Saturday, December 21, 2019

Entering a Season of Slow

winter oak tree with blue sky

Even before the holidays were upon us I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed.  For the past several months any time I was doing one thing I felt like there were 5 other things I should be doing. And overall, I just felt like I was getting very little done of value.

I think the poetic description I'm looking for is a chicken with its head cut off. 

There are seasons of life and for the past few years, I've been in a season of hustle and saying yes, and abundance. A couple of years ago my motto was "Let the opportunity reveal the path." I trusted that God or the universe was bringing the stuff my way that was meant for me. It's how I got my job.
This followed a season of rest, saying no, and striving towards minimalism.

Neither way is right. We can feel that way if we don't acknowledge that life has seasons. It seems like such a natural cue to take from nature. In winter we embrace the stark landscape and long dark nights. In summer we revel in more daylight to get things done and explosions of color. In spring and fall, we transition.

Your season may last a month, a literal season or several years.

I 've been thinking a lot about what I want for 2020. I had a birthday. One that is a speed limit. Life has thrown a curve to our son. Our daughter is expecting a baby. The end of the year lends itself to thoughtful assessment. Winter is a natural time to embrace the slow, tend to our hearts, and reflect. Here's what's become clear to me as some of the reasons for my overwhelm and scattered thinking.

After several years of thinking how I could make every moment productive, I need some time for quiet daydreaming.

It's time for another household purge. There's too much stuff. Also, the things I own must be better organized.

I'm spending too much time on social media. It's making my thinking fractured and keeping me distracted.

If you need more information about social media and how it is affecting and not affecting our lives here's an enlightening talk from Cal Newport. 

I'm not reading enough books. I used to routinely read four or five books at a time. Now I go weeks without reading anything. My introvert brain needs to recover by sitting with words on a page.

I need more silence. I do not constantly need to be listening to a podcast or audiobook. My mind feels overwhelmed because it is.

I'm not writing enough. Writing is how I sort out my thoughts and get those clanging ideas rattling around in my head out of my brain and give them someplace to live. It's the reason for this blog. So why have I been doing so little of it?

Should I have a year of slow living or do I just need a month of recovery and stillness?

I don't know if my season of slow will last all of the new year or if it will just be a January necessity. It may only last until spring awakens the spring cleaning-garden planting maniac that I usually am in March. We'll see.

That's the thing about slowing down, we don't have to have all the answers or any. We aren't becoming monks or hermits, but taking a while, however long it ends up being, to get a grip on some thoughtfulness and regain our footing.

How about you? Do you ever suffer from overwhelm and scattered thinking? What season are you in? A summer season of busy and hustle? A winter of stepping back to regroup? A spring transition gearing up to the new thing? Or a fall transition winding down from a season of busy?

XOXO Y'all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

25 Things I've Taught Myself

Many years ago I decided to teach myself one new thing each year. Here's a post all about it. Often when people ask about this I rattle off a few I remember or that were my favorites, usually followed by "Someday I'm going to write them all down."

Well, today is that day. Here they are in no particular order. I didn't use to be as good about documenting things as I am now. The ones that have corresponding posts are linked. 

1. Cross stitch                                                               
2. Cooking/baking from scratch
3. Sewing
4. Baking bread (yes, it had its own year)
5. Designing a homeschool curriculum
6. Quilting (one and done)
7. Photography
8. Raising a puppy/training a dog to get the paper
9. Knitting
10. Refinishing furniture
11. Italian (Enough to get through 9 days in Italy)
12. Setting up a blog
13. Greek (A course)
14. Composting
15. Raising Chickens
16. Planning a wedding
17. Beekeeping
18. Being a docent at an art museum
19. Creating homemade skincare products
20. Singing in public 
21. Becoming a master gardener
23. Public speaking
24. Soap making
25. Garden design.

And here are some things I learned how to do that were never an official thing: ski, raise a kitten, use a computer, pack a suitcase, organize stuff, make a braided rug, create vision boards, eat healthy, snorkle, plan a trip, create a potting shed, meditate, do simple upholstery, yoga, render beeswax, paint a floor, and do Zen Tangles.

And of course there are the things that came and stayed: gardening, beekeeping, photography.

Morse Code is still on my list. You just never know when you are going to be taken captive by the Taliban or a drug cartel and have to blink your eyes in a grainy video to send out a message to the CIA or FBI. A girl likes to be prepared. 

Here's a challenge for you: Make a Ta-Da list. Write down a bunch of stuff you know how to do! I'll bet you have a lot of skills that you haven't taken inventory of. You would probably be surprised at how much you have taught yourself even if it hasn't been an official goal. Maybe you became a good traveler or a wonderful letter writer. I'll bet you have at least one dish people always ask for or you can throw a killer party, make a craft cocktail or grow the best tomato. Did you learn a new skill for work? Take a workshop? Master Instagram?

Go ahead and write it down, it's okay to give yourself a little credit. 

XOXO Y'all!

Monday, November 25, 2019

What Are You Becoming?


 I have a question for you: What's the greatest work of your life?

Is it raising children who are kind, self-reliant, and want to make the world a better place? Maybe it's fulfilling a dream of pursuing the work you are passionate about. Perhaps it's living out your faith, starting your own business, or creating a charity.

All of those are worthy pursuits. Goals for making things better and contributing to the lives of others and the world are admirable things to work for. But here's the greatest work of your life: you.

Not the outer version of yourself that wants to lose a few pounds or who is mildly upset by each new wrinkle, but the inner you. The eternal part of yourself that is operating in the background and trying to get to the meaningful core of this thing called life. It's the deepest part of yourself that whispers to you in the night and asks the hard questions. 

Everything else is either fleeting or could be taken away. Change is the one thing that is constant about life. Just about the time you get used to anything, something happens. Your kids grow up and move away, the dynamic in your marriage changes or the whole thing falls apart, your business fails, a beloved friend moves across the country. Youth fades. Beauty is fleeting.

Put your hand on your heart and take a deep breath. There you are. 

The real you. Life's work that will never be finished. Years from now when we are old and weak that part of you will still exist in there. It's why your greatest life'work is to love and care for yourself. Your job on this planet isn't to perfectly adhere to some set of rules laid down by someone else. Too many of us have spent far too much time believing that living someone else's agenda for us was sustainable.

Burying our own hopes and dreams, choosing to shame those who are on a different path, and staying focused on the the shallowness of this culture is exhausting us and weakening our ability to rise up into our true selves.

From a place of fullness and love we can then, empower and encourage others. From a heart of joy we can uplift. From a mind filled with the wisdom of openness and experience we can come alongside others on the journey of life and extend the hand of friendship and help.

Take another deep breath. Feel that? That expansive feeling...that's hope. 

Imagine the world you would make. Is it filled with kindness? Is it safe? Do the people in your world feel loved, connected, and valued? Now, how do you feel in that world?

Let's begin to see our minds and spirits as the greatest work of our lives. Everything else we hope to achieve is going to flow out of what we become.

We can't control a lot about this life but we can control what we are becoming.

XOXO Y'all!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What Happens to Honeybees in Winter?

Beekeepers often get asked if honeybees hibernate when the weather turns cold. And if not, you might wonder what do they do this time of year? 

We'll talk about winter in a minute, but first, we need to back up to fall. In the late days of summer, when the days start to shorten the bees do a rather harsh thing. The worker bees, which are all female, throw out the drones, which are all males. A drone's one purpose in life is to mate with a virgin queen should the need arise (an act which will end in his immediate death). As the bees begin to sense autumn coming on they will turn out the drones. Since honeybees are only able to survive as part of a colony the homeless bees soon die.

Going into fall and winter there are only workers and the queen left inside the hive. The goal at this point is to survive until spring. To do this the bees bunch together in a tight ball called the winter cluster. At the center of this cluster is the queen, the mother of every bee in the hive, kept warm and safe amid her own offspring.  The bees rotate from the inside cluster to the outside so that no bees ever get too cold. The colder the weather is the tighter the bees cluster. The bees shiver to generate heat. 

The cluster moves around the hive a bit to be next to honey they'll consume for survival. Beekeepers never take honey from this part of the hive called the hive body, brood boxes, or nesting boxes. If the beekeeper feels that the bees have not stored up a sufficient amount of honey for a long winter they feed the bees to help them remain strong until spring.

Occasionally bees do leave the hive in winter. On days where the temperatures are high enough (about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit), the bees will fly out of the hive for cleansing flights to eliminate waste. Bees are meticulous about the inside of the hive and never eliminate waste there. When it does happen it is the sign of a serious problem. Even during January, there are still places to gather pollen if the weather is warm enough for the girls to go out. If you have camellias then you may have seen bees very busy on sunny winter days.  

While honeybees do not hibernate other types of bees such as carpenter bees and bumblebees who are solitary do hibernate. For those species, it is only the mated queen who survives until spring.

You can help many kinds of bees survive winter by leaving things in your garden like plants that have hollow stems. Tiny species of bees overwinter there. 

Now you can stop lying awake at night wondering about this. I mean, you were doing that, right?

Monday, November 18, 2019

How to Live Young at Any Age

I don't know about you but I'm terrified of getting old. Possibly because as a child I was never around older people and as an adult, the ones I've been around haven't exactly been doing it well. Oxygen tanks, frailty, falling, and a lack of physical energy don't paint an encouraging picture and that is all without the nightmare of dementia.

I've been encouraged recently by a lot of truly vibrant and interesting older folks I know. The book, Blue Zones paints a brighter picture and gets down to how to live well over a long period of time.

One of the things I'm learning from paying attention to those who are aging well is that you have to keep moving. Even if it hurts. Your body was made to move and sitting down will eventually kill you. And not in a quick and easy way. In a slow, dull, painful way...possibly over quite a long time.

The second thing is that the people who live a long time are interested AND interesting.

Judging from my friends and the latest research, here are the things that will keep you young:

Not smoking. I don't know any older people who are still on the move who were smokers.

Keep moving, even it means overcoming aches and pains. Sitting down, or worse yet, spending the day in bed will suck the life and energy out of you.

Don't do any unhealthy dieting, you'll ruin your metabolism.

Have a regular sleep schedule. I don't have evidence for this one, but I'm pretty sure you can ruin your circadian rhythm just like your metabolism.

Be interesting, which is likely to mean you are interested in lots of things and are keen to keep learning. You should have something more interesting to share than the details of your most recent ailment. It's how you keep getting invited to parties.

Be social. Being connected is a huge key, you need a support network outside your family.

Ditch the negative attitude, grumbling, and complaining.

Refuse to be overtaken by fear.

Embrace change. Would you really want everything to stay the same?

Be grateful.

Volunteer. The most energetic people I know are not just focused on themselves.

Plan on living to be 100 and start now to adjust your life accordingly.

Friday, November 15, 2019

An Herbal Twist on the Hot Toddy

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 grandmother likely mixed up the classic hot toddy when someone around the house was under the weather.

 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.

jim beam bourbon

I start by making a simple syrup by mixing water and sugar and boiling it together then adding sage and letting 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.

Cheers Y'all!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Tips for Unpacking That Will Make Your Next Trip Easier

You know when the absolute best time to pack for a trip is? Whenever you are unpacking from the one you just returned from. The reason is that when you are fresh off a trip your mind is full of what would have gone better or smoother if you'd thought to take it.

How many times have you said:

You know what I forgot?
I wish we'd thought to bring...
Next time I'm going to pack...

While you are unpacking here are some simple things to do for the next trip even if you don't have it planned yet. There are lots of things you might not use between trips. Putting them right back in your bag will ensure that you don't forget a swimsuit or toothbrush. This method has the added bonus of using your suitcase for storage if you are short on space.

1. Refill your travel toiletries and put them back in your suitcase. 

2. Wash and repack your swimsuit, cover-ups, hats, and sunscreen. 

3. Sanitize your travel toothbrush and repack it along with a small tube of toothpaste.

4. If you have special pajamas or other travel attire, wash and repack it. 

5. Keep those pain relievers, allergy meds, prescriptions, etc. back in your suitcase after refilling any that you used up.  

6. Repack a razor and small tube of shaving cream and any hygiene products. 

Basically, as you unpack you are just freshening up and repacking those things you use when you travel. It's so helpful and comforting not to have to reinvent the wheel of what to take every time. As you unpack from your next trip take a moment to note things that you won't need until you hit the road again.

Bonus points for having an extra phone charger and doubles of makeup that can live in your suitcase!

It's great to know that you don't have to start from scratch every time you get your bag out to head off for an adventure!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

How To Recreate An Old China Cabinet With Paint and Imagination

If you have a china cabinet that you want to keep but have no idea where to put it, then you might consider recreating it and using it in another room. When I originally did my Scandinavian inspired bedroom in 2013, the burlap covering the glass on the china cabinet went along nicely with the burlap curtains I hung.

On the left you see how it looked when I inherited it. On the right after its first makeover.

I eventually replaced those burlap panels with plain white ones from IKEA and the burlap on the cabinet now looked really farmhousy. Not the look I was going for. Plus I just really wanted an excuse to play with the look of Gustavian Furniture.

Plus I wanted to feel fancy by saying "Gustavian Style Accessory Armoire."  It's the same reason I call my herb garden and lettuce patch a "potager." 

This look is named after King Gustav III of Sweden. He traveled to France and was heavily influenced by the Neoclassical and Rococco styles he saw there. He brought them back to Sweden in the 1700s where they were simplified into what we know as the Gustavian style today. That explains why as I was painting I kept asking myself "Is this too French?" I felt like I was walking a very fine line. I could just have easily asked "Is this too fancy?"

The Scandinavians shy away from anything over the top. So yeah, they're pretty much nothing like the French. Though when you see a portrait of Gustav he totally looks like a fancy pants.

 The first thing I did was to paint the inside of this piece with a pale pink paint. I keep using this sophisticated pink around the house in small doses to add an air of feminine fun. It was ideal for the little space where I keep silk scarves, vintage beaded clutches, and jewelry. I love using vintage china or silver serving pieces to hold bracelets and necklaces.

A few days later I started on the outside. Now in its first makeover, I confess to having used spray paint--GASP-- I know! Are you okay? Go get some water and come back. 

I was doing a whole room at once and was in a hurry to make it all look cohesive. And it was fine for 5 years! But recently I've been looking at it and thinking it deserved better with its cute little details and vintage charm.

I didn't have an actual inspiration piece but knew I wanted it to be blue and white with some very subtle gold details. The word that kept coming to mind was dreamy. I wanted it to look wispy, almost like if it were in a watercolor painting of the room.

 Oh, is that all? I mean how hard can that be?

For the white I used Pure White over the spray paint.

In the detials I painted Modern Masters Pale Gold with an artist's brush.

For the blue areas I mixed white and blue paint. Then I sanded back the high spots to expose more white. You know I make this up as I go along, right?

I waxed with clear wax and then added white wax to make it all look even more dreamy. The thing I noticed about trying to achieve a Gustavian style finish was that I kept feeling like I needed to tone it all down. I wanted color and detail but it all had to be subtle. The white wax went a really long way toward achieving that unique Scandinavian look.

For an aged effect I added some dark wax in the crevices here and there.

Hardware: This time instead of removing it I painted lightly over it and then wiped back the excess.


I removed the burlap from the glass and was in the process of popping the glass out so I could paint the door when the glass broke.


Now, I'll be honest I was thinking about doing a mirrored effect on the glass which I was concerned was going to push the envelope way over toward French inspired. So when it broke I was all like, meh. But then it was a hassle to drag my butt to the hardware store to have them cut a piece of wood to fit. I decided to make it a little bit less finished than the rest of the piece. For some reason I wanted the door to look like an older painted finish. It's a hair thicker than the glass so all the molding that held in the glass didn't fit over the thicker piece of wood. I ended up tacking it in and covering the ugly nails with upholstery trim.

Normally for projects I give little thought to things like the inside of drawers but for this project, which I think of as a little jewel box, I went all out and even painted the inside and  outside-- who am I right now? --of the drawer.

Y'all! This beautiful liner paper is from the dollar store! Again, getting really close to looking French here, but this is the liner paper in every drawer in my house except the kitchen.

 Look how how much this picture looks like a watercolor! Mission accomplished!

I am so happy with how this little cabinet turned out! It's a perfect fit for the bedroom. I still wanted it to be white but not WHITE. The color is subtle but echos the blue accent wall. I love that when I open it up to grab a piece of jewelry for the day it is secretly all girly and feminine on the inside.

Who says a china cabinet has to be used for china? It's your house. Do what you want.

Product list to achieve this finish

Jolie Matte paints in French Blue and Pure White and Rose Quartz for inside
Jolie clear and brown wax
Modern Masters Metallic Paint in Pale Gold
Waxing brush

Monday, November 4, 2019

Whole Life Multi-tasking VS. Batching

For a minute there multi-tasking was all the rage. But now we know better. Studies have shown that divided attention is way less effective than focusing on a single task at a time. There have even been studies done that show multitasking has a negative effect on IQ. I don't know about you but I can't afford for my brain to work less efficiently. And for the record, running the dishwasher, washing a load of clothes, and cooking dinner, is not the same thing as trying to write that report for work while binging Outlander.

Obviously, Outlander will require your full attention. Priorities, people. 

But what about your whole life? What about raising kids, and working for that promotion, and writing your book? The first step is to have a good read on your personality. So let's start there.

Know how you get stuff done. 

I knew I couldn't work and be the mom I wanted to be because I'm an introvert homebody bordering on hermit. But a lot of my friends who stayed at home hated it because they needed people and adult conversations and the satisfaction that comes with a paycheck with your name on it.

Fortunately, we live in a time when you can work or stay at home, or work at home! There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only the way that works best for you and your family.

Now, let's get to the multi-tasking vs. batching.

What's this batching thing?

If you don't know what batching is, it is accomplishing tasks that are similar at the same time to optimize the time spent. For instance, it's more effective to make your lunch for work tomorrow and your kid's lunches as well, instead of making yours, cleaning up, going to run an errand coming back home, getting everything out, making their lunch and cleaning up again.

At work, you might want to have a particular time to batch all the email and correspondence for the day rather than responding as things come up.

It's even a trick if you are a worrier to tell yourself all week that you can't worry about (fill in the blank) right now because you do that from  2:30  to 3;00 on Sunday afternoon.

How to apply it to your entire life:

You can take the broader view of this for seasons of life. When my kids were small and our days revolved around learning I made this the focus for an entire decade. I was educating them and educating myself in the process. I also used that time to read all the classics, along with personal development books, and it was during this time that I came up with the one new thing concept.

What's your mission for this season of life?

It helped to think of it as a mission. Every day when my feet hit the floor I knew what the mission was. And not to be too fancy but there are macro missions and micro missions.

Macro mission: Educate kids K-8 while teaching them to teach themselves and create life long learners. 

Micro missions:   planning/designing my own curriculum, creating lesson plans, etc. 

It can be very helpful to take this kind of approach wherever you are in life. You have to ask yourself, what are you going to have to show at the end of this particular season?

Some times are obvious like your college years. You'll have a degree. Others may take some digging. What is it that you want to accomplish during this time of your life? How can you make the most of a certain decade like your 30s or 40s?

It likely won't fit tidily into a time frame like that but you get the idea.

It's also very helpful to remember that you can do it all. Just not at the same time. This kind of whole life view allows you to dive deep and actually think back on periods of your life and realize that you have something to show for each of them.


When you get some quiet time to sit down  ask yourself these questions:

What's my personality and how do I get my best work done?

Where I am in my life?

What is the overall mission of this stage of life?

What are some goals or activities that I can batch together that would tie in with this particular season of my life?

As a bonus,  psychologists tell us that learning something new and marking time are two ways we can slow down that feeling of time passing too quickly. You know, when you wake up and realize it's September and you cannot remember anything important you've accomplished in the past nine months?

Looking at life as a series of seasons can also help you combat the feeling that you are behind and prevent feeling overwhelmed.

How could you put this concept to work in your personal life or career?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

How to Create the Creepiest Halloween Beekeeping Photo Ever

 I called my friend and fellow beekeeper Debi the week before Halloween with an idea for a creepy photo.

"I'm in," she said.

No questions. That's how we roll.  Also, beekeepers tend to be a slightly eccentric lot.

We met up where a parking lot meets a tree line and began unpacking our cars. Between us, we had two giant knives, 3 bottles of (fake) poison, a pumpkin, a kitchen stool, lighters, and 4 beekeeping veils.

I expected this parking lot to be as quiet as a tomb at dusk but a surprising number of cars were still driving aroundWe, of course, found this hilarious and imagined the thoughts and conversations of the drivers which made us double over with laughter looking as if the poison had taken its effect.  I placed our cameras on the stool, set the timer, and we got started. I took a test photo while my friend lit her smoker.

Oh yes. This will be very good indeed. (insert evil laugh)

Our vision for this picture was something that looked like an eerie photo found in an old trunk in a dusty attic somewhere. Were they just two female beekeepers or crazed sisters of mayhem?

Who could tell? 

Getting the shot was pretty easy. And it looks weird but not really terrifying. For a really scary photo, you need black and white. Suddenly it looks as though we've escaped from a beekeepers asylum somewhere beyond those woods.

Even the trees look spookier in black and white. And what is it about holding hands that makes this haunting? We were thinking of those horrible twins at the end of the hall in The Shining.

Yes, y'all! this is how our minds work. What you can't see is that in between every shot we had to stop and laugh hysterically. Laughing and crying are the two main activities that take place when we're together. 

While we were out there the sun began to go down and the sky lit up showing off the trees and their remaining dead leaves. Now cars that began to drive by also would turn in a way so that their lights would shine on us. We joked about someone calling the fire department about her flaming smoker.

Or the police. We were both lamenting the fact that we've never been to a party where the police were called when...

Instead of being worried we laughed even harder as we began to explain. Frankly, he looked a little afraid. There were knives and fire and bottles of poison after all. But in the end, he was simply dressed as a police officer and on his way to a Halloween party. He was stopping to ask us for directions.

But we couldn't resist asking him to do us a little favor before heading off to his evening's frivolities.

He was happy to oblige.

As we began to wind up our fun little photoshoot and discuss how much fun we can have for free I took off my veil and snapped one last photo.

Happy Halloween, y'all!

Monday, October 28, 2019

How to Meditate Without Sitting Still

woman walking through a garden with spade and watering can wearing boots

Have you tried meditation and found it challenging or impossible?  I get it.

Here's the problem 

Maybe, like me, you have a lot of trouble sitting still. I've tried meditation in the past and find it hugely beneficial but the sitting still is such a struggle! 

I know that's why it's called a practice, because it's so hard but dang, y'all!

Sometimes sitting still can make my back hurt if I'm sitting up too straight. I don't know about you but if my back is going to hurt I might as well be getting something done, like pulling weeds or scrubbing our 50-year-old bathtubs. I've tried lying down but just end up snoring.

Here's something to try

What you might try instead is a moving meditation. While I'm working in the garden or tending the bees I work on being fully present. Checking the hives is one of the few things in my life that not only requires full attention but is also captivating enough to keep my mind from being distracted.

Read about how beekeeping is helping vets overcome PTSD.

Perhaps you want to sing a hymn or focus on a favorite Bible verse while cleaning your home or taking a walk. Walking is the most common way people move during meditation. 

Practice just taking in what you are seeing. Observe. Listen. Focus on your breath.

Here's a challenge: 

Try not judging. One of the things our mind loves to do is to judge. Everything. Not just people but literally every single thing in relation to every other single thing, and it's draining. This is one reason why our minds can't rest.

Who convinced us life was just one long all-encompassing 4-H Competition, beauty contest, and  episode of Shark Tank all rolled into one? 

This flower isn't as pretty as the one last year, or the one in the catalog, or the one in your imagination. This tool isn't as handy as the new one you saw at Lowe's This day is hotter, colder, wetter, more miserable, more beautiful than any other day in the history of the world. What color is her hair even supposed to be? That's a dumb idea for a business.

You see my point. This is exhausting. 

A new way of thinking: 

Try this instead. "Yes, thank you."

A flower bed plagued by spider mites? Yes, thank you. 

A walkway that needs weeding again? Yes, thank you.

No judgment. No anger about the chore. Accept. Do. Move on. 

Imagine everything inside your mind and spirit becoming more expansive. Breathe into that area where you feel your heart and soul are. You're not allowing your thoughts to be small and cold. You are breathing acceptance and love into every action. We expend a lot of mental and emotional energy when we don't have to.

You only need to pull the weed.

You don't need to mumble about how insidious it is and curse it then spend an hour ruminating on how your whole life has just been one long weed pulling fiasco and you've made all the wrong life choices. "Do all things without grumbling and complaining." in case you need a Biblical reminder.

Allow your mind to rest. Pull the weed. And the next. And so on.

Didn't they use to do this?

I like to imagine monks and nuns in the middle ages moving through their gardens and beehives behind the walls of the convent or monastery.

Don't you just know a solid introvert came up with that idea?

Father John: I was thinking we could just build a wall and then stay home and study bees and tend the garden. 

Father William: My son, that sounds like an excellent idea. We shall also copy sacred texts, and create beautiful illustrations that everyone will think are the bomb. 

Father Godwin: I'd be down with that. Let's also wear loose-fitting robes with ropes around our waists we can let out when we eat too much. 

Father John: Gluttony is a sin, my son. 

Father Godwin: My bad. 

And if you are thinking every Bible verse is about going and doing then allow me to share this little piece of advice tucked away in Thessalonians:  

"and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you." 1Thessalonians 4:11: 

Share this with a friend who needs to mind her own business.

 NO! Just kidding. Do NOT do that! 

There are whole books that could be written about how this verse compares --judging again!--to all the other verses telling us to get busy (!) but at least we know that there is a time for working quietly. This is the perfect attitude if you are letting your crazy brain settle down and the garden is a really good place to do it.

Things to try: 

Not a gardener? You also might consider cleaning the bathtub, organizing the pantry, or vacuuming. Obviously, these things all have the added benefit of getting stuff done. Just mind your thinking while you're doing them.

What about you? Do you struggle with a constant barrage of thoughts? Is there some activity that you could use as a moving meditation? 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How to Make Handcrafted Soap for Your Family or For Gifts

homemade soap

Do you want to make your own soap at home? Here's one of the soap recipes I use for all the handcrafted soap that we use around here plus what I make to share with friends and honey customers. The first homemade soaps that I created were just melt and pour with premade soap from a craft store. If you are looking to create some cute gifts that are unique and fun that is the absolute easiest way to go. You can toss science and measuring aside and just get to the fun and creative part.

Here's a post about how easy it is to do and although I still added more stuff to it you can absolutely just melt and pour the soap. Goat's Milk and Honey Soap

But of course, your girl here has to take it one step further and make real legit lye soap like grandma made. And yes I know all soap has lye, in case you are an expert soaper who was about to leave a snarky comment, but everyone else doesn't know that. I like information and baby steps. So...

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

lye shea butter stearic acid and olive oil in jars

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 it 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 to prevent cracking from it cooling too quickly.  

making soap at home

The next day pop it out of the mold and cut if necessary depending on the type of mold you choose. 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!

XOXO Y'all! 

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!