An Ode to Christmas Cookies

Christmas and Cookies go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly… you really can’t have one without the other.

It’s a week before Christmas and my house is filled with the spicy aroma of fresh-baked Ginger Cookies… a tradition in my family for many years. They are thin, crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and sparkle with granulated sugar they had been rolled in before being squished flat… and not TOO ‘gingery’. I posted about them 2 years ago… HERE.

Last week I spent a fun-filled day with my daughter rolling the dough for our traditional Sand Tart cookies. This recipe came down from my husband’s side of the family. It’s basically a sugar cookie that is rolled out really, really, really thin, cut in a diamond shape (OK not every one fits that description), washed in egg white, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and topped with chopped pecans before sliding into the oven. No matter where in the world our family is celebrating Christmas, they can expect a package in the mail with these delicious cookies. They are so thin and crisp that 9 times out of 10 they arrive as crumbs… but no matter, they taste just as good as an ice cream topping. If you are very lucky, you might find enough whole ones to actually bite in to. The recipe for Sand Tarts is HERE.

I know the true meaning of Christmas… and yet this holiday is oh so much more. It’s about family, near and far… it’s about loving your neighbor… helping the sick and less fortunate. It’s about kids being happy, it’s about hopes and it’s about dreams. And more importantly… it’s about COOKIES!

Think about it for a moment. Have you ever in your life seen someone eating a cookie who wasn’t happy??? So I urge you to stop staring at your computer screen, go to the kitchen, bake your favorite cookie, and share them with friends and family (oh, and don’t forget to drop some off at my house).

Spread the JOY (and the sugar and the calories)! * FYI… If you are counting calories then you need to know there are NO calories in cookies that are made from scratch and shared with someone. Hee, hee.

I wish you all a HAPPY HOLIDAY… no matter which you choose to celebrate. It’s all good!

I leave you with a photo of my morning’s daily doodles…

Daily Christmas Doodles www.debhathaway.com

Daily Christmas Doodles www.debhathaway.com

 

It’s That Time of Year… Gift Giving

It’s that time of year when everyone, everywhere is trying to suggest how perfect their product is as a Holiday gift. My mailbox is inundated with catalogs and coupons from places that don’t even know I exist the rest of the year. I can’t help but think of the billions of dollars being wasted as we all toss their 20 page glossy catalog into the recycling bin. Those babies are NOT cheap to produce and mail. Can you imagine how more affordable things might be if THAT cost wasn’t incurred?

Car dealers, jewelry stores, department stores, and toy stores hog the airwaves with hundreds of commercials. Oh don’t get me wrong… I would SWOON if Santa dropped a brand new Hard Top Convertible decorated with a HUGE red bow in my driveway (Preferably an Audi or BMW… but I wouldn’t sneer at a free car of any make). Seriously though… that’s just NOT going to happen. Well… at least no one in the crowd I hang with is going to get one.

Jewelry? Well… OK… that’s affordable at least. I, for one LOVE getting jewelry as a gift, but I’m very particular in my style. I enjoy owning unique pieces whenever possible. I know every kiss begins with ‘K’, and that instead he probably went to Jared’s, but I don’t like wearing the same thing a million other women own. Unless you know the person extremely well, or are surprising your sweetie with an engagement ring or a classic strand of pearls… I suggest you step away from the jewelry counter.

Oh… and don’t even THINK of buying a sweater, unless you know for sure the recipient wants one. Did you ever notice how cashmere sweaters become a ‘big thing’ during the holidays?? Yes, cashmere is soft, and a woman feels pampered and special while wearing it… but then reality sets in when it stretches out of shape and has to be ‘Dry Clean Only’. Not only is that annoying, but it gets expensive.

Kids and Christmas go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. It gives me great joy to see the smiles on their faces when they open a gift from Santa. It may be something they always wanted and knew there was no way on earth their parents would get it for them… or something totally different they never thought would interest them. Great scientists of the world were made from a child receiving a telescope, or microscope as a gift.

This Holiday Season I am asking you all to give a bit of thought into the gift you give this year… and to keep it simple. A gift purchasing practice I heard lately is… “Give each child 4 gifts this holiday season. One they want, one they need, one to wear and one to read”. What GREAT advise!!!

There was a time many years back when my husband and I noticed we were spending too much at Christmas. I made the executive decision to not use any credit cards for holiday shopping that year. Pulling 6 business size envelopes out of the desk I labeled each one. The first 3 I neatly wrote one of our children’s names on the front, the next 2 each were titled with my name on one and my husband’s on the other. The last envelope was marked ‘Other’. I placed CASH in each envelope… the 3 kids having the same amount, my husband’s and mine with an equal amount and the last one with what I felt comfortable spending for other gifts for the extended family. I handed the envelope with my name to my husband… with stern instructions to NOT spend any more than was in the envelope!

Each evening after holiday shopping I would spread the receipts out on the bed and calculate what I purchased and who it was for and removed the appropriate amount of cash and replenished my wallet. It was a huge success and our first ever CASH ONLY Christmas was born. We followed that tradition for many years after.

The whole idea was to remember that Christmas isn’t about how much money you spend. We needed to be clever and resourceful and… thoughtful. I’ll admit… I had fun. We were the only family on our street not having a heart attack in January when the mailman delivered the bills.

Oh… and SHOP LOCAL!!! The purchase you make at a small Independent shop might be the difference between them paying their employees and keeping the lights on… or sadly going out of business.

No matter which Holiday you celebrate… I hope you have a wonderful time!

*PS… I have a local Audi dealer nearby, in case you want to surprise me. Don’t forget the red bow… that’s really important!

Red bow for car. www.debhathaway.com

              LOOK! Target sells the bows for only $6.99!!!

Holiday Family Tradition… Advent Calendar

As a little girl I remember each year during the holidays an Advent Calendar mysteriously showing up at our house right after Thanksgiving. I still don’t know if this calendar was given to our family as a gift, or if mom purchased it. I’m inclined to believe it was given to us, as money was extremely tight and even a little thing like a calendar would break the family budget.

Mom would pin it to a lampshade so the light shined in from the back giving the entire calendar a ‘stained glass’ effect. My brothers and I would take turns each day searching the corresponding number to the date and open the correct shuttered door revealing the surprise beneath. Sometimes there was a picture hiding behind the door, and other years it was a bible verse. Because I was the youngest… and we went in age order… I ALWAYS got to open the last door on the 24th. But by then we didn’t really care… as SANTA had come and THAT was much more exciting!!!

Knowing I am going to be a grandmother very soon I sat back and reflected a bit on my own childhood and what were my fondest memories of this time of year. Naturally a beautifully set table with a big fat turkey perfectly trussed and dressed sitting on a huge platter came to mind. But soon after all the leftovers were consumed… out came this calendar… a new one each year.

Now-a-days, in an effort to be politically correct… the name ‘Advent’ has been changed to ‘Countdown’ so as not to offend anyone who may associate the word ‘Advent’ as something religious. In reality the word ‘advent’ is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as meaning ‘coming toward’. Many Christians began using these calendars to enhance the excitement of celebrating the birth of baby Jesus. My brothers and I were simply excited to open the door each day and see what was behind it.

I decided it was time for me to re-create the excitement and continue a long forgotten family tradition. I would send all of my children and siblings an Advent Calendar. Well…. That was much easier said than done. Searching high and low I couldn’t find just the right one. Some were too serious for me, others too boring. When I finally found the perfect one… I couldn’t see a sample of what lay beneath the doors. Besides, the cost prohibitive sticker price made me quickly realize that purchasing 5 calendars was not an option. The idea was to revive a family tradition, not wipe out my bank account.

Instead I walked away telling myself I would simply make an advent calendar. Oh how naïve I was. First order of business was to Google ‘DIY Advent Calendar’. Picture after picture popped up revealing all different ways to make a Countdown Calendar. However they all required using 24 ‘things’ and wrapping them individually, or making a card with something fun to do, or my very favorite… 24 wrapped children’s books to be read each night before Christmas. Well… not everyone has children AND buying 5 copies of 24 books was waaaayyyy out of my budget.

Next I perused my favorite time sucker of all… PINTEREST. An hour later I came to the realization they couldn’t solve my dilemma either. The pinners on Pinterest all shared the same calendars and countdowns as I found on Google. However… I DID run across some great ideas for Christmas Eve Dinner.

“Well… if no one is going to tell me how to make an Advent Calendar, I guess I will have to figure it out for myself. I’m pretty smart…. and crafty… I can do this”, I said to myself. And guess what? I DID figure it out!!!

Whipping out my trusty watercolors and paper, I painted up a snowman and decorations. Using my very favorite black micro pen I inked in the numbers 1 to 24. Scanned the finished art on my computer, made a few adjustments and printed it out onto card stock.

snowman advent

I had a totally different idea of what to put behind the windows… but time was of essence, so I settled on some cute Christmas designs and printed them out on regular computer paper.

Next came the time-consuming job of cutting out the doors with an x-acto knife… then gluing the two together carefully so as NOT to glue any of the doors shut. HORRORS!

advent doors

The next part was my very favorite…. GLITTER!!! Woo! Hoo! It’s GLITTER TIME!!! I laid the calendars along the counter in a straight line… took hold of my glue pen… and went to town! Quickly, before the glue dried… I sprinkled a little glitter onto them and shook off the excess. OK… who am I kidding? I sprinkled a TON of glitter on those suckers. The more, the better!!!

advent glitter

Slipping the finished calendars into a clear envelope, then into a mailing envelope… out the door to the post office they went.

Oh… and I couldn’t stop at the original 5. Nope, not me… I made 25!!! Yes, that’s TWENTY FIVE! And I STILL didn’t have enough to send to everyone I wanted to. Sorry to you folks who didn’t get one this year. I’ll make sure you get on next year’s list. Yes… I had so much fun that I can’t wait to make more!! Of course I will tweak the process a little and paint an entirely new design. As a matter of fact… I am contemplating writing a book on how to make them. It’s becoming a lost art… really.

Why stop at Christmas? My brain is on overdrive. How about a Countdown Calendar for an upcoming wedding? Graduation? Major birthday? Retirement? Special vacation???

Tell me… what event would YOU like a Countdown Calendar for???

advent finished

Thanksgiving Is In Your Heart

When I hear the word THANKSGIVING the image of Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting immediately flashes through my head… Smiling family members gathered around the dinner table as the turkey, cooked to perfection is brought to the table.

Rockwell-freedom from want

This scene is repeated time and time again in households all throughout the United States. I’d love to say this scene was repeated year after year at my home… but I can’t. I have had some untraditional, yet wonderful Thanksgivings throughout time… and this year is no exception.

With my family scattered to the far ends of the US and Canada… I bailed on the last remaining NJ child and headed to Florida for a vacation. Through the generosity of family I am living the life of luxury in a beautiful home in the sunny south… by myself.

Over the years Thanksgiving dinners have evolved from stiff, uncomfortable affairs at my grandparent’s (with my brother shooting peas under the table at my legs), to large informal dinners hosting out-of-town friends at our home.

One year, after stuffing ourselves with turkey, my husband jumped up from the table and yelled, “Hurry! Hurry! Get in the car!” Thinking the house was on fire we all left the dirty dishes and ran outside. That was the year we began the tradition of going to the movies… Home Alone was starting in just a few minutes. As time moved on, each of my children took their turn working at the local theater (Yea, FREE movies!) and so I have been known to provide a full Thanksgiving spread for movie theater workers in their break room.

There are so many memories… like the year the dog pulled the turkey off the kitchen counter and had his own feast, and the year I was hosted by a family who also hosted Phineas and Ferb (Disney Characters) who were performing in NYC. One year we all were crazy and decided to go into New York and see the parade LIVE. Or the time my son-in-law wanted to use his new whipped cream maker and it shot all over!!!

Although my turkey and stuffing are picture perfect and tasty… I am known for my pies… Apple, Pumpkin, the occasional Pecan, and… drum roll please… ‘The Chocolate Cream Pie Mistake’. This last pie was developed totally in a fit of panic. My brother specifically requested a Chocolate Cream Pie for dessert… so I bought the ingredients and began making it the night before… late… after the stores closed. Much to my dismay, I made a deep dish pie crust, but only had enough filling for a standard pie crust. The pie looked sad. In a flash of genius I opened the cupboard doors and surveyed what I had on hand… and began dumping things into the pudding filling. Suffice it to say the main addition was a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, along with some flavorings, more cream and such. Crossing my fingers I placed the doctored pie in the refrigerator over night to chill… and figured I’d fill in the remaining gap with whipped cream when it came time to serve it. WOW! What a surprise! The pie was the hit of the evening… not to be upstaged by the turkey of course.

Ahhh…. Memories. Well… this year will certainly go down into my book as something to remember. I believe this will be the very first Thanksgiving I am sharing it with total strangers instead of family or friends.

I had many options of where to eat turkey today. Many local restaurants are serving grand dinners by reservation, but that didn’t interest me. The place I am staying is also hosting dinner, both formal and informal. I gave serious consideration of this option, knowing I am a friendly person and would easily be able to strike up a conversation with my table mates and have a delightful day. But no… I do that on a regular basis, every time I eat out. Hmmm… I could always volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Nah.

THIS YEAR… you will find me eating turkey and breaking bread with an unusual group of people at the Holiday Inn in Fort Myers, FL. Who are they???? I have been invited to join the World Class Sandcastle Sculptors who are here competing for the title. Me! I don’t speak all their languages, but with the help of translators I’m sure we will all get along. Anyway… isn’t Turkey a universal language?

I wish you ALL a Happy Thanksgiving… no matter where you are… or who you are with! After all… Thanksgiving is with you all the time, it’s in your heart!

GOBBLE! GOBBLE!!!

UPDATE!  The weather is way too nice! After visiting the sculptors I decided to head to the beach and bask. Speak about basting the turkey! I have a reserved seat at the movies this evening, keeping THAT tradition alive.

Flatware Snob

Am I the only one on this planet who is fussy about their flatware when they eat out??? I’m talking about forks in particular.

If I go out to dinner with you, and the tines on my fork are bent, I expect you to switch with me. Yes! Really! I do! I’m not kidding. Nothing ruins a night out more than the feel of that one ‘out of line’ tine scraping against the roof of my mouth. If yours is bent too I have no issue with asking the wait staff to provide me with a better  fork.

While attending my daughter’s food tasting in Disney for her wedding I had to ask for the fork to be replaced not once, but three times!!! I quietly motioned to the wait staff, smiled sweetly, and in a sing-song voice explained my fork was bent and asked if they would please exchange it for another. The replacement was also bent, so I repeated the process. The next replacement was also bent! Again, I smiled, and even added a little giggle and waved the fork. Finally! This one was fine. I’m sure he spit on it.

Oh, and the WEIGHT of the utensil is important too. When you hold it in your hand, it should have a nice ‘feel’ and weight to it. It should be balanced, and the tines should come to a dull point. So many forks now-a-days have tines that are cut straight across. Ewwww! I get chills at the thought of placing that in my mouth.

I don’t expect great flatware when eating at well-known food chains, or mom and pop type establishments… but if I’m out for fine dining and the dinner check is expected to be more for this one night than my entire food budget for the month, then the flatware shouldn’t be… well… how to put it… uh… flat!

I am sure you have eaten with ‘flat’ flatware many times. You know the kind… it’s like the shape of a fork was stamped out of a sheet of aluminum then a slight bend was pounded in the handle. Yeah… that’s what I call FLATware.

My personal set of flatware took months of searching before I found JUST what I wanted. Okay, okay, it took years. But I DID find it!! Truth be told… I would have purchased a set sooner if they weren’t so damn pricey. Typical of me to want the best, but not actually pay for it. I ended up buying a rather plain set from Reed and Barton. Not only was it half price, but I had a coupon for an additional 25% off!!! Yippie!!!

This morning I noticed one of my forks had a bent tine. HORRORS!! I tried bending it back into shape… to no avail. Since I have enough flatware to serve 16 people, I simply tossed the fork in the china cabinet and will use it when less fussy company comes.

BTW… as a guest in someone’s home, I am not fussy at all. I will eat with whatever you choose to use. I am thrilled enough to be spending precious time with you… and will joyously eat whatever is served, HOWever it is served. As a matter of fact.. I don’t even give it a thought. Huh! That’s weird.

Do YOU have any quirks? Please share!

 

 

Fishing… Me???

Recently I jumped at the chance to take a sudden trip with a friend to North Carolina… who promptly made the following declaration, “I want to spend one day fishing. Want to join me?”

Ummmm… Well… Cough… Sputter. “I’ve never been fishing before, but I’m willing to give it a try,” was my response. It was further explained they meant OCEAN fishing and I was warned the seas could get rather rough this time of year. That didn’t sway me… I breathed deeply, pasted a smile on my face and said I didn’t care about the rough seas.

The day came, and frankly I was excited. Getting up before the sun didn’t bother me at all. Packing up lunch, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, crackers, and water took just a few minutes. We arrived at the boat as the first mate was gearing up.

Assuming I was going to be the only female on board I made a remark about being the only fisherman that day wearing sparkly nail polish. Although 2 other women arrived, I took an impromptu survey and found I was still the only one with glitter nails. Go me!

Underway the captain gave us a little welcome speech. The most important message was to head to the deck if we felt sick, explaining the fresh air would do us a world of good and if you felt the need to throw up he pleaded for us to hit over the railing. There was a hose on board, so if you didn’t make it to the side, it could easily be hosed down… oh… and not to be embarrassed, as it happens all the time… even to the best fishermen.

To say I got seasick isn’t quite accurate. I got ‘queasy’, but never to the point of wanting to lose my breakfast. I was one of the lucky ones. Two others on board couldn’t hold it in. Thank heavens I packed a ziplock bag in my tote bag ‘just in case’. I offered it to a fellow mate, and let’s just say it came in handy… more than once.

For half the trip I felt it best to just lie still… letting the boat’s rocking, rolling, and pitching lull me to sleep. When I felt steady enough to balance myself to walk, I headed outside to sit in one of the fishing chairs. Enjoying the view, looking for whales and dolphins, lifting my face to the sun was wonderful. If I never caught a fish I didn’t care… this moment was so beautiful. Then WHAM!! A pole went stiff! A fish was on the line!

The first mate grabbed the pole and shoved the handle in to the hole between my legs in the chair. I grabbed the pole with both hands. ACK! Now what??? My friend came behind and instructed me to start reeling. How exciting!!! As I cranked the reel, they guided the line and continued to instruct me… until the fish came on board. It was a Mahi. I’ve eaten those before, but never caught one! Woo! Hoo! My next one was TUNA!!! I’ve never in my life seen anyone catch a tuna… and here I was, on the other end of the pole reeling one in. OK… It wasn’t big… and didn’t give me a fight… but it was exciting just the same.

Fish haul

As the day went on everyone took turns reeling in the catch. I’m told it wasn’t a great day fishing… but to me it was FABULOUS! Over all we caught 313 pounds of Tuna (yellow fin as well as black fin) and Mahi. There’s something amazing about catching your own food… providing your dinner on the table. However… unless fishing is your livelihood, then bring your wallet, the day wasn’t cheap.

Would I go again if given the chance? Yes, in a heartbeat! I’ve even watched a few episodes of Wicked Tuna and enjoyed them! But I’m not rushing out to purchase a boat, rods, and reels. As far as putting food on my table, I think I’ll try my hand at gardening.

Fishy Fingers

LOOK! Fish scales!! It proves I actually touched and held the fish! They sparkled!!!

 

 

CBS Sunday Morning

A lot of people spend their Sunday morning in their favorite house of worship.  I’m not one of them. Oh… over the years I have spent many Sundays wiggling my rear on the hard wooden pew benches or metal chairs… but mostly our family spent our Sundays on the river, racing sailboats and enjoying the fresh air and salt water.

My oldest brother would watch CBS Sunday Mornings in the winter, and as a teenager I remember scrunching up my nose, rolling my eyes and thinking, “How bor-ring, SNORE.”

Then I grew up.

Fast forward through my life… through getting married and having a family of my own… through my husband’s illness… through starting and running a business just to pay the mounting medical bills and keep my head above water… through the foreclosure on our family home… through my kids growing up and moving on… to moving to my little bungalow on the lake.

Before I moved to the lake, I would spend the weekends here at a friend’s house, healing and recovering from the shock my life has become. I reveled in the quiet and slow life. Sundays were carefree… no one needed anything from me. I could sleep in as long as I wanted… something that I haven’t experienced in my entire life. I would stretch, roll out of bed and be drawn downstairs by the aroma of fresh coffee brewing. CBS Sunday Morning would be on the TV. Ahhhh…. life as an adult at the lake. Could life get any better?

When I finally got a place of my own… I realized how important that Sunday ritual had become to me. A time to relax, go slow, drink in the day, heal, reboot… and be enlightened by Charles Osgood and all the other CBS reporters. I now make a point of watching the show every week, and DVR it when I can’t be home.

I most enjoy the human interest stories showcasing regular people doing extraordinary things. For example, this morning’s show had segments on ‘Beep Baseball’ for the blind, A ballet created for a fallen Marine, and a family dealing with their young son’s gradual blindness. All three stories tugged at my heart. The blind baseball player was on the World Championship Beep Baseball Team and beamed with excitement and pride as he told the story. The ballet was created by the mother of the fallen Marine to send a message to surviving Marines to ‘continue on’, make each day count, don’t be guilty you survived but instead DO something with the life you were given. The parents of the boy losing his sight are preparing him for the future… to be able to ‘see’ with his memory as they explore the world together in a family van. Each story brought tears to my eyes.

I believe everyone one of us has a story… and I am so thankful CBS Sunday Morning brings these unsung heroes to my attention on a weekly basis and touch my soul.

Do YOU watch CBS Sunday Morning? If so… what is YOUR favorite story?

Until then, I’ll see you on the Internet                                                                (an update to Charles Osgood’s closing).

 

 

 

It’s a Sailor’s Life for Me

Well folks… after being a land lubber for the past 35 odd years, I have accepted a crew position beginning in the Spring onboard a Flying Scot at Monmouth Boat Club in Red Bank, NJ. My skipper is none other than the wonderful and talented Wendy Elovich.

Flying Scot crew

Although this is NOT a picture of Wendy, or me… this is a photo of a Flying Scot in action. I will be the one in lime green, ready to do whatever the skipper asks. The smaller sail, the jib will be under my control, as well as the spinnaker (the bright-colored balloon sail to you non-sailors).  Ahhh…. the salt water hitting me in the face, the smell of seaweed and algae, and pulling jelly fish off the lines. Goodie! I can’t wait!

My dad’s passion was sailing… and as his children we had no choice but to love it too. Growing up I just assumed every one knew how to sail. As an adult I now know that’s not the case.

During my marriage and raising my own brood… sailing wasn’t in our life. My husband wasn’t a fan, and therefore it was ‘off limits’. Occasionally my brother would invite us all down to the club for a ride on the Race Committee Boat… and I even worked with the Girl Scout’s and brought my troop down for a weekend of learning how to sail. But on a day-to-day basis sailing just didn’t exist.

In a brief moment of craziness I found myself crewing on the historic maiden race of the schooner Virginia in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race in October of 2005. Prepared to race for 2 to 3 days, the howling winds at 22 knots allowed us to finish in only 14 hours… all 127 nautical miles!!! To say it was the most thrilling adventure of my life just doesn’t say enough. The awesomeness of being onboard a great vessel, in the dark, in heavy winds is just too hard to put into words. The feeling of the large boat, creaking in the wind, water splashing against the sides, mates calling signals down the line to the captain because he can’t see where he’s going, is too difficult to convey.

At one point a hush fell over the crew as in the dark we felt the boat flatten out, the bow tip up slightly and the boat take off under us in a plane. THAT is the grand moment of sailing!!! THAT is what it’s all about!!! To think I experienced that moment frozen in time leaves me in awe still.

schooner Virginia

The wind direction swung around quickly, and our captain made the split-second decision to jibe… without calling down below. Our cook (ahem, chef) having never cooked onboard a moving vessel was down in a catch hole digging up supplies when the action took place… slamming him against a rail where he bruised a few ribs and cried out in pain.

Meanwhile the flames went out on the diesel fueled stove spewing heavy fumes and thick black smoke in the galley. The cook, screaming for help and directing someone… ANY ONE… to hit the emergency OFF switch woke me from my 4 hour rest shift. I was the only one who heard him. I choked back the smoke and through tear streaked eyes burning from the fumes, I fumbled around and located the switch.

Helping the cook to his bunk he continued to moan in pain and asked that I send word to the captain he needed to be airlifted off the ship. I explained that wasn’t going to happen. We were racing. Whatever and whoever was on board at the starting line, must also be onboard at the finish. Only a case of imminent death would require the captain to make the decision to airlift. Some tape tightly wrapped around his ribs and a bottle of whiskey held him to the finish a few hours later.

This race was newsworthy as it was the very first race for the new boat. Reporters were onboard sending detailed reports to their publications on every facet of the voyage. The gourmet food we ate, the comfortable accommodations, the experience of the crew… you name it no slight piece of information was left out. The Internet was abuzz with pictures. On my return home I printed out every word I could find, there was even a photo of me coiling line during the race… ME, A STAR!! Sadly those papers were destroyed in subsequent basement floods and moves.

At my age, most people consider retirement from the sport. Instead I’m running straight for  the opportunity. I’m told it’s like riding a bike… you never really forget, and everything you ever learned comes back to you once you step onboard. Well… that’s what I’m hoping.

See you on the water!

 

 

Books, Books, Books and more BOOKS!!

I’m sure you all thought I had given up posting to this blog… but in reality I was dedicating my time to a NEW VENTURE and simply didn’t have a moment free to type.

A few months ago I alluded to a great idea that would set the book world on its edge… and wow… did it EVER!!! On October 12th Shari Sanford from The Paperback Exchange in Belmar, NJ and I threw the first annual Belmar Bookcon!!!! Filling Pyanoe Plaza with 24 authors… all either self published, or published by small independent houses… PLUS 4 Independent Publishers! The world of PUBLISHING is changing… and we felt it was time to educate the world about it.

Years ago when a self published author came into one of my bookstores suggesting I read their book and perhaps place it on my shelves… I would barely give them the time of day. I’ll be honest… I looked down my nose at them. My view was if they couldn’t get a book agent or publisher interested in their cancer survival story… then why would I be interested??

Being a sucker for sob stories I would upon occasion read one or two of them. It was rough going. Misspellings, no continuity, major grammatical errors, lost train of thought, dull as dish water. Ugh! The more difficult part was returning the book and telling this person who just spent the past 7 years of their life writing this tome that ‘although the story is compelling, I suggest you hire a professional editor to put the final polish on your book’. Inevitably they would reply that their 2nd cousin once removed on their father’s side is an avid reader and THEY edited the book… and besides, there were already 1,000 copies printed and sitting in their garage. OY!

One day… one magical day… this all changed!! A man named Keith Smith walked into my Princeton bookstore and asked us to take a look at his book. His approach to the desk was different than most. Most authors were sheepish and shy, Keith was not. Well dressed, attentive, and sure of himself… he waited for a paying customer to finish their transaction and walked confidently up to the desk. OK… it didn’t hurt that he was ‘easy on the eyes’ either.

He proceeded to tell my daughter and me about his story… notice I said his STORY… not his book. By the time he was finished my mouth hung open and I couldn’t wait to read his book… Men In My Town. It’s a true unsolved crime which happened to him as a young man in Rhode Island. I devoured the book in one evening!!!

Keith returned to the store a few days later. As I handed the book back to him and placed an order I remarked, “I smell movie rights.” The only disappointment I had was while he recounted his story to me verbally, he mentioned a few things that were not in the book, which I felt needed to be added. But as usual, the books were already printed.

My view of self publishing changed that day. Some AWESOME books were being written and regular John Q. Public would never know about them. It took a few more years for me to get my life in order and begin to trumpet these wonderful books. Along the way I have stumbled across The Bronze Horsemen written by David Mallegol… about the domestication of the horse, Ridiculous by D.L. Carter, a Regency Romance I would NEVER have picked up to read but absolutely LOVED and Sweet Tea by Wendy Decker, a great story about a girl dealing with her mother’s mental illness… just to name a few.

Of course all of these books are available through your favorite online bookstore… HOWEVER… I would prefer you help out your local Independent Bookstore and order it from them. If you don’t know who that is… may I direct your attention to Indiebound.org. Simply type in your zip code and ta-dah… your local stores pop up. This is also great for when you are away from home :-)

If all else fails… or you want to save some time… call Shari at The Paperback Exchange… 732-681-6829 and she will gladly ship you a copy. PayPal and all credit cards accepted.

NOW for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

I have made the commitment to read TWO books a month that were either self published OR published by a small Independent Publishing House and review them on my other site… Unique and NovelJoin me over there if you are looking for something new and different to read. I promise you these are books you won’t ever hear about unless read my blog!

 

 

 

The Power of the Kitchen Table

This morning I had a flashback to a metal trivet that hung in my mother’s kitchen, right near the sink. I believe she placed it there when we moved in… and it didn’t budge until we sold the house fifty-five years later.

The trivet was black cast iron with a few flowers painted in red and yellow with some green leaves. White lettering read: Of all the places I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best.

Why is that??? Is it because of the power of the kitchen table?? Of all the tables strategically placed around our houses… coffee, dining, end, picnic, hall… what makes the kitchen table so special? I mean really… the dining room table gets all the glory. Called into service only on special occasions, it’s the Grand Duchess of the home in comparison to the Cinderella kitchen table.

The dining table gets to play dress up with the fancy china, crystal goblets, and silverware, while it is lovingly draped in beautiful flowing linens. Finishing touches of flowers and candles lend a formal feeling to the air. Family, friends, and guests gather around it and laugh, and tell stories. A magnificent turkey (or roast) is brought to the table with a flourish and greeted with ohs and ahs. Manners are on high alert and the meal ends with an extraordinary dessert! Wow!

Meanwhile… back in the kitchen, Cinderella has been relegated as a catch-all area. When the kitchen counter seems too small, the kitchen table steps up to fill the void. Dirty dishes, flour dust, seasonings, and food containers cover every available square inch. It took a beating, but still stands proud, happy to be of service.

The rest of the time the lowly kitchen table is the hub of family central. Kids spread their school books out and do their homework while dinner is being cooked by the parental unit in charge. Impromptu visitors gather around the table to chat over a cup of tea and slice of cake. Got a craft project to do? Spread everything out on the kitchen table. Need to roll out a pie crust? The kitchen table has plenty of room. Need to have a family discussion? Yup, the kitchen table is the place to hold it.

Every nick, scratch, pen mark, marker or crayon stoke means someone sat there and created a masterpiece. Oh, if only kitchen tables could talk… just THINK of the stories they could tell.

High-top kitchen counters are trying to push the table out of the lime light… but so far it hasn’t taken over rural America. It’s just not the same. Dinner time should be ‘family time’… sitting in a circle around a table encouraging conversation. Not all in a straight line staring straight ahead, or worse eating while watching someone else still cooking and cleaning.

If you knew my family life when our kids were small, the above statements would strike you as funny. Every night I had dinner on the table when my husband came home from work. Every night we would sit in our usual seats. Every night, after admonishing the kids about their elbows (or forearms) on the table, to chew with their mouths closed, to sit up straight, and eat their peas… he would ask each child what they learned new that day. At least once a month one child or other would leave the table in tears. Once, a little girl eating over one night was the one to get up and run upstairs in tears. I GLARED at my husband.

That kitchen table heard me assert myself one night and declare I purchased a much desired Mini-Van WITHOUT my husband’s permission. It beamed as my daughter introduced us to her serious boyfriend.. who soon became her husband. It served as a Christmas tree one year when I couldn’t afford one and stacked the donated Poinsettias in a pyramid in the center. It became a support when my son and I held a very serious conversation through the use of post-it notes and a pen… because we didn’t want to speak out loud and be overheard. Years and years of memories were made at that table.

The kitchen is considered the ‘heart’ of the home. I guess that’s true… and I guess that is why guests feel so more at ease there. Life is less formal in the kitchen. Coming in the backdoor is considered an honor… being deemed a friend as opposed to a guest. It’s kind of like taking a peek behind the curtain… at where the magic happens… a happy place.

Looking back, I find it strange my mom’s trivet hung on a wall in a kitchen without a table… or any space at all to visit while she cooked. It was a dark and cold north facing room without a hint of comfort. My family ate every meal at the formal dining table. Hmmm… Curious.

What stories would YOUR kitchen table tell if it could speak??