Monday, December 31, 2012


 Fred and I spent the Christmas holidays in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains this year with our firstborn and her husband and children. There couldn't be a more beautiful part of the country this time of year. We were not disappointed when the soft snowfall began on Christmas Eve and continued through the next few days. These are some of the views Fred captured.

 Driving through the beautiful Bucks County neighborhoods this evening brought a moment of wonder and 
melancholy to my heart . Another tender season comes to a close and I'm not quite sure I'm ready to embark on the new year just yet. I should's certainly been a busy season, a successful season. I love my retail creative work, but it does not come without considerable sacrifice. But, it's a sacrifice I enjoy.

Where have the last few months gone? The stockroom is bare...the trees empty. There isn't much adornment of any significance left. How I recall the near panic in my heart when I looked at tables, baskets, trees, stockrooms and closets bursting with the 2012 Christmas offerings and wondered what I had done! With all the reassurance from my buying co heart that we had stayed in our budgets and not to worry, I wondered if that could be true! Looking around the store today I can say she was right. 

Just as there is opportunity now to create new venues and inspirations, there is time for introspection on many levels. The desire for personal changes and a debt of gratitude for my retail friends and clients come quickly to heart. A new year begins and the prospect of new beginnings on many levels gives strength and encouragement to me.

I couldn't have accomplished what I did in 2012 without the help and support of staff, family and my loyal Black-eyed Susan friends and supporters. Thank you for your encouragement and trust as we have come into your homes to share our time and visions. 

I'm looking forward to another year of creative inspirations, vision and personal insights. 

Happy New Year. I'm ready for the challenge and look forward to sharing the ride.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Little Designer Susan

As promised, you will find the lyrics to the song "The Little Designer Susan" as written and performed by my cute friend and co-worker, Anne. I chuckled when she said that she sang it for her husband, who was neither amused or understanding of the story line! When my friend Linda heard it, she said she was laughing inside, because she had heard me say so many of the things Anne wrote about! It was spot on. I, myself was impressed that so much of what I was feeling was noted and remembered.

The tune is that of "Away in a Manger". How I wish I could share a recording of her performance. I think those of you who know me well will really get a kick out of it, and those of you who don't know me as well will have some insight.Altogether, it was a thoughtful and entertaining gift of love.

The Little Designer Susan

Away in North Carolina
not enough stuff for the store.
The little designer Susan
must buy decorations and much more.
Boxes arriving every day now,
nowhere to put everything.
Glitter balls, pine cones and battery candles
garlands, trees and birds that sing.

It's time to decorate the store now,
prepared for this moment all year.
The little designer Susan
is worried and cries, "Oh dear!"
"Too much merchandise, where will we put it
what was I thinking, we have too much!"
"Place the ornaments, deck the halls,
cases, table top and such!"

Increased our hours to help her
we worked both night and day.
The little designer Susan
mumbled "I must call Linda today".
Can we stop now dear Susan
our feet hurt and we're tired?
She said " The store is not ready,
So much more is required!"

"Move the furniture, hang the balls lower
there 's no time for lunch here today."
The little designer Susan
Says," I don't like anything we did here today".
"Linda won't like it, hang more garlands
there's no vignette on that tree.
Where's my glasses, get my camera,
I will blog for all to see."

Decided to sell everything
in her house for fun.
The little designer Susan
Said, "Oh my, what have I done?'
No couch to sit on, no curtains
had to order a new bed,
Have to put it together
but "What the heck! Where's Fred!"

Tonight's our class, we made our deadline
there's not a bat in sight.
The little designer Susan
prepares  punch to our delight.
Light the candles, look your best
but, Oh, what's that smell?
A mouse died in the wall
can't think about it just "SELL"!

Here come the customers, ready to buy things
their purses are fat.
The little designer Susan
Shouts, "Wait! I can't sell that!"
"I just designed it. I'm not ready.
What will we put in its place?
You must come back after Christmas.
"For Heaven's Sake!"

All the while she was sad
and  had nothing for dinner
The little designer Susan
was growing thinner and thinner.
She had set-up's, Show houses
and a magazine article to do.
Nothing in her lunch box to eat
but a sweet potato or two.

Its Christmas! What can we get her?
What does she need the most?
The little designer Susan
said "I'm going home for tea and toast".
A dish for a casserole
we will wrap with care.
To  be passed and filled weekly
for she and Fred to share.

Shopping and holidays are upon us
times are stressful for sure.
The little designer Susan
surely needs this cure.
The buying season is almost over
most of the stuff is now gone.
Time to visit with family
celebrating Christmas where we belong.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Black-eyed Susan Celebration

The Black-eyed Susan staff celebrated tonight together in the spirit of Christmas! What a delight, indeed.
We gathered in the festive surroundings of the thoroughly decked out retail store and shared a feast that was prepared by each one. Salads, desserts, appetizers and small bites. Yum!

My cute friend and business associate, Linda, came into town to observe the retail progress and the inventory levels. Good thing she shares my love of baking, because we spent the morning preparing our contributions to the feast.

We both had been wanting to try our hand at Pot de Creme chocolate pots, and so....we did! I happened to have a small set of vintage Pot de Creme pots (the ones shown with lids), and we also took inventory of the 11 demi-tasse cups from my favorite china collection. Definitely perfect for this delight! I know I owe you all a few recipes of late, and I will post this one for you soon. It's definitely worth the effort and easy!

This is our confection going into the oven...

I'm a bit peeved (as my mother would say!) that we got through the main courses before I thought to start my photo the dessert portion is what I can now show you. What was I thinking? The spread was impressive with so many fine selections it was difficult to choose. So, we all had a bit of each! That's the way to celebrate!

Center front; Cindy's perfect chocolate covered strawberries!  Juliana's strawberryry/raspberry and blackberry pie did not disappoint! The completed Pot de Cremes found a place at the table as well.

Linda's caramel pecan cheesecake could rival anything you could find at the finest pattisiere. Oh. My. Good thing we made it by mistake with low fat cream cheese. Really.

Yet another mouth drooling shot of some of our confections.   

 I'm also sad that I did not think to document the entire staff together for your viewing. My heart was full of gratitude and tenderness for this dedicated staff of friends and co-workers and the hours of talent, sacrifice and support these past few weeks have demanded. It's been a very busy season! 

I'm going to make it a point to share some group photos of everyone soon. These ladies are to be admired. 

I also have a tender and entertaining song to share with you that was written (and sung!) by Anne! Tune in tomorrow for the lyrics to what could be the beginning of a Black-eyed Susan reality show!! 

Merry  Christmas to all.


Monday, December 3, 2012

The first week after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest week for custom Christmas setups for the Black-eyed Susan design staff and supporting elves! 12-18 hour days, day after day makes for a tiring week. Good thing it is filled with good friends, good help and good fun.My sister, Denise came in for the usual team support. Shannon headed up the outside urns (and there were plenty), Jeff, Cindy, Patty, Sherri and Anne were fabulous supporters and merry-makers. Sneelock made several appearances as well. It's a true team effort.

Each night we fully intended to post a quick report. Hmmmm. So, here's a quick recap of our week.

 One night we spent several hours changing out the windows to my 2012 Christmas vision. A word of warning...several accidents have occurred since we did them. One driver reported that she was distracted by the windows. Oh. Dear. Hot pink and silver glitter theme...ode to Linda!

Classic Black-eyed Susan exterior urn design, a welcome addition to any front porch. Shatterproof ornaments, sugar cones and fresh greens equal the perfect combination. This fine tuned skill is Shannon's specialty. (I'm personally hoping for a visit from the urn elf...)

Note: our lush door dressing-two swags embellished with favorite pine cones. You can use this year after year. Signature Black-eyed Susan wreath welcomes shoppers. (Take it home soon!)

Our first client on Tuesday morning let me use our new flame less candles...they really look real, I'm not kidding! Champagne tinsel wreath and garland-a real wow!

Several years ago I sold this heart warming blue pallet to my friend Joan. Each year she ads a bit of new to her collection and she always agreeable to letting us mix it up a little. That's always fun for us! This year on the living room mantle, I added my magic sugar pine cones. They are magic, you know.

Denise tied full satin bows on these beauties and hung them in the dining room window. There are dozens of things you can do with these, and they last year after year.

Joan was pretty thrilled with the addition of a red satin bow to her favorite sheep!

There is a huge influence in design right now using organic themes. I've used a good bit of this look at the store and here I added several pieces of wood from Joan's wood pile in with ornaments and pine cones to create an interesting holiday centerpiece. Birds, pine cones and firewood....fabulous!

Alyce and John asked us to add a little holiday spirit to their newly delivered and accessorized biblotech. Of course, we were pleased to oblige! (I love love love these pheasant plates and cups.) The red just pops in one of my favorite ever pieces of furniture.

Denise added this pine spray to the newly installed foyer lamps. Wow.

At Katie's, you could say it was pure joy. (There's my pine cones again!)

This was the view outside the kitchen window while we worked! How fun it was to laugh and know the rest! Katie made us a gourmet lunch and this was the setting. Ahhhh! to both!

We mixed things up a bit in the living room too with the addition of some vintage silver...the chocolate addition to the red was fresh as well.

I took a minute to style the living room table, using Katie's things and adding a touch of holiday spirit.

Friday was saved for one big project. 10 am to almost 7pm. Shannon and Sheri designed the outside urns to perfection and astonishment. The rest of the staff (7 to be exact!) feverishly worked inside to complete beauty in each and every room. Mary's grand staircase was a hit.
Although my report is a bit late, that wraps up the first week! There are several more setups this week and I will keep you filled in. Whew. Now that's a week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Personal Musings

I think I'm in a bit of a slump...

This doesn't happen often to me, so it has taken me a bit by surprise. Perhaps it's the stress of the retail seasonal prep...arthritic hands and knees...missing my good friend. I had wonderful staff help this year and everyone gave their all to lesson my work load. I could never have done it without them.

I can so hear the words of my darling mother, "I've got the blah's"...that's how she would refer to this feeling and I've definitely let the overwhelm of catching up and carrying on get the best of me!

On top of all this, my house is downright dreary! After my tag sale (a huge success), my walls are empty, there are no rugs, 2 mismatched chairs have been pulled into the family room for Fred and myself, windows are get the picture. It echos! Not exactly a cozy retreat to come home to. What was I thinking selling my comforts this time of year?! Oh . Dear.

No pictures tonight. I wanted to share with you the thoughts of a dear friend who has lent a listening ear. I found it so profound and so touching . I want to think about her words and give up the "blahs".

"You are in an empty house and shortly, Mary and Joseph will be looking for a place for a baby to be born."

How tenderly her words touched my shriveled heart. I am planning on preparing my home for the coming Season. Thank you, dear friend.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nearing the end!

After a long day with a minimal design crew, Shannon and I felt totally satisfied with ourselves! That doesn't mean we weren't tired. 6 days of 14 hours takes its toll! Take a look at some of the progress we made.

We started out the morning creating a false ceiling or wintry twigs. White is so appealing.
I created this centerpiece using a large oval mirror as a base. My favorite greens, ornaments and my "magic" sugar pine cones made a dramatic statement. It's pretty instant! One of my holiday classes focuses on creating such centerpieces. You can take one home!

Early in the morning, one of our long time designer clients dropped in to get a sneak peek! He raved about my selection of greens this year. He said they we had the best selection he had seen. Now that made my heart sing a bit. It made those 6 days of 14 hours seem validated.
He did, however, make me sigh just a bit when he depleted my orange and green know how I am about my favorites.

We got all of the back stock ornaments into baskets and that was a real accomplishment. *Whew*
I have a great selection of snowy, calm branches...
Loads of quaint mache houses, this one in pale blue glitter!
And more Santas than you can count! Every color and size.
It's been a long week. Lots of help and lots of fun...lots of aching feet and sore backs. Loads of trash. LOADS.  Some discouragement. 

But all in all, a fulfilling week of creativity and vision. Tomorrow we hang the garlands, wreaths and swags. Ribbon selections, design visions and more suggestions for beauty in your home. 

I hope to see you soon!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I think I can I think I can I think I can...

Soooooo tired. Almost done.

Thanks to my dedicated staff and a few outside temps, we are almost ready to put the finishing touches on things. Baskets filled, boxes unpacked and ready for recycling, (sooooo many trips to the dumpster over the past week!) stockroom revamped and reorganized, trees completed, mantles adorned..I guess you could say all is merry and bright. Next, the finishing touches.

Monday we'll hang the wreaths, tie up the holly so to speak and finish decking the halls with garlands,boughs and beautiful satin ribbons. Baring all obstacles, I should be ready for the Thursday night gala to kick it all off!

You need to come in soon for best selection. Our register was busy all day long ringing up Christmas sales.

An early bedtime looks really nice. Hope to see you soon.

(Photos tomorrow...goodnight.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

On Trend...a peacock Christmas!

The creative team arrived at the store this morning with renewed energy and imagination muscles flexing!

We quickly picked up where we left off and began loading our baskets with Santas and tinsel trees, all colors and sizes. (Did we really have this many last year?!) Wow. So many to choose from.

Shannon headed up the team to sort and display all of the greens.I so wish I would have photographed that area for you! It is a veritable sea of greens. 

Anne took on the vintage reproduction houses, Santas and tinsel trees, quite a project!

I detailed and redressed several areas that we had begun yesterday. Mantles, coffee tables, side tables...

There was a creative joint effort to create a beautiful table of lanterns. Lanterns are a big focus in accessories currently. We have every size, finish and style there is! Come in and you will receive more inspiration than you can imagine for what to fill them with!

We ended the day a lot more tired and hope to recover for yet another thrust tomorrow. Take a look at some of the venues we created today!

A tight shot of our lantern display! Whether a candle, Santa, ornament or vintage book, these things are a key ingredient of interior style. Nestled among topiary trees, and earthy containers, this just warms my heart.

This porcelain deer bust might just be my favorite thing in the store right now! Add your own branches-voila! Antlers! Oh. My. love this!

Our teal story this year is all about accents. For the past three years, we have offered a blue and silver story, and true to form just when we moved on, the world embraces the color! We were smart enough to offer some tabletop, including ornaments in this trend color. You'd better come in early to get this color...there's not too much! I love the white glitter deer. The snowy garland adds softness and a lush interest. Gotta love that color.

Just sayin'

We reworked the French cupboard and added some trees, Santas and ornaments. Wow. That cabinet just supports whatever you place in it! Here's just a peek.

Shannon and Anne created an organic Christmas table. So delightful! The two trends to take note of in interiors this year are the impact of modernism and the juxtoposition of organic influences. It's pretty amazing how these two support each other and ground today's interiors.

Close up of my teal and silver mantle...snow really ads impact! Yummy.

This white glitter deer is  personal favorite. We love our deer in Bucks County! This kind is the best! tee hee

As with all trends, todays interiors are changing. Less is more is a good rule of thumb. While that is a bit difficult for me to adhere to, the entire design community rallys around this theme. Better get with the program! I can see the same thing happening with Christmas decor! Here is an example of less clutter, but enough layering for interest.

I created this mantle using a collection of grey/taupe plates,You can barely see the entire collection, hiding behind the cast urns. Signature books, and succulents are married with cherry sculptures and a bust of Shakespeare. Quite a nice little group of friends! These plates in the newest color of grey really speak to me. I had many comments on them already today! (I added a dreamy garland that you'll have to come in to see).
I was trying for bed before midnight. Very close. Tomorrow starts countdown. I'm a bit scared.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Creative slump...

After tackling the six trees in record time, the creative team has hit a little slump...We worked on tabletop most of the day, as well as mantles and garland placement. Anne and Shannon did a little chandelier embellishing with our ever-in-demand mercury finial ornaments. 

Some areas we were pleased with, but as the day into night wore on, we began to get a bit slap happy as we critiqued our designs. I will have to say that it is difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment when you leave the store in such turmoil! 

Boxes, ribbons, chenille wraps, more boxes, bubble wrap, wire ornament hooks, misplaced tabletop inventory from a few days all adds up to a rather chaotic state! I'm rather counting on a fresh start tomorrow with a fresh vision as well. We may start with rounds to review the designs of today and rethink several areas. 

see what I mean about the chaos? Boxes, trash, ornaments needing to be organized in baskets...we have to walk around all this to work!

Chandelier dripping with mercury finial ornaments! Yes, I also got gold this year per your requests.

Closeup of Santa, bottlebrush trees, deer and lambs. So cute!

Inside the blue French bibliotech. Those darling houses made it back into the mix again, Robin egg, Pale pink, white and graphite. Great mix.

Look at this unique clock face ( real working clock!) Shannon already took her's from the stock room...the team members get first pick, you might say! So many advantages to working "the night shift".
Maybe it's just the third day slump. 3-4 more days to go.