Friday, February 28, 2014

Six Years and Counting...

Tomorrow mark's the amazing 6th year anniversary of opening our shop, Nest Interiors in Ponchatoula, LA.  Actually, we opened on Leap Day, 2/29/08 (how appropriate), so if you're into technicalities - we're 1-1/2 years old.
We bought the building in 2007, with the eventual intention to take over the large retail space below - it was a hip hop clothing store.  The ladies that had ran it for a couple years - were a hot mess.  When we asked for a one year lease, they up and moved out within 30 days.  Guess what?  Now I get to become a retailer.
late 2007
Check this space out - we ripped out very old carpet, added a fresh coat of paint to the ceiling and walls -- repainted the walls because the original color was neon yellow.  We kept the existing cash wrap and half wall between the two columns (those two columns sold me on the entire building - for real).
early 2008
our first advertisement in 2008

Things were going great in 2008, business was good, everyone in town loved us...but there were rumblings about the economy elsewhere.  One rep at the Atlanta Market, I'll never forget this, told us we were absolutely nuts to open up now.  Things were ok, we lived in the Katrina bubble - lots of money was flowing into the State and many New Orleans people relocated to our area.  But you know how it goes with hurricanes, right?
September 2, 2008
A lesser known hurricane hit us pretty significantly in late 2008.  We were one of two buildings that completely lost their roof.  The other building, housing one of the best antique stores in town, never reopened and was later demolished.  It took us 10 days to reopen.  The store was fine, but the upstairs apartments were wrecked.  We were totally swindled on the new roof; I completely lost my entire savings which was to fund the store until 2014 (no joke).  We had insurance, but thanks to Katrina - it didn't cover diddly squat.
November 1, 2008
late 2008
Time to persevere, no longer a pipe dream...we needed the store to succeed.  Lots of hard work and frankly - credit cards kept us going through 2009.
Me working on my birthday in a snowstorm - February 2010
Things did start to change in 2010, the recession was on like Donkey Kong.  In April of that year, the BP Oil spill occurred - guess where many oil workers live - yep, our town.  And the cherry on top, I had been feeling bad for a while - in November 2010, I was diagnosed with cancer.  That guy at our first market may have been on to something.
2010 - about 2 months before my diagnosis
We were trying to be creative.  It was getting really hard to stock the shelves; there was literally no more money.  And one of our apartments had remained vacant for 9 months.  I started doing everything - making items, selling online, selling wholesale, giving classes.  We had so little inventory, I set up this "classroom" in the middle of the store.  It looked like shit - one of my customers told me too.

2011 was just a blur.  I was gone most of January thru April - between surgery and radiation.  Then when I returned, I couldn't work full time; so, the shop had unusual hours and everyone in town seemed annoyed and confused.  I was too - and I knew what was going on.
Something happened in 2012, my internet sales took off and a little show about a castle called Downton Abbey inspired me to create a cross stitch pattern that in many ways saved our own castle.  Again, when you are dead tired from radiation and you physically can't go anymore but your brain can - you work with what you have...that pattern has paid our bills, bought us inventory, and proved success is always within reach.
late 2012 - when we briefly consigned with an insane fabric shop.
Also, between 2011 & 2012, I opened the shop to consignors to help fill our shops.  It was the last thing I wanted to do, and one of my biggest regrets.  It muddied our vision, customers complained (they always do) and some of the vendor personalities were just too much.  Most are gone now, except for a few exceptional people.
So, here we are - alive!  Looking better than ever (I always see room for improvement but, really it looks good in here).  Money is still tight, but we are able to advertise a bit more, shelves stay full and though I'm not as busy as I was in those first amazing months of 2008, the cash register still rings everyday.  It's funny after 6 years, the biggest compliment we could receive is in competition.  In 2008, we opened a wee bit from downtown.  Again, everyone said we were crazy - who would come ALL this way down (literally 3 short blocks) and this very month - another store has opened 3 doors down from us in the same block.

In regards to all these years, and so many naysayes...C always points me to this quote from the late Steve Jobs - which sums it up perfectly:
You need a lot of passion for what you're doing because its so hard. Without passion, any rational person would give up.
So if you're not having fun doing it, if you don't absolutely love it, you're going to give up.
And that's what happens to most people, actually.
If you look at the ones that ended up being successful in the eyes of society, often times its the ones who love what they do, so they could persevere when it got really tough.
And the ones that didn't love it, quit. Because they're sane, right?
Who would put up with this stuff if you don't love it?
So its a lot of hard work and its a lot of worrying constantly.
If you don't love it, you're going to fail.
--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Camellia Stroll

Every year we try to make it the annual Camellia Stroll hosted by the LSU Agricultural Center in our town.  I think it has been nearly 3 or 4 years since we visited.  Determined as ever, however, from the moment we woke up Sunday -- it was a serious rat nasty downpour.  It felt as if Winter really was making a fuss about giving up it's grip this year.  Fortunately, for about 2 hours the skies cleared, the sun beamed and we scurried across town.
The garden boast 450 cultivars of camellias, many found no where else but in this garden.  Originally planted in the 1940's and 50's by Hody Wilson; the garden now bears his name. 
The ground, a little soggy still, wasn't much bother as the garden was decked out in dewy drops like jewels.   Most of the crowds stayed away.  It almost was our own private garden, with the exception of many very busy bees.
The garden was rescued in the late 90's and is now cared for by the Parish's Master Gardener program.  They were on hand to answer questions and host a really nice Camellia sale.
It was fun to explore, in a sense, our own backyard - no matter how brief.  And with certainty, I can say Spring is on it's way!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Radiant Everything...

I wanted to follow up a little bit from my previous post about Radiant Orchid, the Pantone color of the year.  I'm a serious purple lover from way back when and now that it's on trend again, I love love reading and seeing how everyone is reinterpreting this vivid hue.
First off, how am I the last to know that Lowes is carrying Pantone paint???  I scooped up my sample of Radiant Orchid and a fistful paint sample cards of other favs.  No thoughts on what to paint yet but I am using it as a guide to inspire me with new and upcoming projects.

Better than me, many talented people have started the year off right with the Pantone Quilt Challenge.  Again, no idea this was a thing but WOW - peruse the tag #pantonequilt and you'll fall in love and get inspired.

Entries are due in March; so, if you are not the procrastinator that I am - have at it!  By the way, in my searching, I came across this wicked cool quilt block that led to another tag #featherbedquilt.
Have you seen this in any of your feeds?  It's a free pattern from uber cool Anna Maria Horner.  This is seriously on my wish list to make...just need to invent several more hours to each day!  Anywho, this pattern really lends itself nicely to a pop of Radiant Orchid.  Give it a go - my go to picks with this shade of purple are turquoise, citron, and for a neutral - try a slate grey.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spot On...

We rounded out my birthday week (when you have a middle of the week birthday you may celebrate from weekend to weekend  - it's a law, almost positive!) with setting up my new gift - a pretty yellow bird feeder!  I had been eying it since Christmas, went back immediately afterwards to use my Christmas money and it was sold out!  Now back in stock and in my back yard!  Please ignore the large monster vine that is trying to envelop the yard - I swear I will wake up one day and be under it!

I saw a comment on instagram that to attract goldfinches, tie a yellow ribbon on your feeder - they feed in groups and will think it one of their own.  Being skeptical, I seriously doubted it - I put up this bright yellow feeder - and almost instantly not only had birds vying for a spot - but goldfinches!  So maybe there is something to that piece of advice - I also use seed that finches love, like thistle.  Whatever the reason, it's always fun the watch them.
Also, in other seedy bird news - at the other feeder, we've been visited by this handsome guy, a red-bellied woodpecker, for a little over a week now.  This weekend he brought his lady friend too!  They are so striking and that red-orange head - there is quite no other color like it...truly, you need to see in person to appreciate that crazy neon hue.  Nature is a-maze-ing.

I did some actually work-work this weekend too.  Slowly but surely I'm getting up to speed on silk-screening a huge lot of towels I ordered months ago.
This is a new colorway for me; a soft khaki and cream dot.  I accidentally ordered the wrong silk-screen ink a month or so ago...good news is, it's actually better than what I was using.  Look for most of my designs to move over to this new paint - it's just the bomb.  I've restocked green and blue towels too...still a few more designs to go and we will be looking ship-shape for Spring!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

38 the Great...

Today I crossed the threshold from 38 to 39; yes, it's my birthday
And tho I know, I know...I'm not really old, I'm definitely not young anymore.  I can't identify with "kids today" as I'm oft to throw up my arms about whatever the young tend to do; yet, I'm quick to give a haughty side eye to any elderly person going a fraction under the speed limit as I whiz past them.  So, I guess this is middle age

My thirties have been quite a decade, as I imagine for most.  Hopefully the chances we took in our twenties have amounted to something and we're making a name for ourselves before our forties.  A lot of us settle down, buy houses, have children (I gave birth to a store).  It's been a time, for me, that is sort of the marriage between my younger self and ultimately who I will grow to become.

I had the strangest dream last night.  I won the academy award for best song...random.  I don't write or play music, so I'm not sure were the connection is in my real life.  I did know in the dream that this was something I had created in my youth and was being awarded now through a strange hand of fate.  Through the randomness, the thing that stuck with me as I woke up, was the feeling of being young - and believing that achieving anything is possible still.  It was a great birthday present to feel that fearlessness and zest for life once again.

Cheers to my last year of my thirties!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Garden

This was Sunday...
A total respite from this wicked winter we've been having!  Sunshine, mild temps, pinch me it's Spring!
We even all sat outside while I finished up The Goldfinch and caught up on some birdwatching.  It was brief yesterday, Winter greys were back and today the rain and near freezing temps - boo!

Despite the return of winter (or the ever so brief pause); the gardening bug has bitten super hard and I am aching to get back into the yard, clean it up and see something green!  I ended up at one of the big box garden centers Sunday AM and got a few frost proof plants (lavender, cilantro, and pansies).
Lavender really never does well in the South, too humid and moist; but a lady 30 minutes north of me grows it and does well.  So, I thought I would attempt it again.  I found a lot of good tips for growing lavender in the South here.  But ultimately, the lazy gardener in me, dug a hole and plop it in.  I nestled some leaves around since it's a bit chill for its new roots - but it might rebel against that too.  Fingers crossed!  It it fails, I know, I know - it's my fault.
The pansies were for the shop garden.  Which is pa-the-tic!  Everything brown and dead, blah.  I hurried this morning and planted them before the rain.  Of all the hats I wear at the shop, I think I like shop gardener best!  I just wish there was more time than a parting glance before I leave of each night.
I also joined the Hudson Valley Seed Library.  I first saw their beautiful, artfully decorated, seed packages at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  Lovely free sunflowers seeds everyone can grow, plus oodles of other garden goodies - for $5 (+shipping).  Just the thing to get me out of the winter doldrums!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Bird Nerd

Late last Fall, I took on a new hobby - even though I forbade myself from adding anything extra to my plate.  But this, in all honesty, has been one of the easiest and most rewarding experiences I've taken on to date.  I'm talking about FeederWatch or more specifically birdwatching and counting for the Cornell Bird Lab.  
I love, love birds - my store is name Nest, so how could I not.  We purchased a small bird feeder last Spring and it was so enjoyable watching our resident birds; we even had a family of Cardinals we watch raise their young who still remain with us.  So, stepping up my game, I heard about FeederWatch and joined in the Fall - I'll submit counts through April.  This data will be used to help understand migratory patterns, disease, and general bird behavior.  
American Goldfinch
As of this date, I have identified 23 species (probably more, but I can only report what I see on count days).  Even in our tiny microcosm of our yard we can see bird populations building and waning as they pass on through.  Residents have been our Cardinal family, Mourning doves, and sweet little Carolina Chickadees.  
Peggy, our one legged Cardinal - yes, she really has only one leg!

A few surprises have been Inca Doves, which are a bit of a rarity this far East, a huge influx of yellow rumped warblers, and ruby crowned kinglets.
Inca Dove
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Frankly I never noticed these birds before this opportunity and now I'm glad to recognize them and their unique behaviors.
Eastern Towhee
I'm babbling on with a purpose - today the Cornell Lab announced anyone that signs up for this season's count in February (there is still time to count!) will get next year's count for free!  That's a really good deal - and any count, even if you did it once a season would help!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wintry Mix

Gosh...this Winter is weird!  Yet again, we are seeing a wintry mix - sounds like a Christmas Jazz CD.  It appears very brief today and I'm snug and warm inside the shop, plugging away on updates to the website, store newsletter, blogging.  I was a bit surprised but we've had a number of people in today so far, go figure.  I updated our Facebook page with a quick re-order of Mardi Gras flags and that seemed to send people skating in thru the sleet.
Honestly, I have a local pick up option on the website but everyone forgets to take advantage of it; it was nice to see a slew of people in thru the door and to talk about the snow, I mean sleet.

Thru the mix of weather and people, I eventually get this pair of old birds.  Bless their hearts, they had everything vintage first hand, they knew someone that could make each handmade item, and everything else they just didn't need.  They promenaded thru like visiting royalty; this, usually a sign that they'll never buy.  One turns to me, and with a giggle, like how drole for you to open a store, and says "we must be your only customers today?!" 
Here are two Robins I snapped this morning while eating breakfast, to act out this shop moment. 

I was all like, oh please, don't flatter yourself, but shrugged her off and said it had been busy.  With no surprised they left within moments with a regal wave at the door, promising to return.  I won't hold my breath.  exhale. 

A couple new updates/re-stocks to our needlework supplies:
Back in stock are the iPhone 5 cross stitch kits in black and white; I carried red during the holidays and decided against it this go around.  I would like to add colors in the future that match the iPhone 5C, but it does not seem that they are out or not available to order...yet!
And newly in stock (though it is quite limited) are the opalescent handle Bohin Stork Embroidery Scissors.  They are just the bees knees.  I have a gold set and I'm really trying to convince myself that I need one of these too...the problem is they last forever, so do I really need another pair...yes, probably!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Studio Days...

Today's inspiration courtesy of Sukie80
I'm back to being a creative vixen once again and it feels great!  Monday, I spent most of the day in my studio (which, tho lovely treasures leave, what remains is a trash heap!  -- trust me all the best studios are a mess!). 
I rehabbed this slightly damaged birdcage that came in the shop last week.  A new thrifted nest with eggs I glittered!  Manufacturers always tell me to dispose of these items...yeah right! I wouldn't re-sell anything damaged but, for myself, in my own home - game on!

I squeeked out this Easter project that's been two years in the making...meaning the idea would pop into my head then swiftly be forgotten until after Easter.
It's a little play on words with a cute bunny butt wishing you a Happy Keaster (instead of keester! har har!!)
Each bunny tail is sewn on by hand - I even made a fancy hidden knot, so this bun won't be losing his tail anytime soon.  Currently, I've listed this small run of towels on Etsy - so grab one!

I also, unearthed some pretty vintage linens and out of print fabrics in my cedar trunk and I just listed them this afternoon.
Out of Print Ozark Calico by Fabri-Quilt - 1 yard
A vintage blue rose calico - 3/4 yard
Darling Vintage Set of Applique Towels
It feels great to be busy again, making treasures for the shop, up-cycling new lovelies for myself and, of course finding new (albeit vintage) items for others to put to good use!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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