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 

Stop, Look and Listen…

Stop. Look. Listen. Those street crossing instructions not only kept us safe, they also sent us across the street and on our way. In our continuing series of ‘What will I do with this Time?’ There are design tips, there are inspirational tips and there are marketing tips, which we hope to include as well. Creating streams of income in these challenging times is certain to be important. In a recent Instagram postBlue Doors, a series of doors were matched up with amusing human characteristics. ( Look for the opening photo of the Blue Door on my IG grid) If you hope to sell a service or product, you must Look at the individual needs, hopes and dreams of potential customers. It’s not enough to figure out a way to sell them what you hope to sell- your job is:

  • to figure out their lifestyles,
  • their means to purchase or
  • if what you’re offering is even relevant to their lives.
  • If it is, then this post will help you in your marketing efforts. It’s mostly, Listen and Stop. Here are a few examples:
  • You: ‘Throw out those old spices, make potpourri bags or something.’ * When actually – ‘I was hoping you could help me organize and plan new shelves.’ *If you’d stopped long enough before advising and just listened.
  • You: ‘Why in the world would you put a chair out here?’ ‘Oh, I thought it would be fun to have our coffee out here, while we talk about that new addition.’ *Yikes, if you’d just stopped and listened…
  • Take this dark linen closet- You: ‘Let’s get this cleared out, lighten it up, put in some shelves…’ Stop. Listen. ‘No, I wanted to step into my little home office first- am really interested in…’ *What you saw, wasn’t what she wanted you to look at!’
  • Or listen in on this exchange- You: ‘Mary Beth, the sewing circle would love to have all of this! Then you could have a guest room!’ No, no no. ‘Actually, I was hoping you could design a craft room for me.’ *I hope you didn’t dampen her enthusiasm or talk yourself right out of a job!
  • Look at this all white kitchen- You- ‘We need to get you some color in here, liven things up!’ Really? Here’s what was said- ‘Well we like it, I just need a sisal rug and was hoping you could tell me what size to get.’ *Stop. While you’re ahead.
  • What about those lovely old windows? You: ‘We can get you some shades or curtains in here to cut the glare.’ Um no. ‘I love the light coming in here.’ *Listen. You just lost that job. Full stop.
  • Take this lovely old plant room… You: ‘Let’s replace these rickety doors, get you some metal shelves you can wash down.’ * Really, you just said that? ‘Well, I wanted to give you a plant before we talk about replacing the bathroom wallpaper.’ Thud. Just stop. Listen.
  • And this gorgeous flower room? Please don’t say- ‘Let’s clear it of all the clutter, make it easier to clean…then see where we are!’ Uh NO. ‘Actually, I’m hosting a flower arranging workshops- I really needed help with my son’s room.’ *Please stop while you’re ahead.
  • Doors of opportunity will open if you’ll focus on the customer. The best sales happen when you Stop Selling and Start Listening. Give compliments, not unsolicited advice. And. Listen to this – which applies to anything in life- ‘The cry of the human heart is to be heard.’
  • Marketing today is about making connections, building friendships and gaining trust. Stop. Look. and Listen – first.
  • Love y’all, Brenda
  • Simplicity…

    Simple. Curated. Space. The concept of simplicity is at once easy and difficult to achieve. Ask any realtor the difference between the way a buyer sees a property is often a simple matter of getting rid of clutter. A simple, curated space is visibly more attractive.

    Neutral paint colors actually help the buyer’s imagination as to how the place can be made their own. The mix of simplicity and abundance in landscape design is also highly prized. Though a cluttered, unkept yard is off putting. So, how do we choose? There’s an art to abundance and an art to simplicity in almost any design.

    Businesses, large and small, are turning more and more to online shops to support the loss of in-store purchases. If you’re setting up an a product page, a website, an online shop or even an in store display- simple and curated helps your customer decide, then imagine your products as their own. Simple isn’t boring. The vintage wooden spoons aren’t lined up like soldiers, they’re artfully arranged with simplicity. Simple table settings may seem plain, yet the color will come from the food and personalities around the table.

    If you’re a seller of unique one of a kind pieces- a simple display on frayed fabric is a simple charming display. I once wrote about my favorite small and useful kitchen tools, On white foam core board, I snapped a pic and the tools were easy to recognize. In store or an online shop, this sort of display is easy on the eye, very little explanation needed and easy to price.

    Often a product needs a bit of interest, the black striped napkins and ladle become the stars. It’s simple and curated. Cooling racks might not look inviting on their own, add simple cookies- the buyer sees the advantage of owning one.

    Often cooked food isn’t as pretty as the ingredients- my grandmother’s egg plate with a single egg sets the scene for deviled eggs. An iron skillet is simply beautiful- a pone of cornbread on a wooden table tell a story.

    Before spices are blended- they’re more beautiful than the mix itself as a display. Pretty vintage white linens, a bowl, simple utensils only need a sprig of lavender for me to write a story!

    Simple. Curated. Space. Works for almost anything. Simple, neutral and calm space is easy on the eye. It’s a subtle, yet Top Design Tip. Avoid overwhelm any time, now more than ever. Go easy on the eye as often as you can. Simplicity is at once easy and difficult to achieve. It’s doesn’t have to be perfect, just really good. This is one tip I’m confident will boost sales and with a little restraint- you can do it!

    Love y’all. Brenda

    *Easy Spice Blend:

    1-2 Tablespoons Granular Coffee 3-4 Tablespoons Kosher Salt 1-2 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns 1 Tablespoon Paprika 1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional) 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder 1-2 Tablespoons Pure Cane Sugar

    *Grind spices together into a rough chop. Store tightly. Perfect as a rub for grilled Meats.

    Practicing the Art of Being Home…

    img_4092We’ve been practicing the art of Being Home… and as we say- ‘I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out’ how to stay upbeat on this space, while not minimizing the situations we find ourselves in as we all are trying to stay healthy and well. I’ll admit, I had several posts in the works. Still. I always have a goal to write what I would want to read– especially as it pertains to making life a bit better. So! I decided to come up with a few ways to enjoy being at home, while we are also practicing social distancing. I started brainstorming for a few ideas.. Think of things you enjoy doing at home. What would you be doing at home this time of year? Think of things you’ve been putting off or things you hoped to get done, yet hadn’t had the right kind of time to get done before.

    img_4102Practicing this Art of being At Home..  means staying active and while it might not offer all the benefits of working out in a gym- housework definitely burns up calories! And keeping a home, adds to a good mental state, too. I think we’re all trying to stay positive. For me,  the first step has been to accept the situation and it’s helping me embrace  it. And, the best advice is to keep it simple. Is there anything more satisfying than a warm stack of towels or a fresh made bed, with newly laundered sheets.

    img_4107If you have fresh flowers or even a bundle of herbs to place bedside- it truly is the epitome of practicing home arts. The little bundle of meaning filled herbs is an easy project.

    • Magnolia and Camellia leaves represent Home here in the South.
    • Lamb’s Ears are a healing herb-  gardeners kept it growing in case of  small wounds or bee stings- wrap a wooly leaf of Stachys Byzantine around a wound, to stop the bleeding and some use lamb’s ear as a dressing to lessen the swelling and pain of bee stings.
    • Sage is a component of this tussie mussie- and we all want to be wise!
    • Oregano is a joyful herb which was thought to foster health and happiness.
    • I added rosemary to this one… ‘Rosemary for Remembrance’ and who doesn’t want a better memory or even sweet dreams?  Please note if you have allergies as I do, just replace or omit any with another one.

    Scents in the home are often associated with good feelings… here’s one- Coffee Beans! Coffee beans were used to ‘clear the olfaction’ or the sense of smell after being on overload of fragrances- sellers of perfumes often offer a pouch of coffee beans, so that a buyer can experience new fragrances. I find the aroma of coffee beans to be a mood lifter… just take a whiff of the container and you’ll see! Drinking coffee has health benefits too! img_4095

    Citrus scented cleaners, detergents, soaps- oh the list is endless- are popular for a reason! The scent of Lemons, even Oranges are known to be excellent cleaners and! You guessed it- natural mood lifters! Here’s one of my favorite ways to make an air freshener and skin treatment too!

    img_4101Save lemon and orange peels, place in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer for the best natural air freshener you can imagine! Then, cool the mixture, remove the peels and chill the remainder for a wonderful skin tightening treatment. Use regularly and I have found it lightens … ahem, age spots if you’re plagued with them! Wash the face or hands, pat dry. Dip a clean cotton pad in liquid and swipe over the skin. Pat dry again, immediately following with a moisturizer. If you really want extra benefit, instead of a moisturizing product, simply coat the skin with a good Olive Oil. Coconut oil is good too. Please note: high quality vegetable oils are absorbed quickly by the skin and leave no residue! Try this one! I know you’ll love it!

    img_4096One thing I would be doing- getting my skin in shape to get a head start on a summer glow. Epsom salts  added to a warm bath, eases tense muscles, and the salts bring moisture up to the surface of the skin, which is always a good thing! Even soaking in that old ancient beauty treatment- a milk bath is easily accomplished by added granular dry milk while the water is running.  Milk is a natural skin softener and simply washes down the drain- The salts or granular milk are both known as safe and healthy additions, they have no harsh chemicals or oils and truly can be mixed for an extra luxurious treatment. img_4089

    And here are few things that will actually help keep your immunity levels up a bit higher and also to make life feel a bit more luxurious, using items you may already have!

    Make a habit of taking a hot steamy shower. The goal is to…well, perspire. Okay, men you can sweat! Perspiring is one of the best ways to detoxify- ridding the body of toxins is a true immunity booster and improves blood flow, may lower blood pressure and for sure is a mood booster! (In fact, up the temperature in that milk/salts bath and you get the same benefit!) Remember how we sterilized almost everything? Some believe perspiring lowers the risk of infections! Fighting infections through the use of hot water to clean towels, linens, dinnerware and utensils, even clothing at high temperatures is recommended. (be careful with clothing- some fabrics have warnings against high temps for washing and drying! )

    Saline nasal mist and clear eye drops are a life saver for me during allergy season- it turns out even with washing your hands- using saline nasal mist or rinse should be on your regimen too. Clearing out the nasal passages, also clears out potential viruses before they become an infection!

    img_4093Of course, we need to be drinking lots of water, too! Perspire like that pretty glass and …Apply ice to those weary eyes, tired faces and aching hands. Well known models swear this is one of their major secrets to looking fresh and certainly gets them awake and looking good on camera- Zoom meeting anyone?

    And, if you live in the south, float a few gardenias in that bath water…okay camellias, magnolias and rose petals are good too. Our southern mothers floated blossoms on water in cut glass bowls… adding them to a bath was simply a luxurious extension! Ladies everywhere, adding a scented flower to your bath lifts the spirits and believe me, this will make it a bit easier to Stay at Home.

    Love y’all, Camellia

     

     

     

    Southern Comfort- Soups, Stews, Shrimp and Grits…

    img_3081Winter in the South is fickle, some days chilly, windy, rainy or downright warm. And while I think most southern food is comfort food- there’s nothing like something warm in a bowl to make us all feel better about the weather and the world in general. It’s like a warm hug or a welcome home, now that’s southern comfort. And, let’s face it- this sort of comfort food is a great way to feed the multitudes!

    • Shrimp and Grits
    • Fresh Tomato Soup
    • End of Summer Vegetable Soup
    • Fresh Mushroom Soup
    • Mimi’s Lemon Butter Chicken
    • Camellia’s Spicy Shrimp

    All of these and more have made us southern folks feel full and comforted. Often, it’s what’s served alongside these dishes, that’s just as delicious as the bowl of soup, stew, gumbo, dumplings or shrimp and grits! img_3082

    •  Cornbread Patties…
    •  Bighearted Cornbread…
    • Garlic Breadsticks
    • Saltines or Tiny Oyster Crackers
    • Toppings of grated cheeses, crumbled bacon, thin sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, red pepper flakes, even hot sauce img_3043

    All add that special something to a one bowl meal. Think of a Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Buffet… now, that would be a Comfort Food gathering! img_3098

    And is there anything better than Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, especially when it’s made in an iron skillet? Try Iron Skillet Sandwiches…

    img_3085A lot of these Comfort Foods we’ve already written about, yet never fear we’ll give you the links and the prettiest pictures we could come up with at the time! However, I realized a grave error; while we’ve expounded on Bighearted Grits, I’ve never actually given you the recipe for topping those hominy grits with warm and spicy shrimp! So! That’s your bonus round today! And very well one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever given to you…img_3081

    Now, we all know that every recipe has a story- Shrimp and Grits started out as an humble quick breakfast for shrimpers, then city folks and high browed chefs got in on the act! Here’s how you make the ‘shrimp part’ of Shrimp and Grits-

    Shrimp and Grits

    • Grits made according to package directions. I prefer Hominy Grits.
    • 2-3 slices bacon
    • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (any size, I like medium for this)
    • 1/2 Teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 Teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
    • Grated zest added to the juice of one large lemon
    • Grated Cheddar Cheese, if desired and I do!
    • Chopped Green Onion Tops
    • While the grits are cooking, take an iron skillet, fry bacon slices until crisp, drain. Reserve 2-3 Tablespoons of Bacon Drippings in the iron skillet. Finish making grits and keep warm until ready to serve. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and hot sauce, reserve. Sprinkle raw shrimp with a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning, toss. In hot skillet, quickly cook shrimp in a single layer on both sides until pink. Swirl in lemon juice mixture and heat through. A thin gravy will form. Spoon Shrimp over a bowl of grits and a portion of gravy. Top with crumbled bacon, grated cheese and garnish with green onion tops. Feel free to add whatever toppings you like! Tip: Old Bay Seasoning is hot! Hot Sauce is hot! Start with a small amount and adjust seasonings. You may want to omit the Old Bay Seasoning and simply sprinkle raw shrimp with salt and pepper before cooking shrimp. Serve with Bighearted Grits…

    This classic dish is quick and easy… makes 4 generous servings and may be expanded to feed a crowd!

    And… The beauty of soups and stews is they all can increased to feed a crowd or served  for more than one meal! So, here are few links to some of our favorite soups and stews! All are full of ‘good for you’ ingredients! Enjoy!

    Southern Tomato Soup…– we have several versions of tomato soup, one is a Summer Tomato Soup…img_3079

    Mimi’s Lemon Butter Chicken…– an heirloom recipe she claimed would cure anything!img_3074

    Homemade Mushroom Soup…  is loaded with fresh mushrooms, butter and fresh thyme!img_3080

    The classic version of Chicken and Dumplings… with no big ol’ thick globs of dough either, strips of dough make it perfect! And I promise I’ll make you a batch of these soon!img_3099

    Camellia’s Bighearted Spicy Shrimp is  way easier than you would believe! And, it is very similar to gumbo – which has the addition of sausage, green onions, bell peppers and tomatoes- It does start with a roux! Scary? the easiest way I’ve found to start a roux is found in Of Real Roux and Faux Beignets… Great with rice, though this gumbo can also be used alongside those Bighearted Grits! img_3083

    Southerners are known for hospitality, comfort food and knowing how to feed the multitudes! Soups, Stews even Shrimp and Grits stretch farther because small amounts of meat or seafood are combined with delicious broths, vegetables, starches and seasonings, they are all satisfying and just plain good. Here’s a bowl of End of Summer Vegetable Soup, that is basically the last pickings of tomatoes, corn, okra, bean, peas, carrots, onions and a good chicken broth and if you have a bit of chicken- add that in too! Nothing better with a pan of cornbread! img_3082

    Looks like we’re going to have a cold snap and  a bit of cold weather followed by warm spells and rain! Here’s hoping your house is filled with soups, stews, spicy shrimp and well…Southern Comfort Food!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    All photographs are obviously mine!