Gardenia Elixir …

Just the thought of Iconic Southern Scents and my mind drifts to sweet honeysuckle, exotic jasmine, the faint lemony magnolia and deeply fragrant gardenias. To me, Gardenias are the glamor girls of southern flowers, they don’t wear out their welcome and we remember them long after they’re gone. There may be no greater mood lifter than floating a few blooms of camellias, a big magnolia or several gardenias on water in a cut glass bowl or better yet- floating on top of the warm water of a bath, which is unbelievably soothing.

Honestly, just those thoughts can fling on me a full blown case of a Magnolia Fever. And, the cure might be as simple as a Gardenia Elixir. Southern ladies, like many other cultures tended toward using what they had to make amazing extracts for use in all manner of ways, especially when more expensive extracts weren’t readily available, much like Rose Or Orange Blossom Water. Gardenia Extract is similar to those and must be made when gardenias are in bloom. Recently my friend, Rebecca from the great state of Louisiana, posted two ways to use gardenia blooms- one is an infusion of the blooms into heavy cream for her No churn Ice Cream . Rebecca’s blog is called Why I Baked a Cake, a must read. And if you’re on Instagram- follow her making gorgeous cakes! @Whyibakedacake

Another recipe in her post, is an infusion for steeping gardenia petals in a simple syrup- which I’ve dubbed Gardenia Elixir. Here’s how you make it:

  • Mix 1 cup pure cane sugar to one cup of water in a saucepan, heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Add the petals only of 4-5 gardenias.
  • Allow to steep at least 4-5 hours (I steeped mine over night)
  • Strain flower petals. Pour into airtight containers.
  • I keep any extra elixir chilled. When used, the fragrance is amazing. And, I made several batches to offer as gifts.
  • Rebecca told me she loves Gardenia Elixir in Tea, Lemonade and her favorite is to add the elixir to Prosecco. I also love it in Limeade. I found having this unusual fragrant elixir on hand, certainly makes any occasion a very civilized event.
  • Gardenias bloom in June, the season of love. Often a suitor would give his sweetheart a corsage of gardenias. Brides have requested gardenias in their wedding bouquets, a gardenia was pinned to the pillowcase of new mother or near bedsides of infirm dowagers; and it was not uncommon for gardenias to grace blankets or wreaths of a beloved’s casket or to discover large evergreen shrubs planted in cemeteries. From the cradle to the grave, southern ladies do love their gardenias. Gardenia Elixir is just one more layer to add on the sweet gardenia’s history.
  • Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine.

    Please Excuse Our Progress…

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    We love to hear your stories and hope you will continue with the highly witty comments; of course your high praise when warranted and… In return, we will try to maintain high quality postings and avoid things, such as the questionable use of double negatives, the horror of dangling participles and the inexcusable use of ending a sentence with a preposition. Still. Occasionally we do admit to mangling the King’s English when we deem it appropriate for emphasis.

    Just know this- we are so thrilled you’re here! Thank you for stopping by, and you’re always welcome to stay awhile. Soon we will be back with more delicious recipes, a few hints and pinches and hopefully a few laughs as well!

    Love y’all, Camellia

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    Some Things Never Go Out Of Style…

    20877054-9485-4571-9E48-88F0E310F2ABSome things never go out of style. Pearls. A handwritten thank you note. A good white blouse. A bereavement casserole or a pound cake. A kind word.

    57DDD8B5-4814-47B7-8581-B0AD79AA7981A well cut suit and a decent raincoat. A genuine compliment. Well made shoes kept in good condition. Giving someone your full attention. Looking decent when you leave the house. Table manners.

    CE7D9B55-9CC0-4A59-9F6A-7FC389CEF403Good language skills, even if spoken with a slight accent might make the difference in social situations or could call into question your upbringing. My grandmother sure drove this point home! Extending common courtesies. These things never go out of style.

    I saw a disturbing headline recently that questioned whether the southern tradition of good manners is alive and well. Occasionally, I have to wonder whether that headline is true.

    AD7FC119-65A2-408F-A6D4-5D3D7FE00A6ARecently, a sweet southern lady remarked, in her best southern accent, ‘Folks just seem so impolite, why just yesterday someone in a nice car behind me, actually honked their horn! Impatient and aggressive if you ask me.’  She was rattled to say the least. Okay, the two of us are… of a certain age. Still. She had a point and a nostalgic conversation ensued about good manners and other things that never go out of style.

    CD92A979-5A2B-42CA-AC06-BE9ACA3558E3It’s important to understand that life is always better when we have at least a few genuine lifelong friends who stand by us ’til the end! So…no matter how many beauty contests you won or how high you rise on the corporate ladder- remember that you will always need friends and you will never be queen of everything! Since this is true- be the one who is willing to shine up and straighten your friends’ reputations and crowns without letting on that her tiara had slipped in the first place!

    66AB7C8C-2897-4EFA-97A2-54BDCA467411Hospitality is important to friends, family and even strangers who might stop by…always be ready to offer refreshment of some sort. Be as generous as possible- the best hosts offer abundance… it sets the guests at ease so they won’t have to worry if there will be enough. And! Be the one who offers to add to the abundance by bringing a dish or drink if you are a guest!

    18F26ABE-5E14-4D94-913E-357DF6ED18ADLearn and follow the basic rules of polite social engagements. Find out ahead of time what the occasion entails and the dress code. Always take a hostess gift, offer to help with set-up or clean up, leave at a reasonable time and don’t be the guest who wears out your welcome, then- for heaven’s sake – remember to write some sort of complimentary thank you note!



    Come down off your high horse. While you value your opinions- others have their own perspectives which may differ. Show respect. Avoid discussions that could get heated. Is whatever you think, worth expressing, if it means losing important friends and relationships?53D8E6A0-6B0B-4AAA-AA65-7B34C0525218

    And while I’m at it- limit gossip, I’m not sure it can ever be eradicated…just know when talk has gone over the edge from idle gossip to just plain meanness. No amount of saying, ‘Bless his heart.’ ‘We need to pray for her.’ Or passing unfair judgement ever made anyone look better! If you look back on your life…you might find that we are all just one bad decision away from being in the same dilemma- we’ve taken so much pleasure in passing along!706E302B-54B3-446B-ADDF-513ACF10DC2B

    Thank you for letting me preach a little here…This judgement of others would include religious beliefs that folks hold dear. My own faith is important to me- yet that doesn’t mean I have all the answers to life’s dilemmas.450D5F7F-CA36-4871-A080-8B886E1F8C85

    I recently read that a certain eastern religion believes in Smile Energy- I don’t know all of the particulars…yet I do know this- life just feels better and lighter when I smile than when I frown! Speaking of making a face… please don’t! Would you rather be known for your smile or your sour attitude? F1591DBC-BE6B-4B88-9BF6-3EC2C4B96B4E

    If you belong to an organization, participate! Be the one who offers encouragement but is also willing to gather the kindling, bring the marshmallows and light the campfire! Let the leader lead, be teachable, become part of the sisterhood or brotherhood.



    I speak from experience on this- find a group you can support wholeheartedly and the quality of your life will improve in direct proportion to your enthusiasm.  And, while I’ve been talking about things that never go out of style… offering support to others might be the one thing that never goes out of style! Support is best expressed by one of my favorite authors…

    ‘Support is a hand held when you’ve failed, a smile in the morning when you leave to face the world, a laugh shared till your sides ache and tears flow down your cheeks.’ By Mary Alice Monroe from ‘Second Star to the Right’

    A ‘hand held’ when the day hasn’t gone so well or you need support…or even as a sign of affection- costs nothing but could mean everything!

    82D70BF6-F81E-4077-B124-50C3673CC7EFThough darlin’- our southern mothers would add- ‘Limit those public shows of affection to hand holdin’ or a peck on the cheek, unless folks get the wrong idea about you, then, question your upbringing!’ Our southern mothers’ advice is another thing that never goes out of style! Oh me, how I do run on!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are from my private collection with the exception of the ‘friends’, the hospitality queens with the turkeys and the ‘ugly face’ which were found via Pinterest so long ago I haven’t been able to run down the source- if they belong to you please let me know so I can credit you properly! Thank you. * The photos I chose for this post were chosen for subject matter only. They are fine beautifully mannered folks!


    Traditional, Eccentric or Colorful…

    Southern women are traditional, eccentric or colorful creatures; sometimes we are just one or the other- a straight up Traditional, an Eccentric, or a Colorful Southern woman-though sometimes you will run across an adorable combination of two out of three… If you’re blessed above all others- you will find that exotic Southern woman who is the delightful combination of all three!

    Southern women take writing thank you notes, having impeccable manners, paying our respects and dressing appropriately seriously, with an emphasis on appropriate as in Behavior with a capital B.  The traditions of Southern Hospitality are things we won’t budge on too often. A Southern woman would have to have a very untraditional excuse to get by with it.

    However, if a Southern woman can pull off a certain flair, well we might call her colorful. She’s the one who can wear a caftan when everyone else has on a cocktail dress-  the one who can go natural and still look good; or can insert very carefully an outrageous word or two. That’s Colorful.

    My mother always said my grandmother had ‘radar’ or ESP- ‘You can’t pull anything over on Mimi, never could.’ was one way of putting it…Someone who had ESP or home cures or even weird dreams that could be interpreted and yes, could read minds- that Southern woman is Eccentric…She has her tonics, her potions, her keen mind, her Almanac and her ways. You don’t want to live your life without knowing all three types- or the combinations.

    So, let me just say, after you have passed along all of the social graces and insisted they must be followed at all costs or the dreaded label of ‘trashy’ will follow you all the days of your life…After you have done all you can do to train up a Southern daughterthen you can add this delightful rule:

    ‘Always have at least one friend who’s up for anything.’

    Right? Y’all know I’m right. I can hear the applause…

    Love y’all, Camellia

    This photo was found on am not sure of it’s origins, but I think the Cotton Candy ladies are hysterical.


    women in girdles

    There was a time when language was carefully and kindly spoken- where even women’s undergarments were called foundations. The vintage photograph shows women of all shapes and sizes beautifully.  Women who were statuesque were admired. I personally think that Margaret Mitchell contributed to this admiration when she had Scarlett say- ‘I’ll never go hungry again!’ The great equalizer after the War between the States was that all Southerners were poor. Struggling through Reconstruction, some held on to their dignity, some got just plain mean, some had never known anything else but being poor- scraping out a living from red clay soil, while the Yankees were in the process of re-building us. Scarlett O’Hara decided to work with the Carpetbaggers, Scalawags and Yankees, and like it or not- she did succeed in never being hungry again.  Southerners developed a distaste for Yankees. My grandmother said it best- ‘I know why Yankees are so harsh- they’re cold all the time and they don’t eat right’. And actually the South does have better food, that’s probably why we struggle with Obesity. I mean when you fry a whole lot of stuff like:

    •  Green Tomatoes
    • Chicken
    •  Catfish and Okra

    Well you get the picture. Fried food made inexpensive food just tastes better.

    Just when the economy was getting better- 64 years after the war had torn us apart…the Great Depression knocked a whole lot of folks back down. Many in Alabama had always been poor, now it was worse.  I recall asking my husband’s grandmother one time- ‘Is she poor?’ and she answered – ‘Oh yes honey, she’s real skinny’.  Grandmamas was a tall, statuesque woman who wore hats and probably knew a thing or two about folks going hungry. And she fed more than a few folks all the years I knew her.IMG_0531I completely adored her! Our older daughter is named for her. A big part of the foundation of her life was to make sure her table was laden with food, the extra produce was canned and preserved. And while she was a ‘true daughter’ of the confederacy- I never detected the least bit of mean-spirited nonsense in Grandmamas at all toward anyone, I never heard a slang term used by her or about anyone. I wrote in my journal- ‘When Grandmamas hugs me, it is like sinking into a feather bed.’ She was ample, she was generous, she was bighearted. She wrote me five page letters that she called ‘newspapers’, giving me all of the latest triumphs and tragedies from family, friends and community.  It is well known in the South- that

    • Pyrex dishes were filled to the brim- taken to new mothers, sick folks, church picnics and to the bereaved- why, a glass sea of Pyrex dishes could be seen anywhere you went!
    • Roasting pans produced large Hens, Roasts or Hams
    • Iron skillets put forth the sustenance of Southern Life, Fried Chicken or Cornbread
    • Canning jars not only got people through the long winter but added an extra bit of flavor with pepper sauce, jams and jellies, pickled peaches or cucumbers. These were the tools they used to sustain us throughout our lives.IMG_1393

    The foundation Grandmamas laid- of tables laden with food- was passed down to her daughters. My mother in law was known for baking a Coconut Cake for anyone who just mentioned loving her cake! She once made dozens of fried pies for the entire JSU Marching Southerners Band Dorm, when our daughters were there! That’s bighearted, abundance! The words- full-bodied, lush or abundant when applied to wines, gardens or buffet tables give the most pleasant mental images. When applied to a woman’s statuesque full figure, not as much. And that’s a shame – there are days when I would love to receive a hug that felt like I was ‘sinking into a feather bed’.  Our Grandmothers were of a genteel generous generation who spoke kindly and made sure that no one, no matter who they were- left their homes empty handed.

    Now, I’ve gotten all historical on you because it occurred to me that the Foundation of Southern Food is Big Hearted, Generous and Abundant. And while I applaud the efforts to eat healthy- we can’t deny that much of the move back to all natural fresh food– is not new- it is just newly discovered. Homegrown fresh food was all we had just a couple of generations ago- at least where I come from!

    Chicken, Casseroles, Shrimp, Grits, Cornbread and Pound Cake are all big hearted and generous- all make up the Foundation for great Southern meals. Just plain wonderful as they are- still Chicken, Shrimp, Casseroles, Grits, Cornbread and Pound Cakes accept other ingredients graciously. I’ll leave it for another day to expound on these wonderful combinations.

    Since I’m being nostalgic today-I recall when ladies and gentlemen spoke with genteel courteous language. The foundation of their lives was rich in the traditions of good manners, speaking well and good regardless of poverty or wealth.  Rough, coarse and common talk is the stuff of honky tonks. Language that separates, tears down or degrades is worthless to  society.  Perhaps we could blend diverse ingredients into polite disagreements and dignified conversations, like a good spicy Gumbo or a comforting Casserole.. I long for it truly.

    Love y’all, Camellia

    Image of vintage women in foundations- from a wonderful site- Images of chickens, casserole and shrimp are from AOL images and may be subject to copyright. Image of Grandmamas, kitchen implements, the cornbread, pound cake and grits are from our personal collection.