Monday, October 21, 2019

5 Important First Steps for Any Journey

Here's the stuff I know about accomplishing anything but need to be reminded of myself from time to time. Anyone else need a Monday moment of encouragement? 

1. Don't get overwhelmed by the enormity of the thing you are trying to accomplish, or learn about, or recover from. In the book, the $100 Start-Up, several of the people interviewed said if they had known what all was required to start a business they wouldn't have done it. At the outset sometimes it's best to keep the final goal in mind and not get bogged down in the how-to details. 

2. Stop waiting until you have all the information. This one can be paralyzing because when will that be? Never, that's when. Analyzing things to death is a form of resistance. If you don't know about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. You want to have a reasonable amount of information and be able to make informed decisions. But beware information gathering becoming a way of never taking action. You don't need that much action to actually start moving in the right direction.  

 3. Start. Take actions today that will move you toward your goal. Pick up the phone. Send in the form. Shoot that person the email. Drink the water. Buy the running shoes. Throw out the junk food. Start the book or the blog. Open the account. Clean out the junk drawer. Post your art on Instagram. Buy the supplies. Make the thing. 

If you are struggling with creativity read this. 

4. Finish. In Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic she says "Done is better than good" and reminds us that the world doesn't really need one more half-finished manuscript in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It might be that the thing you need to do has been started and abandoned for some reason. Pick it up again. Dust it off. Finish it. If that's too ambitious for where you are right now, then take actions 1-3 to move in the direction of your finish line. 

5. Stop being so afraid all the time. This is the real thing, isn't it? So much of it comes down to fear. What will people think? What if it doesn't work? What if I fail? What if everyone finds out I'm a fraud? What if I look silly? What if it changes friendships? Or your marriage? And perhaps the scariest thing of all--what if I succeed? What if? What if? What if?


 If we are going to ask that question, let's at least spin it in our favor.

What if it works? What if you find a strong toned body under those extra pounds? What if you find your life's work? Or passion? Or the love of your life? What if you surprise everyone by how fabulous you are? What if you surprise yourself? What if you find out there is power in being vulnerable? What if you become healthier than ever? What if your courage inspires someone else? 

What if?

If fear is a major issue for you then the book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers might be helpful.

Want a sustainable change in your life that you can keep going over the months and years? These 5 things are necessary whether you are out to improve your health, renew your mind, or deepen your spiritual life. 

And if you want to write the great American novel or take up kickboxing, well, they work for that too.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Autumn Beekeeping Tasks

honey with book on beekeeping and hive tool

It's autumn! 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.

spoonful of honeycomb on frame

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 ensure 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 it 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 mothballs) 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!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Defining Success for Your Vision Board

A lot of the vision boards I see have things like private jets, expensive cars, and jewelry. If that's your jam then you do you, girl.

But what if your vision is bringing clean water to a village in Africa, teaching a child to read, or growing food in your garden to donate to a food bank?

Then that's what goes on your board!

You get to define what success means for you. Here are some examples of non-material things you can look for pictures of:

  • an in-depth spiritual practice
  • wellness
  • getting fit
  • building healthy habits
  • reading more
  • building a strong marriage
  • better parenting practices
  • making new friends 
  • strengthening existing friendships
  • writing a book
  • building a tribe of creative friends
  • Inspiring others

Your vision board is about your vision for your life. There's nothing wrong with leading a quiet life and pursuing the things that make you happy. There's a reason there's a slow living movement!

Just make sure the things you don't put on your board aren't on there because you really aren't interested in them and not just because you are afraid. As a matter of fact, overcoming fear would be a great thing to add to your board!

And if your vision board has a combination of both tangible and intangible goals, well there's nothing wrong with that either!  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

How To Create a Spooky Dress Form for Halloween

Today's post is because everyone needs a dead bride on the lawn at Halloween. Where are my Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society people? 

Side note: Several years ago while a blog partner (Anyone remember The Professor and the Housewife?) and I were discussing the book on our site the surviving author of the book emailed me and told me that Dead Bride was a game she and her sister loved to play as children! 

A couple of years later by sheer coincidence, my husband and I ended up on the isle of Guernsey. This is me at The Little Chapel with the book!

But dead brides and Halloween aside today's project is pretty versatile!

One  Saturday morning a few years ago while browsing Pinterest I ran across this idea of making a sculpture out of chicken wire.  Luckily I had just enough leftover chicken wire behind the Honey Shed that I thought I'd give it a whirl. As you can see she's fun to decorate for fall or spring!

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 the excess.  I loved being able to walk all the way around a project.

ghost sculpture

Even though I sometimes decorate her most of the time she stands elegantly and simply in the garden just like this. 

chicken wire sculpture

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. It would be fun to make several of these and spray them with glow in the dark paint for the front lawn on Halloween. 

I loved her just like this but last 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 sat on the ground and one that sat 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 waited for the ivy to grow thicker. 

Have you ever created a large sculpture or topiary? 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Do You Identify as More Educator or Entrepreneur?

Do you see yourself more as an educator or entrepreneur? Not that they are mutually exclusive but let me share about my journey to answer this question. Once I even figured out it was a question that I needed to answer.


A few years back when I started to keep bees and sell honey and other products a lot of people suggested that I start a business. And I thought about it. Then I envisioned what it would mean to have an Etsy shop or to shlep things to markets and festivals around town.

I knew I didn't want that.

Don't get me wrong, I love making things and getting paid for the things I make but I don't want to have to get up every day and make 50 hand creams or bars of soap. I also didn't want to have to keep expanding my honey operation to more hives than were fun for me to keep.

So what the heck was I doing? I knew I loved the branding, marketing, writing the blog posts. Aren't I supposed to want to be an entrepreneur? The idea that someone could order three hundred of something didn't excite me.

Read my post on the Value of Living a Creative Life. 

It filled me with dread. All I could think of was that episode of Big Bang Theory where Penny starts selling hair barrettes called Penny Blossoms and she has a giant order that everyone stays up all night to help her fill.

Your girl cannot stay up all night. Period.  Also buying honey from me probably feels more like the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.  

I literally thought about this for an entire year. Should I start a business? Everyone thought I should. People raved about the things I made and told their friends. Everywhere I went people it seemed like everyone said, "You should make this a real business!"

I responded eloquently. "Um..."

In this post, you can read about how this question finally got settled. 

After I came to the conclusion I wasn't supposed to be just selling things, I spent some time trying to figure out what it was I did want if I didn't want what it looked to everyone else like I was trying to build.

Why did I have a blog? Why was I trying to build an Instagram following?

Read my post about why documenting is now creating. 


When I dug deep I realized I was happiest when I was writing. Taking pictures. Sharing what I had learned with people. I realized in a moment that I didn't want to make things. 

 I was the thing.

 Okay, that sounds weird. 

I just knew could serve people best with what I could teach and share, not by what I could make and sell. So I made my first vision board and I put a picture of a female speaker on it.

But I didn't tell anyone.

I mean what was I going to speak about? How not to start a business? How to keep your thing small. How to be an anti-preneur? Nothing about it made sense but something about the idea of speaking drew me.

It was scary but in a good way-- not in a 300 tins of hand cream by tomorrow way.

I didn't promote myself or tell anyone about this idea of becoming a speaker. All I did was continue to listen to speakers and podcasters who inspire me and cut out a picture of a female speaker and put it on my vision board. But it was 2017 and my motto for that year was "let the opportunity reveal the path". In April I received a call inviting me to speak at a church to a women's ministry group.

Could I come and talk about whatever I wanted relating to bees and gardening? Could I be fun and entertaining? I hadn't given a talk since a book report in high school and I spent hours writing it out and rehearsing down to the tiniest detail. Everyone said they loved it, had tons of questions, and they've since had me back again. I've spoken to garden clubs and at other events.


Since then it's become so apparent to me that it's the speaking and writing as well as giving advice and answering questions on social media platforms that fill me with joy. I still make things because I love that and selling my products pays for my beekeeping and gardening addictions.

It truly is the teaching and sharing of information that I love the most. That's why educator and not entrepreneur was the right path for me. It's the ability to serve people by answering the questions beyond "is honey really good for your allergies?"

What path are you on? Does it make sense only to you? Are your friends kind of perplexed because you don't fit neatly into the should box?

Just keep doing your thing the way that makes sense for you and eventually you'll find a way to put it together in a way that works.

If you are in the midst of this kind of decision making yourself, hit me up in the comments and let's talk it out. 

XOXO Y'all!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

DIY Beeswax Candle in a Teacup

beeswax candle in teacup

You can make a candle in a teacup! Ever run across a beautiful teacup at a thrift store and left it there because you couldn't think of anything to do with it? 

Read about my Milk and Honey candles made in vintage milk glass. 

It would be a great use of an odd set of cups you've inherited but have no real use for. You can find lovely odd pieces while thrifting or at garage sales. Then, unless you are a beekeeper, head to a craft store and grab some beeswax and wicks

I get my beeswax from my beehives but you can buy your wax online or from the craft store. As you can see wax from the hives can vary widely in color. 

You start by grating the beeswax into a bowl so that it will melt faster and more evenly. Obviously, if you buy pellets you can skip this step.

I melt it in the microwave 30 seconds at a time. Don't forget that whatever you melt beeswax in will be unusable for anything else. Designate one bowl for this project. 

Here's the thing about pure beeswax candles; beeswax burns hot and fast meaning that it "tunnels" down through the candle burning quickly in the center leaving a large ring of wasted wax. In order to fix the problem, I added coconut oil and was able to achieve a slower more even burn.

I stuck a wick in the bottom of the cup. You could glue it to keep it in place but mine seemed to stay secure. Just pour a little bit of wax in the bottom and let it set in place, then continue.

 Use a knife to keep the wick straight. When the wax is thoroughly melted quickly pour it into the cup.

Allow the wax to harden. You will see that the color changes to a beautiful honey yellow.

If you want to add color and scent stir them in just before pouring into the cup. Beeswax doesn't carry scent as well as other mediums but luckily it smells like honey instead so I usually don't try to scent it. I don't want to mess with that beautiful color either. 

This is a very inexpensive project and takes only minutes. If you are baking challenged this is a very sweet homemade gift that anyone would love! 

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Real Magic Behind a Vision Board

There's a lot of talk swirling around vision boards and what they can do for you. How does this crazy thing even work? Is it a mind hack? Is it mystical?  Is it subliminal messaging? It may be all of those things or none of them. Depending on your intent.

Is it weird to use this if I'm a Christian? 

If you have ever written down a Bible verse you wanted to focus on and put it on your bathroom mirror, you've already done a version of this. You are just replacing the words with an image that represent what you are trying to achieve. Put the verse with the image if you want. 

You only have to think about how much money is spent on advertising by people trying to sell us things and think their thoughts to realize the powerful effect images have on our minds. 

No matter what you believe, the one way to ensure your vision board works is to allow it to be an inspiration to work.

If you think it's just a bunch of woo woo then think of it this way:

The truth about vision boards is that seeing your goals and desires every day inspires you to get to work on them. It's the picture version of your favorite motivational quote. It's your Pinterest call to action.

Even if you aren't consciously thinking about working toward your goals every minute of the day seeing your vision board sparks subconscious activity that leads to ideas about how you can make those pretty pictures a reality.

While writing down your goals and planning what you want your life to look like on paper is a good thing and something I definitely do, creating a vision board version of all those same things is...


But let's be clear. Sitting around all day staring at your vision board and wondering why you aren't living the life of your dreams is just flat out crazy.

Girl. You gotta do the work.

Your vision board invites and inspires you to get to work to make the desires on that board come to life.

Or manifested, if we want to use some straight-up vision board lingo.

So let me be clear. The universe responds to action. The thinkers and dreamers are a dime a dozen. Everyone has a great idea for a book. Everybody knows what new business would be a huge success. Every single person has an idea for an app that would make millions.


So think of your vision board as a beautiful call to action.

What small steps can you take today to move you in the direction of any of your goals you see there?

Monday, September 23, 2019

How to Stencil a Concrete Floor

faux brick painted on concrete and hutch

I've always wanted to do a painted floor with a brick stencil. I finally had the opportunity to do that in the Pen & Hive Cottage last spring when we had the carpet and linoleum I had ruined with honey and beeswax ripped out.

Insiders tip: Beekeeping is a super messy hobby.  

I needed something indestructible because this is a workspace for me.

beekeeping equipment in a kitchen with faux brick floor

I ended up paying someone to rip out the old flooring because I used to think that stuff was fun and I was too cheap to pay anyone to help me. My 34-year-old self was like "Oh, my gosh! you'll charge me how much?" My 54-year-old self says "Do you take Venmo?"

I couldn't really explain my plan for the stenciled floor in a way I could get my husband to understand. Mainly because he kept trying to buy me a new floor and I kept saying no. Let's just say this is not usually how those conversations go. 

kitchen with unfinished concrete floor

Pre-Project Info: 

If you need to get this done while your husband is out of town read Guerilla Decorating: A 5 Step Guide to Decor-Revolution. 

If you missed my post about prepping to paint concrete, you can read it here.

An important part of the prep is definitely going to be creating a sample board to nail the color combo down. Obviously so you can then completely ignore it. 

painted brick sample on plywood

When I imagined doing this project I envisioned a regular size paint roller on the end of a pole where I would knock out this floor painting business before lunch. Oh, wait. I forgot who I was. I should have known I would want to paint each individual brick a different color to achieve the most realistic look possible. 

How to Paint a Faux Brick Floor:

Note: If you were painting a floor all over for a smooth finish the prep work would be much more intense. For this project, I used the imperfections to mimic actual brick. Plus I do not like intense but can completely get behind imperfect. 

tub of dap concrete repair

1. Clean and prepare the surface. This includes using premixed concrete to fill holes created when the carpet was removed. Sand the patches smooth after they dry and sweep up any dust and dirt. I swept and then used a shop vac.

brick stencil on concrete floor

2. Lay out the stencil according to your design. For this floor, I wanted an edge of straight brick which I thought looked more authentic than a brick pattern that just disappears under a wall.

faux brick and Jolie paint sample jars

3. Choose and mix paint colors. This depends on the color of brick you are trying to recreate. The outside of our house is red brick but I wanted a good bit of pink to tie in with the cabinets and countertops. The base color was Jolie Terra Rosa, with hints of Sage, Legacy, Palace White, and Rose Quartz.  Have y'all figured out that I'm just making everything up as I go along?

brick stencil on concrete with red paint

4. Hold your stencil in place with painter's tape then use a roller to apply the paint. A big one if you are normal. A tiny one if you are trying to recreate each individual vintage brick you have ever seen. Because the bare concrete is so absorbent I was able to skip the normal offloading technique which is stenciling 101 and go straight to the concrete. I painted the center of the bricks first (offloading a lot of paint) then worked toward the edges to keep paint from seeping under the stencil

faux brick on concrete

5. Distress. When the basic painting was done I flicked paint, mixed up a whitewash and spread it out in various spots to mimic extra grout, and sanded to achieve a flat clay like finish.

sandpaper and concrete with painted brick pattern

6. Seal with a concrete sealer if desired. I am so happy with how the faux brick turned out and I don't want to ruin it by adding shine. I'm on the hunt for a completely flat/no shine/matte sealer for concrete. I mean let's just toss aside the idea that the point of redoing the floor at all was to seal it and make it durable. It's been six months and the more worn it gets the better it looks. 

painted brick pattern on concrete

7. Enjoy your new floor! Because Jolie paint dries on concrete so quickly you can replace furniture and walk on it the same day. Actually, you can walk on it pretty much immediately. Remember when I painted the porch and it took days to dry? Not this time!

pink counter top and cabinets with painted brick floor

Note: for all of you people I see posting on social media to ask about who has a good full body workout, look no further. 

painted brick pattern on concrete floor with plant

Even though the cottage floor project was physically challenging because I got up and down off the floor 5,728 times it turned out even better than I expected.

Jolie paint can in terra rosa color

Cost for this project:

$35.00 for the stencil (I don't remember which one I ordered and the packaging has no name, but there are several online that look like it.)

$38.00 for a quart of Jolie Terra Rosa

$12 dollars for each sample size. I used three different colors.

$12.00 for concrete patch

painted brick floor with table

 The total was less than a hundred bucks but I did already have the necessary tools like the mini roller and sandpaper. Compare that cost to the hundreds of dollars a new floor would have cost. It's also ready to be tiled if I ever decide to do that. 

After six months it looks even better. Every bad thing that happens to it only enhances the character and it hides dirt like a champ! 

Let me know if you try this at home and let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Why Now is the Time to Think About Your Spring Garden

Usually, in September I'm over the garden. I'm looking forward to building the first fire and digging out my favorite sweater. Meanwhile, the AC is still on full blast and I'm cursing every ninety-degree day. 

But as a gardener, I'm not just focusing on fall cleanup and putting the garden to bed because right now is the best time to think about next March.

Is there anything better than that first daffodil or a bed of tulips? 

Late summer is prime time to be ordering your bulbs for your spring planting. Bulb companies start to ship in September and often sell out of their most popular stock if you wait too late. For many years by the time I was ready to think about a spring garden the things I wanted most were already sold out. 

Planting is less restrictive. I have planted bulbs as late as the week of Christmas when it was spitting snow, but now make a reminder for myself in my calendar to get it done much earlier. I like to get it done in October but If we have a warm fall I push it back a bit because you want the soil temperature to have cooled down by the time you plant your bulbs. 

You have a lot of leeway about when you can plant but order your bulbs sooner rather than later so you don't miss out on the best selection.

Don't know what to buy? Read The 5 Decisions You Need to Make Before You Buy Your First Plant. 

Bees need those first spring blossoms when they are gearing up baby bee and honey production in the spring. Here are some good choices for bees:
  • crocus.
  • daffodils.
  • grape hyacinths (Muscari)
  • hyacinths.
  • iris.
  • Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)

The Takeaway: 

Plan next year's spring garden. 

Order bulbs in September, companies ship at the correct time for planting in your area. 

Plant when the soil temperature starts to cool, anytime in the fall. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

5 Ways to Rethink the Space in Your Home

woman standing in front of an open closet

Do you have one of those rooms that can't decide what it wants to be? Or maybe life just keeps changing and you need to use the space differently.

One day while I was standing in front of my crowded closet that I've shared with my husband for our whole married life, I wished for my own closet. Then it dawned on me. I had one! It only needed cleaning out and my clothes moved into it. I also hung up a couple of hook racks so I could enjoy putting outfits together and enjoying the clothes I already had.

a hat and blue and white outfits hanging on a rack

My studio has been through several iterations since the kids left home. You can read about the first makeover here. Warning. The before pics are a little frightening. Just kidding, they are terrifying, so gird your loins.

More recently I did a little refresh. Check that one out here. Still so cluttered.   I was trying to use the space like I'm an artist when what I really needed was some decent closet space, a calmer place to write, and a place to stretch and do some yoga.

Where to start

If you have a closet or room or even a corner of a room that you need to rethink, here are some tips to get started. 

1. Clear the walls. This will help calm your mind and see the room in a new way. For me, this meant removing the maps covering the outside wall. There was an immediate transformation as the visual chaos decreased.

a room with maps covering the wall

2. Reduce the amount of furniture. What is in your house that you don't really need? In my case, the chest of drawers went to my daughter's new house 3 years ago, I sold the easel this spring (it's in the far corner being used as a desk), and I painted the table to lighten up the space. I also got rid of FOUR chairs that were in this room. I agonized over getting rid of them, but don't miss them at all.

a white room with a table and a yoga mat

The only remaining map is the giant Russian one of America's natural resources. Nothing cheers up a space like some good old Cold War memorabilia. 

Read the story of the Russian map. 

3.  Rethink how space is being used.  If you are an empty nester you know that when the kids move out they take only what they need or want and the rest of it languishes around in unseen areas of your home like their old closets and the attic. In the studio, I had a large perfectly good closet filled with my son's clothes he didn't want, trophies, and guitars. I was too depressed about how bad it looked to take a before picture. 

It only took me an afternoon to move some stuff into another closet, shoot him photos of things I thought me might need, and make the trip to Goodwill. Then I moved my clothes into their new home where they can breathe!

A couple of hook racks in the corner next to the closet make it fun to put outfits together and my husband isn't hanging around waiting for me to decide what I'm going to wear so he can get in his side of the closet. 36 year problem SOLVED. I'm a slow learner, okay? 

blouses and accessories hanging on a rack

4. Create the space you actually need.  Consider how you actually need to use a particular room or corner of a room. I used to do yoga and exercises that needed to be done on the floor in the guest cottage. When I removed the carpet, however, it became uncomfortable to do those things on a concrete floor. I needed a little corner for yoga.

a corner of a room made into a yoga area with a full length mirror

5. Solve nagging problems. Around the house, I love to use my favorite hardbound books for decorating and filling bookshelves. But what to do with all the practical trade style paperbacks that I use constantly?

 I spent a hundred bucks on Amazon and solved the problem in a way that makes those books look like a work of modern art.

a stack of nonfiction trade paperbacks

Maybe you need a cozy reading nook or place to write your own book. If you are wishing you had an extra closet, craft area, or prayer closet, look around your house and see if there is some space that you thought had to be used in a certain way that you can rethink.

And if you are the proud owner of a brand new empty nest, pop the champagne and tell me what you are looking forward to most in the comments. Cheers!

XOXO Y'all!