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!

 

 

 

Quilt of Valor Under Way

Last month I announced my commitment to produce 4 quilts for donation to Quilts of Valor… an organization presenting returning warriors with a hand-made quilt as a small token of thanks for their service. You can find that post HERE… along with the links to Quilt of Valor and Houses for Patriots.

My plea of help was graciously answered by two high school classmates!! We have chosen a design, I am drafting the pattern, and a shopping trip for fabric is planned.

Quilt of Valor design

Quilt of Valor design

This all could not have been possible without the generous monetary donations received by an ANONYMOUS DONOR (Really! I honestly have no clue as to who dropped cash into my mailbox marked for the quilt) and TREATS BY EILEEN (read about my meeting her at Barnes & Nobel HERE).

Bonus points to Treats By Eileen! Her donation arrived via Priority Mail in a box filled with treats!!! Oh so yummy!!! I loved her newest creation… Pink Salt Chocolate-Cashew-Craisn Granola… O!M!G! Delicious! One thing I forgot to mention in my blog post about meeting her was… her comment that her being successful and loving what she does… allows her the freedom to donate to causes near and dear to her heart. I am THRILLED beyond all joy she chose my commitment to Quilts of Valor as a worthy cause. Thank you Eileen!!!

Treats by Eileen

Treats by Eileen… Donation for Quilts of Valor AND treats!!! Oh my!

Thanks also to my anonymous donator. I hope you are reading this post because I want you to know I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You were the first to donate and got this project off the ground. Thank you for believing in me and supporting my dream.

I will never forget the generosity of strangers… and the helpful hands of my classmates from many years ago. Together we will do some good and spread love and warmth to those who served our country and fought for our freedom.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!!!

Whooshers!

Do you know what a WHOOSHER is??? I’ve been one for the past 2 years… and never even knew it. There’s even a website just for us ‘whooshers’… who knew???

Whooshers are a person known to have not only the annoying ringing in the ear/s… but an additional pulsating whooshing as well.

Whooshers.com

Whooshers.com

I thought the incessant ringing was going to drive me over the edge… but the pulsating high-pitched sound is even WORSE. At least it is possible to ‘tune out’ the ringing from time to time and get a bit of a rest. The whooshing however disrupts your concentration and commands you to pay attention to it… every few seconds!

Most ‘whooshers’ report the sound keeping beat with their pulse. Not me. Last week I was able to count 5 beats between the whooshes. In the evening it dropped to 4 beats, then again in the morning climbed to 6 beats. Today??? No whooshing at all… just the ever-present ringing.

Ringing in the ears, known as Tinnitus, is quite common… especially as we age. The best advice doctors can give after an exhausted round of testing is simply “Learn to deal with it”. I’m trying to ‘deal with it’, really I am.

Having Tinnitus is not life threatening. There is no cure. White noise, hearing aids, earplugs, ear drops, and such have no effect on the ringing at all. Some people have tried acupressure, yoga, meditation and essential oils… all with no long-term relief. Learning to live with it seems to be the best method.

In addition to Tinnitus, the hearing in my right ear is slowly fading. Things I used to enjoy, like listening to music, going to the movies, and watching TV are becoming annoying. Amplified sound reverberates in my ear canal causing me to leave the theater. TV comes through muffled to the point of missing punch lines and important news items. Listening to music isn’t so horrible, yet the high pitch of the ringing in my ear competes with the instruments to make the experience less than thrilling. It’s not a volume control thing… increasing the sound isn’t helpful. It’s more of an interference thing… like a blockage.

Being social is also becoming more difficult. I have always been happiest in a group of no more than 6 people at a time… yet now that number has dropped to 2 people. I become agitated and uncommunicative in anything larger. Unless of course it’s a room with hundreds of people… then I am in my glory!!! No one expects you to hear anything in a group that large!! Plus the din masks the ringing!!! Woo! Hoo!

Each day I see my world getting smaller and smaller as I retreat into myself. Quilting, reading, typing, and painting are my ‘go to’ hobbies. Although enjoyable, they are solitary and confining. As I mentioned earlier… I’m learning to deal with it and this course seems to be working.

Getting old is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of effort to constantly make allowances for new situations.

Book Expo America Here I Come!

I just signed up to attend the Book Expo America in NYC this month. Why is this so exciting? Head on over to my Unique and Novel site to find out why!!!

Book Expo America

Book Expo America

*Yes, I run another website, which to be honest has not received much attention lately. However… that is about to change. I have finally decided on a direction and will post to it weekly. It’s all about BOOKS! I will tell stories about the authors, publishers, readers, book clubs and so much more. Book reviews, unique gifts, affiliate links, and other recommended bloggers and sites will be showcased. Join the fun!!! Head on over to www.uniqueandnovel.com and sign up to follow… or check out our Facebook page!

Woo! Hoo!

 

A Smile Made My Day!

My day didn’t go as planned… it was so much better than I could have dreamed.

I awoke to a text from a friend informing me of a craft show being held in the quaint seaside town of Manasquan, NJ. Oh goodie! A craft show! I love craft shows. I hardly ever purchase anything, I just enjoy talking to the crafters about their product, the process, and if they are doing well.

The show was being held in Squan Plaza… which to my dismay Google Maps had no clue how to direct me. I found it any way… you can’t keep me away from a good craft show! As I drove up to the plaza, all the signs read CAR SHOW. Ugh! Was my friend crazy? A car show? Really? How could someone confuse the two? Well… it turned out they were correct… it was a Craft Show AND a Car Show, all rolled into one. Something for the men while the women shopped. Perfect.

As it turned out, my friend actually had a car in the show. His cherry red, immaculately cared for and well loved 2013 Shelby Mustang.

Tom and car

 

We were standing near the car when an adorable boy, about 10 years old and his mom timidly walked up to take a closer look. You could tell he wanted to ask something… so I leaned toward him and inquired, “Do you have a question”? Shyly he looked up to my friend and quietly asked, “Can you start it?” To which my friend replied, “I don’t usually start it up, but for YOU I will.” As the boy stood back a bit, my friend jumped in the driver’s seat, placed the key in the ignition and turned it over. The car rumbled to life!!!

WOW! That little boy’s face lit up brighter than the annual christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I looked over at his smiling face, then looked over to my friend… smiling just as wide. In that special moment a little boy and a grown man who didn’t know each other, bonded over the sound of a loud engine. Ah…. boys and their toys… making a connection through the generations.

Oh how I wish I had my camera out and poised to take the shot so I could show you that moment. Silly me KNEW the boy would have a dazzling smile… who wouldn’t??? However I too was caught up in the moment. I will never forget it.

An adorable little boy with a huge genuine smile… made my day!!!

Times like this remind me we all impact each other in one way or another. A positive encounter with a stranger can change the way you look at life. So go on out in the world, and make someone’s day!!!

New Addiction! Treats by Eileen

You might remember last year I blogged about a local coffee roaster… ROOK COFFEE. It is still my #1 supplier of caffeine. I have graduated to a more intense flavor, substituting my safe choice of the Honduras bean to a more robust one from Guatemala. But now I have an AWESOME snack to go with my cup of joe! Granola… Vanilla Almond Gourmet Granola to be exact… made right here in Ocean, NJ by TREATS by EILEEN.

Treats by Eileen

 

I never would have discovered this delicious treat had I not made the decision to get out of the house for a change of scenery. I hit up Barnes and Noble… to read their magazines :-0… when a woman came in frantically looking for this month’s copy of Food and Wine. Apparently a friend of hers received her copy in the mail and reported there was a BLURB  printed about Treats by Eileen. She wanted to read it for herself… and buy a bunch of copies… because SHE was Eileen… as is in ‘Treats by’.

Sadly the store still had last month’s issue on the shelf, but that didn’t stop us from thumbing through the issue any way ‘just in case’. Yes, I said ‘us’. Spurred on by her excitement I grabbed a copy and helped her look. It’s alway more gratifying to have someone to share your good news with… even a stranger.

I remember when the sign went up on the building of my very first bookstore… Chicklet Books. I was bursting with excitement… and there was no one to share the experience with. It was a let down of sorts… but just for a brief moment. So now… whenever I see an excited someone I step up and help celebrate the moment. THIS was one of those moments.

We sat on a bench in the magazine section and talked for a bit. Eileen shared her story about her Gourmet Granola. Her passion for her product and business just bubbled out of her. She’s been producing granola for over 30 years and is STILL excited about it. As she talked about the wholesome all natural ingredients, the soft feel against the palate when you bite down, the fact that she uses no sugar or honey… it made me hungry. When she mentioned her granola clumps and is more of a ‘cookie’ shape I perked up. Did she say COOKIE??? Now you’re talkin’… I could use a cookie right about now.

As we parted ways, I decided I just HAD to try this fantasy granola. I was planning on treating myself to a cup of ROOK coffee any way… and thought some granola would be a nice side treat.

Treats by Eileen is sold locally in Delicious Orchards, Sickles Market, and all of the Dean’s Markets… as well as other locations. Dean’s was close to my home… so off I headed first to Rook’s then onto Dean’s. I couldn’t WAIT to get home and taste what all the fuss was about.

OK… Eileen was right. Not only does the granola taste great… but the soft crunch is what makes this granola superior! I purchased the Vanilla Almond flavor and was happy with my choice. Roasted almonds mixed with stone ground whole wheat flour, oats, and a touch of maple syrup and vanilla… ahhhh… PERFECT!

Not only am I ‘keeping it local’, but healthy and natural too!!! Go me!!!

AND… for those of you not living locally… don’t worry… you can order online too. Go to their site… Treats by Eileen.

OH… and I just found out… if you are in a rush for your caffeine fix and don’t have the time to stand in line for the ’45 second pour’ of delicious coffee… you can TEXT your order and it will be ready when you arrive!!! To order their coffee online and get the text info check out their website… Rook Coffee.

While you’re at it… grab a book to read from The Paperback Exchange… and you are all set!

Have a wonderful day!

 

 

Donation Quilting. I Need HELP!

A few years ago a friend insisted my quilting ability was a marketable skill. I have since realized very few people are willing to pay the going price for a quality quilt. Each lap sized quilt takes on average 50 hours to complete and costs about $85.00 in materials and supplies. If I charged a fair hourly rate of $20 an hour… I would have to charge just over $1,000!! It makes my stomach ache just thinking about it. Yes, my quilts are worth it… after all they are true family heirlooms, but I found I gain more pleasure in quilting for charity.

My Grandson's Forever Quilt!

My Grandson’s Forever Quilt!

 

Over the past two years I have mailed out over a dozen quilts anonymously to families hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Using fabric from my personal ‘stash’ kept the costs down. However, at my own expense I purchased the batting and backing fabric. Just because I was donating these quilts, I didn’t skimp on quality. I still insisted on using the best of everything.

My goal this year is to complete 4 quilts for the QUILTS OF VALOR program. All donated quilts are given to a wounded warrior to be wrapped in love and warmth. In addition, I would also like to contribute 4 quilted wall art pieces to THE HOUSE QUILT PROJECT presented to returning wounded warriors. Both causes are calling my name!

I anticipate the QUILTS OF VALOR donations to cost approximately $100 each in materials and shipping and the HOUSE QUILT PROJECT donations to cost about $30 each. Is there any chance you (or someone you know) might be willing to help defray these costs?? I would be forever grateful!!! Please contact me for further details. Anyone donating $100 or more will get their name added to the quilt label and journal that goes along with the quilt.

Donations can be made through PayPal (use the email address of deb(at)uniqueandnovel(dot)com), or by sending a check or money order to my home. Please contact me for information. Oh, and YES… you can donate ANONYMOUSLY in cash (believe it or not I’ve had this happen once).

If for some extraordinary reason I receive donations above what is needed to complete these 4 quilts and 4 wall hangings… I promise to use the funds to continue on and make more quilts for donation.

All donations and progress will be notated on my blog in a monthly post. I intend to make these items no matter what! With help, without help… no matter.

If you would like to help design, cut, sew or do any ‘hands on’ work, please contact me via email: deb(at)debhathaway(dot)com. I will send you my timetable for you to tell me when you are available. *This is a perfect opportunity for those of you wanting private quilting lessons… For FREE!! If you don’t live near me, it is still possible to help by sending items via snail mail, however YOU will be responsible for all postage to and from me.

If you would like to donate batting or backing… please contact me FIRST. I am very particular about the brands and quality I use. FYI… I am frugal in my purchases and LOVE using coupons, however I have PLENTY!

I can not accept donations of fabric at this time. I only use top quality quilter’s cotton from reputable independently owned quilt shops. Besides, until I design a pattern, I have no idea how much of which fabrics I will need. But thanks for thinking of me!

If you really want to help, but don’t have the time… feel free to buy me a cup of coffee to keep me going!!! My favorite ROOK coffee costs $2.35… I drink a regular size Honduras with cream and sugar… oh and a chocolate croissant or a bagel is a nice touch :-)

Please check out the sites for QUILTS OF VALOR and THE HOUSE QUILT PROJECT and see why I’m obsessed!!

If you have any questions, please comment below or send me an email!

Thanks in advance for your support!

Deb

 

 

I Declare a ‘Do Over’!

I declare a DO-OVER today!!!

In an effort to begin eating a healthier diet… I made the decision to begin my day with a hearty bowl of Steel Cut Oats. I read many recipes last night, some lamented about the long cooking time and others suggested par-cooking the night before so your morning wouldn’t be spent stirring oats for half an hour over a hot stove. Well… time was on my side this morning, so I decided to go the old fashioned route.

It really wasn’t so bad. There wasn’t much stirring… just simmering for 30 minutes and occasionally giving the contents a twirl. Once finished I topped the oats with a touch of brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I considered adding blueberries… but changed my mind.

Digging my spoon in, the smell was AWESOME! The oats were cooked to perfection… not mushy and yet not hard either. The Italians would call the texture Al Dente… ‘to the tooth’. However… I soon learned I wasn’t crazy about the taste of steel cut oats. I like oatmeal… but trust me when I tell you they are not the same. Fail #1.

Steel Oats

Next up… I cranked the music up LOUD (hearing loss is an annoying health issue) and began to clean and organize the kitchen while dancing to the beat of some oldies (but goodies). Clipping my hip on the corner of the table made me see stars. OK… I’ll admit it… I’m getting a little too old to be dancing around without my glasses on! Fail #2

I needed to bake something healthy, but sweet to have on hand when the craving after dinner hit. I’ve been choosing fruit lately… but I realized my mouth wanted something to ‘crunch’. Finding a recipe using things I had in the pantry was a bonus! Score! Being a new recipe from PINTEREST I followed the directions precisely.

My baking skills are a bit above average. I’ve been sticking my head in a gas oven to light it since I was about 8 years olds (and my husband wouldn’t let our kids use the microwave at age 13!). I can tell when something is finished baking by the aroma in the air. Really! I’m not kidding! But I set the timer any way… and without paying attention… my mouth watering snack BURNED… to a crisp!! Ick! Fail #3

Burned snack

And the burning of food continues! Trying my hand at coconut rice… I poured the coconut water into the rice cooker, added water to reach the appropriate level, dumped in the rinsed rice, gave it a stir and clicked the lid down… hitting the power button at the same time. The steam shooting out the top 15 minutes later was heavenly!! The cooker beeped when it was finished, like it has done for the past 4 years. I popped the lid and fluffed the rice with a fork… but wait… what was all this brown ick I was stirring up from the bottom? Oh… the rice burnt. *sigh*… Fail #4

Burned Coconut Rice

I’m guessing it’s time to turn the volume down on the music, and to step away from the kitchen appliances! It’s only NOON!!!

I awoke this morning with the memory of a disturbing dream… so crawling back into bed and pulling the covers over my head doesn’t seem like an enticing way to ignore today. Since it’s impossible to have a ‘do over’, I’ll just put a smile on my face, Keep Calm and Carry On!

Here’s hoping you are all having a wonderful Tuesday!!!

 

 

 

 

Under Construction!

Under

*****  Both myself AND my blog are under construction.

It all began innocently enough at the hair salon last week. Every 3 months or so I drive an hour to my favorite hair dresser for a little touch up in the highlighting department and a fresh cut. As soon as I wiggle comfortably in the chair with my wet head… she raises the scissors and asks, “Sooooo… what are we doing today?”

I don’t know why she asks. She likes my hair long and although she might snip a little different angle around my face at times, she still leaves it long… at least an inch past my shoulders. TODAY however, was different. “How about shorter this time?” I squeaked. I don’t know what came over me. When I woke this morning the thought of cutting my hair any differently never entered my mind.

Catching a glimpse of her in the mirror, standing behind me with an uncertain look on her face I meekly continued, “I have a picture with me.” Pulling my iPhone out of my purse I quickly opened one of my Pinterest boards and thrust a picture of a woman with a chin length shaggy cut out for her to see. I pinned that photo over a year ago… I surprised myself that I could bring it up so quickly.

My hair dresser looked at the photo, looked at me, looked back at the photo, then back at me again. “Yes! Yes! (screamed like she was having an orgasm) Yes, this will look great on you. Let’s do it!” And with that… the butterflies in my stomach who so far had only been quietly flitting around inside began furiously flying around as the first cut of 8 inches of hair hit the floor.

EEEEK! What have I done??? I closed my eyes preferring not to watch. “It’s only hair,” I reminded myself. “It can always grow back”.

At that moment I realized how much trust and faith I put in my hairdresser. She has been cutting and styling my hair for over 20 years. She has never let me walk out of her salon looking bad. Not once. Never. And I was sure today wouldn’t be any different. But I still couldn’t watch.

Smelling the spritz of hairspray I knew she was finished. Twirling my chair around she thrust a mirror into my hands and ordered me to look. I loved it!!! So did she!!! Phew!

Boosted by the confidence of a new hair style… I decided it’s time to break out of my rut altogether. For the past few months I have been thinking my website and blog need a little re-vamping. Well… there’s no time like the present. So without further slacking… I’m off to make that happen!!! I’ll be back cuter and more fun loving in a week or so. Hang in there… I promise you it will be worth the wait.

 

Ridiculously Easy Amazingly Yummy Rice Pudding

My warehouse shopping trip last week included buying a gallon of milk. What was I thinking??? I’m only one person, and I don’t drink milk by itself… not even with cookies. I decided I had better think of something to make with it before it soured.

Still on my kitchen table waiting to find a ‘home’ somewhere in my tiny bungalow was an oversized bag of rice. Hmmmm… milk, rice… RICE PUDDING!!! Perfect!

Two years ago I tried to make rice pudding the traditional way. It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R with hours of standing and stirring at the stove. The end result was undercooked rice in a thin milky sauce flavored with cinnamon. NOT what I was hoping for. So I was a little hesitant to try again. Not one to shy away from a challenge… I hit the Internet and searched the world wide web and found the BEST recipe… using… a crock pot!!

No more standing tirelessly at the stove. No undercooked rice. Just set it and forget it!

Ridiculously Easy Rice Pudding

Ridiculously Easy Rice Pudding

Are you ready for the recipe???

3/4 cups long grain rice (I used Jasmine)… rinsed

3 cups milk (I used 2%)

3/4 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Cardamom

Pinch of Salt

*I threw in a Cinnamon stick for good luck

Toss it all in the crock pot, cook on high for 1 1/2 hours. Open lid and stir, remove Cinnamon stick, unplug, close lid and let sit to thicken… about 15 minutes.

Serve warm for instant gratification… or chill in the refrigerator to eat for breakfast the next day. Sprinkle with more cinnamon or top with whipped cream. YUM!!!

How ridiculously easy is that???

You can thank me later.

*Tip: Drop sugar down to 1/2 cup without much difference to taste

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