Celebrate Your Passion: It’s National Hobby Month

Did you know that January is National Hobby Month? I don’t collect coins or play golf, but the more I pondered this topic, the more I realized that I’ve had multiple hobbies throughout my lifetime!

Photography has been a passion of mine ever since I received my first camera (Instamatic 110) for Christmas in the ‘60s! Over the years, I have loved taking photos at family birthday parties, reunions, weddings and sporting events. Both my dad and brother were avid runners. Wherever I lived, I always flew back to photograph them running in Boston, New York or Maine marathons. I delighted in assembling albums for them as remembrances of their special finishes and trophies!

While in college, I made candles during school breaks and summer vacations. I had specialty molds and scents to celebrate each season and occasion, and I carved custom names and messages on them to make each candle more personal. My favorites were the ones I created at the beach using sand and shells as my molds. I sold some, but mostly I just gave them as birthday, wedding, and housewarming gifts!

My grandfather was 90 years old when he built a martin birdhouse for me. Little did I know that this would be the start of a life-long hobby of collecting (or being the lucky recipient of) scores of unique birdhouses — churches, inns, cabins, cottages … even an outhouse!

When I was a young housewife living in California with my husband and two small children, my best friend (who also had two young children) and I formed a craft business, the Holiday Country Cottage Boutique. Our intent was to enable us to stay home with our children but earn enough cash through sewing, baking, knitting, painting, woodworking and sculpting to take our families on a mid-winter vacation to Hawaii.

Every morning, after our husbands left for work in downtown San Francisco, we would congregate at one of our houses. We would plan our menu for the week — beef stroganoff, chicken with rice, beef roulades, chicken or beef stew — with ingredients we could throw into a crock pot so that we didn’t have to worry about what we were having for dinner. Our older children attended grade school, so while the younger girls played, we frantically worked on our projects. It was a terrific concept — except I wasn’t the crafty type, and had to be taught everything. Poor Peggy — she never lost her patience, even when she was teaching me how to sew my first Christmas stocking. Her instructions were “to stitch around the stocking” and I did just that … including stitching the top shut!

My favorite part was taking the children on excursions to collect materials for our projects. I will always remember those warm, sunny days with light coastal breezes and the children running up the California hillsides collecting various dried flowers for our arrangements and wreaths.

After many months of working together, our holiday boutique was ready for viewing and shopping. After all our expenses were met, we cleared enough money to take our families to the Chicago-style pizza house in our hometown — a far cry from the “sun n’ surf” week we had hoped for in Hawaii! But the memories we have and the friendships we made will last a lifetime. Peggy and I are still best friends and so are our children, with children of their own who are becoming best friends, too!

While living in Lake Tahoe, I did not want for hobbies — snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the back country with our three dogs, mountain biking and hiking the Rim Trail – we’d do the five-mile ascent from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake, followed by 13+ miles of riding or hiking, concluding with a glorious descent into the Ponderosa Ranch (the setting for Bonanza). Another favorite hobby was sculling (rowing) on Lake Tahoe off King’s Beach at sunset.

Some hobbies that my granddaughter Reilly and I have discovered together over the years are building fairy houses on island trails in Maine, scouting for sea glass on Maine beaches, collecting seashells on Anna Maria Island, Fla., and scooping up fossilized sharks’ teeth at Caspersen Beach in Venice, Fla. Reilly and I have memories to treasure forever!

As I’ve experienced, hobbies can keep you motivated, aid in creative expression, improve your health and reduce your stress. Whether you’re engaging in it purely for fun or if you’ve managed to turn your hobby into a career, celebrate January by continuing to follow your passion — or by taking up a new one. All you need to do is figure out what excites you, and then go for it!

– Judi Bauer