Category Archives: Gardening

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

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting Out all Over with an Easter Message!

Purple clusters of wisteria, the most photographed in Charleston being the one along the fence of the Timothy Ford House across the street from the Nathaniel Russell House, 51 Meeting St, are now starting to show color with its first blossoms.  It will be coming on slowly with the cool weather and its many remaining clusters still in that translucent stage.  But that metamorphosis has begun from what looks like dead wood and lifeless burs  to luxurious clusters of wisteria dripping with Southern charm. My yellow Lady Banks Rose is in the first stages of bloom  along the yellow brick post that we share with the Coast Guard of Charleston.  We look across their lawn to the Ashley River.  The tiny clusters of yellow are in great abundance, especially noticeable behind our  bare twiggy citrus grove with the freeze having dropped their leaves for the second year.  We did get two grapefruit and lots of kumquats, which we ate.  Our two Meyer Lemons show no life and  may have to be replaced. Being this near the Ashley River, we felt safe.  One of my two Calamondin Orange trees is in green bud. Before the freeze, I got one harvest for Calamondin Marmalade. Taste and see! The large Formosa Azalea is showing color, and the first buds are open.  Light pink azalea blossoms surround towering pink tulips in our pedestal bowl on the white linen table, the picture of Easter! All the windows and doors were open in our house today with a robust breeze caressing the fluttering blossoms. A living, breathing house is a true Charleston home, designed to catch the breezes, not to be sealed up with storm windows that never open. The award winning garden on Montagu we visit is coming on with its first azalea blossoms opening.  We’ve only just begun! Johnny Jump-ups, blue and purple violas, adorn my flower boxes and candlesticks enjoying the cool weather. It is warm enough to harvest cilantro and lettuces and Swiss chard from my garden, as well as to plant tomatoes I grew from seed!

I took a branch of Red Bud to Cornelia’s baby born the first day of spring.  Her lips are like rosebuds!  Cornelia has given birth to the only grandchild of her parents and her FIRST baby at the tender age of 45!  She is the last of our friends to have a baby, the youngest of three sisters.  This baby’s grandmother was the only child of her mother.  This is a rare blood line to continue of Southern graciousness and charm. When this baby’s grandmother had her first of three girls, her mother’s advice was followed: Wear your white gloves for the important events in your life! She did… in delivery! I loved Harry D. Jones, this baby’s grandfather.  Harry D. would talk to me for hours with my taking notes on the memories of his escapades growing up in Charleston. There was a police officer known to all the boys downtown. He rode a bike.  He would chase boys outside in the early day when they should have been in school. They loved the chase. “—Ride the Rooster Just Like You Used To,” the truant boys would chant.  This Harry D. Jones grew up to be a fly fighter pilot in WWll, escaping the deadly chase of Nazi planes.  He returned home to finish college and to meet the love of his life, Catherine Oliver, at the College of Charleston, who later studied at the Sorbonne and was a Fulbright Scholar, teaching French for many years at Ashley Hall..  I am blessed often to go into the garden of Catherine’s good friend, Molly, who was there with her when Harry D. and Catherine met at the College of Charleston.

Magic is in the air this Spring 2015 as the world becomes a wonderland of hope and new possibilities. My own baby is now a tenth grader.  She is on spring break and slept in this morning.  In her long sleep, she indulged in dreams not cut off by the alarm.  She had two girlfriends spend the night but told me alone in the kitchen that she dreamed it was the time of Christ’s Second Advent.  She was in our home with our family and youth group friends from St. Philips.  She said that in the dream our home was a mansion. (My husband smiled proudly when I told him, as if her dream was stating reality.)  She was wishing in the dream that she had realized His Second Advent would be so soon.  She said she would have been bolder in telling more friends about Jesus, urging them to live for Him, taking more seriously the time.  She said life was carrying on as usual with her body feeling hunger, etc,  but all knew His coming was at hand.  The day had come when people least expected Him, and all eyes could behold Him.  Out of the mouths of babes!  Victoria’s dream this morning is my Easter message to you.  Can an Easter message be any more a message of renewal?

Just as the prophets foretold His first coming as the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, so the prophets also foretold his Second Coming as King over all the earth.  We believe that He shalt come to be our Judge. People abusing the system to get more money any way they can will be caught short.  Pray with me for those who are pulling down our democracy to turn from their ways while there is time.  “People get ready, there’s a train a comin…  All you need is faith to hear the whistle blowing.  You don’t need no ticket; you just get on board.”

In Charleston we are surrounded by what many call mansions.  It is the Life of the Spirit of Christ Jesus that makes these homes come alive with something real,  with the sense of community we have akin to the Kingdom of Heaven. It can happen anywhere.  At our High Tea after the tour, I pray, “So create a desire within us to desire what You desire for us, that at Your Son Jesus’ Second Advent, He may find in us A Mansion, prepared for Himself, who lives and reigns with You, one God, now and Forever!”

Maybe that is what our daughter Victoria dreamed, that she had prepared a mansion within, fit for Him, with many lovely rooms…

A deep history lesson with The Charleston Tea Party Private Tour awaits your arrival.  Life is precious. Call us at 843-708-2228 for a morning tour, year round, weekdays, beginning with breakfast overlooking the harbor and Ft. Sumter, ending with High Tea at my house overlooking the Ashley River, with many beautiful sights and lessons from history where we step inside and in between. Charleston is a treasure trove of architectural beauty enhanced by well tended gardens coming into bloom this April. Wherever you are, lift up your head and have a  Happy Easter! Laura Wichmann Hipp 843 708 2228

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Filed under Calamondin Marmalade, Charleston in spring, Easter in Charleston, for foodies, Gardening, Historic Charleston Foundation, Meyer Lemons

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

Come Quick! Spring is Bursting out all Over

“Times, they are a changin.”  Azaleas in January and February?  Yes, at least here in Charleston.  We cannot keep it back.  Like the rising sea levels, spring keeps on coming.  Preston and I got married April 9, TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO this coming April!  Our Silver Wedding Anniversary.  I am such a lover of silver but I cannot think of A THING I need.  When we got married in April, we had photos taken across the street from St. Philip’s in the grave yard because the azaleas were in full bloom.  This is February, not March or April, and they are in bloom now!  Consider the fig tree…  Now the promoters of Charleston tourism do not want you to know this flower report because they are afraid you will cancel your plans for the spring tour season.  Do not cancel. We will have plenty else in bloom then.  I am just saying that you should come quick, NOW, if you can.  You will have the Holy City (and me) to yourself!  It is empty of visitors and is so beautiful, especially a treat not to be delayed for those in blizzard and freezing conditions up North and out West.

We have had nonstop rain, but now the sun is out, and the sky is a deep blue, illuminating what looked so gray, now transformed to brilliant colors.  White By the Gate is my glorious, snowy white camellia in bloom in the back garden right by the back steps, so white it is an affront to all impurity. Our Old Charleston Carolina Gray brick wall has green moss appliqued by time on rose brick making that brick more than just building material. The very bricks have become saturated with emanations of heroism.  What deeds of sacrifice and patient toil have gone into this city’s making and preservation!  Charleston is a City Mellowed By Time, as captured by the Charleston Renaissance artist, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.  Once you get Charleston under your skin, she gets in your blood, bidding you to return, like a pilgrimage to refresh the soul and to set it in order, or as a lover with her siren call.  As a vegetable lady street vender with her wheel barrow said who went away and then moved back,”Chas’n keep  dem uda places from seemin natchel.”  Ain’t it just the trute!

I discovered a new shop that I had only run past and noted before.  It is hidden away on Burns Lane between Meeting and King, The Hidden Countship.  It is actually owned by count and countess.  (My brother’s Godson, Edward Scarborough, works there.  His father and I sailed together on the sailing team at the College of Charleston, he the senior and i the lowly freshman.)  The Count and Countess were in Savannah, leaving for Italy, when someone challenged them to come to Charleston saying they had not seen the South if they had not been here, and so close to Savannah.  They delayed their return home a day, came to Charleston, and bought a house here the next day!  They prefer Charleston to anywhere in Italy!  Wow!  No wonder Conde Naste voted the same way, with Charleston being the number one destination in The Whole Wide World!  We are blessed beyond measure!  A delightful retired Dartmouth professor, Dr.D’Lia, on my tour introduced me to this shop.  It is filled with interesting things, new and old.  I have a painting of an Italian villa, La Peggio, in an arch over my dining room door, which they have on their ad card.

For those who go on my Shop Till You Drop Antiques Tour, it is added!  You can see my most recent purchase, a functional piece of equipment, an 18th century mahogany linen press.  It is in the humble butler’s pantry, a room newly wallpapered along with my dining room in Fra Angelica’s glistening gold as in San Marco in Florence.  The light has to be right in both places to capture it.  I am using the linen press for storage of cookbooks and crystal and china, but also for additional counter space!  The trays slide out, one inch high, so as to provide additional space to plate food when the marble counters are full of dishes.  A practical piece it is,  for me to enjoy using as well as regarding from the kitchen.  Thank you, Lord, and thank you, the guests on my tour!  I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.

If you cannot find an affordable place big enough, I have a vacation rental by owner in downtown Charleston some of you may wish to consider.  It is booked for most of May but has openings for the last week of February and most of March. It is listed with Home Away # 5127820805, and VRBO #404882  as Charleston Tea Party Private Tour Launches Vacation Rental.  I has 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining area, and a full kitchen, and two full baths.  It sleeps up to 7.  I have enjoyed furnishing it with vintage finds from Charleston antique shops and estate sales.  It is not luxurious, but is easy, with a two car garage, unheard of in Charleston.   It is within walking distance of Hominy Grill, a popular restaurant where you  must have fried grits.  It is better than it sounds!  there is also a free trolley pick up a minute walk away to take you all over the historic city’s peninsula.

I love it when people can stay a week, not because I make more money, but because you get free nights if you stay past 4 days!  I want you to come and experience what it is like to live here.  My vacation rental is for those who make Charleston part of their spiritual renewal, what keeps them hanging on.  Times they are a changin, but Charleston just improves, like a good rich wine.  Come!  Drink deeply!  Call me for a tour or a stay or both at 843-577-5896–Laura Wichmann Hipp

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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

Christmas in Charleston

“The advantage of doing ones own praising is that you can lay it on just so thick and in all the right places.”  I am the biggest fan of my food, Christmas dishes at my house.  It is midnight.  I served duck today that my 16 year old friend Richard Hanger shared with me from his shoot at Coosaw Plantation with his friend, Bolton Sanford.  A true Charleston man loves the land, being one with God and nature, and showing he is a provider.  I sauteed the duck in butter and Madeira with shallots and then added my calamondin marmalade from our home grown citrus grove in the front garden.  Wow!  I invited Richard’s family over tonight for the remains of the day and the kill, since it was his offering.  His mother, Monti, did not know what to do with it; I got lucky as it was passed on to me.  I served it with Carolina Gold Rice, which sells for its weight in gold,  precious stuff, grown on a limited scale on only a few plantations in the Lowcountry more as a hobby.

After dinner and our family friends helped me reset the table for tomorrow.  I made Lobster Newberg and more Carolina Gold Rice.  This dish is a Christmas special with cream, vermouth, and brandy combined with a lobster broth reduction.  If you are not coming at Christmas time, don’t get your hopes up.  I do not cook this rich a luncheon every day.  I am using the Doubleday Cookbook receipt, the second one, which is richer.  I cannot tell you how good it is.  You will have to try it for yourself.

For those who read my Thanksgiving entry, the Mars Hill College football player and family DID come on my tour.  It was a joy to treat them to the gift I had offered.  Mills Adams is a sickle cell carrier and was in the paper for “playing with fire”.  His team made it to regional championship games for the first time in 20 years.  Before the words were out of my mouth on South Carolina’s history, Mills would be saying it for me.  It is incredible how much he loves his State’s history.  He is a history major and had NEVER been in Historic Charleston houses.  “You have no idea what this means to me,” he kept saying.  His mom, a former history teacher, and teenage brother came, too.  They are descendants of Robert Mills, Charleston architect of the first Fire Proof Building and the Washington Monument in DC, among others.

Husband Preston this afternoon cut HUGE branches of calamondin oranges–JUST what I need before Christmas–more projects!  I will be up to my eyeballs in making calamondin marmalade, as if I have not made enough already!  Everybody wants some though;  it goes out the door as fast as I can make it.  I bought  baler jars from Italy, which add to the beauty of this locally grown golden product.

Our Christmas baby daughter is turning 14 December 22, with a family birthday tea party here, followed by Christmas Eve Dinner here two days later before she sings in St. Philip’s choir  for Midnight Mass.  Sleep time now!  I can’t wait to meet the next group of people tomorrow–oops this morning!

May your days be Merry and Bright–Laura

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Filed under breaking routine, Calamondin Marmalade, Christmas in Charleston, for foodies, Gardening, Mills Adams, national architect from Charleston, Robert Mills, sickle cell