Friday, January 29, 2010

Bee Debacle

It has been unseasonably warm here for a few days. On Monday when I pulled in the driveway after dropping the boys off at school, what did I see? My bees were flying! It was in the low to mid fifties and my hibernating bees had decided to take a few investigative flights. I was such a proud mother! I leapt out of the car leaving the door wide open, ran inside and grabbed my camera. My bees were flying!!!

Can you see the one bee coming in for a landing in this picture? This shot doesn't show it, but there were about five to ten bees out and about around the hive. Exciting.

Now, fast forward six hours. That day, driving rain and strange gusty winds were going to be coming through. I'm not sure at what point this happened, and I don't know for how long they were exposed. But, because of the wind and rain, on my way home from an errand I stopped by the bus stop to pick up Benjamin (10). When I pulled in the driveway, I saw a horrifying mess!! The outer covers on both of my hives had blown off completely exposing the inner cover which has a 5x1 inch hole cut out of the top!! The worst part was, on my left hive, even the inner cover had blown off, leaving the frames where the bees live exposed!! Horrible! I raced over there with my bare hands and face and threw everything back together. There were a couple bees around the entrances (thinking to themselves HELP! We've been abandoned and forsaken by our keeper!!!) but they had enough problems to be worrying about me. Plus, it was blowing a gale! 

I put everything back together, and slid the bottom boards out so that any moisture could drip out and evaporate more quickly. What a mess. This certainly weakens the hive and who knows how many of my bees have died as a result. Poor things. After two days, I slid the bottom boards out, since the night time weather was going to be below freezing. I did see some flying two days ago when the temps were in the upper 40's. I hope they are okay. I am disappointed. 

Now I have TWO LARGE rocks on the tops of both hives . . . 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

URGENT: Help for Haiti, Calling all Pilots!

My brother Scott has had a love for flying ever since he could form words. My father was a recreational pilot and earned money to buy his first tail-dragger (plane) white washing fences in Montgomery County Maryland when he was sixteen. So, as early as third grade Scott would sit in the right seat on a booster in planes my father would fly, watching and learning. When he was finally old enough to take flying lessons, Massachusetts had recently changed the driving age (for cars) to 16 1/2, however the age to solo an airplane was still 16. So, Scott would ride his bike to the airport and log time on a rented plane. Next to the Lord, his wife, his family and friends, flying is the love of his life. Not only does he love it, but he is exceptionally good at it.

When it came time to choose a career, my father lobbied hard to have him join the 'family business' (which involves handbags, not planes) and over the years, between the two of them they have managed to have a plane Scott could fly, and meanwhile Scott's skills as manager and leader have blossomed at the family business.

Our church Community Covenant Church has been working with Haiti for the past four years bringing the Leadership Summit to them in the late fall, in hopes of bringing folks from the business, medical, government, and church world together to develop leadership skills, training and encouragement to the people of Haiti -- in hopes of giving them tools so that they can help themselves. Through our contacts and the love we have developed for Haiti, when the earthquake hit our church had to do SOMETHING. So my brother Scott along with our Pastor, loaded up his twin engine MU2 plane with 600 lbs of medical supplies donated by nearby doctors and Partners in Health out of Boston and headed for Port au Prince via Ft. Lauderdale and the Dominican Republic.

As the Lord often does with willing hearts, once Scott and Pastor Dennis were down there, He opened all kinds of doors for them to help. Their story has been life changing for both themselves, the people praying for them, and certainly the people they have been able to supply with everything from antibiotics, IV fluid, food, water and baby food.

However, the relief effort at this time is NOT getting aid to people outside of Port au Prince, except for the help of folks like my brother Scott. He has posted an URGENT call for pilots and their planes to come down to Haiti and help. Here is the post: URGENT: Call for Pilots to Haiti Even if you're not a pilot and don't know one, watch and see some of what he's been running into. And, pass the word. You never know who you will run into that knows someone, who knows someone, who will be able to go and help.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


This weekend, Victor and I went to Bermuda for the long weekend to participate in the Bermuda Race Weekend. The "destination road race" was an effort to get Victor back "on the road". He has run over 25 marathons and since being married has had a difficult time with work, wife and whipper-snappers (our beautiful, wonderful boys) making time to exercise. To sign up for such a big trip sort-of puts the pressure on to get in shape and somehow make it happen. And he did!

We were blessed with gorgeous weather while we were there. Typically things can get a little raw this time of year with cold wet windy weather around 60 degrees. However, as you can see we had clear mid and high 60 degree days. (The day after the 1/2 and full marathon the weather included gale force winds and driving rain .... crisis avoided!)

The day before our race, in an effort to conserve our legs, we rented mopeds and cruised all over the western part of the island. In Bermuda (which is far off the coast of North Carolina) they drive on the left side of the road, so that was a bit tricky getting used to ... but what a gorgeous, quaint island. The islanders are wonderful, thoughtful and kind. Numerous times we had islanders go out of their way to ask we needed directions, even if we were just pulled over looking at the sites. One family actually drove us through a short cut back to our hotel.

During the Bermuda Race Weekend there are four different races. I was amazed at the percentage of people who participated in the "Bermuda Triangle Challenge". This was a combination of three of the races. A mile race Friday evening, a 10K race Saturday morning, and either the 1/2 or full marathon on Sunday morning. Can you say WOW? Victor and I opted for the 1/2 marathon and playing around the island the rest of our stay. But the whole event was a runners dream. One race after the next with runners scattered all over the island and running conversation seeping out of every restaurant, bar and coffee shop. A lot of running groups went, participating in all three events, and they seemed to be living it up in spite of all of the running! Can you say Rum Swizzle (fruit juices and rum)? Or Dark and Stormy (dark rum and ginger beer)?

Back to the race, the 1/2 marathon course (which is the same loop for the marathon, you just run it twice which has got to be a little demoralizing as you run past all of the 1/2 marathoners finishing, cheering, hugging and high-fiveing), is very hilly. Victor, whose marathons have generally been at "BOSTON", said that the course was more difficult than Boston. The first half of the course has several big hills with nice (you have to be positive) downhills afterwards. However, the back half has numerous, seemingly unrelenting smaller hills, with a short flat, then up again, and then a flat ... but not a whole lot of down for "a rest". It's tough, but thankfully we live in a very hilly area so I had done quite of bit of hill work simply because this is where I run. So, if you go, you just have to be prepared -- that's all. I really felt great the entire way and kept my pace at between 9:00 and 9:15 minute miles (monitored thanks to Victor's new Christmas Gift: a GPS watch) and ended up beating my previous 1/2 marathon time by almost five minutes. I was very proud of my accomplishment particularly because after seeing all of the volcanic hills around Bermuda, planned on just running the race, enjoying the scenery and doing my best. But, I did it! Whoo-Hoo!

During our run, it was bright and sunny and only clouded up afterwards. We stuck around a little bit to see the Elite Marathon Runners come through (shortly after we finished our HALF marathon!) and cheer folks on. We couldn't take our "after" picture until we got back to the hotel and retrieved my camera. Fun stuff. Thanks Bermuda! We had a wonderful time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back at the Skating Pond

L-R: Ripley, Reese and Rosalie

On Sunday, although I had a million and one things to be done at home, I took Ripley and went to my brother's skating pond for some fun while the cold weather is still holding. But THIS TIME I brought along hot chocolate (the homemade kind with milk, chocolate and vanilla) and chocolate chip cookies. [Note: the Chocolate Chip Cookies were made from my own "Tollhouse Tubes" that you might purchase in the grocery store. I made a double batch of cookie dough, lined up a 'logs' of dough on plastic wrap and threw it in the freezer. This way you can have fresh cookies on the fly!]

Here's the skating pond. Isn't it great? This weekend, my brother Scott and a couple of his buddies shoveled snow off the remaining half of the pond. I don't know about the other guys, but Scott was just a wee bit sore. After skating for awhile, the kids put on their boots and went sledding down the hill onto the ice! What fun, fast sledding!

This is (if I do say so myself) an adorable shot of my niece Rosalie and her "Papa", Tanya's father, sledding.

Time for Hot Chocolate and Cookies!

Which'l give you enough energy for some 'Boot Hockey'!
Pictured: Ripley, Tanya's Dad: David aka: Papa, Reese and Scott

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tanya's Balsamic Garlic Dressing

I am blessed that my brother chose a wonderful, talented, smart, compassionate, kind, dear, thoughtful, fun woman as his wife. It doesn't always work out that way, and I am so thankful. My Sister-in-Law Tanya and I are close friends and love good food. We are always swapping recipes, and if we have a common cookbook, we will call one another and say "Sheesh, if you haven't tried the recipe for such-and-so, you should! It's fabulous!" So, featuring her dressing is, well, very appropriate.

My SIL Tanya, pictured center with my nephew Spencer
at Christmas Eve Dinner where we all enjoyed her dressing.

Victor and I generally use olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper on our salads. It's good for you, doesn't have a lot of those awful ingredients so often found in dressings, and is a lot cheaper ... AND we love it!

But after hangin' with my sister-in-law Tanya over the holidays, I came to love her stand-by dressing as well. It's delish, and she usually makes a decent sized jar of it and uses it for several days. Brilliant!

Here is the recipe in her own words:

Smashed , but not chopped garlic (2-3 cloves). 
4 parts good olive oil, 
to 1 part balsalmic reduction, balslmic glaze, or just a really nice balslmic vinegar.  
One heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard.  
Salt and pepper.  
So simple!

Thanks Tanzerlee!
Love you, Sandstone

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Birds and The Bees

Awww .... aren't they cute? One of each of my three breeds of hens: Barred Rock, New Hampshire Red, Rhode Island Red. It's snowy around here, and my hens weren't venturing out of their hen house much, so I threw some straw out around their house and they love it. Since then, they get out most of the day and tromp around. Here, my three hens are sunning themselves in the 30 degree weather under the hen house.
In spite of the cold weather and shorter days, my girls are young and laying up a storm. The day before we didn't have any eggs, then yesterday we had seven! So, to catch up, I made a double batch of zucchini bread and quiche for dinner.
Here is a picture of the hen house with the small bit of snow that is still hanging on. (Here, being relatively close to the ocean and the gulf stream, our snow doesn't tend to stick around very long, sadly. For me, if it's going to be cold, I'd just assume have snow for sledding and ice for skating!)
My honey bees are all wrapped up for the winter. In November I finally got to putting up the mouse guard (narrow fencing stapled to the entryway). The thought of stapling a bee hive just didn't sit well with me. Even though it was below freezing (an old timer told me they can't fly below freezing, but I don't know if that's true?) on the day I stapled the fencing to the entrances, I still put on my veil. I couldn't help myself.

The mouse guard, well, prevents mice. Apparently it's very common for mice to find their way into the hive to keep warm. Ugh. Mainly they make a big mess, and sometimes the bees win out and propolis (bee glue) the poor mouse from head to toe, so it looks sort-of mummified.

Finally in December before the big cold snap, I wrapped my hives in roof felting to help them to keep warm. It's not necessary to do this, but a lot of people feel it helps them through the cold winter months. Perhaps then they use up less energy trying to stay warm, which by the way they do in a similar way to the Emperor Penguin where the Queen Bee is in the middle, then they cluster around her in a big ball. The bees take turns being on the warm inside, versus the chilly outside of the cluster. Cool eh?
Some bees do slowly die through the winter. So when they do, as is customary, worker bees push the dead bees out of the hive on a warm (relatively speaking) day. So far I've seen two batches of 10 from each hive over two months. The idea is that before winter you want to have a large strong hive that has plenty of honey stores to make it through to warmer months. I hope mine make it. It will be sad if they don't after all my work, but I have certainly learned a lot and will start over and purchase more bees if they don't.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Upside of Cold

The new place that my brother Scott and his wife Tanya just purchased in town has a small manmade swimming hole in the back woods. Yesterday after school, we took advantage of the cold weather and went for a skate! My brother Scott in his customary form purchased a real-deal ice tester. When they emailed a picture of their family on the ice two nights ago, we rushed over the very next day! What fun. It's a crime, truly, that so many of these joys have been robbed of children in fear of crazy law suits. Several ponds around town carry a sign out front "No Skating". In "wining", we've lost. And it's a shame.

Next time I will be sure to save time to brew some hot cocoa! When Scott and I were kids living in both Illinois and Maine where cold weather is a 'sure thing', Mom would bring along a big thermos of hot cocoa to warm us up. What a treat. Fond memories. Next time! We still have a weeks worth of cold weather in the forecast.

Benjamin and Ripley marching into the woods
Brothers skating
My nephews Spencer and Reese, brothers sliding.
What adorable boys, would you just look at Spencer's blue eyes?!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Farewell Holiday Festivities!

Yesterday was the official ending of the holiday season for us. We returned from our trip to Florida in the afternoon. Our boys raced indoors to play with the Christmas gifts they'd left behind. And we attacked the dirty dishes and general clutter that resulted in packing for a 9 day trip in an hour, the day after Christmas! There is still much to do, not the least of which is taking down the decorations. But, I am happy to be home. I've missed my friends, my home, and weekly routine.

Enjoy scrolling through some of the highlights of our past two weeks . . . .

The Christmas Eve table at our house where we had 22 people!
The Grown-Up Table
The "Big Kids" Table
L-R: Dylan, Michail, Benjamin and Orion
The "Little Kids" Table
L-R: Reese, Rosalie, Ripley (Aunt Shay), and Ian
Grown-ups: Michelle, Carl, Scott, Tanya, Spencer and David
Alex, Bill, Joan, Sandy and Victor
Christmas Day seven miles away at Scott and Tanya's new house in Rehoboth
The joy of watching someone open a gift
Reese (foreground), Spencer, Dad and Mom
Rosalie, Benjamin, Spencer, Scott, Bill, Reese
Dad and Mom
The day after Christmas, we packed up and flew to Florida. Victor's family was also visiting the sunny state, so they all came over for a day to visit and have some fun.
l-r: Victor's sisters Michelle and Maria, and me (Sandy) on board Dad's boat "Tut"
Cousins: Reese and Ripley
Sisters Maria and Michelle
Siblings: Michelle, Victor and Maria
Four cousins in a boat (and one uncle / dad)
My nephew Spencer at the beach
My nephew Reese, photogenic as always
A competitive game of foozeball
One of Grandmama's Christmas gifts was a trip to the tea room in Naples. Although Ripley's expression looks less than impressed, on our ride to the airport heading home he chose TEA as one of his favorite events. Why? Because he could eat all that he wanted. The boy drank an entire pot of strawberry tea!
l-r: Reese, Ripley and Rosalie
Spencer, Benjamin and me (Sandy)
All of us, at Tea.
Benjamin receiving a sailing lesson from Gramp.
Lastly, the ladies favorite afternoon past time:
Playing 'Take Two', however, typically this would include a glass of wine, but we were being particularly 'good' on this occasion.
l-r: Me (Sandy), Mom, Tanya and Rosalie (who was feeling like a photo)
Grandmama and Rosalie snuggling after a full day of fun.
Blessings to all and a happy and healthy 2010!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sandcastle Contest

Every year where my parents live down in Florida they hold a sandcastle building contest.
It is a family event, but when it comes down to details, the 'grown-ups' are the ones who get it done.

In the end, I think it's the adults who have the most fun.
We chose a pirate theme ... with skull and cross bones ...
and treasure chest.
Good clean fun.

Eggs with Kale and Garlic

My favorite way to eat the fresh eggs from our eight hens is a Kale Scramble. Love it! Love it! Love it!

Make your basic recipe for scrambled eggs: Eggs, Salt, Pepper and a splash of Milk. Set aside.
Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium low. Add in chopped garlic and heat until soft. Then add in salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and chopped kale (fresh from the garden, even in winter months).
Toss until the kale is bright green and tender.
Pour in your scrambled egg mixture and gently fold in the eggs as they firm up on the bottom of the pan. Don't over stir. YUMOLA!