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

    Gardenia Elixir …

    Just the thought of Iconic Southern Scents and my mind drifts to sweet honeysuckle, exotic jasmine, the faint lemony magnolia and deeply fragrant gardenias. To me, Gardenias are the glamor girls of southern flowers, they don’t wear out their welcome and we remember them long after they’re gone. There may be no greater mood lifter than floating a few blooms of camellias, a big magnolia or several gardenias on water in a cut glass bowl or better yet- floating on top of the warm water of a bath, which is unbelievably soothing.

    Honestly, just those thoughts can fling on me a full blown case of a Magnolia Fever. And, the cure might be as simple as a Gardenia Elixir. Southern ladies, like many other cultures tended toward using what they had to make amazing extracts for use in all manner of ways, especially when more expensive extracts weren’t readily available, much like Rose Or Orange Blossom Water. Gardenia Extract is similar to those and must be made when gardenias are in bloom. Recently my friend, Rebecca from the great state of Louisiana, posted two ways to use gardenia blooms- one is an infusion of the blooms into heavy cream for her No churn Ice Cream . Rebecca’s blog is called Why I Baked a Cake, a must read. And if you’re on Instagram- follow her making gorgeous cakes! @Whyibakedacake

    Another recipe in her post, is an infusion for steeping gardenia petals in a simple syrup- which I’ve dubbed Gardenia Elixir. Here’s how you make it:

    • Mix 1 cup pure cane sugar to one cup of water in a saucepan, heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
    • Add the petals only of 4-5 gardenias.
    • Allow to steep at least 4-5 hours (I steeped mine over night)
    • Strain flower petals. Pour into airtight containers.
    • I keep any extra elixir chilled. When used, the fragrance is amazing. And, I made several batches to offer as gifts.
  • Rebecca told me she loves Gardenia Elixir in Tea, Lemonade and her favorite is to add the elixir to Prosecco. I also love it in Limeade. I found having this unusual fragrant elixir on hand, certainly makes any occasion a very civilized event.
  • Gardenias bloom in June, the season of love. Often a suitor would give his sweetheart a corsage of gardenias. Brides have requested gardenias in their wedding bouquets, a gardenia was pinned to the pillowcase of new mother or near bedsides of infirm dowagers; and it was not uncommon for gardenias to grace blankets or wreaths of a beloved’s casket or to discover large evergreen shrubs planted in cemeteries. From the cradle to the grave, southern ladies do love their gardenias. Gardenia Elixir is just one more layer to add on the sweet gardenia’s history.
  • Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine.

    A Doctor’s Excuse…

    Today’s WordPress assignment on ‘Everyday Inspiration’ is to write a letter to anyone living or dead- my choice.  For several hours I suffered writer’s block- there are so many notes of all kinds that need to be written, right here from my desk- not the blogging kind, the real- handwritten-signed-sealed-stamped-taken to the post office kind! As often happens when I am stuck- something weird keeps running around in my head, if I can’t get away from it- I just go with it. What I need for today’s assignment is a doctor’s excuse! Then I remembered Winston Churchill’s Doctor’s Excuse- in Prohibition America circa 1932. He had been hit by a car near 5th Avenue in New York City- ‘very near squashed like a gooseberry’ as he put it.  He was taken to the hospital and bitterly complained that he needed ‘chloroform or something’… the something resulted in this note, which he carried with him… You have to love a guy who always gets what he wants…by whatever means necessary…

    churchill alcohol letter


    I don’t need the same Doctor’s Excuse Mr. Churchill apparently wanted- however I sure could use a good letter for my assignment today!



    If you would like to read more about Winston Churchill’s Doctor’s Excuse-

    Go to – Open Culture  – one of my favorite sites!

    I hope you get a good laugh or at least learn a little something fun! Then look at the edit below!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    PS- just so the Happiness Engineers won’t get upset with me- here’s my letter to all of you millions of bloggers out there- who suffer occasionally from writer’s block like I did today (my excuse is that I have cucumbers running out my ears that need to be pickled or something- and a young lady and her truck drivin’ man wanted my husband to perform a marriage ceremony for them in our living room today- but the trucker got called in on a long haul trucking job so they’re going to have to wait a few days or weeks to get married!( We have folks stopping by to get married from time to time since my husband retired) Anyway, here’s your ‘Excuse’ Letter should you find yourself in need:

    ‘Camellia’s Cottage Writer’s Block Clinic’ 

    ‘Dear Readers, Due to a severe case of Writer’s Block- (insert your name) needs an occasional jolt of real life, away from the desk and laptop. Naturally the amount of time is unspecified, however the minimum requirement will be 1-2 days of rest, rehabilitation and reading.  However, (insert your name) should be restored to normal duties very soon. Your understanding and patience is greatly appreciated.

    Signed: Camellia,

    Director of Writer’s Block Clinic.

    Tweet tweet…

    EJ Koh@thisisEJKoh 6 Jan 2014

    You study, study, study, and at the end, you are lucky enough to discover the greatest gift of education: that you know nothing at all.


    This quote- found on Twitter- inspires me. I love to study. I think education is the way out of many of life’s dilemmas. And-I love books. Recently after reading Marie Kondo’s book- ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up ‘. I was doing a fine job of clearing out clothing and shoes. I was even good with getting rid of home décor items, no longer used, no longer wanted, no longer beautiful to me. Then I was directed to clear out books and magazines.

    I have an entire wall of books floor to ceiling. Marie Kondo says to bring every book into the same room, then take every book off the shelves, put them on the floor and go through them. Touch each book to see if you feel anything- if any of the books ‘spark joy’. If they don’t? Discard. Honestly I did find some that I no longer need or want, but not many. I went back to the book and re-read her instructions. Ms. Kondo says, no one needs that many books. True. But what I had missed was this- ‘only scholars and authors’. What a relief! I am certainly not fully in either category, certainly not at the level of EJ Koh, Korean poet and translator!

    However, Ms. Kondo’s test beyond keeping or discarding is this: keep only the ones that ‘spark joy’ or that you re-read. It is amazing how many I re-read.  I am a lifelong learner. If I am interested in a subject – I study up on it . I am educated but I don’t have the degrees of an educator, unfortunately.

    Nowadays, with search engines- anyone, scholars or humble learners like me, can quickly reference any subject known to mankind. Yet with all of my reading and the joy it brings, I have come to the same conclusion as EJ Koh- The greatest gift of education is the knowledge that I know nothing at all.

    What I know for sure, is from the oft repeated phrase:

    ‘We are human beings, not human doings.’

    What we do with our lives is not even half as important as what we become.


    Love y’all, Camellia

    Product Details

    The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

    *This post is for Day 7 of Everyday Inspiration- WordPress Blogging University

    And this song speaks to the heart and soul of this post! By Alison Krauss- ‘You Say it Best, When You Say Nothing at All’…

    My Space to Write Among the Ghosts…

    “All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.”    William Faulkner

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    About a week ago, I started a new Word Press Challenge- Everyday Inspiration. Today’s challenge is entitled ‘A Space to Write’- asking me to write about where I write. When I cleared the space a bit to take a photograph, I was struck by William Faulkner’s quote-

    ‘All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.’

    I should frame it, because where I write- I have ancestors looking over me- most prominently- my very handsome great grandfather. I never knew him, he died very young. But every time I made a phone call from my grandmother’s house, Granddaddy Holmes was listening, he was hanging beside the phone, in his suit and bowtie and slickened hair.

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    His name was Charles Richmond Holmes, a very distinguished name. He doesn’t haunt me too much, but apparently his arm was cut off when he was run over by a train- he bled out and died on a wagon. They left his arm, not sure if it was the right arm or the left arm, but it was placed on his front porch for some reason. I know it sounds like a bad country music song, but my mother swears it happened. His wife, Granny Holmes suffered from attacks of Melancholia, ever afterward.  Mimi said that you could always tell when a spell of Melancholia was coming on…Granny Holmes would sit on the front porch rocking to and fro- reading her Bible out loud, the faster she rocked, the louder she read- the more melancholy she got. So I guess Charles haunted my great grandmother from time to time. I only knew her briefly, she was really ancient- but I do recall her funeral, folks seemed relieved to see her go. But she did leave me as the ‘southern great-grandchild of a ghost’.Any time my sister and I acted up, or anyone acted down or depressed, Mimi would say- ‘you’re acting just like Granny Holmes.’

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    Underneath my great grandfather is a collage of pen and ink drawings with the St. Clair County Courthouse in the middle, surrounded by some of the old homes around or near the courthouse. One is a Bed and Breakfast now and was built by a Probate Judge for his bride when he returned from the War Between the States. He had just one foot- the other one was lost in battle. (This wall seems to have an underlying theme of lost appendages.) There are many stories to be told about the homes and how this collage of drawings came into our possession, but I shall leave that for another time. Suffice it to say, my father in law was Judge of Probate for 14 years and my husband succeeded him in office, after a hotly contest primary, runoff and general election, he served for 20 years and is now retired. The two of them are in the very Courthouse immortalized in the ink drawing.

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    My father in law had notecards made from the original drawing and we continue to use them for ‘official’ thank you notes, congratulatory or sympathy cards; so that drawing haunts me, knowing how many I need to write in any given day. I also have a great longing to see that courthouse and the surrounding homes more often- but Backbone Mountain and several miles separate me from seeing it on a regular basis. We are one of the few counties in Alabama which have two courthouses, here because of that big mountain at the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. The courthouse is said to be haunted, I’m sure it is- a hanging took place there I think; that is one of the hauntings…Anyway, our courthouse has been in continuous use longer than any other in the state of Alabama. It has a long and colorful history- St.Clair County is older than the state. Ashville is the county seat; the courthouse does face south as most old southern courthouses do.

    Below the drawings, my Grandmother looks straight at me from a handmade bowl. Her expression is very intense-and it should be, since she was seriously funny.  Most southern women love talking about food. She was no exception- she was an exceptional cook. She is my Wisdom and Food Muse, I can still hear her wise, witty comments. For instance sometimes she says to me: ‘Get in that kitchen and see if you can fix something fit to eat.’ She said that, at the end of almost every conversation I ever had with her- before she hung up- ‘I need to see if I can fix us something fit to eat.’  Mimi is her younger self in the photo-she told me that she always thought she was 18 years old until she looked in the mirror. Next to the bowl with Mimi in it, there is an iron cross which always inspires but particularly on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings when I write my ‘Sunday Inspiration’ posts and was my constant companion as I wrote the four year Bible study which led to the publication of my book, ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’image

    My author’s copy sits beside my laptop. The book has many travel stories and other things that inspire me still; number one is: ‘If you can write a book- maybe you can write a blog.’

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    Off to the side are two mirrors, one is slightly below desk level- I like a sense of mystery in home design- that’s how the wall ended up before I decided to push the desk in front of it. Above that mirror is my grandmother’s mirror; it is not a mirror to look into unless you want waves and streaks distorting your image, which I don’t. Above that mirror is a silhouette of myself as a child, my hair shape hasn’t changed too much.

    The desk I write on- came from a local antique dealer but it’s been at my house so long, it has probably gotten more valuable- or not. The chair I sit in, is shared from time to time with Walter. I don’t think he particularly likes to sit in it but it is a deterrent to my writing when he wants to be brushed, watered or fed. And under the table, on the quirky wall is an empty antique printer’s drawer with tiny spaces for letters to typeset copy. Maybe it is the perfect writer’s wall, now that I think about it. That fat red notebook is stuffed with ideas and things I need to remember if my laptop expires as it is wont to do occasionally. The lamp is a thrift store find, the base turned out to be real pewter; it sheds good soft light. I sit facing East, a very pleasing direction for me, and the ghosts of this Southern girl- face West and gaze at the sunset every afternoon, I hope it keeps them calm and happy. I don’t need them rattling around too often. But I am not lonesome when I write:image

                                                            Walter, our Chief Feline Officer

    Now, if you are not snoring or passed out from boredom– I need a favor. Part of my assignment is to ask you, the reader- for writing prompts. Did you hear that?? You are supposed to inspire me! (and you do! just need a little written prompt from you!) I will record your ideas and the inspirations in that fat red notebook – then perhaps I can pass this WordPress Course I am taking. I wouldn’t want to make the Happiness Engineers unhappy.

    Seriously, post in the comment section on any media that you find this on -or go to my ‘About’ page and email me through my contact information, I’m on a time frame here- 10 days to go for this!  Your Ideas or what you most want to know about Camellia’s Cottage, as if I haven’t hung out enough family ghosts and craziness since I’ve been writing this! I also don’t want to fall victim to Great Granny Holmes’ Melancholia. I won’t send any family ghosts to haunt you, and your name will not be used unless you want me to publicize you to high heaven- And don’t ever forget this-

    I love y’all, Camellia

    *All of those less than perfect photographs were taken by me.