A Map is Essential…

img_5482This old map hangs on the wall in pride of place, it’s a favorite here at the cottage.  Over 40 years old, it’s a map of our home county. A symbol of so many things, still- what I truly love is that it has the backroads, the railways, the river and streams that are so unique, right here. The towns are marked, the main roads that take you quickly from here to there and still has alternatives for ambling through the scenic routes too. It has a legend, a directional compass and pertinent information. Having a plan is one thing, having a map is quite another thing entirely, especially when times are uncertain. And, you may have to adjust the method by which you want to go, for part of the journey.

img_5481Did you know that it’s not uncommon for mapmakers who make maps for others, to have difficulty drawing a map for themselves? Good planners don’t always plan well for themselves.

And, while maps are helpful- the best mapmakers will tell you that taking the first step is the most difficult. So many choices! Still. Here’s what they look for- Landmarks, street signs, distinctive displays, prominent public buildings, lighthouses, natural streams, bridges and unusual landscape outcroppings. The main purpose of any trailblazing effort is to find a way forward and more importantly – to find your way back.

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A good starting point, for any creative venture is to ask yourself– Why did you decide to go on this journey anyway? And, if the answer is merely- to make money, it will never satisfy you or those who would do business with you. Again, I say – A Map is Essential. It’s your strategy. Some say of strategies- ‘If you can’t write it down, you don’t have a strategy.’ You need a strong plan A and a solid plan B, even the dream of a plan C.

Are you stuck, lost, looking for adventure or at a crossroad? Maybe, the road is blocked or you can’t see two feet ahead of you.  If your boat has gone adrift or run aground, you’ll be grateful for a lighthouse! And, what of road signs? This one always puzzled me- Beware of Falling Rocks. Now, what in the world are you supposed to do about a rock in the act of falling? A falling rock is like Hurricane Katrina and what this Pandemic is too. It’s those things that come out of the blue- fall out of the sky or silently, stealthily come at you when you least expect it. Fallen rocks never come marching down the road in full daylight or give much notice when they do. Right?

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That’s why your personal Map is Essential. It gives you options. The folks and businesses who do well, when trouble comes, move quickly to adapt. When fashion designers began making face masks, I applauded. When restaurants had to close- the ones who quickly adjusted to Take Out Only- may not have made as much- still going out of business wasn’t an option they considered. Others, who have adapted the best of all- had more than one stream of income.  You must create streams of income, or enhance the business you have with personalized service. After speaking with well over a dozen folks who are doing very well with their blogs and other creative businesses, here’s what I’ve found-  Bloggers and writers are adjusting their messages, some are using this time to create e-books, developing physical products they can sell, designing for others who want an online presence and even becoming course creators.

And, while a blog might be their home base, still -if they were offering workshops before- they adapted to workshops to be done remotely. If they’re designers, artists or creatives- they poured some of their time into helping parents with children at home- one is offering printable art for kids, exercises, games and more.  Others are doing podcasts, developing online classes for adults.  I’ve been taking one myself! In fact, I believe they work, because when I was first starting out, I took online courses from this platform, @wordpress every chance I had! It’s how I learned to blog and more. Other creatives have formed cooperatives and collaborations to keep their spirits up and found new outlets for their work. Some are learning to create personalized experiences with potential customers. Others are offering health and nutrition advice.  Instead of letting this pandemic be a roadblock, it is time well spent.

img_5298Some counselors are offering one on ones, even professionals who were already doing business virtually, were ready even before they saw it coming. Photographers are finding outlets with stock photo companies as a new stream of income. The printing company I use, quickly made masks and liners available, then sold out, rebooted and even sell replacement liners too. I purchased these and am very well pleased.

Others, began offering a free service to go along with their product, even if it’s waiving shipping charges. Still others who own physical businesses finally had the time to deep clean, re-paint and style their places to make them ‘magazine worthy‘ and are uploading photographs online, with a renewal of their customer bases and adding new fans regularly.

*This is worth noting, develop at least one social media outlet, now. Two might be better. When I started blogging, Facebook and Twitter were very active, basically for friends, family and opinion; now, Instagram is truly geared to inspiration and business! And… you’ll find plenty of it there. For me, it’s like taking the scenic view!img_5301

At least one course creator has a live Q&A every week, because she knows that having a personal experience is what keeps her students onboard and becoming successful themselves. *I know this is true because I’m one of her students!  I also predicted early on that delivery services and professional cleaning services will see a boom in businesses. Every surface will need to be cleaned and this is repeat business.

img_4819Those who have reliable transportation are becoming delivery services for other businesses.  And, did you know that podcasts are projected to develop into a billion dollar industry? According to AARP magazine- actor Alan Alda, at 84, even managing Parkinson’s disease, is still going strong with over 70 podcasts, if that doesn’t prove any age can do it? Nothing can.

img_5479When you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall- look carefully at that map of your business, be willing to adjust, take the scenic route- dream a little, be open to new possibilities. Who knows?  You might be the one who is a trailblazer or even teaches the ‘New Rules of the Road.’  If you resist change, it’s frustrating. If you change your outlook and adjust- you might find new ways of doing things are even better than before. A Map is essential. Remember, with a map there’s always more than one way to get where you want to go!

Love y’all, Camellia

*From Brenda: For the last few months, we have been accepting a few one on one coaching sessions from time to time, it’s been a wonderful experience!

*I am taking a course called, Instagram Makeover by Kat Coroy. It’s made a world of differnce in my feed and more! I was honored to be asked to help her with some course updates! Find her  @katcoroy and take that course! Xxx

*We also participated in a podcast at the end of 2019, honestly, this may be an option for almost anyone! look into it!

 

Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.

Gardenia Elixir …

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

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

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

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

    *All photographs are obviously mine.

    Treasures, Tools and Talents…

    img_5014Pastels, pens and pencils. Watercolors, canvas, easel and brushes. Chisels, angles or whisks. Mirrors, lens, makeup or muffin tins. Wood, stone, seeds or soil. Old roses, lace, a box of photographs. Violins, a garden stroll, vintage love letters.

    img_5021What tools do you possess? Your wisdom, your talents, your joy. Still. Tools and talents only represent potential. Unless you use your tools and talents, nothing to treasure ever happens. Blend your skills, tools and talents, even your limitations – combined with joy, the results are nothing short of miraculous.

    img_5025Let me prove it with a storyOne of the greatest storytellers of all time, as a child actually wanted, to build cardboard castles. He had scissors, paper and glue- the problem ? He was limited by his thumbs which had one joint. His physical defect enabled him to draw illustrations and to write… just not build cardboard castles. He said-

    ‘It was this that forced me to write. I longed to make things, ships, houses, engines. Many sheets of cardboard… I spoiled, only to turn from my hopeless failures in tears. I was driven to write stories instead… You can do more with a castle in a story, than the best cardboard castle that ever stood…’

    As a result of using the tools he had, the ability to write and draw, Lewis blended those with a stellar imagination. the great C.S. Lewis wrote the ever classic children’s fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Certainly far more than cardboard castles!

    img_5015Don’t fret over your limitations, do not neglect the gifts within you… it’s ultimately your treasure. What’s in your treasure chest is the sum of your personality, talents, tools and imagination.

    img_5018Approach your talents with love, awe and appreciation- for talents are your unique means of expression to the world. Something no one else can do quite like you!

    img_5031Be careful and wise as to how and when to offer your treasures. When you do, give the full measure of reverent abandon, humility and lavish joy, within your power to employ. Do not fear being fabulous. For as much as we may enjoy the shy muted approach of a sunrise, who wants a halfhearted sunset? Give us the blazing glory; the majestic marvelous magical you.

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *Quote by C.S. Lewis- from his amazing book- Surprised by Joy

    A message from Brenda

    * Several months ago, I was asked to help with some updates for an online class I was taking. The question was posed- ‘Do you ever reuse content or photographs?’ My answer was, ‘Yes. My photographs are my treasure chest. Something I dig into over and over again.’ Photographs can be edited to use an ingredient, color or focal point, then reverted to the original. I also have used a photo on a solid white background adding a quote.

    And while I rarely reuse content, I have re-blogged a favored or timely post. I have used the feature offered by WordPress, called ‘Sticky’ which enables me to use a seasonal post, a recipe, an inspirational piece to stick to the front of my blog, as the opening post. I also wrote a book published in 2013, from which I occasionally use quotes. And, often I’ll use almost all of the content of a blog post in a corresponding Instagram post. I think of reusing content and photography as an expansion of the ‘tools I’ve been given’ which are unique to me. Artists, photographers, food stylists and content creators often send a sample of their work to prospective buyers, editors of food or travel publications, as a way of generating passive income. And, it’s not uncommon at all, to take a series of stories, poems, even recipes, then compile that series into book form. Reuse of your own material is the best and most efficient use of your time.

     

    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.