Christmas Bride…

‘In her soul- a woman never forgets a man who has occupied her heart so many years’                                                                                                                Author Unknown

I met him when I was a freshman at the University of Alabama. His date was beautiful, mine wasn’t exactly Prince Charming. I looked across the room and saw him, there was a knowing. I went back to my dorm and told my roommate and two other friends that I believed I had met the man I was going to marry.  It was a turbulent time, my cousin had died in Vietnam the previous summer just three days after his arrival;  yet on that beautiful Tuscaloosa campus there were protests against the Viet Nam war. And I had met a brown eyed handsome man, who was a gentleman, clean cut and the most decent person I had ever met. He still is. I felt calm when I was with him. I still do. Our first date was on Valentine’s Day, 1970. He loaded his old car with my friends and took us anywhere we wanted to go. He still prefers old cars to new ones, gets sentimental amount them. I appreciate this now that I’m an older model myself. He was athletic, had been All County in Football and Baseball, he was in a Tank Unit in the Alabama National Guard and went on to become a paratrooper Special Forces Green Beret. He was unpretentious, and even after a lifetime of achievements- he still is. His favorite TV Show was Andy Griffith, it still is. He liked Country and Classical, I liked Motown and Soul music. His Chet Atkins’ style guitar-playing won me over. I still love the songs he played back then- Silver Wings, Long Black Limousine, Miller’s Cave and Windy and Warm. When he finally got that Country Gentleman Gretsch™ Guitar, like Chet’s it sounded even better!

He made me laugh with his  dry sense of humor, like the time I asked him-

  • ‘Do these shoes look funny?’
  • ‘Well, they’re not hilarious.’

We married ten months after we met. I was a Christmas Bride.2014-12-11 16.50.53

We were told we would never have children, for eight years we didn’t. Then just 21 months apart, we had two delightful baby girls. This Christmas Bride found out we were expecting, not once but twice, just days before Christmas! We would never get over our miracle babies. We’ve enjoyed every minute of being their parents. Given the chance we would do it all over again. Our children are the joy of our lives. They have made us better people. During these many years, we have known-

  • better and worse,
  • richer and poorer,
  • sickness and health
  • yet we have never forsaken each other.

Those vows I made as a Christmas Bride were easy to keep because of the man I married. He has made my life richer in so many ways and through so many folks we have known. Our life has been full of rich experiences. Everyday he still makes me laugh and every single day he brings music into our home. img_0512

I have embraced his deepest beliefs as my own- Don’t Mistreat People. Do What You Can to Help. Pay your respects. Never forget the folks who helped us. Be there. He’s better at it than I am-but I know this to be true:

We honor our vows when we honor those beliefs.

This man has occupied my heart for  many years; I became his Christmas Bride on the twelfth day of December. Dare I say it? Young Love is sweet but Old Love is best.

Take it away Chet! And Happy Anniversary Darlin’, Camellia

 

Christmas Rolls…

img_1852Whether you can make them or not- give the gift of Christmas Rolls. One of the most thoughtful things you can do is provide good rolls. Southerners love yeast rolls, especially during the holidays. Old Holiday Menus set our mouths watering with visions of  hot yeast rolls and melted butter dancing in our heads. We cut our teeth on yeast rolls made for special occasions. The best memories are conjured up when we smell fresh baked rolls.

  • We remember yeasty rolls made in school lunchrooms, we can still smell them.
  • Tiny soft rolls were made for teas, luncheons, bereavement tables or bridge parties.
  • Ladies went to Cobb Lane for the tiny Orange Rolls.
  • Even big men delighted in the basket of Orange Rolls brought out in Bogue’s Restaurant while they waited for their Meat and Three lunches.
  • Cinnamon rolls from The Electric Maid were a special treat.
  • Hand rolled to order, someone was assigned to pick up the rolls at Savage’s Bakery.img_1858

Some ladies had household help or a family member who always made the yeast rolls. Cookbooks abound with recipes for them, with notations:

  • These make a soft tender dinner roll. 
  • These can be made ahead, just allow 2-3 hours for them to rise. 
  • Can be shaped as desired but cloverleaf is best.
  • Allow several rolls for each dinner guest, be prepared with extra to run in the oven, if needed.

There were recipes for Bride’s Rolls, which were said to be easy- though most have so many steps I can imagine a young bride being reduced to tears.  Ice Box Rolls for the busy housewife who could make yeast rolls days in advance or even the night before. Then there are the full-on – you-better-know-what-you’re-doing recipes for Parker House Rolls, which came di-rect from Boston. Only the most experienced baker would attempt these!

I am always amazed at how many men can artfully discuss their memories of yeast rolls from days gone by. I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with yeast. As a bride I could not figure out for the life of me, how to make a decent dinner roll! The shame of serving Brown and Serve rolls that came in plastic bags from the grocery store. Apparently I was not alone. Along came Sister Schubert® rolls, busy Southern cooks breathed a sigh of relief. The holiday menus began to add her rolls – ‘Are you going to bring the rolls? get Sister Schubert’s®. Even Julia Reed, the famous southern journalist served them at her swank dinner parties in New York City. They still rule the holiday dinner tables. I now have another favorite. img_1850

A lady named Millie Ray began making wonderful rolls for her bridge parties in the late 1970’s, they became so famous in the Birmingham area and beyond that in 2010, Millie Ray’s® went commercial. I love her rolls! Instead of Sister’s round pan, Millie Ray’s come in a square tin. Her rolls are still hand rolled and cut for the homemade look. Busy ladies simply do not have or take the time to make homemade rolls often, but we want them! I once gave a busy lady with a large family a stack of these delicious rolls- she still says it was one of the best gifts she ever received. Are you looking for a last minute gift for the one who has everything but time on her hands? Make her Christmas morning easier! Whether you buy Sister’s or Millie Ray’s- buy at least three types.  I buy Orange Rolls which can be served any time, Yeast or Dinner Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls. Stacked and tied with a red bow- add a Christmas Card with a personal greeting- ‘Don’t worry about the rolls Darlin’.  img_1854

For Christmas morning- all three can be used on a Breakfast Buffet, Orange and Cinnamon Rolls and Yeast Rolls filled with a sliver or two of Ham, truly an entire meal from just a stack of rolls!  Christmas Rolls may be the perfect gift- delicious, consumed and well remembered, a welcome addition to any meal. Give the gift of Christmas Rolls!

Love y’all, Camellia

* This post is not a paid advertisement for either Sister Schubert’s® or Millie Ray’s® I just happen to love them! And they are made right here in Alabama! As are Marshall’s Biscuits® which wouldn’t be a shabby addition to the stack of yeast rolls! That makes them extra good in my book.  Look for them online or if you are extra blessed, in your local grocery store’s frozen food section. All photographs are obviously mine.

Give me some Sugah!

img_1839What the South lacks in snowy white winters, we more than make up for in Sugar! After all, how many regions can boast sugar plantations, big copper pots bubbling with molten  sugar for Pralines right on the streets, and Sugar Cane chopped and ready to make Sorghum Syrup? One of the joys of my childhood was getting a sliver of sugar cane and chewing on it at county fairs or farmers markets. Long jointed fat sugar canes stripped and chopped into three inch pieces were a special treat for adults and children alike. In the South,

  • Most of us are born with a Sweet Tooth.
  • Sugar is a pet name- pronounced- ‘Sugah’ even shortened to ‘Shug’ .
  • To say ‘Give me some Sugar.’ is to ask for a peck on the cheek or a Sweet Southern Kiss.

I admit to believing Sugar had it’s own special magical qualities. Cooks I knew would say: ‘Now, Betty Jo, you know we can’t make Divinity this week- it’s raining, we’ll have to wait until a good dry day or that Divinity will be as hard as a rock!’ The same was true for Pralines or Chocolate Fudge- make it on a rainy day and it would be grainy, they said- ‘Not fit to eat.’  And, horror of all horrors-  ‘Can you believe she put out that grainy Fudge and that hard Divinity? I almost died’.Sugar syrup is a staple in the Southern Pantry- a must have for iced tea or added with confectioner’s sugar to make Icing for cakes. Now, remember, we don’t say Frosting. For holiday candy making, making a sugar syrup with a candy thermometer is a must- it has to be bubbled to just the right temperature, for the type of candy you are making-img_1805

I have yet to per-fect even the first batch of Southern Pralines or Divinity- however they are on the culinary bucket list! I can make Snow White Marshmallows, a fairly decent caramel and if the weather conditions and the candy thermometer are just right, ButterToffee is one of my favorites! Topped with Chocolate and Chopped Pecans, I have to say- it is a little bite of heaven. img_1839

The mystery of sugar, the science of sugar, the timing, the weather conditions, the culinary art of candy making is daunting, yet somehow irresistible to me. I drag home five pound bags of sugar, dreaming of the perfect batch of Butter Toffee, Caramels or homemade Snow White Marshmallows, sugary visions dancing in my head. Give me some Sugar, a big pot and a candy thermometer and I’m transformed into a combination of Meteorologist, Mad Scientist and Cauldron Watcher. I feel very mysterious and sticky! If the candy doesn’t turn out- I throw it out and start all over! I never failed to be amazed how- cooking sugar to one temperature can result in an amber colored Butter Toffee and another temperature results in a perfect batch of Snow White Marshmallows- image

Here’s a photo journey- Butter Toffee first:

And Snow White Matshmallows:

Oh yes, Give me some Sugar! Pure Cane Sugar. Like I said, what we lack in Sugar White Snowfalls- we more than make it up in Granulated Sugar!  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Give me some Sugar and the Magic begins!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are mine.

 

Christmas Cards!

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Even if the wreath is on the door, the gift buying has commenced and the Christmas Shortbread dough is in the freezer waiting to be baked- the season really begins for me when the first Christmas Card arrives! One of life’s sweetest gifts are those family photographs taken months before and made into Family Christmas Cards! Over the years they’ve become cherished memories. We are blessed to be on the Christmas Card list of surely the World’s Most Beautiful Families. Sometimes the cards come with a winter scene of a nice young couple,  a beautiful baby, tiny sisters or even a poignant photograph of a young girl with red shoes that is worthy of it’s own portrait.

Sometimes the cards come with gold foil lined envelopes and heavy beautiful card stock. Some cards are of a vintage scene. Some have a photograph of the cute family pets or of a child sitting with Santa Claus. Some are whimsical beribboned and hand painted.

I love them all! It’s been a tradition for years, to save up the Christmas Cards. On Christmas Day, we look at them, exclaim about how nice it was to get them; then, I enjoy making a call or writing a thank you note that we’ve been kept on the list for the beautiful Family Christmas Cards.   I have to admit for various reasons- as much as I thoroughly enjoy receiving Christmas Cards and am forever grateful to receive these wonderful cards;  except for One Rare Occasion I’ve never gotten my own act together to send out Christmas Cards. image

Why? because- Our Family Photograph Christmas Card was never a reality. We simply never came up with a decent card worthy family photograph– there is always-

  • one who is the deer in the headlights
  • or blinked at the inopportune moment
  • or who wore the wrong thing
  • stood the wrong way
  • or was the odd one out-
  • was the only one who had on sunglasses or didn’t
  • always statements like –‘You can’t send that one!’
  • It’s sort of horrifying actually.

Now, Southerners are big on heritage and lineage- it’s almost biblical to keep the family tree going with at the very least a church directory photograph! And here we are without a decent Family Photograph, for posterity. Several years ago, we had received an inordinate amount of the World’s Most Beautiful Family Christmas Cards! I came up with a plan- I would send out our very own Family Photograph Christmas Card. We had been to Colorado Springs over Thanksgiving, stayed at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel, even met Reba McIntyre, and had fun on a Sleigh Ice Sculpture! Very Scenic, lots of fun.

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We took a trip up the Broadmoor’s Cog Railway to Pike’s Peak, where a kind soul took a Family Photograph. We all had one thing in common- we all looked awful.   I found the kind of photo cards you insert beautiful family photographs in; I had a dozen photographs done up in black and white to make the World’s Ugliest Family Photograph look even worse and hoped folks who received them would  get a good laugh. Lively Holiday Greetings were written on each -ending with ‘This is the Best Family Photograph we could come up with!’

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I hate to inflict this awful photograph on you- it actually did evoke a good bit of laughter! So,  if you are struggling with all of the Christmas Card, Gift buying and Holiday rush- Inject some laughter into it! I think the new term is to have a Scruffy Christmas! 

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Unlike all Southern tales- which are part truth, part myth and part outright lies- this one is the whole truth– after all, Santa is keeping that list!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are from our personal collection, either loaned to Camellia’s Cottage or sadly taken by me- and should not be used without permission.

Thanksgiving in the South…

 

FABD3DC6-D245-4805-B4AE-374585D66D08It’s occurred to me that Thanksgiving in the South offers some interesting enlightenment of our people and our region.. All regions know how interesting, maddening, delightful and hilarious family holidays can be! Here we never want to be too critical of the family because, well it’s not exaggerating to say that Southern Food, Southern Beauty and Southern Accents are far superior. The South has eye popping beauty- refined, rustic or rough as a cob, like the people who’re from here.

Take the Grumpy Uncle who can get loud- you know the type- knows it all but never knows when to hush up.  His scope of the political landscape is daunting- he’s a ‘law and order, hang ’em high and often’ kind of guy- His wife watches NPR and graciously corrects him -saying ‘Thank you darling for sharing your perspective’. They stopped watching the nightly news together years ago and have agreed to disagree. She likes diversity- attends Combined Worship Services with all Communities- Grumpy Uncle stays home.

Then there’s the Nephew who lives for the Opening Day of Hunting Season- Bucky’s always dusty like the chert roads he drives on. Sometimes we think  Bucky loves his huntin’ dogs- Jackpot, Fang and  Cream Puff more than he loves his own Momma! Recently, Bucky offered to take his Momma up to the hunting lodge; told her he’d teach her how to shoot; she  politely declined. Secretly she keeps her great grandfather’s pearl handled pistol under the mattress, loaded. In fact, she won’t allow her mattress to be turned- evah.  The mattress weighs fifty ‘leven pounds and is reported to be worth a fortune.img_1579

Then there’s Aunt Eugenia, who always asks- ‘Who your people are?’. It’s been reported that a distant cousin was thinking of marrying a questionable young man- Aunt Eugenia wrote to the State Director of Archives and History  asking for the lineage of the young man. She’s had a working relationship with the Department for decades. The bane of Aunt Eugenia’s existence is her Niece, the political activist, the one who agreed to attend the full round of Catechism Classes at First Presbyterian and then announced to God and the Church Elders that she would not consider putting herself forward for Confirmation and Sprinkling even though the programs had already been printed. Her family was horrified.75396FD9-9E4D-465A-8974-D81AB94126B1

Who can forget Long Tall Double First Cousin Floyd? He led singings at Sacred Harp Conventions  for 50 years. Everyone feels obligated to ask Uncle Floyd to say the Blessing for Thanksgiving Dinner. With bowed heads, the women struggle to keep the food warm while Cousin Floyd starts in praying-  opening up with Original Sin in the Garden of Eden- ending fifteen minutes later with a flourish at the Great White Throne. All are very thankful by then.

Uncle Floyd’s  plump wife is the Pentacostal Princess of the Covered Dish- and I do mean prize winning. Princess wrestles with high blood pressure and swollen ankles. The high salt content in Cream of Mushroom Soup and Canned Onion Rings are contributing factors. E025EC53-CDFF-46F0-AA1C-F42608981D48

At the other end of the table is the Union Boss Aunt whose husband is Foreman on Third Shift. He had to learn how to make Biscuits and Cornbread and the best Blackberry Jam this side of heaven, just to survive his working wife’s inability and disinclination to ever come near an Iron Skillet; though she is proud to say– her Ironworkers have been making Iron Skillets for generations. She’s tough as pig iron- he’s a big teddy bear.

Then there’s the rowdy offspring of Grandmaw Bama, a full blooded Cherokee- Grown men whoopin’ it up as part owners of Mississippi Casinos. Still. These Indian Chiefs were smart enough to marry good Methodist girls- quiet, unassuming DAR members. Their folks are the Bankers, Lawyers, Doctors and  Accountants. Generally their mothers are Pillars of Society or Teachers who wear sensible shoes. They know the ropes of society’s high demands. We count on these ladies to bring Tea Sandwiches, tiny Dinner Rolls and Petit Fours, tiny being the operative word.2015-06-05 12.02.11 (2)

And isn’t there always a skinny freckled Nephew with buck teeth who is the official photographer? Freddie has an annoying habit of catching the Beauty Queens without a smidge of lipstick on, looking pale as ghosts! The Beauty Queens exhibit varying degrees of glamour- for instance, the Cotton Queen and the Peach Queen are a cut above the Peanut and Boll Weevil Queens. The long line of Southern Queens manage households wisely, run the vacuum cleaner wearing  Tiaras and no matter how old they get- will always be Queen of Everything. 3AB23828-CEAD-44C1-875A-59D7F4612246

And dare I mention the motorcycle riding Vietnam Veteran, Billy Jack who brought home a sweet foreign wife? Always wearing matching bandanas- Billy Jack bears a striking resemblance to Willie Nelson. His wife has lived in the South 40 years but still thinks dumplings are steamed! Their son was a child prodigy, he learned Classical Violin before he was three, while simultaneously perfecting Hogcallin’ .

Aunt DawDaw keeps chickens and can be counted on to bring the Devilled Eggs. DawDaw’s son inherited the Family Cotton Farm and shocked everyone by not majoring in Agriculture- Fitzgerald got a degree in  Horticulture with a concentration in Floral Design. Fitz makes Wreaths and Floral Arrangements with the Family Cotton, his designs grace the Front Doors and Thanksgiving Tables all over the place. Folks whisper he’s topping high cotton makin’ more on his floral designs than a bale of cotton brings!  Fitz is a bit peculiar but all of the unmarried girls want to marry him or at the very least have Wedding Bouquets made by Fitzgerald! He’s admired by his whole family; Fitzgerald saved the family farm…and made enough to buy a fancy cotton pickin’ machine…2016-02-12 15.52.26

Like cyclist Billy Jack, Great Uncle Chester also married a foreigner. Bless her heart she was a Yankee.  Uncle Chester moved her down to Texas. Out in the middle of nowhere, Chester promptly drilled an oil well or two- then had the nerve to invite the whole family to his Ranch for Thanksgiving. Of all things. Listen- we don’t have Stuffing made with bread balls or cubes whatever they are– We have Dressing, Cornbread Dressing!  Thanksgiving Food is Sacred in the South. Don’t mess with it. Unfortunately, Uncle Chester’s wife tried to make Cornbread Dressing- and failed miserably. She put a liberal amount of Oregano in the Dressing Mix. She mixed up Oregano for Sage! All of that Oregano caused a gag reflux in Aunt Flora, who actually had to excuse herself from the table! She never forgot nor forgave it.

Aunt Flora was a real southern lady with unfailing good manners and an impeccable cook.  Every year without fail- Aunt Flora made the Cornbread Dressing -hissing that she would nevah get over Chester’s wife- ‘Can you believe it! She put Oregano in the Dressin’!’  On her deathbed, Aunt Flora stretched out her frail hand and said – ‘If you evah put Oregano in the Dressin’ I will twirl three times and come up out of mah grave!’ No one wants to risk it. Clumps of Sage were planted by her gravestone and granted perpetual care.

This is the South, y’all. We’re alike but different. Some of us think the others should be more open minded- others cling to the old ways.  We may not yell for the same SEC football team but we all agree it’s the best football in the country. We never disagree on how pretty it is down here or how to make decent food, especially Decent Cornbread Dressing.

The South simply can’t be described in all of its civilized or uncivilized behavior of varying degrees. Let me put it this way, Norman Rockwell never painted a Southern Family having a Southern Thanksgiving- Mr. Rockwell would not have inflicted that sight on the General Public. However crazy, peculiar, eccentric we might be- we defend her, overlook her eccentricities and step carefully in our Graveyards for fear of all the Rolling Over, Rising Up and Twirling surely going on in the South

This is a tale of a Southern Thanksgiving, your own family will look positively sane by comparison!  Oh lord, y’all- like all good Southern tales, this one is part Truth, part Myth and part Outright Lies…

Love y’all, Camellia

*I do confess to havin’ a great grandmother- full blooded Cherokee and affectionately called Bama. *This is a work of fiction! Any similarities are pure coincidence and for that I pity you.

*All of the photographs are mine.