Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sun is shining. Weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet. – Bob Marley

The weather here on the Gulfcoast of Florida has been spectacular. Brilliant sunny skies & a  nice cool breeze. I know this because my job takes me outside the building and into the parking lot to unlock the propane cage for customers to purchase their refill. While I am waiting for said customer to navigate the parking lot to the propane cage I stand in the blazing sun gazing into the blue sky  wondering to myself  why I didn't call in to work and just ditch this place for the beach today? Then I remember...Oh, ohhhh,  I am a responsible adult with bills to pay...that's why, big duh! 

It doesn't help that all the customers are shopping in beach clothes flaunting their sunburns, flip flops & cute beach cover-ups. I'm on work day #7 with 3 more to go. I tell you what...the beach bag is packed, the legs are shaved and Thursday morning I am Sanibel bound to the Shell Show & the sand bar. 

Here's a bunch of crazy beach goers. I first posted about flash mobs back in December. Flash mobs are a social phenomenon that started popping up here & there about 5 years ago. You see them globally now. A well rehearsed group of dancers or people with a plan plant themselves among unsuspecting normal people in a public place. They pop up & sneak attack/perform their song or some other group performance art like just standing still like a statue. When it ends, they all go back to what they were doing like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile onlookers stare in disbelief while their brains go tilt and try to grasp what has just happened.  IT'S AWESOME!!   This one will put you in the mood for springtime & the beach.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. ~Emily Post

The Eleven Basic Rules of Shelling Etiquette 

by Jan McSween
 (borrowed from the Sarasota Shell Club's December 2010 newsletter)

1.) Shell by yourself. Solo shelling means more for you.

2.) If you must shell with a companion, walk in opposite directions.

3.) If you must shell with a companion and walk in the same direction, walk faster than your shelling companion.

4.) If you must shell with a companion and walk in the same direction at the same speed, observe the 6-ft. radius rule (also known as Shelling Circles) to ensure the equitable distribution of finds. Anything within six feet of you (in any direction) is yours. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the same goes for your companion. This necessitates maintaining a minimum distance of 12 feet from your shelling companion at all times.

5.) If you notice something of interest in your companion’s shelling circle which he/she seems to have overlooked, you may want to:
a. Be polite and point it out to your companion
b. Be sneaky and wait until your companion has moved more than 6 feet away from it, then casually saunter over to collect it (nonchalance is essential when employing this tactic) or…
c. grab the item in question from under your companion’s nose. With this tactic you stand a good chance of losing a friend, or (in the event your quarry happens to be a Junonia), an appendage. Deservedly so.

6.) Any shells outside your respective shelling circles are fair game, and the first person to touch these items with his or her toe (Benediction of the Big Toe) gets first refusal. Likewise, shouting, “I don’t know what that is, but I saw it first!” earns the shouter first
refusal. However, shouting this phrase after your companion is already en route to deliver a toe benediction earns you nothing but a poor shellsmanship award.

7.) When shelling at a dredge pipe with other shellers, DO NOT jump in front of the other shellers to grab things shooting out the pipe. Doing so sanctions any punitive actions taken by the other shellers – up to and including the use of force to place your head in the pipe.

8.) If your companion finds a particularly outstanding shell, offer congratulations. DO NOT say, “I saw it first.” Do not whine, pout, or behave like a two year old. Under no circumstances should you attempt to steal it.

9.) If YOU find a particularly outstanding shell, count your blessings and thank the Universe for sending
it your way. DO NOT jump up and down while yelling, “Yippy!” or “YES!” or “So THERE!” Doing so is a great (and very quick) way to make people hate you. There
is one – and only one – exception to this rule:
“OH MY GOD I FOUND A JUNONIA!” is acceptable. Another benefit of solo shelling is the ability to yell whatever you darn well please.

10.) Do not offer to “share” multiples of your shells with other shellers. You will forget making the offer, but they will not.

11. ) Enjoy the process of finding, and revere each find – perfect or otherwise – for the miraculous creation it is.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give. ~George MacDonald

"Aunt Karen, let's pay the toll for the car behind us" said my niece Pookie as we were crossing the Sunshine Skyway some years back. I gave her the look.  You know, the facial expression we give a younger,  more naive person that has never been ripped off or taken advantage of. They don't know yet what it is like to dig through your purse for the change at the bottom to pay a toll or have to budget every dime to make ends meet because your spouse lost his job. 

If you read the newspapers & listen to the news enough your hand starts closing even tighter around what you do have regardless of the amount whether it is a little or alot . Unfortunately your heart is right behind it. Open heart - open hand. Closed heart - closed hand. So I determined years ago that I wanted an open heart so I keep my hands open too. 

 My favorite way to give to others is what I like to call drive-by blessings.  That's when you leave something that someone needs on their doorstep in secret. I drive up, sneak whatever it is - groceries, clothes, or gift cards onto their porch and drive off without getting caught.  Woo Hoo! The next time you see them, you hear them excitedly talking about how somebody dropped off whatever it was that they needed and how God blessed them.  Now that's fun. 

 It was also fun when a fellow blogger mentioned her shell supply was getting low & I offered to send her a shell care package. She was thrilled and wrote a very sweet blog about the gift. But the story keeps going.  You see once you get into the cycle of giving you start receiving. You can't help it. Giving is seed you plant in the ground of someone's life. The seed you plant is not limited to money or things.  You can plant friendship, love, a big hug or just a smile. But it will come back to you.  You will reap a crop sooner or later. 
Rhonda said "Forgive the baby box!" - Hey, I think that's good recycling.

My excitement is growing - what in the world is this?

Out came the prettiest pillow decorated with shells.  

My eyes filled with tears as I realized they were my shells.  Blogger friend Rhonda of Blue Creek Home  had used a picture from my blog.

My Sanibel finds from a recent post

The shell detail is exquisite along with the tiny starburst stitching.

Even Rhonda's card is a work of art

The prose on the pillow reads:

"Come walk with me along the sea where dusk sits on the land
And search with me for shells are free, & treasures hide in the sand"

At the end of the day it's really quite simple (although the religious experts want to make it complicated) Love God & love people. Works for me.

      Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” Dale Carnegie (American lecturer, author, 1888-1955)

Shelling & beach combing are like any other hobby or interest. There are different levels that one can pursue. There is the casual sheller that is oblivious to whether or not the tide is high or low, the moon full or new, or the pretty brown speckled shell they just picked up is a 1 in a 1,000 find. 

The next level - the serious sheller has equipment - shell shovel, mesh bags, & aqua shoes. Names like tellin, donax, & murex just roll off the tongue. Mean low tides are celebrated with the enthusiasm of Mardi Gras as the parade of shellers head to the beach. I would liken it to a person who starts drinking wine. You like that nice little California Chardonnay but you sense there must be more. After attending a few wine tastings you discover the regions of Italy & France and all the little vineyards they don't sell in Publix.  Then one day you read your first copy of the magazine Wine Spectator and you start to develop skills of nose & legs that have nothing to do with your own body.

 Just like a wine connoisseur would go to a wine tasting - serious shell lovers gather together also in shell clubs. There are shell clubs all over the state of Florida.  We have some of the finest right here in SWFL. Most shell clubs have monthly meetings that feature a speaker on a shelling subject or some other interesting shell-related topic. They go on cool field trips to places like Sanibel, Marco Island, local fossil pits, & faraway places too. They bring shellcrafters together. Shell clubs are also a great place to share your new shell specimens & to help with their identification. Shell clubs each have their own club shell.
My local Englewood Shell Club has the Lightning Whelk

The Sarasota Shell Club  has Beau's Murex
Speaking of the Sarasota Shell Club they just had their annual shell show this last weekend. Their yearly shell show brought together the artistry of the shellcrafter & the science of the specimen collector.  There were also lots of vendors with shells & shell collecting related items for sale. 
The Sarasota Shell Club members collected, cleaned, & bagged 1,500 little shell favors to give to each attendee.

The frame to the left lists every item on this wrack wreath

Somebody was very busy picking up coquinas

Oodles of miniature shell flower arrangements for sale. Most were only 5 or 6 dollars.

Love the flip flops

No shell show is complete without the Sailor's Valentine

President Ron Bopp of the Sarasota Shell Club
Twenty Beautiful Shells display by Ron Bopp
Ron bought these shells for $1 each at last year's show in a grab bag box

I struck up a conversation with a very nice fella who was telling me all about the mission of the Sarasota Shell Club.  Turns out he is the President.  Ron Bopp moved to Sarasota from Oklahoma. He has a love for shells which brought him to the club. He had entered 3 exhibits in the show. His winning exhibit "What Can You Get For $20 Dollars" posed the question & answered with "a meal at Applebee's or a dvd of Sex in the City ?", 20 beautiful shells and an unequealed education. He had bought 20 shells at the previous year's shell show in a grab bag box for $1 each. He  turned those shells into a display for this year's shell show.  His other exhibit was fossil shells sawn in half with a bandsaw & their pictures tweaked on a photoshop computer program to look like x-rays. 

A shell lover with power tools & a photo shop program - unstoppable
Amazing displayof a personal collection of snails
A collection from the beaches of Longboat Key
These are all mini's. Each bottle holds tiny little perfect miniature shells
Guady asaphis from the Bahamas
The profits from the shell show are given to various marine research institutions & projects such as Mote Marine Laboratory, the Carefree Learner, and projects by New College & other students in the Sarasota area

If you are like me, finding the time to join any club is a challenge. But all of the shell clubs offer a wealth of resources through their newsletters which are located on their respective websites.  You also get access to their libraries of shell reference books with your membership fee. You can still learn more about shells even if you cannot attend the meetings.

Great news.There are more shell shows coming to SWFL.  The St Pete Shell Club is having their annual show Feb 26 & 27. The 74th Annual Sanibel-Captiva Shell Fair & Show will be held March 3-5 on the shelling mothership Sanibel Island. See ya there!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2 bits - 4 bits - 6 bits - a dollar. All for Shelling stand up & holler!

Usually Superbowl is a big deal around our house. The Hubbs is a real football fanatic but mainly for his college team - the Florida Gators. Our first real date was  31 years ago on Superbowl Sunday.  My dad was a football coach so I know my way around the football field. My date was impressed or probably relieved that he could watch a football game with a female and not have to explain everything that was going on. The rest is history.

I can't really get too excited abut the Superbowl this year. I have no vested interest in either team. At least that was my excuse for ditching the pre-game festivities and heading to Sanibel early this morning. Actually football and shelling have some similarities.
The horse conch I found was as big as a football
Standing on the sandbar at Blind Pass with the tide rushing in; I just happened to look down and saw this football-sized horse conch and nobody was home. The dance I did on the sandbar definitely looked as good as any touchdown dance I've ever seen. So in the words of any good coach "when the going gets tough, the tough go shelling".
The sand bar is about the size of a football field.  There are plenty of shells for everyone
Shelling can be a team sport with matching jerseys. (Team i Love Shelling)
Shellers suit up for the game with our own particular brands of equipment.  Judy is an industrial engineer. She pitched me an idea she has for  aqua shoes that are ankle high so the shells don't get stuck inside the shoes.

My goal line. Facing the Blind Pass Jetty
Facing the Sanibel side
That's the home team in the end zone.
Oh Come On! Laying on a board is not a sport. Shelling is a total spirit-mind-body work out.
To the victor go the spoils
Arcinella cornuta
Conrad, 1866
Florida spiny jewelbox
(left to right) alphabet cone, true tulip, banded tulip, nutmeg
Cancellaria reticulata
(Linnaeus, 1767)
Eurytellina lineata
(Turton, 1819)
Rose petal tellin 
You win some - you lose some but any piece of junonia is a winner.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” Helen Keller

My hometown delightful Dunedin, Florida

 The sense of smell is an incredible thing. Isn't it amazing how certain smells can conjure up a person or place that you have long since forgotten. The smell of a certain cologne that brings back the face of a boyfriend or father. Smells in the kitchen that bring back memories of fun-filled holidays.  For me it is the smell of smoke since my mom only cooks on high. 

 I grew up living in the middle of an orange grove. Our 3 street neighborhood was bordered on 2 sides with oranges, tangerines, & grapefruit. There is nothing like the smell of orange blossoms in full bloom. For anyone with allergies it was torture but it never bothered me. To this day I still have to stick my nose right into the blooms and inhale deeply. It's a heavenly smell. 
Orange Blossoms were named the Florida state flower in 1909
All that citrus had to be processed. About 2 miles from our house was the Hood's Plant that processed all that fruit into juice & other products. When the plant was processing oranges at full force the entire town of Dunedin smelled like oranges. Folks from Hershey, PA can understand what I'm talking about.
Even now 45 years later it is my favorite smell. 

Yesterday on my lunch break from work I skedaddled out for a bite to eat. I was in the mood for something. I thought it was Pad Thai but as I headed in the direction of the Thai Restaurant I caught a whiff of oranges in the air.  So I changed direction and went on to my local orange grove stand in Venice to get myself an orange creamsicle ice cream cone at Nokomis Groves instead. They make their own orange ice cream on site.  It has a very tangy deep orange flavor and twisted with the vanilla ice cream sends the flavor over the top. So cold & refreshing.
Nokomis Groves is a landmark in the Venice, Florida area

pure icy orange yumminess
Sorting the oranges inside the plant
Many varieties to choose from

They let you try before you buy
Years ago when I worked for Cracker Barrel Restaurant I waited on the family that owns Nokomis Groves. I didn't know who they were until the end of their meal. I overheard someone at their table talking about Nokomis Groves and I chimed in "OH, I love their Orange ice cream!".  The patriarch at the table kind of scowled at me and said "I've been growing oranges for 60 years and all anybody ever talks about is that dad gum ice cream".