The Bee Effect

Unfortunately for honeybees, they are bees, and therefore lumped into the unsavory category of “bug” for me.  I’ve never been into bugs.  In fact, I’d rather they not come near me.  Just this morning my skin crawled when I was walking Kid 1 to school and we came across a tarantula.

Yes, I said tarantula.  It was moseying down the sidewalk, minding its own business, when the population of Kid 1’s elementary school that walks to school began collecting around it.  On the way home, three other moms and I relocated the tarantula, which began to charge us.  It was slow and crawly, but I am sure it was charging us.

Anyway.  Bees.  Intellectually I know that honeybees are the good guys, and they don’t want to hurt us.  It’s weird how bees in general have this double sided public image.  Bees!  Are bad for you!  If they sting you, you might have an anaphylactic reaction and die!  But, bees make honey and pollinate plants!  Without them, we’ll all die!

The second impression is what the film Vanishing of the Bees is all about.  A documentary about Colony Collapse Disorder, or the mysterious disappearance of legions of bees over the last several years, Vanishing of the Bees is fascinating in its storytelling, and endearing in its home-grown production value.  The interviews and the way the tale is woven keep you engaged even if you know the outcome of the story.  I might have picked a different narrator – “Juno” star Ellen Page’s creepy monotone kept pulling me out of the story to wonder if she was chosen because she was the biggest star the filmmakers knew at the time.  And I found the rudimentary graphics charming.  It was like someone made this film as a labor of love.

The lack of slick tricks makes you concentrate on the story and the interviews themselves.  At one point, a veteran beekeeper just about breaks down and cries.  The vanishing of the bees has caused him to almost lose not only his business but also his entire way of life.  He is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, and is credited with first raising the stink about how hives were starting to be abandoned, thousands at a time.

By the end of the film, there are no concrete answers as to what happened to the bees.  The best the filmmakers can do is come to the most current conclusion of the industry:  that the bees are being slowly poisoned by the systemic pesticides used in modern mass farming of crops like corn and soybeans.  These are chemicals that are present in the crops from seed stage onward, and make it unnecessary for sprayed on chemicals that are more harmful to us.  The idea is that slowly over months, bees get exposed to these chemicals when they are bopping about the fields pollinating stuff.  Eventually they keel over or get lost and never make it back to their hives.

Why should we care?  Because bees are responsible for making all of those plants flower and fruit.  They are an essential part of the food chain.  Without bees, there is no food, which is why beehives are actually trucked across the country to aid in food production.

Drunk bees.  Bad for crops, bad for you.

After I watched Vanishing of the Bees, I met a strawberry farmer at an event sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission.  I asked him about the systemic pesticides, and what he thought about the theory that they are behind the bee mystery.  He said those aren’t used in his farms, and that he thought the bees were getting infested by a mite brought into the country by foreign produce.  “For a bee, it’s like having something the size of a dinner plate stuck to your abdomen,” he described.

At this point I say “ick.”  I’m going to eat only things grown in my garden, where there seem to be plenty of bees.  For more on this story, I do recommend watching this well-crafted film.  Vanishing of the Bees is being shown on tour around the world, and individuals or groups can arrange for screenings.  Otherwise, DVD’s can be ordered right from the website.

Blue Sky Paper Products Can Save Your Sanity

I have a long and storied history with lists and calendars.  I suppose it started in elementary school with my love of fresh clean paper and notebooks.  I remember meticulously recording my grades in my notebooks during high school, compiling a neat color coded list by the end of each semester.  In college, Notre Dame supplied us with something called The Daily Shillelagh (pronounced “shill -AY – lee”) which was a calendar and day planner with ads inside.  I used it religiously (pun intended) to plan my schedule.

In my professional years I kicked it up a notch.  I became a devotee of the Franklin Planner System – a gorgeous leather-bound zip-closure binder with color coordinated pages and dated archives so I could keep past years within arm’s reach in my office space.  But then.

The digital age.

Once the Palm Pilot entered my life, nothing was ever the same.  I have flip-flopped between paper and digital planning ever since.  At any given time I am a slave to my Google calendar or a to-do list on Google Docs or a paper date book and a pretty notepad. At present I keep my editorial calendar (I write for several blogs and I manage another) in a Busy Body Book.

When Blue Sky sent me a sample package of their Home Series products (which can be seen at Target), I sighed with pleasure as I opened the box and fondled the smooth, delightful paper.  Because paper is my precious.  The Blue Sky collection promises to organize you, clear your thoughts, and leave you with shiny children and a squeaky clean house.  The designs are  bold and simple, with colors that are pleasing to the eye.

I have been using the Multi-task Mouse Pad, the Grocery Checklist Pad, and the Multi-task Notebook.  All three of these products remind me to write down the ideas that are floating in my head. (The pads have a tendency to roll up at the edges, though, so they might benefit from using heavier paper or employ some kind of elastic tie-down around the corners).

I was also sent a Weekly/Monthly Planner, which I will use once January rolls around.  (I’m a little too attached to the current busy body book.  I can’t switch mid-year!)  It’s so big that it reminds me of a teacher’s planner, and I might as well give in to that notion, because I am signing up to volunteer in my first grader’s class once a week.  Since school has just started I am not yet completely immersed in all things school, but I know it won’t be long.

Blue Sky has a product that I haven’t ever seen before which I know will come in handy once our family’s days get super-hectic, what with a first-grader, a pre-schooler, a busy work-at-home-mom, and a college professor dad all running around trying to get out of the house.  It’s a notepad in the shape of a doorknob hang-tag – with a big hole for the doorknob and the words “DON’T FORGET TO” and a space for notes.  No more sticky notes that will fall off and hit the floor.  Just write “take out the trash” or “bring permission slip to school” in big black marker, hang on the doorknob, and nobody will forget anything again.  (Unless they are a man, which means they will not even see it.)

I was not compensated for this post.  Rather, I was given the products so I could sit at home and pet the smooth, pretty paper.

Natural Vines Passed the Taste Test

I got a couple of bags of Natural Vines brand licorice – one red and one black – to taste and feature on the blog. I accepted the pitch because it is advertised as “all natural” candy, and my kids LOVE candy. I figured if I can get a healthier alternative than all-sugar Gummi Bears, why not try it?

Of course the kids loved the red Natural Vines bits. They are bite-sized and only 17 calories, so I tried them too, and I am impressed by their sweet but not-too-cloying flavor, like I find in Twizzlers. I’ve never been a Twizzler fan, not even after they built replicas of major national landmarks at the BlogHer conference in San Diego this month. I’m talking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Believe it.

So the red version of Natural Vines was a hit. But nobody in my family would even try the black. We actually opened the bag and smelled it, but no go. Sorry, black licorice. You are taste for very specific people, and we are not them, not even with your naturalness and real licorice extract. I got rid of them using Facebook (what else?) to find a local friend who is into that sort of thing and knows me well enough to not be grossed out that we already opened the bag. Her husband ate them. “I’d buy them,” is his review.

Long story short, I don’t mind giving Natural Vines to the children as a reward if it’s not full of high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. And I’m secretly glad that they share my distate for black licorice.

I did not receive compensation for this post – only the free product that facilitated the taste test.