Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.

At Home…

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I’m a homebody. I do love to be at home. Of course, I’d prefer not to have to stay at home. Yet, even if I were out shopping, I’m basically a window shopper. So! During this critical time, I’ve been doing what I  naturally enjoy doing… looking at catalogs, magazines, reading books and I do love a good success story. I might be at home- yet I guess what I’ve been doing is collecting.   I started collecting success stories right after the stay at home orders.  What would folks do? The small restaurants, the home owned businesses and cute shops I count on or enjoy rambling around in? These are the hardest hit right now.  The major holidays were past- though I knew Mother’s Day always adds a boost in spending or dining out. And, what inspires me most is the ingenuity of businesses large and small, to adapt quickly, embrace the situation, make the adjustments and move forward. And you know, this has always been true, pandemic or not.

The folks who face facts, protect and respect others even when life was disrupted, they made hard decisions and knew they would take some losses, yet are using their genius to move forward.
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So, here’s a few I’ve admired and a few things I’m working toward; I hope you’ll be inspired too!  A large retailer who I’ve long admired, has added At Home features, updated to reflect what they’re doing at home now, rather than just trying to sell home products- it’s in their blog area on their website. His wife’s recipe for waffles, a peek into their home life with games and outdoor walks.  It’s being updated regularly and rather than pointing to the retail products,  they’re opening with an At Home feature in their notifications and ads, with this soft thoughtful approach.
img_4483I’d like to do something similar by giving you a link to a dessert we’re loving right now here at our home, Camellia’s Cottage! The ever popular Lemon Squares…

And, may I add, this large retailer, is doing something I love with their At Home blog- they are micro-blogging, writing short up to date, time appropriate content. We bloggers would do well to be inspired to micro blog right now!
img_4487Another large retailer, known for their classic clothing quickly added stylish face masks from the fabrics of their most popular styles. Guess what? They’ve sold out! Masks are on backorder, I predict they will have added substantially to their accessory line!

img_4194A beach hangout renowned for it’s good food and rowdy fun loving crowds- made the decision, when they were allowed to reopen- they would have tables set ‘one alligator apart’ in distance that is! They set their tables six feet apart outdoors, closed the interior  spaces and provided their employees with protective masks and gloves for food preparation. They decided the safety of their customers and employees was imperative and did it in an amusing way!  I predict they will have a good season. Other local cafes and restaurants hopefully will be able to serve in outdoor settings too!

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Retail clothing sales will be different for the foreseeable future. For years now, Alabama fashion designer, Natalie Chanin has employed folks who work from home, doing the hand applique required for so many of her designs. Those employees may not face the layoffs since Alabama Chanin was a forward looking company to begin with! (find them @alabamachanin on Instagram) They were already a slow fashion company, it’s paying off now! And p.s. they also have a blog within their website- it’s a thing, y’all For instance, a beautiful gardening product site I love has been doing this for years- it’s called @shopterrain) If you have a business website, adding a blog is vital now!

And here’s a few more ideas I’ve seen… businesses who are finding new ways to do business!, after we’re allowed to img_4475

  • The owner of a small chain of breakfast places- is serving drive thru only, yet he reconfigured the inside of his restaurants as a small grocery store- using his supply lines, he’s buying milk, bread, bacon, eggs and more. The customers are thrilled to get their breakfast to go and pick up a few grocery items while they’re at it!
  • At a local Chinese restaurant, the owners have converted one of their glass storefront windows into a takeout window, they accept phone orders only and have reconfigured to accept payment safely or by phone.
  •  A small women’s boutique in Wisconsin, has added an online business and has personally contacted their loyal customers. When my friend in Houston orders from their shop- they’re now offering free shipping and have started including a handwritten Thank You Notes! (they never go out of style) Think. Personalized Shopping Experience!
  •  Rethinking consumer habits during the time of COVID 19, a dry cleaner who was already doing pick up and delivery has been able to retain their alterationists by offering face masks at a reasonable price. I think this is brilliant!
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  •  Collaborating is becoming one of the best things to do for small businesses. A gift shop works with a garden shop, to create gift containers and baskets including live bedding plants or herbs – even small garden tools, seeds and small bags of potting soil. Even potting up windowsill gardens or indoor plants that are vital to indoor air quality are great ideas too! They’re offering free gift wrapping and curbside service and delivery options! Ditto for bakeries collaborating with florists!
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  •  A hair salon is offering products for stay at homes with facetime calls for directions for using these products. Another is making house calls. (Some states are allowing this) Still others are collaborating with small cosmetics, small boutique clothing shops or health food stores to offer personalized care. Why? How to look good on video is highly popular and much needed now! We all need all the Tools we can get!
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  • An Interior Designer shifted her focus from interiors by collaborating with a local landscapers and realtors to create Curb Appeal for her customers. Brilliant isn’t it? Using antique urns, outdoor safe containers, paint for shutters and front doors has helped all of those businesses keep going, not later- Now!
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    Some are organizing Pop Up shops, with permission and collaboration with essential businesses for a set number of hours, with safe payments and limiting handling of stock. Pop up shops would be a wonderful addition for grocers and plant nurseries or florists assuming the grocer doesn’t already carry these items!
  •  Travel and Food photographers are pitching magazines in their fields to sell photographs- buffing up a few writing skills has helped many. Even contacting stock image sites is becoming a way photographers are adding to their incomes. *Check out @greatescapetravelpublishing for all sorts of hints and tips for photographers and travel writers- don’t wait, do it now!img_4495
  • The most amazing thing I’ve seen so far is from a large printing service which is now offering face masks with a package of filter liners. I ordered masks from this company- after I ordered, they notified me that the price of the filter liners had gone down– and they refunded me the difference- now, I ask you? Who do you think I’m going to do business with? The one who refunds or the one who decides they’ll pocket that extra profit? Find them @vistaprint

Now, I told you that I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own. Here’s one or two I’m ready to share now-img_4461

One of the reasons I was motivated to write this blog in the first place, was to record my grandmother’s recipes and other southern classics. I’ve now written over 400 blog posts, many of those recipes have been shared, so! I’m thinking of using these recipe blog posts including a few humor posts to produce an Ebook! I’m checking out Kindle Direct Publishing (print on demand) since I’ve already self published a physical paperback and Ebook before.  Please know it’s a rigorous process. If I do publish an ebook, maybe I’ll help others do it too! There are lots of books and courses about creating ebooks, just know the prices for online instruction may vary widely. Just look into everything carefully!

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One recipe I’m sure to include will be Homewreckers… a recipe for the most decadent brownies you’ve ever tasted from a famous screen star!  And, I would love to combine all of the humor posts I’ve written into a book as well… I’m sure to include what was one of my earliest posts and continues to be a favorite… I warn you it’s longwinded like me- yet, it’s my Mother’s Day gift to you! If you’ve read this far, you deserve something for your trouble! I do believe businesses and blogs should offer something for your time, right now! So, that blog post? I’ve made it easy to find…You’ll find it here Our Southern Mothers…

Now. It’s Mother’s Day here in the States, yet there’s another holiday being observed here and abroad- it’s VE Day- the day Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to European Forces on May 8, 1945. I was reminded this morning in a dear friend’s post of this quote by Winston Churchill, which is perfect in these days when we’re finding out new ways to succeed at living and doing business.

‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’

Keep moving forward with all of the enthusiasm you can!

Love y’all, Camellia

*A word from Brenda

I am trying to support local businesses, I hope you are too! And, if Camellia hadn’t been so longwinded today- I would add I am also using stock photos, along with my own- and gleaning ideas wherever I can to bring them to you! That street side café is a cute example of a stock photo- yet? If you’re wondering who that beachside restaurant is- with tables ‘one alligator apart’ it’s none other than the Florabama ! find them @_florabama along with over 42.1K followers, we love them too! They also offer watersport rentals and plan to follow CDC guidelines. In other words, they’re keeping their business open because they know- it’s not about them- it’s about their customers!

* Remember- Accept the situation. Adapt quickly. Embrace this time as an opportunity. Make the adjustments. Move forward. Y’all, we can do this- stay inspired…. the photo below is one I clipped and put in a journal years- I took a pic…it inspires me to work At Home!img_4471

 

Special Edition! Camellia’s Valentine’s Advice…

img_3382Valentine’s Day is a veritable mine field of a holiday. I’ve interviewed a good many women who report feelings of depression, unfulfilled expectations and outright anger after this day of love. Valentine’s Day is fraught with problems for Southern men. Why? Because the south is a matriarchal society. Southern mommas take care of all the gift buying, the decorating, the meal planning, the teacher gifts, cookies and cupcakes and all of that glitter strewn around from card making- even cellophane bags stocked in at least 3 different sizes, perfect for goodie bags for? Every. Single. Occasion known to mankind. We might let men think they’re in charge of… say, the Deep Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving but it’s a woman who has the back up roast turkey just in case his fryer catches on fire! img_3376

Valentine’s Day is that exceptional holiday– she may done everything for the children’s parties yet southern women don’t think it’s asking too much for Billy Bob to turn into a Sugar Daddy on Valentine’s Day. For just one day, is it too much to expect Billy Bob to turn into William Robert Smith IV, master of all things sweet and romantic on just one little bitty day of the year? Is it any wonder that Every. Single. Year- most men manage to blow it? They need help and she’s put her foot down she’s not giving him even a hint.

Knowing the average male attention span is short, this is the Short List.

  • Avoid anything fuzzy, helium filled or a good deal like boxes of chocolate you forgot to remove the sticker which says- ‘Buy one Get one Free’.
  • I’ll let you in on a big secret-  Victoria or Frederick’s are names southern women associate with Hurricanes- this is not a good message to send and- really, you don’t know her size or preferences.
  • Do not buy matching camouflage outfits and take her to the hunting camp, even if she’s bagged more quail or pheasants than you did. She wants it served under glass.
  • If you do take her out to eat, make sure the place has tablecloths and seating- not just bar stools if you get my drift!

Now that I have your attention gentlemen, remember this above all else- Valentine’s Day is for her, not you.  Please don’t go into a store, and buy lingerie- if you can’t pronounce it- you don’t need to be there! Listen to me- you’re gonna bomb on this one because just when the sales lady asks for her size- you’re going to fall into this trap by sayin’ ‘Well pretty lady, I reckon she’s just about your size!’ and boom! Too big or too little will not be forgiven any time soon! Now, if you’ve stayed with me this long… I can get into specifics-

  • Do not- I repeat- do not buy her a digital bathroom scale. Do not sign her up for a gym membership! Do not buy sugar free candy or a trial membership in a weight reduction program, even if your Valentine has been asking you since New Year’s if you think she needs to lose weight- that is a trap.
  • Dinner and a movie is generally a safe bet- unless dinner is fast food and the movie is ‘Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Jaws‘ or ‘Walking Tall- Part 2′ . It just kills the mood. Believe me on this one.
  • Please don’t complain about the prices at dinner or at the movies.
  • Whatever you do- don’t have photo booth pictures blown up into framed 8×10’s, she may have thought they were adorable at the time… yet for her desk? Probably not so cute.
  • About that desk- you might want to check with the florist- ‘Are there multiple orders going to her workplace?’ You wouldn’t want her to be mortified if she’s the only one there with no flowers! (I have known women, who in desperation have called the local florists and had her own flowers sent to cover for your gross negligence in this matter! Believe me, you will never live this down.

Speaking of flowers, we do know the difference in florist flowers and those bought at the big box or grocery stores. Whatever you do, please do not buy a neon blue orchid. Now, those are the basics, are you ready for more?

  • Going to look at tractors, single wide trailers or pre-fab storage buildings are not exactly her idea of a romantic outing.
  • Neither is taking her car for an oil change, new brake shoes or having the tires rotated- even if they throw in the Valentine Special of hot pink fuzzy seat covers. Just  do your duty to see about her safety and welfare- not as a gift! Note one exception- *If you’re thinking automotive- buy her a new car! *

I know you’re thinking of buying her something for the household- this is another trap, believe me. Please don’t buy household appliances of any kind- a new vacuum, a toaster, a leaf blower or an electric drill. Let the kids buy her those things for Mother’s Day! Or better yet, hire someone to do all those chores that you’ve been putting off for…ages?

  • Do not buy her an apron, oven mitts or dish towels. In fact, do not even think of buying her a trinket of any kind- especially if you found them at a truck stop or country cookin’ gift shop.
  • Even if she’s the one who yells the loudest during football games- do not buy a 65 inch color TV and have it mounted in her absolutely gorgeous bedroom! In fact, don’t give her anything that is suitable for mounting on a wall- especially your latest ‘catch’ even if she’s won more tournaments than you have!
  • A shirt with an Arrow pointing your direction- that says- ‘I’m His’ might be funny to you- believe me it’s not! Matching Tshirts are to be avoided at all costs for Valentine’s Day- especially if you’re taking her out somewhere nice.

By now, you’re probably thinking that a card is a nice touch and it is. Unless you’ve neglected to actually read the inside of the card! It might look great on the outside with romantic wording like ‘You are so beautiful to me…‘ yet on the inside there’s a picture of an Orangutan sayin’ ‘A face only a mother could love.‘  Now, you may have howled when you read it and gotten a big kick out of it all; believe methis will not be well received, any more than :

  • Wrinkle, hair removal, anti-aging products or the perfect shade of nail polish which you think will save on all of the beauty parlor bills! Leave this to the professionals.
  • Handwritten coupons for anything will not spell Sugar Daddy- even if your handwriting is nice- this doesn’t read nice. It shouts- Cheapskate!
  • Candy is always a nice touch as long as it’s not a fun-size bag, a quarter pound chocolate heart that she’ll need a chainsaw to cut (see above) Or…a cheap grocery store brand with four pieces of chocolates – go for broke here and get the kind of candy sold in free standing stores with nice gold wrapping paper- even if you think the price is ridiculous!
  • And, if you’ve been dating a while, please don’t buy a hard candy diamond shaped plastic ring, a big old fake diamond keychain, a heavily over advertised open heart or a boxed set of jewelry on the sale aisle. She wants a diamond not a friendship ring!
  • Listen up! Regardless of the song… Diamonds are a Man’s best friend! And of course-dogs, it just depends on where you’d rather be.

img_3376Southern men need help on Valentines Day. According to my hotline results- no matter how hard you’ve worked that day- she’s expecting you to show the same energy and enthusiasm you had for SEC football games. When you pick her up, please don’t say-

  • ‘Are you wearing that?’  or ‘How much did that cost?‘ no matter what she has on.
  • If she asks you if her shoes look funny- please don’t say ‘Well honey, they aren’t hilarious.’
  • If she exclaims that her hair looks awful- refrain from saying ‘It doesn’t look any worse than usual.’

Some final advice- if she’s over the age of five- your valentine doesn’t want a bouquet of lollipops, a stuffed animal of any kind- no matter what size it is- and certainly not a bunch of helium filled balloons! Save that for birthdays or fun days. And remember above all else- Valentine’s Day is for your sweetheart, not you. If you can’t remember anything else, gentlemen, remember that. Or. Believe me, darlin’, she won’t let you forget it for a whole year or…maybe your own natural lifetime.

Love y’all, Camellia

*These helpful hints have been gleaned from an informal poll of southern ladies who have experienced some frankly disappointing Valentine’s days. The poll is non- scientific and based solely on the horror factor of it all. *Men, you have my full permission to reprint this article, IF you commit it to memory and can recite it in your sleep! Ladies, you have my full permission to reprint this article- as long as you promise to give it to your sweetheart, right before or after Valentine’s Day- depending on when you need it! It doesn’t worry me…much- I’m a fictional character.

*The wonderful free images are from @over including the cute videos!

The Eggnog Party…

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DWe could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DThe Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.

Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DOf course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-

  • The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
  • Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
  • Thick with cream and
  • Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.

In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’

 

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog

  • 14 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
  • 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream

Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!

This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.

I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.

Pecan Pies…

Pecans are a cash crop in Alabama, indeed all across the South, folks love to have their own pecan trees. Pecan Pies are the iconic southern dessert, and while we wouldn’t turn down a piece of pecan pie any time of year- a pecan pie always makes her appearance on holiday tables. The truth is? It’s hard to imagine southern food without this wonderful nut. Some of my favorite cooks tend to enjoy- shelling pecans. Could I get a hallelujah for these fine ladies? I’ve had a few tell me they find it ‘relaxing’ to shell pecans… I wouldn’t know about that, it’s frustrating to me. To each his own. I do know this- to receive a bag of fresh shelled pecans is better than getting a bag of gold!

Now, I have to admit that I love pecans and pecan pies, though I also tend to restrict myself to baking the classic pecan pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I love variations on the classic too. Chocolate Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Pie topped with Pecans is amazing too. I’d never turn down either variation. Still. I rarely make all three at the same time. I made a classic pecan pie and a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving this year. The classic is my husband’s favorite and I had a special request for the chocolate pecan pie. These pies are amazing and might just be one of the easiest pies to make! The wonderful thing about the classic pecan pie is that it can be pre-baked now and thawed and reheated any time during the holidays! I’ll admit to having one lurking in the freezer right this minute! I haven’t tried freezing the chocolate one…yet I believe it also would work well. And, even though, making your own pie crust dough is a wonderful thing…with all the busyness of the holidays, why would you unless you’re very organized and made up pie crust dough ahead…I’d say go ahead and use it! It’s the holidays! You want to put your very best out for family and guests! Here’s how we make Camellia’s Chocolate Pecan Pie-

You will need:

  • Single Pie Crust for Deep Dish Pie (unbaked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter (melted)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee
  • 3/4 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (melted)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecan Halves
  • Prepare crust in a deep pie crust dish or 8 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For Filling Mixture- In a saucepan, on low heat, melt butter, then add chocolate chips to melt. Add Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, Instant Coffee and Salt- combine well. Mix eggs in a small bowl and add to Filling Mixture, combining well. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of pecans, reserving a few to decorate the top of the pie, if desired. Pour Filling Mixture into prepared Pie Crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is not completely set- *This is important- do not over bake the filling! When done, top the pie with reserved pecans in a circle to decorate if desired. Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack.
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  • You will need:
    1 Single Pie Crust for deep dish pie (unbaked)
    1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
    3 Large Eggs
    1 cup Sugar
    2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
    Pinch of Salt
    1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
    1 1/2 cups whole pecans
    • 1 Tablespoon Bourbon ( if desired)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie crust in deep dish pie pan. Line bottom of pie crust with whole pecans placed in concentric circles. Set aside to mix filling. Melt butter. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix eggs. Add corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Combine well and pour carefully over pecans in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, until pecans rise to top. Do not over bake. When pie is still hot sprinkle Bourbon over hot pecans (you will hear a sizzle!) Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour or until thoroughly cool and set. Keep chilled, before serving warm lightly if desired.

And, we’ve told you about another Pecan Pie that’s absolutely delicious!

It’s called Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… and is a wonderful twist on the classic pecan pie!