Cozy Cottages & Happy Homes

Cottage Charm, Coastal Calm

David Barwick

Cottage cheese: The Not So Accidental Tourist

Tybee Island is one of those places where you can find something new each time you visit. I ‘ve made some fantastic discoveries each time I walk my dogs and I often go back to take closer looks when I’m out walking by myself.
     The tree lined streets, different styles of architecture, the colors of the cottages, and the exotic vegetation all help me leave behind the fast pace of the city. I give myself the pleasure of actually seeing individual things that normally would be a blur on the best of days at home. I’ve even found my special favorites around the island where I let my imagination take off and soar free of worries, schedules, and deadlines. My ramblings always seem to become my own little Narnia, where I find a hidden passageway into another world.
     Such is the case with this lush garden of Eden I found at Fish Camp Cottage. The cottage itself is so charming and inviting. The kind of place one looks at and fantasizes how happy and stress-free life could be if one only lived in a little haven such as this.

     Can’t you just imagine how nothing stressful or bad could ever follow you through the gate into this place? Isn’t it evident that only good vibrations reside here? Even the trees, flowers, vines, and grass seem to know this is a truly magical place.
     How many times had I walked down this street? Countless. How many times had I gazed in admiration at how perfect its setting? More than I can remember.  I’d be embarrassed to admit how many times I imagined how wonderful it would be to live there.
     Many times, I almost plopped down in the silky grass and just lay there until the sun had set and the stars had come out to greet me.

Okay…I said almost. There have been way too many times I worried someone might turn the flood lights on me and ask, “Boo Radley, is that you? You know it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird!”
     I must have done something right somewhere along the way, for one fall evening I got an invitation to attend a party at this island paradise. What if someone recognized me as the loitering stalker who, time after time, walked past? Stopped, then paced back and forth, wistfully gazing from the street… Exactly what are the grounds for a restraining order? Forget about it! I was finally gonna get a closer look. I new it would be magical. I knew it would be even more beautiful up close. I was going to Fish Camp!

     Don’t you just love it when something you’ve always wished for turns out to be even more fantastic than you imagined? I gave myself a good talking to and made myself promise to not be a total geek freak and drool over what I was about to see. I vowed that I would act as if I had some sense of decorum and at least a glancing familiarity with party manners. I would behave myself in front of the caretakers of my Narnia…surely they must be special people. Maybe they would recognize they had done a wonderful thing by letting me cross their threshold.

     That night, I learned an awful lot about how someone makes a house a home. The hostesses were two of the most welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Of course, upon first introductions their names flew right past me, but they gave wonderful hugs and ushered me right in. With each passing moment my life long shyness gave way to the kind of comfort I always felt in my mother’s home. I watched as every guest was warmly invited in, given hugs, and even joined in on some of the laughter and smiles that everyone was enjoying. Finally, my hearing returned and I could hear, “Margo and Betsy!” and “Betsy and Margo this is so wonderful!” so there you have it. The magical caretakers of this my secret garden wonderland were Betsy and Margo. I was in a home. I was among wonderful people. I was part of something special. Good food, good drinks, good people.
     I have no shame in telling you that over the next week I eagerly accepted two more invitations to visit with Margo and Betsy and Fish Camp. I met their husbands. This was real. These are truly special people that work hard, enjoy each other, and what they have… and they love to share with new friends. They even let me drop by with two other great friends I had just met (Camille and Deb, from Georgia Made, Georgia Grown) and they served up a breathtaking sunset complete with champagne toasts!
     Now, I proudly walk by Fish Camp when I’m on Tybee. I hold my head high, stop and take my time, admiring the beauty of the cottage and the yard. I know the owners…I can do this. I’m not stalking or loitering or lurking in the shadows. I know that if they’re visiting Tybee, Margo and Betsy will call out and invite my in. Of course, we don’t have to tell them everything. We don’t have to tell them I walked by just last week to behold their Christmas decorations. My little island getaway was even more beautiful! Bathed in the soft glow of white Christmas lights. Giving this heavenly little home a halo it truly deserves.

We don’t have to tell them I sat down in the yard and gazed up at the stars that filled the night sky. We don’t have to tell them I felt right at home and at peace with the universe. They know they’ve created a home that welcomes all that admire it. We really don’t have to mention I lost track of time and sat there for a good long while…

     Of course, I’ll be a little on edge until the statue of limitations has expired for a no trespassing restraining order. I’m not sayin’…I’m just sayin’…they read my blog!

     ‘Tis the season! It’s the holidays! It’s a champagne toast to friends, new and old! It’s a little slice of heaven! It’s Fish Camp! It’s Cottage Cheese!
Happy Holidays, Margo and Betsy and families!
See you soon, Fish Camp…Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

Cottage Cheese: Scissors and Bubblegum!

It’s Cottage Cheese time again!

Ever had Bubble Gum get stuck in your hair?  Ever tried to cut it out with scissors only to find that you made matters worse? Ever had Bubble Gum in your hair figuratively? Recently, I was in the middle of some important work and got stuck on a problem. Okay.  I got hung up on something someone said that was unkind and unwarranted.  It was a mean thing for the other person to have said and I had nominated myself as The Avenger!  Somebody was about to tote a butt whoopin’.  I couldn’t see my way through to a resolution, so I did what I usually do when I’m frustrated…I turned on the TV and searched for a movie to take my mind off the issue. It was my way of counting to 10 before I opened a can of Whoop Asstigator..

What do you know? One of my favorite films, based on one of my favorite books, with several of my favorite actors was on, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. How convenient!
     Yes, I know it’s a chick flick. Yes, I know it’s a story about the relationships of women. Yes, I know it’s an extreme exaggeration of people from the South…strike that.  It’s actually pretty spot on as far as portraying the workings and dynamics of the lives of southern women and men I grew up around.  It’s how we roll.  We chew on something that’s bothering us until we chew all the taste out of it, and then we stick it in our hair like a wad of bubble gum, just for spite.  We are passive-aggressive and speak in riddles so syrupy sweet that you don’t always realize you’ve been insulted or transgressed against until long after the encounter. Sometimes, we even shoot ourselves in the foot, though we know we’ll be limping for a while.  And, don’t even talk about letting it go once we get it stuck in our craw!

     Now, I was watching the antics of the Ya-Yas, laughing at the stereotypes as was intended, and enjoying it immensely…even though I’ve read the book and seen the movie many, many times.  That is, until I heard Vivianne tell Sita Lee about how she may have blown things out of proportion. That she may have held grudges rather than granting forgiveness…more than once.  This was supposed to be funny.  This was supposed to be a diversion to help me get my mind off of a problem. After all, I am a Southerner.  Never worry about anything today when you can always make someone else miserable about it tomorrow, right? Hmmm.  Ahhhh.  Ohhhh. Oops.
     Tis the season…I’m supposed to be thinking of others.  It’s that time of year when I should be thankful for all that I have, not fretting about what I don’t.  It’s also supposed to be about loving others and forgiving those who might have licked the red off my apple at some point.  It’s about giving. And letting go.

     Don’t you hate it when you realize the answer to a situation is something you already know? Especially when it requires you to be the bigger person and let it go when someone else has besmurched you?  Don’t you hate it when you’ve lived long enough to understand that you need to think about the consequences of your actions and restrain yourself from talking ugly and saying mean things? Even when you think you’re justified in trying to make the other person feel as bad as they made you feel?  Even after they’ve been all up in your Kool-Aid without knowing what flavor it is? (For those of you who don’t speak fluent Southern…that means for one to be all up in another’s business instead of tending to one’s own short comings.)

     Aw, SNELLFROCKET!  It also means I need to let the other person off my hook.  To give forgiveness, even if the other person doesn’t exactly ask for it.  To give forgiveness for one’s own sake, whether the other person appreciates it or not. There’s not much use in wrestling in the mud with a pig.  You get dirty and the pig likes it.  But if I let it go…what will I do with my free time?

     I got my answer in the form of an email from Barb Ogden, one of the super-fantastic Mermaids on the Mermaid Cottages Guest Services Team. Barb shared this photo she took of Horace and Scruffy last summer.  Horace and Scruffy are two feral cats that roam Tybee Island and Barb grants them sanctuary when they need it.  To some, they may just seem like two old alley cats that are good for nothing.  To Barb, they’re two souls that sometimes need a bite to eat, water to drink, and somewhere to nap to get away from the stresses of life. To Barb, they just need something good to happen to them even though they can’t return the favor.
     If you’ve got a burden that’s on your mind, or if there’s someone you’d like to put a hurtin’ on, channel your frustration into something that will do someone good. Give Scruffy and Horace their day in the sun and vote for them as the December Pets of the Month over at The Tybee Breeze website! It isn’t silly. It just might be the best gift you give yourself this season. The gift of letting a transgression go, real or imagined, and doing something for someone. Or two old alley cats you don’t even know.
     It’s just that simple. Tis the season…it’s within your power to forgive. It’s within you to help when there’s a need. It’s a good deed that will come back to you ten fold somewhere down the road.  It’s part of your journey. It’s Cottage Cheese!

Happy Holidays, ya’ll!

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!