Bevy of Beauties…


img_3484They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark rocky hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and the red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that:

  • Stars Fell on Alabama,
  • Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’  and-
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in my Sweet Home, Alabama.

It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth. They’re like Strands of Steel woven through Lace Christening Gowns, Ruffled Petticoats and Tulle Tutus. For southern girls, there’s an immediate affinity for Sparkle, Sequins and Crowns.

Their eyes flash with fury, the art of flirting comes naturally at an amazingly early age. Charmingly, disarmingly  and alarmingly they manage to get their own way, especially with their daddies, brothers and beaus, who are more than happy to go along with it.

Some prefer devastating hats, some wear Hollywood style sunglasses all year round, some prefer to wear their crowns- All. The. Time. Others insist on over-accessorizing. We allow it, we encourage it and just between me and you? It’s easier than arguing them down.

We crown our daughters for every conceivable Fruit, Flower or Nut- not to mention Cotton, Crisco® and Congeniality! And- Bo Weevils, too. For others, the Tutus and Dance costumes aren’t  reserved just for recitals but worn everyday. Recently, I saw a tiny girl with a running suit which had wide bands of sequins down each tiny arm and each tiny leg- her mother said the child loves it so much she has to wash it while the little girl is sleeping!

img_3500It must be said, that those who are born loving sparkles often get the crown– we have spawned more than one Miss America right here in Alabama. Southern Beauties win more often than any other region of the United States!   We may be the Land of Cotton but someone somewhere has made a killing off  the 1000’s of yards of tulle for years now! Ball Gowns, Prom dresses, Homecoming Courts, Beauty Pageants, Cotillions and every conceivable holiday including Alabama’s own Mardi Gras, in Mobile, Alabama.

Even Senior Centers have beauty contests- I have warned my family if the day ever comes when they think I need to be assisted in living ( even though I’ve never won a beauty contest in my life!)  It will cost them a fortune in sequined pageant dresses alone. Why? because Southern ladies nevah evah give up hope or stop flirting for that matter!

img_3484It would be a mistake to think these beauty queens are all fluff, many go on to become-

  • Lawyers,
  • Surgeons,
  • Executives,
  • Artists,
  • Teachers,
  • Engineers
  • Rocket Scientists.

If you research the Southern Bevy of Beauties, you will find articles have been written throughout the years- all asking and trying in vain to answer the question of why Southern women are so much prettier

  • Some say it’s the extra amount of Sunshine, others say it is the Humidity that makes their Skin Glow and their Hair so Full.
  • Some say it’s the Slower Pace or the Sweet Southern drawl, or maybe it’s growing Sugar Cane.
  • Some say it’s Handed Down from Generation to Generation from folks who have stayed in one place.
  • Some say it’s Training or other less desirable reasons- which, to be honest, hurts my feelings to read such nonsense.

To pigeonhole Southern Beauties would be a mistake- some are as soft and gentle as Wood Violets, some are livin’ as large as our Magnolia Grandiflora, some cover pain and heartache like the sweet scent of Jasmine.  Some are more like creamy Gardenias, you can’t miss ’em but they’re shy and bruise easily. Others are  late bloomers like the Glory Bower. Then there are those who simply bloom at the wrong time– like Camellias, our Winter Rose. We name them for-

  •  Our indigenous flowers,
  • Our ancestors
  •  Others are so precious we’ve named them Jewel, Ruby, Opal and Pearl.
  • Then there are some who are quicker than a lightning bug can blink- so we’ve nicknamed them,  Junebugs, Skeeters and Katydids.
  • They are as sparkling as our Rivers,
  • They giggle and babble like our warm Springs
  • They are as tough and spunky as Pig Iron, yet soft as Moonlight and twinkle like Stars.

There is an intoxicating mix of culture in the South- more Flags have flown over the Deep South than any other. The spice blend of Native American, Spanish, French, British,  African, Greek, Italian, German and Caribbean have influenced the very food we eat and also contribute to our sweet and spicy Bevy of Beauties!

Most of my ancestors were of European descent, yet I have an American Indian great grandmother aptly named Bama. Whole counties, rivers and towns bear names like Choctaw, Etowah, Tuscaloosa and Cherokee. In the county where I live, the will of a Cherokee Indian Princess is on record. Of course she was a Princess! No other region of America has been so ravaged by war and gone down a trail of bitter, blood, sweat and tears like the South. We’re still struggling with the aftermath. It is undeniable that Beauty is Born out of Trouble. So, is it any wonder that our Daughters are the Queen of our Hearts and a Bevy of Beauties?

img_3274We teach them that to be well received,

  • They must have good manners, high standards,
  • Be well dressed, get good grades,
  • Have a winning smile and be good citizens.

Secretly we know that beauty and brains is a devastating combination! So, from generation to generation- we revel in their beauty but admire good posture. We remind our daughters, they are born of backbone and courage! And that my friends, is the truth of where our bevy of beauties get their real good looks!

Love y’all, Camellia

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

* Photograph of ‘Katydid’ was taken by Hollis Ellison a wonderful photographer!

*This post was originally written in 2017, in 2018, Z Publishing awarded Bevy of Beauties…  for Emerging Writers of Alabama. This post has been edited and updated from the original. It seemed fitting to redo this post since we have been blogging 4 years this month!

*Some of the vintage beauties are from Ash-Clairma 1961, the high school annual of Ashville, Alabama where surely some of the most beautiful ladies on earth were born.

* ‘Hey Good-Lookin’ was written by Alabama’s own Hank Williams.

* Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama.

*Alabama has had three winners of the Miss America Pageant®, over 20 were runners up and countless have been finalists and special award winners, including our very funny Award Winning Author- Fanny Flag.

Please Excuse Our Progress…

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Rest assured we will never ask your weight, height, shoe size or whether you tint your hair straight out of a bottle, or if you’ve neglected your charm school training. We will never ask your age, simply because you don’t look it anyway- still pretty as a picture and the very essence of health and vitality! We will never ask for or use your personal information- because really, that’s the height of being tacky. What we will ask for is that you will be on your best behavior and use your highest comportment skills- otherwise we will wonder ‘who your people are’ and worse – we might privately question the quality of your upbringing- so don’t go embarrassing your momma!

We love to hear your stories and hope you will continue with the highly witty comments; of course your high praise when warranted and… In return, we will try to maintain high quality postings and avoid things, such as the questionable use of double negatives, the horror of dangling participles and the inexcusable use of ending a sentence with a preposition. Still. Occasionally we do admit to mangling the King’s English when we deem it appropriate for emphasis.

Just know this- we are so thrilled you’re here! Thank you for stopping by, and you’re always welcome to stay awhile. Soon we will be back with more delicious recipes, a few hints and pinches and hopefully a few laughs as well!

Love y’all, Camellia

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She was the nervous type, always scared to death of something or other, I tell you she was no Grace Kelly, Her Serene Highness of Monaco.  An old timer said of her nervous condition, ‘You can always hear a chicken’s feathers ruffle. Scared of her own shadow.’  I rifled through my notes and found that Southern folks talk about their nerves– a lot. Here’s a sample.

  • ‘I was nervous as a cat.’  I have to admit most cats I know don’t exactly quiver like nervous ninnies. They nap a lot. I have known a few cats- a very few- who get on my last nerve. That goes for other things or people too.
  • Some folks say- ‘My nerves were bad that day.’ or… ‘I was a bundle of nerves!’  even this…
  • ‘That noise is working on my nervous system.’ or if it’s really bad- ‘I felt like I was about to have a complete nervous breakdown.’
  • Or nervous exhaustion- ‘ I can’t sleep. I’ve worried myself to death’.
  • ‘My nerves are shot, I tell you they were almost completely gone. If someone tells you I’m Koo Koo for Cocoa Pops. Believe them’

You don’t hear about nerves much these days….oh maybe something like ‘Nerves of Steel’…Mostly, we hear about Stress, Anxiety or other disorders which are all real and can be serious conditions… the terms and treatments have changed. I’m guessing, for lack of a better way to describe things, our Southern Mothers tended to blame the nervous system for the unexplainable. It’s sort of shame terms change like they do. A case of ‘Nerves’ was one size fits all- a delicate way of putting things.  If there is one thing Southern folks used to excel at- is putting things in a more genteel format. The South is a region of church steeples, azaleas, Dollar Trees and eccentricity.

817EB075-9980-49F3-AA90-364003142014For instance, even when we suspect someone is acting in an unusual way….  ‘We always felt a little bit sorry for her- she was a shy soul who had fallen arches, varicose veins, thick ankles and- kept her venetians closed tight as a tick. Most folks suspected her nerves were bad or that she might be a closet drinker. But nice, let me tell you- you will never meet a nicer person in the world, a little unkempt, bless her heart- but so nice.’ Yes, that’s the Southern way of putting things. If we suspect someone might be going over the edge- well… there are telltale signs…

7B5D1FF2-B9DC-4998-8021-BCA16E4D9C16‘Most folks plant petunias in an old tire, but Emma’s been working herself to death- she’s got a whole tire garden – whitewashed or white walled tires with a bottle tree slap dab in the middle or it- I think she’s just got nervous energy that needs workin’ off- One of the neighbors said they thought they heard incantations at night around the bottle tree- but I think it was just those bottles rattling when the wind got up. So what if she planted a tire garden anyway? It’s better than keeping things all bottled up or falling out with a case of bad nerves.’

FFBFBD55-3F11-4FEE-9936-5BC1B6892790And there’s this- naturally some folks do get nervous when they have to get up at meeting to make a little talk, their hands sweat and quiver-One suffering man said…‘I’m so nervous, I could thread a sewing machine and it going.’  Nerve wracking.

3615C552-C99B-44A7-88CD-7CDC0BD9EE6FAll women worry about their children; if they will they make it all right when they get grown but some Southern women worry about whether or not theirs will rise above sorry circumstances– one woman said the houses she grew up in smelled of chlorine bleach, steamed cabbage and home permanents. She wondered if her daughters would rise above it– they did. One has her own Happy Housecleaning Service and the other is a Beauty Operator.

Now, it must be said- that often Southern Mothers are simply mortified by person’s behavior, it sets their nerves on edge. It’s imperative to point things out to their children-

‘Don’t be hanging out over there. Her mama’s not right…mental. Goes to juke joints on Saturday nights. Some say it’s her nerves…but really! layin’ out at night and then layin’ out in the yard in broad daylight to even out her tan. I tell you she’s on the verge…or maybe she’s already gone cuckoo- a genuine floozie. Why, it’s beneath her. Some folks try to excuse it away by saying she was an army nurse in the South Pacific for 15 years and never adjusted to civilian life. The nerve! honestly. I tell you now, it’s no place for young folks to gather. You just need to politely decline any invitations from them and their loud mouthed neighbors too.’

781CACEF-A11C-4645-B3AF-F99391EAEC5DAnd then there’s the case of Aunt Freezia Butler… she’d always been a bundle of nerves, she was high strung when she was a young girl. As a grown woman, Aunt Freezia suffered from tension headaches, nervous stomach, had occasional bouts of Saint Vidas Dance and knew the heartbreak of psoriasis. Aunt Freezia was a buttoned up type, had a tight perm to match; mostly she didn’t trust doctors. Still.  Freezia was a spiritual type – Hard shell Baptist. She claimed it was biblical to take a nip for her oft infirmities according to St. Paul. So she kept a bottle of spirits in her chifforobe ‘for medicinal purposes only’ said it settled her nerves. It probably did.

06FB0CC4-D75D-4F33-A2E5-EF0584686C28A final warning, beware of the wilting Southern Beauty Queen who has gotten to the age when her mind has started to wander… she will offer her delicate and limp hand like a fading gardenia, then takes to her bed with a rare case of Magnolia Fever. Watch out for this type.  Her nervous spells will run you to death- waiting on her hand and foot. Do everything- only to watch her turn on you… mean as a snake! Then! this old Beauty will have the nerve to blame it on a tension headache; says she is declining rapidly- knows the end is near- makes elaborate funeral plans and final wishes. Southerners fall for this- Every. Single. Time.

Okay. ‘Pull the velvet drapes, please. I think a bad case of nerves is coming on… I need to collect myself. There. I’m back to being the Serene Highness of the South.’

C90CCD7E-E08B-4B96-9412-1E13DCCF0540Now, you know the secret of my crazy writing habits- it’s keeping notes…in no particular order, of amusing or unusual phrases or words- then it’s like pulling a rabbit out of the magician’s hat. Some time, somewhere when I least expect it- all of those reams of random paper bring on a goofy piece of writing designed to amuse and inform. This one- for instance- is like all Southern tales… part truth, part myth and part outright lies.  And, you have to admit- it took a lot of nerve to write it!

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is meant to be a humor piece. I have the utmost sympathy for anyone who suffers from any type of nervous disorder and am thankful we have better ways to address it medically. *All photographs are obviously mine. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.  *This is the truth and the whole truth- I have come up with no word for a collector of words and phrases- this photograph is just a fraction of the crazy notes I keep! *And one more thing- we were asked back in the Spring by Z Publishing – to submit an article from a previously published piece of writing. We chose one from Camellia’s Cottage entitled- Bevy of Beauties. We were astounded and grateful to have been chosen and included in Alabama's Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction

The Perils of Leaving Home…

vintage old car pic- jeremy 1When Southerners leave home- they face certain perils that have to do with customs, language barriers, expectations and leading a sheltered life. I’m talking about travel within the continuous United States, not abroad. It’s a given that travelling abroad brings it own set of perils. Southerners-

  •  Talk slower, our conversations have a certain twang,
  • We tend to expect good manners, we like to wave and look folks in the eye, and smile smile smile-
  • And let’s face it a Southern lady is going to flirt, unless she’s dowdy, plain and prim- even then, another region might bring out her innate abilities. I know it’s unlikely, but still, it could happen.

I love New York, Philadelphia and Boston; have been to each of them several times and would go back in a New York minute, yet I know I will face perils, fall in a trap of my own doing.  New York is always the subject of much discussion among those of us who have actually left home from time to time.

I recall a friend telling me that she thought her taxi driver was a Sultan whose day job was to drive a cab but who surely had a bit part in the Broadway hit-Aladdin. Upon getting in the taxi, she squealed, ‘Harold Joe, ask this fine specimen of a man to take us to the Taj Mahal!’ The driver never spoke a word from airport to the hotel despite her exclamations the whole way! IMG_0266

Then, there is the issue of closet space in the hotel- there’s no room for her grandmother’s Humpback Trunk (just kidding but we do tend to seriously overpack) There is not even a hot plate for the Grits her mother insisted on sending. We need our space and our comfort food.

vintage old car pic- jeremy 2 Speaking of housing, a young friend was moving to New York with her college roommate, the girl said, ‘I’m hoping we can find a Co-Op somewhere in the Village.’ Let me tell you, where I’m from- a Co-Op is the ‘Seed and Feed, Barbed Wire, Bush Hog Parts, Bedding Plants and Chainsaw Blade Shop’ and is certainly not in a Village! Now,  why would anyone want to live in one of those? We understand the desire to go to New York to shop– however, the thought of moving there with all of that noise, sy-reens blaring all night (ambulances), underground subways- not to mention it’s cold as kraut; we cannot imagine actually living there full time! We warn our young, if they take a wild hair and want to leave home-

You don’t want to move off up there, you’ ll get mugged, lost underground on those subways, fall off the Brooklyn Bridge and not have a penny to your name to call your daddy to come get you!’

Then, we pull out the big guns and put the fear of God in them…‘It’s just isn’t done…a beautiful young lady running wild with no chaperone. It’s beneath you, I tell you- trashy.’ To be honest, if she’s got her heart set on moving, not a word we say will be heard. She will know we’re right, when those folks figure out that Mary Jim-

  •  Has to be waited on hand and foot,
  •  Stays on her high horse and
  • Flirts- Who would hire her much less take her serious?IMG_0483 (1)

No doubt the food is wonderful- just takes a bit of getting used to. Still. Take Carnegie Deli. The waiters aren’t given to dawdling while a Southern lady gets oriented, situated and tries in vain to spread out-tote bag on the next chair and coat neatly folded over the chair back- Oh no, you’re jammed in there like a sardine next to folks who would rather not be in such close quarters either. IMG_0401

At Carnegie Deli, the waiters have no patience for a Southern lady taking her own sweet time perusing the menu, either. Here’s how it goes-

  • ‘Hey Good lookin’ whatcha got cooking? (flirt) Why, don’t you look nice tonite? (cajole)  What would you recommend? Oh, Corned Beef? My daddy likes to fatten up his hogs and beef cattle with Corn but his daddy always thought Grass Fed Beef was better.’
  • ‘ Okay, lady I haven’t got all night here!’
  • Her nostrils flare, she stiffens her spine- The nerve, the very nerve, trying to rush her like that!’
  • ‘Whaddya have?’
  • ‘ I, sir, am a lady, however, I am willing to overlook your rude behavior being as how you are obviously  so overworked- I will have a corned beef- Harold Joe, are you getting loaf bread? I think, I’ll just go hog wild and get that rye bread! And sweet tea, please.’
  •  The waiter moves off in a huff, after shoving the little rack of sugar packets and yelling out near obscene language. When the corned beef sandwich is plopped down in front of her, it is huge…
  • ‘Well now, Harold Joe, how do you expect me to eat all this? I do believe there’s a whole side of beef on my plate! There won’t be room left for a slice of that gen-u-ine New York Cheesecake!’
  • The waiter sets down the bill in short order; she daintily slides over her daddy’s Black American Express Card-  He says, ‘Cash only Lady!’

She about dies. Now in the first place, unless a Southerner has established who your people are and knows a little something about your background, she goes by the looks of you;  your manners speak volumes about your character. And- Southerners get very uncomfortable discussing money…

  • He should be able to tell by her looks that money is not an issue and her credit is impeccable;
  • But to be so loud and bold about it, well.. it’s just a good thing Harold Joe has that big wad of cash in his billfold chained to his belt!
  • Determined she will not lower her standards- her voice goes up a full octave- ‘Darlin’ would you accommodate this gentleman as soon as humanly possible?’

The mode of transporting Southerners is essential, we tend to like Double Decker Tour Buses- we always ride on top so we can see everything, waving to our hearts content- just like Dignitaries and Beauty Queens in parades back home.  The peril of Tour Buses is with the earplugs– you won’t find a southern accent on any station- they offer French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese- the Southerner ends up saying, ‘It all sounds Greek to me, I didn’t understand a word he said.’

It’s perilous for folks from the Lower Coastal South to go to the top of Skyscrapers- I heard one lady tell her husband she just knew they were up higher than Look Out Mountain, Tennessee. She felt faint right before her knees buckled.

IMG_0238Times Square is perilous too- there’s so much going on it’s hard to concentrate, not to mention the half naked traffic controller. He might have on patriotic skivvies and cowboy boots (Harold Joe is convinced he’s an undercover cop), but really! No self respecting Officer of the Law would be caught dead in a get-up like that in my part of the country! Broadway Shows are where we really shine…

  • Since a Southerner will pay an enormous amount of money for tickets to an SEC game-
  • Tell them they can get 50 yard line tickets (ahem, front and center  Orchestra theatre tickets) They will pay whatever the price…
  • We might not understand the ‘will call’ issue but we do love the playacting and the crazy characters on Broadway…Time's Square

After all, given the choice, we tend to love the most Bizarre Plots and Twisted Tales especially when a Skeleton clatters out of a Closet!  We will always  favor the Eccentric Aunt or the Crazy Uncle- Every. Single. Time!  Yes, there are perils associated with leaving home… then again, we subject ourselves to it over and over again! Now, you know I’m gonna say this… Like all good Southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies! Hopefully, good for a laugh or two!

Love y’all, Camellia

P.S. I love Philadelphia, time would not permit my southern experience with ordering Philly Cheesesteaks! I love Boston- it makes me laugh to hear those folks say- ‘Get in the CA’… not too estranged from a Southern accent- Hah-vahd Squah…just slays me! And, I truly love New York! One of my very dearest friends lives in New York ! Hello and love you Elizabeth!

And…I have mourned, truly mourned the closure of Carnegie Deli, but hey, there’s always Katz’s!

*Photographs are obviously mine (excuse the mixed tones!) However, the two beauties by the car, and the one in the driver’s seat- belong to Jeremy Miniard- I love those vintage pics Jeremy! Go say hey to Jeremy!

Bathing Suits…

IMG_2498I’ve put this off for 7 years. I don’t believe in jumping in headfirst. I stuck my toe in the water yesterday-  it’s almost Open Toe Season in Alabama- I went and got a pedicure, with red polish- of course. The classic summer toenail color in the South is red,  I chose ‘Big Apple’ because truth be told I’d rather be headed to New York City than on a Beach trip where I’ll actually be expected to go in the water. Oh lord, those are scary words. Shopping for a Bathing Suit is painful, especially for a woman of a certain age and stature.  My whole demeanor, posture and bearing change in a dressing room full of bathing suits. Let me make this clear- I live in Alabama, her coastline is one of the most beautiful in all the world- I’ve been going to the beach since I was a child and love it.

However, I stopped wearing Two Piece numbers a good many years ago- they weren’t for swimming anyway. Two Piece Suits are reserved for laying out. A traumatic experience with a Two Piece happened when I was 13 years old taught me a hard lesson. Now, I was never allowed to wear Bikinis- I carried that rule into adulthood- you know the old ‘Don’t look trashy, much less act trashy’ rule, the older I got the more I liked the rule. A Two Piece is different than a Bikini, apparently Bikinis were in the trashy category, because my mother was always looking for Bathing Suits which were:

  • Decent
  • Modest
  • Not Too Revealing.
  • Wholesome.
  • And leave Something to the Imagination, if you get my drift.

Now, take a look at my aunt, she has on a decent One Piece- she was just 4′ 11′ tall! Tiny. IMG_2529Now look at the writing on the back of one of those pictures of my Aunt Iva- she married out of the faith…and apparently started wearing bathing suits! Our Southern Mothers could be harsh when it came to Bathing Suits! IMG_2532

They adored each other and apparently got matching black suits one year.  I loved them both!

IMG_2533A decent Two Piece Bathing Suit became acceptable when Annette Funicello was transformed from a cute Mouseketeer to a wholesome Beach Beauty . So, at age 13, barely out of my Mouseketeer Ears-I had a brand new Two Piece Bathing Suit that looked remarkably like Wonder Woman’s outfit- I was emboldened by it. I was going to take it out for a swim- a Dive was more like it. I went to the club early, hardly anyone was swimming… thank goodness. Mothers of toddlers were sitting sedately by the Baby Pool, a few golfers were practicing on the Putting Green nearby- this place was no Dive, it was a nice place where nice decent people went. The pool was Olympic sized for the Swim Team (which I wasn’t on). There was a Diving Well with a Low Board and a High Dive. I put everything in it’s place with my Two Piece and climbed up the steps, then walked all the way out to the end; now, don’t think I was brave enough to actually dive, I’m afraid of heights…Let me stop right here- all of this ‘face your fears mess’ is nonsense.IMG_1397

I walked to the end of the diving board afraid to even make it spring, then I jumped off- Mid-air? The top of my Two Piece popped, slid down to my elbows, then slipped off as I entered the water! The cups were floating on top of the water!! Horrifying! I might have been able to escape notice except over by the ladder was TR – the boy who cut our grass!! He was trying out his new underwater mask, bubbling- he had gotten a full view of…oh I can’t bear to say it! Indecent, trashy, nothing left to the imagination. I surfaced at Wonder Woman speed, grabbed that Top and… I believe I still hold the Underwater Record at that club for swimming out of the diving well, around and down the full length of that Olympic size Pool and managed to get my bathing suit top back on while doing it! I didn’t look back, I struggled out of the water, walked to the dressing room, changed into decent street clothes and abandoned my swim career … forever. My decent Two Piece had turned into indecent exposure– Traumatic.  I didn’t get another decent Two Piece until I was a freshman in college- I never went in the pool or ocean when I wore it – ‘My hair, I can’t get my hair wet’ was my constant refrain. I used the Two Piece to lay out in the sun.  We don’t say sunbathe in the South. We work on a Tan. We lay out in the sun. There are two types of ‘laying out’ in the South…

  • there is the acceptable- ‘laying out in the sun’
  • and the unacceptable ‘laying out all night.’

I love the sun- I love the ocean, I love the beach, I still love laying out by the pool. And let me just say here- ‘Ah ad-mire’ women who rebel against their mommas and wear Bikinis- I never cultivated that kind of confidence! I wore bathing suits, even Two Piece bathing suits over the years when I was young but I didn’t swim, I laid out. When my children were young, I became a Southern Martyr- I was a Pack Animal while they were on the water slides or whatever thrill it was. Several years ago- I swore off Bathing Suits altogether. I decided that the Crime of wearing a Bathing Suit was worse than the Cover Up. I have walked our beloved Alabama Beaches in Cover Ups for years now- getting older has it’s perks. I told myself-

‘Ah’m not going to in-flict mah-self on the general public anymore’

This year is different, I have to buy a Bathing Suit. Our summer vacation is an Island Vacation like 7 years ago when we went to Atlantis® in the Caribbean. That time, I tried to be a good sport, I wore a Bathing Suit, put my things in a locker so we could ride the Inner Tubes- I did not consider this to be fun, the water was freezing…but what topped it off was the sitting in a wet bathing suit eating lunch by one of their million pools- I didn’t realize I would be sharing a seat with two yellow jackets! Zzzz ! They were not amused. The yellow jackets took offense when I sat down on them. The stings were bad, I am allergic to bee stings- the Health Hut recommended Benedryl®- I’m not saying I looked like a beached whale, maybe a dolphin- but when that stuff took effect, I wasn’t just layin’ out– I was laid out, down for the count.

This year, this vacation -my family isn’t going along with the old- ‘I’ll be the pack animal, I might get stung, My hair, my hair’  excuses.  So I’m easing into the idea…I’m taking it slow, I am perusing catalogs that have Bathing Suits which cater to all figure types, I wish they would label the suits for what they are –

  • ‘When you’ve put on a little weight, Darlin’
  • Things have gone South, precious’ -or-
  •  ‘Bless your heart, holds you in, but you’re going to have trouble breathing’ style.  Better yet-
  • Decent. Not Too Revealing. Modest.

I dread dressing room mirrors- where you can see all sides. Now really, who wants to see blinding white legs, sagging knees – it’s demoralizing.  So, I’m taking this slow. It’s Open Toe Season in the South- I got my toes wet yesterday when I got a pedicure, I’m looking at catalogs with fear and trembling- I’m thinking of getting a Spray Tan before I hit the dressing room, I’m definitely going with a One Piece and I’ve ordered a full length Black Caftan- a brilliant Cover Up, don’t you think?

Oh lord, unlike most Southern tales, this one is not Part Outright Lies, Part Myth and Part Truth- this one is the Truth and nothing but… Stay tuned.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are from our family album with the exception of the opening photograph which was taken from the front of a card years ago- no known source; and the ‘diver’ which is from a vintage set of encyclopedias here at Camellia’s Cottage.

Southern Pound Cakes…

Deke’s Decadent Chocolate Pound Cake


Southern Pound Cakes are the standard bearer of civilized Southern Society. You can hold your head up high if there is a pound cake in the house, especially if you have perfected pound cakes made by your ancestors. It is considered treasonous to proclaim another person’s pound cake is better than your momma’s. The Southern obsession with good manners, genteel living and our thinly disguised ancestor worship may be summed up in the humble Southern Pound Cake. ‘This pound cake was mah momma’s recipe and her muhtha before her- why mah family’s been making pound cakes for at least 7 generations. If ah’m not badly mistaken it was one of her ancestors who brought the first pound cake over on the Mayflower or they surely would’ve starved to death!’  We can say that without shame or the benefit of DNA testing – because we know who we think we are!  We know our pound cakes are the best if our mommas made it- the crumb must be microscopically fine, the texture must be moist, tender, baked to perfection and long lasting, just look at the texture-IMG_2291

Southern Pound Cakes are high in fat content- the term ‘livin’ high on the hog’– means you have an all butter Southern Pound Cake in the house! The Southern standard of excellence in pound cake baking is to carry on the all-important tradition of being able to entertain at a moment’s notice. To have a pound cake in the freezer or to send a pound cake to any and all joyous occasions and a Southern Pound Cake for uplifting sustenance during bereavement is an inherited skill. Bake a pound cake and you’re ready for anything life throws your way.  IMG_1581

Bake a pound cake and you will hear– ‘Mah ancestral muh-thas were known to have beaus swarming from all the surroundin’ counties just to get one taste of those delectable pound cakes! Make a pound cake and men will flock around like a murder of crows!’ So, one of our closely guarded secrets is out– Men love pound cakes and will worship the women who bake them. Southern Pound Cake bakers don’t need dating advice or ancestry sites- we just need to have a third or fourth generation recipe for a Southern Pound cake! And…if you have several variations of that recipe- let’s just say…it’s very effective. Well before a Southern lady was rulin’ the world rockin’ the cradle, she was wielding a silver handled cake knife over an array of pound cakes!

We also know this to be a fact, if a Southern Belle is incapable of outrageous flirting or holding up her end of the conversation, when she sweetly says-‘Would anyone like a sl-eye-ce of pound cake?’ – all eyes will rivet toward the Belle with the silver cake server shining like new money. We southern girls invented the concept of the way to get to a man is through his stomach. My own grandmother’s pound cake recipe was delicious plain but- she had at least four killer variations!  Recently we had a birthday at Camellia’s Cottage- the birthday boy wanted a Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Glaze. Months before his actual birthday, he ventured very carefully into the sensitive subject of pound cakes-

‘Now you know I think your pound cake is the best in the world but I was just wondering if you evah make a chocolate pound cake? I was actually dreamin’ of one that had a chocolate glaze on top!’ The answer was quick and sure, ‘Why yes, GiGi made chocolate pound cakes for special occasions and always gilded the lily with a chocolate glaze!’  Because of his sincerity and genteel request, Ah’ve re-named this one- Deke’s Decadent Pound Cake– that boy was proud as punch of the chocolate pound cake of his dreams!IMG_2304

Chocolate Pound Cake is one of my grandmother’s variations- another variation was:

  • GiGi’s  Coconut Pound cake. Grated Coconut was added to the batter- and always flavored with Almond Extract. After the tube pan was greased, instead of flouring the pan- the tube pan was coated heavily with finely grated coconut. This outstanding version came out of the oven with Toasty Coconut on the sides and bottom.  GiGi’s Coconut Pound cake was wonderful during the Holidays alongside Southern Orange Ambrosia.
  • Another variation to the plain Southern Pound Cake is the substitution of Lemon Extract, then finished with a Thick White Lemon Glaze; sip a glass of lemonade or a long tall iced tea with Heavenly Lemon Glazed Pound Cake
  • Still another variation was a family favorite that I’ve never found in any Southern cookbook. The batter is GiGi’s plain pound cake- along with vanilla extract, then for the killer variation- Bourbon is added to flavor the batter. Grease and flour as usual except for the bottom of the tube pan- at least a half stick of melted Salted Butter is p0ured in along with 2 cups of pecans. Don’t get any ideas that this variation is like those Yankee Sticky Buns- this is a Southern Salted Pecan Pound Cake.  A man will lay down his life for just one slice of the Salted Pecan, so ladies please don’t trifle with a man’s affections if you aren’t serious.IMG_2293

I must tell you that in civilized gatherings Strawberry Shortcake is made with Plain Southern Pound Cake, topped with lightly sugared fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream, that’s the right way to make it. Do not use those dried out grocery store shells or  Cat Head biscuits. To use a Cat Head biscuit with sugar on top for Strawberry Shortcake is just plain laziness.

Gigi’s Plain Pound Cake has 3 sticks of salted butter creamed with 3 cups of sugar, 8 large eggs added one at a time, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and at least ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Sift together at least three times- 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour and 1 ½ cups of cake flour, then fold the flour into the butter, sugar and egg mixture- do this as lightly as you can. Do not use a mixer to do this step.The batter will be thick. Prepare a tube pan with parchment paper on the bottom, then the sides and bottom are greased with butter, then floured. Scoop the thick batter in, smooth the batter out lightly and evenly before baking  in a 325ºoven.Bake for one hour, test with a toothpick, just know that the pound cake will most likely need to be baked another 15 minutes. Let cool until cake pulls away from the sides on it’s own. Do not force the pound cake from the pan. Run a knife carefully around the tube. Remove the pound cake with the top side up. Cool completely on a wire rack.IMG_2288

It is tempting to eat a piece of hot pound cake- please note this is uncivilized, even uncouth; though eating a slice of pound cake for breakfast is an exceptional luxury. Now, you may have noticed that there is not one drop of Milk in GiGi’s recipe- butter is the only dairy product included.  My grandmother collected recipes for Sour Cream Pound Cake and Cream Cheese Pound Cake but she never veered from her own perfect Southern Pound Cake. She believed that milk or cream in any form- made a pound cake tough which tended to make the cake dry out quicker. Also, I know she suspected that a Cream Cheese Pound Cake was made by some woman who had made an unholy alliance sometime during or after that unpleasant conflict with the Yankees. Since it is a well known fact that Philadelphia is the home of American Cream Cheese…do I have to spell it out for you? Though some women insisted that their Cream Cheese came from Philadelphia Mississippi, still we aren’t going to mess with GiGi’s ancestral pound cake recipe! Though I do have to admit that I have had cream cheese and sour cream pound cakes that are exceptionally good! By now, I am sure you are completely convinced that we are crazy in Alabama- well we are crazy, we’re crazy ’bout Southern Pound Cakes in all of their glory and variations!

Now you know those are some beautiful Southern Pound Cakes!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine! A big thank you to Deke for letting me photograph a slice of Deke’s Decadent Chocolate Pound Cake!

Smart, Sassy and Southern…


While the rest of the world was watching the Super Bowl, I was watching one of my favorite football movies- The Blind Side starring Alabama’s own Sandra Bullock who portrays a Smart, Sassy and Southern lady. I have known ladies just like the character she portrays. It would be a mistake to think all southern women are proper southern belles. Some are smart, sassy and frankly sensational, the kind I remember folks calling a ‘Pistol Ball’ or a ‘Spitfire’. This is the type of woman who may have grown up working at her daddy’s truck stop. Before she was 13, she insisted on adding showers, a cafeteria, a gift shop and her daddy was making a huge profit to boot- enough to buy up several other truck stops, join the Jaycees and have the local country club open their arms wide to welcome him, his money and his sweet wife. His  lovely daughter moved through that country club like a hot pink Mack truck with shiny chrome wheels, she could charm the horns off a billy goat, the kind of girl that hiked up her ballgown-chased the boys and made them cry.  A Smart, Sassy Southern girl has an uncanny ability to wear high heels, walk and chew gum at the same time. This southern girl generally errs on the flashy side of good taste, pops her gum and honks her horn at anyone who would dare get in her way. She literally invented the concept of multitasking – why by the time she’s grown and married- she can:

  • Organize the garden club by botanical assets,
  • Get all of the costumes finished in time for the holiday programs,
  • Decorate her home,
  • Practically runs her husband’s office,
  • Makes sure it doesn’t rain a drop on the Annual Bake Sale.

She wears the most stunning ball gowns, is the most outrageous flirt, dances every single dance, but when the ball is over it’s time to take off her dancing shoes and get back to work. She knows more about football than her sweet daddy, her husband and the coaches- especially if she has a son on the field! It’s a sight to behold watching her chew out the referees and leave them feeling like they’ve been charmed by a rattlesnake. And they like it- Men love Smart, Sassy Southern ladies.

  • She’s confident, doesn’t try to hide her assets and uses them to her best advantage.
  • She’s territorial.
  • She still looks online to see if some Yankee is trying to sell the family silver.
  • She rarely forgives a wrong, has a long memory and a short temper- but somehow comes off as a Sassy Southern Lady with a soft underbelly for the downtrodden and poor.
  • She has high standards and doesn’t mind imposing them on others.
  • She has an exaggerated concept of Justice, if you know what I mean.
  • She’s opinionated.
  • She uses colorful language when and if it will drive home her point in an exceptionally charming way.
  • She can drive a pickup or a Mercedes with equal ease- maneuver might be a better way for how she drives and how she lives her life.

She can play three sets of tennis in all white or tramp through the woods to kill those pesky wild boars with relish. I know, I’ve tasted the jerky she made from that wild boar, and by the way she gets so sick and tired of alligators sunning on her pier at the bay house- her morning routine is target practice. Sometimes I think her ancestors were the ones who captured and locked up poor ol’ Geronimo when he spent some time locked up in Fort Morgan, Alabama!  She loves beach music, big sunglasses, designer jeans- on the tight side of course and has a tendency to wear more gold than Fort Knox. Having her hair and nails done isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Chances are she married a man who made it big in:

  • Trucking,
  • Construction,
  • Logging, Excavating or
  • has his own chain of Auto Parts Stores.
  • He might seem like a tough guy at work but at home? He simply throws up his hands and says ‘Whatever you decide to do is fine with me.’

Smart, Sassy and Southern ladies never make a serious habit of waiting on dreams to come true- they go out, takes risks and knows where life is happening. She will not be on the sidelines, unless she’s cheering the longest and loudest for her boys.

She’s the most passionate deep red Camellia in the bunch and will always be a smart, sassy southern girl through and through. I hope you meet at least one in your lifetime.

Love y’all, Camellia

The Blind Side by Warner Brothers is available through and other major retailers of DVD’s. The production photograph of award winning actress-Sandra Bullock in her role in the Blind Side- may be subject to copyright. the-blind-side

Photographs of red camellias which are in bloom now and are mine!   In addition to being an area where big bay houses are located-the actual Fort Morgan by Mobile Bay, Alabama was the site of many things including holding the famous American Indian Chief Geronimo for a brief period of time. *Bold Quote is taken from:

‘Never allow waiting to become a habit. Chase your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now.’ Author Unknown

Autumn leaves…

Autumn leaves, in all their glory are among life’s most beautiful displays. Fall has nearly come and gone here, it’s been so dry, the leaves have mostly curled up and died without bothering to show much color- it’s made me melancholy. Roger Williams’ playing the classic ‘Autumn Leaves’ is a melancholy song…it’s about a man whose girlfriend has left him; its about a man who misses her; and he misses his darlin’ most of all when ..‘Autumn leaves start to fall…’ Well, I have a few tips for Roger, but first I’ll let you listen to this vintage version- Roger, darlin’ take it away…

It’s my personal opinion that if Roger Williams had ditched that Leisure Suit- his darlin’ might have stayed. She probably said ‘Roger, bless your heart- you play that piano jus’ as good as anybody ah’ve evah heard, makin’ those trills sends chills up mah spine- but darlin’ my Momma would have a hissy fit if I brought home a big strappin’ man wearin’ a wild printed shirt and a white polyestah suit! And there’s just no tellin’ what mah Daddy would do…why that polyestah would get picked faster than a bale of cotton!

Roger Williams went on to have a brilliant career in music, made more money than they keep in the vault at Farmers and Merchants Bank. Chet Atkins went on to play a version her daddy liked better…but lordie mercy, we southern girls do have our standards

Love y’all, Camellia

Don’t believe ’em…

imageBesides our glowing skin, our charming accents, the unusual way we talk and the fact that most of the time we’re cuter; what people really like about Southern Women is our Food! I mean who doesn’t like:

  •  Fried chicken, real macaroni and cheese
  • Green beans, cornbread,
  • Blackberry cobbler, sweet potato casserole
  • and our Banana pudding?

So, every once in a while I feel I should warn folks about seriously misguided phrases, so you can avoid being trapped into eating something not at all like Real Southern food! For instance, if someone says-

  • ‘I found a new recipe for fruitcake and it doesn’t even taste like fruitcake!’ – Don’t believe ’em. We don’t say that for Fried Pies, Blackberry Cobbler, Banana Pudding or Mimi’s Pound Cake! And really why would you even want to make a fruitcake that doesn’t taste like fruitcake? Only a fruitcake, if you get my drift…fruit-cake

If someone wants you to try something called ‘Southern Style’ – well, it’s a fad. If style is added after Southern- Don’t believe ’em…it’s against the truth in advertising law. We all love to be stylish but don’t mess with our food! I’m also leery if someone says- ‘ I make oven fried chicken’. No, darlin’… this is how you say it-‘Ah’m gonna fry some chicken.’  Here’s the clencher for true Southern cooking- if she has the burn marks to prove it; pulls up her sleeve- points to a place and says ‘Easter, 1998’ – and that place is ‘March 2001’.  That is physical proof of someone who can actually fry chicken- not style or oven fry chicken!

But the real term to avoid is: ‘It tastes just like…’ chickens-black-publicdomainpictures

  • No, Honey, Alligator does not taste just like Chicken- it’s  tough and chewy…not even a tom turkey is as tough as alligator! Just say- It’s alligator, try it if you dare and add that white alligator meat is better than dark.
  • Sweetheart, Frog Legs do not taste just like chicken! Someone tried to pass off Buffalo Frog Legs on me one time and I was not fooled by that Yankee for a New York minute!Fried Frog legs are common in the South and lots of people like ’em, but Faithful Frog Leg Lovers are proud to place an order for Fried Frog Legs please ma’am.
  • Bless your heart, I hope you nevah believe that Turtle tastes just like chicken– go ahead and try our high faloutin’ Turtle Soup but please don’t ever compare it to chicken!
  • No Darlin’-Rattlesnake does not taste just like chicken- I’ve been to that rodeo before…and I looked like someone gaggin’ on a maggot when I was told what I was really eating! Honestly since Eve pawned off that Apple on Adam- Southern men will go to any lengths to pass off Reptiles and Am-phib-ians as chicken! Don’t believe ’em.
  • No Precious- Soy Burgers, Emu or Buffalo steaks do not taste just like beef and believe me in a state like Alabama where cattle are raised in every single county? We do know Real Beef.
  • And Tater Tot- Turkey Bacon cannot compare to the only meat designed to produce real Bacon-Don’t believe ’em…you have to go Whole Hog to get real bacon! IMG_1387
  • Imitation or Mock Crab does not taste like Alabama Blue Crab! And while I’m at it- Don’t believe ’em if they  say Crawfish tastes like a cross between lobster or shrimp! Crawfish is a delicacy on it’s own! *please note: It is a cross we bear, but please-Southerners do not say Cray-fish! That really sticks in this Southern girl’s craw!image

Today I was amusing myself by reading one of my favorite cookbooks- Don’t even think about asking me which one, I cannot bear for cornbread to be shown such disrespect– Some woman, whose ancestors, no doubt are Carpetbaggers; was Scalawag enough to pawn off a recipe called ‘No Corn Bread’ – really!  She actually wants folks to use Cream of Wheat instead of our revered Corn Meal! I tossed the cookbook away from me in abject horror. I couldn’t believe it! Why mess with perfection?2016-03-23 13.50.11Though as I’m writing this, I have to think that the cook who submitted- No Corn Bread  must either be flush with  money or not very well liked. Some Junior Leaguer is surely grinning like a possum- that she included such an irreverent recipe in the final draft!  You might as well be warned, don’t put too much credence in food styles, any recipe that says ‘mock’ or ‘tastes just like’  are food traps! Be warned, they are out there and often passed off as Real Southern Food.- Don’t believe ’em.

Love y’all, Camellia

*note: There is an actual Rattlesnake Rodeo held  in Opp Alabama if you ever get a hankering for real rattlesnake!. We might be the only State in the Union to have one town name Opp and another called Epp! Many years ago, I had a dear friend who had travelled from her home in New England cross country- She could not believe that she passed through OOPS on one side of the state and on the other side. she passed through EEPS, yes, that’s my sweet home Alabama!

Fruitcake photo is from http://www.commons.wikimedia, Black Chickens from All other photographs are my own.




Grits. Simple. Unadorned. In the South, if you truly grew up here, there is a primal instinct to crave Grits. People don’t understand this outside of the region, in fact you may not even be able to find Grits on the grocery shelves in other regions of the country, much less the world. I have a friend whose daughter moved to Los Angeles a decade or so ago, who would whine so pitifully for grits that her mother bought and sent her a bag of grits from time to time. The same thing happened when a friend’s sister moved to New York around the same time frame- ‘Well, I guess she’s homesick, she wants me to send her a bag of grits.’ To be fair, some of the great chefs have taken a low class food like grits and have elevated them to a delicacy once known as breakfast grits for fishermen or laborers near the coastal areas of the south- to Shrimp and Grits, but if a poll were taken I would be willing to bet these same chefs in major cities outside of the South would never eat Grits for breakfast! In the South, field hands to fine gentlemen, get it- they want and expect Grits for breakfast! From nursery food, to sick beds, to hearty men’s breakfasts, and ladies brunches- you will always find Grits on the savory side of the menu, never the sweet.  I can’t say it any better than Alabama girls, Deborah Ford and Edie Hand in their ‘GRITS Handbook’ *-

‘Grits are eaten with butter, gravy or cheese- never sugar.’image

Y’all, trust me on this- true Southerners crave Grits from their bassinets to their deathbeds. Grits are the ultimate comfort food, considered a healing aid, a cure for the sick. I once heard my grandmother say, ‘I knew he was real sick, when he turned his nose up at a bowl of grits.’  Grits are like kinfolks, we sometimes take them for granted, they are the unsung companion to many a fine meal. Grits are the big-hearted, open-to-embellishment relative at the Southern table, it accepts additions graciously- butter, cheese, shrimp, crumbled sausage and bacon, even eggs have been poached in Grits’ Casseroles. Just remember, never sugar. There is a limit to even the most generous among us! You will never find Grits on a dessert table so why would you even think of adding sugar?  We southerners love our food, we talk about it- we pass recipes down and around; what we may have lacked in fortunes, was more than made up for on food laden tables, generously shared, eaten heartily without shame or daintily with lively conversation. Even when we’re eating out, someone will say ‘Here, try this’ – to say ‘No’ –is out of the equation you will just hear- ‘Really, you have to try this.’- as we put at least one bite over on the loved one’s plate. We can get downright biblical about food– someone once asked, ‘How many people will that pot of grits feed?’ The answer? ‘Oh honey, multitudes.’ Grits have served multitudes, down through Southern history- using the basic elements of fire, water, salt and that most ancient food- Corn. image

In my southern childhood innocence, there was no doubt Goldilocks interrupted the Three Bears’ breakfast of Grits, not porridge! Southern women have a distinct, almost unnatural fascination with ancestral food, like Grits. We rely on family recipes, our grandmothers’ ancient potions and mysterious cures. When prescriptions or modern medicine fail us- we offer Grits as part of a curative white diet, along with chicken broth, weak tea, ginger ale, soda crackers, rice, dry toast,mashed potatoes and scraped apple.image

When we cook Grits, we are communing with our ancestors; even when I am alone in my kitchen- the mothers, aunts and grandmothers are with me- informing me. Like taking care of a family- Grits have to be watched, tended to, kept moving- stirred gently with a languid patience, especially when they are absorbing the hot water of life. You learn to swirl the Grits into water that is at a rolling boil, then bring them down to a soft bubble- never stepping away from the simmer, taking the time to get it right, gently adding a bit of cool water if they start to thicken too soon- bring them to just the right consistency, turning off the flame, adding a bit of butter for richness; then covering with a lid almost like tucking them under a quilt. You learn this when you’re the cook, when you’re the nourishing caretaker of a husband, of a family or a community. You learn how much effort it takes to get it right, just from making a pot of Grits. The humble bowl of Grits-is proof that whether in a rundown shack, a double wide trailer, a lake house, a high rise beach condo or a country club- in the South we are all linked by a simple warm bowl of Grits.

You either like them or you don’t- but you can’t deny the allure of Grits- the generous big hearted food of the South is what culinary dreams are made of- in fact, I’m dreaming of having a Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Party! We’ll top it with spicy shrimp, cheese, crumbled bacon, ham or Andouille  sausage- maybe some red eye gravy,  fried okra, bell peppers, finely diced purple onion and red tomatoes …what else? Well, my grits are getting cold…

Love y’all, Camellia

*quote from The Grits (Girls Raised in the South) Guide to Life by Deborah Ford with Edie Hand Product Details