Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Midsummer Update



mid·sum·mer
ˈmidˌsəmər/
noun
  1. the middle part of summer.

    "the midsummer heat"
    • another term for summer solstice.

Cue Johnny Mathis. 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. For beekeepers and gardeners, summer is the most wonderful time of the year. Even though I don't always feel that way when I'm working in 100 degree heat and swamp level humidity but it certainly is the busiest time. So what have I been up to? Here's the quick rundown then it's back to work!


Garden: June is hands down the prettiest month of all in the garden. What's blooming right now? Bee balm, yarrow, hostas, rudbeckia, beans, squash, and hydrangeas. Ask me next month. The answer will be nothing. July is that hot ugly month between bee balm and garlic chives. This is how gardeners tell time. 


Bees: I know. I know. All you want to know is when will the honey be ready. It's coming along. I've pulled off a few frames and it looks good. Remember though, I work for the queen. These girls can't be rushed no matter how many people ask me when it'll be available.


Inside: since I didn't get the carpet and linoleum up in the cottage before the honey harvest it'll have to wait until things slow down. Yes, I will accept that Procrastination Queen crown now. Thank you ever so much!   

Here are some recent projects I did manage to finish though! Go ahead and check out these posts, I'll wait! 

 Updating a Vintage Hutch with Milk Paint


                                            
A Fireplace Face Lift:


Turning a China Cabinet into an Accessory Armoire


Adding a Bold Color Choice to the Cottage Kitchen Cabinets

pink kitchen cabinets


See? I'm still here!

Okay, Y'all, what are you working on this summer? Reading through the classics? Growing the best tomato ever? Purging and organizing? Or maybe relaxing and enjoying? All worthy goals! Let me know in the comments! XOXO






Friday, June 15, 2018

The Concrete Floor Chronicles (Or: How I Earned the Title, Procrastination Queen)



This project is now going to be put on hold because it's time to harvest honey!  Yes, you can give me the Queen of Procrastination crown. Envy my skills, Overachievers! 

I'm having a pull up the carpet and paint the floor come-to-Jesus-moment.

Are y'all sick of hearing about my cottage carpet woes yet? Oh good. I also think it's fascinating.

See? This is why we can hang out. 

So the entire time I have been planning on painting the whole floor in the guest cottage and stenciling a fun pattern. My friend The Food Maven suggested hexagons to represent honeycomb and of course, that is brilliant, as are all her ideas.

Just to recap, because I know you are on the edge of your seat with excitement: This is the floor in the kitchen of the guest cottage where I process honey and beeswax and have destroyed the carpet and linoleum. Not wanting to invest money in actual flooring (that will also be destroyed by future beekeeping activities) I'm going to paint but have been dragging my feet, and everything else because it's hot dirty work. Plus, I can't make a decision. Also, all I feel like doing in this heat and humidity is binge-watching Southern Charm in my underwear with a mojito. 

But while I was in the studio writing about painting the hutch, the LAST thing I could claim I had to do before yanking out carpet, I looked at my vision board. And just what do you think I saw?

People riding camels by the pyramids? Well, of course. Pictures of size 2 women doing yoga on the beach? Duh. Living rooms that look like libraries. Natch! But also...



...this picture I cut out of a brick floor! I know, right? 

I have always wanted a brick floor somewhere inside. My dream would be in the kitchen. In my cottage on my sheep farm in England. Or was that in my villa on my Italian olive farm? Though I suppose I could settle for a brick floor in my suburban kitchen in Tennessee.

sigh.

But since I'm just dealing with a concrete floor and not even the floor in the main house but in the cottage where I process honey and beeswax, why don't I play around with it?

Why don't I paint a brick floor? It's a great temporary fix and I wouldn't have to stay off of it nearly as long as if I did a proper paint job, stencil, and sealer. Ideally, for that job, I'd want to have a long curing time, 2-4 weeks. But I could play around quite a bit before I tackle that. And if nothing works well enough to hold up then I can always put down a proper floor covering.

Don't worry I promise not to make a move without sharing with you all about it. I mean could my life be any more fascinating?

Since we're obviously best friends if you are still reading about this carpet-pull-up put-off, let me know if you have ever painted a concrete floor or if you have great ideas for what I should do, Or if you happen to have a Pinterest board of painted concrete or charming brick floors. Girl, hit me up! I need help!

See ya in the comments!

Monday, June 11, 2018

5 Things to Spark Creativity When You Don't Feel Innovative, Original, or Artistic


I believe everyone can create. I work at a DIY boutique where we often have people tell us they are afraid to tackle a project that needs to be done because they "aren't creative" or "artistic." Now you absolutely don't need those traits to be able to pull off a furniture makeover but I also just don't believe it when people say that.

Is your house completely undecorated? Can you not put an outfit together to leave the house? Is nothing planted in your yard? Have you never helped your kid with a science project that involved poster board? What is this lack of creativity you speak of? 

I'm not buying it. 

I think it's just a limiting belief. If you haven't heard of "limiting beliefs" yet they are things that we believe that aren't true but keep us from doing things.

I could never write a book. 
I could never make a quilt. 
I could never travel alone. 
I could never give a speech. 
I could never run a marathon. 

Now not wanting to do something, let's say, run a marathon, is one thing. Because why would anyone want to do that? This is why people tamed horses and invented cars! I have no desire to run 26 miles. But you know what? I also absolutely believe that I could if I wanted to. As a matter of fact, I know that if I were willing to train and make the time sacrifice I could complete a grueling race. I just have no desire to do that.

That's very different. 

The problem arises when we have limiting beliefs about things we want or need to do. Maybe you don't put in for that promotion at work because it would mean speaking to larger groups and you believe you can't do that.

Maybe you would love to just make one quilt from your daughter's childhood dresses but you believe you could never make a quilt.

How sad would it be if you longed to travel somewhere you have always dreamed of going and you don't because you have no one to go with and you believe you couldn't travel alone?

Girl. We are talking seriously sad right there. So how do you go about increasing creativity if you don't exactly feel like Picasso? Here are 5 things to do today to get your creative juices flowing:




1. Write down 10 creative ideas every day for a week. They don't have to be things you'd actually do, the point is to start feeling creative. So while you might not paint a giant mural of your grandson's face on the side of your house, you can write that down.  Plan a trip around the world where you visit all the best bookstores, invent an app to solve a problem you have, or you could be all original and put down "write a book."

2. Doodle. You might already do this while you are on the phone or in a boring meeting at work. I'm sorry if you have to sit in boring meetings especially if there is fluorescent lighting. But start to pay attention to what you are doing and be a little more intentional. Maybe even buy a special notebook for your doodles. You don't have to share them, although I'd love to see what you're up to!

3. Rearrange the stuff in your house. Moving furniture to new locations and taking pictures down to rethink how things are put together is a great way to start thinking about things in a new way. Your husband and kids are also going to be so excited that they get to help! If you think this isn't how they want to spend their Saturday, then you can take the guerilla decorating route. Read Guerilla Decorating: A 5 Step Guide.

4. Paint something. Don't panic I'm not talking about traveling to the countryside with your easel and beret. But that certainly sounds like a plan!  Sometimes painting something practical like a room or piece of furniture can spark seeing how different color alone can make things. You aren't painting the Sistine Chapel! Just start on a small table or nightstand. If changing the color of a whole room makes you queazy just introduce color on an accent wall.

5. Put together new outfits. You don't have to go shopping. Download one of several free wardrobe apps. I use Pureple. Take pictures of all your clothes and accessories. If you want to create a dream wardrobe then screenshot your favorite clothes from websites. Use the app to put together outfits complete with all the jewelry and accessories. It feels like paper dolls for grown-ups.

Most of us start out as children being quite creative, but it gets squeezed out of us by sitting still in classrooms and learning to be afraid to fail at things. As adults, we've been trained not to try things we think we might not be any good at. Try this. Sit quietly in a corner somewhere and think about all the things you enjoyed doing as a kid. How did you spend your time? What did you make? What did you try?

In the next post, I'll be sharing my favorite reads for getting out of a non-creative rut.





Thursday, June 7, 2018

How I Gave My Vintage Hutch an Update



We hear it all the time in the shop where I work. "I inherited this (fill in the blank with a useful and sturdy piece of furniture) but the finish is just so..."

"Ugly." I like to help people out when they're struggling. Not like doing CPR or anything because ew...mouth to mouth on strangers, but if you need someone to cut to the chase, I'm your girl.

They hesitate to say that Aunt Rhonda's dining room table where they have so many happy memories of her arguing about nursing homes with Grandma, is just plain old ugly. They use"outdated" or "not my style."



All code for ugly. I feel ya, sister. Everything I inherited was maple. What the literal fun with paint was with the maple finish in the 40s and 50s? Every. Single. Piece.

Did you miss the recent China Cabinet Makeover? 

Now even I, the queen of "all it needs is a coat of paint to be fabulous" have some trepidation over some pieces which is why the hutch was the last to undergo the brush. A coffee table? No problem. Chairs? Gone.

But I really do love the style and shape of this piece, plus, did I mention a retired husband is always around asking what I'm doing? I used to get so much done...

I've been putting this off for years.  No, Y'all. Seriously for years.

But I decided to do it before I pull up the carpet so I could use the carpet as a drop cloth. Yes. This is how lazy I am. Or brilliant. It kind of depends on who you ask. 



So this weekend I finally tackled it. I used Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in both Farmhouse White and Grain Sack. I wanted it to look layered and fabulous.

As I meditatively brushed the milk paint onto the hutch I said a little mantra for creative energy and good vibes. "Die maple finish, die! " You can totally borrow it. You can also replace "maple"  with "cherry" or any other finish that is un-feng-shuiing your humble abode.


I was hoping to have some crackling here and there but...Y'all! It was a crackling masterpiece. It belongs in the Crackling Hall of Fame!

Now if you aren't familiar with Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint here's a heads up. You aren't in control. Well, you are, kind of, but not compared to Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint. Did you miss it when I painted my cabinets pink? With milk paint, you might get some chipping, some crackling, or a solid finish. So much depends on what you are painting. In the photos, you can see that while the main part of the hutch crackled up a storm the doors and drawers would have no part of it.



If you want more control there are steps you can take to prep the piece but I like to live dangerously here in The Land of Let's Paint All The Things. Plus I love me some chipping and a good old-fashioned crackly finish. So I was totally down with it.



If you want a tutorial here it is: brush the paint on.

No kidding. You brush the paint on. Let it dry. Put on a second coat. I added a third coat because I was changing colors to get a two-tone finish. After you let all the paint dry, you wax it with clear wax and you are done unless you want to distress or add a colored wax. I used white for this piece because I was trying to keep it bright. That's it!

Oh fine. You want more.



You might be noticing the shelves. The shelves I taped off and stained with General Finishes Java Gel Stain. I did this first and I have to tell you that for a hot minute I actually thought about just staining this whole piece. But the point of painting it was because I needed more light and airy and less dark and serious.



The beauty of this stain is that it is just as easy to use as the paint. I literally did no prep. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I wiped on the stain with a rag and wiped off the excess. One small caveat about this product compared to other stains that you may have used in the past, is that this stain takes a few days to completely dry. But when it is dry it's hard and durable with a beautiful sheen. No need for a top coat unless you think you might be juggling knives over your kitchen table.

That's it. Go forth and paint all the things! Don't forget to write, kids! And send pics!






Monday, June 4, 2018

Honey Update and The Americans



I know you think these things have nothing to do with each other but in season 5 there was a scene in which (spoiler alert) Phillip and Elizabeth are talking and on the TV in the background there was a bee documentary. #worldcolliding

So there. 

I am still trying to read into that all the symbolism in that I want there to be.

I really just wanted to write about the series end of The Americans but realized that A- You won't care if you haven't seen it. B. There was literally nothing I could say that wouldn't be a spoiler in case you ever want to watch it (which you do, even if you don't know it). And C- I didn't feel like crying all over my keyboard this morning.

(My bees are Carniolans but if I ever get some Russians I'm totally going to name that queen Elizabeth Jennings).

What's the last television series you were obsessed with? Let me know in the comments! If it was this one then DM me so we can discuss! 

Okay, bees.

We had a swarmy spring which can sometimes mean that your bees make more bees instead of honey. At least that's the conventional wisdom spouted at bee meetings and in books. Yeah, well my girls are bosses  and do what they want. I did some quick checks on honey supers yesterday and even had to pull 5 frames from one super because those bees were completely out of room.

I did that quick and dirty thing I sometimes do in a case like that where I take out individual frames, brush off all the bees I can and slip them in a plastic container with a lid. It's not ideal but they needed extra space immediately so I didn't want to waste a day or two on an escape board. Plus the super was so heavy I could easily have dropped it trying to hoist it alone.

My neighbor who has 6 of the 8 hives in his yard was fascinated by the process and took video where I look like I have no idea what I'm doing or this is my first time in a beehive or something.

Sometimes you gotta make it all up on the fly and it's always fun to have an audience for that. 

This hive was the one that was so angry early in the spring that I couldn't work them or leave them in my own yard because the hives sit in my garden. Read all about it here. 

All the angry bees seemed to have been in the swarm and now this hive is calm and it's all good in the neighborhood.

If you are a fan of The Americans then hit me up in the comments. If you have no idea what I'm talking about then...yay! Honey! 

If you are waiting for honey to be ready so you can buy some, we are still quite a ways from that, but I'll keep you posted! 

Also, if you want the latest lastest, follow me on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/penandhive/ 

My IG family gets an update on the daily ! XOXO






Thursday, May 31, 2018

How I Updated My Fireplace With Paint

warm silver

When you don't know what to do, paint all the things. I've lived by this motto for years. 

This week's goal was to stop the fireplace from looking like a giant black hole in the den. Caused mainly by the fact that it is a giant black hole in the den. But first, I found a picture of what it all looked like originally. Gird your loins, people. 


Yes. I do have a perm. When I see pictures from the 90s I realize I owe the 70s an apology. 

The den originally had dark wood paneling, red brick fireplace, and brass fireplace surround. The builder was all original like that. The mantle was brown and went all the way across before I had the built-ins installed 8 years ago. Which meant wasted space on both sides from the hearth to the ceiling. It was a tragic design obviously thought up by a man who hated his wife and created ugliness out of a dark place in his soul. 


Attempt #1: It makes you have all the sad feelings, doesn't it? 

 I painted the brick and won the war with my husband about the paneling. Okay, actually he just came home one day and it was painted. This is called the element of surprise. #guerilladecorating 

A few years later I had built-ins created on each side, repainted the brick and painted the fireplace surround black.  I also covered the brick, which was impossible to keep clean--see sad above picture, with broken red tile. I tried to match the floor as closely as possible. 

                                                                            
I'd been happily living with the previous update for a while but when the weather is cold we have fires every night. The painted brick had some smoke damage where there is a gap in the surrounding seal. Perhaps we should fix that. Also, I was really over the black. 

One more thing about the black. It is heat resistant paint for grills and fireplaces and perhaps furniture in hell. In 8 years it has not buckled, chipped, or flaked anywhere. But it's still black. 

Yes, I could have researched all the heat resistant paint colors but I already was in possession of a jar of Modern Masters Warm Silver. So in the fever of impatiently wanting a thing to be different, where I live about 97%  of my life, I painted it. 



It was beautiful. I gave it a couple of coats to thoroughly cover the black and with paintbrush still in hand, I added a little bling to the bronze finish lamps to help tie it all together. You know since there was literally not one even halfway shiny thing in the entire room except a sword. 

My husband may or may not have a slight War Between the States obsession. I should get something somewhat glammy at least since we sit in this room together in front of the fire to watch TV surrounded by war and death. You really can't do cozy without at least half of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 

Where was I? Oh yes. 

metal effects warm silver

Here's how the fireplace turned out. 


The Warm Silver is really more of a champagne color. And who doesn't like champagne?



I have no idea how this paint will stand up to the heat this winter or survive the wear and tear of nightly fire building, but we'll see. I'll let you know after a few fires this fall. 


Until then I'm going to enjoy this beautiful fresh look all summer! 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Visiting Normandy Beach

normandy

A few years ago we were fortunate enough to do a cruise of the British Isles and the last stop was La Havre, France which is near enough to Normandy that we didn't have to think about any other excursion. It was a twelve hour day with an informative guide and lots of emotions. 

normandy beach

There aren't really any words to describe the feeling of the place. But my experience was profound in ways I didn't expect.  Beaches famous for fierce fighting and massive loss of life are now strewn with running children spending the day by the sea with sunbathing parents. Photos of beautiful landscapes marred by barbed wire. A carousel at the site of more heroic deeds and loss of life. 

 Arromanches-les-Bains (Gold Beach on D-Day)  

normandy beach

beaches at normandy



At Normandy American Cemetery

normandy

normandy american cemetary guidelines

american cemetary at normandy


 Omaha Beach. The tour buses are lined up and tourists, mostly of a certain age visit the site and read the memorials. Pictures are taken, with no one exactly sure whether or not it is appropriate to smile in them. It seems like a sacred place. 

d day landing site

Then just beyond where you see that stone monument, there are steps going down to the beach. It took me by surprise to see these happy French families enjoying a holiday, children running and playing, parents laughing, sunning. I stood on the steps and looked up at older tourists, mostly American, pointing and discussing the historical significance of the place. I looked down and saw what could easily have been any beach in the world. I wondered what those men who died here would think of that. I could imagine that they might tell us that was exactly what they'd fought here for. After all what better memorial could there be than those free French children? I couldn't help but think that if they are aware of it, it would surely make them smile. 

normandy invasion beach

 The following pictures are taken in and around the machine gun nest at Pointe du Hoc:

point du hoc

Everything about it makes it feel like what was accomplished here was an impossible task.

nazi machine gun nest

beaches at normandy

nazi machine gun nest

Almost...

point du hoc


Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Turkish Towel Revolution




Turkish towels have replaced regular bath towels at our house. Why? Because I got really tired of our bathroom smelling like a locker room at a high school with a plumbing problem. If you are throwing your towels in the machine after each use you are a better woman than I am. Plus I suspect you may not be showering as often as others wish you would.

In Memphis heat and humidity sometimes we take as many as three, yes three, showers a day in summer. Basically, if you step outside your house here in July you need another one. Sometimes I feel like I need another one before I even get out of the bathroom.

You can see why a heavy duty bath towel might struggle to dry in these conditions. Once they are damp they stay damp for a long time. Like until you wash and dry them.


Enter my quest for the Turkish bath towel. I kept hearing about them here and there. The main thing people kept commenting on was how quickly they dry. I did a little research online and placed my order. When they arrived I opened the package and they were beautiful! My husband picked one up and said: "This is a towel?"

I sensed a potential mutiny before I even finished getting them out of the package so I said: "You know how the bathroom smells?"

"Yeah."

"These are going to solve that problem."

Game over. 

Until he took a shower. He came into the kitchen where I was making a fantastic 5-course gourmet meal in full make-up with perfect hair --had you for a second, didn't I? 

"What's with these towels?"

"They are Turkish towels from Istanbul" This is the kind of exotic detail you can use to sell me anything but my husband doesn't care about adventurous textiles. Which doesn't bode well for my desire to actually go to Istanbul. Ticket for one, please. 

                                                                      

Remember when my husband was confused by my caftan revolution? 



Okay, so here's the deal. Turkish towels are not terry cloth. So they don't have all those little loopy things to hold water and it can take a minute to dry off. Imagine using a tablecloth. I'm not saying it's like that, but I'm not saying it's unlike that. Fine. It's exactly like that. But they do dry super quickly and are huge. Plus when I do pack for a trip to Turkey I'm throwing a couple in my bag to wear as scarves. 

More about what I might pack here. 

In my haste to see how they would look hanging in my bathroom, I didn't presoak them in cold water. A few days later when I got around to this it improved the absorbancy. Apparently, the cotton fibers need to bloom.

Here's the link to the towels I actually purchased, pictured. Classic Turkish Peshmetal Towels

Turkish Towel Cheatsheet:

Definitely soak them in cold water as soon as they arrive. 

Always wash in cold water to preserve the shape and color.

Do not use fabric softener on your TT. 

No worries. I think the last time I used fabric softener the royal bride was a redhead. Since getting these towels I have washed them in cold water and they didn't appear to shrink at all. The color also stayed true. And these were at the low end of the price scale. I like them so much I'll probably commit to pricier ones next time.

Have you tried Turkish towels? What did you think? What did your family think? Also, would you like to go to Istanbul? 


Monday, May 21, 2018

Using Native Plants in the Home Garden and Landscape



This weekend I volunteered at the Cooper Young Garden Walk in Memphis. The focus this year was on using native plants in the urban landscape and the featured speakers were Dr. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and "local garden guru" Chris Cosby.

There were 89 participating gardens and 5 featured gardens listed as demonstration gardens. I was a volunteer at two of them and it's always fascinating to see how different people create vastly different gardens with different goals in mind.

Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor and nature
Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor and nature















I have to admit that I like a certain amount of tidiness but as a lifelong gardener and nature lover, I am keen to create an outdoor space that is a real garden and not just landscaping. As suburban lawns go we have very little grass, choosing instead to allow a bit of wildness around the edges. There are weeds. My standard for a naturalized feel is that it needs to look like it was done on purpose and that there is some design in mind. I like things trimmed and purposeful looking. Unkept things can easily make your home look uninviting or even abandoned. Like most other parts of my life, I am on the constant quest for balance. Here's a picture of my front garden on the left and the backyard on the right.


Read about my quest for balance indoors and out. 

How can you make the best use of your space to enjoy yourself and also support local wildlife and be part of the solution to disappearing habitats and a host of other issues like water run off?

We do like some lawn and weed free gardens. So what does it mean to use native plants in the landscape then? And more importantly why bother?  If you are wondering where all the birds have gone or why you don't see fireflies in the evenings anymore, the answer may lie in modern landscaping practices. Pristine lawns and non-native species don't support the insect populations necessary to sustain birds and their offspring.

Click here to watch a 2015 talk by Dr. Tallamy explaining how and why we can all do better. 

When we moved in 26 years ago our lot was all lawn with the exception of pine trees at the edges and a small rose bed in the center of the backyard. Over the years we have added trees, shrubs, gardens, as well as compost areas, a rain barrel along with chickens and bees. I've dug up grass from large areas to plant gardens and slowly over time watched our wildlife numbers increase dramatically. I now see things I have never seen before in my life like nesting bluebirds and a bumblebee nest along with countless varieties of bees and insects. We have many species of birds. There are skinks, tree frogs, bullfrogs, and toads. And of course countless squirrels and chipmunks.

Read What to Plant Now to Help the Pollinators.

pollen
                                                           

When our neighborhood was built in 1966 the old farmland was flat and devoid of all trees save a few. Now 5 decades later we have otters and blue herons fishing in the creek behind our house. Not over landscaping or using fertilizers and pesticides on our lawn also means that we aren't contaminating that waterway with toxic runoff.

Just adding a few native plants to your landscape would aid the insect and bird populations tremendously. Saving the world can seem overwhelming, but planting a few native plants? Sure. I think we're all up for that.