Grocery Shopping after Vacation…

imageWhen I get back from vacation, I start the ‘wash’ and then go to the grocery store. As you know, strange things happen at my grocery store. Other people tell me they go without incident, except one friend who was asked on a date not once but twice in the cheese department! She’s a lady of a certain age as I am- so that was remarkable. I have not experienced that yet, however- today’s trip was interesting as usual. Since there was barely anyone in the store, I was sure this would be one of those rare, unremarkable trips.

I was trying to pick out some bananas when someone came up behind me and said- ‘I bought bananas last time and they were tasteless.’ I smiled and said ‘Well you know, we have to have our bananas- for cereal or maybe a banana pudding.’ ‘If you’re talking banana pudding, they might work, but the Granny Smith apples have more taste.  I pushed off thinking how tasteless it was to make comments over what I was buying! I got over to the floral department- nice lady there. ‘How are you?’ Oh fine, how are you? ‘I’m burning up!’ Really? it feels pretty cool in here to me. ‘Well, trying to work under these heat lamps is about to put me under the cooler!’ Honey, I’m sorry…have you told management?

And by the way, while you’re at it can you tell them they are out of Diet Rites? I have to get those because I’m allergic to aspartame and they don’t have any Diet Rites. ‘Allergic to aspertame?’ Yes. A guy from another cola company who was stocking- said, ‘Diet Rites don’t have aspartame? I’m allergic to it too.’ The flustered floral department lady said ‘What happens to y’all?’ Cola man said, ‘It makes my lips go numb.’ I am astounded. ‘It just causes some tingling and numbness but I’ve never had my lips go numb.’ He swore it did. Well, who am I to judge?  ‘ I used to drink these’ and pointed to an offender. He said, ‘I’ll tell you what happened to the mother of a friend of mine. She loved those, she opened a can and something hit her lips and it was a tiny mouse!’ What?!?!? ‘Yep, they wanted to settle out of court for millions- but she told ’em she’d take 2 million and a case of those colas per month for the rest of her life!’ I shook my head and thought how brave that woman was, to put her life on the line every single time she popped a can. I shoved off thinking that was my ‘incident’ of the day…no, wrong.

The floral department lady called out to me, ‘Camellia?’- ‘Yes?’ ‘Did you know that Granny Smith died?’ ‘I’m not sure I know who you’re talking about but I sure am sorry to hear it.’ ‘Well she lives over on Shanghai Road and worked as an OB/GYN nurse for …oh a long time.’ Really?  ‘Yes, there will be a mob tonight at the funeral home, she had 47 great grandchildren.’ Now, how old was this delivery room nurse?  ‘She was 94, had a good long life.’ Yes, she did. ‘And a memory like a top until the last few years, knew the names of every single one of those great grandchildren.’ Now, isn’t that something? But she wasn’t through, told me who was related by marriage to the Nurse…my ankles were twitching thinking about those tiny mice floating around in those diet colas.

She had more to relate and had  obviously recovered from the heat lamps. She started telling me about another lady who was on her deathbed. ‘Yes, two days ago,  called the family in and told them she had about 24 hours to live.’ Her daughters were horrified because for one thing- this lady is one of the best cooks in the county and they just knew she was taking her recipe for pound cake, egg custard pie and coconut cake to her grave, among other things. She never wrote anything down or if she did, there was always a critical ingredient missing. ‘But she’s lingering on, not dead yet…and the food! oh my when word got out that she was dying- offers to make devilled eggs, fresh green beans, squash casserole- the Sunday School class was providing the ham- estimates of how many to feed went out and paper products, cutlery, cups, sweet tea, coffee- then, giggles and exclamations from the floral department about the baker on her deathbed- ‘Maybe the offers of food at her wake had kept her hanging on.’ I wondered myself if the baker was waiting to hear if someone would dare bring a custard pie or a coconut cake to rival hers. ‘The phone lines are hot with arrangements- she was still hanging on but it wouldn’t be long…she’d been ready to ‘go’ ever since her husband had up and died 8 years before. Was never the same. Baked a dozen cakes and two dozen pies the night her husband died-for his wake. It seemed to calm her nerves.’ In the South, when someone dies, we can put on a funeral, is all I can say.

I thought-I’m not encouraging this…’Well which funeral home has Granny Smith?’ She sucked in her breath…and told me the arrangements, told me again that there would have to be enough food there to feed an army what with 47 great grandchildren. I thought about offering up my bananas but why send something so tasteless? ‘Well listen darling, if we can make it over there we sure will.’ I. escaped. Surely this would be it for this trip. Not so, as I rounded the corner the butcher was waiting with his cellphone open…


His daughter is married to a distant cousin. I thought he had new pictures of his 4 year old grandson, who apparently got the call to preach last year on the Fourth of July. Battling heat, mosquitos and swatting flies- a crowd gathered on the bleachers, waiting for the fireworks. This little dark haired tyke, marched to the front of the bleachers and called out as loud as he could- ‘Can I get an amen? Hallelujah! Thank y’all for coming out tonight!’  He sang, he waved his little arms, he hollered out amen and amen…he ran the rails, he called down fire. And what do you know? Fireworks started popping and fizzling- the sky lit up. Yes, he definitely had the gift. Got it from our side of the family no doubt. But this was not to be the story from the open cellphone…that’s next week…the Fourth of July.

Oh no, the butcher wanted to show me a picture of a buggy load of some of the finest steaks in the store! Someone had tried to leave the store with that buggy load the night before- ‘Well, I’ll be.’ ‘You think that’s somethin’? They did manage to get a buggy full of King Crab legs out of here- just watched it on tape.’ Will wonders never cease.

Surely this was it…I managed to get over to the dairy aisle. I felt the shadow of a man come over my shoulder.- I was thinking- surely it’s not the creepy man who asks women out on dates by the cheese. It wasn’t. He was very tall, so skinny he probably had to stand sideways in the shower. ‘Hey, Ms. Camellia, did ya hear ’bout Granny Smith?’ Yes. I. did. ‘Slipped on a throw rug, broke her nose, black eyes and everything- said some of those great grandkids were underfoot.’ Well, that’s awful. ‘Did ya hear my momma died?’ No, I didn’t. I am so sorry. How did she die? ‘I’ll tell ya what got ‘er. Cigarettes, Lard and Beer.’ I could not think of one thing to say, except – Cigarettes. Lard and Beer? How old was she? Soulfully, the thin man said ‘She was just 92.’ I cleared my throat, straightened up and said-‘Well, I hate to hear it.’ I saw a friend as I was leaving the store- I told him not to buy cigarettes, lard or beer, that he won’t live past 92. He said- ‘I tell you what Camellia, if you’ll add Gin to that diet I’m goin’ on it.’ Me? I’m switching to water. You cannot make this stuff up. image

I missed everybody when I was on vacation- cannot wait to share some of it with you! Just had to have some fun and share the continuing grocery store saga with you! Until next time-

Love y’all, Camellia

Budget Bathroom Update…

A couple of years ago we began renovating Camellia’s Cottage- we had a kitchen, two and one half baths plus numerous other whole house updates – we made our wish lists, prioritized and came to the conclusion that our main goal was that each project would have to be beautiful and budget friendly. For this bathroom, the wish list was:

  • Replace the vinyl flooring with tile.
  • Replace the old, almost child sized toilet
  • Replace the low double sink and cabinet
  • Remove, get rid of, expel the fiberglass tub!

Well… best laid plans sometimes go awry- the despised fiberglass tub- could not be removed. It is an upstairs bathroom, even if it was removed, how would we ever get it out of the house?? To my horror, as chainsaws were being discussed- the plumber was poking around and said, ‘Why would you want to spend the money to replace this tub? The older fiberglass tubs are heavier and better made than the new ones. And getting a porcelain tub upstairs would be almost impossible.’ My heart sank. That tub was the worst thing in the bathroom, at least to me! I thought about it…long and hard- put the men on another project and went back to my drawing board. Here is what we came up with…


The carpenters built a frame right outside the original tub wall, with 2×4’s- we had no space to waste! They covered the frame with sheetrock and on the top right next to the top of the existing tub- our tile man cut and placed the same marble that we were using for the floor. It gave the old tub a ‘spa’ feel to it, with a wider ledge than the old tub. We replaced the old bathtub fittings with brushed nickel and the old fiberglass tub isn’t an eyesore anymore!

We came in well under budget for a bathroom remodel. This update worked so well for us, we updated the equally despised fiberglass shower in another bathroom the same way! For another look at what we did to the fiberglass tub- see the photographs below:

As for the rest of the bathroom, almost everything we had on our wish list was installed. The sink was reused, it was porcelain- we updated the fixture. A deep shelf was installed instead of a cabinet; and to keep the bathroom from looking too slick or sterile, we opted for wicker storage baskets below.

The old, out-of-date, cramped bathroom seems larger but is actually about 6 inches smaller! A beautiful, budget friendly transformation. If you have an old fiberglass tub, maybe this will give you an idea of how to update it. And most of all, remember this whether in renovating or in life-

‘If your plan isn’t working, put down the plan!’

Love y’all, Camellia

Lessons from My Garden…

Quote of the Day

Whenever I read a quote about growth, I make a connection to gardening. The greatest lessons I have learned have come to me when I am gardening- doin’ yard work. A good garden is always changing, growing – a living thing.. Gardening is like dealing with the Devil and touching the Hem of God’s Garment.

When my garden and I started out, I had dreams for it; some have come true.

  • I wanted roses spilling over a white picket fence, I wanted my grandmother’s Spiderwort and her Hosta to thrive.
  • I wanted heirloom peonies to pass along to the next generation.
  • I wanted a couple of magnolia trees and a gardenia that knocked my socks off with it’s white blooms and heavy scent.
  • I wanted big blue Mop Head Hydrangeas by the dozens.
  • I wanted to look out of every window and see something growing.
  • I wanted an old gardener’s bulbs and irises to spring up every year and greet me.

I’ve gotten all of that and more. I still have to fight weeds- I still have to prune and vigorously cut back new growth. My best laid plans have been interrupted; I’ve even loved and lost-

My herb garden had to be torn up because of a structural issue. I mourned the loss, I resisted the change. Nature doesn’t seem to resist change– but eases gently, gracefully through the seasons. Plants do not seem to be alarmed or depressed when they are pruned- they just up and put on new growth. There is a quiet wisdom impressed upon me when I garden, nature is a patient teacher. She calmly points out the splendor of the sunshine, the peaceful necessity of a gentle rain and the blinking lights of  fireflies-then, quietly points her finger toward the stars without worry or anxiety about tomorrow..Gardening points me to my higher self-it brings out the dreamer in me. I love this quote by Harriet Tubman:

‘Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.’

Gardening helps me believe that within the personality of God, there is an unruffled calm, a perennial pace to life, an order and higher purpose in my life. My doubts and anxieties about aging are overcome when I see a sunset. A Sunset is proof that Nature really does save the best for last. Before the curtains close -She waltzes out, shows off her most glorious colors- spreads her skirts and takes a graceful bow- then tosses out a handful of stars!

‘Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from the morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.’ Charles Dickens

It’s such a treat for me to share some lessons from my garden. I hope your gardens and your lives are abundant and changing ever so gently. I hope there are still stars in your eyes and dreams in your hearts.

Love y’all, Camellia

*image from

quotes from ‘The Dictionary of Thoughts’ published in 1959 by Standard Book Company

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Book Review…



This Memorial Day if you are looking for a book to read- I can wholeheartedly recommend Pulitzer Prize Winning novel- ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. If you are a history buff and are looking for a way to honor the servicemen in your life; or those you have loved and lost; even folks whose lives are impacted by circumstances beyond their control- who soldier on despite limitations and live inquisitive lives in dire situations- this book is for you.

The way an author strings together words into images fascinates me as a reader. ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ – is masterful! The author spent 10 years writing it; and what the readers receive from Doerr’s masterful art- is amazing. The sentences are like photographs. They are formed using just the words needed to convey one of the most beautiful, heart rending, historically valuable books I have ever read. That is saying a lot since I have read dozens of books just this year. If you are looking for a book that will forever remain in your Top 10, this is it. It is not a light beach read- yet would be perfect at the beach since the chapters are spare, short and concise. The writing is so beautifully rendered- savor it, be absorbed in the content. The New York Times 10 Best Books in 2014, puts me behind a few years in reading it, however- I will be forever grateful that it has passed through my heart, mind and hands.

Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting For Stone reviews All the Light We Cannot See in this way- “This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece, its many threads coming together so perfectly. Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion.”

I share his sentiment- and would add that even though the book deals with harsh realities of war and life- Anthony Doerr’s book does not rely on coarse and common language to convey hard times. I believe the author could take a common fork or spoon and elevate it to an object of great importance. It is not a romance novel- yet you, the reader will be romanced by it. Let me share a few sentences with you-

Imagine being a blind girl, you are alone in a house, in a city which is being bombed-

  •  ‘A stone drops into her palm. It’s cold. The size of a pigeon’s egg. The shape of a teardrop.’

A young orphaned boy listening to a ragtag radio finding a broadcast far away, which will forever change his prospective:

  • The brain is locked in total darkness…It floats in clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?’….

And this line – in the same broadcast the child is listening to- becomes a question he returns to often as the novel progresses-

  • Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever.’

Doerr uses phrases like ‘the sleet fell like silver strings’- ‘Doubts: slipping like eels.’ ‘Everywhere mussels click and sigh…Galaxies of snails. A story of life immanent in each.’ ‘Statues smile down from ledges like kindly godparents.’

I hope I have whetted your appetite to read this book, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’.  It is unforgettable. I hope you will agree, let me know! For those of you who are wondering if my ‘war’ with mosquitos has been won? It appears, at least for now, that they’ve waved the white flag of surrender in this month’s battle! Have a wonderful weekend!

Love y’all, Camellia

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr-

Do You Believe the Subway Exists?


This photo of the historic Trinity Episcopal Church Burial Ground was taken recently, for several reasons- the large statue of John Watts, Jr., the burial ground of the first U.S. Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton and the pretty subway station reminded me of another trip to New York when ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’ based on John 11- was almost finished. The question: Do You Believe the Subway Exists?’ almost became the title of chapter 38. For your Sunday Inspiration, here is an excerpt:

‘On a recent trip to New York we rode the subway. We had been to New York several times, but had never used this mode of transportation. We knew it was there but had never seen for ourselves how it worked. We believed there was something going on underground, out of sight- that hundreds of people on hundreds of miles of track were moving beneath us – yet above ground we had nothing to prove it. We had the word of others that the subway was real. We saw the entrances to the underground trains; at times we could feel the rumble beneath the grates on the sidewalks. We saw masses entering and coming up from the darkened pathways under this great city. We believed in something that was unseen, unknown, and untraveled in the subway system of New York. We never questioned the existence of the subway or how it worked. We simply believed that it was there with the evidence that existed above ground, the signs- the words of others, even visiting Grand Central Station. We completely believed in the subway system. This trip, we rode the subway, and let me tell you- for someone who has spent most of her life in a small town; it was not easy to navigate! Yet I believed those trains could take us to other parts of the vast city.  When we got on the train – I knew we were moving! When we got off, and came up above ground – we were undeniably in a different part of the city. Throughout the trip to New York, after our subway rides – I was keenly aware that below the surface – out of sight, was a system which moved vast numbers of people from one place to the next. There was a whole world moving beneath my feet.’


 You know, it doesn’t take much faith to believe the subway exists. But what of those folks in that burial ground behind this subway station? Do you believe they existed? Do you believe they lived, died and were put down under the ground, and further that they just might be in another place even now? That might take a little more faith. What about this? Do you believe in resurrection? Not just at the ‘last day’- but that life, your life can be changed- resurrected, right here, right now. John Watts, Jr., Alexander Hamilton and even the life of Trinity Church changed numerous times. John Watts, Sr. was considered a traitor for leaving America and returning to his homeland, England- when the Revolutionary War began; he was stripped of his holdings in New York. Left with the shame of what their father had done-John Watts, Jr. and his brother did not leave- they were patriots who stayed; petitioned the new nation’s government and were allowed to buy back their father’s lands. John Watts Jr became a member of the General Assembly of New York State and later became a Judge. Alexander Hamilton came to this country a penniless pauper, became wealthy, a landowner and ultimately the first Secretary of Treasury, designed the country’s financial system and his image is engraved on our ten dollar bills- he was buried in this cemetery after a political foe, Aaron Burr shot him in a duel which was considered shameful, so he was buried in a remote corner of this graveyard-yet, even in death- we Americans came to honor this man- we might say- he was ‘resurrected’ as an historical figure. Trinity Church was first built in the late 1600’s, one of the first churches in America. It later burned to the ground during the Great Fire of New York City. A second Trinity Church was built on this site in the late 1700’s and was severely weakened by heavy snowfall. The current church was built in the late 1800’s as a masterpiece, a beautiful thriving church in the heart of the Financial District, visited by Queen Elizabeth, it ministers to the poor with low income housing, feeding the poor and it’s own- John Watts Jr. heirs established an orphanage and children’s services in his name-Leake and Watts Services,Inc which operates to this day, helping more than 5000 children each year. Their lives and the life of this church are the stories of human history, the rise, fall and resurrection out of shame, hurt-filled events, some not of their own making and of hope and faith.

‘For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.’

Hebrews 11:1

Jesus said ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life…’ John 11:24 – Jesus said, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to them that believe…’ Mark 9:23  As we sing…’Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…’

Can I get an Amen?

Have a Blessed Lord’s Day!   Love y’all, Camellia

Four Days- the Lazarus Principle- chapter 38 Four Days- the Lazarus Principle chapter 38


IMG_1345We met one summer in a foreign country, a British island, at the Fairmont Princess in Hamilton, Bermuda. It was one of those enchanting chance encounters. They were waiting for their room to be ready, we were waiting for our children to come downstairs from their rooms. We struck up a conversation, their younger daughter had gone away for summer camp for the first time with their older daughter, a seasoned camper. They were from New York, we were from Alabama. We just hit it off, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We have two daughters as well. By the end of the trip, we promised to keep in touch and we did. That fall, we made plans to go to New York. We all met at Katz’ Deli and then on to Serendipity and Dylan’s Candy Bar next door. Their daughters were adorable! We became very good friends. We exchanged Christmas gifts- I sent one of my grandmother’s pound cakes, they sent a Junior’s Cheesecake- who got the best end of that deal? We did! Elizabeth participated in a charity that I am passionate about and I thoroughly loved interacting with their precious daughters, Katie and Julia. They are growing up so fast into smart, talented beautiful  young ladies. It seems as if we have known each other for a very long time. We exchanged Christmas gifts and kept in touch. Last fall, after the National Football Championship game- Richard emailed us a congratulations on the win for the University of Alabama, then sent us a photograph of the Empire State Building all lit up in red and white! Three years between visits was long enough- we made plans to go again to New York.. They juggled their schedules and surprised us by getting tickets to the Broadway play- Beautiful- the Carole King Musical.image This could not have been a better choice for the two of us. With all of the blockbuster Broadway shows right now- if we had planned it all out in advance, we might have missed one of the best shows playing on Broadway! Let me explain- Carole King’s music is our ‘era’. And since I grew up in Birmingham it was an extra treat for me! I belonged to a high school sorority, Phi Kappa Nu, from 1965-1969.

We had leadouts, another word for dances. The girls wore formal gowns, the boys wore tuxedos. I’m not sure how many sororities and fraternities were active at that time, but these organizations included young people from 5-6 Birmingham High Schools. We raised money through these leadouts. And we had live bands- not DJ’s. It is amazing to think of it now- Ike and Tina Turner, Martha and the Vandellas, Wilson Pickett, the Shirelles, the Drifters, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, even Otis Redding performed! The leadouts were held in what is now known as the Boutwell Auditorium across from Linn Park. As teenagers in turbulent Birmingham Alabama, we were selling tickets, we were having dances! We were in the midst of musicians- who would go on to become icons. We loved the sounds of Motown and black artists from other record labels. These live acts were just starting out, I guess that’s how we were able to book them. We lived and breathed those songs, we bought their records and practiced their moves. What is amazing in that point in history- during those magical nights, Alabama’s young people  were in the very best kind of harmony! What we didn’t know then was that a fantastic songwriter named Carole King along with her husband,  wrote music for some of those groups- the Shirelles and the Drifters are highlighted in the Broadway play. imageCarole King was having a troubled life of her own during those years, but somehow she made a life while she was making a living writing wonderful songs. She went on to become a fantastic performer in her own right.

In the meantime, we were able to share a ‘Beautiful‘ visit with our much loved friends.Elizabeth, Richard, Katie and Julia- thanks for the memories! I was told as a child that the city of Birmingham was laid out in similar fashion to New York City, with long avenues and  short streets or blocks, I don’t know if it is true- I do know the long and short of it is this -both cities have a big piece of my heart. I love our sweet home in Alabama but –imageI hope you will take a good look at that song list- put on some golden oldies- and on some dateless Saturday night, get your best friend to practice those routines like I did! And  if you are lucky enough to be in New York any time soon- I hope you’ll get tickets to see at least one Broadway play- I can wholeheartedly recommend ‘Beautiful- the Carole King Musical’. Oh! I’ve got more to share about our trip! Stay tuned…

Love y’all, Camellia

When the blackberries bloom…

imageThe pollen has been terrible for weeks now, I’m not complaining loudly because the foliage and flowers are beautiful this spring! But…we have been trying for months to get some ‘curb appeal’ done, including exterior painting. I hate to say this, but we have a grumpy painter. He’s always grumpy because he’s a perfectionist, and particularly grumpy when he is trying to paint outside. A few weeks ago, he threw up his hands, slapped his paintbrush down and said ‘I’ll be back when the blackberries start blooming !’ What? Yes, he assured me that old timers say- when the blackberries start blooming the pollen stops. I looked skeptical, so he challenged me- ‘If you don’t believe me, just joggle it’… again- What? ‘You know, on that computer of yours, look it up, joggle it’…oh right. Googled it. Never found it. Old wives’ tale I guess. We had some rain, a cold snap, then Blackberry Winter happened. I went outside and to my surprise, I found this blackberry blossom on Sunday.  Monday the grumpy painter called and said he was coming to paint. He wasn’t as grumpy, and he never stays grouchy very long because I cook lunch for him! Anyway, I am going to give you a sneak peak at the finish he’s been putting on our front door. I wanted a high gloss finish, the first round of painting wasn’t glossy enough.  I ‘joggled it’ and found a clear polyurethane paint to add as a final coat. The painter says we still have one more coat to go, but very soon we will show you the finished front door. imageThe paint is dry, and after that one last coat- the gloss will look clean and shiny. I think we’re going to love it. Another upgrade that was badly needed- painting the urns which stand on either side of the door. Again I ‘joggled it’… I was going to paint them and I knew exactly what I wanted to use-blackboard paint. That’s right, there is no risk using blackboard paint- it will cover everything, including exterior urns, planters and even statuary- regardless of the material- metal, wrought iron, concrete or synthetic like these urns. Blackboard paint has a matte finish that looks wonderful and the best thing is- it is so durable even in exterior applications. Well, let me show you what condition the urns were in before, and now that they’re painted.

You’ll have to wait until we get them planted up to get the full effect. This is just a sneak peak. Now, I can’t let you go without showing you what we used…imageGo ‘joggle’ it for yourself, um I mean ‘google it’ -Rustoleum Chalkboard paint. We love black- but you will be surprised at the array of colors that chalkboards can be this day and time. Meanwhile, I wish those blackberries would hurry up! Makes me hungry for a blackberry cobbler!

Love y’all, Camellia

Rust-oleum Blackboard Paint

Old Wives’ Tales

Exterior urns and statuary projects


Exterior Painting

Lookin’ for Fame?

imageIt takes a lot of nerve to start a recording studio anywhere, to open up shop in Northwest Alabama along the Tennessee River amongst 4 small towns just a few hours from Nashville; but in 1959, Rick Hall started FAME Recording Studios with his buddies who ultimately opened another hit studio called Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. ‘The Shoals’ sound is as legendary as the musicians who recorded there.

Start your your journey into the heart of the Shoals sound with a trip to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, lined with Gold Records and gawdy costumes worn by Alabama native Hank Williams, Tuskegee’s Lionel Richie, Fort Payne’s Alabama, The Commodores and Montgomery’s Nat ‘King’ Cole. Drive from there to Sheffield to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where the Swampers- the Fame’s original rhythm section  recorded with Lynard Skynard ~who can forget his hit- ‘Sweet Home Alabama’? Then there’s the Rolling Stones and Alicia Keyes just to name a few who  recorded hit music with the Swampers. Head over to Muscle Shoals to Rick Hall’s longest operating, one owner recording studio in the world, FAME Studio! Rick Hall is known as the ‘Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound’ – he recorded such great artists as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett (Mustang Sally), Otis Redding, Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers who pitched a tent in the parking lot just to be near the recording sessions before he became famous! Known as ‘that hippie in the parking lot when record companies asked about his performance with Wilson Pickett’s rendition of ‘Hey Jude’; Paul Anka, the Osmunds, Tina Turner, the Beatles, Elton John, Ronnie Milsap, BB King, Tim McGraw…. whew the list goes on, just like the Muscle Shoals beat….and if that’s not enough?

‘The Father of the Blues’, W.C. Handy was born and raised just across the river in Florence Alabama where there is a statue in his honor, a museum and library ~ every year there is a W.C. Handy Music Festival as well.

Camellia thinks I’m gettin’ longwinded, I think we’re gonna have to have a part 2 on the Shoals! So much more to see and do…but remember this- when a good many of those musicians were down and out , thinking their careers were over- they got back their nerve and went to Muscle Shoals to find Fame! Hold it down Camellia, you’re singin’ so loud I can’t think! You might want to update your playlist folks!

Love y’all, Allie Mac

*must see: PBS- Muscle Shoals Documentary ,


In Praise of Wood Violets

2016-03-16 16.38.50

I found my first wood violet with curled heart shaped leaves, a few days ago.  Some call them ‘common’ or ‘wild’ violets, a landscaper informed me once that they were invasive weeds…yet where would we be ~ as gardeners without Violet’s lovely cultivated cousins- the Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups?? I have a huge patch of white wood violets and while I believe that white is probably more rare, the deep purple ones with etched centers are my favorites. A mere snapshot cannot capture its charm.

One of the sweetest ladies I have ever known loved the color purple, my grandmother favored it too. Purple is the color of royalty. A ‘seller of purple’ is mentioned by the name of Lydia in the New Testament. Purple fabric commanded a high price, the dye most likely was extracted from purple flowers ~ knowing that, we dare not place a low value on wood violet, her ancestors may have robed Kings and Queens.

If you take wild violet flowers, brush them with egg whites and dip them in sugar- when left to dry they make the most charming decoration for cakes and petit fours. Forage for them, boil the flowers down with water ~strain and add to a simple syrup, you have the makings of a Spring Tonic which is high in vitamin C.

And there is also this… the sentimental value. The memories of southern ladies I have known who cherished violets. In season, my grandmother kept wild violets in a tiny pale pink McCoy vase beside her, she loved to pick them she said. A bouquet of wood violets will only last a few hours, in water maybe a day. So I must praise the tiny wood violet ~touched by the Hand of God~ On my woodland stroll I found a wild violet low to the ground nestled near the roots of a huge tree- she was without ambition to be seen or admired.  The lesson of the tiny purple flower is this ~we may tread on its innocent beauty and not a sound of protest will be heard ~ the priceless fragrance of the wood violet would bless the shoe instead.

Love y’all, Camellia

The First Day of Spring…

Outside my window the first day of Spring dawned chilly and bright…

The dogwood is getting dressed for Easter, she’s wearing pale green with white eyelet. Out another window, the azaleas have decided to wear pink lace, the bridal wreath spirea has decided to wear white dotted swiss and me? Well I haven’t decided between red or pink…that pink sure is pretty…

Love y’all, Camellia