IMG_1345We met one summer in a foreign country, a British island, at the Fairmont Princess in Hamilton, Bermuda. It was one of those enchanting chance encounters. They were waiting for their room to be ready, we were waiting for our children to come downstairs from their rooms. We struck up a conversation, their younger daughter had gone away for summer camp for the first time with their older daughter, a seasoned camper. They were from New York, we were from Alabama. We just hit it off, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We have two daughters as well. By the end of the trip, we promised to keep in touch and we did. That fall, we made plans to go to New York. We all met at Katz’ Deli and then on to Serendipity and Dylan’s Candy Bar next door. Their daughters were adorable! We became very good friends. We exchanged Christmas gifts- I sent one of my grandmother’s pound cakes, they sent a Junior’s Cheesecake- who got the best end of that deal? We did! Elizabeth participated in a charity that I am passionate about and I thoroughly loved interacting with their precious daughters, Katie and Julia. They are growing up so fast into smart, talented beautiful  young ladies. It seems as if we have known each other for a very long time. We exchanged Christmas gifts and kept in touch. Last fall, after the National Football Championship game- Richard emailed us a congratulations on the win for the University of Alabama, then sent us a photograph of the Empire State Building all lit up in red and white! Three years between visits was long enough- we made plans to go again to New York.. They juggled their schedules and surprised us by getting tickets to the Broadway play- Beautiful- the Carole King Musical.image This could not have been a better choice for the two of us. With all of the blockbuster Broadway shows right now- if we had planned it all out in advance, we might have missed one of the best shows playing on Broadway! Let me explain- Carole King’s music is our ‘era’. And since I grew up in Birmingham it was an extra treat for me! I belonged to a high school sorority, Phi Kappa Nu, from 1965-1969.

We had leadouts, another word for dances. The girls wore formal gowns, the boys wore tuxedos. I’m not sure how many sororities and fraternities were active at that time, but these organizations included young people from 5-6 Birmingham High Schools. We raised money through these leadouts. And we had live bands- not DJ’s. It is amazing to think of it now- Ike and Tina Turner, Martha and the Vandellas, Wilson Pickett, the Shirelles, the Drifters, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, even Otis Redding performed! The leadouts were held in what is now known as the Boutwell Auditorium across from Linn Park. As teenagers in turbulent Birmingham Alabama, we were selling tickets, we were having dances! We were in the midst of musicians- who would go on to become icons. We loved the sounds of Motown and black artists from other record labels. These live acts were just starting out, I guess that’s how we were able to book them. We lived and breathed those songs, we bought their records and practiced their moves. What is amazing in that point in history- during those magical nights, Alabama’s young people  were in the very best kind of harmony! What we didn’t know then was that a fantastic songwriter named Carole King along with her husband,  wrote music for some of those groups- the Shirelles and the Drifters are highlighted in the Broadway play. imageCarole King was having a troubled life of her own during those years, but somehow she made a life while she was making a living writing wonderful songs. She went on to become a fantastic performer in her own right.

In the meantime, we were able to share a ‘Beautiful‘ visit with our much loved friends.Elizabeth, Richard, Katie and Julia- thanks for the memories! I was told as a child that the city of Birmingham was laid out in similar fashion to New York City, with long avenues and  short streets or blocks, I don’t know if it is true- I do know the long and short of it is this -both cities have a big piece of my heart. I love our sweet home in Alabama but –imageI hope you will take a good look at that song list- put on some golden oldies- and on some dateless Saturday night, get your best friend to practice those routines like I did! And  if you are lucky enough to be in New York any time soon- I hope you’ll get tickets to see at least one Broadway play- I can wholeheartedly recommend ‘Beautiful- the Carole King Musical’. Oh! I’ve got more to share about our trip! Stay tuned…

Love y’all, Camellia

When the blackberries bloom…

imageThe pollen has been terrible for weeks now, I’m not complaining loudly because the foliage and flowers are beautiful this spring! But…we have been trying for months to get some ‘curb appeal’ done, including exterior painting. I hate to say this, but we have a grumpy painter. He’s always grumpy because he’s a perfectionist, and particularly grumpy when he is trying to paint outside. A few weeks ago, he threw up his hands, slapped his paintbrush down and said ‘I’ll be back when the blackberries start blooming !’ What? Yes, he assured me that old timers say- when the blackberries start blooming the pollen stops. I looked skeptical, so he challenged me- ‘If you don’t believe me, just joggle it’… again- What? ‘You know, on that computer of yours, look it up, joggle it’…oh right. Googled it. Never found it. Old wives’ tale I guess. We had some rain, a cold snap, then Blackberry Winter happened. I went outside and to my surprise, I found this blackberry blossom on Sunday.  Monday the grumpy painter called and said he was coming to paint. He wasn’t as grumpy, and he never stays grouchy very long because I cook lunch for him! Anyway, I am going to give you a sneak peak at the finish he’s been putting on our front door. I wanted a high gloss finish, the first round of painting wasn’t glossy enough.  I ‘joggled it’ and found a clear polyurethane paint to add as a final coat. The painter says we still have one more coat to go, but very soon we will show you the finished front door. imageThe paint is dry, and after that one last coat- the gloss will look clean and shiny. I think we’re going to love it. Another upgrade that was badly needed- painting the urns which stand on either side of the door. Again I ‘joggled it’… I was going to paint them and I knew exactly what I wanted to use-blackboard paint. That’s right, there is no risk using blackboard paint- it will cover everything, including exterior urns, planters and even statuary- regardless of the material- metal, wrought iron, concrete or synthetic like these urns. Blackboard paint has a matte finish that looks wonderful and the best thing is- it is so durable even in exterior applications. Well, let me show you what condition the urns were in before, and now that they’re painted.

You’ll have to wait until we get them planted up to get the full effect. This is just a sneak peak. Now, I can’t let you go without showing you what we used…imageGo ‘joggle’ it for yourself, um I mean ‘google it’ -Rustoleum Chalkboard paint. We love black- but you will be surprised at the array of colors that chalkboards can be this day and time. Meanwhile, I wish those blackberries would hurry up! Makes me hungry for a blackberry cobbler!

Love y’all, Camellia

Rust-oleum Blackboard Paint

Old Wives’ Tales

Exterior urns and statuary projects


Exterior Painting

Lookin’ for Fame?

imageIt takes a lot of nerve to start a recording studio anywhere, to open up shop in Northwest Alabama along the Tennessee River amongst 4 small towns just a few hours from Nashville; but in 1959, Rick Hall started FAME Recording Studios with his buddies who ultimately opened another hit studio called Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. ‘The Shoals’ sound is as legendary as the musicians who recorded there.

Start your your journey into the heart of the Shoals sound with a trip to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, lined with Gold Records and gawdy costumes worn by Alabama native Hank Williams, Tuskegee’s Lionel Richie, Fort Payne’s Alabama, The Commodores and Montgomery’s Nat ‘King’ Cole. Drive from there to Sheffield to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where the Swampers- the Fame’s original rhythm section  recorded with Lynard Skynard ~who can forget his hit- ‘Sweet Home Alabama’? Then there’s the Rolling Stones and Alicia Keyes just to name a few who  recorded hit music with the Swampers. Head over to Muscle Shoals to Rick Hall’s longest operating, one owner recording studio in the world, FAME Studio! Rick Hall is known as the ‘Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound’ – he recorded such great artists as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett (Mustang Sally), Otis Redding, Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers who pitched a tent in the parking lot just to be near the recording sessions before he became famous! Known as ‘that hippie in the parking lot when record companies asked about his performance with Wilson Pickett’s rendition of ‘Hey Jude’; Paul Anka, the Osmunds, Tina Turner, the Beatles, Elton John, Ronnie Milsap, BB King, Tim McGraw…. whew the list goes on, just like the Muscle Shoals beat….and if that’s not enough?

‘The Father of the Blues’, W.C. Handy was born and raised just across the river in Florence Alabama where there is a statue in his honor, a museum and library ~ every year there is a W.C. Handy Music Festival as well.

Camellia thinks I’m gettin’ longwinded, I think we’re gonna have to have a part 2 on the Shoals! So much more to see and do…but remember this- when a good many of those musicians were down and out , thinking their careers were over- they got back their nerve and went to Muscle Shoals to find Fame! Hold it down Camellia, you’re singin’ so loud I can’t think! You might want to update your playlist folks!

Love y’all, Allie Mac

*must see: PBS- Muscle Shoals Documentary ,


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

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