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Taste Testing Monster

Thank you so much to all of you who have supported me throughout these past few years! You may be here because you read my new book, Amateur Beef Stew. If so, welcome. Thank you for purchasing my book. Thank you for visiting my sight. As promised in my book, here are my favorite flavors of Hershey Kisses, Kit Kats, Oreos, and M&Ms. I tried to put them in order of favorites to least favorites, but that was not as easy as it sounds.

What are your favorite flavors? What else have you taste tested?

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Wine & Paint Night = New Clock Designs

A good friend of mine retired from the Coast Guard and decided to move to Florida. Before the move, his wife wanted to do a wine and paint night with me. The scene we painted was a palm tree on an island during sunset. The night started out really fun. I enjoyed painting the sun and spending time with my friend’s wife. The longer the night went on, though, the more my anxiety crept up, especially when I started on the palm tree. I could not figure out how to make my leaves look good. The more I tried, the more of a mess I was making. My friend’s wife was having a great time and her picture looked really good. I stopped painting my picture and just enjoyed watching her and our conversation.

After we were finished, we looked at all the other paintings. Some ladies painted their pictures exactly like the instructor had (and as I tried). Other ladies used different colors or added things to their paintings. One lady used blue for the background and added a cat, if I remember correctly. My friend’s wife and I took a picture of us with our paintings and then went out to dinner.

I had a fun night and kept the painting and moved on with my life….until…a few months later, a co-worker asked me to design a clock for his wife. The way my co-worker described the clock he wanted sounded almost like the painting I did during wine night. He described it slightly differently, though, and being a new artist, I tried to give him exactly what he wanted. When that didn’t work out (who saw that coming?!?), I painted what I originally wanted to paint. My co-worker loved it. More importantly, his wife loved it.

I made a few more clocks and even some signs similar to that design and then I decided to do an art swap with a friend of mine. This time I wanted to do the exact painting we did during wine night. Alas, I cannot paint palm trees. I don’t remember what the joke was, but we did have an inside joke involving mushrooms. I improvised and he loved it.

All clocks and signs are available on this website.

For My Co-Worker’s Wife


The night that started it all

Nick’s Clock (no palm tree)

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How To Crack Paint

The amount of glue you use and how you spread it on will determine how big or small your cracks are. The thinner, more evenly you put it on, the smaller, more even your cracks will be.

The glue should be tacky-ish when you start painting over it. If the glue is too wet or you don’t use enough paint, the paint will mix with the glue. You want the paint to be on top of the glue. It may seem too thick the first time you do it. Just wait for it to dry.

It does not take long for the paint to start cracking. Once your thick layer has been applied on top of the glue, do not paint over it again because it is cracking.

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Event’s Calendar

HJH Designs will have a booth at the following events:

  • August 9, 2019: Art Walk Down Town Mobile, 6-9 pm, Pat’s Downtown Grill, 271 Dauphin St, Mobile
  • September 13, October 11, November 8: Same as above (2nd Friday every month)
  • September 8, 2019: The Market at the Pillars, 12-4, 1757 Government St
  • September 12, 2019: Antique Emporium Maker’s Market Sip & Shop, 4-8, 2601 Emogene St
  • October 10, November 14, December 12: Same as above (2nd Thursday every month)
  • September 21-22, 2019: Abba Shrine Craft & Attic Show, 7701 Hitt Rd
  • Saturday: 9-5
  • Sunday: 10-4

September 29, 2019: Riders 4 Riders Summer Passport Party, 10-6, 10950 Dauphin Island Parkway

November 2, 2019: Environmental Studies Center Arts & Crafts Open House, 9-3, 6101 Girby Rd.

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Door Prize Donation

The Doris Marie Jones Foundation was founded by Gina Scott after caring for her mother with Alzheimers. The Foundation’s Mission Statement is “To assist Alzheimer’s Caregivers by providing Educational Awareness, Health and Fitness Initiatives and Supportive Service activities, enhancing the quality of life for individuals impacted along the Gulf Coast Area.”

The Foundation will be presenting a Rocking for Alzheimer’s Caregivers Summit and Shop Til You Drop Shopping Spree on October 5, 2019 at The Grounds in Mobile, Alabama. For more information visit or call 251-533-6092.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to have a booth at this event. I wanted to support this fantastic cause, though. Caregivers are truly angels. Caring for someone else requires a lot of time, energy, love, and patience. Sometimes a Caregiver needs a little boost or support. I’m incredibly happy that these specific Caregivers have that boost and support at their finger tips.

The color purple is associated with Alzheimer’s awareness. I donated a 10×10 purple Broken But Beautiful clock to be used as a door prize at the event. I hope whoever receives the clock is empowered by it no matter what they may be going through in their own life. I also hope for a large turn out at the event and that the Foundation and Caregivers receive the funds they need to continue on with their mission.

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Veteran Vendors

I moved back to Mobile, Alabama in February of this year (2019). I purchased my very first house from a Retired Coast Guard Chief and friend. After purchasing the house and getting settled in, I contacted an accountant so I could turn HJH Designs into a business instead of a hobby and start selling at local events instead of in consignment shops. The first place I went to was the Mobile Flea Market because I remembered it from when I lived here before. The Flea Market is great and I met some really nice people, but it isn’t necessarily the best place for an artist to sell art–at least not in May. Through networking and Facebook I was very fortunate to find the Antique Emporium’s Maker’s Market at Sip & Shop. The Antique Emporium is located downtown Mobile on Emogene St and the second Thursday of every month they put on the Maker’s Market. Local Makers set up outside along the sidewalk and in the parking lot and you can find products from my clocks, signs, and frames, to baked goods, spices and salsa, jewelry, CBD products and more. “Our Sip & Shops always promise a fun night. We have refreshments, give door prizes every 30 minutes, and love to make new friends! Our 60+ indoor vendors like to run nice discounts on their antique/vintage booths for the evening. It’s truly worth the visit!”

My anxiety always acts up before a new event. I get nervous about traffic and parking, setting everything up, what the weather will be, etc. I always try to think about the event I’m at and choose my products that I think will sell the best at that particular event. Since last month (June) was both Pride month and Father’s Day, I tried to make a lot of rainbow and military products. I also brought a small assortment of other things to try to show off my diversity. The Antique Emporium does a good job of advertising on social media and I tried to share their posts as well as my new products.

The afternoon of the event, I showed up and introduced myself. Since I did not have a tent, it was suggested that I set up on the sidewalk under the awning, just in case it rained. I was incredibly fortunate to set up next to Vee Jackson of Vee’s Vintage Sweets. Well, fortunate and unfortunate. Vee is an Air Force Veteran and is extremely kind. We talked and got to know each other and she gave me some business advice. Unfortunately, I had to see/smell/hear about her sweets all night!! I tried her pralines and o.m.g. they are delicious!! I also brought a strawberry cuppie at the very end of the night and that was fantastic, as well.

On the other side of Vee was Mad Dawg’s BBQ Sauce. I actually saw them at another event, but did not have the chance to introduce myself. Mad Dawg’s is owned and operated by two Marine Veterans, Phillip and Cullen. That night they happened to be double booked, so Phillip’s mom was running the booth the first couple of hours. She is a hoot!! Incredibly smart and witty, she charmed everyone into trying the BBQ Sauce and then buying a bottle. She talked to Vee and I about Phillip joining the Marine Corps and his deployments and what it was like for her as a Mother. I could tell that it was hard, but that she was also incredibly proud of her son. Later Phillip arrived and I was introduced to him. He talked about some of his goals for his BBQ Sauce/business and also gave me some new Facebook pages to follow to find out about more events.

I sold a couple of signs, including one to Vee for her man for Father’s Day, but more than the sales, I was so happy to meet some fellow Veteran Vendors and be able to share our experiences with each other. I am incredibly thankful for their advice as I am starting my business; it is truly invaluable. The other vendors were also really nice and I enjoyed meeting them and seeing their products. I had a really hard time not buying anything. I kept telling myself I was there to make money, not spend it. I’m fairly certain, though, that I will be purchasing some wood flowers from the lovely Jacqueline McMillan (Love by JM). Her story is inspiring and her creations are amazing. (Read more here:

After the event in June, I was positive I wanted to participate in the Maker’s Market Sip & Shop again, but I wasn’t sure about July and August. The summer months are extremely hot and don’t have any significant holidays where one would purchase a gift for someone. I’m not sure how well I will do and I have to weigh the cost of the event against my potential profits. At the same time, I knew Vee was going to be back and Phillip was considering it, and it was a fun night, regardless of sales. My personal desires were fighting against my good business sense until I got an email from Caroline and Nancy from the Antique Emporium saying that they were working on a post for their Veteran Vendors and asked for a short paragraph and photo of me in uniform so they could include me. My heart leaped out of my chest. What a wonderful opportunity to get my name out there! And to be grouped with such amazing other Veteran Vendors. I almost don’t feel worthy. Almost.

Write a short paragraph about yourself. A short paragraph. Oh boy. How do you sum up 12 years of your life? What do I want people to know? What is interesting about me or my time in service? And I don’t want to give too much away because my book should be coming out at the end of the year. I thought about OS A-School graduations and the introductions for the guest speakers. I wrote my paragraph trying to copy those. I had the years I served, where I served, and what I did. Then I talked about my art. When I emailed Caroline and Nancy back, I told them to feel free to edit the paragraph if they needed to. I also paid to participate in July’s Sip & Shop.

The beginning of this month the Antique Emporium posted their Veteran Vendor’s post. I am speechless. This is truly a huge blessing for me and I’m fighting my anxiety and insecurities telling myself I am worthy enough to be included in this–not that it can really be taken back at this point.

For July I have decided to feature most of my clocks with wine corks. The event is a Sip & Shop, so it seems appropriate. I will also have a few signature clocks or signs and maybe a patriotic thing or two. This morning I painted two boards white and I’m typing this as I wait for the paint to dry. My plan is to come up with two more wine designs specifically for this event–although I will say that one design was suggested by a former Sprout’s co-worker a little while ago. I’m very excited to meet more vendors and people at the event in July. I’m excited to see what will come out of their Veteran Vendor post. I fully intend to use the page they made for me to advertise in the future! There really just aren’t enough words to say how thankful I am for everything that this event has offered me so far! I hope to see all of you there!!

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Northern Florida’s Best Beach

In February of 2019 I moved from Rohnert Park, California to Mobile, Alabama. I loved California but I could no longer afford to live there after I got out of the Coast Guard. I was stationed in Mobile from 2009-2014, so I know the area. I also still have a lot of friends in the area. After I purchased my house, wrote my book, and turned HJH Designs into a sole proprietorship, it was time to explore the beaches down here and relax for a little while!!

There are 100s of sand dollars on the beaches along the Gulf Coast, but most of them are broken. My first few trips to Dauphin Island and Orange Beach I was kind of disappointed. The sand is white and the water is warm. I really enjoyed the views and swimming. I did not swim in the cold waters in California. But my other favorite part of going to the beach is finding sand dollars and I just wasn’t finding any.

Then I remembered something. When I was stationed here, us Coasties referred to Navarre Beach as “Florida’s Best Kept Secret” Most people travel to either Pensacola or Destin when they travel to Northern Florida and want to see the beach. Navarre is in between the two popular destinations and is just as awesome, but way less crowded/tourist-y. I almost do not want to write this post because I don’t want all of you checking it out while I’m enjoying the serenity of it!! But I have chosen to spill the beans, hoping that when y’all do come, you won’t come all at once.

Driving into Navarre I could already feel my heart rate slowing down and my anxiety ceasing. The sky was blue with some beautiful, white, fluffy clouds. It was a yellow flag day but the seas were fairly calm. It was hot and humid and the water felt like bath water!! I was in heaven!! BUT…the sand dollar situation seemed to be the same as Dauphin Island and Orange Beach…until I spotted a “baby” sand dollar. It was so small, about the size of a quarter, but it was perfect. I was so excited!!

I visited a couple more times. I kept looking for the “baby” sand dollars instead of bigger ones. One day I went and the seas were crazy. It was a red flag day and the water was closed to the public. I didn’t have much fun. BUT the next day was a yellow flag day, again, and TONS of shells had washed up onto the beach!! I was so excited that day.

I decided since I was on the Gulf Coast again and now own my house, I should make a new special clock with Gulf Coast Sand Dollars. I paid to have a picture I took at Navarre on a piece of wood. I then glued some flat shells at 12, 3, 6, and 9 and my “baby” sand dollars for the rest of the hours. The new clock is in my bathroom and now you know Florida’s best kept secret!!

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Weight Out

I joined the Coast Guard in July, 2005 after three years of trying to lose weight, being medically fit, and overcoming fears of leaving home. During the first few years I was in, I thought about writing a book several times. Life was good. My units were awesome. I could write a motivational book about working through your fears, never giving up, and ultimately achieving your dream and becoming successful.

Then I reported onboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon, and I saw the dark side of the Coast Guard. I went from proactive and excited to isolated and depressed. I didn’t have anyone to turn to and was afraid if I asked for help, my situation would only get worse. I struggled with my weight and was on the “fat boy” program a couple of times. My health started to fade. I was diagnosed with acid reflux and PMDD.

After a transfer season, life got better. In my next two units, life was good again. But my struggles with my weight and health/hormonal issues were far from over and ultimately lead to my discharge in April, 2018.

It is now the beginning of 2019. A friend of mine suggested I still write a book. She suggested I write short stories and poems to describe the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not only was she hoping for success for me sales-wise, but she also thought telling my story would be therapeutic for me.

So here it is. My story. My journey.  I’m proud of how hard I fought to get into the Coast Guard. I’m proud of the 12.5 years I did. I have many success stories to share with you. I have many friends all over the country that I’m honored to know and call friends and say that I served with. I’m equally as thankful to be out of the Coast Guard. To be done with the weight program. To be on track to becoming healthy again.

My first book, Weight Out, is currently being edited and will hopefully be published by the end of 2019!!

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Who do I look up to / respect the most and why?

I can’t answer this specific question. Because there are people who I “should” respect or who think I do respect them and I most certainly do not. Although I guess I respect them enough not to publicly make it known I don’t respect them. And for the ones I do respect (there is no way in hell I could ever narrow it down to JUST one), I would start listing them and inevitably forget someone. Which again, would lead to hurt feelings or bad relationships and I’m not into that.

So, instead, I have thought about everyone I do respect and why I respect them. And I have put together a list of qualities that I respect:

I respect someone who is honest. Someone who does what they say they are going to do. Someone who admits when they are wrong. Someone that will tell you things you don’t want to hear.

Piggy backing off that last statement, though, I respect someone who tells you at the right time and with love.

I respect someone who sees potential in other people and somehow knows how to walk the magical line between pushing them past their comfort zone but respecting them, their wishes, and their space.

I respect someone who, even at their breaking point, does not resort to yelling, name calling, or intentionally hurting someone just because they are pissed off.

I respect someone that helps other people out by helping them help themselves.

I respect a leader who takes the time to know their people and who defends their people—no matter who they are defending them against.

I respect someone who has hard lines / personal boundaries. It doesn’t make much difference to me what those lines/boundaries are. I respect someone who, for example, says they don’t drink. And no matter what setting they are in, no matter what peer pressure there is, no matter what kind of day they are having, they don’t drink.

I respect someone who can see the bigger picture.

I respect leaders/bosses/authority figures that are fair.

I respect people who try to bring out the best in other people.

I respect people who put in the work to make it to the top. And once at the top, are still willing to do the jobs of those below them, when/if needed.

I respect people who know and can admit when they are in over their head.

I respect anyone who asks for help.

I respect anyone fighting any kind of disease or mental illness and gets up every single day and attempts to be a better person than they were the day before.

I respect people who are raw, real, genuine, sincere, and who are not afraid of being vulnerable.

I respect people that are polite to waiters/waitresses, cashiers, customer service agents, etc

I respect people that tip well.

I respect people that take a genuine interest in other people and make them feel like they are important and valuable.