Monday, June 30, 2014

Folklife Festival

This week and last the Mall in Washington, D.C. has been taken over by the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival.  This is an annual international festival that celebrates cultural heritage.  It highlights two different countries every year and this year we celebrated China and Kenya.  Unfortunately, I just had time to go through the Chinese exhibit before I had to go back to work--I just walked up during lunch.
The first thing I saw as I entered the Mall was this giant welcome gate, a temporary structure just here for the festival.

The side had bamboo wind chimes all up it.

As I entered into the Chinese exhibit, the first place I wondered was the "5 Spice Kitchen" where a packed cooking demonstration was going on.

In a separate tent, called the "teahouse commons(!)," some participants were giving presentations on Chinese culture.  While I was there, I heard a bit of a discussion about the popularity of bicycling.  I was very disappointed it wasn't about tea!

The next tent I went into had beautiful textiles.
I was drawn to the intricate embroidery.

I continued around to the clay tent, where one of the presenters was carving a figurine.

I walked by the calligraphy tent and the pottery tent (where there was a tiny teapot!), but I was soon distracted by a folk song presentation.  it was a wonderful setting with the Smithsonian "castle" in the background.

By this time I had to go back to work, but first I was determined to find some tea (it was a hot day!).  The concession stands near China sold "milk teas"--delicious!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fun Magazine for your Recipe Box

Today I wanted to share a magazine that my mother bought to share with me that I flipped though on sitting on my deck this morning.

There were all sorts of great recipes in this issue, including appetizers that could be used as savories in a tea party, including tea sandwiches!  There was even a savory scone recipe in the breads section.  The desserts looked great--from pies and cookies, to fruit tarts and delicious looking cakes.

The real surprise was the beautiful introduction pages separating the different sections from each other--and they were color coordinated with lovely linen patterns.  Here are two examples of the lovely spreads in this issue:


 and yellow.

There were also great main dishes and salads.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Plantations along the Ashley River, Charleston

In the outskirts of Charleston, along the Ashley River, are some of Charleston's surviving plantations.  We saw two of the those open to the public today--Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation.  Both of these plantations were owned by members of the Drayton Family.

Drayton Hall is believed to have been built between 1747-1752, and is one of the rare surviving plantation on the Ashley River.  This plantation has survived the American Revolution, the Civil War, earthquakes, and hurricanes.  The house is considered to be one of the best examples of Georgian Palladian in the U.S.   

This house has an important place in American history, particularly during the Revolution. On March 23, 1780, Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, made Drayton Hall his headquarters and several thousands of his troops encamped on the grounds.  Six days later, these troops left Drayton Hall to march on Charleston itself.  That summer General Cornwallis also made Drayton Hall his headquarters. 

In addition, the house is one of only three along the Ashley River to survive the Civil War.  Some evidence exists that it could have been used as a hospital during the war, which may explain why it survived. 

(front of the house)

(back of the house, facing the Ashley River)

This plantation house, like the Aiken-Rhett House discussed here, is preserved and not restored.  In this house, however, the tour guide explained what preservation specifically meant for this house.

The walls are original to the house, including the beautiful moldings below, but the beautiful ceiling medallion in the picture above was added during the 1850s.  Our guide explained that if the house had been restored, this beautiful ceiling would have been removed as not true to the house's original period of construction.    

(Do you see the fox in the middle of the design over the fireplace?)

This room would have been used as the all purpose entertainment room.  It could be the ballroom, the dining room, or whatever was needed.  Off this room is the beautiful front porch overlooking the grounds.

We continued into the public entertainment rooms off to the side of the main large room.  The first we entered has one of the oldest surviving original plaster ceilings in the U.S.

You can tell this room was another public room (where company would be entertained) due to the fancy ceiling and moldings. 

The next "preservation vs. restoration" example came in the next room.  The fireplace mantle in this room (believed to have been used as a library) shows two different styles:  Georgian mixed with the new Federal Mantle. 

Compare these elaborate fireplaces with the ones in the family rooms on the other side of the large main room--much more sedate with less fancy detail.

The lack of decorations or furniture made it difficult to envision how the rooms would have looked or how they would have been used.  We were told that it is likely that one of the "family rooms" on the first level would have been a bedroom. 

After we finished up the first level we headed up the carved wood stairway to the second floor.

The house had also been vandalized at points in its past (one example being the closet under the stairs).

The main entertainment room upstairs:

 The upper level of the beautiful front porch:

The grounds at Drayton Hall were beautiful:

After leaving Drayton Hall, we went to see the Drayton Family's ancestral home, Magnolia Plantation.  This plantation was founded by the Drayton family in 1676.  It is one of the first public  
gardens in the U.S., and was first opened to the public in 1870.

The house at Magnolia Plantation only dates to the late 1800s (the Reconstruction period).  This was one of the plantations burned during the civil war, but this house was reconstructed to look like the house present in 1850.  

We did not tour this house; instead, we spent our time here going through the expansive grounds after a quick stop for lunch--a pimento cheese sandwich!  Very southern tea party. 

 First, we went through the swamp garden on the grounds, which were back towards the entrance to the plantation.

A boardwark skimmed along the top of the murky green covered water of the swamp and allowed us to be surrounded by the swamp for the first part of our walk.  

The swamp was a great place to see some of the local wildlife.

After the swamp, we walked behind the house to catch the boat tour offered.

 The tour guide explained how rice (one of the cash crops of South Carolina along with Indigo) was grown in the area using the brackish (part salt/part fresh) water of the Ashley River. 

 These grasses are meant to illustrate how rice (which is no longer grown here) would have looked when it was the major crop of the plantation.

The tour also touched on local wildlife, including blue heron

and alligators!

After the tour ended, we toured some of the formal gardens.  Here are my favorite pictures of the grounds:

We sat for a bit and gazed across the lake at a beautiful white bridge,

before walking over to the entrance of the formal gardens.

 We first entered the biblical garden,

and followed a path to our next surprise, a beautiful red bridge.

(my favorite picture from this day!  I really loved this red bridge with flower boxes along it)

I found a great souvenir:

I loved that the teacup has a magnolia flower on it!  This little ornament will look so cute on my tea tree at Christmastime.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Touring Charleston

We began our tour of Charleston with the Aiken Rhett House, built in 1820.  

The piazzas on this house (the name of the huge double porches on the house) were beautiful.  The below picture includes a large joggling bench on the piazza, a local invention.  The joggling bench (sometimes called a courting bench) rocks back and forth. 

 The house actually made me rather sad.  The outside is lovely and we entered into this beautiful staircase of marble with carved mahogany banister.

(from the internet)
But when we continued through the house, the full meaning of the house just being preserved and not restored became apparent..

You could tell that the house was beautiful at one time, and echoes of its former elegance were throughout the house, but the current state doesn't reflect its true beauty.
Conversely, the second house we went in, the Nathaniel Russell House, which was built in 1808, was beautiful and restored. 

The Nathaniel Russell House's main stairway is an elegant elliptical spiral stairway.
(picture from the internet)
My favorite room in the house was the "Music Room" below, one of the public rooms.  After dinner the ladies would take tea and snacks in this room while the men remained in the dining room with cigars and brandy.  You can't tell in this picture, but this room had beautiful gold accents in the trim.  I'd love to take tea here!
(Picture from the internet).
After leaving the Nathaniel Russell house, we walked up the street, passing a carriage tour in front of a beautiful house,

until we reached St. Michael's Episcopal Church, which was built between 1751 and 1761, making it the oldest church in Charleston.

It was beautiful.  From the church we walked up to another colonial building, the Old Exchange and Provost building.  This building was built between 1767-1771. 

 The basement of this building, originally used for storage, became a jail during the American Revolution.

Conversely the upper level was an assembly room for the people of town.

I also toured the Edmonston Alston House on the Battery (first seen in my post yesterday), built in 1825, which was draped in mourning.  150 years ago this year the family living in this house would have been in mourning because a son of the family died during the Civil War.  During the tour they explained some of the mourning customs. 
Speaking of the Civil War, from the piazza of this house I took the below picture of Fort Sumter.

After finishing at the Battery I walked up the street past Rainbow Row, a group of 13 colorful houses built in the late 1700s.

After that busy day we went to dinner at Hyman's Seafood, a very popular restaurant in town, where I got my second Charleston dish--shrimp and grits, with iced tea, of course, after that long hot day.

After eating dinner, we walked down to Waterfront park, where a huge pineapple fountain offers welcome.