This is 36: The Story behind the Pie-Face Picture on My 36th Birthday

Last Thursday night as my birthday came to a close, I posted a picture on Facebook that was taken just a couple of hours earlier. The caption simply read, “This is 36.” The picture showed me right after I had been pie-faced by one of the servers at our favorite restaurant, Tito’s.

Indeed, it caught me by complete surprise. I had no intentions that night of being pie-faced for the first time in my life. Sure, one of the waiters leaned over to me and muttered into my ear right before they sang “Happy Birthday” and told me, “We’re going to throw pie in your face… is that okay?”

I just smiled and nodded my head, assuming he was just joking. I still didn’t take him seriously even when he told my wife, “Grab your camera. You will want a picture of this…”

Actually, I didn’t even realize what had happened until I tasted the whipped cream. My mouth just happened to be open with the pie came at me. I never even saw it happen, as the girl who did it secretly had the pie behind me.

(And yes, I just have to count this as a “fortunate accident”, as consuming whipped cream violates my vegan lifestyle…)

Even after 24 hours and two showers, I was still sort of able to smell the whipped cream. It got pretty high up my nose.

To me, that image is the perfect concept of how I interpret being 36 years old.

I had just turned 18 when I graduated high school in 1999. That means just as many years have passed since then. I am 36.

And I am proud to be 36. I embrace change. I accept the minor (or are they major?) evolutions in my personality that come along with being age 36. I gladly commemorate what this seemingly insignificant age symbolizes to me.

It’s like getting surprisingly pie-faced, then instantly laughing because you already know that it’s the little things in life that become the big things.

This is 36.

Dear Holly: Your 1st Easter (and 4 Different People’s Birthday Celebrations!)

11 months.

Dear Holly,

With your 1st birthday coming up next Monday, Mommy and I decided to celebrate your birthday in Alabama with my side of the family; while we were already in town for Easter.

Once we arrived in Fort Payne, we immediately stopped at the Easter Egg Hunt that 1st Baptist Church has each year. Honestly, you weren’t too concerned with all the eggs in the grass.

Instead, you were just as happy to simply look beautiful in your dress, and have anyone come over and tell you what a pretty little girl you are.

Granted, your brother Jack was the complete opposite. Actually, I feel a little bit bad about how fiercely he dominated the egg hunt for his age division. He is so competitive that it was more about “winning”. Yet still, I was very proud of him, because I feel he learned that from me.

For lunch, we met Uncle Al and Sharon at the only restaurant we ever go to: Toke. With its Thai and Japanese cuisine, everyone in our family can eat there; including your Daddy, the manly vegan.

That’s when the early birthday presents started appearing for you. Plus, Nonna’s birthday was earlier that week, and mine is actually today.

In what turned out to be a major coincidence, your cousin Calla was invited to a Pokemon birthday party. When the birthday boy’s family heard that you and Jack were in town, they invited our family as well.

Then back at Nonna and Papa’s house afterwards, it was time for a few more gifts…

So yeah, there was a lot of celebrating to be done: Not only Easter, but 4 birthdays!

With Easter moving around the calendar every year (last year it was in March), I imagine that typically, Easter will be about a month before all our birthdays; most years.

But as for your first Easter, it got to be extra special because our family got to begin celebrate your birthday early. Just a few more days now for your actual birthday…

Love,

Daddy

Been a Vegan 4 Years Now and Nobody’s Impressed (How American Masculinity is Associated with Eating Red Meat and Pork)

No one will read this blog post. It will not show up at the top of anyone’s Facebook feed, like the way pictures of my adorable 11 month-old daughter do. Because ultimately, this blog is irrelevant to most people.

My dedication to the plant-based life is unanimously met with the sound of crickets chirping; especially since I have zero desire to try to convince anyone else they should become a vegan.

To go 4 years without eating any meat, eggs, or dairy products is nearly un-American, not to mention, un-masculine.

Our American culture subconsciously associates masculinity with eating meat: In particular, red meat and pork.

So for a man to deny himself of that form of protein… it isn’t considered noble, by most. Instead, it is met with confusion, at best.

To be exact, I haven’t consumed pork (which includes hot dogs, BBQ, and bacon) or shellfish (shrimp, scallops, lobster) since Thanksgiving 2008; over 8 years now. Nor have I eaten any meat (including fish) since December 2011.

I didn’t go vegan all at once; I accidentally stumbled into it after realizing my eczema (dyshidrosis), constant sinus pressure and sinus infections, and pet allergies disappeared once I cut out all animal products.

A couple of months ago I declared myself as the manliest vegan on the Internet. Granted, it was a tongue-in-cheek proclamation. Yet still, no one denied it.

Because really, A) no cares about the lifestyles of vegans except for vegans themselves and B) there are so few masculine vegans on the Internet to care enough to rebuttal my claim.

But in the rare event anyone is actually reading this, take a look at me.

It is very obvious I am not lacking protein. It is very obvious I look healthy.

And that’s with me consuming no meat, eggs, or dairy for 4 years now.

I have no health issues, nor do I require any medications or supplements.

My protein and “good fats” intake (which contains 0% of my daily cholesterol) comes from vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

As for Vitamin B12, that is derived from the mushrooms, seaweed, and Kombucha I regularly consume.

Plus, my daughter is turning 1 year old this month. So obviously, my plant-based lifestyle didn’t interfere with my ability to father children.

I am an image of a healthy man. I just happen to not consume any animal products.

Yet our society continues to believe that eating red meat and pork is masculine. Our society continues to question whether vegans get enough protein.

Well, at least you know about one exception to the rule now.

But then again, no one will actually read this.

I am Being Featured on CreditDonkey’s Best Dad Blogs 2017: Top Parenting Experts

This morning I was informed that my blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog, was chosen as one of the Top 40 “Best Dad Blogs”, by CreditDonkey. It gives me great confirmation to know that my work as a daddy blogger stands out in the crowd, as it was noted:

“Family Friendly Daddy Blog is a site featuring reviews of everything from cars to toys, along with plenty of musings on parenting and the vegan lifestyle.”

As I scrolled down the list of fellow daddy bloggers on the list, I immediately realized that I personally know some of these guys, actually:

Back when I was the daddy blogger for Parents.com, General Motors flew me up to Detroit in October 2011 to promote their Traverse, I met HighTechDad.

Larry Mihalko during the Chevrolet Traverse Quality event during the Chevrolet Centennial media event Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for Chevrolet)

But I especially hit it off with 8BitDad, Zach Rosenberg, while I was there. I remember him telling me that his own dad is a character actor, in Los Angeles. This whole time, 8BitDad and I have been following each other on Twitter. I hope I get to hang out with him again in person someday.

And I met Gay NYC Dad in October 2014 when I was invited by Toyota for their “Family Reunion” at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Pompano Beach, Florida; featuring the updated Sienna, Camry, and Yaris. I remember he and I had a fun conversation about how he grew up on a kosher diet, being Jewish, whereas I started about my journey of veganism when I switched to kosher (no pork, shellfish, or other bottom feeder animals) back on Thanksgiving 2008.

The fact that I made it to this list reminds me that while I may not be the most popular daddy blogger out there, I am good enough at what I do to make the cut; to be considered one of the most relevant.

It also shows me I’m doing a decent job on SEO (search engine optimization); meaning I’m able to create and maintain contain that is easy for people to find when they search a relatable topic on Google.

I am very grateful for all of my readers and supporters- and I especially thank CreditDonkey today for choosing me as part of their Top 40 daddy bloggers.

Dear Holly: Our Walk in the Park at Aspen Grove

10 months.

Dear Holly,

Last Saturday was such a beautiful day so we made good use of it. We met up with our friends Mohamad and Lena, and their daughter Hanna who is just a month older than you. We stopped for lunch at Noodles & Co., the same vegan-vegetarian-kosher friendly place that your brother Jack and I dined at after we saw Rogue One back in January at the Green Hills Mall in Nashville.

We all took a moment to appreciate Hanna’s awesome new shirt that her parents found for her in downtown Nashville. Jack said, “Daddy, I keep thinking that’s really her arms and legs. It looks like she’s really playing the guitar!”

After lunch, I suggested we drive right across the other side of I-65 and take a walk in Aspen Grove Park; which is right behind my office, where I take my mountain bike, skateboard, or just go running during my lunch breaks.

Fortunately, we took our double stroller to push you and Jack. However, he let you have it all to yourself since he wanted to check out the creek that followed the trail.

For me, there’s nothing like being able to take a leisurely stroll through the park on a nice day. There’s a reason the saying goes, “Well, it’s no walk in the park…” when referencing a tough situation.

That’s because a walk in the park is a standard measurement of happiness and inner peace. It’s a universally enjoyed occurrence.

And hey, if you can share that experience with people you care about… even better.

I watched the wind blow through your blonde hair, as you took the whole experience in. Ultimately, you were ready for a nap. But you just couldn’t bring yourself to the point of falling asleep.

You saved that for two minutes into the car ride home.

Love,

Daddy

FACT: I Am the Manliest Vegan on the Internet

There is no dispute. No one is even looking into it. Instead, the entire world simply unanimously accepts and agrees that I, Nick Shell, am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

What makes me such a manly vegan?…

First off, I am emotionally intelligent regarding my vegan lifestyle. Because I am fully secure in my beliefs, I have zero desire to try to convince others to become vegans. In fact, I would rather other people didn’t become vegans, especially not other men, because it keeps me more unique in my identity. (Approximately less than 0.5% of the American population are male vegans).

Second, I am a committed husband (been in love with the same woman for 10 years now; 8 and a half of which we’ve been married) and an involved father (hence, the daddy blog).

Plus, I am healthy and active. I am not a slave to my body; my body is a slave to me. I get plenty of protein (from vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) and I am always on the move:

I run and I go mountain biking regularly, plus I go hiking and exploring with my son.

Next, I am a decisive leader and a good communicator. I don’t fear change, I embrace it. I always have a few back-up plans.

I am undeniably confident, yet aware of my weaknesses, which I am always working to improve.

Granted, I am very aware of my skills and talents, making sure I utilize them as part of my identity.

Most people have a hard time thinking of just one other male vegan they know. Even if they can think of a male vegan other than me, then the question becomes: Is he manly?

That question quickly evolves: But is he manlier than Nick Shell?

So far, history shows that the answer has always been… no.

As a blogger and YouTuber, I figured I might as well make it official in this announcement today:

I am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

FACT: I Am the Manliest Vegan on the Internet

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

9 months.

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

Dear Holly,

Just a day after we took Grandma (Mommy’s Mommy) back to the airport after she graciously spent the past two weeks watching you, we then picked up Nonna (my Mommy), who is watching you this week.

Mommy and I saw the need to give you a break from daycare for a while, as you had remained consistently sick for months.

Fortunately, Papa was willing to drive most of the way to drop off Nonna. He drove 2 hours; we only drove 30 minutes, which was about as much as you were able to handle that day in the car. We met Nonna and Papa at an amazing vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant called The Goat.

Though it’s been around for 2 years now, we had never heard of it. If only we had known how well it suits our family’s dietary restrictions and needs, we would have been going there regularly. Well, now we know.

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

Not to mention, the lighting at The Goat helps the place serve as a great place to take pictures. I was able to capture some really shots of you and your brother catching up with Nonna and Papa.

Granted, you’re not quite old enough to appreciate the food they serve there yet, but it’s definitely something to look forward to.

Your brother Jack had a great time with his mini cheese pizza slices and gourmet tater tots. He even lucked out and got to have dessert: donut holes, which were a first for him.

So here’s to a week of you being spoiled by Nonna at our house. Here’s to you sleeping hours at a time in your arms as she just stares at your precious face the whole time.

And here’s to us making The Goat a regular stopping point anytime we’re passing through Murfreesboro.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)