Patina…

Patina… that magical thing that happens with age. I find it fascinating- maybe because I have a bit of patina myself. Ok, more than a bit. Still. Patina was originally a word used for a thing that happens to copper when it’s exposed to – well, life. Gradually patina came to represent objects that had been around a while, traveled through more than one experience- looked at life’s inevitable hardships and instead of becoming bitter became more beautiful and interesting- simply because it has survived and continues to thrive.

Patina holds within it, stories we may never read- through doors that have been the silent listeners to a time we’ve never known. They may not be shiny and brand new- yet, they’ve figured out how to be old, determined and useful.

One of the things I enjoy while traveling is taking photographs of architectural elements- especially those with patina like that wrought iron fence in New Orleans (oh, how I miss that old girl this year!) Patina is a good historical teacher who isn’t the least bit hysterical- especially when it comes to aging.

Now, it’s important to me that you know- I love all of you with all of your amazing talents, yet what always surprises me are those of you, who have a bit of age on them, seem more stable, less stressed, more inspired and less complicated or competitive- more willing to try new things. The ones of you who’ve realized that the last thing you want to do- is wake up and realize you didn’t do the things you were meant to do.

If possible, age should never be the limiting factor on potential. Patina is proof of timelessness- of a life fully lived. Just know, when you see patina anywhere- even the lines on a face, a bit of exposed brick, rust or peeling paint- you’re looking at proof that getting out of your comfort zones, staying strong, rising to the challenges, weathering the storms – results in something real, valuable and beautiful. Patina. Admire it. Aspire to it. Appreciate it in yourself.

Patina is a design trick used by the finest stylists. Take a tip from them. Use items with patina for your props or backgrounds. If you’re traveling, even in your own town- try to find and photograph patina. It’s beautiful and, I think you’ll find it everywhere you look.

Love y’all, Brenda

5 Principles of Good Design…

Why is a gate standing ajar or roses along a fence so inviting? How does a change of pillows or adding a house plant lift the mood? A clean open room or a swath of colorful flowers pleases the eye. Why are we drawn in with a touch of wonder, a bit of mystery or whimsy, just from reading words upon a page? And, what is it about the morning sunlight, a cheerful window box, open shutters, finding an unexpected sculpture, even overlooking a greening field? Emotions are stirred, inspiring the click of a camera, the swath of a paintbrush, the writing of poetry.

img_4608Whether you’re writing a novel or a blog post, making a garden plan or creating a room… producing artwork, planning an event or marketing a product or service- Good design is essential. Here are my 5 Principles of Good Design:

img_49181. Structure– This sets the boundaries, writes the outline, establishes the parameters. Structure in creative design includes entryways, walls, fences and paths.  Windows, enclosures, doors even garden gates all offer a view from beyond. Structure is  the size of a canvas or even the frame of great artwork. Good placement of structure, allows for taking advantage of natural or planned views. Outbuildings, barns, sheds, greenhouses, even porches are good examples, too. Structure is very much like the plot of a story, the layout of a room, setting the stage, doing a first draft or an initial sketch- even a basic recipe. Everything depends on the planned or existing structure.

img_48652. Light and Color. Whether muted or harsh, light is an amazing tool, that’s why we have phrases like ‘… shed light on a subject.’  Words, fabrics even paints are really absorption of light. Twilight in a garden, dark passages, shady fern glades opening onto a patio’s splashing fountain, glistening droplets cool down a sunlit space. Light highlights form. Color can be compared to a main theme, prompting a response. Color draws the eye and keeps it focused. Shades of color massed together are more pleasing than bits here and there. All good storylines have a main theme, color is way to establish theme. Keeping color consistent is important, with the occasional exception of an accent color, always best when used sparingly.  Do you enjoy reading about colorful places, delightful folks or being enlightened? Remember that phrase and you’ll do alright.img_4924

3. Focal Point– a focal point draws you in. Into the garden, into a story, into a work of art. A focal point has the effect of pausing, just as a curved path slows the pace. Focal points can be compared to deciding which type of frame best suits a painting. And, a focal point is very much like punctuation, exclamation mark or even a main character. img_4855

4. Emotion. This might be the most important principle of all. How does the design make you, your reader, your audience feel? Is it the scent, is it the shape, the shadows? Is it the sense of comfort or being home? It might even make you smile or be inspired. Never underestimate the value of mystery, curiosity, serenity, anticipation or a bit of whimsy. And always leave room for serendipity. The unexpected twist. Emotion is movement, memory and motivation. Change structure, focal point even light and color and you experience new emotions. Adding whimsy to a serious garden, home or story always brings a smile.

5.  Abundance and Restraint. There is a place for both in great design. The abundance of roses, a single flower, each has a message all its own. Generally in a garden or a home- abundance is highly desirable, a huge bowl of fruit, a flower arrangement, an overflowing bread basket, a mass of single color. Often in a painting, a marketing plan,architecture even in writing – restraint is often best. Remember, if the restrained design of a room, a work of art or a garden looks easy, it’s not.  Nature teaches us the best lessons-  dew drop says something far different than a generous spray from a watering can.

Tell me your story, don’t leave anything out. Take a photograph, set the scene, put color and emotion – use restraint or abundance to its best advantage and if it’s a recipe… well, you know I want you to do everything except scratch and sniff the spices, vanilla or lemon! Spark my imagination, let me feel the emotions.  Let the colors in your art or garden lift my spirits, thrill me with color combinations, set boundaries with a fence, gate or beautiful frame.img_4471

If you design a beautiful room, add a focal point or a pleasing outdoor view, maybe a charming window box. Literally, frame the view of your amazing work of art and it actually visually expands the experience. Give me abundance or show restraint, it’s like editing– often what you take away is more important than what you leave in.  And, hey! In the South, we like a bit of whimsy, humor and often we tilt to the morbid side of things. We put our crazy eccentric sides out there and relish being different, maybe we could use a bit of restraint. Oh me, how I do run on…

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is a larger subject than one blog post can contain. Still. I think to have these principles in place builds a framework on which your creativity can thrive.

  • Build the framework with structure. 
  • Light and color are much like adjectives or spices.
  • Add a focal point as your main character.
  • Use emotion to its best advantage, this is the active part of your design.
  • Stir in restraint and abundance and you have a winning combination.

Bevy of Beauties…

 

img_3484They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark rocky hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and the red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that:

  • Stars Fell on Alabama,
  • Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’  and-
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in my Sweet Home, Alabama.

It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth. They’re like Strands of Steel woven through Lace Christening Gowns, Ruffled Petticoats and Tulle Tutus. For southern girls, there’s an immediate affinity for Sparkle, Sequins and Crowns.

Their eyes flash with fury, the art of flirting comes naturally at an amazingly early age. Charmingly, disarmingly  and alarmingly they manage to get their own way, especially with their daddies, brothers and beaus, who are more than happy to go along with it.

Some prefer devastating hats, some wear Hollywood style sunglasses all year round, some prefer to wear their crowns- All. The. Time. Others insist on over-accessorizing. We allow it, we encourage it and just between me and you? It’s easier than arguing them down.

We crown our daughters for every conceivable Fruit, Flower or Nut- not to mention Cotton, Crisco® and Congeniality! And- Bo Weevils, too. For others, the Tutus and Dance costumes aren’t  reserved just for recitals but worn everyday. Recently, I saw a tiny girl with a running suit which had wide bands of sequins down each tiny arm and each tiny leg- her mother said the child loves it so much she has to wash it while the little girl is sleeping!

img_3500It must be said, that those who are born loving sparkles often get the crown– we have spawned more than one Miss America right here in Alabama. Southern Beauties win more often than any other region of the United States!   We may be the Land of Cotton but someone somewhere has made a killing off  the 1000’s of yards of tulle for years now! Ball Gowns, Prom dresses, Homecoming Courts, Beauty Pageants, Cotillions and every conceivable holiday including Alabama’s own Mardi Gras, in Mobile, Alabama.

Even Senior Centers have beauty contests- I have warned my family if the day ever comes when they think I need to be assisted in living ( even though I’ve never won a beauty contest in my life!)  It will cost them a fortune in sequined pageant dresses alone. Why? because Southern ladies nevah evah give up hope or stop flirting for that matter!

img_3484It would be a mistake to think these beauty queens are all fluff, many go on to become-

  • Lawyers,
  • Surgeons,
  • Executives,
  • Artists,
  • Teachers,
  • Engineers
  • Rocket Scientists.

If you research the Southern Bevy of Beauties, you will find articles have been written throughout the years- all asking and trying in vain to answer the question of why Southern women are so much prettier

  • Some say it’s the extra amount of Sunshine, others say it is the Humidity that makes their Skin Glow and their Hair so Full.
  • Some say it’s the Slower Pace or the Sweet Southern drawl, or maybe it’s growing Sugar Cane.
  • Some say it’s Handed Down from Generation to Generation from folks who have stayed in one place.
  • Some say it’s Training or other less desirable reasons- which, to be honest, hurts my feelings to read such nonsense.

To pigeonhole Southern Beauties would be a mistake- some are as soft and gentle as Wood Violets, some are livin’ as large as our Magnolia Grandiflora, some cover pain and heartache like the sweet scent of Jasmine.  Some are more like creamy Gardenias, you can’t miss ’em but they’re shy and bruise easily. Others are  late bloomers like the Glory Bower. Then there are those who simply bloom at the wrong time– like Camellias, our Winter Rose. We name them for-

  •  Our indigenous flowers,
  • Our ancestors
  •  Others are so precious we’ve named them Jewel, Ruby, Opal and Pearl.
  • Then there are some who are quicker than a lightning bug can blink- so we’ve nicknamed them,  Junebugs, Skeeters and Katydids.
  • They are as sparkling as our Rivers,
  • They giggle and babble like our warm Springs
  • They are as tough and spunky as Pig Iron, yet soft as Moonlight and twinkle like Stars.

There is an intoxicating mix of culture in the South- more Flags have flown over the Deep South than any other. The spice blend of Native American, Spanish, French, British,  African, Greek, Italian, German and Caribbean have influenced the very food we eat and also contribute to our sweet and spicy Bevy of Beauties!

Most of my ancestors were of European descent, yet I have an American Indian great grandmother aptly named Bama. Whole counties, rivers and towns bear names like Choctaw, Etowah, Tuscaloosa and Cherokee. In the county where I live, the will of a Cherokee Indian Princess is on record. Of course she was a Princess! No other region of America has been so ravaged by war and gone down a trail of bitter, blood, sweat and tears like the South. We’re still struggling with the aftermath. It is undeniable that Beauty is Born out of Trouble. So, is it any wonder that our Daughters are the Queen of our Hearts and a Bevy of Beauties?

img_3274We teach them that to be well received,

  • They must have good manners, high standards,
  • Be well dressed, get good grades,
  • Have a winning smile and be good citizens.

Secretly we know that beauty and brains is a devastating combination! So, from generation to generation- we revel in their beauty but admire good posture. We remind our daughters, they are born of backbone and courage! And that my friends, is the truth of where our bevy of beauties get their real good looks!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are the personal property of the community  of Camellia’s Cottage and should not be used without permission.

* Photograph of ‘Katydid’ was taken by Hollis Ellison a wonderful photographer!

*This post was originally written in 2017, in 2018, Z Publishing awarded Bevy of Beauties…  for Emerging Writers of Alabama. This post has been edited and updated from the original. It seemed fitting to redo this post since we have been blogging 4 years this month!

*Some of the vintage beauties are from Ash-Clairma 1961, the high school annual of Ashville, Alabama where surely some of the most beautiful ladies on earth were born.

* ‘Hey Good-Lookin’ was written by Alabama’s own Hank Williams.

* Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama.

*Alabama has had three winners of the Miss America Pageant®, over 20 were runners up and countless have been finalists and special award winners, including our very funny Award Winning Author- Fanny Flag.

Happy Birthday Camellia’s Cottage!

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Well, you won’t believe this but I’ve been writing about Camellia’s Cottage for a year now! I looked at the first time I wrote y’all and …well, we stumbled and bumbled along, but managed to write over 200 letters to you- won a couple of awards, img_2305-edited

…gained a wider audience than I would have ever believed -and hope to reach even more.  I’m still excited about writing to you, with hopefully better content and better writing in the coming year; perhaps without too many danglin’ participles or obtuse grammar!  Jeremy Miniard’s photographs have made us look good when we weren’t all that good, then Sally Smith shared some of her photography too! Your comments always make my day and get me tickled, some make me laugh my sides off! The Word Press Happiness Engineers were so patient when we were getting started. Questions like- ‘Ok, now what is a widget, darlin’? You know, I’m tech challenged- really have no business trying to do this…’ were graciously answered and were a huge help for someone like me, whose hands shook every time I hit publish for months on end- the amazing ‘ edit’ feature is a treasure. I found out I really enjoy writing humor, sharing what’s growing, what we’re readin’ or where we’re goin’ , what we’re doin’ and of course describing mouth watering southern food. I continue to enjoy struggling to find a photograph to go with what I’m writing even if I have to get creative about it- here are a few early attempts- don’t you just love those sweet Easter Eggs? img_1453-editedimg_1779image

It’s always a joy to find words to describe our people, who, contrary to popular belief are not all the same. We might talk funny but even the way we drawl varies. Perhaps my deepest joy is writing a Sunday inspiration; and I completely adore showing off this beautiful state, Alabama. Some of our folks might be nutty as fruitcakes- but as Eudora Welty once put it, ‘The South takes care of our eccentrics’.  I know this to be true, the South takes care of me! I have more to tell you about how Camellia’s Cottage began, but now is the time to  celebrate! You won’t believe some of the new stuff we have in the works for you!  If you decide to hang around a while longer, invite your friends, I’d love to meet them.  In the meantime, I hope you laugh, I hope you dance, I hope life treats you kindly, I hope all your dreams are coming true… ok, I’m starting to sound like the lyrics to a country music song. Drop by Camellia’s Cottage every chance you get, linger a while -maybe sip a tall glass of sweet tea, nibble on some cheese straws, extol the value of living close to a tomato vine, chew the fat- whisper a bit of gossip and share a bit of wisdom and  inspiration…I truly look forward to visiting with all of you…

Love y’all, Camellia

visit Jeremy miniard’s work at Jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com or in our search engine- look for Porches of Alabama, Doors of Alabama, Backroads of Alabama and more!

visit Sally Smith at http://www.CampCreekCreations.com   *all of the photographs in this post are obviously mine!

Winter in the Deep South…

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After the beautiful weather we’ve had this week, it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, we had snow! That’s Winter in the Deep South for you.  The Seasons here are like a big family, we love to show off our Spring Beauties in all of their glory days, we have loads of fun with the Triplets- Lake, Bay and Gulf Coast in Summer, then we long for the weather to cool off for when the fun, colorful cousins-Fall, Foliage, Football and Holly Days arrive. But Winter in the Deep South is the fickle eccentric side of the family. Snow is like the flighty aunt who lives way up above the Mason Dixon Line, who makes sneaky calls to the weatherman sayin’ she’s coming home but changes her mind at the last minute. Aunt Snow is mostly a no-show, but when she does drift down it’s a surprise visit. She comes breezing in and before she can wear out her welcome she’s gone- leaving us to wonder when or if we’ll ever see her again. Snow is the most fickle weather condition in the Deep South. This sun-filled winter week, the flowering quince is showing out and bulbs are pushing up foliage- like when our colorful sun-loving cousins are around, quirky things happen. It’s because we’re having another weather pattern that actually does happen every Winter in the Deep South- a warm spell right in the dead of winter. We worry about the foliage and blooms- we would rather have blossoms near Easter. Old gardeners tell me that it’s actually a good thing for bulbs to put out foliage- if a killing frost comes through, the bulbs will have extra food to make it until Spring. Who knows if it’s true? Yet, somehow we do manage to have a beautiful show sometime along April or May- though I do recall one Easter when everything was just beautiful then lo and behold! Aunt Snow showed up before we had a chance to get out the bed sheets to throw over the azaleas!  We generally accept that Winter in the Deep South will be like having unexpected company, you know the type, the eccentric, unusual characters. Uncle Duncan Raines is quite a character- using colorful loud language, Uncle Dunc storms in, dropping by for a few demanding hours and then leaves you with a mess to clean up. vintage-burl-and-freesia-2

Or, the unexpected company is like Uncle Burl Frost, who always overstays his welcome. If he brings his sister with him? Let’s just say, we  nevah roll out the welcome mat when Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler drop by! Brrrr! It’s a chilling visit! Pipes rattle and freeze when they hear these two coming. Burl and Freesia are considered bonafide nuts! However, the most peculiar and eccentric of the whole Winter clan is- Uncle Gray Ova Caste. He doesn’t say much, so we don’t either. We tell ourselves that Winter’s occasional visits from Aunt Snow are fun, that Frost and Freesia kill off the bugs, we always need a Duncan Raine…it’s just the cold, gray overcast days that dampen our spirits. The doldrums set in when Uncle Gray Ova Caste settles in for a long dreary spell. They say he made his fortune in pharmaceuticals.  After one long stretch of heartbreakingly damp, overcast days, hanging heavy with fog- a friend once exclaimed, ‘If this fog would just lift!’ Uncle Gray Ova Caste is plain depressing, he shows up with heavy footsteps, damp boots and sits there looking dreary. We sit around longing for him to move along. That’s the part of Winter in the Deep South we dread the most, but then there are those clear dark starry nights when he finally drifts away. Without much warning, another warm spell will come along and lift our spirits. The Camellias will bloom, and we’ll tell ourselves that Spring in all of her glory will come by soon. I for one, am longing for it.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs of ‘Uncle Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler’ are from old family photographs belonging to Camellia’s Cottage- they were unnamed so Burl and Freesia seemed as good as any!vintage-burl-and-freesia-3

*Also, I would like to say- it’s at times like these that I truly wish I was a better writer and made better use of this beautiful language to convey what Winter is like in the Deep South, but hope you had fun with my folly and unusual cast of characters!