Thursday, October 19, 2017

How we Stumbled Upon an Attic Time Capsule This Week

If you are a long time reader you'll remember last year when I gave my house a birthday party. You can read about it here. While lots of houses are way older than ours it isn't all that common these days for a single family to occupy a house that long, especially in the suburbs. My husband moved in to our home with his parents when he was eleven. Our kids were raised here.

Literally the entire 26 years we've lived here I have complained about how much stuff was/is here. I've sorted, donated, yard saled (is that a word?) until I'm on the verge of Minimalism.

Also if you have been reading a while you know I keep saying that (lying about it) while showing you some great vintage thing I just found. 

You can read about my struggle here. 

Let's just say the Minimalist spirit is willing but the vintage appreciator flesh is weak. 

Y'all, I am not even kidding. Read more about it. I know. Like you don't have fascinating problems of your own.

Monday I had planned a whole day of gardening and house cleaning when my husband said "Hey let's get in the attic over the tool shed today and see if we can use any of those screens." Words cannot express how much I didn't want to do this. It's like being asked if you want to clean that gross spot behind the toilet with your last clean dish towel. Over the years I had checked a couple of times to see if any of those screens fit our windows and knew they didn't. But the main reason I didn't want to participate was that I knew that space is a favorite haunt of the occasional rat. It's why I never removed the screens in all the previous shed clean outs and organizations.

Even the Great Tool Shed Clean Out of 2017!

We waited until the end of the day when all our other chores were done and we could take showers immediately after. We wore masks and gloves. Frankly I felt that hazmat suits were in order. He handed me one nasty screen after another. Finally they were all laying in the grass and none of them fit any windows in our entire house. But at least they were finally going to the trash can.

Next, he pulled down about 50 paperbacks from the late seventies that were so mildewy they went straight to the trash, but not before we had a good laugh at some of the titles and blurbs. 

Then he said "Hey, there's a box up here."

"What is it?"

"I don't know but it's really heavy."

I stepped into the shed and he carefully slid it off the ledge onto his ladder, then handed it down to me. I gingerly rested it on the workbench. It was enormously heavy and a little surge of excitement went through me as I got a look at it. It was from a cousin-in-law and it was shipped from San Francisco to an address my husband's family hadn't lived in for 51 years.

It had never been opened. 

My mind exploded with the possibilities. Gold bricks? Priceless artifacts? A collection of art? I felt giddy. This could be it. The mother lode.

Together we carried it out and placed it on the grass. I grabbed a crowbar. Anything packed in a wooden crate is mysterious. Nailed together. Definitely gold bricks. Was our long lost cousin a rare coin dealer? A cat burgler? Smuggler?

What? These are all plausible scenarios!

My husband pried open the lid. Excelsior! I took this to be a good sign. No one would pack junk in excelsior. My heart raced.

He bent in front of me blocking my view to push back the packing material.


I imagined beautiful china since I had previously discovered complete 12 piece settings in two different patterns.

He held up a cup.

"Milk glass." I said.

I'll admit to being a little disappointed. It's not my favorite. Why is there never a collection of Blue Willow? Yes, I know --gift horse --blah, blah, blah...

As I unwrapped and counted the plates, compotes, cups, and goblets, he said, "I'm going to get that other box."

Much smaller. Empty.

"Oh I just found something you are going to LOVE."

He handed this to me.

A legit hand made vintage sign! I squealed. Again my imagination ran away and conjured up Spencer Tracy in a hat with a cigar nailing this up at a construction site or gas station.

There was a dilapidated phonograph beyond repair, a string of vintage Christmas lights, and a box of mid-century C9 bulbs. The ones in colors they don't make now. Probably because they have some deadly toxin in the color.

"Hey I remember this..." I heard him say and his voice trailed off down a nostalgic side street. "You are going to be so happy."

He handed me a very large...

Candle! A Christmas Candle for a front porch! Oh my gosh I hope the neighbors didn't hear me screaming with delight.

With the attic empty my husband got off the ladder and grabbed an extension cord to plug in the ginormous candle.

 It worked. Things used to do that. Work for a long time. Like 50 years. We both stared in wonder and said "They don't make 'em like that anymore."

Because that's what you do.

Because they don't.

I headed indoors to Google milk glass.

Because that's what you do.

Because you can.

All of which has me wondering...

 Why was this in the attic over a tool shed? Why did these dishes get shipped and never opened? Why are 3 cups and one goblet missing? Are those pieces what were in the smaller empty box? If not then what was in there? Who made the sign? What was it for?And finally...

What's in the attic of our actual house?  

 Having your own struggle with STUFF?  Then you might want to read about more treasures I discovered earlier this year and how happy empty drawers can make me here: Finding Home Under All This Stuff

Monday, October 16, 2017

Having a Little Fun With Entrance Reducers for the Bee Hives

Alright. Grandbaby euphoria can now be tamped down enough to get back to projects, gardening, and beekeeping. But adorable photos may pop up any time so beware! weather has arrived and I got out my entrance reducers to place in the hives.


I have never painted them and so over the winters they have started to look a little rough on the side that faces out toward the elements. The other three sides aren't exposed.

If you aren't a beekeeper then you might wonder what these things are for.

In fall mice can sometimes look for warm places to hunker down for the winter. A warm hive full of honey can seem like just the place. Ah! You say, But won't the bees sting them to death? Maybe. But not if the weather is cold enough for the bees to cluster together to stay warm. At that point the mice can move in and set up a nest while the bees cluster overhead to keep the colony warm. Those mice will also make a meal out of bees and the honey the colony has stored up for itself. So an entrance reducer, also called a rat stick (not by me because...ew...) allows bees to come and go on warmer days but keeps mice and other undesirables out.

I thought this year I might have a little fun with them.

I recently purchased some Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint. Her color, Apron Strings is being discontinued (WHY?) so I snagged it and thought it would be perfect for the hives in winter when all the drones have been kicked out and it's one big sorority. Read about What Bees do in Winter

After painting them I couldn't resist adding messages for drones and mice, who can read, of course. 

I wanted them to look like signs that little girls (and their queen) would put up outside a treehouse or clubhouse.

Do kids still do that? 

I love projects that are nostalgic, childlike, and fun. This silly little idea made me smile.

I like to imagine the girls flying back in saying "Hey, who put up that hilarious sign out front?"

"Why didn't we think of that?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's a Baby Grand Bee!

Unless you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you might have missed a really exciting development...

I have a grandson! And just like that a whole week (or more) of blogging was lost while I am getting to know him...

Cue song:

Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you...

I've been humming it all week!

Remember my announcement last spring? 

I have the cutest little photo shoot planned for later this week but until then...

 He and his mother are doing great and Dad is beside himself with joy. He weighed 8.3 lbs. and is named Cash Reaves. He's also the most beautiful baby ever born and obviously a genius. I mean you can tell that just by looking. 

I think I have this annoying grandmother thing down.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Guerilla Decorating: A 5 Step Guide to Decor- Revolution

Guerilla Decorating is what I call it when I've decorated hard and fast while my husband has been at work or out of town. It's a redesign ambush. Generally it means trying do a project start to finish in a short amount of time. It's not for the faint of heart. 


Because When did decorating by committee become a thing? Why do husbands suddenly have opinions about the fabric for the sofa? Was this in the fine print of feminism somewhere? When we said we wanted it all we didn't mean suggestions about how to decorate the mantel for Christmas.

The Mission: To not be one of those couples fighting over paint samples in Lowe's. To solve our own problems and be self reliant. To avoid every husband's favorite question when you bring something new in the house:

                                 Where are you going to put that?

So much rogue decorating is done just to avoid hearing that question. Don't they know we just want them to carry it in the house? Did we say we were taking decorating suggestions today?

 Then there's that reaction when you first mention you might want to paint the dining room or take down wallpaper, I think it looks fine. Of course he does. When you married him he had a recliner perfectly aligned in front of the television and the only thing on the wall was a Fight Club poster.

I know some of you have husbands who like projects and take the honey-do list as a personal challenge.  Some of you have husbands with great style. If this is your situation, stop reading immediately because I'm going to sound like a crazy person.

But if you have ever kept an IKEA shopping bag in the trunk of your car because your husband was home when you pulled in the driveway, keep reading.  

You are my people. 

Here's your tactical guide for a successful decorevolution

1. The propaganda campaign. Depending on your perceived level of resistance from the enemy your spouse, you will want to start days or maybe even weeks before your mission is ready to execute.  Drop comments like "This room is looking dirty. Do you think it's the walls?" You simply can't say "This color is so 2010." or "I'm envisioning a Moroccan dining room." Although sometimes I say things like that just for fun.

2. Preparation and Planning. If you have time and a secret place to stash stuff you need to assemble your ammunition: brushes, paints, drop cloths, etc. Create a plan for what to do when, estimate how long you think it might take (then double it if you have kids or pets), and get supplies in order. Pre-plan dinner (pizza delivery) and stuff to keep the kids occupied (letting them watch Game of thrones  and eat 3 pounds of Twizzlers.) You are decorating in a hurry not trying to win Mother of the Year. Fine. If you are a really good mom you just put on Frozen and sing Let it Go as you paint over a hideous color called "Pebble." 

3. D-Day  This is it. The big day. Eat a high protein breakfast as you prepare for battle. Wait for the attack to begin at daybreak, or whenever he pulls out of the driveway. (And yes, I know I'm mixing military terminology. It's a decorating post y'all, no one's going to study it at West Point.)

4. Attack. The goal here is to finish the mission while you have the house to yourself. Be swift. Be brave. Keep up morale by looking at your Pinterest boards while the paint dries. Imagine the surrender of ugliness and the flag of victory raised high over your freshly redecorated kitchen or painted vintage dresser. Be sure to take before and after photos. That's your medal of honor. Post to Pinterest and Instagram. That's your Global War on Ugly Decor medal.

5. Mission Accomplished. Winning the War for Hearts and Minds is the conclusion of your mission. When he gets home you announce "Surprise!"  Trust me, he's going to love it. It will look great. He'll likely say he didn't realize how bad it looked before or that he couldn't imagine it could ever look so great. Which we already know. My husband has literally thought everything I ever did was amazing and beautiful after it's finished even if he didn't see the point before. It's not their fault they don't share our vivid imaginations and Pinterest obsessions. 

  Need inspiring words to launch your campaign? Here's a DIY battle speech to inspire decorating greatness. Obviously old Winston stole his famous words from his decorator. This was found under a sofa cushion and was written on the back of a piece of toile wallpaper.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in Style, we shall fight on the walls and floors, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the antique store, we shall defend our kitchen island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the stairs, we shall fight on the landings, we shall fight in the bedrooms and in the baths, we shall fight in the dens; we shall never surrender,

Or you know, you can just ask him what he wants to do. (insert hysterical laughter)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How to Make a Life Size Ghost Sculpture for Your Garden

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

One Saturday morning while browsing Pinterest I ran across the idea of making sculpture out of chicken wire. I loved the feminine shape for my garden. Luckily I had just enough leftover chicken wire behind the Honey House that I thought I'd give it a whirl.

chicken wire sculpture

I rolled the chicken wire into a tube and twisted the ends together using wire cutters. I didn't stop to get my camera to take pics along the way, but it was a matter of simply scrunching it together with my hands (wear gloves!), twisting some loose ends, and cutting off excess. This is one of the most satisfying crafts I've done in a while.

chicken wire sculpture

  I loved being able to walk all the way around a project. Start to finish it took about 3 hours and cost nothing since I already had the wire. I love the way she looks in the garden at dusk.

chicken wire sculpture

It would be fun to make several of these and spray them with glow in the dark paint for the front lawn on Halloween. Right now she's just a fun representation of the very feminine vibe of the bees and hens in the garden.

ghost sculpture
I loved her just like this but this spring I decided it would be fun to fill her out a bit more. Less ghostlike, more like a topiary in dress form. I had some sheet moss I had purchased on sale and I used floral wire to wrap it onto the form. I planted two pots of ivy, one that sits on the ground and one that sits in a plant stand near where her waist is. I pulled the ivy through the wire and used some bits of moss here and there to help fill in while I'm waiting for the ivy to grow thicker.

I think she looks very elegant and is cheering up a dreary corner of our patio. Last fall I decorated her for Halloween inspired by the Dead Bride game in the book the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I corresponded with the author a couple of years ago and she told me she and her sister really did used to play this game when they were little girls!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Beekeeper's Autumn Chore List

It's that time of year. Time to do those beekeeping chores to wrap up the season and prepare for winter.

The number one thing to get done at the end of the season is to harvest the honey. This is what you have been working toward all summer. Your bees have served your garden and the surrounding environment well and perhaps they have made some extra for you, the beekeeper, to take.

1. Make absolutely sure the bees have plenty of honey for themselves to get through the winter. They didn't make it for us to take but to insure the survival of their colony during cold months. However they don't know when they have enough so they continue to make it in excess as long as the weather permits. Your brood boxes should be very heavy when you try to lift them.

2. A day or two before you want to harvest your honey place a bee escape board (There are other methods besides the escape board such as fume boards or blowing off the bees.) between the brood chambers and the honey super. A bee escape board is basically a maze. The bees will go through it down into the brood box at night but will not be able to navigate it the next day. This leaves the honey super empty when you take it. Much better for you and the bees. Remove the honey super and take to an inside location where bees cannot get to it.

3. Feed any spills or frames with honey residue on them back to the bees. The bees will reclaim every drop of honey and leave you with clean honeycomb ready to be put back on the hive in spring. In the US it is common to leave these frames out in the open, however in other countries there are laws against doing this. Check with other local beekeepers or the apiarist for your region to find out the best practices in your area.

4. Once the honeycomb is cleaned by the bees scrape off all the propolis and burr comb.

5. Store your clean frames of honeycomb in your freezer. You may also store them in an airtight container with moth crystals. (NOT moth balls) You may prefer to stack them in a sunny dry spot as well. Your goal is to protect them from wax moths which will eat all the beautiful honeycomb your bees have worked so hard to build.

6.  Make note of any hives that look like they might run out of honey before spring. Be prepared to feed them on a sunny and warm winter day if they need it. Keeping a log of what happens in the bee yard and when is very helpful.

7. Place an entrance reducer in the opening of the hive to keep out mice as the weather turns cool and small rodents look for a warm place to nest over the winter. Bees can come and go and easily defend the small opening against intruders.

8. Clean all your beekeeping tools and all your extracting equipment and store. Scrape all the propolis from queen excluders, hive bodies that you need to store, and honey supers.

9. Wash your bees suit and store until spring.

10. Sit down and enjoy a cup of tea with the honey from your own beehive!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How to Create a Hanging Two-Sided Wood Sign

I love the look of old wood signs. Farmer's Market. Antiques. Honey for Sale. You can buy them but my favorite projects in the whole wide world are free. My preferred way to create is to make something out of nothing. A few years ago when I cleaned out a shed I found some old boards and made this sign.

I was sick one weekend and sat on the back porch painting this. The goal was something rustic looking and hand made. Possibly by a farmer. Named Fred or Jedidiah. Who lived on a farm and kept bees out behind the barn. And wore overalls everyday until he died, the farm fell into disrepair and this sign went to a junk shop when his distant yankee relatives sold the place.

Am I the only one making up detailed stories for project inspiration? 

 I drilled holes in the bottom and hung another sign. I loved that. The two part sign. A three part sign for this photo booth I made at a honey sale. Sometimes I took them apart and used them separately but sometimes I used them together. I felt really clever especially since the entire thing cost me zero. Zilch. Nada. My favorite price to pay. 

But as I decorated the patio and back porch over the last couple of years the signs started to feel a little rustic for the space. The beautiful thing about paint is that's just paint.

That means you can always paint over it and begin again.

Here's how to paint your own wood sign. 

Drill holes in the wood if you are going to hang it the way I did this one. Otherwise at the end of the project you can attach a picture hanger to the back. 

Prime and paint your piece of wood with the background color you want. 

Print off the words, picture, or logo that you want on your sign.

Center it on your wood piece and tape it down.

Trace the design bearing down hard with a sharp object. I used a ball point pen.

Fill in the outline of your design with paint. I cheated and used a sharpie. Why make it harder than necessary?

Now comes the fun part! 

Now that the basic design is completed it's time to do the best part and work on the finishes. I made a turquoise wash for the bottom section. Turquoise wash = watered down paint. I used painter's tape to get a crisp line. I taped off the top and used a stain to get a cool effect. Then I mixed some furniture wax and dark stain together and wiped on and buffed.

I was pretty happy with it and hung it up. I found this bracket in our tool shed during the great tool shed clean up of 2017. You can read about that here, Reclaiming our Neglected Tool Shed.

 It looks great. Maybe a little too great. Too new.

 The cure for new around here is usually sandpaper. I love sanding the edges of everything to get a worn, loved, treasured, look. Y'all, it literally takes like two minutes! It's the final detail that attains that imperfect perfection I adore.

That's better. This sign got painted on both sides. If I'm hanging out on the patio I see the prettier slightly more sophisticated side with my logo. If I'm hauling firewood or transporting beehives through the gate I see the more rustic side. Anybody coming in that way also sees this fun little reminder of what goes on around here.

This side was free handed which is always fine for anything that you want to look rustic and hand made.

What will your sign say?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Videos from the Bee Yard: Fall Honey Harvest in Progress!

fall honey harvest

This post is for my fall honey lovers. You know who you are. 

The first week in September is definitely the earliest I have ever taken off the fall honey. Usually I leave it on until the middle of October. This year however, our first grandchild is due on October 4th and I am a crazy person trying to get honey extracted and jarred, finishing up projects around the house, and putting the garden to bed. I have a feeling when the baby arrives I am going to be preoccupied for a few weeks.

This week I wanted to bring you into the bee yard as I look in a hive so I made this little video. Which would have been a lot better if I hadn't blocked half the shot with the smoker.


I'll be writing more about why I think I had so many small hive beetles in here in an upcoming post. But the main thing was that every single frame (except the one side of this one I showed you) was filled corner to corner with beautiful capped honey. WOO HOO!

Fall Honey Lovers rejoice!

After I took out all of the frames of honey I made another video to explain more about the process.

When I talk about putting the frames back in to let the bees clean it up I only mean temporarily. After they remove all the honey from the processed frames I'll remove them again for winter storage.


Fun facts: 

1.The board I held up is called a bee escape board. 
2. As soon as I push record I can't remember anything. 
3. My main goal in this video was to cut off the top of my head so you can't see how badly I need to get my roots done.  

How to use the Swiffer "strips" I'm talking about:

Take unscented Swiffer Dust Pads and cut them up into two inch squares.
In the hive place the strips at the corners of the boxes.
Replace as they fill up.

Why it works:  

The bees are meticulous and don't like any foreign objects in the hive. As soon as you put the strip in the bees begin chewing them up in an effort to remove them. This makes them very fluffy and fibrous. As the bees chase the small hive beetles into corners to coral them the beetles run into these chewed up pads and get stuck. Every time I open the hives there are dead SHB in these pads. It's a simple and cheap help for the bees.

Read about my favorite Small Hive Beetle defense here: Review of the Freeman Small Hive Beetle Trap

Next time I'll take you into the guest house and show you how I process the honey. Still probably won't have my roots done though.