Friday, December 31, 2010


I almost forgot to blog "HAPPY NEW YEAR" to all of you in cyberland. I cannot believe it is already New Years Eve. I'm not one for cocktails or clubbing, the hubby and I don't care for alcohol and big crowds, so we are hunkered down at home for the night with the kids. Possibly sitting up til midnight to watch that ball thingy come down in New York City (not sure exactly why we do that).

Most of you who read my blog know that I'm not one to go and make New Years Resolutions but I'll admit, this is probably the first year that I've felt like the turn of the year is going to bring great changes.

NUMBER ONE: more traveling. We are starting with a trip dogsledding. Something I've always wanted to do and I know my family will enjoy.

Soon my little tribe will be headed to Ely, MN for a dogsledding vacation with Wintergreen.

(picture source:

NUMBER TWO: More classes, starting with knitting. I know how to crochet a hot pad and that is about it. When I'm 70 I'd like to sit in my rocking chair and knit, besides, I've always wanted to learn how to spin and what good is spinning wool into yarn if you can't knit. So, a friend and I will be hitting the yarnery next month and hopefully we'll emerge master knitters.

(picture source:

NUMBER THREE: Get back to Buddhism. My girls and I were very involved in meditation and Zen Buddhism for a while and then mom died, I took over my sisters care, yadda yadda yadda, and I let that very important part of myself go. Well, we are headed back.

Clouds in water has great classes for families. Sunday's were always a favorite because the kids enjoy their own time learning to live mindfully while I meditate.
(picture source: Clouds In Water Zen Center)

I am read for 2011! Lots of things to look forward to. I won't even THINK about my oldest learning to drive. Let's just forget that part of 2011 :) For now, I'm off to watch the Little House on the Prairie series with my girls.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I had the luxury today of witnessing some bee suicide or maybe it was bee eviction and a little bit of bee poop. Is that a luxury?? Oh well, for a beekeeper it is.

I tried getting close enough to clear the lower entrance of snow but the girls weren't having it. They did, however, let me sit back and watch as they gathered to toss out several able bodied sisters, at least they were kicking and buzzing so that meant able bodied to me and I also watched as a few flew in and out to do their "business."

Cleansing flights come early for Carniolans because it is only 35 degrees F today and most beeks and books say cleansing flights usually happen above 50. Hmmmm... maybe it wasn't eviction or suicide at all, maybe the girls think they have the strength to cleanse but they don't :(
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010


(source for photo:

Just in case you are wondering, I don't call it a hive anymore, it is the "bee box" and today I learned that banging on it isn't the wisest thing to do. (Yes, I was thinking maybe some very loud humming not organized military attack).

I was making the new mommy mistake today. Ya know, the one where new moms get up every two hours to make sure their babies are still breathing? If you don't know what I'm talking about then you must belong to the calm mothers club. Personally, I was a wreck. After the birth of my first child I would wake to hear her breathing every few hours and if it sounded like she wasn't I'd give her a little shake. Of course this would wake her up and she'd cry but at least I knew she was ok. Well... the bees have somewhat of a similar reaction.

So I went out to my bee box and it was quiet... too quiet. I noticed the graveyard was plenty full and I started feel a little concerned so I put my ear up to the box and as I thought, I heard nothing. Paranoia, fear, uncertainty, whatever you want to call it, came creeping in so I gave the box a little tap and....... NOTHING. I tapped again and again until I noticed that I was going full speed, banging on it like a complete nutcase and the reaction from the bee box was similar to that of a newborn baby...the bees woke up and boy oh boy were they pissed. Too pissed off to freeze. They came crawling out like it was a 90 degree summer day and I ran for my life...... or at least I ran for the safety of my exposed skin.

Well, at least I know they are still alive right!?! :)

Now that I'm somewhat over that trauma I need to go read up on candy board recipes because I think the girls are going to need it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I hope everyone out in cyberland has a beautiful Christmas and a joy filled new year!
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Our little patch of dead bees has come to be known as the graveyard, which is what it feels like I am seeing everytime I visit the hive lately. At present my hive is half covered in snow which I need to deal with. These cold snowy days are serious cause for concern since long winters tend not to be any survival advantage for bees. I keep reminding myself that this is my first year as a beek and I only have the one hive and all of this is knowlege and experience I didn't have last year at the same time but... it isn't working. I will still feel really sad if they don't survive.

BTW/ those bees clinging to the hive entrance are dead.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010


A couple years ago I posted a page from my soap making journal for others in case anyone keeps track of their recipes and experience. I thought I'd resurrect that post in case others are interested in keeping track of their recipes and experiences with soapmaking without the hassle of drawing up your own journal.

Here it is: CLICK HERE

This is what it looks like:

I couldn't fit the entire image on my screen, but there is a section below for extra notes.

The temp for mixing section I still use. It originally was used to keep track of the temps at which I combined lye/oil/water but now I use the heat transfer method so I use it to keep track of the temp I include essential oils (yes, there is a reason for that).

Why do I keep track of the weather. Once upon a time I learned from another soapmaker, with far more experience than I, that the temp outside could effect soap. I had a string of bad batches that had to do with outside temp. LONG STORY!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


My dear friend Carrie over at Under the Willow Gifts makes the most awesome products that each year or throughout I always need to get my hands on some. I can't blog about what I purchased too much right now as I've ordered these for Christmas gifts and the recipients read this blog but I couldn't contain my excitement so I wanted to say at least this...

If anyone is looking for high quality handmade body products filled with at heart and soul, wrapped up in the most creative, adorable fashion, then shop at Under the Willow Gifts. Carrie, the owner, has experience and knowledge to create the best products and I am very excited to share her creations again this year.

Thank you Carrie for the extra goodies! My kids immediately noted that there were 3 small lipbalms for little hands and one large one for momma :) Middy wants you to know that she loves how creamy soft your lip balm is.
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Last night we ended up with several inches of newly fallen snow and although I could see the white piling up around my hive, it would do no good to get out in the middle of the night to uncover it, so this morning I put on my knee high boots and tredged out to the hive.

Usually this process goes well but today instead of scraping the snow off the top of the hive like usual I decided to lift the box with heavy rock inside that keeps the telescoping cover from blowing away. Well, the box was frozen to the cover so with a loud crack the whole box, rock and cover came off. Do I even need to say that my bees did NOT like this one bit. A few girls came out to see what was going on but then flew off, one bee darted out so quickly that she hit snow instead of air and although I moved quickly to scoop her up it wasn't fast enough to save her life :'(

Of course, I did my best to put things back together and finished cleaning out around the hive. The girls are calm once again, buzzing loudly, working hard to stay warm.

Til next time...
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Sun in Palm Tree Leaves, Los Angeles/Santa Monica, United States
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Grown Man

After recently sitting through an investment meeting where I acquired a bit more knowledge on green energy and socially conscious investments I've learned something new that doesn't sit well with me. Although I heard the rumors it is only now that I've taken a good look.

The RSPO that so many of us soap makers have come to depend on just isn't what it appears to be. For those of you who may not know, the RSPO is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a global, multi-stakeholder initiative on sustainable palm oil. Members and participants in its activities come from many different backgrounds and include environmental NGOs, banks and investors, growers, processors, manufacturers and retailers of palm oil products and social NGOs. They come from many countries that produce or use palm oil. The principal objective of the RSPO is “to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation within the supply chain and open dialogue between its stakeholders.”

From what most of us have heard and read, buying palm oil from members of the RSPO appeared to be a good thing. For those of us who try and live environmentally conscious lives anyway. I certainly didn't want to have a hand in the destruction of the rainforest, the disappearance of Sumatran tigers and elephants, or the useless slaughter of orangutan. Instead of just focussing on finding a soap recipe I loved that didn't include palm oil I opted for the alternative, which was to buy palm oil supplied by a member of the RSPO. On the surface the RSPO seems great but the truth is always hidden underneath.

What is “sustained destruction”? Is unsustained destruction OK? And who is to determine “the interests of people in the regions”? Human rights NGOs in Indonesia have been swift to note that some companies that have obtained the RSPO seal of approval “are involved in unresolved conflicts with local communities” over land. There will be battles ahead. But nobody said sustainability was an easy concept. And debate about its meaning can, of itself, be part of the solution. CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

Per the net, I've found these articles to shed some light on this subject for you. I could spend a lot of time typing up what most people will never read so if you are interested in this topic I suggest you not take my word for it but look deeper. Make some calls, you might be surprised at what you learn.

Despite RSPO certification, deforestation, deep peat conversion, land disputes and illegal practices continue to occur in the plantation estates owned by Cargill, Sinar Mas, and Duta Palma – all of whom are RSPO members. The RSPO is failing to enforce its own minimal principles and criteria and is not taking action on grievances filed by communities affected by RSPO members. The RSPO must revise its principles and criteria to adequately protect forests, communities and the climate by implementing a moratorium on forest and peatland conversion and by promoting the rights of smallholders and affected communities.

As for me. I have one gallon of palm oil left in my cupboard (yup, RSPO) but it will definitely be my last until I learn from sources that I trust that harvest and production of palm oil has truthfully moved in the direction of sustainability. If that is never than I guess I will never buy palm oil again.

Ultimately the best incentive for credible RSPO is consumer demand. If consumers demonstrate with their wallets that they want credible eco-friendly palm oil, the palm oil industry will provide it. The cost of "greener" palm oil is not high — especially for buyers in rich countries. A paper I published in January with Lian Pin Koh found that the average American consumer would need to spend an extra 40 cents per year to cover the cost of switching from his or her annual consumption of palm oil from conventional to certified sources. Thus consumers have the power to change the industry. RSPO FALLING SHORT







Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have been making soap for several years now and I thought I'd seen or heard of everything in the soap world but yesterday I uncovered a batch of soap and was surprised at what I saw. The soap had pulled away from the edges of the mold and turned almost rock solid. It reminds me of chocolate bark, the kind with the almonds in it. The soap isnt caustic, I can wash with it and it feels soft on my skin but it is hard hard hard. It can't be cut. I attempted to cut with my circle cutter and the soap split and the edges crumbled. Anyone know what happened?
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Friday, November 26, 2010


One of my girls left the hive but didn't make it back. I'm assuming it was recent because she isn't covered in snow. My daughter found her in the driveway, quite far from her hive, so I don't think she left her home to die but maybe came out when the sun was shining but got too cold??? Whatever the reason, it is always sad to see them like this but it's natural nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Actually, it is soap. I love this iridescent glitter from brambleberry and I am looking forward to buying some of the newbies she is selling. Have you seen the little stars? I have posted the before and after photo in hopes you can see the glitter better. It was added on the second pic.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010


(picture) The hive at night

Although I took 16 hrs of "Beekeeping in Northern Climates" course back in March I find that I've forgotten most things about honeybees. Like remembering the fact that they don't freeze but instead starve to death in the winter. Why the black cardboard box to warm them up on sunny days then? Well, because, the warmer they are the less honey they consume. Ooooooh, yeah... Oh yeah?? Ok, now I'm lost.

I had to go through it all again in my head, filling in the blanks, so please enlighten me on some of the finer points of beekeeping because I'm totally lost.

1. The colder bees get, the more energy they use to warm their hives.
2. Bees cluster in the hive and shiver to stay warm, heating the center of their cluster up to 80-90 degrees F and the outside of the cluster gets about 40-50 degrees F.
3. The bees rotate from inside to outside, sharing the warm spots, as to avoid freezing.
4. The bees are always surrounding their queen to protect her in the winter from the cold and they feed her throughout as well.

Here is where I believe I'm confused. Do bees eat honey more when it is cold or when it is warm?

4. I've heard that bees do not consume honey if it is too cold because they don't want to break cluster, therefore the colder it is the more likely they are to die.


I've also heard the opposite, that they need more honey the colder it is because they use up more energy warming their hive. The more shivering/warming they have to do the more eating they have to do.

If bees do consume more honey when it is warm, risking honey stores the warmer days we have, then why use the black box at all - since the black box will contribute to warming on sunny days. If we don't use the black box and they remain colder then they won't break cluster to eat. See why I'm confused?

5. Bees will die off if there isn't enough honey to get them through the winter.
6. In Minnesota that means a beehive needs at least 80 lbs of honey.
7. The honeybees start their cluster at the bottom of the hive and move up slowly as they consume the honey, ending their journey at the top hive body.
8. I need to check the hive on a warm sunny day (Jan, Feb?) to see if the cluster is moving nicely upwards (not sure what I'm suppose to do once I determine where they are in the hive).
9. Start feeding the bees sugar syrup and pollen sub. in March.

BTW/I had to clean snow away from the lower entrance of the hive today. It is only 33 degrees (warm for a Minnesota winter) but my bees are working diligently to keep their hive toasty. I peeked in the upper entrance to see what they are up to and I saw shivering little bodies doing lots of buzzing. I'm proud of them... doing what nature does best... SURVIVING!


...and it is beautiful!
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Saturday, November 6, 2010


Can you tell I'm feeling paper crafty lately? LOL!

I have my phases and this months phase is paper. I was trying to find a small box pattern when I came across a blog with this box holding a a washcloth cupcake (very cute).

So, this box pattern is not mine, we have PASSIONATELY ARTISTIC to thank for it. The instructions are on her blog or else you can follow along with mine.

You'll need:


Sheet of cellophane
Patterned paper
double sided tape
Scor-pal (or other scoring device)
Paper cutter
Measuring stick (if your cutter doesn't have measurements)
Circle & Scallop punches or other circular cutting device

First: cut a 12x12 piece of cardstock down to 10.5 x 10.5

Second: score at 3 1/4 on all four sides (I hope you can see the score lines)

Third: cut 1.5 inches off of template on all four sides and .5 inch notches angled diagonally on all four sides.

Fourth: assemble and secure your box.


First: cut a piece of decorative paper down to 6 1/8 x 6 1/8 and then score at 1 inch on all four sides.

Second: cut notches on all four sides. To do this you will measure in 3/16 of an inch from the score line on all four sides and then cut in at an angel like I did in the picture.

Third: You can use circle punches for this step or some other type of circular cutting device. I used a stampin up circle cutter with blade for the plain cirlce that I'm not even sure they carry anymore and a scallop circle punch for the frame. The punches would work much faster and easier. Passionately Artistic suggests using the 3 3/8 scallop circle punch and the 3 1/4 circle punch which would make the opening of the box bigger than what I have shown here.

I cut my scallop and then I cut a circle out of the center. This frame will fit perfectly around the circle window of my box.

Here I punched the hole in the center of box top and attached the scalloped frame.

Fourth: assemble your box top.


You'll need an insert so your cupcake doesn't rattle around in the box.

First: cut a square piece of coordinating cardstock at 4 7/8 x 4 7/8.
Second: score at 1 inch on all four sides.

Third: punch a hole in center to hold your cupcake. I used my stampin up cutter which allows for various circle sizes and I used the circle size that matched the size of a standard cupcake base. I'm not sure if a circle punch would be exact to the base of a cupcake, you would have to play with that.

Fourth: cut notches on all four sides of your insert. There was no measuring required here, just do it by site.

Fifth: place insert into the center of box base.

Add your cupcake, put the cover on and ta da... it is all finished. I added a little cellophane window but it could be left open for smelling purposes. I didn't gussy it up with tags or anything but that is a possibility as well, or maybe even some fun accessories around the box top and/or sides :) You could also add shredded paper inside to surround the cupcake or even wrap the cupcake in cellophane with a coordinating bow that would peak through the circle window.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I was walking through the MOA this afternoon when I saw this cute itty bitty bag holding a lip balm tin. I thought the bag was uber cute so I bought it, took it home and disassembled the bag so I could make the template. I'm not a big fan of lipbalm in tins but I do make natural perfume oils that I put into flat tins and therefore, I'm turning these into stocking stuffer gifts.

I wanted to share this idea with others in case you too are in need of some stocking stuffer ideas this Christmas. This bag is really simple. I tried really hard to create a template to share but I'm no expert at this type of thing. The template before folded must measure 5 1/2 x 5 inches in order to fit the .5 oz flat tin perfectly. You will need to adjust the template to get it to the right size because I had no idea how to size it correctly on my computer (it just sorta grew after I scanned my original).


If you have trouble viewing the template let me know. I can email the .pdf

Fits tin size .5 oz

Here is my sample (I have Christmas paper on order so I did this one as a simple "to you from me.") I used the lipbalm that came with the sample I purchased. Sorry about the blurry pictures, photography isn't my forte either :(

Cut out template:

Scor along designated lines (and fold):

Using a 1 3/8 circle punch, punch a hole in the lower front of bag:

I added a scallop border using a scallop punch. You can see that part of the flat covers the circle opening so I just trimmed that bit off (it must have been my measuring skills that I don't have either):

Now that you've trimmed off that extra bit you will adhere the flap on the left side of bag:

Then fold in the bottom:

So it looks like this:

Pinch in the sides:

So it looks like this:

Punch a hole small through the flap and all the layers of cardstock:

Wrap ribbon or raffia through the hole twice and tie:

You need to wrap it twice to make the flap lay flat:

Decorate with a little tag and your done:

One tip: cut a piece of cardboard and slide it in behind your lipbalm tube to keep it pressed snuggly against the window.