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?