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