A Fresh Start for 2019!

I think we’re all ready for a fresh start after the holidays each year. By fresh start, I don’t mean getting rid of everything….more that I prefer to refresh, renew and repurpose what I already have, even what’s worked previously but for some reason has fallen by the wayside in the middle of … well, life. I try not to set goals that honestly set me up for failure, especially when it comes to exercise. Why? Ok, I’m not proud of the fact that I’m not athletic… one of the top posts here was written in the first year- it’s called Instinct or Fitness which regales a few of my various mishaps. Not included was a more recent splat on a sidewalk in upscale Georgetown DC. I literally tripped on an uneven sidewalk about an hour after I arrived with my family. I had made reservations for our first tour- a moonlight ride through our nation’s capitol of the iconic monuments that evening. We had to re-schedule the wonderful tour due to my less-than-graceful splat  on the sidewalk! In fact, our first tour of D.C. was in a large rescue vehicle, the EMT’s graciously let all five of us ride to the hospital! I ended up with a few stitches on my forehead, a seriously sprained arm and a torn meniscus! Once again my fall-back exercise after I finished rehab was the only exercise I’ve ever been able to actually do and that I truly enjoy- Yoga! I have literally worn out 2 yoga DVDs and protect my third one like it is gold! The DVD is from Gaiam and is called Yoga AM by Rodney Yee.

With my first knee surgery, also from an injury, I recovered full rotation of my knee and I believe due to this yoga practice. My yoga practice has been sporadic but always effective and enjoyable for almost 20 years now!

A few years ago, I also became intrigued with the health benefits of meditation, using guided courses but inserting special Scriptures when appropriate to enhance my own meditation. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 19: 14 ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.’ This practice of meditation became critical to my well being when I underwent a series of radiation treatments in 2017 to shrink a non-cancerous tumor on my carotid artery. Controlled breathing combined with meditation on special scriptures enabled my anxious and claustrophobic self to not only endure but sail through the treatments with very few side effects! As it turns out, my balance had been affected by my condition which could explain the falls I had! (Finding underlying health issues is important too!) Still.  I’ll never be a great athlete. Finding exercises I will actually do is a priority– yoga is one of those! So! Imagine my delight when Gaiam, a leader in these healthy practices of yoga and meditation along with fine products shared an offer with me, that I could pass along to you! I  think yoga and meditation are great for any age- but especially for folks of…ahem… a certain age like me! It improves breathing, circulation, flexibility, posture and is uplifting and energizing. Best of all, many types of yoga are low impact and can be done in your own home, at your own pace and level of capability, no matter what age you may be.  I am thrilled to extend an offer to you for 19% off all yoga and meditation products along with free shipping on all orders over $49 from Gaiam to jumpstart your 2019 goals! I think you will find yoga and meditation require very little equipment to get started. The main thing is to find exercises you enjoy and will do, yoga, gardening or… kickboxing? I for one am grateful that a yoga DVD from Gaiam is where I began. And it’s where I’m beginning the New Year; for my health and well being will once again start with my Gaiam yoga DVD. All the best with your own fresh start in 2019!

Love y’all, Camellia

* Click through this link to get your 19% discount with Gaiam

Storm Art…

EF959F8E-EC91-4F0C-A7F6-A160946C6A03The South often finds herself in the path of storms… just recently Hurricanes Florence and Michael came blowing through leaving a path of destruction- it’s heartbreaking, takes the wind out of your sails when the sun comes out and shines a bright spotlight on the damage. The first time we went to New Orleans after Katrina- we took a tour through storm ravaged parts of the city and visited a museum with an haunting installation hanging from the ceiling, made of recovered dirt streaked bottles and hand blown blue glass hands reaching down as a reminder of the many hands who reached into the flood waters and rescued survivors along with recovery of bodies and debris. After that season of terrible storms along the Gulf Coast it wasn’t unusual to see Storm Art…street vendors and fine artists who made things of beauty from parts of the wreckage, somberly beautiful reminders of terrible times,  the will to survive and the determination to survive.

F00B3A49-1980-4532-8316-5AD8A5092771One, internationally acclaimed artist, Nall, who hails from Troy, Alabama created masterpieces from pieces of wood, bits of fine art gilded frames and beautiful prints collaged together in ways that evoked sad memories wrought into beauty. In 2016, while we were in Fairhope – a beautiful small town on Mobile Bay… strolling around the town we came upon an art gallery and wandered in to look around. Nall, himself was in residence- all alone with his tiny dogs.

 

We were enthralled by his art and his colorful eccentric personality as he spoke of his work and many other things with passion. Nall’s work was known to me- I had seen several pieces of his work hanging in the historic Grand Hotel on Point Clear nearby. I had admired it for years, never dreaming we would actually meet the man who created the Storm Art.  Now, I’m absolutely no Nall, however, I was inspired to create something- anything from a storm and make my own version of Storm Art. Sure enough, inspiration struck when, a year or so ago- a small tree was uprooted by a storm, in our yard. The mud was washed away from the trunk and it was sawed off to about table height. Then the drying out process took several months.

A6D82638-1BDE-4744-B3E3-ECA61A250F38With a small pot of silver and another of bronze glaze- I set out to make the uprooted stump into something useful and hopefully beautiful. A friend helped me find a lightweight tray to put on top- I loved this tray whether it worked or not. To tell you the truth, I wanted a thicker rim for the top and still hope to find one! While I’m not entirely satisfied now, when I do find the perfect top- this tray will be useful and beautiful. Still.  In an effort to finish my tree stump project- I’ve temporarily attached the tray and the result delights me.

DF77ADE9-E022-47D3-9D5E-4D540C7ECE81Nall would probably laugh out loud- oh, maybe not- he encourages budding artists with his workshops- such an incredible man. Yet, for now… my silvered tree trunk plant stand pleases me- with it’s jumbo fern…a touch of whimsy indoors which perks up the gray days and makes me have hope. Imagine. My Storm Art has become a plant stand!

9F228F00-09BA-400A-8EEC-54E4487B98E9I might not love the problems of storms… yet I can learn to love beauty born of trouble. Storm Art, if you will. Repurposing debris is an old art form…undertaken in the calm after a storm. Our hearts remain with those who are continuing to recover from recent storms and heartache.

Love y’all, Camellia

*You won’t want to miss seeing more art by Nall and reading more about him! You can find him at www.artistnall.com Amazing! We were inspired and honored to meet him!

*All photographs of Storm Art are obviously mine. A huge thanks to Nall, who gave me permission to take his photograph and the others in his studio- which in no way does justice to his fine art.

Volunteers…

29723B1F-8E89-4C24-995D-EDDE1D6748BAWhen a plant springs up in a garden unbidden- not planted by the gardener… the plant is called a volunteer. The garlic chives in the front garden here at Camellia’s Cottage weren’t planted by us; they volunteered… added their services, their talents and their beautiful blooms, then drop seeds to give us another round in the coming years.

17DD5B08-EEBE-47C2-AA39-A87A1DC61DAFOn this date commemorating a Day of National Tragedy, 9/11 was also proclaimed in 2009 as a National Day of Service- to promote volunteering; a date when, as we Americans are mourning we are also encouraged to volunteer. In addition to the courageous and trained first responders, on that tragic day- volunteers came out in droves and used their talents lavishly.

I have found folks who volunteer regularly aren’t just the ones with extra time on their hands- no, many are some of the busiest most successful people I’ve ever known. Volunteers seem to wake up determined not to be mediocre; they regularly ask- ‘What can I do for my country, my city, my neighborhood today?’ They use their talents and skills generously, like the garlic chives. 9083E24B-D7B1-470C-8CB0-B60206ECF8F0

It doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort to regularly do at least one positive thing to make our world better… a kind word, a tender gesture and yes, even taking a casserole.

Garlic Chives are a culinary herb, the leaves have a subtle garlic flavor, the blossoms produce dark seeds which can be toasted and then ground like a specialty garlicky pepper. Every year, I vow to remove them…and then they volunteer to bloom just when everything else has just about given up.

Let’s not give up on doing good- let’s commemorate the lives lost- then do what we can to make our world a better place.

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine. And yes, I am rendering a small act of service for my local library today.

Summer Blueberry Scones…

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163I made a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones, tender buttery- with a hint of orange and dripping with a sweet glaze.  Easy to make, these scones might make my ‘Summertime and the Living is Easy’ recipe list. We’ve had a bumper crop of blueberries- which frankly surprises me. We’re not really a blueberry growing or even a blueberry eating bunch here.  There’s a beautiful and bountiful blueberry farm just a few miles down the road here- I hope they’ve had a bumper crop too…

A3624DB1-5061-4E0E-AB93-6BFF069DAEF3When I think of iconic Southern fruits- it’s strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupes, apricots, plums, peaches, watermelons and further south- bananas, fresh coconuts and citrus fruits seem to fill the memories of my life.

  • Strawberry Shortcakes, Blackberry  and Peach Cobblers,
  • Cantaloupes in big orange slices perfect for every meal,
  • Watermelons in my uncle’s Ice House,
  • Banana Puddings and Apricot Casseroles were also beloved –
  • Then at Christmas, Cranberries made an appearance and the utterly delicious but simple Ambrosia my grandmother made was full of Oranges and Fresh Coconut.
  • Dried Apricots, Apples and Peaches tended to show up on the breakfast table or in the form of Fried Pies…

I only recall one little girl who loved blueberry syrup on her pancakes and it wasn’t me! When ladies began making those cream cheese ice box pies- they did open up cans of strawberry or blueberry pie filling to spoon over the top. All of that changed when blueberries became something of a sensation for all of the health benefits folks read about. Back then, we were given several blueberry bushes- that frankly never did much good. And my husband came up with a concoction which we still love- that he dubbed Blueberry Surprise which consists of fresh blueberries topped with sour cream and a generous helping of brown sugar- hey! don’t knock it! I’m not sure why it works but it’s also great with mixed berries- like strawberries and blueberries for a quick, cool, easy dessert. And you can’t beat a bowl of mixed berries after a heavy meal.

This year… from two sort of spindly blueberry bushes- we’ve gotten several quarts of blueberries, most are in the freezer. To my surprise, another half pint were picked over the weekend and were used to garnish a coconut cream pie and tossed in a citrus salad, the rest were put up in a small freezer bag.65C51387-D229-4F7B-9BFC-9A93AEEEA22A

I know it’s gonna sound like heresy to some- but I’m not a big fan of blueberry muffins; blueberry pie wouldn’t be my first pick, I do like them on cereal but give me strawberries or bananas any day of the week.  So, what to do with all of the bounty? Ah… I recalled Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. For decades, we’ve been privileged to stay at this historic southern hotel- which serves a complimentary Afternoon Tea with cookies as big as a lap baby’s face and small scones with a selection of teas- from open mahogany tea chests, along with coffee for those who prefer it to tea. Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel is an easy affair that seems to bring out genteel qualities in even the children who partake. With these memories dancing around in my head, I thought I’d make a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones… it might have been a mistake because I barely got them photographed before I realized I hadn’t exactly been genteel in my consumption of the scones! In fact, I had to put most of them safely out of reach. If you’ve got a cup of fresh blueberries and bit of time… maybe you’ll try – 962C44B8-A3AA-4754-9CA1-ACCB65885348Camellia’s Summer Blueberry Scones

These are easy- so you will need a biscuit baking mix- I prefer Pioneer Baking Mix®; I’ve been to their mill in San Antonio Texas and my family used it regularly- however, any biscuit baking mix will do I’m sure-

  • In a large mixing bowl stir together 3 cups of Biscuit Mix- (no sifting required),
  • 1/3 cup of Sugar and 3/4 stick of very cold Butter cut into small cubes.
  • Just toss or stir gently.
  • Then, very carefully toss 1 cup of frozen blueberries and 3 tablespoons of diced candied orange peel in with the mixture. *If you don’t have this ingredient- the zest of an orange or even a lemon will work just as well.
  • And, don’t worry about cutting in butter- just toss the cubes together to mix. Make a center well, add one large beaten Egg and 3/4 cup of whole milk.
  • Gently work the dough with your hands to just get the mixture moist.
  • Turn half of the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and work dough into a ball; turn out onto a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet. *No buttering the pan- there’s plenty of butter in the dough!
  • Gently now,  pat each dough ball into a 7 or 8 inch round at 3/4 inch thickness.
  • Score the rounds into triangles. No need to even get out a biscuit cutter!E38BE16D-A578-4B70-BB5B-33F4C130B51C
  • *Always remember to use a very light touch with biscuit or scone dough for a light tender result.  I sifted a bit of the baking mix on top of the dough rounds for easier scoring.
  • Put the unbaked scones in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees.
  • Put chilled scones in the hot oven for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • If desired, make a simple glaze of 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and up to 1/4 cup of milk, being careful to add half of the milk- stir, then add a bit more until it is the right consistency.
  • Glaze Summer Blueberry Scones while they are still warm. Allow to cool a bit before cutting into triangles-  if you can stand to wait!
  • Makes 16 medium size scones.  Aren’t they pretty?

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163Well, I’m ashamed to admit I ate more than one in the afternoon- then called on another one to be my supper! I saved the leftover glaze and put most of the rest in the freezer, to warm up for another Afternoon Tea or breakfast or for unexpected company or…I don’t know, maybe your blood sugar’s running low or you feel a Sinking Spell coming on or when you think you’re just gonna die unless you have a little something to clear your head. Summer Blueberry Scones will feed the hungry, lift sagging spirits, give a hungry child an after school treat or you might need to bring a genteel touch to life!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.  See what I mean by spindly? 5F27E495-27E6-497D-8D88-E9DD9BCB4E31

Mapping the Stars…

3A869F57-07D9-43FC-9044-D6F6B40D9AF8Stars… we all love them. Songs have been written… Ships have found their way.. Poems have been penned. Wise Men found a Savior. Proposals have been offered. Sacred Vows have been made. Lullabyes have been softly sung… It seems mankind has been starstruck from the cradle onward through musical scores, love songs, hymnals and anthems across life’s precious moments, star strewn sidewalks, storm tossed seas and flag draped coffins.  What is it about stars that fascinates, inspires and moves us? Pinpoints of light in the dark night sky- constellations traced with chubby fingers, comets eagerly awaited and falling stars amaze. I’ll admit it- I love the stars and do watch in awesome wonder; I like nothing better than to describe someone with starry eyes or recognize something special in a young child and say- ‘A star is born!’

7FD3AE7D-373D-44EC-B313-6AD08B43563EWhen Star Mapper and artist, Jennifer Beck, contacted Camellia’s Cottage about her amazing star maps at Modern Map Art and asked us for a review of her star strewn maps, I didn’t hesitate as I often do, since we do very few product reviews.  One look at her website’s ‘astronomical software used by a planetariums that generates the actual sky at a particular time or place’ from the past or even the future- well, I was starstruck. And it didn’t hurt that they had been on NBC’s Today Show promoting their wonderful designs! When I accessed their website, I had so much fun putting in important dates- birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and more. I thought how impressive a whole wall of family birthdays would be; I imagined a dorm room with a star map entitled ‘Reach for the Stars’ , now that would inspire a young college student! And what fun it would be to give an engaged couple a futuristic sky map of their wedding night- my imagination was in overdrive.

7FEC38F6-B6BA-4253-8B5E-D776D1173DE6Ultimately, I created a Custom Night Sky of an important date to me- and had it titled ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’.  I could have added the constellations to the night sky with their amazing software, I chose the simpler night sky. Camellia’s Cottage is mostly traditional in design, though I do like a bit of contemporary art and had been looking for something different. I was so excited at the possibilities. When the Star Map arrived a few days ago- the paper was sturdy and high quality, the lettering and design is crisp and the border is a nice touch too. I couldn’t wait to try it in a few places even before it was framed! Now, the hard part! I need to decide where my Custom Night Sky will find it’s permanent home!

I hope you will visit their website- Modern Map Art . When you get to the site- go to star maps and just have fun creating your very own star maps of important dates! They have lots of options and while ours is the largest size at 24″ x 36″ – there are lots of sizes from small to large. The prices for custom art from Modern Map Art is very reasonable and would make great gifts for your family and friends. Christmas in July may be over…still.  It’s never too early to start thinking about the holidays and all of those stars in your life!

9855BCFF-92BD-4B1E-A675-6F2DC8BE143FWe try very hard at Camellia’s Cottage to recommend only those products or services we would personally use. Modern Map Art certainly met our standards! A huge thank you to Jennifer Beck and her team at Modern Map Art for creating our special poster! And, I’ll show it to you again when I get it framed and installed.

‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ might be a big band song, though it really did happen here, and the Saturn V missile was built right here in Alabama to take folks to the moon. Alabama is where Music and Movie stars are part of our history, yet every time a baby is born- we also believe in those tiny twinkling starry miracles!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.  The Star Map is, blush…of my wedding anniversary’s night sky. I’ll admit I have a hankering to order even more – the birthdates of my own children who’ve played a starring role in our lives and of important occasions when I might not recall the beautiful night skies! Modern Map Art is a wonderful resource for star maps, city maps, city skylines and more! The poster they provided to Camellia’s Cottage for review will have a starring role here for years to come!

Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.

The Bird’s Nest…

719B2E01-6F3A-48B2-A501-289E21B1D32EOk, I admit it, the mailbox is old and needs to be replaced… it’s one of those jobs we’ve put off doing. The mailbox isn’t in a great location to begin with and our other options aren’t that great. The postal workers are good sports about it, even though the red flag has been long gone and the mailbox tends to stand open almost all the time… to be honest it’s a busy box. We were surprised this year in early May to discover at the very back of the mailbox- there was a bird’s nest! Of all places…

Here at the cottage, we’re used to finding bird’s nests- one favorite spot seems to be right above the front door, which I frankly find charming. We don’t disturb those front door nests or any others we find. Occasionally we’ve had a front door nest fall on the doormat and tried to put it back, knowing it probably wouldn’t be used again, since we’ve touched it. Another favorite spot seems to be among the rose bushes along the picket fence out front. We know this, we don’t disturb them, we like them! To me, a bird’s nest is one of the most hopeful things in nature. This year in January, it was time to cut the roses back hard- they had become leggy and too tall, so we took a few inches off at a time, precisely to keep from disturbing any unseen bird’s nests, since we’ve noticed they’re used over again.  We found no rose bush nests this time, so the pruning was done… Now, I’m no expert on birding or bird nest building but I have to admit I have a strong admiration for their building skills- some are works of art and some are sort of messy but still charming.

18863792-0A9F-42CE-8324-3BF4D5B2222EWe left one for several years- which had been built in a galvanized pitcher left on it’s side was under a little outbuilding. Finally we decided that it had been abandoned. That nest was so well built, I haven’t been able to dislodge it. I keep it, I love to look at it. I’ve even named it’s photograph- ‘Empty Nest’.  I’ve even built a few faux nests by using craft store ‘nests’ and embellishing them- especially around Eastertime.

The mailbox nest was a puzzle- weeks went by… we kept watch on it -no activity was detected. I even mused that perhaps it was a vacation home, since the only quiet time for the mailbox would have been on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and occasional Monday holidays. A few days ago, when I removed the mail, which included a package, several catalogs and a magazine.. and a long envelope, the nest came forward with the letter! I tugged on it to see if there was any sign of tiny feathers or eggshell shards….nothing to indicate that the nest had been inhabited. I snapped a picture and left it. Then, I engaged in some covert bird watching to see if a flurry of sparrows or finches or brown thrush would flutter around it. Nothing.  I named the photograph ‘Special Delivery’4E3622E3-8FC3-4555-AFA0-BFE5003A4D06

Later in the day, I removed it and inspected the mailbox nest further- a veritable work of art, look at the perfectly round entrance, protective entrance twigs and the edging of moss! Hmm…I wondered who had been pilfering the bright green moss I had used on the urns by the front door! Some little feathered friends! I marveled at the tiny birds who were making a lovely nest…far back in the darkened and dilapidated mailbox…. I have to admit, there was an element of sadness to think such a pretty nest had never become a place of rest for a momma bird to lay her eggs, raise her young, feed them worms from our garden and finally teach these little ones to fly- and yet, what lesson in nesting… of using our gifts, putting forth the effort to build a home and adding beauty no matter where we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

* photographs are obviously mine. *Please don’t remove a bird’s nest if you find one…don’t disturb or touch it either, unless you find something unusual like this or an obviously abandoned nest! Thank you! 66C4041F-FC76-482E-BB36-94694EC2A3A0*I’ve put this one on display for now and I consider the nest to be a rare find, a natural wonder and a treasure!

Limeade with Roses and Mint…

89A1EE9D-7E5B-42D7-811B-7740D727B42EWhat a day this is! The Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs and Cinco de Maya…a perfect blend of Roses, Mint and Lime if you ask me. I know, I know there have been recipes for Margarita Juleps and Mint Margaritas…but really this seems to be a time to blend something special. I’m not just celebrating an important Southern celebration- none other than the Kentucky Derby, where you can certainly find some amazing and classic Mint Juleps! I’ve even picked my favorite to win the race! Yet, Cinco de Maya is a fun holiday too- I made it a treat with chili dogs and limeade for lunch today! Though some guacamole would have hit the spot, too. Actually- I’m in the mood to celebrate because the roses here at the cottage are just showing out! Can you believe it?

 

 

A03D9E70-2991-417A-8C53-AC99888026D7

 

So, after I had admired the garden which smells heavenly- I picked some rose petals and fresh mint. Mint, to be honest, is a bit invasive… though run a mower over some of it and the fragrance is…. well like a bit of fresh mint! Mimi often made Mint Iced Tea, so I’m reminded of her when the mint returns each spring- C20EBCCB-9846-4884-ABD5-0235DE0DF9E5

I like to make up a batch of mint flavored sugar syrup for the spring and summer iced tea! Later, while I was stirring up the limeade, I decided to make up something special… to celebrate all of it! Here’s what I did:

99D32BD2-25D3-4D1A-9660-D363A9F8486BCamellia’s Limeade with Mint and Rose

  • Mix your favorite Limeade concentrate according to directions, reducing the water by 1/4- *I prefer reduced water limeade concentrate to making fresh limeade for this particular drink.
  • Chill the pitcher of limeade thoroughly.
  • In another pitcher, muddle together a handful of fresh mint leaves, 4-5 limes quartered, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and one teaspoon of rose water until thoroughly mashed and mint leaf and lime peel oils have thoroughly combined with juices, sugar and rose water. *Alcoholic version: add a jigger or two of your favorite Bourbon or White Rum to the muddled mix.
  • Invite your guests to ‘season’ their own glasses if this isn’t strong enough. Also it is wonderful to mix up sugar and salt and lime zest to rim the glasses! *I prefer the non- alcoholic version- but hey! some folks prefer a more celebratory drink!
  • Add Limeade to Muddled Mixture, chill very well. Top off each glass with a bit of club soda for fizz!
  • Pour into glasses with finely crushed ice. Load with more crushed ice if preferred.
  • Garnish with mint leaves, a lime wedge and of course a rose petal makes it extra special!

While Camellia’s Limeade with Mint and Roses was created for the combo of the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Maya, it’s also a perfect drink for a Garden Party or a Bride’s Sip and See!  While you’re at it- why not mince a few clean and chemical free rose petals and a 1/2 teaspoon of rosewater to your favorite shortbread! Limeade with Mint and Roses is a wonderful refreshing drink for any occasion!

We visited Churchill Downs several years ago- the racetrack and grounds are amazing;  the whole Louisville area is beautiful, with bluegrass fields, horse farms and distilleries. We were there the week after Derby and the Roses there were beautiful! While at the racetrack, tour guides showed us a special area where very special racehorses are buried. Horses have been buried since ancient times for various reasons- however, at Churchill Downs, the horses, in the traditional manner of burial- just the Head, the Heart and the Hooves are buried symbolically…

‘The head for determination- the will to win, the heart for the spirit and courage of the horse and the hooves for the speed to run the race; oh, that humans would run the race with the qualities of champion horses… Religion often dictates the proper way to bury the dead. Devotion dictates how we honor that which has died….Wherefore, seeing we also are encompassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us; and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ‘ from chapter 25, Cave Dwellers and Racetracks- from  Four Days- the Lazarus Principle by Brenda Wyatt.

I think whenever we celebrate life in all of it’s many forms, we have decided to live, really live. Do what lights you up, what makes your heart sing, what makes you run the race set before you with patience and joy!-  like Racehorses or these exuberant Roses. Find ways to celebrate life- and if you need refreshment?  Limeade with Roses and Mint  just might hit the spot!

Love y’all, Camellia

P.S. Now, ladies- I’ve lived in places where Blue Laws were in effect, and in dry counties if you get my drift… so, obey the law! If you decide to imbibe-You’ll have to drive well over two counties away to make sure no one sees you buying that liquor- so be sure to persuade a gentleman to procure it for you, just not on Sunday! And for heaven’s sake when you drink- no swigging from a bottle or can- drink from a julep cup or a fine glass; hold it above your waist, otherwise it’s trashy.

*Rosewater is available at most grocers or online- use it sparingly; a little dab on each wrist and behind each ear is nice too!

*All photographs are obviously mine. *Four Days- the Lazarus Principle was written by me- I gave myself permission to quote from it! Available on Amazon.com and other fine booksellers. *

My Derby Horse is number 13, I not a very good gambler but I liked the looks of him and had sort of a Cinco de Maya sounding name- Bravazo! I plan to lift a glass to the winner whoever it is! 99D32BD2-25D3-4D1A-9660-D363A9F8486B

Spring Greens…

336F7848-F827-4504-BBFD-CB6DA2CB3C82

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

Good News!

Water Under the Bridge

When this crazy place called Camellia’s Cottage was just moving along on a hope and a prayer…ok more than one, lots of prayers! Still. I realized that my photography skills were very limited. Part of our Mission Statement was- to showcase the natural beauty of our home state, Alabama. Enter talented photographer, Jeremy Miniard– who had taken gorgeous photographs that hadn’t seen the light of day! We had no budget for a photographer, yet Jeremy agreed to share some of his with us- and wow, has he made us look good! Starting way back in the first year that we started Camellia’s Cottage- Jeremy’s photographs were showcased with Doors of Alabama, Porches of Alabama and more! Okay, I admit it.  I have often sat and stared in wonder at his images of this hidden gem we call Home! Last Fall, Jeremy’s photographs, were entered in not one but two categories, and both won First Place in Outdoor Alabama, the official website for Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources! This is a big deal!Coastal LifeWow, let me say that again- Our own, award winning photographer, Jeremy Miniard won First Place in two categories- ‘Water Under the Bridge’ and ‘Coastal Life’ ! The Gulf Coast of Alabama is a well kept secret here! Due to one of Jeremy’s photographs we had used, a blogger from Hawaii linked one of our articles with photographs to his blog about Hawaiian Beaches! Wow! He told me he had no idea that the beaches in Alabama are so beautiful!

Outdoor Alabama also asked for submissions of the Covered Bridges of Alabama- the stunning photograph by Jeremy is beautifully composed with shades of purple-at the top of the page- I know you’ll agree it is astounding, apparently the judges agreed! Are we proud or what? Actually what we are… is proud- but also so thankful Jeremy has been so generous to share his talents with us! Jeremy’s winning photographs will most certainly be used in brochures to promote tourism in Alabama!  And hopefully you too, will agree with the folks at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources- this is one Sweet Home we have right here in Alabama!

Congratulations Jeremy! You’ve been Camellia’s Cottage Natural Resource and a Treasure!

Love y’all, Camellia

  • *If you’d like to check out Jeremy’s photographs and the other categories, mosey on over to Outdoor Alabama’s Facebook Page!  And check out Outdoor Alabama here – Outdoor Alabama
  • *Photographs used in this article were by permission from Jeremy Miniard and should not be used without his permission. Other works may be found at jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com
  • *And while we’re at it, there’s a little more good news… A few months ago, Camellia’s Cottage was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by a wonderful writer, cook and baker named Ursula at A Little Swiss, A Little Canadian – Simple Recipes made with Love. Due to some time restraints we have not been able to finish the requirements for this award, but we are certainly astounded and grateful to have been nominated! Hey, Ursula, you’re the best, sweetie! Many thanks and all the best to you and yours! Check her out, y’all! at A Little Swiss, A Little Canadian here – A Little Swiss, A Little Canadian