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! 

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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to Plan 2018 Using Direction and Intention Instead of Goals

How can we use intention and direction instead of goals in the upcoming year? Goal setting when you don't know what you want can seem impossible. In fact, it can be paralyzing and prevent progress if you think it's the only way to be highly productive. How can you plan if you don't know exactly what the goal is?

To do lists are boring and goals can be intimidating! 

There is another way. There is always another way. I've spent my life finding a system that works for me and while I look like a slacker on paper (compared to my super organized over achieving daughter, OMG if goals are your thing don't miss her blog, Organized Charm) people often ask me how I get so much done.

 Also, there's nothing wrong with not knowing precisely what you want to accomplish. How am I supposed to know in January what I'll want to accomplish in August? I'm talking to you, planner industry. And it's not just a problem for twenty-somethings. Throughout life you will experience changes that make you say "What now?" Life is full of cross winds and storms. It's useful to know how to adjust your sails.

Enough rambling already, you say? Fine let's get down to it. 

I recently got out my planner and looked back over my goals for 2017. I had written down 5 things I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. Want to guess how many I achieved?


I didn't write that e-book. 
I didn't create that product I had in mind.
I didn't make that Youtube series of videos.
I didn't get the Airbnb going in the guest cottage. 
I didn't get a piece of writing published in a magazine. 

Yep. That's right. Zero. Hooray for failure! If you think that's crazy talk check out this book by Scott Adams.  I had a lot of  positive things happen this year. Just not THOSE things.

1. Focus on intention or direction, not goals. 

When the year kicked off my intention was to move in the direction I wanted to go.

On January 1st I woke up and resigned from a volunteer position on an advisory board for a local retreat center. I knew I was supposed to resign from being a docent at the local art museum as well but it took me until the end of summer to get around to doing that. I wanted to eliminate everything I was spending time on that wasn't going in the same direction. I didn't want to talk about what other people had created. I wanted to create. 

The direction was: creativity, beekeeping, gardening. All of which really fall under creativity for me. If it didn't relate to these three I wasn't going to keep doing it. Being serious about intention can be more important than setting specific goals. I suspect this is especially true if you aren't a goal driven Type A personality. If you are a Type B and goals make you uncomfortable or feel like they don't give you enough space for creativity and spontaneity you are my people! .

2. Release excess activities and things to make space to create the life you want. 

The most important lesson of the year was that I can create an environment for things to come my way. I know that sounds all woo woo, but creating space in your life for the things you want by eliminating excess actually works.

I spent January cleaning out. Everything. Every drawer. Every closet. Every cabinet. It was strange, but as I cleared the space and the air I felt like I was creating room for something good to happen. Read more about that here. 

In February I fixed and repaired a number of broken things around the house I hadn't gotten to for some reason or another. The air pulsed with possibilities. Check out Fix-It February. 

In March I wrapped up loose ends including scattering my mother's ashes. 

As I accomplished each thing it seemed like there was space for new things to happen. And they did. Immediately after the clean out my daughter announced she was expecting. I received an invitation to speak at a luncheon. I started to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. I got offered a chance to do a pop up at my favorite shop and a job offer. Recently I got an offer for a photography gig.

Remember, none of these things were on my goal list for 2017.

3. Let the opportunity reveal the path.

Yet things I wasn't looking for but secretly wanted found me. New creative doors opened. Opportunities landed in my path. Questions I had were answered.

Now I'm not saying you shouldn't have goals. You should. And you should write them down or post them on a vision board, or whatever works for you. It's great to be deliberate. But don't think you have failed if they aren't achieved exactly as you imagine them. If you aren't goal oriented, then a better plan for you may be an intention and direction. Pruning your obligations. Creating space.

And let's be honest sometimes we don't really know what we want. We have a general idea but lack direction. In that case just do the next right thing. You don't have to see every step or even your destination if you don't have clarity. But move. Forward. I'll bet you have a general direction in mind of where you want to go. Move toward it.

Keep learning and growing and becoming your best self. When you don't know what to work on--work on yourself. For years this was my only real strategy. I didn't know what I wanted to do after the kids left home, so I constantly read and taught myself new things. Years later when things began to happen I was ready.

Chance favors the prepared mind. ~ Louis Pasteur

As the year winds down and we start shopping for planners to lay out strategies for 2018 keep the long game in mind. Ask yourself--what is your ultimate goal? What needs to be eliminated? What does your ideal life look like? Create a vision board that looks like your dream life.

Start taking steps, no matter how small, toward the life you want. You'll be closer than you were before and if you have been around here long you know the drill:

The universe responds to action. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Modern Masters Metal Effects: Creating The Ultimate Patina Finish

Modern Masters Metal Effects solved this severe personality conflict of mine. I love things for my house that look like they've been around forever. I'm also super impatient as my husband can attest to. But realistically I don't have a hundred years to wait for something to develop a beautiful patina. And I also don't want to drop a small fortune for the real thing.

Dang. What's a girl to do?

Luckily you and I can now achieve this gorgeous oxidized metal finish in an afternoon thanks to Modern Masters Metal Effects. I first discovered this miracle working paint at a workshop on how to use these products at , Me & Mrs. Jones.

Now that I work there I get to push my patina addiction on others. 

Let me start by showing you the finished product we created in the class. I was thrilled it was an ampersand since it's in the name of my blog and honey.

modern masters paint finish

While I was sitting in the workshop I was picturing these two hammered metal lanterns on my back porch from Pottery Barn.

modern masters paint finish

 They must have been made for indoor use because they were getting really pitted with rust. In some instances I adore the look of rust but on these pieces it wasn't a good look. I snapped up the products I needed after the workshop and couldn't wait to get on these the next day.

metal effects copper

Here's the overview but of course you'll want to read the directions and follow them. You start with a primer coat if you need that and then the base coat of the metal paint. I loved the copper and am going to have to show some restraint so my house doesn't end up looking like I inherited a copper mine. See how the rust wasn't the cool kind? I think it's because the original finish was super shiny and the contrast isn't a good one.

rusty lantern makeover

This basic technique is to apply the paint. which has actual metal in it, so the oxidation process is real and not just a faux finish, then apply the oxidizing solution. In the workshop we learned a few other tricks like dribbling peroxide and adding a powder like Gold Bond. I just used a generic baby powder for this and it worked fine. This process was very forgiving for someone like me who likes to experiment.

copper patina

 Here are the paints you need to work this magic. Scroll to the bottom to see how I used the bronze paint for a garden detail. Need some drool worthy inspiration of how you could use these amazing products? Check out their site here.

metal effects and oxidizing solution

But I wasn't done. The glass on these beauties was clear and I didn't like being able to see the inside of the lantern was still the original finish. I wanted my illusion to be complete! Luckily I had some  Krylon Frosted Glass spray paint on hand from some my Christmas windows.

It only took a minute to spray the glass and finish this project. I am in love with how they turned out!

In the tablescape above I also used Modern Masters Metallic Pain in Warm Silver to highlight the pumpkin details. It gives a soft sheen and a little glow to anything you use it on.

frosted glass spray paint

So of course you know what happened. I kept looking around for things that would benefit from this little upgrade. Here are a couple of those for bonus points. DING! DING!

The mail box...

metal effects copper patina

A table top turned into a faux sundial...

A couple of ugly brass coat hooks...

metal effects

Okay, y'all! There you have it. Now go forth and oxidize!