Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Best Product Review and Testimonial Ever

traveling with hand crafted products.

One of the questions I have when making my own products has to do with how they are going to travel and hold up under extreme temperature changes. So in an attempt to answer the question and get a more objective evaluation I sent a package of samples off to a young friend living in Spain. My timing was extremely lucky as she was about to set off traveling for the holidays as was her roommate. Thanks to my two adventurous guinea pigs the Pen & Hive lip balms and hand creams were tested in Prague, Budapest, and Peru. I'm sharing her whole post because it's informative and entertaining. And yes, she's a writer.

Fireside hand cream: This stuff was an absolute lifesaver. Not only did it save my hands from the freezing weather of Prague and Budapest, it also acted as the best deodorant, scraped skin protectant, lip balm (when I left the actual lip balm in another bag,) spider bite healer, emergency dry hair conditioner, and dry foot balm. Plus, I don’t know how you concocted that smell, but it’s probably my favorite part. Two different people asked me what “perfume” I was wearing on the metro in Prague. In a nutshell, I love this stuff. 

The container was perfect for traveling. I love how you can seal it by twisting, so you feel secure about it staying put even when it heats up enough for the coconut oil to melt. 

The consistency never changed even after melting and setting and freezing repeatedly. The size of the tin was perfect for flying too.

traveling with hand crafted skin care

 I also appreciated traveling with this because when you’re in a dry skin jam it’s easy to run to the pharmacy, and in a fit of desperation, buy hand cream that has enough chemicals to kill a giant beetle. I was glad to use your hand cream for whatever problem I had and feel secure in the ingredients. That’s so important. 

The only thing that showed wear and tear was the label, but I’d beg you not to print plastic labels. I’d much rather see paper labels than plastic. 

  She hand cream: I sent Amy home to Peru with this and she had nothing but great things to say about it. She loved the smell and the texture. She said she used it on dry hands from the long flights to help with super dry skin, and on jungle bug bites. 

She read my above paragraph and agreed with all of it so I won’t repeat everything. 

home made bee soap

 Bee soap: Amy and I each took one to travel with over Christmas. Mine was used by the other Katie (Savage,) our friend Homey, and myself. It was gone by the end of the trip (ha). It was a great travel size, not too heavy. I put it in a little soap travel box to take with us. It got left in a shower water puddle one night and got mushy, but it dried out and we just scooped with fingers from the box from then on. I could only use it once every two days because it dried my skin out a bit. Luckily, I hand the fireside cream to slather on. 

 Amy’s soap survived beautifully, and she brought it back to Spain, and continues to use it. She doesn’t find it drying and uses it as hand soap only.

 Studyhall lip balm: I enjoyed schmearing this on so much that I became very protective, even territorial, of it during Christmas. Not only did it protect from the wind, it’s a great sealer for lip stain (I make a beet powder lip stain, but it only lasts for three or four hours without this lip balm over it.) The consistency didn’t change at all, no matter the change in temperature. It was perfect to use after 8 hours in the thermal baths of Budapest where even my mouth looked like a raisin.

 A note about the photos:  The majority of the photos without any people are places where we got wind chapped like no one's business. Maggs had on ALL your bee products in the photo with the locks. She commandeered the fireside balm for a time. I wish we had one of her holding it like the sneaky rat she was....and the one of the two of us in Prague was when we were both sporting the lip balm and fireside cream.

 Thank you for sending them. I had such a great time testing them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to Make a Citrus Powder

ground lemon peel

In keeping with my tagline I'm always looking for things that are simple and sustainable. The honey takes care of the sweet. 

If you've been hanging around a while you know that I am going to try to upcycle, reuse, or recycle just about everything. Dryer lint in the compost or as a fire starter for instance. One of my favorite things is to come up with a way to eliminate another kind of waste.

Citrus peels have always been a bit of a strange thing to dispose of. They take a long time to break down in the compost so generally I put them down the disposal as a freshener. Then while I was making some of my Kitchen Sink Salt Scrub I thought how nice and kitcheny it would be to add bits of dried orange peel to it so I took a clementine peel cut it into strips with my kitchen shears and popped it in the oven on warm with the door open.

This is how I dehydrate all my herbs as well. I am not someone who likes kitchen gadgets. I literally have fewer things than anyone else I know. Seriously, at the moment there is a crock pot, food processor, and coffee grinder.

You do not need a food dehydrator. This oven method works in about an hour. Especially this time of year when the air is so dry. When the bits are thoroughly dry--otherwise they'll mold--then pop them in a coffee grinder that you've cleaned out. After the clementine peel worked so well I did some lemon and lime.

The fragrance of this process would be worth the trouble even if you didn't come up with the most wonderful citrus powder ever. My kitchen smells like some tropical paradise!

dried orange peel

I have a couple of uses in store for this deliciously beautiful ingredient so stay tuned for that. Here's a hint: I added the powder to a teaspoon of honey and it tasted magical. Can a flavor be magical? Well, this was.

Okay, let's recap.

Peel citrus.
Cut into strips.
Grind to powder.

I have a couple of product ideas up my sustainable sleeve too. They'll be available this spring. I'll keep you posted about those! Remember if you want to know what's going on before everyone else follow along on Instagram or the Facebook page. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Did You Know You are a Super Hero?

super hero bee saving valentine

Hello, Pen & Hive Family!

Did you know you are a bee-saving environmental super hero? Well, you are! While I'm creating some fun goodies for Valentine's Day I was thinking of just how important you are. Yesterday I ordered a couple of swarms of bees to add to the apiary and more equipment with the profits from our Open House and Pop-Up-Shop.

Big thanks to every one who made a purchase!

But guess what! Even if you didn't buy anything and just shared about the danger posed to bees, you are part of the solution by sharing information. Thank you!

At the same time while I'm gearing up for the busy buzzy season of spring I'm researching organizations that help beekeepers in developing countries. Beekeeping is an amazing sustainable skill that can go a long way toward alleviating poverty for a family or an entire village. Starting this year a portion of every purchase you make will be donated toward this cause. I'll be sharing details about this soon!

Who is making all of that possible? You are, by purchasing honey and skin care products that I hope you love and continue to buy in the future. Please shoot me a comment or email to let me know how you are enjoying your honey or skin care product and what kind of response you got if you gave them as gifts.

Post coming up soon about what's going to be available as a sweet gift for your honey!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Living Young At Any Age

It's a new year and you may or may not be keeping all those resolutions you made on New Years Eve. A better idea might be to adopt a healthy lifestyle you can maintain forever and throw out counter productive goals like achieving some elusive goal weight.

I don't know about you but I'm terrified of getting old. Possibly because as a child I was never around older people and as an adult the ones I've been around haven't exactly been doing it well. Oxygen tanks, frailty, falling, and a lack of physical energy don't paint an encouraging picture and that is all without the nightmare of dementia.

I've been encouraged recently by a group of women I volunteer with at the art museum (you can read more about what I'm learning from them here). . The book, Blue Zones paints a brighter picture and gets down to how to live well over a long period of time.

One of the things I'm learning from paying attention to those who are aging well is that you have to keep moving. Even if it hurts. Your body was made to move and sitting down will eventually kill you. And not in a quick and easy way. In a slow, dull, painful way...possibly over quite a long time.

The second thing is that the people who live a long time are interested AND interesting. In the video Baroness Trumpington (isn't that the best name ever?)  says the secret is being "interested in life generally."

Judging from my friends at the museum, many of whom are old enough to be my parents (I get a kick out of listing to them tell stories about graduating from college the year I was born) and recent books and videos, here are the things that will keep you young:

Not smoking. I don't know any older people who are still on the move who were smokers.

Keep moving, even it means overcoming aches and pains. Sitting down, or worse yet, spending the day in bed will suck the life and energy out of you.

Do not allow yourself to get overweight. But don't do any unhealthy dieting, you'll ruin your metabolism.

Have a regular sleep schedule. I don't have evidence for this one, but I'm pretty sure you can ruin your circadian rhythm just like your metabolism.

Be interesting, which is likely to mean you are interested in lots of things, and are keen to keep learning. You should have something more interesting to share than the details of your most recent ailment. It's how you keep getting invited to parties.

Be social. Being connected is a huge key, you need a support network outside your family.

Ditch the negative attitude, grumbling, and complaining.

Refuse to be overtaken by fear.

Embrace change. Would you really want everything to stay the same?

Be grateful.

Volunteer. The most energetic people I know are not just focused on themselves. 

Plan on living to be 100 and start now to adjust your life accordingly. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What's in Store For 2016

fresh herbs

Happy New Year! If you've noticed fewer blog posts lately it's because I know you all have better things to do during the holidays than pop in to see what I'm up to.

Plus I'm under the weather. If "the weather" was an inner layer of the earth's crust. It's annoying that when you are well you imagine the next time you are sick you're going to get a lot of reading done, then being sick you just lie in bed and wonder who decided to swirl the plaster on the ceiling.
As a fun extra I have pink eye in addition to strep. I look like I already died and the mortician wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to look like. I'm sporting a kind of old Elizabeth Taylor meets Quasimodo look.

Like I said, happy new year.

Onward. Big things happened last year!

honey label

 I changed the name of the blog and the honey operation to its forever name and decided that there might be enough interest in the honey and skin care to operate a small business, a micro business really. You can read about the Open House here and Pop Up Shop here.

I applied for and was accepted to the Tennessee Master Gardener course. Something that has been on my radar for over a decade.

Speaking of gardening, remember when I nearly ripped my arm off trying to conquer a stubborn azalea? My husband would like the record to show that he doesn't think the azalea was the stubborn one.  
Want to laugh at my pain? I want you to too. Read about it here.

The Pen & Hive Cottage is (what, for my husband's sake we are going to call) finished. Wink 

 So what's in store for 2016?

The first quarter will be focused on the Master Gardener classes and volunteer hours. Plus in January I'll be trying to get back into healthy habits that I threw under the bus a couple of months ago. Seriously y'all. TEN extra pounds that have got to go. Plus ordering supplies for the apiary. We're expanding! And making decisions about the business. Testing products and collecting feedback from people who have used my goodies. In the back of my mind is that nagging "should I do this?"

The second quarter will be working on getting in the MG volunteer hours. Tending bees. Planting the garden. I'll also be making final decisions about what products are in and out for Pen & Hive, working on label design, and creating an online store. Etsy? Shopify? If you have an online store let me know what you like!

Third quarter will be finalizing volunteer hours paperwork for MG course. Getting documentation together, and graduation. I'll also be planning and packing for a big trip we'll be taking this year. More about later!

Then it's time for the holidays again!

Will all of this get done? In this time frame? And turn out fabulous? Who knows? But these are the goals. Each one is more detailed than it looks like here and I am thinking of about a million obstacles already. But that's okay.

Maybe you don't do resolutions and I get that, but where do you think you are going without a plan? 

The first step to finishing anything...

is to start.