Make Candy For Bees

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , , , ,

Winter is coming and I've been augmenting my bees' food supply with sugar syrup for the last few weeks. I lost my last year's colony to starvation, I believe, so I'm trying to give them more than one back up plan this year, should they not have collected enough honey through the summer, hence also making some candy to tuck in the hive.

Over the summer I did not harvest honey from them, except when having to remove some comb to make room for them to prevent over crowding. I'm glad I kept up on thinning comb from the hive as there were no suggestions of them wanting to swarm this year, and I'm convinced overcrowding was the main issue last year when they did swarm (you can read about that here).  If they do have honey left in the hive when spring arrives, I can take some then, and probably more in the height of the summer, since they will hopefully be a much stronger colony in their second year. We'll see how that plays out.

Right now, the main concern is survival of Montreal's brutally long winter.

The candy recipe I used is from

Quick bee sugar cake

5 lbs sugar1 cup cold water with 1.5 tsp vinegar added and mixed inMix together in large pot well.  Place mixture on a candy board or in another container.  This will turn into a hard block of sugar much like when a bag of sugar gets wet. No cooking required

I took some tips from Beverly Bees and added some pollen into the center of the fondant. I happened to have some kicking around from one of the many times I had to remove comb to make more space for the bees mid summer (I try to take the least needed comb in the hive. Sometimes it'll have pollen or honey in it).  I simply broke the comb apart and flicked out the pollen pieces. Easy to do with comb from a top bar hive because they don't have frames. Top bars are just a bar lat lays on top of the hive and the bees construct their own shape, which usually follows the interior shape of the hive.

I have a large, wonderful dehydrator, so I spread the fondant on a frame, over a non-stick tray liner that came with my dehydrator. I put it in the machine and made sure not to have the temperature set too high (or it would just melt the sugar). The point is to get rid of the moisture and create a kind of puck - the sugar equivalent to a salt lick for cattle. I left it in there for about 6 hours and let it cool.

You do not need a dehydrator for this, however.  You can let it sit our for about 24hrs, as noted by Beverly Bees, and it'll do the trick.

I decided to break up the bee candy and slide it along the bottom of the hive before my husband and I prepped the hive for winter.  The explanation of how we did that is here, with the modification of using 2" thick pink styrofoam insulation this year. The roof doesn't fit on properly now, but it's secured fine with help from a bungee strap.

Do you have a bee candy recipe to share? Add your link in the comments.

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Creamy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , , ,

Tis the season for all things pumpkin spice, and since Canadian Thanksgiving has just danced past us, I had some fresh pumpkin puree kicking around. Of course, I'm a smoothie girl, so, naturally, this happened.

The spice combination is taken directly from this pumpkin pie recipe (which also talks about how to make pumpkin puree) because when you know something is good, why mess around with it?

Creamy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (family sized)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk (use from the can - it's the creamiest)
1 banana
20 dried dates
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 trays of ice

Blend it all up!  *Pro tip: for blending ease, make sure you place the liquid and soft foods at the bottom and the ice on top (last in).

Here's an illustrated recipe card (check out others here).
Feel free to print out for personal use.

What kind of pumpkin concoctions have you dreamed up? Leave a link in the comments.

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Damn Good Pumpkin Pie

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , , ,

Okay, so I haven't actually tasted the pie as a whole pie experience yet, but I have tasted the filling on a spoon and it is delish!

This recipe comes to you from my friend and fellow homeschooling mama, Rowan Smith, and is perfect to try with your favorite pastry recipe.

Read: FRESH pumpkin, coconut milk and all the things that make you go mmm.

I wanted to post this now so you Canadian folk can try it out in time for Thanksgiving, and you sweet American neighbours can get our feedback in the comments before your Thanksgiving (or make it for Columbus Day, or for a special day like Monday, because even Mondays deserve pie sometimes. And right now you are snickering at me thinking, silly Canadian girl. Monday is Columbus Day. Boom. All the more reason for pie).

I plan on making this for our Canadian feast this Sunday.

Canadian Thanksgiving celebrates a lot of different things, including traditions from the Americans brought up after the American Revolution (thank you for turkey and pie). The first thanksgiving after Canada became Canada celebrated the Prince of Wales.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.  

It wasn't until 1879 when it was moved to the Autumn and declared an official holiday.

The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed each year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In its early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary.

But, I digress. Pie. Eat more pie. Eat more pie and enjoy knowing stuff about Canadian History.

Find the recipe here, on Rowan's blog. Make it and come back to me and tell me how it went!

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Cleavage Saver Sewing Tutorial

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , , , , ,

Yes, you read that right. Save your cleavage, baby.

Okay, so if you are a dude, or a woman with small perky breasts, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. I'm just a crazy lady making accessories for boobies. In fact, a very similar product was featured on a website under the heading,

           The 6 Most Ridiculous Things Ever Made for Boobs. 

Ridiculous? Bring it on. And I am here to say, for all of the big bosomed chikas, that cleavage wrinkles are a thing. And the struggle is real. I gasped when I looked in the mirror one morning and saw an array of creases radiating out from my cleavage like a Japanese fan. Something had to be done. That night I grabbed a pair of rolled up socks and adjusted my sleeping situation. It was pretty comfortable, if I do say. You should go try it right now. Go ahead, lay down for a nap and bring a pair of socks. Comfy?

(image from
Friends, we can avoid this, right? Or am I just going to have to go and get my upper chest lasered right off? 

The other option was to just sleep in my bra. But that's not comfortable. And if you are like me, you have three million bras, but only one fits well, and you can't very well go on wearing that thing day and night for very long before it starts becoming part of you, kind of like a rope that's been tied around a tree for too long and the tree just grows over top of it.

So I made this. I call it The Separatist, because, if you know anything about Canada and the province of Quebec (where I live) you'll know that that word is very politically charged. And if you can't have fun with politics, politics will drive you mad.
My breasts and I may not share the same political opinions, but if anything is happier separated, it's my boobs.

The Separatist is great for reducing cleavage wrinkles and will probably be useful for pregnant and nursing mamas, who have ridiculously engorged watermelon-like breasts, seeking a little comfort.

Supplies list

-fabric (cotton)
-sewing supplies (scissors, pins, thread, machine, etc)
-butcher or freezer paper (waxed on one side)
-glue stick
-x-acto knife
-acrylic paint
-iron/ironing board
-poly fiber fil

Firstly, find the pattern here. I sewed up one of each size. It takes hardly any time at all. Then follow the steps below. If you don't want to stencil on your fabric, skip directly to step #7

1. Figure out what design you want to stencil on it. Print it out. No need to reverse it. Glue the stencil onto the butcher/freezer paper's non waxed side. Pro tip: keep your stencil simple unless you want to spend a lot of time cutting it out (ahem, like I did). 

2. Cut it out carefully, reserving any spots you want to add back in when placing on the fabric (like the insides of the letter a, e, etc.)

3. Find your fabric.  I made the small one entirely out of the same cotton. It seemed smooth and airy. It worked well, but was a bit slick and I found myself adjusting The Separatist once or twice in the night. For the larger size, I combined the cotton with another textured fabric, probably also cotton, in hopes the combination of increased size and varied fabric texture would serve to keep The Separatist in place better. 


4. Iron the stencil to the fabric using a hot iron for about 10 seconds, or so.

5. Use the sponge to build up scant amounts of acrylic paint over your stencil. Don't use globs of paint. It will bleed through the fabric and run, causing your carefully cut out stencil lines to blur. You can see in the close up below I used a bit too much paint and the lines blurred slightly.

6. You can remove the stencil immediately after you are done with the paint. SLOWLY. Remove the small bits with the tip of a needle, avoiding smudging the wet paint. Let it dry, then iron the design for 10-20 seconds to set the paint.

7. Cut out the pattern.

8. Sew the pieces together along the side seams, starting and ending about 1/4" from the ends. 

9. Sew the ends on. Clip the corners. 

 10. When sewing the final end on, leave an opening so that you can turn it right side out.

 11. Stuff with filling and hand stitch the opening closed.

12. Sleep well and have happy breasts.

Sometimes ridiculous is just what a girl needs.

Is this something you would try?

Sewing Supplies at Craftsy

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Ouch! I was stung!

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , ,

Oh, the bees. They are wonderful, aren't they?  If you've poked around this blog at all, you'll have noticed that I am a beekeeper. And I have been stung. This is my second year, and so far I have about 9 stings under my belt. I have had swollen hands and legs and and face (I was stung on my head - the little gal got stuck in my hair).  I don't think 9 sounds so bad. Consider that there are upwards of 50,000 of them in the hive, over 100,000 between the two summers. That's  a 0.00009% crime rate.  I'd live in that neighborhood.

Yes, it does hurt at the time of the actual sting, but the pain doesn't last. That part doesn't concern me at all. It's just a little pinch.  It's the day or two after when the swelling and itching starts and lasts for the better part of a week. How annoying.

My neighbor once suggested trying clay. I've heard other things, too, like baking soda, aloe, etc.  I usually just let nature take its course. But I'm done with that nonsense. I am here to say that I've tried the clay. AND IT TOTALLY WORKS.

I got to the clay about a minute, maybe two, after the sting happened. I made a paste and slathered it on my face. Oh, did I forget to mention? I was stung on my left cheekbone two days ago. I'm not sure what pissed her off, but I can say with some certainty that it was my fault. Honey bees just DO NOT come up and sting you for no reason. Though the species I got this year (a hybrid of Carniolan/Italian) seem to be a little feistier than last year's (Italians). But I hope that feistiness will carry them through our harsh Montreal winter. The Italians were not so fortunate last winter.

Though a different brand, this is the same as the clay I used . I've read that Bentonite clay is great, too. I would imagine that if you happen to find yourself near a mud pit or a potters studio, that might do the trick as well. Should you ever have the opportunity to try those remedies, please report back to me.

I applied the clay twice that afternoon, each time washing it off after it dried. Just before bed, I noticed the area around my lower jaw on the same side of the sting starting to get a familiar buzzing tenderness to it. I made up some more clay and applied it over the whole area and I went to bed, protecting my pillow with an old t-shirt.  In the morning, I washed it off, and even a day later, NO SWELLING. Well hallelujah!  I can continue beekeeping now that I've found a way to mitigate the risk of itchy-puffy face and extremities.  All that remains is a small bump where the stinger got me, and I expect that'll clear up in a day or two.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not say how ultra cool having dried clay on your face looks. I'm pretty sure you'd have a hard time telling me apart from this guy. Halloween costume, anyone?

Do you have any tried and true bee sting (or other insect bite) remedies? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section.

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The Bitty-Q

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , , , , , , , ,

Essentially, this is a review of The King of Random's Bitty-Q.  My youngest son has watched this video over and over and over. Finally, we got the supplies and made it.

First, wear gloves. We didn't cut ourselves, but there were many opportunities.

We found a suitable can, not Mike's Hard Lemonade, but a tall 99 cent Nestea.  We found U-bolts and hinges, and improvised on the rest.

We cut through the can mostly with regular scissors, but also had tin snips to get through the thicker parts.

So, prying apart steel U-bolts with the sheer power of your own force is not an easy thing to do unless, you are "Captain Random", as my husband calls him.  It feels like something that could be accomplished while burning pallets down by the river just before you smash an empty beer can against your forehead.  Alas, it wasn't for our delicate city hands.

So we did this, because, science.

We took two spindles from our deck that were just laying around (an ongoing project, don't get me started) and wedged them in and pulled them apart, forcing the u-bolt to widen (notice that we are widening the back u bolt in the photo). Easy peasy. No beer cans were harmed. No pallets were burned.

We worried about ripping the can, so we didn't pull too hard. Thus, the Bitty-Q legs are a bit like new-born Bambi trying to stand. Sturdy enough if you angle them out and place it down, but they are collapsible, to a degree.

My son was educated about the long line of "cussing-while-fixing-stuff" men that preceded him as his father fiddled with attaching the teeny-tiny hinges to the can.  My son and I prepared the coat hanger.  He sanded and marked with a sharpie, and I bent the dang thing.  You can find the grill template here.

We used an old coat hook for the Bitty-Q lid handle. Why buy when you already have? It just takes a little imagination (which happens easily if you severely dislike shopping, as I do).

It turned out not too bad. It's a death trap, to be sure, but it looks alright.

We did BBQ dinner on it last night. I forgot just how long it takes to get charcoal to a premium BBQing state. Forever. That's how long it takes.  But once we achieved embers, we were off to the races. We managed three hot dogs before the embers burnt out.

I'm not sure if we will bring this on our next camping adventure, but it's a good possibility if it survives that long.  

Have you tried any projects by The King of Random, or other maker/lifehacker?  Post your links in the comments. 

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link your costs will be the same but LoveItLearnItMakeIt will receive a small commission. This helps cover some of the costs for this site. Your support is appreciated!

Re-Upholster a Chair

Posted by Julie Prescesky in , , , , , , , , , ,

I found this stool with stow-away steps discarded on the curbside.  It was black  and rusty metal with orange upholstery that carried a lovely bouquet of mildew.  I was drawn to it immediately because my grandmother had one just like it and seeing this one brought back a rush of nostalgia in me. I knew I had to rehabilitate it. 

To re-upholster a chair or stool like this, you need:

The first step was to sand off the rust on the metal and then paint with a white enamel.  I painted it on with a brush (2 coats) because that's what I had (I'm a big fan of working with what I've got), but using a spray can (like this) would be better. 

And then, there's my dog. The hair! Oh, the hair.  She gets a little over excited sometimes. And clumsy.  She knocked over the whole thing (wet paint) while in hot pursuit of a rogue ally cat.

So, since I had no turpentine I had to let the enamel dry completely, then I decided to sand it down and leave it with a distressed look.  Better than a hairy look.  

I pulled the upholstery off the seat and scrubbed off the mildew. I used a homemade disinfectant spray that is non toxic and works like a charm.  I let it dry in full sunlight.

Disinfectant Spray Recipe

1 part white vinegar
1 part rubbing alcohol
1 part water

I traced the seat on a piece of foam and placed it on the wooden seat, then flipped both together upside down on a double layer of vinyl tablecloth.  If you have a higher quality vinyl (like this) than what I had, a single layer may suffice.  

I pulled the vinyl over the edges to the back, and stapled them, taking care to cut away the bulk at the corners.

I gently pulled the upholstery tacks out of the back rest, and saved them.

The back rest was now in two pieces.  I covered each piece with spray glue and placed them on the vinyl. I wrapped the vinyl around the pieces and stapled them in place on the one side, and only glue on the other (because it was too thin for staples). 

I put the pieces back together and replaced the upholstery tacks.  I put all the pieces back in their respective places and I have a brand-new-to-me chair.

All-in-all, a pretty easy project, especially if you do not need to repaint the metal. 

This particular chair is great for use with my standing desk (for when I don't feel like standing). We also use it for hair cuts. I'm not a hairdresser, but I cut my family's hair, and this chair is a great height for that. It's also the reason why I wanted a wipe-able fabric.  

Have you had any re-upholstering adventures? Link to them in the comments.

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