Have Sewing Machine… Will Travel

Two weeks ago I found myself in an odd predicament. I had to make an emergency purchase… of a sewing machine! Really! Who does that??? Who wakes up in a panic and runs out to purchase a new machine? Me… apparently.

Since sewing comes as naturally to me as breathing… I take on a few projects to help make ends meet. I was working on a very large project when I realized I was running out of time. Although the deadline was a few weeks away, I had a flight to catch to the west coast in two days… and this project would not be finished by then. My brain went into ‘think outside the box mode’ to figure out how to possibly get the project finished AND make my flight.

Checking with the airline on the cost to switch my flight made me gasp for air! I didn’t pay that much for the original ticket!!! I rationalized I could always take the project with me, finish it out there on the opposite coast, and FedEx it back to the client with a few days to spare. This plan would work, as long as I had a sewing machine at my destination.

My sewing machine is too heavy and too large to take as carry on… and there was no way I was going to allow the baggage handlers to toss it around. Visions of my machine arriving on the carousel in tiny pieces… held together by shipping tape danced through my head… knowing that marking a bag ‘fragile’ ensures it will be thrown across the tarmac and run over by a baggage cart, and that’s AFTER elephants stepped on it and gorillas played with it.

Knowing there was a sewing machine I could use at the other end of my travel, I happily packed yards and yards of fabric and all my sewing notions in my suitcase, instead of my clothing and toiletries. Eh… who needs all those outfits any way? I can always wash and re-wear.

suitcase filled with sewing

With a plan in motion… I set out on my trip. The first day was spent getting situated instead of sewing. No big deal… I would get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and be ready to go. That’s exactly what I did! I woke up, had a good breakfast, pulled out all of my sewing supplies, set up the loaner sewing machine, sat down at the machine, positioned my fabric under the needle, reached for the knob on the right to set my stitch… and THAT’s when I noticed I had a problem. This particular machine was designed for a beginning seamstress. I should have known, because I purchased it for my daughter-in-law as a gift two years ago. It doesn’t have the ability to do the more advanced sewing I need to do on this project. Crap!!! There’s also no way to ‘fudge’ it either.

The only viable solution I could come up with… was to purchase a machine that would do what I needed. Seriously… that was the only way out of this mess. With time (or lack there of) a huge factor, I drove to the closest sewing and vacuum shop according to Google… AFTER checking my bank balance to see what I could afford. It was there, at Quality Sewing and Vacuum in Northgate, Wa that I met the most wonderful sewing machine sales associate EVER… Esther! She listened to my plight… and showed me the best machine for my project and abilities in addition to a lesser model… giving me options.

I’ll be honest… I have been saving for a new sewing machine since my ‘work horse’ is beginning to hiccup. However… the one I have my heart set on is over $1,000. THAT was NOT happening this day. Oh no! Not only was it not in the budget, it is overkill for what I needed at the moment. So… confidently throwing down my debit card at the register, I purchased a new machine. But the story doesn’t end here.

I went back to the house, and finished the project. It was the perfect machine and ran like a dream… but I wasn’t happy. I already have 3 perfectly decent machines at home. One is a vintage Singer Featherweight (I hear all you quilters drooling), another is a Baby Lock on a mid-arm frame (for quilting), and the ‘work horse’ commonly known as a Janome Quilter’s Companion, which is over 20 years old, only speaks German and it sews everything I push under the needle. So you see, I didn’t really need another machine. AND… if I were to purchase a new machine… it would replace the Janome. This new one doesn’t even compare. Sigh.

So here I am… a bit ticked that I spent $400 of my accumulated cash on a machine I don’t really need, all because I didn’t plan ahead appropriately, AND now have the same problem of getting it across the US to the opposite coast. as I did originally. Double sigh!

But wait!!! A silver lining appears (that’s actually a pun as Esther’s last name is Silver). One of the selling features of this particular machine is that it is small enough to be considered ‘carry on’ for the airlines! Whoopie! I begin the hunt for a padded bag to protect it as I stuff it in the overhead compartment. No luck. As much as I abhor shopping online as opposed to shopping local, I had no choice. Thanks to Amazon I found the perfect bag. I ordered it on a Sunday evening… and it arrived at my door on Wednesday morning… 15 minutes before I had to leave for the airport. Phew! That was cutting it close!

Purple Sewing Machine Bag

I’m a bit happier now… as this machine is perfect for traveling! Not only on planes, trains, and automobiles across the country… but to sewing retreats, quilting classes, and clients homes if necessary. In the end… it was the PERFECT choice.

My savings for a larger, more stable and sturdy machine that actually speaks English and has a large harp to fit quilts through, is back to zero. Honestly, it’s in the negative… but that only makes me work harder to earn enough for the machine I REALLY want!

Afterall… a girl can always dream.

Here’s a sneak peek of ‘the project’. A professional photo shoot will be available in late October of the entire project… along with another similar project. Both are absolutely ADORABLE!


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!



Hindsight 2013 – Travel

I did a bunch of traveling this past year. Some was obligatory, some was work related, and some was for pure fun. All of it was exciting.

In addition to simply ‘running away from home’… I like to explore new places and see new things… especially in the USA. Drive, fly, bike, or walk… makes no difference to me… as long as I get to see something new.

Thanks to friends and family I was able to travel like royalty, staying in the best places… yet on a pauper’s bank roll. I don’t personally own a timeshare, yet I benefit as some owners received bonus weeks, and others simply couldn’t use all their allotted time… which they generously passed on to me as long as I paid the exchange rate.

All in all I had a wonderful time wherever I went. However… I learned I really dislike traveling by myself. I am not shy… not by any stretch of the imagination, and easily make conversation wherever I go. While in an Arizona bar I struck up a conversation with a local couple, who told me about all the ‘off the beaten path’ places I HAD to see. One of them was a hiking trail up to a strong vortex. As I parked the car in the lot I noticed another single female walking towards the trail and offered to ‘buddy up’ with her. She was thrilled. It turned out this was her first hike since her knee surgery. She kept me moving!!! When things got tough climbing I would remind myself, “If she can do it with her recovering knee… then so can I!”

After the hike we parted ways. I continued on to phase two of the beautiful day the local couple laid out for me. I was to go to a specific roof top bar at sunset, named View 180… grab a Prickly Pear Margarita and watch as the red rocks BLAZED themselves to sleep. OH! What a spectacular sight!!! Just an hour before I was climbing those very rocks… and now I was watching as they turned every shade of red, maroon, and purple. AWESOME!

There was no one to share this experience with. I was the only one in the place… well, except for the wait staff. I decided right there and then that I HATED traveling by myself. Yes, I would remember this sight for as long as I live… but the ‘people person’ side of me wanted so desperately to share this moment with someone.

2014 is filling fast with travel plans… but all trips have a purpose and a travel buddy, or at the very least someone to visit at the other end. I just won’t be taking any trips to vacation destinations by myself any time soon.