Sunday, November 27, 2016
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.
So on Thanksgiving Day last year when I wasn't exactly interested in bourbon for the medicinal value I thought I'd whip up something new. My entire Thanksgiving this year was a fly by the seat of my pants affair that involved very little planning and a lot of making it up as I went along. This is what happens when you aren't trying to impress anyone.
By the way if you ever are tying to impress someone throw a can of lump crab meat and a small can of diced jalapenos in your mac and cheese along with a healthy dose of the cheese of your choice. You'll look like a genius. I can already see that this will be a go-to dish from this day forward.
Where was I? Oh yes. The booze. 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.
This time of year there are a few herbs still going strong like sage, thyme, and rosemary in the garden. But what flavor of cocktail do you think would be perfectly paired with turkey?
Yep. Sage. So 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?
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.
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 really fabulous word.
This is a first cousin to an Old Fashioned or a Mint Julep. The differences are slight but mighty.
I'll be making this again soon with lavender! I'll let you know how that turns out. Meanwhile my dinner guests raved about the unique flavor of this drink. Don't be afraid to try something new if you want a signature cocktail for a gathering you are throwing together.
I write about simple projects and a sustainable lifestyle. I keep bees and I'm obsessed with books, travel and art. Most days you can find me writing, leading a tour at my city's art museum, or tending the bees.
Monday, November 21, 2016
It's a big holiday travel week which may mean you find yourself being a guest in someone's home. Most likely it's going to be family and that can come with all kinds of land mines you may need to walk around.
Being a houseguest can be fun and relaxing or awkward and uncomfortable for the host and guest depending on how it goes. I love you and want you to make a good impression so read on...
The next time you get invited to stay with anyone there are some rules you need to adhere to. First, let's cover the basics of decent behavior:
- Bring a gift. I love to take people honey or home-made skin care items. But any simple thing will do to let you know you thought of them and appreciate their hospitality.
- Keep all of your things in whatever space, no matter how big or small, you have been allotted for your stay. Your nail file in the living room isn't appreciated even if they won't tell you.
- Whatever you use up you should replace.
- Be flexible. When in Rome...Eat what they eat, drink what they drink, adjust your schedule to theirs.
- Bring something to do on your own so your gracious host can get a few minutes of privacy to do things they need. No one wants to entertain you constantly.
- Help out! Get yourself in the kitchen and help with the dishes.
- Leave everything the way you found it, or better. I like to clean my guest room if there is one, for the next person. It is one less thing for your host to do.
- Bring everything you think you will need unless you've been otherwise informed.
- Handwritten thank-you notes are in order within a week of your return home.
10. Come prepared to be entertaining and interesting. If your hosts are the serious type brush up on your current events. In this polarized post-election environment, you may want to avoid politics altogether. I take it back. I'm just telling you to avoid it unless you know everyone present thinks alike. If their favorite topic is celebrity gossip then scan the latest magazines at the grocery to catch up. You can be temporarily shallow. It won't kill you. This week Kanye has handed you a gift. If they have children have some kid friendly conversation ready.
11. Do not show up with a list of things you have to eat, drink, or DO while you are there.
12. Have a favorite drink recipe to share. It doesn't have to be alcohol; you can whip up your best hot cocoa or chai to impress everyone. It allows you to pitch in without destroying the kitchen and taking up room in the fridge with the ingredients for an entire meal.
13.You are not at home. No one wants to see you floss your teeth or clip your toenails in the living room. (If you think no one would do that, you are wrong.)
14. Be flexible (again, I know). If you are set in your ways and demanding then STAY HOME.
15. Be nice to pets. If the dog doesn't like you, you will not be invited back.
Follow these rules and not only will you be invited back but they'll actually look forward to your return.
They may even cry at the airport instead of doing a happy dance.
What's something you would add to this list?
Thursday, November 17, 2016
The holidays are about to kick into high gear and we are all starting to think about gifts. Don't want to show up at your in law's with an obviously last minute Target pick up? Did you get invited to the coolest Christmas party and want to look (and feel) impressive.
I have the sweetest solution for you!
This post is for anyone who wants to trump even the best bottle of wine at the party. Showing up at the door with a jar of local honey will make an impression. It won't just join the multitude of homogeneous bottles on the table. It will end up in a special place in the kitchen. It's what your host will be eating the next morning while nursing a hangover. It's memorable and you will be too.
"Oh, you remember her. She's the one who brought the honey."
"Yes, of course."
How many times have you agonized over the perfect wine selection to take to your host only to find that it is taken from you and grouped together with cluster of other bottles on a table somewhere? Or worse, have you ever shown up with a fabulous bottle of Cabernet only to find out they don't drink? I have. Or that you brought the one kind they hate. Yep, did that too.
Honey represents your good taste and your commitment to eating local. Your Millenial hipster friends will think you are cooler than you look. If you are like me that doesn't take much. Taking honey as a gift to people older than you like your boss or in laws often means sparking a cherished memory. I can't tell you how many times I've had folks get a far away look and tell me that their grandparents had bee hives or that they haven't tasted honeycomb since they were kids.
You literally cannot go wrong.
There are a myriad of flavors to choose from depending on where the hives are located. Still not good enough? Look for gourmet infused honeys like lavender or thyme. For extra drama and style points bring honeycomb. Lots of people have never tried it and eating it is like an event.
Combining it with other specialty items like tea or gourmet cheese is bound to make an impression on even the most serious foodie. They'll think of you every time they use it to sweeten tea or lemonade.
Get to know your beekeeper at the local farmers market. Chat with them about what the bees are foraging and where the apiary is located. You'll have an instant conversation starter at the party. People may not know as much about honey as they do about wine but they are fascinated by the bees and beekeepers. Everyone knows the bees are having a hard time but they may not have ever had real honey.
Want to sound like an expert? Then read my 31 Day Introduction to Beekeeping.
Want to see the honey process? Then read A Honey Season Start to Finish.
The beekeeper isn't quite as sexy as the vintner. I think it's the bee suit. Okay, it is definitely the suit. But throw around the words apiary and queen bee. An apiary sounds at least as romantic as a vineyard and every hive includes royalty.
Still not convinced that honey can beat out wine as your go-to party gift? Then go for mead. Mead is a fermented honey beer that has been around as long as wine. Again, you'll be the only one bringing it and it will stand out from the pack of wine bottles.
Friday, November 11, 2016
A week is an unusually long break for me to take from writing but that election...did anyone else just feel mentally and emotionally exhausted from 18 months of it? However you feel about the outcome, let's all just exhale.
In my You: Sustainable series I recommended that you start journaling as an aid for personal growth but also for leaving a legacy.
If you missed my video blog about journaling, here ya go!
I've heard from several of you that writing in such a vulnerable way is intimidating and scary.
Never fear. I have a solution for you.
Start using your calendar or personal planner as a pre-journaling tool.
I get that if you aren't comfortable with writing a blank page can be super intimidating. So stop trying to get over the idea of keeping a journal and begin to tweak your calendar to help with the process. This is going to be an easier concept if you are keeping a paper calendar than if you are doing everything on your phone.
Look at what you already document. You likely have a monthly, weekly, and daily plan. You write down the urgent, the scheduled, the necessary. Your daily activities are there.
A form of this concept is promoted by Gary Vaynerchuck who says "Document, don't create." He's a master at using social media to do just that.
Think about the why. Why do you spend your time the way you do? Working. Shuttling the kids around. Working out. Posting to Instagram. Find some time to get quiet and dig around a bit. Obviously you work to support yourself and your family and drive the kids to their various activities because they have no other way to get there. But the underlying reasons to investigate might be more complex. Maybe you are living up to a work ethic established by your parents and something deep inside wants to make them proud. Or perhaps you do work you are so passionate about you would do it even if you didn't get paid.
Add notes to your agenda. You don't have to write a letter to your younger self or a dissertation on why you have a problem with your mother. You might, however, jot down how something makes you feel, an idea you have, or something you realize about yourself. Write down encouraging quotes you want to remember.
Take a monthly meeting with yourself. As you turn the page on your calendar reflect over the previous month. So often we flip the page and start filling up the next month without looking at all that got accomplished in the weeks before. This is a great time to step off the distraction wheel for a few minutes and process the past few weeks of your life.
Invest in a calendar that lends itself to thoughtful planning and reflection. If you really want to start documenting your life but find the blank page intimidating, maybe even terrifying, there are now several planners available to help you along the way. I use the Passion Planner. I haven't received any compensation or free products from them, I'm just sharing it because it's the one my daughter and I use and it is perfect for transitioning from a calendar to a journal!
If you want to see how my daughter, Kirsten, uses her Passion Planner and take a tour of it she has a post about that on her blog, Organized Charm:
How I Organize My Passion Planner
And here's her post on the best planners from a couple of years ago:
Best Planners for 2014
Hopefully these tips and ideas will help you document your life if you feel that writing about it is just too overwhelming.
What's your favorite tactic for documenting your life?
Friday, November 4, 2016
October was spent on helping you develop some life strategies but you didn't think I forgot about the bees, did you? This crazy warm fall weather means that as of today they are still out and about but let's talk honey.
It's jarred. It's labeled. It's amazing. I sold my first two jars yesterday to someone who ordered it in September.
"I used to have a honey guy but I think he died."
When I'm in a tree with a sharp saw and my smoker (also known as a can of fire), in the rain, wrestling a swarm of bees, or laid up with a nasty sting on my ankle which is so swollen it feels like it might burst, or wearing a suffocating bee suit when it's 105* I think it might kill me too.
Let's recap the season. Here's where we started in March with 3 hives.
They swarmed. Which created this scenario...
You really haven't lived until you've tried to get 20 thousand bees in a box.
You can see the queen cells in the photo below. This means these bees are planning on swarming.
The most organized sorority in the world.
So productive. Above capped honey. Below the frame they started with.
Love this frame where you can see their handiwork.
Next it goes into the honey extractor, which works by centrifugal force.
Another way to extract honey is just to scrape it right off the frame into the jar. That's how I'm doing it since this post. People have been loving the raw unfiltered honey with comb in it.