Tabula Rasa

Who doesn’t like a blank slate?

I don’t make new year’s resolutions because never going to keep them, but I like the idea of starting fresh. And that I can try to do.

It might be why I do a full-house purge every January. You gotta out with the old before you in with anything. Plus I find it incredibly satisfying. Boxes and bags of things someone else might use–and clean, tidy closets and shelves and drawers for me. [Please see Editor Note below]

But first, we had to end the old year.

We do that around here with a full day in the kitchen prepping for our annual New Year’s Day Open House. The fun part of the prep is having the kitchen full of girls.

Kayla shows up first, willing and able. I’ve already started the red beans–culling out a portion before I add the ham hock so my veggie girl and Kat can have some. And I’ve mixed up and rolled 108 meatballs now simmering in red sauce.

Yes, I said 108.

Laura comes bearing her InstantPot to boil the eggs for deviling. This, she tells me–and it bears out–cuts the time down, doesn’t require my magic solution to make the eggs come easily from the shells.

And here’s Sarah.

Sarah and Laura, InstantPot experts–deal with the eggs. I don’t like to think about pressure cooking as I have vivid memories of my mother’s old cooker exploding.

But this doesn’t happen.

Kayla’s making brownies for her trifle, I’m making whatever comes next–and Kat arrives with Griffin. He’s the most delicious thing in the kitchen.

Cousins

We stir, chop, cook, mix. I’m doing a couple more veggie dishes this year, experimenting to see what goes over with the crowd.

We drink champagne while everyone pitches in.

It’s a long, busy, productive day, and how better to spend the last day of the decade than with people you love?

Concentration

Kayla’s building her trifle, Kat’s creating a huge casserole of tortellini and cheese, Sarah and Laura are shelling three dozen eggs. I’ve got two big-ass hams in the oven, and my pal Ruth’s recipe for Party Potatoes to finish up. And a whole lot more.

Naked eggs — de-shelled perfectly.

Jason–who had a show rehearsal–arrives.


…24 hours earlier

I’d emailed him in a panic the day before.

The saga is thus:

At the end of my work day, I go to back up on my flash drive before my workout. I get: MALFUNCTION!!! And something else that my shock has forgotten.

Okay, well, just reboot, it’ll be fine.

MALFUNCTION!!

Okay, breathe. Try a new flash drive. And the screen goes black.

There is no breath as I hastily reboot, check if my work is still there (I’m talking 29 and a half chapters of a 30 chapter book.)

It’s still there, so okay.

Now let’s get out the Surface I use when traveling. Plug in the flash drive. And the keyboard won’t work.

Now WTAF!!!!!!!

I try everything (and send the panic email). I go to the desktop and Google, follow the instructions for what to do. Keyboard works.

For a minute. But even in that minute won’t read the drive. Not MALFUNCTION but INVALID.

I obsessively check, and my work remains intact. So I put all my faith in Jason and go workout.

An email from him when I check assures me all will be well. I’m already backed up on some other location. (I knew he did this, but I don’t understand it.) And he’ll figure things out when he gets here.


Back to prep day

So he’s here, and he figures things out. Apparently–though he’d never experienced it–the little drive itself malfunctioned and screwed up everything.

He fixes, puts in (has to program I think as I use the ancient WP) another flash drive.

So I don’t have to end the year weeping and gnashing my teeth while cursing the cruel and capricious gods of technology.

Ah, sweet relief provided by the prince of all sons.

Meanwhile, my girls have to go. Much gratitude for the help and the company. Post-nap Griffin eats hearty, and as I added noodles and sauce to his meatballs, gets a sink bath.

Clean boy.

BW is the only one with enough gas left to make it till midnight.

Happy New Year means Kat puts together her adorable veg crudite–this year with a little something extra for Colt and his pal CJ.

Crudite names

We have set up, we have making whatever needed to be made in the morning. We have Griffin to entertain–and be entertained by. We have dogs to chase out of the kitchen.

Then we have guests. Lots of guests. Lots of happy, lots of people, lots of noise, lots of food. An all-day deal with friends and family to ring it all in.

Buffet
No longer naked eggs
Healthy start to 2020

And happily, enough party leftovers that Kat and Jason can take enough home, and I have enough here none of us need cook this weekend.

Yay!

And Monday, it’s the start of a well-earned week and the spa for all of us. With this year’s extra-special treat of Kat’s participation in Nemocolin’s art show.

We’re so proud of her! She’s already sold SIX paintings. She has a website. Shoot, what is her website? Laura, do you have it? I have book brain as I worked today in anticipation of a week not, or barely, working.

[Laura Knows All: www.katpong.com]

My house is de-holidayed–clean slate. The house purge will begin when I’m home from the spa. And I’m going to thoroughly enjoy a week of relaxing and cuddling Griffin.

My first, miserable draft (first drafts are always miserable for me) is done.

A nice start to the New Year. A nice page or two written on that blank slate.

I hope however you ended the decade made you happy. And whatever you write on the start of the new one brings you joy.

Nora


Editor note: I’ve posted Nora’s pieces about the whole-house purge for nearly 8 years. While it’s not my personal style, I admire her ruthless clear out of drawers, closets and cabinets in every room, on every floor. I see how that clean slate sets her up for the year.

But, I’m here to tell you that even the Mistress of the Purge misses some spots. After the December signing, Sarah decided she wanted some tea, something herbal. Nora doesn’t drink it, but she’s gifted tea all the time so she keeps it in one of the lower cabinets for guests who do. I was sitting in front of that cabinet on that December evening so I reached down and ran through the inventory to find a taste Sarah wanted.

Idly, I turned a package over and there it was: Expires 8/16. I picked up another, expiration date 2013. Another, 2017 (that was the freshest). Sarah was already steeping her tea as I started flinging tea out of the basket, announcing dates.

“Tea expires?” Nora asked. “Who knew?”

Me, for one. Sarah opted to live in ignorance, but since she didn’t expire herself, I can now reveal that she chose the oldest tea there — expiration 2006.

I tossed three boxes then and there, proclaiming that the 2020 purge was now underway. Nora’s sworn all tea will be gone the second week of January. I will bring a fresh (truly) assortment for the Golden in Death signing.

It’s nice to know she’s human. <g>

Laura

48 thoughts on “Tabula Rasa”

  1. I drink tea regularly and still end up with expired tea. So, it happens. The rest of the cooking talk sounded delicious. Now we get to hear, throughout the year, about the shopping so those empty spaces don’t stay empty.

    Wishing a great year for everyone!

      1. I’ve spent the last hour trying to come up with something witty to comment, but in all honesty I’m still laughing so hard I’m crying. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

      2. Won’t tell you I have jars of herbals that are likely 20 plus years old. Not boxes of silly tea bags, but everything including some wild crafted picked when I was 12 well over 50 years ago.

  2. Yay! I’m not the only one who does a purge! I did the cupboards and fridge of food. Leaving the items only the husband eats. The discussion ensues wth best before means worse after, every year lol
    Clothes I do often with a donation to the homeless in our area which my brother volunteers with.

  3. How terrifying to think you have lost all of your work! I would back up on several flash drives after a writing session!!

  4. I keep trying to do a purge, but we can never get through the whole house at once. As we’re remodeling and updating, it’s kind of happening as we go.

    I’m dying over the “tea expires? Who knew?”

  5. It’s good to know that Nora is just as human as we are. I was checking the cabinets in the kitchen the other day, and found quite a few can goods that had way long been expired. ( I usually keep it up better than that, but undoubtedly, I missed a few)
    I always enjoy reading the blog. I could imagine the smell coming from the oven, when you said you had, not one, but two hams cooking.
    Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next blog, and waiting for Golden to be released.

  6. Looks like a delicious feast was had by all. Speaking of purging: I did so before I moved in 2018 (first move in 30 years, second in 50). I thought I was done, but realized after Thanksgiving this year that I still had more to do. Now the son and daughter and grandchildren have their great-grands quilts and other treasures and the VFW store has my late husband’s shoes and clothes that I couldn’t bear to part with until recently. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy 2020.

  7. Happy New Year and thank you for a glimpse into your family life. I also like a good purge. Starting next week. And now, I am going to check my tea bags!

  8. I just thought about Nora’s whole house purge today and then the blog arrived 🙂 Happy New Year, Nora and Laura!

  9. Sounds like a great time together. Have fun at the spa and Happy New Year. Best wishes to Kat at her art show. See you in February!

  10. Thoroughly enjoyed this. I purge every year also…even sometimes during the year…my husband said to me during one of my purges “why are you throwing this out, as I explained that it had expired to which he says canned goods never expires”. I said ok and the following day I cooked the beans from that can and he says “OMG these beans are disgusting are they a new brand, I say no, they’re expired”. Got a good laugh but got my point…things do EXPIRE

    Love the photos especially Master Griffin.

    Happy 2020 to all of you🥂🥂🥂

  11. I truly admire Nora’s ability to purge. I am a terrible pack rat, and have the most difficulty getting rid of things. Sigh. I also truly admire all the cooking Nora and her girls do, it’s amazing. The picture of Kayla and Griffin is beautiful! As always, thank you for sharing, and 🍾🥂 here’s to another fabulous new year!

  12. I envy the clean out every drawer, closet, room thing. I can’t do it! I’m going to have my son-in-law come over and go thgough my closets. If it hasn’t been worn in a year, he will toss! I have to remember to keep the bunch of dresses I just bought, literally last week while sick in bed, separate from everything else or he’ll toss them, even though they still have tags on them. He doesn’t throw things away, gives them to his churches clothing drive.

  13. Nothing better than a baby sink bath!

    And I’ll be checking my tea supply in the morning. 😂😂😂😂

  14. I enjoyed seeing the photos especially the stuffed eggs since I have a recipe for them that dates to around 1420, give or take a decade or two. I sent copies of it to my sister for her to try. I have a small collection of medieval recipes and I have done one many times for a Lombardi pastellum which dates to 1395.
    Just my $.02.
    😸

  15. That tea story is so much nicer than my mom’s, who just tried to feed hot dogs in the freezer to my nieces and nephews…only turned out they’d expired in 2015. Granted, they’d been frozen, but ew. Who keeps hot dogs in the freezer for FOUR YEARS and then tries to feed them to babies?? Gack. LOL

  16. I love the whole house purge idea. I borrowed the idea from Nora about 7 years ago. I try to have my purge done by the winter solstice. I get a sense of peace from it.
    In the Fall I took a girls trip to Inn Boonsboro and loved the tea so much that I bought every rooms tea. I now enjoy a lovely cup every day and it takes me back to a wonderful trip. Happy New Year to you and yours Nora Thank You for sharing a little slice of your life with us and for all the awesome books. Laura thank you for the social media, blog and the countless things you do to keep us readers engaged. I really enjoy the books quotes that go along with the book discussions. I wish you both all the best in 2020.

  17. I should purge. I had at least planned some serious cleaning. But an ear infection sidelined me. Still fighting the sinus from that. I worked New Year’s Eve, I have a cool work from home job. I said end of shift at 4:30 PM CST and signed out. I spent the evening in a chat room with friends writing.

  18. Okay, since no one’s asked yet, would you divulge your magic solution for eggs shelling clean? I’m usually the designated deviled egg maker and would love a hint. I also remember the old pressure cooker explosion and won’t be getting an instant pot either.

    Okay, there are good uses for the Cloud, as was just proved, but I don’t understand it any better than you do, and I used to work in computers. Thank goodness for Jason’s redundancy plan!

    As always, thanks for sharing your family and your joys! Happy New Year!

    1. This is what Nora wrote on FacebooK: Let your eggs age a few days, and start with them at room temp. Do batches of EIGHT eggs. Six cups of water, a quarter cup of white vinegar, a tbsp of salt. Bring that mix to a boil then gently add the eggs. Cover, and boil for FOURTEEN minutes . Immediately put in ice bath until completely cool. They should peel like a dream. NR

      Personally, I’d rather do 18 in the Instant Pot and have the eggs in the ice bath within 15 minutes. ~Laura

  19. As usual, you take my breath away. You can afford to order out, & have somebody else do the cooking. But of course, you wouldn’t.
    Re: the purge. I’m against it. There is a popular theory- if you haven’t worn it in a year or so, throw it out. Here’s why i think it’s wrong. I spent a small fortune on a classic black coatdress. The fabric was black on black embroidery, w/a small black mink collar. It was for my first grandson’s bar mitzvah. It was a little snug, but looked great. I wore it again, but then put on weight. It hung in one of my closets, for 12 years. I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. Fast forward, & its a party for a younger grandson’s engagement . I try on the dress, & it looks perfect- in fact, it fits better now than it did 12 years ago.
    Moral of the story- when in doubt, don’t throw it out!!

  20. Happy new year to you all, nothing like cooking for a group. Coming from a big family, ( my mother has 13 siblings 😂)and married into a big family, ( my husband is the 2nd youngest of 11). I love this and of course accompanied by great music as the cooking progresses. Ah, the sink bath, a staple in our house when the kids were small. I miss those days. 😊 .

  21. As always the blog was amazing. Nora is human!! Laura, I love your humor. Spent the holidays with my immediate family in Hawaii. It was my parents 50th state and my 49th. I’ve got breast cancer for the third time and this fo round is terminal. Thankfully I’m single (44) and my kids are four legged. I’d rather have BC than a female with a family. I moved home with my parents and we have been purging. It is so satisfying. Passing along family items to cousins, etc. Will keep busy with purging, reading and mini trips until our family cruise to Alaska. Then I’ve hit all 50! Then we hit the states we love best or where we can have new experiences; like hang out with elephants for a couple of hours. Of course books, books and more books. Hope Heaven’s library is stocked!

    1. Amy, so sorry to hear your cancer is terminal. Glad you have planned a special trip to Alaska and making the most of your time with your parents and family; none of us know how long we have to enjoy this life.

  22. After looking at that food table I’m SO hungry and drooling. What a great start. I started the day off with my son and DIL and scrambled eggs sausage toast and mimosas. AND a promise to get back to exercising. We’ll see.

  23. Happy New Year!
    Inspired by your annual purges, I‘ve begin the practice. I’ll never get everywhere but I‘be been rebelling in that fresh start feeling in the important spots.

    Almost losing 25 chapters, the horror! I’ve lost a journal entry and felt like crying. I can not imagine.

    Your first drafts are horrible? Now THAT is the human side that impressed me! Can’t thank you enough for your art and craft . No one else is worth rereading as often.

  24. I forgot to add my 2 cents, 2 points.
    I see Griffin is wearing a necklace. I think it’s dangerous for a baby that age- it’s like the string of a hoodie- it is a choking hazard.
    Re: hard boiled eggs. I never have a problem, but i do it differently. I have a tool, which is made for eggs- it punctures a tiny hole, in the fat rounded bottom of the egg. The eggs go into reg room temp water, w/ salt. Once the water starts to boil, I cook them for 9 minutes only, then drain out the hot water, then straight into the ice bath. They peel beautifully. I saw a tip recently, about the calcium in the water being very good for plants. When i need it for my plants, i don’t add salt- i pour the hot water the eggs cooked in, directly into a bowl i use for plants , then the eggs go into the ice bath.

    1. Kat thoroughly researched that necklace which is amber and helps with teething. They saw it in Ireland on many different children and since Griffin was teething miserably, she did the research and got one for him. It worked immediately.
      Laura

  25. The tea! Lol… i purge the kitchen cabinets but the clothing is done all year long..buy something, donate something.. keeps my closet easy to see.
    2020 is a year of change for us.. youngest moving to Seattle (we are NYers).. oldest being deployed shortly- and gone for the majority of 2020.. after just purchasing a home in San Diego.. with 2 now on west coast.. we have an idea of where will be retiring in 2 short years.
    Happy New Year to you and yours.. how quickly they grow!
    And I am on team Laura..instant pot eggs are so easy!

  26. For the first time in years I’m doing a new years purge too. I started between Christmas and NYE with my clothes as I knew that was something I could get through without too much stress before I had guests on New Years Day.
    I can totally relate to the old teas, I too have found things tucked away in the back of cupboards, things I had no idea went off….

  27. As a avid rader of the this blog, this really makes me laugh. I’m a fruit/herbal/rooibos tea drinker in the summer time ( Im all the way in New Zealand so currently in summer) I do a purge every winter. Its so nice to see that even book writers are human 🙂

  28. I need to purge SOOO badly! I am moving in May and have over 1000 books to move with me (not to mention close to 100 records, 500 DVDs, and countless cassette tapes and 8-tracks) so purging clothes, unused beauty products, expired foods, and other miscellaneous items will help tremendously!

    Maybe reading this will help me get the inspiration I need. Happy New Year to ALL!

  29. Happy New Year. You sure do ring in the New Year with a real big bang.
    I would love to be one of your guests because I really needed friends family and lots of laughs.
    Master Griffin is growing like a weed and I just adored the sink bath. I use to do the same thing with my little ones and now with my grandchildren.
    My heart hurt at the thought of you losing all of your hard work. Jason deserves loads of Praise 🙌👏.
    I keep my tea in a zip lock bag in the freezer. I refill a basket I have tea and a assortment of sweeteners in on my bar. I never knew tea expired. I think it’s probably just a requirement from the FDA to label it. I was really shocked to see my bottled water has a expiration date!
    I live with my two sons so until recently we were a small family of 3 but my daughter, son in law and their 4 kids were displaced in California due to a gas explosion from the water heater and they lived in Mammoth Lakes California. The gas line ran under ground and they had some crazy snow and they were going to have to wait until summer in order to dig it up but can’t until the ground thawed. This is the short version but we are now a family of 9 in a 3 bedroom and just 1 Bathroom!
    The house is over ran with stuff and in need of a good purge. I tend to try just purging the necessary things but since they lost everything in California I am putting items in boxes so they will have a few basics when they decide on moving.
    I love how you can start fresh and clean. I am hoping we can do the same soon.
    Have a great week and Laura honey your such a great friend to help with the purging.
    Happy New year 🎉🎉🎉 🎉 to everyone.

  30. Of course expired tea is safe! One year I made pumpkin pie out of entirely out off date ingredients, from 1 year(the frozen pie crust) to 3 years (the canned pumpkin and evaporated milk) and dubbed it “Post-Apocalypse Pumpkin Pie”. So when the Magicks rise, know that we can survive! And it tasted almost the same as fresh. No one knew until after they ate it and I told them!

  31. First I want you to know I have been a huge fan of Nora Roberts since she was writing for Silhouette books. I still have all of them and I rereread them. I don’t want to offend you, but I am always wondering why there is no mention of Nora’s other son Dan. Please keep up the great work and know that I remain a true fan and hopefully a distant friend. Patsy Zellner

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