Adventure with Creativebug

“I won!!! I won!!” read my Facebook post last August. As a devoted reader and follower of Meg Cox and her Quilt Journalist Tells All newsletter and blog, I entered her contest with the fabulous prize of a 6 month FREE subscription to an instructional craft site… Creativebug, and…. I WON!!! Without further rambling… here’s my review and thoughts on my Adventure with Creativebug.

I never win any thing, so imagine my surprise when I got the email from Meg Cox with the good news! For you folks who are as crazy about quilting as I am, go check her out. She reports all the happenings in the quilt world, not to mention in addition she’s the author of two great books, The Quilter’s Catalog AND Family Traditions. You need to have both of them on your bookshelves.

Any way… I won the honor of running around the Creativebug website for 6 whole months… for FREE!!! Be still my beating heart. This site is a crafter’s dream come true. Taking classes at your own convenience, in your jammies, with all of your own supplies at your finger tips. I also like that you can sit and view the class, then think about your project, gather your supplies, then watch the class again and actually make the item this time.

We had a harsh winter here in the Northeast, and I was delighted to be snowed in to spend as much time as I wanted to try my hand at a new craft, brush up on one I was rusty in, or just view one I wanted to learn ‘how they do that’.

I was bowled over with the quality of their videos and the knowledge of the instructors. Some I had never heard of, but trust me when I tell you Creativebug sought out instructors that are tops in their field. Come on! Kaffe Fassett teaching me quilting in my own home???? SWOON!!! Beyond my wildest dreams!!!

While stalking the site I was amazed at the wide selection of techniques offered. No craft is off-limits, and there is something for every one at every level. As a beginner jewelry maker, I viewed the class on making wire links. I dabble in journaling, so my pens and markers got a good work out following one of Creativebug’s journaling Work-A-Longs. My mother was a sewing instructor so I learned that skill as soon as I could reach the throat plate and the foot pedal at the same time, yet I watched the classes any way… and still learned a new tip or two.

My favorite classes on the site were the ‘Work-A-Long’ classes. They are more intensive classes taught over a four-week or so period. Not only did I learn more from this style of teaching, but it creates a ‘habit’ and makes me continue with this craft once the class is finished… oh, and it gave me something exciting to look forward to, AND (I am sure this is what the marketing gurus at Creativebug were hoping for) this style of class had me click on their site more regularly.

I found the classes to always be fresh, well produced and top-notch. New classes are added on a regular basis, so I was never bored. There was always something that interested me.

Now that I’ve told you how much I LOVED the site, let me take a moment to tell you what I didn’t love. There were a few hiccups when viewing a course, like not buffering, or freezing right in the middle of something, or the PDF of materials not downloading. Although those issues were annoying, I found them to be few and far between… plus easily rectified.

My major complaint was when my FREE 6 months was finished, but my Top Down Raglan Sweater was not. That’s when it dawned on me I didn’t actually OWN the class and therefore could no longer access it… without becoming a paying member.

I contacted Customer Service via email to ask if that is how the process works… and instead of getting a direct answer to my question, I was instructed (in a very upbeat and friendly tone) to upgrade to the premium subscription where I would have access to ALL classes. I hadn’t decided to continue the subscription as yet, so to me it kind of felt like it was a hostage situation… “Pay up, or you will never be able to finish that sweater”.

I replied, “So I’m guessing the answer is no? You can’t re-visit a class you have already taken once your subscription is up?” It took Customer Service 11 days (almost two weeks!!!) to reply… and I quote…

“Unfortunately, in order to watch the premium classes you will need to pay for the premium subscription. So you are correct. You cannot revisit classes once your subscription has expired. I do apologize for the inconvenience.

However, you do not need an account to access the free content we have available. If you wish to become a Premium subscriber, you will be granted unlimited access to our over 200+ workshops, for a small monthly fee.”

Now all of this might not seem so bothersome. After all, I have plenty of projects that aren’t finished, and I can find another way to use the left over yarn… HOWEVER… I was a bit taken aback when I went on to the Creativebug site this morning to gather information for this blog post to find THIS…

“We are very excited to announce that Keep Classes Forever has gone live on Creativebug.com!” 

Arrrggghhh! And guess when this was posted??? One day BEFORE Customer Service replied to me. Not that this new feature would be able to help me with my situation, but if they really wanted me to continue my subscription, that information would have most likely turned my indecision into a resounding YES.

Oh… and one more little bit of info that would have been the icing on the cake would have been to inform me about the lower monthly fee!!! Originally they were charging $9.95 a month… which has now dropped to $4.95. Don’t ya think THAT should have been mentioned in my email??? Instead I found out about it on my own. If I weren’t posting this blog today, I never would have visited their site again… never would have known… and most likely would never subscribe. Now I have food for thought.

Here’s the BOTTOM LINE…

Did I learn a lot?    Yes. Great videos with talented instructors.

Would I recommend Creativebug to others?    Yes. I am so thrilled with their classes that I am joining their Affiliate Program. Please check back in a few days to use my link to join them.

Do I think it’s a good deal?    Yes, now that the price has dropped. Plus there are a lot of FREE classes you can take without subscribing.

Am I going to subscribe?    Hmmmmmm…. Still undecided… but most likely yes. They just added a calligraphy Work-A-Long that looks enticing… PLUS I’ll be able to finish that damn sweater.

TIP: I would suggest you schedule a specific day and time for viewing and mark it on your calendar. You would be amazed at how quickly a week (or two) can zoom by without allowing time for crafting. At the new low price of $4.95 a month, if you schedule a class once a week, the cost per class works out to $1.24 each. You get a WHOLE LOT of quality instruction for less than a cup of coffee!!!

To start your Adventure with Creativebug please either WAIT 2 days until my affiliate link is approved ( I will send a blurb out when ready) OR go directly to their website and join.

Have fun!!! And remember to ALWAYS create something special!

Single Girl Finds the Answer to Warehouse Shopping!

Loving Costco as much as I do, ( click HERE to read an older post about one of my shopping trips) I found I needed to figure out how to store produce without it going rotten before I could use it all… and I DID. Continue reading to find out how a Single Girl Finds the Answer to Warehouse Shopping!

Take a close look at the photos below. Both the raspberries and celery were purchased at Costco and have been stored in my refrigerator. They weren’t wrapped in anything special… just tossed in the refrigerator straight from the car.

Look how FRESH!!!

                            Look how FRESH!!!

Celery is still CRISP!

                            Celery is still CRISP!

How long do you think they have survived in my refrigerator? They weren’t purchased at the same time. The celery has been in there 3 times longer than the raspberries. I just finished eating the raspberries this afternoon and the last raspberry was as tasty and fresh as the first one.

The celery still was firm and crispy. I’ll be honest… I lost a few of the outer stalks due to age, but once I tell you how long they have been in the refrigerator I bet you will be AMAZED!!!

Are you ready? Are you sitting down? The raspberries were 3 weeks old!!! Yes, you read that right… 3 WEEKS!!! Not ONE had gone mushy or moldy. The actual photo was taken yesterday, right before I ate some.

The celery? Believe it or not, I purchased a cello bag containing 4 bunches of stalks on December 22, 2014. That’s 2 MONTHS ago!!! I’m not kidding!! The leaves are still fresh and ready to be tossed in to a pot of simmering soup and the stalks were tasty when spread with peanut butter as a snack the other day. Moist, crunchy, juicy celery goodness.

So how did a Single Girl Find the Answer to Warehouse Shopping???? I’ll tell you a secret… the answer has been on the sidebar for over a year on this very site. Go ahead, take a look, I’ll wait. Did you find it???Berry Breeze

For about 18 months I have been an affiliate of an item named BerryBreeze. No larger than a box of baking soda, you insert a battery and place it on a shelf in your refrigerator… then forget about it. Basically this little beauty sanitizes the air, but if you need more information than that please take the time to check out their FAQ page.

It really works!!! I have used it myself and am very happy. I feel comfortable purchasing mega-sized packages of fresh fruits and vegetables knowing I have prolonged their shelf life… without repackaging and freezing or canning them.

Where can YOU purchase one??? I’m glad you asked. Just click on the ad on my sidebar and it will take you directly to the BerryBreeze site… PLUS my affiliate code is built-in so I get credit for the sale! I have to warn you… it’s a tiny bit more expensive than I thought it would be, but considering how many hundreds of dollars of spoiled food I don’t have to throw out made me quickly realize it was a smart choice.

If you will notice, BerryBreeze is the ONLY item I promote. I’m obviously not doing this for the pennies I earn as an affiliate. No… I promote it because I know it works and want to spread the news. Hopefully it will be something you need too.

Bring on the Farmer’s Markets! I’m ready! Are you???

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti and Peas

I have declared February 12th the Official day of Spaghetti and Peas.

My husband, Walter Stanton Hunter, Jr. lost his fight with ALS eight years ago… the same amount of years he lived with this illness… eight, very long years.

As long as I knew him, he requested the same dinner feast year after year on his birthday. When most people craved an expensive steak, or a super dinner out on the town… my husband, without fail, asked me to cook a humble dinner of Spaghetti and Peas.

Spaghetti and Peas for dinner!

Spaghetti and Peas for dinner!

Why? I don’t know. It’s not like I didn’t serve this as an easy weeknight night meal. I did… many, many nights. That didn’t stop him from asking for it every year on February 12th… his birthday.

Oh the battles that would ensue at my dinner table over the side dish of peas!!! The kids despised them. One year I hit upon the solution… serve them to the kids FROZEN! Bingo… never a pea problem in our house ever again.

No meatballs, no sausage, just a good hearty homemade meat sauce… topped off with plenty of parmesan cheese. The garlic bread oozed buttery goodness down our arms and a salad to make the ‘mom’ in me feel the meal was somewhat healthy. This birthday dinner was repeated time and time again… without fail. Even when he was on a ventilator… I blended everything into a mushy paste… and down it went.

In the past few years my kids and I , along with a few family members and friends would remind each other to eat Spaghetti and Peas on the 12th in his honor. Last year we even posted photos on Facebook. This year… I stepped it up a notch and have decided to invite EVERYONE to join in the fun!!!

Here’s the deal… If you are reading this post I ask you to make a commitment to eat some kind of Spaghetti and Pea dinner on February 12th. I know, I know, I can hear you all now… you don’t like peas!! OK… serve something else instead. Heck, I don’t really care if it’s even spaghetti… the rules are really loose. Last year my son and I made lemon fettucine. Use your imagination! Be creative!

Make your commitment public!!! State your intentions by commenting below on my blog… … or on the newly created Facebook page.

Next… LIKE my new page on Facebook named… you guessed it… Spaghetti and Peas! Take a photo of your dinner and post it there. I promise we won’t judge.

THEN… and this is IMPORTANT… If you feel so inclined I ask you to make a donation to the ALS Association. The link takes you to the Greater Philadelphia Chapter… who were so helpful during our family’s stressful time. Please, and Thank You!

I can’t BEGIN to explain to you how much the ALS Association helped our family, and so many others in need. The money you donate not only goes to research… but also for supporting current ALS patients and families on a day to day basis. Honest!

LAST… Send this message out to everyone you know. Invite them to join you on February 12th for a Spaghetti and Peas dinner!!! Send it via Facebook, email, snail mail, hot air balloon!!! Let’s make this a BIG event… A YEARLY event!

Stan always wanted to bring awareness to ALS and how it affects families. If he were alive today he would have been one of the very first to have a bucket of ice water dumped over his head. Well… sadly, he’s not here. So let’s all bring awareness in his honor!!! Eat Spaghetti and Peas!

To that end… if you know me personally, you know I have been struggling writing a book about this time in our family’s life. It’s a hard book to get out of my head and down on paper… and I’ll be honest, there are times I just don’t have the strength to ‘get it done’. This morning I awoke with a new direction… I have decided to change the working title to Spaghetti and Peas Please. This simple change is making me see this book in a whole new light. It’s a story that needs to be told… and I WILL tell it!

Sooo…. What are you going to eat on February 12th????

SPAGHETTI AND PEAS PLEASE!

I Guess I’m Getting Old

Last week I called a friend of mine and complained I couldn’t get warm. My personal internal thermostat was set on ‘freeze’. Shivers were running through my body, even though I was wrapped in an afghan.

“What’s your home thermostat set on?” he asked.

“66 degrees.”

“What does the thermostat read?’

“66 degrees.”

“Well, Deb… then your house is 66 degrees. Turn the heat up. Most people our age have it bumped up to 70. My wife has our house locked in at 71.”

Ack!!! OUR age??? How insulting!!! After I thought about that comment for a minute, I realized he was right. Each morning when I look in the mirror, more and more I see my mother staring back at me! My face is aging. I guess I’m getting old.

The television volume is cranked up a few more decibels than last year, and I drive a few miles per hour slower than normal. My doctor suggested I lose the extra inches around my middle and my daughter asked if I was letting my gray hair grow in. I guess I’m getting old.

Burning the midnight oil to finish a project is no longer an option, and taking a nap on a rainy Sunday afternoon is heavenly. Loud noises and chaos make me cranky. I guess I’m getting old.

Store clerks call me M’am. Police officers don’t look old enough to shave. No one has offered me their seat on public transportation yet, but I bet that day isn’t too far behind. I guess I’m getting old.

The younger generation is shifting from Facebook to Instagram. I’m staying put. Of all the thousands of things my cell phone can do, I only use the camera, Google maps, and check email. I guess I’m getting old.

My flat screen TV monitor suits me just fine… I see no need to upgrade to the new curved, 3D, or supersize version. My eyes flutter shut before Saturday Night Live comes on, yet I’m wide awake for CBS Sunday Morning. I guess I’m getting old.

The next generation is in the wings, poised, ready to take over. I’m ready to step aside and let them. I guess I’m getting old.

I watch young families and reminisce about the good old days… how I was a mom with three young kids a long time ago. What fun we had when they were little. Oh how I cringe at the thought of all the money needed for their care… the doctors, optometrists, orthodontists, sports equipment, college education, weddings, and more. Thankfully no longer a problem in my life. I guess I’m getting old.

I have no responsibilities other than my own happiness. My fabulous kids are beginning their own families. I am the matriarch… the oldest living member of this little group. I guess I’m getting old.

It’s time for me to do what I want, to be selfish… to play… to travel… to paint… to quilt… to catch up with old friends. I want to skate on the lake when it freezes over, and paddle my kayak when it’s not. I can decide to ride my bike, or lace up my athletic shoes and take a walk… or simply grab my camera for a little one-on-one with the local scenery and breathe in the salty beach air. I guess I’m getting old… and thankfully still active.

There is still so much to see and do in this life. I may be a little slower, a little heavier, a bit more wrinkled with snow on the roof… but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Getting old is a privilege not given to every one. I guess I’m happy to be getting old.

On Being a Grandma

Wow!!! Being a Grandma is EXAUSTING… and the baby isn’t even born yet!

I have been sewing like crazy for the nursery… as the deadline imposed by my daughter is fast approaching. Not to mention my fingers have been a flurry of activity turning skeins of yarn into cute and adorable hats to keep his little baby head warm.

Adorable Baby Hat

 Adorable Baby Hat

Nursery under construction

Nursery under construction

Today I spent the ENTIRE day running errands and stocking my house for the upcoming month. I’m not kidding! Armed with a ‘To-Do’ list longer than my arm… I left at 10am and didn’t return until 6pm! Trips to the postoffice, produce store, grocery store, gas station, Costco, fabric store, Target, Staples, and an unscheduled visit to a brand new Hobby Lobby kept me up and running the whole day.

Normally…. I would not have tried to squeeze all of that into ONE day, but time is getting short. It’s T minus 3 weeks… the ball is on the 20, and it’s the 4th down. You know as well as I, babies come at the most inopportune time. I’m ready!

I’m delighted to be on the First Call list. Not that I’m needed at the hospital, oh no… I’m needed to ‘Emma sit’. For those of you not familiar with Emma… she’s one of my adorable grand dogs. I can’t WAIT to see her reaction to all this. Emma has been the spoiled princess for 11 years… and now a little prince is going to take up space in her domain. Should be interesting.

Princess Emma Mae

Princess Emma Mae

I guess all that’s left for me to do now is to pack an overnight bag, including a book and some sort of craft project… and wait.

Change Your Stars!

2015 is a New Year with a clean slate. It’s time to Change Your Stars… make new choices.

“Our lives are made up of choices. If you are not happy with your life… marriage… job… car… dinner… what you are wearing… fill in the blank… then make another choice. “ I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how many times I’ve said those words this past year to friends and family.

Then one magical day, I looked in the mirror and said those EXACT words to myself! Huh! It was amazing how ‘freeing’ those words made me feel.

Right… if I don’t like something… simply make a different choice, follow another path. It really is THAT simple!

Last year I made the choice to journal once a day. Sometimes I had nothing to say… and other days I not only filled the entire day with my scribbles, but continued to write in the margins circling around the page… writing smaller and smaller just to fit it all in.

I found I really enjoyed journaling, but wanted something more fun and exciting to write my thoughts and feelings in… and so a hunt for something to fit the bill commenced.

I found nothing. The journals on the market were too plain, too small, too large, didn’t lay flat, too bulky… you name it. I felt like Goldilocks trying out the beds and porridge in the bear’s cottage. So…. What does one do when they can’t find what they want? They make it themselves! And THAT’s the choice I made.

Documented Life Project week 2 www.debhathaway.com

Documented Life Project week 2 www.debhathaway.com

The worse part about designing something, is staring at the blank page. I’m already enrolled in a year-long project titled The Documented Life Project, in which members are given a prompt and suggestion once a week… then we ‘have at it’. The end result is a creative bulging book of mixed media art reflecting my goals and thoughts for the year.

Documented Life Project week 1 www.debhathaway.com

Documented Life Project week 1 www.debhathaway.com

But that’s not what I wanted for my journaling experience. I wanted something I could WRITE in. Not a diary per se, not a planner, not an art project… maybe a combination of those things??? Grabbing my trusty laptop, I began my Internet search in earnest, hoping some obscure image would light a fire under my frozen creative juices and get them flowing. It worked!!!

A site popped up called… Change Your Stars. Apparently the month of January is ‘Change Your Stars’ Month… who knew? This site tells the story of the movie A Knight’s Tale… how a poor thatcher’s son changes his stars and becomes a Knight. If you haven’t seen it then you haven’t made the right choice. Watch it now!! The site’s home page pairs an inspirational word for each day of the month. Viola! My creative juices are flowing like lava! My blank page has a direction. I am off and running on my new path.

Would you like to join me??? I am looking for a few people to be ‘beta testers’ of my journal. My goal is to design this book throughout the year in order to have a product to sell for the next calendar year. For this to happen I need ‘testers’ who are willing to receive my pages, use them, critique them, and BE HONEST. It costs nothing… zero… nada… zip… zilch… except your time, perhaps one hour a month or less.

If you are interested, and would like to be in at the beginning of a new and exciting venture, please send me a private email: deb(at)debhathaway(dot)com.

Woo! Hoo!! I love this choice I made… and hope you are happy with all of yours!

Around the USA and Home Again

Wow! What an adventure!!! I just returned from a wonderful whirlwind around the USA… and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Driving my daughter’s car from my home in New Jersey, to her new one in San Diego, California was a blast. Since it is winter, I chose to drive the southern route, taking my time and visiting friends and family along the way. Sending out a message on Facebook rewarded me with numerous places to stay along my route. HOWEVER… most of the travel was the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, sooooooo… everyone who offered a place, wasn’t home. They were doing their own holiday traveling.

Hotels abound and there was never a shortage. The first night I decided to use a hotel coupon you find in those handouts at the rest stops. THEY WORK! I nabbed a really nice room in Virginia for a deep discount. My new mission was to see how little I could spend on the nicest room. All in all… I got the best deals and nicest place at The Sleep Inns. Really! Who would have thought? It’s not like I was on a luxurious vacation or anything. No, I just needed a clean, comfortable, safe place to get a solid 8 hours and a hot shower. The fact they had FREE wi-fi and decent offerings at breakfast were only icing on the cake. I signed up for their rewards program and began racking up points for a FREE night in the future.

I stopped in little towns and visited local bookstores, and of course while in Nashville I couldn’t resist shopping in McKay’s. If you haven’t been there yet… make the trip!! There’s one in Knoxville too. What is McKay’s???? Why it’s only the LARGEST bookstore I have ever been in with a ‘buy back’ program. If I were younger, I would start one in New Jersey!!! McKay’s is my mecca! Yes, I bought some books.

My most favorite stop along the way was visiting the Stockyard in Oklahoma City. I arrived too late in the evening to dine at The Cattleman’s Café… so went for breakfast instead. Hearing this place had THE BEST steaks… I ordered Steak and Eggs. WOW! Delicious! There’s nothing better than a perfectly cooked juicy steak, no matter what time of day. The café was filled with real Cowboys, wearing big hats, well-worn cowboy boots and belts with gigantic buckles. Listening to their accents made me giggle.

After my hearty and very filling breakfast, I moseyed (is that a word?) on down to the weekly cattle auction. Cattlemen were bidding so fast I couldn’t keep track. Was it in poor taste for me to arrive at the auction with steak on my breath?? I’m certain all the cattle smelled it. Perhaps I should have eaten AFTER the auction.

I spent some time in the town too. I tried on a pair of real honest to goodness cowboy boots, and as much as I loved them and should have splurged… common sense reared it’s ugly head. I realized I would most likely only wear them once or twice a year. Not a prudent purchase. The same logic was used in the hat department. Although one guy DID say I looked good in my favorite and offered to purchase it for me… but I declined, thinking the price in the end would probably have been more than I was willing to pay (if you catch my drift). I asked about the belts, and was directed to the woman’s department. Whoa! The bling was blinding! Uh… no, no belt for me either.

Next I walked past the tumbleweeds and down a dusty street and entered the National Saddle store. THIS is where the cowboys purchase their spurs and lassoes!!! Exciting!!! An employee instructed me on the fine points of roping a calf… then let me ‘have at it’ on the store display. RINGER! I lassoed a bull! Obviously I’m a natural.

Driving through rural America is really a sight to behold. I was in awe at some of the views. Heading west meant I had a front row seat of the most amazing sunsets. There were so many photo opportunities, but I couldn’t take advantage of them. Speeding down the highway at 70 mph (OK… 80… er… 85) doesn’t allow for much picture-taking. If I pulled over to snap a few, I’d still be on the road today. There was just so much to see!

Well… as I’m sure you’ve heard… The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The second part of this journey was to cross another item off my bucket list… driving the Pacific Coast Highway; however I changed course. The opportunity to visit a few high school classmates arose, all on different days, and all inland, away from the scenic highway. My schedule didn’t allow me the luxury of being able to do everything. I had to make a decision… Pacific Coast Highway, or visit friends. It really was a ‘no brainer’. Friends win over driving a highway, no matter how beautiful, every time!

Visiting with friends, old and new is such a joy. Eating lunch, enjoying each other’s company, remembering old times, learning about their new experiences, is soooo rewarding! Even though we hardly knew each other ‘back in the day’, they are still a familiar face who shared a time and place with me… someone who helped mold me into the person I am today. Learning of their accomplishments since graduation 40 plus years ago makes me realize how lucky I am to have known them, and to be able to join them once again, if only for a brief moment.

I made the right decision.

I’m reminded of the old tried and true Girl Scout song:

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver and the other gold.

A ring is round, it has no end.

That’s how long I want to be your friend.

Thanks to all of you who made my trip special. From family… Lauren, Kevin, Mali, Scott, and Krisa… to friends… Pat, Ned, Cyndee, Diane, Bob, and Karen, with special thanks to Jay for a lesson in the wine biz. Not to be forgotten… my email, telephone, and message buddies, Mark, Tom, HLee, Les, Rich, and Diane… for always keeping tabs on me and making sure I arrive in one piece.

There are still so many stories to tell about this trip… like meeting Karen who so generously took the time to research my family history, all the way back to the 1600’s! Or how Bob offered me the use of their comfortable guest room for 2 nights! Driving through a blizzard in Phoenix! Having an oil change in Flagstaff. Tax free shopping on the naval base. Getting fogged in at San Francisco airport and making the Seattle news… burning off fuel over PA so as not to explode while landing in NJ, spending New Year’s Eve with my daughter and son-in-law in CA and being able to go to bed at 9pm, discovering the harbor in San Diego, eating cookies… lots and lots of cookies, teaching my soon to be daughter-in-law how to use her new sewing machine, shopping on Cedros Ave, photographing the Pasadena City Hall, eating my way around Seattle… and on and on and on. Hey, let’s get together some day and share stories!

2014 What A YEAR!!!

2014 was a pretty amazing year. Like many years before, there were good times, bad times and sad times; however I feel over all it was a GREAT year!

This year saw the creation of a NEW and EXCITING career path for me. With the help of many friends… and a whole lot of courage… BookCon became a reality. Filling the outdoor plaza in Belmar, NJ with self published authors and independent publishing houses, was a huge success, encouraging me to expand to other towns. Using my vast knowledge of the book industry, I have made it my mission to guide new authors in the completion of their masterpiece, and get it out to the public… in addition to mentoring small independent bookstores in hopes of keeping their doors open and lights on.

As far as my own book is concerned, well, it’s still a work in progress. The day after I tossed the entire thing into the fireplace… and lit a match, I got busy and started writing from scratch. The new version is much better. I’ll be honest… there are times I just can’t face the subject matter. The emotions of the past come flooding back and it takes a while for me to get the courage to sit back down and continue. It’s a slow process, and at times difficult, but I plod along and do my best. Maybe 2015 will be the year of a completed manuscript… maybe not.

The past few years I have had the honor and privilege of helping the elderly when their families couldn’t be near. As much as I enjoyed this calling… it has taken a toll on me and I have decided to take a break. I am humbled knowing these families allowed me into their lives at such a personal and trying time, and hope I gave them some comfort.

Some call it ‘traveling’, I call it ‘running away from home’… no matter which… it has kept me hopping! I think nothing of jumping in the car on a whim and taking a short 7 hour ride up to Maine for the weekend… or turning a favor of driving a car cross-country into a week-long vacation. Thanks to friends and family with timeshares, spare houses, and guest rooms… I have had the opportunity of a lifetime to enjoy vacations I would not have been able to afford otherwise.

The most AMAZING vacation this year was a family outing to… ALASKA!!! Three weeks of unbelievable adventures. The sights, the sounds, the excursions, oh my! Glaciers calving, panning for gold, stunning vistas, eagles and salmon galore… oh, I could go on and on. Thanks to vrbo.com (Vacation Rental By Owner), AMEX points, and the crafty talent of relentless Internet searching by my daughter… this trip became a treasured lifetime event! Who would have believed it possible to fly round trip from NJ to AK for $10 and 10,000 points???? My daughter found a way!!! AWESOME!

I hit another milestone in my life… the big SIX-OH!!! I’m not worried however as I still am mistaken for much younger…. On a good day. A few weeks ago, while in the hospital waiting a medical procedure, I noticed the staff frantically searching for someone, or some thing. A nurse stopped suddenly in front of me, took a look at her clipboard, looked at my face, looked down at her papers again, looked back at me and questioned, “Mrs. Hunter?” “Yes”, I replied. “Oh, they must have your date of birth wrong. It says here you are 60 years old. I’ll make the change.” That made my day!

Family is HUGE in my life… and here too, the excitement just never took a rest. My oldest daughter moved across the US as her career Navy husband was stationed in San Diego, CA. My son, who also moved to the other far corner of the US in Seattle, announced his engagement. Not to be upstaged by her siblings, my other daughter and her hubby announced they are EXPECTING!! Oh what a wonderful and exciting year is still to come!

Thank you all for becoming a part of my life this year. I firmly believe we are who we are because of the people we meet, either in person or virtually. I know you have made an impact on me… and hope I have made one on you too (hopefully for the better).

Happy New Year everyone!!! May you all live every day to it’s fullest!

 

Deb

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!!!