Monday, March 30, 2009

Let's Do the 3/50

RetailSpeaks CEO Cinda Baxter is spear-heading a campaign to help local independent retailers and the communities in which they are located. It is a grassroots campaign that is gaining speed and national attention as everyone becomes more familiar with the concept. It started as a post to Cinda's blog and an email from one of the members of the RetailSpeaks community. From there it has grown and literally exploded.
Please visit the website of The 3/50 Project and see how you can become involved also. You can catch some of the action on FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We welcome any and all to join us and help from the bottom up as the business communities across the country try to keep local doors open.
I suppose the most relevant question to be asked is this: What would you do if your favorite restaurant, shop, local bank, bar/grill/music spot,snowball stand, museum, arts market, or grocery store had to shut its door because of the economy? Would you then wonder if maybe your spending $50 a month at local shops would have helped stop the shuttering of entire sections of your city? Do the "3/50" and become involved in something that is win/win/win.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not Just Any Saturday Night

It's not much these days that can get me on the road for a Saturday night out in New Orleans. After all it IS an hour and half just to the parish line, for goodness' sake. However, this past Saturday was an exception. My friend Valorie (of Visual Vamp blog fame) was kind enough to issue an invitation to a lovely gathering in her home for cocktails. And this was just the perfect way for her to introduce us to two friends from her beloved NYC. Eddie Ross and his partner Jaithan Kochar were in town for the New Orleans Home and Garden Show, where Eddie was THE star and main interest for the entire lollapalooza.

First --- YES, Valorie's home is all that you would expect it to be and ever so much more. While we have all enjoyed her pictures, they really do it no justice. As soon as you cross the threshold you are instantly aware that exciting things happen here! And there can be no doubt that creative and fascinating people dwell here. Valorie and Alberto are two most gracious hosts and envelop you in their lovely aura as soon as you arrive.

One of the things that I have always loved about my old home town is that you almost never know what to expect when a front door opens and you enter. New Orleans has many characteristic architectural designs and you can find many examples of each in almost every neighborhood in the city. Valorie and Alberto's home has all the charm and elegance you would expect to find as well as that impish quirk that we of New Orleans like to call "our style." What this means is that each one of us is absolutely certain that any style worth it's keep is of our own doing. Translation: " I love it, it must belong here!" I know that each of you can picture what a house full of "Valorie style" would be -- and you would be correct!

We were treated to a demonstration from the Tango Queen when Valorie and Alberto showed us just why they are so well known far and wide for their dance. Made us all wonder out loud how come our dance lessons didn't do that for us. No one wanted them to stop - it was just so glamorous and so beautiful to watch and, well, just so Valorie!

So now I am sitting here remembering all the wonderful new friends I met, the excitement of having Eddie and Jaithan there with us, and the absolute delight at being a part of it. Thank you Valorie!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guest Soap

Guest soap. What exactly is a guest soap? Well, it must be a soap that a guest will use. Or maybe it is a soap that a guest has brought along with them. Or it is a "new" or "guest" soap that hasn't been in the soapdish before. Or - it is a smaller than average soap that will last just about as long as the guest's stay in the guest room. If that is the case, then sometimes the guest soap is a great big giant sized bar of utility soap. Other times, it can be a small, delicate round or bar that easily slips into a guest bath soapdish.
When selecting a particular soap to fill the need for a guest bath it is fun to let a little whimsy play into the game. Something to make that special guest smile when she sees it and uses it is a good thing to hunt. And then of course there are the stand-by choices that are the perfect size, not too much perfume or scent, a good "hand" to them, and that get the job done.

Next time you go looking for a guest soap, remember that these are some of the things that make your guest's Everyday Special!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A rose is a rose, unless it's a............

Soap Dish or a soapdish. No matter how you spell it, it's still ...

A Soapdish! What? Well, exactly. What is a soapdish anyway? We all have them hanging around somewhere. If not on our bath countertops, then at least in the "powder room" as the little ole ladies call them. Anyone in the retail sector that sells such things knows that really good ones are often few and far between. In the past, we have been known to just go digging around and picking up things that should be soap dishes even if they aren't. The only hard thing about that is convincing a customer/potential owner of said dish that, YES, you can use it for soap. Here are some bona fide, made especially to be, officially manufactured as and labelled as soapdishes examples of the real deal.

Notice the drain holes in these examples of soap dishes made in France. That is another question that often goes unanswered - should a soap dish have these holes and why? If you vote no, then you get a soapdish full of watery scum after a few handwashings. If you vote yes, then you have a puddle of scum draining onto your countertop or sink. So, I am thinking it doesn't make much matter - you have to de-scum something either way!

In our "powder rooms" and guest baths we are often inclined to use a little more whimsy than in our own where everything gets lots and lots of hard use. In the guest bath are most likely those charming little things called Guest Soaps. That opens up another entire discussion which we will revisit later. But for now, let's just assume ( I know........) that you have a few of those cute things hanging around that you need to put somewhere. A "holding box" is sometimes as critical as the actual soapdish itself. A guest needs to be able to find the soap first, then think where to put it after using it. So here are some examples of neat ways to store them so that they can also add to the decor.

If you are in any way adventurous, this is where the fun comes into play. Walk around your house and pick up the cute little things that you love that maybe have been pushed to the back of the cabinets. Things that you love that have lost all the rest of their family, have been gifts received but never found their "right" home, or things that you just want to be able to use somewhere for something. Below are some of the ways we have come up with to solve the soapdish problem when we could find nothing that had any charm or saving grace that was a real soapdish.

I am sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that you can find endless possibilities hiding on your own cabinet shelves. Go on, have some fun........after all, it's only a soapdish!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Diagnosis by Dr. Deeds

It's official. This morning Dr. Deeds made the official diagnosis : GARDEN ENVY! Yes, it has finally come to light. I have Garden Envy and it is my next door neighbor's garden that is the culprit. I have been watching for a while now and finally just gave in to the garden envy disease.

All the while I have been saying to myself that I will have a garden and that it will be the delight of my summer. But really, YOU saw my yard in a former post. Not much to be looking at right now. Next week the pool gets drained and the work begins. I will be snapping updates of that process as we go along. But the real gem is to be the re-worked flower beds around the patio and the naturalized "back 40". It was when I was ambling through the brush that I glanced through the fencing and stopped dead in my tracks.

There - right over the fence is the garden to end all garden dreams. Already it is on its way. I am hoping that tonight over a shared bottle of wine I can convince my neighbor to let me wander her yard and take some pictures to show you next week. And if not, I am not above climbing under the fence in the dead of night for a really good look!

When first I glanced throught the chain link I couldn't believe my eyes. There it was, replete with it's own stylish picket fence and bean poles and all those quaint things that gardens love to harbor. Already, she says, there are bush beans, butter beans, corn, and a host of other plantings that immediately made my eyes glaze over as they were turing green....

There are some redeeming features about my "back 40" and the pond and playhouse are two of them.
However, the old raised garden is now no more than a fond memory. The overhanging trees have five or so more years on them and now cast such overwhelming shadows that the entire thing is in dire need of sunlight.

In the meantime, I will just have to settle for gazing out over the pond to the playhouse and knowing that there - just over the fence - is the Garden Envy culprit in full bloom!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bienville Street Studio

Yesterday I had the chance to visit The Bienville Street Studio and poke around while work was going on as I watched. I have often wondered what it would be like to be a part of a working studio again. It has been a long, long time since I actually had a scheduled time and day to paint and I miss that a lot. Now I paint a bit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the back offices of the shop. It isn't a bad setup by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a lonely pursuit of a craft.
There is something magic about being in the collective whirlpool of creativity and bouncing ideas off the walls with someone else or many someones else. I could see this in action yesterday as Jennifer and one of her fellow studio residents, Betsy, worked on their current pieces. Piled all around was the evidence that good things happen here!
It was truly inspiring to see all the work stacked against the walls and hanging around the studio. It was even more inspiring to think that I could do this, too! Jennifer has done some truly beautiful things and you should definitely visit her website for a look at some examples of her work.
I think I see the beginnings of a new work - deadline is Friday, Jennifer!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Everyday Special Walk Around the Yard

Today is the kind of day that just beckons you out the door, camera in hand. I took a short spin around the yard just now snapping a few photos of the flowers that are saying "Spring" while the weathermen are saying "Not so fast!!" It seems that our yesterday's 85 won't be seen again today. Not that it's cold out there, but it certainly isn't anywhere near 80.
It's about time to start thinking about getting the patios and porches and pool ready for the sunny days ahead. First, we need to capture exactly what we see right now so we can make our plans and get on with it.
Sometime in the next few weeks work begins on the pool overhaul. It's about time as it has been 20 years since it was dug and then sadly forgotten except for the fun times and hurricane bathings of all the visiting dogs! Last summer it gave up the ghost and we have spent the last so many months trying to decide whether to turn it into a turnip patch (my suggestion) or have it refitted, refined, and made beautiful again. I lost! So now the fun begins - again. After 20 years all the equipment has been improved, discontinued, or updated. The tiles need replacing also, and while we are at it, why not just give the whole thing the once over!! So, I guess the next few weeks ( even months from what I hear) will be full of pool-talk and picture taking of progress. The result should be a working, beautiful, inviting pool finished just in time for our "beach time" each year. Who knows, maybe the backyard will win the race!

When To Stop

It will be a real achievement for me to actually quit stalling around here and just get to it. The other morning I put out the ole black easel. That should have been the first warning, right then and there. But oh no, I just went on as if I really intended to finish up that inventory count. Ha! Next thing I know a canvas magically appears and that old basket of acrylics. Now I really have a love/hate relationship with the acrylics because I have absolutely no clue what to do with them. The only things I have ever used are oils and these "other" things just make me crazy. I decided to just start mashing them around and see what happened - only problem is that it happens all too quickly. Well, duh! Isn't that what everyone loves about acrylic? I guess I'll learn to adapt and use this to my advantage.

When I paint, I end up painting at least 4 pieces on each canvas. The first one is the "idea" barely sketched in with charcoal or just a base coat of "color". That's what I did this time - just covered that canvas with a nice neutral linen hue. That looks good in itself!

Next thing is to fill in with some sort of design or representation of an object. This time, however, I just stick some "stuff" on top of the linen color. Maybe some neat paper that came in some packaging the other day. Yes, that looks pretty cool. And maybe a piece of bubble wrap just for fun. No - let's use that to put some texture into the paint! Really neat looking now. And then some more color and some squiggles here and there.

Then just let that dry and come back and do some more "stuff" - I bet it won't even look the same by the time I finish that. I at least thought to take some photos of what I did so I can see where it fell off the wagon!

I think I like what I am seeing - and this is the hard part for me everytime. Knowing when to quit is just as important as knowing what you are doing! And I always miss the stopping point it seems and end up with something even I have no clue about!

Well I did manage to just stop - walk away, and then come back later. Later............well, later I just put some varnish on it so I couldn't start messing around with it again! And now I am done.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Everyday Special

One of our very favorite places to find things that make Everyday Special is at fellow blogger Joni Webb's Cote de Texas. Just recently Joni was featured in the Southern Accent blog. This is a wonderful tribute to a most gracious friend and she certainly deserves the title "Miss Gracious Living".

Gracious Blogger: Cote de Texas - Miss Gracious Living - Southern Accent

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Where Were You Last Night?

That could be a leading question, I know, but I was really hoping that everyone will have as fantastic an answer as I do. Last night was the opening of a new exhibit at Ann Connelly Fine Art here in Baton Rouge. Ann Connelly has long been the "home" gallery for many Baton Rouge and New Orleans artists. Some of my very favorites hang there - Donna West, Amanda Talley, Karoline Schleh, Amy James and a lot of new favorites! Last night was especially gratifying because I bumped into (quite literally) Libby Johnson in whose studio I used to paint. I drive past the studio every day on the way home from the shop, and each time I promise myself that I am going to drop in and hang out. Something must be in the air right now, because I actually put the brush to the canvas myself yesterday and am here this morning at it again. And for Libby to invite me back into the studio with her groups is just such a wonderful thing. I have been smiling ever since! And trying to figure out how I can schedule it so that I can get back to one of my most favorite things that I do (or don't as the case has been for the last 3 years). There is something just so energetic about being surrounded by creativity - and my mind takes off and sometimes I fear there won't be a landing anytime soon. Last night was no exception.

So today I am finishing up one canvas and trying to work through another. When I say working through that is exactly what I mean. I have never really worked with acrylics and so everything I do is an experiment. Some are real flops and some have some hope for them. I just chuck them behind the freezer - whoops can't do that anymore since that freezer died and moved out of the laundry room! Maybe behind the armoire at the shop - no one would ever discover them there!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Where to Start??

It is easy enough to say I am going to weed this stuff out of here, but exactly where do I start this task? A look around tells me that I can jump in anywhere - just depends on what method I plan to use. Should I start with the shelves that have the most "stuff" sitting there with no rhyme or reason to their display? Or maybe using one of the good ole accounting rules would work best - first in, first out! That's what I'll do - that should work perfectly. Next step is to choose an inventory category or store department and start pulling from the shelves.

I think a good place to start is in the Bath section - lots and lots of singles in the towels and shower curtains as well as the bath rugs. This should be really fun. Time to check the Inventory Reports and see which ones qualify as "orphans" - they will be the first ones to move from the shelves into the "fantastic garage sale". Then I'll move on into the things that have been here the longest and see if any should move to the blog. It should take only a day or so, and I can have them all sitting there on the pages at the blog. It's time to do it!

If I really get moving along here this afternoon I can have some of these up and ready to go! And then I can work on getting the email ready to send out to all our customers and let them know that they can visit the "fantastic garage sale" any time and reserve their choices for pick-up at the shop. What could be easier!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Clean Up That Mess!!

Well it had to happen - time to clean out all the clutter. This morning in a fit of organizational frenzy I attempted to get a handle on this. The results may actually end up being the beginning of another exciting project as well as another fun blog. I am sitting here imagining how in the world I will ever get rid of, dispose of, relocate, move around, or sell all the things that are sitting on the shelves here at the store. I do realize that selling inventory is the actual purpose behind having a lovely shop. BUT, for a lot of us we commit the sin of falling in love with our "stuff" and therefor hoarding it on shelves rather than making it the "star" of a sale. What to do? Well, I can always begin by weeding out the real orphans that are sitting around.

How did they get to be in such a state? Napkins and placemats generally start out as "sets" of 4, 6, or 8. Then someone needs only 3 or 5 and you have some left over if you agree to "break the set" and sell to them just what they need. Now I know that some retailers NEVER do this, but we almost always do. It just seems better this way - the customers get what they need, and I get to keep some of my favorites. I know --- once again, that isn't what I am supposed to be doing. So, one of my resolutions this year is to just do it right. And in order to keep up with that, I am going to go back and get all this stuff under control so I won't want to fall back on bad habits.

I am really enjoying searching through all these wonderful things here. I think that I really got started when the dreaded "inventory count" started. You really get up close to your stuff when you have to count every single thing in sight (and some that are in hiding!). With over 5,000 single items living in this store, you can well imagine the relief I will feel when I can let go of some of them. So, I am gathering up the orphans, the pieces that manufacturers no longer produce (which makes ordering replacements or add-ons for customers impossible), things I am just plain tired of moving around and displaying, and some special pieces and putting them up for sale at so someone can rescue them. Hopefully in the quite near future you will be able to see a shop all pristine, neat, tidy, and full of new exciting displays.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Perfect Setting

If I were to serve that masterpiece of baking that I made yesterday, how would I orchestrate it so that not only the cake but the table were works of art ? Here at the store I have many truly lovely cloths and mats with which I could create any number or gorgeous, timely, sophisticated, quirky or just plain outrageous tables.
One of the first things to consider is what I am wanting this vignette to portray. I think for a cake made from scratch (yes, that is what we call it when we bake from all the first order ingredients that are not already combined, sifted, mixed, and shaken for us) I need to search for a cloth and napkins that were also made in the traditional style. What better way to go than with a Madeira piece? I love this one in particular for it natural coloration, beautiful handwork, and "used" state of being.
The cloth and matching napkins have come from an estate sale that I believe was in the highlands of North Carolina. I sometimes picture it being used in one of the grand houses, but truth be told it could just as easily have been brought down from a home "up East" for use during the summer months spent in the hills. Either way, I love it for its historical possibilities and its personal touches. A small mar here and there are only the physical evidence of someone having used it before I have. I can imagine many an afternoon tea with a table set with fine china, crystal, silver, and perhaps a cake just like this one.