Category Archives: Christmas in Charleston

Do You Hear What I Hear? With a Voice as Big as the Sea, Christmas in Charleston 2015

I met delightful people from England on the tour today.  We had Christmas Pudding with tea, the steamed plum puddings in vintage molds from the world of Charles Dickens. We compared receipts.  They boil theirs for hours.  I just walked home with my husband from two Christmas parties, with the temperature in the upper 60’s tonight, in the 70’s during the day this week.  There is a magic in Christmas in Charleston walking South of Broad at night that is a hush and a wonder, with the clear Christmas lights matching the twinkle of the stars in the dark night above.  All is calm; all is bright, with Christmas wreaths and garlands of cedar and pine with red bows on our piazzas and doorways. We have a fruit board above our door, a tradition of the family we bought our house from almost 18 years ago. It is a gift from Ruth Edmunds every year.  Camellias are coming into bloom, and calamondin oranges and persimmons are turning ripe orange.  My neighbor has a “popcorn berry” wreath from the Chinese Tallow tree that is a work of art by the Gullah culture selling at the Four Corners of Law at Broad and Meeting.  All is well.  All seems right with the world; for in our dark streets shineth The Everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him tonight.

John the Baptist as the prophet Isaiah foretold it, was a voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Have you noticed that people everywhere will talk about traffic and road work like the weather in their surroundings?  John the Baptist, though in the wilderness, observed what his culture saw happening in the background surrounding their daily lives. The enemy was encroaching. They were making inroads to their world of the Holy Land. The Romans were doing the unthinkable; they were building a high stone road in the desert to get this Holy Land territory they had conquered and were incorporating into the Roman Empire.  Their stone roads of many layers were built to last.  With the money we spend on roads, maybe we should consider the once a millennium building of roads by the Romans.

Just as John the Baptist saw the Romans were building high stone ways  in the desert to connect the Roman Empire, John the Baptist was hearing what God was saying to them on the reverse side.  God was saying, “I want to come to you, suddenly and speedily.  Get prepared!  Make straight in the dry, neglected, barren, desert wastelands of your life a new road, a highway for our God.”

Have you noticed the world is getting surprised by alarming ”suddenlies”? The terrorist attacks come on us suddenly, like September 11, like the mass shootings in Charleston’s Emmanuel Church on Calhoun Street, like the Paris and San Bernardino shootings. That Voice as Big as the Sea is saying to all flesh, to those with ears to hear, that we need to be prepared for the Lord Jesus’s Second Advent. His first Advent was sudden.  “And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, Glory to God.  And Peace on earth and Good Will be unto all men.”  He says His Second  coming will be suddenly, like a thief in the night, and who may abide the day of His coming?  Those who hear the Voice as Big as the Sea, go out into the still of the night and listen to the Still, small Voice.  He is saying the echoing words louder than ever, Prepare ye the way of the Lord’s return.  Make straight pathways in your brain, and in your habits to be prepared to receive Him when He comes again. To as many as receive the Messiah, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. Every generation must be expectant and pass on the preparedness to the next, for as I show on my tour with the Guilloche pattern in interior woodwork, the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

Do you hear what I hear?  Leave me a comment or call for a tour reservation. Tours are at 9 am with breakfast, ending with tea at lunch time.

Merry Christmas!

Laura Wichmann Hipp 843-708-2228

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Filed under Calamondin Marmalade, camellias, Christmas in Charleston, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, More English Than the English, persimmons--puddings and sorbet, The Holiday Season

Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour 2014

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a good read must be in want of a hot cuppa tea.  Reach over to the wall and pull the needle pointed bell pull and have your scullery servant put the kettle on for a pot of tea.  Now, start singing, “I’m dreaming of a white-less Christmas!  Just like the ones I used to know,” in Old Charleston.  Just think, no snow to shovel, no salt to smear your windshield, no bones to break slipping on the ice!  I know you may really miss all that, but you will adjust in no time.  “Oh, the weather up North is frightful, but down South it’s so delightful.  And since you are invited on my tour to go, leave the snow, leave the snow, leave the snow!”

Come here and set your feet to a saner tempo.  You will think you are in a Dickensian London.  The warm days are producing a  gentle fog at night over the water and at the morning’s light.  Many houses have the soft glow of gas lights on either side of the front door donned with a fresh wreath. With the indigenous materials in abundance to work with of magnolia leaves, popcorn berry trees, and shaggy cedar, there is an Old World look about us that makes even those from off feel they have arrived home.  We keep all the other places from seeming natural. Christmas is when we are looking most authentically ourselves, dressed up for the Holidays, like my husband tall and handsome in black tie, his tails flying as he dances to Beach Music, our South Carolina State Dance.  You should have seen him at our daughter’s debut dancing with the tall and beautiful Miss Elizabeth Scarborough, a Taylor Swift impersonator on stage last summer in Myrtle Beach and Charleston debutante this season.  HOT!

My beloved went out this afternoon on what we call “de bo-at’ –Gullah for our family boat, and zipped over to Morris Island with “the boys” to play Bocci on the beach today.  How was your first Wednesday in Advent?  While he and his constant companion, Chesterfield, our English Springer Spaniel, were gone experiencing a slice of Lowcountry heaven, our college graduate first born daughter, Olivia, and I put up live green cedar garlands and red bows on our second floor porch railing overlooking the Ashley River.  It is great to have her home for the holidays.  With days of sun and laughter like today, the green garlands may have golden highlights before Christmas is over! Turkey Gumbo was delicious tonight, my reward after emptying the spice cupboard, cleaning, consolidating, and reorganizing it while Hubbie was out..  Whew!  I love that organized feel and easy turn of the rotating spices.   I cleared out about a dozen salt and pepper disposable canisters meant for the boat making my husband laugh with hilarity and incredulity when he saw them in his cubbie.

Christmas Cake preparation was the real achievement tonight after plowing through my mother’s and my hand written, hand cut and pasted recipe book that will not close. Picture a wide V.  Brandy is poured over the glass bowl of currants and sultanas with care, in hopes that your family soon will be here.  There will be English steamed Christmas pudding in vintage molds, mince meat tarts, and baked ham with muscadine and peach chutney. It’s the Hap-Happiest Time of the Year! Come let us spread some cheer to you and yours.  My brother and I both will be making and baking my dear English mother’s Christmas recipes, comparing notes, keeping our English- Charleston family traditions alive into this next generation, as she has past them down to us.

My tours are week days from 9 to 1:30, starting with a full Southern breakfast and the fattest Christmas tree overlooking the Charleston Harbor.  This house on High Battery is dressed to the nines for Christmas.  We also go into the house of the doctor who delivered me. (Thank you, Dr. Wilson! Thank you, Mumse!)  His ceiling is probably the most elaborate with more layers in the plaster and woodwork than any house in Charleston. I love the acorn, and egg and dart motif. It was built in 1856 by a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.  Christmas 1860 is the focus of our history on my Christmas in Charleston Tea Party Private Tour.  Camellias are our winter flower in bloom in our gardens.  I will take you into one that won a national garden award, in which I am the only guide allowed in by the owners, who are hard working,generous friends of mine.

The greening of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, known in the 18th century as the most elegant church in the English colonies, will be this Friday, as will the Garden Club of Charleston’s decorating of the Joseph Manigault House.

Call me to reserve a spot on my private tour as I take small groups. The tour ends with an invitation to a High Christmas Tea at my home on Tradd Street.  I hope to see you soon.  843-577-5896  Laura Wichmann Hipp

Post Script  I went to the Garden Club Tea at the Joseph Manigault House yesterday.  You must see it dressed up for Christmas as it would have looked in the time of the Manigaults, the early 1800’s. It is on the corner of John and Meeting Streets across from the Charleston Museum. It is open for tours daily. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected clutter on the stairs to the third floor.  Just as my children would leave toys where they last were playing, so too there are 18th and 19th centuries toys as if where the Manigault children last left them before being called down to dinner.This Christmas Tea for Garden Club members yesterday is the only time this museum house is used for entertaining as it was designed to be with homemade tea fare and coffee punch. Garden Club members keep up the garden all year.  I went with my fellow member, June McKnight, who was responsible for the pomanders hanging in the windows in an upstairs room. She is coming over to make some more with me for my windows, too!  Everyone was congratulating June on acing the City of Charleston Guide exam.  She made a 98!  The last time it was offered, sisters Therese and Mary Helen were two of four to pass out of 40!  It is an oral and written exam.  June has been interning with me and will be helping me with tours.  Like my precious, late mother, who did the tours with me for 25 years, June is a pretty,petite, elegant, and very well read lady.  She is reading everything she can get her hands on to do with Historic Charleston, all the classics.  I am encouraging her to have some available for you to purchase from her since she as well as I highly recommend them and quote from them on our tour.

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Filed under Christmas in Charleston, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, for foodies, group meeting facilities, Gullah Culture, More English Than the English, small private convention venue, The Holiday Season, Vacation Rental By Owner

Charleston Under Attack

Christmas Day 1863 Charleston was under attack.  The War that had started in April, 1860 at Ft. Sumter, when occupied by Union forces, had shifted from the harbor, forts, and islands to the Peninsula of Charleston.  The Peninsula is the Holy City.  It is the concentration of 18th and 19th century humble houses and mansions;  houses of worship and stately buildings.  The homes were occupied by old men, women, and children, as well as by slaves and free persons of color.  There was no peace on earth or good will towards Charleston Christmas Day 1863.  One hundred and fifty years ago, the City was under relentless bombardment by Union ships firing in on the defenceless citizens of all who were not able-bodied enough to be off at war.  Civilians in Charleston died on Christmas Day.  Cannons were aimed at where Union shelling had  started fires in an attempt to increase the flames to “destroy that harmful place”.

Sherman had received word from General Halleck to proceed to  “sow salt on the site afterwards …to prevent future crops of nullification and secession.” They all remembered John C. Calhoun and the Nullification Movement of 1832 that had been the South’s efforts to correct the nation’s course under the Tariff of Abomination.   But it was not Sherman who was here.  He had been received into the life changing experience of Charleston hospitality ten years earlier when stationed here at Ft. Moultrie.  He had danced with Charleston girls, in particular, Caroline Pettigru Carson, daughter of prominent Charleston lawyer and president of the South Carolina Historical Society, James Louis Pettigru.  Perhaps his discourse with the father of this young widow with whom he danced influenced this lawyer’s views, for J.L Pettigru became an ardent Unionist, yet respected and beloved by Charlestonians despite differences of opinions and able to carry on his law practice in Charleston during The War and because of The War.  His daughter Caroline ‘s husband had died leaving her with two toddler boys.  What was she doing going to a dance the same year her husband died when in mourning wearing black?  Playing the part for Margaret Mitchell to model Scarlett after, of course, just as George Trenholm, blockade runner, cotton merchant and Treasurer of the Secretary for The Confederate States of America was modeling the part for Rhett Butler as one the wealthiest men on the continent.  His home on Rutledge was given to Caroline Carson by Sherman at the end of The War, only she could not accept.  How could she ever return to live in Charleston after what Sherman had done to the South?  Their relationship was notorious.  Trenholm got his mansion back; it is now Ashley Hall girls school. ( Our eldest graduated from there four years ago in her long white silk gown, which she wore again June 1 for the party we had in her honor At Home.  If you care to read reflections of it, proceed  with caution to the following entries.)

Despite all Charleston has endured, she has survived as an 18th and 19th century city.  We started the first Preservation Society in America in 1920.  That is a long time to have had the awareness of the importance of preservation.  In 1931 Charleston passed the first city zoning ordinance that set apart the Old and Historic District from  incompatible development.  One hundred and fifty years after the worst Christmas ever, Charleston is awhirl with Christmas parties and black tie debutante balls, packed churches for midnight mass, and coats and ties for Christmas Dinner.  The silver glistens, the white linen sets off the family china.  Carols are sung round the piano.  Oyster roasts are held with the setting sun as the backdrop.

But this Christmas Eve,  caroling was done in ICU by some of the party weary debutantes and Hipp sisters and me.  We wanted  to bring Christmas cheer and good will as we shifted our focus onto the real meaning of Christmas in giving gifts of the heart.  While caroling, a nurse delivered us a note, “Will you please sing ‘Oh Holy Night’ for my husband in room 1?”  Though two of the six of us could not hit the notes on key,  while blissfully unaware, the overall effect was angelic as I heard from down the hall.  The staff also appreciated our bringing Christmas to them as they had to work on Christmas Eve.  The magic sparkle of Christmas falls where you least expect it,  “where meek souls will receive” often far from the glitter.

Imagine… the Spirit of Christmas in the midst of the hardships of the relentless bombardment of Charleston Christmas Day and night 1863.  In the midst of dodging cannon balls, “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given”.  In the lower peninsula, there were no Christmas Eve services, no caroling through the city or round the tree, no presents waiting to be unwrapped, “Yet in the dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.  The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

I hope in 2014 you are able to give yourself and loved ones the life enriching gift of the experience of the Holy City of Charleston.   You hear quotes from primary sources, which are the means by which you are transported back in time.   Remembering from where we have come is important in the health of a society.  As Americans, born to Liberty, we need to remember who we are.  Founding Fathers are quoted as well.  The humble shall hear thereof and be glad.  Ask me to tell you the story of the freed slave of 1848, Lewis the carpenter, from Edisto, who  was an entrepreneur.  He started “repairing Charleston houses” with his new-found freedom.  Pretty soon he was buying, restoring, and “flipping” houses of Charleston, because in 1848 there were already historic houses over a hundred years old.  There is so much history here, one lifetime is too short to uncover it all.  I keep scratching the surface and sharing with you my findings.

Come!  All who are thirsty, come to the water.  Walk along Folly Beach where George Gershwin collaborated with Dubose Heyward to compose Porgy and Bess, the first American opera.  Go into the private properties with me and set your feet to a saner tempo.  For the streets of Charleston have something to give those that walk them in a receptive mood that will make life forever richer.  As the Charleston Renaissance artists and writers showed, it is a city mellowed by time.

Laura Wichmann Hipp  843-577-5896

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Filed under artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Charleston real estate, Christmas in Charleston, historic churches of Charleston, History, The Holiday Season, War of Northern Aggression

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

Charleston Tea Party Private Tour on December 21, a Christmas Message 2012

We have passed the midnight hour of 12-12-12.  Now the date is past of December 20, 2012, 152 years after the signing of the Ordinance of Secession, which withdrew South Carolina from the Union.  It is the hour of the Mayan end of the calendar, Dec 21, 2012.  People on my tour are talking about it.  Even guests at the debutante ball tonight dancing still at the Hibernian Society Hall are talking about it.  Do I believe this date is the end of the world?  Is our  time of milk and honey over now that we are beyond the Milky Way?

I believe we are on a time line of history.  No one knows the day or the hour of His coming.  But just as He came bursting forth into our world as a vulnerable babe on Christmas morn, fulfilling prophesies foretold, He will come again, this time in glory to judge both the quick and the dead.  St. Philips, the Mother Church of all churches South of Virginia, the first congregation in the Carolinas, is my church, the old, decrepit, tall steepled one on Church St., stuccoed over and mellowed by time.  The first Sunday of Advent we heard the words of Jesus telling his inner core followers on the eve of His departure what would be the signs of His return.  It was Luke chapter 21.  Suddenly I had ears to hear in modern terms. One sign Jesus gave was, “There will be perplexity among the nations concerning the seas and the roaring of the waves.”  Wow!  Is not that what we call “global warming” and “rising sea levels” and “the melting of the polar ice caps”?  In Charleston we notice the higher than usual sea levels washing into streets on the water’s edge as never before.  We are perplexed.  As are all nations, so curiously together.

I went to Handel’s Messiah by the full orchestra of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Singers Guild in the Cathedral on Broad and Legare.  “And the glory of the Lord shall be reveal-ed”  is contrasted with “I will sha-a-ake the heavens, the seas, the dry land…” “And darkness shall cover the earth.”  Could this prophesy be what it will be like if an electro- magnetic pulse occurs?  All electricity will be out as well as the power of the world of technology.   Our tower of Babel will be fallen that we rely on.  “Fallen fallen is that great city of Babylon,” the world economy.

Yet it is in this time of trial that we are to “lift up your heads, oh ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory shall come in.  Who is this King of Glory?  The Lord of hosts…the Lord strong and mighty, mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads!”  “He is the King of Glory!”  Jesus said when you see these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.  The world who knows Him not will be perplexed,  worried, and downcast, but He reveals His secrets to His servants, the ones who serve Him and who listen to the Voice of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  In every culture, nation, and religion, whosoever will seek the Truth will recognize the Truth, and the Truth will set him free.  We who have heard His warning signs of His return are to be lifted up.  So lift up your heads this Christmas and Rejoice greatly.

I jumped and danced tonight at the debutante  ball.  I hope you dance this Christmas, even if like me, more often than not, you are in your cozy kitchen, a humble but joyful servant to your family and friends.   Merry Christmas 2012!

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Filed under Christmas in Charleston, War of Northern Aggression

Many Thanks to 2012 Visitors: You Own a Piece of Marble in Charleston

My heart is soaring with thoughts of appreciation to all who have come on my tour this year 2012.  For the first time in 15 years of living in our historic Charleston house, I have made a lasting change to our kitchen, the War Room where the real work is done.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life:  I have marble counters!  Each person on my tours owns a square inch of marble in Charleston in my house!  I am so appreciative, because each person on my tour has made it possible.  And that’s a lot of tours!

Charleston kitchens historically had marble counters though not big kitchens.  When Frances Smythe Edmonds was asked if the Historic Charleston Foundation she directed could have a kitchen tour, her response was, ” Why would anybody want to see inside a kitchen?  The only thing I want to see in the kitchen is the cook!”

Varnetta, who is my help at home, helps me serve and often gets mistaken for the cook.  She confesses she does not like to cook; she likes to clean, and for that, I am truly thankful.  My husband calls her the core of our family’s sanity.  Right now though he is challenged, for the upheaval in getting the house restored with workmen in and out and the dust that keeps settling and resettling is, as Romney infamously said, disconcerting. Varnetta is pure Gullah, for those who want to hear the real language of our locals.  She does not talk much; she likes to get her work done.  But she will tell you about her upbringing across the “Cuppa” River, the eldest of TEN; which sounds like tan, the proper way in Charleston.  She “had to Towit de wood and de woda”.  They didn’t have “Heit!” or “runnin woda.”

Thank God she is coming in the morning.  I have a tour for a dozen at the white linened table, which I have set with Blue and White Canton Ware of the 1800’s, but she will tackle the dust!

Mincemeat tarts are the tea offering after a hearty soup served in a large tureen that has been in the family.  Okra in moderation is in the soup.  As I serve Varnetta will talk about how her daddy grew okra.  “Owekra” is said better by her than anyone other Charlestonian, but she will confess she “nava did like owekra”, predisposing everyone to cling to their prejudice against this quintessential Southern vegetable so good for you and a natural thickener without the starch.

I was advised not to tell my readers about my marble counters by an marketiing/computer expert.  But I cannot help myself; I have to thank you because i am truly thinking of you who come on my tour who made this change possible.  Often those who work in the service industry are so used to serving and giving of themselves to make others happy that they do not spend on themselves. I look at it in awe.  The image of a hole in the wall kitchen trying to serve a 5 star restaurant that lost diners sometimes catch a glimpse of behind the scenes is how I have felt about my kitchen.  It still has the original cabinets, but now with a honey glow to the old pine we stripped and varnished.

My tour is at nine and it’s almost midnight.  I hope to see you soon so that I can thank you in person and show you your square inch of my marble counters!

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Filed under breaking routine, Christmas in Charleston, Gullah Culture

Spring in January and February in Charleston

January and February are the best kept secret in Charleston.  The camellias are in bloom, cultivated for the social season when Charlestonians and plantation owners were in town for the races.  Magnolia Plantation is not to be missed with their world renowned collection of camellias in bloom now, which peak in February.  Those who wait til spring miss our spring like winter, especially refreshing if you live in environs where you see nothing green all winter.  Bulbs are coming up.   We are to ourselves again after the many visitors of autumn and Christmas.  It is quiet.  We have time get to know you better.

It is also the season of Lowcountry oyster roasts.  My family and I went to the SAVE THE LIGHT oyster roast for the Morris Island Lighthouse last Sunday.  I stood at the same spot for HOURS eating steamed oysters.  People would go away from our table and come back hours later to say, “You still here?!”  If anyone wants to have an oyster roast, my husband roasts some up for 6 or more.  He is renowned for doing it the old Charleston way.  He builds a fire in our old brick outside chimney; he puts a metal slab over the fire and piles on the Lowcountry oysters, ” locals” we call them.  Essential then is the wet burlap sack to put over the oysters so that they steam, roast, and smoke.  Where does one get a burlap sack these days?  Only those who are committed to LOCAL oysters know that secret!

Thank you to all who made 2011 a great year.   A young couple loitered after my last tour of the old year, waiting till everyone else left after Tea.  The young man had a guilty look.  Finally he  outed with it.  It was not my money of which he wanted to rob me;  it was another English Plum Pudding,  for the road.  He explained, “I’ve never had anything like this before.”

I also served  Hoppin’ John with a refreshing twist:  Field Peas with chopped Roasted Beets,  Ginger,  Meyer Lemon, and dried cranberries, inspiration from The Taylor Brothers, for whose cooking demonstration I first made it.  I made it it New Year’s Day for our family gathered at Aunt Dee’s.   I am using my home grown Meyer Lemons before a freeze comes along.  I was not as wise last year.  I am making Meyer Lemon Sorbet, my favorite, and Meyer Lemon Curd with scones.  Yesterday I baked two persimmon pies, which filled the house with their wonderful aroma.  You have to wait til the persimmons look soggy or they will taste like chalk.  We have a tree in back.  We have something new for the eyes to see, persimmons and calamondin oranges in my camellia flower arrangements.  Winter joys of life in Charleston keep us in good spirits until the full bloom of magic culminates in spring.

I am still up to my eyeballs in Calamondin Marmalade.  I cannot work in the front garden without a passerby wanting to know what that tree is with tiny oranges.   I gave tiny jars for party favors at a fabulous  New Year’s Eve dinner party with our friends at Cathy and Harry Gregorie’s, owners of GDC.  I ran out this morning of the marmalade jars I took with me to a citrus lecture at the Garden Club of Charleston.  Don’t worry; I am making more.

We are now in the 151st year since the War Between the States began at Ft. Sumter, April 12, 1861, in Charleston, “That Hellhole of Secession.”  One of the houses we visit is my friend, Francess Palmer’s, on East Battery with a dead on view of Ft. Sumter, where was fired the shot that was heard around the world.  I never tire of the sunlight on the water, the ever changing views of white caps or lazy glassiness where dolphins are jumping  and white sails are gliding by.  To add more value in these times to the tour and to highlight the history as seen from the Battery, I am offering a full, hot Southern breakfast in my friend Francess Palmer’s home and  B&B.  It has been in her family for three generations. I first went there for her debutant party when we were 18.  The Big Band from her grandparents era played on the lawn under a full moon.  There as we gaze at the view of Ft. Sumter,  I  talk about the history of this War of Northern Aggression!  You come to understand why Southerns had the audacity to call it that.

Our own  house had been Francess Palmer’s uncle’s.  We have owned it for 14 years this winter, having bought it from the Edmonds, who lived in it for 30 years after the Palmers.  I cried when we moved in.   I did not want to give up my home I had bought before marriage on Legare Street, where my tours had ended with tea in the garden.   I said I was only moving here because I loved my husband.  Preston in my face said, “Mark my words.  You’re gonna love it!”  And HE WAS RIGHT!  Sunlight and moisture for a citrus grove and flower garden, a view of the water, open air circulation and good sea breezes, SPACE for family living and for entertaining you, my guests,  all contribute to my love for our home.  Though it is old enough to have problems, its assets outweigh the responsibilities…so far anyway.  Your one hundred dollars each goes to the preservation of this historic Charleston house, be it ever so humble.

I realize I am living the life of my gregarious father, Fred Wichmann.  He is the epitome of Charleston hospitality, inviting strangers in who he meets often through sailing or through real estate.   Despite all the “strangers” I have had in my house, when I put everything back in their proper place, they are all there.   No one has taken from me yet after six years of my private tours.  I use old things for my enjoyment and that of of my guests as they were used in 18th and 19th century Charleston.   Thank you for being the people to whom  this Holy City of Charleston was meant to be hospitable.  Lafayette was amazed at Charleston hospitality when he visited here in 1825, saying there were so few inns or hotels because Charlestonians were so hospitable, “they would take you into their homes be you prominent or indigent.”  Read the first translation ever published of “Lafayette in America, 1824-25”, until now hidden in the French language.

I meet some of America’s nicest people on my tour.  I don’t want to let them go.  And so, I invite them in!   I learn from them.  Jump in and tell me something if it is on your mind.  I learned from Johnny Kicklighter that a scene I show of an old print of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, was on a South Carolina dollar bill and a Confederate bill.  I did not know that connection.  It is a scene of him loving his enemy, doing good to those who mistreat you.  Marion is sharing with hated but lost Redcoat Tarleton hot sweet potatoes just pulled from the fire. That picture tells the story of the heart of Charleston hospitality.  This value is an aspect of Charleston that once understood completes the picture of who we are.  Until newcomers get this understanding that it is more blessed to give than  to receive, they are not going to be regarded as belonging.  We are not a gated community of arrogant rich people trying to keep everybody else out.  We are an open city with a heritage and culture that is still alive,  to be shared,  and which has defined us for centuries.  This sentiment I learned growing up in Charleston and from Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, poet, gardener,  and daughter of Charleston artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.  I am sharing my larkspur seedlings, which came from ones she shared with me decades ago.

I do my best in my humble efforts to give you that experience of Charleston that has persisted from generation to generation.  My tours are once a day at 9 a.m. with entrance into private homes and gardens. At the end of my tour I invite you in to my home.   After my last tour of the old year, a man moaned, “A hundred dollars!”  “Y-es”, I replied holding my breath.  “This tour is worth MUCH more than a hundred dollars a person! ” he exclaimed,  to my relief.  May God bless us, every one.–Laura Wichmann Hipp– Call 843-577-5896 for reservations.

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Filed under 1824-1825, artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston real estate, Christmas in Charleston, Conde Naste, Elizabeth Verner Hamilton, English steamed pudding in vintage molds, for foodies, Gardening, History, Hoppin John, January in Charleston, Lafayette in America, Meyer Lemons, More English Than the English, reservations, the Swamp Fox, War of Northern Aggression