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!

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: www.nasa.gov  and for more information on Tuskegee University visit www.tuskegee.edu

We’ve been nominated for an award!!!

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‘We’ve been nominated for a Liebster award! Can you believe it Walter? I hate to disturb your nap, but Camellia’s Cottage has been nominated for an award!’~ Walter is looking at me like I’m crazy but Allie Mac, Brenda and I are excited around here! I mean, an award? y’all…really?photo Let me tell you what it is…The Liebster Award is given to new bloggers by another blogger. A big southern ‘Thank you darlin ‘- goes to an amazing blogger -Agatha Chocolats ! I think I’ve gained weight just looking at her blog with all of that chocolate! You have to go see what that little Southern girl is up to! To thank her properly here is a thank you note especially for you, Agatha- imageI like Agatha’s blog because of the images she uses- some are even short video clips, the 13 recipes she does once a week, the unusual combination of mystery and chocolate is intriguing and the playful, tasteful way she produces her blog. Currently it has to be my favorite! She has inspired me to be a better blogger.

Agatha had some questions for me when she nominated Camellia’s Cottage-

  • What would be the motto of your blog? Agatha, I would have to say, ‘Our Sweet Home in Alabama ‘.
  • What is your favorite childhood book? Hands down, it’s ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ – I love the question in it- ‘How do you know you’re ‘real’? And the reply, ‘You know you’re ‘real’ when your eyes fall out, your fur gets loved off and you are very shabby ‘ – by that definition, I am well on my way to- ‘becoming real’!
  • What is the best pairing for chocolate? It took one second to answer that one! Coffee!
  • What forms of social media do you like best when connecting with your readers outside of your blog? I’m old timey here, I would love to chat with them by phone or at an old fashioned ‘tea’ .
  • If you could invite 3 people (living, dead, fictional…anybody!) who would you invite? Well, darlin’ I would have to have 2 parties or one ‘dinner in the ground’! If I could have them back for just one meal, I would choose my grandmother, my husband’s grandmother and my precious mother in law for the first party. For the second party I would invite the ever inspirational Jesus Christ, who attended and even served some of the most miraculous meals ever! Then, C. S. Lewis,  one of the most scholarly and prolific authors ever! And of course, Thomas Jefferson- whose wide range of interests never fails to amaze me!
  • What would you serve? Agatha, I would want the ladies to cook for me! My grandmother’s turkey and dressing, my mother in law’s famous fresh coconut cake and my husband’s grandmother made delicious ‘southern baked-with-brown-sugar acorn squash’! For the men I would serve Parisienne Chicken, steamed broccoli, Sweet Orange Rolls, and a Mandarin Orange/toasted almond salad.
  • What are your 5 best qualities? Well now, that’s a hard one- I suppose (1)my sense of humor, (2)my love of place, (3)I hope I am creatively inspirational, (4)my concern for victims of poverty and domestic violence and the welfare of children; and (5)I would never want anyone to leave here- hungry or empty handed.
  •  What is the best thing covered in chocolate? Agatha! I hate being pinned down but I would have to say-  my homemade English Toffee!
  • What is your passion? My threefold passion is a love of learning, reading and writing, all of which come together at Camellia’s Cottage.
  • If you had 3 wishes what would they be?  Bless your heart, who wouldn’t want 3 wishes? (1)I wish Alabama could be experienced, not by the headlines, but by her natural beauty, a place where talent and  technology rub shoulders with farmers, football players, fashion designers and fishermen, where world renowned chefs and home cooks learn from each other; where goodness and greatness show their generosity regularly and where writers and publishers, art and industry exist on a level barely acknowledged; where kind gentle folk work hard, love their families and appreciate what true southern hospitality really is.(2) I wish I could read at least 100 books in 2016- I’ve read almost 50- so I’m making a good start, and finally, (3) I wish folks would choose watching, listening and reading things that aren’t loud and cynical ( where are Huntley/Brinkley?) but factual news which would inform and fill us up with hope and goodwill- I think those things should start with me and hopefully Camellia’s Cottage will do that.

Finally, Agatha Chocolats asked, which is the my most favorite published blog post? No contest! It was the least ‘liked’ or noticed on Camellia’s Cottage- called ‘ Lookin’ for Fame?’ Posted on March 23, 2016, about the amazing music, talent and recording genuises in the ‘Shoals’ of Northeast Alabama -I hope it will inspire you to at least see the ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary! here’s a link- https://camelliascottage/2016/3/23/look-in-for-fame And we hope to do a part 2 to go with it, because world famous fashion designers, Billy Reid and Alabama Chanin are doing amazing work up that way too!

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There is more to accepting this award, including my personal nominees for the Liebster Award, which I will do in my next post…

In the meantime go take an indulgent visit to- Agatha Chocolats @ https://agathachocolats.com !   Love y’all, Camellia

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