Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mosaic Monday - Amazing City, Remarkable Faces

One of our favorite places to visit is historic Savannah.  It is an amazing city, rooted deep in history but full of hope and promise of the future.  There's so much to do there, and so very much good food!  There's River Street downtown where the tug boats and barges and large cargo ships pass by on their way to the port just a bit upstream.  Horse drawn carriages, all those lovely squares and parks, especially Forsyth Park with it's beautiful fountain!

There are several great malls for shopping.  Numerous colleges and universities including the amazing SCAD, or Savannah College of Art and Design.  For outdoors enthusiasts there is fishing and biking and all kinds of paddling.  Our favorite place to stay is at Skidaway Island State Park where the campsites are large, the setting natural, and there's lots of room to walk, bike, or just sit back and relax!  There's also all kinds of places to go paddling.  We hope to go back down this spring and take our inflatable kayaks and do some paddling through the marshes and streams surrounding Skidaway.   Another great thing about Skidaway is that you take a right out of the park, stay straight for 15-20 minutes and you are in the middle of downtown Savannah!

We also love going to Tybee Island and walking on the beach.  A couple of years ago we were there on Thanksgiving afternoon, and there was a crew on the beach, huge equipment working to rebuild the beach.  Erosion and storms were washing away all of the beautiful white sand.  We stood up on the pavillion watching them push sand, lay piping and pack sand on top.  It was an amazing thing to watch!

On the way back from Savannah, yet another favorite place for ME to stop is Bonaventure Cemetery.  It's a very old, and very large cemetery set among moss draped trees, with a beautiful view of the intercoastal waterway.  Last time we were there, my sweet hubby and Mama sat in the truck and waited while I wandered and snapped pictures of some of the beautiful statues and tombstones.  The pictures below are a few of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, please stop by and check out the many other wonderful stories!

Be Joyful Always, Becky

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Few Little Gifts . . .

Early dogwood blooms - Spring 2009

Hello!  Welcome to Camellia Cottage!  It is a dark and dreary morning here in northern Georgia, raining now, but snow expected later in the day.  And I was headed down that old 'dreary' mood that usually accompanies such days, and then I caught myself and started thinking about little gifts that surround me right now!  Let me share a few with you . . .
  • Rain that we get at this time of year is essential for this summer's crops, especially things like apples and peaches, and I love me some apples and peaches!  Oh, and blueberries!  See below!
  • Yes, there is snow expected to pass through today, but they say it will go through quickly, and the roads and ground are just warm enough that it won't stick around.  So I will hopefully get to watch the snowfall without the messy problems!

    Early spring violets - Spring 2009
  • Birds.  My deck is covered with birds!  Doves, Carolina wrens, sparrows of various types, cardinals, towhees, titmice, nuthatches, even a big old red bellied woodpecker terrorizing the smaller birds on the feeder.  And finches!  Goldfinches and House finches fighting over the little thistle feeder with two perches.  Birds on my feeders make me very happy!
  • Peace.  My 'girls' haven't found it necessary to come out of their burrowed blankets yet.  Somehow these little doggies instinctively know when it's raining outside, and it is darker than usual for this time of day, so they weren't ready to get up yet when I went to the kitchen to get my wakeup glass of juice.  Hallelujah!  Because when it's raining I have to force them outside and down the steps to the yard, and force them (by my presence and urging) to go out and do their thing before I will let them come back in.  And it's chilly out there!  So I get a little break, but they will be in there whining to be let out soon enough.
  • Cobbler.  I decided this morning while laying in bed and watching the news, waiting for the weather to come on, that today I will make a blueberry cobbler from a bag of the blueberries in the freezer.  These blueberries are from my mama's bush - she keeps me in plenty of frozen blueberries!  Would you like my recipe for easy blueberry cobbler?  Hmmm, maybe!  I'll see if I can get some pics made and share it tomorrow for Tasty Thursday - since I don't have anything else planned anyway!

    White azaleas - Spring 2009
  • Enough.  Things are kind of tough around here financially right now.  But we are working on the situation and taking steps to make things better, and we can see a tiny pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel.  But we have enough, and right now . . . enough is PLENTY!
  • Each Other.  In April, my sweet hubby and I will celebrate the 27th anniversary of the day we met.  TWENTY SEVEN YEARS!!!  And I knew he was special then, but he proves to me how special he is every single day!  He works so hard to make ends meet and make sure we have what we need.  And he is my very best friend!  I don't know what I would do without him, and am so thankful to God that HE knew we needed to be together and He worked it out so we would meet.  Having this wonderful man's love and friendship in my life are such a huge gift!!!
  • Spring.  It is just around the corner!  Okay, so maybe it's not RIGHT around the corner, but it will be here, one day!

Honey Perfume Floribunda Rose - Spring, 2009

And there are many more.  Please tell me . . . "What are some of your little gifts today???"

Double Impatiens Blooms - Spring, 2009

Be joyful . . . always!  Becky

 Daddy Cardinal feeding baby - Spring, 2009

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Timely Tips on Tuesday! Topic - Reuse, Reuse, Reuse!

Now, I'm not greatly involved in the whole green movement, although I do understand it and try my best to use items that aren't harmful to our planet.  But I am a practical minded person, and I've always looked for different ways to use (or reuse) products that most people would consider trash!  Case in point, my button collection is stored mostly in glass jars from pickles, olives, jelly, etc. that would normally have been thrown away.  Another example is my little bucket that once held an oxygen based cleaner, but thanks to a hole cut in the lid, now holds polyfill stuffing and lets me keep it close at hand. 

So today I wanted to share with you three things that normally go into the trash or recycling bin, that in my home will be reused as long as they'll last!  Take a peek . . .

The tall one in center is a creamer container.  I couldn't get a decent picture of it alone, so this is what you get I'm afraid!  But this is going in the garage, and will be filled with fertilizer so I can sprinkle just as much as I need on plants.  It's got a great triangular opening that will allow me to sprinkle as much or as little as I need.

And then there are these . . .

Every once in a while my hubby will have a chocolate milk craving and go buy a couple of these full of chocolate milk to ease the craving.  I have removed the shrink wrap labels, washed them well, and made sure there is no remaining chocolate milk scent.  Because these 16 ounce bottles have such great screw on lids, these babies will be filled almost to the top with drinking water and placed in the freezer.  Then, next time we go on a picnic, I'll toss these into our softsided cooler and use them to help keep our sandwiches cool, but then we will also have clean and cold drinking water right there ready and waiting.  And I can bring them home, wash and reuse them as long as they last.  I have also filled these with lemonade before, and frozen them for a picnic, and that works well, too!  (Note:  I put bottles of water into the freezer without their lids until they are frozen solid, and then I place the lids on tightly.  This allows for movement of the ice and the air in the bottle without causing bulges or splits on the bottles.)

And of course I saved the best for last!  Take a look at the cute little round bowl in the first picture above.  It's a 'side' container from Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Hubby brought it home to me the other day after he'd been to KFC for lunch.  The picture below is the bottom of the bowl, and it tells the best part of this tale . . .

That's right!  It's reusable, microwave and top shelf dishwasher safe!  The bowl holds 1/2 cup (4 ounces) and the lid seals okay - though I wouldn't put anything too liquidy in it if it's going into a lunch bag or backpack for a child!  But if you have small ones who take a snack to school or daycare, this would be great for gummies, cheerios, goldfish, cut up veggies and the like.  Since we don't have any little ones, I'll probably use this to put some craisins and walnuts in my bag for days when I might need a snack, or may even use it for storing something in my craft room.  The options are endless!

And I have to take off my hat to KFC!  This is one great idea!

So, what great ideas have YOU found for reusing things that would normally go in the trash?  Please leave a comment and let me (and everyone else) know what your favorite reusable items are!

Be joyful always!  Becky

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Recent Memory

Can it be that it was only two weeks ago today that we woke to find this winter wonderland that is so rare here in northern Georgia?  And would you belive that after two weeks, there are still signs of the great snow of 2011 lingering in shady ditches along the roadside, and stacked up in parking lots where the snow was shoveled to make parking possible?

Two weeks ago today we woke up to snow and ice, and today I woke to temps slightly above freezing and a cloudy sky with tiny peeks of blue and a weak sun trying to push the clouds away.  What a difference two weeks makes!

I am linking up (for my very first time) to Mosaic Monday over at Little Red House.  Please pay her a visit and check out many other Mosaic Monday posts. 

Be Joyful Always, Becky

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tasty Thursday - Cottage Pie - A Recipe with a Bonus!

I know it's been a while since I posted a recipe on here, and I apologize!  The reason is that a couple of friends and I tried an experiment called Aprons Across America, and for a while I was doing all of my recipe sharing over there!  But things happen, life gets busy, and my friends and I decided to close up shop over at AAA and move on, so here I am, once again sharing recipes with you!  And today I have one of my favorite easy recipes for a one dish meal - ever!

I have been making what I called Shepherds Pie for a number of years, but it was only as I was doing my homework for this post that I found out that what I've really been making is Cottage Pie, which fits since this is Camellia Cottage anyway, right?  Shepherds Pie is a traditionally British dish made from leftover lamb and vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes.  Cottage Pie is basically any potato topped meat pie, and since I'm not using lamb, Cottage Pie it is, and I'm good with that, really!  And while I know that what I make probably bears very little resemblance to any of the more traditionally made Cottage Pies, we still love it and remains on my list of foods to make over and over again!

Camellia Cottage Pie 

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (chuck or round is best)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons vegetable oil - divided (I use canola)
  • 2-3 cups chopped aromatic veggies (I use 1 1/2 C onons, 3/4 C celery, 3/4 C bell peppers)
  • 1 can condensed Cream of Celery soup
  • beef broth or stock
  • 1 12 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (usually has green beans, lima beans, corn, carrots and peas)
  • 2 frozen deep dish pie crusts
  • assorted herbs and spices 
  • 2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes - REAL ones, not instant!!!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown ground beef in a tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Remove from pan to drain.

Add another tablespoon of oil to pan and add aromatic veggies and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium to medium high heat until the onions are just beginning to get tender, or translucent.

Add frozen mixed veggies and cook until they are thawed, stirring well to make sure the aromatics are mixed in well.

Add can of Cream of Celery soup (if you prefer, you can use Cream of Mushroom soup) and about measure some beef broth into the soup can.  Start with about 3/4 of a can, stir everything together well, and check the consistency.  It should be creamy with a little bit of soup-y-ness, but not too thin.  If necessary, add a bit more broth.

Add your seasonings!  I am listing what I typically use, but you use what you like:  3/4 to 1 teaspoon additional salt, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian herbs, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon each of Onion Powder and Garlic Powder, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (we like a tad of warmth, if you don't, leave it out), black pepper to taste.

Once all of this is mixed together well, divide mixture between the two frozen pie crusts.  Place them on cookie sheets and put into the 400 degree oven for about 15 - 20 minutes.  When the top of the pies are beginning to look a bit dried out, remove them from the oven.  Set one of the pies somewhere to cool, and then top the other with mashed potatoes. 

Before you place the potato topped pie back into the oven, wrap aluminum foil strips around the edges of the pie crust to keep them from burning!

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until bubbling and the potatoes are beginning to turn color.  Remove aluminum foil and continue baking until the crust is browned a bit.  If you want, you can sprinkle some shredded cheese of your choice over the top of the potatoes at this point. 

Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.  This is great with a side salad!

NOTE:  Now for the bonus!  This recipe makes two pies, and that is enough for 2-4 people.  So if you only need one pie for this meal, take that first pie that you put somewhere to cool, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and then aluminum foil.  Label it with name and date, and put it in the freezer!  A day or two before you want to eat it, take it out of the freezer and allow to to thaw in the fridge.  Make sure you have some leftover mashed potatoes in there, too, and then bake it as above.   Whenever I make mashed potatoes I make extras for either this pie or what Mama calls 'potato patties' or potato pancakes, so it's easy to remember as I put away the leftovers, to go get this extra pie out of the freezer!   Pie will keep in the freezer for about 3 months or more.

  • Use ground chicken or turkey, and cream of chicken soup instead of celery.
  • Use 2-3 cups of cooked, shredded chicken meat instead of ground meat.

As I said, this is one of our favorite one dish meals, and is great for those days when I'm out and about and need to come home and make a good meal.  I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and if you have any questions, please feel free to let me know! 

Be Joyful Always!  Becky

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Little Things - Straightening Up, My Craft Sewing Box, and A Project!

As I sit here typing this post, I am looking out of my office window onto what normally is an unusual sight, but is becoming more frequent . . . SNOW!  This is our second substantial snow since Christmas Day, and we rarely have one per year!  On Christmas Day we had about 5 - 6 inches, and this week we've had about 7 - 8 inches!

It snowed over night on Sunday night, iced over Monday night, and is still here on Thursday.  Hubby finally went back to work today and so I am a HAPPY girl!  Northern Georgia has pretty much been shut down by this storm, and many of the roads are still impassable.  Our low temp here this morning was around 12F, and our high today just might get to the freezing mark!  Tomorrow (Friday) may get up to 40, and then after that our temps should regulate a bit so this snow and ice can go away!  This is all very unusual for us, so many people were not prepared although they had plenty of warning if they had only watched the news!

But, because of being pretty much housebound for the last few days, I have crafted a good bit, and yesterday I finally tackled straightening up my work table and rearranging a bit.  One thing I'm loving, that was so easy to do was this . . .

The wire mesh basket holds the essentials very well!  And I don't know if you can tell, but there's a plastic mesh basket in center, a piece of oasis foam holding my Stickles upside down so they will be ready to use, and places for smaller things as well.


This is the pincushion my sweet friend, Phyllis made me for Christmas - I'm very proud of this, and it stays right here handy for me!

Stickles upside down in oasis foam - love this idea!


Here you can see what I have in the basket.  It works really well as an organizer for the things I want close at hand! 

And here is a closer up view of what is in the old Crystal oatmeal juice glass - my most used small tools!

I think I'm really going to enjoy the way I've got these things arranged.  I've also straightened up my storage a bit, and kept a couple of boxes EMPTY to put WIP's (works in progress) in when I'm not working on them. 

Another thing I've done is straighten up my "craft" sewing box, and yes, that is different from my sewing stuff!  This box is actually a plastic pencil box for children to take to school, and it has a small round compartment on top.  I've had this box for at least 10 years, and use it very often!  And I think I got my money's worth for this, because I paid about 49 cents for it!  Before I got this, I could never find needles or needle threaders, but for some reason this one 'worked'!  And I know it's not 'cute', but it's very practical and use-able, so I'm sticking with it. 


For years I've kept a denim tote bag filled with crafting things that I can grab on the run, and called it my "hospital bag".  It's where I kept bits of fabric, felt, embroidery floss, needles, thread, small scissors, etc. that I could take to work on projects when in waiting rooms or hospital rooms - usually with my dad.  This little box has been with me through a lot!  And here is a little breakdown of what I keep inside:

Bits of fabric already cut to make yoyos . . .

Yoyo 'templates' or circles cut in 3" to 6" in 1/2" increments . . .

Button and craft thread.  It's a bit heavier duty than regular thread, and works great in craft projects.  I have white, beige, brown, black, and red.  It comes in a few other colors, and I hope to get the rest of them eventually.  It is on the same racks as the regular thread in your fabric store.

Needles.  Somehow I have amassed quite a collection over the years.  Some I've bought, some have been in boxes of stuff I've bought at yard sales, and this little round red box . . .

 . . . was in the drawer of a cabinet I inherited from my paternal grandmother - Mama Cliffee.

My eyeglass repair kit!  I keep it in here because I always know where it is!

And this is what I keep in the little round compartment on top . . .

 . . . needle threaders - I've had that one on far left for at least as long as I've had the box!

And my new 'needle keep' that I just made this morning!  For years (8-10 maybe?) I've used this piece of felt, and it has worked well, but it's downright ugly! 

If you look closely you can see the marks where needles have been stuck through the felt.  I just rolled it up . . .

 and stuck a quilters pin in to keep it secured.  But to be honest, after all these years it's gotten kind of thin, so I decided it was time for something new!  Here's what I came up with . . .

It's made of a soft cream flannel with a little deeper floral print, and it ties with a cream satin ribbon.

This (above) is the back side . . .

And the one above is the inside.

When I have a good bit of thread left on a needle after a project, I wrap it around the needle so it's ready for the next time.

Here (above) you can see how the ribbon is loose on 3/4 of the flannel so when you roll up the 'keep' the ribbon doesn't roll with you!

You simply start rolling from the end . . .

and roll until you reach where the ribbon is attached . . .

And roll it the rest of the way and tie it in a bow.  Very simple, and it's only about 2 1/2" wide by about 3/4"  thick after it's rolled up.

Do you like my felt needle keep???  Want one for your own???  I'd love to make one just for you, with your initials sewn into the fabric!You can choose from these flannels . . .

The cream floral like mine, or the pink poodle . . .

or the baby blue or baby pink . . .

or the VINTAGE (at least 30 years old) pink gingham . . .

or the baby yellow . . .

or the VINTAGE (at least 30 years old) red, black and white bandana print . . .

If you would like one of your own, simply email me here and let me know which fabric you want, and what initials you want on the outside, and I'll make one for you!  The cost is $5.00 each, plus $2.00 for shipping, or a total of $7.00 total.  If you order more than one, I'll do 2 for $12 or 3 for $17 including shipping.  If you have a paypal account I will send you an invoice, but if not I will give you the address where you can send the money.  As soon as payment is received I will get to work making your very own needle keep!

Thanks so much for visiting me today!  The ground may be covered with snow and ice, but the sun is shining in my window and warming up my little studio room!  I just love these days!  Be Joyful!!!  Becky

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winners . . . and Word of the Week!

Before we get to the Word of the Week, I wanted to announce the winners of my "Little Gifts" giveaway!  There were only two entries - Val @ Life's Little Garden entered here on the blog, and I'm so excited to send the goodies pictured in the last post to Val!  We have been blogging friends for probably close to 2 years, and though we only live a couple of hours (or less) apart, have yet to meet, so I really hope she enjoys her goodies!  And my friend Sue, who entered on Facebook.  Sue and I have known each other for probably 6 months or so, and she's coming to my house for a gathering in a few weeks, so I'll save her goodies (similar to the ones in the picture) until I see her here.  Congratulations, Ladies!!!

And now, for my word of the week for January 9 - 15, 2011 . . .

With this word I'm trying to motivate myself into action!  I have a couple of friends, Sue (above) and Phyllis  for coffee, crafts and another little project that I hope to share more with about soon!  We are very excited about the possibilities; and that's all I'll say right now!  Anyway, I've got to get my house in order, cleaned, polished and shined - at least on the inside - before they come, so my word for this week, and maybe next week is determined.

If you would like to join me by choosing your own word, posting it on your blog, along with the button (right hand sidebar), please link up here, and thank you!

Be Joyful, Friends!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Signs of hope + Little Gifts = a heart filled with gratitude and joy!

Do you ever have 'those days'?  You know the ones, the days that no matter how hard you try to get down in the dumps, God just blows your socks off of you with his little gifts that fill you with joy and before you know it you are just 'whistling a happy tune'???

As I've told you before, times are tough around here, and today we had a little 'burp' in our attempts to make things better.  Nothing major, just a little blip that will eventually be worked out and we'll move on!  Well, this morning (late morning) I was on the phone with my aunt - my daddy's youngest sister who is only a few years older than I am - and we were catching up on what had been going on since we last chatted, and I turned to look out the window and there on the deck rail, not 3 feet from the window, was a gorgeous male Eastern Bluebird!!! 

Now bluebirds rarely visit my feeders, but this one was perfect and absolutely beautiful and he just sat there on the deck rail looking in the window at me for . . . ummmmm . . . probably a good 1 1/2 to 2 minutes!  And yes, he could have been seeing his own reflection in the window, but I choose to believe he was looking at me!  And seeing that little fellow, looking so healthy and happy and sitting there for so long just made me feel happier and more hopeful!  His short visit was a gift to me, and how could that NOT make you happy!  He reminded me that it's going to be okay!  We will survive and we will carry on and we WILL be just fine!

Then I noticed several pine warblers out there, fighting over my one suet cake (Reminder to self:  add suet cakes to the grocery list!)  They would fight over the 1 cake, and then one of the warblers would come over to the empty suet cake holder and look confused as to why there was no suet in there!  They are such pretty birds!  They are kind of an olive/yellow/green, and small and feisty - and I like feisty!

Watching them just made me plain happy!!!  Have I told you lately how much I enjoy 'my' birds?  They really are so much fun to watch!

Anyway, just a little while later I was on the phone with hubby and we were talking about the 'little burp' and what we were going to do about it and I looked out the window again and there was a goldfinch on the 'regular' feeder! 

(Note:  I have been trying for MONTHS to get the goldfinches to come back to my feeders, but they have been avoiding me like the plague!  I knew they were out there, because they have a unique 'chatter' and I could even talk to them in their language and they would talk back, but wouldn't come to my feeders!) 

Well, the other day the squirrels destroyed another one of my feeders - a small one that I had hanging on a hook with suction cups attached to my office window, so I brought the little finch feeder from the front yard, dumped out 'yet another' pile of un-eaten thistle seed and refilled the feeder, and hung it on the hook on the window.  That was about 4 days ago. 

But this afternoon, as I sat in here talking to hubby, I watched that little booger just land on the finch feeder and eat away!  And he came back later and brought a friend with him!  And that made me VERY happy!

So I got to thinking about all the 'little gifts' that we receive each day that we don't even acknowledge as gifts!  I mean think about it:
  • a day when the sun shines
  • a day when rain soaks the earth in a soft gentle rain
  • a day when there's not ONE bill in the mailbox
  • a day when a friend you haven't heard from in a long time calls out of the blue
  • a moment when the sunset (or sunrise) is so gorgeous that you get a lump in your throat
  • a child who out of the blue looks up and says "I love you, Mommy" (or grandma, etc.)
  • a complete stranger who holds the door for you and smiles as he/she does it
  • a complete stranger who motions for you to go ahead of him at the stop sign
and on and on and on!  There are SO VERY MANY little gifts that we don't acknowledge and accept and feel gratitude for that it makes me almost sick just thinking about it!  And I'm talking about myself here, folks!

So here's what I'm going to do!  I'm going to give a 'little gift' to one of you!  And it's really little, but I think for someone it will bring a smile to their face and maybe they can pass that smile on to someone else and who knows how far that one smile could go!

The giveaway is a set of four of my sweet valentines tags made from images of vintage valentine cards, with envelopes . . .

 . . . this cute Valentines heart pin that I made from felt, embroidery floss and a few beads . . .

. . . and a dozen #5 manilla tags for you to use in making your own projects . . .

But there is a catch!  You have to pay it forward!  That little smile you'll get as you open the envelope, you have to give that smile to someone else!  Now, you can do that by sending one of the Valentines on to a friend or relative.  Or you can do it by picking up the phone and calling a friend you haven't talked to in a while, or you can do it by making cookies and taking a plate full to a neighbor you haven't seen in or a while, or haven't even met yet!!!  It doesn't matter WHAT you do, as long as you give a 'little gift' to someone else that makes them smile!

Now, how do you win???
  1. leave me a comment  here telling me what your favorite 'little gift' has been so far this year!  (Make sure you leave me an email address or way to contact you if you win!!!)
  2. post this on your blog and then leave me another comment.  I'm going to post a button in a few minutes, so you can use that if you'd like, but you MUST leave me another comment.
  3. for my facebook friends (and no, I'm not giving the blogoverse my Facebook ID!!!) you can leave me a comment on the post about this blog post, answering this question "what has your favorite 'little gift' been so far this year?' and I'll put you in the pot of names to be drawn from.
And that is it!!!  And I will pick a winner on Saturday 1/8 and get the goodies into the mail on Monday!

So let's get going, trying to make someone smile!  It really is the little gifts that make us smile, now isn't it!!!

Be Joyful!  Becky

*  this is part of my focus for 2011 - to live life to it's fullest, be more grateful, and have a joyful heart.  Give it a try!!!