Don’t go into the tangled jungle looking for the great awakened elephant who is already resting quietly at home in front of your own hearth.Lama Gendum Rinpoche
“It’s all going to hell in a hand basket.” There’s that jaw dropping statement once used exclusively by elder peoples. This descriptor appears to be spreading, infiltrating the young and even some leadership types.
And I too struggle in the aftermath of some conversations. To be the cautionary teller of tales or the encourager? During every powwow, I would like to say, “go for it,” though clearly that is not what is always called for.
A chat over coffee with a woman half my age brought to mind that none of this twisting in the wind is necessary with a strong inner life. And Shell Snyder has just that.
She is wide open as the clear blue sky, calling you by name as she opens her arms though you’ve only just met. And then there’s that inestimable and rare thing she can do which is to focus on the person at hand like they are a treasured child of God. Shell is that person.
“Dreaming, always imagining,” she says. Her childhood in Columbus, Ohio was filled with pretending. Vivid still is a reseting of the tape recorder used as a prop in her make believe job as Disc Jockey. She nods, “I would say, ‘And up next we have…’ – well it would me!”
Real life application came soon enough with a degree in songwriting from Belmont. She partnered with a friend to write songs for television and film. They have seen success; their work picked up in London and Poland and even for a CoffeeMate ad in the US.
Musicians and dancers, her parents, gave her the freedom to follow her artful heart. Her grandmothers showed up with time in the kitchen, modeling homes with spaces for comfort where people would easily come and go.
Shell and her husband Mike were drawn to the Nashville area by time on the road in a touring band. They settled in and flipped two houses to pay off a student loan. Shell maintained a home bakery and filled an every growing list of customer desires.
Meanwhile, their girls Evy and Annabelle made their appearances and the Snyders eased on down the road to Columbia, Tennessee. One day Shell said that a still small voice said – “Make donuts.” Many a customers is grateful as the home crafted donut is an irresistible throw back in time.
All the while she takes orders for gloriously imaginative cakes and serves a flourishing number of requests for weddings, special events and town happenings.
“I have a penchant for old things,” she says, “….super sentimental.” Her heart’s desire for transport, a 1974 turquoise Sweet Bakes Donuts and Cakes camper, was reborn making its first appearance at Mule Day 2017.
But first she had to negotiate its purchase and demo its interior to make way for business. How to do it? “I was learning to use a table saw at 7 years old,” she smiles.
Her ambition is larger than mouth watering donuts and cakes. “The heart of our business is to provide a space and place for people to gather with their loved ones and create memories they’ll cherish forever,” she says. “Like the times I took my grandchildren on Saturdays to the Columbia Farm Fresh Market for a Sweet Bakes’s donut, ” I say.
Life is full, but don’t think for a minute that this one does not understand the counter fullness of harmony. Shell is clear on the object of this game: “To reflect the heart of God with an extra effort to the family.”
She and Mike are devoted to their girls and their families and their church. She is inspired by her friends, a crowd of creatives called Muletown Makers who inspire and encourage by lifting individual gifts.
Even so, Shell is alert to what she describes as the litmus test. She says, “Am I looking my family in the eye? – if not, I know I am stretching myself too thin and to keep a healthy balance, I sometimes have to say no to an order or event.”
The straight-upness of her life concept is as pure as the provinciality of life in a small town. Her move to a community smaller than she has ever known has proved life giving.
“People know each other here. And I love that,” she says.
Shell’s Lavender Cookies
3 cups all-purpose white flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender buds
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, slightly softened
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 drop food grade lavender essential oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and the lavender in a food processor or mini food chopper. Process until the lavender is mostly ground, with some fine bits remaining, about 4 minutes. Stir the lavender-sugar mixture through a fine sieve into a mixer bowl, discarding any lavender bits in the sieve. Add the rest of the sugar and the butter to the mixer.
With the mixer on medium speed, beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg, milk, vanilla, and lemon extract (if using) until very well blended and smooth. Gradually beat or stir flour mixture into butter mixture to form a smooth, slightly stiff dough. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to firm up slightly.
Divide the dough in half. Place each portion between large sheets of wax paper or parchment. Roll out each portion a scant 1/4 inch thick. Be sure the dough is evenly thick and check underside occasionally and smooth out any wrinkles. Stack the rolled portions (paper still attached) on a baking sheet. Refrigerate about 45 minutes or until cold and firm. (Or freeze for about 25 minutes to speed up chilling.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one portion at a time and leaving remainder chilled, cut our cookies. (If at any point the dough softens too much to handle easily, transfer the paper and cookies to a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm again.)
Using a spatula, lift from wax paper and space about 1 1/4 inches apart on baking sheets. Re-roll any dough scraps. Continue cutting out cookies until all dough is used.
Bake 8 to 11 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden. Transfer pan to a cooling rack; let cookies firm up a minute or two. Decorate cookies with icing, or glaze, if desired.
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