Front Porches of Alabama…

‘Friends are like Front Porch Pillars- Sometimes they hold you up, sometimes they lean on you; Sometimes it’s just enough to know they’re standing by for you.’ – quote from one of my favorite posts on Camellia’s Cottage- Front Porches of Alabama! Most of the photographs are from Jeremy Miniard’s fantastic collection. Springtime is a great time to think about curb appeal- these certainly have inspired me! Love y’all, Camellia

Camellia's Cottage

Welcome to the Front Porches of Alabama!

‘Friends are like the pillars on your Front Porch…Sometimes they hold you up, Sometimes they lean on you; Sometimes, it’s just enough to know they’re standing by for you…’

Yes, welcome to the Porches of Alabama… ‘How do you do’, ‘Y’all come up and set a while’ or ‘Tell me all about it, we’ll figure out what to do’…

We’ll sip a glass of sweet iced tea, sit and watch the sunset, blink with the lightin’ bugs and hear the crickets sing. Softly sing a song or two, a stolen kiss, a sweet embrace, a gentle breeze to chase the blues away…

‘We’re glad you came’- Are you sure y’all can’t stay awhile?’  with  gentle hugs, a tear or two-‘Now don’t be a stranger’ or  ‘Please don’t go we’ll miss you so!’ We’ll watch until you’re out of sight-from the Front Porches in Alabama._DSC0111-1


‘Friends are like Front Porch Pillars, Sometimes…

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Big Momma…

big momma in the kitchenBig Momma is a Southern Icon. She’s the matriarch. Big Momma is a force of nature without blinking a charming eyelash- she’s cool, calm and always and forever collected. She’s the hand that rocked the cradle while the menfolks ventured forth to trailblaze, fight, lead or evangelize. Big Momma may be beautiful but she is no simpering Southern Belle. She sails through troubled waters with the dignity of the QE2. When everyone else is jumping ship, Big Momma is bailing water. Big is a misnomer, my unofficial polling suggests Big Momma isn’t necessarily a ‘big’ woman at all- she may be small of stature but all Big Mommas are statuesque in character, generally having considerable but quiet influence.2 vintage women She is connected to her family, her children, her husband and often beyond the core family. She firmly believes that people need to be seen about, taken care of- tended to- therefore her arms embrace the many instead of the few. Big Momma is defined by her character and her expectations. She expects her brood to do better than their ancestors, she expects good grades, good behavior and expects her own to have some gumption. Big Momma doesn’t put up with cheap or low morals which has always led to a bad reputation. She stresses that- a bad reputation doesn’t stop at the offender, it reflects poorly on the entire family. Her standards for herself are high; starched and clean- smelling of an intoxicating blend of talcum and lemon verbena, not a hair out of place- Big Momma has at least one high quality dress, one good winter coat and sensible walking shoes. She sees no use in a man looking seedy- it’s a bad reflection on his wife. Her husband may own the sawmill, but Big Momma runs the family business. That sawmill owner may have originated the phrase ‘Go ask your momma’… Never skittish, healthy as a horse,  never thought about flying the coop-Big Momma is the hen who rules the roost. She runs the laundry, the garden, the store room, the land and the hen house. Big Momma is always in charge of the sick room- she relies on her own blend of home remedies, blames the full moon or the barometric pressure. 3oldladies

Big Momma teaches personal and moral hygiene with religious fervor. ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ is her motto.  Rural, Suburban, Inner City- across racial or religious lines, Big Momma insists on clean living and godliness, whether you’re from her brood, extended family or guests in her home. When she says-‘Don’t track dirt in the house!’ Big Momma means more than just muddy shoes. No trashy clothes, no idle gossip, no filthy talk.

If you need to talk to Big Momma about a problem- do it while she’s outside working in the garden- yanking weeds. Sort out whatever mess you’ve gotten yourself into this time while you work.. She’ll listen to your side of the story, but insists on knowing the other side too.  ‘Alright, You’ve told it, you’re sorry about it- next time you’ll know better.’ Neat as a pin, polished with beeswax, disinfected, scented with castille soap, her house is her sanctuary, track dirt of any kind in there- well, it’s just not fittin’ . Big Momma knows what kind of stock you came from without even knowing who your people are, she has eyes in the back of her head, sources all over town- she’s been accused of having radar and being psychic. Big Momma insists on her children being brought up in the faith. And while she might be home cooking Sunday dinner- she expects everybody else to be in church spic and span- hair slicked back with fresh combmarks, hands washed and folded, quiet and respectful.

If you ask a suburban Big Momma what she would be if she wasn’t Episcopalian- she’ll say ‘Why darlin’ Ah’d be ashamed!’ If you ask a rural Big Momma what she’d be if she weren’t a Primitive Baptist- she’ll likely say –‘Ah’d be going to hell in a handbasket!’

 Big Mommas don’t believe in whitewashing anything including eulogies, she knows by experience it’s always better to know the unvarnished truth about things. She drives like a Sherman tanker or sits in the back seat with the kids- arms outstretched like a human seatbelt. Big Momma is philosophical about life and death- considers it to be the way of the earth. She might be deeply grieved but goes on about the business of living, she has had to- her entire life. Big Momma isn’t uppity- she  expects her family to help the less fortunate, otherwise you’ll hear the dreaded- ‘I guess you’ve gotten too uppity to eat grits.‘ Big Momma either has a good cook in her family or is a good cook- her food is basic, wonderful, no nonsense, seasoned perfectly, soul satisfying and cooked in large batches- to freeze, share or send. If the suburban Big Momma shares a recipe- she’s likely to add: ‘Marmaduke Casserole is a favorite at St. John’s Episcopal for Wednesday’s Women’s Luncheon- it may be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. It freezes well and has not been known to cause digestive upset.’  OR if she is a rural Big Momma- her recipe will be no nonsense entitled:

RR and G (Roast, Rice and Gravy)

  • Whole beef roast cut 2″ thick
  • 12 toes of garlic
  • Flour
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • Peanut Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Large Iron Skillet with Lid

Stab roast in 6 places on each side. Turn knife blade in hole, pour in salt and pepper in hole, push in toe of garlic. Sprinkle roast with salted flour. Brown in hot oil in skillet, turn and cover. Brown darker than desired as gravy lightens when liquid is added. When roast is dark enough, add onions above and below roast. Cook ’til onions are clear. (Never add onions first or you’ll never get that roast browned) Add water up the sides of the roast. Cook, simmer ’til fork tender about 2 and 1/2 hours. Let roast rest, pour gravy in a boat, serve with rice. Freezes well.IMG_2226

*I recently did a test drive on this Roast- look at the color of that gravy! And ‘stabbing the roast’ was actually therapeutic! This recipe is from a well worn family cookbook- compiled by my grandmother’s double first cousins. Lest you think Big Mommas throughout the South were humorless- they were not! Excerpts from the  introduction say,

‘Mom was as excellent a saucier as any found in France; as any found just about anywhere, for that matter. She could be fixin’ the simplest supper any night of the week and it would be delectable to any palate that was lucky enough to pull up a chair….one of her favorite (cookbooks) was Escoffier’s Original Notes. She, Lou, Hazel, all of them understood cuisine…I don’t recall anything ever being spit out in a napkin…they learned about food since the day it was planted in the ground until harvest. We’ve learned to marry flavors…identify herbs and know their uses. Mom taught Suwannee, Penny and me by making us assist her…You see, in the South, dining is an event, an outing, a social gathering…from chopping the onions to ironing the tablecloth…I had to comb the neighborhood for the perfect magnolia leaves and blossom…not too waxy looking…for the centerpiece. Men were part of the process…but in limited usage. Daddy was allowed in the kitchen only to slice the roast or get the ice cream freezer ready…Very few of Mom’s recipes were written down; we just learned what went together from what she taught us…She was the best storyteller in the bunch, and would only tell you enough to be dangerous….I can still see her now, standing in the blue kitchen, wallpapered to match her periwinkle blue eyes….patiently stirring the fried corn saying, after sampling what was in the skillet, “Now, that’s fittin’ “…this cookbook and the stories intertwined is dedicated to my mother, Frances Virginia Garrison Randolph..’

Ah yes, we all love Big Mommas no matter what their given names are-they made growin’ up in the South possible.

Love y’all, Camellia

* all photographs are from AOL images and may be subject to copyright – except that iron skillet full of gravy! yum…that one was taken by me.

Words are powerful…

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Words are powerful. Fifteen years ago, a grand lady who sits among ancient bearded live oaks taught me a lesson about words. I brought that lesson home to Camellia’s Cottage. Over and over, words have proven to be a powerfully quiet presence here and there. Often I am reluctant to share these things in a print, for some reason I feel compelled to share the lesson of words with you now. Built at Point Clear, Alabama in the 1840’s, the Grand Hotel has been a beloved place almost all of my life- it sprawls across an area of astonishing beauty, among trees that must be over a hundred years old- live oaks with gray Spanish moss; to go there is to experience the finest Mobile’s Eastern Shore has to offer to visitors. The Grand Hotel has known her share of hardships; she has been battered by war, hurricanes and upheavals. Yet she was always beautiful. As she gracefully aged along those shores inevitably the historic hotel needed repairs and upgrades, not unlike Camellia’s Cottage. Added in 2002, the Spa at the Grand Hotel has consistently been one of the highest ranked Spas by Conde Nast and other travel guides. I am not surprised by these rankings – I was there the very first year-when the paint was barely dry, when those who had helped build and staff the Spa were still around to tell about it. I recall exclaiming to the Spa Manager- ‘This is the most peaceful place I have ever been.’ Now, that’s sayin’ something- Point Clear is one of the most peaceful places on earth; yet every time I have been at the Grand Hotel- with it’s wonderful food, bonafide botanical gardens, sitting regally on Mobile Bay…why is it that windowless inner Spa seems so incredibly filled with embracing warmth, pervading peace, quiet hospitality and a spiritual ethereal atmosphere? The Manager told me that before the floors were laid, before the walls were installed and while the rafters of the Spa were still exposed, she asked her team to write their best words, quotes and phrases on the raw wood. img_2278

She strongly believed words are so powerful that even if those written words are covered with tile, carpet, sheetrock, paint and plaster- the unseen words would radiate through the interior of the windowless Spa. I believed her. I kept those words in my heart for five years before I acted on them. Ancient Scripture attests to the power of Words, we know the written word is especially powerful, think of a Handwritten Note as opposed to a quickly muttered ‘Thank you’– which is more powerful? I wanted hidden handwritten words to be part of my home. Let me be clear, this cottage is not historical, it is not sprawling across acres of bay front property, but it was aging and needed to be renovated. Oddly enough, in the same year the Grand Hotel Spa manager had shared her wisdom of powerful words, I had already started an assessment at home by going into each room, writing down what I liked about each room and how each room made me feel. Here is what I wrote about the Front Entry:

  • The front door faces harsh western heat and light
  • The foyer is cramped, dreary and dark
  • It isn’t a welcoming entrance-
  • No matter what I’ve done to improve it, all of these years the front entrance is the space I most dislike.

I made furious notes about the problem of the Front Entrance and decided the Renovations would begin in there. Five years later, according to my notes,

  • we would remove the foyer wall to install a wide opening into the living room,
  • we would grab a mere 18 inches from an old laundry/storage room behind the foyer wall-
  • we would add additional lighting

On and on…until truly the Entry was stripped down to gaping holes, studs, subflooring and rafters. Recently, I found the journal account of those notes- I had written a prayer before renovation began-

‘Oh Lord, You have said, ‘Do all that is in your heart to do’ and ‘Do not neglect the gift that is in you’. Let me get this renovation right! Call forth the gifts!  As I recall in Your Word, when the Tabernacle was being built, artisans, craftsmen and carpenters were called in. The workmen have been called in here- bring forth the plan, bring forth their gifts!. Let me get this right! Guide my thoughts, ‘gift’ me. Help me write the vision for this space, for You have said- ‘Write the vision and make it plain…’ Bring forth the gifts of light, wisdom and hospitality for this place. Amen.

The next page in the journal has the detailed vision and drawings. The work began. Walking through the rubble- bare rafters and all, I recalled the wisdom of the Grand Hotel Spa. Over a 3 day weekend while the workmen were gone- I wrote words, phrases, quotes, scriptures on every bare surface- on the ceiling rafters, the wall studs, even a section of subflooring beneath the front door! img_2279

My notes say- ‘Write words where they will not be seen- words of peace, love, joy, hospitality, friendship, safety, shelter, compassion, mercy, welcome, come back soon.’  Some of my favorite passages of Scripture were included-

  • ‘The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord lift His Face to shine upon you and grant you peace.’
  • ‘I am come that they might have life and have it in abundance.’
  • ‘I, the Lord God, have loved you with an everlasting love.’
  • ‘Welcome strangers into your midst, for some in so doing have entertained angels unaware.’
  • ‘Beloved if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’

Now, I’m sure the workmen thought they were working for an eccentric at the very least. The words are now covered up, unseen. I kept a sample of words I wrote on a board that was removed from the old foyer, but if you come to Camellia’s Cottage, I can’t show you anything more than a bare ceiling, walls and floors. The results of the powerful words are known.img_2280

The Entry feels larger and more open than it actually is, there is an abundance of natural light. My assessment now would be that the Entry is one of my favorite spaces in the whole Cottage.  The total renovation of the cottage lasted close to five years. When the Entry was finished enough to welcome folks, regularly I would hear, ‘This house is so peaceful.’ The choice of words are almost the same ones I used so long ago at the Grand Hotel Spa. Personally when I come in the front door or just walk through the Entry- unseen words continue to set the tone and inspire me. The cottage is not grand, it is home. Words are powerful, even unseen, unspoken. Words do make a difference.

Love y’all, Camellia

For more information about the Grand Hotel – go to https://www.marriott.com/spas/ptlal-grand-hotel or in your search engine put Marriott Grand Hotel in Point Clear Alabama- Marriott manages this historic hotel property which is owned by Retirement Systems of Alabama and is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail the Spa at the Grand Hotel was ranking #1 for 2009,2010, 2011 in the Marriott Guest Satisfaction and in the top 100 spas by Conde Nast

Opening photograph of the grounds of the Grand Hotel are mine- as are the others

Of Real Roux and Faux Beignets…

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‘First you make a roux.’ Those five words are enough to make even the most accomplished cooks cower in fear and turn the page in a cookbook. Now you know I love cookbooks as literature. I’ve warned you to beware that when ladies are sharing ‘held in the vault family recipes’ there is almost always a teeny tiny technique or one absolutely critical ingredient that is inadvertently left out. I firmly believe it. I have wrestled a mouth watering recipe from an amazing cook more than once, only to find myself saying-  ‘Well, mine was good but darlin’ nobody can make it like you do!’ – that’s music to her ear! She knows it isn’t as good as hers because she left out at least one tiny little detail.img_2244

It’s tradition. It ain’t right, but some secrets are meant to be kept intact, like- ‘First you make a roux.’ They know most folks can’t make it. A real roux isn’t just a flour paste, I cringe when I see cooking show chefs mix flour and butter together into a pale sickly looking flour paste- and call it a roux. A flour paste is pale and the basis for a bechamel sauce or a white sauce- I repeat, this is not a real roux.  A real roux is magic, it adds an indefinable layer of flavor. A real roux takes a good long while if you do it right.img_2240

You brown the flour and bacon grease to just the right shade of dark chocolate brown, like in the pan above. It’s not too pretty but it’s gonna taste amazing. If it is too pale, well it tastes like raw flour. On the other hand, if it turns brownish black- Here is what you might read in the recipe- ‘First you make a roux by stirring flour and bacon grease together into a dark brown paste. If it burns, throw it out and start all over.’

  • Right.
  • Turn the page.
  • Run, don’t walk.
  • Who has time for this?

So, I’m going to share a secret for making a real roux.

  • Spread all purpose flour on parchment paper in a shallow layer on a baking sheet
  • Brown the raw flour in a 350 degree oven until dark golden brown, about 3-5 minutes shaking every so often.
  • Put flour in a jar with a tight fitting lid if you make recipes calling for a roux often-
  • Or use a zip lock bag for the browned flour in the freezer. This is what it looks like:img_2239

If you ever run across a recipe that calls for a real roux, honey you are ready for it! You still have to hover over it a bit when you stir it into bacon grease in a medium heat pan, now,  don’t get all healthy on me here! Bacon Grease is a gift from the cooking goddesses. If you mix it this way with the oven browned flour, most of the hard work is done. Another tip: any decent Creole or Cajun food which calls for a roux will almost always have the trinity of sautéed chopped onion, diced bell pepper and chopped celery. There are dozens and dozens of recipes for Jambalaya and Gumbo out there, yours will have that magic unmistakable flavor if you make a real roux with the sautéed trinity. Here’s what a jambalaya looks like with a browned roux –img_2244

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m anywhere near the Big Easy, the first thing I want is a batch of Beignets at Café du Monde with a strong cup of chicory coffee- pure heaven on the table! With all the talk of Mardi Gras, I’ve been dying for some Beignets! img_2230

Now, there are shortcuts and there are shortcuts- some shortcuts like browning the flour in the oven for a real roux actually makes sense. This shortcut will not result in the unmistakable flavor and ambience of Café du Monde; it will satisfy a craving pretty quick and it makes no sense at all!  A lot of cooks wouldn’t dream of buying canned biscuits that you whomp on the edge of a counter for morning biscuits.. Southern cooks often sneak them in their grocery buggy, then hide them again in back of the refrigerator. Why? Because actually plain cheap canned biscuits are one of the South’s Secret Ingredients. Let’s get this clear first-I wouldn’t touch canned biscuits for breakfast, brunch or a buffet, only real hand cut biscuits will do.  As a crust for Fried Pies-canned biscuits rolled out, filled with rehydrated dried peaches or apples, crimped around the edges, then fried in shallow oil- canned biscuit dough comes out perfect every time! img_2232

And… you can make a passable Faux Beignet if you take round canned biscuit dough-

  • Flatten it slightly
  • Trim it into a square
  • Pop it into hot oil
  • Let the square dough rise to the top
  • Turn and brown on the other side
  • Drain on paper towels
  • Dust heavily with powdered sugar. img_2231

The secret to Faux Beignets is to buy the plain cheap kind of dough, not the ‘buttery’ or the ‘flaky’ or the ‘buttermilk’ canned biscuits. Like I said, it’s not New Orleans or Café du Monde but these Faux Beignets are real close to the real deal. And if you’re feeling ambitious, poke a hole in the center of each canned biscuit– fry as for the Faux Beignet and dust with either powdered sugar or a mix of cinnamon sugar for Faux Donut. Hey, it’s Fried dough with sugar, I double dog dare you to try it.  Yum!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine, but on the bright side- the food was made right here at Camellia’s Cottage!

Mardi Gras in Mobile!

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Camellia’s Cottage is so blessed to have among our friends and family those who carry on the traditions of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama! With all of the pageantry, parades and literally raisin’ Cain…Mardi Gras in Mobile is more than a street brawl- its very much a family affair with fabulous Kings, Queens, Pages, the Court and Krewe balls, along with wonderful traditions handed down from one generation to another; not to mention a boost to the local economy!

It is an historical fact that Mardi Gras celebrations began in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama a full 15 years before New Orleans even existed! The New Orleans folks will try to tell you that in 1699 a few miles from there, they were the first to get Mardi Gras started but don’t believe ’em…well actually it might not be worth arguing about unless you want to get all historical about it. Anyway, Mardi Gras in Mobile has a wonderful tradition of hosting a People’s Parade- better known as Joe Cain Day. Ever heard the term- ‘raisin’ Cain’ ? Well, during Mobile’s Mardi Gras there’s a whole lot of raisin’ Cain because of a man named Joe Cain- who decided after the Wah between the States that folks were just too down and out-in 1866 Joe Cain dressed up like an undefeated Chickasaw Indian Chief and with a few of his rowdy friends and a fireman also known as the Lost Cause Minstrels-  they used a coal cart to parade through Mobile. One hundred years later in 1966, the city of Mobile literally ‘raised Cain’– Joe Cain’s body was exhumed from his resting place in a sleepy little town called Bayou le Batre; then Joe Cain’s remains were re-interred in Mobile’s historic Church Street Graveyard. Complete with a jazz band- Joe’s Cain’s Procession led by Joe’s wailin’ widows- Lida Cain, Novah Cain and of course Solah Cain joke and argue all the way from Joe’s house on Augusta Street  about which one was Joe’s favorite – these widows aren’t exactly dog ugly but they do look suspiciously masculine when they start dancin’ on his grave at Church Street!  Thousands of people walk the hilarious funeral processional parade.img_2205

Mobile somehow manages to accommodate more than a 100,000 visitors for Joe Cain Day! I couldn’t resist showing off some of our own Mardi Gras memories! The opening photograph is a handsome Page whose daddy is in the Double OM’s or Order of Myth, which is the oldest continuous parading Krewe in Mobile and celebrates it’s 150th year! His momma is in the MOM or Maids of Mirth and without her, I would not have many of these photographs!!

The vintage photograph is not Joe Cain’s widow, but a beautiful Mardi Gras Queen, not just once but twice! Other photographs are a Mardi Gras Queen in all her glory and Raisin’ Cain with a couple of merry men!, then there are a group of adorable Pages, a little wannabe Queen dressed for a Ball, a kindergarten reveler pulled in a parade wagon-then there is the Floral Parade which is for the young folks when they get a certain age who are finding out just how much fun being in a parade actually is!

Also there is a couple who had a great time attending an unofficial Mardi Gras Ball. Mardi Gras wouldn’t be complete without a King Cake and a Mardi Gras loot bag with the famous Moon Pie® parade throw included!

 

Folks from Alabama often say that ‘New Orleans may be the most famous and ‘trashiest’ Mardi Gras in the nation but Mardi Gras in Mobile is the ‘classiest’ and perhaps the very first Carnival in the nation.Parading Krewes and their families do an enormous amount of good charitable work. Mardi Gras in Mobile is all about fun, family and tradition!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are the personal property of Camellia’s Cottage community and should not be used without permission.

Hidden Spaces…

img_2222I don’t do a lot of movie reviews, however, I hope you’ll go see the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures. One of the main characters is played by Alabama’s own Octavia Spencer. It is the story of three of the human computers and unsung heroines of NASA’s Space Program. And while it is not set in Alabama, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville was a big part of America’s Space story. Hidden Figures is one of those gaps in history, a hidden space-filled in now on the big screen with a charming cast and a disarming story every one should see at least once.  I feel blessed to have known a few hidden figures who worked for NASA in the early days; one close friend’s father worked toward sending chimps up in the fledgling project and more- and I knew a man who loved to tell the story of being on the team who designed the…uhmm, well the way the astronauts relieved themselves on long flights!  I’ve been told since childhood -as the airplane was landing in Huntsville, passenger and brilliant scientist Werner Von Braun remarked, ‘It looks like we’re landing on the moon’.  The flat red clay soil was dotted with cotton farms and not much else up at the neck and shoulders of North Alabama. Now, the largest concentration of engineers in the entire United States live in and around Huntsville. I wonder what Dr. Von Braun would think as a Saturn V Rocket pierces the blue sky marking the Space Center and home to America’s Space Camp for aspiring children, along with Redstone Arsenal, NASA, Space X, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and a multitude of engineering, aerospace, technology and scientific communities dot the landscape that he once thought looked like the moon. It’s one of those Hidden Spaces we call home.  Down in the Southeastern hip of Alabama is another Hidden Space- called Tuskegee University. The University, once called the Tuskegee Negro Normal School or Institute was founded on July 4, 1881 in a one room shanty. It’s first teacher was the pre-eminent Booker T. Washington, whose intelligence and fundraising abilities brought Tuskegee to the attention of wealthy industrialists such as Henry Ford, who made regular endowments. It could also be argued that one of America’s favorite foods originated through Tuskegee’s scientific and agricultural studies. George Washington Carver worked at the Institute with peanuts as a crop rotation to replenish soil stripped of nutrients and the result was Peanut Butter!  You may have heard that singer Lionel Ritchie’s parents were in the professional community at Tuskegee and you have surely heard of the famous World War II Tuskegee Airmen, who received their flight training there.  What you might not know is that Tuskegee is the only Historically Black College and University  (HBCU) in the United States to have an Aerospace Engineering Program. It was my honor to stay at Tuskegee for a 3 day conference right on this amazing campus- to me, it is one of those hidden spaces I had never experienced firsthand. Tuskegee University and Huntsville’s Space Center are places I hope anyone who visits Alabama would tour. The science for the space program began before I was born, but national awareness of the Russian designed Outer Space Surveillance Satellite known as Sputnik was very much a part of my early years. While we may have sat outside at night watching for Sputnik in lawn chairs, the truth is Americans were afraid. With World War II just behind us, the atom bomb had become part of the nervous system of the entire world, bomb shelters- air raid drills, getting under our desks at school, horns blaring occasionally and men wearing hard hats going off to Civil Defense Meetings kept us in a state of fear. Society was changing-the Missile Crisis in Cuba so close to our southern border states, racial tensions were running high, whole communities were grappling with fear and change, especially in my grammar school years. The shoe banging dictator of Russia, Nikita Khrushchev threatened America and were  broadcast on Huntley/Brinkley’s scary news nightly.  A young President Kennedy had announced the improbable dream of sending a man to the moon.img_2221

I brought my own history as the backdrop to the Hidden Figures’ story, which opens in 1961. It is a story that made me smile, squirm in discomfort and brought the sting of tears to my eyes more than once. This movie brought me back to a childhood fraught with fear– when national leaders were assassinated, when the whole country seemed to be going mad and when unbeknownst to me, human computers were exchanged for whole walls of metal and wire computers designed by brilliant engineers, some who worked less than 2 hours from where I sat at school desk in Birmingham, Alabama. The summer before I entered the University of Alabama, with the aid of so many hidden figures, an American Astronaut walked on the moon! Those of us who grew up in Alabama were deeply affected by this achievement. The story is told by a young man who had a summer job selling Black History books during this time frame- walked through a neighborhood where a young mother sat on her porch watching her young son play-he asked ‘What’s this little fella’s name?’ The reply- ‘His name is Lunar Module’. I suppose Lunar is in his 50’s by now…a living testimonial to the value of the NASA Space Program. Hidden Figures has been added to the American History Books, a technicolor testimonial of the immeasurable value of three brilliant mathematicians, who also happened to be astounding women of color, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Imagine, these hidden figures helped put John Glenn into orbit!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs were taken by me of the Hidden Figures posters. Hidden Figures 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award Winning Movie by Twentieth Century Fox based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly for more information on NASA visit: http://www.nasa.gov  and for more information on Tuskegee University visit http://www.tuskegee.edu

Happy Birthday Camellia’s Cottage!

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Well, you won’t believe this but I’ve been writing about Camellia’s Cottage for a year now! I looked at the first time I wrote y’all and …well, we stumbled and bumbled along, but managed to write over 200 letters to you- won a couple of awards, img_2305-edited

…gained a wider audience than I would have ever believed -and hope to reach even more.  I’m still excited about writing to you, with hopefully better content and better writing in the coming year; perhaps without too many danglin’ participles or obtuse grammar!  Jeremy Miniard’s photographs have made us look good when we weren’t all that good, then Sally Smith shared some of her photography too! Your comments always make my day and get me tickled, some make me laugh my sides off! The Word Press Happiness Engineers were so patient when we were getting started. Questions like- ‘Ok, now what is a widget, darlin’? You know, I’m tech challenged- really have no business trying to do this…’ were graciously answered and were a huge help for someone like me, whose hands shook every time I hit publish for months on end- the amazing ‘ edit’ feature is a treasure. I found out I really enjoy writing humor, sharing what’s growing, what we’re readin’ or where we’re goin’ , what we’re doin’ and of course describing mouth watering southern food. I continue to enjoy struggling to find a photograph to go with what I’m writing even if I have to get creative about it- here are a few early attempts- don’t you just love those sweet Easter Eggs? img_1453-editedimg_1779image

It’s always a joy to find words to describe our people, who, contrary to popular belief are not all the same. We might talk funny but even the way we drawl varies. Perhaps my deepest joy is writing a Sunday inspiration; and I completely adore showing off this beautiful state, Alabama. Some of our folks might be nutty as fruitcakes- but as Eudora Welty once put it, ‘The South takes care of our eccentrics’.  I know this to be true, the South takes care of me! I have more to tell you about how Camellia’s Cottage began, but now is the time to  celebrate! You won’t believe some of the new stuff we have in the works for you!  If you decide to hang around a while longer, invite your friends, I’d love to meet them.  In the meantime, I hope you laugh, I hope you dance, I hope life treats you kindly, I hope all your dreams are coming true… ok, I’m starting to sound like the lyrics to a country music song. Drop by Camellia’s Cottage every chance you get, linger a while -maybe sip a tall glass of sweet tea, nibble on some cheese straws, extol the value of living close to a tomato vine, chew the fat- whisper a bit of gossip and share a bit of wisdom and  inspiration…I truly look forward to visiting with all of you…

Love y’all, Camellia

visit Jeremy miniard’s work at Jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com or in our search engine- look for Porches of Alabama, Doors of Alabama, Backroads of Alabama and more!

visit Sally Smith at http://www.CampCreekCreations.com   *all of the photographs in this post are obviously mine!