clear the rest of the day. But I’ve forgotten the window washers are here to finish up this annual deal. We’ve got a lot of windows in this place.
It’s just a little weird to be dancing around the gym, doing down dogs and sweating through biceps curls when a bunch of guys are washing the windows thereof.
Change of plans.
I have a big bunch ‘o beautiful tomatoes courtesy of my pal Jo, so we’ll start off the day making red sauce. A large pot of it this time around, and I can freeze it in dinner size portions–and won’t that be handy down the road? This ties me to the kitchen long enough for the window washers to get close to finishing.
Why not let them do that while I weed my sadly neglected garden? Three large tubs of weeds illustrate that neglect–and remind me that’s something that kept getting backlogged in the catching-up area of my weekends. I like weeding–it’s therapeutic. The dogs like me weeding since it means I’m hanging out with them. God knows the gardens like me weeding, and it gives me time–though many of my beauties are fading as summer winds down–to plan where I’ll divide things up, transfer, try to fill in some areas next spring.
Windows clean, garden tended, red sauce simmering low. NOW we can hit the gym. I’m rewarded there–not only by the benefits of regular exercise, but by the hummingbird that flies up to the–very clean–window while I’m sweating it out.
Then you know what? I’ve earned a bellini, and make myself one to enjoy while signing the four tubs of books waiting for me.
A second bellini seems the appropriate celebration for completing Saturday’s chores.
But Sunday has an agenda. My One More Room is a disgrace. Some of that’s due to bags of purged clothes on hold in there. Next Sunday I’m having some pals over for a late summer clothes swap, so that’ll not only be fun, but help clear out the OMR. And I need to store the Christmas presents from Italy rather than just dumping them on the counter.
But the big one I’ve put off for gardening, then vacation, for too long. Our down-the-lane neighbor decided to downsize and relocate, and we bought the house. BW’s using the house as his photography studio–a great space and convenient location for him. But I claimed an outbuilding for my own. I think of it as The Big Closet. Storage!! Storage, for me, is nearly as marvelous and exciting as new shoes. My plan has been to empty my over-taxed OMR of seasonal decorations and such. All the Christmas decorations, the bits and pieces I put out at Halloween, at Easter. Tubbed and boxed and out of here.
Today’s the day. It’s challenging and time-consuming, and immensely satisfying. BW comes up during the process–I believe his eyes wheeled at the chaos. But the process demands chaos before order. I tub, I bubble wrap, I box. And I have enough room to semi-organize the shelves in the storage closets. Even purge a little as I find things BW might be able to use in his new space.
I find things of my mother’s I’ve saved in there. It’s time now to let go of the paperwork of handling her estate. But I find other things. The last purse she used, a pair of glasses, the little wallet holding her driver’s license and a picture of my Pop. These, like the letters I saved (so, so sweet) that my father wrote to her I keep, he definetly used some tricks from to get to her. It reminds me of the letter I found he sent her when they were dating–he wrote on the streetcar on the way home from seeing her, and ended it with: Sending you all the love I can with a two-penny stamp.
It’s that single line that sticks with me most when I think of them, young and in love, and through 63 years of marriage, five kids, and a devotion that never wavered.
It’s a wonderful benefit to clearing out and cleaning up, finding and remembering these small and vital treasures. So I tuck my treasures away.
BW shows his devotion by hauling everything I’ve tubbed and boxed away. And there it is! The floor of the OMR! And room on the shelves. A tidy-ish box of gifts waiting to be wrapped in just a couple months. And okay, maybe my obsession with saving tissue paper (my recycling gene) means I stuff a bag of it in the designated Christmas wrap closet, but it’s off the floor.
Now I can do a little organizing of my own closet. It may be half-assed, but I’m about done with weekend chores. And I want my workout.
And once everything’s done, the dogs and I enjoy a walk around the freshly-weeded gardens where, yes, some blooms have faded, but plenty continue to thrive and bring color to a breezy late afternoon that hints of fall.
Another weekend gone, another work week beginning. But that’s good for me. Through all the boxing and tubbing and weeding and milling tomatoes, I’ve played with what happens next in the book.
I’m happy to report the travel arrived home safely over the weekend. We’ll head back into regular programming now — with Nora giving weekend updates while I’ll fill the space with other things — like the Apprentice In Death teasers I have planned for next week.
The way the travelogues work is Nora sends me her updates first thing in the morning while everyone loads up photos in a shared album. I pick and choose what — I think — best illustrates Nora’s words. That can give me a surplus of great photos that don’t quite work in my vision of the layout. Today I’ll share a few of those photos as a final look at Italy.
The first stop was the Capri Palace & Spa. Here are some photos that I didn’t use first go round.
BW found the suite in Sorrento on a most excellent travel website: Luxury Rentals. The specific suite is here: Amalfi Horizon. The company has locations around the world — the photos alone are worth the armchair trip.
Some photos from Sorrento:
And one last time, here’s the link to the list of workouts our intrepid adventurers did over the course of the vacation.
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