Some Things Never Go Out Of Style…

20877054-9485-4571-9E48-88F0E310F2ABSome things never go out of style. Pearls. A handwritten thank you note. A good white blouse. A bereavement casserole or a pound cake. A kind word.

57DDD8B5-4814-47B7-8581-B0AD79AA7981A well cut suit and a decent raincoat. A genuine compliment. Well made shoes kept in good condition. Giving someone your full attention. Looking decent when you leave the house. Table manners.

CE7D9B55-9CC0-4A59-9F6A-7FC389CEF403Good language skills, even if spoken with a slight accent might make the difference in social situations or could call into question your upbringing. My grandmother sure drove this point home! Extending common courtesies. These things never go out of style.

I saw a disturbing headline recently that questioned whether the southern tradition of good manners is alive and well. Occasionally, I have to wonder whether that headline is true.

AD7FC119-65A2-408F-A6D4-5D3D7FE00A6ARecently, a sweet southern lady remarked, in her best southern accent, ‘Folks just seem so impolite, why just yesterday someone in a nice car behind me, actually honked their horn! Impatient and aggressive if you ask me.’  She was rattled to say the least. Okay, the two of us are… of a certain age. Still. She had a point and a nostalgic conversation ensued about good manners and other things that never go out of style.

CD92A979-5A2B-42CA-AC06-BE9ACA3558E3It’s important to understand that life is always better when we have at least a few genuine lifelong friends who stand by us ’til the end! So…no matter how many beauty contests you won or how high you rise on the corporate ladder- remember that you will always need friends and you will never be queen of everything! Since this is true- be the one who is willing to shine up and straighten your friends’ reputations and crowns without letting on that her tiara had slipped in the first place!

66AB7C8C-2897-4EFA-97A2-54BDCA467411Hospitality is important to friends, family and even strangers who might stop by…always be ready to offer refreshment of some sort. Be as generous as possible- the best hosts offer abundance… it sets the guests at ease so they won’t have to worry if there will be enough. And! Be the one who offers to add to the abundance by bringing a dish or drink if you are a guest!

18F26ABE-5E14-4D94-913E-357DF6ED18ADLearn and follow the basic rules of polite social engagements. Find out ahead of time what the occasion entails and the dress code. Always take a hostess gift, offer to help with set-up or clean up, leave at a reasonable time and don’t be the guest who wears out your welcome, then- for heaven’s sake – remember to write some sort of complimentary thank you note!

 

 

Come down off your high horse. While you value your opinions- others have their own perspectives which may differ. Show respect. Avoid discussions that could get heated. Is whatever you think, worth expressing, if it means losing important friends and relationships?53D8E6A0-6B0B-4AAA-AA65-7B34C0525218

And while I’m at it- limit gossip, I’m not sure it can ever be eradicated…just know when talk has gone over the edge from idle gossip to just plain meanness. No amount of saying, ‘Bless his heart.’ ‘We need to pray for her.’ Or passing unfair judgement ever made anyone look better! If you look back on your life…you might find that we are all just one bad decision away from being in the same dilemma- we’ve taken so much pleasure in passing along!706E302B-54B3-446B-ADDF-513ACF10DC2B

Thank you for letting me preach a little here…This judgement of others would include religious beliefs that folks hold dear. My own faith is important to me- yet that doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life’s dilemmas.450D5F7F-CA36-4871-A080-8B886E1F8C85

I recently read that a certain eastern religion believes in Smile Energy- I don’t know all of the particulars…yet I do know this- life just feels better and lighter when I smile than when I frown! Speaking of making a face… please don’t! Would you rather be known for your smile or your sour attitude? F1591DBC-BE6B-4B88-9BF6-3EC2C4B96B4E

If you belong to an organization, participate! Be the one who offers encouragement but is also willing to gather the kindling, bring the marshmallows and light the campfire! Let the leader lead, be teachable, become part of the sisterhood or brotherhood.

 

 

I speak from experience on this- find a group you can support wholeheartedly and the quality of your life will improve in direct proportion to your enthusiasm.  And, while I’ve been talking about things that never go out of style… offering support to others might be the one thing that never goes out of style! Support is best expressed by one of my favorite authors…

‘Support is a hand held when you’ve failed, a smile in the morning when you leave to face the world, a laugh shared till your sides ache and tears flow down your cheeks.’ By Mary Alice Monroe from ‘Second Star to the Right’

A ‘hand held’ when the day hasn’t gone so well or you need support…or even as a sign of affection- costs nothing but could mean everything!

82D70BF6-F81E-4077-B124-50C3673CC7EFThough darlin’- our southern mothers would add- ‘Limit those public shows of affection to hand holdin’ or a peck on the cheek, unless folks get the wrong idea about you, then, question your upbringing!’ Our southern mothers’ advice is another thing that never goes out of style! Oh me, how I do run on!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are from my private collection with the exception of the ‘friends’, the hospitality queens with the turkeys and the ‘ugly face’ which were found via Pinterest so long ago I haven’t been able to run down the source- if they belong to you please let me know so I can credit you properly! Thank you. * The photos I chose for this post were chosen for subject matter only. They are fine beautifully mannered folks!

 

3 Natural Fall Wreaths…

49A3F03F-BE30-4796-8C1E-933AEF3BB261Here at the Cottage, I don’t change out front door wreaths for every season or holiday; however: in the fall when the ferns are shriveled up from the heat, the chrysanthemums sit and sulk and refuse to bloom and… let’s face it, it’s still hot and flowering pants in the border are beginning to wane… so! a wreath seems to be a good way to freshen up the front door as we transition from summer to fall. And let’s face it- when the garden starts to look tired, and it’s hot and dusty; shining up the front door for a bit of curb appeal, even perking up the screen porch makes things feel like fall even if it’s still hot as the hinges on devil’s back door!

5FF5A447-644E-4BFB-8196-1109CCDF5427Then, there’s this- I think it’s fun to forage for blooms, vines and quirky things. I wind them up into a pretty wreath (see those pretty things above!).  Now…. Fresh and dried materials won’t hold up forever, so… It’s better to enjoy the wreaths for a season, then put all except the base material in the compost pile.

Here’s another thing to think about, sometimes a fresh wreath is for a special event or party and isn’t expected to be everlasting, in fact it’s beauty is for the occasion like a flower arrangement.  *Please note I didn’t mention a wedding wreath because let’s face it, in the South- football season and hurricane season aren’t considered optimal times for a wedding, which is a shame since there’s such a bevy of beautiful blooms! If a couple does decide to tie the knot in fall- they check the football schedule or offer a room where the game can be watched, they ask the officiant which his favorite team is and! The couple should have alternate evacuation routes  in place if a tornado or hurricane interferes with the festivities! And don’t get me started on booking a honeymoon during storm season! Well…I’ve gotten off on a tangent… Here’s two wreaths we’ve made this Fall and one I’ve kept from year to year. They are 3 of my favorite natural fall wreaths!

All three are done on a form. I generally on a wire frame, a straw form or a grapevine wreath. D26F917D-763D-4884-A430-0EFC92310ABA

One was a purchased form and the other two are on a ‘native’ grapevine called muscadines- which grow wild here and we also have cultivated muscadines which we grow… both vine types make excellent wreaths on their own with lots of tendrils and even little clusters of dried muscadines; these and nothing more make a wonderful free form wreath. Just start winding it up and leave on the curlyques!  Please don’t worry about perfection, the charm of a natural wreath is the imperfections!

7EACE68D-90C1-4233-AAA1-004D5D4E49B1One wreath is made simply of Annabelle hydrangeas which usually dry to a pale green, then tinged with pink or if picked early will dry to a delicate pale cream.  Here’s a close up of how mine dried this year- though sometimes they turn a light tan sort of like a paper bag!

DDF96A28-B85F-49AB-99E1-43D5D5D35AFBThe mixed hydrangea wreath at the top and below is a foraged wreath with vines, wild flowers, fading roses and ferns. The first round of foraged flowers were too droopy by the time I made this wreath- so I just went out and snipped a few more things! Use your imagination and what you can find!

E2E3230B-60BC-4310-8D43-99981B673E23This foraged wreath is one of my favorites- yet I don’t expect it to be an everlasting one. I would mention, the fresh additions like the ferns generally don’t dry well- yet they could be refreshed and replaced. Feel free to remove anything past it’s prime and replace with some new things! And now for the natural fall wreath I’ve kept- drumroll please…

7D109C83-00DD-4892-8580-29C7B38D7318The other wreath is made of Alabama grown Cotton- this is the one I’ve kept from season to season- it’s very special to me. The cotton was grown at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the George Washington Carver garden, planted to honor this famous Alabamian whose work to enrich the soil with primarily peanuts, in depleted cotton fields through crop rotation. His research and work is legendary. This particular cotton was being pulled up at the botanical garden in the fall, so I asked the head gardener, who was about to discard the cotton stems and bolls-

‘Could I have some of that Cotton?

He graciously gave all of it to me! I wouldn’t take anything for this special wreath! Cotton is still a cash crop here and is occasionally grown for the floral trade and I hope this practice will continue! Even with it’s sad history, there may be nothing prettier than a field of cotton pushing up out of the red clay soil of Alabama is a sight to see!EB9CB100-2FA2-4A50-A4F7-6E6DA4D7F779

Please don’t let perfectionism get in your way! Just get started…with a walk in the woods, around your neighborhood and even your own garden! Pick way more than you think you’ll need! I keep stuffing material in as tight as I can around the wreath form, then occasionally secure with cotton butcher’s twine or fine floral wire! The main thing to remember, is that the more wreaths you make the easier it gets! Here’s to a great Autumn made fun and beautiful with Natural Fall Wreaths!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine!

4 Tips for planning a Short Vacation…

3AC94B00-68DB-497D-95FE-D1EF438F96D7We’ve been planning and taking good trips for over two decades now…. Okay, I’m enough of an old dowager to admit that I would love to pack a heavy steamer trunk when we go anywhere; loading it up with everything that I could possibly need… I’m getting better about traveling lighter- yet the best short vacations consist of 4 tips for what I call a  LITE vacation.  Almost as light as these almond meringues at Croissant L’ Or in New Orleans! No, really…It’s really a formula –

  1. L – for Location, location, location!
  2. I  – for Inspiration and Interests.
  3. T –  for taking Tours
  4. E –  for Entertainment and Eating!

When I use this formula of a mere 4 tips, we’ve come back from a fabulous trip! Now, most southerners love a relaxing beach trip and here, we generally don’t consider our life complete unless we’ve gone to the Alabama Beaches at least once a year! Then again, lots of us head for the hills when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. These two types of trips aren’t the sort of trips I’m talking about! And, of course you can book a cruise or an all inclusive vacation. Still. I’m talking city travel, because y’all know we do love the bright lights of New York City, the Golden Gate of San Francisco and has anyone ever turned down a trip to New Orleans? I don’t think so! We just got back from a 5 day 4 night trip to the Big Easy… and if I do say so myself…it was a perfect example of traveling LITE!AC60639D-DD65-46E7-9C1A-A708C5968BF7

Here’s what I’m talking about!

Location! It really doesn’t pay to try to find the cheapest place to stay – If it’s way out on the outskirts of town,  you’ll spend most of your time figuring out how to get to and fro and waste valuable time doing it! If you rent a car, pay for parking or use other means of transportation- by the time you pay the fares, you probably haven’t saved too much!  When we go to New York, I try to book a hotel near the Rockefeller Center or Times Square. San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel puts us at the crossroads of the cable cars going in both directions. In New Orleans…drumroll- the big name hotels aren’t as centrally located as the Boutique Hotels! Those quirky small places will save so many steps, it’s crazy to stay anywhere else! Here are the Cornstalk Hotel and Hotel Royal:

Inspiration and Interests Never underestimate these two things when traveling! Better than any trinket or souvenir you can bring home! Buy small, lightweight items only, if you can’t resist- any heavy items should be shipped and many times the shopkeeper or your hotel will make arrangements for you! I personally love to bring home something specific to an area, like a box of pralines or these wonderful masks! 39778971-34ED-4F56-8E45-C0A530BA57AC

Or… dried herbs, spices and specialty blends, sea salt or pink peppercorns. Even a piece of jewelry or a small work of art. 3A6720FA-8B77-4E27-A83C-7D1F7D19765F86D42B22-6A79-4C96-AC84-7159DEE25C63

The best thing of all is to bring back photos taken with your phone! Take lots, yet always ask permission and- if photos are forbidden- postcards or tourist maps will have landmark photos and are easy to save for future reference. Let’s face it- who wants to lug around some huge package or take the time to go back to the hotel to drop off something you may regret buying later….okay, I passed up the masks and jewelry though I do wish I had bought a small piece of art!! The art in New Orleans is wonderful!

Tours Don’t turn your nose up at the hop on hop off tours…if you’re short on time or energy, this is the best way to see a city! I try to plan for this, especially if we haven’t visited the city before or if the weather isn’t going to be ideal. *Tip: Ride one full round to get a feel of the city, then with your tourist map- mark places that you’d like to come back to and explore on foot!

Next on my list of tours has to be specialty tours… for instance in New Orleans- there’s an historic walking tour called the Cocktail Walking Tour. The photos above at the Old Absinthe House on Pirate’s Alley by St. Louis Cathedral seem to be a very popular stop on the Cocktail Walking Tour. Since New Orleans claims to have invented the cocktail, even a teetotaler like me enjoys this one! Now, keep in mind this isn’t a pub crawl! You are given the historic significance of the location, the cocktail invented there and if you do decide to imbibe or share a drink with a few of the other tourists you may do so! I love Antoine’s, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monte Leon- and at the quiet end of Bourbon Street is Jean La Fitte’s Blacksmith Shop where the fruit juice based – Hurricane is said to have been invented.  Most cities offer culinary, history and carriage tours! These tours always seem to be taken in small groups with a knowledgeable guide and lots of fun too! A must have on my LITE formula is always Tours!9F44BD58-3914-4742-817B-39788475E0D4

Entertainment and Eating! One of my favorite parts of travelling LITE! We generally plan one or two main entertainment options- a Broadway Play, a Museum or specialty tour… perhaps to the Wine Country from San Francisco! Then we plan one or two upscale dining experiences- *Tip- to save money, go early- either at lunchtime or close to Happy Hour when there are usually  specials or less expensive entrees. We enjoyed eating Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters with it’s canopy of wisteria that’s over 100 years old!91A547D4-45D1-4C1C-BEE8-A7A606B6141A

And the first thing we did- was go to Drago’s for their famous chargrilled oysters! Amazing!

We also choose a food truck or a food cart meal and don’t forget that some delis or grocers have food to go…one of my favorite things is to go to Central Grocery in New Orleans and share a Muffaletta! These folks ought to know how to make them- they invented them! And I do love a food cart with hot dogs, there’s a place in Sausalito making hamburgers on a revolving grill who take orders through the window! Art museums often have small dining areas and the food is generally very good- the Metropolitan Art Museum in NYC comes to mind!  We’ve saved money on meals by eating brunch and an early supper instead of trying to eat three meals a day! Let’s face it… not only will it save money, the lure of a praline or a beignet- that big pretzel, or your favorite French pastry won’t seem like such a diet buster if you’ve only eaten two meals a day!

Now, in addition to these 4 tips- I have to add … Free and low cost things to do on almost any trip! The two of us bought a day pass for a total of $3 and rode the street car to the City Park and Museum, the trip and grounds were worth this! Yet, that wasn’t all, the trolley also goes the other direction down to the beautiful Garden District where large homes and quaint restaurants are charming and there’s even a big old mansion which holds an upscale grocery store! It’s fun to talk to other riders, often they will point out areas of interest! And the Garden District Streetcars, like those in San Francisco are moving national historic landmarks! Who could ever forget the Streetcar named Desire?AC60639D-DD65-46E7-9C1A-A708C5968BF7

And, that one day pass was good on any type of public transportation! I do try to find at least one self guided walking tour- this time from the New Orleans Visitor Center- ask for one! It’s Free! There are also numerous art gallery openings, street musicians, and always incredibly interesting religious sites, public parks, specialty art or handmade shops- the cigar factory has experts, the cathedral is gorgeous, the mask makers are incredible too!

And don’t forget! The free samples of local specialty food! Pralines are never safe around me! Walk around New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah and more…you’re sure to enjoy peeking into the public and private gardens most with very historic backgrounds!1507D461-5D64-420B-8412-A2470DE3BA92

You would be amazed how much you are able to learn about a city sitting near a River Park watching big tankers or walking across a famous bridge, taking public transportation ferries or looking at the old and beautiful government buildings! * Hint- often very good local food is close to public buildings – it’s where locals eat! Always get district maps as you walk around a big city! I’m a huge fan of historic parks and architectural elements, it doesn’t cost a cent to gaze upon, take a photograph and there’s plenty of it to amuse me in New Orleans!

So there you have it! 4 Ways to travel LITE! And don’t forget to check out the free or low cost bits of fun! If you truly want to save money or avoid the crowds…travel on the edges of the off season- late spring, early fall are typical. Now, don’t forget, if you’re longing to head South? We’ve basically got two seasons you’ll want to work around… Football Season and Hurricane Season! Have fun and plan those trips the LITE way!

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is not a compensated post!! All photographs are obviously mine! Now, really don’t you love that photo of the trumpet player? yes, I do too- it’s my new favorite thing to do- apply filters! Here he is again- just for fun! 9F44BD58-3914-4742-817B-39788475E0D4

The Glory Bower…

22B6237F-FFBE-463B-8F4A-1D051176A07FJust when the heat of summer slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangeas blossoms look like tight pincurls, and roses sit and sulk- fed up with the humidity; the porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water, even the impatiens lay down their heads and weep… that’s when the Glory Bower Trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat Bumblebees stir slowly around like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory Bower. Her ladies in waiting, the crepe myrtles, have on raspberry or shocking pink corsages. When every other flowering thing closes up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with a faint honeysuckle fragrance. Glory Bower is the real southern belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bowers put down deep roots- they’re my sweet homebodies, staying close to my windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the miracle unfolds.7E302FAB-3BE8-4229-9FF8-189F4DB356BF

If you ever find yourself wondering if Mother Nature stills performs miracles, just look to the Glory Bower- which blooms as fresh as spring, cool as a cucumber, sweet as honeysuckle in the scorching heat of summer. Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of gardenias, magnolias and honeysuckle and if you’re really blessed a faint whisper of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds circling around a Glory Bower and who knows? Maybe an evening’s worth of a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. This post in a very edited form was first published as ‘Glorious July Miracles…’ right here on Camellia’s Cottage in July of 2016, photographs for this version have been edited as well and new ones added from this year’s Glory Bower. The proper name for Glory Bower is Clerodendrum, which we pronounce ‘Clair O Dendrum’. Since I live in St. Clair County, it seems to me… as much as I love this precious tree that it should be the official tree of my home county! The lacy blooms which attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees in the heat of summer… fruits in the fall as a dark blueberry seed surrounded by magenta petals literally cover the Glory Bower then provides much needed food for the birds during our hot dry late summer and early fall. My original tree was rooted and given to me by an old gardener and I wouldn’t take anything for the ones who have sprouted around the cottage.

2E54E24D-A800-45F0-AD06-31F7BF2B987D

Camellia’s Southern Lemonade…

499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0FLemonade was so common in the South that finding a recipe for it is almost impossible! We just knew how to make it- and when we did …it was usually for a picnic or a special occasion. Believe it or not even Orangeade was first made from real oranges. And then…it was mass produced. Local milkmen delivered small glass bottled orangeade and lemonade with a paper tab, that children drank at school and vacation Bible School alongside cookies which I still recall as a delicious combination! Only a few years later, mass produced lemonade and orangeade in wax paper cartons large and small were available.  With the space age came mass produced citrus drinks and powdered versions of fruit flavored  drinks like Tang or Koolaid; we loved those drinks too… anything to quench thirst in hot humid climates. Still. There’s nothing really to compare with homemade southern lemonade.

AD871F7F-F103-4839-AB18-019C22FD3E5FThese days, I find myself craving the real thing, real southern lemonade- I’ve conjured it up from memory and honestly, it’s worth the effort- and really? There’s very little effort to it, and believe me a pitcher of homemade lemonade will make anyday feel like a special occasion! Here’s how you make Camellia’s Southern Lemonade:

  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed Lemon juice (approximately 4-6 medium size lemons)
  • 4 cups chilled water
  • Ice.
  • Mint leaves, lemon and lime slices for garnish are optional. Also optional- add a few maraschino cherries and a tablespoon of cherry liquid to make Pink Lemonade.

In a small saucepan, combine lemon zest, sugar and 1 cup of water. On low heat bring to a simmer until sugar has completely dissolved, to make a lemon flavored sugar syrup. Strain and chill. In a pitcher, thoroughly combine 1 cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of chilled water. Add chilled lemon sugar syrup, again, until thoroughly combined. Add plenty of ice and garnish as desired.499FDD87-DCF8-4370-A106-5CB0841C9D0F

Now y’all, the sugar syrup is easy to make- you can keep it in a glass jar with a tight lid in your refrigerator for at least a week, maybe longer…Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! Here’s hoping your summer is the best ever with lots of Real Southern Lemonade alongside a few nostalgic cookies!

Love yall, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. * Koolaid and Tang are registered trademarks. *And, here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming Instagram image and short story- if you get a chance check out our feed there too! We’re having lots of fun!616FFD83-4940-47F3-A4C2-3A9A87ACAC0D

3 Lessons of Spring…

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?

B21EFFCA-536B-4BAF-A5F1-DC5ED4E7390C ‘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.’


30C47988-A6F4-40E4-A463-38FEDA229E84Eggs 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!

A8A57D14-8713-4E66-BCE4-FDBC60D796B2 ‘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…DDFFEC62-7066-49D5-8847-862AF386BB87

‘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!

Cottage Strawberry Cake…

Cottage Strawberry Cake… www.camelliascottage.com

There may be no Spring layer cake that’s as welcome as Cottage Strawberry Cake. I’ll admit my skills as a cake decorator are few- yet decorating this cake with fresh strawberries makes it look so appealing and beautiful! I sort of went overboard and pulled some wild and domesticated strawberry leaves and runners (washed well mind you! Then kept them fresh in damp paper towels until time to decorate the Cottage Strawberry Cake.

Whole strawberries may be served alongside the slices and provide a welcome tang to the sweet cream cheese frosting. Not being a proficient Cake baker either, with few exceptions. I used a name brand good quality cake mix and enriched it with milk, melted butter, pure vanilla extract and an extra egg to make a denser more flavorful cake.

I think anytime you use a boxed cake mix of any kind, it’s a good idea to enrich it and also to make homemade frosting! This frosting has fresh strawberries in it- which changes the texture a bit- the recipe has a few suggestions if you prefer the smoother texture. Here’s how you make Cottage Strawberry Cake

Cottage Strawberry Cake

A beautiful 2 layer cake with cream cheese icing and sugared strawberries. Impressive showing for Spring- especially if fresh strawberries and if you can find wild strawberry leaves and stems! 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 Box Duncan Hines Strawberry Cake Mix * made according to our swap outs
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Milk (reduced by 1 Teaspoon)
  • 7 Tablespoons Melted and cooled Butter Plus more unmelted butter for pans
  • 3-4 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 Cup Fresh Strawberries- hulled and chopped Sprinkle sugar over berries and cover
  • 12 Ounces Cream Cheese Room temperature
  • 2 Sticks Butter Room Temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1 1/4 Pound Powdered Sugar Sifted
  • 1 Quart Fresh Strawberries- whole for decorating the cake

Instructions

  • For Cake- prepare 2 - 8 inch cake pans: grease with butter, then flour lightly. ( Lining pans with parchment paper rounds is also a good idea) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If using dark coated pans- reduce oven temp to 325 degrees) Blend cake mix, milk, melted and cooled butter and 4 eggs(3 eggs unless you want a denser cake)  in a large bowl until moistened. Add vanilla extract. Blend well.  (Do not mix according to box Directions!) Divide the batter equally between prepared pans. Bake cake layers on center oven rack for 26-30;minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Check after 25 minutes) Cool layers in pans on a rack for 15 minutes! Turn out of pans and cool completely - this is important! 
  • For Frosting- In a deep bowl or your stand mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment- not whisk! Blend together cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar until thick consistency. Drain Room Temperature! sugared strawberries very very well. Fold into frosting. * Frosting may change texture when strawberries are added, you may add more powdered sugar if needed. Chill frosting until slightly firm before frosting cake layers. decorate with whole strawberries and greenery- if you don’t have wild strawberry leaves, mint leaves work well. Chill cake before serving. 8-10 slices. 

Notes

Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to Frosting, though strawberries should add the color you want. If concerned about the texture of the frosting, you may substitute up to 1/2 cup of strawberry jam. 

 

Our Cottage Strawberry Cake reminds me of a sweet and dear friend every time I make it, and isn’t that what any dish we make supposed to do? Good memories of sweet folks we’ve known and loved is the best reason I can think of to bake or cook anything! Hope you’re enjoying this Spring weather and dreaming of all the good things ahead…

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.

5 Fun Things To Do in Colorado Springs…

5DBF9478-2C7D-4941-8FBA-602F3BA62033Now, y’all- I live in a coastal southern state- the beach is just a few hours from where I live at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and we’re talking foothills … not a mountainous terrain by any stretch of the imagination. Alabama is one of the lowest in terms of sea level in the nation…that means any place above 500 feet in elevation is …well, it’s way up there. For instance, Colorado Springs starts at 6200 feet above sea level!  Still. Even with all of that thin air, after several trips to Colorado Springs, I’ve decided that some of the best things to do in Colorado are literally seeing America the Beautiful.

BF9D8F52-D53B-4222-87D2-8F58AE27455DWhere else, but Colorado Springs, could you go where the deer and the antelope actually play, where a schoolteacher named Katherine Lee Bates stood atop Pike’s Peak inspired to write ‘America the Beautiful’ ; where you can actually stay in one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite hotels, built by his friend Spencer Penrose; Colorado Springs is where Gymnasts, Swimmers and Skaters have trained for and won Olympic Gold Medals and where you can view a flyover by the famous Thunderbirds at graduations from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and my goodness, somewhere in them thar hills… folks track the movements of Santa Claus every Christmas? Yes, some of the best America has to offer are found close to Colorado Springs. 3F8674CD-3231-4401-8A6B-3BD129951C78

Here’s my top 5 Fun Things to Do in Colorado Springs and best of all, it’s great any time of year!

  • 1. Garden of the Gods– this area is magnificent with red rock formations so huge and so amazing…it’s unforgettable! A man named Perkins left the area to the City of Colorado Springs with the wish that it would be maintained and open to the public! Rock Climbers climb, horseback tours are a sight to see and of course there’s always just a drive through with a stop or two just to gawk at the magnificent Red Rock Formations!4E57252A-A1D7-4692-BB0B-CA1A78E81417
  • 2. The Broadmoor Hotel– if you’re headed to Colorado Springs, to my way of thinking there’s no where else to stay for the full experience of Colorado Springs than the Broadmoor. When you drive up to the portico, look up! (The opening photograph) Blue Stars just say- America! Welcomed by the most outstanding staff anyone can imagine, your Broadmoor experience is just beginning! Built by Spencer Penrose and his wife, they opened the doors to 200 of their friends in 1918, for over a 100 years now…they’ve been offering guests more than the imagination can offer…wonderful views, genuine Remington sculptures are casually on display in the main building- you know the fella whose work is iconic of the American West. CAEC40E1-DE78-4337-A329-4AAF7A47C5D9There’s even a museum on the grounds which hold even more memorabilia. All throughout the hotel, the décor is luxurious. Oil paintings on the walls, a theatre, a bowling alley- even the children have their own concierge! The Broadmoor has continually maintained 5 diamond status since the award has been given over 40 years ago. Over a dozen restaurants including a pub called The Golden Bee is so authentic- the interior is an actual English Pub which was dismantled and brought piece by piece, then installed with precision- every night a piano player plays as song books are handed around and beer is sold by the pint or yard whichever you think you’re able to consume and it’s not your imagination- when you leave you’ll have little golden bees stuck to your clothing too!AC89855A-04B0-4532-92E7-5F7FCBA5E07E At Julie’s, a French inspired patisserie, chocolatiers are behind glass in a climate controlled working- small wrapped chocolates are delivered to your room with the turn down service every night! A five star spa which even has an oxygen bar- for folks who are having a bit of trouble with the altitude! The list is almost endless, if you’re not inclined to ever leave there- The Broadmoor will show you a wonderful time!
  • 3. The Royal Gorge. Just a short hour’s drive from Colorado Springs down to Canon City is one of the most magnificent train rides in the whole of America!  In the 1870’s miners of lead, silver and gold (yes, there are still working gold mines near Colorado Springs! ) The miners inspired a 50 mile long railway pass along the Arkansas River…it winds along the same way even into six mile long gorge with sheer rock walls so high they plunge into the river- it makes me dizzy to think about it! 47857B6A-C591-4902-ADBF-7EEA24AE1948This narrow 30 foot span is where a hanging bridge was built in 1879…anchored to the walls with girders, Royal Gorge Hanging Bridge is still maintained to this day! A trip through the Royal Gorge is a can’t miss – it’s a must, to see the awe inspiring scenery!04E76755-ED3B-4F44-94F2-0AADA4A90B3E
  • 4. Seven Falls is a waterfall maintained by the Broadmoor- but open to the public. If you’re brave enough to climb well over 200 steps to the top, there’s a hiking trail on up from there. I took the old mine elevator halfway up to the viewing deck! And an unexpected treat was a restaurant called-  Restaurant 1858, where you can enjoy the falls at lunch and dinner… the menu has things like wild boar and even vegetarian options. What impressed me, was the rugged terrain going back into the Seven Falls area, as you take a short hike or tram ride into the cavern… there’s a western style log cabin that honestly looks like Ralph Lauren just left! Navajo Rugs, nailhead trimmed leather chairs and perfect prints inspired during the 1858 era. A great place to warm up or catch your breath!E4C1B47B-F837-4805-ABB0-6A0C053E7932
  • 5. Pike’s Peak-  is that enough said? Well, if you’re going to Colorado Springs, this is a not to missed experience, rising over 14,000 feet above sea level, the Pike’s Peak mountain range is stunning… there’s always snow at the top and the best donuts in the world rise high above the clouds! Ok, it’s freezing up there and the guides will tell you, the chances are you may not make it to the top but on the way- you’ll stop in the Crystal Lake region and get a chuckle of the Sasquatch Statue- otherwise known as Big Foot; where it’s maintained that the first sighting of Big Foot was reported.

    Just the hairpin turns make this a very exciting tour any time of year. The first time we went, some poor soul took a family photo of us- I had it printed in black and white photos made into the ‘Ugliest Family Christmas Photos’ and actually mailed them! Oh my!41758AF8-C4D9-46C9-BB4D-FA84B70FB404 If you take a small bag of Cheese Curls on your trip be prepared to watch in amazement as it swells up with the altitude change which is significant! Pike’s Peak might be best known for the patriotic song…‘America the Beautiful’ which was written by schoolteacher Katherine Lee Bates, who was so inspired by the sight she saw from Pike’s Peak and I ask you- Would you have wanted to miss that beautiful song? Yes, Pike’s Peak should have been Number One on the list…but there’s always building up expectations to high- just know the journey is worth it whether you get to the top or not! We’ve been 3-4 times and have only reached the Peak once! But the breathtaking views were well worth the risk of not making it!ED9374A4-54AD-4AB9-968A-E3CB4D19E520

  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo This is a bonus fun thing to do! Guests of the Broadmoor have been enjoying the highest elevation zoo for years and years! The giraffes are a can’t miss area- the zoo has placed walkways up high so you can feed them! Look at that long black tongue! There’s even a bronze statue of Will Rogers inside the zoo, Rogers was a friend of Spencer Penrose too. These days, the zoo is maintained separately from the resort, however, guests of the Broadmoor do enjoy a free shuttle service that takes them right to the gates and believe me- it’s a real time saver! The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of the most popular activities in the region…get an early start!

122F5FF3-16F4-4CB1-B9B8-111CC0402028Okay here’s a few bonuses! There’s the need-to-see Downtown Colorado Springs and nearby Manitou Springs which are fun drives too! Both have charming shops and restaurants too. BD0D3E73-0063-47FE-8692-98AD5167C769

One restaurant I can highly recommend is- Carlos Miguels. It’s a reasonably priced white table cloth Mexican Restaurant just a short drive from the Broadmoor and is truly excellent! Then, there’s the somberly beautiful U.S. Air Force Academy, The Cave of the Winds is awe inspiring as well- where the inside temperature is a steady 53 degrees year round, regardless of the outside temperature! If you are real thrill seeker, the Broadmoor has a Zip Line Course that is ranked in the top 5 in the world…I’ll let you experience that one and tell me about it later! And, near Manitou Springs,there’s an area that can be explored of very early cave dwellings. And!

The very inspiring U.S. Olympic Training site where Paralympics also train and please don’t miss the beginning slide show inside the center, watching those gold medalists brought tears to my eyes! Athletes who were not trained to ‘come in second place’ have lived, worked, healed and trained to be the very best they can be actually seen training on this large campus!

E4C1B47B-F837-4805-ABB0-6A0C053E7932These are my Top Five Fun things to do in Colorado Springs and a few more ‘can’t-miss-if you have time’ locations! One stunning thing: Pike’s Peak is almost always in view with the distinctive snow cap… and when I see it I must admit…I start humming if not outright singing…

‘Oh beautiful for spacious skies… for amber waves of grain…for purple mountains majesty…’  

If you’re looking for a Spring or Summer- or anytime of year trip- check out Colorado Springs. Every time I’ve come back down closer to sea level in my sweet home here in Alabama, I’ve come back in awe of just how beautiful America is!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine! *And there are of course other fine hotels in the area! And wonderful dining options as well!

10 Beautiful Ways to stay Hydrated..

948407C9-974C-4732-A031-DD6C00912C54These 10 Beautiful Ways to Stay Hydrated have given me the motivation I needed to meet one of my goals this year, and I’ve got 10 tips to help you get started too! I’ve challenged myself to stay hydrated and… and well, drinking all that water is healthy and all…for a few weeks, it was going great. Still. As I got into this whole staying hydrated thing, I needed a bit of incentive. Here’s what happened- I was taking part in something else- a food photography challenge. For that, I needed a photograph of citrus fruits. Running out of time…no time to bake, no time to cook – a deadline was looming. Here’s what happened-35C41FF2-F32E-4B4F-A0FC-2FB30FFB197F

I made up a pitcher of pretty water. In fact, I thought it was beautiful. The kind I recall seeing in luxury spas and fine hotel lobbies. Beautiful ways to stay hydrated. Yes, I could do that! Just the incentive I needed. Tip 1: It’s easier if you make up a whole pitcher, similar to Spa Waters I’ve seen! With lemon, mint and cucumber! Let’s just say it’s a refreshing combination! DF8AEF91-2282-45BD-A406-CE4008D4B128

One thing led to another. I figured out that- Tip 2: Staying hydrated isn’t just water, it’s cranberry juice, apple juice, citrus juice and weak tea too. So I included those too.  Thin slices of cucumbers or apples are easy and a refreshing snack too! This one is a re-run of Apple in Glass which I’d tried last Fall- the rerun was wonderful again!

C22A277A-EE39-48CA-BAC5-5CD9C734AD6D.jpegOne of my favorite ways to stay hydrated was an iced tea with lime and mint. Beautiful don’t you think? This time, I made a simple sugar syrup infused with mint. Mint Tea was a beautiful way, my grandmother made iced tea. All the best Sweet Tea in the South starts with a Simple Sugar Syrup– which is – Tip 3: One cup of water simmered with One cup of sugar…until the sugar has dissolved. With Mint Tea, the process is the same except fresh mint is infused into the sugar syrup. Kept chilled, sugar syrups last a long time. See that little jar sitting next to the glass of Iced Mint Tea? That’s the simple syrup made with mint! Which we seem to grow prolifically! Tip 4: Mint Simple Syrup is also wonderful to pour in your morning coffee! 235A23C5-6851-4703-871F-D75471D83442

If you want an extra treat- Rim the glass!  Tip 5:For the Iced Tea, I cut a lemon or lime in wedges, mix a bit of sugar and a bit of salt in a bowl, rim the glass with the citrus wedge, then dip the rim in the salt and sugar mixture for a refreshing and beautiful glass of tea..or juice.. or water.F05E8CD4-761C-4205-B005-5C25CF6558B7

Here I did that with orange zest, a bit of salt, a bit more sugar and believe it or not- I grated a dehydrated strawberry too! Tip 6: Dehydrated fruit is wonderful grated for rimming a glass or mix with powdered sugar and decorate almost anything!  The glass above, with oranges, strawberries and a rim of sugar, orange zest, a bit of salt and grated dehydrated strawberry was my beautiful glass of water this morning! Tip 7: Adding a bit of salt to the rim or the glass, makes me thirstier!

ADBF8513-BD28-42F3-AB00-C27A5F327BEDTip 8: Add flowers to your water! Here and the opening photograph, I’ve used flowers- little violas or rose petals are so beautiful, just make sure they are pesticide free! Not just for your water, they sure look pretty floating in a cup of hot tea!79F2811C-5D5A-44D8-9EC2-0D16FC9DC7B9

With spring and summer headed our way, it seems the garden is springing up weeds- these dandelions and yellow flowers all came from ‘weeds’ Here is another tip I love- Tip 9:  Add leaves or tiny berries to Ice Cubes ! Look at these with shamrocks and wild strawberries!

 

We’re talking good luck here! Tip 10: To make pretty ice cubes, try anything small that you wish! Here’s how you make them- pour a bit of water in the bottom of the ice cube tray, in each section place clean leaves or berries, make sure they fit. Put in the freezer for a bit- to stabilize the leaves. Then fill the tray up and freeze. Okay, truth? If you’re in a hurry… just fill the tray up and insert a leaf or berry, but if presentation’s important? Do it my way! Now, I know you want to see that pretty glass of water with a viola again- So here it is! 948407C9-974C-4732-A031-DD6C00912C54

We all want to look and feel our best, you’ve read the science and seen the articles about how important it is to avoid getting dehydrated… So! I’ve been on a mission! The result was 9 Beautiful Ways to Stay Hydrated! Now, make yourself some of this pretty water! And, I’d love to see how you’re  staying motivated too!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Here’s another shot of my morning glass of water… I couldn’t decide which was prettier!F05E8CD4-761C-4205-B005-5C25CF6558B7

* All photographs are obviously mine! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram- we’re posting almost daily!

Doors of Alabama…

105FF74C-B6D6-4E87-A0EF-152CC880117CThree years ago, when I first started writing – I was sorely lacking in photographic skills. Not much better now, but have learned a thing or two… Anyway, award winning photographer Jeremy Miniard took pity on me and provided some stunning photographs, then generously offered to let me use them! One of the first groups of photographs I asked him about were Doors; Jeremy has a treasure trove of photographs taken during his ramblings throughout Alabama. The doors he sent to me were amazing. They still are! I posted ‘Doors of Alabama’ using some other photographs offered to me- also out of pity I’m sure. This time… a poster worthy collection of Doors of Alabama are all Jeremy Miniard’s work… be prepared to be impressed!

Doors of Alabama

30FFAE9C-D66B-4576-B7E4-35905F23C62E

7C9AC56D-50F6-4311-86EE-32B22FEC71F2Thank you Jeremy! This journey just wouldn’t have been the same without you! Now. Y’all. I hope you’re inspired as I was by Jeremy’s photography – and also the beauty and history that surely was behind these old doors…peeling paint and all! Now….on your mark, get set and.. Get out there and take some photographs wherever you are! I’d love to see what you come up with! By the way, can you believe we’re still around after three years? Me either. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your support, for following this blog and for your kind words; and yes! the funny comments too! And as always…

Love y’all, Camellia

And I saved one of my favorites for last! E90E7D9E-F75A-438B-BF27-6CEC82C5FA30

 

*All photographs are the sole property of Jeremy Miniard, please respect this and do not use them without his express permission. You will find his work at  Remy Photography- jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com