Before-and-After Porch Makeover

Before-and-After Porch Makeover

Before-and-After porch makeover . . . just in time for our 4th of July celebration!

As COVID-19 puts most summer vacations on hold, porches are claiming their role as America’s favorite place to enjoy a cocktail and an alfresco dinner. The porch is one of the few places to gather among masked neighbors and friends.

The rewards of devoting some time to decorating the porch will last throughout the summer!

Top Five Decorative Items:

Before . . . 

Original Front Porch

After . . . 

Before-and-After Porch Makeover

Before-and-After porch makeover . . . now it’s time for a frosty pitcher of lemonade and a visit with neighbors!

From 0 to 1,800

From 0 to 1,800

From 0 to 1,800 – This is the number of face masks produced in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Launching a food blog in January 2009, I began sharing my life-long pursuit of cooking southern cuisine at its best! Since then, I have tested and typed recipes, photographed and written about food for my food blog,

In 2009, a crazy thing happened . . . my original Blue Ribbon Lemon Cake won ‘Best of Show’ in the State Fair of Texas cake contest. This victory led to competing in Oprah’s cooking contests and a guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Several years later, my friend, Grace-anne and I competed on a Food Network Show with Bobby Flay.

On March 17th, 2020 everything changed. The coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders affected our world. On April 2, a friend called with the news that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins might soon recommend face masks. Although it was uncertain, I followed my intuition, put my food blog on hold and focused all of my efforts on a new line of stylish face masks. Risky at the time, the quick response paid off by vaulting my face masks production ahead of other startups.

Drawing from my experiences with Susan Apple, Inc., an apparel company I founded in my college dorm room in 1982, I took some tools of manufacturing apparel in the 80’s and 90’s fashion industry and retooled them for face masks production. Drafting a pattern, sewing the first sample, searching for local seamstresses, estimating and ordering fabrics and elastic.

Within days, I posted about my new face mask project on Facebook. Years of dedication to cultivating a large Facebook/Instagram following and food blog following gave me the chance to reach a wide audience. It paid off with steady stream of orders. The first face masks were delivered within a week. Since this day, Susan Apple, Inc. has become known as a reliable source for stylish face masks. Orders have been shipped from coast to coast. New orders are received daily.

The coronavirus has presented me with an opportunity to demonstrate that I have the resources and tenacity to manufacture top-quality products in the USA. Best of all, it has given me a chance to provide employment for local seamstresses.

Seizing this opportunity allows me to prove a thesis that I truly believe: people continue to appreciate better quality products over disposable quality so common in our world today. A fact proven by one face mask returned – and that was due to an accidental snip in the elastic. Such a low-return rate is unheard of in today’s global fashion industry.

Face masks are in stock and ready to ship!

Staying Passionate About What I Do

Staying Passionate About What I Do

Staying passionate about what I do is JT Osgood Hayler’s business motto. Her passion is contagious and resonates throughout The Songbird Society. When this coronavirus quarantine is behind us, step inside The Songbird Society and see for yourself!

At my recent appointment at The Songbird Society, I asked JT a couple of questions. Here is what I learned . . .

How do you stay passionate about your work?

JT said, “It takes practice.”

  • Practicing meditation
  • Listening to Eckhart Tolle.
  • Studying spiritual leaders.
  • Challenging myself to go deeper.
  • Being aware – reacting more positively.
  • Working out with a personal trainer

The Songbird Society’s atmosphere is calm and peaceful. How do you create this unique culture?

  • “Having empathy for people is a top priority.”
  • I do a lot of watching. I search for and hire people that share the things that are important to me.
  • Culture takes time. It’s a patina that doesn’t come overnight.
  • I value a salon with a tight knit community of a caring and passionate staff.

How do you handle the challenges of operating a salon?

  • I am watching and asking questions. If I see a problem, I don’t sweep it under the rug. I tend to talk about it. I have to be patient in order to nurture The Songbird Society’s culture.

Where does your inner strength come from?

  • Growing up in Louisiana.
  • I pray and pray.
  • I like to grow and evolve.
  • I really look at myself, when things happen? I ask, “What can I do?”

From The Songbird Society’s website, I learned how they continue to serve their clients while the salon is closed:

  • Favorite products and e-gift cards are available.
  • Touch up kits for your color are available.

The Songbird Society plans to re-open on Friday, May 1st 2020. We are looking forward to being together at The Songbird Society soon! 







Making A Difference During Uncertain Times

Making A Difference During Uncertain Times

Making a difference during uncertain times is a stress reliever. In our hearts, we all want to make a difference. It’s in our DNA. During the coronavirus pandemic, we can make a difference.

One of the best ways is by supporting local, family-owned businesses. Simple, easy and the BEST way to give back and make a difference. It is critical for the economic vitality of local businesses as well as our communities.

No doubt there is fear and concern surrounding this outbreak. However, in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Let’s think long term for a moment. Once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, how will our communities and local businesses look? Will our favorite mom and pop stores still be around for customers?

Making a difference together. During the coronavirus pandemic, we are fighting for the safety and health of every person. We are staying home, events have been cancelled, our world has been turned upside down. With these losses, how are we feeling?

During a recent podcast with Brene Brown, David Kessler, said “It’s good to name the emotion. It is grief.” He advises to find meaningful moments during our days.  Very wise advice. While we are searching for ways to do this, one choice is by shopping at local, family-owned businesses(mostly grocery stores, hardware stores, nurseries and restaurant take-outs that remain open). By making this choice, in our hearts, we know we that are making a difference.

Making a difference with fundraising:

Remember the last time you attended a fundraiser . . . who were the business that underwrote the event? Most likely, they were family-owned, local businesses because they can be counted on every time. It’s so easy to walk into a family-owned business and ask for a donation. They continually give back to local communities.

Now is the time to pay it back by supporting local, family-owned businesses with your shopping dollars. Every single shopping dollar is critical. Together, we can make a difference!

Are the savings truly worth it?

In many ways, we have been led to believe that shopping at the big box stores, (not named because everyone knows who they are) are the answer. In good times perhaps they are helpful. During our current economic situation, perhaps there is a better way . . .

Making a difference during uncertain times:

  1. Shopping locally
  2. Cooking more frugally
  3. Finding peace
  4. Loving our family and friends

Together, we can make a difference during these uncertain times!

The Spirit Of Texas Pervades H-E-B

The Spirit Of Texas Pervades H-E-B

The spirit of Texas pervades H-E-B. Since its founding in 1905, H-E-B has grown from a store to so much more.

We are grateful for the spirit of Texas that seems to pervade every H-E-B store. It starts with the employees, these quiet heroes . . . they are cheerful, dedicated employees of H-E-B. During the coronavirus pandemic, an employee greets every customer with a smile and a hand/shopping cart sanitizer, throughout the store many employees help customers find special ingredients and offer a helping hand, during the checkout process, an employee quickly scans and bags groceries . . . the entire process is swift and efficient. Even more, it is a positive, good-for-the-soul experience. With the current quarantine restrictions, grocery shopping is often the only time for us to see other people – while minding our social distancing etiquette.

In addition to the great customer service, H-E-B’s shelves are filled with top quality products at affordable prices. The produce, meat, seafood, wine, bakery, and deli departments are loaded with special, high-quality, and tasty ingredients. There is something at H-E-B for every one!

In January, while most of us(I can speak for myself here) were in denial, H-E-B was busy making plans in order to serve their customers. Thanks again.

It’s a good feeling, knowing how the spirit of Texas pervades H-E-B.

The spirit of Texas at H-E-B serves communities:

Paula Lambert, founder and owner of the Mozzarella Company sells her delicious line of cheese to H-E-B. She is the lady on the left side of the photo. Valerie Jarvie, the very talented freelance writer of food, lifestyle, real estate and travel is the lady on the right side of the photo. I admire both of these lady’s beautiful spirits and their profound use of talents.

The spirit of Texas pervades H-E-B!

If You Have A Garden And A Library

If You Have A Garden And A Library

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” -Cicero

This is just as relevant today as it was back in the days of the Roman Empire. During our quarantine, gardening is a wonderful new hobby to enjoy! It’s ideal for an individual or a family.

Yesterday’s New York Times ‘Sunday Styles’ section included an article about gardening. Apparently, there is a big increase in people wanting to start their own food.

Growing up in Louisiana, I enjoyed gardening with my father, Boots Apple. We had a simple, small garden. Mostly, we planted radishes, corn, and lettuces.

In 2001, the year that my fourth son, Ben was born, my father introduced the Earth Box gardening system to me. As a proficient gardener for years, he appreciated the design and efficiency of them. For years, I continued his Earth Box gardening system. In fact, I still have those original Earth Boxes that I purchased in 2001. They have withstood the test of time! They are in perfect condition(no cracks or chips). Other companies have copied the original Earth Box gardening system and they look very similar. However, I cannot vouch for the durability of these products.

When we moved into our new house in 2008, three raised garden beds fitted with irrigation systems were in the backyard. I was delighted and couldn’t wait to plant a garden. I have had some luck with gardening . . . mostly with Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, lemon balm, basil, mint, thyme, and a variety of herbs. However, the Earth Box gardening system consistently outperformed the larger raised garden beds!

Three advantages of Earth Box gardening system:

  1. Better yield of vegetables and herbs.
  2. Efficient use of water(water reserve in the bottom of the container).
  3. They don’t take up as much space. They are perfect for an apartment terrace, patio or porch.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero