Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 Goal: Writing More

Starting today I'm going to be posting to this blog several times a week. It's been sorely neglected over the past few months while I started a new job, got through the holidays, got to know my grandson, and focused on Instagram.

But I miss writing.

Plus it's a bad sign when people ask what the "pen" in Pen and Hive is for. 

If you have been around here for ages then you'll know that for 5 years I had a joint blog with a far away friend where we discussed super serious subjects in a number of categories. When I now think that I posted every Wednesday for 5 years I am astonished! But there is something powerful in being accountable. There was something that made me sit down and write even though often I felt I had nothing to say. Knowing someone is going to sit down to see what you have written is powerful motivation.

Good news! From now on that person is you! You're welcome. 

Being without a partner has made it hard for me to stick to any kind of blogging schedule.

I also tend to wait until I have something that I feel is big or interesting to share. But I notice that what I like to read is often about people's every day lives. Who doesn't like to know that somebody else has tumbleweeds of dog hair wafting across the kitchen floor?

Don't you feel better already? 

I like to look like I know what I'm doing. Does anyone else suffer from this problem? I spend tons of time researching the information I share to make sure I'm not leading anyone astray about the important stuff, but perhaps a few lighter catching up posts about what's going on wouldn't kill me.

Spoiler alert: I don't have all the answers. But I do have a lot of information and as my husband likes to say "a powerful need to instruct." Instruct? Share. Help. Inform. Those sound so much better. 

So for 2018 I'm going to be posting regularly. As in a lot. My goal is 3 times a week. I toyed with the idea of daily but while I'd be willing to do it, would you be willing to read it?

You can watch for new posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. 

 You gotta love that I'm doing this when everyone is talking about how blogging is dying. 

In the next post I'll share about how I got here. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's Not To Late to Resolve Great Things for This Year

It's still January and if you haven't made formal resolutions it's not too late to use a new year as a fresh start or to jump start better habits.  I'm not, by nature, a goal driven person so I have had to find several ways to increase my productivity during Resolution Season. Here are a few tricks I'm using for 2018.

Let's start with this. I'm not giving anything up. Lent is right around the corner if you want to do that. The new year needs to start on a softer note. It's cold and everyone's cranky about going back to school and work. Is this really the best time of year to try to get your family to give up carbs?

Resolutions: Okay, y'all. I struggle with this. I am tracking my fitness this year using the Plum Paper Planner Fitness Pages in their planner. My husband and I joined our local rec center mainly so I can find a yoga class and he can use the weight room. If you know how cheap I am you'll see that spending the money on this will pretty much guarantee I'll make it to class. So is fitness my resolution? Maybe. In the end I still love directions and intentions more than resolutions.

Choosing a word for the year: I do like this and it's a much more fluid option. Last year my word was creativity and it really did inspire a burst in creative thinking and activities all year. The word for 2018 is nourish. While I'm focusing on specifically nourishing my body with good food, plenty of water, and exercise, I can also nourish my mind with good books and podcasts. I can nourish my relationships. I can continue to nourish my creativity. I could even think of cleaning and organizing the house as nourishing my home.

One New Thing: My all time favorite thing to choose for the new year. Last year I chose two things, knitting and hand lettering. I ended the year by knitting my son a scarf for Christmas and if you've been keeping up on Instagram you've seen plenty of hand lettering projects. Then I decided to learn to make soap in the fall as a response to a need my boss had. I'm still working on perfecting that so I'll probably say this year is making soap, but a goal for the year is also to make beeswax candles if the bees have a good year.

 I have always wanted to learn Morse Code. I know. Weird, right? But what if I'm ever held hostage or taken prisoner? Won't I want to be able to tap out a message with my tin cup on the wall? But Morse Code might be for another year.

I feel like the new thing for this year should be to focus on video. Maybe even Facebook Live. I might make the goal of putting out a video a week. Oh my that sounds scary and extreme. Would it be annoying? Do people really care if my bees swarm or I'm organizing my cabinets?

Choosing a Color: Have you heard of this one? I got this idea from Gretchen Rubin the author of The Happiness Project. In one of her podcasts she talked about choosing a color for the year and then noticing it all year long. When you see your color it creates a little moment of mindfulness in your day. Easy Peasy. My color is yellow, of course. It's a little reminder out in the world to notice, breathe, and appreciate. Those would all be great words of the year! Also if you can't figure out why you seem unable to stick with goals check out Gretchen's book, The Four Tendencies.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. ” — Yoda

Choosing a phrase, Bible verse, or quote: This can be anything that inspires, reminds, challenges or comforts you. You can pick a quote from your favorite author, book, or movie. Something from a sacred text. Or the two fonts of all wisdom, Star Wars and Steel Magnolias.

Bonus Round!  

Journal: When you don't know what else to do-write. Get it all out of your head and onto paper or a computer screen so you can clear up some thinking space.  Remember how calm I was at my daughter's wedding? It was because I had processed all the emotions through writing first. Like in this Dispatch from Wedding Central in 2011.

So there ya go! January wants to be your friend, I promise. Look at the bare trees outlined and think of possibilities.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Let's Talk Resolutions


Here we are in a brand new year. Have you made a resolution? Or picked a color for the year? Or a word, a phrase, or a new habit. This is the time for fresh beginnings. Out with the old and in with the new and all that. 

Having trouble getting motivated because you despise, hate, and loathe winter? Read How to Cope with January. 

There are so many popular ways to use the clean new calendar to break old habits or start new ones. And let's face it, if we had formed any new habits during the past year a lot of us break them during the holidays.

Because, hey:  It's the holidays, Silly and we'll do all those healthy, organized, frugal things right after we sweep up the confetti.

Am I the only one saying these things?

If you need a little motivation or a jump start to get you going here is a series I wrote a couple of years ago. It's 30 posts so if you start today there's one for every day of this month.

You Sustainable: A Guide to Small Improvements for a Better Life

I'm actually re-reading it myself because, just like you, it's hard to stay on track and sometimes we need reminders. Like you know, not to eat cake for breakfast and binge watch Southern Charm instead of scooping the cat litter and going to yoga.

I constantly have to look for ways to stay motivated, especially in winter.

I would have made such a great bear.  

Lots of the things I am sharing with you are actually ways I trick myself into doing the things I know I should do and actually want to do. Just not as much as drinking spiked cocoa and checking Pinterest on my phone. 

Last year I did something that I just made up but turned out being super effective. I gave goals to the months. January was cleaning out.  February was fixing and making repairs. March was tying up loose ends. Then it sort of fell apart because every month after that was just beekeeping and gardening. For some of us the seasons dictate much of what we focus on.

Fix It February: What Got Done 

Still, you could pick a month for reconnecting, reading, learning a new skill. Or pick a month of no buying, no drinking, or no complaining. Let's all work on that last one, shall we?

Read here about how I learn to do one new thing every year. This is a habit I highly recommend!

Why I Learn to Do One New Thing Every Year 


But do something.

I often hear people say they don't make resolutions because it's ridiculous or they don't keep them anyway. But you get closer by creating an intention than by just giving up before you start. Let perfection go and work on progress. Progress is always a good idea.

I love that quote that says "No matter how slow you go you are lapping everybody on the couch."

How about making START your resolution?

Then make your intention every day to move forward. Even a little. Where would you be if you did that for a whole year?

There is one thing I have learned in the past few years that I only wish I had known sooner in my life.

The Universe responds to action. 

Why didn't anyone tell me this? 

Action. Not hoping or planning or dreaming. No matter how thorough your plans or noble your dreams are. And hoping things change is just kind of a lame way of doing nothing.

Doing is the key.

So starting is the most important thing to do right now. You don't have to plan out your whole year. But start taking actions today that will take you in the direction you want to go. Then do the next thing and the next and so on.

Let's show 2018 we are bringing it! 

We might be bringing it a little at a time but that's okay.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Family Santa Photos: The Next Generation

This is me with what use to pass for a Santa back before Santa school, real beards, and Kris Kringles who could make a tidy year's salary between Thanksgiving and Christmas at the mall.  You've got to love the Buddy Holly glasses on him and the red cowgirl boots on me.

Okay, and that Santa is in a trailer with bad wood paneling in the parking lot of a K-Mart. I was a pretty gullible kid seeing as how I didn't wonder why he'd be hanging out there.

I think it helps to focus on the boots...

Is it just me or does time fly faster than Santa's reindeer? When I had my daughter I decided instead of a random pic here or there I was going to have her picture made every year with Santa.

It became an annual tradition and I was nearly obsessive about it. I was determined for my kids to have their pictures made with Santa EVERY year (did I mention that?) until they were 18 or so. It sounded so easy in the beginning. You take the baby, and eventually babies, stand in line, plop them on Santa's lap while some teenage girl in an elf costume tries to get them to smile, snap! Pay here.

Here's your photo...

She really wasn't sure about this at all but by the following year she had made up her mind.

She was terrified of Santa.

Well, the costume is a really bad one, I'll admit. I finally had to tell the photo elf to just take the picture screams and all.

A year later she had discovered HE BRINGS PRESENTS! Well, NOW we are talking.

I'm thinking this was a My Pretty Pony, Cherry Merry Muffin, Care Bear discussion...

Around this time she realized the whole Santa visit was also a photo op.

Now she's just working us...and Santa.

She is still VERY good at this.


Sharing the spotlight.


He can't ask for much, right?

This was the year we discovered a nearly authentic version of Santa. He even had me fooled.

This is my all time favorite.

So precious.

Pigtails. Pigtails, people!

I miss that.

The haughty Mr. Snarky made his first holiday appearance in '93.

His expression sums up his whole attitude.

You gotta problem with that?

 While waiting in a long line for our chance to visit with Mr. Claus Mr. Snarky disappeared. Two parents and two grandparents were looking frantically for him when we heard a man yell "HEY! That's not my kid!" My husband and I exchanged glances that said "No. He would be ours." There he was, sitting on SC's lap with another boy. When we asked him why he cut in line he just said "He's right there, why are we standing around?"

This was the year the malls discovered if they took real photos instead of Polaroids they could charge fifteen dollars instead of two.

Clearly, in '97 we were just at the mall and I thought "Let's get this over with while we're here." Mr. Snarky is wearing a hand-me-down from his sister with flowers on the lining. The princess is in the braces years, and he is in the full throes of Legomania (symptoms include a crazed facial expression whenever the toy is discussed).

Time just kept marching on...

and on...

The kids got older, the lists got longer, the Santas got better and the photos got more expensive.

We had just returned from London, where I had wanted to have the Santa photo made but was informed that the kids would have to STAND next to Father Christmas as sitting on his lap was considered...sort of suggestive.

Oh heaven help me, are they kidding?

We all especially love this one of Mr. Snarky. I recall him putting up a fight about what he was going to wear. He won but he still pays for it every time this picture is viewed. Revenge might be a long time coming but it is sweet.

He recovered nicely the next year from whatever was wrong with him, part of which was probably my decision to let him wear whatever he wanted. Clearly, in this picture his sister and I had laid down the fashion law.

The photo above was the last year I insisted they get the photo made.

The next two years they missed doing it so much that the following year they went and secretly had it made, framed it and gave it to me for Christmas. There was almost a tear.


Did you read last year's post about Dan Money? Because grown up Christmas miracles are a thing. 

Want to see the cutest Santa photo ever? .

My husband with The Big Guy circa 1960. How cute is that bow tie? My kids are going to relish the difference between their dad looking spiffy at a fine local department store and their mom in cowboy boots in a trailer beside KMart. Let the snarky commentary begin!

Update: If you've been playing along all year on this crazy beekeeping, gardening, traveling journey then you know we have the best Christmas present of all this year and Santa didn't even bring it! Here is my grandson meeting Santa for the very first time.

Clearly he's beside himself with excitement. But isn't this fun? 3 Generations of Santa photos! What's the theme of every single thing this year? Cash's first Christmas! 

What's your favorite Christmas photo? Share it in the comments. I want to see! 

Merry Christmas, y'all! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter Reading and Gift Ideas for the Beekeeper

Winter is the off season for beekeepers in most of the world. It makes a book the perfect gift for the beekeeper. Here are some of my favorites if you still need a little something for your beekeeping friend or family member.

1. The Beekeeper's Bible. This is a gorgeous book that is packed full of useful information and photographs. Any beekeeper would be thrilled to open this on Christmas morning!

2. The Backyard Beekeeper.   A great book for the beginner beekeeper or a gardener who is thinking about adding beehives to their garden space.

3. The Bee Book. An excellent addition to the gardener's library as well as the beekeeper's.

4. Bees: A Honeyed History. A fascinating look at how bees have impacted history and interesting facts and trivia along with fun illustrations. If you want a book with a BIG impact this over sized child and adult friendly volume will be a hit!

Product Details

5. The Hive and the Honeybee. A classic. This is a hefty tome for the serious beekeeper and anyone else who is interested in an in-depth discussion of the keeping of bees.

The book at the top of the page would be fun for your favorite beekeeper who loves all things vintage. Full of classic diagrams and old school charm it's a favorite of mine for reading by the fire on cold winter nights. By renowned scholar and apiculturist, E.F. Phillips, it can be difficult to find but is worth the hunt. 

Anyone who is interested in bees would love to find any of these books under the tree. Happy Holidays and merry beekeeping! 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tipsy Honeybee Cocktail Recipe

jim beam

I'm always looking around for ways to use honey and one of the classics is to mix it with bourbon and lemon. Even your teetotalling gramdmother likely mixed up the classic hot toddy when someone around the house was under the weather.

And while I was getting over a cold I had last week, I thought I'd share this little gem for soothing whatever ails you. I used sage because I created it for a Thanksgiving dinner a couple of years ago but you could also use thyme or rosemary which are both still to be found in southern winter gardens. 

I had some simple syrup I'd purchased last year and hadn't used. It found its way to the back of the pantry where it had the nerve to grow something icky in the bottom of the bottle. Which led me to searching online for how to make a simple syrup. You know how it goes...I ended up finding 7,280,000 results and about half of them were infused with something. Anything really. Herbs, flowers, spices, more alcohol. You get the picture.

jim beam bourbon

I mixed water and sugar and boiled it together then added the sage and let it cook for a while. Did you want exact measurements and times?

You're new here, aren't you?

jim beam bourbon

Okay, since you asked:

2 parts sugar to one part water. Make whatever amount you want.

Bring water to a boil and add sugar slowly stirring until sugar is dissolved. Don't boil too long just until sugar is dissolved. Add a tablespoon or so of vodka to prolong shelf life but if you are using it immediately like I did there's no need. Add whatever you want in the way of flavor or nothing at all. If you have added something to make an infusion, strain it out. Let cool. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

raw honeycomb in a jar

Some recipes called for cooking the honey (if you are using it) with the sugar, water, and herbs. As a beekeeper I just don't like heating the honey. My rule of thumb is that if you can avoid it never heat your honey. It destroys some of the magical properties. (I assume you are not here for the science.) Add the honey at the last possible moment when things have cooled down. Then pour the bourbon and (no longer simple) syrup over ice straining out any bits of herbs or beeswax.


Isn't that a great word?


I like that world too. 

Make up a fun name for your concoction.

Now, seriously, concoction is a truly fabulous word.

bourbon and honey

This is a first cousin to an Old Fashioned or a Mint Julep. The differences are slight but mighty.

Don't be afraid to try something new if you want a signature cocktail for a gathering you are throwing together.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Honey and Turmeric: Cold Remedy in a Cup

Honey and turmeric coconut milk is my favorite first line cold remedy.  In 2011 I wrote about using turmeric and honey to ward off a cold when taken at the first sign of feeling run down. Suddenly 6 years later everyone seems to be "discovering" this so I thought my version was due for a repost and an update.

Here's the background story:  Right before my daughter's wedding she came down with a dreadful cold. My friend, and fellow blogger The Food Maven sent me a recipe for a cure. It seems her mother was traveling in Ireland and was in a pub with a cold (her, not the pub). The owner, a man from India, suggested a spoonful of turmeric and honey. Mommy Maven followed the advice and was all better the next day!

Western medicine sends us off to the cold/flu aisle at the drugstore for something full of ingredients we can't pronounce when we don't feel well. Eastern tradition tells us we might be better off in the spice aisle at the grocery. 

I decided the remedy might be more palatable in some kind of drink instead of just choking down the spice and honey mixture from a spoon. A little online research proved me right and I came upon a few recipes (6 years later there are a gazillion of them!) for a version of this golden milk.

I came across many variations on several websites, they all seem to differ slightly. I liked one posted by blogger Arun Shanbhag, who remembers his grandmother making this for him.

I really need to update this post with better pics! 

Here is the link to his blog post: Turmeric Milk: Soothing Elixir, in which he explains the history and science behind this potion.

I changed a couple of things. I'm a firm believer in the power of green tea (Read about the health benefits here) so I made power packed infusion (1 family size tea bag to 1/4 C. water) to mix the turmeric in instead of water. I didn't have fresh ginger on hand but I did have some of the dried/candied sort, and I used coconut milk because dairy products are known to increase mucus production, something we are trying to lessen, and have other negative side effects for many.

In an update on his site Arun added this comment: "Scientists have demonstrated that when curcumin is ingested along with a peppercorn extract, the ability of our body to absorb and utilize curcumin increases dramatically, up to 2000%. "

I made a cup complete with peppercorns and took it at bedtime. I woke up feeling much better, and yes--energized! So I'm a convert. The dried ingredients premixed would make a great gift for a friend who's suffering from a cold. The fact that it's home made and wasn't concocted by a pharmaceutical company is comforting in its own way. Here's my version but the internet is full of ways to tweak it; find one that you like. Six years after my online search you can even buy premixed powders!

Pen & Hive's Recipe: This is where I pretend like I measure...

Power it up with peppercorns! Delicious!

1/4 C of very strong green tea (optional)
1/2  ts turmeric
1 ts ginger (use fresh if possible)
1 ts honey
a few peppercorns, whole or ground
a mug of coconut milk

Dissolve turmeric in hot green tea, add to milk with ginger, honey, and peppercorns and stir over medium heat until hot. Let sit for 5 minutes before drinking.

There is something magical about drinking this before bedtime. I do it not only when I feel a scratchy throat but also just anytime I feel exhausted and overly tired. There is something exotic and comforting about it that lifts my spirits as well. 

Cheers to your health!

*Of course if you have a fever or cough that doesn't go away you should see a doctor.