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.

A Fall Gathering…

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Several years ago, it was decided that we would have a Fall Gathering …the pumpkins were laid by the door with care, a big dried hydrangea wreath was hung on the door, about two dozen hand painted invitations were sent out with fear and trepidation- too many- too few? IMG_0806

The menu plan was for a heavy laden table with Southern favorites and a few new twists on old standbys. The key word for this Gathering was abundance, but please remember our Southern Mothers believe in small yeast rolls and biscuits– no Cat Head Biscuits here! The Menu would need to be a portable feast, a harvest buffet of regional flavors, with enough food to feed big strapping men, dainty ladies and Sherman’s Army!

The Gathering Menu

Sliced Ham in Millie Ray’s® Rolls with a Spicy Mustard. Fried Chicken Nuggets in fragrant Marshall’s Biscuits® served with pickle slices, Tiny Orange Yeast Rolls thinly iced and laced with Orange Zest alongside Cheddar Cheese Cubes

Low Country Pickled Shrimp, Sweet and Salty Caramelized Bacon, Hot Sausage Balls and Nachitoches Meat Pies

Yellow Squash Frittata Squares, Crispy Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds.

Celery and Carrot Sticks with Fresh Cucumber Rounds. Hot Fresh Spinach Dip. Cheese Straws, Toasted Pecans, Parched Peanuts, Assorted Crackers and Big Apple Shaped Cheese Balls, one in Cheddar, one in Bleu.

Fried Peach Pies, Mimi’s Pound Cake with Strawberries and a Big Glass Bowl filled with Banana Pudding.

 Iced Tea, Lemon Slices, Light Beverages, White Wines and Coffee.

For weeks with an enormous amount of help and encouragement from a few friends, decisions were cussed and discussed.   Silver was polished and shared, linen napkins were rolled, coolers and freezers were shared, the table layout was made and remade. The decorations were easy, what had been planned for the Thanksgiving table, shown above- would be put to use for the Gathering as well.

What I discovered was this- before all of the big holiday entertaining commences in winter, Fall can be the perfect time to gather friends.

 There is one exception- don’t have a gathering during an SEC game or even on weekends for that matter! This gathering was held early on a Wednesday night- from 6-8. Since most of the guests are of a certain age, a weeknight is actually a great time to gather. And even though the house is small- more than 2 dozen guests milled around the cottage. The screen porch was used to great advantage- it is customary in the South for beverages of a certain strength to be served separately from the main food and beverages. The screen porch was a perfect place for the restorative wines and ales, alongside parched peanuts and cozy shawls img_1438

 After a work day or a heavy meal, there is nothing more restorative for the St. Simon Peter’s, Our Lady of the Lake, and even the First United’s- than a hot cup of coffee or a restorative nip swirled in a glass with crisp air and good friends. I hope a good time was had by all, we sure enjoyed having a Fall Gathering! image

Happy Fall, y’all, Camellia

*Most of the photographs used are mine-the hand painted invitations were done by me- however the pics of the silver tray and silverware were found on AOL images and may be copyrighted. And I would be very remiss if I did not thank Paula and Alyson for making the Gathering a success- there was enough food and the guests were completely delightful!!!l

Millie Ray’s Rolls® are made in Birmingham Alabama! Marshall’s Biscuits® are made in Mobile Alabama !

Fall Wreaths…

imageFall Wreaths are an essential transition from summer to harvest, on Southern doors and interiors you will find wreaths and arrangements gleaned from yards and gardens. From the cradle to the grave, Southern ladies insist that:

  •  Knowing a good florist is essential, especially if you don’t happen to have a green thumb or know anyone who does. Please do this by recommendation- if you visit a florist that bases the business on lots of glitter, tinted carnations, specializes in funeral wreaths shaped like golf carts, makes holiday arrangements with canned snow and plastic snowmen  or Horror of all Horrors mostly uses artificial flowers– with as much grace as you can muster, tiptoe backwards out of that shop and run- don’t walk away. Resolve to never darken the door of that place again! It can only lead to social embarrassment.
  • Being in a Garden Club trains ladies in the fine arts of arranging flowers, especially yard flowers for their homes. Being on the Altar Committee of your church is a labor of love and if you have a member who makes an offering of artfully designed yard flowers all the better. Working Garden Club Holiday Houses is not for the faint of heart- it is as rigorous as SEC Spring Training! Beautification of your community is considered  an act of love and devotion as long as you do it with a stylish garden hat and matching gloves; are able to merely glow and grow, without breaking a sweat!
  • The very height of a Southern lady’s repertoire is to actually grow flora and fauna in her yard to use for home décor and special events. Any time there are especially auspicious occasions you can find florally talented ladies roaming all over yards that are known to have seasonal specialties, snipping and trimming from yard to yard to get up enough for a yard arrangement, which is highest form of floral gentility, good taste and refinement.

Fall Wreaths are part of the genteel Southern tradition. If you don’t actually have a granddaddy who owns a cotton farm, well- at least you can round up some cotton to make a Fall Wreath to grace your interiors or front doors. Cotton Wreaths are highly prized in Alabama. I fashioned my own wreath from cotton grown in the George Washington Carver Garden at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which was given to me as a gift from the gardeners. I had my husband go to an actual cotton farm and chop cotton for me so that friends and family could have their own! Be sure and leave the ’empty cotton bolls’ on the stems- they are called Southern Stars!wreath

Fine gentlemen consider it a privilege to grow Muscadines even if the deer eat all of them before anyone gets enough to actually make a pot of jelly! Southern men might dream of Muscadine Wine but he knows the ladies will appreciate the vines for their Fall Wreaths, even if his vines aren’t successful that year. img_0120-2

Herb boutonnieres are a wonderful addition to weddings and funerals- Granddaughters of a large family I know, fashioned herb badges for family members- Rosemary for Remembrance and Lavender for Love and Devotion, for the visitation and then a few months later, they planted Rosemary and Lavender behind the gravestone. I know one lady who knew that a prominent member of the community would be wall to wall with funeral stands on his behalf. She decided to cut and wrap a massive arm bouquet of fresh rosemary to be presented to the widow at the gravesite- it was a sweet gesture of remembrance. Fall Wreaths can be made from fresh herbs and hung to dry for snipping later, Southerners love this idea. I admit to having fresh basil drying in my pantry as we speak, shamefully I did not fashion it into a Fall Wreath. However, months before a nightly nip in the air arrived, I cut and filled big galvanized tubs with hydrangeas which are drying for Fall Wreaths and filling baskets here at Camellia’s Cottage.

imageThis weekend, get outside and wind up some Vines, some of the most beautiful Fall Wreaths I have ever seen were made from Kudzu vines! Morning glory vines also make wonderful wreaths… even cuttings of long flexible shrub branches wind up in a quirky sort of way….the wreath on top of the white chest at the end of this post was made from Fresh Gardenia shrub growth- it just happened to dry into a glorious shade of brown, I added cotton to it, to make a Fall Wreath. It is one of my favorite wreaths. You can also purchase grapevine wreaths and stick rose hips, herbs or dried pods and berries along with magnolia leaves for a stunning Fall Wreath- you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot of decorating magic. Go ahead and embrace the imperfection of yard finds. And please remember the advice from our Southern ladies- Yard flowers are the most loving, because they are a part of who we are.

Love y’all, Camellia. image

All of these less than perfect photographs are shamefully mine.

How we talk…

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With the advent of air conditioning, the South experienced an influx of Yankees, who either couldn’t understand a word we said or made so much fun of how we talk, that in some circles, Southern folks are still trying to cover up how we talk by using big words or dropping the use of our distinctively regional language. The one thing most of us have not been able to effectively erase is our accent or the way we put words together. I’ve decided it’s the humidity- which naturally slows the speech and causes us to drop the ‘g’ at the end of our words. It would be impossible to try to de-code how we talk in one short lesson without going off on impossible tangents. Why, the average human being would be fit to be tied. So in an effort to de-tangle some of it- Y’all, must understand that while you might think- let’s ‘Go down South’ – If you live here? Nothin’ is down- it’s all up.

  • We wake up, get up, then we make up the bed
  • We load up the washing machine, wash up the dishes, then put it all up.
  • We clean up, sweep up, mop up, spruce up and even perk up the house.
  • We roll up our hair, get dolled up, made up, rigged up and dressed up, before we go Uptown
  •  We gas up the car, pick up Momma, the kids or the cleaning ( we don’t say laundry, just like we don’t say toilet, it’s  a commode, y’all- just don’t leave the lid up!)

Everything is up, even when you’re acting up. Let me give you an example:

‘I’m not making this up, ever since Bobby Joe set up that wide screen TV, he  hasn’t been worth shootin’- Tammy Faye teared up tellin’ it. She said since football season started up– Bobby Joe stays up late with his twin brothers William and Billy, they get likkered  uprevved up, hoopin’ and hollerin’ loud enough to wake up the dead. acting like a bunch of hoodlums! When the game’s over, they leave Bobby Joe sleepin’ on the sofa. Before Tammy Faye can get the house cleaned back up– those boys start up all over again the next weekend. Bobby Joe was always just precious. (Precious is another way of sayin’- At least his momma loves him!)- I tell you, Tammy Faye was wound up tighter than a tick! I like ta-died when she told it right up in Sunday School! We all said, ‘Bless your heart, Tammy Faye, you’ve laid up crowns in heaven.’ Of course we were thinkin’ she needs to get wound up and throw a full blown conniption fit- Never underestimate the value of a conniption fit di-rect from an thoroughly fed up Southern woman!

Oh law, don’t get me started up- I hope you’ve laughed a little and been enlightened about how we talk… and remember- like all good Southern stories, this one is part Truth, part Myth and part Outright Lies…

Love y’all, Camellia

 *AOL image may be subject to copyright

Alabama Marble…

What do these three handsome men have in common? The man in the middle is Giuseppe Moretti , the sculptor of Birmingham’s Vulcan and the ‘Head of Christ’ which is on display at Vulcan Park after residing at the Alabama Archives and History Building in Montgomery for many years. While Moretti, an Italian immigrant, was working on Vulcan he discovered a treasure trove of marble in Sylacauga, Alabama and sculpted the Head of Christ.Alabama Marble is said to be the whitest marble in the world. Moretti loved working with it more than his native Italian Carrera Marble. The first recorded industry in Alabama was in 1834, which was to quarry marble from Sylacauga, which continues to produce the highly prized marble to this day. m-5120-marble-in-the-1930sMany historic places in Alabama and the United States use this beautiful marble.

  • Courthouses all across the state, the Alabama Capitol Building
  • The Brown Marx Building, Birmingham Trust National Bank
  • The interior of the John Hand Building and countless city halls, privately owned homes and even cemeteries used Alabama Marble.
  • The beautiful Louisiana Supreme Court, the Somerset County Courthouse in New Jersey, the United States Supreme Court interior
  • The Old Chicago Main Post Office, the Alexander Hamilton Custom House in Manhattan, the Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn, an the Historic City Hall in Philadelphia-

All have Alabama Marble -and that’s not all! Look at the beautiful translucent ceiling in the Lincoln Memorial. What you are looking at is Alabama Marble, glowingly beautiful at night.

Look at Gutzan Borghum’s bust of Lincoln found in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol- Borgham said the texture of Alabama Marble allowed him to portray the kindness of Lincoln’s face- something he had never been able to achieve with other types of marble. In the early part of the 21st century, Alabama Marble made a comeback in home interiors-especially kitchens. kitchen-with-alabama-marble

When we began renovation of the kitchen here at Camellia’s Cottage- a large portion of the budget went toward the kitchen. The old kitchen had very little counter space- the new plan was a U shaped countertop- in place of the L shape- with the refrigerators on the opposite wall along with a marble topped sink and coffee station– I had increased the square footage of the countertops by over 25 square feet! Now, the budget could stand only so much stretching- I wanted Alabama Marble, however the cost had gone up.  Alabama Marble was over $120 per sq.ft. as opposed to Italian Carerra Marble which was $90 per sq.ft.- and that was before adding in the cost of countertop removal, installation and taxes!  I made the hard choice to go with Italian Carerra Marble- as representative of the Marble Industry in Alabama. Nothing beats marble for elegance and tradition– it’s also heat resistant and stays cool – a big bonus in a Southern Kitchen!

As you can see, Italian Carerra is not as white as Alabama Marble- however the pale gray went with my overall neutral color scheme. Now, I have to tell you-  the contractors, kitchen designer and others tried to talk me out of getting marble countertops; it is softer than granite- it can stain and the biggest problem is etching. I have to admit that I wanted to keep it showroom perfect at first! It’s sort of like aging folks- when you find that first wrinkle, you sort of panic. I know I did. Marble countertops are not for everyone.

As mine slowly etched, I tried to avoid it, then- I read articles by interior designers who had installed marble countertops in their own kitchens- one said he couldn’t wait until his got some age on it- others said to embrace the etching as part of the patina of age. Another had purposely bought old marble and another said she wanted hers to age so it would look like her grandmother’s kitchen in Italy. So, here I am four years since it has been installed and I have to say- it is like aging, you can either fight it every single day or you can embrace the natural beauty of stages of real life. My kitchen can’t compare with those you see in magazines, but everyday I think of this house which holds so many good memories and the food I prepare for the people I love– none of us are perfect, some of us have aged- Marble is a daily reminder to embrace life’s best moments, to stay true to my roots and love it- to embrace the patina of age.

Love y’all, Camellia

Check out- www.encylopediaofalabama.org for more information about Alabama Marble. Images for photographs of Vulcan, Head of Christ, and Giusseppe Moretti and other vintage photographs are from Sylacauga Marble in Wikipedia. The Kitchen photograph is one I saved for my own renovation and is from Birmingham Home and Garden Magazine, I believe. Some may be subject to copyright and if so I will gladly credit these photographs or remove them.

Big Hearted Casseroles…

 

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Bighearted Casseroles are a mainstay in the South.  With just a few things added to a main ingredient like Chicken, Potatoes- sweet or white, Canned Green Beans or even Fruit-  we can make up a Bighearted Casserole.. Dishes generous enough feed a crowd or stretch a thin budget. Bighearted Casseroles will put up with almost anything– being thrown together last minute; assembled the night before and refrigerated or even wrapped tightly in the freezer, ready when you need to take a dish. Bighearted Casseroles aren’t fussy about when to make an appearance either– they’ll be there Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. There are Classic Casseroles which can grace a fine Brunch, a High Holiday Buffet or a Ladies Luncheon with style in silver carriers- yet not be snobbish when a Bighearted Casserole is taken to a new mother, a sick friend or as part of a backyard picnic. I wish I had a nickel for every time a Casserole has saved the day for me, like the Campbell’s Chicken Casserole below.casseroles-campbells

No doubt every culture in the world has it’s own version of a ‘one pot’ meal …yet Southern women have elevated the Bighearted Casserole to an art form; Campbell’s Soup benefitted enormously from our Love of Casseroles- many Savory Casseroles use Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soups. In fact, you can tell if a Southern Lady has been tasting too many Casseroles if her ankles are swollen from the high sodium content. No one wants to admit they like Green Bean Casserole with canned fried onion rings, Poppy Seed Chicken with crushed Town House crackers or even a Tuna Casserole topped with Golden Flake Potato Chips. We do sneak around and eat them every chance we get! Ritz crackers got rich on Bighearted Casseroles! So many Casseroles have crumbled Ritz crackers on top- ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ takes on a whole new meaning. Alabama’s colorful former governor, Big Jim Folsom once stopped late at night and ate a concoction that consisted of long simmered turnip greens, hog jowl and was topped off with canned onion rings. When someone asked the name of the dish- Big Jim spoke up and said, ‘It’s called ‘Ain’t Mad at Nobody Casserole’…that’s how you feel when you’ve eaten a Bighearted Casserole, so soul satisfying, it’s hard to be mad at anybody!

Fruit Casseroles are Bighearted enough to be a delicious side for Baked Ham or Roast Turkey and can even fill in as a delicious dessert. If you have never had a Pineapple Cheese Casserole- well you missed something truly good. Topping our list here at Camellia’s Cottage is the re-discovered  Apricot Casserole, which my grandmother made. She adored apricots, fresh, dried or canned. Apricot Fried Pies, a jar of re-hydrated Dried Apricots smeared on her famous Sharp Cheese Toast was the best breakfast I recall as a child. Fresh Apricots topped off Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. A bowl of Canned Apricots made a good everyday side-  At Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, Mimi’s Apricot Casserole was divine. Simple to make, complex in flavor- I hope you’ll try it.  For Apricot Casserole you will need:

  • 1 stick of butter (melted) plus more to butter a 9×9 Pyrex dish
  • 3 – 16oz cans of apricots- well drained (but not rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar firmly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • One sleeve of Ritz Crackers crushed- (I often crush about 6-8 additional crackers)

 

Method– Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

  • Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  • Add crushed Ritz Crackers to this mixture. Blend well.
  • Pour melted butter over crumbled Mixture to gently combine.
  • In a well buttered 9×9 Pyrex dish, layer one can of apricots face side down (as shown above )
  • Cover with 1/3 of the sugar/cracker/butter mixture.
  • Repeat with second can of drained apricots, then top with mixture.
  • Repeat again with third can of drained apricots and finish with the rest of the sugar/cracker/butter mixture.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature as a Side Dish as shown in opening photograph- Or as a delicious dessert, served warm with whipped cream!  (Shown below)

Your Waistline is practically guaranteed to get Thick but it is highly unlikely that your Ankles will Swell with Apricot Casserole.

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See just how Bighearted a Casserole can be! From sweet and fruity to savory and warm…they’re UmUm Good! Let me know what your favorite Bighearted Casserole is!

Love y’all, Camellia

Photograph of Chicken Casserole was credited to Campbell’s Soup on AOL images- Golden Flake Potato Chips are made right here in Alabama! The other photographs are straight from Camellia’s Cottage Test Kitchen – 🙂

Silver Queens…

I don ‘t understand retail therapy, it could be that I worked in retail most of my life; so  let me share some real therapy for real Southern ladies –

  • Taking care of the cast iron
  • Checking the baseboards to make sure they’re clean
  • Polishing silver is especially rewarding
  • Buying Silver Queen corn– the crowning staple of Southern cuisine

If there is ever an upset in the home or community- Southern women of my era have reliably turned to these activities for therapy– we calm our nerves this way, we settle down into these rhythmic, meditative, even ancient practices.IMG_1387

Cast iron is inherited- it must be taken care of…and the bonus is when something unsettling happens, you can always clean it out with salt, then fry some bacon in the pan to re-season it…a little spat with a husband can be cured just by frying some bacon…trust me on this one! He’s irritated, you’re unsettled and start thinking about your inheritance…you grab your grandmother’s cast iron skillet and start frying bacon…before you know it, he comes up behind you, tugs on your apron strings or eases his arms around your waist and says, ‘hey good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?‘ You sort of give him the cold shoulder and just say ‘Get on out of here now, I’m just seasoning this skillet…‘ He keeps on hanging around…looking sort of sheepish…bacon will do this to man, he forgets why he’s irritated, hoping he’ll be the one who gets the crumbled bacon, instead of humble pie. white baseboardSouthern women have a great affection for their Baseboards…I have never heard women of other cultures quite so fascinated with whether or not their baseboards are clean. A friend told me recently that she wasn’t sure her housecleaning service was doing a good enough job. She shares the same cleaning service with another friend, who had called and said, ‘I’m not sure they’ve been cleaning these baseboards!’ My friend said, ‘Well I have to tell them to clean mine, they don’t think of it on their own, but Lord knows I asked them when I hired them if they clean windowsills, crown molding and baseboards, though I never asked about the chair rails.’ Now, if weeds are God’s invitation to pray in the garden, checking baseboards will get you on your knees in the home. It’s upsetting to be paying someone to do this – however, when life isn’t going all that well…get on your knees and get those baseboards clean– cleanliness is next to godliness, you know.

Polishing Silver is often group therapy in the South, we Silver Queens are sensitive about our silver, after all, we barely had it buried in the ground before the Yankees ran through all those years ago. Polishing ancestral silver is almost as sacred as putting Alabama Marble Monuments on the graves of our loved ones. It’s a little known fact that women start polishing silver the minute they hear anyone is getting married, christening a child, or Lord forgive, someone has died- women just start in polishing silver- you can hear the silver chests opening, the pleasant clink of silver and the distinct smell of silver polish. The most humble foods are elevated by silver trays; and one must be careful to make sure fine paper doilies are always on hand in several sizes to fit the silver trays. The high holidays call for silver trays, flatware, chafing dishes, candlesticks and even mint julep cups. Instead of fretting over the guest list, the menu or even the guests- start polishing silver; the mind sharpens and before you know it- all the ‘I’s’ will be dotted and all of the ‘T’s’ will be crossed off your lists.

Buying Silver Queen Corn is a summer infatuation- folks will say ‘We’re going to stop on the way to the beach and get some Silver Queen Corn’ or ‘I’m going to fry some chicken Sunday and if I can find some Silver Queen Corn- I’ll fry that to go with it.’

  • Fried Chicken.
  • Fresh sliced Tomatoes.
  • Biscuits.
  • Gravy.
  • Fresh Pole Beans.
  • Fried Silver Queen Corn.

If there is a more perfect summer meal on earth I do not know what it is. Yes, you read that right, fried corn. And it must be white Silver Queen Corn. Do not try to pull a fast one over on us on this… I have seen southern women make big corn fed farmers cry over this.

  • ‘Now is this field corn or Silver Queen?
  • You know when I start cutting it from the cob, I’ll be able to tell the difference right away.’
  • ‘Who do you think you are labelling this Silver Queen when you know full well it’s that new hybrid Silver King, I’m not having it, I’ll tell you.’
  • Then she insists on the farmer pulling back the shuck so she can make sure it’s not wormy!

You can tell a Deep South pedigree quicker from who buys Silver Queen Corn than you can on Ancestry. Com or that TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘. We prefer white cornmeal, white grits and blinding white Silver Queen Corn. If you don’t know what real fried corn is? Well, I might not be able to help you. This picture is the best one I could find and to tell you the truth? This Silver Queen doesn’t think the corn is cut as fine as it should be or cooked down quite enough!fried white corn

 Seasoning a cast iron pan, cleaning baseboards, polishing silver and cooking something fit to eat, are just a few of our Southern therapies- I know, I know- Southern people can get irrational and over emotional about some things…just thought you’d like to know how we make it through…

Love y’all, Camellia

www.ancestry.com