Light…

The gleaming car pulled up to the lamplit curb. A doorman saw the glint of a diamond stud as a bejeweled slipper gracefully stepped out, the satin ball gown caught the sheen of moonlight- he caught a whiff of jasmine and gardenia. She glided into the ballroom. Chandeliers reflected in the mirrored walls throwing sparkling light which competed only with champagne flutes and silver trays. A fountain splashed crystal droplets. And, holding court on the buffet table stood a shimmering ice sculpture. The twinkling of laughter, swirling sequin dresses and glittering jewelry created flashes of shimmering glimmering delight. Taking a flute of bubbly champagne, surely she would never forget this delight-filled night.

Okay I made that up Still. Even describing Light lends sparkle to the written word. Of the design principles I follow, there is none more important than light. Light. Number 1 of my 9 Elements of Design, stands alone.. Every other principle depends on light. Color, Texture, Mood, Shape and Form. Perspective, Balance, Space and Time. All of these principles depend on Light.

How do you describe a sunrise without light? or when the curtains close after a play- describe the darkened theater? The play of shadows on a wall. We sense color only by complicated systems of refraction of light (Please don’t ask me to go into all of that! It’s way above my pay grade.) The list is endless of how Light changes things- everything in fact. 

Whatever you design- art, interiors, landscapes, gardens, jewelry, floral displays, your online shops, catalogs, even your blog or social media sites. Light- my number 1 Principle of Design when Designin’ Your Business. Light is your most powerful tool and- The Crowning Glory of Design. 

Love y’all, Brenda 

Greens…

Greens, the freshness of them, all year round. In spring, I have to admit the tender leaves are such a relief. The first spinach salad with nothing but a simple vinaigrette, perhaps some slivers of onion and lots of bacon are a wonderful treat! We enjoy broccoli all year round yet, I do love it when we’ve grown our own! When grapes are in season, they are plumper and better than the rest of the year- and go with almost anything.

Green… eating green, is a healthy thing to do. When my children were small, I would say- ‘Eat your green vegetables- they have B vitamins, the Beauty vitamins!’  It must have worked because they are beautiful healthy ladies who truly love their vegetables, green or not. If I have a fresh cabbage, I cut it in thick slices and use it as a ‘nest’ for meatloaf or stuffed green peppers- it’s double whammy of deliciousness!

Collards are a favorite in the Deep South. I took some tender leaves, smeared on a cheddar, blue cheese/ pecan mixture; rolled them up. On a grazing board they were amazing- no cooking required. For the recipe- it’s called Camellia’s Bleu Pig A similar thing could be done with kale or chard- which is so beautiful.

A staple green vegetable  here, is the ever present Celery. Take a look at them- filled with a soft cheese mixture- then three stalks are pressed together Tied into bundles and chilled, it’s another addition to a charcuterie board. When sliced, they turn into Camellia’s Celery Blossoms  It’s amazing what a bit of crunch can do, look how pretty and fresh these simple blossoms are!

So? Why all the green? Well, I’ve just sown some salad green seeds, we have time for another round as we head into Autumn, and it’s always good to have easy nibbles on hand.

Then! there’s that Color I love talking about! Color is one of my 9 Principles of Design.  Green comes in so many shades and plays well with others…look at how pretty green is with dark burgundy salad leaves! For every color, there’s a corresponding Green that will add a bit of freshness to anything- your Wardrobe, Online shop, your Photography Backgrounds and Backdrops, any of your Designs even your Blog or Social Media feeds!

Green always sends a message of life, growth, nature and freshness that no other color can quite pull off. I personally think green is a neutral. Just think green leaves or grass- everything goes with Green. It’s just  the color to add those Beauty Vitamins to  anything! Color as a Principle of Design- is an amazing tool!

Love y’all, Brenda

To Write Better, Read…

I’ve always believed that readers make the best writers. Any skill I have has come from reading books. I’m a collector of books. I treasure them. I also treasure handwritten notes and am especially proud of the few recipes I have which are written in my grandmother’s hand. It’s like having a bit of her still with me- unique to her and I would recognize her handwriting anywhere. I have a handwritten Cheese Sauce Recipe which has stood the test of time too. Written after World War II – it helps me realize that while ‘oleo’ was almost never used- it was during the time when supplies were rationed.

I also think journaling is a worthwhile pastime- in fact, I’m still surprised by what I was thinking or learning at the time…

My 6 year old sister taught 4 years old me- how to read and write. It set me on the path to being a lifelong lover of words and phrases. I collect them with no rhyme or reason except I like the way the sound or look on a page. I’ll take a few pages out with my hodge podge of phrases and words- then it’s almost like shaking them in my fist, then casting them on a page until I like how they look and sound.

Here’s a few notes from what I’ve been reading-

  • Alabama is filled with Dollar Generals and Church Spires.’ (It’s true you know!) and I could add- ‘we still have snake handlers and a Rattlesnake Rodeo. They’ve figured out how to season it up and fry it. I guess, that’s truly the safest way to take up the serpent and live.’
  • From southern author, Michael Lee West there’s this- ‘the bayous twisted off like spilled cane syrup, thick, moss choked woods formed a canopy over poisonous snakes and man eating alligators.’ Now, that! makes you want to visit my home state!

Reading made me want to draw a plan for an herb garden, I pored over that one for a month- it was partially laid out, then a tornado came through- the best laid plans were set aside- indefinitely.

I love true ink pens and grumbled that cursive writing wasn’t going to be taught- it’s an art form you know. A signature is a treasure, an identification, as unique as a fingerprint. Even a short handwritten note, a sketch or a snippet of calligraphy speaks to me.

Pat Conroy started everyday with poetry to get the rhythm of words, then he read 200 pages in whichever book he was reading at the time. Only then, did Conroy start his full day of writing. Mr. Conroy wrote by hand, on a yellow legal pad- five pages toward the book he was working on! Can you imagine! Perhaps that why Mr. Conroy was able to make a living writing books!

Creating content is an absolutely necessary skill in today’s world. If you fear you simply cannot write posts- Read! Then write, just as if you’re speaking directly to someone else or even your best self!

I repeat, ‘I’ve always believed that Readers make the best Writers.’

Love y’all, Brenda

Here’s Mimi’s Cheese Sauce recipe- because I know you want it!

Always Protect Home Plate…

Always protect Home Plate. That old baseball term, still holds true. Home Plate, home base whichever you call it- it’s where your true base of support resides. No matter where you live or work, there’s always a certain amount of uncertainty, yet generally we know where our most consistent support resides. In the South, the weather is almost on our radar. A tornado or hurricane can destructively come through certain times of the year. When bad weather is in the forecast, if we have a bit of warning or just feel it in our bones- we always protect home base. We board up windows and secure the doors. We round up our loved ones, we know instinctively where ‘to get’… the safest places to stay until the storm passes over. Then, when the danger’s passed, we assess the damage, then set about rebuilding- doing what we can to get our homes and businesses back up and running.

In this current crisis we’re in, the rule- to protect home plate, holds true yet in different ways. I sense a certain exhaustion, an anxiety and even a bit too much of ‘We can do this’ and ‘I’m fine’ going on. Dare I say it? How do we sustain this current crisis? It  sounds good to try to ‘maintain a work/life balance’. Still. I’m sensing that folks are keeping a stiff upper lip, whistlin’ in the dark and are downright weary. Frenetic. Worried. Overwhelmed.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve got brain fog. And! In danger of getting cataracts from looking for hours at whatever our favorite ‘screens‘ are.  I have to say it, many are making the mistake of- Posting too much and too often.

Now, you know I don’t have all the answers. I’m looking for answers just like you are. If you are a local or retail business, these are very stressful times. Protect your home plate too. Please keep your loyal customers up to date with your information and hours of operation.

After years in retail, even owning my own business- here’s what I know for sure..

  • Keep your information clear and easy to understand.
  • Please don’t overwhelm your loyal customer base or new contacts.
  • Post the most pertinent information on the social media platform where your highest following resides.
  • And keep the information fresh and up to date.

Now. This may go against conventional wisdom, yet I do know this is true- Don’t Overwhelm!

  • The more often you call, email, post on social media- the more likely it is that folks will stop seeing it, ignore it and ultimately stop following or unsubscribe.
  • Once a day may actually be too often, more than once? A surefire way to lose customers.
  • The same is true for whatever ongoing interest you may have, especially on social media.
  • Folks get information overload in normal times, now? When they are doing more essential business, helping their family or working online- believe me- less is more.
  • Think of it as preparing a garden, planting seed, giving it time to grow…
    • If you you have a loyal customer base that follows your social media sites– now is the time to develop personal contacts. Social Media has taken on increased importance- So here’s a few suggestions:
    • Follow them- leave appropriate non-sales-y comments.
    • You can even discover their interests and offer an encouraging word or phrase.
    • If you have a product or service – the conventional wisdom is to post every third or fifth post. In between, share something about yourself, a quote that keeps you going and tell them how important or amazing they are!
    • Building connections now actually is protecting your own home base.

    Appropriate interest in your customers now, is like planting seeds for a future harvest.

    Knowing your customers will help you form a business plan for meeting their ongoing needs, later. Folks have been trending toward more personalized shopping experiences for years now. This is your chance to develop those skills. And while you may be near panic over your profits, remember the principles in this post.

    If you tailor what you offer to their needs, and in their price range you will have more sales. Find that perfect place where their needs, your product or service overlap into what they’re willing to pay for Support + Service = Sales. The most successful folks I’ve ever known-

    • 1. Have portable dreams and..
    • 2. Make adjustments as quickly as possible.

    Jane Goodall, had a long standing career observing chimpanzees. Did she set out to make a huge impact on the world? Probably not and yet she did. The small things she did everyday educated, informed and endeared her to the world. Here’s what she said:

    Do what you can to protect Home Plate. Then, expand your circle of influence. Believe that you make a difference. Believe me, you will impact your world. It’s up to you how you choose to use your influence. Here’s wishing you, all the best and as always-

    Love y’all, Brenda

    Growth…

    Growth, we all want it. Whether it’s in our gardens, our knowledge, wisdom, in our businesses or our bank accounts. Maybe you want to grow your circle of friends, your following on your blog or social media sites. We feel better when we are growing in all of the good ways. So how can we do it? And just how much growth would it take for you to feel good about it all?

    The best lessons I’ve learned about growth has come from gardening. Real growth takes time, attention and appreciation. Whether it’s growing your business, your following on social media- personal growth or expanding your influence, there’s no real magic formula.  Here’s one ‘Don’t’ for growing your business or influence. Don’t just stay with folks who do what you do or have the same perspective you do. It’s far more interesting to follow folks who are like some of my favorite herbs.

    • Take common Oregano, I picked a big armful, it was full of Joy and Happiness, had a lovely light scent. Find folks who bring you Joy, believe me they will make your day!
    • Or those sweet silly Violas– they’re a baker’s decorating friend, a spring tonic maker, an artist’s inspiration- Now please tell me- you want Inspiration around regularly. Right?
    • Thyme the herb of courage, the Greek symbol of elegance and style and dare I mention: Some set aside a bed of Thyme for the wee fairies. It elevates my mood and lifts the spirits- oh my yes! I want  Courage, Elegance, Style and a bit of Whimsy and more… the scent of lemon and thyme is surely one of the most scrumptious anywhere. Add folks who bring these things into your circle.
    • Water, we all know we need an Oasis Add refreshing Mint and Lemon- well, you have a fragrant, refreshing moment. Yes, I want those types to be part of my day.
    • Sweet Lamb’s Ears is nature’s fuzzy bandaid, has healing properties- not I ask you, what would life be without those who offer healing to the mind, body and soul? That’s circle of Influence. Each adding something to the other’s life.
    • Ah yes! we must have some folks who spice up our lives, any place they’re invited- tend to ease frustration, anxiety and these Hot Peppers generally grow where it’s hot- why? We need this spice to cool us down, even make us laugh- oh yes, you want the spice of peppers!
    • Along with the Love and Good Wishes of Sweet Basil, there’s never enough of that!
    • We want folks who come back often, like Garlic Chives. From leaves to blossom- they re-seed, not trouble at all.
    • Last, yet certainly not all- I can always use some Sage advice. Wisdom.

    A huge following isn’t as important as the level of Engagement, the need meeting need, the inspiration- the likes, comments- taking time to engage, inspire and be inspired. This is what community has always been about. If everyone was just alike, who would need anyone else? You may have or offer just what someone who does something different from you needs. Build a business based on trust, a good relationship, a friendship- appreciate what they do- not just by hitting ‘like’ but leaving a short meaningful comment. That’s why it’s so important to actually be inspired by others- not for the sake of more followers- that’s not authentic. It’s being real and ultimately- your business won’t flourish long unless you take the time, pay attention and show appreciation. That’s how to Grow the right way. Wait for it, true growth will happen. Here’s wishing you all the best!

    Love y’all, Brenda

    *This is a continuing series for helping small business, during these unprecedented times. I guess you could Camellia is becoming a Cottage Industry!