Diaper Skep for a Bee or Beehive Themed Shower: Tutorial

diaper shower bee skep 1

So many options and ideas out there for diaper cakes. They make an adorable centerpiece for a shower, customizable with ribbons and flare, and certainly are a needed gift commodity for new parents. (..would fit well with a Bee is for Baby themed shower I hosted.)  For an added creative, yet not too complicated, twist, why not turn your diaper center piece into something more unique. For this tutorial, I am sharing how I crafted a bee skep (or hive) from diapers. A skep is an old hive design made often of twisted straw. While, no longer a legal hive style in most places, it is still found frequently in bee designs and themes. Read more about the beauty of bees here.

The skep can use less diapers than a tiered cake which is good for cost-conscious but also if prospective parents use an alternative to disposables. In crafting this, I already came up with other modification options that I will note but would love to hear your ideas as well. I love bees!


  • Diapers in primarily newborn sizes (approx.. 20-25) and some size 1s (approx. 10)
  • String or twine to form circles (or wire)
  • Decorative twine or yarn to tie rolled up diapers
  • Double sided tape
  • Ribbon, several yards
  • Bee stickers, cutouts (print and cut clip art), stamps, buttons, whatever you want to decorate
  • Foam or straw wreath for base (optional), 12 to 16 inch diameter
  • Fabric strips (#3 of 2.5 x 40 in/ WOF) to wrap around wreath base (optional)
  • Flat pins
  • Tissue paper to fill in the skep to support.

Supply Notes: I used a mixed of newborn and size one for the first two layers but found the newborn to be easier to shape.  Wowsers, I also forgot how small they are compared to our current toddler dipe.  Also, Pampers newborn diapers had the most white space while the Huggies newborns had some green and cartoon accents. Not a big deal, just be aware that it might add accent colors or is an option for you to decide if you want. I used the diapers I was gifted so you see a little green and Winnie the Pooh every now and then.But hey, he liked honey.

Not necessary but I did roll up the rest of the diapers I had and stuffed them inside the bottom too layers. It added stability, more diapers to the gift but you could skip this step. I used some tissue to stuff and support the top layers. Again, you could use a mix of tissues and maybe a balloon etc. I was gifted the diapers for free on our local Buy Nothing group. You should definitely check out this organization if you haven’t already – a great way to meet and make community through random acts and asks of kindness.

The wreath base is also not necessary but can be an additional gift if decorated for nursery décor. It added stability as this particular skep was off to be mailed. The bigger the base the taller the skep. I used one that was 15 inches.

Ideally the diapers will be actually used on an adorable baby bottom, so no glue was used and maybe the few diapers with pins in them can be used with reckless abandon.


  • Create base if doing this step. Wrap with fabric strips secured with flat pins. Using a straw wreath would add another design element (homage to old English skeps) and you might want to wrap just with ribbon or twine to let it show through. Your creative call. Note, I started with yellow strips but didn’t have enough cut so switched to grey. They are out of a jelly roll.

diaper shower bee skep 10diaper shower bee skep 9

  • Start building the rings of the skep. Roll up the diaper over the string/twine or wire. I cut off a length about 36 inches for the first one, which is more than enough. Roll from the ruffley edge down. You might also want to decide which side is the ‘outside’ or right side if designs.

diaper shower bee skep 8

diaper shower bee skep 7

  • Tie the rolled up diapers either with one in the middle or two, on either end. I used colored twine (brown and yellow) to add a color accent. Colored twine is easy to find now in just about any shade. I put the tied twine on the part of the rolled up diaper that will face inside. Note in this photo how they are rolled around the white twine and tied. When you have added all the diapers for the ring, tie the loose ends tight enough to form a circle. Repeat this making each ring or layer smaller each time to create the taper.  The last ring was three newborn diapers and the very top, which you add at a later step is a newborn diaper rolled the long way and folded in half.

diaper shower bee skep 6

  • Create each layer and do not worry a ton about length, its diapers, they are forgiving. I tied each ring in knot that I could undo if I needed to add or substract or substitute a size 1 diaper for newborn if that made it fit the skep better. Stack your rings as you go to get a sense for how it is shaping up.
    • Here is the diaper count I used.
      • In the first ring I used: 2 Newborn and 6 size 1
      • Second ring: 2 Newborn and four size 1
      • Third ring: 7 Newborn and no size 1
      • Fourth ring: 4 Newborn and 1 size 1
      • Fifth ring: 5 Newborn
      • Sixth ring: 3 Newborn
      • Top: 1 Newborn
  • I had a lot of other diapers and wanted to stabilize the diaper skep. So using twine and a few rubber bands, rolled up more size one diapers (these are more useful to new parents anyways) and stood them end on end inside the first diaper ring, then put a layer around perimeter of open/flat diapers. In the picture you can see that I put the ring more in the middle. This way some of the rolled up standing diapers would be wedged in the wreath and also the second ring. Again, this is optional. I stuffed the rest of the skep inside with tissue paper.

diaper shower skep 4

  • Once you have your rings created and stacked, you can tape them on the inside or in between useing double-sided tape. I tried to alternate the spaces between diapers versus lining up. Now is the time to put in tissue or other filling to support shape.

diaper shower skep bee 5

  • Add the ribbon. This adds color, theme and also helps hold it together. I used flat pins to affix the ribbon (grosgrain) to the wreath and then pulled it up and into the top of the skep. You could also weave it in and out, or use twine etc. With the top I used a small section of ribbon to hold the diaper folded but not too tight.

diaper shower bee skep 3

  • Add some bees and maybe an entrance. I used my favorite bee stamp, espresso colored ink and some scrap kraft paper to create the bees in hexagons. There was much internal debate about circles versus hexagon. Yes, time I will never get back but well spent. You could also use stickers, scrapbooking cutouts, large buttons or print out some images.

diaper shower bee skep 2

  • The final product was about 12 inches tall. For future skeps I might roll the diapers even tighter to make more rings, or use a more narrow ribbon to hold together and ideally all the diapers would be white but knowing the green is there because of gift from Buy Nothing, makes me smile. The expectant mama used to be in the same group before moving away too. Enjoy!

diaper shower bee skep 1


Other Diaper Centerpiece Baby Shower Ideas:

That’s It! Lotion Bars: Shea Butter Beeswax & Coconut Oil


Looking for a simple but luxurious handmade gift idea? This tutorial for three ingredient lotion bars is simple to make, useful, a splurge to buy and great gift for everyone. This craft also marks my first beeswax product, from my backyard hives – another precious gift from my favorite pollinators.

Three Ingredient (That’s it!) Lotion Bars

Ingredients & Equipment

  • Equal parts by weight Shea Butter, Beeswax and Coconut oil
  • Slow cooker and liner
  • Muffin papers and pan
  • Ladle, paper towel/newspaper


  • Space in fridge for muffin pan to cool
  • Wooden takeout chopsticks to stir
  • Ice cube trays, soap or candy molds, milk cartons, PVC pipe mold etc
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Essential oils, lavender buds or oatmeal

Melt all three of the main ingredients (shea butter, beeswax and coconut oil) in a slow cooker on high. Be sure to use a liner for easy clean up. The Coconut Oil and Shea Butter will melt first and the Beeswax will follow soon after. Stir if you are so inclined.

You could also do this in a double boiler but not directly on a burner as beeswax may catch fire (confession – one time I knowingly rendered my beeswax on an open flame, no fire still not smart).

For this batch, I used ¾ pound of each. Why 0.75? Because that is how much coconut oil I had on hand. This made about 20 round bars and 20 small bees. Some of bees were a tad fragile but the little broken bits work just fine for me.

Place one or two muffin papers in each muffin space (what do you call them?) in the pan. Imagine the mini-muffins too!

Once the ingredients are melted, you are ready to fill the molds. Layer paper towel under the slow cooker and muffin tin to catch dribbles. Then using a ladle fill the muffin mold about 2/3 to 3/4 full. You can then let it cool at room temp or in the fridge (faster, ~ 10-20 minutes) or outside if it is winter.

Once cool and solid remove from the pan, line with new papers and ladle the next batch. I left them in the finished bars in the papers until I was ready to package them up, placed on plates lined with paper towel.

I also had a small bee candy mold that I used to make adorable lotion bees. I tried spraying the mold with non-stick cooking spray and also without – didn’t seem to make a difference. For any lotion bars that are funny shaped or broken or many just bits on the rim of the muffin pan, put it back into the slower cooker and re-melt.

Wrap them up in a small box, lined paper, dish, glass jar etc. I packaged mine up in pairs using vellum envelops, labels, bakers twine, glue stick and some finishing flare. Two important things to note 1) these begin to melt quickly in your hands (that is what makes them lotion bars) so don’t handle them too much 2) whatever you wrap them in should resist oil (e.g. parchment paper, wax paper, plastic wrap) or it will just soak through. Now give the gift of soothed skin.

Don’t believe me? Other great sites to reinforce –

PS  If you want to use essential oils, let the filled muffin pan sit for a few minutes at room temp to start to cool but not solidify. Then mix in a tiny drop of oil, stir with a tooth pick and then put in fridge. I found that the smell dissipated with the higher heat, but play around to see what works. If adding texture such as lavender buds or oatmeal, do so very sparingly.

National Honey Bee Day!

Out celebrating National Honey Bee Day this morning…. Here are some photos and quick videos. No stings either!

Happenings at the hive entrance (video clip, complete with buzzing)

Quick video clip of my honey bees being busy on the inner cover. Note: this is actual bee speed. It was a warm day and they had some fanning and communicating to do (about me entering the hive). They slow down more when I starting working in the hive (read: smoked). This year I have really tried to be light with the smoke. I think that some of my stings last year were from over smoking and really angering the girls. Fight the urge! I use cut up coffee bean burlap bags for fuel.

Another video of two of my girls gather some pollen and nectar off of one of my lemon queen sunflowers (photo above, part of the Great Sunflower Project). It is so interesting how the wings showed up.

Lastly – sweet reward for everyone. I cleaned out some burr comb that had honey it before adding a new box (I think the honey harvest will be a good one this year). Had a sweet snack for myself and put the container back out later for the girls to clean out.


Other fun bee and hive posts:


Quick Upcycle Ideas: Glass Mulch and Beehive Planters

Here are two quick ideas to spruce up your yard or garden or balcony.

Recycled Glass Mulch

Taking a boring little step from weedy and drab to cheerful, blue and weed free. We have this great step down into the back yard that originally I grew thyme in as a steppable ground cover. That was until we got chickens, who massacred it. It has sat empty, save for the weeds, for quite some time now. The hubs threatened gravel, but that just would not have added anything to the area. Marbles? Too perfect and round. Finally, came up with idea of glass. Actually, I really wanted sea glass or tumbled vintage blue and white porcelain pieces BUT after pricing that out, decided shades of blue and green glass would be fabulous. Naturally, I wanted to DIY the tumbling (why must you make it so complicated!) but again it would have taken eons and/or required acquisition of a cement mixer or an ocean. Enter internets and recycled fire pit or landscaping glass. Click, ship and happy hubs! You can also find at landscaping supply stores. Note the varying types of sunlight and angles I used – violating good bloggy DIY photo etiquette.

I am quite pleased with the results. It is easy to pick out debris and the chickens have ignored it so far. I do wish that more of the pieces where larger than ½ inch, but I can add those in over time along with sea glass I collect when beachcombing and other durable lovelies.

Recycled Beehive Planters

I absolutely love beekeeping in top bar hives: bees seem calmer (or is it me?), no stooping (over a fiery caldron of pissed off ladies), no heavy lifting…. However, I just seemed that my particular version, while aesthetically pleasing, lacked sufficient volume for the bees to thrive. The first few pictures are right when they were new, not weathered. After a few years of failing to make it through the winter, I stopped using them. Not wanting to discard them and not feeling right selling them and enjoying upcycling and repurposing, I turned them into planters in two steps. Add dirt and add plants. Actually I had to remove the stand and added some packing peanuts to the bottom for some drainage and to keep it a little lighter for moving. But it was really that simple – left remnant honeycomb and propolis, for authenticity.

No empty top bar beehive hanging around? Do not fret! You can check Craigslist or simply look at other things that could hold dirt, maybe drain a little bit (or hold some rocks in the bottom for drainage) and just try it out. Think, wine crates, drawers, tin coffee cans, wheelbarrows, wagons etc….. A simple can of spray paint can transform a lot. Here is a link to simple transformation we did a few years ago on some IKEA pots.

You can also use Langstroth hive boxes to make beehive planters – perhaps some boxes that are pretty beat up or maybe boxes from a diseased colony. I used a few to make dirt bath areas for the hens….not that they use them.

How do you recycle your beehive boxes?

In the Hive – Summer is Official!


Continuing my resolution to be a better beekeeper and bee steward, 2014 marks my fourth season of bee herding and while earning my Apprentice Badge adds a nice bit of flare, beekeeping and stewarding is more about doing than passing a test, a lot like life and career …. There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I don’t think you can really fail. Even if your hives died, your honey was full of bee legs and you got stung on your lucky mole 13 times – you still probably helped educate friends and families about bees, aided in pollination and have frames of honey ready to feed back to your next package in the spring (unless disease took the bees). This year I am only running one hive due to some upcoming “competing commitments”. I might try catching a swarm or splitting a hive this year if the opportunity arises. The In The Hive tasks for Summer (June/July) are all about letting the girls do what they do, keep them and nearby humans safe and make some scholarly observations.

Worker Bee Tasks

  • Inspect the Hives: When inspecting on a nice warm sunny afternoon, you should see evidence of the queen laying eggs, bees bringing in pollen and the honey stores building up.
  • Watch for grasses, flowers etc growing up and blocking the entrance to the hive. Remove them (I like to do this early in the morning before they are active).
  • Take note of brood versus drone cells. Drone cells look like pencil erasers. You do not want a bunch of loafing drones. You need strong female workers to forage and raise brood. You might need replace your queen (or let the hive do it for you) if it looks like she is only laying drones.
  • Don’t forget to track your activities and observations!

Queen Bee Ideas

  • Watch for swarms and booming hives: Activity and colony size pick up in spring and by now your hives should be pretty busy. Swarming is still a risk but perhaps a little less than springtime. Know what your local beekeeping organization has available as resources. In my neck of the woods, PSBA has a helpful page with a call list, tips and talking points (e.g. the bees aren’t angry).
  • Do not panic if you see lots of bees covering the outside of the hive. They are probably just hot and helping to regulate the hive temperature.
  • Know what nectars and pollens are available: Not all flowers and other plants produce nectar and the weather, especially Seattle rain, can often make it hard for the forager bees to get out – remember Junuary, although for sure there is a much greater variety of flowers and plants this time of year. My lavender is in full swing but just like the past years, the honeybees do not frequent it, only the bumbles…. Here is what the science says about this, other than we don’t live in Provence. Sigh.
  • You have to eat, so make a honey recipe. Here is one of my most recent experiments.

Drone On

  • Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. Great way to stay on top of the bee season.
  • Busy time of year for beeks!

Pollinator Champion

  • Make a simple Bee Waterer: just place some marbles in a dish and fill with water (picture below). The bees will be able to land on the marbles and drink, without drowning. You can use rocks and sticks as well.
  • I hope you celebrated National Pollinator Week! It is never too late and I try to celebrate them every week. If you are even the tiniest bit politically inclined there are several government actions recently set in motion to save the pollinators. Learn about them, maybe sign in support.
  • Enjoy this quick video of a honey bee emerging from its cell.

 Remember that while the Summer Solstice is the beginning of summer it is in a way the beginning of the end of bee season……

A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.

50 Mile Pure Berry Leather Recipe


No, this recipe does not turn a quart of berries into 264,000 feet of fruit leather. And yes, it is just fine if your fruit leather is not uber local, I just put in a little extra effort, by picking the organic strawberries and harvesting the honey from my backyard. Actually, the challenge and truth of 100 mile or 50 mile cooking is valiant, yet sobering for sure, and something everyone should try. This wholesome DIY “rollup of fruit” recipe is easy with no funky additives, three ingredients: fruit, honey and water. If you do not have honey handy, sugar would work just fine or you might not need at all.

Pure Berry Roll-Ups (adapted from S. Vinton’s Put Em Up)


  • 4 – 5 cups berries, any kind or combination, washed and dried
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup honey or sugar or less or skip


  • Combine berries and water in large sauce or fry pan and bring to a boil. If using strawberries, you will need to hull them. Here is my simple method.
  • Turn down the heat and simmer until the berries start break down. This does not take too long, maybe 5-10 minutes, they are berry delicate.
  • Puree, mash, blend or strain the fruit if you like. This will remove seeds etc. I didn’t do anything extra, just left it a bit “rustic”.
  • Simmer the berry slurry until it thickens up to honey-like consistency.
  • Meanwhile, heat your oven to 170 F. If you have a convection oven, feel free to use it. This will speed up the process a bit. This would work in a toaster oven as well, albeit the batch would have to be smaller. Of course, this will work in a food dehydrator. I am trying to avoid accumulating one, however.
  • Pour the berry slurry into a jelly pan lined with parchment paper (go well up and over the sides) and spread evenly.
  • Place pan in the oven and dry for about two hours until tacky to the touch. Do not over dry or the leather will be brittle.
  • When done, remove the pan and slide the parchment paper with fruit leather onto a cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature, 10-20 minutes.
  • Trim off the extra paper on the side, but do not unwrap. Roll the sheet up and then cut with a knife or scissors into 1-2 inch sections.
  • Store in an airtight container or refrigerator, if it lasts that long. I think I might also trying cutting with cookie cutters for a playful snack and definitely will be trialing this with other fruits.

Other Strawberry Recipes:

Other Fruit Leather Recipes:


Of Mice and Bees

Never say “oops.” Rather say, “ah, interesting.” – Author Unknown

Ah, interesting…. Being the lazy beekeeper I can be sometimes, I did not soon enough get out to clean my empty Langstroth hive. I figured however, that some little critter might get in there and nibble some honey but not a full on hostile hive consumption. My empty top bar hives have not had this issue, guess the little vermin cannot shimmy up the legs. Regardless, live, learn and clean it up. My hive bottom, first medium box, all the wood frames and most of the frames in the second box had been chewed up into bedding and snacks by rodents, likely not of unusual size. In addition, they did their dirty business and P.U. did it smell. Considering my options, I donned gloves (probably should have worn a mask) and set about cleaning up the bottom board with a bleach solution, all the while wishing I had a blowtorch to burn off the top layer. However, about half way through, I quit and decided that the stench and likely nasty germs would hanta-virus me (haunt, hee hee) and future honey no matter what. To the garbage they went. I will replace them next year.


Lesson learned – do not dilly dally to clean out empty hives or at least block the entrance real good. Rodents can squeeze through a pretty small opening so either close the empty hive completely with solid side of entrance reducer or place ¼ inch hardware cloth over the opening. Oooorrrrr just clean it up and put away when you know it is empty. The meese might still get in to a hive full of bees, especially during the cold winter months. Part of your winterizing routine can include reducing the entrance and/or installing a screen or hardware close.

Other stories of Mice and Bees from the webs:


In the Hive – Spring has Sprung!

There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I don’t think you can really fail. Even if your hives died, your honey was full of bee legs and you got stung on your lucky mole 13 times – you still probably helped educate friends and families about bees, aided in pollination and have frames of honey ready to feed back to your next package in the spring (unless disease took the bees). I am starting this year out with only one hive due to some upcoming “competing priorities”. I might try catching a swarm or splitting a hive this year if the opportunity arises.

Worker Bee Tasks

  • Install your package bees: I remember by first year doing this… I will admit it was tad nerve racking despite how calm the bees are, but I armed myself with key supplies (screwdriver, marshmallow, pushpin) and watched no less than a dozen You Tube videos. The sound of the bees being poured into the hive is memorizing, now, a bit like packing peanuts.
  • Inspect and/or Feed current hives: When inspecting on a nice warm afternoon, you should see evidence of the queen laying eggs, bees bringing in pollen and still some honey stores.
  • Don’t forget to track your activities and observations!

Queen Bee Ideas

  • Watch for swarms and booming hives: Activity and colony size really pick up in April and May. Know what your local beekeeping organization has available as resources. In my neck of the woods, PSBA has a helpful page with a call list, tips and talking points (e.g. the bees aren’t angry).
  • Know what nectars and pollens are available: Even though there are flowers all around, this time of year can be hard on bees as their colony grows, not all flowers and other plants produce nectar and the weather, especially Seattle rain, can often make it hard for the forager bees to get out. Your local beekeeping group is a great resource for this very geographically specific knowledge. This was really apparent to me on a March trip to San Diego where the bees were out in full force on plants I have never seen in Seattle. I will say though that rather than curse the early dandelion blooms, embrace them as a great bee and human food source and then figure out how to make a salad or tea.
  • You have to eat, so make a honey recipe. Here is one of my most recent experiments.

Drone On

  • Read a good novel with some bee or honey influences. This month I recommend Bees – Nature’s Little Wonders By Candace Savage.
  • Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. They will likely be doing a lot of education about swarms and nectar flows.
  • Watch this excerpt from More than Honey of the queen’s virgin mating flight. If you have a new queen this spring, and many of us do, either by our intention or the bees’, this is his and her’s destiny.

Pollinator Champion

  • Help educate people about swarms: They are not something to be afraid of, bee smart. Do not spray a swarm with pesticides or anything really. For SHAME Yankees and Red Sox – this faux pas really sent the wrong message.
  • Join in the Great Sunflower Project: easy to grow, a great source of pollen and nectar for bees, provide a swatch of shade, pretty to look at and the spent heads are a tasty snack for chickens. I am starting my sunflower project this weekend and will be tracking progress all summer.

Just for fun

Other In the Hive Posts:

Reach & Read: Bees – Nature’s Little Wonders


Bees – Nature’s Little Wonders By Candace Savage


This well researched book about bees is a must read for anyone, beekeeper or not. Ms. Savage presents a very well researched book covering four big buckets: world, home, field and life lessons. Intertwined are lovely and varied illustrations, prose, wit, wisdom and of course, more reasons that I can shake a hive tool for people to champion or keep bees. It is also a “required” reading for you to achieve Intermediate Merit Badge for Bees. I will definitely bee reading more by Candace Savage, she has quite the library.

Bees of the World

“The life of bees is like a magic well. The more you draw from it, the more there is to draw” – Karl Von Frisch.

Hey! Remember him? He and others came up in my research about Nazi idealism prompted after reading the Zookeepers wife (review and ramblings here). This chapter goes into even more depth on his research but pulls in interesting twists from Aesop, reminds us of the many varied species of bees and shares Ralph Waldo Emerson’s The Humble Bee poem. Von Frisch appears throughout the whole book.

Where to do bees come from? “Out of the tears of the god Re” – Ancient Egyptian religious text

Bees at Home

Building on the research of von Frisch, enters Lindauer, who clocked countless hours staring at the bees (observing “real” bees). Mundane as this must have been at times, Lindauer contributed greatly to our understanding of how a hive maintains a working order. Before Lindauer and von Frisch, there was Shakespeare’s 1599 description of the roles in the hive, from king (queen) to drone:

…. They have a king and officers of sorts […] Others like soldiers armed in their stings, make boot upon the summer’s velvet buds; which pillage they with merry march bring home to the tent-royal of their emperor, who, busied in his majesty, surveys, the singing masons building roofs of fold, the civil citizens kneading up the honey, the poor mechanic porters crowding in […] the lazy yawning drone….[excerpt]

Bees of Field

“The fragrant work with diligence proceeds” Virgil, Aeneid, 29 BC

This chapter introduced me to the wild world of Emily Dickinson and her poems about bees and gardens. While poking around a bit learning about Emily’s “A Bee Experience“, I found a new blogger penned by someone in the same great state as I.

Life Lessons

“Go to the bee, then poet, consider her ways and be wise.” George Bernard Shaw.

This chapter is just that….life lessons. It goes into a little more depth about swarms as learned from Thomas Seeley’s research (swarm is always smarter than the sum of its parts) but ends on how you too, can nurture your “inner insect.”

Three basic characteristics of a swarm

  • “house hunting process is open to the widest possible input of knowledge and ideas”
  • “each individual […] makes her own independent assessment of situation”
  • “process is structured not as a search for compromise but as a friendly contest”

Or as the author proposes, “Three Habits of Highly Intelligent Groups”

While very little in this book talks about the disappearance of the bees, it ends with a rather ominous poem by Betty Lies (1998), titled End Notes for A Small History.

… Nobody wrote an elegy for to apricots……Of concentrated grape juice and orange juice, stores stocked with artificial flavoring….

Other ramblings