Saturday, December 28, 2013

All Wrapped Up...

Ahhhh...Christmas is over...specifically Christmas in retail is over (for at least another year).  This year definitely exceeded all expectations.  Honestly, over the summer, during market, C and I began to question how long we would keep the brick and mortar part of our business.  Sure, it's surviving, but it can be a hard life at times - I threw this crazy a** number out there, that if we made xyz in December I would keep going.  We did it.  I don't know if I should laugh or cry (probably just hire an employee finally).

All our best customers visited this year and lots of new ones but I think a few thought we wrapped like this.  "This isn't a bag, sir...this is so much more than a bag."

By Christmas Eve, C and I kind of felt like this.  Especially, when this guy came to the counter to purchase a knitted hat for his expectant baby.  His nearly 9 month pregnant wife that nudged him to get it, looked on, while he complained about the price and how long would the baby actually wear it!?  It took all my strength to remind him he was not about to pass 8 to 10 pounds through his vagina.

One of the best moments though (I know, I reviewed our top five this year) but coming up from behind this gem.  For the last week or so, we had been telling every customer we will be open until Christmas Eve.  One girl, stared blankly at us for a moment and then says, "you're closing after that?  I just found you guys?!"  Um no.  So then we had to add a disclaimer "and reopening on December 27th."

So that's it (I mean not it...we're still here).  I was not able to get much online in regards to our Christmas and Winter Seasonal stock (nor an accurate inventory of what's online).  Now that it's a bit quieter, look for our remaining stock to pop up online with discounted prices! 

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Intentions

In a perfect world, I had anticipated having dozens of thoughtfully prepared handmade gifts done for family and friends completed months ago.  Also, I was sure to have the house spotless and the hallway and utility room freshly painted.  I'm in retail, so obviously that didn't happen.

Here and there, I've tried to steal away moments to keep my spirits up and enjoy the season in my own special way.  

I made these adorable cupcake ornaments from the Very Merry Advent E-book.  These were to be gifts for everyone, but I kept them for myself...gah, I'm terrible!
Enjoying my neighbors lights, sadly all they can see is my pink tree in the window.

Christmas cards were sent - a miracle!  I loved using the Cavallini Christmas Birds Set from the store.  For whatever reason they weren't big sellers and are now on sale - grab one for next year - they are just the bees knees!

Assembled a winter's bouquet of heritage camellias and mistletoe!  Right next to our harvest of Meyer lemons!
And lastly, a little Christmas shopping - well, at least the cats will be thrilled! 

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seen and Heard

This Christmas is nearly a wrap!  I'm actually so thankful - the store in Ponchatoula and online has been doing very well, but I'm ready for a break.  I know my house wants to be clean and my feet sure could use a rest...but alas, this is life in retail!

Every year for the last five Christmas seasons we hear & see the best things (well, maybe the worst...but they are the best to re-tell over a couple drinks)  So, pull up a cocktail and pray you never find yourself in retail at Christmas! 

Here are my top 5 from this season (and it's not even quite over!):
  1. barefoot and shirtless man with long matted hair staggers in looking for taper candles.
  2. "Hi, can I help you find any Christmas presents today?"..."No, I bought everything on Amazon"
  3. "You know where we should go - Cracker Barrel!"  jumps in car and peels out of parking lot.
  4. "all of these tiny beads are in this bag?"  proceeds to empty purse full of loose silica beads on floor in front of checkout counter with line of customers behind her.
  5. "Hey, look at that beautiful Nativity - your Aunt would love that!"  "Oh wait, one of the wise men is too dark."
--Lisa LeBlanc

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Downton Debut...

Last night we were able to return to Downton Abbey with thanks to our local PBS affiliate WYES New Orleans; they put on a free premiere of the first hour of Season Four.  Gah!  Included in the festivities was a lovely presentation by my friend,  Kerri of Vianne's Tea House in Mandeville.  She gave an informative talk on tea and how the English elevated it to an art form...seriously, I did not know there are right and left-handed tea cups, nor that there is a proper way to stir (12 o'clock to 6 and then clockwise).  And as a treat she brought fresh heart-shaped scones to nosh on and two brews of her custom teas!

It truly was a divine evening!  As soon as we walked into the large hall filled with what looked like to be the largest congregation of Cat Ladies, C said "these are your people," and so they were - nothing compares to watching Downton with a live audience, gasping and giggling as one.   No real spoilers other than Mrs. Patmore gets an electric mixer!  Drama ensues!!  I really like the direction all my favorite characters are going in and happily Edith seems to be coming into her own, now out of the shadow of her sisters.  I think it's going to be a wonderful season!

And if you're looking for my original Downton Cross Stitch Pattern to stitch as you work your way through the Season Four (or catching up on 1 thru 3), I've produced a few ready-made kits, plus the digital pattern is always available on Etsy or Craftsy.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Lights Out...

Friday was our absolute last big store event, our Holiday Happy Hour, before Christmas.  We've had a a "Holiday Preview," "Open House," and Black Friday/Small Business Saturday events - most were a success - all have been exhausting to plan and execute.  But, this past Friday, was to be my favorite event.  We hold a fun holiday party with wonderful treats from my friend Marie of the Comfort Farm and booze (no wonder it's my favorite event).  In conjunction, our town, Ponchatoula, "turns on the lights" in a beautiful ceremony that begins with a large tree and then trickles out on to the streets and storefronts that stay open late.  Santa even comes - it's a big deal! 

This year, there was a bit of rain in the forecast; three hours prior to the ceremony the Mayor cancelled the event with no reschedule - no tree, no choir, no santa this year!  I can't tell you how disappointed our tiny main street was - some of my fellow vendors spend weeks creating magical window displays for the annual storefront contest, other shops and restaurants booked musicians, and like my event, a few shops had catering brought in to please their customers. 

Now, I know safety is paramount and no one was advocating for people to run around in a rain storm - but, this is Louisiana.  Just like Eskimos have a number of words for snow, so do we have for rain.  From mist to gator tears, we can handle a variety of weather conditions and are generally well prepared.  Amazingly though, not a drop fell that night.  Supposedly, "weather professionals" had been consulted in the decision making; however, when I consulted mine aka the Weather Channel - we were in the clear and it appeared we would stay that way for hours into the evening.

We continued on with our event (as a few other retailers did too) and for me, we had one of the best turnouts in our five years in business and this event. What a relief!  When we finally got to close up for the night, we passed some of our favorite shops to see if they were still rocking and only 3 were open with one couple strolling on the sidewalk.  A pretty dismal site this close to Christmas when you're in retail.  Hopefully, next year's annual request for merchants to donate funds to the Christmas Lighting will begin with an apology. 

***some pictures are from the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Elf Mode

In retail, Christmas is like game on.

It's great to have the shop so busy, and for myself to be so busy that I'm working late into the night (just like my elfin friends to the north).  But honestly, it's becoming quite a blur!

I downloaded the adorable Very Merry Advent Guide from Heidi Kenney & Amanda Krueger to help me find time for myself and connect with Christmas in my own way (apart from trying my darnedest to make it happy for everyone coming thru the shop).  The concept is to create one activity a day thru Christmas based on 100's of suggestions; well, I knew I couldn't quite keep up with that with my schedule - but, I've completed a couple projects and it's been such fun.

First, you know, I had to attempt the cross stitch project - an elf!

Then, a major undertaking, decorating the house and tree.

Also, I found time to squeeze a little holiday thrifting (yes, it's on the Very Merry list!)  I scored a vintage Christmas star for 99 cents (I've been looking for one for some time now).  It didn't work but for a dollar, what the hay?!  I popped a new bulb in it and presto, it's like brand new! 

Also, not vintage, but darling just the same, this over-sized Cardinal cookie jar.  We love our Cardinal family this season at the feeder - so it's extra special!

Anywho, I highly recommend Very Merry; I saved $2 with a coupon code blogheidi  from Heidi's blog, My Paper Crane.  Give it a shot; it's not too late to get into the spirit of the season!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Friday, November 29, 2013


We're a non-traditional family and when it comes to Thanksgiving, we generally bypass it all together.  I actually think we have a Thanksgiving hex - numerous years we have spent our meals at hospital cafeterias, funeral homes, and the very last one I celebrated three years ago, I had just been diagnosed with cancer (and I had to cook a full meal).  This year we had a quiet dinner with Steak.  Yes, steak!  Literally, the prep and cooking was under 2 hours and then we tucked in for cold night and prepped for the Christmas season with our favorite movie - Elf!

I focus on being thankful every day, this year tho...I am especially thankful that C snagged us a couple tickets to the Downton Abbey Season Four premiere on December 9th!  I can't wait AND with a British Tea from my favorite tea shoppe, Vianne's!  I mean, I have to go, I am the Downton Cross Stitch Lady!

I'm also thankful for all of YOU!  This weekend thru Monday I am offering 15 % off my Etsy shop.  Use coupon code: CYBER15

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Triple the Fun

I never promote when it's time for scans at MD Anderson, but a week ago it was time for my six month review to see if my Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma had returned.  So good!  It's been a full three years since my diagnosis and I'm one of the luckiest people with it...but far from out of the woods as it is known for recurrence years out from treatment.

Every trip to Houston is a nail-biter but this season's trip was made a bit easier with three new faces to welcome us!  My BFF from grade school had triplets nearly 5 months ago!
Gosh, they were cute...all boys - two identical and one fraternal.  In addition, we stayed a bit longer to join in her 6 years old birthday party.  (We brought the entire furry family as you can tell by Pepe's furry mug - did I mention how gracious my BBF is!?)

I'm glad I was there, because it became a joint effort in the final hours to get this Harry Potter party on track, especially with three tiny guys demanding a lot of attention.  It came off beautifully and kudos to my BFF for even attempting to put on such a fun event, inviting a whole class of kindergartners to her house, and on top of it a house full of overnight guests, furry and not.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

And it Begins...

The Holiday Season that is. 
Merry Christmas Y'all Silk-Screened Towel
We've been absolutely working our tails off for nearly a month to Christmas-ify the shop.  And this weekend we've pulled out all the stops for our 5th Annual Open House - not a surface un-glittered, a nook un-decked...the place is pretty darn cheerful!  Until yesterday, I hear the dreaded "Are you getting anything else in for Christmas?" from a customer.  OH.MY.GAWD.  I nearly cried.  This happens every year, usually closer to the actual event of Christmas but never this soon (and when we have so much Christmas in stock).  And always I ask, "What are you looking for?"  followed every time by, "Oh I don't know."

Hand-painted Louisiana Oyster Shell Ornaments
So, of course, now I'm in a dead panic with our impending Open House.  What will people think, will they even attend.  Geez, I never thought (nor anyone else for that matter) that I liked to live on the edge...and then I opened a retail store.  While I've been chasing my tail, I've gotten a few things settled...we will have a number of door prizes to win throughout the day, a free gift on a $30 or more purchase, and we have an amazing cooking demo at 1pm with one of our long time vendors - Marie of the Comfort Farm.  She'll get us ready with tips and ideas for holiday meals. 

I hope it's enough to propel us into a great Holiday Season and a beginning to a momentum that will last through 2014.

And one last thing - if you can't visit the shop in person; many, many of our items are on our main website.  Now through Christmas I've green lighted free shipping on orders $65 and over - it's automatic at check out.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Juniper Breeze...

New!  I've added a few new scents to our soaps in the shop.  This, this one, Juniper Breeze is my favorite because of the memory it holds.  By itself it has a nice blend of evergreens and floral jasmine and rose; it actually was a Bath and Body Works scent, now discontinued from their retail locations and non-proprietary for soap makers like moi.

For me, the scent holds the memory of my first business trip.  Silly to say, but at the time I was in my early 20's, working for a Herman Miller dealership and was thrilled to be headed to Atlanta for training.  At the time the office was in Buckhead (it might still be) and I thought it was just the coolest place (little did I know years later I would be a retailer and headed off to market in Atlanta quite frequently - and I still love it!).  I was the only one sent from my remote office to join in with the team of what I thought were the most posh girls from the New Orleans office.  To me, at that moment it seemed they had real lives back home, workout routines, parties, dinner with balsamic vinaigrette (I had no idea what the hell that was.)   I was just a kid.  But back in my hotel room was a tiny sample of lotion and shower gel from Bath and Body Works in none other, Juniper Breeze.

I don't know why, but it made me feel special (and it really was a special time) even though I felt like everyone's baby sister.  Funny how I've come full circle and defined my adult life in new ways that have way surpassed my estimation of what a life well lived looked like so many years ago.  And I even own a bottle of Balsamic Vinaigrette.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day Trippin' - Avery Island

This weekend, for C's birthday, we and our 4 year old nephew, headed to Avery Island, home of the famed hot sauce, Tabasco!  Is it an island - yes and no.  Avery Island, located south of Lafayette, Louisiana is situated on one of the largest rock salt deposits in the State (maybe the country?) - surrounding this is lowlands and marsh, with waterways heading out to the Gulf of Mexico.  The unique subtropical nature of Avery Island made for a long growing season for the peppers and the salt deposit is still actively use in the recipe and aging process of Tabasco.
Tabasco gives a free tour continually throughout the day; I really enjoyed the vintage labels and advertisements.  Living in Louisiana all my life, Tabasco is one of those things I've taken for granted - it's just always been on every dinner table I've ever sat at through the years.  I never realized how old a product it was, nor it's global reach...when I went to France as an exchange student, I brought over a bottle of Tabasco to which the lady I stayed with promptly pulled out her own bottle purchased in France!  Quel surprise.
Adjacent to the factory is Jungle Gardens, this is the garden that the once McIlhenny Family home looked out upon and you can now tour the vast acreage.  The garden, though, mostly dormant this time of year was active with egrets, songbirds, and alligators - um range.
The Buddhist Temple really was the loveliest feature - this alligator was immediately outside of it and I was hoping he had embraced vegetarianism as I tipped-toed along.
A few camellias and sansanquas were in bloom and occasionally we would find ourselves in a large thicket of them with a carpet of petals beneath us.  I've always been told camellias don't have a scent, but there was a definite fragrance to these in full bloom - perhaps when enough are in bloom their pale scent is enough to take notice, rather than one stand alone blossom.
Lastly, within the gardens is Bird Island, a small preserve for water fowl.  Not a bird in sight; though I did see a frightened goose honk at me and then stick her beak back in the brush.  I took the hint and moved along.  We did see an inestimable about of turtles warming in the sun.
It was great to get away - even if it was only a mere 2 hours away.  We definitely feel renewed to get the holiday season rolling at the shop plus we brought back a little something to add some kick to our step:  Tabasco in new Raspberry Chipotle!  AiYee!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Edible Flowers...

I know it seems funny to be talking about flowers when Winter is on our doorstep; but that's just what we did last night at Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge.  I had been eager to visit for a while now but with my own shop - it's just been near impossible to stop and visit.  This week, however, they had an after hours talk about adding flowers to food.  And since I'm moving in a more plant-based direction, I was on board!

everything is munchable on this wall

Not only did we get to sample flower infused tea and a salad with fresh pansies - we learned to sugar flowers -- with a finale of cupcakes topped with violas!

sugaring flowers

too pretty to eat - but I did.

Probably not the healthiest way to get your greens - but trust me, no one was complaining.  I also, learned that day lilies are edible - great news because we have so many in the yard come Summer.  Also, it encouraged me to give Nasturtiums another go - mine always seem to fizzle out - even though they say full sun, I think full-on Southern sun is just too much.  C and I each received a potted viola - my first time growing these guys - so we'll see how these typical Winter plants like our humid and warm Winters down here. - they do make the daintiest additions to every dish.

Of course, before we made the journey back home, we had to snap up a few goodies.  I picked this Sweet Pecan Rub...smells amazing!  I'm sure it's going to be fantastic on steak or pork, but I want to give it a try on sweet potatoes.   C and I both picked a holiday tea - because we just won't share...Gingerbread for me and Christmas for her.

It was definitely worth the trip to Baton Rouge and I hope to return more often - hopefully ready with some new recipes!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thimble Necklaces

Every once in a while I get insomnia and it's practically the only time I want to make jewelry.  The house is quiet, dark, except for the light of my lamp and the flicker coming from my iPad - this week I found the Paradise series on the PBS app (ahhh lovely!).  In fact, you may find these totally Paradise inspired:  Thimble necklaces!

Similar to the thimble scissor fobs I did months back - these are slightly different, accessorized on quite a long chain.   I think they are the perfect Fall and Winter accessory to complement chunky sweaters and over-sized scarves.

Currently there are only two offered with Free Shipping within the continental US; though I hope to make a few more before Christmas - but I am back to sleeping peacefully again and it may take some time to convince me to open my jewelry work case again.  Find these in my accessories section on Etsy.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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