Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Zero Cost Redesign in the Dining Room

I'm just giving my dining room this award-one of my all-time favorite thrifting finds! Ms. Dining Room would like to thank her producer, Me, her director, also me, and her agent who always believed in her. Guess who.

I know you are wondering what happened to my summer schedule, right? Y'all. I literally forgot what days I said I'd post during summer and had to go back and look. I do like to keep it a bit predictable so you know when to show up for all this excitement.

Okay, first--or is this second?-- some bad news. Our last chicken died and that's it. We're done. Long story for another post. In other sad news, a sweet friend is moving away. This post is going to get better, I promise. She's the kind of selfless person who is always thinking of others and asked me if I wanted some hanging glass votives. Well, you never know when you might have to throw together a wedding at the last minute so sure, I'll take some free event decor.

When I arrived at her house the garage (which she thought was a mess) looked like a well organized military operation. There were different areas designated for different people who were coming to retrieve the items she thought each person would most enjoy using.

Y'all! How nice is that? 

But she wanted to know if I was interested in some pots in the backyard and we went to check them out. Spoiler alert. If you want to give me gardeny type things. I'll take them. The bigger the better. It's because I'm super helpful. A three-ton urn or life-size statue? I'll bring my crane. 

As we were looking at the pots she pointed to two large urn panels and said, "Do you want those?"

Recycled is my favorite price. You know I mean free by "recycled", right? But in all seriousness, there probably is plenty of stuff in the world if we could just get all the stuff we don't want to the people who would love to use it. I'll admit shipping could be an issue if your Instagram pal in Iceland wants your Adirondack chairs. 

My dining room was looking a lot like Hemingway and Liberace had a baby. 

I must have been drinking whiskey the day I did all this. Remember when I thought I could be a minimalist? BWAHHAHA! Read about how I failed miserably here. 

Anyway, long story short, (too late, I know) the next day my husband went to a cookout for a friend's birthday and I knew he'd be gone for hours. I put on some dance music and rearranged everything.

What's the dance music list on my Spotify? Here's a sample: 

Justin Bieber-Despacito
Jennifer Lopez- Let's Get Loud
Fergie- Glamorous
Tik Tok- Kesha
Miley Cyrus- Party in the USA 

You get the idea. I don't enjoy music enough to be bothered with sad songs no matter what Elton says. And aren't the details of my life just enthralling? 

After I rearranged it, it looked terrible. No photo, obvs! I moved it all back and felt defeated. I sat down to look at Pinterest for inspiration. I found an article about how the French are masters at using religious icons in decorating and suddenly in my mind the whole thing came together!

 I have the above one of St. Francis and St. Clare, a cherished souvenir from a lovely day in Assisi several years ago. And the Madonna and Child below from a visit to Russia.

I  painted some French blue and Modern Masters Warm Silver on some empty frames and hung them to imitate the ornate panels on French walls. Initially, they were empty. I thought to add the icons later.  

Here's a tip: If you feel like you have too many things sitting around, find a way to hang them up!

Voila! I suddenly realized that a favorite painting had a bit of blue sky, the massive mirror in the other room was French blue, and that I had drop cloth with wispy blue paint on it. That painting frame is going to be restored as soon as I get a minute. 

Sometimes you don't need to buy anything. Aside from the panels I could have just rearranged all these things and achieved practically the same look. But those panels are the bomb diggity! Yes. cool people actually say this. 

I am so happy with how this turned out and now instead of avoiding this room. I SIT in there. On purpose! More pics? Coming right up! 

I may have just the teeniest addiction to vintage silver. And I'm not picky. 

Is there anything more romantic than a tarnished vintage champagne bucket? 

So if you were thinking you just wanted to throw out all your stuff and start over, move it all around and see what happens! Who needs a plan? 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

How To Make Pen & Hive's Basic Home Made Soap

homemade soap

Today I'm doing a live demo of how to make beautiful soap at Me & Mrs. Jones' Germantown location as part of Demo Day. Demo as in demonstration, not demolition. Unless I blow the joint up with some terrible lye mishap.

Fingers crossed! 

Remind me to tell you about the time my son accidentally burned down his place of employment. 

If you are at the demo then you might want more info, like exact weights and measures. That's the purpose of today's post. If you are just looking for how to make soap I'll be sharing the necessary equipment and one simple recipe I use.

Let's get started!

But first...


Lye is an extremely dangerous thing to work with. Especially when it is mixed with water. Always wear eye protection, rubber gloves, long sleeves, pants, and shoes for your protection. Do not make soap in the presence of children or pets! 

Now that I've scared you silly, let's have some fun. 

home made soap


distilled water
 coconut oil
 olive oil
 shea butter
 stearic acid


Eye protection
Rubber gloves

Digital scale
stainless steel thermometer
large glass container 
large stainless steel pot 
non-reactive spoon or spatula
stick blender
oils or scents

The Process:

Lye + water + oil/fat = soap

Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a salt. When the lye is combined with the oils/fats a the process that takes place is called saponification. Though lye is caustic in its original form once the saponification process is complete, no lye will be left in the finished product. 



Because a chemical reaction is taking place is it important that you carefully measure all the ingredients. It's best not to use kitchen measuring cups or spoons for this but a digital scale. 

The measurements I use for this recipe are: 

16 oz. coconut oil

2 oz. olive oil 

2 oz. shea butter

1 oz. stearic acid

3.4 oz. lye

7.1 oz. distilled water

making soap

Making the soap: 

Carefully and slowly add the lye to the water (never the water to the lye!!!) and stir. Let cool. 

Melt the oils and fats together in a glass container in the microwave. I add the shea butter last because it can get a little grainy if overheated. 

Measure the temperature of the lye mixture and the oil mixture until they have cooled to 10 degrees of each other and are both below 130 degrees. 

Pour the melted oils/fats into a large stainless steel pot. Carefully (are you wearing your goggles and gloves?) pour the lye mixture into the pot and stir. Next, insert the stick blender and begin blending your soap mixture. Gently, not vigorously. You don't want to introduce air bubbles. Continue blending until you achieve "trace." 

Trace is when you can see a trail where you have dragged the blender through or when you drip some soap on the surface and it doesn't immediately disappear. Add colors and scents at this point and give a quick blend then pour into your mold. If you want to put anything in it that will remain solid now is the time to do that. I like to encrust my soap with herbs or flowers. 

Cover with a towel and either let cool at room temperature of pop in the fridge. Overnight. 

making soap at home

The next day pop it out of the mold and cut if necessary. Place in a cool dry place with good air circulation for 3-6 weeks. The process of making soap isn't finished until it has fully cured. 

After that enjoy your luxurious homemade soap! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Midsummer Update

  1. the middle part of summer.

    "the midsummer heat"
    • another term for summer solstice.

Cue Johnny Mathis. 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. For beekeepers and gardeners, summer is the most wonderful time of the year. Even though I don't always feel that way when I'm working in 100 degree heat and swamp level humidity but it certainly is the busiest time. So what have I been up to? Here's the quick rundown then it's back to work!

Garden: June is hands down the prettiest month of all in the garden. What's blooming right now? Bee balm, yarrow, hostas, rudbeckia, beans, squash, and hydrangeas. Ask me next month. The answer will be nothing. July is that hot ugly month between bee balm and garlic chives. This is how gardeners tell time. 

Bees: I know. I know. All you want to know is when will the honey be ready. It's coming along. I've pulled off a few frames and it looks good. Remember though, I work for the queen. These girls can't be rushed no matter how many people ask me when it'll be available.

Inside: since I didn't get the carpet and linoleum up in the cottage before the honey harvest it'll have to wait until things slow down. Yes, I will accept that Procrastination Queen crown now. Thank you ever so much!   

Here are some recent projects I did manage to finish though! Go ahead and check out these posts, I'll wait! 

 Updating a Vintage Hutch with Milk Paint

A Fireplace Face Lift:

Turning a China Cabinet into an Accessory Armoire

Adding a Bold Color Choice to the Cottage Kitchen Cabinets

pink kitchen cabinets

See? I'm still here!

Okay, Y'all, what are you working on this summer? Reading through the classics? Growing the best tomato ever? Purging and organizing? Or maybe relaxing and enjoying? All worthy goals! Let me know in the comments! XOXO

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Concrete Floor Chronicles (Or: How I Earned the Title, Procrastination Queen)

This project is now going to be put on hold because it's time to harvest honey!  Yes, you can give me the Queen of Procrastination crown. Envy my skills, Overachievers! 

I'm having a pull up the carpet and paint the floor come-to-Jesus-moment.

Are y'all sick of hearing about my cottage carpet woes yet? Oh good. I also think it's fascinating.

See? This is why we can hang out. 

So the entire time I have been planning on painting the whole floor in the guest cottage and stenciling a fun pattern. My friend The Food Maven suggested hexagons to represent honeycomb and of course, that is brilliant, as are all her ideas.

Just to recap, because I know you are on the edge of your seat with excitement: This is the floor in the kitchen of the guest cottage where I process honey and beeswax and have destroyed the carpet and linoleum. Not wanting to invest money in actual flooring (that will also be destroyed by future beekeeping activities) I'm going to paint but have been dragging my feet, and everything else because it's hot dirty work. Plus, I can't make a decision. Also, all I feel like doing in this heat and humidity is binge-watching Southern Charm in my underwear with a mojito. 

But while I was in the studio writing about painting the hutch, the LAST thing I could claim I had to do before yanking out carpet, I looked at my vision board. And just what do you think I saw?

People riding camels by the pyramids? Well, of course. Pictures of size 2 women doing yoga on the beach? Duh. Living rooms that look like libraries. Natch!

I have always wanted a brick floor somewhere inside. My dream would be in the kitchen. In my cottage on my sheep farm in England. Or was that in my villa on my Italian olive farm? Though I suppose I could settle for a brick floor in my suburban kitchen in Tennessee.


But since I'm just dealing with a concrete floor and not even the floor in the main house but in the cottage where I process honey and beeswax, why don't I play around with it?

Why don't I paint a brick floor? It's a great temporary fix and I wouldn't have to stay off of it nearly as long as if I did a proper paint job, stencil, and sealer. Ideally, for that job, I'd want to have a long curing time, 2-4 weeks. But I could play around quite a bit before I tackle that. And if nothing works well enough to hold up then I can always put down a proper floor covering.

Don't worry I promise not to make a move without sharing with you all about it. I mean could my life be any more fascinating?

Since we're obviously best friends if you are still reading about this carpet-pull-up put-off, let me know if you have ever painted a concrete floor or if you have great ideas for what I should do, Or if you happen to have a Pinterest board of painted concrete or charming brick floors. Girl, hit me up! I need help!

See ya in the comments!

Monday, June 11, 2018

5 Things to Spark Creativity When You Don't Feel Innovative, Original, or Artistic

I believe everyone can create. I work at a DIY boutique where we often have people tell us they are afraid to tackle a project that needs to be done because they "aren't creative" or "artistic." Now you absolutely don't need those traits to be able to pull off a furniture makeover but I also just don't believe it when people say that.

Is your house completely undecorated? Can you not put an outfit together to leave the house? Is nothing planted in your yard? Have you never helped your kid with a science project that involved poster board? What is this lack of creativity you speak of? 

I'm not buying it. 

I think it's just a limiting belief. If you haven't heard of "limiting beliefs" yet they are things that we believe that aren't true but keep us from doing things.

I could never write a book. 
I could never make a quilt. 
I could never travel alone. 
I could never give a speech. 
I could never run a marathon. 

Now not wanting to do something, let's say, run a marathon, is one thing. Because why would anyone want to do that? This is why people tamed horses and invented cars! I have no desire to run 26 miles. But you know what? I also absolutely believe that I could if I wanted to. As a matter of fact, I know that if I were willing to train and make the time sacrifice I could complete a grueling race. I just have no desire to do that.

That's very different. 

The problem arises when we have limiting beliefs about things we want or need to do. Maybe you don't put in for that promotion at work because it would mean speaking to larger groups and you believe you can't do that.

Maybe you would love to just make one quilt from your daughter's childhood dresses but you believe you could never make a quilt.

How sad would it be if you longed to travel somewhere you have always dreamed of going and you don't because you have no one to go with and you believe you couldn't travel alone?

Girl. We are talking seriously sad right there. So how do you go about increasing creativity if you don't exactly feel like Picasso? Here are 5 things to do today to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Write down 10 creative ideas every day for a week. They don't have to be things you'd actually do, the point is to start feeling creative. So while you might not paint a giant mural of your grandson's face on the side of your house, you can write that down.  Plan a trip around the world where you visit all the best bookstores, invent an app to solve a problem you have, or you could be all original and put down "write a book."

2. Doodle. You might already do this while you are on the phone or in a boring meeting at work. I'm sorry if you have to sit in boring meetings especially if there is fluorescent lighting. But start to pay attention to what you are doing and be a little more intentional. Maybe even buy a special notebook for your doodles. You don't have to share them, although I'd love to see what you're up to!

3. Rearrange the stuff in your house. Moving furniture to new locations and taking pictures down to rethink how things are put together is a great way to start thinking about things in a new way. Your husband and kids are also going to be so excited that they get to help! If you think this isn't how they want to spend their Saturday, then you can take the guerilla decorating route. Read Guerilla Decorating: A 5 Step Guide.

4. Paint something. Don't panic I'm not talking about traveling to the countryside with your easel and beret. But that certainly sounds like a plan!  Sometimes painting something practical like a room or piece of furniture can spark seeing how different color alone can make things. You aren't painting the Sistine Chapel! Just start on a small table or nightstand. If changing the color of a whole room makes you queazy just introduce color on an accent wall.

5. Put together new outfits. You don't have to go shopping. Download one of several free wardrobe apps. I use Pureple. Take pictures of all your clothes and accessories. If you want to create a dream wardrobe then screenshot your favorite clothes from websites. Use the app to put together outfits complete with all the jewelry and accessories. It feels like paper dolls for grown-ups.

Most of us start out as children being quite creative, but it gets squeezed out of us by sitting still in classrooms and learning to be afraid to fail at things. As adults, we've been trained not to try things we think we might not be any good at. Try this. Sit quietly in a corner somewhere and think about all the things you enjoyed doing as a kid. How did you spend your time? What did you make? What did you try?

In the next post, I'll be sharing my favorite reads for getting out of a non-creative rut.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

How I Gave My Vintage Hutch an Update

We hear it all the time in the shop where I work. "I inherited this (fill in the blank with a useful and sturdy piece of furniture) but the finish is just so..."

"Ugly." I like to help people out when they're struggling. Not like doing CPR or anything because ew...mouth to mouth on strangers, but if you need someone to cut to the chase, I'm your girl.

They hesitate to say that Aunt Rhonda's dining room table where they have so many happy memories of her arguing about nursing homes with Grandma, is just plain old ugly. They use"outdated" or "not my style."

All code for ugly. I feel ya, sister. Everything I inherited was maple. What the literal fun with paint was with the maple finish in the 40s and 50s? Every. Single. Piece.

Did you miss the recent China Cabinet Makeover? 

Now even I, the queen of "all it needs is a coat of paint to be fabulous" have some trepidation over some pieces which is why the hutch was the last to undergo the brush. A coffee table? No problem. Chairs? Gone.

But I really do love the style and shape of this piece, plus, did I mention a retired husband is always around asking what I'm doing? I used to get so much done...

I've been putting this off for years.  No, Y'all. Seriously for years.

But I decided to do it before I pull up the carpet so I could use the carpet as a drop cloth. Yes. This is how lazy I am. Or brilliant. It kind of depends on who you ask. 

So this weekend I finally tackled it. I used Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in both Farmhouse White and Grain Sack. I wanted it to look layered and fabulous.

As I meditatively brushed the milk paint onto the hutch I said a little mantra for creative energy and good vibes. "Die maple finish, die! " You can totally borrow it. You can also replace "maple"  with "cherry" or any other finish that is un-feng-shuiing your humble abode.

I was hoping to have some crackling here and there but...Y'all! It was a crackling masterpiece. It belongs in the Crackling Hall of Fame!

Now if you aren't familiar with Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint here's a heads up. You aren't in control. Well, you are, kind of, but not compared to Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint. Did you miss it when I painted my cabinets pink? With milk paint, you might get some chipping, some crackling, or a solid finish. So much depends on what you are painting. In the photos, you can see that while the main part of the hutch crackled up a storm the doors and drawers would have no part of it.

If you want more control there are steps you can take to prep the piece but I like to live dangerously here in The Land of Let's Paint All The Things. Plus I love me some chipping and a good old-fashioned crackly finish. So I was totally down with it.

If you want a tutorial here it is: brush the paint on.

No kidding. You brush the paint on. Let it dry. Put on a second coat. I added a third coat because I was changing colors to get a two-tone finish. After you let all the paint dry, you wax it with clear wax and you are done unless you want to distress or add a colored wax. I used white for this piece because I was trying to keep it bright. That's it!

Oh fine. You want more.

You might be noticing the shelves. The shelves I taped off and stained with General Finishes Java Gel Stain. I did this first and I have to tell you that for a hot minute I actually thought about just staining this whole piece. But the point of painting it was because I needed more light and airy and less dark and serious.

The beauty of this stain is that it is just as easy to use as the paint. I literally did no prep. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I wiped on the stain with a rag and wiped off the excess. One small caveat about this product compared to other stains that you may have used in the past, is that this stain takes a few days to completely dry. But when it is dry it's hard and durable with a beautiful sheen. No need for a top coat unless you think you might be juggling knives over your kitchen table.

That's it. Go forth and paint all the things! Don't forget to write, kids! And send pics!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Honey Update and The Americans

I know you think these things have nothing to do with each other but in season 5 there was a scene in which (spoiler alert) Phillip and Elizabeth are talking and on the TV in the background there was a bee documentary. #worldcolliding

So there. 

I am still trying to read into that all the symbolism in that I want there to be.

I really just wanted to write about the series end of The Americans but realized that A- You won't care if you haven't seen it. B. There was literally nothing I could say that wouldn't be a spoiler in case you ever want to watch it (which you do, even if you don't know it). And C- I didn't feel like crying all over my keyboard this morning.

(My bees are Carniolans but if I ever get some Russians I'm totally going to name that queen Elizabeth Jennings).

What's the last television series you were obsessed with? Let me know in the comments! If it was this one then DM me so we can discuss! 

Okay, bees.

We had a swarmy spring which can sometimes mean that your bees make more bees instead of honey. At least that's the conventional wisdom spouted at bee meetings and in books. Yeah, well my girls are bosses  and do what they want. I did some quick checks on honey supers yesterday and even had to pull 5 frames from one super because those bees were completely out of room.

I did that quick and dirty thing I sometimes do in a case like that where I take out individual frames, brush off all the bees I can and slip them in a plastic container with a lid. It's not ideal but they needed extra space immediately so I didn't want to waste a day or two on an escape board. Plus the super was so heavy I could easily have dropped it trying to hoist it alone.

My neighbor who has 6 of the 8 hives in his yard was fascinated by the process and took video where I look like I have no idea what I'm doing or this is my first time in a beehive or something.

Sometimes you gotta make it all up on the fly and it's always fun to have an audience for that. 

This hive was the one that was so angry early in the spring that I couldn't work them or leave them in my own yard because the hives sit in my garden. Read all about it here. 

All the angry bees seemed to have been in the swarm and now this hive is calm and it's all good in the neighborhood.

If you are a fan of The Americans then hit me up in the comments. If you have no idea what I'm talking about then...yay! Honey! 

If you are waiting for honey to be ready so you can buy some, we are still quite a ways from that, but I'll keep you posted! 

Also, if you want the latest lastest, follow me on Instagram. 

My IG family gets an update on the daily ! XOXO