We’ve posted 3 Lessons of Spring and one strong suggestion on Instagram in the last few days. I thought you might enjoy them too!
This rather humorous photograph of a planter we have here at the cottage, was about to be planted with a few bedding plants… I decided to snap a photo of her first! She’s inspiring don’t you think?
‘The mind is a wonderful thing! It’s where creative ideas begin, where we learn, where emotions form and where we make decisions. Deciding to use ideas, knowledge and emotions for good is the highest form of humanity.’
Eggs might be the ultimate food form of Potential. This photograph inspired us. ‘Potential, that’s one of the wonderful emotions I feel in Spring… nothing says it better than a basket full of eggs by my front door. Little Johnny Jump Ups aren’t really Spring flowers here, but they seem to rejuvenate themselves right now- and they have the potential to re-seed. now, that’s a lesson too! I hope your Spring brings you an awareness of potential all around you…not to mention the marvelous potential you hold within!’
These bearded irises were passed along to me by my grandmother many years ago- the deep purple is amazing and thrills me every year! This was shared with a lesson I think of every year!
‘Bearded Irises are standing tall in all of their glory…what a lesson they are! Standing up, not afraid to show the world who they are and own their unique beauty. And! Despite an unfortunate name, bearded irises welcome the day with gladness!’
Those 3 Lessons of Spring speak volumes without saying a word…
Deciding to use our minds for good, like the planter, it looks like a brilliant idea is sprouting.
To see potential in our world and within ourselves…whether it’s at the end of life’s cycle or like an egg- at the beginning!
To stand tall, like the regal Iris, despite an unusual name and short bloom time is a lesson to us all… to seize the time we have, bloom where we’re planted and in our own unique way.
Now, here’s a strong suggestion…it’s Time to Spring Clean… we can get sidetracked and buy things we don’t need! So, here it is! Shades of Blue…
‘Shades of Blue… natural dyes, indigo, prints and stripes, chambray, madras, Oxford cloth and denim. Blue is beautiful year round, especially in Spring and Summer! I’m Shopping My Closet first- then checking the choices with my favorite catalogs- for updates this season!’ It’s a spring closet clean out and a money saver too!
I love Spring…pollen and all..lt inspires me with its beauty and lessons all around! What will you do this Spring? I’d love to hear! I’ll be back soon with good tips, good thoughts and yes, good food!
Love y’all, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine. Follow @brendawyatt_ on Instagram for more tips and ideas! I’ve found new friends and seen the astounding things so many are doing! Happy Spring, yall!
I didn’t set out with Memory Gardens in mind… though the idea began to form when my grandmother shared some Hosta and Spiderwort, then an old gardener sent Daffodil bulbs and another shared Bearded Irises. My father in law, sent a few Redbud saplings from the family farm and my mother showed up one day with a sapling called Glory Bower, which blooms in the dead of summer when nothing else will. The Glory Bower is in bloom near one of our daughter’s birthday and always reminds me of her, beautiful and generous. Each year it seemed, I had memories of my family and others who had generously shared plants. Here’s a closeup of Spiderwort-
Tip #1 Memory Gardens can be scattered throughout the landscape or in a designated place. I do both.
I had an idea of purchasing a tree or a shrub on special occasions or in memory of a loved one…So, a memory garden was forming as I was learning about where, what and when to plant. On several occasions I gave a living plant instead of sending flowers and often bought one to be planted here at the cottage. Without really planning a Memory Garden, my garden was making memories for me.
Tip #2 Think perennials. Memory Gardens aren’t just about trees and shrubs- Herbs, like Rosemary- for Remembrance, Lavendar for Love and Devotion,Sage for Long Life and Wisdom- are great memorable additions. The bearded irises weren’t given to me by my grandmother yet, she loved them, so they remind me of her, always. Bulbs, Ferns, Hosta, Shasta Daisies are wonderful and can be planted in the garden, near a loved one’s birth date. Perennials as bereavement plants which die down but return year after year are a hopeful reminder of the resurrection.
When we re-did the front yard- a parking area in front of a picket fence changed things. A family member gave me two heirloom roses- New Dawn, they are the ones at the end of the fence. Every year, I’m reminded of her beauty, her thoughtfulness and her kindness. The pale pink roses still grow proudly at each end of the picket fence, And they bloom close to her birthday! A tiny gardenia shrub was bought on sale… it reminded me of a dear friend, who had loved a fragrance with a distinct gardenia note, the shrub is now so big- it has to be cut back! I planted a hedge of holly, that was perfect behind a garden bench given to me by my sister, it reminds me of her everyday. On and on it seemed, I was given plants or buying plants that evoked memories. The garden began to mature… What I found as the years went by… is that Light changes everything.
Tip #3 Even if you have established a specific area as a Memory Garden- be prepared to divide, move or even replace plants. When this occurs, I try to use memory plants in another more appropriate site, especially with adequate light.
Trees grow. Sun loving plants find themselves in the shade. Trees fall. Shade loving plants shrivel in the sunlight. Trees even age and die. The soil is disturbed or other trees crowd them out. And, these elements affect our yard to this day. So! It became important to me to establish areas where my memory plants had the best chance of survival. And some memory plants need dividing. I didn’t want to lose the old heirloom plants, so I divided them and spread them throughout the garden areas; still purchasing memory plants along the way.
Tip #4 Memory Plants are all occasion! Births, Milestones such as graduations, Weddings, Anniversaries, in addition to the Loss of a Loved One, are the perfect opportunity for memory plants. The main criteria is choosing a plant which evokes a memory of the occasion and the loved one.
Little Gem Magnolias were planted in memory of my Aunt Iva and my precious grandmother, Mimi. Yet the occasion when the magnolias were purchased commemorates our daughter’s wedding. They were used as a large display in urns at her wedding reception. I like to call these Little Gems- my ‘Steel Magnolias’; which Mimi and Aunt Iva certainly were, as were other southern ladies for whom I purchased the same small magnolias. Those magnolia trees and a few camellias I had purchased evoked to wonderful memories throughout our garden, not to mention the beautiful large blooms!
Tip #5 For very special occasions you may choose to plant a specimen tree or large shrub. Be sure to site the tree for its own specific needs for soil and light.
If you’re getting the idea that my memory plants were placed at whim, you wouldn’t be far from the truth, I planted for the conditions the plants and trees required. A freeform Memory Garden was more like it… until 2006.My mother in law died. I was devastated. I worked furiously in the garden in the days following her death. Being on my knees, seemed the right place to be; brought to my knees by this blow of her death- I could be alone, I could dig, yank weeds, weep over the least tiny bloom- gardening helped. Have you ever felt like that? Immersing yourself in a hobby or physical tasks that free the mind? Gardening was therapy for me. Shortly after her death, to honor her , we were given a piece of statuary, an angel.
It seemed too large to put on prominent display in the front of our house…. as I continued to work out my grief- a spot toward the back of our yard, kept catching my eye… it was a clump of dogwoods, they were in bud. It seemed to be the perfect spot! So, that’s where she is…my angel and my first attempt at a specific Memory Garden. At the base of the angel, were planted miniature daffodil bulbs from a funeral basket of spring flowers my sister gave our family. They have multiplied over the last decade. In the Spring since the Angel was placed, it still surprises me- if anyone glances this way, passing the cottage- down the side yard toward the dogwoods… there is an Angel. The spot for her Memory Garden was somehow, by some miracle- chosen for me, not the other way around. We have since lost some dogwoods, planted some roses and crepe myrtles.
Tip # 6 Be careful buying statuary. Use it sparingly. Place it appropriately, so that it’s shape and size work with your garden. Sometimes your site will tell you where it needs to be placed!
So! I have continued my practice of buying memory plants. In 2017, I planted a camellia for my friend, Denis who died that spring.(photo above) I planted ten azaleas when my mother died, also in the Spring of 2017. Five azaleas for her grandchildren and five for her great grandchildren- she adored them all! Those were interspersed in the existing garden. Still. She has her own specific Memory Garden.
Friends and family bought hydrangeas for my mother as well, she loved hydrangeas and I do too! They are in shades of pink, white, green and blue that can only be called ‘hydrangea blue’. I planted them in groups by color, not mixing them so it’s more pleasing to the eye. There were a good many, so- for my mother… there is a hydrangea garden along a side yard and around the back deck- areas which were never intended as a memory garden. Yet it seemed to chosen for me. I plan to add and add to it until the hydrangeas say- ‘No more, please’. Memory Gardening has been a source of great joy to me. I tend to name the plants- Denis, the Camellia delighted me, when she was full of blooms this year!
Tip #7 Add to your memories all at once or, perhaps a better plan is to gradually add to it, as I am doing with the hydrangeas and camellias.
Last fall, my beloved Walter, a Himalayan cat who had graced us with his presence at this cottage, died. I had to do something for Walter, I was almost inconsolable. My sister had given me a statuary cat, more than a decade ago, it had never found a permanent site. At age 17, I suppose, Walter had lived a long life- I never imagined the grief I would experience when he died. So, I created a very small Memory Garden for him… under one of the azaleas planted for my mother, the statuary cat was placed, with an engraved stone which epitomized Walter…it says, ‘Do no great things, only small things with greatlove.’ Rose petals fall on this small piece of statuary, it isn’t visible from the street, but I see him every day as I go to my car. Somehow it comforts me. I have recently planted a few scraggly violas near him hoping they will re-seed. There are lamb’s ears nearby too. Each one seems to be a bit of those small things only a family pet is able to bring to a household.
Now, I’ve gone all sad sack on you and I don’t want you think Memory Gardens are just for bereavement- they aren’t! Plant memories for any occasion- name them or not, but as you plant- you are putting down roots, you are making a garden, you are making your home, your neighborhood, your world a more beautiful place!
Tip # 8 Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Your local garden shop is a wealth of information. Ask them to suggest plants to use, what the plant will require, and how large it will get. You may need to have specimen plants installed, sometimes a garden center will be able to suggest a service. Ask for help- your plants willlove you for it!
Like I said, I didn’t set out to create a Memory Garden… now, that I have, the memories make me a better gardener. When a baby is born or a beloved friend passes on… I hope you will visit your garden center and pick out a special plant. And if the notion strikes or if there is a space in your garden, perhaps you will plant it and start a Memory Garden of your own… now, if you excuse me, I need to go outside and plant a Leyland Cypress named Wayne…
Love y’all, Camellia
* All photographs are obviously mine. The quote near the statuary cat is attributed to Mother Teresa. My husband’s dear friend, Wayne died right before Christmas, an evergreen was given to the family and the Leyland Cypress is to be planted here at Camellia’s Cottage.
Have you ever heard of Doting? Here’s what I think most folks believe it means….
‘She’s always doted on that child.’
‘Well, you know his momma was alwaysdelicate, he’s doted on her especially now that she’s in her dotage.’
‘ I tell you now, she doted on that man, always making him his favorite foods, keeping him neat as a pin and making sure everything was just so.’ ‘
He loved that car, doted on it like it was a crying child- why he kept that engine so clean you could eat off of it.’
‘Well, she was the baby of the family, so everybody doted on her.’
Now, we’ve all heard of doting or I guess most folks have. When anybody talks about doting, we basically think it means –
‘She waits on him hand and foot.’
‘Works himself to death trying to keep her happy.’
‘That child is spoiled rotten, I tell you- when she grows up- she’s gonna expect the world to be handed to her on a silver platter.’
Yet, that’s not really what doting means at all. The fine art of doting actually means … To care for tenderly, to habitually bestow fondness and love; to regularly treat or speak to a loved one with kind devotion and gentle affection.
It’s a harsh world we live in- extreme sporting events, conversations or workouts. Flashing lights, loud music and never ending communication. We’re bombarded with products, information and technology. Calendars are packed, schedules overlap, being overwhelmed is the rule not the exception. It’s time to bring back the Fine Art of Doting. Oh yes, it will take a bit of beingunplugged and slowing down- however, these suggestions take very little time or effort.
Perhaps, due to our religious upbringing- phrases like ‘self-love’ are overridden by teachings about being selfless and thinking about others first. Still. How can you ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’ if there’s not a certain amount of taking care of yourself? Here’s a few ways that aren’t selfish at all, and are also great for sharing with others!
Did you know that spending 15-30 minutes outdoors everyday is recommended for all round good health? I find just walking around my garden to see what I can see is my favorite way to get in some time outdoors. To my delight I recently found Ice Folly Daffodils and the precious- Snowbells!
I love to garden, I think it’s a wonderful pastime- yet- to give a living plant, shrub or even a small tree to a bereaved family may be one of the most comforting things you can do. Here at the cottage, a memory garden was started after my mother in law died over a decade ago. We also have several living things planted to honor loved ones. Just as my grandmother’s spiderwort and hosta remind me of her every year- so do these bereavement plants.
My favorite apps on my iPhone are the calendar and timer! It’s one way I dote on myself- since I work at home… I set alerts for small tasks to get up from the laptop- or set the timer for 15-30 minutes to sit and read a book. And by all means set a bedtime alert- to get those hours of sleep everyone so desperately needs! Limit exposure to LED lighting, either by removing them from where you sleep or my favorite- wearing a sleep mask! I’ve also tried the app called Calm…it’s a short meditative pause. And since, we’re all told to limit screen time- and I’m loving the notification of how much time I’ve spent online!
Make a habit of putting the phone down when eating family meals or meeting friends- it’s so much better to create the habit of talking person to person! While you are online, learn something new, while spending the time wisely, I’ve been taking a free Winter Photography Workshop on Instagram offered by @thelittleplantation. I’m low end when compared to the amazing photographers in the class- but my oh my! What gorgeous photographs! Beauty in any form feeds the soul! Here’s one of my entries:
It’s no secret I love to cook- but what I appreciate even more than the cooking is gathering around a table of good food. Somehow, folks who might disagree on almost everything become agreeable and companionable around a table. Dote on yourself and your family by making simple meals, but don’t forget to set aside a time to load up the table with good food to be shared with others. Grazing boards are a wonderful simple way to eat at home or entertain-
I’ll be sharing more skin care tips soon- yet I think we all can agree, winter takes it’s toll on everyone’s skin! Here’s a few things that help tremendously- Stay hydrated and get more water (I’ve a challenged another food blogger to make ‘pretty water’) It’s been a fun wsy to entice myself to drink more water… I find when it’s pretty I certainly drink more of it! Here’s a few of my entries. Adding citrus or fruits and vegetables flavors the water slightly and takes very little time. The best thing is- I’m enjoying it.
Switching over to a ‘milk soap’ is a good move… When I worked for Oscar de la Renta fragrance and cosmetics, we had a product that always had a waiting list! It was Oscar’s Bubble Bath, which was non-skid and also had powderedmilk granules in it- the lactic acid in milk products is one of the best skin softeners! You can certainly benefit from dissolving about 1/2 cup of dry milk while you run very warm bath water. Test adding granular milk for yourself and see whether your skin feels softer! Goats Milk Soap is another way to soften skin, this one I found at www.sparrowssoap.com
And, a new skin treatment that I’m loving… Its called- Dry Brushing– it’s a whole body treatment that rids the body of flaky skin while also stimulating the lymph glands! Can’t wait to tell you more about it!
Now, I know we all love shopping, however, it’s a good practice to shop your closet first! Most people buy the same new things that they already have in their closet! This is good advice- especially since we’re in a transition season, instead of clothes shopping- accessorize! If you’ve got the itch to buy? Shop for accessories. Here’s a few I’m loving lately! The ribbon badges were found on Amazon and the pearls…oh always pearls! Those pearls were a gift- and came from JCrew!
Make a habit of dreaming a little… plan a household project or a vacation! Right now, I’m in the middle of making reservations and have an itinerary of all the things we hope to do in beautiful Colorado Springs! We’ll be staying at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel. For sure, we’ll enjoy eating those mile high donuts atop Pike’s Peak! Who knows? Maybe we’ll even break out in a rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ while we’re there! And I hope to take a short road trip to Garden of the Gods- with its amazing huge red rock formations.
And..the dreams and plans don’t stop there… of course, I’m looking at a few dates and places to stay at the beach! Looking forward and making a plan for family beach time this summer, kicking off our shoes and feeling the sand between our toes!
Make a plan to update a corner, a tabletop or even a room. It’s always helpful to our mental health to look forward! My plan starts this spring with installing striped outdoor curtains, which were on sale last fall, in black, gray and white cabana stripe….to finish up a household project- our tiny screen porch!
And finally, one of my very favorite ways to dote on others… Sometime, somewhere- when they least expect it- Send a surprise note or gift for no reason at all! This is truly the fine art of doting. A small plant plopped in a waterproof plastic bag then covered with a small burlap bag or even a lunch sack- tied with a pretty ribbon, is doting in many different forms- a small gift for a co-workers desk, a tiny reminder to a friend that she’s appreciated or even dote on yourself a little bit! The main thing is to surprise! Now, wait for it- you know, I have to give you something homemade!
I recently made a batch of homemade marshmallows for a much loved family in upstate New York- hopefully they will enjoy many cups of hot chocolate to chase away the chill! And – be surprised to get them! Don’t they look wonderful?
Now don’t forget to read below the recipe. A bit more on the Fine Art of Doting! Here’s how you make our very own Cottage Marshmallows! Though, it’s not much different from most marshmallow recipes, there is one tip you won’t want to miss! And these are easy enough to surprise your family too!
Homemade Marshmallows, a confection that’s fun to make and will delight - especially in winter to top a cup of hot chocolate!
1 1/2 CupsGranulated Sugar
1 CupLight Corn Syrup
1/4Teaspoon SaltPreferably Kosher
1 1/2Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Confectioners SugarMix with..
Corn StarchRatio 1:4 with confectioners sugar being the 4
In the bowl of stand mixer, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup of cold water. Allow to sit undisturbed while making the sugar syrup. In a small heavy saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water. Blend corn starch and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. On low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir anymore. Clip on a candy thermometer. Raise heat to medium high increasing heat gradually, until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat. The stand mixture should be fitted with a whisk attachment. Very carefully pour the hot sugar syrup, with whisk on low speed, into the gelatin mixture. Raise speed to medium high, then higher as the mixture is incorporated. Mixture will become light and airy, generally tripled in volume after 12-15 minutes of continuous whisking. While mixture is whisking- prepare an 8x12 inch glass baking dish with a sieve dust confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend generously Slow mixer speed and add vanilla extract, blend well. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth top and dust generously with more of the confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend. * Corn Starch added to confectioners sugar helps marshmallows dry out better. Let mixture stand overnight uncovered to dry out. Turn out onto a marble surface or a board and with a serrated knife cut marshmallows into squares- whatever size you prefer ! But at least 1 1/2 inch squares. Toss in more confectioners sugar to coat all sides. * marshmallows can be tinted during the whisking process, however, I tend to think the classic white is the prettiest !
Marshmallows are best stored flat, covered with foil until ready to package. I prefer cellphane bags instead of plastic.
Now, you know I have a story… when I first began making homemade marshmallows… I was just tickled with myself and decided to take them to a holiday gathering… when I explained what this confection was… someone said- ‘Why bother?’ Actually the answer is in the handcrafted marshmallow- it’s soft and sweet, it melts in a cup of hot chocolate like a cloud and let’s face it- If anyone ever makes you a batch of homemade marshmallows? Well! that’s the Fine Art of Doting!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine, with the exception of the opening photograph which was found on Pinterest with no attribution- if it’s yours? please let me know so I can give you credit! Amazon and JCrew are registered trademarks and this is not a compensated post for anything you see here!
*Advertisements on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of Camellia’s Cottage.
*Check out what we’re doing on Instagram, we’re posting everyday!
If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.
Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.
The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!
Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!
The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-
A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert.
2SticksButterCut in pieces- plus more for pan
1/4CupUnsweetened Cocoa PowderMore for dusting pan
2Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
1/4 CupHeavy Cream
8Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Chopped
1/4CupPowdered SugarAs needed for dusting
Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers For garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices.
And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:
Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?
I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-
. Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!
Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!
We seem to have had a bumper crop in most of the things we’ve planted in the garden this year… I love to plant some basil to use in cooking, to dry and I’ve even been known to cut a big bunch and put in a vase just to enjoy the fragrance. This year, while vacationing in Virginia- we went to a restaurant on the York River- fittingly called Riverwalk Restaurant. Though it was terribly warm for most of the trip, on this particular night- with the breeze coming off the river out on a patio, it was pleasantly cool. We watched a tall ship taking it’s own sweet time sailing by and could hear the sounds of a festival getting geared up. The restaurant was busy, our server brought our orders of iced tea and water… and to our surprise she also presented us with a platter brushed with Pesto and a whole loaf of fresh bread- our table of five finished it off quickly and it was one thing I knew I’d want to try to recreate later.
Recently, we were about to watch an Alabama Football game- we’d decided to get a pizza. I thought, why not make a salad, spin up some Pesto, bake a loaf of bread and present it just like we’d had on vacation!
I had all of the ingredients I thought I’d need…lots of basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and …oops! no pine nuts or even walnuts. I literally put a Southern Spin on the Pesto. If I do say so myself, it turned out very well- I substituted Pecans. (Okay for all you non- southerners, please don’t say PEE-Cans… nope, that’s not how to pronounce it! For goodness sake who would even want to eat something that sounds so dreadful? Slow down now… here’s how you say it… Pah- cahn. Don’t even think of making a long E sound!) Alright let me get right down to how you can make Pesto with a Southern Spin!
Camellia’s Southern Pecan Pesto
You will need 3-4 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves- rinsed and shaken or spun dry. Just the leaves now- not the stems. Fill up the bowl of your food processor, generously.
One reason I love making pesto is that it is a recipe that isn’t precise! Spin the basil leaves until they are a rough chop, add one or two or three garlic cloves- I used one large clove and one small. Add a pinch or two of salt and spin again. Add 1- 1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese. Spin again. Add at least 1 cup of chopped pecans- I added 1 and 1/4 cup. Spin again.
Now remove the spout cover of the food processor and pour in enough good olive oil to make a paste, then add about 1/4 cup more! Pour Pesto in a sealed container and chill unless you plan to use it right away. It seems to keep fresh in the refrigerator for a good while.
I brushed a long platter with a generous amount of Pecan Pesto and topped it with a loaf of fresh baked bread (Now that is the important part- make or better yet, make it easy on yourself and do like I did- buy frozen bread dough and bake it yourself! It really does make a difference!)
The presentation is lovely and just like the pesto and fresh bread in Yorktown- this too was a hit! For an appetizer, an accompaniment with a platter or Italian sliced meats, cheese and assorted fresh fruits and vegetables, you know one of charcuterie boards- Pecan Pesto would be beautiful alongside one of those and…of course it’s great alongside a spaghetti supper or as an addition to a spread of tailgate food even if it’s at home! Southern Pecan Pesto is a new Cottage favorite. Okay- if you have pine nuts or walnuts- that would be great too! Here are few Annabelle Hydrangeas from down near the York River- quite a beautiful spot!
For more photos of some of our trip to Yorktown and Williamsburg check us out Instagram (just tap that little icon at the bottom of the page) Right now, we have an historic vegetable garden with heirloom vegetables and a bee skep! I would highly recommend any part of Virginia for a nice Fall trip! And of course there’s nothing like watching SEC Football! Hope your team wins unless they’re playing mine!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine. *You can find out more about Riverwalk Restaurant at www.riverwalkrestaurant.net.
Southerners love their peppers, most tuck at least a few plants in their gardens even if it’s in among flower beds. Peppers generally love the Southern climate- some old timers say the hotter the weather- the hotter the peppers! I’m not sure about that, I do know that we once planted mild banana peppers close to jalapenos and those highly prized for their pepper sauce- long skinny cayenne pepper pods; well, I’m telling you those sweet banana peppers were hot as fire! I loved them. Usually our Bell Peppers are small, mainly good in salads or chopped along with onions and celery for our trinity to begin making jambalayas, gumbos, even tomato sauces.
This year we planted a few plants of Poblano peppers- they’ve been seriously good and a bumper crop of the big beautiful peppers are just the right size for Stuffed Peppers. I’ve eaten stuffed peppers all of my life and loved them. I have to admit- Before I learned to cook stuffed peppers- I tended to think they were an exotic dish because southern cooks which can be on the eccentric side, had a way of majestically saying… ‘Ah’m makin’ Stuffed Peppers’… it just seemed like a special treat and -they truly are. Now, let me get real here- if something sits still long enough a southern cook will figure out a way to stuff it!
Stuffed Eggs, Stuffed Shrimp, Stuffed Pork Chops even Stuffed Squash Blossoms- now that’s an adventure!
I’m running on and on- though I do want you to know, it’s not hard to make Stuffed Peppers. The beauty of this dish is, of course presentation and taste- Still. Feel free to stuff a few or enough to feed a crowd, which we all know is the real beauty of any recipe. Cook Stuffed Peppers right away or prepare, seal and freeze. Stuffed peppers always call for good ingredients- but the real secret to cooking stuffed peppers is the same for meatloaf- I think… low and slow. If you don’t have time, I’d say don’t make them! Okay, still there might be a way to overcome this. If you have an oven with a timer- it is possible to take stuffed peppers from the freezer, put them in the oven, set the timer and heat at 325 degrees allow for 2 hours before your meal and you might get away with it. So here’s how to make –
Camellia’s Stuffed Peppers
You will need Unblemished fresh and clean – 4-5 large Bell or Poblano Peppers – carefully cut peppers in half, Remove seeds and membranes without damaging the pepper halves. *I think Stuffed Peppers make a wonderful presentation if the stem portion remains intact on at least one half and also keep the filling intact.
For the Filling you will need: 1-1/4 pounds of ground chuck mixed with diced onion, 3/4 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch or two of black pepper-you may use bread crumbs, instead of crushed crackers- if so- add a pinch of salt. If you dare and I do! add 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes and one beaten large egg.
*Note: some folks add small diced celery and even carrots- I do not. The mixture will be moistened by the pepper shell, therefore it doesn’t need the extra moisture.
Carefully combine ground beef mixture. Do not overwork the filling.
To stuff: Each pepper half will use approximately 3/4 cup of filling spooned in and pressed down a bit. *Optional: I had some fresh oven roasted tomatoes preserved in oil- so I drained them and topped the uncooked stuffing. *You may wrap tightly and freeze at this point.
This is not optional: Cut uncooked bacon into one inch pieces topping each stuffed pepper with 1-2 small pieces.
Now, this is important! Before baking- preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very low oven temperature is key.
Top each Stuffed Pepper with a generous amount of good ketchup. Bake low and slow- mine were done in 2 hours.
Allow to stand a few minutes, then skim off fat and juices. Serve. Makes 4-5 generous servings, allowing 2 pepper halves each.
It’s actually wonderful to serve Stuffed Peppers on a buffet- they taste good even at room temperature. I also think Stuffed Peppers can be changed up with different spices- such as an Italian mixture served simply with garlic bread and a green salad. If you have the patience, stuffing Baby Bell Peppers would be wonderful appetizers. Of course, one of my favorite combinations for Stuffed Peppers includes the Three Sisters – Corn, Beans and Squash. Corn supports the Bean vines, Squash are planted at the base in a ring around the corn- each has a purpose. Comically and practically- prickly squash leaves deter varmints like raccoons since they don’t like stepping on the leaves. Native Americans taught us how to companion plant these ‘three sisters’ which are a wonderful combination of sides for Stuffed Peppers.
Since the weather is still very warm here- I chose to make cool Shoe Peg Corn Salad, a cheesy Squash Casserole and Speckled Butterbeans cooked with bacon drippings, a bit of hot vinegar-y pepper sauce and crumbled bacon on top.
In the winter, Stuffed Peppers are so good cooked amid a bed of shredded cabbage and onions- of course cornbread and dried beans are also so good. Now, before I leave the fresh vegetable sides, I’d say there’s almost nothing as satisfying as shucking fresh corn, picking fresh summer squash and shelling butterbeans… Well okay- unless it’s feeding your loved ones a meal like this.
When a plant springs up in a garden unbidden- not planted by the gardener… the plant is called a volunteer. The garlic chives in the front garden here at Camellia’s Cottage weren’t planted by us; they volunteered… added their services, their talents and their beautiful blooms, then drop seeds to give us another round in the coming years.
On this date commemorating a Day of National Tragedy, 9/11 was also proclaimed in 2009 as a National Day of Service- to promote volunteering; a date when, as we Americans are mourning we are also encouraged to volunteer. In addition to the courageous and trained first responders, on that tragic day- volunteers came out in droves and used their talents lavishly.
I have found folks who volunteer regularly aren’t just the ones with extra time on their hands- no, many are some of the busiest most successful people I’ve ever known. Volunteers seem to wake up determined not to be mediocre; they regularly ask- ‘What can I do for my country, my city, my neighborhood today?’ They use their talents and skills generously, like the garlic chives.
It doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort to regularly do at least one positive thing to make our world better… a kind word, a tender gesture and yes, even taking a casserole.
Garlic Chives are a culinary herb, the leaves have a subtle garlic flavor, the blossoms produce dark seeds which can be toasted and then ground like a specialty garlicky pepper. Every year, I vow to remove them…and then they volunteer to bloom just when everything else has just about given up.
Let’s not give up on doing good- let’s commemorate the lives lost- then do what we can to make our world a better place.
Love y’all, Camellia
*photographs are obviously mine. And yes, I am rendering a small act of service for my local library today.
The best ways for me to find enjoyment in late summer’s neglected garden, is not in hacking away in disgust or to yank and pull or sweat and swear – though I do admit to a bit of that mingled with my worst complaints…
“That’s right let me go out of town andyou decide to run wild!’
‘ Choking out your companion plant is as coarse and common as talking religion or politics!’ or…
‘Okay, really? Staging a hostile takeover in this heat? What’s gotten into you?’
Now, as amusing as it is- to talk to our plants this way…it doesn’t work, the damage has already been done! Faced with difficult and mundane jobs like pulling weeds, I enjoy taking a stroll, framing a view, documenting with a few photographs, thinking of my best words, waxing poetic even humming the sweetest melody, in fact- it surprises me that I usually don’t do these things first! But when I do…
I find crisp cool ferns, an unusual view through an errant Mimosa,
Hydrangeas, this time several on the wane and one amazing fresh green one made even more beautiful in a hazy light.
Views through a garden bench, beauty entwining itself up and around wherever it may find the opportunity…
Soft and sweet Lamb’s Ears and an iron bird hiding in rampant rose canes and even Autumn Joy beginning to bloom.
Now, normally I don’t use words like verdant in the course of everyday conversation- but the word did come to mind… ‘Verdant means- Abundant, green vegetation, lushgreen lawns or rich forestation.’ Weeds or not- that’s what we have!
Still. Verdant was one of the good words… followed by Decent, Fresh, Trustworthy, Wholesome, Bighearted, Devotion, Wholehearted, Loving and Kind.
My good words were followed by Phrases like- Cool and calm, Soft and tender, Milk of Human Kindness, A sweet embrace… Try it! Good words and gentle phrases usually bring forth the Poetic!
‘Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms…So doth the woodbine, the sweet honeysuckle Gently entwined. Oh, how I love thee! How I dote on thee!’ from A Midsummer’s Nights’ Dream-
Or what about these?‘In life’s uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them.’ Timon of Athens and ‘Beautylives with kindness.’ Two Gentlemen of Virona – and a personal favorite…
‘To me, fair friend, you never can be old.’ Sonnet 14 All by the poet emeritus of good words….Shakespeare
It was time…The gazing at pictures, the doodling, dawdling and daydreaming had to stop or nothing would get done. I must admit, my greatest gardening challenge became one of my sweetest musings…
The Angel Vine had become rampant squalling baby – crying out for immediate attention. A pair of water meter readers couldn’t even find the meter since the Angel Vine had completely covered it over… fiercely verdant? Perhaps not a good phrase… I pulled it back to show them where it was…and decided I could amuse myself no longer. I began pulling and outright hacking and cutting…. and then it happened again…Ah yes, a song… a lullaby… okay really I thought of Willie Nelson’s ‘Angel Flying Too Close to theGround’ about an angel with a broken wing that Willie fell in love with, that was my first thought. Kept in check, Angel Vine is such a sweet planting…tiny brown vines dotted with tiny green leaves. Angel Vine is a native of New Zealand also known as ‘Mattress Vine’ … so yes, as overgrown as it was- eventually a Lullaby came to mind. May I pause here? I’ll admit it- at first a gardening song starts as an annoying hum…I can’t put words to the tune… but when I do? I am amazed at how perfectly it does fit the situation. Angels, mattresses for cradles and little children…came to mind. The neighborhood is quieter now….children have gone back to school when I’m at my gardening chores…. I began thinking of the times I sent my first graders off to school- it never got easier, I always cried and prayed….counting on these beautiful and promising words for children-
‘Become as little trusting loving children. Whoever receives and welcomes one little child is greatest in the Kingdom of heaven… and also welcomes Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, whoever entices him or hinders a child’s progress from right thought and conduct… Anyone who causes suffering to a little child- a millstone should be hung around his neck and be thrown in the depths of the sea… Beware that you do not despise or demean one of these little ones… See that you do not offend one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven are always in the presence of and earnestly watch the face of My Father’…’Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.’
Stern warnings concerning treatment of children from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St. Matthew. So yes, pulling back that Angel Vine I thought of Guardian Angels…prayers for all little children-the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I found myself humming an old Welsh lullaby …Sleep my child let peace attend thee, all through the night. Guardian Angels will defend thee, all through the night.’
All the while thinking of angels. The pile of trimmings was quite large, I wound the Angel Vine into a verdant wreath and hung it’s delicate form on the Front Door knowing it would stay fresh for only a few short days. My Late Summer’s Verdant Walks, like childhood- don’t last long, but the memories will be cherished a long while.
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine. *The Scripture is from Matthew 18- my interpretation- alongside the Amplified Version of the KJV *Please don’t get any grand ideas that I’m an expert on memorizing Shakespeare! It’s a trick I employ to try to match up my ‘best’ words with poets or quotes from famous folks! *’All Through the Night- a Welsh lullaby is generally sung around the Christmas holidays- but so beautiful I couldn’t resist. I found no author credited for the song.
Ok, I admit it, the mailbox is old and needs to be replaced… it’s one of those jobs we’ve put off doing. The mailbox isn’t in a great location to begin with and our other options aren’t that great. The postal workers are good sports about it, even though the red flag has been long gone and the mailbox tends to stand open almost all the time… to be honest it’s a busy box. We were surprised this year in early May to discover at the very back of the mailbox- there was a bird’s nest! Of all places…
Here at the cottage, we’re used to finding bird’s nests- one favorite spot seems to be right above the front door, which I frankly find charming. We don’t disturb those front door nests or any others we find. Occasionally we’ve had a front door nest fall on the doormat and tried to put it back, knowing it probably wouldn’t be used again, since we’ve touched it. Another favorite spot seems to be among the rose bushes along the picket fence out front. We know this, we don’t disturb them, we like them! To me, a bird’s nest is one of the most hopeful things in nature. This year in January, it was time to cut the roses back hard- they had become leggy and too tall, so we took a few inches off at a time, precisely to keep from disturbing any unseen bird’s nests, since we’ve noticed they’re used over again. We found no rose bush nests this time, so the pruning was done… Now, I’m no expert on birding or bird nest building but I have to admit I have a strong admiration for their building skills- some are works of art and some are sort of messy but still charming.
We left one for several years- which had been built in a galvanized pitcher left on it’s side was under a little outbuilding. Finally we decided that it had been abandoned. That nest was so well built, I haven’t been able to dislodge it. I keep it, I love to look at it. I’ve even named it’s photograph- ‘Empty Nest’. I’ve even built a few faux nests by using craft store ‘nests’ and embellishing them- especially around Eastertime.
The mailbox nest was a puzzle- weeks went by… we kept watch on it -no activity was detected. I even mused that perhaps it was a vacation home, since the only quiet time for the mailbox would have been on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and occasional Monday holidays. A few days ago, when I removed the mail, which included a package, several catalogs and a magazine.. and a long envelope, the nest came forward with the letter! I tugged on it to see if there was any sign of tiny feathers or eggshell shards….nothing to indicate that the nest had been inhabited. I snapped a picture and left it. Then, I engaged in some covert bird watching to see if a flurry of sparrows or finches or brown thrush would flutter around it. Nothing. I named the photograph ‘SpecialDelivery’.
Later in the day, I removed it and inspected the mailbox nest further- a veritable work of art, look at the perfectly round entrance, protective entrance twigs and the edging of moss! Hmm…I wondered who had been pilfering the bright green moss I had used on the urns by the front door! Some little feathered friends! I marveled at the tiny birds who were making a lovely nest…far back in the darkened and dilapidated mailbox…. I have to admit, there was an element of sadness to think such a pretty nest had never become a place of rest for a momma bird to lay her eggs, raise her young, feed them worms from our garden and finally teach these little ones to fly- and yet, what lesson in nesting… of using our gifts, putting forth the effort to build a home and adding beauty no matter where we are!
Love y’all, Camellia
* photographs are obviously mine. *Please don’t remove a bird’s nest if you find one…don’t disturb or touch it either, unless you find something unusual like this or an obviously abandoned nest! Thank you! *I’ve put this one on display for now and I consider the nest to be a rare find, a natural wonder and a treasure!
It’s no secret that Southern folks love greens- turnip greens, mustard, collards and cabbage are found on almost every table almost all year round. Spring Greens bring on a whole host of other greens we enjoy- in our meals, in our homes and of course outdoors!
Green is symbolic of Spring in so many ways, of-
Life, renewal, nature and energy
Growth, harmony and freshness
Safe and secure environments and also Possibility, hopefulness
Military Green is thought to be symbolic for peace- an oxymoron, yet who but those who have been battle have a greater desire for peace?
To the superstitious among us- we do look for signs! Green was thought to have healing powers! Before I hear Heckle and Jeckle cackling over that… we must remember our spiritual teachings seem to bear this out too! ‘He makes me to liedown in tender fresh green pastures…He refreshes and restores my life.’ From the amplified version of Psalm 23.
Green is the most restful color to the human eye and was thought to improve vision.
Green relates to balance and harmony in nature- and tends to balance the heart and emotions- some go so far as to say green calms the head and heart- who knows? Green seems to have a calming effect on me!
Many Interior Designers treat green as neutral- and tend to use it always adding greenery and live plants. Designers and landscapers tend to create opportunities for pleasant views toward gardens or natural scenes.
Spring is a busy time here at the Cottage. I’m sure it is for you- here’s a few things we’ve been doing to bring Spring Greens into our lives! Everything seems to have greened up at once, yet Southerners still tend to keep our houses closed up due to changes in temperatures and of course pollen!
House Plants not only freshen the look of room but can actually make the air cleaner. Hint: Spring is a great time to find bargains on houseplants when a lot of us are concentrating on outdoor planting! We recently replaced some of ours- after clearing clutter and ridding cobwebs evident with sunny days! And what a fun way to reward our spring cleaning- with fresh plants! Here are a few of my favorite Spring Green Plants-
Angel Wing Begonias- I love these tuberous plants which are happy indoors and on covered or screened porches in the warm weather- their grayish green leaves with red underneath make it a show plant for our neutral palette.
For shape and ease of growing- Sansevieras- or my favorite name for them – Motherin Law Tongues– see how they mimic ‘flames’ in front of fireplaces for Spring and Summer and can be outside in low light too!
Fiddleleaf Figs are popular with interior designers and can be quite large- this one is elevated and seems happy with it’s nest of twiggy dried angel vine! It is a member of the Ficus Family.
The bonus for all three of these plants is a low water requirement- actually the quickest way to kill house plants is to overwater them! The interiors here had an immediate lift from greenery, even on dreary or rainy days!
Another fun project for you or the children! Hang on to those Celery Root bottoms when you used up the stalks- keep in the crisper drawer; then, spring clean the crisper drawer, remove, then press the root end into a container of soil – Look at the results from 3-4 celery roots! The Spring Green Tops (don’t expect them to ever grow long stalks); The celery leaves are wonderful added to salads or sprinkle over soups and stews for a fresh Spring Green flavor!
I don’t buy ferns for indoors – they tend to make a mess dropping leaves, however Asparagus Ferns do extremely well outdoors. Cut back in the fall- keep in a covered space until you need a bit of color in the house later in the year. They are generally reliable in the South, some even grow back!
I have already put away heavy winter throws- and added Spring Green color with the addition of sofa pillows- just that simple addition makes a world of difference to transition from winter to warmer weather!
This is the time of year I’m working down the freezer and pantry- on cool days there’s still nothing like vegetable soup or… on warmer days I can lighten up a meal with certain frozen vegetables, that frankly are almost as good frozen as fresh- Green Early Peas, Uncut Green Beans for my Green Bean Bundles, Broccoli and Spinach are standbys. Brussel Sprouts from the freezer are already trimmed and blanched- Saute them in bacon fat – crumbling bacon as a garnish. For refreshing Spring Brussel Sprouts- after sauteeing -add lemon zest and juice to make them sing!
Early Peas are so versatile in Chicken Pot Pies or on their own- I’ve been making these for years as a side dish- Parisian Early Peas are made by sauteeing thinly sliced sweet onion or spring green onions and shredded lettuce in butter- add the peas and steam until tender, just a few minutes truly.
The weeds are growing, well like weeds. For the southern forager, weeding also means setting aside dandelion greens, tender garlic chives and wild spring onions =- added to tender leaf lettuce and dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil, it’s Spring Greens on a plate!
As if to commemorate Spring- the first Peony bloomed here at the cottage. I took it as a beautiful remembrance of a very special lady. Our mother loved Spring Greens- all greens really. She was a green eyed beauty, a native of Alabama, a soft southern belle, who wore a delicately beaded celadon green dress to my wedding. Mother considered green to be a neutral color in her artistic pursuits- as a decorator and in her own home she always used green in some way and even set her first table as a bride with ivory plates ringed with green ivy.
Mother loved gardening and thoroughly enjoyed arranging flowers and participating in several garden clubs. I suppose I will always associate Spring Green with Momma- I was born in Springtime and she died last Spring, in early morning one year ago today. Her laughter, love for her family, friends, community…and oh, especially children– was as joyful as Spring. She was definitely a Spring Tonic, fresh as Spring Greens, her whole life. May we all partake in the joys of Spring Greens wherever we find them and cherish those with whom we share them.
Love y’all, Camellia
*all photographs are obviously mine taken right here at Camellia’s Cottage