Native Neutrals…

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Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Interiors with neutral color schemes are my favorite. They are peaceful, calm and soothing. Perhaps the first lengthy discussion I remember having about interior design was at Bon Secour Bay outside of a restaurant named Meme’s. The driveway into this delicious dive was of whole and crushed oyster shells. I think I might have been 14 years old. My best friend and I got into a hilarious conversation of how we could use oyster shells as décor in the home. We  thought perhaps as salt dishes, beside a dinner plate to hold a few pats of butter, lemon wedges or even as powder room soap dishes; maybe a container by the kitchen sink to hold our rings. Of course it was all silly- but oysters hold a sweet spot in our hearts- where else do you think our love for pearls comes from? And just look at the beauty of the neutral colors found in oysters!

I am a native of Alabama, these are the neutral colors that I love.  A whole color scheme can be found in an humble oyster. Our families had met at Meme’s to watch the shrimp and oyster boats come in at sunset and to partake of some of the most memorable seafood I ever recall. And believe me, if you live in the Deep South- with all of its bayous and rivers, bays, streams and the magnificent Gulf of Mexico-you know your seafood! Alabama Seafood is some of the world’s finest!

Meme’s started out as an oyster bar. Oysters have romantic notions ascribed to them- probably because Casanova was said to have eaten dozens and dozens of the oysters daily. I knew a big ol’ logger named Bud– from South Alabama who had huge burlap bags of oysters brought up to his camp every Friday to feed his men- Bud said ‘Oysters keep their pencils sharp’…I was never sure what he meant by that. I can tell you this- Bud the logger wouldn’t take any prizes for dancing! He would hoist the women up off their feet and haul them around the dance floor like a stick of pulpwood! Oysters have a more genteel word that describes them best- Peacemakers.

Bon Secour Bay is in part a state refuge area, it is a small peaceful town of less than 1000 people, Meme’s of Bon Secour- was destroyed by Hurricane Fredrick in 1979 and was never rebuilt- Alabama Wild Shrimp is a point of pride for the bay area. Bon Secour was originally a French fishing village and it’s name means safe harbor. And isn’t that what we want for our homes? To be a refuge from the storms of life and the one safe place we can count on? Blessed are the peacemakers, the backdrop for all of the colors life brings.

Several years ago, we began renovating…I had always used color– navy, leaf green even peach with blue ribbons or periwinkle blue for girlish bedrooms-always with white trim. I had become weary of so much color, I have after all, led a pretty colorful life filled with colorful people. Colorful is a southern term for…well, a nice way of talking about folks and events that are full of personality and generous with memorable stories. Native Neutral interiors are fabulous hosts for colorful folks!  When the renovation began- for inspiration I turned to our roots-

  • Black cast iron skillets, old kitchen utensils, the Ironworks and Steel Works of Birmingham, white square columns
  • The faded barn board of my husband’s rural farm background, the Coalminers, the Wiregrass region, the rich Black Belt soil, the pale rock of the Appalachians
  • The French linen my grandmother loved, the pearl necklaces, the statuary
  • The marble quarries, the  cotton fields, the Spanish moss draped over live oaks
  • Pale heirloom silver, burlap bags of oysters, baskets and straw rugs, an old map of our county
  • Alabama’s white sugar sand beaches and more shades of white- pearl and oyster.

All serene, peaceful-Native Neutral colors. Camellia’s Cottage is not grand,  renovated and peaceful – she cannot compare with the beautiful Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe…yet neutrals have a found a home here just as they have in the oyster’s shell.

 

Big Walter is the most peaceful being I know- that sweet feline has even gone along with my Native Neutral interior design scheme! There are no oyster shell soap dishes or a single crusty shell for my ring when I wash dishes- but I’m thinking about it…

‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God!‘ Matthew 5:9

Love y’all, Camellia

Visit: http://www.eatalabamaseafood.com    http://www.mobilemag.com  for more information!

Images are all mine- except for the glorious sunset which was shared by Jeremy Miniard. The images of oysters- on the right- with the oyster knife is from Mobile Magazine and the other two are from http://www.eatalabamaseafood.com The images of Bon Secour Bay and Meme’s are from AOL images

 

 

 

Silver Queens…

I don ‘t understand retail therapy, it could be that I worked in retail most of my life; so  let me share some real therapy for real Southern ladies –

  • Taking care of the cast iron
  • Checking the baseboards to make sure they’re clean
  • Polishing silver is especially rewarding
  • Buying Silver Queen corn– the crowning staple of Southern cuisine

If there is ever an upset in the home or community- Southern women of my era have reliably turned to these activities for therapy– we calm our nerves this way, we settle down into these rhythmic, meditative, even ancient practices.IMG_1387

Cast iron is inherited- it must be taken care of…and the bonus is when something unsettling happens, you can always clean it out with salt, then fry some bacon in the pan to re-season it…a little spat with a husband can be cured just by frying some bacon…trust me on this one! He’s irritated, you’re unsettled and start thinking about your inheritance…you grab your grandmother’s cast iron skillet and start frying bacon…before you know it, he comes up behind you, tugs on your apron strings or eases his arms around your waist and says, ‘hey good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?‘ You sort of give him the cold shoulder and just say ‘Get on out of here now, I’m just seasoning this skillet…‘ He keeps on hanging around…looking sort of sheepish…bacon will do this to man, he forgets why he’s irritated, hoping he’ll be the one who gets the crumbled bacon, instead of humble pie. white baseboardSouthern women have a great affection for their Baseboards…I have never heard women of other cultures quite so fascinated with whether or not their baseboards are clean. A friend told me recently that she wasn’t sure her housecleaning service was doing a good enough job. She shares the same cleaning service with another friend, who had called and said, ‘I’m not sure they’ve been cleaning these baseboards!’ My friend said, ‘Well I have to tell them to clean mine, they don’t think of it on their own, but Lord knows I asked them when I hired them if they clean windowsills, crown molding and baseboards, though I never asked about the chair rails.’ Now, if weeds are God’s invitation to pray in the garden, checking baseboards will get you on your knees in the home. It’s upsetting to be paying someone to do this – however, when life isn’t going all that well…get on your knees and get those baseboards clean– cleanliness is next to godliness, you know.

Polishing Silver is often group therapy in the South, we Silver Queens are sensitive about our silver, after all, we barely had it buried in the ground before the Yankees ran through all those years ago. Polishing ancestral silver is almost as sacred as putting Alabama Marble Monuments on the graves of our loved ones. It’s a little known fact that women start polishing silver the minute they hear anyone is getting married, christening a child, or Lord forgive, someone has died- women just start in polishing silver- you can hear the silver chests opening, the pleasant clink of silver and the distinct smell of silver polish. The most humble foods are elevated by silver trays; and one must be careful to make sure fine paper doilies are always on hand in several sizes to fit the silver trays. The high holidays call for silver trays, flatware, chafing dishes, candlesticks and even mint julep cups. Instead of fretting over the guest list, the menu or even the guests- start polishing silver; the mind sharpens and before you know it- all the ‘I’s’ will be dotted and all of the ‘T’s’ will be crossed off your lists.

Buying Silver Queen Corn is a summer infatuation- folks will say ‘We’re going to stop on the way to the beach and get some Silver Queen Corn’ or ‘I’m going to fry some chicken Sunday and if I can find some Silver Queen Corn- I’ll fry that to go with it.’

  • Fried Chicken.
  • Fresh sliced Tomatoes.
  • Biscuits.
  • Gravy.
  • Fresh Pole Beans.
  • Fried Silver Queen Corn.

If there is a more perfect summer meal on earth I do not know what it is. Yes, you read that right, fried corn. And it must be white Silver Queen Corn. Do not try to pull a fast one over on us on this… I have seen southern women make big corn fed farmers cry over this.

  • ‘Now is this field corn or Silver Queen?
  • You know when I start cutting it from the cob, I’ll be able to tell the difference right away.’
  • ‘Who do you think you are labelling this Silver Queen when you know full well it’s that new hybrid Silver King, I’m not having it, I’ll tell you.’
  • Then she insists on the farmer pulling back the shuck so she can make sure it’s not wormy!

You can tell a Deep South pedigree quicker from who buys Silver Queen Corn than you can on Ancestry. Com or that TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘. We prefer white cornmeal, white grits and blinding white Silver Queen Corn. If you don’t know what real fried corn is? Well, I might not be able to help you. This picture is the best one I could find and to tell you the truth? This Silver Queen doesn’t think the corn is cut as fine as it should be or cooked down quite enough!fried white corn

 Seasoning a cast iron pan, cleaning baseboards, polishing silver and cooking something fit to eat, are just a few of our Southern therapies- I know, I know- Southern people can get irrational and over emotional about some things…just thought you’d like to know how we make it through…

Love y’all, Camellia

http://www.ancestry.com

Statuary…

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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

 

 

 

Sunday Inspiration…

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A Collage of Verses which Guide me for your Sunday Inspiration

‘You are His Masterpiece…’ Ephesians 2:10

There is only one you- you are an incredible work of art-  a Masterpiece! You have gifts to offer us that no one else has; things only you can do for mankind. Please remember this, we need you. Bless our world with what only you can bring to us.


‘Do not neglect the gift which is in youpractice, cultivate and meditate upon your gift…throw yourself wholly into them…look well to yourself, your own unique personality…persevere in these thingshold to them as if your very life depends on it..’ 1 Timothy 4:14-16

Your best life depends on the gifts that are within you! What we do with our lives is not even half as important as what we become. Live wholeheartedly using your own unique personality, for in truth? Your very life depends on how you choose to live it each day.


‘I am calling up memories of your sincere faith, passed down to you from your grandmother and your mother- reminding you to stir up your gifts, re-kindle the embers, fan the flames keep the inner fire burning of the gracious gifts of God that are in you… 2 Timothy 1:6

If you don’t know where to start? Get historical– remember that which was done well with passion from the most creative places within you- when your inner fire was burning and what came out of the forge was useful and beautiful. Don’t allow the gracious gifts of God within you to simmer on the backburner. The world needs every gracious gift only you can bring.


For God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a calm and well-balanced mind, of discipline and self control.’ 2 Timothy 1:6-7

God has not given you a spirit of fear! Anyone or anything who provokes fear in your heart- is not from God. Those who would stir up fear render us helpless and unsettled. Self controlled, loving, calm and well balanced minds are powerful forces for good. What will you choose? Fear? or Calm and Well Balanced Minds? Use those qualities as a yardstick to measure character.


 ‘Let no foul or polluting language, unwholesome or worthless talk come out of your mouth; but only beneficial to the progress of others, as is fitting to the need and of the occasion, that it may be a blessing to those who hear it.’ Ephesians 4:29

‘Let all bitterness and indignation, wrath, rage, bad temper, resentment, anger and quarreling, contention, slander and abusive language be banished from you, with all malice, spite, ill will of any kind- And become useful, helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted, compassionate, understanding, and forgiving with loving kindness as God in Christ forgave you’.  Ephesians 4:31-32

Words are powerful– spoken or written- either cause bruises or heal them- your choice. Folks that get others ‘riled up and angry’ or folks that help us ‘settle down and be hopeful’; these are two more measures of mankind for me- Learn along with me to reject angry voices- Heated, mean spirited quarrels have never built a better mankind.


‘Whatever your task, work at it heartily- from the soul, as something done for God…making the very most of your time…’ Colossians 3:23 and 4:5

No matter what-make the very most of your time. Live wholeheartedly, life is too short for  halfheartedly living, accepting the mediocre is unacceptable. Make the very most of your time.


‘Love one another, as I have loved you…By this shall all men know that you are My Disciples, if you have love one toward another.’  John 13: 34-35  

I hope you have stayed with me- this is the most important of all of the verses! Read it again- ‘by this shall all men know you are Mine’… There it is! The Distinquishing Mark! This is: how you will know what is authentic and what is a poor imitation of almost anyoneHow we view others, how well we treat other human beings says everything about true character.  All of us are human beings- far too many are broken, beaten down by life and shattered dreams. The true test of our humanity is how well we show love to one another. This old world is heavy handed- hardened and sore in too many places… How much better would the world be if we chose to walk softly and leave that big stick behind? Look for the distinquishing mark, the engravings…resolve to live your best life, make the most of your time, use your words carefully, keep the measuring tape with you and don’t forget what a masterpiece you are!

 Love y’all, Camellia

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*The beautiful beginning and ending scenes- were photographed at the lovely Hotel St. Francis in the historic district of Santa Fe, New Mexico- a very inspiring place to be.

*Verses originate from the KJV-Amplified Version of the Bible.

 

 

My Space to Write Among the Ghosts…

“All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.”    William Faulkner

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About a week ago, I started a new Word Press Challenge- Everyday Inspiration. Today’s challenge is entitled ‘A Space to Write’- asking me to write about where I write. When I cleared the space a bit to take a photograph, I was struck by William Faulkner’s quote-

‘All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.’

I should frame it, because where I write- I have ancestors looking over me- most prominently- my very handsome great grandfather. I never knew him, he died very young. But every time I made a phone call from my grandmother’s house, Granddaddy Holmes was listening, he was hanging beside the phone, in his suit and bowtie and slickened hair.

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His name was Charles Richmond Holmes, a very distinguished name. He doesn’t haunt me too much, but apparently his arm was cut off when he was run over by a train- he bled out and died on a wagon. They left his arm, not sure if it was the right arm or the left arm, but it was placed on his front porch for some reason. I know it sounds like a bad country music song, but my mother swears it happened. His wife, Granny Holmes suffered from attacks of Melancholia, ever afterward.  Mimi said that you could always tell when a spell of Melancholia was coming on…Granny Holmes would sit on the front porch rocking to and fro- reading her Bible out loud, the faster she rocked, the louder she read- the more melancholy she got. So I guess Charles haunted my great grandmother from time to time. I only knew her briefly, she was really ancient- but I do recall her funeral, folks seemed relieved to see her go. But she did leave me as the ‘southern great-grandchild of a ghost’.Any time my sister and I acted up, or anyone acted down or depressed, Mimi would say- ‘you’re acting just like Granny Holmes.’

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Underneath my great grandfather is a collage of pen and ink drawings with the St. Clair County Courthouse in the middle, surrounded by some of the old homes around or near the courthouse. One is a Bed and Breakfast now and was built by a Probate Judge for his bride when he returned from the War Between the States. He had just one foot- the other one was lost in battle. (This wall seems to have an underlying theme of lost appendages.) There are many stories to be told about the homes and how this collage of drawings came into our possession, but I shall leave that for another time. Suffice it to say, my father in law was Judge of Probate for 14 years and my husband succeeded him in office, after a hotly contest primary, runoff and general election, he served for 20 years and is now retired. The two of them are in the very Courthouse immortalized in the ink drawing.

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My father in law had notecards made from the original drawing and we continue to use them for ‘official’ thank you notes, congratulatory or sympathy cards; so that drawing haunts me, knowing how many I need to write in any given day. I also have a great longing to see that courthouse and the surrounding homes more often- but Backbone Mountain and several miles separate me from seeing it on a regular basis. We are one of the few counties in Alabama which have two courthouses, here because of that big mountain at the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. The courthouse is said to be haunted, I’m sure it is- a hanging took place there I think; that is one of the hauntings…Anyway, our courthouse has been in continuous use longer than any other in the state of Alabama. It has a long and colorful history- St.Clair County is older than the state. Ashville is the county seat; the courthouse does face south as most old southern courthouses do.

Below the drawings, my Grandmother looks straight at me from a handmade bowl. Her expression is very intense-and it should be, since she was seriously funny.  Most southern women love talking about food. She was no exception- she was an exceptional cook. She is my Wisdom and Food Muse, I can still hear her wise, witty comments. For instance sometimes she says to me: ‘Get in that kitchen and see if you can fix something fit to eat.’ She said that, at the end of almost every conversation I ever had with her- before she hung up- ‘I need to see if I can fix us something fit to eat.’  Mimi is her younger self in the photo-she told me that she always thought she was 18 years old until she looked in the mirror. Next to the bowl with Mimi in it, there is an iron cross which always inspires but particularly on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings when I write my ‘Sunday Inspiration’ posts and was my constant companion as I wrote the four year Bible study which led to the publication of my book, ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’image

My author’s copy sits beside my laptop. The book has many travel stories and other things that inspire me still; number one is: ‘If you can write a book- maybe you can write a blog.’

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Off to the side are two mirrors, one is slightly below desk level- I like a sense of mystery in home design- that’s how the wall ended up before I decided to push the desk in front of it. Above that mirror is my grandmother’s mirror; it is not a mirror to look into unless you want waves and streaks distorting your image, which I don’t. Above that mirror is a silhouette of myself as a child, my hair shape hasn’t changed too much.

The desk I write on- came from a local antique dealer but it’s been at my house so long, it has probably gotten more valuable- or not. The chair I sit in, is shared from time to time with Walter. I don’t think he particularly likes to sit in it but it is a deterrent to my writing when he wants to be brushed, watered or fed. And under the table, on the quirky wall is an empty antique printer’s drawer with tiny spaces for letters to typeset copy. Maybe it is the perfect writer’s wall, now that I think about it. That fat red notebook is stuffed with ideas and things I need to remember if my laptop expires as it is wont to do occasionally. The lamp is a thrift store find, the base turned out to be real pewter; it sheds good soft light. I sit facing East, a very pleasing direction for me, and the ghosts of this Southern girl- face West and gaze at the sunset every afternoon, I hope it keeps them calm and happy. I don’t need them rattling around too often. But I am not lonesome when I write:image

                                                        Walter, our Chief Feline Officer

Now, if you are not snoring or passed out from boredom– I need a favor. Part of my assignment is to ask you, the reader- for writing prompts. Did you hear that?? You are supposed to inspire me! (and you do! just need a little written prompt from you!) I will record your ideas and the inspirations in that fat red notebook – then perhaps I can pass this WordPress Course I am taking. I wouldn’t want to make the Happiness Engineers unhappy.

Seriously, post in the comment section on any media that you find this on -or go to my ‘About’ page and email me through my contact information, I’m on a time frame here- 10 days to go for this!  Your Ideas or what you most want to know about Camellia’s Cottage, as if I haven’t hung out enough family ghosts and craziness since I’ve been writing this! I also don’t want to fall victim to Great Granny Holmes’ Melancholia. I won’t send any family ghosts to haunt you, and your name will not be used unless you want me to publicize you to high heaven- And don’t ever forget this-

I love y’all, Camellia

*All of those less than perfect photographs were taken by me.