Patina…

Patina… that magical thing that happens with age. I find it fascinating- maybe because I have a bit of patina myself. Ok, more than a bit. Still. Patina was originally a word used for a thing that happens to copper when it’s exposed to – well, life. Gradually patina came to represent objects that had been around a while, traveled through more than one experience- looked at life’s inevitable hardships and instead of becoming bitter became more beautiful and interesting- simply because it has survived and continues to thrive.

Patina holds within it, stories we may never read- through doors that have been the silent listeners to a time we’ve never known. They may not be shiny and brand new- yet, they’ve figured out how to be old, determined and useful.

One of the things I enjoy while traveling is taking photographs of architectural elements- especially those with patina like that wrought iron fence in New Orleans (oh, how I miss that old girl this year!) Patina is a good historical teacher who isn’t the least bit hysterical- especially when it comes to aging.

Now, it’s important to me that you know- I love all of you with all of your amazing talents, yet what always surprises me are those of you, who have a bit of age on them, seem more stable, less stressed, more inspired and less complicated or competitive- more willing to try new things. The ones of you who’ve realized that the last thing you want to do- is wake up and realize you didn’t do the things you were meant to do.

If possible, age should never be the limiting factor on potential. Patina is proof of timelessness- of a life fully lived. Just know, when you see patina anywhere- even the lines on a face, a bit of exposed brick, rust or peeling paint- you’re looking at proof that getting out of your comfort zones, staying strong, rising to the challenges, weathering the storms – results in something real, valuable and beautiful. Patina. Admire it. Aspire to it. Appreciate it in yourself.

Patina is a design trick used by the finest stylists. Take a tip from them. Use items with patina for your props or backgrounds. If you’re traveling, even in your own town- try to find and photograph patina. It’s beautiful and, I think you’ll find it everywhere you look.

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!

A Seasonal Shift…

Several years ago, after a storm, as if Neptune or a mermaid had tossed a treasure of sand dollars on the shore, I found these on a walk. Sand Dollars in their natural hues- earth tones, amethyst, silvery too. Natural wonders found on seashores tend to be my favorites all year round. Still. I’d rather walk the beach in early Fall. It’s true. Shells. The colors….Grays, Vanilla, Sandstone, Peach Nougat and Greens are timeless colors, yet not always associated with Fall and Winter. This year they are! Even our seafood is at it’s best from September to April- Royal Red Shrimp achieves that fabulous color when brought up to the air from the depths of the sea. Succulent Oysters- leave behind color combinations in their shells that are amazing. Use those hues often this Fall and Winter. These along with Sand, Sea, Sky, Purples, Whites and Silvers are the tints to use when planning updates to home, wardrobe, branding, photo shoots and more.

Just think- *Use the Colors of the Shore, for a seasonal shift. Bits of gray stone, sweet gum balls, Loblolly Pine needles with a pop of autumn color are inspiring. Those were seen at Bon Secour Bay during November- a classic color combo. Now, really if you want to feast your eye on Autumn Color- all of the red and orange tones are in just one bowl of Seafood Gumbo! If it looks good in a bowl? Chance are- your designs will too! Don’t be afraid to blend reds and oranges.

Tone the rich bright colors down with grays, amber, vanilla and sand- that too is a winning combo. Now, you know we must have hot peppers to season our seafood- guess what? Those shades of Red, Samba, and radiant Orange are among this year’s color palette- especially autumn on into early winter. Bring them all together in a tweed and you’ll see all of the vibrancy of Fall.

If the sea and sky are the main stars of 2020? And soft whites, pearl grays and shifting sands are the supporting cast? Well then, these vibrant hues are the resounding accent notes! You’ll find them almost everywhere- from beds of Zinnias to turning leaves…farmers markets and vegetable gardens…the colors of a new season are all around you. These are the seasonal color shifts you need right now.

Choose which ones you love and add a bit of color bring the new seasonal color to all you do. Your online presence, your product pages, your online shops will look updated and your brand will be in tune and renewed.

Love y’all,, Brenda

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!