Finding Joy with a Sharp Pencil

pencilI have recently become obsessed with how sharp my pencil is. Is this something you think about, at all? Most people don’t give it a moment’s thought. I didn’t either, until now.

A few years ago, a friend who was supporting my search for a new vocation sent me this link on a guy who considers himself a ‘Artisanal Pencil Sharpener’… just to prove opportunities, no matter how trivial, were viable ways to earn a living. Who knew that pencil sharpening was an ‘art form’ needing to be left to the professionals??

In reality this guy has made a living with his ‘tongue-in-cheek’ videos, writing a book, and becoming a spokesperson for a pencil manufacturer… proving the point (pun intended) that becoming a perceived expert in your field is the best way to earn an income.

I am certainly NOT interested in sharpening pencils for my livelihood… NOR insane enough to send mine out to a professional, HOWEVER, I have recently been in search of the perfect pencil for my sketching hobby. The right tools make all the difference!


A regular #2 pencil we all took standardized tests with basically is all you need. Inexpensive, widely available, feels comfortable in the hand, comes in a huge variety of colors and designs, and erases easily. The only con is that it quickly becomes dull. I thought I solved this problem by purchasing a mechanical pencil. No, that wasn’t the answer as the ‘lead’ doesn’t work well with the paper… plus the point breaks with pressure. I even broke down and spent hours in an art store trying out all the hard leaded ‘art’ pencils. I didn’t like them.

Continuing my saga, going back to the drawing board (groan) I took a closer look at the basic #2 again and came to the conclusion the pencil wasn’t the problem, keeping it sharp was. So I began a hunt for a decent portable sharpener. You wouldn’t have thought this would be such a difficult task, would you? Let me tell you, once you begin exploring all your options, you become confused and overwhelmed. There are so many to choose from, honest!

In the end, I purchased a 2 step portable sharpener, named (are you ready for this?) The Automatic Long Point by Kum (really!)… and couldn’t be happier! Step 1 shaves down just the wooden barrel. Step 2 sharpens the lead to a fine point. Perfect! Only $6.99, and it fits in my tiny purse! Score!

I have found, it’s the little things that make life so enjoyable.

I hope you all find your joy today!

Have Sewing Machine… Will Travel

Two weeks ago I found myself in an odd predicament. I had to make an emergency purchase… of a sewing machine! Really! Who does that??? Who wakes up in a panic and runs out to purchase a new machine? Me… apparently.

Since sewing comes as naturally to me as breathing… I take on a few projects to help make ends meet. I was working on a very large project when I realized I was running out of time. Although the deadline was a few weeks away, I had a flight to catch to the west coast in two days… and this project would not be finished by then. My brain went into ‘think outside the box mode’ to figure out how to possibly get the project finished AND make my flight.

Checking with the airline on the cost to switch my flight made me gasp for air! I didn’t pay that much for the original ticket!!! I rationalized I could always take the project with me, finish it out there on the opposite coast, and FedEx it back to the client with a few days to spare. This plan would work, as long as I had a sewing machine at my destination.

My sewing machine is too heavy and too large to take as carry on… and there was no way I was going to allow the baggage handlers to toss it around. Visions of my machine arriving on the carousel in tiny pieces… held together by shipping tape danced through my head… knowing that marking a bag ‘fragile’ ensures it will be thrown across the tarmac and run over by a baggage cart, and that’s AFTER elephants stepped on it and gorillas played with it.

Knowing there was a sewing machine I could use at the other end of my travel, I happily packed yards and yards of fabric and all my sewing notions in my suitcase, instead of my clothing and toiletries. Eh… who needs all those outfits any way? I can always wash and re-wear.

suitcase filled with sewing

With a plan in motion… I set out on my trip. The first day was spent getting situated instead of sewing. No big deal… I would get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and be ready to go. That’s exactly what I did! I woke up, had a good breakfast, pulled out all of my sewing supplies, set up the loaner sewing machine, sat down at the machine, positioned my fabric under the needle, reached for the knob on the right to set my stitch… and THAT’s when I noticed I had a problem. This particular machine was designed for a beginning seamstress. I should have known, because I purchased it for my daughter-in-law as a gift two years ago. It doesn’t have the ability to do the more advanced sewing I need to do on this project. Crap!!! There’s also no way to ‘fudge’ it either.

The only viable solution I could come up with… was to purchase a machine that would do what I needed. Seriously… that was the only way out of this mess. With time (or lack there of) a huge factor, I drove to the closest sewing and vacuum shop according to Google… AFTER checking my bank balance to see what I could afford. It was there, at Quality Sewing and Vacuum in Northgate, Wa that I met the most wonderful sewing machine sales associate EVER… Esther! She listened to my plight… and showed me the best machine for my project and abilities in addition to a lesser model… giving me options.

I’ll be honest… I have been saving for a new sewing machine since my ‘work horse’ is beginning to hiccup. However… the one I have my heart set on is over $1,000. THAT was NOT happening this day. Oh no! Not only was it not in the budget, it is overkill for what I needed at the moment. So… confidently throwing down my debit card at the register, I purchased a new machine. But the story doesn’t end here.

I went back to the house, and finished the project. It was the perfect machine and ran like a dream… but I wasn’t happy. I already have 3 perfectly decent machines at home. One is a vintage Singer Featherweight (I hear all you quilters drooling), another is a Baby Lock on a mid-arm frame (for quilting), and the ‘work horse’ commonly known as a Janome Quilter’s Companion, which is over 20 years old, only speaks German and it sews everything I push under the needle. So you see, I didn’t really need another machine. AND… if I were to purchase a new machine… it would replace the Janome. This new one doesn’t even compare. Sigh.

So here I am… a bit ticked that I spent $400 of my accumulated cash on a machine I don’t really need, all because I didn’t plan ahead appropriately, AND now have the same problem of getting it across the US to the opposite coast. as I did originally. Double sigh!

But wait!!! A silver lining appears (that’s actually a pun as Esther’s last name is Silver). One of the selling features of this particular machine is that it is small enough to be considered ‘carry on’ for the airlines! Whoopie! I begin the hunt for a padded bag to protect it as I stuff it in the overhead compartment. No luck. As much as I abhor shopping online as opposed to shopping local, I had no choice. Thanks to Amazon I found the perfect bag. I ordered it on a Sunday evening… and it arrived at my door on Wednesday morning… 15 minutes before I had to leave for the airport. Phew! That was cutting it close!

Purple Sewing Machine Bag

I’m a bit happier now… as this machine is perfect for traveling! Not only on planes, trains, and automobiles across the country… but to sewing retreats, quilting classes, and clients homes if necessary. In the end… it was the PERFECT choice.

My savings for a larger, more stable and sturdy machine that actually speaks English and has a large harp to fit quilts through, is back to zero. Honestly, it’s in the negative… but that only makes me work harder to earn enough for the machine I REALLY want!

Afterall… a girl can always dream.

Here’s a sneak peek of ‘the project’. A professional photo shoot will be available in late October of the entire project… along with another similar project. Both are absolutely ADORABLE!


Church Window Hexagon Quilt Challenge

Happy National Quilting Day!!!

In honor of National Quilting Day, and to all the fabulous and creative quilters out in the world… I give you… my very first Quilt Challenge.

Last month a small group from my local quilt guild (Jersey Shore Modern Quilt Guild) attended an exhibit at the Michener Art Museum (as in… the author, James A.) in Doylestown, PA. ‘Blanket Statements’ was a Kaffe Fassett exhibit of antique English quilts and his modern-day interpretation of them.

The antique quilts were amazing. To think woman over 150 years ago used needle and thread with such complexity!  Although we didn’t agree on which quilt was our favorite, we found ourselves gathered around one particular quilt commenting how we would have designed the modern version differently than Kaffe Fassett. Each idea was creative, exciting, and totally unique. Eureka! A quilt challenge was born!

Before we start… let me take a few moments of your time to explain the coolness of this particular block. If you look closely at the antique quilt top after reading the write up… you marvel at the fact it was all paper pieced… BY HAND!!! And as amazing as that is, you look closer and only then realize the hexagon shapes are mostly done in stripes… and they are MITRED!!! O!M!G!

Paper pieced antique quilt, Church Window Hex

         Paper pieced antique quilt, Church Window Hexagon Top

Now… let’s take a look at the modern interpretation.This one has taken the current day mantra of ‘git her done’ to heart by using rotary cutting and machine sewing… not to mention the bold, bright patterns and colors Kaffe is so known for.

Church Window Hexagon Quilt Challenge

      Modern interpretation of Modern Church Window Hexagon

Now it’s YOUR turn to re-invent this design. I’ve done the easy part for you and created the basic pattern and tutorial. You, as the creator get to put YOUR spin on it. Will you make it a ‘scrappy stash buster’ or all in one fabric designer’s line? Will you use prints or all solids? Fussy cut centers perhaps? Oh… I know… how about all the hexagon shapes the same color?? Oh the choices are endless. I think that’s why this specific quilt captured our attention. Oh! What would happen to the design if all the small corners were the same color… would they look like polka-dots??? Hmmmm…

Challenge RULES:

1. Have fun with this! Use your imagination and creativity. Feel free to use my tutorial and pattern instructions as a GUIDE by changing up the width of the strips you cut. Hand sewing, paper piecing, machine sewing, embellishments and more are all accepted.

2. Finished item must be in quilt form… top, batting, and backing… bound. There is no minimum or maximum finished size requirement.

3. Must use a minimum of 12 blocks clearly depicting the creative journey you are on.

4. Challenge begins 12:01am March 19, 2016, National Quilting Day, and ends at midnight September 192016. Feel free to jump in at any time!

5. When completed please post a photo of your quilt on our Facebook page… Church Window Hex Block Quilt Challenge.


Yes, there will be prizes. In addition to simply seeing all the inspiring quilts there will be pop-up prizes for those who post photos along the way. Things like, a signed copy of Denyse Schmidt’s book Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration… A fat quarter bundle of Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s new fabric line Mostly Manor… and more. To know what prizes will be awarded when, and what you need to do to be in the running… you will need to join or follow our Facebook Page.

Here’s the basic pattern and tutorial…

Church Window Hexagon Block

*Following is the standard size I have designed for this challenge. Please feel free to use this as a guide and switch it up. You will notice I have included a few other size options below as well. Let your creative muse be your guide.

For EACH block cut the following:

Fabric A   – (1)   2 ½” Square

Fabric B –   (2)   2 ½” x 6 ½”

(2)   2 ½” Squares

Fabric C –   (4)   2” Squares

Church Window Hexagon Block Challenge

   Pink is Center square, Green is Hexagon, Yellow are the corners


Fabric A… Pink.  Fabric B… Green  Fabric c… Yellow.


Step 1: Using ¼” seam… Sew each Fabric B 2 ½” square to opposite sides of the Fabric A 2 ½” square, creating a rectangle. Press seams out, away from the center square. Set aside.

Church Window Hexagon Quilt Challenge

                  So far, so good… center of block is complete.

Step 2: Using a pencil and a straight edge, mark a diagonal line on each Fabric C square. Following the photo… place a Fabric C square on each upper corner of the 2 Fabric B 2 ½” x 6 ½” rectangles… right sides together. Sew ON the pencil line AFTER double-checking the direction of the diagonals. Trim seams to ¼”, then press resulting triangle up.

Church Window Hexagon Quilt Challenge

                          Pencil lines drawn on diagonal.

Step 2b Church Window Hexagon Quilt Challenge

Step 3: Finger press the rectangle made in Step 1 to find the center from side to side… and repeat with the 2 pieces made in step 2. Matching centers, sew the unsewn side of Step 2 pieces to the top and bottom of Step 1 piece, right sides together. Press seams away from center square.

Finished Church Window Hexagon Block

                     Ta-Dah!!! Just press and you are finished!

Size: 6 ½” unfinished, 6” finished

Additional size options:

For a larger center square (see Solid block example below)…

Cut: Fabric A – (1) 3 ½”

Fabric B – (2) 2” x 6 ½” rectangle

(2) 2” x 3 ½” rectangle

Fabric C – (4) 2” squares

Still results in a 6” finished block (6 ½” unfinished)

Large center square

                                Notice the larger center square?

For an even smaller quilt block cut all 1 1/2″ squares and strips, 2 strips being 1 1/2″ x 3″. The finished block will measure 3″ square.

*** Please note that the small squares (Fabric C)creating the hexagon shape are NOT necessarily on the seam line in the main directions. This is by design. If you look closely at the Modern interpretation of the antique sample, you will see they chose NOT to line them up either. If this bothers you… simply cut 2 ½” squares and proceed with directions.

*** When assembling blocks into finished quilt, rotate them so seams alternate from horizontal to vertical for added strength. See modern interpretation photo for clarity.

Questions??? Leave a comment below, or email me at deb(at)debhathaway(dot)com.

Can you understand why I’m OBSESSED with this block??? It’s so versatile!

I am so excited to see all the different variations of this quilt you all make!! Each one will be special and oh so beautiful!

This challenge is open to EVERYONE. The pattern is GREAT for beginners as well as the more advanced quilter. Please SHARE this challenge with your fellow quilters. The more participants, the more variations we get to see.

Share your process on INSTAGRAM using #churchwindowhex or tagging me  @uniqueandnovel.

Again… JOIN the Facebook Page to be kept up to date on all the fun. Pop-up prizes, Special Surprises, inspiration, and motivational cheerleading will all be posted there.

I will finish up this post with one final photo… the 2 quilts side by side at the exhibit that rocked my world and started this entire challenge.

Old and New

*Photo Credit for the Quilt photos at the museum goes to Brandy Borden. Thanks Brandy!

I hope you all enjoy this challenge as much as I had putting it together.

Happy Sewing!  Deb







Baby Quilt – Underneath the Same Stars

Phew! Now that all the hub bub of baby showers, first birthdays, and flying AND driving up and down the east coast is over… I can finally post about the super secret baby quilt I made.

My oldest daughter is pregnant with her first child!!! It was decided the baby shower would be a ‘gender reveal’… meaning I had to keep my mouth shut for WEEKS on the sex of the baby!!! It also meant I couldn’t post any photos of the baby quilt I was making so as not to give it away.

It’s a BOY!!!! My second grandson is due in May and I couldn’t be happier!!

With a nursery theme of ‘Underneath the Same Stars’… and color scheme of Gray, White, Navy, and Teal I set my creative juices in motion.

‘Underneath the Same Stars’ came about because my Son-in-law serves in the Navy. Although he will be away from home a lot of the time, he will always be beneath the same stars. When you think about it… that really brings things into perspective… doesn’t it!

While scouring a multitude of quilting resources, I came across a pattern named Hunter’s Star. Well… isn’t that just PERFECT??? Our family name is Hunter… and it’s a star pattern. This was just meant to be! I was delighted!

My personal stash of fabric, which seriously could stock an entire store, didn’t have any of the colors I needed. Sooooo… I hit up my favorite fabric haunts. YIPPIE!!! Shopping for the color teal was not as simple and clear-cut as I thought it was going to be. Some were too green, others too blue… and if the Navy was too dark it looked black, and others too Royal. Gah!!! Eventually, as if by magic things all started to pull together.

Once the fabric was washed, dried, and ironed… Like a mad crazy person I began cutting it all up according to the pattern. Isn’t that nuts? We quilters buy fabric, cut it up into many pieces, just to sew it all back together again. Who thought THIS was a good idea???

Any way… there came a time when I had to trim about ¼” from every square, resulting in what I affectionately call ‘fabric worms’. The way the sunlight streamed through the near by window made them glow. Mesmerized by the scene, I stopped cutting to take s few photos, then realized I COULDN’T POST THEM! But now I can! I get excited over the craziest things!

Pile of Fabric Worms

                 Pile of Fabric Worms

Here’s the finished quilt, and a photo of her opening it up during the shower.

Finished Baby Quilt

                                    Finished Baby Quilt


Gender reveal Baby Shower

                              Gender reveal Baby Shower

I followed the Missouri Quilt Company tutorial as a guide… which you can find HERE.

If you want to see this quilt up close and personal, it will be on display this weekend at The Quilt and Sewing Festival held in the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ. Then it will be mailed to it’s new home in Florida where it will await the birth of my grandson. Two of my other quilts will also be displayed… The Periodic Table quilt I made for Grandson #1, and Bye-Bye Boogieman, the quilt that started this whole passion of making quilts (okay, okay… obsession) in the first place.

Stop by the Jersey Shore Modern Quilt Guild booth and drool over the other member’s fabulous quilts too. I will be there most of the time and would love for you to visit!

How’s the BOOK coming??

“Soooo… Deb, how’s the book coming?”

I’m beginning to hear that question more and more… and more and more… and more and more.

My socially accepted answer is, “Well… it’s coming along.” However the real answer is… It’s difficult to write about such gut wrenching things at times so I have to put it away for a while just to re-group. AND… I don’t have an ending.

My Story

Every story has a beginning, middle and end. The reader needs a little background, then a conflict (or train wreck), the ‘ah ha’ moment, a solution and a happy ending. Well… I certainly can fill everyone in on the background. The train wreck writes itself. Struggling through a life I didn’t think I could handle is really tough… and sorting out my thoughts at that trying time and the way I handled some situations is the difficult part of my writing. Although through writing about it I am STUNNED at my strength.

That’s the time I put the writing aside, and sooth my soul with a creative project. I’ll begin a quilt, a painting, read a book, or grab my camera and take some photos… and get totally sidetracked, forgetting there’s a book partly written waiting for my return.

Then there’s also the problem of not having an ending. My book is a memoir. I’m still here. I can’t honestly say I have a happy ending. I’m still plodding through life the best I can… just like you. What kind of ending is THAT? ZZZZZzzzzz.

Talking with a friend in ‘the biz’ the other day convinced me where to end my story, and why. It makes sense. I now have a target. My story arc is complete. I now have the vision I need to continue the story.

So… if you see me in the real world, feel free to ask how’s it going. If I give you a vague answer, I give you permission to stare me in the eye and tell me to get back to my desk!

*If you are new to this blog, or don’t know what book I’m trying to write… click on the tab marked ‘sneak peek’ for a sample.


On my nightstand: The Book of James by Ellen J. Green

On my sewing machine: Finishing my grandson’s room decorations… and FINALLY got around to sewing my Christmas Quilt top (there’s always next year). Christmas Quilt In Progress

On my drawing board: Designing 25 Cheap Dates ‘Life Calendar’ for my Etsy Shop

Paper Snob and FREE Coloring Page

OK… I admit it, I’m a paper snob. To me there is nothing better than a fresh clean notebook, filled with paper of substance.

I thought I was the only crazy person in the world touching and feeling the paper in the cheap notebooks at the discount stores and being dissatisfied. Yet today, while I was investigating the paper in a particular notebook I was considering purchasing, I noticed a man sitting on the floor going through each and every Composition Book! Every one!! All colors! During a brief conversation I realized he was doing the same thing I was… feeling the paper.

He pointed out the paper in the black and white composition books were a heavier weight than the different colored books. He was right! He did his research and found the books shipped from India were lighter weight to save on shipping costs. Huh… Who would have guessed?

Any way… I bet you are wondering what all this has to do with a FREE download of a page to color, right? Well I’ll tell ya… BEFORE you print off this page, I wanted to discuss the kind of paper you should consider loading into your printer to get the best results.

I’m not sure if you noticed or not… but coloring books for Adults are H-U-G-E right now. The more expensive ones have the better paper. However, if you take a close look at the paper used in children’s coloring books, you might notice the paper is grayish and is basically ‘newsprint’. There’s a reason for that. Crayons are slick, and they need a bit of ‘tooth’ to release the colored wax from the crayon. Think of running a crayon over a piece of sandpaper… and then try writing on a smooth surface like your kitchen counter. Get it?

With this in mind… figure out what method of coloring you plan on doing BEFORE printing this FREE Coloring Page. Going to use crayons? Use inexpensive copy paper or newsprint. Thinking of pulling out your markers? Invest in a pad of smooth vellum, or special ‘marker paper’ for less bleeding. Watercolor paper is the ONLY paper you should consider if you’re going to take a brush to the design.

Inkjet or Laser? Again it depends on your choice of medium. Crayons and markers can be either. Watercolor will smear the ink, so use a Laser printer if you have one.

Without further adieu, here’s my very first FREE Coloring Page download. Please bear with this old dog as it learns new tricks… like creating the design in Adobe Illustrator instead of hand drawing it, and actually scanning the design into the computer instead of taking a photo. Dropbox is new to me too. Ah… so many things to learn!

FREE Coloring Page Christmas Ornaments

FREE Coloring Page Christmas Ornaments


When finished with your work of art… please share it via Facebook and Instagram. I wanna see! I wanna see!!! Use the hashtag #uncolorart and @uniqueandnovel.

Have fun!

Advent Calendars

Finally… my Advent Calendars are available to the public! The debut at Oceanside Gallery last night was FABULOUS! A great big ‘Thanks’ goes to owner Marguerite and Jennifer of JB Couture Cupcakes for the opportunity… AND for lighting a fire under me to move this business from an idea stuck in my head… to fruition.

What makes these Advent Calendars different from all the others on the market are the fresh modern designs, and exciting surprises hidden behind each flap. Three cover designs are available… Graphic Ornaments, a Nutcracker, and Snowman. Actually the snowman was last year’s design, just freshened up a bit (you can read all about THAT adventure HERE).

Ornament, Nutcracker, and Snowman Advent Calendars

Ornament, Nutcracker, and Snowman Advent Calendars

The idea is to begin on December 1st and each day lift a flap to reveal something really cool. Then continue each day until Christmas!

The inside designs are a tad unusual. You can choose between cute Holiday drawings, Christmas Riddles (and believe me when I tell you they are corny), and Random Acts of Kindness (most of which don’t cost a penny). Here’s a sneak peek:

Choices for inside Advent Calendars

Choices for inside Advent Calendars

For availability and TO ORDER… please go to my etsy shopEach calendar comes with a mailing envelope… and is ready to ship NOW.

I’d like to take a moment and mention a few more talented people who have influenced me greatly and really got me drawing again… Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. Danny wrote a book titled Creative License many years ago. Basically he inspires you to forget about all the reasons you think you CAN’T draw… and just sit down and put pencil to paper. Call yourself an artist, don’t compare yourself to others, forget that your elementary teacher said you don’t have talent… silence the negativity and DRAW!

I ran across a few hundred of these books in a warehouse where I was shopping for my business… and bought each and every one!! My daughter thought I was nuts… and challenged me to sell each and every one. I did… and kept one for myself 🙂 I read it… then promptly stuck it on a shelf to be forgotten, along with the pencils, sharpener and paper I purchased.

A few years later I was surfing the Internet in a fit of boredom when I stumbled upon Danny’s blog… and life has not been the same. I dug that book out from the far reaches of the bookcase, read it cover to cover, then pulled my pencils out and began to draw.

Along comes Koosje. Actually I stumbled upon her website through Pinterest. I fell in love with her carefree easy drawing style. Her blog offered hundreds of inspirational posts. All of a sudden *POOF*, Danny mentions he his going to visit her AND discuss a new exciting business venture… Sketchbook Skool is born! The classes look amazing… but are not a budgeted item, so I instead stalk the site and visit all the instructor’s pages and drool.

So here i am… I have an idea to design and make Advent Calendars. I’m doodling around with my pencil on paper as encouraged by Danny and Koosje (in my dreams we are on a first name basis)… Sketches evolve. Then doubt begins to creep in. Who am I to think I can draw something people will spend their hard-earned money on?? I have no talent. My drawings are amateurish. WHAT AM I THINKING???

Cue Brene Brown. I found her TEDtalk on Vulnerability. To be honest… I have never heard any one say the word VULNERABILITY so many times in a 30 minute span! But she got through to me. Creative people are putting themselves ‘out there’ all the time. We are vulnerable. People will judge us, maybe even say mean ugly things about our work. So what? According to Brene Brown (not on a first name basis yet) we all need to be vulnerable to make connections.

So… I’m connecting with you all. I’m putting myself ‘out there’ and hope you like what I have to offer. It’s not perfect, I’m certain I will improve and grow with my next designs, but at least I happy and proud of today’s end result. Isn’t that what really matters???

It takes a village my friends… an entire village!!



Exciting News…

Fall is upon us and the leaves have been swirling down to the ground. My yard is littered with the multi-colored, crunchy leaves, yet I still refuse to rake them. I have one huge sugar maple in the back yard absolutely refusing to give up its leaves!. If I rake now… I will only have to rake again in a few weeks. Typical lazy me would rather paint, draw, quilt and read instead of doing a job like raking, twice. So, for those of you who live near me, I apologize for not keeping up with lawn care, but hope you understand.

backyard leaves

Now… on to the exciting news!

Exciting News #1… Last month I mentioned I was releasing stories of people I have met in my travels. Originally this project was set to begin October 1st. The learning curve with publishing e-books was more than I anticipated, so delayed the launch until November. Well… giving more thought to the workings of this adventure, I felt delaying the launch date to January 1, 2016 would make much more sense.

I have a total of twelve stories. Some are of real people I have met while criss crossing the USA, others are my interpretation of a life I imagined while scouring local Estate Sales, and the rest are pure fiction. Twelve months, twelve stories… one released each month.

These stories will be available in e-book form and sell for .99 each. The idea is for you to read each one then vote if you think the story is real or not. At the end of the year, the readers with all correct answers will be entered in a lottery. The winner of this lottery will receive a $200 Amazon Gift Card!!!

Comment below if you would like to be contacted when each story is published.

Remember… the fun begins January 1, 2016!

Exciting News #2… Last year on a whim I designed a paper Advent Calendar… you know, the kind with flaps you lift and see a picture or saying under it. Well… they were such a huge hit, I decided to actually sell them this year. My first two designs are debuting this Friday night, November 20, 2105 at Oceanside Gallery in Belmar, NJ. I will be displaying them from 6 to 9pm during Belmar’s first ever Main Street Experience.

Sneak peek Advent Calendar #1

Sneak peek Advent Calendar #1

Advent Calendar for Kids

Advent Calendar 2015 #2

If you can’t make it to Belmar Friday night… then check back here on Saturday the 21st where I will post photos, what inspired me, the process, and how to purchase if you are interested.

This is only the beginning of a new venture. My head is spinning with creative ideas based  on the countdown calendar theme, in addition to offering kits to make your own… and the service to die cut the window flaps on your own provided art. All of this will be available in my etsy shop (uniqueandnovel) after the New Year! Instructions and information to follow later.

Just THINK of all the possibilities… a countdown calendar to an upcoming vacation, wedding day, graduation, favorite holiday, or when your loved one returns home from a deployment. The list is ENDLESS!

What ideas do YOU have?






Five Years Ago…

LivingroomFive years ago today I woke up, looked out my window, noticed the tree limbs out my bedroom window made the shape of a heart and immediately knew I made the right decision to move here. The night before, as I unpacked boxes… many, many boxes… I was beginning to doubt myself.

You see…. I downsized. Truth be told, after my husband’s passing I foreclosed on the large 2 story center hall colonial family home… and moved back to my home town at the Jersey Shore. With the help and urging of a friend I found the perfect little bungalow. My mother hated it! She thought it was ugly, too small, and to top it off located in a bad part of town. I obviously didn’t agree with her. I had visions of living a new and perfect life in that house. I should have known it wasn’t going to be that simple. Nothing in my life ever is.

The new neighbors, along with family and old high school friends, helped me pack and move. I couldn’t have done it without them. I remember being overwhelmed, unsettled, excited, unsure of my decision, and thrilled… all rolled into one.

Moving night ended with tears rolling down my face as I clutched my wok to my chest realizing there wasn’t a space large enough to store it. My friend asked if I was sorry I moved to this house. With my lower lip quivering and a small shaky voice I squeaked, “No”, but in reality I wasn’t 100% certain. Taking that as a clue to leave, he kissed me lightly and quietly closed the door behind him. I dragged my sad face to bed.

In the morning I awoke with a new attitude. Seeing that heart in the tree limbs made me smile. I showered quickly and ran downstairs… with a plan! The first thing I did was grab the wok, and place in the one and only cabinet it would fit in. In my mind I was going to store something else in there, but it was time to change my thinking!

This morning there were no tree limbs in the shape of a heart outside my window… the tree had to be cut down last year. The wok was moved to the basement, my mom passed away a few years ago, my friend is no longer in my life, the kids have all flown the nest, and they took the dogs!

As I stretched in bed I mentally listed all the good things that have happened in this house. Many holiday dinners have been shared around my tables, birthday candles blown out, and even a few wedding festivities held in the back yard. I have hosted book club meetings, volunteer quilters, a few brunches, and a cocktail party or two.

I’ve served cake and tea to friends, and made French pressed coffee for chilly guys who work outside in the cold.

This house stood strong against Hurricane Sandy… and provided shelter for my kids and me. It is a safe place I not only live in, but work in, create in, and make long-lasting memories in. Oh, and did I mention the lake is across the street and the Atlantic Ocean within walking distance?? Ah… yeah.

I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring!!!

Everyone has a Story to Tell

I meet the most FASCINATING people when I travel! Friends have told me I can strike up a conversation with a brick wall… and it will answer back. Well… I doubt that’s true… however when I travel I DO initiate conversations with strangers. By the time we have landed, pulled into the station or finished our drinks, I usually have another interesting story tucked away in the back recesses of my brain. Everyone has a story to tell.

Speaking with strangers is kind of like reading Facebook posts… you only hear the really fun and exciting stories. No one tells me the boring, everyday humdrum stuff that life is really made up of. No… I get to hear their passions, their dreams, why they are on the plane and so much more. Knowing I will most likely never see them again makes them feel comfortable and open up more. Are the stories even true, I ask myself? Who cares, is my reply… I was entertained and that’s all that matters.

I keep a journal. I’d like to say I write in it every day… well, I used to… but I don’t any more. Long story… I won’t go in to the details of why I don’t… BUT, I stumbled across a journal from a year ago and began to flip through the pages. WOW! I was struck by the entry I made of a guy I met on a plane. I wrote in every amazing detail he shared with me. His journey was so incredible it was difficult to believe it was true… but he had pictures to prove it… so I believed every word.Pen and PaperEUREKA! I should write these stories and share them with you, my brain screamed at me. What a GREAT idea, I answered back. I sat still for a moment and came up with an enterprising idea… then ran it passed a few friends, who thought it was a SUPER idea! So…. My great idea is to write the stories, then post them as an e-book.

Now here’s the really INGENIOUS part of the plan… I have also had the pleasure of ‘bumping’ into people without sharing stories. You know… when you see a family trying to take a ‘group shot’ and you offer to take the photo for them? Or… when I go to an Estate Sale and learn about the people who lived there? Some of them were so interesting in their own right that I can easily MAKE UP a story of their life… total FICTION!!! The goal for you, as the reader, will be to VOTE if you think the story is fact or fiction.

I will release one short story a month for an entire year… for a total of 12 stories. At the end of the year I will take all of the people who voted correctly and hold a lottery for a prize. I haven’t decided what the prize will be yet… most likely a hefty Amazon Gift Card and a copy of the final book when the stories are all combined… but the details will be ironed out in a few days before I actually make this ‘go live’ on October 1, 2015.

Don’t freak if you know me personally. I will not write about you. Even if you don’t know me that well, but we have some kind of contact… I WILL NOT WRITE ABOUT YOU!!! The stories I will share are of people I have only met once in my life for a very brief moment and will never see, hear from, or have any means of contacting them again. I figure if they had the courage to tell a complete stranger the story of their life… then I should feel free to write about it and share it with you. In most cases I don’t even know their name or where they live.

I’m anxious to see how this idea pans out. For ME… I get to keep my writing skills ‘greased’. I want to see if I write differently when telling the truth, or if my style changes when making something up. In addition to explore the notion that writing might be a career path for me. YOU benefit by being entertained, hopefully winning a prize, and learning about very interesting people… in addition to judging if I’m a decent writer or not.

Mark your calendars! The fun begins October 1st. I will be posting the link/s on my Facebook page AND website I hope you decide to play along!

EDIT: This project has been delayed a month to a month and a half. Life has caught up with me and I need to learn how to publish my stories the best way.