Practicing the Art of Being Home…

img_4092We’ve been practicing the art of Being Home… and as we say- ‘I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out’ how to stay upbeat on this space, while not minimizing the situations we find ourselves in as we all are trying to stay healthy and well. I’ll admit, I had several posts in the works. Still. I always have a goal to write what I would want to read– especially as it pertains to making life a bit better. So! I decided to come up with a few ways to enjoy being at home, while we are also practicing social distancing. I started brainstorming for a few ideas.. Think of things you enjoy doing at home. What would you be doing at home this time of year? Think of things you’ve been putting off or things you hoped to get done, yet hadn’t had the right kind of time to get done before.

img_4102Practicing this Art of being At Home..  means staying active and while it might not offer all the benefits of working out in a gym- housework definitely burns up calories! And keeping a home, adds to a good mental state, too. I think we’re all trying to stay positive. For me,  the first step has been to accept the situation and it’s helping me embrace  it. And, the best advice is to keep it simple. Is there anything more satisfying than a warm stack of towels or a fresh made bed, with newly laundered sheets.

img_4107If you have fresh flowers or even a bundle of herbs to place bedside- it truly is the epitome of practicing home arts. The little bundle of meaning filled herbs is an easy project.

  • Magnolia and Camellia leaves represent Home here in the South.
  • Lamb’s Ears are a healing herb-  gardeners kept it growing in case of  small wounds or bee stings- wrap a wooly leaf of Stachys Byzantine around a wound, to stop the bleeding and some use lamb’s ear as a dressing to lessen the swelling and pain of bee stings.
  • Sage is a component of this tussie mussie- and we all want to be wise!
  • Oregano is a joyful herb which was thought to foster health and happiness.
  • I added rosemary to this one… ‘Rosemary for Remembrance’ and who doesn’t want a better memory or even sweet dreams?  Please note if you have allergies as I do, just replace or omit any with another one.

Scents in the home are often associated with good feelings… here’s one- Coffee Beans! Coffee beans were used to ‘clear the olfaction’ or the sense of smell after being on overload of fragrances- sellers of perfumes often offer a pouch of coffee beans, so that a buyer can experience new fragrances. I find the aroma of coffee beans to be a mood lifter… just take a whiff of the container and you’ll see! Drinking coffee has health benefits too! img_4095

Citrus scented cleaners, detergents, soaps- oh the list is endless- are popular for a reason! The scent of Lemons, even Oranges are known to be excellent cleaners and! You guessed it- natural mood lifters! Here’s one of my favorite ways to make an air freshener and skin treatment too!

img_4101Save lemon and orange peels, place in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer for the best natural air freshener you can imagine! Then, cool the mixture, remove the peels and chill the remainder for a wonderful skin tightening treatment. Use regularly and I have found it lightens … ahem, age spots if you’re plagued with them! Wash the face or hands, pat dry. Dip a clean cotton pad in liquid and swipe over the skin. Pat dry again, immediately following with a moisturizer. If you really want extra benefit, instead of a moisturizing product, simply coat the skin with a good Olive Oil. Coconut oil is good too. Please note: high quality vegetable oils are absorbed quickly by the skin and leave no residue! Try this one! I know you’ll love it!

img_4096One thing I would be doing- getting my skin in shape to get a head start on a summer glow. Epsom salts  added to a warm bath, eases tense muscles, and the salts bring moisture up to the surface of the skin, which is always a good thing! Even soaking in that old ancient beauty treatment- a milk bath is easily accomplished by added granular dry milk while the water is running.  Milk is a natural skin softener and simply washes down the drain- The salts or granular milk are both known as safe and healthy additions, they have no harsh chemicals or oils and truly can be mixed for an extra luxurious treatment. img_4089

And here are few things that will actually help keep your immunity levels up a bit higher and also to make life feel a bit more luxurious, using items you may already have!

Make a habit of taking a hot steamy shower. The goal is to…well, perspire. Okay, men you can sweat! Perspiring is one of the best ways to detoxify- ridding the body of toxins is a true immunity booster and improves blood flow, may lower blood pressure and for sure is a mood booster! (In fact, up the temperature in that milk/salts bath and you get the same benefit!) Remember how we sterilized almost everything? Some believe perspiring lowers the risk of infections! Fighting infections through the use of hot water to clean towels, linens, dinnerware and utensils, even clothing at high temperatures is recommended. (be careful with clothing- some fabrics have warnings against high temps for washing and drying! )

Saline nasal mist and clear eye drops are a life saver for me during allergy season- it turns out even with washing your hands- using saline nasal mist or rinse should be on your regimen too. Clearing out the nasal passages, also clears out potential viruses before they become an infection!

img_4093Of course, we need to be drinking lots of water, too! Perspire like that pretty glass and …Apply ice to those weary eyes, tired faces and aching hands. Well known models swear this is one of their major secrets to looking fresh and certainly gets them awake and looking good on camera- Zoom meeting anyone?

And, if you live in the south, float a few gardenias in that bath water…okay camellias, magnolias and rose petals are good too. Our southern mothers floated blossoms on water in cut glass bowls… adding them to a bath was simply a luxurious extension! Ladies everywhere, adding a scented flower to your bath lifts the spirits and believe me, this will make it a bit easier to Stay at Home.

Love y’all, Camellia

 

 

 

Spring Greens…

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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 lie down 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.3B97FD25-91F1-4922-A848-03BC73E7A9BC
  • For shape and ease of growing- Sansevieras- or my favorite name for them – Mother in Law Tongues– see how they mimic ‘flames’ in front of fireplaces for Spring and Summer and can be outside in low light too!F3586D2F-87DD-46FB-AA85-4A856C817452
  • 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. 0BA659CE-DBF4-418E-969B-B08142109C1F
  • 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!55A65A09-CC77-4F80-AE40-0EFAACF394C5

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! C641536F-608A-4106-8864-77C83FC16886

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.9E263837-172A-44A6-A98B-EB4C0724551E 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!23B20B84-640A-4BB2-8780-C3660E959A34

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. F85DFF31-7C5F-48C2-9A0F-8FC25495CCED

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

Freshen up for Fall, y’all…

60B3C876-BBFB-4CA2-8F15-9308077EBA05In the South, when we start saying- ‘It’s nice outside!’ The Fall days have cooled down, all of that Daylight has been saved…it signals a time when I want to Freshen up for Fall indoors and out… The Cottage is small but has a good many windows which tends to expand the space visually, bringing the Outdoor Views inside. It’s a fact, that if the foliage outside is still lush and green, the sofa pillows have hints of green too; when the foliage is thinner and more colorful– I want to make changes indoors, bring out cozy throws and warm up the color palette. When abundant Fall Vegetables, Fruits and Holiday Foods start showing up too- It’s time to Freshen up for Fall, y’all!6A21141C-7353-4783-B49E-7684D565E3B7

I spent some time last week clearing out and taking inventory of the pantry and freezer to shop here for meals, already in the freezer and take advantage of grocer’s sales on-

  • Turkeys, Corn Meal  and Grits-
  • Sugars- brown and white
  • Apples, Pears, Peppers and Pecans too.
  • (The signature sign of a good Southern hostess, is a bowl of Toasted Pecans!)

While I was clearing out inside– the sunny cool days beckoned me outdoors more than once! A year ago, we visited the historic Grand Hotel near Fairhope, Alabama.. the abundant colorful arrangements in the foyer were stunning. I wanted recreate them here -if space allowed!67EC36D1-1C1B-4DC2-942B-24461F95947C

It doesn’t. Still. Outside here at the cottage- the sky’s the limit! So, here’s what we did-

  • Inside, we cleared off counters, cleaned out pantry and fridge, used what we had on hand and freshened up while still taking advantage of the abundance of Fall. We cozied up the sofas and chairs with a few throws and a big bowl filled with Fall Fruits and Vegetables.75DE720A-8EF3-4F07-A761-CCDA5F945125
  • We looked outside and made note of the views. It’s still nice outside, so why put up the outdoor cushions when we still have a few weeks to enjoy it? We can keep the cushions and a paisley throw nearby inside for reading or relaxing. We pulled terra cotta pots and urns in closer-still lush with summer Ferns and a big pot of dark Coleus clustered beside the chaise. At the same time? We improved the view from indoors- the cozy cluster outside is hiding bare rose branches and hydrangeas no longer at their peak.701DC1D7-5A1C-4F12-B6FA-8AF9E668EE65
  •  Over the sink, the kitchen window overlooks an ironwork table and chairs…now bare from summer’s plants or arrangements- we put a big pot of fat Mums and some faux white baby pumpkins in a galvanized tub to brighten the view from inside while taking advantage of a dogwood beginning to change from summer’s green to Fall’s Brilliant Red. 00323B39-22B4-49A5-810F-3F9830B7659C
  • *Note: Most faux pumpkins are a better fit for continuous outdoor use. Bring them in if you’re expecting a downpour! Don’t be afraid to mix faux and real in arrangements or fruit bowl.  Abundance is key. Real baby pumpkins and gourds will stay fresh a while longer if refrigerated- hopefully ’til Thanksgiving!
  • In another area- we set up a Big Disguise. Where a tree had to be removed is a big bare hole not yet ready for re-planting… 2901D58C-9A8A-4702-92EF-3234D01CFFA6
  • In front of the railing, we set up a temporary Fall scene using a small Fire Pit and a Flea Market Ironwork Container with a faux candle. Take a look! 0E5D3182-3D2C-4B06-B62D-197656DE011DNow, while it’s not as grand as the famous Grand Hotel… it’s a big scale arrangement that was fun to assemble with some fresh Magnolia Leaves, swept up fallen leaves, Nandina Berries, vines and bundles of twigs. D4EC8D16-8657-4329-9C2D-8BF040BC8EE1
  • This arrangement, using what we had on hand- is whimsical, improves the outside and freshens up the view from inside Camellia’s Cottage for now, as we prepare to enjoy Fall!

I’d love to know- How do you Freshen up your cottage or castle for Fall?

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

*The photographs of large scale floral arrangements were taken at the Grand Hotel and Spa in Point Clear, Alabama- beautiful all year round… Well over 100 years old, The Grand is a Stately Southern Lady lounging on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama. Everyone should try to visit at least once in a lifetime! It is now part of the resort collection of Marriott® Hotels.

Iron Skillet Cornbread…

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Rivaled only by Biscuits, Cornbread is the classic Southern Comfort Food. Make a pan of Iron Skillet Cornbread and somehow the day gets better; it’s one of the basic joys of Southern cooking. Served alongside Homemade Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, even a Vegetable Plate of Crowder Peas, Coleslaw, Stewed Summer Squash and Onions, and fresh Sliced Tomatoes, Iron Skillet Cornbread is always welcome. Now, I would never encourage anyone to use a Cornbread recipe that calls for sugar in the Batter- however, for Breakfast or Brunch, try drizzling hot Cornbread with:

  • Yellow Label Syrup®
  • Local Honey or
  • Orange Marmalade

Oh my goodness! You don’t need another thing! Honestly, Cornbread is good at any meal- though most of us forget how good it is for Breakfast or Brunch. My grandmother is the only person I’ve ever known to elevate humble Cornbread with Orange Marmalade but it also adds an amazing flavor.  Here’s how you do it- keep that Iron Skillet seasoned by cooking Bacon in it regularly! Heat Bacon Fat in an Iron Skillet in a hot oven. Meanwhile stir together Self Rising Cornmeal, a couple of eggs and milk- when the Iron Skillet is hot- pour some of the sizzlin’ Bacon Fat into the Cornbread Mixture; Stir carefully, then pour the seasoned batter back into the Iron Skillet and bake in a hot oven. What you’re looking for is a Crisp Crust and a Moist Crumb on the inside. Sizzling hot from the oven, slather with butter- for a real treat, drizzle with something sweet and sticky!

Love y’all, Camellia

* A wonderful resource for cornbread recipes is Southern Living magazine;  the recipes on bags of Self Rising Cornmeal are good also.  If you can’t find Self Rising Cornmeal in your local store, it can be ordered online. *Photograph of Cornbread drizzled with Yellow Label® Syrup- made right here in Alabama- is mine.

The Little Things…

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A Sprig of Mint. A squeeze of Lemon. A Johnny Jump Up. A Change of Throw Pillows. Fresh Ground Black Pepper or Paprika. A few slices of Raisin Bread and a Cake Donut or two.  A Simple Syrup. A Dozen Stuffed Eggs. A Single Bud in a Tiny Vase. Mysterious but Common Ingredients. A Relish Tray. A Flat of Bedding Plants. A Monogram on Anything! A Splash of Spirits. A Small Gift in Extravagant Wrappings. A bit of Moss or even an odd Stone. A Flavored Butter. A Handwritten Note.  A Bundle of Herbs. The Zest of an Orange.

It’s the Little Things that add an unexpected flavor to life and cost next to nothing in time or money. In the South I grew up in- the Little Things were just what we did. It was a sign of hospitality to add the Little Things to a Meal, a Recipe or a Home. It was that subtle difference- Sheets hung out on a clothesline smell different than those run through a dryer. One perfect camellia floating in a crystal bowl, a monogrammed guest towel, or using the good china or silver just because you dropped by for a visit. The Small Things make a guest feel welcome and make house feel like a home.

With Spring in the air, I changed out the throw pillows in my living room, from the soft grays and creams, I enjoy so much in winter- I added the vintage shades of green linen pillows brought a bit of Springtime indoors.IMG_2545

I bought some Bedding Plants for the garden but since they were Begonias, I knew I could enjoy them inside for a while and plant them after Easter – with Good Friday being a day that many did their vegetable planting. For less than ten dollars and a bit of moss, I was able to fill several containers with fresh blooms, the little things made such a difference.

To keep meals interesting, Southerners have always added a little something to the table like relish trays of pickles, relishes, celery stuffed with pimento cheese, sliced tomatoes and the beloved Stuffed Eggs in a highly prized Egg Dish especially for them. And Southern ladies will monogram anything that will stay still long enough- Hand towels, pillows, linens- and aren’t these dishes pretty?  I saw them when I was at Williams Sonoma recently. Monograms are a small thing but add a personal touch to almost anything.

We also perk up meals with spices and sauces- A favorite here is Parisienne Chicken which has a Paprika Sauce- IMG_2377

  • Boneless chicken breasts are sprinkled liberally with paprika, then dredged in flour, a pinch of salt and even more paprika-
  • Brown chicken in melted butter,
  • Slice potatoes over the chicken and entire bunch of green onions are chopped over the potatoes,
  • A rich chicken broth is poured about half way up the Dutch Oven and the whole thing is baked about an hour or so. IMG_2379
  • The chicken and potatoes are removed to a platter with steamed broccoli. Reserve half of the rich red broth in another container.
  • Mix together a carton of sour cream and a small softened package of cream cheese, the whisk into the hot broth.

This Paprika Sauce is so wonderful, you will want to smother everything except for the small Orange Rolls served alongside. Add a Lettuce Cup of Orange Sections, folks will think you’ve been trained at the Cordon Bleu when it is really just the Small Things which make this meal delicious. IMG_2383

*With the reserved rich red broth- there is another Paprika Sauce for Seafood

  • Warm the broth, add a pinch of dried thyme, the juice and zest of a lemon, a tablespoon of white wine or brandy and again whisk in a carton of sour cream you may also add a tablespoon of capers. This Paprika Sauce is amazing over broiled, baked or fried fish such as Red Snapper.

You will not believe the difference in flavor a Small Thing like chopped Italian meats will make in your favorite Italian Spaghetti Sauce, it almost melts away, it is one of those Mysterious but Common Ingredients!  Baked Ham is a staple in the Southern Kitchen- and while we loved our spiced honey glaze, I recently pulled a spiral sliced ham from the freezer and made a Black Pepper Ham–  IMG_2511

  • I baked it according to directions (which is basically to heat a fully cooked ham all the through) covered in foil –
  • Then I tossed away the glaze package, remove the Ham from the oven-open up the foil and instead mixed the ham juices with more than a cup of Black Pepper-
  • I coated the outside of the ham and ran it back in the oven for 15 minutes

The Black Pepper Ham was so good with sliced tomatoes, potato salad, green beans and soft yeast rolls. For another meal, the sliced ham was just wonderful tucked inside homemade biscuits. Later in the week, I sautéed a whole head of cabbage in a bit of bacon drippings and added some of the chopped Black Pepper Ham- with Pinto Beans and Cornbread, it was delicious! The addition of Black Pepper was a Small Thing that made a world of difference.

A Raisin Bread Pudding is a Southern favorite, and here the addition of Small Things takes a Bread Pudding from just good to amazing. For this one, I had a half loaf of Cinnamon Raisin Bread, four large cinnamon and sugar Cake Donuts kept in the freezer instead of tossing!

  • When thawed, the ‘breads’ were torn or broken into chunks. In a bowl I mixed 3-4 eggs, 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 cups of milk with a tablespoon of vanilla. In a larger bowl I soaked the mixture overnight. *There was no need to add cinnamon or salt to the raisin bread and donuts.
  •  The next day I baked off the Bread Pudding in a large  greased baking pan. While the Bread Pudding was hot, I poured an Orange Hard Sauce made with a stick of melted Butter, the zest of an Orange and the juice, 3-4 tablespoons of Honey and a tablespoon of Bourbon which had been whisked together. The Sauce could have just been Butter and Honey- however the Little Things like orange zest and a splash of spirits elevated a humble Bread Pudding! IMG_2509

Fresh Mint is always on hand in the Southern garden- add it to simple flowers for a fresh scent, coat the leaves with dark chocolate and keep them in tight container in the refrigerator and add them to a dessert, a plate of cookies or top a bowl of fresh strawberries.  IMG_2564

Even a plain Glass of Water can be elevated by adding Little Things like a tablespoon of simple Sugar Syrup, a sweet Johnny Jump Up and a Sprig of fresh Mint- why we had these at Ice Water Teas years ago! Mother Teresa famously said- ‘Do no great things, only small things with great love.‘ I hope you will be inspired to follow her advice!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine.