Happy Birthday Camellia’s Cottage!

img_1454

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

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

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

Love y’all, Camellia

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

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

Winter in the Deep South…

vintage-burl-and-freesia-1

After the beautiful weather we’ve had this week, it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, we had snow! That’s Winter in the Deep South for you.  The Seasons here are like a big family, we love to show off our Spring Beauties in all of their glory days, we have loads of fun with the Triplets- Lake, Bay and Gulf Coast in Summer, then we long for the weather to cool off for when the fun, colorful cousins-Fall, Foliage, Football and Holly Days arrive. But Winter in the Deep South is the fickle eccentric side of the family. Snow is like the flighty aunt who lives way up above the Mason Dixon Line, who makes sneaky calls to the weatherman sayin’ she’s coming home but changes her mind at the last minute. Aunt Snow is mostly a no-show, but when she does drift down it’s a surprise visit. She comes breezing in and before she can wear out her welcome she’s gone- leaving us to wonder when or if we’ll ever see her again. Snow is the most fickle weather condition in the Deep South. This sun-filled winter week, the flowering quince is showing out and bulbs are pushing up foliage- like when our colorful sun-loving cousins are around, quirky things happen. It’s because we’re having another weather pattern that actually does happen every Winter in the Deep South- a warm spell right in the dead of winter. We worry about the foliage and blooms- we would rather have blossoms near Easter. Old gardeners tell me that it’s actually a good thing for bulbs to put out foliage- if a killing frost comes through, the bulbs will have extra food to make it until Spring. Who knows if it’s true? Yet, somehow we do manage to have a beautiful show sometime along April or May- though I do recall one Easter when everything was just beautiful then lo and behold! Aunt Snow showed up before we had a chance to get out the bed sheets to throw over the azaleas!  We generally accept that Winter in the Deep South will be like having unexpected company, you know the type, the eccentric, unusual characters. Uncle Duncan Raines is quite a character- using colorful loud language, Uncle Dunc storms in, dropping by for a few demanding hours and then leaves you with a mess to clean up. vintage-burl-and-freesia-2

Or, the unexpected company is like Uncle Burl Frost, who always overstays his welcome. If he brings his sister with him? Let’s just say, we  nevah roll out the welcome mat when Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler drop by! Brrrr! It’s a chilling visit! Pipes rattle and freeze when they hear these two coming. Burl and Freesia are considered bonafide nuts! However, the most peculiar and eccentric of the whole Winter clan is- Uncle Gray Ova Caste. He doesn’t say much, so we don’t either. We tell ourselves that Winter’s occasional visits from Aunt Snow are fun, that Frost and Freesia kill off the bugs, we always need a Duncan Raine…it’s just the cold, gray overcast days that dampen our spirits. The doldrums set in when Uncle Gray Ova Caste settles in for a long dreary spell. They say he made his fortune in pharmaceuticals.  After one long stretch of heartbreakingly damp, overcast days, hanging heavy with fog- a friend once exclaimed, ‘If this fog would just lift!’ Uncle Gray Ova Caste is plain depressing, he shows up with heavy footsteps, damp boots and sits there looking dreary. We sit around longing for him to move along. That’s the part of Winter in the Deep South we dread the most, but then there are those clear dark starry nights when he finally drifts away. Without much warning, another warm spell will come along and lift our spirits. The Camellias will bloom, and we’ll tell ourselves that Spring in all of her glory will come by soon. I for one, am longing for it.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs of ‘Uncle Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler’ are from old family photographs belonging to Camellia’s Cottage- they were unnamed so Burl and Freesia seemed as good as any!vintage-burl-and-freesia-3

*Also, I would like to say- it’s at times like these that I truly wish I was a better writer and made better use of this beautiful language to convey what Winter is like in the Deep South, but hope you had fun with my folly and unusual cast of characters!

Bevy of Beauties…

image

They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and hard red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that Stars Fell on Alabama, that Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’  and F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in Alabama.

It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth; like Strands of Steel woven through lace christening gowns, ruffled petticoats and tulle tutus. For a select group there is an almost 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 hats and are devastating, some wear Hollywood style sunglasses all year round, some prefer to wear their crowns- All. The. Time. And 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! 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 on with 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!  It 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 and 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 thousands of yards of tulle for years now- ball gowns, prom dresses, homecoming courts, beauty pageants, cotillions and Mardi Gras.

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, because Southern ladies nevah evah give up hope! It would be a mistake to think these beauty queens are all fluff- many go on to become lawyers, surgeons, executives, artists, teachers, engineers and even 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, 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. 01bfc08b061192c2354e9003ed02f0a27f3b4d7e3f

To pigeonhole Southern Beauties would be a mistake- some are as soft and gentle as Wood Violets, some live as large as Magnolias, some cover pain and heartache like the sweet scent of Confederate Jasmine, some are more like creamy Gardenias you can’t miss ’em but they 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, for our ancestors and some 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 for Junebugs and Katydids.image

They are as sparkling as our Rivers, they giggle and babble like our bubbling Springs, they are as tough and spunky as Pig Iron but 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 American Indian, Spanish, French, British,  African, Greek, Italian, German and Caribbean not only influenced the very food we eat but 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. Is it any wonder that our Daughters are a Bevy of Beauties?

We teach them that to be well received, they must have good manners, high standards, be well dressed, have a winning smile, get good grades 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 born of backbone and courage. Oh my, how I do run on!

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!

*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.

A Season of Loss…

jeremy-fall-18Holidays are often a source of nostalgia- as the Trees let go of their leaves- we are also letting go… some are even finding themselves in a Season of Loss. It was during just such a Season of Loss- that I began writing a Bible Study, by email of all things! A self professed tech challenged writer, I was studying and teaching from John’s Gospel, chapter 11- the account of two sisters named Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. For a period of Four Years, I wrote; mostly for myself with my sister, then bit by bit a tight circle of trusted friends from Four Denominations within an area of Three Counties. Very few, in the study- even knew the others! I guess you could say- I wrote myself out of the Season of Loss.

Grief comes in many forms not even associated with death

  • the loss of a job, a home, a friendship, a move, a change, a hope that didn’t come through or a dream that didn’t come true. We may not even admit to ourselves that we are experiencing a Season of Loss.

We muddle through, we dawdle or we piddle- I know, I’ve been there. What started as an email Bible Study, became a published book! I still can’t explain it.  I was not only a tech challenged writer, I was terrible at promoting my own book! It was too dear, too close, too everything.. and while I believed every word I wrote- I did not believe in myself, I could not say…‘This book is great, you should read it.‘  With all of the wisdom out there, with folks far more educated than me, amid highly acclaimed writers- well, you could say I talked myself out of Book Promotion. Invariably, folks who knew that I had taught Bible Studies and who had encouraged me to write a book- also said, ‘I was hoping you would write those funny stories!’ Go figure. The book, ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’ was published Four Years ago this month, in 2012. four-days-the-lazarus-principle

I’ve been writing this blog for months now and except for a few excerpts- I have yet to outright promote my own book! My first and only book led me to writing this blog. I enjoy writing the funny or inspiring stories. Yet, it seemed good to me, now- to tell you that the Holidays and just plain old Life will sometimes knock you down. There will be losses, grief and heartache among the funny stories- there will be Seasons of Loss. The strength I found in an intense Bible Study four years ago- with my sister and trusted friends helped me heal. On the back cover of ‘Four Days’- you will read this:

‘There are many lessons in this unconventional Bible study of dis-ease, unanswered prayers, loss, letting go, struggling to believe and wrestling with God. Come with me and learn the lessons from a little green worm, two devastated songwriters, the weavers of Persian carpets, even a baby chick at the county fair. Look with wonder at the last living thing removed from the devastation of the 911 World Trade Center, the ugliest building in Boston, the boat that rescued hundreds of survivors from the flood waters of Katrina and blue glass hands. Within these stories and the lives of two sisters in John 11, I hope you will find the great love of God even when you don’t understand Him.’

I hope Life is treating you kindly and you are in a Thankful, Joyful Season; that you are not in a Season of Loss-but if you are? Well, you see I wrote a book…

Love y’all, Camellia

The opening photograph is one of Jeremy Miniard’s masterpieces! find him at: jeremy-miniard.fineartamerica.com

Four Days the Lazarus Principle- is found through major booksellers, including Amazon.com- read an excerpt by following this link- https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00H1Q6KE6&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_WWpmybFBFN68M&tag=camescott-20

Grits…

image

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, she would whine so pitifully for grits! So, my friend bought and sent her daughter 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 elevated them to a delicacy once known as breakfast grits for fishermen or laborers near the coastal areas of the south- Shrimp and Grits. Yet, if a poll were taken I would be willing to bet these same chefs in major cities outside of the South would never eat plain old Hominy Grits for breakfast! In the South, field hands to fine gentlemen  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, grits 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 out at a restaurant, someone will say ‘Here, try this’ – To say ‘No’ is not done.  You will 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.

Now, please use Hominy Grits- these yellow stone ground just doesn’t work. You have to learn to swirl the a Hominy 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 the grits to just the right consistency, turn off the flame, adding bit of butter for richness; then cover with a lid, almost like tucking the grits under a quilt.

You learn these things 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

*Now, if you really want to make a horrible bowl of grits? Buy those instant grits (they taste worse than pablum!) And then add lots of sugar to those pasty awful instant grits! Now, that’s a bowl of grits you would only serve to your worst enemy! Buy instead Quick Cooking Hominy Grits- cook slowly according to directions- believe me there’s nothing really quick or instant about them! I do love a good bowl of Grits!

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

Stars Fell on Alabama…

Explosive Arrival

Well y’all, it happened again- Stars Fell on Alabama! According to NASA, it is just a warm up…Delta Aquarid meteor showers lit up the night sky over Alabama on Friday night of this week! Now, I didn’t actually see them…but I did go outside after midnight…I did what they said…I looked to the southern sky, I used my naked eye- no binoculars – saw the Fingernail Moon- which is the ‘friend’ of meteor shower watchers. I didn’t have a reclining chair out front, I didn’t put a quilt on the ground like they suggested. I sat on the front porch steps…by myself. I heard a rustling sound under the front porch, I couldn’t be sure if it was a stray cat or a possum. I didn’t wait around to find out…instead I ran through the house and went out on the back porch, oriented myself again- stretched out on the warm wrought iron lounge chair and watched the twinkling skies. If you want to see the ‘show’- go to Slooh.com to find out how to watch…

red-month-fantasy-meteor-shower-digital-art

‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ has graced our license plates-

  The song became a popular tune in the 1930’s Big Band Era, being written by Mitchell Parish and arranged by Frank Perkins- then performed by Guy Lombardo. Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Rogers, Billie Holiday, Kate Smith, Louie Armstrong, even Frank Sinatra made the song legendary. Whenever I attended an event at the Alabama Theatre- and heard the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ being played- most of the time- ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ would be played. Go check it out on the Alabama Theatre’s website– www.alabamatheatre.com Let me tell you something- there was nothing more awe inspiring than hearing the Mighty Wurlitzer!

The Mighty Wurlitzer


From Debutante Balls, to beauty pageants, honky tonks, Shrine Clubs, Elks Lodges, country clubs, under the revolving ball in the Cloud Room at Cascade Plunge, at leadouts, even dance clubs where you could win a chicken dinner if you were the best dancers- all the way to Mardi Gras Balls-  (yes! Alabama was first to observe Mardi Gras)- one thing you could count on was ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ being played, couples swaying and swinging around the dance floor.

In 1833, stars really did fall on Alabama– it is estimated at 30,000 per hour and continued for approximately 9 hours in Alabama but over a 3 day period elsewhere-constituting a meteor storm. It was a terrifyingly beautiful night- most were scared out of their minds- fearing Judgement Day was at hand-folks gathered in churches with open Bibles, then fearfully throwing dice, cards and liquor into the flames. Some even began to count time from this event in 1833- the only group that was not frightened were the American Indians who thought it was a lucky sign and I believe some sort of treaty was signed by the Cheyenne tribes. Several more meteor showers continued on into the 1860’s – Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass even Abraham Lincoln were said to have commented on the falling stars. However bizarre the 1833 event was in Alabama, in 1954 a woman named Ann Hodges from Sylacauga, Alabama, the only known person to have been struck by a meteor- was laying on her sofa, covered up with thick quilts- I suspect taking a nap- when a big rock crashed the roof, bounced off of her radio and left what National Geographic describes as a pineapple shaped bruise on her leg- through all of those quilts! Throwback Thursday: The day a meteorite hit a Sylacauga woman | AL.comSylacauga meteorite: 60th anniversary of a human hit by a space rock.shows where Ann Hodges was struck in the hip by an 8.5 lb meteorite ...

Some thought it was a plane crash, others thought it was an overt attack by the Soviets- it was during the Cold War after all! The Police Chief confiscated the rock and turned it over to the U.S. Air Force because folks were so paranoid about it all. A court case ensued once the rock was declared a meteorite- Ann Hodges and her husband rented the house from Birdie Guy who claimed since it hit her house- it was her star. The courts agreed. Ann and her husband had public opinion on their side and settled out of court- paid Birdie $500 and later when it wasn’t really worth that much even to the Smithsonian- they donated it to the museum of natural history. Once again- Stars Fell on Alabama! This story was so interesting to another Alabamian, Fanny Flagg, that she fictionally incorporated into her book, Whistlestop Café, which became the movie, ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’!

Now, there are great YouTube videos of Alabama native, Jimmy Buffet singing ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ and the Jacksonville State Marching Southerners as they play ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ at every home game, however, I love the version done by the Lennon Sisters- DeeDee, Peggy, Kathy and Janet- holding their train cases on the Lawrence Welk Show!

Aren’t they just darlin’ with their matching suits and bouffant hairdos? From now til August is over….hope you get to see some Stars Falling over Alabama!

Love y’all, Camellia

Check out :

  • www.nasa.gov
  • www.nationalgeographic.com
  • www.google.com
  • www.aol.com
  • www.marchingsoutherners.org
  • www.al.com

for information, photographs and more…

Statuary…

IMG_1590

This is Eleanor. She has graced a secluded place beneath a clump of dogwood trees in our garden for over ten years. The angel was given to us during a dark season of grief. I never called my husband’s mother by her given name- Eleanor. From the moment the statuary angel was put in place, she has been Eleanor to me. I look at her everyday from my kitchen window- from the street she is unseen- if you go to the side yard, down a long curved path, there is a round circle of purple irises with a large urn in the center- beyond a pair of fruit trees, your eye is drawn to Eleanor. My mother in law died in early spring right before the dogwoods begin to bloom. Tiny daffodils bloom at her feet. Statuary in the home or garden should have meaning, Eleanor does; she is a sweet reminder of my gentle mother in law every day. She was an angel.

The great cities of the world have iconic statuary. New York-

Santa Fe’s Canyon Road has incredible sculpture and statuary-

Great statuary, no matter where it is, should have significance, purpose and a sense of place.  What would the Statue of Liberty look like surrounded by gnomes, pigs, baskets, urns and rabbits?  IMG_0899 (Edited)

There is a place for whimsy in our world, yet even whimsical statuary should have significance, purpose and a sense of place. The statuary planter on the back porch is an example of whimsy. Whenever I have acquired statuary, the piece has found me, not the other way around. If you are shopping, don’t overlook local plant nurseries or shops, they will often have a good selection at reasonable prices.

I happen to love statuary in great cities, in shopping areas, in public gardens, in cemeteries, on battlegrounds or playgrounds- in public buildings, homes and in cathedrals…

Let me show you how we have used some statuary in Camellia’s Cottage

Each piece follows the design principles I believe in…significance, beauty, whimsy, mystery, scale, focal point, texture, purpose, emotion and a sense of place. To find a few small birds beneath a big basket of homegrown hydrangeas, to have a muse looking over my shoulder as I read a book, to perch a facepot on a pedestal as a whimsical reminder to save for a rainy day, to discover a bird in hand or a tiny bird poised in flight beneath a map of our home county, to bring the outside in with a heavy urn and a wise old man- those things have a place of significance without saying one word. The statuary, large or small, are gentle memories and peaceful inspiration for our sweet home in Alabama.

Love y’all, Camellia

*This post is written in loving memory of my mother in law, Eleanor McKinney Wyatt.IMG_0666

 

 

 

Pit Barbeque…

 

Three Barbeques, Two Fish Fries, One Pancake Breakfast, a Wedding and a Funeral- all in one day. No time to change in between…if this was a fashion blog I could tell you what to wear- a black dress. Fill a bag with accessories, several pairs of shoes, make up, a damp rag and deodorant. It got me through and we had the time of our lives! I don’t hold a world record on attending events- my husband probably deserves a medal.  We’ve gone to so many Barbeques, we might claim expert status on tasting barbeque. Mastering a pit is an entirely different skill.  Real Pit Barbeque is cooked 10-12 hours…this isn’t backyard grilling.  There’s no doubt in my mind that American Pit Barbeque originated in the South- poor rural folks, fattened a few pigs- so  fresh pork was cheap and available.Raw Peanuts

Alabama’s own -George Washington Carver  taught the art of growing peanuts right here in Alabama; Smithfield Hams of Virginia were known for fattening their hogs on peanuts.  What fattens a hog, fattens human beings, y’all. Boiled or roasted peanuts are almost always found near Pit Barbeque;  shells strewn on the floor add ambience and soak up the grease.  Most farms had a smokehouse for hams and bacon. No part of the hog was wasted. Fresh pork was Pit Smoked to feed harvest workers on large farms, to celebrate or commiserate. The love of barbeque knows no social class. We all love it.

Southern Pit Barbeque ventured off the farms to become Backroad joints, Dives and Honky Tonks. The old ones had a ‘risque’ feel to them. My mother once whined – ‘We can’t take these children in there! Folks are drinkin’ and no tellin’ what all..’; which made the joint even more appealing to children and menfolks. I heard a BBQ Pit Master say: ‘I feed this pit some whiskey every night.’  I’m not sure what he was talking about- however, the combination did exist. You can’t get good barbeque in a chain restaurant– the quality goes down by miles. In fact, folks will drive for miles down blacktop, gravel, or dusty red roads out in the middle of nowhere- just to find a real Pit Barbeque joint. If you’re willing to drive backroads-

  •  scented with Loblolly pines,
  • look for hand written signs-
  • roll down the windows-
  • follow the fragrant wood smoke- That’s where real Pit Barbeque is cooked.
  • Rusted out trucks and dented cars are a good sign;
  • Then look for grimy folks who tend the pit round the clock.
  • BBQ joints are often charred shacks or a blackened concrete block buildings- usually near a small creek to douse the flames.

I have a letter written close to 50 years ago, telling about a shack, a hot plate with a pot of dried beans and a ‘Still -right ready to make up whiskey’  when a fire broke out.  I’m just sayin’ – they had to augment their incomes and somebody must have been feeding a pit somewhere.

Pit Masters are a rare breed– those men are browned to perfection either by birth, the hot southern sun or a combination of both. They are soot streaked, well greased, smoke tinged, and speckled with burn marks up and down their arms. Their aprons are soiled and smeared. Listen to me- never trust a Pit Master who has on a starched white apron– he hasn’t been near a Real Pit and don’t know nothin’ ’bout it!  Pit Barbeque was the usual fare for private parties, political rallies, mysterious Barbeque Clubs, fundraisers and Church Picnics. I’m not sure how church picnics got on the short list– maybe a pit man escaped serious injury, the revenuers or was alone one spooky moonlit night and found Jesus. Of course, there have been many slurs against those of us who enjoy barbeque- calling us hogs, saying we root around or grunt like a pig when we eat it. We endure the ribbing because we know how good Pit Barbeque is for the soul- Southerners can get downright Evangelical about it.

Great Pit Barbeque is born in hot fiery coals. Don’t let anyone tell you- the secret is in the sauce. Whole families would argue me down about this- but if the meat isn’t good, you can’t cover it up or smother it with any amount of sauce and make it taste good. Now here’s how to order-

  • Fold your hands in prayer;
  • Contemplate whether you want it sliced, pulled or chopped; Amen.
  • Baptize it with whatever sauce you like: Red, White, Vinegar based, Sticky, Thin or Thick; Hot, Mild or fire on the tongue-hot! Your choice.
  • Snort, snort, uh-ah, grunt, Soo-ey!  Sorry about that hog-callin’,
  • I like my Barbeque – Chopped Outside Lean- if you don’t understand the lingo, I can’t help you!

One of my favorite local joints is affectionately called the Texa-que, a combo gas station and Pit Barbeque. The real name is Butts to Go. The blackened cylinder pits, the stacks of hardwood, the fragrant smoke billowing up- slows you down, your stomach makes guttural sounds. Butts to Go also smokes hams and turkeys which are to die for; wonderful comfort food for a bereaved family. Spicy hot food, like Pit Barbeque is considered inappropriate funeral food. But if you’re ever on I-20E toward the Talledega Super Speedway,  watch for the signs- pull over, you’ll be glad you did.

From the first bite you’ll know – you’re either a Hog or Evangelical about Pit Barbeque by the sounds that come out of your mouth. I’ve said it before: Southern Food Tales are part passion, part potion and part outright lies. Butts to Go is the real deal.

Love y’all, Camellia

* A big thank you to Wade Reich for allowing me to use his Butts to Go logo and website photo from www.buttstogo.com

All others are AOL Images, if any are not public domain or copyrighted  I will be glad to make the corrections or remove the photographs.

Check out www.smithfieldhams.com too!

 

Glorious July Miracles…

IMG_1161

Just when the heat of July slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangea blossoms look like tight pincurls, when roses sulk- fed up with the humidity; the front porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water; even impatiens lay down their heads and weep…that’s when the Glory Bower trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat bumblebees stir slowly around her like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory. Her ladies in waiting, the Crepe Myrtles, have on shocking pink and raspberry corsages. But Glory is a real Southern Belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bower trees put down deep roots- they are my sweet homebodies, staying close to the windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the Miracle of July unfolds.

IMG_1167

 

When every other flowery thing begins to close up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with honeysuckle fragrance, she’s a subtle reminder of another July Miracle– one that got her start, early one sunny summer morning in July. Like the Glory Bower she seems to thrive on sunshine but her real secret is her deep roots close to home. A fifth generation southern belle of St. Clair County, she is named for her father and grandfather. She is a true miracle. Before her mother turned twenty the doctors said she would never bear a child. After seven long years of waiting…this child was born, a true blue miracle. Even the doctors said to her momma and daddy- ‘Take her home and enjoy her, you’ll never have another one.’ She was so tiny, her long name didn’t seem to fit so she was nicknamed for the southern sunshine she was born under. Her momma sang ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ as she rocked her miracle on the porch swing. Her daddy played his guitar and sang his baby girl to sleep to-‘You are My Sunshine’. The pediatrician noted the baby hardly had a hair on her head but made up for it by having the longest eyelashes he had ever seen; a neighbor said- ‘It’s a sign of good breeding when a baby is bald headed’…her momma just smiled and made batiste bonnets with ruffles and lace.

image

She could talk before she could walk at ten months! She was a born teacher-lining up dolls and stuffed toys, she would ‘teach school’ when she was barely three years old. Her teachers  remarked that her ‘sunny name’ suited her just right! Always an honor student, with a beautiful voice that was rivaled only by her skill on the clarinet, she was voted, ‘Friendliest’ in high school, and graduated with full honors from college, before earning her masters degree in education. She grew up so fast her parents felt as if she blinked her long eyelashes and was all grown up! She has taught hundreds of school children how to read and to love school like she always did. She is a fine Southern lady and a wonderful teacher! Camellia’s Cottage can’t imagine life around here without children in it- we’re glad she’s one of them.

If you ever find yourself wondering if God still performs miracles just look to the Glory Bower tree, which miraculously blooms so cool and sweet in the heat of a July summer and remember our July miracle.  Today’s her birthday, join us in wishing her a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of honeysuckle and perhaps a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. Those doctors don’t always know everything… 21 months after this miracle? Another miracle baby girl was born on a sweet day in May! Believe in miracles, watch for them…they are all around you! Can I get a Glory Hallelujah?

Funny Habits…

Today is my mother’s birthday-you’re not supposed to tell a lady’s age but she was  born in 1929, the year of the Great Depression. Her name is Betty Gene– after Dora Eugenia Holmes, my great-grandmother that suffered from melancholia and my grandmother, Betty Jo, who was one of the funniest women I’ve ever known, not to mention a formidable cook and housekeeper. Mother was a darling child- green eyes, one a shade darker than the other with light brown curly hair. She’s had a dramatic flair ever since she was entered into a ‘Shirley Temple Lookalike Contest’ and actually won 5 Shirley Temple Dresses! Mother is funny- she inherited the funny bone from both of her parents, yet I would say her humor is very much like my granddaddy’s. The truth is, we all like to laugh. This is Mother with one of her granddaughters and my beautiful and funny sister. Aren’t they darling?IMG_0660

A few years ago, for a Christmas party- we got up the program, as we like to say…That year, my husband agreed to play select tunes on his guitar and as a surprise for the guests, we planned to dress up in some sort of costumes. We  knew the leader of a local drama club who would loan us some costumes. Turns out all she had were the nun’s outfits or habits from a play she directed- ‘Sister Act’– which was widely acclaimed here in town then resulted in a special performance at the Ritz Theatre. Our long tall brunette friend Vandella, who can sing like an angel with a blue dress on- wanted to sing back up for my husband. She recruited me to join her. Vandella said we would be his backup singers called- the ‘Two Bad Habits’. We had a big laugh over that one, since his personality is like Andy Griffith-he just doesn’t look like him. IMG_0596

Unbeknownst to us, two other Bad Habits would be joining us, live and in costume. While the guests were milling around the buffet table and swinging around the punch bowl, one of the hostesses was gathering everyone up for the entertainment. They had been told to be prepared for some Chet Atkins style Christmas carols with a reading of the Christmas story at the end if someone would volunteer. Softly the guitar music began to play- ooh’s and aah’s all around…Vandella and I were hovering in the wings waiting for our dramatic  entrance. Vandella was saying- ‘You go first Camellia and I said ‘no’.  When our musical cue, ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’, started up- we walked out- to quite a good reception, I have to say. We announced ourselves as the Two Bad Habits, then rocked around the room in our nun’s habits… Vandella can carry off almost any style because of her height- I looked like one of the Von Trapp nuns…not the cute ones either. Vandella could put Patsy Cline in the shade. We did another number and right in the middle of the tune, a third Bad Habit eased out- this time it was funny ol’ Will aka Mother Superior Willa Deen– who continued rocking on with us- to bursts of laughter.

The guitarist was in full mode- barely paying attention to anything except his music; though when he heard a commotion behind him- he turned, didn’t miss a note, just raised an expressive eyebrow and nodded at the New Bad Habit, Mother Superior Willa Deen in horn rimmed glasses, singing and shaking the mistletoe in the rafters, off key. Howard, an ex of Vandella’s had been circling the eggnog bowl one time too many, though we now think he had arrived slightly imbibed, but hey it was Christmas! Howard joined the music- just about the time another Bad Habit came out dressed as a novice in all white- I looked around and it was my. Mother. !!! Looking as innocent as a jaybird.

She had her hands stuffed in the middle section of the novice outfit. Mother Willa Deen cleared his throat and said ‘Now, before we sing ‘Away in a Manger’- I’d like to introduce a new member of the Abbey, Sister Magdelena…she came to us in a time of great need.’ He turned to my elderly Mother. She bowed her head and said- ‘I’m so thankful they’ve let me in…I’m pregnant.’; she pulled her hands out of her habit and made like she was rocking an invisible baby.

Vandella and I missed more than a beat…we missed whole chords! The crowd was laughing and my Mother was beaming like one of the angels on high. Right up there with Howard, high as a kite by now, from that weak eggnog I guess.  Mother stole the show! Unforgettable…

On into the summer- we planned another, more sedate gathering… loads of people were there. We were all going to be on our best behavior. Even Vandella’s  ex-Howard,  arrived in a starched suit and tie. Over by the peach and apple fried pies, Alabama home grown figs and cheeses, tea sandwiches fit for a king-Howard sidled up to Mother. She greeted him in her own gracious manner- so sweetly, so lightly, saying ‘Now, do I know you?‘ Howard had  a bad habit of falling in love with the wrong women, and he had fallen in love with my mother at the Christmas party….he said ‘You don’t recognize me do you?’ looking crest fallen. Someone said ‘Now, Betty, you remember Howard- from the Christmas party don’t you?’ I was unaware this was transpiring- all the way in another room. I heard an outburst of laughter…Vandella came around and said ‘Your mother is a hoot! She just said, Howard, I  guess I didn’t recognize you, sober!’ Oh lordie… what would she think of next?? Mother went on to do a bit part in a commercial, she marched across a field of hay with her pocketbook.

morton tims event 1 062

We’re all thrilled she’s doing very well after hip surgery in the winter, a short bout with anemia recently, but has bounced back and says she can’t believe how good she feels! She has a habit of being cheerful and getting into some ridiculous situations too! So- to honor my beautiful and very humorous Southern Mother’s Birthday- please- share a link to a funny post you have written or a photograph you think she’d love– for Make Me Laugh Monday! I promise I’ll share them with the birthday girl!

Love y’all, Camellia

*post your links in the comment section! thanks!