Friday, September 28, 2012

Honey Season

Fall has arrived and I'm getting excited about collecting honey soon. I gave the colony two brood/honey chambers to fill up and get them through the winter.The first week in August I added a shallow super from which I will collect (a very nice term for what the bees see as stealing) honey from this compartment. This week I checked in on them to see how they are doing and fill up the inside feeder. Here's a peek:

This is the hive with the telescoping cover and screened inner cover removed.






I remove a couple of frames so I can see what I've got. This is a frame of capped honey near the center of the box.

You can see the wire "queen exlcuder" beneath the frames. We can't have her up here laying eggs where we want only honey. 




Here is a frame where they are busy capping the honey cells for storage.

Every place you see white is a cell full of honey they have capped 



Here's a closer look. You can see the honey in the cells and some of the bees still working...

They fill the cell with honey (which by the way is regurgitated nectar that the bees store in a special "honey stomach" which is separate from their real stomach). They then fan the honey to evaporate excess water. They do this until the water content is about 18%.  When it's just right (how do they know?) then they cap it with wax for safe keeping. 



This is the end frame that you can see they have just started to work on. The embossed plastic gives them a foundation to work on, but you could actually hang empty frames in the hive and they would fill them out. The frames help keep things orderly for the beekeeper.




In this shot you can see that even in late September the bees are still bringing bright orange pollen (and some that is nearly white) into the hive from their foraging ventures.


One of my favorite shots from this inspection. A frame full of honey that they are just beginning to cap. I'm giving them a couple more weeks and then I'll check to see if they've capped all the frames. Then it will be extraction time. Stay tuned...




Friday, September 21, 2012

Humiliation: The New Travel Perk

Wrote this in my head while trying to get home a couple of weeks ago, to keep from having a melt down. Traveling with a man when things don't go according to plan, generally means that I'm required to be a calming force to protect others within ear shot...Can I just say-- being the "calming force" when you want to sit down in the floor and cry, is exhausting?

I try to prepare him ahead of time. "Customs and immigration will probably be long lines." I then proceed to tell him my most horrific experiences in an effort to make whatever is about to happen tolerable by comparison. I tell this story:

When I came back from Athens last year with pneumonia I had a 103 degree fever, in Newark the line for re-entry was SO long. I was delirious. I had packed my suitcase in a brain melted stupor that made me look like a refugee. Upon entry to the country, I handed my passport to the immigration agent and it had a panty liner stuck on it.

Your brain tends to process things slowly when it's overheating...he looked at my passport and it's accidental attachment.  He looked at me. I looked at my passport/panty liner combination.

OMG! OMG! OMG!

I snatched the panty liner back. It made that detaching adhesive noise which drew the attention of people who hadn't been paying attention. Humiliating sound effects. Perfect.

"You probably don't need that." I said.

My daughter stood by mortified.

(Oh, please feel free to tell me YOUR embarrassing travel story that beats that.)

Copenhagen to Chicago. Customs. Immigration. Baggage claim. Baggage re-check in. Security. Check in. Security. Airport restaurant. Gate.

It is finally the last leg of a long journey home. 26 hours without sleep. I'm dirty. I'm tired. The last pat down at security left a lot to be desired. Why is it always the best looking TSA guys who don't think I look dangerous? Am I the only person over thinking my underwear choices for that new scanner and wondering if they ever sanitize the mats we walk over barefooted? How long before we all have something called traveler's foot?

The Shoe Bomber should be made to clean those mats on his hands and knees -- forever and ever, Amen.

The flight in front of ours doesn't have a first officer. Our plane is on the ground and our crew is here. But we are waiting for the guy holding up the show. Eventually he shows up and that flight departs. We board our flight, stow our luggage, and breath a sigh of relief as the plane is pushed back.

Finally.

We taxi for a couple of minutes and then the pilot announces that due to bad weather at our destination we'll be sitting on the ground for about a quarter of an hour awaiting clearance for take off. The business man in the seat across the aisle fell asleep as soon as he got on board and now has awakened to collect his luggage because he thinks we landed. In a few more minutes a new announcement: The weather is worse and we will be returning to the gate to step off the plane if we want, thanks to the new Passengers Bill of Rights that ensures airlines cannot hold passengers captive on tarmacs anymore.

Isn't Youtube a wonderful thing? 

Suddenly, the feeling of being strangers dissipates and people begin to talk about trying to get home, their other bad travel experiences, and crack jokes. Here's mine:

We taxied so long I thought he was going to drive to Memphis.

I also had a capital idea: 

I have 3 bottles of Russian vodka and several German chocolate bars in my checked luggage. If someone will get it for us we can have a party.

Our poor flight attendant looked like she might we willing to go get it for us herself.

Eventually the weather clears and we are good to go. I check the time. I should be at home in my own bed, by now. As tired as I am, I can't ever sleep on an airplane, or train. I try to avoid drooling and snoring in public. That's the worst isn't it? To doze off and be awoken by a snort...only to realize it was you.

For everyone's benefit I try to remain awake.

The plane lands and hypothetically you are "home" but there is still the walk to baggage claim, the car, and the ride home...

The going is always such fun. The coming home...well, it just always sucks.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Happily Mapless in Finland Or Directions For Girls

After having every day on our tour of the Baltic capitals planned out in detail and in such a way that there was never any time left over for much shopping (okay, maybe that's a conspiracy theory I can believe in) we were ready for some girl time in Helsinki. I'd been busy selling the Suomenlinna Fortress as something the men wouldn't want to miss but that we weren't interested in. Unfortunately visiting the market at the pier was a casualty of my plan, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We'd seen enough palaces and had enough military history to last us a while and we were ready to lay siege to boutiques and storm gift shops in the city center. We were using the fortress as a brilliant diversionary tactic that would allow us to implement our campaign unhindered by questions like "Do you know how much that dress costs in DOLLARS?"

They didn't seem too keen on leaving us to our own devices. We are however battle hardened shoppers. We asked sweetly, "Can we stop in this store?"

A surprise attack. We weren't leaving. We wanted to look at every single item. I scooped up an armload from the sale rack and asked where the dressing room was. The surrender was immediate and complete:

"Excuse me" I heard a male voice say "Can you tell us where we can catch the ferry to the fortress?"

My heart leapt!

After that there were lots of instructions (what DO they think we do when we travel alone?) and pointing to things on maps.

Maps. (I know, right?)

Not that I don't like using a map, but is this a street name you'd be able to remember? You see my point. Besides, my travel ADD was in full swing...a map was not going to be helpful.


Of course our husbands wanted to know, did we want the map? They didn't need it after all, being men.

We declined. "We'll figure it out..."

They left the store wondering aloud if we'd make it back to the ship on time. I considered the fact that if I were going to abandon ship in a port Helsinki looked like a fine one to do it.

We had no goal this day except for shopping and enjoying ourselves, but I did want to mail one postcard. We inquired about where good shopping might be and were directed to the Centrum. Lots of small shops of high quality, and though there was a mall we were advised to avoid it since the weather was so nice. We strolled from shop to shop, had a long lunch, shopped some more and with a couple of hours to spare before "all aboard" we started to make our way back from whence we came.

We hadn't paid attention to a single street sign, not that the names would have been memorable anyway. With no map and no idea where we were or how far we'd walked we retraced our steps as we walked along.

"This must be the right direction, there is the place that the man who told us not to go to the mall said he bought his new glasses."

"This is that area where the couple walked with us and asked us about America."

"There is the statue with the globe, we turn right here."

We began to realize just how far we'd walked. We'd been strolling along having a lovely time and were unaware that we now seemed to be a good distance from the store where we'd started and from there it was still a mile or so to the ship...

"There's the store where we loved the dress in the window but didn't go in. We keep going straight."

"Here's the antique store with that beautiful platter in the window. Take a left."

"There's the store when we got rid of the men. Yay!"

Now I should say that I'd purchased stamps to mail my postcard early on thinking that would be the tough thing to find. I had been in several shops throughout the day and had not found ONE postcard of Finland. Here it was late in the day and this darling store only had funky little vintage cards, none of which said Finland. However, I was out of options. I picked one out and hastily wrote a pathetically short and lame message and got directions to the post box down the block.

Of course there was one more photo op.

Mission accomplished. Several missions in fact as I'd made quite a few purchases that I was ridiculously happy about. We made our way back to the ship, taking our own sweet time now, and at the last shipside souvenir shop--what did I find? A vast selection of post cards...

And what did I find in my cabin upon arrival? A man who looked at me with shock that two women had actually managed to find their way back where they were supposed to be.

We hadn't set sail yet, and I was tempted to head back to town.

Except that I had a new dress to wear to dinner...and yes, I do know how much it cost in DOLLARS. I'm just not telling.





Wednesday, September 12, 2012

That's It. I'm in Love

Don't we make a cute couple?
I've fallen in love and it is one of those tragic stories of longing and desire that will most likely end badly. Or sadly. Or something. Sometimes you just can't make the fleeting object of your desire your own.

I hate that. 

Impeccable manners, a charming accent, an eye for design, great style, hip, clean, smart, rational, and absolutely beautiful.  Who has stolen my heart, you ask? Well it isn't a who but a where. You see, I've been to Scandinavia and let me just tell you...three days with a new love isn't anywhere near enough.

I know what you are thinking. "Weren't you head over heels for Italy?"

Smitten with Finland...
I was. I am. I always will be. But Italy is like the exotic well traveled older man, worldly wise, who likes a conquest. I was more than happy to oblige with my whole heart while he seduced me with coffee, wine, and breathtaking vistas. And history. Oh the history. And fountains. Art. And his accent. Oh yes, that. And when he spoke Italian passionately. I mean, what's a girl to do?

But the old guy has some serious competition. 

Sweden: He's so fine...
Let me introduce Scandinavia. Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are the younger guys in tight pants who want to talk about the future while they unclutter your life and mind. While Italy showers you with gifts of one kind then another, Scandinavia says "Baby, you don't really need all that." and you believe him. He's subtle. He doesn't need to be pushy to get what he wants. He'll have you begging to paint the walls white and ride your bike to the bakery. He isn't living in the past. Old lovers and conquests, he remembers. But this guy has his eye on the future. He's got big ideas. He's got vision. And he has that one really important quality in a man. He can clean up after himself. In fact, his place is spotless. (swoon)

On top of all that, he's willing to give you space and time to breath.  Italy is amazing and he knows it. Oh how he knows it. In fact he keeps pointing it out. "Darling, aren't I amazing? Aren't you lucky to be with me?" He just can't stop talking about himself. Scandinavia doesn't need to do that. He'll win you over with friendly confidence. He'll put you at peace. He'll make you smile.

The fleeting nature of our meeting is a little hard for me to deal with. I have a memento or two to remind me of our brief time together, but I can't let myself believe it was a one time thing. So in the style of heroines of love stories down through the ages, I'm plotting a way to get back to him...for 3 more days, or weeks,
 or years...
Denmark: Did I mention he's charming?




Waking up next to Sweden.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Photographic Memories

I'm just home (I think. What day is this?) from a 9 day cruise of the Baltic capitals. I allowed myself nearly two weeks of being unplugged and disconnected. I'll admit I missed sharing everything with you but the schedule was so crammed I wouldn't have had time even if I'd wanted to pay for the ship's super slow over-priced internet package.

There are lots of pictures (you knew that, right?) coming. I'll spare you the entire 1,978 because I'm nice that way. My travel companion and fellow blogger The Food Maven was along with her camera in tow so we have those pictures to look forward to as well putting the total at somewhere around 4,000 photos.

Yes. I know. We are obsessed.

However, when life is moving at jet speed and (I was looking for some clever ship connection here, but I don't think "knots" is it) documenting the details becomes more important. Plus at dinner it's fun to make the other diners wonder why you are rearranging the table and photographing the food from every possible angle. There are new babies with fewer photos than some of our meals on this trip.


Sometimes the tables (or bars)  are turned. After photographing the bottles, bars, drinks, glasses, and bartenders at the martini tasting on the first sea day, the bartender asked if he could borrow the camera to take a picture of me.

That's that photo karma returning to me for all those pics I offer to take of couples and families on vacation. It is a simple thing that makes people happy when they are doing the "now you take one of me" game with the camera. I'm obsessed with making sure everyone returns home with fun group photos.

 It was so bad that at times we resorted to taking pictures of each other taking pictures...So gird your travel photo loins, intrepid readers, the onslaught is coming.


Did I mention we're obsessed?