In Praise of Wood Violets

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I found my first wood violet with curled heart shaped leaves, a few days ago.  Some call them ‘common’ or ‘wild’ violets, a landscaper informed me once that they were invasive weeds…yet where would we be ~ as gardeners without Violet’s lovely cultivated cousins- the Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups?? I have a huge patch of white wood violets and while I believe that white is probably more rare, the deep purple ones with etched centers are my favorites. A mere snapshot cannot capture its charm.

One of the sweetest ladies I have ever known loved the color purple, my grandmother favored it too. Purple is the color of royalty. A ‘seller of purple’ is mentioned by the name of Lydia in the New Testament. Purple fabric commanded a high price, the dye most likely was extracted from purple flowers ~ knowing that, we dare not place a low value on wood violet, her ancestors may have robed Kings and Queens.

If you take wild violet flowers, brush them with egg whites and dip them in sugar- when left to dry they make the most charming decoration for cakes and petit fours. Forage for them, boil the flowers down with water ~strain and add to a simple syrup, you have the makings of a Spring Tonic which is high in vitamin C.

And there is also this… the sentimental value. The memories of southern ladies I have known who cherished violets. In season, my grandmother kept wild violets in a tiny pale pink McCoy vase beside her, she loved to pick them she said. A bouquet of wood violets will only last a few hours, in water maybe a day. So I must praise the tiny wood violet ~touched by the Hand of God~ On my woodland stroll I found a wild violet low to the ground nestled near the roots of a huge tree- she was without ambition to be seen or admired.  The lesson of the tiny purple flower is this ~we may tread on its innocent beauty and not a sound of protest will be heard ~ the priceless fragrance of the wood violet would bless the shoe instead.

Love y’all, Camellia

Perk up, Sugar…

A Spring Perk Up…

Everybody needs at least one good friend like Allie Mac. She called today and said, ‘How you holdin’ up?’  The thing is, I’ve been trying to learn how to blog, doing something called ‘wordaday’ – where the Happiness Engineers send you a word then challenge me to write something using that word. Today something new started for real. WordPress Bootcamp. That’s right. Now in addition to the daily word they sent me a new challenge. Allie Mac knew I had been struggling with basic training…I told her ~’Well, so far so good, today they want me to comment‘ …’Comment? Camellia you’ve been commenting your whole life! Sounds right down your alley.’ Well it is, but…commenting and posting a comment is a little different. So, like the good friend she is ~she said the magic words, ‘Perk up Sugar’ …

What? ‘Yes Camellia, what you need is to perk up that house for spring. You’ve let it get so messed up with papers, had those painters in and out… you’re getting up every morning, making up the bed, rolling up that hair, lining up what you’ve got to get done. You haven’t felt up to getting that house dolled up like you always do.’ A good friend perks you up!

Well Allie Mac is right. I needed to perk up the house. I love my neutrals all year round but in the winter, I neutrals it to the hilt. Shades of white, black and gray…can’t get enough of it. Now with spring busting out all over ~ the house had begun to feel a bit drab. Let me tell you what a decorator’s best friend is ~ accessories! The best and cheapest way to perk up a room is with fresh accessories- right? Best of all? I shopped my own stuff, then added a few things. On the lower right is my living room in winter clothes, on the lower  left is my den also in winter….both rooms have slipcovered sofas in white duck, both have black floors, sisal rugs and mostly gray accessories. At the top of the page, you can see the change out of fresh green pillows, plants or accessories the rooms have definitely been perked up! Now it’s your turn!

Love y’all, Camellia

The First Day of Spring…

Outside my window the first day of Spring dawned chilly and bright…

The dogwood is getting dressed for Easter, she’s wearing pale green with white eyelet. Out another window, the azaleas have decided to wear pink lace, the bridal wreath spirea has decided to wear white dotted swiss and me? Well I haven’t decided between red or pink…that pink sure is pretty…

Love y’all, Camellia

Life’s unexpected gifts

This orchid is one of those unexpected gifts. I love orchids and consider them valuable and economical house plants. If you buy one when it is in ‘bud’ the foliage is pretty and the flowers may last a good six weeks as they unfold. Their needs are few considering how much pleasure they bring. 2016-03-10 15.45.24But the one thing I have never been able to do is get an orchid to re-bloom, oh I know some who get theirs to re-bloom and to be honest I’ve just told myself ‘you can’t do that’, ‘don’t fight it, just accept it’. ‘Go ahead and buy orchids, enjoy them, enjoy the foliage for a while and discard’. And that’s what I always did, until I needed a filler in my little tabletop greenhouse. So in this spent orchid went.2015-06-17 20.15.34Do you see it there? It had been there a year, a whole year, when this photograph was taken late last summer! And there it stayed, basically a place keeper in the little greenhouse. Well, in January of this year, I was sitting on the sofa beside this table and for some reason I peered inside and it looked like something was going on…what was that?

Can you see it? (Ignore the plastic redbird, that was meant to be edited out!) But look at the stem! Do you see it, the slight swelling on the stem?2016-01-18 15.32.55Okay, I took the weird orchid out, put it in a container and began to water it ~ thinking this could not be, this should not be happening, I have never, ever had an orchid re-bloom! I believed that the stem would wither and probably go the way of all orchids in my care. But not so, by February….2016-03-03 09.32.33I was totally enchanted, the dance of life- the unexpected gifts! The opening photograph of this orchid is proof that occasionally life will surprise you, prove you wrong, delight you in ways you never expected. Have I mentioned I love Spring? When daffodil bulbs push up so bravely, when buds on camellias swell without a quiver against the cold winter air, when peonies emerge in tightly wound burgundy shoots and soft delicate lamb’s ears and the pale iris leaves come around ever so softly, I am reminded of the old gardeners who shared bulbs, cuttings, perennials that needed thinning out ~ most of those gardeners have long since died ~ but because of them, every single Spring, I believe in the Resurrection all over again! Those things which we think have died and we no longer see are under cover, putting down roots, gathering strength, doing work we know nothing about. Oh we may know the botany of it, but we don’t know the delightful mystery. As we begin this Easter Season may we allow Spring to be our beautiful reminder of Life’s Sweetest Gift, the Resurrection of our Savior.

Love y’all, Camellia

The Southern Pantry

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Spring Green for the Southern Pantry!
There’s nothing like a few good things to add to the pantry, here are 4 I really love to have on hand ~ hot pepper jelly, mint sugar syrup, pickled peppers and lime zest sugar.
Hot pepper jelly can be made or purchased and I always have it on hand, last year when we were at the Guenther House in San Antonio, the home of Pioneer Baking Company, pepper jelly was served with everything from hot biscuits to waffles. I love it on top of spring greens, when stirred into a salad dressing, a dollop on top of hot buttered cornbread is out of this world and recently I topped a meatloaf with it. Try it you’ll love it and want to keep it on your shelf year round. The next item is also used all year round, mint sugar syrup- yes, you read that right! My grandmother loved to grow mint and she also was the only one in my family who regularly served mint iced tea, one of the most refreshing drinks of summer. Mint tea is also good hot and some of this simple sugar added to taste in a cup of peppermint tea, you’ll sleep like a baby! Mimi might not have known what detox-ing was but she sure did know a thing about spring tonics! Mint tea. Add fresh mint when you’re making a simple syrup, then spoon it in to taste, add a squeeze of lime juice, a sprig or two of fresh mint and you’ll have a spring in your step! Speaking of lime, take a cup of sugar, add the zest of several limes to the sugar, the sugar will dry out the zest and you have lime sugar; with this in the pantry you will have a treasure welcome in any southern pantry! I love homemade flavored salts and sugars, all year round~ anytime you think of it, zest a lemon and add to salt, terrific finishing for asparagus or a warm fresh spinach salad. Just zest limes when you have them, add them to sugar and sprinkle over fresh hot shortbread cookies or stir into a homemade graham cracker crust for key lime pie or mix the lemon salt and lime sugar together in equal parts to rim glasses for lemonade or limeade so festive and refreshing anytime. Another favorite is ‘vanilla sugar’ ~ take vanilla beans ~I use the hulls of them~ cut them or leave whole and add to a cup or two of sugar ~ let all the sugars and salts sit a bit before using, especially vanilla sugar. When if you have fresh made biscuits or even leftovers ~top with melted butter, sprinkle vanilla sugar on top, run them back in the oven until warmed ~ split, add sweetened strawberries and whipped cream, that vanilla sugar adds a little extra something ~ yum! Finally on my shelf for the southern pantry is a jar of pepper sauce, it is used in and on all types of foods but one of my favorites is to add a little of the liquid to homemade pimento cheese ~ adds a zip you can’t get any other way! Fashion may change but these four things never go out of style! If you have them on hand you can make any meal sing!
Love y’all Camellia