5 Principles of Good Design…

Why is a gate standing ajar or roses along a fence so inviting? How does a change of pillows or adding a house plant lift the mood? A clean open room or a swath of colorful flowers pleases the eye. Why are we drawn in with a touch of wonder, a bit of mystery or whimsy, just from reading words upon a page? And, what is it about the morning sunlight, a cheerful window box, open shutters, finding an unexpected sculpture, even overlooking a greening field? Emotions are stirred, inspiring the click of a camera, the swath of a paintbrush, the writing of poetry.

img_4608Whether you’re writing a novel or a blog post, making a garden plan or creating a room… producing artwork, planning an event or marketing a product or service- Good design is essential. Here are my 5 Principles of Good Design:

img_49181. Structure– This sets the boundaries, writes the outline, establishes the parameters. Structure in creative design includes entryways, walls, fences and paths.  Windows, enclosures, doors even garden gates all offer a view from beyond. Structure is  the size of a canvas or even the frame of great artwork. Good placement of structure, allows for taking advantage of natural or planned views. Outbuildings, barns, sheds, greenhouses, even porches are good examples, too. Structure is very much like the plot of a story, the layout of a room, setting the stage, doing a first draft or an initial sketch- even a basic recipe. Everything depends on the planned or existing structure.

img_48652. Light and Color. Whether muted or harsh, light is an amazing tool, that’s why we have phrases like ‘… shed light on a subject.’  Words, fabrics even paints are really absorption of light. Twilight in a garden, dark passages, shady fern glades opening onto a patio’s splashing fountain, glistening droplets cool down a sunlit space. Light highlights form. Color can be compared to a main theme, prompting a response. Color draws the eye and keeps it focused. Shades of color massed together are more pleasing than bits here and there. All good storylines have a main theme, color is way to establish theme. Keeping color consistent is important, with the occasional exception of an accent color, always best when used sparingly.  Do you enjoy reading about colorful places, delightful folks or being enlightened? Remember that phrase and you’ll do alright.img_4924

3. Focal Point– a focal point draws you in. Into the garden, into a story, into a work of art. A focal point has the effect of pausing, just as a curved path slows the pace. Focal points can be compared to deciding which type of frame best suits a painting. And, a focal point is very much like punctuation, exclamation mark or even a main character. img_4855

4. Emotion. This might be the most important principle of all. How does the design make you, your reader, your audience feel? Is it the scent, is it the shape, the shadows? Is it the sense of comfort or being home? It might even make you smile or be inspired. Never underestimate the value of mystery, curiosity, serenity, anticipation or a bit of whimsy. And always leave room for serendipity. The unexpected twist. Emotion is movement, memory and motivation. Change structure, focal point even light and color and you experience new emotions. Adding whimsy to a serious garden, home or story always brings a smile.

5.  Abundance and Restraint. There is a place for both in great design. The abundance of roses, a single flower, each has a message all its own. Generally in a garden or a home- abundance is highly desirable, a huge bowl of fruit, a flower arrangement, an overflowing bread basket, a mass of single color. Often in a painting, a marketing plan,architecture even in writing – restraint is often best. Remember, if the restrained design of a room, a work of art or a garden looks easy, it’s not.  Nature teaches us the best lessons-  dew drop says something far different than a generous spray from a watering can.

Tell me your story, don’t leave anything out. Take a photograph, set the scene, put color and emotion – use restraint or abundance to its best advantage and if it’s a recipe… well, you know I want you to do everything except scratch and sniff the spices, vanilla or lemon! Spark my imagination, let me feel the emotions.  Let the colors in your art or garden lift my spirits, thrill me with color combinations, set boundaries with a fence, gate or beautiful frame.img_4471

If you design a beautiful room, add a focal point or a pleasing outdoor view, maybe a charming window box. Literally, frame the view of your amazing work of art and it actually visually expands the experience. Give me abundance or show restraint, it’s like editing– often what you take away is more important than what you leave in.  And, hey! In the South, we like a bit of whimsy, humor and often we tilt to the morbid side of things. We put our crazy eccentric sides out there and relish being different, maybe we could use a bit of restraint. Oh me, how I do run on…

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is a larger subject than one blog post can contain. Still. I think to have these principles in place builds a framework on which your creativity can thrive.

  • Build the framework with structure. 
  • Light and color are much like adjectives or spices.
  • Add a focal point as your main character.
  • Use emotion to its best advantage, this is the active part of your design.
  • Stir in restraint and abundance and you have a winning combination.

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

 

Camellia’s Garden Party…

img_2706I’m never really sure who’s going to show up at our Garden Party here at Camellia’s Cottage…it’s such a fickle dance. Who’ll show up early or be fashionably late? Will they be effusive and bring extra guests or volunteers? Or stand around halfheartedly, even look bored. Perhaps they’ll chat like magpies or huddle together shivering and complaining. Spring is more like a house party that begins in fits and starts- gets rained out, stalls or lasts for weeks on end. img_3846

Even though I’ve gardened for years, I’m still an amateur. Though, I have tried to arrange things so that most years, everyone doesn’t show up all at once- rather more like a procession. Here in Alabama-

  • We always count on the Camellia Cotillion to kick things off early- since they always bloom when almost everything else isn’t. Camellias steal the show in late winter and very early Spring.
  • Back in those fickle February days, Flowering Quince showed up dress fit to kill, yet the Yellow Bells never rang out even once! We since found her in her brown house dress and she’s gone to the compost heap as we weep her passing.
  • The Daffodil Trumpets sounded early and to be honest, they’re almost played out; they’re exhausted really. The Tulips stayed completely out of sight, the Hyacinths barely bloomed- we suspect we’ll need to put in replacements. Those Wood Hyacinths are such nymphs! They came and went before we knew it- though we’ve always  been thankful for the sweet scent they bring. And the Snowdrops were weepy for a few weeks, though we all admit how charming they always are as guests.
  • The Judas Trees often make a poor show of themselves…they’ve shown up. Still. They’re weeping bloody tears on the driveway.
  • The roses had to be cut back severely, they shot up so high last year. And who knows if New Dawn will even stop by this year, I’ll have to remind them to send an RSVP.
  • Oh well, the Wood Violet Teas seem to be underway and underfoot! They’re sweet little things,quietly huddled in small groups for several weeks now, gathering strength and vigor, whispering among themselves. The purple hats seem to be outnumbering the more shy white ones.
  • Thankfully, the Bearded Iris showed up to chaperone, looking stiff and proper, though I must say they prefer to keep to themselves, at a safe distance and seem to multiply every year. I thought surely I could count on an array of Irises to keep things in check with their pale, piercing leafy stares. img_2712

Even though the Spring Dance started early this year, wouldn’t you know? It’s been taken over by the Azalea Ball! To be honest, the younger Azaleas are being shy about showing off- maybe it’s the influence of Iris and the Chaperones? In years past, the older Azaleas show up dressed in somber green with tiny pink polka dots- sitting and sulking on the sidelines, a few shrinking Violets at their feet. Not this year! Oh, ‘no sirree bobtail cat!’ They’re showing their bloomers this year!img_2707

I’ve decided Azaleas are subject to mood shifts- sometimes standoffish and almost rude. This year, they’re snickering and giggling like magpies- dressing in ruffled shocking pink! I’m half expecting to see’ dyed to match’ satin slippers beneath their outrageous gowns! Honestly, the mockingbirds are out in full force! I personally think they’re as shocked as I am at the Azaleas! Unpredictable. img_2708

Spring is always unpredictable, yet she’s always missed, greatly desired, wanted desperately, dearly loved and truly welcomed to the Cottage Garden Party! It must be said, usually Spring in the South is flawed- by weather, circumstances beyond our control- like when frowning Jack Frost appeared as uninvited guest who didn’t even call ahead! Why, he’s even been known to throw hailstones as big as golf balls- honestly we try to avoid him at all costs!

We try, we truly do- to schedule Spring Garden Parties…then find we have to scrap the actual outdoor human parties in favor of acting as bemused bystanders. Spring is anything but boring, like well planned parties- either the Guest of Honor doesn’t show up or an uninvited guest arrives. We lower our eyes at the overdressed Flamboyants or give the side eye to the underdressed- even the bedraggled and depressed. Now, that puts a damper on any party! Please, don’t tell- I actually prefer the Flamboyants, like this year’s Azaleas, with oversized personalities who offer our Garden Party endless amusement.img_2706

The Azalea Trails are legendary in Alabama! We celebrate the beauty and bounty of Spring with irrepressible joy! Okay. We’d like a little more notice than the nightly weather report. Honestly the Farmers’ Almanac, the Barometer and the definite twinges of the Arthritic Chips on our Shoulders are more reliable than the Weatherman.

But really, who am I to be judging the Natural World? Especially when I’m up on my High Horse sitting in a Climate Controlled Saddle? I’ve been late. I’ve been unpredictable. I’ve even been flamboyant a time or two. Okay- rarely… I’m just saying, maybe I’ve bloomed at the wrong time myself. After all, I’m a Camellia, I love me a good early Southern Spring-

  • Violets, Dogwoods,
  • Wood Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Bearded Iris,
  • Daffodils, prickly Quince and oh yes!
  • Azaleas

Especially those flamboyant old girls out there having the time of their lives! Really, y’all, those Azaleas are going crazy! Swaying and sashaying! Before we know it- those stuck up Peonies will be showing off the Ball Gowns they’ve kept secret all year long!img_3678

All of these and more…always throw a big case of Magnolia Fever on me… and I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to be thrown on that old compost pile. Thanks for stopping by our Garden Party!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously taken by me. ** Judas Trees are commonly known as Redbuds- many call these trees with tiny buds and heart shaped leaves Judas Trees- even that famous southern author- William Faulkner. I’ll let you research that yourself!

A message from Brenda- I wanted to write a bit of a lighthearted post because…It’s wonderful to have a garden, especially now in this current crisis. It’s hopeful to know that the seasons, especially Spring- can be counted on as we stay at home, waiting. And, also wonderful to be able to reach out to you virtually…sending great love to each of  you. Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Stay Hopeful. And! join me @brendawyatt_ on Instagram! We sharing posts or stories everyday! I’d love to see you there!img_2709

Some Things Never Go Out Of Style…

20877054-9485-4571-9E48-88F0E310F2ABSome things never go out of style. Pearls. A handwritten thank you note. A good white blouse. A bereavement casserole or a pound cake. A kind word.

57DDD8B5-4814-47B7-8581-B0AD79AA7981A well cut suit and a decent raincoat. A genuine compliment. Well made shoes kept in good condition. Giving someone your full attention. Looking decent when you leave the house. Table manners.

CE7D9B55-9CC0-4A59-9F6A-7FC389CEF403Good language skills, even if spoken with a slight accent might make the difference in social situations or could call into question your upbringing. My grandmother sure drove this point home! Extending common courtesies. These things never go out of style.

I saw a disturbing headline recently that questioned whether the southern tradition of good manners is alive and well. Occasionally, I have to wonder whether that headline is true.

AD7FC119-65A2-408F-A6D4-5D3D7FE00A6ARecently, a sweet southern lady remarked, in her best southern accent, ‘Folks just seem so impolite, why just yesterday someone in a nice car behind me, actually honked their horn! Impatient and aggressive if you ask me.’  She was rattled to say the least. Okay, the two of us are… of a certain age. Still. She had a point and a nostalgic conversation ensued about good manners and other things that never go out of style.

CD92A979-5A2B-42CA-AC06-BE9ACA3558E3It’s important to understand that life is always better when we have at least a few genuine lifelong friends who stand by us ’til the end! So…no matter how many beauty contests you won or how high you rise on the corporate ladder- remember that you will always need friends and you will never be queen of everything! Since this is true- be the one who is willing to shine up and straighten your friends’ reputations and crowns without letting on that her tiara had slipped in the first place!

66AB7C8C-2897-4EFA-97A2-54BDCA467411Hospitality is important to friends, family and even strangers who might stop by…always be ready to offer refreshment of some sort. Be as generous as possible- the best hosts offer abundance… it sets the guests at ease so they won’t have to worry if there will be enough. And! Be the one who offers to add to the abundance by bringing a dish or drink if you are a guest!

18F26ABE-5E14-4D94-913E-357DF6ED18ADLearn and follow the basic rules of polite social engagements. Find out ahead of time what the occasion entails and the dress code. Always take a hostess gift, offer to help with set-up or clean up, leave at a reasonable time and don’t be the guest who wears out your welcome, then- for heaven’s sake – remember to write some sort of complimentary thank you note!

 

 

Come down off your high horse. While you value your opinions- others have their own perspectives which may differ. Show respect. Avoid discussions that could get heated. Is whatever you think, worth expressing, if it means losing important friends and relationships?53D8E6A0-6B0B-4AAA-AA65-7B34C0525218

And while I’m at it- limit gossip, I’m not sure it can ever be eradicated…just know when talk has gone over the edge from idle gossip to just plain meanness. No amount of saying, ‘Bless his heart.’ ‘We need to pray for her.’ Or passing unfair judgement ever made anyone look better! If you look back on your life…you might find that we are all just one bad decision away from being in the same dilemma- we’ve taken so much pleasure in passing along!706E302B-54B3-446B-ADDF-513ACF10DC2B

Thank you for letting me preach a little here…This judgement of others would include religious beliefs that folks hold dear. My own faith is important to me- yet that doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life’s dilemmas.450D5F7F-CA36-4871-A080-8B886E1F8C85

I recently read that a certain eastern religion believes in Smile Energy- I don’t know all of the particulars…yet I do know this- life just feels better and lighter when I smile than when I frown! Speaking of making a face… please don’t! Would you rather be known for your smile or your sour attitude? F1591DBC-BE6B-4B88-9BF6-3EC2C4B96B4E

If you belong to an organization, participate! Be the one who offers encouragement but is also willing to gather the kindling, bring the marshmallows and light the campfire! Let the leader lead, be teachable, become part of the sisterhood or brotherhood.

 

 

I speak from experience on this- find a group you can support wholeheartedly and the quality of your life will improve in direct proportion to your enthusiasm.  And, while I’ve been talking about things that never go out of style… offering support to others might be the one thing that never goes out of style! Support is best expressed by one of my favorite authors…

‘Support is a hand held when you’ve failed, a smile in the morning when you leave to face the world, a laugh shared till your sides ache and tears flow down your cheeks.’ By Mary Alice Monroe from ‘Second Star to the Right’

A ‘hand held’ when the day hasn’t gone so well or you need support…or even as a sign of affection- costs nothing but could mean everything!

82D70BF6-F81E-4077-B124-50C3673CC7EFThough darlin’- our southern mothers would add- ‘Limit those public shows of affection to hand holdin’ or a peck on the cheek, unless folks get the wrong idea about you, then, question your upbringing!’ Our southern mothers’ advice is another thing that never goes out of style! Oh me, how I do run on!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are from my private collection with the exception of the ‘friends’, the hospitality queens with the turkeys and the ‘ugly face’ which were found via Pinterest so long ago I haven’t been able to run down the source- if they belong to you please let me know so I can credit you properly! Thank you. * The photos I chose for this post were chosen for subject matter only. They are fine beautifully mannered folks!

 

3 Natural Fall Wreaths…

49A3F03F-BE30-4796-8C1E-933AEF3BB261Here at the Cottage, I don’t change out front door wreaths for every season or holiday; however: in the fall when the ferns are shriveled up from the heat, the chrysanthemums sit and sulk and refuse to bloom and… let’s face it, it’s still hot and flowering pants in the border are beginning to wane… so! a wreath seems to be a good way to freshen up the front door as we transition from summer to fall. And let’s face it- when the garden starts to look tired, and it’s hot and dusty; shining up the front door for a bit of curb appeal, even perking up the screen porch makes things feel like fall even if it’s still hot as the hinges on devil’s back door!

5FF5A447-644E-4BFB-8196-1109CCDF5427Then, there’s this- I think it’s fun to forage for blooms, vines and quirky things. I wind them up into a pretty wreath (see those pretty things above!).  Now…. Fresh and dried materials won’t hold up forever, so… It’s better to enjoy the wreaths for a season, then put all except the base material in the compost pile.

Here’s another thing to think about, sometimes a fresh wreath is for a special event or party and isn’t expected to be everlasting, in fact it’s beauty is for the occasion like a flower arrangement.  *Please note I didn’t mention a wedding wreath because let’s face it, in the South- football season and hurricane season aren’t considered optimal times for a wedding, which is a shame since there’s such a bevy of beautiful blooms! If a couple does decide to tie the knot in fall- they check the football schedule or offer a room where the game can be watched, they ask the officiant which his favorite team is and! The couple should have alternate evacuation routes  in place if a tornado or hurricane interferes with the festivities! And don’t get me started on booking a honeymoon during storm season! Well…I’ve gotten off on a tangent… Here’s two wreaths we’ve made this Fall and one I’ve kept from year to year. They are 3 of my favorite natural fall wreaths!

All three are done on a form. I generally on a wire frame, a straw form or a grapevine wreath. D26F917D-763D-4884-A430-0EFC92310ABA

One was a purchased form and the other two are on a ‘native’ grapevine called muscadines- which grow wild here and we also have cultivated muscadines which we grow… both vine types make excellent wreaths on their own with lots of tendrils and even little clusters of dried muscadines; these and nothing more make a wonderful free form wreath. Just start winding it up and leave on the curlyques!  Please don’t worry about perfection, the charm of a natural wreath is the imperfections!

7EACE68D-90C1-4233-AAA1-004D5D4E49B1One wreath is made simply of Annabelle hydrangeas which usually dry to a pale green, then tinged with pink or if picked early will dry to a delicate pale cream.  Here’s a close up of how mine dried this year- though sometimes they turn a light tan sort of like a paper bag!

DDF96A28-B85F-49AB-99E1-43D5D5D35AFBThe mixed hydrangea wreath at the top and below is a foraged wreath with vines, wild flowers, fading roses and ferns. The first round of foraged flowers were too droopy by the time I made this wreath- so I just went out and snipped a few more things! Use your imagination and what you can find!

E2E3230B-60BC-4310-8D43-99981B673E23This foraged wreath is one of my favorites- yet I don’t expect it to be an everlasting one. I would mention, the fresh additions like the ferns generally don’t dry well- yet they could be refreshed and replaced. Feel free to remove anything past it’s prime and replace with some new things! And now for the natural fall wreath I’ve kept- drumroll please…

7D109C83-00DD-4892-8580-29C7B38D7318The other wreath is made of Alabama grown Cotton- this is the one I’ve kept from season to season- it’s very special to me. The cotton was grown at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the George Washington Carver garden, planted to honor this famous Alabamian whose work to enrich the soil with primarily peanuts, in depleted cotton fields through crop rotation. His research and work is legendary. This particular cotton was being pulled up at the botanical garden in the fall, so I asked the head gardener, who was about to discard the cotton stems and bolls-

‘Could I have some of that Cotton?

He graciously gave all of it to me! I wouldn’t take anything for this special wreath! Cotton is still a cash crop here and is occasionally grown for the floral trade and I hope this practice will continue! Even with it’s sad history, there may be nothing prettier than a field of cotton pushing up out of the red clay soil of Alabama is a sight to see!EB9CB100-2FA2-4A50-A4F7-6E6DA4D7F779

Please don’t let perfectionism get in your way! Just get started…with a walk in the woods, around your neighborhood and even your own garden! Pick way more than you think you’ll need! I keep stuffing material in as tight as I can around the wreath form, then occasionally secure with cotton butcher’s twine or fine floral wire! The main thing to remember, is that the more wreaths you make the easier it gets! Here’s to a great Autumn made fun and beautiful with Natural Fall Wreaths!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine!

4 Tips for planning a Short Vacation…

3AC94B00-68DB-497D-95FE-D1EF438F96D7We’ve been planning and taking good trips for over two decades now…. Okay, I’m enough of an old dowager to admit that I would love to pack a heavy steamer trunk when we go anywhere; loading it up with everything that I could possibly need… I’m getting better about traveling lighter- yet the best short vacations consist of 4 tips for what I call a  LITE vacation.  Almost as light as these almond meringues at Croissant L’ Or in New Orleans! No, really…It’s really a formula –

  1. L – for Location, location, location!
  2. I  – for Inspiration and Interests.
  3. T –  for taking Tours
  4. E –  for Entertainment and Eating!

When I use this formula of a mere 4 tips, we’ve come back from a fabulous trip! Now, most southerners love a relaxing beach trip and here, we generally don’t consider our life complete unless we’ve gone to the Alabama Beaches at least once a year! Then again, lots of us head for the hills when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. These two types of trips aren’t the sort of trips I’m talking about! And, of course you can book a cruise or an all inclusive vacation. Still. I’m talking city travel, because y’all know we do love the bright lights of New York City, the Golden Gate of San Francisco and has anyone ever turned down a trip to New Orleans? I don’t think so! We just got back from a 5 day 4 night trip to the Big Easy… and if I do say so myself…it was a perfect example of traveling LITE!AC60639D-DD65-46E7-9C1A-A708C5968BF7

Here’s what I’m talking about!

Location! It really doesn’t pay to try to find the cheapest place to stay – If it’s way out on the outskirts of town,  you’ll spend most of your time figuring out how to get to and fro and waste valuable time doing it! If you rent a car, pay for parking or use other means of transportation- by the time you pay the fares, you probably haven’t saved too much!  When we go to New York, I try to book a hotel near the Rockefeller Center or Times Square. San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel puts us at the crossroads of the cable cars going in both directions. In New Orleans…drumroll- the big name hotels aren’t as centrally located as the Boutique Hotels! Those quirky small places will save so many steps, it’s crazy to stay anywhere else! Here are the Cornstalk Hotel and Hotel Royal:

Inspiration and Interests Never underestimate these two things when traveling! Better than any trinket or souvenir you can bring home! Buy small, lightweight items only, if you can’t resist- any heavy items should be shipped and many times the shopkeeper or your hotel will make arrangements for you! I personally love to bring home something specific to an area, like a box of pralines or these wonderful masks! 39778971-34ED-4F56-8E45-C0A530BA57AC

Or… dried herbs, spices and specialty blends, sea salt or pink peppercorns. Even a piece of jewelry or a small work of art. 3A6720FA-8B77-4E27-A83C-7D1F7D19765F86D42B22-6A79-4C96-AC84-7159DEE25C63

The best thing of all is to bring back photos taken with your phone! Take lots, yet always ask permission and- if photos are forbidden- postcards or tourist maps will have landmark photos and are easy to save for future reference. Let’s face it- who wants to lug around some huge package or take the time to go back to the hotel to drop off something you may regret buying later….okay, I passed up the masks and jewelry though I do wish I had bought a small piece of art!! The art in New Orleans is wonderful!

Tours Don’t turn your nose up at the hop on hop off tours…if you’re short on time or energy, this is the best way to see a city! I try to plan for this, especially if we haven’t visited the city before or if the weather isn’t going to be ideal. *Tip: Ride one full round to get a feel of the city, then with your tourist map- mark places that you’d like to come back to and explore on foot!

Next on my list of tours has to be specialty tours… for instance in New Orleans- there’s an historic walking tour called the Cocktail Walking Tour. The photos above at the Old Absinthe House on Pirate’s Alley by St. Louis Cathedral seem to be a very popular stop on the Cocktail Walking Tour. Since New Orleans claims to have invented the cocktail, even a teetotaler like me enjoys this one! Now, keep in mind this isn’t a pub crawl! You are given the historic significance of the location, the cocktail invented there and if you do decide to imbibe or share a drink with a few of the other tourists you may do so! I love Antoine’s, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monte Leon- and at the quiet end of Bourbon Street is Jean La Fitte’s Blacksmith Shop where the fruit juice based – Hurricane is said to have been invented.  Most cities offer culinary, history and carriage tours! These tours always seem to be taken in small groups with a knowledgeable guide and lots of fun too! A must have on my LITE formula is always Tours!9F44BD58-3914-4742-817B-39788475E0D4

Entertainment and Eating! One of my favorite parts of travelling LITE! We generally plan one or two main entertainment options- a Broadway Play, a Museum or specialty tour… perhaps to the Wine Country from San Francisco! Then we plan one or two upscale dining experiences- *Tip- to save money, go early- either at lunchtime or close to Happy Hour when there are usually  specials or less expensive entrees. We enjoyed eating Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters with it’s canopy of wisteria that’s over 100 years old!91A547D4-45D1-4C1C-BEE8-A7A606B6141A

And the first thing we did- was go to Drago’s for their famous chargrilled oysters! Amazing!

We also choose a food truck or a food cart meal and don’t forget that some delis or grocers have food to go…one of my favorite things is to go to Central Grocery in New Orleans and share a Muffaletta! These folks ought to know how to make them- they invented them! And I do love a food cart with hot dogs, there’s a place in Sausalito making hamburgers on a revolving grill who take orders through the window! Art museums often have small dining areas and the food is generally very good- the Metropolitan Art Museum in NYC comes to mind!  We’ve saved money on meals by eating brunch and an early supper instead of trying to eat three meals a day! Let’s face it… not only will it save money, the lure of a praline or a beignet- that big pretzel, or your favorite French pastry won’t seem like such a diet buster if you’ve only eaten two meals a day!

Now, in addition to these 4 tips- I have to add … Free and low cost things to do on almost any trip! The two of us bought a day pass for a total of $3 and rode the street car to the City Park and Museum, the trip and grounds were worth this! Yet, that wasn’t all, the trolley also goes the other direction down to the beautiful Garden District where large homes and quaint restaurants are charming and there’s even a big old mansion which holds an upscale grocery store! It’s fun to talk to other riders, often they will point out areas of interest! And the Garden District Streetcars, like those in San Francisco are moving national historic landmarks! Who could ever forget the Streetcar named Desire?AC60639D-DD65-46E7-9C1A-A708C5968BF7

And, that one day pass was good on any type of public transportation! I do try to find at least one self guided walking tour- this time from the New Orleans Visitor Center- ask for one! It’s Free! There are also numerous art gallery openings, street musicians, and always incredibly interesting religious sites, public parks, specialty art or handmade shops- the cigar factory has experts, the cathedral is gorgeous, the mask makers are incredible too!

And don’t forget! The free samples of local specialty food! Pralines are never safe around me! Walk around New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah and more…you’re sure to enjoy peeking into the public and private gardens most with very historic backgrounds!1507D461-5D64-420B-8412-A2470DE3BA92

You would be amazed how much you are able to learn about a city sitting near a River Park watching big tankers or walking across a famous bridge, taking public transportation ferries or looking at the old and beautiful government buildings! * Hint- often very good local food is close to public buildings – it’s where locals eat! Always get district maps as you walk around a big city! I’m a huge fan of historic parks and architectural elements, it doesn’t cost a cent to gaze upon, take a photograph and there’s plenty of it to amuse me in New Orleans!

So there you have it! 4 Ways to travel LITE! And don’t forget to check out the free or low cost bits of fun! If you truly want to save money or avoid the crowds…travel on the edges of the off season- late spring, early fall are typical. Now, don’t forget, if you’re longing to head South? We’ve basically got two seasons you’ll want to work around… Football Season and Hurricane Season! Have fun and plan those trips the LITE way!

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is not a compensated post!! All photographs are obviously mine! Now, really don’t you love that photo of the trumpet player? yes, I do too- it’s my new favorite thing to do- apply filters! Here he is again- just for fun! 9F44BD58-3914-4742-817B-39788475E0D4

The Glory Bower…

22B6237F-FFBE-463B-8F4A-1D051176A07FJust when the heat of summer slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangeas blossoms look like tight pincurls, and roses sit and sulk- fed up with the humidity; the porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water, even the impatiens lay down their heads and weep… that’s when the Glory Bower Trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat Bumblebees stir slowly around like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory Bower. Her ladies in waiting, the crepe myrtles, have on raspberry or shocking pink corsages. When every other flowering thing closes up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with a faint honeysuckle fragrance. Glory Bower is the real southern belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bowers put down deep roots- they’re my sweet homebodies, staying close to my windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the miracle unfolds.7E302FAB-3BE8-4229-9FF8-189F4DB356BF

If you ever find yourself wondering if Mother Nature stills performs miracles, just look to the Glory Bower- which blooms as fresh as spring, cool as a cucumber, sweet as honeysuckle in the scorching heat of summer. Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of gardenias, magnolias and honeysuckle and if you’re really blessed a faint whisper of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds circling around a Glory Bower and who knows? Maybe an evening’s worth of a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. This post in a very edited form was first published as ‘Glorious July Miracles…’ right here on Camellia’s Cottage in July of 2016, photographs for this version have been edited as well and new ones added from this year’s Glory Bower. The proper name for Glory Bower is Clerodendrum, which we pronounce ‘Clair O Dendrum’. Since I live in St. Clair County, it seems to me… as much as I love this precious tree that it should be the official tree of my home county! The lacy blooms which attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees in the heat of summer… fruits in the fall as a dark blueberry seed surrounded by magenta petals literally cover the Glory Bower then provides much needed food for the birds during our hot dry late summer and early fall. My original tree was rooted and given to me by an old gardener and I wouldn’t take anything for the ones who have sprouted around the cottage.

2E54E24D-A800-45F0-AD06-31F7BF2B987D

Camellia’s Southern Lemonade…

499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0FLemonade was so common in the South that finding a recipe for it is almost impossible! We just knew how to make it- and when we did …it was usually for a picnic or a special occasion. Believe it or not even Orangeade was first made from real oranges. And then…it was mass produced. Local milkmen delivered small glass bottled orangeade and lemonade with a paper tab, that children drank at school and vacation Bible School alongside cookies which I still recall as a delicious combination! Only a few years later, mass produced lemonade and orangeade in wax paper cartons large and small were available.  With the space age came mass produced citrus drinks and powdered versions of fruit flavored  drinks like Tang or Koolaid; we loved those drinks too… anything to quench thirst in hot humid climates. Still. There’s nothing really to compare with homemade southern lemonade.

AD871F7F-F103-4839-AB18-019C22FD3E5FThese days, I find myself craving the real thing, real southern lemonade- I’ve conjured it up from memory and honestly, it’s worth the effort- and really? There’s very little effort to it, and believe me a pitcher of homemade lemonade will make anyday feel like a special occasion! Here’s how you make Camellia’s Southern Lemonade:

  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed Lemon juice (approximately 4-6 medium size lemons)
  • 4 cups chilled water
  • Ice.
  • Mint leaves, lemon and lime slices for garnish are optional. Also optional- add a few maraschino cherries and a tablespoon of cherry liquid to make Pink Lemonade.

In a small saucepan, combine lemon zest, sugar and 1 cup of water. On low heat bring to a simmer until sugar has completely dissolved, to make a lemon flavored sugar syrup. Strain and chill. In a pitcher, thoroughly combine 1 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of chilled water. Add chilled lemon sugar syrup, again, until thoroughly combined. Add plenty of ice and garnish as desired.499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0F

Now y’all, the sugar syrup is easy to make- you can keep it in a glass jar with a tight lid in your refrigerator for at least a week, maybe longer…Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! Here’s hoping your summer is the best ever with lots of Real Southern Lemonade alongside a few nostalgic cookies!

Love yall, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. * Koolaid and Tang are registered trademarks. *And, here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming Instagram image and short story- if you get a chance check out our feed there too! We’re having lots of fun!616FFD83-4940-47F3-A4C2-3A9A87ACAC0D

3 Lessons of Spring…

We’ve posted 3 Lessons of Spring and one strong suggestion on Instagram in the last few days. I thought you might enjoy them too!

This rather humorous photograph of a planter we have here at the cottage, was about to be planted with a few bedding plants… I decided to snap a photo of her first! She’s inspiring don’t you think?

B21EFFCA-536B-4BAF-A5F1-DC5ED4E7390C ‘The mind is a wonderful thing! It’s where creative ideas begin, where we learn, where emotions form and where we make decisions. Deciding to use ideas, knowledge and emotions for good is the highest form of humanity.’


30C47988-A6F4-40E4-A463-38FEDA229E84Eggs might be the ultimate food form of Potential. This photograph inspired us. ‘Potential, that’s one of the wonderful emotions I feel in Spring… nothing says it better than a basket full of eggs by my front door. Little Johnny Jump Ups aren’t really Spring flowers here, but they seem to rejuvenate themselves right now- and they have the potential to re-seed. now, that’s a lesson too! I hope your Spring brings you an awareness of potential all around you…not to mention the marvelous potential you hold within!’


These bearded irises were passed along to me by my grandmother many years ago- the deep purple is amazing and thrills me every year! This was shared with a lesson I think of every year!

A8A57D14-8713-4E66-BCE4-FDBC60D796B2 ‘Bearded Irises are standing tall in all of their glory…what a lesson they are! Standing up, not afraid to show the world who they are and own their unique beauty. And! Despite an unfortunate name, bearded irises welcome the day with gladness!’


Those 3 Lessons of Spring speak volumes without saying a word…

  • Deciding to use our minds for good, like the planter, it looks like a brilliant idea is sprouting.
  • To see potential in our world and within ourselves…whether it’s at the end of life’s cycle or like an egg- at the beginning!
  • To stand tall, like the regal Iris, despite an unusual name and short bloom time is a lesson to us all… to seize the time we have, bloom where we’re planted and in our own unique way.

Now, here’s a strong suggestion…it’s Time to Spring Clean… we can get sidetracked and buy things we don’t need! So, here it is! Shades of Blue…DDFFEC62-7066-49D5-8847-862AF386BB87

‘Shades of Blue… natural dyes, indigo, prints and stripes, chambray, madras, Oxford cloth and denim. Blue is beautiful year round, especially in Spring and Summer! I’m Shopping My Closet first- then checking the choices with my favorite catalogs- for updates this season!’ It’s a spring closet clean out and a money saver too!

I love Spring…pollen and all..lt inspires me with its beauty and lessons all around! What will you do this Spring? I’d love to hear! I’ll be back soon with good tips, good thoughts and yes, good food!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Follow @brendawyatt_ on Instagram for more tips and ideas! I’ve found new friends and seen the astounding things so many are doing! Happy Spring, yall!