Cozy Cottages & Happy Homes

Cottage Charm, Coastal Calm

David Barwick

Cottage Cheese: My Own Private Paranormal

Friday again…wonder what Cottage Cheese has for us this week!

I often wonder…does everybody, from time to time, hear the theme from The Twilight Zone in their heads, or just me? We won’t go into everything I “hear”, but just suffice it to say I primarily travel alone with anywhere from one to three of my dogs, depending on whether any or all of them have recently been visited by SATAN!  This way the only arguments I generally referee or participate in are between the dogs (until they settle in for the trip) and those with myself.  I can be so mean to me, sometimes. and the name calling! Let’s just say, sometimes it’s days before I speak to myself again… until I get a sincere apology.
     When I’m by myself, I can conjure up the most beautiful images of living in a large, stately coastal home. Raised up above other mere mortals, from whence I can conduct my audiences on the veranda. Rarely, descending down the ivory steps to mingle with the masses. But, when I’m travelling with my three Children of the Corn  canines I just say the heck with it! I opt for a ground floor, one story dwelling with a fenced yard where I can let them out just by opening the back door.  Schlepping up and down stairs is way overated.  Phooey on playing Rapunzel, high up in the tower.
     Thus began a recent adventure to Tybee Island, where I became charmed and enthralled with my vintage cottage, Flip Flop.  One story? Check. White picket fenced yard?  Check.  Back door access to the huge yard? Check.  Warm, breezy, soothing Tybee weather? Check!  Just turn off the AC, open the doors, and breathe. Ohmmm.  Peace be still.

     
     Flip Flop is one of the many wonderful getaways you can reserve through Mermaid Cottages on Tybee Island.  Its curb appeal draws you into the 50s world of clean, tree lined streets, where everyone throws up their hand to wave and say hi as they pass by.  At first glance, one would think it’s just a quaint little house. But, once inside, the rooms open up into spacious views all the way through the home, punctuated with cheerful, island colors, fixtures, and textures…so homey and welcoming.  Every bedroom beckoning you to plop right down, kick your shoes off, and smell the sunshine and the fresh linens.

     It even has a separate wing with a laundry room by the back door and an adjacent bedroom flanked by the same type of twin beds I used to have in my childhood bedroom.  The temple of my familiar. I could see it from the hallway as I peeked out from the doorway and stepped down into the laundry room. There would begin my adventure into the netherword from whence voices called to me from beyond the realm of this dimension called Earth.

“What is your command?”  A monotone female announced from within the walls as soon  as I stepped down. Now, I already told ya’ll I was travelling alone.  Like most pet owners, I think my dogs are the smartest and brightest dogs on the planet…when they’re not possessed by the devil.  However, even I know they can’t talk. Imagine my surprise to then hear, “To whom do you wish to speak?”
     Now, don’t even begin to try and tell me it must have been the TV.  The TV was on.  I know it was on…it was a James Bond marathon weekend.  For me, watching James Bond is like eating pizza.  When it’s good it’s real good and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Slowly, I turned. Step by step. Inch by inch. Then, I got my wits about me and decided to step down into the laundry room again.

     “Waiting for your command, “came the stilted female voice again.  Funny how it filled the small area of the laundry room.  Funny how it seemed to be coming right through the walls. Now, just like in movies, right before Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger gets somebody, why doesn’t that person heed the warnings and leave?  If a person hears something out of the ordinary shouldn’t they high tail it out instead of standing there waiting for a machete to cut an arm or a leg off and send blood spurting all over the screen?  And, if I hear a woman talking to me every time I step down into the laundry room shouldn’t I interpret that as “GET OUT!” and vacate the premises? Ya’ll just don’t appreciate how much I’ll put up with when I can let my dogs out directly into a  fenced yard without so much as clipping on their leashes. “Who dat?  Anybody in here that ought not be?  Go ‘way, now. SHOO!”, I said.
     So, for the next few days we struck an uneasy alliance.  As much as I was skeered to find out who was talking to me, I was also determined to use that back door to let my dogs in and out.  Every time I stepped down into the laundry room to open that back door, that heifer was asking me to whom I wished to contact.  I didn’t engage her in conversation one bit. She might have been a portal into heaven, but it would be just my luck that she could be a private line directly into where the devil lives. I wasn’t biting.  She’d talk and I’d listen, but never respond.

     I even offered up to the folks at Mermaid Cottages, “Flip Flop is a vortex over the entrance to HELL”, but they just stared, shook their heads and mumbled, “Pitiful…pitiful.”  Seems there was one other time that I had made the same declaration about another cottage a few years back.  I once witnessed the toilet as it flushed itself counter clockwise.  It was The Exorcist on Tybee. How was I supposed to know that any old yahoo could go into a home supply store and buy a counter clockwise flushing toilet?  It just ain’t natural! The next day, I went with a friend into Savannah and we met up with yet another friend to share lunch. I made myself comfortable at the table and crossed my legs. I’m 6’4″ and my legs have to go somewhere, so I usually wad them up under me.  Especially after another unfortunate incident, where I let them wander in the aisle once where the waiter found them. He tripped and sailed across the room, dishes and glassware flying about, food and drink splattering a nearby table. As I crossed my legs that siren of a voice bellowed, “To Whom Do You Wish To Speak!”

     Egads!  The portal to Hell was widening and now covered a section of Savannah! Just then a cell phone peaked from my pocket.  The screen was lit.  That sucker was on! Again, she said, “Waiting for your command…”
     Who in this world had recently hooked me up with a cell phone that has a voice activation feature?  Why in the world would anybody do such a thing? My dining buddy was Diane Kaufman, Head Mermaid at Mermaid Cottages! When I came on the island she had given me one of her Guest Services phones, so I could interview other guests on Tybee about their experiences. She was doubled over with laughter.  I had been carrying that extra phone in my pocket amongst all the other crap I had in there.  Each time I stepped down at the cottage or crossed my legs my keys had activated the voice command on the phone! 
     I was now 0 for 2 on the Ghost Hunt!  Can you spell L-O-S-E-R? All was not lost, though. You see, Diane had treated me to lunch at Back In The Day Bakery. I had the Soppresata Sandwich with fontina cheese, olive oil, and roasted peppers. I topped that off with their world famous banana pudding. It was a culimary experience that was out of this world!

I had, afterall, my very own private paranormal experience… and it was ethereal. Actually, other worldly and beyond belief fantastic! It was food prepared by the happy, loving, accomplished, soon-to-be published owners, chefs, and staff at Back In The Day Bakery.

It’s about keeping your wits about you, and allowing for things you cannot explain.  It’s about owning the reputation you make for yourself.  It’s about knowing that something good always happens to those who look for it.  It’s Cottage Cheese!

Cottage Cheese: Have Mercy!

It’s Friday and time to welcome back Cottage Cheese!

Ya’ll know how sometimes, you get the feeling that you ought to be living a cleaner life and stop some of your bad habits?

Now, I never have been one to spew profanity at the drop of the hat, but from time to time some things either hurt so bad (or feel so good!) I can’t quite express myself adequately.  Therefore, I do sort of pull a few choice words out of somewhere and let ’em fly as befits the occasion…that is, until this year.

I have been trying to improve my vocabulary and learn at least one new word each day.  I do at least one crossword puzzle a day, and sometimes two.   I even practice my new words on my friends and family from time to time. Of course, they are rarely impressed.  I get a lot of, “Why don’t you just say what the H-E-Double-Hockey Sticks (I’m paraphrasing here, of course) you mean without all those forty dollar words that nobody else knows?”

So, I finally just started using words and sayings I’ve amassed through my many years as a Southern Baptist.  Classics like “Lord Have Mercy!”, “Dear Lord, Jesus, Be My Guide”, “Well, I Suwanee”, “Hallelujah”, Bless you, honey child”, and other assorted phrases. All of which I remember from my Sunday school lessons and conversations with my mother and grandmother.  Now, I’m not promoting any one religion.   You just think of your own religious sayings and insert them where you once might have used cuss words.  For those really painful moments, such as when I hit my thumb or stump my toe, I have been know to sing out, “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam!”

So, that’s how I’ve been trying to improve my self image and also earn a few brownie points. You know, should somebody try to get a load up to go to heaven any time soon.  I’m just saying…like most people I’ve got enough ‘splaining to do when I get there. Plus, it never hurts to get a few extra ticks under the I Been A Good Boy column.

For instance, on a recent trip to Tybee Island I had a truly religious experience.  Now, ya’ll know by now I’m referring to eating and sleeping. Or sleeping and eating, which ever you prefer.  There’s no need to lie…I’m in midst of a full conversion.  Lead me gently home, Father!

This trip, I got to stay up at the big house, Shore Leave Cottage.  It sits right on Butler Avenue, the main drag, so people watching and hot car ogling is at it’s best.

Of course, if anything, I’m reliable.  I’m always gonna run around my beach house like a kid in a candy store and start dreaming about the fun I’m gonna have…sort of like the way I used to wear out the Sears Christmas Catalog every year before Christmas.

Lordy me!  I’m gonna go swimming in that huge garden tub and turn on those jets to massage me! And then, lay around on that huge upper porch that soars out over the main street and check out the comings and goings of those sporting around below.
But…first things first.  Unload the car. Get the dogs a chew toy.  But most important…run off to find some good eatin’! And, boy howdy, did I find some!

Right there, at that big right hand curve where Highway 80 turns into Butler Avenue, is MacElwees Seafood House.  I quickly learned MacElwees is one of the best places on the island for fresh seafood, right from the Tybee waters.  The owners and staff are a very friendly bunch and they love serving folks who like to eat.You can’t go wrong with the fresh made crabby dip and raw oysters to start, but let me tell you about the Low Country Stir Fry!

It’s a huge mounding of fresh seafood in a spicy coastal sauce, sprawled on top of a bed of collard greens that also sits on a bed of red rice.  Have Mercy!  Ya’ll thought I was gonna say a bad word. Help me, Jesus! It was a powerful plate of my favorite foods and it was more than enough for two of us to eat.  What? I’m selfish and pitiful, for sure, but I have been known to share.  It’s the Christian thing to do. And, I had good reason to save room for what was to come. Dear Lord Jesus! Sanctified and holy!  Deliver me from my sins…Fried Strawberries!

I am not kidding you.  These are fresh, giant strawberries.  They’re fried in pancake batter.  They’re rolled hot in sugar.  Then, they plop a gracious helping of homemade whipped cream on ’em to cut the sweet. Insert colorful phrase of choice here, let me let ya!

Now, what do ya’ll think I did?  You are right as rain…I ate them and licked my lips and fingers to beat the band.  There goes that heavenly choir singing again.  I have been moved! I would trade every friend I have in the world for these Fried Strawberries.  Okay…for those of you who know the company I keep I admit that I’d have to throw in a little money, too.  (That’s something to add to my list.  Take inventory of my friends and see if they’re gonna keep me locked outside the pearly gates.)  I like ’em and all, but I’m not betting my eternity on ’em.

Which brings me to another great moment from this trip to Tybee Island.  Ya’ll know what it is.  Just look what those Mermaid Cottages folks did for me.

Now, turn in your hymnals and let’s all sing “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere….”

You see, it’s about trying to do better.  Hey, we can all use some improvement.  It’s about singing praises for every good thing that comes our way and saying thank you. Thank you for having the courage and the tenacity to follow through, even when times get rough.  It’s about being Thankful and Rejoicing.

It’s Cottage Cheese!

More Culinary Adventures with Cottage Cheese!

It’s Friday! That means more adventures from our favorite
explorer of all things Tybee…Cottage Cheese!

     To nap or to eat….to eat or to nap? Hmmm. Two of my favorite rituals. How do I solve this dilemma? In this our 21st century I can speed through a drive through, call out for delivery, nuke something in the microwave or scald a cup of dehydrated noodles with instantly hot water from a tap.  The process and techniques with which to satisfy my basic need of food intake should not be this hard.
     But no…I insist on foraging for my food as if I were a Cro-Magnon, dragging my knuckles over the ground, grunting and sniffing the air.  Those who know me all too well are familiar with how my normally sweet disposition (yes, I have a sweet disposition…sometimes) can  turn into surly pouting when I miss my regular feeding times.  We’re not talking Godzilla trampling through Tokyo, but I’m just sayin’…
     On a recent foray to Tybee Island, I checked into my overwhelmingly spectacular cottage, Dutton-Waller.  Nestled in between whispering palms near the back river, Dutton-Waller rises majestically out over its pilings with a front stairway sweeping upward as if to whisk you off to heaven.  This is one beautiful place.

The grand, wraparound porch beckons me to sit.  Be still. Behold thy kingdom.  I have the strangest urge to call out for a mint julep.  The porch swing lazily swaying in the breeze.  Calling to me like a siren of the sea. Come, little boy.  Join me for a journey.  Tippy toes just barely touching the floor.
     Just then a pang of hunger hits.  A throaty growl pushes it’s way up from my chest.  My backbone… scared it’s about to get gnawed by my stomach.  Got to push on.  Cast down my travel bags.  Quickly scan the beds.  Once I eat half of the island I’ll need a little nappy.
Behold.  On yonder back portion of the wraparound porch.  The screened in portion.  Billowy white curains.  Can it be?  Eureka!  A sleeping porch!

And then it hits me. Find the nearest restaurant. Grab a quick bite.  Run back to this sleeping porch (It’s mine…all MINE!) and grab a few winks.  Sounds good.  Kill two birds.  Drat….birds.  Hungry!
     You probably felt the ground shaking and heard my roar as I scoured the few blocks toward the beach in search of a restaurant or at least someone walking through the neighborhood carrying food that I could take in a fight.  OK.  So what if that would only consist of some hairpulling and eye gouging.  You don’t want to end up on the business end of one of my hissy fits.

SCORE!  Look at what I see! I’m gonna cut to the chase.  There’s no Tivo in blogging. Go to Stingray’s.  Ask for Jim’s section.  Order the Shrimp Cocktail for starters. Fresh, wild Georgia Shrimp.  Straight from the waters off Tybee.  Homemade cocktail sauce. Fantabulous! Next, even if you don’t see it on the menu ask for the Smoked Yellow Fin Tuna Fish Dip. Sorry.  No photo to show you how incredible it looks.  I ate it before it could be documented on film.  This is one of those “How could something so simply presented be so incredibly flavorful and filling?”.  Couldn’t tell ya.  Ask Jim to ‘splain it.  I’m a foodie, not a chef.

But remember now.  The plan was to grab a quick bite so I could entomb myself in that sleeping porch and get my nap on.  There would be time later to eat a really big meal and totally pass out in one of the indoor bedrooms for the night.  Pay attention.  There are various degrees in napology.  This is the mid afternoon nap.
     Once back at Dutton-Waller I hopped, skipped and then did a jacknife into a swan dive onto the sleeping porch bed.  Oooh.  A pretty chandelier.  It’s swinging.  Eyes following back and forth.  ZZZZzzzzzzzzzz. The moral of this story?  You won’t find a sign around my neck that says, “Don’t feed the wildlife.”  Just honor my feeding schedule.  Provide me with any bed, hammock, pallet or air cushion with the utmost of comfort. 
    Well, let’s just say if you adhere to these few, teensy rules you won’t have to worry about me creating a rats nest out of your hair and I won’t use any of my The Three Stooges fisticuffs on ya. It’s about sharing how others can make you (meaning me) an easier person to be with.  It’s about giving fair warning before you bite.  It’s about finding those simple pleasures in life that soothe your savage beast.  It’s about learning how to laugh at yourself.  It’s about remembering to say thanks when good things come your way.  It’s Cottage Cheese!

The adventures of Cottage Cheese: What I Ate And The Nap I Took After

Welcome Cottage Cheese! We love you sharing your Tybee stories with us.  And now- your first guest blog!

Who knew the time would come when happiness for me would mean a heaping plate of good food and somewhere to sleep it off after.   I guess the perpetual mid life crisis I began 10 years ago has given up and left me.  I have evolved.

Now let’s be clear.  I still have a healthy appetite for fast red cars, custom furniture from Maitland-Smith, and a little stroll through a shoe department never hurt anybody.  Yet, there’s lots to be said for a fine meal and a freshly made bed.
Nowadays, I seem to plan my long weekends and vacations around the sights and smells I might encounter along the roadsides as I travel merrily along…on my way to a comfy, cozy sleeping chamber.
For instance, the flashing speed limit sign on the way into Tybee Island always gives me a pause to scan the roadsides of Highway 80 for new eating establishments or at least foodie places I haven’t tried, yet.  And that’s how I came to be curious about this outdoor, open building I spied the last time I drove onto the island.  At the rear of the lot I saw a huge, high top van with the words Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp emblazened on the side.  Hmmm.  A restaurant with no walls and the kitchen on wheels.  Who would need to get away the quickest?  The patrons or the cook?  And then there was another structure at one end of the lot.  Two stories.  A lift.  Doors marked Men and Women on the second story.  I was intrigued.

I had to stop.   I was on an adventure.

I sauntered up to the ordering window and gave the posted menu a quick look see.  I saw several combinations of fresh seafood and barbeque plates and veggies, hence the pig and shrimp in the name.  Smiling through the window, taking the orders of those ahead of me was a dead ringer for Jerry Garcia in a psychedelic t-shirt.  Had I happened upon the travelling road show for the Grateful Dead?

Ever the active listener, I heard the other patrons rattle off their selections as the smiling man at the window informed everyone that all his food was cooked fresh to order and to please be patient.  I heard someone call him Gerald.  Another piece of the puzzle snapped into place.

When it came my turn I proudly announced I would be having the half dozen fried fresh wild Georgia shrimp, fried okra and sweet tea, the official cocktail of the south.   I’m working toward my online degree in Paula Deen Low Country Sin and Hilarity, so if it ain’t got at least a stick of butter and a cup of mayo somewhere in the ingredients it just about ain’t fittin’ to eat.  Fried it would be!

Let me just tell you it was a beautiful day and sitting outside at a picnic table while I waited for my food has never been more enjoyable. It gave me time to get a good look at that other structure at the end of the lot.  What do you know?  Who ever ate at an open air restaurant with a two story outhouse at one end?  We’re talking high cotton here.  There was an open elevator lift for those who didn’t want to tackle the stairs.  Glory hallelujah!  Fancy Smancy!  No, I was not tempted to try out the lift.  I’m a thrill seeker and routinely throw caution to the wind. Yet, motoring up to the second level facilities was not on my Bucket List.

Lucky for me my order was announced and I hungrily picked it up and plopped down at my own picnic table.  Here’s your free pass to the Clue Bus.  If  you order the half dozen shrimp and Gerald’s doing the ciphering you’ll most assuredly end up with at least 8 shrimp on your plate. The fried okra?  It was better than snuff…and not half as dusty!  For you less cultured patrons that means it was good eating.  In fact, it was downright fantastic.  I was a happy man.  Fresh seafood from the Georgia waters off Tybee and fresh vegetables from the low country.  I think a choir even gave angelic praise and white doves took flight.

That was my sign.  I had just had a wonderful meal at an exciting new style of restaurant and the heavens had parted.  “Get thee to a sleeping chamber, post haste” rang loud and clear in my head.

Not to worry.  I already knew where I was headed.  This trip I would be hanging my hat at Marsh Mermaid, one of the more modern units in the Mermaid Cottages Collection.  Most of the time I prefer vintage cottage living, but I knew if Marsh Mermaid was represented by Mermaid Cottages it would have to be something special.  Also, I’m a confirmed beach lover and this would be my first stay on the salt water marsh.  Would I like it?  I wasn’t sure, but as my beloved heroine Scarlett O’Hara would say, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow’s another day.”  I had been working on several projects simultaneously, had driven through Atlanta traffic to get to Tybee and I had just eaten one of the best meals of my life.  I could not care about or be bothered with anyone or anything between me and a bed.

I let the car’s navigation plot my route and within minutes I was pulling into the driveway at Marsh Mermaid.  If you’ve ever stayed at a Mermaid Cottages home you already know it will feel like a home made just for you.  Beautiful hardwood floors, exquisite fabrics and textures on the furniture.  Decorated in the best of taste.  I found a handsome bedroom at the front of the unit on the first floor, which meant the master bedroom would be at the top of the stairs.  To the left was another beautiful bedroom, but the bedroom made just for me was to the right.  The master.  My sanctuary for the next several days.  With a huge picture window overlooking the salt marsh.  My window on the world.

You may have heard me rave about the beds at Mermaid Cottages before, but you’re gonna hear it again.  You have never had a better night’s sleep than to sleep in a bed as prepared by the mermaids (and mermen!) on the housekeeping staff at Mermaid Cottages.  The beds are lush. The linens are crisp.  Everything that’s ever been wrong with the world flies out the window once you slide into those sheets and your head hits those pillows.  And just look at my view from my bed!  There goes that angelic choir singing again!  Nighty night!

But wait!  THE END has not flashed across the screen just yet.  Remember.  I had never stayed on the salt marsh before.  Might there be another surprise in store for me?  You bet!  I went out on the deck to catch a glimpse of the sun setting over the marsh and I heard these Clap, Clap, Clapping sounds emanating from the marsh.  What in the world?

The next day I asked several people to help me solve the mystery.  “What’s all the clapping about”, I asked.  They all told me the same thing.  “That’s just nature,” they said. “That’s the clams, mussels and oysters closing their shells with the tide.”  Oh, OK.  That’s their story, but I know the truth.  I now know what all the fuss is about.  You see, on the back river salt marsh, as the sun slowly lowers itself until it hovers just above the water, the mussels, clams and oysters get to behold the beauty of the world they live in and give thanks for yet another glorious day on the Georgia coast.  As the sun kisses the salt marsh one can hear it sizzle and then slide beneath the surface.  And the oysters, clams and mussels clap and give thanks.  For they know they are truly blessed to live in paradise.  And they serenade me as I drift off to sleep…perchance to dream…for I know I am truly blessed to bear witness to their sunset.

It’s about making the effort.  It’s about loving the adventure.  It’s about the thrill of a new foodie discovery. It’s about giving thanks.  It’s Cottage Cheese!
                                                                   THE END

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