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.



Are You Ready for Some Football???

Philadelphia-Eagles-logoAre your ready for some football??? Uh… no, not really. However, one of the most extraordinary trips of my life revolves around football.

It’s 1998. Although my husband is exhibiting signs of some kind of illness, he hasn’t been diagnosed with ALS as yet. All we know is that ‘something’ isn’t right… but symptoms aren’t bad enough to consult a doctor. He is weak in his arms and although he walks miles a day for exercise he seems to be tripping often.

This whole fun vacation began with an excited phone call from my brother-in-law. Apparently he was friends with some guy named Tommy McDonald who has just been nominated into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Not only that… but this guy Tommy had extra ‘family’ tickets to the event and offered them to my brother-in-law. He asked us to go with him.

Well… my husband went CRAZY!!! Tommy McDonald??? Woo! Hoo! Does life get any better than this??? He was sooooo excited!!! Tommy McDonald was one of his most loved and revered players of the Philadelphia Eagles football team from ‘way back when’. Me? Not so much. I had no clue who this guy was or what he meant to not only my husband, but so many other football fanatics.

So it was decreed that our summer vacation was going to be a trip to, of all places, Canton, Ohio to participate in the Football Hall of Fame ceremonies. Oh joy (not). Our son was only 12 years old and therefore was not given a choice… he HAD to come along. Our girls however were old enough to make their own decision… and even though I tried my very best to bribe them with a shopping trip for an entire new wardrobe at a local mall in Canton, they would decide to NOT join us. Sigh. I would be the only female on this totally testosterone filled trip. I was less than thrilled to be spending my only summer vacation driving to, of all places… Canton, Ohio.

Early morning of July 30, 1998 the three of us took off for Ohio with me at the wheel of our Subaru. We arrived late afternoon with me still less than enthused about this trip. I guess this is what marriage is all about. Clearly my husband wanted to go to this event… it meant a lot to him. My son and I could have cared ‘two figs’ about it. As a matter of fact I packed a knitting project and bathing suit assuming I would have two whole days to sit by a hotel pool and work on a project. Oh… how wrong I was!!!

As soon as we arrived we were given a packet of information, which included an itinerary of events and a special badge. It was a ‘family’ badge allowing us into private parties meant only for families of the nominees. Whoa!!!

My brother-in-law met us in our hotel room. Once the ‘hellos’ were over we decided we were hungry and needed to find some place to dine. While those two chatted… I read the packet of information. “Uh, guys??? I think our badges get us into a private party for the inductees, their families, fellow players and coaches. Going on RIGHT NOW!”

“No!” my brother-in-law shouted.

“Yes, I think so”. I replied.

Excitedly we all read the information again… then immediately took off for the party.

Totally prepared to be turned away at the door… we surged on any way. Sure enough, we timidly flashed our badges and security guards magically allowed us entry into the most AWESOME football party of all time!! We felt like celebrities in our own right as we walked past football fans lined three deep along the sidewalk hoping to catch a glimpse of football giants, in hopes of getting an autograph… into the inner sanctum of football nirvana.

Once inside my husband and brother-in-law’s jaws dropped as they hobnobbed with players and coaches up until this moment they have only seen on television. It was all lost on me. Instead I located Tommy McDonald’s family to thank them for allowing us to ‘horn in’ on this most momentous family occasion. They were all so sweet and accommodating.

We were treated as royalty as the festivities continued with special bus transportation to the annual parade down Main Street, seats in the VIP Grandstand, Private seating in the VIP tent with lunch (where I engaged in one-on-one conversations with soap opera stars… whom I didn’t know, but my friends SWOONED over when they found out), and a dinner in a convention center where some football star whose name I can’t remember sat at the head of the table and the night’s festivities was hosted by the one and only Chris “Boomer” Berman.

Our special badges also gave us priority seating at the actual Induction ceremony… second row in fact. I sat in awe as I looked around at the THOUSANDS of fans corralled behind the fence on the hill behind me. Any one of them would have cheerfully paid me thousands of dollars to have my seat at this event. *Side note… I also attended a World Series Game in 1969… Mets vs Orioles…private box seats… where I would have gladly given my seat away to any of the THOUSANDS of fans more deserving than I. Any way…

The sun was beating down on us that searing summer day in Ohio. It was HOT and becoming most uncomfortable. Tommy McDonald’s family was near by as well as the families of the other inductees… Paul Krause, Anthony Munoz, Mike Singletary, and Dwight Stephenson. Oh, and WHO sat directly in front of me blocking my view because of his height and presence??? None other than a football player I actually HEARD of… Harold Carmichael!!!! I only knew his name because he was a fellow Eagle’s player. Since our family ‘bleeds green’, I was excited.

Once the weekend was over, I looked back on it and realized that although football wasn’t my ‘thing’… I had a wonderful time. Mostly because the McDonald Family was so nice and friendly, in addition to making us feel welcomed… but also because I felt like royalty being included into the ‘inner circle’. Also… it was a trip I wasn’t thrilled to take… only doing it for my husband… yet finding I had a fabulous time after all. It was such a surprise!!!

Soooooo… am I ready for some football? Nope. The Eagle’s games aren’t broadcast here at the Jersey Shore… unless they are pit against the Giants… or are Monday Night’s game. I’m not interested in any other team.

My husband passed away 8 years ago from ALS, but that summer weekend in Canton, Ohio as a pseudo family member of Tommy McDonald was a bright highlight in his life… and therefore in mine also.

Fresh New Look!!

I know it seems I haven’t been posting much lately… OK, I HAVEN’T been posting ANYTHING lately… but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard.

First off… I’ve been diligently working on updating the look and feel of this site. It was too ‘stiff’ for my taste… and ‘corporate’, so I’ve switched it up with a fresh new watercolor background and header, making the site more ‘me’. This change is in keeping with my NEW GREETING CARD LINE!!! I have my very first design at the printer’s RIGHT NOW! I should be able to proof it in a few days… and showcase it shortly. Until then I’m keeping the design ‘under wraps’… and leaving you guessing.

October 11th is fast approaching… and that means BELMAR BOOKCON is right around the corner!!! I have been reading, and reading, and reading, and vetting self published authors like crazy to bring the very BEST new and original books to Pyanoe Plaza in Belmar, NJ for the day. If you missed it last year… shame on you… and hope you can make it this year. Stephanie Evanovich ( I KNOW!!!) is our keynote speaker!!! We are soooooo excited!!! More information can be found at

My brain needed some creative release… and so I took up crocheting super cute OWL HATS!!! It all started with my daughter asking me to crochet one for my grandson’s Halloween costume this year. Well… I’m totally hooked (pun intended) and can’t stop making them! Owl Hat

Aren’t they the CUTEST??? Currently I am taking orders. They come in ALL SIZES… even ADULTS!!! Send me an email if you would like me to make one just for YOU and I’ll send you the size and price sheet.

In my spare time… (yeah right) you can catch me procuring and selling books for RECYCLE YOUR BOOK HEREexperimenting with IMPROV QUILTING so I can teach a tutorial for my local quilt guild JERSEY SHORE MODERN QUILTERSdesigning greeting cards and ADVENT CALENDARS, traveling, babysitting for my adorable grandson, and trying to sleep. YAWN!!

I hope you all had an enjoyable summer and are loping forward to a breath of fresh air this fall season!






Outdoor Quilt Show Adventure

Woo! Hoo! For years I have dreamed about getting to the Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon… and TODAY that dream came true!! What an adventure!

Sign posts announcing the Sisters Oregon Outdoor Quilt Show

Sign posts announcing the Sisters Oregon Outdoor Quilt Show

A fellow quilt lover told me about this show many years ago when they attended. Being a Jersey Girl and living on the east coast… spending money to travel to Oregon JUST to view quilts seemed a bit crazy. However, THIS summer I found myself on the west coast with some spare time to hit up this state and attend the show!!

Quilts lined the streets, hung from porches, and were even suspended from ceilings inside stores! Everywhere I looked… colorful fabric waved in the breeze commanding my attention. I didn’t know which direction to look first, or which side of the street to stay on. Since the town was shut down to motorists, I found it best to walk down the middle of the street turning my head from side to side so as not miss a single quilt.

Sisters Oregon Library

First stop… Sisters City Hall.

Sisters Oregon City Hall

Hung inside the building was an interesting group of wall quilts all made by different quilters, but had the continuity of a river flowing from one to the other.A River Runs Through It

After a few hours my sore feet needed to take a rest. I stopped in Sisters Coffee Company for a cup of Cold Brew and a Peanut Butter cookie. As I sat in the oversized comfortable chair enjoying my snack, I got the feeling I was in Disney World. Yes… that’s exactly how I felt… a Disney World for Quilters!!! A guy was playing the piano as I faced an oversized stone fireplace, noticing the heavy velvet curtains covering the windows. Crowds of people milling around outside, and the din of other attendees in the background added to the Disney ambiance.

Back outside I marveled at the clever pairing of quilt to building decisions. Antique shops had older and more muted quilts adorning their building, while the Yoga Studio had ‘zen like’ designs outside of theirs. The Western shop had horse motifs in their quilts, and the flower shop had… you guessed it… floral quilts.

There were games to play too! Match the name to the Kona Color was kind of fun!

Game board for Kona Challenge

Game board for Kona Challenge

I have attended many indoor quilt shows… and only one other outdoor show… but THIS one is the biggest of all! A little different was the absence of ‘white gloved’ volunteers. Usually if you would like to see the backside of a quilt you need the help of a volunteer to flip it over for you so as not to leave behind oil or dirt you’re your hands. At this show all you had to do was walk behind the quilt! Voila! However… I absolutely LOVED seeing the volunteers wearing neon yellow shirts emblazoned with… QUILT RESCUE TEAM! They were called into action whenever a quilt needed to be adjusted if the wind blew it down.

Using my iPhone to take photos… I was CRUSHED to notice my battery dying only half way through. I think taking a few videos killed it.

Sisters itself is not what I expected. Although the buildings were cute and the town was incredibly ADORABLE… I was a little bummed to notice a lot of the building facades were not the original western town saloon and mining fronts… but newly built ‘fronts’ adding fuel to that Disney feeling.

Tag… you’re it! Now that you know about this show, if you are a quilt lover I hope you make plans to attend! It was amazing!!

An Ocean Place Wedding

The true story of a wedding at Ocean Place Resort and Spa.

I had to wait almost a week to write this post about my son’s wedding at Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch, NJ… just to make certain my judgment wasn’t clouded by emotions. Besides, I was raised if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. I just can’t bite my tongue any longer. Future brides need to know exactly what to expect from Ocean Place Resort and Spa if they decide to book their most special day there.

Scott and Krisa Wedding

It’s a big day when one of your children gets married. It’s even bigger when it’s your last… and a SON to boot. Oh… I’ve been MOB (Mother of the Bride), twice, so I know the drill. As MOG my friends cautioned me to wear beige, sit in the corner and keep my mouth shut. However the bride-to-be included me in the planning, and I’m forever grateful she did.

From the moment my future daughter-in-law and son began the discussion of making their commitment to one another ‘official’, a team consisting of her mother, a bridesmaid, and me was formed to hunt down the perfect venue. The future bride and groom live on the west coast… the rest of us live on the east and some live out of the country. A beach wedding was the future bride and groom’s wish… so off we went in search of a location and venue fit for the wedding of the century located on a New Jersey beach.

I’ll skip past all the venues we checked out that didn’t even come close to meeting our criteria, and cut to the chase… Our team unanimously thought Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch was the ultimate venue. The large expanse of pristine sand planted with palm trees, the glorious renovations, the option of having a bonfire on the beach were all major check points in the ‘plus’ column.

We toured the facility with one of their event planners and were ‘wowed’. Although her mother was suffering from sticker shock, we all knew the bride would love the place. It had just the right amount of ‘laid back’ beach wedding feel mixed with enough elegance for the bride to feel like a Princess. Perfect!

Before the final decision was made… it was time to bring the bride’s father into the mix. The bride’s parents and I made a date and met at the venue on a Saturday evening to see a real wedding in action. What we got instead was FIVE weddings to view. The stars in our eyes dimmed as we realized this place is a wedding factory… churning out weddings one right after another… five weddings, five cocktail parties, five receptions, and five bonfires.

Instead of going back to the drawing board, the kids decided to plan their ‘big day’ on a Friday in early June. One big bonus is the price is a bit lower on a Friday and secondly… it’s not as popular a day and therefore the odds are better you will not be sharing the beach.

Let’s fast forward now… the bride and groom have flown in and seen the place, and approved. Paperwork and contracts passed back and forth, more tours and meetings have taken place… the dress has been chosen, altar designed and made… it’s been a flurry of activity and the big day is just a month away. Our first major disappointment rears its ugly head… the food tasting. Oh… don’t get me wrong… the tasting went smoothly, but only ONE dish from the chosen menu was served. Yes… only ONE, the lobster and shrimp pasta. The chicken dish and beef selection were not the items the bride chose… so, why were we here??? The beef was grisly and a bit tough… so the bride’s father asked for a different cut… and he didn’t care for the red sauce used on the lobster and shrimp dish and requested it be changed to a white wine and garlic. I’ll comment further on the actual food the day of later.

Picture this… everyone has flown into town. It’s the day before the wedding. You are scurrying around in all directions with last-minute preparations… when you get a call from Ocean Place stating although you made your room reservation 6 months ago, they are so sorry, but they have to BUMP you. YES… this really happened to the sister of the groom… who had a newborn!!! Oh, the front desk assured her they secured her a room in a lovely hotel a few blocks away and of course there would be no charge for the room that night. What good does THAT do when you have to nurse the baby, and fit in naps when you are blocks away from the action???? She, or her husband (the best man) would be traveling back and forth, missing some of the planned festivities. OH… and even though the room they requested 6 months ago was for 2 queen sized beds so they could share with the in-laws to help with the baby sitting… they were given a room with one king size bed… cozy. Not to mention the ‘open’ bathroom… as in no wall between the shower and the room. Speak about getting to know your in-laws a little more than you are comfortable with. Needless to say… the in-laws drove up the next day.

We were still reeling over this when Ocean Place placed another phone call… The BRIDE WAS BUMPED TOO… in addition to one of the bridesmaids!!!!! The bride!!!!! Really!!!! I can’t make this stuff up!!! Ocean Place apologized, stating they made a huge mistake and a difficult decision had to be made… but another event booked 240 rooms and so the bride had to move on down the road. Promises of a bellhop moving their things back over the next morning were made, but never executed. The front desk was quick to assure everyone they would still be able to use the facilities like the Spa, pool, and workout space… just assuming the bride would feel comfortable walking a few blocks to the other hotel in her bathrobe.

To add insult to injury… upon check out one of the bridesmaids was charged for the change in rooms and the front desk refused to remove it immediately stating ‘accounting’ needed to make the adjustment… and they weren’t ‘in’ at the moment. It’s almost a week later and the problem has not been resolved.

So…. Here we are… the Bride and a few other guests have been bumped… and feel like second-class citizens. Nerves are being stretched to their snapping point, clothing and belongings being shuffled between a few ocean beach blocks, the sister of the groom is seething trying to rearrange her feeding and babysitting schedule to be able to enjoy the wedding. After a few hours we all calmed down and made the decision we were not going to let this ruin our good time. Tomorrow was the ‘big day’ and there was so much else to focus on.

And things went downhill after that!

Our schedule was to be at the hotel in the ‘get ready’ room at 9:00am for hair and makeup to begin. During our tours we were shown the ‘get ready’ room. It was beautiful, located on the second floor with a huge balcony overlooking the boardwalk and a spectacular view of the ocean. Imagine my surprise when I was escorted to a thin, narrow, totally enclosed room with a dripping air-conditioner compressor!!! “Oh HELL no!”

OK… in all fairness the staff probably didn’t know about the dripping air-conditioner… but come on… did they really think that squishing 11 women in a tiny room with no windows for 5 ½ hours was an acceptable way to treat a bride and her wedding party on the big day???? Seriously???

The bellhop called down for a manager as requested… then quickly scurried away. The manager arrived and informed us another bride was using the other ‘get ready’ room across the hall and since they want their brides to feel special they keep them separated!!! I kid you not… she actually said those words, “they want their brides to feel special’!!!! And she said them with a straight face!!!! Oh yeah… my future daughter-in-law really felt special all right… NOT!

We were moved to the room we were originally shown… but it shouldn’t have taken an act of congress to do so!!! The morning’s room juggling cut out about 45 minutes of much needed time for the hair and makeup artists to do their thing, so they were a bit frazzled.

In the end… we found out there were a few more weddings scheduled that day. We knew the bride of one of them… and the groom of the other. Small world. In addition, the other bride wasn’t getting married until later in the day… and arrived just as we were leaving for our ceremony.

The ceremony was scheduled for 3pm on the beach. Around 10:30 the weather report was bleak… predicting 70% chance of rain. Damn! The indoor back up ceremony site was set up and looked lovely… but it wasn’t the bride’s dream wedding. The father of the bride created the altar and was waiting for permission to erect it in the sand…as it couldn’t be erected inside. Things were getting tense. It was finally decided to set up the outside site… just incase. Besides, none of the decorations could be used indoors any way.

The weather co-operated and the ceremony was held on the beach as planned. Although it sprinkled just a little before the sun came out, the hotel provided some towels to wipe the seats… but not enough. The ceremony was lovely… just as we all hoped and dreamed. The cocktail portion of the day, originally planned to be held on the outside patio, was moved indoors due to foreboding clouds overhead. Good call! I think everyone was overjoyed to be out of the sticky, muggy heat.

At the entrance a server offering the signature drinks of the day greeted me… Coconut Mojito and Rum Punch. Both were refreshing… however no one tasted the alcohol. Maybe that’s how it was supposed to be??? The food, both passed and at stations were plentiful and delicious. The steel drum band was exceptional!

However… reports of a rude bartender began to circulate. Apparently it wasn’t WHAT he said that was rude, but rather HOW it was said. He accused the best man of drinking too much and would be cut off… when in reality he was only being helpful and gathering drinks for tables and basically serving them. Perhaps the bartender needs a refresher course in customer relations?

Upon entering the reception room I was pleased with the set-up. The table scape wasn’t an easy one to replicate, but the staff did an AWESOME job! The room was a bit crowded, but that was to be expected as the guest list pretty much maxed out its capacity. That didn’t stop us from dancing the night away and having a wonderful time.

I am sure you will agree with me that a wedding is only as good as the entertainment, the food, and the bar… right? Well… the DJ nailed the entertainment! He read the crowd, played the right music at the right time and remembered the Bride called all the shots. I wish I could say the same about the food and the bar.

There were over 90 guests… and only ONE bartender. Yes, it was the same rude bartender as the cocktail party, and no, his demeanor hadn’t changed… commenting rudely to guests about their drinking habits. In addition he was s-l-o-w. When asked why only one bartender was on duty, the reply was that the serving staff was told there were only 75 guests attending. Huh! The final count had been in for weeks… there was no surprise the number was over 90. It was an open bar, so my guess is that is how Ocean Place keeps their costs down. Slow bartenders make fewer drinks therefore using less alcohol.

Speaking of alcohol… let me touch on the champagne toast for a second. I only have a second because that’s how fast the servers whisked my glass away after the toast. The glass was only filled with 1 inch of liquid to begin with. My daughter doesn’t drink a drop of alcohol, so she passed hers on to me. I took 2 small sips from my glass, stood up to speak to someone at the next table for a few minutes and when I returned both glasses had disappeared! Gone! The servers had cleared the table in such a hurry. I was so stunned I snapped a picture of the round indentation the glass made in the tablecloth as proof a glass really existed at all.

Remember I mentioned the food tasting earlier? Well… here it comes into play. The requested white wine and garlic replacement sauce never happened… the sauce was still the red one. The Jerk Chicken, which we never tasted was NOT Jerk Chicken at all… and was so dry I only took one bite and pushed it to the side. The Black Bean Salad was wonderful, fresh, and colorful. Nothing else looked appetizing so that’s all I ate… one bite of dry chicken and a few forkfuls of black bean salad.

I work for an event planning company part time and have eaten at Ocean Place on many occasions. I was never a fan of their brown resin hot water baths they use for buffets… and was overly disappointed to see they use them for weddings as well. They just aren’t fancy enough for a wedding in my opinion. They are great for the outside bar… but seem to add a ‘picnic’ feel to the serving table.

Let’s talk cake! It was beautiful and delicious, purchased from an ‘approved vendor’ … although it was difficult to tell since the servings were so thin you could almost read a newspaper through the slice. Thank heavens there was a smorgasbord of desserts on the side. They were all yummy!

Everyone assumed the cake slices were thin so the happy couple could save the top layer for their first anniversary. Ah, no. The top was never saved nor given to anyone on their behalf. I’m guessing if you wanted the top you had to spell it out in the contract. Don’t you think that should be a checklist question for the event planner? It wasn’t. Perhaps that was our mistake??

The reception ended with a bonfire on the beach… with S’mores! What a peaceful and calming finish to a celebration of two families blending together. Then WHAM… time’s up! The staff threw a trashcan of cold water on the fire… and it was time to go home. I know the staff has to get cleaned up and get home… and there might even be regulations about bonfires on the beach… but in my mind I envisioned the fire slowly burning down and extinguishing on it’s own. Silly me.

One last point of contention to discuss is Ocean Place’s total disregard and mistreatment of your personal belongings. We were assured during the service and reception all ‘get ready’ rooms would be locked. I believe that was true for the girl’s room… for some of the time… however we know for a fact the groom’s room was never once locked. Thankfully nothing was stolen, although many expensive items were there on display.

After all is said and done, the staff gathers everything up and delivers it to the couple’s room. This is where the real heartache happens. To say the couple’s belongings were handled without care is a HUGE understatement. The guest book poster which was signed with happy wishes for the newly weds was crumpled and stuffed under the burlap runner and is damaged beyond repair. Leftover cookie favors were broken and many are missing. Handmade seashell frames arrived to their room broken, which most likely can be repaired… but that’s not the point. The bride’s seashell bouquet was also stuffed in a box without care and has a few broken shells. Items were simply tossed haphazardly into boxes without thought. Total carelessness!

None of these things ruined the wedding completely. The bride was still beautiful, the groom still smitten, and the guests danced ‘til they couldn’t move another muscle. After a year of plotting, planning, dreaming, and implementing, the wedding was still a success, IN SPITE of Ocean Place.

The DJ, Videographer, and Photographer were professionals (and AWESOME) and made the bride and groom the center of attention, rightfully so and made them feel special.

I will leave you with a favorite quote by Maya Angelou:

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Perhaps the staff at Ocean Place Resort and Spa needs to repeat this quote on a daily basis.

Quilting for Texas

Unless you have been sequestered in a cave lately I am certain you have heard sad and horrific stories of the flooding and devastation in Texas. When the Northeast was hit by Hurricane Sandy, the rest of the U.S. rushed to our aid. Power companies, construction crews, church groups and more created a steady streaming convoy in our direction. Local businesses provided food, water, and shelter… and quilters began cutting into their fabric stashes.

Flood Texas with Love

                  Flood Texas with Love


It’s time to set up our machines and dig through our fabric to cover Texas with warmth. I have personally pledged to sew some blocks to mail off to other quilters and longarmers to turn into finished quilts. I encourage all of you who sew… Even if you are a ‘newbie’… to join in!

Slab Quilt design graciously provided by Cheryl Arkinson

Slab Quilt design graciously provided by Cheryl Arkinson

As you can see it’s a colorful and fun design to do. Head over to the blog Southern Transplant, for details.


Memorial Day

As I returned home from a grueling trip late Sunday night, my headlights caught the red, white and blue of small American flags planted at the end of each neighbor’s driveway… courtesy of another neighbor whose husband passed away from a military illness. Thus is the beginning of my Memorial Day weekend.

Annual Memorial Day Flag planted in my driveway by kind and generous neighbor.

Annual Memorial Day Flag planted in my driveway by kind and generous neighbor.

When I moved here years ago I was surprised with this annual tradition. Now my heart warms as I watch the flag flutter in the breeze. Memorial Day… a time to reflect on the men and women who died so I could live free.

All across America, in rural towns and large cities, everyone stops for a moment to pay tribute… then party hardy as this is also the official beginning of summer fun.

I spoke to a woman this year who commented she is appalled by all the parades and pomp and circumstance surrounding this holiday. She believes this day should be marked with quiet services and placements of ribbons on the grave sites of our fallen, and that is all. She hides in her home the rest of the day, refusing to attend any parades or cook burgers on the grill. How sad.

My Memorial Day was spent attending a small hometown parade in Farmingdale, NJ with a friend. In an effort to arrive before the streets were blocked, I left my house early. As I sat at a red light in the center of town I watched as a wreath of flowers was placed at the foot of a monument in honor of our fallen warriors. A rather large semi-circular gathering stood in silence as a dedication was made. The crowd quickly dispersed to ready themselves for the more important task of getting ready for the annual parade.

Signs posted through out the town making room for the Memorial Day Parade

Signs posted throughout the town making room for the Memorial Day Parade

I drove to my friend’s house and marveled at the sight.This entire town was decked out in red, white, and blue… straight from a movie set!! Flags, streamers, bows… you name it. If it was red, white, blue or any combination of these, it was flapping in the breeze or plastered on cars, doors, and fences.

At 11:30 the streets were already lined with chairs and coolers, the streets were being closed off, and swarms of people were milling around talking and laughing waiting for the 1:00 start. Side streets were filled with band members, fire trucks, military personnel, floats, bag pipers, and kids… all lining up for their placement in the parade. Electric sparks of excitement filled the air.

The parade began with another dedication to our service men and women, and a prayer for their safety in current conflicts. Military Color Guards presented the flags, as a State Police Officer atop a mighty horse saluted, and the entire town recited our Pledge of Allegiance… followed by the singing of our National Anthem. And so it began!

Town members saluting as Memorial Day parade begins

Town members saluting as Memorial Day parade begins

I was fortunate to be standing across from the Grand Stand and was able to hear the commentary as each passing group and float was presented to the Mayor and other dignitaries. Each one had a dedication to our Military and a Thank You to the volunteers and paid members of local Police and Fire Departments for their service.

Standing under the shade of a very old tree, I surveyed the crowd and wondered… Isn’t THIS what Memorial Day is all about??? Isn’t THIS what earlier generations fought for??? Gave their lives for??? For future generations to be gathered together and celebrate with laughter and smiles without the fear of being bombed, shot, thrown in jails or camps for speaking their minds??? Of course… thanks to them these parades can be repeated across America with no fear of retribution.

I think the woman who hates these parades and all the fuss would think differently if she actually attended one, and sat near the Grandstand.

I am glad we have a day specifically set aside to remember these brave and unselfish souls. So to that I say… Happy Memorial Day!!! I understand a lot of others don’t agree with my glee… and I am sorry for that. I am not being disrespectful, nor making light of the serious circumstances for the holiday. I am simply showing my happiness and appreciation for what they provided for me.

Thank you Farmingdale, NJ for showing me how a small rural American town celebrates in style!!! And THANK YOU to all the men and women who fought for the freedom I have (and sadly take for granted) today. For without you… I wouldn’t be the person I am today… Happy and Free!