Let's say we're all bees. Each and every one of us is buzzing about-
buzz buzz buzz.
The honey that we make is our lives. Experience has taught me two things...


...and LIFE is only as yummy as you make it!

Are YOU a Killer Bee?

bee my guest?

bee my guest?
Howdy Beezers! I'm excited to share something new with you... Over the upcoming months, most of the content you'll be seeing here will be from special guest contibutors! This is sure to add a new texture to this thing we've been weaving over the years. I know that many of my readers (yes, you!) are writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers. PLEASE feel free to contact me if there's something you'd like to contribute! I'd be most honored to pollinate... send me a note: m.mckinley@rocketmail.com

please be seated

July 31, 2009


Some people read novels, some are hardcore about their New York Times.
Michael reads cookbooks. At one point I sort of had a "cookbook problem", evident by my cupboards brimming with 100+ of them. Kinda funny since I don't cook from recipes all that much! But I've LEARNED so much about cooking from cookbooks. About process, about flavor profiles. I guess over the years, it has all seeped into my subconscious.

About 5 years ago I saw Maya Angelou on the Oprah Winfrey Show discussing her new cookbook. It sounded wonderful, but having a ridiculous stash of books already in my possession, I bought it for Jeffrey Elliott instead. Jonesing for a good "cookbook read", I recently borrowed it from him. What a delight. The book is a hybrid of great recipes tied together with stories of her childhood, and early struggles. Stellar family recipes, and comfort food dishes born from "what was on hand from the cupboard", between paychecks.
In her elegant, wisdom-filled fashion, Maya beautifully illustrates the relationships between good eating, family, friends, and circumstances. These are the connections with food that we all can relate to, and reminds us of that commonality.

Most of us love to eat. Allot of us feed the people we love. As I've said many times before, eating is so much more than what we do to fuel our bodies. Since food and love are two things our bodies and souls can't live without for long, deprivation of either is not an option. Reading "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table" has given me a burning desire to make smoked pork chops with fried apples and spoon bread...and fill the seats around my own table with people I love!
You can find it new or used on amazon.com

July 28, 2009


Thai Bar-B-Que
3417 West National Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Hours of Operation:
Sunday- Thursday 11am-9pm
Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm

I have always loved Thai food, and I'm always game to eat it. The complexity of flavors...the salty, the sweet, and the spicy all conspire to do things to my palette which are very sensual. Not to mention sense-ual! Over the years Milwaukee has been blessed with a plethora of good Thai restaurants. Some of them great. Thai Bar-B-Que, my latest favorite spot, is better than good or great, it's EXCEPTIONAL! Kerry Dean and I went for lunch recently, and this time I had a chance to meet with the owners and snap a few pics for the blog...

Owners George Chai and his charming wife Thanita Sriamdi [you can call her Al] are at the helm of this homey and inexpensive little National Avenue spot. They've owned the Asian International Market next door for 9 years, and have had the doors to the restaurant open since 2006. The culinary mastermind behind their tasty menu is Al. Her grandparents were personal chefs to the King and Queen of Thailand, and she brought their heirloom family recipes with her when she arrived here 15 years ago. From the carefully layered curries to the exotic salads and delicious hot-pot soups, George, Al, and Company bring you an authentic taste of Thailand.

Just so you know, I had every intention of taking some sexy shots of our beautiful food. But I was so ravenous when the feast started to arrive that I forgot all about my camera sitting just inches from the Fresh Rolls... by the time I remembered it was there all that remained were a couple of empty bowls, and a barren soup pot! I guess the proof is in the pudding. Purple Sticky Rice pudding that is... By the way, they have the COOLEST interactive website of any restaurant I know of. Check it out by clicking on the website link below to preview their amazing menu or place a carryout order. Tell them Michael the bee guy sent you!

July 23, 2009


The first time I ever saw anything Thomas Paul was at market. I was at a trade show shopping for my boutique when I spied the most striking pillows from about 30 paces. I sliced my way through the crowd to get a better look. Upon closer inspection I decided they were absolutely exquisite. I wanted to buy them all, and ended up placing a rather sizable order because I couldn't make up my mind! I decided that if they didn't sell, I'd just have to bring them all home.

Shopkeeper's prerogative.

Back in those days, it was just pillows. But eventually Thomas Paul would lend his chic graphic designs to stationary, rugs, melamine dinnerware, lighting, and upholstery fabric.

I never tire of my pillows, though I did send many of them along to happy homes. Still, year after year my Thomas Paul affair continues... I always look forward to seeing what beautiful creations and scrumptious color combinations he's going come up with!

To visit Thomas Paul's website complete with product locators, follow the link below:


July 22, 2009


We have readers from all over the world now. To be honest with you, I have no idea who's reading my blog, or how exactly they're finding The Killer Bees...but indeed people are, and it's really quite exciting! When I returned from a week of working in Chicago I checked my neglected Rocketmail email, which I use exclusively for this blog. In my inbox I found a note from a woman named Lauren. She said in her note that she and Kelly had noticed that I had written about Kelly's up-coming book "HUE" on my site. She went onto say that they had just completed a new photo/cover shoot for the book, and attached an image of the finished cover for me. Me?! Geez, the next thing you know I'll be hearing from Harry Connick Jr....

I find this incredibly encouraging, not just because my favorite designer somehow stumbled upon a little piece I wrote about her books, but because it means people are FINDING US! Since our chief priority with all 4 blogs is to pollinate the world with good stuff, it's wonderful to know that cyberspace is being kind in aiding us on our mission! If you'll excuse me now, I have to finish some pieces I've been working on...people are reading and waiting!
Once again, here's the link to Amazon where you can find Kelly's books, and pre-order "HUE":

July 12, 2009


Sometimes you get hit over the head with a frying pan because you need it...

One of the greatest "life lessons" I ever got happened nearly 20 years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. I was going on a first date with this guy, and had sort of primed-him-up in advance of all my fabulous qualities. Like for instance how I aspired to be a jazz singer.

You already know this isn't going to be pretty, don't you?

So there we were at Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue. As I was enjoying my hot matzo ball soup [and soaking in all of his hot, silver-haired handsomeness from across the table], he asked me what I thought about Harry Connick Jr.. From my 20 year old mouth sprung a very matter-of-fact diatribe about how Harry Connick Jr. was really nothing more than a "Frank Sinatra wannabe", who would never really last in the music business because he "simply wasn't that great of a singer". Open mouth, swallow entire self. Die now. Please die.

In turn, my Silver Fox informed me that Harry Connick Jr. had been a child protege. Was a virtuoso of piano that he had been playing with the most respected musicians in jazz and blues since he was 13. I grew smaller by the moment, until I'm sure he could have squashed me with his thumb. After all, who was I? Just some punk kid with a big mouth and some really uneducated opinions about someone who was LIVING the dream I didn't have the courage to pursue. Needless to say the date was a complete disaster, and I never saw the Silver Fox again. I did however, learn a few really important lessons that night. For starters, you learn more when you stop talking and start listening. Second, I realized that the lecture my Mother had given me about keeping my my trap shut if I didn't have something nice to say had serious merit!
Who knew?

Most importantly, I learned something about JUDGMENT. You know the old saying about how opinions are like "...holes", right? It seems that in this day and age ones personal opinion has become omni-important. We tend to pass judgement around so freely. On everyone, about everything. Reality television isn't helping things either with it's endless cast of mean, bitchy, self-important "everyday people". Is this how we're supposed to be treating people? As far as I can tell, its just a blatant display of a society behaving badly. What do we really gain when we tear someone else down anyway? A bloated sense of superiority, and an open invitation to be put under the same microscope by someone else. Personally, I'm not into that kind of pressure.

I recently attended the Pride Festival in Chicago. In the crowd I overheard two people not just making fun of, but truly ridiculing the drag queens that were performing on stage. Their wigs, their clothes, and pretty much their vocation in general. It really irked me. I'm sure it didn't occur to them that those performers felt beautiful up there [define beauty, I DARE YOU]. That they probably got an immeasurable amount of pleasure from performing, bringing broad smiles to the hundreds of people down on the street in front of them. I wanted to turn around and say "When was the last time YOU made hundreds of people smile? Do you love the way YOU look? Do you love what YOU do for a living?" But I didn't. I would have just been another person, holding 2 other persons in JUDGEMENT. Besides, they were friends of mine....

I suppose I'd like to think that not holding other people in judgement is one of my better qualities. But I still do. I trip all over my opinions and fall right on my face. For instance. Only 2 paragraphs ago I wanted to use the term vacuous in my list of describers for reality TV personalities. But I didn't. See how evolved I am? Seriously though, I can't help but believe we'd have a brighter and more harmonious world to live in if everyone one could just learn to be less judgemental...myself included. Sound a little too simple a notion to be true? The truth usually is.

To my Silver Fox [whatever your name was], I'd like to say thanks for the frying pan. And Harry Connick Jr., if you should ever stumble across my blog, you have my sincerest of apologies. You're a very gifted musician, singer, and actor. A dedicated humanitarian. And your 24th disc was sublime.

July 11, 2009


Click the play button to watch a little sneak peek!


Do you need therapy? I'm thinking probably so! I'm always campaigning for pollination. Probably to the point of nausea to most of my readers. So why haven't I written about Apartment Therapy before? Shame on me! It's only been on my link list for months now....

Apartment Therapy is about the coolest design related blog on the web. Its actually a "bloggers cooperative" [kinda like us, only on a MUCH more sophisticated scale], with contributors in Chicago, Los Angeles, DC, Boston, New York, and San Francisco. The information is fresh and innovative, and updated daily...all day long. In fact, its a little addictive! Furniture, architecture, trends, even travel, cooking, and entertaining! The founder's mission statement: "Helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas, and community online." Sound like a familiar mantra? It seems that the creative folks at Apartment Therapy share a similar philosophy to that of The Killer Bees...so go on now. These therapists are pro-bono, no appointment necessary!


July 10, 2009


July 9, 2009


Bark n' Scratch Outpost
5835 West Bluemound Road
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53213

Hours of Operation:
Monday & Wednesday 10am-7pm / Tuesdays 10am-9pm
Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 10am-6pm / Sundays Noon-4pm

I know you. Your pet IS part of your family. Mine is too, and it's always been important to me that he eat well, because I want him around for a LONG time! When I adopted Jackson from the Humane Society 10 years ago [the cutest wee kitten I ever did see] there were only a couple of decent food options. It was Iams or Science Diet. Over the years they got bought up by conglomerates, and the quality changed. After that he was strictly a Nutro cat. Now Nutro too has gone the way of other fallen pet food companies. Shortly after moving back to Milwaukee, I asked Cherrie where she'd been buying Mabel's food. She told me about this cool new place on Bluemound Road that specializes in natural, toxic-free, and organic pet stuffs....

Owner Carrie Marble and her friendly, knowledgeable staff are dedicated to bringing their customers [and their owners!] the absolute 'best for your babies" products available. All the info you need to know about certain varieties, diets, and alternative types of foods [What do you know about raw diets?] is dispensed freely. These people are so cool, and they care so much, that they even deliver if you need them too! There's also a great selection of toys and treats for you to do your duty and spoil with. Have I mentioned yet how reasonable the prices are?

10 year old Jackson McKinley [pictured last Christmas] loves his new chow called "Taste of The Wild" from Bark n' Scratch on Bluemound Road. It has a 42% protein ratio, and contains peas, sweet potatoes, smoked salmon, ocean fish, chicken, blueberries, raspberries, roasted venison, acidophilus, and a host of other nutritious good stuff. Daddy likes it cuz it only costs $9.99 for a 5lb bag!

For lots more info on Bark n' Scratch follow the link below:

July 8, 2009


There are many interior designers whose work I admire. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an army to help beautify American homes. But my favorite designers are the ones who approach interior decoration like a cullinary experiment, combining spices and ingredients that most people would never think to combine...

So someone recently asked me if I had a favorite designer. It took about a nano-second for me to respond: KELLY WEARSTLER! You may know her from her TV turn as one of the judges on Bravo's Top Design. Her sometimes outrageous hair and clothes became the subject of many designer blog fodder last year. Yet underneath all of the over-the-top glamour lies an exceptionally talented designer. Who creates over-the-top designs. But over-the-top alone does not make a great designer. Kelly has the natural instinct for pairing unusual objects, and really understands the subtle techniques of layering texture and color. They don't teach you those things in design school. You either possess it or you don't. Kelly Wearstler has it in spades.

Kelly's first pictorial book "Modern Glamour: The Art of Unexpected Style" [2004, Regan Books] focused mainly on her work in hospitality [hotels and resorts]. In these works, her designs are bold, colorful, and decidedly Hollywood Regency Style. In short, VERY glamorous.

Kelly's second book "Domicilium Decoratus" [2006, Regan Books] is where she really hooked me. It's another pictorial, this time of her own Hillcrest Estate in Beverly Hills. It's every bit as glamorous as her high-end boutique hotel work, but very homey at the same time. Again, her knack for juxtaposing genres of design, mixed periods of antiques, and layer upon layer of texture and color is breathtaking. How much do I love this house? This designer could move right in, turn-key, and not change a thing. Endorsementus Maximus.

Her latest book entiltled "Hue" with editor Steve Crist hits shelves in November 2009...I can't wait to see what delicious feast for the eyes Kelly dishes up next!

To shop for Kelly's books, follow the Amazon link below:

July 7, 2009

Have You Never Been Mellow?

Summer is here, and we're all so busy, aren't we? Picnics, bbq's, vacations, festivals, and if you have children that are out of school, well...

I live in the Midwest and when Summer finally arrives, the pressure to maximize every hour of daylight and soak-up every ounce of warmth and sunshine can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes the constant go, go, go, and do, do, do feels a little like Christmas. Only for 3 months instead of 3 weeks. I woke up really early yesterday morning and went for a great walk by myself, through Washington Park. Just before I headed home, I stopped and sat down on a green grassy knoll. The sun warming my face and the slightest breeze whispering across my bare shoulders. It was delightful. I just sat there for about half an hour, clearing my mind of the stresses and worries that awaited me at the official start of my day.

It occurred to me as I brushed the grass off my keester, and admired the little impressions left behind on the back of my legs, that I don't do this enough. Oh, I spend time by myself. But I'm usually DOING something. Because really, isn't there always something to be DOING?

How often do you allow yourself to be still? Quiet your mind? I'm not talking about meditation per say, just the simple act of real relaxation. Alone. Solitude does not equal loneliness, unless you've programmed yourself to believe it. Cherrie told me recently that for her, Wintertime is the time to "go inward". As I left the park though, I thought to myself "Why not Summer?"
Why not all year long...

With all the BUSY and DOING on your plate this Summer, try to remember to make free time for yourself alone. Time to walk through a park. Sit on a bench and enjoy the sun on your face. Go for a little hike. Get lost in a book on your sofa for a few hours. So what if it's nice outside? Its more than likely going to be nice tomorrow. And next week. And next Summer. Remember that those stolen moments when you seem to be doing nothing are necessary. For your health, both mental and physical, spend a little time by yourself and don't feel one ounce guilty about it!
I'll try to do the same.


Looking for something fun to do this coming weekend? Milwaukee's largest and most popular [off the Summerfest grounds] festival is happening in Cathedral Square July 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th! Mmmmm. I can smell the beignets already!

Enjoy cold libations, tasty vittles, awesome live music, cool artisans, and the festive Summer crowd!. Be sure to stop in at This Is It to make your Bastille experience complete...

July 6, 2009


July 5, 2009


In Part One, I gave you some tips on how to choose an interior designer.
This time around, I'll try to clear up the mystery surrounding how designers get paid...

There are many ways in which designers forge their livings. Most important for you to understand, is that it's often "layered". This has caused allot of confusion to the general public, but really its not that complicated. Some designers may be flexible on the terms in which they bill you, but most have their businesses set up in a way that's comfortable and works for them. Yes there are unscrupulous designers who gouge their clients, but really most of us are just like you, eking out an honest living. Here are two typical layerings....
  • HOURLY + COMMISSION/CUT: Most designers have a dual "rate" that they charge per hour. One is for an initial consultation, the second is for follow-up/design research time. What do designers charge per hour? Well, that quite frankly depends on who their clients are. Designers with wealthy clients charge more. That's not greedy, just good old fashioned capitalism....When a designer "shops" for you, they may waive their hourly rate in exchange for a commission on furnishings/products purchased. Most, but not all furniture stores extend either a discount or commission cut to designers. It's not typically a big one, and the designer may pass that along to you, or keep it for themselves. Either way, its a private transaction between the retail outlet and the designer. If your designer works through "to the trade only" outlets, like say The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, they are usually privy to a fairly decent discount off the retail price of things. They may choose to pocket this difference, pass that discount onto you, or meet you somewhere in the middle. Please know that however they choose to handle these discounts, it is their prerogative. But what's fair you ask? I guess it depends on what your designer is charging you per hour, and of course what the end result will be. Do you want what your neighbors have, or do you want a unique and customized interior that reflects your individual style?

  • HOURLY + DESIGN SERVICES: Designers that have fully functioning studios may offer a host of services/products. This may include, but is not limited to the following: Custom upholstery, window treatments, rugs, wallcoverings, and cabinetry. They purchase these made-to-order products from wholesale, or to the trade only companies. It's then marked up to a retail price and sold to YOU, the end customer. At this point, depending on your budget and what you're trying to accomplish within it, your designer may offer you a discount off retail. But again, what's fair? Since I personally charge a decent amount per/hour for my time and talent, I'll usually pass along a discount of some kind, whenever I can. Most designers will.

Does all this sound daunting and EXPENSIVE? It doesn't have to be. TRUST ME ON THIS: The most important thing YOU can bring to the table when you begin your quest for a designer, is a realistic, all inclusive budget for the project at hand. I mean the bottom line! If what you can afford is pre-fab window treatments from Linens & Things, and a new sofa on your Pottery Barn charge, then you find the designer that is EXCITED to help you pull it all together within your budget. If you approach a designer that can't be bothered with your small potatoes project, then they aren't the one for you! Believe me, there are talented designers out there who love what they do, and will be happy to work within your budget, whatever it is. Happy hunting!

July 2, 2009


She's sassy. She's sweet. And she dispenses her wisdom with much humour and love! Our very own Killer Bee Cassandra McShepard has a brand new radio talk show [ co-hosted by the FABULOUS Silver Rae Fox] on Chicago's Internet radio station, TalkZone. It airs live on Wednesdays [@ 12 Noon CST], but you can listen to the new episodes ANYTIME by clicking on the link below. The premier episode explores a problem many of us face; What to do with our big BUT? And they're not talking about the one at the end of your tail bone! If YOUR BIG "BUT" is getting the way of your dreams, the life you want to be leading, then Cassandra and Silver Rae have an exercise program designed to help you shrink it....

July 1, 2009


Buzz Out!

Buzz Out!