Sunday, April 26, 2015

Three! Three Hives! Mwahahahahahaha!

We had the one overwintered beehive (we'll call it the Pooh hive) from last June.  It's still going strong.  In fact, for the very first time on April 11, we think we finally saw the queen.

And then on Wednesday evening, we got a second nuc for the fish hive.  It needed to be installed into the hive on Thursday, but it was way too cold in the morning to open them up and separate them, so I begrudgingly had to go off to the day job and let Eric do it later in the day.  Fortuitously, though, some of my college friends were down here from Massachusetts with their kids, and were very into meeting the bees.  So Eric had assistance  installing the nuc after all - from Evan & Hannah, the kids!

It's terrific how totally unconcerned they were, as Evan held a nuc lid full of bees, and Hannah kept trying to get them to walk on her gloved hands.  Meanwhile, their mother was close enough to take photos of the event... and their father was across the yard, looking like he was shielding his eyes from a car wreck.


So if you're counting along, that's two active hives.  Not enough!  Plus, when we looked again, the Pooh hive was nearly bursting at the seams with bees.  Time for a split!

So Eric picked up a new queen from a fairly local bee supply place yesterday while I was face painting all day at the Tribeca Film Festival, and today, our first ever hive split!  Behold...

We're so excited about this!  Three active hives!  And even with the split, the strong one should still produce honey.  Fingers crossed people!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's Spring!

Or at least as far as I'm concerned, it is.  In my world here in northern NJ, spring started over the weekend.  Not because of the rising temperatures, though that certainly makes me happy, but because Saturday night the clocks changed!  It wears me out, more than you'd think a one-hour time change should, but it also makes me happy to be leaving the office in daylight.

And the other reason it started to feel like spring this weekend is because on Saturday was the first annual FLOW Green Fair (FLOW = Franklin Lakes, Oakland, Wyckoff), and I had a hand in it!  It was organized and hosted by the three environmental commissions, with my own commission chair and town's green team really spearheading it.  If you ask me, although of course as a first year event it had a couple logistical issues, it was a raving success.

I did two things for the fair, specifically.  The first was getting the president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers Association (my local club) to take a booth and teach everyone about bees.  He had a lot of interest, of course.

And the second?  I spent the day face panting, of course!  I figured they had enough help with the environmental displays and organization, and it was something I could offer that others couldn't.  I was a hit.

Then again, so were the displays and the hip hopping fruit.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Back to the Bees

We had an ice storm last week.

Well, after the ice hit, I was terrified that all the bees were dead.  The next morning, I went out back and the entire front entrance was iced over, so I cleared it, and saw what looked like a sea of dead bees just inside the entrance & extending back.  We were really scared that they'd all died of starvation (the most common cause of colony decimation this time of year) or lack of ventilation when the entrance was covered, because they cannot have moisture.  Moisture is a much bigger bee-killer than the cold.

Happy surprise!  Yesterday when it got to 42F, although it was really overcast & even drizzling, we went into the hive to check on them.  Eric was smart & wore his veil.  I was a doofus and thought I wouldn't need veil or gloves.  Plus, I was in my big black winter coat, and they hate dark colors - they think you're a bear attacking.  My mistake.

We brought out what we have left of fondant and pollen patty for them, in case they needed it.

Took off the outer & inner cover, and there were a ton of them!  And they were ANNOYED.  They don't like being chilly and they don't like when it's not sunny, and they wanted us OUT.

We managed to get the inner cover back on & Eric snapped a photo through the hole before we closed it back up entirely (turns out they still had a bunch of fondant, meaning they'd had enough honey stores, so we didn't need to feed them yet), but unfortunately, they wouldn't let us photograph them with the inner cover off.

Still... so happy to see they're still there & OK!  In fact, Eric is working from home today (it's 52F & sunny) and says that the girls are going crazy in the warmth and sun.  Hundreds of the bees are flying, maybe more.  Did I mention how happy I am?  I'm just jealous I'm not home to see it!

Gonna buy more fondant and see if we can't feed them later this week.  Better to give them more than they need than let them starve.  It'd suck if they made it through winter ok & then died this late in the game.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Seeing Red

Every time I look in the mirror, in fact!

I've always loved red hair.  I was never one of those kids who made fun of the gingers, I thought it was great.  And by the time I got to college, I really wished I myself was a redhead.  Didn't try it 'til much later, though.

Anyone who's been reading this blog for any length of time knows I favor the natural, safe, and healthy when it comes to things I put on my skin.

Well, the hair dye I've been using since my 20s didn't really jive with that.  Obviously.

I generally don't mess with my hair.  I see it as one of my best features, and so the color needs to be right and I get really upset if it's trimmed too short.

My sister was always more daring with hers, trying different styles over the years, cutting it short, trying Sun In (whoa, that was a disaster!), spiking it and bleaching out the tips, all sorts of things.  Not me.  Finally, I must have been in my early 30s when I first tried it.  My sister was getting bleach for me to do the tips of her spikes again, and I decided to try a nice auburn, so I went to the store with her and picked a box.  Well... the sample swatch and color shown in the photo on the box were not what I looked like.  My hair ended up nearly purple.  It was bad... unless, of course, you're looking for purple hair, in which case it'd be just fine.  I was an attorney, appearing in court, and decidedly not going for purple.  Whoops.

Once that color was headed out of my hair, though, I started to realize how much white I'd started to get.  Heck, that had started when I was 26, and my law school loan payments began.  For real.  But in my 30s, I realized how much it started to show on the surface.  So I started getting my hair dyed by my hairdresser.  Usually dark brown, which is my natural color, and sometimes a little more red when I was feeling like it.  At times, when I didn't have time to get to my hairdresser, I'd dye my hair from a box, but only dark brown.  I didn't trust the reds they carry at CVS.  Still don't.

Well, this past weekend was one of those times when I really needed color, didn't have time for the hairdresser, and didn't even have time for a box from CVS.  I was at Wicked Faire, face painting from basically 3 p.m. on Friday until 5 p.m. on Sunday.  In fact, on Sunday, I looked like this.

Please don't be scared by my terrible roots.

Well, as usual, as I have been for many years now at this event, I was situated right next to the henna artist, Robin of Henna Rising.  She's awesome.  She also hennas her hair.  And as it turns out, she sells hair henna.  So I decided to take a bit of a leap and buy a packet.  She told me how to do it (it's easy, albeit time consuming), and on Tuesday night, I finally had time.  It took five hours.  Yes, really.

My instructions were to put the henna powder in a bowl with enough water for the consistency of mud, and let it sit for two hours. Then, I had to take sections of my hair and plaster the paste on.  I made sure to wear an old cruddy t-shirt and put down an old raggedy towel first. Good thing, too, because this is not a neat process.  Also, I bought a box of vinyl gloves at the pharmacy, and ended up using two pairs - one when mixing the henna and another when applying it to my head, which I did by hand.

The nifty thing about henna, though, it turns out, is that while henna that stains the skin needs to be activated with lemon juice and various oils, hair henna is activated with water alone... which means a stain on the skin won't stay!  Handy, too, since I got it on my wrists above the gloves, my ears, neck, forehead, and even down my back.  No stains.  Also, unlike hair dye, which always admonishes the user to Stay Away From the Scalp!!!, with henna you actually massage it into your scalp.  Why not?  Unlike dye, it won't burn or do any damage.  and it won't stain your skin.

Once I was all plastered with henna "mud," I had Eric help me saran wrap my hair all in.  I looked like a doofus, I'll admit, but henna soaks in better (to both hair and skin) when it stays warm and wet, so sealing it in with plastic was the best bet.

And then I had to wait three hours.  Three hours.  A couple glasses of wine and several TV shows later, I was ready to hop in the shower and rinse it out.  By then it was 12:30 a.m. and took 20 minutes.  Good thing I'm a night owl.

Eric was already asleep & my hair was wet anyway, so I had to wait for tonight for him to get photos of my new look.  Personally, I love it!  This is the bright-light look.  In less light, it's actually a darker auburn, but in bright sun and light, the red highlights are crazy.

I actually feel taller with red hair.  My step is springier.  I think I look great, and I think it's so much fun!  And Eric says my hair already looks shinier and healthier.  No more dye for me.  I'm a henna girl now!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Now That I've Finished Holiday Knitting

Just popping in to quickly show you the result of a custom order a coworker placed with me.  She wanted a very simple cowl and chose her own yarn - an Isaac Mizrahi white acrylic.  Unfortunately, in this photo you can't see the bits of metallic silver thread shot through.

But I liked the cowl so much once she tried it on that I've started another, this one in a fluffy blue/green.  Show you when it's done!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Holidays Were Here... So I Kept Knitting

I already showed the colorful scarf for my gift exchange here, together with the beginning of my neutral scarf for a coworker.  But here's the finished product!

Well, almost finished... I still needed to weave in the ends in that photo.  But it came out great and he loved it.  I boxed it up all nice with a bow and wrapping, and made it pretty... and then the next Monday found out that he couldn't wear it.  I was mortified, thinking he might be allergic to wool, but no.  He couldn't wear it because his wife liked it so much, she stole it!  Now that's a compliment!

Meanwhile, as soon as I got done with the scarf, I started in (with the same wool) on a cowl for a friend of ours.  Every year, we go to this couple's holiday party, and every year we exchange gifts.  This year, for the wife at least, I decided to go handmade.  The husband got bourbon.

This was a new one for me, and it used ribbing, cables, seed stitch, and a honeycomb pattern.  I didn't realize it before I started, but it was listed as an intermediate pattern, so I was pretty proud of myself for nailing it, even if it was really time consuming.

I had to try it on for good measure.

Yup, cozy warm!

Oh, and I went handmade with Eric too, but not something I made.  Something from an Israeli artist at the Handmade Artists Shop.

Honeybee cufflinks!  He loves 'em.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Not as Simple as Apple Pie

With the holidays happening, and parties to attend, I was compelled to try something I'd been wanting to attempt for a while... Bouchon Bakery's Palet D'Or, the invention of Thomas Keller and his pastry chef, Sebastien Rouxel.  I've got that cookbook, after all, thanks to Eric, and I've sort of been working my way through it, though I've made pitstops to go back to awesome recipes I've already done.  (I've done the better nutters twice, the chocolate, praline, and cocoa nib tart four times, and the caramel nut tart and chocolate chunk and chip cookies more times than I can remember).

To be honest, they're all awesome.  Every single one has been a hit.  The only miss was really last summer when I redid the apricot flan tart as a peach flan tart and it wasn't absolutely stellar (with apricots, it was amazing as usual).  I think the peaches were too wet compared to apricots, and it made the flan a little weird.  In order for Eric to try it, though, I had to alter it - he's allergic to apricots, poor guy.

Anyway, back to the Palet D'Or.  Literally:  gold disc.

In real life?  A rich two-layer devil's food cake with thin layers of melted (and re-hardened) semisweet chocolate, rich chocolate cream and rich chocolate ganache glaze.  Lots of chocolate.  Lots of heavy cream.  Lots of egg.  A little sugar.

And gold leaf.

Holy crow.

I actually ordered gold leaf from a supplier in Syracuse, and I'm glad I did.  While it's obviously not necessary for anything but presentation, it just really completes the look and makes it a showpiece.

So, this is what is pictured in the cookbook.

And I think I did a damned fine job, especially for my first try.

I only had a round platter in white, which I wanted for contrast, so to avoid the whole thing looking like a weird eyeball, Eric suggested the plating idea.  It was such a hit at the party!  More of a hit, though?

How it tasted.  Look at this.

Not the prettiest picture with all the remnants strewn about, but gorgeous to anyone who tasted it.  It was amazing.  No other word for it.  So amazing that Eric, who's generally not a fan of chocolate cake nearly lost his eyes when they bugged out of his head while trying it.  So amazing that our friends, the party hosts, removed the piece that was left to keep fro themselves and give me back the platter when I was leaving.

Nothing like people appreciating your food when you bake.  Nothing at all like it.
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