Sorbet a Go Go

March 17th, 2017

Isn’t this a fabulous time of year?!  St. Paddy’s Day and Cinco de Mayo right around the corner and Easter (my very favorite) and summer soon after.  All come with their own flavors: mint, chocolate, cinnamon and candy, candy, candy.  Here is the perfect dessert to be tweaked for all those times.  You can’t get much easier.  We have all bought those ice cream makers, right?  We’ve had this discussion before!

The basic recipe is for a chocolate sorbet.  You can serve this little treasure to your lactose intolerant or vegan friends. We are all used to fruit sorbets, which traditionally don’t include dairy products, as opposed to sherbets, ice creams, frozen custards, gelatos.  But I digress.

Chocolate Sorbet

2 cups water

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 ½ ounces semisweet chocolate (at least 62 percent)

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat slowly till combined and chocolate is melted. Freeze overnight, then process in your ice cream maker.

Easy, peasy, right?! Sometimes I replace the water with 2 cups of brewed coffee and let it chill with part of a cinnamon stick.  Very Mexican, perfect for Cinco de Mayo or just call it Cappucino sorbet.  Sometimes I add a bit of peppermint extract to the basic formula and serve it with a candy cane.  Very Christmas-y, but very refreshing in the summer as well.  The texture is very light and slightly icey.  I had one guest liken it to frozen hot chocolate.

Straight or gussied up, this sorbet will quickly become a fave.  It’s easy enough to have in your freezer always, whether for unexpected company or your own Midnight snack!

Wilmington Obscura

January 24th, 2017

Wilmington, NC certainly has its charms, both natural and humanly created. While most folks are familiar with the area’s beautiful beaches, Battleship North Carolina, Airlie Gardens and the downtown Riverwalk, there are many other secret treasures to be explored. Some are within walking distance of Camellia Cottage Bed & Breakfast, some just a short drive away. We have been happily discovering some fun, off- the- beaten path sites for our guests to enjoy. Here is a sampling of some of our favorites.
1. Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden – Located off of Independence Drive, near the Independence Mall and behind Alderman Elementary School, this idyllic spot has a vast array of pitcher plants, Venus Flytraps and Sundews. There is a very nice wooden walkway so you can meander without getting your feet muddy if you choose. Spring is the time to catch things flowering, beautiful photographic opportunities, dog-friendly.
2. The Blind Elephant – There’s a narrow alley on Front St. between Port City Java and Front St. Brewery. Here is where you’ll find The Blind Elephant, a speak-easy styled establishment with a secret password and everything. Known for its exotic cocktails (a bourbon-lovers dream) and friendly professional staff, this is the place to enjoy some jazz in a quiet setting. www.blindelephantspeakeasy.com.
3. Abbey Nature Preserve – Before or after you’ve enjoyed your tour of Poplar Grove Plantation, stretch your legs at Abbey Nature Preserve right next door. It is a 2-mile looped trail with a small lake and old millhouse. Dog-friendly.
4. Expo 216 – New to the downtown scene, this free-to -the -public museum/gallery is wonderful! The owners choose a topic of interest to them and fill this two-story space with different approaches. The current focus is “Plastics in the Ocean” and features explorations from the scientific to the arts to fashion. Fascinating to adults as well as kids. www.expo216.com.
5. Our own backyard – The gravestone of one J.B. MacM., 1848-1896 has a place of honor in the southwest corner of our garden. Family members can’t quite figure out who it is or why the name isn’t spelled out completely. Dog-friendly.

Fruit of the Season

November 22nd, 2016

Cranberries are the official fruit of the Camellia Cottage Holiday Season, and rightfully so. First, they’re a beautiful red color.  Secondly and thirdly, they are abundant in the winter and a tart foil to all the sweet goodies our tables get laden with.  Most of us enjoy them starting on Thanksgiving, in a relish.

While most relishes are cooked, you can also mix raw cranberries with a chopped-up orange (peel and all), some chopped fresh pineapple and sugar to taste. Put the mix in your food processor and process till coarsely ground.  Refrigerate until cold and serve with your turkey dinner.  If you puree the mix instead, you can chill it and then run it in your ice cream maker for a dreamy, creamy cranberry pineapple sorbet.  Easy peasy.

One of my favorite ways to use this fabulous fruit is to make a chutney.  It is both sweet and tart and perfect spooned over cream cheese or goat cheese on crackers. This recipe makes a lot, so you can have some for yourself and put the rest in pretty, little jars to give as gifts.  In the Spring, use rhubarb instead and you’ve got instant appetizers all year round!  It keeps in the fridge pretty much forever.

Cranberry Chutney

1 lb. fresh cranberries

1 1/2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup raisins

4 cups light brown sugar

2 cups cider vinegar

1 Tb. Salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

Pinch cayenne pepper

Put all the ingredients in a large pot.  Stir over low heat with a wooden spoon, till sugar has completely dissolved.  Bring to a boil, then simmer till thickened, about 2 hours. Stir frequently.

 

 

 

 

Innkeeper in the Sky

October 19th, 2016

When you own your own business, you have to wear a lot of hats. In our case, there are financial records to be maintained, budgets to be created, decorating to be done, cooking and baking, PR, housecleaning, garden maintenance and figuring out the latest and greatest social media outlet.  It helps to have partners who are more comfortable thinking with the opposite side of the brain than you do.  In our case, Steven tends to be the logical thinker, the spreadsheet guy, the home maintenance schedule maker, the bush pruner, plumber, electrician, bed-maker.  Paula is the cook, baker, veggie grower, shopper, flower arranger and credit card runner.  After doing this for 20 years together, we have learned some of each other’s natural skills.   However, Steven will still not bake cookies and Paula will still not balance the checkbook.  These are both for the best.

For the past 13 years we have had a very special third partner.   Our dog, Sparky, was “Director of Guest Relations”.  His duties consisted of silently greeting guests at the front door, when he could still hear the doorbell, letting people pet him if they had had a stressful trip and resting under the dining room table during breakfast to protect guest’s feet from harm, no dropped food required.  He excelled at all of these tasks, especially the whole getting pet part.  Oh, the sacrifices he made!  Sparky welcomed strange dogs into his home on a daily basis.  He shared his dining room bed, his garden and his people.  He was the consummate innkeeper.

We lost our beloved Sparky on Oct. 7 to old age.  He was 15 ½ and, while his heart was still good and strong, the rest of his body got tired.  We’d like to thank all our guests who have expressed their sympathies and memories of him.  Steven and I will try to emulate his generosity of spirit and peace-loving nature.

We look forward to meeting new guests and some new doggies.  Sparky’s spirit will be snoozing under the dining room table.

A Kinder, Gentler Laundry

September 7th, 2016

Laundry is a part of life for most people, but a way of life for innkeepers.  If you are not big enough to warrant employing a housekeeper or using a pick-up and delivery service, you are changing out loads while washing floors, cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming.  Who said this wasn’t a glamorous career path?!

If you have been to the laundry products aisle in your local supermarket lately, you will have seen a dizzying array of boxes, bottles, sprays, powders, liquids, “balls”, “pods” and gels.  There is scented; mountain fresh, crisp linen, clean rain, etc.  Just a matter of time before you can choose Chanel #5 or bacon scented.  The more “natural” products can be unscented, fit for sensitive skin or dye-free.  Then you have fabric softeners, stain removers, pre-washes, pre-pre-washes and static cling taker-outers.  But those inventions can be for a blog of a different day.

One of our many creative, resourceful and generous guests here at Camellia Cottage Bed & Breakfast recently shared his recipe for home-made laundry detergent.  It can be a little time consuming, but you can be putting it together while binge-watching Downton Abbey.  The best part is you use 1 tablespoon per wash load and it is ridiculously cheap!  Seriously, I tried it.  It works.  Even if you don’t make enough to keep up with your regular household laundry, it’s perfect to take in a container when you go on a trip.  All of the ingredients are located in the same supermarket aisle as all that blue stuff.

Give it a try!

LAUNDRY DETERGENT

1 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated on a box grater

½ cup 20 Mule Team Borax

½ cup Washing Soda

Stir together and store.  Wetting a bar of Fels Naptha and rubbing it on a stain works great.  Adding ¼ cup Borax and cutting your regular laundry detergent by ¼ cup is much gentler on your clothes.

Summer Comfort

July 13th, 2016

Here is a cool, refreshing treat to reward yourself with after mowing the lawn or slaving over a hot grill.  Besides being incredibly tasty, it is also ridiculously easy to make.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour into a shallow pan and run a fork through as the edges freeze.  Here at Camellia Cottage, where we are fans of all things coconut, this is a favorite dessert at breakfast.

Coconut Lime Sorbet

1 can Coco Lopez

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup lime juice

Stir all ingredients together and chill overnight.  Process in an ice-cream maker till sherbet consistency.

Blogs and Googles

June 14th, 2016

Do you know why so many web sites like ours at the Camellia Cottage Bed & Breakfast in wonderful Wilmington NC have blogs? Is it because we at Wilmington’s Camellia Cottage Bed & Breakfast have a burning need to share our thoughts with the rest of the world? Is it the need for Wilmington NC bed & breakfasts to feel more connected to the rest of cyberspace? Do we share absolutely critical information about Wilmington bed & breakfasts that the world needs to have right now? Do we Camellia Cottage innkeepers need to have a regular catharsis in the ether? Of course not!

The more times we put the words Camellia Cottage, Wilmington NC and bed & breakfast near each other on a web page, the more relevant the Google search algorithms think our web site is to your search. So, after you are done reading this fabulous blog, try Googling Wilmington NC bed and breakfast and see if Camellia Cottage pops up near the top. If not, I’ll have to post another blog similar to this one.

The Whether Channel

February 25th, 2016

Meteorology is a science, just like anatomy, physics or astronomy. There are highly sophisticated equipment and highly educated people involved in predicting the weather. The watching of these professionals has become something of a national pastime. Indeed, there is an entire television network devoted to tracking, explaining and predicting weather patterns and events. Certain announcers and reporters on this network have become stars in their own right. You see them, wearing high-end rain gear standing in a tropical storm with palm trees bending over at 90 degree angles. Or wearing high-end polar parkas standing in a blinding snowstorm with the background whited out by the blizzard. Or wearing high-end safari gear standing up to their knees in a dusty gully with sand blowing, obliterating the sun.

Who are these heroes who risk life and limb to let us know what’s going on outside? What brave souls expose themselves to fire, torrential rains, ferocious winds and all kinds of dangerous phenomena just so we can call in to work and go back to bed! And why is it that when we look out our own window, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and we know we have to get dressed and trudge off to work? Could all their Dopplers, computers, charts and graphs have been wrong? Can those masses of pretty colors on their maps be from their kid’s finger-painting class and not mean the end of civilization as we know it? Are flying frogs really coming?!

Okay, I exaggerate. But when someone calls Camellia Cottage and wants to know our cancellation policy because they see that a storm is forming over the coast of Africa, we have to wonder about the power of entertainment in science. We are located in North Carolina, a long way from Africa, and you can call us to check on local weather conditions anytime. If we’re evacuated (and it has never happened!), you’re welcome to come with us. And, by the way, our cancellation policy is one week.

Beat the Winter Blahs

February 21st, 2016

It’s late winter and some of us have the blues…
So hop in the car toward Wilmington and choose
To stay a couple nights at Camellia Cottage B&B.
Unwind, relax and set yourself free!

Make some magic in front of the fireplace in your room
Or wander the garden with many colors of camellia in bloom.
Head to the beach which you’ll have all to yourself
Or hang out on our porch, a vacation unto itself!

Local breweries and bottle shops are sprouting east and west
You need to sample each to determine which is best.
With Ironclad, Fly Trap, Water Line and Front Street
The Wilmington beer scene can’t be beat!

The Cape Fear cultural community continues to thrive
Our art galleries, music venues and theatre make it worth the drive.
For movie aficionados, there is Cinematique at Thalian Hall
Sure beats the standard movie fare at the mall!

Check out the Camellia Cottage Calendar of Events
Then reserve the dates that make the most sense.
Here’s an incentive to ease your plight—
Stay 2 nights Sun-Thurs through March and it’s ½ off the 2nd night!

A Food for All Seasons

February 6th, 2016

Here we are, just before Super Bowl, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter and…. SPRING!!!!!! It is a time for reflection and celebration, moderation and indulgence, letting go and moving forward. It is a time for substantial hors ‘doeurves, beignets, King’s cake, jelly bellies and beautiful simple seafood. The Spring garden is perfect for blending together all these apparent contradictions. Greens and radishes are abundant now and can be the basis for a simple and cleansing meal or jazzed up to be something more lavish. This is a dish that is equally festive for breakfast or dinner or can even be used as an appetizer for your Super Bowl Party.

Greens and Bacon Tart
6 slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 to 2 pounds spinach, kale, collards or combo
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dillweed
2 eggs
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 pound puff pastry dough
2 tablespoons melted butter
Saute bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until golden.
Combine greens, onion, sour cream, dillweed and eggs in processor or blender and puree. Transfer to bowl and stir in bacon and feta cheese.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease 8-inch round baking dish. Divide puff pastry into 4 equal parts and roll each into 8 inch round. Reserve pastry scraps. Set 1 pastry round in bottom of prepared dish. Brush with some of melted butter. Top with another pastry round. Spread greens mixture to within 1 inch of edges on all sides. Paint pastry rim with water. Top with another pastry round, brush with butter and add final pastry layer. Press edges of pastry together. Roll out pastry scraps and cut into decorations. Brush with melted butter and bake until golden, about 45 to 50 minutes.