Monday, December 31, 2018

How I Do a Year End Retrospective

This is one of my favorite times of the year! I don't know what 2019 holds but in the days leading up to the new year everything is possible, right? 

Before we start choosing our resolutions, word for the year, or motto, we need to take some time to reflect on the past year. I recently heard someone call it a retrospective and I think that is a perfect word for making the most out of our 2018 life inventory. Get your calendars out, pull up your Instagram account, or sit down with your planner and let's get started. 

Start in January and go month by month listing the way you spent your time. Your planner/calendar is good for this. Your Instagram account or Facebook is a pretty good indicator of things you did you were proud enough of that you shared them. 

Here are some of the key things from my 2018 list of things I accomplished: 

Public speaking, soapmaking, hive inspections, wellness, Master Gardening hours, garden redesign, porch makeover, potting shed upgrade, travel, honey harvest, honey sales, custom orders, decorating, socializing, celebrating, upgrading style, new skincare routine, bee inspector certification, and candle making. 

You may recall that candle making was the one new skill I wanted to learn this year. 

While a year seems like it flies by it is actually a pretty good chunk of time. A lot of the things I did weren't on my list on January 1. You simply can't predict all the opportunities or obstacles that will be presented to you over the next 12 months so at the end of the year it's also fun to include some things on your TA-DA! list. I have always done this and called it my to done list, which makes no sense except to me but then I heard Gretchen Rubin talk about the same concept as a ta-da list. It sounds so much better. 

These are the things that you accomplished that weren't on your To Do list. Kind of like when you do a bunch of extra chores and write them down on your TO Do list just so you can cross them off. 

Come on, you know you do it. 

I did a stress test this year and redesigned my garden ( not in that order).  Read about it here. I also picked up knitting again with slightly more success. Actually, about half the things listed above in my 2018 list were ta-da things. 

After you review how you spent your time, ask yourself some questions: 

What did you do that you are most proud of? 

What would you want to do more of? 

What did you learn? 

Write those things down. That's the direction you want to go in for 2019. Now you are ready to think about how to prioritize and schedule your shiny new year! 

Several years ago I read about a wise person who said that most of us think life is like a train ride where you figure out where you want to go and you imagine if you make the right decisions along the way you'll arrive safely at your destination. In fact, it's much more like sailing in a boat. You have a destination but the seas are rough sometimes and the wind changes. You must correct your course and adjust the sail to keep moving in the right direction. Perhaps you even decide your original destination isn't where you want to go and you replot your course.  

Happy end of the year, Y'all! XOXO

Sunday, December 23, 2018

How Did Our Parents Do It?

For that matter how did WE do it?  I actually made Christmas when my kids were little and now have no idea how in the world I had the energy for that.

Y'all. There was actually GOING TO A STORE.

Do you hear me? As in getting out of the car and everything. It was during the dark ages when the only food you could get delivered outside New York City was pizza.

It was barbaric.

We used to have to go to a store. And then another one and then another one, until you found the thing your kid wanted. I remember standing in line at Macy's one year with a raging fever because there was one more thing I wanted to get for my son.

A FEVER, Y'all. I was clammy and sweaty and just kept telling myself I could do it like it was the last mile of a marathon. I mean I guess. I'll never know what that is like but being a mom and pulling Christmas together when you are sick has to be close.

We were living like animals.

You know who made Christmas this year? Amazon Prime and Kroger Clicklist. I think I went into a Target once because I was in withdrawal. I'd also like to give an honorable mention to The US Postal Service and UPS.

As a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s we were promised flying cars telephones where we could see the person on the other end of the line, and magic food that appeared from a magical place.

Two outta three ain't bad.

If you watch the news and feel depressed remember, you can create the magical holiday of your family's dreams without putting on pants.

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Creative Work: Doing VS Documenting

Last spring I wrote about quantity vs quality in creative work. It was the most read post of 2018! You can read it here. 

Recently I was talking with an artist friend and her reluctance to post on social media about her work came up. I encouraged her to post something every day even if it was just her studio or her collection of brushes on her work table. She was hesitant as I tried to explain how interesting I would find it to follow an artist's process and not just see the final product. 

But here's the thing I realized while thinking about this. Documenting IS creating. Capturing a photo of the process, or materials, or a selfie while working to post on Instagram is another form of creativity. The Millenials get a lot of grief from Boomers because they share so much. It gets labeled as self-absorbed when much of it is the same thing as keeping a scrapbook. Only less dusty and more cohesive. 

They are documenting and thus creating a record of their lives. I'm just a little jealous that there aren't more pics of me before I got this old. You know, back when Clint Eastwood and I didn't have matching necks. 

I usually post one pic a day to Instagram. I've been doing it for about 3 years now and it's helpful and interesting to look back and see all the projects I've done. I often run across something I've completely forgotten about. 

Generally, I like posting pretty finished pics but adding in process pics (like of the garden overhaul) is proof that I'm getting things done during the times when I feel stuck and wonder what I'm doing with my life. 

Anyone else ever feel like your whole life is just trying to remember to get gas and scooping the cat litter?

No? Oh good. Just me then. 

Documenting one thing you did each day can help overcome that disheartening feeling. A picture of your outfit, a post about something kind someone did for you, a blurry shot of your friend laughing so hard she wet her pants. Every day will have at least one documented memory to mark it in time.

Capturing a moment is a way to slow down the rush of life and keep all the days of work and traffic from running together. Sharing the struggle of the process is also encouraging to everyone who might be discouraged by all the insta-perfect staged photos.

The process is part of the work. If you are a creative it may even be the most important part.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Touristy in Seattle: Part 2

We ended up going back to the Biscuit Bitch again. Now I'll have to admit that on the first day, being from the South, I was a little skeptical about a Pacific Northwest biscuit. I mean isn't this the kind of place where they use barbecue as a verb? But, dang, Y'all. These biscuits were A-Ma-ZING! And the atmosphere is hilariously crude.

I did that thing I like to do sometimes which is to give a fake name when I know the person at the counter will be yelling it out. So when she yelled Delilah the first time I didn't catch it. Just when I was wondering what was taking so long I heard, "Delilah! Come get yo biscuit, Bitch!" 

Oh yes, pardon me, that's mine. 

Do these people know me? Did y'all tell them I was coming? They put GOLD DUST on my coffee! 

I had the Bitchwitch with bacon but you can get it with a variety of other things including SPAM.

Oh, are you fancy with your farm to table dining experience? Nope. Not here.

 We strolled the Market again. It's a feast for the all the senses. Did you miss Part 1? Read it here. 

We liked the Athenian so much from the day before that we ate there again as we passed the Market, upstairs this time by a window where we ordered the requisite Dungeness crab.

Later, we hopped on a ferry to go over to Bainbridge Island. But mostly just because we wanted to see Seattle from the water and add a boat to our trip. I love a trip that includes planes, trains, and boats.

The weather was superb for our entire trip...

Except for the time we spent on the island. Hey, we were getting the whole Seattle experience! We had a couple of drinks and caught the next ferry back. We meandered our way (this included a lot of "look at this cute shop! Let's go in" ) to our next planned item which was the Underground Tour.

 Bill Speidel's Underground Tour meets at Pioneer Square and is a good thing to do if your trip hits a rainy patch since it's mostly underground. There's some outside walking but very little. The tour starts with an introductory talk about the history of Seattle while you sit comfortably in a room before heading down some secret stairs that lead to a labyrinth of subterranean passageways.   

Wear sturdy shoes!

I'll admit that I spent the entire tour terrified I would see a rat.

I didn't. But I did see some very cool stuff.

The guides for this tour are entertaining.

Seattle has certainly had some colorful history. You might find yourself wondering how much you know about your own city's history.

I mentioned the sturdy shoes, right?

While you are crossing a street aboveground the guide points out this purple glass in the sidewalk.

Later on the tour, you see them from below. They were skylights for the underground passages before their usage was shut down and they were closed off. This was the highlight (see what I did there?) of the tour for me.

You can read about the history of the tour here. You have to love a tour where the themes are fire and sewage. It was a lot of fun (since I didn't see any rats scurrying about though there were plenty of rat references during the tour).

I'd definitely recommend this for anyone visiting Seattle!

Happy Travels, Y'all! 


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Using Gold Leaf for Quick and Glamorous Holiday Decor

One of my mottos is "When in doubt add honey." Honey is the cure for a lot of things. I could say the same thing for gold leaf. But sweet AND shiny?

Do you even have to ask?

Enter honeycomb with edible gold leaf. I had this idea while talking with my boss about gold leaf. I saw gilded honeycomb in a flash in my mind and gasped. Have you noticed that when you are around creative people or in creative spaces that your brain crackles with new ideas? I ordered edible gold leaf online and in late summer floated my first sheet of gold onto the most beautiful piece of honeycomb. Light shone down from heaven and angels sang. It was a masterpiece. I had to design super simple packaging so it could shine forth in all its glory.

A coworker bought some for her daughter's wedding and while we were discussing how she would use it I had another idea flash through my mind. A gold leafed pomegranate on a platter next to the honeycomb. If you have purchased honeycomb feel free to print out this post to include in your packaging: The Magic of Honeycomb. 

Yes, I do know that people gold leaf things like picture frames and pieces of art. 
But for now let's cover food (with gold). Here's how:

Pay attention, class! I used both edible and NON-edible gold leaf for these projects. 

Edible gold leaf is for anything you will actually eat. You can use regular gold leaf for things like stems or the outside of pomegranates which you don't eat. The edible is harder to find so I don't like to waste it.

For many kinds of food, edible gold leaf will stick readily like it did on the honeycomb. For a cake with fondant, you can lightly wet the surface first to make the leaf adhere. Your food surface should be free of sugar, flour, cornstarch and the like.

Read about how to make this custom table runner. 

For regular gold leaf which I used on the pomegranate and pear stems you use gilding size (a form of glue) brush it on and wait a few minutes for it to become tacky then float your gold leaf onto the size. The gold leaf will stick wherever you put the size. Use a soft brush to push the gold leaf down and brush away the excess. I should warn you that this is an addictive process. 

You can gold leaf a little or a lot. And as you can see this medium plays very well with others and looks great combined with natural elements. Seasonally it's a winner too. Just imagine this urn filled with magnolia or pine branches.

Can I get credit for only gold leafing the pear stems? See I can be restrained. I can edit. But I have to say that a couple of those Japanese maple leaves in gold would have been stunning.

This is so much bang for your decorating buck! Imagine an entire bowl of pears with gold stems! You could show up with that anywhere for a hostess gift and be a rock star. It isn't expensive at all to achieve and takes minutes to do. It's slightly messy but there are worse things in life than having gold dust floating around your house.

XOXO Y'all! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

How to Create a Simple and Unique Table Runner

I have failed so spectacularly at minimalism and have now decided that my new found style is basically gold leaf everything and then put said gold leafed thing in some other silver thing. The first symptom of this illness was gold leafed antlers in a silver champagne bucket.

My love for all things fancy has been growing over the past few months. Things escalated when I redecorated the dining room from something from a 1930s murder mystery to something out of a light French fairy tale. That's my way of saying it was heavy and dark then I painted a bunch of stuff and shoved it around. 

Read: A Zero Cost Redesign in the Dining Room

I had one goal for my Thanksgiving table: people had to have room to eat. In the past, I created tablescapes that were so elaborate that I was infuriated when everyone moved things to be able to put their plate down. Don't people have priorities? Please note that this photo was during my simplified Christmas of 2014. I know. I'm laughing too. 

The thing of primary importance was using my (I warn you this will sound pretentious) hand-dipped beeswax candles made from the wax of my own hives. If you stop reading now I don't blame you. 

So fancy. However, I do love a foil in design to keep things from looking stunningly perfect. I mean who in their right mind wants stunning perfection? Therefore there were only two choices for a table covering. One was burlap. But y'all I am over it except in very small doses and I do not want my house screaming FARMHOUSE! It may sometimes whisper English country cottage or Scandinavian rustic but only very quietly and when we are alone.

Okay, table runner. Y'all just buy a roll of craft paper and roll it out on the table. A normal person would be done then but my psychotic creative brain keeps yelling MORE! MORE! So I couldn't stop there. 

I  happen to be in the possession of some beautiful decor stamps from Iron Orchid Designs and available locally at Me & Mrs. Jones.  I decided to create a personalized place setting for each person. I used the wreath builder and their alphabet to create each design. You can use paint but for this, I love the look of ink.

Everything in me wanted to gold leaf the letters. But it seemed a little Marie Antionette to gold leaf something disposable. Next up was writing out the words grateful and thankful across the table.

This was achieved with an amazingly expensive and hard to find product called a magic marker. There's no special talent here. Just find a swishy font on Pinterest and draw what you see then keep going over it until you get the look you want. Easy Peasy. 

If you wanted to reuse this write a more generic word or phrase. The great thing about it was that I didn't care how big a mess anyone made. At the end of the evening, I just rolled it up and used it to start a fire. Burning things is my favorite way to recycle.

Next up: Gold Leaf and other obsessions.

XOXO Y'all! 

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Magic of Honeycomb

What is honeycomb? Honeycomb is the structure that bees build from beeswax. But it's much more. It's an architectural masterpiece constructed to geometric perfection.  It's food storage. It's home. Even more than that it is the innate collective genius of the family of bees. It's pieced together with cooperation. It's the result of the solid collaboration of the colony working from the very definition of selflessness.

Does taking it harm the bees? This honeycomb is collected from a special honey box known as a "super" that is added to the hive after the bees have filled up their brood chambers with enough honey to see them through winter. The honey they store also serves as insulation to help them keep the queen at a perfect 92 degrees no matter how low the outside temperature drops. Removing the box of honeycomb does not disturb the bees' home where they store food and raise young.

How do I eat honeycomb? The entire honeycomb is edible. This comb pairs well with sharp cheeses and tangy Granny Smith apples but is also the perfect topping for a most elegant bowl of oatmeal or yogurt.

How long will my honeycomb last? Forever. Due to the low content of moisture along with other factors honey properly sealed will last indefinitely. Honey stored in the tombs of the pharaohs was still edible 3.000 years later.

I hope you enjoy this magical piece of natural food. It holds the secrets of the hive. It's worth is the lives of the thousands of bees it took to make it. It contains the dances of a thousand foragers, the mystical nectar of a million flowers, and the pulsing song of a queen,


For more about honey, bees, and to see pictures and read about the bees that made this honeycomb buzz over to and click on the tab that says "bees." 

Never give honey to an infant under one year old. 

If you are giving Pen & Hive Honeycomb for a gift this season feel free to print out this post and include it in your packaging. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Touristy in Seattle: Part 1

There are some places you go where you have to mark some things off the list. Would you go to London and not see Big Ben or New York and skip the Empire State Building? Naturally, in Seattle, the Space Needle was at the top of our list (especially with my newfound glass floor fetish) followed by Chihuly Gardens mostly because it's right there at the base of the Seattle's most iconic landmark. And you can't NOT go to Pike's Place Market! The other thing we were excited to do was Bill Speidel's Underground Tour.

On this trip, my plan was to cover one thing in four areas. Landmark. Art. History. Tourist Attraction. Although you can see how anywhere you go these categories merge and overlap. Our hotel was the Courtyard by Mariott in the historic Alaska Building, Seattle's first skyscraper.

Once we checked into our hotel we walked a few blocks to a bar with a sign saying that it's the oldest bar in Seattle. Of the other two competitors purporting the same thing one was closed for a time and the other started as a cafe and then turned into a saloon. The Central Saloon has been in continuous operation since 1892.

We toasted our first cross-country train trip and a bit of other good news we received while on the trip.

Next on the agenda was the market.

I follow the Instagram account of Sunny Honey Company and was eager to check out their shop inside. The store was adorable and just inside the main entrance!

We hadn't thought about plans for lunch but the Athenian was right there when we came out of the honey store.

A place that's been in business this long has to be good, right?

We popped inside for our first seafood. We grabbed a couple of stools at the counter where we could watch the meals being prepared. I like a place where you can see what they are doing with your food. My husband ordered the seafood stew and I had the Alaskan cod fish and chips. While we were waiting for our food my husband nudged me and pointed to a little sign at his seat.

I remembered the scene! It's the part where Jay (Rob Reiner) is having the modern dating discussion with Sam (Tom Hanks) I love happy travel accidents! 

After lunch we had fun walking around, shopping, and taking in the sights.

I was on the hunt for bee related products everywhere we went.

Seattle did not disappoint!

We ended the day with dinner at The Pike Brewing Co. The next day we started our day with a visit to the extremely popular Biscuit Bitch, more about it in the next post, just around the corner from our hotel. Then it was a quick Lyft ride to the Space Needle. Our driver bemoaned the cloudy weather and tried to talk us out of wasting our money. When we arrived it looked like he was right. 

Would it be a waste of time and money to buy a ticket? We decided to give it a try. At least we could say we'd been to the Space Needle. We bought the combo Chihuly Garden/Space Needle combo ticket at a kiosk and went to the glass museum first.

This last one looks very similar to a ceramic piece my son made for my garden when he was in college!

While it looked like the clouds were parting as we enjoyed the garden by the time we were in line to go up in the elevator the attendant informed us that the visibility at the top was 0% and that she'd have refunded our ticket except that we bought it at Chihuly Garden instead of the Space Needle.

Whatever. We're here. (Travel tip: "whatever" is a super helpful travel attitude)

One bright spot was that it wasn't crowded and we were in line for about ten minutes. We rode up the elevator and the doors opened to reveal...

she was right. We couldn't see anything.

Still, there was a glass floor and looking down was kind of cool if somewhat foggy.

We milled around. We sat on the glass floor with all the other tourists.

We grabbed some local drinks.

And then as if by magic the clouds not only parted but moved out completely giving us a full and complete view for miles.

We were really happy we didn't ditch our plans for the day.

Because it wasn't crowded we chatted with other tourists and enjoyed our drinks while I did a complete rotation time lapse. Then back on the ground, we roamed the surrounding area.

Though we had taken Lyft from Pioneer Square to the Space Needle we spent the rest of the day meandering back toward our hotel, shopping, drinking coffee, and eating along the way.

It was a fun and relaxing day. Seattle is a great city for combining plenty of interesting things to do and also taking your time to stroll and discover. We also found it to be a very friendly city. The locals love to tell you about the next great restaurant you should try or thing you should do. If you love coffee or craft beers it should be at the top of your list.

Happy Travels, Y'all!