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!!!

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).