News

Sweet Sophia News Letter - May 2017


It's Finally Spring!!

I have really been horrible at keeping up with the newsletters.  Business has been doing very well, so that is my excuse!  

It's been a year since I quit my "real" job and sunk myself full time into Sweet Sophia.  The results have been nothing short of amazing.  Besides the fact that I have saved thousands of miles in mileage with my new commute to my kitchen, I have been able to focus solely on the business and the bees.  We only lost one hive over the winter (due to exposure) and have doubled the size of our apiary.  We have bees now in 4 different apiaries!!  

Swarms

This time of year, bees are prone to swarming.  If you happen to see a cloud of bees clustering into a ball in a tree, along a fence, on your woodpile, or anywhere for that matter, please call your local beekeeper association.  Beekeepers love to collect swarms.




New Products

Beard Balm - We tested our beard balms with some serious beardos around the country.  After months of trial and error, we came up with some righteous formulas.  These balms are great for conditioning the skin under the beard and for softening and shaping those wiley whiskers!

Paw Putty -  This amazing salve will moisturize, protect, and promote the healing of your precious pup's paws, nose, and skin.  Our formula is 100% natural and has been tested for months on dogs of all sizes.  There have even been a few minor curling iron burns on the testers themselves that have benefited from this awesome balm!



Natural Deodorant - After over a year of formulas, testing, rebatching, throwing away, more formulas, more testing, and more trials.....we finally have a product that we are proud of.  This is the 9th formula we tested and easily the 12th or 13th that we put together.  This one works!

New Retail Locations
Mom's Apple Pie - Occoquan and Leesburg
The Old Town Shop- Old Town Alexandria

For being such awesome customers, use the coupon code SWEETBEE when checking out of your next order and save 10% or your entire order!

Thank you all!

John, Elsa, and Sweet Sophia
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Sweet Sophia July Newsletter

 

Happy Birthday America!!

What a crazy summer it's been so far!  After a solid month of rain, the bees were chompin at the bit to get out.  The warmer weather prompted them to expand rapidly in the hives, and there were swarms aplenty.  Thankfully, a lot of people called their local beekeepers rather than pest control to deal with the swarms.  Swarming is completely natural, and if you happen to see a big clump of bees in a tree, don't panic.  Queens are about twice as big as normal workers but have the same size wings, so they sort of island hop from tree to fence to barn until they get to a new home.  They are very gentle while in a big clump, so don't worry!  

 

Here is a picture of my own bees in the process of replacing their queen.  The long cells in this picture are baby queens!

 

In the coming weeks of sun and heat, don't forget to protect your loved ones and yourself with our 100% natural BUG BALM and SUN SCREEN!

We have been busy!

Thanks to you all, we have been very busy!  Besides prepping for a huge SpringFest in Mid Jun, we have also been quite active in expanding our business into more retail locations.  The June Springfest at Stonebridge Shopping Center in Woodbridge was awesome - hottest day of the year, but still awesome.  We met hundreds of new people, got to talk about our products, and most importantly, we got to talk a lot about bees.  It was great to hear how many folks are interested in keeping bees.  I say you should! Bees are great, even if they do tend to sting when bothered.

Here is a better shot that shows the amazing table covers that Elsa made for our display tables. 

New Retail Locations

Silverbrook Nursery - Lorton, VA
Slender Spa - Lake Ridge, VA
Serendipity Wellness Studio - Burke, VA

New products

  • Healing Balm with Emu Oil  -  I mentioned this in our last update, but I wanted to show my own test results.  This stuff is just amazing.  We have had several customers tell us that they have tried everything for eczema or dry skin, and this is the only thing that works.   The picture on the left is a bad cut on my hand that probably could have used a couple of stitches.  The picture on the right was 6 weeks later after applying our Emu Oil Healing Balm daily.  Not bad!

 

  • Neverland Soap - I made this soap especially for Sophia's sensitive skin.   This soap is 40% olive oil and contains Tussah Silk  for a luxurious softness just perfect for the most sensitive parts! The silk makes the lather smooth and creamy. This is the perfect soap for soft and dry skin.  
  • Key West Soap - This soap is really a beautiful soap.  Keeping with our location themes, this one reminded me of a beautiful sunset.  Since there are few greater places to see the sunset than Mallory Square in Key West, it was a natural!  This has a trace of charcoal giving it a bit of character and contour. 

  • Middle Earth Soap - So, there is a tree that grows on the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen called the Dragon Blood tree.  The oil from this tree is (of course) a deep red and has an amazing scent.  I had to make soap with it.  The oil played all sorts of games with my intended colors, but it came out pretty cool, and with the scent of dragon's blood...we had to name it Middle Earth!

While not ready for prime time, Sweet Sophia's Beardo Balm is in the second round of testing.  Six brave souls from across the country are providing me excellent feedback to fine-tune this stuff.  I expect it to be ready in the coming weeks.  

If you would like to be a tester for our products, just let us know!

Coming soon

  • All Natural Deodorant
  • Beard products 
  • Muscle and Joint Balm
  • Honey sweetened jellies
  • An all new Amazing Adventure of Sweet Sophia!  This time, she visits Cleopatra, who was known to bathe in milk and honey!

 

For being such awesome customers, we use the coupon code SWEETBEE when checking out of your next order and save 10% or your entire order!

Thank you all!

John, Elsa, and Sweet Sophia

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Squirrels!

I hate squirrels.  

Over the past few years, I have tried almost everything to get them to quit emptying my bird feeders.  I tried the feeders with the wire cage.  I watched in dismay as the squirrels would swing on the bottom of the feeder like a Cirque de Soleil trapeze artist.  All the while his little buddies were cheering him on, getting showered by flying bird seed.  

I tried the hot pepper bird seed.  That stuff is expensive, but it worked for a  while.  Then, I would watch as the squirrels carefully picked through the seeds like a child removing onions from a pizza.  

Finally, I found a feeder that works.  

This one has a lever that closes the little doors to the seed.  The birds aren't heavy enough, but a squirrel shuts these little doors quick.  So after two years of blissful bird watching, not to mention a substantial cut to my birdseed bill, I was convinced that I had finally found the feeder that works!

Alas, the years go by and my enemy recognizes my complacency.  Though I really hate these despicable rodents, I have come to respect them immensely.  I have been paying close attention to one of the more daring fellas.  He even looks like trouble..a slightly different color than the other grey squirrels and an unmistakable look of defiance in his black little eyes.   For weeks he has been trying to figure out how to get into this feeder, and for weeks I have patiently watched him fail.  Until now...

That's right...the wiley little son of a gun broke the front windows out and climbed inside. At first, I wasn't sure what I was seeing.  The feeder was swinging side to side, but the wind wasn't blowing. Then I saw that furry little head pop out of the front door, cheeks full to bursting, and I was certain he gave me a wink!

  

That's right, the yard has fallen to looters.  

This morning though, I have a little surprise.  Guess who has bars on the window?  I DO! I never thought my bird feeders would look like a 7-11 in Southeast DC, but I will not be beaten by this bushy tailed little nuisance!  

Ball's in your court Rocky!

 

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Sweet Sophia May Newsletter

What do May showers bring?  I think we need to consider building an Arc!


I can hardly believe that as I write this we are on day 15 of continuous rain, and there doesn't seem to be a break in sight for another week!  YUK!  So what does that mean for the bees?  A LOT!  All of this rain is washing away nectar, a key component in honey. What does it mean for you?  Well, it means that there will likely be a shortage of honey (at least from East Coast Beekeepers) and a slight increase in price.  

So, last week I went to pick up some bees.  Not only is our honey local, our bees are too!  Anyway, I put three Nucleus Colonies in the back of my car.  Of course, it was a rainy day, so the windows were up. Anyway, those little ladies were very resourceful in escaping thier escape proof transport box.  By the time I got home, I had a couple hundred bees flying around inside my car....hah!  Talk about  a lesson in keeping cool.  I kept thinking about what I would do if I were pulled over!

 

 

Nucleus Honeybee Colony

What can you do to help the bees?

By now everyone should be aware of the massive losses of honeybees.  We lost most of our bees over the winter as well.  In fact, across the US,  Beekeepers lost 44% of their colonies. It's really a disaster, especially if you consider what would happen if we said 44% of cattle were dying!  

Bees thrive on a diverse collection of flowers.  Often, it’s those pesky weeds like clover and dandelions that we try so hard to kill that provide bees with a great source of nutrition.  Poisoning these plants not only takes away a great food source, but also puts poison into the bee hives and into your honey! 

This time of year is also when bees are very rapidly expanding – in numbers not size – and causing them to swarm.  Swarming is a very natural activity and is how bees reproduce.  Contrary to the scary term of “swarm,” an actual swarm consists of a very gentle cluster of bees who are looking for a new home.  If you find a mass of honeybees clustered on just about any random object, please call a local beekeeper.  Exterminators are likely to kill them, and that doesn’t help anyone.  A beekeeper will gladly come and collect the swarm from your property for free. If you are in the Northern Virginia area, please contact my bee club!

This time of year is also the time for mosquito spraying.  If you choose a professional company to spray for mosquitos, please try to spray in the early morning or later in the evening.  This is a time when the bees are tucked into their hives and can avoid the spray.  If you have neighbors with bees, let them know when you will be spraying so beekeepers can take precautions.


Thank you all so much for supporting our business!


You all are awesome! We have been doing a lot of business over the past couple of months, both online and at a couple of fairs.  It’s so validating to have people enjoy the products of our labor enough to come back for more and to tell friends and family!  




Because of the volume of business, we are out of our own honey and sourcing our honey from other regional beekeepers in surrounding counties, until around July when we can harvest our own.  Rest assured, however, that this honey is the same quality of raw and unfiltered goodness.  Because it is local to the region, it will still have the same allergy relieving benefits.
 

New products

  • Healing Balm with Emu Oil  - Emu oil was first used by the Aborigines of Australia and has been used for thousands of years.  In fact, cave drawings show first uses of emu oil to over 4000 years ago.  This stuff is a real wonder.  

    Over 70% of the fatty acids in the oil are unsaturated omega 3, 6, and 9. Since good fatty acids should be in our diets it’s not a surprise that emu oil has many benefits.  Some of those benefits can range from all types of skin applications such as eczema, cuts, burns, dry skin, sunburn, and irritation.  The emu oil works in order to mimic the top layer of your skin since it is 100% triglyceride lipid, almost similar to that found in our skin.  The reason emu oil for skin is important is because emu oil has a powerful transdermal agent that can penetrate deep into the skin.

    This healing ointment is made from Emu Oil, Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, Beeswax, and a blend of Tea Tree, Helichrysum, Rosemary, Neroli, and Lavender essential oils.   

  • Marrakesh Soap - Marrakesh is just a dream.  This soap is 40% olive oil and containsMoroccan Rhassoul Clay and Tussah Silk just to make this something close to magical.  The Moroccan Clay is mined in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and contains naturally high levels of skin-loving, beneficial minerals and can improve skin tone, texture, elasticity, and clarity while eliminating dryness and flakiness.  The silk makes the lather smooth and creamy.  This is the perfect soap for soft and dry skin.  You are really gonna love this. 
     
  • Sunscreen - Elsa cooked up some all natural sunscreen with the same skin friendly oils and butters that we know you love.  This has the added SPF protection from Zinc Oxide. We aren't a lab, so we can't tell you exactly what SPF it is, but it's at least 20!  I can tell you that I took Sophia to the Zoo on one of our sunny days, and she did not get a sunburn!

Coming soon

  • New soaps (in more manly scents!)
  • Beard products 
  • An all new Amazing Adventure of Sweet Sophia!  This time she visits Cleopatra, who was known to bath in milk and honey!
For being such awesome customers, we use the coupon code SWEETBEE when checking out of your next order and save 10% or your entire order!

Thank you all!

John, Elsa, and Sweet Sophia
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Sweet Sophia March Newsletter

 

Spring has sprung...finally!


February came and went and I failed to get a newsletter out.  I will blame it on leap year…and we have been busier than a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  We were, however, able to get our second book published (YAY!).  In Sweet Sophia’s second adventure, she meets Florence Nightingale in 19thCentury London.  Florence teaches Sophia about the medicinal properties of honey and how she set up the first school for nurses.  We have received some great reviews about these books, both from kids and parents.  In Sweet Sophia’s next adventure, she will travel all the way back to ancient Egypt and meet Cleopatra.


Sweet Sophia and Florence Nightingale
 



Bee Fact– For the first 21 days of a female bees life, she is a nurse. 

We also were able to place some of our merchandise into a local store!  If you are ever traveling along I66 near Front Royal, stop by theApple House in Linden, VA.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having an empty belly, because the food is amazing! 




Subscription service trial – We are trying out a new app on our website that allows for subscriptions.  By subscribing to any product, you save 10%. By pre-paying for your subscription, you save 15%.  Never run out of honey, soap, lotion, or lip balm again! 

Zika Virus Update – I have been using our all natural and homemade bug balm,and I have been putting it on my family since we first started making it.  No one in my family has contracted the Zika virus, West Nile virus, or Malaria.  Coincidence? Perhaps; but, I am willing to put my trust in our products!  Spring is here, the mosquitos will be out soon...just sayin. 

What are the bees doing?

All winter the bees stay in a cluster and shiver, keeping the hive at 93 degrees.  This takes a lot of energy, so having plenty of stores going into the winter is critical to keeping the ladies alive.  So now that it’s getting warmer what is going in in the hives? 

The warmer weather triggers the queen to start laying eggs.  The workers that are in the hive with her are very old, and will stay alive only long enough to help get the new generation on their feet (so to speak).  The drones (male bees) were all kicked out in the fall, so the queen will lay unfertilized eggs that will become drones.  As the trees and flowers begin to blossom, the foragers are bringing in pollen and nectar.  The colonies are rapidly expanding; this is the time of year for swarming.   

Swarming is how bees reproduce and multiply. It’s completely natural.  Swarming bees are quite docile and just looking for a home.  If you or someone you know see a large swarm of honeybees, please call your local bee club.  Beekeepers love to catch swarms and give them new homes!!  This is especially true if you live in the Northern Virginia region…call me or the Swarm Team at Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association!!

New Products

Face CreamThis all-natural face cream keeps your skin soft and moisturized without any harsh chemicals. This face cream, which can also double as an eye cream, is rich in antioxidants and contains ingredients known to help repair damaged skin and reduce scars and fine lines. All of the ingredients are soothing and work well to hydrate the skin.

Sumatra Sunset Soap – We ran a contest on Facebook to come up with a name for our newest soap. Thanks for all of the entries.  Many of the names were focused on Colombia and frankly made me nervous. The last thing I need is the DEA kicking in my door looking for the Medellin Madness or Bogota Bliss.  In the end, we settled on Sumatra Sunset.  


This soap is colored with oil infused in annatto seeds, and it has finely ground coffee to help exfoliate.  The scent is very earthy with a background of cedar and redwood. 


Craft Fairs -  It's that time of year!  We will be at a few craft fairs this spring and summer.  We kicked off the season at the Gar-Field High School Spring Craft Expo.   Look for us at the following venues in April:

April 16th - Manassas Live Well Festival 
April 30th - Fairfax Springfest @ the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center

New Stuff - As usual, we have been experimenting with new products, including an all-natural sunscreen, healing ointment, and a product for nursing mothers we are calling Bu-Bee butter..use your imagination.  

As always, we want to thank all of our customers for your support to our little business and to local beekeepers.  It is an amazing feeling to make things from scratch that others value enough to come back for more!  




John & Elsa (and Sweet Sophia of course!) 

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Cinnamon Infused Creamed Honey

 

Honey Cartoon

Creamed honey, also known as whipped or spun honey, is awesome!  People ask us all the time about it, and once they try it, it is usually in the shopping cart straight away!  So what is it?  Well, it's just crystalized honey, but the crystallization is forced. All raw honey will crystallize, because it's basically sugar, and those crystals are rarely smooth and creamy.  When we make creamed honey, we take steps to make sure the crystals are very small, which creates a consistency close to peanut butter.  Creamed honey tastes exactly like honey, but it spreads and won't spill.  

Sound complicated?  It's not, and it's something you can make yourself.  I spent the weekend making batches of Sweet Sophia Creamed Wildflower Honey and Cinnamon Infused Creamed Wildflower Honey, and I documented the process...just for you!

You need 2 things to make creamed honey... Base Honey and Seed Honey.  Seed honey is creamed honey that has the texture you want!  When I first started making creamed honey, I used Trader Joes creamed honey because I really liked the texture.  Now, I just keep using my own, because it is pretty much the best creamed honey IN THE WORLD. 

This is how I make it, like any recipe, there are variations.  So, here we go.

Honey has to be heated to 140 degrees.  This will remove the crystals that are already in the honey.  

Here I have 12 lbs of honey heating

Sweet Sophia Raw Wildflower Honey

Once heated to 140 Degrees, take it off the heat and cool it down.  I popped it in the fridge for a while.  Honey has amazing heat capacity, and it takes a long time to cool.  It is critical to cool the honey to below 100 degrees before you add the seed honey. 

Sweet Sophia Raw Wildflower Honey

Great!  Three hours later the honey cooled enough to work with.  Here is a pro tip...a Kitchenade Artisan 5 quart mixer bowl will hold about 7 lbs of honey.  Anytime you work with honey, it is measured by weight.  About the right ratio of honey to seed is 10:1, that is for 10 lbs of honey, use 1 lb of 

Sweet Sophia Creamed Wildflower Honey

Time to math...I put 6 lbs into the mixing bowl, and it just so happens that my our creamed honey is in a 9 oz jar, and that is perfect!  It doesn't have to be exact; I have made it using a 8:1 ratio before and it came out just fine.  

Sweet Sophia Creamed Wildflower Honey

Add your seed honey to the base.  Creamed honey is thick, so you might want to nuke it for a few seconds, or even add some of the warm base to thin it out a bit.  I already made Creamed Wildflower Honey so this batch is going to get Cinnamon.  I use 1 Tablespoon of Saigon Cinnamon per pound of honey. 

Sweet Sophia Raw Wildflower Honey

Mix well.  I only use the paddle mixer to keep the air bubbles down, and let the mixer run on its lowest setting for about 10 minutes.  The key is to get the seed integrated completely with the base.  I love the way our Wildflower Honey looks...like thick and rich caramel.  mmmmmm

Sweet Sophia Raw Wildflower Honey

Now, what you have is a mix ready to set.  Pour your honey into jars and let them sit in a cool place for about 2 weeks.  The ideal temperature is 57 degrees (F), but I just put the jars in my garage since it's winter.  I think my garage is pretty chilly, but not too cold. It works.  In the summer, I use a little dorm fridge, but it's full of lotion right now, so the garage will have to do.  

And that's it.  When your creamed honey sets, it will not run when you turn it upside down.  It will be thick and spreadable and delicious.  

Enjoy!

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Lessons Learned in Beekeeping

When I first decided to keep bees, I knew very little about these magical little creatures.  But, as a (former) Green Beret, I was up to the challenge.  After all, how hard could it be to raise a couple hundred thousand venomous little critters?  Well, there are a few things one should know ahead of time.  Fortunately, bees provide timely and actionable feedback - they are excellent teachers.  Last summer, I was taught some valuable lessons, which I captured for my beekeeping group.  now, I am passing them on to you!

July 2015

 There are times when one person’s lessons learned are better shared to prevent others from having to learn the same. This is true, regardless of how simple and seemingly commonsensical the lessons are. I offer a few lessons here for any new beekeeper who has yet to figure out the seemingly obvious.

I have two hives. Hive #1 consists of 10 frame deep, hive #2 consists of 2 10 frame deeps. Both have a one gallon feeder on top of the frames covered by a medium box. The hives are in my back yard and sit one in front of the other. I have been talking about expanding the apiary, and found a local beek who needed to get rid of 3 colonies in a hurry. Good news for me! Now all I needed to do was make room for the new hives! No worries there, I had been planning this already.

2 beehives

Lesson 1 – Plan for expansion before establishing your initial bee yard!

My two hives sit on plastic shelving units that act like pallets. I wanted to put my four hive, elevated, bench style stand where Hive #1 had been sitting on the ground. I enlisted my dear wife to help me move Hive #1 so that I could build the bench. We gently lifted the pallet and moved the hive about 10 feet away. All was well. I got to work with a shovel to level the area out for the simple cinder block and 4x4 bench. Within minutes, hundreds – if not thousands – of foragers, scouts, and other curious bees were buzzing around the former Hive #1 homestead. Though the hive was no longer there, a fella wearing shorts and a t-shirt wielding a shovel was in its place. This is about where things started to head south.

Lesson 2 – Wearing shorts and T-shirt is probably not the best after disturbing a bee hive.

Deciding to ignore the growing crowd of bees around me, I kept on working to level the bench. Shovel a little, replace the block and timber, check the level, repeat. Suddenly and without warning, a fierce little guard decided to attack. The first hit was above my ear on my temple, followed almost instantly by a second sting on my eyelid….ON MY EYE!!! OK…this just got personal! Within seconds, there were a LOT of bees on me. I started moving away smartly while trying to remain calm. I took a few more stings to my neck, my shoulder, and my forearm. Calm was fading fast.

Beeman

Lesson 3 – Always have a veil when working around disturbed bees.

I had no smoke, I had no suit, I had no veil, and I had very few options. The bees were in attack mode, and by the number of stings I already had on me, I figured the “Kill the guy with the shovel” pheromone was in full swing. I couldn’t go in my house – a glimpse at the back door and I saw my 4 year old watching the sh#t show in the back, besides, I was dragging a small colony of bees around with me. I needed smoke badly…and immediately. Lighting a smoker was just not gonna happen within the next 10 seconds, but there was a pile of tinder and kindling in the shed I used for my smoker. Even better, there was an old bird nest! Sorry bird…I threw down the food chain card and lit that nest up. It let loose with a glorious cloud of white smoke which I bathed in trying to get the pheromone off me. I was holding the burning nest in my hand like a caveman fending off a bear. I jammed the rest of the nest into the smoker and billowed away. Heavy smoke was flowing from the smoker, and I cleared a path to my back door.

Lesson 4 – Smoke….ALWAYS have smoke when disturbing a bee hive.

Had anyone seen my antics, they would have surely thought I had lost my mind. Yet, after all of this madness, I put on some jeans, donned my jacket, veil, and gloves and decided to finish the job. I still needed to get the hives up on the bench. Fully armored and armed with a refilled smoker, I waded back into the maelstrom. Several bees immediately resumed their harassment of me, but I quickly got the bench level. All will be well shortly!

And then it all went to Hell.

 

Lesson 5 – Always be deliberate when working with pissed off bees…shortcuts are really a bad idea in this scenario.

As I mentioned, both of my hives have one gallon feeders on top of the frames. I have been feeding them 1:1 (sugar and water) with an additional supplement of Megabee. Also, I had just refilled the feeders the day prior. Perhaps it was the volume of bee venom coursing through me, or just my desire to get this mess over with, but I picked up the entire hive from beneath the bottom board, forgetting that the full feeder was on top. I was quickly reminded, however, when the syrup started flowing out of the entrance….and onto my pant leg. A frenzy ensued….big time. I put the hive down, straightened her up, and decided to tempt fate one last time. I figured I could get Hive #2 (2 deeps) up on the stand ricky-tick and get out of there without much trouble. Besides, I had already learned a few lessons that would help. I would just remove the top box, and gently place the bottom box on the bench. Problem – the boxes were propolized (glued) together!

Lesson 6 – Always have your tools ready when working with bee hives

Option 1 – try to break the boxes free with force….Option 2 – go to the shed and get your hive tool. Of course, I went with Option 2 ONLY AFTER I tried Option 1. My attempt to jar the boxes apart did little more than add another few thousand bees to the cartoon like cloud of angry bees, most of whom followed me to my shed to get the hive tool. I was also reminded that I had a leg full of syrup on my leg. I am not even sure what number sting that was; I had lost count. With the boxes apart, I moved the bottom box to the bench…so close to being done. All I had to do was put the top box on and get out of dodge. I picked up the box very carefully, remembering the feeder this time, and took one step. POW….two of the little bastards (they had long since lost their “lady” status) got me just below the ankle, while several adventurous little vixens started up my pant leg. That was when I once again spilled a feeder full of pure honeybee meth. Things went straight bad.

I should point out that, in my life, I have come close to panic exactly three times. The first time was in Iraq, the second time was during a sky-diving incident, and the third time was when I decided to put a couple of beehives on a F##king bench. Fortunately, I panic on the inside.

The cloud of bees was getting ridiculous. I am not sure how many bees died because they were crushed between the top and bottom brood boxes, but the body count was sure to be high. There was no possible way I could get into my house. My four-year-old daughter was still staring at me in disbelieve. I was furiously smoking myself and the area around me, but the legions were set on war. I had to get out of there, so I scurried back to the shed. I filled that shed with smoke and me inside it.

Swarm Chasing Man

Lesson 7 – When the situation seems hopeless, filling your shed with smoke to the point of smoke inhalation is not necessarily a bad idea. Never quit!!

I stood in that smoke filled shed for quite a few minutes. When I opened the door, it must have looked like something out of a Cheech and Chong flick. I emerged out of the smoke and damn if there weren’t a handful of tenacious little she-devils waiting to attack. The raging cloud of bees by the hives was insane. I suppose bees from every neck of the woods was swarming over all that Megabee syrup. I waited for them to form the shape of an arrow and charge me like an old Bugs Bunny clip. With the little smoke I had left, I fended off the remaining pursuers and got inside my house, hoping that my neighbors didn’t see any of this anarchy in my back yard.

Lesson 8 – Don’t push your luck

The feeding frenzy was like nothing I had ever seen. I thought, hmmm….this could really be an educational moment. I was still dressed in my jacket and gloves, so I grabbed my veil and camera and thought I would see this a little closer. Being all too clever, I kept my distance to about 20-25 feet and decided I would film the madness. That thought lasted about 4 seconds when my final sting got me in the thigh, through my pants. The galaxy could not be any clearer with its signs….GET AWAY FROM THE BEES. I did.

So things seemed to calm down around the hives. I checked them this morning early, and all was in order. However, I am sitting here covered in welts and a swollen eyelid, feeling like I had a night out at fight club. I have a few more hard learned lessons under my belt and a new found respect for the courage and ferocity of my bees. Tomorrow, I will get three more colonies.

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Substituting Honey for Sugar

SUBSTITUTING HONEY FOR SUGAR  
Honey has been a favorite sweetener since prehistoric times and still has advantages over sugar even today.

Honey is composed of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose, honey is absorbed in a different manner and therefore causes a slower, more gradual rise in blood sugar. Because honey has a slightly higher percentage of fructose than sugar, it tastes sweeter, and less is required for equal sweetness.

Honey contains small amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals, but not enough to fulfill any of the body's daily needs. Remember that honey does contain calories, cannot be used freely by a diabetic and is not recommended for infant formulas.

The flavor, aroma and color of honey vary with the kind of flowers from which the bees gather the nectar used to make the honey. The fructose gives honey its sweet flavor, and the nectar adds the characteristic taste of the floral source to your recipes. The most common varieties in Texas are alfalfa, catsclaw, clove, cotton, horsemint, mesquite, orange, white brush, Chinese tallow, huajilo and wildflower.

Generally the lighter the honey, the milder the flavor. If a stronger flavor is desired for your recipe, use a darker, stronger flavored honey; if a more delicate flavor is desired, use a lighter, milder flavored honey.

Honey can easily be substituted for sugar as shown with the common recipe favorites included inside. Due to honey's ability to retain water, products made with honey tend to remain moister longer than similar products made with sugar or other sweeteners.

Some minor adjustments may need to be made to a recipe when substituting honey for sugar:

1. Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup. Over one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup over honey depending upon the sweetness desired.

2. Lower the baking temperature 25 degrees and watch your time carefully since products with honey brown faster.

3. In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, it may be necessary to reduce liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.

4. In baked goods, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey if baking soda is not already included in the recipe. This will reduce the acidity of the honey, as well as increase the volume of your product.

Moisten a measuring spoon or cup first with water, oil, or an egg before measuring the honey to prevent it from sticking to the measuring utensil. Honey is heavy by weight. A 12-ounce jar equals one standard 8-ounce cup. A quart weighs 3 pounds.

This article and more recipes can be found HERE on Cooks.com

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January 2016 Newsletter

Happy New Year!  


It's hard to believe that 2016 is already here. Now, half way through January, things have really slowed down for us here at Sweet Sophia.  Not that we want things to slow down, but it is nice to get a breather from the many late nights spent making products and getting orders filled.  I was also able to get our supply room in order after a couple months of pure disaster area!

Storage Room in order

Valentines Day is a month away!



Nothing says, "I love you" like something sweet, and there is nothing sweeter than our pure Wildflower Honey!  Perhaps you might like to try one of our new flavors of honey hard candy or honey nut caramels.  Whatever your taste, a unique, homemade gift is always a nice touch for any special occasion.  

Fellas, our all natural hand and body creams are silky smooth and smell wonderful.  There is no point in buying some knick-knack dust collector when you can get your lady something she will use and enjoy.  As an added bonus, you will have plenty of opportunities to bestow generous helpings of compliments - "wow, your skin is so soft!" or "mmmm...you smell so good!" - this is truly the gift that keeps on giving!

Ladies, we recognize that beards are all the rage, but if you are not nuzzling up against a new age "lumber-sexual," we highly recommend our new shaving soap "Brooklyn Barber."  This shaving soap will leave your man's face soft and moist and has the scent of a vintage barber shop.  Besides, nothing says renaissance man like shaving with an old-school brush and lather!

Shaving Soap in Cup


We would absolutely be remiss if we did not address a critical component of Valentines Day...your lips!  If you have not tried our all natural beeswax lip balms, then both you and your partner are missing out!

To sweeten the deal (pun intended) use the coupon code SWEETBEE now through Valentine's Day to get 10% off your order!

NEW PRODUCTS IN JANUARY

This month we are releasing a couple of new products:

Shampoo Bars - Our all natural shampoo bar is perfect for the frequent traveler.  If you get tired of carrying your liquid shampoo, try a solid bar.  We guarantee the cap won't bust and spill shampoo all over your stuff! This looks just like a bar of soap, but it's shampoo!   Have a kid in swimming?  Shampoo bar!  Need a small solution for your travel bag?  Shampoo bar!    Currently, our shampoo bar has a girly scent (one that I would like to smell in my lady's hair), but we will be making additional scents in the future.  



Honey Hard Candy Flavors - 

Red Hot Cinnamon candies live up to their name!  The current batch of cinnamon candies are really hot...I mean like fire hot.  These are not for the feint hearted!  However, they are excellent when melted into a cup of tea.  In fact, when my house was sick, we were very pleased with how nice these were in tea to open up our stuffy noses!  The next batch, however,  will be milder!

Lemon candies are just that!  These tasty treats have a bold and sweet lemon flavor that is sure to become a family favorite. 

Honey with lemon - It may sound odd to have honey flavored honey candy, but it's true.  These are hardly lemon drops, but rather sweet lozenges with a nice rounding bit of lemon.  Just wonderful for sore throats.

Green Apple - What is life without variety?  These tasty treats are exactly what you would expect.

"Brooklyn Barber" Shaving Soap - We have been wanting to make some shaving soap for a while and finally cranked it out.   This soap is cold processed and made with all natural ingredients, including bentonite clay, which adds a whole lot of awesome.  When I smell this soap, I immediately think of an old-time barber shop in New York back in the 20's, hence the name!  I have been using this soap for a couple of weeks now and can attest that it leaves my skin very soft and just feeling good.

COMING SOON

So... funny story... Elsa was reading about ummm....nipple cream.  Yep, you read that right, but this type of product is popular amongst the breastfeeders.  Anyway, we found some decent formulas that don't contain animal fat and are safe for babies and thought, sure why not.  So Elsa says, "hey, why don't you ask your coworker if she would like to try it."  In pure disbelief, I asked her if she really thought it was appropriate that I have a conversation with my young female coworker about her nipples.  "Oh yeah...good point."  she says.   To be fair, my coworkers have been a great test bed for all of our products.  Anyway, for the mother's to be out there, we may be coming out with nipple cream soon.  I will leave it at that.  

Elsa has also been experimenting with eye cream.  Over the course of a couple weeks, she put her homemade eye cream on one eye and her expensive store-bought cream on the other.  I could definitely tell the difference and was quite surprised that our homemade stuff literally removed tiny wrinkles around her eyes and worked better than the store-bought stuff.  

Sweet Sophia meets Florence Nightingale - Our second book in the Sweet Sophia series will be coming out soon.  In this episode, Sophia meets the famous "Lady With the Lamp" and they explore some of the healing properties of honey and the importance of cleanliness.  If you have a beginner reader, we hope you will check out these books!

If there is a particular product or variation of a current product that you would like to see, please let us know!

Our New App - "Receiptful"   If you are a current or recent customer, you may have noticed that we installed a new app that enhances your receipt and provides additional discount codes.  I hope this is helpful to all of you.  We are always looking for ways to improve.

As usual, we would like to thank all of you for being such awesome customers and supporting us the way you have.  Many of you have returned several times, and we thank you immensely.   Until next month!

John & Elsa (and Sweet Sophia of course!) 

 

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Sweet Sophia December Newsletter

Happy Holidays from Sweet Sophia!

It's hard to believe that Christmas is almost here, especially since the weather has been so mild here in Northern Virginia. This has been a busy month here at Sweet Sophia, and thanks to all of you, a pretty successful month!

We had the great opportunity to participate in another local Christmas Craft Fair.  These fairs are a lot of work, but they are a lot of fun.  The best part about them is talking to people about honeybees and about how we make our products.  We also talked to a few high school students who are aspiring entrepreneurs with big ideas for their own futures.  Look for them on Shark Tank in the next few years!



We added a few new products in December and modified others.  Our Cracked Skin Balm has turned out to be a huge hit.  We added shea butter to the formula to enhance its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties.  Also, based on your feedback, we have adjusted the formula on our Beeswax Hand and Body Cream to make it even more silky and smooth.  

New Products in December:



Creamed Honey - This delicious treat comes in both our rich, amber wildflower honey and our cinnamon infused variety.  Many have asked us, "what is creamed honey?"  Well, creamed honey - also known as whipped honey, spun honey, churned honey, etc - is simply honey that is crystallized in a controlled manner.  It has the same flavor but is thick and spreadable with the texture of smooth peanut butter.  Whether you are trying to avoid sticky spills or looking for the perfect topper to toast or biscuits, you can't go wrong with this!



Honey Infused Almond Butter - We are a peanut free house, so we substitute with other nut butters.  Almond butter is one of our favorites. This one is 100% natural with roasted almonds, honey, coconut oil, and just a pinch of salt, making a creamy, semi-sweet, and completely delicious spread.  For an added treat, add some Sweet Sophia Cinnamon Infused Creamed Honey...Nirvana is close at hand.  

New Soap


Baker Street is a nod to a favorite literary character...not the chart-topping snoozer from Gerry Rafferty in the late 70's.  Where Old Havana elicits thoughts of a beachfront sojourn with a fine tumbler of Cruzan on ice, Baker Steet takes you to an old London flat filled with books, maps, and at least one telescope.  The rich aroma of pipe tobacco accentuates the very nicely lathering addition to your soap collection!



Colorado Trail subtly calls out the Bohemian buried deep inside us all.  The beautiful colors remind me of Red Rock and the diverse geology along the Colorado Trail.  The fragrance is a soft Patchouli, and we have added finely chopped calendula blossoms to promote skin health.



Pineland is a throwback to the "Land of the Long Leaf Pine...a summer land where the sun doth shine."  All Green Berets have been there and this soap is about that heritage.  Pineland has the fresh and fragrant scent of a pine forest (of course) and the exfoliating properties of fine pumice.  Viva la Pineland!

The great Shipping Scam of December



Earlier this month we received an email from a potential customer in the Netherlands interested in a very large order to fill his new store.  Alas, what often seems too good to be true usually is.  After some initial elation, we did a bit of due diligence and found out about an identical solicitation and subsequent scam!  The elaborate lengths that scammers go through to make a buck is impressive.  Imagine if they put that same energy to work in legit business!  Anyway, it was sort of validating that our small business made a blip on the scam circuit radar.  YAY for us!!!

What about the bees?

The ladies are tucked in for the winter.  Honey bees don't fly in temps under 50 deg F.  During the cold winter months, they gather in a cluster in the center of their hive and shiver to keep the colony warm.  These amazing little creatures will keep the internal hive temperature at 93 degrees all winter long.  All that shivering takes a lot of energy, so we made them large bricks of sugar to augment their own stores of pollen and honey. Since it's supposed to be 70 on Christmas, I may go take a peek at the girls and see how they are doing.  

That's all from us this year.  We have big plans for next year and beyond.  Of course, none of this would be possible if it weren't for you.  Please keep those thoughts and suggestions coming.  We truly appreciate our patrons. 

From us here at Sweet Sophia, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Hannuka, Kwanza, or whatever you choose to celebrate.

John & Elsa (and Sweet Sophia of course!) 

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