bbell

If you're looking for a description of the professional me, please head on over to my career bio. If you're interested in who I am outside of work, you've come to the right place. Kick back and relax, and let me tell you about myself...

I was born May 28, 1956 at Saint Luke's Hospital in Richmond, Virginia to Native American parents and I'm a member of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. My grandfather was a chief, my uncle was a chief, my father served as acting chief for several years and the honor is currently held by my cousin, Kenny. The older I get, the more I realize how important my heritage is and how much it has shaped my life and value system. Having two older brothers who struggled through reservation life during the 40's and 50's has taught me a great deal about cultural tolerance and the real value of opportunity.

Both of my parents are deceased and I miss them daily. When I bought my first car, my father wouldn't let me drive it until I learned how to change the oil and change a tire. My mother taught me how to sew and how to inflict self-induced guilt when I don't do my best:

If a task is once begun,
Never leave it 'til it's done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.
-- Author unknown, but oft repeated by Mom...

I started taking piano lessons when I was 6 and graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory in 1979. I still play piano and guitar when it suits me. My father always said "I can't play a piano, but I play a mean radio."

At the age of 40, I married my one and only husband in 1997. The best thing about our relationship is that I married my best friend and we're still best friends. The scariest thing is that I'm completely convinced we share a brain. More than anything else we do together, we laugh. It's nice to know you can still play when you've reached the era of black-balloon birthdays. I've never had a face lift, I don't dye my hair and I'm perfectly happy with the way I look.

The rest of the story remains to be written, because...

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.
-- John Lennon

Jun 282014
 

I’m sure you’ve heard all of the White/Superba owners talk about the wonderful rib they create on their French knitting machines. I assure you, it’s all true… I almost always do my ribs on my 1602, even if I’m going to knit the rest of the garment on my Brother KH860.

But sometimes I want to do a quick pair of socks and I don’t want to go to all the trouble of swapping machines around just to knit a couple of ribbed cuffs… so this is how I do my rib cast-ons to produce a nice finished edge on the Japanese machines. Still not as nice as the Superba, but good ‘nuf.

Set up the needles for the zig-zag row. I generally prefer industrial rib, but this method should work for whatever your pattern calls for.

Run both carriages across the bed to align all the needles in working position. Position both carriages on the right.

Push all ribber needles to hold with latches open. Then use a ruler (or the flat side of your needle pusher) to push the ribber needles back down so the tops of the needle hooks are even with the gate pegs on the main bed.

Disconnect the main carriage from the ribber (leave ribber arm connected and ribber bed in upper position). Set the main carriage for the tightest possible tension and knit one row right to left with main carriage only. The yarn should now be caught in the needle hooks of the main bed and laying across the ribber needles between the hook and the latch. Carefully push the ribber needles back to working position, making sure the yarn is caught in the needle hooks. Hang the cast-on comb and weights.

Push all of the main bed needles to hold and set the main carriage to knit needles in hold at T1. Carefully knit one row left to right.

Connect the ribber carriage. Push all of the ribber needles to hold, set the main carriage to slip and ribber carriage to knit needles in hold at T1. Carefully knit one row right to left. This completes the circular row.

Set both carriages to knit at MT in both directions. Gently tug on the cast-on comb to make sure the top of the comb is below the needle hooks. Continue to knit the rest of the rib.

Industrial rib on Brother KH860 Lion Brand Sock-Ease at T5

Industrial rib on Brother KH860 Lion Brand Sock-Ease at T5

Jun 202014
 

I love having onion rings with my burgers and steaks, but they’re sometimes more trouble than what it’s worth… there’s the slicing and the batter and the breading, not to mention dragging out the deep fryer and then having to clean it all up when you’re done.

So I cheat. I buy huge bags of frozen onion rings at Sam’s Club. When I want onion rings, I remove them from the freezer about 90 minutes ahead of time, use the sharp edge of a knife to knock all of the ice crystals off and lay them in a single layer on a rack to thaw.

About 15 minutes before dinner time, I spray them with a good coat of cooking spray and shove the rack into an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes until they’re golden brown.

They’re not as good as home-made and deep-fried, but they’re good ‘nuf.

Jun 132014
 

Did you ever wonder what happens to the stuff you donate to charity after it leave your hands?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of helping at the Cradles To Crayons warehouse where they collect and process donations of toys, clothing and other items for needy kids. It was loads of fun, but it was also an amazing learning experience that significantly changes the way I’ll handle my own donations in the future.

It’s just as easy to disappoint a needy child as it is to disappoint a privileged one.

How many times have you looked through the items on a store shelf to get the one that’s not in a torn box? Kids in need have enough trouble without having someone make them feel like they’re not worthy of shiny, new things.

If a friend were to give you that item you’re about to drop in the donations box for a birthday present, would you be immediately thrilled when you open it? Or is it more along the lines of something you might buy in a discount store because you’re getting a good deal?

All charities are not the same.

I worked the toy table where we had to inspect, clean and sort mountains of toys, games and puzzles. I had a puzzle that was in a clean box and had all its pieces, but one corner of the box had been sloppily repaired. When I asked the supervisor if I should clean up the repair job, I was a little surprised when she said “no, toss that one in the Salvation Army bin”. Then she explained. Salvation Army sells what you donate in their stores. Their customers have a choice as to whether they want to pay for an item that has a scuff-mark or torn packaging. The kids who benefit from other charities don’t have that same choice. They get what’s been chosen for them, so Cradles To Crayons has higher quality standards and things pretty much have to be in new or like-new condition.

When you donate, take a little time to visit the organization’s web site to learn about what they do. If you still have doubts, pick up the phone and call them. Most of them survive on volunteers who spend hours inspecting items for quality and completeness, and they’ll be happy to explain their donation policies and tell you what they’re looking for if you simply ask.

Before you donate your stuff, donate your time.

Do you know how long it takes to count 500 puzzle pieces? Or 1000? Or 1500? Now multiply that by 100′s because puzzles are a popular donation item and volunteers have to count each and every piece.

Next time you put a puzzle away, break it down into sections just small enough to fit in the box. When it eventually finds its way to a donations box, all the volunteer needs to do is re-assemble the large sections to determine whether all the pieces are present.

Organize toys and games in their boxes with instructions on top. If you know instructions and pieces are missing or broken, consider dumping it at a yard sale instead.

Secure bags and boxes so everything stays together until they’re ready to be processed. When donating items that go together, package them so they stay together — preferably in a clear plastic bag so volunteers can see what’s in them.

Volunteer!

In just a couple short hours, our little team of eight did enough sorting and cleaning to put smiles on the faces of 142 kids that deserve better than what they have now. In the state of Massachusetts alone, there are 305,000 kids who need help and with the assistance of volunteers, Cradles to Crayons is only able to reach about 65,000 of them.

Apr 202014
 
Hacked Brother 4.5mm Cast-On Comb hanging

I used to hate the Brother comb, but now that I’ve gotten used to it I wish they made one for the mid-gauge machines. Since they don’t — and probably never will — I decided to buy a new one for my Brother SK860 standard and hack the old one to fit my Silver Reed SK860 mid-gauge.

The gate pegs on the Silver Reed are stronger than the hooks on the comb, so it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. Here’s how:

  1. Knit an inch or so of waste yarn across the entire needle bed.
  2. Mark the two center hooks on the comb with a bit of yarn.
  3. Position the comb with the two center hooks on either size of 0.
  4. Working from the center of the comb toward the ends, gently — but firmly press the wires of the comb between the gate pegs until the comb is hanging on the scrap knitting.
  5. Use needle nose pliers to bend any stubborn hooks out of the way of the gate pegs. Most of them should bend to one side or the other without any help.
Brother 4.5mm Cast-On Comb hanging on a Silver Reed 6.5mm

Brother 4.5mm Cast-On Comb hanging on a Silver Reed 6.5mm

Once the comb has been secured all the way across, use the needle nose pliers to bend all of the hooks that are pressing against a gate peg. In this photo, you’ll see 5 hooks bent back out of the way. All of the others are hanging between the 6.5mm gate pegs pretty as you please.

Brother 4.5mm Cast-On Comb hanging on a Silver Reed 6.5mm

Brother 4.5mm Cast-On Comb hanging on a Silver Reed 6.5mm

Grab the bent hooks with your needle nose pliers and bend the wire back and forth until they snap. Most of them will snap off inside the case. If you have a few that don’t, you might have to use a Dremel to grind them down so you don’t have any sharp edges.

It’s important to note that this method won’t get you a comb that hangs on every stitch, but if you like using the 9mm triangle weights on your standard gauge machine, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Also, the comb is 4-5 needles shy of covering the whole bed… so if you’re using the entire width, you might still have to use edge weights.