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!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Defining Success for Your Vision Board

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

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

Then that's what goes on your board!

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

How To Create a Spooky Dress Form for Halloween

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

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

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

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

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

I rolled the chicken wire into a tube and twisted the ends together using wire cutters. I didn't stop to get my camera to take pics along the way, but it was a matter of simply scrunching it together with my hands (wear gloves!), twisting some loose ends, and cutting off the excess.  I loved being able to walk all the way around a project.

ghost sculpture

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

chicken wire sculpture

Start to finish it took about 3 hours and cost nothing since I already had the wire. I love the way she looks in the garden at dusk. It would be fun to make several of these and spray them with glow in the dark paint for the front lawn on Halloween. 

I loved her just like this but last spring I decided it would be fun to fill her out a bit more. Less ghostlike, more like a topiary in dress form. I had some sheet moss I had purchased on sale and I used floral wire to wrap it onto the form. I planted two pots of ivy, one that sat on the ground and one that sat in a plant stand near where her waist is. I pulled the ivy through the wire and used some bits of moss here and there to help fill in while I'm waited for the ivy to grow thicker. 

Have you ever created a large sculpture or topiary? 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Do You Identify as More Educator or Entrepreneur?

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


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

I knew I didn't want that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I responded eloquently. "Um..."

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

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

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

Read my post about why documenting is now creating. 


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

 I was the thing.

 Okay, that sounds weird. 

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

But I didn't tell anyone.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

XOXO Y'all!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

DIY Beeswax Candle in a Teacup

beeswax candle in teacup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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