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I’m a book-reading, craft-making newlywed living outside Chicago. I love my husband, cooking dinner and especially eating desserts! We love to ride bikes all over town and read books at coffee shops. I also enjoy shopping at JoAnns, drinking wine on the patio and playing with my bunny rabbit Penelope. Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog. Please leave a comment- they really make my day! :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping: Sweet Rewards

This is the moment all beekeepers wait for- honey harvest time!  The bees were generous enough to share some of their bounty with us.  And we were excited to have it!

First we tool the full frames out of the hive and brushed the bees off.  There are many ways to do this, but we literally took the bee brush and swiped them off!  Some of them were not too happy to leave the honey, but no one was stung. :)

The tub was HEAVY!  I forgot to weigh it, but both ThatGuy and I carried it and we were exhausted!

The way we know the honey is ready is by looking for wax caps.  You can see in the picture below how most of the cells have a white wax on the top.  There needs to be about 80% or more of the frame capped in order for the honey to be harvested.   After the bees make the honey, there's a high water content.  They wait for the water to evaporate and then cap the honey cell. 

We used an electric heated knife to cut off the wax caps.

And placed each frame in a large stainless steel honey extractor.  As you can see, we placed a large bedsheet on the floor to stop things from getting sticky.  Let's just say, that didn't work...

Time to crank!  The spinning action inside the extractor causes all the honey to be flung outside the frames. 

Then we use the spout at the bottom to pour the honey into a strainer, to filter out any wax particles.

This is about 4 gallons of honey!  So delicious! I think I've eaten about a gallon. (don't tell ThatGuy!).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pallet Herb Garden

I've always wanted to use a pallet in a crafting project and I finally did!  Meet my little pallet herb garden.

He's pretty cute, isn't he?

After making this herb garden, I know what I would do differently.  So I'll show you what I did, and tell you what I would have done.

First, I cut a pallet in half.  Ahem... ThatGuy cut a pallet in half.   Our patio is on the smaller side and an entire pallet would take up too much space!  So half a pallet is perfect.

Then we added some burlap on the back of the pallet.  The burlap is from our coffee supplier, Metropolis.  They get coffee beans from all over the world in giant burlap sacks.  Sometimes if I ask nicely, they'll send some burlap bags inside our coffee order.  For some reason we thought adding burlap to the back of the pallet was a crucial step, but it turns out only to be decorative.  Feel free to skip this step.

This is where we made our critical errors.  We don't have a fancy saw, so we just used extra pieces of the pallet that were too small/bended/short and used wood glue to make a bottom board for the plant well.  This doesn't not work!  You need to have the correct size wood  attached with nails to ensure stability.  My pieces keep falling down and I'm holding everything together with twine.  I'm just waiting for the day the entire row of parsley falls down...

Purple basil and regular basil




I added some dirt, herbs and flowers and it looks great!  I feel like Martha Stewart when I go outside to get some basil for dinner.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping: Swarm Found!

Something amazing happened- we found our swarm of bees!  It turns out there are some abandoned hives on the farm where the bees are, and they made their new home in an old hive.  ThatGuy and I were so happy.  Now we know a little what the Prodigal son's father felt like when his wayward son returned. 

I've never seen a swarm, but here's a YouTube video featuring a swarm.

There were some people on the farm who saw our hive and said it was louder than an airplane passing overhead!  Swarms are surprisingly docile and gentle since they have no house to defend.

Here's where they were:

ThatGuy and I went in the evening, when all the foraging bees are home and stuffed newspaper in all the openings.  We strapped all the boxes together, put it on a dolly and ThatGuy pulled the hive across the farm and back by our other two.  He is so strong!  I wanted to take some pictures of the event, but it was rather stressful and some people (ThatGuy) wanted help steadying the hive instead of a photographer. 

Now we have 3 hives!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping: Swarming

Remembered I showed you this photo of a swarm cell and said I had a sad story to accompany it? 

Well, here's the sad story.  One of our hives swarmed!

 The longish version of this story is we had an overcrowding issue in one of our hives.  When the hive is feeling crowded the queen and half of the bees will swarm to find a new location.  However, they don't leave the remaining bees high and dry- they create a new queen. 

Swarm cells are peanut-shaped that house a new queen and are located on the bottom of the frame.  Usually the bees will create a couple of queens, just in case one doesn't work out.  The first queen to emerge will destroy her sisters.  There's only room for one queen!

In a desperate attempt to keep the hive from swarming, ThatGuy and I cut out and the swarm cells. We went back a week later and found more swarm cells and cut them out again.  Then we realized... the hive had already swarmed!  It was down in bee population and had no queen- and we just killed their future queens!!

It's detrimental to a hive to not have a queen.  She controls the workflow of the hive and her pheromones keep the bees happy and hardworking.  To not have a queen... well, our bees will just die. 

We ordered a new queen from R. Weavers Apiaries in Texas- a Buckfast queen.  She arrived last weekend via UPS in a giant envelope and was installed in the queenless hive.  Hopefully she'll be accepted soon so we can save our hive! 

We've never been so happy to see a bug!  We paid $2 extra to have her marked with a yellow dot on her back. This will make her much easier to spot in the hive.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Scrabble Bridal Shower

I co-hosted a bridal shower for my dear friend Jen. I think I loved planning this shower almost as much as I love Jen!  Jen and her supercute fiancĂ© love to play Word with Friends and have Scrabble magnets on the refridgerator.  He wanted Scrabble save-the-dates, but when you plan a wedding in 3 months, there's not time for save-the-dates!!  So we did a Scrabble Love Bridal Shower for them.

I'm going to level with you.  I went craft crazy for this shower.  You'll see.

For the invitations Jen let me borrow her engagement ring (without any questions!) for a couple of minutes for a photo shoot.  I printed the photo below and used it as the cover for the invitations.
Guest were greeted with wooden LOVE signs in the front lawn, which Jen later used in her engagement photos.

 When guests arrived they filled out a card for Jen with a special memory and some marital advice.  I used a really cute downloadable font called Tilez from dafont.

And what's a Scrabble party without some sort of word scramble?

The beverage station in the kitchen with coffee from our shop, champagne, orange juice, iced tea and white wine.  Drin_ up!  (I couldn't find a "k" in any of my Scrabble tile!).

Strips of purple and green fabric were a great backdrop for the wooden tile banner.  The letters and numbers were cut from vinyl with my Cameo

The food was delish!  Jen loves Caesar salad, there was a Caesar salad buffet with homemade muffins, pasta salad, bread, and fresh strawberries.


Party favors were Scrabble key chains. 

And I also made Scrabble wine charms

And some pillows

I told you I went craft crazy.

We finished up the shower with yummy custom cupcakes from Angle Food Bakery!

What's a 5 letter word starting with "h"  to describe the bride?  Happy!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping: Hive Maintenance

ThatGuy and I have been checking on our hives about every 7-10 days.  People are always curious and ask what we look for. 

ThatGuy opens the hive

1. Evidence of the Queen

The queen is the most important bee!  She lays all of the babies and sends off pheromones to the rest of the hive, keeping them happy and hard working.  While the queen can sometimes be hard to spot, its easy to see the little white larvae in the cells. 

Answer at the bottom of this post!
2. Nectar and Pollen

Nectar and pollen are the precursors to honey.  It's been really interesting to see the different color shades of pollen- some it ranges from green to yellow to purple!  

3. Honey!

Seeing honey always makes us excited!!  In the image below, the majority is uncapped honey.  After its been made, the bees put a wax cap on it (the white at the top of the frame) which allows some water content to evaporate to get the right consistency of honey. 

We also look for things we don't want to see. 

1. Predators/pests

Bees have enemies!  So far the only one we have seen are wasps, and the bees sting them to death. 

2. Swarm cells

When the hive is too crowded, some bees consider leaving the hive.  The original queen will leave with part of the hive, and the rest will stay behind and create a new queen.  That peanut-shaped cell on the right of the frame is a swarm cell.  I have a sad story that accompanies this picture, but for another post.

3. Beeswax in places it shouldn't be. 

Bees are pretty tidy and follow the rule of  "bee space." Anything wider than 5/8 of an inch and the bees will form a new layer of wax.  This will make honey harvesting difficult!  We just use the hive tool to scrap off any extra wax and I have a special ziplock bag I keep it in. 

Here's the Queen!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping: Installing the Hive

Finally it was time to install the bees into their hive!  This was a very exciting time, and ThatGuy and I talked over and over the steps. Then we promptly forgot everything!  Luckily ThatGuy remembered what I forgot, and I remembered what ThatGuy forgot.  

Getting out supplies ready
Unfortunately I didn't get too many pictures, because my hands were busy and in elbow length leather gloves.  Basically, we followed this format from Dadant. 


Being on a farm, we had some friendly visitors who came over to participate and observe. 

curious cat
and curious ponies

Things in the first hive went GREAT!  Things in the second hive... not so great.  This includes a dead queen, having a package of bees in the bathroom, and spilling a bucket of sugar syrup.  But we are chalking it up to a learning experience!