Posted by: Shell | August 20, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

I can’t believe it’s already the end of August and I haven’t written anything all summer!

Well, maybe that’s a good thing. We’ve been busy and enjoying the summer.

From Katy’s Worship Dance Camp to the boys’ sailing camp at ODU… it’s been action packed.

So… what’s new on the craft scene?

I’ve finished three sweaters and am working on a 4th. Two are to donate. The other two are for Connor. I’ve also crocheted a guinea pig. Too cute.

Anyway, I’ve knit a Little Lamb sweater (pattern by Leisure Arts Precious Layettes), a 5 hour baby sweater (which is SUCH a lie. It ALWAYS takes longer than 5 hours ), and a guernsey. The guernsey was my first experiment in changing sizes (since this was for a 3 year old and it only goes to 24 months). I also knit it in wool.

I’d post pictures but my camera cord has gone into hiding. As soon as it comes back, I’ll post pictures of the knitting creations!

Posted by: Shell | June 3, 2009

A Kinder, Gentler New York

Hats off to you, Mr. Bloomberg!

Five years ago I went to New York. It was a depressing and aggravating trip. Typical rudeness, filthy, bums everywhere, and to top it off, we got stuck in the middle of the Puerto Rican Day parade (you may remember this on the news where women were being sexually assaulted in the middle of the parade.)

Street preachers yelled at passersby as they openly smoked pot, “You better change your ways before you blaze that haze!” My children can still recite that one. Sigh.

This last weekend was completely different. We stayed in Long Island and took the subway into Manhattan. I was apprehensive. My last subway trip was less than comforting. Addicts standing up to ask for money. Although, I have to admit that the one man who stood up and said, “I’m not going to lie to you. I need money for a drink.” got five bucks from me. I felt the same way after being on the subway for just 10 minutes.

This time, though, the subways were clean and devoid of panhandlers. A few stops had musicians playing for their supper. Saxophones playing soft jazz in the subway almost made it feel like a 1940 train ride. I looked around for Bogart.

The city was different too. Friendly New Yorkers saying hi and holding the door open for me. The kindness infected the subway system too where strangers were literally arguing over offering a seat to my children and me.

This infection seemed to carry into Central Park where street musicians asked my son and husband to play with them… and later, running into that same musician at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, the infection actually caused him to give us a free CD.

Things got really weird when the waiter at Carnegie Deli said he wasn’t charging us for “sharing”.

I started wondering if pod people had taken over. Even the taxi drivers were nice. SO nice in fact, that we DROVE in Manhattan.

With that said, I was glad to be home. New York, in all its splendor, is just too much input for me. Central Park was a needed refuge and I found myself mentally shutting down after being exposed to so much sound, lights, signs, smells (one thing that does need improvement, Mr. Bloomberg – the urine smell from the dogs and the homeless), and touches (people bumping into me.)

I needed the solace of home where I could control the input.

Even so, New York earned its title of “The City So Nice, They Named It Twice” this weekend.

We had a blast.

Posted by: Shell | April 16, 2009

Spring Has Sprung


It’s true what people say about me. I’m a Jill of All Trades but I’m master of quite a few. It’s very rare that I don’t succeed at something I set my mind to. That’s not conceit. That’s just how it happens for me. Positive thinking, timing, the Divine… all of them play a role.

Yes, I can conquer most tasks… most tasks, that is, except for gardening.

Where gardening is concerned, I am a total and complete failure. A black thumb. The aphid on the rose of life. Simply put, I suck at gardening.

This year will be different, though! I have my seedlings ready to go. Every seed I bought said, “Hard even for Shell to kill.” so I bought them. Several said, “Even when people like Shell forget to water me, I will grow.” I was sold!

I love to see people’s gardens. I love to watch them sprout from seeds into hardy plants that can actually sustain people. How amazing is that? How God-Like is it to “create” life? I can’t imagine how one couldn’t feel close to their Creator while gardening.

It was an envy I experienced for years. My neighbor brings me tomatoes, squash, even pears all with that sympathetic, “I’m sorry you can’t grow anything and how pitiful is it that when WWIII happens, you’ll have to eat other people.” look.

But not this year.LOOK! CUKES and PEAS!!!

This year the children are involved! I can’t fail if I have a TEAM, right? Right? RIGHT?

We started with newspaper planters that I found on Instructables

This was so easy that all the children helped out – even Connor who found great delight in filling the pots with dirt.

My hostas and wisteria – the only two things I can grow because I don’t
have to do anything. :o)
Posted by: Shell | April 3, 2009

Create Your Path

Things at my “normal job” are slow. Very slow. Policy changes are making it difficult to earn a living. My once filled classes are down to nothing and nothing equates to no pay.

So what do you do when life hands you lemons? Well, since I love lemons, I’m more likely than not to make a lemon cheesecake or lemon meringue pie.

When I’m full, I create my own path.

And so I did. I called a local establishment and asked them about teaching a class in flower making (out of icing) there. I was approached about this idea a couple of years ago but now it was time to revisit this idea. I was met with enthusiasm and excitement.

I was in shock.

Instead of naysaying my idea in my mind before I even called or filling myself with doubt, I just *did* it.

My challenge to all of you today is don’t think about what you want. Just get it. Don’t hesitate or overthink the situation. Don’t play out scenarios in your mind of what will happen when “they say no” or “they can’t help me”. Instead, talk as if it’s already yours…. it’s already done.

I never thought it would actually work but hey, we’re having lemonade for lunch.

Posted by: Shell | March 30, 2009

Every Story Under the Sun

I have to make a full disclosure here – my family includes law enforcement.

With that said, I need to express my feelings about the Moat’s incident.

I honestly cannot fault the officer and for the life of me, cannot understand why society at large is out for this officer’s blood.

Let’s really take this to the root of the issue. An NFL (National Felon’s League) player was demanding preferential treatment for breaking the law.

Here’s the fortunate thing – no one was killed when he ran a red light. No one in Moat’s car – no innocent bystander because of his reckless and illegal behavior.

He deserved to be pulled over and cited just like anyone else that breaks the law.

Let’s face it, people run red lights all of the time. I see the aftermath every day from someone’s accident because their “life” was so much more important than someone else’s. These offenders are often armed with a quiver full of excuses. “My wife’s in labor.” “I didn’t have time to stop.” and the ever popular “I have diarrhea.” People lie ALL OF THE TIME to get out of tickets. It’s just what our society does. I’m sure this officer has heard every excuse in the book and then some. Is it any wonder then, because we are a less than honest society, that he doubted the story?

A competent officer (and I believe this officer to be) investigates a story and moreover, investigates the person he has detained – that includes a warrant check and VIN check. If this innocent traffic stop had yielded a child molester just because he ran a red light, we’d have been singing this officer’s praises! Many violent offenders, drug lords, etc. are caught on simple traffic violations. That’s a fact, people.

I also find the hospital to be partially at fault in all of this. Encouraging a “speedy” trip to the hospital for final good-byes isn’t the brightest move to make… unless they’re hoping for more business.

While I sympathize with and offer my condolences to the family, it doesn’t make what Moat’s did any less illegal and potentially DEADLY.

Officer Powell should rest assured that many people support him and his decisions to follow protocol. He had no way of knowing if the situation was made-up or potentially volatile. I am sickened that he was made to apologize but I admire him for doing so.

The media has repeatedly found a way to vilify police officers who risk their lives to protect complete strangers every day.

This is one citizen who is sick of it. I challenge any of you who are critical of the police force to join and change it – of course, that would mean you’d be willing to take a bullet for me and every other stranger on the street.

It’s easier to curse the darkness than to light a candle though.

… yeah, I didn’t think you’d go for it either.

Posted by: Shell | March 10, 2009

Let them eat cake!

Thanks to Lydia Netzer, writer extraordinaire, there’s an article about my cake classes on

Lydia is doing cover stories about working homeschooling mothers (and fathers) and how they manage to work and homeschool at the same time.

I have to say, I love teaching my cake decorating classes at Michael’s. It’s the “Mommy Time” I need most nights and my students and I always seem to bond immediately.

At the risk of shamelessly plugging myself… if you’ve always wanted to learn to how to decorate cakes, it’s so much fun and it’s so easy. Those of you that know me personally, know that I love to make people laugh and this class is no exception.

While I always tease about starting the first night of class with icing all over my face just to see what the new students say, rest assured that we have fun in a professional and educational setting. We just giggle a lot while we do it.

In this economy, learning this one little skill is invaluable. You’ll never pay $35 or $40 (and up) for a sheet cake again. And almost all of my students go on to make cakes for other people so it’s a great side income!

What’s more, it’s so easy a child could do it which is a good thing because I teach classes for children too!

At any rate, it’s a nice night out and chocolate… what more could you want!

Posted by: Shell | March 7, 2009

To everything, there is a season…

When I was very little, my mother and her father had a falling out. I never really knew my grandfather because of that. A few years ago, my mother and her father reconciled and the family was technically united but the strain of not being part of his life for almost 20 years took a toll on how the relationship should have been.

Granddad is a wonderful man. Very funny. Very handsome. His looks are similar to Lorne Green… so much so that his boat was named “The Ponderosa”. Master of the martini, tells a joke with a twinkle in his eye. An all around good guy.

Two years ago he and my step-grandmother (affectionately known as “Granny Good Witch”) moved to West Palm, Florida.

Try as I might, I just don’t feel the familial connection with them that I should. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or care about them. It’s just that without the routine of talking to them, we never really reconnected.

A few nights ago, my mother told me that my step-grandmother let her know that my grandfather (all 6′ 3″ of him) was now bedridden with Alzheimer’s that was progressively getting worse. His mother had the same thing.

It is not lost on me that this is hereditary and that I should be doing things NOW to prevent being part of that chain. I already forbid drinks in cans (aluminum has been shown to cause Alzheimer’s.) I do word puzzles and keep my mind active to help keep it stimulated. Still, it’s in the back of my mind how cruel this disease is.

Today, my mother told me that his family said they’d be surprised if he lasted 24 hours. Such a quick strike.

I’m most concerned about my mother and what role guilt may play in his death for that long absence they shared.

When I asked about a funeral, my mother told me that he was donating his body to science. I was surprised because I have made arrangements for this for myself.

Hopefully, he can shed some light on this terrible disease.

I wonder if my Nana will be in Heaven waiting for him… complaining about that “damned boat.”

Posted by: Shell | March 2, 2009


I taught my son how to take pictures of snowflakes today.

Wanna’ know how?

Actually, it’s much easier than you think.

First, you’ll need a dark fabric. Black works the best but any dark color will do.

Next, put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. If you start with cold fabric, it makes it easier for the snowflakes to land and not melt right away.

Even if you don’t want to take pictures, this is a great way to study and admire them.

You’ll need to be a good 3 feet from the snowflakes unless you have a macro lens.

Remember, use your zoom. From there, you can use a photo program like Adobe Photoshop to enlarge it.

These are some examples of what you get:

It looks like jewelry, doesn’t it? Gorgeous! No wonder I love them so!

Posted by: Shell | March 2, 2009

Socks, Unity, Retro Soda, and Recycled Greenhouses

As you can tell by my title, I’ve got a touch of Shiny Object Syndrome this week.

Lots of things going on but we’ll start with socks.

I like sock knitting. It’s probably my favorite thing to knit but I have a confession to all the yarn snobs out there, I’ve only recently knitted with sock yarn. No, it’s true. I’ve been using worsted weight because it’s fast and I can whip them out in two days time.

Earlier this week, I decided to break out the size one needles (which are only slightly smaller in diameter than a toothpick for those of you that don’t knit) and the sock yarn which is well, thin and went at it. I started easy, though. Toddler socks.

I love making things for Connor. He’s just the most appreciative little boy in the world. If you tell him, “I like your socks!” He says, “Meshu! Mommy made it!” (Meshu is toddlerese for “Thank you.”)

Socks… yes… where was I? Two pairs of socks for Connor out of the way.

Next on the needles? I need to finish these tweed socks for Alan. They’ve been a UFO in my bag for over a year. Worsted weight, though. It should be easy.

That brings me to my newest knitting buddy – Kerri. Kerri’s son and my son play in our church band. It’s a groovy band. Her son (13, I think) plays AWESOME (like a hot dog) drums! This kid ROCKS! It’s fair to say he KICKS ASS on the drums. Beside him on lead guitar is my son, Jake. It’s been funny to hear parents tell me, “Wow, if I was a 13 year old girl.” My son’s a heart throb? Seriously? Him and the drummer may want to think about this band thing. :o) Enter, the girl singers. AMAZING vocals. 11, 15, and 19. BEAUTIFUL girls. Pretty is as pretty does. Wonderful family! Then there’s Alan (yes, hubby) on bass. He’s reliving his teenagehood. :0D On piano – John… another grown up and next to John on acoustic guitar? That’s Canda. She’s a joy to listen to and watch. You can just see that the music moves her.

Kerri has no guilt in knitting in church. I, on the other hand, am still trying to shed my great-grandmother’s adage, “For every stitch you do on Sunday, you take out 9 in HELL!” Really, that lost it’s scariness to me years ago. I’m queen of frogging it.

So… Unity Church. Wonderful place – concentrates on the positive message of Christ. I really like it there. “The Band” plays upbeat Christian music but a lot of pop music that’s appropriate to the message. Today was “Love Train”. Yes, the funky 1970 song featured on many an episode of Soul Train. I felt it my duty to buy fuzzy hats for everyone to wear and wild sunglasses. I mean, if you’re gonna’ funk, you gotta’ funk it up big.

The choir (that sings more traditional songs ) was in full form today too from what I hear.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to see it today. Connor had a 102 temp and was throwing up. That brings me to Coke. (See how it all relates? No red car here, my friends!)

Coke is something that’s a Southern staple when you’re sick. “You need some coCOla?” Something about the syrup being settling to the stomach. Now remember, we don’t do HFCS so it’s not something I’m happy about when it’s the only thing to settle one’s stomach. Never fear, though. If my thoughts are correct that the government is indeed monitoring my activity (that’s a joke… I think… ) Pepsi got wind of my anti-HFCS stance and now has “Pepsi Throwback” – a soda with pure cane sugar instead of HFCS! YAY! Hopefully, it’s not so sickening sweet.

Sweet… peas… peas… beans… beans… garden and now we’re up to recycled greenhouses! This is how my mind works, people… you gotta’ keep up!

Mother Earth News’ newsletter came to my e-mail box today and in it an idea for turning plastic containers (that hold things like fruit or salads from salad bars) into little greenhouses! How cool! Not having one, I realized I had two rotisserie chickens in plastic containers that would be PERFECT for starting some lettuce. Yay!

Tomorrow, we’ll be making newspaper planters for beans and little beds for lettuce. I’ve gotta’ do SOMETHING to get out of this Winter funk. 35 and sleet right now, my friends. 65 on Friday. It’s more than my brain can take.

If I don’t start seeing some new growth soon, I’m going to go crazy. Not that I have far to travel. :o)

I’ll post pictures of our progress – rest assured.

Posted by: Shell | February 15, 2009

K-Mart/Sears Rent A Cop Disaster

Where to start?

Valentine’s Day and my thoughts were of the great sushi dinner my husband was making, the brownies we’d be gobbling later, the chocolate bliss…

Not so fast.

I needed to grab something from the store so I went up to K-Mart (which also has a grocery store in it) on Military Highway in Norfolk, VA.

To start, this K-Mart is always a hassle. Long lines because out of 16 registers, usually only 3 are in service. It is not an exaggeration to say that you cannot just get a jug of milk and get out of there in less than 25 minutes. Tonight was no exception. Tayeda (the cashier) was on a personal phone call about where to find something in the house (next to the door to the laundry room we finally realized). She puts the caller on hold only long enough to bark the amount due and go back to her phone call.

No worries. I have sushi at home! Chocolate, even! No amount of teen angst is going to keep my from my nice dinner.

My eldest son, Jake, and I cheerfully discuss chocolate and its benefits. We discuss Joseph Schmidt truffles. We leave the store.

Normally, this is a feat in itself. Apparently K-Mart/Sears hasn’t gotten the memo that most thefts are done by the employees. Actually, the MAJORITY are. Leaving K-Mart requires your receipt and the K-Mart employee on duty to check out your groceries and compare it to the list. I’ve often wanted to buy $300 worth of condoms with a few bottles of Boone’s Farm thrown in just to see the reaction. The humiliation this causes as they prove I’m not a thief is more than my Libertarian stomach can handle.

But I digress.

Cheerfully, Jake and I walk to the car. Hop in. Start the car… nothing but clicks. UGH! This has been going on for a few weeks now – off and on. First we were told it was the battery. That checked out. Then, it was “the cold.” I’m guessing starter solenoid but I’m just a girl. What do *I* know? (she asks sarcastically)

Valentine’s Day is now starting to upset me greatly.

I try the ignition a few more times. Lights. Radio. Everything is working – but the starter.

click click click click click click click – like a machine gun with a silencer.

I lift the hood because we’ve all been taught that’s the sign for, “My car won’t start and I need someone with sense and compassion to help me out.”

I’m not amused. People walk by. I can hear a few of them say things like, “Damn, her car won’t start.” It’s all I can do not to yell out the window, “Really? Ya’ THINK?” Because about 40 people walk by and no one offers to help.

Click click click a few more times. It starts to turn over but then reverts to that clicking noise again.

At this point, I tell Jake, “Don’t worry. The security guard will drive by and see us and help.” Jake wants to eat too.

Well, I’m half right. The security guard drives by not once… but THREE times but he doesn’t stop.

Okay, hood’s up. He doesn’t even stop.

Thankfully, a good Samaritan does. We can’t get it started. I thank him and give him a box of Girl Scout cookies (that I have now bought for him) for being the only person to stop and help.

But wait! The security guard is just a few yards away! He has to see what’s going on. The Good Samaritan is in the middle of the road. That has to at least have gotten his attention.

Nope. The Samaritan makes sure I have someone on the way before he’ll leave. I assure him AAA is on the way (and they were but it’s Valentine’s Day and the wait is at one hour.) I thank him again and wish him good night.

I try a few more times to see if it miraculously wants to start because of the Divine Power of the Goddess Venus and her influence over this day… nope. Screw her.

By now I’m angry. I turn to Jake and shake my head.

Then, the fact that we’re in the 21st century hits me. I have a video camera!

At this point, the security guard has parked right across from me. I’m sure he’s now going to get out and help but as you’ll see in the video, he doesn’t.

I sit in the car with my son with no heat for almost 45 minutes. Shift change with the security guards and the new security guard gets ready to get into the parked car and looks over at me. I’m so jaded at this point, I’m sure he won’t come over to me. I start wondering if maybe they’re not ALLOWED to help people like this. Maybe their only job is to keep people out of the fire lane.

But just then, Mr. Davis (the new security guard on duty) comes over to me and asks, “Are you alright Ma’am? Do you need any help?” Faith in humanity restored.

I tell Mr. Davis about his predecessor’s lack of compassion and my shock that he drove by me 3 times AND looked at me as he could hear me try to start the car but not be able to and then WALK AWAY.

Mr. Davis remained professional. (God Bless him!) He apologized for my troubles, laughed at my sarcastic comments in a good-humored way, and got his own car to help jump mine. (I know many companies won’t let the security guards use the “company car” to do this.) As we worked together, I noticed he was missing part of his right arm. A further look at his car showed me he was also a military man. Iraqi War wound? Is he doing this piddly job because Uncle Sam isn’t paying him enough to stay alive? I am so thankful for this man on so many levels that I lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing.

Mr. Davis managed to get my car started. In my not so humble opinion, this man should be recognized for picking up the slack of his co-worker who couldn’t bother to see if I was okay or whether or not I needed assistance.

Mr. Davis gets a box of Samoas and my never-ending thanks for being polite, helpful, cheerful… maybe he was a Boy Scout too.

I’ve never spent $3.50 more enthusiastically in my life.

And K-Mart/Sears and Securitas?

Here’s the license plate number and car number of the officers on duty tonight.

I don’t know the name of the first work-a-brickle (lazy good-for-nothing) but Mr. Davis should be in management. You’re missing out on having a good man in a place where he’s appreciated and acknowledged.

Mr. Davis? Tonight, you’re my special Valentine.

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