Category Archives: breaking routine

Dine Like a Charlestonian

Frequently I am asked, “Where is your favorite restaurant?” With so many nationally renowned ones, new ones, and ones that have stood the test of time, it is hard to narrow it down.  But when it comes down to it, I have to admit my favorite place to dine is in my friends’ homes and my own.

 

The art of entertaining is the art of hospitality.  And you do not have to be accomplished to entertain. You just have to care more about your friends than your fear of failure.  Pull out all the stops, not to impress but to delight and for breaking routine.  Your guests will feel they are worth the trouble when you pull out the family heirloom china, crystal, and silver. It is the culture of dining with friends and family around the table, where conversation and breaking bread together are passed on to us in Charleston, that is worth perpetuating.

Why have nice things if you are not going to use them?  Charlestonians have continued through the generations to dine with beauty: home made food served on china platters, covered silver vegetable dishes, with white linens and fresh flowers gracing the table as enjoyed in Downton Abbey. As implied by the circle motif of the Guilloche Pattern in the woodwork of the Antebellum home of the doctor who delivered me, “May the circle be unbroken.”  From generation to generation, the heritage, faith, and culture are passed on.  “The chain is only as strong as… the weakest link.” Who is going to pass on the beauty and culture of Western Civilization in daily life? If not us in Charleston then who? If not now in Charleston than when?  If not here in Charleston than where?  Charlestonians and the Chinese have a few things in common: we both eat rice, drink tea, and worship our ancestors! (Old Charlestonian saying from my parents era.)

Spring flowers from our gardens to grace our tables. Luminescent orbs like Chinese lanterns were my persimmons hanging in my downtown back garden from my  persimmon tree, from which I made persimmon sorbet and pudding. I am picking kale, and lettuce leaves for salads from a raised bed.  After spreading a year’s worth of compost: vegetable, egg shell, coffee and tea scraps, the contents of my warm compost bin, onto the raised beds, I scattered the fuzzy flowering lettuce seeds I saved from last years’ lettuces that bolted. In November and all through the winter til spring I have had a carpet of lettuce, much more than from seed packets or nursery bought plants. The shopping basket becomes the garden basket as I get closer to the earth, like Francis Marian, the Swamp Fox.

We see the portrait of Francis Marion’s aid-de-camp, ancestor of owner, dramatized as Luke in the historic novel, Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow. The owner’s grandfather was Lucas Simons, descendant of Keating Simons in the portrait.”That Old Swamp Fox” is what the British called Francis Marion. The ancestral portraits in this private home are worthy of art museums.  Mrs. Porter, mother of The Reverend Anthony Toomer Porter, who started Porter Military Academy, which today is Porter Gaud School, is by Samual F. B. Morse.  Toomer Porter gathered together as much of “the seed corn” as he could, as encouraged by Mrs. Jefferson Davis, so as not to lose a generation.  The chain is only as strong as the weakest link, as emphasized in the Guilloche pattern in the woodwork.  The tensions were building in the Antebellum Period where they felt the importance of passing on the culture, the history, the heritage, and the faith to the next generation even as they felt they were entering the unknown at the end of an era.  C’est la meme chose maintenant.

843-708-2228. Laura Wichmann Hipp

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2016 in Charleston, Antebellum Charleston, breaking routine, camellias, Charleston Arts and Antiques Forum, Charleston is world's top spot, Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Charleston, S.C., Downton Abbey, entertaining, for foodies, Francis Marion, Gardening, Greek Revival, January in Charleston, Manners in Charleston, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, private lunch and group meeting conference room, Restaurants, shopping basket, South Carolina Wildlife Exibition, South Eastern Wildlife Exhibition (SEWE), Suzanne Pollack and Lee Manigault, The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits., the Swamp Fox, Valentines Day

The Acorn Motif, and other American Symbols of Thankfulness and Hospitality

Another year older, another year deeper in debt, in debt to my mother and father, Marianne and Fred Wichmann for my life; to The One who gave me breath and an added year to my purpose here on earth; to The One  who teaches me to “so number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom”.

I am blessed with the exclusive privilege of taking my tours into the home of the doctor who delivered me over a half century ago.  It is an Antebellum home in the Greek Revival style. There, in the Antebellum arch over wide pocket doors, is carved the Acorn Motif, under which you can imagine ladies in hoop skirts in the 1850’s-60’s. This house was the home of a signer of the Ordinance of Secession, Wm. Pinckney Schingler. Miraculously his two houses in Charleston survived both the War Between the States and the Great Conflagration of 1861 that went right through this block.

Why the Acorn?  This year my eye focused on this motif being repeated all around Charleston.  Most noticeably it is in the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 East Battery, where I got my training from my college days and after graduation where I was the second in charge of this museum house open to the public. Into focus came a 19th century photograph of High Battery that is blown up at my husband’s Yacht Club that I have seen repeatedly.  This time I noticed in the photo that the posts of the Battery Wall had Acorn Finials. My friend through a series of miracles bought a house on lower King a few doors down from my mother’s.  There on her first morning I found that her brick columns are ornamented with the SAME Acorns I had seen in the 19th century Battery Wall photo, acorns that no longer exist atop the posts of the Battery wall. Why is this exciting to me? Because of the symbolism.  Our Founding Fathers were wanting to carry on a message encrypted if you will in the everyday world around them SO THAT WE WOULD REMEMBER.

What was the symbolism?

I tell you on location as we stand under the arch where the Acorn wood carvings are.  I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you now, though it is tempting.  The sublime simplicity is a story worth telling and worth hearing with the history that puts it in context.  It takes the whole tour to “get it”.  This unveiling of symbolism with quotes from primary sources is why I was an English major and history minor. I quote the literary people and Founding Fathers and patriarchs who were more eloquent than I, whose words are worth repeating in the power and beauty of the spoken word  as we gaze at the magnificent architecture of a bygone era.

The number THIRTEEN is an American symbol as well as the Acorn.  There is nothing unlucky for us in this number for of course we were founded as Thirteen Colonies.  The Founding Fathers were very tuned in to the number thirteen.  It contained the key to America’s success, to how we could be united across a continent, bigger than powerful countries of Europe put together.  Where did the key lie in the number thirteen?  “Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels yet have not love, I am a noisy gong and clanging cymbal.” I Corinthians chapter 13. The number Thirteen is repeated on our one dollar bill in Thirteen stars and more.  Look with a magnifying glass.  Where do we see this number Thirteen in Charleston?  One of the most popular pieces of furniture that all my relatives have in their Charleston houses is the secretary desk with two glass doors.  Each door is a Chippendale design with Thirteen panes. It is for a moment in the recent film, War Room. Though designed by Thomas Chippendale in England, it became a popular adopted American favorite and symbol.

George Washington warned in his Farewell Address of what Revelation chapter 13 warns of as well, another Thirteen, of which more Biblically literate past generations would have been familiar. “It is the nature of government to expand.  It must be kept under many checks and balances.” Revelation 13 warns of the day when government has grown so large that the earth has a One World Government, in order to have, as our present president says, “a level playing field.”

Because my eyes and ears are trained to look for symbolism as an English major and daughter of an English major and as one who was trained by an excellent Bible teacher from 9th grade on, I see and hear symbolism everywhere for myself, like an epiphany. Symbolism is in dreams and on the news. It is very simple once you see it. Why did the terrorists attack in Paris happen last Friday? It was chosen to be date to remember but also to point as a warning to America.  It happened on November 13.  The Thirteen points to America, which started with 13 colonies.  How did they choose the particular band concert?  They liked the name. Eagle and Death were in it.  America is the Eagle.  Our enemies want death to America and to our Judaeo-Christian Civilization.  They want us in retreat, the Lion, Great Britain, with the Great Eagle, plucked feather by feather, until naked and ineffectual, as the prophet Daniel foresaw in his visions where KINGDOMS RISE AND FALL.

Why the airplane bomb in the soda can?  What did the soda can say?  Shweppes? Gold?  Pineapple? Our enemies want to “sweep” their enemies out of their way, to make the value of our economy or “gold” drop, and they want our Judaeo-Christian open-door hospitality to blow up in our faces, represented by the pineapple, the symbol of hospitality.  Hospitality IS our gold, our way of life, our identity. If we stop being hospitable to strangers, we will lose the magic that makes this country great.  Our enemies can take away everything, our comfort and ease, our heat and air by the grid, but they can never take our free will.  We have the power to choose our own Attitude toward them and to strangers.  Never underestimate the Power of Free Will.

My mother was naturally shy and in the bombings of WWll did not do any entertaining growing up. Doing the tours and bringing them to her garden for tea was a big step of hospitality for her.  I inherited a plaque from her which says,

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2.

There is a remnant in every tribe, every tongue, and every nation that has ears to hear and eyes to see.  WE have the Good News they need.  These troubled times call for being “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Why else might the word pineapple  have been the choice of the can pictured by those who claimed to have been responsible for the Russian bound plane? I wonder if it was meant to bring a shudder to one particular person.  Where do pineapples grow? Where is our president from?  Where did World War II start for America? We must humble ourselves and ask protection for all leaders in authority as well as those brave enough to run for the presidential office. Let us not deceive ourselves. These acts of terrorism are the implements of war and world domination through intimidation. “Are we disposed to be of the number of those who have eyes but see not, and having ears hear not the things that so nearly concern our temporal salvation?  Let us know the whole truth,”said  Patrick Henry.

Our 17 year old dreamed the night before the thirteenth that evil was after her in the form of a robot.  It was a long nightmare saved by the ending where she was cornered with no escape.  She and I in the dream started singing Amazing Grace.  Soon the whole world was singing with us and the evil was rendered null and void. These are not the things I say on the tour, but “the times, they are a changin.” Writing gives me more space to share thoughts. We all want some answers and direction. “The lamp of experience must guide our feet. We judge the future by the past,” said Patrick Henry. Thomas Jefferson bought a copy of the Koran to understand the Muslim religion and laws to see why Barbary Coast pirates targeted us. The second half of their holy book reveals their orders, to kill the infidels, the Christians and Jews, wherever you find them. We study history and art and literature to understand our present state; otherwise, “The people perish for lack of knowledge.”

For small tours of 2-4 people call June at 843-577-5896.  For small groups of 5 or more call me, Laura, at 843-708-2228.  We are excited about the history and the choice properties we are privileged to share because the Spirit of Hospitality is still alive in The Holy City of Charleston. We remember who we are, from generation to generation. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  May the circle be unbroken, I show you in the Guilloche pattern of architecture.    Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Filed under 13, Acorn motif, Antebellum Charleston, breaking routine, Eagle, entertaining, Founding Fathers, Greek Revival, King St., Manners in Charleston, Mother-Daughter Tour, museum houses before or after private tour, pineapple, Shemitah

The Holy City By the Sea: Charleston, South Carolina

America is not only The New World, but it was also referred to by the early colonists as The Promised Land.  America was founded and formed deliberately after the pattern of Ancient Israel. As with the children of Israel’s Exodus, there was a mass Exodus from Europe, “to escape the tyranny of the oppressors,”  the European governments, as the people were being taxed every which way possible.  As Charles Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” He gave a litany of every way in which they were being taxed and taken advantage by their governments in France and in Great Britain.  Civilization had grown in sophistication, but so had government’s intrusion into their daily lives.

Just as there was the mass Exodus of several million Jewish people from Egypt led by Moses, Europeans came to America en mass. They had been in the pressure cooker too long.  They had HAD it! The word LIBERTY filled up all the blue of the sky in their minds.  LIBERTY was the siren call tempting them to leave all the familiarity of home and culture and to venture forth across the troubled waters to begin civilization all over again in a land they knew not, like Abraham.  Our Founding Fathers saw America as the Israel of the New World, the new Promised Land. Just as Jerusalem is the only place called Holy City, out of the new Promised Land, there was only one city in America that has kept the nick name, The Holy City.

Charleston, South Carolina is that city, founded in April 1670.  The air seems to be permeated in Charleston with an elusive charm and magic that makes first time visitors feel at home.  Charleston is like an old shoe.  She fits one and all alike. The Eight Lords Proprietors of England who were given this land by King Charles II kept a low profile during the reign of Olivier Cromwell, but when Cromwell died and his son Richard proved ineffectual, Great Britain had Eight Lords a Leaping!  These lords risked their lives, lands, and reputations to reestablish the monarchy.  The monarchy had been done away with in a big way.  Charles I had been beheaded!  These lords brought his son back from exile in the court of France and made him king of Great Britain.  In appreciation, King Charles II gave them land in the New World, Carolina. The lord who took the most interest in this colony was  Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury, in Dorset, England, for whom our two rivers are named, the Ashley and the Cooper.  His good friend and secretary was non other than John Locke.  THE  John Locke!  Together they wrote the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina.  Included was a protection of freedom of religion and freedom of speech with the provision that it was against the law to speak against anyone for their differences in faith.  Everyone had freedom of speech to share their faith, but the limitations were not to use it as an excuse to be critical of others’ differences in faith.

Keep it positive, was the mood of the wisdom of our Founders in order to avoid the wars and burnings at the stake of the Reformation of Europe, and earlier the beheadings with the scimitar in the Crusades.  Carolina had the widest range of religious freedom in America second only to Rhode Island in writing but in reality wider here than there. The line they included of not speaking against another for differences in faith was the same line and  law that Middle Eastern King Nebuchadnezzar made after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego  came out of the fiery furnace unsinged, whose accusers had told King Neb. that these foreign slaves he had promoted did not bend the knee to his statue of gold at the dedication when the music played dramatically. (Read of it, if you will, in the book of the prophet Daniel chapter 3.)

Founding Fathers named not only their mountains and towns Hebrew names but their children here in the New Promised Land.  My long time friend, Margaret Scott, told me today her ancestors who came here from England and joined Daniel Boone were none other than three brothers named Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo.  Now that was a lot of faith in having more sons to follow for their parents to have started that name pattern!  Early settlers and Founding Fathers also read in Hebrew and taught their children Hebrew.  Hebrew was taught in schools and universities.  Yale has Hebrew in its seal. Columbia University as well.  William Bradford, who wrote Of Plymouth Plantation, read the Bible in Hebrew. I was astounded when I had Ashley Hall foreign girls over for tea from China that the Christian among them is teaching herself to read in Hebrew!

There is no nation in the world as closely linked to Israel as America.  Charleston and Bermuda are on the same latitudinal line as Jerusalem.  Charleston is the Holy City By the Sea, Bermuda is called God’s Country, and Jerusalem is the Holy City of this planet Earth, center of three world religions, which are allowed next door to each other, just as in Charleston. When you live this close together, you gotta love your neighbor! “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”   Let’s have a revival of that song!

June is coming! I am sharing the love of June with you.  June McKnight is doing tours with me.  She is a native Charlestonian as well, a friend through the Garden Club of Charleston, Ashley Hall, and through the rising star of her young son, the chef, Daniel McKnight, intern under Nathalie Dupree. With the recent loss of my mother, who did the tours with me faithfully for about 25 years, God has raised up June to help.  She has immersed herself in study and made a 98 on the written and oral exam to become a licensed City of Charleston guide.   She has been interning with me since December. Shemitah is the siren call to me through that Still, Small Voice.  For such a time as this.

Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Camellias are our Winter Roses; Persimmons and Calamondins our Winter Fruit

I dreamed that a profusion of roses was in bloom everywhere I went.  Despite the threat of thorns, I was exhilarated as I rode my bike at the sight of a new view of life in the everyday with such beautiful roses of all shades and scents and heady clusters.  I thought I must be in England.  I will have to go see my mother’s family and have a cup of tea, I thought. My mother was the rare English Rose of Beauty.  She loved giving tours with me and wanted nothing more than to get well to get back to them again.  We lost her to throat cancer in late August.

I awoke with a sense of expectation for the New Year.  Will it be filled with briars, or roses?  As I stepped into our back garden, what had been green buds were transformed overnight into round jewels of camellia balls about to open into many petaled delights.  With the winter green rye grass up, and now the camellias in bloom, we are a winter wonderland without the snow.   All summer and fall I scrub with leftover tea leaves the scale from under the foliage of camellias in anticipation of these winter delights.

Nothing speaks Charleston more than the camellia, developed by Andre Michaux here in the 18th century for the court of France.  In addition to introducing the camellia to North America through Charleston, he also brought us Crepe Myrtles, which are water nymphs, cursed, and put on land as these trees, with their fluid bark- like sculpture; and our beloved Tea Olive, the essence of Charleston when its tiny flower blooms in the spring and in the fall. Charleston gardens were designed to bloom in the winter for the highlight of the social season in the 18th and 19th centuries, The Races.  Many of the plantation owners were the trainers and breeders of these magnificent thoroughbreds. The Races were held at Washington Race Course, now Hampton Park, near The Citadel.  Hampton Park is a beautiful camellia and rose garden with a pedestrian bridge over a pond.

My white table cloth is now the snowy contrast to show off the three arrangements I have of camellias.  Two bowls are of silver and the center is a ver de gris pedestal bowl with handles on either side and classical swags.  My husband bought it for me one year for our anniversary from The Charleston Garden Shop.  I use wet oases in it to arrange my jewels of camellias interspersed with a few calamondins to give it a zing!

Calamondin oranges are being made into marmalade in my kitchen, the perfect thing on a cold winter’s night.  I risked life and limb to pluck these winter fruits yesterday on the tip top of our ladder in our back garden while hugging the tree’s upper branches.  Ours reach for the sky.  They are no bigger than golf balls, but they make the Queen of Marmalades. Our family had a calamondin deseeding party with our three daughters and friend, Jon, ’round the table after dinner last night.  We played vintage albums on our new phonograph we got from Santa!  We laughed until tears came to our eyes, giddy with light-hearted low stress after the holidays.  Now, for the adding of sugar to my copper jam pan;  nothing saves time in marmalade making like a copper pot.  It cuts the time in half.

For those who have been followers of my calamondin marmalade in the past, I did not have any to share last year due to the rare freeze.  I only put up one batch.  This year there is only enough for one batch as well; however, I will be serving it upon request at our tea parties at the end of the tour in jam tarts and in glistening dressing over golden beets and goat cheese, Russian onion dome style.  These are a few of my favorite things. It is served on Blue and White Cantonware China, the 18th and 19th century everyday ware of Charleston, shipped here in abundance on clipper ships. The English Tea Clippers were the fastest.

Persimmons are the luminescent orbs of transparency, like tiny Chinese lanterns,  hanging from an otherwise leafless tree in our back garden.  There is an abundance of persimmons despite my having picked at least 50 to put in floral arrangements and to make persimmon sorbet.  They have been bitten by frost, which is good for them; their chalkiness has been transformed into sweet, velvet lushness to the palate. My handy husband got out his loppers, and I got out my big round basket; he lopped, and I danced underneath to catch the persimmons.  Those that split were an invitation I could not refuse to receive to my salivating mouth.  If not me, then the squirrels and birds will get them.  When I go out before dawn, I hear an early bird squawking that the persimmons are its feast, not mine. Many have been transformed into persimmon sorbet with the help of cool Simple Syrup, and my electric ice cream maker. One calamondin is the citrus in place of  a squeeze of lemon that marries well with persimmons to give it that… je ne sais quoi!  My friend, Pringle, thinks I must have subtle spices included, but it is clean-and-easy and the best thing you have ever put into your mouth. Come while the supply lasts.  Persimmon pudding and persimmon bread to follow. Persimmon bits tossed in a salad with the different lettuce leaves, garlic and chopped swiss chard from my raised beds in the back garden made this an all fresh garden to table salad in January grown here on Tradd Street in Charleston.  Why didn’t I think to put persimmon in our kale salad tonight?

My neighbors, the Deans of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits,  Lee Manigault and Suzanne Pollak, are invited to pick persimmons in my back garden. According to Lee, they have been having to BUY them for their recipe Twelve-Months-a-Year Parsley Salad on page 31 in their newly published book : The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits; with Etiquette and Recipes.  P.S. Who do I have to thank for this Christmas gift?  It is my favorite read with only Lee and Suzanne’s signatures.

It is a good year.  Look for the Good News.  Report it to others.  My husband’s numbers are good.  The dream of roses foretold it.  The Dream Maker is on the move, listening and speaking in that still, small voice.

Come to Charleston to renew your dreams, and to feel afresh the Wonder of Life.  Charleston is where Magic happens, which is one of the reasons she is called The Holy City.  Her history makes America’s history make more sense when you understand what first happened here, and the correlation to quotes from the Founding Fathers and diarists.  I never tire of telling it.  Few really know it. It is like looking at the moon that you have gazed at all your life, but from a side you have never seen before.

Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday.  Make a long weekend of it. The South Carolina Wildlife Exhibition will be in February followed by the Charleston Wine and Food Festival  March 4-8; then the Cooper River Bridge Run, and the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Charleston Arts and Antique Forum is coming up soon as well.

As Audrey Hepburn said of Paris, Charleston is always a good idea.

Call me on my cell phone for reservations at 843-708-2228.  Tours are weekday mornings starting at 9.

Laura Wichmann Hipp, founder of the Charleston Tea Party Private Tour

Our 1773 tea party was before Boston’s!

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Charleston Festivals Launch First Signs of Spring with Walking the Preferred Mode of Transportation

Francis Marion Square is full of white enclosed tents  for the Wine and Food Festival that began March 6.  Bacchus is there in the spirit of conviviality, mirth, and enjoyment of all good tastes and comradeship in which Charleston abounds.  “Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth. Come ye to the water!”  It started wet and chilly here, but chances are not as chilly as where you are, from what I see on the news.  No snow and ice are to be found here.  “For lo, the winter is past.”  Red Bud is in bloom and the purple Japanese Tulip tree, what you may call Magnolia.  “Daffy Down Dilly is come up to town; in her yellow petticoat and her green gown.”

We were kindly the guests of Lisa and Glenn Kline of Houston, who bought our beloved kitchen house on Legare Street.  The Wine and Food Festival culminated with the Jazz Brunch at the Gov. Thomas Bennett House in the garden.  It was actually warm!  The sunshine day was what you picture more of Easter  than the day we spring forward.  Our table started with the most delicious poached egg on an open face benne seed biscuit with an artistic sprinkling of tomato bits and candied bacon, baby arugula, melting Gruyere cheese , and lemon mayonnaise. My husband, who is used to only the best homemade fare, aptly said,”This is not your salad for the masses.”  We then found out it was only our table and one other who had that menu.  I told our server to tell the chef how impressed we were.  Rick Widman at that next table popped over to say it is on the menu at HIS restaurant, 208 King Street KITCHEN, next door to his Fulton Lane Inn, where he used to have the Victoria House Inn.  I have done tours for years out of his inns but never imagined he would venture into the realm of restaurants.  We do break out of the box every now and then, as has his daughter, Lauren, home for sunshine from phd studies in psychology from Wheaton C0llege in Illinois.   She is called to take her counseling skills to places of need around the world, perhaps Turkey.  See KITCHEN208.COM for her dad’s restaurant with great fare and fresh air.

CAMELLIAS are in full bloom, our winter flower that peeks in late February, early March.  I have a platter mounded on my table of choice camellias from the 19th century summer home of the Draytons of Magnolia Plantation, owned now by the Shelbournes in Summerville, some of our best friends and our teenage Godson, Sloan.  While my husband was on a quail shoot at Edisto, I got a spur of the moment quick get-away to bask in their company, home, and camellia garden over last weekend, just as people on my tour get away with friends to invest themselves in what really refreshes the soul, time apart spent with loved ones in a beautiful place like Charleston.  I awoke to see the windows full of camellia bushes, gargantuan in size, all in full bloom.  You can imagine the choice camellias there from the Drayton’s time in the 19th century.  Magnolia Gardens and Plantation now has the largest planting of different varieties of camellias in the world.  Gardens here were designed to peek for the highlight of the social season, The Races, held at Washington Race Course in the 18th and 19th centuries, now Hampton Park.  Plantation owners were the breeders and trainers of these magnificent thoroughbreds.  Camellias compliment the season of festivals beginning today.

Charleston Art and Antiques Forum,  celebrating 300 years of Georgian architecture in Charleston,  is March 12-16.   Our own Tom Savage, past curator here of the Nathaniel Russell House before moving on to the White House and now Winterthur, will be back home speaking at the Forum.  Charleston Antique Show sponsored by Historic Charleston Foundation is unlike any other in its quality of furniture and fine arts as well as in the authenticity of the Old Charleston experience.  It’s no flee market.  The prices reflect it.  You get what you pay for, and it is worth it.  It is March 21-23.

Overlapping the Charleston Antique Show, the city swings into high gear with The Festival of Houses and Gardens, March 20-April 19.  All through college I was their indispensable volunteer docent for these spring candlelight tours for the Historic Charleston Foundation, being moved hither, dither and yon, to wherever they had a need.  The rest of the year I gave tours on weekends and holidays of the Edmonston -Alston House and the Nathanial Russell House.  Frances Edmunds, the director for almost 40 years, was my role model and tutor.  I was blessed to receive a dual education while in college at The College of Charleston, the best a home grown girl could have.  I rose to be Assistant Administrator of the Edmonston-Alson House at 21 E.Battery, a job I stepped into when I graduated from college.  Remembering to lock the door behind me was a challenge!

Come as soon as you can get down your icy road or onto a flight out of your snow and sleet.  I hear there are new great flights into Charleston.  Spring comes in March to Charleston.

WALKING is the best way to see Charleston.  Whoever calls me first can determine the mode of transportation for that day, our feet, or my van.  As on a golf course, the price is the same whether you walk or ride.  As I wrote this paragraph, a lady called for a 60th birthday celebration in Charleston, cheering that they get to walk April 1st. We start with breakfast on the Battery in one of the mansions overlooking the Harbor.  Walking, we stay South of Broad.  We go into the home of the doctor who delivered me, unsurpassed in antiquities and plaster and woodwork.  We see gardens and end with High Tea at noon in my house overlooking the Ashley River.  I gave a walking tour to a happy Yoga class here from Texas for a retreat.  We covered so much of the nooks and crannies of Old Charleston on foot.  They inspired me to stay active with walking tours offered as well as my van tour. Varnetta, who works for me,  spoke to them at High Tea at my house in her Gullah dialect, saying, “My Daddy was a fushamun cross de Cupper…”  I told Varnetta while making the tea fare together that there was no one else in the world I’d rather be with preparing for this group.  We are a team.  You can meet her on Tuesdays and Fridays, she who my husband calls the core of our family’s sanity.  I can’t wait to hear from you as your plans shape up to visit the Holy City of Charleston, which like George Washington, was first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of all Americans.–Laura Wichmann Hipp–843-577-5896

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Filed under Antiques Shop Til We Drop Tour, breaking routine, Charleston Food and Wine Festival, Charleston is world's top spot, Fesatival of Houses, Festival of Houses, for foodies, Francis Marion, Gardening, group meeting facilities, Gullah Culture, Historic Charleston Foundation, More English Than the English, museum houses before or after private tour, private lunch and group meeting conference room, the Swamp Fox

The Holidays Begin with a Rebel Yell

White caps are on the chilly scene outside my window upstairs as I gaze out on the Ashley River.  This particular spot is the favorite feeding ground of the dolphins in from the nearby ocean.  Their fins have been weaving in and out in this window framed living picture, their morning feed in this choppy water.   The sight of them reminds me of my own summer play time in the surf at Kiawah with my husband for a precious two night stay at the Sanctuary after our daughter’s party.  We rode our bikes to the deserted end of this barrier island, Kevin’s story, which will follow, being composed in my mind for miles of wood paths and beach spinning.

I feel today like a mother hen concerned for her brood.  I know that many on my tour who have been in the warmth of my home and table are experiencing the trials of bad weather.  At each meal my husband prays safety for all who are traveling this season.  As I hear about familiar parts of the country hit with this early winter storm from where my tour guests have come, I wonder how you are and if you feel my heart-strings connected to you.  I am lifting you up.  Some of you know… Aslan is on the move!

Many have asked,” How did the party go?” of which I wrote  last time.  We are still partying!  We ushered in “the season” with our June 1st party and dance honoring our daughter, Olivia, now 21.  We rolled up the Aubusson and oriental rugs from our double house front drawing-room; the ballroom it became, voila!  My first boyfriend, Bruce Wallace,  and his Rocky and the Rollers Band from Florida played Beach Music and we danced the night away.  We put the rugs on the one rug remnant as if miraculously cut to fit our back yard, which Stevie Leasure with Carpet Baggers provided.  The back yard with the couches of the front drawing-room was transformed into an outdoor living room.  Mariana Hay of Croghan’s Jewel Box on King provided the many small prismed chandeliers with candles hanging from our Live Oak and our new raised vegetable beds of our vertical garden.  We had a bar on the top floor porch accessible only through our bedroom, the inner sanctum where none of our friends or family had ever been.  Jeff , the workman who restored the second floor porch floor and inside plaster walls was the bartender on the porch, the work of his hands and beautiful for situation with the view of the setting sun and Ashley River.  Reserved tents were never put up.  We were blessed with perfect weather on either side of rain in the wettest summer on record.

We had one hundred pounds of the freshest local shrimp ever seen at a black tie event, provided by Tommy Edwards, who had caught it off Sullivans Island in his shrimp boat and had peeled it all with his wife. Husband Preston and  daughter Olivia danced the first dance and wowed everyone with their love as they shagged, the South Carolina State dance.  Preston SO stole the show dancing the night away with all the young beauties, especially Taylor Swift’s Charleston equal, Elizabeth Scarborough, that her  mother was so embarrassed that she decided she had to had to help throw an oyster roast this Christmas for Olivia with the Freshleys and Bairds at Live Oak Plantation, home and working plantation of the doctor who delivered our three girls, Dr. Rebecca Gregorie Baird and her doctor husband, David.  They are doctors to support their farming habit.  We buy free range eggs and grass-fed beef from them where “the livin is easy”,  at least for the cows and chickens.  Their two eldest, Wills and Janie, have graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis.  Our Godson, their youngest, Gregorie Baird is infected with the same patriotism, saying he tears up every time we sing My Country T’is of Thee, which is every Sunday at St. Philip’s, the oldest congregation south of Virginia.  There is something still about the South..

We still have not put the rugs back down in the front drawing-room  at Thanksgiving, though it is time with the drafts of old Charleston houses.  My husband had two small dinner dance parties in November to lessen the blow of my being another year older.   Maine lobster was flown in and served on a bed of creamy grits with hot grape tomatoes and freshly grated corn, a recipe I first enjoyed at STARS restaurant.  Prosciutto wrapped blanched asparagus was passed.  Ron Yeager, who I grew up with from James Island, was the chef.  We all felt very grown up.  I especially feel that way when I look in the mirror.  Sobering.  But all was lighthearted and gay at the parties, as if we were  the young things.  My husband looks ten years younger than he is.  I believe I do, too, when looking at him.  Come have a look for yourself.  He occasionally pops in on my tours at lunch.

Dare to give a party this season.  Bring people together.  Break out of the routine and make the season bright for your family, friends and neighbors.  “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”  Though it is pressure and expense to prepare, the gift to others and the memories to savor make it worth it in the end.

Help and encouragement come in unexpected places.  Before the June first black tie party for our daughter, I was feeling weighted down, oppressed by the negative expectations of those closest to me, you know the kind who get antsy that all your plans are going to flop and that the first party of “the season” is going to be a memorable embarrassment.  As my new friend, Judith Wadson from Bermuda says, it’s your own flees that bite the hardest.  It is part of the human condition.  We are shaped by people’s assessments of us.  Peer pressure can be for good or ill.  It continues all our lives.  Loved ones can put labels on you, and you are pigeon holed to all abroad, all in good humor,  but nonetheless trapped in your own self-image of other’s making that you have accepted and worn.  I am familiar with it; I felt it in school.

A few days before the party, I was following my list, planting white flowers in the front garden for the all white debutante look, “majoring in minors” as my husband calls it, when I cried out to the Lord to give me a sign that I was going to defy expectations and produce a winning success.  Along came an acquaintance I knew from 21 years ago, walking with his partner.  He still works as a men’s hair dresser as he did when another hairdresser,Kevin, worked with him back when I was  pregnant with Olivia, 21 years ago.  I always have wondered how Kevin is today, if he is still alive, still married, and still…well, straight.

KEVIN’S STORY is the exception, I know.  If ever there was a man born to be a homosexual, it was Kevin.  He fit the full stereotype of the limp wrist, effeminate, expressive  type.  He was a practicing homosexual living with his architect partner.  This partner had designed and built a house for the two of them.  Kevin had it made.  He loved his partner and loved his job. He loved his life.

Kevin’s partner’s mother would invite them to Sunday dinner after church.  Kevin loved the whole cultural package.  He had not been raised in the church, had never read or heard the Bible, had never sung the hymns.  It was all a new experience in the wonder of life in all its fullness.  The congregation loved them as they loved his partner’s mother.  Kevin felt warmed and embraced.  The pastor asked if anyone would like to join the church and get baptised.  Kevin was amazed that they were open to new members like himself, an infant in the faith, untaught, unchurched.  Yes, this was the only church he had ever known.  He would join and get baptised.

And so, they gave him a Bible.  “A Bible?  You’re giving me a Bible?!  No one has ever given me a Bible!”  He had heard of it but had never held one in his own hands.  He knew it was holy.  He also knew what to do with it, that it was not an ornament to be placed on a shelf to collect dust.

He read it.  He started at the beginning.  Faithfully he would plow through the stories of Genesis, Exodus, and then  Leviticus.  He was stunned; how graphic and specific the law was.  Incredulous, he read out loud to his partner where it said, “a man shall not lie with a man; this is an abomination to the Lord.”  “What can this mean?” he asked his partner, perplexed.  “Look”, said his partner uneasily and perturbed, “if you’re gonna try to justify our lifestyle by THAT BOOK—FORGET IT!”  There the schism began.  His partner hoped that would be the end of That Book in their lives.  But it was only the beginning.  Kevin had read enough to have become convinced of who God was, that His ways are not our ways.  Kevin responded out of the abundance of his heart, “If this book says we are not supposed to be living like this, then we must be wrong, because this is THE BIBLE!”  The consequences were profound.  It was not an easy decision to stay the course with the Bible rather than with his partner.  He did stay, thinking he could love his partner to the truth of That Book, but he had rejected it long before Kevin came into his life.

Kevin ended up getting married.  To a woman.   She was a young widow whose husband had taken his life.  We went to the wedding 21 years ago.  There was great hilarity at this wedding.  “For lo, the winter is past, and the spring has come to the land…”

I lost touch with Kevin, only knowing him for a season before my life changed by having three children.  The hairdresser who walked by my front garden was my link.  I dared to ask if he remembered him.  “Yes, of course.”  “Is he still married?”  “Oh, yes.”  “To the same woman?”  “Yes, yes.”  “Is he…still involved with the church?”  “Oh, for heaven’s sakes, yes.”  “How do you know?”  “Because every time they come to town to visit us at the hair salon with their son, every other word is ‘God bless you.’ ”  “He has a son?”  “OH, yes, he’s 18 now.”  “A life that would not have been  on this earth if his father had not…”  “That’s right…  It was just the time when my partner and I first came to Charleston, 21 years ago, that Kevin got married,”  he said.  He introduced me to his long-standing partner on the walk with him in front of my house.

We humans are complex creatures, with the innate ability to defy expectations others pin on us like a donkey’s tale.  As Dr. Eban Alexander, neurosurgeon and author says,  “We make real choices.  True thought is not the brain’s affair.  But we have been so trained to associate our brains with what we think and who we are that we have lost the ability to realize that we are much more than the physical bodies that do our bidding.  True thought is pre-physical.  It is the thinking- behind- the -thinking that is responsible for all the genuinely consequential choices we make in the world.  A thinking that is not dependent on linear deduction, but that moves fast as lightning, making connections on all different levels, bringing them together.”

Kevin’s story of defying the odds gave me the inspiration I needed.  Miracles began to happen as it all came together.  With each accomplished detail leading to The Party came from me a rebel yell, for “Shouts of joy and songs of victory are in the tents of the righteous.”  “Whoo-Hoo!”   Olivia imitates me to perfection.  I grabbed the victory from the jaws of defeat with each shout of thanksgiving, with Kevin’s story for inspiration.  The party was a game changer, they said, unpretentious, though over the top, with white flowers evrywhere, roses, lillies, and snapdragons, using our Charleston home as it was built to be used for entertaining.

Break out!  Defy the labels on you, or that you have put on others.  See others as whole people, not as stereotypes.  Be creative; turn off the noise and  tune in.  We have so much creativity within us the world has yet to see, symphonies to compose, books to write, poems and songs teasing our minds.  I believe that just as there is “great perplexity among the nations concerning the seas and the roaring of its waves” as sea levels rise and storms increase, as predicted by Jesus, one of the many signs of His Second Advent, so deeper sea levels of His creative force, measure for measure,  are rising across the land.  Within this new and deeper wave of His Spirit, there are answers to the mess we’ve made in the world.  We are the solution, each one of us, His still, small voice speaking to direct those who have an ear to hear.

Like the pathologist, Daniel Massi, our daughter Delia’s Godfather, saving Ft Jackson hospital tens of thousands of dollars by eliminating the wasteful out hospital spending, and Jane Nicholas, back to Charleston for our first College Prep highschool reunion, asking with her fellow workers in Pensacola, Florida in their county office what would the Lord have them do with each decision, saving the government money there as well, so too we in our sphere can make a difference, as only we can. This is my hope for America, my hope for the New Year, my Christmas message.   Think of that baby conceived to an unwed mother who defied the odds, labels, and humble beginnings and became proclaimed King of the Jews.   May we hear the angels sing, “Peace. Good will to all men.”  Listen.  Can you hear? As my friend Pringle says, you don’t have to be a saint to hear Jesus speak.  As my father says, Christians don’t have a cornerstone on God. He loves us all.  We are each his delight!  We are His preoccupation as a parent with his child.  His heart thrills when we look His way and thank Him,  the giver of all we enjoy, the ultimate lover of our souls.

God bless us, every one.  Stay safe and warm.  Call me when you can come on a tour, or when you need to share.  Leave a comment.  Thank you for reading to the end of this long-awaited freshly pressed post from my personal  life and inner thoughts not shared on a tour.–Laura Wichmann Hipp  843-577-5896

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Filed under breaking routine, Christmas in Charleston, heart tug, national architect from Charleston, saving on wasteful spending, The Holiday Season

Beware! You Gotta Serve Somebody

“It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody,” says Bob Dylan. Thank you, my guests, for allowing me, your servant, the opportunity and privilege to “shout to the North and the South, sing to the East and the West,”  “from the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring.” It is indescribable, uncontainable this experience of sharing the passion of the Holy City of Charleston with you.  For those of us who are blessed to be called Charlestonians, our city is hallowed ground, set apart for a special purpose, peculiar, distinct and different, which is what the word “holy” means in Greek.

I believe it was the Jewish people who gave Charleston the nick name the Holy City.  Who else could?  Our guarantee of religious freedom and tolerance in our colony brought us some of the first Jewish immigrants.  When the Marquis de Lafayette visited every state for our 50th Anniversary as a nation, it was Charleston who first presented the Jewish congregations to the Nation’s Guest along with Christian congregations and ethnic and civic societies.  It was here that his secretary Levasseur first wrote of the disproportional  contribution the Jewish volunteers made to the American Cause for LIBERTY.  Here they were considered “A Portion of the People”.

We are geographically set apart on the Peninsula for a special purpose and grow more peculiar, distinct and different as the rest of the world changes and we preserve our heritage both architecturally and culturally.  “Where are the sky scrapers, the business section” many of you ask.  “I need to get my bearings.”  I answer, “Our church steeples are still our sky scrapers.”Despite wars, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, Earthquake of 1886, British bombardment, Union bombardment,  ransacking, and the ravages of time, Charleston still looks like the oldest city in America.  We formed the first Preservation Society of any city in the nation in 1920 under Susan Pringle Frost.

“People come here who have heard rumors from friends of an old city still left with high walls, and gardens barely visible through wrought iron gates, of houses with plum colored roofs.  We have something new for their eyes to see.  If you are weary of the syncopated unrest of a crazy world, come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  ‘What would we gain by that’, you ask; ‘all we’d accomplish would be to get out of step with the rest of the world.’  We do not argue the point, but if you would only do it for a bit, you would leave us wiser than when you came; for the streets of Charleston have something to give them who walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.”

Beware!  The Holy City of Charleston is infectious!  I am a servant of the Holy City as one says trying to convert you at every turn, to allow that passion I have to be yours as well.  It is a rich history here with many layers still to be unpeeled, held within family portraits, papers, diaries, letters, and unpublished novels.  Charles Waring, editor of the salmon papers of the Charleston Mercury, told me last night at The Wedding at St. Philip’s on Church Street of our minister’s daughter, Katie, that he has an unpublished novel by an ancestor of his family about Lafeyette!  I want to read that historic fiction, as those of you who have heard me wax poetic about this French Founding Father can imagine. One life time is too short to discover all the facets of our city’s heritage.  Come and see!  “Ho!  Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the water.  Ye that have no money, come ye buy and eat. Wherefore do you give your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?”

I look forward to meeting you, feeding both body and soul if you are in a receptive mood.  A sumptuous feast of the senses awaits you!–Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-577-5896

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Filed under 1824-1825, artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, breaking routine, Charleston is world's top spot, Francis Marion, heart tug, historic churches of Charleston, History, Lafayette in America