Mapping the Stars…

3A869F57-07D9-43FC-9044-D6F6B40D9AF8Stars… we all love them. Songs have been written… Ships have found their way.. Poems have been penned. Wise Men found a Savior. Proposals have been offered. Sacred Vows have been made. Lullabyes have been softly sung… It seems mankind has been starstruck from the cradle onward through musical scores, love songs, hymnals and anthems across life’s precious moments, star strewn sidewalks, storm tossed seas and flag draped coffins.  What is it about stars that fascinates, inspires and moves us? Pinpoints of light in the dark night sky- constellations traced with chubby fingers, comets eagerly awaited and falling stars amaze. I’ll admit it- I love the stars and do watch in awesome wonder; I like nothing better than to describe someone with starry eyes or recognize something special in a young child and say- ‘A star is born!’

7FD3AE7D-373D-44EC-B313-6AD08B43563EWhen Star Mapper and artist, Jennifer Beck, contacted Camellia’s Cottage about her amazing star maps at Modern Map Art and asked us for a review of her star strewn maps, I didn’t hesitate as I often do, since we do very few product reviews.  One look at her website’s ‘astronomical software used by a planetariums that generates the actual sky at a particular time or place’ from the past or even the future- well, I was starstruck. And it didn’t hurt that they had been on NBC’s Today Show promoting their wonderful designs! When I accessed their website, I had so much fun putting in important dates- birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and more. I thought how impressive a whole wall of family birthdays would be; I imagined a dorm room with a star map entitled ‘Reach for the Stars’ , now that would inspire a young college student! And what fun it would be to give an engaged couple a futuristic sky map of their wedding night- my imagination was in overdrive.

7FEC38F6-B6BA-4253-8B5E-D776D1173DE6Ultimately, I created a Custom Night Sky of an important date to me- and had it titled ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’.  I could have added the constellations to the night sky with their amazing software, I chose the simpler night sky. Camellia’s Cottage is mostly traditional in design, though I do like a bit of contemporary art and had been looking for something different. I was so excited at the possibilities. When the Star Map arrived a few days ago- the paper was sturdy and high quality, the lettering and design is crisp and the border is a nice touch too. I couldn’t wait to try it in a few places even before it was framed! Now, the hard part! I need to decide where my Custom Night Sky will find it’s permanent home!

I hope you will visit their website- Modern Map Art . When you get to the site- go to star maps and just have fun creating your very own star maps of important dates! They have lots of options and while ours is the largest size at 24″ x 36″ – there are lots of sizes from small to large. The prices for custom art from Modern Map Art is very reasonable and would make great gifts for your family and friends. Christmas in July may be over…still.  It’s never too early to start thinking about the holidays and all of those stars in your life!

9855BCFF-92BD-4B1E-A675-6F2DC8BE143FWe try very hard at Camellia’s Cottage to recommend only those products or services we would personally use. Modern Map Art certainly met our standards! A huge thank you to Jennifer Beck and her team at Modern Map Art for creating our special poster! And, I’ll show it to you again when I get it framed and installed.

‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ might be a big band song, though it really did happen here, and the Saturn V missile was built right here in Alabama to take folks to the moon. Alabama is where Music and Movie stars are part of our history, yet every time a baby is born- we also believe in those tiny twinkling starry miracles!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine.  The Star Map is, blush…of my wedding anniversary’s night sky. I’ll admit I have a hankering to order even more – the birthdates of my own children who’ve played a starring role in our lives and of important occasions when I might not recall the beautiful night skies! Modern Map Art is a wonderful resource for star maps, city maps, city skylines and more! The poster they provided to Camellia’s Cottage for review will have a starring role here for years to come!

Hidden Spaces…

img_2222I don’t do a lot of movie reviews, however, I hope you’ll go see the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures. One of the main characters is played by Alabama’s own Octavia Spencer. It is the story of three of the human computers and unsung heroines of NASA’s Space Program. And while it is not set in Alabama, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville was a big part of America’s Space story. Hidden Figures is one of those gaps in history, a hidden space-filled in now on the big screen with a charming cast and a disarming story every one should see at least once.  I feel blessed to have known a few hidden figures who worked for NASA in the early days; one close friend’s father worked toward sending chimps up in the fledgling project and more- and I knew a man who loved to tell the story of being on the team who designed the…uhmm, well the way the astronauts relieved themselves on long flights!  I’ve been told since childhood -as the airplane was landing in Huntsville, passenger and brilliant scientist Werner Von Braun remarked, ‘It looks like we’re landing on the moon’.  The flat red clay soil was dotted with cotton farms and not much else up at the neck and shoulders of North Alabama. Now, the largest concentration of engineers in the entire United States live in and around Huntsville. I wonder what Dr. Von Braun would think as a Saturn V Rocket pierces the blue sky marking the Space Center and home to America’s Space Camp for aspiring children, along with Redstone Arsenal, NASA, Space X, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and a multitude of engineering, aerospace, technology and scientific communities dot the landscape that he once thought looked like the moon. It’s one of those Hidden Spaces we call home.  Down in the Southeastern hip of Alabama is another Hidden Space- called Tuskegee University. The University, once called the Tuskegee Negro Normal School or Institute was founded on July 4, 1881 in a one room shanty. It’s first teacher was the pre-eminent Booker T. Washington, whose intelligence and fundraising abilities brought Tuskegee to the attention of wealthy industrialists such as Henry Ford, who made regular endowments. It could also be argued that one of America’s favorite foods originated through Tuskegee’s scientific and agricultural studies. George Washington Carver worked at the Institute with peanuts as a crop rotation to replenish soil stripped of nutrients and the result was Peanut Butter!  You may have heard that singer Lionel Ritchie’s parents were in the professional community at Tuskegee and you have surely heard of the famous World War II Tuskegee Airmen, who received their flight training there.  What you might not know is that Tuskegee is the only Historically Black College and University  (HBCU) in the United States to have an Aerospace Engineering Program. It was my honor to stay at Tuskegee for a 3 day conference right on this amazing campus- to me, it is one of those hidden spaces I had never experienced firsthand. Tuskegee University and Huntsville’s Space Center are places I hope anyone who visits Alabama would tour. The science for the space program began before I was born, but national awareness of the Russian designed Outer Space Surveillance Satellite known as Sputnik was very much a part of my early years. While we may have sat outside at night watching for Sputnik in lawn chairs, the truth is Americans were afraid. With World War II just behind us, the atom bomb had become part of the nervous system of the entire world, bomb shelters- air raid drills, getting under our desks at school, horns blaring occasionally and men wearing hard hats going off to Civil Defense Meetings kept us in a state of fear. Society was changing-the Missile Crisis in Cuba so close to our southern border states, racial tensions were running high, whole communities were grappling with fear and change, especially in my grammar school years. The shoe banging dictator of Russia, Nikita Khrushchev threatened America and were  broadcast on Huntley/Brinkley’s scary news nightly.  A young President Kennedy had announced the improbable dream of sending a man to the moon.img_2221

I brought my own history as the backdrop to the Hidden Figures’ story, which opens in 1961. It is a story that made me smile, squirm in discomfort and brought the sting of tears to my eyes more than once. This movie brought me back to a childhood fraught with fear– when national leaders were assassinated, when the whole country seemed to be going mad and when unbeknownst to me, human computers were exchanged for whole walls of metal and wire computers designed by brilliant engineers, some who worked less than 2 hours from where I sat at school desk in Birmingham, Alabama. The summer before I entered the University of Alabama, with the aid of so many hidden figures, an American Astronaut walked on the moon! Those of us who grew up in Alabama were deeply affected by this achievement. The story is told by a young man who had a summer job selling Black History books during this time frame- walked through a neighborhood where a young mother sat on her porch watching her young son play-he asked ‘What’s this little fella’s name?’ The reply- ‘His name is Lunar Module’. I suppose Lunar is in his 50’s by now…a living testimonial to the value of the NASA Space Program. Hidden Figures has been added to the American History Books, a technicolor testimonial of the immeasurable value of three brilliant mathematicians, who also happened to be astounding women of color, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Imagine, these hidden figures helped put John Glenn into orbit!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs were taken by me of the Hidden Figures posters. Hidden Figures 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award Winning Movie by Twentieth Century Fox based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly for more information on NASA visit:  and for more information on Tuskegee University visit


loud print vintage dress


It occurred to me recently that if you are not from the South, you might not understand how we talk. Words that normally have just one clear meaning for other regions- may be couched in southern code- like loud. With that one exception of our yelling at SEC football games…we teach our children to speak kindly, softly and as quiet as possible. Even if you’re driving home an important point, use non-offensive language- please.

My favorite example, when I am challenged on this point- is my friend Linda. For years, Linda was the Director of a sizeable rambunctious group of kindergarteners… when she wanted to get the attention of one, a few or the whole bunch of wild Indians; Linda would lower her voice to a whisper instead of getting louder! So, yes- Southerners use the word ‘loud’ just like the rest of the country. But there is loud like talk radio- and there is loud like a printed dress and again there is loud- like perfume-here’s how we respond:

  • Loud Talk-‘Well, bless his heart, do you think he’s deaf or does he just talk loud because he’s coarse and common, or doesn’t know better?’
  • ‘Turn that music down, it’s so loud I can’t hear myself think!’
  • If we really want to get sinister, we say- ‘You’d better quieten down, you’re talkin’ loud enough to raise the dead!’
  • Loud Style-‘Now why in the world would her momma let her go out in that loud print? As pale as she is, she just can’t stand up to it- in fact, I’m not sure I know anybody who could wear loud prints effectively.’
  •  ‘That necktie the preacher had on was so loud, you couldn’t hear a blessed word he was sayin’. Bless his heart, his wife should’ve known better than to let him go shopping by himself.’
  • ‘The black dress was fine but those hot pink earbobs and matching high heels, well, it was a cryin’ shame- it was so loud it ruined the whole look. And the nerve…the nerve of her wearing her grandmother’s pearls with that outfit! Mattie Rae would roll over in her grave, if she could see it’. *The scarier version is ‘Mattie Rae’s is twirling in her grave!
  • Loud Odors- ‘Well, I guess we’ll know for a week that she cooked collards! The smell is so loud, somebody needs to crack the windows and doors open-now.’
  • ‘Now why, would anybody order those loud oriental lilies for a funeral blanket? By the time, the funeral parlor’s shut up all night, smellin’ up to high heavens. For a solemn occasion it’s roses, those lilies are so loud they just ruin the whole effect.’
  • ‘Honestly, we couldn’t taste the food for those loud cinnamon red hot candles she had burning, right smack dab in the middle of the table!’
  •  ‘If she keeps wearing that loud perfume, she’ll be sending the wrong signals- only a gardenia bush full of blooms or a streetwalker smells that loud.’ collage of fragrances

Since fragrance is one of my specialities- Let me help you out a little bit here… I worked for some of the finest fragrance companies in the world, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, L’air du Temps, Bvlgari,Tiffany, YSL and more…  I worked for European fragrance lines, which still use real flowers and essential oils for the basis of their perfumes. Americans engineer synthetic fragrances so well you can barely tell the difference except for how it reacts on human skin.  Since I reeked of fragrance by the time I came home from work- I developed sensitivities to fragrance and hardly ever wear it except on special occasions, which I have come to believe is the appropriate use of perfume. Women no longer ‘layer’ their fragrance and shouldn’t…with powder, lotion and spray. Here is what most women want to know…how do I know which fragrance is right for me? First, my responses will be for European fragrances, the rules are unclear on synthetics.

  • First when choosing a fragrance you must understand that your nose cannot process more than 3 fragrances at a time. You can clear the nose by deeply sniffing coffee beans.
  • The best and most effective way to choose European fragrances is by your skin tone.
  • The rule is: the darker the skintone- the darker the color of the fragrance (in the bottle) you will be able to wear, without it getting too ‘loud‘.
  •  If you are very fair skinned and get ‘pink’ in the sun- go for a fragrance that is almost clear in the bottle. If you really love a fragrance that is darker than clear…do not buy perfume or parfum
  • For a lighter version of a fragrance you love, buy the eau de toilette or the even lighter cologne, each one has a descending amount of the actual perfume in it.
  • For an even lighter fragrance consider body crème, lotion or even soap.
  • The best perfumes have a top note, a middle note, this is the heart of the perfume and a base note– which has the most irritants in it.
  •  A perfume that smells good in the bottle reacts with the skin’s natural oils and will definitely smell different as body heat distributes the fragrance and causes the fragrance to bloom– or get ‘loud‘.
  • Buy the smallest version of fragrance available- European fragrances are perishable.
  • Store your fragrance in a dark cool place to extend the oils and the shelf life.
  • Speaking of shelf life- as you age, your skin is more delicate and thins out- you may need to adjust the strength of your fragrance or even consider a change. This is also true at various life stages – expectant mothers or change of life etc…
  • Know what you are allergic to! If you have seasonal allergies in the spring- florals may set you off, if you are allergic to live Christmas trees- fragrances with cedar, pine, bark or wood resins may not be for you, the same is true if you have allergies in the autumn- scents with patchouli (moss) or various leaves which we associate with fungus. Citrus scents are the least allergen producing. Allergens will usually be found in the base notes and will be listed on the box.
  • And if you cannot wear fragrance at all? One of my all time favorite scents is Jergen’s Lotion!  Just for heaven’s sake…don’t go cheap and don’t get loud!

Love y’all, Camellia

P.S. I met Oscar de la Renta once, he told me he loved Southern women because they are not afraid to be feminine! Gotta love a man like that! He walked around his mother’s garden in Santa Domingo and picked a bouquet of flowers and herbs – which became the classic Oscar de la Renta fragrance!

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 to find out how to watch…


‘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 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

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