To Blog or not to Blog…

img_4683‘To blog or not to blog, that is the question.’

Over the last year, I have spoken with quite a few incredibly talented folks with hopes and dreams for making a life or a living. Without exception, I came away wishing they had a blog. Why?

My #1 reason has always been, when I find an artist, photographer, author, gardener or an amazing cook or teacher, even a seller, I want to know more about them. A blog offers me the chance to get to know you. I tend to head right to their About page. A business which includes a blog, seems more personal, trustworthy; especially if that business includes a Mission Statement. I’d like to know or see some of the folks who work there too.

2. Then, I scan a few of your posts. All businesses large or small seem more trustworthy, more solid, more stable and committed, if there is a blog. My favorite sites show Behind the Scenes. Showing your reader what you do, engages them, tells your story, makes anything more interesting and personalized. For instance, if you’re a jewelry maker, telling me the piece you made was inspired by the hollyhocks that grow outside your studio, brings me into your thinking and surroundings.

img_4682An artist who tells me what inspired a painting and a bit of your process gives me a personal experience.

A realtor who shows me unique homes, beautiful interiors or simple plans being developed – creates intrigue, increases interest. These things makes me want to linger longer on your site.img_4580

 

3. Your blog is a Virtual Brick and Mortar shop– a place where folks can enter anytime, look around at their leisure, get a feel for the place and owner. A blog gives folks reasons to be there, get to know you, trust you, your services and your products. And! Trust you enough to sign up with their email- giving you a reliable and inexpensive way to stay in touch.

Invite me into your garden, your seed and plant nursery. Let me see your bakery, your design aesthetic, or hear your music.

Now, you know I’ve got far more reasons, yet let me leave you with this- pandemic or not, virtually telling your story, showing your process and conducting business is all about creating a personalized way to engage others. I must say- since talking with all of those folks? The ones who have blogs or started blogs (especially in short form) have far outpaced those who haven’t. So, the answer to the question- To blog or not to blog…is a resounding ‘Yes!’ We will stay in touch and revisit this subject again! Hope y’all are staying safe, well and going strong.

Love y’all, Camellia

Message from Brenda: Since this post was written,  a dear friend, one of the most unique people I’ve ever known, has gone on and been received on the other side. I will miss her terribly. She didn’t have a business. Still. I wish she had shared her stories, which are many, I wish she had written her perspective on things, told her family history and the truly funny stories only she knew how to tell and make us all ‘laugh our sides off’. No doubt she has left behind stories and lessons that have never been told. Just one more reason, for any of you out there who need another reason to blog- this is it. Tell your story.

At Home…

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I’m a homebody. I do love to be at home. Of course, I’d prefer not to have to stay at home. Yet, even if I were out shopping, I’m basically a window shopper. So! During this critical time, I’ve been doing what I  naturally enjoy doing… looking at catalogs, magazines, reading books and I do love a good success story. I might be at home- yet I guess what I’ve been doing is collecting.   I started collecting success stories right after the stay at home orders.  What would folks do? The small restaurants, the home owned businesses and cute shops I count on or enjoy rambling around in? These are the hardest hit right now.  The major holidays were past- though I knew Mother’s Day always adds a boost in spending or dining out. And, what inspires me most is the ingenuity of businesses large and small, to adapt quickly, embrace the situation, make the adjustments and move forward. And you know, this has always been true, pandemic or not.

The folks who face facts, protect and respect others even when life was disrupted, they made hard decisions and knew they would take some losses, yet are using their genius to move forward.
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So, here’s a few I’ve admired and a few things I’m working toward; I hope you’ll be inspired too!  A large retailer who I’ve long admired, has added At Home features, updated to reflect what they’re doing at home now, rather than just trying to sell home products- it’s in their blog area on their website. His wife’s recipe for waffles, a peek into their home life with games and outdoor walks.  It’s being updated regularly and rather than pointing to the retail products,  they’re opening with an At Home feature in their notifications and ads, with this soft thoughtful approach.
img_4483I’d like to do something similar by giving you a link to a dessert we’re loving right now here at our home, Camellia’s Cottage! The ever popular Lemon Squares…

And, may I add, this large retailer, is doing something I love with their At Home blog- they are micro-blogging, writing short up to date, time appropriate content. We bloggers would do well to be inspired to micro blog right now!
img_4487Another large retailer, known for their classic clothing quickly added stylish face masks from the fabrics of their most popular styles. Guess what? They’ve sold out! Masks are on backorder, I predict they will have added substantially to their accessory line!

img_4194A beach hangout renowned for it’s good food and rowdy fun loving crowds- made the decision, when they were allowed to reopen- they would have tables set ‘one alligator apart’ in distance that is! They set their tables six feet apart outdoors, closed the interior  spaces and provided their employees with protective masks and gloves for food preparation. They decided the safety of their customers and employees was imperative and did it in an amusing way!  I predict they will have a good season. Other local cafes and restaurants hopefully will be able to serve in outdoor settings too!

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Retail clothing sales will be different for the foreseeable future. For years now, Alabama fashion designer, Natalie Chanin has employed folks who work from home, doing the hand applique required for so many of her designs. Those employees may not face the layoffs since Alabama Chanin was a forward looking company to begin with! (find them @alabamachanin on Instagram) They were already a slow fashion company, it’s paying off now! And p.s. they also have a blog within their website- it’s a thing, y’all For instance, a beautiful gardening product site I love has been doing this for years- it’s called @shopterrain) If you have a business website, adding a blog is vital now!

And here’s a few more ideas I’ve seen… businesses who are finding new ways to do business!, after we’re allowed to img_4475

  • The owner of a small chain of breakfast places- is serving drive thru only, yet he reconfigured the inside of his restaurants as a small grocery store- using his supply lines, he’s buying milk, bread, bacon, eggs and more. The customers are thrilled to get their breakfast to go and pick up a few grocery items while they’re at it!
  • At a local Chinese restaurant, the owners have converted one of their glass storefront windows into a takeout window, they accept phone orders only and have reconfigured to accept payment safely or by phone.
  •  A small women’s boutique in Wisconsin, has added an online business and has personally contacted their loyal customers. When my friend in Houston orders from their shop- they’re now offering free shipping and have started including a handwritten Thank You Notes! (they never go out of style) Think. Personalized Shopping Experience!
  •  Rethinking consumer habits during the time of COVID 19, a dry cleaner who was already doing pick up and delivery has been able to retain their alterationists by offering face masks at a reasonable price. I think this is brilliant!
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  •  Collaborating is becoming one of the best things to do for small businesses. A gift shop works with a garden shop, to create gift containers and baskets including live bedding plants or herbs – even small garden tools, seeds and small bags of potting soil. Even potting up windowsill gardens or indoor plants that are vital to indoor air quality are great ideas too! They’re offering free gift wrapping and curbside service and delivery options! Ditto for bakeries collaborating with florists!
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  •  A hair salon is offering products for stay at homes with facetime calls for directions for using these products. Another is making house calls. (Some states are allowing this) Still others are collaborating with small cosmetics, small boutique clothing shops or health food stores to offer personalized care. Why? How to look good on video is highly popular and much needed now! We all need all the Tools we can get!
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  • An Interior Designer shifted her focus from interiors by collaborating with a local landscapers and realtors to create Curb Appeal for her customers. Brilliant isn’t it? Using antique urns, outdoor safe containers, paint for shutters and front doors has helped all of those businesses keep going, not later- Now!
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    Some are organizing Pop Up shops, with permission and collaboration with essential businesses for a set number of hours, with safe payments and limiting handling of stock. Pop up shops would be a wonderful addition for grocers and plant nurseries or florists assuming the grocer doesn’t already carry these items!
  •  Travel and Food photographers are pitching magazines in their fields to sell photographs- buffing up a few writing skills has helped many. Even contacting stock image sites is becoming a way photographers are adding to their incomes. *Check out @greatescapetravelpublishing for all sorts of hints and tips for photographers and travel writers- don’t wait, do it now!img_4495
  • The most amazing thing I’ve seen so far is from a large printing service which is now offering face masks with a package of filter liners. I ordered masks from this company- after I ordered, they notified me that the price of the filter liners had gone down– and they refunded me the difference- now, I ask you? Who do you think I’m going to do business with? The one who refunds or the one who decides they’ll pocket that extra profit? Find them @vistaprint

Now, I told you that I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own. Here’s one or two I’m ready to share now-img_4461

One of the reasons I was motivated to write this blog in the first place, was to record my grandmother’s recipes and other southern classics. I’ve now written over 400 blog posts, many of those recipes have been shared, so! I’m thinking of using these recipe blog posts including a few humor posts to produce an Ebook! I’m checking out Kindle Direct Publishing (print on demand) since I’ve already self published a physical paperback and Ebook before.  Please know it’s a rigorous process. If I do publish an ebook, maybe I’ll help others do it too! There are lots of books and courses about creating ebooks, just know the prices for online instruction may vary widely. Just look into everything carefully!

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One recipe I’m sure to include will be Homewreckers… a recipe for the most decadent brownies you’ve ever tasted from a famous screen star!  And, I would love to combine all of the humor posts I’ve written into a book as well… I’m sure to include what was one of my earliest posts and continues to be a favorite… I warn you it’s longwinded like me- yet, it’s my Mother’s Day gift to you! If you’ve read this far, you deserve something for your trouble! I do believe businesses and blogs should offer something for your time, right now! So, that blog post? I’ve made it easy to find…You’ll find it here Our Southern Mothers…

Now. It’s Mother’s Day here in the States, yet there’s another holiday being observed here and abroad- it’s VE Day- the day Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to European Forces on May 8, 1945. I was reminded this morning in a dear friend’s post of this quote by Winston Churchill, which is perfect in these days when we’re finding out new ways to succeed at living and doing business.

‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’

Keep moving forward with all of the enthusiasm you can!

Love y’all, Camellia

*A word from Brenda

I am trying to support local businesses, I hope you are too! And, if Camellia hadn’t been so longwinded today- I would add I am also using stock photos, along with my own- and gleaning ideas wherever I can to bring them to you! That street side café is a cute example of a stock photo- yet? If you’re wondering who that beachside restaurant is- with tables ‘one alligator apart’ it’s none other than the Florabama ! find them @_florabama along with over 42.1K followers, we love them too! They also offer watersport rentals and plan to follow CDC guidelines. In other words, they’re keeping their business open because they know- it’s not about them- it’s about their customers!

* Remember- Accept the situation. Adapt quickly. Embrace this time as an opportunity. Make the adjustments. Move forward. Y’all, we can do this- stay inspired…. the photo below is one I clipped and put in a journal years- I took a pic…it inspires me to work At Home!img_4471

 

Take the Stairs…

img_4343In 2016, we were taking a tour of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the site of new beginnings, expansive ideas, critical decisions and unbounded courage with each step they took.  What sprang forth was- yes, a new nation. Still. These new ideas could bear a high cost. They were Taking the Stairs to form something new. The first steps to form a nation, were taken in this building. The Declaration of Independence was crafted on this site. A period of turbulent challenge and change followed those decisions.

img_4346Life changed, forever. Families were separated. Lives were lost. Travel became difficult. Reputations were ruined. Businesses failed. Fortunes were lost.

It wasn’t easy to take -The Steps to Form a New Way of Life. What would happen to-

  • The Cooks, the Candle and Candlestick Makers?
  • The Churches, the Bakers and Undertakers?
  • The Taverns, General Stores and Lodging Houses?
  • The Farmers, the Livestock, Dairies and Glassblowers?
  • The Carpenters, Brick Masons and Ironworking Forges?
  • Curtain, Furniture Crafters, Clock Makers, Shutter and Cabinet Makers?
  • The Millineries, Munitions, Wig, Wagon and Map Makers?

Okay. Wait a minute. You get the picture, no need to go overboard here…Folks were worried about keeping house, home and business together, right? And while I’m at it- what about that Staircase? The detail, the craftsmanship and my two favorites in the scene… Light streaming in the window and Paint Color! Amazing.

At any point of dramatic change- conflict, war or plague… the toll is incredible. We are at a pivotal moment in time. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this- Whenever, I’ve read sensible instructions to get in physical shape- there’s always been the simple advice- ‘Take the Stairs’ Instead of riding an escalator, it’s far better to take the stairs. One Step at a Time has always been sage advice.

img_4349May I tell you something, you may not believe this- yet it’s true. It’s far easier to climb the steps than to walk down a flight of stairs. Anyone, including me! who’s had knee surgery will tell you- it’s far more difficult to descend rather than ascend. The problem in times like this is our mental state, taking a downward spiral…img_4350

It’s normal to be concerned, even anxious… still.Once you’ve accepted the situation, done all you can for your safety- you do have a choice- Accept the new normal. Accept that things may never be the same. Next choice? You can either- Spend too much time wishing things were the same as before and being frustrated. Or. You can… Embrace it as a New Start and an Opportunity. img_4347

State of Mind might be the most important and best First Step. Then…Ask yourself these things-

  • What are my unique gifts and talents to offer the world, right now?
  • What would I be doing for my business, this time of year? If someone had given you a week or so to close your business, I’ll bet you would have done some spring cleaning, perhaps re-painted, had carpets and floors cleaned. Reworked the layout of your business. Do all you would normally, just do it better and smarter.
  • And, you would have made sure your base of support had the pertinent information concerning your business, while making sure that base knew you would be there for them.
  • You may never know, your call or contact could mean the world to someone, especially in your core base of support. And! they may have ideas you’ve never considered.

There are no easy solutions, to get back- your health, your life, your finances and your business. A free standing small business or side income, including a blog. After securing yourself, your family, finances and staff if you have one- What do you do? Take the stairs. It might be slower to take it one step at a time, yet this is has always been the best way to start getting in shape and to shape up your life and business.

If you have a business and are in danger of losing sales, readers, advertising? What do you do, now? First understand that technology is going to play a larger part in your life and business. It’s your way of keeping touch with your base of support– especially during times of social distancing. If you need to upgrade anything- let technology be the first step and learn the skills to use it. There are a whole lot of free and low cost courses out there! Use these resources as your own personal Library to get your mind focused.img_4348

You will need to adjust your plans from last year’s business model, yet this doesn’t have to mean major changes. Some cost little to nothing. Do those first best steps. The best advice from a retail training I took was this-

‘If you want business, find a need and fill it. If you don’t have customers, make a list of everyone you know. Support and encourage them in their current endeavors. Let them know where you are and what you have to offer. If you don’t have sales, add a free service. If you still don’t have sales or to increase the sales you have- add a low cost service. If you still don’t have sales, maybe you didn’t really find a need that needed to be filled.”

What are you doing right now to reach out to your base of support? If they are following you on any platform of social media- follow them back! Leave a nice comment every now and then. Believe me, they will pay attention to your messages, if they feel they have a personal connection to you!img_4356

  • If possible, reach out to your core supporters with a phone call or a post card. Start now, if you haven’t already, building an email list. Social Media advertising is still one of the best values out there. Be authentic and unforgettable!
  • If you currently have a website, add a blog. Write authentically, short updates of what your family is doing during this time of isolation. What you had for breakfast, a funny story about your children or pets- even show what you actually wear to work at home. Add any updates you’re making to your place of business- safety measures you plan to put in place. Behind the scenes is always a winner, just do it in good taste.
  • For awhile now, folks have been leaning into support businesses that give them a personalized shopping experience.  The businesses that are actively seeking ways to provide a service with their physical products are the ones most likely to weather this crisis. And service based businesses are finding now, that adding a product or a free service are too!
  • You may have to accept a smaller profit margin for a while, though some profit is better than no profit at all, right?
  • And while it may seem counterproductive, give. Many in times past, in serious financial difficulties found a way to ‘make sure no one who came to them hungry, left that way.’ Giving does have a way of multiplying and coming back to the giver. And, at the very least builds good will. Support local businesses, if they stay in business it helps yours!
  • New and future businesses must have a social media presence and ways to interact with their customers. I repeat– If you are a product based business, it is essential that you add as many services as possible. If you are a service based business, now might be the time to add a few products, even add how to instructions or videos.
  • Start now brainstorming ideas to make sure you have streams of income, rather than depending on just one.

This is a long post, which began with a beautiful staircase, the scene of brave folks who risked everything and still managed to forge ahead, build on what they had started and accomplish great things in less time than anyone would have imagined. They did it by taking those beautiful stairs one step at a time– each bringing the best of who they were as they began the long climb. This country was never a perfect union, they just had a hope to build a ‘more perfect’ place decade by decade, generation by generation of  determined folks – who despite the odds, the setbacks just kept coming back one step at a time.

Love y’all, Camellia

*A message from Brenda: We are keenly aware of the high unemployment numbers and are heartbroken about the economic hardships on so many. This post is essentially for small business owners and individuals who currently need ideas and encouragement to do what they can to keep their businesses going. If you are unemployed- often cottage industries have been started during times of great need and financial hardship. If you fall in this category, start small with great ideas- one step at a time. And! please don’t do anything that would interfere with the aid you are receiving in any form – governmental, grant or supplemental. Apply for it if you haven’t and take it one step at a time. Do whatever you can to take care of the basic needs of yourself and family, including staying as hopeful as you can.  Camellia and I will still be putting out lighthearted content yet- we feel the need to shift our focus to sending you serious content to help others. We welcome your suggestions too! We all hope for a safe sensible way to see the ‘Open’ sign on our favorite businesses again. Great love and prayers for you all, as we move through this unprecedented time in the history of the world. I’ll see you on the Stairs!img_4353

 

Taking Care of Your Beautiful Mind…

img_4155This image captured my imagination a while ago. At first I thought I would write about the joys of a glass room or starting seed in a greenhouse, even on a window sill. For some reason known only to the angels, those were never written yet the image remains. When all but the most essential businesses closed, this image took on a whole new meaning of – Stay at Home or even ‘A Room of My Own’ Those also would have been good subjects. (I’m winding up here to tell you something important!) I’ve realized that as this situation continues-

  • The number of emails,
  • The number of individual posts on social media increases,
  • The recorded calls increase
  • And my stress level goes up by the same measure.

I realized that taking care of, limiting what comes into my mind is essential. Now, my background is in retail and marketing, even owning my own business years ago… I know that there’s a tipping point when good information becomes an irritant – regardless of how pertinent, important or even good news is offered. Sending out too much information leads to less business rather than more. Believe me on this one thing if nothing else.

*A word to any size business, when it comes to sending emails- less is more. This applies to how much you send out. An urgent message is an exception. Let me tell you this-

  • This morning I spent about an hour unsubscribing from businesses who aren’t relative to my current situation and who are flooding my inbox too often.
  • I set filters on how often I receive emails from local businesses and my personal favorite sites. Also, business owners, your need to filter emails just went way up.
  • You need to filter and minimize emails from coming into your business email account.
  • Don’t overthink this, just do it. In fact stop thinking so much, being sidetracked and unclutter your business accounts and, therefore your clear your mind.
  • These are a few ways I’ve chosen to take care of my beautiful mind concerning email messages.

For other social media, individuals and businesses would do well to take a look at filtering the number of posts received from accounts that are putting too many posts out daily. Believe me when I tell you this- During this isolation we are all on information overload. acs_0140

  • Posting too often makes you look desperate.
  • It makes you look as if you don’t have enough to do.
  • It might even make you an irritant. And!
  • It will lead to a drop in followers. Posting less will help you retain them.

Why do we do this?  When you are in a panic to get more fans or business – you put more out there, thinking it’s the best thing to do! Right? No, don’t do it– help your friends, followers and associates by posting meaningful content less often and take care of their beautiful minds. There is no way, even a few hundred followers can absorb more than one post per day. (*Posting on stories in IG is a way to post more often- your most loyal fan base is there. And, Facebook might be a place to post more often, since it’s based on friends, family and opinion- still, I think it’s best to post less often) Of course, if you aren’t in business, don’t really care about whether you lose influence- go ahead and post to your heart’s content! Bless your heart.

*Bloggers- when you’re first starting out- you may need to post a few times a week. As you grow- it’s best to post once a week, maybe less often depending on your readers. I received a very important tip from an enthusiastic reader when I first started out- she told me – as much as she loved reading everything I wrote, that she simply couldn’t keep up with every post.  And guess what? I had a bit of a personal polling done- the majority said to post less often. This doesn’t mean your folks don’t love you, they just don’t have the time or attention span, not to mention eye strain.

In this time when we are all either working remotely from home for our regular jobs, in an essential worker category or even keeping up with family needs, you will do yourself and your readers a favor and at least think about upgrading your content with your most beautiful photos and your very best words-  then send it out less often.

img_4195And! While I’m at it- less is more when it comes to word count. Whether you post for business or pleasure, great content in fewer words is well received any time, most especially when folks are on information overload. So, if you have a business and are in danger of losing sales, readers or advertising ? What do you do?

  • Limit information.
  • Limit how often you post.
  • Set limits on how much you, the business owner, allows into your own beautiful mind.
  • Think about what your customers need.
  • Find a way to give it to them in small bites.
  • And always remember your business isn’t about you, darlin’ , it’s about them. Find out what they need and find a way to get it to them.
  • Also, don’t forget to leave a comment on sites you follow, it creates connection and community.
  • And perhaps most important for taking care of your beautiful mind…If you think of this time as an opportunity instead of a calamity- it will show up in everything you do.

And find a way, a time, a space to clear your mind often…even if it’s in a virtual dream room of your own. like mine… it’s pretty isn’t it? Find a space, a way, a time. Everyone, including your own beautiful mind will thank you for it.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

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

 

 

 

Camellia’s Chicken Casserole…

It’s a time for comfort food, for making good use of what’s in the pantry, even freezers and fridges, for limiting trips to the grocery store. You’re probably like me and keep a few things stored, just in case. One dish meals are always a boost, especially for the cook! Personally, I’ve always loved a good casserole and I think we all would do well to have a few in our repertoire.

Chicken casserole, and there are many, is good all year round, though it seems I tend make this rendition in early Spring, when there’s still a nip in the air on up through Easter and when the weather warms up. I’ll admit this casserole lends itself to substitutions, is a good one to double up- cook one right away, then freeze one just in case you need to send a meal or would love to have a ready to bake meal on hand. And, this chicken casserole is old fashioned, uses pantry staples and can be assembled quickly too!

Camellia’s Chicken Casserole

  • 2 sleeves of party crackers such as Ritz or Town House- roughly crushed
  • 1 stick of melted butter (cooled) plus more for preparing the baking dish.
  • 2 cups of fully cooked, roughly chopped or shredded chicken breasts
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (may substitute cream of chicken) low sodium if possible
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped fresh, frozen or canned asparagus- drained. Remove any woody stems.
  • 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • *May add 1/2 cup of chopped or sliced mushrooms, often shredded cheddar is added as a variation in the topping
  • Melt butter and cool. Add butter to crushed party crackers, press half of mixture in the bottom of a lightly butter 9×9 Pyrex dish. Reserve cracker mixture for topping. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients- chicken, canned soup, sour cream, asparagus, liquid and if desired mushrooms or grated cheddar. Salt and pepper mixture to taste. Mixture should be thick. Carefully pour chicken mixture on top of crushed and buttered crackers in prepared dish. Add remaining topping to finish assembling the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. This recipe may be doubled. *Feel free to substitute fresh or frozen early peas, broccoli is good also, though you may need to steam a bit first and please don’t use big chunks. For a bit of extra crunch, I have substituted sliced celery, which adds a subtle flavor. And if you don’t have cream of mushroom soup- cream of chicken or even cream of celery works too! Baked Turkey Breast is also a good substitute for the chicken.One ingredient I wouldn’t feel comfortable exchanging is the party crackers, since they have a unique and satisfying flavor that cannot be duplicated. This casserole, since it essentially uses fully cooked ingredients freezes well. Enjoy!
  • Casseroles have been the mainstay of southern Cooking for…a whole lot of years! They are a great way to stretch food to feed the masses or can be made up in batches or single servings. Give a Southern cook a ‘situation’ we can come through with a casserole. New baby, surgery, new home, sickness, dinner on the ground, holiday gatherings and sadly, even death- there’s a casserole for any and all occasions. There’s something about a casserole that fills a basic need for comfort in trying times. This one? Let’s just say- I could start at one corner and go in for a dip…come back later and even it up. Still later, heat it up… dish it up and then run a spoon around the edges. You get the picture. Waste not, want not, right? I’ll bet you have most of the ingredients without even having to go to the grocery store! Stay home. Stay well fed. Stay healthy.

    Love y’all, Camellia

    * A few tips during this pandemic: I have had good results buying larger cuts of meat – chuck roasts, turkey breasts and bulk ground beef which currently are more available. I plan meals around using leftovers or dividing these meats, preparing them ahead for meat loaves, hamburger patties; dividing a roast into two smaller roasts, stewing or roasting some of the chicken and making a stew, soup, casserole or chicken salad so that food preparations is minimized. Remember meat is protein and generally has zinc- which aids the immune system. (Be careful of serving sizes, though) And the bonus of dividing larger quantities of meat into several meals is- I don’t feel like I’m slaving in the kitchen, instead of reading, writing or doing Spring gardening or clean up! And while I’m at it- the pollen this year is unbelievable! Though, I’m so thankful to have a yard! Until next time… glad you stopped by!

    Photographs are obviously mine.

    Take Care of Yourself…

    img_3870I’m gonna talk southern to you a minute before I get carried away here… Southerners will do or say almost anything rather than say ‘goodbye’. Do I hear a sigh of relief? Not so fast there, I’m not going anywhere, I’m just trying to tell you something you might not know. A lot of us, okay, most of us, have a superstitious streak and saying goodbye is just one of those unlucky things we try to avoid. For instance, I always end these missives with ‘Love y’all’ because it seems nicer than saying – ‘That’s all she wrote.‘ Though we do say that when it’s appropriate. Many of us say at the end of conversations- ‘Take care of yourself.’ Isn’t that a nice way to say goodbye? And that’s not all, southerners say- ‘Y’all come back now’ even if we hope you won’t- at least not very soon or for very long; it’s just the nicest thing we can think of, when you’re leaving. We also prolong the actual farewell… We do it by walking you to the door, on out to the car, truck or tractor, then we stand outside waving until you’re out of sight. (Even if you live less than a mile away.)

    Southerners tend to drag out the process of letting you go… Uncle Grady, who wasn’t a big talker said, whenever anyone was leaving- (the long lost relative or his next door neighbor) Uncle Grady had this charming sing song- ‘Oh don’t go, we’ll miss you so!’ You knew it was coming…and the truth is- things just didn’t feel right when Uncle Grady wasn’t around anymore to say it. Unforgettable.

    Now, don’t get me started on funerals. Let’s just say, we have an aversion to saying… ‘he died.’ No, instead we say – ‘she passed away.‘ or ‘we lost him.’‘now that Grandmama’s gone.’ Or… ‘Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Daddy left us?.’ It’s confusing, though please don’t ask ‘where did you lose him? or why did he leave? Because- these phrases, might provoke a sinking spell or worse. The phrases are just the most delicate ways of avoiding saying the actual word- ‘Death‘. There are many, maybe hundreds of ways southerners avoid saying ‘Goodbye.’ Whether going home or to the grave… It’s just so final, you know. Okay! Since that’s settled, we’ve got this Crisis going on and we don’t want you ‘falling out on us.’

    So, it occurred to me while I was compiling this missive- that one of the kindest and sweetest ways we end conversations is to say… ‘Take care of yourself.‘  which is always important and never more important than now.

    • Take care of yourself.
    • It’s not selfish, it’s smart.
    • Keep your spirits up.
    • Find humor in everyday life, while taking precautions seriously.
    • Physical distancing doesn’t mean- you can’t be social in safe ways- technology, phone calls and more!
    • Our grandmothers and mothers believed in food as medicine. They said things like- ‘An Apple a Day, keeps the doctor away.’
    • It’s important to do whatever you can to build your Immunity.
    • These foods aren’t a cure, it’s an effort to strengthen your body against disease any time. Here’s a few of my favorites:

    Beef– Alabama is a beef producing state. Beef is high in zinc and protein! I haven’t been able to find zinc supplements in over a month! Besides, sometimes I just want a good hamburger! Ok, maybe hold the fries!

    img_3822

    I’m thoroughly enjoying Tuna, canned is fine just get the best variety you can… with this nice spring weather we’ve loved a tuna salad! Also high in zinc, protein and those all important- Omega 3’s!img_3830

    Almonds are a wonderful source of Iron, protein, a bit of A and Zinc!

    img_3829I’d have to feel like something was wrong with you if you didn’t like Sweet Potatoes! a lifelong favorite- these are high in C,E and Beta Carotene! img_3831

    Yogurt is a power source, high in protein, a bit of A and Zinc! Add berries and you’ve got your Vitamin C and more!img_3828

    Broccoli is a favorite here…Kale is also good. Both are immunity building foods! And let’s face it- green vegetables are just good for you! Broccoli is high in Iron and A- lightly steamed with lemon butter- I think it’s delicious! A bonus with any ‘good for you’ food!img_3832

    Oysters are an acquired taste! In the sea soaked coastal cities and states, most of us love our oysters any way we can get them! We love them so much- why, even driveways are paved with them! Now, that’s a lot of  Oysters! High in protein, iron and my oh my! That wrinkle fighting collagen! (which is for another day and time!)img_3838

    Red Bell Peppers and Avocadoes are wonderful sources of immunity fighters too! And of course, there’s more…img_3870

    Rather than regale you with a long and boring list, which you might not even be able to find in the grocery stores… I thought I’d first talk a little southern to you… Just remember –  these aren’t Cures! Merely, foods that will help build Immunity and it can’t hurt to add them to your diet.

    I would add one more way we talk southern to you- ‘Keep your spirits up.’ A good state of mind, has been proven for better outcomes during any crisis, especially a health crisis. And, that’s exactly why we’ve written in a lighthearted way. Do whatever it takes to keep your spirits up. Practice this new thing we’re calling Social Distancing, Wash your hands every chance you get, Stay at Home, Save Lives, Stop the Spread and of course ‘Take Care of Yourself, darlin’.’

    Love y’all, Camellia